Jules Verne: The Collection


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Here you will find the largest collection of Verne’s "Extraordinary Voyages" available in English (47 novels).
The novels are in the chronological order of their original publication.
- Five Weeks in a Balloon
- The Adventures of Captain Hatteras
- Journey to the Center of the Earth
- From the Earth to the Moon
- In Search of the Castaways
- Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea
- Around The Moon
- A Floating City
- The Adventures of Three Englishmen and Three Russians in South Africa
- The Fur Country
- Around the World in Eighty Days
- The Mysterious Island
- The Survivors of the Chancellor
- Michael Strogoff
- Hector Servadac
- The Underground City
- Dick Sand, A Captain at Fifteen
- The Five Hundred Millions of the Begum
- Tribulations of a Chinaman in China
- The Steam House
- Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
- Godfrey Morgan
- The Green Ray
- Kéraban the Inflexible
- The Star of the South
- The Archipelago on Fire
- Mathias Sandorf
- The Lottery Ticket
- Robur the Conqueror
- North Against South
- The Flight to France
- Two Years' Vacation
- Family Without a Name
- The Purchase of the North Pole
- Caesar Cascabel
- Mistress Branican
- The Castle of the Carpathians
- Claudius Bombarnac
- Foundling Mick
- Captain Antifer
- Floating Island
- Facing the Flag
- Clovis Dardentor
- An Antarctic Mystery
- The Will of an Eccentric
- The Master of the World
- The Chase of the Golden Meteor


Héctor Servadac
Godfrey Morgan
The Lottery Ticket
The Purchase of the North Pole
The Archipelago on Fire
The Flight to France
Foundling Mick
Kéraban the Inflexible
The Chase of the Golden Meteor
The Steam House
Master of the World
The Adventures of Three Englishmen and Three Russians in South Africa
The Fur Country
A Floating City
Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
Family Without a Name
The Survivors of the Chancellor
The Adventures of Captain Hatteras
Around the Moon
Two Years' Vacation
Texar's Revenge, or, North Against South
The Green Ray
Robur the Conqueror
Five Weeks in a Balloon
Tribulations of a Chinaman in China
The Complete Works
Michael Strogoff
Carpathian Castle
In Search of the Castaways
The Mysterious Island
From the Earth to the Moon
Around the World in Eighty Days
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Claudius Bombarnac
Mathias Sandorf
Un capitaine de quinze ans
Mistress Branican


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Date de parution 22 novembre 2017
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EAN13 9789897782893
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Jules Verne

Five Weeks in a Balloon
Original title : Cinq Semaines en Ballon (1863)
Series : Voyages Extraordinaires #1
Translation : William Lackland

Chapter 1

There was a large audience assembled on the 14th of January, 1862, at the session of
the Royal Geographical Society, No. 3 Waterloo Place, London. The president, Sir Francis M
—— made an important communication to his colleagues, in an address that was frequently
interrupted by applause.
This rare specimen of eloquence terminated with the following sonorous phrases
bubbling over with patriotism:
“England has always marched at the head of nations” (for, the reader will observe, the
nations always march at the head of each other), “by the intrepidity of her explorers in the line
of geographical discovery.” (General assent). “Dr. Samuel Ferguson, one of her most glorious
sons, will not reflect discredit on his origin.” (“No, indeed!” from all parts of the hall.)
“This attempt, should it succeed” (“It will succeed!”), “will complete and link together the
notions, as yet disjointed, which the world entertains of African cartology” (vehement
applause); “and, should it fail, it will, at least, remain on record as one of the most daring
conceptions of human genius!” (Tremendous cheering.)
“Huzza! huzza!” shouted the immense audience, completely electrified by these inspiring
“Huzza for the intrepid Ferguson!” cried one of the most excitable of the enthusiastic
The wildest cheering resounded on all sides; the name of Ferguson was in every mouth,
and we may safely believe that it lost nothing in passing through English throats. Indeed, the
hall fairly shook with it.
And there were present, also, those fearless travellers and explorers whose energetic
temperaments had borne them through every quarter of the globe, many of them grown old
and worn out in the service of science. All had, in some degree, physically or morally,
undergone the sorest trials. They had escaped shipwreck; conflagration; Indian tomahawks
and war-clubs; the fagot and the stake; nay, even the cannibal maws of the South Sea
Islanders. But still their hearts beat high during Sir Francis M —— ‘s address, which certainly
was the finest oratorical success that the Royal Geographical Society of London had yet
But, in England, enthusiasm does not stop short with mere words. It strikes off money
faster than the dies of the Royal Mint itself. So a subscription to encourage Dr. Ferguson was
voted there and then, and it at once attained the handsome amount of two thousand five
hundred pounds. The sum was made commensurate with the importance of the enterprise.
A member of the Society then inquired of the president whether Dr. Ferguson was not to
be officially introduced.
“The doctor is at the disposition of the meeting,” replied Sir Francis.
“Let him come in, then! Bring him in!” shouted the audience. “We’d like to see a man of
such extraordinary daring, face to face!”
“Perhaps this incredible proposition of his is only intended to mystify us,” growled an
apoplectic old admiral.
“Suppose that there should turn out to be no such person as Dr. Ferguson?” exclaimed
another voice, with a malicious twang.
“Why, then, we’d have to invent one!” replied a facetious member of this grave Society.
“Ask Dr. Ferguson to come in,” was the quiet remark of Sir Francis M ——.
And come in the doctor did, and stood there, quite unmoved by the thunders of applause
that greeted his appearance.He was a man of about forty years of age, of medium height and physique. His sanguine
temperament was disclosed in the deep color of his cheeks. His countenance was coldly
expressive, with regular features, and a large nose — one of those noses that resemble the
prow of a ship, and stamp the faces of men predestined to accomplish great discoveries. His
eyes, which were gentle and intelligent, rather than bold, lent a peculiar charm to his
physiognomy. His arms were long, and his feet were planted with that solidity which indicates
a great pedestrian.
A calm gravity seemed to surround the doctor’s entire person, and no one would dream
that he could become the agent of any mystification, however harmless.
Hence, the applause that greeted him at the outset continued until he, with a friendly
gesture, claimed silence on his own behalf. He stepped toward the seat that had been
prepared for him on his presentation, and then, standing erect and motionless, he, with a
determined glance, pointed his right forefinger upward, and pronounced aloud the single word

Never had one of Bright’s or Cobden’s sudden onslaughts, never had one of
Palmerston’s abrupt demands for funds to plate the rocks of the English coast with iron, made
such a sensation. Sir Francis M —— ‘s address was completely overshadowed. The doctor
had shown himself moderate, sublime, and self-contained, in one; he had uttered the word of
the situation —
The gouty old admiral who had been finding fault, was completely won over by the
singular man before him, and immediately moved the insertion of Dr. Ferguson’s speech in
“The Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society of London.”
Who, then, was this person, and what was the enterprise that he proposed?
Ferguson’s father, a brave and worthy captain in the English Navy, had associated his
son with him, from the young man’s earliest years, in the perils and adventures of his
profession. The fine little fellow, who seemed to have never known the meaning of fear, early
revealed a keen and active mind, an investigating intelligence, and a remarkable turn for
scientific study; moreover, he disclosed uncommon address in extricating himself from
difficulty; he was never perplexed, not even in handling his fork for the first time — an
exercise in which children generally have so little success.
His fancy kindled early at the recitals he read of daring enterprise and maritime
adventure, and he followed with enthusiasm the discoveries that signalized the first part of the
nineteenth century. He mused over the glory of the Mungo Parks, the Bruces, the Caillies, the
Levaillants, and to some extent, I verily believe, of Selkirk (Robinson Crusoe), whom he
considered in no wise inferior to the rest. How many a well-employed hour he passed with that
hero on his isle of Juan Fernandez! Often he criticised the ideas of the shipwrecked sailor,
and sometimes discussed his plans and projects. He would have done differently, in such and
such a case, or quite as well at least — of that he felt assured. But of one thing he was
satisfied, that he never should have left that pleasant island, where he was as happy as a king
without subjects — no, not if the inducement held out had been promotion to the first lordship
in the admiralty!
It may readily be conjectured whether these tendencies were developed during a youth
of adventure, spent in every nook and corner of the Globe. Moreover, his father, who was a
man of thorough instruction, omitted no opportunity to consolidate this keen intelligence by
serious studies in hydrography, physics, and mechanics, along with a slight tincture of botany,
medicine, and astronomy.
Upon the death of the estimable captain, Samuel Ferguson, then twenty-two years of
age, had already made his voyage around the world. He had enlisted in the Bengalese Corps
of Engineers, and distinguished himself in several affairs; but this soldier’s life had not exactlysuited him; caring but little for command, he had not been fond of obeying. He, therefore, sent
in his resignation, and half botanizing, half playing the hunter, he made his way toward the
north of the Indian Peninsula, and crossed it from Calcutta to Surat — a mere amateur trip for
From Surat we see him going over to Australia, and in 1845 participating in Captain
Sturt’s expedition, which had been sent out to explore the new Caspian Sea, supposed to
exist in the centre of New Holland.
Samuel Ferguson returned to England about 1850, and, more than ever possessed by
the demon of discovery, he spent the intervening time, until 1853, in accompanying Captain
McClure on the expedition that went around the American Continent from Behring’s Straits to
Cape Farewell.
Notwithstanding fatigues of every description, and in all climates, Ferguson’s constitution
continued marvellously sound. He felt at ease in the midst of the most complete privations; in
fine, he was the very type of the thoroughly accomplished explorer whose stomach expands
or contracts at will; whose limbs grow longer or shorter according to the resting-place that
each stage of a journey may bring; who can fall asleep at any hour of the day or awake at any
hour of the night.
Nothing, then, was less surprising, after that, than to find our traveller, in the period from
1855 to 1857, visiting the whole region west of the Thibet, in company with the brothers
Schlagintweit, and bringing back some curious ethnographic observations from that
During these different journeys, Ferguson had been the most active and interesting
correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, the penny newspaper whose circulation amounts to
140,000 copies, and yet scarcely suffices for its many legions of readers. Thus, the doctor
had become well known to the public, although he could not claim membership in either of the
Royal Geographical Societies of London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, or St. Petersburg, or yet with
the Travellers’ Club, or even the Royal Polytechnic Institute, where his friend the statistician
Cockburn ruled in state.
The latter savant had, one day, gone so far as to propose to him the following problem:
Given the number of miles travelled by the doctor in making the circuit of the Globe, how
many more had his head described than his feet, by reason of the different lengths of the
radii? — or, the number of miles traversed by the doctor’s head and feet respectively being
given, required the exact height of that gentleman?
This was done with the idea of complimenting him, but the doctor had held himself aloof
from all the learned bodies — belonging, as he did, to the church militant and not to the
church polemical. He found his time better employed in seeking than in discussing, in
discovering rather than discoursing.
There is a story told of an Englishman who came one day to Geneva, intending to visit
the lake. He was placed in one of those odd vehicles in which the passengers sit side by side,
as they do in an omnibus. Well, it so happened that the Englishman got a seat that left him
with his back turned toward the lake. The vehicle completed its circular trip without his thinking
to turn around once, and he went back to London delighted with the Lake of Geneva.
Doctor Ferguson, however, had turned around to look about him on his journeyings, and
turned to such good purpose that he had seen a great deal. In doing so, he had simply
obeyed the laws of his nature, and we have good reason to believe that he was, to some
extent, a fatalist, but of an orthodox school of fatalism withal, that led him to rely upon himself
and even upon Providence. He claimed that he was impelled, rather than drawn by his own
volition, to journey as he did, and that he traversed the world like the locomotive, which does
not direct itself, but is guided and directed by the track it runs on.
“I do not follow my route;” he often said, “it is my route that follows me.”
The reader will not be surprised, then, at the calmness with which the doctor received theapplause that welcomed him in the Royal Society. He was above all such trifles, having no
pride, and less vanity. He looked upon the proposition addressed to him by Sir Francis M ——
as the simplest thing in the world, and scarcely noticed the immense effect that it produced.
When the session closed, the doctor was escorted to the rooms of the Travellers’ Club,
in Pall Mall. A superb entertainment had been prepared there in his honor. The dimensions of
the dishes served were made to correspond with the importance of the personage
entertained, and the boiled sturgeon that figured at this magnificent repast was not an inch
shorter than Dr. Ferguson himself.
Numerous toasts were offered and quaffed, in the wines of France, to the celebrated
travellers who had made their names illustrious by their explorations of African territory. The
guests drank to their health or to their memory, in alphabetical order, a good old English way
of doing the thing. Among those remembered thus, were: Abbadie, Adams, Adamson,
Anderson, Arnaud, Baikie, Baldwin, Barth, Batouda, Beke, Beltram, Du Berba, Bimbachi,
Bolognesi, Bolwik, Belzoni, Bonnemain, Brisson, Browne, Bruce, Brun-Rollet, Burchell,
Burckhardt, Burton, Cailland, Caillie, Campbell, Chapman, Clapperton, Clot-Bey, Colomieu,
Courval, Cumming, Cuny, Debono, Decken, Denham, Desavanchers, Dicksen, Dickson,
Dochard, Du Chaillu, Duncan, Durand, Duroule, Duveyrier, D’Escayrac, De Lauture, Erhardt,
Ferret, Fresnel, Galinier, Galton, Geoffroy, Golberry, Hahn, Halm, Harnier, Hecquart, Heuglin,
Hornemann, Houghton, Imbert, Kauffmann, Knoblecher, Krapf, Kummer, Lafargue, Laing,
Lafaille, Lambert, Lamiral, Lampriere, John Lander, Richard Lander, Lefebvre, Lejean,
Levaillant, Livingstone, MacCarthy, Maggiar, Maizan, Malzac, Moffat, Mollien, Monteiro,
Morrison, Mungo Park, Neimans, Overweg, Panet, Partarrieau, Pascal, Pearse, Peddie,
Penney, Petherick, Poncet, Prax, Raffenel, Rabh, Rebmann, Richardson, Riley, Ritchey,
Rochet d’Hericourt, Rongawi, Roscher, Ruppel, Saugnier, Speke, Steidner, Thibaud,
Thompson, Thornton, Toole, Tousny, Trotter, Tuckey, Tyrwhitt, Vaudey, Veyssiere, Vincent,
Vinco, Vogel, Wahlberg, Warrington, Washington, Werne, Wild, and last, but not least, Dr.
Ferguson, who, by his incredible attempt, was to link together the achievements of all these
explorers, and complete the series of African discovery.
Chapter 2

On the next day, in its number of January 15th, the Daily Telegraph published an article
couched in the following terms:

Africa is, at length, about to surrender the secret of her vast solitudes; a
modern OEdipus is to give us the key to that enigma which the learned men of sixty
centuries have not been able to decipher. In other days, to seek the sources of the
Nile — fontes Nili quoerere — was regarded as a mad endeavor, a chimera that
could not be realized.
Dr. Barth, in following out to Soudan the track traced by Denham and
Clapperton; Dr. Livingstone, in multiplying his fearless explorations from the Cape of
Good Hope to the basin of the Zambesi; Captains Burton and Speke, in the
discovery of the great interior lakes, have opened three highways to modern
civilization. Their point of intersection, which no traveller has yet been able to reach,
is the very heart of Africa, and it is thither that all efforts should now be directed.
The labors of these hardy pioneers of science are now about to be knit
together by the daring project of Dr. Samuel Ferguson, whose fine explorations our
readers have frequently had the opportunity of appreciating.
This intrepid discoverer proposes to traverse all Africa from east to west in a
balloon. If we are well informed, the point of departure for this surprising journey is
to be the island of Zanzibar, upon the eastern coast. As for the point of arrival, it is
reserved for Providence alone to designate.
The proposal for this scientific undertaking was officially made, yesterday, at
the rooms of the Royal Geographical Society, and the sum of twenty-five hundred
pounds was voted to defray the expenses of the enterprise.
We shall keep our readers informed as to the progress of this enterprise,
which has no precedent in the annals of exploration.

As may be supposed, the foregoing article had an enormous echo among scientific
people. At first, it stirred up a storm of incredulity; Dr. Ferguson passed for a purely chimerical
personage of the Barnum stamp, who, after having gone through the United States, proposed
to “do” the British Isles.
A humorous reply appeared in the February number of the Bulletins de la Societe
Geographique of Geneva, which very wittily showed up the Royal Society of London and their
phenomenal sturgeon.
But Herr Petermann, in his Mittheilungen, published at Gotha, reduced the Geneva
journal to the most absolute silence. Herr Petermann knew Dr. Ferguson personally, and
guaranteed the intrepidity of his dauntless friend.
Besides, all manner of doubt was quickly put out of the question: preparations for the trip
were set on foot at London; the factories of Lyons received a heavy order for the silk required
for the body of the balloon; and, finally, the British Government placed the transport-ship
Resolute, Captain Bennett, at the disposal of the expedition.
At once, upon word of all this, a thousand encouragements were offered, and felicitations
came pouring in from all quarters. The details of the undertaking were published in full in the
bulletins of the Geographical Society of Paris; a remarkable article appeared in the Nouvelles
Annales des Voyages, de la Geographie, de l’Histoire, et de l’Archaeologie de M. V. A.
MalteBrun (“New Annals of Travels, Geography, History, and Archaeology, by M. V. A. Malte-Brun”); and a searching essay in the Zeitschrift fur Allgemeine Erdkunde, by Dr. W. Koner,
triumphantly demonstrated the feasibility of the journey, its chances of success, the nature of
the obstacles existing, the immense advantages of the aerial mode of locomotion, and found
fault with nothing but the selected point of departure, which it contended should be
Massowah, a small port in Abyssinia, whence James Bruce, in 1768, started upon his
explorations in search of the sources of the Nile. Apart from that, it mentioned, in terms of
unreserved admiration, the energetic character of Dr. Ferguson, and the heart, thrice
panoplied in bronze, that could conceive and undertake such an enterprise.
The North American Review could not, without some displeasure, contemplate so much
glory monopolized by England. It therefore rather ridiculed the doctor’s scheme, and urged
him, by all means, to push his explorations as far as America, while he was about it.
In a word, without going over all the journals in the world, there was not a scientific
publication, from the Journal of Evangelical Missions to the Revue Algerienne et Coloniale,
from the Annales de la Propagation de la Foi to the Church Missionary Intelligencer, that had
not something to say about the affair in all its phases.
Many large bets were made at London and throughout England generally, first, as to the
real or supposititious existence of Dr. Ferguson; secondly, as to the trip itself, which, some
contended, would not be undertaken at all, and which was really contemplated, according to
others; thirdly, upon the success or failure of the enterprise; and fourthly, upon the
probabilities of Dr. Ferguson’s return. The betting-books were covered with entries of
immense sums, as though the Epsom races were at stake.
Thus, believers and unbelievers, the learned and the ignorant, alike had their eyes fixed
on the doctor, and he became the lion of the day, without knowing that he carried such a
mane. On his part, he willingly gave the most accurate information touching his project. He
was very easily approached, being naturally the most affable man in the world. More than one
bold adventurer presented himself, offering to share the dangers as well as the glory of the
undertaking; but he refused them all, without giving his reasons for rejecting them.
Numerous inventors of mechanism applicable to the guidance of balloons came to
propose their systems, but he would accept none; and, when he was asked whether he had
discovered something of his own for that purpose, he constantly refused to give any
explanation, and merely busied himself more actively than ever with the preparations for his
Chapter 3

