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" The brig vas tossed up and doown on the waves like a child a toy."-P. 184.
JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE
BY JULES VERNE
AUTHOR OF "THE CHILDREN OF CAPTAIN GRANT ETC.
WITH 129 ILLUSTRATIONS BY RIOU
LONDON AND NEW YORK
GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS
[All rights reserved.]
THE UNEXPECTED LETTER
THE DOG-CAPTAIN .
OUT AT SEA
THE GREAT POLAR CURRENT
DAVIS' STRAITS .
WHAT THE CREW THOUGHT ABOUT IT
A LETTER. .
PERILOUS NAVIGATION .
THE DEVIL'S THUMB
CAPTAIN HATTERAS DISCLOSES HIS PLANS
THE FORWARD DRIVEN SOUTH .
THE MAGNETIC POLE .
THE STORY Or SIR JOHN FRANKLIN
THE ROUTE TO THE NORTH .
A WHALE CHASE .
THE DEATH OF BELLOT
BEGINNINGS OF MUTINY
ASSAULT OF THE ICEBERGS
PREPARATIONS FOR WINTERING
AN OLD Fox of THE JAMES Ross EXPEDITION
THE LAST BIT OF COAL
PREPARATIONS FOR DEPARTURE
ACROSS THE ICE-FIELDS
THE CAIRN .
THE DEATH OF SIMPSON .
THE RETURN TO THE "FORWARD."
ENGLISH AT THE NORTH POLE.
I O-MORROW, at ebb tide, the brig Forward
will sail from the New Prince's Docks, cap-
tain, K. Z.; chief officer, Richard Shandon;
Such was the announcement which appeared in the
"Liverpool Herald of April 6th, i860.
*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 J70 tons, fitted up
with a screw propeller and an engine of I2o-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 conjecture.
"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 ?"
The Forward." 3
"Ay! 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
the helm post "
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
Forward. 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 him ?"
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.
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 Ibs. 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 im-
mense crowd of spectators.
The day after the launch, the engine arrived from
Newcastle from the works of Messrs. Hawthorn. This
engine, of Izo-horse power, and provided with oscillating
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 nourish-
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 firearms 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 hat-
chets, 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
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
S16,0oo 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.
"If you refuse, that is all about it; if you accept,
your salary will be 500o, to be raised one-tenth each
year you are away.
"The brig Forward has at present no existence.
14 The Unexpected Letter.
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,
including Dr. Clawbonny of your city, who will intro-
duce 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
The Unexpected Letter.
ordinary wages, with an increase of one-tenth each year
of service. At the close of the expedition 500o is
guaranteed to each man and e2000 to yourself. These
deposits will be left with Messrs. Marcuart and Co., the
"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
restante, Gotteborg, 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
16 The Unexpected Letter.
his safe arrival to me at Livoume, 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 16,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.
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,
S"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 760,000,
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 Ph'enix one of the vessels despatched
"Johnson know the whole seafaring population of Liverpool, and set to work
immediately to select his crew."--. 1.
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 ard 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 it! I.
Sometimes he would add, "My only difficulty is
which to choose, for such high wages as you are
offered 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
22 Doctor Clawbonny.
"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'looking, 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
"It was one of those foggy mornings when you can scarcely see your hand
before you."-P. 23.
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
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
Doctor Clawbonny. 25
seeking you for a whole quarter of an hour, and asking
everybody for you everywhere. Only imagine my impa-
tience 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; and now with
you to command-"
Allow me," interrupted Shandon.
But Clawbonny took no notice, and went on, With
you; wve 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, Jan. 22nd, 1860.
"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 thepeople 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 hydrography.
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 1 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
"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 Claw-
bonny. 5. Johnson, the Boatswain. 6. Simpson, the
harpooner., 7. Bell, the carpenter. 8. Brunton, the
chief engineer. 9. Plover, the second engineer. 1o.
Strong, a coloured man, the cook. i. 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 5tlh 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, s6 thoroughly all
that was required, he left nothing wanting.
The cabin of the second mate was in the forecastle
"Inestimable riches were stored up in that small space of six square feet."-
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 mathe-
matical instruments; his thermometers, 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
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 the side
the wind was, changing his position as the ship tacked
just as if he had been the captain.
Dr. Clawbonny was so gentle and winning that he
would have tamed a tiger, but all his .attempts to get
into this dog's good graces were in vain.
