The meteors called falling stars were much more frequent during this winter than we ever before saw them, and particularly during the month of December.
Re-equipment of the
Ships.—Several Journeys undertaken.—Open
Water in the Offing.—Commence sawing a Canal to liberate the
Ships.—Disruption of the Ice.—Departure from Port Bowen.
The height of the land about Port Bowen deprived us longer than usual of the sun’s presence above our horizon. Some of our gentlemen, indeed, who ascended a high hill for the purpose, caught a glimpse of him on the 2d of February; on the 15th it became visible at the observatory, but at the ships not till the 22d, after an absence of one hundred and twenty-one days. It is very long after the sun’s reappearance in these regions, however, that the effect of his rays, as to warmth, becomes perceptible; week passes after week, with scarcely any rise in the thermometer except for an hour or two during the day; and it is at this period more than any other, perhaps, that the lengthened duration of a Polar winter’s cold is most wearisome, and creates the most impatience. Towards the third week in March, thin flakes of snow lying upon black painted wood or metal, and exposed to the sun’s direct rays in a sheltered situation, readily melted. In the second week of April any very light covering of sand or ashes upon the snow close to the ships might be observed to make its way downward into holes; but a coat of sand laid upon the unsheltered ice, to the distance of about two thirds of a mile, for dissolving a canal to hasten our liberation, produced no such sensible effect till the beginning of May. Even then the dissolution was very trifling till about the first week in June, when pools of water began to make their appearance, and not long after this a small boat would have floated down it. On shore the effect is, in general, still more tardy, though some deception is there occasioned by the dissolution of the snow next the ground, while its upper surface is to all appearance undergoing little or no change. Thus a greater alteration is sometimes produced in the aspect of the land by a single warm day in an advanced part of the season, than in many weeks preceding, in consequence of the last crust of snow being dissolved, leaving the ground at length entirely bare. We could now perceive the snow beginning to leave the stones from day to day, as early as the last week in April. Towards the end of May a great deal of snow was dissolved daily; but, owing to the porous nature of the ground, which absorbed it as fast as it was formed, it was not easy to procure water for drinking on shore, even as late as the 10th of June. In the ravines, however, it could be heard trickling under stones before that time; and about the 18th, many considerable streams were formed, and constantly running both night and day. After this the thawing proceeded at an inconceivably rapid rate, the whole surface of the floes being covered with large pools of water rapidly increasing in size and depth.