Imágenes de páginas

degrees the next. This is very noticeable from the accounts recorded by him of his two attempts. For the vast extent of stormy ocean, which is the chief feature of Antarctic latitudes, renders the conditions of an Antarctic voyage entirely different from those obtaining in the Arctic. To quote only one factor, nothing remotely approaching the awful swell of that great southern sea, which hurls immense islands of ice hither and thither like chips in a mill-race, is ever experienced in the comparatively narrow waters of the far North. To be ' nipped' in the resistless clutch of the ice-pack is an experience the intensity of whose terrors is never to be forgotten by those who have experienced it; but to be tossed amid innumerable mountainous masses of granite-like ice, each rolling with fearful momentum upon the tempest-riven bosom of the globe-encircling ocean, while the hurricane raging around fills the bitter air with crystal needles of frozen snow, is to feel that the quiet of death itself would be almost welcome as a relief from such indescribable elemental strife.

Nevertheless, so dauntless is the heart of man that even such majestic manifestations of the awful forces with which he is contending have not prevented, neither will they prevent, him from daring to cope with them in the pursuit of either glory or gain. There is an attraction, a fascination, in such contests not to be understood by any but those who have experienced it, which draws them again and again from secure shelters to the rush and roar of the tremendous conflict, so that it is seldom recorded that such explorers have been content with one voyage.

From the termination of Captain Cook's visit a long spell of rest was given to Antarctic research. That is, qua research, although those hardy wanderers, whalers and sealers, left very few of the grim islands fringing the Antarctic circle unvisited in their tireless pursuit of the valuable mammals which abounded on all their barren shores. But these intrepid hunters have ever been a voiceless class, as well as more than ordinarily careless of anything around not bearing directly upon their immediate business. Had the whalefishers of the world but seen fit or been able to record their experiences, what a vast fund of the most valuable information would have been thus accumulated! One thing we certainly know, that in the early years of this century a great and lucrative trade was established, mostly by Americans, in sealskins and oil from the bleak and desolate islands studding the illimitable 1 Southern Ocean to China, Russia, and most parts of the civilised world.

But for a long time after Cook's voyages no further attempt was made to penetrate those tempestuous seas in the interests of science. It is true that in those days the world was very busy with recent geographical discoveries of a far different kind. It can hardly, therefore, be wondered at that for nearly half a century those gloomy regions beyond the whalers' ken retained their primeval solitude, no inquisitive keel furrowing their troubled waves.

The next valiant visitor, however, who dared their dangers is probably the most deserving of our admiration of all the noble band. In 1822 Captain James Weddell sailed from England in command of the brig Jane of Leith, 160 tons, accompanied by the cutter Beaufoy, 65 tons (about the size of a Thames dumbharge), bound for the southern seal fisheries. His voyage was a purely commercial one, but, being a clever and intellectual man as well as principal owner of the vessels, he determined to aid the cause of science by some unusual exploration if it should lie in his power. It is much to be regretted that sufficient scientific interest was not manifested in his venture to get him supplied with the necessary scientific instruments which ordinarily would form no part of his outfit, and which he was apparently unable to procure. Still, the vessels being so small and his duties so extremely arduous, it was not probable that he would be able to devote much time to scientific observations, although he does on one occasion express his great regret that he had not even a thermometer to take the sea surface temperature with.

Bat, in spite of all drawbacks, at great personal loss to himself and his crew, notwithstanding the puny size of his vessels, he succeeded in reaching the latitude of 74° 15' S. in longitude 31° 17' W., 72o further east than the meridian on which his great predecessor Cook attained his highest southern point. He has recorded his adventures in a small volume which is remarkable for the modesty and brevity with which he describes the most tremendous perils to which he was subjected, so that unless one has some personal acquaintance with the matters in question, it is hard to realise how great were the risks he overcame.

And it is also evident that, but for the pressure brought to bear upon him by friends at home, he would not have published his adventures at all.

His experiences at his highest recorded latitude were uniqui among the annals of these seas. The weather was remarkably fine, a balmy feeling in the air, a blue sky above, and not a par ticle of ice to be seen. No land was in sight from the masthead and had he been possessed of steam power there can be no doub that he would have attained a much higher latitude. This wa on February 18, 1823. But the wind was S.E., a thousand mile of iceberg-infested and stormy sea lay between him and safety and his crew, co-partners in the profits of the voyage, had to b considered. So with extreme reluctance the ships were heade northward again for the sphere of their proper labours, which i is refreshing to know were entirely remunerative.

Captain Weddell is noticeable also from his extreme solicitud that all under his command should receive fitting recognition the important part they played, as well as being most careful fo their welfare. Otherwise he would hardly have been able to d so much with so small a company, and return home with them al well after an absence of two years.

