Imágenes de página

become sluggish in its oscillations, and rather indetermined in its direction; since the centre of its attraction being deep seated under the surface of the globe, scarcely any portion of this power would be exerted horizontally.

It only remains to consider the probability of finding a northwest passage to Asia; but this article has already extended to such undue length, as to leave no room for a full discussion of the question. The arguments generally advanced are, besides, of a very loose and inconclusive nature, resting chiefly on obscure and doubtful narratives, or on partial observations of tides and currents, in the Northern seas. We must therefore content ourselves, for the present, with a brief summary of the successive voyages undertaken to explore that famous passage.

It is a curious circumstance, that all the great geographical discoveries achieved in modern times, have originated in the attempts to find out a short route to India, the land of wealth and brilliant promise. Columbus, deceived with regard to its real position, sought to abridge the length of the voyage, by holding a westerly course-and thus discovered, for Spain, the American archipelago; and the Portuguese navigators, in one of their first visits to India, having, to avoid the dangers of sailing along the shores of the African Continent, taken a wider compass, were carried by the trade winds to the coast of the Brazils.

The other maritime powers of Europe now strained every effort to reach India by the North. From England, such attempts were generally made, by associations of merchants, or private adventurers. Between the years 1553 and 1556, Sir Hugh Willoughby, Richard Chandler, and Stephen Burroughs, performed three several voyages in quest of a North-east passage. They doubled the North Cape, touched at Archangel, and reached Nova Zembla and the Strait of Waigats; but could proceed no farther, on account of immense shoals of ice. Their discoveries, however, led to the establishment of the Russia Company, with valuable exclusive privileges.

The prospect of reaching India by the North-East having thus failed, hopes were next entertained of discovering a communication by the North-West. Sir Humphry Gilbert, brotherin-law of the famous Sir Walter Raleigh, wrote a learned discourse to prove the existence of such a passage, from the reports of former voyagers, fortified by all the arguments which the physics of Aristotle, and the tenets of the schoolmen, could supply. In the reign of Elizabeth, the native energy of the English shone forth with new lustre; and that able and politic princess, though sparing of the public treasure, encouraged the activity and enterprise of her subjects, by zealous patronage

in-laication by the more next entedia by the

and the judicious distribution of honours. A company of adventurers having been formed to discover the North-West passage, it was, through the influence of Dudley, Earl of Warwick, recommended to the Queen's especial protection. On the 15th of June 1576, Martin Frobisher, afterwards knighted for his courageous repulse of the Spanish Armada, sailed from Blackwall, with two barks, the Gabriel of 25 tons, and the Michael of 20 tons, and a pinnace of only 10 tons. In ten days he reached the Shetland Isles, and in three or four days more, he met with large quantities of floating timber, chiefly fir. On the 11th of July, being then in the latitude of 61°, he got sight of Frizeland, or Greenland, rising like pinnacles of steeples, and all covered with snow.' The weather continued extremely foggy, and the drift-ice prevented his approaching the shore. The pinnace was lost in a storm; and the Michael, dishearteried by the prospect, sailed home, and reported that the Gabriel had foundered at sea. But Frobisher, undismayed by the appalling dangers he encountered, and the serious injury which his bark had sustained from the violent storms, pursued a northwesterly course; and, on the 20th of July, he descried, on the coast of Labrador, a high promontory, which he named Queen Elizabeth's Foreland. He met with 5 store of exceeding great ice all this coast along; but, within a few days, it was well consumed and gone, either there ingulft by some swift cur

rents, or carried more to the southwards.' The intrepid commander then surveyed the coast in his boat, and about the latitude of 63° 8' he discovered a large inlet, which he believed to divide the American continent, and which he therefore called Frobisher's Strait. He saw many of the natives; and, having tempted one of them to approach, by holding out some trifling present, he seized the credulous savage as a trophy. He now, in the name of his sovereign, laid claim to the country, which, on his return, was styled the Meta Incognita ; and being anxious to obtain some token of Christian possession, some of his company brought flowers, some green grass, and one brought a piece of black stone, much like to a sea-coal in colour, which, by the weight, seemed to be some kind of metal or mineral.' The season being now far advanced, Frobisher thought of returning. On the 1st of September, he again came in sight of Frizeland, but could not get near it for the monstrous ice which lay about it.' After conflicting with much stormy weather, he arrived safely at Harwich on the 2d of October. 1. The prospect which this voyage afforded of a North-West pas, sage was certainly not very inviting; and perhaps no farther search would have been made, had not a circumstance occurr sed which powerfully stimulated the passion of adventure. The black stone which the sailor had brought home, having been shown by his wife to an assayer, he persuaded her that it was a rich marcasite of gold. The hope of discovering a gold mine operated now like a miracle; and a large subscription, chiefly among the gentlemen about the Court, was quickly raised for prosecuting that most alluring object. Frobisher obtained command of the Aid, a Queen's ship of 200 tons burthen, and carrying 100 volunteers and sailors, to which he joined his two former barks. On 26th May 1577, he weighed anchor at Blackwall, and took his departure from Harwich on the 28th. On the 7th of June, he touched at Orkney, and victualled his little squadron. There his gold-finers, who appear always to have been as sanguine as their employers, pretended they had found a mine of silver. Next day, he set sail again with a merry' wind, and soon met with drift-wood and with English whalers, now on their return home. On the 4th of July, he reached, at the latitude of 60}", the coast of Frizeland or South Greenland, defended by a frozen bulwark, and met 'with islands of ice, half a mile or more in compass, rising 30 or 40. fathoms above the surface, and yielding fresh water when melted; a proof, it was conceived, that they had not been formed on the sea. There his crew, instead of odoriferous and fragrant smells of sweet

