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Freezing Water and a Swimmer: May 10th-12th, 1811

May 10, 2011

On Friday the Resolution, and the other ships nearby, were still beset, though a few ships could be seen underway in the distance. Scoresby again made experiments with water, and the effects of freezing it without air. Water was boiled in a glass vial, and then taken outside, where the vial was stoppered and inverted, to prevent more air coming in. Scoresby made notes of his observations, remarking on the air bubbles trapped in the rapidly-formed ice, before the bottle burst. Had it not broken, Scoresby reveals his world view, and in particular the limitations of his understanding: “… it would have been curious to have examined the air remaining above the Ice. This might shew the quality of the air evolved when water freezes.”

On May 11th, the temperature remained well below freezing, with “Ice particles constantly floating in the air”. There were 20 ships close by, all beset; Scoresby reckoned a further fifteen were out of sight. While bread was being taken from the hold, and the casks in which it had been stored “shaked” or broken up, for storage, a dramatic event took place:

About 4PM our Surgeon either induced by the love of gain of a 5 Shilling bet or the fear of being called a coward stripped off most of his clothes and committed his body to the water alongside the Aimwell swam a few yards and returned amidst the acclamations of the sailors who pronounced hi mad.

That day the air temperature stood quite steady at 9 degrees Fahrenheit, almost -13 Celcius.

On Sunday, small openings appeared in the ice, and whales and narwhals were spotted. “Had a boat on one near the Ship but could not get fast”.

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