Stories from the Dundee Year Books of the late 19th and early 20th Century
The steamer Balaena, one of the four Dundee whaling vessels engaged in the Antarctic Whaling Expedition, arrived at Dundee on Tuesday, May 30th. The immediate object of the venture was the search for the true black whale. In this report the enterprise has been a failure. Many whales were seen, but they were not of the species sought — that yielding baleen, the valuable whalebone. .The non-success in this direction has, however, been compensated by a splendid catch of seals of large size, and it is now certain that the shareholders of the Balaena, if they do not receive a dividend, will at least sustain no loss. This is very satisfactory. It would have been unfortunate had the men who ventured their capital on such a project been subjected to severe monetary loss as the result of their enterprise. The voyage of the Balaena was devoid of any outstanding incident. Leaving Dundee on 6th September the vessel had a long and tedious voyage to the Falkland Islands, which were not reached till 8th December. The heat in
was very trying to the crew, who for the most part had been accustomed only to the colder latitudes of the Arctic Seas. The ice, which was made on the 19th December, was found to be no heavier than that of the North, but huge icebergs — one 30 miles long — were frequently passed. The weather was changeable, fogs and gales being frequent. The search for the "right" whale was carried out with the greatest avidity, but although the vessel steamed over a large area the only cetaceans that could be seen were finners, bottle-noses, and hunchbacks. Seeing no prospect of securing black whales, Captain Fairweather, the master of the Balaena, decided to fill his ship with seals, which were abundant in these regions. The animals were of extraordinary size, many being over 12 feet long and broad in proportion. The Balaena soon captured as many as she could carry, the number taken on board being 5300. The Balaena returned to the Falkland Islands on 28th Feb., and after taking on board salt to preserve the skins, she set sail for home on 4th March. The homeward passage was characterised by fine weather and light winds. Passing Dover on Friday, May 26, the Balaena was delayed in the North Sea by strong north-easterly winds, and it was not until Tuesday afternoon that she reached the mouth of the Tay. The vessel was berthed in Camperdown Dock in presence of a large crowd of friends of those on board and of the general public. While the expedition has been almost exclusively a commercial undertaking, an effort has been made, and with a considerable degree of success, to improve the occasion by making as full Scientific Researches as were found possible. Mr W. S. Bruce, of Edinburgh, voluntered to sail as surgeon of the Balsena, and while acting primarily in that capacity he, at the same time, was able to make a Ion? series of researches of a zoological, geological, geographical, and general scientific character. A gratifying feature of the expedition has been that the men have, as a rule, enjoyed excellent health. The result of the Balaena's voyage has, in the opinion of many, by no means settled definitely as to whether the true black whale inhabits the Antarctic Ocean. Several prominent members of the Baleena's crew hold this view, and say that the non-success of the quest of the Dundee ships does not necessarily prove that the black whale is a stranger to these regions.
The vessel, having been reported as passing Dover on Friday evening, was expected to reach Dundee on Sunday night or Monday morning. A strong north-east wind, however, accompanied by a heavy sea, protracted the Balaena's progress, and it was not till two o'clock on Tuesday afternoon that she was sighted. Two special reporters from the Dundee Advertiser and People's Journal staff were in waiting at the mouth of the river, and at the earliest opportunity boarded the whaler, and proceeded with her to Dundee. The first information of the ship's arrival was conveyed to the city by the Advertiser carrier pigeons, birds having been sent off at intervals to the head office from the Buoy of Tay. About half-past twelve the watchers, who were tossing fitfully on the turbulent waters not far from the Fairway Buoy, observed a thin streak of smoke rising against the light grey clouds that hung over the southern horizon. By degrees spars were seen, ;md within an hour thereafter the Balaena was full in sight, her white canvas swelling in the breeze, and bet flags and pennons fluttering gaily aloft. The pilots on board the cutter, on seeing the vessel, proceeded south, and soon after the pilot, and a little later, the Advertiser reporters were on board.
The reporters at once interviewed Captain Fairweather, who met them in the most friendly manner, being evidently delighted to once more see a "weel kent face." In answer to their queries, he made the following interesting statement:—
After an absence of nearly nine months we have again reached the Tay with flying colours, for although unsuccessful in finding the object we had set our hearts upon, we have had the good fortune to return with a full ship, containing the produce of soma 6000 seals, with more oil than our tanks can contain, and with very valuable and large skins filling every spare corner in the ship. Our outward passage was a long and tedious one. Port Stanley was reached on December 8th, where we obtained fresh meat and water, and on December 11th we again beat against head winds towards the ice. The South Shetlands were passed on December 18th, and on the 19th we may fairly be said to have made the ice. Christmas Eve found us within one mile of Ross's position on New Year's Day half a century ago. The sea was of a. brown colour, due to minute gelatinous organisms, and by this time it was certain that, should we fail to meet with the Black Whale we could at least assure ourselves of a full ship of seals. This conjecture has more than proved correct. The ice that we meet in these regions is not heavier than that of the north, but the table-shaped bergs are very different from the more lofty pinnacled bergs of the Straits. Several of the bergs are three and four miles long, and one that we met was fully 30 miles in length, taking us six hours to steam along at the rate of five knots per hour. The weather was never two days alike. Fogs and gales were very frequent, and usually occurred together. We were frequently among great hosts of finners. We also met with the hunchback whale, bottle-noses, and grampuses. There were several different kinds of birds, the chief being cape pigeons, often very numerous; also snowy petrels and giant petrels — the last - named of which followed in our track, devouring the crangs we left on the ice or the stray crang thrown overboard during the making off of the seals.
