[Frontispiece: "The brig was tossed about like a child's toy."—Page 134.]
THE VOYAGES AND ADVENTURES OF CAPTAIN HATTERAS.
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF JULES VERNE.
WITH TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY ILLUSTRATIONS BY RIOU.
BOSTON: JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY, LATE TICKNOR & FIELDS, AND FIELDS, OSGOOD, & CO. 1876.
COPYRIGHT, 1874. BY JAMES R. OSGOOD & CO.
UNIVERSITY PRESS: WELCH, BIGELOW, & CO., CAMBRIDGE.
PART I. THE ENGLISH AT THE NORTH POLE.
CHAPTER PAGE I. THE FORWARD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
II. AN UNEXPECTED LETTER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
III. DR. CLAWBONNY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
IV. THE DOG-CAPTAIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
V. AT SEA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
VI. THE GREAT POLAR CURRENT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
VII. THE ENTRANCE OF DAVIS STRAIT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
VIII. THE TALK OF THE CREW . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
IX. ANOTHER LETTER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
X. DANGEROUS SAILING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
XI. THE DEVIL'S THUMB . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78
XII. CAPTAIN HATTERAS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86
XIII. THE CAPTAIN'S PLANS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
XIV. THE EXPEDITIONS IN SEARCH OF FRANKLIN . . . . . . . . . . 102
XV. THE FORWARD DRIVEN SOUTHWARD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109
XVI. THE MAGNETIC POLE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
XVII. THE FATE OF SIR JOHN FRANKLIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
XVIII. THE WAY NORTHWARD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129
XIX. A WHALE IN SIGHT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134
XX. BEECHEY ISLAND . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
XXI. THE DEATH OF BELLOT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147
XXII. THE FIRST SIGNS OF MUTINY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155
XXIII. ATTACKED BY THE ICE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161
XXIV. PREPARATIONS FOR WINTERING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169
XXV. ONE OF JAMES ROSS'S FOXES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176
XXVI. THE LAST PIECE OF COAL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185
XXVII. THE GREAT COLD AT CHRISTMAS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
XXVIII. PREPARATIONS FOR DEPARTURE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 198
XXIX. ACROSS THE ICE-FIELDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202
XXX. THE CAIRN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
XXXI. THE DEATH OF SIMPSON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218
XXXII. THE RETURN TO THE FORWARD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 224
PART II. THE DESERT OF ICE.
I. THE DOCTOR'S INVENTORY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235
II. ALTAMONT'S FIRST WORDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 242
III. SEVENTEEN DAYS OF LAND JOURNEY . . . . . . . . . . . . . 251
IV. THE LAST CHARGE OF POWDER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 258
V. THE SEAL AND THE BEAR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 267
VI. THE PORPOISE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 275
VII. A DISCUSSION ABOUT CHARTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 284
VIII. EXCURSION TO THE NORTH OF VICTORIA BAY . . . . . . . . . 291
IX. COLD AND HEAT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 299
X. THE PLEASURES OF WINTER-QUARTERS . . . . . . . . . . . . 307
XI. DISQUIETING TRACES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 315
XII. THE ICE PRISON . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 324
XIII. THE MINE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 332
XIV. THE POLAR SPRING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 341
XV. THE NORTHWEST PASSAGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 348
XVI. NORTHERN ARCADIA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 357
XVII. ALTAMONT'S REVENGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 366
XVIII. THE LAST PREPARATIONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 372
XIX. THE JOURNEY NORTHWARD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 377
XX. FOOTPRINTS ON THE SNOW . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 386
XXI. THE OPEN SEA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 394
XXII. THE APPROACH TO THE POLE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 401
XXIII. THE ENGLISH FLAG . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 408
XXIV. POLAR COSMOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 413
XXV. MOUNT HATTERAS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 420
XXVI. RETURN TO THE SOUTH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 429
XXVII. CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 437
LIST OF FULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS.
PAGE "JOHNSON KNEW ALL THE SAILORS IN LIVERPOOL, AND IMMEDIATELY SET ABOUT ENGAGING A CREW" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
"EVERYTHING WAS ENVELOPED IN ONE OF THE ORDINARY FOGS OF THAT REGION" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
"THIS SPACE OF SIX FEET SQUARE CONTAINED INCALCULABLE WEALTH" . . 23
"THE NEWS SPEAD IMMEDIATELY THROUGHOUT THE CITY, AND A GREAT CONCOURSE OF SPECTATORS THRONGED THE PIERS" . . . . . . . . . 27
"TOWARDS EVENING THE BRIG DOUBLED THE CALF OF MAN" . . . . . . . 29
"WOULD ONE NOT SAY IT WAS A FOREIGN CITY, AN EASTERN CITY, WITH MINARETS AND MOSQUES IN THE MOONLIGHT" . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
"FORTUNATELY THE OPENING OF THESE HUTS WAS TOO SMALL, AND THE ENTHUSIASTIC DOCTOR COULD NOT GET THROUGH" . . . . . . . . . . 71
"A STRANGE ANIMAL WAS BOUNDING ALONG WITHIN A CABLE'S LENGTH FROM THE SHIP" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
"JOHN HATTERAS" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
"HE CAUGHT A LARGE NUMBER OF WHITE FOXES; HE HAD PUT ON THEIR NECKS COPPER COLLARS" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106
"ALL THESE POOR FELLOWS HAD DIED OF MISERY, SUFFERING, AND STARVATION" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128
"THE BRIG WAS TOSSED ABOUT LIKE A CHILD'S TOY" (Frontispiece) . 134
"THE WHALE SWAM AWAY FROM THE BRIG AND HASTENED TOWARDS THE MOVING ICEBERGS" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138
"THE FORWARD IN WELLINGTON CHANNEL" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148
HATTERAS MADE USE OF A DEVICE WHICH WHALERS EMPLOY . . . . . . . 153
"A CRASH WAS HEARD, AND AS IT CAME AGAINST THE STARBOARD-QUARTER, PART OF THE RAIL HAD GIVEN WAY" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 167
"THE MOON SHONE WITH INCOMPARABLE PURITY, GLISTENING ON THE LEAST ROUGHNESS IN THE ICE" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180
"ALMOST EVERY NIGHT THE DOCTOR COULD OBSERVE THE MAGNIFICENT AURORAS" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187
"HE WAS ARMED, AND HE KEPT CONSTANT GUARD, WITHOUT MINDING THE COLD, THE SNOW, OR THE ICE" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195
"THE LITTLE BAND MADE THEIR WAY TOWARDS THE SOUTHEAST" . . . . . 202
"THE DOCTOR HAD ENERGY ENOUGH TO ASCEND AN ICE-MOUNTAIN WHILE THE SNOW-HUT WAS BUILDING" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206
"'FIRE!' SHOUTED THE CAPTAIN, DISCHARGING HIS PIECE" . . . . . . 211
"THEY COULD ONLY THINK OF THEIR PERILOUS POSITION" . . . . . . . 218
"SUDDENLY, WITH A LAST EFFORT, HE HALF ROSE" . . . . . . . . . . 223
"THEN A TERRIBLE EXPLOSION WAS HEARD" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
"THE LARGE PIECES OF THE ENGINE LAY HERE AND THERE, TWISTED OUT OF SHAPE" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 241
"THEY HARNESSED THE TIRED DOGS" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 242
JOHNSON'S STORY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243
"'YES!' SAID THE AMERICAN" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 250
"THE DOCTOR WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO FIND A SEAL" . . . . . . . . 258
"AT THE END OF TWO HOURS THEY FELL, EXHAUSTED" . . . . . . . . . 263
"HE PLUNGED HIS KNIFE INTO THE BEAST'S THROAT" . . . . . . . . . 269
"THESE CASTAWAYS LOOKED AT THEMSELVES AS COLONISTS WHO HAD REACHED THEIR DESTINATION" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 277
THE FORT WAS COMPLETED . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 283
"I AM NOT AWARE THAT IT BEARS ANY NAME ON THE MOST RECENT MAPS" . 288
"THE DOCTOR REACHED THE SUMMIT WITH SOME LITTLE DIFFICULTY" . . . 291
"THEY ADVANCED IN FULL ILLUMINATION, AND THEIR SHARPLY CUT SHADOWS RAN OUT BEHIND THEM OVER THE SNOW" . . . . . . . . . . 299
"HE DID HIS BEST TO INSTRUCT AND INTEREST HIS COMPANIONS" . . . . 308
"HATTERAS COULD ONLY KEEP HIS DISTANCE FROM THE ANIMALS BY THROWING AWAY HIS CAP, HATCHET, AND EVEN HIS GUN" . . . . . . 326
"THE BEARS HEAPED THE ICE IN SUCH A WAY AS TO RENDER FLIGHT IMPOSSIBLE" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 330
"AN ENORMOUS BLACK BODY APPEARED IN THE GLOOM OF THE ROOM. ALTAMONT RAISED HIS HAND TO STRIKE IT" . . . . . . . . . . . . 333
"A LOUD EXPLOSION FOLLOWED" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 340
"THE CARPENTER SET TO WORK AT ONCE" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 349
"A HARD STRUGGLE WITH THE ICEBERGS" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 354
"MACCLURE SAW A MAN RUNNING AND GESTICULATING" . . . . . . . . . 355
"THE DOCTOR, JOHNSON, AND BELL INTERVENED. IT WAS TIME; THE TWO ENEMIES WERE GAZING AT ONE ANOTHER" . . . . . . . . . . . . . 356
"THEY WERE A CURIOUS AND TOUCHING SIGHT, FLYING ABOUT WITHOUT FEAR, RESTING ON CLAWBONNY'S SHOULDERS," ETC. . . . . . . . . 364
"GAVE HIM A TERRIBLE BLOW WITH A HATCHET ON THE HEAD" . . . . . . 369
"WELL, I'VE BROUGHT BACK TWO BROTHERS" . . . . . . . . . . . . . 371
"THE SEAL STRUGGLED FOR A FEW SECONDS, AND WAS THEN SUFFOCATED ON THE BREAST OF HIS ADVERSARY" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 374
