Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

looked upon as a presage of disappointment. The inhabitants of this coast were wretchedly poor, living on seals' flesh, which they devoured raw. They were supposed by our voyagers to worship the sun, pointing constantly to it, and stroking their breasts, while they called out at the same time, Ilyout! But, perhaps, the true meaning of these gestures was, that their visiters were men who had come from that luminary. As the ice was now disappearing, Baffin persisted in a northerly course; but the weather was occasionally dreadfully cold; and on Midsummer day the sails and ropes were frozen so hard that they could scarcely be handled. In lat. 75° 40' the ice disappeared, and the prospect of an open sea again revived the hopes of a passage. Stormy weather forced them into a sound, in which there were so many whales that they named it Whale Sound. To another spacious inlet, running to the north of 78°, they gave the name of Sir Thomas Smith's Sound; and an island near it was called Hakluyt's Island. “This sound,” says Baffin, “ is admirable in one respect, because in it is the greatest variation in the compass of any part of the world known; for, by divers good observations, I found it to be above five points or 569 varied to the westward.” They now stood to the south-westward in an open sea, and with a stiff gale, till they made land near the entrance of a sound which they named Alderman Jones's Sound. Still proceeding westward, they found again in 74° 40' another great opening, which they called Sir James Lancaster's, Sound. The hope of a passage was now greatly diminished; the shore was unapproachable from the ice, which seemed to thicken towards the south. They sailed along this barrier, however, till they came down to 65°40', near the opening of Cumberland's Strait. Here, there remained no longer any hope of a western passage; and as the men were sickly, they stood across for the coast of Greenland, where, making salads of scurvy-grass, sorrel, and orpen, the crew soon recovered. They left this harbour on the 6th of August, and anchored safely at Plymouth on the 13th of the same month; “ for the

which,” says Baffin, “ and all other his blessings, the Lord make us thankfull.” This voyage, in which Baffin discovered the sea which now bears his name, and had advanced so many degrees beyond any preceding navigator, is not described by him with his usual minuteness and copiousness of detail. So few geographical points were settled in the published account of his navigation, that “ Baffin's Bay” was for a long time drawn in the charts almost from the fancy of the artist. The meagreness of his narrative, indeed, and the deficiency of particulars, are in some measure attributable to Purchas, who says “ that Baffin's map, with the tables of his journal and sailing, were somewhat troublesome, and too costly to insert.”” Mercantile enterprise did not fail to take advantage of the enlargement of geographical information. The voyages into the arctic seas, though they failed in discovering a passage to the Indies, laid the foundation of several lucrative branches of trade. So early as the year 1603, Steven Bennet sailed with a small vessel, fitted out by the “worshipful Francis Cherie,” to Cola on the northern coast of Lapland, with instructions to dispose of the cargo in that place, and afterwards to proceed on discovery. Bennet sailed north from Cola till he found an island, on which he saw foxes, but no inhabitants. He determined its latitude to be 74° 30', and gave it the name of Cherry Island, which it still retains; though it is the same which Barentz had discovered and named Bear Island several years before. Bennet returned to Cherry Island the following year, and found it covered with a multitude of fowls and morses. The teeth of the latter were a valuable article of trade; and his crew endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to take a cargo of them. They blew out the eyes of the morses with small shot, and then attacked the blind animals with hatchets. But this cruel proceeding was of little avail; and of a thousand they killed but fifteen. The next year another voyage was made to Cherry Island by the same owners; and they

* Purchas, vol. iii.