Besides, 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! exclaimed the impatient Doctor,
"were I in your place I should be off 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."
The Dog-Captain. 33
"Not admit of a doubt! 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 Spitzburg, 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 neces-
sity of choosing one or other, and I should be greatly
puzzled to decide upon which. Can you help me,
Doctor ? "
"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' 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
ourselves 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 has 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 niy 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 comq 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
"The news had spread over Liverpool, and brought together an unusual con-
course of spectators."-P. 37.
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, so 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
S The Dog-Captain.
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
increased by the furious yelling of the dog, and reached
a climax when the animal made one sudden bound from
The Dog-Captain. 39
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 between
his teeth. Incredible as the fact may appear, it could
be confirmed by at least a thousand eye-witnesses.
"A letter!" exclaimed Shandon. "Then he is on
"He has been, there is no doubt, but he is not
how," replied Johnson, pointing to the deck, which was
quite clear of all strangers.
"Captain! Captain!" 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 open-
ing 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 zoth of April. If the
captain :does not come on board, you will go through
40 The Dog-Captain.
Davis' Straits, and up Baffin's Bay to Melvilfe
"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,
guided by a Liverpool pilot, got into the Mersey, the
crowd hurrying along the Victoria Docks to have a last
glimpse as she passed by. The fore and mainsails were
soon hoisted, and the brig, with a speed worthy of her
name, rounded Birkenhead Point, and glided swiftly
away into the Irish Sea.
"Towards evening they doubled the Calf of Man."--P. 41.
OUT AT SEA.
THE wind was favourable, though very variable, and
full of sudden squalls, and the Forward cut her way
rapidly through the waves.
At five o'clock the pilot gave up his charge into
Shandon's hands, jumped into the boat, and was soon
out of sight.
Towards evening they doubled the Calf of Man,
passing the southern extremity of the island. :During
the night the sea was very stormy, but the Forward
rode it out well, and leaving Ayr Point on the north-
west, steered towards the North Channel.
Johnson was right. Once fairly out at sea, there
was no more trouble with the sailors. They fell into
regular ways at once, and in their admiration of the
ship's good qualities, forgot the mystery hanging round
The little Doctor almost lived on deck, gulping
down the sea air as if he could never be satisfied. He
would walk up and down in the stormiest weather,
and, for a man of learning, his sea legs were pretty
Out at Sea.
"The sea is a beautiful thing to look at," he said to,
Johnson, coming on deck after breakfast. I am rather
late in beginning my acquaintance with it, but I'll soon
make up for it."
"You are right, Dr. Clawbonny. I wouldn't give
one fag-end of sea for all the continents in the world.
People say that sailors soon grow tired of their calling,
but here have I been forty years at sea, and I enjoy it
as much as the first day."
"And what a pleasure there is in feeling a good ship
under your feet; and, if I'm any judge, the Forward is
a regular 'brick.' "
"You are quite right there," said Shandon, coming
up at that moment; it is a well-built ship, and I must
confess I have never seen one better provisioned and
equipped for an Arctic expedition. That reminds me
that, thirty years ago, Captain Ross, going in search of
the North-West passage--"
"Went in the Victory," interrupted the Doctor, a
brig of nearly the same tonnage as ours, and with a
"What! Do you know all about it ?"
"Don't I !" said the Doctor. Steam was then in
its infancy, and the engine on the Victory caused much
injurious delay. Captain Ross, after vainly trying to
repair it, ended by doing away with it altogether, and
left it behind in his first winter quarters."
Why, Doctor," exclaimed Shandon, I see you are
quite familiar with all the facts."
I ought to be," replied the Doctor, "for I have
Out at Sea. 43
read the narratives of Parry, and Ross, and Franklin,
and the reports of McClure and Kennedy, and Kane,
and McClintock; and then one thing I recollect-this
same McClintock's vessel, called the Fox, was a screw
brig, like ours, and he succeeded in gaining his object
in a more direct and easy manner than any of his pre-
"That is perfectly true," said Shandon. "This
McClintock was a brave sailor. I have seen him at
work; and you may add that, like him, we shall be in
Davis' Straits before April is out; and if we can
manage to get past the ice, it will greatly shorten our
"At all events," returned the Doctor, I hope we'll
be better off than the Fox was in 1857, for she got
blocked in among the ice to the north of Baffin's Bay,
the very first year, and had to stay there all the
"We'll hope for better luck, Mr. Shandon," said
Johnson; "and certainly, if we can't get on with a
ship like the Forward, we had better give up trying for
good and all."
