Charles Frederick Holder.

The Californian (Volume 4) online

. (page 15 of 120)
Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 15 of 120)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sinking heart and wander on his way,
scordhed with the blaze from sea and
sky, impatient for relief, yet finding
none. No grateful shade, no limpid
spring varies the hot march or offers
chance to slake his burning thirst ; a
vast sea stretches to the horizon,
mocking his desire, for he dare not
lave in its depths, nor taste its poison-
ous waters. Lizards hasten across his
path, and stay upon some rocky crest
to watch him witli their glittering
eyes ; mosquitoes swarm to his annoy-
ance, and he hastens on to avoid the
pains they would inflict. At last,
weary and depressed, he may find a
hollow in the hills of the wilderness,
where a feeble spring of warm and
brackish water seeps from the rocks,
flows a few feet and sinks again in the
thirsty soil. Here he will rest, de-
spondent and alone, surrounded by
the frail skeletons of coyotes less for-
tunate than he, that have wandered
hither to perish when even this weak
spring was dry.

" Now what magic power shall com-
pass these desolate shores to transform
them into realms of beauty and



delight ? Naught but the power which
can touch with omnipotent wand the
bleak and barren sands and turn them
into gold. That scene which at noon
was drear, may become rich and glori-
ous in the changing phases of the day.
"It is God's providence to bestow
upon the desert in the evening a flood
of radiant beauty, in compensation for
the emptiness of mid-day. Trembling
vapors which the hot sun has distilled
now hover over the land to catch the
sunset hues, filling the shady hollows
of the hills with purple and blue, and

of water bearers to their relief; and
these will come trooping overhead
from the east, their breasts flushed
with faint and opalescent tints that are
soon to develop through a glorious
scale of saffron, scarlet and crimson,
and bathe with a ruddy glow the
whole sea and sky and land. They
crOvSS the heavens a grand and thrill-
ing spectacle, curtains of fire that flow
towards the sun and droop to cover
his face with a veil of scarlet and gold.
Fold after fold passes rapidly onward,
blotting out all the glory in the west,


reddening the shafts of light that are
cast upon the mountain tops. Low to
the west, on the distant lake, lie streaks
of amethyst and amber, through
which the sun shall descend, alternately
kindling these islands into a golden
blaze, its flames vibrating on even-
twig and rocky edge ; or immersing
them in purple shadow, whose depths
are yet again colored by reflecting
lights from rosy clouds that are scat-
tered across the sky. Then, many a
summer evening, the Wasatch Moun-
tains, in compassion for the sterility of
these shores, will send forth a company

except a great red ball that slowly
sinks through the gathering mist, and
all grows gray. The color has faded
from the heavens and gloom is settling
over the land.

" For a few minutes the peace and
quiet of cool twilight is broken only
by the sad cry of the moaning dove
and the lazy lapping of the waves
along the beach. Then, from far out
at sea, comes a faint sound like the
distant roar of a multitude of voices ;
it increases in depth and volume with
every instant, and from the northwest
there sweeps a wild blast, that gathers



up the sands of the beach and drives
them whirling along the shore. The
surface of the lake quivers for a mo-
ment, as though struck by a mighty
hand, then sends a succession of
swelling waves, that gather strength
as they approach and break upon the
land. Soon the white caps come
rolling in from afar, running a mad
race landward, bringing with them a
flock of .screaming gulls white as the
foam itself, and whose erratic flight
carries them now through the hollow
of a wave and now vaulting upwards
to the skies. There is a grand com-

motion where the steep reefs extend
out into the sea, for ponderous billows
are rolling in upon them and crashing
against their sides with a tumult that
is deafening. The foam gleams pale
in the gathering night, as the break-
ers leap among the rocks ; it streams
down their drenched sides in a thou-
sand tiny torrents, and mingles with
the restless surf that booms in upon
the beach in ever increasing strength
and fury. And so the day closes
among whistling winds and driving
clouds along these bleak and desolate




IGH on her forehead there dangled a bay leaf,
Fresh and as fair as the creature who wore it
Greenly it fluttered as flutters a stray leaf,
Culled by the zephyrs and carried before it.

Love was a child then, but love is a boy now —
Feebler the pinion once feathered for flying ;

Much that was passion is more of a joy now,
Pure as a lake in its mountain-bed lying.

