« EdellinenJatka »
happily falls in with the subject of traps, being the simple mode adopted by oysters for catching foxes; " for that animal, notwithstanding all his cunning, often puts his paw, or even his tongue, in the shell, and then the oyster holds him fast.” We have several instances of this on the coast of Norway. CHAP. 8. Concerning certain Sea-Monsters, or strange and
uncommon Sca-Animals. • O wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful, wonderful ; and yet again most wonderful.' So said our great poet, Shakspeare, once; and so again would he say, had he lived to read this marvellous chapter of Bishop Pontoppidan's. “ Divers,” he observes,“ see strange forms in the deep recesses of the sea, which hardly any other eyes have bebeld;" and could the sea be drained " what an infinite variety of uncommon and amazing sea-monsters would exhibit themselves, which are now entirely unknown." The Bishop, however, I think we shall be enabled to shew, saw, and has described, quite enough to satisfy any reasonable man. He grapples boldly with his subject, and forthwith introduces us to a merman, prefacing the introduction with this very satisfactory logical reasoning :
“ It is well known that there are sea-horses, sea-cows, sea-wolves, sea-hogs, sea-dogs,” &c. and, therefore, why should not several hundred of persons of credit and reputation in the diocese of Bergen, and elsewhere, have seen sea-men and seamaids ?-Nothing can be more reasonable ; aye, and full grown mer-men too, no less “ than 36 feet long," taken in the Adriatic sea, in 1624.—But, as we are aware, that we are addressing some most unwarrantably incredulous readers, a few particulars shall be given to decide the point at once.
One of the best attested instances is, that of a boat's crew falling in with a fine old mer-man off the coast of Norway, "strong-limbed, broad-shouldered, hair short, black, and curly, beard black, and looked as if it had been cut!” He turned his face, and “ stared at the men;" which
the informant, one Peter Gunnersen, a good opportunity of examining him naturally.-Their curiosity being, at length, quite satisfied, fear began to steal across them; and, accordingly, they began to retire; upon which “ the monster blew up his cheeks, (which, by the bye, before were somewhat “meagre and pinched,") and,“ making a roaring noise,” dived and disappeared. John Theodore Jablonsky states, that in India, where it seems they are or were equally common, the natives eat them, “ their flesh being fat as pork ;" with which species of cannibalisin the mer-men are probably acquainted, as it is added they make a lamentable cry when drawn out of the water:” in Norway, however, they are not eaten; on the contrary, they are treated
with great hospitality, taken home by the fishermen, and supplied with milk. But this beverage does not appear to agree with their stomachs ; " for they (the fishermen) tell us, that they roll about their eyes strangely, as if it was out of curiosity or surprise, to see what they had not seen before.” They do not keep them long, seldom above twenty-four hours, superstitiously thinking themselves bound to row out to sea, and put them down in the same place where they found them.”
So much for mer-men ; and evidence, even still stronger, appears in favour of sea-serpents. Indeed, the Bishop remarks, that a Norwegian, himself included, would think it as ridiculous to be asked, whether there were sea-serpents, as
“ whether there be such fish as eel and cod :" and a terrible reptile he is, “ mouth quite black, and very large, eyes of a blue colour, looking like a couple of bright pewter plates, and a long white mane hanging down from the neck to the surface of the water," when he rears himself up, apparently
66 100 fathoms long," dreadfully fierce we must presume, as he sometimes
snaps men from their ship's deck.” The Bishop labours hard to
prove that this animal must be the true Leviathan mentioned by Job and Isaiah; but not having seen one, we decline entering into the controversy.
