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Title: A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora
Author: Lindsay, David Moore
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Voyage to the Arctic in the Whaler Aurora" ***

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A VOYAGE TO THE ARCTIC IN THE WHALER AURORA

By David Moore Lindsay, F. R. G. S.

"Our infant winter sinks, divested of its grandeur, should our eye
astonish'd shoot into the frigid zone."

BOSTON: DANA ESTES & COMPANY PUBLISHERS

1911


[Illustration: 0001]


[Illustration: 0010]


[Illustration: 0011]


DEDICATED

TO

SIR THOMAS MYLES

A VOYAGE TO THE ARCTIC IN THE WHALER AURORA



CHAPTER I--INTRODUCTION

The following is little more than a diary of a voyage made by me on the
whaler _Aurora_ of Dundee in 1884. I cannot imagine its being read by
many, as the subject can only interest a few who have themselves gone
down to the sea in ships.

The Arctic whaling industry is I fear becoming a thing of the past, and
this prompts me to have the record of our successful voyage printed.

Some mention has been made of the Greely Relief Expedition, as the
relief ships were with the whalers during the passage to Cape York from
Newfoundland.

We were not brought in contact with the _Chieftain_ at all during the
cruise, but I have told the story of her disaster, as it was the most
unfortunate occurrence of the year amongst the Arctic whalers, and for
the data I am very much indebted to the _Dundee Advertiser_ and to Mr.
Allen Bell and Mr. Harvey of that paper for the trouble they have taken
about it. I am also indebted to Mr. Robert Kinnis of Dundee for much
interesting whaling information in the Appendix. As that gentleman
possesses the records of all catches taken by British ships for more
than a hundred years, he is in a position to supply very valuable data
on the subject.

Mr. Walter Kinnis kindly supplied me with many photographs, as did Dr.
Crawford, formerly of the _Arctic_, and Captain Murray of Dundee.

It has given me great pleasure recalling the scenes described. As I
was very young at the time of the voyage they produced an indelible
impression. Often since have I longed for a few weeks in Lancaster
Sound, and to hear once more the inspiring shout "A fall!"

Being fond of adventure, and having read as many works on the subject as
most boys of my age, it was with great pleasure that I looked forward
to hearing a lecture delivered by Commander Cheyne, R.N. I was then at
school, and our tutor thought it would be an education for us to hear
him. The lecture was to me intensely interesting and the illustrations
splendid. For days after I could not think of anything else. During
study at night, I used to spend a good deal of time looking at a map
of the Arctic seas, and picturing Melville Bay with its dangers. After
leaving school, and while at college, I read Walter Scott's "Pirate." It
told about the Orkneys and Shetlands, and its frequent allusions to the
whaling industry set me thinking. I found myself often repeating:

               "The ship, well laden as barque need be,

               Lies deep in the furrow of the Iceland sea.

               The breeze for Zetland blows fair and soft

               And gaily the garland is fluttering aloft.

               Seven good fishes have spouted their last,

               And their jawbones are hanging from yard and mast;

               Two are for Lerwick, and two for Kirkwall,

               And three for Burgh-Westra, the choicest of all."

As there was no immediate chance of going to Greenland, why not see
Shetland? So when the summer holidays came, I made my way to Edinburgh
with two friends who had also read the "Pirate."

We found that steamers sailed from Leith and that the best of the
fleet, the _St. Magnus_, would leave the next morning at six, so we
took passage in her and visited Orkney and Shetland, thoroughly enjoying
being off the beaten track.

One day we sat on the Nab Head at Lerwick and looked over a calm sea. In
the distance a barque could be descried. Half an hour later we noticed
her much closer, although no sails hung from her yards. Then we
discovered that while barque rigged she could also steam, and when she
anchored we found that she was a whaler, the _Eclipse_ of the Peter
Head,--Captain Gray. We went on board and were shown over the ship.
Polar bear skins were stretched in frames drying, and we learned that
she had 3,500 seals on board and 17 bottle-nosed whales, and, what was
of far more consequence to me, that she carried a surgeon.

Years passed; I was a student at the University of Edinburgh and had
every opportunity of learning about ships sailing from Scottish ports.

One day in November, 1883, I went to Dundee and, leaving the Tay Bridge
station, made my way along the docks to a basin in which were several
whalers. They were discharging cargo, and it was unnecessary to see them
to know of their presence. Two of the ships, though small, were very
beautiful to look at. They were the _Jan Mayen_ and the _Nova Zembla_.
Others, the _Narwhal, Polynia, Esquimaux, Active_, etc., were not so
pretty, but they all had a fascination--they came from the romantic
Arctic, and I went on board each one. Then I visited another dock where
three ships lay together. They were the _Arctic_, the _Aurora_ and
the _Thetis._ It required no expert to tell that they were vessels
of superior quality. I went on board the one nearest the shore, the
_Thetis_, and interviewed the mate. He told me that all three ships
would carry surgeons. The _Arctic_ and _Thetis_ were bound for Davis
Straits, the _Aurora_ for Greenland.

[Illustration: 0025]

The office of the company, Wm. Steven & Son, was near by, so I left the
ship very much excited. Here was almost a chance to visit the Arctic
regions. Going over to the office, I learned that the captain of a
whaler selected his own surgeon, and that Captain James Fairweather of
the _Aurora_ had just been there. I obtained his address, and calling
a cab, was soon at his house. He was not in, but I waited. Seated in a
room on the floor of which polar bear rugs were stretched, I began to
realize that I was taking a rather serious step without consulting
my parents. Before long the Captain entered, and after a little
conversation, I arranged to sail as the _Aurora's_ surgeon the following
January. So without really meaning to go when I left my rooms in the
morning, I found myself in the railway carriage on the way back to
Edinburgh, booked for an unusual voyage.

During the winter I told some friends what I intended to do, and one
of them at once went to Dundee and secured the _Arctic_, the captain of
which was an Irishman. Another was also desirous of going, but said he
would wait until I returned and told him how I liked it. However he too
went in the end and we met in the north.

The _Aurora_ was bound for the Newfoundland sealing first and
afterwards for the Greenland whaling; that is to say, she would fish for
bottlenosed whales on the east side of Greenland in the seas around Jan
Mayen and Spitzbergen and make a shorter voyage of it than the Davis
Straits ships.

To prepare myself for the experience I read what I could about
Greenland, and was fascinated by the prospect of seeing its icy
mountains and possibly some of its inhabitants; while the very word
Spitzbergen suggested to me polar bears and icebergs. In January, 1884,
a letter from the Captain told me he would sail about the end of the
month and requested me to be in Dundee by the 29th.

[Illustration: 0029]

I bought a lot of unnecessary clothing, such as pilot-cloth suits lined
with flannel. When the flannel became wet afterwards it wonderfully
altered the fit of the things, so I removed it with my knife. I also
laid in a supply of literature, arms and ammunition, and left the
Waverley station at six on the morning of the 29th. Arriving at Dundee,
I went to a hotel and then to the office, where I met the Captain, and
went with him to the place where the men were signing on. Here I heard
some one reading rapidly a lot about the nature of the voyage and what
we would have to eat. When I left the building, I was a legal member
of the _Aurora's_ crew for the coming cruise, and my rating was that of
surgeon, with pay as follows:


                             £. s. d

          Monthly pay        2  0  0

          Oil money per ton     2  0

          Bone per ton          4  0

          Seal skins per 1,000  1  0


I had to furnish my own cabin and to pay the market price for any trophy
of my own shooting which I wanted to keep. As our voyage was in pursuit
of Arctic animals and as I was a member of the crew sent for that
purpose, of course this was quite right.

It was possible for me to increase the above pay by being in fast boats.
Let me explain what I mean: when a boat first strikes a fish it is
called a fast boat; and if the whale is killed, every one in the boat
receives what is called striking money. The harpooner gets ten shillings
for putting in the gun harpoon, and ten and six pence for the hand, or a
guinea for both, while every member of the crew receives half a crown in
either case.

It was my good fortune during the following eight months to increase my
wages by two shillings and six pence in this way. Having fixed terms and
other details I went on board the ship which was to be my home for
some months to come. She was a pretty auxiliary barque of 386 tons
registered. Her engines were about a hundred horse power. She had a
top-gallant forecastle and a raised poop. Running forward from the poop
was the engine room skylight, which ended at the funnel casing, and
steps led from the poop to the main deck on each side of it. The funnel
was painted buff, the ship outside was black, and the bulwarks inside
white and blue. The bridge was across the engine room skylight and in
front of the mizzenmast, an iron railing around the poop, offering no
protection from the weather, while a companion opened aft in front of
our two wheels. The pretty little cabin was furnished in pitch pine and
leather. The Captain's room occupied the starboard side, while mine was
on the port, both opening into the cabin. Forward of my room was that
occupied by the first and second mates, and this looked into the passage
at the foot of the stairs. Forward of the passage was the pantry and
also the engineer's room. A locker in which things were stowed occupied
the stern and opened into the cabin. Forward of the cabin table was a
stove in which there was a cheerful fire, and in the square skylight
hung a bird's cage and a garland, also some plants.

Finding out what I wanted for my room, I went into the town, ordered the
things and had them sent down.

_January 30_. Two acquaintances, whose identity I may indicate by the
initials H. and P., turned up this day to see me off. I took them over
the ship, but they were not very enthusiastic. We afterwards went around
the docks and saw the other whalers getting ready for sea. Quantities
of marmalade and dozens of hams were being put on board the _Esquimaux_.
Two of the whalers had already departed, the _Narwhal_ and _Polynia_,
while others were not starting for a week to come; but as there were
uncertainties about the western ocean's passage in winter, Captain
Fairweather had decided not to wait longer than the 31st.

It snowed a little, which made the docks look dreary. I met the
Captain's wife on board during the afternoon, also his brother, who had
command of the _Thetis_.

The following day Armitage arrived. He brought me a big meerschaum pipe,
and was delighted with the ship, so pleased that he visited many others
to see if he could not secure a berth on one of them. But those carrying
surgeons had their medical officers engaged. We wandered around the
docks all the morning and at noon I went on board.

The _Aurora_ left the dock at one P. M. and anchored for a short time in
the river to pick up a few belated and more or less incapable members of
the crew, and to land some stowaways.

My friends stood on the dockhead with hundreds of others to see us off,
and as we passed through the gate, old shoes, oranges and other things
were thrown on board.

[Illustration: 0033]

I was walking about the poop with my hands deep in the pockets of my
pilot coat and looking at the sea of faces on the dock, when, stumbling
over a chain, down I came with a crash in the most ignominious way.
However a stumble and fall on board a whaler putting to sea generally
passes unnoticed; one would attract more attention by standing up all
the time! Thus the voyage began,--my position flat on deck, being in
keeping with the best traditions of the trade!



CHAPTER II--VOYAGE TO NEWFOUNDLAND


               "A thousand miles from land are we,

               Tossing about on the roaring sea;

               From billow to bounding billow cast

               Like fleecy snow on the stormy blast."


|Steaming down the river we landed quite a lot of stowaways at Broughty
Perry about 4.30 P. M., just as it was becoming dark. Tea was served at
five,--my first meal on board the _Aurora_.

The Captain and myself sat on the starboard side of the table. Wm.
Adam, the mate, Alexander McKechnie, second mate, and Wm. Smith, chief
engineer, sat on the other side.

Immediately after tea, I went to my room as we were crossing the bar
and going out into a gale of wind. Everything was tumbling about, and
knowing that in a very short time I should lose all interest in my
surroundings, I began making things secure.

There were two berths. My bed was in the upper as it had a porthole, and
most of my belongings were stowed in the lower.

A lot of tobacco had become loose, so I put the little packages of it
between my bed and the side of the ship. The port was not screwed very
tight and leaked badly for a week or so. This saturated the tobacco and
generated an odor which added nothing to my comfort. The motion becoming
very pronounced, I turned in, and being tired, slept well.

[Illustration: 0038]

_February 1st_. Footsteps overhead and the singing of shanties on deck
awoke me at daybreak, but I was intensely ill, so stayed in bed all day.
My room was illuminated by a small light set in the deck overhead and by
a partially submerged port, so it was not cheerful. Above my head there
was a book shelf. I tried to read, but could not feel interested as it
was so very depressing to look forward to months and months of this
sort of thing. Matters grew worse as the day went on, the climax being
reached when rounding Duncansby Head; but respite came about midnight,
when we crept into Long Hope and let go our anchor.

_February 2nd._ Shouting and crying awoke me in the morning, and opening
the door of my cabin, I saw the Captain teaching two boys that the sea
was a bad place to run away to. They had been under an upturned boat and
the seas coming on board had almost drowned them out. Each boy promised
that he would never do it again. They were given two tins of mutton and
a small sack of ship's bread, and put on shore.

Long Hope is a well sheltered harbor, between the islands of Hoy and
South Walls. There was a pronounced smell of turf smoke about the place
and the land was half covered with snow.

Two other whalers were at anchor near by, the _Narwhal_ and _Polynia._
They had left Dundee ten days before us and bad been weather bound here
for that length of time.

I brought my gun up as there were some Richardson's skuas flying about,
but I did not get a shot at one. The mate, however, shot a herring gull
with it and this was the first splash of the ocean of blood shed by us
during the voyage.

Breakfast was a cheerful meal and the horrors of the North Sea were soon
forgotten.

At noon, the tide being favorable and the wind having gone down greatly,
we all three steamed out into the Pentland Firth. The _Polynia_ was the
first to move; I heard her anchor chain clanking on board to a well-sung
shanty. We started next, and as there were some good voices forward we
tried to outdo the others. The _Narwhal_ followed, never to return, as
she was lost during the summer.

Turning Brims Ness sharp, we kept on the Orcadian side of the firth; and
after passing Turn Ness, we laid our course for Cape Wrath. Across the
water we could barely make out Thurso. The land lies rather low about
the mouth of the Thurso river; but on the Hoy side the scenery was fine
and we soon sighted the Old Man of Hoy. During my trip to Orkney and
Shetland a few years before, I had spent several days on this island,
so was interested in seeing it now from the sea on this dismal
February afternoon. Its sombre cliffs are always grand, but the present
atmospheric condition made the scene impressive.

[Illustration: 0043]

The Old Man of Hoy, in the simple language of the guide book, is, "An
insular pillar composed of flagstones and shales. Across their denuded
edges there stretches the band of amygdaloidal lava which is capped by
the red sandstones to the height of four hundred fifty feet." I could
make out the Ward Hill, but clouds lay low on its summit. Near there
I had visited the celebrated Dwarfie Stone made famous by Scott in his
"Pirate." It is a huge block of rock twenty-two feet by seventeen and
seven deep. There is a passage in it with a bed like a ship's berth hewn
out on each side, and it had been, of course, the home of a Trold.

I turned my back on this land of Trolds, and went down the quarter-hatch
to see the second mate serving out lime-juice, tea, coffee, tobacco and
sugar to the men. I heard their names called and had a good look at
them as they came up. Our crew was a fine looking lot and the most
respectable body of men one could find on any ship, unlike the New
Bedford or San Francisco South Sea whalers, which carried very mixed
crews of every color.

Most of our men had spent the greater part of their lives in Greenland
waters, and though not well informed on current topics and very
superstitious, they were self-respecting to a degree and absolutely
fearless, and they were all of the same nationality.

Of course, life on board a whaler is much pleasanter than on any other
sort of merchantman, because the ships are well found and the crews very
large so that, except when actually engaged in sealing or whaling, they
have an easy enough time.

The captains in the trade were very humane men, many of them scientific,
and they treated their crews well. Amongst the harpooners were often
found men who had themselves commanded ships and whose stars, no doubt,
would again be in the ascendancy.

A few unsuccessful years, or the loss of a ship or two, would probably
cost a man his command, and bad luck cannot be avoided.

Before the second mate had finished serving out I retired, as the ship
was beginning to feel the heavy swell that was coming in, and by six P.
M. I was absolutely "under the weather," and it was blowing hard from
the northwest. We passed Cape Wrath about midnight. The following day a
strong gale was blowing with snow and the engines were slowed down.

_February 4th_. Blowing a gale, reefed mizzen set and main topmast
staysail, with the engines slowed down. During the morning a man was
hurt. He was carried aft and held on the cabin table while I--very
ill--and also held, sewed his scalp and dressed the wound.

_February 5th_. Strong gale. Ship under reefed mizzen and main staysail,
steaming slow. High sea running and sun obscured all day.

This applies to the state of affairs on the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th,
during all of which time I enjoyed the horrors of _mal de mer_. I saw
by the log that we had spent our days under fore and afters with a heavy
sea running, but I made no original observations, keeping in my berth
all the time, wondering during my conscious moments what brought me to
sea and vowing that I would never set foot on a vessel again if spared
this time.

The ship's dog (Jock) was a rather sociable and sympathetic collie. He
spent a good deal of time with me, and I could not help admiring the old
chap when I knew that he really did not belong to any one, but always
turned up on the _Aurora_ about sailing time and made the voyage with
her. At St. John's, Jock had lots of friends and visited a good deal,
but he was always on board on sailing day.

_February 11th_. A mere shadow of my former self, I got up and did not
feel ill. My wash basin was in one corner of the room. I put my head
against the corner above it and by sticking one foot against the side of
the door and another against the lower berth, was able to apply a little
water to my face, but the swing of the ship was so great that it swished
nearly every drop out of the basin. I dressed and went to breakfast,
feeling absolutely well and ravenously hungry. After breakfast, tucking
my breeches inside my sea boots, I went on deck. The door opened aft. As
I came out, the stem of the vessel sank low as the bows rose on the
sea, and I saw a black mountain of water rolling from us. Getting to the
mizzen rigging on the port side, I put my arms in the shrouds and stood
on a spar lashed on deck. It was very dark for the hour and blowing the
greatest storm that I had ever experienced, the wind fairly shrieking
through the rigging.

We were steaming half speed and had a reefed mizzen and main staysail
set. Looking forward, I saw the little ship taking tons of dark water
over her bows. It came off the forecastle in a cataract, and rushing aft
between the engine room and bulwarks, it surged upon the poop. We only
had a few feet of free board and were making terrible weather of it. The
atmosphere was full of water, as the tops of the waves were blown off in
sheets. A great splash came over the quarter about this time and fairly
engulfed me. Then I learned that it was better to wear one's sea boots
inside instead of outside the trousers.

This was sufficient for the day, so I retired below to change and dry.
During the evening, the Captain showed me our position on a chart which
was glued to the cabin table under the cloth. We were not yet half way
across.

The 12th, 13th and 14th were all equally awful, but I had my sea legs
and a good appetite, so was thankful. The only pleasure I had was
standing on the bridge and watching the ship burying her bows into the
big seas and the water coming in tons over the forecastle and filling
the main deck. She was indeed a wet ship in bad weather.

_February 15th_. The Captain said that he had never seen a lower
barometer. A great gale was blowing and the ship was hove to. Bags of
oil had been put out on the weather side, but the oil did not escape
with sufficient freedom so they were hauled in and a lot of punctures
made with a knife, but this did not improve matters much. It rendered
the sea comparatively smooth to leeward and there was not so much spray
flying, but tons of water tumbled over us and we spent a dreadful day.
I tried the deck for awhile, but it was dangerous. At night the ship was
laboring fearfully and continued to do so for days.

_February 20th_. Another fearful day. I had occasion to visit the
topgallant forecastle to see the ship-keeper, who had hurt his knee.
There was a line from the forecastle door to the main rigging for
safety, as one was almost sure to be caught by a sea while going the
length of the deck.

Two men came aft for me, and watching our chance, we reached the
forecastle safe. Coming back, I decided to try it alone, so waited until
a tremendous sea had broken over us, then before she had time to take
another, I made a dash, but a body of water splashed over the starboard
side and forced me to climb up the inside of the main rigging and stay
there until some of it swept off the deck. Towards night the wind began
to moderate a little.

_February 21st_. Pitching and tossing as usual. Cloudy, but not much
wind; a nasty sea, however, and the canvas did not hold her steady.
Really in a heavy gale the storm holds a ship down to some extent.

The next day, however, the weather had moderated, so I tried stoking and
managed quite well. I also tried changing a fire, which was not such a
success, but I kept steam up and it was an interesting experience.

An end comes to all things. On the morning of the 23rd the ship for the
first time was on an even keel and some sun was shining through my deck
light. Hitherto attempts at washing had been unsatisfactory, as the
motion of the ship in a sea was so quick. Now, however, I indulged in
a complete toilet, and with a feeling of self-respect went on deck. The
day was cloudless and beautiful, the sea smooth as glass, and dotted
over it were white specks of ice. In a very short time the pieces of ice
became more numerous and larger, and when we were at breakfast we heard
and felt the ship crushing and bumping amongst them. By eleven A. M. a
breeze came up from the southeast and all sail was set, but by noon the
ship stuck hard and fast in the ice, and presented to me a wonderful and
beautiful sight.

Every stitch of canvas was set and drawing, and the engine going full
speed, but still for a time we did not move. Now was my chance to walk
about on the frozen sea, so I went out with the dog and we both enjoyed
a race, keeping very close, however, for at any moment the Aurora might
move. We came on board when the mate called, as a crack was appearing
ahead of the ship. We were now two hundred twenty miles from St. John's,
and expected to be in ice all the way. During the afternoon I went up to
the foretop and Valentine thoroughly enjoyed a half hour gazing at the
wonderful scene.

We were very seldom stuck for any length of time, a few bumps from the
ship being generally sufficient to open a crack.

[Illustration: 0051]

A great many of the men were on deck most of the day, and certainly
she was a heavily manned ship with her crew of sixty-five. Six of them
belonged to the engine room, eight were harpooners, who lived in the
topgallant forecastle, as did some of our tradesmen. Of these we had two
carpenters, a cooper, blacksmith, and sailmaker. The specksioneer also
lived there. He was the chief of the harpooners, a splendid old man
called George Lyon. Sixteen of our men were from Shetland, a quiet,
sober, industrious lot.

Standing on the forecastle, I watched the ship crunching through several
miles of young ice. She never actually stopped once. Her bows would rise
up on it, then huge slabs would tilt on end as she glided on. Sometimes
a long crack would open and let her slide in to be almost stuck. By
degrees she would gain way and probably steam into an open pool, to
strike the opposite side with considerable force, thereby opening a
crack in which she would repeat the performance. The engine is the
secret of ice navigation. With canvas alone we would have been fast in
the ice much of the time, while with heavier engines we could have gone
through heavier ice. The night was fine, and we managed to keep moving
on our course.

_February 24th_ was a glorious day. One would scarcely expect to find
such, weather in February in this neighborhood.

In the morning we passed through rather smooth ice. Occasionally there
were large ponds and in many of these I saw seals. Sometimes they were
plunging about in numbers, but generally a few heads only were visible
looking at us inquisitively as we passed. There were no bergs in sight,
but during the afternoon we passed some rafted ice which was piled up
six or seven feet above the floes, and once we were fast for an hour in
a rather heavy place, when I again tried the walking, but there was snow
on the ice which was slightly frozen on the surface, and this made it
heavy as one went through the crust. Towards evening the sky became
cloudy; it was very cold, and snow was falling when I turned in for the
night.

In the morning Cape Bonavista was in sight. It was my first view of this
New World. All land was beautiful to me after a month at sea and this
looked so attractive as we neared it that I wanted to settle on it for
the rest of my life. However, we passed on, and during the day steamed
through the narrows and tied up astern of the _Arctic_ on the south side
of St. John's harbor at what was known as Stevens Wharf.

The _Arctic_ had sailed ten days after us and had made good weather of
it as she was a long ship of nearly double our tonnage, but of nothing
like our strength of build.

The Resolute's Wooden Funnel lute had also arrived. The latter on the
way out had lost her funnel, so a pyramidal structure had been erected
of wood lined with tin; this answered very well for a time. Some of her
bulwarks had been carried away, especially forward of the main rigging
on the port side. She was a fine ship, strong and well engined, but the
North Atlantic in winter leaves its mark on the best.

[Illustration: 0055]

The _Resolute_ was owned in St. John's and commanded by a St. John's
captain; but she came out from Dundee, where she had been overhauled.

So ended my first trip across the Atlantic, and, until then, the most
uncomfortable experience of my life.



CHAPTER III--NEWFOUNDLAND


               "Such are the charms to barren states assyn'd,

               Their wants but few, their wishes all confin'd."


|Our first possession across the sea was Newfoundland, and I made the
voyage to it 400 years after John Cabot, the discoverer. The _Mathew_ of
Bristol first sighted Cape Bonavista, which was the first point seen by
the _Aurora_. Cabot was a Venetian sailing out of Bristol for a time,
and for his great discovery, which gave England her vast American
possessions, King Henry gave John ten pounds a year. Cabot is to-day
very well thought of, but nothing much is known of what became of him.
The name makes an attractive one for a Newfoundland dog. I have known
several of them bear it, and it is a sort of geographical education to
have them running around; but there is not any place of importance in
the world called after this great mariner.

The coast of the country is forbidding, being rocky and bleak, except
around some of the bays; the most beautiful of those seen by me being
Bay of Islands on the west coast, which reminds one of Norway. Here
and in the valley of the Humber, which runs into it, there is some very
fertile land, and there are some scenes of peace and prosperity. But the
general impression I have obtained after several visits to the country,
is that life is a struggle for many of the inhabitants compared with
what it is in any other colony which we possess. Newfoundlanders are
true to the land of their birth, but one familiar with North America at
large would never think of advising a colonist to push his fortune in
this particular part of it, because the opportunities are comparatively
few and the winters are too long for any working man to remain idle.
In the interior the soil is as a rule shallow; there are thousands and
thousands of acres of barrens, hundreds of lakes of different sizes and
numbers of streams. Great areas of the country are grown over with small
timber, the trees being so close together in places that one can hardly
push through them. Much of the barren country is moss-grown and boggy,
so that it cannot be travelled over by horses or mules; therefore, when
one leaves the rivers, it is necessary to carry everything on one's
back, and, as a result, travel in the interior is not much indulged
in by the inhabitants. To add to the pleasure, mosquitoes and their
cousins, the black flies, are in swarms. The whole interior is a
deer forest of the first magnitude, teeming with caribou (Rangi-fer
tarandus). These animals weigh about 300 pounds, and they are very gray
about the head and shoulders. I have seen them standing among trees
which were grown over with bearded moss, when it was difficult to tell
the caribou from the trees. Some of the heads are splendid with a
great deal of palmation and not at all like Greenland or polar American
caribou in which the palmation is generally poor and the beam long and
straggling, probably due to a difference of environment. Migrating to
the northern part of the island in summer, they return in September and
October to winter in the south, and the sportsman intercepting them on
their autumnal trip can have his choice of heads.

Another attraction is the salmon and trout fishing. The rivers,
especially on the west coast, are well stocked, white trout being
particularly numerous.

St. John's harbor is entered through the narrows. On the left, going
in, there is the lighthouse; and on the right, or north side, the signal
station. On this side is the city, lying at the foot of low hills, its
principal street, Water Street, being parallel with the shore. From it
run side streets down to the wharves and up the hill to the residences
and churches. The Dundee ships lay on the south side, our yard being
nearest the narrows. From it a path led out to the lighthouse point. A
hundred yards from the ship one was on the hillside and without the pale
of everything, because only a narrow fringe of buildings separated the
south shore from the wilds. Along the water edge, between our ship and
the lighthouse, one passed lots of fish flakes. These were constructed
of a framework of vertical and horizontal poles covered over with spruce
boughs upon which the split codfish were laid after being salted. The
air circulated under and around them well and they soon dried. I saw
codfish being dried on the beach in Shetland, but they were only spread
on the shingle. There are no trees in Shetland from which poles could be
made, but there is less precipitation there than in Newfoundland, so the
fish dry well upon the shingle. It is over 300 years since the
Newfoundland fisheries began to be worked. They proved the country's
first attraction and there is nothing of the sort in the world like
them. For the five years 1871 to '75 the export of dried cod was
1,333,009 quintals of 112 pounds. The Basques first appeared on the
scene and a port on the west coast to-day bears their name, Port aux
Basques. As early as 1527 an English shipmaster, on entering St. John's
harbor, found eleven ships from Norway, one from Breton and ten from
Portugal, all fishing.

In looking over the exports for 1881 one notices several interesting
items; one is, 4,127 tons of cod-liver oil, another item is 300 barrels
of cods' heads at $1.00 per barrel. I fancy, however, their use has
not become very general yet when we know that only 300 barrels were
exported, and that over sixty million cod were killed. When I speak of
the cod fishing, I mean the Labrador as well as the Banks fishery.
In fact, the former is probably the more fished of the two by the
Newfoundlanders.

The day after our arrival our ship began discharging cargo, that is to
say, taking off our whale-boats and launch, and taking out all
supplies for the whaling voyage. Then they began sheathing the deck and
bulwarks--even the floor of the cabin was covered with plank. Bunks were
erected for the men in the 'tween decks, all stores removed from the
quarter hatch and bunks put in there for the quartermasters, and the
crow's-nest was hoisted up and made fast to the main mast, a few feet
below the truck. The crow's-nest or barrel was a most comfortable place.
One entered through a trap door in the bottom, and when this was closed
there was no draught. Around the edge of the barrel and sticking out
some distance there was an iron rail upon which the glass could rest,
the latter being kept in a canvas bag or pocket inside. From there the
ship was navigated, a wire going to the engine room and ringing the
bell, but orders to the man at the wheel were called down. While these
changes were taking place, in company with the surgeon of the _Arctic_,
I wandered all over St. John's and the neighborhood, and enjoyed the
hospitality of many residents. It was some distance around the end
of the harbor to the city, but we could skate across if we liked. The
weather was intensely cold and the land was covered with deep snow.

The _Aurora_ having been converted into a sealer, and having taken on
board her supplies and exchanged her beautiful whale-boats for a number
of very crude looking punts, moved over to the north side of the harbor,
and waited for sailing day to take her crew on board.

