Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

depôt, 25 miles distant from the ship, and got on board on the morning of April 24.

They had been absent from the ship twenty-nine days, and had made good a distance of 135 miles, out and home; but covering in the double journey, as actually measured on the track laid down on their chart, a distance of about 360 miles, being an average of 12.4 miles a day, which, including all stoppages and detentions, is exceptionally large, and speaks, without further evidence, of a journey free from any serious embarrassment; and the fact that the two dogs, as already mentioned, dragged the small sledge, a weight of 400 lbs., at a good rate, or as fast as the men could walk; and on another occasion, during a short trip undertaken just after the longer one, dragged this sledge and a load of 300 lbs. with ease, through a forced march of twenty-two miles, whilst it convinced Payer that “a sledge with a strong team of dogs must be the best form • beyond comparison of sledge-travelling,' is to us equally convincing that the ice and snow travelled over were, on the whole, smoother than what has fallen to the lot of most sledging parties.

By the beginning of May it was determined to abandon the ship: the most cheerful preparation for so doing was

plundering 'her; the stores that could not be carried away were freely used, and the · Tegetthoff' was for the few remaining days 'transformed into an abode of Epicureans. But the work was grave in the extreme; the little they could carry with them, in what was certain to be a most toilsome and probably a most dangerous journey, had to be apportioned with the utmost care; the barest necessaries only could be allowed; and with the scantiest of equipments, and dragging three boats, the crew left the ship on May 20, 1874. One of their number, the engineer, had died, and been buried on Wilczek Island ; two more, the carpenter and a seaman, were sick; all told, including the officers, there were twenty-one men and the two dogs to drag the sledges and boats. The ice was very rough, very unsound, was constantly in motion, and, unfortunately for the adventurers, was for the most part drifting back to the north. Day after day their utmost exertions barely made good over the ice one mile, sometimes not more than half-amile ; the sledges sank deep into the snow, those on which were the boats stuck fast; then they had to be unloaded, the whole force to be mustered, and the obstacles overcome with a one, two, three, haul! Even under more favourable circumstances, half their strength was scarcely able to move a sledge or a boat, and every bit of the road was passed over three times heavily laden and twice empty. The weather was, in Arctic language, hot and sultry, that is to say, from 21° to 27° F.; the sky was overcast; the perspiration streamed from their faces; their clothes were saturated with moisture from within and without, and they naturally had very limited change.

The detailed account of this sledging experience must be looked for in the pages of Lieutenant Payer's narrative; it has, and, as we have said, it has more especially at the present time, a great and pertinent interest ; it is the account of sledging, with weights necessarily great, over rough ice, with a crew, not indeed chosen with sufficient care in the first instance, and weakened by two Arctic winters and two almost polar nights, but supported by abundance of fresh meat, flesh of bear or seal, and by the ever-present hope and signs of a speedy break-up of the ice. None the less, the ice did not break up, but drifted backward, and on June 6, after 18 days of most severe work, they were only five miles from the ship. Lieutenant Weyprecht took advantage of this retrograde movement, as the road was smooth and well trodden, to send on board and bring on another boat; the ice was evidently breaking up, and the party was full of life and animation. On the 18th of June they were able to launch their boats, and though they had to haul them up again on the next day, the first getting them afloat seemed the herald of better things to come. Water and ice alternated and made the work very severe, but very hopeful; and at length, after many most vexatious and tantalising disappointments, and northerly drifts, and drenching rains, they bade a final adieu to the ice-fields on August 14; they could not carry the dogs with them; they would not abandon them; they therefore shot them, a last sacrifice to the grim king of the North. After that, every thing went well with them; they ran past the depôt at . The Three

Coffins,' and after a fair-weather voyage of ten days, were picked up by a Russian fishing schooner, which they forthwith chartered to carry them to Wardö. They arrived there on September 3, and their safety and success were telegraphed to their homes, and at once made known all over Europe.

And yet the word “success, as applied to their expedition, has, after all, a very doubtful meaning. That the Tegetthoff ' passed two winters in the ice, and that the crew, having abandoned their ship, got home in safety, after exploring some 200 miles of coast till then unknown, is what was really done; but the existence of the land was known presumptively before, and the expedition was fitted out with the object of attempting the north-east passage. Bearing this in mind, when we see that the ship, caught in the ice and helplessly drifted at the caprice of the wind or current, scarcely advanced to the eastward of Novaya Zemlya, but was taken away to the north and to the New Lands, which—as had been expressly stated it was not an object to seek, it is clear that the word “success' is used in a sense which must be regarded as to some extent conventional.

But the fact is that in all exploration, and in Arctic exploration more particularly, the object aimed at is so obscure, that any addition to our knowledge, and especially when it clears up previous misconceptions, is, more or less, a success. In this way the expeditions of Livingstone and Cameron in Central Africa have been considered successes, although they found the sources of the Congo, whilst looking for those of the Nile: in this way the Austro-Hungarian expedition has been called a success, although it discovered Franz Josef Land, unintentionally, unwillingly, and by stress of fortune, whilst striving to achieve the north-east passage; and it is still in the same way that we claim the English expedition which has just returned as a geographical success—not because the “ Alert' attained a higher latitude than any ship before had attained, nor because the advanced sledging party, under Markham and Parr, pushed farther to the north than even Parry's farthest in 1827, but because it has solved the question of the alleged extension of land to the northward beyond Robeson Channel, has traced the outline of the coast far to the west, far to the east, and perhaps most of all, because it has thoroughly disposed of that pet fancy of theoretical geographers—the Open Polar Sea.