gums, and pleasant notes of musical birds, tasted the most • borcal blasts, mixed with snow and hail, in the months of • June and July, nothing inferior to an intemperate winter.' After keeping along the shore four days, he found it impossible to effect a landing; and he therefore bore away for Labrador. It blew a fierce tempest; but, after passing through several floating islands of ice, Frobisher himself, from the maintop, clescried land on the 7th of July. He entered his Strait again, but could find no gold ore. Still intent, however, upon taking possession of the country, he ascended with his men to the top of a high hill, where they made a column or cross of stones, - heaped up of a good height, and solemnly sounded a trum

pet, and said certain prayers, kneeling about the ensign, and • honoured the place by the name of Mount Warwick.' The natives afterwards invited a parley; and a traffic by barter was soon established. But Frobisher, with all his religious pretensions, acted very treacherously towards the poor savages. In attempting to surprise them, he roused their vengeance; and a hot affray ensued, which obliged his sailors to fly for shelter to the boats. Yet he succeeded in catching one man, and afterwards a woman with her child; and these captives conducted themselves on board the ship, during the rest of the voyage, with a propriety and modesty which might well have put their

oppressors to the blush. The woman appeared so ugly to the sailors, that those ignorant and superstitious beings seriously suspected her to be a devil, till they found, by inspection, that her feet were not cloven !

Frobisher, taking with him a select party in the two barks, penetrated farther into the country, and clambered over the frozen tracts and snowy mountains, in search of the supposed ore. In this excursion, he met with the winter dwellings of the natives, resembling ovens, and commonly planted on the south side of some eminence, but sunk two fathoms under ground, and strewed with moss, being enclosed with whales' jaws instead of posts, and covered over with seal-skins, leaving only a small occasional aperture. On the 9th of August, he erected a small fort, which, being entrenched, was encircled with casks of earth. His company now laboured hard in digging the ore. " With only five poor miners, and the help of a few gentlemen and soldiers,' 200 tons of that precious earth were brought on board, in the space of twenty days. But, at: last, they were all heartily sick of this toil; and the water had already begun to freeze at night by the ships' sides. On the 22d of August, they struck their tents; and, firing a parting volley, they gladly embarked. Two days after, the snow fell half a foot deep. About the beginning of September, it was very stormy; but Frobisher, shaping his course by the west of Ireland, reached Milford Haven on the 20th of that month.

We need scarcely observe, that this ore with which Frobisher, at so much risk and fatigue, had loaded his ship, was, like the black micaceous sand which the first planters of Virginia sent home, totally worthless, and contained no metal whatever. But the absolute failure of the gold mine was not immediately acknowledged; and the same active captain was again despatched in the following year, but chiefly for the discovery of Cathay or China, by the Meta Incognita. A woolen fort, capable of holding 100 men, was framed, , to be carried out in separate pieces, and then put together. Twelve private vessels joined him, to be loaded with the fancied ore; and the whole fleet rendezvoused on the 27th May 1578, at Harwich. On this occasion, the Admiral (for so he was now styled) issued general orders, some of which are curious, and savour strongly of those times, when religion was so often debased by an association with piracy and plunder. The watchword given was--Bee fore the world was God; and the countersign- After God came Christ his Son. The fleet sailed round by the west of England, andmade Cape Clear, the southern point of Ireland, on the 6th of June; and, after navigating the Atlantic fourteen days, dur.

ing which it encountered a strong current setting from southwest, it reached the coast of Labrador. Here Frobisher, and some other gentlemen, landed and took formal possession of the country, in the name of his sovereign. He then proceeded on his voyage northwards, and soon met with floating ice, and numerous troops of whales. On the last day of June, “the Sala' mander, being under both her corses and bonets, happened to

strike a great whale with her full stem, with such a blow, that " the ship stood still, and stirred neither forward nor backward.

The whale thereat made a great and ugly noise, and cast up « his body and tail, and so went under water.' Two days after, a dead whale, supposed to be the same monster, was seen Aoating on the surface of the sea.

The weather now became so extremely foggy, that the fleet was with the utmost difficulty kept together, by continually beating drums and sounding trumpets. On the 7th of July, it encountered a furious storm from the south-east, which collected and pressed around it innumerable shoals and mounttains of ice. The poor sailors were quite worn out with anxiety and fatigue during this dreadful besetment. One of the barks went down; but the rest of the fleet at length got clear of the ice, and stood out to sea. It again bore up for the land, and approached, as was supposed, Mount Warwick. But the foggy weather prevented any observation of latitude; and the coast appeared so much covered with snow, that it could not with certainty be recognised by the most experienced pilots. From this state of perplexity and continual danger, a part of the flect turned back, and directed their course homewards. The commander, however, still persevered in the search after his Strait, and was followed at some distance by most of the remaining ships. Near three weeks were thus spent in fruitless attempts under a dense fog, and exposed, among numerous islunds, to the action of currents and the hazards of drifting ice. On the 25th of July, his squadron was assailed by a tremendous storm, and next day the snow fell half a foot thick on the hatches; while the air was so bitterly cold, that the men could. hardly open their eyes, or handle the ropes or the sails. At length the different straggling vessels were joyfully reassembied, having escaped incredible dangers; but the sailors were so much discouraged, that they began to murmur; and it required all the eloquence of Master Wolfall, the chaplain, (who, in the expectation of converting the heathen, lad left at home a kind wife and a good living), to compose their minds, and slissuade them from breaking out in open mutiny. About the beginning of August, the miners and most of the crews

« AnteriorContinuar »