[Illustration: 0065]

It may not be out of place to make a few remarks here about seals and
sealing generally. Most people know that seal fisheries exist, but
few have any idea of their extent. The ice-fields of Newfoundland
and Labrador produce more than anywhere else; but Greenland, Northern
Europe, the seas around Jan Mayen, Nova Zembla and Spitzbergen produce
also a great harvest, and the fur-bearing seals of the Aleutian Islands
must not be forgotten. Sealing on the east coast of Greenland is
entirely in the hands of natives, but the industry in other places is
chiefly prosecuted by Europeans and Americans. Lindeman tells us that
in 1720 the ports of the Weser sent out ships, that in 1760 Hamburg sent
nineteen which took 44,722 seals, that in 1862 five German ships took
17,000, five Danish 5,000, fifteen Norwegian 63,000 and twenty-two
British 51,000; so this gives one an idea of the extent to which Great
Britain was represented. In 1876 the Dundee ships alone took 53,000,
valued at over £34,000. It was the custom for the British sealers to
arrive in Bressa Sound, Shetland, about the end of February, and there
pick up a considerable part of their crews, getting to the ice about the
middle of March. The young seals were in good condition about this time
and had not yet taken to the water, so afforded an easy prey to their
foes. Around Newfoundland, sealing has gone on with great profit to all
engaged for probably one hundred and fifty years, and a glance at the
following table will give some idea of its extent:

          In 1805 81,088 were taken
          1818 145,072
          1822 306,982
          1831 686,836
          1840 631,385
          1850 598,860
          1860 444,202
          1872 278,372
          1881 447,903

Roughly, about 350,000 every year, the greatest catch being 685,530 in
1844.

Harvey tells us that in 1857 there were nearly four hundred vessels of
80 to 200 tons burthen engaged in the industry, employing altogether
13,600 men, and that the year's catch was worth $1,700,000. Now, about
eight to ten thousand men are engaged, and the seal fishing yields about
one-eighth part of the entire exports of the country.

Steam was first used in 1863 and then the sailing ships began to
decrease in number. In 1884 more than thirty steamers were used, while
the sailing ships had become scarce.

With the advent of steam, the Dundee owners began casting covetous eyes
at Newfoundland. The western ocean passage could be made early in
the year, and the sealing taken in en route to the whaling. It became
necessary to arrange with agents at St. John's, or to build yards where
the cargo of seals could be taken care of, leaving the vessel free to
proceed north. At this time six ships represented Dundee.

                   _Arctic_, Captain Guy

                   _Narwhal_, Captain Phillips

                   _Aurora_, Captain Jas. Fairweather

                   _Polynia_, Captain Walker

                   _Esquimaux_, Captain Milne

                   _Thetis_, Captain Alex. Fairweather

The _Resolute_, Captain Jackman, could hardly be called a Dundee ship,
and it so happened that the Thetis went on other business this year; but
the above were the usual six.

The seals forming our cargo from the Newfoundland ice were harps (Phoca
Greenlandica), so called on account of a peculiar mark on each side of
the adult, extending from near the shoulder to near the tail, and hoods
(Cystophora Cristata), so called on account of a large inflatable sac
on the nose of the male. On our trip to Labrador we secured quite a
number of hoods, but on our first trip our cargo was practically one
of harps. Both these species are migratory, coming south in winter and
working north in summer as the ice recedes. As the banks of Newfoundland
swarm with fish, they form a pleasant winter resort for the seals, and
are very convenient to the floes on which they spend February and March.
Harbor seals (Phoca vetulini) and square flippers (Phoca barbatus) are
also found on the coast.

The breeding ice of the seal is the goal of every master in the trade,
but there are no rules for finding it. One may consider the influence of
currents and winds, and may navigate accordingly only to find the seals
are not found where expected. In our own case, the Captain told me the
day we left St. John's that he had no definite idea of where to go.
Nevertheless we awoke one morning to find ourselves surrounded by
hundreds of thousands.

[Illustration: 0073]

Young seals are born on the Newfoundland ice February 15th to 25th, and
are in perfect condition for the market by March 20th, as they have been
well fed by their mothers until then. They are a yellowish white when
born and remain so until they begin to take to the water, when the
longish white hair is rapidly shed and the young one quickly loses its
condition.

Owing to the exciting nature of the work, a trip to the ice is the
desire of nearly every Newfoundland boy. The great danger is fog coming
down while the men are sealing far from the ship, and next comes the
danger of losing the ship and drifting about on the floes until possibly
death takes place from cold and starvation.

In 1872 one hundred men perished, fifty going down with the _Huntsman_
on the coast of Labrador. The _Bloodhound_ and _Retriever_ were lost
the same year, their crews escaping to Battle Harbor after terrible
hardships.

Scoresby tells us of the classical disaster which occurred in 1774 about
sixty miles east of Jan Mayen. The sealing fleet, consisting of over
fifty vessels, met at the ice edge on March the 29th.

The whole fleet entered the ice streams and their boats went off
sealing. A storm suddenly arose, destroying five of the ships and
injuring many more, while most of the sealers who were far from their
ships were never seen again, almost six hundred men being lost. One
could not talk to a sealer long without learning of some horrible
accident which had occurred to himself or a friend, and while some of
them were given to romance, there could be no question about the perils
they encountered or about their bravery and endurance.

Toward the end of February, the sweilers, as they are called, began to
arrive in St. John's looking for berths. As the steamers afforded better
opportunities, the able men got them, while the older ones took to the
sailing craft, where life was not so strenuous. These men were dressed
very much alike and were most athletic; some of them were perfectly
wonderful in the way they jumped from pan to pan, barely touching some
of the smaller ones in passage. The owners did not overfeed the men on
these trips, providing them with sea biscuits and pinnacle tea chiefly,
pork and duff being served only three days a week and salt fish on
Fridays. The water from which the tea was brewed was obtained by thawing
pinnacles of ice. When ice floes came together they rafted one on to
the other and shattered fragments stuck up in all directions. Snow piled
upon these and was frozen. When water was wanted, a body of men with
axes went on the ice and broke off the pinnacles, which were taken on
board and stacked on deck. As water was required these were put into
a tank and steam turned on. Tea was made with this water, and molasses
added in place of cream and sugar. Our water for the cabin use was not
obtained from this source.

On steamers the crew received one-third of the catch, on sailing ships
one-half. This was made to the Newfoundland men only on the Dundee
ships, the Dundee crew getting paid so much a month, as well as a
fraction of the catch. When a ship was amongst the white coats, as the
young seals were called, the crew lived well, as they ate the livers,
hearts and flippers of the seals. The men carried a supply of livers
and hearts in their belts and ate them frozen or cooked as opportunity
afforded. It is easy to see how little cooking can be done for a crew of
three hundred men on a small ship. I have often seen a man tie a cord
to a liver and drop it into a pot of tea sitting on the galley stove,
drawing it out when warmed up or when the owner of the pot came for his
tea.

Sailing ships were allowed to leave port on March 1st, but steamers
could not clear for the sealing until March 10th, and the laws were very
strictly enforced. It was not unusual for a ship to have her pans of
seals pilfered by another ship during a fog, and this often led to legal
complications. I have frequently seen our men cut private marks on the
fatty sides of the sculps so that they might be identified afterwards.
Of course, any ship would pick up a pan which had lost its flag.
Sometimes the sweilers had great luck, being gone only a week or two and
coming back with their pockets full. A sculp was worth $2.00 to $3.00,
and as the men received one-third of all taken, it amounted to a good
deal for them, and as it came oft at a season when there was nothing
else being done, it added greatly to its value.

Ships engaging in this work had to have their hold hulkheaded off so
that, should they encounter bad weather, the cargo would not shift. As
the _Aurora_ was tanked, that was all that was necessary. If the ship
were long in reaching port after taking her seals on hoard, the fat
might break down and the oil flood everything, unless the ship had
tanks. In our case the sculps were on board such a short time that they
were as fresh looking when landed as when taken. The fat was separated
from the skin on shore by a man with a long knife. He drew a sculp over
a board and caught the edge of it with his left hand; using the knife
with his right, in a few sweeps he removed all the blubber. This was
thrown into a sausage machine and afterwards steamed in tanks to extract
the oil, which was refined by exposure to the sun's rays. The oil was
used for machinery and in lighthouses, and the skins were made into
harness, boots, etc., farmers using the refuse for fertilizing purposes.

When one saw this small army of fine looking, hard working and very poor
men, he could not help being sorry that their forefathers in emigrating
had not gone a little further and settled in Canada or the United
States, instead of on this inhospitable land. Think of how comparatively
easy their lives would have been, and what a return they would have
reaped for their work. Newfoundland meant to every one of them a life
of toil with not much more hope than the mother country could have given
them. Poor soil and a relentless winter mean this as a rule in a country
the mineral resources of which have not been developed.



CHAPTER IV--NEWFOUNDLAND SEALING


               "The ice was here, the ice was there,

               The ice was all around;

               It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,

               Like noises in a swound."


_March 10th_. At five A. M. all was life on board the _Aurora_. On
awaking, I had coffee, which was in the cabin, and, muffling up well, I
went on deck, as it was bitterly cold. The night was cloudy and dark but
the ship was illuminated with torches, and on each side of the gangway
stood the mate and ice-master, calling the roll. The Newfoundland men
came on board as their names were called, about three hundred in all,
including the quartermasters, who lived down in the quarter-hatch. The
men all wore boots made of untanned seal skin, from which the hair had
been removed. They were very light and serviceable and came up to the
knee. Spikes were driven into the soles to prevent slipping on the ice,
and the decks were preserved from these by rough plank sheathing.
There was great wrangling and disputing, as many of the men had been
celebrating the occasion.

At six A. M. we cast loose and by degrees broke our way from the wharf.
The scene, when the sun arose, was intensely interesting; all the
sealing ships were out, trying to crush their way towards the narrows,
and, as the harbor was entirely frozen over, this was hard work. Two
ships, the _Resolute_ and the _Polynia_, were behind us, and these last
sent two or three hundred to assist our Newfoundland crew in pulling on
a hawser over our bows, while our Scotch crew on board ran backwards
and forwards across the deck to make the ship roll. This rolling often
helped greatly when the ship put her bows in a crack. Our method was
to go full speed astern for a few yards, and then full speed ahead, the
eight or nine hundred men on the ice pulling for all they were worth at
the same time, and the _Aurora's_ men on board running across the deck
to keep up the roll. As there were thousands of men similarly employed
on and about the other ships, and as they were all singing, the scene
may be imagined.

The _Nimrod_ and _Neptune_ were moving on, well ahead of us, and when we
got into their wake, the _Aurora_ moved along faster. It was eight
bells by the time we passed through the narrows; there the ice was much
looser, so we all pushed off in our various directions to look for the
breeding haunts of seals. Captain Fairweather kept a little nearer shore
than the others, and by evening there were only a few ships in sight.

I retired early, as I had been up for many hours, and even the bumping
and thumping of the ship, as she went full speed ahead and full speed
astern every few minutes all night, did not keep me awake.

_March 11th_. When I went on deck, a wonderful Arctic scene presented
itself. A snow storm was raging and the ship looked as though she had
been fast there for years. She was literally buried in snow, and the
weather was so cold that the snow had frozen on her yards and rigging.
The morning was dark and one could not see very far. Under the starboard
bow the ice was heavy, causing the ship to lie over to port. The wind
was from the southeast and had driven the ice in on us. There was a
great deal of creaking and crunching from moving floes and the wind made
a lot of noise in the rigging. By noon the weather had moderated and the
snow ceased; by night the wind was coming from the northeast and the
ice slackened, the ship being upon an even keel. Of course, snow was not
allowed to remain very long on deck, as our big crew had nothing to do
but shovel it off.

I looked into the 'tween-decks and saw a horrible mess. The bunks were
full of men, many playing cards, as each bunk held four. They must have
been stifled. For light, lamps burning seal oil were used, and the reek
coming from the main hatch would almost have suggested fire.

During the night, the ship got under way, and her bumping awoke me
several times.

_March 12th_. In the morning, we were again beset. Hearing a noise on
deck, I went up. On the poop a lot of duffs were lying about like 64
lb. shot. A crowd of angry men could be seen on the main deck and facing
them was the Captain. A big Newfoundland man came up the steps and,
breaking a duff in two, held it up and asked the Captain to look at
it. It was an awkward moment and called for immediate action. But the
Captain was a man of action, so he planted a blow between the man's
eyes and asked him to look at that; the man dropped back dazed and the
trouble came to an end at once.

The Captain told a story at breakfast about a steward once saying
that more tea would not be required for the next voyage as he had been
boiling the leaves from the cabin and giving it to the crew. An order
was at once issued to serve out good tea of the proper strength instead.
Next morning all hands came aft to complain about the black stuff the
cook was serving out, and demanding that proper tea, such as they had
been having, should be served.

The weather was now fine, and the world very white, the only visible
black being a pond of open water half a mile to the east of us. The wind
was again from the east and the cold intense; in fact, one could hardly
face it on account of small particles of ice driven by it.

After breakfast I took my rifle and went to the lee side of the open
water. It was perhaps a fourth of a mile long and a hundred and fifty
yards wide. Every little while a few seals would bob up at one end of
the hole and then, giving a few plunges, disappear. I crouched behind a
pinnacle for shelter and, watching past the side of it, soon had a shot.
I fancied I heard the bullet strike, but the seal disappeared;
presently another came. This time I was sure that I saw the water
around bloodstained, but there was a ripple and it was difficult to see
anything lying low on it. I spent several hours at this work and was
perfectly certain I had hit many seals. On one occasion, I saw the side
of one I had shot, with the water breaking over it, but presently it
disappeared. I knew that at this season the animals would float, and as
I was on the lee side, why did they not drift down to me? Cold at last
drove me back to the _Aurora_, and, on relating my experiences, the
ice-master told me that I would find the dead animals at the weather
side of the hole, as the ice, drifting before the wind, would travel
faster than the dead and almost completely submerged seals. So taking
a man with me, I had the satisfaction of seeing seven big male harps
pulled out, the first I had ever killed and the first secured by the
ship.

During the afternoon the ice eased off and the ship again proceeded. She
was getting along pretty well at bedtime, but not making any particular
course.

March 13th. It was about five A. M. when the steward came to my room
and lit the lamp. He said we were among the "white coats" and he seemed
greatly pleased. I dressed and, going up, found bright moonlight. The
ship was hard and fast. In every direction I could hear sounds like the
crying of children. I could also see gangs of men on the ice and some
coming on board. The men had been taking advantage of the moonlight to
begin their work, and all were in splendid spirits, as a full ship meant
much to them.

About six the whistle sounded for all hands to come on board for
breakfast, and after that they were organized into companies, commanded
by their own quartermasters, and proceeded about the slaughter in a well
regulated manner. Each man carried a spruce pole, on the end of which
was a sort of boat hook called a "gaff," and each also had a tow rope.
The method of proceeding was as follows:

A company would go in a certain direction and then scatter. A man would
kill four or five whitecoats by hitting them on the head with his gaff.
He would pull them together and sculp them, that is, with his sculping
knife he would make an incision on the under surface of the body,
its entire length, through the skin and fat. How the skin, with its
subcutaneous fat, was very loosely adherent to the rest of the body
of the young seal, so with a very few sweeps of the knife the body was
separated and thrown away. He then made a few holes along each side of
the sculp, which was oblong, and through these laced his tow rope. When
the four or five had been thus arranged, he towed them to a selected
pan, where they were piled with the others, a pole was stuck up, bearing
a flag on which was the name of the ship, and this being done, the
sealers moved on and established another pan.

While the St. John's men were busy with the sealing, the Scotch crew
remained on the ship, throwing the coal overboard. The ship, leaving
Newfoundland, took a lot of coal, as she did not know where she might
have to go or how long she might be away. In our case, we found the
seals at once, so the coal, being of no further use and of no value,
compared with the seals, was thrown overboard.

I went aloft to have a look at our surroundings. We were in Bonavista
Bay, and in the distance I saw the _Neptune_ sealing. She was a large
ship and took an enormous cargo. It seemed too bad that these should
be the only two vessels in the midst of this harvest. I saw, with the
glass, seals by the thousand; they were principally to the north of us,
and it was evident that we would fill the ship, unless a gale broke up
the ice too soon. Astern, I noticed a patch of ice on which there were
lots of old harps. Getting my rifle and going over to the place, I found
a great many seal holes in the ice. I watched. A seal would stick its
head out of one and, seeing me, would instantly go down again. This was
going on all over the area before me. Sitting down, I decided to take
the first head presenting itself. By watching any given hole, one would
probably very soon have a shot, but it was more exciting to take the
heads as they came up. It was very quick shooting and good sport. Every
time I hit a seal, I killed it, because only the head could be seen. At
this season, the animals, being in prime condition, floated; but getting
one out of its hole was very difficult. If one turned it around and
seized the hind flippers, the fore flippers caught the ice, and there
was nothing to take hold of about its head. I found, that by sticking an
empty cartridge through the nose and catching this at each side, a man
could manage to pull the seal out by throwing himself back. I amused
myself at this game until eight bells, when I went on board for dinner
and found the Captain in splendid spirits. There was every chance of
his filling his ship and being first in, and I questioned whether these
honors had ever been obtained by any Scotch master at the Newfoundland
sealing before. After dinner, I took a man with me who pulled out the
seals and sculped them, hauling them to the ship, which remained fast.
The crew got on well with the coal and soon had several tanks cleaned
out and ready for the nearest pan, and by night we had about 2,500 on
board. I went aloft again and saw our pan flags flying in great numbers,
while the men were very busy several miles away. After dark, the sealers
came on board and reported having killed probably 10,000. Many of the
men had given themselves bad cuts with their sharp sculping knives, but
all were very happy, forward and aft.

[Illustration: 0093]

_March 14th_. Every one up at dawn. The ship was alongside a pan when I
came on deck, and the winch was going all the time, while the orders
"Heave away port," "Heave away starboard," were being constantly given,
and every few minutes a bunch of sculps would be hauled on board and
thrown below by the men on deck. When this pan was cleaned up, the
officer in the barrel directed the ship's course to the next, and so it
went, all day long, a portion of the crew working coal as usual. I went
aloft and saw our men, five or six miles away, piling up our cargo. In
the afternoon, I went off: in the direction the men were and fortunately
I had a gaff: with me. I had on very thick clothes and a pilot jacket
over all. When about a mile from the ship, and while walking over a
nice, smooth piece of ice, I noticed that it was bending under me. I
turned and was getting back to the hummocks, when I went through.
Fortunately, the gaff caught on both sides and I only went in up to my
arms, so was able to climb out. The cold of the water was intense and I
had a fright. Before reaching the ship, my clothes were frozen hard. One
great comfort about the _Aurora_ was that she was a steamer, so when any
accidents of this kind occurred, it was a great thing, having the top of
the boiler to retire to. Here one had warmth at any rate. As there was
nothing much separating the top of our boiler from the stoke hole, there
was a deposit of ashes and soot, but a little thing like that did not
much trouble a man fished out of a frozen sea.

It was cold and dark when the sealers began coming on board and a fog
was settling down, so about nine P. M. we were quite uneasy over some
who bad not turned up. The whistle sounded frequently, and it was a
relief when the last appeared. Some were really very much exhausted and
were given rum.

We took on board about five thousand seals and the men had killed many
thousand more.

_March 15th_. A snow storm blowing, so the men could not go to the
sealing, and very little new work was accomplished. However, the ship
managed to reach a lot of her pans, and the Newfoundland men hauled the
sculps from others farther away, so that by night, four thousand more
were on board. Coal was worked energetically all day.

The barometer was rising at night and the snow had ceased, so the
weather looked more settled.

_March 16th_. Sealers away when I came on deck, and our own crew very
busy with the seals and coal. The ice showed a lot of leads and there
were seals in the open ponds, so I spent my time at them with the rifle
and had some good shooting.

At dinner the mate told us we had taken on board over three thousand
sculps and by night two thousand more were added to these. About sixteen
thousand five hundred were now on board.

I spent some time aloft. The glare from the ice was fearfully trying
as the sun was very bright. Owing to the open character of the ice, we
followed the sealers quite well. We found several of our pans broken
by the weight of seals on them; in every case we saw sharks in the open
water beside the broken pan. Once the ship had her engines going ahead
to keep her bows against the ice, while she took seals on board (I
was looking over the rail aft), when I saw a shark gliding up to the
propeller. It hit him on the side and cut a flap out about two feet
long. He swam about with this mass hanging from him for awhile and then
went back to the propeller, which finished him with an awful gash across
the neck. This was the only one I saw killed.

The night was clear and the men had no difficulty in getting on board.

[Illustration: 0099]

March 17th. It was blowing and the ice was rather tight; there was also
some snow, so the sealers were employed bringing sculps on board, as
pans were being broken. I saw one split in two. Half the sculps had been
lost in the water, and there were numbers of sharks around. A man stuck
his gaff into one several times, and it did not appear to mind. It was
difficult getting the seals on board as the heavy snow squalls prevented
our seeing the leads. However, twenty-five hundred more were secured
from broken pans in our immediate neighborhood. The ship was drifting
south all the time; and the _Neptune_ was still in sight when it cleared
in the afternoon.

_March 18th._ All hands up early and a good start made. Nearly all the
coal over the side. I watched the men bringing on board pinnacles in the
morning. As they had been sealing steadily for a week and had not paid
much attention to their toilets, sleeping in their clothes, etc., and
as each one had a fringe of frozen livers sticking in his belt, and
the sheathed decks were soaking in oil, the pinnacles had a chance of
acquiring a nutritious quality which must have given body to the tea
manufactured out of them. However, the men did not mind, and as our
cabin supply of water was all right, I did not mind either.

The ship picked up a lot of pans and added five thousand more to our
collection. Towards evening it became foggy and cold, and we had several
frights about men being lost. One fellow came on board and stated that
he had seen so and so two miles from the ship, unable to proceed. Some
rum was given to him and with a couple of others he started off to bring
the exhausted one in. All were on board safely by nine P. M. There was
no doubt but that often the rum served out found its way into throats
that were far from being too weak to swallow, but such dreadful
accidents have occurred that one acts on the safe side. There was no
abuse of liquor on board the _Aurora_, but the Captain did not hesitate
to supply it when absolutely necessary.

_March 19th._ A nice day for sealing, as there was no difficulty getting
about to the pans. We brought on board about two thousand, and the ship
was practically full. Now we began to clear out the 'tween-decks and to
throw the men's bunks overboard. They did not object to a few days of
supreme discomfort because they received one-third of the catch. We had
the bunkers filled with coal and a lot of sacks piled upon the poop, and
every available place was cleared out for this valuable cargo. The ship
began to look dirty, as she had scraped off her paint, and the coal dust
and oil bad been liberally applied.

[Illustration: 0103]

It began to blow in the afternoon, with snow squalls. All the men were
on board in good time.

During the day I caught a young seal. It had shed nearly all its long
white hair and the short, silvery coat underneath looked very pretty.
I amused myself plucking the balance of the original coat. The seal
appeared to enjoy it. It was killed accidentally a few days later.

_March 20th_. Blowing bard with snow squalls. A number of pans were
broken and many sculps lost, but we secured all we wanted; about one
thousand came on board and the 'tween-decks were nearly full.

March 21st. A fine day, but the ship beset, so we cleaned up and
finished off the 'tween-decks; then we put all on deck that we thought
the ship would carry. This would not have been done had the ship had to
go any distance, but all the time we were sealing we had been drifting
south, so that we were now a very short distance from St. John's. The
Captain and mate would stand on the ice and look her over and then
decide that perhaps she would carry a few more, and so on, until there
was not much of the _Aurora's_ bull above the water. The ice opened
in the afternoon and we laid our course for St. John's, steaming
half speed. The ship was decorated with flags, the men cheering and
singing--at least two hundred of them without shelter; they stood upon
the forecastle head and among the sculps on deck. The wind had died away
and it was a beautiful afternoon. There were plenty of leads and the ice
becoming more open every hour.

_March 22nd_. During the night we passed through Baccalieu Tickle and
in the morning we were close to the coast. As we steamed through the
narrows, the men climbed the rigging and cheered. We had accomplished
a wonderful thing. The ship was the first in of the year, and was also
full. Soon we were tied up at our old berth on the south side, and our
crew were busy discharging our cargo of about twenty-eight thousand
seals. Each young seal counted one in settling with the crew and each
old seal counted two; of course, an old seal took up much more room
than two young ones, and on a voyage like this, where the ship could be
filled with young, the crew were not anxious to kill old ones. On our
two trips, the _Aurora_ actually killed 28,150, but the crew were paid
for 29,300.



CHAPTER V--THE LABRADOR SEALING


               "Now, Brothers, for the icebergs of frozen Labrador

               Floating spectral in the moonshine, along the low black

                        shore!

               When the mist the rock is hiding and the sharp reef lurks

                        below

               And the white squall smites in summer, and the autumn

                        tempests blow."


|The work of discharging our cargo began at once--first the sculps
on deck, then those in the 'tween-decks and then those in the tanks.
Thereafter the ship was given a rough cleaning; new berths were erected
in the 'tween-decks and quarter-hatch but not so many as before. The
bunkers and tanks were coaled and then we cast about for a crew. All the
seals taken on this second cruise would have to be shot, so we did not
expect to bring back very many; but the _Aurora_ had her own Scotch
crew under pay, and they had to be fed, so she might as well be at sea
picking up a few seals as lying in the harbor waiting for May 1st. It
was not so very easy finding a crew as they would have little to eat and
could not possibly earn much money. However, at last we were ready and
on Wednesday, April 2nd, sailed. We had heard nothing of the _Arctic_,
and very little of any of the other ships. The _Neptune_ came in after
us with about 40,000, which was a tremendous cargo, but she was a big
ship. There was much more room with our reduced Newfoundland crew, and
we steamed out of the narrows for the second time with the ship very
much more comfortable than on the first occasion.

[Illustration: 0107]

I must say the appearance of the _Aurora_ at this time was disreputable
in the extreme. The paint had been scraped off by the ice, and the
filthy sheathing covered the decks, while the fragrant bilge water
flowed from her side in a pellucid stream.

The Captain told me that he intended following the seals which were
going north towards Labrador and that he expected to fall in with great
herds of year-olds, called bedlamers. We left port after breakfast
and steamed out onto a calm sea, shaping our course north. During the
afternoon we saw patches of ice scattered about and when night came we
slowed down and kept a bright lookout.

_April 2nd_ was a blustery day with occasional snow showers. There was
no sea, however, to tumble the ship about as there was a good deal of
ice. We were easily able to avoid the fields by steaming around them.
Some were very heavy looking, having quantities of rafted ice on them.
Towards night, it became calm and thick.

_April 4th_. Steamed dead slow all night as it was thick. In the morning
the sea was calm but still foggy. This was pea-soup day. We always had
pea soup on Fridays; we also always had fish for breakfast; it was salt
cod. The salt was taken out in some way and then the fish was cut into
very small pieces and boiled with broken up sea biscuits and butter,
pepper, etc. I have never tasted anything so good since. In fact, I have
never since tasted anything so good as the food on the whaler after the
first month. There was an absurd arrangement about our meals; it was all
right at sea, but in Greenland, when we walked about during the night
perhaps as much as during the day, it was distressing. Breakfast was
at eight, dinner at noon, and tea at five; there was no regulation meal
between five P. M. and eight A. M. I modified this by having a special
meal at eleven P. M. At that time I took a pot of coffee from the galley
and retired to the pantry for a quiet half hour.

_April 5th_. The day was fine. A good deal of ice was in sight and
occasional seals could be seen. When one was seen ahead, or a few points
on either bow, the ship bore down upon it. As we came close, the seal
would first raise its head to see what was coming, then raise its body
upon its flippers and stare.

A number of men with rifles were always on the forecastle head and of
this number I was generally one. If some one did not try too long a shot
and frighten it, we always killed the seal. We had a large number of
punts on board and one was towed astern in the daytime and with it every
seal was picked up. They all counted. Some days we had very good sport
and I enjoyed it.

_April 6th. Sunday_. Huff day. We had plum pudding on Sundays and
Thursdays. The puddings were not round, but oval. The steward made
delicious sauce out of condensed milk and, of course, we had the
Spartan sauce with everything. The Captain was very consistent in his
observation of Sunday--no unnecessary work was done on that day. If
there were whales, we fished, but I never saw a man kept at work on
Sunday if it could be avoided. This day we did the usual shooting from
the forecastle head. The temptation to shoot first was dreadful. I dare
say we picked up fifteen or twenty seals. This was a sad Sunday because
of the death of our canary. I was in the cabin when Jack, the steward,
discovered the fact. He immediately took the seed box out of the cage to
the pantry, filled it and brought it back. Captain Fairweather came down
shortly after to breakfast and immediately noticed the absence of
the bird, as it was always hopping about and making a noise. Jack was
called. A look of surprise came over his face when asked about the
canary and he immediately climbed on to the seat and, looking into
the cage, said, with tears in his eyes, "Oh, Sir, the poor wee bird is
deid;" adding, as he pulled out the drawer, "Well, it is not for want
of plenty to eat." I don't think for a moment that the bird died of
starvation, but Jack wanted to simplify the post-mortem inquiry by
eliminating that possibility. Our steward was a remarkable man and
eminently qualified by nature for his position. He could produce a look
of absolute innocence or of sympathy at a moment's notice; his _suaviter
in modo_ would have fitted him for the diplomatic service; and as a
dreamer he was without a peer.

[Illustration: 0111]

There is a great knack about dreaming. To make a reputation and keep it
up even on a whaler requires the judgment of a Delphic priest.

It was the presence of Jack, the steward, that gave the atmosphere of a
home to the _Aurora's_ cabin and we all liked him.

