Jules Verne.

At the north pole, or, The adventures of Captain Hatteras online

. (page 11 of 17)
Online LibraryJules VerneAt the north pole, or, The adventures of Captain Hatteras → online text (page 11 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

way amid the loose ice towards Beechey Island through Barrow

Hatteras, having resolved to go on in a straight line, in order
not to be carried past the island, hardly left the deck during the
subsequent days ; he would go aloft to the cross-trees in order to
pick out the most favorable path for the brig. All that skill, cool-
ness, boldness, and even maritime genius could do, was done by
him while sailing through the strait. It is true that fortune did
not favor him, for at that season he ought to have found the sea
nearly open. But by dint of sparing neither steam, his men, nor
himself, he succeeded in his aim.

July 3d, at eleven o'clock in the morning, the ice-master saw
land to the north ; Hatteras soon made it out as Beechey Island,
the general rendezvous for arctic explorers. Almost all the ships
which sail in these latitudes touch here. Here Franklin passed
his first winter before advancing into Wellington Channel.
Here Ores well, MacClure's lieutenant, after a march of four hun-
dred and sixty miles on the ice, rejoined the Phcenix and returned
to England. The last ship which anchored at Beechey Island
before the Forward was the Fox ; MacClintock took in supplies
there, August 11, 1855, and repaired the dwellings and store-
houses ; that was but a short time previous. Hatteras knew all
these details.

The boatswain's heart beat strongly at the sight of this island ;
when he had last seen it he had been quartermaster on the Phce-
nix ; Hatteras asked him about the coast, the place for anchor-
ing, the possible change of the bottom. The weather was per-
fect; the thermometer marked 57.

"Well, Johnson," said the captain, "do you recognize this

"Yes, Captain, it 's Beechey Island! Only we ought to
bear a little farther north ; the coast is more easily approached


" But the buildings, the stores 1 " said Hatteras.

" 0, you can't see them till you get ashore ; they are hidden
behind those hillocks you see there ! "

" And did you carry large supplies there 1 "

"Yes, they were large. The Admiralty sent us here in
1853, under the command of Captain Inglefield, with the
steamer Phcenix and a transport, the Breadalhane, loaded
with supplies; we carried enough to revictual a whole expedi-

" But did not the commander of the Fox take a great deal
away in ISSST' said Hatteras.

"0, don't be anxious, Captain!" answered Johnson; ''there
will be enough left for you ; the cold keeps everything wonder-
fully, and we shall find everything as fresh and in as good condi-
tion as on the first day."

" I 'm not so anxious about the provisions," answered Hatteras ;
" I have enough for several years ; what I stand in need of is

" Well, Captain, we left more than a thousand tons there ; so
you can feel easy about that."

" Let us stand nearer," resumed Hatteras, who, glass in hand,
kept examining the shore.

" You see that point," said Johnson ; " when we 've doubled it,
we shall be near our anchorage. Yes, it 's from there we started
for England with Lieutenant Creswell and twelve sick men of the
Investigator. But if we were fortunate enough to be of service to
Captain MacClure's lieutenant, Bellot, the officer who accompa-
nied us on the Phcenix, never saw his home again ! Ah, that 's
a sad memory ! But, Captain, I think it 's here we ought to

" Very well," answered Hatteras.

And he gave the proper orders. The Forward lay in a little
harbor sheltered from the north, east, and south winds, about a
cable-length from the shore.

"Mr. Wall," said Hatteras, "you will lower the launch and
send six men to bring coal aboard."

"Yes, sir," answered Walk



" I am going ashore in the gig with the doctor and the boat-
swain ; Mr. Shandon, will you go with us % "

*' At your orders," answered Shandon.

A few minutes later the doctor, with gun and baskets for any
specimens he might find, took his place in the gig with his com-
panions; ten minutes later they stepped out on a low, rocky

"Lead the way, Johnson," said Hatteras; "do you remem-
ber itr'

" Perfectly, Captain ; only here is a monument which I did not
expect to find here."

*' That," shouted the doctor, " I know what it is ; let 's go look
at it ; it will tell us of itself why it was put here."

The four men went up to it, and the doctor, baring his head,

"This, my friends, is a monument raised to the memory of
Franklin and his companions."

