We have great pleasure in presenting to our readers the following intensely interesting passages from an unpublished Journal, by J. N. Reynolds, Esq., during a cruise, a few years since, to the South Seas. The vessels-the Annawan and Penguin--having been delayed at Statten-Land, near the Straits of Magellan, bore off from thence to the South Shetland Islands, and the following sketch is descriptive of the first arrival among the icy regions of the Antarctick. -ED. N.Y. MIR.
LEAVES FROM AN UNPUBLISHED JOURNAL.
The nineteenth was the first day that reminded us of the high latitudes upon which we were entering. We now found ourselves, by observation, fifty-nine and a half degrees south of the equator. Here the wind, changing to the south-west, brought with it a chilling and piercing freshness, which convinced us that, as it swept from the antarctick, it had lingered not a little among the mighty floating crystals which lift their glittering cones in the regions surrounding the pole. Our vessels now glided on with greater rapidity; storms of snow and sleet gathered thicker around us, and increased vigilance became necessary to prevent parting company. Our feelings grew more and more excited with every plunge of our bark and we loved to feel the elastick bound she gave on the back of every roaring and hissing billow, inasmuch an each one bore her onward to regions, to us, at least, unknown. The temperature of the air had gradually fallen to forty degrees, and that of the water to thirty-eight degrees.
On the twentieth, being satisfied, from our reckoning, that we were in the neighbourhood of the north-cast extremity of the Shetland Isles, we maintained an unceasing watch for land. The fog was dense, and rested on the surface of the water; so that our prospect was very circumscribed, and it became necessary to arrange our men so as to keep perpetual guard against the ice-hummocks which were occasionally seen floating near us, and whence we augured the vicinity of some of those immense, towering islands of ice, which impart such grandeur to these regions. and lend such a perilous interest to polar voyages. It has been said that a degree of obscurity tends to favour and heighten the sublimity about which it gathers. On this occasion it is certain it added to the feeling of curiosity, which was soon to be gratified. As the vapour lifted gradually from the south, we were struck by the appearance of a white, lustrous spot, which expanded in a circle upon the horizon, as though in the timid, gray twilight of the morning, were breaking upon the retreating shadows of night, while the faint radiation of the sun seemed hardly enough to penetrate the veil of mist that rested on the sea. We were soon satisfied that this was the blink of a number of grounded icebergs, of vast magnitude, and with summits wrapped in snow. Beyond them rose, in still loftier spires of rock and ice, the north-east point of Barrow's Island ; nor was it possible to trace the termination of those eminences, so nearly did they resemble the white, fleecy clouds, by which they were enveloped. The air, meanwhile, became so light, that the movement of the vessels was scarcely perceptible, as we passed slowly under the lee of the island and icebergs.
The whole of Barrow's Island, which forms the north-east extremity of the Shetland group, gradually broke upon us, as the mist passed lightly away We were about two leagues from the land, and, as there was not wind enough to enable us to command the di-rection of the vessels, we put off in boats for the shore. The savage and cheerless aspect of the coast gave birth to more thrilling emotions in our minds, as we drew near it, than the most beautiful meadows and shaded lands could have imparted. Additional in-terest was imparted to this domain of solitude and desolation, from the absence of vegetation, as well as of every animated being, save the sea-gull, which sent forth its melancholy shriek from its wild perch among the cliffs, thus adding to the dreariness of the scene.
As the vapour continued to pass away, a clear, cold, yellow brilliancy, glittered along the sea, and the sun came forth in a flood of dazzling splendour, which was reflected and multiplied from a thousand gleaming pinnacles of ice and snow. A new world seemed breaking upon us on every side! No one, however phlegmatick and unsusceptible, could have gazed upon the glory and effulgence by which we were environed, for the first time, without excitement. We had often read, in the late narratives of Ross, and Parry, and Franklin, of the sublimity and beauty of the polar regions-of the tremendous ice-mountains, the floating islands looming to the clouds, and reaching to unfathomable depths, "desolate in their misty shrouds." A love of adventure, from the eagerness with which we had cherished it, became almost the master-passion of our soul. There were few charms for us in milder climes and gentler airs. We had long panted to behold the realms of snow and " thick-ribbed ice," and now, for the first time, were under the shadow, and in-haling the cold breath of the polar icebergs they were before and around, realizing all we had ever dreamed of their fearful grandeur and sublimity. In the afternoon, a deep calm, saving the light rip-ple occasioned by the tides, had settled upon the ocean. At this time the huge hummocks were floating by, under every conceivable variety of figure, and white and spotless as the purest alabaster.
