The Baldwin LIbrar)
9n m'B ID
THE ICE DESERT
VOYAGES AND ADVENTURES OF
AUTHOR OF "A JOURNEY INTO THE INTERIOR OF THE EARTH,
"THE ENGLISH AT THE NORTH POLE," "FIVE WEEKS
IN A BALLOON," ETC., ETC.
WARD, LOCK & BOWDEN, LIMITED,
WARWICK HOUSE, SALISBURY SQUARE, E.C.
NEW VORK AND .MELBOURNE.
THE DOCTOR'S INVENTORY
EIGHTEEN DAYS' MARCH .
THE LAST BULLET
THE SEAL AND ThIe BEAR
THE PORPOISE .
A DISCUSSION ABOUT MAPS
EXCURSION TO THE NORTH OF VICTORIA BAY 70
COLD AND HEAT 78
THE PLEASURES OF WINTERING
THE ICE PRIsoN
THE MINE .
PoLAR SPRING ..
. .. 110
THE NORTH-WEST PASSAGE .
THE BOREAL ACADIA .
LAST PREPARATIONS .
THE MARCH NORTHWARD.
FOOTMARKS ON THE SNOW
THE OPEN SEA .
THE APPROACH TO THE POLE .
THE ENGLISH STANDARD .
THE RETURN SOUTHWARD
THE ICE DESERT.
THE DOCTOR'S INVENTORY.
APTADT HATTERAS'S design was a
bold one; he had meant that England
should have the glory of the discovery
of the world's boreal Pole. He had
done all that human power could do.
After having struggled for nine months with currents
and tempests; after breaking up icebergs and getting
through ice-banks in the most terrible winter ever
experienced in these hyperborean latitudes; after having
confirmed the discoveries of his predecessors, and taken
his brig, the Forward, on beyond the known seas-in
short, after having accomplished half his task, he saw
his great scheme crushed! The treason, or rather the
discouragement, of his crew, worn by their trials and
the criminal folly of their leaders, left him in a fright-
ful position; out of eighteen men only four remained,
and these four were abandoned without supplies, with-
out a ship, at more than 2,500 miles from their country I
The ece Desert.
The explosion of the Forward, which had just taken
place before their eyes, took away their last means of
However, the courage of Hatteras did not give way in
presence of this terrible catastrophe. The companions
that remained with him were the best of the crew;
heroes. He appealed to the energy and science of Dr.
Clawbonny, to the devotedness of Johnson and Bell, to
his own faith in his scheme; he dared to speak of hope
in that desperate situation; his brave comrades heard
him, and the past of such men answered for their future
After the captain's energetic words the doctor
wished to examine the situation, and leaving his com-
panions at five hundred steps from the brig, he directed
his steps towards the scene of the catastrophe. There
remained nothing of the brig Forward, constructed
with so much care. Ice torn up, black and calcined
ruins, pieces of cable still burning like firebrands,
twisted bars of iron, and, in the distance, a few
columns of smoke, crawling about the ice-field, showed
the violence of the explosion. The cannon, thrown
several cables off, rested upon an ice-block as if it
were on its carriage. The soil was covered with frag-
ments of every sort for hundreds of yards round; the
brig's keel lay on a heap of ice; the icebergs, partly
melted by the heat of the conflagration, had already
recovered their granite hardness. The doctor then
began to think of his devastated cabin, of his lost col-
lections, his precious instruments broken to pieces, and
his burnt book. So much wealth destroyed! He
stood with a tear in his eye, not thinking of the future,
but of the irreparable misfortune which touched him es
t~e Ice Desert.
directly. He was soon rejoined by Johnson, whose face
bore traces of the sufferings he had undergone in strug-
gling with his revolted companions. The doctor held
out his hand, which the boatswain pressed sadly.
"What is to become of us, my friend?" said the
"Who can say ?" answered Johnson.
Above all, don't let us give ourselves up to despair;
we must be men," said the doctor.
Yes, doctor, we are in an awkward situation, and
the best thing we can do is to think how to get out of
it as soon as possible."
"Poor ship!" said the doctor, sighing; "I had
become quite fond of it, and I feel as though they had
burnt down my paternal home. But where's the long-
boat," continued the doctor, looking round. Is that
destroyed, too P"
"No; Shandon took it with him."
And the pirogue ?"
"Broken into a thousand pieces See, these few tin
plates are all that remain of it."
Then there's only the halkett-boat left ?"
Yes, and it's a good thing you took it with you."
It is not much," said the doctor.
I hope Heaven will punish those wretched scoundrels
as they deserve !" cried Johnson.
Johnson," answered the doctor gently, we must
not forget how much they suffered! Very few of us
know how to remain wise in misfortune. We must
pity and not curse them."
After these words the doctor remained silent, looking
uneasily around him.
What's become of the sledge ?" asked Johnson.
The Ice Desert,
"It is about a mile away."
"In Simpson's charge, I suppose ?"
"No, my friend, poor Simpson has perished from
"Dead ?" cried the boatswain.
Yes," answered the doctor.
"Poor fellow!" said Johnson, "but who knows if
we ought not to envy his lot !"
Yes, we left a dead man, and we bring back a dying
A dying man F"
"Yes! Captain Altamont." The doctor told the
boatswain in a few words about their adventure.
"An American !" said Johnson, pensively.
"Yes, everything makes us think so. But what
was the shipwrecked Porpoise doing in these seas ?"
"It came to perish," answered Johnson; "it took
its crew to destruction, as all others have done in such
a climate. But at least, Mr. Clawbonny, you've got
what you went for ?"
The doctor shook his head sadly.
"Nothing ?" asked the old sailor.
Nothing! our provisions failed us, and we were worn
out with fatigue! We did not even reach the coast
signalled by Sir Edward Belcher I"
Then we've no fuel ?"
And no provisions ?"
"And no ship to take us back to England ?"
The doctor and Johnson remained silent. It re-
quired superhuman courage to look the terrible situa.
tion in the face.
The Ice Desert.
"Well," said Johnson at last, "we know the worst.
Now we must set to work to build a snow-house."
Yes," answered the doctor; "with Bell's help that
will be easy; then we must go and fetch the sledge,
bring back the American, and hold a council with
Poor captain !" said Johnson, who found means to
forget himself, how he must suffer !"
The doctor and the boatswain returned to their com-
panions. Hatteras was standing unmoved, his arms
crossed as usual, mute and looking forward into
vacancy. His habitual firmness had returned to his
face. What was the extraordinary man thinking of?
Was he pre-occupied with his desperate situation or his
crushed schemes ? Did he think of going back, as
both men and elements conspired against him? No
one could guess his thoughts. His faithful Dick
remained near him, braving, at his side, a temperature
fallen to 320 below zero. Bell lay on the ice, and
seemed to have lost all consciousness; his insensibility
might cost him his life; he ran the risk of being frozen
in a lump. Johnson shook him vigorously, rubbed
him with snow, and at last succeeded in arousing him
from his lethargy.
Come, Bell, don't give way like that, man; get up;
we want to talk to you about what is to be done, and
we must have a shelter. Come, you haven't forgotten
how to make a snow-house I Come and help me to find
a good block I"
Bell allowed his friend to drag him along.
"While we are making it, Mr. Clawbonny will take
the trouble to go as far as the sledge, and will bring it
here with the dogs."
The Ice Desert.
I'm ready to start," said the doctor, "and in less
than an hour I shall be back again."
Shall you go with him, captain ?" said Johnson,
going towards Hatteras, who, though seemingly in deep
thought, had heard his boatswain's remark.
No, my friend; if the doctor will be kind enough.
Some resolution must be taken before the day is over,
and I want to be alone to reflect. Go and do what
you think best for the present. I will decide for the
Johnson came back to the doctor.
"It is singular," he said to him, the captain seems
to have forgotten all about his anger; his voice has
never seemed to me so kind."
"I believe that man capable of saving us yet!"
said the doctor, as he fastened on his hood, and,
with his iron stock in hand, set out for the sledge
in the midst of the mist that the moon made almost
Johnson and Bell set to work at once; the old sailor
tried to cheer up Bell, who worked away in silence;
they had not to build but to hollow out a large block;
the ice was very hard, and made the work hard, but its
hardness was a guarantee of the solidity of the
habitation; Johnson and Bell could soon work under
cover, throwing the ice they cut away outside.
Hatteras walked about from time to time, but when he
reached a certain distance he stopped short; it was
evident that he would not go to the place where his
brig had been. As he had promised, the doctor was
soon back; he brought Altamont wrapped in the tent,
and lying on the sledge; the poor hungry Greenland
dogs could scarcely draw, and were gnawing at their
The Ice Desert.
leather thongs; both animals and men wanted food
Whilst the house was being finished, the doctor had
ferreted out a little stove which the explosion had
almost respected; its bent tubes could soon be straight-
ened; he carried it with an air of triumph. In about
three hours the house was ready, and the stove
was placed inside; they stuffed it with splinters of
wood, and it soon roared, spreading a beneficent heat
around. The American was carried in and placed on
some blankets at the back; the four Englishmen took
their places round the stove. The last provisions from
the sledge, a little biscuit and boiling tea, comforted
them a little. Hatteras did not speak, and they all
respected his silence. When the meal was over, the
doctor signed to Johnson to follow him outside.
"Now," said he, "we must make an inventory of
what we have left. Our riches are scattered about;
we must collect them together, for snow may fall at
any minute, and then we should not be able to find the
least splinter of the ship."
"Don't let us lose any time, then," answered John-
son; we must have wood and provisions."
"Very well! we must each search one side, so as to
go over the whole radius of the explosion; we will
begin in the centre, and work towards the circum-
The two companions went at once to the ice-bed once
occupied by the Forward; they both searched carefully
by the doubtful light of the moon. The doctor grew
quite excited when he found a case nearly intact; but
most of them were empty, and their remains were
scattered about the ice-field. The violence of the
16 The Ice Desert.
explosion had been considerable. Most things were
nothing but dust and ashes. The larger pieces of the
machine were lying bent here and there; the paddles
were a hundred yards from the ship; the chimney
was broken in from top to bottom, and half crushed
under an enormous iceberg; all the pieces of iron that
help to build up a ship lay scattered about. But the
iron, which would have made the fortune of a tribe of
Esquimaux, was of no use to them. Provisions were
what it was most important to find, and the doctor
found very few.
This is a bad look-out," he said to himself; it is
evident that the steward's room, situated near the
powder-magazines, was entirely blown to pieces in the
explosion; what is not burnt must be reduced to
atoms. If Johnson doesn't have a better find than
Shave, I don't know what is to become of us."
However, as he widened the circle of his search,
the doctor came upon about fifteen pounds of pemmican
and four stone bottles, which, having been thrown on
to the soft snow, were not broken, and contained five
or six pints of brandy. In about two hours, Johnson
and the doctor met and told each other what they had
discovered. There were, unfortunately, few provisions-
a few pieces of salted meat, about fifty pounds of pem'
mican, three bags of biscuit, a slight store of chocolate,
some brandy, and about two pounds of coffee, picked
up grain by grain on the ice. The doctor had found
two packets of cochlearia, which can be used instead
of limejuice as a preservative against the scurvy.
They found neither blankets, hammocks, nor clothes;
the fire had evidently devoured them all.
In all, they had found about enough provisions for
The Ice Desert.
three weeks on short commons; it was not enough to
repair their exhausted strength. Hatteras, by a series
of disastrous circumstances, was on the eve of wanting
food as he had already wanted coal. The fuel furnished
by the splinters from the ship might last about three
weeks. But the doctor, before using it to warm their
snow-house, asked Johnson if they could not build a
long-boat with it.
No, Mr. Clawbonny," answered the boatswain; it
wouldn't do at any price; there isn't a piece of wood
that could be used; it will do to warm us for a few
days, and then-"
"Then- said the doctor.
"As God pleases!" answered the brave sailor.
The inventory terminated, the doctor and Johnson
went back for the sledge; they harnessed the poor,
tired dogs to it, much against their will, returned to
the scene of the explosion, placed their precious cargo
upon it, and brought it back to their snow-house;
then, half-frozen, they took their places beside their
companions in misfortune.
OWARDS eight o'clock in the evening
the sky cleared a little, and the con.
stellations shone out with sparkling
brilliancy in a still colder atmosphere.
Hatteras profited by the change to talre
the height of a few stars. Ue went out without
speaking, carrying his inBtrun ntn. He wished to
The Ice Desert.
see if the ice-field had drifted any further. In half.
an-hour's time he came back, lay down in a corner
of the hut, and gave himself up to profound medi-
The next day the snow began to fall again in great
abundance; the doctor was glad he had made his
search the evening before, for a vast white curtain soon
covered the ice-field, and all trace of the explosion
vanished under a shroud three feet thick. During that
day it was impossible to move out; happily, the habita-
tion was comfortable, or, at all events, seemed so to our
tired travellers. The little stove burnt well, except
that now and then a violent gust drove the smoke
inside; by means of its heat they were able to make
boiling tea or coffee, the influence of which is so mar-
vellous in these low temperatures.
The poor shipwrecked fellows, for so we may really
call them, were more comfortable than they had been
for a long time; they only thought of the present,
forgetting and defying the future, which threatened
them with approaching death. The American suffered
less, and came to himself little by little; he opened his
eyes, but he could not yet speak; his lips bore traces
of the scurvy, and could not form a sound; however he
heard, and was told how they were situated. He moved
his head in sign of thanks; he had just been saved
from being buried alive, and the doctor was too wise to
tell him Low near he was to a more certain death, for
in a fortnight, or, at the most, three weeks, provisions
would fail them absolutely. Towards noon Hatteras
"'.' My friends," he said to them," we must now decide
what to do. First of all, I want Johnson to tell me
The Ice Desert.
the circumstances about the act of treason which has
placed us in this position."
What is the use of knowing that ?" said the doctor;
"it's done, and no amount of thinking about it will
to any good."
"I do think about it," answered Hatteras; "but
when Johnson has told the details I shall think about
it no longer."
"Very well, sir," answered the boatswain; I did
all I could to stop them -"
That I am sure of, Johnson, and I may add that
the leaders had been meditating their plot for a long
"I think so too," said the doctor.
"So do I," added Johnson; "for immediately after
your departure Shandon took the command; he was
jealous of you, sir, and the others supported him; I
tried to resist him, but it was of no use. From that
time every one did pretty much as he liked; Shandon
let them; he wanted to show the crew that the time of
fatigue and privations was over. All economy was at
an end; the stove was stuffed to repletion; they burnt
the brig piecemeal. The provisions were left to the
men's discretion, and the drink too, and for fellows
who hadn't had a drop for so long, I leave you to guess
how it disappeared It went on like that from the 7th
to the 17th of January."
