The Baldwin Library
THE EVIL SPELL.
.1 o/ "Tioeni.. Thousand Leagues undur the Sea.
Fiv.e Weeks in a Balloon.'" e.
"THE E-NGLISIH AT THE NORTH POLE,"
"'THE ICE DESERT."
WARD, LOCK & CO.,
WARWICK HOUSE, SALISBURY SQUARE, E.C,
THE ENGLISH AT THE
THE FORWARD 9
AN UNEXPECTED LETTER 18
DR. CLAWBONNY 20
DOG-CAPTAIN .. 29
OT AT SEA 37
THE GREAT POLAR CURRENT 46
DAVIS'S STRAITS .
GOSSIP OF THE CREW .
DANGEROUS NAVIGATION .
THE DEVIL'S THUMB .
THE PROJECTS OF HATTERAS
EXPEDITION IN SEARCH OF FRANKLIN
THE FORWARD DRIVEN BACK SOUTH
THE MAGNETIC POLE
THE FATE OF SIR JOHN FRANKLIN .
THE NORTHERN ROUTE
A WHALE IN SIGHT
THE DEATH OF BELLOT
BEGINNING OF REVOLT
ATTACKED BY ICEBERGS
PREPARATIONS FOR WINTERING
A OLD Fox .
THE LAST LUMP OF COAL .
PREPARATIONS FOB DEPARTURE
ACROSS THE IJE ..
THE CAIRN .
THE DEATH OF SIMPSON
THE RETURN .
THE ENGLISH AT THE.
" I -MORROW, at low tide, the brig
Forward, Captain K. Z- Richard
Shandon mate, will start from New
Prince's Docks for an unknown desti-
The foregoing might have been read in the Liver-
pool Herald of April 5th, 1860. The departure of a
brig is an event of little importance for the most
commercial port in England. Who would notice it
in the midst of vessels of all sorts of tonnage and
nationality that six miles of docks can hardly con-
tain ? However, from daybreak on the 6th of April a
considerable crowd covered the wharfs of New Prince's
Docks-the innumerable companies of sailors of the
town seemed to have met there. Workmen from the
neighboring wharfs had left their work, merchantF
10 The English at the North Pole.
their dark counting-houses, tradesmen their shops. The
different-coloured omnibuses that ran along the exterior
wall of the docks brought cargoes of spectators at
every moment; the town seemed to have but one pre-.
occupation, and that was to see the Forward go out.
The Forward was a vessel of a hundred and seventy
cons, charged with a screw and steam-engine of a
hundred and twenty horse-power. It might easily
have been confounded with the other brigs in the port.
But though it offered nothing curious to the eyes of
the public, connoisseurs remarked certain peculiarities
in it that a sailor cannot mistake. On board the Nau-
tilus, anchored at a little distance, a group of sailors
were hazarding a thousand conjectures about the desti-
nation of the Forward.
"I don't know what to think about its masting,"
said one; "it isn't usual for steamboats to have so
"That ship," said a quartermaster with a big red
face-" that ship will have to depend more on her
masts than her engine, and the topsails are the biggest
because the others will be often useless. I haven't got
the slightest doubt that the Forward is destined for
the Arctic or Antarctic seas, where the icebergs stop
the wind more than is good for a brave and solid ship."
"You must be right, Mr. Cornhill," said a third
sailor. "Have you noticed her stern, how straight it
falls into the sea ?"
Yes," said the quartermaster, and it is furnished
with a steel cutter as sharp as a razor and capable of
cutting a three-decker in two if the Forward were
thrown across her at top speed."
That's certain," said a Mersey pilot; for. that
The English at the North Pole. 11
'ere vessel rubs her fourteen knots an hour with her
screw. It was marvellous to see her cutting the tide
when she made her trial trip. I believe you, she's a
"The canvas isn't intricate either," answered Mr.
Cornhill; "it goes straight before the wind, and can
be managed by hand. That ship is going to try the
Polar seas, or my name isn't what it is. There's some-
thing else-do you see the wide helm-port that the
head of her helm goes through ?"
"It's there, sure enough," answered one; "but
what does that prove P"
"That proves, my boys," said Mr. Cornhill with
disdainful satisfaction, "that you don't know how to
put two and two together and make it four; it proves
that they want to be able to take off the helm when
they like, and you know it's a manoeuvre that's often
necessary when you have ice to deal with."
"That's certain," answered the crew of the Nautilus.
"Besides," said one of them, "the way she's
loaded confirms Mr. Cornhill's opinion. Clifton told
me. The Forward is victualled and carries coal enough
for five or six years. Coals and victuals are all its
cargo, with a stock of woollen garments and sealskins."
"Then," said the quartermaster, there is no more
doubt on the matter; but you, who know Clifton,
didn't he tell you anything about her destination ?"
"He couldn't tell me; he doesn't know; the crew
was engaged without knowing. He'll only know where
he's going when he gets there."
I shouldn't wonder if they were going to the devil,"
said an unbeliever: it looks like it."
And such pay," said Clifton's friend, getting warm-
12 The English at the North Pole.
" five times more than the ordinary pay. If it hadn't
been for that Richard Shandon wouldn't have found a
soul to go" with him. A ship with a queer shape,
going nobody knows where, and looking more like not
coming back than anything else, it wouldn't have
suited this child."
Whether it would have suited you or not," answered
Cornhill, "you couldn't have been one of the crew of
And why, pray ?"
"Because you don't fulfil the required conditions.
I read that all married men were excluded, and you
are in 'the category, so you needn't talk. Even the
very name of the ship is a bold one. The Forward-
where is it to be forwarded to ? Besides, nobody
knows who the captain is."
"Yes, they do," said a simple-faced young sailor.
"Why, you don't mean to say that you think
Shandon is the captain of the Forward P" said Corn-
But---" answered the young sailor-
"Why, Shandon is commander, and nothing else;
he's a brave and bold sailor, an experienced whaler,
and a jolly fellow worthy in every respect to be the
captain, but he isn't any more captain than you or I.
As to who is going to command after God on board he
doesn't know any more than we do. When the moment
has come the true captain will appear, no one knows
how nor where, for Richard Shandon has not said and
hasn't been allowed to say to what quarter of the globe
he is going to direct his ship."
But, Mr. Cornhill," continued the young sailor, I
assure you that there is some one on board who was
The English at the North Pole. 13
announced in the letter, and that Mr. Shandon was
offered the place of second to."
"What !" said Cornhill, frowning, do you mean to
maintain that the Forward has a captain on board ?"
"Yes, Mr. Cornhill."
"Where did you get your precious information
"From Johnson, the boatswain."
"From Johnson ?"
"Johnson told you so ?"
He not only told me so, but he showed me the
"-He showed him to you !" said Cornhill, stupefied.
" And who is it, pray ?"
"What do you mean by a dog?"
A dog on four legs."
Stupefaction reigned amongst the crew of the Nau-
tilus. Under any other circumstances they would
have burst out laughing. A dog captain of a vessel of
a hundred and seventy tons burden! It was enough
to make them laugh. But really the Forward was
such an extraordinary ship that they felt it might be
no laughing matter, and they must be sure before they
denied it. Besides, Cornhill himself didn't laugh.
"So Johnson showed you the new sort of captain,
did he?" added he, addressing the young sailor, "and
you saw him ?"
Yes, sir, as plainly as I see you now."
"Well, and what do you think about it ?' asked the
sailors of the quartermaster.
"I don't think anything," he answered shortly. "I
14 The English at the North Pole.
don't think anything, except that the Forward is a
ship belonging to the devil or madmen fit for nothing
The sailors continued silently watching the Forward,
whose preparations for departure were drawing to an
end; there was not one of them who pretended that
Johnson had only been laughing at the young sailor.
The history of the dog had already made the round of
the town, and amongst the crowd of spectators many
a one looked out for the dog-captain and believed him
to be a supernatural animal. Besides, the Forward
had been attracting public attention for some months
past. Everything about her was marvellous; her pe-
culiar shape, the mystery which surrounded her, the
incognito kept by-the captain, the way Richard Shan.
don had received the proposition to direct her, the
careful selection of the crew, her unknown destination,
suspected only by a few-all about her was strange.
To a thinker, dreamer, or philosopher nothing is
more affecting than the departure of a ship; his
imagination plays round the sails, sees her struggles
with the sea and the wind in the adventurous journey
which does not always end in port; when in addition
to the ordinary incidents of departure there are extra-
ordinary ones, even minds little given to credulity let
their imagination run wild.
So it was with the Forward, and though the gene.
reality of people could not make the knowing re-
marks of Quartermaster Cornhill, it did not prevent
the ship forming the subject of Liverpool gossip for
three long months. The ship had been put in dock
at Birkenhead, on the opposite side of the Mersey.
The builders, Scott and Co., amongst the first in
The English at the North Pole. 15
England, had received an estimate and detailed plan
from Richard Shandon; it informed them of the exact
tonnage, dimensions, and store room that the brig was
to have. They saw by the details given that they had
to do with a consummate seaman. As Shandon had
considerable funds at his disposal, the work advanced
rapidly, according to. the recommendation of the owner.
The brig was constructed of a solidity to withstand all
tests; it was evident that she was destined to resist
enormous pressure, for her ribs were built of teak-wood,
a sort of Indian oak, remarkable for its extreme hard-
ness, and were, besides, plated with iron. Sailors
asked why the hull of a vessel made so evidently for
resistance was not built of sheet-iron like other steam-
boats, and were told it was because the mysterious
engineer had his own reasons for what he did.
Little by little the brig grew on the anvil, and her
qualities of strength and delicacy struck connoisseurs.
As the sailors of the Nautilus had remarked, her stern
formed a right angle with her keel; her steel prow,
cast in the workshop of R. Hawthorn, of Newcastle,
shone in the sun and gave a peculiar look to the brig,
though otherwise she had nothing particularly warlike
about her. However, a 16-pounder cannon was in-
stalled on the forecastle; it was mounted on a pivot,
so that it might easily be turned in any direction; but
neither the cannon nor the stern, steel-clad as they
were, succeeded in looking warlike.
On the 5th of February, 1860, this strange vessel
was launched in the midst of an immense concourse of
spectators, and the trial trip was perfectly successful.
But if the brig was neither a man-of-war, a merchant
vessel, nor a pleasure yacht-for a pleasure trip is not
16 The English at the North Pole,
made with six years' provisions in the hold-what was
it? Was it a vessel destined for another Franklin
expedition? rt could not be, because in 1859, the
preceding year, Captain McClintock had returned
from the Arctic seas, bringing the certain proof of the
loss of the unfortunate expedition. Was the Forward
going to attempt the famous Noith-West passage?
What would be the use ? Captain McClure had dis.
covered it in 1858, and his lieutenant, Creswell, was
the first who had the honour of rounding the American
continent from Behring's Straits to Davis's Straits. Still
it was certain to competent judges that the Forward
was prepared to face the ice regions. Was it going to
the South Pole, farther than the whaler Wedell or
Captain James Ross ? But, if so, what for ?
The day after the brig was floated her engine was
sent from Hawthorn's foundry at Newcastle. It was
of a hundred and twenty horse-power, with oscillating
cylinders, taking up little room; its power was con-
siderable for a hundred-and-seventy-ton brig, with so
much sail, too, and of such fleetness. Her trial trips
had left no doubt on that subject, and even the boat-
swain, Johnson, had thought right to express mis
opinion to Clifton's friend-
"When the Forward uses her engine and sails at the
same time, her sails will make her go the quickest."
Clifton's friend did not understand him, but he
thought anything possible of a ship commanded by a
dog. After the engine was installed on board, the
stowage of provisions began. This was no slight work,
for the vessel was to carry enough for six years. They
consisted of dry and salted meat, smoked fish, biscuit,
and flour; mountains of tea and coffee were thrown
The English at the North Pole. 17
down the shafts in perfect avalanches. Richard Shan-
don presided over the management of this precious
cargo like a man who knows what he is about; all was
stowed away, ticketed, and numbered in perfect order;
a very large provision of the Indian preparation called
pemmican, which contains many nutritive elements in
a small volume, was also embarked. The nature of the
provisions left no doubt about the length of the cruise,
and the sight of the barrels of lime-juice, lime-drops,
packets of mustard, grains of sorrel and cochlearia, all
antiscorbutic, confirmed the opinion on the destina-
tion of the brig for the ice regions; their influence is
so necessary in Polar navigation. Shandon had doubt-
less received particular instructions about this part of
the cargo, which, along with the medicine-chest, he
attended to particularly.
Although arms were not numerous on board, the
powder-magazine overflowed. The one cannon could
not pretend to use the contents. That gave people
more to think about. There were also gigantic saws
and powerful instruments, such as levers, leaden maces,
handsaws, enormous axes, &c., without counting a
considerable quantity of blasting cylinders, enough to
blow up the Liverpool Custoils-all that was strange,
not to say fearful, without mentioning rockets, signals,
powder-chests, and beacons of a thousand different
sorts. The numerous spectators on the wharfs of
Prince's Docks admired likewise a long mahogany
whaler, a tin pirogue covered with gutta-percha, and a
certain quantity of halkett-boats, a sort of indiarubber
cloaks that can be transformed into canoes by blowing
in their lining. Expectation was on the gdi-vive, for
the Forward was going out with the tide..
18 The English at the North Pole.
AN UNEXPECTED LETTER.
HE letter received by Richard Shandon,
eight months before, ran as follows:-
"August 2nd, 1859.
"To Mr. Richard Shandon,
Si,-I beg to advise you that the sum of sixteen
thousand pounds sterling-has been placed in the hands
of Messrs. Marcuart and Co., bankers, of Liverpool. I
join herewith a series of cheques, signed by me, which
will allow you to draw upon the said Messrs. Marcuart
for the above-mentioned sum. You do not know me,
but that is of no consequence. I know you: that is
sufficient. I offer you the plaoe of second on board the
brig Forward for a voyage that may be long and
perilous. If you agree to my conditions you will receive
a salary of 500, and all through the voyage it will be
augmented one-tenth at the end of each year. The
Forward is not yet in existence. You must have it
built so as to be ready for sea at the beginning of April,
1860, at the latest. Herewith is a detailed plan and
estimate. You will take care that it is scrupulously
followed. The ship is to be built by Messrs. Scott and
Co., who will settle with you. I particularly recom-
mend you the choice of the Forward's crew; it will be
composed of a captain, myself, of a second, you, of a
third officer, a boatswain, two engineers, an ice pilot,
eight sailors, and two others, eighteen men in all, com-
The English at the North Pole. 19
prising Dr. Clawbonny, of this town, who will introduce
himself to you when necessary. The Forward's crew
must be composed of Englishmen without incumbrance;
they should be all bachelors and sober-for no spirits,
nor even beer, will be allowed on board-ready to under-
take anything, and to bear with anything.' You will
give the preference to men of a sanguine constitution,
as they carry a greater amount of animal heat. Offer
them five times the usual pay, with an increase of
one-tenth for each year of service. At the end of the
voyage five hundred pounds will be placed at the dis-
position of each, and two thousand at yours. These
funds will be placed with Messrs. Marcuart and Co.
