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Title: The Land of Desolation: Being a Personal Narrative of Observation and Adventure in Greenland
Author: Hayes, Isaac Israel
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.

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                         LAND OF DESOLATION:


                       By ISAAC I. HAYES, M.D.,




                              NEW YORK:
                   HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
                          FRANKLIN SQUARE.

     Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, by
                         Harper & Brothers,
     In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.

                        _Persons Represented._

            _An Artist in search of the picturesque._
            _An Assistant given to caricature._
            _A Photographer, called “Colonel.”_
            _Another, who was “Major.”_
            _A Professor who made collections._
            _A Prince who enjoyed himself._
            _A great Hunter._
            _A roaring, tearing tar of a Captain._
            _A Mate with an inquiring turn of mind._
            _A Sagaman who made history._
            _A Parson._
            _The Belle of a Ball in seal-skin pantaloons._
            _Other Ladies in the same condition._
            _Also a Boat’s Crew._
            _Parliamentarians who smelled fishy._
            _Others equally agreeable._
            _The northernmost White Man and his family._
            _Numerous Governors._
            _Officers and Sailors unlimited._
            _A Raven._
            _An Antiquarian._
            _A Witch._
            _A Doctor._
            _Two Enemies, called “Cook” and “Steward.”_
            _A Cabin-boy who woke up once._
            _Ladies from Denmark._
            _A great many other People._
            _Dogs, Polar Bears, and other Animals._
            _A Devil’s Thumb._


The following pages are a record of a visit to Greenland, made in the
summer of 1869, with a small party of friends, in the steam-yacht
of Mr. William Bradford, whose widely celebrated pictures of Arctic
scenery have received such deserved commendation; for, whether we
consider the difficulties of the subject which that artist has
undertaken, or the unusual exposures and hazards he has encountered,
his success has been commensurate with his zeal, talent, and
unflagging energy.

Since Mr. Bradford was desirous only of obtaining materials for his
easel, the voyage was a leisurely one, being mostly near the coast,
where halts were from time to time made at such places as presented
special attractions to the painter. The summer was therefore devoted
to the study of the picturesque rather than to the scientific;
yet numerous opportunities were afforded in the latter direction,
especially with respect to observing the formation of Greenland
glaciers and icebergs—subjects which have not hitherto received
much attention. Facilities never before enjoyed by Americans were
also obtained for visiting the site of the colonies of the ancient
Northmen, who occupied that country from the tenth to the fifteenth
centuries, and whose restless love of adventure led them even so far
from their native homes as our own shores, at least five hundred years
before the renowned voyage of Columbus.

Our range of the Greenland coast was more than a thousand miles,
terminating a good way beyond the last outpost of civilization on the
globe, in the midst of the much dreaded “ice-pack” of Melville Bay.


                          _PART THE FIRST._

                              CHAPTER I.
    Ice and Breakers                                                 17

                             CHAPTER II.
    Free from Danger                                                 20

                             CHAPTER III.
    A hopeful Town in a hopeless Place                               26

                             CHAPTER IV.
    Eric the Red                                                     39

                              CHAPTER V.
    “The Arctic Six”                                                 45

                             CHAPTER VI.
    Up the Fiord in an Oomiak                                        51

                             CHAPTER VII.
    The Ruins of Ericsfiord                                          62

                            CHAPTER VIII.
    The Northmen in Greenland                                        71

                             CHAPTER IX.
    The Northmen in America                                          77

                              CHAPTER X.
    The Last Man                                                     82

                             CHAPTER XI.
    A Disconsolate Lover                                             92

                             CHAPTER XII.
    The Church at Julianashaab                                       98

                            CHAPTER XIII.
    A Greenland Parliament                                          101

                             CHAPTER XIV.
    A Greenland Ball                                                112

                          _PART THE SECOND._
                          PALACES OF NATURE.

                              CHAPTER I.
    Ice and Snow                                                    125

                             CHAPTER II.
    Glaciers and Icebergs                                           129

                             CHAPTER III.
    The Solitary Hut of Peter Motzfeldt                             137

                             CHAPTER IV.
    The Glacier                                                     146

                              CHAPTER V.
    Crossing the Glacier                                            153

                             CHAPTER VI.
    Speculations                                                    166

                             CHAPTER VII.
    Measurements of Glaciers                                        172

                            CHAPTER VIII.
    The Birth of an Iceberg                                         175

                             CHAPTER IX.
    A Narrow Escape                                                 179

                              CHAPTER X.
    Icebergs Critically Examined                                    186

                             CHAPTER XI.
    Man _versus_ Mosquitoes                                         197

                             CHAPTER XII.
    A Picnic on the Glacier                                         201

                            CHAPTER XIII.
    Bound for the Arctic Circle                                     206

                          _PART THE THIRD._
                       UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN.

                              CHAPTER I.
    Across the Arctic Circle                                        215

                             CHAPTER II.
    Beyond Civilization                                             240

                             CHAPTER III.
    Ice-Navigation                                                  253

                             CHAPTER IV.
    Hunting by Steam                                                263

                              CHAPTER V.
    Among the Ice-fields of Melville Bay                            284

                             CHAPTER VI.
    The Last White Man                                              294

                             CHAPTER VII.
    The Fiord of Aukpadlartok                                       309

                            CHAPTER VIII.
    Upernavik                                                       318

                             CHAPTER IX.
    Disco Island                                                    328

                              CHAPTER X.
    Jacobshavn                                                      339

                             CHAPTER XI.
    A Week at Godhavn                                               348


    The “Panther” among the Icebergs                    _Frontispiece_.
    View of Julianashaab                                             27
    The Oomiak and Crew                                              46
    View of the Old Norse Ruins                                      63
    Ground-plan of Ruins                                             67
    Concordia at the Picnic                                          93
    A Greenland Parliament in Session                               104
    Concordia Dressed for the Ball                                  119
    Front View of the Glacier                                       147
    Crossing the Crevasse on an Ice-bridge                          160
    Map of the Glacier                                              162
    The Glacier of Sermitsialik                                     167
    Vertical Section of Glacier                                     170
    The Kryolite Mine at Arsut Fiord                                207
    The Peak of Kresarsoak                                          221
    Entering the Fiord                                              224
    The Lumme of the Arctic Sea                                     226
    Shooting Lumme                                                  228
    Esac                                                            231
    Esac’s Hut                                                      233
    The Governor and Family                                         238
    View of Upernavik and Kresarsoak                                241
    Eider-ducks                                                     246
    The Polar Bear                                                  254
    Seals                                                           256
    The Devil’s Thumb                                               261
    The Panther after the Bears                                     268
    The Captain after the Bear                                      278
    Moored to a Floe in Melville Bay                                287
    The Iceberg Castle                                              291
    We Steam away from the Midnight Sun                             295
    The most Northern House on the Globe                            299
    Jensen and his Family                                           303
    An Arctic Witch                                                 307
    We go through an Iceberg to call on Philip                      310
    Philip, the Hunter, and his Sons                                312
    The Raven                                                       317
    Hans and his Family                                             322
    The Great Auk                                                   337
    Iceberg in Jacobshavn Fiord                                     346

    “Out upon time! it will leave no more
     Of the things to come than the things before!
     Out upon time! who forever will leave
     But enough of the past for the future to grieve
     O’er that which hath been, and o’er that which must be;
     What we have seen our sons shall see—
     Remnants of things that have passed away,
     Fragments of stone, reared by creatures of clay.”
                                        Byron’s _Siege of Corinth_.

                       THE LAND OF DESOLATION.

                          _PART THE FIRST._

                              CHAPTER I.

                          ICE AND BREAKERS.

On a gloomy night in the month of July, 1585, the ship _Sunshine_,
of fifty tons, “fitted out,” as the old chronicles inform us, “by
divers opulent merchants of London, for the discovery of a north-west
passage, came, in a thick and heavy mist, to a place where there was
a mighty roaring as of waves dashing on a rocky shore.” The captain
of this ship was brave old John Davis, who, when he had discovered
his perilous situation, put off in a boat, and thereby discovered
that his ship was “embayed in fields and hills of ice, the crashing
together of which made the fearful sounds that he had heard.” The
ship drifted helplessly through the night, and when the morning
dawned, “the people saw the tops of mountains white with snow, and of
a sugar-loaf shape, standing above the clouds; while at their base
the land was deformed and rocky, and the shore was everywhere beset
with ice, which made such irksome noise that the land was called ‘The
Land of Desolation.’”

On a gloomy night in the month of July, 1869, the ship _Panther_, of
three hundred and fifty tons, fitted out for a summer voyage by a
party in pursuit of pleasure, came in like manner, through a thick
and heavy mist, to a place where there was a mighty roaring as of
waves dashing on a rocky shore. The captain of this ship was John
Bartlett, who, when he had discovered his perilous situation, put
off in a boat, and returned with the knowledge that the _Panther_,
like the _Sunshine_ of old, was embayed in “fields and hills of ice,”
the crashing together of which made the fearful sounds that he had
heard; and then, when the morning dawned, “the people saw the tops
of mountains white with snow, and of a sugar-loaf shape, standing
above the clouds; while at their base the land was deformed and
rocky,” and the shore was everywhere beset with ice, which made such
“irksome noise,” that the people knew their ship had drifted to the
self-same spot where the _Sunshine_ had drifted nearly three hundred
years before, and that the land before them was Davis’s “Land of

A mysterious land to them, and one around which clung many marvellous
associations. Its legends had been the wonder of their boyhood; its
grandeur was now their admiration. They had heard of it as a land
of fable; tradition had peopled it with dwarfs and giants; history
recorded that a race of men once occupied it whose fleets of ships
traversed the waters in which their own vessel was now so grievously
beset, bearing merchandise to hamlets of peace and plenty. Their eyes
naturally sought a spot whereon to locate the home of this ancient
people; but nothing could they discover save sterile rocks and desert
wastes of ice. They saw dark cliffs which rose threateningly above
them abruptly from the sea, and beyond these their eye wandered away
into the interior, which the snows of centuries had converted into
a vast plain of desolate whiteness. Returning from this limitless
perspective, the eye fell upon the troubled waters. There were no
signs of life anywhere: desolation frowned on every side. Yet the
spectacle was sublime; and, as if to render that sublimity the more
complete, there was added soon an aspect of the terrible. This came
in the form of a gale of wind, which speedily rose to a tempest.
Rain, hail, and snow swept down upon the ship, and every distant
object was hidden except when the storm-curtain was occasionally
rent asunder, and a mountain peak was exposed, with the clouds
breaking against its sides. The creaking and groaning ice was around
them everywhere, and an occasional iceberg of enormous magnitude
broke through the gloom, and, while moving on through the angry and
troubled waters, received with cold indifference the fierce lashings
of the sea.

                             CHAPTER II.

                          FREE FROM DANGER.

I was a passenger on board the _Panther_, and shared with my
companions the emotions which the Land of Desolation first inspired.

Under ordinary circumstances, there can be no more comfortable
situation on board a ship than that of passenger. You are not
expected to know any thing, and, if wise, you will not want to
know any thing. You are content to trust to the captain, who is
presumed to be quite competent to look to the safety of his ship,
and therefore to your own. So far as human ingenuity can possibly
be exercised to escape danger, his, you are sure, will be, and you
trust to him as to a superior being—at least you know he has all the
interest at stake that you have, and something more; for the handling
of a ship in a storm is like the manœuvring of troops on the field of
battle; success brings glory to the commander, and the acquisition of
it is perhaps all the more precious that it is not shared with any

In our case there was a still further motive to confidence.
Our captain owned one-half the ship, which was a Newfoundland
screw-steamer, and was built unusually strong. Besides this, we
had confidence in his judgment, which was the next best thing
to confidence in his caution; and then, to crown all, he was a
thoroughly good fellow. To quote the gentleman who devoted himself
to the duties of sagaman for the cruise, “A roaring, tearing, jolly
tar was he, as ever boxed the compass on the sea.” During the eight
days occupied in coming over from St. John’s, we had all conceived
a high opinion of his qualities. He might be sometimes a little
rash and venturesome, but rashness, as every body knows, is a safer
quality than timidity; and we bore in recollection the old saying,
“Nothing venture, nothing have.” We might, perhaps, have found a
little fault with him at first for having run us in so close to the
Land of Desolation without halting for daylight and better weather;
but then we all knew that to “heave to” was something which the
captain had a great horror of and he spoke of heaving to with such
constant disrespect that the people generally had conceived the idea
that it was a peculiarly terrible thing to indulge in. It seemed,
therefore, that we were all right, and must necessarily escape
shipwreck, even when the peril appeared greatest—when, for instance,
we found ourselves threatened with an island rock on the one side and
an island of ice on the other, in a sea white with foam, and breaking
everywhere so wildly that the captain’s trumpet-voice could scarce be
heard above the tumult.

The worst of it was, we did not know within fifty miles of where we
were. “There,” said the captain, triumphantly, with his outspread
hand upon the chart of Baffin’s Bay, covering at least ten thousand
square miles of land and sea, “There’s where we are!” It was certain,
at all events, that we had drifted within a line of skerries, for the
waves broke on all sides, and where the rocks did not keep us from
going, the ice did.

We had made the land with the intention of seeking a modern
fishing-station of Danes and Esquimaux, which we knew to lie
somewhere on that part of the coast; but where we could not even
guess. As well seek charity in a bigot as hunt for a harbor in such
weather, on a coast where there are neither light-houses nor pilots.

Yet we knew that human beings might be started somewhere if we only
_could_ free ourselves from our uncomfortable predicament, and the
storm only _would_ hold up. But it would not and did not until after
we had, without exactly knowing how it came about, at length found
ourselves in the open sea, and had given the Land of Desolation a
wide berth.

The weather clearing finally, the _Panther_ was pointed for a
promising opening in the belt of ice which beset the shore; and now,
without much risk or difficulty, we got behind a cluster of islands
not far from the main-land and a good way to the south of where we
had been so much troubled.

Here there was no ice at all, and we began to look up the
fishing-town. First of all the signal-gun was fired, and the
_Panther_ whistled her loudest. This woke the echoes, and startled
some sea-gulls, but nothing more. Then we crept cautiously along,
passing island after island, the _Panther_ whistling constantly and
the guns firing occasionally.

Presently we saw something dark moving upon the water, which appeared
to have the body of a beast, and the head and shoulders of a man.
It might be a marine centaur! who could tell? In fact, we rather
expected to see some such monsters long before; and if the sea had
been alive with them, we would not have been, I think, much surprised.

“Hi! hi!” was the first greeting of this strange-looking creature,
with a voice that sounded very human “Hi! hi!” and afterwards he
shouted, “Me Julianashaab pilot!” an announcement which greatly
delighted us, even if the pilot did come in such very questionable

He was not long in arriving alongside, and then, after getting the
bight of a rope under each end of him, we hauled him in on deck,
whereupon the head and shoulders speedily shook themselves out
from the body, and our marine centaur stood forth with the proper
complement of legs to show his affinity to man.

To see a pilot shed himself thus is not to increase one’s confidence
in him. And then his looks were by no means prepossessing. A broad
face that was all cheeks, except what was mouth, with the least speck
of a nose, and nothing to mention in the way of eyes, might be a
curious study for a naturalist, but was hardly the sort of thing one
seems to stand in need of when he seeks a harbor along a very ugly
coast. And then his body was all covered with hair, and was all wet,
as if he had just risen from the bottom of the sea. Besides, he smelt
fishy. Yet this was clearly the best we could do if we ever meant to
get into port, and, disregarding his unprepossessing appearance, the
captain called him aft and ordered him to point out Julianashaab.

“Eh, tyma!” he answered; and off he started for the bridge, and off
soon started the _Panther_ under his direction.

Julianashaab we found to be no easy port to make, even with a marine
centaur for a pilot. The _Panther_ was twisted and turned about so
much among the islands, and our pilot spoke so strangely, and made
so many strange gestures, that he fairly turned the captain’s head.
The captain would indeed hardly believe that we were going anywhere
at all, but were, on the contrary, whirling about for the temporary
amusement of this creature whom we had fished up out of salt water.

The fact is, Julianashaab is some twenty miles from the sea, on the
bank of a very long and tortuous frith or fiord, which is studded
with islands. Difficult of access at all times, it is peculiarly so
in July, for then the ice from the Spitzbergen side of Greenland
comes drifting down with the great polar current, a branch of which
sweeps around Cape Farewell into Davis’s Strait and Baffin’s Bay, and
proceeds north for a while before it is deflected to the westward to
join the ice-incumbered stream that chills the region of Labrador,
and bathes the coast of America even to the Floridas. Cape Farewell
is in latitude 59° 49´, and Julianashaab lies some eighty miles to
the north and west of it; that is to say, in latitude 60° 44´, or 5°
48´ south of the Arctic circle. It is not, therefore, much nearer the
North Pole than St. Petersburg, Russia, though in a very different

It was fortunate that we secured even this strange pilot when we
did, else we should have lain outside all the night; for there was a
night, even although it was scarce deserving the name. When one can
plainly see to read by the light of the sun as late as ten o’clock
P.M., there is not much of a night to boast of. There was a faint
twilight even at midnight, and to this was added the light of the
moon, which threw its brightness on the summits of the snow-clad
mountains, and trailed its silvery splendors away over the rippled
waters of the fiord.

The scene as we passed on was most impressive. There is indeed in
a still arctic night, whether in the winter or summer, a sublimity
which one does not feel in a night elsewhere. We passed through many
groups of icebergs, and in the moonlight their shapes, at all times
full of strange suggestions, were converted into objects of the most
fantastic description. The faces and forms of men and beasts were
fashioned there in the light and shadow of the night, occasionally
with wonderful distinctness. As we passed on, we were sometimes in
the cold shelter of a cliff, while the icebergs before us glittered
in a full blaze of light, as if they were mammoth gems; again we
would pass so near a berg that it seemed but awaiting an opportunity
to topple over upon and overwhelm us; and all the while no sounds
disturbed the air but the monotonous pulsations of the steamer and
the hollow gurgle of the waves of her making as they broke within the
icy caves.

At length our pilot told us we were approaching our destination,
and as the light of day began to replace the brightness of the
moon, he whirled the _Panther_ into a little bight, and a few rude
habitations, a flag-staff, and the belfry of a little mission church,
appeared before us on a dark rocky hill-side.

“Julianashaab!” said our pilot, pointing to it with as much pride
and satisfaction as if he were overlooking the finest city of the
world. Poor man, he knew no better! He little dreamed how miserable
was his lot to be only a Julianashaaber, and dwell in peace! For this
was indeed his home. He had gone down the fiord hunting seals and to
gather the eggs of wild fowl upon the islands, and when he saw the
_Panther_ he had just begun his work.

Down went the anchor with its usual rush and rattle, and immediately
the rocks were alive with people, who, aroused from their peaceful
slumbers by the strange noise, sallied forth as suddenly as the
witches from Kirk Alloway. Looking forward to a closer scrutiny of
them when the day had fully come, we sought our bunks, and, exhausted
with the excitement of the night and the constant exposure of the
past few days, we turned in to sleep the sleep of weariness.

                             CHAPTER III.


This “Land of Desolation,” to which we had come, is the Greenland of
history and of the present time. All the southern part of it, as far
up as the sixty-first degree of latitude, is called the “District
of Julianashaab,” and the town of Julianashaab is its capital. This
town is one of the most flourishing in the whole country. It is,
perhaps, the most pleasantly situated of all of them, and, standing
in a region full of historic and legendary interest, it presents a
good type of Greenland life, past and present, and it is well worth
looking at.

Being the residence of the Governor of the “District,” something of
additional importance is attached to it on that account. Country
squires who come up to London; backwoodsmen casting their curious
eyes about them in Washington; children on a holiday excursion to
a neighboring village, are not seized with greater wonder at what
they behold, than is the hunter from some remote station of the
Julianashaab District, when, after having braved the dangers of
flood and field, he finds himself observing the latest fashions, and
learning how the world moves generally in the town of Julianashaab.
So much, therefore, for its social and political importance.


They call it a colony, and its governor, or director, is the
_colonibestyrere_, which is to say, the steerer of it. There are
eleven other colonibestyreres in the country, one for each of the
other eleven “Districts,” which extend northward one above the other
from Julianashaab to the very confines of the habitable globe.
The northernmost is Upernavik, beyond which there are no Christian
people, or people of any kind living on the earth, except a few
skin-clad savages. And, strange enough, this most northern place of
Christian occupation bears a name which signifies “the summer place,”
derived from _Upernak_, or, as it might be better spelt, _Oo_pernak,
the native Esquimaux word for summer.

Julianashaab, on the other hand, expresses a compliment to royalty.
It was founded nearly a hundred years ago, at which time a king sat
on the Danish throne who had a queen named Juliana. So, in honor of
her majesty, they called this hopeful place the _haab_ of Juliana,
which is to say, in English, Julia’s Hope. I could but wonder if
all the expectations that the name bespeaks were ever realized; for
if so, the founders of it must have been extremely modest. I was
especially impressed with this feeling when I landed next morning,
on a visit to the governor’s house, and was greeted there by the
principal part of the population.

Not a soul of them had, I believe, ever gone to bed after our
arrival; but, on the contrary, had remained as they began—gazing
at the _Panther_ all the morning. When they first saw signs of
activity on board, they expressed their delight in a very hilarious
fashion; calling to each other, laughing, and running about from
place to place, singly and in flocks, in a manner to indicate a very
lively state of feeling. The little huts from which they emerged
were scarcely distinguishable from the rocks themselves, and the
people appeared to be coming out of the earth, and dropping into it
again like prairie-dogs. Great was the rush when I got in my boat
and started for the landing-place. Here they formed themselves in
two lines, a hundred or more of them—men, women, and children—all
talking or laughing, and all much delighted. Some pointed with
their fingers; others remarked the singular performances of my
tailor; others said, properly enough, what an odd-looking thing a
round-topped hat was; and they all stood their ground while I marched
between the two files, not one of them willing to forego for a moment
the gratification of the passion of curiosity, which it is pleasant
to know that arctic frosts can no more destroy than civilization
unseat from its prying stool.

To see yourself gazed at by so many persons, even although they may
be half-savage, is an embarrassing circumstance; and I should no
doubt have felt bashful about running the gauntlet of their eyes had
not another sense than that of sight claimed its legitimate right
of precedence, and with such remarkable energy, too, that all minor
emotions were impossible. Accordingly, I made my way through the
crowd without any delay whatever, and, in fact, with a speed not
at all calculated to give that opportunity for close examination
which is always desirable to a traveller. The fact is, like the
pilot we had picked up, they smelt fishy, and, had I not been most
positively informed otherwise, I should have written the inhabitants
of Julianashaab down as amphibious creatures of a fishy nature. And
it would have been no very unnatural mistake either—not so bad, at
least, as Sir John Mandeville’s imagining boles of cotton to be
woolly hens.

To explain all this, it is needful only to observe that, this Hope
of Juliana being nothing but a fishing-town, the people are all
fishermen, and therefore every thing smells of fish exceedingly. The
odor extended everywhere; the wharf and rocks were strewn with fish,
and the air seemed charged with fish that had evaporated. I became in
a little while saturated thoroughly; so much so, indeed, that I felt
myself hardened sufficiently to approach and examine the people more
carefully than I had done at first.

They proved to be of many shades of color, from the tawny hue of
the native Esquimaux (Greenlanders they call them here), to the
almost pure Caucasian complexion, with transparent skin and rosy
cheeks. Of this latter class was one girl especially, who stood
apart from the rest as if she were superior to them, and yet could
not wholly restrain her curiosity. Her hair, which was auburn, was
very abundant, and had been arranged with much care. A red silk
handkerchief was tied about the forehead, and ribbons without stint
fluttered from the knob of hair which stood up on the crown of her
head. The labors of her toilet had evidently been performed with
the greatest nicety. Her boots were as red as her handkerchief and
quite as spotless; her trowsers were of the choicest and most shining
seal-skin, neatly ornamented with needle-work and beads. Then her
jacket, which was of some bright color to match, looked very jaunty.
It met the trowsers at the hips, where it was trimmed with a broad
band of eider-down. About the neck there was a collar of the same
material, and the beads upon the breast and around the wrists, where
there was more eider-down, were quite dazzling.

Altogether she was very pretty. Her complexion was a dark brunette,
but very delicate. When I approached to speak to her, she blushed
and ran away, which was the only fault I had to find with her. The
little, savage, coy coquette would not let me have a word with her,
but got behind a house, taking good care, however, to show herself
from time to time around the corner, peeping there, after the very
simple and artless fashion of coquettes the world over. She was not,
however, allowed to remain there undisturbed; for following after me
came a young gentleman from the _Panther_, who immediately proceeded
to invest the house, stealing around in the rear of it. When he had
fairly cornered her she did not seem at all afraid, but spoke to him
civilly enough; and then from that time forward, whatever might be my
disposition towards a better acquaintance with this lively maiden of
Julianashaab, my chances were clearly gone forever; for afterwards
she smiled only on this young gentleman. It is said (such was the
influence of his engaging manners and the delicacy of his flattery)
that she gave him her red boots at the very first interview.

This young gentleman bore among his shipmates the name of Prince;
but whether that name was natural to him, or whether it was, as
some asserted, on account of a fancied resemblance to the Prince of
Wales, or whether on account of his being the prince of good-fellows
(which is more likely than all), is not important. But Prince he was,
and like a prince he behaved. Concordia was the name, as afterwards
appeared, of the coy damsel. I shall hereafter have occasion to
relate how the Prince actually (as was said) proposed to abandon the
_Panther_ that he might make Concordia as happy a little princess as
ever was Cinderella.

Proceeding up the path after leaving the native population, I
encountered a man who was a full-blooded Dane in appearance, and I
should not have known otherwise had he not told me afterwards that
his mother had some native blood in her veins. He had been born here
in the infant days of the colony, and when we fell into conversation
he expatiated upon its growth, and manifested much pride in its
prosperity. For a long while he had been the assistant bestyrere; but
now he steers an island of his own, some thirty miles away, and he is
at present up on a visit, with his family, to see the metropolitan
sights. They had seen the church, the parson, the governor and
his wonderful store-rooms, and now, to cap the climax, here had
unexpectedly come an _Oomeasoak_ (big boat) that could breathe,
and had feet to kick through the water with! What a journey up to
town this had been, to be sure! How envious this would make their
fellow-villagers, when they got home and told of all the wonders they
had seen!

The name of this man was Peter Motzfeldt, and a very field of moss
he was, if a ripe and fresh old age can be called so. Seventy bleak
arctic winters had passed above his head, but not a single one had
apparently gone into his heart, or even scattered frost upon his
coal-black hair. He was as lively and elastic as if he were but
twenty, which was the time when he first took service with the Royal
Greenland Fishing Company, in whose employ he has been ever since.
He had never been to Denmark, and he did not wish to go. It was all
that he could do (naturally enough) to look after his two-and-twenty
children, two boat-loads of which he had brought up with him to town.

This was the fiftieth anniversary of his employment by the Company,
and the Company, in recognition of his faithfulness, had sent him a
present, which was unfortunately, he said, down at Kraksimeut, where
he lived. I thought he might have started with some of it on board
the boat, and was the further confirmed in that suspicion when I
ascertained that the present was an importation from Santa Cruz, and
that there was no such token of civilization anywhere in Julianashaab
as a public bar-room.

He promised to call upon me in the _Panther_, and devote himself to
my service if I needed him. That I should need him was most evident,
for he was perfectly charged with local knowledge, and besides that,
had been with Captain Graah in the exploration which the Danish
Government had ordered of this region in 1828-30. His name was
therefore familiar to me already, from Graah’s narrative. He went
with me to the government-house, and there left me to present myself
before Colonibestyrere Kursch, who I was glad to find (as I have
usually found elsewhere with educated Danes) spoke English fluently,
and, gratified with the welcome, I felt quite at home immediately,
and began already to entertain a high opinion of Julianashaab. If my
first introduction to the Land of Desolation had been somewhat rough,
my first intercourse with its people (barring the fishy odor which
they carried about with them) was decidedly pleasant.

Mr. Kursch was kind enough to furnish me with some charts of the
coast, all drawn with that care and nicety for which the Danish
hydrographers are famous. Afterwards we went together over to the
house of the missionary, who lived at the opposite end of the town.
In going there, we passed two store-houses, the Parliament-house
(even here they can not do without a Parliament), the doctor’s
house, numerous turf-covered huts of the natives, a few of better
construction, where some half-breed families reside (including
the catechist, the assistant bestyrere, the blacksmith, and the
carpenter); then we crossed a narrow, dashing stream upon a bridge,
and were at the church and parsonage.

The church is quite a picturesque little building, constructed
of wood (of course brought from Denmark), as are indeed all the
buildings put up by the Government. The walls are double, and, the
space between being made quite air-tight by calking, the interior
is easily warmed. Indeed there is little suffering from cold at any
time of year in any of the buildings at Julianashaab. They need no
fire during three months of the summer, and for the winter the home
government sends them out a liberal supply of coal. As a further
protection, the houses (which are but one story high) are all
plastered over on the outside with pitch, which closes tightly every
crack and cranny, and protects them from the weather.

If the church had not been black, it would have been in all respects
neat and tidy. Black though it was, it was a pleasant sight to see
this house of God here in the desert, and by its very appearance
giving proof unmistakable of good, earnest, Christian work.
“Cleanliness before godliness,” was meant for men, but it will do for
a church as well.

The same neatness was observable at the pastor’s house. The little
building was surrounded with a yard and garden, which was inclosed
with a white fence; and in every window of the house plants were
growing in brightly-painted pots, filling the rooms with their
delicious perfume.

In the pastor I met with a great surprise. I had seen him before
in 1860-61 at Upernavik, away up among the polar frosts, almost a
thousand miles beyond his present residence. It seemed as if he could
not quit Greenland; as if his heart and soul were in his missionary
work, and he would not give it up. He had been compelled to ask for
change of residence, for the Upernavik winters had been too much for
him. I had scarcely crossed the threshold, when I distinguished a
pleasant smile and gentle voice that had welcomed me before. “Can
this be Mr. Anthon?” I asked.

“Yes;” and the good pastor opened wide his eyes, greatly astonished
to see me there; but, recovering himself presently, he addressed me
by name, and then called his wife and sister, and I could almost
think myself back again in the same neat parsonage where I had
first met this interesting family years before. A lovely girl and a
bright-eyed boy had been added to the group since then; but now, as
then, there was soon a bottle of wine upon the table, fragrant coffee
in the urn, some Danish fare soon followed; and there was plenty of
Danish heartiness all round. In the afternoon we strolled up the
bank of a little stream that runs beside the church and parsonage,
and came upon a broad valley, in the centre of which there is a lake.
Around the lake there were extensive pasture-grounds, upon which
were browsing a herd of cows and a flock of goats. At this I was not
a little surprised, for although I knew that in former times cattle
had been reared here in great numbers, I had received the impression
that at the present time they would not thrive. Mr. Anthon informed
me that there was no difficulty in raising them, except the very
important one of forage for the winter, for at Julianashaab the grass
never grows high enough for hay. Farther up the fiord, however, it
is abundant; but since the hay must all be brought in boats, it
was both a tedious and expensive operation to gather it. Yet he
managed to keep three cows; the governor had an equal number; the
doctor had two; others had each one; and, indeed, all the well-to-do
people in the village—Danes, half-breeds, and the better class of
Greenlanders—had a daily supply of milk the year round.

The lake abounds in trout, a few of which were caught, and, when we
returned for dinner, Mrs. Anthon had them for us on the table. She
had, besides, some Greenland beef, and Greenland milk and butter;
some smoked Greenland salmon too, and some Greenland venison; also
some radishes and lettuce from her garden: and now, when these were,
after a while, comfortably settled in their proper places with a
glass of good old Santa Cruz punch, and an old Dutch pipe was brought
to keep it company, and the governor and his assistant, and the
doctor and Motzfeldt had come in to join us, we fell into a lively
talk of Greenland and its legends; and it was not until a new day was
breaking above the solemn hills around that I found my way back to
the _Panther_. For fear, however, the reader should think we “made a
night of it” at the parsonage, I will remind him that the “break of
day” there, in the early part of July, is about two o’clock.

I have rarely passed a more pleasant evening or one more profitable.
Our conversation ran mostly upon events of the past rather than
of the present; for Julianashaab, although not without interest
in itself, is doubly interesting from its locality. It stands on
historic ground. Here was the spot that we were seeking when the
_Panther_ drove in among the “hills and fields of ice” upon the Land
of Desolation; a spot which history had made famous, and legend and
tradition had been busy with; where brave old Eric the Red had come
nearly nine centuries ago, and, with his followers, founded a sort of
independent state.

The fiord on the banks of which stands this modern town of
Julianashaab extends some forty miles beyond; but, while the modern
town stands alone, in ancient days hamlets were dotted beside it
everywhere; thousands of cattle once browsed where there are now but
a few cows; and peace and plenty reigned here once among a Christian
people, who, after maintaining themselves through nearly five hundred
years, undisturbed by the elements of discord that afflicted the
world elsewhere, became at length extinct, and, while they passed
away, left only a few meagre records of their growth and progress,
and ruins of their decay. These ruins, I had learned, were still
to be seen at many points of the fiord, the walls of some of the
buildings being, even at this late period, in a tolerable state of

To visit these ruins was, in fact, our principal object in putting
into Julianashaab. Around them, indeed, centred the principal
interest of the voyage—at least, so far as concerned myself; and I
did not quit, therefore, the house of the good pastor until we had
planned an expedition to the place where the founder of this ancient
people dwelt, and the church wherein he worshipped, in those latter
days of his life when he had abandoned his war-god, Odin, for the
Prince of Peace.

I had hoped Peter Motzfeldt would offer to accompany us, as he had
visited some of the ruins forty years before with Captain Graah;
but other engagements preventing him, Mr. Anthon was good enough to
undertake to be our guide.

                             CHAPTER IV.

                            ERIC THE RED.

The fiord on the border of which stands the colony of Julianashaab
is now known as the fiord of Igalliko, meaning, “the fiord of
the deserted homes:” the deserted homes being the desolate and
long-abandoned ruins of the Norse buildings which are scattered along
its picturesque banks.

Its ancient name was Ericsfiord, so named by Red Eric, in
commemoration of his discovery, and for the perpetuation of his
fame—a sad commentary, truly, upon the instability of human designs,
that a name meant to recall the memory of a great achievement should
be replaced by one expressive of decay and ruin.

This fiord is a grand inlet from the sea, and is from two to five
miles wide. To all appearances, it is a great river, flowing along
majestically between its banks. It does not, however, stand alone,
for there are many others in Greenland that much resemble it. It
is one of a multitude of similar inlets that give such peculiar
character to the Greenland coast. In fact, there is no other coast
like it, if we except that of Norway. But, unlike the fiords of
Norway, glaciers descend into nearly all of them. These glaciers, by
their steady growth, have changed the aspect of the country greatly
since the Northmen first went there and gave it the name which it
at present bears. That it is a misnomer, need hardly be mentioned,
though the application of it came about in a very simple way. Davis’s
“Land of Desolation” suits the country much better than Eric’s

The name Ericsfiord, like that of Magellan’s Strait, Hispaniola,
etc., commemorates a discovery. Perhaps I should rather say, like
that of America, it commemorates a _re_-discovery; for as America
was known long before Columbus’s time, so also was Greenland before
Eric’s, if we are to credit (and we have no reason to doubt them) the
ancient sagas of Iceland. According to these, one Gunnibiorn landed
in Greenland in the year 872.

Eric was a high-spirited son of a jarl of Jadar, in Norway, who,
opposing the encroachments of the king upon his feudal rights, in
common with his class, was forced to flee the country. Escaping with
his son, he established himself in Iceland, which was then being
peopled by such refugees from tyranny and wrong, and a society was
being formed which, for love of liberty and the actual possession of
republican freedom, has never been excelled. These Icelanders were
then, and they continued to be for centuries afterwards, the most
intellectual and refined people of the north of Europe; and this is
not surprising when it is remembered that the best blood of Norway
and Denmark went to swell its population. In fact, Iceland gave
literature and laws to the whole of Scandinavia. The child was wiser
than the parent. Her writers first put in shape the Norse mythology;
and many of the most distinguished families of Norway and Denmark are
now proud to trace their origin back to the old freedom-loving jarls
and sea-kings who founded a nation upon a rock which had been forced
up by terrestrial fires into an atmosphere so cold and forbidding
that the snows gathered upon its lofty summits, while volcanic heat
wrestled in the bowels of its mountains.

Eric received his surname of Red, or Rothe, from the color of his
hair; and his corresponding disposition doubled the significance of
the name when it was made to signify “he of the red hand,” as well
as of the red head. The truth is, he was, according to all accounts,
much addicted to the then popular pastime of cutting people’s
throats; and for his last offense of this description he was banished
from Iceland for a space of three years. The immediate offense
was for killing a churlish knave who would not return a borrowed
door-post, which was always a sacred object, and was preserved with
pious care by the Scandinavians. Perhaps if the borrowed article had
been a book instead of a door-post, as in the case of fighting St.
Colomba, the decree might have been different.

Being banished, where should Eric go? He could not return to Norway,
and there was no place where he could set his foot with any safety.
So he bethought him of the legendary land of Gunnibiorn, for,
according to the Iceland Landnama, or Doomsday-book of Aré the Wise,
that was the name of the man who had visited the land to the west of
Iceland. This land Eric would go in search of, and risk his life and
every thing upon the hazard.

He set sail from Bredifiord, in Iceland, some time during the summer
of the year 983, in a small half-decked ship, and in three days he
sighted land. Not altogether liking the looks of it, he coasted
southward until he came to a turning-place, or _Hvarf_, now called
Cape Farewell. Thence he made his way northward to the present site
of Julianashaab, where he passed the three years of his forced exile.
He liked the country well, as much as he had disliked it before when
he saw it from the other side. Upon the meadow-lands beside the fiord
immense herds of reindeer were browsing on the luxurious grass;
sparrows chirruped among the branches of the little trees. He thought
the place would do to settle in, and named it Greenland.

But to be precise, as it is always well to be, I quote from an old
Norse saga of the before-mentioned Aré the Wise—a saga written in
Iceland about the year 1100, the original of which was in existence
up to 1651, and a copy of which is still preserved in Copenhagen.
Thus runs the tale:

“The land which is called Greenland was discovered and settled
from Iceland. Eric the Red was the man from Bredifiord who passed
thither from hence [Iceland] and took possession of that portion of
the country now called _Ericsfiord_. But the name he gave the whole
country was _Greenland_. ‘For,’ quoth he, ‘if the land have a good
name, it will cause many to come hither.’ He first colonized the land
fourteen or fifteen winters before Christianity was introduced into
Iceland, as was told by Thorkil Gelluson in Greenland, by one who had
himself accompanied Eric thither.” This Thorkil Gelluson was uncle to
Aré the Wise, and the historian was pretty likely, therefore, to be
accurate in his information.

Upon returning to Iceland, Eric was graciously received; and what
with the fine name he had given to his new country, and the fine
promises he held out, he had no trouble in obtaining all he asked
for—that is, twenty-five ships loaded with adventurous people, and
all the appliances for building up a colony. Thus provided, he set
sail in the year 985; but only fourteen of these ships ever reached
their destination. Some of the remaining eleven were lost at sea;
others were wrecked upon the eastern coast of Greenland; others put
back to Iceland in distress.

Eric was resolved to found a nation for himself, and these fourteen
cargoes of people gave him a sufficient nucleus. He went far up his
fiord and began a settlement. A house was also built nearer to the
sea—probably a look-out-house; for Eric expected other ships, and
he, like a prudent man that he was, would set a watch for them. The
ruins of this house may still be seen, and are not five minutes’ walk
from the pastor’s house at Julianashaab.

According to his expectations, other ships arrived, bringing cattle,
sheep, and horses; likewise his wife, and sons and daughters. The
settlement grew and prospered. Norwegians, Danes, Icelanders,
people from the Hebrides, from the British Isles, from Ireland,
and even from the south of Europe, came there in ships to trade.
Emigrants poured in, new towns were built, new farms were cleared,
and ambitious and adventurous men searched up and down the coast for
other fields whereon to display their enterprise. How far north the
most adventurous went we can not certainly know; but Rafn places
one of their expeditions in latitude 75°, a point to which the
stoutest ships of modern times can not now go without encountering
serious risk. And all this was ventured, eight hundred years ago, in
half-decked ships and open boats. It is positively known that one
of their expeditions reached as far as Upernavik, latitude 72° 50´,
a stone having been discovered near there, in 1824, by Sir Edward
Parry, bearing the following inscription in Runic characters:

             “Erling Sighvatson and Biorn Thordarson and
                  Eindrid Oddson on Saturday before
                  Ascension week raised these marks
                     and cleared ground. 1135.”

Think of “clearing ground” in Greenland up in latitude 72° 50´! What
kind of ground would now be found to clear? Naked wastes alone;
and the desert sands are not more unproductive. But, as intimated
already, the climate has certainly changed during the seven hundred
years since this event happened; in evidence of which, it is not
unimportant to observe that, in the old chronicles of the voyages of
those ancient Northmen, there is very little mention made of ice
as a disturbing element in navigation. And this brings us back to
where we started—to the growth of glaciers in the Greenland fiords.
From these glaciers come the icebergs, and a fiord which receives a
glacier is not habitable.

There was no glacier in Ericsfiord when Eric went there, and there
are none now, but it is surrounded by them. The mountains are of
such peculiar formation that they keep back the frozen flood from
Ericsfiord itself; and thus it was that this spot of earth was and
still is fit for human life—an oasis in a desert, a patch of green in
a wilderness of ice. But to this subject we shall have occasion to
refer hereafter more at length.

                             CHAPTER V.

                          “THE ARCTIC SIX.”

Eric named his first settlement Brattahlid. The next he called
Gardar; another, the Norse name of which has been lost, now bears the
Esquimaux name of Krakortok, which means, “the place of the white
rocks.” The rocks are of the same metamorphic character as elsewhere
in that neighborhood, and only differ from them in having, by one of
Nature’s freaks, been made of lighter hue than those of the region
round about.

The fiord forks a short distance above Julianashaab, the southern
branch leading to Brattahlid and Gardar, the northern, to Krakortok,
which place it was our design to visit first.

Mr. Anthon not only offered to be our pilot, as before stated, but he
likewise offered us his Greenland boat. We had boats of our own, and
good ones too; but then what so appropriate for a Greenland fiord as
a Greenland boat? So, at least, said our pastor-pilot, and so we were
all willing to confess. But what was a Greenland boat?

A Greenland boat is a curiosity in marine architecture. Mr. Anthon
took us down to look at the one he had offered us. It was turned
bottom up on a scaffolding, so that we could stand under it and
almost see through it, for it was semi-transparent like a bladder.
When I thumped it with a stick, it rattled like a drum.

“There it is,” said the pastor; “how do you like the looks of it?”

[Illustration: THE OOMIAK AND CREW.]

“What! that thing?” exclaimed the captain, with ill-concealed
contempt; “go to sea in a thing like that?”

“Certainly,” said the pastor; “why not?”

Then he called three or four people, who had it off the scaffolding
in a twinkling and down into the water, where it floated like a
balloon that had been set adrift by mistake upon the sea.

“It’s a woman’s boat,” explained the pastor.

“Oh yes, I see,” answered the professor; “made by women. Quite an
interesting object.”

It was certainly made with great cunning. It was about thirty-six
feet long, by six feet wide, and two and a half deep. There was not a
peg, or nail, or screw in it, so far as we could see; and, judging by
the same method of inspection, it was all leather.

The pastor asked again how we liked the looks of it, now that it was
in the water.

To confess the truth, it looked a little too balloonish to suit
any body’s fancy. The captain broke into a laugh. The professor
speculated upon the quantity of stones that would be required to
ballast it, measured by the ton; our sagaman began to institute
comparisons between it and the ancient Phœnician craft, contending
that the latter possessed decided advantages in a sea-way, which
nobody doubted for a moment. The photographers came running along
after it with their camera; the artists ran after it with their
pencils—particularly a young gentleman much given to caricature (who,
for short, bore the euphonious name of Blob), and who in a twinkling
sketched her launched from an iceberg into an atmosphere of green
above a golden sea, sailing away like a kite, with our trader for
a bob. The trader was not there at first, but he came up in time
to make a liberal offer of pork and beans, or a note of hand, in
exchange for it—any thing of that description would be so handy to
have on board the _Panther_—a boat thirty-six feet long—handy as the
door-plate in the Toodles house.

Some one asked Mr. Anthon if he would not be good enough “to have the
thing shoved off, that we might get a touch of its quality.”

“Of course—by all means,” replied the pastor. Then he called the crew

“Now, shades of Harvard and Oxford defend us, _what_ a crew! and
what a rig!” exclaimed the Prince, breaking into a laugh as the crew

And he was quite right. It was a strange rig for a boat’s crew,
without any sort of doubt. Very long boots that reached above the
knees, of divers colors and pretty shape, gave a trim and natty
look to the pedal extremities. Then they wore seal-skin pantaloons,
very short, beginning where the boots left off and ending midway
on the hips, where they met a jacket bright of hue, and lined with
fawn-skin. This jacket was trimmed around the neck with black fur,
beneath which peeped up a white covering to the throat. The hair
was drawn out of the way, and tied with red ribbon on the top of
the head; and altogether the costume was calculated to show off the
respective figures of the crew to the greatest possible advantage.

Then the Prince laughed again when the pastor called their names.
“They’re a jolly lot,” said he.

“Go along,” said Mr. Anthon; “go along, Maria, and take the others
with you.”

Maria proved to be stroke-oar, and she called, “Catherina, Christina,
Dorothea, Nicholina, Concordia, here, come along.”

And off they all ran, chattering and giggling at an amazing rate; and
they tumbled into the boat in a manner that made the captain fairly
frown to see such lack of discipline. We were all much amused to see
the gay and lively manner in which they skipped over the thwarts to
their respective places, brimful of fun and mischief, and altogether
making quite a shocking exhibition for a boat’s crew, whose duties we
are usually in the habit of seeing performed in a very sober manner.
But they quieted down a little when a more sedate individual (who
proved to be the coxswain)—dressed in short boots and long seal-skin
pantaloons, and a cap instead of ribbons on the head—came along, and,
taking the steering-oar, gave the order to “shove off.”

The order was executed in handsome style, and the boat shot out
over the little harbor very swiftly, each of the crew rising with
the stroke of the oar; and bending to their work with a will, this
singular-looking crew made their boat fairly hum again.

“Fine oarsmen!” exclaimed somebody who had just come up, and had not
heard the roster called.

“Oars_men_!” replied the pastor, laughing at somebody’s exceeding
innocence. “Oarsmen! why, dear me, they are oars_women_!”

“Oars what?”

“Oarswomen, to be sure.”

“Oars_women_! Man alive! and do they always pull the boat?”

“Always,” replied the pastor; “always. A man will never pull an oar
in a woman’s boat. He would think it a humiliation and disgrace. The
most he will do is to take the steering-oar, which is, indeed, quite
legitimate business for him. He has his own small boat, the handling
of which requires skill, while the woman’s boat requires none. A man
steers the boat now; the other six, who pull the oars, are all of the
other sex, and I could not wish for a better crew.”

Upon being asked what duties as a crew they usually performed, he

“They row me about from place to place, as my pastoral duties
call me; they gather hay for the cows, and bring home the fish
(principally capelin and cod) that the fishermen catch and dry at
distant places. Besides this, they do any thing they are told to do,
and do not hesitate to expose themselves in any weather, unless it
should blow too hard for the safety of the boat.”

“Has such a boat any particular name?” the captain asked.

“We call it an _oomiak_, which signifies, simply, a woman’s boat;
while the man’s boat is called a _kayak_.”

Here the Prince, who was growing somewhat impatient over this long
catechizing, broke in with a query as to whether they pulled the
oomiak to-morrow, in case we should conclude to go in her?

“Certainly,” replied the pastor.

“Just that same precious crew?”

“The same crew exactly.”

“Including the bow-oar you call Concordia?”

“Including her, of course. She is the life of the crew, and I could
never get along without Concordia.”

“Nor I,” replied the Prince. “The boat will do for me. Sink or swim,
survive or perish, I ship in that craft for one. Pipe the dear
creatures back.”

So the pastor called to them to return, which they did in splendid
style; and, every body agreeing with the Prince, it was forthwith
arranged that we should go in the oomiak upon the morrow.

As the boat came in, the Prince proffered assistance, in a very
gallant manner, to the bow-oar, but the girl hurried from the gunwale
and ran, laughing, away. Nothing daunted, however, he gave chase;
but, fleet as a young deer, she outstripped him and disappeared in
the village, where the Prince was observed afterwards to be wandering
around looking for her disconsolately.

                             CHAPTER VI.

                     UP THE FIORD IN AN OOMIAK.

The morning came fresh and sparkling as the eyes of our fair
oarswomen, who, singing to the music of their splashing oars, came
stealing over the still waters, bearing the good pastor in his arctic
gondola, while we were yet at breakfast.

