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A short time served to dispel these fancies; for we discovered, on running close to our mysterious vessel, that we had been actually chasing a rock — not a ship of oak and iron, but a solid block of granite, growing as it were out of the sea, at a greater distance from the main land, than, I believe, any other island, or islet, or rock of the same diminutive size, is to be found in the world. This mere speck on the surface of the waters — for it seems to float on the sea - is only seventy feet high, and not more than a hundred yards in circumference. The smallest point of a pencil could scarcely give it a place on any map which should not exaggerate its proportion to the rest of the islands in that stormy ocean.
It lies at the distance of no fewer than one hundred and eighty-four miles very nearly due west of St. Kilda, the remotest part of the Hebrides, two hundred and ninety from the nearest part of the main coast of Scotland, and two hundred and sixty from the north of Ireland. Its name is Rockall, and is well known to those Baltic traders which go north about. The stone of which this curious peak is composed is a dark-colored granite; but the top being covered with a coating as white as snow, from having been for ages the resting-place of myriads of sea-fowl, it is constantly mistaken for a vessel under all sail. We were deceived by it several times during the same cruise, even after we had been put on our guard, and knew its place well. I remember
boarding three vessels in one day, each of which, in reckonsing the number of vessels in sight, counted Rockall as one, without detecting their mistake till I pointed their glasses to the spot.
As we had nothing better on our hands, it was resolved to make an exploring expedition to visit this little islet. Two boats were accordingly manned for the purpose ; and while the ship stood down to the leeward of it, the artists prepared their sketch-books, and the geologists their hammers, for a grand scientific field-day.
When we left the ship, the sea appeared so unusually smooth, that we anticipated no difficulty in landing ; but on reaching the spot, we found a swell rising and falling many feet, which made it exceedingly troublesome to accomplish our purpose. One side of the rock was perpendicular, and smooth as a wall. The others, though steep and slippery, were sufficiently varied in their surface to admit of our crawling up when once out of the boat.
But it required no small confidence in our footing, and a dash of that kind of faith which carries a hunter over a fivebarred gate, to render the leap at all secure. A false step, or a faltering carriage, after the spring was resolved on, might have sent the explorer to investigate the secrets of the deep, in those fathomless regions where the roots of this mysterious rock connect it with the solid earth. In time, however, we all got up, hammers, sketch-books, and chronometers inclusive.
As it was considered a point of some moment to determine not only the position, but the size, of the rock by actual observations made upon it, all hands were set busily at work, - some to chip off specimens, others to measure the girt by means of a cord, — while one of the boats was sent to take soundings in those directions where the bottom could be reached.
After we had been employed for some time in this manner, we observed a' current sweeping past us at a considerable rate, and rather wondered that the ship, which was fast drifting away from us, did not fill and make a stretch, so as to preserve her distance. But as the day was quite clear, we cared less about this addition to the pull, and went on with our operations. I forget exactly at what hour a slight trace of haze first came across the field of view. This soon thickened into a fog, which felt like a drizzle, and put some awkward apprehensions into our heads. It was immediately decided to get into the boats and return to the Endymion; for, by this time, we had finished all our real work, and were only amusing ourselves by scrambling about the rocks.
The swell had silently increased in the interval to such a height, that the operation of returning to the boats was rendered twice as difficult as that of disembarking; and, what was a great deal worse, occupied twice as much time. It required the greater part of half an hour to tumble our whole party back again. This proceeding, difficult at any season, I suppose, was now reduced to a sort of somerset or flying leap; for the adventurer, whose turn it was to spring, had to dash off the rock towards the boat, trusting more to the chance of being caught by his companions, than to any skill of his own. Some of our Dutch-built gentry came floundering amongst the thwarts and oars with such a crash, that we half expected they would make a clear breach through the boat's bottom.
As none of these minor accidents occurred, we pushed off, with our complement entire, towards the ship; but, to our astonishment and dismay, no Endymion could now be seen. Some said, “Only a minute ago she was there !” others asserted, as positively, that they had seen her in a totally different direction. In short, no two of us agreed as to where the frigate had last been seen, though all, unhappily, were of one mind as to the disagreeable fact of her being now invisible. She had evidently drifted off to a considerable distance; and as the first thickening of the air had destroyed its transparency, we could see nothing in the slightest degree even like what is called the loom of a vessel. The horizon was visible — indistinctly, indeed; but it was certainly not the same horizon along which we had seen the ship sailing but half an hour before. The atmosphere had something of that troubled look which is given to a glass of water by dropping a little milk into it; so that, although there was no fog as yet, properly so called, there was quite enough of moisture to serve the unpleasant purpose of hiding the object of our search, and we remained quite at a
loss what to do. We rowed to some distance from the rock, supposing it possible that some condensation of vapor, incident to the spot, might have cast a veil over our eyes. But nothing was to be seen all around.
EXERCISES IN ARTICULATION.
2:— maze, blaze, as, has, is, was, ways, views, seas, caves,
moves, oaths, breathes, domes, pains, bars, plagues.
Same Subject, concluded. Basil Hall. Ir then occurred to some of our philosophers that as dense air, by its very definition, (as they gravely put it,) is heavier than light air, it might so happen that the humid vapors had settled down upon the surface of the sea, and that, in fact, we were groping about in a shallow stream of untransparent matter. The top of the rock, which was seventy feet higher, it was thought, might be in the clear region, and the ship's mast heads, if not her hull, be visible from thence. There was a sort of pedantic plausibility about the technology of these young savans, which induced the commanding officer of the party — a bit of a dabbler himself in these scientific mysteries — to decide upon trying the experiment. At all events, he thought it might amuse and occupy the party. So one of the men was landed, the most alert of our number, who skipped up the rock like a goat.
All eyes were now turned on our look-out man, who no sooner reached the summit, than he was asked what he saw, with an impatience that betrayed more anxiety on the part of the officers than they probably wished should be perceived by the boats' crews.
“ I can see nothing all round," cried the man, “except something thereabouts !” — pointing with his hand.
“What does it look like?” “I am afraid, sir, it is a fog bank coming down upon us.” And so it proved.
The experienced eye of the sailor, who in his youth had been a fisherman on the Banks of Newfoundland, detected a strip, or extended cloud, hanging along the verge of the horizon, like the first appearance of a low coast. This gradually swept down to leeward, and at length enveloped rock, boats, and all, in a mantle of fog, so dense that we could not see ten yards in any direction.
Although our predicament may now be supposed as hopeless as need be, it was curious to observe the ebbs and flows in human thought as circumstances changed. Half an hour before, we had been provoked at our folly in not having left the rock sooner; but it was now a matter of rejoicing that we possessed such a fixed point to stick by, in place of throwing ourselves adrift altogether. We reckoned 'with certainty upon the frigate's managing, sooner or later, to regain the rock; and as that was the only mark at which she could aim, it was evidently the best for us to keep near.
We had been cruising for some time off the north of Ireland, during which we observed that these fogs sometimes lasted a couple of days, or even longer; and as we had not a drop of water in the boats, nor a morsel of provisions, the most unpleasant forebodings began to beset us. The wind was gradually rising, and the waves, when driven against the rock, were divided into two parts, which, after sweeping round the sides, met again to leeward, near the spot where we lay, and dashed themselves into such a bubble of a sea, that the boats were pitched about like bits of corks in a millstream. Their motion was disagreeable enough; but our apprehension was, that we should be dislodged altogether from our place of refuge ; while the gulls and sea-mews, as if in contempt of our helpless condition, or offended at our in