Dr. Ferguson had a friend — not another self, indeed, an alter ego, for friendship could
not exist between two beings exactly alike.
But, if they possessed different qualities, aptitudes, and temperaments, Dick Kennedy
and Samuel Ferguson lived with one and the same heart, and that gave them no great
trouble. In fact, quite the reverse.
Dick Kennedy was a Scotchman, in the full acceptation of the word — open, resolute,
and headstrong. He lived in the town of Leith, which is near Edinburgh, and, in truth, is a mere
suburb of Auld Reekie. Sometimes he was a fisherman, but he was always and everywhere a
determined hunter, and that was nothing remarkable for a son of Caledonia, who had known
some little climbing among the Highland mountains. He was cited as a wonderful shot with the
rifle, since not only could he split a bullet on a knife-blade, but he could divide it into two such
equal parts that, upon weighing them, scarcely any difference would be perceptible.
Kennedy’s countenance strikingly recalled that of Herbert Glendinning, as Sir Walter
Scott has depicted it in “The Monastery”; his stature was above six feet; full of grace and easy
movement, he yet seemed gifted with herculean strength; a face embrowned by the sun; eyes
keen and black; a natural air of daring courage; in fine, something sound, solid, and reliable in
his entire person, spoke, at first glance, in favor of the bonny Scot.
The acquaintanceship of these two friends had been formed in India, when they
belonged to the same regiment. While Dick would be out in pursuit of the tiger and the
elephant, Samuel would be in search of plants and insects. Each could call himself expert in
his own province, and more than one rare botanical specimen, that to science was as great a
victory won as the conquest of a pair of ivory tusks, became the doctor’s booty.
These two young men, moreover, never had occasion to save each other’s lives, or to
render any reciprocal service. Hence, an unalterable friendship. Destiny sometimes bore them
apart, but sympathy always united them again.
Since their return to England they had been frequently separated by the doctor’s distant
expeditions; but, on his return, the latter never failed to go, not to ASK for hospitality, but to
bestow some weeks of his presence at the home of his crony Dick.
The Scot talked of the past; the doctor busily prepared for the future. The one looked
back, the other forward. Hence, a restless spirit personified in Ferguson; perfect calmness
typified in Kennedy — such was the contrast.
After his journey to the Thibet, the doctor had remained nearly two years without hinting
at new explorations; and Dick, supposing that his friend’s instinct for travel and thirst for
adventure had at length died out, was perfectly enchanted. They would have ended badly,
some day or other, he thought to himself; no matter what experience one has with men, one
does not travel always with impunity among cannibals and wild beasts. So, Kennedy besought
the doctor to tie up his bark for life, having done enough for science, and too much for the
gratitude of men.
The doctor contented himself with making no reply to this. He remained absorbed in his
own reflections, giving himself up to secret calculations, passing his nights among heaps of
figures, and making experiments with the strangest-looking machinery, inexplicable to
everybody but himself. It could readily be guessed, though, that some great thought was
fermenting in his brain.
“What can he have been planning?” wondered Kennedy, when, in the month of January,
his friend quitted him to return to London.
He found out one morning when he looked into the Daily Telegraph.“Merciful Heaven!” he exclaimed, “the lunatic! the madman! Cross Africa in a balloon!
Nothing but that was wanted to cap the climax! That’s what he’s been bothering his wits about
these two years past!”
Now, reader, substitute for all these exclamation points, as many ringing thumps with a
brawny fist upon the table, and you have some idea of the manual exercise that Dick went
through while he thus spoke.
When his confidential maid-of-all-work, the aged Elspeth, tried to insinuate that the whole
thing might be a hoax —
“Not a bit of it!” said he. “Don’t I know my man? Isn’t it just like him? Travel through the
air! There, now, he’s jealous of the eagles, next! No! I warrant you, he’ll not do it! I’ll find a way
to stop him! He! why if they’d let him alone, he’d start some day for the moon!”
On that very evening Kennedy, half alarmed, and half exasperated, took the train for
London, where he arrived next morning.
Three-quarters of an hour later a cab deposited him at the door of the doctor’s modest
dwelling, in Soho Square, Greek Street. Forthwith he bounded up the steps and announced
his arrival with five good, hearty, sounding raps at the door.
Ferguson opened, in person.
“Dick! you here?” he exclaimed, but with no great expression of surprise, after all.
“Dick himself!” was the response.
“What, my dear boy, you at London, and this the mid-season of the winter shooting?”
“Yes! here I am, at London!”
“And what have you come to town for?”
“To prevent the greatest piece of folly that ever was conceived.”
“Folly!” said the doctor.
“Is what this paper says, the truth?” rejoined Kennedy, holding out the copy of the Daily
Telegraph, mentioned above.
“Ah! that’s what you mean, is it? These newspapers are great tattlers! But, sit down, my
dear Dick.”
“No, I won’t sit down! — Then, you really intend to attempt this journey?”
“Most certainly! all my preparations are getting along finely, and I —”
“Where are your traps? Let me have a chance at them! I’ll make them fly! I’ll put your
preparations in fine order.” And so saying, the gallant Scot gave way to a genuine explosion of
“Come, be calm, my dear Dick!” resumed the doctor. “You’re angry at me because I did
not acquaint you with my new project.”
“He calls this his new project!”
“I have been very busy,” the doctor went on, without heeding the interruption; “I have
had so much to look after! But rest assured that I should not have started without writing to
“Oh, indeed! I’m highly honored.”
“Because it is my intention to take you with me.”
Upon this, the Scotchman gave a leap that a wild goat would not have been ashamed of
among his native crags.
“Ah! really, then, you want them to send us both to Bedlam!”
“I have counted positively upon you, my dear Dick, and I have picked you out from all the
Kennedy stood speechless with amazement.
“After listening to me for ten minutes,” said the doctor, “you will thank me!”
“Are you speaking seriously?”
“Very seriously.”
“And suppose that I refuse to go with you?”“But you won’t refuse.”
“But, suppose that I were to refuse?”
“Well, I’d go alone.”
“Let us sit down,” said Kennedy, “and talk without excitement. The moment you give up
jesting about it, we can discuss the thing.”
“Let us discuss it, then, at breakfast, if you have no objections, my dear Dick.”
The two friends took their seats opposite to each other, at a little table with a plate of
toast and a huge tea-urn before them.
“My dear Samuel,” said the sportsman, “your project is insane! it is impossible! it has no
resemblance to anything reasonable or practicable!”
“That’s for us to find out when we shall have tried it!”
“But trying it is exactly what you ought not to attempt.”
“Why so, if you please?”
“Well, the risks, the difficulty of the thing.”
“As for difficulties,” replied Ferguson, in a serious tone, “they were made to be
overcome; as for risks and dangers, who can flatter himself that he is to escape them? Every
thing in life involves danger; it may even be dangerous to sit down at one’s own table, or to
put one’s hat on one’s own head. Moreover, we must look upon what is to occur as having
already occurred, and see nothing but the present in the future, for the future is but the
present a little farther on.”
“There it is!” exclaimed Kennedy, with a shrug. “As great a fatalist as ever!”
“Yes! but in the good sense of the word. Let us not trouble ourselves, then, about what
fate has in store for us, and let us not forget our good old English proverb: ‘The man who was
born to be hung will never be drowned!’”
There was no reply to make, but that did not prevent Kennedy from resuming a series of
arguments which may be readily conjectured, but which were too long for us to repeat.
“Well, then,” he said, after an hour’s discussion, “if you are absolutely determined to
make this trip across the African continent — if it is necessary for your happiness, why not
pursue the ordinary routes?”
“Why?” ejaculated the doctor, growing animated. “Because, all attempts to do so, up to
this time, have utterly failed. Because, from Mungo Park, assassinated on the Niger, to Vogel,
who disappeared in the Wadai country; from Oudney, who died at Murmur, and Clapperton,
lost at Sackatou, to the Frenchman Maizan, who was cut to pieces; from Major Laing, killed by
the Touaregs, to Roscher, from Hamburg, massacred in the beginning of 1860, the names of
victim after victim have been inscribed on the lists of African martyrdom! Because, to contend
successfully against the elements; against hunger, and thirst, and fever; against savage
beasts, and still more savage men, is impossible! Because, what cannot be done in one way,
should be tried in another. In fine, because what one cannot pass through directly in the
middle, must be passed by going to one side or overhead!”
“If passing over it were the only question!” interposed Kennedy; “but passing high up in
the air, doctor, there’s the rub!”
“Come, then,” said the doctor, “what have I to fear? You will admit that I have taken my
precautions in such manner as to be certain that my balloon will not fall; but, should it
disappoint me, I should find myself on the ground in the normal conditions imposed upon
other explorers. But, my balloon will not deceive me, and we need make no such calculations.”
“Yes, but you must take them into view.”
“No, Dick. I intend not to be separated from the balloon until I reach the western coast of
Africa. With it, every thing is possible; without it, I fall back into the dangers and difficulties as
well as the natural obstacles that ordinarily attend such an expedition: with it, neither heat, nor
torrents, nor tempests, nor the simoom, nor unhealthy climates, nor wild animals, nor savage
men, are to be feared! If I feel too hot, I can ascend; if too cold, I can come down. Shouldthere be a mountain, I can pass over it; a precipice, I can sweep across it; a river, I can sail
beyond it; a storm, I can rise away above it; a torrent, I can skim it like a bird! I can advance
without fatigue, I can halt without need of repose! I can soar above the nascent cities! I can
speed onward with the rapidity of a tornado, sometimes at the loftiest heights, sometimes only
a hundred feet above the soil, while the map of Africa unrolls itself beneath my gaze in the
great atlas of the world.”
Even the stubborn Kennedy began to feel moved, and yet the spectacle thus conjured up
before him gave him the vertigo. He riveted his eyes upon the doctor with wonder and
admiration, and yet with fear, for he already felt himself swinging aloft in space.
“Come, come,” said he, at last. “Let us see, Samuel. Then you have discovered the
means of guiding a balloon?”
“Not by any means. That is a Utopian idea.”
“Then, you will go —”
“Whithersoever Providence wills; but, at all events, from east to west.”
“Why so?”
“Because I expect to avail myself of the trade-winds, the direction of which is always the
“Ah! yes, indeed!” said Kennedy, reflecting; “the trade-winds — yes — truly — one might
— there’s something in that!”
“Something in it — yes, my excellent friend — there’s every thing in it. The English
Government has placed a transport at my disposal, and three or four vessels are to cruise off
the western coast of Africa, about the presumed period of my arrival. In three months, at
most, I shall be at Zanzibar, where I will inflate my balloon, and from that point we shall launch
“We!” said Dick.
“Have you still a shadow of an objection to offer? Speak, friend Kennedy.”
“An objection! I have a thousand; but among other things, tell me, if you expect to see
the country. If you expect to mount and descend at pleasure, you cannot do so, without losing
your gas. Up to this time no other means have been devised, and it is this that has always
prevented long journeys in the air.”
“My dear Dick, I have only one word to answer — I shall not lose one particle of gas.”
“And yet you can descend when you please?”
“I shall descend when I please.”
“And how will you do that?”
“Ah, ha! therein lies my secret, friend Dick. Have faith, and let my device be yours —
“‘Excelsior’ be it then,” said the sportsman, who did not understand a word of Latin.
But he made up his mind to oppose his friend’s departure by all means in his power, and
so pretended to give in, at the same time keeping on the watch. As for the doctor, he went on
diligently with his preparations.
Chapter 4

The aerial line which Dr. Ferguson counted upon following had not been chosen at
random; his point of departure had been carefully studied, and it was not without good cause
that he had resolved to ascend at the island of Zanzibar. This island, lying near to the eastern
coast of Africa, is in the sixth degree of south latitude, that is to say, four hundred and thirty
geographical miles below the equator.
From this island the latest expedition, sent by way of the great lakes to explore the
sources of the Nile, had just set out.
But it would be well to indicate what explorations Dr. Ferguson hoped to link together.
The two principal ones were those of Dr. Barth in 1849, and of Lieutenants Burton and Speke
in 1858.
Dr. Barth is a Hamburger, who obtained permission for himself and for his countryman
Overweg to join the expedition of the Englishman Richardson. The latter was charged with a
mission in the Soudan.
This vast region is situated between the fifteenth and tenth degrees of north latitude; that
is to say, that, in order to approach it, the explorer must penetrate fifteen hundred miles into
the interior of Africa.
Until then, the country in question had been known only through the journeys of Denham,
of Clapperton, and of Oudney, made from 1822 to 1824. Richardson, Barth, and Overweg,
jealously anxious to push their investigations farther, arrived at Tunis and Tripoli, like their
predecessors, and got as far as Mourzouk, the capital of Fezzan.
They then abandoned the perpendicular line, and made a sharp turn westward toward
Ghat, guided, with difficulty, by the Touaregs. After a thousand scenes of pillage, of vexation,
and attacks by armed forces, their caravan arrived, in October, at the vast oasis of Asben. Dr.
Barth separated from his companions, made an excursion to the town of Aghades, and
rejoined the expedition, which resumed its march on the 12th of December. At length it
reached the province of Damerghou; there the three travellers parted, and Barth took the road
to Kano, where he arrived by dint of perseverance, and after paying considerable tribute.
In spite of an intense fever, he quitted that place on the 7th of March, accompanied by a
single servant. The principal aim of his journey was to reconnoitre Lake Tchad, from which he
was still three hundred and fifty miles distant. He therefore advanced toward the east, and
reached the town of Zouricolo, in the Bornou country, which is the core of the great central
empire of Africa. There he heard of the death of Richardson, who had succumbed to fatigue
and privation. He next arrived at Kouka, the capital of Bornou, on the borders of the lake.
Finally, at the end of three weeks, on the 14th of April, twelve months after having quitted
Tripoli, he reached the town of Ngornou.
We find him again setting forth on the 29th of March, 1851, with Overweg, to visit the
kingdom of Adamaoua, to the south of the lake, and from there he pushed on as far as the
town of Yola, a little below nine degrees north latitude. This was the extreme southern limit
reached by that daring traveller.
He returned in the month of August to Kouka; from there he successively traversed the
Mandara, Barghimi, and Klanem countries, and reached his extreme limit in the east, the town
of Masena, situated at seventeen degrees twenty minutes west longitude.
On the 25th of November, 1852, after the death of Overweg, his last companion, he
plunged into the west, visited Sockoto, crossed the Niger, and finally reached Timbuctoo,
where he had to languish, during eight long months, under vexations inflicted upon him by the
sheik, and all kinds of ill-treatment and wretchedness. But the presence of a Christian in thecity could not long be tolerated, and the Foullans threatened to besiege it. The doctor,
therefore, left it on the 17th of March, 1854, and fled to the frontier, where he remained for
thirty-three days in the most abject destitution. He then managed to get back to Kano in
November, thence to Kouka, where he resumed Denham’s route after four months’ delay. He
regained Tripoli toward the close of August, 1855, and arrived in London on the 6th of
September, the only survivor of his party.
Such was the venturesome journey of Dr. Barth.
Dr. Ferguson carefully noted the fact, that he had stopped at four degrees north latitude
and seventeen degrees west longitude.
Now let us see what Lieutenants Burton and Speke accomplished in Eastern Africa.
The various expeditions that had ascended the Nile could never manage to reach the
mysterious source of that river. According to the narrative of the German doctor, Ferdinand
Werne, the expedition attempted in 1840, under the auspices of Mehemet Ali, stopped at
Gondokoro, between the fourth and fifth parallels of north latitude.
In 1855, Brun-Rollet, a native of Savoy, appointed consul for Sardinia in Eastern Soudan,
to take the place of Vaudey, who had just died, set out from Karthoum, and, under the name
of Yacoub the merchant, trading in gums and ivory, got as far as Belenia, beyond the fourth
degree, but had to return in ill-health to Karthoum, where he died in 1857.
Neither Dr. Penney — the head of the Egyptian medical service, who, in a small steamer,
penetrated one degree beyond Gondokoro, and then came back to die of exhaustion at
Karthoum — nor Miani, the Venetian, who, turning the cataracts below Gondokoro, reached
the second parallel — nor the Maltese trader, Andrea Debono, who pushed his journey up the
Nile still farther — could work their way beyond the apparently impassable limit.
In 1859, M. Guillaume Lejean, intrusted with a mission by the French Government,
reached Karthoum by way of the Red Sea, and embarked upon the Nile with a retinue of
twenty-one hired men and twenty soldiers, but he could not get past Gondokoro, and ran
extreme risk of his life among the negro tribes, who were in full revolt. The expedition directed
by M. d’Escayrac de Lauture made an equally unsuccessful attempt to reach the famous
sources of the Nile.
This fatal limit invariably brought every traveller to a halt. In ancient times, the
ambassadors of Nero reached the ninth degree of latitude, but in eighteen centuries only from
five to six degrees, or from three hundred to three hundred and sixty geographical miles, were
Many travellers endeavored to reach the sources of the Nile by taking their point of
departure on the eastern coast of Africa.
Between 1768 and 1772 the Scotch traveller, Bruce, set out from Massowah, a port of
Abyssinia, traversed the Tigre, visited the ruins of Axum, saw the sources of the Nile where
they did not exist, and obtained no serious result.
In 1844, Dr. Krapf, an Anglican missionary, founded an establishment at Monbaz, on the
coast of Zanguebar, and, in company with the Rev. Dr. Rebmann, discovered two
mountainranges three hundred miles from the coast. These were the mountains of Kilimandjaro and
Kenia, which Messrs. de Heuglin and Thornton have partly scaled so recently.
In 1845, Maizan, the French explorer, disembarked, alone, at Bagamayo, directly
opposite to Zanzibar, and got as far as Deje-la-Mhora, where the chief caused him to be put
to death in the most cruel torment.
In 1859, in the month of August, the young traveller, Roscher, from Hamburg, set out
with a caravan of Arab merchants, reached Lake Nyassa, and was there assassinated while
he slept.
Finally, in 1857, Lieutenants Burton and Speke, both officers in the Bengal army, were
sent by the London Geographical Society to explore the great African lakes, and on the 17th
of June they quitted Zanzibar, and plunged directly into the west.After four months of incredible suffering, their baggage having been pillaged, and their
attendants beaten and slain, they arrived at Kazeh, a sort of central rendezvous for traders
and caravans. They were in the midst of the country of the Moon, and there they collected
some precious documents concerning the manners, government, religion, fauna, and flora of
the region. They next made for the first of the great lakes, the one named Tanganayika,
situated between the third and eighth degrees of south latitude. They reached it on the 14th of
February, 1858, and visited the various tribes residing on its banks, the most of whom are
They departed again on the 26th of May, and reentered Kazeh on the 20th of June.
There Burton, who was completely worn out, lay ill for several months, during which time
Speke made a push to the northward of more than three hundred miles, going as far as Lake
Okeracua, which he came in sight of on the 3d of August; but he could descry only the
opening of it at latitude two degrees thirty minutes.
He reached Kazeh, on his return, on the 25th of August, and, in company with Burton,
again took up the route to Zanzibar, where they arrived in the month of March in the following
year. These two daring explorers then reembarked for England; and the Geographical Society
of Paris decreed them its annual prize medal.
Dr. Ferguson carefully remarked that they had not gone beyond the second degree of
south latitude, nor the twenty-ninth of east longitude.
The problem, therefore, was how to link the explorations of Burton and Speke with those
of Dr. Barth, since to do so was to undertake to traverse an extent of more than twelve
degrees of territory.
Chapter 5

Dr. Ferguson energetically pushed the preparations for his departure, and in person
superintended the construction of his balloon, with certain modifications; in regard to which he
observed the most absolute silence. For a long time past he had been applying himself to the
study of the Arab language and the various Mandingoe idioms, and, thanks to his talents as a
polyglot, he had made rapid progress.
In the mean while his friend, the sportsman, never let him out of his sight — afraid, no
doubt, that the doctor might take his departure, without saying a word to anybody. On this
subject, he regaled him with the most persuasive arguments, which, however, did NOT
persuade Samuel Ferguson, and wasted his breath in pathetic entreaties, by which the latter
seemed to be but slightly moved. In fine, Dick felt that the doctor was slipping through his
The poor Scot was really to be pitied. He could not look upon the azure vault without a
sombre terror: when asleep, he felt oscillations that made his head reel; and every night he
had visions of being swung aloft at immeasurable heights.
We must add that, during these fearful nightmares, he once or twice fell out of bed. His
first care then was to show Ferguson a severe contusion that he had received on the cranium.
“And yet,” he would add, with warmth, “that was at the height of only three feet — not an inch
more — and such a bump as this! Only think, then!”
This insinuation, full of sad meaning as it was, did not seem to touch the doctor’s heart.
“We’ll not fall,” was his invariable reply.
“But, still, suppose that we were to fall!”
“We will not fall!”
This was decisive, and Kennedy had nothing more to say.
What particularly exasperated Dick was, that the doctor seemed completely to lose sight
of his personality — of his — Kennedy’s — and to look upon him as irrevocably destined to
become his aerial companion. Not even the shadow of a doubt was ever suggested; and
Samuel made an intolerable misuse of the first person plural:
“‘We’ are getting along; ‘we’ shall be ready on the —— ; ‘we’ shall start on the ——” etc.,
And then there was the singular possessive adjective:
“‘Our’ balloon; ‘our’ car; ‘our’ expedition.”
And the same in the plural, too:
“‘Our’ preparations; ‘our’ discoveries; ‘our’ ascensions.”
Dick shuddered at them, although he was determined not to go; but he did not want to
annoy his friend. Let us also disclose the fact that, without knowing exactly why himself, he
had sent to Edinburgh for a certain selection of heavy clothing, and his best hunting-gear and
One day, after having admitted that, with an overwhelming run of good-luck, there might
be one chance of success in a thousand, he pretended to yield entirely to the doctor’s wishes;
but, in order to still put off the journey, he opened the most varied series of subterfuges. He
threw himself back upon questioning the utility of the expedition — its opportuneness, etc.
This discovery of the sources of the Nile, was it likely to be of any use? — Would one have
really labored for the welfare of humanity? — When, after all, the African tribes should have
been civilized, would they be any happier? — Were folks certain that civilization had not its
chosen abode there rather than in Europe? — Perhaps! — And then, couldn’t one wait a little
longer? — The trip across Africa would certainly be accomplished some day, and in a lesshazardous manner. — In another month, or in six months before the year was over, some
explorer would undoubtedly come in — etc., etc.
These hints produced an effect exactly opposite to what was desired or intended, and
the doctor trembled with impatience.
“Are you willing, then, wretched Dick — are you willing, false friend — that this glory
should belong to another? Must I then be untrue to my past history; recoil before obstacles
that are not serious; requite with cowardly hesitation what both the English Government and
the Royal Society of London have done for me?”
“But,” resumed Kennedy, who made great use of that conjunction.
“But,” said the doctor, “are you not aware that my journey is to compete with the success
of the expeditions now on foot? Don’t you know that fresh explorers are advancing toward the
centre of Africa?”
“Still —”
“Listen to me, Dick,” and cast your eyes over that map.”
Dick glanced over it, with resignation.
“Now, ascend the course of the Nile.”
“I have ascended it,” replied the Scotchman, with docility.
“Stop at Gondokoro.”
“I am there.”
And Kennedy thought to himself how easy such a trip was — on the map!
“Now, take one of the points of these dividers and let it rest upon that place beyond
which the most daring explorers have scarcely gone.”
“I have done so.”
“And now look along the coast for the island of Zanzibar, in latitude six degrees south.”
“I have it.”
“Now, follow the same parallel and arrive at Kazeh.”
“I have done so.”
“Run up again along the thirty-third degree of longitude to the opening of Lake
Oukereoue, at the point where Lieutenant Speke had to halt.”
“I am there; a little more, and I should have tumbled into the lake.”
“Very good! Now, do you know what we have the right to suppose, according to the
information given by the tribes that live along its shores?”
“I haven’t the least idea.”
“Why, that this lake, the lower extremity of which is in two degrees and thirty minutes,
must extend also two degrees and a half above the equator.”
“Well from this northern extremity there flows a stream which must necessarily join the
Nile, if it be not the Nile itself.”
“That is, indeed, curious.”
“Then, let the other point of your dividers rest upon that extremity of Lake Oukereoue.”
“It is done, friend Ferguson.”
“Now, how many degrees can you count between the two points?”
“Scarcely two.”
“And do you know what that means, Dick?”
“Not the least in the world.”
“Why, that makes scarcely one hundred and twenty miles — in other words, a nothing.”
“Almost nothing, Samuel.”
“Well, do you know what is taking place at this moment?”
“No, upon my honor, I do not.”
“Very well, then, I’ll tell you. The Geographical Society regard as very important the
exploration of this lake of which Speke caught a glimpse. Under their auspices, Lieutenant(now Captain) Speke has associated with him Captain Grant, of the army in India; they have
put themselves at the head of a numerous and well-equipped expedition; their mission is to
ascend the lake and return to Gondokoro; they have received a subsidy of more than five
thousand pounds, and the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope has placed Hottentot soldiers
at their disposal; they set out from Zanzibar at the close of October, 1860. In the mean while
John Petherick, the English consul at the city of Karthoum, has received about seven hundred
pounds from the foreign office; he is to equip a steamer at Karthoum, stock it with sufficient
provisions, and make his way to Gondokoro; there, he will await Captain Speke’s caravan, and
be able to replenish its supplies to some extent.”
“Well planned,” said Kennedy.
“You can easily see, then, that time presses if we are to take part in these exploring
labors. And that is not all, since, while some are thus advancing with sure steps to the
discovery of the sources of the Nile, others are penetrating to the very heart of Africa.”
“On foot?” said Kennedy.
“Yes, on foot,” rejoined the doctor, without noticing the insinuation. “Doctor Krapf
proposes to push forward, in the west, by way of the Djob, a river lying under the equator.
Baron de Decken has already set out from Monbaz, has reconnoitred the mountains of Kenaia
and Kilimandjaro, and is now plunging in toward the centre.”
“But all this time on foot?”
“On foot or on mules.”
“Exactly the same, so far as I am concerned,” ejaculated Kennedy.
“Lastly,” resumed the doctor, “M. de Heuglin, the Austrian vice-consul at Karthoum, has
just organized a very important expedition, the first aim of which is to search for the traveller
Vogel, who, in 1853, was sent into the Soudan to associate himself with the labors of Dr.
Barth. In 1856, he quitted Bornou, and determined to explore the unknown country that lies
between Lake Tchad and Darfur. Nothing has been seen of him since that time. Letters that
were received in Alexandria, in 1860, said that he was killed at the order of the King of Wadai;
but other letters, addressed by Dr. Hartmann to the traveller’s father, relate that, according to
the recital of a felatah of Bornou, Vogel was merely held as a prisoner at Wara. All hope is not
then lost. Hence, a committee has been organized under the presidency of the Regent of
Saxe-Cogurg-Gotha; my friend Petermann is its secretary; a national subscription has
provided for the expense of the expedition, whose strength has been increased by the
voluntary accession of several learned men, and M. de Heuglin set out from Massowah, in the
month of June. While engaged in looking for Vogel, he is also to explore all the country
between the Nile and Lake Tchad, that is to say, to knit together the operations of Captain
Speke and those of Dr. Barth, and then Africa will have been traversed from east to west.”
“Well,” said the canny Scot, “since every thing is getting on so well, what’s the use of our
going down there?”
Dr. Ferguson made no reply, but contented himself with a significant shrug of the
Chapter 6

