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Adrift in the Pacific

Jules Verne


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' Briant and the negro rushed forward "

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The Storm ....... 7

Cast Adrift

. 17

The First Day Ashore

. 25

The View from the Cafe ,

. 34

A Sfell of Rain •

- 44

The Raft .

* i


The Colony

. 67

Winter Quarters

■ 79

Bravo, Baxter

. 92

Across the Lake .


The New Chief .


The Separation .


The Invasion

. 132

All Together

. 138

The Enemy in Sight .

. 145

Diamond Cut Diamond ,

. 153

The Fortune of War ,

. 158

Afloat Once More

. 166

Home » » • <


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' 174

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Ir \^>as the 9th of March, i860, and eleven o'clock at
night. The sea and sky were as one, and the eye could
pierce but a few fathoms into the gloom. Through
the raging sea, over which the waves broke with a livid
Ught, a little ship was driving under almost bare poles.

She was a schooner of a hundred tons. Her name
was the Sleuth, but you would have sought it in vain
on her stem, for an accident of some sort had torn it

In this latitude, at the beginning of March, the
nights are short. The day would dawn about five
o'clock. But would the dangers that threatened the
schooner grow less when the sun illumined the sky ?
Was not the frail vessel at the mercy of the waves ?
Undoubtedly ; and only the calming of the billows and
the lulling of the gale co\ild save her from that most
awful of shipwrecks — foundering in the open sea far
from any coast on which the survivors might find safety.

In the stem of the schooner were three bo3rs, one
about fourteen, the two others about thirteen years of
age ; these, with a young negro some twelve years old,
were at the wheel, and with their united strength
strove to check the lurches which threatened every
instant to throw the vessel broadside on. It was a
difficult task, for the wheel seemed as though it would
turn in spite of all they could do, and hurl them against
the bulwarks. Just before n[udnight such a wave
came thundering against the stem that it was a wonder
the radder was not unshipped. The boys were thrown

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backwards by the shock, but they recovered themselves
almost immediately.

" Does she still steer ? " asked one of them.

" Yes, Gordon," answered Briant, who had coolly
resumed his place. " Hold on tight, Donagan," he
continued, "and don't be afraid. There are others be-
sides ourselves to look after. You are not hurt Moko ? "

" No, Massa Briant," answered the boy. " But we
must keep the yacht before the wind, or we shall be

At this moment the door of the companion leading
to the saloon was thrown open. Two little heads
appeared above the level of the deck, and with them
came up the genial face of a dog, who saluted with a
loud, "Whough! whough!"

" Briant ! Briant ! " shouted one of the youngsters
" What IS the matter ? "

" Nothing, Iverson, nothing ! " returned Briant.
" Get down again with Dole, and look sharp 1 "

" We are awfully frightened down here," said the
other boy, who was a little younger.

" All of you ? " asked Donagan.

" Yes ; all of us 1 " said Dole.

" Well, get back again," said Briant. " Shut up ;
get under the clothes ; shut your eyes ; and nothing
will hurt you. There is no danger ! "

" Look out," said Moko. " Here's another wave ! "

A violent blow shook the yacht's stem. This time
fortunately the wave did not come on board, for if the
water had swept down the companion, the yacht would
have been swamped.

" Get back, will you ? " shouted Gordon. " Go
down ; or I'll come after you ! "

" Look here," said Briant, rather more gently.
" Go down, you young 'uns."

The two heads disappeared, and at the same moment
another boy appeared in the doorway.

'* Do you want us, Briant ? "

" No, Baxter," said Briant. " Let you and Cross and

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fH£ StORM 9

Webb and Service and Wilcox stop with the little
ones ! We four can manage."

Baxter shut the door from within.

" Yes, aU of us/' Dole had said.

But were there only little boys on board this schooner
thus driven before the storm ? Yes, only boys ! And
how many were there ? Fifteen, counting Gordon,
Briant, Donagan, and the negro. How came they to
be there ? That you shall know shortly.

Was there not a man on the yacht ? Not a captain
to look after it ? Not a sailor to give a hand in its
management ? Not a helmsman to steer in such a
storm ? No I Not one !

And more than that — ^there was not a person on
board who knew the schooner's position on the ocean.
And what ocean? The largest of all, the Pacific,
which stretches for 6000 miles from Australia and New
Zealand to the coast of South America.

