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"Death is always untimely to some critturs, Sir John."

"Am I to understand, sir, that you mean to cast away the ship?"

"Not if I can help it, Sir John; but a craft that is foreordained to be
a wrack, will be a wrack, in spite of reefing and bracing. Look ahead,
you Dick Lion - ay, there you have it!"

There we had it, sure enough! I can only compare the scene which now met
my eyes, to a sudden view of the range of the Oberland Alps, when the
spectator is unexpectedly placed on the verge of the precipice of the
Weissenstein. There he would see before him a boundless barrier
of glittering ice, broken into the glorious and fantastic forms of
pinnacles, walls, and valleys; while here, we saw all that was sublime
in such a view heightened by the fearful action of the boisterous ocean,
which beat upon the impassable boundary in ceaseless violence.

"Good God! Captain Poke," I exclaimed, the instant I caught a glimpse
of the formidable danger that menaced us, "you surely do not mean to
continue madly on, with such a warning of the consequences in plain

"What would you have, Sir John? Leaphigh lies on the t'other side of
these ice-islands!"

"But you need not run the ship against them - why not go round them?"

"Because they go round the 'arth, in this latitude. Now is the time
to speak, Sir John. If we are bound to Leaphigh, we have the choice of
three pretty desperate chances; to go through, to go under, or to go
over that there ice. If we are to put back, there is not a moment to
lose, for it may be even now questioned whether the ship would claw off,
as we are, with a sending sea, and this heavy norther."

I believe I would, at that moment, gladly have given up all my social
stakes to be well rid of the adventure. Still pride, that substitute
for so many virtues, the greatest and the most potent of all hypocrites,
forbade my betraying the desire to retreat. I deliberated, while the
ship flew; and when, at length, I turned to the captain to suggest a
doubt that might, at an earlier notice, possibly have changed the whole
aspect of affairs, he bluntly told me it was too late. It was safer to
proceed than to return, if indeed, return were possible, in the present
state of the winds and waves. Making a merit of necessity, I braced my
nerves to meet the crisis, and remained a submissive, and, apparently, a
calm spectator of that which followed.

The Walrus (such was the name of our good ship) by this time was under
easy canvas, and yet, urged by the gale, she rolled down with alarming
velocity towards the boundary of foam where the congealed and the still
liquid element held their strife. The summits of the frozen crags waved
in their glittering glory in a way just to show that they were afloat;
and I remembered to have heard that, at times, as their bases melted,
entire mountains had been known to roll over, engulfing all that lay
beneath. To me it seemed but a moment, before the ship was fairly
overshadowed by these shining cliffs, which, gently undulating, waved
their frozen summits nearly a thousand feet in air. I looked at Noah,
in alarm, for it appeared to me that he intentionally precipitated us
to destruction. But, just as I was about to remonstrate, he made a sign
with his hand, and the vessel was brought to the wind. Still retreat was
impossible; for the heave of the sea was too powerful, and the wind too
heavy, to leave us any hope of long keeping the Walrus from drifting
down upon the ragged peaks that bristled in icy glory to leeward. Nor
did Captain Poke himself seem to entertain any such design; for, instead
of hugging the gale, in order to haul off from the danger, he had caused
the yards to be laid perfectly square, and we were now running, at a
great rate, in a line nearly parallel with the frozen coast, though
gradually setting upon it.

"Keep full! Let her go through water, you Jim Tiger," said the old
sealer, whose professional ardor was fairly aroused. "Now, Sir John,
unluckily, we are on the wrong side of these ice mountains, for the
plain reason that Leaphigh lies to the south'ard of them. We must be
stirring, therefore, for no craft that was ever launched could keep off
these crags with such a gale driving home upon them, for more than an
hour or two. Our great concern, at present, is to look out for a hole to
run into."

"Why have you come so close to the danger, with your knowledge of the

"To own the truth, Sir John, natur' is natur', and I'm getting to be a
little near-sighted as I grow old; besides, I'm not so sartain that the
danger is the more dangerous, for taking a good, steady look plump in
its face."

