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to be seen on her decks. Mary had often done this in her
dreams; again and again had she beheld the white sails
of the Sea Lion driving across Gardiner's Bay, and enter
ing Peconic ; and often had she thus gazed in the weather
worn countenance of, him who occupied so much of her
thoughts so many of her prayers picturing through the



mysterious images of sleep the object she so well loved
when waking.

And where was Mary Pratt at that day and hour when
Roswell was thus issuing his last orders at Sealer's Land ;
and what was her occupation, and what her thoughts 1 The
difference in longitude between the group and Montauk
was so trifling that the hour might be almost called identi
cal. Literally so, it was not ; but mainly so, it was. There
were not the five degrees in difference that make the twenty
minutes in time. More than this we are not permitted to
say on this subject ; and this is quite enough to give the
navigator a pretty near notion of the position of the group.
As a degree of longitude measures less than twenty-eight
statute miles at the polar circles, this is coming within a
day's run of the spot, so far as longitude is concerned; and
nearer than that we do not intend to carry the over-anxious
reader, let his curiosity be as lively as it may.

And where, then, was Mary Pratt? Safe, well, and rea
sonably happy, in the house of her uncle, where she had
passed most of her time since infancy. The female friends
of mariners have always fruitful sources of uneasiness in
the pursuit itself; but Mary had no other cause. for concern
of this nature than what was inseparable from so long a
voyage, and the sea into which Roswell had gone. She
well knew that the time was arrived when he was expected
to be on his way home ; and as hope is an active and be
guiling feeling, she already fancied him to be much ad
vanced on his return. But a dialogue which took place
that very day nay, that very hour between her and the
deacon, will best explain her views and opinions, and ex

"It's very extr'or'nary, Mary," commenced the uncle,
" that Gar'ner doesn't write ! If he only know'd how a
man feels when his property is ten thousand miles off, I 'm
sartain he would write, and not leave me with so many
misgivings in the matter."

" By whom is he to write, uncle ?" answered the more
considerate and reasonable niece. " There are no post-
offices in the antarctic seas, nor any travellers to bring let
ters by private hands."


" But he did write once ; and plaguy good news was it
that he sent us in that letter !"

" He did write from Rio, for there he had the means.
By my calculations, Roswell has left his sealing ground
some three or four weeks, and must now be as many thou
sand miles on his way home."

"D'ye think so, gal? d'ye think so?'' exclaimed the
deacon, his eyes fairly twinkling with pleasure. " That
would be good news ; and if he doesn't stop too long by the
way, we might look for him home in less than ninety days
from this moment !"

Mary smiled pensively, and a richer colour stole into her
cheeks, slowly but distinctly.

" I do not think, uncle, that Roswell Gardiner will be
very likely to stop on his way to us here, on Oyster Pond,"
was the answer she made.

" I should be sorry to think that. The best part of his
v'y'ge may be made in the West Ingees, and I hope he is
not a man to overlook his instructions."

" Will Roswell be obliged to stop in the West Indies,

" Sartain if he obeys his orders ; and I think the young
man will do that. But the business there will not detain
him long," Mary's countenance brightened again, at this
remark, " and, should you be right, we may still look for
him in the next ninety days."

Mary remained silent for a short time, but her charming
face was illuminated by an expression of heartfelt happiness,
which, however, the next remark of her uncle's had an ob
vious tendency to disturb.

" Should Gar'ner come home successful, Mary," inquired
the deacon, " successful in all things successful in sealing,
and successful in that other matter the West Ingee busi
ness, I mean but successful in all, as I daily pray he may
be, I want to know if you would then have him ; always
supposing that he got back himself unchanged?"

" Unchanged, I shall never be his wife," answered Mary,
tremulously, but firmly.