Dr. Ferguson had a servant who answered with alacrity to the name of Joe. He was an
excellent fellow, who testified the most absolute confidence in his master, and the most
unlimited devotion to his interests, even anticipating his wishes and orders, which were always
intelligently executed. In fine, he was a Caleb without the growling, and a perfect pattern of
constant good-humor. Had he been made on purpose for the place, it could not have been
better done. Ferguson put himself entirely in his hands, so far as the ordinary details of
existence were concerned, and he did well. Incomparable, whole-souled Joe! a servant who
orders your dinner; who likes what you like; who packs your trunk, without forgetting your
socks or your linen; who has charge of your keys and your secrets, and takes no advantage
of all this!
But then, what a man the doctor was in the eyes of this worthy Joe! With what respect
and what confidence the latter received all his decisions! When Ferguson had spoken, he
would be a fool who should attempt to question the matter. Every thing he thought was
exactly right; every thing he said, the perfection of wisdom; every thing he ordered to be done,
quite feasible; all that he undertook, practicable; all that he accomplished, admirable. You
might have cut Joe to pieces — not an agreeable operation, to be sure — and yet he would
not have altered his opinion of his master.
So, when the doctor conceived the project of crossing Africa through the air, for Joe the
thing was already done; obstacles no longer existed; from the moment when the doctor had
made up his mind to start, he had arrived — along with his faithful attendant, too, for the
noble fellow knew, without a word uttered about it, that he would be one of the party.
Moreover, he was just the man to render the greatest service by his intelligence and his
wonderful agility. Had the occasion arisen to name a professor of gymnastics for the monkeys
in the Zoological Garden (who are smart enough, by-the-way!), Joe would certainly have
received the appointment. Leaping, climbing, almost flying — these were all sport to him.
If Ferguson was the head and Kennedy the arm, Joe was to be the right hand of the
expedition. He had, already, accompanied his master on several journeys, and had a
smattering of science appropriate to his condition and style of mind, but he was especially
remarkable for a sort of mild philosophy, a charming turn of optimism. In his sight every thing
was easy, logical, natural, and, consequently, he could see no use in complaining or
Among other gifts, he possessed a strength and range of vision that were perfectly
surprising. He enjoyed, in common with Moestlin, Kepler’s professor, the rare faculty of
distinguishing the satellites of Jupiter with the naked eye, and of counting fourteen of the stars
in the group of Pleiades, the remotest of them being only of the ninth magnitude. He
presumed none the more for that; on the contrary, he made his bow to you, at a distance, and
when occasion arose he bravely knew how to use his eyes.
With such profound faith as Joe felt in the doctor, it is not to be wondered at that
incessant discussions sprang up between him and Kennedy, without any lack of respect to the
latter, however.
One doubted, the other believed; one had a prudent foresight, the other blind confidence.
The doctor, however, vibrated between doubt and confidence; that is to say, he troubled his
head with neither one nor the other.
“Well, Mr. Kennedy,” Joe would say.
“Well, my boy?”
“The moment’s at hand. It seems that we are to sail for the moon.”“You mean the Mountains of the Moon, which are not quite so far off. But, never mind,
one trip is just as dangerous as the other!”
“Dangerous! What! with a man like Dr. Ferguson?”
“I don’t want to spoil your illusions, my good Joe; but this undertaking of his is nothing
more nor less than the act of a madman. He won’t go, though!”
“He won’t go, eh? Then you haven’t seen his balloon at Mitchell’s factory in the
“I’ll take precious good care to keep away from it!”
“Well, you’ll lose a fine sight, sir. What a splendid thing it is! What a pretty shape! What a
nice car! How snug we’ll feel in it!”
“Then you really think of going with your master?”
“I?” answered Joe, with an accent of profound conviction. “Why, I’d go with him wherever
he pleases! Who ever heard of such a thing? Leave him to go off alone, after we’ve been all
over the world together! Who would help him, when he was tired? Who would give him a hand
in climbing over the rocks? Who would attend him when he was sick? No, Mr. Kennedy, Joe
will always stick to the doctor!”
“You’re a fine fellow, Joe!”
“But, then, you’re coming with us!”
“Oh! certainly,” said Kennedy; “that is to say, I will go with you up to the last moment, to
prevent Samuel even then from being guilty of such an act of folly! I will follow him as far as
Zanzibar, so as to stop him there, if possible.”
“You’ll stop nothing at all, Mr. Kennedy, with all respect to you, sir. My master is no
harebrained person; he takes a long time to think over what he means to do, and then, when he
once gets started, the Evil One himself couldn’t make him give it up.”
“Well, we’ll see about that.”
“Don’t flatter yourself, sir — but then, the main thing is, to have you with us. For a hunter
like you, sir, Africa’s a great country. So, either way, you won’t be sorry for the trip.”
“No, that’s a fact, I shan’t be sorry for it, if I can get this crazy man to give up his
“By-the-way,” said Joe, “you know that the weighing comes off to-day.”
“The weighing — what weighing?”
“Why, my master, and you, and I, are all to be weighed to-day!”
“What! like horse-jockeys?”
“Yes, like jockeys. Only, never fear, you won’t be expected to make yourself lean, if
you’re found to be heavy. You’ll go as you are.”
“Well, I can tell you, I am not going to let myself be weighed,” said Kennedy, firmly.
“But, sir, it seems that the doctor’s machine requires it.”
“Well, his machine will have to do without it.”
“Humph! and suppose that it couldn’t go up, then?”
“Egad! that’s all I want!”
“Come! come, Mr. Kennedy! My master will be sending for us directly.”
“I shan’t go.”
“Oh! now, you won’t vex the doctor in that way!”
“Aye! that I will.”
“Well!” said Joe with a laugh, “you say that because he’s not here; but when he says to
your face, ‘Dick!’ (with all respect to you, sir,) ‘Dick, I want to know exactly how much you
weigh,’ you’ll go, I warrant it.”
“No, I will NOT go!”
At this moment the doctor entered his study, where this discussion had been taking
place; and, as he came in, cast a glance at Kennedy, who did not feel altogether at his ease.
“Dick,” said the doctor, “come with Joe; I want to know how much you both weigh.”“But —”
“You may keep your hat on. Come!” And Kennedy went.
They repaired in company to the workshop of the Messrs. Mitchell, where one of those
so-called “Roman” scales was in readiness. It was necessary, by the way, for the doctor to
know the weight of his companions, so as to fix the equilibrium of his balloon; so he made
Dick get up on the platform of the scales. The latter, without making any resistance, said, in
an undertone:
“Oh! well, that doesn’t bind me to any thing.”
“One hundred and fifty-three pounds,” said the doctor, noting it down on his tablets.
“Am I too heavy?”
“Why, no, Mr. Kennedy!” said Joe; “and then, you know, I am light to make up for it.”
So saying, Joe, with enthusiasm, took his place on the scales, and very nearly upset
them in his ready haste. He struck the attitude of Wellington where he is made to ape Achilles,
at Hyde-Park entrance, and was superb in it, without the shield.
“One hundred and twenty pounds,” wrote the doctor.
“Ah! ha!” said Joe, with a smile of satisfaction And why did he smile? He never could tell
“It’s my turn now,” said Ferguson — and he put down one hundred and thirty-five pounds
to his own account.
“All three of us,” said he, “do not weigh much more than four hundred pounds.”
“But, sir,” said Joe, “if it was necessary for your expedition, I could make myself thinner
by twenty pounds, by not eating so much.”
“Useless, my boy!” replied the doctor. “You may eat as much as you like, and here’s
halfa-crown to buy you the ballast.”
Chapter 7

Dr. Ferguson had long been engaged upon the details of his expedition. It is easy to
comprehend that the balloon — that marvellous vehicle which was to convey him through the
air — was the constant object of his solicitude.
At the outset, in order not to give the balloon too ponderous dimensions, he had decided
to fill it with hydrogen gas, which is fourteen and a half times lighter than common air. The
production of this gas is easy, and it has given the greatest satisfaction hitherto in aerostatic
The doctor, according to very accurate calculations, found that, including the articles
indispensable to his journey and his apparatus, he should have to carry a weight of 4,000
pounds; therefore he had to find out what would be the ascensional force of a balloon capable
of raising such a weight, and, consequently, what would be its capacity.
A weight of four thousand pounds is represented by a displacement of the air amounting
to forty-four thousand eight hundred and forty-seven cubic feet; or, in other words, forty-four
thousand eight hundred and forty-seven cubic feet of air weigh about four thousand pounds.
By giving the balloon these cubic dimensions, and filling it with hydrogen gas, instead of
common air — the former being fourteen and a half times lighter and weighing therefore only
two hundred and seventy-six pounds — a difference of three thousand seven hundred and
twenty-four pounds in equilibrium is produced; and it is this difference between the weight of
the gas contained in the balloon and the weight of the surrounding atmosphere that
constitutes the ascensional force of the former.
However, were the forty-four thousand eight hundred and forty-seven cubic feet of gas of
which we speak, all introduced into the balloon, it would be entirely filled; but that would not
do, because, as the balloon continued to mount into the more rarefied layers of the
atmosphere, the gas within would dilate, and soon burst the cover containing it. Balloons,
then, are usually only two-thirds filled.
But the doctor, in carrying out a project known only to himself, resolved to fill his balloon
only one-half; and, since he had to carry forty-four thousand eight hundred and forty-seven
cubic feet of gas, to give his balloon nearly double capacity he arranged it in that elongated,
oval shape which has come to be preferred. The horizontal diameter was fifty feet, and the
vertical diameter seventy-five feet. He thus obtained a spheroid, the capacity of which
amounted, in round numbers, to ninety thousand cubic feet.
Could Dr. Ferguson have used two balloons, his chances of success would have been
increased; for, should one burst in the air, he could, by throwing out ballast, keep himself up
with the other. But the management of two balloons would, necessarily, be very difficult, in
view of the problem how to keep them both at an equal ascensional force.
After having pondered the matter carefully, Dr. Ferguson, by an ingenious arrangement,
combined the advantages of two balloons, without incurring their inconveniences. He
constructed two of different sizes, and inclosed the smaller in the larger one. His external
balloon, which had the dimensions given above, contained a less one of the same shape,
which was only forty-five feet in horizontal, and sixty-eight feet in vertical diameter. The
capacity of this interior balloon was only sixty-seven thousand cubic feet: it was to float in the
fluid surrounding it. A valve opened from one balloon into the other, and thus enabled the
aeronaut to communicate with both.
This arrangement offered the advantage, that if gas had to be let off, so as to descend,
that which was in the outer balloon would go first; and, were it completely emptied, the smaller
one would still remain intact. The outer envelope might then be cast off as a uselessencumbrance; and the second balloon, left free to itself, would not offer the same hold to the
currents of air as a half-inflated one must needs present.
Moreover, in case of an accident happening to the outside balloon, such as getting torn,
for instance, the other would remain intact.
The balloons were made of a strong but light Lyons silk, coated with gutta percha. This
gummy, resinous substance is absolutely water-proof, and also resists acids and gas
perfectly. The silk was doubled, at the upper extremity of the oval, where most of the strain
would come.
Such an envelope as this could retain the inflating fluid for any length of time. It weighed
half a pound per nine square feet. Hence the surface of the outside balloon being about
eleven thousand six hundred square feet, its envelope weighed six hundred and fifty pounds.
The envelope of the second or inner balloon, having nine thousand two hundred square feet of
surface, weighed only about five hundred and ten pounds, or say eleven hundred and sixty
pounds for both.
The network that supported the car was made of very strong hempen cord, and the two
valves were the object of the most minute and careful attention, as the rudder of a ship would
The car, which was of a circular form and fifteen feet in diameter, was made of
wickerwork, strengthened with a slight covering of iron, and protected below by a system of elastic
springs, to deaden the shock of collision. Its weight, along with that of the network, did not
exceed two hundred and fifty pounds.
In addition to the above, the doctor caused to be constructed two sheet-iron chests two
lines in thickness. These were connected by means of pipes furnished with stopcocks. He
joined to these a spiral, two inches in diameter, which terminated in two branch pieces of
unequal length, the longer of which, however, was twenty-five feet in height and the shorter
only fifteen feet.
These sheet-iron chests were embedded in the car in such a way as to take up the least
possible amount of space. The spiral, which was not to be adjusted until some future moment,
was packed up, separately, along with a very strong Buntzen electric battery. This apparatus
had been so ingeniously combined that it did not weigh more than seven hundred pounds,
even including twenty-five gallons of water in another receptacle.
The instruments provided for the journey consisted of two barometers, two
thermometers, two compasses, a sextant, two chronometers, an artificial horizon, and an
altazimuth, to throw out the height of distant and inaccessible objects.
The Greenwich Observatory had placed itself at the doctor’s disposal. The latter,
however, did not intend to make experiments in physics; he merely wanted to be able to know
in what direction he was passing, and to determine the position of the principal rivers,
mountains, and towns.
He also provided himself with three thoroughly tested iron anchors, and a light but strong
silk ladder fifty feet in length.
He at the same time carefully weighed his stores of provision, which consisted of tea,
coffee, biscuit, salted meat, and pemmican, a preparation which comprises many nutritive
elements in a small space. Besides a sufficient stock of pure brandy, he arranged two
watertanks, each of which contained twenty-two gallons.
The consumption of these articles would necessarily, little by little, diminish the weight to
be sustained, for it must be remembered that the equilibrium of a balloon floating in the
atmosphere is extremely sensitive. The loss of an almost insignificant weight suffices to
produce a very noticeable displacement.
Nor did the doctor forget an awning to shelter the car, nor the coverings and blankets
that were to be the bedding of the journey, nor some fowling pieces and rifles, with their
requisite supply of powder and ball.Here is the summing up of his various items, and their weight, as he computed it:

Ferguson » 135 pounds
Kennedy » 153 pounds
Joe » 120 pounds
Weight of the outside balloon » 650 pounds
Weight of the second balloon » 510 pounds
Car and network » 280 pounds
Anchors, instruments, awnings, and sundry utensils, guns, coverings, etc. »
190 pounds
Meat, pemmican, biscuits, tea, coffee, brandy » 386 pounds
Water » 400 pounds
Apparatus » 700 pounds
Weight of the hydrogen » 276 pounds
Ballast » 200 pounds

Total » 4,000 pounds

Such were the items of the four thousand pounds that Dr. Ferguson proposed to carry
up with him. He took only two hundred pounds of ballast for “unforeseen emergencies,” as he
remarked, since otherwise he did not expect to use any, thanks to the peculiarity of his
Chapter 8

About the 10th of February, the preparations were pretty well completed; and the
balloons, firmly secured, one within the other, were altogether finished. They had been
subjected to a powerful pneumatic pressure in all parts, and the test gave excellent evidence
of their solidity and of the care applied in their construction.
Joe hardly knew what he was about, with delight. He trotted incessantly to and fro
between his home in Greek Street, and the Mitchell establishment, always full of business, but
always in the highest spirits, giving details of the affair to people who did not even ask him, so
proud was he, above all things, of being permitted to accompany his master. I have even a
shrewd suspicion that what with showing the balloon, explaining the plans and views of the
doctor, giving folks a glimpse of the latter, through a half-opened window, or pointing him out
as he passed along the streets, the clever scamp earned a few half-crowns, but we must not
find fault with him for that. He had as much right as anybody else to speculate upon the
admiration and curiosity of his contemporaries.
On the 16th of February, the Resolute cast anchor near Greenwich. She was a screw
propeller of eight hundred tons, a fast sailer, and the very vessel that had been sent out to the
polar regions, to revictual the last expedition of Sir James Ross. Her commander, Captain
Bennet, had the name of being a very amiable person, and he took a particular interest in the
doctor’s expedition, having been one of that gentleman’s admirers for a long time. Bennet was
rather a man of science than a man of war, which did not, however, prevent his vessel from
carrying four carronades, that had never hurt any body, to be sure, but had performed the
most pacific duty in the world.
The hold of the Resolute was so arranged as to find a stowing-place for the balloon. The
latter was shipped with the greatest precaution on the 18th of February, and was then
carefully deposited at the bottom of the vessel in such a way as to prevent accident. The car
and its accessories, the anchors, the cords, the supplies, the water-tanks, which were to be
filled on arriving, all were embarked and put away under Ferguson’s own eyes.
Ten tons of sulphuric acid and ten tons of iron filings, were put on board for the future
production of the hydrogen gas. The quantity was more than enough, but it was well to be
provided against accident. The apparatus to be employed in manufacturing the gas, including
some thirty empty casks, was also stowed away in the hold.
These various preparations were terminated on the 18th of February, in the evening.
Two state-rooms, comfortably fitted up, were ready for the reception of Dr. Ferguson and his
friend Kennedy. The latter, all the while swearing that he would not go, went on board with a
regular arsenal of hunting weapons, among which were two double-barrelled breech-loading
fowling-pieces, and a rifle that had withstood every test, of the make of Purdey, Moore &
Dickson, at Edinburgh. With such a weapon a marksman would find no difficulty in lodging a
bullet in the eye of a chamois at the distance of two thousand paces. Along with these
implements, he had two of Colt’s six-shooters, for unforeseen emergencies. His powder-case,
his cartridge-pouch, his lead, and his bullets, did not exceed a certain weight prescribed by the
The three travellers got themselves to rights on board during the working-hours of
February 19th. They were received with much distinction by the captain and his officers, the
doctor continuing as reserved as ever, and thinking of nothing but his expedition. Dick seemed
a good deal moved, but was unwilling to betray it; while Joe was fairly dancing and breaking
out in laughable remarks. The worthy fellow soon became the jester and merry-andrew of the
boatswain’s mess, where a berth had been kept for him.On the 20th, a grand farewell dinner was given to Dr. Ferguson and Kennedy by the
Royal Geographical Society. Commander Bennet and his officers were present at the
entertainment, which was signalized by copious libations and numerous toasts. Healths were
drunk, in sufficient abundance to guarantee all the guests a lifetime of centuries. Sir Francis M
—— presided, with restrained but dignified feeling.
To his own supreme confusion, Dick Kennedy came in for a large share in the jovial
felicitations of the night. After having drunk to the “intrepid Ferguson, the glory of England,”
they had to drink to “the no less courageous Kennedy, his daring companion.”
Dick blushed a good deal, and that passed for modesty; whereupon the applause
redoubled, and Dick blushed again.
A message from the Queen arrived while they were at dessert. Her Majesty offered her
compliments to the two travellers, and expressed her wishes for their safe and successful
journey. This, of course, rendered imperative fresh toasts to “Her most gracious Majesty.”
At midnight, after touching farewells and warm shaking of hands, the guests separated.
The boats of the Resolute were in waiting at the stairs of Westminster Bridge. The
captain leaped in, accompanied by his officers and passengers, and the rapid current of the
Thames, aiding the strong arms of the rowers, bore them swiftly to Greenwich. In an hour’s
time all were asleep on board.
The next morning, February 21st, at three o’clock, the furnaces began to roar; at five,
the anchors were weighed, and the Resolute, powerfully driven by her screw, began to plough
the water toward the mouth of the Thames.
It is needless to say that the topic of conversation with every one on board was Dr.
Ferguson’s enterprise. Seeing and hearing the doctor soon inspired everybody with such
confidence that, in a very short time, there was no one, excepting the incredulous Scotchman,
on the steamer who had the least doubt of the perfect feasibility and success of the
During the long, unoccupied hours of the voyage, the doctor held regular sittings, with
lectures on geographical science, in the officers’ mess-room. These young men felt an intense
interest in the discoveries made during the last forty years in Africa; and the doctor related to
them the explorations of Barth, Burton, Speke, and Grant, and depicted the wonders of this
vast, mysterious country, now thrown open on all sides to the investigations of science. On
the north, the young Duveyrier was exploring Sahara, and bringing the chiefs of the Touaregs
to Paris. Under the inspiration of the French Government, two expeditions were preparing,
which, descending from the north, and coming from the west, would cross each other at
Timbuctoo. In the south, the indefatigable Livingstone was still advancing toward the equator;
and, since March, 1862, he had, in company with Mackenzie, ascended the river Rovoonia.
The nineteenth century would, assuredly, not pass, contended the doctor, without Africa
having been compelled to surrender the secrets she has kept locked up in her bosom for six
thousand years.
But the interest of Dr. Ferguson’s hearers was excited to the highest pitch when he made
known to them, in detail, the preparations for his own journey. They took pleasure in verifying
his calculations; they discussed them; and the doctor frankly took part in the discussion.
As a general thing, they were surprised at the limited quantity of provision that he took
with him; and one day one of the officers questioned him on that subject.
“That peculiar point astonishes you, does it?” said Ferguson.
“It does, indeed.”
“But how long do you think my trip is going to last? Whole months? If so, you are greatly
mistaken. Were it to be a long one, we should be lost; we should never get back. But you
must know that the distance from Zanzibar to the coast of Senegal is only thirty-five hundred
— say four thousand miles. Well, at the rate of two hundred and forty miles every twelve
hours, which does not come near the rapidity of our railroad trains, by travelling day and night,it would take only seven days to cross Africa!”
“But then you could see nothing, make no geographical observations, or reconnoitre the
face of the country.”
“Ah!” replied the doctor, “if I am master of my balloon — if I can ascend and descend at
will, I shall stop when I please, especially when too violent currents of air threaten to carry me
out of my way with them.”
“And you will encounter such,” said Captain Bennet. “There are tornadoes that sweep at
the rate of more than two hundred and forty miles per hour.”
“You see, then, that with such speed as that, we could cross Africa in twelve hours. One
would rise at Zanzibar, and go to bed at St. Louis!”
“But,” rejoined the officer, “could any balloon withstand the wear and tear of such
“It has happened before,” replied Ferguson.
“And the balloon withstood it?”
“Perfectly well. It was at the time of the coronation of Napoleon, in 1804. The aeronaut,
Gernerin, sent up a balloon at Paris, about eleven o’clock in the evening. It bore the following
inscription, in letters of gold: ‘Paris, 25 Frimaire; year XIII; Coronation of the Emperor
Napoleon by his Holiness, Pius VII.’ On the next morning, the inhabitants of Rome saw the
same balloon soaring above the Vatican, whence it crossed the Campagna, and finally
fluttered down into the lake of Bracciano. So you see, gentlemen, that a balloon can resist
such velocities.”
“A balloon — that might be; but a man?” insinuated Kennedy.
“Yes, a man, too! — for the balloon is always motionless with reference to the air that
surrounds it. What moves is the mass of the atmosphere itself: for instance, one may light a
taper in the car, and the flame will not even waver. An aeronaut in Garnerin’s balloon would
not have suffered in the least from the speed. But then I have no occasion to attempt such
velocity; and if I can anchor to some tree, or some favorable inequality of the ground, at night,
I shall not fail to do so. Besides, we take provision for two months with us, after all; and there
is nothing to prevent our skilful huntsman here from furnishing game in abundance when we
come to alight.”
“Ah! Mr. Kennedy,” said a young midshipman, with envious eyes, “what splendid shots
you’ll have!”
“Without counting,” said another, “that you’ll have the glory as well as the sport!”
“Gentlemen,” replied the hunter, stammering with confusion, “I greatly — appreciate —
your compliments — but they — don’t — belong to me.”
“You!” exclaimed every body, “don’t you intend to go?”
“I am not going!”
“You won’t accompany Dr. Ferguson?”
“Not only shall I not accompany him, but I am here so as to be present at the last
moment to prevent his going.”
Every eye was now turned to the doctor.
“Never mind him!” said the latter, calmly. “This is a matter that we can’t argue with him.
At heart he knows perfectly well that he IS going.”
“By Saint Andrew!” said Kennedy, “I swear —”
“Swear to nothing, friend Dick; you have been ganged and weighed — you and your
powder, your guns, and your bullets; so don’t let us say anything more about it.”
And, in fact, from that day until the arrival at Zanzibar, Dick never opened his mouth. He
talked neither about that nor about anything else. He kept absolutely silent.
Chapter 9