Noah raised his hand, as much as to say he wished no answer, and both
of us were immediately occupied in gazing anxiously to leeward. The
ship was just opening a small cove in the ice, which might have been a
cable's length in depth, and a quarter of a mile across its outer, or
the widest part. Its form was regular, being that of a semicircle; but,
at its bottom, the ice, instead of forming a continued barrier, like all
the rest we had yet passed, was separated by a narrow opening, that
was bounded on each side by a frowning precipice. The two bergs were
evidently drawing nearer to each other, but there was still a strait, or
a watery gorge between them, of some two hundred feet in width. As the
ship plunged onward, the pass was opened, and we caught a glimpse of the
distant view to leeward. It was merely a glimpse - the impatient Walrus
allowing us but a moment for examination - but it appeared sufficient for
the purposes of the old sealer. We were already across the mouth of the
cove, and within a cable's length of the ice again; for as we drew near
what may be called the little cape, we found ourselves once more in
closer proximity to the menacing mountain. It was a moment when all
depended on decision; and fortunately, our sealer, who was so wary and
procrastinating in a bargain, never had occasion to make two drafts
on his thoughts, in situations of emergency. As the ship cleared the
promontory on the eastern side of the cove, we again opened a curvature
of the ice, which gave a little more water to leeward. Tacking was
impossible, and the helm was put hard aweather. The bow of the Walrus
fell off, and as she rose on the next wave, I thought its send would
carry us helplessly down upon the berg. But the good craft, obedient to
her rudder, whirled round, as if sensible herself of the danger, and, in
less time than I had ever before known her to wear, we felt the wind on
the other quarter. Our cats and dogs bestirred themselves, for there was
no one there, Captain Noah Poke excepted, whose heart did not beat quick
and hard. In much less time than usual, the yards were braced up on the
other tack, and the ship was ploughing heavily against the sea, with her
head to the westward. It is impossible to give one who has never been
in such a situation, a just idea of the feverish impatience, the sinking
and mounting of hope, as we watch the crablike movement of a vessel that
is clawing off a lee-shore, in a gale. In the present case, it being
well known that the sea was fathomless, we had run so near the danger
that not even the smallest of its horrors was veiled from sight.

While the ship labored along, I saw the clouds fast shutting in to
windward, by the interposition of the promontory of ice - the certain
sign that our drift was rapid - and, as we drew nearer to the point,
breathing became labored and even audible. Here Noah took a chew of
tobacco, I presume on the principle of enjoying a last quid, should the
elements prove fatal; and then he went to the wheel in person.

"Let her go through the water," he said, easing the helm a little - "let
her jog ahead, or we shall lose command of her in this devil's-pot!"

The vessel felt the slight change, and drew faster through the foaming
brine, bringing us, with increasing velocity, nearer to the dreaded
point. As we came up to the promontory the water fell back in spray on
the decks, and there was an instant when it appeared as if the wind was
about to desert us. Happily the ship had drawn so far ahead as to feel
the good effects of a slight change of current that was caused by the
air rushing obliquely into the cove; and, as Noah, by easing the
helm still more, had anticipated this alteration, which had been felt
adversely but a moment before, while struggling to the eastward of
the promontory, we drew swiftly past the icy cape, opening the cove
handsomely, with the ship's head falling off fast towards the gorge.

There was but a minute or two, for squaring the yards and obtaining the
proper position to windward of the narrow strait. Instead of running
down in a direct line for the latter, Captain Poke kept the ship on such
a course as to lay it well open, before her head was pointed towards
the passage. By this time, the two bergs had drawn so near each other as
actually to form an arch across its mouth; and this, too, at a part so
low as to render it questionable whether there was sufficient elevation
to permit the Walrus to pass beneath. But retreat was impossible, the
gale urging the ship furiously onwards. The width of the passage was now
but little more than a hundred feet, and it actually required the nicest
steerage to keep our yard-arms clear of the opposite precipices, as the
vessel dashed, with foaming bows, into the gorge. The wind drew through
the opening with tremendous violence, fairly howling as if in delight at
discovering a passage by which it might continue its furious career. We
may have been aided by the sucking of the wind and the waves, both of
which were irresistibly drawn towards the pass, or it is quite probable
that the skill of Captain Poke did us good service on this awful
occasion; but, owing to the one or the other, or to the two causes
united, the Walrus shot into the gorge so accurately as to avoid
touching either of the lateral margins of the ice. We were not so
fortunate, however, with the loftier spars; for scarcely was the
vessel beneath the arch, when she lifted on a swell, and her
main-top-gallant-mast snapped off in the cap. The ice groaned and
cracked over our heads, and large fragments fell both ahead and astern
of us, several of them even tumbling upon our decks. One large piece
came down within an inch of the extremity of Dr. Reasono's tail, just
escaping the dire calamity of knocking out the brains of that profound
and philo-monikin philosopher. In another instant the ship was through
the pass, which completely closed, with the crash of an earthquake, as
soon as possible afterwards.

