The World of Ice
Robert Michael Ballantyne
Part 1 out of 5
THE WORLD OF ICE
The Whaling Cruise of "The Dolphin"
The Adventures of Her Crew in the Polar Regions
Robert Michael Ballantyne
Author of "The Dog Crusoe and his Master," "The Young Fur-Traders,"
"The Gorilla-Hunters," "Ungava," "The Coral Island," &c.
Dear Reader, most people prefer a short to a long preface. Permit me,
therefore, to cut this one short, by simply expressing an earnest hope
that my book may afford you much profit and amusement.
Some of the "dramatis personae" introduced--Retrospective
glances--Causes of future effects--Our hero's early life at sea--A
pirate--A terrible fight and its consequences--Buzzby's helm lashed
amidships--A whaling-cruise begun.
Departure of the "Pole Star" for the Frozen Seas--Sage reflections of
Mrs. Bright, and sagacious remarks of Buzzby--Anxieties, fears,
surmises, and resolutions--Isobel--A search proposed--Departure of the
"Dolphin" for the Far North.
The voyage--The "Dolphin" and her crew--Ice ahead--Polar
scenes--Masthead observations--The first whale--Great excitement.
The chase and the battle--The chances and dangers of whaling
war--Buzzby dives for his life and saves it--So does the whale and loses
it--An anxious night, which terminates happily, though with a heavy
Miscellaneous reflections--The coast of Greenland--Upernavik--News of
the "Pole Star"--Midnight-day--Scientific facts and fairy-like
scenes--Tom Singleton's opinion of poor old women--In danger of a
The gale--Anchored to a berg which proves to be a treacherous
one--Dangers of the "pack"--Beset in the ice--Mivins shows an inquiring
mind--Walruses--Gale freshens--Chains and cables--Holding on for
life--An unexpected discovery--A "nip" and its terrible
consequences--Yoked to an iceberg.
New characters introduced--An old game under novel
circumstances--Remarkable appearances in the sky--O'Riley meets with a
Fred and the doctor go on an excursion in which, among other strange
things, they meet with red snow and a white bear, and Fred makes his
first essay as a sportsman.
The "Dolphin" gets beset in the ice--Preparations for wintering in the
ice--Captain Guy's code of laws.
Beginning of winter--Meetuck effects a remarkable change in the men's
appearance--Mossing, and working, and plans for a winter campaign.
A hunting-expedition, in the course of which the hunters meet with many
interesting, dangerous, peculiar, and remarkable experiences, and make
acquaintance with seals, walruses, deer, and rabbits.
A dangerous sleep interrupted--A night in a snow-hut, and an unpleasant
Journey resumed--The hunters meet with bears and have a great fight, in
which the dogs are sufferers--A bear's dinner--Mode in which Arctic
rocks travel--The ice-belt.
Departure of the sun--Effects of darkness on dogs--Winter arrangements
in the interior of the "Dolphin."
Strangers appear on the scene--The Esquimaux are hospitably entertained
by the sailors--A spirited traffic--Thieving propensities and summary
The Arctic Theatre enlarged upon--Great success of the first play--The
Esquimaux submit, and become fast friends.
Expeditions on foot--Effects of darkness on dogs and men--The first
death--Caught in a trap--The Esquimau camp.
The hunting-party--Reckless driving--A desperate encounter with a
The northern party--A narrow escape, and a great discovery--Esquimaux
again, and a joyful surprise.
Keeping it down--Mutual explanations--The true
First gleam of light--Trip to welcome the sun--Bears and strange
discoveries--O'Riley is reckless--First view of the sun.
The "Arctic Sun"--Rats! rats! rats!--A hunting-party--Out on the
Unexpected arrivals--The rescue party--Lost and found--Return to the
Winter ends--The first insect--Preparations for departure--Narrow
escape--Cutting out--Once more afloat--Ship on fire--Crew take to the
Escape to Upernavik--Letter from home--Meetuck's grandmother--Dumps and
The return--The surprise--Buzzby's sayings and doings--The
narrative--Fighting battles o'er again--Conclusion.
_Some of the "dramatis personae" introduced--Retrospective
glances--Causes of future effects--Our hero's early life at sea--A
pirate--A terrible fight and its consequences--Buzzby's helm lashed
amidships--A whaling-cruise begun._
Nobody ever caught John Buzzby asleep by any chance whatever. No weasel
was ever half so sensitive on that point as he was. Wherever he happened
to be (and in the course of his adventurous life he had been to nearly
all parts of the known world) he was the first awake in the morning and
the last asleep at night; he always answered promptly to the first call;
and was never known by any man living to have been seen with his eyes
shut, except when he winked, and that operation he performed less
frequently than other men.
John Buzzby was an old salt--a regular true-blue Jack tar of the old
school, who had been born and bred at sea; had visited foreign ports
innumerable; had weathered more storms than he could count, and had
witnessed more strange sights than he could remember. He was tough, and
sturdy, and grizzled, and broad, and square, and massive--a first-rate
specimen of a John Bull, and according to himself, "always kept his
weather-eye open." This remark of his was apt to create confusion in the
minds of his hearers; for John meant the expression to be understood
figuratively, while, in point of fact, he almost always kept one of his
literal eyes open and the other partially closed, but as he reversed the
order of arrangement frequently, he might have been said to keep his
lee-eye as much open as the weather one. This peculiarity gave to his
countenance an expression of earnest thoughtfulness mingled with humour.
Buzzby was fond of being thought old, and he looked much older than he
really was. Men guessed his age at fifty-five, but they were ten years
out in their reckoning; for John had numbered only forty-five summers,
and was as tough and muscular as ever he had been--although not quite so
John Buzzby stood on the pier of the sea-port town of Grayton watching
the active operations of the crew of a whaling-ship which was on the
point of starting for the ice-bound seas of the Frozen Regions, and
making sundry remarks to a stout, fair-haired boy of fifteen, who stood
by his side gazing at the ship with an expression of deep sadness.
"She's a trim-built craft and a good sea-boat, I'll be bound, Master
Fred," observed the sailor; "but she's too small by half, accordin' to
my notions, and I _have_ seen a few whalers in my day. Them bow-timbers,
too, are scarce thick enough for goin' bump agin the ice o' Davis'
Straits. Howsom'iver, I've seen worse craft drivin' a good trade in the
"She's a first-rate craft in all respects; and you have too high an
opinion of your own judgment," replied the youth indignantly. "Do you
suppose that my father, who is an older man than yourself and as good a
sailor, would buy a ship, and fit her out, and go off to the
whale-fishery in her, if he did not think her a good one?"
"Ah! Master Fred, you're a chip of the old block--neck or nothing--carry
on all sail till you tear the masts out of her! Reef the t'gallant sails
of your temper, boy, and don't run foul of an old man who has been all
but a wet-nurse to ye--taught ye to walk, and swim, and pull an oar, and
build ships, and has hauled ye out o' the sea when ye fell in--from the
time ye could barely stump along on two legs, lookin' like as if ye was
more nor half-seas-over."
"Well, Buzzby," replied the boy, laughing, "if you've been all that to
me, I think you _have_ been a _wet_-nurse too! But why do you run down
my father's ship? Do you think I'm going to stand that? No! not even
from you, old boy."
"Hallo! youngster," shouted a voice from the deck of the vessel in
question, "run up and tell your father we're all ready, and if he don't
make haste he'll lose the tide, so he will, and that'll make us have to
start on a Friday, it will, an' that'll not do for me, nohow it won't;
so make sail and look sharp about it, do--won't you?"
"What a tongue he's got!" remarked Buzzby. "Before I'd go to sea with a
first mate who jawed like that I'd be a landsman. Don't ever you git to
talk too much, Master Fred, wotever ye do. My maxim is--and it has
served me through life, uncommon--'Keep your weather-eye open and your
tongue housed 'xcept when you've got occasion to use it.' If that
fellow'd use his eyes more and his tongue less, he'd see your father
comin' down the road there, right before the wind, with his old sister
"How I wish he would have let me go with him!" muttered Fred to himself
"No chance now, I'm afeard," remarked his companion. "The gov'nor's as
stiff as a nor'-wester. Nothin' in the world can turn him once he's made
up his mind but a regular sou'-easter. Now, if you had been _my_ son,
and yonder tight craft _my_ ship, I would have said, 'Come at once.' But
your father knows best, lad; and you're a wise son to obey orders
cheerfully, without question. That's another o' my maxims, 'Obey orders,
an' ax no questions.'"
Frederick Ellice, senior, who now approached, whispering words of
consolation into the ear of his weeping sister, might, perhaps, have
just numbered fifty years. He was a fine, big, bold, hearty Englishman,
with a bald head, grizzled locks, a loud but not harsh voice, a rather
quick temper, and a kind, earnest, enthusiastic heart. Like Buzzby, he
had spent nearly all his life at sea, and had become so thoroughly
accustomed to walking on an unstable foundation that he felt quite
uncomfortable on solid ground, and never remained more than a few months
at a time on shore. He was a man of good education and gentlemanly
manners, and had worked his way up in the merchant service step by step
until he obtained the command of a West India trader.
A few years previous to the period in which our tale opens, an event
occurred which altered the course of Captain Ellice's life, and for a
long period plunged him into the deepest affliction. This was the loss
of his wife at sea under peculiarly distressing circumstances.
At the age of thirty Captain Ellice had married a pretty blue-eyed girl,
who resolutely refused to become a sailor's bride unless she should be
permitted to accompany her husband to sea. This was without much
difficulty agreed to, and forthwith Alice Bremner became Mrs. Ellice,
and went to sea. It was during her third voyage to the West Indies that
our hero Fred was born, and it was during this and succeeding voyages
that Buzzby became "all but a wet-nurse" to him.
Mrs. Ellice was a loving, gentle, seriously-minded woman. She devoted
herself, heart and soul to the training of her boy, and spent many a
pleasant hour in that little, unsteady cabin in endeavouring to instil
into his infant mind the blessed truths of Christianity, and in making
the name of Jesus familiar to his ear. As Fred grew older his mother
encouraged him to hold occasional intercourse with the sailors--for her
husband's example taught her the value of a bold, manly spirit, and she
knew that it was impossible for her to instil _that_ into him--but she
was careful to guard him from the evil that he might chance to learn
from the men, by committing him to the tender care of Buzzby. To do the
men justice, however, this was almost unnecessary, for they felt that a
mother's watchful eye was on the child, and no unguarded word fell from
their lips while he was romping about the forecastle.
When it was time for Fred to go to school, Mrs. Ellice gave up her
roving life and settled in her native town of Grayton, where she resided
with her widowed sister, Amelia Bright, and her niece Isobel. Here Fred
received the rudiments of an excellent education at a private academy.
At the age of twelve, however, Master Fred became restive, and during
one of his father's periodical visits home, begged to be taken to sea.
