An Antarctic Mystery
THE KERGUELEN ISLANDS
No doubt the following narrative will be received: with entire
incredulity, but I think it well that the public should be put in
possession of the facts narrated in “An Antarctic Mystery.” The
public is free to believe them or not, at its good pleasure.
No more appropriate scene for the wonderful and terrible adventures
which I am about to relate could be imagined than the Desolation
Islands, so called, in 1779, by Captain Cook. I lived there for
several weeks, and I can affirm, on the evidence of my own eyes and
my own experience, that the famous English explorer and navigator
was happily inspired when he gave the islands that significant name.
Geographical nomenclature, however, insists on the name of
Kerguelen, which is generally adopted for the group which lies in
49° 45’ south latitude, and 69° 6’ east longitude. This is
just, because in 1772, Baron Kerguelen, a Frenchman, was the first
to discover those islands in the southern part of the Indian Ocean.
Indeed, the commander of the squadron on that voyage believed that
he had found a new continent on the limit of the Antarctic seas, but
in the course of a second expedition he recognized his error. There
was only an archipelago. I may be believed when I assert that
Desolation Islands is the only suitable name for this group of three
hundred isles or islets in the midst of the vast expanse of ocean,
which is constantly disturbed by austral storms.
Nevertheless, the group is inhabited, and the number of Europeans
and Americans who formed the nucleus of the Kerguelen population at
the date of the 2nd of August, 1839, had been augmented for two
months past by a unit in my person. Just then I was waiting for an
opportunity of leaving the place, having completed the geological
and mineralogical studies which had brought me to the group in
general and to Christmas Harbour in particular.
Christmas Harbour belongs to the most important islet of the
archipelago, one that is about half as large as Corsica. It is safe,
and easy, and free of access. Your ship may ride securely at single
anchor in its waters, while the bay remains free from ice.
The Kerguelens possess hundreds of other fjords. Their coasts are
notched and ragged, especially in the parts between the north and
the south-east, where little islets abound. The soil, of volcanic
origin, is composed of quartz, mixed with a bluish stone. In summer
it is covered with green mosses, grey lichens, various hardy plants,
especially wild saxifrage. Only one edible plant grows there, a kind
of cabbage, not found anywhere else, and very bitter of flavour.
Great flocks of royal and other penguins people these islets,
finding good lodging on their rocky and mossy surface. These stupid
birds, in their yellow and white feathers, with their heads thrown
back and their wings like the sleeves of a monastic habit, look, at
a distance, like monks in single file walking in procession along
The islands afford refuge to numbers of sea-calves, seals, and
sea-elephants. The taking of those amphibious animals either on land
or from the sea is profitable, and may lead to a trade which will
bring a large number of vessels into these waters.
On the day already mentioned, I was accosted while strolling on the
port by mine host of mine inn.
“Unless I am much mistaken, time is beginning to seem very long to
you, Mr. Jeorling?”
The speaker was a big tall American who kept the only inn on the
“If you will not be offended, Mr. Atkins, I will acknowledge that
I do find it long.”
“Of course I won’t be offended. Am I not as well used to answers
of that kind as the rocks of the Cape to the rollers?”
“And you resist them equally well.”
“Of course. From the day of your arrival at Christmas Harbour,
when you came to the Green Cormorant, I said to myself that in a
fortnight, if not in a week, you would have enough of it, and would
be sorry you had landed in the Kerguelens.”
“No, indeed, Mr. Atkins; I never regret anything I have done.”
“That’s a good habit, sir.”
“Besides, I have gained knowledge by observing curious things
here. I have crossed the rolling plains, covered with hard stringy
mosses, and I shall take away curious mineralogical and geological
specimens with me. I have gone sealing, and taken sea-calves with
your people. I have visited the rookeries where the penguin and the
albatross live together in good fellowship, and that was well worth
my while. You have given me now and again a dish of petrel, seasoned
by your own hand, and very acceptable when one has a fine healthy
appetite. I have found a friendly welcome at the Green Cormorant,
and I am very much obliged to you. But, if I am right in my
reckoning, it is two months since the Chilian twomaster Penãs set
me down at Christmas Harbour in mid-winter.
“And you want to get back to your own country, which is mine, Mr.
Jeorling; to return to Connecticut, to Providence, our capital.”
“Doubtless, Mr. Atkins, for I have been a globe-trotter for close
upon three years. One must come to a stop and take root at some
“Yes, and when one has taken root, one puts out branches.”
“Just so, Mr. Atkins. However, as I have no relations living, it
is likely that I shall be the last of my line. I am not likely to
take a fancy for marrying at forty.”
“Well, well, that is a matter of taste. Fifteen years ago I
settled down comfortably at Christmas Harbour with my Betsy; she has
presented me with ten children, who in their turn will present me
“You will not return to the old country?”
“What should I do there, Mr. Jeorling, and what could I ever have
done there? There was nothing before me but poverty. Here, on the
contrary, in these Islands of Desolation, where I have no reason to
feel desolate, ease and competence have come to me and mine!”
“No doubt, and I congratulate you, Mr. Atkins, for you are a happy
man. Nevertheless it is not impossible that the fancy may take you
Mr. Arkins answered by a vigorous and convincing shake of the head.
It was very pleasant to hear this worthy American talk. He was
completely acclimatized on his archipelago, and to the conditions of
life there. He lived with his family as the penguins lived in their
rookeries. His wife was a “valiant” woman of the Scriptural
type, his sons were strong, hardy fellows, who did not know what
sickness meant. His business was prosperous. The Green Cormorant had
the custom of all the ships, whalers and others, that put in at
Kerguelen. Atkins supplied them with everything they required, and
no second inn existed at Christmas Harbour. His sons were
carpenters, sailmakers, and fishers, and they hunted the amphibians
in all the creeks during the hot season. In short, this was a family
of honest folk who fulfilled their destiny without much difficulty.
“Once more, Mr. Atkins, let me assure you,” I resumed, “I am
delighted to have come to Kerguelen. I shall always remember the
islands kindly. Nevertheless, I should not be sorry to find myself
at sea again.”
“Come, Mr. Jeorling, you must have a little patience,” said the
philosopher, “you must not forget that the fine days will soon be
here. In five or six weeks--”
“Yes, and in the meantime, the hills and the plains, the rocks and
the shores will be covered thick with snow, and the sun will not
have strength to dispel the mists on the horizon.”
“Now, there you are again, Mr. Jeorling! Why, the wild grass is
already peeping through the white sheet! Just look!”
“Yes, with a magnifying glass! Between ourselves, Arkins, could
you venture to pretend that your bays are not still ice-locked in
this month of August, which is the February of our northern
“I acknowledge that, Mr. Jeorling. But again I say have patience!
The winter has been mild this year. The ships will soon show up, in
the east or in the west, for the fishing season is near.”
“May Heaven hear you, Atkins, and guide the Halbrane safely into
“Captain Len Guy? Ah, he’s a good sailor, although he’s
English--there are good people everywhere--and he takes in his
supplies at the Green Cormorant.”
“You think the Halbrane--”
“Will be signalled before a week, Mr. Jeorling, or, if not, it
will be because there is no longer a Captain Len Guy; and if there
is no longer a Captain Len Guy, it is because the Halbrane has sunk
in full sail between the Kerguelens and the Cape of Good Hope.”
Thereupon Mr. Atkins walked away, with a scornful gesture,
indicating that such an eventuality was out of all probability.
My intention was to take my passage on board the Halbrane so soon as
she should come to her moorings in Christmas Harbour. After a rest
of six or seven days, she would set sail again for Tristan
d’Acunha, where she was to discharge her cargo of tin and copper.
I meant to stay in the island for a few weeks of the fine season,
and from thence set out for Connecticut. Nevertheless, I did not
fail to take into due account the share that belongs to chance in
human affairs, for it is wise, as Edgar Poe has said, always “to
reckon with the unforeseen, the unexpected, the inconceivable, which
have a very large share (in those affairs), and chance ought always
to be a matter of strict calculation.”
Each day I walked about the port and its neighbourhood. The sun was
growing strong. The rocks were emerging by degrees from their winter
clothing of snow; moss of a wine-like colour was springing up on the
basalt cliffs, strips of seaweed fifty yards long were floating on
the sea, and on the plain the lyella, which is of Andean origin, was
pushing up its little points, and the only leguminous plant of the
region, that gigantic cabbage already mentioned, valuable for its
anti-scorbutic properties, was making its appearance.
I had not come across a single land mammal--sea mammals swarm in
these waters--not even of the batrachian or reptilian kinds. A few
insects only--butterflies or others--and even these did not fly,
for before they could use their wings, the atmospheric currents
carried the tiny bodies away to the surface of the rolling waves.
“And the Halbrane” I used to say to Atkins each morning.
“The Halbrane, Mr. Jeorling,” he would reply with complacent
assurance, “will surely come into port to-day, or, if not to-day,
In my rambles on the shore, I frequently routed a crowd of
amphibians, sending them plunging into the newly released waters.
The penguins, heavy and impassive creatures, did not disappear at my
approach; they took no notice; but the black petrels, the puffins,
black and white, the grebes and others, spread their wings at sight
One day I witnessed the departure of an albatross, saluted by the
very best croaks of the penguins, no doubt as a friend whom they
were to see no more. Those powerful birds can fly for two hundred
leagues without resting for a moment, and with such rapidity that
they sweep through vast spaces in a few hours. The departing
albatross sat motionless upon a high rock, at the end of the bay of
Christmas Harbour, looking at the waves as they dashed violently
against the beach.
Suddenly, the bird rose with a great sweep into the air, its claws
folded beneath it, its head stretched out like the prow of a ship,
uttering its shrill cry: a few moments later it was reduced to a
black speck in the vast height and disappeared behind the misty
curtain of the south.
THE SCHOONER HALBRANE
The Halbrane was a schooner of three hundred tons, and a fast
sailer. On board there was a captain, a mate, or lieutenant, a
boatswain, a cook, and eight sailors; in all twelve men, a
sufficient number to work the ship. Solidly built, copper-bottomed,
very manageable, well suited for navigation between the fortieth and
sixtieth parallels of south latitude, the Halbrane was a credit to
the ship-yards of Birkenhead.
All this I learned from Atkins, who adorned his narrative with
praise and admiration of its theme. Captain Len Guy, of Liverpool,
was three-fifths owner of the vessel, which he had commanded for
nearly six years. He traded in the southern seas of Africa and
America, going from one group of islands to another and from
continent to continent. His ship’s company was but a dozen men, it
is true, but she was used for the purposes of trade only; he would
have required a more numerous crew, and all the implements, for
taking seals and other amphibia. The Halbrane was not defenceless,
however; on the contrary, she was heavily armed, and this was well,
for those southern seas were not too safe; they were frequented at
that period by pirates, and on approaching the isles the Halbrane
was put into a condition to resist attack. Besides, the men always
slept with one eye open.
One morning--it was the 27th of August--I was roused out of my bed
by the rough voice of the innkeeper and the tremendous thumps he
gave my door. “Mr. Jeorling, are you awake?”
“Of course I am, Atkins. How should I be otherwise, with all that
noise going on? What’s up?”
“A ship six miles out in the offing, to the nor’east, steering
“Will it be the Halbrane?”
“We shall know that in a short time, Mr. Jeorling. At any rate it
is the first boat of the year, and we must give it a welcome.”
I dressed hurriedly and joined Atkins on the quay, where I found him
in the midst of a group engaged in eager discussion. Atkins was
indisputably the most considerable and considered man in the
archipelago--consequently he secured the best listeners. The matter
in dispute was whether the schooner in sight was or was not the
Halbrane. The majority maintained that she was not, but Atkins was
positive she was, although on this occasion he had only two backers.
The dispute was carried on with warmth, the host of the Green
Cormorant defending his view, and the dissentients maintaining that
the fast-approaching schooner was either English or American, until
she was near enough to hoist her flag and the Union Jack went
fluttering up into the sky. Shortly after the Halbrane lay at anchor
in the middle of Christmas Harbour.
The captain of the Halbrane, who received the demonstrative greeting
of Atkins very coolly, it seemed to me, was about forty-five,
red-faced, and solidly built, like his schooner; his head was large,
his hair was already turning grey, his black eyes shone like coals
of fire under his thick eyebrows, and his strong white teeth were
set like rocks in his powerful jaws; his chin was lengthened by a
coarse red beard, and his arms and legs were strong and firm. Such
was Captain Len Guy, and he impressed me with the notion that he was
rather impassive than hard, a shut-up sort of person, whose secrets
it would not be easy to get at. I was told the very same day that my
impression was correct, by a person who was better informed than
Atkins, although the latter pretended to great intimacy with the
captain. The truth was that nobody had penetrated that reserved
I may as well say at once that the person to whom I have alluded was
the boatswain of the Halbrane, a man named Hurliguerly, who came
from the Isle of Wight. This person was about forty-four, short,
stout, strong, and bow-legged; his arms stuck out from his body, his
head was set like a ball on a bull neck, his chest was broad enough
to hold two pairs of lungs (and he seemed to want a double supply,
for he was always puffing, blowing, and talking), he had droll
roguish eyes, with a network of wrinkles under them. A noteworthy
detail was an ear-ring, one only, which hung from the lobe of his
left ear. What a contrast to the captain of the schooner, and how
did two such dissimilar beings contrive to get on together? They had
contrived it, somehow, for they had been at sea in each other’s
company for fifteen years, first in the brig Power, which had been
replaced by the schooner Halbrane, six years before the beginning of
Atkins had told Hurliguerly on his arrival that I would take passage
on the Halbrane, if Captain Len Guy consented to my doing so, and
the boatswain presented himself on the following morning without any
notice or introduction. He already knew my name, and he accosted me
“Mr. Jeorling, I salute you.”
“I salute you in my turn, my friend. What do you want?”
“To offer you my services.”
“On what account?”
“On account of your intention to embark on the Halbrane.”
“Who are you?”
“I am Hurliguerly, the boatswain of the Halbrane, and besides, I
am the faithful companion of Captain Len Guy, who will listen to me
willingly, although he has the reputation of not listening to
“Well, my friend, let us talk, if you are not required on board
“I have two hours before me, Mr. Jeorling. Besides, there’s very
little to be done to-day. If you are free, as I am--”
He waved his hand towards the port.
“Cannot we talk very well here?” I observed.
“Talk, Mr. Jeorling, talk standing up, and our throats dry, when
it is so easy to sit down in a corner of the Green Cormorant in
front of two glasses of whisky.”
“I don’t drink.”
“Well, then, I’ll drink for both of us. Oh! don’t imagine you
are dealing with a sot! No! never more than is good for me, but
always as much!”
I followed the man to the tavern, and while Atkins was busy on the
deck of the ship, discussing the prices of his purchases and sales,
we took our places in the eating room of his inn. And first I said
to Hurliguerly: “It was on Atkins that I reckoned to introduce me
to Captain Len Guy, for he knows him very intimately, if I am not
“Pooh! Atkins is a good sort, and the captain has an esteem for
him. But he can’t do what I can. Let me act for you, Mr.
“Is it so difficult a matter to arrange, boatswain, and is there
not a cabin on board the Halbrane? The smallest would do for me, and
I will pay--”
“All right, Mr. Jeorling! There is a cabin, which has never been
used, and since you don’t mind putting your hand in your pocket if
required--however--between ourselves--it will take somebody
sharper than you think, and who isn’t good old Atkins, to induce
Captain Len Guy to take a passenger. Yes, indeed, it will take all
the smartness of the good fellow who now drinks to your health,
regretting that you don’t return the compliment!”
What a wink it was that accompanied this sentiment! And then the man
took a short black pipe out of the pocket of his jacket, and smoked
like a steamer in full blast.
“Mr. Hurliguerly?” said I.
“Why does your captain object to taking me on his ship?”
“Because he does not intend to take anybody on board his ship. He
never has taken a passenger.”
“But, for what reason, I ask you.”
“Oh! because he wants to go where he likes, to turn about if he
pleases and go the other way without accounting for his motives to
anybody. He never leaves these southern seas, Mr. Jeorling; we have
been going these many years between Australia on the east and
America on the west; from Hobart Town to the Kerguelens, to Tristan
d’Acunha, to the Falklands, only taking time anywhere to sell our
cargo, and sometimes dipping down into the Antarctic Sea. Under
these circumstances, you understand, a passenger might be
troublesome, and besides, who would care to embark on the Halbrane?
she does not like to flout the breezes, and goes wherever the wind
“The Halbrane positively leaves the Kerguelens in four days?”
“And this time she will sail westward for Tristan d’Acunha?”
“Well, then, that probability will be enough for me, and since you
offer me your services, get Captain Len Guy to accept me as a
“It’s as good as done.”
“All right, Hurliguerly, and you shall have no reason to repent of
“Eh! Mr. Jeorling,” replied this singular mariner, shaking his
head as though he had just come out of the sea, “I have never
repented of anything, and I know well that I shall not repent of
doing you a service. Now, if you will allow me, I shall take leave
of you, without waiting for Arkins to return, and get on board.”
With this, Hurliguerly swallowed his last glass of whisky at a
gulp--I thought the glass would have gone down with the
liquor--bestowed a patronizing smile on me, and departed.
An hour later, I met the innkeeper on the port, and told him what
“Ah! that Hurliguerly!” said he, “always the old story. If you
were to believe him, Captain Len Guy wouldn’t blow his nose
without consulting him. He’s a queer fellow, Mr. Jeorling, not
bad, not stupid, but a great hand at getting hold of dollars or
guineas! If you fall into his hands, mind your purse, button up your
pocket, and don’t let yourself be done.”
“Thanks for your advice, Atkins. Tell me, you have been talking
with Captain Len Guy; have you spoken about me?”
“Not yet, Mr. Jeorling. There’s plenty of time. The Halbrane has
only just arrived, and--”
“Yes, yes, I know. But you understand that I want to be certain as
soon as possible.”
“There’s nothing to fear. The matter will be all right. Besides,
you would not be at a loss in any case. When the fishing season
comes, there will be more ships in Christmas Harbour than there are
houses around the Green Cormorant. Rely on me. I undertake your
getting a passage.”
Now, these were fair words, but, just as in the case of Hurliguerly,
there was nothing in them. So, notwithstanding the fine promises of
the two, I resolved to address myself personally to Len Guy, hard to
get at though he might be, so soon as I should meet him alone.
The next day, in the afternoon, I saw him on the quay, and
approached him. It was plain that he would have preferred to avoid
me. It was impossible that Captain Len Guy, who knew every dweller
in the place, should not have known that I was a stranger, even
supposing that neither of my would-be patrons had mentioned me to
His attitude could only signify one of two things--either my
proposal had been communicated to him, and he did not intend to
accede to it; or neither Hurliguerly nor Arkins had spoken to him
since the previous day. In the latter case, if he held aloof from
me, it was because of his morose nature; it was because he did not
choose to enter into conversation with a stranger.
At the moment when I was about to accost him, the Halbrane’s
lieutenant rejoined his captain, and the latter availed himself of
the opportunity to avoid me. He made a sign to the officer to follow
him, and the two walked away at a rapid pace.
“This is serious,” said I to myself. “It looks as though I
shall find it difficult to gain my point. But, after all it only
means delay. To-morrow morning I will go on board the Halbrane.
Whether he likes it or whether he doesn’t, this Len Guy will have
to hear what I’ve got to say, and to give me an answer, yes or
Besides, the captain of the Halbrane might come at dinner-time to
the Green Cormorant, where the ship’s people usually took their
meals when ashore. So I waited, and did not go to dinner until late.
I was disappointed, however, for neither the captain nor anyone
belonging to the ship patronized the Green Cormorant that day. I had
to dine alone, exactly as I had been doing every day for two months.
After dinner, about half-past seven, when it was dark, I went out to
walk on the port, keeping on the side of the houses. The quay was
quite deserted; not a man of the Halbrane crew was ashore. The
ship’s boats were alongside, rocking gently on the rising tide. I
remained there until nine, walking up and down the edge in full view
of the Halbrane. Gradually the mass of the ship became indistinct,
there was no movement and no light. I returned to the inn, where I
found Atkins smoking his pipe near the door.
“Atkins,” said I, “it seems that Captain Len Guy does not care
to come to your inn very often?”
“He sometimes comes on Sunday, and this is Saturday, Mr.
“You have not spoken to him?”
“Yes, I have.”
Atkins was visibly embarrassed.
“You have informed him that a person of your acquaintance wished
to take passage on the Halbrane?”
“What was his answer?”
“Not what either you or I would have wished, Mr. Jeorling.”
“Well, yes, I suppose it was refusing; what he said was: ‘My
ship is not intended to carry passengers. I never have taken any,
and I never intend to do so.’“
CAPTAIN LEN GUY
I slept ill. Again and again I “dreamed that I was dreaming.”
Now--this is an observation made by Edgar Poe--when one suspects
that one is dreaming, the waking comes almost instantly. I woke
then, and every time in a very bad humour with Captain Len Guy. The
idea of leaving the Kerguelens on the Halbrane had full possession
of me, and I grew more and more angry with her disobliging captain.
In fact, I passed the night in a fever of indignation, and only
recovered my temper with daylight. Nevertheless I was determined to
have an explanation with Captain Len Guy about his detestable
conduct. Perhaps I should fail to get anything out of that human
hedgehog, but at least I should have given him a piece of my mind.
I went out at eight o’clock in the morning. The weather was
abominable. Rain, mixed with snow, a storm coming over the mountains
at the back of the bay from the west, clouds scurrying down from the
lower zones, an avalanche of wind and water. It was not likely that
Captain Len Guy had come ashore merely to enjoy such a wetting and
No one on the quay; of course not. As for my getting on’ board the
Halbrane, that could not be done without hailing one of her boats,
and the boatswain would not venture to send it for me.
“Besides,” I reflected, “on his quarter-deck the captain is at
home, and neutral ground is better for what I want to say to him, if
he persists in his unjustifiable refusal. I will watch him this
time, and if his boat touches the quay, he shall not succeed in
I returned to the Green Cormorant, and took up my post behind the
window panes, which were dimmed by the hissing rain. There I waited,
nervous, impatient, and in a state of growing irritation. Two hours
wore away thus. Then, with the instability of the winds in the
Kerguelens, the weather became calm before I did. I opened my
window, and at the same moment a sailor stepped into one of the
boats of the Halbrane and laid hold of a pair of oars, while a
second man seated himself in the back, but without taking the tiller
ropes. The boat touched the landing, place and Captain Len Guy
stepped on shore.
In a few seconds I was out of the inn, and confronted him.
“Sir,” said I in a cold hard tone.
Captain Len Guy looked at me steadily, and I was struck by the
sadness of his eyes, which were as black as ink. Then in a very low
voice he asked:
“You are a stranger?”
“A stranger at the Kerguelens? Yes.”
“Of English nationality?”
He saluted me, and I returned the curt gesture.
“Sir,” I resumed, “I believe Mr. Atkins of the Green Cormorant
has spoken to you respecting a proposal of mine. That proposal, it
seems to me, deserved a favourable reception on the part of a--”
“The proposal to take passage on my ship?” interposed Captain
“I regret, sir, I regret that I could not agree to your request.”
“Will you tell me why?”
“Because I am not in the habit of taking passengers. That is the
“And the second, captain?”
“Because the route of the Halbrane is never settled beforehand.
She starts for one port and goes to another, just as I find it to my
advantage. You must know that I am not in the service of a
shipowner. My share in the schooner is considerable, and I have no
one but myself to consult in respect to her.”
“Then it entirely depends on you to give me a passage?”
“That is so, but I can only answer you by a refusal--to my
“Perhaps you will change your mind, captain, when you know that I
care very little what the destination of your schooner may be. It is
not unreasonable to suppose that she will go somewhere--”
“Somewhere indeed.” I fancied that Captain Len Guy threw a long
look towards the southern horizon.
“To go here or to go there is almost a matter of indifference to
me. What I desired above all was to get away from Kerguelen at the
first opportunity that should offer.”
Captain Len Guy made me no answer; he remained in silent thought,
but did not endeavour to slip away from me.
“You are doing me the honour to listen to me?” I asked him
“I will then add that, if I am not mistaken, and if the route of
your ship has not been altered, it was your intention to leave
Christmas Harbour for Tristan d’ Acunha.”
“Perhaps for Tristan d’Acunha, perhaps for the Cape, perhaps for
the Falklands, perhaps for elsewhere.”
“Well, then, Captain Guy, it is precisely elsewhere that I want to
go,” I replied ironically, and trying hard to control my
Then a singular change took place in the demeanour of Captain Len
Guy. His voice became more sharp and harsh. In very plain words he
made me understand that it was quite useless to insist, that Our
interview had already lasted too long, that time pressed, and he had
business at the port; in short that we had said all that we could
have to say to each other.
I had put out my arm to detain him--to seize him would be a more
correct term--and the conversation, ill begun, seemed likely to end
still more ill, when this odd person turned towards me and said in a
“Pray understand, sir, that I am very sorry to be unable to do
what you ask, and to appear disobliging to an American. But I could
not act otherwise. In the course of the voyage of the Halbrane some
unforeseen incident might occur to make the presence of a passenger
inconvenient--even one so accommodating as yourself. Thus I might
expose myself to the risk of being unable to profit by the chances
which I seek.”
“I have told you, captain, and I repeat it, that although my
intention is to return to America and to Connecticut, I don’t care
whether I get there in three months or in six, or by what route;
it’s all the same to me, and even were your schooner to take me to
the Antarctic seas--”
“The Antarctic seas!” exclaimed Captain Len Guy with a question
in his tone. And his look searched my thoughts with the keenness of
“Why do you speak of the Antarctic seas?” he asked, taking my
“Well, just as I might have spoken of the ‘Hyperborean seas’
from whence an Irish poet has made Sebastian Cabot address some
lovely verses to his Lady. (1) I spoke of the South Pole as I might
have spoken of the North.”
Captain Len Guy did not answer, and I thought I saw tears glisten in
his eyes. Then, as though he would escape from some harrowing
recollection which my words had evoked, he said,--
“Who would venture to seek the South Pole?”
“It would be difficult to reach, and the experiments would be of
no practical use,” I replied. “Nevertheless there are men
sufficiently adventurous to embark in such an enterprise.”
“Yes--adventurous is the word!” muttered the captain.
“And now,” I resumed, “the United States is again making an
attempt with Wilkes’s fleet, the Vancouver, the Peacock, the
Flying Fish, and others.”
“The United States, Mr. Jeorling? Do you mean to say that an
expedition has been sent by the Federal Government to the Antarctic
“The fact is certain, and last year, before I left America, I
learned that the vessels had sailed. That was a year ago, and it is
very possible that Wilkes has gone farther than any of the preceding
Captain Len Guy had relapsed into silence, and came out of his
inexplicable musing only to say abruptly--
“You come from Connecticut, sir?”
“And more specially?”
“Do you know Nantucket Island?”
“I have visited it several times.”
“You know, I think,” said the captain, looking straight into my
eyes, “that Nantucket Island was the birthplace of Arthur Gordon
Pym, the hero of your famous romance-writer Edgar Poe.”
“Yes. I remember that Poe’s romance starts from Nantucket.”
“Romance, you say? That was the word you used?”
“Yes, and that is what everybody says! But, pardon me, I cannot
stay any longer. I regret that I cannot alter my mind with respect
to your proposal. But, at any rate, you will only have a few days to
wait. The season is about to open. Trading ships and whalers will
put in at Christmas Harbour, and you will be able to make a choice,
with the certainty of going to the port you want to reach. I am very
sorry, sir, and I salute you.”
With these words Captain Len Guy walked quickly away, and the
interview ended differently from what I had expected, that is to say
in formal, although polite, fashion.
As there is no use in contending with the impossible, I gave up the
hope of a passage on the Halbrane, but continued to feel angry with
her intractable captain. And why should I not confess that my
curiosity was aroused? I felt that there was something mysterious
about this sullen mariner, and I should have liked to find out what
That day, Atkins wanted to know whether Captain Len Guy had made
himself less disagreeable. I had to acknowledge that I had been no
more fortunate in my negotiations than my host himself, and the
avowal surprised him not a little. He could not understand the
captain’s obstinate refusal. And--a fact which touched him more
nearly--the Green Cormorant had not been visited by either Len Guy
or his crew since the arrival of the Halbrane. The men were
evidently acting upon orders. So far as Hurliguerly was concerned,
it was easy to understand that after his imprudent advance he did
not care to keep up useless relations with me. I knew not whether he
had attempted to shake the resolution of his chief; but I was
certain of one thing; if he had made any such effort it had failed.
During the three following days, the 10th, 11th, and 12th of August,
the work of repairing and re-victualling the schooner went on
briskly; but all this was done with regularity, and without such
noise and quarrelling as seamen at anchor usually indulge in. The
Halbrane was evidently well commanded, her crew well kept in hand,
discipline strictly maintained.
The schooner was to sail on the 15th of August, and on the eve of
that day I had no reason to think that Captain Len Guy had repented
him of his categorical refusal. Indeed, I had made up my mind to the
disappointment, and had no longer any angry feeling about it. When
Captain Len Guy and myself met on the quay, we took no notice of
each other; nevertheless, I fancied there was some hesitation in his
manner; as though he would have liked to speak to me. He did not do
so, however, and I was not disposed to seek a further explanation.
At seven o’clock in the evening of the 14th of August, the island
being already wrapped in darkness, I was walking on the port after I
had dined, walking briskly too, for it was cold, although dry
weather. The sky was studded with stars and the air was very keen. I
could not stay out long, and was returning to mine inn, when a man
crossed my path, paused, came back, and stopped in front of me. It
was the captain of the Halbrane.
“Mr. Jeorling,” he began, “the Halbrane sails tomorrow
morning, with the ebb tide.”
“What is the good of telling me that,” I replied, “since you
“Sir, I have thought over it, and if you have not changed your
mind, come on board at seven o’clock.”
“Really, captain,” I replied, “I did not expect this relenting
on your part.”
“I repeat that I have thought over it, and I add that the Halbrane
shall proceed direct to Tristan d’Acunha. That will suit you, I
“To perfection, captain. To-morrow morning, at seven o’clock, I
shall be on board.”
“Your cabin is prepared.”
“The cost of the voyage--”
“We can settle that another time,” answered the captain, “and
to your satisfaction. Until to-morrow, then--”
I stretched out my arm, to shake hands with him upon our bargain.
Perhaps he did not perceive my movement in the darkness, at all
events he made no response to it, but walked rapidly away and got
into his boat.
I was greatly surprised, and so was Arkins, when I found him in the
eating-room of the Green Cormorant and told him what had occurred.
His comment upon it was characteristic.
“This queer captain,” he said, “is as full of whims as a
spoilt child! It is to be hoped he will not change his mind again at
the last moment.”
The next morning at daybreak I bade adieu to the Green Cormorant,
and went down to the port, with my kind-hearted host, who insisted
on accompanying me to the ship, partly in order to make his mind
easy respecting the sincerity of the captain’s repentance, and
partly that he might take leave of him, and also of Hurliguerly. A
boat was waiting at the quay, and we reached the ship in a few
The first person whom I met on the deck was Hurliguerly; he gave me
a look of triumph, which said as plainly as speech: “Ha! you see
now. Our hard-to-manage captain has given in at last. And to whom do
you owe this, but to the good boatswain who did his best for you,
and did not boast overmuch of his influence?”
Was this the truth? I had strong reasons for doubting it. After all,
what did it matter?
Captain Len Guy came on deck immediately after my arrival; this was
not surprising, except for the fact that he did not appear to remark
Atkins then approached the captain and said in a pleasant tone,--
“We shall meet next year!”
“If it please God, Atkins.”
They shook hands. Then the boatswain took a hearty leave of the
innkeeper, and was rowed back to the quay.
Before dark the white summits of Table Mount and Havergal, which
rise, the former to two, the other to three thousand feet above the
level of the sea, had disappeared from our view.
FROM THE KERGUELEN ISLES TO PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Never did a voyage begin more prosperously, or a passenger start in
better spirits. The interior of the Halbrane corresponded with its
exterior. Nothing could exceed the perfect order, the Dutch
cleanliness of the vessel. The captain’s cabin, and that of the
lieutenant, one on the port, the other on the starboard side, were
fitted up with a narrow berth, a cupboard anything but capacious, an
arm-chair, a fixed table, a lamp hung from the ceiling, various
nautical instruments, a barometer, a thermometer, a chronometer, and
a sextant in its oaken box. One of the two other cabins was prepared
to receive me. It was eight feet in length, five in breadth. I was
accustomed to the exigencies of sea life, and could do with its
narrow proportions, also with its furniture--a table, a cupboard, a
cane-bottomed arm-chair, a washing-stand on an iron pedestal, and a
berth to which a less accommodating passenger would doubtless have
objected. The passage would be a short one, however, so I took
possession of that cabin, which I was to occupy for only four, or at
the worst five weeks, with entire content.
The eight men who composed the crew were named respectively Martin
Holt, sailing-master; Hardy, Rogers, Drap, Francis, Gratian, Burg,
and Stern--sailors all between twenty-five and thirty-five years
old--all Englishmen, well trained, and remarkably well disciplined
by a hand of iron.
Let me set it down here at the beginning, the exceptionally able man
whom they all obeyed at a word, a gesture, was not the captain of
the Halbrane; that man was the second officer, James West, who was
then thirty-two years of age.
James West was born on the sea, and had passed his childhood on
board a lighter belonging to his father, and on which the whole
family lived. Ail his life he had breathed the salt air of the
English Channel, the Atlantic, or the Pacific. He never went ashore
except for the needs of his service, whether of the State or of
trade. If he had to leave one ship for another he merely shifted his
canvas bag to the latter, from which he stirred no more. When he was
not sailing in reality he was sailing in imagination. After having
been ship’s boy, novice, sailor, he became quartermaster, master,
and finally lieutenant of the Halbrane, and he had already served
for ten years as second in command under Captain Len Guy.
James West was not even ambitious of a higher rise; he did not want
to make a fortune; he did not concern himself with the buying or
selling of cargoes; but everything connected with that admirable
instrument a sailing ship, James West understood to perfection.
The personal appearance of the lieutenant was as follows: middle
height, slightly built, all nerves and muscles, strong limbs as
agile as those of a gymnast, the true sailor’s “look,” but of
very unusual far-sightedness and surprising penetration, sunburnt
face, hair thick and short, beardless cheeks and chin, regular
features, the whole expression denoting energy, courage, and
physical strength at their utmost tension.
James West spoke but rarely--only when he was questioned. He gave
his orders in a clear voice, not repeating them, but so as to be
heard at once, and he was understood. I call attention to this
typical officer of the Merchant Marine, who was devoted body and
soul to Captain Len Guy as to the schooner Halbrane. He seemed to be
one of the essential organs of his ship, and if the Halbrane had a
heart it was in James West’s breast that it beat.
There is but one more person to be mentioned; the ship’s cook--a
negro from the African coast named Endicott, thirty years of age,
who had held that post for eight years. The boatswain and he were
great friends, and indulged in frequent talks.
Life on board was very regular, very simple, and its monotony was
not without a certain charm. Sailing is repose in movement, a
rocking in a dream, and I did not dislike my isolation. Of course I
should have liked to find out why Captain Len Guy had changed his
mind with respect to me; but how was this to be done? To question
the lieutenant would have been loss of time. Besides, was he in
possession of the secrets of his chief? It was no part of his
business to be so, and I had observed that he did not occupy himself
with anything outside of it. Not ten words were exchanged between
him and me during the two meals which we took in common daily. I
must acknowledge, however, that I frequently caught the captain’s
eyes fixed upon me, as though he longed to question me, as though he
had something to learn from me, whereas it was I, on the contrary,
who had something to learn from him. But we were both silent.
Had I felt the need of talking to somebody very strongly, I might
have resorted to the boatswain, who was always disposed to chatter;
but what had he to say that could interest me? He never failed to
bid me good morning and good evening in most prolix fashion, but
beyond these courtesies I did not feel disposed to go.
The good weather lasted, and on the 18th of August, in the
afternoon, the look-out discerned the mountains of the Crozet group.
The next day we passed Possession Island, which is inhabited only in
the fishing season. At this period the only dwellers there are
flocks of penguins, and the birds which whalers call ”white
The approach to land is always interesting at sea. It occurred to me
that Captain Len Guy might take this opportunity of speaking to his
passenger; but he did not.
We should see land, that is to say the peaks of Marion and Prince
Edward Islands, before arriving at Tristan d’Acunha, but it was
there the Halbrane was to take in a fresh supply of water. I
concluded therefore that the monotony of our voyage would continue
unbroken to the end. But, on the morning of the 20th of August, to
my extreme surprise, Captain Len Guy came on deck, approached me,
and said, speaking very low,--
”Sir, I have something to say to you.”
“I am ready to hear you, captain.”
“I have not spoken until to-day, for I am naturally taciturn.”
Here he hesitated again, but after a pause, continued with an
“Mr. Jeorling, have you tried to discover my reason for changing
my mind on the subject of your passage?”
“I have tried, but I have not succeeded, captain. Perhaps, as I am
not a compatriot of yours, you--”
“It is precisely because you are an American that I decided in the
end to offer you a passage on the Halbrane.”
“Because I am an American?”
“Also, because you come from Connecticut.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You will understand if I add that I thought it possible, since
you belong to Connecticut, since you have visited Nantucket Island,
that you might have known the family of Arthur Gordon Pym.”
“The hero of Edgar Poe’s romance?”
“The same. His narrative was founded upon the manuscript in which
the details of that extraordinary and disastrous voyage across the
Antarctic Sea was related.”
I thought I must be dreaming when I heard Captain Len Guy’s words.
Edgar Poe’s romance was nothing but a fiction, a work of
imagination by the most brilliant of our American writers. And here
was a sane man treating that fiction as a reality.
I could not answer him. I was asking myself what manner of man was
this one with whom I had to deal.
“You have heard my question?” persisted the captain.
“Yes, yes, captain, certainly, but I am not sure that I quite
“I will put it to you more plainly. I ask you whether in
Connecticut you personally knew the Pym family who lived in
Nantucket Island? Arthur Pam’s father was one of the principal
merchants there, he was a Navy contractor. It was his son who
embarked in the adventures which he related with his own lips to
“Captain! Why, that story is due to the powerful imagination of
our great poet. It is a pure invention.”
“So, then, you don’t believe it, Mr. Jeorling?” said the
captain, shrugging his shoulders three times.
“Neither I nor any other person believes it, Captain Guy, and you
are the first I have heard maintain that it was anything but a mere
“Listen to me, then, Mr. Jeorling, for although this
‘romance’--as you call it--appeared only last year, it is none
the less a reality. Although eleven years have elapsed since the
facts occurred, they are none the less true, and we still await the
‘ word J of an enigma which will perhaps never be solved.”
Yes, he was mad; but by good fortune West was there to take his
place as commander of the schooner. I had only to listen to him, and
as I had read Poe’s romance over and over again, I was curious to
hear what the captain had to say about it.
“And now,” he resumed in a sharper tone and with a shake in his
voice which denoted a certain amount of nervous irritation, “it is
possible that you did not know the Pym family; that you have never
met them either at Providence or at Nantucket--”
“Just so! But don’t commit yourself by asserting that the Pym
family never existed, that Arthur Gordon is only a fictitious
personage, and his voyage an imaginary one! Do you think any man,
even your Edgar Poe, could have been capable of inventing, of
The increasing vehemence of Captain Len Guy warned me of the
necessity of treating his monomania with respect, and accepting all
he said without discussion.
“Now,” he proceeded, “please to keep the facts which I am
about to state clearly in your mind; there is no disputing about
facts. You may deduce any results from them you like. I hope you
will not make me regret that I consented to give you a passage on
This was an effectual warning, so I made a sign of acquiescence. The
matter promised to be curious. He went on,--
“When Edgar Poe’s narrative appeared in 1838, I was at New York.
I immediately started for Baltimore, where the writer’s family
lived; the grandfather had served as quarter-master-general during
the War of Independence. You admit, I suppose, the existence of the
Poe family, although you deny that of the Pym family?”
I said nothing, and the captain continued, with a dark glance at
“I inquired into certain matters relating to Edgar Poe. His abode
was pointed out to me and I called at the house. A first
disappointment! He had left America, and I could not see him.
Unfortunately, being unable to see Edgar Poe, I was unable to refer
to Arthur Gordon Pym in the case. That bold pioneer of the Antarctic
regions was dead! As the American poet had stated, at the close of
the narrative of his adventures, Gordon’s death had already been
made known to the public by the daily press.”
What Captain Len Guy said was true; but, in common with all the
readers of the romance, I had taken this declaration for an artifice
of the novelist. My notion was that, as he either could not or dared
not wind up so extraordinary a work of imagination, Poe had given it
to be understood that he had not received the last three chapters
from Arthur Pym, whose life had ended under sudden and deplorable
circumstances which Poe did not make known.
“Then,” continued the captain, “Edgar Poe being absent, Arthur
Pym being dead, I had only one thing to do; to find the man who had
been the fellow-traveller of Arthur Pym, that Dirk Peters who had
followed him to the very verge of the high latitudes, and whence
they had both returned--how? This is not known. Did they come back
in company? The narrative does not say, and there are obscure points
in that part of it, as in many other places. However, Edgar Poe
stated explicitly that Dirk Peters would be able to furnish
information relating to the non-communicated chapters, and that he
lived at Illinois. I set out at once for Illinois; I arrived at
Springfield; I inquired for this man, a half-breed Indian. He lived
in the hamlet of Vandalia; I went there, and met with a second
disappointment. He was not there, or rather, Mr. Jeorling, he was no
longer there. Some years before this Dirk Peters had left Illinois,
and even the United States, to go--nobody knows where. But I have
talked, at Vandalia with people who had known him, with whom he
lived, to whom he related his adventures, but did not explain the
final issue. Of that he alone holds the secret.”
What! This Dirk Peters had really existed? He still lived? I was
on the point of letting myself be carried away by the statements of
the captain of the Halbrane! Yes, another moment, and, in my turn, I
should have made a fool of myself. This poor mad fellow imagined
that he had gone to Illinois and seen people at Vandalia who had
known Dirk Peters, and that the latter had disappeared. No wonder,
since he had never existed, save in the brain of the novelist!
Nevertheless I did not want to vex Len Guy, and perhaps drive him
still more mad. Accordingly I appeared entirely convinced that he
was speaking words of sober seriousness, even when he added,--
“You are aware that in the narrative mention is made by the
captain of the schooner on which Arthur Pym had embarked, of a
bottle containing a sealed letter, which was deposited at the foot
of one of the Kerguelen peaks?”
“Yes, I recall the incident.”
“Well, then, in one of my latest voyages I sought for the place
where that bottle ought to be. I found it and the letter also. That
letter stated that the captain and Arthur Pym intended to make every
effort to reach the uttermost limits of the Antarctic Sea!”
“You found that bottle?”
“And the letter?”
I looked at Captain Len Guy. Like certain monomaniacs he had come to
believe in his own inventions. I was on the point of saying to him,
“Show me that letter,” but I thought better of it. Was he not
capable of having written the letter himself? And then I answered,--
“It is much to be regretted, captain, that you were unable to come
across Dirk Peters at Vandalia! He would at least have informed you
under what conditions he and Arthur Pym returned from so far.
Recollect, now, in the last chapter but one they are both there.
Their boat is in front of the thick curtain of white mist; it dashes
into the gulf of the cataract just at the moment when a veiled human
form rises. Then there is nothing more; nothing but two blank
“Decidedly, sir, it is much to be regretted that I could not lay
my hand on Dirk Peters! It would have been interesting to learn what
was the outcome of these adventures. But, to my mind, it would have
been still more interesting to have ascertained the fate of the
“The others?” I exclaimed almost involuntarily. “Of whom do
“Of the captain and crew of the English schooner which picked up
Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters after the frightful shipwreck of the
Grampus, and brought them across the Polar Sea to Tsalal Island--”
“Captain,” said I, just as though I entertained no doubt of the
authenticity of Edgar Poe’s romance, “is it not the case that
all these men perished, some in the attack on the schooner, the
others by the infernal device of the natives of Tsalal?”
“Who can tell?” replied the captain in a voice hoarse from
emotion. “Who can say but that some of the unfortunate creatures
survived, and contrived to escape from the natives?”
“In any case,” I replied, “it would be difficult to admit that
those who had survived could still be living.”
“Because the facts we are discussing are eleven years old.”
“Sir,” replied the captain, “since Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters
were able to advance beyond Tsalal Island farther than the
eighty-third parallel, since they found means of living in the midst
of those Antarctic lands, why should not their companions, if they
were not all killed by the natives, if they were so fortunate as to
reach the neighbouring islands sighted during the voyage--why
should not those unfortunate countrymen of mine have contrived to
live there? Why should they not still be there, awaiting their
“Your pity leads you astray, captain,” I replied. “It would
“Impossible, sir! And if a fact, on indisputable evidence,
appealed to the whole civilized world; if a material proof of the
existence of these unhappy men, imprisoned at the ends of the earth,
were furnished, who would venture to meet those who would fain go to
their aid with the cry of ‘Impossible!’“
Was it a sentiment of humanity, exaggerated to the point of madness,
that had roused the interest of this strange man in those
shipwrecked folk who never had suffered shipwreck, for the good
reason that they never had existed?
Captain Len Guy approached me anew, laid his hand on my shoulder and
whispered in my ear,--
“No, sir, no! the last word has not been said concerning the crew
of the Jane.”
Then he promptly withdrew.
The Jane was, in Edgar Poe’s romance, the name of the ship which
had rescued Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters from the wreck of the
Grampus, and Captain Len Guy had now uttered it for the first time.
It occurred to me then that Guy was the name of the captain of the
Jane, an English ship; but what of that? The captain of the Jane
never lived but in the imagination of the novelist, he and the
skipper of the Halbrane have nothing in common except a name which
is frequently to be found in England. But, on thinking of the
similarity, it struck me that the poor captain’s brain had been
turned by this very thing. He had conceived the notion that he was
of kin to the unfortunate captain of the Jane! And this had brought
him to his present state, this was the source of his passionate pity
for the fate of the imaginary shipwrecked mariners!