Which were naturally of greatest interest to as, since it was with them that we were to fill our ship, were of four kinds, two larger and two smaller species. Of the smaller ones, one is the white Antarctic seal, and the other very similar in form, but mottled grey, called by Boss the sea leopard. These were in greatest profusion. The fish seal, similar to the ground seal, one of the larger ones, was rarely met with. It has a dark mottled grey skin, with rather long woolly hair; but its companion, with a head resembling a bear, and attaining the enormous length of 12 feet, was frequently captured. It has a splendid skin,-of a dark, greyish brown colour, mottled with lighter grey, especially on its belly. Among its teeth were four formidable tusks, with which it could do great damage to its opponents; but it, like the rest of the Antarctic seals, does not recognise man as an enemy, and awaits the blow of the "kiokey" or cartridge and discharge of the rifle with perfect composure. By the 14th of February we had a "full ship," and we share the additional honour of having THE FIRST FULL SHIP from the Antarctic. It was a brilliant day, and with pride we hoisted all the bunting available for sailing, and again entered Port Stanley on February 28th. Next day we prepared meeting with head winds as usual, though luckily not very heavy weather, which is so prevalent in these parts. Our homeward passage from the Falklands has been one continual spell of very fine weather, the winds frequently being very light and too often head winds. Meteorological and other observations were made throughout the voyage.
The log of the Balaena, despite its technical character, gives interesting details regarding the voyage. On board the Baleena the utmost expectancy prevailed, increasing as the ice was approached. Meanwhile the harpooneers were getting ready harpoons and lances, while the armourer and his assistants were kept busy in burnishing up and repairing guns and rifles for the work of destruction. As the ship drew near the ice a dense fog closed in, which enveloped ship and ocean in its heavy folds. A breeze, however, sprang up, and on 16th December immense flocks of birds and several schools of finners were observed. On the 17th the first ice—a large berg —was sighted, and on the same day
A seal being killed by one of the crew, On the 24th December the Active and Diana were spoken. Like the Balaena, neither had seen any traces of the main object of their search—the valuable black whale. A couple of days later the' Norwegian whaler Jason hove in sight, and mutual salutations, were exchanged. The Christmas §tad New Year festivities having been got over to the satisfaction of all, sealing was begun in earnest. Day after day the slaughter went on, the daily "kill" ranging from 500 to 150. On January 9th the Polar Star came on the scene. All this time the work of salting was going on, the want of an adequate supply of salt being a cause of much inconvenience. A small supply was obtained from the Jason, which was better provided, and the difficulty was thus tided over. Towards the end of the month a succession of violent gales was encountered. The Balaena sought shelter by dodging under the lee of the immense icebergs, which dotted an Expanse of ocean as wide as the eye could survey. On several occasions the ship was in DANGER OF BEING CRUSHED, but, thanks to her seaworthiness and the skill and coolness of her commander, the storm was weathered without mishap. Following the storm was a week of calm. The crew of the Balaena, warned by the seeming fickleness of the elements in that part of the globe, well knew the necessity of making the most of such an opportunity. Rifle and club were plied industriously, and during the spell of fine weather over 2000 seals were slaughtered. These had scarcely been taken on board when a storm arose which threatened to dash the ship to pieces on an iceberg which lay to leeward. The Balaena, however, steamed in the teeth of the wind to a place of safety, and all anxiety on this score was removed. A new danger threatened. The weight of 'the skins and blubber on the deck burst in the main-hatchway, and as the sea was washing over the vessel she was in IMMINENT DANGER OF FOUNDERING. With a lowering sky, a thermometer below the freezing point, and a furious gale, which set the spray flying over the ship, it was no easy task to make the damage good.
The advisableness of throwing the skins and blubber overboard was considered; but the crew working with a will, and displaying that hardiness characteristic of Dundee whalers, were fortunately able to prevent this expedient being resorted to. Ultimately the weather moderated, and things were put shipshape. On 17th February all hands made ready for sea, and the vessel's head was pointed northwards.
Of the eight boats carried by the Balaena, six were devoted to the work of seal-hunting. The remaining two were retained on board the vessel, and were kept in a condition of readiness in the event of a "commercial whale" being sighted. The method pursued in hunting the seal was identical with that practiced in the northern waters. Six boats left the ship's side in the morning. Each carried six men, and command was taken by the first, second, and third officers and three harpooneers.
The man in charge of the boat was armed with a Henry "Express" rifle, and each of the others was provided with a stout club. Once among the floating ice, the work of slaughtering began. The floating masses were in many instances covered with seals. Unsuspicious of an attack, the animals betrayed no signs of fear on the approach of the ship's boats, and quietly submitted to the landing of the crews. Having secured the boat to the floe, the men provided themselves with their weapons and stepped upon the ice.
The work of execution fell for the most part to the officer armed with the rifle. In many instances a shot from the gun had to be followed by the vigorous application of the clubs. This led our informant to state that the seals met with during the course of the voyage were of a very different kind from those frequenting the Newfoundland coast and Davis Strait. Three distinct varieties were met with, known respectively as sea-lions, sea-leopards, and sea-bears. The last named variety far outnumbered the others, and seemed to be the
of the region. The "lions," however, were the most formidable of those encountered. Measuring, on an average, about 10 or 11 feet in length, and provided with a powerful set of teeth, they were not to be touched with impunity, and were only despatched with considerable difficulty. They had large, round, blue heads, and were black in colour. The "leopards," although averaging in length_ the same as the "lions," were not nearly so ferocious. Their heads were small and neat, and their skins were spotted brown and yellow. This variety was very scarce. The "bears"—a name derived from the similarity of the seal's head to that of Bruin—were much smaller in size, and were still less formidable. The colour of their skins was white, tending to yellow. While the three varieties keep themselves distinct from one another, the hunters on more than one occasion observed a slight mingling of the different species. A day's hunting on the ice resulted in an average catch of 350 seals, the highest number reached by the Balaena's crew during one day being 500. With but slight interruption, caused by changes in the weather, the fishing was continued until 21st February, by which 'time the vessel had on board 5300 seals (of which nearly 4000 were "bears"), yielding 160 tons of oil.
