The Illustrated London Reading Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 377 pages of information about The Illustrated London Reading Book.
their necks, on which was engraved a notice of the position of the ships and provisions.  It was possible that these animals, which are known to travel very far in search of food, might be captured by the missing voyagers, who would thus be enabled to avail themselves of the assistance intended for them by their noble countrymen.  The little foxes, in their desire to escape, sometimes tried to gnaw the bars of their traps; but the cold was so intense, that their tongues froze to the iron, and so their captors had to kill them, to release them from their misery, for they were never wantonly destroyed.

The great Painter of the Universe has not forgotten the embellishment of the Pole.  One of the most beautiful phenomena in nature is the Aurora Borealis, or northern lights.  It generally assumes the form of an arch, darting flashes of lilac, yellow, or white light towards the heights of heaven.  Some travellers state that the aurora are accompanied by a crackling or hissing noise; but Captain Lyon, who listened for hours, says that this is not the case, and that it is merely that the imagination cannot picture these sudden bursts of light as unaccompanied by noise.

We will now bid farewell to winter, for with returning summer comes the open sea, and the vessels leave their wintry bed.  This, however, is attended with much difficulty and danger.  Canals have to be cut in the ice, through which to lead the ships to a less obstructed ocean; and, after this had been done in Sir James Ross’s case, the ships were hemmed in by a pack of ice, fifty miles in circumference, and were carried along, utterly helpless, at the rate of eight or ten miles daily, for upwards of 250 miles—­the navigators fearing the adverse winds might drive them on the rocky coast of Baffin’s Bay.  At length the wind changed, and carried them clear of ice and icebergs (detached masses of ice, sometimes several hundred feet in height) to the open sea, and back to their native land.

With all its dreariness, we owe much to the ice-bound Pole; to it we are indebted for the cooling breeze and the howling tempest—­the beneficent tempest, in spite of all its desolation and woe.  Evil and good in nature are comparative:  the same thing does what is called harm in one sense, but incalculable good in another.  So the tempest, that causes the wreck, and makes widows of happy wives and orphans of joyous children, sets in motion air that would else be stagnant, and become the breath of pestilence and the grave.


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[Illustration:  Letter A.]

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The Illustrated London Reading Book from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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