"There she blows! there she top-tails!" suddenly exclaimed a seaman, who had been seated, apparently lost in contemplation, upon the bowsprit of the Annawan. Every eye was immediately and in-stinctively turned in the direction of the excited sailor, when a shoal of whales, tumbling towards the vessel, at once drew our attention. Jack was a whaler of other days, and the ejaculation elicited by the appearance of these enormous denizens of the sea, was at once natural and involuntary. As they approached us, it was amusing to observe their clumsy gambols, as they flung up their tremendous flukes with a sudden jerk, plunged below to feed on the medusa and shrimp, so plentiful in these regions, or projected into the air vast columns of water, hissing and seething from the force with which it was propelled. An old fimbacker rose directly under the bows of the brig, and heaved her for some distance in the water, as if determined to test the weight and prowess of the new intruder into regions where he had probably reigned and ranged undisputed for more than half a century.
The rookery penguins next attracted our notice. They gathered and flitted about the vessel in flocks that could not be numbered. Portions of the shore were literally covered with this bird. In the water, their movements are rather those of a fish than of any species of winged creature; they are continually plunging and emerging, like a shoal of porpoises before a storm, and are more than half the time beneath the surface. As we drew near the island, its shore seemed singularly bold and abrupt, alternately presenting formations of rock and bodies of unbroken ice. Among the many exciting spectacles we witnessed, was the falling asunder of an immense iceberg, which parted like a rent mountain, before the warmth of a wind bearing more of summer on its wings than any we had experienced here before, and shot crashing into the ocean, with a sound to which none on earth may be compared.
But one spot where we could land from the boats was attainable and here we succeeded in capturing a heavy sea-elephant. "The male of this species has a cartilaginous substance projecting from the nose, six or seven inches in length; and from this peculiarity it derives its name, as its purpose seems to be similar to that of an elephant's proboscis." Sometimes the male is more than twenty feet in length, and measures more than two fathoms about the body; while the female is never half that size, and bears a resemblance to the hair-seal. Between their movements in the sea and on shore, a striking contrast is observable-the former being sluggish and ungraceful, while the latter are quick, sagacious and elastick. The sea-elephant rarely runs, or turns to battle. Herein he is unlike the fur-seal. But when the club is lifted above his head, or the spear pointed at his heart, he merely raises his weeping eyes with a look of supplication to his murderer, and awaits the deadly blow with the resignation of a martyr. A light breeze began to crisp the surface of the water, as we returned to the vessels. We were consequently enabled to bear away to the westward, under easy sail. The night was uncommonly thick, so that, notwithstanding all our efforts to prevent it, we parted company with the Penguin, and did not see her again until the afternoon of the following day.
After rejoining our consorts, we hove-to, in view of a cluster of rocks, bearing South-west from Barrow's Island. To approach near them with the vessels, would, however, have been hazardous; we accordingly determined to reconnoitre them in our boats. These crags are called the Seal Rocks. They constitute a group about four miles in circumference, and appear to be the disintegrated ruins of an island washed away by the heavy and ceaseless action of an icy sea. Here and there had been left rugged and spiral peaks, rising from one to four hundred feet above the tumbling waters, which dashed and foamed in the dark, narrow channels between them. In attempting to navigate one of these contracted passages, we met with a little accident. Our boat, while hurrying down the boiling current with the speed of a race-horse, encountered an opposing eddy, and, rearing perpendicularly from the shock, instantly capsized. We were cast upon a small beach at the foot of one of the rocks, in the struggle to attain which, the utility of a knowledge of swimming was practically illustrated. We landed, during the afternoon, on another small island, bearing east by south from the Seal Rocks, but which has never been laid down or described, on any of the still very unsatisfactory charts of the group. It would not claim any particular notice here, were it not rendered remarkable by a rock column soaring, partly perpendicularly, to the height of three hundred and fifty feet, while it does not exceed fifty in width and twenty in thickness. This lofty, natural pillar, might almost be imagined a vast tombstone, lowering over the sepulchre of some ocean-god. As night gathered about us, a calm settled upon the ocean, and the relaxed sails flapped wearily and heavily against the masts, like the tired pinions of some gigantick bird wheeling slowly and lazily over the waves.