The deacon looked at her in surprise ; for he had never
comprehended but one reason why the orphan and penni
less Mary should refuse so pertinacious!) to become the


wife of Roswell Gardiner ; and that was his own want of
means. Now the deacon loved Mary more than he wag
aware of himself, but he had never actually made up his
mind to leave her the heiress of his estate. The idea of
parting with property at all, was too painful for him to think
of making a will ; and without such an instrument, there
were others who would have come in for a part of the assets,
" share and share alike," as the legal men express it. Of
all this was the deacon fully aware and it occasionally
troubled him : more of late than formerly, since he felt in
his system the unerring signs of decay. Once had he got
so far as to write on a page of foolscap, " In the name of
God, Amen ;" but the effort proved too great for him, and
he abandoned the undertaking. Still Deacon Pratt loved
his niece, and was well inclined to see her become the wife
of " young Gar'ner," more especially should the last return

" Unchanged !" repeated the uncle, slowly ; " you sar-
tainly would not wish to marry him, Mary, if he was
changed !"

"I do not mean changed, in the sense you are thinking
of, uncle. But we will not talk of this now. Why should
Roswell stop in the West Indies at all? It is not usual for
our vessels to stop there."

" No, it is not. If Gar'ner stop at all, it will be on a
very unusual business, and one that may make all our for
tunes your'n, as well as his'n and mine, Mary."

"I hope that sealers never meddle with the transporta
tion of slaves, uncle!" the girl exclaimed, with a face filled
with apprehension. " I would rather live and die poor,
than have anything to do with them !"

" I see no such great harm in the trade, gal ; but such
is not RoswelPs ar'nd in the West Ingees. It 's a great
secret, the reason of his call there; and I will venture to
foretell that, should he make it, and should it turn out suc
cessful, you will marry him, gal."

Mary made no reply. Well was she assured that Ros
well had an advocate in her own heart, that was pleading
for him, night and day; but firm was her determination not
to unite herself with one, however dear to her, who set up his
own feeble understanding of the nature of the mediation be-


tween God and man, in opposition to the plainest language
of revelation, as well as to the prevalent belief of the church,
since the ages that immediately succeeded the Christian



'Poor child of danger, nursling of the storm,
Sad are the woes that wreck thy manly form!
Rocks, waves, and winds the shatter'd bark delay;
Thy heart is sad, thy home is far away."


IT was about midday, when the two Sea Lions opened
their canvass, at the same moment, and prepared to quit
Sealer's Land. All hands were on board, every article was
shipped for which there was room, and nothing remained
that denoted the former presence of man on that dreary
island, but the deserted house, aud three or four piles of
cord-wood, that had grown on Shelter Island and Martha's
Vineyard, and which was now abandoned on the rocks of
the antarctic circle. As the topsails were sheeted home,
and the heavy fore-and-aft mainsails were hoisted, the songs
of the men sounded cheerful and animating. ' Home' was
in every tone, each movement, all the orders. Daggett
was on deck, in full command, though still careful of his
limb, while Roswell appeared to be everywhere. Mary
Pratt was before his mind's eye all that morning ; nor did
he even once think how pleasant it would be to meet her
uncle, with a " There, deacon, is your schooner, with a
good cargo of elephant-oil, well chucked off with fur-seal

The Oyster Pond craft was the first clear of the ground.
The breeze was little felt in that cove, where usually it did
not seem to blow at all, but there was wind enough to serve
to cast the schooner, and she went slowly out of the rocky
basin, under her mainsail, foretopsail, and jib. The wind
was at south-west, the nor-wester of that hemisphere,
and it was fresh and howling enough, on the other side of


the island. After Roswell had made a stretch out into the
bay of about a mile, he laid his foretopsail flat a jack, hauled
over h ; s jib-sheet, and put his helm hard down, in waiting
for the other schooner to come out and join him. In a
quarter of an hour, Daggett got within hail.

" Well," called out the last, " you see I was right, Gar'-
ner ; wind enough out here, and more, still further from
the land. We have only to push in among them berga
while it is light, pick out a clear spot, and heave-to during
the night. It will hardly do for us to travel among so much
ice in the dark."

" I wish we had got out earlier, that we might have made
a run of it by day-light," answered Roswell. "Ten hours
of such a wind, in my judgment, would carry us well
towards clear water."

"The delay could not be helped. I had so many traps
ashore, it took time to gather them together. Come, fill
away, and let us be moving. Now we are under way, I 'm
in as great haste as you are yourself."