"THEY LEFT AT SIX O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING" . . . . . . . . . . . . 377
"ON THE 29TH BELL SHOT A FOX, AND ALTAMONT A MEDIUM-SIZED MUSK-OX" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 383
"THE MASSES OF ICE TOOK THE FORMS OF HUMMOCKS AND ICEBERGS" . . . 384
"ON ALL SIDES RESOUNDED THE CRACKING OF THE ICE AMID THE ROAR OF THE AVALANCHES" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 384
"'WE OUGHT,' ANSWERED BELL, 'TO LIGHT TORCHES, AS IS DONE AT LONDON AND LIVERPOOL'" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 386
THE HUT WAS PITCHED IN A RAVINE FOR SHELTER . . . . . . . . . . . 390
"THEY CLIMBED A HILL WHICH COMMANDED A WIDE VIEW" . . . . . . . . 392
"THREE HOURS LATER THEY REACHED THE COAST. 'THE SEA! THE SEA!' THEY ALL SHOUTED" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 392
"THE LAUNCH WAS ROCKING GENTLY IN HER LITTLE HARBOR" . . . . . . 393
"AQUATIC BIRDS OF ALL SORTS WERE THERE" . . . . . . . . . . . . . 397
"THEN THE EYE GLANCING DOWN INTO THE TRANSPARENT WATER, THE SIGHT WAS EQUALLY STRANGE" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 398
"'IT'S A VOLCANO!' HE CRIED" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 401
"THE LAUNCH TOSSED HELPLESSLY ABOUT" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404
"THE FOG, WITHOUT LIFTING, WAS VERY BRIGHT" . . . . . . . . . . . 405
"THIS DRIFTING FLOE WAS COVERED WITH WHITE BEARS, CROWDED TOGETHER" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 406
"HER SAIL FLEW AWAY LIKE A HUGE WHITE BIRD; A WHIRLPOOL, A NEW MAELSTROM, FORMED AMONG THE WAVES" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 407
"THE MOUNTAIN WAS IN FULL ERUPTION" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 409
"THEY NOTICED A LITTLE FIORD" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 410
"ALTAMONT SOON FOUND A GROTTO IN THE ROCKS" . . . . . . . . . . . 412
"THEY WERE ALL READY TO LISTEN TO THE DOCTOR" . . . . . . . . . . 413
"THEY SAW THE CAPTAIN STANDING ON A ROCK" . . . . . . . . . . . . 421
"HATTERAS APPEARED TO WAKE FROM HIS REVERY" . . . . . . . . . . . 421
"THE DOCTOR PUT UP A CAIRN" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 429
"DEAD—FROZEN" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 435
"BUT HATTERAS DID NOT LOOK BACK. HE HAD MADE USE OF HIS STAFF AS A POLE ON WHICH TO FASTEN THE ENGLISH FLAG" . . . . . . . . . 437
"TWO HOURS LATER, AFTER UNHEARD-OF EFFORTS, THE LAST MEN OF THE FORWARD WERE TAKEN ABOARD THE DANISH WHALER HANS CHRISTIAN" . 438
"A STEAMBOAT CARRIED THEM TO KIEL" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 438
PART I. THE ENGLISH AT THE NORTH POLE.
CHAPTER I. THE FORWARD.
"To-morrow, at the turn of the tide, the brig Forward, K. Z., captain, Richard Shandon, mate, will clear from New Prince's Docks; destination unknown."
This announcement appeared in the Liverpool Herald of April 5, 1860.
The sailing of a brig is not a matter of great importance for the chief commercial city of England. Who would take notice of it in so great a throng of ships of all sizes and of every country, that dry-docks covering two leagues scarcely contain them?
Nevertheless, from early morning on the 6th of April, a large crowd collected on the quays of the New Prince's Docks; all the sailors of the place seemed to have assembled there. The workingmen of the neighboring wharves had abandoned their tasks, tradesmen had left their gloomy shops, and the merchants their empty warehouses. The many-colored omnibuses which pass outside of the docks were discharging, every minute, their load of sight-seers; the whole city seemed to care for nothing except watching the departure of the Forward.
The Forward was a vessel of one hundred and seventy tons, rigged as a brig, and carrying a screw and a steam-engine of one hundred and twenty horse-power. One would have very easily confounded it with the other brigs in the harbor. But if it presented no especial difference to the eye of the public, yet those who were familiar with ships noticed certain peculiarities which could not escape a sailor's keen glance.
Thus, on the Nautilus, which was lying at anchor near her, a group of sailors were trying to make out the probable destination of the Forward.
"What do you say to her masts?" said one; "steamers don't usually carry so much sail."
"It must be," answered a red-faced quartermaster, "that she relies more on her sails than on her engine; and if her topsails are of that size, it's probably because the lower sails are to be laid back. So I'm sure the Forward is going either to the Arctic or Antarctic Ocean, where the icebergs stop the wind more than suits a solid ship."
"You must be right, Mr. Cornhill," said a third sailor. "Do you notice how straight her stem is?"
"Besides," said Mr. Cornhill, "she carries a steel ram forward, as sharp as a razor; if the Forward, going at full speed, should run into a three-decker, she would cut her in two."
"That's true," answered a Mersey pilot, "for that brig can easily run fourteen knots under steam. She was a sight to see on her trial trip. On my word, she's a swift boat."
"And she goes well, too, under sail," continued the quartermaster; "close to the wind, and she's easily steered. Now that ship is going to the polar seas, or my name is not Cornhill. And then, see there! Do you notice that large helm-port over the head of her rudder?"
"That's so," said some of the sailors; "but what does that prove?"
"That proves, my men," replied the quartermaster with a scornful smile, "that you can neither see nor think; it proves that they wanted to leave the head of the rudder free, so that it might be unshipped and shipped again easily. Don't you know that's what they have to do very often in the ice?"
"You are right," answered the sailors of the Nautilus.
"And besides," said one, "the lading of the brig goes to prove what Mr. Cornhill has said. I heard it from Clifton, who has shipped on her. The Forward carries provisions for five or six years, and coal in proportion. Coal and provisions are all she carries, and a quantity of woollen and sealskin clothing."
"Well," said Mr. Cornhill, "there's no doubt about it. But, my friend, since you know Clifton, hasn't he told you where she's bound?"
"He couldn't tell me, for he didn't know; the whole crew was shipped in that way. Where is he going? He won't know till he gets there."
"Nor yet if they are going to Davy Jones's locker," said one scoffer, "as it seems to me they are."
"But then, their pay," continued the friend of Clifton enthusiastically,—"their pay! it's five times what a sailor usually gets. If it had not been for that, Richard Shandon would not have got a man. A strangely shaped boat, going no one knows where, and as if it never intended coming back! As for me, I should not have cared to ship in her."
"Whether you would or not," answered Mr. Cornhill, "you could never have shipped in the Forward."
"Because you would not have answered the conditions. I heard that married men were not taken. Now you belong to that class. So you need not say what you would or would not do, since it's all breath thrown away."
The sailor who was thus snubbed burst out laughing, as did his companions, showing in this way that Mr. Cornhill's remarks were true.
"There's nothing but boldness about the ship," continued Cornhill, well pleased with himself. "The Forward,—forward to what? Without saying that nobody knows who her captain is."
"O, yes, they do!" said a young sailor, evidently a green-hand.
"What! They do know?"
"My young friend," said Cornhill, "do you think Shandon is the captain of the Forward?"
"Why—" answered the boy.
"Shandon is only the mate, nothing else; he's a good and brave sailor, an old whaler, a good fellow, able to take command, but he's not the captain; he's no more captain than you or I. And who, under God, is going to have charge of the ship, he does not know in the least. At the proper time the captain will come aboard, I don't know how, and I don't know where; for Richard Shandon didn't tell me, nor has he leave to tell me in what direction he was first to sail."
"Still, Mr. Cornhill," said the young sailor, "I can tell you that there's some one on board, some one who was spoken of in the letter in which Mr. Shandon was offered the place of mate."
"What!" answered Cornhill, "do you mean to tell me that the Forward has a captain on board?"
"Yes, Mr. Cornhill."
"You tell me that?"
"Certainly, for I heard it from Johnson, the boatswain."
"Yes, he told me himself."
"Johnson told you?"
"Not only did he tell me, but he showed him to me."
"He showed him to you!" answered Cornhill in amazement.
"He showed him to me."
"And you saw him?"
"I saw him with my own eyes."
"And who is it?"
"It's a dog."
"A four-footed dog?"
The surprise of the sailors of the Nautilus was great. Under any other circumstances they would have burst out laughing. A dog captain of a one hundred and seventy ton brig! It was certainly amusing enough. But the Forward was such an extraordinary ship, that one thought twice before laughing, and before contradicting it. Besides, Quartermaster Cornhill showed no signs of laughing.
"And Johnson showed you that new sort of captain, a dog?" he said to the young sailor. "And you saw him?"
"As plainly as I see you, with all respect."
"Well, what do you think of that?" asked the sailors, turning to Cornhill.
"I don't think anything," he answered curtly, "except that the Forward is a ship of the Devil, or of fools fit for Bedlam."
Without saying more, the sailors continued to gaze at the Forward, which was now almost ready to depart; and there was no one of them who presumed to say that Johnson, the boatswain, had been making fun of the young sailor.
This story of the dog had already spread through the city, and in the crowd of sight-seers there were many looking for the captain-dog, who were inclined to believe that he was some supernatural animal.
Besides, for many months the Forward had been attracting the public attention; the singularity of its build, the mystery which enshrouded it, the incognito maintained by the captain, the manner in which Richard Shandon received the proposition of superintending its outfit, the careful selection of the crew, its unknown destination, scarcely conjectured by any,—all combined to give this brig a reputation of something more than strangeness.
