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An Opening Appears: May 24th, 1811

May 24, 2011

By Friday, Scoresby was reflecting on the season so far, and beginning to feel more optimistic about the days to come. A large opening in the ice had been spotted some way off, and when the Resolution made sail, around 20 ships followed:

Our prospect [sic] hitherto of gaining the Northern water or fishing ground have rarely been favourable. They however now brighten a little from the appearance of a strong blink of much water from NE to SE of us and so high as to judge its distance could not be more than 15 or 20 miles … it is an assurance of the above since two Ships mentioned yesterday as being 15 miles Distant to the NEd of us have disappeared and indeed do not come into sight altho’ we have approached the spot to within 8 or 9 miles …

Jackson notes that “blink” was most often seen as an indication of ice, not water, but it seems likely that sailors of Scoresby’s experience could ‘read’ the blink, and be able to tell the state of the sea in the distance. Indeed, Jackson notes that in Account of the Arctic Regions I, Scoresby mentions his father doing exactly that:

Observing by the blink, a field of ice surrounded by open water, at a great distance northward, [my father] immediately stood towards it, though the wind was south, the weather tempestuous, and the intervening ice apparently closely packed. To the astonishment of the seamen of his own, and the masters of some accompanying ships, he, after some hours arduous manoeuvring, gained the edge of the field. His crew immediately began a successful fishery, while the people belonging to the ships they left, had sufficient employment in providing for their own safety. (p. 384)

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