This romantic fancy had been so thrust forward by imaginative writers, that many had pictured to themselves our ships sailing gallantly over a summer sea, or dressing, manning yards and saluting, as the meteor flag was hoisted at the very Pole. To such of course the expedition is a failure; but to those who considered the expedition as strictly one of exploration, a decided advance, such as has been made, in our knowledge of the geography and of the physics of the Arctic Sea, is a fair measure of success; not indeed a complete and most glorious success, as ill-advised partisans have endeavoured to maintain it, but a success which would have been generally considered satisfactory, were it not for an uneasy feeling that more might and should have been done ; and that more was not done is beyond doubt due to the outbreak of scurvy amongst the men.

So far as reaching the Pole is concerned, Sir George Nares has told us that this in no way affected the result; and it is indeed clear that, scurvy or no scurvy, Markham and Parr could not have reached the Pole, a distance of 400 or more miles, at the rate they could travel over the old pack with the new name, though they might have won a few more minutes of latitude; and the extreme difficulties which beset Beaumont's route were altogether independent of the scurvy, which served only to endanger his return.

But it was assuredly the scurvy which hurried home the ships equipped to stay out another season. There is no doubt that in so coming home Captain Nares exercised a wise discretion; crews so enfeebled would have probably broken down during the winter, and could not be depended on for work in the following spring; to return was the only course which a prudent commander could adopt; the work of the expedition was cut short to save the lives of the men ; and but for that necessity, we should probably have known, in the course of next year, what lies beyond Beaumont's Cape Britannia. As it is, we do not know ; Sir George Nares thinks Cape Britannia is the northern extremity of Greenland; Dr. Petermann thinks that it is not; both give, very good reasons, and we shall not know which is right till some one goes and sees.

British seamen, and for that matter Austrian seamen too, as this book shows, will do anything and dare anything for the honour of their flag, for advancement in their profession, for fame in the world; and these expeditions are greater tests of courage and endurance than the perils of naval war. But we confess that we feel great doubt whether it is right in a nation to expose some of the bravest and noblest of its sons to intolerable hardships, privations, and to death itself, for such results as these. It now appears that the attainable limit of Arctic navigation, or very nearly so, was reached by Parry fifty years ago. The most interesting discoveries made since that period have been effected by expeditions along the coast; and we very much doubt whether any benefits to science or to mankind would be gained by further attempts to penetrate the icy deserts and the murky nights of the great Polar Sea.

ART. VII.-Life of William Earl of Shelburne, afterwards

first Marguess of Lansdowne, with Extracts from his Papers and Correspondence. By Lord EDMOND FITZMAURICE.

3 vols. 8vo. London: 1875–76. Lo ORD SHELBURNE, though one of the foremost statesmen of

the earlier half of the reign of George III., is less known to fame than any of his eminent contemporaries. Having served with distinction in the Seven Years' War, he quitted the profession of arms for political life at the commencement of the new reign, and at the age of twenty-four we find him in the confidence of Lord Bute, and the trusted friend of the first Lord Holland. He was afterwards admitted to the intimate counsels of Lord Chatham, who rarely trusted anybody; he was the friend and the foe of Mr. Fox; and Mr. Pitt first took office as Chancellor of the Exchequer when Shelburne became head of the Government. Yet the name of Shelburne has come down to us conspicuous chiefly for an imputation of duplicity which has fastened upon it; a remarkable exception to the rule that contemporary slander leaves no permanent stain on a distinguished reputation. In an age of selfishness and corruption, when public men plotted and intrigued, abandoned and betrayed each other, it would be difficult to point at a single transaction in which Shelburne acted otherwise than with good faith and honour.

Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice has undertaken the task of redeeming the memory of his ancestor from unmerited obloquy by a plain and impartial narrative of his public life. The manuscripts at Lansdowne House, arranged by Sir James Lacaita, the papers of Lord Bute and of the first Lord Holland, together with other original sources to which he has had access, have furnished Lord Edmond with materials for an important and interesting book, not only to dispel the obscurity which has dimmed the reputation of an English statesman, but to shed new light on the history of the period in which he played so prominent a part. A considerable portion of the work consists of Shelburne's own accounts of the affairs in which he had been engaged, and of the characters of the public men with whom he had acted. The latter are frequently drawn with much point, but not always with historical indifference; but there should be no reason to doubt that Lord Shelburne's statements as to matters of fact are substantially accurate. The * Chapter of Autobiography' with which the first volume opens, is curious and interesting. It dates from his birth in 1737; but the biographical part of the chapter fills only twenty pages out of seventy-five. The rest consist of detached historical

« ElőzőTovább »