High on her forehead there dangles a bay leaf
Reft of what rendered it worthy the giving ;

What was a green leaf is now but a gray leaf,
Nature lies lifeless while love is still living.



PART from the con-
sideration of those
motives and im-
pulses which are
derived from the in-
stigations of science
o r self- interest i n
man's mental and spiritual make-up,
curiosity and courageous determina-
tion to gratify it are qualities so
strongly emphasized as to impel him,
in defiance of common sense, to engage
in undertakings fraught with difficulty
and danger, and productive of no di-
rect material recompense. Hardship
and peril cease to act as deterrent op-
positionists when ambition — the off-
spring of competitive inquisitiveness
— takes possession of an aspiring mind.
It was under the influence of thirst
for knowledge — another expression
for inquisitiveness — that Mungo Park
took his life in his hand and pene-
trated far into the interior of Africa ;
and since his time hundreds of other
explorers in this and other lands have
done likewise urged by the same im-

pulse. The Australian desert and the
steppes of Asia, the wildernesses of
North America, and the dense forests
of the Amazon basin have opposed in
vain entrance into their forbidding
wilds. The mystery which surrounds
an unexplored region has such fascina-
tion and allurement that whether a
Stanley proposes to march through
the Dark Continent, or a Perry pre-
pares an expedition to the North Pole,
eager volunteers present themselves
in the hope of gaining admission into
the ranks of the explorers. Hitherto
only two regions of the earth have
defied human effort in its endeavors to
penetrate to their centers — the regions
of the North and South Poles. It
was to satisfy curiosity that the first
expeditions to the South Frigid Zone
were undertaken.

While the North Pole has long been
repeatedly brought before the notice
of the public, and has been visited so
often by scientific navigators that the
geography of its surroundings is
almost as well mapped out as that of




the British Isles, only very little is
known of the South Polar region. It
seems natural that this should be the
case, when we consider the respective
relative positions of the two points
with regard to the more densely in-
habited portions of the earth. The
one is situated almost in the center of
the land hemisphere ; the other occu-
pies a corresponding position in the
water hemisphere, surrounded by a
waste of wild seas and lying thousands
of miles away from any inhabited
land. So utterly isolated is the South
Pole, so lonely is it in its solitude,
begirt as it is by a vast expanse of
tempestuous ocean, that one would
hardly feel astonishment if it had
failed to attract the curiosity of man-
kind. Such, however, has not been
the case. At a very early date expe-
ditions were sent into the Antarctic
Ocean, and last September the Dundee
Whaling Fleet, consisting of the steam-
ers Balaena, Active, Diana and Polar
Star sailed from England for the pur-
pose of whaling in high southern lati-

This fleet is scientifically equipped
and expectations are entertained that
considerable additions will be made to
our scant knowledge of the South
Polar regions. Scientific instruments
and other necessary equipments have
been supplied by two learned societies
of England, which also gave to the
scientific staff which went with the
fleet instructions for their guidance.
A competent naturalist, an experi-
enced physical observer and a photog-
rapher are of the party, and Mr.
Burn-Murdock, the painter, accom-
panied them, expecting to bring back
with him characteristic paintings of
Antarctic icebergs and scenes. The
fleet will doubtless make a most inter-
esting report. Let us review the
exploring efforts previously made in
that desolate " end of the earth."

Old geographers entertained the
quaint idea that in the Southern Seas
great continents existed as a necessary
condition of terrestrial construction in
order to counterbalance those in the

