Imatges de pÓgina

men in the sixteenth; and another Vespucius run away with the honours due to a Columbus. There is, however, little to fear on this score. Two expeditions, of two small ships each, are fitting out for northern discoveries and scientific researches; the one, we understand, is to proceed northerly into the polar basin, and to endeavour, by passing close to the pole, to make a direct course to Behring's Strait; the other is to push through Davis's Strait for the north-east coast of America; and, if successful in discovering and doubling the unknown point A., to proceed to the westward, with the view of passing Behring's Strait.

From one or both of these expeditions lively hopes are entertained, that this curious and important problem in geography, which engaged the attention of our early navigators, will be solved; and, if a practicable passage does exist, that it will not much longer remain undiscovered. The character of the several officers who have been appointed, and the men of science who, we understand, are to embark on this grand enterprize, and the means in preparation, afford the strongest presumption, that whatever talent, intrepidity, and perseverance can accomplish will be effected.

Four merchant-vessels have been hired, and rendered as strong as wood and iron can make them. Their names are the Isabella and the Alexander, the Dorothea and the Trent; the first two being intended to proceed up Davis's Strait, under the command of Captain Ross; the other two by the route of the north pole, under Captain Buchan, and all four to make the best of their way to Behring's Strait. The Alexander and the Trent are two brigs, the former commanded by Lieutenant Parry, the latter by Lieutenant Franklyn, with a junior lieutenant to each of the four vessels, and two midshipmen, who have served their time and passed their examinations, one assistant-surgeon, and a purser. To each vessel have also been appointed a master and a mate, well-experienced in the navigation of the Greenland seas and Davis's Strait, who are to act as pilots among the ice. All the men to be employed on this bold and hazardous enterprize are to be volunteers, and both they and the officers are to receive double pay. Every preparation has been made of fresh provisions, wine, spirits, medicine, and warm clothing, in the event of their being obliged to winter in the ice, or on the coast of America.

Captain Ross was long and actively employed in the Baltic, and, having twice wintered there, is well trained to the cold and the ice; he has also been as far to the northward as Cherry, or Bear island in the Greenland seas. Lieutenant Parry, who accompanies him, served for several years on the coast of America, is an excellent navigator, theoretical as well as practical, and has published a valuable treatise, for the use of the young officers in the fleet,


[ocr errors]

on nautical astronomy. Captain Buchan is an active and enterprizing officer, who for many years has been accustomed to the navigation of the icy seas in the neighbourhood of Newfoundland, and received his promotion to the rank of commander for his zeal and good conduct on that station. He also made a land journey, over ice and snow, into the very heart of Newfoundland, in order to obtain an interview with the natives, being the first European who ever ventured among them. Lieutenant Franklyn, who accompanies him as second in this expedition, was brought up under the late Captain Flinders, and is well acquainted with nautical surveying and the use of instruments. The junior lieutenants in each of the brigs are the sons of two eminent artists, and both good draughtsmen, the one the son of the late Mr. Hoppner, who conducted Lord Amherst and his party in the open boats to Batavia, after the wreck of the Alceste; the other of the present Sir William Beechy.

It probably may not strike the reader at first, that the distance from Shetland islands to Behring's Strait, by pursuing the route of Davis's Strait, and supposing a passage along the northern coast of America, on the parallel of 720, is just half as long again as that from the same point on a meridian passing through the pole; such, however, is the case; the former being 1,572 leagues, and the latter only 1,048 leagues. The distance by the polar route, from the mouth of the Thames to Canton, is much less than half of that by the usual track round the Cape of Good Hope, being only 2,598 leagues, while the other is 5,500 leagues,

If an open navigation should be discovered across the polar basin, the passage over the pole, or close to it, will be one of the most interesting events to science that ever occurred. It will be the first time that the problem was practically solved with which the learners of geography are sometimes puzzled-that of going the shortest way between two places, lying east and west of each other, by taking a direction of north and south. The passage of the pole will require the undivided attention of the navigator. On approaching this point, from which the northern coasts of Europe, Asia, and America, and every part of them, will bear south of him, nothing can possibly assist him in determining his course, and keeping on the right meridian of his destined place, but a correct knowledge of the time, and yet no means of ascertaining that time will be afforded him. The only time he can have with any degree of certainty, as long as he remains on or near the pole, must be that of Greenwich, and this he can know only from good chrono

[blocks in formation]

meters-for, from the general hazy state of the atmosphere, and particularly about the horizon, and the sameness in the altitude of the sun at every hour in the four-and-twenty, he must not expect to obtain an approximation even of the apparent time, by observation, and he will have no stars to assist him. All his ideas, respecting the heavens and the reckoning of his time, will be reversed, and the change not gradual, as in proceeding from the east to the west, or the contrary, but instantaneous. The magnetic needle will point to its unknown magnetic pole, or fly round from the point of the bowl in which it is suspended, and that which indicated north will now be south; the east will become the west, and the hour of noon will be that of midnight.