But, seriously speaking, however disinclined we may be to give implicit credit to all the Bishop's extraordinary details, we think there is a body of fair evidence in favor of the existence of some very large and undescribed species of sea-serpent. We are not fond of relying upon American reports ; but when we recollect the number of corroborating accounts from various parts of the United States, about four or five years ago, all tending to prove the existence of some such animal, we know not how to treat them as altogether fabulous, attested as they are by other respectable witnesses. Thus, in 1808, the remains of a remarkable animal, answering, in some degree, to the description of Pontoppidan, was cast ashore on one of the Orkneys. The Memoirs of the Wernerian Society contain other interesting and similar notices. In Kotzebue's voyage, there is a description of a sea-monster in the neighbourhood of Behring's Straights, closely resembling Pontoppidan's," immensely long, the head resembling a sea-lion, with two disproportionately large eyes, giving it a frightful appearance. In short, so much has been advanced in proof, that we feel inclined to pause ere we doubt, and to suspect that, together with “ sunken wreck” and “ sunless treasures,” the watery kingdon may have more within its depths than man's philosophy doth dream of.
Last on the list, though far from least, it is unanimously affirmed by the Norwegian fishermen, that such an animal as
the kraken does exist.* : In certain situations, where they knew the depth to exceed 80 or 100 fathoms, it often happens that they find only 20 or 30; and from the abundance of fish, they judge “ that the kraken is at the bottom." Should the depth suddenly decrease, they hasten from the spot, and lie upon their oars ; and in a few minutes after, they see the enormous monster come up to the surface of the water, shewing himself sufficiently, though bis whole body does not appear, ,which, in all likelihood, no human eye ever beheld ; its back, or upper part, about an English. mile and a half in circumference, looks, at first, like a number of small islands, surrounded with something that floats and fluctuates like sea-weeds ; at last, several bright points, or horns, appear high and large, as the masts of middling-sized vessels. After the monster has been on the surface of the water a short time, it begins slowly to sink again, causing dangerous eddies and whirlpools.” In 1680, a kraken (perhaps a young and careless one !) came ashore in the parish of Alstahong, stuck fast, “and hung so un. fortunately, that he could not work himself out, but perished and putrified on the spot. The carcase, which was a long while decaying, and filled great part of the narrow channel, made it almost impassable by its intolerable stench.” Such are the leading features of the kraken case; in concluding which, our author says, “ If I was an admirer of uncertain reports and fabulous stories, I might here add much more concerning this and other Norwegian sea-monsters, whose existence I will not take upon me to deny, but do not chuse, by a mixture of uncertain relations, to make such accounts
doubtful, as I myself believe to be true and well attested."
The work concludes with an account of the Norwegian nation, character of people, &c. But having been so much occupied with more extraordinary subjects, than a tolerably straight forward history of men and manners, we shall pass over the closing chapters in very few words; informing our readers merely, that the Norwegians discovered America much about the same time that Madoc and Co. took their departure from Aberffraw, in Anglesey; that there is reason to suppose that the
* Mitton's account of that “ Sea-beast, Leviathan,” is evidently taken from Olaus Magnus, who died 1544. But so far back as the time of Pliny, the existence of some huge marine monster was suspected : “ altior que navium velis diluviem quandam eructans :" and, in a very curious Danish work, called the Kongs Skugg-seo, or Speculum regale, written in the 12th century, (an analysis of which we hope to present to our readers in a future number,) a singular seamonster, called the Hafgufu, is described in terms very much resembling Pontoppidan's account of the kraken.
Norwegians, like the rest of the world, are a deteriorated and dwindled race; in proof of which the tooth of one Starkadi, a hero of former days, is said to have been used for a bell clapper. Finally, that they are, in spite of “ beards, often full of icicles and bosoms filled with snow, warm-hearted excellent fellows, save and excepting a little tendency to be noisy and pugnacious over their cups. Which " quarrelsome spirit” the Chancellor, Jens Bielke, strove to crush, making an order that
officers as soon as dinner was over and before they had drank to excess, which wholesome regulation the Bishop laments was occasionally neutralized by some “ being so wicked as to provide themselves with two;” but these are peccadillos we are unwilling to dwell , upon, and therefore take leave of the good Bishop, and his book, and his Norwegians; earnestly requesting our readers, in consideration of all the three, to remember the old and very true saying, “ Humanum est errare.'
