M;,;z A &OnO,-AK.
The Baldwin Library
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" The brig was tossed up and down on the waves like a child's toy."'-P. 184.
T f WORTH POLB.
ENGLISH AT THE NORTH POLE
AUTIIOR OF "A VYYAGE ROUND TILE WORLD." ETC.
LONDON AND NEW YORiK
GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS
THE SEQUEL TO THIS STORY
IS PUBLISHED UNDER TIE TITLE OF
"THE FIELD OF ICE."
I.-THE FORWARD" 5
II.-THE UNEXPECTED LETTER 14
III.-DocToR CLAWBONNY 16
IV.--THE DOG-CAPTAIN 28
V.-OUT AT SEA. 37
VI.-THE GREAT POLAR CURRENT 47
VII.-DAVIS's STRAITS 53
VIII.-WHAT THE CREW THOUGHT ABOUT IT 63
IX.-A LETTER .. 73
X.-PERILOUS NAVIGATION. 81
XI.-THE DEVIL'S THUMB 90
XII.-CAPTAIN HATTERAS IOI
XIII.-CAPTAIN IATTERAS DISCLOSES HIS PLANS 109
XIV.-THE "FORWARD" DRIVEN SOUTH 121
XV.-THE MAGNETIC POLE 127
XVI.-THE STORY OF SIR JOHN FRANKLIN 137
XVII.-THE ROUTE TO THE NORTH. 143
XVIII.-A WHALE CHASE 149
XIX.-ISLE BEECHEY .. 156
XX.-THE DEATH OF BALLOT 165
XXI.-BEGINNINGS OF MUTINY 173
XXII.-ASSAULT OF THE ICEBERGS 178
XXIII.-PREPARATIONS FOR WINTERING 88
XXIV.--AN OLD Fox OF THE JAMES Ross EXPEDITION 194
XXV.-THE LAST BIT OF COAL 233
XXVII.-PREPARATIONS FOR DEPARTURE 218
XXVIII.-AcRoss THE ICE-FIELDS 223
XXIX.-THE CAIRN 232
XXX.-THE DEATH OF SIMPSON 240
XXXI.-THE RETURN TO THE "FORWARD" 246
ENGLISH AT THE NORTH POLE.
"To-MORROw, at ebb tide, the brig Forward will
sail from the New Prince's Docks, captain K. Z.;
chief officer, Richard Shandon; destination unknown."
Such was the announcement which appeared in the
Liverpool Herald of April 5th, 186o.
The departure of a brig is not a very important
event for one of the largest trading ports in England.
Indeed, who would notice it among the crowd of ships,
of every tonnage and every nation, which the long
miles of floating docks can scarcely contain; and yet
from an early hour on the morning of April 9th,
numbers of people began to assemble on the wharf.
The whole maritime population of Liverpool seemed to
agree to congregate there, and not only the sailors, but
all classes, came flocking thither. The dock labourers
left their work, the city clerks their dingy counting-
houses, and the shopkeepers their deserted shops.
Omnibus after omnibus set down its load of passengers
outside the dock walls, till the entire city appeared to
have turned out to see the Forward sail.
The Forward was a brig of 170 tons, fitted up
with a screw propeller and an engine of 12o-horse
power. She might easily have been confounded with
other brigs in port by the ordinary onlooker, and yet
to the practised eye of a sailor there were certain
peculiarities about her which made her unmistakable,
as appeared from the conversation of a group of men
assembled on the deck of the Nautilus, a vessel lying
close by. They were eagerly discussing the probable
destination of the Forward, and each one had his own
"What do you think of her masts?" said one.
"It certainly ain't usual for steam-ships to have such
"Depend upon it," said a broad, red-faced quarter-
master, "that yon craft reckons more on her masts than
her engine. She hasn't all that topsail for nothing. To
me it is clear enough the Forward is bound for the
Arctic or Antarctic Seas, where great ice mountains
shut out the wind rather more than suits a strong, brave
"You must be right, Master Cornhill," said a
third sailor; "and have you noticed the stern, what a
straight line it makes to the sea?"
"Ay I and more than that, it is sheathed with cast-
steel as sharp as a razor, which would cut a three-
decker in two if the Forward fell foul of it sideways at
full speed," replied Cornhill.
"That it would," added a Mersey pilot, "for she
can make fourteen knots an hour easily with her screw.
It was wonderful to see how she cut through the water
on her trial trip. Take my word for it, she's a good
runner, and no mistake."
"Besides," said Cornhill, "do you see the size of
"Yes; but what does that prove ?"
"That proves, my boys," said Cornhill, in a dis-
dainful, self-satisfied manner, "that you can neither see
nor think; that proves that it was a great matter to give
full play to the rudder, a very necessary thing in the
Right, right," said the sailors.
"And, what's more," continued one of them, "the
loading of the ship confirms your opinion. I had it
from Clifton, who is one of her men, that she is taking
provisions for five years, and coals too. That is all the
cargo; nothing but coals and provisions, and great bales
of woollen clothing and seal-skins."
"That settles it, of course," replied Cornhill. But
you say you know Clifton-hasn't he told you where
they are going ?"
"He doesn't know himself; he is in perfect ignor-
ance. All the crew have been engaged like that.
Where he's going, he'll hardly know that himself before
It looks to me very much as if they were all going
to Old Nick," said an incredulous listener.
And did you ever hear of such wages ?" continued
Clifton's friend. "Five times more than the common
pay Ay, if it hadn't been for that, Dick Shandon
wouldn't have found a man to sign the articles. To
make a voyage in such a queer-looking ship, bound for
nobody knows where, and coming back nobody knows
when-I must confess it wouldn't suit me."
It doesn't matter much whether it would or not,
old fellow, for you couldn't go; they wouldn't have you
on board the Forward," said Cornhill.
"Pray, why not ?"
"Because you can't meet one of the conditions
required. I am told that all married men are ineligible,
so you are shut out."
"There's so much bounce about the brig altogether,"
Cornhill went on, "even down to the very name, the
orwlard. Forward where to? And then there is no
"Yes, there is," said a frank, boyish-looking young
What a captain has turned up ?"
"Yes, a captain."
You are fancying, youngster, that Shandon is the
captain," said Cornhill.
But I tell you," returned the lad, that "
"And I tell you," interrupted Cornhill, "that
Shandon is the mate and nothing more. He is a brave
hardy sailor, an old hand in whaling expeditions, and a
thorough good fellow, quite fit to be captain, but captain
he is not, any more than you or I. He doesn't even
know who is to take the command. At the right time
the real captain is to make his appearance, but when
that is to be, or in what part of the world, no one knows,
for Shandon has not said, nor is he allowed to reveal the
"All that may be, Master Cornhill," replied the
young sailor, "but I assure you that at this very
moment there is some one on board, some one
whose arrival was announced in the very letter which
contained the offer to Mr. Shandon of chief officer's
"What !" retorted Cornhill, frowning angrily at
the audacious youngster. Do you dare to stand out
that there is a captain on board ? "
"Yes, certainly, Master Cornhill."
"You say that to my face !"
Of course I do; I had it from Johnson, one of the
officers on board."
"From Mr. Johnson ?"
"Yes, he told me himself."
"Johnson told you, did he ?"
"He not only told me, but he showed me the
Showed you the captain !" repeated Cornhill in
"Yes he showed me the captain."
"And you really saw him?"
"Yes with my own eyes."
"And who is it, pray?"
It is a dog."
"A dog with four feet ?"
The sailors of the Nautilus seemed stupefied.
Under any other circumstances, such a declaration
would have provoked shouts of laughter. The idea of a
dog being captain of a brig of 170 tons. It was too
ludicrous. But there was something altogether so
extraordinary about this Forward that one need
think twice before denying or even ridiculing the boy's
assertion, and instead of laughing, Cornhill said
"So it was Johnson who introduced you to this
novel sort of a captain, and you actually saw
"As plain as I see you."
"Well, Cornhill, what do you think of that ?" asked
the sailors, eagerly.
"I think nothing," replied Cornhill, roughly, "ex-
cept that the Forward either belongs to the devil, or
to some fools let loose from Bedlam !"
The crew continued silently gazing at the wonderful
brig, watching the final preparations for departure, but
not one among them dared to say, or even so much as
pretended to believe, that Johnson had been only making
a fool of the boy, and imposing on his credulity.
The story of the dog had already got abroad, and
more than one among the crowds that thronged the
quays sought to catch a glimpse of this dog-captain,
half believing him supernatural.
Besides, for many months past the Forward had
been attracting public attention. The peculiarities
about her build, the mystery hanging over her, the
incognito preserved by the captain, the strange way
in which Shandon had received his appointment, the
special care taken in selecting the crew, and the un-
known destination-all combined to invest her with a
singular charm of romance.
The Forward had been constructed at Birkenhead
by Messrs. Scott and Co., one of the most famous ship-
builders in England. The firm had received from
Richard Shandon a minute plan, detailing every par-
ticular as to tonnage and dimensions, and also a sketch
drawn with the greatest care, and evidently the pro-
duction of a practised seaman. As considerable sums
were forthcoming, the work was commenced at once,
and proceeded with as rapidly as possible.
The brig was characterized by the utmost solidity.
She was evidently intended to resist enormous pressure,
for the frame was not only made of teak-wood-a sort of
oak which grows in India, and is remarkable for its
extreme hardness-but was firmly bound together by
strong iron bars. It was indeed a matter of surprise
among the seafaring population that frequented the
building yard, why the entire hull was not sheet iron
like most steamers, and many inquiries were put to the
shipwrights, but all the answer received was that they
were obeying orders.
THE FOR WARD."
By slow degrees the brig began to take shape on the
stocks, and connoisseurs were struck by the elegance and
strength of her proportions. As the crew of the
Nautilus had remarked, the stern made a right angle
with the keel. It had no breakhead, but a sharp edge of
cast steel made in the foundries of R. Hawthorn, at
Newcastle. This metal prow glittering in the sun, gave
a peculiar look to the ship, though there was nothing
absolutely warlike about it. However, there was a
cannon of 16 lbs. calibre mounted on the forecastle, on
a pivot, to allow of its being easily pointed in all direc-
tions; and yet, in spite of both stem and cannon, the
vessel was not the least like a ship intended for battle.
On the 5th of February the Forward was ready,
and made a successful launch in the presence of an
immense crowd of spectators.
The day after the launch, the engine arrived from
Newcastle, from the works of Messrs. Hawthorn. This
engine, of 120-horse power, and provided with osc:llating
cylinders, was of considerable size for a brig of 170 tons,
but did not take up much room. As soon as it was
placed on board, the work of provisioning began, and no
easy matter it was to stow away food for six years. The
stores consisted principally of salted and smoked meat,
dried fish, biscuit and flour, mountains of coffee and tea
were thrown into the hold in a perfect avalanche.
Richard Shandon superintended personally the storage
of this precious cargo, arranging it like a man who
understood his business. Everything was numbered
and labelled and disposed in the most orderly manner.
A large quantity of pemmican was also taken on board,
an Indian preparation, which contains much -ourish-
ment in small bulk.
The nature of the provisions left no doubt as to the
length of the cruise; and to an observing eye, there was
none as to the ship's destination, at the sight of those
barrels of lime-juice, and lumps of chalk, and packets of
mustard, and sorrel, and cochlearia seed; in other words,
the abundance of anti-scorbutic preparations proved that
the Forward was bound for the Polar Seas. Shandon
had no doubt received special orders about this part of
the cargo, for he paid studious attention to it, and
also fitted up the medicine chest with the most scrupu-
The stock of fire-arms was not great, a reassuring
fact to timid people, but on the other hand, the powder-
magazine was full to overflowing. What was it in-
tended for? There was far more than one solitary
cannon could possibly use. Then there were also
enormous saws, and other powerful instruments, such
as levers, hand-saws, heaps of bullets, immense hatchets,
not to speak of a goodly number of blasting cylinders,
the explosion of which would have blown the Custom
House at Liverpool into the air. It was all very
strange, if not alarming, even without taking into
account the fusees, and signals, and fireworks of all
The boats too were objects of great curiosity to the
gaping crowd that hung about the New Prince's Docks.
There was a canoe made of tinned iron, covered with
14 THE UNEXPECTED LETTER.
gutta percha, a long mahogany whaling-boat, and a
number of halkett-boats or india-rubber cloaks, which
could be converted into canoes by inflating the lining.
The Forward was certainly altogether a most
mysterious, puzzling vessel, and people grew quite
excited about her, now that the hour for sailing had
THE UNEXPECTED LETTER.
EIGHT months prior to the time when our story com-
mences, Richard Shandon had received the following
"ABERDEEN, Aug. 2nd, 1859.
"SIR,-This letter is to inform you that a sum of
1 6,0oo sterling has been placed in the hands of
Messrs. Marcuart and Co., bankers, Liverpool. I also
enclose cheques signed by me, which you can
draw on the said bankers up to the above-mentioned
"You do not know me. It matters not. I know
you. That is the most important thing.
I offer you the place of chief officer on board the
brig Forward, bound for an expedition which may be
long and perilous.
THE UNEXPECTED LETTER.
"If you refuse, that is all about it; if you accept,
your salary will be 500, to be raised one-tenth each
year you are away.
"The brig Forward has at present no existence.
You will have to get her built, and ready to go to sea by
the beginning of April at the latest.