During the night, we drifted, by the force of the current, several leagues, and were not a little surprised to find ourselves, as the fog scattered on the morning of the twenty-second, completely hemmed in by icebergs, a portion of then in motion, others aground, looming like mountains around us. Within the very ripple of some of them we, must have glided, when a view of their now glistening summits was prevented by the black of darkness which hung around us.
We could not think of leaving Barrow's Island, without a better acquaintance with its position and peculiarities; but, at the same time, it was not deemed safe for the vessels to approach nearer the coast, on account of the masses of ice and crags by which it was surrounded, and which were constantly enveloped in a mist of spray, from the breakers that surged high up their precipitous sides. We had no resource but to land from the boats, and they were accord-ingly lowered for our reception. The trials and hardships of boat excursions, south of latitude sixty degrees, were something with which we had yet to become acquainted. The adventure promised novelty, and its very hazard gave it a more exciting interest; for
"If a path be dangerous known,
The danger's self is lure alone."
Notwithstanding the eager hurry of our departure, however, we did not forget to take with us a camp-kettle, tinder-box, some muskets and sealing-clubs, and a small supply of provisions. We provided ourselves with these articles as a precautionary measure; seeing that we might possibly be compelled to " haul," as the sealers have it, and thus remain absent during the night; though such a necessity did not exactly come within the plan of our excursion. We now took to our oars, and, making the island on the north-east side, distant about three leagues, we laid our course west, and shot rapidly toward the shore. As we pulled along its verge, we found, in a sweep of coast several miles in extent, only two or three places, where it was practicable to land; and even at these-points were, obliged to leap from the cuddy of the boat, as the lifting sea threw her bows in close contact with some overhanging cliff. The shore, constituted of rock and solid ice, was particularly bold; indeed, so perpendicularly did it rise from the water's edge, that an ascent of the island was utterly impossible, although we wearied ourselves with exertions to accomplish it. We could not even land, without running imminent risk of getting our boat stove against the sharp, shelving crags. But the absorbing consideration was this-that, had we succeeded in reaching some tenable spot, we could not have passed the night there, without danger of being whelmed by the avalanches of snow and ice, which were constantly liable to be de-tached from the overshadowing peaks on which they reposed.
While we glided through the water under "easy oars," the wind was suddenly down upon us, and a fog like the night of Egypt enveloped us in its dismal veil. The sea began to rise, and the surf thundered against the rocks with added violence. To attempt re turning to the vessels, would have been an act of madness; for it was clear, from the point to which the wind had hauled round, that their captains would but consult their own safety, by putting at once to sea, to avoid the impending masses of ice by which they were environed. We therefore kept as close as possible to the coast, observing narrowly every indentation where shelter might be hoped for, while each moment served to increase the black and threatening aspect of the elements. It was late in the afternoon, when, after a laborious struggle for a distance of more than fifteen miles, we had the good fortune to discover a narrow beach, upon which we were- enabled to haul. Yet, even here, the ocean broke in white and booming surges, and with a sound like the continual discharge of artillery. The lateness of the hour precluded farther examination, and we prepared to take advantage of this opportunity to obtain safety and rest. For a few moments we rested on our oars, about two hundred yards from the place where we proposed landing until we had ridden over the huge rollers that were heaving heavily beneath us. Then the words, " Steady, boys--steady! bows on! bows on! Stand ready to leap, the instant she touches the shore!" and, as our tough blades cut the water, she seemed to bound from billow to billow, like a " thing of life." To guide a boat amid the lifting and leap of the surf, is, by no means, an easy undertaking; but, by proper and skilful management, disastrous consequences may usually be avoided. The men should be kept firm and steady on their seats--the oars from entanglement in the waves--and the boat well-poised--directly off and on. The spring is to be made simultaneously with the craft's taking ground ; and she is then to be raised at once from the water, and borne to a safe distance up the shore. By these means, we all reached the narrow beach, with no other damage than complete immersion ; but wet, cold and comfortless--what were we to do for fuel and furnace? That this desolate island, in whose icy furrows no vegetation ever sprang must be our abode for the night, was, of course, a settled question the necessity was unavoidable. "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof," were the words of divine wisdom, some eighteen centuries ago; nor are they less applicable to the age in which we live, than to that in which they were uttered. Yet, how often is man troubled with the thought of evils he is not destined to experience! He fails to remember, as he ought, that the arm of the Creator is ever about him, and that, in all circumstances and in every land, there in dis-cernible a ceaseless ministration to his necessities. On the present occasion, as on many others, this protecting care, which we, perhaps, too little appreciate, because it is exercised through means in themselves simple and natural, was apparent. The last boat had been lifted from the surf, and the desolateness of our situation and prospects was beginning to weigh heavily on our hearts, when we deScried, at a short distance on the same beach, a small rookery of sea-elephants, thrusting their heads upward with a fierce expression of defiance, as if determined to maintain their exclusive right to the dreary and solitary spot they had chosen for an abode.