In fact, Lady Franklin having, in 1855, sent a tablet of black
marble to Dr. Kane, gave another in 1858 to MacClintock to be
placed on Beechey Island. MacClintock discharged his duty, and
placed this tablet near a funeral pile raised to the memory of Bel-
lot by Sir John Barrow.


This tablet bore the following inscription ;




Who have suflFered and perished

in the cause of science and the service of their country.


Is erected near the spot where they passed their first arctic Winter,

and whence they issued forth to conquer difficulties or


It commemorates the grief of their Admiring Countrymen and Friends,

and the anguish, subdued by Faith,

of her who has lost, in the heroic Leader of the Expedition, the Most Devoted

and Affectionate of Husbands.

** And so he bringeth them unto the Haven where they would he.**

This stone, on a lonely shore of these remote regions, touched
every one's heart; the doctor felt the tears rising in his eyes.
On the very spot whence Franklin and his men sailed, full of hope
and strength, there was now merely a slab of marble to commem-
orate them ;^and in spite of this solemn warning of fate, the For-
ward was about to follow the path of the Erebus and Terror.

Hatteras was the first to rouse himself; he ascended quickly a
rather high hillock, which was almost entirely bare of snow.

" Captain," said Johnson, following him, " from there we ought
to see the stores."

Shandon and the doctor joined them just as they reached the
top of the hill.

But their eyes saw nothing but large plains with no trace of a

" This is very strange," said the boatswain.

"Well, these stores?" said Hatteras, quickly.

" I don't know, I don't see " stammered Johnson.

"You must have mistaken the path," said the doctor.

" Still it seems to me," resumed Johnson after a moment's re-
flection, " that at this very spot "

" Well," said Hatteras, impatiently, " where shall we go ? "


" Let 's go down again," said the boatswain, '' for it 's possible
I 've lost my way ! In seven years I may have forgotten the

" Especially," said the doctor, " when the country is so monot-

" And yet " muttered Johnson.

Shandon said not a word. After walking a few minutes, John-
son stopped.

" No," he said, " I 'm not mistaken."

" Well," said Hatteras, looking around.

" What makes you say so, Johnson 1 " asked the doctor.

" Do you see this little rise in the earth ? " asked the boatswain,
pointing downwards to a mound in which three elevations could
be clearly seen.

"What does that mean?" asked the doctor.

" There," answered Johnson, " are the three tombs of Frank-
lin's sailors. I 'm sure of it ! I 'm not mistaken, and the stores
must be within a hundred paces of us, and if they 're not there,
it 's because "

He durst not finish his sentence; Hatteras ran forward, and
terrible despair seized him. There ought to stand those much-
needed storehouses, with supplies of all sorts on which he had
been counting; but ruin, pillage, and destruction had passed over
that place where civilized hands had accumulated resources for
battered sailors. Who had committed these depredations 1 Wild
animals, wolves, foxes, bears 1 No, for they would have destroyed
only the provisions ; and there was left no shred of a tent, not a
piece of wood, not a scrap of iron, no bit of any metal, nor what
was more serious for the men of the Forward a single lump of

Evidently the Esquimaux, who have often had much to do
with European ships, had finally learned the value of these ob-
jects ; since the visit of the Fox they had come frequently to this
great storehouse, and liad pillaged incessantly, with the intention
of leaving no trace of what had been there ; and now a long drift
of half-melted snow covered the ground.

Hatteras was baffled. The doctor gazed and shook his head.



Shandon said nothing, but an attentive observer would have
noticed a wicked smile about his lips.

At this moment the men sent by Wall amved. They took
it all in at a glance. Shandon went up to the captain and

" Mr. Hatteras, we need not despair ; fortunately we are near
the entrance to Barrow Strait, which will carry us back to Baffin's

" Mr. Shandon," answered Hatteras, " we are fortunately near
the entrance of Wellington Channel, and it will lead us to the

" And how shall we go. Captain ? "

" Under sail, sir. We have two months' fuel left, and that is
more than we shall need for next winter."
" Permit me to say," began Shandon.