So it was Shandon who urged the men to revolt ?"
said Hatteras in a grave tone.
"Never let me hear his name again! Go on,
It was about the 24th or 25th of January that they
The Ice Desert.
began to think about leaving the ship. They resolved
to make for the west side of Baffin's Sea; from there
they meant to take to the long-boat and run after a
whaler, or get to the Greenland colonies of the east
coast. They took plenty of provisions; the invalids,
excited by the hope of getting back, were better. They
began their preparations for departure at once; a sledge
was built for the provisions, the fuel, and the long-boat;
the men were going to draw it. All that took till the
15th of January. I hoped every day you would come,
captain, and yet I feared your presence; you would
have done no good, for the crew would have massacred
you rather than have remained on board. They seemed
to be mad to get away. I spoke to them one at a
time; I talked to them about the dangers to which they
exposed themselves, and their cowardice in leaving you.
I could do nothing even with the best of them. Their
departure was fixed for February 22nd. Shandon was
impatient to start. They filled the sledge and the
long-boat with all the provisions and drink they could
hold, and as much wood as possible; they had de-
molished the starboard side down to the waterline.
They were all drunk the last day, and it was then that
Pen and two or three others set fire to the ship. I
fought against them as well as I could, but they were
too many for me then. They started with Shandon at
their head, and disappeared out of my sight. I had
not a drop of water to pour on the fire, for the hole we
had made was blocked up with ice. I saw the Forward
burn for two days, and you know the rest."
When Johnson's tale was over, a long silence reigned
in the snow-house; the miserable end of the precious
brig made a profound impression on his hearers; theb
The Ice Desert. 21
dared not look at one another for fear of reading their
own despair on the faces of their companions. The
painful breathing of the American was the only sound
heard. At last Hatteras spoke.
"Johnson," he said, I thank you; you did all you
could to save my ship, but alone you were powerless.
Now let us think of something else. We are four men
here, and we care as much for each other's lives as for
our own. Let each give his opinion about what had
best be done."
"Question us, Hatteras," answered the doctor; "we
are all ready for anything. Tell us first what your
"I can't," said Hatteras sadly. "I should seem too
selfish. I want to hear what you think."
"Captain," said Johnson, "before deciding on so
important a subject, I want to know if you found
yesterday that the brig had drifted, or if we are still in
the same place ?"
"She has not moved," answered Hatteras. "I found
we were in latitude 870 35' and longitude 870 35', the
same as before our departure."
How far are we from the nearest sea on the west ?"
About six hundred miles," answered Hatteras.
"What sea is it ?"
"The one we could not clear last April ?"
"Well, now we know how we are situated, we can
give an opinion."
"What is it ?" said Hatteras, who had let his head
fall on to his two hands. He could thus listen to his
companions without looking at them..........
The Ice Desert.
Come, Bell," said the doctor, "what do you think
we had better do ?"
"There's no question about it," answered the car-
penter; "we must get back, and not lose a day nor an
hour; we must go down either south or west to gain
the nearest coast, even if we are two months on the road."
"We have only three weeks' provisions," said Hat-
teras, without raising his head.
"Well," said Johnson, "we must manage to do it in
three weeks, even if we have to go on all fours."
Nothing is known of that part of the northern con-
tinent," said Hatteras. We may meet with obstacles,
mountains, and icebergs, which may barricade our
"That is no reason why we should not attempt the
journey," said the doctor; "we shall suffer a good deal,
and a long time, that's certain; we must only eat what
is really necessary, unless we can shoot something."
There's only half a pound of powder left," answered
"Come, Hatteras," answered the doctor, "I believe
I know what you are thinking of. Have you any
practical scheme ?"
"No," answered the captain, after a moment's
"You cannot put our courage in question," continued
the doctor; you know that we would follow you to the
end; but don't you thiak it is time you gave up all
hope of taking us to the Pole ? Treason has broken
your plans; you overcame the obstacles of nature, but
not the perfidy and weakness of man. You have done
all that. it was humanly possible to do, and you would
have succeeded, I'm certain; but as things are now,
The Ice Desert.
don't you feel obliged to put off your scheme and try
to get back to England, even if you try again ?"
Well, captain ?" said Johnson, as Hatteras remained
some time without answering. At last he raised his
head and said in a constrained tone-
"Do you think it possible to reach the coast ot
the strait, tired as you are, and almost without
"No," answered the doctor, but it is certain that
the coast won't come to us. Perhaps we shall meet
with some Esquimaux tribes further south that we can
easily enter into relation with."
"Besides," continued Johnson, "we may meet with
some vessel wintering down there."
"And," added the doctor, "if the strait is blocked
up we can get across it and reach the west coast of
Greenland, and from there, either by Prudhoe Land or
Cape York, reach some Danish settlement. In short,
Hatteras, there is nothing to be done in this ice-field.
The road to England is down south and not further
Yes," said Bell, Mr. Clawbonny is right; we must
start at once. We have forgotten our country and our
dear ones too long, as it is."
"Is that your opinion, Johnson P"
And yours, doctor ?"
Hatteras still remained silent; and in spite of himself
his face betrayed his agitation. The lives of four men
depended upon his decision, and yet, if he retraced his
steps, his bold schemes were crushed for ever; he could
never hope to begin a fourth attempt of the same kind.
24 The Ice Desert.
The doctor, seeing that the captain was silent, spoke
"Hatteras, we have not an instant to lose; we must
charge the sledge with our provisions, and as much
wood as possible. Six hundred miles under such con-
ditions is a long distance, but not impossible; we ought
to make twenty miles a day, which Pill allow us to
reach the coast about the 26th of March- "
"But," said Hatteras, "can't we wait a few days ?"
"What for ?" said Johnson.
"I scarcely know. Who can tell what may happen ?
A few days will be scarcely enough to repair our
shattered strength! You won't have reached your
second halting-place before you will sink from fatigue,
without even a snow-house to shelter you."
"But a horrible death awaits us here !" cried Bell.
My friends," said Hatteras, in an almost supplicat-
ing voice, you despair before you need. If I proposed
to you to go and seek salvation to the north, you would
refuse to follow me, yet there are Esquimaux tribes
towards the Pole as well as Smith's Strait. The open
sea, the existence of which is certain, must wash conti-
nents. Nature is logical in all she does. Well, of course,
where cold ceases vegetation reigns again. Is it not a
promised land that awaits us up there, and that you
wish to fly from ?"
Hatteras grew excited as he spoke.
"Another day! another hour!" he cried.
Dr. Clawbonny, with his adventurous character and
ardent imagination, would have yielded to the captain's
glowing words; but Johnson, calmer and wiser, recalled
him to reason and duty.
"Come. Bell," said he, we must prepare the sledge ("
The Ice Desert.
Yes, come," answered Bell.
The two sailors directed their steps to the open snow-
"Oh, Johnson! you you!" cried Hatteras. "Well,
go, I shall stay, I shall stay !"
"Captain!" said Johnson, stopping, in spite of himself.
"I shall stay, I tell you! Go! Leave me like the
others! Go! Come, Dick, we will atay together."
The brave dog came barking to his master's side.
Johnson looked at the doctor, who did not know what
to do; the best thing, perhaps, would be to sacrifice
one day to Hatteras. The doctor was going to decide
when he felt his arm touched. He turned round. The
American had thrown off his blankets and was crawling
on the ground; he had raised himself on his knees, and
from his diseased lips issued inarticulate sounds. The
doctor, astonished, and almost frightened, looked at
him in silence. Hatteras approached the American
and looked at him attentively. He tried to find out
what words the poor fellow wished to pronounce.
After five minutes' efforts he said the word-Porpoise.
"The Porpoise !" cried the captain.
The American nodded.
"In these seas?" asked Hatteras, with a beating
heart. Same sign from the sick man.
"To the north ?"
"And you know her position ?"
"Yes," said Altamont once more.
There was a moment's silence. The spectators of
this unforeseen scene were all anxiety.
The Ice Desert.
Listen attentively," said Hatteras, at last. You
must tell us the situation of the ship. I will count the
degrees out loud, you must stop me by a sign."
The American moved his head in sign of acquies-
"First of all, let's have the longitude. A hundred
and five? No. Hundred and six? No. Seven? No.
Eight? You mean west, don't you?
"Yes," signed the American.
"I go on; a hundred and nine? ten? twelve ? four-
teen? sixteen? eighteen? a hundred and nineteen?
"Yes," answered Altamont.
"Longitude 120," said Hatteras; and now for the
He began at number one. Altamont stopped him at
"Very well," said Hatteras; "now for the latitude.
Do you hear ? Eighty? eighty-one? eighty-two?
The American stopped him with a gesture.
"And the minutes? Five? ten? fifteen? twenty?
twenty-five? thirty? thirty-five?"
Another sign from Altamont, who smiled feebly.
Then," continued Hatteras, in a grave voice, "the
Porpoise is in longitude 120' 15', and latitude 830 35' ?"
Yes," said Altamont, for the last time, as he fell
fainting into the doctor's arms.
You see, my friends," cried Hatteras, "salvation
lies to the north, still to the north! we shall be
But, after these first joyful words, Hatteras seemed
suddenly struck with a terrible idea. His face changed,
The Ice Desert.
andhe felt himself bitten by the serpent of jealousy-an
American had gone three degrees beyond him on the
route to the Pole. Why? and wherefore?
EIGHTEEN DAYS' MARCH.
HIS new incident, these first signs of life
from Altamont, had completely changed
the situation of the shipwrecked men;
before that, they were without succour,
without hope of gaining Baffin's Sea,
threatened with loss of provisions during a course too
long for their worn-out bodies, and now, at less than
400 miles from their snow-house, a ship existed which
offered them every help, and perhaps the means of con-
tinuing their audacious march towards the Pole. Hat-
teras, the doctor, Johnson, and Bell were filled with
hope again, after being so near despair. But Altamont's
directions were still incomplete, and after a few minutes'
rest, the doctor began the precious conversation again;
he asked him questions in such a way that he had only
to nod his head simply in reply or make a movement
of his eyes. He soon learnt that the Porpoise was an
American three-master, from New York, shipwrecked
in the midst of the ice, with provisions and fuel in
abundance; although turned over on her side, she
must have been preserved, and it would be possible to
save her cargo.
Altamont and his crew had abandoned her two
months before, taking the long-boat on a sledge; they
The Ice Desert.
hoped to gain Smith's Strait, come up with some
whaler, and get taken back to America; but fatigue
and disease struck down the unfortunate men, one by
one, and they fell along the way. At last the captain
and two men were all that remained out of a crew of
thirty men, and if he, Altamont, was still living, it was
by a veritable miracle of Providence. Hatteras wished
to know from the American why the Porpoise had gone
up so far north. Altamont made them understand
that he had drifted with the ice without being able to
withstand it. Hatteras asked him questions about the
purpose of his voyage, and Altamont alleged that it had
been undertaken to get across the North-West Passage.
Hatteras did not press him further, and dared not ask
him any more questions on that subject.
Now," said the doctor, "we must do all we can to
find the Porpoise; our route is shorter by a third than
the one we must have taken to reach Baffin's Sea. We
shall find everything necessary for wintering there."
"It is the best thing we can do now," answered
And we mustn't lose a minute," said the boatswain;
Sfor we must calculate how long our journey will take
by how long our provisions will last, contrary to the
usual practice, and we must start as soon as we can."
You are right, Johnson," answered the doctor; if
we start to-morrow, which is Tuesday, February 26th,
we must reach the Porpoise on the 15th of March or
perish. What do you think, Hatteras ?"
"That we had better get ready at once. Perhaps
the way won't be so long as we think."
"How can that be ?" answered the doctor. "Altamont
seems certain about the position of his ship."
The Ice Desert.
"But suppose the Porpoise has drifted on her ice-
field like the Forward did ?"
It is possible," said the doctor.
Johnson and Bell said nothing about the possibility
of a circumstance of which they had been the victims.
But Altamont, who had been listening to this conversa-
tion, made signs that he wished to speak. The doctor
went to him, and after a quarter of an hour's circum-
locution and hesitation, he acquired the certainty that
the Porpoise, stranded on a coast, would not have left
her rocky bed. This intelligence made the four Eng-
lishmen easy, though it cut off all hope of getting back
to Europe, unless Bell could succeed in building a little
vessel out of the wood of the Porpoise. But the first
thing to be done was to get to it. The doctor asked
the American one more question-had he met with an
open sea under the 830 of latitude?
No," answered Altamont.
The conversation ended thereupon, and the prepara-
tions for departure were begun immediately; Bell and
Johnson mended the sledge, which wanted it badly;
they had plenty of wood for the purpose, and profited
by the experience acquired during the excursion down
south; they knew the weaknesses of this manner of
transport, and as they must expect abundant and thick
snow, they raised the sides on which it ran. Bell made
a sort of bed in the centre, and covered it with the
tent cloth, for the American; there were so few pro-
visions that they added little to the weight of the
sledge, but they made it up by an extra quantity of
wood. The doctor made a scrupulous inventory of the
provisions, and found that they must content themselves
with three-quarter rational for a journey of three weeks.
The Ice Desert
Full rations were reserved for the Greenland dogs, and
if Dick pulled with them, he was to have his full
ration too. These preparations were interrupted by
the need of sleep and rest, which began to be felt at
seven in the evening; but before going to bed the ship-
wrecked men met round the stove, in which they did
not spare the fuel; the poor fellows gave themselves a
treat in its heat to which they had not been accustomed
for a long time; some pemmican, a few biscuits, and
seven cups of coffee soon put them in a comfortable
frame of mind, and they went to sleep cradled in the
hope which had come to them so soon, and from so far.
At seven in the morning the work was begun again,
and finished by three in the afternoon; it was already
dark; the sun had reappeared above the horizon since
the 31st of January, but it only gave a feeble and short
light; happily the moon rose at half-past six, and in a
clear atmosphere her rays are sufficiently light. The
temperature, which had been lowering for some days,
at last attained 350 below zero. The moment for de-
parture had come. Altamont was delighted, though the
shaking would increase his sufferings; he had made
the doctor understand that all the medicines necessary
to cure the scurvy would be found on board the Por-
poise. They placed him on the sledge; he was arranged
as comfortably as possible; the dogs, Dick amongst
them, were harnessed; the travellers threw a last look
at the ice-field where the Forward had been. Hatteras'
face for an instant bore the trace of violent anger, but
it soon returned to its natural immobility, and the little
troop set out towards the N.N.W.
Each took his accustomed place, Bell in advance,
pointing out the way, the doctor and Johnson behind
The Ice Desert.
the sledge guiding it, and pushing when necessary,
Hatteras in the rear, rectifying the route, and keeping
the caravan in Bell's track. The march was rapid in
the low temperature, as the ice was hard and polished,
and favourable for the sledge; the five dogs easily drew
their weight of 900 pounds. However, men and dogs
soon got out of breath, and were often obliged to stop and
get it again. Towards seven o'clock the moon's red
disc shone through the mists of the horizon. Her calm
rays shone on the ice, and showed towards the north-
west an immense white plain, perfectly level. Not a
patch or a hummock was to be seen. This part of the
sea seemed to have frozen as tranquilly as a peaceful
lake. It was an immense desert, flat and monotonous.
Such was the impression it gave the doctor, and he
communicated it to his companion.
"You are right, Mr. Clawbonny; it is a desert, but
there's no fear of our dying of thirst."
"That's one advantage," answered the doctor; "but
it proves that we must be very far from land; in
general the approach to a coast is signalled by a multi-
tude of icebergs, and there isn't one to be seen here."
"We can't see far because of the mist," answered
"That's certain, but we have met with the same
flatness ever since we started, and it doesn't look to be
"Do you know, Mr. Clawbonny, that it is very
dangerous walking here? We get accustomed and
don't think about it; but this frozen surface covers
"You are right, my friend; but we need not fear
being swallowed up. The resistance of this ice in a
The Ice Desert.
temperature of 330 below zero is respectable; and it
gets harder and harder, for under these latitudes snow
falls nine days out of ten, even in April, May, and
June, and I believe that its greatest thickness measures
thirty or forty feet."
"That's reassuring," answered Johnson.
Yes, we are not like the skaters of the Serpentine,
who fear to be let through at every minute."
"Is the force of resistance of ice known, doctor ?"
said the old sailor, always anxious to learn.
"Peifectly known," answered the doctor. "What
cannot be measured in this world, except human
ambition- the ambition that is dragging us to
the boreal Pole? But to return to your question.
When the ice is two inches thick, it will bear a
man; at three inches and a half, a horse and
rider; at five inches, a company of eight; at eight
inches, a company of artillery; and at ten inches, a
whole army. Where we are now, they could build a
Liverpool custom-house, or the Parliament Houses of
"It is difficult to realise it," said Johnson; "but
just now you were talking of snow, which falls nine
days out of ten in these countries; it's an evident fact,
but where does it come from? As the sea is frozen, it
can't give the necessary quantity of vapour which forms
Your observation is just, Johnson. I think that
the greater pat of the rain and snow that falls in these
regions is made from the sea-water of the temperate
zones; perhaps the snow we see rose from an Egyptian
river, and the water we drink may have come from the
rivers of our own couutry."
The Ice Desert.
At this moment the voice of Hatteras was heard
rectifying the errors of the route, and it interrupted
the conversation. The mist got thicker and made it
difficult to keep in a straight line. At last the little
troop stopped at eight o'clock in the evening, after
having cleared fifteen miles. The weather was still
dry; the tent was erected, the stove lighted, and they
slept in peace. Hatteras and his companions were
really favoured by the weather. During the following
days their journey was uninterrupted, although the
cold became intense, and the mercury remained frozen
in the thermometer. I there had been any wind, not
one of the travellers could have supported such a
temperature. The doctor, during this expedition,
verified Parry's observations during his excursion on
Melville Island. This celebrated sailor said that every
man, properly clothed, could walk in the open air with
impunity if the atmosphere is calm; but if there is the
slightest wind, it causes a burning pain to the face, and
an extremely violent headache, which is soon followed
by death. The doctor was uneasy at the thought that
a simple gust would have frozen them to the marrow of
On the 8th of March he was witness to a phenomenon
confined to this latitude; the sky was perfectly clear
and brilliant with stars, a thick snow fell without the
slightest appearance of a cloud; the constellations
shone through the flakes, which fell on the ice-field in
graceful regularity. The snow lasted about two hours,
and it was over before the doctor found a sufficient
explanation of its fall.
The moon's last quarter had disappeared; darkness
reigned during seventeen hours of the twenty-four;
The Ice Desert.
the travellers tied themselves together with a long cord
so as not to lose one another; it became almost impos-
sible to keep in a straight line. However, these
courageous men, though kept up by an iron will, began
to get tired; the halts became more frequent, and yet
every hour was of consequence, for the provisions
diminished sensibly. Hatteras often set his positionby
means of lunar and stellar observations. As each day
went by, and the Porpoise seemed to be no nearer, he
asked himself if she really existed, and if the American,
made mad by suffering or from hatred to the English,
had not resolved to drag them to a certain death. He
communicated his suppositions to the doctor, who
would not entertain them for a moment, but they
made him perceive the unfortunate rivalry which might
exist between the English and American captains.
It will be difficult to keep those men from quarrel-
ling," he said to himself.
On the 14th of March, after a march of sixteen days,
the travellers had only reached the 820 of latitude;
their strength was exhausted, and they were still a
hundred miles from the ship; to add to their sufferings,
the men had been obliged to reduce themselves to
quarter rations to keep their dogs on full ones. Unfor-
tunately, they could not reckon upon killing anything,
for they had only six bullets left; they had fired at
several white foxes and hares, but not one had been
killed. However, on Friday, the 15th, the doctor was
fortunate enough to surprise a seal lying on the ice; he
wounded it with several bullets, and the animal's hole
being blocked up, it could not escape; it was a big one;
Johnson cut it up skilfully; but the extreme leanness
of this amphibian prevents it from being of great
The Ice Desert.
use to Europeans, who cannot drink its oil as the
Esquimaux do. However, the doctor tried courageously
to drink the slimy stuff, but he could not succeed. He
kept its skin, and placed it on the sledge. The next
day, the 16th, some icebergs were discerned on the
horizon. It was difficult to know whether they
announced a coast near, or simply a convulsion of the
Arrived at one of the hummocks, they profited by it
to dig out a more comfortable habitation than the tent,
and after three hours' hard work they could stretch
themselves round the lighted stove.
THE LAST BULLET.
OHNSON had allowed the poor, tired
dogs to share the snow-house; when the
snow falls abundantly, it makes a sort of
blanket for the poor dogs, and keeps up
their natural heat. But the poor animals
would have been frozen in a temperature lowered to
400 below zero. Johnson made an excellent dog.
driver; he tried to feed his dogs with the black seal-
flesh, which the travellers could not swallow; to his
great astonishment they ate it with relish; the old
sailor went joyfully to the doctor and told him about it.
He was not surprised, for he knew that in the north of
America fish forms the principal food for the horses,
and what herbivorous horses could eat, omnivorous
The Ice Desert.
dogs ought to be glad of. Before going to sleep,
although sleep became an imperious necessity to men
who had marched fifteen miles across the ice, the
doctor wished to talk to his companions about their
"We have not yet reached the 82nd parallel," he
said, "and our provisions are already beginning to
"Every reason for not losing an instant," answered
Hatteras. We must march on, and the strong must
draw the weak."
"Do you think we shall find the ship, after all ?"
asked Bell, whose courage was ebbing with the fatigues
of the way.
There is no reason to doubt it," answered Johnson;
"the American's safety answers for ours."
The doctor asked Altamont again about his ship.
The captain could speak a little now, though in a very
weak voice; he confirmed all the details he had already
given, and repeated that the ship, stranded on granite
rocks, could not have moved, rnd that she lay in
longitude 1200 15' and latitude 830 35'.
"We can't doubt what he says," continued the
doctor; the difficulty is not to find the Porpoise, but
to get to her."
What food is there left ?" asked Hatteras.
"Enough for three days at most," answered the
Very well, we must get there in three days!" said
the captain energetically.
"Indeed we must," continued the doctor; "and if
we succeed we shall not have much to complain of, for
we have had exceptionally good weather. We've had
The Ice Desert.
no snow for a fortnight, and the sledge has rolled along
easily. If there were only 200 pounds of provisions on
it, our good dogs would easily manage to draw them.
Well, it is of no use wishing."
"Don't you think we might manage to kill some-
thing with the little powder we have left ? If we could
only get hold of a bear, we should have enough food for
the rest of the journey."
"But bears are rare and timid, and besides, when
we know how much depends on a shot, it's enough to
make the surest hand tremble."
But you are a splendid shot," said Bell.
Yes, when the lives of four men do not depend on
my skill; still I'll do my best. To-night we must
content ourselves with a few crumbs of pemmican, and
try to sleep so as to get up early to continue our
A few minutes after they all fell asleep from sheer
fatigue. Early on Saturday morning Johnson awoke
his companions; the dogs were already harnessed, and
they continued their march northward. The sky was
magnificent, the atmosphere extremely clear, and the
temperature very low; when the sun appeared above
the horizon it was in the shape of a long ellipsis; its
horizontal diameter, on account of the refraction,
seemed to be as large again as its vertical diameter;
its cold clear rays fell on the immense frozen plain.
The return of light, although without heat, was
pleasant. The doctor, his gun in hand, went a mile or
two away from the others; before starting he had care.
fully measured his ammunition; he had only four
charges of powder and three bullets. It was very little
to kill a bear, that often took ten or twelve shots to
The Ice Desert.
finish nim. The doctor's ambition did not extend to
such terrible game; a few hares or two or three foxes
would have been sufficient. But, during the day, if he
perceived one of these animals, either he could not
approach it, or, deceived by the refraction, he missed
his shot. That day lost him one charge of powder and
one bullet to no purpose. His companions, who had
started with hcpe at the noise, saw him return empty-
handed. They said nothing, and in the evening went
to sleep as usual, after putting aside the two quarter
rations destined for the two following days.
The next day the way seemed to be more difficult.
They could not walk; they dragged along; the dogs had
devoured even the entrails of the seal, and began to
gnaw their thongs. Some foxes passed within sight of
the sledge, and the doctor, having lost a second shot by
pursuing them, dared not risk his last bullet. In the
evening they halted earlier than usual; the travellers
could not go a step further, though their way was
lighted by a magnificent aurora borealis; they were
obliged to stop. The last meal, taken on the Sunday
evening under the frozen tent, was very melancholy
If Heaven did not come to the help of the poor fellows,
they were lost. Hatteras did not speak, Bell no longer
even thought, Johnson reflected without speaking, but
the doctor did not yet despair.
Johnson dug a few fox-traps during the night, but
as he had no bait, he counted little on their success,
and he was right, for though he saw traces of foxes the
next morning, not one had been caught. He was
coming back bitterly disappointed, when he per-
ceived a colossal bear smelling the sledge fifty
fthoms off. The old sailor thought that Provi-
The Ice Desert.
dence had sent him this unexpected animal to kill;
without waking his companions he snatched up the
doctor's gun and ran towards the bear. Arrived at a
good distance he took aim; but as he was going to
pull the trigger he felt his arm tremble; his thick
leather gloves incommoded him. He took them off
rapidly and seized his gun with a sure hand. Suddenly
a cry of pain escaped him. The skin of his fingers,
burnt by the cold of the barrel, remained sticking to it,
whilst the gun fell to the ground, and went off with the
shock, throwing the last bullet into space.
The doctor ran out at the noise of the detonation;
he saw how it was, the animal running quietly away,
and Johnson desperate, but forgetting his suffering.
"I am a regular woman!" he cried; "a child that
doesn't know how to bear pain. I at my age!"
"Come, Johnson, come in," said the doctor, "you'll
be frozen. See, your hands are white already; come
"I don't deserve your attention, Mr. Clawbonny.
Let me be I"
"Come along, you obstinate fellow. If you don't be
quick, it will soon be too late."
The doctor dragged the old sailor into the tent and
made him put his hands in a pail of water, which the
heat of the stove had kept liquid but cold; but scarcely
had Johnson plunged in his hands than the water froze
at their contact.
You see," said the doctor, "it was time you came
in, or I should have been obliged to amputate them."
Thanks to his care, all danger had disappeared .'.
the end of an hour, but not without trouble, for const:..;
friction was necessary to bring back circulation into the
The Ice Desert.
fingers of the old sailor. The doctor recommended
him especially not to approach the stove, as heat would
have been very injurious.
That morning they were obliged to go without break-
fast; there was no pemmican or salt meat left, nor a
crumb of biscuit; they had not quite half a pound of
coffee, and they were forced to be content with the
"It's all up now!" said Bell to Johnson, with a
pitiful accent of despair.
"Let us still hope in God!" said the old sailor.
" He alone can save us !"
"The captain got back from his first expeditions, the
mad man! but he'll never get back from this, nor we
either. We shall never see England again!"
"Come, Bell, don't give way like that, man! The
captain adventures too much, I know, but we've got
a clever man with us."
"You mean Dr. Clawbonny ?"
Yes," answered Johnson.
"What can he do?" asked Bell, shrugging his
shoulders. "Can he change blocks of ice into pieces
of meat? He can't do miracles any more than we
Who knows?" answered the boatswain; I have
-ery confidence in him."
They scarcely went three miles that day, and in the
evening they had nothing to eat. The dogs were nearly
eating one another, and the men were painfully hungry.
There was not an animal to be seen, and if there had
been, they could not have killed it. Johnson thought
he saw a bear following to the windward of the unfor-
TAi Ice Desert.
"He is waiting for his meal,'" thought he.
But he said nothing to his companions; in the even-
ing they made their accustomed halt, and their supper
consisted of a little coffee; they could not sleep for
hunger. When Tuesday morning arrived the poor
fellows had not eaten, under a latitude that exacts much
food, for thirty-six hours. However, animated by a
superhuman will and courage, they continued their
route, pushing the sledge which the dogs could not
draw. In about two hours they fell exhausted.
Hatteras wished to keep on. He employed prayers
and supplications to make his companions get up, but
he wanted the impossible. Then, helped by Johnson,
he cut a cave out of an iceberg. They seemed to be
digging their grave.
I don't mind dying of hunger," said Hatteras, but
I won't die of cold."
When the house was ready, the five men lay down in
it, and so the day passed. In the evening, whilst his
companions remained motionless, Johnson had a sort of
hallucination; he dreamt about a gigantic bear, and
repeated "bear" aloud several times. This drew the
doctor from his lethargy, and he asked Johnson what
bear he meant.
"The one that has followed us for the last two days,"
Have you seen one, then ?"
Yes; he's about a mile off to the windward."
Why didn't you tell me, Johnson ?"
"What was the use? We have no bullet, and nothing
to make one of."
The doctor was silent for a minute, and then said-
You are certain that the animal is following us ?"
The Ice Desert.
Yes, Mr. Clawbonny; he thinks he shall soon
make a good meal of human flesh, and he is not
Poor Johnson grew delirious, and uttered many wild
things about letting the bear eat them and have done
with them. The doctor did all he could to calm him
and if he succeeded it was because of the accent of pro-
found conviction with which he said-
"I'll kill that bear to-morrow."
To-morrow?" repeated Johnson, who seemed to
wake from a bad dream. How can you kill him with-
out a bullet ?"
I will make one."
"But you have no lead!"
"No, but I have some mercury," saying which the
doctor took the thermometer; it marked 50 above
zero in the hut. The doctor went out, placed the
instrument on a block of ice, and came back soon
The temperature outside was 500 below zero.
"Now go to sleep and wait till the sun rises," he said
to the old sailor. The night passed in all the sufferings
of hunger. The doctor .and the boatswain were the
only ones who had the slightest hope.
The next day, at sunrise, the doctor, followed by
Johnson, rushed out and ran to the thermometer. All
the mercury was frozen into a compact cylinder. The
doctor broke the instrument, and with his gloved hanC
drew out a large piece of very hard metal.
"That's marvellous, doctor! You are a wonderful
"No, my friend, I am only a man who has read
much, and who has a good memory."
What do you mean ?"
The lee Desert.
"I remembered that Captain Ross relates in his
travels that he pierced through a plank an inch thick
with a bullet of frozen mercury; if I had had any oil it
would have done as well, for he relates that a bullet of
oil of sweet almonds, fired against a stake, cut it in two,
and fell to the ground without being broken."
It is scarcely credible."
But it is true, Johnson. Here's a piece of metal
that will save our lives; let us leave it in the air and
see if the bear is still there !"
Just then Hatteras came out of the hut; the doctor
showed him the bar of metal, and told him, what they
were going to do; the captain pressed his hand, and
they all three began to observe the horizon. The
weather was very clear, and Hatteras, who had got
before his companions, discovered the bear at six
hundred yards' distance. It was seated on its haunches,
balancing its head tranquilly, and scenting the emana-
tions from the hut.
There he is !" cried the captain.
"Silence," said the doctor.
But when the enormous quadruped saw the sports-
men he did not move, and looked at them without feat
or anger. However, it was evidently difficult to get at
There's no question of pleasure here," said Hatteras.
"We must be prudent."
Yes, for we've only one charge of powder, and he
runs as quick as a hare."
Well, we must go straight at him. We shall risk
uur lives, but what does that matter? I'll risk mine."
SNo, I shall!" cried the doctor.
"Leave him to me!" said the captain simply.
2'Te Ice Desert.
But your safety is more precious to all than that of
an old man like me."
I won't risk my life more than is necessary, and you
can come to my help if you see fit."
"But how do you mean to approach the animal ?"
asked the doctor.
You have still the skin of the seal you killed the
Yes, it is on the sledge."
"Very well, come back to the snow-house, while
Johnson stops and watches."
The boatswain glided behind a hummock, which hid
him completely from the bear, who continued in the
same place, still sniffing the air.
THE SEAL AND THE BEAR.
OU know," said Hatteras to the doctor,
when they had reached the hut, you
V know that the Polar bears feed on seals.
They watch for them on the brink of
their holes for entire days, and when a
seal comes up to the surface, the bear crushes it with
his paws. A bear won't be frightened at a seal."
"I see what you mean to do," answered the doctor;
"but it is dangerous."
It may succeed though, and so it must be tried. I
am going to put on the sealskin, and glide along the
ice-field. Load your gun and give it me."
The doctor had nothing to answer; he would have
done the same himself; he left the snow-house carrying
The Ice Desert.
two axes, one for Johnson and the other for himself;
then, accompanied by Hatteras, he went towards the
sledge. Hatteras put on the sealskin, which covered
him almost entirely. While he was doing it the doctor
loaded his gun with the last charge of powder and the
mercury bullet, which was as hard as iron and heavy as
lead. He gave it to Hatteras, who hid it under his
Go to Johnson now," said he to the doctor; "I
shall wait a few minutes to mislead my adversary."
"Courage, Hatteras!" said the doctor.
Make your mind easy, and, above all, don't show
yourself till you hear the report."
The doctor rapidly gained the hummock, behind
which Johnson was hidden.
"Well?" said Johnson.
"We must wait. Hatteras is risking his life to
The doctor was agitated; he looked at the bear, who
seemed to feel that something was threatening him.
In about a quarter of an hour the seal was crawling on
the ice; he had gone round several large blocks in order
better to deceive the bear; he was about fifty paces off
when the bear perceived him. Hatteras skilfully
imitated the movements of a seal, and if the doctor had
not known beforehand, he would have been deceived too.
That's just it!" he whispered to Johnson.
The seal, although approaching the bear, did not
seem to perceive him; he seemed to be looking for some
hole whereby to escape. The bear, on his side, ad-
vanced towards his prey with extreme caution; his
inflamed eyes showed his eagerness; perhaps he had not
eaten for two months, and chance had sent him a certain
The Ice Desert.
prey. The seal was soon about ten paces from his
enemy. All at once he made a gigantic bound and
stopped three paces from Hatteras, who, throwing off
his sealskin, knelt on one knee and aimed at the heart.
The shot was fired, and the animal rolled on the ice.
The doctor and Johnson rushed to the spot. The
enormous beast had got up, striking the air with his
paw, whilst with the other he snatched up a handful of
snow and put it on his wound. Hatteras had not
stirred; he was waiting, knife in hand. But he had
taken good aim, and fired with a hand that did not
tremble; before his companions got up to him he had
plunged his knife up to the hilt in the animal's throat,
who fell to rise no more.
Hurrah!" cried the doctor.
"Victory!" called out Johnson.
Hatteras, undisturbed, looked at the gigantic bear
and folded his arms.
"Now for my time," said Johnson; "he's been
splendidly killed, but we mustn't wait till his flesh is
frozen to stone; neither our teeth nor knives would be
any good then."
Johnson began by skinning the animal, who was
almost as big as an ox. He measured nine feet long
and six feet round; two enormous tusks were fixed in
his jaws. Johnson opened him and found nothing
but water in his stomach, and it was evident that he
had not eaten for a long time; nevertheless, he was very
fat, and weighed more than 1,500 pounds; they divided
him into quarters, each of which gave 200 pounds of
flesh, and the hunters dragged the flesh to the snow-
house, not forgetting the heart, which, three hours
after, still beat strongly.
The Ice Desert.
The doctor's companions would willingly have thrown
themselves upon the raw meat, but he stopped them,
and asked for time to grill some. When the doctor
came back to the snow-house, he was astonished to find
it so cold; he approached the stove, and found it com-
pletely out; the morning's occupation had quite made
Johnson forget to feed it with fuel. The doctor tried
to light it, but he did not find a single spark amongst
the cinders, which were already cold.
Come, have a little patience i" he said, and went to
the sledge for the tinder-box, and asked Johnson for
his steel to strike it with.
"The fire is out," he said to him.
"That's my fault," answered Johnson; and he
looked for his steel in the pocket where he usually
kept it; he was surprised not to find it. He felt in
his other pockets, but without success, went back to
the snow-house, felt under the blankets where he had
slept, and was not more fortunate.
Well ?" asked the doctor.
Johnson came back and looked at his companions.
"Haven't you got it, Mr. Clawbonny ?" he asked.
"Nor you, captain ?"
"No," answered Hatteras.
"It has always been in your possession," said the
"Well, I can't find it," said Johnson, growing pale.
"Not got it?" cried the doctor, agitated. He saw
what terrible consequences such a loss might bring.
"Look well, Johnson," said the doctor.
Johnson ran to the iceberg, behind which he had
watched the bear, and then to the place where he had
The Ice Desert.
eut up the bear, but he found nothing. He ran back
in despair. Hatteras did not utter one word of reproach.
"That is unfortunate," said the doctor.
"Yes," said Hatteras.
"We have no instrument, not even a telescope, from
which we could take out the lens, for the sun's rays
would have been strong enough to light the tinder."
Well," answered Hatteras, "we must appease our
hunger with this raw meat, and make all the haste we
can to get to the ship."
Yes," said the doctor, plunged in thought. "Why
not ? I might try-it is just possible- "
"What are you thinking of?" asked Hatteras.
I've an idea."
"Then we're safe," cried Johnson.
"But I don't know if it will succeed," answered the
doctor; "that's the question."
What is it ?" said Hatteras.
We have no lens; we must make one."
"How?" asked Johnson.
"With a piece of ice."
"What? You think "
"Why not? We want to concentrate the sun's rays
on a small space, and ice may serve us as well as the
best crystal. Only I must get a bit of fresh-water ice."
There's a hummock of it," said Johnson, proceeding
to a greenish-black block not a hundred steps off.
You are right; come, my friends. Johnson, take
The three men went up to the block, which turned
out to be fresh-water ice, and the doctor had a piece
about a foot in diameter broken off, and he then began
cutting it roughly with his axe; after that he made
The Ice Desert.
the surface more equal with his knife, and lastly polished
it with his hand, and he soon obtained as transparent a
lens as if it had been made with the finest crystal.
Then he came back to the snow-house, took a piece of
tinder, and began his experiment. The sun shone
rather brightly; the doctor exposed his ice lens to its
rays, which he concentrated on the tinder. It took fire
in a few seconds.
Hurrah! hurrah !" cried Johnson, who could
scarcely contain his joy. He went backwards and
forwards like a madman. The doctor re-entered the
house, and a few minutes afterwards the fire was roar-
ing in the stove, and soon a savoury smell of frying
drew Bell from his torpor. It is easy to imagine what
justice was done to the meal; however, the doctor
advised his companions to moderate their appetite, and
himself set the example. While they were eating, he
"It is a lucky day with us; for we have enough pro-
visions for the rest of the journey. However, we must
not go to sleep in the delights of Capua, and we had
better set out again at once."
"We can't be more than forty-eight hours from the
Porpoise," said Altamont. who could almost speak
I hope," said the doctor, laughing, "that we shab.
find something to make the fire with."
Oh, there's plenty of everything," said Alta.
"Because, although my lens is a good one, it's of no
use when the sun does not shine, and that's often at
four degrees from the Pole I"
"Yes," said Altamont, with a sigh; "at less than
The Ice Desert.
four degrees; my ship went there, where no other had
"Come, let us start," said Hatteras curtly.
Yes, we are ready," answered the doctor, looking
uneasily at the two captains. The strength of our
travellers had soon been recruited; the dogs had had a
large part of the bear's remains, and they set out
again rapidly towards the north. On the way the
doctor wished to draw from Altamont the reasons that
had taken him so far, but the American answered
We have two men to watch," he whispered to the
"Yes," answered Johnson.
"Hatteras never speaks to the American, and he
doesn't seem inclined to be very grateful. Fortunately,
I shall be there."
I don't much care for that man's face since he got
better," said Johnson.
"I think he guesses Hatteras's plans," answered the
Do you think the American has the same ?" asked
"Who knows? The Americans are bold and
daring; what an Englishman wanted to do an Ameri-
can might have attempted."
You think that Altamont- "
I don't think anything," answered the doctor; but
his vessel is very near the Pole."
But he said he was drifted there in spite of him-
He says so, but I thought he smiled ironically at
the same time."
The Ice Desert.
"The devil! Mr. Clawbonny. A rivalry between two
such men would be an unlucky thing."
"I hope I'm mistaken, for such a state of things
would be very grave."
"I hope that Altamont won't forget that we saved
"Is not he going to save ours, too ? He wouldn't
exist if it hadn't been for us; but without his ship and
her contents what should we do ?"
"Well, Mr. Clawbonny, you are there, and with
your help I hope all will go right."
"I hope so too, Johnson."
The journey went on without further incident; they
had plenty of bear's flesh, and made excellent meals;
thanks to the doctor, a certain good-humour reigned
amongst the whole troop: this worthy man always
found something worth telling about men or things.
His health continued good; he had not got much
thinner, notwithstanding his fatigues and privations;
his Liverpool friends would easily have recognized him,
especially by his good and equable temper. During the
morning of Saturday the nature of the immense plain
of ice was sensibly modified; disturbed ice, more
frequent packs, piled-up hummocks, showed that the
ice-fields had undergone great pressure; it was evident
that some new island or continent, by narrowing the
passages, had caused the confusion. More frequent
blocks of soft-water ice indicated an approaching coast.
There existed, then, a new land not far off, and the
doctor burnt with the desire to enrich the maps of the
boreal hemisphere. The pleasure of tracing out new
coasts with a pencil and paper can scarcely be imagined ;
it was the doctor's dearest wish, as that of Hatteras
The Ice Desert.
was to tread the Pole itself; he thought beforehand ol
the pleasure he should have in baptising the seas,
straits, bays, and windings of these new continents.
In his nomenclature he did not forget his companions,
nor his friends, nor Her Gracious Majesty, nor the
Royal Family, and he thought of a certain Cape
Clawbonny with legitimate satisfaction. These thoughts
occupied him all day. The evening tent was raised as
usual, and each took it in turn to watch while his com-
panions slept. The next day was Sunday, and after a
good breakfast off the bear's paws, which were excellent,
the travellers marched northwards, keeping a little to
the west; the way became more difficult, but, notwith-
standing that, they marched quickly.
Altamont, from the top of the sledge, watched the
horizon with feverish attention; his companions were a
prey to involuntary anxiety. The last solar observa-
tions had given latitude exact 830 35', by longitude
1200 15'; it was the position assigned to the American
ship; the question of life or death was to be resolved
during the day. At last, towards two o'clock in the
afternoon, Altamont stood upright and stopped the
little troop with a loud shout; pointing to a white mass,
which any other eyes would have confounded with the
neighboring icebergs, he cried with a loud voice, lhe
Th lece Desert.
EHE 24th of March was Palm Sunday, the
day when all the Catholic countries, of
Europe rejoice. But what a contrast with
these regions, where not even a blade of
grass grew to cheer the poor travellers!
Still, it was a day of rejoicing to them also, for at
last they were about to find the means of preserving
They marched quicker; the dogs drew with greater
energy Dick barked with satisfaction, and the troop
soon reached the American vessel. The Porpoise was
entirely buried under the snow; she had lost all her
masts and yards; all her rigging was broken when she
was wrecked; she was completely hemmed in by a bed
of rocks, then completely invisible. The Porpoise had
been thrown on her side by the violence of the shock,
her keel was half open, and she appeared uninha.
The captain, Dr. Clawbonny, and Johnson cleared
away fifteen feet of ice before they reached the inside of
the ship; to their great joy they saw that the animals,
whose numerous traces existed all round, had not
reached the provisions.
"We have plenty of food and fuel," said Johnson,
"but we can't live in that shell."
"Well,we must make a snow-house," said Hatteras;
"we will instal ourselves on the continent as best we
Yes," said the doctor, but we need not e in a
Yes," said the doctor, but we need not be in a
The Ice Desert.
hurry, and we had better do it well while we are about
it. We can make a berth in the ship for the present,
and mako a solid house capable of protecting us against
the cold and the wild beasts. I'll be the architect, and
you will see it will be a success."
"I've no doubt of that," answered Johnson; "let us
instal ourselves here as best we can, and make an inven-
tory of the ship's contents ; unfortunately I see neither
long-boat nor canoe, and the pieces of the ship are not
fit to build any craft with."
Who knows ?" answered the doctor. Many things
can be done with time and trouble; there is no question
of sailing just now, but of making a good dwelling.
Everything in its place."
"Yes," said Hatteras, "we must begin with what is
necessary at once."
The three companions left the ship and returned to
the sledge. Bell declared himself ready to set to work
at once; the American shook his head when he heard
that nothing could be done with his ship; but as any
sort of discussion would have been out of place just
then, they kept to the plan of taking refuge on board
the Porpoise, and of constructing a vast habitation on
the coast. At four o'clock in the afternoon the four
travellers were installed, as well as possible under the
circumstances, on deck; Bell had made a sort of hori-
zontal flooring with the remains of masts and spars;
they placed the frozen hammocks upon it, and the heat
of the stove soon brought them to their natural state.
Altamont, leaning on the doctor, had been able to get
to the corner reserved for him without much difficulty.
When he set foot on his ship he let fall a sigh of satis.
faction, which did not please the boatswain.
The Ice Desert.
He feels that he is at home now," thought he.
The rest of the day was consecrated to rest. The
weather threatened to change under the influence of
the westwind; the thermometer placed outside measured
220. The Porpoise was situated beyond the frozen
Pole in a latitude relatively less freezing, although
nearer the north. They finished the rest of the bear
next day with some biscuits and tea found in the ship's
stores; then fatigue took possession of them, and they
The next morning Hatteras and his companions
woke rather late. They were no longer uneasy about
the morrow, and slept more peacefully; they only
thought of lodging themselves as comfortably as they
could. They looked upon themselves as colonists
arrived at their destination, and only thought of mak-
ing the future bearable.
"Well," said the doctor, stretching himself, it is a
great deal to know where we shall sleep at night, and
what we shall eat to-morrow."
"We'd better begin by making the inventory of
what the ship contains," answered Johnson.
The Porpoise had been perfectly equipped and pro-
visioned for a distant campaign. The inventory gave
a sufficient quantity of provisions, 6,1501bs. of flour,
suet, and raisins for puddings; 2,0001bs. of salted beef
and flour; 1,5001bs. of pemmican; 7001bs. of sugar,
as much chocolate; a case and a half of tea, weighing
961bs.; 5001bs. of rice; several barrels of preserved
fruits and vegetables; limejuice in abundance, grain
of cochlearia, sorrel and cress; 300 gallons of rum
and brandy. The powder-magazines contained a great
quantity of powder, bullets, and lead; there was coal
The Ice Desert.
and wood in abundance. The doctor took especial care
of the mathematical instruments, and a large pile
of Bunsen that had been taken for electrical experi-
ments. The provisions were sufficient to last five men
two years on full rations. All fear of death from cold
or hunger had vanished.
"Now our needs are provided for," said the doctor
to the captain, there is nothing to prevent your push-
ing on to the Pole."
"To the Pole ?" repeated Hatteras, starting.
"Certainly," continued the doctor; "during the
summer months what will prevent you taking a recon-
noitring party across the land ?"
"Across the land, yes; but across the sea?"
"Can't we build a boat with the planks of the
An American boat, you mean," said Hatteras, sneer-
ing, commanded by that American."
The doctor understood the motive of the captain's
repugnance, and let the subject drop.
Now that we know what provisions we have," he
continued, "we must build storehouses for them, and
a house for us. There are plenty of materials, and we
can easily make ourselves comfortable. I hope, Bell,"
added the doctor, and addressing the carpenter, that
you mean to distinguish yourself; besides, I can give
you a little good advice."
I am ready, Mr. Clawbonny," answered Bell; if
necessary, I could build a whole town with these blocks
Oh! we don't want so much; we must take pattern
from the agents of the Hudson Bay Company; they
built forts which sheltered them from animals and
The Ice Desert.
Indians, and that is all we want. On one side we must
build the house, and the magazines on the other with a
sort of awning and two bastions to cover us. I will
try to remember what I know about castrametation."
"I've no doubt we shall make something handsome
under your direction," said Johnson.
"We must first go and choose the site," said the
doctor. "Shall you come with us, Hatteras ?"
"I leave it to you, doctor," answered the captain.
" While you are away I mean to climb the hill."
Altamont was still too weak to take any share in
the work, and was left on board his ship while the
Englishmen set foot on the continent. The weather
was stormy and thick; at noon the thermometer marked
110 below zero; but in the absence of wind the tem-
perature was bearable.
According to the situation of the coast, a large
frozen sea seemed to extend westward as far as the eye
could reach; it was bounded on the east by a rounded
coast, cut up by deep estuaries, and rising suddenly at
about 200 yards from the beach; it formed thus a vast
bay, bristling with the dangerous rocks on which the
Porpoise had been wrecked; in the distance rose a
mountain which the doctor estimated 500 feet high.
Towards the north a promontory ran into the sea after
having covered a part of the bay. A small island
emerged from the ice-field at about three miles from
the coast, so that had it not been for the difficulty of
entering the roadstead, it would have formed a safe
and sheltered anchorage. There was also in a bend of
the coast a little port of easy access to ships if ever the
thaw cleared that part of the Arctic Ocean. However,
according to Belcher and Penny, all that sea is open
The fee Desert.
during the summer months. On the side of a hill
the doctor remarked a sort of circular table-land of
about 200 feet in diameter; it overlooked the bay on
three of its sides, and the fourth was closed in by a
wall with a high peak; it could only be reached by
iteps cut out of the ice. This place seemed fit to build
. solid construction upon, and might easily be fortified;
Nature had prepared the ground; all that was now
accessary was to profit by her work.
The doctor, Bell, and Johnson reached this table-land
by cutting away blocks of ice with their axes; they
found it perfectly level. The doctor, after having
assured himself of the excellence of the site, resolved
to clear away the ten feet of frozen snow which covered
it; he was obliged to establish his habitation and
magazines on a solid foundation. They worked hard
all day Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; at last the
soil appeared; it was formed of a very hard and close-
grained granite, and its asperities were as sharp as
glass; their pickaxes sent out masses of feldspar,
crystals, and garnets.
The doctor then gave the dimensions for the snow-
house; it was to be about 40 feet long, 20 wide, and
10 high; to be divided into three rooms, a parlour, a
bedroom, and a kitchen. The kitchen was on the left,
the bedroom on the right, and the parlour in the
middle. For five days they worked assiduously. They
had plenty of materials; the ice-walls were obliged to
be made thick enough to resist the thaws, for it would
not have done to risk finding themselves shelterless
even in summer. As the house rose it began to have a
good shape; it had four front windows, two for the
parlour, one for the kitchen, and one for the bedroont
The Ice Desert.
instead of glass they were made of handsome slabs of
ice, according to Esquimaux fashion, and the light that
came through them was as soft as that from cut glass.
In front of the parlour, between the two windows,
was a long covered passage that gave access to the
nouse; a solid door was taken from a cabin in the
Porpoise, and closed it hermetically. When the house
was finished, the doctor was enchanted with his work;
it would have been difficult to state to what sort of
architecture it belonged, though the doctor would have
preferred the Gothic Anglo-Saxon, but solidity was the
principal object; the doctor confined himself to placing
strong buttresses against the front, and a steep roof
sloped down from the granite wall. The stove chim-
neys ran up against the wall too. When the house was
finished they took care to make it comfortable inside.
They transported the beds from the Porpoise into the
bedroom, and placed them in a circle round a vast
stove. Forms, chairs, armchairs, tables, and cupboards
were placed in the parlour, which also served as dining.
room; lastly, they put the ranges from the ship in the
kitchen with all the cooking utensils. Sails were
spread on the floor and served for carpets; they were
also hung in the doorways where there were no doors.
The walls of the house were about five feet thick,
and the embrasures of the windows looked like loop-
All this was extremely solid; what more did they
want? The doctor let his fancy run wild on all the
superb things that might have been done with the ice,
and amused his companions by describing them whila
they worked. Besides, he had read Kraft's description
of the ice-house built at St. Petersburg in January,
The Ice Desert
1740, and of all it contained. One evening he told his
companions all about this marvel.
We could do all they did at St. Petersburg," he
said to them; "we have everything they had, even the
"It was very fine, then ?" asked Johnson.
"It was fairylike. The house was constructed by
order of the Empress Anne, and she ordered it for the
wedding of one of her buffoons in 1740; it was about as
large as ours, but along the front six ice-cannons were
placed; they were often fired with powder and bullets,
but they did not burst; there were mortars cut out for
601b. shells, so here we could make formidable artillery ;
the metal is n, far off, and falls from the sky. But the
most curious part was the palace front, which was orna-
mented with beautiful ice-statues; all along the terrace
steps were vases of flowers and orange-trees, all cut
from ice; on the right was an enormous elephant, from
whose trunk flowed water all day and burning naphtha
all night. We could make a perfect menagerie
"Oh, as to animals," answered Johnson, "we shall
get plenty, and they'll be none the worse for not being
made of ice."
"Well," said the warlike doctor, "we can easily
defend ourselves against their attacks; but to go back
to my ice-house. In the interior there were tables,
toilettes, mirrors, candelabra, candlesticks, beds,
mattresses, pillows, curtains, clocks, chairs, playing-
cards, cupboards, complete services, all of chiselled
"It was a real palace, then ?" said Bell.
Yes, a splendid palace, worthy of a sovereign.
The Ice Desert.
What a good thing ice is, especially to make poor ship-
wrecked fellows comfortable !"
The furnishing of the house took till March 31st; it
was Easter Sunday, and was consecrated to rest; they
passed it in the parlour, where divine service was read,
and they all appreciated the comforts of their snow.
house. The next day they began to build their store-
houses and powder-magazine; it took about a week,
including the removal of the things from the Porpoise;
it was difficult work, for the temperature was too low
to allow them to work long at a time. At last, on
April 8th, the provisions, fuel, and ammunition were
on terra firma and safely sheltered; the storehouses
were situated to the north, and the powder-magazines
to the south, of the table-land, about 60 feet from each
end of the house; a sort of kennel was built near the
storehouses for the Greenland dogs, and the doctor
bestowed on it the title of the dog palace." Dick
shared the common dwelling. Then the doctor set
about the means of fortifying the place. Under his
direction the table-land was surrounded by an ice
fortification, which protected it against any chance of
invasion. While the doctor was constructing his forts
he reminded one of Sterne's Uncle Toby, whose sweet
temper and kindly disposition were his also. The work
was so easy in the soft snow that the doctor was able to
make his wall seven feet thick; as the table-land over-
looked the bay he had no counterscarp, slope, or glacis to
buid on the outside; the snow parapet started from
the rock on either side the house, and wound round the
table-land. These castrametation works were finished
about April 15th, and the doctor seemed very proud of
his work. If a tribe of Esquimaux )ad attacked the
The Ice Desert.
place it would have held out for a long time, but
to such enemies were to be feared under such a
latitude; when Hatteras went to observe the con-
figuration of the bay, he never met with the slightest
appearance of Greenland tribes. The shipwrecked
crews of the Porpoise and the Forward seemed to have
been the first to tread these unknown regions. But
though they had nothing to fear from men, the
animals might be formidable, and the fortress, thus
defended, would guarantee the little garrison from
A DISCUSSION ABOUT MAPS.
URING these preparations for wintering,
Altamont had recovered health and
strength; he could even be employed
in discharging the ship. His vigorous
constitution had saved him, and he
became once more the robust and nervous citizen of the
United States; he was again an energetic and intelli-
gent man, endowed with a resolute character. An
American, bold and adventurous, ready for anything,
he was a native of New York, and had navigated from
childhood, as he told his new companions; his ship,
the Porpoise, had been equipped and sent to sea by a
society of rich merchants of the Union, at the head of
whom was the famous Mr. Grinnel. He and Hatteras
were alike in many things, but they were not sympa-
thetic. The American talked a great deal more than
Hatteras, but did not seem so sincere. The English-
The Ice Desert.
man said his say once and for all, and then was silent;
the other often talked a great deal and said nothing.
The doctor formed his opinion of the American's
character, and foresaw that the two captains would not
However, there were two commanders, and only one
could be obeyed. Hatteras had the right of priority
and force over Altamont; but it must not be forgotten
that the American was on his own ship. By policy or
instinct Altamont felt himself drawn towards the doctor;
he owed him his life, but he felt more friendship than
gratitude towards the worthy man. Clawbonny's cha-
racter had the same effect on everybody; friends grew
up around him like corn in the sun. Some people are
said to get up at five in the morning to make enemies;
the doctor would have got up at four without succeeding.
However, the doctor tried to profit by Altamont's
friendship to know the true aim of his expedition into
the Polar Seas. But the American beat about the bush,
and talked as usual about the North-West passage.
The doctor suspected that it had another motive, the
very one thUt Hatteras feared; He resolved never to
broach the subject before the two adversaries, but he
could not always prevent it cropping up. What he
feared happened at last. When the house was finished
the doctor resolved to inaugurate it by a splendid feast;
he wanted to make their life seem a little more Euro-
pean. Bell had happened to kill some ptarmigans and
a white hare, the first messenger of spring.
This feast took place on the 14th of April; the
weather was very fine and dry, but the cold could not
penetrate into the snow-house, and the fires burnt
merrily in the stoves. They dined well; the fresh meat
The Ice Desert.
made an agreeable change after pemmican and salted
meat; a marvellous pudding that the doctor had made
himself was encored, every one asked for more; the
learned chief, apron round waist, and knife at the belt,
would not have dishonoured the butchers of the Lord
High Chancellor of England.
At dessert spirits made their appearance. The Ameri-
can was not a teetotaler, and the four Englishmen were
no longer obliged to be so, and there was no reason for
refusing a glass of gin or brandy; the doctor, there-
fore, prescribed a series of toasts. When the Union
was proposed, Hatteras remained silent. It was then
that the doctor asked the following-
"Now that we have overcome icebergs, ice-fields, and
straits, and have got this far, there is something else
to be done. I propose we give names to this hospitable
land, where we have found salvation and rest; all the
navigators in the world have been in the habit of
naming the places they discover; it is our turn now to
take back, with the hydrographic configuration of the
coasts, the names of its capes, bays, points, and pro-
That's well said," cried Johnson; besides, when
we can call all these lands by their names we shall be
more comfortable, and not be always thinking we are
abandoned on an unknown continent."
"Besides," added Bell, it will be easier to give and
execute orders when we can call places by their names ;
we may be lost or forced to separate in some expedi-
tion, and there's nothing like knowing the name of a
place when we want to get to it."
"Well," said the doctor, as we are all agreed, let us
begin, and not forget our country or friends. When I
The lce Desert.
look at a map nothing gives me greater pleasure than
seeing the name of a countryman at the end of a
cape, a coast, or an island, or in the midst of a sea.
It is like a charming intervention of friendship into
"You are right, doctor," answered the American;
" and the way you put things makes them more worth
"Well," answered the doctor, "let us begin at the
Hatteras had not yet taken part in the conversation;
he was thinking. However, as he saw all his com-
panions looking at him, he rose, and said-
Unless there is any better opinion, and I think no
one here will contradict me"-here Hatteras looked at
Altamont-" it seems to me that we ought to give to our
habitation the name of its clever architect, of the best
man amongst us, and call it Doctor's House.'"
That's it!" said Bell.
"The best name possible!" said Johnson.
There could not be a better !" answered Altamont.
"Three cheers for Dr. Clawbonny !"
The doctor's health was drunk with three times three,
and Dick barked in concert.
"We must give the doctor's name to the house till
we can give it to some new land," said Hatteras.
"Ah!" said old Johnson, "if the terrestrial Paradise
wanted a name, Dr. Clawbonny's would do for it mar-
The doctor wished to prevent them bestowing the
honour upon him, but they insisted merrily that their
dinner was being eaten in the doctor's parlour, and had
been cooked in the doctor's kitchen, and they were all
The Ice Desert.
going gaily to sleep in the bedroom of the doctor's
"Now," said the doctor, "let us pass to the more
important points of our discoveries."
There is the immense sea which surrounds as, and
which no ship has yet ploughed."
"No ship?" exclaimed Altamont. "What do you
call the Porpoise, then ? Perhaps you think she came
Any one might think so to see her on those rocks,"
"That's as good as being blown up into the air,
any way," answered Altamont.
"Hatteras was going to reply quickly, when the
We were not talking about ships, but about a new
sea," he said.
"It is not new," answered Altamont; "its name
is on all the maps. It is called the North Sea, and
I don't see any use in changing its name unless it
turns out to be a strait or a gulf; then we can decide
"Very well," said Hatteras.
"Now that's agreed upon," said the doctor, almost
sorry at having raised the question.
Now about the land we are on," continued Hatteras,
"I think its name is not even on the most recent
He looked at Altamont as he spoke. The American
lowered his eyes and answered-
"You are mistakeL again, Hatteras; it has a name
Hatteras was silent; his lips trembled.
The Ice Desert.
"And w'.at is its name ?" asked the doctor, rather
astonished at the American's affirmation.
It seems to me, doctor, that every one has the right
to name the land he is the first to discover. I certainly
had the right- "
But- said Johnson, who did not like the cool-
ness of the American.
"No one can pretend that the Porpoise has not been
on this coast, even admitting that she came by land,"
said Altamont, looking at Hatteras.
"I don't allow that you have the right to name it
under the circumstances. You did not discover it, I
presume. Besides, what right have you to impose your
conditions, when, but for us, you would be twenty feet
And but for me and my ship," replied the American
quickly, "where should you be now? Dead of cold and
Come," said the doctor, trying to make peace, "be
calm, I beg of you; there's a way of arranging every-
thing. Listen to me."
Mr. Hatteras may name all the other lands he dis.
covers," said Altamont, "but this continent belongs
to me. I will not even let it bear two names like
Grinnell Land, which is called Prince Albert's Land too,
because an American and an Englishman discovered it
at the same time. Here it is different; my rights of
priority are incontestable. No ship, before mine, has
ever touched here. No human being, before me, has
ever set foot on this continent; therefore I gave it a
name, and it will keep it."
What is the name ?" asked the doctor.
"New America," answered Altamont.
The Ice Desert.
Hatteras's fingers clenched on the table, but he madly
a violent effort, and contained his anger.
Can you prove that an Englishman put foot on thii
soil before an American ?" continued Altamont.
Johnson and Bell said nothing, though they were not
less irritated than their captain by Altamont's manner
But they had nothing to answer. The doctor spoke
again after a few minutes of painful silence.
My friends," said he, "the first of all human law-
is the law of justice; all others are contained in it.
Let us be just. The priority of Altamont seems indis-
putable to me. We cannot deny it. That won't
prevent England making further discoveries. Let us
leave the name of New America to this continent. I
suppose when Altamont named it he did not give any
names to its bays, capes, and headlands, and I don't see
why we should not call the bay 'Victoria Bay.' "
"Nor I," added Altamont, "provided we call the
cape yonder 'Washington Cape.'"
"You might have chosen a name less offensive to
English ears, sir," cried Hatteras in a rage.
"But not one dearer to American ears," answered
"Come, come!" said the doctor, who had begun
to have hard work to keep the peace. "Let every
country honour its great men, whether they be American
or English. Now Altamont has chosen his, let us
choose ours. If our captain- "
"Doctor," interrupted Hatteras, "as the land is
American, I do not desire my name to be associated
"Is your decision irrevocable P" asked the doctor.
"Quite." answered Hatteras.
The Ice Desert.
The doctor did not insist.
"Well," said he, addressing the old sailor and the
carpenter, "we at least can leave some trace of our
passage here. I propose to call the island that we see
three miles out 'Johnson Island' in honour of oul
"Oh, Mr. Clawbonny !" said Johnson, rather confused
"And that mountain to the west we will call Bell
Mount, if our carpenter consents."
"It is too much honour for me," answered Bell.
"It is only justice," said the doctor.
"Nothing could be better," said Altamont.
"Now we have to christen our fort," continued the
doctor, and we shall have no disagreement about that;
it is neither to our Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria nor
to Washington that we owe our present shelter, but to
God, who, by bringing us together, has saved us all.
Let us call it' Fort Providence.'"
"An excellent name," said Altamont.
"Fort Providence," repeated Johnson; that sounds
well! When we come back from our excursions to the
North, we shall pass Cape Washington to get to Victoria
Bay, from there to Fort Providence, where we shall find
rest and shelter in Doctor's House."
"That's settled, then," said the doctor. Later on, as
we make further discoveries, we shall have other names
to give which I hope will cause no disagreement; for
here, my friends, we must help and love each other;
we represent humanity on this bit of coast. Do not let
us give ourselves up to the detestable passions which
plague society; let us be united so as to be strong and
unshaken in adversity. Who knows what dangers
Heavenb has still in store for us before we get bad? to our
The Ice Desert.
country? Let us be five in one, and lay aside rivalries
without cause. You hear me, Altamont? And you,
The two men did not answer, but the doctor did as
though they had. Then they changed the subject, and
talked about the various hunting parties that were to
be organised to renew and vary their provisions of
meat; with the spring, hares, partridges, foxes, and
even bears, would return; they resolved to take the first
favourable day to send a party to reconnoitre New
EXCURSION TO THE NORTH OF VICTORIA BAY.
HE next day, at sunrise, the doctor climbed
the steep granite wall of rocks against
which Doctor's House was built; it ended
abruptly in a sort of cone. He reached
the summit, and from there his view
extended over a vast extent of irregular space,
which seemed to be formed by some volcanic shock;
an immense white sheet covered the land and sea, so
that it was impossible to distinguish one from the
other. When the doctor found out that this was the
highest poiLt in the neighbourhood he had an idea
at which any one that knew him would not have been
surprised. He thought of it as he went down, and had
made himself master of it when he re-entered the snow-
ho-ie, and told his companions about it.
have just thought that we might place a light.
The Ice Desert. 71
house on the top of the cone above our heads," he
said to them.
A lighthouse ?" they cried.
Yes; it would be doubly useful; it would guide
us at night when we come back from our distant excur-
sions, and would light up our table-land during the
"It would certainly be very useful," said Altamont;
"but how shall you manage it ?"
"With one of the Porpoise's lanterns."
Granted; but what shall you feed it with P Are
you going to use seal-oil ?"
"No; it would not give light enough, it would
scarcely pierce through the fog."
Shall you make us some gas out of our coal P"
"No, that light wouldn't be strong enough either,
and it would waste our coal."
"Then," said Altamont, "I don't see----"
"As for me," answered Johnson, since the mercury
bullet, the ice-lens, and the building of Fort Provi-
dence, I believe Mr. Clawbonny capable of anything."
Well," continued Altamont, "what sort of a light-
house do you mean to use?"
An electric one, that's all."
What do you mean ?"
"What I say; have you not a pile of Bunsen in
perfect condition on board the Porpoise ?"
Yes," answered the American.
I suppose you took it to make some experiments
with, for it is all complete, the conducting wires and
acids and everything necessary to set it going. We
can easily get light from that. We shall see better, and
it won't cost anything."
The Ice Desert.
"That will be splendid 1" cried Johnson, "and the
less time we lose- "
"Well, the materials are there, and it will only take
us an hour to raise a column of ice ten feet high; that
will be quite enough."
The doctor went out, and his companions followed
him to the summit of the cone; the column was soon
built, and crowned by one of the ship's lanterns.
Then the doctor placed the conducting wires to the
pile, which he put in the snow-house to keep it from
freezing by the heat of the stoves. From thence the
wires went up to the lantern of the lighthouse. It was
soon done, and they waited for sunset to see the effect.
At night two pieces of coal, placed at a proper distance
from each other in the lantern, were brought together,
and an intense light, which the wind could neither
moderate nor extinguish, sprang out from the lantern.
It was marvellous to see the light rivalling the white-
ness of the plains, and throwing shadows of all the
surrounding projections. Johnson clapped his hands.
"Mr. Clawbonny makes sunshine now," he said.
"One must know how to do a little of everything,"
said the doctor modestly.
The cold put an end to the general admiration, and
they all went and covered themselves up in their
After that their life was regularly organised. During
the following days-from the 15th to the 20th of April-
the weather was very uncertain; the temperature went
down twenty degrees all at once, and sometimes it
snowed in gusts, sometimes the wind was so cold and
dry that it was impossible to move out. However, on
ihe Saturday the wind fell, and made an exeurxion
The Ice Desert.
possible; they resolved, therefore, to give up that day
to hunting in order to renew their provisions. At day-
break, Altamont, the doctor, and Bell, each armed with
a double-barrelled gun, with sufficient ammunition, an
axe, and a snow-knife in case a shelter might become
necessary, set out under a clouded sky. During their
absence Hatteras was to reconnoitre the coast. The
doctor took care to set the lighthouse going; its rays
quite rivalled those of the sun, for electric light; which
is equal to that of 3,000 wax candles, or 300 jets of gas,
is the only one that can bear any comparison with that
of the sun. The air was cold, dry, and quiet. The
sportsmen made for Cape Washington; the frozen snow
was easy to walk upon. In half-an-hour they had
accomplished the three miles which lie between the
Cape and Fort Providence. Dick accompanied them.
The coast got lower towards the east, and the high
summits of Victoria Bay were lower on the north.
That made the doctor think that New America might
only be an island after all, but then there was no
question of determining its configuration. The sports-
men went along the sea-coast, and soon got over the
ground. They found no traces of habitation, not even
a hut. They made thus about 15 miles during the
first three hours, eating whilst marching; but their
hunt threatened to be without result. They scarcely
saw the trace of a hare, a fox, or a wolf. However, a
few snow-birds fluttering about announced the return-
ing spring, and with it that of the Arctic animals.
The three companions had been obliged to go down
inland to get round rocky peaks and deep ravines
which were connected with Bell Mount, but after a short
delay they regained the coast; the ice-blocks were not
The lee Desert.
yet separated. Far from that, the sea was as frozen as
ever; ho wver, traces of seals announced the first visits
of these amphibians to the surface of the ice-field. It
was evident from ihe large footmarks and recent break-
ing of the ice that several of them had been recently
on land. These animals are very fond of the sun's
rays, and they stretch themselves on the coast to lie in
their beneficent heat. The doctor pointed out the fact
to his companions.
Let us notice this place carefully," he said; "it is
very possible that when once the summer is come we
shall find seals here by the hundred; they are easy to
get at in these unfrequented regions. But we must
take care not to frighten them, or they will disappear
as if by magic to return no more; awkward fishermen
have often attacked them in a mass with loud shouts
and cries, and have often lost their cargoes by so doing."
"Are they only hunted for their skins and oil ?"
"By Europeans, yes; but the Esquimaux eat them;
they live on them, and the pieces of seal, which they
mix with blood and grease, are not very appetising.
But, after all, there's a way of doing it, and I engage
to cut a few fine cutlets which, if you can once get
accustomed to the colour, you won't disdain."
"Well, I'll engage to eat seal-flesh as much as you
like, Mr. Clawbonny," answered Bell.
"You mean as much as you like, Bell. But you
would never equal the voracity of a Greenlander, who
consumes from ten to fifteen pounds of seal-flesh a
"Fifteen pounds!" cried Bell. "What stomacbsl"
"Polar stomachs," answered the doctor-" prodigious
The Ice Desert.
stomachs which dilate at will, and, I may add, contract
the same, for they support scarcity as easily as abun-
dance. At the beginning of his dinner an Es uimaux
is thin; at the end of it he is fat and hardly recog-
nisable. It is true that his dinner often lasts all
Evidently," said Altamont, such voracity is pecu-
liar to the inhabitants of cold countries."
"I believe it is," answered the doctor; "in the
Arctic regions you must eat a great deal; it is one of
the conditions not only of strength but of existence.
The Hudson Bay Company gives every man eight
pounds of meat, twelve pounds of fish, or two pounds
of pemmican a day."
"Enough, I should think," said Bell.
"It is not so much as any one might suppose, and
an Indian stuffed like that wouldn't-do as much work
as an Englishman fed on his pound of beef and pint
Then, Mr. Clawbonny, everything is for the best."
Certainly; but still an Esquimaux meal may well
astonish us. When Sir John Ross was in Boothia Land
he was always astonished at the voracity of his guides;
he relates somewhere that two men-two, you hear-
devoured in one day a quarter of an ox; they cut
the meat into long strips, which they put in their
throats; they cut off a piece close to their lips, and,
their mouths full, passed it to their companions. Well,
these gluttons swallowed pieces of meat that hung
to the ground till they had all disappeared little by
little; they ate like boa-constrictors, full length on the
Ha!" cried Bell, what disgusting brutes !"