For a thoughtful, dreamy mind, for a philosopher, there is hardly anything more touching than the departure of a ship; the imagination is ready to follow her in her struggles with the waves, her contests with the winds, in her perilous course, which does not always end in port; and if only there is something unusual about her, the ship appears like something fantastic, even to the least imaginative minds.
So it was with the Forward. And if most of the spectators were unable to make the ingenious remarks of Quartermaster Cornhill, the rumors which had been prevailing for three months were enough to keep all the tongues of Liverpool busy.
The brig had been built at Birkenhead, a suburb of the city on the left bank of the Mersey, and connected with it by numerous ferry-boats.
The builders, Scott & Co., as skilful as any in England, had received from Richard Shandon careful plans and drawings, in which the tonnage, dimensions, and model of the brig were given with the utmost exactness. They bore proof of the work of an experienced sailor. Since Shandon had ample means at his command, the work began, and, in accordance with the orders of the unknown owner, proceeded rapidly.
Every care was taken to have the brig made exceedingly strong; it was evidently intended to withstand enormous pressure, for its ribs of teak, an East Indian wood remarkable for its solidity, were further strengthened by thick iron braces. The sailors used to ask why the hull of a ship, which was intended to be so strong, was not made of iron like other steamers. But they were told that the mysterious designer had his own reasons for having it built in that way.
Gradually the shape of the brig on the stocks could be clearly made out, and the strength and beauty of her model were clear to the eye of all competent judges. As the sailors of the Nautilus had said, her stem formed a right angle with the keel, and she carried, not a ram, but a steel cutter from the foundry of R. Hawthorn, of Newcastle. This metallic prow, glistening in the sun, gave a singular appearance to the brig, although there was nothing warlike about it. However, a sixteen-pound gun was placed on her forecastle; its carriage was so arranged that it could be pointed in any direction. The same thing can be said of the cannon as of her bows, neither were positively warlike.
On the 5th of February, 1860, this strange vessel was successfully launched in the sight of an immense number of spectators.
But if the brig was not a man-of-war, nor a merchant-vessel, nor a pleasure-yacht, for no one takes a pleasure trip with provisions for six years in the hold, what could she be?
A ship intended for the search of the Erebus and the Terror, and of Sir John Franklin? No; for in 1859, the previous year, Captain MacClintock had returned from the Arctic Ocean, with convincing proof of the loss of that ill-fated expedition.
Did the Forward want to try again the famous Northwest Passage? What for? Captain MacClure had discovered it in 1853, and his lieutenant, Cresswell, had the honor of first skirting the American continent from Behring Strait to Davis Strait.
It was nevertheless absolutely certain to all competent observers that the Forward was preparing for a voyage to icy regions. Was it going to push towards the South Pole, farther than the whaler Wedell, farther than Captain James Ross? But what was the use, and with what intention?
It is easy to see that, although the field for conjecture was very limited, the imagination could easily lose itself.
The day after the launching of the brig her machinery arrived from the foundry of R. Hawthorn at Newcastle.
The engine, of one hundred and twenty horse-power, with oscillating cylinders, took up but little space; its force was large for a vessel of one hundred and seventy tons, which carried a great deal of sail, and was, besides, remarkably swift. Of her speed the trial trips left no doubt, and even the boatswain, Johnson, had seen fit to express his opinion to the friend of Clifton in these terms,—
"When the Forward is under both steam and sail, she gets the most speed from her sails."
Clifton's friend had not understood this proposition, but he considered anything possible in a ship commanded by a dog.
After the engines had been placed on board, the stowage of provisions began; and that was no light task, for she carried enough for six years. They consisted of salted and dried meats, smoked fish, biscuit, and flour; mountains of coffee and tea were deposited in the store-room. Richard Shandon superintended the arrangement of this precious cargo with the air of a man who perfectly understood his business; everything was put in its place, labelled, and numbered with perfect precision; at the same time there was stowed away a large quantity of pemmican, an Indian preparation, which contains a great deal of nutriment in a small compass.
This sort of supply left no doubt as to the length of the cruise; but an experienced observer would have known at once that the Forward was to sail in polar waters, from the barrels of lime-juice, of lime lozenges, of bundles of mustard, sorrel, and of cochlearia,—in a word, from the abundance of powerful antiscorbutics, which are so necessary in journeys in the regions of the far north and south. Shandon had doubtless received word to take particular care about this part of the cargo, for he gave to it especial attention, as well as to the ship's medicine-chest.
If the armament of the vessel was small enough to calm the timid souls, on the other hand, the magazine was filled with enough powder to inspire some uneasiness. The single gun on the forecastle could not pretend to require so large a supply. This excited curiosity. There were, besides, enormous saws and strong machinery, such as levers, masses of lead, hand-saws, huge axes, etc., without counting a respectable number of blasting-cylinders, which might have blown up the Liverpool custom-house. All this was strange, if not alarming, not to mention the rockets, signals, lights, and lanterns of every sort.
Then, too, the numerous spectators on the quays of the New Prince's Docks gazed with admiration at a long mahogany whale-boat, a tin canoe covered with gutta-percha, and a number of halkett-boats, which are a sort of india-rubber cloaks, which can be inflated and thereby turned into canoes. Every one felt more and more puzzled, and even excited, for with the turn of the tide the Forward was to set sail for its unknown destination.
CHAPTER II. AN UNEXPECTED LETTER.
This is a copy of the letter received by Richard Shandon eight months previously:—
ABERDEEN, August 2, 1859.
MR. RICHARD SHANDON, Liverpool.
SIR,—This letter is to advise you of a remittance of 16,000 pounds, deposited with Messrs. Marcuart & Co., bankers, at Liverpool. Enclosed you will find a series of drafts, signed by me, which will enable you to draw upon Messrs. Marcuart & Co. to the amount mentioned above.
You do not know me. No matter; I know you, and that is enough. I offer you the position of mate on board of the brig Forward, for a voyage which may be long and perilous.
If you decline, well and good. If you accept, five hundred pounds will be assigned you as salary, and at the end of each year of the voyage your pay will be increased one tenth.
The brig Forward does not exist. You will be obliged to have it built so that it will be possible to set to sea in the beginning of April, 1860, at the latest. Enclosed is a drawing with estimates. You will follow them exactly. The ship will be built in the stocks of Scott & Co., who will arrange everything with you.
I beg of you to be specially cautious in selecting the crew of the Forward; it will consist of a captain (myself), a mate (you), a second mate, a boatswain, two engineers, an ice-master, eight sailors, two stokers, in all eighteen men, including Dr. Clawbonny of this city, who will join you at the proper time.
Those who are shipped on board of the Forward must be Englishmen, independent, with no family ties, single and temperate; for the use of spirits, and even of beer, will be strictly forbidden on shipboard: the men must be ready to undertake and endure everything.
In your selection you will prefer those of a sanguine temperament, and so inclined to maintain a higher degree of animal heat.
You will offer the crew five times their usual pay, to be increased one tenth at the end of each year. At the end of the voyage each one shall receive five hundred pounds, and you yourself two thousand. The requisite sum shall be deposited with the above-named Messrs. Marcuart & Co.
The voyage will be long and difficult, but one sure to bring renown. You need not hesitate, then, Mr. Shandon.
Send your answer to the initials K. Z., at Gottenburg, Sweden, poste restante.
P. S. On the 15th of February next you will receive a large Danish dog, with hanging lips, of a dark tawny color, with black stripes running crosswise. You will find place for him on board, and you will feed him on barley bread mixed with a broth of lard. You will acknowledge the receipt of this dog by a letter to the same initials at Leghorn, Italy.
The captain of the Forward will appear and make himself known at the proper time. As you are about setting sail you will receive new instructions.
K. Z., Captain of the Forward.
CHAPTER III. DR. CLAWBONNY.
Richard Shandon was a good sailor; for a long time he had commanded whalers in the Arctic seas, with a well-deserved reputation throughout all Lancaster. Such a letter was well calculated to astonish him; he was astonished, it is true, but with the calmness of a man who is accustomed to surprises.
He suited all the required conditions; no wife, child, nor relatives. He was as independent as man could be. There being no one whose opinion he needed to consult, he betook himself to Messrs. Marcuart & Co.
"If the money is there," he said to himself, "the rest is all right."
At the banking-house he was received with the respect due to a man who has sixteen thousand pounds deposited to his credit; having made that point sure, Shandon asked for a sheet of white paper, and in his large sailor's handwriting he sent his acceptance of the plan to the address given above.
That very day he made the necessary arrangements with the builders at Birkenhead, and within twenty-four hours the keel of the Forward was laid on the stocks.
Richard Shandon was a man about forty years old, strong, energetic, and fearless, three qualities most necessary for a sailor, for they give him confidence, vigor, and coolness. He was known to be severe and very hard to please; hence he was more feared than loved by his men. But this reputation was not calculated to interfere with his selection of a crew, for he was known to be skilful in avoiding trouble.
Shandon feared that the mysterious nature of the expedition might stand in his way.
"In that case," he said, "it's best not to say anything about it; there will always be plenty of men who will want to know the why and the wherefore of the whole matter, and, since I don't know anything about it myself, I should find it hard to answer them. This K. Z. is certainly an odd stick; but, after all, he knows me, he depends on me, and that is enough. As for his ship, it will be a good one, and if it's not going to the Arctic Ocean, my name is not Richard Shandon. But I shall keep that fact for myself and my officers."
Thereupon Shandon began to choose his crew, bearing in mind the captain's wishes about the independence and health of the men.
He knew a very capital fellow, and a good sailor, James Wall by name. Wall might have been about thirty years old, and had already made some voyages in the northern seas. Shandon offered him the place of second mate, and Wall accepted it at once; all he cared for was to be at sea. Shandon confided all the details of the affair to him and to a certain Johnson, whom he took as boatswain.