Their arrival alongside made a sensation. Such a boat, propelled in
such a fashion, was a sight new to sailors’ eyes; and it did not
seem easy for our people to reconcile such uses and occupations for
womankind with a sailor’s ideas of gallantry; for a sailor is always
quite willing for a woman to be a princess, and as such he would
always like to look upon her, but he would never want her for a
cook. He could never be happy unless he could abuse the cook, and he
never would abuse a woman. But as for pulling at an oar, why, what
in the world should he ever do, if he were not allowed to express
his preferences as to what might happen to the eyes of any one who
disturbed the stroke? and he never would condemn a woman’s eyes.
Clearly, a woman would not do to pull an oar. But they were good to
have a little pleasantry with, even if they did not understand a word
that was said to them.

The people all crowded their heads over the bulwarks when the strange
boat came up, and Welch addressed himself thus to the stroke-oar,
when he had made out her peculiar style of costume: “Ah! my beauty,
from the cut of your rig, it’s a blood-relation of Brian O’Lin’s that
you are;” which created a good laugh at the girl’s expense, without
her, however, being at all aware of the cause of it. Not getting any
response from that quarter, he turned his attention to the bow-oar.
“And my bow-oar, honey, with the red top-knot: ah! sure and she’s a
beauty. Say, my darlin, you’re the one I’d like to be shipmates with
till the boat sinks.”

The bow-oar, more compliant than the stroke, nodded, smiled
graciously, and said, “Ab!” and a great deal more which Welch did not

“Ab?” he repeated, inquiringly; “and a pity it is that a foreigner
you are, for I’d like to have a bit of a chat with you.”

Somebody told Welch that _ab_ meant yes.

“And you’ll be shipmates with me?” inquired the sailor, with

The bow-oar said “Ab!” again.

“Ah, then, and it’s too willin’ ye are, honey, entirely; and I’ll not
ship with you at all, at all. But you’re a well-rigged craft alow and
aloft, for all that, and I’d like to have the overhaulin’ of you.”

“You’ll get overhauled yourself, and your hull scuttled, and your
top-gallant rigging scattered over the sea, if you tackle that craft
again,” was the sharp reply which the fireman received to this very
lively address. But it did not come from the bow-oar. It was from the
Prince, who had just got out of bed, and, without pausing to comb
his hair, had rushed to the gangway, to behold in the bow-oar the
fair Concordia, and to discover that a sailor was making advances to
her. The Prince was quite indignant. He soon, however, had Concordia
on deck, when the others followed, and then, conducting them all to
the galley, the Prince fed them bountifully. Meanwhile, preparation
was being made for the journey. Some of us, however, embraced the
opportunity to examine with more care than we had been able to
before the strange-looking boat in which it was proposed to perform
the journey.

We go down into it before the cargo is stowed, and Mr. Anthon
explains to us the method of its construction. It is not at all
likely that the reader of this book will ever desire or have occasion
to make such a boat for his own use; but it may perhaps not be
uninteresting to him to know how he might proceed, if he should so
desire. According to the pastor, it would be something after this

You will first obtain five round sticks of wood thirty-six feet
long, more or less, according to the length you desire to make the
boat. These must be as light as possible, and not over two inches
in diameter. Since the country produces no wood, you will of course
have to go to the governor for the materials, which he keeps in his
store-house, replenishing the stock each year by shipments from
Denmark. But since you will not find a stick thirty-six feet long,
you will have to procure several, which you lash together until you
have obtained the requisite length. Having done this, you place three
of them on the ground parallel with each other, the outer ones being
six feet apart. Then across them, at the middle, you lash, with firm
thongs of raw seal-hide, a piece of inch plank three inches wide
and six feet long. Then you bring the ends of the three long sticks
together, lashing them firmly. Next you lash other pieces of board
across at intervals of two feet. Of course these are of different
lengths. Thus you have obtained the bottom of your oomiak. This done,
you proceed to erect the skeleton, fastening the stem and stern posts
firmly with lashings; also the ribs. The ribs in their place, you
secure along the inside of them, at about sixteen inches above the
floor, a strip of plank. On this you place the thwarts, the middle
one being six feet long, the others shorter, as you approach either
end. Ten thwarts is the proper number. This completes the skeleton,
all but the placing of the rails or gunwales, which are the two
remaining thirty-six feet sticks. These being fastened with thongs to
the ribs, and to the stem and stern posts, your skeleton is finished,
and it is exceedingly light, strong, and elastic. But now, instead of
covering this novel sort of boat-skeleton with planking, you stretch
over it a coat of seal-hide (it can scarcely be called leather).
It has been, however, tanned and dried, and afterwards thoroughly
saturated with oil, until it is as impervious to water as a plate
of iron. A number of skins are necessarily required, and these the
women will sew together for you so firmly with sinew thread that not
a drop of water can find its way through the seams. This skin coat,
being cut and fashioned to fit the skeleton as neatly as a slipper to
the foot, is drawn on and firmly tied. It is very soft when you draw
it on, but when it dries it is as tight and hard as a drum-head; and
when the skin becomes a little old, the light will come through it as
through parchment. When afloat in the oomiak, you can always discover
how much water you are drawing by looking through the side of it.
This is not a pleasant operation, however, for a novice or a nervous
person, since one can hardly resist the impression that he is in a
very treacherous sort of craft.

This light and elastic boat is propelled with short oars having broad
blades, which are tied to the gunwale, instead of being thrust out
through rowlocks. These oars are shod with bone, to protect them from
the ice. A single mast is erected in the bow, upon which is run up a
square sail when the wind is fair. If the owner of the boat is rich
enough, he gets the material for his sail from the governor; but if
not, he makes it out of seal-skins.

I have observed that he gets the wood from the governor’s stores: not
all of it, however, for the obliging sea brings him an occasional
tree that has floated with the ocean current from the forests of
Siberia; or a plank, perhaps, that has fallen overboard from a
passing vessel; or a spar or other portion of a wreck. Thus, before
the Danes came here, did the Esquimaux obtain all the wood they
used. From this source they also procured their iron, in the shape
of spikes, nails, bands, and bars, attached to these waifs of the
sea. Thus do the ocean currents, which carry heat and cold to the
uttermost parts of the earth, scatter also blessings to mankind.

After some unavoidable delays (always occurring when any body sets
out anywhere and some other body is to go with him), we finally got
all our traps in the oomiak. The photographers were aboard with their
cameras, baths, and plates; the artists with their sketch-books,
stools, and pencils; the surveyors with their sextants, barometers,
compasses, and tape-lines; the hunters with their weapons,
game-bags, and ammunition; the steward with his cooking fixtures,
and substantial eatables and drinkables; “the Arctic Six” were at
their stations; and “All aboard!” was the signal to shove off. The
fair oarswomen dipped their paddles, rising with the act, and coming
down with a good solid thud upon the thwart when the paddles took
the water. The light boat shot away from the ship over the unruffled
waters of the silvery-surfaced fiord; and at last we were off.

The day could not have been better chosen. The sky was cloudless;
and the great mountains, by which we were on every side surrounded,
climbed up into a pearly atmosphere, and their crests of ice and snow
blended softly with the pure and lovely air. Every body was in the
best possible spirits; every thing was novel, from the boat and its
strange crew to the strange shore past which we were gliding, and
which presented sometimes cliffs of immense height, and sometimes
slopes of green, above which the atmosphere quivered in the sun’s
warm rays.

I could but contrast my situation with that of a few days before,
when I was sweltering in the summer heat of New York. The atmosphere
was soft like that of budding spring, though close to the Arctic
Circle, and within the region lighted by the midnight sun.

The scenery was everywhere grand and inspiring. The shores, though
destitute of human life, were yet rich in historical association. As
we passed along, it was hard to realize that voices were not calling
to us from the shore; and where miles of rich meadow-land stretched
before us, girdling the cliffs with green, the fancy, now catching
the lowing of cattle and the bleating of sheep, would sometimes
detect the shouts of herdsmen; while again we seemed to hear,

           “By distance mellowed, o’er the water’s sweep,”

the “song and oar” of some gay inhabitant of the fiord, descendant of
that brave band of men who, under the leadership of sturdy Eric, had
on these sloping plains, beneath the ice-crowned hills and within the
rampart of the ice-girt isles, sought an asylum from their enemies.

But if the fancy discovered those evidences of life, as it recalled
the people who once were happy here in this peaceful, pastoral scene,
the eye failed to detect any such tokens whatever. An occasional
seal, that put up its half-human head to peer at us, or a sparrow or
butterfly, that hovered about us when we neared the shore, or now and
then a flock of water-fowl, were the only living things we saw.

The spirit of the scene was contagious. Even our native crew were
not wanting in the emotional feelings of the hour. Encouraged by
their pastor, they broke forth in concert, and with rich melodious
voices, timed to the paddles’ stroke, they sang an old Norse hymn:

    “Oh, hear thou me, thou mighty Lord,
       And this my cry, oh, heed;
     Oh, give me faith; I trust thy word;
       Oh, help me in my need;”

and as the refrain was echoed back to us over the waters from hill
and dale, it struck the fancy more and more that human voices came to
us from the depths of those solitudes.

Five hours of this pleasant experience brought us near the end of
the fiord, where the water is narrowed to about two miles; but long
before this the solemnity of the day had been at times broken by
incidents very different from those above described. In fact, there
was a great deal of liveliness mingled with the seriousness which
every body felt at times, perhaps in spite of himself. The Prince
was, as usual, at the bottom of the most of it. That young gentleman
had come out to enjoy himself, and have a good time of it generally,
and his disposition was not to be restrained by any of the ghosts
of ancient Northmen who might haunt the fiord. He attached himself
to Concordia as a matter of course. Speaking metaphorically, there
can be no doubt that he had had his eye upon that pantalooned lady
(now bow-oar) ever since he first discovered her peeping around the
corner of the house in Julianashaab. It was not to be supposed,
therefore, that he would on the present occasion relax his visual
energies, and his first procedure was to place himself beside her on
the thwart, where he carried his admiration so far as to insist upon
relieving the fair oarswoman of her oar, which resulted in a great
deal of sport between the parties immediately interested, and filled
the minds of the other damsels with immense disgust—whether because
no one offered them the same gallant attentions, or whether because
the bow-oar was constantly interfering with the stroke, was not
discovered; but I greatly suspect it was the latter rather than the

Thus, with alternate gayety and solemnity, did we speed on through
the pleasant sunshine. In a general way we might say that there was
universal enjoyment in that oomiak; but outside of it there was not
altogether so happy a condition of affairs. The lively proceedings of
Concordia and the Prince struck terror into one heart which beat its
troubled discord in the confinement of a native kayak. The unhappy
possessor of this discordant heart was a half-breed, whose name was
Marcus, and who, although a half-savage, was yet wholly a Christian
in the matter of name and baptism.

This Marcus was a fine-looking fellow, with brown hair and eyes, a
frank open face, the complexion, though not the features, leaning
rather to the Esquimaux than the Danish hue. The only trouble with
him was—and this appeared to distress him greatly—that he loved
Concordia. Judging from that distress, he must have loved her

Marcus was a great favorite with the pastor, and he always
accompanied him everywhere he went. His duty was a simple one enough,
but a very necessary one, as boating is performed in the Greenland
fiords. It was to paddle along beside the oomiak in the capacity of
courier, if occasion made it necessary to use one; or, in case of
need, to act as outrider—two functions which at once suggest the
dangers of oomiak navigation. Suppose, for instance, Mr. Anthon is
caught in a heavy blow, and is broadside to the wind. His boat is
liable to be blown over, owing to its lightness. Marcus is near at
hand; he pulls up quickly alongside, seizes the gunwale of the boat,
bears his weight upon it, and prevents a catastrophe. Again, the
oomiak runs against a sharp piece of ice, which the steersman has
not seen in time to avoid; a hole is cut in the skin, and in rushes
the water. The boat is headed for the land, and the pastor and his
ladies get ashore with their lives. But where shall they go, or what
shall they do? They are, perhaps, on an island, or, if not, they
have to scale a mountain and descend again before they can reach
a settlement. Marcus saves them this labor, and very likely their
lives, by flying away in his kayak and bringing succor.

Twice during the day it seemed to me that we had met with a fatal
accident of this nature. The skin of the boat was cut and the water
entered, but the circumstance caused no alarm. The cuts proved to
be small, and one woman only left her oar to repair them. This she
did, and very speedily, by thrusting into the cut a small piece of
blubber, which answered every purpose until we reached a convenient
landing-place, when the boat was drawn up on the beach far enough for
the woman to get at the hole with the sinew-threaded needle, when a
patch was quickly fastened over it, and the skin was as good as ever.

That Marcus was jealous of the Prince, any body could see with half
an eye. But a kayak is a most inconvenient place for a jealous lover.
It is only a little over a foot wide, and does not weigh half as much
as the man himself. If he meditates mischief to his rival, his own
situation becomes a very dangerous one, since the least indiscretion
in his movements, or the imprudent withdrawal of his eyes from his
frail boat, would very likely cause him to find himself suddenly
floating head down, with his bladder-like kayak inextricably
fastened to his heels—a position that would very speedily cure the
most ardent lover in the world of the highly ridiculous passion of

Compromising, therefore, between the impulse of jealousy and the
restraints of prudence, Marcus paddled close to the forward part of
our oomiak, where the Prince and Concordia were seated, as if he
would overhear their conversation, and so possess himself of some
remark of the fickle lady to treasure up against her, thus the more
effectually to insure the destruction of his peace of mind—a pastime,
by-the-way, in which lovers are very apt to indulge themselves.

If this was, however, his design, he unfortunately failed in it,
since there was no conversation audible. Like Hai-dee, our heroine
had long since discovered that her Don did not understand a word she
said. Yet, judging from his liveliness of manner, the Prince must
have learned something agreeable to his feelings; and it was clear
enough that he was being instructed after a fashion quite equal, if
not superior, to the ordinary forms of speech, for this fair lady of
the oar

                    “Had recourse to nods, and signs,
    And smiles, and sparkles of the speaking eye,
    And read (the only book she could) the lines
    Of his fair face,”

which seemed to be quite enough to satisfy her capricious fancy.

The time passed scarcely less pleasantly to the rest of the party
than to the Prince, although in a very different manner. At least
there was no lack of lively episodes, and we all found ourselves
much surprised when we discovered that we were approaching the end
of the fiord, which had now assumed less the appearance of a river
and more that of a lake. Before us the water was lost to view by a
great curve, from the middle of which there appeared a fine valley
stretching away to the base of the Redkammen, one of the noblest
mountains to the artist’s eye, and one of the boldest landmarks to
the mariner in all the country, conspicuous as Greenland is for its
lofty and commanding scenery.

And there Redkammen stood in its solitary grandeur, away up in a
streak of fleecy summer clouds, its white top now melting with them
into space, now standing out against a sky of tenderest blue. Then
came a cloak of darker vapor, which, resting on the mountain’s
summit, trailed away into the heavens, bridging the space which
divides the known from the vast unknown.

                            CHAPTER VII.

                      THE RUINS OF ERICSFIORD.

We were not long now in reaching our destination, which was the foot
of the extensive green slope on the north side of the fiord. Above
this slope, and from a quarter to half a mile from the bank, the
cliffs rise perpendicularly to an altitude of fifteen hundred feet.
To our right, as we approached, rose a lofty range of hills, which
separates the two branches of the fiord. Beyond these once flourished
the colonies of Brattahlid and Gardar. Behind and to the left of us
lies the island of Aukpeitsavik, which extends almost to Julianashaab.

Our first concern was to discover if the church which we knew to have
existed there was still standing. To our great satisfaction, its
walls were seen upon the green slope long before we reached the land,
although a cliff some thirty feet high, which formed its background,
prevented us from observing it clearly until we had come almost to
the shore.

Upon landing, there was a great scramble for the honor of first
entrance into the ruin. The scramble was over a tangled growth of
trailing junipers, crake-berry, whortle-berry, and willow bushes,
which grew in a rich grassy sod that exhibited many plants in bloom,
among which were conspicuous the dandelion, butter-cup, bluebell,
crow’s-foot, and cochlearia.

Leaving the party to their various occupations—the artists to their
several chosen tasks, the crew to get the boat ashore and cook the
dinner, the lovers to their jealousies, and the maids to their
coquetry, I set out with two friendly assistants to make a complete
survey of the ground.


The hill-side upon which stood the ancient town of Krakortok is much
broken, but there are many level patches, rich with vegetation, which
seem to have been once cultivated, and even now appear like arable
lands. Small streams course through them, giving a fine supply of
clear fresh water. Beside these streams the angelica grows to the
height of three feet. The stem of this plant furnishes the only
native production of the soil that the Esquimaux use for food, if we
except the cochlearia or scurvy grass, which is but little valued,
and is not nutritious. It is said that the old Northmen cultivated
barley here, and no one would doubt that such a thing were possible.
Even at the present time, if one might judge by the day of our visit
as typical of the season, barley might grow and ripen readily. Yet
Mr. Anthon informed me that such days were liable to be followed
by severe frosts, and that in any case the season is too short for
complete fruition. There is, therefore, no attempt made in any part
of Greenland, not even here in Ericsfiord, to raise any thing more
than the ordinary garden vegetables—namely, such of the crucifera as
lettuce, radishes, and cabbage—all of which flourish admirably as far
up as the Arctic Circle. The agricultural products of Greenland are
not, therefore, to be regarded as important in a commercial point
of view, though, with care, each inhabitant of Ericsfiord might be
well provided with every needful garden luxury. Potatoes would grow,
I believe, if they would only take the trouble to cultivate them
properly. To perfect any of the cereals would, however, be at present
a hopeless undertaking.

Yet the whole region about Krakortok bears evidence of former
cultivation. Garden patches were in the neighborhood of all the
buildings. The church and two other buildings were inclosed by a
wall, the outlines of which I had no difficulty in determining, and
which, judging from the mass of stones, must have been about five
feet high.

The church interested me most. Its walls are still quite perfect to
from ten to eighteen feet altitude, and even the form of the gable is
yet preserved. The door-ways, three in number, are not in the least
disturbed by time; the windows are mostly entire, except on the north
side, and the arched window in the eastern end is nearly perfect.
Beneath this window was the chancel, and the church was constructed
with singular exactness as to orientation. This could scarcely be by
accident, for the same accuracy is to be observed in all the other
sacred buildings that have been discovered in the neighborhood—the
walls standing within less than one degree of the meridian line, and
even this may have been an error of my instrument which I had not the
means of correcting, rather than an error of the Northmen. They were
evidently close observers of the movements of the heavenly bodies,
and must have known the north with great exactness, and they built
their church walls accordingly. These walls were four and a half feet
thick. The stones were flat, and no cement appears to have been used
other than blue clay.

In one angle of the church-yard there had been a building which I
supposed to have been the almonry; and in another part was the house
of the priest or bishop, the walls of which are still perfect to the
top of the door-way, and one of the windows.

[Illustration: GROUND-PLAN OF RUINS.]

Outside the church wall, but not far removed from it, there was a
building evidently of much pretension. It was divided into three
compartments, and was sixty-four by thirty-two feet. There was
another still farther to the westward, others to the east, and one
on the natural terrace above the church. Altogether the cluster of
buildings which composed the church estate—where dwelt the officers
who governed the country round about, and administered in this
distant place, at what was then thought to be “the farthest limit of
the habitable globe,” the ordinances of the pope at Rome—were nine in
number: a church, a tomb, an almonry, five dwellings, and one round
structure; the walls of which latter building had, like those of the
church-yard, completely fallen, but the outline of the foundation
was preserved. The walls had been four feet thick, and the diameter
of the building in the clear was forty-eight feet. It had but one
door-way, which opened towards the church.

To call this circular building a tower, in the sense of its
application to the famous round towers of Ireland, would be a great
stretch of the imagination. There is, however, a strange coincidence
in the circumstance of proximity to a church. Near all the church
edifices that have been discovered in Greenland a structure similar
to this one at Krakortok has been found. None of them are, however,
so large: its walls could not have been more than seven or eight
feet high. Its uses are unknown. Possibly it may have been a work of
military defense, perhaps a baptistery; there is nothing, however,
except its shape, to indicate that it was not a cow-house.

After completing my survey of this church estate, I visited other
parts of the fiord. The buildings have been very numerous hereabout,
but all except the church and bishop’s house are now levelled with
the earth, and so overgrown with willow, juniper, and birch that even
their outline is scarcely distinguishable.

What a wonderful change! what a sad wreck of humanity! Here people,
weary with war, had come to cultivate the arts of peace; here they
had built strong and comfortable dwellings; here they had reared
herds of cattle and flocks of sheep upon pastures of limitless
extent; here they had worshipped God according to the dictates of
their consciences; and now where are they? nothing left but this
“ruined trace.” A single inscription on a tomb-stone, carved in Runic
characters, is all the record that remains besides the crumbled
walls. This inscription reads:

           “Vigdis, daughter of M***, rests here. May God
                         rejoice her soul.”

And may God rejoice the souls of all of those worthies of the olden

I could not fail to experience a feeling of sadness as I stood beside
the tombs of a people now utterly extinct. It seemed as if voices
from the past were speaking to me from out the crumbling church,
from the almonry where the priest dispensed his alms, from the
holy-water stoup, from the tomb-stones bearing the sacred emblems
of our Christian faith; from everywhere, indeed, there was a silent
whispering that here a Christian people once dwelt in peace, and from
temples dedicated to Almighty God arose their anthems of praise above
the glittering crests of snow. That they should ever have come here
seems, however, more strange than that they should have perished as
they did.

                  *       *       *       *       *

 Note.—The ruins of Krakortok, shown on page 67, were visited by
 Captain Graah in 1828, as the cap-stone over the church door-way
 (west end) will testify for many a day. This cap-stone is 12 feet 7
 inches long by 2 feet 2 inches wide, and averages 8 inches thick. It
 bears this inscription—G. M. G. M. & V. MDCCCXVIII—initial letters,
 standing for Graah, Mathiesen, Gram, Motzfeldt, and Vahl, the
 visiting party.—See _Graah’s Narrative_, p. 38.

                            CHAPTER VIII.

                     THE NORTHMEN IN GREENLAND.

These Northmen were certainly a very wonderful people, and they did
very wonderful things; but of all their enterprises the most singular
would seem to be their coming to Greenland, where they were without
the lines of conquest which were so attractive to their brothers
and ancestors; for they were kindred of the Northman Rollo, son of
Rögnvald, jarl of Maere, and king of the Orkneys, who ravaged the
banks of the Seine, and played buffoon with the King of France; the
same with those Danes who, in Anglo-Saxon times, conquered the half
of England: descendants they were of the same Cimbri who threatened
Rome in the days of Marius, and of the Scythian soldiers of conquered
Mithridates, who, under Odin, migrated from the borders of the Euxine
Sea to the north of Europe, whence their posterity descended within a
thousand years by the Mediterranean, and flourished their battle-axes
in the streets of Constantinople; fellows they were of all the
sea-kings, and vikings, and “barbarians” of the North, whose god of
war was their former general, and who, scorning a peaceful death,
sought for Odin’s “bath of blood” whenever and wherever they could
find it. In Greenland they appear like a fragment thrown off from a
revolving wheel by centrifugal force. And here they seem to have lost
the traditional ferocity of their race, though not its adventurous
spirit. Sailing westward, they discovered America, which was the
crowning glory of their career. Sailing eastward, they saw the light
of Christianity which was breaking in the North, and its blessings
followed them to their distant homes.

These two voyages to the west and east symbolize the character
of this wonderful race. Love of change made their conversion to
Christianity easy; love of adventure made all enterprises of
discovery seem trifling hazards, and gave them the world to roam in.
To their achievements in the Western hemisphere the influence of
the Christian religion was, no doubt, very powerful. It weaned them
from Europe and its perpetual wars, and while it did not destroy, it
turned their enterprise into a new channel, and one more consistent
with the new faith.

The introduction of Christianity into Greenland was accomplished
by Lief, son of Red Eric; and it was the same man who discovered
America—two grand achievements which rank Lief Ericson as one of the
heroes of history. With respect to the former event, an old Icelandic
saga thus briefly records the fact:

“When fourteen winters were passed from the time that Eric the Red
set forth to Greenland, his son Lief sailed from thence to Norway,
and came thither in the autumn that King Olaf Tryggvason arrived
in the North from Helgaland. Lief brought up his ship at Nidaros
[Drontheim], and went straightway to the king. Olaf declared unto him
the true faith, as was his custom unto all heathens who came before
him; and it was not hard for the king to persuade Lief thereto, and
he was baptized, and with him all his crew.”

Nor was it hard for King Olaf to “persuade” his subjects generally
“thereto.” His Christianity was very new and rather muscular, and
under the persuasive influence of the sword this royal missionary
made more proselytes than ever were made before in the same space of
time by all the monks and missionaries put together.

When Lief came back to Greenland with a new religion and a priest
to boot, his father Eric was much incensed, and declared the act
pregnant with mischief; but after a while he was prevailed upon to
acknowledge the new religion, and at the same time to give his wife
Thjodhilda, who had proved a more ready subject for conversion, leave
to build a church. Thus runs the saga:

“Lief straightway began to declare the universal faith throughout
the land; and he laid before the people the message of King Olaf,
and detailed unto them how much grandeur and great nobleness there
was attached to the new belief. Eric was slow to determine to leave
his ancient faith, but Thjodhilda, his wife, was quickly persuaded
thereto, and she built a kirk, which was called ‘Thjodhilda’s Kirk.’
And from the time she received the faith she separated from her
husband, which did sorely grieve him.”

And this appears to have been the last, and (as the sequel shows) was
the most potent argument for his conversion. To get his wife back,
he turned Christian, and ordered the pagan rites to be discontinued,
and the pagan images of Thor, and Odin, and the rest of them, to be
broken up and burned.

Whether this first Greenland church of Thjodhilda’s was built at
Brattahlid, or Gardar, or Krakortok, can not now be positively
said; but we might, perhaps, find some reason to conclude it was
the latter, from the fact that an old man named Grima, as the saga
states, who lived then at Brattahlid, made complaint, “I get but
seldom to the church to hear the words of learned clerks, for it is a
long journey thereto.”

This much, however, we do know, that the church—wherever it was
situated—was begun in the year 1002, and was known far and wide
by the name of its pious lady-founder. Several churches and three
monasteries were built afterwards. One of these latter was near a
boiling spring, the waters from which, being carried through the
building in pipes, gave a pleasant warmth to the good monks who
occupied it, and they needed no other heat the year round.

The Christian population of Greenland became, in course of time, so
numerous that it was necessary for the Bishop of Iceland to come
over there frequently to administer the duties of that part of his
see; for the diocese of Gardar, as it was called, was from the first
attached to the See of Iceland.

A hundred years thus passed away, and both in spiritual and temporal
matters the Northmen in Greenland were getting along finely. Their
intercourse with Europe was regular, and their export trade,
especially in beef, was considerable. Indeed, Greenland beef was for
a long time highly prized in Norway, and there was no greater luxury
to “set before the king.” The people were almost wholly independent
of the Icelandic government. Under a system of their own devising,
which appears to have perfectly satisfied their necessities, they
lived quite unmolested by the outside world, and, undisturbed by wars
and rumors of wars, the descendants of Eric the Red were as happy as
any people need wish to be.

They lacked only one thing to complete their scheme of perfect
independence: they needed a bishop of their own, which would cut
them loose from Iceland altogether; and, in truth, the Icelanders
were such a liberty-loving people that they were in no wise disposed
to dispute their claims. But a bishop they could not have without
the sanction of the powers that ruled in Norway; for the pope would
not appoint so high an officer for any of the regions directly
or indirectly subject to the control of Norway except upon the
nomination of the king, after consultation with his spiritual
advisers. Numerous petitions were accordingly sent over to the king,
in order to secure his good offices. For a time these efforts were
attended with but partial success, since a temporary bishop only was
vouchsafed them in the person of Eric (not the Red), who went to
Greenland in the year 1120, and, without remaining long, returned
home, having, however, visited Vinland in the interval—this Vinland
being the America which Columbus thought to be a part of Asia some
four centuries later.

Finding they did not get a bishop of their own according to their
deserts (as they estimated them), they grew indignant, and one of
their chief men, named Sokke, declared that they must and would have
one. Their personal honor and the national pride demanded it; and,
indeed, the Christian faith itself was not in safety otherwise.
Accordingly, under the advice of Sokke, a large present of walrus
ivory and valuable furs was voted to the King of Norway; and Einer,
son of Sokke, was commissioned to carry the petition and the present.

The result proved that the inhabitants of Ericsfiord were wise
in their day and generation; for whether through the earnestness
of their appeals, or the value of their gifts, or through the
persuasiveness of the ambassador, or through all combined, they
obtained, in the year 1126, Bishop Arnold, who forthwith founded his
Episcopal See at Gardar, and there erected a cathedral, which was
built in the form of a cross.

Arnold seems to have been a most excellent and pious leader of these
struggling Christians. Zealous as the famous monk of Iona, without
the impulsiveness of that great apostle of Scotland, he bound his
charge together in the bonds of Christian love, and gave unity and
happiness to a prosperous people. He died in the year 1152, and
thenceforth, until 1409, the See of Gardar, which he had founded,
was regularly maintained. According to Baron Halberg, in his history
of Denmark, seventeen successive bishops administered the ordinances
of the Church in Greenland, the list terminating with Andreas, who
was consecrated in 1406. The see and Andreas expired together; and
the last account we have of either was made in 1409, when it is
recorded that he officiated at a marriage, from the issue of which
men now living are proud to trace their ancestry. This was his last
official act, so far as we have record.

But the people did not then wholly disappear, even if the official
see ceased to exist. To the causes which led to their final overthrow
we shall have occasion to refer presently.

                             CHAPTER IX.

                      THE NORTHMEN IN AMERICA.

To complete the account of the Northmen who dwelt upon the banks of
Ericsfiord, it is necessary to trace some of their voyages to the

Lief, the son of Eric, was a man of restless disposition. Not content
with Greenland, he had visited Europe, and had there studied in the
very practical school which the Northmen took good care always to
have in operation—the art of war. Dissatisfied with paganism, he
accepted the Christian faith, as we have seen, and carried it to his
own country. Afterwards, wearied with the enforced monotony of his
life at Ericsfiord, he determined to discover new lands for himself,
as his father had done before him, and also, like his father, he
sought them in the West. He set sail in the year 1001, soon after
his return from Norway. Crossing what we now call Davis’s Strait, he
first sighted Labrador. Not liking the looks of it, any more than
his father had liked the first sight he had of the east coast of
Greenland, he sailed south until he came to Newfoundland, where he
landed. Thence he proceeded on his voyage, discovering Nova Scotia;
and finally he arrived at a place which he called Wonderstrand, where
he wintered. This was probably the peninsula now called Cape Cod, in
Massachusetts. Thence he returned to Brattahlid, in Ericsfiord, and
ever afterwards bore the name of Lief the Lucky.

His brother Thorwald followed after him the next year, and the
new land was called Vinland (_Vinland hin goda_), from the great
quantities of wild grapes they found there, and of which they made
wine. Thorwald was set upon and killed by savages, whom they called
Skraellings, from their diminutive stature.

A third brother, Thorstein, went in search of Thorwald’s body the
next year, and died without finding it. Then, after this further
disaster, Lief, who had now succeeded Red Eric, his father, in the
government of the colonies of Ericsfiord, resolved no longer to
pursue the enterprise. No settlement had been made, and no profit
had yet accrued to the daring men who had undertaken it. The natives
were very numerous and hostile, and the people could only live in a
fortified camp.

Nothing more would, in all probability, have been attempted, had not
a rich Iceland merchant come to Brattahlid, named Thorfin Karlsefne,
and surnamed the Hopeful. This was in 1006. While at Brattahlid, he
was the guest of Lief, with whom he spent the winter. There was much
feasting, especially at Yule-time, and some love-making besides,
for Thorfin married Gudrid, widow of Thorstein, before spring came.
They spoke much about Vinland, and finally they resolved on a voyage
thither. Accordingly they got together a company of one hundred and
sixty, of whom five were women, Gudrid being one. “Then,” according
to the saga, “they made an agreement with Karlsefne that each should
have equal share they made of gain. They had with them all kinds of
cattle, intending to settle in Vinland.”

They sailed on their voyage in the spring, and came to Wonderstrand,
where Lief had erected houses. These they found; but not liking the
place, they proceeded to Mount Hope Bay, in Rhode Island. But the
natives came out of the woods, and troubled them so much that they
had no peace. Finally a great battle was fought, in which many of
the natives were killed, as were also several of the whites. Some
of the latter fell into the hands of their enemies, and were called
before a council of the tribe, as they supposed, to hear the judgment
of death pronounced upon them. To their great surprise, they found
the council presided over by a man as white as themselves, and who
addressed them in their own language. He wore a long beard, which
was very gray, but in other respects he was dressed like the others.
Through the instrumentality of this man, who appeared to be their
chief, the whites were liberated on condition of their leaving the
country, which they did, after having lived there three years.

This proved to be a most unfortunate speculation for the rich Iceland
merchant. Its only value to him was, that his wife, while there, bore
him a son, whom he called Snorre, and from whom was descended a line
of men famous in Iceland history.

This strange man whom they found at the head of the Skraellings
proved to be Biorn Asbrandson, a native of Bredifiord, in Iceland,
and who had once been a famous viking, or sea-rover, and had drifted
to America, no one knew how. Doubtless it was even before Lief’s
time. He had left Iceland, and was never heard of until Karlsefne
returned, when, from certain articles which this chief of the savages
gave him, with directions how to dispose of them, and from a message
which was to be delivered to Biorn’s former sweetheart, the identity
was established. The man himself would give no explanation of who he
was, or how he came there. Biorn was therefore probably the first
white man to land on the shores of America, if we may except some
Irish monks and others whose adventurous enterprises originated the
idea of a “white man’s land” far away across the sea.

Humboldt, in his Cosmos, basing his observations on Rafn’s
“_Antiquitates Americanæ_,” declares that Biorn undertook the
voyage to the southward from Greenland in 986, the year following
Eric’s colonization of Ericsfiord. There is, however, a discrepancy
between his statement and those of others concerning the course of
Lief, “who,” as Humboldt says, “first saw land one degree south of
Boston, at the island of Nantucket, then Nova Scotia, and lastly
Newfoundland, which was subsequently called Libla Helluland, but
never ‘Vinland.’ The gulf which divides Newfoundland from the mouth
of the great river St. Lawrence was called by the Northmen, who had
settled in Iceland and Greenland, Markland’s Gulf.” Nova Scotia was
called Markland.

The Eric family did not, however, altogether abandon the idea of
reaping some profit from America, even with the death of Thorstein,
for a sister named Freydis went to Vinland in 1011, and for some time
lived in the same place where her brothers had lived before. More
unfortunate than their predecessors, they fell not only to fighting
the natives, but each other, being instigated thereto by Freydis, who
caused a great number of the party to be treacherously murdered in
order that she might get control and reap all the profit; yet no good
came of it after all.

Other expeditions followed some years later; but, so far as we know,
there were no actual settlements made by these Northmen in America.
Yet Bishop Eric went to Vinland in 1121, during his Greenland mission
(which would make it appear as if people were there to visit), in his
ministerial capacity. Occasional voyages were, however, made to the
country, at least as far as Nova Scotia. As late as 1347, we have
written accounts of Greenlanders going from Ericsfiord to Markland to
cut timber.

It will be seen by the foregoing that history presents quite a
number of candidates for being the first discoverers of America.
Who knows what influence these adventurous voyages of the Northmen
may have had upon the discovery of America by Columbus? That great
navigator is stated to have visited Iceland in 1477; and may he not
then have heard of this land of the grape and vine to the westward?
and may not the tales of the Icelanders have encouraged his western
aspirations, which are said to have originated as far back as 1470?
This supposition would not, however, detract from the great merit
of Columbus; for the idea of crossing the Atlantic, and of reaching
Asia by the west, was not original with Columbus, nor even with
his generation. The glory was not in the conception, but in the
execution. It has been said that the name America is “a monument of
man’s ingratitude;” but this is hardly true, since the name Columbus
gave to his own discoveries was, as we all know, West Indies, in the
full belief that he was within reach of the rich treasures of the
Orient; and even after Columbus’s death, and after the conquests
of Cortez, Mexico was marked down upon the maps of the period as a
part of China, and, indeed, the capital city of the Montezumas was
shown to be only a few days’ journey _overland_ from the mouths of
the Ganges. It was not until Balboa had waded into the waters of the
Pacific Ocean, and had thus taken possession of the newly-discovered
sea, that the idea of a new world, or new continent, having been
discovered began to enter into the minds of men. The belief of
Marco Polo, who looked out over the ocean eastward from China, and
the belief of the ambitious Genoese navigator, who looked westward
from the shores of Spain, was the same, and it was shared by every
body: this belief being that the Atlantic Ocean extended from Asia
to Europe; and what we now call America was nowhere at all in their

                             CHAPTER X.

                            THE LAST MAN.

The final destruction of the Northmen in Greenland is a matter of
melancholy interest. Exactly when it came about we can not know. We
have seen that the bishop’s see was abandoned in 1409. Prior to that
time, however, we have accounts of the desperate straits to which the
people were reduced. In 1383 we find the following curious entry in
the Icelandic annals:

“A ship came from Greenland to Norway which had lain in the former
country six years, and certain men returned by this vessel who had
escaped from the wreck of Thorlast’s ship. This ship brought the news
of Bishop Alf’s death from Greenland, which had taken place there six
years before.”

Of the causes which led to this state of affairs we are not,
however, left wholly to conjecture. First came a royal decree (for
by this time Greenland had passed over, along with Iceland, from a
state of independence into the possession of the King of Norway)
laying a prohibition on the foreign trade, and creating Greenland a
monopoly of the crown. This was a dreadful blow, and the shipping
was practically at an end. Trade must, indeed, have been sadly
languishing when six years were required to obtain a return cargo.
But “misfortunes never come singly.” In 1418 a hostile fleet made
a descent upon the coast, and, after laying waste the buildings,
carried off what plunder and as many captives as they could. With
respect to this latter event, and the generally poor condition to
which the colonies were reduced, we find the following appeal of
Pope Nicholas the Fifth, written to the Bishop of Iceland in the year

“In regard,” says the pope’s letter, “to my beloved children born in
and inhabiting the island of Greenland, which is said to be situated
at the farthest limits of the great ocean, north of the kingdom of
Norway, and in the Sea of Trondheim—their pitiable complaints have
reached our ears, and awakened our compassion; hearing that they
have, for a period of near six hundred years, maintained, in firm and
inviolate subjection to the authority and ordinances of the apostolic
chair, the Christian faith established among them by the preaching
of their renowned teacher, King Olaf, and have, actuated by a pious
zeal for the interests of religion, erected many churches, and, among
others, a cathedral, in that island, where religious service was
diligently performed until about thirty years ago, when some heathen
foreigners from the neighboring coast came against them with a
fleet, fell upon them furiously, laid waste the country and its holy
buildings with fire and sword, sparing nothing throughout the whole
island of Greenland but the small parishes said to be situated a long
way off, and which they were prevented from reaching by the mountains
and precipices intervening, and carrying away into captivity the
wretched inhabitants of both sexes, particularly such of them as were
considered to be strong of body and able to endure the labors of
perpetual slavery.”

Furthermore, the letter states that some of those who were carried
away captive have returned, but that the organization of the colonies
is destroyed, and the worship of God is given up because there are no
priests or bishops; and finally, the Bishop of Iceland is enjoined to
send to Greenland “some fit and proper person for their bishop, if
the distance between you and them permit.”

But the distance did not permit. At least, there is no evidence of
any action having been taken, so that this is the last we know of
ancient Greenland, and from that time “the lost colonies” passed into

Who the raiders were who thus gave rise to the necessity which
existed for the pope’s earnest interference we are not positively
informed, but about this time the savages attacked the colonists,
as we know from the sagas of Ivar Bere. Previous to this, however,
they had appeared upon the coast. This was about the middle of the
fourteenth century.

In a former chapter I have alluded to the progress of the Northmen up
the Greenland coast, and have mentioned their occupation of an island
near Upernavik. But no important settlements were effected farther in
that direction than those which were founded upon the banks of what
is now Baal’s River, where stands the modern colony of Godthaab—a
deep fiord, alike in character with that of Ericsfiord. Here there
was a considerable population, the colonies being distinguished by
the name of West Buygd; while those about Ericsfiord and to the
south, towards Cape Farewell, were called the East Buygd, meaning the
western and eastern inhabited places.

In the year 1349 intelligence was brought to Ericsfiord from the West
Buygd that a descent had been made upon them by the Skraellings. An
expedition was immediately fitted out for their defense and succor,
and was placed in charge of Ivar Bere (the same who left a written
account of his Greenland experiences), who was secretary to the
bishop, and lay superintendent of Gardar. He found, however, on
arriving there, not a human being left, but merely a few cattle,
which he brought away with him. Nor did he discover any enemies.
Having accomplished their murderous and plundering design, the
savages had retreated with the fruits of their raid, and for a time
were not again heard from. But at length they learned of the still
greater wealth of the white men lower down the coast, and there they
began to show themselves—at first in small bands, but finally in
great numbers, until they overran the habitable parts of the country;
and, driving the Northmen from place to place, at length wiped them
out as completely here as they had formerly done in the West Buygd.
The churches were pillaged and burned, and the monasteries of St.
Olaf, St. Michael, and St. Thomas were levelled with the earth.

A peculiar interest attaches to the church at Krakortok from the
circumstance that here the Northmen made their last stand, and, under
the leadership of a man named Ungitok, for some years maintained an
obstinate and successful resistance. At this time great numbers of
the savages were collected upon the island of Aukpeitsavik (about
midway between Krakortok and Julianashaab), under the lead of their
chief, Krassippe.

These savages, or Skraellings, were the Esquimaux of the present
time. Originally they appear to have been warlike and aggressive. At
present they are an inoffensive, harmless people—a change entirely
due to the influence of the Danish missionaries and the Moravian
Brethren, who have been among them during the past hundred and fifty

Whence they came, we can of course only conjecture, since they had
formerly no written language of any kind, and possessed only vague
traditions of having come from the West. That they crossed from
Asia by Behring’s Straits, and then wandered eastward along the
coasts of Arctic America, until, in course of time, they reached
Greenland, there can be no reasonable doubt. Of the period of their
original migration we can not, of course, have ground for even a
rational speculation. This is, however, wholly unimportant to our
present purpose, which concerns only their appearance in Greenland—an
event which, as we have seen, happened in the fourteenth century.
Could it be that these same savages were identical with those of
similar character which Lief and his successors, three centuries
before, had found on the shores of Massachusetts, and who were there
in sufficient numbers to prevent the Northmen from occupying the
country? I think it very probable; and their appearance in Greenland
is, perhaps, due to the fact that the tribes now known as Indians
(who first appeared upon the eastern slope of the Alleghanies about
that time) drove them from their southern hunting-grounds, and forced
them to seek safety in the inhospitable North, compelling them to
reside upon the sea-shore, because the land produced but little game,
while the sea everywhere abounded in fish. Hence their name, derived
from the Indian word _Esquimatlik_, applied to them in derision, and
signifying “eaters of fish.”

In what manner they crossed Baffin’s Bay is left in doubt. It would
not have been impossible for them to do so in their skin boats.
Possibly, however, they went higher up, and crossed over on the ice
of Smith’s Sound. Some tribes still exist in that neighborhood; and
to show their insatiable love of wandering, I may mention that I
have found evidences of their presence upon the shores of Grinnell’s
Land as far north as latitude 81°. It has been conjectured that
they came over in fleets of boats, crossing the narrowest part of
Davis’s Strait, which is less than two hundred miles wide, from land
to land. It may be that they were not less influenced by a motive
of revenge for the wrongs of their ancestors than fleeing from the
Indians who possessed their lands, for they had been sadly ill-used
in Massachusetts by the Northmen when they first came there. These
Northmen had killed and tortured a great many of them in very
wantonness, before actual hostilities began. There might seem to be,
therefore, in the destruction of the Northmen by these Skraellings
something of retributive justice.

This destruction went on, as we have seen, until the remnant of the
race was brought to bay and driven to defend themselves at Krakortok.
But they could neither be dislodged nor completely destroyed until
stratagem was brought to bear; and the device to which these savages
resorted in order to accomplish their purpose deserves to rank with
the famous wooden horse of Troy.

This did not, however, happen until after a most desperate attempt
had been made by Ungitok to get free from the clutches of his brutal
adversaries. He managed, with a large party of his followers, to
get over to the island, and in the dead of night he surprised them
in their huts, and, with the loss of only one man, destroyed the
entire party, putting men, women, and children to the sword. It was
a fearful massacre, and a dreadful revenge; but it only further
imbittered the savages against the whites, and caused them to
redouble their efforts. One man escaped the general slaughter, and
carried with him the memory of their burning huts and bleeding wives
and children. Two there were at first, and, unhappily for the whites,
one of those men was the chief, Krassippe; while the second was his
brother. These Ungitok pursued upon the ice (the attack was made in
winter), with several men following after; but Ungitok outstripped
them all, and, overtaking the brother, ran him through the body, and
then cutting off the right arm of his fallen enemy he brandished it
in the air, shouting at the same time to Krassippe (who by this time
had reached the shore), intimating to him, in an obliging manner,
that if he ever wanted an arm he would know where to come for it.
Krassippe was now beyond pursuit, so Ungitok returned, well pleased
with the trophy he had cut from his victim.

After this Krassippe neither rested by night nor day until he had
compassed the destruction of Ungitok and his band. In a fair fight
every Northman was good for at least half a dozen savages, and,
notwithstanding the destruction they had spread elsewhere, the people
of Krakortok held them personally in the greatest contempt. But
Krassippe was nevertheless, by numbers and strategy, to get the best
of them at last. He constructed an immense raft of boats, over which
he erected a low and irregular scaffolding. This he covered with
tanned and bleached seal-skins, so that when afloat the structure
looked like an iceberg. This he filled with armed men, and turned
it adrift upon the fiord, allowing it to float down with the tide
towards Krakortok among some pieces of ice. When it floated too fast,
the people threw overboard stones, with lines attached to them.
These, by retarding the progress of the raft, enabled them to keep
in company with the icebergs. Ungitok and his people saw the raft;
but so much did it appear like the ice alongside of it, that they
never once suspected its character, and the armed men drifted around
into a bight almost at the rear of the town. Running the raft ashore,
they then rushed up and made for the church by an unfrequented route,
which was left unguarded, except close to the town. The sentinel
was killed, and the church was surrounded before a single person
escaped from it. Then it was fired, and all who were not burned or
smothered with smoke met death, as they rushed out, on the points
of their enemies’ spears. Not a soul escaped except Ungitok and
his son, who was but a small boy. With him Ungitok fled to the
mountains, and there hid for a time in a cave, where at length he
was discovered through the indefatigable exertions of Krassippe. The
hiding chieftain was surrounded, and, discovering that his case was
hopeless, he threw his son into the lake to prevent his falling into
the hands of the savages, who would be sure to torture him, and then
prepared to sell his life as dearly as possible. In the end he was
overpowered and borne down. While yet sensible, Krassippe completed
his revenge by cutting off his right arm, and, flourishing it before
the expiring chieftain, he exclaimed, “Thou didst tell me where to
come for an arm if I should want one. I have come for it.”

Thus perished the last man of his race; and since that day the
Esquimaux, whom their defeated rivals had so contemptuously called
Skraellings, have held possession of the country undisturbed. They
have, however, very evidently decreased in numbers, and where there
were once tens of thousands, there are only thousands now. For a
long period of time they remained the sole occupants of the country,
and nothing was known of them save vague and exaggerated accounts
brought by occasional ships—such as those of Davis, Baffin, and
Frobisher, who touched at Greenland on their way to the discovery of
a north-west passage. In later times, however, the Danish Government
(to which Greenland as well as Iceland had become subject) made
numerous efforts to recover the “lost colonies,” with the hope of
sustaining the trade and fisheries. Admiral Lindenau reached the
coast in 1605, and carried off some of the savages. Afterwards
Captain Hall, an Englishman in the employ of Denmark, took away four
others, and shot what more he could, as if by way of amusement.
Another, who was not versed in ocean currents, did not get near
the land at all; but, becoming frightened at being able to make no
progress, he declared that there was a huge magnet in the sea holding
his ship, which so alarmed him that he returned home. About half a
dozen enterprises followed, the last in 1670, without any further
result than the killing of a few more of the savages. Then the “lost
colonies” were given up altogether, until that excellent missionary,
Hans Egede, went there in 1721, and established himself in Baal’s
River, near where the West Buygd had flourished. Here he founded the
colony of Godthaab. Then came the Moravians; and from that time to
the present the re-establishment of colonies, and the civilizing and
Christianizing of the natives, has gone steadily on. But nowhere did
Egede or his followers find any traces of the race that had dwelt
there in ancient times, save those evidences of their decay which I
have described. Egede travelled very extensively; and others coming
after him have described all we shall probably ever know of this
Land of Desolation as it was in the days of Red Eric. Among the most
important discoveries were those of Captain Graah, of the Danish
navy, who visited both coasts in oomiaks during the years between
1828 and 1832; and after him Dr. Henry Rink.

