Popular Science Monthly/Volume 7/July 1875/Recent Polar Explorations
|RECENT POLAR EXPLORATIONS.|
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH, BY EMMA M. CONVERSE.
THE regions called circumpolar, during the last six or seven years, have been the theatre of numerous explorations that have enriched our geographical maps with many new outlines. Doubtless, the recent discoveries have not succeeded in penetrating the mystery that envelops the arctic world, but, by strength of will, and thanks also to the connivance of chance—sometimes propitious to navigators—important points of departure have been obtained from extreme latitudes. It is well known that there are four distinct routes for approaching the basin of the Arctic Ocean: One, by Behring Strait, is formed by the rent found between the northeastern point of extreme Asia and the very jagged promontories of the northwestern coast of North America. This was the route chosen by the Frenchman Gustave Lambert for that gigantic expedition, the preparations for which were followed with great interest by the learned world; but his unexpected death caused the abandonment of the enterprise. A second route, by Baffin's Bay, opens between the western shores of Greenland and the vast archipelago that commences at Hudson's Bay. This double entrance to the arctic seas has been for a long time the favorite course for English and American sailors. Europe, at the present time, seems to prefer two routes nearer its own territory, passing, the one, along the eastern coast of Greenland, the other between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla.These last-mentioned routes were formerly much frequented by the Dutch navigators like , but they have since been abandoned. Dr. Petermann, the director of the Geographische Mittheilungen, has succeeded in bringing once more into popular favor these desirable paths to the Polar Sea. Extensive and long-continued study gave to this geographer the conviction that the great warm current that issues from the Gulf of Mexico, between Florida and the island of Cuba, and takes a northern course, passing along the coast of Europe, must have a northern extension more considerable than had been heretofore supposed. In the month of July, 1865, Dr. Petermann for the first time developed this theory before the German Geographical Society in session at Hamburg. Supporting his argument by numberless experiments in soundings and measurements of temperature, he demonstrated the probable presence of the Gulf Stream in very high latitudes, and concluded that, after leaving Spitzbergen, the barrier of ice once overcome, a navigable ocean would be found. The routes that we have described would then be openings conducting to a kind of arctic Mediterranean, to which navigators could sail in a direct course, instead of wasting their lives in perilous and useless searches in the windings of the great circumpolar labyrinth. These bold deductions did not fail to meet with energetic opposition, especially in America and England; but five years later, in 1870, Dr. Petermann, returning to the charge with the data gained from a still more complete research, surmounted all controversy. He established the fact that the warm current advances as far as Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla, beyond the eightieth degree of latitude, and that, aside from some lateral branches, it sends its principal mass toward the northeast. At this latitude the temperature of the current descends to three degrees below zero, Centigrade. Experiments made by Dr. Bessels, of Heidelberg, in the course of one of the latest explorations, prove that the influence of the warm current is still perceptible beyond Bear Island. The real extent of the Gulf Stream is, however, a problem that has never been satisfactorily solved.
The scientific agitation fomented in Germany by the speeches and writings of Dr. Petermann did not delay to bear fruit, although the theory of the eminent geographer has not received the sanction of direct proof, which it still awaits. In 1868 a first expedition, under the command of Captain Koldewey, a sailor, educated at the school for pilots in Bremen, set sail from the port of Bergen. Although imperfectly fitted out, it had for a special mission to take the bearings of the northern prolongation of the east coast of Greenland. In case the explorer could not attain this coast, he must endeavor to refind on the east of Spitzbergen the famous land of Gillis, discovered in 1707 by the Norwegian Gilles, and since then forgotten and lost. The Germania (such was the name of the ship chartered for this purpose) directed her course toward the eastern coast of Greenland; but the agglomeration of ice preventing her approach, she turned toward the west coast of Spitzbergen, and then reascended toward the north a little beyond the eighty-first degree. Although the expedition was obliged to deviate from the path marked out, it was not without interest for the progress of hydrography and physical geography. It discovered that King William's Island, situated in the strait of Henlopen, was really an island, as Scoresby had indicated in 1822; and it corrected the boundary of Northeast Land, one of the largest islands of Spitzbergen. Besides, the year 1868 did not appear to be favorable for an attempt at landing on the east coast of Greenland, for the Swedish steamer Sophia, which made the same attempt under the command of Captain Baron de Otter, could not pass the icebergs, and was obliged to return in October, a month after the Germania.