Roswell complied, and away the two schooners went,
keeping quite near to each other, having smooth water, and
still something of a moderated gale, in consequence of the
proximity and weatherly position of the island. The course
was towards a spot to leeward, where the largest opening
appeared in the ice, and where it was hoped a passage to
the northward would be found. The further the two ves
sels got from the land, the more they felt the power of the
wind, and the greater was their rate of running. Daggett
soon found that he could spare his consort a good deal of
canvass, a consequence of his not being full, and he took
in his topsail, though, running nearly before the wind, his
spar would have stood even a more severe strain.

As the oldest mariner, it had been agreed between the
two masters that Daggett should lead the way. This he
did for an hour, when both vessels were fairly out of the
great bay, clear of the group altogether, and running off
north-easterly, at a rate of nearly ten knots in the hour.
The sea got up as they receded from the land, and every
thing indicated a gale, though one of no great violence.
Night was approaching, and an Alpine-like range of ice*
bergs was glowing, to the northward, under the oblique


rays of the setting sun. For a considerable space around
the vessels, the water was clear, not even a cake of any sort
being to be seen ; and the question arose in Daggett's mind,
whether he ought to stand on, or to heave-to and pass the
night well to windward of the bergs. Time was precious,
the wind was fair, the heavens clear, and the moon would
make its appearance about nine, and might be expected to
remain above the horizon until the return of day. This
was one side of the picture. The other presented less
agreeable points. The climate was so fickle, that the clear
ness of the skies was not to be depended on, especially with
a strong south-west wind a little gale, in fact; and a
change in this particular might be produced at any moment.
Then it was certain that Hoes, and fragments of bergs,
would be found near, if not absolutely among the sublime
mountain-like piles that were floating about, in a species
of grand fleet, some twenty miles to leeward. Both of our
masters, indeed all on board of each schooner, very well
understood that the magnificent array of icy islands which
lay before them was owing to the currents, for which it is
not always easy to account. The clear space was to be
attributed to the same cause, though there was little doubt
that the wind, which had now been to the southward fuhy
eight-and-forty hours, had contributed to drive the icy fleet
to the northward. As a consequence of these facts, the
field-ice must be in the vicinity of^he bergs, and the em
barrassment from that source was known always to be very

It required a good deal of nerve for a mariner to run in
among dangers of the character just described, as the sun
was setting. Nevertheless, Daggett did it; and Roswell
Gardiner followed the movement, at the distance of about
a cable's length. To prevent separation, each schooner
showed a light at the lower yard-arm, just as the day was
giving out its last glimmerings. As yet, however, no diffi
culty was encouritered ; the alpine-looking range being yet
quite two hours' run still to leeward. Those two hours
must be passed in darkness; and Daggett shortened sail
in order not to reach the ice before the moon rose. He
had endeavoured to profit by the light as long as it remain-
jd, to find a place at which he might venture to enter


among the bergs, but had met with no great success. The
opening first seen now appeared to be closed, either by
means of the drift or by means of the change in the posi
tion of the vessels; and he no longer thought of that.
Fortune must be trusted to, in some measure ; and on he
went, Roswell always closely following.

The early hours of that eventful night were intensely
dark. Nevertheless, Daggett stood down towards the icy
range, using no other precautions than shortening sail and
keeping a sharp look-out. Every five minutes the call from
the quarter-deck of each schooner to " keep a bright look
out" was heard, unless, indeed, Daggett or Roswell was on
his own forecastle, thus occupied in person. No one on
board of either vessel thought of sleep. The watch had
been called, as is usual at sea, and one half of the crew
was at liberty to go below and turn in. What was more,
those small fore-and-aft rigged craft were readily enough
handled by a single watch; and this so much the more
easily, now that their top-sails were in. Still, not a man
left the deck. Anxiety was too prevalent for this, the least
experienced hand in either crew being well aware that the
next four-and-twenty hours would, in all human probability,
be decisive of the fate of the voyage.