"Besides," said the Doctor, "if the captain is on
board, he will know what's to be done better than we
do, in our complete ignorance, for this wonderfully
laconic letter of his gives us no clue to the object of the
"We know what route to take at any rate," said
Shandon, rather sharply, "and that is a good deal. We
can manage now, I should think, to do without super-
44 Out at Sea.
natural interventions and instructions for a full mont-
at least. Besides, you know my own opinion of this
The Doctor laughed, and said, I thought with you,
once, that he would put you in command of the ship,
and never come on board; but now-"
"But what?" said Shandon in a snappish tone.
"But since the arrival of this second letter my views
on the subject are somewhat modified."
"And pray why, Doctor ?"
"Because, though the letter tells you what course
to take, it does not tell you the destination of the
Forward. Now, he must know where we are going,
and I should like to know how a third letter can be
sent to you when we are out in the middle of the sea.'
Out at Sea.
On the shores of Greenland the postman would cer-
tainly be a rara avis. What I think, Shandon, is, that
our gallant captain is waiting for us at some Danish
settlement at Holsteinberg or Upernavik. He will have
gone there to complete his cargo of seal-skins, and to
buy his sledges and dogs-in fact, to get everything
ready that is required for a voyage to the Arctic Seas.
I shall not be at all surprised to see him walk out of
his cabin some fine morning, and give orders to the
crew in the most ordinary matter-of-fact fashion imagin-
Possibly," said Shandon, drily; but meantime the
wind is freshening, and it is not very prudent to risk a
topmastt in a stiff breeze."
46 Out at Sea.
This broke off the conversation, and he walked
away immediately, and bade the men reef sails.
"He sticks to his notion," said the Doctor to
Ay, and more's the pity," said the boatswain, for
you may be right, Mr. Clawbonny."
Towards evening on the Saturday, the Forward
doubled the Mull of Galloway, and about three o'clock
next morning, leaving the Mull of Cantyre on the
north, and Cape Fair on the east, sailed past Rathlin
Isle out into the ocean.
It was Sunday-a day well observed by the English,
and especially by sailors-so part of the forenoon was
spent in Bible reading, the Doctor undertaking the office
Directly afterwards the wind changed to a hurricane,
and almost drove the ship against the Irish coast. The
waves were very high, and the brig rolled and pitched'
so heavily, that if the Doctor had felt inclined to be sea-
sick, he would have had every excuse.
At seven they lost sight of Cape Malinhead on the
Out at Sea.
south. This was the.last glimpse of Europe, and more
than one of the brave crew of the Forward, destined
never more to return, stood gazing with long, lingering
look. The gale ceased towards nine at night, and the
brig continued her course towards the north-west. She
proved herself a first rate sailer, and made rapid progress
during the next few days.. The wind was southerly,
and every sail was spread. Sea-birds began to fly
about the rigging, and the Doctor, who was a capital
shot, succeeded in bringing down a puffin. Fortunately,
it fell on the poop. Simpson, the harpooner, picked it
up, and bringing it to the little man, said, Not worth
powder and shot, sir."
"On the contrary, my good fellow, it is excellent
What! you're going to eat that ?"
"Yes; and you are going to taste some of it too,"
said the Doctor, laughing.
"Faugh!" replied Simpson. "Why, it is like all
sea-birds, as oily and rancid as possible."
48 Out at Sea.
All very well; but I have a fashion of my own of
dressing them. Just you taste this after it is cooked,
and if you could tell it is a sea-bird, I'll promise not to
kill another as long as I live."
The Doctor was quite right. He managed to take
out all the fat which lies immediately under the skin,
mostly about the thighs, and this completely removed
all the rancidity and fishy smell peculiar to all sea-
birds. The puffin was pronounced excellent even by
During the hurricane Richard Shandon had closely
studied his men, analysing each individual, as every
Out at Sea. 49
captain ought to do, that he may know what characters
he has to work with, and be on his guard.
James Wall was a most devoted officer to Richard,
but he was deficient in the initiative faculty; he could
understand and obey, but that was all: he was only fit
for a third-rate position.
Johnson, an experienced old Arctic sailor, had no-
thing to learn in the way of sang froid and boldness.
