Page images
PDF
EPUB

some of the algæ, confervæ, or tremellæ ;* but we doubt whether any of these vegetate on snow; besides, we understand that Mr. Bauer of Kew, whose accuracy of observation through magnifying glasses is well known, has observed the same form and the same pedicle that he noticed on the uredo, which we think conclusive in favour of a fungus.

This is by no means the first mention made of red snow. Pliny says, and Aristotle had said it before him, that snow becomes red with age, occasioned however, as these naturalists tell us, by a red worm which is bred in it. Signor Sarotti speaks of a bloodcoloured snow which appeared on the mountains near Genoa, and which yielded a liquor of the same colour. Saussure frequently observed red snow on various parts of the Alps, the colouring matter of which, from the smell given out in burning, he concluded to be the farina of some particular plant, more especially as he never met with this snow but in summer. This however is inconclusive, as it might have lain over the winter, Ramond found a similarly coloured snow on the Pyrenees, which he concluded to be tinged by the decomposition of a particular kind of mica. Marten also, in his voyage to Spitzbergen, mentions his having seen red snow near the Seven Icebergs, a place well known to the whale-fishers. Here, says he, the rocks, appearing like an old decayed wall, smell very sweet, as the green fields do in our country in the spring when it rains ;' and, having observed that they are veined like marble with red, white, and yellow, he adds, at the alteration of the weather the stones sweat, and by that means the snow is stained or coloured; and also if it raineth much, the water runs down by the rocks, and from whence the snow is tinged red.' The officers of the polar expedition also observed red snow on the mountains, near Smeerenberg, but the rocks being of a reddish colour they conceived it to be occasioned by some ochreous matter, and took no further notice of it. In the last number of the “Journal of Literature, Science, and the Arts,'+ several instances are recorded of showers of red snow having fallen in different parts of the world, but all of them were found, on examination, to give out mineral products; and it may perhaps be concluded that the colouring of the snow on the shores of Baffin's Bay is the only instance of its arising from an organized substance.

On the 18th of August the ships passed Cape Dudley Digges, whose latitude was found to agree pretty nearly with that assigned to it by Baffin; and the same day they also passed the Wolsten

Algarum genus?? Confervis simplicissimis et Tremellæ cruentæ (Eng. Bot. 1800.) quodammodo affine?? Minute globules, the colouring matter of the red snow, of which catensive patches were seen in lat, 76° 25' N., lovg. 65o W.! †

holme

For April.

holme Sound of that navigator, and found it completely blocked up with ice.' We find it, however, in the view taken by Mr. Skene, and published by Captain Ross, a wide and deep opening, ' completely free from ice; and from the disposition and conformation of the land, which is also entirely free from ice or snow as far as the view extends, we should say that it wears very much the appearance of a strait. Captain Ross says, ' it seemed to be eighteen or twenty leagues in depth, and the land on each side appeared to be habitable;' and this is all the knowledge, gained by the expedition, of Wolstenholme Sound, which is less than Baffin procured two hundred years ago. Of the correctness of the shape and dimensions of a winding bay, from a slight view taken in these foggy latitudes at a very considerable distance from its entrance, and which seemed to be sixty miles in depth, it would be a waste of time to talk. It

may

have been blocked up with ice; but Mr. Skene, who must have looked at it when he drew it, apparently saw nothing but naked hills and clear water. The depth was 250 fathoms opposite to this bay, strait, or sound; and the weather afforded every opportunity of examining it, without risk and without much delay; it was not however examined.