"All right," answered James Wall, "that's as good as anything. Even if it's to seek the Northwest Passage, some have come back from that."
"Not all," said Johnson, "but that's no reason that we should not try it."
"Besides, if our guesses are right," said Shandon, "it must be said that we start with a fair chance of success. The Forward will be a stanch ship and she will carry good engines. She can go a great distance. We want a crew of only eighteen men."
"Eighteen men," answered Johnson; "that's the number the American, Kane, took with him on his famous voyage towards the North Pole."
"It's strange," said Wall, "that a private person should try to make his way from Davis Strait to Behring Strait. The expeditions in search of Sir John Franklin have already cost England more than seven hundred and sixty thousand pounds, without producing any practical good. Who in the world wants to throw away his money for such a purpose?"
"In the first place, James," answered Shandon, "we are in the dark about it all. I don't know whether we are going to the northern or the southern seas. Perhaps there's some new discovery to be tried. At any rate, some day or other a Dr. Clawbonny is to come aboard who will probably know more about it and will be able to tell us. We shall see."
"Let us wait, then," said Johnson; "as for me, I'm going to look after some good men, and I'll answer now for their animal heat, as the captain calls it. You can depend on me."
Johnson was an invaluable man; he was familiar with high latitudes. He had been quartermaster aboard of the Phoenix, which belonged to one of the expeditions sent out in 1853 in search of Franklin; he had been an eye-witness of the death of the French lieutenant Bellot, whom he had accompanied in his expedition across the ice. Johnson knew all the sailors in Liverpool, and immediately set about engaging a crew.
Shandon, Wall, and he succeeded in filling the number by the middle of December, but they met with considerable difficulty; many who were attracted by the high pay were alarmed by the danger, and more than one who had boldly enlisted came later to say that he had changed his mind on account of the dissuasion of his friends. They all tried to pierce the mystery, and pursued Shandon with their questions. He used to refer them to Johnson.
"What can I say, my man?" the boatswain used to answer; "I don't know any more about it than you do. At any rate you will be in good company, with men who won't shirk their work; that's something! So don't be thinking about it all day: take it or leave it!" And the greater number took it.
"You understand," added Johnson, sometimes, "my only trouble is in making my choice. High pay, such as no sailor ever had before, with the certainty of finding a round sum when we get back. That's very tempting."
"The fact is," answered the sailors, "that it is hard to refuse. It will support a man all the rest of his life."
"I won't hide from you," continued Johnson, "that the voyage will be long, difficult, and dangerous; that's all stated in our instructions; it's well to know beforehand what one undertakes to do; probably it's to try all that men can possibly do, and perhaps even more. So, if you haven't got a bold heart and a strong body, if you can't say you have more than twenty chances to one of staying there, if, in short, you are particular about leaving your body in one place more than another, here rather than there, get away from here and let some bolder man have your place!"
"But, at least," said the confused sailor,—"at least, you know the captain?"
"The captain is Richard Shandon, my friend, until we receive another."
Now it must be said that was what the commander thought; he allowed himself to think that at the last moment he would receive definite instructions as to the object of the voyage, and that he would remain in command of the Forward. He was fond of spreading this opinion about, either in conversation with his officers or in superintending the building of the brig, of which the timbers were now rising in the Birkenhead ship-yard like the sides of a huge whale.
Shandon and Johnson conformed strictly with the recommendation about the health of the crew; they all looked hardy and possessed enough animal heat to run the engines of the Forward; their elastic limbs, their clear and ruddy skin, showed that they were fit to encounter intense cold. They were bold, determined men, energetic and stoutly built; they were not all equally vigorous. Shandon had even hesitated about accepting some of them; for instance, the sailors Gripper and Garry, and the harpooner Simpson, who seemed to him too thin; but, on the other hand, they were well built, they were earnest about it, and they were shipped.
All the crew were members of the same church; in their long voyage their prayers and the reading of the Bible would call them together and console them in the hours of depression; so that it was advisable that there should be no diversity on this score. Shandon knew from experience the usefulness of this practice and its good influence on the men, so valuable that it is never neglected on board of ships which winter in the polar seas.
When all the crew had been engaged, Shandon and his two officers busied themselves with the provisions; they followed closely the captain's instructions, which were definite, precise, and detailed, in which the quality and quantity of the smallest articles were clearly set down. Thanks to the drafts placed at the commander's order, every article was paid for, cash down, with a discount of eight per cent, which Richard carefully placed to the credit of K. Z.
Crew, provisions, and outfit were all ready in January, 1860; the Forward was approaching completion. Shandon never let a day pass without visiting Birkenhead.
On the morning of the 23d of January he was, as usual, on one of the double-ended ferry-boats which ply between the two shores of the Mersey; everything was enveloped in one of the ordinary fogs of that region, which compel the pilot to steer by compass, although the trip is one of but ten minutes.
However, the thickness of the fog could not prevent Shandon from noticing a short, rather stout man, with a refined, agreeable face and pleasant expression, who came towards him, seized both his hands, and pressed them with a warmth and familiarity which a Frenchman would have said was "very southern."
But if this stranger was not from the South, he had escaped it narrowly; he spoke and gesticulated freely; his thoughts seemed determined to find expression, even if they had to burst out. His eyes, small like the eyes of witty men, his large and mobile mouth, were safety-valves which enabled him to rid himself of too strong a pressure on his feelings; he talked; and he talked so much and joyously, that, it must be said, Shandon could not make out what he was saying.
Still the mate of the Forward was not slow in recognizing this short man whom he had never seen; it flashed into his mind, and the moment that the other stopped to take breath, Shandon uttered these words,—
"The same, in person, Commander! For nearly a quarter of an hour I have been looking after you, asking for you of every one and everywhere. Imagine my impatience. Five minutes more and I should have lost my head! So this is you, officer Shandon? You really exist? You are not a myth? Your hand, your hand! Let me press it again in mine! Yes, that is indeed the hand of Richard Shandon. Now, if there is a commander Richard, there is a brig Forward which he commands; and if he commands it, it will sail; and if it sails, it will take Dr. Clawbonny on board."
"Well, yes, Doctor, I am Richard Shandon, there is a brig Forward, and it will sail."
"There's logic," answered the doctor, taking a long breath,—"there's logic. So I am delighted, enchanted! For a long time I've been waiting for something of this sort to turn up, and I've been wanting to try a voyage of this sort. Now, with you—"
"Excuse me—" said Shandon.
"With you," continued Clawbonny, paying him no attention, "we are sure of going far without turning round."
"But—" began Shandon.
"For you have shown what stuff you are made of, and I know all you've done. Ah, you are a good sailor!"
"If you please—"
"No, I sha'n't let your courage and skill be doubted for a moment, even by yourself. The captain who chose you for mate is a man who knew what he was about; I can tell you that."
"But that is not the question," said Shandon, impatiently.
"What is it, then? Don't keep me anxious any longer."
"But you won't let me say a word. Tell me, Doctor, if you please, how you came to join this expedition of the Forward?"
"By a letter, a capital letter; here it is,—the letter of a brave captain, very short, but very full."
With these words he handed Shandon a letter running as follows:—
INVERNESS, January 22, 1860.
To DR. CLAWBONNY, Liverpool.
If Dr. Clawbonny wishes to sail on the Forward for a long voyage, he can present himself to the mate, Richard Shandon, who has been advised concerning him.
K. Z., Captain of the Forward.
"The letter reached me this morning, and I'm now ready to go on board of the Forward."
"But," continued Shandon, "I suppose you know whither we are bound."
"Not the least idea in the world; but what difference does it make, provided I go somewhere? They say I'm a learned man; they are wrong; I don't know anything, and if I have published some books which have had a good sale, I was wrong; it was very kind of the public to buy them! I don't know anything, I tell you, except that I am very ignorant. Now I have a chance offered me to complete, or, rather, to make over my knowledge of medicine, surgery, history, geography, botany, mineralogy, conchology, geodesy, chemistry, physics, mechanics, hydrography; well, I accept it, and I assure you, I didn't have to be asked twice."
"Then," said Shandon in a tone of disappointment, "you don't know where the Forward is going."
"O, but I do, commander; it's going where there is something to be learned, discovered; where one can instruct himself, make comparisons, see other customs, other countries, study the ways of other people; in a word, it's going where I have never been."
"But more precisely?" cried Shandon.
"More precisely," answered the doctor, "I have understood that it was bound for the Northern Ocean. Well, good for the North!"
"At any rate," said Shandon, "you know the captain?"
"Not at all! But he's a good fellow, you may depend on it."
The mate and the doctor stepped ashore at Birkenhead; Shandon gave his companion all the information he had, and the mystery which lay about it all excited highly the doctor's imagination. The sight of the Forward enchanted him. From that time he was always with Shandon, and he came every morning to inspect the hull of the Forward.
In addition he was specially intrusted with the providing of the ship's medicine-chest.
For Clawbonny was a physician, and a good one, although he had never practised much. At twenty-five he was an ordinary young doctor, at forty he was a learned man; being known throughout the whole city, he became a leading member of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Liverpool. His moderate fortune allowed him to give some advice which was no less valuable for being without charge; loved as a thoroughly kind-hearted man must be, he did no harm to any one else nor to himself; quick and garrulous, if you please, but with his heart in his hand, and his hand in that of all the world.
When the news of his intended journey on board the Forward became known in the city, all his friends endeavored to dissuade him, but they only made him cling more obstinately to his intention; and when the doctor had absolutely determined on anything, he was a skilful man who could make him change.
From that day the rumors, conjectures, and apprehensions steadily increased; but that did not interfere with the launching of the Forward on the 5th of February, 1860. Two months later she was ready for sea.