Captain Ellice agreed; Mrs. Ellice insisted on accompanying them; and in
a few weeks they were once again on their old home, the ocean, and Fred
was enjoying his native air in company with his friend Buzzby, who stuck
to the old ship like one of her own stout timbers.
But this was destined to be a disastrous voyage. One evening, after
crossing the line, they descried a suspicious-looking schooner to
windward, bearing down upon them under a cloud of canvas.
"What do you think of her, Buzzby?" inquired Captain Ellice, handing
his glass to the seaman.
Buzzby gazed in silence and with compressed lips for some time; then he
returned the glass, at the same time muttering the word, "Pirate."
"I thought so," said the captain in a deep, unsteady voice. "There is
but one course for us, Buzzby," he continued, glancing towards his wife,
who, all unconscious of their danger, sat near the taffrail employed
with her needle; "these fellows show no mercy, because they expect none
either from God or man. We must fight to the last. Go, prepare the men
and get out the arms. I'll tell my wife."
Buzzby went forward; but the captain's heart failed him, and he took two
or three rapid, hesitating turns on the quarter-deck ere he could make
up his mind to speak.
"Alice," he said at length abruptly, "yonder vessel is a pirate."
Mrs. Ellice looked up in surprise, and her face grew pale as her eye met
the troubled gaze of her husband.
"Are you quite sure, Frederick?"
"Yes, quite. Would God that I were left alone to--but--nay, do not be
alarmed; perhaps I am wrong, it may be a--a clipper-built
trading-vessel. If not, Alice, we must make some show of fighting, and
try to frighten them. Meanwhile you must go below."
The captain spoke encouragingly as he led his wife to the cabin; but his
candid countenance spoke too truthfully, and she felt that his look of
anxious concern bade her fear the worst.
Pressing her fervently to his heart, Captain Ellice sprang on deck.
By this time the news had spread through the ship, and the crew,
consisting of upwards of thirty men, were conversing earnestly in knots
of four or five while they sharpened and buckled on cutlasses, or loaded
pistols and carbines.
"Send the men aft, Mr. Thompson," said the captain, as he paced the deck
to and fro, casting his eyes occasionally on the schooner, which was
rapidly nearing the vessel. "Take another pull at these
main-topsail-halyards, and send the steward down below for my sword and
pistols. Let the men look sharp; we've no time to lose, and hot work is
"I will go for your sword, father," cried Fred, who had just come on
"Boy, boy, you must go below; you can be of no use here."
"But, father, you know that I'm not _afraid_."
"I know that, boy--I know it well; but you're too young to fight--you're
not strong enough. Besides, you must comfort and cheer your mother; she
may want you."
"I'm old enough and strong enough to load and fire a pistol, father; and
I heard one of the men say we would need all the hands on board, and
more if we had them. Besides, it was my mother who told me what was
going on, and sent me on deck to _help you, to fight._"
A momentary gleam of pride lit up the countenance of the captain as he
said hastily, "You may stay, then," and turned towards the men, who now
stood assembled on the quarter-deck.
Addressing the crew in his own blunt, vigorous style, he said, "Lads,
yon rascally schooner is a pirate, as you all know well enough. I need
not ask you if you are ready to fight; I see by your looks you are. But
that's not enough--you must make up your minds to fight _well_. You know
that pirates give no quarter. I see the decks are swarming with men. If
you don't go at them like bull-dogs, you'll walk the plank before sunset
every man of you. Now, go forward, and double-shot your muskets and
pistols, and stick as many of the latter into your belts as they will
hold. Mr. Thompson, let the gunner double-shot the four big guns, and
load the little carronade with musket-balls to the muzzle. If they do
try to board us, they'll get a warm reception."
"There goes a shot, sir," said Buzzby, pointing towards the piratical
schooner, from the side of which a white cloud burst, and a round shot
ricochetted over the sea, passing close ahead of the ship.
"Ay, that's a request for us to lay-to," said the captain bitterly, "but
we won't. Keep her away a point."
"Ay, ay, sir," sung out the man at the wheel. A second and a third shot
were fired, but passed unheeded, and the captain, fully expecting that
the next would be fired into them, ordered the men below.
"We can't afford to lose a man, Mr. Thompson; send them all down."
"Please, sir, may I remain?" said Buzzby, touching his hat.
"Obey orders," answered the captain sternly. The sailor went below with
a sulky fling.
For nearly an hour the two vessels cut through the water before a steady
breeze, during which time the fast-sailing schooner gradually overhauled
the heavy West Indiaman, until she approached within speaking distance.
Still Captain Ellice paid no attention to her, but stood with compressed
lips beside the man at the wheel, gazing alternately at the sails of his
vessel and at the windward horizon, where he fancied he saw indications
that led him to hope the breeze would fail ere long.
As the schooner drew nearer, a man leaped on the hammock-nettings, and,
putting a trumpet to his mouth, sang out lustily, "Ship ahoy! where are
you from, and what's your cargo?"
Captain Ellice made no reply, but ordered four of his men on deck to
point one of the stern-chasers.
Again the voice came harshly across the waves, as if in passion, "Heave
to, or I'll sink you." At the same moment the black flag was run up to
the peak, and a shot passed between the main and fore masts.
"Stand by to point this gun," said the captain in a subdued voice.
"Ay, ay, sir!"
"Fetch a red-hot iron; luff, luff a little--a little more steady--so."
At the last word there was a puff and a roar, and an iron messenger flew
towards the schooner. The gun had been fired more as a reply of
defiance to the pirate than with the hope of doing him any damage; but
the shot had been well aimed--it cut the schooner's main-sail-yard in
two and brought it rattling down on deck. Instantly the pirate yawed and
delivered a broadside; but in the confusion on deck the guns were badly
aimed, and none took effect. The time lost in this manoeuvre, added to
the crippled condition of the schooner, enabled the West Indiaman to
gain considerably on her antagonist; but the pirate kept up a
well-directed fire with his bow-chasers, and many of the shots struck
the hull and cut the rigging seriously. As the sun descended towards the
horizon the wind fell gradually, and ceased at length altogether, so
that both vessels lay rolling on the swell with their sails flapping
idly against the masts.
"They're a-gittin' out the boats, sir," remarked John Buzzby, who,
unable to restrain himself any longer, had crept upon deck at the risk
of another reprimand; "and, if my eyes be'n't deceiving me, there's a
sail on the horizon to wind'ard--leastways, the direction which _wos_
wind'ard afore it fell calm."
"She's bringing a breeze along with her," remarked the captain, "but I
fear the boats will come up before it reaches us. There are three in the
water and manned already. There they come. Now, then, call up all
In a few seconds the crew of the West Indiaman were at their stations
ready for action, and Captain Ellice, with Fred at his elbow, stood
beside one of the stern-chasers. Meanwhile, the boats of the pirate,
five in number, pulled away in different directions, evidently with the
intention of attacking the ship at different points. They were full of
men armed to the teeth. While they rowed towards the ship the schooner
resumed its fire, and one ball cut away the spanker-boom and slightly
wounded two of the men with splinters. The guns of the ship were now
brought to bear on the boats, but without effect, although the shot
plunged into the water all round them. As they drew nearer a brisk fire
of musketry was opened on them, and the occasional falling of an oar and
confusion on board showed that the shots told. The pirates replied
vigorously, but without effect, as the men of the ship were sheltered by
"Pass the word to load and reserve fire," said the captain; "and hand me
a musket, Fred. Load again as fast as I fire." So saying, the captain
took aim and fired at the steersman of the largest boat, which pulled
towards the stern. "Another, Fred--"
At this moment a withering volley was poured upon the boat, and a savage
yell of agony followed, while the rowers who remained unhurt paused for
an instant as if paralyzed. Next instant they recovered, and another
stroke would have brought them almost alongside, when Captain Ellice
pointed the little carronade and fired. There was a terrific crash; the
gun recoiled violently to the other side of the deck; and the pirate
boat sank, leaving the sea covered with dead and wounded men. A number,
however, who seemed to bear charmed lives, seized their cutlasses with
their teeth, and swam boldly for the ship. This incident, unfortunately,
attracted too much of the attention of the crew, and ere they could
prevent it another boat reached the bow of the ship, the crew of which
sprang up the side like cats, formed on the forecastle, and poured a
volley upon the men.
"Follow me, lads!" shouted the captain, as he sprang forward like a
tiger. The first man he reached fell by a ball from his pistol; in
another moment the opposing parties met in a hand-to-hand conflict.
Meanwhile Fred, having been deeply impressed with the effect of the shot
from the little carronade, succeeded in raising and reloading it. He had
scarcely accomplished this when one of the boats reached the larboard
quarter, and two of the men sprang up the side. Fred observed them, and
felled the first with a handspike before he reached the deck; but the
pirate who instantly followed would have killed him had he not been
observed by the second mate, who had prevented several of the men from
joining in the _melee_ on the forecastle in order to meet such an
emergency as this. Rushing to the rescue with his party, he drove the
pirates back into the boat, which was immediately pulled towards the
bow, where the other two boats were now grappling and discharging their
crews on the forecastle. Although the men of the West Indiaman fought
with desperate courage, they could not stand before the increasing
numbers of pirates who now crowded the fore part of the ship in a dense
mass. Gradually they were beaten back, and at length were brought to bay
on the quarter-deck.
"Help, father!" cried Fred, pushing through the struggling crowd,
"here's the carronade ready loaded."
"Ha! boy, well done!" cried the captain, seizing the gun, and, with the
help of Buzzby, who never left his side, dragging it forward. "Clear the
In a moment the little cannon was pointed to the centre of the mass of
men, and fired. One awful shriek of agony rose above the din of the
fight, as a wide gap was cut through the crowd; but this only seemed to
render the survivors more furious. With a savage yell they charged the
quarter-deck, but were hurled back again and again by the captain and a
few chosen men who stood around him. At length one of the pirates, who
had been all along conspicuous for his strength and daring, stepped
deliberately up, and pointing a pistol at the captain's breast, fired.
Captain Ellice fell, and at the same moment a ball laid the pirate low;
another charge was made; Fred rushed forward to protect his father, but
was thrown down and trodden under foot in the rush, and in two minutes
more the ship was in possession of the pirates.
Being filled with rage at the opposition they had met with, these
villains proceeded, as they said, to make short work of the crew, while
several of them sprang into the cabin, where they discovered Mrs.
Ellice almost dead with terror. Dragging her violently on deck, they
were about to cast her into the sea, when Buzzby, who stood with his
hands bound, suddenly burst his bonds and sprang towards her. A blow
from the butt of a pistol, however, stretched him insensible on the
"Where is my husband? my boy?" screamed Mrs. Ellice wildly.