_April 7th._ I saw a most interesting thing today. It was an old dog
hood; to call it Cystophora Cristata might give the describer some
relief; but it would convey no idea of this angry-looking creature as
he reared up and gazed at us. How we all resisted firing until he had
exhibited himself, I don't know; but when he was looking perfectly
terrible and fifty yards away, a dozen copper-nosed bullets found their
billets about his head and neck. He was 7 1/2 feet long and a tremendous
size around the shoulders. The bag on his head, when fully distended,
must have stood eight or nine inches, and extended from the muzzle to
four inches behind the eyes. The hood is only found on the male. It is
considered ornamental by the females of the same species, but horrible
looking by all other animals, I am sure. The beast added about 400
pounds to our little cargo, but the animal, skin and all, certainly
weighed seven or eight hundred. During the day we killed quite a number
of hoods, but the first was the largest. We did not make much of a run,
but dodged about and picked things up. A young hood is rather
blue-looking on the back and white underneath.

The engine slowed down at night, as usual.

_April 8th_. This was one of the most lovely days, with bright sunshine,
and there was dazzling ice in every direction. To the east of us we saw
a beautiful barque under canvas; she was playing our game, dodging about
and picking up seals. As she was not a steamer, and had a small crew,
she was consequently inexpensive to work; there was no reason why she
should not pay her owners well, especially if she got amongst the hoods,
five or six of which would yield a ton of oil. We kept out to her, and
finding she was the _Maud_ of Dundee, I was sent on board to hear the
news. I was hospitably entertained by the captain, who gave me some
old Dundee papers, but those I brought from the _Aurora_ were much
more recent. When I returned, I saw a funny thing happen. We had a
Newfoundland cook, Jack; he had a triangular face with the base up; a
tuft of hair grew from the apex and was the only decoration. With his
long shaved upper lip, he had an amusing look and he was a character.

The ship was bearing down towards ice upon which there was a young hood.
It had been injured and made no effort to escape. Thinking it dead, no
one fired and we were almost on to it when Jack, looking over the side,
saw it. He had not killed a seal that season, so, seizing a gaff, he
leaped on to the pan and we all cheered. As Jack lit on the ice, it
broke in two. The seal slid gracefully off its half, but Jack's half,
almost submerged, swung around under the ship's quarter, where the
propeller was threshing away. Jack paused for a moment between Scylla
and Charybdis, and then giving a wild leap, he disappeared in the sea
as far from the propeller as he could jump. It was most amusing to see
this big man give his wild leap; he was fished out by the punt astern. A
small matter, like a man being half drowned, always amused these simple
people so much.

I have said that the Newfoundlanders were not over-fed on this trip. We
had, for cabin use, numerous quarters of Dundee beef lashed in our
tops. They kept splendidly up there. One morning the steward reported
a quarter of our Dundee beef stolen. One of the Newfoundland cooks was
sent for at once and I heard the conversation between the angry Captain
and the astonished cook. I heard the cook report every morning how he
was on the track of a thief: "Begorra, sor, I have my eye on him;" or,
"Begorra, sor, I could put my hand on the man," and so on until we got
back without the thief having been turned over; I heard afterwards that
the cook certainly could have at any moment put his hand on the man who
took the beef.

_April 9th_. This was one of the most interesting days I spent. At
breakfast, I heard the captain and the mate discussing blinks, that
is, reflections. For instance, an ice blink at sea would mean a sort
of whitish reflection in the sky over an area of ice, or a water
blink would be a dark reflection in the sky over a dark area. We were
surrounded by ice and were approaching a dark blink. Was it water or
seals? Before breakfast was over, the report came from the crow's-nest
that the seals were ahead. I went aloft and saw an extraordinary sight.
The ice ahead of us appeared to be positively black with seals. They
covered acres and acres. We steamed right up to them and then about
twenty men, with rifles, went on to the ice and a lot of others followed
to sculp and haul the sculps to the ship. This ice was not solid but
made up of thousands of pans all detached. They were generally touching
in places, but two or three sprawls would bring any individual seal to
some sort of a hole through which it could escape; therefore, it had to
be killed instantly or it would disappear. The shooting began at once,
the men kneeling down and opening up at the nearest animals. Just as
fast as they could consume ammunition, they fired at seals close at
hand, and, as these disappeared, at those farther away. There was far
too much shooting for much result. Presently they began to get closer.
A would kneel down and fire as fast as possible so as to use as much
ammunition as he could before B would pass him. B would then rush
past and begin shooting, and so on. Now, with regard to this rushing
about,--we were travelling on pans of ice of all sizes, some a few feet
square, some as large as a table, some twenty times that size, but we
certainly had to watch where we were going. When the men scattered, they
shot better, but it was much more dangerous, as the express bullets were
singing about everywhere. I had two men who took me off to one side and
who gave me the best shooting I ever enjoyed. The seals were inclined to
bask in the sun and enjoy themselves; so, if we went about it quietly,
we could easily stalk a pan and advance to within fifty or seventy-five
yards; then, if we shot carefully and only hit heads, we would not
disturb the others. Should we wound one, it would not only go down
itself but would frighten the others on the same pan. I shot off a
number of entire pans by quietly getting close and then picking them
off.

The seal, properly hit, just drops its head, while the others hold
theirs up for you. This was warm work and the barrel of the rifle
became so hot that I had constantly to put it on the snow to cool off.
I watched some of the Newfoundland men shooting when we started and
saw several of them miss every shot. All they did was to endanger their
fellow men and wound an occasional seal; of course there were some crack
shots among them, but it would have paid well to have tested the ability
of all before serving out rifles to them. As there was not a cloud
in the sky, we were greatly sunburnt and several had a touch of
snow-blindness in spite of wearing colored glasses. We probably picked
up three or four hundred seals, and had there been about eight or
ten men who understood the use of firearms, they would have killed a
thousand easily.

The sealing cap worn by the Dundee men was very suitable. The peak was
covered with lamb's wool dyed black, so when turned down it absorbed a
great deal of the glare. Wool had to be wound around the metal work of
the colored glasses we wore on account of the cold.

_April 10th_. Nothing makes one rest like a hard day's work in the open
air. My shoulder was black and blue with firing and my ears rang with
the noise while my eyes smarted and my face burned, but I slept like a
log until seven bells.

The ship had not moved all night. We were off the coast of Labrador, but
out of sight of land. There was a great deal of ice everywhere and
by dawn we were steaming north as fast as possible in the effort to
overtake our game. By noon the seals were in sight and we went through
the same performance as the day before. I did not attempt it with
the main body, but with two good men went off in a slightly different
direction. The express was certainly a good rifle, and its trajectory
very flat, when we consider the powder. I examined a great many wounds
that day and in every case found the bullet had expanded well if it had
hit anything hard. These seals were nearly all bedlamers and we did not
kill any hoods either of these days, although we had picked up quite a
number coming up the coast. This was a shorter day, and we did not kill
so many. It was quite late when the ship took the last of her men on
board, for they had become scattered. One man had fallen in several
times and was very much exhausted. However, I was able to make him
swallow some rum and he soon revived. A sailor is very feeble and
dissolution near at hand when a little rum cannot be coaxed down with a
spoon or other suitable instrument--even then I would not advise leaving
the bottle close to him while looking for the spoon, lest, during his
unconscious struggles, he should spill it.

[Illustration: 0121]

_April 11th_. We were always on the lookout for the _Arctic_, but saw
nothing of her. Before leaving St. John's we heard that the _Thetis_ had
been sold to the American Government for the Greely relief expedition,
so she would not appear among the sealers that year. Captain
Fairweather's brother was master of her, so he was disappointed.

We kept north in our effort to overtake the seals, the barometer falling
a little towards evening, and a swell coming in from the southeast. We
were well on the outer or eastern edge of the ice, as the Captain did
not want to take any chance of being jammed among heavy floes coming
down the coast. During the evening we had a most wonderful sunset.
The sky was red not only to the west, but nearly all over, and the
reflection on the ice was magnificent. The frozen sea is fascinating
when the sun goes down and before dark; also by moonlight, or bright
starlight.

During the day the glare is too great but a moonlight night on a frozen
sea is the grandest sight possible. The weird sounds caused by the ever
restless ice are a fitting accompaniment. On this Friday night, the
sounds caused by the ever increasing sea, crunching the pack up, were
rather startling at times, but we kept pretty well out of it, so we were
safe. There was quite a little motion on board, owing to the swell, and
we steamed easy ahead all night, going full speed at daybreak, and by
noon had the satisfaction of finding our seals. We went oft, but not
quite as usual. The roll of the sea had crunched the pack up and broken
all the large sheets of ice, so we were obliged to jump from one pan
to another while they were rising and falling on the long swell of the
Atlantic. There was nothing sudden or uncertain about the motion. The
long heavy rollers lifted one up and lowered one down, and when between
them, one could not see very far. Now occurred a sort of stalking that I
have never seen described, i. e., running after a large wave and keeping
perfectly still when the following wave overtook one; then repeating
the stalk, always running in the trough between the two waves. In this
manner I did some efficient work and shot a great many seals.

Most of the time was spent watching where to put my feet; but, on
feeling the rise coming, I stood perfectly still and watched the seals.
I was regaled with accounts of men who had been injured and cut in two
by this sort of thing; but we did not meet with the slightest accident
and every one was picked up by sundown. The ship managed to follow
through the ice pretty well, picking up a few seals here and there,
as they had been sculped, so that we added several hundreds to our
collection.

[Illustration: 0125]

_April 13th. Sunday_. The day was fine and we picked up occasional seals
but did not find a herd. It was a complete day of rest for all hands.
The ice to the west of us looked very heavy and the Captain was careful
to avoid it. We lay to at night, but by daybreak on Monday morning we
were dodging north again.

_April 14th_. I had my first shot at a walrus, sea-horse, as it is
called. Shortly after breakfast the usual rifles were on the forecastle
head when the officer in the crow's-nest called down that he saw a
walrus. The ship was kept down on it, and presently we all saw the big
animal with his long white tusks. In this case, they were very long and
could be seen from a great distance. He was on a pan with open water
all around, so we steamed straight at him. As we approached, he raised
himself higher and higher on his flippers and disappeared after having
received a fearful fusillade, at less than a ship's length. I would have
liked the chance of examining his skin just to count the hits and see
the effect. We heard the thud of striking bullets, but the walrus gave a
plunge and was seen no more.

We did the usual amount of sealing from the ship, but had not any men on
the ice. Two or three times we had several punts out, but they did not
pick up very many.

_April 15th_. We dodged back and forth amongst the floating ice, keeping
a little closer to land but not seeing much of interest. There was
a very large floe which bore evidence of great rafting; between the
hummocks on it there was fresh water, regular ponds with connecting
channels. I was on this floe, as we shot a few seals on it, so tasted
the water, which was sweet and good. I have often seen quite big ponds
on floes fast to bergs, and we took water on board sometimes from these.

For the next few days we steamed south without seeing anything of
interest. The weather was cold, but fine, and the ice less as we neared
St. John's. We were careful after dark and generally steamed slow. The
crew were employed in cleaning up.

April 19th. Saturday. Arrived at St. John's in the morning and took our
usual berth. Our entire catch of seals for the two trips was 28,150,
but the crew were paid for 29,300 as there were some large old seals and
they counted more.

There was great news for us on our arrival. I have already mentioned the
sale of the _Thetis_ to the American Government. We now received orders
from Dundee to take the place of the _Thetis_ and proceed to Davis
Straits. The gear removed from this ship was being sent out to us by an
Allan boat. We were to keep our eyes open for the lost Greely, as a
reward had been offered by the United States for any whaler picking him
up.

[Illustration: 0130]

I certainly never intended going on a long trip when sailing, and the
Captain told me I could leave if I wished, but there was a fascination
about the whole thing that I enjoyed.

The _Aurora_ had been getting more comfortable all the time,--the first
awful experience of a fearful Atlantic winter passage with the ship
loaded, to the scuppers, then the crowded ship at the first sealing, and
the much pleasanter trip to Labrador.

Now I could see that the ship would be very comfortable with only her
own crew, and the deck clear of boats, as it would be on the next part
of the cruise, so I decided to go. It took a very short time to put our
seals out, and, as it was Saturday afternoon by that time, all the work
ceased until Monday morning.

[Illustration: 0134]

I heard an amusing story about a man being nearly drowned in a tank of
oil. A sealer came in and four of her tanks nearest to the boiler had
the sculps break down into oil, owing to the heat. When the crew were
discharging cargo it was the custom for a man to jump into a tank and
throw the sculps out. Coming to the first of these tanks, and looking
in, some sculps could be seen, and, never suspecting that these were a
few floating on the surface, the man jumped in and disappeared under,
but was presently fished out, every one thoroughly enjoying the incident
except, of course, the leading man.



CHAPTER VI--SOMETHING ABOUT THE GREELY RELIEF EXPEDITION


               "But 'tis not mine to tell their tale of grief,

               Their constant peril and their scant relief,

               Their days of danger and their nights of pain;

               Their manly courage e'en when deemed in vain."


|One of the interesting things about our trip to the Arctic Seas was
the possibility of seeing Greely or of possibly finding him or something
about him. I shall here give a brief outline of what had been done up
to this time towards rescuing the gallant explorer and his intrepid
followers.

Every one I met in Newfoundland appeared to know a great deal about
Greely, because he had started from there three years before in a St.
John's ship, and because both of the previous relief expeditions had
been in St. John's ships, and a great many of the Newfoundland men had
been with them, and several of our crew at the sealing had been on the
_Proteus_. One heard the Greely expedition and its relief discussed
every day. The consensus of opinion was that as the navy had the matter
in hand now, they would succeed. The Newfoundlanders, being a maritime
people, could not understand how soldiers could be expected to make a
success of a voyage of discovery or relief, and the two previous relief
trips had been unfortunate. The _raison d'etre_ of the Greely expedition
was briefly as follows:

At a certain scientific conference held in Europe a series of
circumpolar stations had been decided upon, from which, owing to their
proximity to the revolutionary axis of our globe, interesting and useful
observations could be made of physical phenomena. As these observations
were to be made at the same time in a great many different places, they
would probably prove of greater interest and value than those supplied
intermittently by expeditions. Now the United States was to have two
stations, one at Point Barrow on the Behring Sea side, and one at Lady
Franklin Bay on the Davis Strait side. A young officer in the American
army, Lieutenant Greely, had volunteered for and been selected to take
charge of the Lady Franklin Bay expedition. The steamer _Proteus_, a
Newfoundland sealer, had been chartered to convey the party north. She
was a Dundee-built ship, about the size of the _Aurora_, and her captain
and crew were St. John's men. They left St. John's on July 7,1881,
having on board Lieutenant Greely and twenty-four men, with supplies for
three years. They made the most unprecedented time going north. Crossing
the dangerous Melville Bay in thirty-six hours and getting to within a
few miles of her destination on August 4th, a few days later she landed
the explorers, and having successfully accomplished her mission she
returned to her home port.

Melville Bay, the bugbear of many Arctic voyages, is a very different
thing when crossed in June by whalers from what it is in July and
August; but the whalers must reach their northern station by the end of
June, so cannot wait for the ice to drift south.

It was arranged that a relief expedition should go north in 1882 and
another in 1883, while the third in 1884 should convey the party
back. Now these two previous relief expeditions formed the topic
of conversation in St. John's when the inhabitants became tired of
discussing seals and politics, and I soon heard a good deal about them.
For the first, in 1882, our friend and late neighbor, the _Neptune_,
had been chartered. She was splendid in every way and did as much as any
ship of the period could have done towards making the thing a success;
but the orders were to leave two hundred fifty rations at Littleton
Island and two hundred fifty at the furthest point reached if the ship
failed to get to Lady Eranklin Bay, and that should they fail to reach
the Bay, the balance of the stores were to be brought back to St.
John's. A private in the army had been selected to take charge of this
expedition. As he had been accustomed to obeying orders to the letter,
he deposited the two hundred fifty rations at Littleton Island, and two
hundred fifty at Cape Sabine, the most northern point reached. Then, as
they were unable to reach Lady Franklin Bay, he carefully brought back
all the balance of the cargo of food sent up for the starving Greely,
twenty days' provisions only having been left in the Arctic and this
according to orders and probably--"Well, though the soldier knew some
one had blundered."

The authorities were a little anxious now about the brave lieutenant, so
they began to make preparations for the 1883 relief, and this time
they chartered the _Proteus_ and also sent a small navy ship called the
_Yantic_, a craft rather unfitted for Arctic work. The _Proteus_ was
commanded by Captain Pike (the St. John's man who had made such a record
taking Greely up) and had her Newfoundland crew. This expedition was in
charge of a soldier, Lieutenant Garlington, as the Government wished it
all to be an army affair. Owing to an accident, a sergeant selected to
go on the _Proteus_ was disabled, and Lieutenant Colwell, U. S. N.,
was added to the expedition in his place. This was fortunate, as things
turned out. One of our quartermasters on the _Aurora_ during the first
sealing trip had been one of the crew of the _Proteus_, and he gave me a
lot of interesting information about it. They left St. John's about the
end of June and had a nice passage to Disco. In fact, they found the
road so open that they reached Cape Sabine in about twenty-five days.
As they were in a hurry to reach their destination, Lady Eranklin Bay,
little time was spent here and no stores were landed. When the ship
moved out into Kane Sea she was caught almost at once in heavy polar
ice. The officers soon realized that the ship's position was serious, so
began to take supplies out of the hold. While so engaged the side of
the ship burst in and she filled. The pressure of the ice kept her from
sinking for a few hours, then some change of wind or tide opened the ice
and down she went. A great lot of provisions and stores had been thrown
overboard on to the ice, much being lost in so doing. After the ship
went down her crew took their own boats and the soldiers took theirs.
Colwell, with the help of both parties, succeeded in landing a lot of
provisions and stores at Cape Sabine, and here he cached five hundred
rations. It was said that many of the soldiers did not know how to row,
and that some members of the crew of the _Proteus_ behaved very badly
after the loss of the ship. They probably did not consider that the
saving of government supplies was any of their business, and some of
them even are said to have looted these supplies. After a rest at Cape
Sabine, the entire party proceeded south to meet the _Yantic_, the
supporting vessel. Very little attention had been paid to her, as she
was slow and ill adapted for the ice, and it was thought that she
probably would never attempt Melville Bay. However, she had crossed this
and was following them well, and the series of misunderstandings and
misinterpretations of orders which prevented the _Proteus_ people going
south from meeting the _Yantic_ coming north, makes a most remarkable
story.

[Illustration: 0140]

Lieutenant Garlington and his party, being separated from the crew of
the _Proteus_ for a time, crossed over to Littleton Island and left
a record of the loss of their ship. They then joined the others and
proceeded to Cape York. It was here decided to push on to the Danish
settlements as they did not think the Y antic would come as far north
as Cape York. In the meantime, the _Yantic_ had passed up to Littleton
Island and picked up Garlington's record. She then zigzagged about
looking for the boats, and passing Cape York on her way down without
calling, she proceeded to Upernavik. As the boats were not there, her
captain decided to push on home as the season was getting late, so
sailed to Disco. The boat party at Cape York having decided to go south
divided. Lieutenant Colwell, taking a whale boat and crew, struck across
Melville Bay, and after a most difficult and dangerous passage succeeded
in reaching Upernavik the day after the _Yantic_ had left. He followed
her, however, for a week, and overtaking her at Disco, brought her back
to Upernavik, where the balance of the _Proteus_ people had arrived, and
from there they returned to St. John's. Now the result of all this had
been, in 1882, the deposit of ten days' provisions at Littleton Island
and ten days' provisions at Cape Sabine, the remainder being brought
back. In 1883 the _Proteus_ had not deposited anything during her life,
but after her destruction Lieutenant Colwell had succeeded in caching at
Cape Sabine five hundred rations or twenty days' supplies saved from the
_Proteus_. The _Yantic_ had been up to Littleton Island and back without
leaving anything behind. Another year had passed and now the rescue of
Greely became imperative. The affair had been handed over to the navy,
and Commander Schley was taking command. The Dundee ship _Thetis_ and
the sealer _Bear_ had been bought and added to the navy. A collier, the
_Lough Garry_, had been chartered to take coal up for the expedition,
and the _Alert_, given by the British Government, was also going. At
the same time a reward was offered for any whaler picking Greely up. The
relief ships, except the _Alert_, were coming to St. John's and would
sail about the same time as the whalers, and as we all knew a good deal
about the circumstances, we were certainly all deeply interested in the
outcome. It was generally believed among our people that Greely would
now be at Cape York or Carey Islands, and the _Aurora_ stood as good a
chance as any other ship of getting there first. Commander Schley
had charge of the expedition and would sail on the _Thetis_, while
Lieutenant Emory would command the _Bear_, of which ship Lieutenant
Colwell would be an officer.

The whalers going to Davis Strait were--

Arctic, Narwhal, Aurora, Nova Zembla, Cornwallis, Polynia, Esquimaux,
Triune, Jan Mayen, Wolf of St. John's.



CHAPTER VII--THE BOTTLENOSE FISHING


               "The Arctic sun rose broad above the wave,

               The breeze now sank, now whispered from his cave."


|Newfoundland looked more attractive in April than it did when we left,
doing about was pleasanter and we saw everything worth seeing in the
neighborhood of St John's. On board, great changes took place. All
the sheathing was torn off and the ship cleaned inside and out. Her
overhauling was complete. The rigging was set up, the masts were scraped
and oiled and the ship painted. The punts were all cleared away and our
beautiful whale-boats took their place.

The _Aurora_ was peculiar in having two boats, one above the other, on
each quarter. We fished ten boats altogether, four down each side and
two upper quarter boats.

The crew of a whale-boat is six, a harpooner, a boat-steerer and four
men pulling. The harpooner rows until ordered by the boat-steerer to
stand by his gun. In the bow the harpoon-gun is mounted on a swivel, and
fast to the harpoon is the "foregoer." This is a very pliable, untarred
rope, about two and a half inches in circumference and eighteen fathoms
long. It is coiled in a tub, sitting on the port bow of the boat, while
on the starboard side, in a convenient rest, lies the hand-harpoon.

The bollard head, around which a turn of the line is taken, is an
important structure; it stands in the bow, beside the gun. Many a boat
has gone down through the line fouling at the bollard head.

To the "foregoer" or "foreganger," is attached the whale line. The term
"line" means, generally, one rope 120 fathoms long, and there are five
of these carried in each boat, one and a half being stowed amidships and
the rest aft. They are 2 1/2-inch ropes, and tarred. The greatest care
must be observed in coiling these lines, and by the line manager in the
boat as the line runs out.

A struck whale generally starts at about seven or eight miles an hour.
Should the rope, running out at this rate, uncoil unevenly, a kink in it
might foul one of the crew and instantly take him down. This has often
happened.

Each boat has several six-foot lances ready for use when the whale is
exhausted; the idea being, to sever with the long sharp lance some of
the large vessels, thus bleeding the animal to death.

The oars in a whale-boat work on mats on the gunwale, and a thole-pin
is used instead of rowlocks. An arrangement on the oar keeps it from
slipping through the grummet on the thole-pin, when it is let go. The
mat is to prevent noise. A little piggin is used for bailing the boat,
and, when hoisted on a boat hook, is the signal for more lines. The
shaft of the harpoon is made of soft, Swedish iron, so that it can be
twisted in any conceivable way without breaking.

A little barrel of bread and cheese is carried in each boat and this
must not be broached until after the boat has been away from the ship a
considerable time; water is also carried. The great long steering oar is
very important. With it a dexterous boat-steerer can do wonders. He
can sweep the boat around very quickly or can scull noiselessly up to a
whale when the oars or paddles would frighten it away. The steering oar
works on a pin and mat, as do the others.

The whale fisher has many incentives. As he is generally a man who has
to labor for a living, and as he is partly paid by the result of his
work, the capture of a whale means to him a good deal, probably several
pounds. This stimulates him. Again, the sooner he fills the ship, the
sooner he sails for home. While there is not much chance of filling the
ship nowadays, the securing of a good summer catch probably saves him a
weary, cold autumn, fishing on the west side. Last, but not least, the
pursuit of whales is often attended with great danger, which is one
of the principal factors of good sport. The average game hunter is not
exposed to as great risk as the average whaler.

What danger is there in the pursuit of any member of the deer or
antelope family, and what chance has the animal in these days of high
power rifles? Sometimes the whale has no chance for its life and the
destruction of such a huge creature is not exciting, but, generally,
there is danger, as the history of the industry proves. Hunting rhino or
buffalo is better sport than hunting deer because the former may charge
and kill one. The whale hunter may be snatched to instant death by a
foul line, or starved to death in an open boat, and these possibilities
elevate the sport greatly.

One cannot help sometimes being sorry for the animal one has killed, the
excitement of the chase over and the beast lying dead, especially when
only the head is wanted, and when everything else must be left to
spoil. A dead whale means creature comforts to many poor people; and I,
personally, have had more qualms at the escape of a wounded buck than I
have had over all the whales we killed.

Fishing for bottlenose, the year before (1883), the _Aurora_ lost two
men, and the _Esquimaux_ lost one this year. While we were killing our
whales off Hudson Straits, he was snatched out of the boats and never
seen again. A few years before, this man's father was lost from the same
ship.

In approaching a black fish, the eye must be avoided. Going "eye on" is
a serious matter, as the whale is not such a fool as it looks, and the
tremendously powerful tail can smite with terrific force. The lifting
power of the tail has not been much studied; but a chance to observe it
occurred on the _Nova Zembla_ some time ago when the mate got his
boat over one. Those who saw the accident say that the tail was lifted
without any apparent effort, throwing the boat many feet up and breaking
the bottom out of it. Fortunately the occupants were spilt out, and fell
clear of the danger zone, because the fish struck the boat again and
reduced it to match wood.

A week after our arrival, the _Aurora_ had been pretty well cleaned and
greatly changed in appearance. A small spruce tree was fastened to each
masthead, the end of each yard-arm, and to the point of the jib-boom.
Every one now had an easy time until the actual sailing day. Quite a
number of vessels of all sorts had arrived, as the ice had disappeared
from the coast; amongst them was the Allen steamer _Newfoundland_, from
Halifax, bringing us English mail. The Greely relief ship _Bear_ had
also come in.

_May 1st. Thursday_. The _Aurora_ was receiving finishing touches. We
were lying at the south side but our launch had steam up and took us
across when we wanted to go.

_May 2_. Taking a gun, I went with Dr. Crawford, of the _Arctic_,
straight up the hill from the ship and found on the other side a growth
of little trees so dense as to be practically impenetrable in places.
I shot a hare crossing a little open place, and saw a splendid big hawk
flying about, but it never came within shot. Returning with the hare,
the Captain stopped me just as I was going on board. A hare was too
unlucky, so I gave it to a man on the wharf. Captain Guy was standing
on the _Arctic_ and, seeing this, came on shore and cut the hare's feet
off, throwing them on to the _Aurora_; he was ever fond of a joke. The
most unlucky parts of this unlucky animal in no way interfered with our
prosperity, however.

_May 3rd._ As the _Lough Garry_ had come in I went on board. She was
an ordinary iron or steel steamer of about 1,000 tons and had been
chartered to take 500 tons of coal north for the relief expedition. She
was not fortified or specially prepared in any way for the work, but
still she managed to get along very well as far as her services were
required. Going on board, I encountered the mate, who recognized me, he
having been the mate of the _Thetis_ who had given me the information
I sought about whaling while in Dundee the autumn before. He showed me
over the ship and told me many interesting facts about a whaling voyage.

The _Esquimaux_ sailed this day and the _Narwhal_ had already gone. The
desire to find Greely was certainly starting us all north a couple of
weeks before the usual time.

_May 4th. Sunday._ The _Bear_ sailed. She was unlike any other ship
going north this year, because she had her black funnel forward of the
main mast and her crow's-nest on the foremast. The _Arctic_ had her
funnel in the same place, but her crow's-nest was on the mainmast. Their
rigs also differed. These are small matters, but we soon could recognize
any of the ships a long way off by their little peculiarities. During
the day I went on board the _Polynia_. She was ready for sea and lying
in the harbor. Captain Walker, who had command of her, was a naturalist
and sportsman and it was a pleasure meeting him. She proceeded north
before morning.

[Illustration: 0151]

May 5th. Spent some time on board the _Arctic_. She was ready for sea
and looked clean and nice with her spacious decks and cabins--very
unlike a whaler. Her lines were graceful, and she had powerful engines,
but she could not have stood as much in ice as the _Aurora_. Captain Guy
told me about killing a whale with an old Eskimo harpoon buried in its
blubber. He gave me this interesting souvenir of my voyage and told
me about Captain McKay of Dundee killing a whale in which he found a
harpoon with which the fish had been struck forty-two years before. This
iron is now in the Dundee Museum.

_May 6th and 7th_. Took my last look at St. John's and made my cabin
comfortable. I had now been in it for three months, so knew exactly what
was required.

There does not seem to be any connection between a whaler and Florida
water; but still I venture to say that there was not a sailor on our
ship who had not from one to half a dozen bottles of this commodity.
Some were for trade with the Eskimos and some for their sweethearts at
home. The Captain had laid in a quantity of colored handkerchiefs and
such things, which the men were permitted to purchase afterwards from
the slop-chest for purposes of barter. The slop-chest was the ship's
shop and was superintended by the second mate. One could purchase a
wonderful lot of useful things from this institution.

_May 8th_. After breakfast, all being ready, the _Aurora_ sailed for the
whale fishing. In Scotland, a fish means a salmon, but in Greenland,
a black whale is always spoken of as a fish, never anything else. We
sailed out of the narrows and turned north. It was blowing a little from
the southeast, so there was some swell. We got square sails on the ship
presently, and with this breeze on her quarter, made good time, the
engines going full speed.

Our intention was to try the bottlenose whale fishing off Resolution
Island at the mouth of Hudson's Straits, for a few days, then go over to
the Greenland side and follow the usual route. As there were many bergs
coming down and quantities of field ice at this season, we kept rather
well away from the coast, along which it came. At night the canvas was
taken off the ship and a bright lookout kept for ice. For the next three
days we steered north. The weather was fine and the sea smooth. Going up
the Labrador coast, we saw some heavy floes, but kept well to the east
of them and did not sight land. We did not see anything of interest, so
it was rather monotonous.