On the 15th of March, as the captain's letter had said, a Danish dog was sent by rail from Edinburgh to Liverpool, to the address of Richard Shandon. He seemed morose, timid, and almost wicked; his expression was very strange. The name of the Forward was engraved on his collar.
The commander gave him quarters on board, and sent a letter, with the news of his arrival, to Leghorn.
Hence, with the exception of the captain, the crew of the Forward was complete. It was composed as follows:—
1. K. Z., captain; 2. Richard Shandon, first mate, in command; 3. James Wall, second mate; 4. Dr. Clawbonny; 5. Johnson, boatswain; 6. Simpson, harpooner; 7. Bell, carpenter; 8. Brunton, first engineer; 9. Plover, second engineer; 10. Strong (negro), cook; 11. Foker, ice-master; 12. Wolston, gunner; 13. Bolton, sailor; 14. Garry, sailor; 15. Clifton, sailor; 16. Gripper, sailor; 17. Pen, sailor; 18. Warren, stoker.
CHAPTER IV. THE DOG-CAPTAIN.
The 5th of April, the day of departure, came. The fact that the doctor had joined the expedition gave some comfort to those on board. Wherever he could go they could follow. Still, most of the sailors were very uneasy, and Shandon, fearing that their number might be diminished by desertion, was very anxious to get to sea. The land once out of sight, the men would soon be resigned.
Dr. Clawbonny's cabin was situated on the poop, occupying the extreme after-part of the ship. The cabins of the captain and mate opened on the deck. That of the captain was kept tightly closed, after it had been provided with various instruments, furniture, clothing, books, and utensils, all of which had been set down in detail in a letter. As he had asked, the key was sent to the captain at Lubeck; so he alone had admission into the cabin.
This fact annoyed Shandon, and diminished his chances of having chief command. As for his own cabin, he had arranged it suitably for the presumed voyage, for he knew very well what was necessary for a polar expedition.
The second mate's cabin was on the lower deck, where the sailors were domiciled; the crew had very comfortable quarters; they would hardly have had such accommodations in any other ship. They were treated as if they were a valuable cargo; a huge stove stood in the middle of their sleeping-room.
Dr. Clawbonny was very enthusiastic about it; he took possession of his cabin on the 6th of February, the day after the ship was launched.
"The happiest animal in the world," he used to say, "would be a snail who could make himself just such a shell as he wanted; I shall try to be an intelligent snail."
And, in fact, for a shell which he was not going to leave for some time, his cabin presented a very comfortable appearance; the doctor took a scientific or childlike pleasure in arranging his scientific paraphernalia. His books, his specimens, his cases, his instruments, his physical apparatus, his thermometers, barometers, field-glasses, compasses, sextants, charts, drawings, phials, powder, and medicine-bottles, all were classified in a way which would have done honor to the British Museum. This space of six feet square contained incalculable wealth; the doctor needed only to stretch out his hand without rising, to become at once a physician, a mathematician, an astronomer, a geographer, a botanist, or a conchologist.
To tell the truth, he was proud of his arrangements, and very contented in his floating sanctum, which three of his thinnest friends would have completely filled. They used to crowd there in great numbers, so that even so good-natured a man as the doctor was occasionally put out; and, like Socrates, he came at last to say,—
"My house is small, but may Heaven grant that it never be filled with friends!"
To complete our account of the Forward, it is only necessary to add that a kennel for the huge Danish dog was built just beneath the window of the closed cabin; but he preferred to keep himself between decks and in the hold; it seemed impossible to tame him; no one ever conquered his shyness; he could be heard, at night especially, howling dismally in the ship's hold.
Was it because he missed his master? Had he an instinctive dread of the dangers of the voyage? Had he a presentiment of the coming perils? The sailors were sure that he had, and more than one said the same in jest, who in his heart regarded the dog as a sort of diabolic animal.
Pen, a very brutal man, one day, while trying to kick him, slipped, and fell on the corner of the capstan in such a way that he cut his head badly. It is easy to see how the sailors put all the blame upon the dog.
Clifton, who was the most superstitious man in the crew, made, one day, the strange observation that the dog, when on the poop, would always walk on the windward side; and afterwards, when the brig was at sea and under sail, this singular animal would shift his position to the other side after every tack, so as to be windward, as the captain of the Forward would have done.
Dr. Clawbonny, who by his gentleness and caresses would have almost tamed the heart of a tiger, tried in vain to make friends with the dog; he met with no success.
The dog, too, did not answer to any of the usual names of his kind. So the men used to call him "Captain," for he seemed perfectly familiar with all the ways on shipboard. He had evidently been to sea before.
It is hence easy to understand the boatswain's answer to Clifton's friend, and how this idea found but few sceptics; more than one would repeat it jestingly, who was fully prepared to see the dog, some fine day, take human shape, and with a loud voice assume command.
If Richard Shandon did not share such apprehensions, he was far from being undisturbed, and on the eve of departing, on the night of April 5th, he was talking on this subject with the doctor, Wall, and Johnson, in the mess-room.
These four persons were sipping their tenth grog, which was probably their last, too; for, in accordance with the letter from Aberdeen, all the crew, from the captain to the stoker, were teetotalers, never touching beer, wine, nor spirits, except in case of sickness, and by the advice of the doctor.
For an hour past they had been talking about their departure. If the captain's instructions were to be completely carried out, Shandon would the next day receive a letter containing his last orders.
"If that letter," said the mate, "doesn't tell me the captain's name, it must at least tell us whither we are bound. If not, in what direction shall we sail?"
"Upon my word," answered the impatient doctor, "if I were in your place, Shandon, I should set sail even without getting a letter; one will come after us, you may be sure."
"You have a great deal of faith, Doctor. But, if you please, to what part of the world would you sail?"
"Towards the North Pole, of course; there can be no doubt about that."
"No doubt indeed!" said Wall. "Why not towards the South Pole?"
"The South Pole! Never!" cried the doctor. "Would the captain ever have thought of sending a brig across the whole Atlantic Ocean? Just think for a moment, my dear Wall."
"The doctor has an answer for everything," was his only reply.
"Granted it's northward," resumed Shandon. "But tell me, Doctor, is it to Spitzbergen, Greenland, or Labrador that we have to sail, or to Hudson's Bay? If all these routes come to the same end at last,—the impassable ice,—there is still a great number of them, and I should find it very hard to choose between them. Have any definite answer to that, Doctor?"
"No," answered the doctor, annoyed that he had nothing to say; "but if you get no letter, what shall you do?"
"I shall do nothing; I shall wait."
"You won't set sail!" cried Clawbonny, twirling his glass in his despair.
"No, certainly not."
"That's the best course," said Johnson, mildly; while the doctor walked around the table, being unable to sit quiet any longer. "Yes, that's the best course; and still, too long a delay might have very disastrous consequences. In the first place, the season is a good one, and if it's north we are going, we ought to take advantage of the mild weather to get through Davis Straits; besides, the crew will get more and more impatient; the friends and companions of the men are urging them to leave the Forward, and they might succeed in playing us a very bad turn."
"And then, too," said James Wall, "if any panic should arise among the men, every one would desert us; and I don't know, Commander, how you could get together another crew."
"But what is to be done?" cried Shandon.
"What you said," answered the doctor: "wait; but wait till to-morrow before you despair. The captain's promises have all been fulfilled so far with such regularity that we may have the best hopes for the future; there's no reason to think that we shall not be told of our destination at the proper time. As for me, I don't doubt in the least that to-morrow we shall be sailing in the Irish Sea. So, my friends, I propose one last drink to a happy voyage; it begins in a mysterious way, but, with such sailors as you, there are a thousand chances of its ending well."
And they all touched their glasses for the last time.
"Now, Commander," resumed Johnson, "I have one piece of advice to give you, and that is, to make everything ready for sailing. Let the crew think you are certain of what you are about. To-morrow, whether a letter comes or not, set sail; don't start your fires; the wind promises to hold; nothing will be easier than to get off; take a pilot on board; at the ebb of the tide leave the docks; then anchor beyond Birkenhead Point; the crew will have no more communication with the land; and if this devilish letter does come at last, it can find us there as well as anywhere."
"Well said, Johnson!" exclaimed the doctor, reaching out his hand to the old sailor.
"That's what we shall do," answered Shandon.
Each one then withdrew to his cabin, and took what sleep he could get till morning.
The next day the first distribution of letters took place in the city, but there was none for Commander Richard Shandon.
Nevertheless he made his preparations for departure; the news spread immediately throughout the city, and, as we have seen, a great concourse of spectators thronged the piers of the New Prince's Docks.
A great many people came on board the brig,—some to bid a friend good by, or to urge him to leave the ship, or to gaze at this strange vessel; others to ascertain the object of the voyage; and there were many murmurs at the unusual silence of the commander.
For that he had his reasons.
Ten o'clock struck. Eleven. The tide was to turn at half past twelve. Shandon, from the upper deck, gazed with anxious eyes at the crowd, trying in vain to read on some one's face the secret of his fate. But in vain. The sailors of the Forward obeyed his orders in silence, keeping their eyes fixed upon him, ever awaiting some information which he did not give.
Johnson was finishing the preparations for setting sail. The day was overcast, and the sea, outside of the docks, rather high; a stiff southwest breeze was blowing, but they could easily leave the Mersey.
At twelve o'clock still nothing. Dr. Clawbonny walked up and down uneasily, looking about, gesticulating, and "impatient for the sea," as he said. In spite of all he could do, he felt excited. Shandon bit his lips till the blood came.
At this moment Johnson came up to him and said,—
"Commander, if we are going to take this tide, we must lose no time; it will be a good hour before we can get off from the docks."
Shandon cast one last glance about him, and looked at his watch. It was after the time of the midday distribution of letters.
"Cast off!" he said to his boatswain.
"All ashore who are going!" cried the latter, ordering the spectators to leave the deck of the Forward.
Thereupon the crowd, began to move toward the gangway and make its way on to the quay, while the crew began to cast off the last moorings.