Still driven by the gale, we ran rapidly towards the south, along a
channel less than a quarter of a mile in width, the bergs evidently
closing on each side of us, and the ship, as if conscious of her
jeopardy, doing her utmost, with Captain Poke still at the wheel. In a
little more than an hour, the worst was over - the Walrus issuing into an
open basin of several leagues in extent, which was, however, completely
encircled by the frozen mountains. Here Noah took a look at the pumpkin,
after which he made no ceremony in plumply telling Dr. Reasono that
he had been greatly mistaken in laying down the position of Captivity
Island, as he himself had named the spot where the amiable strangers had
fallen into human hands. The philosopher was a little tenacious of
his opinion; but what is argument in the face of facts? Here was the
pumpkin, and there were the blue waters! The captain now quite frankly
declared that he had great doubts whether there was any such place as
Leaphigh at all; and as the ship had a capital position for such an
object, he bluntly, though privately proposed to me, that we should
throw all the monikins overboard, project the entire polar basin on
his chart as being entirely free from islands, and then go a-sealing. I
rejected the propositions, firstly, as premature; secondly, as inhuman;
thirdly, as inhospitable; fourthly, as inconvenient; and lastly, as

There might have arisen a disagreeable controversy between us on this
point; for Mr. Poke had begun to warm, and to swear that one good seal,
of the true quality of fur, was worth a hundred monkeys; when most
happily the panther at the masthead cried out that two of the largest
mountains, to the southward of us, were separating, and that he could
discern a passage into another basin. Hereupon Captain Poke concentrated
his oaths, which he caused to explode like a bomb, and instantly made
sail again in the proper direction. By three o'clock, P.M., we had run
the gauntlet of the bergs a second time, and were at least a degree
nearer the pole, in the basin just alluded to.

The mountains had now entirely disappeared in the southern board; but
the sea was covered, far as the eye could reach, with field-ice. Noah
stood on, without apprehension; for the water had been smooth ever since
we entered the first opening, the wind not having rake enough to
knock up a swell. When about a mile from the margin of the frozen and
seemingly interminable plain, the ship was brought to the wind, and

Ever since the vessel left the docks, there had been six sets of spars
of a form so singular, lying among the booms, that they had often been
the subject of conversation between the mates and myself, neither of
the former being able to tell their uses. These sticks were of no great
length, some fifteen feet at the most, of sound English oak. Two or
three pairs were alike, for they were in pairs, each pair having one of
the sides of a shape resembling different parts of the ship's bottom,
with the exception that they were chiefly concave, while the bottom of a
vessel is mainly convex. At one extremity each pair was firmly connected
by a short, massive, iron link, of about two feet in length; and, at its
opposite end, a large eye-bolt was driven into each stick, where it was
securely forelocked. When the Walrus was stationary, we learned, for
the first time, the uses of these unusual preparations. A pair of the
timbers, which were of great solidity and strength, were dropped over
the stern, and, sinking beneath the keel, their upper extremities were
separated by means of lanyards turned into the eye-bolts. The lanyards
were then brought forward to the bilge of the vessel, where, by the help
of tackles, the timbers were rowsed up in such a manner that the links
came close to the false keel, and the timbers themselves were laid snug
against each side of the ship. As great care had been taken, by means of
marks on the vessel, as well as in forming the skids themselves, the fit
was perfect. No less than five pairs were secured in and near the bilge,
and as many more were distributed forwards and aft, according to the
shape of the bottom. Fore-and-aft pieces, that reached from one skid to
the other, were then placed between those about the bilge of the ship,
each of them having a certain number of short ribs, extending upwards
and downwards. These fore-and-aft pieces were laid along the waterline,
their ends entering the skids by means of mortices and tenons, where
they were snugly bolted. The result of the entire arrangement was, to
give the vessel an exterior protection against the field-ice, by
means of a sort of network of timber, the whole of which had been so
accurately fitted in the dock, as to bear equally on her frame. These
preparations were not fairly completed before ten o'clock on the
following morning, when Noah stood directly for an opening in the ice
before us, which just about that time began to be apparent.

