Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/555

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539
SEALING IN THE ANTARCTIC.

SEALING IN THE ANTARCTIC.
By a Member of the Recent British Whaling Expedition.

A LAPSE of nine months has brought back the Antarctic Whaling Expedition. It will be remembered that in September last four ships—the Balæna, the Diana, the Active, and the Polar Star—set out from Dundee to try their fortunes in the south polar seas, since of late the Davis Strait and Greenland fishing has not met with entire success. The expedition was to try to obtain a whale which Sir James Ross described as "greatly resembling and by some said to be identical to the Greenland whale," and was to restrict its researches to that region visited by Ross in his third voyage to the Antarctic in the summer 1842-'43. At the request of the Royal Geographical Society and of the Royal Meteorological Society, it was arranged that the medical officers accompanying the expedition should, under the guidance of the masters and with the assistance of the other officers, make such scientific observations as were compatible with an expedition so purely commercial in character. With this understanding these two societies gave a grant of instruments which Mr. Leigh Smith and others liberally supplemented with other scientific outfit. Naturally, therefore, among scientific circles a certain amount of chance scientific work is being looked for. The expedition has added considerably to our knowledge of the meteorology of the southern end of the globe and has noted geographical and other features. But, on account of the overwhelming commercialism of the expedition, opportunities, which might have been taken advantage of, have been allowed to pass.

Owing greatly to the hurried departure of the expedition, much setting in order of material and seeking out of information regarding these scarcely known parts employed a considerable amount of time on the passage out, and systematic meteorological observations were commenced from the outset; tow netting and other collecting was reserved for latitudes south of 40° south, and for the homeward voyage, for it was deemed unwise to occupy space and make use of preservatives which might be required for material obtained in high southern latitudes. Nevertheless, on the passage out, it was thought advisable on a few occasions to take a cast of the net. For the whole outward passage, with the exception of a few days in the southeast trades, the ships were baffled by head winds, for nearly three weeks we wished our native shores more distant, and for fifteen days the Roaring Forties racked us with southwest gales. We experienced heavy squally weather, with frequent lightning and heavy rain. The maximum temperature of the air was 83° Fahr. on the 23d and