Of · Whale Sound' no further notice is taken than that they could not approach it in a direct line on account of ice; in fact they never approached it nearer than twenty leagues, though the ice was probably not very compact, as near Carey's islands, which were discovered the same evening, the sea was clearer of floes and loose ice, Captain Ross says, 'than we had ever seen it,' but " there were visible a vast number of large icebergs, most of them aground in 250 fathoms; and they had the appearance of being long washed by the waves.' These could not have offered any impediment.*

About midnight of the 19th, Sir Thomas Smith's Sound of Baffin was distinctly seen, and the two capes forming its entrance were named after the two ships Isabella and Alexander. I considered (says Captain Ross) the bottom of this sound to be about eighteen leagues distant, but its entrance was com, pletely blocked up by ice. Now as the field-ice that blocks up coasts and harbours is generally from one to three feet above the surface, how this could be seen at the distance of eighteen leagues, (for it appears by the chart, that they were never nearer,) blocking up the entrunce of the sound, is utterly unintelligible on any principle of optics and natural philosophy that we are acquainted with. As this opening is stated by Baffin to be the

* To the northward and eastward of Carey's islands was a blank space, where not any land was discernible; and this we supposed to be the entrance of Batfin's Whale Suund.'--Voyage of Discovery, &c.

largest

largest of all the sounds he discovered, and as Captain Ross, by his own shewing, was sixty English miles from the entrance of it, he must forgive us for doubting the fact of his having seen any part, much less the bottom of Sir Thomas Smith's Sound. The depth here was 192 fathoms, and we perceive no reason whatever why this interesting part of Baffin's Bay should have been slurred over so very hastily.

We could have forgiven Captain Ross for passing by Wolstenholme and Whale Sounds, on the eastern side of Baffin's Bay, on account of the time which had unavoidably been spent in working up through the ice along the coast of Greenland; but it would have been most satisfactory to ascertain (and it might surely have been done in the course of two days) whether this extensive opening of Smith's Sound at the northern extremity of Baffin's Bay did or did not communicate with the great Polar Sea. As to the other great deep bay' to the westward of Sir T. Smith's Sound, the bottom of which is placed on the chart at a much greater distance than even that of the said sound, we have no better materials to enable us to come to any conclusion as to its termination, than in the former case.f Captain Ross was evidently in haste to get out of it, thinking it perhaps prudent to follow the example of Master Robert Bylot, who, in another part of those seas, ' concluded,' says Baffin,' that we were in a great bay, and so tacked and turned the shippes head homewards, without any farther search ;' at least, from this spot the heads of the two ships were ' turned homewards, leaving the bay and the sounds just as they saw them at a distance and as they were left by Baffin.

It is singular enough that, instead of plain facts, which we apprehend it was Captain Ross's duty to collect, he contents himself with assigning reasons for the non-existence of a passage in the northernmost corner of Baffin's Bay—just as La Peyrouse reasoned Saghalien into an island, which Captain Broughton afterwards ascertained to be a part of the continent of Tartary. He says, it is true, that he saw the land completely round, at different times, as did also the officers of the Alexander, who were at

* Mr. Fisher says he was much interested in ascertaining whether Greenland and the west land joined, and for this purpose kept the deck all day; but though the weather was remarkably clear and fine till midnight, he could not see any such junction. He appeals to the Alexander's log for confirmation of what he himself observed. It is probable that the chasm, or open space, to the northward, where not any land could be traced by me, might be that which Baffin calls Sir Thomas Smith's Sound; and if, agreeably to his relation, this is the “ deepest and largest sound in all this bay,” it is not likely that we should have seen the bottom of it at such a distance, as we estimate that we are twenty leagues from the northern extreme of the west land visible. –Voyage of Discovery, &c.

† Here again Mr. Fisher appeals to the Alexander's log, to shew that the land was not seen to the northward.

