Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

they called Cape Comfort. On doubling this point, they had the mortification to see land again trending to the west, and immense bodies of ice. It was resolved, therefore, to desist from any farther search for a passage, and from the latitude of 65° 26' and 86° 10'of west longitude, they bent their course homewards. During the next fortnight, they sailed through innumerable hills of ice crowded with walruses. On the 5th of August, they returned to Resolution Island, and reached Cape Clear on the 6th of September.

In the following season, the same company sent the Discovery under Bileth again into the Arctic seas, the intelligent Baffin still acting as pilot. His instructions were, to proceed along the coast of Greenland and up Davis's Strait as high if possible as the parallel of 80°; and then, that he should avoid the danger of being embayed, by shaping a westerly and southerly course, till he came to the latitude of 60°, thence work his way for the land of Yedzo or Japan. The ship started from Gravesend on the 26th of March, sailed down the Channel and round to Dartmouth, where she was detained eleven days by foul weather and westerly winds. On the 20th of April, she again put to sea, and after a good passage reached, on the 14th of May, the coast of Greenland, at the parallel of 65° 20'. Some of the natives who were fishing, accompanied the ship for a considerable space, and appeared much disappointed that she did not come to anchor. But Baffin still plied northwards, till, on the 20th of May, he reached a fair sound in the latitude of 70° 20'. Here he stopped two days; but going ashore, he perceived that the natives had fled with their boats, leaving only a few dogs running about the island. Resuming his northerly course, he met large shoals of ice, which he cleared with difficulty on the 1st of June, and saw some inhabited islands in the latitude of 72° 45'. The wind proving contrary, the Captain and part of his crew took the opportunity of landing, but they found only four or five women concealed among the rocks. By friendly signs, however, and presents of old iron, the English quieted their fears, and procured some useful articles in barter. The younger women ventured to come on board the ship, and expressed great astonishment at what they saw; yet, after tasting, they refused to eat the victuals offered to them. On the 4th of June, Baffin sailed again, but met with such quantities of thick ice, that, having on the 9th reached the parallel of 74° 4', he was forced to bear away towards the west, and anchored among some islands at the latitude of 73° 45'. Here he staid six days; and the weather being almost calm, he traded with the natives. On the 18th of June, he again put to sea; and traversing with light airs, he had the satisfaction to perceive, that now the floating ice was nearly consumed. Yet few days passed without snow and keen frost; so that the shrouds, ropes and sails, were often covered with ice. On the 1st of July, he came to an open sea in the latitude of 75° 40'; but the wind turning a-head, he stood out 20 leagues from the shore, and again fell in with ice. He now put back, and was driven northwards in a thick fog, till he reached a cape in the latitude of 76° 35'; and, passing through a fine sound, he dropped both anchors under an isl-« and. The storm having abated, he tried to discover a better anchorage, but could not approach the shore on account of the ice, which blocked it up. He saw here multitudes of whales; and hence called this sound, which lies in the latitude of 77° 30', Whales' Sound. Before him, he descried, on the north, a great bank of ice, terminated with land, extending beyond the parallel of 78 degrees. He therefore fell back about eight leagues to an island which he called HacMuyts Isle. Two days he searched for anchoring ground without success; yet he had an opportunity of observing the variation of the magnetic needle, and was astonished to find it amounted to five points. He remarked a cluster of small islands, but could not examine them, having been driven westwards by a strong gale into an open sea. At the latitude of 74° 20', he entered, on the 12th of July, another sound, which, being close guarded with ice, precluded the hope of a passage. He now sailed southwards, Keeping as near as possible to the ledge of the ice, but could not get sight of the land before he came, on the 20th of July, to the parallel of 68° j and even then, he could not approach within eight or nine leagues of the shore. Still attempting to master the shoals of ice, he descended to the latitude of 65° 40', till, seeing no prospect of success, and the crew beginning to grow sickly, he left in despair the west side of Davis's Strait, and bore away for Greenland, which he reached on the 28th of July, at the latitude of 65° 45'. Landing there on a small island, his sailors gathered sorrel and scurvy grass, which they boiled in their beer; and with this drink they were restored to perfect health in the space of eight or nine days. The natives brought dried salmon for sale at different times, till the 6th of August, when Baffin took his departure. The wind was so favourable, that in nineteen days he saw the coast of Ireland, and came to anchor in Dover Roads on the 30th of August.

Next year, with some English whalers, he performed a successful voyage to Greenland, and ascended, on the 12th of August, as high as the latitude of 79° 14'. This last voyage of Baffin was certainly the most remarkable that has ever been performed in the Polar seas. It showed that Davis's Strait is absolutely shut along the north side; and proved that either no passage exists on its western coast, or none which is, for the shortest time of the year, practicable. Baffin constructed a chart, which, on account of the expense, was never published. That very able and even scientific navigator, was some years afterwards unfortunately killed, while making astronomical observations, by a random shot, at the siege of Ormus in the East Indies.

It is impossible not to admire the daring enterprise which distinguished our early navigators. Indeed nothing has been attempted since, in the Arctic seas, that deserves, under all the circumstances of the case, to be compared with their bold discoveries. A very short enumeration of the subsequent voyages undertaken to those extreme regions, may therefore suffice.