It would have been interesting to discover whether James West was
aware of the state of the case, whether his chief had ever talked to
him of the follies he had revealed to me. But this was a delicate
question, since it involved the mental condition of Captain Len Guy;
and besides, any kind of conversation with the lieutenant was
difficult. On the whole I thought it safer to restrain my curiosity.
In a few days the schooner would reach Tristan d’Acunha, and I
should part with her and her captain for good and all. Never,
however, could I lose the recollection that I had actually met and
sailed with a man who took the fictions of Edgar Poe’s romance for
sober fact. Never could I have looked for such an experience!
On the 22nd of August the outline of Prince Edward’s Island was
sighted, south latitude 46° 55’, and 37° 46’ east longitude.
We were in sight of the island for twelve hours, and then it was
lost in the evening mists.
On the following day the Halbrane headed in the direction of the
north-west, towards the most northern parallel of the southern
hemisphere which she had to attain in the course of that voyage.
EDGAR POE’S ROMANCE
In this chapter I have to give a brief summary of Edgar Poe’s
romance, which was published at Richmond under the title of
THE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUR GORDON PYM.
We shall see whether there was any room for doubt that the
adventures of this hero of romance were imaginary. But indeed, among
the multitude of Poe’s readers, was there ever one, with the sole
exception of Len Guy, who believed them to be real? The story is
told by the principal personage. Arthur Pym states in the preface
that on his return from his voyage to the Antarctic seas he met,
among the Virginian gentlemen who took an interest in geographical
discoveries, Edgar Poe, who was then editor of the Southern Literary
Messenger at Richmond, and that he authorized the latter to publish
the first part of his adventures in that journal “under the cloak
of fiction.” That portion having been favourably received, a
volume containing the complete narrative was issued with the
signature of Edgar Poe.
Arthur Gordon Pym was born at Nantucket, where he attended the
Bedford School until he was sixteen years old. Having left that
school for Mr. Ronald’s, he formed a friendship with one Augustus
Barnard, the son of a ship’s captain. This youth, who was
eighteen, had already accompanied his father on a whaling expedition
in the southern seas, and his yarns concerning that maritime
adventure fired the imagination of Arthur Pym. Thus it was that the
association of these youths gave rise to Pym’s irresistible
vocation to adventurous voyaging, and to the instinct that
especially attracted him towards the high zones of the Antarctic
region. The first exploit of Augustus Barnard and Arthur Pym was an
excursion on board a little sloop, the Ariel, a two-decked boat
which belonged to the Pyms. One evening the two youths, both being
very tipsy, embarked secretly, in cold October weather, and boldly
set sail in a strong breeze from the south-west. The Ariel, aided by
the ebb tide, had already lost sight of land when a violent storm
arose. The imprudent young fellows were still intoxicated. No one
was at the helm, not a reef was in the sail. The masts were carried
away by the furious gusts, and the wreck was driven before the wind.
Then came a great ship which passed over the Ariel as the Ariel
would have passed a floating feather.
Arthur Pym gives the fullest details of the rescue of his companion
and himself after this collision, under conditions of extreme
difficulty. At length, thanks to the second officer of the Penguin,
from New London, which arrived on the scene of the catastrophe, the
comrades were picked with life all but extinct, and taken back to
This adventure, to which I cannot deny an appearance veracity, was
an ingenious preparation for the chapters that were to follow, and
indeed, up to the day on which Pym penetrates into the polar circle,
the narrative might conceivably be regarded as authentic. But,
beyond the polar circle, above the austral icebergs, it is quite
another thing, and, if the author’s work be not one of pure
imagination, I am--well, of any other nationality than my own. Let
us get on.
Their first adventure had not cooled the two youths, and eight
months after the affair of the Ariel--June, 1827--the brig
Grampus was fitted out by the house of Lloyd and Vredenburg for
whaling in the southern seas. This brig was an old, ill-repaired
craft, and Mr. Barnard, the father of Augustus, was its skipper. His
son, who was to accompany him on the voyage, strongly urged Arthur
to go with him, and the latter would have asked nothing better, but
he knew that his family, and especially his mother, would never
consent to let him go.
This obstacle, however, could not stop a youth not much given to
submit to the wishes of his parents. His head was full of the
entreaties and persuasion of his companion, and he determined to
embark secretly on the Grampus, for Mr. Barnard would not have
authorized him to defy the prohibition of his family. He announced
that he had been invited to pass a few days with a friend at New
Bedford, took leave of his parents and left his home. Forty-eight
hours before the brig was to sail, he slipped on board unperceived,
and got into a hiding-place which had been prepared for him unknown
alike to Mr. Barnard and the crew.
The cabin occupied by Augustus communicated by a trap-door with the
hold of the Grampus, which was crowded with barrels, bales, and the
innumerable components of a cargo. Through the trap-door Arthur Pym
reached his hiding-place, which was a huge wooden chest with a
sliding side to it. This chest contained a mattress, blankets, a jar
of water, ship’s biscuit, smoked sausage, a roast quarter of
mutton, a few bottles of cordials and liqueurs, and also
writing-materials. Arthur Pym, supplied with a lantern, candles, and
tinder, remained three days and nights in his retreat. Augustus
Barnard had not been able to visit him until just before the Grampus
An hour later, Arthur Pym began to feel the rolling and pitching of
the brig. He was very uncomfortable in the chest, so he got out of
it, and in the dark, while holding on by a rope which was stretched
across the hold to the trap of his friend’s cabin, he was
violently sea-sick in the midst of the chaos. Then he crept back
into his chest, ate, and fell asleep.
Several days elapsed without the reappearance of Augustus Barnard.
Either he had not been able to get down into the hold again, or he
had not ventured to do so, fearing to betray the presence of Arthur
Pym, and thinking the moment for confessing everything to his father
had not yet come.
Arthur Pym, meanwhile, was beginning to suffer from the hot and
vitiated atmosphere of the hold. Terrible nightmares troubled his
sleep. He was conscious of raving, and in vain sought some place
amid the mass of cargo where he might breathe a little more easily.
In one of these fits of delirium he imagined that he was gripped in
the claws of an African lion, (1) and in a paroxysm of terror he was
about to betray himself by screaming, when he lost consciousness.
The fact is that he was not dreaming at all. It was not a lion that
Arthur Pym felt crouching upon his chest, it was his own dog, Tiger,
a young Newfoundland. The animal had been smuggled on board by
Augustus Barnard unperceived by anybody--(this, at least, is an
unlikely occurrence). At the moment of Arthur’s coming out of his
swoon the faithful Tiger was licking his face and hands with lavish
Now the prisoner had a companion. Unfortunately, the said companion
had drunk the contents of the water jar while Arthur was
unconscious, and when Arthur Pym felt thirsty, he discovered that
there was “not a drop to drink!” His lantern had gone out during
his prolonged faint; he could not find the candles and the
tinder-box, and he then resolved to rejoin Augustus Barnard at all
hazards. He came out of the chest, and although faint from inanition
and trembling with weakness, he felt his way in the direction of the
trap-door by means of the rope. But, while he was approaching, one
of the bales of cargo, shifted by the rolling of the ship, fell down
and blocked up the passage. With immense but quite useless exertion
he contrived to get over this obstacle, but when he reached the
trap-door under Augustus Barnard’s cabin he failed to raise it,
and on slipping the blade of his knife through One of the joints he
found that a heavy mass of iron was placed upon the trap, as though
it were intended to condemn him beyond hope. He had to renounce his
attempt and drag himself back towards the chest, on which he fell,
exhausted, while Tiger covered him with caresses.
The master and the dog were desperately thirsty, and when Arthur
stretched out his hand, he found Tiger lying on his back, with his
paws up and his hair on end. He then felt Tiger all over, and his
hand encountered a string passed round the dog’s body. A strip of
paper was fastened to the string under his left shoulder.
Arthur Pym had reached the last stage of weakness. Intelligence was
almost extinct. However, after several fruitless attempts to procure
a light, he succeeded in rubbing the paper with a little
phosphorus--(the details given in Edgar Poe’s narrative are
curiously minute at this point)--and then by the glimmer that
lasted less than a second he discerned just seven words at the end
of a sentence. Terrifying words these were: blood--remain
hidden--life depends on it.
What did these words mean? Let us consider the situation of Arthur
Pym, at the bottom of the ship’s hold, between the boards of a
chest, without light, without water, with only ardent liquor to
quench his thirst! And this warning to remain hidden, preceded by
the word “blood “--that supreme word, king of words, so full of
mystery, of suffering, of terror! Had there been strife on board the
Grampus? Had the brig been attacked by pirates? Had the crew
mutinied? How long had this state of things lasted?
It might be thought that the marvellous poet had exhausted the
resources of his imagination in the terror of such a situation; but
it was not so. There is more to come!
Arthur Pym lay stretched upon his mattress, incapable of thought, in
a sort of lethargy; suddenly he became aware of a singular sound, a
kind of continuous whistling breathing. It was Tiger, panting, Tiger
with eyes that glared in the midst of the darkness, Tiger with
gnashing teeth--Tiger gone mad. Another moment and the dog had
sprung upon Arthur Pym, who, wound up to the highest pitch of
horror, recovered sufficient strength to ward off his fangs, and
wrapping around him a blanket which Tiger had torn with his white
teeth, he slipped out of the chest, and shut the sliding side upon
the snapping and struggling brute.
Arthur Pym contrived to slip through the stowage of the hold, but
his head swam, and, falling against a bale, he let his knife drop
from his hand.
Just as he felt himself breathing his last sigh he heard his name
pronounced, and a bottle of water was held to his lips. He swallowed
the whole of its contents, and experienced the most exquisite of
A few minutes later, Augustus Barnard, seated with his comrade in a
corner of the hold, told him all that had occurred on board the brig.
Up to this point, I repeat, the story is admissible, but we have not
yet come to the events which “surpass all probability by their
The crew of the Grampus numbered thirty-six men, including the
Barnards, father and son. After the brig had put to sea on the 20th
of June, Augustus Barnard had made several attempts to rejoin Arthur
Pym in his hiding place, but in vain. On the third day a mutiny
broke out on board, headed by the ship’s cook, a negro like our
Endicott; but he, let me say at once, would never have thought of
heading a mutiny.
Numerous incidents are related in the romance--the massacre of most
of the sailors who remained faithful to Captain Barnard, then the
turning adrift of the captain and four of those men in a small
whaler’s boat when the ship was abreast of the Bermudas. These
unfortunate persons were never heard of again.
Augustus Barnard would not have been spared, but for the
intervention of the sailing-master of the Grampus. This
sailing-master was a half-breed named Dirk Peters, and was the
person whom Captain Len Guy had gone to look for in Illinois!
The Grampus then took a south-east course under the command of the
mate, who intended to pursue the occupation of piracy in the
These events having taken place, Augustus Barnard would again have
joined Arthur Pym, but he had been shut up in the forecastle in
irons, and told by the ship’s cook that he would not be allowed to
come out until “the brig should be no longer a brig.”
Nevertheless, a few days afterwards, Augustus contrived to get rid
of his fetters, to cut through the thin partition between him and
the hold, and, followed by Tiger, he tried to reach his friend’s
hiding place. He could not succeed, but the dog had scented Arthur
Pym, and this suggested to Augustus the idea of fastening a note to
Tiger’s neck bearing the words:
“I scrawl this with blood--remain hidden--your life depends on
This note, as we have already learned, Arthur Pym had received. Just
as he had arrived at the last extremity of distress his friend
Augustus added that discord reigned among the mutineers. Some wanted
to take the Grampus towards the Cape Verde Islands; others, and Dirk
Peters was of this number, were bent on sailing to the Pacific Isles.
Tiger was not mad. He was only suffering from terrible thirst, and
soon recovered when it was relieved.
The cargo of the Grampus was so badly stowed away that Arthur Pym
was in constant danger from the shifting of the bales, and Augustus,
at all risks, helped him to remove to a corner of the ‘tween decks.
The half-breed continued to be very friendly with the son of Captain
Barnard, so that the latter began to consider whether the
sailing-master might not be counted on in an attempt to regain
possession of the ship.
They were just thirty days out from Nantucket when, on the 4th of
July, an angry dispute arose among the mutineers about a little brig
signalled in the offing, which some of them wanted to take and
others would have allowed to escape. In this quarrel a sailor
belonging to the cook’s party, to which Dirk Peters had attached
himself, was mortally injured. There were now only thirteen men on
board, counting Arthur Pym.
Under these circumstances a terrible storm arose, and the Grampus
was mercilessly knocked about. This storm raged until the 9th of
July, and on that day, Dirk Peters having manifested an intention of
getting rid of the mate, Augustus Barnard readily assured him of his
assistance, without, however, revealing the fact of Arthur Pym’s
presence on board. Next day, one of the cook’s adherents, a man
named Rogers, died in convulsions, and, beyond all doubt, of poison.
Only four of the cook’s party then remained, of these Dirk Peters
was one. The mate had five, and would probably end by carrying the
day over the cook’s party.
There was not an hour to lose. The half-breed having informed
Augustus Barnard that the moment for action had arrived, the latter
told him the truth about Arthur Pym.
While the two were in consultation upon the means to be employed for
regaining possession of the ship, a tempest was raging, and
presently a gust of irresistible force struck the Grampus and flung
her upon her side, so that on righting herself she shipped a
tremendous sea, and there was considerable confusion on board. This
offered a favourable opportunity for beginning the struggle,
although the mutineers had made peace among themselves. The latter
numbered nine men, while the half-breed’s party consisted only of
himself, Augustus Barnard and Arthur Pym. The ship’s master
possessed only two pistols and a hanger. It was therefore necessary
to act with prudence.
Then did Arthur Pym (whose presence on board the mutineers could not
suspect) conceive the idea of a trick which had some chance of
succeeding. The body of the poisoned sailor was still lying on the
deck; he thought it likely, if he were to put on the dead man’s
clothes and appear suddenly in the midst of those superstitious
sailors, that their terror would place them at the mercy of Dirk
Peters. It was still dark when the half-breed went softly towards
the ship’s stern, and, exerting his prodigious strength to the
utmost, threw himself upon the man at the wheel and flung him over
Augustus Barnard and Arthur Pym joined him instantly, each armed
with a belaying-pin. Leaving Dirk Peters in the place of the
steersman, Arthur Pym, so disguised as to present the appearance of
the dead man, and his comrade, posted themselves close to the head
of the forecastle gangway. The mate, the ship’s cook, all the
others were there, some sleeping, the others drinking or talking;
guns and pistols were within reach of their hands.
The tempest raged furiously; it was impossible to stand on the deck.
At that moment the mate gave the order for Augustus Barnard and Dirk
Peters to be brought to the forecastle. This order was transmitted
to the man at the helm, no other than Dirk Peters, who went down,
accompanied by Augustus Barnard, and almost simultaneously Arthur
Pym made his appearance.
The effect of the apparition was prodigious. The mate, terrified on
beholding the resuscitated sailor, sprang up, beat the air with his
hands, and fell down dead. Then Dirk Peters rushed upon the others,
seconded by Augustus Barnard, Arthur Pym, and the dog Tiger. In a
few moments all were strangled or knocked on the head save Richard
Parker, the sailor, whose life was spared.
And now, while the tempest was in full force, only four men were
left to work the brig, which was labouring terribly with seven feet
of water in her hold. They had to cut down the mainmast, and, when
morning came, the mizen. That day was truly awful, the night was
more awful still! If Dirk Peters and his companions had not lashed
themselves securely to the remains of the rigging, they must have
been carried away by a tremendous sea, which drove in the hatches of
Then follows in the romance a minute record of the series of
incidents ensuing upon this situation, from the 14th of July to the
7th of August; the fishing for victuals in the submerged hold, the
coming of a mysterious brig laden with corpses, which poisoned the
atmosphere and passed on like a huge coffin, the sport of a wind of
death; the torments of hunger and thirst; the impossibility of
reaching the provision store; the drawing of lots by straws--the
shortest gave Richard Parker to be sacrificed for the life of the
other three--the death of that unhappy man, who was killed by Dirk
Peters and devoured; lastly, the finding in the hold of a jar of
olives and a small turtle.
Owing to the displacement of her cargo the Grampus rolled and
pitched more and more. The frightful heat caused the torture of
thirst to reach the extreme limit of human endurance, and on the 1st
of August, Augustus Barnard died. On the 3rd, the brig foundered in
the night, and Arthur Pym and the half-breed, crouching upon the
upturned keel, were reduced to feed upon the barnacles with which
the bottom was covered, in the midst of a crowd of waiting, watching
sharks. Finally, after the shipwrecked mariners of the Grampus had
drifted no less than twenty-five degrees towards the south, they
were picked up by the schooner Jane, of Liverpool, Captain William
Evidently, reason is not outraged by an admission of the reality of
these facts, although the situations are strained to the utmost
limits of possibility; but that does not surprise us, for the writer
is the American magician-poet, Edgar Poe. But from this moment
onwards we shall see that no semblance of reality exists in the
succession of incidents.
Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters were well treated on board the English
schooner Jane. In a fortnight, having recovered from the effects of
their sufferings, they remembered them no more. With alternations of
fine and bad weather the Jane sighted Prince Edward’s Island on
the 13th of October, then the Crozet Islands, and afterwards the
Kerguelens, which I had left eleven days ago.
Three weeks were employed in chasing sea-calves; these furnished the
Jane with a goodly cargo. It was during this time that the captain
of the Jane buried the bottle in which his namesake of the Halbrane
claimed to have found a letter containing William Guy’s
announcement of his intention to visit the austral seas.
On the 12th of November, the schooner left the Kerguelens, and after
a brief stay at Tristan d’Acunha she sailed to reconnoitre the
Auroras in 35° 15’ of south latitude, and 37° 38’ of west
longitude. But these islands were not to be found, and she did not
On the 12th of December the Jane headed towards the Antarctic pole.
On the 26th, the first icebergs came in sight beyond the
From the 1st to the 14th of January, 1828, the movements were
difficult, the polar circle was passed in the midst of ice-floes,
the icebergs’ point was doubled and the ship sailed on the surface
of an open sea--the famous open sea where the temperature is 47°
Fahrenheit, and the water is 34°.
Edgar Poe, every one will allow, gives free rein to his fancy at
this point. No navigator had ever reached latitudes so high--not
even James Weddell of the British Navy, who did not get beyond the
seventy-fourth parallel in 1822. But the achievement of the Jane,
although difficult of belief, is trifling in comparison with the
succeeding incidents which Arthur Pym, or rather Edgar Poe, relates
with simple earnestness. In fact he entertained no doubt of reaching
the pole itself.
In the first place, not a single iceberg is to be seen on this
fantastic sea. Innumerable flocks of birds skim its surface, among
them is a pelican which is shot. On a floating piece of ice is a
bear of the Arctic species and of gigantic size. At last land is
signalled. It is an island of a league in circumference, to which
the name of Bennet Islet was given, in honour of the captain’s
partner in the ownership of the Jane.
Naturally, in proportion as the schooner sailed southwards the
variation of the compass became less, while the temperature became
milder, with a sky always clear and a uniform northerly breeze.
Needless to add that in that latitude and in the month of January
there was no darkness.
The Jane pursued her adventurous course, until, on the 18th of
January, land was sighted in latitude 83° 20’ and longitude 43°
This proved to be an island belonging to a numerous group scattered
about in a westerly direction.
The schooner approached and anchored off the shore. Arms were placed
in the boats, and Arthur Pym got into one of the latter with Dirk
Peters. The men rowed shorewards, but were stopped by four canoes
carrying armed men, “new men” the narrative calls them. These
men showed no hostile intentions, but cried out continuously
“anamoo” and “lamalama.” When the canoes were alongside the
schooner, the chief, Too-Wit, was permitted to go on board with
twenty of his companions. There was profound astonishment on their
part then, for they took theship for a living creature, and lavished
caresses on the rigging, the masts, and the bulwarks. Steered
between the reefs by these natives, she crossed a bay with a bottom
of black sand, and cast anchor within a mile of the beach. Then
William Guy, leaving the hostages on board, stepped ashore amid the
If Arthur Pym is to be believed, this was Tsalal Island! Its trees
resembled none of the species in any other zone of our planet. The
composition of the rocks revealed a stratification unknown to modern
mineralogists. Over the bed of the streams ran a liquid substance
without any appearance of limpidity, streaked with distinct veins,
which did not reunite by immediate cohesion when they were parted by
the blade of a knife!
Klock-Klock, which we are obliged to describe as the chief
“town” of the island, consisted of wretched huts entirely formed
of black skins; it possessed domestic animals resembling the common
pig, a sort of sheep with a black fleece, twenty kinds of fowls,
tame albatross, ducks, and large turtles in great numbers.
On arriving at Klock-Klock, Captain William Guy and his companions
found a population--which Arthur Pym estimated at ten thousand
souls, men, women, and children--if not to be feared, at least to
be kept at a distance, so noisy and demonstrative were they.
Finally, after a long halt at the hut of Too-Wit, the strangers
returned to the shore, where the “bêche-de-mer”--the favourite
food of the Chinese--would provide enormous cargoes; for the
succulent mollusk is more abundant there than in any other part of
the austral regions.
Captain William Guy immediately endeavoured to come to an
understanding with Too-Wit on this matter, requesting him to
authorize the construction of sheds in which some of the men of the
Jane might prepare the bêche-de-mer, while the schooner should hold
on her course towards the Pole. Too-Wit accepted this proposal
willingly, and made a bargain by which the natives were to give
their labour in the gathering-in of the precious mollusk.
At the end of a month, the sheds being finished, three men were told
off to remain at Tsalal. The natives had not given the strangers
cause to entertain the slightest suspicion of them. Before leaving
the place, Captain William Guy wished to return once more to the
village of Klock-Klock, having, from prudent motives, left six men
on board, the guns charged, the bulwark nettings in their place, the
anchor hanging at the forepeak--in a word, all in readiness to
oppose an approach of the natives. Too-Wit, escorted by a hundred
warriors, came out to meet the visitors. Captain William Guy and his
men, although the place was propitious to an ambuscade, walked in
close order, each pressing upon the other. On the right, a little in
advance, were Arthur Pym, Dirk Peters, and a sailor named Allen.
Having reached a spot where a fissure traversed the hillside, Arthur
Pym turned into it in order to gather some hazel nuts which hung in
clusters upon stunted bushes. Having done this, he was returning to
the path, when he perceived that Allen and the half-breed had
accompanied him. They were all three approaching the mouth of the
fissure, when they were thrown down by a sudden and violent shock.
At the same moment the crumbling masses of the hill slid down upon
them and they instantly concluded that they were doomed to be buried
Alive--all three? No! Allen had been so deeply covered by the
sliding soil that he was already smothered, but Arthur Pym and Dirk
Peters contrived to drag themselves on their knees, and opening a
way with their bowie knives, to a projecting mass of harder clay,
which had resisted the movement from above, and from thence they
climbed to a natural platform at the extremity of a wooded ravine.
Above them they could see the blue sky-roof, and from their position
were enabled to survey the surrounding country.
An artificial landslip, cunningly contrived by the natives, had
taken place. Captain William Guy and his twenty-eight companions had
disappeared; they were crushed beneath more than a million tons of
earth and stones.
The plain was swarming with natives who had come, no doubt, from the
neighbouring islets, attracted by the prospect of pillaging the
Jane. Seventy boats were being paddled towards the ship. The six men
on board fired on them, but their aim was uncertain in the first
volley; a second, in which mitraille and grooved bullets were used,
produced terrible effect. Nevertheless, the Jane being boarded by
the swarming islanders, her defenders were massacred, and she was
set on fire.
Finally a terrific explosion took place--the fire had reached the
powder store--killing a thousand natives and mutilating as many
more, while the others fled, uttering the cry of tékéli-li!
During the following week, Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters, living on
nuts and bitterns’ flesh, escaped discovery by the natives, who
did not suspect their presence. They found themselves at the bottom
of a sort of dark abyss including several planes, but without issue,
hollowed out from the hillside, and of great extent. The two men
could not live in the midst of these successive abysses, and after
several attempts they let themselves slide on one of the slopes of
the hill. Instantly, six savages rushed upon them; but, thanks to
their pistols, and the extraordinary strength of the half-breed,
four of the assailants were killed. The fifth was dragged away by
the fugitives, who reached a boat which had been pulled up on the
beach and was laden with three huge turtles. A score of natives
pursued and vainly tried to stop them; the former were driven off,
and the boat was launched successfully and steered for the south.
Arthur Pym was then navigating beyond the eighty-fourth degree of
south latitude. It was the beginning of March, that is to say, the
antarctic winter was approaching. Five or six islands, which it was
prudent to avoid, were visible towards the west. Arthur Pym’s
opinion was that the temperature would become more mild by degrees
as they approached the pole. They tied together two white shirts
which they had been wearing, and hoisted them to do duty as a sail.
At sight of these shirts the native, who answered to the name of
Nu-Nu, was terrified. For eight days this strange voyage continued,
favoured by a mild wind from the north, in permanent daylight, on a
sea without a fragment of ice, indeed, owing to the high and even
temperature of the water, no ice had been seen since the parallel of
Then it was that Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters entered upon a region of
novelty and wonder. Above the horizon line rose a broad bar of light
grey vapour, striped with long luminous rays, such as are projected
by the polar aurora. A very strong current came to the aid of the
breeze. The boat sailed rapidly upon a liquid surface of milky
aspect, exceedingly hot, and apparently agitated from beneath. A
fine white ash-dust began to fall, and this increased the terror of
Nu-Nu, whose lips trembled over his two rows of black ivory.
On the 9th of March this rain of ashes fell in redoubled volume, and
the temperature of the water rose so high that the hand could no
longer bear it. The immense curtain of vapour, spread over the
distant perimeter of the southern horizon resembled a boundless
cataract falling noiselessly from the height of some huge rampart
lost in the height of the heavens.
Twelve days later, it was darkness that hung over these waters,
darkness furrowed by luminous streaks darting from the milky depths
of the Antarctic Ocean, while the incessant shower of ash-dust fell
and melted in its waters.
The boat approached the cataract with an impetuous velocity whose
cause is not explained in the narrative of Arthur Pym. In the midst
of this frightful darkness a flock of gigantic birds, of livid white
plumage, swept by, uttering their eternal tékéli-li, and then the
savage, in the supreme throes of terror, gave up the ghost.
Suddenly, in a mad whirl of speed, the boat rushed into the grasp of
the cataract, where a vast gulf seemed ready to swallow it up. But
before the mouth of this gulf there stood a veiled human figure, of
greater size than any inhabitant of this earth, and the colour of
the man’s skin was the perfect whiteness of snow.
Such is the strange romance conceived by the more than human genius
of the greatest poet of the New World.
(1) The American “lion” is only a small species of pumas and not
formidable enough to terrify a Nantucket youth. J.V.
AN OCEAN WAIF.
The navigation of the Halbrane went on prosperously with the help of
the sea and the wind. In fifteen days, if this state of things
lasted, she might reach Tristan d’Acunha. Captain Len Guy left the
working of the ship to James West, and well might he do so; there
was nothing to fear with such a seaman as he.
“Our lieutenant has not his match afloat,” said Hurliguerly to
me one day. “He ought to be in command of a flag-ship.”
“Indeed,” I replied, “he seems to be a true son of the sea.”
“And then, our Halbrane, what a craft! Congratulate yourself, Mr.
Jeorling, and congratulate yourself also that I succeeded in
bringing the captain to change his mind about you.”
“If it was you who obtained that result, boatswain, I thank you
“And so you ought, for he was plaguily against it, was our
captain, in spite of all old man Atkins could say. But I managed to
make him hear reason.”
“I shan’t forget it, boatswain, I shan’t forget it, since,
thanks to your intervention, instead of moping at Kerguelen. I hope
shortly to get within sight of Tristan d’Acunha.”
“In a few days, Mr. Jeorling. Only think, sir, according to what I
hear tell, they are making ships in England and America with
machines in their insides, and wheels which they use as a duck uses
its paddles. All right, we shall know what’s the good of them when
they come into use. My notion is, however, that those ships will
never be able to fight with a fine frigate sailing with a fresh
It was the 3rd of September. If nothing occurred to delay us, our
schooner would be in sight of port in three days. The chief island
of the group is visible on clear days at a great distance.
That day, between ten and eleven o’clock in the morning, I was
walking backwards and forwards on the deck, on the windward side. We
were sliding smoothly over the surface of an undulating sea. The
Halbrane resembled an enormous bird, one of the gigantic albatross
kind described by Arthur Pym--which had spread its sail-like wings,
and was carrying a whole ship’s crew towards space.
James West was looking out through his glasses to starboard at an
object floating two or three miles away, and several sailors,
hanging over the side, were also curiously observing it.
I went forward and looked attentively at the object. It was an
irregularly formed mass about twelve yards in length, and in the
middle of it there appeared a shining lump.
“That is no whale,” said Martin Holt, the sailing-master. “It
would have blown once or twice since we have been looking at it.”
“Certainly!” assented Hardy. “Perhaps it is the carcase of
some deserted ship.”
“May the devil send it to the bottom!” cried Roger. “It would
be a bad job to come up against it in the dark; it might send us
down before we could know what had happened.”
“I believe you,” added Drap, “and these derelicts are more
dangerous than a rock, for they are now here and again there, and
there’s no avoiding them.”
Hurliguerly came up at this moment and planted his elbows on the
bulwark, alongside of mine.
“What do you think of it, boatswain?” I asked.
“It is my opinion, Mr. Jeorling,” replied the boatswain, “that
what we see there is neither a blower nor a wreck, but merely a lump
“Hurliguerly is right,” said James West; “it is a lump of ice,
a piece of an iceberg which the currents have carried hither.”
“What?” said I, “to the forty-fifth parallel?”
”Yes, sir,” answered West, “that has occurred, and the ice
sometimes gets up as high as the Cape, if we are to take the word of
a French navigator, Captain Blosseville, who met one at this height
“Then this mass will melt before long,” I observed, feeling not
a little surprised that West had honoured me by so lengthy a reply.
”It must indeed be dissolved in great part already,” he
continued, “and what we see is the remains of a mountain of ice
which must have weighed millions of tons.”
Captain Len Guy now appeared, and perceiving the group of sailors
around West, he came forward. A few words were exchanged in a low
tone between the captain and the lieutenant, and the latter passed
his glass to the former, who turned it upon the floating object, now
at least a mile nearer to us.
“It is ice,” said he, ”and it is lucky that it is dissolving.
The Halbrane might have come to serious grief by collision with it
in the night.”
I was struck by the fixity of his gaze upon the object, whose nature
he had so promptly declared: he continued to contemplate it for
several minutes, and I guessed what was passing in the mind of the
man under the obsession of a fixed idea. This fragment of ice, torn
from the southern icebergs, came from those waters wherein his
thoughts continually ranged. He wanted to see it more near, perhaps
at close quarters, it might be to take away some bits of it. At an
order from West the schooner was directed towards the floating mass;
presently we were within two cables’-length, and I could examine
The mound in the center was melting rapidly; before the end of the
day nothing would remain of the fragment of ice which had been
carried by the currents so high up as the forty-fifth parallel.
Captain Len Guy gazed at it steadily, but he now needed no glass,
and presently we all began to distinguish a second object which
little by little detached itself from the mass, according as the
melting process went on--a black shape, stretched on the white ice.
What was our surprise, mingled with horror, when we saw first an
arm, then a leg, then a trunk, then a head appear, forming a human
body, not in a state of nakedness, but clothed in dark garments.
For a moment I even thought that the limbs moved, that the hands
were stretched towards us.
The crew uttered a simultaneous cry. No! this body was not moving,
but it was slowly slipping off the icy surface.
I looked at Captain Len Guy. His face was as livid as that of the
corpse that had drifted down from the far latitudes of the austral
zone. What could be done was done to recover the body of the
unfortunate man, and who can tell whether a faint breath of life did
not animate it even then? In any case his pockets might perhaps
contain some document that would enable his identity to be
established. Then, accompanied by a last prayer, those human remains
should be committed to the depths of the ocean, the cemetery of
sailors who die at sea.
A boat Was let down. I followed it with my eyes as it neared the
side of the ice fragment eaten by the waves.
Hurliguerly set foot upon a spot which still offered some
resistance. Gratian got out after him, while Francis kept the boat
fast by the chain. The two crept along the ice until they reached
the corpse, then drew it to them by the arms and legs and so got it
into the boat. A few strokes of the oars and the boatswain had
rejoined the schooner. The corpse, completely frozen, having been
laid at the foot of the mizen mast, Captain Len Guy approached and
examined it long and closely, as though he sought to recognize it.
It was the corpse of a sailor, dressed in coarse stuff, woollen
trousers and a patched jersey; a belt encircled his waist twice. His
death had evidently occurred some months previously, probably very
soon after the unfortunate man had been carried away by the drift.
He was about forty, with slightly grizzled hair, a mere skeleton
covered with skin. He must have suffered agonies of hunger.
Captain Len Guy lifted up the hair, which had been preserved by the
cold, raised the head, gazed upon the scaled eyelids, and finally
said with a sort of sob,--
“Patterson?” I exclaimed.
The name, common as it was, touched some chord in my memory. When
had I heard it uttered? Had I read it anywhere?
At this moment, James West, on a hint from the boatswain, searched
the pockets of the dead man, and took out of them a knife, some
string, an empty tobacco box, and lastly a leather pocket-book
furnished with a metallic pencil.
“Give me that,” said the captain. Some of the leaves were
covered with writing, almost entirely effaced by the damp. He found,
however, some words on the last page which were still legible, and
my emotion may be imagined when I heard him read aloud in a
trembling voice: “The Jane . . . Tsalal island . . . by
eighty-three . . . There . . . eleven years . . . Captain . . . five
sailors surviving . . . Hasten to bring them aid.”
And under these lines was a name, a signature, the name of Patterson!
Then I remembered! Patterson was the second officer of the Jane, the
mate of that schooner which had picked up Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters
on the wreck of the Grampus, the Jane having reached Tsalal Island;
the Jane which was attacked by natives and blown up in the midst of
So then it was all true? Edgar Poe’s work was that of an
historian, not a writer of romance? Arthur Gordon Pym’s journal
had actually been confided to him! Direct relations had been
established between them! Arthur Pym existed, or rather he had
existed, he was a real being! And he had died, by a sudden and
deplorable death under circumstances not revealed before he had
completed the narrative of his extraordinary voyage. And what
parallel had he reached on leaving Tsalal Island with his companion,
Dirk Peters, and how had both of them been restored to their native
I thought my head was turning, that I was going mad--I who accused
Captain Guy of being insane! No! I had not heard aright! I had
misunderstood! This was a mere phantom of my fancy!
And yet, how was I to reject the evidence found on the body of the
mate of the Jane, that Patterson whose words were supported by
ascertained dates? And above all, how could I retain a doubt, after
James West, who was the most self-possessed among us, had succeeded
in deciphering the following fragments of sentences:--
“Drifting since the 3rd of June north of Tsalal Island...Still
there...Captain William Guy and five of the men of the Jane--the
piece of ice I am on is drifting across the iceberg...food will soon
fail me...Since the 13th of June...my last resources
exhausted...to-day...16th of June . . . I am going to die.”
So then for nearly three months Patterson’s body had lain on the
surface of this ice-waif which we had met on our way from the
Kerguelens to Tristan d’Acunha! Ah! why had we not saved the mate
of the Jane!
I had to yield to evidence. Captain Len Guy, who knew Patterson, had
recognized him in this frozen corpse! It was indeed he who
accompanied the captain of the Jane when he had interred that
bottle, containing the letter which I had refused to believe
authentic, at the Kerguelens. Yes! for eleven years, the survivors
of the English schooner had been cast away there without any hope of
Len Guy turned to me and said, “Do you believe--now?”
“I believe,” said I, falteringly; “but Captain William Guy of
the Jane, and Captain Len Guy of the Halbrane--”
“Are brothers!” he cried in a loud voice, which was heard by all
Then we turned our eyes once more to the place where the lump of ice
had been floating; but the double influence of the solar rays and
the waters in this latitude had produced its effect, no trace of the
dead man’s last refuge remained on the surface of the sea.
Four days later, the Halbrane neared that curious island of Tristan
d’Acunha, which may be described as the big boiler of the African
seas. By that time I had come to realize that the
“hallucination” of Captain Len Guy was a truth, and that he and
the captain of the Jane (also a reality) were connected with each
other by this ocean waif from the authentic expedition of Arthur
Pym. My last doubts were buried in the depths of the ocean with the
body of Patterson.
And now, what was Captain Len Guy going to do? There was not a
shadow of doubt on that point. He would take the Halbrane to Tsalal
Island, as marked upon Patterson’s note-book. His lieutenant,
James West, would go whithersoever he was ordered to go; his crew
would not hesitate to follow him, and would not be stopped by any
fear of passing the limits assigned to human power, for the soul of
their captain and the strength of their lieutenant would be in them.
This, then, was the reason why Captain Len Guy refused to take
passengers on board his ship, and why he had told me that his routes
never were certain; he was always hoping that an opportunity for
venturing into the sea of ice might arise. Who could tell indeed,
whether he would not have sailed for the south at once without
putting in at Tristan d’Acunha, if he had not wanted water? After
what I had said before I went on board the Halbrane, I should have
had no right to insist on his proceeding to the island for the sole
purpose of putting me ashore. But a supply of water was
indispensable, and besides, it might be possible there to put the
schooner in a condition to contend with the icebergs and gain the
open sea--since open it was beyond the eighty-second parallel---in
fact to attempt what Lieutenant Wilkes of the American Navy was then
The navigators knew at this period, that from the middle of November
to the beginning of March was the limit during which some success
might be looked for. The temperature is more bearable then, storms
are less frequent, the icebergs break loose from the mass, the ice
wall has holes in it, and perpetual day reigns in that distant
Tristan d’Acunha lies to the south of the zone of the regular
south-west winds. Its climate is mild and moist. The prevailing
winds are west and north-west, and, during the winter--August and
September--south. The island was inhabited, from 1811, by American
whale fishers. After them, English soldiers were installed there to
watch the St. Helena seas, and these remained until after the death
of Napoleon, in 1821. Several years later the group of islands
populated by Americans and Dutchmen from the Cape acknowledged the
suzerainty of Great Britain, but this was not so in 1839. My
personal observation at that date convinced me that the possession
of Tristan d’Acunha was not worth disputing. In the sixteenth
century the islands were called the Land of Life.
On the 5th of September, in the morning, the towering volcano of the
chief island was signalled; a huge snow-covered mass, whose crater
formed the basin of a small lake. Next day, on our approach, we
could distinguish a vast heaped-up lava field. At this distance the
surface of the water was striped with gigantic seaweeds, vegetable
ropes, varying in length from six hundred to twelve hundred feet,
and as thick as a wine barrel.
Here I should mention that for three days subsequent to the finding
of the fragment of ice, Captain Len Guy came on deck for strictly
nautical purposes only, and I had no opportunities of seeing him
except at meals, when he maintained silence, that not even James
West could have enticed him to break. I made no attempt to do this,
being convinced that the hour would come when Len Guy would again
speak to me of his brother, and of the efforts which he intended to
make to save him and his companions. Now, I repeat, the season being
considered, that hour had not come, when the schooner cast anchor on
the 6th of September at Ansiedling, in Falmouth Bay, precisely in
the place indicated in Arthur Pym’s narrative as the moorings of
At the period of the arrival of the Jane, an ex-corporal of the
English artillery, named Glass, reigned over a little colony of
twenty-six individuals, who traded with the Cape, and whose only
vessel was a small schooner. At our arrival this Glass had more than
fifty subjects, and was, as Arthur Pym remarked, quite independent
of the British Government. Relations with the ex-corporal were
established on the arrival of the Halbrane, and he proved very
friendly and obliging. West, to whom the captain left the business
of refilling the water tanks and taking in supplies of fresh meat
and vegetables, had every reason to be satisfied with Glass, who, no
doubt, expected to be paid, and was paid, handsomely.
The day after our arrival I met ex-corporal Glass, a vigorous,
well-preserved man, whose sixty years had not impaired his
intelligent vivacity. Independently of his trade with the Cape and
the Falklands, he did an important business in seal-skins and the
oil of marine animals, and his affairs were prosperous. As he
appeared very willing to talk, I entered briskly into conversation
with this self-appointed Governor of a contented little colony, by
“Do many ships put in to Tristan d’Acunha?”
“As many as we require,” he replied, rubbing his bands together
behind his back, according to his invariable custom.
“In the fine season?”
“Yes, in the fine season, if indeed we can be said to have any
other in these latitudes.”
“I congratulate you, Mr. Glass. But it is to be regretted that
Tristan d’Acunha has not a single port. If you possessed a
“For what purpose, sir, when nature has provided us with such a
bay as this, where there is shelter from gales, and it is easy to
lie snug right up against the rocks? No, Tristan has no port, and
Tristan can do without one.”
Why should I have contradicted this good man? He was proud of his
island, just as the Prince of Monaco is justly proud of his tiny
I did not persist, and we talked of various things. He offered to
arrange for me an excursion to the depths of the thick forests,
which clothed the volcano up to the middle of the central cove.
I thanked him, but declined his offer, preferring to employ my
leisure on land in some mineralogical studies. Besides, the Halbrane
was to set sail so soon as she had taken in her provisions.
“Your captain is in a remarkable hurry!” said Governor Glass.
“You think so?”
“He is in such haste that his lieutenant does not even talk of
buying skins or oil from me.”
“We require only fresh victuals and fresh water, Mr. Glass.”
“Very well,” replied the Governor, who was rather annoyed,
“what the Halbrane will not take other vessels will.”
Then he resumed,--
“And where is your schooner bound for on leaving us?”
“For the Falklands, no doubt, where she can be repaired.”
“You, sir, are only a passenger, I suppose?”
“As you say, Mr. Glass, and I had even intended to remain at
Tristan d’Acunha for some weeks. But I have had to relinquish that
“I am sorry to hear it, sir. We should have been happy to offer
you hospitality while awaiting the arrival of another ship.”
“Such hospitality would have been most valuable to me,” I
replied, “but unfortunately I cannot avail myself of it.”
In fact, I had finally resolved not to quit the schooner, but to
embark for America from the Falkland Isles with out much delay. I
felt sure that Captain Len Guy would not refuse to take me to the
islands. I informed Mr. Glass of my intention, and he remarked,
still in a tone of annoyance,--
“As for your captain, I have not even seen the colour of his
“I don’t think he has any intention of coming ashore.”
“Is he ill?”
“Not to my knowledge. But it does not concern you, since he has
sent his lieutenant to represent him.”
“Oh, he’s a cheerful person! One may extract two words from him
occasionally. Fortunately, it is easier to get coin out of his
pocket than speech out of his lips.”
“That’s the important thing, Mr. Glass.”
“You are right, sir--Mr. Jeorling, of Connecticut, I believe?”
“So! I know your name, while I have yet to learn that of the
captain of the Halbrane.”
“His name is Guy--Len Guy.”
“He might have taken the trouble to pay a visit to a countryman of
his, Mr. Jeorling! But stay! I had some dealings formerly with a
captain of that name. Guy, Guy--”
“William Guy?” I asked, quickly.
“Precisely. William Guy.”
“Who commanded the Jane?”
“The Jane? Yes. The same man.”
“An English schooner which put in at Tristan d’Acunha eleven
“Eleven years, Mr. Jeorling. I had been settled in the island
where Captain Jeffrey, of the Berwick, of London, found me in the
year 1824, for full seven years. I perfectly recall this William
Guy, as if he were before me. He was a fine, open-hearted fellow,
and I sold him a cargo of seal-skins. He had the air of a gentleman,
rather proud, but good-natured.”
“And the Jane!”
“I can see her now at her moorings in the same place as the
Halbrane. She was a handsome vessel of one hundred and eighty tons,
very slender for’ards. She belonged to the port of Liverpool.”
“Yes; that is true, all that is true.”
“And is the Jane still afloat, Mr. Jeorling?”
“No, Mr. Glass.”
“Was she lost?”
“The fact is only too true, and the greater part of her crew with
“Will you tell me how this happened?”
“Willingly. On leaving Tristan d’Acunha the Jane headed for the
bearings of the Aurora and other islands, which William Guy hoped to
recognize from information--”
“That came from me,” interrupted the ex-corporal. “And those
other islands, may I learn whether the Jane discovered them?”
“No, nor the Auroras either, although William Guy remained several
weeks in those waters, running from east to west, with a look-out
always at the masthead.”
“He must have lost his bearings, Mr. Jeorling, for, if several
whalers, who were well deserving of credit, are to be believed,
these islands do exist, and it was even proposed to give them my
“That would have been but just,” I replied politely. “It will
be very vexatious if they are not discovered some day,” added the
Governor, in a tone which indicated that he was not devoid of vanity.
“It was then,” I resumed, “that Captain Guy resolved to carry
out a project he had long cherished, and in which he was encouraged
by a certain passenger who was on board the Jane--”
“Arthur Gordon Pym,” exclaimed Glass, “and his companion, one
Dirk Peters; the two had been picked up at sea by the schooner.”
“You knew them, Mr. Glass?” I asked eagerly.
“Knew them, Mr. Jeorling? I should think I did, indeed! That
Arthur Pym was a strange person, always wanting to rush into
adventures--a real rash American, quite capable of starting off to
the moon! Has he gone there at last?”
“No, not quite, Mr. Glass, but, during her voyage, the schooner,
it seems, did clear the polar circle, and pass the ice-wall. She got
farther than any ship had ever done before.”
“What a wonderful feat!”
“Yes. Unfortunately, the Jane did not return. Arthur Pym and
William Guy escaped the doom of the Jane and the most of her crew.
They even got back to America, how I do not know. Afterwards Arthur
Pym died, but under what circumstances I am ignorant. As for the
half-breed, after having retired to Illinois, he went off one day
without a word to anyone and no trace of him has been found.”