While the slaughter of seals occupied the larger portion of the time of the crew, a more congenial occupation indulged in, when things were alack, was the killing of penguins. The birds were found in great abundance on the drift ice. Sitting calmly in long row? they offered no resistance to the inroads of the men, who were able, by means of a stout stick, to fell them by dozens. The birds were found to be capital food. It may be mentioned that one of those captured weighed no less than 78lbs. Questioned as to whether, after experiencing both, he preferred the Antarctic to the Arctic Seas, our informant promptly replied that he would go twenty times to the North for once to the South.
Mr W. S. Bruce, Edinburgh, who accompanied the expedition, and sailed on board the Balaena, was interviewed by a member of the Advertiser staff. He stated that he volunteered his services as surgeon to the Balaena, and, having a complete medical training, he was accepted in that capacity. While that primarily was his mission, he was able to make continuous observations of a scientific nature—both on the passage out and homewards, and more especially in the Antarctic Seas. Through the kindness of the Meteorological Society and the Royal Geographical Society he was fully equipped with an excellent set of apparatus.
Fortunately he was but seldom called upon to exercise his medical functions, the health of the men throughout being of the most satisfactory inscription. Only one case of serious illness occurred, and that on the passage home. Mr Bruce in the Antarctic Seas was able to secure a great many interesting specimens of birds and of minute marine organisms by means of the tow-netting. These have been preserved, and will be doubtless regarded with much interest by scientists. During the whole way out a complete meteorological record was kept by Mr Bruce. It is interesting to learn that the highest temperature experienced was 84 degrees Fahrenheit, while the lowest was about 21 degrees—the latter point being registered on the second week in February. Mr Bruce, however, hints that his researches were necessarily circumscribed owing to the fact that the expedition, in the firs(( place, was commercial and not scientific.
Mr Bruce spoke about the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands in the highest terms of praise. They are, he said, a mixed people. Many of them are Scotch or of Scottish extraction, but there are Germans, Americans, and other nationalities represented. The main industry of the islands is sheep grazing, all other trades being subservient and in a manner the assistants of this one. Stanley, the principal town, contains about 600 inhabitants.
Mr Bruce related an incident which no doubt will be read by Dundonians who have friends living in that somewhat solitary locality. It appears that several of the inhabitants of Stanley have friends in Dundee who had sent out to them copies of the Dundee Advertiser containing reports of the expedition to the Antarctic regions. Mr Bruce one day, on entering a smithy in which apparently the people are in the habit of gathering for what might be termed village gossip, found the walls decorated with cuttings from the Advertiser, and notably those having reference to the expedition, the arrival of which the Falklanders were waiting with the keenest expectancy. Although cattle and sheep are there in large numbers the grass proper is conspicuous by its absence, in its place the island being covered with a short scrub called diddle-dee. Very few trees could be seen, but here and there were large' peat mosses. At one place he visited he saw an enormous peat slip. The peat had left the slightly-rising ground similar to the manner in which bergs leave the main body of ice, and had partly engulfed a two-storey dwelling-house which stood near the foot of the hill.
In the course of further conversation Mr Bruce was asked in what light he regarded the results of the expedition from a scientific point of view. That, he stated, is a difficult question to reply to right off, so much has yet to be done. I hare, of course; a mass of material to work upon, but this has to be carefully arranged and classified before the exact value of the expedition can be arrived at. Then, regarding the seal skins, are they of high commercial value?
I would not take upon me to fix a value for them; that is a thing I could not at the present time do. I should say, however, that they are of considerable value.
Then, was there any discomfort experienced while passing through the tropics owing to the nature of your cargo?
Not from the cargo. Some discomfort was caused to all on board—and particularly to the men who have been in the habit of visiting Northern latitudes—by the great atmospheric changes. I don't think the crew ever became acclimatised to the hot weather. Many of us were of opinion—and several gave expression to it—that while the ships were passing through warm latitudes the oil would become rancid. Thin has proved a fallacy. In the tropic zone the odour was never strong, and even at the worst it was not at all disagreeable. Mr Bruce added that, taken all over, the expedition was a pleasant one, and although there was no experience of a thrilling and sensational type, day after day produced something new. This was so in the southern regions, especially during the "slaughter period.' when excitement and novelty were the order of the day. Whenever occasion permitted Mr Bruce went among the ice floes with the view of carrying out his scientific work.
A representative of the Advertiser had a short talk with one of the crew of the Balaena, a sturdy and intelligent - looking seaman who, by reason of long experience both in the Newfoundland seal fishing and in the Davis Strait and Greenland seal and whale fishing, was well qualified to form an opinion on the relative merits of the fishing in northern and southern latitudes. Asked, in the first place, whether, as a matter of comfort and enjoyment, he preferred the south to the north, he at once replied in the affirmative. The only drawbacks, he added, were the long voyage and the great heat. The latter was particularly trying. Almost the whole of the men had had experience in the Arctic regions, but this fact was rather a disadvantage than otherwise, for, accustomed as ' they were to make their way gradually into colder climes, the men felt great discomfort as they proceeded south wards and the temperature rose. Leaving Dundee in "bleak September," the crew clad themselves in their thick woollen clothing. To wear this long was impossible, and after the first few weeks at sea the heavy clothing had to be doffed in favour of light dungaree jackets and trousers. From latitude 40 north to latitude 40 south the temperature was uncomfortably high. What made matters worse was that, the men having nothing to do but keep the ship going— which, with the large crew, was an easy matter— time hung heavily.