" I permit you to follow me to the ship, sir," was Hatteras's

And turning his back on his first officer, he returned to the

brig and locked himself in his

For two days the wind was
unfavorable ; the captain did
not come on deck. The doctor
profited by this forced delay to
examine Beechey Island ; he
collected a few plants which a
comparatively high temperature
let gi'ow here and there on some
rocks which projected from the
snow, such as heather, a few li-
chens, a sort of yellow ranunculus,
a plant like sorrel with leaves a
trifle larger, and some sturdy
The fauna of this country was much richer ; the doctor saw
large flocks of geese and cranes flying northward ; partridges,
eider-ducks, northern divers, numerous ptarmigans, which are


delicious eating, noisy flocks of kittiwakes, and great white-bellied
loons represented the winged tribe. The doctor was lucky
enough to kill some gray hares, which had not yet put on their
white winter coat of fur, and a blue fox, which Duke skilfully
caught. A few bears, evidently accustomed to fear men, could
not be approached, and the seals were very timid, probably for

the same reason. The harbor was full of a very good tasting shell-
fish. The genus articulata, order diptera, family culicides, division
nemocera, was represented by a simple mosquito, a single one,
which the doctor, though much bitten, had the pleasure of catch-
ing. As a conchologist, he was less fortunate, and he was obliged
to content himself with a sort of mussel and some bivalves.



The temperature remained at 57 during July 3d and 4th;
this was the highest temperature observed. But on Thursday,
the 5th, the wind shifted to the southeast, with violent snow-
squalls. The thermometer fell twenty-three degrees in the pre-
ceding night. Hatteras, indifferent to the hostility of the crew,
gave the order to set sail. For thirteen days, ever since passing
Cape Dundas, the Forward had not gone a single degree farther
north ; hence the party represented by Clifton was dissatisfied ;
their wishes, it is true, coincided with those of the captain.


uamely, that they should^make their way through WeUington
Channel, and they were all glad to be off once more.

It was with difficulty that sail was set; but having in the
course of the night run up the mainsail and topsails, Hatteras
plunged boldly into the ice, which the current was driving towards
the south. The crew became very tired of this tortuous naviga-
tion, which kept them very busy with the sails.

Wellington Channel is not very broad ; it lies- between North
Devon on the east and Cornwallis Island on the west ; for a long
time this island was considered a peninsula. It was Sir John
Franklin who circumnavigated it, in 1846, from the western side,
going about its northern coast.

The exploration of Wellington Channel was made in 1851, by
Captain Penny, in the whale-ships Lady Franklin and Sophia ; one
of his lieutenants, Stewart, who reached Cape Beechey, latitude
76 20', discovered the open sea. The open sea ! It was for that
Hatteras longed.

"What Stewart found, I shall find," he said to the doctor;
" and I shall be able to get to the Pole under sail."

"But," answered the doctor, "don't you fear lest the crew "

" The crew ! " said Hatteras, coldly.

Then in a lower tone he murmured,

" Poor men ! " much to the doctor's surprise.

It was the first sentiment of this sort which he had ever no-
ticed in the captain.

" No," he went on warmly, " they must follow me, and they

Still, if the Forward need not fear collision with the ice-
streams, she made but little way northward, being much delayed
by contrary winds. With some difficulty they got by Capes
Spencer and Innis, and Tuesday, the 10th, latitude 75 was at
last reached, much to Clifton's joy.

The Forward was now at the very spot where the American
ships, the Rescue and the Advance, commanded by Captain Haven,
ran such terrible dangers. Dr. Kane accompanied this expedition ;
towards the end of September, 1850, these ships were caught in
the ice, and carried with irresistible force into Lancaster Sound.

The Forward \n Wellington Channel." Page


Shandon told James Wall about it in the presence of some of
the men.

" The Advance and the Rescue" he said, " were so tossed about
by ice, that they could keep no fires on board ; and yet the ther-
mometer stood at 18 below zero. During the whole winter the
crews were kept imprisoned, ready to abandon their ships, and
for three weeks they did not take off their clothes ! It was
a terrible situation ; after drifting a thousand miles, they were
driven to the middle of Baffin's Bay ! "

One may easily judge of the efifect of such a narration on a
crew already discontented.

While this conversation was going on, Johnson was talking
with the doctor about an event which had taken place here ; the
doctor, at his request, told him the exact moment when the brig
reached latitude 75 30'.

" There it is ! there it is ! " said Johnson, " there is that un-
lucky land ! "

And so speaking, tears came into the boatswain's eyes.

"You mean Lieutenant Bellot's death," said the doctor.