“And William Guy?” asked Mr. Glass.
I related the finding of the body of Patterson, the mate of the
Jane, and I added that everything led to the belief that the captain
of the Jane and five of his companions were still living on an
island in the austral regions, at less than six degrees from the
“Ah, Mr. Jeorling,” cried Glass, “if some day William Guy and
his sailors might be saved! They seemed to me to be such fine
“That is just what the Halbrane is certainly going to attempt, so
soon as she is ready, for her captain, Len Guy, is William Guy’s
“Is it possible? Well, although I do not know Captain Len Guy, I
venture to assert that the brothers do not resemble each other--at
least in their behaviour to the Governor of Tristan d’Acunha!”
It was plain that the Governor was profoundly mortified, but no
doubt he consoled himself by the prospect of selling his goods at
twenty-five per cent above their value.
One thing was certain: Captain Len Guy had no intention of coming
ashore. This was the more singular, inasmuch as he could not be
unaware that the Jane had put in at Tristan d’Acunha before
proceeding to the southern seas. Surely he might be expected to put
himself in communication with the last European who had shaken hands
with his brother!
Nevertheless, Captain Len Guy remained persistently on board his
ship, without even going on deck; and, looking through the glass
skylight of his cabin, I saw him perpetually stooping over the
table, which was covered with open books and out-spread charts. No
doubt the charts were those of the austral latitudes, and the books
were narratives of the precursors of the Jane in those mysterious
regions of the south.
On the table lay also a volume which had been read and re-read a
hundred times. Most of its pages were dogs’-eared and their
margins were filled with pencilled notes. And on the cover shone the
title in brightly gilded letters:
THE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUR GORDON PYM.
BOUND FOR THE FALKLANDS.
On the 8th of September, in the evening, I had taken leave of His
Excellency the Governor-General of the Archipelago of Tristan
d’Acunha--for such is the official title bestowed upon himself by
that excellent fellow, Glass, ex-corporal of artillery in the
British Army. On the following day, before dawn, the Halbrane sailed.
After we had rounded Herald Point, the few houses of Ansiedlung
disappeared behind the extremity of Falmouth Bay. A fine breeze from
the east carried us along gaily.
During the morning we left behind us in succession Elephant Bay,
Hardy Rock, West Point, Cotton Bay, and Daly’s Promontory; but it
took the entire day to lose sight of the volcano of Tristan
d’Acunha, which is eight thousand feet high; its snow-clad bulk
was at last veiled by the shades of evening.
During that week our voyage proceeded under the most favourable
conditions; if these were maintained, the end of the month of
September ought to bring us within sight of the first peaks of the
Falkland Group; and so, very sensibly towards the south; the
schooner having descended from the thirty-eighth parallel to the
fifty-fifth degree of latitude.
The most daring, or, perhaps I ought to say, the most lucky of those
discoverers who had preceded the Halbrane, under the command of
Captain Len Guy, in the Antarctic seas, had not gone beyond--Kemp,
the sixty-sixth parallel; Ballerry, the sixty-seventh; Biscoe, the
sixty-eighth; Bellinghausen and Morrell, the seventieth; Cook, the
seventy-first; Weddell, the seventy-fourth. And it was beyond the
eighty-third, nearly five hundred and fifty miles farther, that we
must go to the succour of the survivors of the Jane!
I confess that for a practical man of unimaginative temperament, I
felt strangely excited; a nervous restlessness had taken possession
of me. I was haunted by the figures of Arthur Pym and his
companions, lost in Antarctic ice-deserts. I began to feel a desire
to take part in the proposed undertaking of Captain Len Guy. I
thought about it incessantly. As a fact there was nothing to recall
me to America. It is true that whether I should get the consent of
the commander of the Halbrane remained to be seen; but, after all,
why should he refuse to keep me as a passenger? Would it not be a
very “human” satisfaction to him to give me material proof that
he was in the right, by taking me to the very scene of a catastrophe
that I had regarded as fictitious, showing me the remains of the
Jane at Tsalal, and landing me on that selfsame island which I had
declared to be a myth?
Nevertheless, I resolved to wait, before I came to any definite
determination, until an opportunity of speaking to the captain
After an interval of unfavourable weather, during which the Halbrane
made but slow progress, on the 4th of October, in the morning, the
aspect of the sky and the sea underwent a marked change. The wind
became calm, the waves abated, and the next day the breeze veered to
the north-west. This was very favourable to us, and in ten days,
with a continuance of such fortunate conditions, we might hope to
reach the Falklands.
It was on the 11th that the opportunity of an explanation with
Captain Len Guy was presented to me, and by himself, for he came out
of his cabin, advanced to the side of the ship where I was seated,
and took his place at my side.
Evidently he wished to talk to me, and of what, if not the subject
which entirely absorbed him? He began by saying:
“I have not yet had the pleasure of a chat with you, Mr. Jeorling,
since our departure from Tristan d’Acunha!”
“To my regret, captain,” I replied, but with reserve, for I
wanted him to make the running.
“I beg you to excuse me,” he resumed, “I have so many things
to occupy me and make me anxious. A plan of campaign to organize, in
which nothing must be unforeseen or unprovided for. I beg you not to
be displeased with me--”
“I am not, I assure you.”
“That is all right, Mr. Jeorling; and now that I know you, that I
am able to appreciate you, I congratulate myself upon having you for
a passenger until our arrival at the Falklands.”
“I am very grateful, captain, for what you have done for me, and I
feel encouraged to--”
The moment seemed propitious to my making my proposal, when Captain
Len Guy interrupted me.
“Well, Mr. Jeorling,” he asked, “are you now convinced of the
reality of the voyage of the Jane, or do you still regard Edgar
Poe’s book as a work of pure imagination?”
“I do not so regard it, captain.”
“You no longer doubt that Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters have really
existed, or that my brother William Guy and five of his companions
“I should be the most incredulous of men, captain, to doubt either
fact, and my earnest desire is that the favour of Heaven may attend
you and secure the safety of the shipwrecked mariners of the Jane.”
“I will do all in my power, Mr. Jeorling, and by the blessing of
God I shall succeed.”
“I hope so, captain. Indeed, I am certain it will be so, and if
“Is it not the case that you talked of this matter with one Glass,
an English ex-corporal, who sets up to be Governor of Tristan
d’Acunha?” inquired the captain, without allowing me to finish
“That is so,” I replied, “and what I learned from Glass has
contributed not a little to change my doubts into certainty.”
“Ah I he has satisfied you?”
“Yes. He perfectly remembers to have seen the Jane, eleven years
ago, when she had put in at Tristan d’Acunha.”
“The Jane--and my brother?”
“He told me that he had personal dealings with Captain William
“And he traded with the Jane?”
“Yes, as he has just been trading with the Halbrane.”
“She was moored in this bay?”
“In the same place as your schooner.”
“And--Arthur Pym--Dirk Peters?”
“He was with them frequently.”
“Did he ask what had become of them?”
“Oh yes, and I informed him of the death of Arthur Pym, whom he
regarded as a foolhardy adventurer, capable of any daring folly.”
“Say a madman, and a dangerous madman, Mr. Jeorling. Was it not he
who led my unfortunate brother into that fatal enterprise?”
“There is, indeed, reason to believe so from his narrative.”
“And never to forget it! added the captain in a tone of agitation.
“This man, Glass,” I resumed, “also knew Patterson, the mate
of the Jane.”
“He was a fine, brave, faithful fellow, Mr. Jeorling, and devoted,
body and soul, to my brother.”
“As West is to you, captain.”
“Does Glass know where the shipwrecked men from the Jane are
“I told him, captain, and also all that you have resolved to do to
I did not think proper to add that Glass had been much surprised at
Captain Guy’s abstaining from visiting him, as, in his absurd
vanity, he held the commander of the Halbrane bound to do, nor that
he did not consider the Governor of Tristan d’Acunha bound to take
“I wish to ask you, Mr. Jeorling, whether you think everything in
Arthur Pym’s journal, which has been published by Edgar Poe, is
“I think there is some need for doubt,” I answered “the
singular character of the hero of those adventures being taken into
consideration--at least concerning the phenomena of the island of
Tsalal. And we know that Arthur Pym was mistaken in asserting that
Captain William Guy and several of his companions perished in the
landslip of the hill at Klock-Klock.”
“Ah! but he does not assert this, Mr. Jeorling! He says only that,
when he and Dirk Peters had reached the opening through which they
could discern the surrounding country, the seat of the artificial
earthquake was revealed to them. Now, as the whole face of the hill
was rushing into the ravine, the fate of my brother and twenty-nine
of his men could not be doubtful to his mind. He was, most
naturally, led to believe that Dirk Peters and himself were the only
white men remaining alive on the island. He said nothing but
this--nothing more. These were only suppositions--very reasonable,
are they not?”
“I admit that, fully, captain.”
“But now, thanks to Patterson’s note-book, we are certain that
my brother and five of his companions escaped from the landslip
contrived by the natives.”
“That is quite clear, captain. But, as to what became of the
survivors of the Jane, whether they were taken by the natives of
Tsalal and kept in captivity, or remained free, Patterson’s
note-book says nothing, nor does it relate under what circumstances
he himself was carried far away from them.”
“All that we shall learn, Mr. Jeorling. Yes, we shall know all.
The main point is that we are quite sure my brother and five of his
sailors were living less than four months ago on some part of Tsalal
Island. There is now no question of a romance signed ‘Edgar
Poe,’ but of a veracious narrative signed ‘Patterson.’“
“Captain,” said I, “will you let me be one of your company
until the end of the campaign of the Halbrane in the Antarctic
Captain Len Guy looked at me with a glance as penetrating as a keen
blade. Otherwise hedid not appear surprised by the proposal I had
made; perhaps he had been expecting it--and he uttered only the
FITTING OUT THE HALBRANE
On the 15th of October, our schooner cast anchor in Port Egmont, on
the north of West Falkland. The group is composed of two islands,
one the above-named, the other Soledad or East Falkland. Captain Len
Guy gave twelve hours’ leave to the whole crew. The next day the
proceedings were to begin by a careful and minute inspection of the
vessel’s hull and keel, in view of the contemplated prolonged
navigation of the Antarctic seas. That day Captain Len Guy went
ashore, to confer with the Governor of the group on the subject of
the immediate re-victualling of the schooner. He did not intend to
make expense a consideration, because the whole adventure might be
wrecked by an unwise economy. Besides I was ready to aid with my
purse, as I told him, and I intended that we should be partners in
tile cost of this expedition.
James West remained on board all day, according to his custom in the
absence of the captain, and was engaged until evening in the
inspection of the hold. I did not wish to go ashore until the next
day. I should have ample time while we remained in port to explore
Port Egmont and its surroundings, and to study the geology and
mineralogy of the island. Hurliguerly regarded the opportunity as
highly favourable for the renewal of talk with me, and availed
himself of it accordingly. He accosted me as follows:
“Accept my sincere compliments, Mr. Jeorling?”
“And wherefore, boatswain?”
“On account of what I have just heard--that you are to come with
us to the far end of the Antarctic seas.”
“Oh! not so far, I imagine, and if it is not a matter of going
beyond the eighty-fourth parallel--”
“Who can tell,” replied the boatswain, “at all events the
Halbrane will make more degrees of latitude than any other ship
“We shall see.”
“And does that not alarm you, Mr. Jeorling?”
“Not in the very least.”
“Nor us, rest assured. No, no! You see, Mr. Jeorling, our captain
is a good one, although he is no talker. You only need to take him
the right way! First he gives you the passage to Tristan d’Acunha
that he refused you at first, and now he extends it to the pole.”
“The pole is not the question, boatswain.”
“Ah! it will be reached at last, some day.”
“The thing has not yet been done. And, besides, I don’t take
much interest in the pole, and have no ambition to conquer it. In
any case it is only to Tsalal Island--”
“Tsalal Island, of course. Nevertheless, you will acknowledge that
our captain has been very accommodating to you, and--”
“And therefore I am much obliged to him, boatswain, and,” I
hastened to add, ”to you also; since it is to your influence I owe
“Very likely.” Hurliguerly, a good fellow at bottom, as I
afterwards learned, discerned a little touch of irony in my tone;
but he did not appear to do so; he was resolved to persevere in his
patronage of me. And, indeed, his conversation could not be
otherwise than profitable to me, for he was thoroughly acquainted
with the Falkland Islands. The result was that on the following day
I went ashore adequately prepared to begin my perquisitions. At that
period the Falklands were not utilized as they have been since.
It was at a later date that Port Stanley--described by Elisée
Réclus, the French geographer, as “ideal”--was discovered.
Port Stanley is sheltered at every point of the compass, and could
contain all the fleets of Great Britain.
If I had been sailing for the last two months with bandaged eyes,
and without knowing whither the Halbrane was bound, and had been
asked during the first few hours at our moorings, “Are you in the
Falkland Isles or in Norway?” I should have puzzled how to answer
the question. For here were coasts forming deep creeks, the steep
hills with peaked sides, and the coast-ledges faced with grey rock.
Even the seaside climate, exempt from great extremes of cold and
heat, is common to the two countries. Besides, the frequent rains of
Scandinavia visit Magellan’s region in like abundance. Both have
dense fogs, and, in spring and autumn, winds so fierce that the very
vegetables in the fields are frequently rooted up.
A few walks inland would, however, have sufficed to make me
recognize that I was still separated by the equator from the waters
of Northern Europe. What had I found to observe in the neighbourhood
of Port Egmont after my explorations of the first few days? Nothing
but the signs of a sickly vegetation, nowhere arborescent. Here and
there a few shrubs grew, in place of the flourishing firs of the
Norwegian mountains, and the surface of a spongy soil which sinks
and rises under the foot is carpeted with mosses, fungi, and
lichens. No! this was not the enticing country where the echoes of
the sagas resound, this was not the poetic realm of Wodin and the
On the deep waters of the Falkland Strait, which separates the two
principal isles, great masses of extraordinary aquatic vegetation
floated, and the bays of the Archipelago, where whales were already
becoming scarce, were frequented by other marine mammals of enormous
size--seals, twenty-five feet long by twenty in circumference, and
great numbers of sea elephants, wolves, and lions, of proportions no
less gigantic. The uproar made by these animals, by the females and
their young especially, surpasses description. One would think that
herds of cattle were bellowing on the beach. Neither difficulty nor
danger attends the capture, or at least the slaughter of the marine
beasts. The sealers kill them with a blow of a club when they are
lying in the sands on the strand. These are the special features
that differentiate Scandinavia from the Falklands, not to speak of
the infinite number of birds which rose on my approach, grebe,
cormorants, black-headed swans, and above all, tribes of penguins,
of which hundreds of thousands are massacred every year.
One day, when the air was filled with a sound of braying, sufficient
to deafen one, I asked an old sailor belonging to Port Egmont,--
“Are there asses about here?”
“Sir,” he replied, “those are not asses that you hear, but
The asses themselves, had any been there, would have been deceived
by the braying of these stupid birds. I pursued my investigations
some way to the west of the bay. West Falkland is more extensive
than its neighbour, La Soledad, and possesses another fort at the
southern point of Byron’s Sound--too far off for me to go there.
I could not estimate the population of the Archipelago even
approximately. Probably, it did not then exceed from two to three
hundred souls, mostly English, with some Indians, Portuguese,
Spaniards, Gauche from the Argentine Pampas, and natives from Tier
Del Fuel. On the other hand, the representatives of the ovine and
bovine races were to be counted by tens of thousands. More than five
hundred thousand sheep yield over four hundred thousand dollars’
worth of wool yearly. There are also horned cattle bred on the
islands; these seem to have increased in size, while the other
quadrupeds, for instance, horses, pigs, and rabbits, have decreased.
All these live in a wild state, and the only beast of prey is the
dog-fox, a species peculiar to the fauna of the Falklands.
Not without reason has this island been called “a cattle farm.”
What inexhaustible pastures, what an abundance of that savoury
grass, the tussock, does nature lavish on animals there! Australia,
though so rich in this respect, does not set a better spread table
before her ovine and bovine pensioners.
The Falklands ought to be resorted to for the re-victualling of
ships. The groups are of real importance to navigators making for
the Strait of Magellan, as well as to those who come to fish in the
vicinity of the polar regions.
When the work on the hull was done, West occupied himself with the
masts and the rigging, with the assistance of Martin Holt, our
sailing master, who was very clever at this kind of industry.
On the 21st of October, Captain Len Guy said to me: “You shall
see, Mr. Jeorling, that nothing will be neglected to ensure the
success of our enterprise. Everything that can be foreseen has been
foreseen, and if the Halbrane is to perish in some catastrophe, it
will be because it is not permitted to human beings to go against
the designs of God.”
“I have good hopes, captain, as I have already said. Your vessel
and her crew are worthy of confidence. But, supposing the expedition
should be much prolonged, perhaps the supply of provisions--”
“We shall carry sufficient for two years, and those shall be of
good quality. Port Egmont has proved capable of supplying us with
everything we require.”
”Another question, if you will allow me?”
“Put it, Mr. Jeorling, put it.”
“Shall you not need a more numerous crew for the Halbrane?
Though you have men enough for the working of the ship, suppose you
find you have to attack or to defend in the Antarctic waters? Let us
not forget that, according to Arthur Pym’s narrative, there were
thousands of natives on Tsalal Island, and if your brother--if his
companions are prisoners--”
“I hope, Mr. Jeorling, our artillery will protect the Halbrane
better than the Jane was protected by her guns. To tell the truth,
the crew we have would not be sufficient for an expedition of this
kind. I have been arranging for recruiting our forces.”
“Will it be difficult?”
“Yes and no; for the Governor has promised to help me.”
“I surmise, captain, that recruits will have to be attracted by
“Double pay, Mr. Jeorling, and the whole crew must have the
“You know, captain, I am disposed, and, indeed, desirous to
contribute to the expenses of the expedition. Will you kindly
consider me as your partner?”
“All that shall be arranged, Mr. Jeorling, and I am very grateful
to you. The main point is to complete our armament with the least
possible delay. We must be ready to clear out in a week.”
The news that the schooner was bound for the Antarctic seas had
produced some sensation in the Falklands, at Port Egmont, and in the
ports of La Soledad. At that season a number of unoccupied sailors
were there, awaiting the passing of the whaling-ships to offer their
services, for which they were very well paid in general. If it had
been only for a fishing campaign on the borders of the Polar
Circle, between the Sandwich Islands and New Georgia, Captain Len
Guy would have merely had to make a selection. But the projected
voyage was a very different thing; and only the old sailors of the
Halbrane were entirely indifferent to the dangers of such an
enterprise, and ready to follow their chief whithersoever it might
please him to go.
In reality it was necessary to treble the crew of the schooner.
Counting the captain, the mate, the boatswain, the cook and myself,
we were thirteen on board. Now, thirty-two or thirty-four men would
not be too many for us, and it must be remembered that there were
thirty-eight on board the Jane.
In this emergency the Governor exerted himself to the utmost, and
thanks to the largely-extra pay that was offered, Captain Len Guy
procured his full tale of seamen. Nine recruits signed articles for
the duration of the campaign, which could not be fixed beforehand,
but was not to extend beyond Tsalal Island.
The crew, counting every man on board except myself, numbered
thirty-one, and a thirty-second for whom I bespeak especial
attention. On the eve of our departure, Captain Len Guy was accosted
at the angle of the port by an individual whom he recognized as a
sailor by his clothes, his walk, and his speech.
This individual said, in a rough and hardly intelligible voice,--
“Captain, I have to make a proposal to you.”
“What is it?”
“Have you still a place?”
“For a sailor?”
“For a sailor.”
“Yes and no.”
“Is it yes?”
“It is yes, if the man suits me.”
“Will you take me?”
“You are a seaman?”
“I have served the sea for twenty-five years?
“In the Southern Seas,”
“Yes, far, far.”
“And you are at Port Egmont?”
“I shall have been there three years, come Christmas.”
“Did you expect to get on a passing whale-ship?”
“Then what were you doing here?”
“Nothing, and I did not think of going to sea again.”
“Then why seek a berth?”
“Just an idea. The news of the expedition your schooner is going
on was spread. I desire, yes, I desire to take part in it--with
your leave, of course.”
“You are known at Port Egmont?”
“Well known, and I have incurred no reproach since I came here.”
“Very well,” said the captain. “I will make inquiry respecting
“Inquire, captain, and if you say yes, my bag shall he on board
“What is your name?”
“And you are--?”
This Hunt was a man of short stature, his weather beaten face was
brick red, his skin of a yellowish-brown like an Indian’s, his
body clumsy, his head very large, his legs were bowed, his whole
frame denoted exceptional strength, especially the arms, which
terminated in huge hands. His grizzled hair resembled a kind of fur.
A particular and anything but prepossessing character was imparted
to the physiognomy of this individual by the extraordinary keenness
of his small eyes, his almost lipless mouth, which stretched from
ear to ear, and his long teeth, which were dazzlingly white; their
enamel being intact, for he had never been attacked by scurvy, the
common scourge of seamen in high latitudes.
Hunt had been living in the Falklands for three years; he lived
alone on a pension, no one knew from whence this was derived. He was
singularly uncommunicative, and passed his time in fishing, by which
he might have lived, not only as a matter of sustenance, but as an
article of commerce.
The information gained by Captain Len Guy was necessarily
incomplete, as it was confined to Hunt’s conduct during his
residence at Port Egmont. The man did not fight, he did not drink,
and he had given many proofs of his Herculean strength. Concerning
his past nothing was known, but undoubtedly he had been a sailor. He
had said more to Len Guy than he had ever said to anybody; but he
kept silence respecting the family to which he belonged, and the
place of his birth. This was of no importance; that he should prove
to be a good sailor was all we had to think about. Hunt obtained a
favourable reply, and came on board that same evening.
On the 27th, in the morning, in the presence of the authorities of
the Archipelago, the Halbrane’s anchor was lifted, the last good
wishes and the final adieus were exchanged, and the schooner took
the sea. The same evening Capes Dolphin and Pembroke disappeared in
the mists of the horizon.
Thus began the astonishing adventure undertaken by these brave men,
who were driven by a sentiment of humanity towards the most terrible
regions of the Antarctic realm.
THE OUTSET OF THE ENTERPRISE.
Here was I, then, launched into an adventure which seemed likely to
surpass all my former experiences. Who would have believed such a
thing of me. But I was under a spell which drew me towards the
unknown, that unknown of the polar world whose secrets so many
daring pioneers had in vain essayed to penetrate. And this time, who
could tell but that the sphinx of the Antarctic regions would speak
for the first time to human ears!
The new crew had firstly to apply themselves to learning their
several duties, and the old--all fine fellows--aided them in the
task. Although Captain Len Guy had not had much choice, he seemed to
have been in luck. These sailors, of various nationalities,
displayed zeal and good will. They were aware, also, that the mate
was a man whom it would not do to vex, for Hurliguerly had given
them to understand that West would break any man’s head who did
not go straight. His chief allowed him full latitude in this respect.
“A latitude,” he added, “which is obtained by taking the
altitude of the eye with a shut fist.”
I recognized my friend the boatswain in the manner of this warning
to all whom it might concern.
The new hands took the admonition seriously, and there was no
occasion to punish any of them. As for Hunt, while he observed the
docility of a true sailor in all his duties, he always kept himself
apart, speaking to none, and even slept on the deck, in a corner,
rather than occupy a bunk in the forecastle with the others.
Captain Len Guy’s intention was to take the Sandwich Isles for his
point of departure towards the south, after having made acquaintance
with New Georgia, distant eight hundred miles from the Falklands.
Thus the schooner would be in longitude on the route of the Jane.
On the 2nd of November this course brought us to the bearings which
certain navigators have assigned to the Aurora Islands, 30° 15’
of latitude and 47° 33’ of east longitude.
Well, then, notwithstanding the affirmations--which I regarded with
suspicion--of the captains of the Aurora in 1762, of the Saint
Miguel, in 1769, of the Pearl, in 1779, of the Prinicus and the
Dolores, in 1790, of the Atrevida, in 1794, which gave the bearings
of the three islands of the group, we did not perceive a single
indication of land in the whole of the space traversed by us. It was
the same with regard to the alleged islands of the conceited Glass.
Not a single little islet was to be seen in the position he had
indicated, although the look-out was most carefully kept. It is to
be feared that his Excellency the Governor of Tristan d’Acunha
will never see his name figuring in geographical nomenclature.
It was now the 6th of November. Our passage promised to be shorter
than that of the Jane. We had no need to hurry, however. Our
schooner would arrive before the gates of the iceberg wall would
be open. For three days the weather caused the working of the ship
to be unusually laborious, and the new crew behaved very well;
thereupon the boatswain congratulated them. Hurliguerly bore witness
that Hunt, for all his awkward and clumsy build, was in himself worth
“A famous recruit,” said he.
“Yes, indeed,” I replied, “and gained just at the last
“Very true, Mr. Jeorling! But what a face and head he has, that
“I have often met Americans like him in the regions of the Far
West,” I answered, “and I should not be surprised if this man
had Indian blood in his veins. Do you ever talk with Hunt?”
“Very seldom, Mr. Jeorling. He keeps himself to himself, and away
from everybody. And yet, it is not for want of mouth. I never saw
anything like his! And his hands! Have you seen his hands? Be on
your guard, Mr. Jeorling, if ever he wants to shake hands with
“Fortunately, boatswain, Hunt does not seem to be quarrelsome. He
appears to be a quiet man who does not abuse his strength.”
“No--except when he is setting a halyard. Then I am always afraid
the pulley will come down and the yard with it.”
Hunt certainly was a strange being, and I could not resist observing
him with curiosity, especially as it struck me that he regarded me
at times with a curious intentness.
On the 10th of November, at about two in the afternoon, the look-out
“Land ahead, starboard!”
An observation had just given 55° 7’ latitude and 41° 13’
longitude. This land could only be the Isle de Saint Pierre--its
British names are South Georgia, New Georgia, and King George’s
Island--and it belongs to the circumpolar regions.
It was discovered by the Frenchman, Barbe, in 1675, before Cook;
but, although he came in second, the celebrated navigator gave it
the series of names which it still bears.
The schooner took the direction of this island, whose snow-clad
heights--formidable masses of ancient rock-rise to an immense
altitude through the yellow fogs of the surrounding space.
New Georgia, situated within five hundred leagues of Magellan
Straits, belongs to the administrative domain of the Falklands. The
British administration is not represented there by anyone, the
island is not inhabited, although it is habitable, at least in the
On the following day, while the men were gone in search of water, I
walked about in the vicinity of the bay. The place was an utter
desert, for the period at which sealing is pursued there had not
arrived. New Georgia, being exposed to the direct action of the
Antarctic polar current, is freely frequented by marine mammals. I
saw several droves of these creatures on the rocks, the strand, and
within the rock grottoes of the coast. Whole “smalas” of
penguins, standing motionless in interminable rows, brayed their
protest against the invasion of an intruder--I allude to myself.
Innumerable larks flew over the surface of the waters and the sands;
their song awoke my memory of lands more favoured by nature. It is
fortunate that these birds do not want branches to perch on; for
there does not exist a tree in New Georgia. Here and there I found a
few phanerogams, some pale-coloured mosses, and especially tussock
grass in such abundance that numerous herds of cattle might be fed
upon the island.
On the 12th November the Halbrane sailed once more, and having
doubled Charlotte Point at the extremity of Royal Bay, she headed in
the direction of the Sandwich Islands, four hundred miles from
So far we had not encountered floating ice. The reason was that the
summer sun had not detached any, either from the icebergs or the
southern lands. Later on, the current would draw them to the height
of the fiftieth parallel, which, in the southern hemisphere, is that
of Paris or Quebec. But we were much impeded by huge banks of fog
which frequently shut out the horizon. Nevertheless, as these waters
presented no danger, and there was nothing to fear from ice packs or
drifting icebergs, the Halbrane was able to pursue her route towards
the Sandwich Islands comfortably enough. Great flocks of clangorous
birds, breasting the wind and hardly moving their wings, passed us
in the midst of the fogs, petrels, divers, halcyons, and albatross,
bound landwards, as though to show us the way.
Owing, no doubt, to these mists, we were unable to discern Traversey
Island. Captain Len Guy, however, thought some vague streaks of
intermittent light which were perceived in the night, between the
14th and 15th, probably proceeded from a volcano which might be that
of Traversey, as the crater frequently emits flames.
On the 17th November the schooner reached the Archipelago to which
Cook gave the name of Southern Thule in the first instance, as it
was the most southern land that had been discovered at that period.
He afterwards baptized it Sandwich Isles.
James West repaired to Thule in the large boat, in order to explore
the approachable points, while Captain Len Guy and I descended on
the Bristol strand.
We found absolutely desolate country; the only inhabitants were
melancholy birds of Antarctic species. Mosses and lichens cover the
nakedness of an unproductive soil. Behind the beach a few firs rise
to a considerable height on the bare hill-sides, from whence great
masses occasionally come crashing down with a thundering sound.
Awful solitude reigns everywhere. There was nothing to attest the
passage of any human being, or the presence of any shipwrecked
persons on Bristol Island.
West’s exploration at Thule produced a precisely similar result. A
few shots fired from our schooner had no effect but to drive away
the crowd of petrels and divers, and to startle the rows of stupid
penguins on the beach.
While Captain Len Guy and I were walking, I said to him,--
“You know, of course, what Cook’s opinion on the subject of the
Sandwich group was when he discovered it. At first he believed he
had set foot upon a continent. According to him, the mountains of
ice carried out of the Antarctic Sea by the drift were detached from
that continent. He recognized afterwards that the Sandwiches only
formed an Archipelago, but, nevertheless, his belief that a polar
continent farther south exists, remained firm and unchanged.”
“I know that is so, Mr. Jeorling,” replied the captain, “but
if such a continent exists, we must conclude that there is a great
gap in its coast, and that Weddell and my brother each got in by
that gap at six years’ interval. That our great navigator had not
the luck to discover this passage is easy to explain; he stopped at
the seventy-first parallel! But others found it after Captain Cook,
and others will find it again.”
“And we shall be of the number, captain.”
“Yes--with the help of God! Cook did not hesitate to assert that
no one would ever venture farther than he had gone, and that the
Antarctic lands, if any such existed, would never be seen, but the
future will prove that he was mistaken. They have been seen so far
as the eighty-fourth degree of latitude--”
“And who knows,” said I, “perhaps beyond that, by Arthur
“Perhaps, Mr. Jeorling. It is true that we have not to trouble
ourselves about Arthur Pym, since he, at least, and Dirk Peters
also, returned to America.”
“But--supposing he did not return?”
“I consider that we have not to face that eventuality,” replied
Captain Len Guy.
FROM THE SANDWICH ISLANDS TO THE POLAR CIRCLE.
The Halbrane, singularly favoured by the weather, sighted the New
South Orkneys group in six days after she had sailed from the
Sandwich Islands. This archipelago was discovered by Palmer, an
American, and Bothwell, an Englishman, jointly, in 1821-22. Crossed
by the sixty-first parallel, it is comprehended between the
forty-fourth and the forty, seventh meridian.
On approaching, we were enabled to observe contorted masses and
steep cliffs on the north side, which became less rugged as they
neared the coast, at whose edge lay enormous ice-floes, heaped
together in formidable confusion; these, before two months should
have expired, would be drifted towards the temperate waters. At that
season the whaling ships would appear to carry on the taking of the
great blowing creatures, while some of their crews would remain on
the islands to capture seals and sea-elephants.
In order to avoid the strait, which was encumbered with islets and
ice-floes, Captain Len Guy first cast anchor at the south-eastern
extremity of Laurie Island, where he passed the day on the 24th;
then, having rounded Cape Dundas, he sailed along the southern coast
of Coronation Island, where the schooner anchored on the 25th. Our
close and careful researches produced no result as regarded the
sailors of the Jane.
The islands and islets were peopled by multitudes of birds. Without
taking the penguins into account, those guano-covered rocks were
crowded with white pigeons, a species of which I had already seen
some specimens. These birds have rather short, conical beaks, and
red-rimmed eyelids; they can be knocked over with little difficulty.
As for the vegetable kingdom in the New South Orkneys, it is
represented only by grey lichen and some scanty seaweeds. Mussels
are found in great abundance all along the rocks; of these we
procured an ample supply.
The boatswain and his men did not lose the opportunity of killing
several dozens of penguins with their sticks, not from a ruthless
instinct of destruction, but from the legitimate desire to procure
“Their flesh is just as good as chicken, Mr. Jeorling,” said
Hurliguerly. “Did you not eat penguin at the Kerguelens?”
“Yes, boatswain, but it was cooked by Arkins.”
“Very well, then; it will be cooked by Endicott here, and you will
not know the difference.”
And in fact we in the saloon, like the men in the forecastle, were
regaled with penguin, and acknowledged the merits of our excellent
The Halbrane sailed on the 26th of November, at six o’clock in the
morning, heading south. She reascended the forty-third meridian;
this we were able to ascertain very exactly by a good observation.
This route it was that Weddell and then William Guy had followed,
and, provided the schooner did not deflect either to the east or the
west, she must inevitably come to Tsalal Island. The difficulties of
navigation had to be taken into account, of course.
The wind, continuing to blow steadily from the west, was in our
favour, and if the present speed of the Halbrane could be
maintained, as I ventured to suggest to Captain Len Guy, the voyage
from the South Orkneys to the Polar Circle would be a short one.
Beyond, as I knew, we should have to force the gate of the thick
barrier of icebergs, or to discover a breach in that ice-fortress.
“So that, in less than a month, captain--” I suggested,
“In less than a month I hope to have found the iceless sea which
Weddell and Arthur Pym describe so fully, beyond the ice-wall, and
thenceforth we need only sail on under ordinary conditions to Bennet
Island in the first place, and afterwards to Tsalal Island. Once on
that ‘wide open sea,’ what obstacle could arrest or even retard
“I can foresee none, captain, so soon as we shall get to the back
of the ice-wall. The passage through is the difficult point; it must
be our chief source of anxietys and if only the wind holds--”
“It will hold, Mr. Jeorling. All the navigators of the austral
seas have been able to ascertain, as I myself have done, the
permanence of this wind.”
“That is true, and I rejoice in the assurance, captain. Besides, I
acknowledge, without shrinking from the admission, that I am
beginning to be superstitious.”
“And why not, Mr. Jeorling? What is there unreasonable in
admitting the intervention of a supernatural power in the most
ordinary circumstances of life? And we, who sail the Halbrane,
should we venture to doubt it? Recall to your mind our meeting with
the unfortunate Patterson on our ship’s course, the fragment of
ice carried into the waters where we were, and dissolved immediately
afterwards. Were not these facts providential? Nay, I go farther
still, and am sure that, after having done so much to guide us
towards our compatriots, God will not abandon us--”
“I think as you think, captain. No, His intervention is not to be
denied, and I do not believe that chance plays the part assigned to
it by superficial minds upon the stage of human life. All the facts
are united by a mysterious chain.”
“A chain, Mr. Jeorling, whose first link, so far as we are
concerned, is Patterson’s ice-block, and whose last will be Tsalal
Island. Ah! My brother! my poor brother! Left there for eleven
years, with his companions in misery, without being able to
entertain the hope that succour ever could reach them! And Patterson
carried far away from them, under we know not what conditions, they
not knowing what had become of him! If my heart is sick when I think
of these catastrophes, Mr. Jeorling, at least it will not fail me
unless it be at the moment when my brother throws himself into my
So then we two were agreed in our trust in Providence. It had been
made plain to us in a manifest fashion that God had entrusted us
with a mission, and we would do all that might be humanly possible
to accomplish it.
The schooner’s crew, I ought to mention, were animated by the like
sentiments, and shared the same hopes. I allude to the original
seamen who were so devoted to their captain. As for the new ones,
they were probably indifferent to the result of the enterprise,
provided it should secure the profits promised to them by their
At least, I was assured by the boatswain that such was the case, but
with the exception of Hunt. This man had apparently not been induced
to take service by the bribe of high wages or prize money. He was
absolutely silent on that and every other subject.
“If he does not speak to you, boatswain,” I said, “neither
does he speak to me.”
“Do you know, Mr. Jeorling, what it is my notion that man has
“Tell me, Hurliguerly.”
“Well, then, I believe he has gone far, far into the southern
seas, let him be as dumb as a fish about it. Why he is dumb is his
own affair. But if that sea-hog of a man has not been inside the
Antarctic Circle and even the ice wall by a good dozen degrees, may
the first sea we ship carry me overboard.”
“From what do you judge, boatswain?”
“From his eyes, Mr. Jeorling, from his eyes. No matter at what
moment, let the ship’s head be as it may, those eyes of his are
always on the south, open, unwinking, fixed like guns in position.”
Hurliguerly did not exaggerate, and I had already remarked this. To
employ an expression of Edgar Poe’s, Hunt had eyes like a
“When he is not on the watch,” resumed the boatswain, “that
savage leans all the time with his elbows on the side, as motionless
as he is mute. His right place would be at the end of our bow, where
he would do for a figurehead to the Halbrane, and a very ugly one at
that! And then, when he is at the helm, Mr. Jeorling, just observe
him! His enormous hands clutch the handles as though they were
fastened to the wheel; he gazes at the binnacle as though the magnet
of the compass were drawing his eyes. I pride myself on being a good
steersman, but as for being the equal of Hunt, I’m not! With him,
not for an instant does the needle vary from the sailing-line,
however rough a lurch she may give. I am sure that if the binnacle
lamp were to go out in the night Hunt would not require to relight
it. The fire in his eyes would light up the dial and keep him
For several days our navigation went on in unbroken monotony,
without a single incident, and under favourable conditions. The
spring season was advancing, and whales began to make their
appearance in large numbers.
In these waters a week would suffice for ships of heavy tonnage to
fill their casks with the precious oil. Thus the new men of the
crew, and especially the Americans, did not conceal their regret for
the captain’s indifference in the presence of so many animals
worth their weight in gold, and more abundant than they had ever
seen whales at that period of the year. The leading malcontent was
Hearne, a sealing-master, to whom his companions were ready to
listen. He had found it easy to get the upper hand of the other
sailors by his rough manner and the surly audacity that was
expressed by his whole personality. Hearne was an American, and
forty-five years of age. He was an active, vigorous man, and I could
see him in my mind’s eye, standing up on his double bowed
whaling-boat brandishing the harpoon, darting it into the flank of a
whale, and paying out the rope. He must have been fine to see.
Granted his passion for this business, I could not be surprised that
his discontent showed itself upon occasion. In any case, however,
our schooner was not fitted out for fishing, and the implements of
whaling were not on board.
One day, about three o’clock in the afternoon, I had gone forward
to watch the gambols of a “school” of the huge sea mammals.
Hearne was pointing them out to his companions, and muttering in
“There, look there! That’s a fin-back! There’s another, and
another; three of them with their dorsal fins five or six feet high.
Just see them swimming between two waves, quietly, making no jumps.
Ah! if I had a harpoon, I bet my head that I could send it into one
of the four yellow spots they have on their bodies. But there’s
nothing to be done in this traffic-box; one cannot stretch one’s
arms. Devil take it! In these seas it is fishing we ought to be at,
Then, stopping short, he swore a few oaths, and cried out, “And
that other whale!”
“The one with a hump like a dromedary?” asked a sailor.
“Yes. It is a humpback,” replied Hearne. “Do you make out its
wrinkled belly, and also its long dorsal fin? They’re not easy to
take, those humpbacks, for they go down into great depths and devour
long reaches of your lines. Truly, we deserve that he should give us
a switch of his tail on our side, since we don’t send a harpoon
“Look out! Look out!” shouted the boatswain. This was not to
warn us that we were in danger of receiving the formidable stroke of
the humpback’s tail which the sealing-master had wished us. No, an
enormous blower had come alongside the schooner, and almost on the
instant a spout of ill-smelling water was ejected from its blow-hole
with a noise like a distant roar of artillery. The whole foredeck to
the main hatch was inundated.
“That’s well done!” growled Hearne, shrugging his shoulders,
while his companions shook themselves and cursed the humpback.
Besides these two kinds of cetacea we had observed several
right-whales, and these are the most usually met with in the
southern seas. They have no fins, and their blubber is very thick.
The taking of these fat monsters of the deep is not attended with
much danger. The right-whales are vigorously pursued in the southern
seas, where the little shell fish called “whales’ food”
abound. The whales subsist entirely upon these small crustaceans.
Presently, one of these right-whales, measuring sixty feet in
length--that is to say, the animal was the equivalent of a hundred
barrels of oil--was seen floating within three cables’ lengths of
“Yes! that’s a right-whale,” exclaimed Hearne. “You might
tell it by its thick, short spout. See, that one on the port side,
like a column of smoke, that’s the spout of a right-whale! And all
this is passing before our very noses---a dead loss! Why, it’s
like emptying money-bags into the sea not to fill one’s barrels
when one can. A nice sort of captain, indeed, to let all this
merchandise be lost, and do such wrong to his crew!”
“Hearne,” said an imperious voice, “go up to the maintop. You
will be more at your ease there to reckon the whales.”
“No reply, or I’ll keep you up there until to-morrow. Come--be
off at once.”
And as he would have got the worst of an attempt at resistance, the
sealing-master obeyed in silence.
The season must have been abnormally advanced, for although we
continued to see a vast number of testaceans, we did not catch sight
of a single whaling-ship in all this fishing-ground.
I hasten to state that, although we were not to be tempted by
whales, no other fishing was forbidden on board the Halbrane, and
our daily bill of fare profited by the boatswain’s trawling lines,
to the extreme satisfaction of stomachs weary of salt meat. Our
lines brought us goby, salmon, cod, mackerel, conger, mullet, and
The birds which we saw, and which came from every point of the
horizon, were those I have already mentioned, petrels, divers,
halcyons, and pigeons in countless flocks. I also saw--but beyond
aim--a giant petrel; its dimensions were truly astonishing. This
was one of those called “quebrantahnesos” by the Spaniards. This
bird of the Magellanian waters is very remarkable; its curved and
slender wings have a span of from thirteen to fourteen feet, equal
to that of the wings of the great albatross. Nor is the latter
wanting among these powerful winged creatures; we saw the
dusky-plumed albatross of the cold latitudes, sweeping towards the
On the 30th of November, after observation taken at noon, it was
found that we had reached 66° 23’ 3” of latitude.
The Halbrane had then crossed the Polar Circle which circumscribes
the area of the Antarctic zone.
BETWEEN THE POLAR CIRCLE AND THE ICE WALL.
Since the Halbrane has passed beyond the imaginary curve drawn at
twenty-three and a half degrees from the Pole, it seems as though
she had entered a new region, “that region of Desolation and
Silence,” as Edgar Poe says; that magic person of splendour and
glory in which the Eleanora’s singer longed to be shut up to all
eternity; that immense ocean of light ineffable.
It is my belief--to return to less fanciful hypotheses--that the
Antarctic region, with a superficies of more than five millions of
square miles, has remained what our spheroid was during the glacial
period. In the summer, the southern zone, as we all know, enjoys
perpetual day, owing to the rays projected by the orb of light above
its horizon in his spiral ascent. Then, so soon as he has
disappeared, the long night sets in, a night which is frequently
illumined by the polar aurora or Northern Lights.
It was then in the season of light that our schooner was about to
sail in these formidable regions. The permanent brightness would not
fail us before we should have reached Tsalal Island, where we felt
no doubt of finding the men of the Jane.
When Captain Len Guy, West, and the old sailors of the crew learned
that the schooner had cleared the sixty-sixth parallel of latitude,
their rough and sunburnt faces shone with satisfaction. The next
day, Hurliguerly accosted me on the deck with a broad smile and a
“So then, Mr. Jeorling,” said he, “we’ve left the famous
‘Circle’ behind us!”
“Not far enough, boatswain, not far enough!”
“Oh, that will come! But I am disappointed.”
“In what way?”
“Because we have not done what is usual on board ships
on crossing the Line!”
“You regret that?”
“Certainly I do, and the Halbrane might have been allowed the
ceremony of a southern baptism.”
“A baptism? And whom would you have baptized, boatswain, seeing
that all our men, like yourself, have already sailed beyond this
“We! Oh, yes! But you! Oh, no, Mr. Jeorling. And why, may I ask,
should not that ceremony be performed in your honour?”
“True, boatswain; this is the first time in the course of my
travels that I have been in so high a latitude.”
“And you should have been rewarded by a baptism, Mr. Jeorling.
Yes, indeed, but without any big fuss--no drum and trumpet about
it, and leaving out old Father Neptune with his masquerade. If you
would permit me to baptize you--”
“So be it, Hurliguerly,” said I, putting my hand into my pocket.
“Baptize as you please. Here is something to drink my health with at
the nearest tavern.”
“Then that will be Bennet Islet or Tsalal Island, provided there
are any taverns in those savage islands, and any Atkinses to keep
“Tell me, boatswain--I always get back to Hunt--does he seem so
much pleased to have passed the Polar Circle as the Halbrane’s old
“Who knows? There’s nothing to be got out of him one way or
another. But, as I have said before, if he has not already made
acquaintance with the ice-barrier.”
“What makes you think so?”
“Everything and nothing, Mr. Jeorling. One feels these things; one
doesn’t think them. Hunt is an old sea-dog, who has carried his
canvas bag into every corner of the world.”
The boatswain’s opinion was mine also, and some inexplicable
presentiment made me observe Hunt constantly, for he occupied a
large share of my thoughts.
Early in December the wind showed a north-west tendency, and that
was not good for us, but we would have no serious right to complain
so long as it did not blow due south-west. In the latter case the
schooner would have been thrown out of her course, or at least she
would have had a struggle to keep in it, and it was better for us,
in short, not to stray from the meridian which we had followed since
our departure from the New South Orkneys. Captain Len Guy was made
anxious by this alteration in the wind, and besides, the speed of
the Halbrane was manifestly lessened, for the breeze began to soften
on the 4th, and in the middle of the night it died away.
In the morning the sails hung motionless and shrivelled along the
masts. Although not a breath reached us, and the surface of the
ocean was unruffled, the schooner was rocked from side to side by
the long oscillations of the swell coming from the west.