I will close this historical account of Greenland with a paragraph
from the _Dublin Review_ of twenty years ago, which has not less
interest at the present time than then. “Few people,” observes the
_Review_, “imagine the extent of these ancient Greenland colonies.
At best, it seems to most persons some sort of Arctic fable, and
they are hardly prepared to learn that of this Greenland nation
contemporary records, histories, papal briefs, and grants of land
yet exist. So complete was the destruction of the colonies, and
so absolutely were they lost to the rest of the world, that for
centuries Europe was in doubt respecting their fate, and, up to a
very recent period, was ignorant of their geographical position. To
the Catholic they must be doubly interesting when he learns that
here, as in his own land, the traces of his faith—of that faith
which is everywhere the same—are yet distinctly to be found; that
the sacred temples of his worship may still be identified; nay, that
in at least one instance the church itself, with its burial-ground,
its aumbries, its holy-water stoup, and its tomb-stones, bearing
the sacred emblems of the Catholic belief, and the pious petitions
for the prayers of the surviving faithful, still remain to attest
that here once dwelt a people who were our brethren in the Church of
God. It was not, as in our own land, that these churches, these fair
establishments of the true faith, were ruined by the lust and avarice
of a tyrant. No change of religion marked the history of the Church
of Greenland; the colonies had been lost before the fearful religious
calamities of the sixteenth century. How or when they were swept away
we scarcely know, save from a few scattered notices, and from the
traditions of wandering Esquimaux—a heathen people that burst in upon
the old colonists of Greenland, and laid desolate their sanctuaries
and their homes, ‘till not one man was left alive.’”

                             CHAPTER XI.

                        A DISCONSOLATE LOVER.

To resume the thread of our narrative. Taking it up where it was
dropped some chapters back, I must first recall the day and the

Our lunch was spread under the ample shelter of a tent, which
screened us from the rays of the sun, and formed a no bad substitute
for the protecting trees under which our picnics are enjoyed in other
lands. There seemed to be but one drawback to complete enjoyment. The
noonday heat rose above 70°, and started great quantities of small
flies and mosquitoes. From these pestiferous insects we thought we
surely had escaped when we came to Greenland. But no! this was not
to be. They attacked us in perfect clouds during the afternoon, and
before I had quite completed my survey most of the party had betaken
themselves to the oomiak, and hauled out into the middle of the fiord
to escape their assaults. But the day was then well spent, and the
pleasure-seekers had by this time enough of sport to satisfy them.
All had enjoyed the day, Marcus alone excepted. That youth could
never restrain his mortification at the havoc he at heart believed
the Prince was making with his matrimonial prospects. For that young
gentleman persistently devoted himself to the lively Concordia,
despite the heat and mosquitoes, while she, in grateful appreciation
of his attentions, wove wreaths of wild flowers for his cap, sung
for him in irreproachable Esquimaux, and performed other coquettish
acts of that kind with which recognized lovers are not unfrequently
tantalized in other places than Greenland.


Whether Marcus would sensibly have staid at home, had he not been
ordered to go by the pastor, I can not pretend to say; but having
gone, he was certainly deserving (or at least he evidently thought
so, like any other lover would have done) of better treatment from
his inamorata; and, to look at him, you would have thought so too,
for he was really a fine-looking fellow—at least for a half-breed.
The stolid mask of the Esquimaux did not suit his frank, open face at
all, and it was quite impossible for him to show himself at ease when
he was not. Whether the Prince discovered the disturbed state of his
feelings is not certain, but it is certain that he did not treat the
matter with much attention. He never allowed Marcus to approach the
object of his devotion to speak with her except once, and then Marcus
was overheard to reproach her with flirting with the American—an
opinion which was very generally entertained. The lively young lady
of the seal-skin pantaloons grew indignant, declaring very pointedly
that it was none of his business what she did with the American.
Quite taken aback, the young man began to remonstrate with her,
evidently under the impression that the Prince had already installed
himself deep in the affections which, until this most unhappy day, he
thought he had possessed all to himself. Then he began to institute
comparisons between himself and the Prince. “Look at him,” exclaimed
the much-injured lover, “with his pockets full of beads and jewelry!
Look at him there, with his pop-gun of a rifle! Do you imagine he
could shoot a seal? No, never! And if he did, could he get it home?
No! Can he go in the fleet kayak? Can he climb the cliffs of the
kittiwake, or gather the eggs of the lumme? Can he dart the spear
at the eider-duck? Can he scale the mountain-sides in pursuit of
the reindeer? Look at his pale face, and answer me!” and by this
time fairly boiling over with rage and vexation as he recounted
the Prince’s negative qualifications, he exclaimed, “No! he can do
none of these things. He is good for nothing!” Then he straightened
himself and said, with great self-complacency, “Look at me!”

“I don’t want to,” said the girl; “I won’t!” which terminated the
colloquy, for the Prince himself came up at that very moment, and,
addressing himself to the indignant lover, desired to know if his
mother was intimately acquainted with his whereabouts—an inquiry
which might have resulted in serious consequences had the lover
understood even so much as a word of it. Without wasting much time,
however, upon the injured youth, the Prince called for the music
(the boy who steered our oomiak had brought up a cracked fiddle),
and then, seizing Concordia by the waist, he whirled her through the
old Norseman’s grave-yard in a fantastic waltz that must have made
the very bones of the dead heroes fairly rattle again. Could those
ancient priests, with the bishops at their head, have arisen then and
there, they would doubtless have anathematized the whole party on the
spot; for others were not slow to follow, and the dance did not wind
up until they had gone through with several hornpipes and Greenland
reels of a kind, I dare avow, never dreamed of by Terpsichore.
Meanwhile Marcus, leaning against the old church wall, looked on in a
most disconsolate and defiant manner, with his fists thrust far down
into his pockets, as if that were the only safe place for them.

Whatever may have been Marcus’s recollections of the day, certainly
all the rest of the party had a thoroughly good time of it. The day,
however, lost something of its romantic character when the shades
of evening began to trail over us, and the sun going down behind
the distant glacier-crowned hills left the chilliness of evening to
succeed the warmth of noon, as fatigue succeeded to the freshness of
the morning.

When, therefore, we had completed our survey of the spot, we were
a much more orderly party than we had been previously; and, when
once more afloat in our oomiak, we went about from place to place in
the fiord, visiting other ruins, with a solemnity more befitting
explorers. The jealous Marcus had not now so much cause of complaint
against the Prince, yet he did not recover his liveliness of
disposition. He paddled along at his post of duty, looking neither
to the right nor to the left, saying never a word, but evidently
thinking very hard.

As he appeared to be of a very simple and gentle nature, I could but
sympathize with him in his present trouble. There could be no doubt
that he looked upon his hopes of happiness as forever gone. He had
discovered his lady-love to be mercenary—her mind carried away by the
Prince’s lavish expenditure of beads, ribbons, and jewelry; and all
this for a young foreigner with a fair face, who could neither shoot
a seal, nor go in a kayak, nor cast a spear! It was altogether most
unaccountable. He seemed to be all the time, and naturally enough,
comparing himself with his rival, to the great disparagement, of
course, of the said rival, else he would not have been a lover, and
with great wonderment as to what she possibly could see to admire in
the other man. That Concordia meant to run off to America, Marcus
evidently did not have a doubt, and his face seemed to indicate
at times that he was capable of any deed of desperation in order
to prevent so dire a catastrophe. Should he spear him, or put a
bullet through him, or any thing of that sort? Especially did his
countenance assume a malignant expression when, upon the homeward
journey, the coquette would break out with her favorite song, the
chorus of which was, “Tesseinowah, tesseinowah,” repeated over and
over again. At this the Prince always manifested great delight, while
Marcus grew correspondingly gloomy.

When we had at length reached Julianashaab, and had thanked the good
pastor, to whom we were so much indebted, and had said “good-night”
to our oarswomen, I took the unhappy Marcus aside to condole with
him. “Are you not,” said I, “son of the head man of Bungetak?”

“Ab,” said Marcus, and I thought a glow of satisfaction overspread
his features at being reminded of his superior parentage.

“Concordia is very pretty,” I continued.

“Ab!” said Marcus again, his countenance falling at the recollection
of his previous hopes and present discomfiture.

I asked him, “Do you know what pretty girls do in my country?”

“Na-mik” (no), he answered, his countenance falling still more at the
further mention of the pretty girl that he had lost.

“When the pretty girl has the chance, she always marries the son of
the head man,” said I.

Then his countenance assumed a joyous expression, and he went his way
with a smile, which said plainly that, if he thought it was not much
to be Marcus, it was good to be the son of the head man of Bungetak.

                            CHAPTER XII.

                     THE CHURCH AT JULIANASHAAB.

The day following our return from Krakortok being Sunday, I gladly
availed myself of Mr. Anthon’s invitation to attend service at his
little church.

Julianashaab is not at any time a particularly lively place, but
there is sufficient activity during six days of the week to make the
silence of the seventh very marked. Solemnly silent it was to me,
as I landed on the beach, and then, beside the stream which flows
through the town, made my way towards the temple dedicated to God
among the majestic hills. The people, savage and civilized alike, had
rested from their labors—the fishermen from their lines and nets; the
hunters from their search after game in the valleys; the sound of
the cooper’s hammer, and the ring of the blacksmith’s anvil were no
longer heard; even the voices of the inhabitants seemed to be hushed,
as if awed by the presence of that divinely ordained day which, it is
commanded, shall be remembered and kept holy.

It was delightfully calm; the sun gave a pleasant autumnal warmth to
the atmosphere; and altogether it was one of those peaceful Sunday
mornings which one enjoys so much at home in the country, when the
mind instinctively dwells upon the wonders of nature, and the very
soul goes out to the great universal Father whose dwelling-place is
everywhere, and whose presence is nowhere felt more strongly than
amidst the solemn grandeur of the cloud-piercing hills.

As I approached the church, the only sounds that greeted me were
those made by the tumbling waters of the brook until I came very
near, when the sweet music of an organ rose above the voice of the
glad stream. It was a most agreeable surprise; for I had hardly
expected to find here in Greenland any such artificial means of
inspiring religious feeling. How far this circumstance may have had
an influence with me I can not say; but certain it is, I would not
exchange the memory of the notes of that little organ of the small
Julianashaab church, as I first caught them there on that peaceful
Sunday morning in that Greenland dell, for those of any other
church-organ that I ever heard. Afterwards, when I had taken my seat
among the congregation, the effect was not the less pleasing as I
listened to the voices of the choir, and reflected that they were
the voices of God’s children, who, through the instrumentality of
Christian love, had been reclaimed from barbarism.

As sometimes happens elsewhere, a large majority of the worshippers
were women. They generally appeared to be inspired with a devout
feeling, which even the presence of strangers could not disturb, and
they sang the hymns in a manner peculiarly agreeable.

The Esquimaux language is by no means lacking in euphonious sounds,
and, as pronounced by a native, is often music itself. Mr. Anthon
had caught the accent and pronunciation perfectly, and the entire
service, sermon included, was in the common tongue—a language
peculiar to the Esquimaux, and the same with all the tribes.

The organ of the little church is of the quaint device of a hundred
years ago, having been presented to the mission by Queen Juliana, in
recognition of the compliment paid her by the naming of the town. A
native played it with reasonable skill, and the catechist led the
singing, in which the entire congregation joined with a good voice.

I have never seen a congregation pay closer attention to their pastor
than these rude people paid to Mr. Anthon. They seemed eager for
instruction, and drank in his every word. The sermon was well adapted
to the minds of a people exposed to the dangers of the sea, as they
are continually. As I sat looking at their upturned faces, I could
not but reflect upon the great change that had come over the people
who subdued the Northmen. Then they were steeped in the worst form of
barbarous superstition. Earth, sea, and air were peopled with horrid
spirits; now the love of Christ rules in every heart, and they are
all, without exception, converts to the Christian faith.

As a specimen of their language, I quote a stanza from one of the
hymns sung (with a literal translation appended), which no doubt my
readers will find no difficulty in singing for themselves.

    Aut nellekangitsok,          That blood, that inestimable,
    Pirsaunekangarpok,           Hath a very great power;
    Kuttingub attausingut,       A single drop,
    Innuit nunametut,            The men that are upon earth,
    Annau-sinna-kullugit         That it has power to redeem them
    Kringarsairsub karnanit.     From the cruel hater’s jaws.

Another, which was an exhortation to all men to come to Jesus, began

                        Jesuse innulerkipok.”

The services ended, I went with Mr. Anthon to the parsonage, and
passed the greater part of the day with his agreeable family. The
pastor himself has devoted much attention to gathering the traditions
and legends of the people, and in his recital of them I found much

                            CHAPTER XIII.

                       A GREENLAND PARLIAMENT.

The condition of the Esquimaux has not only improved spiritually
since they arrived in Greenland, but they have improved in their
temporal affairs as well. Formerly they led a purely nomadic life,
and dressed solely in the skins of wild beasts; now they live in
permanent communities, and have adopted the habits and, in some
measure, the costume of civilized men. Unlike many savage peoples,
the introduction of the forms of civilization among them has not been
attended with any corresponding mischief; a circumstance due, in a
great measure, if not wholly, to the paternal care of the Danish
Government, aided by the missionaries. That care, beginning with the
missionary, Hans Egede, has been continued with much skill by his
successors, and by none more conspicuously than Dr. H. J. Rink, who
has passed a considerable portion of his life in the country, and
was, until lately, Royal Inspector for the Southern Districts.

The principal feature of Dr. Rink’s administration is the Parliament
of natives; and in the establishment of this arrangement Dr. Rink
has earned as much credit for skilled benevolence as he had before
acquired for scientific explorations; and his efforts are entitled to
the highest encomiums.

The civil organization of Greenland is very simple. The six northern
districts constitute the Northern Inspectorate, the inspector’s
residence being at Godhavn; the six southern constitute the Southern
Inspectorate, with the inspector’s residence at Godthaab. Each
inspector’s authority is absolute throughout his jurisdiction,
and there is no appeal, except to the home government, against his
decisions and decrees; but each district within the Inspectorate
has certain privileges of its own, granted by the royal will. These
privileges are exercised by the Parliament, which is based upon the
principle that every native is a subject of Denmark, and amenable to
Danish law. Happily, in the administration of that law the people
themselves are not denied a voice.

The idea of a Greenland Parliament struck me as something ludicrous
when I first heard of it; but upon gaining an intimate acquaintance
with its workings, I changed my mind, and became convinced that if
all Parliaments did their work only half as well, the world would be
better governed.

The population of Greenland at the present time equals about 7000
souls—an average to each of the twelve districts of near 600. In the
district of Julianashaab there are about 800 people, distributed,
along the line of its extended coast of a hundred and fifty miles,
in a number of small settlements, all pitched either upon the shore
of the main-land or some outlying island (it must be borne in mind
that the interior is nowhere inhabitable), at some point where there
is a convenient harbor. These are all outposts of the capital town
of Julianashaab, and their affairs are regulated according to orders
received from the governor, or bestyrere, of Julianashaab. Each one
is presided over by a Dane or half-breed, whose principal business is
to keep the Company’s accounts, dispose of the Company’s stores, and
to gather products for the Company’s profit. The stores are brought
annually by ship to Julianashaab, and thence they are distributed to
the various outposts, and, in like manner, the products are gathered
at Julianashaab by the time the ship arrives. These products consist
of stock fish (the cod, dried without salt), eider-down, furs,
seal-skins, and blubber, of which the latter furnishes the chief

The Greenlanders, and not the Danes, do the principal hunting and
fishing. The store-house of the station is the place of trade, and at
certain hours of the day the bestyrere is obliged to have his place
of business open.

Now these Greenlanders, or Esquimaux, are not prone to be governed;
yet the Danish rule is satisfactory to them, and they submit to it
without a murmur, and none the less readily that they have a voice in
their own affairs. Each little town or hunting-station is at liberty
to send up a representative to sit in the Parliament of Julianashaab.
The number of representatives is twelve. The names of the most
important towns besides the capital are Nenortalik, Fredericksdal,
Lichtenau (these two latter are missions of the Moravian Brethren),
Igalliko, and Kraksimeut.

The Parliament-house is not an imposing edifice. I should say its
dimensions are about sixteen by twenty feet. It is one story high,
is built of boards, lined on the inside, and painted blue, and on
the outside is plastered over with pitch. It has no lobby for the
accommodation of people who come to the capital with axes for the
public grindstone, nor committee-rooms for the better confusion of
the public business.

In the centre of the one room there stands a long table of plain
pine boards, and along either side there is one long bench of
the same material; and on each bench sit six Parliamentarians,
dressed in seal-skin pantaloons and boots, and Guernsey frocks,
with broad suspenders across their shoulders. The faces of these
Parliamentarians are all of a very dusky hue, the color of their
hair is very black, and it does not seem to have any greater
familiarity with combs and brushes than their faces with soap and
towels. However, they are an amiable-looking party—at least they grin
and show their fine white teeth when I enter, and are altogether,
perhaps, quite clean enough for ordinary Parliamentary work. Every
man of them has a pencil in his hand and a piece of paper on the
table before him, and each one is as busy taking notes thereon as
some of our own honorable members are said to be in taking “notes” of
another description.


But I must not neglect to mention one article of the Parliamentary
costume, for it shines out so conspicuously that it _must_ be
noticed—I mean the official cap (always worn when the House is in
session), which is supplied to each member by royal bounty. This cap
is of the brightest kind of scarlet cloth, with a broad gilt band
around it; the royal emblems are emblazoned in front, and above these
there is a golden polar bear, with a crown on his head, standing
uncomfortably on his hind legs, to typify Greenland. There is a
thirteenth cap at the head of the table, and this thirteenth cap
covers the head of the genial Mr. Anthon, pastor of Julianashaab, and
president of the Julianashaab Parliament, _ex officio_.

The aggregate amount of dignity possessed by this Parliament was
quite wonderful, and was, in truth, as overwhelming as the fishy
odor with which it was impregnated. But neither the fishy odor nor
the dignity appeared to interfere with the transaction of business;
on the contrary, they seemed to be working away like beavers, and,
indeed, they disposed of matters with such an amazing degree of
promptness, that I fell instantly to wondering whether dignity would
not be a good thing to introduce into Parliaments, Congresses,
Assemblies, and such like things generally; and as to the fishy
atmosphere, I have no doubt that it was quite as wholesome as the
atmosphere of some of our own legislative halls, where lobbyists are
so thick about the doors and avenues, that all the purity which ever
does go in is soon done for. Of the kind of business brought before
this dignified tribunal, I will give a few samples.

The first was a petition for relief. The petitioner himself stood
there in person, looking the very picture of forlorn destitution. He
stated that he had lost his canoe (_kayak_), and he produced evidence
enough to show, without any swearing, false or otherwise, that it had
been crushed and lost in the ice. The man, who had hardly clothes on
his back to cover his nakedness, showed further that he had a wife
and family, who had no friends to assist them, and were entirely
dependent upon himself for support. I thought it a doubtful support
at best, and so appeared to think the Parliament, since they voted
an order for a small stipend of food and clothing, as per schedule,
to be drawn by the wife from the public store-house, and paid for
out of the Parliamentary funds. The man was sent to work in the
Government blubber-house, at twenty-two skillings (eleven cents) a

The next case was similar in character, only the petitioner was a
well-known young hunter who had lost his kayak by a fearful accident,
which had nearly cost him his life as well as boat, and from the
effects of which he had barely now recovered. All that I could
comprehend was that some of his ribs had been stove in. The case
being proven, the question before Parliament was whether they should
grant him relief, which was unanimously voted in the affirmative. How
much? was the next question. After thirteen pencils had ciphered for
a minute or so, they made it out fourteen dollars (seven American)
for material for the kayak, four dollars for harpoon, spear, etc.,
and six to pay debts contracted at the Government store-house for
necessary comforts during his sickness.

A third case was that of an old man who received one dollar to buy a
spear with; another was from a man who had a family of girls, and no
oomiak. He received twenty-four dollars, one-half of which he was to
refund within two years. One hunter got a rifle on the same terms. A
sick woman obtained some flannel for a shirt; some orphan children,
an order for bread; a widow, the means to bury her dead husband.

These, and a number more of similar character, were soon disposed of.
Some of the cases were represented by proxy, the applicant residing
at Nenortalik or other distant outpost, whence to come would be
difficult; others presented their petitions in person. Some appeals
were thrown out in part, or altogether; but these were very few, for
public opinion is strong in Greenland, and a lofty sense of pride
prevents begging, except in the last extremity. In the case, however,
of the kayak and the oomiak there was presented a prospect of future
public advantage; for, in encouraging these people by providing them
with boats, the public revenues are increased by their adding to the
public industry. Thus do we see that as “village Hampdens” and “mute,
inglorious Miltons” may sometimes lie in the village church-yard, so
savage legislators and lawgivers may be Solons and Adam Smiths all in
one, and they not know any thing about it, and the world be none the

And thus we see these Greenland Parliaments serve an excellent
purpose. They take care of the poor; they render assistance to the
unfortunate; they provide certain means of punishing the indolent
and guilty; they reward the industrious; and when they have finished
with their business, they adjourn, and go home to do their talking;
and what more do you want with a Parliament? Nobody, certainly, would
desire them to vote away millions of acres of the public lands; for,
although they might very well do so without injury to any body, there
are no dangerous corporations to be benefited thereby, and no public
interests to be sacrificed by such procedure, and therefore no motive.

I was much interested in their manner of encouraging industry. The
system is regulated on an increased valuation of all products of the
hunt and fishery brought to the public store-house after a certain
figure has been reached. Then follows a sliding scale of prices,
which at the maximum is double the ordinary standard.

The punishments are confined to fines, to be deducted at a certain
percentage, until paid, from every thing the hunter sells to the
Government; and the means of collection are quite effectual; for,
unless the criminal comes into the arrangements of his plan as
decreed by Parliament, he is wholly excluded from any participation
in the benefits of the colony; that is to say, he is not allowed
to buy or trade for any thing—neither a rifle, ammunition, bread,
coffee, sugar, nor tobacco—a penalty against which no one was ever
known to hold out long. Cases of actual crime are rare. If the
offense should be a capital one, or one involving the sentence of a
court of justice, the offender, or supposed offender, is sent home
for trial to Denmark. But one case falling under this head came to
my knowledge. This was a young mother suspected of infanticide.
The child that would have dishonored her was found upon a rock
whence the tide would soon have carried it off, had not some prying
individual there discovered it and taken it to the village, where it
was interred. The young woman was charged with having destroyed it.
She confessed that it was hers, but that it was dead when born; and
since she could not bury it, and could not bear to throw it into the
sea herself, she placed it on the rock and hid herself away, that
she might not see it disappear. Her story was accepted on the simple
ground of the unnaturalness of the crime charged; for the love of
the mother for her offspring among these Greenlanders is wonderfully
strong. What would our ancestors of a few hundred years back have
said to being hauled up for an act like this, when they had not only
natural law, as they thought, but human law as well, to support them
in “exposure of infants,” when they were either too poor or too lazy
to provide for all the little ones that were brought into the world?

The funds for the disbursements above mentioned are provided
liberally by the Danish Government—not directly, but indirectly—so
that the system works to mutual advantage. For instance, the price
paid, according to Government, at the public store-room for a
seal-skin is, say ten cents, and for the fox-skin fifty cents; which
amounts are paid, either in money or in kind, to the hunter, who
goes away well satisfied. To this payment the Government then adds
a further payment of twenty per cent.—that is, two cents on the
seal-skin and ten cents on the fox-skin, which is credited to the
Parliamentary account; and so on for every barrel of blubber or other
article. Thus, if the cost price of the products of the district of
Julianashaab should reach fifteen thousand dollars, the Parliament
would have a fund of three thousand to dispense in charities and
benefits. This sum bears no relation, however, to the commercial
value of the several articles in the Copenhagen market. For there
a fox-skin, which is worth in Greenland one Danish dollar (nearly
equalling our half-dollar), is worth in Copenhagen from ten to
thirty; and most of the other products swell in the same proportion
during the voyage across the Atlantic. So in like manner, though
not in the same degree, the value of a pound of bread increases on
the voyage from Copenhagen to Greenland. Yet such are the expenses
attendant upon the transportation, the keeping up of special
Greenland bureaus at home, the wear and tear of the sixteen ships
of their fleet, and the cost of the Mission, that, notwithstanding
this arrangement of values, the Royal Greenland Fishing and Trading
Company turns in a very small sum annually to the royal treasury.
Some years they actually run behind. And so it comes about that,
since there is not much in the best of times to be squeezed out of
this Land of Desolation, the Company simply suffers its business to
go on in the old even tenor of its ways—every thing systematic and
orderly, its ships neat and well disciplined, its officers honest and
capable, its sailors well drilled for any emergency that may call
them into the naval service, the mission schools and the churches
well kept up. If by this means a few officers are provided with small
but sufficient salaries, and a number of people are supplied with
comfortable livings (and are sure of a pension if disabled, and their
families provided for when they die), surely no great harm is done to
any body if the Danish Government is not greatly enriched; while, on
the other hand, seven thousand human beings, but for this admirable
system, instead of living in the light of Christian civilization, and
in the enjoyment of its benefits, would still be steeped in that same
condition of barbarism that their forefathers were when they overran
the fair villages of the ancient Northmen. To-day the two races live
in perfect harmony, and in mutual dependence on each other. A single
Dane may be surrounded by a hundred descendants of the murdering and
revengeful Krassippe, and is encouraged by them in every thing he may
attempt to do.

These all seem like homely practices; but then it must be borne in
mind that Greenland is a long way off, and the Danes are a gallant
people. I do not believe there is any other country in the world
that would maintain colonies and support missions without some
prospective advantage to themselves. There is one prohibitory act,
which the Company exercises in all these colonies, which I can not
refrain from mentioning before I quit this interesting subject. It
is the commendable policy which they pursue in absolutely excluding
that villainous “fire-water,” that has played such a conspicuous part
in the demoralization and destruction of our own Indians. Once a
year only are the people allowed to smile at the bottom of an empty
glass. This is on the king’s birthday, when every able-bodied man in
Greenland is allowed to march up to the Government store-room, there
to receive, each in his turn, a glass of “schnapps,” which he drains
to the health and happiness of the mighty _Nalegaksoak_ who occupies
the Danish throne. The women are excluded; but a man may kiss his
wife just when he pleases, without offense to any body; and, while in
the act, he may drop from his own capacious maw (like the cooing dove
that feeds its mate within the cot) whatever portion of the king’s
bounty he may feel inclined to spare, and nobody be any the wiser for
it; nor can any body be much hurt, as the schnapps glass is none of
the largest, and the wife’s portion is not likely to be more than the

A system which is thus kept so well under control, with the niceties
of administration so carefully preserved, could hardly be otherwise
than successful. In fact, I do not see that any thing of human
devising could better suit the purpose of its founding than this
Greenland Company, which transacts business and does good works under
the name and title of “Kongelige Grönlandske Handel, i Kiöbenhavn.”

It was founded in the year 1781, much upon the same plan as that of
the Hudson Bay Company. The whole trade of Greenland is, through this
Company, an absolute monopoly of the Crown, and a foreigner is not
allowed to trade to the value of a skilling with Dane or Esquimaux—a
system which all the better enables the benevolent intentions of the
Government to be carried out, as spirits and other hurtful articles
can be excluded from the country. The Company is controlled by a
Directory in Copenhagen (Kiöbenhavn properly); and to its present
presiding officer, Herr Justitsraad C. S. M. Olrik, knight of
Dannebrog, and formerly the enlightened and genial Inspector of North
Greenland, the Company’s increasing prosperity and usefulness are
largely due.

                            CHAPTER XIV.

                          A GREENLAND BALL.

Monday was occupied by our party in a very agreeable and profitable
manner—by the photographers especially, who, early in the day, took
possession of one of the governor’s rooms, and photographed the whole
town and nearly every body in it. The following day was fixed upon
for our departure; but the only pilot in the place was otherwise
employed, and we were forced to wait until he was ready for us. In
short, he was bringing in another vessel, and one of infinitely more
importance to Julianashaab than any number of _Panthers_. It was the
one ship of the year, a ship bringing to the colonists their supplies
for the next twelve months, and was to return home laden with the
wealth which they had gathered.

I do not remember any thing in all my experience in Greenland that
has left a stronger impression upon my mind than the arrival of this
ship, nor any thing which made the isolation of the Danes who dwelt
there so apparent. In these days of telegraphs, and steamships,
and quick transit everywhere, it is rather painful to contemplate
civilized, refined, and Christian families being a whole year without
once hearing from the world. To be sure, it has its advantages, for
they are saved many annoyances, and are spared the everlasting bore
of writing letters for the mail. But then, what hopes and fears the
mail must come charged with when it comes but once a year! with what
almost terrible anxiety they must look for news from home! what
changes may have taken place in the year gone by! what may Death
not have done with the loved ones in that long interval! Fathers and
mothers, brothers, sisters, and friends, are sending tokens by that
winged messenger across the sea; but what if they should be sad ones,
and not those they hoped for?

When the announcement was made that the ship was in the offing, the
excitement was at first intense, and the hours of the day while the
ship was coming up the fiord, with baffling winds, were most anxious
ones. Of course, there were many exceptions. Indeed, the people
generally could have no other possible interest in the arrival of
the ship than the mere selfish one of what they would gain thereby.
I speak only of those Danish residents who were bred in Denmark, and
whose friends dwell there now. To these, the arrival had something in
it of a painful character, mingled with anticipated pleasure. Hope
and fear seemed alternately to prevail in the breasts of the families
of the governor, the pastor, and the doctor.

Meanwhile, every boat in the settlement had gone down to assist
in towing up the ship; and at length the sound of splashing oars
was heard upon the still night air; then voices were distinguished
calling to each other or issuing the word of command. Soon, above
the rocky point of the harbor, we saw the tops of two masts, with
their black yards, creeping nearer and nearer; then a vessel burst
in view, through the brilliant moonlight. The ship was now pointed
for the harbor, and was coming slowly up beside us, towed by half a
dozen boats, and surrounded by a swarm of men in their little kayaks,
shouting, talking, and gesticulating, in their exuberant happiness.

I stood upon the _Panther’s_ deck watching this scene of animation,
until the anchor had gone into the phosphorescent sea with its
unearthly “cr-r-r-r-r-r-r-up.” The mooring-lines were soon all out
and made fast. The crowd of people then left the sea, and no sounds
were heard but the orders on board the newly-arrived vessel for
stowing the sails and making every thing snug on board. Then I heard
people getting down into a boat; the oars were splashing again, and,
as I traced the streak of phosphorescent light that trailed away and
lengthened as the boat receded, I knew that it was carrying ashore
the mail, with all its freight of words.

The vessel proved to be the _Tjalfe_, one of the best of the
Company’s vessels—a brig of three hundred tons, and as taut and tidy
as a man-of-war. I had a visit from her master in the morning, and
was rejoiced to find in him an old friend, to whom, in 1855, when I
had escaped with Dr. Kane from the abandoned brig _Advance_, I was
indebted for many serviceable attentions—Captain Ammondsen, one of
the most tried and trusty servants of the Royal Company.

Upon going ashore in the morning with Captain Ammondsen, I was
pleased to learn that every body’s letters brought good news. We
found them in a wilderness of papers, and books, and packages,
containing every conceivable thing that thoughtful friends would
think of sending to cheer and gladden lives that must be at times
overwhelmed with loneliness. It was very touching to see these
evidences of remembrance scattered about, and very gratifying to be
a partaker of the general joy. Photographs were there by the dozen;
one of a little stranger that had come into the world within the
twelvemonth, and sent his compliments and his picture; another, of a
newly-married couple, who looked peculiarly happy for people who had
been married nearly six months, and sent their picture in proof of
it; another was from an aged mother; another, from a brother who had
gone into the army; another, from a boy at school. I went from house
to house, and everywhere it was the same. Happiness was universal;
and it really seemed as if solitude might be “sweet society,” if
retirement brought such occasional bliss: only, the retirement of a
year for the sake of the emotion is a little too much for ordinary

As for the people in general, they were delighted beyond expression.
Nothing but the presence of actual starvation could possibly have
induced any hunter to go out at such a time. Shouting and singing
were the order of the day. The harbor was alive with their cunning
little kayaks, shooting hither and thither, the boatmen indulging
themselves in the most ludicrous speech and gesture, by way of
exhibiting their satisfaction, not only at the arrival of the Danish
ship, but that two vessels were in the harbor at one time—a sight
which they had never seen before. Then, to cap the climax, when the
evening came they would have a dance. Every body was invited, and, of
course, none of the sailors of the two ships made any objection to a
frolic of that nature. They had not shared the people’s satisfaction
in the least; they would be glad enough, on the other hand, to be
anywhere else almost; but a dance! what sailor could resist that? And
as for our officers and passengers, all were alike ready for a little
fun, to break the monotony of life, either as actors or spectators,
and willing to take a hand in any thing that might be turning up.

I asked the governor if there was nothing to be feared from letting
two ships’ companies loose among the peaceful villagers, where
there were no police to take rude fellows into custody? “Oh no,” he
answered, “not in the least; let them come. If the men are rude, the
women will take care of themselves, I promise you; and if not, they
have big brothers plenty. Have no fear; there are no more modest
women in the world than these Greenland girls, and sailors are
notoriously quick to detect honesty, and, when found, to respect it.”

So a dance was arranged for, or a “ball,” as our people facetiously
called it. The carpenter-shop was secured for the occasion, and a
neighboring shed for a supper-room; and the preparations went on
all the afternoon. The orchestra of Julianashaab (consisting of a
dilapidated keg with heads of tanned seal-hide, and the cracked
fiddle already mentioned) was secured, and all was ready by eight
o’clock, when I went ashore to see the opening.

The decorations of the ball-room in the way of flags, and Danish and
American bunting generally, were astonishing to the natives. Candles
were stuck around the room in reckless profusion. Maria had about a
bushel of coffee, which she was roasting and boiling in the shed. The
whole village was in commotion. Women in red boots, women in white
boots, women in blue, and green, and yellow boots, were hurrying to
the ball-room from every quarter. They had all turned out in their
very best, and some of the toilets were, to say the least, stunning.
Boots, beads, pantaloons, and ribbons were all of the gayest and
the finest. The maidens and matrons of Julianashaab sustained the
credit of their sex; and they showed, too, that they were conscious
of appearing to better advantage than usual; for they looked about
with less timidity than on ordinary occasions, as if to say, “Look
at me _now_, and see what I _can_ do when a great occasion makes it
worth my while.” Several of them were pretty, and quite stylish, and
certainly this is saying much, for their peculiar style of costume
is rather trying to the ordinary female figure. As for dancing, no
costume could possibly be more suitable, and, when on the floor,
its advantages were quite apparent, for I have rarely seen dancers
that were more light and graceful in their movements. I would not,
however, be understood to recommend the dress for general adoption by
dancing girls.

The confidence with which the ladies approached the ball-room seemed
to forsake them when they had got inside and there awaited the men;
for the moment they had passed the door they darted to the remotest
corner, where they all huddled together as close as they could
pack themselves, like a flock of frightened sheep run one by one
into a pen. The men did not keep them long in this state of timid
embarrassment; but they seemed, however, to be in no very particular
hurry, sauntering along quite leisurely, with their hands in their
pockets, and short clay pipes in their mouths. Most of them were
capless, and none of them seemed to have thought of “dressing” for
the occasion, except the Parliamentarians, who, out of respect for
their own dignity (as I suppose), wore the official scarlet on their
heads, royal emblems, gold lace, and all—a top-covering which, taken
in connection with their Guernsey frocks, broad suspenders, and huge
seal-skin pantaloons, coming up under the arm-pits, made a style of
official get-up not, I fancy, to be seen in any other country. Yet
the lord chancellor wears his frizzled wig, and why not they their
scarlet caps?

The sailors came ashore from the two ships, jabbering away at each
other quite frantically, in Danish and English; and the officers and
passengers came likewise.

But where was Concordia the while, and where was the Prince? for they
were to open the ball. The question was asked repeatedly, and as
often remained unanswered. Whispers began to pass around the room.
Had there been an elopement? Marcus was there, trying hard to look
unconcerned by smoking a short clay pipe, and keeping his hands in
their usual place of safety. Every body seemed to look to him for

At length the mystery was cleared up, and very suddenly, for the
Prince came bouncing into the room holding Concordia by the hand. The
arrival created a sensation. Concordia was literally dazzling. The
Prince had clearly been assisting at her toilet. She was covered with
beads and jewelry. A magnificent plaid shawl which the Prince had
sported through the voyage, and which had two days before suddenly
disappeared, now reappeared in the shape of a jaunty jacket, trimmed
with eider-down, on Concordia’s graceful shoulders. And then, what
shining pantaloons of the softest silver seal-skin! what spotless,
snow-white boots inclosed her dainty little feet! But the Prince—ah!
what a stunning get-up, to be sure! Sea-boots matching Concordia’s
for length, if not in purity of color; a bright scarf across his
shoulders and around his waist; a Scotch cap, with a dissipated
feather in it—what a picture for a ball-room! No wonder that Marcus
grew several shades lighter in color; no wonder that his pipe fell
out of his mouth and broke in pieces on the floor; no wonder that
he stole out of the room as if the place were too hot for him, and
should show himself no more in the ball-room that night!

“Strike up!” shouted the Prince, bringing down a sea-boot on the
floor. “Rat-tat-a-tat” went the keg, “cr-r-r-p cr-r-r-p cr-r-r-p”
went the cracked fiddle, and then both went in to do their best and
win; but the keg, having got the lead, kept it, and the cracked
fiddle was nowhere. When both had become well warmed up in the
race, the Prince brought down his sea-boot again, making the old
carpenter-shop fairly quake and tremble; then, with a shout which
was probably taken for an American war-whoop, he seized Concordia by
the waist; others followed his example, and never did “Pop goes the
Weasel” do duty before to such a whirl as followed.


The ball was opened! The Prince and Concordia had gracefully done
their duty, and satisfied the public expectation. They had given
countenance to the revelry, and the revelry went on. To say that it
never stopped, would be to exaggerate; but to say that it never would
have stopped had there been something of what Dick Swiveller called
“the rosy,” might possibly be, to speak the truth, within bounds. The
revellers certainly made “a night of it,” if a night ever was made in
a Greenland summer. As it was, the coffee had all given out, a whole
box of tobacco had disappeared, the keg had resolved itself into its
original staves, and the cracked fiddle had but one string left, and
that had been twice tied, when the ladies, with their beautiful boots
all knocked out of shape, began to drag their weary bodies off to
their huts, and the sailors, with their coats on their arms, hailed
for boats.

Meanwhile, much consternation had been produced by a report which was
set in circulation, that a Parliamentarian had danced himself away,
all but his cap; and a girl had, in like manner, disappeared, all
but a ribbon. The consternation was allayed, however, when it was
discovered that the two had stolen away together, and were getting
married at the parson’s.

Marcus never appeared again in the ball-room after his discomfiture;
but I saw him crawling in the shadow of a rock, where he could look
through the door and catch an occasional glimpse of his lady-love
as she swung round in the Prince’s arms. He beckoned me to him, and
whispered in my ear, pointing to the gay and festive room from which
the bright light was streaming out into the night, “He no good;
me” (pointing to his breast) “son of head man of Bungetak.” Saying
which, he smiled in a self-satisfied and “bland-like” manner, and
immediately drew himself deep within the shadow of the rock. Then I
went my way on board, marvelling how very much a man was half-savage

As this was my last visit ashore, I had bidden my friends good-bye,
after exchanging some little souvenirs with them. Early in the
morning the anchor was tripped, and we were away. The little town
in the wilderness was at our backs, and we were threading once more
the winding fiord among the islands and icebergs, rejoiced at having
seen a spot of earth so full of romantic associations; had beheld its

        “Trod upon them, and had set
    Our foot upon a rev’rend history.”

        “But these recede. Above me are the Alps,
         The palaces of Nature, whose vast walls
         Have pinnacled in clouds their snowy scalps,
         And throned Eternity in icy halls
         Of cold sublimity, where forms and falls
         The avalanche—the thunderbolt of snow!
         All that expands the spirit, yet appalls,
         Gather around these summits, as to show
    How Earth may pierce to Heaven, yet leave vain man below.”
                                                 _Childe Harold._

                         _PART THE SECOND._
                         PALACES OF NATURE.

                             CHAPTER I.

                            ICE AND SNOW.

In the previous chapters we have traced the history of the
Norman-Greenlanders from their first appearance to their decay. We
have witnessed their early struggles, have observed them in their
prosperity, and have stood beside the ruined edifices erected by
their hands, and read there a mournful story of a fallen race.

Upon the causes of their fall we have, however, barely speculated.
Among them all, none possess an interest to equal that one mighty
cause which has been silently working there for countless ages.
Beside those determined Northmen, Nature herself was erecting
edifices which, by destroying the life-giving heat of the atmosphere,
paved the way for poverty and death. With just propriety we may call
these edifices palaces of Nature; and now to examine them will be
our task. To do that, we leave the fiord of “the deserted homes” and
steam into one that lies to the north of it. This is called the fiord
of Sermitsialik, which signifies “the place of ice.”

And here we will witness phenomena such as are not to be witnessed
elsewhere in the whole known world. These phenomena exhibit results
grand beyond any thing in or upon the earth, not excepting the
earthquake and volcano.

This fiord of the ice is about of equal length with that of the
“deserted homes.” The two are separated from each other by a
mountain-ridge which culminates in the Redkammen. The same ridge
continues to the south, and, reaching the sea again, incloses the
region of Ericsfiord, and the little earthly paradise where dwelt the
kings of the sea in ancient times.

The mountain-ridge which thus encircles Ericsfiord like a horse-shoe
has no break in it, and it is therefore a barrier. Northward of it
there is another great ridge, and between the two there is a wide
valley. This valley comes down to the sea at the head of the fiord of
Sermitsialik, but it is not green like the valleys that lie beneath
the shelter of the ridge of the Redkammen, but is filled with ice.
This ice is in places more than a thousand feet in depth, and from
two to four miles wide—occupying the valley completely.

The ice which thus fills the valley is called a glacier.
_Ice-stream_, however, the Danes distinguish it, thus marking the
difference between it and the _eis blinken_, which we call the _mer
de glace_, or ice-sea.

The ice-sea is the great reservoir of ice which covers the interior
of Greenland, and the glacier of the fiord of Sermitsialik is but
a branch—a stream—that descends from it through the valley to the
fiord. It is one of many hundreds of similar streams which are to be
seen upon the Greenland coast, and by which the precipitations from
the atmosphere are discharged into the ocean. They correspond to the
rivers of other lands. These precipitations are in the form of snow.
The air, which dispenses heat and cold, drought and moisture, life
and death to the uttermost ends of the earth, is not neglectful of
Greenland. The air soaks up the vapor from the sea, and drops it as
snow-flakes upon the sides and summits of the Greenland mountains.
These snow-flakes harden to ice, and the process goes on until the
mountains are covered, as Mont Blanc of the Alps is covered, and the
ice flowing down their sides has filled the lower lands between them.
In many places this process has so long continued, that the valleys
between the mountains here and there have become level with the
summits of the mountains themselves, and there is a desert waste of
whiteness, smooth almost as the sea, as void of life as Sahara, and
more dreary to look upon.

I ascended once to such a level plane, reaching eighty miles from
the coast, at an altitude of five thousand feet. This ascent was
upon the glacier, at an angle, when I first set out, of about six
degrees with the horizon; but afterwards, upon the _mer de glace_,
it was by a scarcely perceptible acclivity. Unhappily I was set upon
by a tempest. The temperature sank to thirty-four degrees below
zero, having steadily fallen to that point as I climbed higher and
higher in the air. Nothing could possibly be more terrible than a
wind under such conditions, except, perhaps, a furnace-blast. Mercury
hardened almost to the consistency of lead. The moisture of the
breath froze on the beard in solid lumps of ice. The nose and cheeks
grew white, and life was in danger. The drifting snow which came
whirling along the icy plain was like the sand-clouds of the desert,
which oftentimes overwhelm travellers. There was no chance for life
except in flight. I was accompanied by five persons, who were all
less accustomed to such exposure than myself. We turned our backs to
the wind, and descended as rapidly as possible to the level of the
sea, where the temperature was zero, at which degree of cold life is
supported without inconvenience.

It would be difficult to inflict upon a man greater torture than
to expose him to such a storm. The effect, after a time, is to
make life undesirable. First comes alarm, then pain, then lack of
perception. When one dies from freezing, it is the brain which first
suffers eclipse. True, the cold has not solidified it, but has made
it torpid, like certain animals in the winter-time, with which one
may do any thing and they will not resist, being quite incapable of
receiving an impression. One of my comrades said, “I can not go any
farther; I do not want to; I am sleepy; I can not walk.” Another
said, “I am no longer cold; I am quite warm again; shall we not
camp?” This proved that there was the greater need of haste and
exertion, if we would not all be destroyed.

The whole continent of Greenland is, say, 1200 miles long by 600
broad. This gives 720,000 square miles of superficial area, and,
assuming the ice, which covers the greater part of it, to have the
very moderate average depth of 500 feet, we have a grand total of
70,000 cubic miles of ice—a result which seems almost fabulous.

It is not uninteresting to know that all this vast accumulation of
ice is the property of Denmark. And there are probably few persons
who understand fully the loss we suffered when we failed to purchase
from that country the earthquake island of St. Thomas; for it was
then in contemplation, should the Senate ratify the treaty of
annexation, to open negotiations for buying up all these Greenland
glaciers and the Iceland Yokuls besides. And there can be little
doubt that the Danish king would have gladly sold out the whole of
them. A king who does not appreciate the value of an earthquake can
hardly be expected to bestow his confidence on glaciers.

                             CHAPTER II.

                       GLACIERS AND ICEBERGS.

Before proceeding with our narrative we will dwell a little upon
the great phenomena of nature to which the previous chapter called

We have seen that the great sea of ice which covers Greenland,
and makes it the Land of Desolation that it is, is formed from
snow-flakes. That formation takes place only in certain conditions of
temperature, which of course vary with the degrees of latitude.

The formation of glaciers has been for a long time a fruitful source
of speculation among men of science. Into these we will not enter at
any length, for my purpose is rather to give the results of personal
observation and incidents of adventure, than to recite either the
facts or reflections of others. Yet a few words of discussion may not
be here out of place.

Every reader is aware that in the upper regions of the atmosphere the
moisture which is precipitated on the mountain-top assumes the form
of snow, while down at the mountain’s base it is rain. In descending
a mountain nothing is more common than to pass from one condition to
the other—first a storm of dry snow, then moist snow, then water. In
Greenland the snow falls dry. The mountains are lofty, and it never
rains upon them at all. A fresh layer of snow is laid on every year.
Should this continue uninterruptedly, of course the mountains would
rise to an indefinite extent. Enormous quantities break loose and
roll down the mountain-sides in avalanches; but this is but a small
amount in comparison with the deposit. The glaciers are the means of
drainage of these great snow-fields. These snow-fields are turned to
ice by a very simple process, and the ice flows to the sea.

The surface snow on the mountain is white, dry, and light. Deeper
down, it is hard; still deeper, it is clear transparent ice. The
clear ice which forms such grand and beautiful arches of blue and
green in the glaciers as seen along the Greenland coast, was once
powdery snow upon the loftiest mountains, probably in the very
interior of the continent. The transformation is an interesting
process, and the movement of the ice itself from the mountain to the
sea is one of the strange mysteries of nature. With respect to the
former, Professor Tyndall has stated the case so clearly that I can
not refrain from quoting the following passage from his excellent
work entitled “The Glaciers of the Alps:”

  “Could our vision penetrate into the body of the glacier, we
  should find that the change from white to blue essentially
  consists in the gradual expulsion of the air which was originally
  entangled in the meshes of the fallen snow. Whiteness always
  results from the intimate and irregular mixture of air and a
  transparent solid; a crushed diamond would resemble snow. If
  we pound the more transparent rock-salt into powder, we have
  a substance as white as the whitest culinary salt; and the
  colorless glass vessel which holds the salt would also, if
  pounded, give a powder as white as the salt itself. It is a
  law of light that, in passing from one substance to another
  possessing a different power of refraction, a portion of it is
  always reflected. Hence, when light falls upon a transparent
  solid mixed with air, at each passage of light from the air to
  the solid and from the solid to the air, a portion of it is
  reflected; and in the case of a powder, this reflection occurs so
  frequently that the passage of the light is practically cut off.
  Thus, from the mixture of two perfectly transparent substances we
  obtain an opaque one; from the intimate mixture of air and water
  we obtain foam. Clouds owe their opacity to the same principle;
  and the condensed steam of a locomotive casts a shadow upon the
  fields adjacent to the line, because the sunlight is wasted in
  echoes at the innumerable limiting surfaces of water and air.

  “The snow which falls upon high mountain-eminences has often a
  temperature far below the freezing-point of water. Such snow is
  _dry_, and if it always continued so the formation of a glacier
  from it would be impossible. The first action of the summer’s
  sun is to raise the temperature of the superficial snow to 32°,
  and afterwards to melt it. The water thus formed percolates
  through the colder mass underneath, and this I take to be the
  first active agency in expelling the air entangled in the snow.
  But as the liquid trickles over the surfaces of granules colder
  than itself, it is partially deposited in a solid form on the
  surfaces, thus augmenting the size of the granules, and cementing
  them together. When the mass thus formed is examined, the air
  within it is found as _round bubbles_. Now it is manifest that
  the air caught in the irregular interstices of the snow can have
  no tendency to assume this form so long as the snow remains
  solid; but the process to which I have referred—the saturation
  of the lower portions of the snow by the water produced by the
  melting of the superficial portions—enables the air to form
  itself into globules, and to give the ice of the _névé_ its
  peculiar character. Thus we see that, though the sun can not get
  directly at the deeper portions of the snow, by liquefying the
  upper layer he charges it with heat, and makes it a messenger to
  the cold subjacent mass.

