The weather remained fine, and it was quite warm enough. There was not a cloud upon the sky; but, of course, the clear blue air of temperate and torrid zones could not be expected here, and the atmosphere was generally charged with a light mist. What would Cape Bathurst be like in the long winter night of four months when the ice-mountains became fixed and rigid, and the hoarse north wind swept down upon the icebergs in all its fury? None of the party gave a thought to that time now; for the weather was beautiful, the verdant landscape smiled, and the waves sparkled in the sunbeams, whilst the temperature remained warm and pleasant.
A provisional camp, the sledges forming its only material, was arranged for the night on the banks of the lagoon; and towards evening Mrs Barnett, the Lieutenant, Sergeant Long, and even Thomas Black, explored the surrounding district in order to ascertain its resources. It appeared to be in every respect suitable; and Hobson was eager for the next day, that he might determine the exact situations, and find out if it fulfilled the conditions imposed by the Company.
“Well, Lieutenant,” said the astronomer when the examination was over, “this is really a charming spot, such as I should not have imagined could have existed beyond the Arctic Circle.”
“Ah, Mr Black!” cried Hobson, “the finest countries in the world are to be found here, and I am impatient to ascertain our latitude and longitude.”
“Especially the latitude,” said the astronomer, whose eclipse was never out of his thoughts; “and I expect your brave companions are as eager as yourself. Double pay beyond the seventieth parallel!”
“But, Mr Black,” said Mrs Barnett, “do you not yourself take an interest a purely scientific interest, in getting beyond that parallel?”
“Of course, madam, of course I am anxious to get beyond it, but not so terribly eager. According to our calculations, however, made with absolute accuracy, the solar eclipse which I am ordered to watch will only be total to an observer placed beyond the seventieth degree, and on this account I share the Lieutenant’s impatience to determine the position of Cape Bathurst.”
“But I understand, Mr Black,” said Mrs Barnett, “that this solar eclipse will not take place until the 18th July 1860?”
“Yes, madam, on the 18th July 1860.”
“And it is now only the 15th June 1859! So that the phenomenon will not be visible for more than a year!”
“I am quite aware of it, Mrs Barnett,” replied the astronomer; “but if I had not started till next year I should have run a risk of being too late.”
“You would, Mr Black,” said Hobson, “and you did well to start a year beforehand. You are now quite sure not to miss your eclipse. I own that our journey from Fort Reliance has been accomplished under exceptionally favourable circumstances. We have had little fatigue and few delays. To tell you the truth, I did not expect to get to this part of the coast until the middle of August; and if the eclipse had been expected this year, instead of next; you really might have been too late. Moreover, we do not yet know if we are beyond the seventieth parallel.”
“I do not in the least regret the journey I have taken in your company, Lieutenant, and I shall patiently wait until next year for my eclipse. The fair Phœbe, I fancy, is a sufficiently grand lady to be waited for.”
The next day, July 6th, a little after noon, Hobson and the astronomer made their preparations for taking the exact bearings of Cape Bathurst. The sun shone clearly enough for them to take the outlines exactly. At this season of the year, too, it had reached its maximum height above the horizon; and consequently its culmination, on its transit across the meridian, would facilitate the work of the two observers.
Already the night before, and the same morning, by raking different altitudes, and by means of a calculation of right ascensions, the Lieutenant and the astronomer had ascertained the longitude with great accuracy. But it was about the latitude that Hobson was most anxious; for what would the meridian of Cape Bathurst matter to him should it not be situated beyond the seventieth parallel?