« AnteriorContinuar »
JUN E, 1818.
Art. I. 1. The Possibility of approaching the North Pole Asserted. By the Hon. D. BARRINGTON. A New Edition ; with an Appendix, containing Papers on the same Subject, and on a North-West Passage. By COLONEL BEAUFOY, F.R.S. 8vo. London, 1818. 2. On the Greenland, or Polar Ice. By William SCORESBY, junior, Esq. In the Second Volume of the Memoirs of the Wernerian Natural History Society, printed at Edinburgh
3. A Description of Greenland. By Hans EGEDE, who was a
Missionary in that Country for twenty-five years. A New Edition, with an Historical Introduction and a Life of the Author, illustrated with a Map of Greenland, and numerous Engravings on Wood. 8vo. London, 1818. 4. A Voyage to Spitzbergen y containing an Account of that Country; of the Zoology of the North; of the Shetland Isles ; and of the Whale Fishery: With an Appendix, containing an Historical Account of the Dutch, English, and American Whale Fisheries ; some Important Observations on the Variation of the Compass, 8c.; and some Extracts from Mr Scoresby's Paper on Polar Ice. By John LAING, Surgeon. Second Edition, small duodecimo. Edinburgh, 1818. 5. Greenland, the Adjacent Seas, and the North-West Passage to the Pacific Ocean: Illustrated in a Voyage to Davis's Straits during the Summer of 1817; with Charts and Numerous Plates, from Drawings of the Author taken on the Spot. By BERNARD
O'Reilly, Esq. 4to. London, 1818, For these two or three years past, the captains of ships employ
ed in the Northern Whale Fishery have generally concurs VOL. XXX, No. 59.
red in representing the Arctic Sea as of a sudden become almost open and accessible to the adventurous navigator. more speculative relators, it has been supposed that the vast iey barrier which, during many ages, had obstructed those forlorn regions, is at last, from some revolution of our globe, broken up and dispersed. The project of finding a north-west passage to Asia-a project so often attempted, and so long abandoned - has in consequence been again revived; and the more daring scheme of penetrating to the Pole itself, has likewise been seriously proposed. Of the success of either plan, our hopes, we confess, are extremely slender; yet the prospect now held forth seems to be more inviting, on the whole, than at any former period when such bold undertakings were made. The discovery of a north-west passage, were it ever attainable, could hardly indeed be of any real benefit to our commerce, sin in such high latitudes, where only it must be sought for, it would at all times be very precarious, and liable to interruption from the prevalence of ice. The scheme of actually reaching that northern point on the surface of our globe, which terminates its ideal axis of rotation, however interesting in a philosophical view, can only be regarded as an object of pure curiosity, and not likely to lead to any useful or practical results. Yet we think it befitting the character of a great maritime nation, to embrace every chance even of improving geographical knowledge, and of extending the basis of natural science. We can hardly praise the liberality of the appointment of the ships destined to explore the Arctic seas; but it will give us infinite concern, should this expedition have the same fruitless or disastrous issue as other plans of distant discovery, which have lately been pursued under the direction of the Admiralty Board.
The books and memoirs whose titles we have prefixed to this article, contain the latest accounts of the state of the Northern Seas. They have either suggested the enterprise now pursued, or have been brought forward in consequence of its adoption. Literary speculation is never indeed wanting, in this country, to gratify or amuse the curiosity of the public.-Mr Daines Barrington, a man of learning and some ingenuity, embraced with ardour the opinion of the possibility of approaching to the Pole. In successive papers communicated to the Royal Society of London, he not on
condensed the information furnished by the older voyagers, but exhibited the results of the numerous queries relating to the same object, which he had circulated among persons engaged in the Greenland Fishery. He thus proved, that, in certain favourable seasons, the Arctic seas are left for several weeks so open, that intrepid navigators might safely penetrate to a very high latitude.