"They've gone before you, or they'll soon follow," said a savage
fiercely, as he raised her in his powerful arms and hurled her
overboard. A loud shriek was followed by a heavy plunge. At the same
moment two of the men raised the captain, intending to throw him
overboard also, when a loud boom arrested their attention, and a
cannon-shot ploughed up the sea close in front of their bows.
While the fight was raging, no one had observed the fact that the breeze
had freshened, and a large man-of-war, with American colours, at her
peak, was now within gunshot of the ship. No sooner did the pirates make
this discovery than they rushed to their boats, with the intention of
pulling to their schooner; but those who had been left in charge, seeing
the approach of the man-of-war, and feeling that there was no chance of
escape for their comrades, or, as is more than probable, being utterly
indifferent about them, crowded all sail and slipped away, and it was
now hull-down on the horizon to leeward. The men in the boats rowed
after her with the energy of despair; but the Americans gave chase, and
we need scarcely add that, in a very short time, all were captured.
When the man-of-war rejoined the West Indiaman, the night had set in and
a stiff breeze had arisen, so that the long and laborious search that
was made for the body of poor Mrs. Ellice proved utterly fruitless.
Captain Ellice, whose wound was very severe, was struck down as if by a
thunderbolt, and for a long time his life was despaired of. During his
illness Fred nursed him with the utmost tenderness, and in seeking to
comfort his father, found some relief to his own stricken heart.
Months passed away. Captain Ellice was conveyed to the residence of his
sister in Grayton, and, under her care, and the nursing of his little
niece Isobel, he recovered his wonted health and strength. To the eyes
of men Captain Ellice and his son were themselves again; but those who
judge of men's hearts by their outward appearance and expressions, in
nine cases out of ten judge very wide of the mark indeed. Both had
undergone a great change. The brilliancy and glitter of this world had
been completely and rudely dispelled, and both had been led to inquire
whether there was not something better to live for than mere present
advantage and happiness--something that would stand by them in those
hours of sickness and sorrow which must inevitably, sooner or later,
come upon all men. Both sought, and discovered what they sought, in the
_Bible_, the only book in all the world where the jewel of great price
is to be found.
But Captain Ellice could not be induced to resume the command of his
old ship, or voyage again to the West Indies. He determined to change
the scene of his future labours and sail to the Frozen Seas, where the
aspect of every object, even the ocean itself, would be very unlikely to
recall the circumstances of his loss.
Some time after his recovery, Captain Ellice purchased a brig and fitted
her out as a whaler, determined to try his fortune in the Northern Seas.
Fred pleaded hard to be taken out, but his father felt that he had more
need to go to school than to sea; so he refused, and Fred, after sighing
very deeply once or twice, gave in with a good grace. Buzzby, too, who
stuck to his old commander like a leech, was equally anxious to go; but
Buzzby, in a sudden and unaccountable fit of tenderness, had, just two
months before, married a wife, who might be appropriately described as
"fat, fair, and forty," and Buzzby's wife absolutely forbade him to go.
Alas! Buzzby was no longer his own master. At the age of forty-five he
became--as he himself expressed it--an abject slave, and he would as
soon have tried to steer in a slipper-bath right in the teeth of an
equinoctial hurricane, as have opposed the will of his wife. He used to
sigh gruffly when spoken to on this subject, and compare himself to a
Dutch galliot that made more leeway than headway, even with a wind on
the quarter. "Once," he would remark, "I was clipper-built, and could
sail right in the wind's eye; but ever since I tuck this craft in tow,
I've gone to leeward like a tub. In fact, I find there's only one way of
going ahead with my Poll, and that is right before the wind! I used to
yaw about a good deal at first, but she tuck that out o' me in a day or
two. If I put the helm only so much as one stroke to starboard, she guv'
a tug at the tow-rope that brought the wind dead aft again; so I've gi'n
it up, and lashed the tiller right amid-ships."
So Buzzby did not accompany his old commander; he did not even so much
as suggest the possibility of it; but he shook his head with great
solemnity, as he stood with Fred, and Mrs. Bright, and Isobel, at the
end of the pier, gazing at the brig, with one eye very much screwed up,
and a wistful expression in the other, while the graceful craft spread
out her canvas and bent over to the breeze.
_Departure of the "Pole Star" for the Frozen Seas--Sage reflections of
Mrs. Bright, and sagacious remarks of Buzzby--Anxieties, fears,
surmises, and resolutions--Isabel--A search proposed--Departure of the
"Dolphin" for the Far North_.
Digressions are bad at the best, and we feel some regret that we should
have been compelled to begin our book with one; but they are necessary
evils sometimes, so we must ask our reader's forgiveness, and beg him,
or her, to remember that we are still at the commencement of our story,
standing at the end of the pier, and watching the departure of the _Pole
Star_ whale-ship, which is now a scarcely distinguishable speck on the
As it disappeared Buzzby gave a grunt, Fred and Isobel uttered a sigh in
unison, and Mrs. Bright resumed the fit of weeping which for some time
she had unconsciously suspended.
"I fear we shall never see him again," sobbed Mrs. Bright, as she took
Isobel by the hand and sauntered slowly home, accompanied by Fred and
Buzzby, the latter of whom seemed to regard himself in the light of a
shaggy Newfoundland or mastiff, who had been left to protect the family.
"We are always hearing of whale-ships being lost, and, somehow or
other, we _never_ hear of the crews being saved, as one reads of when
ships are wrecked in the usual way on the seashore."
Isobel squeezed her mother's hand, and looked up in her face with an
expression that said plainly, "Don't cry so, mamma; I'm _sure_ he will
come back," but she could not find words to express herself, so she
glanced towards the mastiff for help.
Buzzby felt that it devolved upon him to afford consolation under the
circumstances; but Mrs. Bright's mind was of that peculiar stamp which
repels advances in the way of consolation unconsciously, and Buzzby was
puzzled. He screwed up first the right eye and then the left, and smote
his thigh repeatedly; and assuredly, if contorting his visage could have
comforted Mrs. Bright, she would have returned home a happy woman, for
he made faces at her violently for full five minutes. But it did her no
good, perhaps because she didn't see him, her eyes being suffused with
"Ah! yes," resumed Mrs. Bright, with another burst, "I _know_ they will
never come back, and your silence shows that you think so too. And to
think of their taking two years' provisions with them _in case of
accidents!_--doesn't that prove that there are going _to be_ accidents?
And didn't I hear one of the sailors say that she was a crack ship, a
number one? I don't know what he meant by A number one, but if she's a
cracked ship I _know_ she will never come back; and although I told my
dear brother of it, and advised him not to go, he only laughed at me,
which was very unkind, I'm sure."
Here Mrs. Bright's feelings overcame her again.
"Why, aunt," said Fred, scarce able to restrain a laugh, despite the
sadness that lay at his heart, "when the sailor said it was a crack
ship, he meant that it was a good one, a first-rate one."
"Then why did he not say what he meant? But you are talking nonsense,
boy. Do you think that I will believe a man means to say a thing is good
when he calls it cracked? and I'm sure nobody would say a cracked
tea-pot was as good as a whole one. But tell me, Buzzby, do you think
they ever _will_ come back?"
"Why, ma'am, in coorse I do," replied Buzzby, vehemently; "for why, if
they don't, they're the first that ever, went out o' this port in my day
as didn't. They've a good ship and lots o' grub, and it's like to be a
good season; and Captain Ellice has, for the most part, good luck; and
they've started with a fair wind, and kep' clear of a Friday, and what
more could ye wish? I only wish as I was aboard along with them, that's
Buzzby delivered himself of this oration with the left eye shut and
screwed up, and the right one open. Having concluded, he shut and
screwed up the right eye, and opened the left--he reversed the engine,
so to speak, as if he wished to back out from the scene of his triumph
and leave the course clear for others to speak. But his words were
thrown away on Mrs. Bright, who was emphatically a weak-minded woman,
and never exercised her reason at all, except in a spasmodic, galvanic
sort of way, when she sought to defend or to advocate some unreasonable
conclusion of some sort, at which her own weak mind had arrived somehow.
So she shook her head, and sobbed good-bye to Buzzby, as she ascended
the sloping avenue that led to her pretty cottage on the green hill that
overlooked the harbour and the sea beyond.
As for John Buzzby, having been absent from home full half-an-hour
beyond his usual dinner-hour, he felt that, for a man who had lashed his
helm amid-ships, he was yawing alarmingly out of his course; so he
spread all the canvas he could carry, and steered right before the wind
towards the village, where, in a little whitewashed, low-roofed,
one-doored, and two little-windowed cottage, his spouse (and dinner)
To make a long story short, three years passed away, but the _Pole Star_
did not return, and no news of her could be got from the various
whale-ships that visited the port of Grayton. Towards the end of the
second year Buzzby began to shake his head despondingly; and as the
third drew to a close, the expression of gloom never left his honest,
weather-beaten face. Mrs. Bright, too, whose anxiety at first was only
half genuine, now became seriously alarmed, and the fate of the missing
brig began to be the talk of the neighbourhood. Meanwhile, Fred Ellice
and Isobel grew and improved in mind and body; but anxiety as to his
father's fate rendered the former quite unable to pursue his studies,
and he determined at last to procure a passage in a whale-ship, and go
out in search of the brig.
It happened that the principal merchant and shipowner in the town, Mr.
Singleton by name, was an intimate friend and old school-fellow of
Captain Ellice, so Fred went boldly to him and proposed that a vessel
should be fitted out immediately, and sent off to search for his
father's brig. Mr. Singleton smiled at the request, and pointed out the
utter impossibility of his agreeing to it; but he revived Fred's sinking
hopes by saying that he was about to send out a whaler to the Northern
Seas at any rate, and that he would give orders to the captain to devote
a _portion_ of his time to the search, and, moreover, agreed to let Fred
go as a passenger in company with his own son Tom.
Now, Tom Singleton had been Fred's bosom friend and companion during his
first year at school; but during the last two years he had been sent to
the Edinburgh University to prosecute his medical studies, and the two
friends had only met at rare intervals. It was with unbounded delight,
therefore, that he found his old companion, now a youth of twenty, was
to go out as surgeon of the ship, and he could scarce contain himself as
he ran down to Buzzby's cottage to tell him the good news, and ask him
Of course Buzzby was ready to go, and, what was of far greater
importance in the matter, his wife threw no obstacle in the way. On the
contrary, she undid the lashings of the helm with her own hand, and told
her wondering partner, with a good-humoured but firm smile, to steer
where he chose, and she would content herself with the society of the
two young Buzzbys (both miniature fac-similes of their father) till he
Once again a whale-ship prepared to sail from the port of Grayton, and
once again Mrs. Bright and Isobel stood on the pier to see her depart.