What, then, had happened ? Had the schooner^s
crew disappeared in some catastrophe ? Had the
Malay pirates carried them off and left on board only
this batch of boys from fourteen downwards ? A
yacht of a hundred tons ought to have a captain, a
mate, and five or six men, and of these all that had been
left was the nigger boy I

Where did the schooner come from? From what
Australian port or Oceanic archipelago did she hail ?
How long had she been at sea? Whither was she
bound ? The boys would probably have been able to
answer these questions had they been asked them by
any captain speaking the schooner on her course ;
but there was no vessel in sight, neither steamer nor
sailing-ship, and had there been one, she would have
had quite enough to do to look after herself, without
giving assistance to this yacht that the sea was throwing '
about like a raft.

Briant and his friends did their utmost to keep the
schooner straight ahead.

" What is to be done ? " asked Donagan.

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" All we can to save ourselves, Heaven helping us,"
answered Briant, although even the most energetic
man might have despaired under such circumstances,
for the storm was increasing in violence.

The gale blew in thunderclaps, as the sailors say, and
the expression was only too true. The schooner had
lost her mainmast, gone about four feet above the
partners, so that no trjrsail could be set under which
she might have been more easily steered. The foremast
still held, but the shrouds had stretched, and every
minute it threatened to crash on to the deck. The fore-
staysail had been split to ribbons, and kept up a con-
stant cracking, as if a rifle were being fired. The only
sail that remained sound was the foresail, and this
seemed as though it wotdd go every moment, for the
boys had not been strong enough to manage the last
reef. If it were to go, the schooner could not be kept
before the wind, the waves would board her over the
quarter, and she would go down.

Not an island had been sighted ; and there could be
no continent yet awhile to the eastward. To run
ashore was a terrible thing to do, but the boys did not
fear its terrors so much as those of this interminable
sea. A lee shore, with its shoals, its breakers, the
terrible waves roaring on to it, and beaten into surf by
the rocks, might, they thought, prove safe enough to
them ; at least it would be firm groimd, and not this
raging ocean, which any minute might open under their
feet. And so they looked ahead for some light to which
they could steer.

But there was no light in that thick darkness I

Suddenly, about one o'clock, a fearful crash was
heard above the roaring of the storm.

" There goes the foremast ! " said Donagan.

" No," said Moko ; " it is the foresail blown out of
the bolt ropes ! "

'* We must clear it," said Briant. " You remain at
the wheel, Gordon, with Donags^ ; and Moko, come
and help me."

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Briant was not quite ignorant of things nautical. On
his voyage out from Europe he had crossed the North
Atlantic and Pacific, and had learnt a little seamanship,
. and that was why his companions, who knew none
whatever, had left the schooner in his and Moko's

Briant and the negro rushed forward. At all costs
the foresail must be cut adiift, for it had caught and
was bellying out in such a way that the schooner was
in danger of capsizing, and if that happened she could
never be right^, unless the mast were cut away and
the wire shrouds broken, and how could the boys
manage that ?

Briant and Moko set to work with remarkable judg-
ment. Their object was to keep as much sail on the
schooner as possible, so as to steer her before the wind
as long as the storm lasted. They slacked ofi the
halliards and let the sail down to within four or five
feet of the deck, and they cut off the torn strips with
their knives, secured the lower comers, and made all
snug. Twenty times, at least, were they in danger of
being swept away by the waves.

Under her very small spread of canvas the schooner
could still be kept on her course, and though the wind
had so Uttle to take hold of, she was driven along at
the speed of a torpedo-boat. The faster she went the
better. Her safety depended on her going faster than
the waves, so that none could follow and board her.

Briant and Moko were making their way back to the
wheel when the door of the companion again opened.
A boy's head again appeared. This time it was Jack,
Briant's brother, and three years his junior.

" What do you want. Jack ? " asked his brother.

" Come here 1 Come here 1 " said Jack. " There's
water in the saloon."

Briant rushed down the companion-stairs. The
saloon was confusedly lighted by a lamp, which the
rolling swung backward^ and forward. Its light
revealed a dozen boys .lounging on the couches around.

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The youngest — ^there were some as young ^s eight-
were huddling against each other in fear.

" There is no danger," said Briant, wishing to give
them confidence. " We are all right. Don't be afraid."

Then holding a Ughted lantern to the floor, he saw
that some water was washing from side to side.

Whence came this water ? Did it come from a leak ?
That must be ascertained at once.

Forward of the saloon was the day-saloon, then the
dining-saloon, and then the crew's quarters.

