.......................... To the voyager, whose adventurous inclination has conducted to almost every clime and distant shore, to which the ocean rolls its wave, there is perhaps no scene in all his wide wanderings, that so powerfully arrests his attention, and calls forth those feelings of admiration in so sublime a degree as that produced by his earliest prospect of the polar seas. In approaching these dreary and uninhabitable regions, the chilling influences of the land are sensibly felt, long ere it becomes visible; but when the curtain of mist that enshrouds its glories, discloses the sublime spectacle, all the feebler sensations of the mind are at once lost in the all-absorbing sentiment of delight which pervades his breast.


The vast masses of snow and ice that lie piled over the uneven superficies of the land, and the numerous icebergs that drift through the Southern ocean, and are every where strewed along its surface, are, in a peculiar manner, adapted to create feelings of awe and admiration in the bosom of the beholder, not alone from the majesty of the size, but likewise, by the variety of the forms and everchanging hues that they assume, throughout the different hours of the long-continued light in these high latitudes.


From the shapeless mass of comparatively small dimensions, to that of some miles in extent, these icebergs are not unfrequently seen, elevated to the height of between two and three hundred feet above the ocean's level; they are then swept along with an inconceivable grandeur, borne by the powerful currents, and aided by the almost ceaseless winds, they move steadily onward until they finally become dissolved, and entirely disappear, in the warmer regions much farther to the north.


It is almost impossible to conceive anything more delicately beautiful than the effect produced by these icebergs, when the sky is free from clouds, and the ocean is at rest; it is then there can be traced, among the numerous angles and indentations by which they are impressed, all those mingling gradations of color, from the faintest tinge of emerald green to that of the most intense shades of blue; and when the sky is filled with clouds - which is most generally the case - the scene, though equally as picturesque, exhibits a much severer aspect; these clouds being all over torn into rough and irregular patches, by the powerful winds that here prevail; while the sun, having but a moderate altitude, and almost encircling the heavens but a few degrees above the horizon, pierce with its rays the numerous openings between, and light up both cloud and ice, into a most magnificent glow. These changing lines are again brought to the eve of the spectator, in mild and beautiful reflections, so that, throughout the hours of the long summer day, the entire scene presents the ever-varying aspect of a most gorgeous sunset.


But when seen amid the turbulence of cloud and storm, the scene becomes sternly sublime. The dense masses of heavy vapor that deadens the entire face of the heavens, and roll rapidly along its surface, together with the dashing of the wild waves against the icebergs' slippery sides, sometimes sending the spray far beyond their loftiest tops, where, soon becoming dissipated in clouds of silvery mist, it gradually descends and envelopes the distant view as with a soft transparent veil of light. But it is only when, under these circumstances, these masses of ice are seen through the gloomy twilight of the midnight hours, that they assume a strangely terrific aspect; their huge forms then loom in the hazy atmosphere that surrounds them, and fall upon the vision shadowy and indistinct, like fragmentary, spectres of a disruptured world.


These icebergs at all times derive their origin from the land; being merely detached fragments from the huge glaciers which every where fill the numerous valleys, and cover the hills from the water's edge upward, until they attain their greatest eminence. These glaciers are all formed from the accumulating snows of ages, this being almost the only form that moisture ever assumes in falling in these elevated regions; scarcely a day occurred while we were in the vicinity of these southern lands - even though at mid-summer - did not descend, and water congeal into ice upon our decks.


The powerful winds which prevail in these high latitudes, acting with their usual energy upon such portions of the land as are freely exposed to their sweeping influence, have a direct tendency in the first instance, to drift up and fill the valleys and other depressions with snow, until they become almost even with the adjoining hills; it is then, by the pressure of the enormous weight, that it is speedily condensed into solid ice. During this process it is, that those numerous shrinkage fissures are also produced, that are to be seen traversing the glaciers in almost every possible direction.


