Слике страница
PDF
ePub

eye dwelt upon the last waning shred of her gleaming disc till all had disappeared, and the darkness was complete.

But no! The moon had disappeared; yet her path remained a trailing glory over the waters still! The darkness should have been complete; yet whence came that gleam that swept out over the crests of the billows? Yes. Evidently that light swept outwards not inwards. It came, not from the point where the vanished moon had sunk beneath the horizon; it came from some hidden source underneath his feet. What new mystery was here?

"Aha! Mordieu! I have it!" cried Delaval aloud, and triumphing in some sudden inspiration, he instantly commenced the descent. Somewhere down the face of that scarped rock he was sure of finding the secret of that strange gleam.

Awfully perilous he felt the undertaking to be. Still, he was resolved to go through with it. First came the incline; then the incline became a steep; the steep became a wall; the wall hollowed inwards into a vaulted dome. Descent seemed impossible. To attempt it was madness. Yet he never hesitated.

Carefully he crawled backwards and downwards, feeling his way at every step. The incline was passed; it had changed into the steep.

With his poniard in one hand, and his stout pocket-knife in the other, he began to let himself down, bit by bit, never loosening the one till he had firmly bedded the other in some crevice within his reach.

Thus little by little, and inches at a time, did he ease himself down over the steep, and down the wall-like face of the precipice, until at last he arrived at a spot where his feet could find no further hold. What now? He had come to the hollow.

All at once it flashed across him how, from the other side of the Bay, he had once noted, at about his present distance from the summit, a cavity; that cavity, which is named in the parlance of the country, "The Dog's Eye."

How to manage his descent from the beetling eyebrow into the hollow of the eye?

Clinging tightly to his firmly fixed jack-knife with the one hand, with the other he unloosed his waist-belt. Then thrusting his poniard through the clasp, he struck it into a crack of the rock as far down as he could reach. Cautiously drawing himself upwards

a little, he hammered with his boot heel till the weapon was firmly secured up to the guard.

Then with his toe he drew up the loose end, and tied on to it, first his neck-scarf, and next his handkerchief:-the combined. length giving him some six feet clear of line. Coiling the slack round his arm in case of slipping, and carefully removing his knife, with his foot balanced on his last support, he let himself down gently-gently, till the knife's point found a new entrance: -then shifting his weight to this new support, he continued to slide down till the poniard hilt was within easy grasp.

Another effort and the knife was withdrawn and transferred to his teeth. Now he was hanging at arm's length free. Would the poniard hold? He must risk it.

Slowly and delicately, hand under hand he lowered himself down his frail line, until arrived at the end, he could dimly see the floor of the cavity-still some six feet or more beneath him, and still trending inwards. Throwing his life upon the next cast he commenced swaying back and forth with an oscillating movement, and timing his swing-finally took the leap!

Just enough, and no more, to give him a hold, as he lay doubled over the rounded edge. And just in time too, for the poniard came rattling down after him, bringing with it a flake of the rock it had been bedded in. That last effort had loosened it, and the end of the line was still in his grasp. Painfully he drew himself inwards from the perilous verge, and lay extended to gather breath.

(To be continued.)

[ocr errors]

TWO THOUSAND MILES ON AN ICE

FLOE;

OR, THE VOYAGE OF THE POLARIS PARTY.

BY REV. M. HARVEY, ST. JOHN'S, N. F.

AT

T daylight, on the morning of April 30th, 1873, a steamer named the Tigress, one of the Newfoundland sealing fleet, was ploughing her way in pursuit of seals, amid the ice-laden sea, forty miles from land, off the southern coast of Labrador, in lat. 53° 35′ N. The morning was hazy, but about five o'clock the fog-curtain rose, the sun shone out disclosing the glittering ice

masses far and wide. Presently those on board fancied that they saw a small flag fluttering on the top of a hummock, at the distance of a quarter of a mile. The ship was put about and bore down upon it, under the impression that it might be a piece of floating wreck. As the Tigress neared the object, the Stars and Stripes were made out; then human voices were heard uttering feeble cheers, and guns were fired. On coming close to the floe on which the flag was fluttering, a strange sight was disclosed. On it were seen nineteen human beings, ten of them white men and nine Esquimaux. Of the latter two were men, two were women, one of whom carried a baby eight months old in her arms, and five were children. They had a boat with them on the ice, on the stern of which was painted the name "Polaris." The party presented a most forlorn appearance, and had evidently been long exposed to the weather, though not one of them appeared to be sick or disabled. Before leaving the ice, they gave three hearty cheers, such as men utter who have been delivered from impending death.