The Ice Desert.
"Every one has his own way of dining," said the
Happily," replied the doctor.
Well," said Altamont, as the question of eating
is so important in these latitudes, I am not astonished
that they are always talking about it in accounts of
Yes," said the doctor, I have noticed that too;
it is not only because they are obliged to have so much
food, but also because it is so difficult to procure."
However," said Altamont, in the coldest parts of
Norway the peasants don't require to eat so much;
some milk, eggs, and birch-bark bread, sometimes some
salmon, never any meat, and yet they are pretty
"That is a question of constitution," observed the
doctor, "and I could explain it. However, I believe
that a second or third generation of Norwegian colo-
nists in Greenland would finish by eating like Green-
landers. Even we should end by living like the Green-
landers, and should become regular gluttons."
Mr. Clawbonny makes me feel quite hungry," said
"Not me," added Altamont; "it makes me feel
a horror of seal-flesh. Why, I believe we are going to
make the experience. Isn't that a seal yonder ?"
"It is a walrus," said the doctor. Hush !"
The large amphibian was about two hundred yards
from the sportsmen; he was rolling himself volup-
tuously in the pale rays of the sun. The three
separated, so as to shut in the animal and cut off his
retreat; they arrived thus at a few paces from him, and
hiding behind some hummocks they fired; the walrus
The Ice Desert.
turned over, still full of vigour; he crushed the blocks
of ice, and wanted to run away; but Altamont attacked
him with his axe, and succeeded in cutting off his
dorsal fins. The walrus made a desperate resistance,
but several more shots finished him, and he was
stretched lifeless on the ice-field, red with his blood.
It was a fine animal, and measured fifteen feet from the
extremity of its nose to its tail; it would certainly have
given several barrels of oil. The doctor cut off the
most savoury parts of the flesh, and left the rest to the
ravens, which at that season of the year were already to
Night began to draw in, and they thought of getting
back to Fort Providence; the sky had become quite
clear, and the stars shone out-waiting for the moon.
Come, let's go back," said the doctor; we haven't
done much to boast of, but as long as the hunter takes
home his supper he can't complain. We must take the
shortest way, and try not to lose ourselves. The stars
will guide us."
However, in these countries, where the Pole star is
above the travellers' heads, it is not so easy to be guided
by the stars; happily the moon and the great con-
stellations came to help the doctor to find the way.
To make it shorter, he resolved to cut across the
land instead of winding round the coast; it was more
direct but less sure, and after about half-an-hour's
walking the little troop was completely lost. They
debated about whether they had not better build a
snow-house, and wait for daybreak; but the doctor
feared that Hatteras and Johnson would be uneasy,
and insisted upon going on.
"Dick is guiding us," he said, "and he is sure to
The Ice Desert.
know the way; his instinct is surer than a mariner's
compass. Let us follow him."
Dick went on, and they followed him. Soon a light
appeared on the horizon; it could not be mistaken for
, star as it shone through the low mists.
"There is our lighthouse," said the doctor.
"Do you think it is, Mr. Clawbonny ?" said the
"I am sure it is. Come along."
As the travellers advanced the light became more
intense, and they were soon enveloped in its rays. It
threw gigantic shadows behind them on to the carpet
of snow. They quickened their pace, and half-an-hour
after they were climbing up the declivity of Fort
COLD AND HEAT.
ATTERAS and Johnson were anxiously
expecting the sportsmen, and they were
delighted to get back to their comfort-
able dwelling. The temperature had
singularly lowered during the evening,
and the outside thermometer marked 730 below zero.
The sportsmen were quite worn out and almost frozen;
happily there was a good fire in each stove, and they
were ready to cook the produce of the hunt; the doctor
transformed himself into a cook and grilled some
walrus cutlets. At nine o'clock the five men sat down
to a comfortable supper.
The Ice Desert.
Although I shall risk passing for an Esquimaux, I
must say that meals are the principal things in a
Each of the guests had his mouth too full to
answer the carpenter immediately. The doctor nodded
his assent. The walrus cutlets were declared excellent,
and they were all eaten, which was the best proof. At
dessert the doctor prepared his coffee as usual; he let
no one else have a hand in it; he made it on the table
with a spirit-lamp, and poured it out boiling. He
drank it so hot himself that Altamont said to him-
You will set fire to yourself, doctor."
There is no danger," answered the doctor.
Your palate must be lined with brass," said
I drink my coffee at a temperature of 130," said
the doctor, "and I engage you to do the same."
A hundred and thirty degrees!" cried Altamont;
"but no one could bear their hands in liquid at that
That is evident, for the hand can only bear 1220 in
water; but the palate and the tongue are not so
sensitive as the hand, and can bear greater heat."
You astonish me," said Altamont.
Well, I'll soon convince you." And the doctor,
taking the thermometer of the sitting-room, plunged it
into his boiling coffee; he waited till the instrument
marked 1300 only, and then drank his coffee with
Bell tried to imitate him, but burnt himself in the
"It is because you are not used to it," said the
The Ice Desert.
Can you tell us the highest temperatures that the
human body can bear?" asked Altamont of the
There are some very curious facts on the subject,"
answered the doctor. I remember one or two that
will prove to you that we can get used to anything,
even to not being roasted in an atmosphere that would
roast a beefsteak. It is related that servant-girls at
the common oven of the town of La Rochefoucauld, in
France, could remain ten minutes in the oven in a
temperature of 3000-that is to say, 890 higher than
boiling water-whilst apples and meat were cooking
"What women !" cried Altamont.
"Another example which cannot be doubted is that
of nine of our countrymen, in 1774, Fordyce, Banks,
Solander, Blagdon, Home, North, Lord Seaforth, and
Captain Philips, who supported an atmosphere of
2950 whilst eggs and roast beef were cooking round
"And they were English!" said Bell, proud of his
Oh, Americans would have done better than that."
"They would have been roasted," said the doctor,
"Why not ?" answered the American.
SAny way, they have not tried it, so I keep to my
countrymen. I have heard of a case which would be
quite incredible if we could doubt the veracity of the
witnesses. The Duke of Raguse and Dr. Jung, a
Frenchman and an Austrian, saw a Turk plunge into a
bath which marked 170."
But it seems to me," said Johnson, that he was
ThIe re Desert.
not so extraordinary as the servants of the common
oven or our countrymen."
There is a great difference between plunging into
hot air or hot water; hot air causes perspiration, which
preserves the flesh from heat, but in hot water we do
not perspire, and it scalds us. The extreme limit of
heat for a bath is generally fixed at 1070. The Turk must
have been an extraordinary man to bear such a heat."
I am sure that Mr. Altamont will say an American
could have done as much," said Johnson, laughing.
There is little difference between men of different
races when they are placed in the same circumstances,"
said the doctor, "whatever food they eat; and what is
more, the temperature of the human body is about the
same at the Equator as at the Pole."
"Do you mean to say that our natural heat is the
same here as in England ?"
"There is little difference," answered the doctor;
"as to the other mammalia, their temperature is gene-
rally higher than that of man. The horse's natural
heat is about the same, so is that of the hare, elephant,
porpoise, and tiger; but cats, squirrels, rats, panthers,
sheep, oxen, dogs, monkeys, bucks, and goats; attain
1030; and, lastly, the most favoured of all, pigs, sur-
It is humiliating for us," said Altamont.
"The amphibians come next, and fish; their tem-
perature varies much according to the water. A
serpent has scarcely 860, a frog 700, and a shark a degree
and a half lower; insects appear to have the same
temperature as water and air."
"All that is vevy fine and good. to know," said
Hatteras, who had not spoken before, "but we talk as
The Ice Desert.
though we had tropical heat to brave. Would it not
be more opportune to talk about the cold, to know what
we are liable to be exposed to, and what have been the
lowest temperatures known up till now?"
"The captain is right," said Johnson.
"There have been a great number of memorable
winters -' Europe." eid the doctor; "it seems as if
the more rigorous were destined to return periodically
about every forty years, which epoch coincides with the
greatest apparition of the sun's spots. In the winter
of 1364 the Rhine was frozen up to Aries; in 1408 the
Danube was frozen the whole length of its course, and
the wolves crossed the Cattegat dry-shod; the Adriatic
and the Mediterranean were frozen at Venice, Cette,
and Marseilles in 1509, and the Baltic was still frozen
on the 10th of April; in 1608 all the cattle perished
in England; in 1789 the Thames was frozen to Graves-
end; the French have a terrible remembrance of the
winter of 1813; lastly, 1829 was the earliest and
longest winter of the nineteenth century. So much for
"But here, in the Polar circle, what degree of tem.
perature is the most we are exposed to?" asked
I believe that we have experienced the greatest cold
that has ever been observed," answered the doctor.
" the alcohol thermometer registered one day 720 below
zero, and, if I remember rightly, the lowest tempera-
tures met with by Arctic travellers have been 610 at
Melville Island, 650 at Port Felix, and 700 at Fort
Yes," said Hatteras, this terrible winter has spoiled
all, and stopped my plans."
The Ice Desert.
"You were stopped by it F" said Altamont, looking
fi edly at the captain.
"Yes, in our voyage westward," the doctor made
haste to answer.
Then," said Altamont, returning to the conversation,
'the maximum and minimum of temperatures in which
man can live are separated by about two hundred
Yes," answered the doctor; a thermometer ex-
posed to the open air, and sheltered from all reverbera-
tion, never registers more than 1350 above zero, and in
the. greatest cold it never descends below 72. So, you
see, we can make ourselves comfortable."
"But," said Johnson, suppose the sun was to go
out suddenly, would not the earth go much colder."
The sun won't go out," answered the doctor; "but
if it did the temperature would not go lower than the
point I have indicated. A French savant, Fourrier,
has proved that if the earth was placed in an atmo-
sphere deprived of all heat, the intensity of cold at the
Pole would be considerably more than we have expe-
rienced, and that there would be a formidable difference
of temperature between day and night.
"Is not the temperature of America lower than that
of any other country in the world, doctor?" asked
"Yes, and even an American cannot be proud of
that," answered the doctor, laughing.
"How is that explained ?"
"Explanations have been given, but they are not
satisfactory. Halley thought that a comet had once
come into oblique contact with the earth, and changed
the position of her axis of rotation-that is to say, of
The Ice Desert.
her Poles; he thought that the North Pole was formerly
situated in Hudson's Bay, and was, by the shock,
carried farther east, and the countries of the ancient
Pole, frozen for so long, kept colder, and that long
centuries of sunshine have not yet warmed them."
"Do you admit that theory ?"
Not for an instant, for the western side of America
has a much higher temperature than the eastern. The
only explanation is that there are isotherm lines differ-
ing from the terrestrial parallels."
"I like hearing you talk about the cold in our present
circumstances," said Johnson to the doctor.
"Yes, we can bring practice to the help of theory.
These countries are a vast laboratory where experiments
may be made on low temperatures; only always be on
your guard. If any part of your body freezes, rub it
immediately with snow to restore the circulation of the
blood; if you come near the fire take care, for you may
burn your hands or feet without perceiving it; that
would necessitate amputation, and we must try to leave
no part of ourselves in these boreal countries. And
now, my friends, I think we had better recruit our
strength by going to bed and to sleep. Who guards
the stove ?"
"I do," answered Bell.
"Well, take care not to let the fire get lower, for it
is wretchedly cold to-night."
Never fear, Mr. Clawbonny; it is too cold to forget
the fire; but see, the sky doesn't look cold!"
"What a magnificent aurora borealis said the
doctor, going to the window.
He was never tired of contemplating these cosmic
phenomena, to which his companions now paid little
The Ice Desert.
attention; he had remarked that their apparition always
preceded perturbations of the magnetic needle, and he
prepared observations on this subject for his Weather
Book." Soon, while Bell watched near the stove, they
were all sleeping the sleep of the just.
THE PLEASURES OP WINTERING.
IFE at the Pole is uniformly monotonous.
Man is entirely at the mercy of the caprices
of the atmosphere, and the greater part
of the time it is impossible to go out.
Long months pass thus while the winterers
have only a mole's existence.
The next day the thermometer sank a few degrees,
and eddies of snow absorbed all the daylight. The
doctor saw that he was nailed to the house, with nothing
to do except to clear the entrance lobby every hour and
repolish the ice-walls, which the heat of the interior
made damp; but the snow-house was built with extreme
solidity, and the snow made it still more so by adding to
the thickness of the walls. The stores were equally
weatherproof. All the objects taken from the ship had
been placed in the greatest order in these "merchant
docks," as the doctor called them. Although these
storehouses were only situated at sixty feet from
the house, when there was a drift it was impossible to
go to them, so that a certain quantity of provisions ha,1
to be kept in the kitchen for daily use.
The precaution of unloading the Porpoise had
The Ice Desert.
been opportune. The ship was subjected to a
slow but irresistible pressure, which crushed her
little by little; it was evident that nothing could
be done with her pieces. However, the doctor hoped
to be able to make a long-boat out of her to get back to
England; but the moment was not come for beginning
to build one. For the greater part of the time the five
winterers were quite idle. Hatteras was always think.
ing, stretched upon his bed; Altamont drank or slept,
and the doctor took care to let them alone, for he was
in continual dread of a quarrel. These two men rarely
spoke to one another. During meals prudent Mr.
Clawbonny always took care to lead the conversation to
subjects that did not call out their self-love, but he had
a great deal to do to keep down the sensitiveness of the
two captains. He tried as much as possible to instruct,
interest, and amuse his companions; when he put his
travelling notes in order he told his companions about
the subjects of history, geography, or meteorology
which the situation suggested; he presented things to
their minds in a way at once philosophic and amusing,
taking care to let each incident teach a salutary lesson;
his inexhaustible memory never failed him ; he reminded
his auditors of the facts they had all witnessed, and
clinched his theories by personal arguments.
It may be said that this worthy man was the soul of
the little community, a soul from which radiated truth
and justice. His companions had absolute confidence
in him; even Hatteras was fond of him; he made the
existence of the five men, abandoned at six degrees from
the Pole, seem quite natural; when the doctor spoke
they could fancy themselves listening to him in his
study at Liverpool. It was, however, a very different
The Ice Desert.
situation from that of shipwrecked mariners thrown on
to the islands of the Pacific, Crusoes whose fascinat-
ing history almost always excites the reader's envy.