The voyage will be long and difficult, but honourable,
so you need not hesitate to accept my, conditions. Be
goodenough to sendyour answer to K.Z.,PosteRestante,
P.S. On the 15th of February next you will receive
a large Danish dog, with- hanging lips, and tawny coat
with black stripes. You will take it on board and have
it fed with oaten bread, mixed with tallow grease. You
will acknowledge the reception of the said dog to me
under the same initials as above, Poste Restante,
"The captain of the Forward will introduce himself
to you when necessary. When you are ready to start
you will receive further instructions.
"THE CAPTAIN OF THE FORWARD,
20 The English at the North Pole.
ICHARD SHANDON was a good sailor;
he had been commander of whalers in
Sthe Arctic Seas for many years, and had
a wide reputation for skill. He might
well be astonished at such a letter, and so
he was, but astonished like a man used to astonishments.
He fulfilled, too, all the required conditions : he had
no wife, children, or relations; he was as free as a man
could be. Having no one to consult, he went straight
to Messrs. Marcuart's bank.
"If the money is there," he said to himself, I'll
undertake the rest."
He was received by the firm with all the attention
due to a man with sixteen thousand pounds in their
safes. Sure of that fact, Shandon asked for a sheet of
letter-paper, and sent his acceptance in a large sailor's
hand to the -address indicated. The same day he put
himself in communication with the Birkenhead ship-
builders, and twenty-four hours later the keel of the
Forward lay on the anvil of the dockyard.
Richard Shandon was a bachelor of forty, robust,
energetic, and brave, three sailor-like qualities, giving
their possessor confidence, vigour, and sang-froid. He
was reputed jealous and hard to be pleased, so ne was
more feared than loved by his sailors. But this repu-
tation did not increase the difficulty of finding a crew,
for he was known to be a clever commander. He was
afraid that the mystery ef the enterprise would em-
barrass his movements, and he said to himself, The
best thing I can do is to say nothing at all; there
The English at the North Pole. -21
are sea-dogs who will want to know the why and the
wherefore of the business, and as I know nothing
myself, I can't tell them. K. Z. is a queer fish, but
after all he knows me, and has confidence in me; that's
enough. As to the ship, she will be a handsome lass,
and my name isn't Richard Shandon if she is not
destined for the Frozen Seas. But I shall keep that to
myself and my officers."
Upon which Richard Shandon set about recruiting
his crew upon the conditions of family and health
exacted by the captain. He knew a brave fellow and
capital sailor, named James Wall. Wall was about
thirty, and had made more than one trip to the North
Seas. Shandon offered him the post of third officer, and
he accepted blindly; all he cared for was to sail, as he
was devoted to his profession. Shandon told him and
Johnson (whom he engaged as boatswain) all he knew
about the business.
"Just as soon go there as anywhere else," answered
Wall. If it's to seek the North-West passage, many
have been and come back."
"Been, yes; but come back I don't answer for,"
said Johnson; "but that's no reason for not going."
"Besides, if we are not mistaken in our conjectures,"
said Shandon, "the voyage will be undertaken under
good conditions. The Forward's a bonny lass, with a
good engine, and will stand wear and tear. Eighteen
men are all the crew we want."
Eighteen men ?" said Johnson. "That's just the
number that the American, Kane, had on board when
he made his famous voyage towards the North Pole."
It's a singular fact that there's always some private
individual trying to cross the sea from Davis's Straits
22 The English at the North Pole.
to Behring's Straits. The Franklin expeditions have
already cost England more than seven hundred and
sixty thousand pounds without producing any practical
result. Who the devil means to risk his fortune in
such an enterprise P"
"We are reasoning now on a simple hypothesis,"
said Shandon. "I don't know if we are really going
to the Northern or Southern Seas. Perhaps we are
going on a voyage of discovery. We shall know more
when Dr. Clawbonny comes; I daresay he will tell us
all about it."
"There's nothing for it but to wait," answered John-
son; I'll go and hunt up some solid subjects, captain;
and as to their animal heat, I guarantee that before-
hand you can trust me for that."
Johnson was a valuable acquisition; he understood
the navigation of these high latitudes. He was quarter-
master on board the Pheenix, one of the vessels of the
Franklin expedition of 1853. He was witness of the
death of the French lieutenant Bellot, whom he had
accompanied in his expedition across the ice. Johnson
knew the maritime population of Liverpool, and started
at once on his recruiting expedition.. Shandon, Wall,
and he did their work so well that the crew was com-
plete in the beginning of December. It had been a
difficult task; many, tempted by the high pay, felt
frightened at the risk, and more than one enlisted
boldly who came afterwards to take back his word and
enlistment money, dissuaded by his friends from under-
taking such an enterprise. All of them tried to pierce
the mystery, and worried Shandon with questions;, he
sent them to Johnson.
"I can't tell you what I don't know," he answered
The English 'at the North Pole. 23
Invariably; "you'll be in good company, that's all I
can tell you. You can take it or leave it alone."
And the greater number took it.
"I have only to choose," added the boatswain;
"such salary has never been heard of in the memory of
sailor, and then the certainty of finding a handsome
capital when we come back. Only think: it's tempting
"The fact is," answered the sailor, "it is tempting;
enough to live on till the end of one's days."
I don't hide from you," continued Johnson, "that
the cruise will be long, painful, and perilous; that is
formally stated in our instructions, and you ought to
know what you undertake; you will very likely be
required to attempt all that it is possible for human
beings to do, and perhaps more. If you are the least
bit frightened, if you don't think you may just as well
finish yonder as here, you'd better not enlist, but give
way to a bolder man."
"But, Mr. Johnson," continued the sailor, for the
want of something better to say, "at least you know
the captain ?"
The captain is Richard Shandon till another comes."
Richard Shandon, in his secret heart, hoped that the
command would remain with him, and that at the last
moment he should receive precise instructions as to
the destination of the Forward. He did all he could to
spread the report'in his conversations with his officers,
or when following the construction of the brig as it
grew in the Birkenhead dockyard, looking like the ribs
of a whale turned upside down. Shandon and Johnson
kept strictly to their instructions touching the health
of the sailors who were to form the crew; they all
24 The English at the North Pole.
looked hale and hearty, and had enough heat in their
bodies to suffice for the. engine of. the Forward; their
supple limbs, their clear and florid complexions were
fit to react against the action of intense cold. They
were confident and resolute men, energetically and
solidly constituted. Of course they were not all equally
vigorous; Shandon had even hesitated about taking
some of them, such as the sailors Gripper and Garry,
and the harpooner Simpson, because they looked rather
thin; but, on the whole, their build was good; they were
a warm-hearted lot, and their engagement-was signed.
All the crew belonged to the same sect of the Pro-
testant religion; during these long campaigns prayer
in common and the reading of the Bible have a good
influence over the men and.sustain them in the hour
of discouragement; it was therefore important that
they should be all of the same way of thinking. Shan-
don knew by experience the utility of these practices,
and their influence on the mind of the crew; they are
always employed on board ships that are intended to
winter in the Polar Seas. The crew once got together,
Shandon and his two officers set about the provisions;
they strictly followed the instructions of the captain;
these instructions were clear, precise, and detailed, and
the least articles were put down with their quality and
quantity. Thanks to the cheques at the commander's
disposition, every article was paid for at once with a
discount of 8 pe cent., which Richard carefully placed
to the credit of K. Z.
Crew, provisions, and cargo were ready by January,
1860; the Forward began to look shipshape, and
Shandon went daily to Birkenhead. On the morning
of the 23rd of January be was, as usual, on board one
The English at the North Pole. 25
of the Mersey ferry-boats with a helm at either end to
prevent having to turn it; there was a thick fog, and
the sailors of the river were obliged to direct their
course by means of the compass, though the passage
lasts scarcely ten minutes. But the thickness of the
fog did not prevent Shandon seeing a man of short
stature, rather fat, with an intelligent and merry face and
an amiable look, who came up to him, took him by the
two hands, and shook them with an ardour, a petulance,
and a familiarity quite meridional," as a Frenchman
would have said. But if this person did not come from
the Souith, he had got his temperament there; he talked
and gesticulated with volubility; his thought must
come out or the machine would burst. His eyes, small
as those of witty men generally are, his mouth, large
and mobile, were safety-pipes which allowed him to
give passage to his overflowing thoughts; he talked,
and talked, and talked so much and so fast that Shan-
don couldn't understand a word he said. However,
this did not prevent the Foriard's mate from recog-
nising ,the little man he had never seen before'; a
lightning flash traversed his mind, and when the
other paused to take breath, Shandon made haste to
get out the words, "Doctor Clawbonny !"
Himself in- person, commander! I've been at least
half a quarter of an hour looking for you, asking every-
bpdy everywhere! Just think how impatient I got;
five.minutes more and I should have lost my head!
And so you are the commander Richard ? You really
exist ? You are not a myth? Your hand, your hand!
I want to shake it again. It is Richard Shandon's
hand, and if there is a commander Shandon, there's a
brig Forward to command; and if he commands he
26 The English at the North Pole.
will start, and if he starts he'll take Dr. Clawbonny on
"Well, yes, doctor, I am Richard Shandon; there is
a brig Forward, and it will start."
That's logic," answered the doctor, after taking in
a large provision of breathing air-" that's logic. And
I am ready to jump for joy at having my dearest
wishes gratified. I've wanted to undertake such a
voyage. Now with you, commander- "
"I don't- began Shandon.
"With you," continued Clawbonny, without hearing
him, "we are sure to go far and not to draw back for a
"But- began Shandon again.
"For you have shown what you are made of, com-
mander; I know your deeds of service. You are a fine
"If you will allow me--"
"No, I won't have your bravery, audacity, and skill
put an instant in doubt, even by you! The captain
who chose you for his mate is a man who knows what
he's about, I can tell you."
But..that's nothing to do with it," said Shandon,
"What is it, then ? Don't keep me in suspense
You don't give me time to speak. Tell me, if you
please, doctor, how it comes that you are to take part
in the expedition of the Forward."
Read this letter, this worthy letter, the letter of
a brave captain-very laconic, but quite sufficient."
Saying which the doctor held out the following letter
The Engli8s at the North Pole. 27
"Jan. 22nd, 1860.
"To Dr. Clawbonny.
"If Dr. Clawbonny wishes to embark on board the
Forward for a long' cruise, he may introduce himself to
the commander, Richard Shannon, who has received
orders concerning him.
"THE CAPTAIN OP THE FORWARD,
"This letter reached me this morning, and here I
am, ready to embark."
But, doctor, do you know where we are going to ?"
"I haven't the slightest idea, and I do not care so
that 't is somewhere. They pretend that I am
learned; they are mistaken, commander. I know
nothing, and if I have published a few books that don't
sell badly, I ought not to have done it; the public is
silly for buying them. I know nothing, I tell you. I'
am only an ignorant man. When I have the offer of
completing, or rather of going over again, my knowledge
of medicine, surgery, history, geography, botany,
mineralogy, conchology, geodosy, chemistry, natural
philosophy, mechanics, and hydrography, why I accept,
"Then," said Shandon, disappointed, "you do not
know where the Forward is bound for ?"
"Yes, I do; it is bound for where there is something
to learn, to discover, and to compare-where we shall
meet with other customs, other countries, other nations,
to study in the exercise of their functions; it is going,
in short, where I have never been."
28 The English at the North Pole.
"But I want to know something more definite than
that," cried Shandon.
"Well, I have heard that we are bound for the
At least," asked Shandon, you know the captain ?"
"Not the least bit in the world! But he is an
honest fellow, you may believe me."
The commander and the doctor disembarked at
Birkenhead; the former told the doctor all he knew
about the situation of things, and the mystery inflamed
the imagination of the doctor. The sight of the brig
caused him transports ofjoy. From that day he stopped
with Shandon, and went every day to pay a visit to the
shell of the Forward. Besides, he was specially ap-
pointed to overlook 'the installation of the ship's
medicine-chest. For Dr. Clawbonny was a doctor, and
a good one, though practising little.' At the age of
twenty-five he was an ordinary practitioner; at the age
of forty he was a savant, well known in the town; he
w*as an influential member of all the literary and
scientific institutions of Liverpool. His fortune allowed
him to distribute counsels which were none the worse
for being gratuitous; beloved as a man eminently
lovable must always be, he had never wronged any
one, not even himself; lively and talkative, he carried
his heart in his hand, and put his hand into that of
everybody. When it was known in Liverpool that he
was going to embark on board the Forward his friends
did all they could to dissaude him, and only fixed him
more completely in his determination, and when the
doctor was determined to do anything no one could
prevent him. From that time the suppositions and
apprehensions increased, but did not prevent the
The English at the North Pole. 29
Forward being launched on the 5th of February, 1860.
Two months later she was ready to put to sea. On the
15th of March, as the letter of the captain had an-
nounced, a dog of Danish race was sent by railway
from Edinburgh to Liverpool, addressed to Richard
Shandon. The animal seemed surly, peevish, and even
sinister, with quite a singular look in his eyes. The
name of the Forward was engraved on his brass collar.
The commander installed it on board the same day, and
acknowledged its reception to K. Z. at Liverpool.
Thus, with the exception of the captain, the crew was
complete. It was composed as follows:-
1. K. Z., captain; 2. Richard Shandon, commander;
3. James Wall, third officer; 4. Dr. Clawbonny;
5. Johnson, boatswain; 6. Simpson, harpooner; 7. Bell,
carpenter; 8. Brunton, chief engineer; 9. Plover,
second engineer; 10. Strong (negro), cook; 11. Foker,
ice-master; 12. Wolsten, smith; 13. Bolton, sailor;
14. Garry, sailor; 15. Clifton, sailor; 16. Gripper,
sailor; 17. Pen, sailor; 18. Warren, Stoker.
HE day of departure arrived with the 5th
of April. The admission of the doctor
on board had given the crew more confi-
dence. They knew that where the worth3
Doctor went they could follow. However,
the sailors were still'uneasy, and Shandon, fearing that
some of them would desert, wished to be off. Once the
80 The English at the North Pole.
coasts out of sight, they would make up their mind
to the inevitable.
Dr. Clawbonny's cabin was situated at the end of
the poop, and occupied all the stern of the vessel. The
captain's and mate's cabins gave upon deck. The cap-
tain's remained hermetically closed, after being fur-
nished with different instruments, furniture, travelling
garments, books, clothes for changing, and utensils,
indicated in a detailed list. According to the wish of
the captain, the key of the cabin was sent to Lubeck;
he alone could enter his room.
This detail vexed Shandon, and took away all chance
of the chief command. As to his own cabin, he had
perfectly appropriated it to the needs of the presumed
voyage, for he thoroughly understood the needs of a
Polar expedition. The room of the third officer was
placed under the lower deck, which formed a vast
sleeping-room for the sailors' use; the men were very
comfortably lodged, and would not have found-anything
like'the same convenience on board any other ship;
they were cared for like the most priceless cargo: a
vast stove occupied all the centre of the common room.
D '. Clawbonhy was in his element; he had taken pos-
session of his cabin on-the 6th of February, the day
after the Forward was launched.