With regard to the fishing proper, the seaman expressed the decided opinion in favour of the south. All things considered, the voyage to the South Seas from the men's point of view was more enjoyable than a similar trip to the North. The monetary aspect of the question has been equally satisfactory. The wages per mouth were 10s more than on an ordinary whaling voyage, and, the steamer being "full ship," the emoluments will make a large addition to the total increments. It is computed that the earnings of able seamen will amount to about £4 10s per month, making for the nine months' voyage a total of about £40.
Captain Alexander Fairweather, the master of the Balaena, is a typical sailor. In the prime of life, hale and hearty, and with a decided smack of the sea about him, Captain Fairweather has in the expression of his features and in his short and thick set figure, that which indicates grit, energy, and perseverance. A native of Dundee, he has followed the sea as a profession since boyhood. Though now standing on the quarter deck with a reputation as an Arctic navigator second to none, he made his way on board ship some thirty-seven years ago, not over the poop rail, but by the hawse-pipe. When ten years of age he went to sea as cabin-boy in a small coasting vessel, and at sixteen had completed his apprenticeship. The spirit of adventure which characterised him in after life directed his attention to the. Arctic regions, and in the year 1863 he 'joined the steam whaler Tay, and in that vessel made a voyage to the Far North. His experiences on this his first Arctic voyage were such that he did not then feel inclined to repeat the venture, and he accordingly shipped on a voyage to Hong Kong and the East Indies. Returning to Dundee in 1865, he began to turn his attention to obtaining employment on shore, but the hankering after a seafaring life proved too strong for him, and a few months thereafter he sailed in a vessel named the Margaret Littlejohn, then engaged in the East Coast trade. The trials and vicissitudes experienced by
when on board the Tay were not sufficient to dispel the fascination which Arctic navigation and whale hunting had for him, and in 1866 he signed articles as harpooneer on board the Camperdown (steam whaler), of Dundee, then about to proceed to Davis Strait. Returning home he again abandoned the whaling, but still sticking to his profession he went to sea in a ship named the Black Diamond. By close attention to duty and by neglecting no opportunity of self-culture he rose to the position of mate, and in that capacity again joined the whaler Camperdown in 1870. Subsequently he became mate of the whaler Victor, and during a voyage to Davis Strait in this vessel he gained much valuable experience. At this time Mr Benjamin Leigh Smith, the well-known Arctic explorer, was fitting out an expedition for the purpose o£ making scientific observations in the North. In Captain Fairweather, then a young man of twenty-six, Mr Leigh Smith discerned a seaman of enterprise and daring, and one in every way qualified to take command of an Arctic expedition. Till this time Captain Fairweather had never sailed as master, and Mr Leigh Smith paid a high compliment to his talents by appointing him navigator and commander of the steam yacht Diana. The Diana, with Mr Leigh Smith and a number of eminent scientists on board, left this country for the North. After three years' toil on the ice-bound coasts of Spitsbergen, the Diana's crew succeeded in relieving Nordenskiold's expedition. Not only did Captain Fairweather succeed in accomplishing this feat and in attaining a high latitude, but the observations which were made from the ship were of much scientific value, while
Were materially enriched by the data collected by the scientists an board. Mr Leigh Smith's selection was thus justified by the result, and in 1874, when the subject of our sketch returned to his native town, he was appointed master of the Active — his first command as a whaling captain. In the Active he succeeded beyond his expectations, and he returned to Dundee with the bone and blubber of 25 whales on board. For five years he commanded the Active, and in 1879 he went as master of the whaler Our Queen. The story of this voyage is typical of the ups and downs of the whaler's vocation. With sixteen whales on board, and the season well advanced, the ship was caught between two floes, and, being badly crushed, went to the bottom with her entire cargo. In 1880 Captain Fairweather joined the Aurora, The first voyage in that vessel the captain regards with justifiable pride. When the Aurora returned to Dundee in the month of August there were on board 20 whales, yielding 12 tons of bone, which is by far and away the largest catch of modern times. During the three years following Captain Fair-weather commanded the Aurora, and thereafter joined the Thetis.
The one voyage made by him in this vessel was singularly productive—the total catch being 25,000 seals, 165 tons of whale oil, 5 tons of whalebone, and 700 white whales. Despite the large supplies which had come into the market about this time the price of bone had risen to nearly £2000 per ton. In 1884 the Thetis was sold to the American Government, arid Captain Fairweather was transferred to the Terra Nova. For three years he commanded this vessel, and during that time had his full share of luck. Than Captain Fairweather no man now alive has captured more black whale?. So far as he can judge, and it is a subject on which the captain is rather averse to speak, he has brought to Dundee the products of fully 140 black whales since he first assumed command of a whaler. In the Antarctic expedition from which he has just returned, Captain Fairweather has shown all his wonted courage, energy, and resource, and though the primary object of the venture—the search for whalebone—has been unsuccessful, it may safely be assumed that this is no fault of the master of the Balaena. The above particulars of his career were given by Captain Fairweather to a representative of the People's Journal. Speaking of life in the north the Captain says:—"Aye, it's a rough business; but, man, the excitement runs high when you are fishing. Had my share of luck, did you say 1 I have had that. I have been in a few pickles in my time, but when things looked blackest I have found my way out.