“The sea feels something,” said Captain Len Guy to me, “and
there must be rough weather on that side,” he added, pointing
“The horizon is misty,” I replied; “but perhaps the sun
“The sun has no strength in this latitude, Mr. Jeorling, not even
in summer. Jem!”
West came up to us.
“What do you think of the sky?”
“I do not think well of it. We must be ready for anything and
“Has not the look-out given warning of the first drifting ice?”
“Yes,” replied Captain Len Guy, “and if we get near the
icebergs the damage will not be to them. Therefore, if prudence
demands that we should go either to the east or to the west, we
shall resign ourselves, but only in case of absolute necessity.”
The watch had made no mistake. In the afternoon we sighted masses,
islets they might be called, of ice, drifting slowly southward, but
these were not yet of considerable extent or altitude. These packs
were easy to avoid; they could not interfere with the sailing of the
Halbrane. But, although the wind had hitherto permitted her to keep
on her course, she was not advancing, and it was exceedingly
disagreeable to be rolling about in a rough and hollow sea which
struck our ship’s sides most unpleasantly.
About two o’clock it was blowing a hurricane from all the points
of the compass. The schooner was terribly knocked about, and the
boatswain had the deck cleared of everything that was movable by her
rolling and pitching.
Fortunately, the cargo could not be displaced, the stowage having
been effected with perfect forecast of nautical eventualities. We
had not to dread the fate of the Grampus, which was lost owing to
negligence in her lading. It will be remembered that the brig turned
bottom upwards, and that Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters remained for
several days crouching on its keel.
Besides, the schooner’s pumps did not give a drop of water; the
ship was perfectly sound in every part, owing to the efficient
repairs that had been done during our stay at the Falklands. The
temperature had fallen rapidly, and hail, rain, and snow thickened
and darkened the air. At ten o’clock in the evening--I must use
this word, although the sun remained always above the horizon--the
tempest increased, and the captain and his lieutenant, almost unable
to hear each other’s voices amid the elemental strife,
communicated mostly by gestures, which is as good a mode as speech
I could not make up my mind to retire to my cabin, and, seeking the
shelter of the roundhouse, I remained on deck, observing the weather
phenomena, and the skill, certainty, celerity, and effect with which
the crew carried out the orders of the captain and West. It was a
strange and terrible experience for a landsman, even one who had
seen so much of the sea and seamanship as I had. At the moment of a
certain difficult manoeuvre, four men had to climb to the crossbars
of the fore-mast in order to reef the mainsail. The first who sprang
to the ratlines was Hunt. The second was Martin Holt; Burry and one
of the recruits followed them. I could not have believed that any
man could display such skill and agility as Hunt’s. His hands and
feet hardly caught the ratlines. Having reached the crossbars first,
he stretched himself on the ropes to the end of the yard, while Holt
went to the other end, and the two recruits remained in the middle.
While the men were working, and the tempest was raging round us, a
terrific lurch of the ship to starboard under the stroke of a
mountainous wave, flung everything on the deck into wild confusion,
and the sea rushed in through the scupper-holes. I was knocked down,
and for some moments was unable to rise.
So great had been the incline of the schooner that the end of the
yard of the mainsail was plunged three or four feet into the crest
of a wave. When it emerged Martin Holt, who had been astride on it,
had disappeared. A cry was heard, uttered by the sailing-master,
whose arm could be seen wildly waving amid the whiteness of the
foam. The sailors rushed to the side and flung out one a rope,
another a cask, a third a spar--in short, any object of which
Martin Holt might lay hold. At the moment when I struggled up to my
feet I caught sight of a massive substance which cleft the air and
vanished in the whirl of the waves.
Was this a second accident? No! it was a voluntary action, a deed of
self-sacrifice. Having finished his task, Hunt had thrown himself
into the sea, that he might save Martin Holt.
“Two men overboard!”
Yes, two--one to save the other. And were they not about to perish
The two heads rose to the foaming surface of the water.
Hunt was swimming vigorously, cutting through the waves, and was
nearing Martin Holt.
“They are lost! both lost!” exclaimed the captain. “The boat,
West, the boat!”
“If you give the order to lower it,” answered West, “I will be
the first to get into it, although at the risk of my life. But I
must have the order.”
In unspeakable suspense the ship’s crew and myself had witnessed
this scene. None thought of the position of the Halbrane, which was
sufficiently dangerous; all eyes were fixed upon the terrible waves.
Now fresh cries, the frantic cheers of the crew, rose above the roar
of the elements. Hunt had reached the drowning man just as he sank
out of sight, had seized hold of him, and was supporting him with
his left arm, while Holt, incapable of movement, swayed helplessly
about like a weed. With the other arm Hunt was swimming bravely and
making way towards the schooner.
A minute, which seemed endless, passed. The two men, the one
dragging the other, were hardly to be distinguished in the midst of
the surging waves.
At last Hunt reached the schooner, and caught one of the lines
hanging over the side.
In a minute Hunt and Martin Holt were hoisted on board; the latter
was laid down at the foot of the foremast, and the former was quite
ready to go to his work. Holt was speedily restored by the aid of
vigorous rubbing; his senses came back, and he opened his eyes.
“Martin Holt,” said Captain Len Guy, who was leaning over him,
“you have been brought back from very far--”
“Yes, yes, captain,” answered Holt, as he looked about him with
a searching gaze, “but who saved me?”
“Hunt,” cried the boatswain, “Hunt risked his life for you.”
As the latter was hanging back, Hurliguerly pushed him towards
Martin Holt, whose eyes expressed the liveliest gratitude.
“Hunt,” said he, “you have saved me. But for you I should have
been lost. I thank you.”
Hunt made no reply.
“Hunt,” resumed Captain Len Guy, “don’t you hear?”
The man seemed not to have heard.
“Hunt,” said Martin Holt again, “come near to me. I thank you.
I want to shake hands with you.”
And he held out his right hand. Hunt stepped back a few paces,
shaking his head with the air of a man who did not want so many
compliments for a thing so simple, and quietly walked forward to
join his shipmates, who were working vigorously under the orders of
Decidedly, this man was a hero in courage and self-devotion; but
equally decidedly he was a being impervious to impressions, and not
on that day either was the boatswain destined to know “the colour
of his words!”
For three whole days, the 6th, 7th, and 8th of December, the tempest
raged in these waters, accompanied by snow storms which perceptibly
lowered the temperature. It is needless to say that Captain Len Guy
proved himself a true seaman, that James West had an eye to
everything, that the crew seconded them loyally, and that Hunt was
always foremost when there was work to be done or danger to be
In truth, I do not know how to give an idea of this man! What a
difference there was between him and most of the sailors recruited
at the Falklands, and especially between him and Hearne, the
sealing-master! They obeyed, no doubt, for such a master as James
West gets himself obeyed, whether with good or ill will. But behind
backs what complaints were made, what recriminations were exchanged
I All this, I feared, was of evil presage for the future.
Martin Holt had been able to resume his duties very soon, and he
fulfilled them with hearty good-will. He knew the business of a
sailor right well, and was the only man on board who could compete
with Hunt in handiness and zeal.
“Well, Holt,” said I to him one day when he was talking with the
boatswain, “what terms are you on with that queer fellow Hunt now?
Since the salvage affair, is he a little more communicative?”
“No, Mr. Jeorling, and I think he even tries to avoid me.”
“To avoid you?”
“Well, he did so before, for that matter.”
“Yes, indeed, that is true,” added Hurliguerly; “I have made
the same remark more than once.”
“Then he keeps aloof from you, Holt, as from the others?”
“From me more than from the others.”
“What is the meaning of that?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Jeorling.”
I was surprised at what the two men had said, but a little
observation convinced me that Hunt actually did avoid every occasion
of coming in contact with Martin Holt. Did he not think that he had
a right to Holt’s gratitude although the latter owed his life to
him? This man’s conduct was certainly very strange.
In the early morning of the 9th the wind showed a tendency to change
in the direction of the east, which would mean more manageable
weather for us. And, in fact, although the sea still remained rough,
at about two in the morning it became feasible to put on more sail
without risk, and thus the Halbrane regained the course from which
she had been driven by the prolonged tempest.
In that portion of the Antarctic sea the ice-packs were more
numerous, and there was reason to believe that the tempest, by
hastening the smash-up, had broken the barrier of the iceberg wall
towards the east.
ALONG THE FRONT OF THE ICEBERGS.
Although the seas beyond the Polar Circle were wildly tumultuous, it
is but just to acknowledge that our navigation had been accomplished
so far under exceptional conditions. And what good luck it would be
if the Halbrane, in this first fortnight of December, were to find
the Weddell route open!
There! I am talking of the Weddell route as though it were a
macadamized road, well kept, with mile-stones and “This way to the
South Pole” on a signpost!
The numerous wandering masses of ice gave our men no trouble; they
were easily avoided. It seemed likely that no real difficulties
would arise until the schooner should have to try to make a passage
for herself through the icebergs.
Besides, there was no surprise to be feared. The presence of ice was
indicated by a yellowish tint in the atmosphere, which the whalers
called “blink.” This is a phenomenon peculiar to the glacial
zones which never deceives the observer.
For five successive days the Halbrane sailed without sustaining any
damage, without having, even for a moment, had to fear a collision.
It is true that in proportion as she advanced towards the south the
number of icepacks increased and the channels became narrower. On
the 14th an observation gave us 72° 37’ for latitude, our
longitude remaining the same, between the forty-second and the
forty-third meridian. This was already a point beyond the Antarctic
Circle that few navigators had been able to reach. We were at only
two degrees lower than Weddell.
The navigation of the schooner naturally became a more delicate
matter in the midst of those dim, wan masses soiled with the excreta
of birds. Many of them had a leprous look: compared with their
already considerable volume, how small our little ship, over whose
mast some of the icebergs already towered, must have appeared!
Captain Len Guy admirably combined boldness and prudence in his
command of his ship. He never passed to leeward of an iceberg, if
the distance did not guarantee the success of any manoeuvre
whatsoever that might suddenly become necessary. He was familiar
with all the contingencies of ice-navigation, and was not afraid to
venture into the midst of these flotillas of drifts and packs. That
day he said to me,--
“Mr. Jeorling; this is not the first time that I have tried to
penetrate into the Polar Sea, and without success. Well, if I made
the attempt to do this when I had nothing but presumption as to the
fate of the Jane to go upon, what shall I not do now that
presumption is changed into certainty?”
“I understand that, captain, and of course your experience of
navigation in these waters must increase our chances of success.”
“Undoubtedly. Nevertheless, all that lies beyond the fixed
icebergs is still the unknown for me, as it is for other
“The Unknown! No, not absolutely, captain, since we possess the
important reports of Weddell, and, I must add, of Arthur Pym also.”
“Yes, I know; they have spoken of the open sea.”
“Do you not believe that such a sea exists?”
“Yes, I do believe that it exists, and for valid reasons. In fact,
it is perfectly manifest that these masses, called icebergs and
icefields, could not be formed in the ocean itself. It is the
tremendous and irresistible action of the surge which detaches them
from the continents or islands of the high latitudes. Then the
currents carry them into less cold waters, where their edges are
worn by the waves, while the temperature disintegrates their bases
and their sides, which are subjected to thermometric influences.”
“That seems very plain,” I replied. “Then these masses have
come from the icebergs. (1) They clash with them in drifting,
sometimes break into the main body, and clear their passage through.
Again, we must not judge the southern by the northern zone. The
conditions are not identical. Cook has recorded that he never met
the equivalent of the Antarctic ice mountains in the Greenland seas,
even at a higher latitude.”
“What is the reason?” I asked.
“No doubt that the influence of the south winds is predominant in
the northern regions. Now, those winds do not reach the northern
regions until they have been heated in their passage over America,
Asia, and Europe, and they contribute to raise the temperature of
the atmosphere. The nearest land, ending in the points of the Cape
of Good Hope, Patagonia, and Tasmania, does not modify the
“That is an important observation, captain, and it justifies your
opinion with regard to an open sea.”
“Yes, open--at least, for ten degrees behind the icebergs. Let us
then only get through that obstacle, and our greatest difficulty
will have been conquered. You were right in saying that the
existence of that open sea has been formally recognized by
“And by Arthur Pym, captain.”
“And by Arthur Pym.”
From the 15th of December the difficulties of navigation increased
with the number of the drifting masses. The wind, however, continued
to be uniformly favourable, showing no tendency to veer to the
south. The breeze freshened now and then, and we had to take in
sail. When this occurred we saw the sea foaming along the sides of
the ice packs, covering them with spray like the rocks on the coast
of a floating island, but without hindering their onward march.
Our crew could not fail to be impressed by the sight of the
schooner making her way through these moving masses; the new men
among them, at least, for the old hands had seen such manoeuvres
before. But they soon became accustomed to it, and took it all for
It was necessary to organize the look-out ahead with the greatest
care. West had a cask fixed at the head of the foremast--what is
called a crow’s-nest--and from thence an unremitting watch was
The 16th was a day of excessive fatigue to the men. The packs and
drifts were so close that only very narrow and winding passage-way
between them was to be found, so that the working of the ship was
more than commonly laborious.
Under these circumstances, none of the men grumbled, but Hunt
distinguished himself by his activity. Indeed, he was admitted by
Captain Len Guy and the crew to be an incomparable seaman. But there
was something mysterious about him that excited the curiosity of
At this date the Halbrane could not be very far from the icebergs.
If she held on in her course in that direction she would certainly
reach them before long, and would then have only to seek for a
passage. Hitherto, however, the look-out had not been able to make
out between the icebergs an unbroken crest of ice beyond the
Constant and minute precautions were indispensable all day on the
16th, for the helm, which was loosened by merciless blows and bumps,
was in danger of being unshipped.
The sea mammals had not forsaken these seas. Whales were seen in
great numbers, and it was a fairy-like spectacle when several of
them spouted simultaneously. With fin-backs and hump-backs,
porpoises of colossal size appeared, and these Hearne harpooned
cleverly when they came within range. The flesh of these creatures
was much relished on board, after Endicott had cooked it in his best
As for the usual Antarctic birds, petrels, pigeons, and cormorants,
they passed in screaming flocks, and legions of penguins, ranged
along the edges of the icefields, watched the evolutions of the
schooner. These penguins are the real inhabitants of these dismal
solitudes, and nature could not have created a type more suited to
the desolation of the glacial zone.
On the morning of the 17th the man in the crow’s-nest at last
signalled the icebergs.
Five or six miles to the south a long dentated crest upreared
itself, plainly standing out against the fairly clear sky, and all
along it drifted thousands of ice-packs. This motionless barrier
stretched before us from the north-west to the south-east, and by
merely sailing along it the schooner would still gain some degrees
When the Halbrane was within three miles of the icebergs, she lay-to
in the middle of a wide basin which allowed her complete freedom of
A boat was lowered, and Captain Len Guy got into it, with the
boatswain, four sailors at the oars, and one at the helm. The boat
was pulled in the direction of the enormous rampart, vain search was
made for a channel through which the schooner could have slipped,
and after three hours of this fatiguing reconnoitring, the men
returned to the ship. Then came a squall of rain and snow which
caused the temperature to fall to thirty-six degrees (2’22 C.
above zero), and shut out the view of the ice-rampart from us.
During the next twenty-four hours the schooner lay within four miles
of the icebergs. To bring her nearer would have been to get among
winding channels from which it might not have been possible to
extricate her. Not that Captain Len Guy did not long to do this, in
his fear of passing some opening unperceived.
“If I had a consort,” he said, “I would sail closer along the
icebergs, and it is a great advantage to be two, when one is on such
an enterprise as this! But the Halbrane is alone, and if she were to
Even though we approached no nearer to the icebergs than prudence
permitted, our ship was exposed to great risk, and West was
constantly obliged to change his trim in order to avoid the shock of
Fortunately, the wind blew from east to north-nor’-east without
variation, and it did not freshen. Had a tempest arisen I know not
what would have become of the schooner--yes, though, I do know too
well: she would have been lost and all on board of her. In such a
case the Halbrane could not have escaped; we must have been flung on
the base of the barrier.
After a long examination Captain Len Guy had to renounce the hope
of finding a passage through the terrible wall of ice. It remained
only to endeavour to reach the south-east point of it. At any rate,
by following that course we lost nothing in latitude; and, in fact,
on the 18th the observation taken made the seventy-third parallel
the position of the Halbrane.
I must repeat, however, that navigation in the Antarctic seas will
probably never be accomplished under more felicitous
circumstances--the precocity of the summer season, the permanence
of the north wind, the temperature forty-nine degrees at the lowest;
all this was the best of good-fortune. I need not add that we
enjoyed perpetual light, and the whole twenty-four hours round the
sun’s rays reached us from every point of the horizon.
Two or three times the captain approached within two miles of the
icebergs. It was impossible but that the vast mass must have been
subjected to climateric influences; ruptures must surely have taken
place at some points.
But his search had no result, and we had to fall back into the
current from west to east.
I must observe at this point that during all our search we never
descried land or the appearance of land out at sea, as indicated on
the charts of preceding navigators. These maps are incomplete, no
doubt, but sufficiently exact in their main lines. I am aware that
ships have often passed over the indicated bearings of land. This,
however, was not admissible in the case of Tsalal. If the Jane had
been able to reach the islands, it was because that portion of the
Antarctic sea was free, and in so “early” a year, we need not
fear any obstacle in that direction.
At last, on the 19th, between two and three o’clock in the
afternoon, a shout from the crow’s-nest was heard.
“What is it?” roared West.
“The iceberg wall is split on the south-east.”
“What is beyond?” “Nothing in sight.”
It took West very little time to reach the point of observation, and
we all waited below, how impatiently may be imagined. What if the
look-out were mistaken, if some optical delusion?--But West, at all
events, would make no mistake.
After ten interminable minutes his clear voice reached us on the
“Open sea!” he cried.
Unanimous cheers made answer.
The schooner’s head was put to the south-east, hugging the wind as
much as possible.
Two hours later we had doubled the extremity of the ice-barrier, and
there lay before our eyes a sparkling sea, entirely open.
(1) The French word is banquise, which means the vast stretch of
icebergs farther south than the barrière or ice wall.
A VOICE IN A DREAM.
Entirely free from ice? No. It would have been premature to affirm
this as a fact. A few icebergs were visible in the distance, while
some drifts and packs were still going east. Nevertheless, the
break-up had been very thorough on that side, and the sea was in
reality open, since a ship could sail freely.
“God has come to our aid,” said Captain Len Guy. May He be
pleased to guide us to the end.”
“In a week,” I remarked, “our schooner might come in sight of
“Provided that the east wind lasts, Mr. Jeorling. Don’t forget
that in sailing along the icebergs to their eastern extremity, the
Halbrane went out of her course, and she must be brought back
towards the west.”
“The breeze is for us, captain.”
“And we shall profit by it, for my intention is to make for Bennet
Islet. It was there that my brother first landed, and so soon as we
shall have sighted that island we shall be certain that we are on
the right route. To-day, when I have ascertained our position
exactly, we shall steer for Bennet Islet.”
“Who knows but that we may come upon some fresh sign?”
“It is not impossible, Mr. Jeorling.”
I need not say that recourse was had to the surest guide within our
reach, that veracious narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, which I read
and re-read with intense attention, fascinated as I was by the idea
that I might be permitted to behold with my own eyes those strange
phenomena of nature in the Antarctic world which I, in common with
all Edgar Poe’s readers, had hitherto regarded as creations of the
most imaginative writer who ever gave voice by his pen to the
phantasies of a unique brain. No doubt a great part of the wonders
of Arthur Gordon Pym’s narrative would prove pure fiction, but if
even a little of the marvellous story were found to be true, how
great a privilege would be mine!
The picturesque and wonderful side of the story we were studying as
gospel truth had little charm and but slight interest for Captain
Len Guy; he was indifferent to everything in Pym’s narrative that
did not relate directly to the castaways of Tsalal Island: his mind
was solely and constantly set upon their rescue.
According to the narrative of Arthur Pym Jane experienced serious
difficulties, due to bad weather, from the 1st to the 4th of
January, 1828. It was not until the morning of the 5th, in latitude
23° 15’ that she found a free passage through the last iceberg
that barred her way. The final difference between our position and
the Jane in a parallel ease, was that the Jane took fifteen days to
accomplish the distance of ten degrees, or six hundred miles, which
separated her on the 5th of January from Tsalal Island, while on the
19th of December the Halbrane was only about seven degrees, or four
hundred miles, off the island. Bennet Islet, where Captain Guy
intended to put in for twenty-four hours, was fifty miles nearer.
Our voyage was progressing under prosperous conditions; we were no
longer visited by sudden hail and snow storms, or those rapid falls
of temperature which tried the crew of the Jane so sorely. A few
ice-floes drifted by us, occasionally peopled, as tourists throng a
pleasure yacht, by penguins, and also by dusky seals, lying flat
upon the white surfaces like enormous leeches. Above this strange
flotilla we traced the incessant flight of petrels, pigeons, black
puffins, divers, grebe, sterns, cormorants, and the sooty-black
albatross of the high latitudes. Huge medusas, exquisitely tinted,
floated on the water like spread parasols. Among the denizens of the
deep, captured by the crew of the schooner with line and net, I
noted more particularly a sort of giant John Dory (1) (dorade) three
feet in length, with firm and savoury flesh.
During the night, or rather what ought to have been the night of the
19th-20th, my sleep was disturbed by a strange dream. Yes! there
could be no doubt but that it was only a dream! Nevertheless, I
think it well to record it here, because it is an additional
testimony to the haunting influence under which my brain was
beginning to labour.
I was sleeping--at two hours after midnight--and was awakened by a
plaintive and continuous murmuring sound. I opened--or I imagined I
opened my eyes. My cabin was in profound darkness. The murmur began
again; I listened, and it seemed to me that a voice--a voice which
I did not know--whispered these words:--
“Pym . . . Pym . . . poor Pym!”
Evidently this could only be a delusion; unless, indeed, some one
had got into my cabin: the door was locked.
“Pym!” the voice repeated. “Poor Pym must never be
This time the words were spoken close to my ear. What was the
meaning of the injunction, and why was it addressed to me? And
besides, had not Pym, after his return to America, met with a sudden
and deplorable death, the circumstances or the details being unknown?
I began to doubt whether I was in my right mind, and shook myself
into complete wakefulness, recognizing that I had been disturbed by
an extremely vivid dream due to some cerebral cause.
I turned out of my berth, and, pushing back the shutter, looked out
of my cabin. No one aft on the deck, except Hunt, who was at the
I had nothing to do but to lie down again, and this I did. It seemed
to me that the name of Arthur Pym was repeated in my hearing several
times; nevertheless, I fell asleep and did not wake until morning,
when I retained only a vague impression of this occurrence, which
soon faded away. No other incident at that period of our voyage
calls for notice. Nothing particular occurred on board our schooner.
The breeze from the north, which had forsaken us, did not recur, and
only the current carried the Halbrane towards the south. This caused
a delay unbearable to our impatience.
At last, on the 21st, the usual observation gave 82° 50’ of
latitude, and 42° 20’ of west longitude. Bennet Islet, if it had
any existence, could not be far off now.
Yes! the islet did exist, and its bearings were those indicated by
At six o’clock in the evening one of the crew cried out that there
was land ahead on the port side.
(1) The legendary etymology of this piscatorial designation is
Janitore, the “door-keeper,” in allusion to St. Peter, who
brought a fish said to be of that species, to our Lord at His
The Halbrane was then within sight of Bennet Islet! The crew
urgently needed rest, so the disembarkation was deferred until the
following day, and I went back to my cabin.
The night passed without disturbance, and when day came not a craft
of any kind was visible on the waters, not a native on the beach.
There were no huts upon the coast, no smoke arose in the distance to
indicate that Bennet Islet was inhabited. But William Guy had not
found any trace of human beings there, and what I saw of the islet
answered to the description given by Arthur Pym. It rose upon a
rocky base of about a league in circumference, and was so arid that
no vegetation existed on its surface.
“Mr. Jeorling,” said Captain Len Guy, “do you observe a
promontory in the direction of the north-east?”
“I observe it, captain.”
“Is it not formed of heaped-up rocks which look like giant bales
“That is so, and just what the narrative describes.”
“Then all we have to do is to land on the promontory, Mr. leoding.
Who knows but we may come across some vestige of the crew of the
fane, supposing them to have succeeded in escaping from Tsalal
The speaker was devouring the islet with his eyes. What must his
thoughts, his desires, his impatience have been! But there was a man
whose gaze was set upon the same point even more fixedly; that man
Before we left the Halbrane Len Guy enjoined the most minute and
careful watchfulness upon his lieutenant. This was a charge which
West did not need. Our exploration would take only half a day at
most. If the boat had not returned in the afternoon a second was to
be sent in search of us.
“Look sharp also after our recruits,” added the captain.
“Don’t be uneasy, captain,” replied the lieutenant. “Indeed,
since you want four men at the oars you had better take them from
among the new ones. That will leave four less troublesome fellows on
This was a good idea, for, under the deplorable influence of Hearne,
the discontent of his shipmates from the Falklands was on the
increase. The boat being ready, four of the new crew took their
places forward, while Hunt, at his own request, was steersman.
Captain Len Guy, the boatswain and myself, all well armed, seated
ourselves aft, and we started for the northern point of the islet.
In the course of an hour we had doubled the promontory, and come in
sight of the little bay whose shores the boats of the fane had
Hunt steered for this bay, gliding with remarkable skill between the
rocky points which stuck up here and there. One would have thought
he knew his way among them.
We disembarked on a stony coast. The stones were covered with sparse
lichen. The tide was already ebbing, leaving uncovered the sandy
bottom of a sort of beach strewn with black blocks, resembling big
Two men were left in charge of the boat while we landed amid the
rocks, and, accompanied by the other two, Captain Len Guy, the
boatswain, Hunt and I proceeded towards the centre, where we found
some rising ground, from whence we could see the whole extent of the
islet. But there was nothing to be seen on any side, absolutely
nothing. On coming down from the slight eminence Hunt went on in
front, as it had been agreed that he was to be our guide. We
followed him therefore, as he led us towards the southern extremity
of the islet. Having reached the point, Hunt looked carefullyon all
sides of him, then stooped and showed us a piece of half rotten wood
lying among the scattered stones.
“I remember!” I exclaimed; “Arthur Pym speaks of a piece of
wood with traces of carving on it which appeared to have belonged to
the bow of a ship.”
“Among the carving my brother fancied he could trace the design of
a tortoise,” added Captain Len Guy.
“Just so,” I replied, “but Arthur Pym pronounced that
resemblance doubtful. No matter; the piece of wood is still in the
same place that is indicated in the narrative, so we may conclude
that since the Jane cast anchor here no other crew has ever set foot
upon Bennet Islet. It follows that we should only lose time in
looking out for any tokens of another landing. We shall know nothing
until we reach Tsalal Island.”
“Yes, Tsalal Island,” replied the captain.
We then retraced our steps in the direction of the bay. In various
places we observed fragments of coral reef, and bêche-de-mer was so
abundant that our schooner might have taken a full cargo of it.
Hunt walked on in silence with downcast eyes, until as we were close
upon the beach to the east, he, being about ten paces ahead, stopped
abruptly, and summoned us to him by a hurried gesture.
In an instant we were by his side. Hunt had evinced no surprise on
the subject of the piece of wood first found, but his attitude
changed when he knelt down in front of a worm-eaten plank lying on
the sand. He felt it all over with his huge hands, as though he were
seeking sotne tracery on its rough surface whose signification might
be intelligible to him. The black paint was hidden under the thick
dirt that had accumulated upon it. The plank had probably formed
part of a ship’s stern, as the boatswain requested us to observe.
“Yes, yes,” repeated Captain Len Guy, “it made part of a
Hunt, who still remained kneeling, nodded his big head in assent.
“But,” I remarked, “this plank must have been cast upon Bennet
Islet from a wreck! The cross-currents must have found it in the
open sea, and--”
“If that were so--” cried the captain.
The same thought had occurred to both of us. What was our surprise,
indeed our amazement, our unspeakable emotion, when Hunt showed us
eight letters cut in the plank, not painted, but hollow and
distinctly traceable with the finger.
It was only too easy to recognize the letters of two names, arranged
in two lines, thus:
The Jane of Liverpool! The schooner commanded by Captain William
Guy! What did it matter that time had blurred the other letters?
Did not those suffice to tell the name of the ship and the port she
belonged to? The Jane of Liverpool!
Captain Len Guy had taken the plank in his hands, and now he pressed
his lips to it, while tears fell from his eyes.
It was a fragment of the Jane! I did not utter a word until the
captain’s emotion had subsided. As for Hunt, I had never seen such
a lightning glance from his brilliant hawk-like eyes as he now cast
towards the southern horizon.
Captain Len Guy rose.
Hunt, without a word, placed the plank upon his shoulder, and we
continued our route.
When we had made the tour of the island, we halted at the place
where the boat had been left under the charge of two sailors, and
about half-past two in the afternoon we were again on board.
Early on the morning of the 23rd of December the Halbrane put off
from Bennet Islet, and we carried away with us new and convincing
testimony to the catastrophe which Tsalal Island had witnessed.
During that day, I observed the sea water very attentively, and it
seemed to me less deeply blue than Arthur Pym describes it. Nor had
we met a single specimen of his monster of the austral fauna, an
animal three feet long, six inches high, with fourshort legs, long
coral claws, a silky body, a rat’s tail, a cat’s head, the
hanging ears, blood-red lips and white teeth of a dog. The truth is
that I regarded several of these details as “suspect,” and
entirely due toan over-imaginative temperament.
Seated far aft in the ship, I read Edgar Poe’s book with sedulous
attention, but I was not unaware of the fact that Hunt, whenever his
duties furnished him with an opportunity, observed me
pertinaciously, and with looks of singular meaning.
And, in fact, I was re-perusing the end of Chapter XVII., in which
Arthur Pym acknowledged his responsibility for the sad and tragic
events which were the results of his advice. It was, in fact, he who
over-persuaded Captain William Guy, urging him “to profit by so
tempting an opportunity of solving the great problem relating to the
Antarctic Continent.” And, besides, while accepting that
responsibility, did he not congratulate himself on having been the
instrument of a great discovery, and having aided in some degree to
reveal to science one of the most marvellous secrets which had ever
claimed its attention?
At six o’clock the sun disappeared behind a thick curtain of mist.
After midnight the breeze freshened, and the Halbrane’s progress
marked a dozen additional miles.
On the morrow the good ship was less than the third of a degree,
that is to say less than twenty miles, from Tsalal Island.
Unfortunately, just after mid-day, the wind fell. Nevertheless,
thanks to the current, the Island of Tsalal was signalled at
forty-five minutes past six in the evening.
The anchor was cast, a watch was set, with loaded firearms within
hand-reach, and boarding-nets ready. The Halbrane ran no risk of
being surprised. Too eyes were watching on board--especially those
of Hunt, whose gaze never quitted the horizon of that southern zone
for an instant.
The night passed without alarm. No boat had put off from the island,
nor had a native shown himself upon the beach. The Halbrane, then,
had not been observed on her arrival; this was all the better.
We had cast anchor in ten fathoms, at three miles from the coast.
When the Jane appeared in these waters, the people of Tsalal beheld
a ship for the first time, and they took it for an enormous animal,
regarding its masts as limbs, and its sails as garments. Now, they
ought to be better informed on this subject, and if they did not
attempt to visit us, to what motive were we to assign such conduct?
Captain Len Guy gave orders for the lowering of the ship’s largest
boat, in a voice which betrayed his impatience.
The order was executed, and the captain, addressing West, said--
“Send eight men down with Martin Holt; send Hunt to the helm.
Remain yourself at the moorings, and keep a look-out landwards as
well as to sea.”
“Aye, aye, sir; don’t be uneasy.”
“We are going ashore, and we shall try to gain the village of
Klock-Klock. If any difficulty should arise on sea, give us warning
by firing three shots.”
“All right,” replied West--”at a minute’s interval.”
“If we should not return before evening, send the second boat with
ten armed men under the boatswain’s orders, and let them station
themselves within a cable’s length of the shore, so as to escort
us back. You understand?”
“If we are not to be found, after you have done all in your power,
you will take command of the schooner, and bring her back to the
“I will do so.”
The large boat was rapidly got ready. Eight men embarked in it,
including Martin Holt and Hunt, all armed with rifles, pistols, and
knives; the latter weapons were slung in their belts. They also
carried cartridge-pouches. I stepped forward and said,--
“Will you not allow me to accompany you, captain?”
“If you wish to do so, Mr. Jeorling.”
I went to my cabin, took my gun--a repeating rifle--with ball and
powder, and rejoined Captain Len Guy, who had kept a place in the
stern of the boat for me. Our object was to discover the passage
through which Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters had crossed the reef on the
19th of January, 1828, in the Jane’s boat. For twenty minutes we
rowed along the reef, and then Hunt discovered the pass, which was
through a narrow cut in the rocks. Leaving two men in the boat, we
landed, and having gone through the winding gorge which gave access
to the crest of the coast, our little force, headed by Hunt, pushed
on towards the centre of the island. Captain Len Guy and myself
exchanged observations, as we walked, on the subject of this
country, which, as Arthur Pym declared, differed essentially from
every other land hitherto visited by human beings. We soon found
that Pym’s description was trustworthy. The general colour of the
plains was black, as though the clay were made of lava-dust; nowhere
was anything white to be seen. At a hundred paces distance Hunt
began to run towards an enormous mass of rock, climbed on it with
great agility, and looked out overa wide extent of space like a man
who ought to recognize the place he is in, but does not.
“What is the matter with him?” asked Captain Len Guy, who was
observing Hunt attentively.
“I don’t know what is the matter with him, captain. But, as you
are aware, everything about this man is odd: his ways are
inexplicable, and on certain sides of him he seems to belong to
those strange beings whom Arthur Pym asserts that he found on this
island. One would even say that--”
“That--” repeated the captain.
And then, without finishing my sentence, I said,--
“Captain, are you sure that you made a good observation when you
took the altitude yesterday?”
“So that your point--”
“Gave 83° 20’ of latitude and 43° 5’ of longitude.”
“There is, then, no doubt that we are on Tsalal Island?”
“None, Mr. Jeorling, if Tsalal Island lies where Arthur Pym places
This was quite true, there could be no doubt on the point, and yet
of all that Arthur Pym described nothing existed, or rather, nothing
was any longer to be seen. Not a tree, not a shrub, not a plant was
visible in the landscape. There was no sign of the wooded hills
between which the village of Klock-Klock ought to lie, or of the
streams from which the crew of the fane had not ventured to drink.
There was no water anywhere; but everywhere absolute, awful drought.
Nevertheless, Hunt walked on rapidly, without showing any
hesitation. It seemed as though he was led by a natural instinct,
“a bee’s flight,” as we say in America. I know not what
presentiment induced us to follow him as the best of guides, a
Chingachgook, a Renard-Subtil. And why not? Was not he the
fellow-countryman of Fenlmore Coopet’s heroes?
But, I must repeat that we had not before our eyes that fabulous
land which Arthur Pym described. The soil we were treading had been
ravaged, wrecked, torn by convulsion. It was black, a cindery black,
as though it had been vomited from the earth under the action of
Plutonian forces; it suggested that some appalling and irresistible
cataclysm had overturned the whole of its surface.
Not one of the animals mentioned in the narrative was to be seen,
and even the penguins which abound in the Antarctic regions had fled
from this uninhabitable land. Its stern silence and solitude made it
a hideous desert. No human being was to be seen either on the coast
or in the interior. Did any chance of finding William Guy and the
survivors of the fane exist in the midst of this scene of desolation?
I looked at Captain Len Guy. His pale face, dim eyes, and knit brow
told too plainly that hope was beginning to die within his breast.
And then the population of Tsalal Island, the almost naked men,
armed with clubs and lances, the tall, well-made, upstanding women,
endowed with grace and freedom of bearing not to be found in a
civilized society--those are the expressions of Arthur Pym--and
the crowd of children accompanying them, what had become of all
these? Where were the multitude of natives, with black skins, black
hair, black teeth, who regarded white colour with deadly terror?
All of a sudden a light flashed upon me. “An earthquake!” I
exclaimed. “Yes, two or three of those terrible shocks, so common
in these regions where the sea penetrates by infiltration, and a day
comes when the quantity of accumulated vapour makes its way out and
destroys everything on the surface.”
“Could an earthquake have changed Tsalal Island to such an
extent?” asked Len Guy, musingly.
“Yes, captain, an earthquake has done this thing; it has destroyed
every trace of all that Arthur Pym saw here.”
Hunt, who had drawn nigh to us, and was listening, nodded his head
in approval of my words.
“Are not these countries of the southern seas volcanic?” I
resumed; “If the Halbrane were to transport us to Victoria Land,
we might find the Erebus and the Terror in the midst of an
“And yet,” observed Martin Holt, “if there had been an
eruption here, we should find lava beds.”
“I do not say that there has been an eruption,” I replied,
“but I do say the soil has been convulsed by an earthquake.”
On reflection it will be seen that the explanation given by me
deserved to be admitted. And then it came to my remembrance that
according to Arthur Pym’s narrative, Tsalal belonged to a group of
islands which extended towards the west. Unless the people of Tsalal
had been destroyed, it was possible that they might have fled into
one of the neighbouring islands. We should do well, then, to go and
reconnoitre that archipelago, for Tsalal clearly had no resources
whatever to offer after the cataclysm. I spoke of this to the captain.
“Yes,” he replied, and tears stood in his eyes, “yes, it may
be so. And yet, how could my brother and his unfortunate companions
have found the means of escaping? Is it not far more probable that
they all perished in the earthquake?”
Here Hunt made us a signal to follow him, and we did so.
After he had pushed across the valley for a considerable distance,
What a spectacle was before our eyes!
There, lying in heaps, were human bones, all the fragments of that
framework of humanity which we call the skeleton, hundreds of them,
without a particle of flesh, clusters of skulls still bearing some
tufts of hair--a vast bone heap, dried and whitened in this place!
We were struck dumb and motionless by this spectacle. When Captain
Len Guy could speak, he murmured,--
“My brother, my poor brother!”
On a little reflection, however, my mind refused to admit certain
things. How was this catastrophe to be reconciled with Patterson’s
memoranda? The entries in his note-book stated explicitly that the
mate of the Jane had left his companions on Tsalal Island seven
months previously. They could not then have perished in this
earthquake, for the state of the bones proved that it had taken
place several years earlier, and must have occurred after the
departure of Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters, since no mention of it was
made in the narrative of the former.
These facts were, then, irreconcilable. If the earthquake was of
recent date, the presence of those time-bleached skeletons could not
be attributed to its action. In any case, the survivors of the Jane
were not among them. But then, where were they?
The valley of Klock-Klock extended no farther; we had to retrace our
steps in order to regain the coast. We had hardly gone half a mile
on the cliff’s edge when Hunt again stopped, on perceiving some
fragments of bones which were turning to dust, and did not seem to
be those of a human being.
Were these the remains of one of the strange animals described by
Arthur Pym, of which we had not hitherto seen any specimens?
Hunt suddenly uttered a cry, or rather a sort of savage growl, and
held out his enormous hand, holding a metal collar. Yes I a brass
collar, a collar eaten by rust, but bearing letters which might
still be deciphered. These letters formed the three following
Tiger!--the name of the dog which had saved Arthur Pym’s life in
the hold of the Grampus, and, during the revolt of the crew, had
sprung at the throat of Jones, the sailor, who was immediately
“finished” by Dirk Peters.
So, then, that faithful animal had not perished in the shipwreck of
the Grampus. He had been taken on board the Jane at the same time as
Arthur Pym and the half-breed. And yet the narrative did not allude
to this, and after the meeting with the schooner there was no longer
any mention of the dog. All these contradictions occurred to me. I
could not reconcile the facts. Nevertheless, there could be no doubt
that Tiger had been saved from the shipwreck like Arthur Pym, had
escaped the landslip of the Klock-Klock hill, and had come to his
death at last in the catastrophe which had destroyed a portion of
the population of Tsalal.
But, again, William Guy and his five sailors could not be among
those skeletons which were strewn upon the earth, since they were
living at the time of Patterson’s departure, seven months ago, and
the catastrophe already dated several years back!
Three hours later we had returned on board the Halbrane, without
having made any other discovery. Captain Len Guy went direct to his
cabin, shut himself up there, and did not reappear even at dinner
The following day, as I wished to return to the island in order to
resume its exploration from one coast to the other, I requested West
to have me rowed ashore.
He consented, after he had been authorized by Captain Len Guy, who
did not come with us.
Hung the boatswain, Martin Holt, four men, and myself took our
places in the boatt without arms; for there was no longer anything
We disembarked at our yesterday’s landing-place, and Hunt again
led the way towards the hill of Klock-Klock. Nothing remained of the
eminence that had been carried away in the artificial landslip, from
which the captain of the Jane, Patterson, his second officer, and
five of his men had happily escaped. The village of Klock-Klock had
thus disappeared; and doubtless the mystery of the strange
discoveries narrated in Edgar Poe’s work was now and ever would
remain beyond solution.
We had only to regain our ship, returning by the east side of the
coast. Hunt brought us through the space where sheds had been
erected for the preparation of the bêche-de mer, and we saw the
remains of them. On all sides silence and abandonment reigned.
We made a brief pause at the place where Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters
seized upon the boat which bore them towards higher latitudes, even
to that horizon of dark vapour whose rents permitted them to discern
the huge human figure, the white giant.
Hunt stood with crossed arms, his eyes devouring the vast extent of
“Well, Hunt?” said I, tentatively.
Hunt did not appear to hear me; he did not turn his head in my
“What are we doing here?” I asked him, and touched him on the
He started, and cast a glance upon me which went to my heart.
“Come along, Hunt,” cried Hurliguerly. “Are you going to take
root on this rock? Don’t you see the Halbrane waiting for us at
her moorings? Come along. We shall be off to-morrow. There is
nothing more to do here.”
It seemed to me that Hunt’s trembling lips repeated the word
“nothing,” while his whole bearing protested against what the
The boat brought us back to the ship. Captain Len Guy had not left
his cabin. West, having received no orders, was pacing the deck aft.
I seated myself at the foot of the mainmast, observing the sea which
lay open and free before us.
At this moment the captain came on deck; he was very pale, and his
features looked pinched and weary.
“Mr. Jeorling,” said he, “I can affirm conscientiously that I
have done all it was possible to do. Can I hope henceforth that my
brother William and his companions--No! No! We must go
He drew himself up, and cast a last glance towards Tsalal Island.
“To-morrow, Jim,” he said to West, “to morrow we will make
sail as early as possible.”
At this moment a rough voice uttered the words:
“And Pym--poor Pym!”
I recognized this voice.
It was the voice I had heard in my dream.
“And Pym--poor Pym?”
I turned round quickly.
Hunt had spoken. This strange person was standing motionless at a
little distance, gazing fixedly at the horizon.
It was so unusual to hear Hunt’s voice on board the schooner, that
the men, whom the unaccustomed sound reached, drew near, moved by
curiosity. Did not his unexpected intervention point to--I had a
presentiment that it did--some wonderful revelation?
A movement of West’s hand sent the men forward, leaving only the
mate, the boatswain, Martin Holt, the sailing-master, and Hardy,
with the captain and myself in the vicinity of Hunt. The captain
approached and addressed him:
“What did you say?”
“I said, ‘And Pym--poor Pym.’“
“Well, then, what do you mean by repeating the name of the man
whose pernicious advice led my brother to the island on which the
Jane was lost, the greater part of her crew was massacred, and where
we have not found even one left of those who were still here seven
Hunt did not speak.
“Answer, I say--answer!” cried the captain.
Hunt hesitated, not because he did not know what to say, but from a
certain difficulty in expressing his ideas. The latter were quite
clear, but his speech was confused, his words were unconnected. He
had a certain language of his own which sometimes was picturesque,
and his pronunciation was strongly marked by the hoarse accent of
the Indians of the Far West.
“You see,” he said, “I do not know how to tell things. My
tongue stops. Understand me, I spoke of Pym, poor Pym, did I not?”
“Yes,” answered West, sternly; “and what have you to say about
“I have to say that he must not be abandoned.”
“Abandoned!” I exclaimed.
“No, never! It would be cruel--too cruel. We must go to seek
“To seek him?” repeated Captain Len Guy.
“Understand me; it is for this that I have embarked on the
Halbrane--yes, to find poor Pym!”
“And where is he,” I asked, “if not deep in a grave, in the
cemetery of his natal city?”
“No, he is in the place where he remained, alone, all alone,”
continued Hunt, pointing towards the south; “and since then the
sun has risen on that horizon seven times.”
It was evident that Hunt intended to designate the Antarctic
regions, but what did he mean by this?
“Do you not know that Arthur Pym is dead?” said the captain.
“Dead!” replied Hunt, emphasizing the word with an expressive
gesture. “No! listen to me: I know things; understand me, he is
“Come now, Hunt,” said I, “remember what you do know. In the
last chapter of the adventures of Arthur Pym, does not Edgar Poe
relate his sudden and deplorable end?”
“Explain yourself, Hunt,” said the captain, in a tone of
command. “Reflect, take your time, and say plainly whatever you
have to say.”
And, while Hunt passed his hand over his brow, as though to collect
his memory of far-off things, I observed to Captain Len Guy,--
“There is something very singular in the intervention of this man,
if indeed he be not mad.”
At my words the boatswain shook his head, for he did not believe
Hunt to be in his right mind.
The latter understood this shake of the boatswain’s head, and
cried out in a harsh tone,--
“No, not mad. And madmen are respected on the prairies, even if
they are not believed. And I--I must be believed. No, no, no! Pym
is not dead!”
“Edgar Poe asserts that he is,” I replied.
“Yes, I know, Edgar Poe of Baltimore. But--he never saw poor Pym,
“What!” exclaimed Captain Len Guy; “the two men were not
“And it was not Arthur Pym himself who related his adventures to
“No, captain, no! He, below there, at Baltimore, had only the
notes written by Pym from the day when he hid himself on board the
Grampus to the very last hour--the last--understand me the last.”