The Resolute plunged along rapidly toward the Cape of Good Hope, the weather
continuing fine, although the sea ran heavier.
On the 30th of March, twenty-seven days after the departure from London, the Table
Mountain loomed up on the horizon. Cape City lying at the foot of an amphitheatre of hills,
could be distinguished through the ship’s glasses, and soon the Resolute cast anchor in the
port. But the captain touched there only to replenish his coal bunkers, and that was but a
day’s job. On the morrow, he steered away to the south’ard, so as to double the
southernmost point of Africa, and enter the Mozambique Channel.
This was not Joe’s first sea-voyage, and so, for his part, he soon found himself at home
on board; every body liked him for his frankness and good-humor. A considerable share of his
master’s renown was reflected upon him. He was listened to as an oracle, and he made no
more mistakes than the next one.
So, while the doctor was pursuing his descriptive course of lecturing in the officers’ mess,
Joe reigned supreme on the forecastle, holding forth in his own peculiar manner, and making
history to suit himself — a style of procedure pursued, by the way, by the greatest historians
of all ages and nations.
The topic of discourse was, naturally, the aerial voyage. Joe had experienced some
trouble in getting the rebellious spirits to believe in it; but, once accepted by them, nothing
connected with it was any longer an impossibility to the imaginations of the seamen stimulated
by Joe’s harangues.
Our dazzling narrator persuaded his hearers that, after this trip, many others still more
wonderful would be undertaken. In fact, it was to be but the first of a long series of
superhuman expeditions.
“You see, my friends, when a man has had a taste of that kind of travelling, he can’t get
along afterward with any other; so, on our next expedition, instead of going off to one side,
we’ll go right ahead, going up, too, all the time.”
“Humph! then you’ll go to the moon!” said one of the crowd, with a stare of amazement.
“To the moon!” exclaimed Joe, “To the moon! pooh! that’s too common. Every body
might go to the moon, that way. Besides, there’s no water there, and you have to carry such a
lot of it along with you. Then you have to take air along in bottles, so as to breathe.”
“Ay! ay! that’s all right! But can a man get a drop of the real stuff there?” said a sailor
who liked his toddy.
“Not a drop!” was Joe’s answer. “No! old fellow, not in the moon. But we’re going to skip
round among those little twinklers up there — the stars — and the splendid planets that my
old man so often talks about. For instance, we’ll commence with Saturn —”
“That one with the ring?” asked the boatswain.
“Yes! the wedding-ring — only no one knows what’s become of his wife!”
“What? will you go so high up as that?” said one of the ship-boys, gaping with wonder.
“Why, your master must be Old Nick himself.”
“Oh! no, he’s too good for that.”
“But, after Saturn — what then?” was the next inquiry of his impatient audience.
“After Saturn? Well, we’ll visit Jupiter. A funny place that is, too, where the days are only
nine hours and a half long — a good thing for the lazy fellows — and the years, would you
believe it — last twelve of ours, which is fine for folks who have only six months to live. They
get off a little longer by that.”
“Twelve years!” ejaculated the boy.“Yes, my youngster; so that in that country you’d be toddling after your mammy yet, and
that old chap yonder, who looks about fifty, would only be a little shaver of four and a half.”
“Blazes! that’s a good ‘un!” shouted the whole forecastle together.
“Solemn truth!” said Joe, stoutly.
“But what can you expect? When people will stay in this world, they learn nothing and
keep as ignorant as bears. But just come along to Jupiter and you’ll see. But they have to look
out up there, for he’s got satellites that are not just the easiest things to pass.”
All the men laughed, but they more than half believed him. Then he went on to talk about
Neptune, where seafaring men get a jovial reception, and Mars, where the military get the
best of the sidewalk to such an extent that folks can hardly stand it. Finally, he drew them a
heavenly picture of the delights of Venus.
“And when we get back from that expedition,” said the indefatigable narrator, “they’ll
decorate us with the Southern Cross that shines up there in the Creator’s button-hole.”
“Ay, and you’d have well earned it!” said the sailors.
Thus passed the long evenings on the forecastle in merry chat, and during the same
time the doctor went on with his instructive discourses.
One day the conversation turned upon the means of directing balloons, and the doctor
was asked his opinion about it.
“I don’t think,” said he, “that we shall succeed in finding out a system of directing them. I
am familiar with all the plans attempted and proposed, and not one has succeeded, not one is
practicable. You may readily understand that I have occupied my mind with this subject, which
was, necessarily, so interesting to me, but I have not been able to solve the problem with the
appliances now known to mechanical science. We would have to discover a motive power of
extraordinary force, and almost impossible lightness of machinery. And, even then, we could
not resist atmospheric currents of any considerable strength. Until now, the effort has been
rather to direct the car than the balloon, and that has been one great error.”
“Still there are many points of resemblance between a balloon and a ship which is
directed at will.”
“Not at all,” retorted the doctor, “there is little or no similarity between the two cases. Air
is infinitely less dense than water, in which the ship is only half submerged, while the whole
bulk of a balloon is plunged in the atmosphere, and remains motionless with reference to the
element that surrounds it.”
“You think, then, that aerostatic science has said its last word?”
“Not at all! not at all! But we must look for another point in the case, and if we cannot
manage to guide our balloon, we must, at least, try to keep it in favorable aerial currents. In
proportion as we ascend, the latter become much more uniform and flow more constantly in
one direction. They are no longer disturbed by the mountains and valleys that traverse the
surface of the globe, and these, you know, are the chief cause of the variations of the wind
and the inequality of their force. Therefore, these zones having been once determined, the
balloon will merely have to be placed in the currents best adapted to its destination.”
“But then,” continued Captain Bennet, “in order to reach them, you must keep constantly
ascending or descending. That is the real difficulty, doctor.”
“And why, my dear captain?”
“Let us understand one another. It would be a difficulty and an obstacle only for long
journeys, and not for short aerial excursions.”
“And why so, if you please?”
“Because you can ascend only by throwing out ballast; you can descend only after letting
off gas, and by these processes your ballast and your gas are soon exhausted.”
“My dear sir, that’s the whole question. There is the only difficulty that science need now
seek to overcome. The problem is not how to guide the balloon, but how to take it up and
down without expending the gas which is its strength, its life-blood, its soul, if I may use theexpression.”
“You are right, my dear doctor; but this problem is not yet solved; this means has not yet
been discovered.”
“I beg your pardon, it has been discovered.”
“By whom?”
“By me!”
“By you?”
“You may readily believe that otherwise I should not have risked this expedition across
Africa in a balloon. In twenty-four hours I should have been without gas!”
“But you said nothing about that in England?”
“No! I did not want to have myself overhauled in public. I saw no use in that. I made my
preparatory experiments in secret and was satisfied. I have no occasion, then, to learn any
thing more from them.”
“Well! doctor, would it be proper to ask what is your secret?”
“Here it is, gentlemen — the simplest thing in the world!”
The attention of his auditory was now directed to the doctor in the utmost degree as he
quietly proceeded with his explanation.
Chapter 10

“The attempt has often been made, gentlemen,” said the doctor, “to rise and descend at
will, without losing ballast or gas from the balloon. A French aeronaut, M. Meunier, tried to
accomplish this by compressing air in an inner receptacle. A Belgian, Dr. Van Hecke, by
means of wings and paddles, obtained a vertical power that would have sufficed in most
cases, but the practical results secured from these experiments have been insignificant.
“I therefore resolved to go about the thing more directly; so, at the start, I dispensed with
ballast altogether, excepting as a provision for cases of special emergency, such as the
breakage of my apparatus, or the necessity of ascending very suddenly, so as to avoid
unforeseen obstacles.
“My means of ascent and descent consist simply in dilating or contracting the gas that is
in the balloon by the application of different temperatures, and here is the method of obtaining
that result.
“You saw me bring on board with the car several cases or receptacles, the use of which
you may not have understood. They are five in number.
“The first contains about twenty-five gallons of water, to which I add a few drops of
sulphuric acid, so as to augment its capacity as a conductor of electricity, and then I
decompose it by means of a powerful Buntzen battery. Water, as you know, consists of two
parts of hydrogen to one of oxygen gas.
“The latter, through the action of the battery, passes at its positive pole into the second
receptacle. A third receptacle, placed above the second one, and of double its capacity,
receives the hydrogen passing into it by the negative pole.
“Stopcocks, of which one has an orifice twice the size of the other, communicate
between these receptacles and a fourth one, which is called the mixture reservoir, since in it
the two gases obtained by the decomposition of the water do really commingle. The capacity
of this fourth tank is about forty-one cubic feet.
“On the upper part of this tank is a platinum tube provided with a stopcock.
“You will now readily understand, gentlemen, the apparatus that I have described to you
is really a gas cylinder and blow-pipe for oxygen and hydrogen, the heat of which exceeds that
of a forge fire.
“This much established, I proceed to the second part of my apparatus. From the lowest
part of my balloon, which is hermetically closed, issue two tubes a little distance apart. The
one starts among the upper layers of the hydrogen gas, the other amid the lower layers.
“These two pipes are provided at intervals with strong jointings of india-rubber, which
enable them to move in harmony with the oscillations of the balloon.
“Both of them run down as far as the car, and lose themselves in an iron receptacle of
cylindrical form, which is called the heat-tank. The latter is closed at its two ends by two strong
plates of the same metal.
“The pipe running from the lower part of the balloon runs into this cylindrical receptacle
through the lower plate; it penetrates the latter and then takes the form of a helicoidal or
screw-shaped spiral, the rings of which, rising one over the other, occupy nearly the whole of
the height of the tank. Before again issuing from it, this spiral runs into a small cone with a
concave base, that is turned downward in the shape of a spherical cap.
“It is from the top of this cone that the second pipe issues, and it runs, as I have said,
into the upper beds of the balloon.
“The spherical cap of the small cone is of platinum, so as not to melt by the action of the
cylinder and blow-pipe, for the latter are placed upon the bottom of the iron tank in the midstof the helicoidal spiral, and the extremity of their flame will slightly touch the cap in question.
“You all know, gentlemen, what a calorifere, to heat apartments, is. You know how it
acts. The air of the apartments is forced to pass through its pipes, and is then released with a
heightened temperature. Well, what I have just described to you is nothing more nor less than
a calorifere.
“In fact, what is it that takes place? The cylinder once lighted, the hydrogen in the spiral
and in the concave cone becomes heated, and rapidly ascends through the pipe that leads to
the upper part of the balloon. A vacuum is created below, and it attracts the gas in the lower
parts; this becomes heated in its turn, and is continually replaced; thus, an extremely rapid
current of gas is established in the pipes and in the spiral, which issues from the balloon and
then returns to it, and is heated over again, incessantly.
“Now, the cases increase 1480 of their volume for each degree of heat applied. If, then, I
force the temperature 18 degrees, the hydrogen of the balloon will dilate 18480 or 1614 cubic
feet, and will, therefore, displace 1614 more cubic feet of air, which will increase its
ascensional power by 160 pounds. This is equivalent to throwing out that weight of ballast. If I
augment the temperature by 180 degrees, the gas will dilate 180480 and will displace 16,740
cubic feet more, and its ascensional force will be augmented by 1,600 pounds.
“Thus, you see, gentlemen, that I can easily effect very considerable changes of
equilibrium. The volume of the balloon has been calculated in such manner that, when half
inflated, it displaces a weight of air exactly equal to that of the envelope containing the
hydrogen gas, and of the car occupied by the passengers, and all its apparatus and
accessories. At this point of inflation, it is in exact equilibrium with the air, and neither mounts
nor descends.
“In order, then, to effect an ascent, I give the gas a temperature superior to the
temperature of the surrounding air by means of my cylinder. By this excess of heat it obtains
a larger distention, and inflates the balloon more. The latter, then, ascends in proportion as I
heat the hydrogen.
“The descent, of course, is effected by lowering the heat of the cylinder, and letting the
temperature abate. The ascent would be, usually, more rapid than the descent; but that is a
fortunate circumstance, since it is of no importance to me to descend rapidly, while, on the
other hand, it is by a very rapid ascent that I avoid obstacles. The real danger lurks below,
and not above.
“Besides, as I have said, I have a certain quantity of ballast, which will enable me to
ascend more rapidly still, when necessary. My valve, at the top of the balloon, is nothing more
nor less than a safety-valve. The balloon always retains the same quantity of hydrogen, and
the variations of temperature that I produce in the midst of this shut-up gas are, of
themselves, sufficient to provide for all these ascending and descending movements.
“Now, gentlemen, as a practical detail, let me add this:
“The combustion of the hydrogen and of the oxygen at the point of the cylinder produces
solely the vapor or steam of water. I have, therefore, provided the lower part of the cylindrical
iron box with a scape-pipe, with a valve operating by means of a pressure of two
atmospheres; consequently, so soon as this amount of pressure is attained, the steam
escapes of itself.
“Here are the exact figures: 25 gallons of water, separated into its constituent elements,
yield 200 pounds of oxygen and 25 pounds of hydrogen. This represents, at atmospheric
tension, 1,800 cubic feet of the former and 3,780 cubic feet of the latter, or 5,670 cubic feet,
in all, of the mixture. Hence, the stopcock of my cylinder, when fully open, expends 27 cubic
feet per hour, with a flame at least six times as strong as that of the large lamps used for
lighting streets. On an average, then, and in order to keep myself at a very moderate
elevation, I should not burn more than nine cubic feet per hour, so that my twenty-five gallons
of water represent six hundred and thirty-six hours of aerial navigation, or a little more thantwenty-six days.
“Well, as I can descend when I please, to replenish my stock of water on the way, my
trip might be indefinitely prolonged.
“Such, gentlemen, is my secret. It is simple, and, like most simple things, it cannot fail to
succeed. The dilation and contraction of the gas in the balloon is my means of locomotion,
which calls for neither cumbersome wings, nor any other mechanical motor. A calorifere to
produce the changes of temperature, and a cylinder to generate the heat, are neither
inconvenient nor heavy. I think, therefore, that I have combined all the elements of success.”
Dr. Ferguson here terminated his discourse, and was most heartily applauded. There
was not an objection to make to it; all had been foreseen and decided.
“However,” said the captain, “the thing may prove dangerous.”
“What matters that,” replied the doctor, “provided that it be practicable?”
Chapter 11

An invariably favorable wind had accelerated the progress of the Resolute toward the
place of her destination. The navigation of the Mozambique Channel was especially calm and
pleasant. The agreeable character of the trip by sea was regarded as a good omen of the
probable issue of the trip through the air. Every one looked forward to the hour of arrival, and
sought to give the last touch to the doctor’s preparations.
At length the vessel hove in sight of the town of Zanzibar, upon the island of the same
name, and, on the 15th of April, at 11 o’clock in the morning, she anchored in the port.
The island of Zanzibar belongs to the Imaum of Muscat, an ally of France and England,
and is, undoubtedly, his finest settlement. The port is frequented by a great many vessels
from the neighboring countries.
The island is separated from the African coast only by a channel, the greatest width of
which is but thirty miles.
It has a large trade in gums, ivory, and, above all, in “ebony,” for Zanzibar is the great
slave-market. Thither converges all the booty captured in the battles which the chiefs of the
interior are continually fighting. This traffic extends along the whole eastern coast, and as far
as the Nile latitudes. Mr. G. Lejean even reports that he has seen it carried on, openly, under
the French flag.
Upon the arrival of the Resolute, the English consul at Zanzibar came on board to offer
his services to the doctor, of whose projects the European newspapers had made him aware
for a month past. But, up to that moment, he had remained with the numerous phalanx of the
“I doubted,” said he, holding out his hand to Dr. Ferguson, “but now I doubt no longer.”
He invited the doctor, Kennedy, and the faithful Joe, of course, to his own dwelling.
Through his courtesy, the doctor was enabled to have knowledge of the various letters that he
had received from Captain Speke. The captain and his companions had suffered dreadfully
from hunger and bad weather before reaching the Ugogo country. They could advance only
with extreme difficulty, and did not expect to be able to communicate again for a long time.
“Those are perils and privations which we shall manage to avoid,” said the doctor.
The baggage of the three travellers was conveyed to the consul’s residence.
Arrangements were made for disembarking the balloon upon the beach at Zanzibar. There
was a convenient spot, near the signal-mast, close by an immense building, that would serve
to shelter it from the east winds. This huge tower, resembling a tun standing on one end,
beside which the famous Heidelberg tun would have seemed but a very ordinary barrel,
served as a fortification, and on its platform were stationed Belootchees, armed with lances.
These Belootchees are a kind of brawling, good-for-nothing Janizaries.
But, when about to land the balloon, the consul was informed that the population of the
island would oppose their doing so by force. Nothing is so blind as fanatical passion. The news
of the arrival of a Christian, who was to ascend into the air, was received with rage. The
negroes, more exasperated than the Arabs, saw in this project an attack upon their religion.
They took it into their heads that some mischief was meant to the sun and the moon. Now,
these two luminaries are objects of veneration to the African tribes, and they determined to
oppose so sacrilegious an enterprise.
The consul, informed of their intentions, conferred with Dr. Ferguson and Captain Bennet
on the subject. The latter was unwilling to yield to threats, but his friend dissuaded him from
any idea of violent retaliation.
“We shall certainly come out winners,” he said. “Even the imaum’s soldiers will lend us ahand, if we need it. But, my dear captain, an accident may happen in a moment, and it would
require but one unlucky blow to do the balloon an irreparable injury, so that the trip would be
totally defeated; therefore we must act with the greatest caution.”
“But what are we to do? If we land on the coast of Africa, we shall encounter the same
difficulties. What are we to do?”
“Nothing is more simple,” replied the consul. “You observe those small islands outside of
the port; land your balloon on one of them; surround it with a guard of sailors, and you will
have no risk to run.”
“Just the thing!” said the doctor, “and we shall be entirely at our ease in completing our
The captain yielded to these suggestions, and the Resolute was headed for the island of
Koumbeni. During the morning of the 16th April, the balloon was placed in safety in the middle
of a clearing in the great woods, with which the soil is studded.
Two masts, eighty feet in height, were raised at the same distance from each other.
Blocks and tackle, placed at their extremities, afforded the means of elevating the balloon, by
the aid of a transverse rope. It was then entirely uninflated. The interior balloon was fastened
to the exterior one, in such manner as to be lifted up in the same way. To the lower end of
each balloon were fixed the pipes that served to introduce the hydrogen gas.
The whole day, on the 17th, was spent in arranging the apparatus destined to produce
the gas; it consisted of some thirty casks, in which the decomposition of water was effected
by means of iron-filings and sulphuric acid placed together in a large quantity of the
firstnamed fluid. The hydrogen passed into a huge central cask, after having been washed on the
way, and thence into each balloon by the conduit-pipes. In this manner each of them received
a certain accurately-ascertained quantity of gas. For this purpose, there had to be employed
eighteen hundred and sixty-six pounds of sulphuric acid, sixteen thousand and fifty pounds of
iron, and nine thousand one hundred and sixty-six gallons of water. This operation
commenced on the following night, about three a.m., and lasted nearly eight hours. The next
day, the balloon, covered with its network, undulated gracefully above its car, which was held
to the ground by numerous sacks of earth. The inflating apparatus was put together with
extreme care, and the pipes issuing from the balloon were securely fitted to the cylindrical
The anchors, the cordage, the instruments, the travelling-wraps, the awning, the
provisions, and the arms, were put in the place assigned to them in the car. The supply of
water was procured at Zanzibar. The two hundred pounds of ballast were distributed in fifty
bags placed at the bottom of the car, but within arm’s-reach.
These preparations were concluded about five o’clock in the evening, while sentinels kept
close watch around the island, and the boats of the Resolute patrolled the channel.
The blacks continued to show their displeasure by grimaces and contortions. Their
obimen, or wizards, went up and down among the angry throngs, pouring fuel on the flame of
their fanaticism; and some of the excited wretches, more furious and daring than the rest,
attempted to get to the island by swimming, but they were easily driven off.
Thereupon the sorceries and incantations commenced; the “rain-makers,” who pretend
to have control over the clouds, invoked the storms and the “stone-showers,” as the blacks
call hail, to their aid. To compel them to do so, they plucked leaves of all the different trees
that grow in that country, and boiled them over a slow fire, while, at the same time, a sheep
was killed by thrusting a long needle into its heart. But, in spite of all their ceremonies, the sky
remained clear and beautiful, and they profited nothing by their slaughtered sheep and their
ugly grimaces.
The blacks then abandoned themselves to the most furious orgies, and got fearfully
drunk on “tembo,” a kind of ardent spirits drawn from the cocoa-nut tree, and an extremely
heady sort of beer called “togwa.” Their chants, which were destitute of all melody, but weresung in excellent time, continued until far into the night.
About six o’clock in the evening, the captain assembled the travellers and the officers of
the ship at a farewell repast in his cabin. Kennedy, whom nobody ventured to question now,
sat with his eyes riveted on Dr. Ferguson, murmuring indistinguishable words. In other
respects, the dinner was a gloomy one. The approach of the final moment filled everybody
with the most serious reflections. What had fate in store for these daring adventurers? Should
they ever again find themselves in the midst of their friends, or seated at the domestic
hearth? Were their travelling apparatus to fail, what would become of them, among those
ferocious savage tribes, in regions that had never been explored, and in the midst of
boundless deserts?
Such thoughts as these, which had been dim and vague until then, or but slightly
regarded when they came up, returned upon their excited fancies with intense force at this
parting moment. Dr. Ferguson, still cold and impassible, talked of this, that, and the other; but
he strove in vain to overcome this infectious gloominess. He utterly failed.
As some demonstration against the personal safety of the doctor and his companions
was feared, all three slept that night on board the Resolute. At six o’clock in the morning they
left their cabin, and landed on the island of Koumbeni.
The balloon was swaying gently to and fro in the morning breeze; the sand-bags that had
held it down were now replaced by some twenty strong-armed sailors, and Captain Bennet
and his officers were present to witness the solemn departure of their friends.
At this moment Kennedy went right up to the doctor, grasped his hand, and said:
“Samuel, have you absolutely determined to go?”
“Solemnly determined, my dear Dick.”
“I have done every thing that I could to prevent this expedition, have I not?”
“Every thing!”
“Well, then, my conscience is clear on that score, and I will go with you.”
“I was sure you would!” said the doctor, betraying in his features swift traces of emotion.
At last the moment of final leave-taking arrived. The captain and his officers embraced
their dauntless friends with great feeling, not excepting even Joe, who, worthy fellow, was as
proud and happy as a prince. Every one in the party insisted upon having a final shake of the
doctor’s hand.
At nine o’clock the three travellers got into their car. The doctor lit the combustible in his
cylinder and turned the flame so as to produce a rapid heat, and the balloon, which had rested
on the ground in perfect equipoise, began to rise in a few minutes, so that the seamen had to
slacken the ropes they held it by. The car then rose about twenty feet above their heads.
“My friends!” exclaimed the doctor, standing up between his two companions, and taking
off his hat, “let us give our aerial ship a name that will bring her good luck! let us christen her
This speech was answered with stentorian cheers of “Huzza for the Queen! Huzza for
Old England!”
At this moment the ascensional force of the balloon increased prodigiously, and
Ferguson, Kennedy, and Joe, waved a last good-by to their friends.
“Let go all!” shouted the doctor, and at the word the Victoria shot rapidly up into the sky,
while the four carronades on board the Resolute thundered forth a parting salute in her honor.
Chapter 12