At once the inevitable confusion of the crowd, which was pushed about without much ceremony by the sailors, was increased by the barking of the dog. He suddenly sprang from the forecastle right through the mass of visitors, barking sullenly.
All made way for him. He sprang on the poop-deck, and, incredible as it may seem, yet, as a thousand witnesses can testify, this dog-captain carried a letter in his mouth.
"A letter!" cried Shandon; "but is he on board?"
"He was, without doubt, but he's not now," answered Johnson, showing the deck cleared of the crowd.
"Here, Captain! Captain!" shouted the doctor, trying to take the letter from the dog, who kept springing away from him. He seemed to want to give the letter to Shandon himself.
"Here, Captain!" he said.
The dog went up to him; Shandon took the letter without difficulty, and then Captain barked sharply three times, amid the profound silence which prevailed on board the ship and along the quay.
Shandon held the letter in his hand, without opening it.
"Read it, read it!" cried the doctor. Shandon looked at it. The address, without date or place, ran simply,—"Commander Richard Shandon, on board the brig Forward."
Shandon opened the letter and read:—
You will sail towards Cape Farewell. You will reach it April 20. If the captain does not appear on board, you will pass through Davis Strait and go up Baffin's Bay as far as Melville Sound.
K. Z., Captain of the Forward.
Shandon folded carefully this brief letter, put it in his pocket, and gave the order to cast off. His voice, which arose alone above the roaring of the wind, sounded very solemn.
Soon the Forward had left the docks, and under the care of a pilot, whose boat followed at a distance, put out into the stream. The crowd hastened to the outer quay by the Victoria Docks to get a last look at the strange vessel. The two topsails, the foresail, and staysail were soon set, and under this canvas the Forward, which well deserved its name, after rounding Birkenhead Point, sailed away into the Irish Sea.
CHAPTER V. AT SEA.
The wind, which was uncertain, although in general favorable, was blowing in genuine April squalls. The Forward sailed rapidly, and its screw, as yet unused, did not delay its progress. Towards three o'clock they met the steamer which plies between Liverpool and the Isle of Man, and which carries the three legs of Sicily on its paddle-boxes. Her captain hailed them, and this was the last good-by to the crew of the Forward.
At five o'clock the pilot resigned the charge of the ship to Richard Shandon, and sailed away in his boat, which soon disappeared from sight in the southwest.
Towards evening the brig doubled the Calf of Man, at the southern extremity of the island of that name. During the night the sea was very high; the Forward rode the waves very well, however, and leaving the Point of Ayr on the northwest, she ran towards the North Channel.
Johnson was right; once at sea the sailors readily adapted themselves instinctively to the situation. They saw the excellence of their vessel and forgot the strangeness of their situation. The ship's routine was soon regularly established.
The doctor inhaled with pleasure the sea-air; he paced up and down the deck in spite of the fresh wind, and showed that for a student he had very good sea-legs.
"The sea is a fine thing," he said to Johnson, as he went upon the bridge after breakfast; "I am a little late in making its acquaintance, but I shall make up for my delay."
"You are right, Dr. Clawbonny; I would give all the land in the world for a bit of ocean. People say that sailors soon get tired of their business; but I've been sailing for forty years, and I like it as well as I did the first day."
"What a pleasure it is to feel a stanch ship under one's feet! and, if I'm not mistaken, the Forward is a capital sea-boat."
"You are right, Doctor," answered Shandon, who had joined the two speakers; "she's a good ship, and I must say that there was never a ship so well equipped for a voyage in the polar regions. That reminds me that, thirty years ago, Captain James Ross, going to seek the Northwest Passage—"
"Commanded the Victory," said the doctor, quickly, "a brig of about the tonnage of this one, and also carrying machinery."
"What! did you know that?"
"Say for yourself," retorted the doctor. "Steamers were then new inventions, and the machinery of the Victory was continually delaying him. Captain Ross, after in vain trying to patch up every piece, at last took it all out and left it at the first place he wintered at."
"The deuce!" said Shandon. "You know all about it, I see."
"More or less," answered the doctor. "In my reading I have come across the works of Parry, Ross, Franklin; the reports of MacClure, Kennedy, Kane, MacClintock; and some of it has stuck in my memory. I might add that MacClintock, on board of the Fox, a propeller like ours, succeeded in making his way more easily and more directly than all his successors."
"That's perfectly true," answered Shandon; "that MacClintock is a good sailor; I have seen him at sea. You might also say that we shall be, like him, in Davis Strait in the month of April; and if we can get through the ice our voyage will be very much advanced."
"Unless," said the doctor, "we should be as unlucky as the Fox in 1857, and should be caught the first year by the ice in the north of Baffin's Bay, and we should have to winter among the icebergs."
"We must hope to be luckier, Mr. Shandon," said Johnson; "and if, with a ship like the Forward, we can't go where we please, the attempt must be given up forever."
"Besides," continued the doctor, "if the captain is on board he will know better than we what is to be done, and so much the better because we are perfectly ignorant; for his singularly brief letter gives us no clew to the probable aim of the voyage."
"It's a great deal," answered Shandon, with some warmth, "to know what route we have to take; and now for a good month, I fancy, we shall be able to get along without his supernatural intervention and orders. Besides, you know what I think about him."
"Ha, ha!" laughed the doctor; "I used to think as you did, that he was going to leave the command of the ship in your hands, and that he would never come on board; but—"
"But what?" asked Shandon, with some ill-humor.
"But since the arrival of the second letter, I have altered my views somewhat."
"And why so, doctor?"
"Because, although this letter does tell you in which direction to go, it still does not inform you of the final aim of the voyage; and we have yet to know whither we are to go. I ask you how can a third letter reach us now that we are on the open sea. The postal service on the shore of Greenland is very defective. You see, Shandon, I fancy that he is waiting for us at some Danish settlement up there,—at Holsteinborg or Upernavik. We shall find that he has been completing the supply of seal-skins, buying sledges and dogs,—in a word, providing all the equipment for a journey in the arctic seas. So I shall not be in the least surprised to see him coming out of his cabin some fine morning and taking command in the least supernatural way in the world."
"Possibly," answered Shandon, dryly; "but meanwhile the wind's freshening, and there's no use risking our topsails in such weather."
Shandon left the doctor, and ordered the topsails furled.
"He still clings to that idea," said the doctor to the boatswain.
"Yes," was the answer, "and it's a pity; for you may very well be right, Dr. Clawbonny."
Towards the evening of Saturday the Forward rounded the Mull of Galloway, on which the light could be seen in the northeast. During the night they left the Mull of Cantire to the north, and on the east Fair Head, on the Irish coast. Towards three o'clock in the morning, the brig, passing Rathlin Island on its starboard quarter, came out from the North Channel into the ocean.
That was Sunday, April 8. The English, and especially sailors, are very observant of that day; hence the reading of the Bible, of which the doctor gladly took charge, occupied a good part of the morning.
The wind rose to a gale, and threatened to drive the ship back upon the Irish coast. The waves ran very high; the vessel rolled a great deal. If the doctor was not sea-sick, it was because he was determined not to be, for nothing would have been easier. At midday Malin Head disappeared from their view in the south; it was the last sight these bold sailors were to have of Europe, and more than one gazed at it for a long time who was doubtless fated never to set eyes on it again.
By observation the latitude then was 55 degrees 57 minutes, and the longitude, according to the chronometer, 7 degrees 40 minutes.
[Footnote 1: Meridian of Greenwich.]
The gale abated towards nine o'clock of the evening; the Forward, a good sailer, kept on its route to the northwest. That day gave them all a good opportunity to judge of her sea-going qualities; as good judges had already said at Liverpool, she was well adapted for carrying sail.
During the following days, the Forward made very good progress; the wind veered to the south, and the sea ran high. The brig set every sail. A few petrels and puffins flew about the poop-deck; the doctor succeeded in shooting one of the latter, which fortunately fell on board.
Simpson, the harpooner, seized it and carried it to the doctor.
"It's an ugly bird, Dr. Clawbonny," he said.
"But then it will make a good meal, my friend."
"What, are you going to eat it?"
"And you shall have a taste of it," said the doctor, laughing.
"Never!" answered Simpson; "it's strong and oily, like all sea-birds."
"True," said the doctor; "but I have a way of dressing such game, and if you recognize it to be a sea-bird, I'll promise never to kill another in all my life."
"So you are a cook, too, Dr. Clawbonny?" asked Johnson.
"A learned man ought to know a little of everything."
"Then take care, Simpson," said the boatswain; "the doctor is a clever man, and he'll make us take this puffin for a delicious grouse."
In fact, the doctor was in the right about this bird; he removed skilfully the fat which lies beneath the whole surface of the skin, principally on its thighs, and with it disappeared all the rancid, fishy odor with which this bird can be justly charged. Thus prepared, the bird was called delicious, even by Simpson.
During the recent storm, Richard Shandon had made up his mind about the qualities of his crew; he had tested his men one by one, as every officer should do who wishes to be prepared for future dangers; he knew on whom he could rely.
James Wall, who was warmly attached to Richard, was intelligent and efficient, but he had very little originality; as second officer he was exactly in his place.
Johnson, who was accustomed to the dangers of the sea, and an old sailor in arctic regions, lacked neither coolness nor courage.
Simpson, the harpooner, and Bell, the carpenter, were steady men, obedient and well disciplined. The ice-master, Foker, an experienced sailor, who had sailed in northern waters, promised to be of the greatest service.
Of the other men, Garry and Bolton seemed to be the best; Bolton was a jolly fellow, always laughing and joking; Garry, a man about thirty-five years old, had an energetic, but rather pale and sad face.
