Nordenskjöld's Arctic Expedition

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    LETTERS have just come to hand from the Swedish North-east Passage Expedition in the neighbour-flood of Behring Straits. The latest date is February 20, when all was as well as possible. We take the following details from Prof. Nordenskjöld's report, addressed to Mr. Oscar Dickson, of Gothenburg. The Vega and the Lena parted company on August 27 at the mouth of the River Lena, the former shaping her course for the New Siberian Islands. The air was calm, but for the most part overcast; the temperature as high as 4° C, and the sea free from ice. On the 28th Semenoffskj or Stolbovoj, the most western of the New Siberian Islands, was sighted, and on the 3oth Liakhoff's Island, but a landing was not effected on account of the shallowness of the water in its vicinity. On the sist Svjatoi Nos was passed without difficulty, the weather being fine, and the land in the neighbourhood free of snow. The water was slightly salt, and had a temperature rising to 4° C. The weather continued fine until September I, the wind being southerly, and the temperature of the air in the shade 5·6° C. On the night before the second the wind became northerly, and the temperature fell to — 1° C. The following night there was a large fall of snow. Next day the Bear Islands were reached. Tschaun Bay was passed on the night before September 6, and Cape Schelagskoj reached by 4 A.M. The nights now began to be so dark, and the sea so filled with ice, that the Vega had to lieto at night, generally anchored to a large ground ice. Two boats resembling the umiaks of the Eskimo were now seen filled with natives, the first that had been encountered since the expedition left Chabarova at Jugor Schar. They were received in a friendly way, but none of them could speak Russian or any other language intelligible to the Swedes. A boy could, however, count ten in English, showing that the intercourse with American whalers was greater than with Russian merchants. On September 6 and 7 the Vega steamed slowly along in a narrow open and ice-free channel along the coast. On the 8th a landing was effected near a Tchuktch encampment, where the Swedes were received in a very hospitable manner. They found in one tent reindeer flesh boiling in a large pot of cast iron. Another start was made on September 6, but a fog compelled the Swedes to lie-to till the loth. Many excursions were made on land. The strand was formed of sand which, immediately above high water-mark, was covered with luxuriant turf. Farther inland, a range of very high hills was visible, and beyond that, at a considerable distance from the coast, snow-covered mountain-tops. The low land consists of sand and clay beds, evidently raised above the level of the sea very recently. No erratic blocks were to be seen, from the absence of which Nordenskjold concludes that there is not at present to the north of this any such glacial land as Greenland. The rocks here were non-fossiliferous. Few land plants could be collected on account of the advanced season of the year, and in the sea Dr. Kjellman dredged for algae in vain. On land many graves with burned bones were found. On the night before September 10 the sea was covered with a very thick crust of newly-frozen ice, but the Vega continued her course. On the 12th, after passing Irkaipi, or the North Cape, the vessel had to be anchored to a block of ice, where she lay till the 18th, when another advance was made. After lying-to from September 24 to 26, the Vega reached Cape Onman, and on the 27th Koljutschin Bay. The following day the cape to the east of this bay was passed, and the Vega lay-to, anchored to a ground ice, waiting for a favourable change, but no such change took place. Northerly winds heaped greater and greater masses of drift ice along the coast, and soon extinguished all hope of getting free before the summer of this year.

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    Nordenskjöld's Arctic Expedition . Nature 20, 365 (1879) doi:10.1038/020365a0

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