The author passes Sough Georgia, and proceeds in search of Sandwich land.--States to his officers and men his reasons for believing in the existence of great bodies of land within the antarctic circle, and for the opinion that the polar region is subject to great heat in summer.--Crew mutiny at the instigation of Mr. Slim, third mate.--Happy discovery of a southern continent, which, at the unanimous and earnest solicitation of his officers and men, he names Seaborn's land.
There was no doubt in my mind of the existence of extensive bodies of land within the antarctic circle, which quarter had scarcely been looked into by Christian navigators, and that my opinion was founded upon the fact that Cook, and other navigators, had seen large bodies of ice in latitude 70 degrees to 71 degrees south. This fact, I said, indicated the existence of land, because ice could not form in a deep salt sea uninterrupted by land, and agitated by the violent winds and currents of the polar region. I urged that we had but to persevere in our researches in high southern latitudes, to make sure of finding land, which would yield us ample fortunes, for all southern islands, when first discovered, were found to abound in seal. Mr. Slim, the third mate, expressed some apprehension, that great danger might be encountered in high southern latitudes; that if we found land, the ices might close upon us and prevent our return to our country, as it once served a colony in Greenland. I was not much pleased with this. I have no patience with an officer who suggests doubts and difficulties when I have a grand project in view. I marked him, but at the same time pretended to listen to his observations, as objection of great weight, and then proceeded to remove them from the minds of the officers and people, by advancing the following reasons for my belief that the supposition of extreme cold at the pole was altogether gratuitous.
1st. We know that the rays of the sun, uninfluenced by the atmosphere, would rest upon the pole for six successive months.
2nd. That a dense medium refracts, or bends the rays of the sun.
3rd. That the amount of that refraction depends upon the extent of the dense medium through which it has to pass.
4th. That at the pole, the rays of the sun coming to it in a very oblique direction must necessarily pass through our atmosphere a greater distance than on any other part of this globe, and consequently must there be refracted in a greater degree than elsewhere. Hence I inferred, that in consequence of this refraction, and of its increase in proportion to the obliquity of the direction of the ryas, the sun when in the plane of the equator, must appear to an observer at the poles to be some degrees above the horizon, and that the sun must recede to the north of the equator at least five or six degrees of declination, before it would become invisible at the south pole: therefore, as it takes fifteen days to increase the sun's declination five degrees, It must be visible at the poles one month longer, on account of the refraction, than it would be without it. This conclusion is corroborated by the testimony of Barentz, a Dutchman, who wintered in Nova Zembla. He found the sun to rise, in latitude 76 degrees, fifteen days sooner than was expected by astronomical calculations. This will give the polar region seven months constant sunshine; think of that, my shipmates, said I, seven months constant day, with a continual stream of light and heat pouring upon the same spot, without any interval of night to cool the earth and air. I think if we can but find our way to the polar region, we shall be in much more danger of being roasted alive, than of being frozen to death. But, my lads, what Yankee sailor would hesitate to expose himself to be roasted alive to accomplish that which the British tars have endeavored in vain to do? Three hearty cheers put an end to the debate. We bore up for Sandwich land, not that I had any belief in the existence of any such land, for I had always been of opinion, that the English placed this supposed land on their charts as an English discovery, stretching it along from the polar seas to latitude 57 south, that they might, whenever any land should be discovered in that unexplored quarter, have a pretence for laying claim to it as a British discovery.