“Who, then, brought back that journal?” asked Captain Len Guy,
as he seized Hunt’s hand.
“It was Pym’s companion, he who loved him, his poor Pym, like a
son. It was Dirk Peters, the half-breed, who came back alone from
“The half-breed, Dirk Peters!” I exclaimed.
“And Arthur Pym may be--”
“There,” answered Hunt, in a loud voice, bending towards the
southern line, from which he had not diverted his gaze for a moment.
Could such an assertion prevail against the general incredulity? No,
assuredly not! Martin Holt nudged Hurliguerly with his elbow, and
both regarded Hunt with pity, while West observed him without
speaking. Captain Len Guy made me a sign, meaning that nothing
serious was to be got out of this poor fellow, whose mental
faculties must have been out of gear for a long time.
And nevertheless, when I looked keenly at Hunt, it seemed to me that
a sort of radiance of truth shone out of his eyes:
Then I set to work to interrogate the man, putting to him precise
and pressing questions which he tried to answer categorically, as we
shall see, and not once did he contradict himself.
“Tell me,” I asked, “did Arthur Pym really come to Tsalal
Island on board the Grampus?”
“Did Arthur Pym separate himself, with the half-breed and one of
the sailors, from his companions while Captain William Guy had gone
to the village of Klock-Klock?”
“Yes. The sailor was one Allen, and he was almost immediately
stifled under the stones.”
“Then the two others saw the attack, and the destruction of the
schooner, from the top of the hill?”
“Then, some time later, the two left the island, after they had
got possession of one of the boats which the natives could not take
“And, after twenty days, having reached the front of the curtain
of vapour, they were both carried down into the gulf of the
This time Hunt did not reply in the affirmative; he hesitated, he
stammered out some vague words; he seemed to be trying to rekindle
the half-extinguished flame of his memory. At length, looking at me
and shaking his head, he answered,--
“No, not both. Understand me--Dirk never told me--”
“Dirk Peters” interposed Captain Len Guy, quickly. “You knew
“At Vandalia, State of Illinois.”
“And it is from him that you have all this information concerning
“And he came back alone--alone--from that voyage, having left
“Speak, man--do speak!” I cried, impatiently. Then, in broken,
but intelligible sentences, Hunt spoke,--
“Yes--there--a curtain of vapour--so the half-breed often
said--understand me. The two, Arthur Pym and he, were in the Tsalal
boat. Then an enormous block of ice came full upon them. At the
shock Dirk Peters was thrown into the sea, but he clung to the ice
block, and--understand me, he saw the boat drift with the current,
far, very far, too far! In vain did Pym try to rejoin his companion,
he could not; the boat drifted on and on, and Pym, that poor dear
Pym, was carried away. It is he who has never come back, and he is
there, still there!”
If Hunt had been the half-breed in person he could not have spoken
with more heartfelt emotion of “poor Pym.”
It was then, in front of the “curtain of vapour,” that Arthur
Pym and the half-breed had been separated from each other. Dirk
Peters had succeeded in returning from the ice-world to America,
whither he had conveyed the notes that were communicated to Edgar
Hunt was minutely questioned upon all these points and he replied,
conformably, he declared, to what the half-breed had told him many
times. According to this statement, Dirk Peters had Arthur Pym’s
note-book in his pocket at the moment when the ice-block struck
them, and thus the journal which the half-breed placed at the
disposal of the American romance-writer was saved.
“Understand me,” Hunt repeated, “for I tell you things as I
have them from Dirk Peters. While the drift was carrying him away,
he cried out with all his strength. Pym, poor Pym, had already
disappeared in the midst of the vapour. The half-breed, feeding upon
raw fish, which he contrived to catch, was carried back by a cross
current to Tsalal Island, where he landed half dead from hunger.”
“To Tsalal Island!” exclaimed Captain Len Guy. “And how long
was it since they had left it?”
“Three weeks--yes, three weeks at the farthest, so Dirk Peters
“Then he must have found all that remained of the crew of the
Jane--my brother William and those who had survived with him?”
“No,” replied Hunt; “and Dirk Peters always believed that they
had perished--yes, to the very last man. There was no one upon the
“Not a living soul.”
“But the population?”
”No one! No one, I tell you. The island was a desert--yes, a
This statement contradicted certain facts of which we were
absolutely certain. After all, though, it that when Dirk Peters
returned to Tsalal Island, the population, seized by who can tell
what terror, had already taken refuge upon the south-western group,
and that William Guy and his companions were still hidden in gorges
of Klock-Klock. That would explain why half-breed had not come
across them, and also why survivors of the Jane had had nothing to
fear during eleven years of their sojourn in the island. On the
other hand, since Patterson had left them there seven previously, if
we did not find them, that must have because they had been obliged
to leave Tsalal, the being rendered uninhabitable by the earthquake.
“So that,” resumed Captain Len Guy, “on the return of Dirk
Peters, there was no longer an inhabitant on the island?”
“No one,” repeated Hunt, “no one. The half-breed did not meet
a single native.”
“And what did Dirk Peters do?”
“Understand me. A forsaken boat lay there, at the back of the bay,
containing some dried meat and several casks of water. The
half-breed got into it, and a south wind--yes, south, very strong,
the same that had driven the ice block, with the cross current,
towards Tsalal Island--carried him on for weeks and weeks--to the
iceberg barrier, through a passage in it--you may believe me, I am
telling you only what Dirk Peters told me--and he cleared the polar
“And beyond it?” I inquired.
“Beyond it. He was picked up by an American whaler, the Sandy
Hook, and taken back to America.”
Now, one thing at all events was clear. Edgar Poe had never known
Arthur Pym. This was the reason why, to leave his readers in
exciting uncertainty, he had brought Pym to an end “as sudden as
it was deplorable,” without indicating the manner or the cause of
“And yet, although Arthur Pym did not return, could it be
reasonably admitted that he had survived his companion for any
length of time, that he was still living, eleven years having
elapsed since his disappearance?”
“Yes, yes,” replied Hunt.
And this he affirmed with the strong conviction that Dirk Peters had
infused into his mind while the two were living togather in
Vandalia, in Illinois.
Now the question arose, was Hunt sane? Was it not he who had stolen
into my cabin in a fit of insanity--of this I had no doubt--and
murmured in my ear the words: “And Pym--poor Pym?”
Yes, and I had not been dreaming! In short, if all that Hunt had
just said was true, if he was but the faithful reporter of secrets
which had been entrusted to him by Dirk Peters, ought he to be
believed when he repeated in a tone of mingled command and
“Pym is not dead. Pym is there. Poor Pym must not be forsaken!”
When I had made an end of questioning Hunt, Captain Len Guy came out
of his meditative mood, profoundly troubled, and gave the word,
“All hands forward!”
When the men were assembled around him, he said,--
“Listen to me, Hunt, and seriously consider the gravity of the
questions I am about to put to you.”
Hunt held his head up, and ran his eyes over the crew of the
“You assert, Hunt, that all you have told us concerning Arthur Pym
“You knew Dirk Peters?”
“You lived some years with him in Illinois?”
“And he often related these things to you?”
“And, for your own part, you have no doubt that he told you the
“Well, then, did it never occur to him that some of the crew of
the Jane might have remained on Tsalal Island?”
“He believed that William Guy and his companions must all have
perished in the landslip of the hill of Klock-Klock?”
“Yes, and from what he often repeated to me, Pym believed it
“Where did you see Dirk Peters for the last time?”
“How long ago?”
“Over two years.”
“And which of you two was the first to leave Vandalia?”
I thought I detected a slight hesitation in Hunt before he
“We left the place together.”
“You, to go to?”
“He?” repeated Hunt.
And then his wandering gaze fixed itself on Martin Holt, our
sailing-master, whose life he had saved at the risk of his own
during the tempest.
“Well!” resumed the captain, “do you not understand what I am
“Then answer me. When Dirk Peters left Illinois, did he finally
give up America?”
“To go whither? Speak!”
“To the Falklands.”
“And where is he now?”
“He stands before you.”
Dirk Peters! Hunt was the half-breed Dirk Peters, the devoted
companion of Arthur Pym, he whom Captain Guy had so long sought for
in the United States, and whose presence was probably to furnish us
with a fresh reason for pursuing our daring campaign.
I shall not be at all surprised if my readers have already
recognized Dirk Peters in Hunt; indeed, I shall be astonished if
they have failed to do so. The extraordinary thing is that Captain
Len Guy and myself, who had read Edgar Poe’s book over and over
again, did not see at once, when Hunt came on the ship at the
Falklands, that he and the half-breed were identical! I can only
admit that we were both blindfolded by some hidden action of Fate,
just when certain pages of that book ought to have effectually
cleared our vision.
There was no doubt whatever that Hunt really was Dirk Peters.
Although he was eleven years older, he answered in every particular
to the description of him given by Arthur Pym, except that he was no
longer “of fierce aspect.” In fact, the half-breed had changed
with age and the experience of terrible scenes through which he had
passed; nevertheless, he was still the faithful companion to whom
Arthur Pym had often owed his safety, that same Dirk Peters who
loved him as his own son, and who had never--no, never--lost the
hope of finding him again one day amid the awful Antarctic wastes.
Now, why had Dirk Peters hidden himself in the Falklands under the
name of Hunt? Why, since his embarkation on the Halbrane, had he
kept up that incognito? Why had he not told who he was, since he was
aware of the intentions of the captain, who was about to make every
effort to save his countrymen by following the course of the Jane?
Why? No doubt because he feared that his name would inspire horror.
Was it not the name of one who had shared in the horrible scenes of
the Grampus, who had killed Parker, the sailor, who had fed upon the
man’s flesh, and quenched his thirst in the man’s blood? To
induce him to reveal his name he must needs be assured that the
Halbrane would attempt to discover and rescue Arthur Pym!
And as to the existence of Arthur Pym? I confess that my reason did
not rebel against the admission of it as a possibility. The
imploring cryof the half-breed, “Pym, poor Pym! he must not be
forsaken!” troubled me profoundly.
Assuredly, since I had resolved to take part in the expedition of
the Halbrane, I was no longer the same man!
A long silence had followed the astounding declaration of the
half-breed. None dreamed of doubting his veracity. He had said, “I
am Dirk Peters.” He was Dirk Peters.
At length, moved by irresistible impulse, I said:
“My friends, before any decision is made, let us carefully
consider the situation. Should we not lay up everlasting regret for
ourselves if we were to abandon our expedition at the very moment
when it promises to succeed? Reflect upon this, captain, and you,
my companions. It is less than seven months since Patterson left
your countrymen alive on Tsalal Island. If they were there then, the
fact proves that for eleven years they had been enabled to exist on
the resources provided by the island, having nothing to fear from
the islanders, some of whom had fallen victims to circumstances
unknown to us, and others had probably transferred themselves to
some neighbouring island. This is quite plain, and I do not see how
any objection can be raised to my reasoning.”
No one made answer: there was none to be made.
“If we have not come across the captain of the Jane and his
people,” I resumed, “it is because they have been obliged to
abandon Tsalal Island since Patterson’s departure. Why? In my
belief, it was because the earthquake had rendered the island
uninhabitable. Now, they would only have required a native boat to
gain either another island or some point of the Antarctic continent
by the aid of the southern current. I hardly hesitate to assert that
all this has occurred; but in any case, I know, and I repeat, that
we shall have done nothing if we do not persevere in the search on
which the safety of your countrymen depends.”
I questioned my audience by a searching look. No answer.
Captain Len Guy, whose emotion was unrestrained, bowed his head, for
he felt that I was right, that by invoking the duties of humanity I
was prescribing the only course open to men with feeling hearts.
“And what is in question?” I continued, after the silent pause.
“To accomplish a few degrees of latitude, and that while the sea
is open, while we have two months of good weather to look for, and
nothing to fear from the southern winter. I certainly should not ask
you to brave its severity. And shall we hesitate, when the Halbrane
is abundantly furnished, her crew complete and in good health? Shall
we take fright at imaginary dangers? Shall we not have courage to go
on, on, thither?”
And I pointed to the southern horizon. Dirk Peters pointed to it
also, with an imperative gesture which spoke for him.
Still, the eyes of all were fixed upon us, but there was no
response. I continued to urge every argument, and to quote every
example in favour of the safety of pursuing our voyage, but the
silence was unbrokenj and now the men stood with eyes cast down.
And yet I had not once pronounced the name of Dirk Peters, nor
alluded to Dirk Peters’ proposal.
I was asking myself whether I had or had not succeeded in inspiring
my companions with my own belief, when Captain Len Guy spoke:
“Dirk Peters,” he said, “doyou assert that Arthur Pym and you
after your departure from Tsalal Island saw land in the direction of
“Yes, land,” answered the half-breed. “Islands or
continent--understand me--and I believe that Pym, poor Pym, is
waiting there until aid comes to him.”
“There, where perhaps William Guy and his companions are also
waiting,” said I, to bring back the discussion to more practical
Captain Len Guy reflected for a little while, and then spoke:
“Is it true, Dirk Peters,” he asked, “that beyond the
eighty-fourth parallel the horizon is shut in by that curtain of
vapour which is described in the narrative? Have you seen--seen
with your own eyes--those cataracts in the air, that gulf in which
Arthur Pym’s boat was lost?”
The half-breed looked from one to the other of us, and shook his big
“I don’t know,” he said. “What are you asking me about,
captain? A curtain of vapour? Yes, perhaps, and also appearances of
land towards the south.”
Evidently Dirk Peters had never read Edgar Poe’s book, and very
likely did not know how to read. After having handed over Pym’s
journal, he had not troubled himself about its publication. Having
retired to Illinois at first and to the Falklands afterwards, he had
no notion of the stir that the work had made, or of the fantastic
and baseless climax to which our great poet had brought those
And, besides, might not Arthur Pym himself, with his tendency to the
supernatural, have fancied that he saw these wondrous things, due
solely to his imaginative brain?
Then, for the first time in the course of this discussion, West’s
voice made itself heard. I had no idea which side he would take. The
first words he uttered were:
“Captain, your orders?”
Captain Len Guy turned towards his crew, who surrounded him, both
the old and the new. Hearne remained in the background, ready to
intervene if he should think it necessary.
The captain questioned the boatswain and his comrades, whose
devotion was unreservedly his, by a long and anxious look, and I
heard him mutter between his teeth,--
“Ah! if it depended only on me! if I were sure of the assent and
the help of them all!
“Then Hearne spoke roughly:
“Captain,” said he, “it’s two months since we left the
Falklands. Now, my companions were engaged for a voyage which was
not to take them farther beyond the icebergs than Tsalal Island.”
“That is not so,” exclaimed Captain Len Guy. “No! That is not
so. I recruited you all for an enterprise which I have a right to
pursue, so far as I please.”
“Beg pardon,” said Hearne, coolly, “but we have come to a
point which no navigator has ever yet reached, in a sea, no ship
except the Jane has ever ventured into before us, and therefore my
comrades and I mean to return to the Falklands before the bad
season. From there you can return to Tsalal Island, and even go on
to the Pole, if you so please.”
A murmur of approbation greeted his words; no doubt the
sealing-master justly interpreted the sentiments of the majority,
composed of the new recruits. To go against their opinion, to exact
the obedience of these ill-disposed men, and under such conditions
to risk the unknown Antarctic waters, would have been an act of
temerity--or, rather, an act of madness--that would have brought
about some catastrophe.
Nevertheless, West, advancing upon Hearne, said to him in a
threatening tone, ”Who gave you leave to speak?”
“The captain questioned us,” replied Hearne. “I had a right to
The man uttered these words with such insolence that West, who was
generally so self-restrained, was about to give free vent to his
wrath, when Captain Len Guy, stopping him by a motion of his hand,
“Be calm, Jem. Nothing can be done unless we are all agreed. What
is your opinion, Hurtiguerly?”
“It is very clear, captain,” replied the boatswain. “I will
obey your orders, whatever they may be! It is our duty not to
forsake William Guy and the others so long as any chance of saving
The boatswain paused for a moment, while several of the sailors gave
unequivocal signs of approbation.
“As for what concerns Arthur Pym--”
“There is no question of Arthur Pym,” struck in the captain,
“but only of my brother William and his companions.”
I saw at this moment that Dirk Peters was about to protest, and
caught hold of his arm. He shook with anger, but kept silence.
The captain continued his questioning of the men, desiring to know
by name all those upon whom he might reckon. The old crew to a man
acquiesced in his proposals, and pledged themselves to obey his
orders implicitly and follow him whithersoever he chose to go.
Three only of the recruits joined those faithful seamen; these were
English sailors. The others were of Hearne’s opinion, holding that
for them the campaign was ended at Tsalal Island. They therefore
refused to go beyond that point, and formally demanded that the ship
should be steered northward so as to clear the icebergs at the most
favourable period of the season.
Twenty men were on their side, and to constrain them to lend a hand
to the working of the ship if she were to be diverted to the south
would have been to provoke them to rebel. There was but one
resource: to arouse their covetousness, to strike the chord of
I intervened, therefore, and addressed them in a which placed the
seriousness of my proposal beyond a doubt.
“Men of the Halbrane, listen to me! Just as various States have
done for voyages of discovery in the Polar Regions, I offer a reward
to the crew of this schooner. Two thousand dollars shall be shared
among you for every degree we make beyond the eighty-fourth
Nearly seventy dollars to each man; this was a strong temptation.
I felt that I had hit the mark.
“I will sign an agreement to that effect,” I continued, “with
Captain Len Guy as your representative, and the sums gained shall be
handed to you on your return, no matter under what conditions that
return be accomplished.”
I waited for the effect of this promise, and, to tell the truth, I
had not to wait long.
“Hurrah!” cried the boatswain, acting as fugleman to his
comrades, who almost unanimously added their cheers to his. Hearne
offered no farther opposition; it would always be in his power to
put in his word when the stances should be more propitious.
Thus the bargain was made, and, to gain my ends, I have made a
heavier sacrifice. It is true we were within seven degrees of the
South and, if the Halbrane should indeed reach that spot, it would
never cost me more than fourteen thousand dollars.
Early in the morning of the 27th of December the Halbrane put out to
sea, heading south-west.
After the scene of the preceding evening Captain Len Guy had taken a
few hours’ rest. I met him next day on deck while West was going
about fore and aft, and he called us both to him.
“Mr. Jeorling,” he said, “it was with a terrible pang that I
came to the resolution to bring our schooner back to the north! I
felt I had not done all I ought to do for our unhappy
fellow-countrymen: but I knew that the majority of the crew would be
against me if I insisted on going beyond Tsalal Island.”
“That is true, captain; there was a beginning of indiscipline on
board, and perhaps it might have ended in a revolt.”
“A revolt we should have speedily put down,” said West, coolly,
“were it only by knocking Hearne, who is always exciting the
mutinous men, on the head.”
“And you would have done well, Jem,” said the captain. “Only,
justice being satisfied, what would have become of the agreement
together, which we must have in order to do anything?”
“Of course, captain, it is better that things passed off without
violence! But for the future Hearne will have to look out for
“His companions,” observed the captain, “are now greedy for
the prizes that have been promised them. The greed of gain will make
them more willing and persevering. The generosity of Mr. Jeorling
has succeeded where our entreaties would undoubtedly have failed. I
thank him for it.”
Captain Len Guy held out a hand to me, which I grasped cordially.
After some general conversation relating to our purpose, the
ship’s course, and the proposed verification of the bearings of
the group of islands on the west of Tsalal which is described by
Arthur Pym, the captain said,--
“As it is possible that the ravages of the earthquake did not
extend to this group, and that it may still be inhabited, we must be
on our guard in approaching the bearings.”
“Which cannot bevery far off,” I added. “And then, captain,
who knows but that your brother and his sailors might have taken
refu ge on one of these islands!”
This was admissible, but not a consoling eventuality, for in that
case the poor fellows would have fallen into the hands of those
savages of whom they were rid while they remained at Tsalal.
“Jem,” resumed Captain Len Guy, “we are making good way, and
no doubt land will be signalled in a few hours. Give orders for the
watch to be careful.”
“It’s done, captain.”
“There is a man in the crow’s-nest?”
“Dirk Peters himself, at his own request.” “All right, Jem; we
may trust his vigilance.”
“And also his eyes,” I added, “for he is gifted with amazing
For two hours of very quick sailing not the smallest indication of
the group of eight islands was visible.
“It is incomprehensible that we have not come in sight of them,”
said the captain. “I reckon that the Halbrane has made sixty miles
since this morning, and the islands in question are tolerably close
“Then, captain, we must conclude--and it is not unlikely--that
the group to which Tsalal belonged has entirely disappeared in the
“Land ahead!” cried Dirk Peters.
We looked, but could discern nothing on the sea, nor was it until a
quarter of an hour had elapsed that our glasses enabled us to
recognize the tops of a few scattered islets shining in the oblique
rays of the sun, two or three miles to the westward.
What a change! How had it come about? Arthur Pym described spacious
islands, but only a small number of tiny islets, half a dozen at
most, protruded from the waters.
At this moment the half-breed came sliding down from his lofty perch
and jumped to the deck.
“Well, Dirk Peters! Have you recognized the group?” asked the
“The group?” replied the half-breed, shaking his head. “No, I
have only seen the tops of five or six islets. There is nothing but
stone heaps there--not a single island!”
As the schooner approached we easily recognized these fragments of
the group, which had been almost entirely destroyed on its western
side. The scattered remains formed dangerous reefs which might
seriously injure the keel or the sides of the Halbrane, and there
was no intention of risking the ship’s safety among them. We
accordingly cast anchor at a safe distance, and a boat was lowered
for the reception of Captain Len Guy, the boatswain, Dirk Peters,
Holt, two men and myself. The still, transparent water, as Peters
steered us skilfully between the projecting edges of the little
reefs, allowed us to see, not a bed of sand strewn with shells, but
heaps which were overgrown by land vegetation, tufts plants not
belonging to the marine flora that floated the surface of the sea.
Presently we landed on one of the larger islets which rose to about
thirty feet above the sea.
“Do the tides rise sometimes to that height?” I inquired of the
“Never,” he replied, “and perhaps we shall discover some
remains of the vegetable kingdom, of habitations, or of an
“The best thing we can do,” said the boatswain, “is to follow
Dirk Peters, who has already distanced us. The half-breed’s lynx
eyes will see what we can’t.”
Peters had indeed scaled the eminence in a moment, and we presently
joined him on the top.
The islet was strewn with remains (probably of those domestic
animals mentioned in Arthur Pym’s journal), but these bones
differed from the bones on Tsalal Island by the fact that the heaps
dated from a few months only. This then agreed with the recent
period at which we placed the earthquake. Besides, plants and tufts
of flowers were growing here and there.
“And these are this year’s,” I cried, “no southern winter
has passed over them.”
These facts having been ascertained, no doubt could remain
respecting the date of the cataclysm after the departure of
Patterson. The destruction of the population of Tsalal whose bones
lay about the village was not attributable to that catastrophe.
William Guy and the five sailors of the Jane had been able to fly in
time, since no bones that could be theirs had been found on the
Where had they taken refuge? This was the everpressing question.
What answer were we to obtain? Must we conclude that having reached
one of these islets they had perished in the swallowing-up of the
archipelago? We debated this point, as may be supposed, at a length
and with detail which I can only indicate here. Suffice it to say
that a decision was arrived at to the following effect. Our sole
chance of discovering the unfortunate castaways was to continue our
voyage for two or three parallels farther; the goal was there, and
which of us would not sacrifice even his life to attain it?
“God is guiding us, Mr. Jeorling,” said Captain Len Guy.
The following day, the 29th of December, at six in the morning, the
schooner set sail with a north-east wind, and this time her course
was due south. The two succeeding days passed wholly without
incident; neither land nor any sign of land was observed. The men on
the Halbrahe took great hauls of fish, to their own satisfaction and
ours. It was New Year’s Day, 1840, four months and seventeen days
since I had left the Kerguelens and two months and five days since
the Halbrahe had sailed from the Falklands. The half-breed, between
whom and myself an odd kind of tacit understanding subsisted,
approached the bench on which I was sitting--the captain was in his
cabin, and West was not in sight--with a plain intention of
conversing with me. The subject may easily be guessed.
“Dirk Peters,” said I, taking up the subject at once, “do you
wish that we should talk of him?”
“Him!” he murmured.
“You have remained faithful to his memory, Dirk Peters.”
“Forget him, sir! Never!”
“He is always there--before you?”
“Always! So many dangers shared! That makes brothers! No, it makes
a father and his son! Yes! And I have seen America again, but
Pym--poor Pym--he is still beyond there!”
“Dirk Peters,” I asked, “have you any idea of the route which
you and Arthur Pym followed in the boat after your departure from
“None, sir! Poor Pym had no longer any instrument--you
know--sea machines--for looking at the sun. We could not know,
except that for the eight days the current pushed us towards the
south, and the wind also. A fine breeze and a fair sea, and our
shirts for a sail.”
“Yes, white linen shirts, which frightened your prisoner Nu
“Perhaps so--I did not notice. But if Pym has said so, Pym must
“And during those eight days you were able to supply yourselves
“Yes, sir, and the days after--we and the savage. You know--the
three turtles that were in the boat. These animals contain a store
of fresh water--and their flesh is sweet, even raw. Oh, raw flesh,
He lowered his voice, and threw a furtive glance around him. It
would be impossible to describe the frightful expression of the
half-breed’s face as he thus recalled the terrible scenes of the
Grampus. And it was not the expression of a cannibal of Australia or
the New Hebrides, but that of a man who is pervaded by an
insurmountable horror of himself.
“Was it not on the 1st of March, Dirk Peters,” I asked, “that
you perceived for the first time the veil of grey vapour shot with
luminous and moving rays?”
“I do not remember, sir, but if Pym says It was so, Pym must be
“Did he never speak to you of fiery rays which fell from the
sky?” I did not use the term “polar aurora,” lest the
half-breed should not understand it.
“Never, sir,” said Dirk Peters, after some reflection. “Did
you not remark that the colour of the sea changed, grew white like
milk, and that its surface became ruffled around your boat?”
“It may have been so, sir; I did not observe. The boat went on and
on, and my head went with it.”
“And then, the fine powder, as fine as ashes, that fell--”
“I don’t remember it.”
“Was it not snow?”
“Snow? Yes! No! The weather was warm. What did Pym say? Pym must
be believed.” He lowered his voice and continued: “But Pym will
tell you all that, sir. He knows. I do not know. He saw, and you
will believe him.”
“Yes, Dirk Peters, I shall believe him.”
“We are to go in search of him, are we not?”
“I hope so.”
“After we shall have found William Guy and the sailors of the
“And even if we do not find them?”
“Yes, even in that case. I think I shall induce our captain. I
think he will not refuse--”
“No, he will not refuse to bring help to a man--a man like him
“And yet,” I said, “if William Guy and his people are living,
can we admit that Arthur Pym--”
“Living? Yes! Living!” cried the half-breed. “By the great
spirit of my fathers, he is--he is waiting for me, my poor Pym! How
joyful he will be when he clasps his old Dirk in his arms, and
I--I, when I feel him, there, there.”
And the huge chest of the man heaved like a stormy sea. Then he went
away, leaving me inexpressibly affected by the revelation of the
tenderness for his unfortunate companion that lay deep in the heart
of this semi-savage.
In the meantime I said but little to Captain Len Guy, whose whole
heart and soul were set on the rescue of brother, of the possibility
of our finding Arthur Gordon Pym. Time enough, if in the course of
this strange enterprise of ours we succeeded in that object, to urge
upon him one still more visionary.
At length, on the 7th of January--according to Dirk Peters, who had
fixed it only by the time that had expired--we arrived at the
place where Nu Nu the savage breathed his last, lying in the bottom
of the boat. On that day an observation gave 86° 33’ for the
latitude, the longitude remaining the same between the and the
forty-third meridian. Here it was, according the half-breed, that
the two fugitives were parted after the collision between the boat
and the floating mass of ice. But a question now arose. Since the
mass of ice carrying away Dirk Peters had drifted towards the north,
was this because it was subjected to the action of a countercurrent?
Yes, that must have been so, for oar schooner had not felt the
influence of the current which had guided her on leaving the
Falklands, for fully four days. And yet, there was nothing
surprising in that, for everything is variable in the austral seas.
Happily, the fresh breeze from the north-east continued to blow, and
the Halbrane made progress toward higher waters, thirteen degrees in
advance upon Weddells ship and two degrees upon the fane. As for the
land--islands or continent--which Captain Len Guy was seeking on
the surface of that vast ocean, it did not appear. I was well aware
that he was gradually losing confidence in our enterprise.
As for me, I was possessed by the desire to rescue Arthur Pym as
well as the survivors of the Jane. And yet, how could he have
survived! But then, the half-breed’s fixed idea! Supposing our
captain were to give the order to go back, what would Dirk Peters
do? Throw himself into the sea rather than return northwards? This
it was which made me dread some act of violence on his part, when he
heard the greater number of the sailors protesting against this
insensate voyage, and talking of putting the ship about, especially
towards Hearne, who was stealthily inciting his comrades of the
Falklands to insubordination.
It was absolutely necessary not to allow discipline to decline, or
discouragement to grow among the crew; so that, on the 7th of
January, Captain Len Guy at my request assembled the men and
addressed them in the following words:--
“Sailors of the Halbrane, since our departure from Tsalal Island,
the schooner has gained two degrees southwards, and I now inform
you, that, conformably with the engagement signed by Mr. Jeorling,
four thousand dollars--that is two thousand dollars for each
degree--are due to you, and will be paid at the end of the
These words were greeted with some murmurs of satisfaction, but not
with cheers, except those of Hurliguerly the boatswain, and Endicott
the cook, which found no echo.
On the 13th of January a conversation took place between the
boatswain and myself of a nature to justify my anxiety concerning
the temper of our crew.
The men were at breakfast, with the exception of Drap and Stern. The
schooner was cutting the water under a stiff breeze. I was walking
between the fore and main masts, watching the great flights of birds
wheeling about the ship with deafening clangour, and the petrels
occasionally perching on our yards. No effort was made to catch or
shoot them; it would have been useless cruelty, since their oily and
stringy flesh is not eatable.
At this moment Hurliguerly approached me, looked attentively at the
birds, and said,--
“I remark one thing, Mr. Jeorling.”
“What is it, boatswain?”
“That these birds do not fly so directly south as they did up to
the present. Some of them are setting north.”
“I have noticed the same fact.”
“And I add, Mr. Jeorling, that those who are below there will come
back without delay.”
“And you conclude from this?”
“I conclude that they feel the approach of winter.”
“No, no, boatswain; the temperature is so high that the birds
can’t want to get to less cold regions so prematurely.”
“Oh! prematurely, Mr. Jeorling.”
“Yes, boatswain; do we not know that navigators have always been
able to frequent the Antarctic waters until the month of March?”
“Not at such a latitude. Besides, there are precocious winters as
well as precocious summers. The fine season this year was full two
months in advance, and it is to ba feared the bad season may come
sooner than usual.”
“That is very likely,” I replied. “After all, it does not
signity to us, since our campaign will certainly be over in three
“If some obstacle does not arise beforehand, Mr. Jeorling.”
“And what obstacle?”
“For instance, a continent stretching to the south and barring our
“A continent, Hurliguerly!”
“I should not be at all surprised.”
“And, in fact, there would be nothing surprising in it.”
“As for the lands seen by Dirk Peters,” said the boatswain,
“where the men of the Jane might have landed on one or another of
them, I don’t believe in them.”
“Because William Guy, who can only have had a small craft at his
disposal, could not have got so far into these seas.”
“I do not feel quite so sure of that. Nevertheless, Mr.
“What would there be so surprising in William Guy’s being
carried to land somewhere by the action of the currents? He did not
remain on board his boat for eight months, I suppose. His companions
and he may have been able to land on an island, or even on a
continent, and that is a sufficient motive for us to pursue our
“No doubt--but all are not of your opinion,” replied
Hurliguerly, shaking his head.
“I know,” said I, “and that is what makes me most anxious. Is
the ill-feeling increasing?”
“I fear so, Mr. Jeorling. The satisfaction of having gained
several hundreds of dollars is already lessened, and the prospect of
gaining a few more hundreds does not put a stop to disputes. And yet
the prize is tempting! From Tsalal Island to the pole, admitting
that we might get there, is six degrees. Now six degrees at two
thousand dollars each makes twelve thousand dollars for thirty men,
that is four hundred dollars a head A nice little sum to slip into
one’s pocket on the return of the Halbrane; but, notwithstanding,
that fellow Hearne works so wickedly upon his comrades that I
believe they are ready to ‘bout ship in spite of anybody.”
“I can believe that of the recruits, boatswain, but the old
“H--m! there are three or four of those who are beginning to
reflect, and they are not easy in their minds about the prolongation
of the voyage.”
“I fancy Captain Len Guy and his lieutenant will how to get
“We shall see, Mr. Jeorling. But may it not that our captain
himself will get disheartened; that the sense of his responsibility
will prevail, and that he will renounce his enterprise?”
Yes! this was what I feared, and there was no remedy on that side.
“As for my friend Endicott, Mr. Jeorling, I answer for him as for
myself. We would go to the end of the world--if the world has an
end--did the captain want to go there. True, we two, Dirk Peters
and yourself, are but a few to be a law to the others.”
“And what do you think of the half-breed?” I asked.
“Well, our men appear to accuse him chiefly of the prolongation of
the voyage. You see, Mr. Jeorling, though you have a good deal to do
with it, you pay, and pay well, while this crazy fellow, Dirk
Peters, persists in asserting that his poor Pym is still
living--his poor Pym who was drowned, or frozen, or
crushed--killed, anyhow, one way or another, eleven years ago!”
So completely was this my own belief that I never discussed the
subject with the half-breed.
“You see, Mr. Jeorling,” resumed the boatswain, “at the first
some curiosity was felt about Dirk Peters. Then, after he saved
Martin Holt, it was interest. Certainly, he was no more talkative
than before, and the bear came no oftener out of his den! But now we
know what he is, and no one likes him the better for that. At all
events it was he who induced our captain, by talking of land to the
south of Tsalal Island, to make this voyage, and it is owing to him
that he has reached the eighty-sixth degree of latitude.”
“That is quite true, boatswain.”
“And so, Mr. Jeorling, I am always afraid that one of these days
somebody will do Peters an ill turn.”
“Dirk Peters would defend himself, and I should pity the man who
laid a finger on him.”
“Quite so. It would not be good for anybody to be in his hands,
for they could bend iron! But then, all being against him, he would
be forced into the hold.”
“Well, well, we have not yet come to that, I hope, and I count on
you, Hurliguerly, to prevent any against Dirk Peters. Reason with
your men. Make them understand that we have time to return to the
Falklands before the end of the fine season. Their reproaches must
not be allowed to provide the captain with an excuse for turning
back before the object is attained.”
“Count on me, Mr. Jeorling, I will serve you to the best of my
“You will not repent of doing so, Hurliguerly. Nothing is easier
than to add a round o to the four hundred dollars which each man is
to have, if that man be something more than a sailor--even were his
functions simply those of boatswain on board the Halbrane.”
Nothing important occurred on the 13th and 14th, but a fresh fall in
the temperature took place. Captain Len Guy called my attention to
this, pointing out the flocks of birds continuously flying north.
While he was speaking to me I felt that his last hopes were fading.
And who could wonder? Of the land indicated by the half-breed
nothing was seen, and we were already more than one hundred and
eighty miles Tsalal Island. At every point of the compass was the
sea, nothing but the vast sea with its desert horizon which the
sun’s disk had been nearing since the 21st and would touch on the
21st March, prior to during the six months of the austral night.
Honestly, was it possible to admit that William Guy and his five
panions could have accomplished such a distance on a craft, and was
there one chance in a hundred that the could ever be recovered?
On the 15th of January an observation most carefully taken gave 43°
13’ longitude and 88° 17’ latitude. The Halbrane was less than
two degrees from the pole.
Captain Len Guy did not seek to conceal the result of this
observation, and the sailors knew enough of nautical calculation to
understand it. Besides, if the consequences had to be explained to
them, were not Holt and Hardy there to do this, and Hearne, to
exaggerate them to the utmost?
During the afternoon I had indubitable proof that the sealing-master
had been working on the minds of the crew. The men, emerging at the
foot of the mainmast, talked in whispers and cast evil glances at
us. Two or three sailors made threatening gestures undisguisedly;
then arose such angry mutterings that West could not to be deaf to
He strode forward and called out. “Silence, there! The first man
who speaks will have to reckon with me!”
Captain Len Guy was shut up in his cabin, but every moment I
expected to see him come out, give one last long around the waste of
waters, and then order the ship’s course to be reversed.
Nevertheless, on the next day the schooner was sailing in the same
direction. Unfortunately--for the circumstance had some gravity--a
mist was beginning to come down on us. I could not keep still, I My
apprehensions were redoubled. It was that West was only awaiting the
order to change the helm. What mortal anguish soever the captain’s
must be, I understood too well that he would not give that order
For several days past I had not seen the half-breed, or, least, I
had not exchanged a word with him. He was boycotted by the whole
crew, with the exception of the boatswain, who was careful to
address him, although rarely got a word in return. Dirk Peters took
not faintest notice of this state of things. He remained completely
absorbed in his own thoughts, yet, had he heard West give the word
to steer north, I know not acts of violence he might have been
driven. He seemed to avoid me; was this from a desire not to
On the 17th, in the afternoon, however, Dirk Peters manifested an
intention of speaking to me, and never, never, could I have imagined
what I was to learn in that interview.
It was about half-past two, and, not feeling well, I gone to my
cabin, where the side window was open, that at the back was closed.
I heard a knock at the dom and asked who was there.
“Dirk Peters,” was the reply.
“You want to speak to me?”
“I am coming out.”
“If you please--I should prefer--may I come into your cabin?”
He entered, and shut the door behind him?
Without rising I signed to him to seat himself arm-chair, but he
“What do you want of me, Dirk Peters?” I asked at length, as he
seemed unable to make up his mind to speak.
“I want to tell you something--because it seems well that you
should know it, and you only. In the crew--they must never know
“If it is a grave matter, and you fear any indiscretion, Dirk
Peters, why do you speak to me?”
“If!--I must! Ah, yes! I must! It is impossible to keep it there!
It weighs on me like a stone.”
And Dirk Peters struck his breast violently.
Then he resumed:
“Yes! I am always afraid it may escape me during my sleep, and
that someone will hear it, for I dream of it, and in dreaming--”
“You dream,” I replied, “and of what?”
“Of him, of him. Therefore it is that I sleep in corners, all
alone, for fear that his true name should be discovered.”
Then it struck me that the half-breed was perhaps about to respond
to an inquiry which I had not yet made--why he had gone to live at
the Falklands under the name of Hunt after leaving Illinois?
I put the question to him, and he replied,--
“It is not that; no, it is not that I wish--”
“I insist, Dirk Peters, and I desire to know in the first place
for what reason you did not remain in America, for what reason you
chose the Falklands--”
“For what reason, sir? Because I wanted to get near Pym, my poor
Pym--beeause I hoped to find an opportunity at the Falklands of
embarking on a whaling ship bound for the southern sea.”
“But that name of Hunt?”
“I would not bear my own name any longer--on account of the
affair of the Grampus.”
The half-breed was alluding to the scene of the “short straw”
(or lot-drawing) on board the American brig, when it was decided
between Augustus Barnard, Arthur Pym, Dirk Peters, and Parker, the
sailor, that one of the four should be sacrificed--as food for the
three others. I remembered the obstinate resistance of Arthur Pym,
and how it was impossible for him to refuse to take his the tragedy
about to be performed--he says this himself--and the horrible act
whose remembrance must poison the existence of all those who had
Oh, that lot-drawing! The “short straws” were little splinters
of wood of uneven length which Arthur held in his hand. The shortest
was to designate him who should be immolated. And he speaks of the
sort of involuntary fierce desire to deceive his corn that he
felt--”to cheat” is the word he uses--but he did not
“cheat,” and he asks pardon for having had the idea! Let us try
to put ourselves in his place!
He made up his mind, and held out his hand, closed on the four
slips. Dirk Peters drew the first. Fate favoured him. He had nothing
more to fear. Arthur Pym calculated that one more chance was against
him. Augustus Barnard drew in his turn. Saved, too, he! And now
Arthur Pym reckoned up the exact chances Parker and himself. At that
moment all the ferocity the tiger entered into his soul. He
conceived an intense and devilish hatred of his poor comrade, his
Five minutes elapsed before Parker dared to draw. At length Arthur
Pym, standing with closed eyes, not knowing whether the lot was for
or against him, felt a hand seize his own. It was the hand of Dirk
Peters. Arthur Pym had escaped death. And then the half-breed upon
Parker and stabbed him in the back. The frightful repast
followed--immediately--and words are not sufficient to convey to
the mind the horror of the reality.
Yes! I knew that hideous story, not a fable, as I had long believed.
This was what had happened on board the Grampus, on the 16th of
July, 1827, and vainly did I try to understand Dirk Peters’ reason
for recalling it to my recollection.
“Well, Dirk Peters,” I said, “I will ask you, since you were
anxious to hide your name, what it was that induced you to reveal
it, when the Halbrane was moored off Tsalal Island; why you did not
keep to the name of Hunt?”
“Sir--understand me--there was hesitation about going
farther--they wanted to turn back. This was decided, and then I
thought that by telling who I was--Dirk Peters--of the
Grampus--poor Pym’s companion--I should be heard; they would
belieye with me that he was still living, they would go in search of
him! And yet, it was a serious thing to do--to acknowledge that I
was Dirk Peters, he who had killed Parker! But hunger, devouring
“Come, come, Dirk Peters,” said I, “you exaggerate! If the lot
had fallen to you, you would have incurred the fate of Parker. You
cannot be charged with a crime.”
“Sir, would Parker’s family speak of it as you do?”
“His family! Had he then relations?”
“Yes--and that is why Pym changed his name in the narrative.
Parker’s name was not Parker--it was--”
“Arthur Pym was right,” I said, interrupting him quickly, “and
as for me, I do not wish to know Parker’s real name. Keep this
“No, I will tell it to you. It weighs too heavily on me, and I
shall be relieved, perhaps, when I have told you, Mr. Jeorling.”
“No, Dirk Peters, no!”
“His name was Holt--Ned Holt.”
“Holt!” I exclaimed, “the same name as our
“Who is his own brother, sir.”
“Yes--understand me--his brother.”
“But he believes that Ned Holt perished in the wreck of the
Grampus with the rest.”
“It was not so, and if he learned that I--”
Just at that instant a violent shock flung me out of my bunk.
The schooner had made such a lurch to the port side that she was
I heard an angry voice cry out:
“What dog is that at the helm?”
It was the voice of West, and the person he was Hearne.
I rushed out of my cabin.
“Have you let the wheel go?” repeated West, who had seized
Hearne by the collar of his jersey.
“Lieutenant--I don’t know--”
“Yes, I tell you, you have let it go. A little more and the
schooner would have capsized under full sail.”
“Gratian,” cried West, calling one of the sailors, “take the
helm; and you, Hearne, go down into the hold.”
On a sudden the cry of “Land!” resounded, and every eye was
“Land” is the only word to be found at the beginning of the
nineteenth chapter of Edgar Poe’s book. I thought it would be a
good idea--placing after it a note of interrogation--to put it as
a heading to this portion of our narrative.
Did that word, dropped from our fore-masthead, indicate an island or
a continent? And, whether a continent or an island, did not a
disappointment await us? Could they be there whom we had come to
seek? And Arthur Pym, who was dead, unquestionably dead, in spite of
Dirk Peters’ assertions, had he ever set foot on this land?
When the welcome word resounded on board the Jane on the 17th
January, 1828--(a day full of incidents according to Arthur Pym’s
diary)--it was succeeded by “Land on the starboard bow!” Such
might have been the signal from the masthead of the Halbrane.
The outlines of land lightly drawn above the sky line were visible
on this side.
The land announced to the sailors of the fane was the wild and
barren Bennet Islet. Less than one degree south of it lay Tsalal
Island, then fertile, habitable and inhabited, and on which Captain
Len Guy had hoped to meet his fellow-countrymen. But what would this
unknown island, five degrees farther off in the depths of the
southern sea, be for our schooner? Was it the goal so ardently
desired and so earnestly sought for? Were the two brothers, William
and Len Guy, to meet at this place Would the Halbrane come there to
the end of a voyage whose success would be definitely secured by the
restoration of the survivors of the fane to their country?
I repeat that I was just like the half-breed. Our aim was not merely
to discover the survivors, nor was success in this matter the only
success we looked for. However, since land was before our eyes, we
must get nearer to it first.
That cry of ”Land” caused an immediate diversion of our
thoughts. I no longer dwelt upon the secret Dirk Peters had just
told me--and perhaps the half-breed forgot it also, for he rushed
to the bow and fixed his eyes immovably on the horizon. As for West,
whom nothing could divert from his duty, he repeated his commands.
Gratian came to take the helm, and Hearne was shut up in the hold.
On the whole this was a just punishment, and none of the old crew
protested against it, for Hearne’s inattention awkwardness had
really endangered the schooner, for a short time only.
Five or six of the Falklands sailors did, however, murmur a little.
A sign from the mate silenced them, and they returned at once to
Needless to say, Captain Len Guy, upon hearing the cry of the
look-out man, had tumbled up from his cabin: and eagerly examined
this land at ten or twelve miles distance.
As I have said, I was no longer thinking about the secret Dirk
Peters had confided to me. Besides, so long as the secret remained
between us two--and neither would betray it--there would be
nothing to fear. But if ever an unlucky accident were to reveal to
Martin Holt that his brother’s name had been changed to Parker,
that the unfortunate man had not perished in the shipwreck of the
Grampus, but had been sacrificed to save his companions from
perishing of hunger; that Dirk Peters, to whom Martin Holt himself
owed his life, had killed him with his own hand, what might not
happen then? This was the reason why the half-breed shrank from any
expression of thanks from Martin Holt--why he avoided Martin Holt,
the victim’s brother.