The air was pure, the wind moderate, and the balloon ascended almost perpendicularly
to a height of fifteen hundred feet, as indicated by a depression of two inches in the
barometric column.
At this height a more decided current carried the balloon toward the southwest. What a
magnificent spectacle was then outspread beneath the gaze of the travellers! The island of
Zanzibar could be seen in its entire extent, marked out by its deeper color upon a vast
planisphere; the fields had the appearance of patterns of different colors, and thick clumps of
green indicated the groves and thickets.
The inhabitants of the island looked no larger than insects. The huzzaing and shouting
were little by little lost in the distance, and only the discharge of the ship’s guns could be heard
in the concavity beneath the balloon, as the latter sped on its flight.
“How fine that is!” said Joe, breaking silence for the first time.
He got no reply. The doctor was busy observing the variations of the barometer and
noting down the details of his ascent.
Kennedy looked on, and had not eyes enough to take in all that he saw.
The rays of the sun coming to the aid of the heating cylinder, the tension of the gas
increased, and the Victoria attained the height of twenty-five hundred feet.
The Resolute looked like a mere cockle-shell, and the African coast could be distinctly
seen in the west marked out by a fringe of foam.
“You don’t talk?” said Joe, again.
“We are looking!” said the doctor, directing his spy-glass toward the mainland.
“For my part, I must talk!”
“As much as you please, Joe; talk as much as you like!”
And Joe went on alone with a tremendous volley of exclamations. The “ohs!” and the
“ahs!” exploded one after the other, incessantly, from his lips.
During his passage over the sea the doctor deemed it best to keep at his present
elevation. He could thus reconnoitre a greater stretch of the coast. The thermometer and the
barometer, hanging up inside of the half-opened awning, were always within sight, and a
second barometer suspended outside was to serve during the night watches.
At the end of about two hours the Victoria, driven along at a speed of a little more than
eight miles, very visibly neared the coast of the mainland. The doctor, thereupon, determined
to descend a little nearer to the ground. So he moderated the flame of his cylinder, and the
balloon, in a few moments, had descended to an altitude only three hundred feet above the
It was then found to be passing just over the Mrima country, the name of this part of the
eastern coast of Africa. Dense borders of mango-trees protected its margin, and the ebb-tide
disclosed to view their thick roots, chafed and gnawed by the teeth of the Indian Ocean. The
sands which, at an earlier period, formed the coast-line, rounded away along the distant
horizon, and Mount Nguru reared aloft its sharp summit in the northwest.
The Victoria passed near to a village which the doctor found marked upon his chart as
Kaole. Its entire population had assembled in crowds, and were yelling with anger and fear, at
the same time vainly directing their arrows against this monster of the air that swept along so
majestically away above all their powerless fury.
The wind was setting to the southward, but the doctor felt no concern on that score,
since it enabled him the better to follow the route traced by Captains Burton and Speke.
Kennedy had, at length, become as talkative as Joe, and the two kept up a continualinterchange of admiring interjections and exclamations.
“Out upon stage-coaches!” said one.
“Steamers indeed!” said the other.
“Railroads! eh? rubbish!” put in Kennedy, “that you travel on, without seeing the country!”
“Balloons! they’re the sort for me!” Joe would add. “Why, you don’t feel yourself going,
and Nature takes the trouble to spread herself out before one’s eyes!”
“What a splendid sight! What a spectacle! What a delight! a dream in a hammock!”
“Suppose we take our breakfast?” was Joe’s unpoetical change of tune, at last, for the
keen, open air had mightily sharpened his appetite.
“Good idea, my boy!”
“Oh! it won’t take us long to do the cooking — biscuit and potted meat?”
“And as much coffee as you like,” said the doctor. “I give you leave to borrow a little heat
from my cylinder. There’s enough and to spare, for that matter, and so we shall avoid the risk
of a conflagration.”
“That would be a dreadful misfortune!” ejaculated Kennedy. “It’s the same as a
powdermagazine suspended over our heads.”
“Not precisely,” said Ferguson, “but still if the gas were to take fire it would burn up
gradually, and we should settle down on the ground, which would be disagreeable; but never
fear — our balloon is hermetically sealed.”
“Let us eat a bite, then,” replied Kennedy.
“Now, gentlemen,” put in Joe, “while doing the same as you, I’m going to get you up a
cup of coffee that I think you’ll have something to say about.”
“The fact is,” added the doctor, “that Joe, along with a thousand other virtues, has a
remarkable talent for the preparation of that delicious beverage: he compounds it of a mixture
of various origin, but he never would reveal to me the ingredients.”
“Well, master, since we are so far above-ground, I can tell you the secret. It is just to mix
equal quantities of Mocha, of Bourbon coffee, and of Rio Nunez.”
A few moments later, three steaming cups of coffee were served, and topped off a
substantial breakfast, which was additionally seasoned by the jokes and repartees of the
guests. Each one then resumed his post of observation.
The country over which they were passing was remarkable for its fertility. Narrow,
winding paths plunged in beneath the overarching verdure. They swept along above cultivated
fields of tobacco, maize, and barley, at full maturity, and here and there immense rice-fields,
full of straight stalks and purple blossoms. They could distinguish sheep and goats too,
confined in large cages, set up on piles to keep them out of reach of the leopards’ fangs.
Luxuriant vegetation spread in wild profuseness over this prodigal soil.
Village after village rang with yells of terror and astonishment at the sight of the Victoria,
and Dr. Ferguson prudently kept her above the reach of the barbarian arrows. The savages
below, thus baffled, ran together from their huddle of huts and followed the travellers with their
vain imprecations while they remained in sight.
At noon, the doctor, upon consulting his map, calculated that they were passing over the
Uzaramo country. The soil was thickly studded with cocoa-nut, papaw, and cotton-wood trees,
above which the balloon seemed to disport itself like a bird. Joe found this splendid vegetation
a matter of course, seeing that they were in Africa. Kennedy descried some hares and quails
that asked nothing better than to get a good shot from his fowling-piece, but it would have
been powder wasted, since there was no time to pick up the game.
The aeronauts swept on with the speed of twelve miles per hour, and soon were passing
in thirty-eight degrees twenty minutes east longitude, over the village of Tounda.
“It was there,” said the doctor, “that Burton and Speke were seized with violent fevers,
and for a moment thought their expedition ruined. And yet they were only a short distance
from the coast, but fatigue and privation were beginning to tell upon them severely.”In fact, there is a perpetual malaria reigning throughout the country in question. Even the
doctor could hope to escape its effects only by rising above the range of the miasma that
exhales from this damp region whence the blazing rays of the sun pump up its poisonous
vapors. Once in a while they could descry a caravan resting in a “kraal,” awaiting the
freshness and cool of the evening to resume its route. These kraals are wide patches of
cleared land, surrounded by hedges and jungles, where traders take shelter against not only
the wild beasts, but also the robber tribes of the country. They could see the natives running
and scattering in all directions at the sight of the Victoria. Kennedy was keen to get a closer
look at them, but the doctor invariably held out against the idea.
“The chiefs are armed with muskets,” he said, “and our balloon would be too
conspicuous a mark for their bullets.”
“Would a bullet-hole bring us down?” asked Joe.
“Not immediately; but such a hole would soon become a large torn orifice through which
our gas would escape.”
“Then, let us keep at a respectful distance from yon miscreants. What must they think as
they see us sailing in the air? I’m sure they must feel like worshipping us!”
“Let them worship away, then,” replied the doctor, “but at a distance. There is no harm
done in getting as far away from them as possible. See! the country is already changing its
aspect: the villages are fewer and farther between; the mango-trees have disappeared, for
their growth ceases at this latitude. The soil is becoming hilly and portends mountains not far
“Yes,” said Kennedy, “it seems to me that I can see some high land on this side.”
“In the west — those are the nearest ranges of the Ourizara — Mount Duthumi, no
doubt, behind which I hope to find shelter for the night. I’ll stir up the heat in the cylinder a
little, for we must keep at an elevation of five or six hundred feet.”
“That was a grant idea of yours, sir,” said Joe. “It’s mighty easy to manage it; you turn a
cock, and the thing’s done.”
“Ah! here we are more at our ease,” said the sportsman, as the balloon ascended; “the
reflection of the sun on those red sands was getting to be insupportable.”
“What splendid trees!” cried Joe. “They’re quite natural, but they are very fine! Why a
dozen of them would make a forest!”
“Those are baobabs,” replied Dr. Ferguson. “See, there’s one with a trunk fully one
hundred feet in circumference. It was, perhaps, at the foot of that very tree that Maizan, the
French traveller, expired in 1845, for we are over the village of Deje-la-Mhora, to which he
pushed on alone. He was seized by the chief of this region, fastened to the foot of a baobab,
and the ferocious black then severed all his joints while the war-song of his tribe was chanted;
he then made a gash in the prisoner’s neck, stopped to sharpen his knife, and fairly tore away
the poor wretch’s head before it had been cut from the body. The unfortunate Frenchman was
but twenty-six years of age.”
“And France has never avenged so hideous a crime?” said Kennedy.
“France did demand satisfaction, and the Said of Zanzibar did all in his power to capture
the murderer, but in vain.”
“I move that we don’t stop here!” urged Joe; “let us go up, master, let us go up higher by
all means.”
“All the more willingly, Joe, that there is Mount Duthumi right ahead of us. If my
calculations be right we shall have passed it before seven o’clock in the evening.”
“Shall we not travel at night?” asked the Scotchman.
“No, as little as possible. With care and vigilance we might do so safely, but it is not
enough to sweep across Africa. We want to see it.”
“Up to this time we have nothing to complain of, master. The best cultivated and most
fertile country in the world instead of a desert! Believe the geographers after that!”Let us wait, Joe! we shall see by-and-by.”
About half-past six in the evening the Victoria was directly opposite Mount Duthumi; in
order to pass, it had to ascend to a height of more than three thousand feet, and to
accomplish that the doctor had only to raise the temperature of his gas eighteen degrees. It
might have been correctly said that he held his balloon in his hand. Kennedy had only to
indicate to him the obstacles to be surmounted, and the Victoria sped through the air,
skimming the summits of the range.
At eight o’clock it descended the farther slope, the acclivity of which was much less
abrupt. The anchors were thrown out from the car and one of them, coming in contact with
the branches of an enormous nopal, caught on it firmly. Joe at once let himself slide down the
rope and secured it. The silk ladder was then lowered to him and he remounted to the car with
agility. The balloon now remained perfectly at rest sheltered from the eastern winds.
The evening meal was got ready, and the aeronauts, excited by their day’s journey,
made a heavy onslaught upon the provisions.
“What distance have we traversed to-day?” asked Kennedy, disposing of some alarming
The doctor took his bearings, by means of lunar observations, and consulted the
excellent map that he had with him for his guidance. It belonged to the Atlas of “Der Neuester
Endeckungen in Afrika” (“The Latest Discoveries in Africa”), published at Gotha by his learned
friend Dr. Petermann, and by that savant sent to him. This Atlas was to serve the doctor on
his whole journey; for it contained the itinerary of Burton and Speke to the great lakes; the
Soudan, according to Dr. Barth; the Lower Senegal, according to Guillaume Lejean; and the
Delta of the Niger, by Dr. Blaikie.
Ferguson had also provided himself with a work which combined in one compilation all
the notions already acquired concerning the Nile. It was entitled “The Sources of the Nile;
being a General Survey of the Basin of that River and of its Head-Stream, with the History of
the Nilotic Discovery, by Charles Beke, D.D.”
He also had the excellent charts published in the “Bulletins of the Geographical Society of
London;” and not a single point of the countries already discovered could, therefore, escape
his notice.
Upon tracing on his maps, he found that his latitudinal route had been two degrees, or
one hundred and twenty miles, to the westward.
Kennedy remarked that the route tended toward the south; but this direction was
satisfactory to the doctor, who desired to reconnoitre the tracks of his predecessors as much
as possible. It was agreed that the night should be divided into three watches, so that each of
the party should take his turn in watching over the safety of the rest. The doctor took the
watch commencing at nine o’clock; Kennedy, the one commencing at midnight; and Joe, the
three o’clock morning watch.
So Kennedy and Joe, well wrapped in their blankets, stretched themselves at full length
under the awning, and slept quietly; while Dr. Ferguson kept on the lookout.
Chapter 13

The night was calm. However, on Saturday morning, Kennedy, as he awoke, complained
of lassitude and feverish chills. The weather was changing. The sky, covered with clouds,
seemed to be laying in supplies for a fresh deluge. A gloomy region is that Zungomoro
country, where it rains continually, excepting, perhaps, for a couple of weeks in the month of
A violent shower was not long in drenching our travellers. Below them, the roads,
intersected by “nullahs,” a sort of instantaneous torrent, were soon rendered impracticable,
entangled as they were, besides, with thorny thickets and gigantic lianas, or creeping vines.
The sulphuretted hydrogen emanations, which Captain Burton mentions, could be distinctly
“According to his statement, and I think he’s right,” said the doctor, “one could readily
believe that there is a corpse hidden behind every thicket.”
“An ugly country this!” sighed Joe; “and it seems to me that Mr. Kennedy is none the
better for having passed the night in it.”
“To tell the truth, I have quite a high fever,” said the sportsman.
“There’s nothing remarkable about that, my dear Dick, for we are in one of the most
unhealthy regions in Africa; but we shall not remain here long; so let’s be off.”
Thanks to a skilful manoeuvre achieved by Joe, the anchor was disengaged, and Joe
reascended to the car by means of the ladder. The doctor vigorously dilated the gas, and the
Victoria resumed her flight, driven along by a spanking breeze.
Only a few scattered huts could be seen through the pestilential mists; but the
appearance of the country soon changed, for it often happens in Africa that some of the
unhealthiest districts lie close beside others that are perfectly salubrious.
Kennedy was visibly suffering, and the fever was mastering his vigorous constitution.
“It won’t do to fall ill, though,” he grumbled; and so saying, he wrapped himself in a
blanket, and lay down under the awning.
“A little patience, Dick, and you’ll soon get over this,” said the doctor.
“Get over it! Egad, Samuel, if you’ve any drug in your travelling-chest that will set me on
my feet again, bring it without delay. I’ll swallow it with my eyes shut!”
“Oh, I can do better than that, friend Dick; for I can give you a febrifuge that won’t cost
any thing.”
“And how will you do that?”
“Very easily. I am simply going to take you up above these clouds that are now deluging
us, and remove you from this pestilential atmosphere. I ask for only ten minutes, in order to
dilate the hydrogen.”
The ten minutes had scarcely elapsed ere the travellers were beyond the rainy belt of
“Wait a little, now, Dick, and you’ll begin to feel the effect of pure air and sunshine.”
“There’s a cure for you!” said Joe; “why, it’s wonderful!”
“No, it’s merely natural.”
“Oh! natural; yes, no doubt of that!”
“I bring Dick into good air, as the doctors do, every day, in Europe, or, as I would send a
patient at Martinique to the Pitons, a lofty mountain on that island, to get clear of the yellow
“Ah! by Jove, this balloon is a paradise!” exclaimed Kennedy, feeling much better
already.“It leads to it, anyhow!” replied Joe, quite gravely.
It was a curious spectacle — that mass of clouds piled up, at the moment, away below
them! The vapors rolled over each other, and mingled together in confused masses of superb
brilliance, as they reflected the rays of the sun. The Victoria had attained an altitude of four
thousand feet, and the thermometer indicated a certain diminution of temperature. The land
below could no longer be seen. Fifty miles away to the westward, Mount Rubeho raised its
sparkling crest, marking the limit of the Ugogo country in east longitude thirty-six degrees
twenty minutes. The wind was blowing at the rate of twenty miles an hour, but the aeronauts
felt nothing of this increased speed. They observed no jar, and had scarcely any sense of
motion at all.
Three hours later, the doctor’s prediction was fully verified. Kennedy no longer felt a
single shiver of the fever, but partook of some breakfast with an excellent appetite.
That beats sulphate of quinine!” said the energetic Scot, with hearty emphasis and much
“Positively,” said Joe, “this is where I’ll have to retire to when I get old!”
About ten o’clock in the morning the atmosphere cleared up, the clouds parted, and the
country beneath could again be seen, the Victoria meanwhile rapidly descending. Dr.
Ferguson was in search of a current that would carry him more to the northeast, and he found
it about six hundred feet from the ground. The country was becoming more broken, and even
mountainous. The Zungomoro district was fading out of sight in the east with the last
cocoanut-trees of that latitude.
Ere long, the crests of a mountain-range assumed a more decided prominence. A few
peaks rose here and there, and it became necessary to keep a sharp lookout for the pointed
cones that seemed to spring up every moment.
“We’re right among the breakers!” said Kennedy.
“Keep cool, Dick. We shan’t touch them,” was the doctor’s quiet answer.
“It’s a jolly way to travel, anyhow!” said Joe, with his usual flow of spirits.
In fact, the doctor managed his balloon with wondrous dexterity.
“Now, if we had been compelled to go afoot over that drenched soil,” said he, “we should
still be dragging along in a pestilential mire. Since our departure from Zanzibar, half our beasts
of burden would have died with fatigue. We should be looking like ghosts ourselves, and
despair would be seizing on our hearts. We should be in continual squabbles with our guides
and porters, and completely exposed to their unbridled brutality. During the daytime, a damp,
penetrating, unendurable humidity! At night, a cold frequently intolerable, and the stings of a
kind of fly whose bite pierces the thickest cloth, and drives the victim crazy! All this, too,
without saying any thing about wild beasts and ferocious native tribes!”
“I move that we don’t try it!” said Joe, in his droll way.
“I exaggerate nothing,” continued Ferguson, “for, upon reading the narratives of such
travellers as have had the hardihood to venture into these regions, your eyes would fill with
About eleven o’clock they were passing over the basin of Imenge, and the tribes
scattered over the adjacent hills were impotently menacing the Victoria with their weapons.
Finally, she sped along as far as the last undulations of the country which precede Rubeho.
These form the last and loftiest chain of the mountains of Usagara.
The aeronauts took careful and complete note of the orographic conformation of the
country. The three ramifications mentioned, of which the Duthumi forms the first link, are
separated by immense longitudinal plains. These elevated summits consist of rounded cones,
between which the soil is bestrewn with erratic blocks of stone and gravelly bowlders. The
most abrupt declivity of these mountains confronts the Zanzibar coast, but the western slopes
are merely inclined planes. The depressions in the soil are covered with a black, rich loam, on
which there is a vigorous vegetation. Various water-courses filter through, toward the east,and work their way onward to flow into the Kingani, in the midst of gigantic clumps of
sycamore, tamarind, calabash, and palmyra trees.
“Attention!” said Dr. Ferguson. “We are approaching Rubeho, the name of which
signifies, in the language of the country, the ‘Passage of the Winds,’ and we would do well to
double its jagged pinnacles at a certain height. If my chart be exact, we are going to ascend to
an elevation of five thousand feet.”
“Shall we often have occasion to reach those far upper belts of the atmosphere?”
“Very seldom: the height of the African mountains appears to be quite moderate
compared with that of the European and Asiatic ranges; but, in any case, our good Victoria will
find no difficulty in passing over them.”
In a very little while, the gas expanded under the action of the heat, and the balloon took
a very decided ascensional movement. Besides, the dilation of the hydrogen involved no
danger, and only three-fourths of the vast capacity of the balloon was filled when the
barometer, by a depression of eight inches, announced an elevation of six thousand feet.
“Shall we go this high very long?” asked Joe.
“The atmosphere of the earth has a height of six thousand fathoms,” said the doctor;
“and, with a very large balloon, one might go far. That is what Messrs. Brioschi and
GayLussac did; but then the blood burst from their mouths and ears. Respirable air was wanting.
Some years ago, two fearless Frenchmen, Messrs. Barral and Bixio, also ventured into the
very lofty regions; but their balloon burst —”
“And they fell?” asked Kennedy, abruptly.
“Certainly they did; but as learned men should always fall — namely, without hurting
“Well, gentlemen,” said Joe, “you may try their fall over again, if you like; but, as for me,
who am but a dolt, I prefer keeping at the medium height — neither too far up, nor too low
down. It won’t do to be too ambitious.”
At the height of six thousand feet, the density of the atmosphere has already greatly
diminished; sound is conveyed with difficulty, and the voice is not so easily heard. The view of
objects becomes confused; the gaze no longer takes in any but large, quite ill-distinguishable
masses; men and animals on the surface become absolutely invisible; the roads and rivers
get to look like threads, and the lakes dwindle to ponds.
The doctor and his friends felt themselves in a very anomalous condition; an atmospheric
current of extreme velocity was bearing them away beyond arid mountains, upon whose
summits vast fields of snow surprised the gaze; while their convulsed appearance told of
Titanic travail in the earliest epoch of the world’s existence.
The sun shone at the zenith, and his rays fell perpendicularly upon those lonely summits.
The doctor took an accurate design of these mountains, which form four distinct ridges almost
in a straight line, the northernmost being the longest.
The Victoria soon descended the slope opposite to the Rubeho, skirting an acclivity
covered with woods, and dotted with trees of very deep-green foliage. Then came crests and
ravines, in a sort of desert which preceded the Ugogo country; and lower down were yellow
plains, parched and fissured by the intense heat, and, here and there, bestrewn with saline
plants and brambly thickets.
Some underbrush, which, farther on, became forests, embellished the horizon. The
doctor went nearer to the ground; the anchors were thrown out, and one of them soon caught
in the boughs of a huge sycamore.
Joe, slipping nimbly down the tree, carefully attached the anchor, and the doctor left his
cylinder at work to a certain degree in order to retain sufficient ascensional force in the balloon
to keep it in the air. Meanwhile the wind had suddenly died away.
“Now,” said Ferguson, “take two guns, friend Dick — one for yourself and one for Joe —
and both of you try to bring back some nice cuts of antelope-meat; they will make us a gooddinner.”
“Off to the hunt!” exclaimed Kennedy, joyously.
He climbed briskly out of the car and descended. Joe had swung himself down from
branch to branch, and was waiting for him below, stretching his limbs in the mean time.
“Don’t fly away without us, doctor!” shouted Joe.
“Never fear, my boy! — I am securely lashed. I’ll spend the time getting my notes into
shape. A good hunt to you! but be careful. Besides, from my post here, I can observe the
face of the country, and, at the least suspicious thing I notice, I’ll fire a signal-shot, and with
that you must rally home.”
“Agreed!” said Kennedy; and off they went.
Chapter 14