"I subjoin a detailed plan and a draft, to which
you will scrupulously adhere. The ship is to be con-
structed by Messrs. Scott and Co., who will arrange
matters with you.
"I beg you will pay special attention to the selection
of the crew of the Forward. This will consist of the
captain, myself, the chief officer, yourself, a second
mate, a boatswain, two engineers, an ice-master, eight
sailors, and two stokers-eighteen men altogether, in-
cluding Dr. Clawbonny, of your city, who will introduce
himself to you at the right time.
"It is necessary that all the men chosen for the
expedition of the Forward shall be English, unen-
cumbered by family ties, unmarried, sober, as neither
beer nor spirits are allowed on board, and ready for any
enterprise and any suffering. Give the preference to
those of sanguine temperament, who possess a great
amount of animal heat.
"You will offer them five times as much as the
ordinary wages, with an increase of one-tenth each year
of service. At the close of the expedition 6500 is
guaranteed to each man and 2,000 to yourself. These
deposits will be left with Messrs. Marcuart and Co., the
DOCTOR CLA WBONNE
"The campaign will be long and arduous, but
honourable. You need have no hesitation about it,
Reply to me by letter, addressed to K. Z, Poste
resfante, Gotleborg, Sweden.
"P.S. On the 15th of February next you will be for-
warded a large Danish stag-hound with loose hanging
lips, very dark in colour, and striped with black. You
will take him on board, and order him to be fed with
barley bread mixed with boiled greaves. You will notify
his safe arrival to me at Livourne, Italy, addressed to
the same initials.
"The captain of the Forward will present him-
self, and make himself known when he is required.
You will receive further instructions just before you
"K. Z., Captain of the Forward.
"To Mr. Richard Shandon, Liverpool."
RICHARD SHANDON was a good sailor and a man of
established reputation. He had been in command of
whalers for years, and was familiar with the Arctic Seas.
A letter like the foregoing did not consequently astonish
him so much as might have been expected. Astonished
he certainly was, but in a cool, composed sort of fashion,
like a man who has received similar communications
before. He was in a position, too, to meet the required
conditions. He had neither wife, nor child, nor relatives;
he was free, in all respects. So having no one to
consult, he went straight off to the bankers, Messrs.
Marcuart and Co., for "if the money is there," he said
to himself, "the rest is all right."
The money was there sure enough, for Shandon was
received by the firm with all the respect due to a man
who has 1i6,ooo quietly waiting for him in their strong
chest; so without loss of time he called for pen and ink,
and wrote a letter in a large sailor-like hand, to the
address given, signifying his acceptance of the offered
That very same day he put himself in communication
with the shipbuilders at Birkenhead, and twenty-four
hours after, the keel of the Forward was planted on
the stocks in their building-yard.
Richard Shandon was about forty years of age, a
robust, brave, energetic fellow-three qualifications
necessary to a sailor, for they impart self-reliance,
vigour, and sangfroid. He got the character of being
jealous and difficult to get on with, one who has made
his men fear him, but never gained their love. This did
not interfere, however, with his getting a crew, for he
was too well known as a skilful leader to have any
trouble in finding men to follow him.
DOCTOR CLA WBONNY.
Shandon was rather afraid, though, that the mys-
terious nature of the enterprise would cripple his move-
ments, and determined to noise it abroad as little as
That's my best plan," he said to himself, "for
those old ferrets would be down on me, who must
know the why and the wherefore of everything, and as
I am quite ignorant myself, I should be rather at a loss
for an answer. This K. Z. is a queer old fellow, and no
mistake, but, after all, what does that matter ? He knows
me, and reckons on me, and that is enough. As to
the ship, she will turn out a beauty, or my name is
not Richard Shandon, if she is not meant for the
frozen seas. But I'll keep that secret to myself and my
Shandon's next business was to pick out his men in
accordance with the rules laid down by the captain. He
knew a fine active young fellow, called Wall, who was
thirty years of age, a capital sailor, and had been more
than one voyage to the North Seas. He offered him
the post of second mate, and James Wall accepted it
blindfold, for all he cared for was being on the ocean,
and the destination mattered little.- Shandon told him
the whole story, however, from beginning to end, both
to him and to a sailor named Johnson, whom he chose
"Not much' luck to be had there," said James Wall.
"But still perhaps as much there as anywhere else.
Even if it is to find the North-West passage, people
come back alive, right enough."
"Not always," said Johnson; "but that's no reason
for not going."
"Besides, supposing we are right in our con-
jectures," added Shandon, "we must allow we could
hardly make a voyage under more favourable circum-
stances. The Forward will be a first-rate ship, and
her steam-engine will be a great help. All we want is
"Eighteen men?" replied Johnson; "that is the same
number the American Dr. Kane had on board when
he made his famous journey towards the Pole."
"It is singular enough, certainly," said Wall, "what
can induce a private individual to cross the sea again,
from Davis's Straits to Behring's Straits. The Franklin
Expeditions have cost England more than 6760,000,
without producing any practical result. Who can be
fool enough to throw away his own fortune into the
bargain like this ?"
"Don't forget, James, though," replied Shandon,
"that we are reasoning on a mere simple supposition.
Whether we are actually going to the North or the
South Seas, I know no more than you. Perhaps,
indeed, it is on some new quest altogether. Moreover,
there is a Dr. Clawbonny to make his appearance some
of these days, who will no. doubt be commissioned to
give us fuller information. We shall see all in good
"Ay we must just wait," said Johnson, "and,
meantime, I am going to make it my business to look
after right men to go with us; and as to their having
plenty of animal heat in them, I'll guarantee that before-
hand. You may safely leave that to me."
This Johnson was a valuable man, well acquainted
with the northern latitudes. He had been quartermaster
on board the Phanix, one of the vessels despatched
in search of Franklin in 1853. The brave fellow had
accompanied Lieutenant Bellot in his journey across
the ice, and been eye-witness of his death. Johnson
knew the whole seafaring population of Liverpool, and
set to work immediately to select his crew.
He was so effectually aided by Shandon and Wall,
that by the beginning of December the number was
complete. But the task had not been easy; many had
been attracted by the tempting pay offered, but had not
courage to risk the unknown expedition, while more
than one who had bravely pledged himself to go came
and retracted his word, and gave back his advance note,
having been dissuaded by his friends from so hazardous
an undertaking. All, of course, wished to penetrate the
mystery, and so pressed Shandon with questions that
he was obliged to refer them to Johnson, who gave the
same unvarying answers to each.
"What is it you want me to tell you, old boy?"
he would say. "I know no more than you do. Any-
how, you'll be in good company, with jolly fellows who
know what they're about. That's something, isn't it ?
So be quick and make up your mind-take it or leave
Sometimes he would add, "My only difficulty is
which to choose, for such high wages as you are offered
DOCTOR CLA WBONNY.
will find plenty to jump at them. Not a man among
you ever heard of such pay being given before."
"Well, it certainly is a great temptation; we should
get enough to live on all the rest of our days," said the
"I don't conceal from you," continued Johnson,
"that the expedition will be a long one, and full of
hardship and danger. That is formally told us in our
instructions, so let us have a clear understanding, that
each man may know what he undertakes; he commits
himself, in all probability, to attempt all that is, humanly
speaking, possible, and perhaps even more. If you
haven't a brave heart, then, and an iron constitution, or
if you can't look the certainty in the face that there are
twenty chances to one against your ever returning, you
had better be off, and leave the berth for somebody less
"But at least tell us who the captain is," was the
"The captain is Richard Shandon, his friend, till
he introduces you another."
Now, to speak the truth, Richard thought this him-
self, and quietly indulged the hope that, at the last
moment, he would receive definite instructions about
the voyage, and have entire command placed in his
Shandon and Johnson had implicitly obeyed the
injunctions given for choosing the crew. They were all
fresh and florid loWing, full of energy and pluck, and
having caloric enough in them to heat the engine
almost; in fact, the very men to stand extreme cold.
In outward appearance, certainly, they were not all
equally strong; and two or three among them, especially
two sailors called Gripper and Garry, and Simpson the
harpooner, Shandon almost hesitated to take, for they
belonged to "Pharaoh's lean kine," but they were well-
built, and their circulation was good, so their names
The whole crew were Protestants, belonging to the
same religious denomination. It was a matter of some
importance that the men should think alike, as far as
creed was concerned, to prevent party strife; for it has
been always found in long voyages that assembling the
men for reading the Scriptures and common prayer is a
powerful means of promoting harmony, and of cheering
them in hours of despondency. Shandon knew by
experience the excellent moral effect of such practices, as
they are invariably adopted on board all vessels that
winter in Arctic regions.
The next business of Shandon and his officers was
the provisioning of the ship. In doing this they strictly
followed the instructions of the captain-instructions so
clear, precise, and minute, that the quantity and quality
were given of even the smallest article. Ready money
was paid for everything, and a discount of eight per
cent. received, which Richard carefully put to the credit
of K. Z.
Crew, provisions, and cargo were all ready by
January, i860. The Forward was rapidly assuming pro-
portions, and Shandon never let a day pass without a
DOCTOR CLAW BONNY.
visit to Birkenhead, to see how things went on. On the
23rd of that same month, he was going across as usual
in one of the large steamers that ferry passengers over
the Mersey. It was one of those foggy mornings when
you can scarcely see your hand before you; but, in spite
of the obscurity, Shandon could make out the figure of
some stranger advancing towards him, and as he got
nearer, saw it was a little stout man, with a bright
jovial face and kindly eye, who came up, and seizing
both his hands, shook them so heartily in his own, in
such an impulsive, familiar, free-and-easy style, that a
Frenchman would have said he came from the sunny
But though the new comer was not a Southerner, he
made a narrow escape of it, for he was full of talk and
gesticulation, and seemed as if he would explode unless
he came out with all he thought. His small intellectual
eyes and large mobile mouth were safety-valves to let
out the steam, and he talked and talked so incessantly
that Shandon was fairly overpowered. He made a
shrewd guess, however, who this voluble little man was,
and, taking advantage of a momentary pause, managed
to say, "Doctor Clawbonny, I presume ?"
Himself in person, my good sir. Here I have been
seeking you for a whole quarter of an hour, and asking
everybody for you everywhere. Only imagine my impa-
tience I Five minutes more, and I should have lost my
wits. It is really then Richard Shandon I see. You
actually exist? you're not a myth? Your hand, your
hand, that I may grasp it in mine. Yes, it is a genuine
flesh and blood hand, and there is a veritable Richard
Shandon. Well, come, if there's a chief officer, there
must be a brig called the Forward that he com-
mands; and if he commands she is going to sail, and
if she's going to sail she will take Dr. Clawbonny on
"Yes, Doctor, surely. There is a brig called the
Forward, and she is going to sail, and I am Richard
"That's logic," said the Doctor, drawing a long
breath, "that's logic, and I am overjoyed to hear it, for
now I have reached the summit of my ambition. I
have waited long, and wished to go a voyage 4 and now
with you to command-- "
"Allow me," interrupted Shandon.
But Clawbonny took no notice, and went on, "With
you; we are sure of pushing onward, and never yielding
an inch of our ground."
"But, sir," began Shandon again.
"You are a tried man, sir; you have seen service.
You have a right to be proud."
If you will please allow me to "
"No, I will not allow your skill, and bravery, and
hardihood to be underrated even by you. The captain
who has chosen you for his chief officer knows his man,
I'll be bound."
"But that's not the question," said Shandon, im-
"Well, and what is the question, then? Don't
keep me in suspense, pray."
'"You won't let me speak. Please to tell me,
Doctor, how you came to join in the expedition of the
"Well, it was through a letter which I have here
from the brave captain, a very laconic one, though it
says all that is necessary."
And drawing the said letter out of his pocket, he
handed it to Shandon, who read as follows:-
"INVERNESS, 2an. 22n~d, 860.
"If Dr. Clawbonny is willing to embark in the
brig Forward, let him present himself to the chief
officer, Richard Shandon, who has received orders con-
"The Captain of the Forward,
"To Dr. Clawbonny, Liverpool."
"The letter came this morning, and here I am ready
to go on board."
But, at any rate," said Shandon, "you know where
we are going, I suppose ?"
"Not I; but what does it matter to me, so long as
I go somewhere? People call me a learned man, but
they are much mistaken. I know nothing, and if I
happen to have published some few books which sell
pretty well, they are not worth anything, and it is very
good of the people to buy them. I know nothing, I
tell you, except that I am an ignoramus. Now I have
a chance of completing, or rather recommencing, my
studies in medicine, in surgery, in history, in geography,
in botany, in mineralogy, in conchology, in geodesy, in
chemistry, in natural philosophy, in mechanics, in hydro-
graphy. Well, I accept the offer, and don't need much
pressing, I assure you."
"Then you know nothing about the destination of
the Forward? said Richard, in a disappointed tone.
I know this much, Mr. Shandon, that she is going
where there will be much to learn and discover, and
much to instruct us, for we shall come across other
nations with different customs from our own; she is
going, in short, where I have never been."
"But you know nothing more definite than that?"
I have heard some talk of her going to the North
Seas. So much the better if we are bound for the
But don't you know the captain?" asked Shandon
Not at all; but he is a brave fellow, you may be
By this time the steamer had arrived at Birkenhead,
and Clawbonny and Shandon landed on the pier, and at
once repaired to the shipbuilding-yard. The sight of
the brig almost made the little doctor beside himself
with joy, and he went subsequently every day to look at
her on the stocks.