" Yes, sir, of that brave, good man ! "

" And it was here, you say, that it took place 1 "

" Just here, on this part of the coast of North Devon. It was
very great ill-luck, and this would not have happened if Captain
PuUen had come on board sooner."

" What do you mean, Johnson % "

" Listen, Doctor, and you will see by how slight a thread life
is held. You know that Lieutenant Ballot had already made an
expedition in search of Franklin, in 18 01"

" Yes ; in the Prince Albert."

"Well, in 1853, having returned to France, he got permission
to sail in the Phoenix, in which I was a sailor, under Captain
Inglefield. We came with the Breadalhane to carry supplies to
Beech ey Island."

" Those which we did not find ! "

"Exactly, Doctor. We arrived at Beechey Island at the be-
ginning of August ; the 10th of that month. Captain Inglefield
left the Phoenix to rejoin Captain PuUen, who had been away for a


month from his ship, the North Star. He intended on his return
to send the Admiralty despatches to Sir Edward Belcher, who
was wintering in AVellington Channel. Now, shortly after our
captain's departure, Captain Pullen reached his ship. If he had
only come back before Captain Inglefield had left ! Lieutenant
Bellot, fearing that our captain's absence might be a long one,
and knowing that the Admiralty despatches were important,
offered to carry them himself. He left the two ships under
Captain Pullen's charge, and left August 12, with a sledge and
an india-rubber canoe. He took with him Harvey, quartermaster
of the North Star, and three sailors. Madden, David Hook, and
me. We thought that Sir Edward Belcher would be somewhere
near Cape Beecher, at the northern part of the channel; hence
we made for that part in our sledge, keeping on the east bank.
The first day we encamped three miles from Cape Tunis ; the next
day we stopped on the ice nearly three miles fi'om Cape Bowden.
During the night, which was as bright as day, land being only
three miles distant. Lieutenant Bellot determined to go and camp
there ; he tried to reach it in the canoe ; a violent southeast
breeze drove him back twice ; Harvey and Madden tried in their
turn, and with success ; they carried a rope, and with it they
established communication with the shore ; three objects were
carried across by it ; but at the fourth attempt, we felt the ice
moving away from us ; Mr. Bellot shouted to his companions to
loosen the rope, and we (the lieutenant, David Hook, and I) were
carried to a great distance from the shore. Then a strong south-
easter was blowing, and snow was falling. But we were, not in any
great danger, and he might have been saved, since the rest of us
were saved."

Johnson stopped for a moment, and gazed at the ill-fated shore,
then he went on :

"After losing sight of our companions, we tried at first to
shelter ourselves under the cover of our sledge, but in vain ; then
with our knives we began to cut a house in the ice. Mr. Bellot
sat down for half an hour, and talked with us about the danger
of our situation ; I told him I was not afraid. ' With God's pro-
tection/ he said, ' not a hair of our heads shall be hurt.* I then



asked him what time it was. He answered, ' About quarter past
six.' It was quarter past six in the morning of Thursday,
August 18th. Then Mr. Bellot bound on his books, and said he
wanted to go and see how the ice was moving ; he was gone only-
four minutes, when I went to seek him behind the floe which
sheltered us ; but I did not find him, and, returning to our re-
treat, I saw his stick on the opposite side of a crevasse about

three fathoms wide, where the ice was all broken. I shouted, but
there was no answer. At that time the wind was blowing very
hard. I searched all around, but I could find no trace of the
poor lieutenant."

" And what do you suppose became of him ^ " asked the doctor,
who was much moved by this account.

" I suppose that when he left the shelter, the wind drove him

into the crevasse, and that, being thickly clad, he could not swim

to the surface. Dr. Clawbonny, I never felt worse in my

life ! I could not believe it ! That brave officer fell a victim to

his sense of duty ! For you know that it was in order to obey

Captain Pullen's instructions that he was trying to reach the

land before the ice began to break ! He was a brave man, liked

by every one, faithful, courageous ! All England mourned him,



and even the Esquimaux, when they heard of his death from Cap-
tain Inglefield, when he returned from Pound Bay, did nothing
but weep and repeat, ' Poor Bellot ! Poor Bellot I ' "

"But you and your companions, Johnson," asked the doctor,
much moved by this touching account, " how did you manage
to get to shore % "

*' 0, it was very simple ! We remained twenty-four hours on the
ice without food or fire, but finally we reached a firmly fastened
ice-field ; we sprang upon it, and with an oar we got near a floe
capable of supporting us, and being controlled like a boat. In
that way we reached the shore, but alone, without our brave