The impulse once given was not allowed to diminish its force. Thanks to the zeal of Dr. Petermann, seconded by an indefatigable ship-owner of Bremerhaven, Mr. Rosenthal, the next year, 1869, numbered a dozen expeditions, almost all sent forth by the routes recently reopened. In February, the screw-steamer Bienenkorb left the Weser for the purpose of attempting a landing on the east coast of Greenland. The ice once more prevented the success of the enterprise. In May, another steamer, the Albert, commanded by Captain Haasgen and Dr. Bessels, set out to make the tour of Spitzbergen, to explore the sea between this land and Nova Zembla, and to discover, if possible, the land of Gillis. None of these three objects were accomplished, but the expedition determined more exactly the situation of the islands southeast of Spitzbergen, and confirmed the assertions of Dr. Petermann upon the distant extension of the Gulf Stream. The same year the English Captain Palliser, having for an object to sail around the shores of Nova Zembla, penetrated into the Sea of Kara, situated between that island and the Samoiede peninsula, and sailed along the Siberian coast, within a few leagues of White Island, without being at all impeded by the ice. Behind him, the Norwegian Johannesen traversed the same route twice without encountering any difficulty. By this means the commonly-received belief was corrected, which represented as narrow and of little depth this basin, into which, by two neighboring estuaries, are poured the congealed masses of the Obi and Yenisei, as if it were the great ice-house of the north-pole.
The most important event of the year 1869, in the order of facts, was the second German expedition, which departed in June from Bremerhaven. This expedition, fitted out at great expense through the zeal of numerous committees, was composed of two ships, the screw-steamer Germania, seasoned already by a preceding exploration, and the sailing escort Hansa. Captain Koldewey, the commander-in-chief, was assisted by the Austrian Lieutenant Julius Payer, and several scientists. The instruction given to the voyagers, by the Central Committee of Bremen, marked out for them the eastern coast of Greenland as the principal base of operations, and the object to be accomplished was to study it scientifically, and to examine it in all its details. These labors completed, Mr. Koldewey and his companions would, if circumstances were favorable, direct their course as far as possible toward the pole; but, in any event, the extreme date of return was fixed upon the first of November of the following year. The two ships kept company, through good and evil fortune, as far as the seventy-fourth degree of latitude; there, a fatal error, a signal of the Germania incorrectly interpreted on board the sailing-vessel, separated the two ships forever. The Hansa, not having at command the resources of steam, was soon invested by the ice, about forty miles from the coast, and, after having, in this position, drifted considerably to the south, broke to pieces under the pressure of the ice-blocks that surrounded her. The crew sought safety upon an immense piece of floating ice, where they built of coal a winter hut that was destroyed in its turn. This new species of raft, which was at first seven miles in circumference, broke up or gradually melted during a perilous and capricious drift of six months, a part of the time in the darkness of a polar night, until at last the hour came when the unfortunate sailors measured only with anxiety the surface of their fragile domain. Happily, the current had carried them insensibly to more hospitable latitudes, and, as they had saved their boats, they seized the first occasion to set them afloat. Finally, by force of sail, towing, and transshipment, they reached Friedrichsthal, a missionary station situated at the southern point of Greenland, then Lichtenau, and Julianshaab, where they found a steamer that landed them at Copenhagen on the first of September.