_May 12th_. It was a lovely morning when I came on deck, with the wind
from the southeast. We had our fore and afters set and were steaming
full speed. Astern of us was the _Nova Zembla_ and we were towing her,
an act of brotherly love.

I had seen the ship in Dundee and was struck by her beauty. She and the
_Jan Mayen_ were very handsome little ships, and she looked far better
at sea than in dock. We towed her part of the day. During the afternoon,
the wind died down and the evening was beautiful; not a breath of air,
but some swell rolling in from the southeast and the surface of the sea
like glass. The people to-day were employed coiling lines in boats and
arranging fishing gear as we might see the bottlenose whales any time.

[Illustration: 0155]

May 13th. A beautiful calm day. The men were getting ready the
whale-boats and filling the bunkers. We were well off Cape Chidley, the
northeast corner of Labrador, in the morning. In the evening a school of
bottlenose whales was seen, and six boats were lowered away. Two of the
boats immediately filled as they had been out of the water so long, but
the others pulled after the whales. I was oh the bridge watching the
sport. It was splendid. The ship and boats rising and falling on a
rather heavy swell, the surface of the water like oil, the boats
freshly painted, and the harpoons glistening in the sun, presented an
interesting picture of the sea; while the school of very lively little
whales rolling about like porpoises and then disappearing, to come up
suddenly, gave it animation.

The boats had several shots, but they were quick and difficult. One,
however, was captured by Alex. McKechnie, the second mate, and after
a short play, killed and brought alongside. This beast (Hyperoodon
Rostratus, or the northern sperm whale) is small, but of remarkable
appearance, having a long round beak, which protrudes from the lower
part of its large head. Its oil is very good; that flowing from the
cancellous bones of the head solidifying on deck at a comparatively high
temperature, and when solid, looking like spermaceti. Many of the men
took bottles full of this oil for use in future sprains and bruises.
Late in the evening another whale was killed by Thors, and, from the
numbers we saw around, there was no reason why the _Aurora_ should not
have picked up a profitable cargo in this neighborhood, but the desire
for the valuable whalebone took us to the north.

_May 14th._ We were off Frobisher's Bay and after the little whales
again, and another was captured. I was not in the boats at all at this
fishing, as the movement of the whales was so fast that they capsized
boats frequently and only experienced oarsmen were wanted. I was told
that more men lost their lives at this than at the right whale fishing.
We learned afterwards that the _Nova Zembla_ picked up seven here, while
the _Arctic bagged seventeen_. The whale killed in the morning by McLean
was over twenty feet long. The other two were smaller. The heads were
brought on board so I had a good look at them.

I saw white stalactites of spermaceti hanging from them to stalagmite
incrustations of the same on deck, and I noticed that the oil was free
from smell.

The neighborhood of Resolution Island was notorious for its awful
currents, and the rise and fall of tide about the western end of
Hudson Straits made navigation on these comparatively uncharted waters
exceedingly dangerous.

[Illustration: 0159]

I once heard Captain Guy tell of a narrow escape he had in the
neighborhood of the upper Savage Islands. From the barrel, he saw a rock
ahead, and ordered the lead cast. Three fathoms was found, so he backed
off and anchored. In a few hours he was astonished to find an island
where the submerged rock had been, and he afterwards learned from a
reliable source that the rise and fall of tide at this place was over
forty feet. Caribou were abundant on the north coast of the straits, and
musk-ox were also found. Sometimes whalers coming down for the southwest
fishing, in the autumn, killed numbers of both. The caribou was the
barren land variety, and some of the heads were enormous. In this
species the beam was long and straggly, and the palmation was not very
pronounced.



CHAPTER VIII--THE CHIEFTAIN DISASTER


               "We have fed our sea for a thousand years,

                   And she calls us, still unfed,

               Though there is never a wave of all our waves

                   But marks our English dead."

                        -- Kipling.


It may be of interest to recount here the story of the _Chieftain's_
mishap, which was the worst accident of the year.

The _Chieftain_ was one of the Dundee whaling fleet. When we left she
was fitting out for the Greenland sealing and bottlenose whaling.

Leaving Dundee on March 6th, under the command of Captain Gellatley, she
lost four of her boats, on May 26th, in a fog.

These made their way to Iceland. One, in charge of the captain, landed
at Primness. A second, in charge of Alex. Bain, a harpooner, arrived at
Tonsberg, having lost overboard her boat-steerer, David Buchan. A third
landed at Ramfarhofu with all alive. The fourth was picked up, and in
her there was but one survivor. When this boat left the ship there were
three men in her. One died and was duly committed to the deep; another
fell into a lethargy which continued so long that McIntosh, the
survivor, though hardly able to move his benumbed legs, crawled to the
bow of the boat to find out what was the trouble, but found him dead.

Fearing lest he might yield to the temptation of using the body for
food, by a great effort he succeeded in heaving it overboard. The boat
was picked up on the fourteenth day off the Iceland coast by a passing
ship; but McIntosh was compelled to have both legs amputated as
mortification had set in. It is terrible to think of what this brave
fellow must have endured drifting about in a small boat over this lonely
and stormy sea, half frozen and with hardly any food.

The following is the account given by Captain Gellatley of the cause of
the accident, and of his experiences during the awful trip to Iceland.

A school of whales was observed on Monday, 26th of May, and the
afternoon being fine, four boats went out in pursuit--one under the
command of Captain Gellatley; the second under the charge of Thomas
Elder, the second mate; John Taylor, specksioneer, was in charge of the
third; and Alexander Bain, harpooner, of the fourth.

In the course of a short time the captain's boat got fast to a whale,
and also the specksioneer's. The second mate assisted the captain. After
some time the whale was killed and towed to the ship, which was reached
about three o'clock in the morning. By this time a dense fog had settled
down, and after his crew had breakfasted, Captain Gellatley set out to
look for the three boats, giving directions that if the fog continued
the vessel should be kept in her position, so as to enable them to find
her; but that she was to bear down towards the boats if the mist lifted.
Knowing the bearings of the boats, Captain Gellatley came up to them
after rowing for fully two hours, and found that the whale was still
alive and causing great trouble. Three additional harpoons were fired
into it, and in the course of the forenoon it was killed, and the four
boats started in the direction of the ship with the whale in tow. In the
meantime the weather cleared, and the ship was descried at a distance of
about five miles; but in the course of half an hour the fog again came
down, and it was so dense that it was impossible to see more than a
few yards ahead. Though they pulled from half past ten o'clock in the
forenoon until half past four in the afternoon they failed to find the
_Chieftain_, and no answering signals were returned to their blasts of
fog horns. It was then resolved that one of the boats should proceed
eastwards and another westwards for some distance, but they returned
without having been able to discover the whereabouts of the ship,
notwithstanding the most diligent search. At one time a sound like a
whistle was heard in one direction and again in another, and the men got
utterly fatigued by their protracted search, a fresh breeze springing
up and adding to their discomfort. About eight o'clock in the evening a
number of the men confidently declared that they heard a ship's whistle
sounding in a northeasterly direction, and the second mate was sent
away in the hope of finding the ship. Some time later Captain Grellatley
decided to follow in the same direction, and accordingly the whale was
buoyed and a lance with a handkerchief tied to the end of the handle was
stuck into the carcass for identification. The three boats then followed
in the course taken by the second mate, but they could never catch up to
him, though they repeatedly heard the blast of his fog horn. Throughout
the night the search was continued without success, and on the morning
of the 28th, the crews being fatigued, the three boats were made fast to
one another and a deep sea anchor thrown out for the purpose of stopping
their way and allowing the men to rest. In the course of the morning
James Cairns, an ordinary seaman, accidentally fell overboard, but he
was promptly rescued. On the 28th matters began to assume a serious
aspect. The crews had then been two days absent from the ship, and their
slender stock of food--a small keg of provisions and a six pound tin
of preserved meat in each boat--had become exhausted. In consequence of
their privations the men became affected with stupor, and with the view
of dispelling this the captain ordered the anchor to be hauled in and
the boats to be rowed towards the ice. This exercise had a beneficial
effect, and it seemed as if it were to result in a happy rescue, for a
barque was noticed sailing away to the windward. Signals were made
in the hope of attracting attention, but the crews were doomed to
disappointment, the fog, which had temporarily cleared, having again
fallen and obscured everything from sight. The weather, too, became
boisterous, and the boats were in imminent danger of being crushed by
the ice. To save the boats from destruction it was found necessary to
row out from under the lee of the floes, and during this time Captain
Gellatley narrowly escaped being drowned. Whale-boats are all steered by
an oar, and while the captain was steering, his oar was struck by a wave
and he was knocked overboard. Fortunately he was rescued before he had
been long in the water, but he suffered much from having to remain in
his wet clothes during the remainder of the time he was in the boat. All
the men were by this time complaining of the benumbed condition of
their hands and feet, and by the morning of Friday, 30th, it was hardly
possible to keep them awake. That morning the wind shifted to the
westward, and as all hope of falling in with the _Chieftain_ had been
given up, it was decided, as the only chance of saving their lives,
to endeavor to sail to Iceland, which was calculated to be about two
hundred miles distant. Each of the boats possessed a compass, but there
was neither mast nor sail, and in their place a couple of boat-hooks
were erected by way of a mast, with the ramrod of the gun as a yard, and
the line cover, a piece of canvas about five feet by three feet, had to
do duty as a sail. Thus equipped, and with a supply of frozen snow and
pieces of ice to quench their thirst, the crews of the three boats set
out on their perilous journey, the master giving the directions for
steering. They left the ice about five o'clock in the morning, and
were soon scudding along at a rapid rate, there being a strong breeze
blowing. About eight o'clock the boat which was in advance was seen to
shorten sail, and when the captain came up he was informed that David
Buchan, while steering, had been knocked overboard and drowned. An
attempt was then made to tow this boat; but the sea was running so high
that this jeopardized both. It soon became apparent that the boats would
be swamped if they continued in tow, and the captain was obliged to cast
the second one adrift, telling the crew they must either hoist sails and
make for Iceland along with him or run back for the ice. They preferred
to hold on their course, and the sail was again hoisted. The weather
continued moderate until between four and five o'clock in the afternoon,
when it shifted to the northward and began to blow hard. A heavy sea
arose, and through the night it was with the utmost difficulty that the
captain kept his boat afloat. At times she was nearly filled, and the
men had to keep almost constantly bailing out the water. The stormy
weather continued throughout the whole of Friday night and Saturday, and
it was found necessary to throw the whale lines overboard to lighten
the boat. In the meantime the condition of the men was becoming more and
more alarming, and the captain was forced to employ various devices to
prevent them from falling into a state of stupor, which would soon have
proved fatal. To use the oars was an impossibility on account of the
heavy seas and the rate at which the boat was sailing, and accordingly
the captain persuaded the men to hold up their oars by way of exercise.
This had the desired effect for some time, but by Sunday morning, the
fourth day they had been without food, they were all ready to give up
in despair. Captain Gellatley had been steering constantly from
Friday morning till Sunday morning, and the fatigue, combined with the
privations he endured in common with his crew, began to tell severely
upon him. Only those who have had to steer such a boat in a seaway can
understand the irksome and laborious nature of the work, and to this
must be added the fact that he had to sit in a cramped position the
whole time, his legs being bent under him. The captain stated that a
peculiar sensation came over him, a haze gathered before his eyes, and
an attack of dizziness obliged him to call the boatswain to take his
place. After a brief space the boatswain, who was almost prostrated, had
to relinquish the task, and the boat was then hove to, and a deep sea
anchor, made up of a grappling iron and other articles, was thrown out,
with fifty fathoms of line, by which means the boat's head was kept
towards the sea. The weather was then moderating, but the waves
continued to break over the boat, and it was as much as the men could do
to keep her afloat. A few hours later and the gale sprang up afresh, and
as there were still no signs of land, the crew resigned themselves to
the fate which they deemed to be inevitable. From this state of despair
they were ultimately aroused by the news that the land and a schooner
were in sight, the sailmaker being the first to make the joyful
announcement. This intelligence reanimated the despairing men, and
signals were made to the schooner, but without succeeding in attracting
the attention of the crew. A direct course was then steered for the
land, but owing to the gale ten hours elapsed before it was reached.
A new difficulty was then encountered, there being no visible
landing-place along that rock-bound coast. A number of the islanders,
however, had noticed the boat, and by means of signs they directed the
crew to steer for the only available landing-place, a narrow passage
with perpendicular rocks on either side, and a horizontal rock forming a
sort of bar. The tide was then ebbing, but under the guidance of Captain
Gellatley, the boat was safely steered into the narrow harbor. By the
assistance of the islanders the crew, who had almost lost the power
of their legs, were take to a farmer's hut adjoining, where they were
hospitably entertained with such cheer as the house afforded; and the
black bread and whale blubber which were set out before them proved
a feast to the famishing sailors. The point at which they landed was
Brimness, about ten miles distant from Langanaes, and after they had
recovered somewhat the islanders made arrangements for transporting
them on horseback to the nearest port. However, the Norwegian smack,
_Jemima_, of Elekkefjord, hove in sight, and on being signalled, the
captain, Bernard Olsen, readily agreed to take the crew to Seydisfjord,
where a steamer was shortly to sail for Scotland. On their arrival at
Seydisfjord on the 8th of June, the governor had them conveyed to a
hotel, and a messenger was dispatched for a doctor, who arrived in
the course of two days, his journey requiring twenty-four hours to
accomplish. Under his treatment Captain Gellatley and his crew made a
satisfactory recovery, and on the 12th they left Seydisfjord on board
the mail steamer _Thym_, for Granton.



CHAPTER IX--A GREENLAND SETTLEMENT


               "The shuddering tenant of the frigid zone

               Boldly proclaims the happiest spot his own;

               Extols the treasures of his stormy seas,

               And his long nights of revelry and ease."


|We were now crossing Davis Straits and felt that the whaling voyage had
fairly begun. Reference was seldom made to the places already visited,
but those we expected to see were discussed, and stories told of
previous experiences there. Nothing was spoken of but Greenland and its
settlements.

The weather was very cold and on Thursday, May 15th, snow squalls
reminded us of our latitude. The wind was fair, however, and the ship
made good time under steam and some canvas.

_Friday, May 16th._ The morning was fine and the men of the watch were
employed coaling the bunkers; coal dust was thick in the 'tween-decks
and the tarts we had for tea were black with it as the galley opened
oft the Tween-decks. In spite of their color, however, they were better
tarts than any I ever tasted on shore.

As we expected to be on the Greenland coast the following day, a few
remarks about the country may not be out of place.

The west coast settlements had prospered under the fostering care of the
Moravian missionaries and the Danish Government and were divided into
two districts, the northern and the southern, Holstenborg, to which we
were bound, being the northern settlement of the southern district. The
most northern settlements of the northern district had native governors,
but the southern had Danish, and inspectors supervised the work of
these.

One or two ships from Copenhagen visited the coast every year with
supplies, taking back oil and skins.

We have all sung about the icy mountains of Greenland, and most of us
have in a vague way connected the country with whales, without having
any idea of how great this whaling industry was some years ago. In the
appendix it will be seen that Great Britain alone sent one hundred
and fifty-nine ships to Greenland waters in 1819, and, of course, the
Norwegians and Dutch, the Danes, Germans and others also profited by
the fisheries. Many words in the modern whaler's vocabulary are of Dutch
origin, as these hardy people were conspicuous among the most daring
followers of this dangerous trade.

Greenland has a past, but its history, viewed through the mists
of centuries, and always more or less traditional, is anything but
distinct.

The country was discovered toward the end of the tenth century; and a
banished Norwegian, called Erick, wintered at what is now called Erick
Sound, shortly after. The unscrupulous Erick, in order to promote
colonization, called the new country Greenland. A fleet of twenty-five
sail started for the country with colonists. Many were lost, but about
half of them settled there and were joined by others, forming quite a
colony.

[Illustration: 0173]

Christianity was introduced about 1121 and a bishop was appointed. By
degrees the colonists in the south formed other colonies, churches were
built, and the people prospered for a time.

Grant tells us in his history of Greenland that there were about one
hundred hamlets on these coasts. The colonies on the east coast have
disappeared. Some ruins have been found, but where are the people?
Nothing has been heard definitely from them since 1408, when the east
Greenland trade ceased. Some think that black death destroyed
them, others say that polar ice, coming down, closed the coast from
intercourse with the parent country, so that they starved. According to
one Kojake, who has written on the subject, they became eaters of human
flesh, owing to a famine, but afterwards they are said to have relished
it. That they were nice about it is evident when we read that they only
consumed old people, forsaken orphans and unnecessary persons. A rumor
reached Norway in 1718 about a vessel having been wrecked oft the coast
of Greenland and of the crew having been eaten voraciously by savages.
The word voracious suggests relish, and possibly these savages were
descendants from the good, old Norwegian stock, who ate unnecessary
persons only a few hundred years before and who had a bishop in 1121.

_May 17th. Saturday_. We expected to sight the land, so were on the
lookout. The weather was cloudy and there was a southeast breeze, so
everything was set and drawing. The clouds lifted about noon and in the
distance the snow-covered mountains of Greenland could be seen. At first
it was difficult to tell which was mountain and which cloud. By and by,
however, the forbidding coast grew distinct.

Our objective point was Holstenborg and the mate was in the crow's-nest
examining the shore for the Danish colors. Some small bergs were
scattered over the water and a narrow shore floe was fast to the coast.

To the north of us the Knights Reefs ran far out to sea and on these
some larger bergs had grounded. The ship was slowed down and all her
canvas stowed. Finally the engines were stopped, and after a little
while, the captain ordered the ship put about as he could not pick up
the settlement. I heard the order given and was greatly disappointed as
I longed to see an Eskimo.

Just then the mate called out that he saw a kayak coming off, so the
ship lay to and waited. I repaired to the fore top and presently saw two
kayaks coming toward us. There was quite a splash on, but the sun had
now come out and the scene interested me intensely.

The little boats were almost submerged and the occupants were wet and
glistened in the sunlight.

When they came alongside, I saw that the kayaks were about 15 feet long,
with little knobs of ivory decorating bow and stern, and were about 18
inches wide at the widest part and covered with skin.

One Eskimo sat in each. The edge of the hole in which he sat was raised
a couple of inches and over this he had pulled his skin coat, wrapped
a lash around it and made it water-tight. The paddle was trimmed with
ivory and the dusky faces of the almond-eyed navigators were all smiles
as they looked at us and showed their white teeth. A whale boat was
lowered and each canoe lifted in, Eskimo and all, then they left their
boats, shook hands with every one around and went on to the bridge,
where they remained until the ship was at anchor off the village.

Holstenborg consisted of a church, which was also a schoolhouse, a shop
where the deputy governor lived, and the governor's house. There were a
number of native houses--awful places, built of turf. A long low passage
led to the door of each. As the weather was comparatively warm, this
passage was generally very wet, and when the door of the house opened,
the smell was overpowering. Inside sat women at work with their needles,
or dressing skins. When the ship came to anchor off the shore floe, a
boat-load of ladies came on board. A Greenland belle was a well dressed
person. Her hair was folded several times and then wound about with a
ribbon, so that it stood up upon the top of the head; the fold of the
hair above the ribbon was rather fanshaped, and the color of the ribbon
indicated whether the lady was married, single, or a widow. Possibly
there were degrees of wrapping, and shades of the color, indicating the
number of times she had been married, and the depths of despair into
which her various bereavements had reduced her. This simple record of
her past was an excellent arrangement in a country where there were no
society papers,--a sort of personal totem carried on the head, so that
he or she who ran might read. Of course, in lower latitudes, where high
civilization and divorce courts exist, shortness of hair would render
some records so incomplete that the Greenland method is never likely to
supplant the present ready references to be found amongst interested and
observing neighbors. A bodice was worn, made of some cheerful colored
stuff procured at the shop or from whalers. Tight fitting trousers, made
of bay seal skin and extending down to the knees, came next, and very
gaudy boots of colored skin. Down the front of each leg of the trousers
was a stripe 1 1/2 inches wide, of colored skin, and the boots,
especially around the tops, were very ornate. Many of the girls were
good-looking, and on their arrival a ball commenced in the 'tween-decks
which lasted while they were there; fiddles and concertinas supplying
the music. These instruments were played by whalers and Eskimos equally
well, and they knew the same airs. Most of our visitors had articles
to barter and they wanted bread in return more than anything else, but
accepted colored handkerchiefs and other trifles.

Slippers and tobacco pouches were their principal stock in trade, but
there were some down quilts, prettily bordered with the green necks of
the eider duck. Captain Fairweather and myself spent a pleasant evening
with the governor and his deputy, and it was interesting to hear the
music of civilization played on a piano by the wife of the latter.

Coming away, they gave us a lot of quaint ivories made by the natives,
from walrus tusks, such as brooches, pipes, paper knives, etc., etc.

_May 18th. Sunday_. I went on shore early, and seeing a lot of snow
buntings, spent some time looking for their nests, but without result.
On the sunny sides of the rocks the snow had gone; there was some dead
grass, but indeed the country was, for the most part, covered with it.
There were several pairs of ravens about, but I could not find their
nests, so I borrowed a pair of skies, and ascending a hill close by,
enjoyed the exhilarating sport of sliding down its snowy slope. During
the afternoon I made a house-to-house visitation in the native quarter
and saw much of interest. The older portion of the population I found
at home, but the youth and beauty of the place had gone on board the
_Aurora._ About dinner time I came on board and acquired a further
collection of Eskimo ware, including ladies' clothing, for which even
my bed curtains were bartered. It was late when I retired for the night,
surfeited with the pleasure of my first long day in Greenland.

_May 19th. Monday_. I wrote letters home this morning and sent them on
shore. During the summer they arrived via Copenhagen, having gone by the
Danish mail ship which visited the settlement every year.

By breakfast time we were under way. It was a beautiful day. There was
a breeze from the southwest, so the ship soon had all her canvas set and
we stood away, clear of the land.

The Knights Reef, running out to sea north of Holstenborg, had to be
weathered. On the heavy ice around there, we saw a number of walrus,
but did not disturb them. By noon we were sailing up the coast amid floe
ice, so the canvas was taken off and we steamed slowly through it. A
sharp lookout was kept for whales, as we were then on a very good ground
for spring fishing, sixty miles from Disco and sixty miles from Riffkol
being the neighborhood where the ships in olden times killed fine
cargoes.

               "With Riffkol hill and Disco Dipping,

               There you will find the whale fish skipping,"

is an old saying amongst whalers.

[Illustration: 0184]



CHAPTER X--POLAR BEAR SHOOTING


                        "The shapeless bear

               With dangling ice, all horrid, stalks forlorn,

               Slow paced, and sourer as the storms increase,

               He makes his bed beneath the inclement drift,

               And with stem patience, scorning weak complaint,

               Hardens his heart against the assailing want."

_May 20th. Tuesday._ We were quite close to Disco in the morning.
However, the Captain decided not to go into the settlement, Godhaven,
where many other ships lay, but to go west, as the straits appeared
tolerably free from ice in that direction. Accordingly, about noon, we
turned our bows westward, having a solid looking floe to the north of
us and open water to the south. This was all good fishing ground and
we might have picked up a big whale, but we did not see a single spout
while we were in the neighborhood.

Birds were getting numerous, now that we were amongst the ice, and the
edge of the floe was lined with little auks in some places. They were
important-looking fellows, like diminutive penguins.

Disco looked wild and forbidding as we steamed away from it, with snow
lodged in all the sheltered places.

The island rose to a height of about three thousand feet and much of the
coast on the west side of it was precipitous and exposed, so that there
were always bare rock faces, which gave a patchy appearance to that
place.

To the north of us, many big bergs could be seen, which had come
originally from Waggate Straits. Two tremendous ones were at one time
aground in this place, in very deep water. They were described by
Crants, who tells us that they were there for years.

We had steamed for some distance to the west, along the floe edge, when
the lookout called down that he saw a bear on an island of ice, a few
points on our starboard bow. I heard him, so immediately went for my
rifle. A boat was lowered and we rowed to the island. George Matheson,
one of our harpooners, and myself immediately landed, and the boat left
us, intending to row around the island so as to intercept bruin, should
he attempt to swim to the main floe.

As this was the first wild bear I had ever seen, I was unfamiliar with
their ways, but learned afterwards that unless the hunter came suddenly
upon one, or unless it had cubs, it would almost invariably retreat and
probably take to the water. Of course, it might not know the whereabouts
of the hunter, and in that case it would be as liable to go in his
direction as any other.

This particular animal was an exception to all rules; for before we had
gone very far we found that he was coming straight toward us. Owing to
the nature of the ice, he could not always be seen, but occasionally he
would stand up and take his bearings, when we could see each other. I
was an active youth, George was a heavy man in excellent condition,
and if it came to running, he would have had no chance with me, and no
sensible bear would pass him to pursue me.

[Illustration: 0188]

Realizing these things, I had no misgivings, so knelt down and put out
a box of ten cartridges. The har-pooner, seeing my preparations, said:
"For God's sake, don't shoot." He had had experiences with wounded bears
before, which he did not wish to repeat. It seemed to me, however, that,
between the two of us, we had things our own way as we had had such
splendid practice at seals a short time before and our hands were in,
so, when bruin stood up to have a look at us, less than a hundred yards
away, I fired and hit him in the head.

I was intensely pleased as it was my first bear and also the first seen
that year by any of the ships.

We had, as spectators, the entire crew, as the ship was not far away
and every one on board was watching. A bear is considered lucky,
considerable trouble being taken to pick one up. As they looked very
yellow in the white ice, they were easily seen. Curiosity, no doubt,
drew this one to us, as we were kneeling down and not moving when he
stood up to look. Had we moved, he would probably have gone away. I kept
the skull, the entire occipital portion of which was shattered, although
the skin wound was small, as the copper-nosed bullets only expanded well
on striking something hard.

The boat came back for us and, after skinning the prize, we went on
board. As there was much heavy ice to the west, we steamed back towards
Disco, and a lead, opening to the north, later in the day, gave us a
chance of going a few miles in the right direction.

_May 21st. Wednesday_. We had come rather close to the land by morning
and were off Disco Fiord. There was very heavy ice coming down and
numbers of bergs about, so navigation was exceedingly difficult and
dangerous, and we made little or no progress until noon, when the ice
slackened and let us go ahead, the wind blowing from the north and
loosening it. In the evening it was very cold, with snow squalls.

I got an ivory gull this day (P. Eburnea) and also a glaucous gull
(Larus Glaucus). The ivory gull positively looked like ivory as it stood
on the ice, and the glaucous gull, with its great spread of snow-white
wings, was beautiful.

[Illustration: 0192]

We were sorry that the ship did not stop at Godhaven, or Lieveley, as it
was generally called, because of its importance as a point of departure
for expeditions. They generally obtained dogs there, and whalers, for
a century and more, had made it a port to call, but this was a race for
the north and no time was to be wasted. We managed to work on our course
all afternoon and during the night, as the wind had slackened the ice.

_May 22nd. Thursday_. During the night, the ship had made considerable
progress, so at noon we were off Hare Island. After tea, we were hooked
on in a pool of water for several hours. I took my gun and went out for
a stroll, killing a number of little auks (Alca Allé or Roach) and a
Richardson's skua. These latter were called, by the sailors, boatswain
birds, because of the long feathers in the tail, resembling a
marlinspike.

As at this time we had the sun night and day, it made me exceedingly
restless. About ten P. M. we were fast again, so, taking my gun, I shot
some black guillemot (U. Grylle), these birds being very numerous. I
returned to the ship about midnight, when it was blowing rather hard.

_May 23rd. Friday_. The wind had died down by morning and the day was
beautiful. We were off Nugsuak Peninsula. There were many tremendous
bergs about and the floe was heavy. In the dim distance we saw a ship
and made our way towards her. To the east of us was the entrance to
Hmanak Fiord, one of the largest on the west coast of Greenland. From
where we were, all fiords looked alike, and it was impossible to tell
islands from mainland. It resembled a sea of ice out of which protruded
rocks and hills, which, excepting on the steep places, were covered with
snow.

Black guillemot and little auks were everywhere in thousands, and it was
pretty to see rows of the latter along the ice edge. They stood
shoulder to shoulder, facing the water, and were very indifferent to our
presence.

By night we had made little progress and the new ship was still
far away. We had been about with the whalers enough by this time to
recognize any of them a long way off by their rigging, smoke or funnel,
so, long before we reached this new vessel, we recognized that she was
a stranger, and she turned out to be the _Cornwallis_. When we left
Dundee, she was outfitting for the Greenland fishing, that is, for
the voyage we ourselves originally intended taking, after leaving
Newfoundland.

The high price of whalebone, however, had induced her owners to send her
to Davis Straits instead. By tea time we were hooked on within a quarter
of a mile of her, and after that meal the Captain sent me on board to
see whether there was any mail for our ship. Climbing on board, I was
amazed to find my friend Armitage there, with a yellow beard and sea
boots; I would not have recognized him. He was greatly surprised to
see me because he believed that I had gone from Newfoundland to the Jan
Mayen fishing, not knowing of our altered arrangements. The _Cornwallis_
was an old barque, formerly in the South American trade. She had had
engines put in, and been fortified for Arctic ice. After I sailed from
Dundee, Armitage, in going around the docks, saw her. He went on board
and, finding Captain Nicol, arranged to sail with him later in the year.

Sending back to the _Aurora_ mail and papers, also some fresh mutton,
which had been sent out to us, I remained on the _Cornwallis_ and heard
the news. I saw her peculiar and useless engines. Captain Nicol said
they spoilt her for sailing and she steamed badly.

_May 24th. Saturday._ It was a beautiful Arctic day when I came on deck
before breakfast. Ahead of us, the world was white, not a break to be
seen anywhere, astern some open water. The _Cornwallis_ was lying on
our port side a few hundred yards away, so that about eleven I went on
board, and, with Armitage, started off to look for something to shoot,
among the hummocks, three or four miles north of where we lay. We spent
hours tramping over the ice, but did not see a track, so we returned to
our ships about six P. M. This hummock belt extended east and west and
had been caused by the rafting of great floes. It was quite smooth from
the ship to the hummocks and also on the other side of them. Half a mile
beyond the ridge, however, there was a great berg which appeared to be
aground.