had improved so far in the art of taking the walrus, that they succeeded not only in procuring a cargo of the teeth, but also in boiling the blubber into oil. They at the same time discovered a lead mine, and brought home with them a small quantity of the ore. This trade rapidly improved. When Bennet visited the island in 1606, he collected, in a fortnight, three hogsheads of teeth and twenty-two tons of oil. His employers again proceeded with him to Cherry Island in 1608; and in the space of seven hours they killed nearly a thousand morses. A couple of these animals were brought home, and the male was exhibited to the court, “ where the king and many honourable personages beheld it with admiration for the strangeness of the same, the like whereof had never before been seen in England. Not long after, it fell sick and died. As the beast in shape is very strange, so it is of strange docility, and apt to be taught, as by good experience we often proved.” The weather in Cherry Island at the end of June is said to be calm and clear, and as warm as it usually is in England at the same season. The pitch ran down the ship's sides, and the tar exuded from the sides of the mast that faced the sun. These profitable voyages could not fail to catch the attention of monopolists; and formal possession was taken of Cherry Island in 1609, in the name of the Muscovy company. Multitudes of foxes were now seen; several bears were killed; three lead mines discovered ; and, what is remarkable, five ships happened to meet here at the same time, whose united crews amounted to 182 men, all engaged in lading with furs, oil, and walrus' teeth. The Muscovy company, having taken possession of Cherry Island, despatched a small vessel towards the north pole in 1610, for the double purpose of trade and discovery. Jonas Poole, who had been on all the former voyages, was appointed master. He advanced beyond 78° ; and repeats emphatically an important observation which had been made by preceding navigators, that the climate in the open sea, towards the pole, is much more temperate than in lower latitudes. “ A passage,” he says, “ may be as soon attained this way by the pole as any unknown way whatsoever, by reason the sun doth give a great heat in this climate, and the ice that freezeth here is nothing so huge as I have seen in 73°.” Poole did not reach beyond 79° 50' in this voyage, which was intended not only as an experiment to “catch a whale or two,” and to kill walruses, but also for northern discovery. This is manifest from the tenour of his instructions, which are conceived in the following terms: —“Inasmuch as it hath pleased Almightie God, through the industry of yourselfe and others, to discover unto our nation a land lying in eightie degrees toward the north pole; we are desirous not only to discover farther to the northward along the said land, to find whether the same be an island or a mayne, and which way the same doth trend, either to the eastward or to the westward of the pole ; as also whether the same be inhabited by any people, or whether there be an open sea farther north than hath been already discovered,” &c.” Jonas Poole sailed again in 1611, in company with the first ship despatched from England for the express purpose of killing the whale : six Biscayans, accustomed to that business, were added to the crew. While this ship was engaged in fishing, Poole proceeded as far northward as 80°, near Spitzbergen, and then crossing westward, ran along the eastern shore of Greenland, forty leagues beyond the most northern point laid down in the charts. In the same year, Jan Mayen, the commander of a Dutch whaler, discovered to the north of Iceland the island which still bears his name, and which was for many years a fishing station for the Dutch, where they boiled their blubber, till it became unapproachable by the accumulation of ice. So rapid was the improvement made, chiefly by the assistance of the Biscayans, in the art of killing whales, that Poole's ship alone this voyage took no fewer than thirteen : and in the year 1613, above twenty ships — French, Dutch, Spanish, and Biscayan—besides six from England, were assembled together in the sea of Spitzbergen ; one of the English ships was commanded by the celebrated navigator William Baffin.

* Purchas, vol. iii.

The English, having taken possession of Spitzbergen in the name of his majesty, prohibited the ships of other nations from fishing there. It was expected that the foreign fishermen would resist this order, but they quietly submitted to the usurped authority of the English. In this voyage the observant Baffin remarked the extraordinary refraction of the atmosphere in northern latitudes, and determined its quantity at the horizon to be twenty-six minutes; and he philosophically adds, “I suppose the refraction is more or lesse according as the air is thick or clear, which I leave for better scholars to discuss.” He did not despair of the probability of a passage by the pole, relying on the existence of a spacious sea between Greenland and Spitzbergen; and he recommended the Muscovy company to expend annually 150l. or 200l. in exploring the northern seas, — a task which he thinks might be adequately performed by a little pinnace, with a crew of only ten men.

The great success of the northern fisheries again roused the Danes into action. In 1619, two ships, chiefly manned by English seamen, and commanded by Jan Munk, were fitted out on a voyage of discovery, with the intention of pursuing the tracks of Hudson and of Baffin. The ice prevented Munk from running along the western coast of Greenland: he consequently steered for Hudson's Strait; and finding the coast of America in 63° 20', he took shelter in a harbour (perhaps the Chesterfield Inlet of our maps) to which he gave the name of Munk's Winter Harbour. The surrounding country he named New Denmark. He entered this harbour on the 7th of September ; and as it was evidently impossible to cross Hudson's Bay at this late season, he began to build huts, and to search the neighbouring country for game and fuel. His crews amounted in all to sixty-four men; , but when the rigour of the winter prevented them from WOL. II. N

« ForrigeFortsett »