A marvellous escape.
Nearly eighty years ago, two Moravian missionaries, stationed in Labrador
, at a place called Nain
, set out on a journey in a sledge, over the ice, to one of their settlements further North.
Their sledge was drawn by dogs, and driven by an Esquimaux Indian.--Another sledge followed, in which were other natives who were friends of the missionaries; and among them were a woman and her child.
They had one hundred and fifty miles to go, which they expected to accomplish in about two days, as most of the way was over the frozen sea, and the sledges ran with ease, and the dogs were fresh and in full vigor.
After they had journeyed some, hours, and were a long distance from the shore, upon the clear, glistening ice that covered the ocean, they met a sledge containing some strange Esquimaux Indians
These natives were hastening for the land as rapidly as possible.
They barely stopped a moment, and advised the missionaries to return at once to the shore.
They gave no reasons for their advice; and as the missionaries could see no cause for returning, it was not heeded by them.
The weather was fair; hardly a cloud was seen in the sky; the frozen ocean, as far as the eye could reach, was motionless as though the treacherous waves beneath were chained forever.
Not many moments passed, however, before their driver thought he perceived what was called a ground-swell under the ice. He jumped from his sledge.
Lying down, he placed his ear upon the frozen surface.
He then distinctly heard a hollow grating and roaring noise, that seemed as if ascending from the abyss beneath.
The travelers now quickened the pace of their dogs.
Soon the motion of the sea under the ice was more perceptible.
The drivers turned for the shore, and urged the dogs to their utmost speed.
The ground-swell increased so much that the vast body of ice, upreared by a troubled ocean beneath, heaved fearfully in many places, and rose slowly like gathering waves; the sledges no longer moved swiftly and smoothly along, but could with difficulty be preserved from overturning.
It soon appeared evident that the ice would burst midway between them and the land.
As they neared the coast, the prospect before them was truly terrific; the ice was grinding and breaking into a thousand pieces against the precipices, with a tremendous noise, which, added to the raging of the wind and the snow storms driving about in the air, utterly prevented their hearing or seeing anything distinctly.
It was with the utmost difficulty the terrified dogs could be urged onward amid the rising and falling of the icy sea. The drivers paused a few seconds, in a kind of mute despair; then, seizing the critical moment, when the trembling mass dashed wildly to the level of the coast, they drove their sledges furiously along it, and succeeded in their hazardous attempt.
They had hardly time to look around them after gaining the land, when that part of the ice from which they had just made their escape burst asunder, and the water forced itself in from below.
In an instant the whole frozen mass, in the wildest imaginable ruin, broke loose.
The vast surface as far as the eye could reach, was crumbling, crushing, piling, and tossing itself madly, amidst a clamor utterly indescribable.
The missionaries were overwhelmed with amazement at their marvellous escape; and even the pagan Esquimaux
expressed gratitude to God on account of their deliverance.
After remaining six days in this miserable place, they resolved to return to Nain
There was no way to effect this but one; and their Esquimaux driver ran forward as a kind of pioneer to find the track.
The brethren followed with their sledge.
It was a weary, fearful journey.
They made a last meal of the remainder of their provisions; and by dint of boldness and skill arrived at Nain
, to the great joy of the whole settlement, and especially of their own families, who had been reduced almost to despair of ever beholding them again.
This is but one of the numerous perils and escapes of which the Moravians speak in the simple annals of their mission to Labrador