He made his abode with Shandon, and undertook
the arrangement of the medicine-chest, for he was a
duly qualified doctor and a clever man, though rather
unpractical. At twenty-five years of age he was just an
ordinary surgeon, but at forty he was a learned man,
well known throughout the whole city, and a leading
member of the Literary and Philosophical Institute of
Liverpool. He possessed a small private fortune, which
enabled him to practise gratuitously in a great. many
cases, and his extreme amiability made him universally
beloved. He never did an injury to a single human
being, not even to himself. Lively and rattling as he
was, and an incessant talker, he had an open heart and
hand for everybody.
As soon as the news of his appointment to the
Forward spread through the city, his friends besieged
him with solicitations to remain at home. But their
arguments and entreaties only made him more deter-
mined to go, and when the little man once got a crotchet
in his brain no one could turn him from it.
On the 5th of February the Forward was
launched, and two months later she was ready to go
Punctually to the time, on the very day fixed for his
coming by the captain's letter, a large Danish dog made
his appearance, sent by rail from Edinburgh to Richard
Shandon's address. He was an ill-favoured, snappish,
unsociable animal, with a peculiar expression in his eye.
A brass collar round his neck bore the name of the ship,
and he was installed on board the same day, and a letter
despatched to Livourne to inform the captain of his safe
The crew of the Forward was now complete, with
the exception of the captain. It numbered the following
individuals: i. The Captain, K. Z. 2. The Chief
Officer. 3. The Second Officer, James Wall. 4. Doctor
Clawbonny. 5. Johnson, the boatswain. 6. Simpson,
the harpooner. 7. Bell, the carpenter. 8. Brunton,
the chief engineer. 9. Plover, the second engineer.
10. Strong, a coloured man, the cook. i1. Foker, the
ice-master. 12. Wolsten, the gunsmith. 13. Bolton,
sailor. 14. Garry, sailor. 15. Clifton, sailor. 16. Gripper,
sailor. 17. Pen, sailor. 18. Warren, stoker.
THE 5th of April brought the sailing day. Dr. Claw-
bonny's coming on board somewhat reassured people's
minds, for where the learned Doctor went it must be
safe to follow; but still the sailors seemed'so restless
and uneasy, that Shandon longed to be fairly out at sea,
for he did not feel sure of any of them till they had lost
sight of land.
Dr. Clawbonny's cabin was on the poop, which took
up all the stern of the vessel. The captain's cabin and
the chief officer's were on either side, overlooking the
deck. The captain's remained hermetically closed after
being furnished according to his written directions, and
the key, as he ordered, was sent to him at Lubeck, so
that no one could enter but himself.
This was a great vexation to Shandon, as it damped
his ambitious hopes of getting sole command. In fitting
up his own cabin, he took for granted they were going to
the Arctic, and knowing, as he did, so thoroughly all
that was required, he left nothing wanting.
The cabin of the second mate was in the forecastle,
where the men slept-a large, roomy place, with a stove
in the centre, and every accommodation, for the sailors
were treated as precious cargo on this vessel, and well
Dr. Clawbonny looked after himself, and he had had
plenty of time, as he had taken possession of his cabin
since the 5th of February, the day the Forward was
"The happiest of the animals," he said, "would be
a snail, who could make a shell to his own liking, and I
mean to be an intelligent snail."
And truly his shell did him credit, for the Doctor
took a perfect delight in arranging his scientific trea-
sures. His books, and herbals, and cases, and rhathe-
matical instruments; his thermometer, and barometers,
and hygrometers, and udometers; his glasses, and com-
passes, and sextants; and maps and charts; and phials,
and powders, and medicine-bottles-all were arranged
and classified with an amount of order that might have
shamed the British Museum. Inestimable riches were
stored up in that small space of six square feet, and it
must be owned the good Doctor was not a little proud
of his sanctum, though three of his least corpulent
friends would have sufficed to crowd it uncomfortably.
To complete the description of the Forward it
need only further be said that the dog's-kennel was
built right below the window of the mysterious cabin,
but its savage inmate preferred wandering between decks
and in the hold. It seemed impossible to make him
sociable, nobody could do anything with him, and in the
night his piteous howls would resound through the whole
What was the reason? Could it be grief for his
absent master? or was it instinctive fear of the voyage ?
or did it bode approaching danger. This last was the
common opinion among the sailors, and many a one
joked over it who verily believed the poor dog was an
imp of the devil.
Pen, a coarse brutal fellow at all times, rushed so
furiously at the beast one day that he fell right against
the capstan, and split his head open frightfully. Of
course this accident was laid to the "uncanny dog's
Clifton was the most superstitious of all the crew,
and he made the singular discovery, that whenever the
animal was promenading the deck he went to tie side
the wind was, changing his position as the ship lacked,
just as if he had been the captain.
Dr. Clawbonny was so gentle and winning tb at he
would have tamed a tiger, but all his attempts lo get
into this dog's good graces were in vain.
"Inestimable riches were stored up in that small space of six square feet."-
SBesides, the animal would answer to none of the
names borne by his canine brethren, so in the end he
got called Captain," for he appeared perfectly familiar
with ship life. This was certainly not his first voyage,
and more than one of the sailors fully expected to see
him some day suddenly assume the human form, and
begin giving orders in a stentorian voice.
Richard Shandon had no apprehensions on that
score, though he had anxieties enough of another nature,
and the night before sailing he had a long confidential
talk on the subject with the Doctor and his two
The four sat comfortably together in the saloon in-
dulging themselves with a glass of grog--a farewell
glass, for, in accordance with the instructions received
from Aberdeen, every man on board, from the captain
down to the stoker, must be a total abstainer; that is to
say, that neither wine, nor beer, nor spirits would be
allowed on board, except in case of illness, or when
ordered by the doctor.
For more than an hour they had been talking over
the departure of the ship next day, for if the captain's
words were verified, the morning would bring a letter
containing final instructions.
"I hope," said Shandon, "that if this letter doesn't
give us the name of the captain, it will tell us at least
the destination of the ship, or how shall we know which
way to steer ?"
"Goodness me I" exclaimed the impatient Doctor,
"were I in your place I should be oft even if no letter
came; it will find its way to us by hook or by crook, I'll
"You stick at nothing, Doctor. But pray, how
should we direct our course then ?"
"Towards the North Pole, most assuredly. That's
a matter of course; it doesn't admit of a doubt."
"Not admit of a doubt 1" said Wall; "and why not
towards the South Pole ?"
"The South Pole! Never! Would the captain
ever dream of exposing a brig to all the difficulties of
crossing the broad Atlantic?" said the Doctor.
"You say go to the North," continued Shandon,
"but that's a wide word. Is it to be to Spitzberg, or
Greenland, or Labrador, or Hudson's Bay-? It is true
enough that all these routes lead to the same im-
passable fields, of ice; but that doesn't remove the
necessity of choosing one or other, and I should be
greatly puzzled to decide upon which. Can you help
"No," replied the loquacious little man, vexed
at having no answer ready. "But the question is
just this, if you don't get a letter, what will you
"I shall do nothing; I shall wait."
"You won't sail!" cried Clawbonny, aghast at the
"No, not I."
"That's the wisest way," said Johnson, quickly,
while the Doctor rose, and began pacing the floor, for
he was too agitated to sit still. ".Yes, that's the
wisest way, and yet too great delay might be attended
with bad consequences. In the first place, this is a good
time of the year; and if North it is to be, we ought to
take advantage of the breaking up of the ice to get
past Davis's Straits. Then, again, the men are getting
more restless every day; their friends and old ship-
mates are constantly urging them to leave the For-
ward; and if we wait much longer we may find our-
selves in a pretty fix."
That's quite true," added James Wall; "and if once
a panic got amongst the crew, they would desert to a
man, and I very much doubt if you would succeed in
getting fresh hands."
"But what's to be done, then ?" asked Shandon.
"Just what you said," replied the Doctor, "wait;
but wait till to-morrow before you begin to despair.
Every one of the captain's promises have been kept
hitherto, and there is no ground for believing that we
shall not be told where we're going when the right
time comes. For my own part, I have not the slightest
doubt that we'll be in full sail to-morrow in the Irish
Sea, so I vote that we have one more glass of grog,
and drink to our safe voyage. It certainly has a rather
mysterious beginning, but, with such sailors as you,
a thousand chances to one but we'll have a prosperous
"And now, sir, if I may give you my advice," said
Johnson, I would give orders to be ready to sail
to-morrow, that the crew may not imagine there is any
uncertainty. To-morrow, whether a letter comes or
not, I would weigh anchor. Don't light the fires, for
the wind bids fair to keep steady, and we shall be able
to get out easily with the tide. Let the pilot come on
board and we'll get over to Birkenhead, and cast anchor
off the point. This will cut us off from communication
with the shore, and yet be near enough to allow of
this wonderful letter reaching us, should it arrive after
"That's well spoken, my good Johnson," said the
Doctor, holding out his hand to the old tar.
"Well, Lso be it, then," said Shandon, "and now
They each retired to their respective cabins, but
were too excited to sleep much, and were up again by
The morning letters had all been delivered, but not
one came for Richard Shandon. Still he went on with
his preparations for sailing, and, as we have seen, the
news had spread over Liverpool and brought together
an unusual concourse of spectators. Many came on
board to give a farewell embrace to a friend, or a last
entreaty not to go, and some to gratify their curiosity by
looking over the vessel, and trying once more to discover
its real destination. But they found the chief officer
more taciturn and reserved than ever, and went off
Ten o'clock struck, and eleven; at one o'clock the
tide would turn. Shandon stood on the poop gazing
with uneasy troubled looks at the crowd.
It was a cloudy day and the waves were dashing
high outside the basin, for there was a pretty strong
south-east wind blowing, but this could not prevent them
getting easily out of the Mersey.
Twelve o'clock struck and no letter. Dr. Clawbonny
began to walk impatiently up and down, staring about
through his eye-glass, and gesticulating in the most
excited manner. Shandon bit his lips silently till the
Presently Johnson came up to him and said, "If we
are to sail with this tide, sir, we have no time to
lose; for it will take us a full hour to get out of the
Shandon threw a last look round, consulted his
watch, and said briefly, Go."
This monosyllabic reply was enough for Johnson.
He gave immediate orders for all visitors to go ashore,
and the sailors began to haul in the ropes. There was
a simultaneous rush towards the side of the vessel.
The general confusion which ensued was greatly in-
creased by the furious yelling of the dog, and reached
a climax when the animal made one sudden bound from
the forecastle right into the midst of the crowd, who
fled before him right and left. He gave a loud deep
bark, and jumped on the poop, carrying a letter be-
tween his teeth. Incredible as the fact may appear,
it could be confirmed by at least a thousand eye-
"A letter!" exclaimed Shandon. "Then he is on
He has been, there is no doubt, but he is not now,"
replied Johnson, pointing to the deck, which was quite
clear of all strangers.
"Captain Captain I" called the Doctor, trying to
take the letter out of his mouth; but the dog resisted
stoutly, and was evidently determined to give the mes-
sage to none but the right party.
"Here, Captain !" shouted Shandon; and at once
the beast sprang forward and passively allowed him to
withdraw the anxiously-expected missive, giving three
loud, clear barks, which were distinctly heard amid the
profound silence on the ship and on the quay.
Shandon held the letter in his hand without opening
it, till the Doctor exclaimed, impatiently, Do, pray,
The letter bore no postmark, and was simply
addressed, "To the Chief Officer, Richard Shandon, on
board the brig Forward."
Shandon opened it, and read as follows:-
"You will steer your course towards Cape Fare-
well. You will reach it on the 2oth of April. If the
captain does not come on board, you will go through
Davis's Straits, and up Baffin's Bay to Melville
"The captain of the Forward,
Shandon carefully folded up this laconic epistle, put
it in his pocket, and gave orders to sail.
The Forward was soon out of the basin, and,
THE GREAT POLAR CURRENT.
THE GREAT POLAR CURRENT.
BEFORE long, the numerous flights of birds-puffins,
petrels, and others peculiar to these desolate shores-
indicated that they were approaching Greenland. The
Forward was steaming rapidly north, leaving leeward a
long cloud of black smoke.
On Tuesday, the i7th of April, the ice-master sig-
nalled the blink of ice about twenty miles ahead, at
least. A radiant band of dazzling whiteness lighted up
all. the surrounding atmosphere, in spite of somewhat
heavy clouds. Experienced Arctic sailors cannot mis-
take this appearance; and the old hands on board at
once pronounced it to be the luminous reflection from a
field of ice about thirty miles in the distance.
Towards evening the wind fell south, and became so
favourable that Shandon was able to dispense with
steam, and depend once more on the sails.
On the 18th, at three o'clock, an ice-stream was dis-
covered in the far horizon, making a broad shining
white line between sea and sky. It was evidently drift-
ing more from the east coast of Greenland than from
Davis's Straits; and about an hour afterwards the brig
encountered it, and sailed right through the loose
On the morrow, at daybreak, a ship was described,
which proved to be the Valkyrien, a Danish corvette,
48 THE GREAT POLAR CURRENT.
going to Newfoundland. The current from the Straits
began to be sensibly felt, and Shandon was obliged to
crowd sail to get on at all.