But what place is exempt, what creature safe, from the intrusion of man? Boast as he may of his humanity, he is in a state of per-petual warfare with every living thing which can satisfy his wants, or painper his appetite, for luxuries; and his path, almost the world over, may be tracked by blood. In this instance, instigated by that necessity which admits neither question nor delay, we prepared to attack the rookery. It is almost needless to add, that well-aimed guns and vigorous thrusts of the lance soon conquered all the oppo-sition which could be displayed by bright rows of ivory; and the issue was, the capture of six of the animals. Our success relieved us of all apprehensions on the score of fuel, as the blubber of the sea-elephant will kindle and support an admirable fire ; while his tongue constitutes an excellent and luxurious article of food. An expression of gratitude and delight now seemed to beam from every countenance, for our wants being in a great measure removed, the novelty of our situation could not fail to awaken feelings of pleasure as intense and absorbing as they were peculiar. A day or two, it was true, might reduce us to our last biscuit; but on this it was not the disposition of sailors to speculate. Enjoying the present, they do not trouble themselves to imagine misfortunes for the morrow--and, certes, this is the true philosophy after all.
But little labour was required in making our preparations for the night. The wandering Arab, when overtaken by darkness on the desert, could not in less time pitch his tent than we occupied in reversing our boats on the frozen snow and sand, and extending the dripping canvass which was to be our bed. As the night began to lower around us, the thickening clouds added tenfold to its darkness, and everything was prophetick of a coming tempest. Our blubber fire had been kindled on a platform of stones, and, as we clustered about it, with faces blackening in the dense oleaginous smoke it emitted, we might readily have been taken for a group of northern Esquimaux, or their counterparts, the natives of Terra del Fuego, who inhabit the opposite extremity of our continent.
With the approach of morning it began to blow a strong gale, which continued unintermittingly through the day, flinging the surf so angrily and heavily in, that to launch our boats was out of the question. Nor would such a measure have been of the, least avail, had we been able to effect it, as the island was still shrouded in a mist which was as impervious to the eye as the darkness of midnight. In the evening we had again recourse to the shelter of our boats, beneath which, wild and dreary as our situation was, the sailors did not forget on this, the closing night of the week, to crack their jokes and spin their long yarns, and they even said something about home and their sweethearts and wives. The fierceness of the storm did not diminish during the hours of darkness. The deep thunder of the waves as they heaved the enormous icebergs, from their foundations and scattered them in fragments around; the lurid tartarean glow, caught from our lambent fires, which was reflected,, from objects around us, threw over our singular encampment, a character of wildness and horrour, which, heightened as it was by thoughts that would intrude as to the possible duration of our exile, is not to be described or even conceived.
On the twenty-fourth, intimations of a return of pleasant weather began to dawn upon us. Our anxiety for the safety of the vessels so intimately connected with our own, was infinitely relieved by these appearances. Filling our camp-kettle with young penguins, and a bird of the gull family called the Port Egmont hen--which had been drawn to our bivouack by the remnants of the slaughtered sea-elephants--it was swung, at an early hour, over our fire of blubber. Having breakfasted, we succeeded, after repeated trials, in shooting the boats once more into their proper element; then bidding, as we imagined, a last farewell to our rude harbour. which we distinguished by the title of Rodman's Cove, in remembrance of our much esteemed friend, Benjamin Rodman, Esq.,of New-Bedford--we bore away on our blind pilgrimage in search of the vessels. Urging our course as rapidly as we might, we plunged on league after league from the shore; but still the vast circuit of the horizon unveiled nothing to our straining eves but sky, ocean, clouds, and glittering pyramids. At length, satisfied that our vessels had not returned to the island, we found ourselves under the necessity of again seeking, though with much reluctance, our former shelter. As the day was not very far advanced, we sent two of the boats on shore, and proceeded to examine the western point of the island until our direction was clearly south-east. Upon this part of the coast is the only indentation that deserves the name of bay. It opened upon us with a degree of imposing grandeur, of which those who have never visited these regions of wild sublimity, would find it difficult to conceive. This inlet, in honour of the late secretary of the navy, we named Southard's Bay, not, however, with any reference to his publick character and services,,, for of these he has better and more durable monuments, but simply as evidence of friendship and regard.