"We sha'nt go so fast for our armor," observed the cautious old sealer;
"but what we want in heels, we'll make up in bottom."

For the whole of that day we worked our devious course, by great labor
and at uncertain intervals, to the southward; and at night we fastened
the Walrus to a floe, in waiting for the return of light. Just as the
day dawned, however, I heard a tremendous grating sound against the
side of the vessel; and rushing on deck, I found that we were completely
caught between two immense fields, which seemed to be attracted towards
each other for no other apparent purpose than to crush us. Here it was
that the expedient of Captain Poke made manifest its merits. Protected
by the massive timbers and false ribs, the bilge of the ship resisted
the pressure; and as, under such circumstances, something must yield,
luckily nothing but the attraction of gravitation was overcome. The
skids, through their inclination, acted as wedges, the links pressing
against the keel; and in the course of an hour the Walrus was
gradually lifted out of the water, maintaining her upright position,
in consequence of the powerful nip of the floes. No sooner was this
experiment handsomely effected, than Mr. Poke jumped upon the ice, and
commenced an examination of the ship's bottom.

"Here's a dry-dock for you, Sir John!" exclaimed the old sealer,
chuckling. "I'll have a patent for this, the moment I put foot ag'in in

A feeling of security, to which I had been a stranger ever since we
entered the ice, was created by the composure of Noah, and by his
self-congratulation at what he called his project to get a look at the
Walrus's bottom. Notwithstanding all the fine declarations of exultation
and success, however, that he flourished among us who were not mariners,
I was much disposed to think that, like other men of extraordinary
genius, he had blundered on the grand result of his "ice-screws," and
that it was not foreseen and calculated. Let this be as it may, however,
all hands were soon on the floe, with brooms, scrapers, hammers, and
nails, and the opportunity of repairing and cleaning was thoroughly

For four-and-twenty hours the ship remained in the same attitude, still
as a church, and some of us began to entertain apprehensions that she
might be kept on her frozen blocks forever. The accident had happened,
according to the statements of Captain Poke, in lat. 78 degrees 13'
26" - although I never knew in what manner he ascertained the important
particular of our precise situation. Thinking it might be well to get
some more accurate ideas on this subject, after so long and ticklish a
run, I procured the quadrant from Bob Ape, and brought it down upon the
ice, where I made it a point, as an especial favor, the weather being
favorable and the proper hour near, that our commander would correct his
instinct by a solar observation. Noah protested that your old seaman,
especially if a sealer and a Stunin'tunner, had no occasion for such
geometry operations, as he termed them; that it might be well enough,
perhaps necessary, for your counting-house, silk-gloved captains, who
run between New York and Liverpool, to be rubbing up their glasses and
polishing their sextants, for they hardly ever knew where they were,
except at such times; but as for himself, he had little need of turning
star-gazer at his time of life, and that as he had already told me, he
was getting to be near-sighted, and had some doubts whether he could
discern an object like the sun, that was known to be so many thousands
of millions of miles from the earth. These scruples, however, were
overcome by my cleaning the glasses, preparing a barrel for him to stand
on, that he might be at the customary elevation above his horizon, and
putting the instrument into his hands, the mates standing near, ready to
make the calculations when he gave the sun's declination.