Isobel was about thirteen now, and as pretty a girl, according to
Buzzby, as you could meet with in any part of Britain. Her eyes were
blue and her hair nut-brown, and her charms of face and figure were
enhanced immeasurably by an air of modesty and earnestness that went
straight home to your heart, and caused you to adore her at once. Buzzby
doated on her as if she were his only child, and felt a secret pride in
being in some indefinable way her protector. Buzzby philosophized about
her, too, after a strange fashion. "You see," he would say to Fred,
"it's not that her figurehead is cut altogether after a parfect
pattern--by no means, for I've seen pictur's and statues that wos
better--but she carries her head a little down, d'ye see, Master Fred?
and there's where it is; that's the way I gauges the worth o' young
women, jist accordin' as they carry their chins up or down. If their
brows come well for'ard, and they seems to be lookin' at the ground they
walk on, I knows their brains is firm stuff, and in good workin' order;
but when I sees them carryin' their noses high out o' the water, as if
they wos afeard o' catchin' sight o' their own feet, and their chins
elewated, so that a little boy standin' in front o' them couldn't see
their faces nohow, I make pretty sure that t'other end is filled with a
sort o' _mush_ that's fit only to think o' dress and dancing."
On the present occasion Isobel's eyes were red and swollen, and by no
means improved by weeping. Mrs. Bright, too, although three years had
done little to alter her character, seemed to be less demonstrative and
much more sincere than usual in her grief at parting from Fred.
In a few minutes all was ready. Young Singleton and Buzzby having
hastily but earnestly bade Mrs. Bright and her daughter farewell, leaped
on board. Fred lingered for a moment.
"Once more, dear aunt," said he, "farewell. With God's blessing we shall
come back soon.--Write to me, darling Isobel, won't you? to Upernavik,
on the coast of Greenland. If none of our ships are bound in that
direction, write by way of Denmark. Old Mr. Singleton will tell you how
to address your letter; and see that it be a long one."
"Now then, youngster, jump aboard," shouted the captain; "look sharp!"
"Ay, ay," returned Fred, and in another moment he was on the
quarter-deck, by the side of his friend Tom.
The ship, loosed from her moorings, spread her canvas, and plunged
forward on her adventurous voyage.
But this time she does not grow smaller as she advances before the
freshening breeze, for you and I, reader, have embarked in her, and the
land now fades in the distance, until it sinks from view on the distant
horizon, while nothing meets our gaze but the vault of the bright blue
sky above, and the plane of the dark blue sea below.
_The voyage--The "Dolphin" and her crew--Ice ahead--Polar
scenes--Masthead observations--The first whale--Great excitement_.
And now we have fairly got into blue water--the sailor's delight, the
"The sea! the sea! the open sea;
The blue, the fresh, the ever free."
"It's my opinion," remarked Buzzby to Singleton one day, as they stood
at the weather gangway watching the foam that spread from the vessel's
bow as she breasted the waves of the Atlantic gallantly--it's my opinion
that our skipper is made o' the right stuff. He's entered quite into the
spirit of the thing, and I heard him say to the first mate yesterday
he'd made up his mind to run right up into Baffin's Bay and make
inquiries for Captain Ellice first, before goin' to his usual
whalin'-ground. Now that's wot I call doin' the right thing; for, ye
see, he runs no small risk o' getting beset in the ice, and losing the
fishin' altogether by so doin'."
"He's a fine fellow," said Singleton; "I like him better every day, and
I feel convinced he will do his utmost to discover the whereabouts of
our missing friend; but I fear much that our chances are small, for,
although we know the spot which Captain Ellice intended to visit, we
cannot tell to what part of the frozen ocean ice and currents may have
"True," replied Buzzby, giving to his left eye and cheek just that
peculiar amount of screw which indicated intense sagacity and
penetration; "but I've a notion that, if they are to be found, Captain
Guy is the man to find 'em."
"I hope it may turn out as you say. Have you ever been in these seas
"No, sir--never; but I've got a half-brother wot has bin in the
Greenland whale-fishery, and I've bin in the South Sea line myself."
"What line was that, Buzzby?" inquired David Summers, a sturdy boy of
about fifteen, who acted as assistant steward, and was, in fact, a
nautical maid-of-all-work. "Was it a log-line, or a bow-line, or a
cod-line, or a bit of the equator, eh?"
The old salt deigned no reply to this passing sally, but continued his
converse with Singleton.
"I could give ye many a long yarn about the South Seas," said Buzzby,
gazing abstractedly down into the deep. "One time when I was about fifty
miles to the sou'-west o' Cape Horn, I--"
"Dinner's ready, sir," said a thin, tall, active man, stepping smartly
up to Singleton, and touching his cap.
"We must talk over that some other time, Buzzby. The captain loves
punctuality." So saying, the young surgeon sprang down the companion
ladder, leaving the old salt to smoke his pipe in solitude.
And here we may pause a few seconds to describe our ship and her crew.
The _Dolphin_ was a tight, new, barque-rigged vessel of about three
hundred tons burden, built expressly for the northern whale-fishery, and
carried a crew of forty-five men. Ships that have to battle with the ice
require to be much more powerfully built than those that sail in
unencumbered seas. The _Dolphin_ united strength with capacity and
buoyancy. The under part of her hull and sides were strengthened with
double timbers, and fortified externally with plates of iron, while,
internally, stanchions and crossbeams were so arranged as to cause
pressure on any part to be supported by the whole structure; and on her
bows, where shocks from the ice might be expected to be most frequent
and severe, extra planking, of immense strength and thickness, was
secured. In other respects, the vessel was fitted up much in the same
manner as ordinary merchantmen. The only other peculiarity about her
worthy of notice was the crow's-nest, a sort of barrel-shaped structure
fastened to the fore-mast-head, in which, when at the whaling-ground, a
man is stationed to look out for whales. The chief men in the ship were
Captain Guy, a vigorous, earnest, practical American; Mr. Bolton, the
first mate, a stout, burly, off-hand Englishman; and Mr. Saunders, the
second mate, a sedate, broad-shouldered, raw-boned Scot, whose opinion
of himself was unbounded, whose power of argument was extraordinary, not
to say exasperating, and who stood six feet three in his stockings.
Mivins, the steward, was, as we have already remarked, a tall, thin,
active young man, of a brisk, lively disposition, and was somewhat of a
butt among the men, but being in a position of power and trust, he was
respected. The young surgeon, Tom Singleton, whom we have yet scarcely
introduced to the reader, was a tall, slim, but firmly-knit youth, with
a kind, gentle disposition. He was always open, straightforward, and
polite. He never indulged in broad humour, though he enjoyed it much,
seldom ventured on a witticism, was rather shy in the company of his
companions, and spoke little; but for a quiet, pleasant _tete-a-tete_
there was not a man in the ship equal to Tom Singleton. His countenance
was Spanish-looking and handsome, his hair black, short, and curling,
and his budding moustache was soft and dark as the eyebrow of an
It would be unpardonable, in this catalogue, to omit the cook, David
Mizzle. He was round, and fat, and oily, as one of his own "duff"
puddings. To look at him you could not help suspecting that he purloined
and ate at least half of the salt pork he cooked, and his sly, dimpling
laugh, in which every feature participated, from the point of his broad
chin to the top of his bald head, rather tended to favour this
supposition. Mizzle was prematurely bald--being quite a young man--and
when questioned on the subject, he usually attributed it to the fact of
his having been so long employed about the cooking coppers, that the
excessive heat to which he was exposed had stewed all the hair off his
head! The crew was made up of stout, active men in the prime of life,
nearly all of whom had been more or less accustomed to the
whale-fishing, and some of the harpooners were giants in muscular
development and breadth of shoulder, if not in height.
Chief among these harpooners was Amos Parr, a short, thick-set, powerful
man of about thirty-five, who had been at sea since he was a little boy,
and had served in the fisheries of both the Northern and Southern Seas.
No one knew what country had the honour of producing him--indeed, he was
ignorant of that point himself; for, although he had vivid recollections
of his childhood having been spent among green hills, and trees, and
streamlets, he was sent to sea with a strange captain before he was old
enough to care about the name of his native land. Afterwards he ran away
from his ship, and so lost all chance of ever discovering who he was;
but, as he sometimes remarked, he didn't much care who he was, so long
as he was _himself_; so it didn't matter. From a slight peculiarity in
his accent, and other qualities, it was surmised that he must be an
Irishman--a supposition which he rather encouraged, being partial to the
sons, and particularly partial to the daughters, of the Emerald Isle,
one of which last he had married just six months before setting out on
this whaling expedition.
Such were the _Dolphin_ and her crew, and merrily they bowled along
over the broad Atlantic with favouring winds, and without meeting with
anything worthy of note until they neared the coast of Greenland.
One fine morning, just as the party in the cabin had finished breakfast,
and were dallying with the last few morsels of the repast, as men who
have more leisure than they desire are wont to do, there was a sudden
shock felt, and a slight tremor passed through the ship as if something
had struck her.
"Ha!" exclaimed Captain Guy, finishing his cup of chocolate, "there goes
the first bump."
"Ice ahead, sir," said the first mate, looking down the skylight.
"Is there much?" asked the captain, rising and taking down a small
telescope from the hook on which it usually hung.
"Not much, sir--only a stream; but there is an ice-blink right ahead all
along the horizon."
"How's her head, Mr. Bolton?"
"Nor'-west and by north, sir."
Before this brief conversation came to a close, Fred Ellice and Tom
Singleton sprang up the companion ladder, and stood on the deck gazing
ahead with feelings of the deepest interest. Both youths were well read
in the history of Polar Seas and Regions; they were well acquainted, by
name at least, with floes, and bergs, and hummocks of ice, but neither
of them had seen such in reality. These objects were associated in their
young minds with all that was romantic and wild, hyperborean and polar,
brilliant and sparkling, and light and white--emphatically _white_. To
behold ice actually floating on the salt sea was an incident of note in
their existence; and certainly the impressions of their first day in the
ice remained sharp, vivid, and prominent, long after scenes of a much
more striking nature had faded from the tablets of their memories.
At first the prospect that met their ardent gaze was not calculated to
excite excessive admiration. There were only a few masses of low ice
floating about in various directions. The wind was steady, but light,
and seemed as if it would speedily fall altogether. Gradually the
_blink_ on the horizon (as the light haze always distinguishable above
ice, or snow-covered land, is called) resolved itself into a long white
line of ice, which seemed to grow larger as the ship neared it, and in
about two hours more they were fairly in the midst of the pack, which
was fortunately loose enough to admit of the vessel being navigated
through the channels of open water. Soon after, the sun broke out in
cloudless splendour, and the wind fell entirely, leaving the ocean in a
"Let's go to the fore-top, Tom," said Fred, seizing his friend by the
arm and hastening to the shrouds.