A firm, unbroken body of ice seemed here to constitute the coast for more than six miles. It rose perpendicularly from the water's edge, and, extending back, appeared to form a material part of the island. This vast glittering collection had probably been accumulating for centuries. The falling and drifting snow and sleet, congealing year after year upon the old formation, had not only supplied the portion dissolved by the short and partial summers, but added annually to the extent and picturesque appearance of this huge mass of crystallization. After coasting the base of several icebergs and, making our way through the field-ice floating around us, we reached the neighbourhood of a long and dangerous reef which partly obstructs the channel between Barrow and Clarence Isle, being the extreme attainable point of the former in this direction. The dashing of the heavy swell upon the breakers, as it poured from the south, heaved in vast quantities of field-ice. As they plunged forward upon other floes in advance, the whole body was broken into atoms, and a mist, like the smoke from the crater of a volcano, was cast to the clouds from an area of many miles. In addition to this, let the imagination of the reader picture the savage features of the shore, whence the overtowering cliffs of ice are not unfrequently separated from the main body by the undermining rush of the billows; let him conceive the plunge of the disparted ruin; the thundering crash of its collision with the ocean; the vortex of foam and spray which mark where, it fell; and even then, be his fancy ever so vivid, he will fail to realize the sublime realities of the Antarctick.
To progress farther being impossible, we leaned for a season on our oars, gazing in mute admiration on the wonders around us--only moving occasionally and slightly, to avoid the iron grasp of the closing ice. In the evening we retraced our course to the old place of encampment, where we joined some of the party who had preceded us to the spot, and had, moreover, been fortunate enough to provide fuel for the night, by killing another sea-elephant of large size.
As yet, we had discovered no part of the coast where we could ascend to the summit of the island; and as the " golden set" the sun was about to make, promised fine weather on the morrow, it was probable that we should have no opportunity, after the present evening, of making farther trials. We, therefore, determined, as an hour or two of daylight yet remained to make a hasty search for some practicable acclivity.
The altitude of the shore land at this spot, seemed to be about one thousand feet, rising toward, the interiour to much greater elevation. The only point we could find by which an ascent could be attempted with any feisible prospect of success, was a slight ravine, into which the snow had drifted nearly to the top of the rocks. So slippery and difficult to impress, however, had the congealed accumulations which blocked up the defile become that we were compelled to proceed slowly, and with great caution--no certain foot-hold being attainable except by making indentations in the snowy mass with the heel or toe of the shoe.
On gaining the first eminence, we found our situation to be one of no little danger. The alley up which we had toiled, avoiding the centre of the island, ran obliquely with the coast, and on reaching the summit, we found ourselves hanging over the terrifick front of a frowning precipice. The gorge on which we stood could not exceed twenty-four inches in breadth. Gravel and loose stones constituted the soil, which seemed each moment as if about to crumble beneath our feet, and hurl us from our precarious, position a thousand feet into the yawning gulf below. As we leaped forward, a part of the loose soil separated from the rest, and actually shot into the sea at the very instant we had quitted it! A safe foothold was, however, soon obtained, and, after surmounting two other peaks, which rose one above another, we at length stood on what was evidently the loftiest point of the island.
The sun, at this time within an hour of setting, was sinking in a clear horizon, and the evening was precisely such as might be naturally desired for the enjoyment of a scene like that before us. All that we had ever read of the glaciers of the Alps, and their tremendous avalanches, was re-awakened in our recollection with a new interest, as we stood contemplating the flashing peaks, intersected by dark and startling ravines, which were about us on every side. The white mantle which wrapped those unvegetating mountains, was indeed, composed of"Hovering amid the wild stupendous scene,
Beholds new seas beneath another sky!