  “The frost of the succeeding winter may, I think, or may not,
  according to circumstances, penetrate through this layer, and
  solidify the water which it still retains in its interstices. If
  the winter set in with clear frosty weather, the penetration will
  probably take place; but if heavy snow occur at the commencement
  of winter, thus throwing a protective covering over the _névé_,
  freezing to any great depth may be prevented. Mr. Huxley’s
  idea seems to be quite within the range of possibility, that
  water-cells may be transmitted from the origin of the glacier to
  its end, retaining their contents always liquid.”

We have thus briefly explained the process by which the mountain-snow
changes its character, and, without actually melting and again
freezing, the clearest ice may be formed from it, and go on
accumulating, layer by layer, to an almost inconceivable extent.

I allude now to mountains generally, for Greenland is not the only
ice-factory of the world. That country has by no means a monopoly
of the business, for nearly all parts of the earth have their great
reservoirs of ice formed in the same manner from snow as the ice
of Greenland, only with this difference, that the climate and the
temperature necessary to the formation of glaciers from snow is
higher above the sea-level in most other places than in Greenland.
This climate and temperature are found above what is called the
“snow-line”—that is to say, a line above which the snow does not
disappear in the summer, and is therefore perpetual. At the equator
this snow-line is of course higher than either to the north or south
of that point. Towards both poles it descends steadily. For instance,
on the two great equatorial mountains of Chimborazo and Popocatapetl,
it is about 15,000 feet; above which all is ice and snow, and below
which vegetation, beginning with an arctic type, passes through all
the stages of climate, until at its base we find the rich vegetation
of the tropics. Frequently glaciers from that upper region descend
into the lower regions of vegetation to a considerable distance, but
they are gradually melted away at the end, and can not, therefore,
go beyond a certain line, terminating in, or rather changing from
streams of ice to rivers of water.


By the time we have gone so far north as Greenland we have discovered
a great depression in this snow-line. In latitude 61° north, I have
observed it to be 2400 feet. I have found it to be 1700 feet at
latitude 69°; at latitude 78°, it was 500; and at between 80° and 82°
the snow-line appeared to touch the sea, having no belt whatever for

The piling up of these mountain-snows is like the processes of a
geological epoch in the steady growth by deposit. There is this
difference, however, that ice formed in this manner is not, like
rock, hard and unyielding, but, like putty, is, in a measure,
ductile. In fact, it _flows_ downward, and the superabundant
accumulations find their way thus to the ocean. It is estimated
that the snows of the Alps would increase the altitude of those
mountains four thousand feet in a thousand years but for this strange
ductile property of ice. As we have before seen, an ice-stream is,
in effect, a frozen river, flowing at a very slow, but still at a
very perceptible rate. The rate of flow in the Alps, variously
estimated by different explorers and at different places, where
there were different degrees of descent, is from six to fourteen
inches daily. In Greenland the rate, as determined by me, is about
from five to eight inches daily. The Greenland glaciers possess
another marked difference from those of the Alps. The ends of the
latter, descending into a lower and warmer level, are melted off, and
disappear as the end of a tallow candle would disappear if held near
a hot stove. Before this takes place, the ice, descending through
the valley, conforms to all its inequalities, and the actual river
which ultimately takes its rise from the glacier front does not more
readily mould itself to the rocky bed over which it flows—widening
and contracting, deepening or shoaling as the river-bed expands and
narrows, or increases and diminishes its declination. An ice-stream,
or glacier, like the river, has therefore its cascades, its rapids,
its broad lagoons (so to speak), and its smooth, steady, even flow.
It carries rocks along with it upon its surface (rocks which have
fallen upon it from the cliffs along its sides), as the river carries
sticks of wood and, when the ice melts, these rocks fall in front,
and, rolling down the valley, form _moraines_. But with the Greenland
glaciers the result is different. The end of the glacier never
descends into a level that is warm enough to melt away the end of
it, as in the Alps, but it reaches the sea in all the glory of its
cold and crystal hardness. When this happens, its end penetrates the
water, and makes a coast-line of ice. The temperature of Greenland,
down even to the water-level, is too low to allow of any considerable
melting, but the result is the same. A fragment breaks off from the
glacier and floats away upon the ocean, and is drifted to and fro
with the ocean currents. Rocks which may have fallen upon the glacier
from the cliffs are inclosed within it, or are carried upon the top
of it.

The fragment which has been broken off, as above described, is known
as an _iceberg_. This iceberg is dissolved but slowly as it drifts
south with the arctic current, often reaching as far as the Banks
of Newfoundland before it disappears entirely. Often it endangers
vessels crossing the ocean, and it deposits at the bottom of the
sea its burden of rock and sand, as it melts down. The Banks of
Newfoundland have received constant accessions in this way. It was in
like manner that those great boulders which we find upon plains, like
our Western prairies, were deposited at a period when they were the
bed of the ocean, and icebergs drifted that way from the Arctics.

And thus it will be seen that the Alpine glaciers and the Greenland
glaciers, although disappearing by different direct processes, come
to the same final end—the mountain-snows reach their natural home in
the sea at last.

Many of the Greenland glaciers are of amazing extent. There is one
sixty miles wide. Its front is in the water, and it is washed by the
waves like any other coast-line. The rock-cliffs on either side of it
are very lofty, from five hundred to a thousand feet. The ice-cliffs
are from fifty to three hundred. Below the surface of the water this
wall of ice extends downward to the bottom, and in places the depth
is over two thousand feet. This great glacier, the largest known,
lies at the head of Smith’s Sound, and was discovered by Dr. Kane,
who called it the Great Humboldt Glacier.

Another, twenty miles across, may be seen in North Greenland, in the
fiord of Aukpadlartok. This I have surveyed, and shall have occasion
to refer to it hereafter. There are several that are five miles over;
others two and three, and indeed of every size, down to the very
diminutive one that might be called an ice rivulet. Many of them have
reached the sea, as already stated—some of them ages ago, others
very recently; others have not yet flowed so far; but in all cases
the flow is steady, and the accumulation within the inland reservoir
goes on. The flow of a glacier may be likened to the great flood
which sweeps down the valley from a broken dam. Though it comes very
slowly, it comes very surely. It is irresistible. It moulds itself
to the hill, it swells up over an acclivity, it pours over a cliff,
and pursues its course with a strength and impulse that is grand and
terrible to behold. And it is not noiseless, for its movement is
attended with constant breaks, sometimes extending through its entire
body. The sound occasioned thereby is truly appalling. The glacier
is, therefore, often an object of real terror. The whole region is,
in fact, full of startling wonders and novelties of nature. Its
history is replete with violent convulsions. Once those were of fire,
for the country shows evidence of volcanic heat; now they are of
frost. The Land of Desolation is worthy of more consideration than
it has ever yet received from the learned and curious, or even the

                            CHAPTER III.


It is time now that I should recur again to the _Panther_, which we
left steaming out of Ericsfiord.

When the revellers from the Julianashaab ball appeared after
breakfast we were well away at sea. Most of them had either forgotten
or had never been aware of the intention of the captain to sail so
early in the day. When, however, they discovered where the steamer’s
head was pointed, they were well pleased with the sudden change,
and found a lively satisfaction in the prospect of new fields for
adventure; all except the Prince, who was (or at least so affected)
much grieved that no opportunity was allowed him to go ashore after
the ball. The captain may, indeed, have anticipated some possible
mischief to the young gentleman, and so lifted his anchor when all
were sound asleep. What, indeed, might possibly have happened may
be readily guessed from an account of what actually transpired,
according to our sagaman, who wrote the following description of it:

“It was a thousand pities, sure, to wound a tender youth in his
most tender spot; the ship had sailed three hours when first he
found that she was steaming off at least ‘six knot.’ The youth was
furious, vowed he would go back, and cried, in anguish, ‘Launch me
that kayak.’ The kayak was the pilot’s, so he failed to sacrifice his
very wretched life; then, after groaning once or twice, he hailed the
steward: ‘Here, man, as you love your wife, go quick and bring me
paper, pen, and ink. I’ll write a letter; then my will, I think.’

“Sad are these partings to the virgin heart—I mean the heart that
never felt decay; when all the life has been the sunny part; no
shadows flung into the gladsome day; and hard, indeed, it was upon
our Prince; it was his first affair, and made him wince. No wonder!
But the ink and pen were here; and so our hero grew more reconciled;
he dashed away—they say it was a tear; and wrote, and wrote, and grew
exceeding wild. Here’s what it was, and, if you’re so inclined, you
may learn something of a tortured mind:

“‘Concordia, dear! Concordia, dear! My heart is with thee on the
lonely isle; I’m forced to say adieu to thee, I fear, for I am
carried off; I slept the while; I did but sleep that I might dream
of thee, and, sleeping, off they carried me to sea. Concordia, dear!
Concordia, dear! Thou only on this earth my heart hast got. Oh,
listen to me while I shed a tear, of which I have shed enough to fill
a pot. I’d fill a dozen could I go to thee; then from this lonely
isle away we’d flee, o’er the glad waters of the deep blue sea; our
thoughts quite boundless, and our hopes quite glad. Those seal-skin
breeches! oh, Concordia! they are bewitching, and they make me mad;
and then that top-knot on thy head so fair, I’ve yards of ribbon for
thy raven hair. My messmates all, hard-hearted fellows they! do call
me spooney when my pain they see. Ah! who can tell my sufferings,
thou away? I’ll ever be a faithful spoon to thee. My image in thy
bosom once install, I’ll take them then, ay, breeches, boots, and

“Which, and much more such stuff outlandish, our hero wrote unto his
lady-love; doing it in very bad Greenlandish; he’d billed and cooed
with her like turtle-dove; learning thereby a string of _koos_ and
_kahs_, and these he emphasized with ohs and ahs. A language which
all maidens understand, of each and every nationality; you may write
Greek and Choctaw with the hand; a maid will comprehend a sigh, you
see; and every lover, be he green as grass, will wisely sigh, if he
would catch his lass.

“The letter written, then the pilot went, bearing the missive with
abundant warning, to take it safe and go where he was sent, and
give it to the maiden in the morning. It must have touched her,
Heaven only knows! the steamer steamed away; and thus it goes!—The
tender-hearted must be torn away—sometimes it is ‘stern parent,’
sometimes steam. In this particular case you’d surely say, ‘The
Prince is certain now to kick the beam.’ Oh no, not he! The youth but
went below, slept, woke, then cried, ‘Now for another go!’”

And another “go” he had, and we all had, sure enough, but of a very
different character from the Julianashaab “go.”

By keeping well inside the islands, which almost everywhere form a
barrier along the Greenland coast, we managed to escape, in a great
measure, the ice which had so much annoyed and alarmed us when we
first “made” the Land of Desolation. Towards evening, our pilot, who
had been on the bridge most of the day, approached the captain, and

“Captain, you see?”

“Yes,” said the captain.

“Two icebergs there—go between.”

“Yes,” said the captain.

“Starboard then”—explaining further the route into the port—“no, hit
rock—go for iceberg—port, no deep water—starboard, plenty ice—port,
small—starboard, plenty—let go—Kraksimeut—you see?”

“Yes, pilot,” said the captain, “certainly, clear as mud;” then,
addressing himself to another quarter, he cried out, “For’ad, there!”

“Ay, ay, sir.”

“Lay out on the jib-boom and keep a sharp look-out for rocks. Stand
by to heave the lead.”

“Ay, ay, sir.”

And now, what with dodging first one way and then the other, and with
taking the ice first on one bow and then on the other, with shaving
the rocks most uncomfortably close, they managed, between the pilot
and the captain, to give the _Panther_ a pretty lively time of it,
until we had finally come into a very narrow basin of water, where,
in apparent danger of running our jib-boom into a solitary house, the
order was given to “let go”—and we were at anchor in the harbor of

There was a great number of people about the solitary house. So far
as appearances went, Kraksimeut comprised this one house only, and it
was but one story high. Over it floated a Danish flag about the size
of a pocket-handkerchief.

“My house,” said our pilot. “Governor’s house, Kraksimeut—me

Our pilot was Peter Motzfeldt, already mentioned in a previous
chapter; and a right noble fellow is Peter Motzfeldt, if he does live
in a solitary house, and _is_ governor of Kraksimeut.

Kraksimeut stands upon a very small island, on the very outer
extremity of the dividing ridge between the fiord which we had left
and the fiord for which we were bound. In order to reach it, we have
sailed north-west; to reach our next halting-place in the other
fiord, we are to sail north-east. It is a good half-way station, and
we resolve to spend the night there.

Peter Motzfeldt invites us ashore, and ashore we go to the
government-house. The people we see are like those of Julianashaab;
they smell of fish exceedingly. There is not another white man
except Peter Motzfeldt. His wife is there, but she is a native, and
has the inevitable native boots, and seal-skin pantaloons, and short
jacket, and horn-like top-knot of hair, tied about with a profuse
quantity of ribbons. Peter Motzfeldt’s twenty odd children are there,
including the two boat-loads heretofore mentioned, who had gone down
to Julianashaab to see the sights, and have returned in anticipation
of our arrival.

The scenery around this solitary house is dreary enough; there are
only faint traces of vegetation in the crevasses of the rocks, and
there is a glimpse of water only to be seen here and there among the
icebergs and islands; but there is a golden sky above the setting
sun, and golden splendors dropped from heaven upon the sparkling
jewelry of the sea.

I took a walk about the island, and came back to the solitary house,
after all my comrades had assembled there, to encounter a great
surprise. Instead of finding this only white inhabitant of the place

               “Steeped in poverty to the very lips,”

he was rejoicing in abundance. Eatables and drinkables were on the
table in great profusion; pipes, tobacco, and even cigars, were
circulating freely, and a livelier party than that which greeted me
on my arrival would be difficult to imagine. They had literally taken
possession of all there was to see of Kraksimeut, including Motzfeldt
himself, whose genial face beamed upon me through the mists which
arose from a steaming punch-bowl; and, as he stretched out a hand to
give me welcome, he bowled down at least half a dozen bottles.

“Have a cigar?” said the Prince, passing along a box out of a smoky
cloud. “Capital Havanas! plenty of the same sort left.”

The Prince was clearly quite at home, as usual, and was already
looking out generally for the public pleasures; for he continued:

“Lively times expected. Old chap there has sent for girls, and we’re
to have a dance.”

And sure enough he had; for the girls came streaming in presently,
and there was a repetition of the Julianashaab “break-down” (I know
no better title by which to distinguish it). Of course, the Prince
managed to pick out the prettiest girl, who had the advantage of
being the daughter of Motzfeldt, and, by a pleasant coincidence,
bore also the name of Concordia. This one had black hair and eyes,
however. But, since there did not appear to be any Marcus to torment,
the young gentleman clearly preferred the girl (with the auburn hair)
he had left behind him.

Kraksimeut is one of the dozen principal outposts of the Julianashaab
district, and the most remote one on the north; and it is, besides,
one of the most productive. Its products are exclusively (if we
except a little eider-down), the skins and blubber of seals; and
during the season it is, according to all accounts, a very lively
place. Peter Motzfeldt gets his pay out of the colony’s production,
upon which he receives five per cent. This, added to his salary (one
hundred Danish dollars), makes his income over a thousand dollars of
that money annually, and sometimes reaches fifteen hundred, which
equals about seven hundred and fifty of ours. Upon this he has lived
happily, as he says, and I do not doubt it, for fifty years. He
has raised two families, and provides now for twenty-four persons,
himself and wife included. This wife is a most tidy person, a native,
with a slight mixture of Danish blood, and dresses always in the
native costume. Indeed, there is not, and never was, a petticoat in
Kraksimeut. From pitying Peter Motzfeldt, as I did at first, I began
in the end to wonder whether he was not a most sensible fellow after
all, when I discovered that his income was more than sufficient for
his needs, and that even, although his family was large, he lacked
for nothing that he wished to send for from Copenhagen. Really, it
is not so bad after all, to be the solitary white man, in a solitary
house, on a solitary island.

Besides the Motzfeldt family, there are about forty other
inhabitants, all natives, who live in the usual native huts, that are
scarcely distinguishable in the general waste of rock.

I found that an American had been at Kraksimeut before, and that
Motzfeldt preserved the most lively recollection of the “Americana,”
who had taught him the little English he knew, and instructed him
to sing “Yank Doodle” and “Hail Columby,” which he repeated for us
with variations not originally made and provided. This American was
Colonel Shaffner, who some years ago, after the first failure of the
Atlantic Cable, interested himself to establish a line by way of
the Faröe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and Labrador; and it was a
pity that his scheme was impossible of success. You would think so
at least if you heard Peter Motzfeldt praise him; and I doubt not
that he well deserved it all, for there have been few more spirited
enterprises set on foot this many a day. I say it was impossible
of success; not that the cable might not be laid and the shore-end
secured, but it would be simply absurd to think of keeping it in a
sea where icebergs ground in two or three hundred fathoms water.

On board the steamship _Panther_ there was a man, common enough in
point of rank, but the like of which never was seen before with
respect to qualities. He was the _mate_. Why he was ever put there
in that capacity, unless it was to “try our virtue by affliction,”
I can not imagine. He would beat a “reformer” any day for
wrong-headedness, or a discontented donkey for obstinacy. As if these
qualities were not enough, he was afflicted with the curiosity of a
magpie. But the particular direction of his curiosity was aquatic. He
was great on finding bottom. Upon one occasion he tried to find it by
dropping overboard a gun; on another he got into a kayak and shoved
off from the ship’s side, to find himself very quickly head downward,
with the boat fast to his heels; and he would have been as certain
of drowning as if he had undertaken to swim with his feet fast to
a bladder, had his head not struck bottom, where luckily there was
a lot of sea-weed, which he grasped and drew himself out among the
shells and slime; there he got a footing, and, the water being shoal,
he came right side up, with a great deal of water and very little
breath in him. Had his disposition to find the bottom with the top
of his head terminated there, it would have been well; but unhappily
his weakness extended to the _Panther’s_ keel. If there was the
remotest chance of putting her on the rocks at any time, he was sure
to make the effort. And he was, moreover, very sly. He always waited
until the captain was down below or had gone ashore, before he gave
his mind to it. At Kraksimeut, he waited until the captain was well
enveloped in a cloud of smoke, in the house of Peter Motzfeldt,
before he tried the depth of the water in the harbor. Slacking up
a rope, or neglecting to put out one, it matters not which, he let
the _Panther_ swing with the tide, and her stern slid up as nicely
on a rock as if she were coming to her bearings in a dry-dock. This
astonishing mate then, with great apparent satisfaction, looked over
the stern, and amidst the mud and sea-weed, which had been loosened,
and which was bubbling up about the rudder-post, there read XIV.; and
thus he had found the depth of Kraksimeut harbor, and was satisfied.
Then he smoked his pipe while waiting for the water to fall; and we
came on board to find the _Panther’s_ stern going steadily out of the
sea, with great danger of breaking her unfortunate back. Meanwhile
the mate was never before known to be in such capital spirits.

Fortunately, as it happened, the _Panther_ was not materially
damaged, owing to her amazing strength of back-bone; but we were
detained nearly a whole tide beyond our time. But when at length
under way, we had a splendid sail among the islands, until we struck
the open water of the fiord of Sermitsialik, when we stood fairly up
midway between its lofty banks, directly for the glacier.

For a time we could not see the object that our eyes so eagerly
sought, owing to a bend in the fiord, but, passing this, a great long
line of whiteness came gradually out against the sky, and beneath
it dropped a white curtain to the sea. As we proceeded this seeming
curtain became a solid wall.

                             CHAPTER IV.

                            THE GLACIER.

How shall I describe the scene which steadily opened to us as we
steamed rapidly up the fiord.

Imagine it! The fiord is two miles wide; the valley beyond is of
corresponding width, and the glacier fills it perfectly. How thick
it is, of course, can not be told, but hundreds of feet it must be
everywhere; it is probably from one to two thousand feet in many
places. The banks of the fiord continued to be the banks of the
glacier for about ten miles, gradually vanishing to a wedge-like
point, and merging then into the great _mer de glace_, which,
expanding to the right and left above the highest hills, carries the
eye away upon its boundless surface as upon the ocean.

At length the inclined plane was lost; the distant line of the _mer
de glace_ was lost also, and we were beneath a line of ice-cliffs
from one to two hundred feet high, as clear as the purest crystal,
and emblazoned with all the hues of heaven.

A cold shudder crept over me as the vessel steamed in close to the
front of this great reservoir of frost. The sound of falling waters
filled the air, and ever and anon deep sounds, which seemed like
convulsions of the earth, were emitted from it. The falling waters
were of melted snow and ice from the surface of the glacier, which,
gathering into streams of considerable size, leaped over the cliffs,
and sent a cloud of spray floating away upon the air to resolve the
sun’s rays, giving back to the eye the fluttering fragment of a
rainbow. The sounds were occasioned by the movement of the glacier in
its bed, and the resulting chasms which opened from time to time in
the ice.

[Illustration: FRONT OF THE GLACIER.]

We probably enjoyed here an opportunity such as was never enjoyed by
any previous explorer. I know of no glacier accessible as this is,
for the reason that the fiords are interrupted either with islands
or shoals, which, by preventing the free discharge of the icebergs
that break from the glacier front, render the navigation of the
waters quite impossible, even to a boat. Such is the character of
the glacier of Jacobshavn, in Disco Bay, North Greenland, which I
have made the most strenuous efforts to ascend, and which is crowded
with a perfect wilderness of icebergs for the space of nearly thirty
miles, often being so tightly packed together as to be scarcely
distinguishable from the surface of the glacier itself, even when one
looks down upon the fiord from an elevation of a thousand feet.

But the fiord of Sermitsialik presents no such embarrassing feature.
The water steadily deepens from the glacier front (where in one place
it is 270 fathoms) towards the sea; and the current being rapid,
owing to causes which I shall presently have occasion to explain, the
icebergs float away as fast as formed. While coming up, we passed
several of large and many of small size, but none of them were
aground, and all were hurrying out to the ocean, as if in haste to
mingle their crystal particles with the rolling waves, and once more
enjoy the freedom of the boundless sea.

We approached the glacier to the left, and when so near that we had
barely more than room to wheel about we changed our course, and
slowly steamed over to the opposite side, a distance, as I have
before observed, of nearly two miles.

I have spoken of the glacier front as a wall, a cliff, and a
coast-line. As a coast-line it is winding; as a wall or cliff it is
perfectly vertical; but it is far from smooth. On the contrary, it
presents the most fantastic collection of forms that can be conceived
of—caves that are apparently limitless, peaks like church spires
in symmetry, Gothic arches, clefts that wind away until they are
lost in deep blue. And in this blue we see the most perfect of all
transparent hues, changing too with every moment, and subtle as the
colors of the opal. Talk of painting it! the “light of a dark eye in
woman” would not be more difficult. The green of the caves is not
less subtle, nor less beautiful. This green is observed wherever the
ice overhangs the water. In the sunlight the surface is pure white,
except where there has occurred a recent fracture; and the effect
is that of the most delicate satin, in all its changes of surface,
produced by the different angles in which the light is reflected to
the eye.

We enjoyed a most excellent opportunity of observing all these
phenomena while passing over, as we went only at half speed, and
spent almost an hour in reaching the opposite side. Near the centre,
and not far from the front of the glacier, we found the deepest
water, the color of which changed, soon after passing the centre,
from a light green to a dirty brown. The cause of this was soon
explained. The eastern side of the valley, in which the glacier
rests, is much deeper than the other side, and the waters from the
surface of the _mer de glace_, and the glacier itself, which find
their way down through the chasms, gather in the deepest portion of
the valley, and, rushing on over the rocks beneath the ice, reach,
finally, the front of the glacier, where they bubble up like a
huge, seething caldron—a Stygian pool of fearful aspect. This muddy
water discolors that side of the fiord all the way to the sea; a
circumstance which I was quite at a loss to account for until I had
actually witnessed the cause of it, and seen the _Panther_ carried,
by the force of the current, bodily off from the glacier against the
action of her helm.

I have mentioned the irregularity of the line of the glacier front.
It presented numerous projecting angles. Near the centre, it forms
almost a right angle. Thus do we observe how much more rapidly the
centre of the glacier moves than its sides.

Having reached the southern shore, we discovered the water to shoal
very rapidly at thirty fathoms from the rocks, showing that there
was a wide shelf there; and, upon ascertaining that it was good
holding-ground, and finding nineteen fathoms, we anchored, and
swung into the stream, which was there found to flow at the rate of
four knots, thus accounting for our inability to cross over without
drifting away from the glacier. Our anchorage was a hundred fathoms
only from the ice-cliff, and this rising two hundred feet above
the surface of the water, it seemed, at that short distance, to be
hanging almost over us. To one at all familiar with the tricks of
glaciers it was evident, from the first, that the situation was
one of danger. But the captain, who was solely responsible for the
vessel, appeared to like his holding-ground, which was thick mud,
and said that if we were going to stay at the glacier, there’s where
the _Panther_ must continue, for there was no other anchorage, as he
could see. It was accordingly determined to take the risks, such as
they might be, and hold on there until the morning, at the least.

We went ashore after supper and, climbing over the rugged rocks,
ascended to the summit of a hill twelve hundred feet above the
sea, and saw the sun go down behind the mountains; and against the
brightness of the sky, in the lingering twilight, we beheld the
great ice-sea of Greenland, lighted with the gorgeous tintings of the
clouds. Oh, what a sight it was!—that desert waste—its cold, hard
surface glittering with a borrowed splendor, and taking to itself the
robes of heaven, as if to cheat the memory of its right to hold it as
the very type of what might ever bear the name of Desolate.

                             CHAPTER V.

                        CROSSING THE GLACIER.

The night did not prove promising for the safety of the _Panther_.
At intervals alarming sounds proceeded from the glacier, and now
and then a quick sharp crack, followed by a heavy thud, would tell
us that a mass had split from it and fallen to the sea, which in
the morning was covered with small fragments that had been thus
disengaged; and masses, some of them of considerable size, were
drifting past the vessel with the current.

At an early hour I set out to cross the fiord, accompanied by
the captain, with the purpose of seeking a harbor, or at least a
more safe anchorage. Owing to the loose ice, the passage was not
accomplished without difficulty. In many places the boat could not
be propelled with oars, and we were obliged to push our way along by
main force, using the boat-hooks and the oars as poles.

The scene had greatly changed in every respect from the day before.
Besides the fragments of ice upon the sea that had been broken off
during the night, the sky was leaden, and there was a perfect absence
of color everywhere. The ice was a dull cold gray, the atmosphere was
chilly, and, although our labors were by no means light, overcoats
were not uncomfortably warm. The sun had scarcely risen above the
hills when we reached our destination, where we were fortunate enough
to find a good anchoring-ground, with plenty of room to swing, in
a bay where there was no current and very little ice. There being
only five fathoms water, there was no chance of any large pieces of
ice coming down upon us. Accordingly it was determined to shift our
ground; but, since we had come so far, we concluded that we would
go farther; and so we landed, to find ourselves upon a green slope,
with the side of the glacier to our right, a cliff to our left, and
a gorge in front. Over the green slope we walked half a mile, then
through the gorge a mile farther; and, having arrived at this point,
we concluded to cross the glacier, and to return to the opposite side
of the fiord on foot rather than by boat. So we sent back our crew
and set out upon a hazardous adventure.

The captain, always ready for any proposition of an adventurous
nature, had quickly responded to my own desires; in fact, he was the
only man on board who was always prepared for whatever might turn up.
Such another captain there never was, as I believe. Brave almost to
temerity; yet, possessing excellent judgment, he was just the man to
get into a difficulty, and the very man to get out of it. Although
only twenty-five years old, he had, nevertheless, been eight years in
command of one sort of craft or another, and was a thorough sailor.
Buoyant and clever besides, he was always good company; but on a
journey his indefatigable zeal and long legs were apt to lead his
companions a lively race.

We had no difficulty in climbing the side of the glacier, at a point
where the slope was almost thirty degrees. The ice here contained
much foreign matter—stones and sand—which deprived it entirely of
a slippery character. In a few minutes we were on the summit, and
a dreary scene it was that met us there. Imagine the rapids above
Niagara Falls congealed to the very bottom; the falls and river
frozen everywhere, and Lake Erie solid: then imagine the banks
above the falls lofty like those below, and yourself standing on
the rapids. Imagine Lake Erie so near that you can see its frozen
surface, and you have, on a small scale, the _mer de glace_ which we
saw when looking at the glacier. The frozen rapids are the glacier
itself; the falls below, the glacier’s front (with the horse-shoe
reversed); the river sweeping down to Lake Ontario is the fiord; and
Ontario itself the ocean, into which the icebergs drift that break
away from the glacier, and go off with the current.

There is this great difference, however—the river, from bank to
bank, is straight upon the surface, while the glacier curves. The
accompanying cuts will better illustrate my meaning.


It was along the gorge formed by the curve of the glacier on the
one side, and the slope of the land on the other, that we made our
way up from the sea, all except the first half mile, which, as I
have said before, was over a green slope, formed by the lofty land
breaking away and leaving a beautiful spot which is one day destined
to be completely covered with the ice-flood. And it was such a
beautiful spot that I could but regret its ultimate blotting out;
for, notwithstanding the wall of ice that was so close to it, it was
covered with thick brush-wood, consisting of birch, dwarf-willow, and
juniper; among which were matted tufts of heather, crake-berry, and
whortle-berry; and many bright flowers were here and there scattered
over a rich turf of grass and moss. A greater contrast could hardly
be imagined than between this spot of green which we had left and the
glacier upon which we stood.

Here the glacier is two and a half miles wide. To cross it was no
easy matter; nor was the effort without danger, for it was full of
cracks, into which we were constantly in dread of falling from the
slippery ridges which separated them. These cracks, or crevasses,
were, in a general way, parallel, running inward and upward from the
shore at angles varying with the locality, but averaging about forty
degrees. In places they were very near together, being separated by
only a few yards; in other places they were twenty or thirty yards
apart. But they were continually running into and crossing each
other, although pursuing a general sameness of direction. It was this
circumstance that gave to our journey its dangerous character; for
as we followed the ridges in their course inward and upward we were,
from time to time, brought to a stand at a sharp point where the two
chasms united. We had then to spring over an unfathomable abyss, or
to retrace our steps and seek a better track. Sometimes we did the
one, sometimes the other. Luckily we were both sure of foot; yet the
leaps were often such as could only have been made under the spur
of curiosity to see, or the no less common one of unwillingness to
abandon an undertaking.

Towards the middle the travelling became better. Here, for the space
of a couple of miles, there was a dead level, and the ice was very
little disturbed; while above, where the glacier appeared to have
poured over a precipice, or at least down a very rapid descent,
there was the most wonderful jumble that can be conceived of. The
crevasses there ran in every direction, though the prevailing one
was, as in other places, inward and upward. The ice appeared at one
point to have been let down by successive stages, forming a series of
terraces, or escalades, which might be likened to the steps of some
giant temple. Indeed, it was a stairway befitting the grand palaces
of nature which lie away upon the mountain-tops beyond.

I never tread these ice-wildernesses without awe. One sees so much,
and yet so little. There is nothing to withdraw the attention from
one sole manifestation of nature. In other places as in the forest,
where there is life in various forms; by the sea-shore, where there
is perceptible movement, and at all times something suggestive of
life; anywhere, indeed, almost, the thoughts are not concentrated
upon one, and only one, peculiar force. There is something almost
terrible in this boundless desolation. God seems nearer in these
deserts; His laws, which never change, are not hidden from the
consciousness by delighted senses; and the mind is there inspired
with a lofty emotion when contemplating the simple grandeur of His

I was particularly impressed on the present occasion. The groaning
of the mighty river of ice, which could not have been less than a
thousand feet in depth, was constant, and proceeded from every side;
even beneath my feet there seemed to be an uneasy trembling; and
how much soever I might have been alarmed, I would not have been
surprised had a yawning chasm opened beside me or underneath me at
any moment.

These deep voices of the ice were, however, not the only sounds that
greeted the ear; for rivulets meandered here and there over the icy
plain. In one place many of these uniting formed a considerable
stream, that ultimately found a crack into which it fell roaring and
hissing down through all the vast depth of ice to the glacier’s bed,
there to help swell the stream which, as before described, pours out
from beneath the glacier into the fiord.

By this time the sun was well up, and the day was growing warm. Even
here, upon the summit of the glacier, the temperature was not at
all chilly or uncomfortable. The ice and snow were melting rapidly,
and our inconvenience was rather from dampness than from cold, for
we were often, in our efforts to get along, compelled to crawl upon
all-fours, or even flat upon our bellies, to get over treacherous
places, so that our clothing was soon thoroughly water-soaked.

In crossing the middle part of the glacier we experienced little
difficulty; but when we had begun to descend towards the opposite
shore from where we had started, our troubles of the beginning were
renewed, and even magnified. It became often a serious question
whether we could proceed at all—whether we would not, after all our
labor, be compelled to return. The crevasses were then of great
width, much too wide for us to spring over, and, after winding to and
fro, springing here and there, we were several times forced to take
our leaps over again on the backward track, as there was no place
to be found where a leap forward seemed possible. At length, as we
neared the shore, the case became desperate. After much effort we
found ourselves out upon a very acute angle, with a deep chasm on
each side. Two crevasses had here crossed; but from the two sharp
points there appeared to be a bridge, or at least a connecting link.
When the cracks were formed a large mass of ice had apparently
fallen off, and become wedged between the walls as one sometimes
sees a rock in a mountain gorge. It had not fallen far, and was not
difficult of access, but it was sharp like a house-roof, and slippery
as a house-roof when covered with sleet. It was, clearly, take this
natural bridge, or turn back and return over all the tedious distance
which we had already traversed. This, however, was not to be thought
of while there was a possible chance; so we tossed hats for the first
venture, and the lot fell to me.


Getting down on all-fours, I crawled out as far as I could go in that
way. I then bestrode the ridge, and propelled myself along upon my
bare hands, making a few inches headway with each effort. On either
side there was a bridge, with a yawning depth of blue beneath me
melting into “darkness most profound,” from which came the roar of
falling waters. It fairly made my head swim as I clung insecurely
to the sharp, narrow, slippery bridge and looked down first one
side, then the other, into the abyss. Retreat I could not, even if
so disposed, for I had descended from the start, and could not back
myself up with my hands, nor could I turn round. There was nothing
to do but push ahead; and this I did, cheered on by the captain’s
shouts to be careful and not break down the bridge, for he wanted
the use of it. Finally, the effort was rewarded with success, and
as I scrambled up the slope and along the ridge of the other side
to a place where I could sit down and rest myself, I experienced
a profound sensation of relief. The captain followed, and, after
accomplishing the feat successfully, as I had done, he said, looking
back at the dangerous pass, “Well, I don’t want any more of that
sort of thing,” a sentiment which I very heartily echoed. But the
very next crack we took, although having much less the appearance of
risk, had like to have proved fatal to me, for, on a leap of about
eight feet I partly missed my footing, and fell short of my intended
mark. When I felt myself going back I experienced that horrid sinking
feeling which comes over one only with the prospect of immediate
death, without the chance for a struggle. So far as I could know, I
was gone; and in an instant more I should have been plunging down
into the chasm, had not my foot brought up on a slight projection,
which gave me an opportunity to use my hands; and the captain coming
now to my assistance, I scrambled up to a place of safety. After
this we encountered no more serious difficulties, and, discovering a
smooth slope, we descended by it to the shore, which we reached very
wet, very sore, and much fatigued.

[Illustration: MAP OF THE GLACIER.]

We were about two miles now from the vessel, which distance was
traversed through a gorge corresponding to that by which we had
ascended on the opposite side of the glacier. It was, however,
much rougher, and the shore being more abrupt, the disturbance,
both of rock and ice, was much greater. And here we observe a
most interesting feature of the glacier movement and formation.
The glacier, in its progress down the valley into the fiord, must
necessarily adapt itself to every inequality of the bank. But this
is not done without serious resistance. Thousands and millions
of tons of earth, sand, and rock are rooted up, and pushed aside
when the glacier expands into the side valleys, and, when a solid
cliff receives the pressure, the crushed and disturbed condition
of the ice, as the glacier impinges against the rock, shows how
immensely powerful is the force. Something must give way before
this irresistible flood. In one place there was a ridge rolled up to
the height of fifty feet, and rocks weighing hundreds of tons were
treated as if they were the merest pebbles turned over and scattered
by the mould-board of a plough.

Our descent through the gorge was not without interest of another
character. Down near the fiord the disturbance of the ice had been
greatest in consequence of passing over a more rapid declivity, and
here several cracks opened from the bottom, and, closing more or less
perfectly at about fifty feet altitude, appeared like the mouths to
great caverns. Inspired by curiosity, I entered one of these, to find
myself scrambling along over rocks and through deep mud, while water
dropped down upon my head in torrents, for a distance of about thirty
yards, when I came upon the border of a rushing stream of muddy
water. This was the stream already mentioned, which gushes out from
beneath the glacier’s front.

Of all the signs and tokens of watery tumult that I have ever
witnessed this excelled them all. The roar of the fast-flowing stream
as it dashed down the steep declivity over the rocks beneath, and
against the ice above, breaking around the enormous boulders upon
which the glacier was supported, was perfectly deafening. I had come
in alongside of a ledge of a rock about ten feet high, upon which
the ice rested firmly. This ledge, terminating where I stood, formed
a protecting barrier, behind which I could witness the spectacle in
perfect security, though not with comfort, for to be drenched with
ice-water is not at all agreeable.

As I stood here, I realized more perfectly than ever before the
process by which have been formed those markings on the rocks which
Professor Agassiz has so conspicuously pointed out in regions which
were once covered with ice during the glacial epoch. The effect of
this enormous pressure of these hundreds of feet of ice that were
above my head, sliding down over the rocks, and rolling upon the
boulders, was there evident to the senses. The movable rocks were
being rounded or ground to powder, and the bed was being scarred with
deep and ineffaceable scratches. Below me the bottom of the cavern
allowed of my continuing down beside the stream about fifty feet
to a point where both a stream of light and a stream of water were
admitted into the blackness through a wide crevasse.

Curiosity once satisfied, I began to realize the perilous situation
into which I had thus voluntarily come. The darkness through which I
was groping made it not improbable that I might stumble and plunge
headlong into the muddy river and be borne away by the

    “Dark water that tumbled through the gloom.”

Then it seemed as if the great arch might give way and bury me in its
ruins, or a mass might break off from above, and, falling upon my
head, crush me to death; and while creeping cautiously along, with my
face turned towards the opening by which I had rashly entered, and
with no longer an unsatisfied longing to quiet my fears, I could not
but accuse myself of an absurd temerity, when I suffered myself to be
led into a place where,

           “Bellowing, there groaned
    A voice as of a sea in tempest torn
    By warring winds.”

I was soon, however, in the open air again, and as thoroughly
water-soaked as if I had fallen bodily into the sea; and being
perfectly chilled, I did not long delay in finding my way down to
the beach, where I joined the captain, who was awaiting me. He had
hailed for a boat, and I was soon out of my shivering condition, but
not soon enough to prevent me from moralizing over the unfathomable
depths of human folly, while yet reflecting upon the wonders we
had seen, and the unusual adventures we had experienced during our
morning walk; for be it known we had started off without breakfast,
and after six hours’ continuous labor we were returning at eleven
o’clock, with stomachs which could not be beaten for emptiness. It is
only in such a bracing air as that of the Arctic regions that one can
endure such continued exposure without suffering severe prostration.
The idea that people necessarily consume more food in that region
than another, is a popular error. Excessive feeding is everywhere a
habit and not a necessity; but as “the sleep of the laboring man is
sweet,” so is his appetite vigorous everywhere.

                             CHAPTER VI.


I trust that I have made plain, even to the least scientific of my
readers, the nature of the glacier which we are visiting, as well as
the general principles of glacier formation and movement. Why ice,
a solid, firm substance, should move in obedience to the same laws
which govern the movements of fluids; why, for instance, a glacier
should, like a river, move more rapidly at its centre than near its
banks, is a question which the wisest philosophers have sufficiently
discussed without my attempting it here. Taking the fact for granted,
and knowing that the vast reservoir of ice in the interior of
Greenland is the great source of supply to all the glaciers that pour
to the sea through the mountain-passes, we may here, I think, not
inappropriately, pause a little to watch the progress of this glacier
of Sermitsialik.

Even within the period of a generation it has undergone very
perceptible changes. Peter Motzfeldt has told me that fifty years
ago he walked across the valley in front of it, and plucked
whortle-berries upon the identical spot where I had gone into the
ice-cavern to hear the waters rushing to the sea. He pointed out to
me the line of the glacier front at that time, so far as he could
remember it (and the memory of such men is apt to be accurate); and,
accepting his memory as correct, the movement of the glacier from
that time to the present has been about seven (7) inches daily, the
distance being a fraction over two miles.


With this positive assurance before us we may, in imagination,
witness the spectacle of this glacier’s growth. Going back to the
time when it first emerged from the _mer de glace_ (to the time when
the ice first began to bulge downward into the valley which it now
fills completely), we see the valley clothed with verdure, sparrows
chirruping among the branches of the stunted trees, herds of reindeer
browsing upon its abundant pastures, and drinking from a stream of
limpid water which, melting from the glacier, pours down over the
same precipices, and through the same defiles which the ice now fills
and covers. This must have been about two hundred and fifty years
ago, since the distance from the sea to where the break occurs in the
mountain-chain through which the ice-stream emerges into the valley
is about ten miles. We see it then just appearing, and we watch
its progress through this long time. Its front is hundreds of feet
high and miles across. We observe the icy flood moving steadily and
irresistibly onward, over precipices, down steep declivities, upon
level plains—sometimes advancing with comparative rapidity, sometimes
slowly, but steadily, year by year, coming towards the fiord. We
see it swallowing up rocks and pastures; we see the deer retire
farther and farther down the valley with each returning year; we see
the hillocks within the valley overwhelmed with the flood of ice,
the crystal stream pouring over and around them as if it were some
semi-fluid substance; we hear the cracking of the ice as the strain
here and there becomes too great; and we hear, too, the echoing sound
of the avalanche of ice and snow, crumbling from its front, and
crashing down into the plain beneath. We thus watch the ice-stream
until the front of it has reached the fiord. But here it does not
stop. The bed of the sea is but a continuation of the same inclined
plain as the bed of the valley, and its onward course is continued.
It pushes back the water; it makes a coast-line of ice where there
had been a beach; and a white wall now stretches from one side of
the fiord to the other. As it flows onward, it gets into deeper and
deeper water, its foot still resting on the bottom of the sea. Thus
the icy wall sinks gradually down as it moves along, and in course of
time it has almost gone out of sight. Then it gets beyond its depth.


When fresh ice floats freely in sea-water, there is one-eighth of it
above the surface to seven-eighths below. If these proportions become
disturbed—that is to say, if the glacier should project far enough
out into the sea and deep water to present more than seven-eighths
below to one-eighth above, then the buoyancy of the water will lift
the end of the ice-stream until it attains its natural equilibrium.
To do this, of course, a break must occur, as the ice will not bend.
But for a long time the continuity of the ice is not interrupted—so
great is its depth (many hundreds of feet), so great is its width
(two miles). But finally it is compelled to give way; the force
applied becomes too great for its powers of resistance. A crack,
beginning at the bottom, is opened, with a fearful crash. The crack
widens, and when it is completed to the top a fragment is detached.
This fragment is buoyed up to its proper level; and while the loud
noise of the disruption is echoing among the hills, and the great
waves of its creating are rolling away, the monstrous mass is coming
slowly to rest, ready to float off with the current to the ocean.
This fragment, as we have already seen, is the _iceberg_. Its birth,
as we shall presently notice, is attended with the most violent
disturbance of the sea and air, and presents a magnificent spectacle.

The accompanying vertical section of the glacier of Sermitsialik, run
up its axis from the fiord to its junction with the _mer de glace_
(a distance of ten miles), will illustrate the fact I wish to prove,
and the theory I wish to illustrate. The view of the same glacier,
on page 147, will still further aid the reader; and this, examined
in connection with the small map on page 162, will explain what any
number of words would fail to make clear. This vertical section shows
an iceberg just broken off and floating away. The line of the section
is from A to B, as shown on the map.

                            CHAPTER VII.

                      MEASUREMENT OF GLACIERS.

As we have seen, the glacier does not accommodate itself to the bed
in which it rests very readily. The substance, though possessing a
sort of ductility, is not sufficiently plastic to mould itself with
much rapidity. A sudden squall will snap a twig, or uproot a tree
which a gale would only bend. In like manner, the pressure upon the
ice becomes in places too great, and, unable to bear it, the ice
snaps. Professor Tyndall has said—and this is borne out by my own
experience—“By pressure ice can be moulded to any shape, while the
same ice snaps sharply asunder if subjected to tension.” Hence arise
the great crevasses which so much embarrassed the captain and myself
while crossing over the glacier of Sermitsialik. These cracks are
therefore continually occurring. Beginning as a loud and alarming
peal, they become in the end a crash. This particularly happens when
the glacier, flowing over a quick descent, moves rapidly.

In this manner are opened those crevasses already mentioned as
running inward and upward from the shore, and pursuing a general
parallelism. The force is not that of pressure, but of tension. The
sides hang more or less upon the shore, while the centre moves on,
and thus the ice is drawn apart. The shore-ice thus lags behind, and
the total amount of that lagging is told in the aggregate width of
the crevasses.

I have mentioned that the rate of progress of the centre of the
glacier of Sermitsialik must have been about seven inches daily.
Others move at the rate of five. The process for this determination
is simple enough. I have performed it many times, and may thus
briefly describe it.

After climbing to the surface of the glacier, I staked off a
base-line near the centre, and parallel with its sides. I then
set up a theodolite, first at one, then at the other end of this
base-line, and, having connected it by careful angular measurement
with some well-defined object (readily again recognized) on the land,
at the side of the glacier, the work was done. After an interval of
weeks or months, the process was repeated, and then a very simple
trigonometrical computation revealed the fact that the base-line
was moving down the valley, and the rate was determined to a small

The unequal movement between the centre and the sides was shown by
quite another method. A line of stakes was set up across the glacier
from shore to shore. After a few weeks this line became a slight
curve; after a few months the curve was very perceptible. Could the
observation have been continued through years, it would have been
like a well-bent bow, or the letter U.

Such measurements as these I once made upon a glacier at Port
Foulke, North Greenland. The top of the glacier was reached, after
much difficulty, by cutting steps with an axe. The cracks were not,
however, found to be so wide or so numerous as those of the glacier
of Sermitsialik, but they were sufficient to inspire me with a lively
sense of the danger of such exploration. When my first experiments
were made, there was a strong wind howling down from the _mer de
glace_, bringing with it sharp, cutting snow-drifts. The brass
instrument which I used froze to the eye, and had to be covered with
buckskin. The moisture of the breath condensed upon the lenses, and I
had to breathe through a tube while observing. The men who carried
the chain “scorched” their fingers with the cold metal. Under such
circumstances the pursuit of science becomes a species of martyrdom,
and is therefore not much in favor.

In the movement shown by these measurements we have conclusively
exhibited the likeness of the glacier to a river, and the assertion
that it is but a flowing river of ice is fully borne out and proved
by observation with mathematical nicety. In my own experiments upon
the Greenland glaciers I have but followed the example and practised
the methods of Professors Agassiz, Forbes, Tyndall, and others, not
forgetting the experts of the Alpine Club, whose explorations of the
glaciers of the Alps have latterly become so familiar to the public.

                            CHAPTER VIII.

                      THE BIRTH OF AN ICEBERG.

I can imagine no more grand and imposing spectacle than the birth
of an iceberg; and we have now, I think, gone far enough in the
examination of glaciers and their movements to contemplate such a
spectacle, which, whatever it may seem to the reader, was to me most
thrilling. It did not happen in connection with the _Panther_, and
may at first, therefore, seem to be a little out of place; but as it
serves my purpose, I make free to use it, by way of illustration.

The scene was in a fiord ten times wider than that of Sermitsialik,
though not much longer. Unlike that of Sermitsialik, it was studded
with islands and shoal places. The glacier which terminated it was
twenty miles across, although not quite uniformly; for the ice had
poured down into the sea, and, while having blotted out some of the
islands, it had barely touched others; otherwise the coast-line of
ice was perfect and continuous. The islands and shoal places in
the fiord arrest the icebergs; and within ten miles or more of the
glacier it is almost impossible to go. With great difficulty I came
within five, in a boat. Farther I could not force my way by any
possibility; and, accordingly, we made the land and climbed a lofty
hill for a view.

The fiord which I thus describe is known as the fiord of
Aukpadlartok, a native word signifying “the place of the red rocks.”
I had gone up the fiord from Upernavik to the hut of a hunter, who
was the bestyrere of a small settlement of that name belonging to
the Upernavik district.

