Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

they had shouted many times, no voice had replied. This was matter of equal surprise and concern, particularly to. Mr. Banks, who, while he was wondering how it could happen, missed a bottle of rum, the company's whole stock, which they now concluded to be in the knapsack of one of the absentees. It was conjectured that with this, Richmond had been roused by the two persons who had been left with him; and that having perhaps drunk too freely of it themselves, they had all rambled in search of the fire, instead of waiting for help. Another fall of snow now came on, and continued incessantly for two hours, so that all hope of seeing them alive was given up; but about twelve o'clock, to the great joy of those at the fire, a shouting was heard at some distance. Mr. Banks, with four more, immediately went out, and found one of the party with just strength enough left to stagger along and call out for assistance. Mr. Banks sent him immediately to the fire, and by his direction proceeded in search of the other two, whom he soon after found. Richmond was upon his legs, but not able to put one before the other; his companion was lying upon the ground, as insensible as a stone. All hands were now called from the fire, and an attempt was made to carry the sufferers to it; but this, notwithstanding the united efforts of the whole company, was found to be impossible. The night was extremely dark; the snow was now very deep, and they found it very difficult to make way

through the bushes and the bog, all of them getting many falls in the attempt.

The only alternative was to make a fire upon the spot; but the snow made this quite impossible: they were therefore reduced to the sad necessity of leaving the unhappy wretches to their fate; having first made them a bed of boughs, and spread a covering of the same kind over them to a considerable height. Having now been exposed to the cold and the snow near an hour and a half, some of the rest began to lose their sensibility, and one was taken so ill that it was thought he must die before he could be got to the fire. All at last reached it, but they had to pass the night with no food, except the carcase of a vulture, which had been shot the day before. In the morning at eight o'clock a thaw commenced, and at ten they were able to set out for the ship, which they happily reached without any further calamity. The poor wretches whom they had been obliged to leave among the bushes were again visited, but they were quite dead.

Where such fatal results as these do not accompany exposure to intense cold, it is yet not uncommon for the extremities to lose their vitality, and for mortification to ensue. Mutilations of limb from this cause are not unfrequent. When Captain Parry wintered on Melville Island, fingers, and even hands and feet, had to be amputated by the surgeon, so completely were they killed by the cold. To touch any metallic substance produced the sensation and effect of red-hot iron, by taking the skin off the hand. The eye-pieces of telescopes had to be covered with leather, or they would have had the same effect on the face. Where the cold thus attacks the surface, the individual is said to be frost-bitten. This can be easily remedied if discovered in time, but sometimes the loss of sensation makes the person unaware of his danger.

In St. Petersburg the winter begins in October, and ends in May. On the first appearance of frost, every man puts on his furs, and does not think of laying them aside until winter is quite gone. The stoves are lighted in every house, and no room is allowed to get cool. When the temperature is so low as about 12° or 14° below zero, every one carefully watches the thermometer. At about 20° the police are on the alert, and the officers go round day and night, to see that the sentinels keep awake. Should any one be found nodding at his post, he is immediately and severely punished, for sleep at such a time is certain death. Public amusements are given up, because coachmen and servants waiting in the streets are liable to be frozen to death. Foot passengers, who at other times are rather leisurely in their movements, now keep up a brisk pace, and sledges dash rapidly over the creaking snow. A very small part of the face is to be seen in the streets, for every man draws his furs over his head, and shows but little of his countenance. Every one is uneasy about his nose and ears, which are very apt to get frozen ; and as the

EFFECTS OF COLD ON THE LOWER ANIMALS.

37

sufferer is not aware of his danger by any previous uncomfortable sensation, the first person in the street who observes a nose putting on the appearance of white marble, exclaims, "Sir! sir! Your nose! your nose!” and taking up a handful of snow, applies it to the stranger's face, and endeavours, by briskly rubbing, to restore the circulation. These are salutations which people are accustomed to in such climates, and by which thousands of these valued organs are saved from the clutches of the frost. A man's eyes also at this season cost him some trouble, for they are apt every now and then to freeze up. On such occasions, it is customary to grope the way to the door of the first house, and ask permission to sit for a few minutes by the stove. This is never denied, and the stranger, by way of gratitude, seldom fails to leave a thawed tear upon the hospitable floor.

If such are the dangers to life and health which accrue to mankind from severe cold, it is also but fair to allude to the advantages and pleasures which are derived from the same source. The excitement of sledge-journeying, the novelty of frozen fairs, or markets, the building of ice-palaces, the games and sports of curling, skating and sliding, together with the substantial benefits arising from the trade in ice, and the various domestic and other uses of that substance, all contribute to form an extensive beneficial counterbalance to the evils above described.

The effects of cold on the lower animals are marked and various. They exhibit themselves in

the change of colour, or of thickness in their coats, in their tendency to fat, in their migrations, their hybernation, their increased tameness and dependence upon man, their industrious and untiring efforts to procure food. The number of land animals increases from the frigid zone to the equator; the marine animals are more equally diffused; but the largest, as well as the most minute, abound in high latitudes. Unlike man, who can accommodate himself to every change of climate, there are races of animals confined to particular parts of the earth's surface, which it would be death to remove to another, unless a similar climate to their own were artificially produced. There are others, again, which have a very wide range, and which are protected in high latitudes by the great thickness of their furry or downy coverings. Some mountain animals never descend below a certain height, as the ibex and chamois, which are usually found between the region of trees and the limit of perpetual snow. The birds of Greenland and Iceland are chiefly aquatic, or they are only occasional visitors. Ravens are capable of enduring the extremes of heat and cold, and are larger and more ravenous in the Arctic islands than elsewhere. The snowy owl lives near the glaciers of Greenland. The downy and oily feathers of web-footed birds enable them to resist the cold of a polar climate. The whistling swan, the largest migratory bird of Europe or America, winters in Iceland. In the long Arctic night, the cry of these birds, as they

« ZurückWeiter »