north and maintain the earth in stable
equilibrium. From time to time search
for these imaginary lands was made.
It is believed that 300 years ago Juan
Fernandez, in prosecuting such a
search, reached New Zealand, and at
the beginning of the seventeenth cen-
tury Pedro Fernandez de Quiros,
while engaged in a similar wild-goose
chase after vast stretches of land,
found a few small islands. Other
mariners boldly sailing into those
mysterious seas made like discoveries
of equal unimportance. Then Captain
Cook penetrated as far into the
Antarctic Circle as ice-floes and ice-
bergs would permit him in an endeavor
to solve the question. But he found
no continent, and only added to the
list of uninhabited islands already
discovered. The geographers were
disgusted that nature should have
neglected to construct an Antarctic
continent, and scratched from off their
maps the great mainland of the South-
ern Seas which had figured so long
on their charts. Succeeding navi-
gators did no better, though one of
them, Captain Weddell, R. N., sailed
as far south as 74° 15' S. in February
1823. Somewhat later whaling expe-
ditions were sent into the Antarctic
waters by Messrs. Enderby of London,
and finally the American and several
European governments began to take
an interest in these regions. In 1839
Lieutenant Wilkes, in command of
the United States' ships, Viyicennes
and Peacock \ pushed south in search of
new lands, and about the same time
Admiral Dumontwas sent in the same
direction by Louis Philippe with the
French corvettes, Astrolabe and Zclee.
Other vessels joined in the search and
parts of the ocean were visited that
had never been explored before. Little
additional information, however, was
gained, and the results were in no
way adequate to the endeavors.

We have now reached the time of
the memorable expedition under the
command of Sir James Ross, which
covered the period of 1839-43, al, d
was undertaken with a view to mak-


ii 4


ing magnetic observations, and for the
purpose of determining the position of
the south magnetic pole.

Captain Ross, who was knighted
on his return from this expedition,
was born in London, April 15th, 1800.
When twelve years of age he entered
the English navy under his uncle,
the Arctic voyager, Sir John Ross,
whom he accompanied on his first
voyage in search of a northwest pas-
sage. He also served under Parry,
gaining much experience in Arctic
voyaging. He was possessed of those
qualities that are necessary for suc-
cess in all great undertakings — a
justly discriminating mind, a proper
appreciation of his position as a com-
mander, the faculty of close and cor-
rect observation, inexhaustible patience
and unflinching courage. Sir Janus
Ross died at Aylesbury, April 3d,

In 1838 the British Association had
suggested an expedition on a scientific
basis to the government, which, re-
sponding to the appeal, caused two
old bomb vessels, the Erebus and
Terror, to be fitted out for the pur-
pose. The command was given to
Captain Ross, with Captain Crozier
as his second in the Terror, and in
September 1 839, the two vessels sailed
from Chatham, and, having touched
at the Cape of Good Hope, reached
Kerguelen Island in May 1840. Here
the expedition remained more than
two months engaged in surveying the
island and making scientific observa-

On New Year's day, 1841, the Ant-
arctic Circle was passed, and Ross
pushed persistently toward the pole in
spite of pack-ice which beset the ves-
sel a few days afterward. On January
10th, they got clear of the ice and on
the 23d were in latitude 74 20' S.,
having thus passed the most southern
latitude reached by Captain Weddell
in 1823. Continuing on his course
Ross arrived at an island in latitude
76 8' S., and landed with extreme
difficult} 7 . He found it inhabited by
vast numbers of penguins, and having

made the usual observations, named it
after Sir John Franklin. How little
he imagined when he paid this appro-
priate tribute of respect to the re-
nowned Arctic explorer that the very
same vessels which he was then in
command of, would, a few years later,
bear Franklin away on his last voyage,
and that no trace or relic of their ice-
ground wrecks would ever be found.

It was a weird and uncanny region
in which these hardy mariners found
themselves — a region of horrors and
deceptions, w r ith its fog-constructed
phantasmagoria of intangible shapes,
its labyrinth of fierce currents and the
awful roaring of wave-struck bergs
and ice-clad rocks ; with its paramount
cold and its lack of human, quadru-
pedal and vegetable life. Ghosts of
islands appear and disappear, and the
phantom form of a mainland comes
and goes, mocking the navigators,
luring them with false hopes and
cheating their eyesight with false im-
pressions. Lieutenant Wilkes was
deceived by the realistic appearance of
these fictitious lands, fabrics of but
mist and air, and even reported the
discovery of a mainland where land
there was none, as was convincingly
proved afterward. Speaking of these
optical illusions, Captain Ross nar-
rates an instance well worth quoting.
He says : "In the evening a remark-
able appearance of land was reported.
During several hours a number of
pointed hills, apparently covered with
snow, were seen assuming an appear-
ance so calculated to deceive the inex-
perienced eye that, had we been
prevented from proceeding farther, it
would doubtless have been asserted
on our return to England, that we had
discovered land in this position. This
appearance was, however, nothing
more than the upper part of a cloud,
marking by a well-defined but irregu-
lar line, the limit to which vapor can
ascend in these latitudes. Below is
vapor in every degree of condensation ;
above, the clear, cold space which
vapor can never attain." So realistic
was this illusion that some of the new


hands on board the
ships could not be per-
suaded th at the ap-
pearance was not land
until they ■ ' had actu-
ally passed over the
place of their baseless
mountains. '

Another cause of
deception is the cap-
sizing of immense ice-
bergs, and the expos-
ure to view of a surface
covered with earth and
stones. Ross saw one
of these phenomena.