The Germania, more favored, had meantime the glory of accomplishing to the letter the very precise instructions of the committee of Bremen. The history of the voyage, filling four large volumes, deserves the closest attention, and will remain, until new discoveries are made, the indispensable manual of the navigator in the eastern part of Greenland. The difficulty of gaining access to these coasts, situated beyond the influence of the Gulf Stream, proceeds from the enormous quantity of ice carried by the polar current in this direction. The principal chance of success depends upon the direction of the prevailing winds. East and southeast winds render the icebergs more resistant and more compact; west and northwest winds, on the contrary, by driving back the blocks of ice in an opposite direction, cause a division and a crumbling that disentangle the labyrinths near the shore, and open numerous passes.
The Germania had this experience. During the month of July she struggled in vain against insuperable agglomerations of icebergs and ice-fields welded to each other. It was not till the commencement of August, when the predominance of breezes from the Atlantic had produced a loosening of the ice driven back between Iceland and Spitzbergen, that the ship opened a passage, and effected a landing in a small bay of Sabine Island, in the Pendulum Archipelago, below that part of the country called King William's Land.
It is well known that Greenland, visited several times from the tenth to the fifteenth century, then completely abandoned and lost, was rediscovered at the end of the sixteenth century by some Scandinavian sailors. The eastern shore, particularly, is only known since the voyages accomplished from 1822 to 1831, by Scoresby, Clavering, Sabine, and Graah; we do not speak of the unfortunate attempt made at the same epoch by the Frenchman, Jules de Blossville, who disappeared with his ship, and was never heard of afterward.
This eastern coast, relatively level from Cape Farewell, the extreme southern point, as far as Scoresby's Sound, suddenly changes its character as soon as the seventieth degree is passed. It offers at this latitude an infinity of bold promontories, deep and sinuous fiords, fantastically collected, with backgrounds bristling with gigantic glaciers, in comparison with which the most famous ones of Switzerland singularly lose their majesty. All this jagged, solid mass, has for an advance-guard a projection of islands generally very mountainous; the whole figure recalls a little the aspect of the coasts of ancient Asia Minor. The Germania penetrated into the centre of this labyrinth. As soon as she was anchored in her harbor, it was evident that she must remain a prisoner. The masses of iceberg, though temporarily affected by the summer heat, manifested no symptom of breaking up, and the channels, opened between the islands and the continent, began to close during the middle of August. According to the account of explorers, the formation of ice takes place in this manner. Small, isolated denticulations are accidentally formed near each other, without presenting at first any appearance of cohesion. Afterward, a thick paste is produced, which is finally amalgamated into a crust, and this crust is so flexible that it reproduces without breaking the swelling of the surge. By the middle of September this ice could sustain the weight of the sleds. Mr. Koldewey and his companions improved the opportunity, by the assistance of these vehicles, to visit several points of their archipelago; unfortunately, the autumn excursions in these lands continue only about five or six weeks. In the first clays of November, the crew of the Germania saw the sun disappear for three long months beneath the horizon. Then commenced that terrible captivity in the midst of the polar night, and among frightful storms of snow.
The winter of 1869-'70 was made remarkable by a series of tempests from the north, one of which continued for more than a hundred consecutive hours with a velocity of about sixty miles an hour. The thermometer at the same time did not fall beyond 32° (Centigrade) below zero. Besides, even in the most severe temperature, if the chinks in the cabins are carefully stopped up, if the access to the ship is well defended by artificial casings of ice and snow, there will be little suffering from cold. The physical and moral discomfort arises principally from the impossibility, during more than ninety days, of observing the surrounding phenomena, and from the long-continued immobility in the midst of sinister darkness, illuminated alone by those strange celestial fairy scenes called aurora borealis. Outside, the congealed masses of every age and production, being pushed against each other with inimitable noises and grindings that sailors call "the voices of the ice," are welded in huge rafts, or form pyramidical entablatures sculptured with gigantic stalactites, The ship, however, well sheltered in a harbor open on the southern side, and protected on the north by a high rampart of mountains, can brave this frightful shock of the elements; but every thing depends, in case of emergency, on the fortunate choice of a station. The essential point is that the blockade, that assures the safety of navigators, should remain unbroken, and that no ricochet movement should reach the ship; the least rupture of the plain of surrounding ice, the least bar would be fatal; the most fearful peril is the neighborhood of running water.
