To Mrs. Saville, England
August 5th, 17-
So strange an accident has happened to us that I cannot forbear recording it, although it is
very probable that you will see me before these papers can come into your possession.
Last Monday (July 31st) we were nearly surrounded by ice, which closed in the ship on
all sides, scarcely leaving her the sea-room in which she floated. Our situation was
somewhat dangerous, especially as we were compassed round by a very thick fog. We
accordingly lay to, hoping that some change would take place in the atmosphere and
About two o'clock the mist cleared away, and we beheld, stretched out in every direction,
vast and irregular plains of ice, which seemed to have no end. Some of my comrades
groaned, and my own mind began to grow watchful with anxious thoughts, when a
strange sight suddenly attracted our attention and diverted our solicitude from our own
situation. We perceived a low carriage, fixed on a sledge and drawn by dogs, pass on
towards the north, at the distance of half a mile; a being which had the shape of a man,
but apparently of gigantic stature, sat in the sledge and guided the dogs. We watched the
rapid progress of the traveller with our telescopes until he was lost among the distant
inequalities of the ice. This appearance excited our unqualified wonder. We were, as we
believed, many hundred miles from any land; but this apparition seemed to denote that it
was not, in reality, so distant as we had supposed. Shut in, however, by ice, it was
impossible to follow his track, which we had observed with the greatest attention. About
two hours after this occurrence we heard the ground sea, and before night the ice broke
and freed our ship. We, however, lay to until the morning, fearing to encounter in the
dark those large loose masses which float about after the breaking up of the ice. I profited
of this time to rest for a few hours.
In the morning, however, as soon as it was light, I went upon deck and found all the
sailors busy on one side of the vessel, apparently talking to someone in the sea. It was, in
fact, a sledge, like that we had seen before, which had drifted towards us in the night on a
large fragment of ice. Only one dog remained alive; but there was a human being within
it whom the sailors were persuading to enter the vessel. He was not, as the other traveller
seemed to be, a savage inhabitant of some undiscovered island, but a European. When I
appeared on deck the master said, "Here is our captain, and he will not allow you to
perish on the open sea."
On perceiving me, the stranger addressed me in English, although with a foreign accent.
"Before I come on board your vessel," said he, "will you have the kindness to inform me
whither you are bound?"