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Chapter 16

It had been Captain Guy's original intention, after satisfying
himself about the Auroras, to proceed through the Strait of Magellan,
and up along the western coast of Patagonia; but information received
at Tristan d'Acunha induced him to steer to the southward, in the
hope of falling in with some small islands said to lie about the
parallel of 60 degrees S., longitude 41 degrees 20' W. In the event
of his not discovering these lands, he designed, should the season
prove favourable, to push on toward the pole. Accordingly, on the
twelfth of December, we made sail in that direction. On the
eighteenth we found ourselves about the station indicated by Glass,
and cruised for three days in that neighborhood without finding any
traces of the islands he had mentioned. On the twenty-first, the
weather being unusually pleasant, we again made sail to the
southward, with the resolution of penetrating in that course as far
as possible. Before entering upon this portion of my narrative, it
may be as well, for the information of those readers who have paid
little attention to the progress of discovery in these regions, to
give some brief account of the very few attempts at reaching the
southern pole which have hitherto been made.

That of Captain Cook was the first of which we have any distinct
account. In 1772 he sailed to the south in the Resolution,
accompanied by Lieutenant Furneaux in the Adventure. In December he
found himself as far as the fifty-eighth parallel of south latitude,
and in longitude 26 degrees 57' E. Here he met with narrow fields of
ice, about eight or ten inches thick, and running northwest and
southeast. This ice was in large cakes, and usually it was packed so
closely that the vessel had great difficulty in forcing a passage. At
this period Captain Cook supposed, from the vast number of birds to
be seen, and from other indications, that he was in the near vicinity
of land. He kept on to the southward, the weather being exceedingly
cold, until he reached the sixty-fourth parallel, in longitude 38
degrees 14' E.. Here he had mild weather, with gentle breezes, for
five days, the thermometer being at thirty-six. In January, 1773, the
vessels crossed the Antarctic circle, but did not succeed in
penetrating much farther; for upon reaching latitude 67 degrees 15'
they found all farther progress impeded by an immense body of ice,
extending all along the southern horizon as far as the eye could
reach. This ice was of every variety- and some large floes of it,
miles in extent, formed a compact mass, rising eighteen or twenty
feet above the water. It being late in the season, and no hope
entertained of rounding these obstructions, Captain Cook now
reluctantly turned to the northward.

In the November following he renewed his search in the
Antarctic. In latitude 59 degrees 40' he met with a strong current
setting to the southward. In December, when the vessels were in
latitude 67 degrees 31', longitude 142 degrees 54' W., the cold was
excessive, with heavy gales and fog. Here also birds were abundant;
the albatross, the penguin, and the peterel especially. In latitude
70 degrees 23' some large islands of ice were encountered, and
shortly afterward the clouds to the southward were observed to be of
a snowy whiteness, indicating the vicinity of field ice. In latitude
71 degrees 10', longitude 106 degrees 54' W., the navigators were
stopped, as before, by an immense frozen expanse, which filled the
whole area of the southern horizon. The northern edge of this expanse
was ragged and broken, so firmly wedged together as to be utterly
impassible, and extending about a mile to the southward. Behind it
the frozen surface was comparatively smooth for some distance, until
terminated in the extreme background by gigantic ranges of ice
mountains, the one towering above the other. Captain Cook concluded
that this vast field reached the southern pole or was joined to a
continent. Mr. J. N. Reynolds, whose great exertions and perseverance
have at length succeeded in getting set on foot a national
expedition, partly for the purpose of exploring these regions, thus
speaks of the attempt of the Resolution. "We are not surprised that
Captain Cook was unable to go beyond 71 degrees 10', but we are
astonished that he did attain that point on the meridian of 106
degrees 54' west longitude. Palmer's Land lies south of the Shetland,
latitude sixty-four degrees, and tends to the southward and westward
farther than any navigator has yet penetrated. Cook was standing for
this land when his progress was arrested by the ice; which, we
apprehend, must always be the case in that point, and so early in the
season as the sixth of January- and we should not be surprised if a
portion of the icy mountains described was attached to the main body
of Palmer's Land, or to some other portions of land lying farther to
the southward and westward."

In 1803, Captains Kreutzenstern and Lisiausky were dispatched by
Alexander of Russia for the purpose of circumnavigating the globe. In
endeavouring to get south, they made no farther than 59 degrees 58',
in longitude 70 degrees 15' W. They here met with strong currents
setting eastwardly. Whales were abundant, but they saw no ice. In
regard to this voyage, Mr. Reynolds observes that, if Kreutzenstern
had arrived where he did earlier in the season, he must have
encountered ice- it was March when he reached the latitude specified.
The winds, prevailing, as they do, from the southward and westward,
had carried the floes, aided by currents, into that icy region
bounded on the north by Georgia, east by Sandwich Land and the South
Orkneys, and west by the South Shetland islands.