"We are drifting south'ard, I know," said Mr. Poke before he commenced
his sight - "I feel it in my bones. We are at this moment in 79 degrees
36' 14." - having made a southerly drift of more than eighty miles since
yesterday noon. Now mind my words, and see what the sun will say about

When the calculations were made, our latitude was found to be 79 degrees
35' 47". Noah was somewhat puzzled by the difference, for which he could
in no plausible way account, as the observation had been unusually good
and certain. But an opinionated and an ingenious man is seldom at a
loss to find a sufficient reason to establish his own correctness, or to
prove the mistakes of others.

"Ay, I see how it is," he said, after a little cogitation, "the sun must
be wrong - it should be no wonder if the sun did get a little out of his
track in these high, cold latitudes. Yes, yes; the sun must be wrong."

I was too much delighted at being certain we were going on our course
to dispute the point, and the great luminary was abandoned to the
imputation of sometimes being in error. Dr. Reasono took occasion
to say, in my private ear, that there was a sect of philosophers in
Leaphigh, who had long distrusted the accuracy of the planetary
system, and who had even thrown out hints that the earth, In its annual
revolution, moved in a direction absolutely contrary to that which
nature had contemplated when she gave the original polar impulse; but
that, as regarded himself, he thought very little of these opinions,
as he had frequent occasion to observe that there was a large class of
monikins whose ideas always went uphill.

For two more days and as many nights, we continued to drift with the
floes to the southward, or as near as might be, towards the haven of
our wishes. On the fourth morning, there was a suitable change in the
weather; both thermometer and barometer rose; the air became more bland,
and most of our cats and dogs, notwithstanding we were still surrounded
by the ice, began to cast their skins. Dr. Reasono noted these signs,
and stepping on the floe, he brought back with him a considerable
fragment of the frozen element. This was carried to the camboose, where
it was subjected to the action of fire, which, within a given number of
minutes, pretty much as a matter of course, as I thought, caused it to
melt. The whole process was watched with an anxiety the most intense, by
the whole of the monikins, however; and when the result was announced,
the amiable and lovely Chatterissa clapped her pretty little pattes
with joy, and gave all the other natural indications of delight, which
characterize the emotions of that gentle sex of which she was so bright
an ornament. Dr. Reasono was not backwards in explaining the cause of
so much unusual exhilaration, for hitherto her manner had been
characterized by the well-bred and sophisticated restraint which
marks high training. The experiment had shown, by the infallible and
scientific tests of monikin chemistry, that we were now within the
influence of a steam-climate, and there could no longer be any rational
doubt of our eventual arrival in the polar basin.

The result proved that the philosopher was right. About noon the
floes, which all that day had begun to assume what is termed a "sloppy
character," suddenly gave way, and the Walrus settled down into her
proper element, with great equanimity and propriety. Captain Poke lost
no time in unshipping the skids; and a smacking breeze, that was well
saturated with steam, springing up from the westward, we made sail. Our
course was due south, without regard to the ice, which yielded before
our bows like so much thick water, and just as the sun set, we entered
the open sea, rioting in the luxuriance of its genial climate, in

Sail was carried on the ship all that night; and just as the day dawned,
we made the first mile-stone, a proof, not to be mistaken, that we were
now actually within the monikin region. Dr. Reasono had the goodness to
explain to us the history of these aquatic phenomena. It would seem that
when the earth exploded, its entire crust, throughout the whole of this
part of the world, was started upwards in such a way as to give a very
uniform depth to the sea, which in no place exceeds four fathoms. It
follows, as a consequence, that no prevalence of northerly winds
can force the icebergs beyond 78 degrees of south latitude, as they
invariably ground on reaching the outer edge of the polar bank. The
floes, being thin, are melted of course; and thus, by this beneficent
prevention, the monikin world is kept entirely free from the very danger
to which a vulgar mind would be the most apt to believe it is the most

A congress of nations had been held, about five centuries since, which
was called the Holy-philo-marine-safety-and-find-the-way Alliance. At
this congress the high contracting parties agreed to name a commission
to make provision, generally, for the secure navigation of the seas. One
of the expedients of this commission, which, by the way, is said to have
been composed of very illustrious monikins, was to cause massive blocks

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