Insects were rarely seen in the desert, and only in the neighborhood of water, or in the oases. I observed red and black ants, one large caterpillar, very few flies, many black beetles leaving behind them well-defined tracks as they crawled over the fine-grained sand, a few moths, a bee, a grasshopper, many spiders, a lady-bug (so called), gnats near the sea-coast, and my traveling companion noted fleas. Mosquitoes, so abundant in Cairo were not seen nor heard. Twice large birds sailed high above our heads. This is the total of animal life met with in my four weeks' journey, excepting camels, goats, one lamb (which we ate), one donkey (at Tor), a dozen cats (at the monastery), several Bedouins, two Russian ladies, two German philologists, two Irish theologians, three enterprising Americans, and twenty-nine lazy monks.
|WHALE-CATCHING AT POINT BARROW.|
ALL through the latter part of the winter the seal-hunters, who are out every day tending their nets, along the shore from Cape Smyth to Point Barrow, have been watching and studying the ice. Running along nearly parallel to the shore and about a thousand yards off, is a bar on which the water is not more than two or three fathoms deep. On this the heavy pack-ice, coming in with the autumn gales, usually grounds, piling itself up into a wall of rugged masses of ice, while inshore the sea freezes over smooth and level. Outside of this is the rough pack, broken masses of ice piled up in irregular heaps like the craggy fragments on a frost-riven mountain-top, but interspersed with undulating fields of ice, many seasons old, and thick enough to resist the pressure when the ice-fields come together before the winds and currents. Occasionally, too, the grounding of heavy masses of ice—there are no true icebergs in this part of the Arctic Ocean—affords sheltered spaces where fields of "new ice" can form undisturbed by the movements of the pack.
Through January, February, and March these ice-fields remain motionless, or are only crushed closer together and pressed harder upon the land by the prevailing westerly gales; but in April the pack gradually begins to loosen, and when the long-wished-for east wind blows, cracks open six or seven miles from the shore, extending often for miles, parallel to the land. These cracks or "leads," as they are called, seldom remain the same for many days, but open and close as the wind changes, now spreading clear of all obstructions for hundreds of yards or even for a mile in width, now filled with loose ice, floating with the current.