He suddenly noticed
an island where three
or four hours previ-
ously a prodigious ice-
berg had been visible,
but which had disap-
peared. The island
was about one hundred
feet high and free from
snow. So perfect an
imitation of land did
it present that the fact
of its being the iceberg
observed was only as-
certained by landing
upon it. The vast mass had rolled
over and shown a new surface covered
with ice-bound boulders; gravel and

To sailing vessels, such as those
with which Ross made his explora-
tions, the sweeping currents and wave-
drift of the immense surging ocean
that surrounds that south polar land
are dangerous in the extreme. On
one occasion the Erebus and
Terror were becalmed and drifted
toward a dense archipelago of huge
icebergs, against which the mighty
swell of the vast and deep ocean beat
with appalling violence. ' ' Every eye
was fixed with the tremendous spec-
tacle, and destruction seemed inevit-
able." So wrote Sir James of that
terrible experience. Drifting to inev-
itable death was enough to fix men's
eyes, as they watched the distance
lessen that separated them from those
Vol. IV— 8


gigantic bergs which remorselessly
hurled back in shattered confusion the
load-groaning waves. For eight hours
this mental agony continued, and still
the stagnant air moved not. The
ships had drifted helplessly with the
current to within some hundred yards
—so few that the number could be ex-
pressed by a single numeral — of the
spot where the ghastly Death-King of
that frigid zone was awaiting them,
when the benumbed air shook off its
torpor and began to stir. Under the
influence of the gentle breeze the ships
were kept off the ice, and as the wind
gradually increased, the commanders
by nightfall had worked their way out
of the dangerous position into the open

On January 27th, the ships came in
sight of a mountain 12,400 feet high,
while to the east of it another mass
rose to the height of 10,900 feet above



sea level. To the former was given
the name of "Erebus," and to the
latter that of ' ' Terror. ' ' Be}^ond them
and to right and left of them the tops
of other mountains could be seen, and
there was no doubt that an extensive
mountain range existed on the newly
discovered land, pointing to the fact
that its area must be of vast dimensions.
At last a mainland had been found !

Mount Erebus was an active vol-
cano and the expedition witnessed its
intermittent eruptions and gazed upon



the fire that blazed from that great
furnace chimney of the earth. It was
a rare sight, that juxtaposition of
(lame and ice, that contrast between
fire and snow and furious contest be-
tween the extremes of heat and cold.
"A volume of dense smoke was pro-
jected at each successive jet with great
force, in a vertical column, to a height
of between 1.500 to 2,000 feet above
the mouth of the crater ; when, con-
densing first at its upper part, it
descended in mist or snow and gradu-
ally dispersed, to be succeeded by
another splendid exhibition of the
same kind in about half an hour after-
wards. # '* * The diameter of the
columns of smoke was between two
and three hundred feet as near as we
could measure it. Whenever the
smoke cleared away, a bright red
flame that filled the mouth of the
crater was clearly perceptible ; and
some of the officers believed they could
see streams of lava pouring down its
sides until lost beneath the snow
which descended from a few hundred
feet below the crater, and projected
its perpendicular, icy cliff several
miles into the ocean."