Simpson, the harpooner, and Bell, the carpenter,
were reliable men, slaves of duty and discipline. The
ice-master, Foker, a sailor brought up in Johnson's
school, would be a valuable man.
Of the other sailors, Garry and Bolton appeared the
best. Bolton was a lively, chattering fellow. Garry
was about thirty-five years of age, an energetic-looking
young man, but rather pale and sad.
The three sailors, Clifton, Gripper, and Pen, were
less enthusiastic and resolute. They were rather fond
of grumbling; and Gripper would have given up his
engagement, even at the last moment, if he had not
been ashamed. So long as things went well, and there
Out at Sea.
was not much work to do, and no danger to risk, he
might reckon on these three well enough; but they
needed to be well fed. They took very badly to the
teetotal regimen, though they knew it was to be en-
forced beforehand, and whenever the meal-time came
round they were always regretting their brandy or gin,
though they made up for it by drinking huge bowls of
tea and coffee, which might be had almost ad libitum on
As for the two engineers, Brunton and Plover, and
the stoker Warren, they had sat with folded arms
hitherto: their work had not begun.
Shandon knew now how much each man could be
On the 14th of April the Forward crossed the
great current called the Gulf Stream, which runs along
the -eastern shore of the American continent as far as
Out at Sea.
the Banks of Newfoundland, and then curves south-
cast to the coast of Norway. They found they were
in latitude 51 37', and longitude 200 58', about 200
miles from Greenland. The weather had become cold,
and the thermometer had fallen to 320-that is, to
The Doctor had not yet donned his winter costume,
but he had followed the example of the sailors and
officers, and put an oil-skin jacket and trousers, and big
"sou'-wester," and high boots, into which he dropped
all of a lump; and really, to see him on deck when the
rain was falling in torrents, and the waves dashing over
the vessel, he might have been taken for some marine
animal, though the comparison would not flatter his
For two days the weather was extremely unfavour-
able, the wind was south-west, and the Forward could
Out at Sea.
make no way. From the i4th to the 16th the sea con-
tinued rough and stormy; but on the Monday a violent
shower came, the result of which was an almost imme-
diate calm. Shandon pointed out this peculiar pheno-
menon to the Doctor, who replied-
"It quite confirms the curious observations made by
Scoresby; a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh,
of which I have the honour to be a corresponding
member. You see that during rain the waves are less
susceptible to the action of the wind, even when violent.
On the contrary, in dry weather, the sea is easily agitated
by a comparatively slight breeze.
"But how do you account for this ?"
"That is easily answered. I don't account for it
Just at that moment, the ice-master, who was on
watch at the mast head, signalled a floating mass on the
starboard side, about fifteen miles to leeward.
Out at Sea.
"An iceberg in these latitudes!" exclaimed the
Shandon pointed his glass in the given direction, and
confirmed the announcement of the pilot.
"That's strange! said the Doctor.
"Does that astonish you ?" asked the chief officer,
smiling. "What! we are actually fortunate enough to
find something that astonishes you! "
"Well, it astonishes me, and yet it doesn't," replied
the Doctor, smiling, "for, in 1813, the brig Anne of
Poole got blocked in among ice-fields in the forty-fourth
degree of north latitude, and. Dayement, her captain,
counted icebergs by hundreds."
"Capital said Shandon, you can still find some-
thing to tell us about it that we don't know."
Oh! not very much," was the modest reply of the
amiable little man, except that icebergs have been met
with in still lower latitudes."
I know that, my dear Doctor, without your telling
me, for when I was a eabin-boy aboard the Fly, a sloop-
"In 1818," interrupted the Doctor, "at the end
of March, or we might say April, you passed between
two great islands of floating ice in the forty-second
degree of latitude."
"Really, you're too bad, Doctor!" exclaimed
But it is true. I have no reason to be astonished,
then, at finding a floating iceberg in front of our ship,
seeing we are ten degrees further north."
Out at Sea.
I declare, Doctor, you're a perfect well; you have
only to let down the bucket."
"All right. I shall dry up sooner than you think;
and now, all I want to make me the happiest of doctors
is, to see this curious phenomenon a little nearer."
Precisely," said Shandon, Johnson," he added,
calling to his boatswain, it seems to me the wind is
Yes, sir," said Johnson, "we are losing speed, and
the currents from the Straits of Davis will soon begin to
"You are right, Johnson; and if we want to be at
Cape Farewell by the 2oth of April, we must put on
steam, or we shall be dashed against the coast of
Labrador. Mr. Wall, will you give orders for the fires
to be lighted immediately ?"