Throned in his palace of cerulean ice,
Here Winter holds his unrejoicing court
And, through his airy hall, the loud misrule
Of driving tempest is for ever heard!"
"Snows where never pilgrim foot
Of in mortal trod."
Long will it be ere that twilight, and the prospect on which it reposed shall fade from memory. They are not associated with that exciting, yet softened sympathy, which a beautiful scene is calculated to inspire; but with feelings far more intense an absorbing-feelings only generated in the presence of sublimity, and heightened by the accompaniment of danger. Those who have had no experience of the Titan scale upon which nature has operated, and is continuing to operate in these regions, can have no legitimate conception of the unspeakable grandeur of all that lay around and beneath us, from the description we have attempted.
Let the reader picture to himself our situation. Near the limits of the "bleak antarctick"--planted on the towering summit of an ice-clad island, that heaved up front the sea two thousand feet into the glittering air! with other islands breaking upon us from the south and west, surrounded by an ocean covered and speckled to the horizon's utmost verge with field-ice, hummocks, and innumerable flashing mountains of crystal, of forms as various and fantastick as the clouds to which they aspired.
Let him imagine the frequent collisions of these floating particles--the shock, the vibration, the explosion, when the drifting Alp is hurled by the wind or the current, against the anchored Appenine--and the plunge of its ten thousand projected fragments sounds like thunder bellowing from the sea. Let him fancy the tossing and battling of the fallen wrecks, resembling, as it does, at a distance, the wild, unwieldy gambols of a shoal of ocean monsters. As we gazed on the sparkling peaks; the valleys, resplendent as with scattered diamonds; the illusory castles of brilliant spar, topped with spires and minarets, gleaming in the declining rays--it seemed as if all the wild legends of fairy magnificence we had ever read, were tame in their descriptions to the magnitude and surpassing splendour of the realities which now presented themselves to our view.
It is in this ocean that the sailor, if he have not the tempest to encounter, or the hurricane and water-spout to dread, is compassed by dangers more calculated to appal the heart and unnerve the mind. The navigation of such a sea requires the utmost exertion of consummate nautical skill. Still, no assertions are more true than that obstacles are magnified by distance and difficulties easily surmounted in the trial, which appeared unconquerable from afar. Already had experience robbed our progress of half its terrours; and, while we stood in solitude on the crest of that insulated island, at a greater height above the ocean's level than man had before trod, in the same latitude, with gleaming islands one beyond another, until merged in the lustrous horizon, on one side, and vast pyramids of ice issuing like towering spectres from the dim and shroud-like vapours on the other, all seemed to minister to one prevailing impulse within us, urging us still onward to behold new and more transcendent scenes--
"Where, undissolving from the first of time,
Snows swell on snows-amazing--to the sky;
And icy mountains, high on mountains piled,
Seem to the shivering sailor, from afar,
Shapeless and white--an atmosphere of clouds.
Projected huge and horrid, o'er the surge,
Alps form on Alps; or, rushing hideous down,
Wide rend the sky, or shake the solid pole."
Never till now had we felt so bitterly the absence of those boon and brave spirits with whom we had hoped, aforetime, to encounter the perils and enjoy the wonders of these seas. Could it be told us where were Jones, and Pinkham, and Long, and Wilson, and Bu-chanan? Why were they not with us, as well as those noble companions whose names fill an enviable place in the "Naval Register?" They were appointed to a national expedition--they would well have fulfilled a nation's expectations. Why was not the Peacock discernible, standing off the island, awaiting our return? Her bows of iron would have burst a passage through those icy fields, as a boat cleaves her sparkling way through the froth of ocean. But we felt that these reflections were a futile attempt to investigate secret things; and the rapid approach of night warned us to lose no time rejoining our comrades in Rodman's cove. The sun had already dipped in the waters; but he was leaving a glory behind, which promised, in some measure to atone for his departure. Shooting horizontally along the surface of the waves, and reflected in their passage from myriads of sparkling cones of ice, the last beams of day illuminated, with a more solemn and touching splendour, the dazzling expanse. It was a beautiful sunset, and a sabbath evening. At such a time, and in such a temple, devotion is an instinct!