I will spin yon a yarn about that, in 1875, when I was master of the Active, we were steaming in Lancaster Sound when the ship began to leak very badly. The water was coming in at the gland at the stern-post, in which the propellor-shaft works. The pumps could scarcely keep her afloat, and every moment we feared she would founder. However, we got into Regent's Inlet, where we met another Dundee whaler, We were lying here when the ice began to pack, and we were both like to be nipped. The boats were provisioned and lowered, and everything was in readiness for abandoning the ship. Fortunately the wind changed, and between the two floes there was a space of only some 30 or 40 feet. The Active thus lay in a dock, and as the tide ebbed and flowed the packs drifted apart and then came together again. Well, when lying in this clear space we killed 13 fish. Not bad work for a fortnight, and lucky too after nearly losing the ship. These fish yielded about seven tons of bone. We then went to Jackson's Inlet and tried to make good the damage in the stern port. We could do nothing with it, and had to go to Holsteinborg, on the west coast of Greenland. When going down Lancaster Sound we got a large fish, and by the time we got cleaned up after killing her, the ship was just about going out below our feet. We had an awful time of it, and how we got to Holsteinborg I don't know. Get there we did, however, and after stopping the leak we went back to the fishing ground. All the time we had been away the other ships had nothing. We got another fish, making a total catch of 16 whales. Yes, I have been lucky, but I have had my bad years like the rest."
The news that the Balaena was in the river soon spread, and in a comparatively short time several hundred people had assembled at the entrance to Camperdown Dock to see her berthed. Amongst the crowd were many who had relatives on board, anxious to welcome their friends back to the city after so long an absence, while many were attracted to the dock out of curiosity to see the vessel which had just returned from practically unknown regions. Conspicuous amongst the enthusiasts was Professor Geddes, of University College, who welcomed back to Scotland Dr Bruce and Mr W. Burn Murdoch, both old residenters in the Professors' Hall in the University, Edinburgh. After getting through the lockway the Balaena crossed the dock, and was speedily berthed at the northeast corner. Again great anxiety was evinced by many members of the crowd to get on board, but the Custom House officers had not yet finished their inspection of the ship, and the police kept them back—a duty which they performed with some difficulty. The Balaena presented a very clean appearance, and the captain and officers seemed to be in excellent health, and as bronzed as if they had been under a tropical sun for many years.
In view of the result of the venture a question which will naturally be asked is—" Has it been proved that the ' right' or Greenland whale—that yielding the baleen of commerce—does not exist in the Antarctic Seas?" Captain Fairweather stated that though the Dundee ships failed to find any trace of the "right" whale, that was by no means equivalent to saying that such did not exist in the waters around the "South Pole. Mr Bruce, whose opinion as a scientist is of value, holds similar views. He holds that it is not improbable that the species referred to by Ross— "the common black kind greatly resembling, but said to be different from, the Greenland whale"—may exist in the Antarctic Seas, and that it may have been overlooked by the Dundee whalers.
On Wednesday a few favoured ones were given permission to descend to the holds of the Balaena, in which were arranged in faultless order the skins which have for long been a problem to the man of business as well as to the man of science. Among those who inspected the skins were Journal representatives. The skins seen were large, well preserved, and, even in their present state, of beautiful colours. Some were of a dark hue, and a few amongst them relieved with grey necks and tops. Others were of a brown colour, the brown near the neck of the skin giving way to delicate tints of mottled grey and pale yellow. A large portion of the skins are those of the white seal, and many of these are also strikingly pretty, the white of the body blending harmoniously with the pale grey of the neck and shoulders. On Thursday the Balaena discharged part of her cargo. An examination is shortly to be made by an expert, and a definite statement will be given on this point. On Thursday a large number of visitors called at the ship, among whom was Mr Benjamin Leigh Smith, London, the well-known Arctic explorer. The Balaena's crew were paid off during the day.
On 9th June the steam whaler Active (Captain Robertson) arrived at Dundee, from her expedition to the Antarctic regions. Captain Robertson, like the other masters of the four vessels - which formed the fleet, has to report non-success with respect to the black species of whale, but he is extremely hopeful and believes that another expedition will result in discovering the habitat of the valued and much sought after cetacean. In his description of the voyage, the master of the Active asserts his belief that by proceeding further south the Dundee ships will reach the real whale. The Active had on board Dr Donald, Edinburgh, who acted as doctor, and at the same time carried out a series of scientific experiments and researches. Captain Robertson, while devoting himself primarily and mainly to the commercial part of the undertaking, availed himself of the opportunities offered for further discoveries, and it will be learned with satisfaction that he has not only discovered new lands, but has happily and appropriately signalised Dundee's enterprise in despatching the Antarctic expedition by naming one of the islands he found " Dundee Island." An inlet which Captain Robertson was the first to reach will be known to future navigators as the " Firth of Tay," while a number of points and headlands in that region now bear the names of Dundee gentlemen, owners of the Active, one promontory in particular having had bestowed on it the designation of Kinnes' Point, after the managing owner of the fleet. On Dundee Island Captain Robertson, as a Peterhead man, was agreeably surprised to discover granite, resembling in every particular the famous granite of his native town. The expedition has been of a pleasant nature notwithstanding the disappointment, and all on board have returned to Dundee in excellent health. Abundance of birds and seals were met, and both the Captain and Dr Donald have brought with them specimens of the most rare. Captain Robertson had further selected specimens of the different seal skins, which he intended to present to the Dundee Museum, but unfortunately portions of the mere delicate membranes spoiled, destroying the value of the skins, and rendering the gift impossible. The Active brings a cargo of 3700 seal skins, many of large size and beauty, and 130 tons of oil.