the

the mast-head of that ship, at the same (different ) time.' The officers of the Alexander, however, broadly deny the fact—they did not see the land all round, nor any thing like it-but, conceding that every officer in both ships did see the land all round, wil! any of them, will Captain Ross, undertake to say, whether land so seen at the distance of eighty, ninety, or one hundred miles, could be determined to be continuous or connected ? How many straits or passages might exist, without being perceptible at one fourth, nay, at one tenth part of the distance ? But Captain Ross has a reason in reserve why it should be so.—The tide rose and fell only four feet, and the stream of it was scarcely perceptible;' and therefore it is ' perfectly certain that the land is here continuous, and that there is no opening at the northernmost part of Baffin's Bay.' Captain Ross seems not to be aware how strongly this argument may be turned against his hasty conclusion, from well-established facts: he must have heard, though he certainly did not reflect on it, that the highest tides known in the world are at the heads of two bays in which there are no openings—the Bay of Fundy, and the Bay of Tonquin. He seems indeed to feel conscious that all had not been done here that his employers would expect; and in order to cast a slur on such unreasonable expectations, he thus early goes out of his way to observe that the ardour existing at home for the discovery of a north-west passage, and the confidence with which the supposed situation of such an opening has been transferred to one spot, as fast as it was found not to exist in another, render it necessary for him to disprove its existence in this place. But how did it escape Captain Ross that this might be done more effectually by actual researches while on the spot, than by a speculative paragraph after his return! With regard to the 'home ardour,' most heartily do we wish that a portion of it had been transferred to the commander of the Isabella, and that it had spurred him on to find out at least where a passage did not exist, so that the ground might have been narrowed where it probably did. As to disproving,' it would have been more satisfactory if he had provided himself with something better than mere assertions. The following passage, which we suppose to be a sort of half concession, or mezzo-termino, is, we presume, aimed at us.

* Even if it be imagined, by those who are unwilling to concede their opinions while there is yet a single yarn of their hypothesis holding, that some narrow strait may exist through those mountains, it is evident that it must be for ever unnavigable, and that there is not even a chance of ascertaining its existence, since all approach to the bottom of these bays is prevented by the ice, which fills them to so great a depth, and appears never to have moved from its station.'

We

We certainly did imagine that those sounds, which Baffin only approached, but did not enter,' and of which he so briefly and vaguely speaks, apologizing for having sought the coast no better, might be channels formed by islands, and occasionally choked up with ice;* and the flimsy yarn' of Captain Ross's hypothesis, for he has no facts to offer, makes no alteration in our opinion on that head. We still believe, as we always did, that Greenland is separated froin the western lands. The officers of the Alexander, we know, and those of the Isabella, we believe, from the distant sight they were permitted to take, entertain the same opinion. With this opinion we have recently met with a curious coincidence, founded, as it would appear, on actual knowledge; it is contained in one of the Burleigh Papers in the Lansdowne Collection of the British Museum, (and is the more curious as being in the noble secretary's own hand writing,) the subject of which is the north-west passage, and begins thus— Considering Groynelande is well known to be an islande, and that it is not conjoined to America in any part,' &c.† This is not the language of speculation, but of experience.

But leaving, as we are reluctantly compelled to do, these openings in the land undetermined, let us follow Captain Ross in his return down the western side of Baffin's Bay, apparently well satistied in his own mind of having left all those passages at the northern extremity blocked up with ice, or mountains, or both. On the 21st the sliips stood over to explore an opening in sight,

which answered to the description of Alderman Jones's Sound, given by Baffin, who discovered it;' but, as the ice and fog unluckily prevented a near approach, this is all we learn from Captain Ross concerning Alderman Jones's Sound.'

The night of the 24th August is put down as remarkable for its having been the first on which the sun had been observed to set since the 7th June ; thus terminating a day which consisted of one thousand eight hundred and seventy-two hours, and giving us a warning of the approach of a long and dreary winter.' They left England however amply provided for passing that winter within the Arctic circle.

* No. XXXVI p. 440.
+ Barrow's Voyages into the Arctic Regions, p. 370.

$ Captain Sabine, in his mention of the seven inlets from Baffin's Bay, of which, he says, some have been expected to communicate with the Northern Ocean, thus notices the four we have just passed. Of these the first is Wolstenholne Sound, the entrance of which we passed at a few miles distance, sufficiently near to identity it by “ the island which makes two entrances.” Of Whale Sound we could just discern the openi. ing in the coast, being Thirty or forty miles distant: of Smith's Sound, the largest in all the bay, and which extends beyond 78°, we can say nothing, as our extreme north was in 760 53'. We were near the entrance of Jones's Sound, but not so near as Baffu, who sent his boat on shore.:-- Journal of Sciences, Lileruture, and Arts. April.

Captain

« PreviousContinue »