We had a fine gale from the S.W. and made rapid progress to the S.E. under canvass. Although the most perfect satisfaction with the course I had determined on appeared to prevail throughout the ships company, Mr. Slim came to me in my cabin, when relieved from his watch on deck, and told me, that, however satisfactory my account of the matter might have been to the other officers and the crew, it was not satisfactory to his mind; and he should be glad to be informed how I accounted for the vast bodies of ice which had invariably stopped the progress of navigators in high latitudes, if my notions of great heat at the poles were correct? "Take a chair, Mr. Slim, and we will talk about it. In the first place, we have no account of any navigator having sailed to a higher southern latitude than 71, and 82 appears, from the most authentic accounts, to be the highest northern latitude that has been visited. Navigators to these high latitudes have always found ice between the parallels of 70 and 80, which space that profound philosopher, John Cleve Symmes, delineates the 'icy hoop'. It is true he has not taken the trouble to explain to the world, in a satisfactory manner, why and wherefore this narrow strip of ice should exit in that region; which omission, I judge, must have arisen from the circumstance of its being obvious to his capacious mind, that such a 'hoop' must necessarily exist, 'according to the laws of matter and motion.' The cause of it appearing to him perfectly simple, he could not suppose it necessary to state them to 'the most enlightened people on the face of the globe.' Now, sir, I will explain the matter to you. At the pole, that is, 90 degrees from the equator, there is seven months summer, without any interval of night, as I stated on deck; and when the sun has 23 1/2 degrees of south declination, its rays must strike the pole, allowing but three degrees for the effect of refraction, on an angle of 26 1/2 with the plane of the horizon, and must appear nearly as high as in Scotland, in the months of March and September. It is true it does not continue at this extreme declination for any great length of time. On the other hand, it does not recede so far as to withdraw its rays from the pole for a single hour during seven months of the year. This we know; and you can imagine, from the effect of a March sun, which in your country, Mr. Slim, loosens the icy fetters of winter, although withdrawn one half of the time what must be its effect when exerting its influence for months without any interruption? Now in latitude 70, with the exception of a few days, there is an interval of night the year round. In the winter months the climate cannot differ much from that of the pole. The cold is then no doubt severe, and forms ice in both those positions. In the early part of summer, that is, September, October, and November, there is at the pole a steady blaze of heat and light, which must melt the ice accumulated in winter, by causing a constant thaw. This sunshine continues at the pole till the 1st of April, and prevents the forming of ice until that time. But at 70 degrees there is, through most of these months, a short period of night, sufficient for the atmosphere to cool. This will be more obvious, if we consider the powerful influence of the ice, during this absence of the sun's rays, and remember the great change of temperature which occurs in our climate immediately after sunset at the close of a sunny day in February or March. This interval of night in latitude 70, counteracts most of the effects of the sun's heat in the day time. Nearly as much ice forms in the night as is thawed during the day. this accounts for the icy hoop. There is not summer enough to dissipate the ice of winter; while at the pole there is summer enough to dissolve a globe of ice."
"But sir, "rejoined Mr. Slim, "if this 'icy hoop' exists, how do you expect to pass it? Or, if it is impassable, what use is there in encountering the risk of navigating unknown and dangerous seas, in a high and boisterous latitude?"
"I mean, sir, to ascertain whether it be passable or not. I think it probable that the influence of the summer heat may so far weaken it as to admit of broad opening being formed by the pressure of wind or currents, and if I can find an opening of but a mile wide, I shall dash through it, at all hazards."
"And a pretty condition we shall be in, Captain Seaborn, if the ice closes the passage after we have dashed through it!" replied Mr. Slim. "We shipped with you, sir, for a sealing voyage; not for a voyage of discovery."
"You will please to remember, Mr. Slim, that I am expressly authorized by the articles, to cruise and seek for seals wheresoever I may judge expedient and proper, and that any opposition to my authority will involve the forfeiture of your share--recollect that, Mr. Slim."
"I do recollect that, sir; but at the same time I know, Captain Seaborn, that you have no right to hazard all our lives, by running into dangers, greater that were ever encountered by human beings, to gratify your mad passion for discovery, instead of pursuing the interest of all concerned, by endeavoring to find seals in the usual manner. How will you justify yourself to the world, to our families, or to your own conscience, if we should, after effecting a passage through this icy hoop you speak of find it closed against our return, and be thus for ever lost to our wives, our children, and society? WE must in such a case all perish, and our blood would be upon you head."