It was a grand spectacle that met my eye as I stood upon the hill-top
overlooking the fiord, with its thousands of icebergs, its dark rocky
islands, and the immense quantity of loose ice which filled up the
space between the bergs and islands, until there was scarcely a patch
of water to be seen anywhere as large as a good-sized duck-pond. Very
different from the fiord of Sermitsialik, where there were no islands
nor shoals to arrest the ice in its progress down the fiord.

I was accompanied by the bestyrere of Aukpadlartok, whose name was
Philip. We stood together looking at the glacier and the great sea of
ice which stretched away into the interior, blending mountains and
valleys into a vast plain, when Philip said, “Listen! the glacier is
going to ‘calve;’” for that is the name by which they distinguish the
breaking off of a fragment.

I heard a loud report, but I could not at once distinguish the source
of it. An instant afterward it was repeated, now louder than before.
It resembled the first warning sound of a coming earthquake.

Philip had detected the spot whence the sound proceeded, and said,
“Look! it is rising.”

I could now see that a portion of the glacier was being lifted by the
water. A great wave was rolled back with this upward movement, and
dashed fiercely against the icebergs that lay farther down the fiord.
Another instant, and the sound, which was before so deep and loud,
broke through the air with a crash that was like the discharge of
heavy artillery near at hand. I knew now that a crack had opened in
the ice-stream, and that a mass had been disengaged.

The position of the crack was quickly apparent, and we could see
that a fragment of enormous proportions had been set at liberty.
It first reared itself aloft as if it were some huge leviathan of
the deep indued with life, and was sporting its unwieldy bulk in
the hitherto undisturbed waters. The crack had now opened wide. The
detached fragment plunged forward; the front, which had been rising,
then sunk down, while the inner side rose up, and volumes of water
that had been lifted with the sudden motion poured from its sides,
hissing, into the foaming and agitated sea.

Thus an iceberg had been born.

It would be impossible with mere words alone to convey any adequate
idea of the action of this new-born child of the Arctic frosts. Think
of a solid lump of ice, a third of a mile deep, and more than half a
mile in lateral diameter, hurled like a mere toy away into the water
and set to rolling to and fro by the impetus of the act—as if it were
Nature’s merest foot-ball—now down one side, until the huge bulk was
nearly capsized; then back again; then down the other side once more,
with the same unresisting force; and so on, up and down, and down and
up, swashing to and fro for hours before it comes finally to rest.
Picture this, and you will have an image of power not to be seen by
the action of any other forces upon the earth.

The disturbance of the water was inconceivably fine. Waves of
enormous magnitude were rolled up with great violence against the
glacier, covering it with spray; and billows came tearing down the
fiord, their progress marked by the crackling and crumbling ice,
which was everywhere in a state of wildest agitation for the space of
several miles. Over the smaller icebergs the water broke completely,
as if a tempest were piling up the seas and heaving them fiercely
against the shore. Then, to add still further to the commotion thus
occasioned, the great wallowing iceberg, which was the cause of it
all, was dropping fragments from its sides with each oscillation, the
reports of the rupture reaching the ear above the general din and
clamor. Other bergs were set in motion by the waves, and these also
dropped pieces from their sides; and at last, as if it were the grand
_finale_ of the piece—the clash of cymbals and the big bass-drum of
nature’s grand orchestra—a monstrous berg near the middle of the
fiord split in two, and, above the sound of breaking waters and
falling ice, this last disruption filled the air with a peal that
rang among the bergs and crags, and, echoing from hill to hill, died
away only in the void beyond the mountain-tops; while to the noisy
tune the icebergs of the fiord danced their wild ungainly dance upon
the waters.

It was many hours before this state of wild unrest was succeeded
by the calm which had preceded the commencement of it; and when at
length the iceberg that had been born came quietly to rest, and
the other icebergs had ceased their dance upon the troubled sea,
and the waves had ceased their lashings, it seemed to me that, in
beholding this birth of an iceberg, I had beheld one of the most
sublime exhibitions of the great forces of nature. It was in truth a

                             CHAPTER IX.

                          A NARROW ESCAPE.

The birth of the iceberg described in the preceding chapter will
better enable the reader to comprehend a much more fearful event
which happened in the fiord of Sermitsialik.

During the absence of the captain and myself from the vessel the
artists had not been idle. They had landed near the glacier, and
with brush and camera had begun their work. The day was warm, the
mercury rising to 68° in the shade, and the sun, coming around to
the south, blazed upon the cold, icy wall. This must have produced
some difference of temperature between the ice touched by the solar
rays and that of the interior, which was in all probability several
degrees below the freezing-point, for towards noon there was an
incessant crackling along the entire front of ice. Small pieces were
split off with explosive violence, and, falling to the sea, produced
a fine effect as the spray and water spurted from the spot where they
struck. Scarcely an instant passed without a disturbance occurring of
this kind. It was like a fusillade of artillery. Now and then a mass
of considerable size would break loose, producing an impression both
upon the eye and ear that was very startling.

By one o’clock every body had come on board to dinner, and for a
while we all stood on deck watching the spectacle and noting the
changes that took place with interest. It was observed, among other
curious phenomena, that when the ice broke off the fractured surface
was deep blue, and that if any ice, as sometimes happened, came up
from beneath the water, it bore the same color; but after a short
exposure to the sun, the surface changed, and became almost pure
white, with the satin glitter before described. Our situation for a
view could not have been better chosen, and it is not likely that
such an opportunity was ever enjoyed before by explorers, since it is
not probable that a vessel ever rode before at her anchor so near a

After dinner the work was to be resumed. The photographers hastened
ashore, hoping to catch an instantaneous view of some tumbling
fragment, which if they could have done would certainly have exceeded
in interest any other view they had secured. The question of moving
our anchorage was deferred to the captain, who decided to go over to
the other side when the artists had been put ashore with their tools.
Steam was indeed already up.

The boat had reached the shore for this purpose, and had shoved off
for the ship, leaving the artists on the beach; and the order had
been given by the captain to “up anchor,” when loud reports were
heard one after another in quick succession. A number of large pieces
had broken off, and their fall disturbed the sea to such an extent
that the vessel began to roll quite perceptibly, and waves broke with
considerable force upon the shore. Then, without a moment’s warning,
there was a report louder than any we had yet heard. It was evident
that some unusual event was about to happen, and a feeling of alarm
was generally experienced.

Casting my eyes in the direction from which the sound proceeded, the
cause of it was at once explained. The very centre or extreme point
of the glacier was in a state of apparent disintegration. Here the
ice was peculiarly picturesque, and we had never ceased to admire it,
and sketch and photograph it. A perfect forest of Gothic spires,
more or less symmetrical, gave it the appearance of a vast cathedral,
fashioned by the hands of man. The origin of these spires will be
readily understood to be in consequence, first, of the formation of
crevasses far up on the glacier; and secondly, by the spaces between
them widening, and sharpening and rounding off by the action of the
sun as the glacier steadily approaches the sea. At the base of these
spires there were several pointed arches, some of them almost perfect
in form, which still further strengthened the illusion that they
might be of human and not of natural creation. At the extreme point
there was one spire that stood out quite detached, almost from the
water’s edge to its summit. This could not have been much less than
two hundred feet high. I had passed very near this while crossing
over in the boat, and the front of it appeared to extend vertically
down to the bottom. In the clear green water (for the muddy water of
the southern side did not reach over so far) I could trace it a long
way into the sea. I had little idea then how treacherous an object it
was, or I would not have ventured so near, for I was not more than a
boat’s length from it.

The last and loudest report, as above mentioned, came from this
wonderful spire, which was sinking down. It seemed, indeed, as if
the foundations of the earth were giving way, and that the spire was
descending into the yawning depths below. The effect was magnificent.
It did not topple over and fall headlong, but went down bodily, and
in doing so crumbled into numberless pieces. The process was not
instantaneous, but lasted for the space of at least a quarter of a
minute. It broke up as if it were composed of scales, the fastenings
of which had given way, layer after layer, until the very core was
reached, and there was nothing left of it. But we could not witness
this process of disintegration in detail after the first few moments,
for the whole glacier almost to its summit became enveloped in
spray—a semi-transparent cloud through which the crumbling of the ice
could be faintly seen. Shouts of admiration and astonishment burst
from the ship’s company. The greatest danger would scarcely have
been sufficient to withdraw the eye from the fascinating spectacle.
But when the summit of the spire began to sink away amidst the great
white mass of foam and mist, into which it finally disappeared, the
enthusiasm was unbounded.

By this time, however, other portions of the glacier were undergoing
a similar transformation, influenced, no doubt, by the shock which
had been communicated by this first disruption. Other spires, less
perfect in their form, disappeared in the same manner, and great
scales peeling from the glacier in various places fell into the sea
with a prolonged crash, and followed by a loud hissing and crackling
sound. Then, in the general confusion, all particular reports were
swallowed up in one universal roar, which woke the echoes of the
hills and spread consternation to the people on the _Panther’s_ deck.

This consternation increased with every moment; for the roar of the
falling and crumbling ice was drowned in a peal, compared to which
the loudest thunder of the heavens would be but a feeble sound. It
seemed as if the foundations of the earth, which had given way to
admit the sinking ice, were now rent asunder, and the world seemed to
tremble. From the commencement of the crumbling to this moment the
increase of sound was steady and uninterrupted. It was like the wind,
which, moaning through the trees before a storm, elevates its voice
with its multiplying strength, and lays the forest low in the crash
of the tempest.

The whole glacier about the place where these disturbances were
occurring was enveloped in a cloud, which rose up over the glacier as
one sees the mist rising from the abyss below Niagara, and, receiving
the rays of the sun, hold a rainbow fluttering above the vortex.

While the fearful sound was pealing forth, I saw a blue mass rising
through the cloud, at first slowly, then with a bound; and now, from
out the foam and mist, a wave of vast proportions rolled away in a
widening semicircle. I could watch the glacier no more. The instinct
of self-preservation drove me to seize the first firm object I could
lay my hands upon, and grasp it with all my strength. The wave came
down upon us with the speed of the wind. The swell occasioned by an
earthquake can alone compare with it in magnitude. It rolled beneath
the _Panther_, lifted her upon its crest, and swept her towards the
rocks. An instant more and I was flat upon the deck, borne down by
the stroke of falling water. The wave had broken on the abrupt shore,
and, after touching the rocks with its crest a hundred feet above
our heads, had curled backward, and, striking the ship with terrific
force, had deluged the decks. A second wave followed before the shock
of the first had fairly ceased, and broke over us in like manner.
Another and another came after in quick succession; but each was
smaller than the one preceding it. The _Panther_ was driven within
two fathoms of the shore, but she did not strike. Thank Heaven, our
anchor held, or our ship would have been knocked to pieces, or landed
high and dry with the first great wave that rolled under us.

When it became evident that we were safe, our thoughts naturally flew
to our comrades on the shore. To our great joy, they too were safe;
but they had not had time to clamber up the steep acclivity before
the first wave had buried them. Flinging themselves flat upon the
ground when they discovered that escape was hopeless, and clinging
to each other and to the rocks, they prevented themselves from being
carried off or seriously hurt. One had been lifted from his feet and
hurled with much force against a rock, but, excepting a few bruises,
he was not injured, and with much fervor thanked Heaven that it was
no worse. He had, indeed, abundant cause. Had the party not been
favored by the rocks, which were of such formation that they could
readily spring up from ledge to ledge, they must all have perished.
The wave, before it reached them, had expended much of its force. If
they had been upon the beach and received the full force of the blow,
they would inevitably have been killed outright or drowned in the
under-tow. Their implements—bottles, plates, every thing—were either
gone, or were a perfect wreck. Fortunately, their cameras were upon
the hill-side, and beyond the reach of the wave, where they had used
them in the morning. The boat, also, was safe; she had been hauled
out some distance from the shore, and by putting her head to the
waves she rode in security.

The agitation of the sea continued for half an hour after the first
wave broke upon us. This was partly a prolongation of the first
disturbance, but proceeded mainly from the original cause still
operating. The iceberg had been born amidst the great confusion,
and as it was the rolling up of the vast mass which sent that first
wave away in a widening semicircle, so it was the rocking to and fro
of the monster that continued the agitation of the sea; for this
new-born child of the Arctic frosts seemed loath to come to rest in
its watery cradle. And what an azure gem it was! glittering while it
moved there in the bright sunshine like a mammoth _lapis lazuli_ set
in a sea of chased silver, for the waters all around were but one
mass of foam.

I measured this iceberg afterwards and found its height above the
surface of the water to be one hundred and forty feet, which,
supposing the same proportions to continue all the way down, would
give a total depth of eleven hundred and twenty feet, since the
proportion of ice below to that above is as one to seven. Its
circumference was almost a mile. No wonder that its birth was
attended with such fearful consequences.

The part which had been the top of the glacier had become the bottom
of the iceberg. The fragment, when it broke off, had performed an
entire half-revolution. Hence it was that no part of it was white.
But as the day wore on the delicate hue which it first showed
vanished, and before the berg finally disappeared down the fiord it
wore the usual opaque white which distinguishes its older brothers
who have drifted in Baffin’s Bay for perhaps a score of years.

As may well be supposed, we did not wait for another iceberg to catch
us in such a defenseless situation. Our jolly captain was now quite
content to own that he held glaciers in profound respect, and lost
no time, therefore, in picking up his anchor. Then, as soon as our
bruised and thoroughly drenched artists were brought aboard, the
_Panther_ wheeled upon her heel and steamed over to the opposite
side, where, at a more respectful distance, anchorage was found which
promised safety if the glacier should take upon itself once more to
perform such fantastic freaks as the one of which we had like to
have been victims; and we had no mind now for another such dangerous

                             CHAPTER X.


We named our new harbor “Panther Bay,” and, while resting there
until another day comes to invite us to new work and new adventures,
let us, more critically than we have had opportunity to do before,
examine into the character of these icebergs of the Arctic Sea.

It is, perhaps, not surprising that so few people should really
understand what an iceberg is, seeing how few people go where
they come from. The icebergs of the Northern hemisphere have but
one birthplace: they all come from Greenland—at least all of any
magnitude. There are many glaciers in Spitzbergen, some of which
reach the sea; but they are of diminutive proportions, and the
fragments broken from them are few in number and very small. There
are many glaciers in Iceland, but they are confined to the mountains.
There are also glaciers upon some of the lands north of Hudson’s Bay;
but, like those of Spitzbergen, they occupy a small space compared
with the vast accumulations of Greenland. And from Greenland they
discharge mostly on the Baffin’s Bay side. In a former chapter we
have observed how the ocean current comes from the north along the
eastern coast of Greenland, freighted with ice-fields (not bergs),
sometimes bearing trees from the Siberian forests. This current
sweeps thence around Cape Farewell, and continues north along the
Greenland coast, with greater or less velocity, to almost the
seventy-fifth or seventy-sixth parallel of latitude, before taking
a westerly course, and then again a southerly one to the coasts
of Labrador, Newfoundland, and the United States. The icebergs are
discharged by the fiords into this current, and the result is that,
unless there should be a prevalence of strong northerly winds for a
considerable time, sufficient to force them against or across the
current and out into the Atlantic, their drift is northerly at all
parts of the coast up as far as Melville Bay. The easterly winds,
however, affect them; and they are in great numbers blown across
Baffin’s Bay until they touch the southerly-setting current, when
they drift down into the North Atlantic, as if for no other purpose
than to annoy the crews and captains of Liverpool packets and other
craft sailing in those waters.

It will thus be seen that, unless driven by the wind, they never
leave the great Polar current of the Spitzbergen and Greenland seas,
and the waters of the Labrador—a current which is a mighty one
and has worked mighty changes on the surface of the earth. We all
know and can trace its course now, but that course was once very
different. In a remote geological age it must have swept over the
greater part of what is now North America, when that land was the bed
of the ocean, just as at the present time it sweeps over the growing
Banks of Newfoundland. Then Lake Superior discharged into it as a
gulf: afterwards, when this gulf became an inland sea, Huron and
Michigan were the outlets; afterwards Erie, then Ontario, now the
Gulf of St. Lawrence, which latter will, no doubt, in the course of
time, form another fresh-water lake of the great chain, as the sea
becomes more and more filled up.

We have seen already that many of the icebergs that drift down with
this current carry imbedded in them vast quantities of rock and sand,
which are, necessarily, deposited at the bottom of the sea when the
iceberg melts. Thus do they add something every year, as we have
also seen, to the Newfoundland shoals, and likewise strew the ocean
bed along their path with gatherings from the Greenland hills. When
these now submerged regions come to be elevated above the sea, the
geologists of that day will have less trouble to account for the
boulders being there than our forefathers had to explain the presence
of similar masses of rock on the Illinois prairie, or in the valleys
of the Mohawk and Connecticut rivers.

The melting of an iceberg is far from rapid. Many years are required
to mingle its crystals with the waters of the ocean. Yet its rate
of drift being slow (and it may be held for years grounded among a
cluster of islands or among shoals), and the distance great, by the
time it has reached the track of vessels the largest part of it has
disappeared; and, immense though they sometimes appear to be when
seen from the decks of ships crossing to and fro between America
and Europe, they are then but a fragment of their former greatness.
Indeed, very few of them ever reach so low a latitude at all, going
to pieces, little by little, long before the current has carried them
so far.

A very homely illustration will bring an iceberg more clearly to the
mind of the reader who has never seen one than the most elaborate

Observe the little bit of ice that clinks in your tumbler at
dinner-time. Observe it closely, and you will perceive how very
small a part of it floats above the surface of the water. That part
is about one-tenth, but it floats in fresh water. Change it to
sea-water, and the part above would be one-eighth. Now this little
bit of ice is an iceberg in miniature—an iceberg in every essential
feature except that it did not in all human probability come from
Greenland. In form, in general transparency, in the play of light
upon it, in its prismatic character, in the shape of its projecting
tongues which lie beneath the surface of the water, in the delicate
mist which plays around it in the warm air, it is the very image, on
a small scale, of those great monoliths of the Arctic frost which
come sailing down Baffin’s Bay with the Polar current in all their
stately grandeur and magnificence.

It is difficult for the imagination to conceive of the great
magnitude of some of these Greenland icebergs; and yet, as we have
seen, they are but comparatively trifling pieces, torn by the sea
from glaciers. The iceberg is indeed as the paring of a finger-nail
to the whole body, when compared to the quantity of ice in the
reservoir from which it came. Magnify the bit of ice in your tumbler
until it becomes to your imagination half a mile in diameter each
way, and you have a mass that is far from uncommon. Add to this a
mile, two miles of length, and you have what may be sometimes seen.
I have sailed alongside of an iceberg two miles and a quarter before
coming to the end of it. Yet this is not greater, in proportion to
the entire Greenland accumulation, than the little bit of ice in your
tumbler is to the immense stores which the ice monopolists have in
their store-house when they stand ready to avow, and do avow, that
the stock is nearly exhausted, and that they propose to double their
charges on you just when the hottest weather oppresses the city.

The name iceberg signifies ice-mountain, and mountainous it truly is
in size. Lift it out of the water, and it becomes a mountain five
hundred, a thousand, two thousand, or three thousand feet high. In
dimensions it is as if the city of New York were turned adrift in
the Atlantic, or the Central Park were cut out and launched in the
same place. And an iceberg of the dimensions of Central Park is far
from unusual. In general outline of surface the resemblance is
often equally good. It is undulating like the Park, and craggy, and
is crossed by ravines and dotted with lakes—the waters of which are
formed from the melted snows of the late winter, which have fallen
upon it, and also of the ice itself, after the snows have disappeared
before the rays of the summer’s sun. In such a lake I have even once
bathed, although, I am glad to say, but once, and that was in “the
days of other years,” when the youthful impulse was strong to _say_
“I have done it!”—a disease which I believe to be amenable only to
that treatment popularly known as “sad experience.” Skating on an
iceberg lake is more satisfactory and sensible, though it is just
as well to give an iceberg as wide a berth as possible, and have as
little to do with it as you can at all times, for it is liable to go
to pieces (though this rarely happens in winter) when you are least
expecting it. I have often climbed them, however, and with different
motives; sometimes to aid in watering the ship (for the lakes upon
them are of the best and purest water); sometimes to obtain a
distant view; at other times for the mere purpose of curiosity and
adventure. Ordinarily, a slope may be found by which the ascent can
be made without difficulty, but sometimes spikes in the heels and
a boat-hook in the hand become necessary. Frequently, however, the
sides are quite vertical all around, and it can not be scaled at
all. On one occasion, I measured an iceberg that presented on one of
its sides a vertical wall that rose three hundred and fifteen feet
above the level of the sea. Another one that I saw in the upper part
of Baffin’s Bay, and measured carefully, I will describe minutely.
The sea was quite smooth, and the day calm, so that I enjoyed a
most excellent opportunity, such an one as I never had before, and
probably shall never have again.

This iceberg was not only remarkable for its size, but for its great
variety of feature. I rowed all the way around it, and measured it
as carefully as possible. One of its sides was nearly straight and
regular, having the appearance of being recently broken from the
glacier. When facing the sun, it glistened marvellously. This side
was six thousand five hundred feet long—over a mile and a quarter. At
one end it was two hundred and forty feet high, rising squarely from
the sea. At the centre the height was less, being only one hundred
and sixty feet; at the other end it was one hundred and ninety.

These measurements were made with as much accuracy as was attainable
under the circumstances, and are quite reliable within small limits.
The log-line and chronometer—the one to measure distance, the other
to note time—were of necessity the means of obtaining the length.
For the height I dropped the “chip” at the base of the berg, and
then, rowing out a hundred fathoms, I had a tolerably good base-line
for obtaining the altitude—a pocket-sextant giving me the necessary
angles. Say that I made a mistake of twenty-five feet, it is yet
near enough for all practical purposes. It was big enough in all
conscience, any way.

In measuring my lengths I was not so liable to error, and in the same
manner as before I found one end of the berg to be eighteen hundred
feet across. Here it terminated in a rounded bluff that was one
hundred and twenty feet high.

Turning at the base of this rounded bluff, I came upon a side wholly
different from the one I had before measured. It had evidently been
for a long time the front of the glacier—perhaps for a period of
fifteen or twenty years, or even more. It was everywhere irregular.
In places it was cliff-like, as was the other, but for the most part
it was worn into all sorts of irregular shapes. This had been done
partly by the washings of the sea, partly by the sun, and partly by
the streams of water which poured from the glacier while this iceberg
was a part of it. There were bays in the side of it large enough to
float a frigate. The _Panther_ might have gone in and turned around
upon her heel without fear of striking.

In another place there was a considerable bay, with two ice islands
in it that were very peculiar. To this bay they were as Governor’s
Island and Ellis’s Island to the bay of New York, and they had as
firm a foundation, but the bottom upon which they rested was ice.
They were mere hummocks, and the water on the berg was quite shoal.
Yet we went in at least a hundred yards before we reached the shore
of it, all the while being really on the iceberg, for the ice
projected away out beneath us; and as I looked over the side of the
boat down through the clear bright water, which we were shoaling
constantly, I thought I had never seen any thing more exquisitely
soft, tender, and transparent in color than the green of the sea, nor
had I ever seen a more perfectly graduated tint than that from the
deep water when we first came over the ice to the margin of the bay.
It was as if we sailed through liquid emerald.

I “landed” upon the shore of this bay and climbed the iceberg. It was
not an easy climb, even with the aid of steel spikes in my heels and
a boat-hook in my hand. In places the ascent was very steep, and had
I lost my footing I should have slid down at a fearful pace into the

Upon reaching the surface I found it to be rolling, and much broken.
There were two conspicuous hills upon it, one of which was two
hundred and ninety, the other two hundred and seventy feet above the
sea-level. At least this was the record of my barometer. Between
these hills and among others less conspicuous, I discovered a lake
a quarter of a mile long. Its course was winding like the lake of
Central Park, which it resembled in size. I followed along its
shore until I found the outlet, and there, through a narrow gorge,
the overflow of the lake was rushing over a crystal bed in a rapid
torrent, until coming at length to the side of the berg the pure cold
stream leaped wildly down into the ocean, roaring like a youthful
Niagara, and breaking into spray. On every side there were indeed
streams, most of them quite small, so that the whole iceberg was
shedding water on every side, and the constant sound of innumerable
cascades charmed the ear with their ceaseless roar.

From the lake I wandered about among the icy hills until I grew
bewildered, and I found my way back to the place of ascent not
without embarrassment. The cause of this was partially explained—the
iceberg was revolving; and, as I steered my course back by the sun,
I naturally mistook the direction until I had discovered what was
wrong, when I began to look for the two hills first mentioned, by
which I recovered my bearings, and was soon on the right track again.
Upon climbing these ice-hills, I obtained a grand view. The whole sea
was studded with icebergs—hundreds of them there must have been—of
every conceivable shape, from the great wall-sided mass that looked
like a huge castle to the colossal effigy of some winged monster
floating upon the sea.

Although on an iceberg, I was not without life to keep me company.
A flock of kittiwake gulls flew about my head, and, perching upon a
hill, set up their noisy chatter; and one old burgomaster gull, who
had caught a fish, came there to swallow it in peace. But, to his
evident surprise and sad disgust, he was suddenly pounced upon by
a predatory jager, who had seemingly been hovering round for just
such a chance; and, with an angry scream, the burgomaster, who had
started off when he saw his enemy, gave up his prize, which the jager
quickly caught in mid-air.

It was altogether a strange sensation, afloat at so great an
elevation on an ice-mountain in the sea. Yet my foot-stool was firm
and solid as the eternal hills.

Had time and circumstances admitted, I should gladly have carried
up my camp-fixtures and remained there for a day or so watching the
grand panorama of the hills and sea, while the sun, like a golden
wheel in the blue sky, rolled around me, changing from hour to hour
the aspect of every object within the range of vision—now silvering
an iceberg, now coloring it, while it floated sometimes in a sea of
blue, and again of green; now blazing with red the rugged cliffs of
the fiord; now throwing them in shadow, as if they were the gloomy
walls encompassing the abyss of Dante’s Giants; now gilding the
distant mountains, now robing them in purple; now silvering the
far-off _mer de glace_, then melting it into a sea of rubies, or
blending it with the blue sky; for such scenes I have often witnessed
in the Arctic seas, though not from the summit of an iceberg.

But this camp on the iceberg was not possible; so, when I had found
my way, I descended from my lofty elevation to the boat, and then,
pulling on around the berg, completed my survey of it.

The scenery was much varied as we passed along. At one time we
were beneath a dismantled tower; at another time, a ruined spire;
then a deep cleft of blue or a dark cavern of green, in which the
slow-moving billows were caught and confined, until, as if tired of
their imprisonment, their hollow voices came gurgling out like the
loud breathing of some mighty monster of the deep exhausted with his
efforts to move the mountain from his path.

The side along which we were now passing proved to be six thousand
feet in length. The end beyond was thirty-five hundred. Thus, in
making the complete circuit of the iceberg, we had pulled almost
three and a half miles.

The altitude of the berg I averaged at one hundred and eighty feet
above the sea-level, which would give a total average depth of
fourteen hundred and forty feet, or more than a quarter of a mile.
Multiply these figures, and we obtain a total cubical contents of
23,850,000,000 feet. Convert this into tons, and all the carrying
capacity of all the ships in the world are as nothing to it. Freight
them all with ice cut from it, and an impression would hardly be
made upon it. It is only by such figuring that we can form any thing
like an adequate idea of the enormous magnitude of this huge vagrant
of the Arctic seas. Its beauties are not defined so readily. Solid
and mighty, it is yet a subtle object. The light plays through it
as through the opal. Flashes of every color come from it. Here we
see the emerald, there chalcedony; and again transparent quartz or
sapphire, the topaz or the ruby, as the sun’s rays dart through its
sharp angles, or the tintings of the clouds are reflected from its

More than this I can not say of the floating ice-mountain. Words fail
utterly in the description of such a mighty work of nature—fail us
as completely as do the pigments of the painter. Who could paint or
who describe the leap of Niagara, or the roar that rises from the
great abyss? At best, the effort of the artist gives but a vague
idea of the truth. The iceberg—in its birth, growth, and immensity;
in the varying phases which it presents at different times; the
subtle quality of the light and color which play around it—is utterly
beyond the reach of art. And who could paint, or who describe its
age? Nothing but actual observation will even so much as suggest
the long period occupied in its formation. Close inspection will
reveal an infinite number of lines of stratification, which, like
the multiplied rings of the old forest oak, mark the years of its
increase, and tell of the untold ages during which it was growing in
the parent glacier; but there is nothing in it or about it to fix
the period when the hardened snow-flakes which compose it were first
dropped upon the Greenland hills; nothing to show its steady growth
through the recurring cycles of time.

                             CHAPTER XI.

                      MAN _VERSUS_ MOSQUITOES.

On the morning after we had anchored in Panther Bay I went ashore to
stake off a base-line, preliminary to a survey of the glacier and
surrounding region, in which operation I was kindly assisted by two
of my shipmates and Peter Motzfeldt. We had a clear level space of
half a mile for our work; but the operation was attended with some
difficulty on account of the willow and birch bushes, which were
about four feet high—too high to clamber through readily, and too
thick to allow of crawling. But this was not the worst. When the sun
was fairly up we were sweltering in heat, and the mosquitoes, coming
out in swarms, excelled any thing I have ever seen. We persevered,
however, and reached the glacier, close beside which we put up our
last stake and fixed our last station. To observe with the instrument
was, however, not possible. The eye was blinded by mosquitoes, the
lenses were covered with them; the air was positively thick with
them. They were in the mouth, they were in the nostrils, they were
down the neck, they were everywhere, inside and outside the body. We
breathed mosquitoes into the lungs and took them into the stomach.
It was not that a swarm rose here and there from the marshy places
or from among the bushes, but they hovered over the plain in a misty

I tried to return upon my track and take some sights, but the thing
was impossible. Human nature could bear it no longer. I turned back,
and, joining my comrades, together we made a break for the glacier,
and, clambering up its sloping side, we found a convenient perch,
and from our cool retreat looked down upon the scene of our recent
battle, and, in peace, soothed our wounds. Our enemies did not dare
venture on the ice, and we had got the best of them at last.

And we had besides a very convenient situation for observing the
movements of our friends, the artists, who were ashore photographing
and sketching the glacier from every available point. They had their
heads covered with mosquito nettings at first; but that did not
appear to make any difference. The mosquitoes got through and under
them, in one way or another, and the nettings were torn off. Then
they flirted them about their heads, and for an instant cleared a
breathing space, but as soon as the work was resumed, back they came.
The oil sketches of the artists became like geological formations
which represent innumerable trilobites imbedded in the strata. Blob
was so confused with his incessant efforts to keep his eyes cleared
out, that he actually could not tell sky from water, nor ice from
rock, when he came to expose his sketches in the cabin.

But the photographers had the worst of it; the “colonel” (who was
first operator) especially, for he had to focus his instrument, which
proceeding required time and care; and the agony of that interval of
enforced quiet was most intense, if we might judge from the fierce
pawing, and stamping, and running to and fro that followed, all of
which would have been very amusing, had we not known by experience
that it was very distressing and very painful. Then the insects got
into the instrument and ruined the plates, which was a still further
aggravation. The “major,” who was second operator, could do nothing
satisfactorily in “developing,” for they filled his tent in place
of air. Like ourselves, they were all finally forced to own defeat,
and, darting for our perch upon the ice, escaped the torture. From
this safe retreat we managed to raise signals of distress, and a boat
coming to the shore, we made a bold dash for the beach, and, getting
on board, were at last in safety, for they did not venture so far out
to sea. Our faces were swollen, like a prize-fighter’s fresh from

Here, so close to such a great body of ice, we thought it strange,
at first, to find the temperature so high; but, in that locality, to
be attacked by mosquitoes surprised as much as it disgusted us. They
were even much worse than at the ruins in Ericsfiord, where there was
no ice at all.

Late in the day, when the sun was getting low, and the heat was less,
the work was resumed under better auspices, and in the morning the
labor was finished. I had in my port-folio as complete a map as was
needful for my purposes, excepting some sights that I wished from the
summit of the glacier, and these we proposed to obtain immediately.

While we were fighting the mosquitoes several icebergs broke away
from the glacier with a very grand effect; but we were too much
distressed to enjoy the scene fully, as we had been before too much
alarmed. So, after all, although we had very lively impressions of
the commotion caused by the birth of an iceberg, there was always
some disturbing element to make the scene something less than
perfect. However, after our ignominious retreat from fighting the
mosquitoes, when, from our new anchorage, we could watch the glacier
with perfect security, we had the good-fortune to see a berg somewhat
larger than the first, broken off in the midst of much the same
grand disturbance of the sea. Having no occasion now to look to our
safety, we watched the crash, and listened to the loud reports with
the eagerness of fascination. We saw the waves rolling away to the
shore and sweeping over the ice that lay scattered upon the fiord;
we observed the newly-liberated iceberg wallowing in the sea, and
admired it as it floated off, slowly gathering to itself a white
cloak, as if its tints were too delicate to bear the light of day.

                            CHAPTER XII.

                      A PICNIC ON THE GLACIER.

Two oomiaks loaded with women, and half a dozen men in kayaks, had
followed us up from Kraksimeut; and they pitched their camp upon
the shore as near our vessel as they could. An old seal-skin tent
gave them shelter; the andromeda-leaves furnished fuel, and, in
consideration for some trifling service, the stores of the _Panther_
supplied them with food. They were not in any respect an attractive
party, and, even with the best intentions in the world to play the
amiable, I doubt if the Prince ever made the slightest effort to
prove himself agreeable to these Kraksimeut ladies of the oars. They
were not to be compared to Maria and Concordia, and the rest of them
at Julianashaab.

One difficulty, however, was, that their camp was unapproachable on
account of the mosquitoes, which, however, did not appear to disturb
them. They were sometimes seen to brush off the insects when they
settled too heavily on one spot; but otherwise they might bite their
fiercest and remain unnoticed. They had grown so accustomed to them
that even the blood did not seem to be poisoned.

These people were, however, useful to us in one way. On the last day
of our stay in the fiord, it was determined to scale the glacier
in a body, seeing that it might be possible, after the experience
of the captain and myself. Accordingly, a party was made up, and
these native men and women, whose boots were better adapted for
climbing upon the ice than ours, were engaged to carry our luggage,
consisting of surveying instruments, artists’ materials, provisions,
and cooking fixtures.

After crossing the mosquito-infested plain, we entered the gorge
between the glacier and the rocks, where we were free from our
pestiferous enemies. Thence we clambered along for a little over two
miles before we ventured to climb the ice. This was almost a mile
beyond where the captain and I had before ascended.

The ascent was made with no further difficulty than would be
experienced in climbing any steep hill. Here we were not much
embarrassed by crevasses, for we were approaching the level plain
mentioned in the former description, where there had been very little
disturbance of the ice. The amount of foreign material was immense.
Rocks weighing many tons were imbedded in the glacier, or were lying
loose upon the surface, owing to the ice having melted away and left
them free. These we amused ourselves with rolling down the declivity;
for some of them were much rounded by ice-action, and were not so
large but that they could be raised with a lever and two or three
pairs of hands.

When upon the surface, we experienced something of the same
difficulty that had been encountered before by the captain and
myself. In one place only, however, was the track so rough as ours.
Here there were clefts of such fearful character that it fairly made
one shudder to look into them as they yawned before us at every few
steps. In order to get on at all, however, it was necessary that some
one should take the risk of the first leap. This usually fell to the
lot of the captain by his own election; for, being both vigorous
and fearless, he was usually at the head of the party; and when any
place more than ordinarily dangerous was encountered, he was heard
to cry out (from the opposite side of the danger), “Come on!” But
not every body could come on, especially those who carried burdens;
so a rope was thrown across and secured, and a safe passage was
obtained for the entire party. Once only was an accident seriously
threatened. This occurred to a man who had put something in him to
make his legs unsteady; and but for the captain’s rope he certainly
would have disappeared into the bowels of the glacier. He was hauled
up in a lively state of wonder as to “how we all got down there?” Our
“fair” companions in the seal-skin pantaloons required very little
assistance, and in their soft-leather boots were more sure-footed
than we. They seemed quite surprised at our gallant offers of
assistance; for they had been in the habit not only of helping
themselves, but their lords as well, in every thing where help was
possible—a practice universal among savages and half-civilized
people. Gallantry is a fine art, the sentiment not being natural to

When at length we had reached the level part of the glacier, for
which we had directed our course, and every body that had any
particular business to attend to had gone about it, the romance of
a picnic was illustrated in form, if not in fact, by an improvised
dance. The Prince of course led off, saying, “What’s a picnic without
a dance?” and never did couples “trip the light fantastic toe” upon a
spot apparently less adapted for it. Yet, if many of the conditions
of a first-class summer entertainment in the open air were wanting,
we did not lack a warm sun, nor merriment, nor singing. The dancing
did not amount to much, it must be owned. As for the accompaniments
to the singing, there was the music of a babbling brook which flowed
near by, across the icy plain; and right in front of us it dashed
down into a cleft, to seek the glacier bed, and there mingle with the
sub-glacial river which carries to the sea the summer meltings of the
_mer de glace_.

The view from our camp was one that I shall long remember. From the
midst of the motley group of men and women that surround me, I look
to right and left, and there rise the dark, rugged, rocky shores of
the glacier, and then, continuing away to the south-west, become the
shores of the fiord, which, dotted with icebergs, winds away like a
noble river, and, in the distance, melts into the ocean. Turning in
the opposite direction, I scan these same coasts for a few miles,
and, like two wedges, there they sink into the white slope which
rises above them and vanishes in the limitless distance.

We were not at any time cold. Our dinner was capital, abundant, and
much enjoyed, and it was not the less appreciated that the labors of
the day were over, and that it was prepared without the aid of the
ship’s cook and steward. The artists had accomplished all they came
for; and with the same assistants, who, as before, had aided me, I
had staked off a base-line, taken my angles, and obtained every sight
that was necessary to connect my measurements with the same hill-tops
that had been my guides in the survey on the mosquito-plain. And thus
I had all needful materials to complete the map which appears on page
162, and the section on page 170. Then, amidst much enthusiasm, we
flung our flag to the Arctic breeze.

The reader may, perhaps, regret, as I did, that there was so little
of thrilling interest to mark the day’s adventure. It was simply a
novel experience; an unusual place for a picnic—an unusual place to
stand on a warm midsummer’s day.

Such as the day was, I have, however, recorded it, leaving the
reader’s imagination to supply whatever may be lacking in the
sentiment of the solitude and desolation of our surroundings. He
may, perhaps, fancy that women, dancing, and festivity were strange
accompaniments to such a scene, as they surely were.

We did not, however, care to make the venture quite complete by
sleeping on the ice. Gathering up our traps, therefore, we made our
way back as we had come, and, arriving all safe on board, we picked
up our anchor, and, as we steamed down the fiord, the wonderful
ice-stream, which had afforded us so many adventures, melted away in
the gathering twilight of the evening.

                            CHAPTER XIII.

                    BOUND FOR THE ARCTIC CIRCLE.

Having our pilot, Peter Motzfeldt, on board, we were obliged to put
into Kraksimeut. After passing a few hours there, we made a direct
course for the open sea. Motzfeldt, in the generosity of his heart,
insisted upon it that we should rob him; but even the professional
habits of our trader would not suffer a gift without a quid pro quo;
and I trust that this worthy inhabitant of the solitary house on the
dreary island may not have been damaged by our visit.

Passing along near the coast, we had a fine view of the mountains
which rise there directly out of the sea; and, after rounding the
southwestern cape of Greenland, which bears the name of Cape
Desolation, we shaped our course for Arsut fiord, where the famous
kryolite mine is situated, at a place called Iviktut. The entrance
to this fiord is often seriously obstructed with ice-fields. We were
fortunate enough to find it free, and, aided by our excellent Danish
charts, we got in without trouble.

A man with a very sailor-like rig boarded us, and, addressing us in
English, said he was Captain Abel Reynolds, of Boston, agent of the
American Company.


This great kryolite mine is managed after a most inconvenient
fashion. In the first place, it is a monopoly of the Danish crown,
which has leased it to a Danish company for a period of years, to
work upon a royalty of twenty per cent. This Danish company have
sold to the Pennsylvania Salt Company the exclusive right in America
to the disposal of the ore, if such it may be, for convenience,
called, to the extent of one-half the production of the mine. This
Pennsylvania Salt Company, having no means of transportation of its
own, lets out that part of its business to a company in Boston, the
Messrs. Ryder & Crowley, and Captain Reynolds is their Greenland
agent. Then the Danish Government has its _Regjeringens Controlleur_,
Captain Harold Saxtorph; the company has its superintendent, Herr
S. Fritz; its assistant-superintendent, Herr H. Stockfelth; and its
surgeon, Herr E. C. Nobel; and a right good set of fellows they
proved to be, if rather numerous for the business. The American agent
made us snug as possible in the worst anchorage that ever was; the
controller entertained us hospitably; while his wife treated us to
the music of a Yankee sewing-machine. To the superintendent we were
indebted for the offer of any amount of coals, which he had there
in abundance for the use of the engines which he employs to pump
the water from his mine; and personally I had to thank him for much
useful information, and for the gift of the only fine specimens of
kryolite crystals that I have ever seen; and to his assistant I owed
more than thanks for a superb photographic plate of the mine and
Arsut fiord, taken by himself, and other similar favors. Nor was the
doctor lacking in the offer of his services; but luckily none of us
required his professional attention, a circumstance which imposed a
double share of thankful acknowledgment.

This kryolite mine is really a wonderful affair. Why Nature should
have ever taken it into her head to drop this valuable mineral in
Greenland, and nowhere else, is a puzzling matter. The mineral is
a fluorate of sodium and aluminum (mostly the former), the best
specimens containing ninety-nine, the worst ninety per cent. Besides
these, I found iron, tin, lead, silver, copper, arsenic, and
molybdenum; but none of these latter exist in sufficient quantities
to make the working of them profitable.

The soda is the product which makes the mine (or rather quarry)
valuable. And a mine of riches it would be, truly, were it anywhere
else almost in the whole wide world. Its great distance from
manufacturing marts; the extraordinary dangers attending the shipment
of it, owing to the ice; the high royalty which the Government
imposes; and the shortness of the season during which the miners can
work, make it comparatively of little importance in a commercial
point of view. Yet one-half the product of the mine (six thousand
tons) is annually shipped to Philadelphia, in from fifteen to twenty
vessels, whence it is carried by rail to Pittsburgh, to be converted
into commercial soda by the Pennsylvania Salt Company, who would,
but for this mine at Iviktut, be compelled to make their soda from
artificial sources.

The discovery of the mineral was made by the natives many years ago.
It is said they used it in a powdered state, as civilized men do
snuff. At first it showed itself as a little round, yellowish hummock
above the general gray of the metamorphic rock which inclosed it.
Upon coming to the knowledge of the world, only a few fragments were
brought away; and I can remember the time, when my mineralogical
studies first commenced, that to obtain the smallest fragment, even,
of the Greenland kryolite was to add to a collection one of its most
rare and costly minerals. Now it has no other value than to boil down
into soda for ordinary commercial uses.

The mine has been in operation under the present company about twelve
years. An effort to work it had been previously made, but failed for
want of capital, and under the present management it has only lately
been profitable. The mineral appears to exist as a sort of conical
injection through the overlying rock. It is now worked down until
the mine, or quarry, is about sixty yards in diameter and fifty feet
deep, forty of which are below the sea-level; and since the solid
rock is interrupted for a short distance on the sea-side, the water
has constantly endangered the mine by flooding—a catastrophe only
prevented by the admirable engineering skill of Mr. Fritz.

The number of miners employed is about one hundred, and since there
are no settlements in the neighborhood, and therefore no natives to
bring them supplies, their provisioning is entirely done from home.
The miners were a well-contented-looking people, and, so far as I
could see, did not suffer in their isolated situation any thing worse
than the torment of mosquitoes, which there, as in all other parts of
South Greenland, where the ice does not overrun the land, are thick
as the sands on the sea-shore.

The kryolite is the only mineral product of Greenland that has
proved of any commercial value. Yet, judging from the appearance of
the country, one might think Greenland abounded in mineral wealth,
and, if properly explored, a profitable return would certainly be
obtained. An unsuccessful effort was made to work a plumbago vein
near Upernavik, but to this and the kryolite the mining operations of
Greenland have, I believe, been confined.

Unfortunately, the day of our visit to Iviktut was as dirty and
disagreeable an one as ever was seen even in that country—rain, hail,
snow, wind, cold, every thing possible almost in the way of badness.
We did not, therefore, remain long, but, picking up our anchor again,
we steamed away once more, and, passing through a narrow gate-way at
the foot of the Great Kunak, or Arsut mountain, as it is sometimes
called, we were soon out at sea, heading northward for the Arctic
Circle, to find the midnight sun.

The midnight sun! A word of strange import! A new existence was to
open for us now, in a summer of perpetual brightness. For days and
weeks together lamps would be held in great contempt; we would be
careless of the hours; there would be “no morn, no noon, no night—no
any time of day;” no time for “turning in” or “turning out,” except
as the ticking clock might show us what to do,

    “In that strange, mysterious clime, where springs
     Are but the twilights of the summer day;
     Where summer an eternal sunshine brings;
     The winter, darkness and sublimity—
     Where reigns dread solitude, and rolls the Polar Sea.”

    “The lands are there sun-gilded at the hour
       When other lands are silvered by the moon—
     The midnight hour, when down the sun doth pour
       A blaze of light, as elsewhere at the noon.”

                          _PART THE THIRD._
                       UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SUN.

                             CHAPTER I.

                      ACROSS THE ARCTIC CIRCLE.

When we came to cross the Arctic Circle, instead of having the
midnight sun, we had no sun at all; for one of those villainous fogs,
so prevalent during the summer in the Arctic regions, set upon us and
hung about us, hiding every thing for several days.

It rolled over us like a great wave, submerging us in damp and
darkness. The wind was southerly, and the air was charged with
moisture, which was precipitated by the cold water and icebergs
over which it passed. I verily believe there never was such another
fog. A thin layer of mist rested on the sea, above which one could
climb and sit upon the royal yard and be in sunshine, and from that
delightful elevation overlook the great waste of rolling vapor, and
watch the glittering icebergs now and then protruding through it into
the light; and in the distance trace the great white mountain peaks,
and illimitable glaciers of Greenland. This was the sublime aspect
of it; but down on deck there was nothing to be seen at all. Three
ship’s lengths away the atmosphere was as impenetrable to vision as a
stone wall. From the quarter-deck we could scarcely see the look-out
on the forecastle. The fog trailed about the rigging, sometimes in
great streaks like festoons of white “illusion,” and down upon the
deck came dripping a perfect shower of the condensed vapor. In five
minutes every thing was as wet as if the clouds had been dropping
rain. The _Panther_ was bewildered. Her compasses, never reliable at
the best of times, were here, in the far North, utterly worthless.
Every compass seemed to have an idea of its own as to where North
was, and only changed its mind on being vigorously joggled; and no
two of them agreeing after they were joggled. The situation was
rather embarrassing; but for all the captain would not heave to. He
would keep going somewhere, at any rate. The danger was that he might
hit an iceberg. The sea was dotted all over with them. “All right,”
said the captain; “I don’t think we’ll hurt it much!”

That we should have a chance of proving it seemed the most likely
thing in the world; for we sometimes heard from them as the billows
broke against their sides or rolled within their wave-worn caverns,
and their smothered voices were often painfully near; yet we did
not see any of the bergs themselves, until suddenly there came a
thrilling cry from the look-out, “Ice close aboard—dead ahead!” This
warning went through the ship as if it had been “breakers”—the worst
of all sounds to hear. The captain said never a word, but rang his
bell, “Stop her”—“Back astern”—“Full speed!”

The cabin was cleared in a twinkling, and the people rushed on
deck in a violent state of alarm, to see before them a huge mass
of whiteness looming through the fog. It seemed impossible that we
should escape it. Notwithstanding the reversal of the screw, we were
yet forging ahead. The moments were like that terrible interval on
a railway train, between the first thump of the car off the track
and on the ties, and the crash which follows, scattering death and
destruction. It was one of those short periods of one’s life when
the memory is apt to be remarkably fresh respecting misspent time.
Happily, this was the worst of it. The ship slewed to starboard,
which saved her jib-boom, and by that time the headway was stopped,
and we began to go astern. But we were then in the very vortex of the
breaking waves—in the hissing foam of the angry sea.

A few moments more, and the iceberg that had caused us such a fright
was swallowed up in the gloom; and, giving it a wide berth this time,
we steamed on more cautiously at “dead slow,” groping through the
worse than darkness of the night.

We had no further adventures of that description; but the uncertain
currents of the sea, and the unreliable state of our compasses,
caused us to become bewildered in our course. We did not once get
even a glimpse of the sun for three days, and of course were running
wholly by dead reckoning. The fog had become so deep that we could no
longer climb above it and sit in the sun on the royal yard. “I’d give
my old gun,” said the captain, weary with watching, and disgusted
with uncertainty—“I’d give my old gun (a rare instrument) to know
where we are.”

Now the captain had just come into the little cabin, which for the
cruise we had “shoved up” on the main-deck amidships. The window
overlooked the bulwarks, and the noises of the deck and of the
machinery were kept away—a lucky circumstance, for at the very
instant of the captain’s speech my ear caught an ominous sound. I
listened again to make quite sure, and then told the captain that
if he kept on three minutes longer at the present rate of speed I
would claim the gun. “Where would we be, then?” inquired the captain,
somewhat incredulously. “On the rocks?”

The sound was unmistakable. The low murmur that comes from the
shore is very different from the loud roar from the waves breaking
on the iceberg in the deep sea, and the practised ear can quickly
distinguish the one from the other. The headway of the ship was
arrested as soon as possible, and the fog lifting a little, we could
faintly see the fatal line of surf. But we had still twenty fathoms
water under us, and had plenty of room to wheel round, and crawl back
upon our old track until we were beyond soundings, when we returned
to our old trade of groping for another day, at the end of which,
to our great joy and relief, and with the sudden bound of a mouse
popping from its dark hole, we slid from under the oppressive canopy
of vapor into the bright sunshine. Indeed, the limit of the fog was
almost like a wall—sharp and well-defined; and while the quarter-deck
was still in shadow, the forecastle was brightly illuminated. Fearful
now that the fog might roll over us again, the _Panther_ was made
to do her best, and we steamed on into a scene of a very different
description—still, however, among the icebergs—but now in a bright,
instead of a cloudy atmosphere.

It was fortunate that the fog terminated when it did, for otherwise
we would have been in great jeopardy. The icebergs were, in fact,
so numerous, that the horizon was for a time quite obliterated. We
turned and twisted among them to right and left, as one would follow
the zig-zags of the Boston streets, from Brattle Square to—well, any
other place you choose to mention.

We might have been in a state of constant terror had we not been in
a state of constant admiration. The atmosphere from a wonderful fog
changed to a wonderful brightness. I have rarely seen any thing to
compare with it. The hour was approaching midnight, and the sun,
nearing the north, gradually dipped until it had touched and finally
passed close to the horizon, with its upper limb just above the
line of waters. For some time previous the sky had been peculiarly
brilliant; but when the sun went fairly down, the little clouds,
which had before been tipped with crimson, melted away, and the
whole sky became uniformly golden; while the sea, quite motionless,
unruffled by even the slightest breath of air, reflected the gorgeous
color like a mirror; and the icebergs, of every size, from the
puny fragment a few fathoms only in diameter to the enormous block
hundreds of feet in height, and of every shape, from the wall-sided
semblance of a giant citadel to the spired effigy of a huge
cathedral, presented an aspect of indescribable brilliancy as they
floated there in the golden sea.

In color they were wonderfully varied—against the brilliant sky dark
purple, shading away to left and right into amethyst, and then into
green and blue and pearly white; and away behind us, against the dark
fog-bank which lay upon the waters, chased silver; while everywhere
around were flecks of lustrous splendor stolen from the sky.

Emerging from this dazzling brightness, we glided on through the
night in view of some of the finest coast scenery of a region
where the scenery is never tame. First we passed under the gloomy,
cavernous Black Hook; and then near the stupendous cliffs of the
main-land, which, cut by deep gorges, seemed like grim old time-worn
columns holding up against the sky a vast white entablature—the
great ice-sea of Greenland. Then we came beneath one of the noblest
landmarks of the coast—a cone-shaped mountain rising from the sea,
which we had seen some sixty miles or more away. At first it was
but a dark hummock against the sunset; now, through the breaks in a
fleecy cloud which girdled it, we caught occasional glimpses of its
crest brightened by the morning sun.

With helm a-port, we wheeled in on the south side of the mountain,
and entered, close beside its base, a narrow, winding fiord as the
sun was dropping his earliest rays down upon a silvery thread of
ice-incumbered waters that wound between cliffs of unparalleled
magnificence. The base of the mountain formed the cliffs on our left,
and, as I afterwards determined, they were at one point 2870 feet
high, rising so squarely from the water that it seemed almost as if
one might drop a plumb-line from the summit into it.

The mountain is an island some ten miles in diameter east and west,
by six north and south. This line of cliffs is almost uniform around
its base, above which the conical top ascends quite regularly to an
altitude of 4500 feet. This is the Kresarsoak—the “big mountain” of
the natives—the “Sanderson’s Hope” of old John Davis, who sighted it
in 1585, soon after he had first discovered this Land of Desolation
and been so nearly wrecked among the ice that beset it.


The cliffs upon our right were not less lofty nor less gloomy than
those of the mountain’s base. The fiord widened a little by-and-by,
and we opened a more cheerful spot, where, for a short distance, the
cliffs at the base of the mountain are broken away, and the slope
of the mountain itself extends down in an almost unbroken descent
from the crest to the sea. Here there are some signs of life. Up to
about five hundred feet elevation the slope is in places green—little
patches of mountain heather, and moss and stunted grass, which some
flowers speckle with white and yellow. It seems like a green curtain
hung across the entrance to the interior of the mountain, where,
according to native tradition, dwell mountain giants. By this same
legend the mountain is but a shell, the whole interior being one
great cave, which, if true, gives the giants plenty of room. Had
we been wholly unused to Greenland scenery, we might have imagined
ourselves steaming into some mysterious region where creatures of a
supernatural sort actually held possession of land and sea in their
own right; for, as we came near the base of the cliff, and directly
under the peak of Kresarsoak, we detected something moving upon
the water, and loud noises came floating on the air. Slacking our
speed, until there was barely headway enough to keep us free from the
icebergs, we were soon surrounded by a perfect swarm of amphibious
creatures, in all essential particulars like that marine centaur
of a pilot we had fished up out of Ericsfiord. Despite the colder
climate (for we were now seven hundred miles nearer the North Pole
than then), they bore no further appearance than he had done of being
cold, wet though they were. They gathered about us on every side, and
accompanied us with every manifestation of delight. Afterwards a boat
came off with four of the same fishy-looking creatures at the oars,
and a white man at the tiller, who was not slow to announce himself
as the “governor” of a settlement called Karsuk, lying at the base
of the mountain, on the very green slope which had attracted our
attention. Esac was his name. A sorry-looking governor, to be sure,
was Governor Esac; but then it would never do to allow a governor of
any sort to pull alongside; so we hove to and hauled him aboard, and
then let his boat drop astern in tow.

Governor Esac was in a very bad way. He had the rheumatism, for
which what seemed to be a suitable prescription (as he thought at
least) was administered, and when he finally left us he carried off a
bottle of the same, a gift from the doctor. The medicine worked like
a charm, for the patient soon ceased his complaints, and declared
himself in possession of the very thing he stood most in need of,
which seemed very likely, seeing how happy he looked, and great as
the prospect appeared of his being more so.

[Illustration: ENTERING THE FIORD.]

Esac’s rheumatism being provided for, we pushed on towards our place
of destination, which was a great truncated cone standing in the
middle of the fiord, and right before us. This truncated cone we came
to know right well afterwards. Its height is 2300 feet. Its sides
slope a little only from the perpendicular, and at our position, when
Esac left us, there was no perceptible break in the line of the cliff
to an altitude of 1460 feet. Above, the top is more or less ragged,
yet the crest is nearly level, and the whole aspect of the rock is
one of such great symmetry that it seems almost as if it were carved
by man for a gigantic monumental pile.

Only by a close inspection of it can one realize its immense height.
Even after having visited and examined it, I was quite amazed
when I came to measure its dimensions. We were, indeed, all much
deceived, and none more so than the captain, who, when a full mile
away from it, thought he was quite as near as it was safe to go; and
accordingly he hauled the _Panther_ up alongside of an iceberg, and
tied her fast.

How rejoiced were we all now to get once more out of the ship! A
“landing” on the iceberg was easily effected, and we ran about over
it as if it had been dry land. It was comparatively small, being not
over a hundred yards in diameter by fifty feet in height, and it was
undulating on the top. In the little valleys the water which the warm
sun had formed of the pure fresh ice had gathered, and from one of
these little pools we filled our water-tanks.

Satisfied that this was a place for birds, I persuaded the captain
to take a boat with me and row towards the cliff, which, owing to a
strange optical illusion, appeared to be only a few rods distant. To
the captain’s great amazement we had a pull of twenty minutes before
reaching it. The sight then, up or down, was grand. Upward the cliff
rose nearly half a mile above our heads: downward its image was
repeated in the clear, bright waters.


A strange feature of this cliff, and others of like geological
formation, is that the rock is fractured here and there horizontally,
and that scales have splintered off from time to time, leaving a
series of narrow ledges, or steps, which extend from the very bottom
to the top; and these ledges are in the summer-time the home of
myriads of birds. These birds are the well-known “bacaloo bird” of
Newfoundland and Labrador, and the St. Lawrence region generally,
where they winter. They are the lumme of the Arctic seas, and the
_Uria Brunichii_ of the naturalist—a species of what are popularly
known as “divers.”

When about half a mile away from the cliff we began for the first
time to perceive something of its character. Then birds came flying
over us in considerable numbers. Many of them were on the water, and,
like all the divers, who rise with difficulty, they made a great
noise about us as they prepared to take the wing, flapping along
close over the surface of the sea. As we kept nearing the cliff they
became still more numerous.

Presently we heard a murmuring sound like that of distant falling
waters. When we had arrived under the cliff, this sound increased
in volume, and became so loud that we were obliged to elevate our
voices to make ourselves heard by each other. This result was caused
by the constant fluttering of innumerable birds, and their incessant
screaming. Some of the ledges, or shelves, on which they sat were
very narrow, others were two or three feet wide; some were but a few
yards in length, others were many rods; some were in pretty regular
order, one above another, others were sloping and irregular; but upon
all of them, from near the water’s edge to the summit of the cliff,
birds were sitting, packed close together, and facing outward—sitting
bolt upright, row above row, crowded into the smallest possible
compass, and looking for all the world like soldiers with white coats
and black caps standing shoulder to shoulder on parade. Low down
the birds were easily counted; but higher up they melted away into
scarcely distinguishable lines of whiteness, and higher still they
disappeared from sight altogether.

At first it puzzled me to account for their strange attitude; but
when I discovered that each female bird lays but one egg, it was
readily explained.

[Illustration: SHOOTING LUMME.]

They make no nest whatever, but lay their single egg upon the naked
rock. The bird can only cover it, therefore, by placing it upon its
end, which is accomplished with the bill, and then she sits down
upon it as if it were a stool.

After listening a while to their strange cries, and watching their
movements, we remembered that we had come out to try our luck at
shooting. Our guns were fired simultaneously, and down came plump
into the water birds enough to make a meal for the whole ship’s
company. But what a change now there was in the aspect of the cliff!
Following the discharge of the guns there was an instant of calm. It
seemed as if every scolding voice was hushed. Every bird had leaped
into the air; and now the wild flutter of their wings, as they darted
away from the rock, was like the rush of a tornado; while they were
so numerous as they passed over that they threw a shadow on us like
a cloud. Having sprung from their eggs so quickly, many of them were
left insecure, and a perfect shower came spattering down the cliffs.

But the birds did not long keep the air. They soon lit upon the
water, with a great splash, about a quarter of a mile from the cliff,
perfectly blackening its surface. Some of them did not even go so
far; but, wheeling about in mid-air, they put back in haste to get
once more upon their eggs before they had time to cool; and those
who took the water quickly came back, despite the danger, to shelter
their precious treasure of a single egg.

Many of the birds were now observed to be in a state of violent anger
with their nearest neighbors, and, as they sat there upon their
stools, they reminded me of angry fish-wives. With ruffled feathers
they were continually scolding each other at the very top of their
shrill voices; and, not satisfied with this, they plucked out each
other’s feathers, and tried to gouge out each other’s eyes. When it
is borne in mind that the birds must have numbered millions, the
volume of sound may be well imagined. It was at first difficult to
account for all this disturbance, except upon the ground of pure
love of fight. Presently, however, I observed that there was a
deeper cause at the bottom of much of the difficulty. Many of the
birds were in fact arrant thieves, and were guilty of all manner of
dishonest devices to cover up their crimes. In short, they stole
each other’s eggs, seemingly without compunction of conscience. The
bird must sometimes leave her egg, for she can not remain there and
starve to death while the chick is hatching. She may be a careless
bird, and as she leaves the ledge, her precious egg may roll off the
cliff after her and thus be destroyed; or her neighbors may roll it
off while quarrelling. Upon her return she looks for her egg, but
does not find it; she at once suspects that it is lost, and knowing
that to remain virtuous is to be chickless, she instantly decides in
favor of theft, and steals the first egg she can lay her bill upon;
and then down she sits upon it with as much coolness and unconcern
as if it had belonged to her from the beginning. When the true owner
of this stolen egg comes back, she may steal in like manner, or she
may accuse some other bird with the theft. Perhaps she may accuse
the right one; but right or wrong, if there is an accusation, there
is sure to be a fight; and perhaps, before the fight is ended, the
egg which is the cause of the quarrel may roll down the cliff; and
then both birds get even by turning thieves again. But the egg is not
always left without a protector, for the male bird sometimes sits
upon it while his mate goes off to feed. The poor fellow, however,
likes this business little enough, and I observed that the female
did not trust to his faithfulness to the family interest holding out
very long, for she invariably caught her breakfast (small shrimps) as
speedily as possible, gave herself a hasty dip in the sea by way of a
morning bath, and hurried back; whereupon the uncomfortable benedict
of a lumme betook himself to freedom with a scream and a rush that is
very enlivening.

It did not require a great many shots to satisfy us with
lumme-shooting. It was a barbarous sort of sport, and verily, in
the sportsman’s sense of the word, there was no sport in it at all.
Having knocked over about twelve dozen, we returned on board, leaving
the poor frightened birds at such peace as they might find in the
confused state of the private property which must have resulted from
our so often driving them from their family stools.

[Illustration: ESAC.]

Upon our return to the _Panther_ every boat was at once manned,
and the hunters all set out for the cliffs. The day was calm and
pleasantly warm, and at its close we were the richer by almost half
a ton of birds, after which successful raid upon the feathered
inhabitants of the cliffs we cast off from the iceberg, and steamed
over to the little bay of Karsuk, where we found good anchorage with
sandy bottom, and paid a visit to “Governor” Esac, who proved to be
the only white person there.

The Government-house at Karsuk is of the uniform style of
architecture that prevails throughout the village (and, indeed,
throughout Greenland generally), and differs only from the others in
its superior size, increased comfort, and greater ornamentation—that
is to say, the vestibule is not so long as that of the others, and
does not, therefore, accommodate so many snarling dogs and litters
of puppies, the owner being rich enough to afford a separate
shelter for those ordinary members of a Greenland family. Then this
same vestibule is four instead of three feet high, and you run a
correspondingly less risk of knocking your brains out as you go
in. The interior—roof, floor and wall—is lined and covered with
planed boards, which Esac has obtained from the Government stores at

The house has but one room, it is true, but then it is sixteen by
twenty feet, while the native houses are only ten by twelve, and
their walls are lined with seal-skins instead of boards, and the
floor is covered with flat stones. As for the walls, they are all
built alike, six feet high and four feet thick, of stones and turf.
There is a roof of rough timbers and boards; then the whole, roof and
walls, are covered with heavy sods, which grow green, and convert the
hut into a sort of mound. At fifty yards you could hardly distinguish
Esac’s house from the general green of the hill-side but for the
Government stove-pipe which projects through the roof, and the smoke
of Danish coal that comes from it, for it must be understood that
this country produces no fuel save dried moss and blubber, of which
the natives make, in an open dish of soap-stone, their only fire.

[Illustration: ESAC’S HUT]

Esac had made good use of the doctor’s prescription, for he seemed
to be now entirely free from pain—at least he did not once mention
it; but he pointed to an empty bottle with one hand, while
extending the other to welcome us. Then he introduced us to his wife,
and invited us to be seated, with immense decorum, and with a high
appreciation of the rights of hospitality. Half the floor was raised
a foot above the other half, and down we sat on this, along with the
different members of his family, including a son recently married
and his blushing bride—at least it is fair to suppose that she was
doing what brides always do, as a matter of course, only she was too
dark to allow the blushes to be visible. Along the back part of this
raised place, or dais, there were piled up great bags of eider-down,
which are spread out at night, and there the numerous family of Esac
would bestow themselves to sleep, after such fashion and in such
place as they found most suited to the taste and convenience. There
being no partitions, the choice was limited only by the walls and
certain claims of modesty, which drove the females all to one corner,
and the males to the other.

Esac’s wife was a thorough-bred Esquimaux, and when we entered she
was seated beside a lamp, over which hung a steaming kettle that gave
forth the pleasing aroma of coffee.

This housewife was a woman worth knowing. She wore yellow boots of
extraordinary length, seal-skin pantaloons, a Scotch plaid jacket
lined with fawn-skin, and hair twisted into a top-knot after the
native fashion. Altogether she looked neat and matronly; of course
also after the native fashion. Esac’s approbation left no doubt
on that score. “Mine frau!” said he, pointing to the lady of the
yellow boots. “Mine frau—all same you speakum vife.” He had been on
board many a whale-ship, and had, with the singular facility of the
Danes everywhere, picked up a little English. Then he continued:
“Very good vife she. Plenty vurks;” and with his right forefinger he
counted this item number one off upon his left forefinger; “plenty
good cooks” (finger number two); “plenty good coffee makum” (finger
number three); “plenty sew” (finger number four); and then, after a
pause, and dropping his fingers, evidently regarding them as of no
further account, he threw back his head, sniffed the air, and said,
triumphantly, and as if there was no use talking further, “No smell.”

But if Esac’s frau did not smell, the Government-house did, so that
we remained only long enough to pat the babies, bestow some presents,
and receive some in return, when we took to the open air for relief;
not, however, until we had partaken of a really excellent cup of
coffee of this estimable lady’s preparing—coffee being the universal
and, besides the pipe, almost the only luxury of these Arctic wilds.

It is offered to you everywhere, in every hut and tent even of
the lowest savage. It has, of course, only been in use since the
Christians came there; but now it is a national beverage, and one
of the principal articles used in trade. In the Upernavik district
alone the annual consumption is about six thousand pounds among a
total population of less than seven hundred souls—nearly ten pounds
to each man, woman, and child. And every man, woman, and child has
free access to the Government store-rooms, when they go provided
with blubber, walrus or narwhal ivory, eider-down, or some other
merchantable commodity; and in return he receives every needful
article of civilized comfort and convenience, save and except only,
as I have before observed in my relation of Julianashaab, the
villainous “fire-water.” The exclusion of spirits from the Greenland
natives is but one of many evidences of the paternal care which
the Danish Government exercises over these children of nature. The
whole system being devised with the view of making the natives
useful subjects, instead of reducing them to dependents, and, while
causing them to be taught Christian doctrines, inculcating at the
same time the practice of Christian virtues in conformity therewith,
a circumstance not so usual as to be unworthy of mention. It is
thus that, finding no conflict between precept and example, the
Greenlanders have embraced Christianity, with its churches and its
schools, and present an exceptional example of the current of a
savage nature being turned into the stream of modern civilization.

We were bound to the colony of Upernavik, capital of the Upernavik
District; and having accomplished our business in the fiord, we
steamed around the base of the “big mountain,” and in a couple of
hours were at anchor again in a most uncomfortable situation, among
a great quantity of drift-ice, directly off the little town, which,
perched upon the naked, treeless rocks, presented a most woe-begone
appearance. Yet hearty hospitality and a warm welcome were in store
for us, as I knew they would be; and we soon forgot the desolate
surroundings, as one would forget the desert in the wild flower that
he finds growing by the way. My good old friend of former years,
C. N. Rudolph, M.D., Bataillonschir, and governor of the Upernavik
District, was there to greet us; and his great ancestor, the father
of all the Hapsburgs, could not have welcomed guest with more lordly
courtesy than did this true-hearted gentleman offer us the freedom of
his house.

And his house was snug and comfortable. Two children and a kindly,
gentle wife comprised the family; and, after seeing them, we needed
not to see the fragrant flowers growing in the windows, nor to eat an
excellent dinner, to convince us that we were in a home as happy as
it was refined. The wild winds might whistle as they would over the
boundless wilderness beyond the window-panes—they could not disturb
the peace and comfort that reigned within.


I never shall grow weary with recalling the tender love of flowers
that I witnessed everywhere in Greenland. I never saw there a Danish
house without them. They would not bear, throughout the entire
length of any single day, exposure to the open air; but then, dear
souvenirs of love and love’s sweet offices, they keep them safe
behind the glass, and nurse them as they nurse within their hearts
the kindly ties that bind their lives and memories to sunny skies and
summer gardens far away.

                             CHAPTER II.

                        BEYOND CIVILIZATION.

Upernavik District extends from about latitude 70° to latitude 74°,
and enjoys the pre-eminent distinction of being the most northern
spot of all the earth where civilized industry is carried on. The
settlements comprised within this most northern of the Greenland
Districts are, Upernavik (which is the capital), Proven, South
Proven, Karsuk (the home of Esac), Aukpadlartok, Kresarsoak, Kryatok,
and Tessuisak. Of these, the latter is the most northern, and is,
moreover, the most northern spot of earth where any Christian people
dwell. It lies some fifty miles to the northward of Upernavik, in
latitude 73° 35´. There, after leaving Upernavik, and twisting for
many hours about among a perfect maze of islands, we made our next
halt. The place differs in its general features from Karsuk, already
described, only in having for its trader, governor, or bestyrere,
whichever you like to call him, a man of more intelligence than Esac,
and altogether of very different character. This governor’s wife is
Danish, and he brought her with him from Copenhagen to this last
boundary of the Christian world, and he lives in a comfortable little
house of civilized construction. His wife, when she first came here,
was a fresh young bride; and here four children have been born to
them. One of these sleeps in its cold grave among the stones.


The town itself is otherwise not unlike Karsuk, and has about the
same number of native inhabitants, an equal number of yelping dogs (I
should say about a hundred), and the average proportion of the filth
and stench inseparable from a town of such description. Among it all
the trader’s little whitewashed house loomed up cheerily, and, like a
light-house in a dirty fog, it was a pleasant thing to look upon. It
was late at night when we dropped our anchor, but the photographers
had time to get out their camera and bath; and as the clock struck
twelve they made a picture of it—the most northern house upon the
globe, _photographed by the light of the midnight sun_! a feat well
suited to the place and the romantic circumstances of our situation.
We carried the picture off as a pleasant souvenir.

But, unhappily, the proprietor of this house was not there, nor his
family. They had all gone off reindeer-shooting—the entire family
camping out in the open air—a circumstance which I regretted the more
that the man had served me before as interpreter and dog-manager
in 1860-’61, and I was naturally desirous to see him. We sent off
a native courier, but the courier missed him, and after remaining
twelve hours, and the case appearing hopeless, the _Panther_ was
headed once more northward, and over the classic ground of the
whalers we were soon passing Wedge Island and Cone Island, and
Horse’s Head, and Cape Shackleton; and finally we fetched up at the
Duck Islands, sixty miles beyond Tessuisak.

The Duck Islands were in former years a sort of whalemen’s
rendezvous. To this point they fought their way among the great
ice-fields along the Greenland coast; and here they are beyond the
Danish colonies, and beyond the reach of human succor if misfortune
happens them. Ahead of them lies Melville Bay, and the “middle ice”
or “pack,” which they are bold to enter, and if lucky enough, in the
end, to pass, they are pretty sure to find an ample reward in the
cargo of whale blubber and whalebone which they will gather in the
northern and western waters of Baffin’s Bay. In former times this
fleet numbered something like a hundred sail; but now about a dozen
steamers do the work of the noble old sailing ships, of which the
recently destroyed _True Love_ was the last. As the fleet “take the
ice” here early in June or late in May, we were of course too late
for them.

When a little more than half-way between the first and second of
the Duck Islands we ran, at nearly full speed, upon a sunken rock
not laid down on the charts—perhaps for the reason that nobody
ever hit it before, but more probably, as it seemed, because of
the disposition of our mate to allow no opportunity to be lost for
sounding Baffin’s Bay with the keel of the _Panther_. We struck it
first with the stem, and fortunately glanced off to port, thus easing
the shock, and, by somewhat deadening the headway of the steamer, the
better enabled us to take the rock again and get fast aground.

The shock was, I need hardly say, rather startling. The worst results
were, not without reason, anticipated. The timber-heads were of
course, as everybody supposed, started and glaring wide open; of
course the ship had sprung a leak; of course we would have to take
to our boats, and make our way as best we could to Tessuisak and
Upernavik, and there meet the Danish ship, and reach home by way
of Copenhagen, leaving the _Panther_ to go to pieces on the rocks.
It was not a pleasant prospect, but there was no help for it. The
artists were in a great stew about the “negatives.” Our special
artist (the very lively young gentleman, much given to caricature,
already mentioned, who, for short, bore the cheering name of “Blob”)
was much alarmed for the safety of his numerous sketches. “The
Professor” bemoaned the fate of his collection of specimens. But to
every body’s great surprise, and to the utter destruction of every
body’s well-laid plans of misfortune, a careful examination proved
that no harm had been done whatever, except to the cabin furniture.
The shock set our cups and plates shying about the deck in a very
fragmentary state, and sent our cabin-boy, who was, as usual, asleep
in the pantry, head foremost through the door, where he tripped up
the steward, who was bringing in a pot of boiled mush, all of which
the unhappy boy received on the abdominal region, and for the first,
last, and only time during the cruise got thoroughly waked up.

It was none of our (that is to say, the passengers’) business whether
the _Panther_ got off the rocks or not. That was the captain’s
affair; and therefore, when we learned that no hole had been made
in her bottom, we were eager to get ashore, and after the birds.
“The Professor” was easy in his mind about the specimens; “Blob”
was relieved about his caricatures, and the “negatives” were safe.
What was to prevent us? Nothing but the settlement of the question
of responsibility as to whose fault it was that we hit the rock.
The mate said it wasn’t his. Oh no! who ever was at fault when any
mischief was done? But the captain declared it was; and the mate,
with equal zeal, repeated that it was not. But the second mate was
against him, and every body else appeared to be; so he protested very
loudly that it was no part of his duty to keep the run of all the
rocks in Baffin’s Bay; which was rather hard upon the captain, who
kept the charts, and, if there were any rocks lying around loose,
should know about it.

This home-thrust incensed the captain greatly; and, without making
any secret of it, he advised the mate to go home to his mother
(which he would, no doubt, have been glad enough to do), and, with
a consistency peculiar to maritime people, told him, with the same
breath, that he had better go and scrape the rust off the anchor, as
that was all he was fit for. This settled the matter; and the matter
being settled, a calm followed on the heels of the storm; and, upon
the first lull, we got a boat off the davits, and got ourselves and
our guns and heavy shot, for the promiscuous slaughter of ducks,
landed on the beach. Then we all filed off to left and right, and
marched inland, the ducks very obligingly getting up before us as we
went along, and hurrying away with a terrible flapping of wings and
quacking with fright—at least, such as we did not bring down—and,
since they rose superbly, any body with half a hand could have
knocked over his bird. The sport was good, and by all odds the best
we had yet enjoyed.

[Illustration: EIDER-DUCKS.]

The islands proved, indeed, to have been well named. The birds were
the famous eider-duck, close kindred of our much prized canvas-back,
though much larger, and, feeding on shrimps, their flesh is not so
well flavored.

The whole aspect of the place was forbidding in the extreme—too bleak
and desolate to make one think of looking there for game did he not
know better beforehand. But there were, towards the centre of the
island, some small pools or lakes of snow-water, which furnished
moisture for the growth of great quantities of moss; and in this
moss, after the waters had subsided and left it dry, the birds had
built their nests, lining them with the delicate down which grows
upon the breast. This the bird plucks off with her bill to the extent
of a good handful, leaving the feathers intact; and when she quits
her nest to feed, she covers her eggs with this warm material to keep
them warm. In regions farther south the Greenlanders make descents
upon the islands, and carry off this fine lining of the nests, which,
when cleaned, becomes the well-known and very valuable “eider-down”
of commerce. “Live down” is the commercial name for it; and it is
a singular fact that the same material plucked from the bird even
an instant after death is worthless. The wonderful elasticity which
gives such great value to the “live down” is wholly wanting in the

During the early part of the season the ducks go in pairs, and the
contrast between the two is very great—the female bird being brown
and homely, while the male is black, with cream-colored breast and
neck, and has the most beautiful tints of green upon his head. If the
nest is robbed of down, and the female’s own supply is exhausted,
the male will sometimes obligingly pluck himself to accommodate her;
but after she begins to “sit” he is seldom seen about her nest or in
her company, and, indeed, is not allowed there except when she has
been robbed, and wants his help to refresh the family nest. The males
then flock together—like hen-pecked husbands at the clubs—and are
very wild. To get within range of them at all one must lie low behind
the rocks, and wait for them to fly overhead. In this manner we shot
quite a number, and found their flesh a little fishy, but very fair.
We enjoyed the afternoon’s sport immensely, and perhaps not the less
that the captain had come ashore very soon after we landed to convey
the pleasing intelligence that, the tide having risen, the _Panther_
was afloat and all right. And apart from this, we liked to have the
captain on all hunting expeditions. He was generally the best shot,
which detracted something, of course, since he was pretty sure to be
the winner. But then he was always gay and lively; and he carried a
gun which nobody but a tall, powerful man like himself could possibly
have used—one of those Newfoundland sealing-guns—long enough,
ordinarily, to knock a bird over without firing. But the captain
was too fond of sport for work of that sort, and he invariably
allowed the bird to get beyond the muzzle before he pulled trigger.
Fifteen dozen birds rewarded us well for some fatigue, undergone in
a temperature warm enough to enable us to dispense with coats, even
although we were in latitude 74°, and surrounded on every side by ice.

The islands were so full of interest, and possessed so many
romantic associations, that I wandered about them, from one to the
other, rather in pursuit of my own fancy than of game. Everywhere
that I went there appeared traces of the whalemen—at one place a
flag-staff, at another place the fragment of a wreck; here they had
built a fire, and there they had made a camp; and upon the very
summit of the outer island, five hundred feet above the sea, we
discovered the walls of an old look-out station, behind which many
a hardy mariner whose ship was “beset” among the ice had come and
watched, perhaps for days, waiting and hoping for some favorable
change of wind and weather to bring a change of ice and change of

On another part of this same island we came upon seven graves.
They were about fifty yards from the beach, on a rapidly sloping
hill-side facing the west, beneath a great tall cliff, which forms a
conspicuous landmark for vessels approaching from that direction.

Never was place of human sepulture more desolate. Here there were no
birds; there was not even a blade of grass, nor a bit of moss—not a
living thing—nothing but a waste of naked rocks and loose stones,
that had been tumbled by the frosts of winter from the cliffs above.
The dead had been laid in some convenient place among the rocks, and
the stones had been heaped upon the coffins; and at the head of each
rude sepulchre there had been placed a board on which the shipmates
of the dead sailor had carved his name and age, and the place of his
nativity, his ship, and rank, and day of death.

There was something very touching in the evident care with which the
last sad offices of the living to the dead had been performed. But
even there, in the drear solitude, other men had followed after the
mourners, and graves which the wild beasts had respected, and which
showed such signs of tender solicitude, had been most barbarously
desecrated. The graves themselves remained as they had been
originally prepared, but the head-boards, on which careful hands had
carved the brief record of a career that the grave closed over, were
broken into splinters, and strewn upon the rocks around. A party from
some whale-ship (it could be no other) had landed there, and, using
the head-boards of the graves for targets, had blown them all to
pieces with ball and shot. Not a single one remained intact, and the
resting-place which each was meant to tell of could not possibly be
identified. Nor could much be made of the splinters that I found. The
records on two of these ran thus:

  “Of the ship Jane, of Hull, died April 28, 1832:”

  “Who died on board of the ship Alexander, of Dundee, June 21, 1842,
  aged 42 years.”

But to neither of these was any name attached; and even this much
was deciphered with difficulty, so effectual had been the aim of the
vandals. Another splinter told that

  “Wm. Hardy, aged 59,”

had died, but I could not make out the name of his ship or the date
of his death. Even about the “Wm.” there was uncertainty. The only
perfect one ran thus:

  “To the memory of Thos. Roberts, seaman, Leith, who died on board
  the Alphen, of Peterhead, July 6th, 1825, aged 37 years.”

It was late in the afternoon when we brought up at the summit of the
island in the whalers’ old look-out station, where we commanded a
superb view of the surrounding region. How grandly the mountains and
glaciers of Greenland loomed up on our right! How splendid was the
sea around, speckled with ice, while here and there appeared a dark
rocky island among the general whiteness. How tempting Melville Bay
ahead, with its interminable “pack.”

                            CHAPTER III.


While the chain is clicking in the hawse-hole, let us take a quiet
view of the situation. There is no need, however, to describe with
much minuteness the “Melville Bay pack” which lay before us. The ice
freshly broken up in any large river is a sufficient illustration,
provided the imagination will stretch the river to three hundred
miles in width, and magnify the drifting fields of ice in proportion.
In the early part of the season this ice is very hard, and many feet
in thickness; but by August (which was the time of our being there)
it has become porous, its thickness has been greatly reduced, much of
it is on the eve of disappearing altogether, and still more of it has
quite melted away. Almost all the fields, or the “floes,” as they are
called by the whalers, have been eaten through in places; and over
all there are pools of water formed of melted snow, which give them a
mottled appearance.

In the month of August this “pack” is mostly confined to the Melville
Bay region; hence the name of “Melville Bay pack,” which I have used
before. At that season the navigation is not particularly difficult
or dangerous. By keeping well away from the land the passage can then
always be made with safety. It was by following the opposite course
that Captain Sir Francis M’Clintock found himself delayed in 1857,
with his ship firmly frozen fast, and with no alternative but to
pass the winter drifting with the “pack” in a most uncomfortable and
hazardous situation. Had he followed the example and advice of Dr.
Kane, he might have won his knightly spurs a year sooner, and with
less discomfort.

Earlier in the summer the pack extends far down Baffin’s Bay; and
south of the Arctic Circle it stretches away to the coasts of
Labrador and Newfoundland. And it is here that commerce profits by
it, for the seals flock to it the moment it has ceased to be the
solid ice of the winter, and become the “pack” ice of the spring. Of
these seals there are many varieties. Some are permanent denizens
of the North; others are migratory. These last only are found so
low as Newfoundland and Labrador. Seeking the ice in the month of
March, they crawl upon it, and there bring forth their young. These
seals come up from the South—from the St. Lawrence region and along
the shores of New Brunswick and Maine, where they have wintered—and
with the ice they drift back south again until it melts away. Other
varieties (the true Arctic seals) adhere to the solid ice, as far as
possible, and, if drifted off southward with the pack, return north
again to winter, and then, in order to breathe (for the seals are
not fish, and can not breathe under water), they are compelled to
keep holes open in the ice with their sharp claws. These true Arctic
seals are not so numerous as the southern varieties, of which latter
millions may sometimes be seen at one time upon the drifting ice. It
is the young of these (when from two to three weeks old) that are
slaughtered in such great numbers by the seal-fishers. The vessels,
usually small schooners, but sometimes steamers like our _Panther_
(which was built for that service), enter the pack, and the crew,
scattering to right and left over the ice, gather up the seals as
they go along, the vessel merely keeping pace with them. Upon the
first attack the old ones abandon their young to their fate, and the
innocent, whining “baby seals,” too young to appreciate danger, are
captured without difficulty—a tap on the nose with the toe of a boot
or with a boat’s “gaff” robbing them quickly of what little life they

[Illustration: THE POLAR BEAR.]

From the seals let us pass to their enemies, the bears—I mean, of
course, the true Arctic bears, known in different localities by
different names—“ice-bears” they are usually called in the far
north, because they are not found elsewhere than on the ice. But
farther south this is not always true of them, since both from
choice and necessity they often take the water, and are generally
known on “the Labrador” as “water-bears.” They are often carried
off from the pack upon a single ice-field, which, going to pieces
under them, forces them to swim, perhaps, many miles before reaching
another. I have seen one swimming in a heavy sea, where there was
not a piece of ice in sight. They seldom take to the land, and never
voluntarily. Their food has either failed them on the ice, or they
are pursued by enemies, or the ice has all melted away and left
them no alternative. The naturalist’s name, _Ursus maritimus_—“the
bear of the sea”—expresses their character perfectly. In color they
are yellowish-white—quite dark, indeed, when contrasted with the
snow. “White bear” is therefore a misnomer, as is also “Polar bear;”
but this latter is the name most commonly in use, and is the one,
therefore, which I shall employ whenever referring to them.

The food of the seal consists of those low forms of marine life known
to us as shrimps, and to naturalists as _invertebrata_, and sometimes
certain varieties of _mollusca_. The former exist in vast numbers in
the icy waters of the North; and it is this abundant supply of food
which attracts to that quarter of the world not seals alone, but
those enormous flights of birds of which we read, and some idea of
which was given in former chapters of this book. On the other hand,
the food of the bear is the seal. Therefore, wherever ice is seen
seals may be expected; and where seals are seen, you may look out for

[Illustration: SEALS.]

We had seen seals and we had seen the “pack,” and thus bears were
suggested; and the suggestion was peculiarly welcome to the people
of the _Panther_. The anchor was aweigh in almost no time at all,
and, steam being up, the _Panther_ was pointed northward, in the calm
evening. The sun was in the west, a good way above the horizon, and a
pleasant glow was over sea, and land, and glacier.

We steer for Wilcox Point, fifteen miles in a north-easterly
direction from the Duck Islands, and it is a very lofty, noble
headland. We spread out the map on deck to see what comes next,
and where we are to go. Eastward from Wilcox Point we observe that
the coast trends some miles, and then comes a mountain called “The
Devil’s Thumb;” and as we subsequently see it, it has very much the
appearance of a thumb projecting vertically above the hand when
it is placed edgewise on the table, with the little finger down.
We afterwards discover the hand to be an island, and the thumb the
centre of it, but we did not know it then. Why the Devil’s Thumb,
rather than the thumb of some more respectable character, might seem
puzzling; but I fancy that that dark spirit of evil was complimented
with this monument on account of his supposed influence over the
neighboring sea. The sea is there, indeed, very perilous, and no part
of Baffin’s Bay is so much dreaded as that vicinity. The icebergs are
so numerous that the locality is often called “Bergy Hole;” and the
currents are so swift that a sailing vessel, once becalmed off “The
Thumb,” is very likely to be sucked in and whirled about, as if there
were some secret and supernatural influence at work upon the waters;
and if the ship escapes without getting battered against an iceberg
or so, and being much damaged in consequence, she is very lucky.
Dr. Kane’s brig, the _Advance_, got whirled into this dangerous
situation, and I shall not soon forget the struggle of hours at the
oars, by which means the brig was saved, though not until every body
was thoroughly worn out, and ready to drop down with fatigue.

In a north-westerly direction from the Devil’s Thumb, and distant
from it about two hundred miles, lies Cape York, and between these
two points the coast makes a deep curve, and the space thus embraced
is Melville Bay—though the name has really a wider significance—the
term Melville Bay being usually meant to signify that part of
Baffin’s Bay west of it, where the “middle ice” is always lying. The
entire sweep of Melville Bay is one vast line of glaciers, wholly
unapproachable, and from which are cast off an incredible number of
icebergs, that are scattered over Baffin’s Bay in all directions,
and by accumulating in greater numbers year by year, gather the
ice-field about them more and more, and thus render navigation each
year more difficult and perilous. Since ships first penetrated
Melville Bay a very perceptible change has taken place.

Most of which information we gather from the map; and while gathering
it the _Panther_ is coming, bows on, to the very first field-ice we
have seen. There it is before us—a great, long, level plain of white
and blue, stretching beyond the line of vision. It does not look so
very formidable, after all, and is rather disappointing, until the
ship takes a projecting tongue, and, by the shock that it gives us,
shows there is more body to the ice than first appeared. In fact,
from seven-eighths to nine-tenths of it lies below the surface of
the water; and not until the _Panther_ had split a fragment off and
turned it up on its edge, as the bow slid over it, did we appreciate
its really solid quality.

But this was a brush not worth mentioning; and on went the _Panther_
beyond and across clear water until we approached another great
field, which had at first appeared to be a part of the one which we
had passed; but the event proved that there was a wide streak of open
water stretching to the northward, which a whaleman would call a
“lead;” and, seeing that our farther progress in the direction we had
chosen was cut off, we bore away from Wilcox Point, and steamed north
at great speed between the “floes.”

Very soon there was no water to be seen except the lead we were
in—everywhere limitless ice—unless we went aloft, when other leads
were visible, meandering among the floes in all directions. The lead
we had entered was at first at least a mile wide; but as we proceeded
it gradually narrowed, then became crooked; loose floes of small size
were lying here and there upon it. The mate, who was aloft, kept the
man at the wheel busy enough with his “starboards” and “ports” and
“steadys,” until it was reported that our lead was a blind one, and
we were coming to the end of it. An immense floe lay between the two
great floes to right and left of us, jammed tight, and squeezed and
broken up upon its sides. This was the report from aloft, and the
mate cried, “Starboard!—hard a-starboard!”

“What’s that for?” shouted the captain, with stentorian voice. “What
do you want to starboard for?”

“Jammed tight everywhere, and we must go back,” said the mate.

“Is there no opening anywhere?”

“None; but the ice looks weak on the port hand.”

“Keep her for it, and put her in,” roared the captain.

“Ay, ay, sir! Starboard a little; steady—steady as she goes.”

And down we bore upon the ice, the rakish bow and stem of the
_Panther_ well up out of the water, and looking defiant, as if it
were a matter of no kind of consequence to her what amount of ice lay
before her. It seemed as if she could crush it down, and trample on
it, and ride over it rough-shod, and never wink until the affair was
finished. Perhaps the captain’s threat—seemingly made in earnest—to
“put her through, or knock her bloody eyes out,” may have had some
effect upon her, and have inspired her with additional resolution.

We were soon so near the ice that the opening could be seen from the
bridge, and the mate was called below. “Mind your helm, Mick,” said
the captain to the man at the wheel; “mind your helm there!”

And still on we went, still rushing towards the ice at full
speed, the screw grinding fiercely, and making the ship tremble
in every timber. It was soon too late to check her headway,
even if the captain should have desired it; to wheel round now
was quite impossible. We braced ourselves for the shock that was
coming—every man catching hold of something to steady himself with.
The captain watched the point he wished to make ahead. “Port—port a
little—steady, steady, as she goes.”

Cr-r-r-r-ash—the solid iron cut-water of the _Panther_ has taken the
ice. She cuts into it, slides upon it, and crushes it down; the ship
rides up again, and sinks, and buries herself one full length in the
body of the floe; but still she slides up once more and crushes the
ice farther on, but going slower now; and then she stops and settles
down to her proper level, and the groaning of the ice seems to be a
cry of relief and satisfaction from the noble ship, which only wants
a little breathing-time before she begins again.

She isn’t hurt—not in the least. Her masts are all standing right,
her bows are sound as ever, her solid, iron-bound sides have not a
scratch. Pretty well for a first beginning; and no one now doubts the
_Panther’s_ ability for any thing.

“Back astern,” shouts the captain; and we haul out into clear water
a hundred fathoms or so, and butt away into the opening we have made
before. We ride over the broken ice; the cut-water strikes again;
again we feel the ship going up forward; again she sinks and rises,
and then she settles down again at rest. Then we go below, in great
glee, to supper, and the captain tells the watch-officer to “keep
her at it;” and the screw, thumping against the ice that has come
about the stern, is kept revolving, and the wedge-shaped _Panther_ is
pushing in between the floes, forcing them asunder.

When we come on deck again the crack is opening. The jar and steady
pressure have had their effect; the floes have been set in motion,
the crack widens, and we grind through into clear, open water.

[Illustration: THE DEVIL’S THUMB.]

This bold dash into the very teeth of the enemy saved us a wide
detour, and brought us by a short cut into an extensive area of
open water, which gave us a free passage northward as far as the
eye could see. But still we had heavy floes on the starboard hand,
which prevented us from hauling in, as we desired, close under Wilcox
Point. We had, however, a fine view of the noble headland at a
distance of five miles.

Running now along the edge of an old floe that lay to our right, all
eyes were strained, and all glasses were doing service in search of
bears. Men were in the rigging and up aloft. We soon opened Melville
Bay, the tall spire of the Devil’s Thumb coming in view through a
blaze of sunshine exactly at midnight.

It was a midnight long to be remembered. The bright sun stood in the
heavens before us but a little way above the horizon, glittering upon
the icebergs and flinging gems broadcast upon the floes. The great
glaciers that climbed up from the sea at the bend of the bay, until
they were lost in a line of purple against a belt of golden light,
reflected the light from their glassy terraces; the cavernous old
cape which towered above our heads was warmed and reddened by the
glow; upon the summit of the Devil’s Thumb there lingered a brilliant
ray; and, as the lofty column rose from out a vast cluster of
icebergs, it seemed as if it were a church spire mounting to heaven
above some nameless city.

                              CHAPTER IV.

                           HUNTING BY STEAM.

At length there came the cry of “Bears! bears!” which had been so
long eagerly desired. With the first alarm the people swarmed up from
below, and the deck was alive in an instant, every body shouting
“Where?” And “Where? where?” rang through the ship loud enough, as
one would think, to have frightened all the bears of Melville Bay
into fits.

But there were the bears, sure enough; and they appeared to be the
very ones we were looking for. Clearly they had seen the _Panther_
long before we had discovered them; but they did not appear to be
at all frightened, but stood their ground boldly, looking at us
evidently with more curiosity than alarm. There were three of them,
an old mother and two cubs, standing about three or four hundred
yards distant from us, and quite still. The mother was in the middle,
with a cub on either side, in a very cool and composed manner. They
appeared to be an affectionate sort of family, and were a very odd
sight as they stood upon the old ice-field, the only living things
on that desolate waste. It seemed, indeed, a pity to disturb these
denizens of the Polar wilderness.

The steamer was stopped as quickly as possible, and we lay there
watching them, and they us, both parties endeavoring to make up their
minds what the other was going to do. The bears probably did not see
us—only the steamer—since we kept our heads as much as possible below
the bulwarks; and whatever wind there was being from the north,
they had not discovered an enemy with their noses. The steamer was
but a black curiosity, and we were well pleased when they manifested
a disposition for a nearer inspection and a closer acquaintance.
The old mother led off, and the two young ones came shuffling along
beside her, very slowly and cautiously, edging away, however, towards
the vessel’s stern, manifestly for the purpose of coming as far as
possible around to the leeward of us. And here the ice favored the
old bear’s design, for a long tongue projected far out from the
general line of the floe. If they should reach the end of it they
would be able to discover us, but then they would be at the same time
in a trap of their own making. In this design we encouraged them by
lying low behind the bulwarks. It did not seem to be in accordance
with the rules of the hunt to allow your game to crawl around where
he could wind you, and this it was, of course, within our power to
prevent but since the captain had the management of his own vessel,
and knew what he could do with her, he became the master hunter by
virtue of his office. “We’ll get the whole lot of them now,” said he,
“if they only crawl along out on that point a little farther.” And he
told the engineer to go ahead at half speed, and told Mick to shove
his helm hard a-port. The action wheeled the _Panther_ around upon
her heel, and she now stood upon the dead waters facing the bears,
who still, slowly and cautiously, were going out on the tongue of the
old floe.

“Why, captain, what are you going to do now? The moment the bears
scent us they will take off!” exclaimed an anxious hunter.

“But before they do,” replied the captain, “I can cut in behind and
head them.”

“But the ice, the ice, man. You will surely not drive her into a floe
like that?”

“That I will,” said the captain, promptly; “drive her into an
iceberg, if necessary.”

So now it was the skill and strength of the _Panther_ against the
skill and fleetness of the bears.

Bears are not graceful animals in their movements. Their enormous
legs are carried along as if they had no joints in them, and their
immense feet are lifted in a manner to suggest their being mounted on
snow-shoes. The long, tapering neck is the only graceful thing about

I was particularly struck with the old mother’s excessive caution.
She would not come near, and yet she would not go away. Had she taken
to her heels when she first discovered us she could, of course, have
defied pursuit, for the ice-field was so extensive that we could
never have overtaken her. But she seemed to be fascinated with the
steamer, and her curiosity got the better of her discretion. It is
not the first time that this same quality, inherent in all living
creatures, has involved its possessor in trouble.

She moved along with great deliberation. She appeared to be a
well-fed bear, and probably had breakfasted recently and felt lazy;
for she did not once attempt to run, nor did she wade through the
pools of water which were on the ice, but deliberately walked around
them, as if indisposed even to wet her feet. Sometimes she would
turn her back towards us, sometimes her front; often she would stop,
stretch out her long neck and sniff the air all round, turning her
head to right and left, throwing her nose as high up as she could
get it, and then dropping it on the ice as if she might discover
something there. Meanwhile, the little ones were cutting all sorts of
antics about her. Seeing that she was not alarmed, they were in great
glee, evidently regarding the _Panther_ as a very wonderful show,
got up by their mother for their special benefit. They chased each
other like a pair of kittens; raced round and round the old bear,
rolled each other over on the ice, using their paws and teeth upon
each other after the usual innocent and playful fashion natural to
dumb animals in their youthful state. They splashed the water right
and left as they ran through the pools; and altogether they appeared
to be a pair of very lively, and highly delighted young bears, who
regarded the present occasion as rather a jolly sort of entertainment.

It took this family party somewhere near half an hour to get around
to where the old one wanted to be, to satisfy herself as to whether
the _Panther_ was a friend or a foe. Once she seemed irresolute, and
turned about as if she would retrace her steps and make off; but
then she turned back again, and for some minutes after seemed to be
dragged by two antagonistic impulses, first one way and then the
other, with a general gain of force, however, on the string which
drew her out to the point of ice.

By-and-by she got where she seemed to be satisfied, for she suddenly
stopped short, threw up her head, gave a tremendous snort, wheeling
around at the same time in a state of alarm, and looking about as
if for some means of escape. After a moment’s reflection she took
the back track. The alarm spread to the little ones, and the lively
creatures ran around their mother as if they would inquire what the
matter was, and if the show was over, and they were to have no more
of it, while she seemed to be encouraging them by assurances that it
was no great affair, but that it was necessary for them to use their
legs as nimbly as possible, for they must get out of that. So their
gambols were ended, and the little things whined piteously, and did
their best. They appeared to be as unhappy as children caught in
a thunder-shower on their way from a country fair. It was now not
less amusing to watch them than before. In the confused state of
their minds they grew utterly careless of what they were about, and
they often sprang upon rotten places in the ice, and broke through,
and by the time they had crawled out again the mother was some
distance ahead, and was obliged to wait, and often to run back, if
not actually to render assistance to her cubs, at least to encourage
them. As for herself; she could readily have escaped; and she
appeared to be quite conscious of the fact; but she would not leave
her young: her devotion to them was indeed touching, and worthy of
all admiration.


Meanwhile the _Panther_ had not been idle. The moment the old bear
got the wind of us, and began to show symptoms of alarm, the captain
rang his bell, “Ahead, full speed.” The screw began to revolve, and
at the top of her speed the vessel bore down upon the ice, across the
line of the bears’ retreat.

This was the captain’s plan from the beginning, and it now became a
mere question of time; though on the _Panther’s_ part there was in
the minds of most of us a question of strength and power.

We came upon the ice as before with a grand crash, striking what
appeared to be the weakest spot. The shock was worse than any thing
we had yet felt, the ice being firmer than before; but the solid
iron cut-water opened her way into it as formerly, and she rode up
on it and crushed it down, and rode up again and settled once more;
and in the conflict every body was very uneasy on his legs. The jar
made lively work in the pantry, where the cabin-boy had retired
when he had shouted “bergs” instead of bears, and, quite exhausted
by the effort, had fallen fast asleep there, and was aroused by the
soup-tureen coming down and landing, bottom up, on the crown of his
head, which nearly cracked his skull, but saved the crockery, and in
a measure woke up the young man. “Blob,” who was standing beside
the coamings of the main hatch, making a sketch of the bears, turned
a somerset into the coal-hole, where his picture was turned into a
black bear instead of a white one. Otherwise no damage was done; but
the ruse was altogether successful, as the captain had anticipated;
for the force of the shock started the ice, and a crack opened right
through in front of us to the water on the other side. The point to
which the bears had gone was thus broken from the main body of the
floe, and the game was now on a raft, and at our mercy.

The crack, opening very rapidly before the steady pressure of the
vessel, gave us a free passage through, and seeing themselves
thus headed off, and the steamer bearing down across their line
of retreat, they took the back track, and now, all thoroughly
frightened, ran across to the opposite side, behind us, thus
compelling us to wheel about and return through the crack. At this
moment the photographers came rushing on deck demanding the right of
a “first shot.” Quick as a flash the camera was down and focused,
a slide with a little hole in it was dropped before the lens, and
the family group of polar bears was taken at a distance of about
two hundred yards. To accomplish this feat required the very first
degree of enterprise and skill. The camera was stationed upon the
top-gallant forecastle, and the impression was obtained while
both ship and bears were in motion. The brightness of the light,
of course, greatly favored the success of this altogether novel
experiment in the photographic art. The artists (Mr. John Dunmore, of
Boston, and Mr. George Critchersen, of Worcester) deserve the highest
commendation for their successful accomplishment of so difficult a
feat. The bears now took the water with the manifest intention of
swimming to the solid floe; but here we again anticipated them, and
they wheeled about again, and swam back towards the ice which they
had left but a few moments before. Putting the helm a-starboard, we
now came directly in upon their wake, and when within fifty yards of
them slackened speed.

At this moment they presented a magnificent sight, their beautiful
long hair waving gracefully in the clear blue water, and their round,
buoyant bodies floating along swiftly towards the ice and hoped for
safety. The tender regard of the mother for her offspring was here as
strikingly apparent as when on the ice. She would not abandon them;
but, on the contrary, the nearer we approached the more she stuck
by and encouraged them, still, as before, with one on either side.
Once she invited them to dive, and, imitating her example, the three
went down together and paddled themselves along for some distance
about twenty feet below the surface, where we could easily see them
striking out for dear life. When they came up we gave them a volley
from our rifles, and the old mother and one of the cubs lay lifeless
upon the blood-stained water.

The other cub, by some mischance, escaped with only a slight scratch,
and reached the floe, where, as he rose, another ball entered his
side, and sent him off with a mortal wound, whining piteously. The
captain now jammed his steamer into the ice, and, clambering down
over the bob-stays, gave chase. The bear soon stopped and hid himself
behind a hummock, and when the captain came up with him he was
disposed to make fight. His whine was converted into a defiant growl,
and he charged his pursuer; but a well-aimed shot brought the game
down and completed the hunt.

It only remained now to get the animals aboard, to weigh and measure
them, to award the skins to the rifles which had given them
death-wounds. This last was no easy matter; but finally, after much
discussion and some rather animated assertions, such as usually take
place on like occasions, the award was finally made, and we tied
up to an iceberg that promised us a chance for watering ship, and,
after the excitement and exposure of the night, we were well prepared
to enjoy a good breakfast of the game we had brought from the Duck

Casting off from the iceberg next day, we set out to look for further
game, steaming up in a north-easterly direction through a wide lead.
Presently we saw something dark on the edge of the ice, and soon made
it out to be a seal, a very large one, of the barbed species. We
knew from former experience how very wild they were, and, slacking
speed, we approached cautiously. At first he appeared to be asleep,
dozing lazily in the warm sun; but if so, the noise of the steamer
awoke him, and he grew restive and alarmed. Evidently he was not to
be caught as the bears had been, and if we would shoot him we must
exercise great care; so the headway of the steamer was slackened
still further, and we all lay low behind the bulwarks as we glided
slowly along, thus stalking the animal in a somewhat unusual fashion.
But he was too old to be cheated, and when still two rifle-shots away
he threw up head and tail, and floundered into the water. Then he
swam off, and brought his almost human-looking face above the surface
not twenty yards away, then took a deliberate look at us, and before
a rifle could be aimed he had apparently satisfied himself, for he
turned heels over head, and with a terrific splash disappeared to be
seen no more.

This little incident would not be worth naming, since it was an
entirely unsuccessful feat of hunting, had it not been that at the
very moment the seal disappeared from the ice an immense bear sprang
out from behind a ridge of hummocks, along which he had evidently
been crawling, stalking the very same seal that we were after. We
had clearly robbed the beast of his breakfast, and he appeared to be
more disgusted with the circumstance than alarmed by us. Yet he was
not quite so unsuspicious as the bears we had before encountered. He
was the largest bear I had ever seen, and we wanted him badly. He
looked splendid as he stood there upon the floe. The moment he saw
the _Panther_ he came to a dead stand, and made no further movement
than to turn his head first to one side and then to the other, in a
sort of measured oscillation. There was evidently upon his mind a
feeling of irresolution that was constantly increasing; yet it did
not seem as if he was willing to own to himself that he was afraid,
until the steamer coming in contact quite unavoidably with a piece
of ice made a considerable crash, which settled the bear into a
suspicion that the object he was looking at was hardly to be trusted.
He wheeled suddenly round on his hind legs, like a horse wheeling at
play in a pasture, made a most magnificent bound across a pool of
water, and then took himself off quite leisurely, turning his head
back over his shoulder with every step, to have a further look at
us. Occasionally he would give a snort, attended with an extra leap,
and then go waddling on again at the same stiff-legged and snow-shoe
pace as before described in the case of the other bears which we
had hitherto pursued and captured. But for all he had still clearly
some lingering doubts of the _Panther’s_ hostile disposition, and,
allowing this feeling to get the better of him, he came to a dead
stand, and squared himself round to have a better look at us; then he
advanced a few paces, stopped and fixed his gaze upon us steadily.
Meanwhile the _Panther_ lay still upon the waters, and appeared to
have her eye upon him, and the two stood, as if trying to stare each
other out of countenance, for some minutes. The bear seemed at length
to be getting charmed, for he advanced a hundred yards or so with
the greatest coolness and deliberation; and then, as if suddenly
recollecting his previous prudential notions, he wheeled short around
as before, took a huge leap, and went upon the back track again.

To look at the animal now and watch all his antics, one would think
him as mad as a March hare. He turned first to the right and then
to the left, after he had gone a little way, and then he began to
move up and down in front of us, like a sentry on post, acting very
deliberately all the while, poking out his head and drawing it in
again like a turtle, elevating his nose as high as he could, and then
depressing it again close down upon the ice, occasionally stopping
short and looking at the _Panther_ sideways.

All of these manœuvres, it must be understood, were for the special
benefit of the _Panther_, for we on board of her were closely hidden
behind the bulwarks, with nothing but our eyes exposed. Up to this
time it was clear enough that the bear had not been seriously
frightened. Like the others, he was in some doubt and uncertainty
about the meaning of the dark object, and was filled with curiosity.
We had, therefore, great hopes that he would become reconciled to
the _Panther_, and be inclined to closer acquaintance. It is not an
uncommon thing for a bear in Melville Bay to leave the ice and swim
off to a vessel. I have known them to come deliberately alongside,
attracted thither, no doubt, by the smell of bones which were burning
in the galley—a whaleman’s device for attracting the bears. But the
sight or smell of a human being, or of a dog, alarms them at once,
and they instantly make off. In the burning bones they find, no
doubt, something savory and suggestive of food.

We felt greatly encouraged when we saw the bear begin to march up
and down in front of us, as if standing guard; but unfortunately the
_Panther_ could not forever hold her breath, and with the first gush
of steam through the escape-pipe old Bruin bounded up in the air
as if possessed, gave a fierce snort, and ran away as fast as his
legs would carry him; and in order that he might make the best time
possible, and show off his points to the best advantage, we fired a
volley from our rifles after him, without the least hope or chance
of doing him any damage, owing to the great distance. He did not now
pause until he was a good quarter of a mile away from us, when he
faced round once more, seemed to bestow upon us an approving nod,
and then, with much deliberation, made for the opposite side of the
floe, where we now busied our minds with devising ways and means
of reaching him. But no way could we see but once more to put the
_Panther_ into the ice—no very difficult matter; but here the ice
was unusually thick, and there did not appear to be much chance of
breaking through it. To go around the floe was to make a circuit of
several miles, and long before we could reach the point towards which
the bear was going he would be far enough away.

Running down a little way near the edge of the floe, we discovered a
narrow isthmus, against which the captain put the vessel, as before,
under full headway, but with less happy results. Only a few fathoms
of the ice were broken away. Owing to this circumstance the shock was
greater than on either of the former occasions; but, nothing daunted,
the captain backed her out and put her in four successive times,
and was rewarded in the end by starting a crack, through which the
steamer was forced.

We were now in the same lead for which the bear was making, and we
could with our glasses still see him upon the ice, though very near
the water, which by this time he could readily have reached had
he done his best. We bore down upon him with all possible haste.
Presently he disappeared. He had taken the water, and was making for
the opposite ice, which was very solid, and was held firm and fast
by a great number of icebergs, which were imbedded in it. If he once
reached this the game was up.

The second mate was sent aloft, and detected him in the water heading
for a point which, instead of being low and flat, as is usual, was
rough and hummocky. The _Panther_ was pointed there also, with the
view of cutting off his retreat. This once accomplished, the bear
was of course ours. Seeing our purpose, the animal, now evidently in
a great state of terror, swam away for dear life, making a splendid
spectacle of himself as he floated along with his nose only above the
surface, and was clearly in much the condition of the soldiers who
swam the river from the battle of Ball’s Bluff—he was not hurt, but
fearfully demoralized.


We were only about sixty yards away when he reached the point, and
we now felt sure of him. We had not succeeded in cutting off his
line of retreat, but we had come within easy range; and since the
vessel was forging ahead, we should be almost atop of the animal by
the time he got out of the water. The _Panther_ was going fairly for
the ice, and we were all ready to fire the moment he showed himself.
But the animal was too cunning for us. The rough hummocks of the
point hid from our view a bight on the opposite side, into which
the bear swam for safety; and now, thoroughly sheltered behind the
ice for which we were making, he was getting the better of us. With
that quickness of perception characteristic of the skillful sailor,
the captain grasped the situation, and, seeing that to round the
point was to lose the bear for certain, he shouted to the man at the
wheel to put his helm hard a-port, which caused us to bring up with
a terrific thump a short distance from the point, where the ice was
comparatively thin. The moment the ship struck and buried herself a
little, the captain let himself down by a rope from the cat-head,
and, followed by two other rifles, ran over the floe towards the
bend of the bight for which the bear was making, but not in time to
intercept him. He reached the ice, and drew his enormous body out of
the water a hundred yards from the riflemen, and bounded away with
the speed of the wind, not stopping even long enough to shake himself
of the great quantity of water in his long hair. Every body fired at
him, of course, but none of our balls took effect; at least none of
them produced any impression upon his speed. The captain thought he
saw blood, and kept up the race for half a mile, hoping to see him
drop or halt, as the one he had chased before, mortally wounded; but
the animal was soon out of sight among the icebergs, and our eagerly
coveted game was gone.

We were all much chagrined by this mishap. Every man had regarded him
as his own particular prize, and felt quite sure of him. We had even
taken the measurement and weight of his body. One was going to have
his skin spread out for a mat, with his head stuffed and his paws on.
Another was going to drive four-in-hand in the Park, and have him
for a sleigh-robe; another was going to sell him for two hundred and
fifty dollars currency, and he knew where to place the article; but
all these bright anticipations came to a most lamentable end when the
bear carried off his own skin in his own four-in-hand fashion.

We were soon consoled for this disappointment by another alarm. It
came from the look-out up aloft, and was answered with a universal
“Where away?” which was answered in turn by the most satisfactory
assurance that they were down on the extreme point of a long, narrow
floe, and were apparently easily accessible. They were three in
number. We bore down upon them without delay, the man aloft conning
the ship, until they were seen from the deck, when the captain, as
usual, gave his own orders.

The ice upon which the bears were proved this time to be very thin
and rotten, as was evidenced by the fact that the animals frequently
broke through. They could not, therefore, travel very fast, even if
they should become frightened; and then, besides, as we came nearer
to them we perceived that, no matter how fast they might travel,
there was but little chance of their escaping us, for in whatever
direction they might attempt to go we could follow them; and when in
the water they would be easily overtaken, as they would have at least
a quarter of a mile to swim before reaching another floe.

The _Panther_ tore through the ice this time without difficulty; and
she actually broke the ice up with such facility, and approached the
bears with such rapidity, that they were almost dropped into the
water—at least a crack was forced open ahead of us, almost underneath
the bears’ feet. They took to it immediately, and we almost ran over
them. As we approached we might have shot them very easily; but the
photographers were crazy for a chance at them, and, seeing that there
was no possibility of their escape, we sacrificed our impatience in
the interest of art.

The bears having swum a little while, crawled upon the ice. By this
time we had wheeled round, and the photographers had a fine chance at
them. The hunters were impatient, but they had not long to wait, for
the delighted “colonel” soon thrust his head out of his photographic
box and shouted, “I’m done with them, gentlemen.” At this moment the
bears took the water again.

We made short work of cutting through a tongue of ice which
intervened and, coming upon the animals as they swam, we ceased
playing with them as a cat plays with a mouse before swallowing it,
and at thirty yards gave them a volley, and three more bears were
added to our trophies. The carcasses were soon hoisted on deck, and
we then steered for Wilcox Point, without, however, seeing any bears
by the way. Then we headed in for the Devil’s Thumb, and, discovering
a moderately firm floe, which seemed to be held in its position
by some grounded icebergs, we steered for it, run the _Panther_ a
hundred yards into it, and proceeded to let our six prizes down on
the ice, where we soon had the skins off; some for specimens, and
some for robes and mats—each one who was the fortunate possessor of a
skin following the bent of his fancy in the matter.

Pushing off from the floe, we steamed to within two miles of the
Thumb, and anchored. Probably no vessel had ever been so near it as
we were, and although our situation was one of some peril, we did not
feel justified in losing the opportunity so auspiciously presented
to us. We climbed the hills all round, and everywhere we went we
discovered numerous traces of reindeer, but we did not succeed in
finding any of the animals themselves. There can be no doubt that
they exist there in considerable numbers, and had we followed them
inland it is equally certain that we would have found any number of
them. But for an enterprise of that description we had not sufficient
time to stay—or, rather, the threatening nature of the ice, and the
uncertainty of our situation, made it important that all hands should
be at least within signalling distance, that we might steam out from
underneath the Devil’s Thumb upon the first threat of danger.

To climb the Thumb we found to be impossible, but we reached its
base, and from there—an elevation of thirteen hundred feet, according
to my barometer—we overlooked one of the most remarkable scenes that
ever met the eye of man. Such a wilderness of ice, such a forest of
icebergs, such boundless desolation, would be difficult to describe,
or to be appreciated except by the actual observer. Let me, in a
mechanical sort of way, make the attempt to convey to the reader’s
mind some idea of this remarkable scene.

The Devil’s Thumb is an island—at least, without actually sailing
round it in my boat (being prevented by the ice), there were such
indications as to make it certain that, if not an island, it is
connected with the main-land only by a very low and narrow isthmus.
It lies at the head of a deep bay, and it is from five to eight
miles long, by from three to five wide. The Thumb itself is on the
farther side from the sea, and is about six hundred feet high above
its base, rising like a church spire, and as abruptly. Down into the
bay, to the north and east from the island, come two great glaciers,
one about twelve miles wide, the other about three. These glaciers
climbed up steadily, or descended, I should rather say, between the
coast mountains in steady streams, which, joining together, and
with others to the north and south of them, form a long level line
against the sky; and this is the summit of the great icy sea—the _mer
de glace_—which covers the whole length of the Greenland continent,
and which, from its exhaustless bed, sends down through every valley
opening to Baffin’s Bay such streams as these. And these streams
send off into the sea the icebergs, which are but trifling fragments
of the glacier itself.

The icebergs coming from these two glaciers about the Devil’s Thumb
were altogether countless. They filled up the whole north side of the
bay, and extended out to the sea for miles. The time of my visit was
near midnight, and with a clear, bright sun illuminating the scene,
scattering everywhere its splendors, I could but wish for something
better than a simple note-book and the use of words to embody an idea
of the view before me. An artist alone, with his pallette and his
pencil, could convey any proper effect of it. My powers of sketching
were quite inadequate. “Blob” might have done better, but no amount
of persuasion could induce him to climb a hill marked in the devil’s
name. Of all the situations of the cruise, this view was the finest
beyond comparison, and to see it was enough to repay one for all the
trouble and vexation and hazard of a dozen such voyages. We missed
a photograph of it for the same reason we missed “Blob’s” sketch—a
fearful superstition. Had it been called “The Pillar of the Church”
instead of “The Devil’s Thumb,” the whole cabin mess would have
climbed it willingly.

                             CHAPTER V.


I was much disappointed that we could not prolong our stay in the
vicinity of the Devil’s Thumb. But our situation there was indeed
a hazardous one. The ice was crowding about us all the time, and,
driven by a three-knot current that whirled it round in the wildest
manner, it was not surprising that the captain should declare the
Thumb to be no proper place for the _Panther_. Accordingly, after
doing the best we could hydrographically, topographically, and
artistically, we crawled out while the chance was good and steamed
northward into the pack.

To describe our adventures of the next few days would be to repeat
much of what I have said before about the pursuit of bears and
encounters with ice-fields. Neither ice-navigation nor bear-hunting
can present much of variety. Even to ourselves both became monotonous
in the end; and we even received the cry of “bears” without
excitement, and were knocked off our legs by the thumping of the
_Panther_ against the ice without emotion.

Besides the bears and an occasional seal (none of which were we
lucky enough, however, to shoot), we saw no living thing except an
occasional flock of little auks, or rotche, as they are called by the
whalers. These are the cunningest little divers imaginable. They are
family relations of the lumme already described; and, although only
about one-third the size, are like them in color. The water is alive
with shrimps about a quarter of an inch in length; and these little
birds, whose flight is very rapid, come from the distant land to
feed. Myriads of them whizzed over us, affording a fine opportunity
for the sportsman. Sometimes large flocks of them would alight upon
the water and, after satisfying their appetites, would crawl out upon
the ice, and, sitting along the margin of it, dry themselves in the
warm sun.

Our hunts after seals were most tantalizing. Great numbers of them
came up out of the water, and stretching themselves on the ice in
the blazing sunshine, went to sleep there. But they were all too shy
for us. We approached them with steamer and with boat, but it was of
no avail. If they did not sleep with one eye open, they certainly
never slept with both ears shut; and long before they had come within
effective range of our rifles, they were off the ice and into the
water, and although they might bob up and down in the sea, looking at
us within a distance of fifty yards or so, they were always careful
not to expose themselves long enough to allow of our drawing a sight
on them.

The weather was superb; for the most part the air was entirely calm,
and in the perpetual sunshine our enjoyment was uninterrupted.
Sometimes we were beset among the ice-fields, once or twice drifted
upon an iceberg while we were helplessly involved among heavy floes,
and there was therefore enough of danger to deprive the days of
absolute stupidity. This ice-navigation, is never wholly free from
hazard, and nothing can be more treacherous than the movements of the
pack. Great skill and caution are always necessary on the part of the
officers of the ship, and, since we were out of sight of land much
of the time for several days, the mate had no temptation to indulge
his favorite pastime of sounding with the _Panther’s_ keel. He would,
indeed, be at all times a capital sailor but for his weakness for
running the ship ashore.

I have, unhappily, none of those harrowing adventures to record which
usually make up the accounts of Melville Bay voyagers. Once only
did we encounter a real “nip.” The _Panther_ was then pretty badly
squeezed, and we had a lively exhibition of the power of the closing
ice-field. Strong though the _Panther_ was, we could readily see that
she would be as an egg-shell in the hand if caught where the ice was
in rapid movement. Fortunately it was only a revolving floe which
beset us, and not the moving pack that was passing down bodily.

At length, after winding and twisting about to our hearts’ content,
and having seen the Melville Bay pack and the Melville Bay icebergs
in every aspect possessing interest for us, the _Panther_ was
brought up alongside a heavy floe many miles in extent, and there
she was, for the last time, made fast. A consultation revealed the
fact that no one cared particularly to go any farther. A meridian
altitude fixed our position at latitude 75°, near the Sabine
Islands—farther in the direction of the North Pole, certainly, than
any pleasure-seekers had ever gone before in that quarter. We were at
least a hundred miles within the “pack,” and every one was abundantly
satisfied with his performances, whether they had been sporting,
artistic, scientific, or what not.

Our last day, tied up to the old floe, was a memorable one in our
calendar. The temperature was quite warm, at one time reaching 60°
in the shade, and, exposed as we had been so long, this seemed to
us a sultry heat. And this was the more strange that we were in the
midst of a perfect forest of icebergs. The floe to which we lay
moored was, so far as the eye could perceive, limitless in extent—the
thickness was about two and a half feet, and for the most part it was
as level as the sea in a calm. The snows of winter had melted from
its surface, and here and there the water had gathered in shallow
pools, giving something the appearance of a marsh. Through the field
numerous icebergs protruded, like huge rocks rising above a plain;
the universal whiteness, broken only by the deep blue of the water,
produced a glare that was sometimes painful to the eye, and, when the
sun was shining at its brightest, quite overpowering.


Our people amused themselves in various ways. Some carried out boards
from the ship, and, dropping them upon the ice, went soundly to
sleep upon them in the hot sun. Others played foot-ball; while some
exercised their skill with pistol and rifle upon a target painted
with ink upon the side of a berg. Others, again, ran foot-races, and
all hands made the most of the strange and unusual situation. There
were neither bears nor seals to attract to more serious pastime,
and no living thing besides ourselves was seen in this brilliantly
illuminated wilderness except a flock of rotche, which came from the
northward, and dropped down in the sea only a little way from us.
Afterward they climbed out of the water and stood in a row, bolt
upright, on the edge of the ice, staring at us in a most cunning and
saucy manner. No doubt they had come from the extensive rookeries
on the north side of Melville Bay, where the shore is for miles and
miles literally alive with them.

While the idlers were thus amusing themselves, the artists were busy
enough and, for myself, I found sufficient occupation in measuring
and closely examining an iceberg which lay partly imbedded in the
floe about two hundred yards from us. It was a very remarkable berg,
both in form and dimensions, though, in the latter particular, many
that I have seen exceeded it. Its greatest height, determined from a
carefully measured base-line, was 230 feet, and its extreme length
1040 feet. We called it “the ruined castle,” and, indeed, there
was only required a very slight assistance from the imagination to
complete the outlines of an ancient work of defense turned adrift
upon the sea in some unaccountable manner, as if to make room for
more modern inventions. I estimated its cubical contents at fifty
millions of tons.

Our castled iceberg can hardly be appreciated even by a detailed
description, for it is difficult to describe so grand an object even
by contrasting it with familiar things. In the first place, there
was an open portal and a lowered draw-bridge; but the latter did not
look very secure, being but a portion of the ice-field on which we
stood, that had been crowded into the opening. So we did not venture
upon the passage, but rather gazed through the archway at the blue
sky beyond, until the curiosity was satisfied, when we walked as far
around the ruin as the nature of the ice would allow. The rear proved
to be much lower than the front; and, in fact, the front and one side
presented from both points of view a no bad imitation of a lofty
wall (now partly crumbled down), which had once been the half of the
wall inclosing the central space, or court-yard, to which the portal
led. This space was about one-eighth of a mile in diameter, and was
very rough and rugged, and it lay some fifty to eighty feet above
the sea-level. When the sun came around to that side, and shone down
upon that part of the wonderful ruin, and we stood upon the ice-field
in front and in deep shadow, looking through the open portal, the
effect was most enchanting; and it is, indeed, impossible to conceive
of any thing more delightful in the way of light and shade and color
than it presented. When the sun was shining on the ice, as seen
through the portal, the surface had the appearance of delicate white
satin. The shadows were the most tender and delicious azure, while in
those places where the ice-field was removed from the berg, and an
overhanging portion of it received the reflected light from the water
below, the color was the most perfectly transparent green that can be

[Illustration: THE ICEBERG CASTLE.]

I have so many times described these icebergs in all their varying
characters, that any thing more might seem like too much; but I can
not pass from the description of this castle-like natural formation
without alluding to the wonderful variety of shapes assumed by
these floating ice-mountains. There is scarcely a conceivable form
that I have not seen: birds and savage beasts and effigies of domes
and towers, and other objects, animate and inanimate, are seen
continually. Human faces stare at you on every side; huge busts of
men and forms of women I have often observed; and once a giant statue
stood against the sky, outrivalling the famous Colossus of Rhodes,
which it imitated in form and size.

                             CHAPTER VI.

                         THE LAST WHITE MAN.

As this was to be our last tie-up in Melville Bay, and as every body
was well satisfied that Melville Bay had been thoroughly “done,”
there was now some impatience to hear the order given to “cast off.”

But the order did not come even with the close of the day, and there
we were clearly to remain until the morrow. Meanwhile a light wind
set in from the south-east, and, coming directly from the Greenland
glaciers, it brought the temperature down below the freezing-point;
and when at length “seven bells” aroused the ship’s company from
their slumbers, the _Panther_ was a prisoner. In every direction,
as far as the eye could reach, the sea, where it had been open the
evening before, was now covered with ice. In many places this young
ice would bear a man’s weight. It was a very needless predicament to
have been placed in, but these Newfoundland sailors must not for the
world be robbed of their night’s rest.

Luckily the _Panther_ was strong, or we should have lain there beside
the ruined castle all winter. It was at least a quarter of an hour
after we had actually at length cast off from the floe before we
budged an inch, and then it was a long while before we made much
headway. By-and-by, however, we went ahead at the rate of one knot
an hour, and then, after that, crunched through the transparent film
that was on the sea. The crystals flew to left and right; and when
the sun came out, shining upon the flying fragments, it seemed as
if we were cutting through a waste of jewelry. A few hours of this
sort of running brought us into the clear water of an opening lead,
and thence our flight from Melville Bay was made much after the same
fashion as that of our going in—the same cutting through and breaking
down of floes, and the same wild excitement as before.


Our good ship seemed to have a realizing sense of her situation, and
to enjoy as much as we the prospect which had so suddenly overtaken
us together of wintering in the dreaded “pack.” Welch, the fireman,
declared that the _Panther_ was a ship “as knowed a thing or two.”

When the day closed we had Wilcox Point and the Devil’s Thumb abeam.
The great ice-fields which on our way north had so much embarrassed
us on entering Melville Bay had by this time either drifted or melted
away; and now through an unobstructed sea we held our course for the
Duck Islands, and steamed away from the midnight sun.

From the Duck Islands we groped our way down the coast through one of
those provoking fogs which so often come to pester the life of the
Arctic voyager, and which set upon us early in the night.

I do not remember to have ever seen any thing more gloomy than the
scene before us when the fog lifted in the early morning. We had been
lying to for some time, not really knowing where we were; but, as
good-luck would have it, we found that we were pointed fairly between
two remarkable islands, known from their conformation as Cone and
Wedge. Beyond was a straight passage of twenty miles, between lofty,
cavernous, brownish-red, rocky islets; and beyond these, again, was
to be seen, in the far distance, the cold line of the _mer de glace_,
from which come pouring down cold glaciers to the sea. Cold icebergs
lay upon the leaden waters; a cold wind was moaning from the hills;
and although the sun shone out after the fog had vanished, it failed
to throw any glow of warmth over the general desolation, or to
dissolve the oppressive chill.

Steering south-east, we passed presently around a large iceberg
which had before obstructed the view, and then we opened a low point
of land, rugged as any other land in sight, and as utterly without
sign or trace of vegetation; and yet a little white house stood upon
the naked rock, and the white and red emblem of Danish sovereignty
fluttered from a little flag-staff on the roof. This was the house we
had seen and photographed on our way north—the most northern house
of all the world; and in this little house, in this fearful desert,
dwells a Christian family, with no other human beings within fifty
miles of them save a few ignorant savages.

The head of the family met us among the ice in a boat a mile or so
away. He had a swarthy crew of skin-clad men, and as he hauled in
alongside of us, and stood up in the stern of his boat, I recognized
at once the sturdy figure, sandy hair, and striking features of Peter
Jensen. I was heartily glad to see him, and had him on board and by
the hand without a minute’s loss of time. Then we steamed into a
good anchorage and went ashore, and called upon his wife, and petted
his children, and dined with him off venison and eider-ducks. The
wife made us some capital cakes, and we had cigars and Danish pipes
and excellent coffee; and we smoked and drank and chatted away the
evening, and were very much surprised, when we came to think about
it, that we had had a very pleasant time here in this remote and
solitary place, within a thousand miles, measured as the crow flies,
of the North Pole.


But there was something indescribably sad to me in the dreadful
isolation of this family who had entertained us. It is worse
than loneliness, for the savages around, with their filth and
wretchedness, and their packs of howling, vicious dogs, can not give
companionship to a woman bred in Copenhagen, nor to the three little
children whom she nurtured with the carefulness of a Christian mother.

These children were two pretty flaxen-haired girls—Johana Maria and
Jennie Caroline—of five and seven years. But the hope of the house
was Julius Christian, aged three years and some odd months.

They had all been troubled with the scurvy, and I did not wonder at
it. What could these poor children do to preserve their health by
outdoor exercise and outdoor pastime in a climate where the snow is
on the ground nine months out of the twelve, and where the sun is not
seen in winter for more than a hundred days; where the house must be
banked with snow, the windows double glazed, the stoves and lamps
kept burning constantly, to ward off the piercing cold, which often
sinks to 50° below zero, and even lower, and where howling gales,
filling the air with snow-drift, are of almost daily occurrence?

The four rooms of the house were fitted up with a reasonable degree
of comfort, and with great neatness. There were some ornaments
upon the walls—photographs of relatives and friends, and cheap
colored prints of Danish battle-scenes, in some of which Jensen
had patriotically borne a musket in the ranks before he came to
Greenland, and was deservedly proud of the share he had in the war of
1848 against the hated Prussian.

For warmth they had stoves and Danish coal; and then there were
huge bags of eider-down, among which the children buried themselves
through the dark cold nights, piled upon the beds, and one might
think the cold could never reach them when they had crawled to rest.
But even children can not sleep all the time, though it may be
always dark; and the loneliness of that prison-house to those three
little creatures, when the winter comes, was a painful thing to
contemplate. But then the wife! The children were born there, and
had no other associations; but through the desolate winter do the
wife’s thoughts not wander sometimes mournfully and regretfully back
to the society and the changing delights and changing fashions of the
world wherein she lived before she became a bride, and left it for
this desert, simply that she might be with the man she loved? For
surely there could be nothing else than love to tempt her there. She
made no complaint; she appeared cheerful, and may have been happy.
It was hard for me to think so. Hopeless, indeed, to her this life
of toil, anxiety, and suffering, unless the blind god gives her some
vast measure of bliss utterly beyond man’s power of appreciation.
Alas, how little men really know of the sacrifices women make for
them continually! Was the man ever born who was capable of such an
exhibition of unselfishness as this Betty Jensen? I doubt it.

And the life of her husband is a very hard and, as it seems to me,
a very thankless one. Strange as it may seem, Jensen came here to
seek his fortune. The little money that he had saved up from my
expedition of 1860-’61, enabled him to return to Denmark, and there
to marry, and come back to Greenland and set up for himself. He had
been promised the charge of this remote settlement of Tessuisak,
which is fifty miles above Upernavik, and on the very confines of the
great ice-barrier. He was always a fine shot, an active man, and an
expert hunter; and he thought by coming here he would in a few years
accumulate a competency, which he would carry back to Denmark. But I
fancy it must have been something of his restless nature besides that
impelled him to this life.

[Illustration: JENSEN AND HIS FAMILY.]

He had lived several years in Greenland before I knew him, and,
like all other men who have returned to the primitive life of the
hunter, he never again took kindly to other ways, but clung lovingly
to independence. It is not, however, so with women, and hence to
them the greater hardship and privation. Without the same motives to
action, they can not find society in the animals of the chase.

Unhappily, Jensen had overestimated his skill and the resources
of Tessuisak, and in spite of all he was disappointed. The whole
productions of the place per annum do not exceed five thousand
dollars, chiefly made up from seal-oil, eider-down, and bear and fox
skins. On this Jensen receives but five per cent., a salary besides
of five-and-twenty dollars, and one Government ration. There is no
provision for his wife and children. Clearly the Royal Greenland
Fishing Company never contemplated such a thing as a wife going to so
distant and woe-begone a place.

But if the fact of Christian people selecting this remote, forlorn,
and frigid corner of the world, voluntarily, for a residence is
incomprehensible to the ordinary understanding, the pluck of the
thing will be appreciated by all. I know of nothing that would
require a greater degree of moral courage than to face life in such
a situation. Yet Jensen gloried in the work he did, and grew very
animated when he recited his bear and reindeer hunts, the skill and
success he had in the seal and white whale fisheries, and boasted of
his good-luck in making the natives be to him, what no other Dane had
succeeded in doing, “hewers of wood and drawers of water;” or rather,
to speak practically, as we must of a region where there is no wood
to hew, and where all the water used is made from snow, the butchers
of his game, and the drawers of his blubber. In a small way he is a
sort of feudal lord, with natural rights and privileges which I doubt
if he would exchange for the benefits of an inferior station in some
inferior latitude.

The population which he thus rules comprises sixty-two savage souls,
scattered about in huts and tents upon the rocky hill-side. The dogs,
which in the winter-time are used to drag the sledges, are beyond
counting; and the stench that arose from the carcasses of decomposing
fish and seals, and other offensive sources, exceeds belief. I pitied
the wife, and mentioned it to Jensen. “Oh, she’s got used to it, and
don’t mind!” One of the native families had, with peculiar impudence,
pitched a tent close beside Jensen’s door, and he told me that it
could not be removed without giving offense to the whole village.
Barren though the land, the Esquimaux, with laughable gravity,
proclaim themselves the true proprietors of the soil, and they do not
hesitate to tell the Danes—though not in hostile fashion, calling
them foreigners—that they are intruders.

What made the presence of this tent the more obnoxious was that the
wife was supposed to be a witch, and often made night hideous with
her devilish incantations. Although nominally a Christian now, she
can not yet refrain from her old practices. And surely if ill looks
had ever any thing to do, as they always seem to have had, with the
general make-up of a witch, she was entitled to be looked upon as the
mother of them all, for a more frightful-looking being surely never
walked in darkness and conspired with the evil one. Yet this monster
had a child, and its innocent baby face did not exhibit any evidence
that it was conscious of its dangerous parentage, but it sucked its
fist as contentedly as any other baby that had been born all right
and in the mortal fashion. Her original name was Annorasuak, which
is something equivalent to “Mother of the Winds.” Her history, as I
had it afterwards from Jensen, is not without romantic interest, and
will be again referred to.

[Illustration: AN ARCTIC WITCH.]

I could not part from this little family of Jensen without emotion.
For seven long years the wife had seen no living soul from the great
world from which her love had called her, and the children looked
upon us with amazement. They had never seen a ship in all their
little lives before, and the smoking, snorting _Panther_ was a
wonder in their eyes. We made them up a store of such good things as
we had on board, including every thing of an antiscorbutic character
that we could lay our hands upon, added a couple of tons or so
of coals, and then, with Jensen on board to pilot us through the
intricate passages between the islands, we bore away from this most
northern house of all the world, and shaped our course for Upernavik.

                            CHAPTER VII.

                     THE FIORD OF AUKPADLARTOK.

On our way to Upernavik we wheeled into the fiord of Aukpadlartok,
to which I have hitherto made allusion, and I verily believe there
never was such another wilderness of desolation—such an interminable
array of islands of ice and islands of rock; and when at last we saw
another house like Jensen’s, pitched like his upon just such another
point of land, and reflected that these houses are dotted here and
there in this dreary waste at intervals of forty and fifty miles, and
that their inmates hold communication one with the other perhaps once
in the winter with dog-sledge, and once in summer, and not more, with
boat, it seemed as if proof was positive that life without social
intercourse was really possible—a fact which I should never have
believed for a moment otherwise.

The ice was so thick along the shore that we could not get within a
mile of the little house and the miserable huts which surrounded it.
So we had nothing to do but tie up to an iceberg, and take to a boat
and pull in as best we could. The shore was reached at last, but only
after we had passed through many very dangerous places, including a
hole in an enormous iceberg, and then we were landed on the rocks,
where we were met by the most renowned of all the Greenland hunter—a
blue-eyed and fair-complexioned and most “mild-mannered man,” named
Philip, who was backed up by a staff of five sons—Christian, Wilhelm,
Simon, Hans, and Lars; while still farther in the rear was the wife,
Caroline, with her two daughters, Christina and Maria, and the
various wives and sweet-hearts and children of all her five boys, the
lover of Christina, and some forty other savages and half-savages,
who constituted the promiscuous population of the village of
Kresarsoak—“the village beside the mountain;” and the mountain reared
its great white crest five thousand feet above our heads, pushing
itself away up among the clouds.



The family of Philip was a very different one from that of Jensen.
His wife was a full-blown Esquimaux. His half-breed children were
happy and well-contented, and rejoiced in the possession of every
thing needful for the hunt or domestic comfort. Christian was
married, and had a small hut and seven children all to himself. Simon
ditto, but he lived with his wife and baby in a seal-skin tent.
Wilhelm had recently been in trouble about his lady-love, who was a
thorough-bred native, she at first preferring another fellow, who
was a fine hunter, and evidently the superior of Wilhelm. But then
Wilhelm was the son of the “governor,” which made all the difference
in the world; and so the marriage was settled upon, and was to take
place as soon as the priest could come up from Upernavik to bless the
nuptials. For the rest, they all lived in the paternal mansion, which
had but one room, and was divided with seal-skins into a number of
stalls like an oyster-cellar, and in these the different members of
the family retired to rest among their bags of eider-down.

Having enjoyed the benefit of Philip’s hospitality, which was
displayed chiefly in the form of seal-steaks, smoked salmon, and
coffee, I strolled out with Jensen, who had told me that near by
once dwelt the witch Annorasuak, who now lived at Tessuisak, and had
become a Christian—that is to say, after the Greenland fashion. I
accepted with alacrity his offer to guide me thither.

Crossing the neck of a promontory, in half an hour we came down into
a valley, or rather wide gorge, bounded on either side by lofty
cliffs, that were broken by immense clefts, which had a most glaring
and forbidding aspect as they frowned down upon us from underneath
the great white caps that untold winters had woven round their
heads. Fitful gusts of wind came moaning down the gorge, chilling us
to the very bone.

Our situation at the entrance to the gorge was very striking and
remarkable. Looking up the fiord, we could faintly see the glacier
of Aukpadlartok over the tops of innumerable icebergs, which crowded
the fiord, and upon which the sun, breaking through the clouds that
had obscured the sky for some hours previous, shone with great
brilliancy, without, however, reaching us or giving any warmth.
Looking up the valley, we saw the front of a small glacier, perhaps
fifty feet high and two hundred yards over, which crossed the valley
from cliff to cliff about a mile up from the sea, and from which
was gathered a stream of limpid water that came rushing down over
the rocks, breaking in falls and whirling in pools, and everywhere
hurrying along as if it were glad to get its freedom again, and was
making the first use of it by bounding away to the sea and the warm

The ascent of the valley was difficult and laborious; but by dint
of hard scrambling we succeeded finally in making about half a
mile, when we had reached a point where the cliffs rose almost
perpendicularly from the border of the stream, and were scarcely more
than thirty yards apart. Between them the water rushed in a series of
picturesque falls, the sound of which, added to the roar of the wind,
that seemed as if it had accumulated beyond, and was being forced
through the narrow passage, greatly heightened the gloomy aspect of
the scene.

Continuing on our course, we finally reached the summit of the falls,
and came then upon a level plain of considerable extent—a sort of
natural amphitheatre. Here in this wild and desolate place, close
to the fall and beneath the glacier, Annorasuak had, many years
ago, chosen her residence. From here went forth her decrees, which
stilled the winds or made them blow, and sent good-fortune to her
friends, and disaster to those who disregarded her. The heathen
natives held her in the greatest awe, and were glad to propitiate her
with the offer of food, clothing, and every thing needful for her
comfort; and even those who had professed to embrace the Christian
religion held her in superstitious dread, and thought it no harm to
add a contribution to the witch’s wardrobe and larder. The ruins of
her hut, which was entered through a long and intricate cleft in
the rock, were still visible. I examined this ruin, and heard the
story of this last trace of the heathen practices in Greenland, with
intense interest, not alone on account of this circumstance, but
because of the peculiar mystery which shrouded her history, and the
romantic side of which culminated in a daughter—a girl with light
complexion and black hair. The father of this girl was believed
to be a criminal who had escaped from an English whale-ship, fled
hither with this woman, and managed while he lived to avoid detection
through her arts; for it was at the period of her flight there that
she first assumed to be the “Mother of the Winds.” From that time
forth no native was ever known to enter the valley, except to a
certain spot, where he left his offering; and even the Danes seemed
to have a superstitious dread of it, associating it with the evil
one. They called the glacier hanging above the witch’s home “The
Devil’s Castle,” and the valley itself borrowed its name from its
wicked mistress. It was “The Valley of the Winds.” The daughter’s
name was Annore—“Daughter of the Winds;” and she had been really
taught to believe that she was born of the air.

Love, which is and always has been the disturber of so many human
devices, finally broke up this nest of witchcraft and sorcery. A
youthful Dane, named Elsen, saw the child, and had pity for her.
His tenderness soon suggested means by which to approach without
frightening her, and without her mother’s knowledge. Then he fell in
love with his wild favorite, and addressed the mission of Upernavik
for help to save her. “Poor Annore,” the lover wrote, in his despair
at her condition; “she is a wild flower in the wilderness. Can the
wild flower be transplanted? Will the lustre of the leaves come out
in other soil, and will gentler airs bring brightness to the blossom?
Poor misguided child!—her birth a mystery to her; her very name a
falsehood to her mind perpetually. And yet she is taught to honor it,
and taught to think with pride that she was born of the winds, and
to the winds will go away again, to wander to and fro, doing good or
ill, forever. Annore, poor Annore! Will the falsehood pass away? Will
the daughter of the winds become a child of God?”

And the lover’s question was answered favorably. The missionary
became interested, and the two together managed, in the end, to
entice the mother and daughter away; and through their efforts Annore
became Nina, and the wife of Elsen; and Annorasuak, her mother,
became Barbara, and the wife of a Christian native, and she is now
the ugly hag that has pitched her tent at Tessuisak, right beneath
the nose of Jensen, who hates her cordially.

We did not remain longer in the valley than was necessary for an
inspection of the place. The wind shortly increased in violence,
accompanied with occasional gusts of snow, and sometimes it fairly
shrieked along the cliffs; and it seemed clear enough that if there
ever was a place on earth fitted for the abode of evil spirits, this
was it. As if to increase that impression, and leave no doubt at
all about it, an ancient raven, with a ragged coat, flopped down
near by, and set up a dismal croak. Then he walked off deliberately,
muttering to himself the while in a sepulchral tone, and, mounting to
the ruined wall of the witch’s hut, he croaked again. Then he cocked
his head to one side, and looked at us in a very sinister way out of
one eye; after which he went to the edge of the fall and looked over
into the foaming abyss. Then he croaked once more, flopped himself
over to the other side of the stream, and, lighting on a rock, began
sharpening his bill, as if preparing for a sacrifice, croaking all
the while. He seemed to know the spot, and to be at home there, for
the moment he struck the rock I perceived there was a double echo, so
that his voice resounded from cliff to cliff, until it seemed as if
the air were peopled with spirits that were in league with him, and
were answering to his call.

[Illustration: THE RAVEN.]

By the time we had reached Philip’s but it was snowing heavily,
and it being clear from the first that we had come up the fiord
for nothing, the icebergs being so thick above as to defy even the
passage of a boat to the glacier, we got aboard with all haste, and
steamed away.

                            CHAPTER VIII.


I had set my heart upon making a thorough survey of the fiord of
Aukpadlartok. As recorded in a previous chapter, I had previously
been there and penetrated to within five miles of the glacier. It
was, therefore, with much regret that I found the water wholly
impassable to a boat. Even the air was so thick that I could not
see the front of the glacier, so that I failed to note any changes
which might have taken place in the interval of eight years since
I had visited it before. Philip told me, however, that during the
past two or three years the discharge of icebergs had been much
greater than formerly, and that if they continued to increase in the
same proportion he would be obliged to quit the place, as he could
hardly at any time get in and out from his hut. Indeed, his residence
appeared to me even more dreary than Jensen’s, for about the latter
the icebergs were comparatively few, while Philip was thoroughly
encircled by them. What measureless powers of endurance and hardihood
such men as these must possess! I confess that I never look upon them
except with astonishment.

Our voyage to Upernavik was without incident worthy of note, except
that our mate was blessed with his usual fortune in discovering
soundings. In a place where a rock was never before known to exist,
he found one which by a miracle we grazed without damage to the
_Panther’s_ keel or bottom.

To our arrival in Upernavik I had looked forward with some real
pleasure; and not the least among those which I actually found was a
civilized bed, and other homelike luxuries which Dr. Rudolph was good
enough to place at my disposal. And oh the luxury of that bed after
eight weeks in the narrow quarters of a ship’s bunk, always damp, and
black with coal-dust, and daily rendered worse by the unsuccessful
attempts of an idiotic cabin-boy to put it to rights and keep it

The window of my room opened upon the sea, and was full of sweet
flowers that had been nurtured tenderly by my good hostess, as if
they were children. It was strange to look out through a little
wilderness of roses, mignonnette, and heliotrope, upon a great
wilderness of icebergs. The sea was, indeed, as cold as cold could
be, and the waves broke fiercely right beneath me on the rocky
shore; but about me all was peace and quiet—the pictures on the
wall, the fire in the stove, the home comforts of the modest house
which sheltered me—all spoke defiance of place or climate, and told
a tale of tranquillity and contentment that was worth going thrice
three thousand miles to see, even though the storms were never so
threatening, and ice-barriers without number intervened.