Eight years more elapsed before anything further was done i the way of Antarctic discovery, when the brig Tula, 148 toni Captain John Biscoe, accompanied by the cutter Lively, let London on a whaling voyage to the South Seas, with special in structions from his owners, the great whaling firm of Messr: Enderby Brothers, to devote a considerable time to exploring th Antarctic seas. He met with terrible weather-indeed, the usus weather of those regions—which dealt with him and his people i a dreadful manner. Consequently he did not reach a very hig southern latitude; in fact, he never entered the Antarctic Cire at all, although he discovered in latitude 65° 57' S., longitud 47° 20' E., what is now known as Enderby's Land, but whether a island or part of a continent has not yet been determined. H was almost immediately compelled to return to Tasmania, havin most of his crew sick and two dead. It certainly seems lik tempting Providence to venture into those regions with such sma frail vessels, and the wonder is not that some were injured an others killed, but that the cockleshells ever returned at all.

But, not content with their previous experience, the Tula an her tiny consort again started for the south in the followin summer (1832), during which the parallel of 66° S. was reacher Several islands were discovered and named. On February 2 Captain Biscoe succeeded in landing on what he believed to b

the mainland, and took possession of it, calling two mountains conspicuously near Mount William and Mount Moresby, in honour of the king and Captain Moresby, R.N. Here was a deep bay in which the water was so still that the vessels might have been moored to the rocks. No place that might be used as winter quarters was seen by him, this bay being totally unfit for such a purpose, the steep inaccessible cliffs rising sheer from deep water like those of the Norwegian fjords, but without any landing facilities whatever except a precarious footing upon some outstretched ledge, such as Captain Biscoe managed to step upon for the purpose of taking formal possession.

Stress of weather again compelled him to return to the northward, but his voyage nearly came to a disastrous end at the South Shetlands, where he was driven ashore, losing his rudder and sustaining much serious damage. His little consort the Lively never reached home, being totally wrecked on Mackay's Island in the Falklands. Happily no lives were lost.

Arter a splendid encomium upon the great services rendered to science by Captain Biscoe, the Council of the Royal Geographical Society awarded him their royal premium. Messrs. Enderby, his employers, were so greatly impressed by the value of the work done that, undeterred by the heavy loss they had sustained on the commercial side of the voyage account, they again sent Captain Biscoe to the southward on a similar errand. But this second venture was a total failure. Almost at the first contact with the ice the vessels received such damage as necessitated their immediate return.

Eight years passed away, when Captain Balleny in another of Messrs. Enderby's whaling vessels, the Eliza Scott, discovered land in 66° 44' S., 165° 45' E. It consisted of a group of mountainous islands of great height and the same stern inaccessible character as all the other land seen in those latitudes. On one of these islands an officer succeeded in landing by jumping into the sea up to his middle, finding foothold upon a tiny shelving beach three or four feet wide at the most. No other landing-place could be found, the towering cliffs as usual rising sheer from the turbulent waves. These islands were actively volcanic, Captain Balleny plainly perceiving much smoke drifting from their summits. Thenceforward for a fortnight many entries of land seen' made in the Eliza Scott's log, but none further south than the first observed.



So many times was it noted as to preclude all possibility o the observers being the victims of those optical illusions s common in these high latitudes,

This particular portion of the Antarctic seas seems to hav exercised quite a magnetic influence upon exploring vessels. French expedition under Captain Dumont d'Urville, consisting two vessels, L'Astrolabe and Zélée, which at that time was battlin with the ice on the other side of the Pole, rediscovering an naming several places well known before, retired before th approach of winter with a scurvy-stricken crew to recruit a Hobart Town.

On January 1, 1840, the expedition sailed again, and, afte meeting with an enormous number of huge icebergs and great floe made the land, undoubtedly the same discovered by Balleny i the previous year. Captain d'Urville did not know of this, an proceeded to name the coast, managing after very great difficult to effect a landing upon a projecting ledge and plant the tricolor in token of his having taken possession of the country in th name of France ! Shortly afterwards, confronted by the u changing icy barrier before mentioned, the gallant Frenchma deemed it prudent to retire finally from the unequal contest, ne having during either of his attempts discovered any new lant This want of success was certainly not due to any

lack of

courag or enterprise, but partly to adverse weather and partly to want proper previous training and experience.

At the same time the United States exploring expeditio under Commander Wilkes, consisting of the Vincennes, Peacoc and Porpoise, with two schooners, was making a determined effo to accomplish something noteworthy in Antarctic research. The did not, however, succeed any better than the French had don which

goes far to prove that the time must have been unfavou able, since it is unfair to suppose that they were not abl competent, and brave men. Captain Sir J. C. Ross, when subs quently writing of their proceedings, expresses his wonder thi vessels so obviously unfit for such severe work were able 1 remain as long as they did in those regions, though that hardly sufficient to account for their ill-success when the woi done by Weddell, Biscoe, and Balleny is remembered.

Commander Wilkes speaks very confidently of land discovere by him in latitude 64° 49' S., and longitude 131° 40' E., which ! named after himselfMany details of the configuration of th

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »