V; R -4 ;M ROM, IAtli-
The Baldwm Library
I 'J l
"A tarulout hld alleadly swung his hatchet to strike, when he was arus' ed by
a \vell-known voice."-P'. 132.
THE FIELD OF ICE
BY JULES VERNE
AUTHOR OF "A JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE,"
"THE CHILDREN OF CAPTAIN GRANT,
_- .-._ ---- _- -- _.-
WITH 126 ILLUSTRATIONS BY RIOU
LONDON AND NEW YORK
GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS
[All rights reserved.]
PBIaTED BY SIMMONS & BOTTEN,
Shoe Lane, B.C.
THE DOCTOR'S INVENTORY 1
FIRST WORDS OF ALTAMONT. 10
A SEVENTEEN DAYS' MARCH 22
THE LAST CHARGE OF POWDER 32
THE SEAL AND THE BEAR 44
THE "PORPOISE" 55
AN IMPORTANT DISCUSSION 66
AN EXCURSION TO THE NORTH OF VICTORIA BAY 77
COLD AND HEAT 88
WINTER PLEASURES 97
TRACES OF BEARS. 107
IMPRISONED IN DOCTOR'S HOUSE. 118
THE MINE 130
AN ARCTIC SPRING 143
THE NORTH-WEST PASSAGE 154
ARCTIC ARCADIA .. 163
ALTAMONT'S REVENGE 173
FINAL PREPARATIONS 181
MARCH TO THE NORTH 187
FOOTPRINTS IN THE SNOW 199
THE OPEN SEA 209
GETTING NEAR THE POLE 216
THE ENGLISH FLAG 227
MOUNT HATTERAS 240
RETURN SOUTH 253
THE FIELD OF ICE.
THE DOCTOR'S INVENTORY.
T was a bold project of Hatteras to push his
way to the North Pole, and gain for his
country the honour and glory of its discovery.
But he had done all that lay in human power now, and,
after having struggled for nine months against currents
and tempests, shattering icebergs and breaking through
almost insurmountable barriers, amid the cold of an
unprecedented winter, after having outdistanced all his
predecessors and accomplished half his task, he sud-
denly saw all his hopes blasted. The treachery, or
rather the despondency, of his worn-out crew, and the
criminal folly of one or two leading spirits among them
had left him and his little band of men in a terrible
situation-helpless in an icy desert, two thousand five
hundred miles away from their native land, and without
even a ship to shelter them.
However, the courage of Hatteras was still un-
2 The Doctor's Inventory.
daunted. The three men which were left him were the
-- ~ -- .
best on board his brig, and while they remained he
might venture to hoe.
: ,- i--:. .
might venture to hope.
The Doctor's Inventory. 3
After the, cheerful, manly words of the captain, the
Doctor felt the best thing to be done was to look their
prospects fairly in the face, and know the exact state of
things. Accordingly, leaving his companions, he stole
away alone down to the scene of the explosion.
Of the Forward, the brig that had been so carefully
built and had become so dear, not a vestige remained .
Shapeless blackened fragments, twisted bars of iron,
cable ends still smouldering, and here and there in the
distance spiral wreaths of smoke, met his eye on all
sides. His cabin and all his precious treasures were
gone; his books, and instruments, and collections
reduced to ashes. As he stood thinking mournfully of
his irreparable loss, he was joined by Johnson, who
grasped his offered hand in speechless sorrow.
"What's to become of us ? asked the Doctor.
"Who can tell !" was the old sailor's reply.
4 The Doctor's Inventory.
"Anyhow," said Clawbonny, "do not let us
despair Let us be men !"
Yes, Mr. Clawbonny, you are right. Now is the
time to show our mettle. We are in a bad plight, and
how to get out of it, that is the question."
"Poor old brig!" exclaimed the Doctor. I had
grown so attached to her. I loved her as one loves a
house where he has spent a life-time."
"Ay! it's strange what a hold those planks and
beams get on a fellow's heart."
"And the long-boat-is that burnt ?" asked the
"No, Mr. Clawbonny. Shandon and his gang
have carried it off."
"And the pirogue ?"
"Shivered into a thousand pieces ? Stop. Do you
see those bits of sheet-iron ? That is all that
remains of it."
"Then we have nothing but the Halkett-boat ?"
Yes, we have that still, thanks to your idea of
taking it with you."
"That isn't much," said the Doctor.
"Oh, those base traitors !" exclaimed Johnson.
"Heaven punish them as they deserve !"
"Johnson," returned the Doctor, gently, "we must
not forget how sorely they have been tried. Only the
best remain good in the evil day; few can stand trouble
Let us pity our fellow-sufferers, and not curse them."
For the next few minutes both were silent, and then
Johnson asked what had become of the sledge.
The Doctor's Inventory. 5
"We left it about a mile off," was the reply.
In charge of Simpson ?"
"No, Simpson is dead, poor fellow !"
"Simpson dead !"
"Yes, his strength gave way entirely, and he
Poor Simpson And yet who knows if he isn't
rather to be envied ?"
"But, for the dead man we have left behind, we
have brought back a dying one."
A dying man ?"
Yes, Captain Altamont."
And in a few words he informed Johnson of their
"An American!" said Johnson, as the recital
"Yes, everything goes to prove that. But I wonder
what the Porpoise was, and what brought her in
these seas ?"
She rushed on to her ruin like the rest of foolhardy
adventurers; but, tell me, did you find the coal ?"
The Doctor shook his head sadly.
"No coal! not a vestige! No, we did not even get
as far as the place mentioned by Sir Edward Belcher."
"Then we have no fuel whatever?" said the
"And no provisions ?"
"And no ship to make our way back to England ?"
6 The Doctor's Inventory.
It required courage indeed to face these gloomy
realities, but, after a moment's silence, Johnson
"Well, at any rate we know exactly how we stand.
The first thing to be done now is to make a hut, for we
can't stay long exposed to this temperature."
Yes, we'll soon manage that with Bell's help,"
replied the Doctor. "Then we must go and find the
sledge, and bring back the American, and have a
consultation with Hatteras."
Poor captain," said Johnson, always forgetting
his own troubles, how he must feel it!"
Clawbonny and Bell found Hatteras standing
motionless, his arms folded in his usual fashion. He
seemed gazing into space, but his face had recovered its
calm, self-possessed expression. His faithful dog stood
beside him, like his master, apparently insensible to the
biting cold, though the temperature was 32 below zero.
Bell lay on the ice in an almost inanimate condition.
Johnson had to take vigorous measures to rouse him,
but at last, by dint of shaking and rubbing him with
snow, he succeeded.
Come, Bell," he cried, don't give way like this.
Exert yourself, my man; we must have a talk about our
situation, and we need a place to put our heads in.
Come and help me, Bell. You haven't forgotten how
to make a snow hut, have you ? There is an iceberg all
ready to hand; we've only got to hollow it out. Let's
set to work; we shall find that is the best remedy
Th6 Doctor's Inventory. 7
Bell tried to shake off his torpor and help his
comrade, while Mr. Clawbonny undertook to go and
fetch the sledge and the dogs.
"Will you go with him, captain ?" asked Johnson.
"No, my friend," said Hatteras, in a gentle tone,
"if the Doctor will kindly undertake the task. Before
the day ends I must come to some resolution, and I
need to be alone to think. Go. Do meantime what.
ever you think best. I will deal with the future."
Johnson went back to the Doctor, and said-
"It's very strange, but the captain seems quite to
have got over his anger. I never heard him speak so
"So much the better," said Clawbonny. "Believe
me, Johnson, that man can save us yet."
And drawing his hood as closely round his head as
possible, the Doctor seized his iron-tipped staff, and set
out without further delay.
Johnson and Bell commenced operations imme-
8 The Doctor's Inventory.
diately. They had simply to dig a hole in the heart of
a great block of ice; but it was not easy work, owing to
the extreme hardness of the material. However, this
very hardness guaranteed the solidity of the dwelling,
and the further their labours advanced the more they
Hatteras alternately paced up and down, and stood
motionless, evidently shrinking from any approach to
the scene of explosion.
In about an hour the Doctor returned, bringing with
him Altamont lying on the sledge, wrapped up in the
folds of the tent. The poor dogs were so exhausted
from starvation that they could scarcely draw it along,
and they had begun to gnaw their harness. It was,
indeed, high time for beasts and men to take food
While the hut was being still further dug out, the
Doctor went foraging about, and had the good fortune
to find a little stove, almost undamaged by the explosion.
He soon restored it to working trim, and, by the time
the hut was completed, had filled it with wood and got
it lighted. Before long it was roaring, and diffusing a
genial warmth on all sides. The American was brought
in and laid on blankets, and the four Englishmen seated
themselves round the fire to enjoy their scanty meal of
biscuit and hot tea, the last remains of the provisions on
the sledge. Not a word was spoken by Hatteras, and
the others respected his silence.
When the meal was over, the Doctor rose and went
out, making a sign to Johnson to follow.
"The tired-out dogs were harnessed sorely against their will, and before long
returned, bringing the few but precious treasures found among the "bris of
the brig."-P. 9.
The Doctor's Inventory. 9
"Come, Johnson," he said, "we will take an in-
ventory of all we have left. We must know exactly
how we are off, and our treasures are scattered in all
directions; so we had better begin, and pick them up as
fast as possible, for the snow may fall at any moment,
and then it would be quite useless to look for anything."
"Don't let us lose a minute, then," replied Johnson.
Fire and food-those are our chief wants."
"Very well, you take one side and I'll take the
other, and we'll search from the centre to the cir-
This task occupied two hours, and all they dis-
covered was a little salt meat, about 50 Ibs. of
pemmican, three sacks of biscuits, a small stock of
chocolate, five or six pints of brandy, and about 2 lbs.
of coffee, picked up bean by bean off the ice.
Neither blankets, nor hammocks, nor clothing-all
had been consumed in the devouring flame.
This slender store of provisions would hardly last
three weeks, and they had wood enough to supply the
stove for about the same time.
Now that the inventory was made, the next business
was to fetch the sledge. The tired-out dogs were
harnessed sorely against their will, and before long
returned bringing the few but precious treasures found
among the debris of the brig. These were safely
deposited in the hut, and then Johnson and Clawbonny,
half-frozen with their work, resumed their places beside
their companions in misfortune.
FIRST WORDS OF ALTAMONT.
ABOUT eight o'clock in the evening, the grey snow
clouds cleared away for a little, and the stars shone out
brilliantly in the sky.
Hatteras seized the opportunity and went out
silently to take the altitude of some of the principal
constellations. He wished to ascertain if the ice-field
was still drifting.
In half an hour he returned and sat down in a
corner of the hut, where he remained without stirring all
night, motionless as if asleep, but in reality buried in
The next day the snow fell heavily, and the Doctor
congratulated himself on his wise forethought, when he
saw the white sheet lying three feet thick over the scene
of the explosion, completely obliterating all traces of
It was impossible to venture outside in such
weather, but the stove drew capitally, and made the hut
quite comfortable, or at any rate it seemed so to the
weary, worn out adventurers.
First Words of Altamont. n
The American was in less pain, and was evidently
gradually coming back to life. He opened his eyes, but
could not yet speak, for his lips were so affected by the
scurvy that articulation was impossible, but he could
hear and understand all that was said to him. On
learning what had passed, and the circumstances of his
discovery, he expressed his thanks by gestures, and the
Doctor was too wise to let him know how brief his
respite from death would prove. In three weeks at
most every vestige of food would be gone.
About noon Hatteras roused himself, and going up
to his friends, said-
"We must make up our minds what to do, but I
must request Johnson to tell me first all the particulars
of the mutiny on the brig, and how this final act of
baseness came about."
"What good will that do?" said the Doctor.
"The fact is certain, and it is no use thinking over it."
I differ from your opinion," rejoined Hatteras.
"Let me hear the whole affair from Johnson, and then
I will banish it from my thoughts."
"Well," said the boatswain, "this was how it
happened. I did all in my power to prevent, but-"
I am sure of that, Johnson; and what's more, I
have no doubt the ringleaders had been hatching their
plans for some time."
"That's my belief too," said the Doctor.
"And so it is mine," resumed Johnson; "for
almost immediately after your departure Shandon,
supported by the others, took the command of the ship.
12 First Words of Altamont.
I could not resist him, and from that moment everybody
did pretty much as they pleased. Shandon made no
attempt to restrain them : it was his policy to make
them believe that their privations and toils were at an
end. Economy was entirely disregarded. A blazing
fire was kept up in the stove, and the men were allowed
to eat and drink at discretion; not only tea and coffee
was at their disposal, but all the spirits on board, and
on men who had been so long deprived of ardent liquors,
you may guess the result. They went on in this
manner from the 7th to the i5th of January."
"And this was Shandon's doing ? asked Hatteras.
"Never mention his name to me again Go on,
It was about the 24th or 25th of January, that
they resolved to abandon the ship. Their plan was to
reach the west coast of Baffin's Bay, and from thence to
embark in the boat and follow the track of the whalers,
or to get to some of the Greenland settlements on the
eastern side. Provisions were abundant, and the sick
men were so excited by the hope of return that they
were almost well. They began their preparations for
departure by making a sledge which they were to draw
themselves, as they had no dogs. This was not ready
till the i5th of February, and I was always hoping for
your arrival, though I half dreaded it too, for you could
have done nothing with the men, and they would have
massacred you rather than remain on board. I tried
my influence on each one separately, remonstrating and
First Words of Altamont. 13
reasoning with them, and pointing out the dangers they
would encounter, and also the cowardice of leaving you,
but it was a mere waste of words; not even the best
among them would listen to me. Shandon was im-
patient to be off, and fixed the 22nd of February for
starting. The sledge and the boat were packed as
closely as possible with provisions and spirits, and
heaps of wood, to obtain which they had hewed the brig
down to her water-line. The last day the men ran riot.
They completely sacked the ship, and in a drunken
paroxysm Pen and two or three others set it on fire. I
fought and struggled against them, but they threw me
down and assailed me with blows, and then the wretches,
headed by Shandon, went off towards the east, and were
soon out of sight. I found myself alone on the burning
ship, and what could I do? The fire-hole was com-
pletely blocked up with ice. I had not a single drop of
water! For two days the Forward struggled with the
flames, and you know the rest."
A long silence followed the gloomy recital, broken
at length by Hatteras, who said-
"Johnson, I thank you; you did all you could to
save my ship, but single-handed you could not resist.
Again I thank you, and now let the subject be dropped.
Let us unite efforts for our common salvation. There
are four of us, four companions, four friends, and all our
lives are equally precious. Let each give his opinion on
the best course for us to pursue."
You ask us then, Hatteras," said the Doctor;
"we are all devoted to you, and our words come from
14 First Words of Altamont.
our hearts. But will you not state you own views
"That would be little use," said Hatteras, sadly;
" my opinion might appear interested; let me hear
all yours first."
Captain," said Johnson, before pronouncing on
such an important matter, I wish to ask you a question."
Ask it, then, Johnson."
"You went out yesterday to ascertain our exact
position; well, is the field drifting or stationary ? "
Perfectly stationary. It had not moved since the
last reckoning was made. I find we are just where we
were before we left, in 80 15" lat. and 970 35" long."
"And what distance are we from the nearest
sea to the west ?"
"About six hundred miles."
And that sea is -- ? "
"Smith's Sound," was the reply.
"The same that we could not get through last
"Well, captain, now we know our actual situation,
we are in a better position to determine our course
Speak your minds, then," said Hatteras, again
burying his head in his hands.
What do you say, Bell ?" asked the Doctor.
It strikes me the case doesn't need long thinking
over," said the carpenter. We must get back at once
without losing a single day or even a single hour, either
First Words of Altamont. 15
to the south or west, and make our way to the nearest
coast, even if we are two months doing it! "
"We have only food for three weeks," replied
Hatteras, without raising his head.
"Very well," said Johnson, "we must make the
journey in three weeks, since it is our last chance.
Even if we can only crawl on our knees before we get
to our destination, we must be there in twenty-
"This part of the Arctic Continent is unexplored.
We may have to encounter difficulties. Mountains and
glaciers may bar our progress," objected Hatteras.
"I don't see that's any sufficient reason for not
attempting it. We shall have to endure sufferings, no
doubt, and perhaps many. We shall have to limit
ourselves to the barest quantities of food, unless our
guns should procure us anything."
There is only about half a pound of powder left,"
Come now, Hatteras, I know the full weight of
your objections, and I am not deluding myself with
vain hopes. But I think I can read your motive.
Have you any practical suggestion to offer ? "
No," said Hatteras, after a little hesitation.
"You don't doubt our courage," continued the
Doctor. "We would follow you to the last-you
know that. But must we not, meantime, give up all
hope of reaching the Pole? Your plans have been
defeated by treachery. Natural difficulties you might
have overcome, but you have been outmatched by
16 First W7ords of Altamont.
perfidy and human weakness. You have done all that
man could do, and you would have succeeded I am
certain; but situated as we are now, are you not obliged
to relinquish your projects for the present, and is not a
return to England even positively necessary before you
could continue them ? "
"Well, captain ?" asked Johnson after waiting a
considerable time for Hatteras to reply.
Thus interrogated, he raised his head, and said in a
You think yourselves quite certain then of reach-
ing the Sound, exhausted though you are, and almost
without food ? "
No," replied the Doctor, "but there is one thing
certain, the Sound won't come to us, we must go to it.
We may chance to find some Esquimaux tribes
Besides, isn't there the chance of falling in with
some ship that is wintering here ? asked Johnson.
Even supposing the Sound is blocked up, couldn't
we get across to some Greenland or Danish settlement?
At any rate, Hatteras, we can get nothing by remaining
here. The route to England is towards the south,
not the north."
"Yes," said Bell, "Mr. Clawbonny is right. We
must start, and start at once. We have been forgetting
our country too long already."
Is this your advice, Johnson ? asked Hatteras
First Words of Altamont. 17
"And yours, Doctor ? "
Hatteras remained silent, but his face, in spite of
himself, betrayed his inward agitation. The issue of
his whole life hung on the decision he had to make, for
he felt that to return to England was to lose all! He
could not venture on a fourth expedition.
The Doctor finding he did not reply, added-
"I ought also to have said, that there is not a
moment to lose. The sledge must be loaded with the
provisions at once, and as much wood as possible. I
must confess six hundred miles is a long journey, but
we can, or rather we must make twenty miles a day,
which will bring us to the coast about the 26th
But cannot we wait a few days yet ?" said
What are you hoping for? asked Johnson.
I don't know. Who can tell the future? It is
necessary, too, that you should get your strength a little
recruited. You might sink down on the road with
fatigue, without even a snow hut to shelter you."
"But think of the terrible death that awaits us
here," replied the carpenter.
"My friends," said Hatteras, in almost supplicating
tones; you are despairing too soon. I should propose
that we should seek our deliverance towards the north,
but you would refuse to follow me, and yet why should
there not be Esquimaux tribes round about the Pole as
well as towards the south? The open sea, of the
18 First Words of Altamont.
existence of which we are certified, must wash the
shores of continents. Nature is logical in all her
doings. Consequently vegetation must be found there
when the earth is no longer ice-bound. Is there not a
promised land awaiting us in the north from which
you would flee ? "
Hatteras became animated as he spoke, and Doctor
Clawbonny's excitable nature was so wrought upon that
his decision began to waver. He was on the point of
yielding, when Johnson, with his wiser head and calmer
temperament, recalled him to reason and duty by call-
"Come, Bell, let us be off to the sledge."
"All right," said Bell, and the two had risen to
leave the hut, when Hatteras exclaimed-
"Oh, Johnson! You! you! Well, go I shall
stay, I shall stay !"
"Captain!" said Johnson, stopping in spite of'
I shall stay, I tell you. Go Leave me like the
rest Come, Duk, you and I will stay together."
The faithful dog barked as if he understood, and
settled himself down beside his master. Johnson
looked at the Doctor, who seemed at a loss to know
what to do, but came to the conclusion at last that the
best way, meantime, was to calm Hatteras, even at the
sacrifice of a day. He was just about to try the force
of his eloquence in this direction, when he felt a light
touch on his arm, and turning round saw Altamont,
who had crawled out of bed and managed to get on his
First Words of Altamont. 19
knees. He was trying to speak, but his swollen lips
could scarcely make a sound. Hatteras went towards
him, and watched his efforts to articulate so attentively
that in a few minutes he made out a word that sounded
like Porpoise, and stooping over him he asked-
Is it the Porpoise ? "
Altamont made a sign in the affirmative, and
Hatteras went on with his queries, now that he had
found a clue.
In these seas ? "
The affirmative gesture was repeated.
Is she in the north ? "
"Do you know her position ? "
Exactly ? "
For a minute or so, nothing more was said, and the
onlookers waited with palpitating hearts.
Then Hatteras spoke again and said-
Listen to me. We must know the exact position
of your vessel. I will count the degrees aloud, and you
will stop me when I come to the right one."
The American assented by a motion of the head,
and Hatteras began-
We'll take the longitude first. o15, No ? I06',
1070 ? It is to the west, I suppose ?"
"Yes," replied Altamont.
"Let us go on, then: To9, IIo, 11zO, 114,
IT O w Q
20 First WJords of Altamont.
Yes," interrupted the sick man.
120 of longitude, and how many minutes ?
I will count."
II iI i
"120o of longitude, and how many minutes?
I will count."
First Words of Altamont. 21
Hatteras began at number one, and when he got to
Fifteen, Altamont made a sign to stop.
"Very good," said Hatteras; "now for the latitude.
Are you listening? 80o, 8i, 82z, 830."
Again the sign to stop was made.
"Now for the minutes: 5', Io', 15, 20', 25', 30', 35'-"
Altamont stopped him once more, and smiled feebly.
"You say, then, that the Porpoise is in longitude
120o 15', and latitude 830 35'? "
"Yes," sighed the American, and fell back motion-
less in the Doctor's arms, completely overpowered by
the effort he had made.
"Friends!" exclaimed Hatteras; "you see I was
right. Our salvation lies indeed in the north, always in
the north. We shall be saved !"
But the joyous, exulting words had hardly escaped
his lips before a sudden thought made his countenance
change. The serpent of jealousy had stung him, for
this stranger was an American, and he had reached
three degrees nearer the Pole than the ill-fated Forward.
A SEVENTEEN DAYS' MARCH.
THESE first words of Altamont had completely changed
the whole aspect of affairs, but his communication was
still incomplete, and, after giving him a little time to
rest, the Doctor undertook the task of conversing again
with him, putting his questions in such a form that a
movement of the head or eyes would be a sufficient
He soon ascertained that the Porpoise was a three-
mast American ship, from New York, wrecked on the
ice, with provisions and combustibles in abundance still
on board, and that, though she had been thrown on her
side, she had not gone to pieces, and there was every
chance of saving her cargo.
Altamont and his crew had left her two months
previously, taking the long boat with them on a sledge.
They intended to get to Smith's Sound, and reach some
whaler that would take them back to America; but one
after another succumbed to fatigue and illness, till at
last Altamont and two men were all that remained out
of thirty; and truly he had survived by a providential
A Seventeen Days' March. 23
miracle, while his two companions already lay beside
him in the sleep of death.
Hatteras wished to know why the Porpoise had
come so far north, and learned in reply that she had
been irresistibly driven there by the ice. But his
anxious fears were not satisfied with this explanation,
and he asked further what was the purpose of his voy-
age. Altamont said he wanted to make the north-west
passage, and this appeared to content the jealous Eng-
lishman, for he made no more reference to the subject.
"Well," said the Doctor, it strikes me that,
instead of trying to get to Baffin's Bay, our best plan
would be to go in search of the Porpoise, for here lies a
ship a full third of the distance nearer, and, more than
that, stocked with everything necessary for winter
I see no other course open to us," replied Bell.
And the sooner we go the better," added Johnson,
" for the time we allow ourselves must depend on our
"You are right, Johnson," returned the Doctor.
If we start to-morrow, we must reach the Porpoise by
the I5th of March, unless we mean to die of starvation.
What do you say, Hatteras ?"
"Let us make preparations immediately, but per-
haps the route may be longer than we suppose."
"How can that be, captain? The man seems
quite sure of the position of his ship," said the Doctor.
"But suppose the ice-field should have drifted
like ours ?"
24 A Seventeen Days' March.
Here Altamont, who was listening attentively, made
a sign that he wished to speak, and, after much
difficulty, he succeeded in telling the Doctor that the
Porpoise had struck on rocks near the coast, and that it
was impossible for her to move.
This was re-assuring information, though it cut off
all hope of returning to Europe, unless Bell could con-
struct a smaller ship out of the wreck.
No time was lost in getting ready to start. The
sledge was the principal thing, as it needed thorough
repair. There was plenty of wood, and, profiting by
the experience they had recently had of this mode of
transit, several improvements were made by Bell.
Inside, a sort of couch was laid for the American,
and covered over with the tent. The small stock of
provisions did not add much to the weight, but, to
make up the deficiency, as much wood was piled up on
it as it could hold.
The Doctor did the packing, and made an exact caleu-
A Seventeen Days' March. 25
lation of how long their storeswould last. He found that,
by allowing three-quarter rations to each man and full
rations to the dogs, they might hold out for three weeks.
Towards seven in the evening, they felt so worn out
that they were obliged to give up work for the night; but,
before lying down to sleep, they heaped up the wood in
the stove, and made a roaring fire, determined to allow
themselves this parting luxury. As they gathered round
it, basking in the unaccustomed heat, and enjoying
their hot coffee and biscuits and pemmican, they be-
came quite cheerful, and forgot all their sufferings.
About seven in the morning they set to work again,
and by three in the afternoon everything was ready.
It was almost dark, for, though the sun had re-
appeared above the horizon since the 31st of January,
his light was feeble and of short duration. Happily the
moon would rise about half-past six, and her soft beams
would give sufficient light to show the road.
The parting moment came. Altamont was over-
joyed at the idea of starting, though the jolting would
necessarily increase his sufferings, for the Doctor would
find on board the medicines he required for his cure.
They lifted him on to the sledge, and laid him as
comfortably as possible, and then harnessed the dogs,
including Duk. One final look towards the icy bed
where the Forward had been, and the little party set out
for the Porpoise. Bell was scout, as before; the Doctor
and Johnson took each a side of the sledge, and lent a
helping hand when necessary; while Hatteras walked
behind to keep all in the right track.
26 A Seventeen Days' March.
They got on pretty quickly, for the weather was
good, and the ice smooth and hard, allowing the sledge
to glide easily along; yet the temperature was so low
that men and dogs were soon panting, and had often to
stop and take breath. About seven the moon shone
out, and irradiated the whole horizon. Far as the eye
could see, there was nothing visible but a wide-
or patch to relieve the uniformity.
As the Doctor remarked to his companion, it looked
like sonie vast, monotonous desert.
Ay! Mr. Clawbonny, it s a desert, but we shan't
die of thirst in it at any rate."
That's a comfort, certainly; but I'll tell you one
thing: it proves, Johnson, we must be a great distance
A Seventeen Days' March. 27
from any coast. The nearer the coast, the more
numerous the icebergs in general, and you see there is
not one in sight."
"The horizon is rather misty, though."
So it is, but ever since we started, we have been on
this same interminable ice-field."
"Do you know, Mr. Clawbonny, that smooth as
this ice is, we are going over most dangerous ground ?
Fathomless abysses lie beneath our feet."
"That's true enough, but they won't engulph us.
This white sheet over them is pretty tough, I can tell
you. It is always getting thicker too; for in these
latitudes, it snows nine days out of ten, even in April
and May; ay, and in June as well. The ice here, in
some parts, cannot be less than between thirty and
forty feet thick."
"That sounds reassuring, at all events," said
Yes, we're not like the skaters on the Serpentine-
always in danger of falling through. This ice is strong
enough to bear the weight of the Custom House in Liver-
pool, or the Houses of Parliament in Westminster."
Can they reckon pretty nearly what ice will bear,
Mr. Clawbonny?" asked the old sailor, always eager
What can't be reckoned now-a-days? Yes, ice
two inches thick will bear a man; three and a half
ihches, a man on horse-back; five inches, an eight
pounder; eight inches, field artillery; and ten inches, a
28 A Seventeen Days' March.
It is difficult to conceive of such a power of resist-
ance, but you were speaking of the incessant snow just
now, and I cannot help wondering where it comes from,
for the water all round is frozen, and what makes
the clouds ?"
"That's a natural enough question, but my notion
is that nearly all the snow or rain that we get here
comes from the temperate zones. I fancy each of those
snowflakes was originally a drop of water in some river,
caught up by evaporation into the air, and wafted over
here in the shape of clouds; so that it is not impossible
that when we quench our thirst with the melted snow,
we are actually drinking from the very rivers of our own
Just at this moment the conversation was in-
terrupted by Hatteras, who called out that they were
getting out of the straight line. The increasing mist
made it difficult to keep together, and at last, about
eight o'clock, they determined to come to a halt, as they
had gone fifteen miles. The tent was put up and the
stove lighted, and after their usual supper they lay down
and slept comfortably till morning.
The calm atmosphere was highly favourable, for
though the cold became intense, and the mercury was
always frozen in the thermometer, they found no
difficulty in continuing their route, confirming the truth
of Parry's assertion that any man suitably clad may
walk abroad with impunity in the lowest temperature,
provided there is no wind; while, on the other hand, the
least breeze would make the skin smart acutely, and
A Seventeen Days' March. 29
bring on violent headache, which would soon end
On the 5th of March a peculiar phenomenon oc-
curred. The sky was perfectly clear and glittering with
stars, when suddenly snow began to fall thick and
fast, though there was not a cloud in the heavens;
and through the white flakes the constellations could
be seen shining. This curious display lasted two
hours, and ceased before the Doctor could arrive at
any satisfactory conclusion as to its cause.
The moon had ended her last quarter, and complete
darkness prevailed now for seventeen hours out of the
twenty-four. The travellers had to fasten themselves
together with a long rope to avoid getting separated,
and it was all but impossible to pursue the right course.
Moreover, the brave fellows, in spite of their iron
will, began to show signs of fatigue. Halts became
more frequent, and yet every hour was precious, for the
provisions were rapidly coming to an end.
Hatteras hardly knew what to think as day after day
went on without apparent result, and he asked himself
sometimes whether the Porpoise had any actual exist-
ence except in Altamont's fevered brain, and more than
once the idea even came into his head that perhaps
national hatred might have induced the American to
drag them along with himself to certain death.
He told the Doctor his suppositions, who rejected
them absolutely, and laid them down to the score of the
unhappy rivalry that had arisen already between the
30 A Seventeen Day,' March.
On the i4th of March, after sixteen days' march,
th litt ---- ond th s s only t e
*---" '-H --5-. -- R.? =5 -
the little party found themselves only yet iI tile 82'
A Seventeen Days' March. 3T
latitude. Their strength was exhausted, and they had a
hundred miles more to go. To increase their sufferings,
rations had to be still further reduced. Each man must
be content with a fourth part to allow the dogs their
Unfortunately they could not rely at all on their
guns, for only seven charges of powder were left, and six
balls. They had fired at several hares and foxes on the
road already, but unsuccessfully.
However, on the 15th, the Doctor was fortunate
enough to surprise a seal basking on the ice, and, after
several shots, the animal was captured and killed.
Johnson soon had it skinned and cut in pieces, but
it was so lean that it was worthless as food, unless its
captors would drink the oil like the Esquimaux.
The Doctor was bold enough to make the attempt,
but failed in spite of himself.
Next day several icebergs and hummocks were
noticed on the horizon. Was this a sign that land was
near, or was it some ice-field that had broken up ? It
was difficult to know what to surmise.
On arriving at the first of these hummocks, the
travellers set to work to make a cave in it where they
could rest more comfortably than in the tent, and after
three hours' persevering toil, were able to light their
stove and lie down beside it to stretch their weary limbs.
THE LAST CHARGE OF POWDER.
JOHNSON was obliged to take the dogs inside the hut,
for they would have been soon frozen outside in such
dry weather. Had it been snowing they would have
been safe enough, for the snow served as a covering,
and kept in the natural heat of the animals.
The old sailor, who made a first-rate dog-driver,
tried his beasts with the oily flesh of the seal; and
found, to his joyful surprise, that they ate it greedily.
The Doctor said he was not astonished at this, as in
North America the horses were chiefly fed on fish; and
he thought that what would satisfy an herbivorous
horse might surely content an omnivorous dog.
The whole party were soon buried in deep sleep, for
they were fairly overcome with fatigue. Johnson awoke
his companions early next morning, and the march was
resumed in haste. Their lives depended now on their
speed, for provisions would only hold out three days
The sky was magnificent; the atmosphere extremely
clear, and the temperature very low. The sun rose in
The Last Charge of Powder. 33
the form of a long ellipse, owing to refraction, which
made his horizontal diameter appear twice the length
of his vertical.
The Doctor, gun in hand, wandered away from the
others, braving the solitude and the cold in the hope of
discovering game. He had only sufficient powder left
to load three times, and he had just three balls. That
was little enough should he encounter a bear, for it
often takes ten or twelve shots to have any effect on
these enormous animals.
But the brave Doctor would have been satisfied with
humbler game. A few hares or foxes would be a
welcome addition to their scanty food; but all that day,
if even he chanced to see one, either he was too far
away, or he was deceived by refraction, and took a
34 The Last Charge of Powder.
wrong aim. He came back to his companions at night
with crestfallen looks, having wasted one ball and one
charge of powder.
Next day the route appeared more difficult, and the
weary men could hardly drag themselves along. The
dogs had devoured even the entrails of the seal, and
began to gnaw their traces.
A few foxes passed in the distance, and the Doctor
lost another ball in attempting to shoot them.
They were forced to come to a halt early in the
evening, though the road was illumined by a splendid
Aurora Borealis; for they could not put one foot before
Their last meal, on the Sunday evening, was a very
sad one-if no providential help came, their doom was
Johnson set a few traps before going to sleep,
though he had no baits to put inside them. He was
very disappointed to find them all empty in the morning,
and was returning gloomily to the hut, when he
perceived a bear of huge dimensions. The old sailor
took it into his head that Heaven had sent this beast
specially for him to kill; and without waking his
comrades, he seized the Doctor's gun, and was soon in
pursuit of his prey. On reaching the right distance, he
took aim; but, just as his finger touched the trigger, he
felt his arm tremble. His thick gloves hampered him,
and, flinging them hastily off, he took up the gun with
a firmer grasp. But what a cry of agony escaped him !
The skin of his fingers stuck to the gun as if it had been
The Last Charge of Powder. 35
red-hot, and he was forced to let it drop. The sudden
fall made it go off, and the last ball was discharged in
The Doctor ran out at the noise of the report, and
understood all at a glance. He saw the animal walking
quietly off, and poor Johnson forgetting his sufferings
in his despair.
I am a regular milksop !" he exclaimed, "a cry-
baby, that can't stand the least pain! And at my
"Come, Johnson; go in at once, or you will be
frost-bitten. Look at your hands-they are white
already! Come, come this minute."
I am not worth troubling about, Mr. Clawbonny,"
said the old boatswain. "Never mind me "
"But you must come in, you obstinate fellow.
Come, now, I tell you; it will be too late presently."
At last he succeeded in dragging the poor fellow into
the tent, where he made him plunge his hands into a
36 The Last Charge of Powder.
bowl of water, which the heat of the stove kept in a
liquid state, though still cold. Johnson's hands had
hardly touched it before it froze immediately.
"You see it was high time you came in; I should
have been forced to amputate soon," said the Doctor.
Thanks to his endeavours, all danger was over in
about an hour, but he was advised to keep his hands at
a good distance from the stove for some time still.
That morning they had no breakfast. Pemmican
and salt beef were both done. Not a crumb of biscuit
remained. They were obliged to content themselves
with half a cup of hot coffee, and start off again.
They scarcely went three miles before they were
compelled to give up for the day. They had no supper
but coffee, and the dogs were so ravenous that they
were almost devouring each other.
Johnson fancied he could see the bear following
them in the distance, but he made no remark to his
companions. Sleep forsook the unfortunate men, and
their eyes grew wild and haggard.
Tuesday morning came, and it was thirty four hours
since they had tasted a morsel of food. Yet these
brave, stout-hearted men continued their march, sus-
tained by their superhuman energy of purpose. They
pushed the sledge themselves, for the dogs could no
longer draw it.
At the end of two hours, they sank exhausted.
Hatteras urged them to make a fresh attempt, but his
entreaties and supplications were powerless; they could
not do impossibilities.
The Last Charge oJ Powder. 37
Well, at any rate," he said, I won't die of cold
if must of huner." He set to work to hew out
if I must of hunger." He set to w or k to hew out
38 The Last Charge oJ Powder.
a hut in an iceberg, aided by Johnson, and really
they looked like men digging their own tomb.
It was hard labour, but at length the task was
accomplished. The little house was ready, and the
miserable men took up their abode in it.
In the evening, while the others lay motionless, a
sort of hallucination came over Johnson, and he began
raving about bears.
The Doctor roused himself from his torpor, and
asked the old man what he meant, and what bear he
was talking about.
"The bear that is following us," replied Johnson.
A bear following us ? "
"Yes, for the last two days!"
For the last two days You have seen him ? "
Yes, about a mile to leeward."
"And you never told me, Johnson "
What was the good "
"True enough," said the Doctor; "we have not
a single ball to send after him "
"No, not even a bit of iron! "
The Doctor was silent for a minute, as if thinking.
Then he said-
"Are you quite certain the animal is following
us ? "
"Yes, Mr. Clawbonny, he is reckoning on a good
feed of human flesh "
"Johnson!" exclaimed the Doctor, grieved at the
despairing mood of his companion.
He is sure enough of his meal !" continued the
The Last Charge of Powder. 39
poor fellow, whose brain began to give way. "He
must be hungry, and I don't see why we should keep
"Johnson, calm yourself! "
"No, Mr. Clawbonny, since we must die, why
prolong the sufferings of the poor beast? He is
famished like ourselves. There are no seals for him to
eat, and Heaven sends him men So much the better
for him, that's all! "
Johnson was fast going mad. He wanted to get up
and leave the hut, and the Doctor had great difficulty in
preventing him. That he succeeded at all, was not
through strength, but by saying in a tone of the most
absolute conviction, "Johnson, I shall kill that bear
To-morrow! said Johnson, as if waking up from
some bad dream.
40 The Last Charge of Powder.
You have no ball! "
I'll make one."
You have no lead "
No, but I have mercury."
So saying, he took the thermometer, which stood at
500 above zero, and went outside and laid it on a block
of ice. Then he came in again, and said, To-
morrow Go to sleep, and wait till the sun rises."
With the first streak of dawn next day, the Doctor
and Johnson rushed out to look at the thermometer.
All the mercury had frozen into a compact cylindrical
mass. The Doctor broke the tube and took it out.
Here was a hard piece of metal ready for use.
"It is wonderful, Mr. Clawbonny; you ought to be
a proud man."
"Not at all, my friend, I am only gifted with a
good memory, and I have read a great deal."
"How did that help you ? "
Why, I just happened to recollect a fact related by
Captain Ross in his voyages. He states that they
pierced a plank, an inch thick, with a bullet made of
mercury. Oil would even have suited my purpose, for,
he adds, that a ball of frozen almond oil splits through a
post without breaking in pieces."
It is quite incredible! "
"But it is a fact, Johnson. Well, come now, this
bit of metal may save our lives. We'll leave it exposed
to the air a little while, and go and have a look for
Just then Hatteras made his appearance, and the
The Last Charge of Powder. 41
Doctor told him his project, and showed him the
The captain grasped his hand silently, and the three
hunters went off in quest of their game.
The weather was very clear, and Hatteras, who was
a little ahead of the others, speedily discovered the bear
about three hundred yards distant, sitting on his hind
_.. ---~- --__
I. A 42-- 1_-__'
quarters sniffing the air, evidently scenting the in-
truders on his domains.
"There he is ? he exclaimed.
Hush cried the Doctor.
But the enormous quadruped, even when he per-
ceived his antagonists, never stirred, and displayed
neither fear nor anger. It would not be easy to get
near him, however, and Hatteras said-
"Friends, this is no idle sport, our very existence is
at stake; we must act prudently."
"Yes," replied the Doctor, "for we have but the
one shot to depend upon. We must not miss, for if
42 The Last Charge of Powder.
once the beast took to his heels we have lost all chance
of him. He would outstrip a hare in fleetness "
"We must go right up to him," said Johnson,
"that is the only way. It is risking one's life, of
course; but what does that matter? Let me risk
"No, I wish to take the risk on myself," said
I am the one to go," said Hatteras, quietly.
But, captain, is your life not more necessary for
the safety of all than a stupid old man's like mine ?"
"No, Johnson, let me go. I'll not risk myself
unnecessarily. Besides, I may possibly need your
Hatteras," asked the Doctor, do you mean to
walk right up to the bear ?"
"If I were certain of getting a shot at him, I would
do that if it cost me my head; but he might scamper
off at my approach. No, Bruin is a cunning fellow,
and we must try and be a match for him."
"What plan have you got in your head ? "
"To get within ten paces of him without letting
him suspect it."
"And how will you manage that ?"
Well, my scheme is simple enough, though rather
dangerous. You kept the skin of the seal you killed,
didn't you ?"
"It is on the sledge."
All right! Let us get back to the hut, and leave
Johnson here to watch."
The Last Charge of Powder. 43
Away they went, while the old boatswain slipped
behind a hummock, which completely hid him from the
bear, who continued still in the same place and in the
THE SEAL AND THE BEAR.
" You know, Doctor," said Hatteras, as they returned
to the hut, "the polar bears subsist almost entirely on
seals. They'll lie in wait for them beside the crevasses
for whole days, ready to strangle them the moment
their heads appear above the surface. It is not likely,
then, that a bear will be frightened of a seal."
I think I see what you are after, but it is
"Yes, but there is more chance of success than in
trying any other plan, so I mean to risk it. I am
going to dress myself in the seal's skin, and creep along
the ice. Come, don't let us lose time. Load the gun
and give it me."
The Doctor could not say anything, for he would
have done the same himself, so he followed Hatteras
silently to the sledge, taking with him a couple of
hatchets for his own and Johnson's use.
Hatteras soon made his toilette, and slipped into
the skin, which was big enough to cover him almost
The Seal and the Bear. 45
"Now, then, give me the gun," he said, "and you
be off to Johnson. I must try and steal a march on
Courage, Hatteras said the Doctor, handing
him the weapon, which he had carefully loaded
Never fear but be sure you don't show yourselves
till I fire."
The Doctor soon joined the old boatswain behind
the hummock, and told him what they had been doing.
The bear was still there, but moving restlessly about, as
if he felt the approach of danger.
In a quarter of an hour or so the seal made his
appearance on the ice. He had gone a good way
round, so as to come on the bear by surprise, and every
movement was so perfect an imitation of a seal, that
even the Doctor would have been deceived if he had not
known it was Hatteras.
It is capital said Johnson, in a low voice.
The bear had instantly caught sight of the supposed
seal, for he gathered himself up, preparing to make a
spring as the animal came nearer, apparently seeking to
return to his native element, and unaware of the
enemy's proximity. Bruin went to work with extreme
prudence, though his eyes glared with greedy desire to
clutch the coveted prey, for he had probably been fast-
ing a month, if not two. He allowed his victim to get
within ten paces of him, and then sprang forward with
a tremendous bound, but stopped short, stupefied and
frightened, within three steps of Hatteras, who started
46 The Seal and the Bear.
"up that moment, and, throwing off his disguise, knelt
on one knee, and aimed straight at the bear's heart. He
fired, and the huge monster rolled back on the ice.
fired, and the huge monster rolled back on the ice.
The Seal and the Bear. 47
Forward Forward !" shouted the Doctor, hurry-
ing towards Hatteras, for the bear had reared on his
hind legs, and was striking the air with one paw and
tearing up the snow to stanch his wound with the
Hatteras never moved, but waited, knife in hand.
He had aimed well, and fired with a sure and steady
aim. Before either of his companions came up he had
plunged the knife in the animal's throat, and made an
end of him, for he fell down at once to rise no more.
"Hurrah! Bravo !" shouted Johnson and the
Doctor, but Hatteras was as cool and unexcited as
possible, and stood with folded arms gazing at his
It is my turn now," said Johnson.
"It is a good thing the bear is killed, but if we
leave him out here much longer, he will get as hard as a
stone, and we shall be able to do nothing with him."
He began forthwith to strip the skin off, and a fine
business it was, for the enormous quadruped was almost
as large as an ox. It measured nearly nine feet long,
and four round, and the great tusks in his jaws were
three inches long.
On cutting the carcase open, Johnson found nothing
but water in the stomach. The beast had evidently had
no food for a long time, yet it was very fat, and weighed
fifteen hundred pounds. The hunters were so famished
that they had hardly patience to carry home the flesh to
be cooked, and it needed all the Doctor's persuasion to
prevent them eating it raw.
48 The Seal and the Bear.
On entering the hut, each man with a load on his
back, Clawbonny was struck with the coldness that
pervaded the atmosphere. On going up to the stove he
found the fire black out. The exciting business of the
morning had made Johnson neglect his accustomed
duty of replenishing the stove.
The Doctor tried to blow the embers into a flame,
but finding he could not even get a red spark, he went
out to the sledge to fetch tinder, and get the steel
The old sailor put his hand into his pocket, but was
surprised to find the steel missing. He felt in the other
pockets, but it was not there. Then he went into the
hut again, and shook the blanket he had slept in all
night, but his search was still unsuccessful.
He went back to his companions and said-
Are you sure, Doctor, you haven't the steel ? "
And you haven't it either, captain ?''
"Not I replied Hatteras.
It has always been in your keeping," said the
"Well, I have not got it now !" exclaimed Johnson,
Not got the steel !" repeated the Doctor, shudder-
ing involuntarily at the bare idea of its loss, for it was
all the means they had of procuring a fire.
Look again, Johnson," he said.
The boatswain hurried to the only remaining place
he could think of, the hummock where he had stood to
The Seal and the Bear. 49
watch the bear. But the missing treasure was no-
where to be found, and the old sailor returned in
Hatteras looked at him, but no word of reproach
escaped his lips. He only said-
"This is a serious business, Doctor." :
It is, indeed said Clawbonny.
"We have not even an instrument, some glass that
we might take the lens out of, and use like a burning
"No, and it is a great pity, for the sun's
rays are quite strong enough just now to light our
Well," said Hatteras, "we must just appease our
hunger with the raw meat, and set off again as soon as
we can, to try to discover the ship."
Yes !" replied Clawbonny, speaking to himself,
absorbed in his own reflections. Yes, that might do
at a pinch! Why not? We might try."
What are you dreaming about ? asked Hatteras.
"An idea has just occurred to me."
"An idea come into your head, Doctor," exclaimed
Johnson; "then we are saved "
"Will it succeed ? that's the question."
"What's your project? said Hatteras.
"We want a lens; well, let us make one."
How ?" asked Johnson.
With a piece of ice."
"What ? Do you think that would do ? "
"Why not? All that is needed is to collect the
50 The Seal and the Bear.
sun's rays into one common focus, and ice will serve
that purpose as well as the finest crystal."
Is is possible ? said Johnson.
Yes, only I should like fresh water ice, it is harder
and more transparent than the other."
"There it is to your hand, if I am not much mis-
taken," said Johnson, pointing to a hummock close by.
I fancy that is fresh water, from the dark look of it,
and the green tinge."
You are right. Bring your hatchet, Johnson."
A good-sized piece was soon cut off, about a foot in
diameter, and the Doctor set to work. He began by
chopping it into rough shape with the hatchet; then he
operated upon it more carefully with his knife, making
as smooth a surface as possible, and finished the polish-
The Seal and the Bear. 51
ing process with his fingers, rubbing away until he had
obtained as transparent a lens as if it had been made of
The sun was shining brilliantly enough for the
Doctor's experiment. The tinder was fetched, and held
beneath the lens so as to catch the rays in full power.
In a few seconds it took fire, to Johnson's rapturous
He danced about like an idiot, almost beside himself
with joy, and shouted, "Hurrah! hurrah!" while
Clawbonny hurried back into the hut and rekindled the
fire. The stove was soon roaring, and it was not many
minutes before the savoury odour of broiled bear-steaks
roused Bell from his torpor.
What a feast this meal was to the poor starving men
may be imagined. The Doctor, however, counselled
moderation in eating, and set the example himself.
This is a glad day for us," he said, "and we have
no fear of wanting food all the rest of our journey.
Still we must not forget we have further to go yet, and
I think the sooner we start the better."
"We cannot be far off now," said Altamont, who
could almost articulate perfectly again; "we must be
within forty-eight hours' march of the Porpoise."
"I hope we'll find something there to make a fire
with," said the Doctor, smiling. "My lens does well
enough at present; but it needs the sun, and there are
plenty of days when he does not make his appearance
here, within less than four degrees of the pole."
"Less than four degrees repeated Altamont,
53 The Seal and the Bear.
with a sigh; "yes, my ship went further than any
other has ever ventured."
It is time we started," said Hatteras, abruptly.
Yes," replied the Doctor, glancing uneasily at the
The dogs were speedily harnessed to the sledge, and
the march resumed.
As they went along, the Doctor tried to get out of
Altamont the real motive that had brought him so far
north. But the American made only evasive replies,
and Clawbonny whispered in old Johnson's ear-
"Two men we've got that need looking after."
"You are right," said Johnson.
"Hatteras never says a word to this American, and
The Seal and the Bear. 53
I must say the man has not shown himself very grate-
ful. I am here, fortunately."
"Mr. Clawbonny," said Johnson, "now this
Yankee has come back to life again, I must confess I
don't much like the expression of his face."
I am much mistaken if he does not suspect the
projects of Hatteras."
"Do you think his own were similar."
"Who knows? These Americans, Johnson, arc
bold, daring fellows. It is likely enough an American
would try to do as much as an Englishman."
"Then you think that Altamont--"
"I think nothing about it, but his ship is certainly
on the road to the North Pole."
"But didn't Altamont say that he had been caught
among the ice, and dragged there irresistibly ?"
"He said so, but I fancied there was a peculiar
smile on his lips while he spoke."
"Hang it! It would be a bad job, Mr. Clawbonny,
if any feeling of rivalry came between two men of their
"Heaven forfend for it might involve the most
serious consequences, Johnson."
I hope Altamont will remember he owes his life
to us ? "
But do we not owe ours to him now ? I grant,
without us, he would not be alive at this moment; but
without him and his ship, what would become of us ? "
Well, Mr. Clawbonny, you are here to keep things
straight anyhow, and that is a blessing."
54 The Seal and the Bear.
"I hope I may manage it, Johnson."
The journey proceeded without any fresh incident,
but on the Saturday morning the travellers found them-
selves in a region of quite an altered character. Instead
of the wide smooth plain of ice that had hitherto
stretched before them, overturned icebergs and broken
hummocks covered the horizon; while the frequent
blocks of fresh-water ice showed that some coast was
Next day, after a hearty breakfast off the bear's
paws, the little party continued their route; but the
road became toilsome and fatiguing. Altamont lay
watching the horizon with feverish anxiety-an anxiety
shared by all his companions, for, according to the last
reckoning made by Hatteras, they were now exactly in
latitude 83 35" and longitude 120o 15", and the
question of life or death would be decided before the
day was over.
At last, about two o'clock in the afternoon, Alta-
mont started up with a shout that arrested the whole
party, and pointing to a white mass that no eye but his
could have distinguished from the surrounding icebergs,
exclaimed in a loud, ringing voice, The Porpoise."
IT was the 24th of March, and Palm Sunday, a bright,
joyous day in many a town and village of the Old
World; but in this desolate region what mournful
silence prevailed No willow branches here with their
silvery blossom-not even a single withered leaf to be
seen-not a blade of grass !
Yet this was a glad day to the travellers, for it pro-
mised them speedy deliverance from the death that had
seemed so inevitable.
They hastened onward, the dogs put forth renewed
energy, and Duk barked his loudest, till, before long,
they arrived at the ship.
The Porpoise was completely buried under the snow.
All her masts and rigging had been destroyed in the
shipwreck, and she was lying on a bed of rocks so
entirely on her side that her hull was uppermost.
They had to knock away fifteen feet of ice before
they could even catch a glimpse of her, and it was not
without great difficulty that they managed to get on
board, and made the welcome discovery that the pro-
56 The "Porpoise."
vision stores had not been visited by any four-footed
marauders. It was quite evident, however, that the
ship was not habitable.
Never mind said Hatteras, "we must build a
snow-house, and make ourselves comfortable on land."
"Yes, but we need not hurry over it," said the
Doctor; "let us do it well while we're about it, and
for a time we can make shift on board; for we must
build a good, substantial house, that will protect us from
the bears as well as the cold. I'll undertake to be the
architect, and you shall see what a first-rate job I'll
make of it."
I don't doubt your talents, Mr. Clawbonny,"
replied Johnson; "but, meantime, let us see about
taking up our abode here, and making an inventory of
the stores we find. There does not seem a boat
visible of any description, and I fear these timbers are
in too bad a condition to build a new ship out of
"I don't know that," returned Clawbonny, "time
and thought do wonders; but our first business is to
build a house, and not a ship; one thing at a time, I
"And quite right too," said Hatteras; so we'll go
They returned to the sledge, to communicate the
result of their investigation to Bell and Altamont; and
about four in the afternoon the five men installed them-
selves as well as they could on the wreck. Bell had
managed to make a tolerably level floor with planks and
"The poor fellows felt like colonists safely arrived at their destination."-P. 57.
The "Porpoise." 57
spars; the stiffened cushions and hammocks were
placed round the stove to thaw, and were soon fit for
use. Altamont, with the Doctor's assistance, got on
board without much trouble, and a sigh of satisfaction
escaped him as if he felt himself once more at home-a
sigh which to Johnson's ear boded no good.
The rest of the day was given to repose, and they
wound up with a good supper off the remains of the
bear, backed by a plentiful supply of biscuit and hot tea.
It was late next morning before Hatteras and his
companions woke, for their minds were not burdened
now with any solicitudes about the morrow, and they
might sleep as long as they pleased. The poor fellows
felt like colonists safely arrived at their destination, who
had forgotten all the sufferings of the voyage, and
thought only of the new life that lay before them.
Well, it is something at all events," said the Doctor,
rousing himself and stretching his arms, for a fellow
not to need to ask where he is going to find his next bed
"Let us see what there is on board before we say
much," said Johnson.
The Porpoise has been thoroughly equipped and
provisioned for a long voyage, and, on making an inven-
tory of what stores remained, they found 6150 lbs. of
flour, fat, and raisins; 2000 lbs. of salt beef and pork;
1500 lbs. of pemmican; 700 lbs. of sugar, and the same
of chocolate; a chest and a half of tea, weighing 96 lbs.;
500 lbs. of rice; several barrels of preserved fruits and
vegetables; a quantity of lime-juice, with all sorts of
58 The Porpoise."
medicines, and 300 gallons of rum and brandy. There
was also a large supply of gunpowder, ball, and shot,
and coal and wood in abundance.
Altogether, there was enough to last those five
men for more than two years, and all fear of death
from starvation or cold was at an end.
"Well, Hatteras, we're sure of enough to live on
now," said the Doctor, "and there is nothing to hinder
us reaching the Pole."
The Pole echoed Hatteras.
"Yes, why not ? Can't we push our way overland
in the summer months? "
"We might overland; but how could we cross
Perhaps we may be able to build a boat out of
some of the ship's planks."
"Out of an American ship! exclaimed the cap-
Clawbonny was prudent enough to make no reply,
and presently changed the conversation by saying-
Well, now we have seen what we have to depend
upon, we must begin our house and store-rooms. We
have materials enough at hand; and, Bell, I hope you
are going to distinguish yourself," he added.
I am ready, Mr. Clawbonny," replied Bell; "and,
as for material, there is enough for a town here with
houses and streets."
We don't require that; we'll content ourselves
with imitating the Hudson's Bay Company. They
entrench themselves in fortresses against the Indians
The "Porpoise." 59
and wild beasts. That's all we need-a house one
side and stores the other, with a wall and two bastions.
I must try to make a plan."
"Ah! Doctor, if you undertake it," said Johnson,
"I am sure you'll make a good thing of it."
"Well, the first part of the business is to go
and choose the ground. Will you come with us
Hatteras ? "
"I'll trust all that to you, Doctor," replied the
captain. I'm going to look along the coast."
Altamont was too feeble yet to take part in any
work, so he remained on the ship, while the others
commenced to explore the unknown continent.
On examining the coast, they found that the Porpoise
was in a sort of bay bristling with dangerous rocks, and
that to the west, far as the eye could reach, the sea
extended, entirely frozen now, though if Belcher and
Penny were to be believed, open during the summer
months. Towards the north, a promontory stretched
out into the sea, and about three miles away was an
island of moderate size. The roadstead thus formed
would have afforded safe anchorage to ships, but for the
difficulty of entering it. A considerable distance inland
there was a solitary mountain, about 3000 feet high, by
the Doctor's reckoning; and half-way up the steep
rocky cliffs that rose from the shore, they noticed a
circular plateau, open on three sides to the bay and
sheltered on the fourth by a precipitous wall, 120 feet
This seemed to the Doctor the very place for this
60 The "Porpoise."
house, from its naturally fortified situation. By cutting
steps in the ice, they managed to climb up and examine
it more closely.
They were soon convinced they could not have a
better foundation, and resolved to commence operations
forthwith, by removing the hard snow more than ten
feet deep, which covered the ground, as both dwelling
and storehouses must have a solid foundation.
This preparatory work occupied the whole of
The Porpoise." 61
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. At last they
came to hard granite close in grain, and containing
garnets and felspar crystals, which flew out with every
stroke of the pickaxe.
The dimensions and plan of the snow-house were
then settled by the Doctor. It was to be divided into
three rooms, as all they needed was a bed-room, sit-
ting-room and kitchen. The sitting-room was to be
*,,i ,,'l ", ', 1 ,:
in the middle, the kitchen to the left, and the bed-room
to the right.
For five days they toiled unremittingly. There was
plenty of material, and the walls required to be thick
enough to resist summer thaws. Already the house
began to present an imposing appearance. There were
four windows in front, made of splendid sheets of ice,
in Esquimaux fashion, through which the light came
softly in as if through frosted glass.
Outside there was a long covered passage between
the two windows of the sitting-room. This was the
62 The "Porpoise."
entrance hall, and it was shut in by a strong door taken
from the cabin of the Porpoise. The Doctor was highly
delighted with his performance when all was finished,
for though it would have been difficult to say to what
style of architecture it belonged, it was strong, and that
was the chief thing.
The next business was to move in all the furniture
of the Porpoise. The beds were brought first and laid
down round the large stove in the sleeping room; then
i -,:r, 1
came chairs, tables, arm-chairs, cupboards, and benches
for the sitting-room, and finally the ship furnaces and
cooking utensils for the kitchen. Sails spread on the
ground did duty for carpets, and also served for inner
The walls of the house were over five feet thick, and
the windows resembled port-holes for cannon. Every
part was as solid as possible, and what more was
wanted? Yet if the Doctor could have had his way,
he would have made all manner of ornamental additions,
The "Porpoise." 63
in humble imitation of the Ice Palace built in St. Peters-
burgh in January, 1740, of which he had read an
account. He amused his companions after work in the
evening by describing its grandeur, the cannons il
front, and statues of exquisite beauty, and the wonder-
ful elephant that spouted water out of his trunk by day
and flaming naphtha by night-all cut out of ice. He
also depicted the interior, with tables, and toilette tables,
mirrors, candelabra, tapers, beds, mattresses, pillows,
curtains, time-pieces, chairs, playing-cards, wardrobes,
completely fitted up-in fact, everything in the way of
furniture that could be mentioned, and the whole
entirely composed of ice.
It was on Easter Sunday, the 3Ist of March, when
the travellers installed themselves in their new abode, and
after holding divine service in the sitting-room, they de-
voted the remainder of the day to rest.
Next morning they set about building the store-
houses and powder magazine. This took a whole week
longer, including the time spent in unloading the
vessel, which was a task of considerable difficulty, as the
temperature was so low, that they could not work for
many hours at a time. At length on the 8th of April,
provisions, fuel, and ammunition were all safe on terra
firma, and deposited in their respective places. A sort
of kennel was constructed a little distance from the
house for the Greenland dogs, which the Doctor digni-
fied by the name of "Dog Palace." Duk shared his
All that now remained to be done was to put a
64 The Porpoise."
parapet right round the plateau by way of fortification.
S I' '' II
i 'k`-.' II '.
"By the 5th this was also completed, and the snow-house
The "Porpoise." 65
might bid defiance to a whole tribe of Esquimaux, or
any other hostile invaders, if indeed any human beings
whatever were to be found on this unknown continent,
for Hatteras, who had minutely examined the bay and
the surrounding coast, had not been able to discover the
least vestiges of the huts that are generally met with on
shores frequented by Greenland tribes. The ship-
wrecked sailors of the Porpoise and Forward seemed
to be the first whose feet had ever trod this lone
AN IMPORTANT DISCUSSION.
WHILE all these preparations for winter were going on,
Altamont was fast regaining strength. His vigorous
constitution triumphed, and he was even able to lend
a helping hand in the unlading of the ship. He was a
true type of the American, a shrewd, intelligent man,
full of energy and resolution; enterprising, bold, and
ready for anything. He was a native of New York, he
informed his companions, and had been a sailor from
The Porpoise had been equipped and sent out
by a company of wealthy merchants belonging to
the States, at the head of which was the famous
There were many points of resemblance between
Altamont and Hatteras, but no affinities. Indeed, any
similarity that there was between them, tended rather to
create discord than to make the men friends. With a
greater show of frankness, he was in reality far more
deep and crafty than Hatteras. He was more free and
easy, but not so true-hearted, and somehow his apparent
An Important Discussion. 67
openness did not inspire such confidence as the English-
man's gloomy reserve.
The Doctor was in constant dread of a collision
between the rival captains, and yet one must command
inevitably, and which should it be Hatteras had the
men, but Altamont had the ship, and it was hard to
say whose was the better right.
It required all the Doctor's tact to keep things
smooth, for the simplest conversation threatened to
lead to strife.
At last, in spite of all his endeavours, an outbreak
occurred on the occasion of a grand banquet by way of
68 An Important Discussion.
"house-warming," when the new habitation was com-
This banquet was Dr. Clawbonny's idea. He was
head-cook, and distinguished himself by the concoction
of a wonderful pudding, which would positively have
done no dishonour to the cuisine of the Lord Chancellor
Bell most opportunely chanced to shoot a white hare
and several ptarmigans, which made an agreeable variety
from the pemmican and salt meat.
Clawbonny was master of the ceremonies, and
brought in his pudding, adorning himself with the
insignia of his office-a big apron, and a knife dangling
at his belt.
As Altaront did not conform to the teetotal regime
of his English companions, gin and brandy were set on
the table after dinner, and the others, by the Doctor's
orders, joined him in a glass for once, that the
festive occasion might be duly honoured. When
the different toasts were being drunk, one was given
to the United States, to which Hatteras made no
This important business over, the Doctor introduced
an interesting subject of conversation by saying-
My friends, it is not enough to have come thus
far in spite of so many difficulties; we have something
more yet to do. I propose we should bestow a name
on this continent, where we have found friendly shelter
and rest, and not only on the continent, but on the
several bays, peaks, and promontories that we meet
An Import nt Discussion. 69
with. This has been invariably done by navigators,
and is a most necessary proceeding."
"Quite right," said Johnson; "when once a place
is named, it takes away the feeling of being castaways
on an unknown shore."
"Yes," added Bell, "and we might be going on.
some expedition and obliged to separate, or go out
hunting, and it would make it much easier to find one
another if each locality had a definite name."
"Very well, then," said the Doctor; "since we are
all agreed, let us go steadily to work."
Hatteras had taken no part in the conversation as
70 An Important Discussion.
yet, but seeing all eyes fixed on him, he rose at last,
If no one objects, I think the most suitable name
we can give our house is that of its skilful architect, the
best man among us. Let us call it 'Doctor's House.'"
"Just the thing !" said Bell.
"First rate!" exclaimed Johnson, "'Doctor's
House !' "
"We cannot do better," chimed in Altamont.
"Hurrah for Doctor Clawbonny."
Three hearty cheers were given, in which Duk joined
lustily, barking his loudest.
"It is agreed then," said Hatteras, "that this house
is to be called 'Doctor's House.'"
The Doctor, almost overcome by his feelings,
modestly protested against the honour; but he was
obliged to yield to the wishes of his friends, and
the new habitation was formally named "Doctor's
"Now, then," said the Doctor, "let us go on to
name the most important of our discoveries."
"There is that immense sea which surrounds us,
unfurrowed as yet by a single ship."
"A single ship! repeated Altamont. I think
you have forgotten the Porpoise, and yet she certainly
did not get here overland,"
Well, it would not be difficult to believe she
had," replied Hatteras, "to see on what she lies at
"True, enough, Hatteras," said Altamont, in a
An Important Discussion. 71
piqued tone; "but, after all, is not that better than
being blown to atoms like the Forward ?"
Hatteras was about to make some sharp retort, but
It is not a question of ships, my friends," he said,
"but of a fresh sea."
"It is no new sea," returned Altamont; "it is in
every Polar chart, and has a name already. It is called
the Arctic Ocean, and I think it would be very incon-
venient to alter its designation. Should we find out by
and by, that, instead of being an ocean it is only a
strait or gulf, it will be time enough to alter it then."
So be it," said Hatteras.
"Very well, that is an understood thing, then,"
said the Doctor, almost regretting that he had started
a discussion so pregnant with national rivalries.
Let us proceed with the continent where we find
ourselves at present," resumed Hatteras. "I am not
aware that any name whatever has been affixed to it,
even in the most recent charts."
He looked at Altamont as he spoke, who met his
gaze steadily, and said-
Possibly you may be mistaken again, Hatteras."
Mistaken! What! This unknown continent, this
virgin soil "
Has already a name," replied Altamont, coolly.
Hatteras was silent, but his lip quivered.
And what name has it, then ?" asked the Doctor,
rather astonished at Altamont's affirmation.
My dear Clawbonny," replied the American, it
72 An Important Discussion.
is the custom, not to say the right, of every navigator
to christen the soil on which he is the first to set foot.
It appears to me, therefore, that it is my privilege and
duty on this occasion to exercise my prerogative,
"But, sir," interrupted Johnson, rather nettled at
his sang froid.
It would be a difficult matter to prove that the
Porpoise did not come here, even supposing she reached
this coast by land," continued Altamont, without
noticing Johnson's protest. "The fact is indisput-
able," he added looking at Hatteras.
"I dispute the claim," said the Englishman, re-
straining himself by a powerful effort. "To name a
country, you must first discover it, I suppose, and that
you certainly did not do. Besides, but for us, where
would you have been, sir, at this moment, pray?
Lying twenty feet deep under the snow."
"And without me, sir," retorted Altamont, hotly,
"without me and my ship, where would you all be at
this moment? Dead, from cold and hunger."
Come, come, friends," said the Doctor, "don't
get to words; all that can be easily settled. Listen
"Mr. Hatteras," said Altamont, "is welcome to
name whatever territories he may discover, should he
succeed in discovering any; but this continent belongs
to me. I should not even consent to its having two
names like Grinnell's Land, which is also called Prince
Albert's Land, because it was discovered almost simul-
ii ... .
." ^ ,, .-...; **~.^ ,
--^ "." '\ .. !
.*' ^, \ I
"I dispute the claim,' said the ,estraining himself by a powerful
-t]. [ -I ..
An Important Discussion. 73
taneously by an Englishman and an American. This is
quite another matter; my right of priority is incon-
testable. No ship before mine ever touched this shore;
no foot before mine ever trod this soil. I have given it
a name, and that name it shall keep."
"And what is that name? inquired the Doctor.
New America," replied Altamont.
Hatteras trembled with suppressed passion, but by
a violent effort restrained himself.
Can you prove to me," said Altamont, "that an
Englishman has set foot here before an American ? "
Johnson and Bell said nothing, though quite as
much offended as the captain by Altamont's imperious
tone. They felt that reply was impossible.
For a few minutes there was an awkward silence,
which the Doctor broke by saying-
My friends, the highest human law is justice. It
includes all others. Let us be just, then, and don't let
any bad feeling get in among us. The priority of
Altamont seems to me indisputable. We will take
our revenge by and by, and England will get her full
share in our future discoveries. Let the name New
America stand for the continent itself, but I suppose
Altamont has not yet disposed of all the bays, and
capes, and headlands it contains, and I imagine there
will be nothing to prevent us calling this bay Victoria
Nothing whatever, provided that yonder cape is
called Cape Washington," replied Altamont.
You might choose a name, sir," exclaimed Hatte-
74 An Important Discussion.
ras, almost beside himself with passion, that is less
offensive to an Englishman."
"But not one which sounds so sweet to an
American," retorted Altamont, proudly.
Come, come," said the Doctor, "no discussion
on that subject. An American has a perfect right to
be proud of his great countryman! Let us honour
genius wherever it is met with; and since Altamont has
made his choice, let us take our turn next; let the
Doctor !" interrupted Hatteras, "I have no wish
that my name should figure anywhere on this continent,
seeing that it belongs to America."
"Is this your unalterable determination ? asked
The Doctor did not insist further.
"Very well, we'll have it to ourselves then," he con-
tinued, turning to Johnson and Bell. "We'll leave
our traces behind us. I propose that the island we see
out there, about three miles away from the shore,
should be called Isle Johnson, in honour of our boat-
Oh, Mr. Clawbonny," began Johnson, in no little
And that mountain that we discovered in the west
we will call Bell Mount, if our carpenter is willing."
It is doing me too much honour," replied Bell.
It is simple justice," returned the Doctor.
Nothing could be better," said Altamont.
An Important Discussion. 75
"Now then, all we have to do is to christen our
fort," said the Doctor, about that there will be no
discussion, I hope, for it is neither to our gracious
sovereign Queen Victoria, nor to Washington, that
we owe our safety and shelter here, but to God, who
brought about our meeting, and by so doing saved us
all. Let our little fort be called Fort Providence."
"Your remarks are just," said Altamont; "no
name could be more suitable."
"Fort Providence," added Johnson, "sounds well
too. In our future excursions, then, we shall go by
Cape Washington to Victoria Bay, and from thence
to Fort Providence, where we shall find food and rest
at Doctor's House "
The business is settled then so far," resumed the
Doctor. "As our discoveries multiply we shall have
other names to give; but I trust, friends, we shall have
no disputes about them, for placed as we are, we need
all the help and love we can give each other. Let us
be strong by being united. Who knows what dangers
yet we may have to brave, and what sufferings to endure
before we see our native land once more. Let us be
one in heart though five in number, and let us lay
aside all feelings of rivalry. Such feelings are bad
enough at all times, but among us they would be
doubly wrong. You understand me, Altamont, and
Neither of the captains replied, but the Doctor took
no notice of their silence, and went on to speak of
other things. Sundry expeditions were planned to
76 An Important Discussion.
forage for fresh food. It would soon be spring, and
hares and partridges, foxes and bears would re-appear.
So it was determined that part of every day should be
spent in hunting and exploring this unknown continent
of New America.
I I iIII
i :-- '
"Clambering up the steep, rocky wall, he succeeded, though with considerable
difficulty, In reaching the top."-P. 77.
AN EXCURSION TO THE NORTH OF VICTORIA BAY.
NEXT morning Clawbonny was out by dawn of day.
Clambering up the steep, rocky wall, against which the
Doctor's House leaned, he succeeded, though with con-
siderable difficulty, in reaching the top, which he found
terminated abruptly in a sort of truncated cone. From
this elevation there was an extensive view over a vast
tract of country, which was all disordered and convulsed
as if it had undergone some volcanic commotion. Sea
and land, as far as it was possible to distinguish one
from the other, were covered with a sheet of ice.
A new project struck the Doctor's mind, which was
soon matured and ripe for execution. He lost no time
in going back to the snow house, and consulting over
it with his companions.
"I have got an idea," he said; "I think of con-
structing a lighthouse on the top of that cone above
A lighthouse they all exclaimed.
Yes, a lighthouse. It would be a double advan-
tage. It would be a beacon to guide us in distant
78 An Excursion to the North of Victoria Bay.
excursions, and also serve to illumine our plateau in
the long dreary winter months."
"There is no doubt," replied Altamont, "of its
utility; but how would you contrive to make it?"
With one of the lanterns out of the Porpoise."
"All right; but how will you feed your lamp?
With seal oil ? "
"No, seal oil would not give nearly sufficient light.
It would scarcely be visible through the fog."
"Are you going to try to make gas out of our
coal then ? "
"No, not that either, for gas would not be strong
enough; and, worse still, it would waste our com-
Well," replied Altamont; "I'm at a loss to see
"Oh, I'm prepared for everything after the mercury
bullet, and the ice lens, and Fort Providence. I believe
Mr. Clawbonny can do anything," exclaimed Johnson.
Come, Clawbonny, tell us what your light is to
be, then," said Altamont.
"That's soon told," replied Clawbonny. "I mean
to have an electric light."
"An electric light ? "
"Yes, why not? Haven't you a galvanic battery
on board your ship ? "
"Well, there will be no difficulty then in producing
an electric light, and that will cost nothing, and be far
An Excursion to the North of Victoria Bay. 79
First-rate ? said Johnson; "let us set to work
"By all means. There is plenty of material. In
an hour we can raise a pillar of ice ten feet high, and
that is quite enough."
Away went the Doctor, followed by his companions,
and the column was soon erected and crowned with a
ship lantern. The conducting wires were properly
adjusted within it, and the pile with which they com-
municated fixed up in the sitting-room, where the
warmth of the stove would protect it from the action
of the frost.
As soon as it grew dark the experiment was made,
and proved a complete success. An intense brilliant
light streamed from the lantern and illumined the entire
plateau and the plains beneath.
Johnson could not help clapping his hands, half
beside himself with delight.
Well, I declare, Mr. Clawbonny," he exclaimed,
"you're our sun now."
"One must be a little of everything, you know,"
was Clawbonny's modest reply.
It was too cold, however, even to stand admiring
more than a minute, and the whole party were glad
enough to get indoors again, and tuck themselves up
in their warm blankets.
A regular course of life commenced now, though
the uncertain weather and frequent changes of tem-
perature made it sometimes impracticable to venture
outside the hut at all, and it was not till the Saturday
80 An Excursion to the North of Victoria Bay.
after the installation, that a day came that was favour-
able enough for a hunting excursion; when Bell, and
Altamont, and the Doctor determined to take advantage
of it, and try to replenish their stock of provisions.
They started very early in the morning, each armed
with a double-barrelled gun and plenty of powder and
shot, a hatchet, and a snow knife.
The weather was cloudy, but Clawbonny put the
galvanic battery in action before he left, and the bright
rays of the electric light did duty for the glorious orb of
_-*R -- _-
day, and in truth was no bad substitute, for the light
was equal to three thousand candles, or three hundred
It was intensely cold, but dry, and there was little
or no wind. The hunters set off in the direction of
Cape Washington, and the hard snow so favoured their
An Excursion to the North of Victoria Bay. 81
march, that in three hours they had gone fifteen miles,
Duk jumping and barking beside them all the way.
They kept as close to the coast as possible, but found
no trace of human habitation, and indeed scarcely a
sign of animal life. A few snow birds, however, dart-
ing to and fro announced the approach of spring and
the return of the animal creation. The sea was still
entirely frozen over, but it was evident from the open
breathing holes in the ice, that the seals had been quite
recently on the surface. In one part the holes were
so numerous, that the Doctor said to his companions
that he had no doubt that when summer came, they
would be seen there in hundreds, and would be easily
captured, for on unfrequented shores they were not so
difficult of approach. But once frighten them and they
all vanish as if by enchantment, and never return to the
spot again. "Inexperienced hunters," he said, have
often lost a whole shoal by attacking them, en masse,
with noisy shouts instead of singly and silently."
"Is it for the oil or skin that they are mostly
"Europeans hunt them for the skin, but the
Esquimaux eat them. They live on seals, and nothing
is so delicious to them as a piece of the flesh, dipped in
the blood and oil. After all, cooking has a good deal to
do with it, and I'll bet you something I could dress you
cutlets you would not turn up your nose at, unless for
their black appearance."
"We'll set you to work on it," said Bell, "and I'll
eat as much as you like to please you."
82 An Excursion to the North of Victoria Bay.
My good Bell, you mean to say to please your-
self; but your voracity would never equal the Green-
landers', for they devour from ten to fifteen pounds of
meat a day."
Fifteen pounds !" said Bell. What stomachs!"
"Arctic stomachs," replied the Doctor, are pro-
digious; they can expand at will, and, I may add, con-
tract at will; so that they can endure starvation quite
as well as abundance. When an Esquimaux sits down
to dinner he is quite thin, and by the time he has
finished, he is so corpulent you would hardly recognize
him. But then we must remember that one meal
sometimes has to last a whole (lay."
"This voracity must be peculiar to the inhabitants
of cold countries," said Altamont.
I think it is," replied the Doctor. In the Arctic
regions people must eat enormously: it is not only one
of the conditions of strength, but of existence. The
Hudson's Bay Company always reckoned on this
account 8 lbs. of 'meat to each man a day, or I2 lbs. of
fish, or 2 lbs. of pemmican."
"Invigorating regimen, certainly said Bell.
"Not so much as you imagine, my friend. An
Indian who guzzles like that can't do a whit better
day's work than an Englishman, who has his pound of
beef and pint of beer."
"Things are best as they are, then, Mr. Claw-
"No doubt of it; and yet an Esquimaux meal may
well astonish us. In Sir John Ross's narrative, he
An Excursion to the North of Victoria Bay. 83
states his surprise at the appetites of his guides. He
tells us that two of them-just two mind-devoured a
quarter of a buffalo in one morning. They cut the
meat in long narrow strips, and the mode of eating was
either for the one to bite off as much as his mouth
could hold, and then pass it on to the other, or to leave
the long ribbons of meat dangling from the mouth, and
_--~ --;; -- - .--_ -- .. ._ -
devour them gradually like boa-constrictors, lying at
full length on the ground."
"Faugh!" exclaimed Bell, "what disgusting
Every man has his own fashion of dining," re-
marked the philosophical American.
Happily," said the Doctor.
"Well, if eating is such an imperative necessity in
84 An Excursion to the North of Victoria Bay.
these latitudes, it quite accounts for all the journals of
Arctic travellers being so full of eating and drinking."
You are right," returned the Doctor. "I have
been struck by the same fact; but I think it arises
not only from the necessity of full diet, but from the
extreme difficulty sometimes in procuring it. The
thought of food is always uppermost in the mind,
and naturally finds mention in the narrative."
And yet," said Altamont, if my memory serves
me right, in the coldest parts of Norway the peasants
do not seem to need such substantial fare. Milk diet
is their staple food, with eggs, and bread made of the
bark of the birch-tree; a little salmon occasionally,
but never meat; and still they are fine hardy fellows."
It is an affair of organization out of my power
to explain," replied Clawbonny; "but I have no doubt
that if these same Norwegians were transplanted to
Greenland, they would learn to eat like the Esquimaux
by the second or third generation. Even if we our-
selves were to remain in this blessed country long,
we should be as bad as the Esquimaux, even if we
escaped becoming regular gluttons."
"I declare, Mr. Clawbonny, you make me feel
hungry with talking so much about eating," exclaimed
"Not I! said Altamont. "It rather sickens me,
and makes me lothe the sight of a seal. But, stop, I
do believe we are going to have the chance of a dinner
off one, for I am much mistaken if that's not some-
thing alive lying on those lumps of ice yonder!"
An Excursion to the North of Victoria Bay. 85
"It is a walrus exclaimed the Doctor. "Be
quiet, and let us get up to him."
Clawbonny was right; it was a walrus of huge
dimensions, disporting himself not more than two
hundred yards away. The hunters separated, going in
different directions, so as to surround the animal and
cut off all retreat. They crept along cautiously behind
--. ''--_ -_ -
----- ----- -
.-. .- -_- -. -.
the hummocks, and managed to get within a few paces
of him unperceived, when they fired simultaneously.
The walrus rolled over, but speedily got up again,
and tried to make his escape, but Altamont fell upon
him with his hatchet, and cut off his dorsal fins. He
made a desperate resistance, but was overpowered by
his enemies, and soon lay dead, reddening the ice-field
with his blood.
86 An Excursion to the North oJ Victoria Bay.
It was a fine animal, measuring more than fifteen
feet in length, and would have been worth a good deal
for the oil; but the hunters contented themselves with
cutting off the most savoury parts, and left the rest to
the ravens, which had just begun to make their
Night was drawing on, and it was time to think of
returning to Fort Providence. The moon had not yet
risen, but the sky was serene and cloudless, and already
glittering with stars-magnificent stars.
"Come," said the Doctor, "let us be off, for it is
getting late. Our hunting has not been very success-
ful; but still, if a man has found something for his
supper, he need not grumble. Let us go the shortest
road, however, and get quickly home without losing our
way. The stars will guide us."
They resolved to try a more direct route back by
going further inland, and avoiding the windings of the
coast; but, after some hours' walking, they found
themselves no nearer Doctor's House, and it was
evident that they must have lost their way. The ques-
tion was raised whether to construct a hut and rest till
morning, or proceed; but Clawbonny insisted on
going on, as Hatteras and Johnson would be so
"Duk will guide us," he said; "he won't go wrong.
His instinct can dispense with star and compass. Just
let us keep close behind him."
They did well to trust to Duk, for very speedily a
faint light appeared in the horizon almost like a star
"Soon they were walking in a bright. luminous ti ack, leaving their shadows
behind them on ihu spotless anow."-P. 87.