Briant went through these in order, and found that
the water had been taken in from the seas dashing over
the bows, down the fore-companion, which had not
been quite closed, and that it had been nm aft by the
pitching of the ship. There was thus no danger on this

Briant stopped to cheer up his companions as he
went back through the saloon, and then returned to his
place at the helm. The schooner was very strongly
built, and had only just been re-coppered, so that she
might withstand the waves for some time.

It was then about one o'clock. The darkness was
darker than ever, and the dark clouds stiU gathered ;
and more furiously than ever raged the storm. The
yacht seemed to be rushing through a liquid mass that
flowed above, beneath, and around her. The shrill
cry of the petrel was heard in the air. Did its appear-
ance mean that land was near ? No ; for it is often
met with hundreds of miles at sea. And, in truth
these birds of the storm found themselves powerless
to struggle against the aerial current, and by it were
borne along Mke the schooner.

An hour later there was another report from the bow.
What remained of the foresail had been split to ribbons
and the strips flew off into space like huge seagulls.

" We have no sail left I " exclaimed Donagan ;
* and it is impossible for us to set another."

" Well, it doesn't matter," said Briant. " We shall
not get along so fast, that is all t ' •

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" What an answer I " replied Donagan. " If that is
your style of seamanship—*'

" Look out for the wave astern ! " said Moko.
" Lash yourselves, or you'll be swept overboard — "

The boy had not finished the sentence when several
tons of water came with a leap over the tafErail. Briant,
Donagan, and Gordon were hurled against the com-
panion, to which they managed to ding. But the
negro had disappeared in the wave which had swept
the deck from stem to bow, carrying away the binnacle,
a lot of spare spars, and the three boats which were
swinging to the davits inboard. The deck was cleared
at one blow, but the water almost instantly flowed off,
and the yacht was saved from sinking beneath the

'' Moko 1 Moko I " shouted Briant, as soon as he could

*' See if he's gone overboard," said Donagan.

" No," said Gordon, leaning out to leeward. " No,
I don't see him, and I don't hear him."

" We must save him ! Throw him a buoy ! Throw
him a rope I " said Briant.

And in a voice that rang clearly out in a few seconds
of calm, he shouted again, —

"Moko! Moko!"

" Here ! Help ! " repfied the negro.

" He is not in the sea," said Gordon. " His voice
comes from the bow."

" I'll save him," said Briant.

And he crept forward along the heaving, slippery deck,
avoiding as best he might the blocks swinging from
the ropes that were all adrift. The boy's voice was
heard again, and then all was silent. By great effort
Briant reached the fore-companion.

He shouted. There was no response.

Had Moko been swept away into the sea since he
uttered his last cry ? If so, he must be far astern now
for the waves coidd not carry him along as fast as the
schooner was going. And then he was lost.

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No 1 A feeble cry reached Briant, who hurried to
the windlass in the frame of which the foot of the
bowsprit was fitted. There he found the negro stuck
in the very angle of the bow. A halliard was tighten-
ing every instant round his neck. He had been saved
by it when the wave was carrying him away. Was he
now to be strangled by it ?

Briant opened his knife, and, with some difficulty,
managed to cut the rope. Moko was then dragged aft,
and as soon as he had recovered strength enough to
speak, " Thanks, Massa Briant," he said, and imme-
(fiately resumed his place at the wheel, where the four
did their utmost to keep the yacht safe from the enor-
mous waves that now ran behind them, for the waves
now ran faster than the yacht, and could easily board
her as they passed. But what could be done ? It was
impossible to set the least scrap of sail.

In the southern hemisphere the month of March
corresponds to that of September in the northern, and
the nights are shorter than the days. About four
o'clock the horizon would grow grey in the east, whither
the schooner was being borne. With daybreak the
storm might lull. Perhaps land might be in sight, and
the fate of the schooner's passengers be settled in a few
minutes !

About half-past four a diffused Ught b^an to appear
overhead. Unfortunately the mist limited the range of
view to less than a quarter of a mile. The clouds
swept by with terrible rapidity. The storm had lost
nothing of its fury ; and but a short distance off the
sea was hidden by the veil of spray from the raging
waves. The schooner at one moment mounting the
wave-crest, at the next hurled into the trough, would
have been shattered to pieces again and again had she
touched the ground.

The four boys locdced out at the chaos of wild water ;
they felt that if the calm was long in coming their
situation would be desperate. It was impossible that
the schooner could float for another day, for the waves

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would assuredly sweep away the companions and
swamp her.