When I returned on board the _Aurora_, the Captain told me to go below
and have my tea and then to go with the mate back to where I had been,
because he had seen a bear close to us all the time we were there. It
certainly was curious that neither of us had seen him or his tracks.
When we were about a mile away from the ships, I saw Armitage hurrying
after us. I was anxious to wait for him, but the mate insisted on
pushing on, as it would be a fearfully unlucky thing for a member
of another crew to shoot a bear first seen by us. After a little, we
reached a crack in the ice, about two feet wide, so we stepped across
and hurried on. Armitage, coming up shortly after, was unable to cross
as the crack was then eight or ten feet wide and extended indefinitely
in each direction. So the situation righted itself, and my friend
returned to the ship while the mate and I kept on to where the bear had
been seen and there we found tracks in abundance, but no bear. After
an hour's searching, we were returning to the ship when we saw her jib
hauled up as a signal for us to go ahead again, the game having been
spotted by the lookout in the crow's nest. Returning to the hummocks,
we saw the bear strolling from behind the berg beyond. He was coming
straight towards us, so we got down behind the rafted ice and awaited
his approach. It was decided that I should have the first shot as the
mate had killed so many. I allowed the bear to get about a hundred and
fifty yards away before firing, and then put a bullet into him. I don't
know where it hit, but he came down, to be up again at once and to keep
on coming. The mate fired and down he went again, and we kept it up
until the bear was hit many times. Sometimes he fell, sometimes he bit
at the place, and by the time he reached the ridge he was very lame and
badly shot up. He had gone some distance to the west of us, so I stood
up on a slab of ice and finished him, as we thought, by putting a bullet
in his shoulder and dropping him in his tracks. We hurried up our side
of the ridge until we arrived at where he was. Then, climbing over, I
was surprised to find him sitting up. This time my bullet finished him.
Our shooting was nothing to be proud of, and went to show how careful
one should be with bears, because if not hit right, they take a lot of
lead. This was about the only one of those killed that took more than
one or, at the most, two shots.

[Illustration: 0198]

As neither of us had a hunting knife, we had a long job skinning him
with pocket knives. Then we started for the ship, towing the skin, but
when we reached the crack in the ice, it had opened about twenty-five
yards, so we were fairly caught. The mate, with his usual ingenuity,
loosened a pan of ice, and on this we crossed, using the butts of
our rifles as paddles. Arriving at the other side, we were met by two
sailors, sent from the ship, as we were being watched from the barrel,
and they took the bear skin in charge while we made our way on board. As
it was late, we retired as soon as we had had something to eat.

_May 25th.. Sunday._ In the morning, Armitage came on board and saw the
bear skin. He had never seen a polar bear on the ice, so was very much
disappointed that he had not been with us.

Both ships unhooked about ten A. M. and stood north through a lead.
We moved along fairly well and by evening were hooked on close to each
other in a hole of water with a good ice edge.

The _Bear_ and _Triune_ were now in sight, the latter having come from
Dundee direct. We were off Svartin Huk, a great peninsula, but I only
knew this by consulting the chart glued to the cabin table.

The _Cornwallis_ was the "lame duck" of the fleet. Steaming in open
water, she had not more than half our speed, and in heavy ice she could
do little, as her power was so weak. Of course, she could wriggle her
way around floes and along tortuous leads fairly well, especially if
some of the better ships had just been through ahead of her and broken
the trail. The _Cornwallis_ was the only one of the ships coming
direct from Dundee which carried a surgeon, but there were three on the
Newfoundland fleet.

_May 26th. Monday_. We both moved a few miles north this day, but the
ice was very heavy and the conditions for advance unfavorable. Some
distance astern, we saw the _Bear_, but she was not making much headway
and we all three were tied up by noon.

A ship, when anchored to a floe, has her bows against it and a cable out
to an ice anchor on one bow or on both, according to the weather. From
the jib-boom a rope ladder always hangs, so that one can easily get on
to or leave the floe. There is generally a man on the ladder when the
ship approaches the ice, and as she touches, he drops off! and, with an
ice drill, makes a hold for the ice anchor.

Bringing Armitage, we went to a crack up which looms were flying, and
had a pleasant afternoon shooting them. They were fast-flying birds, and
the knowledge of the fact that they would not be wasted gave zest to our
sport. Shooting guillemot rising off the water would not be much fun,
but picking off single birds as they passed was good practice.

The looms we saw in such thousands were, I believe, Uria Brunichii.

The ships were tied up when I turned in.

_May 27th. Tuesday_. The ice was slack, so we kept in a northerly
direction, making good headway. We left the _Cornwallis_ and, following
a good lead, passed the _Narwhal_, which had been the leading ship for
some days.

During the evening, the _Bear_ came after us, but we were able to keep
ahead. Captain Fair-weather decided to give Upernivik a wide berth, as
he once had had an unpleasant experience with the rocks of that charming
Greenland summer resort, so we kept going north all night.

There was a wonderful amount of life on board a whaler, on account of
the crew being so large. In the 'tween-decks, one generally found a
number of men at work, picking oakum, spinning rope yarn, or other
yarns, and weaving sennet. The carpenter and his assistant were found at
work in one place, the cooper busy in another, while the sailmaker
sat and sewed. On the deck, in some sheltered corner, one found the
blacksmith at work, and there were always jobs being done in the engine
room. But it was easy work, none of the dog's life one saw on other
ships.

There are said to be runic monuments in the vicinity of Upernivik,
and one on Woman's Island is said to bear the date of 1135. The early
travellers, who are supposed to be responsible for these records, are
also said to have visited Lancaster Sound.

When one considers that Baffin circumnavigated the bay which bears his
name, in 1616, in a craft of fifty-five tons, and when one examines a
Viking ship of a thousand years ago and finds it a substantial clinker
built boat, a hundred feet long with fine beam, one sees no reason why a
twelfth century vessel could not make her way to Lancaster Sound.

_May 28th. Wednesday_. We had a day racing with the Bear. She managed to
pass us just before we reached Browns Island, and hooked on to the floe
some distance from us. After a little, the _Narwhal_ joined us, and
later the _Cornwallis_. Armitage and I went off in our dingey and had
a few pleasant hours shooting looms. We shot a lot of them, which
were divided between the two ships. It took me some time to overcome a
prejudice and to become accustomed to seeing looms on the table in
any shape or form, but they were really much better than any ducks we
killed, because they were not at all fishy and our cook understood about
skinning them. They tasted rather like roast hare.

During the afternoon, the weather was thick and it was snowing. The
coast of Greenland, at this point, was fringed by hundreds of islands
of all sizes and shapes. They were everywhere and some had names while
others had not. One navigated there by rule of thumb, only moving when
landmarks could be seen, and avoiding visible dangers. Occasionally,
something one did not see, destroyed the ship, as there were hundreds of
uncharted rocks. In approaching a settlement, a native generally came on
hoard and pointed out the way, but the coast was a dangerous one and the
ships only kept close to it in order that they might avoid the terrible
middle pack.

[Illustration: 0204]

_May 29th. Thursday._ We were bumping along towards the west when I
came on deck, as the ice looked slacker in that direction, but we had to
return shortly after breakfast and, after thrashing around for most
of the morning, we managed to strike a good lead and gain a few miles.
There was no shooting, as the ship did not stop.

The _Cornwallis_ kept near us all day, and the _Narwhal_ was not far
away. As we were now on the edge of the notorious Melville Bay, it
became interesting. Greely's famous thirty-six hour passage was not
going to be repeated by us, that was evident. I recalled Cheynes'
account of its dangers, but we were so comfortable on board the
_Aurora_, and meals were served with such regularity, that it was only
possible to realize the danger by watching floes crunch into each other
as they were pressed together by irresistible forces. We hooked on at
night with little in sight but floes and bergs.

It is a wonderful thing to see a berg ploughing its way through a frozen
sea, slowly but surely, overcoming all obstacles, provided, always, that
the water was deep enough to keep its mighty base from grounding. On
this day there were dozens in sight. They were in every direction
and one could easily understand the hopelessness of a sailing ship's
position, beset in these waters, with a gale driving bergs down upon
her.

_May 30th. Friday_. We were lying, hooked on to the floe, in the
forenoon, when I looked over the side and saw a beautiful male King
eider duck (S. Spectabilis) sitting on the water within ten feet of the
Captain's port. The Captain was in bed, as he had been in the crow's
nest for days, nearly all the time. His port was open and I did not want
to wake him, so, taking a gun, I went on the ice and, firing from there,
killed the bird without the report being heard in the cabin, and the
dog, Jock, went out and brought the bird in. It was the first King eider
I had shot and it looked beautiful in its spring plumage. The striking
thing about the bird was the enormous frontal processes bulging high
above the bill and brightly colored. These were soft and shrank rapidly
as they dried, losing their color. The plumage was a mixture of black,
white, pearl gray and sea green, making a gorgeous whole. The first bird
one sees of a beautiful species always excites more admiration than the
others, and so I was delighted with this and carefully skinned it.

The evening made no change in the conditions and we remained fast all
night.

_May 31st. Saturday_. All the ships were stuck in the morning. The
_Cornwallis_ and _Narwhal_ were some distance astern, the _Arctic_ near
the shore, the _Nova Zembla_ and _Polynia_ close together to the west
of us. There were an immense number of bergs, some of them, no doubt,
aground, as there were many islands and rocks. We were lying off
Tassuisak, a not very populous place, and I was in hope that some
natives, seeing the ships, would come off.

[Illustration: 0208]

During the afternoon, we got under way and poked about without moving
much further north. When we were crossing any open places, the ship
steamed very slowly and a man was kept forward, on the lookout for
submerged rocks.



CHAPTER XI--MELVILLE BAY


               "And hark! The lengthening roar continuous runs

               Athwart the rifted deep, at once it bursts

               And piles a thousand mountains to the clouds."


_June 1st. Sunday_. Owing to a change of wind the ice had loosened and
during the night we managed to push on to Berry Island. The _Bear_ and
_Thetis_ appeared upon the scene during the afternoon, and we saw the
_Bear_ strike a sunken rock. We hooked on to the small island with
several of the other ships, the _Bear_ being on our starboard side, and
the _Narwhal, Arctic and Thetis_ on the port. I saw Commander Schley
going on board the _Bear_ and examining her with a water telescope. His
boat passed very close to our quarter and the Captain spoke to him as he
went.

The ships were all lying close to the shore floe with this low island in
front of them, and it looked as if they might be there some time, so
I went on shore with the surgeon of the _Arctic_. There was a camera
sitting on the ice near the _Thetis_, so the ships were evidently being
photographed. We wandered about the inhospitable place for a time and
came on board. The perpetual daylight made me very irregular in my
movements, coming and going at all hours; my day was regulated by my
meals. Those who had watches to keep slept and got up with their usual
regularity.

_June 2nd. Monday_. The day fine, and we were still tied up at the
island. I took a gun and went on shore after breakfast, but there was
not much to shoot. In a little valley I saw a quantity of dead grass
sticking out of the ice. On going over and examining, I found a number
of _human skeletons_. Wherever there was a big bunch of grass, there
I found an ice-covered skeleton. Probably they were Eskimos. When I
returned to the ship there were a number of natives on board. They came
from Tassuisak and had some seal skins to trade.

Some of our men had visited the _Arctic_. She had been in Godhaven, so
had much trade and our men procured some of it. Afterwards I bought a
kayak model from one of these. It was very beautifully made. The skin
tobacco pouches and slippers made by natives in Godhaven looked nicer
than any I saw from other settlements.

The southern Greenland towns were better than those further north, but
the whalers seldom called at any further south than Holstenborg. I went
on board the _Bear_ for awhile during the evening with Dr. Crawford
and met Lieutenant Emory. During the day I saw several very beautiful
glaucous gulls. They are called burgomasters by the sailors.

_June 3rd. Tuesday_. Immediately to the north of where we lay there were
a great many icebergs. They presented a very fine appearance with the
sun shining on them. The _Thetis_ and _Bear_ started off amongst these
bergs. We tried to move out to the west, but did not accomplish much;
for when evening came we were no further north than when we started.
In the distance and to the west of us we saw a berg on the top of which
there was a black spot. What could it be? From the crow's nest the
telescope revealed nothing but a black spot on the icy slope.

There was a narrow lead going in this direction, so the mate and myself
went with a boat's crew to solve the mystery. We were able to take a
whale boat a long distance through the lead, and then we walked the rest
of the way. I had brought a rifle in case there should be a chance of a
shot. On getting up to the berg we found that it was not fast, but that
owing to its great depth in the water it had a motion independent of its
floe. On one side there had been a great slide, and up this we proposed
going.

Just at this place the motion of the berg had ground up a lot of ice
at its base, and also some of the floe, so that one had very unstable
footing to jump to and from in crossing the surrounding fissure.

However, we all managed without mishap and ascended the slide to within
six or eight feet of the top. I was then pushed up this little cliff and
found that, with the exception of the place we had come up, the sides
were sheer precipices. It was necessary to traverse a snowy undulation
before the black object came into view. The mate joined me with some of
the others and it was exciting for a few minutes, but disappointing when
we found only a big black stone which the berg had picked up probably
during its glacial days.

The islands of ice often turn over owing to the frost splitting them
when the weather is cold. This frequent alteration of their centre of
gravity makes them very undesirable neighbors, especially in the
autumn. While it was disappointing finding only a stone when we expected
something wonderful, yet the view from the summit was magnificent.

Immediately around little but ice could be seen, with here and there
some black threads of water and many great bergs scattered about.

In the distance the coast of Greenland looked bold. It had been rather
high all the way up from Upernivik, but Cape Shackleton, rising to
a height of thirteen hundred feet, looked very imposing, being
precipitous. There was a great loomery on its cliffs, which was probably
the home of the thousands of those birds which we saw every day flying
along the cracks, or about the pools of open water. There was much less
trouble getting down the berg than getting up, but we were all tired
when we reached the ship as we were not accustomed to long walks.

_June 4th. Wednesday_. The morning was fine, and many ships were in
sight. During the night we had passed Cape Shackleton. To the south we
saw the _Thetis_, evidently in the rips off Horse Heade, with the _Bear_
astern of her. The _Nova_ _Zembla_ and _Triune_ were several miles to
the west, and caught in the pack, while all the other ships were
together. During the morning the _Thetis, Bear_ and _Polynia_ came up
and joined us in our feeble attempt to push along.

Later in the day the weather turned cold and cloudy, but no storm came,
and the ice was very tight at bedtime.

_June 5th. Thursday_. A beautiful day with sunshine and blue sky.
Nearly all the ships were anchored to the ice or stuck in our immediate
vicinity. We were hooked on in a large lake and close to us there were
a number of great bergs. During the morning I took the dingey and rowed
amongst them, as there was no floe ice near.

The silence was very impressive, the only sound being that made by the
splashing of water as it trickled down the icy sides of the bergs, or
the cry of some seabird. I traced the base of one of these hoary giants
a long way into the depths, but the water of the Arctic sea is by no
means clear, owing to the vast numbers of animalculae which inhabit it.

I shot a big bag of little auks here, but was careful not to do any
shooting whilst close to the bergs, as the concussion might have
brought down ice. During the afternoon the floe opened a little, and the
expedition ships came close to us, but the _Nova Zembla_ and _Triune_
still appeared to be held in the pack. We all watched like hawks for
a chance to reach the Duck Islands, now only a few miles ahead. Greely
might have been there.

[Illustration: 0216]

_June 6th. Friday_. This was one of the most exciting days we had--eight
of us all on edge and each trying to get ahead of his neighbor. This
friendly rivalry added zest to the trip. We were quite close to the Duck
Islands, which made the starting point of the Melville Bay passage.

The day was glorious and we spent most of it fast to a floe. The
exciting thing was when late in the evening a crack occurred near the
Arctic. It was not more than a mile or two across the floe to the open
water at the Duck Islands, and this crack appeared to extend the whole
way. When it was wide enough the _Arctic_ and _Aurora_ immediately
entered, but before we had gone any distance, the ice closed astern
of us, preventing any of the others entering. For a short time we were
caught, and it looked like the nips, then the floe seemed to swing,
closing behind us and opening in front, so that we steamed away with a
cheer, leaving the others barred out. The _Bear_, after a short time,
succeeded in breaking a way for herself and the _Thetis_, and all the
rest followed like ducks.

I was aloft for a time watching this game of follow the leader and
keenly interested in this Arctic race. We entered the patch of open
water about midnight, and steaming across made fast to the ice at the
islands.

_June 7th. Saturday_. It was wonderful how little we slept when there
was excitement. I enjoyed it' so much that I was afraid of missing
anything by going below, but after the race we had just finished, as
we had all hooked on, I felt that it was safe to turn in as there was
nothing but dense pack ahead. The _Arctic_ and _Aurora_ were lying very
close to the _Bear_, and the _Thetis_ was not far off. We were on the
west side of the Middle Duck, the rest of the fleet being on the other
side. It was evident that there were no explorers here to be rescued,
for the approach of the fleet was rather imposing and they would have
seen it.

After a rest, taking a gun I made my way on shore. We were too early for
eggs, but there were plenty of ducks and the shooting was rather
good. Numbers of phalarope (Lobipes Hyperboreus) were about. They were
graceful little birds and no doubt bred here later. Coming back for the
dingey I rowed out to a point of ice past which there was a flight
of ducks, but was astonished to find the birds so shy in such a quiet
place. Perhaps the sight of the ships invading this sanctuary made them
a little nervous. I managed, however, to add considerably to my bag.
There did not appear to be any loosening of the ice, so none of the
ships made any effort to move. I went on board the _Arctic_ during the
afternoon and received a supply of apples from Captain Guy. The surgeon
returned with me and spent the evening on the _Aurora_. As our boiler
required some repair this was attended to during the day and it made a
wonderful difference to the temperature of the cabin having no heat in
the engine room for a few hours.

_June 8th. Sunday_. A peaceful day and perfectly calm with some fog. All
the ships were hooked on to the floe. Crawford of the _Arctic_ came on
board and we took our dingey and went to one of the islands. Some men
from the relief ships were there. They were shooting with eight bores,
the first time I had ever seen guns of that calibre; I saw them make
some long shots. We secured a few ducks, eider and long tailed.

During the afternoon we went on board the _Bear_, and again met
Lieutenant Emory and his officers. Lieutenant Colwell showed us the
ship. The arrangement of the berths in the cabin was splendid; they were
curtained off by drawing out poles, and by pushing these in the sleeping
quarters were reduced in size, and the saloon enlarged.

I should say that the _Bear_ was the fastest ship of the fleet, except,
perhaps, the _Arctic_, which had powerful engines. The only thing
against the _Arctic_ was her great length which made it difficult to
turn her about in small water holes, and to manouvre amongst the ice as
some of the others were able to do.

The _Wolf_ and _Narwhal_ had moved off and were caught in the pack by
bedtime.

We were then on the threshold of Melville Bay, the reputation of which
was most unsavory.

Perhaps the most interesting occurrence there during historic times was
the loss of nineteen ships and a total of £140,000 damage to the fleet
on June 19th, 1830. This event has been called the Baffin's Bay Fair,
because the one thousand men who suddenly found themselves homeless upon
the ice, made the best of their circumstances and enjoyed themselves
immensely.

Before the ships went down they secured quantities of liquor and food
and afterwards established comfortable camps. There was an abundance of
wood from the wrecks, so they made bonfires around which they danced.
The curious part of it was that no lives were lost, and that the entire
party ultimately reached home safe.

There is an interesting oil painting of this event in the museum at
Peterhead.

_June 9th. Monday_. We seemed permanent fixtures now and felt that we
owned the place in spite of the ducks. I took the dingey with a boy and
pulled off to a long point of ice on the west side of the island not far
from where we lay. We were able to hide behind a heavy piece of ice with
the boat and I shot a number of ducks in the handsome plumage of that
season. Then landing, found numbers of old nests made of feathers and
down. They had been driven into crevices of rock by storms and one could
have collected a quantity of down. While on the island I saw and heard
my first finner whale. He was making a great noise as he breathed.
Finners have little oil and short bone, so they are not pursued. They
are also very quick in their movements and consequently dangerous. This
one came up several times in different water holes about the islands and
then disappeared.

At dinner we were discussing vegetables and all agreed that the best on
board the ship were the tinned carrots. They were simply boiled and put
up in pieces six or seven inches long. They were absolutely as fresh and
sweet as the day on which they were prepared. We called them Carnoustie
carrots, as they had come from that place. Our Dundee meat was excellent
at this time. We had a good supply of it, and very seldom saw salt beef
or salt pork on the cabin table during the voyage.

The steak for breakfast was served on a sort of metal basket; a handle
crossed the middle of this and on each side there was a lid. The steak
was under one lid and fried onions under the other. We also had hot
rolls every morning, although ship's bread was always on the table.

_June 10th. Tuesday_. Early in the morning the _Aurora_ unhooked and
for a little while managed to push her way northwest. The _Wolf_ and
_Narwhal_ had gained by moving on. There was always a chance of a lead
opening and letting one through. We had reached the Duck Islands first,
by taking the lead while the others hesitated. We now entered the pack
further than we wished to and then spent some time trying to extricate
ourselves.

There was always danger of being beset in the pack and carried down the
straits again; in it there was no safe anchorage, as it might twist and
turn in any direction, and a low temperature might even freeze the ship
up, whereas following the shore floe gave one a lead of open water every
time the pack floated off, and should it be driven in the ship could
generally find a bay or indentation in which she was fairly safe.

In consequence of this the captains became nervous when they found
themselves beset in the pack. At night we were almost out of sight of
the islands. The _Wolf_ and _Narwhal_ were not far from us.

_June 11th. Wednesday_. Before morning we managed to work north some
distance. The _Wolf_, _Narwhal_ and _Arctic_ were close to us. The
relief ships during the day were joined by the _Triune, Cornwallis and
Nova Zembla_.

We all made some headway, but in the afternoon we were so nearly caught
once or twice that we steamed back towards the islands and arrived
almost at our old anchorage by the following morning.

_June 12th. Thursday._ In the morning a lot of us were back at the old
anchorage again, but the _Arctic_ was still to the north, close to the
_Thetis and Bear_. The _Wolf and Narwhal_ were out in the pack to the
west of us, but in the afternoon these last joined us. During the day I
shot a lot of ducks, all eider and king eider, afterwards landing on a
floe from which a peninsula ran out having a narrow isthmus covered with
very high hummocks. Crossing this isthmus to the peninsula beyond, I
came upon the perfectly fresh footprints of a bear and two cubs, leading
from the water to the big hummocks over which I had come and over which
my route back lay. Having only a sixteen bore and number four shot, this
discovery was disquieting for a time, as a bear with cubs might fight.
However, she did not materialize.

All the other ships were closer inshore during the evening, while we
moved west a little. During the night we moved off up a lead.

[Illustration: 0224]

_June 13th. Friday_. We were hard and fast, the _Cornwallis, Triune,
Esquimaux and Narwhal_ in sight close inshore. The _Arctic and Wolf_ out
with the expedition ships. They were apparently beset. We lay frozen up
all day, with not even a duck to shoot. The Sugarloaf, a high mountain
on the Greenland coast, showed up well and made a good landmark.

_June 14th. Saturday_. The day began with a heavy snow storm, but
shortly after breakfast it cleared off. The ice opened to the west,
so we steamed in that direction, leaving the fleet of older ships
apparently fast inshore, and we did not see any of them again for a
long time. We made very little headway at first, but found the ice slack
after dinner and managed to push through it.

Later a series of good leads opened up and we worked a long way north.
When I turned in, the relief ships with the _Arctic and Wolf_ were in
sight ahead of us.

We passed a curious pillar of rock called the Devil's Thumb; it was a
long way off. Every one took off his hat to it as was the custom.

Steering amongst ice was sometimes very dangerous for the man at the
wheel, because the ship going astern was liable to bump her rudder
against the ice. This, of course, sent the wheel flying around. We had
a man hurt in this way by receiving a blow from the wheel during the
afternoon.

_June 15th. Sunday_. We had good leads all the morning and were never
blocked for any length of time. By breakfast time we overtook the
_Arctic and Wolf_ with relief ships. Then we all hooked on to a heavy
floe in an open pool of water. Very shortly we were off again, but it
looked dangerous, so we tied up. The _Wolf_ was the first to be free.
She entered a lead and it closed behind her, exactly as it had done with
us at the Duck Islands. However, later in the day the pack drew off and
we all steamed along the edge of the shore floe, the _Thetis_ bringing
up the rear. This was an exciting race, and no one turned in while the
water remained open. The _Wolf_ had the lead, the _Arctic and Aurora_
being together. Occasionally some of us would diverge a little, but we
were in line pretty well all the time.

_June 16th. Monday._ I turned in when I found the way blocked and all
the ships tied up, as everything seemed frozen solid, except the pool
in which we lay. Seven bells awoke me to find things as they had been.
Captain Fairweather shot a Sabine gull after breakfast and I shot some
looms, which were picked out of the water by Jock the dog, who retrieved
very well. I went on board the _Wolf_ with the Captain, and saw Captain
Burnette. During the evening the Arctic steamed off and we followed
with the _Wolf_, but the lead closed so we all were caught. The Aurora.
managed to push out into the loose ice in a little while, but the Wolf
remained and the Arctic was fairly in the nips.

The evening was fine and we saw land to the north and dozens of bergs to
the east of us. There was a crack running into the floe for two hundred
yards close to our ship. It was probably twenty-five yards wide at the
entrance. A great many looms flew up this and returned when they found
it a blind lead. The dingey was lowered and the Captain and myself had a
few hours' shooting and secured a great many. They were tied in bunches
and hung upon the chains connecting the quarter davits.

_June 17th. Tuesday_. All were frozen up. I tried stalking a seal, as
there were several in sight, but I could not get near any of them. The
_Arctic_ was still nipped, the _Wolf_ was with us and the relief ships
a little way east. During the evening we were all moving around, except
the _Arctic._

We were ahead and the _Wolf_ next, the _Bear_ bringing up the rear.
Later the _Thetis_ fell back, for she could not keep up. Cape York was
in sight and all four of us were rather close together.

With the _Aurora_ leading, we kept this up all night, every one greatly
excited. In the small hours we were all up to a barrier. Among the
Arctic ice it would have been useless to roll the ship as we had done at
Newfoundland, the young ice on that coast being very different from the
Arctic floe met with in Melville Bay.

_June 18th. Wednesday._ The race for Cape York and the north was far
too exciting to permit of sleep, so for the following few days I never
undressed, but kept going up and down all the time. If we stuck I lay
down, and when the engine started I went up.

At one A. M. we were with the _Wolf_ and relief ships, pounding away
at the floe which separated us from the open water at Cape York. The
_Aurora_ was the first to break through, when we all gave a great cheer
and shouted, "The north water!" I immediately went forward, and sitting
on the jib-boom, realized that I was the nearest white man to Greely,
possibly the nearest to the pole. I sat there for a long time as we were
steaming fast towards the land through open water.

As we neared the shore the _Bear_ passed us. She was a faster ship and
she reached the shore floe some minutes before us.

Seeing a party land on the ice from the _Bear_, we turned off southwest.
As the _Thetis and Wolf_ were coming up, the Captain went on board the
former and bade the commander good-by, and good luck, then we crept off
to the southwest with the _Wolf_. The _Bear_ having spoken the _Thetis_,
steamed west after us, the weather being rather thick.

Finding the ice heavy to the west, we tried a lead to the north, but
were beset for some time.

[Illustration: 0230]

The fog was so thick that nothing could be seen ahead. We saw nothing
further of the _Thetis_ as she remained at Cape York to pick up the
party landed by the _Bear._

I turned in for a time during the night, as the ship was beset by heavy
ice. We had now completed the passage of Melville Bay without accident
and nearly every one on board felt that the greatest danger of the
voyage was over, so we would work our way to the west and look for
whales. In the race from St. John's to Cape York we had been beaten by
the _Bear_ only, and that by just a few minutes. The _Arctic, Thetis
and Wolf_ were all close, but in the last lap the _Aurora and Bear_ were
neck and neck almost to the winning post.



CHAPTER XII--CAPE YORK TO CAREY ISLANDS


               "And now there came both mist and snow

               And it grew wondrous cold,

               And ice, mast-high, came floating by

               As green as emerald."


|I noticed a rather curious phenomenon while coming up the Greenland
coast, but thinking that there was probably some simple explanation,
made no note of it. One evening while in the passage at the foot of the
stairs I heard a peculiar whistling. It was like the noise one sometimes
hears when standing beside a telegraph pole. The steward was in the
pantry and I drew his attention to it. The sound was very distinct in
the pantry, and not noticeable in the saloon, which was on the same deck
but a little further aft. The steward said he had heard it before and we
concluded it was due to a vibration of the taut rigging conducted down
the mizzenmast to this particular place. The engine was silent at the
time, otherwise the noise of machinery would have drowned everything
else.

I listened to the peculiar whistle several times after and always heard
it very distinctly in the pantry. The steward had sailed Arctic waters
for years, but he made no comment on this subject and never mentioned
having heard it on other ships, nor did any; one else on board the
_Aurora_ speak of it at all; in fact, we were probably the only two who
noticed it.

Years after I came across the following passage in "Old Whaling Days,"
by Captain Barron:

"From latitude 69 N. to latitude 74 N. on the east side and in Melville
Bay, not far from the land, a strange phenomenon is heard resembling a
very weird whistling in a high note and gradually dying away to a very
low one. It is only heard when it is calm, and most distinctly when in
a boat or in a ship's lazarette which is nearly level with the water. On
deck it is seldom heard." The above interested me as it describes what
I noticed. Captain Barron believes it to be connected with the Aurora
Borealis, which he states can be heard but not seen when the sun shines
on a summer's night in the Arctic.