In a few seconds they were seated alone on the little platform at the
top of the fore-mast, just where it is connected with the fore-top-mast,
and from this elevated position they gazed in silent delight upon the
Those who have never stood at the mast-head of a ship at sea in a dead
calm cannot comprehend the feeling of intense solitude that fills the
mind in such a position. There is nothing analogous to it on land. To
stand on the summit of a tower and look down on the busy multitude below
is not the same, for there the sounds are quite different in _tone_, and
signs of life are visible all over the distant country, while cries from
afar reach the ear, as well as those from below. But from the mast-head
you hear only the few subdued sounds under your feet--all beyond is
silence; you behold only the small, oval-shaped platform that is your
_world_--beyond lies the calm desolate ocean. On deck you cannot realize
this feeling, for there sails and yards tower above you, and masts, and
boats, and cordage intercept your view; but from above you _take in_ the
intense minuteness of your home at a single glance--you stand aside, as
it were, and in some measure comprehend the insignificance of the
_thing_ to which you have committed your life.
The scene witnessed by our friends at the masthead of the _Dolphin_ on
this occasion was surpassingly beautiful. Far as the eye could stretch
the sea was covered with islands and fields of ice of every conceivable
shape. Some rose in little peaks and pinnacles, some floated in the form
of arches and domes, some were broken and rugged like the ruins of old
border strongholds, while others were flat and level like fields of
white marble; and so calm was it, that the ocean in which they floated
seemed like a groundwork of polished steel, in which the sun shone with
dazzling brilliancy. The tops of the icy islets were pure white, and the
sides of the higher ones of a delicate blue colour, which gave to the
scene a transparent lightness that rendered it pre-eminently fairy-like.
"It far surpasses anything I ever conceived," ejaculated Singleton after
a long silence. "No wonder that authors speak of scenes being
indescribable. Does it not seem like a dream, Fred?"
"Tom," replied Fred earnestly, "I've been trying to fancy myself in
another world, and I have almost succeeded. When I look long and
intently at the ice, I get almost to believe that these are streets, and
palaces, and cathedrals. I never felt so strong a desire to have wings
that I might fly from one island to another, and go floating in and out
and round about those blue caves and sparkling pinnacles."
"It's a curious fancy, Fred, but not unnatural."
"Tom," said Fred after another long silence, "has not the thought
occurred to you that God made it all?"
"Some such thought did cross my mind, Fred, for a moment, but it soon
passed away. Is it not _very_ strange that the idea of the Creator is so
seldom and so slightly connected with his works in our minds?"
Again there was a long silence. Both youths had a desire to continue the
conversation, and yet each felt an unaccountable reluctance to renew it.
Neither of them distinctly understood that the natural heart is enmity
against God, and that, until he is converted by the Holy Spirit, man
neither loves to think of his Maker nor to speak of him.
While they sat thus musing, a breeze dimmed the surface of the sea, and
the _Dolphin_, which had hitherto lain motionless in one of the numerous
canals, began slowly to advance between the islands of ice. The breeze
freshened, and rendered it impossible to avoid an occasional collision
with the floating masses; but the good ship was well armed for the
fight, and, although she quivered under the blows, and once or twice
recoiled, she pushed her way through the pack gallantly. In the course
of an hour or two they were once more in comparatively clear water.
Suddenly there came a cry from the crow's-nest--"There she blows!"
Instantly every man in the ship sprang to his feet as if he had received
an electric shock.
"Where away?" shouted the captain.
"On the lee-bow, sir," replied the look-out.
From a state of comparative quiet and repose the ship was now thrown
into a condition of the utmost animation, and, apparently, unmeaning,
confusion. The sight of a whale acted on the spirits of the men like
"There she blows!" sang out the man at the masthead again.
"Are we keeping right for her?" asked the captain.
"Keep her away a bit; steady!" replied the lookout.
"Steady it is!" answered the man at the wheel.
"Call all hands and get the boats out, Mr. Bolton," said the captain.
"All hands ahoy!" shouted the mate in a tempestuous voice, while the men
rushed to their respective stations.
"Boat-steerers, get your boats ready."
"Ay, ay, sir."
"There go flukes," cried the look-out, as the whale dived and tossed its
flukes--that is, its tail--in the air, not more than a mile on the
lee-bow; "she's heading right for the ship."
"Down with the helm!" roared the captain. "Mr. Bolton, brace up the
mizzen-top-sail! Hoist and swing the boats! Lower away!"
In another moment three boats struck the water, and their respective
crews tumbled tumultuously into them. Fred and Singleton sprang into the
stern-sheets of the captain's boat just as it pushed off, and, in less
than five minutes, the three boats were bounding over the sea in the
direction of the whale like race-horses. Every man did his best, and the
tough oars bent like hoops as each boat's crew strove to outstrip the
_The chase and the battle--The chances and dangers of whaling
war--Buzzby dives for his life and saves it--So does the whale and loses
it--An anxious night, which terminates happily, though with a heavy
The chase was not a long one, for, while the boats were rowing swiftly
towards the whale, the whale was, all unconsciously, swimming towards
"Give way now, lads, give way," said the captain in a suppressed voice;
"bend your backs, boys, and don't let the mate beat us."
The three boats flew over the sea, as the men strained their muscles to
the utmost, and for some time they kept almost in line, being pretty
equally matched; but gradually the captain shot ahead, and it became
evident that his harpooner, Amos Parr, was to have the honour of
harpooning the first whale. Amos pulled the bow-oar, and behind him was
the tub with the line coiled away, and the harpoon bent on to it. Being
an experienced whaleman, he evinced no sign of excitement, save in the
brilliancy of his dark eye and a very slight flush on his bronzed face.
They had now neared the whale and ceased rowing for a moment, lest they
should miss it when down.
"There she goes!" cried Fred in a tone of intense excitement, as he
caught sight of the whale not more than fifty yards ahead of the boat.
"Now, boys," cried the captain, in a hoarse whisper, "spring hard--lay
back hard, I say--_stand up_!"
At the last word Amos-Parr sprang to his feet and seized the harpoon,
the boat ran right on to the whale's back, and in an instant Parr sent
two irons to the hitches into the fish.
"Stern all!" The men backed their oars with all their might, in order to
avoid the flukes of the wounded monster of the deep, as it plunged down
headlong into the sea, taking the line out perpendicularly like
lightning. This was a moment of great danger. The friction of the line
as it passed the loggerhead was so great that Parr had to keep
constantly pouring water on it to prevent its catching fire. A hitch in
the line at that time, as it flew out of the tub, or any accidental
entanglement, would have dragged the boat and crew right down: many such
fatal accidents occur to whalers, and many a poor fellow has had a foot
or an arm torn off, or been dragged overboard and drowned, in
consequence of getting entangled. One of the men stood ready with a
small hatchet to cut the line in a moment, if necessary; for whales
sometimes run out all that is in a boat at the first plunge, and should
none of the other boats be at hand to lend a second line to attach to
the one nearly expended, there is nothing for it but to cut. On the
present occasion, however, none of these accidents befell the men of the
captain's boat. The line ran all clear, and long before it was
exhausted the whale ceased to descend, and the _slack_ was hauled
Meanwhile the other boats pulled up to the scene of action, and prepared
to strike the instant the fish should rise to the surface. It appeared,
suddenly, not twenty yards from the mate's boat, where Buzzby, who was
harpooner, stood in the bow ready to give it the iron.
"Spring, lads, spring!" shouted the mate, as the whale spouted into the
air a thick stream of water. The boat dashed up, and Buzzby planted his
harpoon vigorously. Instantly the broad flukes of the tail were tossed
into the air, and, for a single second, spread like a canopy over
Buzzby's head. There was no escape. The quick eye of the whaleman saw at
a glance that the effort to back out was hopeless. He bent his head, and
the next moment was deep down in the waves. Just as he disappeared the
flukes descended on the spot which he had left, and cut the bow of the
boat completely away, sending the stern high into the air with a
violence that tossed men, and oars, and shattered planks, and cordage,
flying over the monster's back into the seething caldron of foam around
it. It was apparently a scene of the most complete and instantaneous
destruction, yet, strange to say, not a man was lost. A few seconds
after, the white foam of the sea was dotted with black heads as the men
rose one by one to the surface, and struck out for floating oars and
pieces of the wrecked boat.
"They're lost!" cried Fred Ellice in a voice of horror.
"Not a bit of it, youngster; they're safe enough, I'll warrant," replied
the captain, as his own boat flew past the spot, towed by the
whale.--"Pay out, Amos Parr; give him line, or he'll tear the bows out
"Ay, ay, sir," sang out Amos, as he sat coolly pouring water on the
loggerhead round which a coil of the rope was whizzing like lightning;
"all right. The mate's men are all safe, sir; I counted them as we shot
past, and I seed Buzzby come up last of all, blowin' like a grampus; and
small wonder, considerin' the dive he took."
"Take another turn of the coil, Amos, and hold on," said the captain.
The harpooner obeyed, and away they went after the whale like a rocket,
with a tremendous strain on the line and a bank of white foam gurgling
up to the edge of the gunwale, that every moment threatened to fill the
boat and sink her. Such a catastrophe is of not unfrequent occurrence,
when whalemen thus towed by a whale are tempted to hold on too long; and
many instances have happened of boats and their crews being in this way
dragged under water and lost. Fortunately the whale dashed horizontally
through the water, so that the boat was able to hold on and follow, and
in a short time the creature paused and rose for air. Again the men bent
to their oars, and the rope was hauled in until they came quite close to
the fish. This time a harpoon was thrown and a deep lance-thrust given
which penetrated to the vital parts of its huge carcass, as was
evidenced by the blood which it spouted and the convulsive lashing of
its tremendous tail.
While the captain's crew were thus engaged, Saunders, the second mate,
observing from the ship the accident to the first mate's boat, sent off
a party of men to the rescue, thus setting free the third boat, which
was steered by a strapping fellow named Peter Grim, to follow up the
chase. Peter Grim was the ship's carpenter, and he took after his name.
He was, as the sailors expressed it, a "grim customer," being burnt by
the sun to a deep rich brown colour, besides being covered nearly up to
the eyes with a thick coal-black beard and moustache, which completely
concealed every part of his visage except his prominent nose and dark,
fiery-looking eyes. He was an immense man, the largest in the ship,
probably, if we except the Scotch second mate Saunders, to whom he was
about equal in all respects--except argument. Like most big men, he was
peaceable and good-humoured.
"Look alive now, lads," said Grim, as the men pulled towards the whale;
"we'll get a chance yet, we shall, if you give way like tigers. Split
your sides, boys--do--that's it. Ah! there she goes right down. Pull
away now, and be ready when she rises."
As he spoke the whale suddenly _sounded_--that is, went perpendicularly
down, as it had done when first struck--and continued to descend until
most of the line in the captain's boat was run out.