The happiest of animals," he used to say, "is a
snail, for it can make a shell exactly to fit it; I shall
try to be an intelligent snail."
And considering that the shell was to be his lodging
for a considerable time, the cabin began to look like
home; the doctor had a savant's or a child's pleasure
in arranging his scientific traps. His books, his
herbals, his set of pigeon-holes, his instruments of
The English at the North Pole. 31
precision, his chemical apparatus, his collection of
thermometers, barometers, hygrometers, rain-gauges,
spectacles, compasses, sextants, maps, plans, flasks,
powders, bottles for medicine-chest, were all classed in
an order that would have shamed the British Museum.
The space of six square feet contained incalculable
riches: the doctor had only to stretch out his hand
without moving to become instantaneously a doctor, a
mathematician, an astronomer, a geographer, a botanist,
or a.coiichologist. It must be acknowledged that he
was proud of his management and happy in his float-
ing sanctuary, which three of his thinnest friends
would have sufficed to fill. His friends came to it in
such numbers that even a man as easy-going as the
doctor might have said with Socrates, My house is
small, but may-it please Heaven never to fill it with
To complete the description of the Forward it is
sufficient to say that the kennel of the large Danish
dog was constructed under the window of the myste-
rious cabin, but its savage inhabitant preferred wander-
ing between decks and in the hold; it seemed impos-
sible to tame him, and no one had been able to become
his master; during the night he howled lamentably,
making the hollows of the ship ring in a sinister fashion.
Was it regret for his absent master ? Was it the in-
stinct of knowing that he was starting for a perilous
voyage? Was it-a presentiment of dangers to come?
The sailors decided that it was for the latter reason,
and more than one pretended to joke who believed
seriously that the dog was of a diabolical kind. Pen,
who was a brutal man, was going to strike him once,
when he fell, unfortunately, against.the angle of the
32 The English at the North Pole.
capstan, and made a frightful wound in his head. Of
course this accident was placed to the account of the
fantastic animal. Clifton, the most superstitious of the
crew, made the singular observation that when the dog
was on the poop he always walked on the windward
side, and afterwards, when the brig was out at sea, and
altered its tack, the surprising animal changed its
direction with the wind the same as the captain of the
Forward would have done in his place. Dr. Clawbonny,
whose kindness and caresses would have tamed a tiger,
tried in vain -to win the good graces of the dog; he
lost his time and his pains. The animal did not answer
to any name ever written in the dog calendar, and the
crew ended by calling him Captain, for he appeared
perfectly conversant with ship customs; it was evident
that it was not his first trip. From such facts it is
easy to understand the boatswain's answer to Clifton's
friend, and the credulity of those who heard it; more
than one repeated jokingly that he expected one day
to see the dog take human shape and command the
manoeuvres with a resounding voice.
If Richard Shandon did not feel the same apprehen-
sions he was not without anxiety, and the day before
the departure, in the evening of April 5th, he had a
conversation on the subject with the doctor, Wall, and
Johnson in the poop cabin. These four persons were
tasting their tenth grog, and probably their last, for the
letter from Aberdeen had ordered that all the crew,
from the captain to the stoker, should be teetotalers,
and that there should be no wine, beer, nor spirits on
board except those given by the doctor's orders. The
conversation had been going on about the departure for
the last hour. If the instructions of the captain were
The English at the North Pole. 38
realized to the end, Shandon would receive his last
instructions the next day.
"If the letter," said the commander, does not tell
me the captain's name, it must at least tell me the
destination of the brig, or I shall not know where to
take her to."
If I were you," said the impatient doctor, I should
start whether I get a letter or no; they'll know how to
send after you, you may depend."
"You are ready for anything, doctor; but if so, to
what quarter of the globe should you set sail ?"
"To the North Pole, of course; there's not the
slightest doubt about that."
"Why should it not be the South Pole?" asked
The South Pole is out of the question. No one
with any sense would send a brig across the whole of
the Atlantic. Just reflect a minute, and you'll see the
"The doctor has an answer to everything," said
"Well, we'll say north," continued Shandon. "But
where north ? To Spitzbergen or Greenland ? Labrador
or Hudson's Bay? Although all directions end in
insuperable icebergs, I am not less puzzled as tt which
to take. Have you an answer to that, doctor ?"
No," he answered, vexed at having nothing to say;
"but if you don't get a letter what shall you do ?"
"I shall do nothing; I shall wait."
"Do you mean to say you won't start ?" cried
i)r. Clawbonny, agitating his glass in despair.
"Certainly I do."
And that would be the wisest plan," said Johnson
34 The English at the North Pole.
tranquilly, while the doctor began marching round the
table, for he could not keep still; "but still, if we wait
too long, the consequences may be deplorable; the sea-
son is good now if we are really going north, as we
ought to profit by the breaking up of the ice to cross
Davis's Straits; besides, the crew gets more and more
uneasy; the friends and companions of our men do all
they can to persuade them to leave the Forward, and
their influence may be pernicious for us."
"Besides," added Wall, "if one of them deserted
they all would, and then I don't know how you would
get another crew together."
But what can I do ?" cried Shandon.
"What you said you would do," replied the doctor;
"wait, and wait till to-morrow before you despair.
The captain's promises have all been fulfilled up to now
with the greatest regularity, and there's no reason to
believe we shan't be made acquainted with our destina-
tion when* the proper time comes. I haven't the
slightest doubt that to-morrow we shall be sailing in
the Irish Channel, and I propose we drink a last grog
-to our pleasant voyage. It begins in an unaccountable
fashion, but with sailors like you there are a thousand
chances that it will end well."
And all four drank to their safe return.
"Now, commander," continued Johnson, "if you will
allow me to advise you, you will prepare everything to
start; the crew must think that you know what you
are about. If you don't get a letter to-morrow, set
sail; do not get up the steam, the wind looks like hold-
ing out, and it will be easy enough to sail; let the
pilot come on board; go out of the docks with the tide,
and anchor below Birkenhead; our men won't be able
The English at the North Pole. 85
to communicate with land, and if the devil of a letter
comes it will find us as easily there as elsewhere."
"By heavens! you are right, Johnson!" cried the
doctor, holding out his hand to the old sailor.
"So be it," answered Shandon.
Then each one entered his cabin, and waited in
feverish sleep for the rising of the sun. The next day
the first distribution of letters took place in the town,
and not one bore the address of the commander, Richard
Shandon. Nevertheless, he made his preparations for
departure, and the news spread at once all over Liver-
pool, and, as we have already seen, an extraordinary
affluence of spectators crowded the wharfs of New
Prince's Docks. Many of them came on board to shake
hands for the last time with a comrade, or to try and
dissuade a friend, or to take a look at the brig, and to
know its destination; they were disappointed at finding
the commander more taciturn and reserved than ever.
He had his rea:s.:ns for that.
Ten o'clo-k struck. Eleven followed. The tide
began to go out that day at about one o'clock in the
afternoon. 'Shandon from the top of the poop was
looking at the crowd with uneasy eyes, trying to read
the secret of his destiny on one of the faces. But in
vain. The sailors of the Forward executed his orders
in silence, looking at him all the time, waiting for
orders which did not come. Johnson went on prepar-
ing for departure. The weather was cloudy and the sea
rough; a south-easter blew with violence, but it was
easy to get out of the Mersey.
At twelve o'clock nothing had yet been received.
Dr. Clawbonny marched up and down in agitation,
looking through his telescope, gesticulating, impatient
86 The English at the North Pole.
for the sea, as he said. He felt moved, though he
struggled against it. Shandon bit his lips till the
blood came. Johnson came up to him and said-
Commander, if we want to profit by the tide, there
is no time to be lost; we shall not be clear of the docks
for at least an hour."
Shandon looked round him once more and consulted
his watch. The twelve o'clock letters had been distri-
buted. In despair he told Johnson to start. The
boatswain ordered the deck to be cleared of spectators,
and the crowd made a general movement to regain the
wharves while the last moorings were unloosed. Amidst
the confusion a dog's bark was distinctly heard, and
all at once the animal broke through the compact mass,
.jumped on to the poop, and, as a thousand spectators
can testify, dropped a letter at Shandon's feet.
"A letter !" cried. Shandon. "He is on board,
"He was, that's certain, but he isn't now," said
Johnson, pointing to the deserted deck.
Shandon held the letter without opening it in his
"But read it, read it, I say," said the doctor.
Shandon looked at it. The envelope had no post-
mark or date; it was addressed simply to
Commander on board the brig
Shandon opened the letter and read as follows:-
Sail for Cape Farewell. You will reach it by
the 20th of April. If the captain does not appear on
The English at the North Pole. 37
board, cross Davis's Straits, and sail up Baffin's Sea to
"THE CAPTAIN OF THE FORWARD,
Shandon carefully folded this laconic epistle, put it
in his pocket, and gave the order for departure. His
voice, which rang above the east wind, had something
solemn in it.
Soon the Forward had passed the docks, and directed
by a Liverpool pilot whose little cutter followed, went
down the Mersey with the current. The crowd preci-
pitated itself on to the exterior wharf along the Victoria
Docks in order to get a last glimpse of the strange
brig. The two topsails, the foresail and the brigantine
sail were rapidly set up, and the Forward, worthy of its
name, after having rounded Birkenhead Point, sailed
with extraordinary fleetness into the Irish Sea.
OUT AT SEA.
HE wind was favourable, though it blew
in April gales. The Forward cut through-
the waves, and towards three o'clock
crossed the mail steamer between Liver-
pool and the Isle of Man. The captain
hailed from his deck the last adieu that the Forward
was destined to hear.
At five o'clock the pilot left the command in the
hands of Richard Shandon, the commander of the brig,
38 The English at the North Pole.
and regained his cutter, which, turning round, soon
disappeared on the south-west. Towards evening the
brig doubled the Calf of Man at the southern extrmity
of the island. During the night the sea wa very
rough, but the Forward behaved well, left-the point of
Ayr to the north-west, and directed its course for the
Northern Canal. Johnson was right; once out at sea
the maritime instinct of the sailors gained the upper
hand. Life on board went on with regularity.
The doctor breathed in the sea air with delight; he
walked about vigorously in the squalls, and for a savant
he was not a bad sailor.
The sea is splendid," said he to Johnson, coming
up on deck after breakfast. "I have made its ac-
quaintance rather late, but I shall make up for lost
You are right, Mr. Clawbonny. I would give all
the continents of the world for a corner of the ocean.
They pretend that sailors soon get tired of their pro-
fession, but I've been forty years on the sea and I love
it as much as the first day."
"It is a great pleasure to feel a good ship under
one's feet, and if I'm not a bad judge the Forward
behaves herself well."
You judge rightly, doctor," answered Shandon,
who had joined the talkers; she is a good ship, and I
acknowledge that a vessel destined for navigation
amongst ice has never been better equipped. That-
reminds me that thirty years ago Captain James Ross,
sailing for the North-West passage--"
In the Victory," added the doctor quickly, "a
brig about the same tonnage as ours, with a steam-
The English at the North Pole. 39
What! you know about that ?"
Judge if I do," answered the doctor. Machines
were then in their infancy, and the Victory's kept her
back; the captain, James Ross, after having vainly
repaired it bit by bit, finished by taking it down, and
abandoned it at his first winter quarters."
"The devil!" said Shandon. You know all about
it, I see."
"Yes, I've read the works of Parry, Ross, and
Franklin, and the reports of McClure, Kennedy,
Kane, and McClintock, and I remember something of
what I've read. I can tell you, too, that this same
McClintock, on board the Fox, a screw brig in the
style of ours, went easier to his destination than any
of the men who preceded him."
"That's perfectly true," answered Shandon; "he
was ,a bold sailor was McClintock; I saw him at
work. You may add that, like him, we shall find our-
selves in Davis's Straits in April, and if we succeed in
passing the ice our voyage will be considerably ad-
Unless," added the doctor, "it happens to us like
it did to the Fox in 1857, to be caught the very first
year by the ice in Baffin's Sea, and have to winter in
the midst of the icebergs."
"We must hope for better luck," answered Johnson
"If a ship like the Forward can't take us where we
want to go, we must renounce all hope for ever."
"Besides," said the doctor, "if the captain is on
board he will know better than we do what must be
done. We know nothing as yet; his letter says nothing
%bout what our voyage is for."
It is a good deal to know which way to go,"
40 The English at the Noath Pole.
answered Shandon quickly. "We can do without the
captain and his instructions for another month at least.
Besides, you know what I think about it."
"A short time ago," said the doctor, "I thought
like you that the captain would never appear, and that
you would remain commander of the ship; but
"Now what replied Shandon in an impatient
Since the arrival of the second letter I have modi-
fied that opinion."
"Why, doctor ?"
Because the letter tells you the route to follow, but
leaves you ignorant of the Forward's destination; and
we must know where we are going to. How the deuce
are you to get a letter now we are out at sea? On
the coast of Greenland the service of the post must
leave much to wish for. I believe that our gentleman
is waiting for us in some Danish settlement-at Hos-
teinberg or Uppernawik; he has evidently gone there
to complete his cargo of sealskins, buy his sledges and
dog, and, in short, get together all the tackle wanted
for a voyage in the Arctic seas. I shouldn't be at all
surprised to see him come out of his cabin one of these
fine mornings and begin commanding the ship in ahy-
thing but a supernatural way."
"It's possible," answered Shandon drily; "but in
the meantime the wind is getting up, and I can't risk
my gallant-sails in such weather."
Shandon left the doctor and gave the order to reef
"He takes it to heart," said the doctor to the boat-
The English at the North Pole. 41
Yes," answered the latter, and it's a great pity,
for you may be right, Mr. Clawbonny."
In the evening of Saturday the Forward doubled the
Mull of Galloway, whose lighthouse shone to the north-
west; during the night they left the Mull of Cantyre
to the north, and Cape Fair, on the coast of Ireland,
to the east. Towards three o'clock in the morning,
the brig, leaving Rathlin Island on her starboard side,
disembogued by the Northern Canal into the ocean.
It was Sunday, the 8th of April, and the doctor read
some chapters of the Bible to the assembled seamen.
The wind then became a perfect hurricane, and tended
to throw the brig on to the Irisk coast; she pitched,
and rolled, and tossed, and if the doctor was not sea-
sick it was because he would not be, for nothing was
easier. At noon Cape Malinhead disappeared towards
the south; it was the last European ground that these
bold sailors were to perceive, and more than one
watched it out of sight, destined never to see it again.
They were then in 550 57' latitude and 70 40' longitude
by the Greenwich meridian.
The storm spent itself out about nine o'clock in the
evening; the Forward, like a good sailer, maintained
her route north-west. She showed by her behaviour
during the day what her sailing capacities were, and as
the Liverpool connoisseurs had remarked, she was,
above all, a sailing vessel. During the following days
the Forward gained the north-west with rapidity;
the wind veered round south, and .the sea had a
tremendous swell on; the brig was then going along
under full sail. Some petrels and puffins came sailing
over the poop; the doctor skilfully shot one of the
latter, and it fell, fortunately, on the deck. The bar.
0i The English at the North Pole
pooner, Simpson, picked it up and brought it to its
Nasty game that, Mr. Clawbonny," he said.
