Our chief amusement lately has been the discussion of controverted points of history and science, and wonderful is the forensic and argumentative ability which these debates have developed. They are getting to be positively interesting. The only drawback to them is, that in the absence of any decisive authority they never come to any satisfactory conclusion. We have now been discussing for sixteen days the uses of a whale’s blow-holes; and I firmly believe that if our voyage were prolonged, like the Flying Dutchman’s, to all eternity, we should never reach any solution of the problem that would satisfy all the disputants. The captain has an old Dutch History of the World, in twenty-six folio volumes, to which he appeals as final authority in all questions under the heavens, whether pertaining to love, science, war, art, politics, or religion; and no sooner does he get cornered in a discussion than he entrenches himself behind these ponderous folios, and keeps up a hot fire of terrific Dutch polysyllables until we are ready to make an unconditional surrender. If we venture to suggest a doubt as to the intimacy of the connection between a whale’s blow-holes and the History of the World, he comes down upon us with the most withering denunciations as wrongheaded sceptics who won’t even believe what is printed—and in a Dutch history too! As the captain dispenses the pie, however, at dinner, I have found it advisable to smother my convictions as to the veracity of his Teutonic historian, and join him in denouncing that pernicious heretic Bush, who is wise beyond what is written. Result—Bush gets only one small piece of pie, and I get two, which of course is highly gratifying to my feelings, as well as advantageous to the dispersion of sound historical learning!
I begin to observe at dinner an increasing reverence on Bush’s part for Dutch histories.
[Illustration: Snow Scrapers]
THE PICTURESQUE COAST OP KAMCHATKA—ARRIVAL IN PETROPAVLOVSK
BRIG “OLGA,” AT SEA, 200 MILES
August 17, 1865.
Our voyage is at last drawing to a close, and after seven long weeks of cold, rainy, rough weather our eyes are soon to be gladdened again by the sight of land, and never was it more welcome to weary mariner than it will be to us. Even as I write, the sound of scraping and scrubbing is heard on deck, and proclaims our nearness to land. They are dressing the vessel to go once more into society. We were only 255 miles from the Kamchatkan seaport of Petropavlovsk (pet-ro-pav’-lovsk) last night, and if this favourable breeze holds we expect to reach there to-morrow noon. It has fallen almost to a dead calm, however, this morning, so that we may be delayed until Saturday.
AT SEA, OFF THE COAST OF KAMCHATKA.
Friday, August 18, 1865.
We have a fine breeze this morning; and the brig, under every stitch of canvas that will draw, is staggering through the seas enveloped in a dense fog, through which even her topgallant sails show mistily. Should the wind continue and the fog be dissipated we may hope to see land tonight.