The country, dry and parched as it was, consisting of a clayey soil that cracked open with
the heat, seemed, indeed, a desert: here and there were a few traces of caravans; the bones
of men and animals, that had been half-gnawed away, mouldering together in the same dust.
After half an hour’s walking, Dick and Joe plunged into a forest of gum-trees, their eyes
alert on all sides, and their fingers on the trigger. There was no foreseeing what they might
encounter. Without being a rifleman, Joe could handle fire-arms with no trifling dexterity.
“A walk does one good, Mr. Kennedy, but this isn’t the easiest ground in the world,” he
said, kicking aside some fragments of quartz with which the soil was bestrewn.
Kennedy motioned to his companion to be silent and to halt. The present case compelled
them to dispense with hunting-dogs, and, no matter what Joe’s agility might be, he could not
be expected to have the scent of a setter or a greyhound.
A herd of a dozen antelopes were quenching their thirst in the bed of a torrent where
some pools of water had lodged. The graceful creatures, snuffing danger in the breeze,
seemed to be disturbed and uneasy. Their beautiful heads could be seen between every
draught, raised in the air with quick and sudden motion as they sniffed the wind in the
direction of our two hunters, with their flexible nostrils.
Kennedy stole around behind some clumps of shrubbery, while Joe remained motionless
where he was. The former, at length, got within gunshot and fired.
The herd disappeared in the twinkling of an eye; one male antelope only, that was hit just
behind the shoulder-joint, fell headlong to the ground, and Kennedy leaped toward his booty.
It was a blauwbok, a superb animal of a pale-bluish color shading upon the gray, but with
the belly and the inside of the legs as white as the driven snow.
“A splendid shot!” exclaimed the hunter. “It’s a very rare species of the antelope, and I
hope to be able to prepare his skin in such a way as to keep it.”
“Indeed!” said Joe, “do you think of doing that, Mr. Kennedy?”
“Why, certainly I do! Just see what a fine hide it is!”
“But Dr. Ferguson will never allow us to take such an extra weight!”
“You’re right, Joe. Still it is a pity to have to leave such a noble animal.”
“The whole of it? Oh, we won’t do that, sir; we’ll take all the good eatable parts of it, and,
if you’ll let me, I’ll cut him up just as well as the chairman of the honorable corporation of
butchers of the city of London could do.”
“As you please, my boy! But you know that in my hunter’s way I can just as easily skin
and cut up a piece of game as kill it.”
“I’m sure of that, Mr. Kennedy. Well, then, you can build a fireplace with a few stones;
there’s plenty of dry dead-wood, and I can make the hot coals tell in a few minutes.”
“Oh! that won’t take long,” said Kennedy, going to work on the fireplace, where he had a
brisk flame crackling and sparkling in a minute or two.
Joe had cut some of the nicest steaks and the best parts of the tenderloin from the
carcass of the antelope, and these were quickly transformed to the most savory of broils.
“There, those will tickle the doctor!” said Kennedy.
“Do you know what I was thinking about?” said Joe.
“Why, about the steaks you’re broiling, to be sure!” replied Dick.
“Not the least in the world. I was thinking what a figure we’d cut if we couldn’t find the
balloon again.”
“By George, what an idea! Why, do you think the doctor would desert us?”
“No; but suppose his anchor were to slip!”“Impossible! and, besides, the doctor would find no difficulty in coming down again with
his balloon; he handles it at his ease.”
“But suppose the wind were to sweep it off, so that he couldn’t come back toward us?”
“Come, come, Joe! a truce to your suppositions; they’re any thing but pleasant.”
“Ah! sir, every thing that happens in this world is natural, of course; but, then, any thing
may happen, and we ought to look out beforehand.”
At this moment the report of a gun rang out upon the air.
“What’s that?” exclaimed Joe.
“It’s my rifle, I know the ring of her!” said Kennedy.
“A signal!”
“Yes; danger for us!”
“For him, too, perhaps.”
“Let’s be off!”
And the hunters, having gathered up the product of their expedition, rapidly made their
way back along the path that they had marked by breaking boughs and bushes when they
came. The density of the underbrush prevented their seeing the balloon, although they could
not be far from it.
A second shot was heard.
“We must hurry!” said Joe.
“There! a third report!”
“Why, it sounds to me as if he was defending himself against something.”
“Let us make haste!”
They now began to run at the top of their speed. When they reached the outskirts of the
forest, they, at first glance, saw the balloon in its place and the doctor in the car.
“What’s the matter?” shouted Kennedy.
“Good God!” suddenly exclaimed Joe.
“What do you see?”
“Down there! look! a crowd of blacks surrounding the balloon!”
And, in fact, there, two miles from where they were, they saw some thirty wild natives
close together, yelling, gesticulating, and cutting all kinds of antics at the foot of the sycamore.
Some, climbing into the tree itself, were making their way to the topmost branches. The
danger seemed pressing.
“My master is lost!” cried Joe.
“Come! a little more coolness, Joe, and let us see how we stand. We hold the lives of
four of those villains in our hands. Forward, then!”
They had made a mile with headlong speed, when another report was heard from the
car. The shot had, evidently, told upon a huge black demon, who had been hoisting himself up
by the anchor-rope. A lifeless body fell from bough to bough, and hung about twenty feet from
the ground, its arms and legs swaying to and fro in the air.
“Ha!” said Joe, halting, “what does that fellow hold by?”
“No matter what!” said Kennedy; “let us run! let us run!”
“Ah! Mr. Kennedy,” said Joe, again, in a roar of laughter, “by his tail! by his tail! it’s an
ape! They’re all apes!”
“Well, they’re worse than men!” said Kennedy, as he dashed into the midst of the howling
It was, indeed, a troop of very formidable baboons of the dog-faced species. These
creatures are brutal, ferocious, and horrible to look upon, with their dog-like muzzles and
savage expression. However, a few shots scattered them, and the chattering horde
scampered off, leaving several of their number on the ground.
In a moment Kennedy was on the ladder, and Joe, clambering up the branches,
detached the anchor; the car then dipped to where he was, and he got into it without difficulty.A few minutes later, the Victoria slowly ascended and soared away to the eastward, wafted by
a moderate wind.
“That was an attack for you!” said Joe.
“We thought you were surrounded by natives.”
“Well, fortunately, they were only apes,” said the doctor.
“At a distance there’s no great difference,” remarked Kennedy.
“Nor close at hand, either,” added Joe.
“Well, however that may be,” resumed Ferguson, “this attack of apes might have had the
most serious consequences. Had the anchor yielded to their repeated efforts, who knows
whither the wind would have carried me?”
“What did I tell you, Mr. Kennedy?”
“You were right, Joe; but, even right as you may have been, you were, at that moment,
preparing some antelope-steaks, the very sight of which gave me a monstrous appetite.”
“I believe you!” said the doctor; “the flesh of the antelope is exquisite.”
“You may judge of that yourself, now, sir, for supper’s ready.”
“Upon my word as a sportsman, those venison-steaks have a gamy flavor that’s not to
be sneezed at, I tell you.”
“Good!” said Joe, with his mouth full, “I could live on antelope all the days of my life; and
all the better with a glass of grog to wash it down.”
So saying, the good fellow went to work to prepare a jorum of that fragrant beverage,
and all hands tasted it with satisfaction.
“Every thing has gone well thus far,” said he.
“Very well indeed!” assented Kennedy.
“Come, now, Mr. Kennedy, are you sorry that you came with us?”
“I’d like to see anybody prevent my coming!”
It was now four o’clock in the afternoon. The Victoria had struck a more rapid current.
The face of the country was gradually rising, and, ere long, the barometer indicated a height
of fifteen hundred feet above the level of the sea. The doctor was, therefore, obliged to keep
his balloon up by a quite considerable dilation of gas, and the cylinder was hard at work all the
Toward seven o’clock, the balloon was sailing over the basin of Kanyeme. The doctor
immediately recognized that immense clearing, ten miles in extent, with its villages buried in
the midst of baobab and calabash trees. It is the residence of one of the sultans of the Ugogo
country, where civilization is, perhaps, the least backward. The natives there are less addicted
to selling members of their own families, but still, men and animals all live together in round
huts, without frames, that look like haystacks.
Beyond Kanyeme the soil becomes arid and stony, but in an hour’s journey, in a fertile
dip of the soil, vegetation had resumed all its vigor at some distance from Mdaburu. The wind
fell with the close of the day, and the atmosphere seemed to sleep. The doctor vainly sought
for a current of air at different heights, and, at last, seeing this calm of all nature, he resolved
to pass the night afloat, and, for greater safety, rose to the height of one thousand feet,
where the balloon remained motionless. The night was magnificent, the heavens glittering with
stars, and profoundly silent in the upper air.
Dick and Joe stretched themselves on their peaceful couch, and were soon sound
asleep, the doctor keeping the first watch. At twelve o’clock the latter was relieved by
“Should the slightest accident happen, waken me,” said Ferguson, “and, above all things,
don’t lose sight of the barometer. To us it is the compass!”
The night was cold. There were twenty-seven degrees of difference between its
temperature and that of the daytime. With nightfall had begun the nocturnal concert of
animals driven from their hiding-places by hunger and thirst. The frogs struck in their gutturalsoprano, redoubled by the yelping of the jackals, while the imposing bass of the African lion
sustained the accords of this living orchestra.
Upon resuming his post, in the morning, the doctor consulted his compass, and found
that the wind had changed during the night. The balloon had been bearing about thirty miles to
the northwest during the last two hours. It was then passing over Mabunguru, a stony country,
strewn with blocks of syenite of a fine polish, and knobbed with huge bowlders and angular
ridges of rock; conic masses, like the rocks of Karnak, studded the soil like so many Druidic
dolmens; the bones of buffaloes and elephants whitened it here and there; but few trees could
be seen, excepting in the east, where there were dense woods, among which a few villages
lay half concealed.
Toward seven o’clock they saw a huge round rock nearly two miles in extent, like an
immense tortoise.
“We are on the right track,” said Dr. Ferguson. “There’s Jihoue-la-Mkoa, where we must
halt for a few minutes. I am going to renew the supply of water necessary for my cylinder, and
so let us try to anchor somewhere.”
“There are very few trees,” replied the hunger.
“Never mind, let us try. Joe, throw out the anchors!”
The balloon, gradually losing its ascensional force, approached the ground; the anchors
ran along until, at last, one of them caught in the fissure of a rock, and the balloon remained
It must not be supposed that the doctor could entirely extinguish his cylinder, during
these halts. The equilibrium of the balloon had been calculated at the level of the sea; and, as
the country was continually ascending, and had reached an elevation of from six to seven
hundred feet, the balloon would have had a tendency to go lower than the surface of the soil
itself. It was, therefore, necessary to sustain it by a certain dilation of the gas. But, in case the
doctor, in the absence of all wind, had let the car rest upon the ground, the balloon, thus
relieved of a considerable weight, would have kept up of itself, without the aid of the cylinder.
The maps indicated extensive ponds on the western slope of the Jihoue-la-Mkoa. Joe
went thither alone with a cask that would hold about ten gallons. He found the place pointed
out to him, without difficulty, near to a deserted village; got his stock of water, and returned in
less than three-quarters of an hour. He had seen nothing particular excepting some immense
elephant-pits. In fact, he came very near falling into one of them, at the bottom of which lay a
half-eaten carcass.
He brought back with him a sort of clover which the apes eat with avidity. The doctor
recognized the fruit of the “mbenbu”-tree which grows in profusion, on the western part of
Jihoue-la-Mkoa. Ferguson waited for Joe with a certain feeling of impatience, for even a short
halt in this inhospitable region always inspires a degree of fear.
The water was got aboard without trouble, as the car was nearly resting on the ground.
Joe then found it easy to loosen the anchor and leaped lightly to his place beside the doctor.
The latter then replenished the flame in the cylinder, and the balloon majestically soared into
the air.
It was then about one hundred miles from Kazeh, an important establishment in the
interior of Africa, where, thanks to a south-southeasterly current, the travellers might hope to
arrive on that same day. They were moving at the rate of fourteen miles per hour, and the
guidance of the balloon was becoming difficult, as they dared not rise very high without
extreme dilation of the gas, the country itself being at an average height of three thousand
feet. Hence, the doctor preferred not to force the dilation, and so adroitly followed the
sinuosities of a pretty sharply-inclined plane, and swept very close to the villages of Thembo
and Tura-Wels. The latter forms part of the Unyamwezy, a magnificent country, where the
trees attain enormous dimensions; among them the cactus, which grows to gigantic size.
About two o’clock, in magnificent weather, but under a fiery sun that devoured the leastbreath of air, the balloon was floating over the town of Kazeh, situated about three hundred
and fifty miles from the coast.
“We left Zanzibar at nine o’clock in the morning,” said the doctor, consulting his notes,
“and, after two days’ passage, we have, including our deviations, travelled nearly five hundred
geographical miles. Captains Burton and Speke took four months and a half to make the
same distance!”
Chapter 15

Kazeh, an important point in Central Africa, is not a city; in truth, there are no cities in the
interior. Kazeh is but a collection of six extensive excavations. There are enclosed a few
houses and slave-huts, with little courtyards and small gardens, carefully cultivated with
onions, potatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins, and mushrooms, of perfect flavor, growing most
The Unyamwezy is the country of the Moon — above all the rest, the fertile and
magnificent garden-spot of Africa. In its centre is the district of Unyanembe — a delicious
region, where some families of Omani, who are of very pure Arabic origin, live in luxurious
They have, for a long period, held the commerce between the interior of Africa and
Arabia: they trade in gums, ivory, fine muslin, and slaves. Their caravans traverse these
equatorial regions on all sides; and they even make their way to the coast in search of those
articles of luxury and enjoyment which the wealthy merchants covet; while the latter,
surrounded by their wives and their attendants, lead in this charming country the least
disturbed and most horizontal of lives — always stretched at full length, laughing, smoking, or
Around these excavations are numerous native dwellings; wide, open spaces for the
markets; fields of cannabis and datura; superb trees and depths of freshest shade — such is
There, too, is held the general rendezvous of the caravans — those of the south, with
their slaves and their freightage of ivory; and those of the west, which export cotton,
glassware, and trinkets, to the tribes of the great lakes.
So in the market-place there reigns perpetual excitement, a nameless hubbub, made up
of the cries of mixed-breed porters and carriers, the beating of drums, and the twanging of
horns, the neighing of mules, the braying of donkeys, the singing of women, the squalling of
children, and the banging of the huge rattan, wielded by the jemadar or leader of the
caravans, who beats time to this pastoral symphony.
There, spread forth, without regard to order — indeed, we may say, in charming disorder
— are the showy stuffs, the glass beads, the ivory tusks, the rhinoceros’-teeth, the
shark’steeth, the honey, the tobacco, and the cotton of these regions, to be purchased at the
strangest of bargains by customers in whose eyes each article has a price only in proportion
to the desire it excites to possess it.
All at once this agitation, movement and noise stopped as though by magic. The balloon
had just come in sight, far aloft in the sky, where it hovered majestically for a few moments,
and then descended slowly, without deviating from its perpendicular. Men, women, children,
merchants and slaves, Arabs and negroes, as suddenly disappeared within the “tembes” and
the huts.
“My dear doctor,” said Kennedy, “if we continue to produce such a sensation as this, we
shall find some difficulty in establishing commercial relations with the people hereabouts.”
“There’s one kind of trade that we might carry on, though, easily enough,” said Joe; “and
that would be to go down there quietly, and walk off with the best of the goods, without
troubling our heads about the merchants; we’d get rich that way!”
“Ah!” said the doctor, “these natives are a little scared at first; but they won’t be long in
coming back, either through suspicion or through curiosity.”
“Do you really think so, doctor?”
“Well, we’ll see pretty soon. But it wouldn’t be prudent to go too near to them, for theballoon is not iron-clad, and is, therefore, not proof against either an arrow or a bullet.”
“Then you expect to hold a parley with these blacks?”
“If we can do so safely, why should we not? There must be some Arab merchants here
at Kazeh, who are better informed than the rest, and not so barbarous. I remember that
Burton and Speke had nothing but praises to utter concerning the hospitality of these people;
so we might, at least, make the venture.”
The balloon having, meanwhile, gradually approached the ground, one of the anchors
lodged in the top of a tree near the market-place.
By this time the whole population had emerged from their hiding-places stealthily,
thrusting their heads out first. Several “waganga,” recognizable by their badges of conical
shellwork, came boldly forward. They were the sorcerers of the place. They bore in their
girdles small gourds, coated with tallow, and several other articles of witchcraft, all of them,
by-the-way, most professionally filthy.
Little by little the crowd gathered beside them, the women and children grouped around
them, the drums renewed their deafening uproar, hands were violently clapped together, and
then raised toward the sky.
“That’s their style of praying,” said the doctor; “and, if I’m not mistaken, we’re going to be
called upon to play a great part.”
“Well, sir, play it!”
“You, too, my good Joe — perhaps you’re to be a god!”
“Well, master, that won’t trouble me much. I like a little flattery!”
At this moment, one of the sorcerers, a “myanga,” made a sign, and all the clamor died
away into the profoundest silence. He then addressed a few words to the strangers, but in an
unknown tongue.
Dr. Ferguson, not having understood them, shouted some sentences in Arabic, at a
venture, and was immediately answered in that language.
The speaker below then delivered himself of a very copious harangue, which was also
very flowery and very gravely listened to by his audience. From it the doctor was not slow in
learning that the balloon was mistaken for nothing less than the moon in person, and that the
amiable goddess in question had condescended to approach the town with her three sons —
an honor that would never be forgotten in this land so greatly loved by the god of day.
The doctor responded, with much dignity, that the moon made her provincial tour every
thousand years, feeling the necessity of showing herself nearer at hand to her worshippers.
He, therefore, begged them not to be disturbed by her presence, but to take advantage of it
to make known all their wants and longings.
The sorcerer, in his turn, replied that the sultan, the “mwani,” who had been sick for
many years, implored the aid of heaven, and he invited the son of the moon to visit him.
The doctor acquainted his companions with the invitation.
“And you are going to call upon this negro king?” asked Kennedy.
“Undoubtedly so; these people appear well disposed; the air is calm; there is not a breath
of wind, and we have nothing to fear for the balloon?”
“But, what will you do?”
“Be quiet on that score, my dear Dick. With a little medicine, I shall work my way through
the affair!”
Then, addressing the crowd, he said:
“The moon, taking compassion on the sovereign who is so dear to the children of
Unyamwezy, has charged us to restore him to health. Let him prepare to receive us!”
The clamor, the songs and demonstrations of all kinds increased twofold, and the whole
immense ants’ nest of black heads was again in motion.
“Now, my friends,” said Dr. Ferguson, “we must look out for every thing beforehand; we
may be forced to leave this at any moment, unexpectedly, and be off with extra speed. Dickhad better remain, therefore, in the car, and keep the cylinder warm so as to secure a
sufficient ascensional force for the balloon. The anchor is solidly fastened, and there is nothing
to fear in that respect. I shall descend, and Joe will go with me, only that he must remain at
the foot of the ladder.”
“What! are you going alone into that blackamoor’s den?”
“How! doctor, am I not to go with you?”
“No! I shall go alone; these good folks imagine that the goddess of the moon has come
to see them, and their superstition protects me; so have no fear, and each one remain at the
post that I have assigned to him.”
“Well, since you wish it,” sighed Kennedy.
“Look closely to the dilation of the gas.”
By this time the shouts of the natives had swelled to double volume as they vehemently
implored the aid of the heavenly powers.
“There, there,” said Joe, “they’re rather rough in their orders to their good moon and her
divine sons.”
The doctor, equipped with his travelling medicine-chest, descended to the ground,
preceded by Joe, who kept a straight countenance and looked as grave and knowing as the
circumstances of the case required. He then seated himself at the foot of the ladder in the
Arab fashion, with his legs crossed under him, and a portion of the crowd collected around
him in a circle, at respectful distances.
In the meanwhile the doctor, escorted to the sound of savage instruments, and with wild
religious dances, slowly proceeded toward the royal “tembe,” situated a considerable distance
outside of the town. It was about three o’clock, and the sun was shining brilliantly. In fact,
what less could it do upon so grand an occasion!
The doctor stepped along with great dignity, the waganga surrounding him and keeping
off the crowd. He was soon joined by the natural son of the sultan, a handsomely-built young
fellow, who, according to the custom of the country, was the sole heir of the paternal goods,
to the exclusion of the old man’s legitimate children. He prostrated himself before the son of
the moon, but the latter graciously raised him to his feet.
Three-quarters of an hour later, through shady paths, surrounded by all the luxuriance of
tropical vegetation, this enthusiastic procession arrived at the sultan’s palace, a sort of square
edifice called ititenya, and situated on the slope of a hill.
A kind of veranda, formed by the thatched roof, adorned the outside, supported upon
wooden pillars, which had some pretensions to being carved. Long lines of dark-red clay
decorated the walls in characters that strove to reproduce the forms of men and serpents, the
latter better imitated, of course, than the former. The roofing of this abode did not rest directly
upon the walls, and the air could, therefore, circulate freely, but windows there were none,
and the door hardly deserved the name.
Dr. Ferguson was received with all the honors by the guards and favorites of the sultan;
these were men of a fine race, the Wanyamwezi so-called, a pure type of the central African
populations, strong, robust, well-made, and in splendid condition. Their hair, divided into a
great number of small tresses, fell over their shoulders, and by means of black-and-blue
incisions they had tattooed their cheeks from the temples to the mouth. Their ears, frightfully
distended, held dangling to them disks of wood and plates of gum copal. They were clad in
brilliantly-painted cloths, and the soldiers were armed with the saw-toothed war-club, the bow
and arrows barbed and poisoned with the juice of the euphorbium, the cutlass, the “sima,” a
long sabre (also with saw-like teeth), and some small battle-axes.
The doctor advanced into the palace, and there, notwithstanding the sultan’s illness, the
din, which was terrific before, redoubled the instant that he arrived. He noticed, at the lintels of
the door, some rabbits’ tails and zebras’ manes, suspended as talismans. He was received bythe whole troop of his majesty’s wives, to the harmonious accords of the “upatu,” a sort of
cymbal made of the bottom of a copper kettle, and to the uproar of the “kilindo,” a drum five
feet high, hollowed out from the trunk of a tree, and hammered by the ponderous, horny fists
of two jet-black virtuosi.
Most of the women were rather good-looking, and they laughed and chattered merrily as
they smoked their tobacco and “thang” in huge black pipes. They seemed to be well made,
too, under the long robes that they wore gracefully flung about their persons, and carried a
sort of “kilt” woven from the fibres of calabash fastened around their girdles.
Six of them were not the least merry of the party, although put aside from the rest, and
reserved for a cruel fate. On the death of the sultan, they were to be buried alive with him, so
as to occupy and divert his mind during the period of eternal solitude.
Dr. Ferguson, taking in the whole scene at a rapid glance, approached the wooden couch
on which the sultan lay reclining. There he saw a man of about forty, completely brutalized by
orgies of every description, and in a condition that left little or nothing to be done. The
sickness that had afflicted him for so many years was simply perpetual drunkenness. The
royal sot had nearly lost all consciousness, and all the ammonia in the world would not have
set him on his feet again.
His favorites and the women kept on bended knees during this solemn visit. By means of
a few drops of powerful cordial, the doctor for a moment reanimated the imbruted carcass
that lay before him. The sultan stirred, and, for a dead body that had given no sign whatever
of life for several hours previously, this symptom was received with a tremendous repetition of
shouts and cries in the doctor’s honor.
The latter, who had seen enough of it by this time, by a rapid motion put aside his too
demonstrative admirers and went out of the palace, directing his steps immediately toward the
balloon, for it was now six o’clock in the evening.
Joe, during his absence, had been quietly waiting at the foot of the ladder, where the
crowd paid him their most humble respects. Like a genuine son of the moon, he let them keep
on. For a divinity, he had the air of a very clever sort of fellow, by no means proud, nay, even
pleasingly familiar with the young negresses, who seemed never to tire of looking at him.
Besides, he went so far as to chat agreeably with them.
“Worship me, ladies! worship me!” he said to them. “I’m a clever sort of devil, if I am the
son of a goddess.”
They brought him propitiatory gifts, such as are usually deposited in the fetich huts or
mzimu. These gifts consisted of stalks of barley and of “pombe.” Joe considered himself in
duty bound to taste the latter species of strong beer, but his palate, although accustomed to
gin and whiskey, could not withstand the strength of the new beverage, and he had to make a
horrible grimace, which his dusky friends took to be a benevolent smile.
Thereupon, the young damsels, conjoining their voices in a drawling chant, began to
dance around him with the utmost gravity.
“Ah! you’re dancing, are you?” said he. “Well, I won’t be behind you in politeness, and so
I’ll give you one of my country reels.”
So at it he went, in one of the wildest jigs that ever was seen, twisting, turning, and
jerking himself in all directions; dancing with his hands, dancing with his body, dancing with his
knees, dancing with his feet; describing the most fearful contortions and extravagant
evolutions; throwing himself into incredible attitudes; grimacing beyond all belief, and, in fine
giving his savage admirers a strange idea of the style of ballet adopted by the deities in the
Then, the whole collection of blacks, naturally as imitative as monkeys, at once
reproduced all his airs and graces, his leaps and shakes and contortions; they did not lose a
single gesticulation; they did not forget an attitude; and the result was, such a pandemonium
of movement, noise, and excitement, as it would be out of the question even feebly todescribe. But, in the very midst of the fun, Joe saw the doctor approaching.
The latter was coming at full speed, surrounded by a yelling and disorderly throng. The
chiefs and sorcerers seemed to be highly excited. They were close upon the doctor’s heels,
crowding and threatening him.
Singular reaction! What had happened? Had the sultan unluckily perished in the hands of
his celestial physician?
Kennedy, from his post of observation, saw the danger without knowing what had caused
it, and the balloon, powerfully urged by the dilation of the gas, strained and tugged at the
ropes that held it as though impatient to soar away.
The doctor had got as far as the foot of the ladder. A superstitious fear still held the
crowd aloof and hindered them from committing any violence on his person. He rapidly scaled
the ladder, and Joe followed him with his usual agility.
“Not a moment to lose!” said the doctor. “Don’t attempt to let go the anchor! We’ll cut the
cord! Follow me!”
“But what’s the matter?” asked Joe, clambering into the car.
“What’s happened?” questioned Kennedy, rifle in hand.
“Look!” replied the doctor, pointing to the horizon.
“Well?” ejaculated the Scot.
“Well! the moon!”
And, in fact, there was the moon rising red and magnificent, a globe of fire in a field of
blue! It was she, indeed — she and the balloon! — both in one sky!
Either there were two moons, then, or these strangers were imposters, designing
scamps, false deities!
Such were the very natural reflections of the crowd, and hence the reaction in their
Joe could not, for the life of him, keep in a roar of laughter; and the population of Kazeh,
comprehending that their prey was slipping through their clutches, set up prolonged howlings,
aiming, the while, their bows and muskets at the balloon.
But one of the sorcerers made a sign, and all the weapons were lowered. He then began
to climb into the tree, intending to seize the rope and bring the machine to the ground.
Joe leaned out with a hatchet ready. “Shall I cut away?” said he.
“No; wait a moment,” replied the doctor.
“But this black?”
“We may, perhaps, save our anchor — and I hold a great deal by that. There’ll always be
time enough to cut loose.”
The sorcerer, having climbed to the right place, worked so vigorously that he succeeded
in detaching the anchor, and the latter, violently jerked, at that moment, by the start of the
balloon, caught the rascal between the limbs, and carried him off astride of it through the air.
The stupefaction of the crowd was indescribable as they saw one of their waganga thus
whirled away into space.
“Huzza!” roared Joe, as the balloon — thanks to its ascensional force — shot up higher
into the sky, with increased rapidity.
“He holds on well,” said Kennedy; “a little trip will do him good.”
“Shall we let this darky drop all at once?” inquired Joe.
“Oh no,” replied the doctor, “we’ll let him down easily; and I warrant me that, after such
an adventure, the power of the wizard will be enormously enhanced in the sight of his
“Why, I wouldn’t put it past them to make a god of him!” said Joe, with a laugh.
The Victoria, by this time, had risen to the height of one thousand feet, and the black
hung to the rope with desperate energy. He had become completely silent, and his eyes were
fixed, for his terror was blended with amazement. A light west wind was sweeping the balloonright over the town, and far beyond it.
Half an hour later, the doctor, seeing the country deserted, moderated the flame of his
cylinder, and descended toward the ground. At twenty feet above the turf, the affrighted
sorcerer made up his mind in a twinkling: he let himself drop, fell on his feet, and scampered
off at a furious pace toward Kazeh; while the balloon, suddenly relieved of his weight, again
shot up on her course.
Chapter 16

