Page images

cold is below the point at which common sea-water freezes, and which is somewhere about 27° of Fahrenheit, the formation of ice on the surface, or the want of it, has little or no relation to the degree of latitude, but depends on circumstances of locality, and chiefly, as we have already stated, on extension of surface and great depth, or the contrary—where the former are found, if at the pole itself, we believe the quantity of ice formed in any one year will be very trifling, and where they do not exist, the sea may be, and frequently is, frozen over in one night within what is called the temperate zone.

By the tables of Meyer, formed with great care from meteorological observations made at various and distant points on the earth's surface, it appears that the mean temperature of the equator is not very different from that of the tropics, and that the temperature of the north pole corresponds pretty nearly with that of the arctic circle, the whole difference in either case amounting only to about go of Fahrenheit's scale. James and his people, who wintered at Charlton island, in Hudson's Bay, in a latitude under 500, suffered more from cold, though infinitely better provided against it, than Barentz and his party did in Nova Zembla, in lat. 76o. If, therefore, we have an open sea to the northward of the arctic circle, which we know to be the case in the northern Atlantic, (everywhere else there being land or straits within that parallel of north latitude,) the existence of an open sea at the pole is not improbable, provided it be free from land.

From the very few experiments, which have been made to ascertain the temperature of the sea at a certain depth and in different latitudes, there is no reason to doubt that, where the depth is sufficient, the sea as well as the land has its isothermal lines, or points of the same temperature, in every degree of latitude from the equator to the pole. Many more experiments however are yet wanting to ascertain what this standard temperature may be, but it is probable that it will be found somewhere between 40% and 50° of Fahrenheit;--perhaps to correspond with the mean temperature of the interior parts of the earth. From the experiment of Dr. Irving, on water drawn from any considerable depth, it appears that the temperature at 683 fathoms was 40° of Fahrenheit in lat. 75°; and in lat. 803, at 60 fathoms only, under the ice, it stood at 39°, when in the air it was at the freezing point; but the few experiments made in Phipps's voyage on the tempe. rature of the sea at different depths are wholly unsatisfactory:*

In * Captain Douglas found the temperature at the depth of two hundred and sixty fathoms to be 52°, while that at the surface was only 47°, in latitude 68° 43', while Capa tain Ellis observed the same temperature at the depth of six hundred and fifty fathoms, iu latitude 25' 13. The pretended experiments oť Peron, and the inference of some


In those parts of the ocean, then, where the depth is sufficient to preserve that temperature, while the atmosphere is at or below the freezing point, ice, we apprehend, will not be formed on the surface, as the more heated water, being specifically lighter, will necessarily rise to the top, while the heavier fluid will descend to till its place.* Mr. Scoresby, it appears, has made a communication to Sir Joseph Banks, of his having, at different times, met with an increased temperature of the water at the surface of the sea between Iceland and Spitzbergen, out of all soundings, but either among or very near to fields of ice.f We can scarcely hazard an opinion from this insulated fact, as to the cause of this warm stream: some of our readers may be disposed to ascribe it to submarine geysers, in a neighbourhood which is known to abound in volcanic materials; these (geysers),' says Pennant,' are not confined to the land; they rise in the very sea, and form scalding fountains amidst the waves.'1-Others may argue, that as large masses of water part not easily with their heat, but follow with extreme slowness the changes of atmospherical temperature, it may be the heated current from the Pacific which probably loses nothing of its temperature in its passage among the active volca- e of his countrymen, that the bottom of the sea is every where a mass of ice, are wholly undeserving of notice.

* We know that if water of a certain temperature (60° for instance) be put into a deep glass tube, and the upper part be surrounded with a freezing mixture, the upper strata will descend in succession, and the lower rise, till the whole is cooled down to 40, when no further interchanye will take place, and the surface will be frozen over; and that if a piece of ice be let down into a jar of water of the temperature of 40°, the water of the ice as it melts will ascend to the top, while the water below the ice will remain stationary at 404-hence it is inferred that pure water has the greatest specific gravity when at the temperature of 40°. Whether these experiments may warrant the introduction of a new law of nature so anomalous, aud how far they may apply to sea water, it is not our business to decide; but every kitchen-maid knows that when the pot is placed on the fire, the water, becoming heated below, will ascend to the surface.