Our companions we found seated round a small blubber fire, waiting for us to assist them in making a descent upon a supper of boiled and roast penguins, obtained from a rocky promontory but a short distance from the little beach we occupied. The flesh was quite juicy and tender, and, by unanimous consent, of excellent relish. An alteration had been made as regarded our quarters for the night, by removing the boats to a spot where we could cover them with an embankment, of snow to keep out the wind, and lessen the danger of being crushed by falling rocks from the precipice that beetled above us. A portion of the cliff had, indeed, fallen the previous night, and so close to us that one of its fragments had partially shattered the boat under which we were lying.
The morning of the twenty-fifth was such as might have been anticipated from the preceding evening. At the first break of day, which, in this latitude and at thin season, is perceptible at two o' clock in the morning, we again put to sea in our boats, and made for the eastern side of the island where we hoped to rejoin the vessels. Elated with this joyful expectation, our brave fellows, from whose lips no murmur had escaped during the whole of the whole excursion, bowed to their oars with vigorous arms. We swept along with spirit-stirring rapidity for some distance to the eastward when we suddenly found ourselves again enveloped in a dirty and desolate mist. Assisted by a small compass, we steered immediately for the island, of which, notwithstanding the precipitous aspect of its shore, we could see no trace--not even the faintest outline. We had not proceeded far on our new course, before we found ourselves on the very brink of destruction-about to rush amid sunken ledges and blind breakers, of which we had no intimation until the white foam was leaping and whirling in fearful eddies around the very bows of our frail and plunging skiffs. Never did Nantucket whalerman, after transfixing a true spermaceti with his barbed iron, exclaim, "Stern haul! stern haul!" more readily than we did. Immediately shaping our course from the land, we determined to tempt the hazards of the open sea sooner than encounter the perils of such a coast. We had rowed, or rather groped our way, for about a league, when, we fortunately ran into a small channel that shot between two rocks, one of which had a shelving base more than two hundred yards in circumference. This we ascended, and forthwith kindled a fire from some pieces of blubber which remained in the boats. The day was moderately mild, and the sailors, wearied by protracted exertion at the oar, soon lay scattered upon the rock, like so many marine animals come up from their element to sun themselves. Care and apprehension were lost in the insensibility of sleep, or, perhaps, in dreams of home.
The sudden changes which distinguish these latitudes are truly astonishing. Suddenly the fog that surrounded us would lift and display a view only girdled by the horizon; and again, as quickly, the broad prospect, and even the objects immediately about us, were lost in obscurity. We had ascended and seated ourselves with a spy--glass on the loftiest pinnacle of' the cliff, from whence nothing was to be descried but the boundless, ice-speckled sea. We acknowledge that we felt a passing pang of apprehension, and a momentary sensation of gloom at this cheerless prospect ; but we were careful to avoid betraying these feelings to our shipmates. Repeatedly from this summit did we strain our vision in long and weary glances over the ocean. At length, as day was fading, and hope itself began to tire, we caught a glance of what appeared to be the rising and sinking topsail of a vessel. The suspense and doubt of that moment were indeed intense. It might be the " blink" of a distant iceberg ; and, while our mind was alternating between hope and fear, we beckoned to the mate, who at once ascended to our side. The glass was immediately applied to his more practised eye, and held immoveable for some moments, as to make assurance doubly sure; then, with a half-suppressed, but an exulting smile of delight, he exclaimed, "An iceberg does not carry such a royal as the Annawan-and--yes! there comes the Penguin, like a dolphin, in her wake!"
To describe what followed is almost unnecessary. "Sail ho!" "Sail ho!" were involuntary exclamations as we descended; and had Father Neptune himself, with his waving beard, risen from the deep and smitten the rock with his trident, while all the young Tritons sounded their conchs in concert, our sturdy sailors had not started more energetically from their slumbers. Leaving their simmering, half-cooked dinner to be devoured by the Maulemucks, Nellies, Gulls, and Mother Carey's chickens, we started in high spirits, and, by nine o'clock the same evening, arrived safely on board. Several hours were now spent in mutual congratulations, and in recounting our "hair-breadth scapes," from rock and wave, in frail boats, and with only a half-inch plank between us and the tumbling ocean. Many of those we have omitted here, merely through fear that their recital might fatigue the patience of the reader.