"It will make an excellent meal, on the contrary,"
said the doctor.
You don't mean to say you are going to eat that
"And so are you, old fellow," said the doctor,
"Poh !" replied Simpson, "but it's oily and rancid
like all other sea birds."
"Never mind!" answered the doctor, "I have a
peculiar way of cooking that game, and if you recognize
it for a sea bird I'll consent never to kill another in
Do you know how to cook, then ?"
"A savant ought to know how to do a little of
"You'd better take care, Simpson," said the boat-
swain ; "the doctor's a clever man, and he'll make you
take this puffin for a grouse."
The fact is that the doctor was quite right about his
fowl; he took off all the fat, which all lies under the
skin, principally on the thighs, and with it'disappeared
the rancidity and taste of fish which is so disagreeable
in a sea bird. Thus prepared the puffin was declared
excellent, and Simpson acknowledged it the first.
During the late storm Richard Shandon had been
able to judge of the qualities of his crew; he had
watched each man narrowly, and knew how much each
was to be depended upon.
James W1ll was devoted to Richard, understood
quickly and executed well, but he might fail in
The English at the North Pole. 43
initiative; he placed him in the third rank. Johnson
was used to struggle with the'sea; he was an old stager
in the Arctic Ocean, and had nothing to learn either in
audacity or sang-froid. The harpooner, Simpson, and
the carpenter, Bell, were sure men, faithful to duty and
discipline. The ice-master, Folker, was an experienced
sailor, and, like Johnson, was capable of rendering
important service. Of the other sailors Garry and
Bolton seemed to be the best; Bolton was a gay and
talkative fellow; Garry was thirty-five, with an
energetic face, but rather pale and sad-looking. The
three sailors, Clifton, Gripper, and Pen, seemed less
ardent and resolute; they easily grumbled. Gripper
wanted to break his engagement even before the
departure of the Forward ;, a sort of shame kept him
on board. If things went on all right, if there were
not too many risks to run, no dangers to encounter,
these three men might be depended upon; but they
must be well fed, for it might be said that they were
led by their stomachs. Although warned beforehand,
they grumbled at having to be teetotalers; at- their
meals they regretted the brandy and gin; it did not,
however, make them spare the tea and coffee, which
was prodigally given out on board. As to the two
engineers, Brunton and Plover, and the stoker, Warren,
there had been nothing for them to do as yet, and
Shandon could not tell anything about their capabilities.
On the 14th of April the Forward got into the grand
current of the Gulf Stream, which, after ascending the
eastern coast of America to Newfoundland, inclines to
the north-east along the coast of Norway. They were
then in 510 37' latitude by 220 58' longitude, at two
hundred miles from the point of Greenland. The
44 The English at the North Pole
weather grew colder, and the thermometer descended
to thirty-two degrees, that is to say to freezing point.
The doctor had not yet begun to wear the garments
he destined for the Arctic Seas, but he had donned a
sailor's dress like the rest; he was a queer sight with his
top-boots, in which his legs disappeared, his vast oilcloth
hat, his jacket and trousers of the same; when drenched
with heavy rains or enormous waves the doctor looked
like a sort of sea-animal, and was proud of the com-
During two days the sea was extremely rough; the
wihd veered round to the north-west, and delayed the
progress of the Forward. From the 14th to the 16th
of April the swell was great, but on the Monday there
came such a torrent of rain that the sea became calm
immediately. Shandon spoke to the doctor about this
"It confirms. the curious observations of the whaler
Scoresby, who laid it before the Royal Society of Edin-
burgh, of which I have the honour to be an honorary
member. You see that when it rains the waves are not
very high, even under the influence of a violent wind,
and when the weather is dry the sea is more agitated,
even when there is less wind."
"But how is this phenomenon accounted for "
"Very simply; it is not accounted for at all."
Just then the ice-master, who was keeping watch on
the crossbars of the topsails, signalled a floating mass
an the starboard, it about fifteen miles distance before
An iceberg here" cried ~he doctor.
Shandon pointed hib telescope in the direction indi-
cated, and confi-med the pLot's announcement.
The English at the North Pole. 45
"That is curious !" said the doctor.
"What! you are astonished at last!" said the com.
"I am surprised, but not astonished," answered the
doctor, laughing; "for the brig Ann, of Poole, from
Greenspond, was caught in 1813 in perfect ice-fields, iin
the forty-fourth degree of north latitude, and her captain,
Dayernent, counted them by hundreds!"
"I see you can teach us something, even upon that
"Very little," answered Clawbonny modestly; "it s
only that ice has been met with in even lower
'"I knew that already, doctor, for when I was cabin.
boy on board the war-sloop Rly- "
"In 1818," continued the doctor, "at the end of
March, almost in April, you passed between two large
islands of floating ice under the forty-second degree of
"Well, I declare you astonish me!" cried Shandon.
"But the iceberg doesn't astonish me, as we are two
degrees further north."
"You are a well, doctor," answered the commander,
"and all we have to do is to be water-buckets."
"You will draw me dry sooner than you think for;
and now, Shandon, if we could get a nearer look at this
phenomenon, I should be the happiest of doctors."
"Just so, Johnson," said Shandon, calling his boat-
swain. It seems to me that the breeze is getting up."
"Yes, commander," answered Johnson; "we are
making very little way, and the currents of Davis's
Straits will soon be against us."
You are right, Johnson, and if we wish to be in
46 The English at the North Pole.
sight of Cape Farewell on the 20th of April we must
put the steam on, or we shall be thrown on the coasts.
of Labrador. Mr. Wall, will you give orders to light
the fires ?"
The commander's orders were executed, an hour
afterwards the steam was up, the sails were furled, and
the screw cutting the waves sent the Forward against
the north-west wind.
THE GREAT POLAR CURRENT.
SHORT time after the flights of birds
became more and more numerous.
Petrels, puffins, and mates, inhabitants
of those desolate quarters, signalled the
approach of Greenland. The Forward
was rapidly nearing the north, leaving to her leeward
a long line of black smoke.
On Tuesday, the 17th of April, about eleven o'clock in
the morning, the ice-master signalled the first sight of
the ice-blink; it was about twenty miles to the N.N.W.
This glaring white strip was brilliantly lighted up, in
spite of the presence of thick clouds in the neighbour-
ing parts of the sky. Experienced people on board
could make no mistake about this phenomenon,
and declared, from its whiteness, that the blink was
owing to a large ice-field, situated at about thirty miles
out of sight, and that- it proceeded from the reflection
of luminous rays. Towards evening the wind turned
round to the south, and became favourable; Shandon
The English at the North Pole. 47
put on all sail, and for economy's sake caused the fires
to be put out. The Forward, under her topsails and
foresails, glided on towards Cape Farewell.
At three o'clock on the 18th they came across the
ice-stream, and a little white thick line of a glaring
colour cut brilliantly the lines of the sea and sky. It
was evidently drifting from the eastern coast of Green-
land more than from Davis's Straits, for ice generally
keeps to the west coast of Baffin's Sea. An hour after-
wards the Forward passed in the midst of isolated por-
tions of the ice-stream, and in the most compact parts,
the icebergs, though welded together, obeyed the
movements of the swell. The next day the man at the
masthead signalled a vessel. It was the Valkirien, a
Danish corvette, running alongside the Forward, and
making for the bank of Newfoundland. The current
of the Strait began to make itself felt, and Shandon
had to put oi sail to go up it. At this moment the
commander, the doctor, James Wall, and Johnson were
assembled on the poop examining the direction and
strength of the current. The doctor wanted to know
if the current existed also in Baffin's Sea.
Withoututhe least doubt," answered Shandon, "and
the sailing vessels have much trouble to stem it."
"Besides there," added Wall, you meet with it on
the eastern coast of America, as well as on the western
coast of Greenland.?'
"There," said the doctor, "that is what gives very
singular reason to the seekers of the North-West
passage! That current runs about five miles an hour,
and it is a little difficult to suppose that it springs from
the bottom of a gulf."
"It is so much the more probable, doctor," replied
48 The English at the North Pole
Shandon, "that if this current runs from north to
south we find in Behring's Straits a contrary current
which runs from south to north, and which must be the
origin of this one."
"According to that," replied the doctor, "we
must admit that America is totally unconnected with
the Polar lands, and that the waters of the Pacific run
round the coasts of America into the Atlantic. On the
other hand, the greater elevation of the waters of the
Pacific gives reason to the supposition that they fall
into the European seas."
"But," sharply replied Shandon, "there must be
facts to establish that theory, and if there are any,"
added be with irony, "our universally well-informed
doctor ought to know them."
"Well," replied the above-mentioned, with amiable
satisfaction, if it interests you, I can tell you that
whales, wounded in Davis's Straits, are caught some
time afterwards in the neighbourhood of Tartary with
the European harpoon still in their flanks."
"And unless they have been able to double Cape
Horn or the'Cape of Good Hope," replied Shandon,
they must necessarily have rounded the septentrional
coasts of America-that's what I call indisputable,
"However, if you were not convinced, my dear
fellow," said the doctor, smiling, I could still produce
other facts, such as drift-wood, of which Davis's
Straits are full, larch,-aspen, and other tropical trees.
Now we know that the Gulf Stream hinders those
woods from ente.-Tng the Straits. If, then, they come
out of it they can only get in from Behring's
The English at th. North Pole. 49
"' I am convinced, doctor, and I avow that it would
be difficult to remain incredulous with you."
Upon my honour," said Johnson, "there's some-
thing that comes just in time to help our discussion.
I perceive in the distance a lump- of wood of certain
dimensions; if the commander permits it we'll haul it
in, and ask it the name of its country."
"That's it," said the doctor, the example after the
Shandon. gave the necessary orders; the brig was
directed towards the piece of wood signalled, and soon
afterwards, not without trouble, the crew hoisted it on
deck. It was the trunk of a mahogany-tree, gnawed right
into the centre by worms, but for which circumstance it
would not have floated.
"This is glorious," said the doctor enthusiastically
"for as the currents of the Atlantic could not carry it
to Davis's Straits, and as it has not been driven into the
Polar basin by the streams of septentrional America,
seeing that this tree grew under the Equator, it is
evident that it comes in a straight line from Behring;
and look here, you see those sea-worms which have
eaten it, they belong to a hot-country species."
"It is evident," replied Wall, that the people who
do not believe in the famous passage are wrong."
"Why this circumstance alone ought to convince
them," said the doctor; I will just trace you out the
itinerary of that mahogany; it-has been floated to.
wards the Pacific by some river of the Isthmus of
Panama or Guatemala, from thence the current has
dragged it along the American coast as far as Behring's
Straits, and in spite of everything it was obliged to
enter the Polar Seas. It is neither so old nor so soaked
50 The English at the North Pok.
that we need fear to assign a recent date to its setting
out; it has had the good luck to get clear of the
obstacles in that long suite of straits which lead out of
Baffin's Bay, and quickly seized by the boreal current
came by Davis's Straits to be made prisoner by the
Forward, to the great joy of Dr. Clawbonny, who
asks the commander's permission to keep a sample
Do so," said Shandon, but allow me to tell you
that you will not be the only proprietor of such a
wreck. The Danish governor of the Isle of Disko--"
"On the coast of Greenland," continued the doctor,
" possesses a mahogany table made from a trunk fished
up under the same circumstances. I know it, but I
don't envy him, his table, for if it were not for the
bother, I should have enough there for a whole bed-
During the night, from Wednesday to Thursday, the
wind blew with extreme violence, and drift-wood was
seen more frequently; nearing the coast offered many
dangers at an epoch in which icebergs were so nume-
rous; the commander caused some of the sails to be
furled, and the Forward glided away under her foresail
and foremast only. The thermometer sank below freez-
ing-point. Shandon distributed suitable clothing to
the crew, a woollen jacket and trousers, a flannel shirt,
wadmel stockings, the same as those the Norwegian
country-people wear, and a pair of perfectly waterproof
sea-boots. As to the captain, he contented himself with
his natural fur, and appeared little sensible to the
change in the temperature; he had, no doubt, gone
through more than one trial of this kind, and besides,
a Dane had no right to be difficult. He was seen very
The English at the North Pole. 51
little, as he kept himself concealed in the darkest parts
of the vessel.
Towards evening the coast of Greenland peeped out
through an opening in the fog. The doctor, armed
with his glass, could distinguish for an instant a line of
peaks, ridged with large blocks of ice; but the fog
closed rapidly on this vision, like the curtain of a
theatre falls in the most interesting moment of the
On the morning of the 20th of April the Forward
was in sight of an iceberg a hundred and fifty feet
high, stranded there from time immemorial; the thaws
had taken no effect on it, and had respected its strange
forms. Snow saw it; James Ross took an exact sketch
of it in 1829; and in 1851 the French lieutenant
Bellot saw it from the deck of the Prince Albert. Of
course the doctor wished to keep a memento of the
celebrated mountain, and made a clever sketch of it. It
is not surprising that such masses should be stranded
and adhere to the land, for to each foot above water
they have two feet below, giving, therefore, to this one
about eighty fathoms of depth.
At last, under a temperature which at noon was only
120, uhder a snowy and foggy sky, Cape Farewell was
perceived. The Forward arrived on the day fixed; if it
please the unknown captain to come and occupy his
position in such diabolical weather he would have no
cause to complain.
"There you are, then," said the doctor to himself,
"cape so celebrated and so well named! Many have
cleared it like us who were destined never to see it
again. Is it, then, an eternal adieu said to one's
European friends ? You have all passed it, Frobisher,
52- The English at the North Pole.
Knight, Barlow, Vaughan, Scroggs, Barentz, Hudson,
Blosseville, Franklin, Crozier, Bellot, never to come
back to your domestic hearth, and that cape has been
really for you the cape of adieus."
It was about the year 970 that some navigators left
Iceland and discovered Greenland. Sebastian Cabot
forced his way as far as latitude 560 in 1498. Gaspard
and Michel Cotreal, in 1500 and 1502, went as far north
as 600; and Martin Frobisher, in 1576, arrived as far
as the bay that bears his name. To John Davis belongs
the honour of having discovered the Straits in 1585;
and two years later, in a third voyage, that bold navi-
gator and great whaler reached the seventy-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 that
vast bay which hollows out so profoundly the conti-
nent of America, James Poole, in 1611, advanced far
into the Strait in search of that North-West passage
the discovery of which would have considerably shortened
the track of communication between the two worlds.
Baffin, in 1616, found the Straits of Lancaster in the
sea that bears his own name; he was followed, in 1619,
by James Munk, and in 1719 by Knight, Barlow,
Vaughan, and Scroggs, of whom no news have ever
been heard. In 1776 Lieutenant Pickersgill, sent out
to meet Captain Cook, who tried to go up Behring
Straits, reached the 68th degree; the following year
Young, for the same purpose, went as far north as
Afterwards came Captain James Ross, who, in 1818,
rounded the coasts of Baffin's Sea, and corrected the
hydrographic errors of his predecessors. Lastly, in
The English at the North Pole. 53
1819 and 1820, the celebrated Parry passed through
Lanicaster Straits, and penetrated, in spite of unnum-
bered difficulties, as far as Melville Island, and won the
.prize of 5,000 promised by Act of Parliament to the
English sailors that wbuld reach the hundred and
seventeenth meridian by a higher latitude than the
In 182G Beechey touched Chamisso Island; James
Ross wintered from 1829 to 1833 in Prince Regent
Straits, and amongst other important works discovered
the magnetic pole. During this time Franklin, by an
overland route, traversed the septentrional coasts of
America from the River Mackenzie to Turnagain
Point. Captain Back followed in his steps from 1823
to 18835, and these explorations were completed in 1839
by Messrs. Dease and Simpson and Dr. Rae.