When taken on board, the tale they told was marvellous beyond anything invented by the wildest romancer, illustrating once more the old saying that "truth is stranger than fiction." The purport of their wonderful story was that they were part of the crew of the S. S. Polaris of the United States Arctic expedition; that when in lat. 77° 35′ N. they were accidentally separated from their ship by the sudden breaking up of an ice-floe to which she was moored, on October 15th, 1872, and that ever since they had been drifting on the ice, till now, rescued by the Tigress off the coast of Labrador, six months and a half afterwards, on April 30th, 1873. Thus they had drifted on the ice over twenty-four degrees of latitude, or one thousand four hundred and forty miles in a direct line; but allowing for the sinuosities of their course, caused by varying winds, they must have voyaged on their cheerless iceraft more than two thousand miles. Their supply of food, when they started, was not more than sufficient for one month's consumption, and they had lived chiefly on seals and the flesh of a Polar bear. They had no shelter, but the snow huts which in Esquimaux fashion they built on the ice, and, in addition to the clothes they wore, they had only a few skins to protect them from the fierce cold. They had passed the gloomy Arctic night in the snow-huts without seeing the sun for eighty-five days. Again and

again the floe on which they drifted was broken up, and they had been compelled to make their way to another floating mass amid fearful perils. More than once they had almost perished with hunger, and experienced wonderful deliverances when at the last extremity. But under the sheltering hand of Providence they had been preserved through perils, hardships, cold and famine, and not one of them had even sickened. The poor little Esquimaux baby, even though but two months old when their voyage began, sheltered carefully in the loving arms of a mother, took no harm, and seemed as lively as any of the party. Truly, it is a marvellous tale of human endurance and courage,-unparalleled even in the records of Arctic adventures. When full materials for the construction of the narrative are furnished, and the story comes to be fitly told, it will be one of the most thrilling ever penned. Meantime, a slight outline of it, as I gathered it from the lips of several individuals of the party, may be interesting to the readers of the MARITIME MONTHLY.

It adds not a little to the romance of the story to find that one of the party taken from the ice was the Esquimaux, Hans Christian, who figures so largely in the charming narratives of Dr. Kane and Dr. Hayes. Hans is quite a historical character, though the poor fellow does not look by any means heroic now. He is no longer young, and the hardships through which he has passed have told heavily on him. He seems broken down and exhausted. Little did I ever expect to see the celebrated Hans in the flesh. When I told him that I had read about him many years ago in books, and that he was a well-known character in America and England, he did not seem to be at all elevated in consequence. He answered with a nod and a brief "ugh, ugh." The honour and glory of figuring in history do not seem to be of much consequence to the imagination of Hans. His narrative powers are of the most limited description, as he speaks only broken English, and finds it difficult to understand ordinary speech. Were he the only historian of the ice-voyage, its story would be summed up in a few brief sentences. As I looked upon the honest face of Hans, I could not but think of the time, of which Dr. Kane tells, when he was a youth of nineteen or twenty, and, smitten by the youthful charms of a plump Esquimaux damsel, he, for a time, deserted his commander, and, with the fair maiden on one side and a handsome supply of walrus and seal flesh on the other,

mounted his sledge and set off on his Arctic honeymoon. He was an active hunter then, though now stiff and worn,so expert that he could spear a bird on the wing. I thought, too, of his invaluable services to Kane and his party; how he catered for their table; how he was the man who discovered in the snow the track of the sledge, thus enabling Kane to save the lives of eight of his men when in the last extremity from cold and exhaustion; and how, too, he, with Morton, made the celebrated sledge journey on the ice, when, as they thought, they saw the open polar sea; and how, at the last, he saved the lives of all by bringing a supply of fresh walrus meat from Etah Bay. Honour to thee, brave, faithful Hans Christian,-thou hast done a noble stroke of work in thy lifetime, and rendered true service to the cause of science and civilization, though all unconscious of it! The President of the United States may feel honoured in shaking thy hard hand-for thy heart is true and warm, though thy skin is dark! America should honour thee for the service thou hast given to one of the noblest and best of her sons-the heroic Kane, and provide for thee, so that thy old age may be tranquil and free from care!

Mrs. Hans looks plump and comfortable. She cherishes her baby with the most affectionate care, and Hans seems to be a most devoted husband. They have four children, the eldest apparently about fifteen or sixteen.

In order to understand the ice-voyage of the rescued party, we must follow the Polaris for a little on her adventurous voyage in search of the North Pole. In 1871 the American Navy Department gave the wooden gunboat Periwinkle, three hundred and eighty-seven tons, which was re-christened the Polaris, for an Arctic exploring expedition up Smith's Sound, to be commanded by Captain C. F. Hall. Congress appropriated $50,000 for the expenses, but no naval officer accompanied the expedition. Dr. Bessels, a naturalist and doctor of medicine, who was in the German expedition of 1869, was placed in charge of the scientific department, and Captain Buddington, a New London whaling Captain, was appointed ice-master. Captain Hall sailed from New York in the end of June, 1871, and touched at St. John's, Newfoundland, where he remained a few days. He sailed again for Greenland on July 24th; reached Disco, where he remained till August 17th; touched at Upernavick, and on August 24th sailed from Tessinsack for Smith's Sound.

« ПретходнаНастави »