He was standing on the poop with his two officers
and the Doctor, examining the force and the direction
of the current, when the Doctor asked if it was true
that this same current vas uniformly found in Baffin's
"Undoubtedly that's the case," replied Shandon;
"and sailing vessels have great difficulty in making head
"All the more," said James Wall, "as they fall in
with it, both on the east side of America, and on the
west side of Greenland."
"Well, then," said the Doctor, "that is quite an
argument in favour of a North-West passage. This
current travels at the rate of about five miles an hour,
and one can hardly suppose it has its origin in the
bottom of the bay."
"Here is another fact to confirm your reasoning.
This current goes from north to south; but in Beh-
ring's' Straits there is a contrary current going
from south to north, which must be the origin of
"That certainly proves that America is completely
detached from the Polar regions, and that the waters
of the Pacific flow round its coast, and fall into the
Atlantic. Besides, the superior elevation of the Pacific
makes it all the more likely that the European seas would
be fed by its waters."
THE GREAT POLAR CURRENT.
"But, surely," said Shandon, "there must be some
facts to support this theory. Hasn't our learned Doctor
any to tell us ?" he added, half ironically.
Oh, yes !" said Clawbonny, with a good-
humoured air of complacency, "I could tell you this,
which may interest you, that whales which have been
wounded in Davis's Straits have been captured subse-
quently on the coast of Tartary with the European
harpoon still sticking in their sides."
"And since they have neither doubled Cape
Horn nor the Cape of Good Hope, they must have
got round North America. That is proof positive,
"If you're not convinced yet, my good Shandon, I
can bring forward other facts, such as the drift-wood
which so abounds in Davis's Straits-larches, and
aspens, and tropical substances. Now, we know
that the Gulf Stream would prevent this drift-wood
from entering; if it comes out there, it must have
got in by Behring's Straits, for there is no other
I am quite satisfied, Doctor; one couldn't be long
incredulous with you."
"Look out!" exclaimed Johnson; "here comes
something quite a fropos to our conversation. I see a
jolly-sized log of wood floating there, and I propose we
fish it up, with our chief officer's leave, and ask what
country it comes from."
Shandon agreed, and soon after the log was hauled
up on board, though with considerable difficulty. It was
50 THE GREAT POLAR CURRENT.
a trunk of mahogany, worm-eaten to the very centre,
which accounted for its floating.
"Here's a triumphant proof," exclaimed the
Doctor, enthusiastically. "Since it cannot have been
carried into Davis's Straits by the Atlantic cur-
rents, and since it cannot have been driven into the
Polar basin by any of the North American rivers,
seeing that it grew just below the Equator, it
is evident it comes in a direct line from Behring's
Straits. Besides, look at the Vorms. They belong
to a species peculiar to the tropics. Listen, I'll
tell you the whole history of this log. It was carried
into the Pacific Ocean by some river, from the Isthmus
of Panama or Guatemala. From thence it was borne
along by the current into Behring's Straits, and driven
out into the Polar Sea. I should assign rather a recent
date to its departure, for it is neither old enough nor
soaked enough to have been long on the road. After
getting through Baffin's Bay, past that long succession of
straits, it was violently caught up by the Polar current,
and brought through Davis's Straits, to take its place on
board the Forward, for the special delectation of Dr.
Clawbonny, who now craves permission to keep a piece
of it as a specimen."
"By all means," said Shandon; "but allow me to
tell you that you are not the only possessor of a waif
like this. The Danish governor of the Isle of Disko, on
the coast of Greenland--"
"I know," said the Doctor. He has a table made
of a trunk picked up in similar circumstances. I know
THE GREAT POLAR CURRENT.
all about it, Shandon; but I don't envy him his table,
for there is enough there to make me a whole bed-room
suite, if it were worth the trouble."
During the night the wind blew with extreme
violence, and the drift-wood became more frequently
visible. It was a time of the year when any approach
to the shore would be dangerous, as the icebergs are
very numerous. Shandon therefore gave orders to lessen
sail, and take in all that was not absolutely necessary.
The next business was to give out warm clothing
for the crew, as the thermometer went down below
freezing point. Each man received a woollen jacket
and trousers, a flannel shirt, and wadmel stockings, like
those worn by the Norwegian peasants. Each man
was also provided with a pair of perfectly waterproof
As for "Captain," he was quite contented with his
natural covering. He did not seem to feel the change
of temperature, and, likely enough, had been accus-
tomed to it before. Moreover, a born Dane can hardly
complain of cold; and Captain" was wise enough
not to expose himself much; he was seldom visible,
generally stowing himself away in the darkest recesses
of the ship.
Towards evening, through a rift in the fog, the
coast of Greenland was indistinctly visible-the Doctor
just caught a glimpse through the glass, of peaks and
glaciers, and then the fog closed over it again, like the
curtain falling at the theatre at the most interesting part
of the play.
52 THE GREAT POLAR CURRENT.
On the 20th of April the Forward sighted a fallen
iceberg, a hundred and fifty feet high. It had been in
the same place from time immemorial, and had become
firmly fixed below; as, for every foot above water, an
iceberg has nearly two below, which reckoning would
give this a depth of about eighty fathoms. No thaw
seemed to have affected it, or touched its strange out-
lines. It was seen by Snow; by James Ross, in 1829,
who made an exact drawing of it; and by Lieutenant
Bellot, in 1851. The Doctor, of course, was anxious
to carry away some souvenir of an ice mountain so
celebrated, and succeeded in sketching it very suc-
At last Cape Farewell came in sight, and the For-
ward arrived on the day fixed, amidst snow and fog,
with the temperature at 120. If the unknown captain
should chance to turn up here, he certainly could not
"Here we are, then," said the Doctor, "at this
famous cape I Well named it is, for many have reached
it like us who never saw it more. Do we, indeed, say
farewell to our friends in Europe ? Frobisher, Knight,
Barlow, Vaughan, Scroggs, Barentz, Hudson, Blosse-
ville, Franklin, Crozier, Bellot-all passed this way,
never to return I For them it was indeed a Cape Fare-
All the past history of Greenland rose up to
memory, as the Doctor stood gazing dreamily over
the side of the ship, watching the deep furrow she
made in ploughing the waves, and imagination peopled
the icy, desolate shore with pale shadows of the many
bold adventurers who had found a grave and windigr
sheet in the snow.
DURING the day the Forward bored her way easily
through the loose ice. The wind was favourable, but
the temperature very low, owing to the passage of the
air currents over the ice-fields.
The night was the most trying time, requiring the
utmost vigilance. The icebergs so crowded the
narrow strait that upwards of a hundred could often
be counted on the horizon at one time. They- were
constantly being shed off by the glaciers on the coast,
through the combined action of the waves and the
April weather, and either melted away or became
engulfed in the depths of the ocean. It was necessary,
also, to guard against coming into collision with the
drift-wood, which was floating about in continuous
heavy masses, so the "crow's-nest" had to be attached
to the topgallant mast-head. This was a cask with a
movable bottom, in which the ice-master took up his
position, to keep a sharp look-out over the sea.
Here he was partially sheltered from the wind, and
DA VIS'S STRAITS.
could both give notice of any ice that came in sight
and direct the course of the vessel through it when
The nights were short. The sun had reappeared
since the 31st of January, in consequence of refraction,
and inclined more and more to show himself above the
horizon; but the snow came between, and though not
exactly causing darkness, made navigation a work of
On the 2ist of April Cape Desolation came in sight
through the fog. The men were worn-out with fatigue,
for they had not a minute's rest since they got in
among the ice. It was found necessary to have re-
course to steam to bore a way through the close, heavy
The Doctor and the boatswain were standing at the
stern, having a chat, while Shandon was in his cabin,
trying to get a few hours' sleep. Clawbonny was very
fond of having a talk with the old sailor, for he had
made so many voyages, and seen and heard so much,
that his conversation was always sensible and inte-
resting. The Doctor took quite a fancy to him, and
Johnson heartily reciprocated his liking.
"How different this country is from all others,"
said Johnson. "It is called Greenland, but certainly it
is only during a very few weeks in the year that it
justifies its name."
But who knows, my good fellow, whether in the
tenth century it might not have been justly called so ?
More than one total change like that has taken
DA VIS'S STRAITS.
place on our globe; and perhaps I shall astonish you
considerably when I tell you that, according to Ice-
landic chroniclers, there were two hundred flourishing
villages on this continent eight or nine hundred years
"You astonish me so much, Mr. Clawbonny, that I
couldn't believe it, for it is a miserable country."
"Miserable it may be, but for all that it affords
enough to satisfy the inhabitants, and even civilised
"True enough. Both at Disko and Upernavik we
shall find men who have taken up their abode in this
inhospitable climate; but, for my own part, it has always
seemed to me that their stay there must be a matter of
necessity rather than of choice."
I can quite think that, yet a man can get used to
anything; and the Greenlanders don't appear to me so
much to be pitied as the labouring classes in our great
cities. They may be badly off, but one thing is certain,
they are not unhappy. I say badly off; but that does
not quite express my meaning. What I would say is,
they lack many comforts to be found in the temperate
zones, and yet their constitutions are so adapted to this
rude climate, that they find a measure of enjoyment in it
which we cannot even imagine."
"I suppose it is so, Mr. Clawbonny, since Heaven
cannot be unjust; but I have been here many a time,
and yet I never can see these dreary solitudes without
a feeling of sadness coming over me. And then what
names they have given to these capes, and bays, and
DA VIS'S STRAITS.
headlands! Surely they might have found something
more inviting than Cape Farewell and Desolation. They
have not a very cheering sound to navigators."
"I have thought the same thing myself," replied
the Doctor; and yet these names have a geographical
interest attaching to them which we must not overlook.
They record the adventures of those who gave them.
If I find Cape Desolation among such names as
Davis, Baffin, Hudson, Ross, Parry, Franklin, and
Bellot, I find soon afterwards Mercy Bay. Cape Provi-
dence is good company for Port Anxiety; Repulse Bay
leads me to Cape Eden; and Turnagain Point to
Refuge Bay. Here I have before me the whole suc-
cession of dangers and disappointments, obstacles, and
successes, despairing failures, and accomplished results,
linked with illustrious names of my countrymen; and as
if on a series of ancient medals, I read in this nomen-
clature the whole history of these seas."
"You have certainly made out a very good case for
it, Mr. Clawbonny. I only hope, in our voyage, we may
oftener come to Success Bay than Cape Despair."
"I hope that, too, Johnson; but, tell me, have the
crew got over their fears at all ?"
"They have partly, sir; and yet, to speak frankly,
since we entered the strait, their heads are full again of
this eccentric captain of ours. More than one of them
expected him to make his appearance the moment we
reached Greenland, and there's no sign of him yet. Be-
tween ourselves, Mr. Clawbonny, are you not surprised?"
"I certainly am, Johnson."
DA VIS'S STRAITS.
"Do you believe in the actual existence of this
"But what can possibly induce him to act in this
"Well, if I say what I really think, it is this-the
captain wished to get the sailors too far on to be able to
back out of the undertaking; and if he had shown him-
self on board ship when we were going to sail, I don't
know how he would have managed at all, with everybody
clamouring to know the destination."
Why not ?"
My stars if he is going to attempt some super-
human enterprise, and try to push his way where
human feet have never trod, do you suppose he would
have found a crew at all to go with him ? But by going
to work like this, he has dragged the men on so far, that
going farther becomes a necessity."
"That's very possible, Mr. Clawbonny. I have
known more than one bold adventurer, whose mere
name would have been enough to prevent any one from
joining any expedition led on by them."
"Any one except me," said the Doctor.
"And me, after you, Doctor," replied Johnson.
"No doubt, then, our captain belongs to these daring
adventurers. Well, we shall see, I suppose. When
we reach Upernavik, or Melville Bay, I daresay our
brave incognito will quietly instal himself on board,
and inform us where he has a fancy to drag the
b' ; .
DA VIS'S STRAITS.
I think that is very likely; but the difficulty is to
get to Melville Bay. Just look at the ice all round us.
There is hardly room for the ice to get through. See
that immense plain stretching out yonder !"
"In our Arctic language, Mr. Clawbonny, we call
that an ice-fild-that is to say, a surface of ice which
extends beyond the reach of sight."
"And what do you call this broken ice on the other
side-those long pieces which keep so closely together?"
"That's a pack. If the loose masses assume a
circular form, we call it falch; and if elongated, a
"And all that floating ice, there-has that any par-
ticular name ? "
"That is called drift ice. If it rose higher out of
the water it would be icebergs or ice-hills. It is dan-
gerous for ships to come into contact with them, and they
have to be carefully avoided. Look! do you see that
protuberance, or sort of ridge of broken ice on the surface
of the field? That is called a hummock, and is formed
by the collision of fields. If its base was submerged, it
would be called a calf."
"Well, it is certainly a curious spectacle," said
the Doctor, "and one that acts powerfully on the
"Yes, indeed," replied Johnson, "for the ice often
assumes the most fantastic forms."
"For instance, Johnson," interrupted the Doctor,
"look at that assemblage of huge blocks. Couldn't you
fancy it was some eastern city, with its minarets and
'Couldn't you fancy it was s-)ne Sastorn city. with its minarets and mosques
glittering in the pale moon ight ? "-t'. 70.
mosques glittering in the pale moonlight ? And then a
little way off is a long succession of Gothic arches, which
remind one of Henry the Seventh's Chapel at West-
minster, or the Houses of Parliament."