The polar night, in the latitude where the Germania wintered, ended at the commencement of February; a month after, the sun remained long enough above the horizon to allow great sledge excursions. Then the truly scientific labor of the explorers commenced. This task represents a series of Herculean labors that baffles the imagination. The country not offering the least resource, the travelers were obliged to carry every thing with them; the heavy vehicle also played the rôle of that "ship of the desert," whose loss involves that of the whole caravan. Clothed with heavy furs, the face entirely masked, the tourists harnessed themselves to the sled; supported in some fashion in their hard effort in towage, they struggled against the cutting north wind. The eye, beset by the monotonous reflection of the white immensity, knew neither where to rest nor how to judge of distances; it was every moment the sport of mirages that vanished to spring up again in another part of the horizon with the most deceptive effects of refraction. The activity and wakefulness of the nights increased the suffering of these marches where a geographical enigma was mingled, as it were, with every step, and where it was often the work of a whole day to accomplish a simple advance of a quarter of a league; but of what is not the constancy of man capable when science is the object of pursuit! The pioneers of the Germania advanced thus beyond the seventy-seventh degree of latitude by 18° 50' west longitude from Greenwich. This year, at least, there was no trace of an open sea toward the pole, on the Greenland coast. Everywhere, on the north and east, the sea appeared to be solidly bridged by the ice. If provisions had not failed, the traveling colony would have been able to push on the sled indefinitely over these boundless plains. The iceberg, properly so called, without remarkable protuberances, extended for about two leagues from the shore, which, starting from this extreme point, seemed to take a northwest direction, where the perspective was obstructed by high mountains crowned with glaciers.
During the two following months, the voyagers explored, either in sleds or boats, the deep bays and fiords of the estuaries west and south of the Pendulum Islands. In the month of May, even in this high latitude, signs precursory of the fine season were manifest, and the first fruits of the meagre Greenland vegetation were seen in all directions. Under the bridges of snow and the coverings of the glaciers, the murmur of running water was heard; long flights of eider-ducks arrived from the south; the polar ortolan warbled its sweet note; the lemmings, a kind of northern rabbit, were seen among the fragments of the rocks; the white hares enjoyed the young sprouts of moss and saxifrage; while the reindeer, with its slender body, enlivened the depths of the torrents, and, at a distance, the curious head of the seal emerged through the sheets of ice, brightened and mellowed by the sun.
At last, on the 22d of July, 1870, the Germania floated once more in the open sea, and, after having remained 300 days in winter quarters, quitted the little harbor that had hospitably received her, in order to attempt, by the aid of steam, further progress toward the north; but, in latitude 75° 26', a little less than the height she had attained the preceding summer, the channel suddenly failed. The summer influences had not disintegrated the enormous masses bound to the iceberg, and apparently this soldering would yield only to the autumnal tempests. But, these tempests coming at the end of August, the Germania, which, according to the instructions of the committee of Bremen, could make but one winter in these regions, resolved to return to Europe, and she was alongside the wharf in the Weser on the 11th of September.
The scientific results of the exploration were, on the whole, considerable. If the principal problem of polar navigation had not been solved, much more precise and extended notions concerning the physical and hydrographic nature of the most important northern country were attained. Mr. Koldewey, when he asserts that no continuous channel exists on the east of Greenland, draws perhaps too rigorous a conclusion from a simple experience of two years. But it appears doubtful whether, under any conditions, this coast can offer a favorable base for reaching the central basin of the north-pole, for, on one hand, the state of the channel near the shore is subordinated to all kinds of topical conditions difficult to foresee, and, on the other, the cold current, even at the season of the greatest loosening of the ice, causes immense quantities of huge blocks to drift in that direction. The country itself presents also to the scientist and geographer a very curious field for observation. The officers of the Germania found, from investigations skillfully conducted, that this part of Greenland is actually inhabited, and that it seems also habitable. They discovered the perfectly preserved remains of Esquimaux huts, veritable houses that the history describes very minutely, containing different instruments and utensils, whose primitive fashion recalls the work of the Stone age; but, for some reason, the polar man seems to have deserted, without a desire to return, these quarters, where the conditions of life, during the progress of ages, have been sensibly modified. The polar bear, improperly called the white bear, reigns as master among the glaciers of the coast, as the walrus, no less dreaded, reigns on the icebergs of the sea.