The boatswain had just struck six bells. The schooner was sailing
with the caution demanded by navigation in unknown seas. There might
be shoals or reefs barely hidden under the surface on which she
might run aground or be wrecked. As things stood with the Halbrane,
and even admitting that she could be floated again, an accident
would have rendered her return impossible before the winter set in.
We had urgent need that every chance should be in our favour and not
one against us.
West had given orders to shorten sail. When the boatswain had furled
the top-gallant-sail, the top-sail and royal, the Halbrane remained
under her mainsail, her fore-sail and her jib: sufficient canvas to
cover the distance that separated her from land in a few hours.
Captain Len Guy immediately heaved the lead, which showed a depth of
twenty fathoms. Several other soundings showed that the coast, which
was very steep, was probably prolonged like a wall under the water.
Nevertheless, as the bottom might happen to rise sharply instead of
following the slope of the coast, we did not venture to proceed out
the sounding line in hand.
The weather was still beautiful, although the sky was overcast by a
mist from south-east to souih-west. Owing to this there was some
difficulty in identifying the vague outlines which stood out like
floating vapour in the sky, disappearing and then reappearing
between the breaks of the mist.
However, we all agreed to regard this land as from twenty-five to
thirty fathoms in height, at least at its highest part.
No! we would not admit that we were the victims of a delusion, and
yet our uneasy minds feared that it might so!
Is it not natural, after all, for the heart to be assailed by a
thousand apprehensions as we near the end of any enterprise? At this
thought my mind became confused and dreamy. The Halbrane seemed to
be reduced to the dimensions of a small boat lost in this boundless
space--the contrary of that limitless sea of which Edgar Poe
speaks, where, like a living body, the ship grows larger.
When we have charts, or even sailing directions instruct us
concerning the hydrography of the coasts, the nature of the
landfalls, the bays and the creeks, we may sail along boldly. In
every other region, the master of a ship must not defer the order to
cast anchor near the shore until the morrow. But, where we were,
what an amount of prudence was necessary! And yet, no manifest
obstacle was before us. Moreover, we had no cause to fear that the
light would fail us during the sunny the night. At this season the
sun did not set so soon under the western horizon, and its rays
bathed the vast Antarctic zone in unabated light.
From that day forward the ship’s log recorded that the temperature
fell continuously. The thermometer in the air and in the shade did
not mark more than 32° (0° C.), and when plunged into water it
only indicated 26° (3° 33’ C. below 0°). What could be the
cause of this fall, since we were at the height of the southern
summer? The crew were obliged to resume their woollen clothing,
which they had left off a month previously. The schooner, however,
was sailing before the wind, and these first cold blasts were less
keenly felt. Yet we recognized the necessity of reaching our goal as
soon as possible. To linger in this region or to expose ourselves to
the danger of wintering out would be to tempt Providence!
Captain Len Guy tested the direction of the current by heavy lead
lines, and discovered that it was beginning to deviate from its
“Whether it is a continent,” said he, “that lies before us, or
whether it is an island, we have at present no means of determining.
If it be a continent, we must conclude that the current has an issue
towards the south-east.”
“And it is quite possible,” I replied, “that the solid part of
the Antarctic region may be reduced to a mere polar mound. In any
case, it is well to note any of those observations which are likely
to be accurate.”
“That is just what I am doing, Mr. Jeorling, and we shall bring
back a mass of information about this portion of the southern sea
which will prove useful to navigators.”
“If ever any venture to come so far south, captain! We have
penetrated so far, thanks to the help of particular circumstances,
the earliness of the summer season, an abnormal temperature and a
rapid thaw. Such conditions may only occur once in twenty or fifty
“Wherefore, Mr. Jeorling, I thank Providence for this, and hope
revives in me to some extent. As the weather has been constantly
fine, what is there to make it impossible for my brother and my
fellow-countrymen to have landed on this coast, whither the wind and
the tide bore them? What our schooner has done, their boat may have
done! They surely did not start on a voyage which might prolonged to
an indefinite time without a proper supply of provisions! Why should
they not have found the resources as those afforded to them by the
island of Tsalal during many long years? They had ammunition and
arms elsewhere. Fish abound in these waters, water-fowl also. Oh
yes! my heart is full of hope, and I wish I were a few hours
Without being quite so sanguine as Len Guy, I was glad to see he had
regained his hopeful mood. Perhaps, if his investigations were
successful, I might be able to have them continued in Arthur Pym’s
interest--even into the heart of this strange land which we were
The Halbrane was going along slowly on these clear waters, which
swarmed with fish belonging to the same species as we had already
met. The sea-birds were more numerous, and were evidently not
frightened; for they kept flying round the mast, or perching in the
yards. Several whitish ropes about five or six feet long were
brought on board. They were chaplets formed of millions of
Whales, spouting jets of feathery water from their blow-holes,
appeared at a distance, and I remarked that all them took a
southerly direction. There was therefore reason to believe that the
sea extended far and wide in that direction.
The schooner covered two or three miles of her course without any
increase of speed. This coast evidently Stretched from north-west to
south-east. Nevertheless, the telescopes revealed no distinctive
features--even after three hours’ navigation.
The crew, gathered together on the forecastle, were looking on
without revealing their impressions. West, after going aloft to the
fore-cross-trees, where he had remained ten minutes, had reported
nothing precise. Stationed at the port side, leaning my elbows on
the bulwarks, I closely watched the sky line, broken only towards
At this moment the boatswain rejoined me, and without preface said:
“Will you allow me to give you my opinion, Mr. Jeorling?”
“Give it, boatswain,” I replied, “at the risk of my not
adopting it if I don’t agree with it.”
“It is correct, and according as we get nearer one must really be
blind not to adopt it!”
“And what idea have you got?”
“That it is not land which lies before us, Mr. Jeorling!”
“What is it you are saying?”
“Look attentively, putting one finger before your eyes--look
I did as Hurliguerly directed.
“Do you see?” he began again. “May I lose my liking for my
grog if these heights do not change place, not with regard to the
schooner, but with regard to themselves!”
“And what do you conclude from this?”
“That they are moving icebergs.”
“Sure enough, Mr. Jeorling.”
Was not the boatswain mistaken? Were we in for a disappointment?
Were there only drifting ice-mountains in the distance instead of a
Presently, there was no doubt on the subject; for some time past the
crew had no longer believed existence of land in that direction.
Ten minutes afterwards, the man in the crow’s-nest announced that
several icebergs were coming north-west, in an oblique direction,
into the course of the Halbrane.
This news produced a great sensation on board. Our last hope was
suddenly extinguished. And what a blow to Captain Len Guy! We should
have to seek land of the austral zone under higher latitudes without
being sure of ever coming across it!
And then the cry, “Back ship! back ship!” sounded almost
unanimously on board the Halbrane.
Yes, indeed, the recruits from the Falklands demanding that we
should turn back, although Hearne was not there to fan the flame of
insubordination, and I must acknowledge that the greater part of the
old tars seemed to agree with them.
West awaited his chief’s orders, not daring to impose silence.
Gratian was at the helm, ready to give a turn to wheel, whilst his
comrades with their hands on the cleats were preparing to ease off
Dirk Peters remained immovable, leaning against the fore-mast, his
head down, his body bent, and his mouth set firm. Not a word passed
But now he turned towards me, and what a look of mingled wrath and
entreaty he gave me!
I don’t know what irresistible motive induced me to interfere
personally, and once again to protest! A final argument had just
crossed my mind--an argument whose weight could not be disputed.
So I began to speak, and I did so with such conviction that none
tried to interrupt me.
The substance of what I said was as follows:--
“No! all hope must not be abandoned. Land cannot be far off. The
icebergs which are formed in the open sea by the accumulation of ice
are not before us. These icebergs must have broken off from the
solid base of a continent or an island. Now, since the thaw begins
at this season of the year, the drift will last for only a short
time. Behind them we must meet the coast on which they were formed.
In another twenty-four hours, or forty-eight at the most, if the
land does not appear, Captain Len Guy will steer to the north again!”
Had I convinced the crew, or ought I to take advantage of Hearne’s
absence and of the fact that he could not communicate with them to
make them understand that they were being deccived, and to repeat to
them that it would endanger the schooner if our course were now to
The boatswain came to my help, and in a good-humoured voice
“Very well reasoned, and for my part I accept Mr. Jeorling’s
opinion. Assuredly, land is near! If we seek it beyond those
icebergs, we shall discover it without much hard work, or great
danger! What is one degree farther south, when it is a question of
putting a hundred additional dollars into one’s pocket? And let us
not forget that if they are acceptable when they go in, they are
none the less so when they come out!”
Upon this, Endicott, the cook, came to the aid of his friend the
“Yes, very good things indeed are dollars!” cried he, showing
two rows of shining white teeth.
Did the crew intend to yield to Hurliguerly’s argument, or would
they try to resist if the Halbrane went on in the direction of the
Captain Len Guy took up his telescope again, and turned it upon
these moving masses; he observed them with much attention, and cried
out in a loud voice,--
West gave orders to execute the manoeuvres. The sailors hesitated an
instant. Then, recalled to obedience, they began to brace the yards
and slack the sheets, and the schooner increased her speed.
When the operation was over, I went up to Hurliguerly, and drawing
him aside, I said,--
“Thank you, boatswain.”
“Ah, Mr. Jeorling,” he replied, shaking his head, “it is all
very fine for this time, but you must not do it again! Everyone
would turn against me, even Endicott, perhaps.”
“I have urged nothing which is not at least probable,” I
“I don’t deny that fact, Mr. Jeorling.”
“Yes, Hurliguerly, yes--I believe what I have said, and I have no
doubt but that we shall really see the land beyond the icebergs.”
“Just possible, Mr. Jeoding, quite possible. But it must appear
before two days, or, on the word of a boatswain, nothing can prevent
us from putting about!”
During the next twenty-four hours the Halbrane took a
south-south-westerlycourse. Nevertheless, her direction must have
been frequently changed and her speed decreased in avoiding the ice.
The navigation became very difficult so soon as the schooner headed
towards the line of the bergs, which it had to cut obliquely.
However, there were none of the packs which blocked up all access to
the iceberg on the 67th parallel. The enormous heaps were melting
away with majestic slowness. The ice-blocks appeared “quite new”
(to employ a perfectly accurate expression), and perhaps they had
only been formed some days. However, with a height of one hundred
and fifty feet, their bulk must have been calculated by millions of
tons. West was watching closely in order to avoid collisions, and
did not leave the deck even for an instant.
Until now, Captain Len Guy had always been able to rely upon the
indications of the compass. The magnetic pole, still hundreds of
miles off, had no influence on the compass, its direction bcing
east. The needle remained steady, and might be trusted.
So, in spite of my conviction, founded, however, on very serious
arguments, there was no sign of land, and I was wondering whether it
would not be better to steer more to the west, at the risk of
removing the Halbrane from that extreme point where the meridians of
the globe cross each other.
Thus, as the hours went by--and I was only allowed forty-eight--it
was only too plain that lack of courage prevailed, and that everyone
was inclined to be insubordinate.
After another day and a half, I could no longer contend with the
general discontent. The schooner must ultimately retrace her course
towards the north.
The crew were working in silence, whilst West was giving sharp short
orders for manoeuvring through the channels, sometimes luffing in
order to avoid a collision, now bearing away almost square before
the wind. Nevertheless, in spite of a close watch, in spite of the
skill of the sailors, in spite of the prompt execution of the
manoeuvres, dangerous friction against the hull, which left long
traces of the ridge of the icebergs, occurred. And, in truth, the
bravest could not repress a feeling of terror when thinking that the
planking might have given way and the sea have invaded us.
The base of these floating ice-mountains was very steep, so that it
would have been impossible for us to land upon one. Moreover, we saw
no seals--these were usually very numerous where the ice-fields
abounded--nor even a flock of the screeching penguins which, on
other occasions, the Halbrane sent diving by myriads as she passed
through them; the birds themselves seemed rarer and wilder. Dread,
from which none of us could escape, seemed to come upon us from
these desolate and deserted regions. How could we still entertain a
hope that the survivors of the Jane had found shelter, and obtained
means of existence in those awful solitudes?
And if the Halbrahe were also shipwrecked, would there remain any
evidence of her fate?
Since the previous day, from the moment our southern course had been
abandoned, to cut the line of the icebergs, a change had taken place
in the demeanour of the half-breed. Nearly always crouched down at
the foot of the fore-mast, looking afar into the boundless space, he
only got up in order to lend a hand to some manoeuvre, and without
any of his former vigilance or zeal. Not that he had ceased to
believe that his comrade of the Jane was still living--that thought
never even came into his mind! But he felt by instinct that the
traces of poor Pym were not to be recovered by following this course.
“Sir,” he would have said to me, “this is not the way! No,
this is not the way!” And how could I have answered him?
Towards seven o’clock in the evening a rather thick mist arose;
this would tend to make the navigation of the schooner difficult and
The day, with its emotions of anxiety and alternatives, had worn me
out. So I returned to my cabin, where I threw myself on my bunk in
But sleep did not come to me, owing to my besetting thoughts. I
willingly admit that the constant reading of Edgar Poe’s works,
and reading them in this place in which his heroes delighted, had
exercised an influence on me which I did not fully recognize.
To-morrow, the forty-eight hours would be up, the last concession
which the crew had made to my entreaties.
“Things are not going as you wish?” the boatswain said to me
just as I was leaving the deck.
No, certainly not, since land was not to be seen behind the fleet of
icebergs. If no sign of a coast appeared between these moving
masses, Captain Len Guy would steer north to-morrow.
Ah! were I only master of the schooner! If I could have bought it
even at the price of all my fortune, if these men had been my slaves
to drive by the lash, the Halbrane should never have given up this
voyage, even if it led her so far as the point above which flames
the Southern Cross.
My mind was quite upset, and teemed with a thousand thoughts, a
thousand regrets, a thousand desires! I wanted to get up, but a
heavy hand held me down in my bunk! And I longed to leave this cabin
where I was struggling against nightmare in my half-sleep, to launch
one of the boats of the Halbrane, to jump into it with Dirk Peters,
who would not hesitate about following me, and so abandon both of us
to the current running south.
And lo! I was doing this in a dream. It is to-morrow! Captain Len
Guy has given orders to reverse our course, after a last glance at
the horizon. One of the boats is in tow. I warn the half-breed. We
creep along without being seen. We cut the painter. Whilst the
schooner sails on ahead, we stay astern and the current carries us
Thus we drift on the sea without hindrance! At length our boat
stops. Land is there. I see a sort of sphinx surmounting the
southern peak--the sea-sphinx. I go to him. I question him. He
discloses the secrets of these mysterious regions to me. And then,
the phenomena whose reality Arthur Pym asserted appear around the
mythic monster. The curtain of flickering vapours, striped with
luminous rays, is rent asunder. And it is not a face of superhuman
grandeur which arises before my astonished eyes: it is Arthur Pym,
fierce guardian of the south pole, flaunting the ensign of the
United States in those high latitudes!
Was this dream suddenly interrupted, or was it changed by a freak of
my brain? I cannot tell, but I felt as though I had been suddenly
awakened. It seemed as though a change had taken place in the motion
of the schooner, which was sliding along on the surface of the quiet
sea, with a slight list to starboard. And yet, there was neither
rolling nor pitching. Yes, I felt myself carried off as though my
bunk were the car of an air-balloon. I was not mistaken, and I had
fallen from dreamland into reality.
Crash succeeded crash overhead. I could not account for them. Inside
my cabin the partitions deviated from the vertical in such a way as
to make one believe that the Halbrane had fallen over on her beam
ends. Almost immediately, I was thrown out of my bunk and barely
escaped splitting my skull against the corner of the table. However,
I got up again, and, clinging on to the edge of the door frame, I
propped myself against the door.
At this instant the bulwarks began to crack and the port side of the
ship was torn open.
Could there have been a collision between the schooner and one of
those gigantic floating masses which West was unable to avoid in the
Suddenly loud shouts came from the after-deck, and then screams of
terror, in which the maddened voices of the crew joined.
At length there came a final crash, and the Halbrane remained
I had to crawl along the floor to reach the door and gain the deck.
Captain Len Guy having already left his cabin, dragged himself on
his knees, so great was the list to port, and caught on as best he
In the fore part of the ship, between the forecastle and the
fore-mast, many heads appeared.
Dirk Peters, Hardy, Martin Holt and Endicott, the latter with his
black face quite vacant, were clinging to the starboard shrouds.
A man came creeping up to me, because the slope of the deck
prevented him from holding himself upright: it was Hurliguerly,
working himself along with his hands like a top-man on a yard.
Stretched out at full length, my feet propped up against the jamb of
the door, I held out my hand to the boatswain, and helped him, not
without difficulty, to hoist himself up near me.
“What is wrong?” I asked. “A stranding, Mr. Jeorling.”
“We are ashore!”
“A shore presupposes land,” replied the boatswain ironically,
“and so far as land goes there was never any except in that rascal
Dirk Peters’ imagination.”
“But tell me--what has happened?”
“We came upon an iceberg in the middle of the fog, and were unable
to keep clear of it.”
“An iceberg, boatswain?”
“Yes, an iceberg, which has chosen just now to turn head over
heels. In turning, it struck the Halbrane and carried it off just as
a battledore catches a shuttlecock, and now here we are, stranded at
certainly one hundred feet above the level of the Antarctic Sea.”
Could one have imagined a more terrible conclusion to the
adventurous voyage of the Halbrane?
In the middle of these remote regions our only means of transport
had just been snatched from its natural element, and carried off by
the turn of an iceberg to a height of more than one hundred feet!
What a conclusion! To be swallowed up in a polar tempest, to be
destroyed in a fight with savages, to be crushed in the ice, such
are the dangers to which any ship engaged in the polar seas is
exposed! But to think that the Halbrane had been lifted by a
floating mountain just as that mountain was turning over, was
stranded and almost at its summit--no! such a thing seemed quite
I did not know whether we could succeed in letting down the schooner
from this height with the means we had at our disposal. But I did
know that Captain Len Guy, the mate and the older members of the
crew, when they had recovered from their first fright, would not
give up in despair, no matter how terrible the situation might be;
of that I had no doubt whatsoever! They would all look to the
general safety; as for the measures to be taken, no one yet knew
anything. A foggy veil, a sort of greyish mist still hung over the
iceberg. Nothing could be seen of its enormous mass except the
narrow craggy cleft in which the schooner was wedged, nor even what
place it occupied in the middle of the ice-fleet drifting towards
Common prudence demanded that we should quit the Halbrane, which
might slide down at a sharp shake ot the iceberg. Were we even
certain that the latter had regained its position on the surface of
the sea? Was her stability secure? Should we not be on the look-out
for a fresh upheaval? And if the schooner were to fall into the
abyss, which of us could extricate himself safe and sound from such
a fall, and then from the final plunge into the depths of the ocean?
In a few minutes the crew had abandoned the Halbrane. Each man
sought for refuge on the ice-slopes, awaiting the time when the
iceberg should be freed from mist. The oblique rays from the sun did
not succeed in piercing it, and the red disk could hardly be
perceived through the opaque mass.
However, we could distinguish each other at about twelve feet apart.
As for the Halbrane, she looked like a confused blackish mass
standing out sharply against the whiteness of the ice.
We had now to ascertain whether any of those who were on the deck at
the time of the catastrophe had been thrown over the bulwarks and
precipitated, into the sea?
By Captain Len Guy’s orders all the sailors then present joined
the group in which I stood with the mate, the boatswain, Hardy and
So far, this catastrophe had cost us five men--these were the first
since our departure from Kerguelen, but were they to be the last?
There was no doubt that these unfortunate fellows had perished,
because we called them in vain, and in vain we sought for them, when
the fog abated, along the sides of the iceberg, at every place where
they might have been able to catch on to a projection.
When the disappearance of the five men had been ascertained, we fell
into despair. Then we felt more keenly than before the dangers which
threaten every expedition to the Antarctic zone.
“What about Hearne?” said a voice.
Martin Holt pronounced the name at a moment when there was general
silence. Had the sealing-master been crushed to death in the narrow
part of the hold where he was shut up?
West rushed towards the schooner, hoisted himself on board by means
of a rope hanging over the bows, and gained the hatch which gives
access to that part of the hold.
We waited silent and motionless to learn the fate of Hearne,
although the evil spirit of the crew was but little worthy of our
And yet, how many of us were then thinking that if we had heeded his
advice, and if the schooner had taken the northern course, a whole
crew would not have been reduced to take refuge on a drifting
ice-mountain! I scarcely dared to calculate my own share of the vast
responsibility, I who had so vehemently insisted on the prolongation
of the voyage.
At length the mate reappeared on deck and Hearne followed him! By a
miracle, neither the bulkheads, nor the ribs, nor the planking had
yielded at the place where the sealing-master was confined.
Hearne rejoined his comrades without opening his lips, and we had no
further trouble about him.
Towards six o’clock in the morning the fog cleared off, owing to a
marked fall in the temperature. We had no longer to do with
completely frozen vapour, but had to deal with the phenomenon called
frost-rime, which often occurs in these high latitudes. Captain Len
Guy recognized it by the quantity of prismatic threads, the point
following the wind which roughened the light ice-crust deposited on
the sides ot the iceberg. Navigators know better than to confound
this frost-rime with the hoar frost of the temperate zones, which
only freezes when it has been deposited on the surface of the soil.
We were now enabled to estimate the size of the solid mass on which
we clustered like flies on a sugar-loaf, and the schooner, seen from
below, looked no bigger than the yawl of a trading vessel.
This iceberg of between three and four hundred fathoms in
circumference measured from 130 to 140 feet high. According to all
calculations, therefore, its depth would be four or five times
greater, and it would consequently weigh millions of tons.
This is what had happened:
The iceberg, having been melted away at its base by contact with
warmer waters, had risen little by little; its centre of gravity had
become displaced, and its equilibrium could only be re-established
by a sudden capsize, which had lifted up the part that had been
underneath above the sea-level. The Halbrane, caught in this
movement, was hoisted as by an enormous lever. Numbers of icebergs
capsize thus on the polar seas, and form one of the greatest dangers
to which approaching vessels are exposed.
Our schooner was caught in a hollow on the west side of the iceberg.
She listed to starboard with her stern raised and her bow lowered.
We could not help thinking that the slightest shake would cause her
to slide along the slope of the iceberg into the sea. The collision
had been so violent as to stave in some of the planks of her hull.
After the first collision, the galley situated before the fore-mast
had broken its fastenings. The door between Captain Len Guy’s and
the mate’s cabins was torn away from the hinges. The topmast and
the topgallant-mast had come down after the back-stays parted, and
fresh fractures could plainly be seen as high as the cap of the
Fragments of all kinds, yards, spars, a part of the sails, breakers,
cases, hen-coops, were probably floating at the foot of the mass and
drifting with it.
The most alarming part of our situation was the fact that of the two
boats belonging to the Halbrane, one had been stove in when we
grounded, and the other, the larger of the two, was still hanging on
by its tackles to the starboard davits. Before anything else was
done this boat had to be put in a safe place, because it might prove
our only means of escape.
As a result of the first examination, we found that the lower masts
had remained in their places, and might be of use if ever we
succeeded in releasing the schooner. But how were we to release her
from her bed in the ice and restore her to her natural element?
When I found myself with Captain Len Guy, the mate, and the
boatswain, I questioned them on this subject.
“I agree with you,” replied West, “that the operation involves
great risks, but since it is indispensable, we will accomplish it. I
think it will be necessary to dig out a sort of slide down to the
base of the iceberg.”
“And without the delay of a single day,” added Captain Len Guy.
“Do you hear, boatswain?” said Jem West.
“Work begins to-day.”
“I hear, and everyone will set himself to the task,” replied
Hurliguerly. “If you allow me, I shall just make one observation,
“What is it?”
“Before beginning the work, let us examine the hull and see what
the damage is, and whether it can be repaired. For what use would it
be to launch a ship stripped of her planks, which would go to the
bottom at once?”
We complied with the boatswain’s just demand.
The fog having cleared off, a bright sun then illumined the eastern
side of the iceberg, whence the sea was visible round a large part
of the horizon. Here the sides of the iceberg showed rugged
projections, ledges, shoulders, and even flat instead of smooth
surfaces, giving no foothold. However, caution would be necessary in
order to avoid the falling of those unbalanced blocks, which a
single shock might set loose. And, as a matter of fact, during the
morning, several of these blocks did roll into the sea with a
frightful noise just like an avalanche.
On the whole, the iceberg seemed to be very steady on its new base.
So long as the centre of gravity was below the level of the
water-line, there was no fear of a fresh capsize.
I had not yet had an opportunity of speaking to Dirk Peters since
the catastrophe. As he had answered to his name, I knew he was not
numbered among the victims. At this moment, I perceived him standing
on a narrow projection; needless to specify the direction in which
his eyes were turned.
Captain Len Guy, the mate, the boatswain, Hardy, and Martin Holt,
whom I accompanied, went up again towards the schooner in order to
make a minute investigation of the hull. On the starboard side the
operation would be easy enough, because the Halbrane had a list to
the opposite side. On the port side we would have to slide along to
the keel as well as we could by scooping out the ice, in order to
insure the inspection of every part of the planking.
After an examination which lasted two hours, it was discovered that
the damage was of little importance, and could be repaired in a
short time. Two or three planks only were wrenched away by the
collision. In the inside the skin was intact, the ribs not having
given way. Our vessel, constructed for the polar seas, had resisted
where many others less solidly built would have been dashed to
pieces. The rudder had indeed been unshipped, but that could easily
be set right.
Having finished our inspection inside and outside, we agreed that
the damage was less considerable than we feared, and on that subject
we became reassured. Reassured! Yes, if we could only succeed in
getting the schooner afloat again.
In the morning, after breakfast, it was decided that the men should
begin to dig a sloping bed which would allow the Halbrane to slide
to the foot of the iceberg. Would that Heaven might grant success to
the operation, for who could contemplate without terror having to
brave the severity of the austral winter, and to pass six months
under such conditions as ours on a vast iceberg, dragged none could
tell whither? Once the winter had set in, none of us could have
escaped from that most terrible of fates--dying of cold.
At this moment, Dirk Peters, who was observing the horizon from
south to east at about one hundred paces off, cried out in a rough
voice: “Lying to!”
Lying to? What could the half-breed mean by that, except that the
floating mass had suddenly ceased to drift? As for the cause of this
stoppage, it was neither the moment to investigate it, nor to ask
ourselves what the consequences were likely to be.
“It is true, however,” cried the boatswain. “The iceberg is
not stirring, and perhaps has not stirred since it capsized!”
“How?” said I, “it no longer changes its place?”
“No,” replied the mate, “and the proof is that the others,
drifting on, are leaving it behind!”
And, in fact, whilst five or six icebergs were descending towards
the south, ours was as motionless as though it had been stranded on
The simplest explanation was that the new base had encountered
ground at the bottom of the sea to which it now adhered, and would
continue to adhere, unless the submerged part rose in the water so
as to cause a second capsize.
This complicated matters seriously, because the dangers of positive
immobility were such that the chances of drifting were preferable.
At least, in the latter case there was some hope of coming across a
continent or an island, or even (if the currents did not change) of
crossing the boundaries of the austral region.
Here we were, then, after three months of this terrible voyage! Was
there now any question of trying to save William Guy, his comrades
on the lane, and Arthur Pym? Was it not for our own safety that any
means at our disposal should be employed? And could it be wondered
at were the sailors of the Halbrane to rebel, were they to listen to
Hearne’s suggestions, and make their officers, or myself
especially, responsible for the disasters of this expedition?
Moreover, what was likely to take place, since, notwithstanding
their losses, the followers of the sealing-master were still a
majority of the ship’s company?
This question I could clearly see was occupying the thoughts of
Captain Len Guy and West.
Again, although the recruits from the Falklands formed only a total
of fourteen men, as against the twelve of the old crew, was it not
to be feared that some of the latter would take Hearne’s side?
What if Hearne’s people, urged by despair, were already thinking
of seizing the only boat we now possessed, setting off towards the
north, and leaving us on this iceberg? It was, then, of great
importance that our boat should be put in safety and closely watched.
A marked change had taken place in Captain Len Guy since the recent
occurrences. He seemed to be transformed upon finding himself face
to face with the dangers which menaced us. Up to that time he had
been solely occupied in searching for his fellow-countrymen; he had
handed over the command of the schooner to West, and he could not
have given it to anyone more zealous and more capable. But from this
date he resumed his position as master of the ship, and used it with
the energy required by the circumstances; in a word, he again became
sole master on board, after God.
At his command the crew were drawn up around him on a flat spot a
little to the left of the Halbrane. In that place the following were
assembled:--on the seniors’ side: Martin Holt and Hardy, Rogers,
Francis, Gratian, Bury, Stern, the cook (Endicott), and I may add
Dirk Peters; on the side of the new-comers, Hearne and the thirteen
other Falkland sailors. The latter composed a distinct group; the
sealing-master was their spokesman and exercised a baneful influence
Captain Len Guy cast a stern glance upon the men and said in a sharp
“Sailors of the Halbrane, I must first speak to you of our lost
companions. Five of us have just perished in this catastrophe.”
“We are waiting to perish in our turn, in these seas, where we
have been dragged in spite of--”
“Be silent, Hearne,” cried West, pale with anger, “or if
“Hearne has said what he had to say,” Captain Len Guy continued,
coldly. “Now it is said, and I advise him not to interrupt me a
The sealing-master might possibly have ventured on an answer, for he
felt that he was backed by the majority of the crew; but Martin Holt
held him back, and he was silent.
Captain Len Guy then took off his hat and pronounced the following
words with an emotion that affected us to the bottom of our hearts:--
“We must pray for those who have died in this dangerous voyage,
which was undertaken in the name of humanity. May God be pleased to
take into consideration the fact that they devoted their lives to
their fellow-creatures, and may He not be insensible to our prayers!
Kneel down, sailors of the Halbrane!”
They all knelt down on the icy surface, and the murmurs of prayer
ascended towards heaven.
We waited for Captain Len Guy to rise before we did so.
“Now,” he resumed, “after those who are dead come those who
have survived. To them I say that they must obey me, whatever my
orders may be, and even in our present situation I shall not
tolerate any hesitation or opposition. The responsibility for the
general safety is mine, and I will not yield any of it to anyone. I
am master here, as on board--”
“On board--when there is no longer a ship,” muttered the
“You are mistaken, Hearne, the vessel is there, and we will put it
back into the sea. Besides, if we had only a boat, I am the captain
of it. Let him beware who forgets this!”
That day, Captain Len Guy, having taken the height of the sun by the
sextant and fixed the hour by the chronometer (both of these
instruments had escaped destruction in the collision), obtained the
following position of his ship:--
South latitude: 88° 55’.
West longitude: 39° 12’.
The Halbrane was only at 1° 5’--about 65 miles--from the south
“All hands to work,” was the captain’s order that afternoon,
and every one obeyed it with a will. There was not a moment to lose,
as the question of time was more important than any other. So far
as provisions were concerned, there was enough in the schooner for
eighteen months on full rations, so we were not threatened with
hunger, nor with thirst either, notwithstanding that owing to the
water-casks having been burst in the collision, their contents had
escaped through their staves. Luckily, the barrels of gin, whisky,
beer, and wine, being placed in the least exposed part of the hold,
were nearly all intact. Under this head we had experienced no loss,
and the iceberg would supply us with good drinking-water. It is a
well-known fact that ice, whether formed from fresh or salt water,
contains no salt, owing to the chloride of sodium being eliminated
in the change from the liquid to the solid state. The origin of the
ice, therefore, is a matter of no importance. However, those blocks
which are easily distinguished by their greenish colour and their
perfect transparency are preferable. They are solidified rain, and
therefore much more suitable for drinklng-water.
Without doubt, our captain would have recognized any blocks of this
description, but none were to be found on the glacier, owing to its
being that part of the berg which was originally submerged, and came
to the top after the fall.
The captain and West decided first to lighten the vessel, by
conveying everything on board to land. The masts were to be cleared
of rigging, taken out, and placed on the plateau. It was necessary
to lighten the vessel as much as possible, even to clear out the
ballast, owing to the difficult and dangerous operation of
launching. It would be better to put off our departure for some days
if this operation could be performed under more favourable
circumstances. The loading might be afterwards accomplished without
Besides this, another reason by no means less serious presented
itself to us. It would have been an act of unpardonable rashness to
leave the provisions in the storeroom of the Halbrane, her situation
on the side of the iceberg being very precarious. One shake would
suffice to detach the ship, and with her would have disappeared the
supplies on which our lives depended.
On this account, we passed the day in removing casks of half-salted
meat, dried vegetables, flour, biscuits, tea, coffee, barrels of
gin, whisky, wine and beer from the hold and store-room and placing
them in safety in the hammocks near the Halbrane.
We also had to insure our landing against any possible accident,
and, I must add, against any plot on the part of Hearne and others
to seize the boat in order to return to the ice-barrier.
We placed the long boat in a cavity which would be easy to watch,
about thirty feet to the left of the schooner, along with its oars,
rudder, compass, anchor, masts and sail.
By day there was nothing to fear, and at night, or rather during the
hours of sleep, the boatswain and one of the superiors would keep
guard near the cavity, and we might rest assured that no evil could
The 19th, 20th, and 21st of January were passed in working extra
hard in the unshipping of the cargo and the dismantling of the
Halbrane. We slung the lower masts by means of yards forming props.
Later on, West would see to replacing the main and mizzen masts; in
any case, we could do without them until we had reached the
Falklands or some other winter port.
Needless to say, we had set up a camp on the plateau of which I have
spoken, not far from the Halbrane. Sufficient shelter against the
inclemency of the weather, not unfrequent at this time of the year,
was to be found under tents, constructed of sails placed on spars
and fastened down by pegs. The glass remained set fair; the wind was
nor’-east, the temperature having risen to 46 degrees (2° 78’
Endicott’s kitchen was fitted up at the end of the plain, near a
steep projection by which we could climb to the very top of the berg.
It is only fair to state that during these three days of hard work
no fault was to be found with Hearne. The sealing-master knew he was
being closely watched, and he was well aware that Captain Len Guy
would not spare him if he tried to get up insubordination amongst
his comrades. It was a pity that his bad instincts had induced him
to play such a part, for his strength, skill, and cleverness made
him a very valuable man, and he had never proved more useful than
under these circumstances.
Was he changed for the better? Did he understand that general good
feeling was necessary for the safety of all? I know not, but I had
no confidence in him, neither had Hurliguerly!
I need not dwell on the ardour with which the half-breed did the
rough work, always first to begin and the last to leave off, doing
as much as four men, and scarcely sleeping, only resting during
meals, which he took apart from the others. He had hardly spoken to
me at all since the schooner had met with this terrible accident.
What indeed could he say to me? Did I not know as well as he that it
would be necessary to renounce every hope of pursuing our intended
Now and again I noticed Martin Holt and the halfbreed near each
other while some difficult piece of work wasin progress. Our
sailing-masterdid not miss a chance of getting near Dirk Peters, who
always tried his best to escape from him, for reasons well known to
me. And whenever I thought of the secret of the fate of the
so-called Parker, Martin Holt’s brother, which had been entrusted
to me, that dreadful scene of the Grampus filled me with horror. I
was certain that if this secret were made known the half-breed would
become an object of terror. He would no longer be looked upon as the
rescuerof the sailingmaster; and the latter, learning that his
brother--Luckily, Dirk Peters and myself were the only two
acquainted with the fact.
While the Halbrane was being unloaded, Captain Len Guy and the mate
were considering how the vessel might be launched. They had to allow
for a drop of one hundred feet between the cavity in which the ship
lay and the sea; this to be effected by means of an inclined bed
hollowed in an oblique line along the west side of the iceberg, and
to measure two or three hundred perches in length. So, while the
first lot of men, commanded by the boatswain, was unloading the
schooner, a second batch under West’s orders began to cut the
trench between the blocks which covered the side of the floating
Floating? I know not why I use this expression, for the iceberg no
longer floated, but remained as motionless as an island. There was
nothing to indicate that it would ever move again. Other icebergs
drifted along and passed us, going south-east, whilst ours, to use
Dirk Peters’ expression, was “lying to.” Would its base be
sufficiently undermined to allow it to detach itself? Perhaps some
heavy mass of ice might strike it and set it free by the shock. No
one could predict such an event, and we had only the Halbrane to
rely upon for getting us out of these regions.
We were engaged in these various tasks until the 24th of January.
The atmosphere was clear, the temperature was even, and the
thermometer had indeed gone up to two or three degrees above
freezing-point. The number of icebergs coming from the nor’-west
was therefore increasing; there were now a hundred of them, and a
collision with any of these might have a most disastrous result.
Hardy, the caulker, hastened first of all to mend the hull; pegs had
to be changed, bits of planking to be replaced, seams to be caulked.
We had everything that was necessary for this work, and we might
rest assured that it would be performed in the best possible manner.
In the midst of the silence of these solitudes, the noise of the
hammers striking nails into the side, and the sound of the mallet
stuffing tow into the seams, had a startling effect. Sea-gulls, wild
duck, albatross, and petrels flew in a circle round the top of the
berg with a shrill screaming, and made a terrible uproar.
When I found myself with West and the captain, our conversation
naturally turned on our situation and how to get out of it, and upon
our chances of pulling through. The mate had good hopes that if no
accident occurred the launching would be successfullyaccomplished.
The captain was more reserved on the subject, but at the thought
that he would have to renounce all hope of finding the survivors of
the fane, his heart was ready to break. When the Halbrane should
again be ready for the sea, and when West should inquire what course
he was to steer, would Captain Len Guy dare to reply, “To the
south”? No! for he would not be followed either by the new hands,
or by the greater portion of the older members of the crew. To
continue our search in this direction, to go beyond the pole,
without being certain of reaching the Indian Ocean instead of the
Atlantic, would have been rashness of which no navigator would be
guilty. If a continent bound the sea on this side, the schooner
would run the danger of being crushed by the mass of ice before it
could escape the southern winter.
Under such circumstances, to attempt to persuade Captain Len Guy to
pursue the voyage would only be to court a certain refusal. It could
not even be proposed, now that necessity obliged us to return
northwards, and not to delay a single day in this portion of the
Antarctic regions. At any rate, though I resolved not again to speak
of the matter to the captain, I lost no opportunity of sounding the
boatswain. Often when he had finished his work, Hurliguerly would
come and join me; we would chat, and we would compare our
recollections of travel.
One day as we were seated on the summit of the iceberg, gazing
fixedly on the deceptive horizon, he exclaimed,--
“Who could ever have imagined, Mr. Jeorling, when the Halbrane
left Kerguelen, that six and a half months afterwards she would be
stuck on the side of an icemountain?”
“A fact much more to be regretted,” I replied, “because only
for that accident we should have attained our object, and we should
have begun our return journey.”
“I don’t mean to contradict,” replied the boatswain, “but
you say we should have attained our object, Do you mean by that,
that we should have found our countrymen?”
“I can scarcely believe such would have been the case, Mr.
Jeorling, although this was the principal and perhaps even the only
object of our navigation in the polarseas.”
“The only one--yes--at the start,” I insinuated. “But since
the half-breed’s revelations about Arthur Pym--”
“Ah! You are always harking back on that subject, like brave Dirk
“Always, Hurliguerly; and only that a deplorable and unforeseen
accident made us run aground--”
“I leave you to your delusions, Mr. Jeorling, since you believe
you have run aground--”
“Why? Is not this the case?”
“In any case it is a wonderful running aground,” replied the
boatswain. “Instead of a good solid bottom, we have run aground in
“Then I am right, Hurliguerly, in saying it is an unfortunate
“Unfortunate, truly, but in my opinion we should take warning by
“That it is not permitted to us to venture so farin these
latitudes, and I believe that the Creator forbids His creatures to
climb to the summit of the poles.”
“Notwithstanding that the summit of one pole is only sixty miles
away from us now.”
“Granted, Mr. Jeorling, but these sixty miles are equal to
thousands when we have no means of making them! And if the launch of
the schooner is not successful, here are we condemned to winter
quarters which the polar bears themselves would hardly relish!”
I replied only by a shake of my head, which Hurliguerly could not
fail to understand.
“Do you know, Mr. Jeorling, of what I think oftenest?”
“What do you think of, boatswain?”
“Of the Kerguelens, whither we are certainly not travelling.
Truly, in a bad season it was cold enough there! There is not much
difference between this archipelago and the islands situated on the
edge of the Antarctic Sea! But there one is not far from the Cape,
and if we want to warm our shins, no iceberg bars the way. Whereas
here it is the devil to weigh anchor, and one never knows if one
shall find a clear course.”
“I repeat it, boatswain. If this last accident had not occurred,
everything would have been over by this time, one way or another. We
should still have had more than six weeks to get out of these
southern seas. It is seldom that a ship is so roughly treated as
ours has been, and I consider it real bad luck, after our having
profited by such fortunate circumstances--”
“These circumstances are all over, Mr. Jeorling,” exclaimed
Hurliguerly, “and I fear indeed--”
“What--you also, boatswain--you whom I believed to be so
“Confidence, Mr. Jeorling, wears out like the ends of one’s
trousers, What would you have me do? When I compare my lot to old
Atkins, installed in his cosy inn; when I think of the Green
Cormorant, of the big parlours downstairs with the little tables
round which friends sip whisky and gin, discussing the news of the
day, while the stove makes more noise than the weathercock on the
roof--oh, then the comparison is not in our favour, and in my
opinion Mr. Atkins enjoys life better than I do.”
“You shall see them all again, boatswain--Atkins, the Green
Cormorant, and Kerguelen! For God’s sake do not let yourself grow
downhearted! And if you, a sensible and courageous man, despair
“Oh, if I were the only one it would not be half so bad as it
“The whole crew does not despair, surely?”
“Yes--and no,” replied Hurliguerly, “for I know some who are
not at all satisfied!”
“Has Hearne begun his mischief again? Is he exciting his
“Not openly at least, Mr. Jeorling, and since I have kept him
under my eye I have neither seen nor heard anything. Besides, he
knows what awaits him if he budges. I believe I am not mistaken, the
sly dog has changed his tactics. But what does not astonish me in
him, astonishes me in Martin Holt.”
“What do you mean, boatswain?”
“That they seem to be on good terms with each other. See how
Hearne seeks out Martin Holt, talks to him frequently, and Holt does
not treat his overtures unfavourably.’’
“Martin Holt is not one of those who would listen to Hearne’s
advice, or follow it if he tried to provoke rebellion amongst the
“No doubt, Mr. Jeorling. However, I don’t fancy seeing them so
much together. Hearne is a dangerous and unscrupulous individual,
and most likely Martin Holt does not distrust him sufficiently.”
“He is wrong, boatswain.”
“And--wait a moment--do you know what they were talking about
the other day when I overheard a few scraps of their conversation?”
“I could not possibly guess until you tell me, Hurliguerly.
“Well, while they were conversing on the bridge of the Halbrane, I
heard them talking about Dirk Peters, and Hearne was saying: ‘You
must not owe a grudge to the half-breed, Master Holt, because he
refused to respond to your advances and accept your thanks! If he be
only a sort of brute, he possesses plenty of courage, and has showed
it in getting you out of a bad corner at the risk of his life. And
besides, do not forget that he formed part of the crew of the
Grampus and your brother Ned, if I don’t mistake--’“
“He said that, boatswain; he spoke of the Grampus!” I exclaimed.
“Yes--of the Grampus!
“And of Ned Holt?”
“Precisely, Mr. Jeorling!”
“And what answer did Martin Holt make?”
“He replied: ‘I don’t even know under what circumstances my
unfortunate brother perished. Was it during a revolt on board? Brave
man that he was, he would not betray his captain, and perhaps he was
“Did Hearne dwell on this, boatswain?”
“Yes, but he added: ‘It is very sad for you, Master Holt! The
captain of the Grampus, according to what I have been told, was
abandoned, being placed in a small boat with one or two of his
men--and who knows if your brother was not along with him?’“
“And what next?”
“Then, Mr. Jeorling, he added: ‘Did it never occur to you to ask
Dirk Peters to enlighten you on the subject?’ ‘Yes, once,’
replied Martin Holt, ‘I questioned the halfbreed about it, and
never did I see a man so overcome. He replied in so low a voice that
I could scarcely understand him, ‘I know not--I know not--’
and he ran away with his face buried in his hands.”
“Was that all you heard of the conversation, boatswain?”
“That was all, Mr. Jeorling, and I thought it so strange that I
wished to inform you of it.”
“And what conclusion did you draw from it?”
“Nothing, except that I look upon the sealing-master as a
scoundrel of the deepest dye, perfectly capable of working in
secret for some evil purpose with which he would like to associate
What did Hearne’s new attitude mean? Why did he strive to gain
Martin Holt, one of the best of the crew, as an ally? Why did he
recall the scenes of the Grampus? Did Hearne know more of this
matter of Dirk Peters and Ned Holt than the others; this secret of
which the half-breed and I believed ourselves to be the sole
The doubt caused me serious uneasiness. However, I took good care
not to say anything of it to Dirk Peters. If he had for a moment
suspected that Hearne spoke of what happened on board the Grampus,
if he had heard that the rascal (as Hurliguerly called him, and not
without reason) constantly talked to Martin Holt about his brother,
I really do not know what would have happened.
In short, whatever the intentions of Hearne might be, it was
dreadful to think that our sailing-master, on whose fidelity Captain
Len Guy ought to be able to count, was in conspiracy with him.
The sealing-master must have a strong motive for acting in this way.
What it was I could not imagine. Although the crew seemed to have
abandoned every thougilt of mutiny, a strict watch was kept,
especially on Hearne.
Besides, the situation must soon change, at least so far as the
schooner was concerned. Two days afterwards the work was finished.
The caulking operations were completed, and also the slide for
lowering the vessel to the base of our floating mountain.