"Ay, Mr. Clawbonny, each man shapes those to his
own fancy; but I can tell you both churches and towers
are dangerous places to live in, or even to get too near.
There are some of those minarets tottering at their
base, and the smallest of them would crush our brig to
"And yet men have dared to venture here without
having steam to fall back upon. It is difficult to imagine
a common sailing ship being able to pick her way through
those moving rocks."
It has been done, however, Mr. Clawbonny.
When the wind became contrary, which happened to
myself more than once, we anchored our ship to one of
those blocks, and waited patiently, drifting along with
it more or less, till a favouring breeze allowed us to
resume our course again. I must confess, however,
it was a very slow fashion of sailing. We did not get
on farther in a whole month than we should have done
in a day, if we had at all a fair wind."
"It strikes me," said the Doctor, that the tempera-
ture keeps getting lower."
"That would be vexing," said Johnson, "for we
need a thaw to loosen these packs, and make them
drift into the Atlantic. The reason they are so nume-
rous in Davis's Straits is the narrowness of the space
between Cape Walsingham and Holstcinberg; but after
we get beyond the 67th deg. we shall find the sea more
navigable during May and June months."
"Yes; but how to reach it is the question."
"That's it, Mr. Clawbonny. In June and July we
should have found the passage open, as the whalers do;
but our orders were positive-we were to arrive here in
April. That makes me think that our captain is some
thorough 'go-ahead' fellow who has got an idea in his
head, and is determined to carry it out. He would not
have started so soon if he had not meant to go a long
way. Well, if we live we shall see."
The Doctor was right about the temperature. The
thermometer was only 60 at mid-day, and a breeze was
blowing from the south-west, which, though it cleared
the sky, considerably impeded the course of the ship, as
the strong current it produced drove the loose, heavy
masses of ice right across her bows. Nor did all these
masses move in the same direction. Some-and those
the largest among them-floated in an exactly opposite
direction, obeying a counter-current below.
It is easy to understand what difficulty this caused
in navigation. The engineers had not a single moment's
rest. Sometimes a lead or opening was discovered in
an ice-field, and the brig had to strain her utmost to get
into it. Sometimes she had to race with an iceberg to
prevent the only visible outlet from being blocked up ;
while again some towering mass would suddenly over-
turn, and the ship must be backed in an instant to avoid
being crushed. Should frost set in, all the accumulation
of floe-pieces driven into the narrow pass by the north
DA VIS'S STRAITS.
wind, would consolidate firmly, and oppose an insur-
mountable barrier to the progress of the Forward.
The petrels and other sea-birds were innumerable.
They were flying about in all directions, filling the air
with their discordant cries. Amongst them was also a
great number of sea-gulls, with large heads, short necks,
and compressed beaks, spreading their long wings,
and disporting themselves in the loose snow. These
feathered gentry quite enlivened the landscape.
The drift-wood was still abundant, and the logs came
dashing against each other with great noise. Several
cachelots, or sperm whales, with enormous, swollen
heads, approached the vessel; but it was out of the
question to think of giving them chase, though Simpson
the harpooner's fingers itched to try to spear them.
Towards evening, seals were also seen swimming about
between the floes, the tips of their snouts just above
On the 22nd, the temperature became still lower.
The steam had to be at high pressure to enable the
Forward to gain any favourable leads whatever. The
wind kept steadily north-west, and the sails were close-
Being Sunday, the sailors had less work. After
morning service, which was read by Shandon, the crew
occupied themselves in shooting guillemots, a species of
sea turtle-doves. They caught a great number, which
were dressed according to Clawbonny's receipt, and
furnished an agreeable addition to the ordinary fare of
both officers and men.
DA PIS'S STRAITS.
At three o'clock in the afternoon the Forwzard
reached Kin of Zaal, and the Sukkertop, or Sugarloaf-
a wild, lonely peak, rising 3000 feet above the shore.
There was a heavy swell in the sea, and from time to
time a dense fog would suddenly overspread the grey
sky. However, at noon the observations had been
taken, and it was found that the lat. was 650 20', and
long. 54 22'. Two degrees higher had therefore to be
made before a more open sea could be reached.
For the three following days it was one continuous
struggle with the floes. It was a fatiguing business
to work the engine: the steam was stopped or driven
back every minute, and escaped hissing from the
While the fog lasted, the approach of icebergs could
only be known by the hollow detonations produced by
the avalanches. The brig had to turn about at once,
for there was danger of coming into collision with fresh-
water blocks, as hard as rock, and remarkable for their
crystal transparency. Shandon took care to replenish
his supply of water by shipping several tons of these
The Doctor could never get accustomed to the optical
illusions caused by refraction. For instance, an iceberg
twelve miles off looked like a little white mass quite close;
and his eye needed long training to enable him to judge
objects correctly in a region where a phenomenon like
this was of frequent occurrence.
At length, what with towing the brig along in fields,
and driving back threatening blocks with long poles, the
WHAT THE CREW THOUGHT ABOUT IT. 63
crew were completely worn out, and yet on Friday, the
27th of April, the Forward was still outside the Polar
WHAT THE CREW THOUGHT ABOUT IT.
BY watching his chance, however, and taking advantage
of every favourable lead, the Forward managed to gain a
little ground, but instead of avoiding the enemy, it was
evident that direct attack would soon be necessary, for
ice-fields, many miles in extent, were approaching, and
as these masses when in motion represent a pressure of
more than ten millions of tons, great care was requisite
to avoid nippings, that is, getting crushed in among
them on both sides of the ship. The saws were ordered
to be brought up and placed in readiness for immediate
It was hard work now for the crew, and some began
to grumble loudly, though they did not refuse to obey,
while others took things as they came with philosophic
"I couldn't tell for my life what brings it into my
head just this moment," said Bolton, gaily, but I
can't help thinking of a jolly little grog-shop in Water
Street, where a fellow can make himself very comfort-
64 WHAT THE CREW THOUGHT ABOUT IT.
able with a glass of gin and a bottle of porter. You
can see it too, quite plain, can't you, Gripper?"
"Speak for yourself," said Gripper, in the surly tone
he generally adopted. I can see nothing of the sort."
"It's only a way of speaking, Gripper; of course I
didn't suppose that those ice-cities which Mr. Claw-
bonny so admires have even one solitary little public-
house in them, where a brave Jack Tar can get a
tumbler or two of brandy."
"You may be quite sure of that, Bolton; and for
that matter you might add, there is nothing even to be
had on board to keep a poor fellow's heart up. A queer
idea, certainly, to forbid spirits to Arctic sailors !"
"I can't see that," said Garry, "for you remember
what the Doctor said, that it was absolutely necessary
to avoid all stimulants if a man wished to go far north,
and keep well and free from scurvy."
"But I have no wish to go far north, Garry. I
think it is all lost labour, even coming this length. I
can't see the good of being so bent and determined on
pushing through where the Fates are dead against us."
"Ah, well, we shan't push through, anyway," saitl
Pen. When I think I have even forgotten the taste of
"You must comfort yourself, my boy," said Bolton,
"with what the Doctor said."
"Oh, it's all very fine to talk," said Pen, in his
coarse, brutal voice, "but it remains to be seen whether
all this stuff about health isn't a mere sham to save the
WHAT THE CREW THOUGHT ABOUT IT. 65
"Pen may be right, perhaps, after all," said
"Pen right !" exclaimed Bolton. "His nose is too
red for that, and if this new regimen is beginning to
bring it back to its natural colour a bit, he may thank
his stars instead of complaining."
"What harm has my nose done to you, I should
like to know ?" said Pen, angrily, for this was an
attack on his weak point. "My nose can take care of
itself; it doesn't want your advice. Mind your own
Come, Pen, don't get rusty. I didn't think your
nose was so sensitive. Why, man, I like a good glass
of whisky as well as other people, especially in such a
climate as this, but if it does one really more harm than
good, I am quite willing to go without it."
"You do without it ?" said Warren, the stoker, "but
I am not so sure that every one else on board does
What do you mean, Warren ?" said Garry, looking
fixedly at him.
"I mean this, that for some reason or other there
are spirits on board, and I don't believe some folks in
the cabin don't make themselves jolly."
"Pray, how did you know that ?" asked Garry.
Warren could not answer; he was only talking for
talking sake, as the saying is.
Never mind him, Garry," said Bolton. "You see
he knows nothing about it."
"Well," said Pen, "we'll go ant ask for a ration
66 WHAT THE CREW THOUGHT ABOUT IT.
of gin from the chief officer. We've earned it well, I'm
sure, and we'll see if he refuses."
"I advise you to do nothing of the sort," rejoined
Why not ?" asked Pen and Gripper.
"Because you'll only get 'No' for an answer. You
knew the regulation when you signed the articles. You
should have thought about it sooner."
"Besides," replied Bolton, who always sided with
Garry, "Richard Shandon is not the master; he has to
obey like all the rest of us."
"Obey whom, I should like to know ?"
"Confound the captain," exclaimed Penn. Can't
you see through all this make-believe. There is no
more any real captain than there is any tavern among
those ice-blocks. It's only a polite fashion of refusing
us what we have a right to demand."
"But there is a captain," replied Bolton, "and I
would wager two months' wages that we shall see him
"So much the better," said Pen. "I, for one, should
like to say a few words to him."
"Whds talking about the captain ?" said a fresh
It was Clifton who spoke-an anxious, superstitious
"Any more news about the captain ?" he
"None," was the unanimous reply.
WHAT THE CREW THOUGHT ABOUT IT. 67
Well, some fine morning I quite expect to find him
in his cabin, without anyone knowing how he got there,
or where he came from."
"Be off with you," said Bolton. "You seem to
think the captain is a sort of Brownie, like those that
the Scotch Highlanders talk about."
Laugh as much as you like, Bolton, but that won't
change my opinion. Every day, when I pass his cabin,
I take a look through the key-hole, and you see if I don't
come and tell you some day what he looks like, and how
"Plague take him," said Pen; "I suppose
his timbers are no different from other people; and
if he's going to try and force us where we don't
want to go, he'll soon show us what stuff he is
"That's pretty good," said Bolton. "Here's Pen,
who doesn't even know the man, wanting to pick a
quarrel with him directly."
"Doesn't know him?" returned Clifton; "that
remains to be proved."
"What do you mean?" asked Gripper.
I know what I'm saying."
"But we don't," was the common exclamation.
Why, hasn't Pen quarrelled with him already ?"
"With the captain ? "
"Yes, with the dog-captain, for it comes to the same
The sailors gazed dubiously at each other, hardly
knowing what to say or think.
68 WHAT THE CREW THOUGHT ABOUT IT.
At last Pen muttered between his teeth, "Man or
dog, as sure as I'm alive, I'll settle accounts with him
one of those days."
"Clifton," asked Bolton, seriously, do you actually
profess to believe that the dog is the real captain ?
Johnson was only fooling you."
"I firmly believe it," said Clifton, with an air of
perfect conviction, "and if you were to watch him as I
have done, you would have seen his strange behaviour
"What strange behaviour ? Tell us about him."
"Haven't you seen the way he marches up and
down the deck, and looks at the sails, as if he were on
"Yes, that's quite true; and one evening I
positively caught him, with his fore-paws up, leaning
against the wheel."
"Impossible !" said Bolton.
"And doesn't he leave the ship now every night,
and go walking about among the ice, without caring
either for the bears or the cold ? "
"That is true, too," said Bolton.
"Besides, is the animal like any other honest dog,
fond of human society? Does he follow the cook
about, and watch all his movements when he brings in
the dishes to the cabin ? Don't you hear him at night,
when he is two or three miles from the ship, howling
till he makes your flesh creep, which, by the way, isn't
a very difficult matter in such a temperature. And, to
crown all, have you ever seen him eat any food ? He
WHAT THE CREW THOUGHT ABOUT IT. 69
will take nothing from anybody. His cake is never
touched, and unless some one feeds him secretly, I
may safely say he is an animal that lives without
eating. Now, you may call me a fool if you like, if that
isn't peculiar enough."
"Upon my word," said Bell, the carpenter, who had
listened to all Clifton's arguments, "it is not impossible
you may be right."
The other sailors were silent, till Bolton changed the
subject by asking where the Forward was going.
"I don't know," said Bell. "At a given moment,
Shandon is to receive his final instructions."
"Yes, how ? that's the question," repeated
"Come, Bell, give us an answer," urged the
"I don't know how," said the carpenter. "I can
tell no more than you can."
"Oh! by the dog-captain, of course," exclaimed
Clifton. "He has written once already; I daresay he
can manage a second letter. Oh, if I but knew half
that dog does, I should feel fit to be First Lord of the
"So, then, the short and long of it is, that you stick
to your opinion, Clifton," said Bolton.
I've told you that already."
"Well," said Pen, in a deep, hollow voice, "all I
know is, if that beast don't want to die in a dog's skin,
70 WHAT THE CREW THOUGHT ABOUT IT.
he had better be quick, and turn into a man, for I'll do
for him as sure as my name is Pen."
"And what for ?" said Garry.
