We had several hours on the floe practising ski running, and thus got some welcome exercise. Coal is now the great anxiety we are making terrible inroads on our supply we have come 240 miles since we first entered the pack streams. The sounding to-day gave 1804 fathoms the water bottle didn't work, but temperatures were got at 1300 and bottom.
From 6 fathoms we had the next Cast, 13, and then 20 immediately, as fast as the Man could heave the Lead; from this I did suppose that the West side of the Shoal is pretty steep too, whereas on the other side we had gradual Soundings from 13 to 7 fathoms.
Don Quixote said that even if it reached to the bottomless pit he meant to see where it went to; so they bought about a hundred fathoms of rope, and next day at two in the afternoon they arrived at the cave, the mouth of which is spacious and wide, but full of thorn and wild-fig bushes and brambles and briars, so thick and matted that they completely close it up and cover it over.
In view of the ambiguity in which we lay as to the length of the rope and the height of the precipice and that this gentleman was to climb down from fifty to seventy fathoms on a pitchy night, on a rope entirely free, and with not so much as an infant child to steady it at the bottom, a little backwardness was perhaps excusable. But it was, in our case, more than a little.
Dredging for specimens at various depths was one of the duties during these days. The dredge and several hundred fathoms of wire line made a heavy load, far beyond the unaided strength of the scientists. On the 23rd, for example, we put down a 2 ft. dredge and 650 fathoms of wire.
Is the hawser fitted, and all ready for paying out?" "Yes," answered the mate, "everything is quite ready. I've left about five fathoms of bare end for bending on; and I think you can't do much better than take a turn with it round the mizenmast, under the spider-band." "That is exactly what I thought of doing," said I. "In fact it is about the only suitable place."
"Of course; that is probably what he has in mind. But let me tell you this, Penelope: Macdonald is fathoms deep in love with Francesca, and if she trifles with him she shall know what I think of her!" "And let me tell you this, sir: Francesca is fathoms deep in love with Ronald Macdonald, little as you suspect it, and if he trifles with her he shall know what I think of him!"
The Western Inlet before mentioned, known in the Chart by the Name of Broad Sound, we had now all open. It is at least 9 or 10 Leagues wide at the Entrance, with several Islands laying in and before, and I believe Shoals also, for we had very irregular Soundings, from 10 to 5 and 4 fathoms.
At five degrees North latitude, we took advantage of a calm to draw up water from a depth of five hundred fathoms, by means of a machine invented by the celebrated Russian academician Parrot. We found the temperature five degrees by Reaumur, while that of the water on the surface reached twenty-five degrees.
The 11th they came to a very high island, and about two leagues south from this to one much lower; and the same day sailed over a bank where they had fourteen fathoms on a stoney bottom, about two leagues from the land, and being past this bank could find no bottom.