But suddenly there came a cry from Moko of " Land,
Land ! "

Through a rift in the mist the boy thought he had
seen the outline of a coast to the eastward. Was he
mistaken ? Nothing is more difficult than to recognize
the faint outlines of land, which are so easily confounded
with those of the clouds.

" Land ! " exclaimed Briant.

" Yes," repUed Moko. " Land ! to the eastward."
And he pointed towards a part of the horizon now
hidden by a mass of vapours.

" Are you sure ? " asked Donagan.

" Yes !— Yes !— Certain ! " said Moko. " If the mist
opens again you look — there — a Uttle to the right of the
foremast — Look I look 1 "

The mist b^^ to open and rise from the sea. A few
moments more and the ocean reappeared for several
miles in front of the yacht.

" Yes ! Land I It is really land I " shouted Briant.

" And land that is very low," added Gordon, who had
just caught sight of the indicated coast.

There was now no room for doubt. A land— con-
tinent, or island — lay some five or six miles ahead
along a large segment of the horizon. In the direction
she was going, and which the storm would not allow
her to deviate from, the schooner would be driven on
it in less than an hour. That she would be smashed,
particularly if breakers stopped her before she reached
the shore, there was every reason to fear. But the
boys did not give that a thought. In this land,
which had ofEered itself so unexpectedly to their sight,
they saw, they could only see, a means of safety.

And now the wind blew with still greater strength,
the schooner, carried along like a feather, was hurled
towards the coast, which stood out like a line of ink on
the whitish waste of sky. In the background was a
cliff, from a hundred and fifty to two hundred feet

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high ; in the foreground was a yellowish beach ending
towards the right in a rounded mass which seemed to
belong to a forest further inland.

Ah ! If the schooner could reach the sandy beach
without meeting with a line of reefs, if the mouth of a
river would only offer a refuge, her passengers might
perhaps escape safe and soimd t

Leaving Donagan, Gordon, and Moko, at the helm,
Briant went forward and examined the land which he
was nearing so rapidly. But in vain did he look for
some place in which the yacht could be run ashore
without risk. There was the mouth of no river or
stream not even a sandbank, on which they could run
her aground ; but there was a line of breakers with the
black heads of rock rising amid the undulations of the
surge, where at the first shock the schooner would be
wrenched to pieces.

It occurred to Briant that it would be better for all
his friends to be on deck when the crash came, and
opening the companion-door he shouted down, —

*' Come on deck, every one of you I "

Immediately out jumped the dog, and then the
eleven boys one after the other, the smallest at the
sight of the mighty waves around them beginning to
yell with terror.

It was a little before six in the morning when the
schooner reached the first line of breakers.

*' Hold on, all of you ! " shouted Briant, stripping off
half his clothes, so as to be ready to help those whom the
sujdf swept away, for the vessel would certainly strike.

Suddenly there came a shock. The schooner had
grounded under the stem. But the hull was not
damaged, and no water rushed in. A second wave
took her fifty feet further, just skimming the rocks
that ran above the water level in quite a thousand
places. Then she heeled over to port and remained
motionless, surrounded by the boiling surf.

She was not in the open sea, but she was a quarter of
a mile from the beach.

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At the time of our story, Charman's boarding-school
was one of the largest in Auckland, New Zealand. It
boasted about a hundred pupils belonging to the best
families in the colony, and the course of study and the
management were the same as in high-class schools at

The archipelago of New Zealand has two principal
islands, the North Island and the Middle Island,
separated by Cook Strait. It lies between the thirty-
fourth and forty-fifth parallels of south latitude — a,
position equivalent to that part of the northern hemis-
phere occupied by France and Northern Africa. The
North Island is much cut into at its southern end, and
forms an irregular trapezium prolonged at its north-
western angle and terminated by the North Cape and
Cape Van Diemen. Just where the curve begins, and
where the peninsula is only a few miles across, the town
of Auckland is situated. Its position is similar to that
of Corinth in Greece, and to that fact is due its name
of the Corinth of the South. It has two harbours,
one on the west, one on the east, the latter on Hauraki
Gulf being rather shallow, so that long piers have had
to be built into it where the smaller vessels can unload.
One of these piers is Commercial Pier at the foot of
Queen Street ; and about half way up Queen Street
was Charman's school.

On the 15th of February, 1880, in the afternoon a
crowd of boys and their relatives came out of the school-
house into Queen Street, merry and happy as birds just
escaped from their cage. It was the beginning of the

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