And now these bold seamen were
buoyant with the hope that they
would be able to effect a landing on
this Antarctic shore, believing that
the icy obstacles could be overcome by
courage and perseverance. Alas for
their aspirations ! The mainland over
which Mounts Erebus and Terror
reared their heads was as safely
guarded against intrusion as the don-
jon of a castle. A perpendicular sea-
wall of ice from 150 feet to 200 feet in
height, flat as a table at the top, and
presenting neither crack nor fissure
for foothold, opposed the explorers
and defied them. Only birds could
reach the summit of that hard, smooth
cliff of glittering crystal. Hoping,
ever hoping to find some gap in this
marvelous ice barrier, Ross sailed east-
ward along it for 450 miles, but found
no break in it ; its seaward face was
ever the same — wrinkleless and
smooth. It was calculated that this
wonderful coating of that polar shore
was 1,000 feet thick, and as there was
a depth of nearly 2,000 feet of water
where the ships coasted along it, it
was conjectured that the ice barrier
was formed upon a ledge of rock, and
that its outer edge projected beyond
its base of support and did not rest
upon the ground. What Titanic ice-
bergs have been
formed therefrom
since Ross and his
ships' companies
gazed on that crystal
sea wall, as the weight
of ponderous masses
has torn parts and
parcels of it loose
from their hold upon
the rocks! We shall
more readily com-
prehend the vast ex-
tent of some of the
tic bergs ~*gs
by being-
aware of
the ex-
istence of • ^?jr-'K*
this pro-





digious ice factory which turns out
icebergs miles in length.

In prosecuting this search for a
landing-place, the vessels reached
latitude 78 S. But the approach of
winter put a stop for the time to fur-
ther examination of the coast. Young
ice was beginning to form, and it was
time to depart. No human being has
ever wintered among the Antarctic ice.
Aided by a strong breeze, Ross forced
his way through and turned his prows
towards Hobart Town. In the sum-
mer of 1841-42, he again steered to
the Great Ice Barrier, and recom-
menced his examination of it, escaping
many imminent dangers. The result
was the same, though on this occasion
he attained a latitude of 78 11' S.,
the highest ever reached before or
since. A third visit was paid to that
desolate land in December, 1842, but
no addition to previous discoveries
was made, and on March nth, 1843,
the expedition recrossed the Antarctic
Circle for the last time and returned
to England, arriving there in Septem-
ber of the same year. With all his
perseverance and strenuous efforts
made under circumstances of great
and constant danger, Ross was unable
to determine the position of the South
Magnetic Pole — one of the main objects
of the expedition. The great conti-

nental ice-cap
proved an insuper-
able barrier.

Since the date of
Ross' expedition,
little additional in-
formation with re-
gard to the Antarc-
tic zone has been
gained. In 1874,
however, the Chal-
lenger, during her
voyage round the
world on a scientific
expedition, cruised
in the Southern seas
and even entered
the Antarctic Cir-
cle, making many
interesting observa-
tions on the formation of South Polar
icebergs, the marine fauna and the
avi-fauna of that region, and on the
summer climate.

Ice was first sighted on February
10th in a latitude corresponding to
that of Christiana in Norway. It was
a berg of the typical kind, a flat-
topped mass covered with snow and
bounded by perpendicular cliffs. It
had probably come from the great
iceberg factory, the barrier that baffled
Ross. As the Challenger steamed
farther and farther south, the icebergs
increased in number. At first those
in sight were counted, but when the
total amounted to from forty to over a
hundred the plan was abandoned.
Imagine what the sight must be with
scores of these great ice islands around,
of different forms and coloring accord-
ing to the length of weathering they
have experienced, and their different
formations and stratification. The
scenic effect is wonderful. There are
icebergs with caves and caverns, with
crevasses and gullies ; there are one-
storied and two-storied bergs ; others
with horizontal platforms and sea-
beaches, classified as bi-tabular ice-
bergs. Some of the more aged exhibit
pinnacles and columns in testimony
of the long weathering process which
they have undergone. In such ancient



specimens the similarity of the effect
of water on iceberg and rock is striking.
" The resemblance in the weathering
of a berg, " writes Mr. Moseley, "by
the action of waves to ttiat undergone
by a rocky coast, under the same cir-
cumstances is complete. Caves, cliffs,
pinnacle-like outliers, and a shore
platform at the base of the cliffs, are
formed in closely similar manner in
each case." As the surf beats on
these iceberg shores, dashing in and
out of the caverns and gullies which
the waves have excavated, the roar
is tremendous and increases the awe
that man must feel as an intruder into
regions hot intended for him.

Then the coloring of these southern
icebergs is magnificent in the extreme.
Their general ground color under
ordinary light is a pale blue tint,
which is embellished with parallel
streaks of the purest cobalt blue, and
bright, polished wash-lines fringed

Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 15 of 120)