_June 19th. Thursday._ The engine starting up brought me on deck. The
fog had lifted and the _Arctic and Wolf_ could be seen astern, while the
_Bear_ was to the north of us. Some time after we were steaming through
a nice lead into open water ahead. I was on the bridge, where the second
mate was in charge, and the Captain was in the crow's nest, which he
seldom left. Presently we noticed the lead very narrow, being little
wider than the ship. A moment later we were among crunched up ice and
within twenty or thirty yards of the open water and the ship was slowing
up owing to her progress being impeded by the ice. The Captain called
down, "Get over there, some of you men, and push that ice out of the
way with poles." We were almost through, and it looked as though a few
pieces pushed away would relieve the situation. Specksioneer Lyon and
twenty others were immediately over, and began pushing. Almost at once
Lyon called up, "It's coming together, sir," and sure enough we were
caught between two points of great floes coming together and the
_Aurora_ was in the greatest danger of being lost within the next few
minutes. The Captain immediately came down and began giving orders. All
boats were provisioned and lowered away. I rushed to my cabin and was
rolling up my blankets, when he brought the log, which he asked me to
put with my things. I took my bundles on deck with a rifle and gun, and
by this time the ship was so squeezed that my door would not open or
shut, and she had a heavy port list. As the _Arctic and Wolf_ were
a short distance astern of us, there was no danger to life and I
thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of being shipwrecked so comfortably.
With a bump the ship righted herself greatly and presently, after
straining and groaning, she slipped up considerably. Her water line was
now above the crunching ice and she was for the time being tolerably
safe. This all happened in a very short time and it was a wonderful
escape. I went on to the ice forward with the mate and engineer; and
while there the ship slipped up higher still, so that she was almost out
of the water.

[Illustration: 0236]

The surgeon of the _Arctic_ paid us a visit at this time and took the
two photographs here reproduced after some retouching. The first one
shows the ship in the nips; in it I happened to be in the foreground. In
the second she has slipped up and is almost out of the water. The mate,
engineer and myself were on the ice in front at the time. Sailors were
a little superstitious, and did not like their ship being photographed
while in distress, so these pictures were very hurriedly taken. For some
hours the _Aurora_ rested in this position and we knew that eventually
the ice would open and let her into the water. Our principal anxiety was
about the stem post and rudder; but these fortunately escaped injury.
Our propeller had only two blades, so when the ship was sailing or stuck
in the ice the propeller was always stopped with the blades up and down.
While in this position the whole thing could easily be unshipped, and
we carried an extra one. As looms were flying about in numbers along the
floe edge just in front of the ship I shot a big bag of them. They fell
into the water, but drifted against the ice edge where I picked them up.
The _Arctic and Wolf_ were pretty tightly caught astern of us, but they
had not to abandon the ships as we had. During the afternoon the pack
was tighter than ever and it made weird sounds at times. We had
our meals on board and were all very happy at our wonderful escape,
especially the Captain, who was determined to take home a cargo of
whales in his own ship instead of returning as passenger on one of the
others. During the night a crack occurred under the bows. This opened
by degrees, letting the ship down. We hoisted up our boats and the
shipwreck was over. When whalers go into Melville Bay they generally
arrange a quantity of provisions so that it can be easily reached in
event of their suddenly having to leave the ship as we had done.

_June 20th. Friday._ After our escaping from the nips, we steamed in a
northerly direction, with the _Arctic and Wolf_ a heavy fog came on. I
was very tired, so went and lay down.

As the engine room was aft, a person in any of the staterooms could
easily hear the bell there being rung from the crow's nest. How long I
had been lying down, I don't know, but something awoke me. I knew, from
the sound of the engine, we were going fast ahead, but I heard the bell
ring, "stop her," and then immediately full speed astern. Knowing that
something was wrong, I rushed on deck; it was very thick and I heard
some one say, "O my God, we are lost!" and just then on the starboard
side of the ship, I saw a great berg towering above us. We just missed
it! All was well! We steamed dead slow for awhile and I realized that
those who "went down to the sea in ships" could have a great deal of
excitement in two days. About an hour after this a steam whistle blew
right ahead. The fog instantly lifted a little and there was the Arctic
shooting across our bows. We both stopped, and the Captain went over to
her. When the Captain came on board again the fog was gone and we were
off Conical Rock. The ice was loose here and the two ships kept together
until we passed Cape Dudley Diggs. Here we drifted farther apart, but
were within sight of each other all the way to Wolstenholm Island.

During the night we arrived at the island, but found that the _Rear_ had
been there ahead of us, so we directed our course towards Carey Islands,
the ice being loose, but the weather pretty thick.

June 21st. Saturday. Heavy fog and plenty of ice, so our speed was slow.
Sometimes it cleared a little and we could see for several miles ahead.
There were numbers of birds about, principally guillemot and eider
duck. They probably had headquarters at Wolstenholm, and Carey Islands.
Natives repaired to Wolstenholm at this season of the year and collected
eggs; but Carey Islands were in the middle of the Sound and, I fancy,
left pretty well undisturbed. During the afternoon it became very thick,
and for a time we stopped steaming, as we could not make out the leads
and there was some heavy ice about. Late in the evening it cleared a
little and we ran in to Carey Island. The _Arctic_ was ahead of us, and
the _Wolf_ in the distance. I wrote some letters in the evening as I
thought there might be a chance of sending them on board the _Bear_.
Our Captain had decided to go from this place to the whaling ground, and
leave the Greely part of it to the expedition ships, as the owners would
not thank him for risking the vessel in higher latitudes and possibly
missing his chance for whales in Lancaster Sound. The _Arctic_ had a
boat on shore, but saw nothing of explorers or records. The _Bear_ left
the islands after midnight, but was not near us, so I had no chance of
sending my letters. This was the last we saw of the relief ships.
They picked Greely up within twenty-four hours at Cape Sabine. We knew
nothing of it until later, when we heard the news from some of the
slower ships, which met the expedition returning with the rescued,
and their story was as follows: June 22nd. After the _Bear_ left Carey
Islands, she joined the _Thetis_ and they proceeded to Cape Sabine,
where they arrived during the evening. From records found on Brevoort
Island near Cape Sabine, they knew where the explorer was, and he was
picked up by Lieutenant Colwell of the _Bear_ almost at the place where
he, Colwell, landed after the loss of the _Proteus_. Of the twenty-five
who left with Greely a few years before, but seven were now alive, and
the story they told of starvation and death was in tune with others we
have all read of Arctic exploration and was doubly impressive when told
to us, situated as we were in the dreary regions where the tragedy
had been enacted. Greely had done his work well. His two years at Fort
Conger had been well spent. Lockwood had attained latitude 83° 24' in
1882, beating all previous records. Most valuable magnetic observations
had been made and the interior of Grinnell Land had been explored. The
orders to abandon Fort Conger were carried out in 1883 and then their
troubles began. Relief had not come, depots of provisions had not been
established, and in a very dejected state they had arrived at Cape
Sabine, where they established their final camp, the history of which
supplies Arctic literature with its blackest chapter.

[Illustration: 0242]

On June 22nd Schley arrived at Cape Sabine. No Arctic expedition had
ever done so well by this date, its first year. A week or two later
there would probably not have been one survivor. This relief expedition
had been perfectly successful in its gallant dash and had arrived not a
minute too soon.



CHAPTER XIII--CAREY ISLANDS TO LANCASTER SOUND


               "Here winter holds his unrejoicing court;

               And through his airy hall the loud misrule

               Of driving tempest is forever heard.

               Here the grim tyrant meditates his wrath,

               Here arms his winds and all-subduing frost.

               Moulds his fierce hail and treasures up his snows

               With which he now oppresses half the globe."


_June 22nd. Sunday_. It was blowing very hard from the south, and there
was much ice, so we had a difficult time picking our way. The weather
was also bitterly cold. Again birds were very numerous. We were making
our way to Princess Charlotte's Monument on the west side, and it was
slow work. The _Arctic_ was ahead of us and not moving on any faster.
We felt the loss of the relief ships. They were always a cause of some
excitement, and there was a chance of finding Greely so long as we kept
going north. Now that that interest was removed, I consoled myself with
the knowledge that we were nearing the magnetic pole, and would soon be
steaming up Lancaster Sound, the highway to the northwest along which so
many brave men had gone never to return. During the afternoon it became
more squally, and when I turned in we were making little headway, but
the wind was going down.

_June 23rd. Monday_. We were steaming in tolerably open water when I
came on deck. The _Arctic_ was ahead. Birds were numerous--some geese
with hundreds of eider and guillemot. After breakfast we saw land ahead,
that is, to the west, and during the afternoon were within a mile or so
of it,--Princess Charlotte's Monument. There was much loose ice to the
south and a straight floe edge to the north of us, and to this we hooked
on two hundred yards to the east of the _Arctic_. We did not care to
go closer to the rocks lest the ice should come in on us. I saw Dr.
Crawford take the _Arctic's_ launch and go ashore to look for eggs.
Returning a couple of hours after, steam went down and the _Arctic_ was
obliged to unhook and go after them. It appeared that the boiler was too
exposed and the cold so intense that they simply could not keep steam
up. The launch had been keeping under the lee of the floe as much as
possible, and when steam went down she began to drift away from this
into rough water. For a few minutes things looked bad for her, as she
was a wretched sea boat with her heavy boiler and engine. During the
night we unhooked and worked our way towards the south.

_June 24th. Tuesday._ Day fine, but blowing from the south. A lot of ice
on the coast, and to the south and east all was white. We were now where
whales might be seen and preparations were made. Foregoers and lines
were tested, harpoons examined, guns cleaned and fired to make sure
they would work, lines coiled away in boats, and every one was on the
lookout. We never heard of Disco or Cape York now. All was Lancaster
Sound and Pond's Bay, with weird tales of cold days spent rock-nosing
off Cape Kater and in Cumberland Gulf. All these preparations did not
hurry matters in the least. The king of this country decided that we
should remain for a day or two where we were, and so in the evening we
were hooked on almost where the morning found us.

June 25th. Wednesday. About noon the wind died down and the currents,
setting south, took the ice off the coast so that we were able to crawl
along a little; but a few hours later we made fast to the land floe off
Cape Horsburgh, as the pack was drifting in again. We saw many walrus
here, but did not like to spend time at them, as we wanted to be the
first ship up the Sound. At tea time we moved along a little further
and by bedtime we tied up again. Some of our tanks were pumped out and
cleaned, ready for the anticipated oil. There were a number of seals in
sight, but they were left alone, as the time was precious.

June 26th. Thursday. As the ship was hard and fast I took a rifle and
went after some seals which were to be seen a mile away. Before going
very far I found myself climbing over hummocks of old ice which had
drifted down Jones Sound, and it was very difficult walking. On one side
of a hummock the snow would be perfectly smooth and frozen hard, while
on the other side it would be so soft that one at once went through the
surface and had to clamber along in several feet of it.

Again, one would come to a perfectly rotten and honeycombed piece of ice
underneath which there was a foot or two of water, and below the water
could be seen the solid old floe; this made walking so difficult that I
returned to the ship without getting a shot.

[Illustration: 0248]

_June 27th and 28th_ were uneventful. We moved little, and Cape
Horsburgh was in sight all the time, but on:

_June 29th, Sunday,_ we had a good lead along the shore floe and were
steaming fast through it when I came on deck. A number of bears were
seen about noon, but the wind was from the south and the ice was coming
in, so we hurried along. As there were a number of them, they were
probably attracted by some dead beast.

Barron tells of seeing once about one hundred bears around a dead whale.
He also tells of men being devoured by these creatures.

In the days of muzzle-loaders there was more risk than there is now,
because if one came suddenly upon a bear with cubs and missed his shot,
there might not be time to load again.

Late in the evening we were off: Cape Warrender and were steaming
amongst loose ice at bedtime. Several narwhals were seen during the
afternoon, but we paid no attention to them.

_June 30th. Monday._ Steaming up the Sound towards a solid floe at
breakfast time with many white whales in sight. We steered south along
the ice edge, and seeing an Eskimo standing on it, we sailed up to
him. He was a very uncouth looking individual after the smartly dressed
gentlemen on the Greenland side. His clothes did not fit and he was
otherwise careless about his appearance. He had in his hand a narwhal's
tusk, and as we came close we heard him singing "Bonny Laddie--Highland
Laddie." This he had probably learned from his parents, they having
learned it from the whalers in sailing-ship days. In old times it was
customary to lower the boats and tow the ship through the leads to
the above tune. I was told this, so it may be true. The native came on
board. He was much more like an American Indian than a Greenland Eskimo.
Before he had been many minutes on board he was taken aft and relieved
of his tusk by the second mate, getting in return some trifle: the
gentleman belonged to Navy Board Inlet, on the south side, and not far
away.

The Captain had had a lot of paddles made for some of the boats. It was
possible to approach whales with very little noise when the paddles were
used, so we tried them frequently for narwhal hunting. As there were
numbers of these creatures in sight, we had a couple of boats out after
them. A sharp lookout was kept from the crow's nest for whales coming up
the Sound. We hooked on to the ice about two miles from the south shore,
and put a boat out on either side of the ship and about a hundred yards
away. These boats were hooked on by laying the long steering oar on the
ice. Our narwhal hunters had no luck, so they came on board.

_July 1st. Tuesday_. We were fast to the ice with a boat on each side
all day. The Captain had a long interview with the native on the subject
of whales. He seemed to understand maps well, and was able to point out
where he had seen fish; from what I could make out, a good number had
been in the Sound. I spent the afternoon in a boat with the Captain
trying to get a narwhal. We saw dozens and came pretty close to several
lots, but did not get one good shot, although we fired several times.

The harpoons we used for this work were much smaller than the regular
whaling harpoon and were made of the same tough Swedish iron.

Before turning in I spent an hour on deck and heard narwhals and white
whales breathing about us all the time. Everything looked propitious.

_July 2nd. Wednesday._ I had a dream during the night that we had
succeeded in killing a narwhal and that our youngest harpooner, Gyles,
had killed it. Dreams were often recounted at the breakfast table, so
I told this, and, as luck would have it, before dinner Gyles killed our
first narwhal. My night visions were subsequently treated with
great respect, except by the steward, who felt, no doubt, that I was
infringing a little on his rights. A coldness sprang up between us such
as only professional jealousy can create, and which evinced itself the
following day when he did not ask me to help him to pick the raisins for
the duff--Thursday being duff day. The forenoon success gave quite
an impetus to the narwhal fishing, but no more were captured, as the
elusive beasts always went down just as we were almost within shot.

The narwhal (Monodon Monoceros) is to me the most beautiful of the whale
species. The one captured by us was twelve feet long without the tusk.
This measured four feet in length and about four inches around the base.
It ended in a rather sharp point and had a spiral groove running from
right to left. The horn, or rather tooth, protrudes from the upper jaw
of the male, generally on the left side. It only protrudes from the
female head as a freak. On the right side a small undeveloped horn is
found embedded in the skull of the male, but two undeveloped teeth are
found in the female. The narwhal is the only vertebrate animal in which
bilateral symmetry is not the rule. The body is whitish, marbled with
blackish brown, and about four of them yield a ton of oil. With an axe I
easily split the cancellous skull and removed the embedded tusk. We saw
hundreds of white whales this day (Delphinapterus leucas). These are
cousins of the narwhals, but generally a little larger. The _Aurora_ had
great luck the previous year up Prince Regent's Inlet in getting a
good catch of them. This was managed by driving them ashore. They were
skinned and the skin made into leather. Each side counted as one skin.

They go in schools like porpoises, but generally only three or four
abreast, therefore, it takes a large school a considerable time to go
past. They are peculiar in having no dorsal fin, and their yellowish
white colour makes them rather conspicuous.

_July 3rd. Thursday._ 'Before breakfast a bear was seen in the water
and shot by McLean from a boat. Bears are always lucky and we knew that
something better would soon come. While at breakfast a female narwhal
was killed. It must have been fourteen feet long. I removed the two
little embedded horns. Narwhals were very difficult to capture with the
appliances in use at this time, the harpoon gun being only effective
at ten or fifteen yards. As the beast generally went down when one was
about twenty yards away, a long shot had to be taken with a very clumsy
gun. Very little of the narwhal showed above water, just the top of its
head and back. Of course there was a good sized animal immediately under
the water, so that a harpoon might miss the back and still lodge in the
whale. It was very cold and we had several snow showers. The bear was
skinned and the skin salted and put in a barrel, no attempt being made
to dry or otherwise cure any of the bear skins taken during the voyage.
They were kept green.

_July 4th. Friday_. During the night there was a fall of snow and a
breeze from the east had driven some loose ice up the Sound, and pieces
were constantly breaking off the floe. These drifted down the Sound with
the current; but when there was wind from the east much of this broken
ice would drift up and surround us. We were dodging about under canvas
in the morning, and the wind, which was bitterly cold, was going down.
During the forenoon we sailed up to the floe edge and hooked on about
eight miles from the south side, putting two boats on the bran, that is,
one on each side of the ship. The loose ice had drifted away, and as
the afternoon was very fine the Captain decided to try the unies, as the
narwhals were called, and I went with him. One does not generally see
very many unies together, but they were in fours and fives all over the
place this afternoon and very shy. Just as the boat would get within
twenty-five yards or so, off they would go. The Captain made a long shot
at one and got fast. For a few minutes the line ran out rapidly, but
the shot had been a long one and the harpoon drew, so we came on board
disappointed.

Paddles were used instead of oars, as they made less noise. On the
fishing ground we avoided noise as much as possible and for this reason
the ship seldom steamed, but kept her fires banked and moved about under
canvas.



CHAPTER XIV--OUR FIRST WHALE


               "Hoist out the boat at once and slacken sail."


_July 5th. Saturday_. A beautiful day. After breakfast I was in a bran
boat on the starboard side of the ship and one hundred and fifty yards
away, when I heard a commotion on board, and in less time than it takes
to tell, all our boats, except the upper quarter ones, were in the water
and hurrying off: towards us. Our steering oar was holding the boat to
the ice, so it did not take long to get away, and we pulled hard for
several minutes before the boat-steerer whispered: "Avast pulling." At
this time the boats were scattered along the ice edge a hundred yards
apart. A whale had been seen coming up the Sound. We knew that it would
continue up under the ice, and failing to find a hole through which it
could breathe, it would turn and come to the surface near the edge of
the ice and close to some of the boats, and that unless we had very bad
luck, it was doomed. In a few minutes we saw it a quarter of a mile down
the Sound; it looked like two black islands, one the head and the other
the back. It lay there for several minutes and we could distinctly hear
it breathe. We saw the spout, then it sank slowly and disappeared.
The excitement was now' intense. The next time it would be beside
a boat--which boat? Would it come up under us or beside us? Perfect
silence was observed and the suspense of waiting for the first whale, I
shall never forget. Probably ten minutes passed, when up came the fish
almost beside the boat in which George Matheson was har-pooner. As he
was already standing by his gun, no order was given, and one sweep of
the boat-steerer's oar gave him his shot. The gun went off, the foregoer
sprang into the air and every man shouted: "A fall! a fall!" The
whale hesitated a few seconds before going down, and Matheson put in a
hand-harpoon also. He was not ten feet from the whale when he fired,
and almost touching when he put in the hand-harpoon. The fast boat now
hoisted its jack and the fish went down and started towards the south
side of the Sound, past the ship's stern. We pulled in this direction
for all we were worth, the boat nearest the fast boat standing by it so
as to supply more lines if necessary. When we had pulled hard for ten
minutes, we slowed down, the boats keeping some distance apart, and
shortly after, fifty yards from us, the whale came up. Immediately a
second boat, the mate's, got fast, the huge creature going down at once,
and away we went again. When our quarry next appeared, about fifteen or
twenty minutes later, the nearest boat immediately began lancing, and
presently we were at it. Unfortunately we all had our backs to the scene
of action, except the boat-steerer and harpooner. The heavy blast, every
time it breathed, sounded uncomfortably close. In a few minutes the
boat-steerer called, "Back, all!" and we immediately backed water, the
whale hitting the water once or twice with his tail and going down;
again we were off, but not so far this time. When he next appeared he
rolled about a good deal and we were afraid to go close, so the second
mate fired a Welsh's rocket under one of his flukes and then we all
backed off. The rocket was fired from a harpoon gun. It had a charge of
powder in its trocar-shaped head, and a fuse running down the shaft.
When this exploded the whale plunged fearfully and lashed the water with
his huge horizontal tail. After this he was quiet and the water shot
from his blow-hole was blood-stained. We now closed in again, and lances
were plunged into his neck and churned up and down. Breathing became
labored, and after a final flurry, his spirit passed and his blubber and
bone were ours. What a cheer we gave! What a feeling of exultation! How
near I felt to happy, unconventional, primitive man at that moment! As
the whale was lying on its back with the flukes hanging out, a round
hole was cut in each of these, through which a piece of rope was run and
the flukes reverently folded across his breast; with a knife all lines
attached to harpoons were cut free so that the fast boats might haul
them in. The tail was fastened to the bow of a boat, and, getting in
line, we all proceeded to tow the fish back to the ship, which, by the
way, made no effort to help us, as the weather was fine and there was
nothing in sight. Arriving alongside, the tail was fastened forward and
the head aft along the port side. We went on board, and after dinner, as
I sat smoking with the Captain on the cabin skylight, I could not help
feeling that the life of a whaler was the only one for me.

[Illustration: 0260]

At 1.30 P. M., all hands were called to flense the whale alongside. By
means of tackle made fast to the lower jaw, called the nose tackle, the
mouth could be opened and the tongue and the bone removed. The right
whale (Balaena Mysticetus), of which this was a specimen, supplies
practically all the whalebone. It grows from the sides of the upper jaw,
three hundred blades hanging down on each side. They are ten and twelve
inches wide where inserted into the gum, and narrow as they descend. The
inner edge is frayed and the outer unbroken. These frayed inner edges
form a sort of sieve through which the water passes when the whale shuts
its mouth, but through which the whale food cannot pass.

The bone from each side is brought on board generally in one piece,
sufficient gum being taken with it to hold the lamellae together. This
is divided with a wedge into smaller pieces of about a dozen lamellae
each, and subsequently each lamella is slit off with the wedge and freed
from gum and oil. The longest blades are those in the centre on each
side and they vary in length according to the size of the animal--twelve
feet being large. The size of a whale is estimated by the length of the
longest blade, "a twelve-foot fish" being one in which this measures
twelve feet. The bone is about a quarter of an inch thick and tears
easily into long pieces. It is an albuminous substance, containing
calcium phosphate, and can be moulded when heated by steam, retaining
its shape if cooled under pressure.

[Illustration: 0264]

The busy part of a whaler during flensing is the deck between the main
mast and foremast. Between these masts is the blubber guy, a stout
wire rope to which blocks are strapped, and through these are rove
the tackles which haul the long strips of blubber on board as they are
pulled off the whale.

The specksioneer and all the harpooners except the mate get on to the
whale or into the mollie boats in attendance; they have spikes on their
boots to keep them from slipping; and they remove the blubber and bone
with their knives and spades. The mate of a ship is a busy man, but the
mate of our whaler flensing was, I think, the busiest person I ever saw.
Acting under the captain's directions and from his own initiative, he
was everywhere, giving orders and seeing them carried out.

In removing the blubber the first thing done is to start cutting a
ribbon of it around the neck, called the kant. This piece, probably two
feet wide, when pulled upon, turns the carcass, and from it, running
towards the tail, the long strips are cut and hauled on board. First
the piece around the neck is well started. Then with spades a strip is
started. As this is hauled on by the capstan the men with spades cut
along each side and it is simply peeled off. When the piece raised up is
several hundred pounds, it is cut off, hoisted on board, and the tackle
refastened. When the exposed part has been flensed, the neck piece or
kant is again pulled on by the windlass, which turns the whale over
a little, and so on. When all the blubber has been removed, the head
tackle is cut out and the carcass, or kreng as it is called, sinks
as soon as the tail is cut off. The tail is taken on board and used
afterwards for chopping blubber on. The blubber as it comes on board
is cut into smaller pieces by the boat-steerers and thrown into the
'tween-decks by the line managers, from which it is taken a day or two
later, cut small and put into tanks. Flensing a fish is a very cheerful
occupation and the ship is certainly oily, but there is no unpleasant
smell. As soon as a whale is killed, the fulmar petrels (P. Glacialis)
come in swarms, and they gorge themselves with fat until they cannot sit
up; then they become dreadfully ill and begin all over again. There was
always a current where we flensed and this current would carry away a
stream of overgorged birds, too full to do anything but drift. I sat in
a boat one day and amused myself catching the birds as they paddled past
until I had numbers in the boat. I found it better, however, to leave
them in the water, or to let them stagger about among the men's feet at
work. This was a ten-foot fish and would probably yield thirteen tons of
oil. The following is a copy of the scale used long ago by whalers:--

[Illustration: 0271]

Of course there are exceptions to this old rule.

The afternoon clouded up while we were so busy, and by the time we had
finished, it was blowing. When I turned in there was some snow and it
was much colder.

[Illustration: 0269]

_July 6th. Sunday._ I found the ship with the main yard aback, dodging
about in a rather choppy sea. The sky was cloudy and it looked like
winter. Three ships were in sight down the Sound, all under canvas. We
were quite close to the south side, as the captain believed that
fish would come up that way, and it proved that he was correct. After
breakfast a whale was seen blowing among some loose ice to the north of
us. Six boats put off in pursuit, while the ship followed. Two of the
boats kept straight to the ice while the other four, including Jack
McLean's, in which I was, kept around it. The sea was quite choppy and
the air cold, but we warmed up with the rowing.

The boats going straight to the ice were able to pass through and
entered open water beyond before we got around to it. The fish came up
and gave the second mate a long shot just as she was going down; but a
harpoon easily enters a whale's bent back so he got fast and "A fall! a
fall!" was joyfully shouted by us all. As we passed the fast boat we
saw her jack flying proudly and her bow enveloped in smoke as McKechnie
tightened the line around the bollard head. Gyles was standing by, so
with the other boats we pulled in the direction the fish had gone, and
as we were getting close to more loose ice, those of us who were rowing
and consequently looking astern saw the fast boat--which had been well
down by the bow--right herself and we knew that the iron had drawn. We
pulled away however in the hope of again getting fast, but this whale
was only seen once more, a long way off, and after a hard row through
loose ice we gave up. The ship had followed and she now picked us up.
As the wind had gone down we sailed back towards the south side and made
fast to the solid floe, getting our bran boats out before tea time. We
picked up the fast boat on the way, she having her lines on board. The
weather looked very settled at bedtime and the unusual exertion of the
past two days made me sleep well.

[Illustration: 0273]

_July 7th. Monday_. Summer had returned by morning and the making off
had already begun when I came on deck. We were lying almost opposite the
mouth of Admiralty Inlet and fast to a nice straight floe edge with not
a bit of loose ice any place. There was more life on deck at the "making
off" than there was at the flensing and every one was busy. The blubber
had been cut into pieces two or three feet square and put down the main
hatch. These big cubes of a faint orange color were taken on deck with
the winch, and any pieces of adherent flesh being removed they were
cut into blocks of a few pounds each. Along each side of the deck stood
uprights; on the top of each was a plate with spikes called a clash,
and beside each stood a harpooner with a long sharp knife. A block of
blubber was lifted by a man with clash hooks and stuck on the clash
spikes, with the skin up. The harpooner cut the skin off and the piece
was then thrown into a heap in front of the speck trough. The speck
trough, which was about two and a half feet square, was placed across
the deck over the hatch; forward of this stood the boat-steerers and in
front of each was a block of whale's tail resting on the opened back lid
of the trough. Each man had a chopper, and as the pieces of blubber from
the heap were thrown to them, they chopped them into little bits and
swept them into the speck trough, from which they were conducted to the
tanks through a canvas tube attached to an opening underneath. A man in
the 'tween-decks directed this tube to the tank he desired to fill. The
bone was stowed down the quarter hatch. It was always important to keep
the ship clean and get the blubber away, as there was no regularity
about the appearance of fish. A number might come at once, and several
being killed, the crew could be blocked with work, while again there
might not be another seen for a month.

When the making off was over, the decks were scrubbed down.

_July 8th. Tuesday._ The _Arctic, Esquimaux and Narwhal_ were all in
sight to the north of us. During the forenoon we lowered away for a
fish, six boats going after it. We saw the spout near the ice edge and
were ready for its return, but it came not, probably finding a breathing
place somewhere and after resting coming out north of us. We waited a
long time and had a tiresome row back. The native picked up by us when
we first came had been landed near the south shore, where he had his
dogs. Now we saw three coming along the floe and we picked them up,
sledges, dogs and all. They belonged to Navy Board Inlet. Hardly were
they on board when all hands were called and the boats were away, as
spouting had been seen astern. I was in one of the four boats between
the ship and the south coast, and we must have sat there half an
hour before anything occurred; in fact, we thought the fish had gone
elsewhere. The men were all pretty restless, when suddenly the water
broke two boats from me and the report of a gun was followed by the
cry--"A fall." I saw the whale throw its tail straight up as it went
slowly down; then it started north and we pulled past the ship in that
direction and scattered out to wait its reappearance. In the usual
length of time the fish appeared in our midst and another iron was put
in. Away we went again in the best of spirits. Of course, the fast boat
in each case remained and moved only as towed by the whale. I was in
Watson's boat, and at the whale's next appearance we were almost on
the top of it and he immediately lanced, but the game stood very little
tickling of that sort and was soon off. Again it came up beside us, and
this time very breathless as it had such a short breathing spell before.
Three boats were at once busy with lances, and in a very short time
we registered a kill. When the lines were cut, and the flukes and tail
attended to, we returned to the ship, pulling to the shanty, "A-roving,
a-roving, since roving has been my ruin," and having the whale in tow,
we were very much elated by our afternoon's work, but there was a great
surprise in store for us. Arriving on board, the whale was made fast and
I went down to have some coffee. When I came up I found that the crew
of the first fast boat, having taken their line to the ice to facilitate
pulling it in, had utterly failed to get it beyond a certain point.
Thinking it had fouled something at the bottom, they were ordered to
come on board and take their line in with the steam winch. This was
done, and when after great pulling the very tight line was almost in,
behold, there was a dead whale at the end of it. One must be on board
a whaler to appreciate a pleasant surprise like this. It is not so much
the extra money, as the satisfaction of success. What had happened was
this.