"Because I choose," was the rude reply. "I am
not bound to give an account of my doings to any
"Come, boys, you have had talk enough," said
Johnson, interrupting the conversation to prevent a
quarrel. "Get to work; it is time the saws were all
up, for we must get beyond the ice."
"So be it, and on a Friday, too. We shan't get
beyond quite so easily," said Clifton, shrugging his
From what cause it was impossible to say, but all
the efforts of the crew were in vain. That day the
Forward made no way whatever, though she dashed
against the ice-fields with all her steam up. She could
not separate them, and was forced to come to anchor
for the night.
Next day the wind was east, and the temperature
still lower. The weather was fine, and, as far as the eye
could reach ice-plains stretched away in the distance,
glittering in the sun's rays with dazzling whiteness. At
seven in the morning, the thermometer stood eight
degrees below zero.
The Doctor felt much inclined to stay quietly in his
cabin, and devote himself to the reperusal of his
volumes of Arctic voyages; but his custom was
always to do whatever was most disagreeable to himself
at the time being, and as it was certainly anything but
WHAT THE CREW THOUGHT ABOUT IT. 71
pleasant to go on deck in such bitter weather and lend
a helping hand to the men, he adhered to his rule of
conduct, and left his snug warm quarters below, and
went upstairs to do his share of work in towing the
vessel along. He wore green spectacles to protect his
eyes; but from this time he began to make use of snow-
spectacles, to avoid the ophthalmia so frequent in Arctic
By the evening the Forward had gained many miles,
thanks to the activity of the men and the skill of Shan-
don. At midnight they cleared the sixty-sixth parallel,
and on sounding, the depth was found to be twenty-three
fathoms. Land was about thirty miles to the east.
Suddenly the mass of ice, which had hitherto been
motionless, broke in pieces, and began to move. Ice-
bergs seemed to surge from all points of the horizon,
and the brig found herself wedged in among a crowd
of moving rocks, which might crush her at any
moment. The task of steering became so difficult that
Garry, who was the best hand at the wheel, could
never leave it. Ice-mountains were re-forming behind
the ship, and there was no alternative but to bore a way
forward through the loose floes.
The crew were divided into two companies, and
ranged on the starboard and larboard; each man armed
with a long pole pointed with iron, to push back the
most threatening packs. Before long, the brig entered
a narrow pass between two high blocks, so narrow, that
the tops of the sails touched the rock, like walls on
either side. This led into a winding valley, full of
72 WHAT THE CREW THOUGHT ABOUT IT.
whirling, blinding snow, where masses of drift ice were
dashing furiously against each other, and breaking up
into fragments with loud ominous cracking.
But it was soon but too evident that there was no
outlet to this gorge; an enormous block was right in
front of the ship, and-drifting rapidly down on her.
There appeared no way of escape, for going back was
Shandon and Johnson stood together on the fore
part of the vessel, surveying her perilous position;
Shandon giving orders with one hand to the steersman
and with the other to James Wall, who transmitted them
to the chief engineer.
How is this going to end, Johnson?"
"As Heaven pleases," was the boatswain's reply.
The ice-block, an enormous berg a hundred feet
high, was now within a cable's length of the Forweard,
threatening her with instant destruction.
It was a moment of intense agonising suspense, and
became so unbearable that the men flung down their
poles in spite of Shandon's commands, and hurried to
Suddenly a tremendous noise was heard, and a
perfect water-spout broke over the deck. An enormous
wave upheaved the ship, and the men cried out in
terror, all but Garry, who stood up quietly at the helm,
and kept the vessel in the right course, notwithstanding
the frightful lurch she made.
But when the men recovered themselves a little, and
ventured to look the gigantic foe again in the face, it was
gone The whole berg had completely disappeared, the
pass was free, and there was a long channel beyond,
lighted up by the oblique rays of the sun, which offered
anuninterrupted passage to the Forward.
"Well, Mr. Clawbonny," said Johnson, "how do
you explain this phenomenon ? "
"It is one that often occurs, and is very simple,
my good friend," replied the Doctor. When these
floating icebergs become detached at the time of the
thaw, they sail separately along and preserve their
equilibrium perfectly, but as they gradually drift farther
south, where the water is relatively warmer, they begin
to melt and get undermined at the base, and the moment
comes when their centre of gravity is displaced, and
down they go. If this had happened, however, but two
minutes later, it would have fallen on the ship and
crushed her to atoms."
THE Polar circle was entered at last. The Forward
passed Holsteinberg at twelve o'clock on the 3oth of
April. Picturesque mountain scenery appeared on the
eastern horizon, and the sea was open and free from ice-
bergs, or rather any icebergs that were visible could easily
be avoided. The wind was in the S.E., and bore along
the brig in full sail up Baffin's Bay.
The weather was unusually calm, and the crew were
able to indulge in a little rest, while the Doctor amused
himself on deck by observing the numerous flocks of
birds that came swimming and flying round the ship.
He noticed one species with white breasts and black
throats, wings, and backs, which were most expert
divers, able to remain under water full forty seconds.
The day would have passed unmarked by any unusual
incident but for the following occurrence, which, strange
as it may appear, actually took place.
At six in the morning, when Richard Shandon's watch
was over, and he came back to his cabin, ha found a
letter lying on his table directed thus :
'I To the chief officer, Richard Shandon,
On board the Forward,
Shandon could not believe his own eyes, and would
not even take the letter in his hands till he had called
the Doctor and James Wall and the boatswain to look
"It is certainly very strange," said Johnson.
"I think it is charming I exclaimed the Doctor,
"At any rate," replied Shandon, we shall know
the secret now, I suppose."
He tore open the envelope hastily and read as
"The captain of the Forward is pleased with
the coolness, skill, and courage displayed in recent
trying circumstances by the crew and officers, and
yourself. He begs you to convey his thanks to the
"You will please direct your course north to
Melville Bay, and from thence attempt to make Smith's
"The Captain of the Forward,
Monday, April 3oth, off Cape Walsingham."
"And that's all !" exclaimed the Doctor.
"That's all," was Shandon's reply.
"Well !" said Wall, "this Quixotic captain
doesn't even so much as speak of coming on board
now. I infer from this he doesn't intend to come
But this letter," said Johnson, "how did it get
Shandon was silent.
"Mr. Wall is right," replied the Doctor, picking up
the letter which had fallen on the floor, and giving it
back to Shandon.
"The captain won't come on board for a very good
"And what is it ? inquired Shandon, eagerly.
"Because he is there already!" said the Doctor
"Already I What do you mean ?"
If he is not, how do you explain the arrival of the
Johnson nodded his head approvingly.
"It is not possible!" exclaimed Shandon. "I
know every one of the crew; and, if your idea were
correct, the captain must have been on board ever
since the ship sailed. It is perfectly impossible, I say;
for there is not a man among them I haven't seen more
than a hundred times in Liverpool during the last two
years. No, no, Doctor; your theory is altogether in-
"Well, then, how do you account for it ?"
"Any way but that. I grant you that the captain,
or some one employed by him, may have taken advan-
tage of the fog and darkness to slip on board unper-
ceived. We are not far from land, and the Esquimaux
kayaks glide along noiselessly between the icebergs. He
,night easily have managed to climb up the ship and
deposit the letter. The fog has been quite dense enough
"Yes, and dense enough, too, to keep any one from
seeing the brig; for if we could not notice an intruder
coming on deck, it is not very likely he would be able to
discover the vessel."
"I think that too," said Johnson. "What do you
say, Mr. Shandon ?"
"Anything you like, except that he is one of the
crew," said Shandon, in an excited manner.
"Perhaps it is one of the sailors who has been com-
missioned by him," suggested Wall.
That may be," said the Doctor.
"But which of them?" asked Shandon. "I tell
you, all the men have been personally known to me this
"At any rate, the captain will be welcome when-
ever he chooses to come, be he man or fiend," said
Johnson. "But there is one piece of information in
the letter at all events. We are not only going to
Melville Bay but to Smith's Straits."
Smith's Straits," repeated Shandon, mechanically.
"It is evident," continued Johnson, that the object
of the Forward is not to seek the North-West passage,
since we must leave Lancaster Sound, the only entrance
to it, on the left. This supposes very difficult navigation
for us in unknown seas."
"Yes," said Shandon, "Smith's Sound was the
course taken by the American Dr. Kane in 1853; and
what dangers he encountered He was given up for
lost for a long time. However, if we are to go, we go.
But where ? To the Pole ? "
"Why not?" asked the Doctor.
Johnson shrugged his shoulders at the bare possi-
bility of such a mad attempt. -
"Well, then," said Wall, "to come back to the
captain; if he exists, I hardly see any place in Green-
land where he can be waiting for us except Disko, or
Upernavik, so in a few days at most we shall know
better how the case stands."
"But, Shandon," asked the Doctor, "are you not
going to tell the men about this letter ? "
"With your leave, sir," said Johnson, addressing
Shandon, "I say not."
"And why not?"
"Because anything so unheard-of and so mysterious
disspirits the men. They are very uneasy as it is
about the issue of this strange expedition, but if any-
thing supernatural should occur, it might have the
worst possible effect on them, and we could never rely
on them when most wanted."
"What is your opinion, Doctor?" asked Shandon.
"Johnson's reasoning seems convincing, I think,"
was the reply.
And what say you, James ?"
"I incline to Johnson, sir."
After a few moments' reflection, Shandon read the
letter carefully again, and then said:
"Your opinion is very sensible, but excuse me, gen-
tlemen, I cannot adopt it."
"Why not, Shandon ?"
"Because my instructions are plain and precise. I
am told to convey a message from the captain to the
crew. All I have to do is to obey orders, however they
may have come to me, and I cannot--"
"But, sir," interrupted Johnson, mainly concerned
at the disastrous effect of any such communication on
"My good fellow," said Shandon, I can under-
stand your opposition, but I put it to yourself, whether
I have any option in the matter. Read the letter. He
begs you to convey his thanks to the crew.'"
"Well, then," said Johnson, when his love of dis-
cipline was thus appealed to, "shall I assemble the
men on deck?"
"Do so," replied Shandon.
The news of a communication from the captain soon
spread, and the sailors needed no second summons to
hear the mysterious letter. They listened to it in gloomy
silence, but gave way to all sorts of wild conjectures,
as they dispersed to their work. The superstitious
Clifton ascribed everything, as usual, to the dog-captain,
and said triumphantly:
Didn't I say that animal could write ?"
From this day forward he always took care to touch
his cap whenever he chanced to meet him about the ship.
One thing was patent to the observation of any one
-the captain, or his ghost, was always watching over
their doings, and prudent individuals began to think it
advisable to keep quiet, and say as little about him as
By observations taken at noon on the ist of May,
the longitude was found to be 320 and the latitude 68.
The temperature had risen, and the thermometer stood
at 26 above zero.
The Doctor was Qn deck, amusing himself with the
gambols of a white bear and her cubs, on a pack of ice
frozen fast to the shore. He tried to capture her, with
the assistance of Wall and Simpson; but the brute was
evidently of a peaceable disposition, for she never
showed fight at all, but scampered off with her progeny
at full speed.
Cape Chidley was doubled during the night with a
favouring breeze, and suddenly the high mountains of
Disko rose to view. The Bay of Godavhn, where the
Governor-General of the Danish settlements resided,
was left on the right.
Isle Disko is also called Whale Island. It was from
this place that Sir John Franklin wrote his last letter
to the Admiralty, on the 12th of July, 1845, and it was
there that McClintock touched on his return, on the
27th of August, 1859, bringing incontestable proofs of
the loss of the expedition.
The shore was one continuation of icebergs, of the
most peculiar fantastic shapes, so firmly cemented to
the coast that the most powerful thaws had been unable
to detach them.
Next day, about three o'clock, they sighted San-
derson Hope, to the N.E. Land was on the starboard
side, about fifteen miles off, the mountains looking
brownish-red in the distance. In the course of the
evening, several whales of the species called finners,
which have their fins on the back, were seen disporting
themselves among the ice, blowing out large volumes of
air and water through the apertures in the head.
During the night of the 5th of May, the Doctor
observed the luminous disc of the sun, for the first
time, appear completely above the horizon, though
from the 3Ist of January there had been constant
To those who are not accustomed to it, there is
something in this continual day which excites wonder-
ment at first, but soon gives place to weariness. One
wo.ild hardly believe how necessary the darkness of
night is for the preservation of the sight. The Doctor
felt the constant glare positively painful, intensified as
it was by the dazzling reflection of the ice.
On the 5th of May the Forward passed the seventy-
second parallel. Two months later, she would have
fallen in with numerous whalers about to -commence
their fishing, but at present the Straits were not free
enough to allow their vessels to get into Baffin's
The next day the brig arrived in sight of Uper-
navik, the most northerly of the Danish settlements
on the coast.
SHANDON, Dr. Clawbonny, and Johnson, accompanied
by Foker and Strong, the cook, got into the whaling-
boat, and went on shore.
The Governor, with his wife and five children, came
courteously to meet their visitors. Dr. Clawbonny
knew enough Danish to establish friendly. relations
between them, and Foker, the ice-master, who was also
interpreter, knew about twenty words of the Esquimaux
tongue, and a good deal can be done with twenty words
if one is not very ambitious.
The Governor was born in Isle Disko, and had
never been out of it in his life. He did the honours of
his town, composed of three wooden houses for himself
and the three Lutheran ministers, a school, and a few
shops, which were stocked by shipwrecked vessels.