Both Daggett and Gardiner grew more and more uneasy
as the time for the moon to rise drew near, without the orb
of night making its appearance. A few clouds were driving
athwart the heavens, though the stars twinkled as usual,
in their diminutive but sublime splendour. It was not so
dark that objects could not be seen at a considerable dis
tance; and the people of the schooners had no difficulty in
very distinctly tracing, and that not very far ahead, the
broken outlines of the chain of floating mountains. No
alpine pile, in very fact, could present a more regular or
better defined range, and in some respects more fantastic
outlines. When the bergs first break away from their na
tive moorings, their forms are ordinarily somewhat regular;
the summits commonly resembling table-land. This regu
larity of shape, however, is soon lost under the rays of the
summer sun, the wash of the ocean, and most of all by the
wear of the torrents that gush out of their own frozen
bosoms. A distinguished navigator of our own time has


compared the appearance of these bergs, after their regu
larity of shape is lost, and they begin to assume the fan
tastic outlines that uniformly succeed, to that of a deserted
town, built of the purest alabaster, with its edifices crum
bling under the seasons, and its countless unpeopled streets,
avenues and alleys. All who have seen the sight unite in
describing it as one of the most remarkable that comes
from the lavish hand of nature.

About nine o'clock on the memorable night in question,
there was a good deal of fog driving over the ocean to in
crease the obscurity. This rendered Daggett doubly cau
tious, and he actually hauled up close to the wind, heading
off well to. the westward, in order te avoid running in among
the bergs, in greater uncertainty than the circumstances
would seem to require. Of course Roswell followed the
movement ; and when the moon first diffused its mild rays
on the extraordinary scene, the two schooners were pitch
ing into a heavy sea, within less than a mile of the weather-
line of the range of bergs. It was soon apparent that floes
or field ice accompanied the floating mountains, and ex
tended so far to the southward of them as to be already
within an inconvenient if not hazardous proximity to the
two vessels. These floes, however, unlike those previously
encountered, were much broken by the undulations of the
waves, and seldom exceeded a quarter of a mile in diame
ter ; while thousands of them were no larger than the ordi
nary drift ice of our own principal rivers in the time of a
freshet. Their vicinity to the track of the schooners, in
deed, was first ascertained by the noise they produced in
grinding against each other, which soon made itself audible
even above the roaring of the gale.

Both of our masters now began to be exceedingly un
comfortable. It was soon quite apparent that Daggett had
been too bold, and had led down towards the ice without
sufficient caution and foresight. As the moon rose, higher
and higher, the difficulties and dangers to leeward became
at each minute more and more apparent. Nothing could
have been more magnificent than the scene which lay be
fore the eyes of the mariners, or would have produced a
deeper foeling of delight, had it not been for the lively
consciousness of the risk the two schooners and all who


were in them unavoidably ran, by being so near and to
windward of such an icy coast, if one may use the expres
sion as relates to floating bodies. By that light it was very
easy to imagine Wilkes' picture of a ruined town of ala
baster. There were arches of all sizes and orders: pinna
cles without number ; towers, and even statues and columns.
To these were to be added long lines of perpendicular walls,
that it was easy enough to liken to fortresses, dungeons and
temples. In a word, even the Alps, with all their pecu
liar grandeur, and certainly on a scale so vastly more en
larged, possess no one aspect that is so remarkable for its
resemblance to the labours of man, composed of a material
of the most beautiful transparency, and considered as the
results of human ingenuity, on a scale so gigantic. The
glaciers have often been likened, and not unjustly, to a
frozen sea ; but here were congealed mountains seemingly
hewed into all the forms of art, not by the chisel it is true,
but by the action of the unerring laws which produced

Perhaps Roswell Gardiner was the only individual in
those two vessels that night who was fully alive to all the
extraordinary magnificence of its unusual pictures. Ste
phen may, in some degree, have been an exception to the
rule ; though he saw the hand of God in nearly all things.
" It's wonderful to look at, Captain Gar'ner, isn't it?" said
this worthy seaman, about the time the light of the moon
began to tell on the view ; " wonderful, truly, did we not
know who made it all !" These few and simple words had
a cheering influence on Roswell, and served to increase
his confidence in eventual success. God did produce all
things, either directly or indirectly ; this even his sceptical
notions could allow; and that which came from divine
wisdom must be intended for good. He would take courage,
and for once in his life trust to Providence. The most re
solute man by nature feels his courage augmented by such
a resolution.