It is rather singular, that a writer, like Pontoppidan, whose great object in life seems to have been the investigation of whatever was interesting or curious in the country, should have omitted mentioning the glaciers, which existed in his own diocese. Our article, we are aware, is long; but we think we shall be .conferring a favour on our readers, by giving a slight sketch of a portion of Norwegian scenery, probably entirely unknown to the Bishop, and which, to the best of our knowledge, had never been visited by an English traveller before the summer of 1821 ; when Mr. Penrhyn, accompanied by another English gentleman, deviated from their route from Christiana to Bergen, to visit the glaciers of Justdal, situated amidst the wildest scenery of the most unfrequented passes of the Norwegian Alps. On the 21st August, they left Leerdalsoven, a village on the Sogue Fiord, sailing in a direction due north, until they reached Roneen, a distance of about twenty-eight miles, a small village situated at the mouth of the Justdal River, which river served as their guide through a succession of the finest mountain scenery, not deserting them until they arrived at the glaciers, from which its source is derived. At Roneen they procured a guide ; and, hiring horses, pursued their route along the banks of the Justdal River, until they reached another village, called Leirmoo, where they slept. As they advanced on the following morning the road grew worse: but the scenery increased in wildness. At the village of Mockmye, they procured fresh horses, and after seven miles further of mountain scenery, still increasing in magnificence, they arrived at the parish church and Rectory of Justdal. The rest of the journey, seven miles further, they performed on foot to Michvaer, a village at the foot of the first glacier, to which it gives
its name, where they slept. On the following day, after visiting the glacier of Michvaer, they rode ten miles to see some of the other principal glaciers of Lodals Kaapa, along roads and path-ways, which might have vied in badness and danger with some of the avenues to the Vetties Giel. At the extremity of the valley of Justdal, their host of Michvaer had established a sort of out-post, where, in a few huts, they found his wife making butter and cheese, from a dairy of nine cows. The river here divided itself into many channels, which were crossed on horseback, the water up to the saddle bow. In front, a mountain rose, closing the valley, from whose sides the various glaciers descended, which, high above the snowy tops of Lodals Kaapa, were lost in the clouds. The total number of glaciers descending from this point of Norwegian Alps, composing part of the extensive chain which divides Eastern fiom Western Norway, is twenty-five. The part of this chain, called Long Fjell, is that between Sogue Fiord and Rowdals Fiord. The height of these mountains, as compared with those of Switzerland, is very insignificant ; that of Lodals Kaapa, from which the glaciers of Justdal descend, being only 6550 German feet above the sea. Yet from their being so much further to the North, and the line of perpetual snow, which in the Swiss Alps is about 7800 feet above the sea, varying here from 5000, its greatest, to 3300, its least elevation, we find here the same phenomena as in Switzerland.
Major Carpelan, an enterprising and scientific Swedish officer, wbo has visited and carefully surveyed the glaciers of Justdal, estimates their extent at from forty to fifty square miles. Of the twenty-five, which descend from Lodals Kaapa, four only descend into Justdal. In these the travellers were struck with one peculiarity, distinguishing them from those of Switzerland ; that, whereas these last have, for many years, been encroaching on the villages, those in the vale of Justdal have been receding : as was evident not only from the testimony of the peasants, but the appearance of rocks, the morēne, or loose stones, which had been brought down by the glaciers, and left at their recession. The first glacier which they attempted to scale, that of Michvaer, was extremely difficult of access, being not only very steep and slippery, but abounding in formidable chasms. They were drawn up by ropes, by the peasants.
The character and appearance of this, and the other glacier they visited, was, that of great waves, more resembling the mer de glace, than the peaked character of those of Boissons and Taconnay, in Switzerland. The surface of the ice was covered with much mud and many large stones, which were constantly forced up through the fissures. After walking about three