There a prodigal soil, an opulent Nature offer a thou-
sand varied resources; in those fine countries a little
intelligence and work procures all material necessities;
hunting and fishing suffices for all the needs of man;
trees grow for him, caverns open to shelter him, brooks
flow to satisfy his thirst; magnificent foliage shades
him from the heat of the sun, and the terrible cold
never threatens him in the mild winters. A single
seed thrown carelessly into the ground produced a
harvest a month later. Every pleasure that can be
tasted outside of society may be found there. Besides,
these charitable islands are on the highway of ships,
and the shipwrecked can always hope for deliverance,
and patiently wait for it.
But here on the coast of New America what a dif-
ference! The doctor often thought of the comparison,
but he kept it to himself; his greatest trouble was being
obliged to be idle. He ardently desired the return of
the thaw to begin his excursions again; but he felt
afraid as he looked forward to it, for he foresaw grave
altercations between Hatteras and Altainont. If ever
they got to the Pole, what would happen through the
rivalry of these two men ? He wanted to reconcile
them beforehand, but his task was difficult, for the one
was penetrated with insular arrogance, and the other
with the speculation, audacity, and conceit of his
nation. When the doctor thought of the implacable
competition of men, of their national rivalries, he did
not shrug his shoulders, but he grew sad over human
weakness. He often talked about it to Johnson; the
The Ice Desert.
old sailor and he were of the same opinion on the
matter; they deliberated on the best thing to do, and
foresaw many complications for the future. However,
the bad weather kept on; leaving Fort Providence,
even for an hour, was not to be dreamed of. They were
obliged to stay night and day in the snow-house.
Every one was dull but the doctor, who found means to
be busy about something.
Is there no means of amusing oneself?" said
Altamont one evening. It is not living to be shut
up all the winter like reptiles."
That is true," answered the doctor; "but, unfor-
tunately, we are not numerous enough to organise
any system of recreation."
Then you think that if we were more numerous we
should have less to do to fight against this idleness ?"
"Certainly, for complete crews have passed the
winter in these northern regions, and have found means
not to be dull."
Well, I should like to know how they managed it,"
said Altamont; they did not ask each other riddles, I
They had two great helps to recreation, the press
and a theatre."
"What! they had a newspaper!" said the American.
"They acted!" cried Bell.
Yes; and it amused them a good deal too. Cap-
tain Parry proposed these two ways of amusement to
his crew, and the proposition had an enormous success."
Well," said Johnson, "I wish I'd been there; it
must have been curious."
It was both curious and amusing, Johnson; Lieu-
tenant Beechey was made manager of the theatre,
The Ice Desert.
and Captain Sabine chief editor of the Winter
"A good title," said Altamont.
"The newspaper appeared every Monday, from
November 18th, 1819, till March 20th, 1820. It
reported all the incidents of wintering, the hunts,
general news, accidents, meteorology, temperature; it
registered jokes, more or less witty, and if it did not
contain the wit of Sterne nor the sensation articles of
the Daily Telegraph, it amused the crew; its readers
were easy to please, and the trade of journalist was
"I should like to see some extracts from that
gazette, doctor," said Altamont; "its articles must
have been frozen from the first till the last."
"No, they were not," answered the doctor; "they
would not have been appreciated by the Liverpool
Philosophical Society or the London Literary Institute,
but they were sufficient for crews buried beneath the
snow. Should you like to judge for yourselves ?"
"You don't mean to say you can remember-"
"No, but you had Parry's Voyages on board the
Porpoise, and if you like I can read you what he says."
Yes, do !" cried the doctor's companions.
The doctor fetched from the parlour cupboard the
work in question, and he soon found the passage he
"Here are some extracts from the Winter Chronicle.
It is a letter addressed to the editor":-
"We have all been greatly pleased with your pro-
position to establish a newspaper. I am convinced
that, under your management, it will procure us much
The Ice Desert.
amusement and will lighten the load of our hundred
days of darkness. The interest I take in it has made
me notice the effect produced by your announcement
upon our society, and I can assure you, to use the ex-
pression consecrated by the London press, 'it made a
profound sensation on the public.' The day after the
appearance of your prospectus the demand for ink was
quite unusual and without precedent. Our green table-
cloths were immediately covered with the cuttings of
quills, to the great detriment of one of our servants,
who ran one under his nail when he shook them. I
know also on good authority that Sergeant Martin has
had no less than nine penknives to sharpen. All our
tables are groaning under the unusual weight of writ-
ing-desks which had not seen daylight for at least two
months, and they say that the depths of the hold have
been opened several times to give issue to many reams
of paper that did not expect to be troubled in their
repose so soon. I must not forget to tell you that I
have some suspicion that several articles in no way
original will be put into your box. I can affirm that
not later than yesterday evening an author was seen
bending over his desk, holding open with one hand a
volume of the Spectator, whilst with the other he was
melting his frozen ink by the light of a lamp! I need
not recommend you to be on your guard against such
tricks; we must not let our Winter Chronicle contain
what our ancestors read at their breakfasts more than
a century ago."
Good," said Altamont, when the doctor had finished
reading; there is true humour in that, and the
yellow tha wrote it had his wits about him."
The Ice Desert. 91
"Yes," said the doctor; listen; here is something
"Wanted, a middle-aged woman of respectable
character to help to dress the ladies of the company of
the 'Theatre Royal' of Northern Georgia. She will
receive a good salary, and as much tea and beer as she
likes. Apply to the theatre committee. N.B.-A
"Our countrymen were not hard to please," said
"Did they get the widow?" asked Bell.
"I suppose so, for here is an answer addressed to the
"GENTLEMEN,-I am a widow, and I can-have the
highest references as to my morals and capabilities.
But before taking charge of the dress of the actresses
of your theatre, I want to know if they will keep their
breeches on, and if I can have the assistance of your
vigorous sailors to lace their stays tightly enough. In
that case you may rely on your servant,-A. B.
"P.S.-Could you not substitute brandy for small
"Bravo!" cried Altamont. "I can fancy the lady's-
maids lacing with the windlass. The companions of
Captain Parry were jolly fellows."
"Like all those who have attained their end,"
He threw this remark in the midst of the conver-
sation, and then fell again into his usual silence. The
doctor did not wish to discuss the subject, and made
haste to go on with his reading.
The Ice Desert.
"Here," said he, "is a picture of Arctic tribulations;
it might be varied infinitely, but some of the observa-
tions are just, as you will see" :-
"To go out in the morning to breathe the air, and
setting foot outside the vessel, to take a cold bath in
the cook's hole."
To set out for a hunting excursion, to approach a
superb reindeer, to take good aim, and when you try
to fire to find that the priming is damp."
To set out with a piece of bread in your pocket,
and when you get hungry to find it so hardened by the
frost that it may break your teeth but cannot be broken
"To leave the table in a hurry on learning that a
wolf is in sight, and on coming back to find that your
dinner has been eaten by the cat."
To come back from an excursion in profound and
useful meditation, and to be suddenly awakened by the
embraces of a bear."
You see, my friends," said the doctor, "we could
add to this list of Polar troubles, but when we are
obliged to submit to them it becomes a pleasure to
"Well, the Winter Chronicle is an amusing paper,
and I wish we could subscribe for it!"
"Suppose we try to establish one ?" said Johnson.
"We are scarcely numerous enough to be the
editorial staff," said the doctor, "and we should have
"And no spectators if we thought of acting,"
"Tell us about Captain Parry's theatre, Mr. Claw.
The Ice Desert. 93
bonny," said Johnson; did they produce new
"Yes; at first two volumes found on board the
Hecla were acted till the plays were quite worn out, as
representations took place every fortnight; then
authors set to to improvise, and Parry himself com-
posed a comedy for Christmas that had an immense
success; it was called The North-West Passage; or, The
End of the Voyage."
"A famous title," said Altamont; "but I acknow-
ledge that if I had the play to write I should not know
how to make it end."
You are right," said Bell; who knows how it will
all end ?"
"What is the good of thinking of the last act while
the first go well ? Let us leave it to Providence, my
friends. The end is in the hands of the Author of all
things; He will help us out of the difficulty."
"Let us go and dream about all that," answered
Johnson; "it is late, and I am sleepy."
"You are in a great hurry, old fellow," said the
"I like my bed, Mr. Clawbonny. I have good
dreams; I always dream about warm countries, so that
really I pass half my life under the Equator and the
other half at the Pole."
You have a happy constitution," said Altamont.
"Well," answered the doctor, "it would be cruel to
make poor Johnson wait. His tropical sun is waiting
for him. Let us go to bed."
The Ice Desert.
URING the night from the 26th to the
27th of April the weather changed:
the thermometer sank considerably, and
the inhabitants of Doctor's House per-
ceived it by the cold that penetrated
under their blankets. Altamont, who was on guard
near the fire, took care to keep it up, and he was obliged
to stock it with fuel to keep the interior temperature
up to 500 above zero. This cooling of the atmosphere
announced the end of the tempest, and the doctor re-
joiced at it; their accustomed occupations would be
taken up again, hunting excursions and surveys of
the land; it would put an end to the idle solitude
during which the most amiable tempers get peevish.
The next morning the doctor got up early, and
opened up a road across the ice piled up to the cone of
the lighthouse. The wind had veered north; the
atmosphere was pure; long white sheets of snow
offered a firm carpet to the foot. The five companions
had soon left Doctor's House; their first work was
to clear the house of the frozen masses which encum-
bered it; the table-land was no longer recognisable; it
would have been impossible to discover the least vestige
of a habitation; the tempest had filled up the in-
equalities of the ground, and had levelled it everywhere;
the ground had risen at least fifteen feet.
They were obliged to sweep away the snow, and give
to the edifice a rather more architectural form. The
work was not difficult, arA after the ice had been taken
The Ice Desert.
away the walls were soon reduced to their ordinary
thickness by using the snow-knife. At the end of two
hours of constant work the granite foundation re-
appeared, and access to the provision and powder stores
became practicable. But as in such an uncertain
climate the same weather might begin again any day,
they made a fresh provision of eatables, which they
transferred to the kitchen. The need of fresh meat
began to be felt, and the hunters prepared to set out.
The end of April is not the season of the Polar spring;
it was six weeks off yet; the rays of the sun were not
yet strong enough to bring out the rare flora of these
regions. They feared that both birds and quadrupeds
must be still scarce; however, a hare, a few brace of
ptarmigans, or even a young fox, would be acceptable
on the table of Doctor's House, and the hunters set
out with zeal.
The doctor, Altamont, and Bell took upon themselves
the task of exploring the country. Altamont was a
clever shot and a good hunter, though he did not forget
to boast of his exploits; Dick was his equal in his way,
and less conceited. The three companions climbed the
eastern side of the cone, and made their way across
immense white plains; but they had not gone more
than a couple of miles from the lort before they met
with numerous footprints of animals; they continued
from thence down to the shore of Victoria Bay, and
appeared to make a circle round Fort Providence.
When the hunters had ascertained so much they looked
at one another.
"Well," said the doctor, "there is no mistaking
No," answered Bell, they are the prints of bears."
96 The Ice Desert.
"Excellent game," said Altamont, "but to-day it
has one fault."
"What ?" asked the doctor.
Abundance," answered the American.
"What do you mean ?" said Bell.
"I mean that there are five distinct traces of bears,
and five bears are a lot for five men."
"Are you sure of what you say ?" said the doctor.
"Look and judge for yourself; here is a print unlike
this one; the claws are wider apart. Here is the print
of a smaller bear; compare them attentively, and you
will see there are five."
"It's true enough," said Bell, after an attentive
Then," said the doctor, "we must not be uselessly
rash, but very careful; these animals are famishing
after their rigorous winter; they may be extremely
dangerous; and as there's no doubt about their
"Nor their intentions," added the American.
"Do you think they have discovered our presence
on this coast ?"
Certainly, unless we have hit upon a bears' lair;
but that does not explain their footprints in a circle.
See, they arrive by the south-east, they stopped
there, and began to make their examination of the
"You are right," said the doctor; "and they have
certainly been here in the night."
And other nights too," answered Altamont, only
the snow covered their traces."
No," answered the doctor; "it is more probable
that they waited for the tempest to end, and, famished,
The Ice Desert.
ohey went to the coast of the bay in the hopes of sur-
prising seals, and on their way they scented us out."
"That must be it," answered Altamont; "besides,
it is easy to see if they come back to-night."
"How so ?" asked Bell.
"By effacing their footprints on part of their line,
and if to-morrow we find fresh ones it will be very
evident that Fort Providence is the object of their
"Well," answered the doctor, "we shall at least
know what to expect."
The three hunters set to work, and by raking the
snow they soon obliterated the footprints for the space
of a hundred yards.
"It's queer that those beasts could smell us at such
a distance," said Bell; "we have not burnt anything
greasy that might have attracted them."
Bears have a piercing view and a very keen smell,"
said the doctor; "besides, they are very intelligent,
almost the most intelligent animals there are, and they
have scented something unusual here."
They may have come as far as the table-land during
the tempest," said Bell.
Then why should they have stopped at this limit P"
answered the American.
"Yes, that is unanswerable," replied the doctor,
"and they will make their circle smaller and smaller on
their look-out for Fort Providence."
"We shall soon see," answered Altamont.
"Now let us go on with our march," said the doctor,
"but keep a sharp look-out."
This the hunters did; they expected to see some bear
come out from behind an ice-hill, and they even took
The Ice Desert.
some of the blocks for bears, which are as white; but
to their great satisfaction they met with nothing. .They
came back at last half-way up the cone, and looked all
round from Cape Washington to Johnson Island, but
without result. They saw nothing; all was immovable
and white; not the slightest sound was heard, and they
re-entered the house. When Hatteras and Johnson
heard of the adventure, it was resolved to watch during
the night with the most scrupulous attention. Night
came; nothing touched its splendid calm; nothing was
heard which might signal the approach of danger. The
next day, at daybreak, Hatteras and his companions
went well armed to look at the state of the snow; they
found the same traces as the day before, but nearer; it
was evident that the enemy prepared to besiege Fort
They have opened a second parallel," said the doctor.
"And they have made a step forward," added Alta-
mont. "Look at these steps advancing towards the
table-land; they are those of a powerful animal."
"Yes, they gain on us little by little," said Johnson;
"it's evident they mean to attack us."
"There is no doubt about that," answered the
doctor; "we must avoid showing ourselves; we are not
enough to show fight with success."
"But where can the wretched bears be ?" cried Bell
"Behind some icebergs to the east; we must not risk
"And the hunting ?" said Altamont.
"We must put it off for some days," answered the
doctor. Let us again obliterate the nearest footprints,
tnd we shall see to-morrow if they are renewed. By
that means we shall know our enemies' manoeuvres."
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