The gales of the antarctic sea are said to be short, though
violent. They seldom last six-and-thirty hours, and for
about a third of that time they blow with their greatest
violence. As a matter of course, the danger amid the ice
ia much increased by a tempest ; though a good working


breeze, or small gale of wind, perhaps, adds to a vessel's
security, by rendering it easier to handle her, and to avoid
floes and bergs. If the ice is sufficient to make a tee,
smooth water is sometimes a consequence ; though it
oftener happens that the turbulence produced in clear water
is partially communicated over a vast surface, causing the
fields and mountains to grind against each other under the
resistless power of the waves. On the present occasion,
however, the schooners were still in open water, where the
wind had a long and unobstructed rake, and a sea had got
up that caused both of the little craft to bury nearly to their
gunwales. What rendered their situation still more unplea
sant was the fact that all the water which came aboard of
them now soon froze. To this, however, the men were
accustomed, it frequently happening that the moisture de
posited on their rigging and spars by the fogs froze during
the nights of the autumn. Indeed, it has been thought by
some speculators on the subject, that the bergs themselves
are formed in part by a similar process, though snows un
doubtedly are the principal element in their composition.
This it is which gives the berg its stratified appearance,
no geological formation being more apparent or regular in
this particular than most of these floating mountains.

About ten, the moon was well above the horizon ; the
fog had been precipitated in dew upon the ice, where it
congealed, and helped to arrest the progress of dissolution;
while the ocean became luminous for the hour, and objects
comparatively distinct. Then it was that the seamen first
got a clear insight into the awkwardness of their situation.
The bold are apt to be reckless in the dark; but when
danger is visible, their movements become more wary and
better calculated than those of the timid. When Daggett
got this first good look at the enormous masses of the field-
ice, that, stirred by the unquiet ocean, were grinding each
other, and raising an unceasing rushing sound like that the
surf produces on a beach, though far louder, and with a
harshness in it that denoted the collision of substances
harder than water, he almost instinctively ordered every
sheet to be flattened down, and the schooner's head brought
as near the wind as her construction permitted. Roswell
observed the change in his consort's line of sailing, slight


as it was, and imitated tlie manoeuvre. The sea was too
heavy to dream of tacking, and there was not room to ware.
So close, indeed, were some of the cakes, those that might
be called the stragglers of the grand array, that repeatedly
each vessel brushed along so near them as actually to re
ceive slight shocks from collisions with projecting portions.
h was obvious that the vessels were setting down upon the
ice, and that Daggett did not haul his wind a moment too

The half-hour that succeeded was one of engrossing in
terest. It settled the point whether the schooners could or
could not eat their way into the wind sufficiently to weather
the danger. Fragment after fragment was passed ; blow
after blow was received ; until suddenly the field-ice ap
peared directly in front. It was in vast quantities, extend
ing to the southward far as the eye could reach. There
remained no alternative but to attempt to ware. Without
waiting longer than to assure himself of the facts, Daggett
ordered his helm put up and the main gaff lowered. At
that moment both the schooners were under their jibs and
foresails, each without its bonnet, and double-reefed main
sails. This was not canvass very favourable for waring,
there being too much after-sail ; but the sheets were at
tended to, and both vessels were soon driving dead to lee
ward, amid the foam of a large wave ; the next instant, ice
was heard grinding along their sides.

It was not possible to haul up on the other tack ere the
schooners would be surrounded by the floes ; and seeing a
comparatively open passage a short distance ahead, Daggett
stood in boldly, followed closely by Roswell. In ten mi
nutes they were fully a mile within the field, rendering all
attempts to get out of it to windward so hopeless as to be
almost desperate. The manoeuvre of Daggett was begun
under circumstances that scarcely admitted of any alterna
tive, though it might be questioned if it were not the best
expedient that offered. Now that the schooners were so far

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperWorks (Volume 32) → online text (page 24 of 39)