Lastly, Sir John Franklin, wishing to discover the
North-West passage, left England in 1845 on board
the Erebus and the Terror; he penetrated into Baffin's
Sea, and since his passage across Disko Island no
news have been heard of his expedition.
That disappearance determined the numerous inves-
tigations which have brought about the discovery of
the passage, and the survey of these Polar conti-
nents, with such indented coast lines. The nost daring
English, French, and American sailors made voyages
towards these terrible countries, and, thanil to their
efforts, the maps of that country, so difficult to make,
figured in the list of the Royal Geographical Society of
London. The curious history of these countries was
thus presented to the doctor's imagination as he leaned
on the rail, and followed with his eyes the long track
left by the brig. Thoughts of the bold navigators
54 The English at the North Pole.
weighed upon his mind, and he fancied he could
perceive under the frozen arches of the icebergs the
pale ghosts of those who were no more.
U ITING that day the, forward cut out an
easy road amongst'the half-broken ice;
the wind was good, but the temperature
very low; the currents of air blowing
across the ice-fields brought with them
their penetrating cold. The night required the severest
attention; the floating icebergs drew together in that
narrow pass; a hundred at once were often counted on
the horizon; they broke off from the elevated coasts
under the teeth of the grinding waves and the influence
of the. spring season, in order to go and melt or to be
swallowed up in the depths of the ocean. Long rafts
of wood, with which it was necessary to escape collision,
kept the crew on the alert; the crow's nest was put in
its place on the mizenmast; it consisted of a cask, in
which the ice-master was partly hidden to protect him
from the cold winds while he kept watch over the sea
and the icebergs in view, and from which he signalled
danger and sometimes gave orders to the crew. The
nights were short; the sun had reappeared since the
81st of January in consequence of the refraction, and
seemed to get higher and higher above the horizon.
But the snow impeded the view, and if it did not cause
complete obscurity it rendered navigation laborious.
The English at the North Pole. 55
On the 21st of April Desolation Cape appeared in
the midst of thick mists; the crew were tired out with
the constant strain on their energies rendered necessary
ever since they "had got amongst the icebergs; the
sailors had not had a minute's rest; it was soon
necessary to have recourse to steam to cut a way
through the heaped-up blocks. The doctor and
Johnson were talking together on the stern, whilst
Shandon was snatching a few hours' sleep in his cabin.
Clawbonny was getting information from the old sailor,
whose numerous voyages had given him an interesting
and sensible education. The doctor felt much friend-
ship- for him, and the boatswain repaid it with
You see, Mr. Clawbonny," Johnson used to say
"this country is not like all others; they call it Green-
land, but there are very few weeks in the year when it
justifies its name."
Who knows if in the tenth century this land did not
justify its name ?" added the doctor. More than one
revolution of this kind has been produced upon our
globe, and I daresay I should astonish you if I were to
tell you that according to Icelandic chronicles two
thousand villages flourished upon this continent about
eight or nine hundred years ago."
"You would so much astonish me, Mr. Clawbonny,
that I should have some difficulty in believing you, for
it is a miserable country."
"However miserable it may be, it still offers a
sufficient retreat to its inhabitants, and even to civilized
"Without doubt! We met men at Disko and
Uppernawik who consented to live in such climates.
56 The English at the North Pole.
but my ideas upon the matter were that they lived
there by compulsion and not by choice."
"I daresay you are right, though men get accus-
tomed to everything, and the Greenlanders do not
appear to me so unfortunate as the workmen of our
large towns they may be unfortunate, but they are
certainly not unhappy. I say unhappy, but the word
does not translate my thought, for if these people have
not the comforts of temperate countries, they are formed
for a rude climate, and find pleasures in it which we are
not able to conceive."
"I suppose we must think so, as Heaven is just.
Many, many voyages have brought me upon these
coasts, and my heart always shrinks at the sight of
these wretched solitudes; but they ought to have
cheered up these capes, promontories, and bays with
more engaging names, for Farewell Cape and Deso-
lation Cape are not names made to attract navigators."
"I have also remarked that," replied the doctor,
"but these names have a geographical interest that we
must not overlook. They describe the adventures of
those who gave them those names. Next to the names
of Davis, Baffin, Hudson, Ross, Parry, Franklin, and
Bellot, if I meet with Cape, Desolation I soon find
Mercy Bay; Cape Providence is a companion to Port
Anxiety; Repulsion Bay brings me back to Cape
Eden, and leaving Turnagain Point I take refuge in
Refuge Bay. I have there under my eyes an unceasing
succession of perils, misfortunes, obstacles, successes,
despairs, and issues, mixed with great names of my
country, and, like a series of old-fashioned medals,
that nomenclature retraces in my mind the whole
history of these seas."
The English at the North Pole.
"You are quite right, Mr. Clawbonny, and I hope
we shall meet with more Success Bays than Despair
Capes in our voyage."
"I hope so too, Johnson; but, I say, is the crew
come round a little from its terrors ?"
Yes, a little; but since we got into the Straits they
have begun to talk about the fantastic captain; more
than one of them expected to see him appear at the
extremity of Greenland; but between you and me,
doctor, doesn't it astonish you a little too ?"
"It does indeed, Johnson."
Do you believe in the captain's existence ?"
Of course I do."
"But what can be his reasons for acting in that
If I really must tell you the whole of my thoughts,
Johnson, I believe that the captain wished to entice the
crew far enough out to prevent them being able to come
back. Now if he had been on board when we started
they would all have wanted to know our destination,
and he might have been embarrassed."
But why so P"
Suppose he should wish to attempt some super-
human enterprise, and to penetrate where others have
never been able to reach, do you believe if the crew
knew it they would ever have enlisted ? As it is, having
got so far, going farther becomes a necessity."
"That's very probable, Mr. Clawbonny. I have
known more than one intrepid adventurer whose name
alone was a terror, and who would never have found
aay one to accompany him in his perilous expedi.
"Excepting me," ventured the doctor.
68 The English at the North Pole.
"And me, after you," answered Johnson, "and to
follow you; I can venture to affirm that our captain is
amongst the number of such adventurers. No matter,
we shall soon see; I suppose the unknown will come as
captain on board from the coast of Uppernawik or
1&elville Bay, and will tellI us at last where it is his
good pleasure to conduct the ship."
"I am of your opinion, Johnson, but the difficulty
will be to get as far as Melville Bay. See how the ice-
bergs encircle us from every point! They scarcely leave
a passage for the Forward. Just examine that immense
plain over there."
"The whalers call that in our language an ice-field,
that is to say a continued surface of ice the limits of
which cannot be perceived."
"And on that side, that broken field, those long
pieces of ice more or less joined at their edges ?"
"That is a pack; if it was of a circular form we
should call it a patch; and, if the form was longer, a
And there, those floating icebergs ?"
"Those are drift-ice; if they were a little higher
they would be icebergs or hills; their contact with
vessels is dangerous, and must be carefully avoided.
Here, look over there: on that ice-field" there is a
protuberance produced by the pressure of the icebergs;
we call that a hummock; if that protuberance was sub-
merged to its base we should call it a calf. It was very
necessary to give names to all those frms in order to
It is truly a marvellous spectacle !" exclaimed the
doctor, contemplating the wonders of the Boreal Seas;
" there is a fieia for the imagination in such pictures!"
The English at the North Pole.
Yes," answered Johnson, ice often takes fantastic
shapes, and our men are not behindhand in explaining
them according to their own notions."
"Isn't that assemblage of ice-blocks admirable?
Doesn't it look like a foreign town, an Eastern town,
with its minarets and mosques under the pale glare of
the-moon? Further on there is a long series of Gothic
vaults, reminding one of Henry the Seventh's chapel or
the Houses of Parliament."
They would be houses and towns very dangerous
to inhabit, and we must not sail too close to them.
Some of those minarets yonder totter on their base,
and the least of them would crush a vessel like the
"And yet sailors dared to venture into these seas
before they had steam at their command! How ever
could a sailing vessel be steered amongst these moving
"Nevertheless, it has been accomplished, Mr. Claw-
bonny. When the wind became contrary-and that
has happened to me more than once-we quietly
anchored to one of those blocks, and we drifted more or
less with it and waited for a favourable moment to set
sail again. I must acknowledge that such a manner of
voyaging required months, whilst with a little good
fortune we shall only want a few days."
It seems to me," said the doctor, that the tem-
perature has a tendency to get lower."
That would be a pity," answered Johnson, "for a
thaw is necessary to break up these masses and drive
them away into the Atlantic; besides, they are more
numerous in Davis's Straits, for the sea gets narrower
between Capes Walsingham and Holsteinborg; but on
MT Thi English at the North Pole.
the other side of the 67th degree we shall find the seas
more navigable during the months of May and June."
"Yes; but first of all we must get to the other
Yes, we must get there, Mr. Clawbonny. In June
and July we should have found an open passage, like
the whalers do, but our orders were precise ; we were
to be here in April. I am very much mistaken if our
captain has not his reasons for getting us out here so
The doctor was right in stating that the temperature
was lowering; the thermometer at noon only indicated
6 degrees, and a north-west breeze was getting up,
which, although it cleared the sky, assisted the
current in precipitating the floating- masses of ice
into the path of the Forward All of them did not
obey the same impulsion, and it was not uncommon.to
encounter some of the highest masses drifting in as
opposite direction, seized at their base by an under.
It is easy to understand the difficulties of this kind
of navigation.; the engineers had not a minute's rest;
the engines were worked from the deck by means of
levers, which opened, stopped, and reversed them
according to the orders of the officers on watch. Some-
times the brig had to hasten through an opening in the
ice-fields, sometimes to struggle against the swiftness
of an iceberg which threatened to close the only prac-
ticable issue, or, again, some block, suddenly over-
thrown, compelled the brig to back quickly so as not to
be crushed to pieces. This mass of ice, carried along,
broken up and amalgamated by the northern current,
crushed up the passage, and if seized by the front
The English at the North Pole. 61
would oppose an impassable barrier to the passage of
Birds were found in innumerable quantities on these
coasts, petrels and other sea-birds fluttered about here
and there with deafening cries, a great number of big-
headed, short-necked sea-gulls were amongst them;
they spread out their long wings and braved in their
play the snow whipped by the hurricane. This anima-
tion of the winged tribe made the landscape more
Numerous pieces of wood were floating to leeway,
clashing with noise; a few enormous, bloated-headed
sharks approached the vessel, but there was no question
of chasing them, although Simpson, the harpooner, was
longing to have a hit at them. Towards evening
several seals made their appearance, nose above water,
swimming between the blocks.
On the 22nd the temperature again lowered; the
Forward put on all steam to catch the favourable passes:
the wind was decidedly fixed in the north-west; all
sails were furled.
During that day, which was Sunday, the sailors had
little to do. After the reading of Divine service, which
was conducted by Shandon, the crew gave chase to sea-
birds, of which they caught a great number. They
were suitably prepared according to the doctor's method,
and furnished an agreeable increase of provisions to the
tables of the officers and crew.
At three o'clock in the afternoon the Forward had
attained Thin de Sael, Supertop Mountain; the sea was
very rough; from time to time a vast and inopportune
fog fell from the grey sky; however, at noon an exact
observation could be taken. The vessel was in 620 20
62 The English at the North Pole.
latitude by 540 22' longitude. It was necessary to
attain two degrees more in order to meet with freer
and more favourable navigation.
During the three following days, the 24th, 25th, and
26th of April, the Forward had a continual struggle
with the ice; the working of the machines became
very fatiguing. The steam was turned off quickly or
got up again at a moment's notice, and escaped whistling
from its valves. During the thick mist the nearing of
icebergs was only known by dull thundering produced
by the avalanches; the brig was instantly veered; it
ran the risk of being crushed against the heaps of
fresh-water ice, remarkable by its crystal transparency,
and which is as haid as a rock.
Richard Shandon never missed completing his pro-
vision of water by embarking several tons of ice every
day. The doctor could not accustom himself to the
optical delusions that refraction produces on these
coasts. An iceberg sometimes appeared to him like a
small white lump within reach, when it was at least at
ten or twelve miles' distance. He endeavoured to ac-
custom his eyesight to this singular phenomenon, so
that he might be able to correct its errors rapidly.
At last the crew were completely worn out by their
;abours in hauling the vessel alongside of the ice-fields
and by keeping it free from the most menacing blocks
oy the aid of long perches. Nevertheless, the Forward
was stilt held back in the impassable limits of the Polar
Circle on Friday, the 27th of April.
The English at the North Pole.
GOSSIP OF THE CREW.
OWEVER, the Forward managed, by
cunningly slipping into narrow passages
to gain a few more minutes north; but
instead of avoiding the enemy, it was
soon necessary to attack it. The ice-fields,
several miles in extent, were getting nearer, and as
these moving heaps often represent a pressure of more
than ten millions of tons, it was necessary to give a
wide berth to their embraces. The ice-saws were at
once installed in the interior of the vessel, in such a
manner as to facilitate immediate use of them. Part
of the crew philosophically accepted their hard work, but
the other complained of it, if it did not refuse to obey.
At the same time that they assisted in the installation
of the instruments, Garry, Bolton, Pen, and Gripper
exchanged their opinions.
"By Jingo!" said Bolton gaily, "I don't know why
the thought strikes me that there's'a very jolly tavern
in Water-street where it's comfortable to be between
a glass of gin and a bottle of porter. Can't you
imagine it, Gripper ?"
To tell you the truth," quickly answered the ques-
tioned sailor, who generally professed to be in a bad
temper, I don't imagine it here."
"It's for the sake of talking, Gripper; it's evident
that the snow towns Dr. Clawbonny admires so don't
contain the least public where a poor sailor can get a
half-pint of brandy."
"That's sure enough, Bolton; and you may as well
add that there's nothing worth drinking here. It's a
64 The English at the North Pole.
nice idea to deprive men of their grog when they are
in the Northern Seas."
But you know," said Garry, "that the doctor told
us it was to prevent us getting the scurvy. It's the
only way to make us go far."
"But I don't want to go far, Garry; it's pretty well
to have come this far without trying to go where the
devil is determined we shan't."
' "Well, we shan't go, that's all," replied Pen. "I
declare I've almost forgotten the taste of gin."
"But remember what the doctor says," replied
"It's all very fine for them to talk. It remains to be
seen if it isn't an excuse for being skinny with the
"Pen may be right, after all," said Gripper.
"His nose is too red for that," answered Dolton.
"Pen needn't grumble if it loses a little of its colour
in the voyage."