“See,” said Joe, “what comes of playing the sons of the moon without her leave! She
came near serving us an ugly trick. But say, master, did you damage your credit as a
“Yes, indeed,” chimed in the sportsman. “What kind of a dignitary was this Sultan of
“An old half-dead sot,” replied the doctor, “whose loss will not be very severely felt. But
the moral of all this is that honors are fleeting, and we must not take too great a fancy to
“So much the worse!” rejoined Joe. “I liked the thing — to be worshipped! — Play the
god as you like! Why, what would any one ask more than that? By-the-way, the moon did
come up, too, and all red, as if she was in a rage.”
While the three friends went on chatting of this and other things, and Joe examined the
luminary of night from an entirely novel point of view, the heavens became covered with heavy
clouds to the northward, and the lowering masses assumed a most sinister and threatening
look. Quite a smart breeze, found about three hundred feet from the earth, drove the balloon
toward the north-northeast; and above it the blue vault was clear; but the atmosphere felt
close and dull.
The aeronauts found themselves, at about eight in the evening, in thirty-two degrees
forty minutes east longitude, and four degrees seventeen minutes latitude. The atmospheric
currents, under the influence of a tempest not far off, were driving them at the rate of from
thirty to thirty-five miles an hour; the undulating and fertile plains of Mfuto were passing swiftly
beneath them. The spectacle was one worthy of admiration — and admire it they did.
“We are now right in the country of the Moon,” said Dr. Ferguson; “for it has retained the
name that antiquity gave it, undoubtedly, because the moon has been worshipped there in all
ages. It is, really, a superb country.”
“It would be hard to find more splendid vegetation.”
“If we found the like of it around London it would not be natural, but it would be very
pleasant,” put in Joe. “Why is it that such savage countries get all these fine things?”
“And who knows,” said the doctor, “that this country may not, one day, become the
centre of civilization? The races of the future may repair hither, when Europe shall have
become exhausted in the effort to feed her inhabitants.”
“Do you think so, really?” asked Kennedy.
“Undoubtedly, my dear Dick. Just note the progress of events: consider the migrations of
races, and you will arrive at the same conclusion assuredly. Asia was the first nurse of the
world, was she not? For about four thousand years she travailed, she grew pregnant, she
produced, and then, when stones began to cover the soil where the golden harvests sung by
Homer had flourished, her children abandoned her exhausted and barren bosom. You next
see them precipitating themselves upon young and vigorous Europe, which has nourished
them for the last two thousand years. But already her fertility is beginning to die out; her
productive powers are diminishing every day. Those new diseases that annually attack the
products of the soil, those defective crops, those insufficient resources, are all signs of a
vitality that is rapidly wearing out and of an approaching exhaustion. Thus, we already see the
millions rushing to the luxuriant bosom of America, as a source of help, not inexhaustible
indeed, but not yet exhausted. In its turn, that new continent will grow old; its virgin forests will
fall before the axe of industry, and its soil will become weak through having too fully produced
what had been demanded of it. Where two harvests bloomed every year, hardly one will begathered from a soil completely drained of its strength. Then, Africa will be there to offer to
new races the treasures that for centuries have been accumulating in her breast. Those
climates now so fatal to strangers will be purified by cultivation and by drainage of the soil, and
those scattered water supplies will be gathered into one common bed to form an artery of
navigation. Then this country over which we are now passing, more fertile, richer, and fuller of
vitality than the rest, will become some grand realm where more astonishing discoveries than
steam and electricity will be brought to light.”
“Ah! sir,” said Joe, “I’d like to see all that.”
“You got up too early in the morning, my boy!”
“Besides,” said Kennedy, “that may prove to be a very dull period when industry will
swallow up every thing for its own profit. By dint of inventing machinery, men will end in being
eaten up by it! I have always fancied that the end of the earth will be when some enormous
boiler, heated to three thousand millions of atmospheric pressure, shall explode and blow up
our Globe!”
“And I add that the Americans,” said Joe, “will not have been the last to work at the
“In fact,” assented the doctor, “they are great boiler-makers! But, without allowing
ourselves to be carried away by such speculations, let us rest content with enjoying the
beauties of this country of the Moon, since we have been permitted to see it.”
The sun, darting his last rays beneath the masses of heaped-up cloud, adorned with a
crest of gold the slightest inequalities of the ground below; gigantic trees, arborescent bushes,
mosses on the even surface — all had their share of this luminous effulgence. The soil,
slightly undulating, here and there rose into little conical hills; there were no mountains visible
on the horizon; immense brambly palisades, impenetrable hedges of thorny jungle, separated
the clearings dotted with numerous villages, and immense euphorbiae surrounded them with
natural fortifications, interlacing their trunks with the coral-shaped branches of the shrubbery
and undergrowth.
Ere long, the Malagazeri, the chief tributary of Lake Tanganayika, was seen winding
between heavy thickets of verdure, offering an asylum to many water-courses that spring
from the torrents formed in the season of freshets, or from ponds hollowed in the clayey soil.
To observers looking from a height, it was a chain of waterfalls thrown across the whole
western face of the country.
Animals with huge humps were feeding in the luxuriant prairies, and were half hidden,
sometimes, in the tall grass; spreading forests in bloom redolent of spicy perfumes presented
themselves to the gaze like immense bouquets; but, in these bouquets, lions, leopards,
hyenas, and tigers, were then crouching for shelter from the last hot rays of the setting sun.
From time to time, an elephant made the tall tops of the undergrowth sway to and fro, and
you could hear the crackling of huge branches as his ponderous ivory tusks broke them in his
“What a sporting country!” exclaimed Dick, unable longer to restrain his enthusiasm;
“why, a single ball fired at random into those forests would bring down game worthy of it.
Suppose we try it once!”
“No, my dear Dick; the night is close at hand — a threatening night with a tempest in the
background — and the storms are awful in this country, where the heated soil is like one vast
electric battery.”
“You are right, sir,” said Joe, “the heat has got to be enough to choke one, and the
breeze has died away. One can feel that something’s coming.”
“The atmosphere is saturated with electricity,” replied the doctor; “every living creature is
sensible that this state of the air portends a struggle of the elements, and I confess that I
never before was so full of the fluid myself.”
“Well, then,” suggested Dick, “would it not be advisable to alight?”“On the contrary, Dick, I’d rather go up, only that I am afraid of being carried out of my
course by these counter-currents contending in the atmosphere.”
“Have you any idea, then, of abandoning the route that we have followed since we left
the coast?”
“If I can manage to do so,” replied the doctor, “I will turn more directly northward, by
from seven to eight degrees; I shall then endeavor to ascend toward the presumed latitudes
of the sources of the Nile; perhaps we may discover some traces of Captain Speke’s
expedition or of M. de Heuglin’s caravan. Unless I am mistaken, we are at thirty-two degrees
forty minutes east longitude, and I should like to ascend directly north of the equator.”
“Look there!” exclaimed Kennedy, suddenly, “see those hippopotami sliding out of the
pools — those masses of blood-colored flesh — and those crocodiles snuffing the air aloud!”
“They’re choking!” ejaculated Joe. “Ah! what a fine way to travel this is; and how one can
snap his fingers at all that vermin! — Doctor! Mr. Kennedy! see those packs of wild animals
hurrying along close together. There are fully two hundred. Those are wolves.”
“No! Joe, not wolves, but wild dogs; a famous breed that does not hesitate to attack the
lion himself. They are the worst customers a traveller could meet, for they would instantly tear
him to pieces.”
“Well, it isn’t Joe that’ll undertake to muzzle them!” responded that amiable youth. “After
all, though, if that’s the nature of the beast, we mustn’t be too hard on them for it!”
Silence gradually settled down under the influence of the impending storm: the thickened
air actually seemed no longer adapted to the transmission of sound; the atmosphere
appeared muffled, and, like a room hung with tapestry, lost all its sonorous reverberation. The
“rover bird” so-called, the coroneted crane, the red and blue jays, the mocking-bird, the
flycatcher, disappeared among the foliage of the immense trees, and all nature revealed
symptoms of some approaching catastrophe.
At nine o’clock the Victoria hung motionless over Msene, an extensive group of villages
scarcely distinguishable in the gloom. Once in a while, the reflection of a wandering ray of light
in the dull water disclosed a succession of ditches regularly arranged, and, by one last gleam,
the eye could make out the calm and sombre forms of palm-trees, sycamores, and gigantic
“I am stifling!” said the Scot, inhaling, with all the power of his lungs, as much as possible
of the rarefied air. “We are not moving an inch! Let us descend!”
“But the tempest!” said the doctor, with much uneasiness.
“If you are afraid of being carried away by the wind, it seems to me that there is no other
course to pursue.”
“Perhaps the storm won’t burst to-night,” said Joe; “the clouds are very high.”
“That is just the thing that makes me hesitate about going beyond them; we should have
to rise still higher, lose sight of the earth, and not know all night whether we were moving
forward or not, or in what direction we were going.”
“Make up your mind, dear doctor, for time presses!”
“It’s a pity that the wind has fallen,” said Joe, again; “it would have carried us clear of the
“It is, indeed, a pity, my friends,” rejoined the doctor. “The clouds are dangerous for us;
they contain opposing currents which might catch us in their eddies, and lightnings that might
set on fire. Again, those perils avoided, the force of the tempest might hurl us to the ground,
were we to cast our anchor in the tree-tops.”
“Then what shall we do?”
“Well, we must try to get the balloon into a medium zone of the atmosphere, and there
keep her suspended between the perils of the heavens and those of the earth. We have
enough water for the cylinder, and our two hundred pounds of ballast are untouched. In case
of emergency I can use them.”“We will keep watch with you,” said the hunter.
“No, my friends, put the provisions under shelter, and lie down; I will rouse you, if it
becomes necessary.”
“But, master, wouldn’t you do well to take some rest yourself, as there’s no danger close
on us just now?” insisted poor Joe.
“No, thank you, my good fellow, I prefer to keep awake. We are not moving, and should
circumstances not change, we’ll find ourselves to-morrow in exactly the same place.”
“Good-night, then, sir!”
“Good-night, if you can only find it so!”
Kennedy and Joe stretched themselves out under their blankets, and the doctor
remained alone in the immensity of space.
However, the huge dome of clouds visibly descended, and the darkness became
profound. The black vault closed in upon the earth as if to crush it in its embrace.
All at once a violent, rapid, incisive flash of lightning pierced the gloom, and the rent it
made had not closed ere a frightful clap of thunder shook the celestial depths.
“Up! up! turn out!” shouted Ferguson.
The two sleepers, aroused by the terrible concussion, were at the doctor’s orders in a
“Shall we descend?” said Kennedy.
“No! the balloon could not stand it. Let us go up before those clouds dissolve in water,
and the wind is let loose!” and, so saying, the doctor actively stirred up the flame of the
cylinder, and turned it on the spirals of the serpentine siphon.
The tempests of the tropics develop with a rapidity equalled only by their violence. A
second flash of lightning rent the darkness, and was followed by a score of others in quick
succession. The sky was crossed and dotted, like the zebra’s hide, with electric sparks, which
danced and flickered beneath the great drops of rain.
“We have delayed too long,” exclaimed the doctor; “we must now pass through a zone of
fire, with our balloon filled as it is with inflammable gas!”
“But let us descend, then! let us descend!” urged Kennedy.
“The risk of being struck would be just about even, and we should soon be torn to pieces
by the branches of the trees!”
“We are going up, doctor!”
“Quicker, quicker still!”
In this part of Africa, during the equatorial storms, it is not rare to count from thirty to
thirty-five flashes of lightning per minute. The sky is literally on fire, and the crashes of thunder
are continuous.
The wind burst forth with frightful violence in this burning atmosphere; it twisted the
blazing clouds; one might have compared it to the breath of some gigantic bellows, fanning all
this conflagration.
Dr. Ferguson kept his cylinder at full heat, and the balloon dilated and went up, while
Kennedy, on his knees, held together the curtains of the awning. The balloon whirled round
wildly enough to make their heads turn, and the aeronauts got some very alarming jolts,
indeed, as their machine swung and swayed in all directions. Huge cavities would form in the
silk of the balloon as the wind fiercely bent it in, and the stuff fairly cracked like a pistol as it
flew back from the pressure. A sort of hail, preceded by a rumbling noise, hissed through the
air and rattled on the covering of the Victoria. The latter, however, continued to ascend, while
the lightning described tangents to the convexity of her circumference; but she bore on, right
through the midst of the fire.
“God protect us!” said Dr. Ferguson, solemnly, “we are in His hands; He alone can save
us — but let us be ready for every event, even for fire — our fall could not be very rapid.”
The doctor’s voice could scarcely be heard by his companions; but they could see hiscountenance calm as ever even amid the flashing of the lightnings; he was watching the
phenomena of phosphorescence produced by the fires of St. Elmo, that were now skipping to
and fro along the network of the balloon.
The latter whirled and swung, but steadily ascended, and, ere the hour was over, it had
passed the stormy belt. The electric display was going on below it like a vast crown of artificial
fireworks suspended from the car.
Then they enjoyed one of the grandest spectacles that Nature can offer to the gaze of
man. Below them, the tempest; above them, the starry firmament, tranquil, mute, impassible,
with the moon projecting her peaceful rays over these angry clouds.
Dr. Ferguson consulted the barometer; it announced twelve thousand feet of elevation. It
was then eleven o’clock at night.
“Thank Heaven, all danger is past; all we have to do now, is, to keep ourselves at this
height,” said the doctor.
“It was frightful!” remarked Kennedy.
“Oh!” said Joe, “it gives a little variety to the trip, and I’m not sorry to have seen a storm
from a trifling distance up in the air. It’s a fine sight!”
Chapter 17