The most intelligent and the most active member of the important mission whose fortune we have followed, was undoubtedly Lieutenant Julius Payer. This officer, devoted heart and soul to the theories of Dr. Petermann, set out the next year (1871) with his countryman, Lieutenant Carl Weyprecht, to search for the land of Gillis. The two explorers did not succeed in finding it; but they penetrated 150 miles farther north than their predecessors had done in this region. Beyond the seventy-eighth degree, between 42° and 60° west longitude, there was still an open sea, and the temperature of the surface of the sea varied between three and four degrees (Centigrade) above zero. The want of provisions obliged the crew to turn back, and this was a great misfortune, for the year seemed exceptionably favorable. The Norwegian captain, Mack, who traversed at this time the eastern part of the same ocean, in search of the place where Barentz had wintered in 1579, met everywhere, at a distance that no one had before attained, navigable water with a strong current. The station of Barentz was, however, found a short time after on the northeast point of Nova Zembla by another Norwegian, Carlsen; it still preserved visible tokens of the abode of the Dutch navigator.
Another expedition, resembling the abortive voyage of the Hansa, in its dramatic catastrophe, if not in its results, was undertaken in this same year (1871) by the American captain, Hall, who adopted the route by Baffin's Bay, instead of the European entrance to the Arctic Ocean. Captain Hall, in company with Dr. Bessels, starting from Newfoundland on the 29th of June, on the ship Polaris, shaped his course toward Smith's Strait, discovered by Kane seventeen years before, and at the end of August landed on Grinnell Land, in 80° north latitude. He ascended afterward to Kennedy's Channel, and penetrated into a narrow sound for about 100 leagues, where no mariner had ever ventured before. This passage was called Robeson, in honor of the Secretary of the Navy of the United States. Captain Hall advanced by this new route, that probably ended in the famous central arctic basin, as far as latitude 82° 16', touching the extreme point on the 3d of September. There he perceived on the north a vast extent of open water that he called Lincoln Sea, and farther on another ocean, or a bay, on the west of which the outlines of a coast were delineated; this country was named Grant Laud. Everywhere a fauna appeared similar to that of Greenland; herds of musk-oxen, white hares, and other polar animals, were seen, and they even thought that traces of human beings were perceptible. The crew was eager to make an opening through the iceberg; but the sailing-master of the expedition, Captain Buddington, would not permit the attempt, and the Polaris returned to winter in Robeson's Channel, in latitude a little above 81°. The death of Captain Hall, occurring in the month of November, put an end to every new endeavor to make any further advance on the northern coast; the winter was passed in inaction, and when the warm breath of the following summer had put the waters in motion, and delivered the Polaris from the fetters that bound her, the travelers hastened to descend to the south. The return was not entirely unimpeded. The ship underwent a terrible pressure; a part of the men, separated by chance from their companions, took refuge on an ice-floe, where they remained miserably stranded for 240 days. This ice-field, like the one that bore the waifs of the Hansa, was constantly drifting toward the south, and visibly shrinking, until, on the 30th of April, the shipwrecked sailors were seen by a passing steamer. As to the rest of the crew of the Polaris, obliged to abandon the leaky ship, they wintered on Littleton Island, whence they set out once more, on the following summer, in two boats procured from a Scotch whaler.