"What's my nose got to do with you ?" sharply re-
plied the sailor, attacked in the most sensitive place.
" My nose doesn't need any of your remarks; take care
of your own."
"Now, then, don't get angry, Pen; I didn't know
your nose was so touchy. I like a glass of whisky as
well as anybody, especially in such a temperature;
but if I know it'll do me more harm than good, I go
You go without," said Warren, the stoker; "but
every one don't go without."
"What do you mean, Warren ?" asked Garry, look.
ing fixedly at him.
"I mean that for some reason or other there ar
The English at the North Pole.
spirits on board, and I know they don't go without in
And how do you know that P" asked Garry.
Warren did not know what to say: he talked for the
sake of talking.
You see Warren don't know anything about it,
Garry," said Bolton.
"Well," said Pen, "we'll ask the commander for a
ration of gin; we've earned it well, and we'll see what
"I wouldn't if I were you," answered Garry.
"Why ?" cried Pen and Gripper.
"Because he'll refuse. You know you weren't to
have any when you enlisted; you should have thought
of it then."
"Besides," replied Boltnm, who took Garry's part
because he liked his character, Richard Shandon isn't
master on board; he obeys, like us."
"Who is master if he isn't ?"-
"Always that unfortunate captain!" exclaimed Pen.
"Don't you see that on these ice-banks there's no
more a captain than there is a public ? It's a polite
way of refusing us what we've a right to claim."
"But if there's a captain," replied Bolton, "I'll be,
two months' pay we shall see him before long.'
S" I should like to tell the captain a bit of my mind,"
"Who's talking about the captain P" said a new-comer.
It was Clifton, the sailor, a superstitious and envious
man. "Is anything new known about the captain "
No," they all answered at once.
66 The English at the North Pole.
"Well, I believe we shall find him one fine morning
installed in his cabin, and no one will know how he got
'' Get along, do!" replied Bolton. "Why, Clifton,
you imagine that he's a hobgoblin-a sort of wild child
of the Highlands."
"Laugh as much as you like, Bolton, you won't
change my opinion. Every day as I pass his cabin I
look through the keyhole. One of these fine mornings
I shall come and tell you what he's like."
Why he'll be like every one else," said Pen, and if
he thinks he'll be able to do what he likes with us, he'll
find himself mistaken, that's all!"
"Pen don't know him yet," said Bolton, "and he's
beginning to quarrel with him already."
"Who doesn't know him?" said Clifton, looking
knowing; I don't know that he don't!"
What the devil do you mean ?" asked, Gripper.
"I know very well what I mean."
But we don't."
"Well, Pen has quarrelled with him before."
With the captain ?"
"Yes, the dog-captain-it's all one."
The sailors looked at one another, afraid to say any-
Man or dog," muttered Pen, I declare that- that
animal will have his account one of these days."
"Come, Clifton," asked Bolton seriously, "you don't
mean to say that you believe the dog is the real
"Indeed I do," answered Clifton with conviction.
" If you noticed things like I do, y6u would have noticed
what a queer beast it is."
Tle English at the North Pole. 67
"Well, tell us what you've noticed."
"Haven't you noticed the way he walks on the poop
with such an air of authority, looking up at the sails as
if he were on watch?"
"That's true enough," added Gripper, "and one
evening I actually found him with his paws on the
"You don't mean it!" said Bolton.
"And now what do you think he does but go for a
walk on the ice-fields, minding neither the bears nor
"That's true enough," said Bolton.
"Do you ever see that 'ere animal, like an honest dog,
seek men's company, sneak about the kitchen, and set
his eyes on Mr. Strong when he's taking something
good to the commander ? Don't you hear him in the
night when he goes away two or three miles from the
vessel, howling fit to make your blood run cold, as if it
weren't easy enough to feel that sensation in such a
temperature as this ? Again, have you ever seen him
feed? He takes nothing from any one. His food is
always untouched, and unless a secret hand feeds him
on board, I may say that he lives without eating, and
if he's not unearthly I'm a fool!"
"Upon my word," said Bell, the carpenter, who had
heard all Clifton's reasoning, "I shouldn't be surprised
if such was the case." The other sailors were silenced,
at any rate.
Well, at any rate, where's the Forward going to ?"
"I don't know anything about it," repliPd Bell
" Richard Shandonwill receive the rest of his instructions
in due time."
"But from whom ?"
68 The English at the North Pole.
"Yes, how?" asked Bolton, becoming pressing.
"Now then, answer, Bell!" chimed in all the other
"By whom? how? Why, I don't know," said the
carpenter, embarrassed in his turn.
"Why, by the dog-captain," exclaimed Clifton. "He
has written once already; why shouldn't he again? If
I only knew half of what that 'ere animal knows, I
shouldn't be embarrassed at being First Lord of the
So then you stick to your opinion that the dog is
"Well," said Pen in a hoarse voice, "if that 'ere
animal don't want to turn up his toes in a dog's skin,
he's only got to make haste and become a man, or I'm
hanged if I don't settle him."
"What for ?" asked Garry.
"Because I choose," replied Pen brutally; "besides,
it's no business of any one."
"Enough talking, my boys," called out Mr. Johnson,
interfering just in time, for the conversation was getting
hot. Get on with your work, and set up your saws
quicker than that. We must clear the iceberg."
What! on a Friday ?" replied Clifton, shrugging his
shoulders. "You'll see she won't get over the Polar
circle as easily as you think."
The efforts of the crew were almost powerless during
the whole day. The Forward could not separate the
ice-fields even by'going against them full speed, and
they were obliged to anchor-for the night. On Satur-
day the temperature lowered again under the influence
The English at the North Pole. 69
of a westerly wind. The weather cleared up, and the
eye could sweep over the white plains in the distance,
which the reflection of the sun's rays rendered dazzling.
.t seven in the morning the thermometer marked
eight degrees above zero. The doctor was tempted to
stay quietly in his cabin, and read the Arctic voyages
over again; but, according to his custom, he asked
himself what would be the most disagreeable thing he
could do, which he settled was to go on deck and assist
the men to work in such a temperature. Faithful
to the line of conduct he had traced out for himself, he
left his well-warmed cabin and came to help in hauling
the vessel. His was a pleasant face, in spite of the
green spectacles by which he preserved his eyes from the
biting of the reflected rays ; in his future observations
he was always careful in making use of his snow
spectacles, in order to avoid ophthalmia, very frequent
in these high latitudes.
Towards evening the Forward had made several
miles further north, thanks to the activity of the men
and Shandon's skill, which made him take advantage
of every favourable circumstance; at midnight he had
got beyond the sixty-sixth parallel, and the fathom line
declared twenty-three fathoms of water; Shandon dis-
covered that he was on the shoal where Her Majesty's
ship Victoria struck, and that land was drawing near,
thirty miles to the east. But now the heaps of ice,
which up till now had been motionless, divided and
began to move; icebergs seemed coming from every
point of the horizon; the brig was entangled in a series
of moving rocks, the crushing force of which it was
impossible to resist. Moving became so difficult that
Garry, the best helmsman, took the wheel; the moun-
70 The English at the North Pole.
tains had a tendency to close up behind the brig; it
then became essential to cut through the floating ice,
and prudence as well as duty ordered them to go ahead.
Difficulties became greater from the impossibility that
Shandon found in establishing the direction of the
vessel amongst such changing points, which kept
moving without offering one firm perspective. The
crew was divided into two tacks, larboard and starboard;
each one, armed with a long perch with an iron point,
drove back the two threatening blocks. Soon the
Forward entered into a pass so narrow, between two
high blocks, that the extremity of her yards struck
against the walls, hard as rock; by degrees she
entangled herself in the midst of a winding valley, filled
up with eddies of snow, whilst the floating ice was
crashing and splitting with sinister cracklings. But it
soon became certain that there was no egress from this
gullet. An enormous block, caught in the channel,
was driving rapidly on to the Forward; it seemed
impossible to avoid it, and equally impossible to back
out along a road already obstructed.
Shandon and Johnson, standing on the prow, were
contemplating the position. Shandon was pointing
with his right hand at the direction the helmsman was
to take, and with his left was conveying to James Wall,
posted near the engineer, his orders for the working of
How will this end ?" asked the doctor of Johnson.
As it may please God," replied the boatswain.
The block of ice, at least a hundred feet high, was
only about a cable's length from the Forward, and
threatened to pound her under it.
Cursed luck !" exclaimed Pen, swearing frightfllly.
The English at the North Pole. 71
"Silence !" exclaimed a voice which it was impossible
to recognize in the midst of the'storm.,
The block seemed to be precipitating itself upon the
brig; there was a moment of undefinable anguish; the
men forsook their poles and flocked to the stern in
spite of Shandon's orders.
Suddenly a frightful sound was heard; a genuine
waterspout fell upon deck, heaved up by an enormous
wave. A cry of terror rang out from the crew, whilst
Garry, at the helm, held the Forward in a straight line
in spite of the frightful incumbrance. When their
frightened looks were drawn towards the mountain of
ice it had disappeared; the pass was free, and further
on a long canal, illuminated by the oblique rays of the
sun, allowed the brig to pursue her track.
"Well, Mr. Clawbonny," said Johnson, "can you
explain to me the cause of that phenomenon ?"
"It is a very simple one," answered the doctor, and
happens very often. When those floating bodies are
disengaged from each other by the thaw, they sail away
separately, maintaining their balance; but by degrees,
as they near the south, where the water is relatively
warmer, their base, shaken by the collision with other
icebergs, begins to melt and weaken; it then happens
that their centre of gravity is displaced, and, naturally,
they overturn. Only, if that one had turned over two
minutes later, it would have crushed our vessel '
72 The English at the North Pole.
HE Polar circle was cleared at last. On
the 30th of April, at midday, the Forward
passed abreast of Holsteinborg; pictu.
resque mountains rose up on the Eastern
horizon. The sea appeared almost free
frcm icebergs, and the few there were could easily be
avoided. The wind veered round to the south-east,
and the brig, under her mizensail, brigantine, topsails,
and her topgallant-sail, sailed up Baffin's Sea. It had
been a particularly calm day, and the crew were able to
take a little rest. Numerous birds were swimming and
fluttering about round the vessel; amongst others, the
doctor observed some alca-alla, very mclh like the teal,
with black neck, wings and back, and white breast;
they plunged with vivacity, and their immersion often
lasted forty seconds.
The day would not have been remarkable if the
following fact, however extraordinary it may appear,
had not occurred on board. At six o'clock in the
morning Richard Shandon, re-entering his cabin after
having been relieved, found upon the table a letter with
"To the Commander,
"On board the Forward,
Shandon could not believe his own eyes, and before
reading such a strange epistle he caused the doctor,
The English at the North Pole. 73
James Wall, and Johnson to be called, and showed them
"That grows very strange," said Johnson.
"It's delightful!" thought the doctor.
"At last," cried Shandon, "we shall know the
With a quick hand he tore the envelope and read as
"COMMANDER,-The captain of the Forward is
pleased with the coolness, skill, and courage that your
men, your officers, and yourself have shown on the late
occasions, and begs you to give evidence of his gratitude
to the crew.
Have the goodness to take a northerly direction
towards Melville Bay, and from thence try and penetrate
into Smith's Straits.
"THE CAPTAIN OF THE FORWARD,
Monday, April 30th, "K. 2.
Abreast of Cape Walsingham."
"Is that all F" cried the doctor.
"That's all," replied Shandon, and the letter fell
from his hands.
"Well," said Wall, "this chimerical captain doesn't
even mention coming on board, so I conclude that he
never will come."
But how did this letter get here ?" said Johnson.
Shandon was silent.
Mr. Wall is right," replied the doctor, after picking
up the letter and turning it over in every direction;
" the captain won't come on board for an excellent
74 The English at the North Pole.
And what's that ?" asked Shandon quickly.
"Because he is here already," replied the doctor
"Already!" said Shandon. "What do you mean?"
"How do you explain the arrival of this letter if
such is not the case ?"
Johnson nodded his head in sign of approbation.
"It is not possible!" said Shandon energetically.
"I know every man of the crew. We should have to
believe, in that case, that the captain has been with us
ever since we set sail. It is not possible, I tell you.
There isn't one of them that I haven't seen for more
than two years in Liverpool; doctor, your supposition
"Then what do you admit, Shandon ?"
"Everything but that! I admit that the captain, or
one of his men, has profited by the darkness, the fog,
or anything you like, in order to slip on board; we are
not very far from land; there are Esquimaux ka'iaks
that pass unperceived between the icebergs; some one
may have come on board and left the letter; the fog
was intense enough to favour their design."
"And to hinder them from seeing the brig," replie.1
the doctor; "if we were not able to perceive an in
truder slip on board, how could he have discovered the
Forward in the midst of a fog ?"
That is evident," exclaimed Johnson.
'SI come back, then," said the doctor, V to my first
hypothesis. What do you think about it, Shandon?"
I think what you please," replied Shandon fiercely,
" -ith the exception of supposing that this man is on
board my vessel."
"Perhaps," added Wall, "there may be amongst
The English at the North Pole. 75
the crew a man of his who has received instructions
That's very likely," added the doctor.
"But which man?" asked Shandon. "I tell you I
have known all my men a long time."
Anyhow," replied Johnson, "if this captain shows
himself, let him be man or devil, we'll receive him; but
we have another piece of information to draw from this
What's that ?" asked Shandon.
"Why, that we are to direct our path not only
towards Melville Bay, but again into Smith's
"You are right," answered the doctor.
Smith's Straits ?" echoed Shandon mechanically.
"It is evident," replied Johnson, "that the destina-
tion of the Forward is not to seek a North-West pas-
sage, as we shall leave to our right the only track that
leads to it-that is to say, Lancaster Straits; that's
what forebodes us difficult navigation in unknown
"Yes, Smith's Straits," replied Shandon, that's
the route that the American Kane followed in 1853,
and at the price of what dangers For a long time h(
was thought to be lost in those dreadful latitudes
However, as we must go, go we must. But where ?
how far? To the Pole ?"
"And why not ?" cried the doctor.
The idea of such an insane attempt made the boat-
swain shrug his shoulders.
After all," resumed James Wall, to come back to
the captain, if he exists, I see nowhere on the coast
of Greenland except Disko or'Uppernawik. where he
76 The English at the North Pole.
can be waiting for us; in a few days we shall know
what we may depend upon."
"But," asked the doctor of Shandon, ".aren't you going
to make known the contents of that letter to the crew F"
With the commander's permission," replied John-
son, "I should do nothing of the kind."
And why so ?" asked Shandon.
Because all that mystery tends to discourage the
men: they.are already very anxious about the fate of
our expedition, and if the supernatural side of it is
increased it may produce very serious results, and in a
critical moment we could not rely upon them. What
do you say about it, commander ?"
"And you, doctor-what do you think asked
I think Johnson's reasoning is just."
"And you, Wall?"
Unless there's better advice forthcoming, I shall
stick to the opinion of these gentlemen."
Shandon reflected seriously during a few minutes,
and read the letter over again carefully.
Gentlemen," said he, "your opinion on this subject
is certainly excellent, but I cannot adopt it."