Just now the upper portion of the ice had been slightly softened, so
that this last work did not entail much labour for pick-axe or
spade. The course ran obliquely round the west side of the berg, so
that the incline should not be too great at any point. With cables
properly fixed, the launch, it seemed, might be effected without any
mishap. I rather feared lest the melting of the ice should make the
gliding less smcoth at the lower part of the berg.
Needless to say, the cargo, masting, anchors, chains, &c., had not
been put on board. The hull was quite heavy enough, and not easily
moved, so it was necessary to lighten it as much as possible.
When the schooner was again in its element, the loading could be
effected in a few days.
On the afternoon of the 28th, the finishing touches were given. It
was necessary to put supports for the sides of the slide in some
places where the ice had melted quickly. Then everyone was allowed
to rest from 4 o’clock p.m. The captain had double rations served
out to all hands, and well they merited this extra supply of
spirits; they had indeed worked hard during the week. I repeat that
every sign of mutiny had disappeared. The crew thought of nothing
except this great operation of the launching. The Halbrane in the
sea would mean departure, it would also mean return! For Dirk Peters
and me it would be the definite abandonment of Arthur Pym.
That night the temperature was the highest we had so far
experienced. The thermometer registered 53° (11° 67’ C. below
zero). So, although the sun was nearing the horizon, the ice was
melting, and thousands of small streams flowed in every direction.
The early birds awoke at four o’clock, and I was one of their
number. I had scarcely slept, and I fancy that Dirk Peters did not
sleep much, haunted as he was by the sad thought of having to turn
The launch was to take place at ten o’clock. Taking every possible
difficulty into account, and allowing for the minutest precautions,
the captain hoped that it would be completed before the close of the
day. Everyone believed that by evening the schooner would be at the
foot of the berg.
Of course we had all to lend a hand to this difficult task. To each
man a special duty was assigned; some were employed to facilitate
the sliding with wooden rollers, if necessary; others to moderate
the speed of the hull, in case it became too great, by means of
hawsers and cables.
We breakfasted at nine o’clock in the tents. Our sailors were
perfectly confident, and could not refrain from drinking “success
to the event”; and although this was a little premature, we added
our hurrahs to theirs. Success seemed very nearly assured, as the
captain and the mate had worked out the matter so carefully and
skilfully. At last we were about to leave our encampment and take up
our stations (some of the sailors were there already), when cries of
amazement and fear were raised. What a frightful scene, and, short
as it may have been, what an impression of terror it left on our
One of the enormous blocks which formed the bank of the mud-bed
where the Halbrane lay, having become loose owing to the melting of
its base, had slipped and was bounding over the others down the
In another moment, the schooner, being no longer retained in
position, was swinging on this declivity.
On board, on deck, in front, there were two sailors, Rogers and
Gratian. In vain did the unfortunate men try to jump over the
bulwarks, they had not time, and they were dragged away in this
Yes! I saw it! I saw the schooner topple over, slide down first on
its left side, crush one of the men who delayed too long about
jumping to one side, then bound from block to block, and finally
fling itself into space.
In another moment the Halbrane, staved in, broken up, with gaping
planks and shattered ribs, had sunk, causing a tremendous jet of
water to spout up at the foot of the iceberg.
Horrified! yes, indeed, we were horrified when the schooner, carried
off as though by an avalanche, had disappeared in the abyss! Not a
particle of our Halbrane remained, not even a wreck!
A minute ago she was one hundred feet in the air, now she was five
hundred in the depths of the sea! Yes, we were so stupefied that we
were unable to think of the dangers to come--our amazement was that
of people who “cannot believe their eyes.”
Prostration succeeded as a natural consequence. There was not a word
spoken. We stood motionless, with our feet rooted to the icy soil.
No words could express the horror of our situation!
As for West, when the schooner had disappeared in the abyss, I saw
big tears fall from his eyes. The Halbrane that he loved so much was
now an unknown quantity! Yes, our stout-hearted mate wept.
Three of our men had perished, and in what frightful fashion! I had
seen Rogers and Gratian, two of our most faithful sailors, stretch
out their hands in despair as they were knocked about by the
rebounding of the schooner, and finally sink with her! The other man
from the Falklands, an American, was crushed in its rush; his
shapeless form lay in a pool of blood. Three new victims within the
last ten days had to be inscribed on the register of those who died
during this fatal voyage! Ah! fortune had favoured us up to the hour
when the Halbrane was snatched from her own element, but her hand
was now against us. And was not this last the worst blow--must it
not prove the stroke of death?
The silence was broken by a tumult of despairing voices, whose
despair was justified indeed by this irreparable misfortune!
And I am sure that more than one thought it would have been better
to have been on the Halbrane as she rebounded off the side of the
Everything would have been over then, as all was over with Rogers
and Gratian! This foolish expedition would thus have come to a
conclusion worthy of such rashness and imprudence!
At last, the instinct of self-preservation triumphed, and except
Hearne, who stood some distance off and affected silence, all the
men shouted: “To the boat! to the boat!”
These unfortunate fellows were out of their mind. Terror led them
astray. They rushed towards the crag where our one boat (which could
not hold them all) had been sheltered during the unloading of the
Captain Len Guy and Jem West rushed after them. I joined them
immediately, followed by the boatswain. We were armed, and resolved
to make use of our arms. We had to prevent these furious men from
seizing the boat, which did not belong to a few, but to all!
“Hallo, sailors!” cried the captain.
“Hallo!” repeated West, “stop there, or we fire on the first
who goes a step farther!”
Both threatened the men with their pistols. The boatswain pointed
his gun at them. I held my rifle, ready to fire.
It was in vain! The frenzied men heard nothing, would not hear
anything, and one of them fell, struck by the mate’s bullet, just
as he was crossing the last block. He was unable to catch on to the
bank with his hands, and slipping on the frozen slope, he
disappeared in the abyss.
Was this the beginning of a massacre? Would others let themselves be
killed at this place? Would the old hands side with the new-comers?
At that moment I remarked that Hardy, Martin Holt, Francis Bury, and
Stern hesitated about coming over to our side, while Hearne, still
standing motionless at some distance, gave no encouragement to the
However, we could not allow them to become masters of the boat, to
bring it down, to embark ten or twelve men, and to abandon us to our
certain fate on this iceberg. They had almost reached the boat,
heedless of danger and deaf to threats, when a second report was
heard, and one of the sailors fell, by a bullet from the
One American and one Fuegian less to be numbered amongst the
Then, in front of the boat, a man appeared. It was Dirk Peters, who
had climbed the opposite slope.
The half-breed put one of his enormous hands on the stern and with
the other made a sign to the furious men to clear off. Dirk Peters
being there, we no longer needed our arms, as he alone would suffice
to protect the boat.
And indeed, as five or six of the sailors were advancing, he went up
to them, caught hold of the nearest by the belt, lifted him up, and
sent him flying ten paces off. The wretched man not being able to
catch hold of anything, would have rebounded into the sea had not
Hearne seized him.
Owing to the half-breed’s intervention the revolt was instantly
queued. Besides, we were coming up to the boat, and with us those of
our men whose hesitation bad not lasted long.
No matter. The others were still thirteen to our ten. Captain Len
Guy made his appearance; anger shone in his eyes, and with him was
West, quite unmoved. Words failed the captain for some moments, but
his looks said what his tongue could not utter. At length, in a
terrible voice, he said,--
“I ought to treat you as evil-doers; however, I will only consider
you as madmen! The boat belongs to everybody. It is now our only
means of salvation, and you wanted to steal it--to steal it like
cowards! Listen attentively to what I say for the last time! This
boat, belonging to the Halbrane, is now the Halbrane herself! I am
the captain of it, and let him who disobeys me, beware!”
With these last words Captain Len Guy looked at Hearne, for whom
this warning was expressly meant. The sealing-master had not
appeared in the last scene, not openly at least, but nobody doubted
that he had urged his comrades to make off with the boat, and that
he had every intention of doing the same again.
“Now to the camp,” said the captain, “and you, Dirk Peters,
The half-breed’s only reply was to nod his big head and betake
himself to his post.
The crew returned to the camp without the least hesitation. Some lay
down in their sleeping-places, others wandered about. Hearne neither
tried to join them nor to go near Martin Holt.
Now that the sailors were reduced to idleness, there was nothing to
do except to ponder on our critical situation, and invent some means
of getting out of it.
The captain, the mate, and the boatswain formed a council, and I
took part in their deliberations. Captain Len Guy began by saying,--
“We have protected our boat, and we shall continue to protect
“Until death,” declared West.
“Who knows,” said I, “whether we shall not soon be forced to
“In that case,” replied the captain, “as all cannot fit into
it, it will be necessary to make a selection. Lots shall determine
which of us are to go, and I shall not ask to be treated differently
from the others.”
“We have not come to that, luckily,” replied the boatswain.
“The iceberg is solid, and there is no fear of its melting before
“No,” assented West, “that is not to be feared. What it
behoves us to do is, while watching the boat, to keep an eye on the
“We are lucky,” added Hurllguerly, “to have put our cargo in
safety. Poor, dear Halbrane. She will remain in these seas, like the
fane, her elder sister!”
Yes, without doubt, and I thought so for many reasons, the one
destroyed by the savages of Tsalal, the other by one of these
catastrophes that no human power can prevent.
“You are right,” replied the captain, “and we must prevent our
men from plundering. We are sure of enough provisions for one year,
without counting what we may get by fishing.”
“And it is so much the more necessary, captain, to keep a close
watch, because I have seen some hovering about the spirit casks.”
“I will see to that,” replied West.
“But,” I then asked, “had we not better prepare ourselves for
the fact that we may be compelled to winter on this iceberg.”
“May Heaven avert such a terrible probability,” replied the
“After all, if it were necessary, we could get through it, Mr.
Jeorling,” said the boatswain. “We could hollow out
sheltering-places in the ice, so as to be able to bear the extreme
cold of the pole, and so long as we had sufficient to appease our
At this moment the horrid recollection of the Grampus came to my
mind--the scenes in which Dirk Peters killed Ned Holt, the brother
of our sailing-master. Should we ever be in such extremity?
Would it not, before we proceed to set up winter quarters for seven
or eight months, be better to leave the iceberg altogether, if such
a thing were possible?
I called the attention of Captain Len Guy and West to this point.
This was a difficult question to answer, and a long silence preceded
At last the captain said,--
“Yes, that would be the best resolution to come to; and if our
boat could hold us all, with the provisions necessary for a voyage
that might last three or four weeks, I would not hesitate to put to
sea now and return towards the north.”
But I made them observe that we should be obliged to direct our
course contrary to wind and current; our schooner herself could
hardly have succeeded in doing this. Whilst to continue towards the
“Towards the south?” repeated the captain, who looked at me as
though he sought to read my thoughts.
“Why not?” I answered. “If the iceberg had not been stopped
in its passage, perhaps it would have drifted to some land in that
direction, and might not our boat accomplish what it would have
The captain, shaking his head, answered nothing. West also was
“Eh! our iceberg will end by raising its anchor,” replied
Hurliguerly. “It does not hold to the bottom, like the Falklands
or the Kerguelens! So the safest course is to wait, as the boat
cannot carry twenty-three, the number of our party.”
I dwelt upon the fact that it was not necessary for all twenty-three
to embark. It would be sufficient, I said, for five or six of us to
reconnoitre further south for twelve or fifteen miles.
“South?” repeated Captain Len Guy.
“Undoubtedly, captain,” I added. “You probably know what the
geographers frankly admit, that the antarctic regions are formed by
a capped continent.”
“Geographers know nothing, and can know nothing about it,”
replied West, coldly.
“It is a pity,” said I, “that as we are so near, we should not
attempt to solve this question of a polar continent.”
I thought it better not to insist just at present.
Moreover there would be danger in sending out our only boat on a
voyage of discovery, as the current might carry it too far, or it
might not find us again in the same place. And, indeed, if the
iceberg happened to get loose at the bottom, and to resume its
interrupted drift, what would become of the men in the boat?
The drawback was that the boat was too small to carry us all, with
the necessary provisions. Now, of the seniors, there remained ten
men, counting Dirk Peters; of the new men there were thirteen;
twenty-three in all. The largest number our boat could hold was from
eleven to twelve persons. Then eleven of us, indicated by lot, would
have to remain on this island of ice. And what would become of them?
With regard to this Hurliguerly made a sound observation.
“After all,” he said, “I don’t know that those who would
embark would be better off than those who remained! I am so doubtful
of the result, that I would willingly give up my place to anyone who
Perhaps the boatswain was right. But in my own mind, when I asked
that the boat might be utilized, it was only for the purpose of
reconnoitring the iceberg.
We finally decided to arrange everything with a view to wintering
out, even were our ice-mountain again to drift.
“We may be sure that will be agreed to by our men,” declared
“What is necessary must be done,” replied the mate, “and
to-day we must set to work.”
That was a sad day on which we began our preparations.
Endicott, the cook, was the only man who submitted without
murmuring. As a negro, who cares little about the future, shallow
and frivolous like all his race, he resigned himself easily to his
fate; and this is, perhaps, true philosophy. Besides, when it came
to the question of cooking, it mattered very little to him whether
it was here or there, so long as his stoves were set up somewhere.
So he said to his friend the mate, with his broad negro smile,--
“Luckily my kitchen did not go off with the schooner, and you
shall see, Hurliguerly, if I do not make up dishes just as good as
on board the Halbrane, so long as provisions don’t grow scarce, of
“Well! they will not be wanting for some time to come,” replied
the boatswain. “We need not fear hunger, but cold, such cold as
would reduce you to an icicle the minute ycu cease to warm your
feetwcold that makes your skin crack and your skull split! Even if
we had some hundreds of tons of coal--But, all things being well
calculated, there is only just what will do to boil this large
“And that is sacred,” cried Endicott; “touching is forbidden!
The kitchen before all.”
“And that is the reason why it never strikes you to pity yourself,
you old nigger! You can always make sure of keeping your feet warm
at your oven!”
“What would you have, boatswain? You are a first-rate cook, or you
are not. When you are, you take advantage of it; but I will remember
to keep you a little place before my stove.”
“That’s good! that’s good, Endicott! Each one shall have his
turn! There is no privilege, even for a boatswain! On the whole, it
is better not to have to fear famine! One can fight against the
cold. We shall dig holes in the iceberg, and cuddle ourselves up
there. And why should we not have a general dwelling-room? We could
make a cave for ourselves with pickaxes! I have heard tell that ice
preserves heat. Well, let it preserve ours, and that is all I ask of
The hour had come for us to return to the camp and to seek our
Dirk Peters alone refused to be relieved of his duty as watchman of
the boat, and nobody thought of disputing the post with him.
Captain Len Guy and West did not enter the tents until they had made
certain that Hearne and his companions had gone to their usual place
of rest. I came back likewise and went to bed.
I could not tell how long I had been sleeping, nor what time it was,
when I found myself rolling on the ground after a violent shock.
What could be happening? Was it another capsize of the iceberg?
We were all up in a second, then outside the tents in the full light
of a night in the polar regions.
A second floating mass of enormous size had just struck our iceberg,
which had “hoisted the anchor” (as the sailors say) and was
drifting towards the south.
An unhoped-for change in the situation had taken place. What were to
be the consequences of our being no longer cast away at that place?
The current was now carrying us in the direction of the pole! The
first feeling of joy inspired by this conviction was, however,
succeeded by all the terrors of the unknown l and what an unknown!
Dirk Peters only was entirely rejoiced that we had resumed the route
which, he believed, would lead us to the discovery of traces of his
“poor Pym”--far other ideas occupied the minds of his companions.
Captain Len Guy no longer entertained any hope of rescuing his
countrymen, and having reached the condition of despair, he was
bound by his duty to take his crew back to the north, so as to clear
the antarctic circle while the season rendered it possible to do so.
And we were being carried away towards the south!
Naturally enough, we were all deeply impressed by the fearfulness of
our position, which may be summed up in a few words. We were no
longer cast away, with a possible ship, but the tenants of a
floating iceberg, with no hope but that our monster tenement might
encounter one of the whaling ships whose business in the deep waters
lies between the Orkneys, New Georgia, and the Sandwich Islands. A
quantity of things had been thrown into the ice by the collision
which had set our iceberg afloat, but these were chiefly articles
belonging to the Halbrane. Owing to the precaution that had been
taken on the previous day, when the cargo was stowed away in the
clefts, it had been only slightly damaged. What would have become of
us, had all our reserves been swallowed up in that grim encounter?
Now, the two icebergs formed but one, which was travelling south at
the rate of two miles an hour. At this rate, thirty hours would
suffice to bring us to the point of the axis at which the
terrestrial meridians unite. Did the current which was carrying us
along pass on to the pole itself, or was there any land which might
arrest our progress? This was another question, and I discussed it
with the boatswain.
“Nobody knows, Mr. Jeorling,” was Hurliguerly’s reply. “If
the current goes to the pole, we shall go there; and if it
doesn’t, we shan’t. An iceberg isn’t a ship, and as it has
neither sails nor helm, it goes as the drift takes it.”
“That’s true, boatswain. And therefore I had the idea that if
two or three of us were to embark in the boat--”
“Ah! you still hold to your notion of the boat--”
“Certainly, for, if there is land somewhere, is it not possible
that the people of the Jane--”
“Have come upon it, Mr. Jeorling--at four thousand miles from
“Who knows, boatswain?”
“That may be, but allow me to say that your argument will be
reasonable when the land comes in sight, if it ever does so. Our
captain will see what ought to be done, and he will remember that
time presses. We cannot delay in these waters, and, after all, the
one thing of real importance to us is to get out of the polar circle
before the winter makes it impassable.”
There was good sense in Hurliguerly’s words; I could not deny the
During that day the greater part of the cargo was placed in the
interior of a vast cave-like fissure in the side of the iceberg,
where, even in case of a second collision, casks and barrels would
be in safety. Our men then assisted Endicott to set up his
cooking-stove between two blocks, so that it was firmly fixed, and
they heaped up a great mass of coals close to it.
No murmurs, no recrimination disturbed these labours. It was evident
that silence was deliberately maintained. The crew obeyed the
captain and West because they gave no orders but such as were of
urgent necessity. But, afterwards, would these men allow the
authority of their leaders to be uncontested? How long would the
recruits from the Falklands, who were already exasperated by the
disasters of our enterprise, resist their desire to seize upon the
boat and escape?
I did not think they would make the attempt, however, so long as our
iceberg should continue to drift, for the boat could not outstrip
its progress; but, if it were to run aground once more, to strike
upon the coast of an island or a continent, what would not these
unfortunate creatures do to escape the horrors of wintering under
In the afternoon, during the hour of rest allowed to the crew, I had
a second conversation with Dirk Peters. I had taken my customary
seat at the top of the iceberg, and had occupied it for half an
hour, being, as may be supposed, deep in thought, when I saw the
half-breed coming quickly up the slope. We had exchanged hardly a
dozen words since the iceberg had begun to move again. When Dirk
Peters came up to me, he did not address me at first, and was so
intent on his thoughts that I was not quite sure he saw me. At
length, heleaned back against an ice-block, and spoke:
“Mr. Jeorling,” he said, “you remember, in your cabin in the
Halbrane, I told you the--the affair of the Grampus?”
I remembered well.
“I told you that Parker’s name was not Parker, that it was Holt,
and that he was Ned Holt’s brother?”
“I know, Dirk Peters,” I replied, “but why do you refer to
that sad story again?”
“Why, Mr. Jeorling? Have not--have you never sam anything about
it to anybody?”
“Not to anybody,” I protested. “How could you suppose I should
be so ill-advised, so imprudent, as to divulge your secret, a secret
which ought never to pass our lips--a dead secret?”
“Dead, yes, dead! And yet, understand me, it seems to me that,
among the crew, something is known.”
I instantly recalled to mind what the boatswain had told me
concerning a certain conversation in which he had overheard Hearne
prompting Martin Holt to ask the half-breed what were the
circumstances of his brother’s death on board the Grampus. Had a
portion of the secret got out, or was this apprehension on the part
of Dirk Peters purely imaginary?
“Explain yourself,” I said.
“Understand me, Mr. Jeorling, I am a bad hand at explaining. Yes,
yesterday--I have thought of nothing else since--Martin Holt took
me aside, far from the others, and told me that he wished to speak
“Of the Grampus?”
“Of the Grampus--yes, and of his brother, Ned Holt. For the first
time he uttered that name before me--and yet we have sailed
together for nearly three months.”
The half-breed’s voice was so changed that I could hardly hear him.
“It seemed to me,” he resumed, “that in Martin Holt’s
mind--no, I was not mistaken--there was something like a
“But tell me what he said! Tell me exactly what he asked you. What
I felt sure that the question put by Martin Holt, whatsoever its
bearing, had been inspired by Hearne. Nevertheless, as I considered
it well that the half-breed should know nothing of the
sealing-master’s disquieting and inexplicable intervention in this
tragic affair, I decided upon concealing it from him.
“He asked me,” replied Dirk Peters, “did I not remember Ned
Holt of the Grampus, and whether he had perished in the fight with
the mutineers or in the shipwreck; whether he was one of the men who
had been abandoned with Captain Barnard; in short, he asked me if I
could tell him how his brother died. Ah! how!”
No idea could be conveyed of the horror with which the half-breed
uttered words which revealed a profound loathing of himself.
“And what answer did you make to Martin Holt?”
“You should have said that Ned Holt perished in the wreck of the
“I could not--understand me--I could not. The two brothers are
so like each other. In Martin Holt I seemed to see Ned Holt. I was
afraid, I got away from him.”
The half-breed drew himself up with a sudden movement, and I sat
thinking, leaning my head on my hands. These tardy questions of
Holt’s respecting his brother were put, I had no doubt whatsoever,
at the instigation of Hearne, but what was his motive, and was it at
the Falklands that he had discovered the secret of Dirk Peters? I
had not breathed a word on the subject to anymm. To the second
question no answer suggested itself; the first involved a serious
issue. Did the sealing-master merely desire to gratify his enmity
against Dirk Peters, the only one of the Falkland sailors who had
always taken the side of Captain Len Guy, and who had prevented the
seizure of the boat by Hearne and his companions? Did he hope, by
arousing the wrath and vengeance of Martin Holt, to detach the
sailing-master from his allegiance and induce him to become an
accomplice in Hearne’s own designs? And, in fact, when it was a
question of sailing the boat in these seas, had he not imperative
need of Martin Holt, one of the best seamen of the Halbrane? A man
who would succeed where Hearne and his companions would fail, if
they had only themselves to depend on?
I became lost in this labyrinth of hypotheses, and it must be
admitted that its complications added largely to the troubles of an
already complicated position.
When I raised my eyes, Dirk Peters had disappeared; he had said what
he came to say, and he now knew that I had not betrayed his
The customary precautions were taken for the night, no individual
being allowed to remain outside the camp, with the exception of the
half-breed, who was in charge of the boat.
The following day was the 31st of January. I pushed back the canvas
of the tent, which I shared with Captain Len Guy and West
respectively, as each succeeded the other on release from the
alternate “watch,” very early, and experienced a severe
Mist, everywhere! Nay, more than mist, a thick yellow,
mouldy-smelling fog. And more than this again; the temperature had
fallen sensibly: this was probably a forewarning of the austral
winter. The summit of our ice-mountain was lost in vapour, in a fog
which would not resolve itself into rain, but would continue to
muffle up the horizon.
“Bad luck!” said the boatswain, “for now if we were to pass by
land we should not perceive it.”
”And our drift?”
“More considerable than yesterday, Mr. Jeorling. The captain has
sounded, and he makes the speed no less than between three and four
“And what do you conclude from this?”
“I conclude that we must be within a narrower sea, since the
current is so strong. I should not be surprised if we had land on
both sides of us within ten or fifteen miles.”
“This, then, would be a wide strait that cuts the antarctic
“Yes. Our captain is of that opinion.”
“And, holding that opinion, is he not going to make an attempt to
reach one or other of the coasts of this strait?”
“With the boat.”
“Risk the boat in the midst of this fog!” exclaimed the
boatswain, as he crossed his arms. “What are you thinking of, Mr.
Jeorling? Can we cast anchor to wait for it? And all the chances
would be that we should never see it again. Ah! if we only had the
But there was no longer a Halbrane!
In spite of the difficulty of the ascent through the half-condensed
vapour, I climbed up to the top of the iceberg, but when I had
gained that eminence I strove in vain to pierce the impenetrable
grey mantle in which the waters were wrapped.
I remained there, hustled by the north-east wind, which was
beginning to blow freshly and might perhaps rend the fog asunder.
But no, fresh vapours accumulated around our floating refuge, driven
up by the immense ventilation of the open sea. Under the double
action of the atmospheric and antarctic currents, we drifted more
and more rapidly, and I perceived a sort of shudder pass throughout
the vast bulk of the iceberg.
Then it was that I felt myself under the dominion of a sort of
hallucination, one of those hallucinations which must have troubled
tile mind of Arthur Pym. It seemed to me that I was losing myself in
his extraordinary personality; at last I was beholding all that he
had seen! Was not that impenetrable mist the curtain of vapours
which he had seen in his delirium? I peered into it, seeking for
those luminous rays which had streaked the sky from east to west! I
sought in its depths for that limitless cataract, rolling in silence
from the height of some immense rampart lost in the vastness of the
zenith! I sought for the awful white giant of the South Pole!
At length reason resumed her sway. This visionary madness,
intoxicating while it lasted, passed off by degrees, and I descended
the slope to our camp.
The whole day passed without a change. The fog never once lifted to
give us a glimpse outside of its muffling folds, and if the iceberg,
which had travelled forty miles since the previous day, had passed
by the extremity of the axis of the earth, we should never know it.
AMID THE MISTS.
So this was the sum of all our efforts, trials and disappointments!
Not to speak of the destruction of the Halbrane, the expedition had
already cost nine lives. From thirty-two men who had embarked on the
schooner, our number was reduced to twenty-three: how low was that
figure yet to fall?
Between the south pole and antarctic circle lay twenty degrees, and
those would have to be cleared in a month or six weeks at the most;
if not, the iceberg barrier would be re-formed and closed-up. As for
wintering in that part of the antarctic circle, not a man of us
could have survived it.
Besides, we had lost all hope of rescuing the survivors of the Jane,
and the sole desire of the crew was to escape as quickly as possible
from the awful solitudes of the south. Our drift, which had been
south, down to the pole, was now north, and, if that direction
should continue, perhaps vle might be favoured with such good
fortune as would make up for all the evil that had befallen us! In
any case there was nothing for it but, in familiar phrase, “to let
The mist did not lift during the end, 3rd, and 4th of February, and
it would have been difficult to make out the rate of progress of our
iceberg since it had passed the pole. Captain Len Guy, however, and
West, considered themselves safe in reckoning it at two hundred and
The current did not seem to have diminished in speed or changed its
course. It was now beyond a doubt that we were moving between the
two halves of a continent, one on the east, the other on the west,
which formed the vast antarctic region. And I thought it was matter
of great regret that we could not get aground on one or the other
side of this vast strait, whose surface would presently be
solidified by the coming of winter.
When I expressed this sentiment to Captain Len Guy, he made me the
only logical answer:
“What would you have, Mr. Jeorling? We are powerless. There is
nothing to be done, and the persistent fog is the worst part of our
ill luck. I no longer know where we are. It is impossible to take an
observation, and this befalls us just as the sun is about to
disappear for long months.”
“Let me come back to the question of the boat,” said I, “for
the last time. Could we not, with the boat--”
“Go on a discovery cruise? Can you think of such a thing? That
would be an imprudence I would not commit, even though the crew
would allow me.”
I was on the point of exclaiming: “And what if your brother and
your countrymen have found refuge on some spot of the land that
undoubtedly lies about us?”
But I restrained myself. Of what avail was it to reawaken our
captain’s grief? He, too, must have contemplated this eventuality,
and he had not renounced his purpose of further search without being
fully convinced of the folly of a last attempt.
During those three days of fog I had not caught sight of Dirk
Peters, or rather he had made no attempt to approach, but had
remained inflexibly at his post by the boat. Martin Holt’s
questions respecting his brother Ned seemed to indicate that his
secret was known--at least in part, and the half-breed held himself
more than ever aloof, sleeping while the others watched, and
watching in their time of sleep. I even wondered whether he
regretted having confided in me, and fancied that he had aroused my
repugnance by his sad story. If so, he was mistaken; I deeply pitied
the poor half-breed.
Nothing could exceed the melancholy monotony of the hours which we
passed in the midst of a fog so thick that the wind could not lift
its curtain. The position of the iceberg could not be ascertained.
It went with the current at a like speed, and had it been motionless
there would have been no appreciable difference for us, for the wind
had fallen--at least, so we supposed--and not a breath was
stirring. The flame of a torch held up in the air did not flicker.
The silence of space was broken only by the clangour of the
sea-birds, which came in muffled croaking tones through the stifling
atmosphere of vapour. Petrels and albatross swept the top of the
iceberg, where they kept a useless watch in their flight. In what
direction were those swift-winged creatures--perhaps already driven
towards the confines of the arctic region but the approach of
winter--bound? We could not tell. One day, the boatswain, who was
determined to solve this question if possible, having mounted to the
extreme top, not without risk of breaking his neck, came into such
violent contact with a quebranta huesos--a sort of gigantic petrel
measuring twelve feet with spread wings--that he was flung on his
“Curse the bird!” he said on his return to the camp, addressing
the observation to me. “I have had a narrow escape! A thump, and
down I went, sprawling. I saved myself I don’t know how, for I was
all but over the side. Those ice ledges, you know, slip through
one’s fingers like water. I called out to the bird, ‘Can’t you
even look before you, you fool?’ But what was the good of that?
The big blunderer did not even beg my pardon!”
In the afternoon of the same day our ears were assailed by a hideous
braying from below. Hurliguerly remarked that as there were no asses
to treat us to the concert, it must be given by penguins. Hitherto
these countless dwellers in the polar regions had not thought proper
to accompany us on our moving island; we had not seen even one,
either at the foot of the iceberg or on the drifting packs.
There could be no doubt that they were there in thousands, for the
music was unmistakably that of a multitude of performers. Now those
birds frequent by choice the edges of the coasts of islands and
continents in high latitudes, or the ice-fields in their
neighbourhood. Was not their presence an indication that land was
I asked Captain Len Guy what he thought of the presence of these
“I think what you think, Mr. Jeorling,” he replied. “Since we
have been drifting, none of them have taken refuge on the iceberg,
and here they are now in crowds, if we may judge by their deafening
cries. From whence do they come? No doubt from land, which is
“Is this West’s opinion?”
“Yes, Mr. Jeorling, and you know he is not given to vain
“And then another thing has struck both him and me, which has
apparently escaped your attention. It is that the braying of the
penguins is mingled with a sound like the lowing of cattle. Listen
and you will readily distinguish it.”
I listened, and, sure enough, the orchestra was more full than I had
“I hear the lowing plainly,” I said; “there are, then, seals
and walrus also in the sea at the base.”
“That is certain, Mr. Jeorling, and I conclude from the fact that
those animals--both birds and mammals--very rare since we left
Tsalal Island, frequent the waters into which the currents have
“Of course, captain, of course. Oh! what a misfortune it is that
we should be surrounded by this impenetrable fog!”
“Which prevents us from even getting down to the base of the
iceberg! There, no doubt, we should discover whether there are
seaweed drifts around us; if that be so, it would be another sign.”
“Why not try, captain?”
“No, no, Mr. Jeorling, that might lead to falls, and I will not
permit anybody to leave the camp. If land be there, I imagine our
iceberg will strike it before long.”
“And if it does not?”
“If it does not, how are we to make it?”
I thought to myself that the boat might very well be used in the
latter case. But Captain Len Guy preferred to wait, and perhaps this
was the wiser course under our circumstances.
At eight o’clock that evening the half-condensed mist was so
compact that it was difficult to walk through it. The composition of
the air seemed to be changed, as though it were passing into a solid
state. It was not possible to discern whether the fog had any effect
upon the compass. I knew the matter had been studied by
meteorologists, and that they believe they may safely affirm that
the needle is not affected by this condition of the atmosphere. I
will add here that since we had left the South Pole behind no
confidence could be placed in the indications of the compass; it had
gone wild at the approach to the magnetic pole, to which we were no
doubt on the way. Nothing could be known, therefore, concerning the
course of the iceberg.
The sun did not set quite below the horizon at this period, yet the
waters were wrapped in tolerably deep darkness at nine o’clock in
the evening, when the muster of the crew took place.
On this occasion each man as usual answered to his name except Dirk
The call was repeated in the loudest of Hurliguerly’s stentorian
tones. No reply.
“Has nobody seen Dirk Peters during the day?” inquired the
“Nobody,” answered the boatswain.
“Can anything have happened to him?”
“Don’t be afraid,” cried the boatswain. “Dirk Peters is in
his element, and as much at his ease in the fog as a polar bear. He
has got out of one bad scrape; he will get out of a second!”
I let Hurliguerly have his say, knowing well why the half-breed kept
out of the way.
That night none of us, I am sure, could sleep. We were smothered in
the tents, for lack of oxygen. And we were all more or less under
the influence of a strange sort of presentiment, as though our fate
were about to change, for better or worse, if indeed it could be
The night wore on without any alarm, and at six o’clock in the
morning each of us came out to breathe a more wholesome air.
The state of things was unchanged, the density of the fog was
extraordinary. It was, however, found that the barometer had risen,
too quickly, it is true, for the rise to be serious. Presently other
signs of change became evident. The wind, which was growing
colder--a south wind since we had passed beyond the south
pole--began to blow a full gale, and the noises from below were
heard more distinctly through the space swept by the atmospheric
At nine o’clock the iceberg doffed its cap of vapour quite
suddenly, producing an indescribable transformation scene which no
fairy’s wand could have accomplished in less time or with greater
In a few moments, the sky was clear to the extreme verge of the
horizon, and the sea reappeared, illumined by the oblique rays of
the sun, which now rose only a few degrees above it. A rolling swell
of the waves bathed the base of our iceberg in white foam, as it
drifted, together with a great multitude of floating mountains under
the double action of wind and current, on a course inclining to the
This cry came from the summit of the moving mountain, and Dirk
Peters was revealed to our sight, standing on the outermost block,
his hand stretched towards the north.
The half-breed was not mistaken. The land this time--yes!--it was
land! Its distant heights, of a blackish hue, rose within three or
four miles of us.
86° 12’ south latitude.
114° 17’ east longitude.
The iceberg was nearly four degrees beyond the antarctic pole, and
from the western longitudes that our schooner had followed tracing
the course of the Jane, we had passed into the eastern longitudes.
A little after noon, the iceberg was within a mile of the land.
After their dinner, the crew climbed up to the topmost block, on
which Dirk Peters was stationed. On our approach the half-breed
descended the opposite slope and when I reached the top he was no
longer to be seen.
The land on the north evidently formed a continent or island of
considerable extent. On the west there was a sharply projecting
cape, surmounted by a sloping height which resembled an enormous
seal’s head on the side view; then beyond that was a wide stretch
of sea. On the east the land was prolonged out of sight.
Each one of us took in the position. It depended on the
current-whether it would carry the iceberg into an eddy which might
drive it on the coast, or continue to drift it towards the north.
Which was the more admissible hypothesis?
Captain Len Guy, West, Hurliguerly, and I talked over the matter,
while the crew discussed it among themselves. Finally, it was agreed
that the current tended rather to carry the iceberg towards the
northern point of land.
“After all,” said Captain Len Guy, “if it is habitable during
the months of the summer season, it does not look like being
inhabited, since we cannot descry a human being on the shore.”
“Let us bear in mind, captain,” said I, “that the iceberg is
not calculated to attract attention as the Halbrane would have
“Evidently, Mr. Jeorling; and the natives, if there were any,
would have been collected on the beach to see the Halbrane
“We must not conclude, captain, because we do not see any
“Certainly not, Mr. Jeorling; but you will agree with me that the
aspect of this land is very unlike that of Tsalal Island when the
fane reached it; there is nothing here but desolation and
“I acknowledge that--barrenness and desolation, that is all.
Nevertheless, I want to ask you whether it is your intention to go
“With the boat?”
“With the boat, should the current carry cur iceberg away from the
“We have not an hour to lose, Mr. Jeorling, and the delay of a few
hours might condemn us to a cruel winter stay, if we arrived too
late at the iceberg barrier.”
“And, considering the distance, we are not too soon,” observed
“I grant it,” I replied, still persisting. “But, to leave this
land behind us without ever having set foot on it, without having
made sure that it does not preserve the traces of an encampment, if
your brother, captain--his companions--”
Captain Len Guy shook his head. How could the castaways have
supported life in this desolate region for several months?
Besides, the British flag was hoisted on the summit of the iceberg,
and William Guy would have recognized it and come down to the shore
had he been living.
No one. No one.
At this moment, West, who had been observing certain points of
“Let us wait a little before we come to a decision. In less than
an hour we shall be able to decide. Our speed is slackening, it
seems to me, and it is possible that an eddy may bring us back
obliquely to the coast.”
“That is my opinion too,” said the boatswain, “and if our
floating machine is not stationary, it is nearly so. It seems to be
West and Hurliguerly were not mistaken. For some reason or other the
iceberg was getting out of the course which it had followed
continuously. A giratory movement had succeeded to that of drifting,
owing to the action of an eddy which set towards the coast.
Besides, several ice-mountains, in front of us, had just run aground
on the edge of the shore. It was, then, useless to discuss whether
we should take to the boat or not. According as we approached, the
desolation of the land became more and more apparent, and the
prospect of enduring six months’ wintering there would have
appalled the stoutest hearts.
At five in the afternoon, the iceberg plunged into a deep rift in
the coast ending in a long point on the right, and there stuck fast.
“On shore! On shore!” burst from every man, like a single
exclamation, and the men were already hurrying down the slope of the
iceberg, when West commanded:
“Wait for orders!”
Some hesitation was shown--especially on the part of Hearne and
several of his comrades. Then the instinct of discipline prevailed,
and finally the whole crew ranged themselves around Captain Len Guy.
It was not necessary to lower the boat, the iceberg being in contact
with the point.
The captain, the boatswain, and myself, preceding the others, were
the first to quit the camp; ours were the first human feet to tread
this virgin and volcanic soil.
We walked for twenty minutes on rough land, strewn with rocks of
igneous origin, solidified lava, dusty slag, and grey ashes, but
without enough clay to grow even the hardiest plants.
With some risk and difficulty, Captain Len Guy, the boatswain, and I
succeeded in climbing the hill; this exploit occupied a whole hour.
Although evening had now come, it brought no darkness in its train.
From the top of the hill we could see over an extent of from thirty
to forty miles, and this was what we saw.
Behind us lay the open sea, laden with floating masses; a great
number of these had recently heaped themselves up against the beach
and rendered it almost inaccessible.
On the west was a strip of hilly land, which extended beyond our
sight, and was washed on its east side by a boundless sea. It was
evident that we had been carried by the drift through a strait.
Ah! if we had only had our Halbrane! But our sole possession was a
frail craft barely capable of containing a dozen men, and we were
There was nothing for it but to go down to the shore again, to carry
the tents to the beach, and take measures in view of a winter
sojourn under the terrible conditions imposed upon us by
On our return to the coast the boatswain discovered several caverns
in the granitic cliffs, sufficiently spacious to house us all and
afford storage for the cargo of the Halbrane. Whatever might be our
ultimate decision, we could not do better than place our material
and instal ourselves in this opportune shelter.
After we had reascended the slopes of the iceberg and reached our
camp, Captain Len Guy had the men mustered. The only missing man was
Dirk Peters, who had decidedly isolated himself from the crew. There
was nothing to fear from him, however; he would be with the faithtul
against the mutinous, and under all circumstanceswe might count upon
him. When the circle had been formed, Captain Len Guy spoke, without
allowing any sign of discouragement to appear, and explained the
position with the utmost frankness and lucidity, stating in the
first place that it was absolutely necessary to lower the cargo to
the coast and stow it away in one of the caverns. Concerning the
vital question of food, he stated that the supply of flour,
preserved meat, and dried vegetables would suffice for the winter,
however prolonged, and on that of fuel he was satisfied that we
should not want for coal, provided it was not wasted; and it would
be possible to economize it, as the hibernating waifs might brave
the cold of the polar zone under a covering of snow and a roof of
Was the captain’s tone of security feigned? I did not think so,
especially as West approved of what he said.
A third question raised by Hearne remained, and was well calculated
to arouse jealousy and anger among the crew. It was the question of
the use to be made of the only craft remaining to us. Ought the boat
to be kept for the needs of our hibernation, or used to enable us to
return to the iceberg barrier?
Captain Len Guy would not pronounce upon this; he desired to
postpone the decision for twenty-four or forty-eight hours. The
boat, carrying the provisions necessary for such a voyage, could not
accommodate more than eleven or, at the outside, twelve men. If the
departure of the boat were agreed to, then its passengers must be
selected by lot. The captain proceeded to state that neither West,
the boatswain, I, nor he would claim any privilege, but would submit
to the fortune of the lot with all the others. Both Martin Holt and
Hardy were perfectly capable of taking the boat to the
fishing-grounds, where the whalers would still be found.
Then, those to whom the lot should fall were not to forget their
comrades, left to winter on the eighty-sixth parallel, and were to
send a ship to take them off at the return of summer.
All this was said in a tone as calm as it was firm. I must do
Captain Len Guy the justice to say that he rose to the occasion.
When he had concluded--without any interruption even from
Hearne--no one made a remark. There was, indeed, none to be made,
since, in the given case, lots were to be drawn under conditions of
The hour of rest having arrived, each man entered the camp, partook
of the supper prepared by Endicott, and went to sleep for the last
time under the tents.
Dirk Peters had not reappeared, and I sought for him in vain.
On the following day, the 7th of February, everybody set to work
early with a will. The boat was let down with all due precaution to
the base of the iceberg, and drawn up by the men on a little sandy
beach out of reach of the water. It was in perfectly good condition,
and thoroughly serviceable.
The boatswain then set to work on the former contents of the
Halbrane, furniture, bedding, sails, clothing, instruments, and
utensils. Stowed away in a cabin, these things would no longer be
exposed to the knocking about and damage of the iceberg. The cases
containing preserved food and the casks of spirits were rapidly
I worked with the captain and West at this onerous task, and Dirk
Peters also turned up and lent the valuable assistance of his great
strength, but he did not utter a word to anyone.
Our occupation continual on the 8th, 9th, and 10th February, and our
task was finished in the afternoon of the 10th. The cargo was safely
stowed in the interior of a large grotto, with access to it by a
narrow opening. We were to inhabit the adjoining grotto, and
Endicott set up his kitchen in the latter, on the advice of the
boatswain. Thus we should profit by the heat of the stove, which was
to cook our food and warm the cavern during the long days, or rather
the long nights of the austral winter.
During the process of housing and storing, I observed nothing to
arouse suspicion in the bearing of Hearne and the Falklands men.
Nevertheless, the half-breed was kept on guard at the boat, which
might easily have been seized upon the beach.
Hurliguerly, who observed his comrades closely, appeared less
On that same evening Captain Len Guy, having reassembled his people,
stated that the question should be discussed on the morrow, adding
that, if it were decided in the affirmative, lots should be drawn
immediately. No reply was made.
It was late, and half dark outside, for at this date the sun was on
the edge of the horizon, and would very soon disappear below it.
I had been asleep for some hours when I was awakened by a great
shouting at a short distance. I sprang up instantly and darted out
of lhe cavern, simultaneously with the captain and West, who had
also been suddenly aroused from sleep.
“The boat! the boat!” cried West.
The boat was no longer in its place--that place so jealously
guarded by Dirk Peters.
After they had pushed the boat into the sea, three men had got into
it with bales and casks, while ten others strove to control the
Hearne was there, and Martin Holt also; the latter, it seemed to me,
was not interfering.
These wretches, then, intended to depart before the lots were drawn;
they meant to forsake us. They had succeeded in surprising Dirk
Peters, and they would have killed him, had he not fought hard for
In the face of this mutiny, knowing our inferiority of numbers, and
not knowing whether he might count on all the old crew, Captain Len
Guy re-entered the cavern with West in order to procure arms. Hearne
and his accomplices were armed.
I was about to follow them when the following words arrested my
The half-breed, overpowered by numbers, had been knocked down, and
at this moment Martin Holt, in gratitude to the man who saved his
life, was rushing to his aid, but Hearne called out to him,--
“Leave the fellow alone, and come with us!”
Martin Holt hesitated.
“Yes, leave him alone, I say; leave Dirk Peters, the assassin of
your brother, alone.”
“The assassin of my brolher!”
“Your brother, killed on board the Grampus--”
“Killed! by Dirk Peters?”
“Yes! Killed and eaten--eaten--eaten!” repeated Hearne, who
pronounced the hateful worms with a kind of howl.
And then, at a sign from Hearne, two of his comrades seized Martin
Holt and dragged him into the boat. Hearne was instantly followed by
all those whom he had induced to join in this criminal deed.
At that moment Dirk Peters rose from the ground, and sprang upon one
of the Falklands men as he was in the act of stepping on the
platform of the boat, lifted him up bodily, hurled him round his
head and dashed his brains out against a rock.
In an instant the half-breed fell, shot in the shoulder by a bullet
from Hearne’s pistol, and the boat was pushed off.
Then Captain Len Guy and West came out of the cavern--the whole
scene had passed in less than a minute--and ran down to the point,
which they reached together with the boatswain, Hardy, Francis, and
The boat, which was drawn by the current, was already some distance
off, and the tide was falling rapidly.
West shouldered his gun and fired; a sailor dropped into the bottom
of the boat. A second shot, fired by Captain Len Guy, grazed
Hearne’s breast, and the ball was lost among the ice-blocks at the
moment when the boat disappeared behind the iceberg.
The only thing for us to do was to cross to the other side of the
point. The current would carry the wretches thither, no doubt,
before it bore them northsyard. If they passed within range, and if
a second shot should hit Hearne, either killing or wounding him, his
companions might perhaps decide on coming back to us.
