« PreviousContinue »
IFE in the arctic is a serious matter, northerly inhabited hut in the world
Never to sleep in a bed for three years, I certainly think our greatest enemies
years tute. Looking back on the experience in a hut twenty feet long by twenty feet of a thousand days spent in the most wide, and only seven feet high, never see
Copyright, 1898, by Harper and Brothers. All rights reserved.
ing any other being nor hearing a scrap cold were general; for, be it understood, of news, is a trying existence, yet I can in all these three years the thermometer unhesitatingly say no jollier or happier never rose higher than eleven degrees little party ever lived in Northern lati- above freezing - point, and seventy to tudes. Four months of solid night every eighty degrees below that point was quite year has, however, a depressing effect, not common. only on the spirits, but on the appetite, They say eels get used to skinningand it also destroys sleep. Morning, well, we may have fairly got used to noon, and night become unrecognizable, wind, mist, and snow — but we hardly merged into one endless gloom, and but liked it! for the welcome advent of the moon once I will describe an ordinary winter day's a month, when the sky was sufficiently work, though--paradoxical, but true-the clear for us to enjoy her rays, we lived greater number of the days in the arctic in a blackness the dreariness of which is are nights. About 8 A.M. we turned out indescribable.
of our blankets, and all had a good wash, As the schoolboy counts the days to and the man whose turn it was had a the holidays, so we counted the hours till bath (one man had a bath each morning; the return of the sun, and even as the the scarcity of water would not admit of first rays became visible our spirits rose, more than this). Breakfast then followed, and existence altogether wore a differ- consisting of porridge, tinned fish, fried ent complexion. Then exercise became bear-meat, and tea or coffee. The work enjoyable, instead of that dreary daily of the day then began. The house was trudge round a given circle in the dark: swept out (a duty usually performed by with the return of the light we felt new myself during the last twelve months), life and energy. And yet the climate of the breakfast things washed up, and other Franz-Josef Land, even in spring, would domestic duties performed. The dogs and not suit all tastes; for example, out of pony too had to be fed, and the stable and fifty-five days' sledging, ending in May, dog-house cleaned out, and the animals 1897, Mr. Albert Armitage and I enjoyed exercised. only thirteen and a half tolerably clear All then took the regular daily walk. days! Driving snow, wind, and bitter This, unless there was a moon, was taken round and round a circle on the floe, cliffs above us. A short distance off the marked with small flags, where we stum- land the roars of ice-pressure proclaim bled over the rough, hummocky ice the commotion there existing, now rumthrough the mist and driving snow two bling like distant thunder, now breaking or three hours each day.
forth into yells and shrieks as if a thouThis rather tread-mill-like exercise be- sand fiends had suddenly been let loose, ing completed, we all return to the hut, and then dying out in a shrill whistle. where we set to work upon the duties in For a few moments all is still; avd then hand-making tents, dog-harness, pony's those weird sounds continue. snow-boots, weighing out provisions for Once a month we get the eagerly lookedsledging, and making ration-bags, etc. for moon, which, if the sky is clear and
In addition, our scientific observations the weather is calm, entirely alters the are taken regularly. Throughout the aspect of the landscape. Then the fanfirst two winters meteorological observa- tastically irregular surface of the great tions were carried on two-hourly through- ice-floes, the frost-covered cliffs, and the out the night and day, the party being surface of the external glaciers, silently divided into watches for the purpose. and slowly flowing to the sea, are lighted
The scene outside the hut is desolate up with a silvery brightness, and all is and dreary in the extreme. To the north, still and peaceful. Everything in life apbehind the hut, the high basaltic cliffs pears most cheery. Long runs on "ski" with the steep talus running down are are taken; and should a bear make his dimly discernible through the dense mist appearance, and a chase ensue, the day is and falling snow. An occasional gust a red-letter one indeed. Unfortunately of wind still comes rushing along at ir such days in Franz-Josef Land are of rare regular intervals—the expiring remains occurrence, and the more dreary weather of a recent gale—and carrying a whirl which I have endeavored to describe is of icy particles with it. All around else- characteristic of the winter in this country. where is an indefinite white expanse, from At about 3 P.M. we knock off work for which here and there project ice-covered a few minutes and have a little tea and bowlders. The wind still moans in the bread or ship - biscuit and butter, and
ON BEAR GUARD
stumble through the mist and darkness over the floes. After proceeding a mile or so, gradually the noise would become more and more distinct, and some small dark objects jumping around a large yellow one, from which proceed loud hisses and snarls, would appear in sight.
A halt is then called to enable us to recover our wind after a rough-andtumble pursuit.
The bear, in the mean
time, has been engaged NIMROD
in making rushes at the
dogs, one of whom, with then resume our work until 7.30 P.M., his tail tucked between his legs, and lookwhen work ceases for the day, and we ing as if he had seen things he would have dinner, con
gladly forget, runs sisting of dried
up to where we are soups, bear - meat,
standing. and pudding; after
We then sepawhich every
rate and advance follows his own de
from opposite points vices-plays cards,
until within about smokes, or reads un
ten yards of our til about 11 P.M.,
game-my rule bewhen we turn in for
ing to approach the the night.
animal until the Occasionally
outlines of his head bear - hunt would
could be distinctly give us some diver
made out. sion. I always al
pears to be a little lowed two or three
to dogs, which showed some aptitude for whether to charge us or to beat a retreat, bear- hunting, to run loose during the but a dog, taking advantage of his indewinter, and had one dog, " Nimrod,” tied cision, and encouraged by our presence, to a rough kennel just outside the hut. These dogs would get on the track of a bear on the floe and set up a barking, “Nimrod " would take up the chorus, and thus let us know what was going on.
One of my men and I would then set off in chase with our rifles, and, guided by the cry of the dogs,
A DEAD BEAR.