"Hoist an oar!" cried Amos Parr, as he saw the coil diminishing. Grim
observed the signal of distress, and encouraged his men to use their
utmost exertions. "Another oar!--another!" shouted Parr, as the whale
continued its headlong descent.
"Stand by to cut the line," said Captain Guy with compressed lips. "No!
hold on, hold on!"
At this moment, having drawn down more than a thousand fathoms of rope,
the whale slackened its speed, and Parr, taking another coil round the
loggerhead, held on until the boat was almost dragged under water. Then
the line became loose, and the slack was hauled in rapidly. Meanwhile
Grim's boat had reached the spot, and the men now lay on their oars at
some distance ahead, ready to pull the instant the whale should show
itself. Up it came, not twenty yards ahead. One short, energetic pull,
and the second boat sent a harpoon deep into it, while Grim sprang to
the bow and thrust a lance with deadly force deep into the carcass. The
monster sent up a stream of mingled blood, oil, and water, and whirled
its huge tail so violently that the sound could be heard a mile off.
Before it dived again, the captain's boat came up, and succeeded in
making fast another harpoon, while several additional lance-thrusts were
given with effect, and it seemed as if the battle were about to
terminate, when suddenly the whale struck the sea with a clap like
thunder, and darted away once more like a rocket to windward, tearing
the two boats after it as if they had been egg-shells.
Meanwhile a change had come over the scene. The sun had set, red and
lowering, behind a bank of dark clouds, and there was every appearance
of stormy weather; but as yet it was nearly calm, and the ship was
unable to beat up against the light breeze in the wake of the two boats,
which were soon far away on the horizon. Then a furious gust arose and
passed away, a dark cloud covered the sky as night fell, and soon boats
and whale were utterly lost to view.
"Wae's me!" cried the big Scotch mate, as he ran up and down the
quarter-deck wringing his hands, "what _is_ to be done noo?"
Saunders spoke a mongrel kind of language--a mixture of Scotch and
English--in which, although the Scotch words were sparsely scattered,
the Scotch accent was very strong.
"How's her head?"
"Keep her there, then. Maybe, if the wind holds stiddy, we may overhaul
them before it's quite dark."
Although Saunders was really in a state of the utmost consternation at
this unexpected termination to the whale-hunt, and expressed the
agitation of his feelings pretty freely, he was too thorough a seaman to
neglect anything that was necessary to be done under the circumstances.
He took the exact bearings of the point at which the boats had
disappeared, and during the night, which turned out gusty and
threatening, kept making short tacks, while lanterns were hung at the
mast-heads, and a huge torch, or rather a small bonfire, of tarred
materials was slung at the end of a spar and thrust out over the stern
of the ship. But for many hours there was no sign of the boats, and the
crew of the _Dolphin_ began to entertain the most gloomy forebodings
At length, towards morning, a small speck of light was noticed on the
weather-beam. It flickered for a moment, and then disappeared.
"Did ye see yon?" said Saunders to Mivins in an agitated whisper, laying
his huge hand on the shoulder of that worthy. "Down your helm" (to the
"Ay, ay, sir!"
"Steady it is, sir."
Mivins's face, which for some hours had worn an expression of deep
anxiety, relaxed into a bland smile, and he smote his thigh powerfully,
as he exclaimed, "That's them, sir, _and_ no mistake! What's your
opinion, Mr. Saunders?"
The second mate peered earnestly in the direction in which the light had
been seen; and Mivins, turning in the same direction, screwed up his
visage into a knot of earnest attention so complicated and intense, that
it seemed as if no human power could evermore unravel it.
"There it goes again!" cried Saunders, as the light flashed distinctly
over the sea.
"Down helm; back fore-top-sails!" he shouted, springing forward; "lower
away the boat there!"
In a few seconds the ship was hove to, and a boat, with a lantern fixed
to an oar, was plunging over the swell in the direction of the light.
Sooner than was expected they came up with it, and a hurrah in the
distance told that all was right.
"Here we are, thank God," cried Captain Guy, "safe and sound. We don't
require assistance, Mr. Saunders; pull for the ship."
A short pull sufficed to bring the three boats alongside, and in a few
seconds more the crew were congratulating their comrades with that
mingled feeling of deep heartiness and a disposition to jest which is
characteristic of men who are used to danger, and think lightly of it
after it is over.
"We've lost our fish, however," remarked Captain Guy, as he passed the
crew on his way to the cabin; "but we must hope for better luck next
"Well, well," said one of the men, wringing the water out of his wet
clothes as he walked forward, "we got a good laugh at Peter Grim, if we
got nothin' else by our trip."
"How was that, Jack?"
"Why, ye see, jist before the whale gave in, it sent up a spout o' blood
and oil as thick as the main-mast, and, as luck would have it, down it
came slap on the head of Grim, drenchin' him from head to foot, and
makin' him as red as a lobster."
"'Ow did you lose the fish, sir?" inquired Mivins, as our hero sprang up
the side, followed by Singleton.
"Lost him as men lose money in railway speculations now-a-days. We
_sank_ him, and that was the last of it. After he had towed us I don't
know how far--out of sight of the ship at any rate--he suddenly stopped,
and we pulled up and gave him some tremendous digs with the lances,
until he spouted jets of blood, and we made sure of him, when all at
once down he went head-foremost like a cannon ball, and took all the
line out of both boats, so we had to cut, and he never came up again. At
least, if he did it became so dark that we never saw him. Then we pulled
to where we thought the ship was, and, after rowing nearly all night,
caught sight of your lights; and here we are, dead tired, wet to the
skin, and minus about two miles of whale-line and three harpoons."
_Miscellaneous reflections--The coast of Greenland--Upernavik--News of
the "Pole Star"--Midnight-day--Scientific facts and fairy-like
scenes--Tom Singleton's opinion of poor old women--In danger of a
In pursuance of his original intention, Captain Guy now proceeded
through Davis' Straits into Baffin's Bay, at the head of which he
intended to search for the vessel of his friend Captain Ellice, and
afterwards prosecute the whale-fishery. Off the coast of Greenland many
whalers were seen actively engaged in warfare with the giants of the
Polar Seas, and to several of these Captain Guy spoke, in the faint hope
of gleaning some information as to the fate of the _Pole Star_, but
without success. It was now apparent to the crew of the _Dolphin_ that
they were engaged as much on a searching as a whaling expedition; and
the fact that the commander of the lost vessel was the father of "young
Mr. Fred," as they styled our hero, induced them to take a deep interest
in the success of their undertaking.
This interest was further increased by the graphic account that honest
John Buzzby gave of the death of poor Mrs. Ellice, and the enthusiastic
way in which he spoke of his old captain. Fred, too, had, by his frank,
affable manner and somewhat reckless disposition, rendered himself a
general favourite with the men, and had particularly recommended himself
to Mivins the steward (who was possessed of an intensely romantic
spirit), by stating once or twice very emphatically that he (Fred) meant
to land on the coast of Baffin's Bay, should the captain fail to find
his father, and continue the search on foot and alone. There was no
doubt whatever that poor Fred was in earnest, and had made up his mind
to die in the search rather than not find him. He little knew the
terrible nature of the country in which for a time his lot was to be
cast, and the hopelessness of such an undertaking as he meditated. With
boyish inconsiderateness he thought not of how his object was to be
accomplished; he cared not what impossibilities lay in the way; but,
with manly determination, he made up his mind to quit the ship and
search for his father through the length and breadth of the land. Let
not the reader smile at what he may perhaps style a childish piece of
enthusiasm. Many a youth at his age has dreamed of attempting as great
if not greater impossibilities. All honour, we say, to the boy who
_dreams_ impossibilities, and greater honour to him who, like Fred,
_resolves to attempt them!_ James Watt stared at an iron tea-kettle till
his eyes were dim, and meditated the monstrous impossibility of making
that kettle work like a horse; and men might (perhaps did) smile at
James Watt _then_, but do men smile at James Watt _now?_--now that
thousands of iron kettles are dashing like dreadful comets over the
length and breadth of the land, not to mention the sea, with long tails
of men and women and children behind them!
"That's 'ow it is, sir," Mivins used to say, when spoken to by Fred on
the subject; "I've never bin in cold countries myself, sir, but I've bin
in 'ot, and I knows that with a stout pair o' legs and a will to work, a
man can work 'is way hanywhere. Of course there's not much of a
pop'lation in them parts, I've heerd; but there's Heskimos, and where
one man can live so can another, and what one man can do so can
another--that's bin my hexperience, and I'm not ashamed to hown it, I'm
not, though I _do_ say it as shouldn't, and I honour you, sir, for your
filleral detarmination to find your father, sir, and--"
"Steward!" shouted the captain down the cabin skylight.
"Bring me the chart."
"Yes, sir," and Mivins disappeared like a Jack-in-the-box from the cabin
just as Tom Singleton entered it.
"Here we are, Fred," he said, seizing a telescope that hung over the
cabin door, "within sight of the Danish settlement of Upernavik; come on
deck and see it."
Fred needed no second bidding. It was here that the captain had hinted
there would, probably, be some information obtained regarding the _Pole
Star_, and it was with feelings of no common interest that the two
friends examined the low-roofed houses of this out-of-the-way
In an hour afterwards the captain and first mate with our young friends
landed amid the clamorous greetings of the entire population, and
proceeded to the residence of the governor, who received them with great
kindness and hospitality; but the only information they could obtain was
that, a year ago, Captain Ellice had been driven there in his brig by
stress of weather, and after refitting and taking in a supply of
provisions, had set sail for England.
Here the _Dolphin_ laid in a supply of dried fish, and procured several
dogs, besides an Esquimau interpreter and hunter, named Meetuck.
Leaving this little settlement, they stood out once more to sea, and
threaded their way among the ice, with which they were now well
acquainted in all its forms, from the mighty berg, or mountain of ice,
to the wide field. They passed in succession one or two Esquimau
settlements, the last of which, Yotlik, is the most northerly point of
colonization. Beyond this all was _terra incognita_. Here inquiry was
again made through the medium of the Esquimau interpreter who had been
taken on board at Upernavik, and they learned that the brig in question
had been last seen beset in the pack, and driving to the northward.
Whether or not she had ever returned they could not tell.
A consultation was now held, and it was resolved to proceed north, as
far as the ice would permit, towards Smith's Sound, and examine the
coast carefully in that direction.
For several weeks past there had been gradually coming over the aspect
of nature a change, to which we have not yet referred, and which filled
Fred Ellice and his friend, the young surgeon, with surprise and
admiration. This was the long-continued daylight, which now lasted the
whole night round, and increased in intensity every day as they advanced
north. They had, indeed, often heard and read of it before, but their
minds had utterly failed to form a correct conception of the exquisite
calmness and beauty of the _midnight-day_ of the north.