At the end of this account the Forward had passed by this
fatal shore, and Johnson soon lost sight of the scene of this terri-
ble catastrophe. The next day they left Griffin's Bay on the star-
board, and two days later, Capes Grinnell and Helpman ; finally,
July 14th, they doubled Osborne Point, and the 15th the brig
anchored in Baring Bay at the end of the channel. The naviga-
tion had not been very difficult ; Hatteras found a sea nearly as
free as that by which Belcher profited to go and winter with the
Pioneer and Assistance in latitude 77. That was his first winter,

Hatteras made use of a device which whalers employ. Page 153-


1852-53, for the next he spent in Baring Bay, where the For-
ward now lay at anchor.

^It was in consequence of the most terrible dangers and trials
that he was obliged to abandon the Assistance in the midst of the
eternal ice.

Shandon gave a full account of this catastrophe to the demor-
alized sailors. Was Hatteras aware of the treachery of his first
officer 1 It is impossible to say, but, at any rate, he said nothing
about it.

At the end of Baring Bay is a narrow canal uniting Welling-
ton Channel with Queen's Strait. There the ice had accumulated
very closely. Hatteras made vain efforts to get through the pas-
sages to the north of Hamilton Island; the wind was unfavor-
able ; hence it was necessary to go between Hamilton and Com-
wallis Islands; five precious days were lost in vain attempts.
The air grew colder, and, July 19th, fell as low as 26 ; the next
day was warmer, but this harbinger of the arctic winter warned
Hatteras not to linger longer. The wind seemed to blow steadily
from the west and delayed his progress. And yet he was in
haste to reach the point whence Stewart saw an open sea. The
19th he resolved to enter the channel at any price; the wind
blew dead against the brig, which, with her screw, could have
made headway against the violent snow-squalls, but Hatteras had
before all to be economical with the fuel; on the other hand,
the channel was too broad to permit of the brig being towed.
Hatteras, without taking into account the fatigue of his crew,
made use of a device which whalers often employ under similar
circumstances. He lowered the small boats to the surface of the
water, not letting them free from their tackle ; then they were
made fast, fore and aft ; oars were put out, to starboard on one
side and to port on the other ; the men sat on the thwarts and
rowed vigorously, so as to propel the brig against the wind.

The Forward made slight headway ; this method of working
was very fatiguing ; the men began to murmur. For four days
they advanced in that way, imtil July 23d, when they reached
Baring Island, in Queen's Channel.

The wind was still unfavorable. The crew could go no farther.


The doctor found the strength of the crew much pulled down,
and he thought he detected the first symptoms of scurvy; he
used every precaution against this terrible disease, having abun-
dant supplies of lime-juice and chalk-pastilles.

Hatteras soon saw there was nothing more to be got from his
crew ; kindness and persuasion were fruitless ; he resolved to em-
ploy severity, and, if need be, to be pitiless ; he distrusted espe-
cially Richard Shandon, and even James Wall, who, however,
never dared to speak too loud. Hatteras had on his side the
doctor, Johnson, Bell, and Simpson ; these were all devoted to
him body and soul. Among the uncertain were Foker, Bolton,
Wolston, the gunner, Brunton, the first engineer, who might at
any moment declare against him. As to the others. Pen, Grip-
per, Clifton, and Warren, they openly meditated mutiny ; they
wanted to bring their companions over and compel the Forward
to return to England.

Hatteras soon saw that he could get no more work from his
dispirited crew, who now were worn out with fatigue from their
hard work. For twenty-four hours they remained in sight of
Baring Island without getting a foot forward. Still the weather
grew colder, and in these high latitudes even July felt the influ-
ence of the approaching winter. The 24th, the thermometer fell
to 22. The young ice formed during the night to a depth of
about half an inch ; if snow should fall on it, it would soon be
strong enough to bear the weight of a man. The sea soon ac-
quired the turbid tint which indicates the formation of the first

Hatteras read aright these alarming signs ; if the passes should
close, he would be obliged to winter here, far from the aim of his
voyage, and without even having seen that open sea which he
must have got very near, according to the accounts of his prede-

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryJules VerneAt the north pole, or, The adventures of Captain Hatteras → online text (page 11 of 17)