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The scientific and geographical knowledge acquired of the south polar regions we owe chiefly to the expedition of Sir James Ross 50 years ago. His journals are still read with deep interest, and his explorations were carried oat in a very different spirit from the commercial voyages of cur day, when the scarcity of whales and seals in the arctic regions compels traders to resort to another hemisphere, hitherto frequented only by American ships. The report of an exploring expedition has been published lately in The Times, in which the writer thus describes the seals and penguins of the south polar regions :

11 The seils are very foolish beasts. The present generation have never seen man, and they survey him open-mouthed and fearful, duriDg which process he is laid low with club or bullet. Sometimes they are so lazy with sleep that a man may dig them in the ribs with the muzzle of his gun, and, wondering what is disturbing their slumbers, they raise their head, which quickly falls pierced with a bullet. There may only be one seal on a piece of ice, which is usually the case with the larger kind ; but the smaller kinds- lie in half dozens and tens, and as many as 47 were seen on one piece. Seldom do any escape — one cartridge means one seal. We came across a fourth seal, a large kind with a small head, small fore flippers, very thiokly blubbered, and a more woolly skin. The last day of our sealing we were among a great host of the largest big-headed seals, and as we were returning to our ship they were moaning loudly. This was said to be a sign that they were about to start upon a long journey ; but was it not rather a sigh of relief when they saw their slaughterers' craft run up her bunting and announce to all that she was a full ship, that her thirst for blood was quenched 1

" Penguins are the strangest creatures ever seen. They are supremely funny as they quack and strut about with their padded feet over the snow, or, coming to a slope, glide swiftly downward toboggan fashion upon their breasts. If one lands on the piece of ice they are resting upon, they approach fearlessly with a threatening, " Quack ! quack I " For their inquisitiveness they too often received tre handle of the club, for it was soon found that their flesh greatly resembled that of the hare, and upon them we had many a tasty and substantial meal. The emperor penguin is very difficult to kill; bewillliveafterhisskull has been most hopelessly smashed ; the best way to put an end to them is to pith them. Six of us one day set cut to capture one alive, and so strong was the bird that live with difficulty kept their hold, arjd, after he was bound with strong cords and nautical knots, he flapped his flippers and released himself.

"The drift ice we came across was not heavier than that of Davis Straits, but the bergs were of very different character, nearly all flat, not pinnacled and not so lotty as those ot ihe north, but of huge length, frequently being four toiler in length, sometimes eight or tea, and ono we mcL with was co less than 30 miles long, taking us &ix hours to steim from end to end at five knots. These are valuable when one can lie under thbir lee in a gale, but when they arc to leeward, form a dangerous lee shore, and more especially bo for sailing bhips,

" One of the doctors had the good fortune to effect a landing in Erebus and Terror Gulf, obtaining specimens of plants, eggp, and rocks.

"The lowest temperature recorded in the ice wa3 + 21'ldeg Fahr., or nearly lldeg of frost ; this was on February 17, but usually it was about + 32deg Fahr., more or less.

" On February 17 we steered for the Falklands, and thencs homeward. Our homeward passage has been one continued spell of fine weather ; the winds were mostly light, and too frequently head winds. The highest temperature recorded was 84 - 4deg Fahr., in latitude ldeg lOmin N., longitude 25deg 21min W., on April 13; for the previous eight days 80deg Fahr. and over are recorded." — Leisure Hour.

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Bibliographic details

THE ANTARCTIC REGIONS., Otago Witness, Issue 1851, 12 October 1893

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THE ANTARCTIC REGIONS. Otago Witness, Issue 1851, 12 October 1893

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