The three sailors, Clifton, Gripper, and Pen, seemed to be the least enthusiastic and determined; they were inclined to grumbling. Gripper had even wished to break his engagement when the time came for sailing, and only a feeling of shame prevented him. If things went well, if they encountered no excessive dangers, and their toil was not too severe, these three men could be counted on; but they were hard to please with their food, for they were inclined to gluttony. In spite of their having been forewarned, they were by no means pleased with being teetotalers, and at their meals they used to miss their brandy or gin; but they made up for it with the tea and coffee which were distributed with a lavish hand.
As for the two engineers, Brunton and Plover, and the stoker, Warren, they had been so far well satisfied with having nothing to do.
Shandon knew therefore what to expect from each man.
On the 14th of April, the Forward crossed the Gulf Stream, which, after following the eastern coast of America as far as Newfoundland, turns to the northeast and moves towards the shore of Norway. They were then in latitude 51 degrees 37 minutes, and longitude 22 degrees 37 minutes, two hundred miles from the end of Greenland. The weather grew colder; the thermometer fell to 32 degrees, the freezing-point.
The doctor, without yet putting on his arctic winter dress, was wearing a suit of sea-clothes, like all the officers and sailors; he was an amusing sight in his high boots, in which he could not bend his legs, his huge tarpaulin hat, his trousers and coat of the same material; in heavy rain, or when the brig was shipping seas, the doctor used to look like a sort of sea-monster, a comparison which always flattered him.
For two days the sea was very rough; the wind veered to the northwest, and delayed the Forward. From the 14th to the 16th of April there was still a high sea running; but on Monday there fell a heavy shower which almost immediately had the effect of calming the sea. Shandon called the doctor's attention to it.
"Well," said the doctor, "that confirms the curious observations of the whaler Scoresby, who was a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of which I have the honor to be a corresponding member. You see that while the rain is falling the waves are hardly to be noticed, even when the wind is strong. On the other hand, in dry weather the sea would be rougher even with a gentler wind."
"But what is the explanation of it, Doctor?"
"It's very simple; there is no explanation."
At that moment the ice-master, who was on watch in the topmast cross-trees, cried out that there was a floating mass on the starboard quarter, about fifteen miles to windward.
"An iceberg in these latitudes!" cried the doctor.
Shandon turned his glass in that direction, and corroborated the lookout's words.
"That's strange," said the doctor.
"Are you surprised?" asked the commander, laughing. "What! are we lucky enough to find anything that will surprise you?"
"I am surprised without being surprised," answered the doctor, smiling, "since the brig Ann Poole, of Greenspond, was caught in the ice in the year 1813, in the forty-fourth degree of north latitude, and Dayement, her captain, saw hundreds of icebergs."
"Good," said Shandon; "you can still teach us a great deal about them."
"O, not so very much!" answered Clawbonny, modestly, "except that ice has been seen in very much lower latitudes."
"That I know, my dear Doctor, for when I was a cabin-boy on the sloop-of-war, Fly—"
"In 1818," continued the doctor, "at the end of March, or it might have been the beginning of April, you passed between two large fields of floating ice, in latitude forty-two."
"That is too much!" exclaimed Shandon.
"But it's true; so I have no need to be surprised, now that we are two degrees farther north, at our sighting an iceberg."
"You are bottled full of information, Doctor," answered the commander; "one needs only draw the cork."
"Very well, I shall be exhausted sooner than you think; and now, Shandon, if we can get a nearer view of this phenomenon, I should be the gladdest of doctors."
"Exactly, Johnson," said Shandon, summoning the boatswain; "I think the wind is freshening."
"Yes, Commander," answered Johnson, "we are making very little headway, and soon we shall feel the currents from Davis Strait."
"You are right, Johnson, and if we mean to make Cape Farewell by the 20th of April, we must go under steam, or we shall be cast on the coast of Labrador.—Mr. Wall, give the order to light the fires."
The mate's orders were obeyed; an hour later the engines were in motion; the sails were furled; and the screw, turning through the waves, was driving the Forward rapidly in the teeth of the northwest wind.
CHAPTER VI. THE GREAT POLAR CURRENT.
Soon more numerous flocks of birds, petrels, puffins, and others which inhabit those barren shores, gave token of their approach to Greenland. The Forward was moving rapidly northward, leaving behind her a long line of dark smoke.
Tuesday, the 17th of April, the ice-master caught the first sight of the blink of the ice. It was visible at least twenty miles off to the north-northwest. In spite of some tolerably thick clouds it lighted up brilliantly all the air near the horizon. No one of those on board who had ever seen this phenomenon before could fail to recognize it, and they felt assured from its whiteness that this blink was due to a vast field of ice lying about thirty miles farther than they could see, and that it came from the reflection of its luminous rays.
[Footnote 1: A peculiar and brilliant color of the air above a large expanse of ice.]
Towards evening the wind shifted to the south, and became favorable; Shandon was able to carry sail, and as a measure of economy they extinguished the furnace fires. The Forward under her topsails, jib, and foresail, sailed on towards Cape Farewell.
At three o'clock on the 18th they made out an ice-stream, which, like a narrow but brilliant band, divided the lines of the water and sky. It was evidently descending rather from the coast of Greenland than from Davis Strait, for the ice tended to keep on the western side of Baffin's Bay. An hour later, and the Forward was passing through the detached fragments of the ice-stream, and in the thickest part the pieces of ice, although closely welded together, were rising and falling with the waves.
At daybreak the next morning the watch saw a sail; it was the Valkyria, a Danish corvette, sailing towards the Forward, bound to Newfoundland. The current from the strait became perceptible, and Shandon had to set more sail to overcome it.
At that moment the commander, the doctor, James Wall, and Johnson were all together on the poop-deck, observing the force and direction of the current. The doctor asked if it were proved that this current was felt throughout Baffin's Bay.
"There's no doubt of it," answered Shandon; "and sailing-vessels have hard work in making headway against it."
"And it's so much the harder," added James Wall, "because it's met on the eastern coast of America, as well as on the western coast of Greenland."
"Well," said the doctor, "that serves to confirm those who seek a Northwest Passage. The current moves at the rate of about five miles an hour, and it is hard to imagine that it rises at the bottom of a gulf."
"That is very likely, Doctor," answered Shandon, "because, while this current flows from north to south, there is a contrary current in Behring Strait, which flows from south to north, and which must be the cause of this one."
"Hence," said the doctor, "you must admit that America is completely separated from the polar regions, and that the water from the Pacific skirts its whole northern coast, until it reaches the Atlantic. Besides, the greater elevation of the water of the Pacific is another reason for its flowing towards the European seas."
"But," said Shandon, "there must be some facts which support this theory; and if there are," he added with gentle irony, "our learned friend must be familiar with them."
"Well," answered the latter, complacently, "if it interests you at all I can tell you that whales, wounded in Davis Strait, have been found afterwards on the coast of Tartary, still carrying a European harpoon in their side."
"And unless they doubled Cape Horn, or the Cape of Good Hope," answered Shandon, "they must have gone around the northern coast of America. There can be no doubt of that, Doctor."
"And if you were not convinced, my dear Shandon," said the doctor, smiling, "I could produce still other evidence, such as the floating wood with which Davis Strait is filled, larch, aspen, and other southern kinds. Now we know that the Gulf Stream could not carry them into the strait; and if they come out from it they must have got in through Behring Strait."
"I am perfectly convinced, Doctor, and I must say it would be hard to maintain the other side against you."
"See there," said Johnson, "there's something that will throw light on this discussion. It's a large piece of wood floating on the water; if the commander will give us leave, we can put a rope about it, hoist it on board, and ask it the name of its country."
"That's the way!" said the doctor; "after the rule we have the example."
Shandon gave the necessary orders; the brig was turned towards the piece of wood, and soon the crew were hoisting it aboard, although not without considerable trouble.
It was the trunk of a mahogany-tree, eaten to its centre by worms, which fact alone made it light enough to float.
"This is a real triumph," exclaimed the doctor, enthusiastically, "for, since the Atlantic currents could not have brought it into Davis Strait, since it could not have reached the polar waters from the rivers of North America, as the tree grows under the equator, it is evident that it must have come direct from Behring Strait. And besides, see those sea-worms which have eaten it; they belong to warm latitudes."
"It certainly gives the lie to those who deny the existence of a Northwest Passage."
"It fairly kills them," answered the doctor. "See here, I'll give you the route of this mahogany-tree: it was carried to the Pacific Ocean by some river of the Isthmus of Panama or of Guatemala; thence the current carried it along the coast of America as far as Behring Strait, and so it was forced into the polar waters; it is neither so old nor so completely water-logged that we cannot set its departure at some recent date; it escaped all the obstacles of the many straits coming into Baffin's Bay, and being quickly seized by the arctic current it came through Davis Strait to be hoisted on board the Forward for the great joy of Dr. Clawbonny, who asks the commander's permission to keep a piece as a memorial."
"Of course," answered Shandon; "but let me tell you in my turn that you will not be the only possessor of such a waif. The Danish governor of the island of Disco—"
"On the coast of Greenland," continued the doctor, "has a mahogany table, made from a tree found in the same way; I know it, my dear Shandon. Very well; I don't grudge him his table, for if there were room enough on board, I could easily make a sleeping-room out of this."
On the night of Wednesday the wind blew with extreme violence; drift-wood was frequently seen; the approach to the coast became more dangerous at a time when icebergs are numerous; hence the commander ordered sail to be shortened, and the Forward went on under merely her foresail and forestay-sail.
The thermometer fell below the freezing-point. Shandon distributed among the crew suitable clothing, woollen trousers and jackets, flannel shirts, and thick woollen stockings, such as are worn by Norwegian peasants. Every man received in addition a pair of water-proof boots.
As for Captain, he seemed contented with his fur; he appeared indifferent to the changes of temperature, as if he were thoroughly accustomed to such a life; and besides, a Danish dog was unlikely to be very tender. The men seldom laid eyes on him, for he generally kept himself concealed in the darkest parts of the vessel.
