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Oudskoi, during my residence there, I am unable to speak with certainty upon this point.
The snows usually commence falling during the latter part of September, continuing and increasing as the season advances, until the middle of winter, when its depth upon a level, is frequently as great as eight or ten feet; and remaining upon the ground until the first of May.
The ice commences to form upon the seaboard in October; and the first formation gradually increases until it reaches the thickness of from twenty to thirty feet, and extends far out to sea, sometimes even, to the distance of four or five hundred miles from the shore.
In this connection it may not be impertinent to state a fact which frequently surprised me, while on board the Condor, and which for a long time, I was unable to explain or account for.
Many times, while lying off and on this coast, I have observed at night-fall, vast fields of floating ice, extending as far as the eye could reach, and completely surrounding tho ship; and yet, by daybreak on the following morning, all this ice would have disappeared, leaving not so much as a single floc or berg where miles upon miles of floating ice had covered the surface of the sea.
The rea ler can well believe that we were not a little puzzled to account for this mysterious circumstance; for, of course, the ship was subject to the influence of changing winds and unseen currents, equally with the bergs and fioes around her; yet, while the ship had remained stationary, the ice had vanished, no one knew whither, or in what manner.
Those of the Condor's crew, however, who were not superstitious enough to believe that the ice had been spirited away by father Neptune or his attendant gods, explained its disappearance, by declaring that it had sunk.
I could scarcely credit this explanation at first, although it seemed the most reasonable that could be given ; but I was soon convinced by ocular demonstration that it was, indeed, the true one.
On one occasion, during our second summer in the Okotsk Sea, all hands were summoned at daybreak to get the ship under weigh. This la bor had scarcely been completed, when our look-out man gave notice of the fact that the ship Josephine, of New Beilford, which lay at anchor within half a mile of us, had
hoisted a blue flag, which signified that she was in need of assistance.
Accordingly we hastily sheeted home our top-sails, put up the helm, squared the yards and run her alongside for the purpose of rendering aid.
As we approached her we perceived that she was badly “ down by the head” – that is to say, that her bows were very deep in the water, as if she was sinking head foremost from some cause which was not yet apparent.
We lowered our boats as quickly as possible, and hastened on board, where we discovered to our astonishment, that she had her starboard anchor down, and that her whole crew, notwithstanding they had employed the heaviest purchases they could bring to bear, could not
heave it up
By the. utmost exertions of both her crew and our own at the windlass and capstan, however, the anchor was at length brought to the surface, deeply imbedded in a cake of ice. The weight of this ice was so great as to bury the ship’s head to the hawseholes in the water; and, as soon as we had succeeded in cutting it free from the anchor, it immediately sunk again ; thus satisfving us of the
fact that ice could sink, and clearing up the mystery which had so long attached itself to the sudden disappearance of the floes and bergs.
I have recorded this incident at this point, because I considered it sufficiently important and remarkable to deserve a passing notice; and because I have never seen a similar fact mentioned by Arctic voyagers. Hoping the reader will pardon the digression, I proceed with my narrative. .
As I have previously intimated, the winter season, in this portion of the world, embraces eight months of the year. The remaining four months are called summer, but during a great part of this season, even, the weather is colder than that of our New England winters, and the warmest part of the summer is not sufficiently long to enable any kind of vegetation to come to perfection; the few products of the soil raised by the natives, being only of a minature size, and of a very inferior quality.
During the three months from December to February inclusive, the sun is visible but two hours in the twenty-four, and the nights, from the brief twilight to the first grey streak of dawn, are upwards of twenty-one hours in