The first harpoon fortunately struck deep in the shoulder of whale No.
1, which immediately sounded in shallow water and broke its neck. No. 2
was not a fast fish at all when we first saw it. Now, we had a fish on
each side, and as soon as the crew had refreshed themselves with supper,
the work of flensing started with a will. When things were well under
way I turned in, very tired, and when I tumbled out four hours after,
one fish was on board. The men were now ordered to turn in for four
hours, except, of course, the lookout and a few nondescript people like
myself and the engineer. I learned another thing about the ways of the
Arctic this morning; directly the crew had turned in, the clock in the
companion was put forward an hour, and when two hours had passed it went
on another hour, then all hands were called and our second whale taken
on board. This fish was flensed in about three hours, the crew turning
in, except a boat's crew on the bran and the lookout. The _Esquimaux_
came steaming towards us during the night, which annoyed us greatly, as
the fish were coming up the south side and we thought our berth rather
good. She steamed past and hooked on five or six hundred yards south of
us. The Aurora immediately unhooked and passed her, while she repeated
the performance mid a storm of abuse from both barrels. Our Captain was
afraid to go closer to the shore, so we remained where we were. When
we hooked on first, the natives had left us, going north to the other
ships. We now saw a number of well loaded sledges coming up the south
coast. It was evident that they would board the _Esquimaux_ first, so
we would lose the chance of bartering with them. Consequently, we sent a
boat off to pick them up and bring them on board. Our opponents saw what
we were doing, so sent a boat also. As it had a shorter distance to go
than ours, it picked up the whole caravan and brought it back. Our boat
noticing a sledge far away with two people in it, waited for them and
brought them to the Aurora. It happened that these two old natives
owned all the barter on the other sledges, and as we kept them on
board, everything had to be turned over to the Aurora by the other ship,
greatly to their disgust. The Captain obtained from them quite a lot of
narwhals' tusks and bear skins. The incident amused us very much.

_July 9th. Wednesday._ Two boats on the bran and the balance of the crew
washing down the ship. I had my first ride on an Eskimo sled. Giving
a native a plug of tobacco, he removed from his sled all the movable
things and I got on. Then addressing a few remarks to his dogs, off they
started. As the ice was smooth I enjoyed it at first, but we came to a
hummocky place where it was not so pleasant. I did my best to stop the
dogs, but they followed their leader, and finally I tumbled off and
returned to the ship, the dogs going on probably home. The runners of
the sledge were made of whales' jaws with bone cross pieces lashed to
them. When I went on board I found a boat just starting for a bear to
the north of us. I don't think I ever saw one any distance from the
water; this was along the floe edge and several miles away. Between us
there was a peninsula of ice on which there were some hummocks. I landed
here to try a stalk and the boat rowed around. For a time I did very
well, the bear wandering aimlessly and slowly about, but before I got
within three hundred yards of him, he had seen me and was off to the
water. I fired several times, but without effect. He plunged in and
started to swim across from the peninsula to the main floe. The boat had
by this time doubled the cape and bruin had a bullet in his head before
he had gone very far. We hauled him on to the ice and skinned him. The
men cut some steaks for themselves, but I never had the pleasure of
trying polar bear, as the Captain did not care for carnivorous animals
as a food.

A great many white whales were now around. I wished we could have driven
a school of them up a fiord the way they drive the potheads up the
Shetland voes. When we returned we found that a narwhal had been killed,
but we did not like to disturb the right whales by hunting these very
much.

As the ship was generally hooked on to the floe which extended across
the Sound, her bow was pointed up and her stern down, consequently
astern nearly always meant down the Sound, as the current setting in
that direction held the ship in that position.



CHAPTER XV--FLOE EDGE FISHING


               "Look through the sleet and look through frost,

               Look to the Greenlands' caves and coast.

               By the iceberg is a sail

               Chasing of the swarthy whale;

               Mother doubtful, mother dread,

               Tell us, has the good ship sped?"


_July 10th. Thursday._ We moved from our neighbor, the _Esquimaux_, and
dodged north under canvas, hooking on five or six miles away. The Sound
was frozen completely across this year, and during our stay, the ice
never opened. Probably we could have forced our way in had we been bent
on exploration, but the ice floe edge fishing was very desirable and
suited us exactly.

All hands were employed making off when I came up and we had a busy day
getting two whales into our tanks. Although they were not very large, it
took many hours and every one was tired when it was over.

The Sound being frozen over was a great disappointment to me as it
prevented our going up Barrow Strait, or visiting Beechy Island, where
Sir John Franklin spent his last winter. There I was, within a few miles
of the place consecrated to the memory of those heroes and doomed to
return home without seeing it. Up this waterway, Sir James Ross and
McClure had passed to make their great discoveries of the magnetic polar
area and the northwest passage. There had been, at one time or another,
nearly all the Arctic explorers, of whom I had ever heard.

As the clock in the companion had been moved about so much lately, and
as there was not a watch, on the ship, going, our ideas of time were
vague in the extreme.

_July 11th. Friday._ The weather was fine, and during the afternoon,
positively warm. The boats spent the day on the bran, but there were no
whales in sight. An interesting phenomenon was, however, in evidence,
namely, refraction. Byam Martin's Mountains looked wild and precipitous,
and the coast line appeared as a continuous high cliff, quite unlike the
land we had been beside for the past week. What I found most interesting
was to watch the _Narwhal_, which was lying not far off. At one moment
her hull stretched up, making her look like an old line of battle ship,
while her masts shrank down, then the hull would close down like a
concertina and the masts would stretch up to the sky. Pieces of ice and
little hummocks became great white chimneys and big icy mountains. I saw
a row of white masses far above the ice. They looked like puffs of smoke
from a battery, the guns being pointed up. Presently a white lump would
appear on the ice underneath each puff and in a minute they would become
connected and look like a row of top-heavy white pillars. The middle
part would then become attenuated until it resembled a white thread
and then the tops of the pillars would settle down and disappear. The
changes were kaleidoscopic and one could watch them by the hour. When
the sun was warm, we often had this phenomenon, owing to the different
densities of the various atmospheric strata.

_July 12th. Saturday._ Hearing "All hands" during the night, I tumbled
out of bed, picked up my bundle of clothes, ran on deck and got into a
lower quarter boat that was being lowered. Probably within sixty seconds
after being asleep I was pulling for dear life towards some loose ice
north of us, beyond which a whale had been seen. When we reached the
ice, we rested and put on some clothes. The fish was just as likely
to come up where we were as at any other place, so we did not want to
frighten him by disturbing the ice. After a wait of ten minutes, we saw
and heard the blast of a fish to the northeast. It had turned and was
going out again. We pulled through the ice with difficulty; it cannot be
pushed about by a whale boat, but we kept on in the direction in which
the whale was last seen. However it did not come up again where we could
see it, and so we returned to the ship. It was very cold coming back and
had begun to blow.

The sky was much overcast during the afternoon, and as it was blowing
hard, the boats were taken in before bedtime.

_July 13th. Sunday._ There was a regular little gale this day, so we
kept in open water, with the main yard aback and the fires banked. We
received news of the Greely party from the _Arctic_ as she had spoken
some of the slower ships and heard it from them.

During the afternoon quite a choppy sea was on and ice was coming in as
the wind was blowing up the Sound. We dodged out through this ice and
then sailed north, sighting nearly all the other ships of the fleet.
Sundays were stormy days in this place, and to sit on a ship all day,
listening to her strain, and to the wind howling through the shrouds,
was not pleasant, especially when we were only killing time and
accomplishing nothing. When I turned in, we were still under canvas.

_July 14th, Monday_, was a gloomy day. We were hooked to the ice, with
a boat out on each side. The crew were busy filling the bunkers and
then cleaning up, also overhauling some fishing gear. The blacksmith was
employed straightening out harpoons. The iron of which they are made is
soft and tough. It bends and twists every way but does not break.

I amused myself polishing little tusks which I had taken out of the
female narwhals' heads. We were very restless, knowing that the _Arctic_
had more whales than we had. We heard from her that all the ships had
fish a few days before.

_Tuesday._ Two narwhals were killed, male and female. I was in a boat
with the Captain, but we did not get any. We used paddles instead of
oars, as we could approach more quietly with them.

_July 16th. Wednesday_. We were still hanging on to the ice with a boat
on the bran on each side. Again we pursued narwhals and secured another
fine male with a four-foot horn. There were such crowds of these
beautiful creatures that I wished the Captain would turn all hands after
them, but he was afraid of disturbing any whales which might be around
so we did not pursue them vigorously. Some white whales passed us, but
we were not far enough up the Sound for white whaling.

Narwhals are playful creatures and very noisy. The first thing any whale
does on coming up is to blow most of the air out of its lungs, and this
in a very noisy manner. For its size, the narwhal makes more noise
than the others. Before going down, they generally take a deep, noisy
inspiration. Nearly all the time we were in Lancaster Sound, if calm, we
could hear whales of some kind puffing and blowing around. I often saw
narwhals raise their tusks out of the water, and when black whales were
taking a final header, on starting for a long dive, they generally threw
the tail up in the air in a graceful manner. We did not like to see one
going tail up, as it meant that probably we had seen the last of that
particular fish.

_July 17th, Thursday,_ was a fine day with mirage in the morning; the
effects were wonderful. A small piece of ice, miles away, would look
like a berg. About noon we made out that the _Polynia_ had a fish and
this was more than we could bear. We decided that there was a Jonah on
board and circumstances pointed strongly to one of the crew. A suit
of his clothes was procured, with his cap, half a pound of powder was
packed into it with a fuse attached and it was run up to the main yard
arm. The Captain went below and turned in, but rifles and ammunition
were supplied and we had a lively practice at the effigy for a time;
then the fuse was touched off and bang went Jonah. This performance
cleared the atmosphere forward completely, every one believing that the
spell was broken and that we would now find fish. In the cabin, Jack,
the steward, greased the horseshoe and that made the after guard feel
better, and to crown it all, a bear was killed during the evening, in
the water near the ship. Personally, I felt greatly encouraged by these
ceremonies, and went to bed feeling that at any moment "A fall! a fall!"
might be heard.

If some misfortune happens to a whaler--such as having his harpoon gun
passed to him through the rigging, instead of around it, or if his boat
should start away from the ship stern first and not be brought back,
hooked on, hauled up and lowered again--then he would go after a whale
certain that he would miss it, whereas, should he dream the night before
that he had got fast to a fish, then he would approach it with the
utmost confidence.

_July 18th. Friday_. I had an undisturbed night and awoke to find it
blowing and the ship under sail. Going on deck, I found the topsails
aback and much loose ice about. After breakfast, all hands were away
after a whale seen among the loose ice. This was a hopeless kind of
rowing, so we scattered about, following different leads. We saw the
fish blowing in several different places, but could not get near it, so
came on board. During the afternoon, the wind went down and the loose
ice drifted out again, so we hooked on to the solid floe about three
miles from the south side and a boat was put on each side, as usual.
Numbers of narwhals around during the afternoon, induced a boat to
follow them, and a big female was secured with a calf. The undeveloped
tusks of the latter were hollow like cigarette holders.

_July 19th. Saturday_. I had not been asleep long when I heard "All
hands!" and, rushing up, went off in my usual boat, the lower quarter
boat on the starboard side. I heard that a fish had been seen spouting
down the Sound. In a few minutes, we all saw it off the south shore, a
mile from the ship. We gave way with a will and soon had the boats in
open order along the floe, where we thought it had passed under. Our
patience was rewarded when it came up between the mate and Watson. Mr.
Adam, being the nearer, swept down on its quarter and, as it made a back
to sound, he gave it both gun and hand in the shoulder. This was a big
fish and a fine chase began. I had seen the mate strike and I knew
the irons would not draw. Straight down the Sound we went, the wounded
animal taking out much line.

Sometimes a fish goes deep and does not travel very far, but this one
was a traveller. We pulled for about twenty minutes or more and then
halted, the whale coming up ahead of us and going down again at once.
The mate's boat had signalled for more lines by putting a piggin on a
boat-hook, and another boat had stood by and bent on. Before long, the
wounded one came up and another iron was put in; it was well puffed
after its run and stayed up long enough to get some lances stuck in. A
lance, cutting any large vessel in the neck or thorax, would cause it
to bleed to death very quickly, but none of these lances touched vital
parts, for the whale went down in a very lively way with four or five
sticking in it, and it must have stayed down fifteen minutes, travelling
fast all the time. When it reappeared, we were on to it at once, and
it soon began to blow blood and give other evidences of approaching
dissolution. Its plunges were dangerous and the reports caused by
striking the water with its tail, were very loud. We always backed well
off during one of these demonstrations, but were on to it at once when
they ceased. There was much more danger from the flukes than the tail,
as we were touching its sides with the boats. After one or two terrific
blasts of blood and water, and a great flurry, it turned up its toes,
and after the usual formalities, the long tow to the ship began.
Shanties were sung with vigor and we pulled with a will. As I had not
had anything to eat since ten P. M., the day before, and as we had been
working hard all night, I was ready for breakfast when we reached the
ship. The fast boats had come on board, taking their lines in with the
winch. After breakfast all hands were called and it took many hours to
flense this big fish, the bone of which was 10 1/2 feet. I examined the
flukes after the blubber had been removed from them; they were like huge
hands with nicely proportioned fingers. I entered in the log the death
of the fish, and a little picture of its tail. This is the custom. In
the log there was a paper model, which was held on the page with the
finger and traced around the edge with a pencil. Then it was shaded,
according to the ability of the artist, and the name of the harpooner
was written above. On each side was stated whether killed by gun or
hand, or both, and below was written the length of the bone. Should the
harpoon draw, and the whale be lost, half a tail was sketched.

[Illustration: 0289]

During the flensing, one of our firemen, Bob Graham, appeared at the
engine room door with six pieces of rope yarn tied together, and to the
free end of each he had fastened a piece of blubber, just big enough to
pass comfortably through the throat of a mollie (as fulmars are called),
either way. Graham was an ingenious fellow and remarkable for his
fertility of resource; he was always amusing himself by devising little
surprises to make life pleasant for others. He threw this affair into
the sea and the six pieces of fat were instantly swallowed by the same
number of mollies. All went well until it became evident that the birds
were not of the same opinion as to the direction of their next move.
This performance seemed to me cruel at first, but after watching it for
a little while, I decided that the exercise was good for the fulmars
and did not hurt them. Of course, there were little disappointments
connected with it, but then creatures, higher in the social scale, have
their disappointments also. It is just possible that the bird which
played the game out and eventually swallowed all six pieces and
the string, may have had regrets, but from what I have seen of this
particular species, I don't think it suffered much.

When the flensing was over, every one was tired, and the men were
ordered to turn in, excepting the lookout, all having been busy during
the day. As whaling was a very irregular sort of life, it was the custom
to sleep while one could, and as I had done a lot of rowing during the
previous twenty-four hours, I sought my cabin. Our specksioneer, George
Lyon, was an old man, but he was absolutely indefatigable, and when
this order was given, he decided to go on the bran instead of to bed.
Accordingly, he raised a crew of volunteers, but being short one man, he
thought of me. There was one way of always bringing me on deck and
that was to go to the companionway and shout down the word "bear." This
George did and I at once appeared, rifle in hand. Seeing the boat being
lowered, I tumbled in, and in a minute we were away; I then asked where
the bear was and the specksioneer said that we might see one; so I
knew his trick. We went some distance south of the ship and, hacking the
boat up to the ice, laid the steering oar on it, which held us there,
then we talked and smoked.

About midnight all was quiet, except for the heavy breathing of the
narwhals and white whales in the sea, and of those who slept in the
boat; it was easy enough to sleep, sitting at an oar. I was awake, the
boat-steerer was standing on the ice, and the man in the ship's barrel
was scanning the Sound for fish, when suddenly, without the slightest
warning, there was a great commotion in the water, at the side of our
boat, and up came a whale with a fearful blast. This first blast of a
whale, which has been holding its breath for a long time, sounds very
loud, when one is within ten feet of it. It reminds one of a train
coming suddenly out of a tunnel. The boat-steerer instantly pushed the
boat well off, getting in at the same time He then said "Give way,"
which we did. The whale was moving very slowly, and one sweep of the
boat-steerer's oar brought us around to it, then I heard the orders,
"Stand by your gun!" and "Avast pulling!" I would have given anything
for one look; but the lives of all the crew depended upon each man doing
as he was told, so I sat perfectly still and leaned well away from the
line running up the middle of the boat. Presently there was a bang, and
the line began running out, while every one called "A fall." I was now
in a boat, fast to a fresh whale, which was an experience the average
amateur rarely had. As the harpooner took a turn of the line around the
bollard head in the bows, and paid the line out through his hands, the
bow of the boat was dragged very low and the stern tilted very high, but
the speed we travelled at was not so great as I had expected. The whale
came up between the boat and the ship, and we were being towed down the
Sound. All the boats were away from the ship in a minute. We called out
the number of lines out, and they had no difficulty in finding about
where the whale was, and being ready for it when it came up. A second
iron was put in when it appeared and off it went again. The water being
absolutely free from ice, the chase was an easy one, as a boat could
generally go faster than a whale. All I had to do was to sit quiet and
keep well away from the line. As there was no ice to endanger the boat,
the line was put several times around the bollard head and kept very
tight, so we were towed much faster than if it had been loose. After the
whale was killed and all the lines cut free, we were called on board to
have or lines hauled in, after which the ship unhooked and steamed off
to pick up her boats. The sky was very much overcast when we brought
the whale alongside, and the tired crew, after getting some food, had to
flense at once, as a change of weather might have been serious.

The _Aurora_ now looked as a successful whaler should--a big whale in
the 'tween-decks and another alongside tons and tons of blubber lying
about everywhere, and the passage between the engine room and skylight,
and the bulwarks, piled with bone.

Before the flensing was over, it had commenced to blow and it was quite
rough by the time we had finished. Then we unhooked and ran down the
Sound a little way, while the crew turned in for a watch. As our main
yard was aback, it required very few men to handle the ship. All night
we were dodging about.

_July 21st. Monday_. For some time, the clock had not been watched. Had
it been, it would have conveyed little information, because, when it
suited, it was put backward or forward. When a man going to bed saw by
the clock that it was midnight, and when he arose and saw by the same
clock that it was six, he probably felt refreshed. In the end, of
course, it would tell on him if the full amount of rest registered had
not been obtained; but for a time it worked very well. It certainly took
a long time to make off our two whales, and it gave us a substantial
feeling to be able to say, "Five fish on board." When the decks were
cleared up, the crew were ordered below, excepting the lookout, but
shortly after, it came on to blow hard and the sky was much overcast.
Later, some rain fell, so we unhooked and lay off the ice edge with the
main yard aback.



CHAPTER XVI--WHALING IN LANCASTER SOUND


               "White, quiet sails from the grim icy coasts,

               That bear the battles of the whaling hosts,

               Whose homeward crews, with feet and flutes in tune,

               And spirits roughly blithe, make music to the moon."


_July 22nd. Tuesday._ During the night the rain changed into snow and in
the morning it was blowing a gale. In fact, it was a wild, winter's day.
We were amongst loose ice, with our main yard aback and there was no
open water to be seen anywhere. During the day the snow ceased but the
wind kept up until late in the afternoon, when we found ourselves in a
triangular pool of water, the sides of the triangle being about half
a mile long and the base, three or four hundred yards. The ship was
anchored to one side and she lay parallel with the base and twenty or
thirty yards away from it. This hole appeared to have been formed by
large floes. It was quite free from ice and afforded us an ideal harbor.

_July 23rd. Wednesday_. All hands turned out shortly after four in the
morning as a whale was seen at the apex of this triangle. One boat had
been left fast to the ship's stern. This went in pursuit and the others
lowered away, the one I was in being ordered to remain fast to a line
from the ship's stem. Long before the boats reached the whale, it
sounded and did not appear again, so they came on board, all but the one
I was in. Our bows were towards the ship's stern and the boat's side was
twenty yards from the ice edge. We had been there about an hour when,
with a great commotion, a tremendous whale came up between the ship and
the ice edge. Its head was alongside our boat before we realized what
had happened; and by the time we had slipped the line the leviathan had
passed us, as it was going fast. We could almost have touched him with
the oars, but by the time we turned the boat and were under way, down
went the fish to look for another breathing place elsewhere and we
returned to our berths. Had the bow of the boat been the other way, we
could have fastened the whale easily.

At eight bells, we came on board for breakfast. Just as I entered the
cabin, I heard the rushing on deck and, going up, found two boats off
after a whale. It had simply come up to breathe and, having breathed,
it went down again and disappeared from our harbor. One boat remained at
the apex of the triangle and the other returned; and, on the way, a fish
came up a hundred yards in front of it. They pulled hard and took a long
shot as it humped its back going down. They got fast and the whale went
off! under the ice. From the barrel, a small water hole could be seen
half a mile away, and to this several ran, carrying a rocket gun
which could be fired from the shoulder. Before they had gone very far,
however, the harpoon drew and, as there was no use firing rockets into a
free fish, they came on board again. It was now blowing pretty hard and
very cold, but we still kept a boat at the apex of the triangle and one
beside the ship. Now occurred a very exciting race. A whale came up half
way along one side of the hole, and was travelling slowly towards the
base. The boat at the apex followed, the one by the ship did not move,
and every man on board was watching what would happen. Reaching the
base, the whale halted to take a few long breaths before going down, the
boat rapidly neared, the whale humped its back and the boat had to fire.
From where we were, we saw the harpoon fly up into the air with
the foregoer wriggling after it, then it fell, missing the whale as
completely as if it had not been fired at it. I was sorry for that
harpooner. He was a big man from Aberdeen, with a yellow beard, and he
was a nervous wreck when he came on board. This fearfully bad luck was
maddening, and we were all on edge; for, though the place was swarming
with whales, we never got one. Had we got fast to half a dozen, we would
have lost them all through lines being cut by the ice, or fouling.

By the evening, the wind had gone down and the ice was slacker, the
whole east side of our pool moving away.

_July 24th, Thursday_, was a beautiful day after the storm and we had
open water astern once more. We unhooked after breakfast and steamed
slowly towards the south side again, and while steaming, we sighted a
whale down the Sound. The ship was anchored to the ice and the boats
distributed in the usual way. This whale did not come up after being
first seen until it was at the ice edge, when one of our boats got fast.
It then went under the floe--a most unusual proceeding when it had lots
of open water. We were along the ice edge, nearly a mile from the fast
boat, and wondering what would happen next, when, in a very small hole,
150 yards from my boat, up came the head of the whale. The hole was not
many times larger than the head. The under surface of the lower jaw was
towards us. It had a very white appearance. The head turned around very
slowly presenting a wonderful sight. Gyles, the harpooner, in whose
boat I was, seized a rocket gun and, running to the hole, fired, and the
head went down as slowly as it came up. Presently the fish appeared in
the open water and was immediately harpooned again. Its experience under
the ice, or Gyle's rocket, had affected it so that it did not remain
down but soon came up again and submitted patiently to the lancing
operation which ended its life. This removed the gloom caused by the
awful luck of the previous day. We had now more than three tons of bone,
and that alone would be a fair voyage. The flensing began just as soon
as the crew had food and was not finished until bedtime.

_July 25th. Friday._ Every one was cheerful. Some of the hands were
cleaning bone, two boats were on the bran, and one after narwhals, as
there were many of them about.

I painted the figurehead, as the _Aurora_ was looking a little
dissipated with her out-stretched arm unhooked. This was only in
commission when in port; consequently, it looked younger than her
seagoing arm, which was a fixture across her breast and which had stood
the brunt of many gales.

_July 26th. Saturday._ All hands were "making off" the fish. They were
at it early and had finished by noon, and then there was a general clean
up for Sunday, but strict watch was kept. There were only white whales
and some narwhals around. The tusks we took from those we killed and
those we had bartered for, always lay on the after grating, which
covered the well down which the auxiliary propeller went; there was
never enough motion to roll them off.

July 27th. The usual Sunday gale was blowing and we were dodging about
under canvas all day. I was out on a yard during a snow squall and found
it very exciting. This was my first attempt at taking in sails when
there was much wind. We spoke the _Narwhal_; she had seven whales and
reported the _Arctic_ as having eight and all the rest well fished.
Towards evening we sailed to our favorite fishing ground on the south
side.

July 28th. Monday. All hands were away after a whale at six A. M. We
had a long pull, and lost her for a time amongst the loose ice. Rounding
tins, however, we reached her again and the mate got fast, McLean
putting in a second. We passed both boats and were in at the kill. When
we had backed off once for a flurry, I looked around and saw Watson
lancing. I thought the flukes would have smashed his boat, he took such
awful chances. This whale rolled about a great deal, and bristled with
lances which she had torn from the men's hands by rolling. She was also
dreadfully tangled up with lines which had caught on the lances. There
is sometimes danger from being caught under these lines and cut in two.
When a dead whale is lying on its back, the abdomen lies very low in the
water, and, when freshly killed, sinks with a man when he walks along
it. As we were a long way from the ship, she came after us and we soon
had the whale alongside. The capstan was used for taking on board the
big blanket pieces. At the order, "Heave away capstan," a shanty was
struck up by the men marching around.

[Illustration: 0301]

They sang so loud that we could often hear their weird songs coming over
the water from other ships similarly engaged. Our friends, the fulmar
petrels, were always with us upon occasions of this kind, and all that
were in the Sound, I think, spent the day with us.

The outer skin of the whale is about as thick as stiff paper, and black.
It peels off readily, and the men cut book markers out of it. Under this
comes a layer, nearly an inch thick, of rather gelatinous stuff, which
the Eskimos eat raw, then the blubber between this and the superficial
fascia, by which the body heat is preserved. It took us practically all
the rest of the day to flense.

_July 29th. Tuesday_. We had a visit from two natives; they were
prosperous looking people with a good sled and dogs. I admired the
protection from the sun which they wore. It was a piece of wood with a
slit cut in it. This was very efficacious, but unbecoming. We learned
from these people that many whales had been seen by them this year. They
had some bear skins with them for trade, and some walrus ivory. This was
much inferior to the narwhal ivory, which was very fine and was worth,
at this time, I think, one pound ten per pound, that of the walrus being
only worth half a crown. I had a long walk with a gun but did not see
anything.

_July 30th. Wednesday_. All hands "making off." I tried to skin a
fulmar, but could not do it, it was so fat. I wanted a skin badly, but
this was too much for me. All the birds we killed were fat, a provision
of nature against cold. The men said, however, that they could not wear
oil soaked clothes in cold weather.

I was in the "crow's nest" a good while. It was most difficult to see
anything at a distance owing to the mirage. During the afternoon I tried
to shoot some narwhal near us. I shot at their heads with a rifle from
the boat, and although they had sometimes been killed with the rifle, so
little of the head showed when the beast was lying on the surface, that
I fancy they must have been shot from the ship, which stood high.

_July 31st_. Immediately after breakfast, four boats were away after a
whale. I remained on board and watched from the barrel. It was a long
pull and the whale got away amongst loose ice without giving the boats a
chance. We captured a female narwhal in the afternoon.

_August 1st. Friday_. Lovely day but very cold. In the morning I was
sitting on the after grating, scraping a bear's skull, when a hundred
yards or so astern of us arose a whale with the usual blast. The
water was like a mirror and the fish lay there for several minutes and
breathed heavily. No one spoke or moved. There in front of us was a fine
whale, its jet black head and back showing up well and reflected on the
absolutely glassy surface of the sea. When it slowly sank with its head
towards us, we knew it would go under the ice, but we would not lower
away until we were sure it was under. I was leaning over the after rail,
peering into the water, when I saw the whale coming slowly under where
I was standing. I first noticed a large, gray bow coming towards me;
it was the under jaw, and as it passed beneath the vessel I could see
distinctly the large round, dark spots on the huge lower lip. It passed
a very short distance under our keel. There was no movement of either
flukes or tail. I watched the great horizontal tail in the hope of
seeing some movement. Only the man in the "crow's nest" and I alone saw
the fish passing under the ship, and as soon as we were sure that it was
safe, the boats went away as noiselessly as possible and we waited for
the result with bated breath. It came up almost beside the ship and
Jimmy Watson put in both gun and hand harpoons, then came the joyful
shout "A fall," and we started down the Sound. As the fish was well
fastened, it was safe to snub the line around the bollard head of the
boat; there was no fear of the irons drawing and it made a heavy drag
on the whale. The line, in running out, passes through the hands of the
har-pooner before going around the bollard head. Of course, he wears
several pairs of mittens, but these are generally torn to pieces. Our
friend shortly came to the surface rather exhausted, as the line had
been well snubbed, but Thor put another iron into him. This smarted and
one could have heard his tail strike the water miles away. He lashed it
with such force that no boat could go close; and before a rocket could
be fired into him, he was off. This time the drag was very heavy, for
he had two boats. It did seem absurd that this huge monster, more than
sixty feet long and forty around the waist, could be conquered by having
those little bits of harpoons stuck in with their little threads of
lines attached, but whales of this species are clumsy and stupid and
turn very slowly, and it is this inability to turn fast that proves
their undoing. Upon appearing the next time, a rocket was instantly
fired into a vital place and the final flurry came at once and made
lancing unnecessary. The row back was a pleasure, and our joyful
shanties could be heard for a long distance. We were alongside by
midday, and after dinner, flensing commenced. I amused myself again with
the fulmars. Getting a boat, I laid my left elbow over the side so that
I could look between it and the gunwale. Every time a fulmar came under,
I darted my right hand over, catching him by the neck and taking him on
board. When I had a great flock of them, I put them on the poop, around
which there was a base board about four inches high, and above this the
iron railing. The birds had eaten so much blubber that they could not
get over the base board. One had to be careful of bites, as they had the
curved, pointed bills peculiar to the albatross, shearwater and
other birds of this tribe. It is curious that the great albatross and
diminutive storm petrel, the wren of the sea, should belong to the same
species. In a very short time, I saw the advisability of throwing my
flock of pets overboard. We did not go below for supper until the fish
was flensed.

