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EARLY ARCTIC ADVENTURE
[From "Purchas His Pilgrimes," BY WILLIAM BARENTS]
HE ninth of July they entred into Beeren-fort, upon the Road under Williams Iland, and there
they found a white Beare, which they perceiving, presently entred into their Boat, and shot her into the bodie with a Musket, but the Beare shewed most wonderful strength, which almost is not to be found in any beast, for no man ever heard the like to be done by any Lion or cruell beast whatsoever: for notwithstanding that she was shot into the bodie, yet she leapt up, and swamme in the water, the men that were in the Boat rowing after her, cast a Rope about her necke, and by that meanes drew her at the sterne of the Boat, for that not having seene the like Beare before, they thought to have carryed her alive in the ship, and to have shewed her for a strange wonder in Holland; but she used such force, that they were glad that they were rid of her, and contented themselves with her skinne only, for shee made such a noyse, and strove in such sort, that it was admirable, wherewith they let her rest and gave her more scope, with the Rope that they held her by, and so drew her in that sort after them, by that meanes to wearie her: meane-time, William Barents made neerer to her, but the Beare swamme to the Boat, and with her fore-feet got hold of the sterne thereof, which William Barents perceiving, said, she will there rest her selfe, but she had another meaning, for she used such force, that at last she had gotten halfe her body into the Boat, wherewith the men were so abashed, that they ranne into the further end of the Boat, and thought verily to have beene spoyled by her, but by a strange meanes they were delivered from her, for that the Rope that was about her necke, caught hold upon the hooke of the Ruther, whereby the Beare could get no further, but so was held backe, and hanging in that manner, one of the men boldly stept forth from the end of the Scute, and thrust her into the bodie with a half-pike; and therewith shee fell downe into the water, and so they rowed forward with her to the shippe, drawing her after them, till shee was in a manner dead, wherewith they killed her out-right, and having slayed her, brought the skin to Amsterdam.
Upon the same day they woond Southward againe, and sayled South-east two miles betweene the Land and the Ice, and after that from the Ice-point East, and to the Southward sixe miles to the Ilands of Orange; and there they laboured forward betweene the Land and the Ice, with faire still weather, and upon the one and thirtieth of July got to the Ilands of Orange. And there went to one of those Ilands, where they found about two hundred Walrushen, or Sea-horses, lying upon the shoare to bast themselves in the Sunne. This Sea-horse is a wonderfull strong Monster of the Sea, much bigger then an Oxe, which keepes continually in the Seas, having a skin like a Sea-calfe or Seale, with very short hayre, mouthed like a Lion, and many times they lye upon the Ice; they are hardly killed unlesse you strike them just upon the forehead, it hath foure Feet, but no Eares, and commonly it hath one or two young ones at a time. And when the Fisher-men chance to finde them upon a flake of Ice with their young ones, shee casteth her young ones before her into the water, and then takes them in her Armes and so plungeth up and downe with them, and when shee will revenge her-selfe upon the Boates, or make resistance against them, then she casts her young ones from her againe, and with all her force goeth towards the Boate (whereby our men were once in no small danger, for that the Sea-horse had almost stricken her teeth into the sterne of their Boate) thinking to overthrow it, but by meanes of the great crie that the men made, she was afraid, and swomme away againe, and tooke her young ones againe in her armes. They have two teeth sticking out of their mouthes, on each side one, each being about halfe an Ell long, and are esteemed to bee as good as any Ivorie or Elephants teeth, specially in Muscovia, Tartaria, and thereabouts where they are knowne, for they are as white, hard, and even as Ivorie.
The Sea-horses that lay bathing themselves upon the Land, our men supposing that they could not defend themselves being out of the water, went on shoare to assaile them, and fought with them, to get their Teeth that are so rich, but they brake all their Hatchets, Cuttleaxes, and Pikes in pieces, and could not kill one of them, but strucke some of their Teeth out of their mouthes, which they tooke with them: and when they could get nothing against them by fighting, they agreed to goe aboord the Ship, to fetch some of their great Ordnance, to shoot at them therewith; but it began to blow so hard, that it rent the Ice into great pieces, so that they were forced not to doe it, and therewith they found a great white Beare that slept, which they shot into the bodie, but shee ranne away, and entred into the water; the men following her with their Boate, and killed her out-right, and then drew her upon the Ice, and so sticking a halfepike upright, bound her fast unto it, thinking to fetch her when they came back againe, to shoot at the Sea-horses with their Ordnance, but for that it began more and more to blow, and the Ice therewith brake in peeces, they did nothing at all.
The fourth of September, wee hoysed Anchor because of the Ice, and sayled betweene the firme Land and the States Iland, where we lay close by the States Iland at foure and five fathom deepe, and made our Ship fast with a Cable cast on the shoare, and there wee were safe from the course of the Ice, and divers times went on land to get Hares, whereof there were many in that Iland. The sixth of September, some of our men went on shoare upon the firme land to seeke for Stones, which are a kinde of Diamond, whereof there are many also in the States Iland: and while they were seeking the Stones, two of our men lying together in one place, a great leane white Beare came suddenly stealing out, and caught one of them fast by the necke, who not knowing what it was that tooke him by the necke, cryed out and sayd; Who is that that pulls mee so by the necke? wherewith the other that lay not farre from him; lifted up his head to see who it was, and perceiving it to bee a monstrous Beare, cryed out and sayd, Oh Matel it is a Beare, and therewith presently rose up and ranne away. The Beare at the first falling upon the man, bit his head in sunder, and suckt out his blood, wherewith the rest of the men that were on the Land, being about twentie in number, ranne presently thither, either to save the man, or else to drive the Beare from the dead body: and having charged their Pieces and bent their Pikes, set upon her, that still was devouring the man, but perceiving them to come towards her, fiercely and cruelly ranne at them, and got another of them out from the Companie which shee tore in pieces, wherewith all the rest ranne away.
We perceiving out of our Ship and Pinnasse, that our men ranne to the Sea-side to save themselves, with all speed entred into our Boates, and rowed as fast wee could to the shoare to relieve our men. Where being on Land, we beheld the cruell spectacle of our two dead men, that had beene so cruelly killed and torne in pieces by the Beare, wee seeing that, incouraged our men to go backe againe with us, and with Pieces, Curtelaxes, and Halfe-pikes, to set upon the Beare, but they would not all agree thereunto: some of them saying, our men are already dead, and we shall get the Beare well enough, though we oppose not our selves into so open danger, if wee might save our fellowes lives, then wee would make haste, but now we need not make such speed, but take her at an advantage, with most securitie for our selves, for we have to doe with a cruell, fierce, and ravenous Beast. Whereupon three of our men went forward, the Beare still devouring her prey, not once fearing the number of our men, and yet they were thirtie at the least: the three that went forward in that sort, were Cornelius Jacobson, Master of William Barents ship, William Gysen, Pylot of the Pinnasse, and Hans