A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 15 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 762 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 15.

Heads of what has been done in the Voyage; with some Conjectures concerning the Formation of Ice-Islands; and an Account of our Proceedings till our Arrival at the Cape of Good Hope.

I had now made the circuit of the southern ocean in a high latitude, and traversed it in such a manner as to leave not the least room for the possibility of there being a continent, unless near the Pole, and out of the reach of navigation.  By twice visiting the tropical sea, I had not only settled the situation of some old discoveries, but made there many new ones, and left, I conceive, very little more to be done even in that part.  Thus I flatter myself, that the intention of the voyage has, in every respect, been fully answered; the southern hemisphere sufficiently explored, and a final end put to the searching after a southern continent, which has, at times, ingrossed the attention of some of the maritime powers, for near two centuries past, and been a favourite theory amongst the geographers of all ages.

That there may be a continent, or large tract of land, near the Pole, I will not deny; on the contrary I am of opinion there is; and it is probable that we have seen a part of it.  The excessive cold, the many islands and vast floats of ice, all tend to prove that there must be land to the south; and for my persuasion that this southern land must lie, or extend, farthest to the north opposite to the southern Atlantic and Indian oceans, I have already assigned some reasons; to which I may add the greater degree of cold experienced by us in these seas, than in the southern Pacific ocean under the same parallels of latitude.[11]

[Footnote 11:  After what has been said of the utter inutility of a southern continent to any human being, or even in the way of hypothesis to explain the constitution of nature, it may seem quite unnecessary to occupy a moment’s attention about any arguments for its existence.  As, however, a few remarks were hazarded respecting those of a mathematical kind, it may be proper to say a word or two as to others of a physical nature.  Two reasons for this supposition have been urged; viz. the presence of rivers necessary to account for the large masses of fresh-water ice found in high southern latitudes; and the existence of firm and immoveable points of land round which these masses might form.  The first of these is glaringly erroneous in point of principle and fact.  In the first place, it is most certain, that the waters of the ocean admit of being frozen, and that when so, they either do or do not contain the salts they held in solution, according to certain circumstances, which the argument does not require to be explained.  And, secondly, it is absurd to imagine that lands in the vicinity of the Pole should have any rivers, as the snow-line, as it has been called, reaches so low down there as the surface of the earth, and as the temperature of the atmosphere, reckoning from what is known of it in high latitudes, can scarcely

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