† 'The following observations on the temperature and specific gravity of the water at the surface were made in the Greenland seas: Latitude. Longitude.

Sea water. Remarks. 1811.

'Temp. at Surface. Spec. Grav. July 2, 78° 20' N.

6° 30' E.


1.0265 17, 70.36



1.0271 1812. April 28, 70. 0


1.0274 1814. April 21, 72.16



1.0269 1815. April 9. 72.37



1.0261 No ice. 18, 77 .35

8. 0


1.0267 Among ice. May 24.



1.0259 Much icer' We take it for granted that the atmospherical temperature at the time of observation was at or below the freezing point.

In the year 1783, an island was thrown up near Iceland, but on the Danish government sending out in 1785, to examine it, it had disappeared and fallen back into the cavity out of which it had been hurled, like the Sabrina island in the neighbourhood of St. Michaels. Jan Mayen, in latitude 711°, is one great mass of volcanie formation. F F 2




nos of the Aleutian islands ;* others again may explain it by a remark of Plutarch, which is supposed to have been confirmed by an experiment of Dr. Irving, when on Phipps's voyage, ‘ that the sea becomes warmer by being agitated in waves;' but we are rather inclined to consider it as the lighter water rising from an extreme depth to the surface.

The hypothesis of an open polar sea rests, however, on better grounds than any of these. The instances of ships having reached high northern latitudes, collected by the Hon. Daines Barrington, may not all be correctly stated, but many of them bear the stamp of authenticity, and have been confirmed by similar instances since his time. He might be deceived by some of the narrators being themselves deceived; but we have no doubt of his having stated fairly the facts as they were given to him. This we know to be the case in the instance of Adams, who sailed with Captain Guy in the Unicorn, and who himself observed the altitude of the sun,

both above and below the pole, by which it was found that the ship had reached latitude 83o. There is a gentleman now living in London, and distinguished in the literary world, who took lessons in the mathematics from Adams; this person knew him to be a man of intelligence and worthy of credit, and had from him the same account which he afterwards gave to Daines Barrington. When in this high latitude, “Captain Guy declared that he had never been so far to the northward before, and crawled up to the mizzen top-mast head, accompanied by the chief mate, whilst the second mate, together with Mr. Adams, went to the fore-topmast head, from which they saw a sea as free from ice as any part of the Atlantic Ocean, and it was the joint opinion of them all that they might have reached the north pole. In one point almost all the masters examined by Daines Barrington, and all those of whom we have thought it our duty to inquire, both personally and by letter, and they are not a few, agree; namely, that having once passed the Spitzbergen ice, they find the sea to the northward quite open; that the northerly winds bring clearer and warmer weather than


and that the winds from that quarter cause the greatest swell, all of which are circumstances highly favourable to the supposition of an open sea at the pole.

It is the less surprizing that none have yet attempted to avail themselves of this open sea to run for the pole, when the nature of the oath is recollected, which both master and mate were required to take, but which we rejoice to find has, since our former Article

* Unfortunately, we have not a single experiment of the temperature of the sea, either at the surface or bottom, in Behring's Strait; but it is well known that the gulf stream loses its temperature very slowly in its passage of more than fifteen hundred miles to the cold banks of Newfoundland.



was written, (and, let us be indulged with thinking, not altogether without a reference to it,) been so modified as no longer to militate against making discoveries: before the present year the whalers had no excuse for leaving the ice; the paucity of fish to the northward could neither have justified the attempt to the owners, nor freed the master from the consequences of his oath. A graduated scale of the parliamentary reward, as we suggested, has also been adopted, which, we have no doubt, will operate as an encouragement to attempt discoveries, even should the present expeditions fail; though it would seem that some of the seamen entertain strange notions and very singular apprehensions of approaching the pole—not, indeed, of any danger from ice or cold; but, as appears from Ware's narrative to Daines Barrington---lest the ship should fall in pieces, as the pole would draw all the iron work out of her.