All these eventful voyages, so curious and exciting, are surpassed by the recent exploit of the steamer Tegethoff, whose almost fabulous experience was only known in Europe during the month of last September. Lieutenants Payer and Weyprecht, immediately after their return from the expedition of 1871, were detailed to prepare a new one. Nothing was neglected to give a character of unusual grandeur to this exclusively Austro-Hungarian enterprise. Two eminent friends of science, the Counts Wilczek and Zichy, lent to it their material and moral aid; the Royal Geographical Society, in February, 1872, advised the formation of a special committee, including among its members the most illustrious names of the Austrian aristocracy, and a considerable sum of money was soon collected. The equipment of the mariners was the object of careful solicitude; they were so provided for that, without dreading cold and snow, they might go away hundreds of miles from the ship and be absent for months. The principal aim of the expedition was to study the unknown regions of the Polar Sea north of Siberia, and to see if it were possible to reach Behring Strait by this route; it was only as a secondary object, a kind of last resort, that the expedition could direct its course toward extreme latitudes; it was only permitted to venture in the direction of the pole if, in the course of two winters and three summers, it did not succeed in doubling the extreme promontory of Asia. The point of official departure of the scientific excursion was the northern coast of Nova Zembla.
The Tegethoff, having on board twenty-four persons, set sail from Tromsoë, Norway, on the 14th of July. Some days after a yacht sailed from the same port with Count Wilczek on board, whose purpose was to establish on an eastern point of the Arctic Ocean a depot of coal and provisions for the Tegethoff. On the 21st of August, off Cape Napan, between Nova Zembla and the mouth of the Petchora, the yacht lost sight of the steamer. More than two years passed before any news was received of the missing ship. Great was the anxiety in Austria and in the whole civilized world; heaven and earth were moved to aid the navigators who had so strangely disappeared. Count Wilczek had a quantity of small India-rubber balloons made, which, supplied with dispatches, were distributed to the whalers sailing for the northern seas, with directions to let them loose in the different stations of these territories. The Geographical Society of London gave an express mission to a ship bound for Spitzbergen, to inquire everywhere for the Tegethoff. The Russian Minister of the Navy, Mr. Siderof, instigated a public reunion for the purpose of sending a salvage expedition upon the traces of the unfortunate steamer.
Suddenly, on the 3d of last September, just at the epoch predicted by Dr. Petermann, who had constantly maintained that news of the explorers must not be expected before the autumn of 1874, a report was spread abroad from Vienna that the lost sailors had just landed in Europe. Some days after they made their entrance into the Austrian capital, welcomed by enthusiastic cheers whose echoes are still heard. The expedition, as often happens in these unconquerable polar seas, was not able to follow the terms of the official instructions. The Tegethoff, from the 21st of August, 1872, the same day when Count Wilczek saw her for the last time, found herself irretrievably invested by ice. In endeavoring to get free from this fatal imprisonment, the crew and the ship remained the passive sport of chance; on the 13th of October, the vessel received a thrust that lifted it up, and inflicted upon it heavy bruises. Let any one judge how agitated and terrible this winter harbor was, at the mercy of the elements! The ice was in constant movement until the spring of the following year. At the end of March, 1878, the pressure came to an end, but the Tegethoff was incrusted in the midst of a plain of ice several leagues in circuit. For five months, from April to September, the crew worked in vain to restore the ship to its normal condition; the ice-plain in which it was incorporated was pushed by the winds in every direction, and at last ascended to 79° 54' north latitude. The rôle of science then unexpectedly commenced; a consoling light for the mind and will of the explorers burst forth even from the bosom of blind fatality. On the 31st of August, 1873, after more than a year of terror and endurance, the ice-bound captives saw a mass of elevated coast, sparkling with glaciers, emerging from the fog, at a distance of about fourteen miles. They immediately gave to this apparition the name of Emperor Francis Joseph's Land. But it was not till the end of October that they were able to land on shores so miraculously discovered; even then, on account of the advanced season, they found it impossible to take possession; for they were soon to enter for the second time into the sinister polar night that continues three and four months. They took advantage of the last days that were illuminated with an expiring twilight to make little preliminary excursions some leagues from the ship, and this was all they could accomplish. They were then obliged to wait patiently for the next dawn of day, that is, until the spring of 1874.