Why not, Shandon ?" asked the doctor.
"Because the instructions of this letter are formal:
they command me to give the captain's congratulations
to the crew, and up till to-day I have always blindly
obeyed his orders in whatever manner they have been
transmitted to me, and I cannot-- "
"But- said Johnson, who rightly dreaded the
effect of such a communication upon the minds of the
"1My dear Johnson," answered Shandon, "your
The English at the North Pole. 77
reasons are excellent, but read-' he begs you to give
evidence of his gratitude to the crew.' "
"Act as you think best," replied Johnson, who was
besides a very strict observer of discipline. Are we
to muster the crew on deck ? "
"Do so," replied Shandon.
The news of a communication having been received
from the captain spread -like wildfire on deck; the
sailors quickly arrived at their post, and the com-
mander read out the contents of the mysterious letter.
The reading- of it was received in a dead silence; the
crew dispersed, a prey to a thousand suppositions.
Clifton had heard enough to give himself up to all the
wanderings of his superstitious imagination; he attri-
buted a considerable share in this incident to the dog-
captain, and when by chance he met him in his passage
he never failed to salute him. I told you the animal
could write," he used to say to the sailors. No one
said anything in answer to this observation, and even
Bell, "the carpenter himself, would not have known
what to answer.
Nevertheless it was certain to all that, in default of
the captain, his spirit or his shadow watched on board;
and henceforward the wisest of the crew abstained
from exchanging their opinions about him.
On the 1st of May, at noon, they were in _680 lati-
tude and 560 32' longitude. The temperature was
higher and the thermometer marked twenty-five degrees
above zero. The doctor was amusing himself with
watching the antics of a white bear and two cubs on
the brink; of a pack that lengthened out the land.
Accompanied by Wall and Simpson, he'tried to give
chase to them by means of the canoe; but the animal,
78 The English at the North Pole.
of a rather warlike disposition, rapidly led away its
offspring, and consequently the doctor was compelled
to renounce following them up.
Chilly Cape was doubled during the night under
the influence of a favourable wind, and soon the high
mountains of Disko rose in the horizon. Godhavn
Bay, the residence of the Governor-General of the
Danish Settlements, was left to the right. Shandon
did not consider it worth while to stop, and soon out-
,ran the Esquimaux piroques who were endeavouring to
reach his ship.
The Island of Disko is also called Whale Island. It
was from this point that on the 12th of July, 1845, Sir
John Franklin wrote to the Admiralty for the last
time. It was also on that island on the 27th of
August, 1859, that Captain McClintock set foot on his
return, bringing back, alas proofs too complete of the
loss of the expedition. The coincidence of these two
facts were noted by the doctor; that melancholy con-
junction was prolific in memories, but soon the heights
of Disko disappeared from his view.
There were, at that time, numerous icebergs on the
coasts, some of those which the strongest thaws are
unable to detach; the continual series of ridges showed
themselves under the strangest forms.
The next day, towards three o'clock, they were bear-
ing on to Sanderson Hope to the north-east. Land
was left on the starboard at a distance of about fifteen
miles; the mountains seemed tinged with a red-coloured
bistre. During the evening, several whales of the
finners species, which have fins on their backs, came
playing about in the midst of the ice-trails, throwing
out air and water from their blow-holes. It was
The English at the North Pole. 79
during the night between the 3rd and 4th of May that
the doctor saw for the first time the sun graze the
horizon without dipping his luminous disc into it.
Since the 31st of January the days had been getting
longer and longer till the sun went down no movie. To
strangers not accustomed to the persistence of this
perpetual light it was a constant subject of astonish-
ment, and even of fatigue; it is almost impossible to
understand to what extent obscurity is requisite for the
well-being of our eyes. The doctor experienced real
pain in getting accustomed to this light, rendered still
more acute by the reflection of the sun's rays upon the
plains of ice.
On May 5th the Forward headed the seventy-second
parallel; two minutes later they would have met with
numerous whalers under these high latitudes, but at
present the straits were not sufficiently open to allow
them to penetrate into Baffin's Bay.. The following
day the brig, after having headed Woman's Island,
came in sight of Uppernawik, the most northerly settle-
ment that Denmark possesses on these coasts.
HANDON, Dr. Clawbonny, Johnson, Foker,
and Strong, the cook, went on shore in the
small boat. The governor, his wife, and
five children, all of the Esquimaux race,
came politely to meet the visitors. The
doctor knew enough Danish to enable him to establish
a very agreeable acquaintance with them; besides, Foker,
80 The English at the North Pole.
who was interpreter of the expedition, as well as ice-
master, knew about twenty words of the Greenland
language, and if not ambitious, twenty words will carry
you far. The governor was born on the island, and
had never left his native country. He did the honours
of the town, which is composed of three wooden huts,
for himself and the Lutheran minister, of a school, and
magazines stored with the produce of wrecks. The
remainder consists of snow-huts, the entrance to which
is attained by creeping through a hole.
The greater part of the population came down to
greet the Forward, and more than one native advanced
as far as the middle of the bay in his kaiak, fifteen feet
long and scarcely two wide. The doctor knew that the
word Esquimaux signified raw-fish-eater, and he like-
wise knew that the name was considered an insult in
the country, for which reason he did not fail to
address them by the title of Greenlanders, and never-
theless only by the look of their oily sealskin clothing,
their boots of the same material, and all their greasy
tainted appearance, it was easy to discover their -accus-
tomed food. Like all Ichthyophagans, they were half-
eaten up with leprosy; and yet, for all that, were in no
The Lutheran minister and his wife, with whom the
loctor promised himself a private chat, were on a
journey towards Proven on the south of Uppernawik;
he was therefore reduced to getting information out of
the governor. This chief magistrate did not seem to be
very learned; a little less and he would have been an
ass, a little more and-he would have known how t
read. The doctor, however, questioned him upon the
commercial affairs, the customs and manners of the
The English at the North Pole. 81
Esquimaux, and learnt by signs that seals were worth
about 40 delivered in Copenhagen, a bearskin forty
Danish dollars, a blue foxskin four, and a white one
two or three dollars. The doctor also wished, with an
eye to completing his personal education, to visit one of
the Esquimaux huts; it is almost impossible to imagine
of what a learned man who is desirous of knowledge is
capable. Happily the opening of those hovels was too
narrow, and the enthusiastic fellow was not able to
crawl in; it was very lucky for him, for there is nothing
more repulsive than that accumulation of things living
and dead, seal flesh or Esquimaux flesh, rotten fish
and infectious wearing apparel, which constitute a
Greenland hovel; no window to revive the unbreathable
air, only a hole at the top of the hut, which gi--es free
passage to the smoke, but does not allow the stench to
Foker gave these details to the doctor, who did not
curse his corpulence the less for that. He wished to
judge for himself about these emanations, sui generis.
"I am sure," said he one gets used to it in the long
In the long run depicts Dr. Clawbonny in a single
phrase. During the ethnographical studies of the
worthy doctor, Shandon, according to his instructions,
was occupied in procuring means of transport to cToss
the ice. He had to pay 4 for a sledge and six dogs,
and even then he had great difficulty in persuading the
natives to part with them. Shandon wanted also to
engage Hans Christian, the clever dog-driver, who made
one of the party of Captain McClintock's expedition;
but, unfortunately, Hans was at that time in Southern
Greenland. Then came the grand question, the topic
82 The English at the North Pole.
of the day, was there in Uppernawik a European
waiting for the passage of the Forward? Did the
governor know if any foreigner, an Englishman pro-
bably, had settled in those countries ? To what epoch
could he trace his last relations with whale or other
ships? To these questions the governor replied that
not one single foreigner had landed on that side of the
coast for more than ten months.
Shandon asked for the names of the last whalers seet
there; he knew none of them. He was in despair.
You must acknowledge, doctor, that all'this is quite
inconceivable. Nothing at Cape Farewell, nothing at
Disko Island, nothing at Uppernawik."
"If when we get there you repeat Nothing in Mel-
ville Bay,' I shall greet you as the only captain of the
The small boat came back to the brig towards
evening, bringing back the visitors. Strong, in order to
change the food a little, had procured several dozens of
eider-duck eggs, twice as big as hens' eggs, and of
greenish colour. It was not much, but the change was
refreshing to a crew fed on salted meat. The wind
became favourable the next day, but, however, Shandon
did not command them to get under sail; he still
wished to stay another day, and for conscience' sake to
give any human being time to join the Forward. He
even caused the 16-pounder to be fired from hour to
hour; it thundered out with a great crash amidst the
icebergs, but the noise only frightened the swarms of
molly-mokes and rotches. During the night several
rockets were sent up, but in vain. And thus they were
obliged to set sail.
On the 8th of May, at six o'clock in the morning, the
.The English at the North Pote. 83
Forward under her topsails, foresails, and topgallant,
lost sight of the rppernawik settlement, and the
hideous stakes to which were hung seal-guts and deer-
paunches. The wind was blowing from the south-west,
and the temperature went up to thirty-two degrees.
The sun pierced through the fog, and the ice was getting
a little loosened under its dissolving action. But the
reflection of the white rays produced a sad effect on the
eyesight of several of the crew. Wolsten, the gun-
smith, Gripper, Clifton, and Bell were struck with snow
blindness, a kind of weakness in the eyes very frequent
in spring, and which determines, amongst the Esqui-
maux, numerous cases of blindness. The doctor advised
those who were so afflicted and their companions in
general to cover their faces with green gauze, and he
was the first to put his own prescription into execution.
The dogs bought by Shandon at Uppernawik were of
a rather savage nature, but in the end they became
accustomed to the ship, and the captain did not take
the arrival of these new- comrades too much to heart,
and he seemed to know their habits. Clifton was not
the last to remark the fact that the captain must already
have been in communication with his Greenland
brethren, as on land they were always famished and
reduced by incomplete nourishment; they only thought
of recruiting themselves by the diet on board.
On the 9th of May the Forward touched within a
few cables' length the most westerly of the Baffin Isles.
The doctor noticed several rocks in the bay between
the islands and the continent, those called Crimson
Cliffs; they were covered over with snow as red as
carmine, to which Dr. Kane gives a purely vegetable
origin. Clawbonny wanted to consider this phenomenon
84 The English at the North Pole.
nearer, but the ice prevented them approaching the
coast; although the temperature had a tendency to
rise, it was easy enough to see that the icebergs and
ice-streams were accumulating to the north of Baffin's
Sea. The land offered a very different aspect to that
of Uppernawik; immense glaciers were outlined on
the horizon against a greyish sky. On the 10th the
Forward left Hingston Bay on the right, near to the
seventy-fourth degree of latitude. Several hundred
miles westward the Lancaster Channel opened out into
But afterwards that immense extent of water dis-
appeared under enormous fields of ice, upon which
hummocks rose up as regularly as a crystallisation of tl.e
same substance. Shandon had the steam put on, and
up to the 11th of May the Forward wound amongst tha
sinuous rocks, leaving the print of a track on the sky,
caused by the black smoke from her funnels. But
new obstacles were soon encountered; the paths were
getting closed up in consequence of the incessant dis-
placement of the floating masses; at every minute a
failure of water in front of the Forward's prow became
imminent, and if she had been nipped it would have
been difficult to extricate her. They all knew it, and
thought about it.
On board this vessel, without aim or known destina-
tion,foolishly seeking to advance towards the north, some
symptoms of hesitation were manifested amongst those-
men, accustomed to an existence of danger; many,
forgetting the advantages offered, regretted having
ventured so far, and already a certain demoralisation
prevailed in their minds, still more increased by
Clifton's fears, and the idle talk of two or three
The English at the North Pole. 85
of the leaders, such as Pen, Gripper, Warren, and
To the uneasiness of the crew were joined overwhelm-
ing fatigues, for on the 12th of May the brig was
closed in on every side; her steam was powerless, and
it was necessary to force a road through the ice-fields.
The working of the saws was very difficult in the floes,
which measured from six to seven feet in thickness.
When two parallel grooves divided the ice upon the
length of a hundred feet, they had to break the interior
part with hatchets or handspikes; then took place the
elongation of the anchors, fixed in a hole by means of
a thick auger; afterwards the working of the capstan
began, and in this way the vessel was hauled over. The
greatest difficulty consisted in driving the smashed
pieces under the floes in order to open up a free pas-
eage for the ship, and to thrust them away they wer
compelled to use long iron-spiked poles.
At last, what with the working of the saws, the
hauling, the capstan and poles, incessant, dangerous,
and forced work, in the midst of fogs or thick snow,
the temperature relatively low, ophthalmic suffering and
moral uneasiness, all contributed to discourage the
crew, and react on the men's imagination. When
sailors have an energetic," audacious, and convinced
man to do with, who knows what he wants, where he is
bound for, and what end he has in view, confidence
sustains them in spite of everything. They make one
with their chief, feeling strong in his strength, and
quiet in his tranquillity; but on the brig it was felt
that the commander was not sure of himself, that he
hesitated before his unknown end and destination. In
spite of his energetic nature, his weakness showed
86 The English at the North Pole.
Itself in his changing orders, incomplete manoeuvres,
stormy reflections, and a thousand details which could
not escape the notice of the crew.
Besides, Shandon was not captain of the ship, a
sufficient reason for argument about his orders; from
argument to a refusal to obey the step is easy. The
discontented soon added to their number the first
engineer, who up to now had remained a slave to his
On May 16th, six days after the Forward's arrival at
the icebergs, Shandon had not gained two miles north-
ward, and the ice threatened to freeze in the brig till
the following season. This was becoming dangerous.
Towards eight in the evening Shandon and the doctor,
accompanied by Garry, went on a voyage of discovery
in the midst of the immense plains; they took care not
to go too far away from the vessel, as it was difficult
to fix any landmarks in those white solitudes, the
aspects of which changed constantly.
The refraction produced strange effects; they still
astonished the doctor; where he thought he had only
Sone foot to leap he found it was five or six, or the con-
trary; and in both cases the result was a fall, if not
dangerous, at least painful, on the frozen ice as hard
Shandon and his two companions went in search of a
practicable passage. Three miles from the ship they
succeeded, not without trouble, in climbing the iceberg,
which was perhaps three hundred feet high.
From this point their view extended over that
desolated mass which looked like the ruins of a gigantic
town with its beaten-down obelisks, its overthrown
steeples and palaces turned upside down all in a lum,
The English at the North Pole.
-in fact, a genuine chaos. The sun threw long oblique
rays of a light without warmth, as if heat-absorbing
substances were placed between it and that gloomy
country. The sea seemed to be frozen to the remotest
limits of view.
How shall we get through ?" exclaimed the doctor.
I have not the least idea," replied Shandon; but
we will get through, even if we are obliged to employ
powder to blow up those mountains, for I certainly
won't let that ice shut me up till next spring."
Nevertheless, such was the fate of the Fox, almost
in these same quarters. Never mind," continued the
doctor, we shall get through with a little philosophy.
Believe me, that is worth all the engines in the world."
You must acknowledge," replied Shandon, that
the year doesn't begin under very favourable auspices."
"That is incontestable, and I notice that Baffin's
Sea has a tendency to return to the same state in which
it was before 1817."