_August 2nd, Saturday,_ was cold and cloudy, but no wind. We were
hooked on with two boats on the bran; all hands making off during the
afternoon.

_August 4th. Monday_. Three of the four boats were after a whale among
some loose ice to the north of us. One boat got fast and all immediately
lowered away. When we reached the ice, navigation became difficult and
the fish came up where we could not touch it. Several boats came out of
the ice and tried to row around. Ours was one of these; then we found
that the harpoon had drawn and the whale had vanished. We pursued some
distance down the Sound and had nothing for our trouble but exercise.

_August 5th. Tuesday_. Much loose ice in the Sound, caused by wind
during the night. Narwhal were abundant, and two boats went after them
with no result. Later the ship unhooked and steamed east looking for
open water. I spent a long time in the "crow's nest," and, as there was
no mirage, got a beautiful view of the south coast--very wintry at bed
time.

_August 6th. Wednesday_. The rushing of feet overhead brought me to the
deck on a gloomy cold morning, and before I had time to add anything to
the clothes in which I slept, we were a mile from the ship. A whale
had been seen some distance to the north and four boats pursuing it. We
paused and put on some more clothes to keep out the keen Arctic air,
and then we went off again, as the whale had come up. Long before the
leading boat got near, it had disappeared, but we were not discouraged,
so kept on, and this hard work continued until we were far from the ship
and getting amongst pans of loose ice. The whale we were following was
a fast traveller and we were ultimately obliged to give up the chase and
return. The row back was long and wearisome, and when I reached the ship
I had my long delayed breakfast and retired, but the moment I turned in
to my berth, the rush above told of more whales in sight, so I went on
deck. A fish had been seen blowing a long way down the Sound and six
boats were away, but bed appealed to me more than another long pull,
so I returned to it and remained there until the following morning. Our
boats did not get a shot but had a long chase and did not return until
very late.

The day was cold and the density of the atmosphere uniform, so I was
able to see all the other ships distinctly with the glass. Some swell
had broken up the edge of our floe and some pieces had been driven up
the Sound, so it looked more icy than any day since the time when all
the whales came. During the afternoon we hooked on to a large floe. The
_Polynia and Esquimaux_ were near us, but to the south; the _Arctic_ was
some distance down the Sound. Swarms of white whales were about us in
the open places.

_August 7th. Thursday_. The loose ice was gone. We had unhooked during
the night and steamed west to the fast floe. I went up to the barrel and
the Captain went down to get his pipe. While gazing at distant things, I
heard a noise on deck and, looking over, saw all hands lowering away for
two whales astern of us. I must have been looking in another direction
when they appeared, because the first I knew of it, was the noise below.
Our boats lay about half on each side and were playing the usual waiting
game. The Captain came up to the barrel and I went down, but too late to
enter a boat, as they had all gone, except the two upper quarter boats.
This was a great disappointment to me, as I had assisted in killing
every whale we had taken on board. After a while, one fish came up on
the south or port side and was fastened by the farthest south boat. The
whale went under the ice, but came out nearer the ship and was fastened
again. This proved the worst whale we had seen. It did not go down again
but rolled about so much and slapped the water with its flukes to such
an extent that the boats were rather afraid of it. This went on for a
long time, when the Captain called out that he would kill it himself, so
he came down and ordered the port upper quarter boat launched. All boats
had their gear ready, whether we used them or not. A crew of irregulars
was called, the Captain as harpooner, myself next, the sailmaker next,
third engineer, cooper, etc. The Captain went up at once and, driving
a lance into the whale's neck, began churning it up and down. The fish
allowed itself to sink a few feet, and the bows of the boat glided
over it as the Captain held on to the lance. Then coming to the surface
again, it tumbled the boat over on its starboard side and instantly gave
a great blast from its lungs. My oar came out of the water, so I let it
go and, grasping the seat with my right hand and putting my left on the
whale's back, I got the full charge of blood and water over my side and
shoulder, as I was almost over the blow-hole, and such was the force,
that my thick pilot coat was soaked with-blood, and also the thick coat
underneath. I saw the sailmaker, who was in front of me, turn around;
his face was green, in spite of the tan. He was almost in the water. The
boat, fortunately, slid off the slippery neck and a serious accident was
averted. The great danger would have been from being caught between
the whale and the many lines it had wound around itself. After this,
a couple of rockets were put in and the most troublesome fish of the
season gave up its ghost. As all this happened beside the ship, we were
saved the usual tedious tow, and in an hour flensing was commenced.
It was six when we had all on board. The second whale did not
reappear--probably finding a breathing place in the floe. The sky was
overcast at bedtime and there was a bitterly cold wind. Having the
engines aft made a great difference to the temperature of the cabin, as
the bulkhead between the pantry and engine room was always hot.

_August 8th. Friday_. We were off Cape Hay when I came on deck and
sailing east under topsails. This cape was a wonderful place for looms.
They bred there in thousands; but we did not land or go very close, so I
had no chance of seeing much.

Quite a number of the ships had already left the Sound, among others the
_Arctic_. Her captain, having secured thirteen black whales, had decided
to try his luck in Repulse Bay, Fox Channel, where he had had former
success. Owing to the amount of ice in the Sound and on the west coast,
he had come to this decision. Consequently he had sailed to Hudson's
Straits, passing from Frobisher Bay through Gabriel Straits and
encountering the dreadful current for which the neighborhood is noted.
Ice was met with about Salisbury Island, and beyond this he was unable
to take his ship, so he returned to Cumberland Gulf and from there home
without adding to his cargo.

Lancaster Sound was beginning to look and feel like winter, the weather
being very frosty. The mountains on the south side, which are about
two thousand feet high, were very white, as a number of snow storms had
passed over them. We were anticipating with pleasure a visit to
Pond's Bay and the points usually called at on the west coast. One can
generally take a ship by Navy Board Inlet through Eclipse Sound to Ponds
Bay, but this year the ice precluded such a trip.

We kept under sail, to save our coal, and ended off Wollaston Islands at
the entrance of Navy Board Inlet, without having seen any whales. Here
we hooked on to a large floe.

_August 9th. Saturday._ After breakfast all hands were called to make
off. It was a very cheerful performance, our men being in good spirits.
The day was bitterly cold, but work kept them warm. Ice formed where the
sun did not strike the water as there was hardly any wind to disturb it.

By dinner time the whale was made off and during the afternoon the watch
employed cleaning up. We remained hooked on all night.

Sunday was a bitterly cold day and blowing a little, so we went further
down the sound under topsails. About ten A. M. we sighted a whale and
sent four boats in pursuit. I was in the second mate's. After a long
chase the mate got fast. There was much ice about, so it was dangerous
work for the fast boat, as it was impossible to avoid the pieces when
being towed, and should the boat strike a floe it would be smashed at
once and all hands would have to jump.

When the fish came up first there was no boat near, but on coming up a
second time Watson got in an iron and we had a very lively run down the
Sound. With two harpoons in, there was a considerable drag on, and in a
short time she reappeared and a boat was soon lancing.

Our boat had been delayed by pieces of ice, so that it was late when we
arrived on the scene. However this was a very vital whale and difficult
to kill. I saw our specksioneer Lyon's boat almost smashed by one of the
flukes during a flurry.

The perfectly fearless old man was so absorbed in his lancing operations
that he did not notice the fluke coming, and but for the quick action of
his boat-steerer, an accident would have occurred.

The ship had followed us, so we had no towing when the battle was over,
as she picked the boats up, taking the whale with her to a floe where
she anchored. Two more boats had been lowered away when they heard "A
fall" called. One had gone to help the mate with more line, and the
other had taken part in the chase.

After having something to eat, flensing was the order of the day,
our cheerful crew singing with great spirit to the orders "Heave away
capstan" and "Heave away windlass." This, our tenth whale, was a heavy
one and it was late when we got it all on board.

The ship remained at the floe all night, drifting with it down the
Sound.

_Monday, the 11th_, was a wintry day, bitterly cold and an overcast sky.
During the afternoon we had some snow squalls. We dodged about under
topsails, but did not see even a narwhal. It was evident that our chance
of catching white whales this year in Prince Regent Inlet was small. We
anchored to the ice off Cape Liverpool at night.

_Tuesday, August 12th_, all hands were engaged making off in the morning
and doing a general clean up during the afternoon.

[Illustration: 0315]



CHAPTER XVII--LANCASTER SOUND TO DUNDEE


                   "To claim the Arctic came the sun,

                   With banners of the burning zone

                   Unrolled upon their airy spars.

                   They froze beneath the light of stars,

                   And there they float, those streamers old,

                   Those Northern Lights, forever cold."


|The neighborhood of Cape Byam Martin was considered good whaling
ground, so we spent the next few days cruising off it and the coast
further down, but without seeing anything of interest. Even seals were
scarce. It was remarkable how few we saw north of the Arctic circle.

By going aloft, one could always see, in some direction on the ice, a
black dot, which represented a seal, but after the tens of thousands
seen on the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador, they were scarce
indeed; in fact, I never shot one during the whole northern trip.

We found Ponds Bay that paradise of the old whalers so full of ice that
we were unable to visit the natives, which was a great disappointment
to us all. It was a bad year for seeing much of the land as there was so
much ice coming down.

From the ship, the line of the shore looked straight, except off the
bay, but there were great fiords running into the land for miles. One of
them, known as "Hell's Kitchen," had been a noted place for whalers. Two
branches of it, named respectively, "Morris" and "Cooney" extended far
into the country, one of them having been navigated by Captain Guy for
about forty miles.

Ponds Bay was a celebrated place for salmon fishing, the whalers often
getting wonderful catches there, thereby improving their menu greatly.
At this time, the weather was very wintry, frost and snow reminding us
of where we were, and by the night of Sunday, the 17th, we were only off
Cape Bowen.

Monday was a beautiful day and we were fast to the shore floe, a long
way from the land. The Captain decided to improve the shining hour by
having the ship painted, so the boats were put upon the ice and the men
employed, cleaning and painting. The _Aurora_ was comparatively new, so
it was very easy cleaning her, as her woodwork was good and she had been
well kept up. Even washing her down with the alkaline solution used gave
her a nice appearance. By evening, a great deal had been accomplished
and inside she looked very neat.

The little auks were numerous about here. One of our firemen killed
three with a broom handle and I shot a fine bag. There was a good flight
of ducks along the floe edge and I had several shots at them. As the
birds were young, they were worth having, being free from the fishy
flavor peculiar to their parents.

[Illustration: 0319]

_August 19th._ We finished painting the boats, but left them on the ice,
excepting two from which the lines had not been removed.

Our fishing, so far, had nearly all been floe edge. We had not entered
the middle pack very far, where the whales were sometimes numerous at
this season. The enormous amount of ice made the Captain think twice
about pushing his ship, with her valuable cargo, into it, and so we kept
quietly down the coast, occasionally going out a little where the ice
was loose, but remembering Sir Leopold McClintock's winter in the middle
pack with the _Fox._

The southwest fishing, to which we were now going, was generally
prosecuted in the autumn. The ships lay at anchor in some harbor, and
every morning the boats rowed out and watched for whales. It was cold,
dreary work and very unpopular with the men; but whales killed late in
the season were often large and well worth looking for.

_August 20th. Wednesday_. The boats were hoisted up this day and, with
the Captain, I went on the ice to look at the ship. It was cold and I
had on half-boots, a thick double-breasted monkey jacket, with leather
gauntlets and a leather sealing cap. We walked to where the painting had
been done and there admired the ship. She looked well, sitting rather
down by the stern. All the crew, practically, had been standing on this
ice for the last two days and nothing had happened: I went rather close
to the edge and the piece I was standing on gave way and I went down at
once, but on coming up, with one or two strokes, reached the ice edge.
It took some seconds for my clothes to soak as I had so much on, and by
that time, one of the men, Jock Fairly, came with a boat hook, by
the help of which I was pulled out. My clothes were so completely
water-logged that, without assistance, getting out would have been
impossible. Again the gentle warmth of the top of the boiler proved a
comfort.

_August 21st. Thursday_. Hooked on, with a stiff breeze blowing and the
sky overcast. Ducks were flying in great numbers past a point half a
mile away, so, taking the dingey, I went off to it. There was no shelter
and, although every bird must have seen me, the silly things would not
leave the ice edge, but would just swing out far enough to make my shots
effective. This shooting both barrels into the "brown," as the ducks
passed, was not so much fun as getting them in pairs, but one soon
picks up a good bag, and as I was shooting for the pot, a bag was what I
wanted. When I came on board, the birds were tied in bundles and hung up
on the davit guys above the quarter boats.

August 22nd. During the afternoon, a bear was seen, so we went off in a
boat to capture it. As there was no solid ice, the beast had to get out
of and into the water so many times that he could not escape, and he was
killed from the boat by the mate. I landed and tried to stalk him, but
he left my pan and I could not follow him.

Two ships were in sight southeast of us. One of them was the
_Cornwallis,_ which we had not seen for some time. I was anxious to get
near her as Armitage was on hoard, but she was a long way off. We always
knew the other, the _Esquimaux_, by her mizzentop, as she had once been
a full-rigged ship, although now a barque.

On Saturday, the wind blew a gale, which kept us dodging under the
canvas; but by Sunday the weather had improved.

During the morning we sailed up to the shore floe, as we saw some
natives there, and picked them up. They had tusks and dog skins for
trade. We took them, with their dogs and sledges, on board. One of them
was a good-looking, pleasant native, called Enu. He added greatly to
my Eskimo vocabulary during the next few days, and he told me that deer
were plentiful in certain places and that salmon abounded. We steamed
south all day, after picking up the natives, the weather being cold but
fine.

_August 25th. Monday_. Steaming down the coast and the weather quite
fine. During the afternoon, a black spot inshore indicated the mouth of
a river. The shore floe at this point was a mile wide, but the ice was
smooth. A boat and the dingey with a net and ten men were sent to try
to catch some salmon. A number of men were sent to haul the boats across
the floe to the open water of the river mouth, and the natives came
also. Mr. Adam took the boat and I took the dingey. We had a boat's
sail, plenty of coal, two ship's kettles, coffee, sugar, salt, biscuits
and tins of mutton. Arriving at the open water, our helpers returned
to the ship, and the natives, after turning their sleds upside down, so
that the dogs could not run away with them, came with us in the boats.
We rowed into a river, which was about thirty or forty yards wide at the
mouth, shallow and placid. We went up a short distance and camped on the
right bank. Above our camp, the river was a nice-looking little salmon
stream; but below, it was more pretentious looking on account of its
width. The net was drawn, with no result. It was tried in another place
without getting a fin. Then, as it was growing late, we returned to
camp. Tying two oars together, with their blades crossed, we laid the
end of the long steering oar between these and this gave us an excellent
frame for our tent, completed by throwing the large square boat's sail
over it and tucking two of the corners underneath. Then a fine coal fire
was started, a kettle of coffee made, and an excellent hash prepared,
by mixing tinned mutton, sea biscuits, snow, pepper and salt. We enjoyed
this thoroughly and I sat by the camp fire afterwards and listened
to these men tell tales of happenings in former years. Thus, on the
unhospitable shores of Baffin Bay, I had my first experience of camp
life. After awhile I noticed that in spite of my clothing, my back was
cold, so I turned it to the fire. Then my face was nearly frozen, so
I turned back. In the excitement of starting, I had thrown a rug into
the boat and not thought of blankets. Now I began to wish I had brought
some, for I spent a miserable night, waking up very often with the cold.

_August 26th._ At last the tedious night came to an end, and breakfast
thawed us out and made things look more cheerful. The day was fine, so
the _Aurora_ was safe, and preparations were made for further fishing.
Had the morning looked threatening, the ship would probably have
signalled us to come on board. I am a keen fisherman, but the net did
not appeal to me very much; so I decided to see what the country looked
like and, taking Enu with me, went up the river. The bitterly cold night
had caused some ice, so the men waited for a higher sun to dissipate
this before we left camp. I found the country flat, as a whole, with low
hills in the background. The native gave me to understand that beyond
these hills was the caribou country, but one dared not risk going far
from the ship, and so my chance of bagging a barren land head was small.
Little gulches led away from the river, on the exposed sides of which
there was no snow, but boggy ground and bad walking; while on the shady
sides the ground was frozen and covered with patches of snow. I saw some
places on the river which made me long to try the fly, and I am sure
good sport could have been obtained. After a very tiresome walk of some
hours, during which I did not see a bird or beast, I returned to camp.
On coming close, I saw a man walking from the river with a salmon in
each hand, the first two caught. They had tried a number of places and
had caught only these, so they sent them to camp for dinner. One was put
in a big ship's kettle to boil, and the other split and cut into pieces
which were hung around the fire on stakes made from driftwood. Each
salmon weighed about ten pounds, the flesh being very red, and while
they did not compare with those from home rivers, we considered them
excellent, as they were the first fresh fish we had had on the voyage.
Leaving camp, I went down to the boat and found they had just taken a
splendid haul; the net was shot several times and a grand total of 108
fish counted out. Dinner was ready when we reached the fire and some
more fish were staked out to cook.

This delicate repast over, our things were carried down to the boats and
we made our way back as we had come. Seeing us from the ship, help had
been sent to bring the boats across the ice.

Many of the whalers fish for salmon every year and sometimes catch great
numbers. The best place is, as stated before, a river flowing into Ponds
Bay. Here several thousands are often taken.

The Eskimo dogs had eaten their harness and gone away, excepting two
lame fellows, and the natives made these pull them to the ship.

[Illustration: 0327]

_August 27th. Wednesday._ Enu, with his menage, left for home, and after
breakfast we unhooked, and stood along the floe edge. From the "crow's
nest" I saw with the glass a number of Eskimo sledges travelling north.
They made no attempt to come near us, but kept close to the shore. At
noon we were going among some loose ice, so hooked on. I had a very
pleasant afternoon at the ducks and secured a good bag. All the birds
killed were young eider. In fact, on the voyage, I only killed three
varieties of duck, eider, king eider and long tail.

_August 28th. Thursday_. Two sledges with natives came off. There was
a very hungry woman with them. I saw her picking at everything soft
on board. She found the side of a box in which plug tobacco had been
packed, and picked it up; there were some leaves of tobacco adhering to
it. I saw her picking pieces of them and eating them.

[Illustration: 0331]

Dividing the 'tween-decks from the lower forecastle, there was a
partition with a door. Just outside of this door stood a barrel into
which the cook threw refuse from the gallery, which was just within the
forecastle. I saw this polar American beauty put her arm into the barrel
and bring forth a duck's skin, which had a tremendous coating of fat.
She seized the skin with both hands and pulled the fat off with her
teeth, devouring it greedily. When she came to the neck, she chewed it,
bones and all. There were some most interesting children on board and
they thoroughly enjoyed the coffee and biscuit with which they were
supplied by the Captain's orders. We got some dog skins and small
articles from these people, but they had already been visited by some of
the ships and their bear skins and horns taken.

_August 29th_. On Friday the natives left us early. We unhooked and
sailed east, with a breeze from the south. We saw a bear and cub on the
ice, so lowered away and went after them. Both took to the water, and
we had to go around a large island of ice before we could reach them. I
landed on this, and running across, tried a shot at them in the water,
but they had gone too far and were behind hummocks of ice, so that I
could not see them. The boat then overtook them and the mate shot both.
As nothing more was seen among the loose ice we steamed to the floe edge
and hooked on. I bagged a few ducks in the evening.

_August 30th. Saturday_. We steamed down the coast and hooked on off
Cape Raper. Two natives came on board, and we bought a live fox from one
of them. It was young and blue, and spent the rest of the voyage walking
about the funnel casing, where its home was in a lime-juice box. The
natives left during the afternoon and we remained at the floe edge all
night.

It was a beautiful calm Sunday and the last day of August on which we
arrived at Cape Kater. The _Cornwallis_ very soon afterwards came in and
I went on board at once.

They had had a most unsuccessful voyage as the ship had been spoiled for
sailing by having an engine put in which was of no use. They had killed
a whale and picked up a dead one, having one ton of bone from the two.

Poor old Captain Nichol was very much depressed. Every one said he was
a fine sailor; that his blood was tar and his flesh rope yams. They told
us that the other ships had done well, the _Nova Zembla_ having eight,
the _Polynia_ six and the _Esquimaux_ ten whales when last seen.

Armitage came on shore with me and we visited some native habitations.
They were tents made of skin, and the sun beating on them made them warm
inside; but as there was not a particle of ventilation, the odor was the
worst possible. We saw in them the stone lamps in which the seal oil was
burned, moss being used as a wick; sometimes old tins served the purpose
instead of stone.

[Illustration: 0335]

This country is generally called Baffin Land. There is, however, no
reason to believe that it is not divided up by channels into many
islands. No doubt passages exist connecting Davis Straits with Fox
Channel.

Much of the coast line is uncharted, especially north of Fox Land.
Fiords running south from Eclipse Sound have been visited by whalers,
but not explored; possibly they could be traced to Fury and Hecla
Straits.

Whaling stations have several times been established on the west coast,
at Exeter Sound and Cumberland Gulf--the first party wintering at the
latter place in 1852, to the detriment of the natives.

These improvident people with modern rifles would kill all the game
they could shoot, use what they required at the time and waste the rest,
whereas in old times they could just secure enough for their wants.

Again, children were brought up formerly in a hardy way, and taught how
to wrest a living from the inhospitable country. Now by loafing around a
settlement they acquire some of the pernicious habits of civilized men,
and learn to depend upon the European and his ship, forgetting that
these might be withdrawn at any time.

[Illustration: 0339]

Monday was spent wandering about, but without seeing anything of
interest. The _Cornwallis_ was still hooked on when we left Cape Kater,
on Tuesday. We kept away from the coast to look for a berg from which we
might water. The weather was clear and frosty, and at night the aurora
borealis was very beautiful.

_September 3rd. Wednesday._ We found a floe fast to the base of a very
large berg, and on this there was a lake of fresh water frozen over. The
ship being made fast, a hole was drilled in the ice and our water tanks
filled.

On the berg there was a white fox, but no shooting at it was allowed
lest the concussion should bring down masses of ice. By evening we moved
away and made fast to a floe far from our dangerous neighbor. The cold
was intense and bay ice formed around the ship.

I heard the thunder of splitting bergs several times during the night;
they sounded like avalanches among the Alps in the springtime. At this
season, especially on very cold nights, bergs often split and turn over
owing to water freezing in crevices formed by the warm summer sun, and
for this reason they are avoided as much as possible. We now spent five
days dodging about under canvas with fires banked. Part of the time we
were off Cape Hooper and part off Home Bay, but we did not see a single
whale.

The weather was for the most part fine, but bitterly cold. If a mist
arose at night the ship presented a curious spectacle in the morning,
her rigging being coated with ice.

Our handy tradesmen during this period made some pretty things. The
carpenter presented the Captain with a neat model of a ship, while the
cooper turned out a tobacco box which was a work of art.

_September 8th. Monday_. We bore up for home. What cheerful news it was!
Passage sails were bent, boats taken in and placed on skids, bunkers
were coaled and all was life and bustle. Every one was happy. The voyage
had been a success, and we had not had a serious accident.

The "crow's nest" was sent down, nautical time adopted and the watch
set. To crown all, a fresh breeze sprang up, and with everything set and
steaming full speed we started down the Straits.

By bedtime we were in a heavy fog, so the canvas was taken off and
the engines slowed down. During the night the phosphorescence was very
beautiful. Pieces of ice thrown away by the propeller looked like balls
of fire, while the water immediately around the stern seemed all aflame.

For the next two days we had fog, so made little progress at night.
During the day the men were employed washing lines and stowing them
away. Guns and harpoons were cleaned and greased and the ship was
thoroughly washed.

On the 11th, we had a strong gale with a dark and cloudy sky. It was
strange to be at sea and feel the motion of the ship after weeks of
smooth water amidst the ice. After this the sea was smooth, and we had
fog all the time until, off Cape Farewell on the 15th, the day being
fine, the ship was hove to and painted outside. A dense fog came down
that night, and we did not make another observation until off the
Scottish coast.

On Saturday, September 20th, the fog was very dense and we steamed
slowly until noon, when it lifted for a short time and showed us the
island of St. Kilda. I was sorry we could not land here as it was a
wonderful breeding place for the fulmar petrels; but home was in sight,
and Captain Fairweather did not want to linger on a rock-bound coast, so
we steered north and on Sunday morning, the 21st, we were off the Butt
of Lewis.

It was thick at times during the morning, but cleared in the afternoon
and gave us a view of the Orkneys. The Captain decided to go north of
Orkney, as he did not like the Pentland Firth with so much fog about. At
night the weather was perfectly clear.

_September 22nd. Monday._ On deck in the morning every one was looking
pleasant, and the ship neat. We were crossing the Moray Firth and coming
close to the Aberdeen coast. A fishing boat from Fraserborough was
hailed and an assortment of fish purchased for breakfast. These were
paid for with tobacco, and the pay was liberal. The first question asked
by us was, "Is England at war?" This being answered in the negative,
greatly pleased those of the crew who were naval reserve men. Eight
bells struck and my last breakfast on board the _Aurora_ was served.
After breakfast we passed Peterhead, formerly a great port for whalers,
and then we steamed south close to the coast. The yellow fields of grain
and stubble, the cottages and the trees, looked to our snow-dazzled eyes
like Fairy Land. We passed Aberdeen and Stonehaven. We were close enough
to see Dunottar's grim ruin, then Montrose, and in a short time our
pilot was on board with all the news, and we were at home.

Of the Davis Straits ships in 1884 one was lost, the _Narwhal_; but now,
with the exception of the _Active and Aurora_, the weed-grown ribs of
the entire fleet rest beneath the waters of the cold northern seas and
the records of their crews' escapes and hardships would fill volumes.



APPENDIX


Notice of arrival of whalers in _Dundee Advertiser_ of September 23rd:


DUNDEE ADVERTISER, SEPTEMBER 23RD, 1884.

The Esquimaux--The Loss of Two Men.

The _Esquimaux_, Capt. Milne, arrived in the Tay last night from Davis
Straits, and will be docked with this morning's tide. The Esquimaux was
unsuccessful at the Newfoundland seal fishing, only 1,900 seals having
been secured; but she has brought a fair cargo from Davis Straits,
consisting of 11 whales, which will yield 140 tons of oil and 6 tons
of whalebone. Two fatalities have, unfortunately, occurred during the
voyage. Early in the season a young man named Allan Smith, a native
of Dundee, was dragged overboard by the line catching him after a
bottle-nosed whale had been struck, and he was never seen again. It is
a painful circumstance that Smith's father was lost from the same ship
several years ago. Another of the crew was lost during the passage home.
He accidentally fell overboard, and a boat was sent in search of
him. After some time he was picked up in semi-lifeless state, and all
attempts to restore animation failed.


Dundee Advertiser, September 23rd, 1884.


DAVIS STRAITS WHALE FISHING--ARRIVAL OF AURORA.

The steamer Aurora, belonging to Messrs. Alex. Stephen & Sons, arrived
at Dundee yesterday afternoon from the Davis Straits whale fishing.
The _Aurora_, commanded by Capt. Jas. Fair-weather, has had a very
successful voyage. At Newfoundland 28,150 seals were secured during the
two trips, the _Aurora_ being the only one of the Dundee fleet which was
fortunate in securing a good catch. On the 8th May she left St. John's
for Davis Straits, and on reaching Disco fell in with the _Thetis_ and
_Bear_, on their way north in search of the Greely Expedition. The three
ships thereafter kept in company until they reached the north
water, when Capt. Fairweather steamed across to Lancaster Sound. An
impenetrable barrier of ice blocked the Sound, a circumstance which told
in favor of the fishing, as a large number of whales were secured at
the edge of the ice. The crew were successful in capturing ten, and also
three bottle-noses, which will yield 105 tons of oil and about 5 tons of
whalebone. As the season advanced the fishing was prosecuted along the
west coast of Davis Straits, but without success, owing to the immense
quantities of ice, which seemed never to have been driven out of the
Straits this year. The frost came on unusually early and very severe, 12
to 14 degrees being registered in August. Capt. Fairweather bore up for
home on the 8th Sept, and experienced a good deal of foggy weather in
crossing the Atlantic. He confirms the news previously received of the
catches of the fleet, and mentions that the _Polynia_ is the only vessel
which has added to her cargo, which now consists of 6 whales, equal
to 60 tons of oil. The _Triune_ sailed for home on the 6th Sept. Capt.
Fairweather has brought home a fine specimen of the Sabine gull, a bird
rarely to be met with in Davis Straits. It ought to be mentioned that
the crew of the _Aurora_, after receiving the news of the _Chieftain_
disaster from the pilot at the mouth of the river, subscribed the sum of
£20 185s. to the fund.

Whalers sailing from Dundee in 1884:

[Illustration: 0345]

A list of Greenland and Davis Straits ships sailing from Holland, from
Dr. Lang's book:

[Illustration: 0346]

Ships at Greenland and Davis Straits, with number of whales killed:

[Illustration: 0347]

The above list shows how the trade changed in a few years from London to
Hull, and it also shows how Scotland increased her fleet, while England
reduced hers.

In an old work--"McPherson's Annals of Commerce," is found the following
list of ships sent to the whaling:

[Illustration: 0348]

Whaling was now confined to Dundee Peterhead, and remained so until
1900, when Peterhead sent her last whaler to sea, and since then the
industry has been carried on by Dundee alone.

In 1733 a bounty of twenty shillings a ton on ships over two hundred
tons was given by the English Government, and in 1719 this was doubled
to induce competition with the Dutch.

[Illustration: 0349]





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