This winter was more tempestuous than the preceding, and the persistent north winds brought interminable snow-storms; the thermometer fell to 48° (Centigrade) below zero. At last, on the 24th of February, the sun having reappeared above the horizon, they hastened to improve the spring weather. Lieutenant Payer prepared three expeditions with sledges drawn by dogs to reconnoitre the nature and configuration of the neighboring land. In the first excursion, from the 10th to the 16th of March, he visited the nearest island, where he found a most picturesque fiord with an enormous glacier in the background; there were summits 2,500 feet high. The second journey was much more important; discoveries succeeded each other as if by enchantment. Mr. Payer penetrated into a sound or strait—Austria Sound—extending from south to north, and completely covered with small islands. This strait was prolonged as far as the latitude of 82° between two continuous masses of land. The eastern side was called Wilczek Land, the other Zichy Land. In going out of this pass, the explorer encountered a vast basin, from which emerged another land, named Prince Rudolph's Land. The extreme point attained by Payer and his companions was called Cape Fligely; it is situated nearly at the same distance from the pole as that reached by another route, in 1871, by the captain of the Polaris. There it was necessary to stop, on account of the crevasses and ruptures produced at this season in the ice of the fiords. A strait, terminated by another land, lay open before the eyes of the travelers, whose prolongation, inflected to the east, could be followed even beyond the latitude of 83°. They named it Petermann's Land. What is, then, this new world that remains provisionally the ultima Thule of navigators? It is not, certainly, according to the report of Mr. Payer, a mass of insignificant islands; it is an entire regional system with a development comparable to the archipelago of Spitzbergen. Could it be the Land of Gillis, so much sought for in these later times?
The explorers, on returning from this long excursion, having had the good fortune to find their ship immovable in the same place, set out very soon for a third tour in a western direction. When fourteen miles from the Tegethoff, they made the ascent of a high mountain, from the top of which they could trace the general configuration of the country; the most elevated summit was 5,000 feet high. Finally, the moment came for thinking of a return home. On the 20th of May, 1874, they put themselves en route, but they were obliged to abandon the ship. All the members of the expedition were safe and sound, the mechanician alone having died. During ninety days, by the aid of sledges and boats, sometimes on the ice, sometimes on the open sea, the glorious Austrian pioneers wandered in these unknown regions, following always the direction of the compass to the south. In the beginning, the winds thwarted their progress to such a degree that after two whole months they were only eight marine miles distant from the ship. Their provisions also were nearly exhausted, when, on the 18th of August, they reached Nova Zembla. Six days after they embarked on the Russian steamer Nicholas, which carried them to Warsoe.
If the vicissitudes endured by this memorable expedition, the official report of which has not yet reached us, give the measure of the difficulties experienced in following in these regions a preconcerted plan, they show also that with coolness and constancy the resistance of polar chaos may be overcome. A day will come, doubtless, when the conditions of arctic life will be in some measure familiar to us, and the navigator will face less timidly its sombre horrors. Already he has succeeded in discovering his way through good and bad fortune into the variable windings of the great labyrinth; he has sounded the depths, studied the currents and counter-currents; he knows at what season such a channel is obstructed or free, and what routes the ice-fields driven to the south follow in their regular migrations. The principal features of this exceptional geography are, then, partially established; the essential point is, that the succession of polar voyages shall be no more interrupted. Too long have arctic explorations been made in a desultory and capricious fashion; audacity and courage have been lavishly used, but consecutive action has been wanting. Experiments, in order to acquire their full scientific value, must be continuous, and it is therefore necessary that all nations should in turn relieve each other, according to their resources, in this attentive sentinelship of the outposts of the arctic world.