A plague upon your lean carcass, thought I, how am I to answer so many impertinent questions. I could not tell him of my belief of open poles, affording a practicable passage to the internal world, and of my confident expectations of finding comfortable winter quarters inside; for he would take that as evidence of my being insane, and by means of it persuade the crew to dispossess me of my command, and confine me to my cabin for the remainder of the voyage. After knitting my brows a short time, I replied, "Mr. Slim, you are a sufficiently capable officer, and can get through with your duty well enough when you choose to do it, but you don't know every thing; your mind is too dense to admit the rays of intelligence. I would have you to know, Sir, that I command this ship, and am not to be thwarted or dictated to by any man. I have noticed your rebellious spirit; now mark me, Sir, so sure as I have any more of your opposition to my will, or hear nay more of your murmuring; the moment I detect you in uttering gone discouraging word in the hearing of any of my officers of me,--I will confine you, and carry you home in irons, to take your trail for conspiring to make a revolt in the ship, which is death by the law; remember that, and go to your duty, Sir."
Note: Mr. Slim's attempted mutiny is dispelled by the sighting of land.
The Author in great peril, from the vast rise and fall of the tide in the polar sea.--Brief account of his observations at Seaborn's Land.--He takes formal possession of the country, in the manner usual in such cases, in the name and on behalf of the United States.--Leaves a sealing party on one of the islands near the coast, and proceeds to the south, to extend his discoveries.
I employed myself in searching for curiosities, collecting geological, mineralogical, and ornithological specimens, sea fowl and land birds being very numerous in this country, and in gathering plants to enrich my hortus siccus, for the benefit of the learned when I should return home. My researches were rewarded by the discovery of some enormous bones, possibly of a whale, which, being, according to very high authority, no fish, might at some former period have got on shore in this high latitude, after the fashion of the other visitants from the internal world. As they were very large, I called them mammoth bones of course, had them all carefully taken on board, and packed in boxes, as an invaluable acquisition to the scientific world.
On the third day a cry of terror called my attention. I saw the men all running for the boats, and thought it best to follow their example. We had all got into the boats, and shoved off into deep water, before I could ascertain the cause of the alarm, when the appearance of an enormous animal on the ground we had left answered my inquiries. The huge beast walked to the edge of the water at a moderate pace, and stopped to survey us new comers with great composure. I ordered Jack Whiffle, who was an excellent marksman, to give him a shot from a three-pounder, mounted in the bow of the launch, and at the same time gave him a volley of musketry. Whether the shot took effect or not, could not be discovered. He returned to the woods without haste or fright, and thus deprived me of the pleasure of securing his skin and skeleton, for the examination of the learned, and the benefit of Scudder's Museum.
The Author discovers the south extremity of Seaborn's Land, which he names Cape Worldsend.--The compass becomes useless.--He states the manner in which he obviated the difficulty occasioned thereby.--He enters the internal world; describes the phenomena which occur.--Discovers Token Island.--Occurrences at that Island.
The next day we observed the sun to the south of us, and nearly over head, and the compass began to traverse imperfectly. We had a regular recurrence of day and night, though the latter was very short, which I knew was occasioned by the rays of the sun being obstructed by the rim of the earth, when the external side of the part we were on turned towards the sun. The nights were not dark, when no clouds intervened to obstruct the rays of the sun, reflected from the opposite rim, and from a large luminous body northward, in the internal heavens, which reflected the sun as our moon does, and which I judged to be the second concentric sphere, according to Capt. Symmes. This gave us very pleasant nights, but not quite clear enough to render sailing through untried seas entirely safe.
We continued running due north, internal, three days, when the compass became pretty regular; but instead of the N. and S. points corresponding to the N. and S. points on the external world, as Capt. Symmes supposed it would do, the needle turned fairly end for end; the south end pointing directly into the glove towards the north pole, with some variation from the true north. But of this matter, I shall say very little, for sundry important reasons, and especially because I intend to publish my theory of longitude in due season, and give the courses and bearings, corrected to true north and south, as understood by the externals.