These curious circumstances will probably be considered to mark the passage by the pole as the most interesting of the two, while it will perhaps be found equally easy. We have indeed very little doubt, that if the polar basin should prove to be free from land about the pole, it will also be free of ice. A sea of more than two thousand miles in diameter, of unfathomable depth (which is the case between Greenland and Spitzbergen) and in constant motion, is not likely to be frozen over at any time. But if all endeavours to discover a passage to the Pacific by either route should prove unavailing, it will still be satisfactory to have removed every doubt on this subject by ascertaining the fact. In making the attempt, many objects, interesting and important to science, will present themselves to the observation of those who are engaged in the two expeditions. That which proceeds up Davis's Strait will have an opportunity of adjusting the geography of the north-east coast of America and the west coast of Greenland; and of ascertaining whether the latter he not an island or an archipelago of islands; and much curious information may be expected from both. They will ascertain what is as yet but very imperfectly known-the depth, the temperature, the saltness, and the specific gravity of the seawater in those high latitudes-the velocity of the currents, the state of atmospherical electricity in the arctic regions, and its connexion, at which we have glanced, with the inclination, declination, and intensity of force of the magnetic needle, on which subject alone a collection of facts towards the upper part of Davis's Strait would be worth a voyage of discovery. It has indeed long been suspected, that one of the magnetic poles will be found in this neighbourhood, as in no part of the world have such extraordinary phenomena been observed, or such irregularities in the vibration and the variation of the needle. Captain Muirhead, before quoted, states that, by several good observations, he found the variation in latitude 75° 30' no less than eight points; that is to say, when the sun was on the meridian at midnight the needle pointed to the east. A com


parison of the magnetic influence near the pole with what it has been observed to be on the equator, might lead to important results; and the swinging of a pendulum as near to the pole as can be approached, to compare with the oscillations observed in the Shetland islands and in the southern hemisphere, would be a great point gained for science.

In conclusion, we cannot help thinking, that the problem of a north-west passage and the approach to the pole would have been solved long ago if the Act of the 16th Geo. III. which holds forth such liberal encouragement for the discovery of either had been differently framed, or so far amended as, by a graduated scale, to proportion the reward to the distance discovered; as many whaling vessels, when unsuccessful in the fishery, would then be induced to make the attempt, for the chance of earning a small reward, which they are now deterred from doing, as, in case of failure, after whatever risk, they would be entitled to nothing. It might be well also to new model the custom-house oath, which requires the master and owner of every Greenland ship to swear, that'the master and ship's company shall proceed and use their utmost endeavours to take whales, or other large creatures, living in the and on no other design or view of profit. Under this oath, the encouragement meant to be given by the legislature is a complete nullity; and the attempt of the master of a whaler to avail himself of it must be made at the hazard of his ears.


ART. XII. Panorama d'Angleterre, ou Ephémérides Anglaises politiques et littéraires. PUBLIEES par M. Charles Malo, de l'Athénée des Arts, des Académies de Lyon, de Douai, &c. Tom. I Paris. 1817. pp. 332.


T has been our fortune to introduce to the notice of our readers two couple of travellers, namely, Sir John Carr and Miss Plum tre, and General Pillet and Lady Morgan; to which we believe we may say that the annals of literature cannot add a third. M. Charles Malo, however, pleads strongly to be admitted into this delectable society. To say nothing of our inability to provide a suitable partner for him, we must hesitate to grant him this distinction on his own account-he is, to be sure, as Credulous, as silly, and almost as ignorant as the objects of his emulation; but he has neither the impiety, indecency, nor jacobinism of the latter, nor the absurd and self-complacent vanity of the former pair; and, moreover, though he affects to describe England, it is not very clear that he ever visited it, and it is certain that the work published by him is almost wholly written by others. These circumstances are more than sufficient for our justification, and M. Charles Malo must therefore be con


tent, at present, to stand aside.-But though we cannot admit him into such high company, he really has some little merits of his own which will divert our readers, and make them perhaps lament that, instead of borrowing from bad English publications, he had not trusted to his own original and highly amusing talents for absurdity and misrepresentation.

We would first call the reader's attention to the inimitable naïveté with which he selects, as the motto to his description of England, the two words Nihil Anglicum. As M. Charles Malo appears to be a member of the institution called the Athénée, we must presume that he knows the meaning of these words, and we can therefore only attribute to the amiable candour of an ingenuous mind this early confession, that in his description of England there is "Nothing English!-and this is no accidental admission; for the first lines of his text are equally modest: For ages past,' says he, the English have been writing about France, and the French about England; and the only care of each party seems to be the rivalling the other in dreams, inventions and romances.'-p. 1.—and while he admits that his book is a compilation from these visions, he candidly owns that his endeavours have been to compose a work on England eminently French.'-p. 3.

The eminently-French manner of describing foreign countries is so well known, that it seems somewhat tautological to promise us that style of writing, after having just before prepared us for ' reveries and romances.' M. Charles Malo, however, thinks he never can say enough in proof of his candour, for he adds, that he looks upon this volume as the first stone of a monument which he wishes to erect to the national character of his country.' This noble sentiment may show his impartiality and fitness for the task he undertakes; but as he very earnestly solicits criticism—we would venture to submit to him whether the spot on which he has thought proper to found this national monument is well chosen? and whether it would be perfect good taste to erect a monument to Buonaparte at Waterloo, or a statue of Marshal Davoust in the Exchange of Hamburgh?

We will be however as candid as M. Charles Malo, and frankly admit that this blunder is merely verbal, and that if he had called the great work which he is building, a monument of the inferiority of England to France, it would not have been so liable to criticism: that this is his real intention appears from a circumstance to which we solicit the attention of our readers, namely, that the quarries from which he draws the chief materials for this anti-anglican monument are the opposition newspapers of England. -He, however, does not entirely confine himself to them.-He begins by translating Bishop Burnet's tract addressed to the Elec


« AnteriorContinua »