The rest of the town consisted of snow-huts, with one
single opening, into which the Esquimaux crawled on
A great part of the inhabitants had gone out to meet
the Forward, and more than one advanced as far as
the middle of the bay in his kayak.
The Doctor knew that the word esquimaux means
eater of raw fish, but he also knew that this name is
considered an insult by the natives; and he therefore
took care to call them Greenlanders."
And yet their oily sealskin clothes and boots, and
the greasy, fetid smell of both men and women-for
one sex is hardly distinguishable from the other-told
plainly enough the description of food on which they
lived, as well as the disease of leprosy which prevailed
to some extent among them, as it does among most
ichthyophagous races, though it did not affect their
The Lutheran clergyman and his wife, with whom
the Doctor was anticipating some pleasant intercourse,
were on a visitation in the south, below Upernavik, so
he was obliged to make the best of the Governor. This
worthy functionary was not very lettered; a little less
PERILOUS NA VIGA TION.
intelligence would have made him an ass; a little more,
and he would have known how to read.
However, the Doctor managed to put many in-
quiries to him about the habits and manners of the
Esquimaux, and how they traded. He learnt, through
sundry signs and gestures, that seals were worth forty
pounds in Copenhagen, a bear's skin forty Danish
dollars, a blue fox-skin four, and a white two or three
The Doctor also wished to make a personal inspec-
tion of an Esquimaux hut, but, fortunately for him, the
entrance was too small to allow of his admission. It
was a happy escape, for nothing can be more repulsive
than the interior of a Greenland hut, with its heap of
dead and living things, seal-flesh, and Esquimaux rotten
fish, and stinking garments; not even a solitary window
to purify the air; nothing but a hole at the top,
which allows the smoke to escape, but not the fetid
Foker described all this to the Doctor; but it only
made the good man bemoan his corpulence still more,
for he would have liked to investigate the huts pro-
Shandon, meanwhile, was obeying the instructions
of his unknown commander, and procuring means of
transport over the ice. He had to pay C4 for a sledge
and six dogs, and even then the natives wished to get
out of their bargain.
He also sought to engage the services of Hans
Christian to manage the dogs, the same young man
PERILOUS NA VIGA T ON.
that accompanied the McClintock expedition, but found
he had gone to the south of Greenland.
But the most important part of Shandon's business
was to try and discover whether there was any European
at Upernavik waiting for the arrival of the Forward.
Was the Governor acquainted with any stranger, an
Englishman most probably, who had taken up his abode
in this region? When had he last had any intercourse
with whalers or other vessels ?
To these questions the Governor replied that not a
single stranger had landed on the coast for more than
It was evidently a hopeless mystery, and Shandon
could not help crowing a little over the disappointment
of the sanguine Doctor.
"You must own it is quite inexplicable," he said;
"nothing at Cape Farewell, nothing at Isle Disko,
nothing at Upernavik."
Wait a few days, and if it turns out there is nothing
at Cape Melville either, I shall hail you as the only
captain of the Forward."
Towards evening, the whale-boat came back to the
ship, bringing Strong, the cook, with some dozens of
eider-ducks' eggs, twice the size of common hens' eggs,
and of a greenish colour. His forage for fresh pro-
visions had not been successful, but still the eggs were a
very welcome addition to the salt junk.
The wind was favourable next day, but Shandon still
delayed weighing anchor. He determined to wait till
morning to give time for any one t6 come on board
PERILOUS NA VIGA TION.
that wished, and fired a salute from the cannon every
hour to make known the presence of the vessel. It
made a tremendous noise among the icebergs, but had
no effect beyond frightening the molly-mokes and
rotches, who came flying out in clouds. Squibs and
rockets in abundance were sent up during the night,
but equally without result. There was no alternative
but to proceed.
By six o'clock next morning the Fortward had lost
sight of Upernavik and its ugly posts all along the
shore, with strips of seal intestines and paunches of deer
hanging to dry.
The wind was S.E., and the temperature had risen
to 320. The sun appeared through the fog, and the
icebergs began to give way a little beneath his melting
The white, dazzling reflections of his rays, how-
ever, had a disastrous effect on the men. Wolsten the
gunner, Gripper, Clifton, and Bell, were attacked with
snow blindness, a very common disease in spring, and
often terminating among the Esquimaux in total loss of
sight. The Doctor advised every one, and especially
those suffering from the complaint, to wear a green
gauze veil, and he was the first to follow his own pre-
The dogs Shandon had purchased at Uperavik
turned out rather wild at first, but they soon became
used to the ship, and Captain got on very well with
his new associates. He seemed no stranger to
their ways, and, as Clifton was not slow to remark,
he had evidently been among his Greenland brethren
On the 9th of May the Forward came within a
cable's length of the most westerly of the Baffin's Isles,
and noticed the Crimson Cliffs, as they are called,
from the peculiar red tinge of the snow which covers
them. Dr. Clawbonny would have liked to make a
close inspection of this curious phenomenon, but
the ice completely barred any nearer approach to the
After leaving Upernavik the appearance of the
coast quite changed. Immense glaciers stood out
against the grey sky, and in the west, beyond the
opening of Lancaster Sound, vast ice-fields extended,
ridged with hummocks at regular intervals. There
was great danger of the brig becoming nipped, as each
instant the leads got more impracticable. Shandon
had the furnaces lighted, and till the IIth managed to
pursue a winding course among the loose floes, but on
the morning of the 12th the Forward found herself
beset on all sides. Steam proved powerless, and there
was no alternative but to cut a way through the ice-
fields. This involved great fatigue, and a mutinous
spirit began to manifest itself in some of the crew,
such as Pen, Gripper, Warren, and Wolsten. Certainly
it was hard labour to saw through huge masses six and
seven feet thick, and when this was accomplished it
was almost as hard to tow the vessel along by means
of the capstan and anchors fixed in the ice in holes made
with a centre-bit. The broken ice, too, had to be
PERILOUS NA VIGATION.
constantly pushed back under the floes with long poles
tipped with iron, to keep a free passage, and all this
physical toil, amid blinding snow, or dense fog, combined
with the low temperature, the ophthalmia, and the super-
stitious fears of Clifton, contributed to weaken the
mental and bodily energy of the men.
When sailors have to deal with a bold, intrepid,
decided leader, who knows his own mind and what he
intends to do, confidence is felt in spite of themselves;
they are one in heart with their captain, strong in his
strength, and calm in his calmness. But the crew of
the Forward were conscious of Shandon's irresolution
and hesitancy, for, notwithstanding his natural energy
of character, he betrayed his weakness by his frequent
countermand of orders, by imprudent remarks, and in a
thousand little things that did not escape the notice of
The simple fact, besides, that Shandon was not the
captain, was enough to make his orders matters of
discussion, and from discussion to rebellion is an easy
Before long, the malcontents -had won over the
head engineer to their side, a man who had been hitherto
a very slave of duty.
On the 16th May, six days from the time the
Forward had reached the ice-fields, Shandon had not
made two miles farther north. This was a very serious
aspect of affairs, for they were in imminent danger of
being locked in till the next season.
About eight in the evening, Shandon and the
PERILOUS NA VIGATION.
Doctor, accompanied by Garry, went out on a voyage
of discovery over the vast outstretching plains of ice.
They took care not to go too far from the ship, for
it would have been difficult to find the way back.
The Doctor was quite amazed at the peculiar effects
of refraction. He came to a, place where he thought
he had only to make a little jump, and found to his
surprise he had five or six feet to leap over, or vice
versd, a fall being the result in both cases, which,
though not dangerous, was painful on such a hard
Shandon and his companions were in search of
leads, or navigable openings, and in pursuance of this
object, about three miles from the ship, they climbed,
though with considerable difficulty, to the top of an
iceberg, above three hundred feet high. From this they
had an extended view over a widespread heap of deso-
lation. It was like gazing at the ruins of some mighty
city, with its fallen obelisks and overturned towers and
palaces. It was a veritable chaos, and far as the eye
could see, not a single lead was visible.
How shall we get through ?" asked the Doctor.
"I don't know," replied Shandon, "but get through
we must, even if we have to blast those mountains with
powder. I certainly have no intention of being impri-
soned in the ice till next spring."
"As the Fox was, just about this very same part,"
said the Doctor. Bahi we shall get out, never fear,
with a little philosophy. I would back that against all
the engines in the world."
PERILOUS NA VIGA TIO.
One must confess things don't look very favourable
That is true enough. The aspect of the regions is
much the same as it was in 1817."
"Do you suppose, then, Doctor, it is. not always
alike-the same to-day as it has always been?"
"Unquestionably I do, Shandon. From time to time
sudden breaking up occur, which scientific men have
never been able to explain. Till 1817 this sea was con-
stantly blocked up, but in that year an immense cata-
clysm took place, which hurled the icebergs into the
ocean, and many of them fell on the Bank of New-
foundland. From that time Baffin's Bay has been
nearly free, and has become the rendezvous of numerous
"It is easier now, then, for ships to go north?"
Immensely so," said the Doctor; but it has been
a subject of remark, that for some years past there has
been a tendency in the Bay to refill and close again, an
additional reason why we should push on with all our
might; though, I must confess, we are much like a party
of strangers going through unknown galleries, when each
door closes behind as they pass through, and cannot be
"Do you advise me to go back?" asked Shandon,
looking at the Doctor, as if he would read his inmost
"1 advise you to go back No, I have never yet
learnt to put one foot behind the other, and I say go on,
THE DEVIL'S THUMB.
even should we never return; only, what I wish to
impress on you is this, that if we set to work impru-
dently, we know the risks we incur."
"And you, Garry," asked Shandon, "what is your
"I should go right on, certainly, sir. I agree with
Mr. Clawbonny. However, it rests with you entirely.
Give your orders, we will obey."
"All don't say so, Garry," was Shandon's reply.
"All are not in the mood to obey. Suppose they
refuse ? "
I have told you my mind," replied Garry, coldly,
"because you asked me, but you are not obliged to
follow my advice."
Shandon made no response; "but after carefully
scanning the horizon once more, climbed down the ice-
berg again, followed by his two companions.
THE DEVIL'S THUMB.
DURING Shandon's absence the crew had been busily
engaged in various attempts to lessen the pressure of
the ice. This task was entrusted to Pen, Clifton,
Bolton, Gripper, and Simpson, in addition to the two
THE DEVIL'S THUMB.
engineers and the stokers, who had to take their share
of work as sailors, now that their services were not
required at the engine.
I tell you what," exclaimed Pen, angrily, "I have
had enough of this, and I swear that if the ice does not
break up within three days, I'll fold my arms, and not
do another hand's turn !"
"Fold your arms 1" said Gripper;- "you had far
better use them to get back. Do you suppose we
are inclined to stay here all the winter till next
spring ? "
"Truly it would be a dismal place to winter
in," said Plover, "for the vessel is exposed on all
"And who knows," asked Brunton, "whether the
sea will be a bit more open next spring than it is
"It isn't a question of next spring," replied Pen;
"this is Thursday, and if the passage is not open by
Sunday morning, we turn round and go south."
"That's a sensible speech," said Clifton.
"Do you go in for that?" inquired Pen.
"Yes," was the unanimous reply.
"And it is only just," said Warren; "for if we are
obliged to work in this fashion, and tow the ship along
by main force, my opinion is that our labour would be
better spent in dragging it back."
"We shall see that on Sunday," said Wolsten.
"Let me get orders," said Brunton, "and I'll soon
light the furnaces."
THE DEVIL'S THUMB.
As for that," returned Clifton, we can light them
"If any one of the officers," continued Pen, has a
fancy to winter here, he is quite at liberty. He'll find
no difficulty in making a snow-hut for himself, where he
can live like a regular Esquimaux."
"That's out of the question, Pen," said Brunton,
"we cannot leave anyone behind and, what's more, I
don't think the chief officer will be difficult to persuade.
He seems very uneasy now, and if we propose the thing
quietly to him-- "
"That remains to be seen," said Plover. Richard
Shandon can be a hard, obstinate man when he likes;
we must feel our way carefully."
"Only to think," said Bolton, eagerly, "that in a
month's time we might be back in Liverpool. We
shall easily get over the ice-belt down south. Davis's
Straits will be open at the beginning of June, and we
have only to get right out into the Atlantic."
"We have this to take into account besides," said
the prudent Clifton, that, in getting Shandon to come
back with us, we act on his responsibility, and our
shares and bounty money are sure; whereas, if we
return alone, it is at least doubtful if we get
"But suppose the officers will not go back?"
resumed Pen, bent on pushing the question to the
There was no reply for a moment, and then Bolton
THE DEVIL'S THUMB.
"We shall see when the time comes; all we have to
do now is to win over Richard Shandon to our side, and
I don't think that will be difficult."
"There is one on board, at all events, I'll leave
behind," said Pen, with a frightful oath, though he
should eat my arm off."
"That dog?" said Plover.
"Yes, that dog; and I mean to do for him before I
am much older."
"The sooner the better," replied Clifton, never
weary of his favourite subject. He is the cause of
all our misfortunes."
"I believe he dragged us into the ice," said
"Ay, and gathered it up like this in front of us, for
such compact masses are never seen at this time of the
year," added Wolsten.