We remained a week at Upernavik, and during that time I never saw
the _Panther_. I never was so glad _not_ to see any thing in all my
life before. I was quite willing to believe that the artists were
painting and photographing icebergs without limit, and were getting
into their camera every thing from a native to a mountain, but I did
not want to see it. My enjoyment of the little home into which I had
fallen was too fresh to court disturbance. To forget for a time that
there was ever such an enemy to man as a ship’s cook, and to partake
of some simple fare with which a woman’s hand had had to do, was too
great a luxury to be profaned, and I lived along through my week
at Dr. Rudolph’s in a state of bliss. I wrote, and read, and played
with the children, Anne and Christian. I talked with Jensen about his
life, and the Greenland legends which he had gathered in his long
experience. I helped my host, the governor, to make up his annual
accounts for the next ship home and I bungled through my Danish with
his amiable wife, making her laugh continually at my mistakes; and
altogether, quite free from care, gave myself up wholly to enjoyment
for the seven days.

Now the coming of the ship was a matter of serious concern to
Governor Rudolph. The store-rooms were very empty, and there was much
danger of famine if the ship did not come at all. To the governor’s
family there would be a lack of every luxury. She was overdue almost
a month, and great alarm was in the settlement already. But she did
come at last, and I never saw people more rejoiced. The ship was the
_Constancia_, and Captain Bang, her master, was as intelligent a man
as he was good fellow. He spoke capital English, and helped us with
our pipes and punch in the evening, and enjoyed the flowers as much
as I did, and the delightful breakfast of smoked salmon, venison
sausage, and pickled halibut, and the substantial lunch, and the late
dinners, that were none the worse for the cigars and wine and Santa
Cruz that he brought off one day to help out with; for the doctor
was the most hospitable of all old-fashioned gentlemen and having
three times dined our whole huge cabin mess, and opened his house
to every body every day, his supply of cigars and liquors, after a
whole year’s pulling at them on his own part, had run rather low. Our
mess would gladly have replenished the doctor’s fast-failing stock;
but with true American energy we had gone to work at the start as if
to get through with what supplies we had in the shortest possible
space of time; and there was not now among us so much as a single
“Havana,” or even a bottle of ale, to bless ourselves with.

The doctor surprised me one day by coming into my room, and in his
genial way calling out, “You know dis man; you know dis feller, eh?”
producing from behind his coat a rascally face, which I never could
forget in any length of time. It was the face of Hans Heindrich.

Now Hans is a man of some celebrity. In 1853 Dr. Kane took him from
Fiskernaes, South Greenland, upon his famous voyage into Smith’s
Sound. His age then was about twenty years; and he lived well on
board the brig _Advance_, and waxed fat, and tricked his master,
from whom he finally ran away, and joined the Smith Sound savages,
marrying one of their women, by name Merkut. Among these people I
found him in 1860, and took him aboard with his wife, Merkut, and
his baby, Pingasuk. I ought to have known better. He tricked me
worse than he had tricked Dr. Kane. I am fully convinced that he was
instrumental in causing the death of two of my command, though it
was never possible to prove any thing against him positive enough to
insure conviction. It is hard to collect evidence where there are no
eyes to see nor ears to hear. Being unable to verify my suspicions,
I brought him back in 1861, and delivered him over to the Danish
authorities, from whom Dr. Kane had taken him eight years before.
Even now he could not cease from mischief, breeding quarrels wherever
he went; and his wife was in a state of chronic dissatisfaction
because she could not live in her old-fashioned savage way, and her
children (she had two now) were a burden on the poor-fund. I gave
Merkut some money to buy clothes for the children, and within an
hour it was all spent at the Government store-house for figs and

[Illustration: HANS AND HIS FAMILY.]

The untutored savage is not a peculiarly delicious creature under
the best of circumstances. He is apt to have very crude notions about
_meum_ and _tuum_, and the truth is not in him. Truth, indeed, seems
to be, like gallantry, a fine art, and men have to be cultivated to
the understanding of it. But Hans was not altogether an untutored
savage, for the missionaries had control of him before Dr. Kane took
him in charge, and had taught him to read the Testament and Thomas à
Kempis, and to sign his name. The story of his proficiency in these
respects having got abroad, in connection with supposed services
rendered to Dr. Kane’s party in Christian charity, Hans has been made
much of in a Sunday-school book that I have seen somewhere within a
year or so, as a striking example of the power of Christian labor
among the heathen—just as if he did not use what he had acquired
for a cloak to hide his true character, something after the manner
of Uriah Heep when playing a part before the pious Creakle and the
zealous board of visitors.

I do not mean to be understood to give this as by any means a
fair sample of the influence of Christian civilization upon the
Greenlanders, for I have had frequent occasion to testify to the
excellence of the native character in many conspicuous instances.
Hans is nothing more than one of that very numerous class common to
all peoples. Even the pastor of the little church at Upernavik can
do nothing to help the mischief-making sinner; for the reader must
know that Upernavik has a church. It was here that Mr. Anthon, now
at Julianashaab, performed his first missionary labors. The pastor
of this Upernavik flock surely fills Cowper’s description of the
Moravian brethren, going forth,

    “Fired with a zeal peculiar to defy
     The rage and rigor of a Polar sky;
     And plant successfully sweet Saviour’s rose
     On icy plains, and in eternal snows.”

A new pastor, accompanied by his wife, came out in the _Constancia_
to take charge of the mission. They were a young couple. Certainly no
one would charge them with undue regard to things earthly when they
subject themselves to such banishment.

Yet one might, after all, be worse off than here in Greenland
and, for a certain length of time, I think the banishment might
be bearable enough. One of the happiest, best contented, and most
cultivated men that I have ever met, did not live much south of this,
and he has declared to me that he would not exchange his Greenland
lodge for the most comfortable quarters in his own fine city of
Copenhagen. And it does seem strange that such a large number of
superior men—superior in education and refinement—find their way to
this inhospitable region, as governors, missionaries, and physicians.
It is either because the home Government is particularly careful of
its agents, or that the region possesses some peculiar attraction
for thoughtful and reflective minds. “It is,” said my friend before
alluded to, “the best place in the world to read books in,” and great
readers most of these Danes in Greenland are.

Dr. Rudolph is a fine specimen of the best class of Danish gentlemen
who accept appointments here, and who seem to take root and never
desire to be transplanted elsewhere.

In early life he was an assistant surgeon in the Danish army. Later,
he was largely engaged in private practice in the vicinity of
Copenhagen. His health failing him, he went to Greenland as physician
to the colony of Jacobshavn, and thereby saved his life; but his
life once saved, he had no mind to renew the humdrum existence of
powders and pills, and his old age now finds him both governor and
physician of one of the most productive of the Greenland Districts,
even although it is the most northern of all points of Christian
occupation. His children are at school in Copenhagen, all except the
two youngest, who are now with him; and there seems to be no end to
his plans of doing for them out of his percentage of the Upernavik
production, which furnishes him a moderate income.

Judging from the seeming shortness of the week I spent at Dr.
Rudolph’s house, I should say a winter would not be tedious; but then
it must be borne in mind that my week was a continual sunshine. I was
used to it then, as I had been before, and did not observe or think
of it; but now to look back over the time, and remember a week, and
weeks, and months even, passing away without once lighting a lamp; to
take a walk at midnight as an appetizer for sleep, just before going
to bed, and do it in the daylight; to watch through day and night the
shadows going round and round, is to recall a now strange experience.
I have, indeed, never seen a person with the least sentiment who
has ever been beyond the Arctic Circle, whose fancy did not cling
lovingly to that long, lingering day and the never-setting sun.

But all things must have an end, and so at length I found myself once
more back in my damp and smoke-begrimed quarters in the _Panther’s_
cabin. On the same day the _Constancia_ was ready to sail, and our
captain offered Captain Bang a tow. He was going down the coast forty
miles, to Proven, where he was to take in more cargo before returning
home to Copenhagen. But, as ill luck would have it, a small iceberg
had drifted into the middle of the harbor and grounded right in front
of the two vessels, which lay almost side by side. It seemed at first
as if we were both fast there, but the _Constancia’s_ cable slipped
out and freed the ship, while ours stubbornly refused to budge; so
that we had the mortification of seeing the vessel we were going
to tow move off without us under oars. It was a most aggravating
situation. Doctor Rudolph was on board the _Constancia_, on his way
to Proven. He cried to us that he would be back in three days, and
we were quite welcome to the harbor. The captain of the brig offered
us a tow if we would only pass along a line. The order of things was
quite reversed. The steamer was helpless, while the sailer was off.

Our captain, vexed by the detention (and these taunts did not in the
least soothe him), was evidently coming to a desperate determination.
“Pay out chain,” he shouted from the bridge. Then he rang his bell
to “back astern.” The vessel moved away from the berg as far as
the chain would let her go, and then he rang again, “Ahead full
speed.” Down the _Panther_ came with a steady helm, and with her
iron forefoot she took the iceberg fairly in the middle. The shock
was terrific, and there was a great scattering of men on the deck
and of plates in the pantry; but fortunately the iceberg at that
point was sloping, and the _Panther_ slid up about five feet out of
the water, which partly broke the force of the blow. Then she slid
back again, luckily with her masts all standing. The _Constancia’s_
people cheered us, and we backed off again and went at the iceberg
once more, with the same result—we did not budge or damage it in any
way further than to splinter off innumerable fragments, which covered
the sea all around us. But the berg was thin at the centre where we
had struck; and the captain, growing more and more determined, backed
off and butted away at the berg again and again, until, finally, the
sixth effort proved successful. The berg split with a fearful sound.
The two masses, each pivoted on the bottom, rolled over with a great
swash; the _Panther_ sheered ahead between the fragments, and then,
picking up our anchor, to the universal astonishment we steamed out
of the harbor in triumph, and kept our promise to the _Constancia_.

Dropping the _Constancia_ off Proven, we continued south through the
night, and on the following morning sighted the lofty mountains of
Disco Island. Passing the Waigat, and the great stream of icebergs
which emerges from it, we kept close to the bold and picturesque
shores of Disco, and on the following day dropped anchor in Godhavn,
close beside the town which takes its name from the little landlocked

                             CHAPTER IX.

                            DISCO ISLAND.

    “A rocky islet in the sea,
     A lonely harbor on its lee,
         The roaring surf around!
     Chill are the winds and cold the sky,
     Dead in the dells the flowers lie,
         The snow is on the ground!

    “A desert drear as e’er was seen;
     It seems as if there has not been
         A trace of human life!
     I write again. Upon the rock
     I’ve found a home, a loving flock—
         A husband, child, and wife.

    “And thus it is—here Greenland frowns,
     The name to others harshly sounds;
         ’Tis everywhere the same!
     If we but taste the sweets of love,
     It matters little—rock or grove—
         There’s nothing in a name.

    “God bless that home upon the rock!
     God bless that happy, loving flock,
         And keep them from all harm!
     My bark again bounds o’er the sea;
     Away, away once more I flee
         To nothing half so warm!”
                                _Our Sagaman._

Disco Island is one of the most notable localities in Greenland.
There is a legend that a mighty sorcerer, or angeikut, dragged the
island there from the south; and even to the present time they point
out a remarkable hole in the rock, on its north side, through which
the evil genius of the island rove his rope. The island is upwards
of a hundred miles long, is everywhere very lofty, and presents the
most superb lines of cliffs of trap rock that I have ever seen. On
the south side of the island, in latitude 69°, there is a low and
ragged spur of granite rock, near a mile in length, which incloses as
perfect a little harbor as can anywhere be found, and this the Danes
have expressed in the name Godhavn (Good-harbor), which they have
given it. This rocky spur is a peninsula at low water; at high water
an island. On the north side of it, facing the great tall trap cliffs
which tower up two thousand feet above the harbor, stands the little
town which takes its name from the harbor, though better known by
the English whalers’ name of Lievely, which is probably a corruption
of lively, for the town is the metropolis of North Greenland; and,
having been a general rendezvous for whale and discovery ships almost
from the beginning of the present century, its metropolitan gayety
has become widely celebrated.

It was on a cold, gray, misty morning that we arrived at Godhavn.
There had been heavy frosts and a light spurt of snow; and the little
town being hidden from view in the gloomy atmosphere, it is not
surprising that it should have impressed our sagaman, as it did all
of us, rather unfavorably. But this feeling speedily wore off after
we had landed and called at the inspector’s house—a house to me not
new, for there I had in former years spent many pleasant days with
the prior incumbent, Justitsraad Olrik, now director of the Greenland
Company in Copenhagen.

The present inspector is Herr Krarup Smith, a young man of perhaps
two-and-thirty, who possesses the same enthusiastic fondness for
scientific discovery for which Mr. Olrik was distinguished, and the
same cultivated appreciation of its importance; and being obliged
every year to visit each of the districts and subordinate stations
within his inspectorate, he has made many valuable observations,
and collected many rare and curious specimens; among which are some
fossil remains of the limestone, coal, and slate deposits of Disco
Island, and other localities of Disco Bay. This bay appears to have
been a great carboniferous basin, coal being found to crop out on
almost every side of it.

The inspector’s wife seemed to be quite as well content with her
Greenland home as the inspector was himself, and there never was a
happier baby than the Greenland-born Elizabet, whose first birthday
we were hospitably called upon to assist in celebrating immediately
after our arrival.

The inspector’s house is not, by any means, an imposing edifice,
being of the usual pitchy hue; but it is comfortable, and
sufficiently capacious. The suite of rooms—comprising billiard-room,
dining-room, and parlor—into which we were ushered by the same Sophy
who had presided there as housekeeper these many years past, and who
wore the inevitable silver seal-skin pantaloons and dainty snow-white
boots as of old, had nothing to indicate that we were three degrees
north of the Arctic Circle. Some prints of fruits and flowers were
hanging on the dining-room walls, and the parlor was literally strewn
with books and family souvenirs, and also music. A piano stood in one
corner, and bore evidence of being well used. Bright flowers were
blooming in the windows, and the faces of two bright young ladies,
one the sister of the inspector, the other of his wife, were there,
as if on purpose to make the picture quite complete and leave nothing
to be wished for.

These young ladies were on a visit, having come out from Denmark the
previous summer; and now, at the end of the year, they were about to
return in the _Hvalfisken_, a brig which came into the harbor soon
after our arrival. I asked how they liked this Greenland life? They
had no fault to find with it at all, except the ending of it. They
would stay another year, only for the homes across the sea, where
they were sadly missed, as I could well imagine they must be.

Godhavn is not so lacking in life as most of the other towns. Here
all the Danish ships are obliged to come to receive their orders
from the inspector, both upon their arrival and departure from the
Greenland waters; and of late years, during the search for Sir John
Franklin, here is where all the searchers came to taste the first
sweets of home, after a long imprisonment in the inhospitable regions
around Beechy Island and elsewhere. And none left without carrying
away the most lively recollections of the place and of the genial
Justitsraad Olrik; nor did any body ever forget the Justitsraad’s
housekeeper, the inimitable Sophy.

Godhavn is too far north for the production of such garden-luxuries
as we found at Julianashaab on our first arrival in the country; yet
little round red radishes were not wanting any more now than they had
been when Mr. Olrik formerly invited me to his table. But they were
grown beneath glass, and not in the open air, the earth being brought
in barrels from Copenhagen. There was also a head of lettuce, reared
in the same manner, for the perfection of the very excellent luncheon
to which Mrs. Smith invited us upon our first appearance.

As Godhavn is the most pleasant and lively of all the Greenland
towns, so Disco Island presents the most picturesque and attractive
scenery. Looking from the town across the harbor, which is not over
half a mile wide, you face the lofty cliffs of trap rock, which
extend to right and left for miles. Above they are capped with snow;
below, the waves break upon them fiercely, and the icebergs are
ground to pieces on their sharp angles.

I walked out with the ladies of the inspector’s family, and had a
fine view of the cliffs from behind the town; thence we proceeded
across the narrow neck of rocks around the head of the harbor, and,
after strolling along a beautiful sandy beach which stretches in a
grand curve for a mile, we entered a valley beside a broad and rapid
stream, called Rothe River, which breaks through deep caverns of the
most picturesque description, and over the tortured rocks dashes in
falls of rare beauty. I can not imagine any thing more wild than
the scene before us at the summit of the principal fall. Looking up
the valley, I could trace the winding stream to an immense glacier
that descended from the lofty hills. Directly abreast of these, to
the left, was another glacier, which, having poured down over a very
steep and rugged declivity, was twisted into the most fantastic
shapes. Above towered the grand crest of Lyngmarkens Fjeld, over
which snow-clouds were sweeping before a wind that did not reach us
in our sheltered situation. The air in the valley was calm, and the
day was unusually warm for the time of year. The light snow that had
fallen three days before, and which gave such a gloomy aspect to the
land upon our first arrival in Godhavn, had now disappeared, and
there was still something of the summer green which had clothed the
valley. Even bright flowers, though wilted by the frost, and drooping
languidly, were there, yet they seemed to be pleading mournfully for

One must come to these Arctic wilds to perfect his love and reverence
for these sweet gifts of nature. They seem to be clothed here with
a new significance—an intelligence of their own, which warns them
that their life must needs be short, and that they must quickly
prepare for their end, and provide speedily for their posterity.
From the time when “lingering winter chills the lap of spring” to
that when the very slight warmth which the summer has given to the
earth has been dissipated by the returning frosts—between the deep
snows of those two periods—there occurs a remarkable series of
transformations. The snow has scarcely disappeared before the seed
swells into life; and in a few days green supplants the universal
whiteness. Blossoms gay and smiling burst forth with corresponding
rapidity; the new seeds are formed, and fall to be covered with their
winter cloak; and from the beginning to the end there is scarcely
an interval of six weeks. One can not look upon this astonishing
growth—flowering, seeding, and decay—and witness this adaptation
of life to the conditions of climate, without wonder. Alfieri has
beautifully expressed the feeling in these lines:

    “Oh, ’tis the touch of fairy hand
     That wakes the spring of Northern land.
     It warms not there by slow degrees,
     With changeful pulse, the uncertain breeze;
     But sudden on the wondering sight
     Bursts forth the beam of living light,
     And instant verdure springs around,
     And magic flowers bedeck the ground.”

The Governor of Godhavn, Mr. Frederick Hansen, whom I had before met
at Proven and Upernavik in a similar capacity, was of our party; and,
being himself a famous walker, it was proposed that we should attempt
to scale the glacier to our left, and climb to the summit of the
Lyngmarkens Fjeld—a feat which had never been performed. The great
white rolling plain that stretched away so high above us was indeed
tempting; and none of us were more eager to make the trial than the
ladies themselves. Mr. Hansen, who had climbed every thing that it
seemed possible to climb, was of opinion that the thing could not
be done; and the first suggestion of the effort appeared, in fact,
more like a jest than sober earnest. It came from one of the ladies,
however, and gallantry alone was of itself sufficient to prompt a
ready response. We would climb the glacier, certainly, if the ladies,
who were “both young and fair,” were so minded—of course we would;
but it must be confessed that there were doubting eyes cast upon the
Lyngmarkens Fjeld.

It being agreed that the effort was to be made, we returned to the
village and had a game of billiards at the inspector’s house. On the
following day, in company with the “Professor,” the “Prince,” the
“Colonel,” the “Major,” and our chief “Nimrod,” I made a preliminary
exploration. After ascending the valley to the falls, we pursued our
course along the bank of a stream which tears down through a cleft
in the solid rock about two hundred feet deep, and came finally to
the glacier, by the side of which, sometimes on the ice and sometimes
on the rocks, through the gorge formed by the ice-stream meeting the
base of the cliffs, we climbed to an altitude of eighteen hundred
feet above the sea. The ascent was very difficult. The ice was here
broken up in the most wonderful manner. The lines of stratification
showed a great variety of curves, especially in one place where it
had poured over a cliff, as if it had been a tenacious, plastic,
semi-fluid mass flowing down by force of gravity, and moulding itself
in conformity with the changing bed over which it had descended.

The ridge of sand and rock that had been ploughed up in front
measured one hundred and twenty feet in altitude. By watching it
carefully we could see and hear it moving. A great boulder, losing
its balance, rolled from the crest above, and, loosening a great
quantity of stones, mud, and sand, came rolling down near where we
stood, making a fearful uproar. At the same moment the tall cliff
above us let loose some immense fragments, which, bursting in pieces
like bomb-shells, bounded down the steep slope at its base; and the
two avalanches, meeting in the gorge, changed their direction, and
went crashing down to the valley at a fearful rate, directly over
the track which we had pursued in coming up. Had this occurred a few
minutes sooner we should have been overwhelmed; for not only were
enormous rocks zigzaging their way along with increasing violence and
velocity, but the air was filled with lesser fragments, which flew
almost with the speed of lightning.

This catastrophe impelled us the more earnestly to continue
the ascent, and to find, either along the base of, or over the
Lyngmarkens Fjeld, a new way to Godhavn, But our efforts proved
unavailing. The ice-cliffs could not be scaled, and there was nothing
left for us but to take the back track, which we did with fear and
trembling. Fortunately, there were no more avalanches to disturb us,
and we arrived on board the _Panther_ with nothing worse than great
fatigue and a thorough drenching; for while we were upon the ice, to
add still further to the discomfort of our situation, a heavy shower
of rain, sleet, and snow set upon us.

The report of our failure to find a passage to the summit of the
mountain did not at all discourage the courageous ladies; but, on
the contrary, only inspired them with greater eagerness. Even the
story of the fearful avalanche did not cool their adventurous ardor,
nor the doleful account of the cold storm dampen their zeal. It was
resolved to make the attempt by the great cliffs across the harbor.

The cliffs are there cut through by the most sublime gorges that
eye ever looked upon. These gorges appeared, however, to be as
inaccessible as the valleys of the moon.

Mr. Hansen laughed at the idea. “Impossible!” said he. “These brave
ladies will climb with any body, as I know well enough, after a
year’s practice with them, but neither they nor you can go up that

But the matter of the trial could not be settled at once, as the next
day promised a storm like that of the day before; so I gladly availed
myself of Mr. Hansen’s obliging offer to lead me to other fields of
investigation, and for three days thereafter I was well employed.

Mr. Hansen communicated to me many interesting facts, and through his
instrumentality and that of the inspector I was enabled to visit the
coal-fields, which are here very extensive.

I found Mr. Hansen to be an enthusiastic naturalist. Among other
valuable specimens which I owed to his kindness was a large
collection of birds’ eggs and skins, and some fossils. To the study
of the birds of the region and their habits he has devoted much
attention. The great auk, long since supposed to be entirely extinct,
he told me had been recently seen on one of the Whale-fish islands.
Two years before one had been actually captured by a native, who,
being very hungry, and wholly ignorant of the great value of the
prize he had secured, proceeded at once to eat it, much to the
disgust of Mr. Hansen, who did not learn of it until too late to
come to the rescue. How little the poor savage thought of the great
fortune he had just missed by hastily indulging his appetite!

[Illustration: THE GREAT AUK.]

The great auk is not the only mysterious creature in Greenland that
seems likely soon to become entirely extinct, for there is, besides,
the fierce and powerful amarok, which has been in latter times rarely
seen, and is much dreaded. It is the national terror of the nursery
and children are frightened to sleep or kept at home with threats of
calling the awful monster, whose rapacity is so great that he can
take off any number of Esquimaux babies that you choose to name. This
animal, which is an enormous wolf, is not, however, quite as fabulous
as the old wives’ stories would incline you to believe, one having
actually appeared in the country within a few years, and, after
committing the most fearful ravages among the dogs, and terrifying
the people, was finally shot. His skin now adorns the Copenhagen
Museum. The story has spread everywhere, and is related by every body
with the same zest that a frontiersman would tell of an Indian raid.

Disco Bay, which separates the island from the main-land, is sixty
miles wide, and is a splendid sheet of water. Several glaciers pour
their frozen floods into it, and grand processions of icebergs
stretch over it towards the outlets above and below the island.
One of these glaciers is exceptionally fine. It is known as the
Jacobshavn Glacier, or, as the Danes call it, Jacobshavn’s Eis-strom;
and this, since we could not at present climb the hills of Disco
Island, we resolved to visit. Its name is derived from a little
town near by, and for this little town we steamed away in the early
morning, while the sun was silvering the mountain crests and melting
away the chilly mists of the night.

                             CHAPTER X.


The view of the southern shore of Disco Island as we crossed the
bay was truly magnificent. The gnarled shore, full of clefts and
caverns, was white with the foam of the sea; the great tall cliffs
were red with the glowing sun; the distant hills were bathed in
purple, and long streaks of bright yellow sandstone, marking the
coal-measures, broke in here and there to complete a picture which
will be remembered long. The icebergs, too, were more than ordinarily
beautiful. There are few places along the Greenland coast from
which such large icebergs are discharged as Disco Bay. We stopped
frequently to photograph them, and thus dawdled away the hours, so
that we did not arrive at our destination until nightfall, for it
must be borne in mind that there was a night now—the midnight sun
having left us many days before, darkness coming on as soon as ten

One of the icebergs that particularly attracted our attention
had almost the perfect shape of a truncated cone. But its chief
peculiarity was an immense arch running directly through the centre
of it, which was apparently large enough for our ship to pass
through, since it could not have been less than a hundred feet high
and seventy feet wide. It would have been a very hazardous experiment
to have undertaken to steam through the berg; but it would have been
so novel a thing to have done, that I believe the consideration
only of the berg’s liability to fall to pieces about us restrained
every body from asking the captain to do the thing. This remarkable
hole had been once a portion of a great natural culvert through the
glacier into which the waters from the surface found their way and
drained off to the sea.

We carried along with us from Godhavn a native pilot; but owing to
the lateness of the hour, and the great numbers of icebergs that
lay about the mouth of the harbor, it was found to be impracticable
for him to get us to the town before daylight, so he tied to some
grounded ice. We managed, however, to penetrate to the harbor with a
boat, and surprised the governor with an evening call.

Never had steamship been there before, and of course every body
was given a new life by our arrival. Some of the governor’s family
had retired to bed; but our coming had quickly roused them, and
every possible thing was done to give us welcome. The governor,
or colonibestyrere, Herr Knud Fleicher, was personally known to
me before, he having been at Upernavik in that capacity in 1853
and 1855. I was much surprised to find him there, and the surprise
was not the less agreeable when he brought into the room a pretty,
modest, and intelligent young lady of nineteen, whom he introduced
as his daughter, saying to me, “Know you dis one? She comes to
tank you.” For what I could not at first understand; but when she
brought in a mechanical contrivance which bore unmistakable evidence
of having been devised impromptu, I recognized my own handiwork of
sixteen years before, and in the young lady a deformed child, whom I
had the great satisfaction of seeing now able to walk as well as any
body upon legs apparently perfectly straight and sound—a circumstance
which gave me not less surprise than pleasure; for when I had
constructed the instrument for the helpless little girl of three
years, there appeared to be but a small chance for her ever being any
thing but a cripple for life. She was followed into the room by her
mother, who was a fine matronly-looking lady, and very neatly dressed
in some dark stuff sprinkled with snow-white spots, and looking as
fresh as ever. Three lusty sons came in also; so did the parson and
the doctor, with their respective wives; and altogether the reception
was a lively and agreeable one. The governor produced cigars, long
Dutch pipes, and tobacco; a seal-skin betrowsered half-breed girl
brought in a huge waiter with an urn of steaming coffee; and likewise
hot water, sugar, rum, and sherry for the inevitable Danish punch.

The Prince was of course around, and was not long in getting the
girls together; when he improvised a dance upon the green in front of
the governor’s house, which proved to be quite a picturesque affair,
the more especially as the scene was lit up with lanterns stuck about
on the rocks around; while above an aurora flashed across the heavens
in the wildest manner, emitting tongues of flickering light of every
hue, and throwing a weird brightness upon the sterile rocks, and ice,
and snow, as well as on the gay and festive merry-makers. Nor were we
inside the house without some lively entertainment. The governor’s
daughter treated us to some music on a piano, which, although not
in the best of tune, was yet played with considerable skill; and,
considering that music teachers do not abound in Greenland, the
success of this young lady, who had never been south of the Arctic
Circle, was quite remarkable. Then we had some songs of the _viva la
vo_ order, and the great Danish national air of 1848, _Den tapper
Landsoldat_ (The Bold Soldier-boy), with immense effect; after which
we went on board to sleep, with the “_derfor vil jeg slaaes_” and
the “hurrah!” and the rest of it ringing in our ears in a delightful

On the following day we tried very hard to get to the Jacobshavn
glacier, first by the fiord, then overland, without, however,
accomplishing our purpose. The fiord was so crowded with icebergs
that no headway could be made even with the smallest boat, and it
was, in fact, as much as one’s life was worth even to make the
attempt; and the overland journey was found to involve too much time
and labor to be undertaken at so advanced a stage of the summer—at
least thus thought the party generally, and that settled the matter.
So it was resolved to go at once back to Godhavn. But, before doing
this, we dined the entire white population of Jacobshavn on board the
_Panther_, and I made two visits in the morning that gave me great

The first was to the missionary, whom I found to be one of those
kind and gentle men with whom one would naturally associate the idea
of the peculiar unselfishness needed in a missionary. Certainly, at
least, if he had not a very unselfish nature he would not have been
there. As it was, he seemed to be exactly the right man in the right
place; and since he appeared to have plenty to do, and to do it
with a will, I was glad that “his lines had fallen in such pleasant
places.” But not so his wife. What on earth was there for her to do
in this land of desolation? Nothing, as I could see, but grow sick as
she had done, and shudder, as she must have done, when she looked out
upon the dreary church-yard beneath her chamber window. Jacobshavn is
one of the oldest of the missions in North Greenland, and contains,
in connection with the church, a seminary for the education of the
native youth who seek such instruction as may qualify them for
teachers of their own people; for the missionaries have given to the
natives a written language, which they never had before; and it is
rare to find a man or woman who can not read and write. Until the
Christian missions were established, the language of the people was
only oral; and they did not possess, even in the crudest form, any
means of conveying the most simple idea except by word of mouth.
The “picture-writing” of our North American Indians was unknown
to them. They have now at Godthaab a printing-press, established
there by Dr. Rink; and not only have they printed many interesting
historical accounts and native traditions, but have illustrated them
with wood-cuts of native manufacture that are quite as creditable as
specimens of art as those which illustrate the travels of Mandeville,
and similar works of our own language published a few centuries ago.

In fact, these Esquimaux possess remarkable ingenuity. Even in their
savage state their inventions are very creditable; a fact that was
well proven during my second call in Jacobshavn, which was upon
the surgeon of the district, Dr. C. G. F. Pfaff, in whom I had the
good-luck to discover an enthusiastic antiquarian. His opportunities
have been great, and he has employed them well in gathering a very
valuable collection of implements of ancient native manufacture, of
which he had several hundred specimens—embracing knives, pots, lamps,
axes, spear-heads, needles, drills, ice-hooks, etc.—all made of stone,
and all of superior workmanship. The knives were very sharp; so also
were the needles and drills; and, being made of chalcedony and other
like minerals, it seemed very wonderful how they had managed to grind
them down to sharp points and edges, and to polish them as if they
had possessed all the appliances of the most skilled mechanics, with
all the modern inventions. I have not seen anywhere so fine a private
collection illustrative of the “Stone Age” of man’s existence. This
Stone Age of the Esquimaux, however, instead of having ended in a
period of remote antiquity, comes down to the time when Fulton was
inventing steamboats. The spear-heads were mostly of red cornelian, and
these, as well as the other implements, were generally polished, and
in every respect showed a skill superior to that of the North American
Indians. The doctor was good enough to present me with a few samples of
this native art; but the main collection he reserves for the Museum in
Copenhagen, of which every Dane is so justly proud.

Jacobshavn, like all the other Greenland colonies, owes what
prosperity it has mainly to the seal-fishery. Besides the seal there
is the white whale, which arrives in its annual migration from
the North about the middle of September. A great many halibut are
likewise caught and preserved. This latter is of a variety peculiar
to Jacobshavn, being caught there upon a bank of limestone, deposited
from the water which comes from under the glacier.

It was a matter of much regret to me that that glacier could not be
reached—the more so that it had, two years before, been visited by
Mr. Whymper, who had conceived the idea of travelling over it to the
interior of Greenland, a feat which I believe to be impracticable
on at least any of the known glaciers of the South. My own journey
of eighty miles inland at the remote North was the only successful
effort of the kind that has ever been made; but this was in a
region where the ice, owing to the conformation of the land, is
exceptionally smooth. Greenland might perhaps be crossed in that
quarter, though the undertaking would be an exceedingly hazardous
one. No food could, in my opinion, be obtained by the way, as I
entertain no doubt that the whole interior of the country is but one
vast sea of ice. It is only on the outer land that the snow melts and
flows to the sea. While upon this subject, it is not inappropriate to
mention that to Dr. Rink we owe most that we have known hitherto of
the Greenland glaciers, and I believe he was the first explorer who
pointed out the origin of icebergs.

Jacobshavn needs no description further than to say that it is but
a repetition of the other towns we had visited. It is, however,
somewhat larger, and has a better climate than Godhavn, as was
shown by the fact, if by nothing else, that we found upon our cabin
table, when we were ready to sail, a small basketful of round red
radishes, which the Fraulein Fleicher had raised in the open air,
and obligingly sent off to us as a parting gift. In return we sent
her some American table luxuries, considering ourselves greatly the
gainers by the exchange; for not only were these Arctic radishes
delicious in themselves, but they were a great surprise to us, grown
as they had been in latitude 69°, and in the very shadow almost of a
frowning and formidable glacier.

Of this glacier I had a fine view, just before leaving, in the
afternoon. Climbing a lofty hill in company with the captain, I
overlooked the fiord, and traced its winding course through thirty
miles. The icebergs that had been detached and floated in the fiord
must have numbered thousands; and as they moved along with the
current, or touched the bottom, they were grinding against each
other continually, and the air was filled with the ceaseless sounds
of the avalanche tumbling from their sides. A grand scene of this
description occurred near the mouth of the fiord. As we were about
coming away, an iceberg of large dimensions went almost literally
to pieces, first rolling nearly over, and then breaking up as it
rocked from side to side. Others in the neighborhood became likewise
disturbed; and as crash after crash followed each other in quick
succession, the peals that rang along the cliffs from crag to crag
were loud and piercing. Upon reaching the town, we found the people
in a state of consternation. The disturbance of the ice which we
had witnessed from the hill-top had been the cause of great waves
setting out of the fiord; and, although the harbor of Jacobshavn
was two or three miles distant, and is perfectly landlocked, yet
the swell reached there, and the surf washed far up on the shore,
greatly endangering the lives of some hunters who were in the act
of landing from their kayaks. I was told that fearful catastrophes
sometimes happen from this cause. Even when we reached there the
water was still in motion; the ship was swaying to and fro, and the
ice all over the harbor was snapping and crackling in a very spiteful
and fiendish sort of way. When the disturbance had subsided so that
a boat could come to land, we went aboard, and, after cautiously
steaming among the icebergs at the mouth of the harbor, we headed for
Disco Island, carrying with us pleasant recollections of Jacobshavn;
and all feeling abundantly rewarded, save and except, perhaps, the
trader, who found nothing to buy but a pin-cushion.


                             CHAPTER XI.

                         A WEEK IN GODHAVN.

We returned to Godhavn on the 10th of September, and for a week
thereafter travelled about the Island of Disco as we found
opportunity and inclination. To the geologist, as previously
intimated, Disco presents a most interesting field of study, and the
professor was accordingly busy all the while, pursuing his researches
with characteristic enthusiasm. The artists were constantly at work
with camera and pencil. In this, the metropolis of Greenland, it was
not difficult for the pleasure-seekers to find opportunity to amuse
themselves and the captain whiled away the time by tearing to pieces
the wreck of a whale-ship which had been run aground at the mouth
of the harbor, as rumor had it, in order to secure insurance money.
If such was the case, her people certainly took good care to insure
their own lives, for the vessel was within sight of the town on a
sandy beach, where the sea never breaks, and full a quarter of a mile
out of the channel. The people were sent home in the Danish ships,
and if they obtained their insurance they surely did not get their

To Governor Hansen I was again indebted for aid in such investigations
as I desired to make—especially in relation to the coal-fields,
which are chiefly interesting because of their being so far north.
Vast quantities of vegetable matter were deposited here in a remote
geological epoch, which goes to show that Greenland would once have
deserved its name had human beings existed there to give it the one
which is now as absurdly inappropriate as Achilles to an organ-grinder.
I was enabled to obtain a good collection of specimens, many of which
I owed to the politeness of Inspector Smith, and among others of
particular interest, a fragment of a cone of an evergreen, that had
ripened here in the era of the lower miocene of Europe. In relation to
these coal deposits of Greenland, Professor Oswald Kerr has made many
important discoveries, and from his able report I make the following

“Among the most interesting specimens” [collected by himself] “were
the flowers and fruit of a chestnut—the latter, however, in a very
imperfect condition. The discovery of these proves that the deposits
in which they are found were formed at different seasons—in spring
as well as in summer. The known miocene plants of Greenland have now
reached the number of 137 species; and those of the Arctic miocene
flora altogether number 194 species. Of the Greenland species 46,
or exactly one-third, agree with those of the miocene deposits of
Europe. The determination of the age of the beds as lower miocene has
been accordingly ascertained.”

These coal-measures of Greenland are not confined to Disco Island.
Extensive veins crop out as well on the main-land. On the north side
of the Waigat coal is found in abundance, and also around the margin
of the Great Omenak Fiord. This latter is, with the exception of
Melville Bay, the most thickly studded with icebergs and glaciers
of any part of the Greenland coast, and while viewing them it seems
strange to behold in immediate proximity great black streaks of
carboniferous deposits, suggestive of a former condition of life and
heat instead of cold.

I had the more occasion to feel indebted to Mr. Hansen for his
assistance, that he was busily engaged with preparations for
returning to Copenhagen, with his wife and their little son Fred, a
bright Greenland-born boy of four years. I found him well posted in
the doings of naturalists. He even knew that there was a “Central
Park Museum;” and at his request I took charge of a present he
desired to make them—a commission which was duly executed, and
politely acknowledged. I likewise did the same with the Smithsonian
Institute, with a like result. Among those that went to the latter
was a pair of gyrfalcon skins, which Mr. Hansen sent more than fifty
miles to get for me. He was equally generous with his collection
of native curiosities, and to a member of the party, who valued
such things more than objects of natural history, he freely offered
almost every thing he had; and I much fear there were a good many
friends disappointed in Copenhagen that winter when the governor’s
empty boxes were exposed. This generosity was the greater that such
articles have a commercial value at home.

_The_ event of our week’s stay in Godhavn, however, was the ascent of
the cliffs facing the town, to the summit of Lyngmarkens Fjeld. Mr.
Hansen could not accompany us on account of pressing business; and,
in fact, he had no faith whatever in the success of the undertaking.
Our party, when made up, consisted of the two young ladies mentioned
in a previous chapter; the inspector and his secretary; and half
a dozen adventurers from the _Panther_, including of course, the
captain and the Prince. Armed each with a pocketful of lunch, we
sallied forth at nine o’clock in the morning, and crossing the bay
under as bright a sun as ever shone, in a most delicious autumnal
atmosphere, we landed on a broad green slope, which we ascended to
the base of the first crest or ridge of trap rock, where we paused to

Up to this point we had followed the bank of a stream, which was now
seen to break through a cleft of immense depth, and tumbling then in
a beautiful fall, came out from beneath a great cloud of spray in a
rushing torrent of white foam. This ridge descends gradually towards
the sea in a south-easterly direction, and then spreading out,
presents a wide plain, which the action of the weather has left in a
most singular condition. The softer rock has been worn away, while
the more solid parts remain; and for a mile the aspect of the surface
resembles a clearing dotted over with stumps. Some of the forms are
quite remarkable: one about twenty feet high, bears the name of
“Lot’s wife.”

After crossing this ridge the real labors of the day began, for we
came then to the great slope of naked rocks which had fallen from the
cliffs, that now towered above our heads until they seemed to touch
the sky.

Of all the climbing ever done by “ladies fair,” I think nothing ever
could have excelled the performances of our very agreeable companions
on that rocky slope. The stones were sharp, the footing was insecure,
and the whole foundation on which we stood seemed liable to give way
and send us all rolling down to the black gorges beneath, in the
midst of a fearful avalanche. To look down made one fairly giddy; to
look up made one tremble; and yet the ladies held firmly to their
purpose, and were always the last to pause for breath, and the first
to say, “Shall we go on again?” Their courage never flagged, as
on and on, over the rugged stones and through the ugly gorges, we
made our way, steadily nearing the Lyngmarkens Fjeld, which human
foot had thus far never trod. It was not the height of it that made
the climb such a serious matter—it was the great roughness of the
track. Several times stones gave way, and feet and legs were jammed,
skinned, and bruised; twice a general slide was threatened; but
only once was there very serious alarm. Then two of the party had
imprudently clambered on ahead, and loosened some rocks which went
bounding past us, whirling away down into a cloud of vapor which rose
out of a deep cleft from the foot of a water-fall. One rock seemed
to be making directly for our fair comrades, who were then resting,
quite unconscious of harm; but this the gallant captain, who was
following up the two who were in advance, was quick and bold enough
to intercept by throwing himself upon it bodily.

Over this rocky debris we climbed, how far I can not tell, though
probably for about two miles; and then we stood at the base of the
cliffs, and, by barometric measurement, 1500 feet above the sea. Here
a cleft opened before us, which we entered, and between lofty walls
of dark reddish-brown rocks, and beside the stream we had before
followed to the falls, we ascended by a less difficult and dangerous
route, until we reached the permanent snow, where the stream itself
originated. This was 1700 feet above the sea. Here we rested,
lunched, quenched our thirst, and then, upon the soft snow we mounted
up to the glacier, 250 feet higher. The glacier only here and there
showed its icy character, and, presenting but few crevasses, we found
little difficulty in getting above the cliffs, and at length to the
summit of the fjeld—a word which quite expresses its character, for
nothing could be more desolate and barren than the great plain of
whiteness on which we stood. We were then 3016 feet above the sea,
and the view which burst upon us at that lofty height was extremely
fine. The air being perfectly clear, except at one point away below
us, where some light mist was trailing along the cliffs, we could
see certainly at least eighty or ninety miles. Overlooking the
village to the south, we saw the Crown Prince Islands, twenty miles
away, sharply defined like dark specks upon a silvered surface.
Beyond them, still with the silver setting all round, were the Hunde
Islands; and the lofty coasts and hills of Bunkee Land, in the
neighborhood of Egedesminde, rose farther in the distance, but still
far within the bounds of vision. Looking east, over the top of the
Great Skarve Fjeld, the mountains of Jacobshavn pierced the sky with
their snowy crests, and all around in that quarter through an arc of
seventy degrees the vast plain of the _mer de glace_ appeared beyond
the mightiest peaks, and melted against the sky in a pearly line of
light. Behind us were the icy peaks and snowy plains of Disco. But
the most novel exhibition was on the sea. Thousands of icebergs were
scattered over the bay in all directions, presenting the most diverse
shapes. Near by they were few in number, and widely distributed; but
they multiplied rapidly, and their track became more concentrated
towards Jacobshavn, until beneath the dark land they melted into each
other and were lost to view between the walls of the great fiord. And
yet in the scene before us this immense glacier of Jacobshavn was but
a white streak, and the mammoth icebergs but pigmy specks.

We spent about an hour in this novel situation, wandering about over
the white snow, which (the temperature being three degrees above
freezing) was quite soft, though in places a firm crust had formed.
We saw no true ice there, and, not being provided with any implements
for digging, we could not ascertain at what depth the ice forms;
nor were there any crevasses to embarrass us until we attempted to
explore a way back by the Rothe River valley, where we were speedily
interrupted. There was nothing left for us, therefore, but to return
by the way we had come, after the fashion of that famous French
army which marched up the hill and then marched down again. And the
results of our labors were of quite as little importance to the
world; but we had gratified a not unreasonable curiosity, and enjoyed
an adventurous experience of a very unusual character.

Our opportunities for a demonstration were rather meagre. We did not
have an American flag to float and salute; but, out of compliment
to the ladies and to their country, which owns the mountain, we
improvised a Danish one, using a red handkerchief for a groundwork
and two white ones for the cross. This being unfurled to the breeze
and lustily cheered, we set out on our return journey, which, not
having now the stimulus of ambition and curiosity to spur us on,
was even more tedious, and seemed more wearisome than the ascent.
At the gorge by the water-fall we were met by a messenger from the
inspector’s wife, with a hamper containing some refreshments, which
were most eagerly devoured. They were, indeed, a timely gift. The
thoughtful lady had watched the mountain-side with a telescope,
and when we came in sight she graciously contrived this agreeable
surprise for us.

It was eight o’clock when we reached the inspector’s house, having
been just eleven hours on the march. The sun had passed around behind
the island, and the dark shadow of the cliffs was on the town; but
above arose the great spotless crown of Lyngmarken, all radiant in
the gold and purple light that burst up from the north.

The following day was a lively one in Godhavn. The _Constancia_,
with Captain Bang, our friend of some days back, was there now and
both he and Captain Saxtorph of the _Hvalfisken_ were eager, as
were we also, to be on the way out of the region of icebergs before
the nights grew any darker; but the _Constancia_ had to remain for
the last dispatches home from the inspector. We were, however,
ready, and offered to tow the _Hvalfisken_ out to sea, which offer
being accepted, every preparation was made for leaving early the
next morning. The passengers took up their quarters on board the
brig but, returning ashore in the evening, we had another pleasant
entertainment at the inspector’s hospitable house, the enjoyment of
which was only broken by the knowledge that it was to be the last. I
could but think, too, how lonely must be the inspector’s wife on the
morrow, with her two sisters gone away, and with not another white
woman there to keep her company; for the new governor was a bachelor,
and there was neither priest nor doctor in the place to bring wives
there, even if they would.

There was even no one of her own sex with whom she could converse in
the Danish language, except the half-breed Sophy, or Sophia Tabita,
as she was universally known in all North Greenland—and even she
was going away; for at last the little love-god had found his way
through the hitherto impenetrable barriers of her heart, and in a
month or so she was to marry the Colonibestyrere of Christianshavn,
and, resigning the proud place of belle of Disco, would henceforth be
buried in obscurity among the icebergs of Jacobshavn Fiord, where no
ship ever comes by any chance, except the one ship of the year, and
where none of the merry times of good old Lievely will ever return to
enliven her new home.

The bright rays of the morning sun had just fallen upon the little
town when we dipped our flag to the royal ensign which waved over
the governor’s house, cheered the inspector, and steamed away with
the _Hvalfisken_. As we rounded the outer horn of the harbor I saw
the inspector and his wife mount to the look-out station, where they
stood watching the brig that followed us, and waving adieus to their
sisters, from whom dangerous seas were sure to separate them for
many a long year, and perhaps forever.

At length the island disappeared against the cliff, and we saw them
no more; then the cliffs sank down—the Great Lyngmarken became a
speck of brightness on the waste of waters; then it too was lost; and
this “Land of Desolation,” around which will always cling pleasant
memories of hospitable people, unusual adventures, and a profitably
spent summer, fades away, and an experience the like of which might
be had by many at small cost and little risk, takes its place among
the “departed joys.”

We have still, however, one Greenland token left with us, and that
we propose to leave behind us too, for dark clouds are rising in the
sky, and a dirty night is coming on; besides, an ugly sea is getting
up, and the _Hvalfisken’s_ hawser is in danger.

“Brig ahoy!” roars out the captain.

A head appears above the bulwarks, and an answering “Ay, ay,” comes
across the water.

“Stand by—we are going to cast you off.”

“Stop, stop a bit,” cries the sagaman.

“What for?” the captain asks.

“You shall see;” and sure enough we do, for he whips a scrap of paper
from his pocket, on which something is written; he hands it round; we
sign it, one and all; the captain puts it in a bottle, which he corks
tightly, and, along with another bottle of more portly size, labelled
“Reserve L. G. L.,” he puts it in a tin box, which Mick ties to the
hawser and lets fall into the sea. We hear a lively cry on board
the brig as they haul in the line; we see a sailor find the box and
take it aft; and we know, presently, that the paper is deciphered,
and our pledges responded to, by the appearance of heads above the
quarter-rail, the fluttering of handkerchiefs, and the unmistakable
appearance of glasses raised at arm’s length, all of which evidences
of hilarity will be best understood by repeating the round robin our
sagaman had written, and we had sent through the sea as our final
adieu to “The Land of Desolation.” Thus it ran:

    “We drop you a line, and we bid you adieu!
     Now fill up your glasses and pledges renew,
     In this wine of the South—this foaming Champagne!
     The Lady of Disco—that right queenly Dane,
     With whom we have left (let the wine freely flow),
     Our hearts and bright wishes and prayers also.

    “May the bleak Norland winter—that night of despair—
     Leave the bloom in her cheek and the gold in her hair,
     And the light in her eye, as bright as the blue
     Of the sky in the summer, the clouds breaking through.
     Those round her she loves, may the storms, sweeping wild,
     Pass over them gently—the father and child.

    “A bumper! The ladies in _Hvalfiskens_ brig;
     Another! Her captain, that sailor so trig:
     To the governor too, his frau and his Fred;
     To _all_ a good-night on their wave-rockéd bed;
     To the brig a good voyage. Hip! hip! and hurra!
     The last cup is drained, and—there’s no more to say.”

                              THE END.

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Transcriber’s Notes:
  - Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).
  - Blank pages have been removed.
  - Silently corrected typographical errors.
  - Spelling and hyphenation variations made consistent.
  - Page 139 “parient” assumed to be a typo, changed to “parent”.

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