Leaving Dundee early in September, the Active arrived at the Falkland Islands on 11th December. The ship passed the South Shetlands a week later, where the first icebergs were met. On Christmas Eve Captain Robertson was as far south as he could get. Then the vessel was made fast to a floe, and preparations were made for the capture of the whales. Finner whales of many varieties were seen. After nearly a fortnight's cruising, and no "blacks" being visible, the Active proceeded to the Erebus and Terror Gulf. While near Romel Island Captain Robertson saw a number of whales, and his hopes began to rise as he observed that their movements were similar to those of the Greenland species. An effort to harpoon one was made, and an exciting time followed. Several harpoons were lodged in the huge mammal, but after 14 hours an escape was effected. After this Captain Robertson devoted his attention to the capture of seals, and continued the "slaughter of the innocents", until he had secured a full ship. Then the sails were set, and on the 13th March the Active was homeward bound. At the Falkland Islands the Active took on board a quantity of salt for the purpose of preserving the skins. The voyage opened auspiciously, and during the first 14 days the steamer covered 2200 miles. Light and baffling winds were next experienced, and the Active, being unable to steam owing to want of coal, made slow progress for a time. The whole of the homeward passage was made under sail. The Active was frequently spoken when nearing the British Isles. She passed Stornoway on Tuesday, and on the following day reached Stromness, where a supply of coal was taken on board. The steamer passed Peterhead on Thursday, and reached the mouth of the Tay between five and six o'clock yesterday morning. The Active was first sighted from Dundee about seven o'clock. She steamed slowly up the river, and when the dockgates were opened about nine o'clock she was moored in Victoria Dock. In anticipation of her arrival, a large crowd had assembled on the quay. The majority of the spectators had friends on board, and greetings were freely interchanged.
Captain Robertson, like so many of the successful whaling captains, is a Peterhead man. He is in the prime of life, and the very beau ideal of a whaling captain. After an extensive experience in the southern trade, Captain Robertson made his first trip to the far North in 1879, when he sailed as chief officer of the whaler Jan Mayen. Two years later he became master of the Polar Star, a vessel which he commanded for seven years with conspicuous success. In 1891 he was appointed captain of the Active. Captain Robertson is almost as much at home on the lecture platform as on the quarterdeck. In the past he has been in great request as a lecturer on the sights and wonders "of the Arctic regions. Now the Captain will be more in demand than ever, and no doubt he will have much interesting, and at the same time valuable, information to give regarding the Southern Seas.
Captain Robertson has supplied the following graphic and interesting account of his voyage to the South:—
"The expedition which left Dundee last September to prosecute the whale fishing in the Antarctic regions has returned to Dundee without having seen a single whale of the right kind. But the voyage will not prove a failure altogether, for the ships have all good cargoes of seals. The OBJECT OF THE VOYAGE was to seek and capture the black whale, or a whale similar to the Greenland species. Our hopes of success rested mainly on the report of Sir James Ross, he having seen great numbers of whales similar to the Greenland whale during his voyage to the Antarctic in the year 1842-3. The same region where Ross was cruising in 1843 has been searched by four Dundee whalers, and not one whale resembling the Greenland whale has been seen. As we saw great numbers of finner whales, we are now afraid that Ross and his people mistook them for black whales. It is hard to believe that Ross could have made such a mistake, as he was several voyages to Davis Strait, and had many opportunities of seeing the black whale. That Ross did make a mistake in the report of his voyages is now the unanimous opinion of the four Dundee whalers who for two months have been searching the same region where Ross reported many to exist.
Apart from Boss's report, it must be borne in mind that the ships from Dundee this past season have only touched the border of the great Antarctic region, while a vast and little-known field still lies before them. And we are still of opinion that a whale similar to the Greenland whale exists somewhere in the Antarctic. The Active and the Balaena left the Falkland Islands on the llth December 1892, and both ships passed the South Shetlands on the 18th where we fell in with the first icebergs. The ships had sailing orders to meet in a given latitude and longitude. We pushed our way south, although a thick fog prevailed for some days. On the 23d December the weather cleared, and the Diana, Balaana, and Active were all in sight of each other, seeking their way south among numerous icebergs to the appointed rendezvous. A fine sight it was to see the three steamers threading their way through a long chain of bergs east of Danger Isles. The great masses rose two and three hundred feet out of the water, and were aground in 100 to 150 fathoms water. While the ships passed along the great square sides of the bergs they were dwarfed to mere toys. Only six months had elapsed since the same three ships were cruising in 80 degrees north latitude on the shores of Spitzbergen, and now at the other end of the earth they are seeking pastures new in water never before disturbed by the throb of the screw propeller, no doubt to the great astonishment of the birds and seals, which had never seen the face of man or ship before, unless any of them had been alive at the time Ross's visit, 50 years ago.