In compliance with his sanguine representations, the Admiralty despatched, in 1773, Captain Phipps, afterwards Lord Mulgrave, to explore those regions; but this commander was unsuccessful in the attempt, having reached only the latitude of 80} degrees, when his ship got surrounded with a body of ice near Spitzbergen, and escaped with extreme difficulty, though many of the whalers that summer advanced farther. Mr Barrington did not however despair, and, following out his views, he set Mr Nairne and Dr Higgins to make experiments on the congelation of sea-water. The various facts are now collected in a small volume, to which Colonel Beaufoy has subjoined an appendix, containing the answers made to his queries by Russian hunters, who are accustomed to spend the whole year in Spitzbergen, relative to the probability of travelling from that island to the Pole during winter, in sledges drawn by rein-deer. The reports of these hardy men are sufficiently discouraging. They represent the winter at Spitzbergen as not only severe but extremely boisterous, the snow falling to the depth of three or five, feet, and drifting so much along the shores by the violence of the winds, as often to block up all communication. The danger of then being surprised and overwhelmed by clouds of snow, raised by sudden gusts, is so great, that they never venture to undertake any long journeys over the ice. Nor do they think it at all practicable to have loaded sledges dragged over a surface so rough and hilly, by the force of rein-deer or dogs.
The paper of Mr Scoresby has more than ordinary claims to our attention, as exhibiting the conclusions of a most diligent, accurate, and scientific observer. Trained from infancy to the navigation of the frozen seas, under the direction of his father, a most enterprising and successful leader, he conjoins experience with ingenuity and judgment. For several years, during the intervals of his Greenland voyages, he prosecuted a regular course of study, which has enriched his mind with liberal attainments, and given a new impulse to his native ingenuity and ardour. We regret exceedingly that any jealousies or official punctilios should have prevented Government from entrusting the principal coinmand of the Polar expedition to Mr Scoresby, who not only proposed it originally, but whose talents and science, joined to his activity, perseverance and enthusiasm, afforded assuredly the best promise of its ultimate success.
Hans Egede was a benevolent enthusiast, who formed a plan of reclaiming the natives of Greenland from the errors of Paganism. After various ineffectual attempts, he at last procured, by subscription, the sum of 20001., with which he purchased a vessel, and carried his family, and forty settlers, to Baal's River, in the
64th degree of north latitude, where he landed on the 3d of July 1721. He was afterwards appointed missionary, with a small salary by the Danish government, which occasionally granted some aid to the colony. During his stay, which lasted till 1736, he laboured with great zeal in his vocation. In 1757, the year before his death, he printed his Description of Greenland, in the Danish language, at Copenhagen. Of that work, the volume now before us is a translation, much improved and enlarged, with useful additions by the editor. It contains valuable information, tinctured, as we might expect, with no small portion of credulity.
Mr Laing performed two voyages to Greenland in the successive years 1806 and 1807, as surgeon under the elder Captain Scoresby, whose son acted at that time as chief mate. His narrative is written with neatness, simplicity and taste; and comprises, in a very small compass, what information could be desired on the subject of which it treats. We cannot bestow the same commendation on the
pompous quarto of Squire O'Reilly, though he obligingly acquaints us, that the love of science and the thirst of philosophical research had prompted him to accept the situation of surgeon in a Hull whaler, and to undertake a voyage hazardous in the extreme, cooped up with uninformed, insensible beings.' It is evidently got up for the occasion, with an unusual garniture of engravings. Some of these look pretty enough, but they have been drawn by Koenig, probably from very slight sketches, and only represent objects and appearances which are already generally known. The volume itself is obviously the production of a raw compiler
-disjointed and diffuse-filled with scraps of etymology, trite classical allusions, and commonplace declamation—and written in a shapeless, incorrect, and turgid style. With all its pretena sions, it absolutely contains scarcely any thing that can be deemed new, unless we except the author's Journal of the Weather, in which he describes, with very copious detail, the various aspects of clouds, according to Howard's fanciful classification. This, perhaps, is the extent of his science; for he blunders sadly when he ventures on other graver topics. But Mr O'Reilly moclestly aspires to the honour of geographical discovery; and fancies that claim established, by naming a groupe of prominences, in the field of ice which barred his progress, the Linnæan Isles !
It is remarkable, that two centuries of extreme activity should have added so very little to our knowledge of the Arctic regions. The relations of the earlier navigators to those parts, possess an interest which has not yet been eclipsed. We may cite the voyage of Martens from Hamburg to Spitzbergen, as still the