His orders were executed forthwith, and in another
hour the steam had acquired sufficient power to propel
the screw, and the Forward was racing along against
the wind with close-reefed sails at full speed.
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 y7th 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
56 The Great Polar Crrent.
Davis' 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,
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 was 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
The Great Polar Current. 57
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."
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' 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 driftwood
which so abounds in Davis' Straits-larches, and
aspens, and tropical substances. Now, we know
that the Gulf Stream would prevent this driftwood
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 apropos to our conversation. I see a
58 The Great Polar Current.
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
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' 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 worms. They belong
The Great Polar Current.
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' 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 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 driftwood became more frequently
visible. It was a time of the year when any approach
to the shore would be dangerous, as the icebergs arc
very numerous. Shandon therefore gave orders to
lessen sail, and take in all that was not absolutely
The Great Polar Current.
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.
The Great Polar Current.
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.
On the 2oth 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-
The Great Polar Current.
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! 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, Vaugham, Scroggs, Barentz, Hudson, Blosse-
ville, Franklin, Crozier, Bellot-all passed this way,
never to return! 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 winding-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
engulphed in the depths of the ocean. It was necessary,
also, to guard against coming into collision with the
driftwood, which was floating about in continuous
heavy masses, so the "crow's-nest" had to be attached
to the topgallant masthead. This was a cask with a
moveable 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
could both give notice of any ice thai came in sight,
and direct the course of the vessel through it when
The nights were short. The sun had reappeared
since the 3Ist 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 21st 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
place on our globe; and perhaps I shall astonish
you considerably when I tell you that, according to
Icelandic chroniclers, there were two hundred flou-
rishing villages on this continent eight or nine hun-
dred years ago."
66 Davis' Straits.
"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 civilized
"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
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
Davis' Straits. 67
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."
"Do you believe in the actual existence of this
"But what can possibly induce him to act in this
manner ? "
68 Davis' Straits.
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 further 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 install himself on board,
and inform us where he has a fancy to drag the
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 brig to get through. See
that immense plain stretching out yonder! "
In our Arctic language, Mr. Clawbonny, we call
that an ice-feld-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 palch; 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 ice field ? That is called a hummock, and
is formed by the collision offields. If its base was sub-
merged, 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
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
Westminster, 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 pieces."
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."
" Couldn't you fancy it was some i sstien city. with its minrets and mosques
glittering in tae pale mouun.ght i' "--'. 70.
"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 further 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 tem-
perature 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 numerous in
Davis' Straits is the narrowness of the space between
Cape Walsingham and Holsteinberg; but after we get
beyond the 67th deg. we shall find the sea more navi-
gable 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
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 fea-
thered gentry quite enlivened the landscape.
The driftwood 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.
At three o'clock in the afternoon the Forward
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 re-
plenish his supply of water by shipping several tons of
these every day.
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 phe-
nomenon like this was a frequent occurrence.
At length, what with towing the brig along in fields,
and driving back threatening blocks with long poles, the
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
then 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-
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
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 heartup. A queer
idea, certainly, to forbid spirits to Arctic sailors "
"I can't see that," said Garry, for you remember
78 What the Crew Thought about it.
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," said
Pen. When I think I have even forgotten the taste
of gin "
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
"Pen may be right, perhaps, after all," said
Pen right I" 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 whiskey as well as other people, especially in such a
What the Crew Thought about it. 79
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 and ask for a ration
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 soonerr"
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 i"
"Confound the captain!" exclaimed Penn. "Can't
8o What the Crew Thought about it.
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."
"Who's 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.
"Well, some fine morning I quite expect to find him
in his cabin, without any ohe 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 he's made."
"Plag'ue 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
What the Crew Thought about it.
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
SThe sailors gazed dubiously at each other, hardly
knowing what to say or think.
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
8 2 What the Crew Thought about it.
"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."
What the Crew Thought about it.
"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
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
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."
But how ? "
"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 dare say he
84 What the Crew Thought about it.
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,
_e 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,
What the Crew Thought about it.
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
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 ForwarE 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 tothe east.
86 WVhat the Crew Thought about it.
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
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.
What the Crew Thought about it. 87
"How is this going to end, Johnson ?" asked the
"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 Forward,
threatening her with instant destruction.
It was a moment of intense agonizing 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,
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