"It is through him my eyes are so bad," said
"And through him we have neither gin nor brandy,"
So the men went on, each one having his own
grievance against the dog.
"Worst of all," said Clifton, he is the captain !"
"A curse of a captain he is too exclaimed Pen, in
a paroxysm of senseless rage. Well, he determined to
come here, and here he shall stay."
"But how shall we get hold of him?'" said
"Now's our chance," replied Clifton; "Shandon is
THE DEVIL'S TIIUAIB.
not on board; Wall is asleep in his berth; and the fog
is so thick that Johnson will never see us."
"But the dog?" interrupted Pen.
"Captain is lying asleep this moment close beside
the coal-bunker," replied Clifton; "if any one chooses
"I'll undertake to get him," cried Pen in a fury.
"Take care, Pen; he has grinders that can break
"If he stirs I'll rip him up," declared Pen, taking
up a knife, as he rushed down between decks, followed
by Warren, who wished to have a hand in the business.
Both came back presently, carrying the dog in their
arms, muzzled and tied up. They had surprised him in
his sleep, and escape was impossible.
"Hurrah for Pen 1" exclaimed Plover.
"And now what's to be done with him ?" inquired
Drown him, and see if he ever makes his appear-
ance again," replied Pen, with a grim smile of satis-
About two hundred paces from the ship was a seal-
hole, a circular crevasse made by the animals, out of
which they come to breathe at certain intervals, basking
on the surface of the ice, retreating below when danger
Pen and Warren directed their course to this hole,
and, in spite of the poor dog's vigorous struggles, suc-
ceeded in plunging him into the sea, pitilessly placing an
immense block of ice afterwards over the opening, to
THE DE VIL'S THUMB.
deprive him completely of all hope of release from his
"A good voyage to you!" shouted the cruel Pen
as he returned to the vessel with Warren, unperceived
by Johnson, for in addition to the thick fog the snow
had commenced to fall heavily.
About an hour afterwards Shandon and his two
companions came back. Shandon had discovered a
single lead to the north-east, and determined to take
advantage of it. The crew obeyed his orders with
alacrity, for three days still remained; and, moreover,
they wished to prove the impracticability of proceeding
Sawing the ice and tracking went on busily during a
part of that night and all next day, and the Forward had
gained two miles.
On the 18th they sighted land, and came within five
or six cables' length of a singular peak, called, from its
strange shape, the Devil's Thumb.
At the very same place the Prince Albert, in i85r,
and the Advance, with Dr. Kane, in 1853, were caught
among the ice and detained for several weeks.
It was a dismal spot. The weird, fantastic form of
the towering peak, the dreary, desolate surroundings,
the ominous cracking of the glaciers, echoing and re-
echoing over the distant plains, and the vast encircling
icebergs, some of them three hundred feet high, invested
the whole region with peculiar gloom, and Shandon felt
no time must be lost in getting out of it. By dint of
strenuous efforts, in twenty-four hours he had pushed on
THE DEVIL'S THUMB.
about two miles; but this was not enough. Yet what
was to be done ? He felt as if his energies were para-
lysed by the false position in which he was placed, and
a sort of shrinking fear began to creep over him, for he
knew that he could not carry out the instructions of his
unknown captain, without exposing the ship to great
danger. The men were worn out. It took them more
than three hours to cut a passage twenty feet long
through floes four or five feet thick, and their health
was already seriously impaired. Shandon was also un-
easy at the silence of the crew and their unusual zeal;
he dreaded it might be the calm which precedes a
Imagine, then, the painful surprise and disappoint-
ment, even the despair, which he felt to find, through
an insensible movement of the ice-fields, the Forward
lost in one night the ground she had gained at the cost
of so much fatigue. On the morning of Saturday, the
18th, they were right in front of the Devil's Thumb
again, in a more critical position than before, for the
icebergs had increased, and passed like phantoms
through the fog.
Shandon was completely unnerved. His intrepid
heart failed him, and he, like his men, quaked for fear.
He had heard of the disappearance of the dog, but did
not dare make any inquiry, lest a mutiny should break
It was terrible weather that day. A whirlwind of
snow and thick mist wrapped the brig in an impene-
trable veil. Occasionally the violent tempest would
THE DEVIL'S THUMB.
dispel the fog for an instant and disclose to the
terrified gazer the gaunt, spectral form of the
Devil's Thumb. Nothing could be done or even
attempted except to anchor on an immense floe, for
the darkness momentarily increased, and the man at
the wheel could not even see the officer on watch at
Shandon retired to his cabin, a prey to the most
tormenting anxieties. The Doctor employed himself
in arranging his notes, and the sailors lounged about
the deck, or betook themselves to the forecastle. The
hurricane increased, and, through a sudden rift in the
fog, the Devil's Thumb appeared slowly rising higher
"Good Heavens I" exclaimed Simpson, starting back
What's the matter ?" asked Foker.
He needed no answer; for terrified outcries were
heard on all sides-one exclaiming, "It is going to
crush us!" and another, "We are lost I" and a third
called loudly for Mr. Wall and Shandon, who speedily
obeyed the summons. The Doctor followed, and for a
minute all three stood in silent amaze.
It was a most alarming spectacle. Through a par-
tial opening in the fog, the Devil's Thumb seemed
quite close to the ship; its size increased to colossal
magnitude, and on the summit a second cone appeared,
point downwards, as if pivoted on the first, oscillating
to and fro, and apparently about to fall on the brig and
crush her beneath its enormous weight. Instinctively,
THE DEVIL'S THUMB.
everyone drew back, and several of the sailors jumped
down on the ice and left the ship.
Every man to his post," shouted Shandon, in stern
tones. "No one is to leave the ship."
"Don't be afraid, my friends," said the Doctor.
" There is no danger. It is simply the effect of the
mirage, Mr. Shandon and Mr. Wall."
"You are right, Mr. Clawbonny," said Johnson.
"These silly fellows are terrified at a shadow!"
Most of the sailors came back at the Doctor's re-
assuring words, and fear gave place to admiration, as
they stood gazing at the marvellous phenomenon, which
only lasted a few minutes longer.
"They call that a mirage," said Clifton, "but take'
my word for it, some fiend has to do with it."
"That's sure and certain," said Gripper. But the
rift in the fog had revealed to Shandon's eyes a favour-
able lead, and he determined to profit by it without
delay. He placed the men on each side of the opening.
The hawsers were thrown out to them, and the work of
They went on for many long hours, and Shandon
had the furnaces lighted to use all available means of
getting rapidly on.
It is a providential chance," he said to Johnson,
"and if we can only make a few miles farther, we may
be out of difficulties. The men are in a mind to work,
for they are glad to get clear of the Devil's Thumb, so
we will take advantage of their mood as long as it
THE DEVIL'S THUMB.
All of a sudden the brig ceased moving.
"What's wrong, Wall?" asked Shandon. "Any of
the ropes broken ? "
No, sir," said Wall, looking over the side, but the
sailors are all running helter-skelter towards the ship, and
here some of them are climbing up the side as if they
were out of their wits with fright."
"What's the matter?" called Shandon, coming to-
wards the bows.
Let us on board Let us on board 1" exclaimed the
sailors in panic-stricken tones.
Shandon looked towards the north and shuddered in
spite of himself.
A strange-looking animal, with smoking tongue hang-
ing out of enormous wide open jaws, was bounding
towards the ship, and had come within a cable's length
of her. He seemed more than twenty feet high: his
hair stood on end, and his formidable tail, full ten
feet long, swept the snow and sent it flying in thick
clouds. He was evidently in pursuit of the sailors, and
the apparition of such a monster was enough to scare the
"It is a bear !" said one.
"It is a dragon !" exclaimed another.
"It is the lion in the Revelation !" suggested a
third, while Shandon ran to his cabin and seized a
loaded pistol. The Doctor armed himself with a re-
volver, and stood ready to fire at the huge animal, who
seemed, from his enormous size, to belong to the ante-
THE DEVIL'S THUMB.
The beast came nearer, making tremendous leaps,
and Shandon and the Doctor discharged their weapons
simultaneously. An unlooked-for result followed. The
sudden explosion shook the atmosphere and changed
the entire aspect of things.
The Doctor burst out laughing, and said, "Refrac-
"Refraction I" exclaimed Shandon.
But the crew shouted "The dog the dog-captain !"
and Pen thundered out, "Ah it is the dog, always that
cursed dog !"
And the dog it really was, who had snapped his
cords and managed to get out on the ice again at another
Refraction, which is common enough in Arctic lati-
tudes, had made him assume these formidable dimensions,
while the vibration in the atmosphere had restored him
to his original proportions. But this occurrence had a
bad effect on the sailors, who were by no means disposed
to accept a purely physical explanation of it. The
strange phenomenon at the Devil's Thumb, and the
re-appearance of the dog under such peculiar circum-
stances, brought things to a climax, and loud murmur.
ings were heard on all sides.
THE Forward steamed rapidly along through the open
channel. Johnson took the wheel himself, and Shandon
kept a vigilant look-out on the horizon. His joy was
of short duration, for he soon saw that the channel
terminated in a circle of mountains.
However, he determined to go and take his chance,
rather than turn back.
The dog ran beside the brig on the ice, but kept a
good distance off. Strangely enough, however, if he got
too far behind, a peculiar whistle was heard, which
recalled him immediately.
The first time this whistle was noticed, the sailors
were all on deck. They looked about, but no stranger
could be seen far or near, and yet the whistle was dis-
tinctly repeated several times.
Clifton was the first to sound an alarm.
"Do you hear that?" he asked; "and, look, how
the animal bounds along when he is called."
"It is quite incredible," replied Gripper.
"This finishes it," exclaimed Pen. "I'll go no
"Pen is right," said Brunton. "It is tempting
"Tempting the fiend !" replied Clifton. I'd rather
lose my share than go another step."
"We shall never return," said Bolton, in a dejected
It was clear the erew were ripe for mutiny.
"Not another ?'=p Are we all agreed on that?"
"Yes !" was the unanimous reply.
"Well, then," said Bolton, "let us go to Shandon;
I'll be spokesman."
Off they went in a body to the poop.
The Forward was just entering at that moment a
vast amphitheatre, perhaps about eight hundred feet in
diameter, without a single outlet save the passage by
which they had reached it.
Shandon felt he had imprisoned his ship and himself,
but what was to be done ? A heavy responsibility rested
on his shoulders.
The Doctor folded his arms and silently gazed at the
surrounding ice-walls, the average height of which was
three hundred feet.
At that moment Bolton came up with his friends,
and said in a voice trembling with excitement:
"Mr. Shandon, we cannot go farther."
"You say that to me?" exclaimed Shandon, his cheek
crimsoning with passion.
"We say this, we have done enough for our in-
visible captain, and we have made up our minds to go
"You have made up your minds? You speak like
that, Bolton ? Take care."
Your threats won't hinder us," said Pen, rudely.
Shandon had made a few steps towards this rebellious
crew, when Johnson came up to him and said in a low
If we wish to get out of this there is not an instant
to lose. An iceberg is fast nearing the channel, which
may completely block it up, and keep us here prisoners."
After a brief survey, Shandon turned towards the
men and said:
"You shall give an account of this conduct to me
by-and-by. Meantime, turn about the ship."
The sailors rushed to their posts. The Forward
shifted rapidly. Fresh fuel was supplied to the furnaces,
and the engine worked at high pressure, for everything
depended on speed. It was a race between the brig and
"Put on more steam I" shouted Shandon, and the
engineer obeyed at all risks, almost endangering the
safety of the brig; but his efforts were in vain. The
iceberg had been caught by some deep-sea current, and
was bearing down fast towards the passage. The brig
was still more than three cables' length off when the
berg entered, and, adhering firmly to the ice on either
side, shut up the outlet entirely.
"We are lost !" exclaimed Shandon, imprudently.
"Lost !" re-echoed from the crew.
"Let each take care of himself I" said one.
"Try the boats !" said another.
"Let's go to the stores !" said Pen. If we are to be
drowned, we may as well drown ourselves in gin."
The general disorder had reached its highest pitch,
and broken all bounds. Shandon felt himself powerless.
His tongue seemed palsied, and the power of speech
forsook him. The Doctor paced up and down in an
agitated manner, while Johnson folded his arms, and
maintained a stoical silence.
Suddenly a loud, commanding, impressive voice
thundered out the words :
"Every man to his post. Stop the ship 1"
Johnson instinctively obeyed, and it was high time,
for the Forward was steaming along at such a rate, that,
before another minute, it must have dashed against the
But Johnson was the only man that obeyed. Shan-
don, Clawbonny, and the entire crew, even the stoker
and the cook, assembled on deck, and they all saw a
man coming out of the captain's cabin, the mysterious
cabin, so closely locked hitherto, the key of which was
in the captain's sole possession. This man was none
other than the sailor Garry.
Sir," said Shandon, turning pale. "Garry, you-
what right have you to command? "
"Duk!" called Garry, giving the same identical
whistle which had so perplexed the crew.
At the sound of his right name the dog gave one
bound on to the poop, and stretched himself quietly at
his master's feet. Not one of the crew said a word.
The possession of the key, the dog sent by him, which
now proved, as it were, his identity, together with the
tone of command, which it was impossible to mistake,
had a great effect on the minds of the men, and sufficed
to establish Garry's authority.
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