In 1631, Fox sailed from Deptford, and explored Hudson's Bay, where he made a number of valuable hydrographical observations. In that very year, James was sent from Bristol to the same quarter. He was obliged to winter on Charleton Island at the bottom of the bay; but, though not farther north than the parallel of 52°, his crew suffered cruelly from the intense cold, and were, besides, attacked by an alarming scurvy. In 1668, Prince Rupert, who was fond of commercial speculation, sent out Gillam, to examine Hudson's Bay, and procured, next year, the singular patent, erecting that Company, which has always been reproached for acting with very selfish and narrow views. In consequence of such complaints, the Hudson's Bay Company found themselves in some measure obliged to attempt the discovery of a north-west passage. They sent, in 1720, Knight and Barlow, who were never afterwards heard of; and again, in 1722, Scroggs, who effected nothing of the smallest note. In 1737, Mr Arthur Dobbs, a gentleman of considerable weight and information, prevailed on that Company, by mere dint of importunity, to despatch a sloop for discovery; but it returned without achieving any thing. Application being next made to Government, a bombketch, in 174.1, was entrusted to Middleton, who examined the shores of Hudson's Bay from Repulse Bay to Cape Comfort, and met with abundance of ice, but no opening. Mr Dobbs, dissatisfied with this result, now persuaded the public to form a joint stock to the amount of 10,000/., for the purpose of resuming the search under better auspices. Two ships were accordingly despatched under the command of Moor and Smith in the spring of 1746. These navigators wintered in Hudson's Bay, and explored it rjext summer in their long-boat. They found various creeks, but no distinct passage; and the great object of their pursuit seemed quite hopeless. The Admiralty again sent the Lion brig to Davis's Strait, in the years 1776 and 1777, under the successive command of Lieutenants Pickersgill and Lane; but these naval officers made very little progress, and effected no discovery whatever.

This retrospect of the voyages undertaken to the North, sufficiently proves that the Polar seas have remained in the same condition during a series of ages. The great icy barrier may partially shift its position in different seasons; but it soon returns to its ancient limits, and for ever repels all approach of the navigator. Whether some new application of human ingenuity, joined to perseverance, shall at last surmount that frozen rampart, is still in the womb of time. We may indulge the hope, but can scarcely entertain any just expectation, of achieving such a triumph.

But the possibility of ever sailing through the Polar seas into the Pacific Ocean, appears to be still less probable. If any passage really exists, it must, from its very high latitude, be almost constantly choked with ice. Besides, the currents that might serve to keep it open are feebler in those Arctic regions, since the tides and other causes which produce them, regularly diminish in approximating to the Pole. The notion of a stream rushing beneath a frozen arch, cannot be easily admitted; for the power of the water to melt and undermine the incumbent ice, augments rapidly with the increase of its velocity, insomuch, that the rate of only three miles an hour will multiply the ordinary effect of dissolution tenfold.

Any passage from the North must evidently have its first outlet in the Tartarian Sea. That quarter especially, therefore, invites research. But the belief of the disjunction of the American Continent from the Old World has perhaps been too hastily embraced. A little reflection will show on what slender grounds this opinion rests. The Russian navigators, who by an easterly progress explored the White Sea, and reached the River Anadir, in the country of the Tschuktzkis, did not proceed by a single course: they employed Jcotschis, a sort of craft particularly adapted for working amidst ice, which are easily taken to pieces as occasion requires, the planks being only fastened to the beams by straps of leather. Such vessels, when broken up, were carried over fields of ice, or necks of land, and again refitted and launched into the sea; nor, to the amphibious travellers, would the distinction appear very marked., between a mere frozen isthmus, and an icy tract covered with snow. Till more conclusive evidence shall be produced, we may consider Bering's Strait, not as the separation of two great continents, but merely as the entrance to a vast bay or inland sea. Such is the idea of Captain Burney, whose authority has deservedly much weight; both because he enjoyed the peculiar advantage of sailing round the world under the celebrated Cook, and because he has since devoted his life to the compilation and critical examination of the numerous reports of nautical discoveries. In a paper lately communicated to the Royal Society of London, he states the reasons which led him and Mr Bailey, the astronomer, at the very time their illustrious commander was exploring, between the parallels of 70 and 71 degrees, the expanse beyond Bering's Strait, to suspect that it was only a mediterranean sea. Near the Strait itself, they found hardly any current; and, above it, the water was generally smooth, entirely exempt from the influence of tides, and very shallow, its soundings rarely exceeding thirty fathoms. An immense barrier of ice prevented, as usual, their farther advance to the North. This ice appeared to drift from the north-east; but another body formed a solid and impregnable frontier on the west side, or projecting from the Asiatic Continent, in approaching to which, likewise, the soundings always decreased. These are obviously distinct indications of an enclosed sea.

Art. II. Principles of Political Economy and Taxation. By David Ricardo, Esq. 1 vol. 8vo. pp. 589. Murray, London, 1«17.

Ouch of our readers as take any interest in the progress of the science of Political Economy, or have attended to the discussions on the Corn-Bill and the State of the Currency, cannot be unacquainted with the merits and writings of Mr Ricardo. His essay 'On the High Price of Bullion,' which was published previously to the Report of the Bullion Committee, contains a concise, satisfactory, and luminous exposition of the principles regulating the distribution of the precious metals; and his reply to the observations of Mr Bosanquet on the Report itself, is not only the ablest vindication of the principles and opinions maintained in that celebrated document, but gives by far the best exposition of the theory of exchange with which we are acquainted.

Mr Ricardo's subsequent pamphlets ' On the Profits of Stock,' and 'On the best Means of securing a Safe and Eco

« AnteriorContinuar »