"Then you think, doctor, that the present state of
things has not always existed ?"
"Yes; from time to time there are vast breaking
up which scientific men can scarcly explain; thus, up to
1817 this sea was constantly obstructed, when suddenly
an immense cataclysm took place which drove back
these icebergs into the ocean, the great part of which
were stranded on Newfoundland Bank. From that time
Baffin's Bay has been almost free, and has become the
haunt of numerous whalers."
"Then, since that epoch, voyages to the north have
been easier ?"
"Incomparably so; but for the last few years it has
been observed that the bay has a tendency to be closed
88 The English at the North Pole.
ap again, and according to investigations made by
navigators, it may probably be so for a long time-a
still greater reason for us to go on as far as possible.
Just now we look like people who get into unknown
galleries, the doors of which are always shut behind
Do you advise me to back out ?" asked Shandon,
endeavouring to read the answer in the doctor's
"I! I have never known how to take a step back-
ward, and should we never return, I say Go ahead.'
However, I should like to make known to you that if
we do anything imprudent, we know very well what we
are exposed to."
Well, Garry, what do you think about it ?" asked
Shandon of the sailor.
"I ? Commander, I should go on; I'm of the same
opinion as Mr. Clawbonny; but you do as you please;
command, and we will obey."
"They don't all speak like you, Garry," replied
Shandon. "They aren't all in an obedient humour!
Suppose they were to refuse to execute my orders ?"
"Commander," replied Garry coldly, "I have given
you my.advice because you asked me for it; but you
are not obliged to act upon it."
Shandon did not reply; he attentively examined the
horizon, and descended with his two companions on to
The English at the North Pole.
THE DEVIL'S THUMB.
1fURING the commander's absence the
men had gone through divers works in
order to make the ship fit to avoid the
pressure of the ice-fields. Pen, Clifton,
Gripper, Bolton, and Simpson were occu-
pied in this laborious work ; the stoker and the two engi-
neers were even obliged to come to the aid of their com-
rades, for, from the instant they were not wanted at the
engine, they again became sailors, and, as such,theycould
be employed in all kinds of work on board. But this was
not accomplished without a great deal of grumbling.
"I'll tell you what," said Pen, "I've enough on it,
and if in three days the breaking up isn't come, I'll
swear to God that I'll chuck up !"
You'll chuck up ?" replied Gripper; "you 'ed do
better to help us to back out. Do you think we are in
the humour to winter here till next year ?"
"To tell you the truth, it would be a dreary winter,"
said Plover, "for the ship is exposed from every
And who knows," -added Brunton, if even next
spring we should find the sea freer than it is now ?"
"We aren't talking about next spring," said Pen,
"to-day's Thursday; if next Sunday morning the road
aint clear, we'll back out south."
That's the ticket !" cried Clifton.
Are you all agreed ?" said Pen.
"Yes," answered all his comrades.
That's right enough," answered Warren, for if wp
90 The English at the North Pole.
are obliged to work like this, hauling the ship by the
strength of our arms, my advice is to back water."
"We'll see about that on Sunday," answered
"As soon as I get the order," said Brunton, "I'll
soon get my steam up."
"Or we'd manage to get it up ourselves," said
"If any of the officers," said Pen, "wants to have
the pleasure of wintering here, we'll let him. He can
build himself a snow-hut like the Esquimaux."
Nothing of the kind, Pen," replied Brunton; we
won't leave anybody. You understand that, you
others. Besides, I don't think it would be difficult to
persuade the commander; he already seems very un-
certain, and if we were quietly to propose it-- "
I don't know that," said Plover; Richard Shandon
is a hard, headstrong man, and we should have to
sound him carefully."
When I think," replied Bolton, with a covetous
sigh, "that in a month we might be back in Liverpool;
we could soon clear the southern ice-line. The pass
in Davis's Straits will be open in the beginning of June,
and we shall only have to let ourselves drift into the
"Besides," said the prudent Clifton, "if we bring
back the commander with us, acting under his respon-
sibility, our pay and bounty money will be sure; whilst
if we return alone it won't be so certain."
"That's certain!" said Plover; "that devil of a
Clifton speaks like a book. Let us try to have nothing
to explain to the Admiralty; it's much safer to leave no
one behind us."
The English at the North Pole. 91
"But if the officers refuse to follow us?". replied
Pen, who wished to push his comrades to an extremity.
To such a question they were puzzled to reply.
"We shall see about it when the time comes," re-
plied Bolton; "besides, it would be enough to win
Richard Shandon over to our side. We shall have no
difficulty about that."
Anyhow," said Pen, swearing, "there'. something
I'll leave here if I get an arm eaten in the attempt."
"Ah you mean the dog," said Plover.
Yes, the dog; and before long I'll settle his hash !"
The more so," replied Clifton, coming back to his
favourite theme, that the dog is the cause of all our
"He's cast an evil spell over us," said Plover.
It's through him we're in an iceberg," said Gripper.
"He's the cause that we've had more ice against us
than has ever been seen at this time of year," said
"He's the cause of my bad eyes," said Brunton.
"He's cut off the gin and brandy," added Pen.
"He's the cause of everything," said the assembly,
And he's captain into the bargain!" cried Clifton.
"Well, captain of ill-luck," said Pen, whose un-
reasonable fury grew stronger at every word; "you
wanted to come here, and here you'll stay."
"But how are we to nap him ?" said Plover.
"We've a good opportunity," replied Clifton; "the
commander isn't on deck, the lieutenant is asleep in
his cab:n, and the fog's thick enough to stop Johnson
"But where's the dog ?" cried Pen.
92 The English at the North Pole.
"He's asleep near the coalhole," replied Clifton,
" and if anybody wants- "
I'll take charge of him," answered Pen furiously.
"Look out, Pen, he's got teeth that could snap an
iron bar in two."
"If he moves I'll cut him open," cried Pen, taking
his knife in one hand. He bounced in between decks,
followed by Warren, who wanted to help him in his
undertaking. They quickly came back, carrying the
animal in their arms, strongly muzzled, with his paws
bound tightly together. They had taken him by sur-
prise whilst he slept, so that the unfortunate dog could
not escape them.
Hurrah for Pen!" cried Plover.
What do you mean to do with him now you've got
him ?" asked Clifton.
Why, drown him, and if ever he gets over it- "
replied Pen, with a fearful smile of satisfaction.
About two hundred steps from the vessel there was a
seal-hole, a kind of circular crevice cut out by the teeth
of that amphibious animal, hollowed out from under-
neath, and through which the seal comes up to breathe
on to the surface of the ice. To keep this aperture
from closing up he has to be very careful because the
formation of his jaws would not enable him to bore
through the hole again from the outside, and in a
moment of danger he would fall a prey to his enemies.
Pen and Warren directed their steps towards this
crevice, and there, in spite of the dog's energetic efforts,
he was unmercifully precipitated into the sea. An
enormous lump of ice was then placed over the opening,
thus closing all possible issue to the poor animal,
walled up in a watery prison.
The English at the North Pole. 93
Good luck to you, captain," cried the brutal sailor.
Shortly afterwards Pen and Warren returned on
deck. Johnson had seen nothing of this performance.
The fog thickened round about the ship, and snow
began to fall with violence. An hour later, Richard
Shandon, the doctor, and Garry rejoined the Forward.
Shandon had noticed a pass in a north-eastern direction
of which he was resolved to take advantage, and gave
his orders in consequence. The crew obeyed with a
certain activity, not without hinting to Shandon that it
was impossible to go further on, and that they only
gate him three more days' obedience. During a part
of the night and the following day the working of the
saws and the hauling were actively kept up ; the For-
ward gained about two miles further north. On the
]8th she was in sight of land, and at five or six cabie-
lengths from a peculiar peak, called from its strange
shape the Devil's Thumb.
It was there that the Prince Albert in 1851, and the
Advance, with Kane, in 1853, were kept prisoners by
the ice for several weeks. The odd form of the Devil's
Thumb, the dreary deserts in its vicinity, the vast
circus of icebergs-some of them more than three hun-
dred feet high-the cracking of the ice, reproduced by
the echo in so sinister a manner, rendered the position
of the Forward horribly dreary. Shandon understood
the necessity of getting out of it and going further
ahead. Twenty-four hours later, according to his
estimation, he had been able to clear the fatal coast for
about two miles, but this was not enough. Shandon,
overwhelmed with fear, and the false situation in which
he was placed, lost both courage and energy; in order
to obey his instructions and get further north, he had
94 The English at the North Pole.
.thrown his vessel into an excessively perilous situation.
The men were worn out by the hauling; it required
more than three hours to hollow out a channel twenty
feet long,-through ice that was usually from four to five
feet thick. The health of the crew threatened to break
down. Shandon was astonished at the silence of his
men and their unaccustomed obedience, but he feared
that it was the calm before the storm. Who can judge,
then, of his painful disappointment, surprise, and de-
spair when he perceived that in consequence of an
insensible movement of the ice-field the Forward had,
during the night from the 18th to the 19th, lost all the
advantage she had gained with so much toil ? On the
Saturday morning they were once more opposite the
ever-threatening Devil's Thumb, and in a still more
critical position. The icebergs became more numerous,
and drifted by in the- fog like phantoms. Shandon
was in a state of complete demoralisation, for fright
had taken possession of the dauntless man and his
crew. Shandon had heard the dog's disappearance
spoken about, but dared not punish those who were
guilty of it. He feared that a rebellion might be the
consequence. The weather was fearful during the
whole day; the snow rose up in thick whirlpools,
wrapping up the Forward in an impenetrable cloak.
Sometimes, under the action of the storm, the fog was
torn asunder, and displayed towards land, raised up
like a spectre, the Devil's Thumb.
-The Forward was anchored to an immense block of
ice; it was all that could be done; there was nothing
more to attempt; the obscurity became denser, and the
man at the helm could not see James Wall, wno was
on duty in the Dow. Shandon withdrew to his cabin, a
The English at the North Pole. 95
prey to unremitting uneasiness; the doctor was putting
his voyage notes in order; one half the crew remained
on deck, the other half stayed in the common cabin.
At one moment, when the storm increased in fury, the
Devil's Thumb seemed to rise up out of all 'proportion
in the midst of the fog.
Good God!" cried Simpson, drawing back with
"What the devil's that ?" said Foker, and exclama-
tions rose up in every direction.
"It is going to smash us I"
"We are lost !"
Mr. Wall! Mr. Wall."
"It's all over with us !"
"Commander Commander I"
These cries were simultaneously uttered by the men
on watch. Wall fled to the quarter-deck, and Shandon,
followed by the doctor, rushed on deck to look. In the
midst of the fog the Devil's Thumb seemed to have
suddenly neared the brig, and seemed to have grown in
a most fantastic manner. At its summit rose up a
second cone, turned upside down and spindled on its
point; its enormous mass threatened to crush the ship,
as it was oscillating and ready to fall. It was a most
fearful sight; every one instinctively drew back, and
several sailors, leaping on to the ice, abandoned the
"Let no one move!" cried the commander in a
severe voice. "Every one to his post!"
"How now, my friends? There's nothing to be
frightened at !" said the doctor. "There's no danger!
Look, commander, look ahead, Mr. Wall; it's only an
effect of the mirage, nothing else."
96 The English at the North Pole.
"You are quite right, Mr. Clawbonny," answered
Johnson; those fools were frightened at a shadow."
After the doctor had spoken most of the sailors drew
near, and their fear changed to admiration at the
wonderful phenomenon, which shortly disappeared from
They call that mirage ?" said Clifton. "Well, you
may believe me that the devil has something to do.
That's certain!" replied Gripper.
But when the fog cleared away it disclosed to the
eyes of the commander an immense free and unexpected
passage; it seemed to run away from the coast, and he
therefore determined to seize such a favourable hazard.
Men were placed on each side of the creek, hawsers
were lowered down to them, and they began to tow the
vessel in a northerly direction. During long hours
this work was actively executed in silence. Shandon
caused the steam to be got up, in order to take advantage
of the fortunate discovery of this channel.
"This," said he to Johnson, "is a most providential
hazard, and if we can only get a few miles ahead, we
shall probably get to the end of our misfortunes."
"Brunton stir up the fires, and as soon as there's
enough pressure let me know. In the meantime our
men will pluck up their courage-that will be so much
gained. They are in a hurry to run away from the
Devil's Thumb; we'll take advantage of their good
All at once the progress of the Forward was abruptly
What's up P" cried Shandon. I say, Wall! have
we broken our tow-rope ?"
The English at the North Pole. 97
"Not at all, commander," answered Wall, looking
over the side. "Hallo! Here are the men coming
back again. They are climbing the ship's side as if the
devil was at their heels."
What the deuce can it be P" cried Shandon, rushing
On board! On board !" cried the terrified sailors.
Shandon looked in a northerly direction, and shud-
dered in spite of himself. A strange animal, with
appalling movements, whose foaming tongue emerged
from enormous jaws, was leaping about at a cable's
length from the ship. In appearance he seemed to be
about twenty feet high, with hair like bristles; he was
following up the sailors, whilst his formidable tail, ten
feet long, was sweeping the snow and throwing it up m
thick whirlwinds. The sight of such a monster riveted
the most daring to the spot.
"It's a bear!" said one.
"It's the Gevaudan beast!"
"It's the lion of the Apocalypse I"
Shandon ran to his cabin for a gun he always kept
loaded. The doctor armed himself, and held himself in
readiness to fire upon-an animal which, by its dimen-
sions, recalled the antediluvian quadrupeds. He neared
the ship in immense leaps; Shandon and the doctor
fired at the same time, when, suddenly, the report of
their firearms, shaking the atmospheric stratum, pro-.
duced an unexpected effect. The doctor looked attend.
lively, and burst out laughing.
"It's the refraction I" he exclaimed.
"Only the refraction!" repeated Shandon. But a
fearful exclamation from the crew interrupted them-
The dog !" said Clifton.
96 The English at the North Pole.
"The dog, captain!" repeated all his comrades.
Himself !" cried Pen; always that cursed brute."
They were not mistaken-it was the dog. Having
got loose from his shackles, he had regained the surface
by another crevice. At that instant the refraction,
through a phenomenon common to these latitudes,
caused him to appear under formidable dimensions,
which the shaking of the air had dispersed; but the
vexatious effect was none the less produced upon the
minds of the sailors, who were very little disposed to
admit an explanation of the fact by purely physical
reasons. The adventure of the Devil's Thumb, the re-
appearance of the dog under such fantasticcircumstances,
gave the finishing touch to their mental faculties, and
murmurs broke out on all sides.
CAPTAIN HATTER .A
HE Forward, under steam, rapidly made
its way between the ice-mountains and
the icebergs. Johnson was at the wheel.
Shandon, with his snow spectacles, was
examining the horizon, but his joy was of
short duration, for he soon discovered that the passage
ended in a circus of mountains. However, he preferred
going on, in spite of the difficulty, to going back. The
dog followed the brig at a long distance, running along
the plain, but if he lagged too far behind a singular
whistle could be distinguished, which he immediately
obeyed. The first time this whistle was heard the
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