Every one knows that, in consequence of the axis of the earth not being
perpendicular to the plane of its orbit round the sun, the poles are
alternately directed more or less _towards_ that great luminary during
one part of the year, and _away_ from it during another part. So that
far north the days during the one season grow longer and longer until at
last there is _one long day_ of many weeks' duration, in which the sun
does not set at all; and during the other season there is _one long
night_, in which the sun is never seen. It was approaching the height of
the summer season when the _Dolphin_ entered the Arctic Regions, and,
although the sun descended below the horizon for a short time each
night, there was scarcely any diminution of the light at all, and, as
far as one's sensations were concerned, there was but one long
continuous day, which grew brighter and brighter at midnight as they
"How thoroughly splendid this is!" remarked Tom Singleton to Fred one
night, as they sat in their favourite outlook, the main-top, gazing down
on the glassy sea, which was covered with snowy icebergs and floes, and
bathed in the rays of the sun; "and how wonderful to think that the sun
will only set for an hour or so, and then get up as splendid as ever!"
The evening was still as death. Not a sound broke upon the ear save the
gentle cries of a few sea-birds that dipped ever and anon into the sea,
as if to kiss it gently while asleep, and then circled slowly into the
bright sky again. The sails of the ship, too, flapped very gently, and a
spar creaked plaintively, as the vessel rose and fell on the gentle
undulations that seemed to be the breathing of the ocean. But such
sounds did not disturb the universal stillness of the hour; neither did
the gambols of yonder group of seals and walruses that were at play
round some fantastic blocks of ice; nor did the soft murmur of the swell
that broke in surf at the foot of yonder iceberg, whose blue sides were
seamed with a thousand watercourses, and whose jagged pinnacles rose up
like needles of steel into the clear atmosphere.
There were many bergs in sight, of various shapes and sizes, at some
distance from the ship, which caused much anxiety to the captain,
although they were only a source of admiration to our young friends in
"Tom," said Fred, breaking a long silence, "it may seem a strange idea
to you, but, do you know, I cannot help fancying that heaven must be
something like this."
"I'm not sure that that's such a strange idea, Fred, for it has two of
the characteristics of heaven in it--peace and rest."
"True; that didn't strike me. Do you know, I wish that it were always
calm like this, and that we had no wind at all."
Tom smiled. "Your voyage would be a long one if that were to happen. I
daresay the Esquimaux would join with you in the wish, however, for
their kayaks and oomiaks are better adapted for a calm than a stormy
"Tom," said Fred, breaking another long silence, "you're very tiresome
and stupid to-night, why don't you talk to me?"
"Because this delightful dreamy evening inclines me to think and be
"Ah, Tom! that's your chief fault. You are always inclined to think too
much and to talk too little. Now I, on the contrary, am always--"
"Inclined to talk too much and think too little--eh, Fred?"
"Bah! don't try to be funny, man; you haven't it in you. Did you ever
see such a miserable set of creatures as the old Esquimau women are at
"Why, what put _them_, into your head?" inquired Tom laughing.
"Yonder iceberg! Look at it! There's the nose and chin exactly of the
extraordinary hag you gave your silk pocket-handkerchief to at parting.
Now, I never saw such a miserable old woman as that before, did you?"
Tom Singleton's whole demeanour changed, and his dark eyes brightened as
the strongly-marked brows frowned over them, while he replied, "Yes,
Fred, I have seen old women more miserable than that. I have seen women
so old that their tottering limbs could scarcely support them, going
about in the bitterest November winds, with clothing too scant to cover
their wrinkled bodies, and so ragged and filthy that you would have
shrunk from touching it--I have seen such groping about among heaps of
filth that the very dogs looked at and turned away from as if in
Fred was inclined to laugh at his friend's sudden change of manner; but
there was something in the young surgeon's character--perhaps its deep
earnestness--that rendered it impossible, at least for his friends, to
be jocular when he was disposed to be serious. Fred became grave as he
"Where have you seen such poor wretches, Tom?" he asked, with a look of
"In the cities, the civilized cities of our own Christian land. If you
have ever walked about the streets of some of these cities before the
rest of the world was astir, at gray dawn, you must have seen them
shivering along and scratching among the refuse cast out by the tenants
of the neighbouring houses. O Fred, Fred! in my professional career,
short though it has been, I have seen much of these poor old women, and
many others whom the world never sees on the streets at all,
experiencing a slow, lingering death by starvation, and fatigue, and
cold. It is the foulest blot on our country that there is no sufficient
provision for the _aged poor_."
"I have seen those old women too," replied Fred, "but I never thought
very seriously about them before."
"That's it--that's just it; people don't _think_, otherwise this
dreadful state of things would not continue. Just listen _now_, for a
moment, to what I have to say. But don't imagine that I'm standing up
for the poor in general. I don't feel--perhaps I'm wrong," continued Tom
thoughtfully--"perhaps I'm wrong--I hope not--but it's a fact, I don't
feel much for the young and the sturdy poor, and I make it a rule
_never_ to give a farthing to _young_ beggars, not even to little
children, for I know full well that they are sent out to beg by idle,
good-for-nothing parents. I stand up only for the _aged_ poor, because,
be they good or wicked, they _cannot_ help themselves. If a man fell
down in the street, struck with some dire disease that shrunk his
muscles, unstrung his nerves, made his heart tremble, and his skin
shrivel up, would you look upon him and then pass him by _without
"No," cried Fred in an emphatic tone, "I would not! I would stop and
"Then, let me ask you," resumed Tom earnestly, "is there any difference
between the weakness of muscle and the faintness of heart which is
produced by disease, and that which is produced by old age, except that
the latter is incurable? Have not these women feelings like other women?
Think you that there are not amongst them those who have 'known better
times'? They think of sons and daughters dead and gone, perhaps, just as
other old women in better circumstances do. But they must not indulge
such depressing thoughts; they must reserve all the energy, the stamina
they have, to drag round the city--barefoot, it may be, and in the
cold--to beg for food, and scratch up what they can find among the
cinder heaps. They groan over past comforts and past times, perhaps, and
think of the days when their limbs were strong and their cheeks were
smooth; for they were not always 'hags.' And remember that _once_ they
had friends who loved them and cared for them, although they are old,
unknown, and desolate now."
Tom paused and pressed his hand upon his flushed forehead.
"You may think it strange," he continued, "that I speak to you in this
way about poor old women, but I _feel_ deeply for their forlorn
condition. The young can help themselves, more or less, and they have
strength to stand their sorrows, with _hope_, blessed hope, to keep
them up; but _poor_ old men and old women cannot help themselves, and
cannot stand their sorrows, and, as far as this life is concerned, they
have _no hope,_ except to die soon and easy, and, if possible, in summer
time, when the wind is not so very cold and bitter."
"But how can this be put right, Tom?" asked Fred in a tone of deep
commiseration. "Our being sorry for it and anxious about it (and you've
made me sorry, I assure you) can do very little good, you know."
"I don't know, Fred," replied Tom, sinking into his usual quiet tone.
"If every city and town in Great Britain would start a society, whose
first resolution should be that they would not leave one poor _old_ man
or woman unprovided for, _that_ would do it. Or if the Government would
take it in hand _honestly_, that would do it."
"Call all hands, Mr. Bolton," cried the captain in a sharp voice. "Get
out the ice-poles, and lower away the boats."
"Hallo! what's wrong?" said Fred, starting up.
"Getting too near the bergs, I suspect," remarked Tom. "I say, Fred,
before we go on deck, will you promise to do what I ask you?"
"Well--yes, I will."
"Will you promise, then, all through your life, especially if you ever
come to be rich or influential, to think _of_ and _for_ old men and
women who are poor?"
"I will," answered Fred; "but I don't know that I'll ever be rich, or
influential, or able to help them much."
"Of course you don't. But when a thought about them strikes you, will
you always _think it out_, and, if possible, _act it out_, as God shall
"Yes, Tom, I promise to do that as well as I can."
"That's right; thank you, my boy," said the young surgeon, as they
descended the shrouds and leaped on deck.
Here they found the captain walking up and down rapidly, with an anxious
expression of face. After taking a turn or two he stopped short, and
gazed out astern.
"Set the stun'-sails, Mr. Bolton. The breeze will be up in a little, I
think. Let the men pull with a will."
The order was given, and soon the ship was under a cloud of canvas,
advancing slowly as the boats towed her between two large icebergs,
which had been gradually drawing near to each other the whole afternoon.
"Is there any danger, Buzzby?" inquired Fred, as the sturdy sailor stood
looking at the larger berg, with an ice-pole in his hands.
"Danger? ay, that there is, lad, more nor's agreeable, d'ye see. Here we
are without a breath o' wind to get us on, right between two bergs as
could crack us like a walnut. We can't get to starboard of 'em for the
current, nor to larboard of 'em for the pack, as ye see, so we must go
between them, neck or nothing."
The danger was indeed imminent. The two bergs were within a hundred
yards of each other, and the smaller of the two, being more easily moved
by the current probably, was setting down on the larger at a rate that
bade fair to decide the fate of the _Dolphin_ in a few minutes. The men
rowed lustily, but their utmost exertions could move the ship but
slowly. Aid was coming, however, direct from the hand of Him who is a
refuge in the time of danger. A breeze was creeping over the calm sea
right astern, and it was to meet this that the studding-sails had been
set a-low and aloft, so that the wide-spreading canvas, projecting far
to the right and left, had, to an inexperienced eye, the appearance of
being out of all proportion to the little hull by which it was
With breathless anxiety those on board stood watching the two bergs and
the approaching breeze.
At last it came. A few cat's-paws ruffled the surface of the sea,
distending the sails for a moment, then leaving them flat and loose as
before. This, however, was sufficient; another such puff, and the ship
was almost out of danger; but before it came the projecting summit of
the smaller berg was overhanging the deck. At this critical moment the
wind began to blow steadily, and soon the _Dolphin_ was in the open
water beyond. Five minutes after she had passed, the moving mountains
struck with a noise louder than thunder; the summits and large portions
of the sides fell with a succession of crashes like the roaring of
artillery, just above the spot where the ship had lain not a quarter of
an hour before; and the vessel, for some time after, rocked violently to
and fro in the surges that the plunge of the falling masses had raised.
_The gale--Anchored to a berg which proves to be a treacherous
one--Dangers of the "pack"--Beset in the ice--Mivins shows an inquiring
mind--Walruses--Gale freshens--Chains and cables--Holding on for
life--An unexpected discovery--A "nip" and its terrible
consequences--Yoked to an iceberg_.
The narrow escape related in the last chapter was but the prelude to a
night of troubles. Fortunately, as we have before mentioned, _night_ did
not now add darkness to their difficulties. Soon after passing the
bergs, a stiff breeze sprang up off shore, between which and the
_Dolphin_ there was a thick belt of loose ice, or sludge, while outside,
the pack was in motion, and presented a terrible scene of crashing and
grinding masses under the influence of the breeze, which soon freshened
to a gale.