Towards evening, through a rift in the fog, the coast of Greenland could be seen in longitude 37 degrees 2 minutes 7 seconds. Through his glass the doctor was able to distinguish mountains separated by huge glaciers; but the fog soon cut out this view, like the curtain of a theatre falling at the most interesting part of a play.
On the morning of the 20th of April, the Forward found itself in sight of an iceberg one hundred and fifty feet high, aground in this place from time immemorial; the thaws have had no effect upon it, and leave its strange shape unaltered. Snow saw it; in 1829 James Ross took an exact drawing of it; and in 1851 the French lieutenant, Bellot, on board of the Prince Albert, observed it. Naturally the doctor wanted to preserve a memorial of the famous mountain, and he made a very successful sketch of it.
It is not strange that such masses should run aground, and in consequence become immovably fixed to the spot; as for every foot above the surface of the water they have nearly two beneath, which would give to this one a total height of about four hundred feet.
At last with a temperature at noon as low as 12 degrees, under a snowy, misty sky, they sighted Cape Farewell. The Forward arrived at the appointed day; the unknown captain, if he cared to assume his place in such gloomy weather, would have no need to complain.
"Then," said the doctor to himself, "there is this famous cape, with its appropriate name! Many have passed it, as we do, who were destined never to see it again! Is it an eternal farewell to one's friends in Europe? You have all passed it, Frobisher, Knight, Barlow, Vaughan, Scroggs, Barentz, Hudson, Blosseville, Franklin, Crozier, Bellot, destined never to return home; and for you this cape was well named Cape Farewell!"
It was towards the year 970 that voyagers, setting out from Iceland, discovered Greenland. Sebastian Cabot, in 1498, went as high as latitude 56 degrees; Gaspard and Michel Cotreal, from 1500 to 1502, reached latitude 60 degrees; and in 1576 Martin Frobisher reached the inlet which bears his name.
To John Davis belongs the honor of having discovered the strait, in 1585; and two years later in a third voyage this hardy sailor, this great whaler, reached the sixty-third parallel, twenty-seven degrees from the Pole.
Barentz in 1596, Weymouth in 1602, James Hall in 1605 and 1607, Hudson, whose name was given to the large bay which runs so far back into the continent of America, James Poole in 1611, went more or less far into the straits, seeking the Northwest Passage, the discovery of which would have greatly shortened the route between the two worlds.
Baffin, in 1616, found in the bay of that name Lancaster Sound; he was followed in 1619 by James Monk, and in 1719 by Knight, Barlow, Vaughan, and Scroggs, who were never heard of again.
In 1776, Lieutenant Pickersgill, sent to meet Captain Cook, who tried to make his way through Behring Strait, reached latitude 68 degrees; the next year, Young, on the same errand, went as far as Woman's Island.
Then came James Ross, who in 1818 sailed all around the shores of Baffin's Bay, and corrected the errors on the charts of his predecessors.
Finally, in 1819 and 1820, the famous Parry made his way into Lancaster Sound. In spite of numberless difficulties he reached Melville Island, and won the prize of five thousand pounds offered by act of Parliament to the English sailors who should cross the meridian at a latitude higher than the seventy-seventh parallel.
In 1826, Beechey touched at Chamisso Island; James Ross wintered, from 1829 to 1833, in Prince Regent's Inlet, and, among other important services, discovered the magnetic pole.
During this time Franklin, by a land-journey, defined the northern coast of America, from Mackenzie River to Turnagain Point; Captain Back followed the same route from 1823 to 1835; and these explorations were completed in 1839 by Dease, Simpson, and Dr. Rae.
At last, Sir John Franklin, anxious to discover the Northwest Passage, left England in 1845, with the Erebus and the Terror; he entered Baffin's Bay, and since his leaving Disco Island there has been no news of his expedition.
His disappearance started numerous search-expeditions, which have effected the discovery of the passage, and given the world definite information about the rugged coasts of the polar lands. The boldest sailors of England, France, and the United States hastened to these terrible latitudes; and, thanks to their exertions, the tortuous, complicated map of these regions has at last been placed in the archives of the Royal Geographical Society of London.
The strange history of these lands crowded on the imagination of the doctor, as he stood leaning on the rail, and gazing on the long track of the brig. The names of those bold sailors thronged into his memory, and it seemed to him that beneath the frozen arches of the ice he could see the pale ghosts of those who never returned.
CHAPTER VII. THE ENTRANCE OF DAVIS STRAIT.
During that day the Forward made easy progress through the loose ice; the breeze was in a good quarter, but the temperature was very low; the wind coming across the ice-fields was thoroughly chilled.
At night the strictest care was necessary; the icebergs crowded together in this narrow passage; often they could be counted by the hundred on the horizon; they had been loosened from the lofty coasts by the incessant beating of the waves and the warmth of the spring month, and they were floating down to melt away in the depths of the ocean. Often, too, they came across large masses of floating wood, which they were obliged to avoid, so that the crow's-nest was placed in position on the top of the foremast; it consisted of a sort of tub, in which the ice-master, partly sheltered from the wind, scanned the sea, giving notice of the ice in sight, and even, if necessary, directing the ship's course.
The nights were short; since the 31st of January the sun had reappeared in refraction, and was every day rising higher and higher above the horizon. But it was hid by the snow, which, if it did not produce utter darkness, rendered navigation difficult.
April 21st, Cape Desolation appeared through the mist; hard work was wearying the crew; since the brig had entered the ice, the sailors had had no rest; it was now necessary to have recourse to steam to force a way through the accumulated masses.
The doctor and Johnson were talking together on the after-deck, while Shandon was snatching a few hours of sleep in his cabin. Clawbonny was very fond of talking with the old sailor, whose numerous voyages had given him a valuable education. The two had made great friends of one another.
"You see, Dr. Clawbonny," said Johnson, "this country is not like any other; its name is Greenland, but there are very few weeks of the year in which it deserves this name."
"But, Johnson," answered the doctor, "who can say whether in the tenth century this name did not suit it? More than one change of this sort has taken place on the globe, and I should astonish you much more by saying that, according to Icelandic chroniclers, two hundred villages flourished on this continent eight or nine hundred years ago."
"You astonish me so much, Dr. Clawbonny, that I can't believe you; for it's a sterile country."
"Well, sterile as it is, it supports a good many inhabitants, and among them are some civilized Europeans."
"Without doubt; at Disco and at Upernavik we shall find men who are willing to live in such a climate; but I always supposed they stayed there from necessity, and not because they liked it."
"I think you are right; still, men get accustomed to everything, and these Greenlanders appear to me better off than the workingmen of our large cities; they may be unfortunate, but they are not miserable. I say unfortunate, but that is not exactly what I mean; in fact, if they are not quite as comfortable as those who live in temperate regions, they, nevertheless, are accustomed to the severity of the climate, and find in it an enjoyment which we should never imagine."
"We have to think so, Dr. Clawbonny, because Heaven is just; but I have often visited these coasts, and I am always saddened at the sight of its gloomy loneliness; the capes, promontories, and bays ought to have more attractive names, for Cape Farewell and Cape Desolation are not of a sort to cheer sailors."
"I have often made the same remark," answered the doctor; "but these names have a geographical value which is not to be forgotten; they describe the adventures of those who gave them; along with the names of Davis, Baffin, Hudson, Ross, Parry, Franklin, Bellot, if I find Cape Desolation, I also find soon Mercy Bay; Cape Providence makes up for Port Anxiety, Repulse Bay brings me to Cape Eden, and after leaving Point Turnagain I rest in Refuge Bay; in that way I have under my eyes the whole succession of dangers, checks, obstacles, successes, despairs, and victories connected with the great names of my country; and, like a series of antique medals, this nomenclature gives me the whole history of these seas."
"Well reasoned, Doctor; and may we find more bays of Success in our journey than capes of Despair!"
"I hope so, Johnson; but, tell me, have the crew got over their fears?"
"Somewhat, sir; and yet, to tell the truth, since we entered these straits, they have begun to be very uneasy about the unknown captain; more than one expected to see him appear at the end of Greenland; and so far no news of him. Between ourselves, Doctor, don't you think that is a little strange!"
"Yes, Johnson, I do."
"Do you believe the captain exists?"
"Without any doubt."
"But what reason can he have had for acting in this way?"
"To speak frankly, Johnson, I imagine that he wants to get the crew so far away that it will be impossible for them to turn back. Now, if he had appeared on board when we set sail, and every one had known where we were going, he might have been embarrassed."
"Why, if he wants to try any superhuman enterprise, if he wants to go where so many have failed, do you think he would have succeeded in shipping a crew? But, once on the way, it is easy to go so far that to go farther becomes an absolute necessity."
"Possibly, Doctor; I have known more than one bold explorer, whose name alone would have frightened every one, and who would have found no one to accompany him on his perilous expeditions—"
"Except me," said the doctor.
"And me," continued Johnson. "I tell you our captain is probably one of those men. At any rate, we shall know sooner or later; I suppose that at Upernavik or Melville Bay he will come quietly on board, and let us know whither he intends to take the ship."
"Very likely, Johnson; but the difficulty will be to get to Melville Bay; see how thick the ice is about us! The Forward can hardly make her way through it. See there, that huge expanse!"
"We whalers call that an ice-field, that is to say, an unbroken surface of ice, the limits of which cannot be seen."
"And what do you call this broken field of long pieces more or less closely connected?"
"That is a pack; if it's round we call it a patch, and a stream if it is long."
"And that floating ice?"
"That is drift-ice; if a little higher it would be icebergs; they are very dangerous to ships, and they have to be carefully avoided. See, down there on the ice-field, that protuberance caused by the pressure of the ice; we call that a hummock; if the base were under water, we should call it a cake; we have to give names to them all to distinguish them."
"Ah, it is a strange sight," exclaimed the doctor, as he gazed at the wonders of the northern seas; "one's imagination is touched by all these different shapes!"