Thus, on the night of the 23rd December, did the three Dundee ships meet at the appointed place, within two hours of each other, after traversing the ocean 8000 miles. We were all charmed with the new country, and the prospects before us were very promising. On one side of us there was land; on the other side there was ice, the ocean swell could not reach us, and whatever way the wind blew we had smooth water, so favourable to whaling; and ever since we made the ice we had been preparing for the fishing, and an eager look-out was kept from the ships on our way south, never doubting but that we would come across the whales in due time. On CHRISTMAS EVE we were as 'far south as we could get, and the ships were made fast to a floe ready to kill and out in. The crews visited each other, and the masters had a good old mallie (mallie is a term used by whalers when a few of the masters meet aboard one ship). Our proceedings for the future were talked over, and the prospects speculated on. The weather was beautiful at the time, and everything seemed favourable for a good fishing. Although none of us had yet seen a whale, we considered it would be right to wait and give the fish a chance to come on the ground, as we often have to do in the north. Finner whales of various kinds were seen every day, but we did not go south to catch "finners"—they are plentiful nearer home. The day after Christmas the Norwegian ship "Jason" came on the scene, and the following week was spent by all the ships
over the same ground where Ross was cruising 50 years ago, and reported the sea to be of "a dirty brown colour, and great numbers of the largest sized black whales being on the surface of the water." We found the dirty brown-coloured water right enough, but instead of black whales we saw great numbers of brown "finners." Sir James Ross, says in his report of this part, "that any number of ships might procure a cargo of oil in a short time; but if Sir James had witnessed the job the Active's crew had after tackling one he would have thought otherwise. This whale was of the hunchback kind But it must be remembered that Sir James Ross was not a whaler, and in his time whales were chiefly valued for their blubber; and when he and his crew saw the great bulky animals living on the surface of the water they knew them to be whales, and very likely thought one kind was as good as another. Still, we could not think that Ross would have made such a mistake as to call rizzor-backed "finners" black whales. After cruising about for eight or ten days and seeing nothing but finners, grave
in our minds, and the old whaling hands shook their heads and said "There are no signs of fish here." We missed our old friends the Polar bear and narwhal, which very frequently indicate the presence of whales in the north. On the 2nd January, the Diana and Active agreed to search round the shores of the Erebus and Terror Gulf, so both ships ran inshore with a strong breeze—the Active went round the lee of Rosmel Island, while the Diana went towards the south shore of the gulf. While we were close to Rosmel Island we saw a number of whales behaving in their movements like the Greenland whales. The order was at once given to lower away the boats after any fish that went "tail up" (a habit of the Greenland whale when diving is to throw up its tail). We made an attempt to harpoon one, but as it was blowing hard we had not a good chance. Next day the weather was very fine, and a number of whales were to be seen. At noon one of the
but before another boat could bend on the five lines were gone, and we had to give her the end, as the whalers say. The whale was now loose with 400 fathoms of whale line. We gave chase to try to save our lines, and after some time got other two harpoons fired in, and then another two—five in all—but still it defied all our efforts with rockets to stop its
career. After being fast 14 hours it got away. We managed to save the five lines, but it took away two harpoons. While we were fast in this whale the Diana came in to see what we were doing, but not being favourably impressed with the kind of game we had tackled, soon left us again, and spread the. report among the ships that the Active had tackled a finner, which got away again after John Jack's smithy had been fired into it (meaning harpoons, rockets, and all). On the 7th January, when near the north shore of "Erebus and Terror" we saw what appeared to be a deep inlet, and although our sailing orders were "to run no unnecessary risk," we thought it would be safe enough to risk up here and see where it ended, and have the pleasure of sailing on water never before ploughed by a keel. On the east side of the entrance there was a long low point, the west side of which was marked by a high bluff head.
Here we had a fine view of a "Penguin Rookery." From a few yards from the edge of the water to 200 feet up the steep cliffs sat the penguins in an upright posture like serried ranks of soldiers, and as close as the teeth of a comb, while individual birds could be seen winding their way up to relieve their mates, or coming down after being relieved, as the male and female birds take their turn of sitting on the eggs. It is well known the penguin is a sea bird which cannot fly, as it has flippers instead of wings. They are very swift in the water, and also powerful on their legs, walking in an upright position. We left the penguin rookery, and steamed slowly up the inlet," casting the lead frequently, and finding the water very deep—often no bottom with 80 fathoms line out. This proved to be a sound, about 10 miles long, being N.E. and S.W. magnetic, about 1½ miles in breadth, and resembled a railway cutting, so uniform was it, with a glacier 40 to 50 feet high running all the way on both sides. Being a fine calm day, and a clear sky, the sun was shining with great power,' which made it feel very warm, notwithstanding we were in an ice-house. Not a rock was to be seen all the way through except under the ice foot. On the west side there were three bare bluffs, and on the top of the glacier, some distance away from these bluffs, lay a number of large stones which had fallen from some mountain side as the glacier had passed. These stones greatly resembled a flock of sheep or deer.
There was no sign of vegetation or animal life. A deep silence reigned. Here the solitude of Nature was invaded by man for the first time, and we were gazing on a scene at once grand and sublime. As the ship was carried slowly along on the surface of water smooth as a mirror, every object was reflected. What made this lovely scene more impressive was the stillness being frequently broken by three different sounds.
There was the hurling sound of the avalanche as some great mass of ice was launched out of some valley or deep ravine into the Erebus or Terror Gulf. Then there would come a sharp sound like the report of a cannon caused by a mass of ice falling from the face of the glacier and striking the beach below with a loud thud, which was echoed from the Bides of some distant mountain. The other sound, which resembled that of distant thunder, was produced by masses of ice falling from the glacier into deep water, and reverberating for some time along the glacier would perhaps shake other masses loose. These loud sounds never disturb seals, whales, or birds.
We were near the north end of the "Sound" by seven in the evening, and after the heat of day a thick fog came down, which made us lie for the night, our only beacon being a ground berg. Next morning, when the weather cleared, we found ourselves in a place, which might be called a firth, opening to S.E. and as the Active was the first ship that had ever been there, we took the privilege of calling it the "Firth of Tay, and the "Sound" we had come through we called "Active Sound," and a few of the headlands were named after well-known Dundee gentlemen who own the Active. We were now in the middle of Joinville Island, but as surveying was not our business, our visit had to be short. As the day was fine and clear, we took a cruise round the head and along the north shore of the firth to see if there was any anchorage, if it should ever be required, but we found none. At the head of the Firth of Tay there is a fine deep bay, which we called "Gibson Bay." A glacier, 60 to 80 feet high, runs right round the head of it. The water was 80 and 60 fathoms deep wherever we cast the lead.
On the east side of this bay there were steep basaltic cliffs, rising 500 to 600 feet high, which we named "Cape Alexander." As we steamed east past Gape Alexander we saw another inlet running N.W. one and a half miles, then W. half a mile. Steep, glacier-covered mountains rose from the water's edge, and 300 yards from the ice foot we found no bottom 80 fathoms line out. Not a seal or a bird was seen in this barren inlet. All the shores here were very steep, the glaciers much broken some distance up from the ice foot, showing that those great immense icebergs, so numerous east of these islands, have not their origin there, but must have been launched into the deep from more sloping ground further south. How many seasons' fall of snow it takes to form these great masses 2000 feet thick must be left for others to say, but judging from appearance we think there must be a greater annual fall of snow here than in the north.