In passing along the surfaces of these glaciers, the journey ofttimes becomes one of extreme peril to the incautious traveller, from the circumstance that the fissures are not unfrequently crusted over by a thin and fragile covering of snow, which readily yields to his footstep, and suddenly precipitates him some hundreds of feet below.* It is in this mariner that animals sometimes perish, and when at length discovered, firmly imbeded in the drifting ice, give rise to no small degree of surprise and varied speculation.

*This, but to an unimportant depth, occurred to one of the officers of our ship, and it was only after a considerable time had elapsed, and some exertion on our part, that he was ultimately relieved.

The carcasses of penguins and seals, which in the greatest profusion inhabit the southern lands, were, in several instances, observed in such positions; and it is in this way that the remains of annuals are frequently conveyed to distant shores, and deposited in climes in every way uncongenial to their species.


From the constantly increasing weight of accumulating snows above, these glaciers are silently and almost imperceptibly encroaching on the sea, so as, in many places, to project far over its foaming waves. Sometimes they are seen gradually to approach from opposite directions, and eventually to bridge over some of the narrower straits that in various places divide the land ; in most instances, however, they are observed to encompass the land by a series of precipitous cliffs, which have an extent for miles together, presenting a naked wall or barrier of ice to the sea. Huge masses of these, particularly during the season of summer, are continually breaking off with an astounding report, and after falling into the waves beneath are carried onward, and constitute the vast icebergs of the Southern ocean.


These icebergs, when first detached from the land, are of a rudely tabular form, but by the continued action of the oceanic waters about their bases, penetrating into their fissures, and wearing them away in such a matter as to destroy their equilibrium, they suddenly topple over, and then exhibit all those strange and imitative forms which have so often been described in most glowing terms, by the many voyagers whose good or evil fortunes have hitherto led within their influence.


Embraced within these drifting icebergs, rocky fragments, varying greatly in size, are not unusually to be seen, sometimes rounded into the boulder form, but for the most part angular, and so arranged as to present a dark striped, or partially stratified appearance, strikingly visible from the contrast of the darker hues, with those of the lighter tints of the ice in which they are inclasped. The origin of these last is extremely obvious, and admit of a simple explanation. In many places, isolated masses of the rock that constitute the land, are observed to penetrate and protrude far above the general level of the surrounding snows; portions of these are almost continually falling, from the expansive power of the congealing waters among their fissures: these fragments are thrown upon the indurated surface of the snows, and are then slidden to some considerable distance from whence they were derived; upon these the falling snows soon accumulate to a sufficient depth to retain them in their places, until they become firmly embraced within the mass. When portions of these glaciers are detached, and tumble into the sea, icebergs bearing rocky fragments are then produced. These fragments, like the animal remains, are frequently borne along, and deposited in regions far remote from the parent rock, from whence they were detached.


The largest drifting iceberg that we saw, during a period of three months in their vicinity, was estimated at about two miles in extent, and elevated between two and three hundred feet in the air. Should we take into consideration the specific gravity of ice, which allows about eight parts beneath, to one above the sea, we will be able to form some conception of the vast magnitude of these floating mountains. One of these larger ones was seen drifting along at the rate of two and a half knots an hour, at which speed, on approaching Cornwallis island - one of the South Shetland group - it suddenly became arrested in its course, the anterior portion grounding, and remaining attached, while that which followed, submitting to the powerful impulse of the current, was swept around, describing a complete semicircle ere it again became free. Should this part of the ocean's bottom, at any future time, be elevated into dry land by the active energies so peculiar to volcanic regions, the impressions made by this iceberg would furnish to the world a highly interesting subject for geological speculation. When agitated by the waves, these mountains of ice are frequently rent assunder with terrific explosion, scattering their fragments far and wide over the surrounding surface of the deep. In fine weather too, they are not unusually seen covered with penguins, whose chattering noise is often heard at an incredible distance over the silent sea.