If the tables of Meyer be near the truth, and Scoresby be correct in his statement, that the cold is not sensibly different between the latitudes of 70° and 80° with a strong north wind;'* if, on these grounds, we assume an hypothesis, that the mean temperature of the pole is not very different from that of the arctic circle, there can be nothing very formidable in the approach to it, or even in wintering upon it. In summer, from the perpetual presence of the sun for six months, and his equal height above the horizon for the whole twenty-four hours, the weather there would probably be found less severe than on the parallel of 80°; and the long twilight, which spins out the close of the summerday to nearly nine months, and leaves but three of actual night, must divest winter, by thus shortening it, of at least one of its terrors. In those three months, besides, every alternate fortnight will have the benefit of constant moon-light during the most enlightened half of that planet; and, even in her absence, the whole of the grand northern constellations will in some degree supply her place, aided, in all probability, by the frequent coruscations of the aurora borealis. To witness these and other meteorological appearances, and more particularly the magnetical phenomena as connected with electricity, are objects for which an enterprizing man of science would be induced to risk a winter at the pole;ť we have heard, indeed, that it is the general wish of the officers now employed on the polar expedition, that circumstances may occur to admit of such an event without deviating from their instructions; but that we conceive is very improbable.

P. 332.

* Mem. of the Wernerian Nat. Hist. Society, vol. ii. Part II.

+ He (Dr. Johnson) expressed a particular enthusiasm with respect to visiting the wall of China. I catched at it for the moment, and said I really believed I should go and see the wall of China had I not children, of whom it was my duty to take care. • Sir,' said he, by doing so you would do what would be of importance in raising your children to eminence. There would be a lustre reflected upon them from your spirit and curiosity. They would be at all times regarded as the children of a man who had gone to view the wall of China.'--Boswell's Life of Dr. Johnson. F F 3


We suspect that the wintering place of Kotzebue may not have been more comfortable than on the pole itself. Had he succeeded in getting through to Baffin's or Hudson's bay, or in returning, before the winter of 1817 set in, to Kamtschatka, intelligence to that effect must have reached Petersburgh before the end of March. It is a mistaken idea, however, that he was to make the attempt by sea. His instructions, on the contrary, direct him to leave his vessel in Norton Sound, unless he should discover (which he actually has done) some cove or bay to the northward. From this place he is to explore the whole extent of the American coast, first to the northward and then to the eastward. To effect this, he is to supply himself with small baidars of the lightest and most portable kind, to enable him to cross any rivers or lakes he may fall in with in tracing the American coast to the eastward ; in which direction he is to proceed as far as the eastern coast, unless, from the severity of the climate or barrenness of the country, the journey be found impracticable. In August 1816, he passed Behring's Strait without difficulty; and, in latitude 67°, discovered on the coast of America a large inlet, extending in a S. E. direction to 161° of longitude. Within it were several bays or coves, which he had not time to explore, from the advanced period of the season. He therefore returned to New Albion to pass the winter, and reached Sandwich islands in March 1817, since which nothing has been heard of his proceedings. This is not the only project which Count Romanzott (whose liberal and patriotic spirit is worthy of the highest admiration) had planned for the solution of the interesting geographical problem which still remains to be solved. He had intended to engage some enterprizing American in the attempt of a north-west passage up Davis's Strait, but on hearing of the present expedition from England, he considered his interference as no longer necessary,

What the result of the present expeditions may be, and whether they will answer the expectations of those who planned them, a little time must shew; from the zeal, the energy, the talent and the enthusiasm of the brave volunteers--for all, without exception, are volunteers, from the highest to the lowest—who have embarked on this highly interesting voyage, we may assure ourselves that what man can do will be done, and that all the difficulties which may occur, and for which they are fully prepared, will be met with cool and steady resolution. Unshaken in their ardour,


« PreviousContinue »