On the 11th of January we left the "Firth of Tay," Joinville Island, and sailed south to Seymour Island. The island we had separated from Joinville Island we called "Dundee Island" Near Seymour Island we fell in with the other ships, and heard from the Diana that the Balaena had 2000 seals and the Jason 2500. We now gave up hopes of getting whales, and very reluctantly unrigged our boats and prepared for the sealing, which was prosecuted until a good cargo was secured. During the month of January the weather on the whole was very good. We had some foggy days and showers of snow, but very few gales. The range of the barometer was from 29' 0 to 29' 700— much the same as the North. Twice during January it fell a little below 29' 0. The range of the thermometer during January was from 32 to 40 degrees, and the average temperature during the day was 36 degrees. There was a marked change in the weather during February. Gales and strong breezes, with snow, were frequent; and in the latter part of the month strong frost, .with southerly winds, prevailed, but we continued the sealing up to 21st February. Where we have been cruising during the past season navigation on the whole is much easier and safer than in Greenland or Davis Strait. We had no floes to contend with, and the ice was much lighter, most of it being of only one season's growth. The bergs are the greatest danger in fog or thick snow, but even then the risk is reduced to a minimum by steam vessels. When we think of Ross and Weddel and many more of our countrymen who navigated in these seas with their sailing ships it would be saying little for us if we could not keep our handy steamers in any weather. But of course sailors in these days like to haul the braces and work the sails about, just as passengers in a railway train would like to come out and push the carriages up a hill through snow—as they sometimes had to do in the days of stage-coaches. We can excuse Sir James Ross for naming a group of small islands east of "Joinville Island"
for we would pity the man becalmed in a sailing ship near these islands, where there is a tide running at the rate of two or three knots an hour, Near these islands there are a great number of large icebergs. These are aground, and the pack ice floats past them at a great rate, more especially with a lee going tide during stormy winds. In Davis Strait and the Greenland the drift of the ice in to the south-west; her the drift is to the north-east. At the North Pole the ice drifts against the motion of the earth; at the South Pole, with the motion of the earth. The quantity of ice that drifts from the Antarctic region annually into the South Atlantic must vary, as it does in the north, some seasons more or less than others. This year, after we left latitude 62 degrees south, we saw no icebergs, while ships from Cape Horn, taking a more easterly track, fell in with icebergs in 50 degrees south latitude—700 miles further north. The drift of pack ice from the shores of Graham Land towards the north-east cannot be less than 100 miles per month. The prevailing winds, and the winds which blow strongest, are from south-east to. south-west, just as in the Arctic regions they are from north to east-north-east. All the islands here are of volcanic origin, and the wonderful works of Nature are very profuse. Undoubtedly, few people can see them. To witness the wonders of polar ice and glaciers people need not go so far as Graham Land, for a vast field lies nearer home, on the shores of Spitsbergen and Davis Strait; but to those who have time and means, a visit to Graham Land and Dundee Island would well repay them. Here there is virgin soil enough for the geologist; and, when looking on the wild and majestic scene, the mind cannot but be filled with wonder and awe to see nature so slowly and silently performing her handiworks.
Towards the end of February, as the weather was getting cold and stormy, the crew were glad when we made preparations for our overseas voyage to the Falkland Islands. And as we took our last look of "Dundee Island" we carried northward memories of pleasant days spent on its shores. We passed the South Shetlands on the 27th February, and saw no more ice. We encountered one heavy Cape Horn gale, but a plentiful supply of real seal oil made our gallant old barque ride out like a duck. Not a wave broke near her. We arrived at Port Stanley on 5th March, and after getting salt and other necessaries left for home on the 13th, and a run of 2200 miles was accomplished the first fortnight out. As we drew near the Tropics, we were met by light variable winds, and as our coals were exhausted we had to make the entire passage under sail, and reached the Orkneys in 86 days. The voyage has occupied nine months.
In conversation, Dr Donald, who acted as surgeon on board the Active, stated that the scientific results of the voyage had been highly satisfactory. By the kindness of Captain Robertson facilities were afforded for taking scientific observations which will prove of considerable value. A large number of specimens of birds, mosses, and eggs indigenous to the Antarctic regions have been secured. Seven distinct varieties of penguins were observed, and Dr Donald's collection has been enriched by specimens representative of four of these classes. The other birds are very interesting from the naturalist's point of view, and they are believed to include at least one entirely new species. Several extremely rare snow birds were seen by the Active's crew, but unfortunately none of them could be secured. Skeletons of the different classes of seals have been obtained, and these will form a valuable addition to a scientific museum. Dr Donald said that the most important scientific work lay in the discovery of new land and the strait at Joinville Island- Dr Donald was busily engaged with his "Kodak," and obtained many unique and interesting views of Antarctic scenery.
The Polar Star, Captain James, Davidson, arrived in the Tay early on the morning of 16th June, The vessel had been delayed for ten days by head winds after passing Dungeness. Captain Davidson had little to add to the reports of the other captains. The vessel had about 2000 seals on board, calculated to yield about 50 tons of oil. The Diana, Captain Robert Davidson, the last of the Antarctic Fleet, reached Dundee on 20th June. Her catch was about 4000 seals, expected to render about 140 to 150 tons of oil. The homeward passage of the Diana had been prolonged through the breakdown of her engines just before crossing the Line. The prevailing opinion amongst the officers of the Antarctic Fleet was that though the black whale had not been encountered, the probability is that it may yet be found in these remote Southern regions.