Letters From High Latitudes By Lord Dufferin















































































 - LETTERS FROM HIGH LATITUDES


by Lord Dufferin


Being some account of a voyage in 1856 of the schooner yacht Foam - Page 1
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LETTERS FROM HIGH LATITUDES

By Lord Dufferin

Being some account of a voyage in 1856 of the schooner yacht "Foam" to Iceland, Jan Meyen, and Spitzbergen.

By the Marquess of Dufferin Sometime Governor-General of the Dominion of Canada and afterwards Viceroy of India.

LETTER I.

PROTESILAUS STUMBLES ON THE THRESHOLD

Glasgow, Monday, June 2, 1856.

Our start has not been prosperous. Yesterday evening, on passing Carlisle, a telegraphic message was put into my hand, announcing the fact of the "Foam" having been obliged to put into Holyhead, in consequence of the sudden illness of my Master. As the success of our expedition entirely depends on our getting off before the season is further advanced, you can understand how disagreeable it is to have received this check at its very outset. As yet, of course, I know nothing of the nature of the illness with which he has been seized. However, I have ordered the schooner to proceed at once to Oban, and I have sent back the Doctor to Holyhead to overhaul the sick man. It is rather early in the day for him to enter upon the exercise of his functions.

LETTER II.

THE ICELANDER - A MODERN SIR PATRICK SPENS

Greenock, Tuesday, June 3, 1856

I found the Icelander awaiting my arrival here, - pacing up and down the coffee-room like a Polar bear.

At first he was a little shy, and, not having yet had much opportunity of practising his English, it was some time before I could set him perfectly at his ease. He has something so frank and honest in his face and bearing, that I am certain he will turn out a pleasant companion. There being no hatred so intense as that which you feel towards a disagreeable shipmate, this assurance has relieved me of a great anxiety, and I already feel I shall hereafter reckon Sigurdr (pronounced Segurthur), the son of Jonas, among the number of my best friends.

As most educated English people firmly believe the Icelanders to be a "Squawmuck," blubber-eating, seal-skin-clad race, I think it right to tell you that Sigurdr is apparelled in good broadcloth, and all the inconveniences of civilization, his costume culminating in the orthodox chimney-pot of the nineteenth century. He is about twenty-seven, very intelligent-looking, and - all women would think - lovely to behold. A high forehead, straight, delicate features, dark blue eyes, auburn hair and beard, and the complexion of - Lady S - d! His early life was passed in Iceland; but he is now residing at Copenhagen as a law student. Through the introduction of a mutual friend, he has been induced to come with me, and do us the honours of his native land.

"O whar will I get a skeely skipper, To sail this gude ship o' mine?'

Such, alas! has been the burden of my song for these last four-and-twenty hours, as I have sat in the Tontine Tower, drinking the bad port wine, for, after spending a fortune in telegraphic messages to Holyhead, it has been decided that B - cannot come on, and I have been forced to rig up a Glasgow merchant skipper into a jury sailing-master.

Any such arrangement is, at the best, unsatisfactory, but to abandon the cruise is the only alternative. However, considering I had but a few hours to look about me, I have been more fortunate than might have been expected. I have had the luck to stumble on a young fellow, very highly recommended by the Captain of the Port. He returned just a fortnight ago from a trip to Australia, and having since married a wife, is naturally anxious not to lose this opportunity of going to sea again for a few months.

I start to-morrow for Oban, via Inverary, which I wish to show to my Icelander. At Oban I join the schooner, and proceed to Stornaway, in the Hebrides, whither the undomestic Mr. Ebenezer Wyse (a descendant, probably, of some Westland Covenanter) is to follow me by the steamer.

LETTER III.

LOCH GOIL - THE SAGA OF CLAN CAMPBELL

Oban, June 5, 1856

I have seldom enjoyed anything so much as our journey yesterday. Getting clear at last of the smells, smoke, noise, and squalor of Greenock, to plunge into the very heart of the Highland hills, robed as they were in the sunshine of a beautiful summer day, was enough to make one beside oneself with delight, and the Icelander enjoyed it as much as I did. Having crossed the Clyde, alive with innumerable vessels, its waves dancing and sparkling in the sunlight, we suddenly shot into the still and solemn Loch Goil, whose waters, dark with mountain shadows, seemed almost to belong to a different element from that of the yellow, rushing, ship-laden river we had left. In fact, in the space of ten minutes we had got into another world, centuries remote from the steaming, weaving, delving Britain, south of Clyde.

After a sail of about three hours, we reached the head of the loch, and then took coach along the worst mountain road in Europe, towards the country of the world-invading Campbells. A steady pull of three hours more, up a wild bare glen, brought us to the top of the mica-slate ridge which pens up Loch Fyne, on its western side, and disclosed what I have always thought the loveliest scene in Scotland.

Far below at our feet, and stretching away on either hand among the mountains, lay the blue waters of the lake.

On its other side, encompassed by a level belt of pasture-land and corn-fields, the white little town of Inverary glittered like a gem on the sea-shore, while to the right, amid lawns and gardens, and gleaming banks of wood, that hung down into the water, rose the dark towers of the Castle, the whole environed by an amphitheatre of tumbled porphyry hills, beyond whose fir-crowned crags rose the bare blue mountain-tops of Lorn.

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