"Keep her away two points," said Captain Guy to the man at the wheel;
"we'll make fast to yonder berg, Mr. Bolton. If this gale carries us
into the pack, we shall be swept far out of our course, if, indeed, we
escape being nipped and sent to the bottom."
Being _nipped_ is one of the numberless dangers to which Arctic
navigators are exposed. Should a vessel get between two moving fields or
floes of ice, there is a chance, especially in stormy weather, of the
ice being forced together and squeezing in the sides of the ship; this
is called nipping.
"Ah!" remarked Buzzby, as he stood with folded arms by the capstan,
"many and many a good ship has been sent to the bottom by that same.
I've see'd a brig, with my own two eyes, squeezed together a'most flat
by two big floes of ice, and after doin' it they jist separated agin and
let her go plump down to the bottom. Before she was nipped, the crew
saved themselves by jumpin' on to the ice, and they wos picked up by our
ship that wos in company."
"There's no dependin' on the ice, by no means," remarked Amos Parr; "for
I've see'd the self-same sort of thing that ye mention happen to a small
steamer in Davis' Straits, only instead o' crushin' it flat, the ice
lifted it right high and dry out o' the water, and then let it down
again, without more ado, as sound as iver."
"Get out the warps and ice-anchors there!" cried the captain.
In a moment the men were in the boats and busy heaving and planting
ice-anchors, but it was not until several hours had been spent in this
tedious process that they succeeded in making fast to the berg. They had
barely accomplished this when the berg gave indications of breaking up,
so they cast off again in great haste, and not long afterwards a mass of
ice, many tons in weight, fell from the edge of the berg close to where
they had been moored.
The captain now beat up for the land in the hope of finding
anchoring-ground. At first the ice presented an impenetrable barrier,
but at length a lead of open water was found, through which they passed
to within a few hundred yards of the shore, which at this spot showed a
front of high precipitous cliffs.
"Stand by to let go the anchor!" shouted the captain.
"Ay, ay, sir."
"Down your helm! Let go!"
Down went the anchor to the music of the rattling chain-cable--a sound
which had not been heard since the good ship left the shores of Old
"If we were only a few yards farther in, sir," remarked the first-mate,
"we should be better. I'm afraid of the stream of ice coming round
"So am I," replied the captain; "but we can scarcely manage it, I fear,
on account of the shore ice. Get out a boat, Mr. Saunders, and try to
fix an anchor. We may warp in a few yards."
The anchor was fixed, and the men strained at the capstan with a will,
but, notwithstanding their utmost efforts, they could not penetrate the
shore ice. Meanwhile the wind increased, and snow began to fall in large
flakes. The tide, too, as it receded, brought a stream of ice round the
point ahead of them, which bore right down on their bows. At first the
concussions were slight, and the bow of the ship turned the floes aside;
but heavier masses soon came down, and at last one fixed itself on the
cable, and caused the anchor to drag with a harsh, grating sound.
Fred Ellice, who stood beside the second mate near the companion hatch,
looked inquiringly at him.
"Ah! that's bad," said Saunders, shaking his head slowly; "I dinna like
that sound. If we're carried out into the pack there, dear knows where
we'll turn up in the long run."
"Perhaps we'll turn bottom up, sir," suggested the fat cook as he passed
at the moment with a tray of meat. Mizzle could not resist a joke--no
matter how unsuitable the time or dreadful the consequences.
"Hold your tongue, sir!" exclaimed Saunders indignantly. "Attend to your
business, and speak only when you're spoken to."
With some difficulty the mass of ice that had got foul of the cable was
disengaged, but in a few moments another and a larger mass fixed upon
it, and threatened to carry it away. In this extremity the captain
ordered the anchor to be hove up; but this was not easily accomplished,
and when at last it was hove up to the bow both flukes were found to
have been broken off, and the shank was polished bright with rubbing on
Ice now came rolling down in great quantities and with irresistible
force, and at last the ship was whirled into the much-dreaded pack,
where she became firmly embedded, and drifted along with it before the
gale into the unknown regions of the North all that night. To add to
their distress and danger a thick fog overspread the sea, so that they
could not tell whither the ice was carrying them, and to warp out of it
was impossible. There was nothing for it therefore but to drive before
the gale, and take advantage of the first opening in the ice that should
afford them a chance of escape.
Towards evening of the following day the gale abated, and the sun shone
out bright and clear; but the pack remained close as ever, drifting
steadily towards the north.
"We're far beyond the most northerly sea that has ever yet been
reached," remarked Captain Guy to Fred and Singleton, as he leaned on
the weather bulwarks, and gazed wistfully over the fields of ice in
which they were embedded.
"I beg your pardon for differing, Captain Guy, but I think that Captain
Parry was farther north than this when he attempted to reach the Pole,"
remarked Saunders, with the air of a man who was prepared to defend his
position to the last.
"Very possibly, Mr. Saunders; but I think we are at least farther north
in _this_ direction than any one has yet been; at least I make it out so
by the chart."
"I'm no sure o' that," rejoined the second mate positively; "charts are
not always to be depended on, and I've heard that whalers have been up
hereabouts before now."
"Perhaps you are right, Mr. Saunders," replied the captain, smiling;
"nevertheless, I shall take observations, and name the various
headlands, until I find that others have been here before me.--Mivins,
hand me the glass; it seems to me there's a water-sky to the northward."
"What is a water-sky, captain?" inquired Fred.
"It is a peculiar, dark appearance of the sky on the horizon, which
indicates open water; just the reverse of that bright appearance which
you have often seen in the distance, and which we call the ice-blink."
"We'll have open water soon," remarked the second mate authoritatively.
"Mr. Saunders," said Mivins, who, having just finished clearing away and
washing up the _debris_ and dishes of one meal, was enjoying in complete
idleness the ten minutes of leisure that intervened between that and
preparations for the next--"Mr. Saunders, sir, can you _h_inform me,
sir, 'ow it is that the sea don't freeze at 'ome the same as it does
The countenance of the second mate brightened, for he prided himself not
a little on his vast and varied stores of knowledge, and nothing pleased
him so much as to be questioned, particularly on knotty subjects.
"Hem! yes, Mivins, I can tell 'ee that. Ye must know that before fresh
water can freeze on the surface the whole volume of it must be cooled
down to 40 degrees, and _salt_ water must be cooled down to 45 degrees.
Noo, frost requires to be very long continued and very sharp indeed
before it can cool the deep sea from the top to the bottom, and until it
is so cooled it canna freeze."
"Oh!" remarked Mivins, who only half understood the meaning of the
explanation, "'ow very _h_odd. But can you tell me, Mr. Saunders, 'ow it
is that them 'ere _h_icebergs is made? Them's wot I don't comprehend
"Ay," replied Saunders, "there has been many a wiser head than yours,
puzzled for a long time about icebergs. But if ye'll use yer eyes you'll
see how they are formed. Do you see the high cliffs yonder away to the
nor'-east? Weel, there are great masses o' ice that have been formed
against them by the melting and freezing of the snows of many years.
When these become too heavy to stick to the cliffs, they tumble into the
sea and float away as icebergs. But the biggest bergs come from the foot
of glaciers. You know what glaciers are, Mivins?"
"No, sir, I don't."
The second mate sighed. "They are immense accumulations of ice, Mivins,
that have been formed by the freezings and meltings of the snows of
hundreds of years. They cover the mountains of Norway and Switzerland,
and many other places in this world, for miles and miles in extent, and
sometimes they flow down and fill up whole valleys. I once saw one in
Norway that filled up a valley eight miles long, two miles broad, and
seven or eight' hundred feet deep; and that was only a wee bit of it,
for I was told by men who had travelled over it that it covered the
mountains of the interior, and made them a level field of ice, with a
surface like rough, hard snow, for more than twenty miles in extent."
"You don't say so, sir!" said Mivins in surprise. "And don't they
"No, never. What they lose in summer they more than gain in winter.
Moreover, they are always in motion; but they move so slow that you may
look at them ever so closely and so long, you'll not be able to observe
the motion--just like the hour hand of a watch--but we know it by
observing the changes from year to year. There are immense glaciers here
in the Arctic Regions, and the lumps which they are constantly shedding
off into the sea are the icebergs that one sees and hears so much
Mivins seemed deeply impressed with this explanation, and would probably
have continued the conversation much longer, had he not been interrupted
by the voice of his mischievous satellite, Davie Summers, who touched
his forelock and said, "Please, Mr. Mivins, shall I lay the table-cloth?
or would it be better to slump dinner with tea this afternoon?"
Mivins started. "Ha! caught me napping! Down below, you young dog!"
The boy dived instantly, followed, first by a dish-clout, rolled tightly
up and well aimed, and afterwards by his active-limbed superior. Both
reached the region of smells, cruets, and crockery at the same moment,
and each set energetically to work at their never-ending duties.
Soon after this the ice suddenly loosened, and the crew succeeded, after
a few hours' hard labour, in warping the _Dolphin_ once more out of the
pack; but scarcely had this been accomplished when another storm, which
had been gradually gathering, burst upon them, and compelled them once
more to seek the shelter of the land.
Numerous walruses rolled about in the bays here, and they approached
much nearer to the vessel than they had yet done, affording those on
board a good view of their huge, uncouth visages, as they shook their
shaggy fronts and ploughed up the waves with their tusks. These enormous
creatures are the elephants of the Arctic Ocean. Their aspect is
particularly grim and fierce, and being nearly equal to elephants in
bulk they are not less terrible than they appear. In form they somewhat
resemble seals, having barrel-shaped bodies, with round, or rather
square, blunt heads and shaggy bristling moustaches, and two long ivory
tusks which curve downwards instead of upwards, serving the purpose
frequently of hooks, by means of which and their fore-flippers they can
pull themselves up on the rocks and icebergs. Indeed, they are sometimes
found at a considerable height up the sides of steep cliffs, basking in
Fred was anxious to procure the skull of one of these monstrous animals,
but the threatening appearance of the weather rendered any attempt to
secure one at that time impossible. A dark sinister scowl overhung the
blink under the cloud-bank to the southward, and the dovkies which had
enlivened their progress hitherto forsook the channel, as if they
distrusted the weather. Captain Guy made every possible preparation to
meet the coming storm, by warping down under the shelter of a ledge of
rock, to which he made fast with two good hawsers, while everything was
made snug on board.
"We are going to catch it, I fear," said Fred, glancing at the black
clouds that hurried across the sky to the northward, while he walked the
deck with his friend, Tom Singleton.
"I suspect so," replied Tom, "and it does not raise my spirits to see
Saunders shaking his huge visage so portentously. Do you know, I have a
great belief in that fellow. He seems to know everything and to have
gone through every sort of experience, and I notice that most of his
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