In 1822, Captain James Weddell, of the British navy, with two
very small vessels, penetrated farther to the south than any previous
navigator, and this, too, without encountering extraordinary
difficulties. He states that although he was frequently hemmed in by
ice before reaching the seventy-second parallel, yet, upon attaining
it, not a particle was to be discovered, and that, upon arriving at
the latitude of 74 degrees 15', no fields, and only three islands of
ice were visible. It is somewhat remarkable that, although vast
flocks of birds were seen, and other usual indications of land, and
although, south of the Shetlands, unknown coasts were observed from
the masthead tending southwardly, Weddell discourages the idea of
land existing in the polar regions of the south.

On the 11th of January, 1823, Captain Benjamin Morrell, of the
American schooner Wasp, sailed from Kerguelen's Land with a view of
penetrating as far south as possible. On the first of February he
found himself in latitude 64 degrees 52' S., longitude 118 degrees
27' E. The following passage is extracted from his journal of that
date. "The wind soon freshened to an eleven-knot breeze, and we
embraced this opportunity of making to the west; being however
convinced that the farther we went south beyond latitude sixty-four
degrees, the less ice was to be apprehended, we steered a little to
the southward, until we crossed the Antarctic circle, and were in
latitude 69 degrees 15' E. In this latitude there was no field ice,
and very few ice islands in sight.

Under the date of March fourteenth I find also this entry. The
sea was now entirely free of field ice, and there were not more than
a dozen ice islands in sight. At the same time the temperature of the
air and water was at least thirteen degrees higher (more mild) than
we had ever found it between the parallels of sixty and sixty-two
south. We were now in latitude 70 degrees 14' S., and the temperature
of the air was forty-seven, and that of the water forty-four. In this
situation I found the variation to be 14 degrees 27' easterly, per
azimuth.... I have several times passed within the Antarctic circle,
on different meridians, and have uniformly found the temperature,
both of the air and the water, to become more and more mild the
farther I advanced beyond the sixty-fifth degree of south latitude,
and that the variation decreases in the same proportion. While north
of this latitude, say between sixty and sixty-five south, we
frequently had great difficulty in finding a passage for the vessel
between the immense and almost innumerable ice islands, some of which
were from one to two miles in circumference, and more than five
hundred feet above the surface of the water."

Being nearly destitute of fuel and water, and without proper
instruments, it being also late in the season, Captain Morrell was
now obliged to put back, without attempting any further progress to
the westward, although an entirely open, sea lay before him. He
expresses the opinion that, had not these overruling considerations
obliged him to retreat, he could have penetrated, if not to the pole
itself, at least to the eighty-fifth parallel. I have given his ideas
respecting these matters somewhat at length, that the reader may have
an opportunity of seeing how far they were borne out by my own
subsequent experience.

In 1831, Captain Briscoe, in the employ of the Messieurs
Enderby, whale-ship owners of London, sailed in the brig Lively for
the South Seas, accompanied by the cutter Tula. On the twenty-eighth
of February, being in latitude 66 degrees 30' S., longitude 47
degrees 31' E., he descried land, and "clearly discovered through the
snow the black peaks of a range of mountains running E. S. E." He
remained in this neighbourhood during the whole of the following
month, but was unable to approach the coast nearer than within ten
leagues, owing to the boisterous state of the weather. Finding it
impossible to make further discovery during this season, he returned
northward to winter in Van Diemen's Land.

In the beginning of 1832 he again proceeded southwardly, and on
the fourth of February was seen to the southeast in latitude 67
degrees 15' longitude 69 degrees 29' W. This was soon found to be an
island near the headland of the country he had first discovered. On
the twenty-first of the month he succeeded in landing on the latter,
and took possession of it in the name of William IV, calling it
Adelaide's Island, in honour of the English queen. These particulars
being made known to the Royal Geographical Society of London, the
conclusion was drawn by that body "that there is a continuous tract
of land extending from 47 degrees 30' E. to 69 degrees 29' W.
longitude, running the parallel of from sixty-six to sixty-seven
degrees south latitude." In respect to this conclusion Mr. Reynolds
observes: "In the correctness of it we by no means concur; nor do the
discoveries of Briscoe warrant any such indifference. It was within
these limits that Weddel proceeded south on a meridian to the east of
Georgia, Sandwich Land, and the South Orkney and Shetland islands."
My own experience will be found to testify most directly to the
falsity of the conclusion arrived at by the society.

These are the principal attempts which have been made at
penetrating to a high southern latitude, and it will now be seen that
there remained, previous to the voyage of the Jane, nearly three
hundred degrees of longitude in which the Antarctic circle had not
been crossed at all. Of course a wide field lay before us for
discovery, and it was with feelings of most intense interest that I
heard Captain Guy express his resolution of pushing boldly to the
southward.

Edgar Allan Poe

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