A quarter of an hour elapsed. When the boat appeared at the other
side of the point, it was so far off that our bullets could not
reach it. Hearne had already had the sail set, and the boat,
impelled by wind and current jointly, was soon no more than a white
speck on the face of the waters, and speedily disappeared.
FOUND AT LAST
The question of our wintering on the land whereon we had been thrown
was settled for us. But, after all, the situation was not changed
for those among the nine (now only remaining of the twenty-three)
who should not have drawn the lot of departure. Who could speculate
upon the chances of the whole nine? Might not all of them have drawn
the lot of “stay”? And, when every chance was fully weighed, was
that of those who had left us the best? To this question there could
be no answer.
When the boat had disappeared, Captain Len Guy and his companions
retraced their steps towards the cavern in which we must live for
all the time during which we could not go out, in the dread darkness
of the antarctic winter. My first thought was of Dirk Peters, who,
being wounded, could not follow us when we hurried to the other side
of the point.
On reaching the cavern I failed to find the half-breed, Was he
severely wounded? Should we have to mourn the death of this man who
was as faithful to us as to his “poor Pym”?
“Let us search for him, Mr. Jeorling!” cried the boatswain.
“We will go together,” said the captain. “Dirk Peters would never
have forsaken us, and we will not forsake him.”
“Would he come back,” said I, “now that what he thought was
known to him and me only has come out?”
I informed my companions of the reason why the name of Ned Holt had
been changed to that of Parker in Arthur Pym’s narrative, and of
the circumstances under which the half-breed had apprised me of the
fact. At the same time I urged every consideration that might
exculpate him, dwelling in particular upon the point that if the lot
had fallen to Dirk Peters, he would have been the victim of the
“Dirk Peters confided this secret to you only?” inquired Captain
“To me only, captain.”
“And you have kept it?”
“Then I cannot understand how it came to the knowledge of
“At first,” I replied, “I thought Hearne might have talked in
his sleep, and that it was by chance Martin Holt learned the secret.
After reflection, however, I recalled to mind that when the
half-breed related the scene on the Grampus to me, he was in my
cabin, and the side sash was raised. I have reason to think that the
man at the wheel overheard our conversation. Now that man was
Hearne, who, in order to hear it more clearly, let go the wheel, so
that the Halbrane lurched--”
“I remember,” said West. “I questioned the fellow sharply, and
sent him clown into the hold.”
“Well, then, captain,” I resumed, “it was from that day that
Hearne made up to Martin Holt. Hurliguerly called my attention to
“Of course he did,” said the boatswain, ”for Hearne, not being
capable of managing the boat which he intended to seize, required a
master-hand like Holt.”
“And so,” I said, “he kept on urging Holt to question the
half-breed concerning his brother’s fate, and you know how Holt
came at last to learn the fearful truth. Martin Holt seemed to be
stupefied by the revelation. The others dragged him away, and now he
is with them!” We were all agreed that things had happened as I
supposed, and now the question was, did Dirk Peters, in his present
state of mind, mean to absent himself? Would he consent to resume
his place among us?
We all left the cavern, and after an hour’s search we came in
sight of Dirk Peters, whose first impulse was to escape from us. At
length, however, Hurliguerly and Francis came up with him. He stood
still and made no resistance. I advanced and spoke to him, the
others did the same. Captain Len Guy offered him his hand, which he
took after a moment’s hesitation. Then, without uttering a single
word, he returned towards the beach.
From that day no allusion was ever made to the tragic story of the
Grampus. Dirk Peters’ wound proved to be slight; he merely wrapped
a piece of sailcloth round the injured arm, and went off to his work
with entire unconcern.
We made all the preparation in our power for a prolonged
hibernation. Winter was threatening us. For some days past the sun
hardly showed at all through the mists. The temperature fell to 36
degrees and would rise no more, while the solar rays, casting
shadows of endless length upon the soil, gave hardly any heat. The
captain made us put on warm woollen clothes without waiting for the
cold to become more severe.
Icebergs, packs, streams, and drifts came in greater numbers from
the south. Some of these struck and stayed upon the coast, which was
already heaped up with ice, but the greater number disappeared in
the direction of the north-east.
“All these pieces,” said the boatswain, “will go to the
closing up of the iceberg wall. If Hearne and his lot of scoundrels
are not ahead of them, I imagine they will find the door shut, and
as they have no key to open it with--”
“I suppose you think, boatswain, that our case is less desperate
“I do think so, Mr. Jeorling, and I have always thought so. If
everything had been done as it was settled, and the lot had fallen
to me to go with the boat, I would have given up my turn to one of
the others. After all, there is something in feeling dry ground
under our feet. I don’t wish the death of anybody, but if Hearne
and his friends do not succeed in clearing the iceberg barrier--if
they are doomed to pass the winter on the ice, reduced for food to a
supply that will only last a few weeks, you know the fate that
“Yes, a fate worse than ours!”
“And besides,” said the boatswain, “even supposing they do
reach the Antarctic Circle. If the whalers have already left the
fishing-grounds, it is not a laden and overladen craft that will
keep the sea until the Australian coasts are in sight.”
This was my own opinion, and also that of the captain and West.
During the following four days, we completed the storage of the
whole of our belongings, and made some excursions into the interior
of the country, finding “all barren,” and not a trace that any
landing had ever been made there.
One day, Captain Len Guy proposed that we should give a geographical
name to the region whither the iceberg had carried us. It was named
Halbrane Land, in memory of our schooner, and we called the strait
that separated the two parts of the polar continent the Jane Sound.
Then we took to shooting the penguins which swarmed upon the rocks,
and to capturing some of the amphibious animals which frequented the
beach. We began to feel the want of fresh meat, and Endicott’s
cooking rendered seal and walrus flesh quite palatable. Besides, the
fat of these creatures would serve, at need, to warm the cavern and
feed the cooking-stove. Our most formidable enemy would be the cold,
and we must fight it by every means within our power. It remained
to be seen whether the amphibia would not forsake Halbrane Land at
the approach of winter, and seek a less rigorous climate in lower
latitudes. Fortunately there were hundreds of other animals to
secure our little company from hunger, and even from thirst, at
need. The beach was the home of numbers of galapagos--a kind of
turtle so called from an archipelago in the equinoctial sea, where
also they abound, and mentioned by Arthur Pym as supplying food to
the islanders, It will be remembered that Pym and Peters found three
of these galapagos in the native boat which carried them away from
The movement of these huge creatures is slow, heavy, and waddling;
they have thin necks two feet long, triangular snake-like heads, and
can go without food for very long periods.
Arthur Pym has compared the antarctic turtles to dromedaries,
because, like those ruminants, they have a pouch just where the neck
begins, which contains from two to three gallons of cold fresh
water. He relates, before the scene of the lot-drawing, that but for
one of these turtles the shipwrecked crew of the Grampus must have
died of hunger and thirst. If Pym is to be believed, some of the
great turtles weigh from twelve to fifteen hundred pounds. Those of
Halbrane Land did not go beyond seven or eight hundred pounds, but
their flesh was none the less savoury.
On the 19th of February an incident occurred--an incident which
those who acknowledge the intervention of Providence in human
affairs will recognize as providential.
It was eight o’clock in the morning; the weather was calm; the sky
was tolerably clear; the thermometer stood at thirty-two degrees
We were assembled in the cavern, with the exception of the
boatswain, waiting for our breakfast, which Endicott was preparing,
and were about to take our places at table, when we heard a call
The voice was Hurliguerly’s, and we hurried out. On seeing us, he
He was standing on a rock at the foot of the hillock above the beach
in which Halbrahe Land ended beyond the point, and his right hand
was stretched out towards the sea.
“What is it?” asked Captain Len Guy.
“Is it the Halbrane’s boat coming back?”
“No, captain--it is not.”
Then we perceived a boat, not to be mistaken for that of our
schooner in form or dimensions, drifting without oars or paddle,
seemingly abandoned to the current.
We had but one idea in common--to seize at any cost upon this
derelict craft, which would, perhaps, prove our salvation. But how
were we to reach it? how were we to get it in to the point of
While we were looking distractedly at the boat and at each other,
there came a sudden splash at the end of the hillock, as though a
body had fallen into the sea.
It was Dirk Peters, who, having flung off his clothes, had sprung
from the top of a rock, and was swimming rapidly towards the boat
before we made him out.
We cheered him heartily. I never beheld anything like that swimming.
He bounded through the waves like a porpoise, and indeed he
possessed the strength and swiftness of one. What might not be
expected of such a man!
In a few minutes the half-breed had swum several cables’ lengths
towards the boat in an oblique direction. We could only see his head
like a black speck on the surface of the rolling waves. A period of
suspense, of intense watching of the brave swimmer succeeded.
Surely, surely he would reach the boat; but must he not be carried
away with it? Was it to be believed that even his great strength
would enable him, swimming, to tow it to the beach?
“After all, why should there not be oars in the boat?” said the
“He has it! He has it! Hurrah, Dirk, hurrah!” shouted
Hurliguerly, and Endicott echoed his exultant cheer.
The half-breed had, in fact, reached the boat and raised himself
alongside half out of the water. His big, strong hand grasped the
side, and at the risk of causing the boat to capsize, he hoisted
himself up to the side, stepped over it, and sat down to draw his
Almost instantly a shout reached our cars. It was uttered by Dirk
Peters. What had he found? Paddles! It must be so, for we saw him
seat himself in the front of the boat, and paddle with all his
strength in striving to get out of the current.
“Come along!” said the captain, and, turning the base of the
hillock, we all ran along the edge of the beach between the blackish
stones that bestrewed it.
After some time, West stopped us. The boat had reached the shelter
of a small projection at that place, and it was evident that it
would be run ashore there.
When it was within five or six cables’ lengths, and the eddy was
helping it on, Dirk Peters let go the paddles, stooped towards the
after-part of the boat, and then raised himself, holding up an inert
An agonized cry from Captain Len Guy rent the air!
“My brother--my brother!”
“He is living! He is living!” shouted Dirk Peters.
A moment later, the boat had touched the beach, and Captain Len Guy
held his brother in his arms.
Three of William Guy’s companions lay apparently lifeless in the
bottom of the boat.
And these four men were all that remained of the crew of the Jane.
ELEVEN YEARS IN A FEW PAGES.
The heading of the following chapter indicates that the adventures
of William Guy and his companions after destruction of the English
schooner, and the details of their history subsequent to the
departure of Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters, are about to be narrated
with all possible brevity.
We carried our treasure-trove to the cavern, and had happiness of
restoring all four men to life. In reality, it was hunger, nothing
but hunger, which had reduced the poor fellows to the semblance of
On the 8th of February, 1828, the crew of the Jane, having no reason
to doubt the good faith of the population of Tsalal Island, or that
of their chief, Too-Wit, disembarked, in order to visit the village
of Klock-Klock, having previously put the schooner into a state of
defense, leaving six men on board.
The crew, counting William Guy, the captain, Arthur Pym, and Dirk
Peters, formed a body of thirty-two men armed with guns, pistols,
and knives. The dog Tiger accompanied them.
On reaching the narrow gorge leading to the village preceded and
followed by the numerous warriors of Too Wit, the little company
divided, Arthur Pym, Dirk Peters, and Allen (the sailor) entering a
cleft in the hill-side with the intention of crossing it to the
other side. From that moment their companions were never to see them
After a short interval a shock was felt. The opposite hill fell down
in a vast heap, burying William Guy and his twenty-eight companions.
Twenty-two of these unfortunate men were crushed to death on the
instant, and their bodies would never be found under that mass of
Seven, miraculously sheltered in the depth of a great cleft of the
hill, had survived the catastrophe. These were William Guy,
Patterson, Roberts, Coyin, Trinkle, also Forbes and Sexton, since
dead. As for Tiger, they knew not whether he had perished in the
landslip, or whether he had escaped. There existed in the right side
of the hill, as well as in the left, on either side of the fissure,
certain winding passages, and it was by crawling along these in the
darkness that William Guy, Patterson, and the others reached a
cavity which let in light and air in abundance. From this shelter
they beheld the attack on the Jane by sixty pirogues, the defence
made by the six men on board; the invasion of the ship by the
savages, and finally the explosion which caused the death of a vast
number of natives as well as the complete destruction of the ship.
Too-Wit and the Tsalal islanders were at first terrified by the
effects of this explosion, but probably still more disappointed.
Their instincts of pillage could not be gratified, because some
valueless wreckage was all that remained of the ship and her cargo,
and they had no reason to suppose that any of the crew had survived
the cleverly contrived collapse of the hill. Hence it came about
that Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters on the one side, and William Guy and
his companions on the other, were enabled to remain undisturbed in
the labyrinths of Klock-Klock, where they fed on the flesh of
bitterns--these they could catch with their hands--and the fruit
of the nut-trees which grow on the hill-sides. They procured fire by
rubbing pieces of soft against pieces of hard wood; there was a
quantity of both within their reach.
After a whole week of this confinement, Arthur Pym and the
half-breed had succeeded, as we know, in leaving their hiding-place,
securing a boat, and abandoning Tsalal Island, but William Guy and
his companions had not yet found an opportunity to escape.
After they had been shut up in the labyrinth for twentyone days, the
birds on which they lived began to fail them, and they recognized
that their only means of escaping hunger--(they had not to fear
thirst, for there was a spring of fresh water in the interior of the
hill)--was to go down again to the coast, lay hands upon a native
boat, and get out to sea. Where were the fugitives to go, and what
was to become of them without provisions?--these were questions
that had to be asked, and which nobody could answer. Nevertheless,
they would not have hesitated to attempt the adventure if they could
have a few hours of darkness; but, at that time of year, the sun did
not as yet go down behind the horizon of the eighty-fourth parallel.
Death would probably have put an end to their misery had not the
situation been changed by the following events.
On the 22nd of February, in the morning, William Guy and Patterson
were talking together, in terrible perplexity of mind, at the
orifice of the cavity that opened upon the country. They no longer
knew how to provide for the wants of seven persons, who were then
reduced to eating nuts only, and were suffering in consequence from
severe pain in the head and stomach. They could see big turtles
crawling on the beach, but how could they venture to go thither,
with hundreds of natives coming and going about their several
occupations, with their constant cry of tékéli-li?
Suddenly, this crowd of people became violently agitated. Men,
women, and children ran wildly about on every side. Some of the
savages even took to their boats as though a great danger were at
hand. What was happening?
William Guy and his companions were very soon informed. The cause of
the tumult was the appearance of an unknown animal, a terrible
quadruped, which dashed into the midst of the islanders, snapping at
and biting them indiscriminately, as it sprang at their throats with
a hoarse growling.
And yet the infuriated animal was alone, and might easily have been
killed by stones or arrows. Why then did a crowd of savages manifest
such abject terror? Why did they take to flight? Why did they appear
incapable of defending themselves against this one beast?
The animal was white, and the sight of it had produced the
phenomenon previously observed, that inexplicable terror of
whiteness common to all the natives of Tsalal.
To their extreme surprise, William Guy and hie companions recognized
the strange animal as the dog Tiger.
Yes! Tiger had escaped from the crumbling mass of the hill and
betaken himself to the interior of the island, whence he had
returned to Klock-Klock, to spread terror among the natives. But
Tiger was no mere phantom foe; he was the most dangerous and deadly
of enemies, for the poor animal was mad, and his fangs were fatal!
This was the reason why the greater part of the Tsalal islanders
took to flight, headed by their chief, Too-Wit, and the Wampos, who
are the leading personages of Klock-Klock. It was under these
extraordinary circumstances that they abandoned their island,
whither they were destined never to return.
Although the boats carried off the bulk of the population, a
considerable number still remained on Tsalal, having no means of
escape, and their fate accomplished itself quickly. Several natives
who were bitten by Tiger developed hydrophobia rapidly, and attacked
the others. Fearful scenes ensued, and are briefly to be summed up
in one dismal statement. The bones we had seen in or near Klock-Klock
were those of the poor savages, which had lain there bleaching for
The poor dog had died after he had done his fell work, in a corner
on the beach, where Dirk Peters found his skeleton and the collar
bearing the name of Arthur Pym.
Then, after those natives who could not escape from the island had
all perished in the manner described, William Guy, Patterson,
Trinkle, Covin, Forbes, and Sexton ventured to come out of the
labyrinth, where they were on the verge of death by starvation.
What sort of existence was that of the seven survivors of the
expedition during the eleven ensuing years?
On the whole, it was more endurable than might have been supposed.
The natural products of an extremely fertile soil and the presence
of a certain number of domestic animals secured them against want of
food; they had only to make out the best shelter for themselves they
could contrive, and wait for an opportunity of getting away from the
island with as much patience as might be granted to them. And from
whence could such an opportunity come? Only from one of the chances
within the resources of Providence.
Captain William Guy, Patterson, and their five companions descended
the ravine, which was half filled with the fallen masses of the
hill-face, amid heaps of scoria and blocks of black granite. Before
they left this gorge, it occurred to William Guy to explore the
fissure on the right into which Arthur Pym, Dirk Peters, and Allen
had turned, but he found it blocked up; it was impossible for him to
get into the pass. Thus he remained in ignorance of the existence of
the natural or artificial labyrinth which corresponded with the one
he had just left, and probably communicated with it under the dry
bed of the torrent. The little company, having passed the chaotic
barrier that intercepted the northern route, proceded rapidly
towards the north-west. There, on the coast, at about three miles
from Klock-Klock, they established themselves in a grotto very like
that in our own occupation on the coast of Halbrane Land.
And it was in this place that, during long, hopeless years, the
seven survivors of the fane lived, as we were about to do ourselves,
but under better conditions, for the fertility of the soil of Tsalal
furnished them with resources unknown in Halbrane Land. In reality,
we were condemned to perish when our provisions should be exhausted,
but they could have waited indefinitely--and they did wait.
They had never entertained any doubt that Arthur Pym, Dirk Peters,
and Allen had perished, and this was only too true in Allen’s
case. How, indeed, could they ever have imagined that Pyro and the
half-breed had got hold of a boat and made their escape from Tsalal
So, then, as William Guy told us, not an incident occurred to break
the monotony of that existence of eleven years--not even the
reappearance of the islanders, who were kept away from Tsalal by
superstitious terror. No danger had threatened them during all that
time; but, of course, as it became more and more prolonged, they
lost the hope of ever being rescued. At first, with the return of
the fine season, when the sea was once more open, they had thought
it possible that a ship would be sent in search of the Jane. But
after four or five years they relinquished all hope.
There is no need for dwelling on this period, which extends from the
year 1828 to the year 1839. The winters were hard. The summer did
indeed extend its beneficent influence to the islands of the Tsalal
group, but the cold season, with its attendant snows, rains, and
tempests, spared them none of its severity.
During seven months Captain William Guy had not lost one of those
who had come with him safe and sound out of the trap set for them at
Klock-Klock, and this was due, no doubt, to their robust
constitutions, remarkable power of endurance, and great strength of
character. Alas! misfortune was making ready to fall on them.
The month of May had come--it corresponds in those regions to the
month of November in northern lands-and the ice-packs which the
current carried towards the north were beginning to drift past
Tsalal. One day, one of the seven men failed to return to the
cavern. They called, they waited, they searched for him. All was in
vain. He did not reappear; no doubt he had been drowned. He was
never more seen by his fellow-exiles.
This man was Patterson, the faithful companion of William Guy.
Now, what William Guy did not know, but we told him, was that
Patterson--under what circumstances none would ever learn--had
been carried away on the surface of an iceblock, where he died of
hunger. And on that ice-block, which had travelled so far as Prince
Edward Island, the boatswain had discovered the corpse of the
unfortunate man almost decomposed by the action of the warmer waters.
When Captain Len Guy told his brother of the finding of the body of
Patterson, and how it was owing to the notes in his pocket-book that
the Halbrane had been enabled to proceed towards the antarctic seas,
William Guy hid his face in his hands and wept.
Other misfortunes followed upon this one.
Five months after the disappearance of Patterson, in the middle of
October, Tsalal Island was laid waste from coast to coast by an
earthquake, which destroyed the southwestern group almost entirely.
William Guy and his companions must soon have perished on the barren
land, which no longer could give them food, had not the means of
leaving its coast, now merely an expanse of tumbled rocks, been
afforded them in an almost miraculous manner. Two days after the
earthquake, the current carried ashore within a few hundred yards of
their cavern a boat which had drifted from the island group on the
Without the delay of even one day, the boat was laden with as much
of the remaining provisions as it could contain, and the six men
embarked in it, bidding adieu for ever to the now uninhabitable
Unfortunately a very strong breeze was blowing; it was impossible to
resist it, and the boat was driven southwards by that very same
current which had caused our iceberg to drift to the coast of
For two months and a half these poor fellows were borne across the
open sea, with no control over their course. It was not until the
2nd of January in the present year (1840) that they sighted
land--east of the Jane Sound.
Now, we already knew this land was not more than fifty miles from
Halbrane Land. Yes! so small, relatively, was the distance that
separated us from those whom we had sought for in the antarctic
regions far and wide, and concerning whom we had lost hope.
Their boat had gone ashore far to the south-east of us. But on how
different a coast from that of Tsalal Island, or, rather, on one how
like that of Halbrane Land! Nothing was to be seen but sand and
stones; neither trees, shrubs, nor plants of any kind. Their
provisions were almost exhausted; William Guy and his companions
were soon reduced to extreme want, and two of the little company,
Forbes and Sexton, died.
The remaining four resolved not to remain a single day longer in the
place where they were doomed to die of hunger. They embarked in the
boat with the small supply of food still remaining, and once more
abandoned themselves to the current, without having been able to
verify their position, for want of instruments.
Thus had they been borne upon the unknown deep for twenty-five days,
their resources were completely exhausted, and they had not eaten
for forty-eight hours, when the boat, with its occupants lying
inanimate at the bottom of it, was sighted from Halbrane Land. The
rest is already known to the reader of this strange eventful history.
And now the two brothers were at length reunited in that remote
corner of the big world which we had dubbed Halbrane Land.
“WE WERE THE FIRST.”
Two days later not one of the survivors from the two schooners, the
Jane and the Halbrane, remained upon any coast of the Antarctic
On the 21st of February, at six o’clock in the morning, the boat,
with us all (we numbered thirteen) in it, left the little creek and
doubled the point of Halbrane Land. On the previous day we had fully
and finally debated the question of our departure, with the
understanding that if it were settled in the affirmative, we should
start without delay.
The captain of the fane was for an immediate departure, and Captain
Len Guy was not opposed to it. I willingly sided with them, and West
was of a similar opinion. The boatswain was inclined to oppose us.
He considered it imprudent to give up a certainty for the uncertain,
and he was backed by Endicott, who would in any case say “ditto”
to his “Mr. Burke.” However, when the time came, Hurliguerly
Conformed to the view of the majority with a good grace, and
declared himself quite ready to set out, since we were all of that
way of thinking.
Our boat was one of those in use in the Tsalal Archipelago for
plying between the islands. We knew, from the narrative of Arthur
Pym, that these boats are of two kinds, one resembling rafts or flat
boats, the other strongly-built pirogues. Our boat was of the former
kind, forty feet long, six feet in width, and worked by several
We called our little craft the Paracura, after a fish which abounds
in these waters. A rough image of that denizen of the southern deep
was cut upon the gunwale.
Needless to say that the greater part of the cargo of the Halbrane
was left in our cavern, fully protected from the weather, at the
disposal of any shipwrecked people who might chance to be thrown on
the coast of Halbrane Land. The boatswain had planted a spar on the
top of this slope to attract attention. But, our two schooners
notwithstanding, what vessel would ever venture into such latitudes?
Nota Bene.--We were just thirteen--the fatal number. Perfectly
good relations subsisted among us. We had no longer to dread the
rebellion of a Hearne. (How often we speculated upon the fate of
those whom he had beguiled!)
At seven o’clock, the extreme point of Halbrahe Land lay five
miles behind us, and in the evening we gradually lost sight of the
heights that variated that part of the coast.
I desire to lay special stress on the fact that not a single scrap
of iron entered into the construction of this boat, not so much as a
nail or a bolt, for that metal was entirely unknown to the Tsalal
islanders. The planks were bound together by a sort of liana, or
creeping-plant, and caulked with moss steeped in pitch, which was
turned by contact with the sea-water to a substance as hard as metal.
I have nothing special to record during the week that succeeded our
departure. The breeze blew steadily from the south, and we did not
meet with any unfavourable current between the banks of the Jane
During those first eight days, the Paracuts, by paddling when the
wind fell, had kept up the speed that was indispensable for our
reaching the Pacific Ocean within a short time.
The desolate aspect of the land remained the same, while the strait
was already visited by floating drifts, packs of one to two hundred
feet in length, some oblong, others circular, and also by icebergs
which our boat passed easily. We were made anxious, however, by the
fact that these masses were proceeding towards the iceberg barrier,
for would they not close the passages, which ought to be still open
at this time?
I shall mention here that in proportion as Dirk Peters was carried
farther and farther from the places wherein no trace ofhis poor Pym
had been found, he was more silent than ever, and no longer even
answered me when I addressed him.
It must not be forgotten that since our iceberg had passed beyond
the south pole, we were in the zone of eastern longitudes counted
from the zero of Greenwich to the hundred and eightieth degree. All
hope must therefore be abandoned of our either touching at the
Falklands, or finding whaling-ships in the waters of the Sandwich
Islands, the South Orkneys, or South Georgia.
Our voyage proceeded under unaltered conditions for ten days. Our
little craft was perfectly sea-worthy. The two captains and West
fully appreciated its soundness, although, as I have previously
said, not a scrap of iron had a place in its construction. It had
not once been necessary to repair its seams, so staunch were they.
To be sure, the sea was smooth, its long, rolling waves were hardly
ruffled on their surface.
On the loth of March, with the same longitude the observation gave
7° 13’ for latitude. The speed of the Paracuta had then been
thirty miles in each twenty-four hours. If this rate of progress
could be maintained for three weeks, there was every chance of our
finding the passes open, and being able to get round the iceberg
barrier; also that the whaling-ships would not yet have left the
The sun was on the verge of the horizon, and the time was
approaching when the Antarctic region would be shrouded in polar
night. Fortunately, in re-ascending towards the north we were
getting into waters from whence light was not yet banished. Then did
we witness a phenomenon as extraordinary as any of those described
by Arthur Pym. For three or four hours, sparks, accompanied by a
sharp noise, shot out of our fingers’ ends, our hair, and our
beards. There was an electric snowstorm, with great flakes falling
loosely, and the contact produced this strange luminosity. The sea
rose so suddenly and tumbled about so wildly that the Paracuta was
several times in danger of being swallowed up by the waves, but we
got through the mystic-seeming tempest all safe and sound.
Nevertheless, space was thenceforth but imperfectly lighted.
Frequent mists came up and bounded our outlook to a few
cable-lengths. Extreme watchfulness and caution were necessary to
avoid collision with the floating masses of ice, which were
travelling more slowly than the Paracuta.
It is also to be noted that, on the southern side, the sky was
frequently lighted up by the broad and brilliant rays of the polar
The temperature fell very perceptibly, and no longer rose above
Forty-eight hours later Captain Len Guy and his brother succeeded
with great difficulty in taking an approximate observation, with the
following results of their calculations:
Latitude: 75° 17’ south.
Latitude: 118° 3’ east.
At this date, therefore (12th March), the Paracuta was distant from
the waters of the Antarctic Circle only four hundred miles.
During the night a thick fog came on, with a subsidence of the
breeze. This was to be regretted, for it increased the risk of
collision with the floating ice. Of course fog could not be a
surprise to us, being where we were, but what did surprise us was
the gradually increasing speed of our boat, although the falling of
the wind ought to have lessened it.
This increase of speed could not be due to the current for we were
going more quickly than it.
This state of things lasted until morning, without our being able to
account for what was happening, when at about ten o’clock the mist
began to disperse in the low zones. The coast on the west
reappeared--a rocky coast, without a mountainous background; the
Paracuta was following its line.
And then, no more than a quarter of a mile away, we beheld a huge
mound, reared above the plain to a height of three hundred feet,
with a circumference of from two to three hundred feet. In its
strange form this great mound resembled an enormous sphinx; the body
uptight, the paws stretched out, crouching in the attitude of the
winged monster which Grecian Mythology has placed upon the way to
Was this a living animal, a gigantic monster, a mastodon a thousand
times the size of those enormous elephants of the polar seas whose
remains are still found in the ice? In our frame of mind we might
have believed that it was such a creature, and believed also that
the mastodon was about to hurl itself on our little craft and crush
it to atoms.
After a few moments of unreasoning and unreasonable fright, we
recognized that the strange object was only a great mound,
singularly shaped, and that the mist had just rolled off its head,
leaving it to stand out and confront us.
Ah! that sphinx! I remembered, at sight of it, that on the night
when the iceberg was overturned and the Halbrane was carried away, I
had dreamed of a fabulous animal of this kind, seated at the pole of
the world, and from whom Edgar Poe could only wrest its secrets.
But our attention was to be attracted, our surprise, even our alarm,
was evoked soon by phenomena still more strange than the mysterious
earth form upon which the mist-curtain had been raised so suddenly.
I have said that the speed of the Paracuta was gradually increasing;
now it was excessive, that of the current remaining inferior to it.
Now, of a sudden, the grapnel that had belonged to the Halbrane, and
was in the bow of the boat, flew out of its socket as though drawn
by an irresistible power, and the rope that held it was strained to
breaking point. It seemed to tow us, as it grazed the surface of the
water towards the shore.
“What’s the matter?” cried William Guy. “Cut away,
boatswain, cut away!” shouted West, “or we shall be dragged
against the rocks.”
Hurliguerly hurried to the bow of the Paracuta to cut away the rope.
Of a sudden the knife he held was snatched out of his hand, the rope
broke, and the grapnel, like a projectile, shot off in the direction
of the sphinx.
At the same moment, all the articles on board the boat that were
made of iron or steel--cooking utensils, arms, Endicott’s stove,
our knives, which were torn from out pockets--took flight after a
similar fashion in the same direction, while the boat, quickening
its course, brought up against the beach.
What was happening? In order to explain these inexplicable things,
were we not obliged to acknowledge that we had come into the region
of those wonders which I attributed to the hallucinations of Arthur
No! These were physical facts which we had just witnessed, and not
We had, however, no time for reflection, and immediately upon our
landing, our attention was turned in another direction by the sight
of a boat lying wrecked upon the sand.
“The Halbrane’s boat!” cried Hurliguerly. It was indeed the
boat which Hearne had stolen, and it was simply smashed to pieces;
in a word, only the formless wreckage of a craft which has been
flung against rocks by the sea, remained.
We observed immediately that all the ironwork of the boat had
disappeared, down to the hinges of the rudder. Not one trace of the
What could be the meaning of this?
A loud call from West brought us to a little strip of beach on the
right of our stranded boat.
Three corpses lay upon the stony soil, that of Hearne, that of
Martin Holt, and that of one of the Falklands men.
Of the thirteen who had gone with the sealing-master, there remained
only these three, who had evidently been dead some days.
What had become of the ten missing men? Had their bodies been
carried out to sea?
We searched all along the coast, into the creeks, and between the
outlying rocks, but in vain. Nothing was to be found, no traces of a
camp, not even the vestiges of a landing.
“Their boat,” said William Guy, “must have been struck by a
drifting iceberg. The rest of Hearne’s companions have been
drowned, and only these three bodies have come ashore, lifeless.”
“But,” asked the boatswain, “how is the state the boat is in
to be explained?”
“And especially,” added West, “the disappearance of all the
“Indeed,” said I, “it looks as though every bit had been
violently torn off.”
Leaving the Paracuta in the charge of two men, we again took our way
to the interior, in order to extend our search over a wider expanse.
As we were approaching the huge mound the mist cleared away, and the
form stood out with greater distinctness. It was, as I have said,
almost that of a sphinx, a dusky-hued sphinx, as though the matter
which composed it had been oxidized by the inclemency of the polar
And then a possibility flashed into my mind, an hypothesis which
explained these astonishing phenomena.
“Ah!” I exclaimed, “a loadstone! that is it! A magnet with
prodigious power of attraction!”
I was understood, and in an instant the final catastrophe, to which
Hearne and his companions were victims, was explained with terrible
The Antarctic Sphinx was simply a colossal magnet. Under the
influence of that magnet the iron bands of the Halbrane’s boat had
been torn out and projected as though by the action of a catapult.
This was the occult force that had irresistibly attracted everything
made of iron on the Paracuta. And the boat itself would have shared
the fate of the Halbrane’s boat had a single bit of that metal
been employed in its construction. Was it, then, the proximity of
the magnetic pole that produced such effects?
At first we entertained this idea, but on reflection we rejected it.
At the place where the magnetic meridians cross, the only phenomenon
produced is the vertical position of the magnetic needle in two
similar points of the terrestrial globe. This phenomenon, already
proved by observations made on the spot, must be identical in the
Thus, then, there did exist a magnet of prodigious intensity in the
zone of attraction which we had entered. Under our eyes one of those
surprising effects which had hitherto been classed among fables was
The following appeared to me to be the true explanation.
The Trade-winds bring a constant succession of clouds or mists in
which immense quantities of electricity not completely exhausted by
storms, are stored. Hence there exists a formidable accumulation of
electric fluid at the poles, and it flows towards the land in a
From this cause come the northern and southern auroras, whose
luminous splendours shine above the horizon, especially during the
long polar night, and are visible even in the temperate zones when
they attain theix maximum of culmination.
These continuous currents at the poles, which bewilder our
compasses, must possess an extraordinary influence. And it would
suffice that a block of iron should be subjected to their action for
it to be changed into a magnet of power proportioned to the
intensity of the current, to the number of turns of the electric
helix, and to the square root of the diameter of the block of
magnetized iron. Thus, then, the bulk of the sphinx which upreared
its mystic form upon this outer edge of the southern lands might be
calculated by thousands of cubic yards.
Now, in order that the current should circulate around it and make a
magnet of it by induction, what was required? Nothing but a metallic
lode, whose innumerable windings through the bowels of the soil
should be connected subterraneously at the base of the block.
It seemed to me also that the place of this block ought to be in the
magnetic axis, as a sort of gigantic calamite, from whence the
imponderable fluid whose currents made an inexhaustible accumulator
set up at the confines of the world should issue. Our compass could
not have enabled us to determine whether the marvel before our eyes
really was at the magnetic pole of the southern regions. All I can
say is, that its needle staggered about, helpless and useless. And
in fact the exact location of the Antarctic Sphinx mattered little
in respect of the constitution of that artificial loadstone, and the
manner in which the clouds and metallic lode supplied its attractive
In this very plausible fashion I was led to explain the phenomenon
by instinct. It could not be doubted that we were in the vicinity of
a magnet which produced these terrible but strictly natural effects
by its attraction.
I communicated my idea to my companions, and they regarded this
explanation as conclusive, in presence of the physical facts of
which we were the actual witnesses.
“We shall incur no risk by going to the foot of the mound, I
suppose,” said Captain Len Guy.
“None,” I replied.
I could not describe the impression those three words made upon us.
Edgar Poe would have said that they were three cries from the depths
of the under world.
It was Dirk Peters who had spoken, and his body was stretched out in
the direction of the sphinx, as though it had been turned to iron
and was attracted by the magnet.
Then he sped swiftly towards the sphinx-like mound, and his
companions followed him over rough ground strewn with volcanic
remains of all sorts.
The monster grew larger as we neared it, but lost none of its
mythological shape. Alone on that vast plain it produced a sense of
awe. And--but this could only have been a delusionr--we seemed to
be drawn towards it by the force of its magnetic attraction.
On arriving at the base of the mound, we found there the various
articles on which the magnet had exerted its power; arms, utensils,
the grapnel of the Paracuta, all adhering to the sides of the
monster. There also were the iron relics of the Halbrane’s boat,
all her utensils, arms, and fittings, even to the nails and the iron
portions of the rudder.
There was no possibility of regaining possession of any of these
things. Even had they not adhered to the loadstone rock at too great
a height to be reached, they adhered to it too closely to be
detached. Hurliguerly was infuriated by the impossibility of
recovering his knife, which he recognized at fifty feet above his
head, and cried as he shook his clenched fist at the imperturbable
“Thief of a sphinx!”
Of course the things which had belonged to the Halbrane’s boat
and the Paracuta’s were the only articles that adorned the mighty
sides of the lonely mystic form. Never had any ship reached such a
latitude of the Antarctic Sea. Hearne and his accomplices, Captain
Len Guy and his companions, were the first who had trodden this
point of the southern continent. And any vessel that might have
approached this colossal magnet must have incurred certain
destruction. Our schooner must have perished, even as its boat had
been dashed into a shapeless wreck.
West now reminded us that it was imprudent to prolong our stay upon
this Land of the Sphinx--a name to be retained. Time pressed, and a
few days’ delay would have entailed our wintering at the foot of
The order to return to the beach had just been given, when the voice
of the half-breed was again heard, as he cried out:
“There! There! There!”
We followed the sounds to the back of the monster’s right paw, and
we found Dirk Peters on his knees, with his hands stretched out
before an almost naked corpse, which had been preserved intact by
the cold of these regions, and was as rigid as iron. The head was
bent, a white beard hung down to the waist, the nails of the feet
and hands were like claws.
How had this corpse been fixed to the side of the mound at six feet
above the ground?
Across the body, held in place by its cross-belt, we saw the twisted
barrel of’ a musket, half-eaten by rust.
“Pym-my poor Pym!” groaned Dirk Peters.
He tried to rise, that he might approach and kiss the ossified
corpse. But his knees bent under him, a strangled sob seemed to rend
his throat, with a terrible spasm his faithful heart broke, and the
half-breed fell back--dead!
The story was easy to read. After their separation, the boat had
carried Arthur Pym through these Antarctic regions! Like us, once he
had passed beyond the south pole, he came into the zone of the
monster! And there, while his boat was swept along on the northern
current, he was seized by the magnetic fluid before he could get rid
of the gun which was slung over his shoulder, and hurled against the
fatal loadstone Sphinx of the Ice-realm.
Now the faithful half-breed rests under the clay of the Land of the
Antarctic Mystery, by the side of his “poor Pym,” that hero
whose strange adventures found a chronicler no less strange in the
great American poet!
A LITTLE REMNANT.
That same day, in the afternoon, the Paracuta departed from the
coast of the Land of the Sphinx, which had lain to the west of us
since the 21st of February.
By the death of Dirk Peters the number of the passengers was reduced
to twelve. These were all who remained of the double crew of the two
schooners, the first comprising thirty-eight men, the second,
thirty-two; in all seventy souls. But let it not be forgotten that
the voyage of the Halbrane had been undertaken in fulfilment of a
duty to humanity, and four of the survivors of the Jane owed their
rescue to it.
And now there remains but little to tell, and that must be related
as succinctly as possible. It is unnecessary to dwell upon our
return voyage, which was favoured by the constancy of the currents
and the wind to the northern course. The last part of the voyage was
accomplished amid great fatigue, suffering, and but it ended in our
safe deliverance from all these.
Firstly, a few days after our departure from the Land the Sphinx,
the sun set behind the western horizon reappear no more for the
whole winter. It was then the midst of the semi-darkness of the
austral night that the Paracuta pursued her monotonous course. True,
the southern polar lights were frequently visible; but they were not
the sun, that single orb of day which had illumined our horizons
during the months of the Antarctic summer, and their capricious
splendour could not replace his unchanging light. That long darkness
of the poles sheds a moral and physical influence on mortals which no
one can elude, a gloomy and overwhelming impression almost impossible
Of all the Paracuta’s passengers, the boatswain and Endicott only
preserved their habitual good-humour; those two were equally
insensible to the weariness and the peril of our voyage. I also
except West, who was ever ready to face every eventuality, like a
man who is always on the defensive. As for the two brothers Guy,
their happiness in being restored to each other made them frequently
oblivious of the anxieties and risks of the future.
Of Hurliguerly I cannot speak too highly. He proved himself a
thoroughly good fellow, and it raised our drooping spirits to hear
him repeat in his jolly voice,--
“We shall get to port all right, my friends, be sure of that. And,
if you only reckon things up, you will see that we have had more
good luck than bad. Oh, yes, I know, there was the loss of our
schooner! Poor Halbrane, carried up into the air like a balloon,
then flung into the deep llke an avalanche! But, on the other hand,
there was the iceberg which brought us to the coast, and the Tsalal
boat which brought us and Captain William Guy and his three
companions together. And don’t forget the current and the breeze
that have pushed us on up to now, and will keep pushing us on, I’m
sure of that. With so many trumps in our hand we cannot possibly
lose the game. The only thing to be regretted is that we shall have
to get ashore again in Australia or New Zealand, instead of casting
anchor at the Kerguelens, near the quay of Christmas Harbour, in
front of the Greea Cormorant.”
For a week we pursued our course without deviation to east or west,
and it was not until the 21st of March that the Paracutis lost
sight of Halbrane Land, being carried towards the north by the
current, while the coast-line of the continent, for such we are
convinced it is, trended in a round curve to the north-east.
Although the waters of this portion of sea were still open, they
carried a flotilla of icebergs or ice-fields. Hence arose serious
difficulties and also dangers to navigation in the midst of the
gloomy mists, when we had to manoeuvre between these moving masses,
either to find passage or to prevent our little craft from being
crushed like grain between the millstones.
Besides, Captain Len Guy could no longer ascertain his position
either in latitude or longitude. The sun being absent, calculations
by the position of the stars was too complicated, it was impossible
to take altitudcs, and the Paracuta abandoned herself to the action
of the current, which invariably bore us northward, as the compass
indicated. By keeping the reckoning of its medium speed, however, we
concluded that on the 27th of March our boat was between the
sixty-ninth and the sixty-eighth parallels, that is to say, some
seventy miles only from the Antarctic Circle.
Ah! if no obstacle to the course of our perilous navigation had
existed, if passage between this inner sea of the southern zone and
the waters of the Pacific Ocean had been certain, the Paracuta might
have reached the extreme limit of the austral seas in a few days.
But a few hundred miles more to sail, and the iceberg-barrier would
confront us with its immovable rampart, and unless a passage could
be found, we should be obliged to go round it either by the east or
by the west.
Once cleared indeed--
Ah! once cleared, we should be in a frail craft upon the terrible
Pacific Ocean, at the period of the year when its tempests rage with
redoubled fury and strong ships dread the might of its waves.
We were determined not to think of this. Heaven would come to our
aid. We should be picked up by some ship. This the boatswain
asserted confidently, and we were bound to believe the boatswain.
For six entire days, until the and of April, the Paracura held her
course among the ice-barrier, whose crest was profiled at an
altitude of between seven and eight hundred feet above the level of
the sea. The extremities were not visible either on the east or the
west, and if our boat did not find an open passage, we could not
clear it. By a most fortunate chance a passage was found on the
above-mentioned date, and attempted, amid a thousand risks. Yes, we
required all the zeal, skill, and courage of our men and their
chiefs to accomplish such a task.
At last we were in the South Pacific waters, but our boat had
suffered severely in getting through, and it had sprung more than
one leak. We were kept busy in baling out the water, which also came
in from above.
The breeze was gentle, the sea more calm than we could have hoped,
and the real danger did not lie in the risks of navigation. No, it
arose from the fact that not a ship was visible in these waters, not
a whaler was to be seen on the fishing-grounds. At the beginning of
April these places are forsaken, and we arrived some weeks too late.
We learned afterwards that had we arrived a little sooner, we should
have met the vessels of the American expedition.
In fact, on the 1st of February, by 95° 50’ longitude and 64°
17’ latitude, Lieutenant Wilkes was still exploring these seas in
one of his ships, the Vincennes, after having discovered a long
extent of coast stretching from east to west. On the approach of the
bad season, he returned to Hobart Town, in Tasmania. The same year,
the expedition of the French captain Dumont d’Urville, which
started in 1838, discovered Adélie Land in 66° 30’ latitude and
38° 21’ east longitude, and Clarie Coast in 64° 30’ and 129°
54’. Their campaign having ended with these important discoveries,
the Astrolabe and the Zélée left the Antarctic Ocean and returned
to Hobart Town.
None of these ships, then, were in those waters; so that, when our
nutshell Paracuta was “alone on a lone, lone sea” beyond the
ice-barrier, we were bound to believe that it was no longer possible
we could be saved.
We were fifteen hundred miles away from the nearest land, and winter
was a month old!
Hurliguerly himself was obliged to acknowledge the last fortunate
chance upon which he had counted failed us.
On the 6th of April we were at the end of our resources; the sea
began to threaten, the boat seemed likely to be swallowed up in the
“A ship!” cried the boatswain, and on the instant we made out a
vessel about four miles to the north-east, beneath the mist which
had suddenly risen.
Signals were made, signals were perceived; the ship lowered her
largest boat and sent it to our rescue.
This ship was the Tasman, an American three-master, from
Charlestown, where we were received with eager welcome and
cordiality. The captain treated my companions as though they had
been his own countrymen.
The Tasman had come from the Falkland Islands where the captain had
learned that seven months previously the American schooner Halbrane
had gone to the southern seas in search of the shipwrecked people of
the Jane. But as the season advanced, the schooner not having
reappeared, she was given up for lost in the Antarctic regions.
Fifteen days after our rescue the Tasman disembarked the survivors
of the crew of the two schooners at Melbourne, and it was there that
our men were paid the sums they had so hardly earned, and so well
We then learned from maps that the Paracuta had debouched into the
Pacific from the land called Clarie by Dumont d’Urville, and the
land called Fabricia, which was discovered in 1838 by Bellenny.
Thus terminated this adventurous and extraordinary expedition, which
cost, alas, too many victims. Our final word is that although the
chances and the necessities of our voyage carried us farther towards
the south pole than hose who preceded us, although we actually did
pass beyond the axial point of the terrestrial globe, discoveries of
great value still remain to be made in those waters!
Arthur Pym, the hero whom Edgar Poe has made so famous, has shown
the way. It is for others to follow him, and to wrest the last
Antarctic Mystery from the Sphinx of the Ice-realm.
End of the Voyage Extraordinaire