About four in the morning, Monday, the sun reappeared in the horizon; the clouds had
dispersed, and a cheery breeze refreshed the morning dawn.
The earth, all redolent with fragrant exhalations, reappeared to the gaze of our travellers.
The balloon, whirled about by opposing currents, had hardly budged from its place, and the
doctor, letting the gas contract, descended so as to get a more northerly direction. For a long
while his quest was fruitless; the wind carried him toward the west until he came in sight of the
famous Mountains of the Moon, which grouped themselves in a semicircle around the
extremity of Lake Tanganayika; their ridges, but slightly indented, stood out against the bluish
horizon, so that they might have been mistaken for a natural fortification, not to be passed by
the explorers of the centre of Africa. Among them were a few isolated cones, revealing the
mark of the eternal snows.
“Here we are at last,” said the doctor, “in an unexplored country! Captain Burton pushed
very far to the westward, but he could not reach those celebrated mountains; he even denied
their existence, strongly as it was affirmed by Speke, his companion. He pretended that they
were born in the latter’s fancy; but for us, my friends, there is no further doubt possible.”
“Shall we cross them?” asked Kennedy.
“Not, if it please God. I am looking for a wind that will take me back toward the equator. I
will even wait for one, if necessary, and will make the balloon like a ship that casts anchor,
until favorable breezes come up.”
But the foresight of the doctor was not long in bringing its reward; for, after having tried
different heights, the Victoria at length began to sail off to the northeastward with medium
“We are in the right track,” said the doctor, consulting his compass, “and scarcely two
hundred feet from the surface; lucky circumstances for us, enabling us, as they do, to
reconnoitre these new regions. When Captain Speke set out to discover Lake Ukereoue, he
ascended more to the eastward in a straight line above Kazeh.”
“Shall we keep on long in this way?” inquired the Scot.
“Perhaps. Our object is to push a point in the direction of the sources of the Nile; and we
have more than six hundred miles to make before we get to the extreme limit reached by the
explorers who came from the north.”
“And we shan’t set foot on the solid ground?” murmured Joe; “it’s enough to cramp a
fellow’s legs!”
“Oh, yes, indeed, my good Joe,” said the doctor, reassuring him; “we have to economize
our provisions, you know; and on the way, Dick, you must get us some fresh meat.”
“Whenever you like, doctor.”
“We shall also have to replenish our stock of water. Who knows but we may be carried to
some of the dried-up regions? So we cannot take too many precautions.”
At noon the Victoria was at twenty-nine degrees fifteen minutes east longitude, and three
degrees fifteen minutes south latitude. She passed the village of Uyofu, the last northern limit
of the Unyamwezi, opposite to the Lake Ukereoue, which could still be seen.
The tribes living near to the equator seem to be a little more civilized, and are governed
by absolute monarchs, whose control is an unlimited despotism. Their most compact union of
power constitutes the province of Karagwah.
It was decided by the aeronauts that they would alight at the first favorable place. They
found that they should have to make a prolonged halt, and take a careful inspection of the
balloon: so the flame of the cylinder was moderated, and the anchors, flung out from the car,ere long began to sweep the grass of an immense prairie, that, from a certain height, looked
like a shaven lawn, but the growth of which, in reality, was from seven to eight feet in height.
The balloon skimmed this tall grass without bending it, like a gigantic butterfly: not an
obstacle was in sight; it was an ocean of verdure without a single breaker.
“We might proceed a long time in this style,” remarked Kennedy; “I don’t see one tree
that we could approach, and I’m afraid that our hunt’s over.”
“Wait, Dick; you could not hunt anyhow in this grass, that grows higher than your head.
We’ll find a favorable place presently.”
In truth, it was a charming excursion that they were making now — a veritable navigation
on this green, almost transparent sea, gently undulating in the breath of the wind. The little car
seemed to cleave the waves of verdure, and, from time to time, coveys of birds of magnificent
plumage would rise fluttering from the tall herbage, and speed away with joyous cries. The
anchors plunged into this lake of flowers, and traced a furrow that closed behind them, like the
wake of a ship.
All at once a sharp shock was felt — the anchor had caught in the fissure of some rock
hidden in the high grass.
“We are fast!” exclaimed Joe.
These words had scarcely been uttered when a shrill cry rang through the air, and the
following phrases, mingled with exclamations, escaped from the lips of our travellers:
“What’s that?”
“A strange cry!”
“Look! Why, we’re moving!”
“The anchor has slipped!”
“No; it holds, and holds fast too!” said Joe, who was tugging at the rope.
“It’s the rock, then, that’s moving!”
An immense rustling was noticed in the grass, and soon an elongated, winding shape
was seen rising above it.
“A serpent!” shouted Joe.
“A serpent!” repeated Kennedy, handling his rifle.
“No,” said the doctor, “it’s an elephant’s trunk!”
“An elephant, Samuel?”
And, as Kennedy said this, he drew his rifle to his shoulder.
“Wait, Dick; wait!”
“That’s a fact! The animal’s towing us!”
“And in the right direction, Joe — in the right direction.”
The elephant was now making some headway, and soon reached a clearing where his
whole body could be seen. By his gigantic size, the doctor recognized a male of a superb
species. He had two whitish tusks, beautifully curved, and about eight feet in length; and in
these the shanks of the anchor had firmly caught. The animal was vainly trying with his trunk
to disengage himself from the rope that attached him to the car.
“Get up — go ahead, old fellow!” shouted Joe, with delight, doing his best to urge this
rather novel team. “Here is a new style of travelling! — no more horses for me. An elephant, if
you please!”
“But where is he taking us to?” said Kennedy, whose rifle itched in his grasp.
“He’s taking us exactly to where we want to go, my dear Dick. A little patience!”
“‘Wig-a-more! wig-a-more!’ as the Scotch country folks say,” shouted Joe, in high glee.
“Gee-up! gee-up there!”
The huge animal now broke into a very rapid gallop. He flung his trunk from side to side,
and his monstrous bounds gave the car several rather heavy thumps. Meanwhile the doctor
stood ready, hatchet in hand, to cut the rope, should need arise.
“But,” said he, “we shall not give up our anchor until the last moment.”This drive, with an elephant for the team, lasted about an hour and a half; yet the animal
did not seem in the least fatigued. These immense creatures can go over a great deal of
ground, and, from one day to another, are found at enormous distances from there they were
last seen, like the whales, whose mass and speed they rival.
“In fact,” said Joe, “it’s a whale that we have harpooned; and we’re only doing just what
whalemen do when out fishing.”
But a change in the nature of the ground compelled the doctor to vary his style of
locomotion. A dense grove of calmadores was descried on the horizon, about three miles
away, on the north of the prairie. So it became necessary to detach the balloon from its
draught-animal at last.
Kennedy was intrusted with the job of bringing the elephant to a halt. He drew his rifle to
his shoulder, but his position was not favorable to a successful shot; so that the first ball fired
flattened itself on the animal’s skull, as it would have done against an iron plate. The creature
did not seem in the least troubled by it; but, at the sound of the discharge, he had increased
his speed, and now was going as fast as a horse at full gallop.
“The deuce!” ejaculated Kennedy.
“What a solid head!” commented Joe.
“We’ll try some conical balls behind the shoulder-joint,” said Kennedy, reloading his rifle
with care. In another moment he fired.
The animal gave a terrible cry, but went on faster than ever.
“Come!” said Joe, taking aim with another gun, “I must help you, or we’ll never end it.”
And now two balls penetrated the creature’s side.
The elephant halted, lifted his trunk, and resumed his run toward the wood with all his
speed; he shook his huge head, and the blood began to gush from his wounds.
“Let us keep up our fire, Mr. Kennedy.”
“And a continuous fire, too,” urged the doctor, “for we are close on the woods.”
Ten shots more were discharged. The elephant made a fearful bound; the car and
balloon cracked as though every thing were going to pieces, and the shock made the doctor
drop his hatchet on the ground.
The situation was thus rendered really very alarming; the anchor-rope, which had
securely caught, could not be disengaged, nor could it yet be cut by the knives of our
aeronauts, and the balloon was rushing headlong toward the wood, when the animal received
a ball in the eye just as he lifted his head. On this he halted, faltered, his knees bent under
him, and he uncovered his whole flank to the assaults of his enemies in the balloon.
“A bullet in his heart!” said Kennedy, discharging one last rifle-shot.
The elephant uttered a long bellow of terror and agony, then raised himself up for a
moment, twirling his trunk in the air, and finally fell with all his weight upon one of his tusks,
which he broke off short. He was dead.
“His tusk’s broken!” exclaimed Kennedy — “ivory too that in England would bring
thirtyfive guineas per hundred pounds.”
“As much as that?” said Joe, scrambling down to the ground by the anchor-rope.
“What’s the use of sighing over it, Dick?” said the doctor. “Are we ivory merchants? Did
we come hither to make money?”
Joe examined the anchor and found it solidly attached to the unbroken tusk. The doctor
and Dick leaped out on the ground, while the balloon, now half emptied, hovered over the
body of the huge animal.
“What a splendid beast!” said Kennedy, “what a mass of flesh! I never saw an elephant
of that size in India!”
“There’s nothing surprising about that, my dear Dick; the elephants of Central Africa are
the finest in the world. The Andersons and the Cummings have hunted so incessantly in the
neighborhood of the Cape, that these animals have migrated to the equator, where they areoften met with in large herds.”
“In the mean while, I hope,” added Joe, “that we’ll taste a morsel of this fellow. I’ll
undertake to get you a good dinner at his expense. Mr. Kennedy will go off and hunt for an
hour or two; the doctor will make an inspection of the balloon, and, while they’re busy in that
way, I’ll do the cooking.”
“A good arrangement!” said the doctor; “so do as you like, Joe.”
“As for me,” said the hunter, “I shall avail myself of the two hours’ recess that Joe has
condescended to let me have.”
“Go, my friend, but no imprudence! Don’t wander too far away.”
“Never fear, doctor!” and, so saying, Dick, shouldering his gun, plunged into the woods.
Forthwith Joe went to work at his vocation. At first he made a hole in the ground two feet
deep; this he filled with the dry wood that was so abundantly scattered about, where it had
been strewn by the elephants, whose tracks could be seen where they had made their way
through the forest. This hole filled, he heaped a pile of fagots on it a foot in height, and set fire
to it.
Then he went back to the carcass of the elephant, which had fallen only about a hundred
feet from the edge of the forest; he next proceeded adroitly to cut off the trunk, which might
have been two feet in diameter at the base; of this he selected the most delicate portion, and
then took with it one of the animal’s spongy feet. In fact, these are the finest morsels, like the
hump of the bison, the paws of the bear, and the head of the wild boar.
When the pile of fagots had been thoroughly consumed, inside and outside, the hole,
cleared of the cinders and hot coals, retained a very high temperature. The pieces of
elephant-meat, surrounded with aromatic leaves, were placed in this extempore oven and
covered with hot coals. Then Joe piled up a second heap of sticks over all, and when it had
burned out the meat was cooked to a turn.
Then Joe took the viands from the oven, spread the savory mess upon green leaves,
and arranged his dinner upon a magnificent patch of greensward. He finally brought out some
biscuit, some coffee, and some cognac, and got a can of pure, fresh water from a neighboring
The repast thus prepared was a pleasant sight to behold, and Joe, without being too
proud, thought that it would also be pleasant to eat.
“A journey without danger or fatigue,” he soliloquized; “your meals when you please; a
swinging hammock all the time! What more could a man ask? And there was Kennedy, who
didn’t want to come!”
On his part, Dr. Ferguson was engrossed in a serious and thorough examination of the
balloon. The latter did not appear to have suffered from the storm; the silk and the gutta
percha had resisted wonderfully, and, upon estimating the exact height of the ground and the
ascensional force of the balloon, our aeronaut saw, with satisfaction, that the hydrogen was in
exactly the same quantity as before. The covering had remained completely waterproof.
It was now only five days since our travellers had quitted Zanzibar; their pemmican had
not yet been touched; their stock of biscuit and potted meat was enough for a long trip, and
there was nothing to be replenished but the water.
The pipes and spiral seemed to be in perfect condition, since, thanks to their india-rubber
jointings, they had yielded to all the oscillations of the balloon. His examination ended, the
doctor betook himself to setting his notes in order. He made a very accurate sketch of the
surrounding landscape, with its long prairie stretching away out of sight, the forest of
calmadores, and the balloon resting motionless over the body of the dead elephant.
At the end of his two hours, Kennedy returned with a string of fat partridges and the
haunch of an oryx, a sort of gemsbok belonging to the most agile species of antelopes. Joe
took upon himself to prepare this surplus stock of provisions for a later repast.
“But, dinner’s ready!” he shouted in his most musical voice.And the three travellers had only to sit down on the green turf. The trunk and feet of the
elephant were declared to be exquisite. Old England was toasted, as usual, and delicious
Havanas perfumed this charming country for the first time.
Kennedy ate, drank, and chatted, like four; he was perfectly delighted with his new life,
and seriously proposed to the doctor to settle in this forest, to construct a cabin of boughs and
foliage, and, there and then, to lay the foundation of a Robinson Crusoe dynasty in Africa.
The proposition went no further, although Joe had, at once, selected the part of Man
Friday for himself.
The country seemed so quiet, so deserted, that the doctor resolved to pass the night on
the ground, and Joe arranged a circle of watch-fires as an indispensable barrier against wild
animals, for the hyenas, cougars, and jackals, attracted by the smell of the dead elephant,
were prowling about in the neighborhood. Kennedy had to fire his rifle several times at these
unceremonious visitors, but the night passed without any untoward occurrence.
Chapter 18

At five o’clock in the morning, preparations for departure commenced. Joe, with the
hatchet which he had fortunately recovered, broke the elephant’s tusks. The balloon, restored
to liberty, sped away to the northwest with our travellers, at the rate of eighteen miles per
The doctor had carefully taken his position by the altitude of the stars, during the
preceding night. He knew that he was in latitude two degrees forty minutes below the equator,
or at a distance of one hundred and sixty geographical miles. He swept along over many
villages without heeding the cries that the appearance of the balloon excited; he took note of
the conformation of places with quick sights; he passed the slopes of the Rubemhe, which are
nearly as abrupt as the summits of the Ousagara, and, farther on, at Tenga, encountered the
first projections of the Karagwah chains, which, in his opinion, are direct spurs of the
Mountains of the Moon. So, the ancient legend which made these mountains the cradle of the
Nile, came near to the truth, since they really border upon Lake Ukereoue, the conjectured
reservoir of the waters of the great river.
From Kafuro, the main district of the merchants of that country, he descried, at length,
on the horizon, the lake so much desired and so long sought for, of which Captain Speke
caught a glimpse on the 3d of August, 1858.
Samuel Ferguson felt real emotion: he was almost in contact with one of the principal
points of his expedition, and, with his spy-glass constantly raised, he kept every nook and
corner of the mysterious region in sight. His gaze wandered over details that might have been
thus described:
“Beneath him extended a country generally destitute of cultivation; only here and there
some ravines seemed under tillage; the surface, dotted with peaks of medium height, grew
flat as it approached the lake; barley-fields took the place of rice-plantations, and there, too,
could be seen growing the species of plantain from which the wine of the country is drawn,
and mwani, the wild plant which supplies a substitute for coffee. A collection of some fifty or
more circular huts, covered with a flowering thatch, constituted the capital of the Karagwah
He could easily distinguish the astonished countenances of a rather fine-looking race of
natives of yellowish-brown complexion. Women of incredible corpulence were dawdling about
through the cultivated grounds, and the doctor greatly surprised his companions by informing
them that this rotundity, which is highly esteemed in that region, was obtained by an obligatory
diet of curdled milk.
At noon, the Victoria was in one degree forty-five minutes south latitude, and at one
o’clock the wind was driving her directly toward the lake.
This sheet of water was christened Uyanza Victoria, or Victoria Lake, by Captain Speke.
At the place now mentioned it might measure about ninety miles in breadth, and at its
southern extremity the captain found a group of islets, which he named the Archipelago of
Bengal. He pushed his survey as far as Muanza, on the eastern coast, where he was received
by the sultan. He made a triangulation of this part of the lake, but he could not procure a boat,
either to cross it or to visit the great island of Ukereoue which is very populous, is governed by
three sultans, and appears to be only a promontory at low tide.
The balloon approached the lake more to the northward, to the doctor’s great regret, for
it had been his wish to determine its lower outlines. Its shores seemed to be thickly set with
brambles and thorny plants, growing together in wild confusion, and were literally hidden,
sometimes, from the gaze, by myriads of mosquitoes of a light-brown hue. The country wasevidently habitable and inhabited. Troops of hippopotami could be seen disporting themselves
in the forests of reeds, or plunging beneath the whitish waters of the lake.
The latter, seen from above, presented, toward the west, so broad an horizon that it
might have been called a sea; the distance between the two shores is so great that
communication cannot be established, and storms are frequent and violent, for the winds
sweep with fury over this elevated and unsheltered basin.
The doctor experienced some difficulty in guiding his course; he was afraid of being
carried toward the east, but, fortunately, a current bore him directly toward the north, and at
six o’clock in the evening the balloon alighted on a small desert island in thirty minutes south
latitude, and thirty-two degrees fifty-two minutes east longitude, about twenty miles from the
The travellers succeeded in making fast to a tree, and, the wind having fallen calm
toward evening, they remained quietly at anchor. They dared not dream of taking the ground,
since here, as on the shores of the Uyanza, legions of mosquitoes covered the soil in dense
clouds. Joe even came back, from securing the anchor in the tree, speckled with bites, but he
kept his temper, because he found it quite the natural thing for mosquitoes to treat him as
they had done.
Nevertheless, the doctor, who was less of an optimist, let out as much rope as he could,
so as to escape these pitiless insects, that began to rise toward him with a threatening hum.
The doctor ascertained the height of the lake above the level of the sea, as it had been
determined by Captain Speke, say three thousand seven hundred and fifty feet.
“Here we are, then, on an island!” said Joe, scratching as though he’d tear his nails out.
“We could make the tour of it in a jiffy,” added Kennedy, “and, excepting these
confounded mosquitoes, there’s not a living being to be seen on it.”
“The islands with which the lake is dotted,” replied the doctor, “are nothing, after all, but
the tops of submerged hills; but we are lucky to have found a retreat among them, for the
shores of the lake are inhabited by ferocious tribes. Take your sleep, then, since Providence
has granted us a tranquil night.”
“Won’t you do the same, doctor?”
“No, I could not close my eyes. My thoughts would banish sleep. To-morrow, my friends,
should the wind prove favorable, we shall go due north, and we shall, perhaps, discover the
sources of the Nile, that grand secret which has so long remained impenetrable. Near as we
are to the sources of the renowned river, I could not sleep.”
Kennedy and Joe, whom scientific speculations failed to disturb to that extent, were not
long in falling into sound slumber, while the doctor held his post.
On Wednesday, April 23d, the balloon started at four o’clock in the morning, with a
grayish sky overhead; night was slow in quitting the surface of the lake, which was enveloped
in a dense fog, but presently a violent breeze scattered all the mists, and, after the balloon
had been swung to and fro for a moment, in opposite directions, it at length veered in a
straight line toward the north.
Dr. Ferguson fairly clapped his hands for joy.
“We are on the right track!” he exclaimed. “To-day or never we shall see the Nile! Look,
my friends, we are crossing the equator! We are entering our own hemisphere!”
“Ah!” said Joe, “do you think, doctor, that the equator passes here?”
“Just here, my boy!”
“Well, then, with all respect to you, sir, it seems to me that this is the very time to
moisten it.”
“Good!” said the doctor, laughing. “Let us have a glass of punch. You have a way of
comprehending cosmography that is any thing but dull.”
And thus was the passage of the Victoria over the equator duly celebrated.
The balloon made rapid headway. In the west could be seen a low and but slightly-diversified coast, and, farther away in the background, the elevated plains of the Uganda and
the Usoga. At length, the rapidity of the wind became excessive, approaching thirty miles per
The waters of the Nyanza, violently agitated, were foaming like the billows of a sea. By
the appearance of certain long swells that followed the sinking of the waves, the doctor was
enabled to conclude that the lake must have great depth of water. Only one or two rude boats
were seen during this rapid passage.
“This lake is evidently, from its elevated position, the natural reservoir of the rivers in the
eastern part of Africa, and the sky gives back to it in rain what it takes in vapor from the
streams that flow out of it. I am certain that the Nile must here take its rise.”
“Well, we shall see!” said Kennedy.
About nine o’clock they drew nearer to the western coast. It seemed deserted, and
covered with woods; the wind freshened a little toward the east, and the other shore of the
lake could be seen. It bent around in such a curve as to end in a wide angle toward two
degrees forty minutes north latitude. Lofty mountains uplifted their arid peaks at this extremity
of Nyanza; but, between them, a deep and winding gorge gave exit to a turbulent and foaming
While busy managing the balloon, Dr. Ferguson never ceased reconnoitring the country
with eager eyes.
“Look!” he exclaimed, “look, my friends! the statements of the Arabs were correct! They
spoke of a river by which Lake Ukereoue discharged its waters toward the north, and this river
exists, and we are descending it, and it flows with a speed analogous to our own! And this
drop of water now gliding away beneath our feet is, beyond all question, rushing on, to mingle
with the Mediterranean! It is the Nile!”
“It is the Nile!” reeechoed Kennedy, carried away by the enthusiasm of his friend.
“Hurrah for the Nile!” shouted Joe, glad, and always ready to cheer for something.
Enormous rocks, here and there, embarrassed the course of this mysterious river. The
water foamed as it fell in rapids and cataracts, which confirmed the doctor in his preconceived
ideas on the subject. From the environing mountains numerous torrents came plunging and
seething down, and the eye could take them in by hundreds. There could be seen, starting
from the soil, delicate jets of water scattering in all directions, crossing and recrossing each
other, mingling, contending in the swiftness of their progress, and all rushing toward that
nascent stream which became a river after having drunk them in.
“Here is, indeed, the Nile!” reiterated the doctor, with the tone of profound conviction.
“The origin of its name, like the origin of its waters, has fired the imagination of the learned;
they have sought to trace it from the Greek, the Coptic, the Sanscrit; but all that matters little
now, since we have made it surrender the secret of its source!”
“But,” said the Scotchman, “how are you to make sure of the identity of this river with the
one recognized by the travellers from the north?”
“We shall have certain, irrefutable, convincing, and infallible proof,” replied Ferguson,
“should the wind hold another hour in our favor!”
The mountains drew farther apart, revealing in their place numerous villages, and fields
of white Indian corn, doura, and sugar-cane. The tribes inhabiting the region seemed excited
and hostile; they manifested more anger than adoration, and evidently saw in the aeronauts
only obtrusive strangers, and not condescending deities. It appeared as though, in
approaching the sources of the Nile, these men came to rob them of something, and so the
Victoria had to keep out of range of their muskets.
“To land here would be a ticklish matter!” said the Scot.
“Well!” said Joe, “so much the worse for these natives. They’ll have to do without the
pleasure of our conversation.”
“Nevertheless, descend I must,” said the doctor, “were it only for a quarter of an hour.Without doing so I cannot verify the results of our expedition.”
“It is indispensable, then, doctor?”
“Indispensable; and we will descend, even if we have to do so with a volley of musketry.”
“The thing suits me,” said Kennedy, toying with his pet rifle.
“And I’m ready, master, whenever you say the word!” added Joe, preparing for the fight.
“It would not be the first time,” remarked the doctor, “that science has been followed up,
sword in hand. The same thing happened to a French savant among the mountains of Spain,
when he was measuring the terrestrial meridian.”
“Be easy on that score, doctor, and trust to your two body-guards.”
“Are we there, master?”
“Not yet. In fact, I shall go up a little, first, in order to get an exact idea of the
configuration of the country.”
The hydrogen expanded, and in less than ten minutes the balloon was soaring at a
height of twenty-five hundred feet above the ground.
From that elevation could be distinguished an inextricable network of smaller streams
which the river received into its bosom; others came from the west, from between numerous
hills, in the midst of fertile plains.
“We are not ninety miles from Gondokoro,” said the doctor, measuring off the distance
on his map, “and less than five miles from the point reached by the explorers from the north.
Let us descend with great care.”
And, upon this, the balloon was lowered about two thousand feet.
“Now, my friends, let us be ready, come what may.”
“Ready it is!” said Dick and Joe, with one voice.
In a few moments the balloon was advancing along the bed of the river, and scarcely one
hundred feet above the ground. The Nile measured but fifty fathoms in width at this point, and
the natives were in great excitement, rushing to and fro, tumultuously, in the villages that lined
the banks of the stream. At the second degree it forms a perpendicular cascade of ten feet in
height, and consequently impassable by boats.
“Here, then, is the cascade mentioned by Debono!” exclaimed the doctor.
The basin of the river spread out, dotted with numerous islands, which Dr. Ferguson
devoured with his eyes. He seemed to be seeking for a point of reference which he had not
yet found.
By this time, some blacks, having ventured in a boat just under the balloon, Kennedy
saluted them with a shot from his rifle, that made them regain the bank at their utmost speed.
“A good journey to you,” bawled Joe, “and if I were in your place, I wouldn’t try coming
back again. I should be mightily afraid of a monster that can hurl thunderbolts when he
But, all at once, the doctor snatched up his spy-glass, and directed it toward an island
reposing in the middle of the river.
“Four trees!” he exclaimed; “look, down there!” Sure enough, there were four trees
standing alone at one end of it.
“It is Bengal Island! It is the very same,” repeated the doctor, exultingly.
“And what of that?” asked Dick.
“It is there that we shall alight, if God permits.”
“But, it seems to be inhabited, doctor.”
“Joe is right; and, unless I’m mistaken, there is a group of about a score of natives on it
“We’ll make them scatter; there’ll be no great trouble in that,” responded Ferguson.
“So be it,” chimed in the hunter.
The sun was at the zenith as the balloon approached the island.The blacks, who were members of the Makado tribe, were howling lustily, and one of
them waved his bark hat in the air. Kennedy took aim at him, fired, and his hat flew about him
in pieces. Thereupon there was a general scamper. The natives plunged headlong into the
river, and swam to the opposite bank. Immediately, there came a shower of balls from both
banks, along with a perfect cloud of arrows, but without doing the balloon any damage, where
it rested with its anchor snugly secured in the fissure of a rock. Joe lost no time in sliding to
the ground.
“The ladder!” cried the doctor. “Follow me, Kennedy.”
“What do you wish, sir?”
“Let us alight. I want a witness.”
“Here I am!”
“Mind your post, Joe, and keep a good lookout.”
“Never fear, doctor; I’ll answer for all that.”
“Come, Dick,” said the doctor, as he touched the ground.
So saying, he drew his companion along toward a group of rocks that rose upon one
point of the island; there, after searching for some time, he began to rummage among the
brambles, and, in so doing, scratched his hands until they bled.
Suddenly he grasped Kennedy’s arm, exclaiming: “Look! look!”
Yes; there, indeed, could be descried, with perfect precision of outline, some letters
carved on the rock. It was quite easy to make them out:

A. D.

“A.D.!” repeated Dr. Ferguson. “Andrea Debono — the very signature of the traveller
who farthest ascended the current of the Nile.”
“No doubt of that, friend Samuel,” assented Kennedy.
“Are you now convinced?”
“It is the Nile! We cannot entertain a doubt on that score now,” was the reply.
The doctor, for the last time, examined those precious initials, the exact form and size of
which he carefully noted.
“And now,” said he — “now for the balloon!”
“Quickly, then, for I see some of the natives getting ready to recross the river.”
“That matters little to us now. Let the wind but send us northward for a few hours, and
we shall reach Gondokoro, and press the hands of some of our countrymen.”
Ten minutes more, and the balloon was majestically ascending, while Dr. Ferguson, in
token of success, waved the English flag triumphantly from his car.
Chapter 19

“Which way do we head?” asked Kennedy, as he saw his friend consulting the compass.
“The deuce! but that’s not the north?”
“No, Dick; and I’m afraid that we shall have some trouble in getting to Gondokoro. I am
sorry for it; but, at last, we have succeeded in connecting the explorations from the east with
those from the north; and we must not complain.”
The balloon was now receding gradually from the Nile.
“One last look,” said the doctor, “at this impassable latitude, beyond which the most
intrepid travellers could not make their way. There are those intractable tribes, of whom
Petherick, Arnaud, Miuni, and the young traveller Lejean, to whom we are indebted for the
best work on the Upper Nile, have spoken.”
“Thus, then,” added Kennedy, inquiringly, “our discoveries agree with the speculations of
“Absolutely so. The sources of the White Nile, of the Bahr-el-Abiad, are immersed in a
lake as large as a sea; it is there that it takes its rise. Poesy, undoubtedly, loses something
thereby. People were fond of ascribing a celestial origin to this king of rivers. The ancients
gave it the name of an ocean, and were not far from believing that it flowed directly from the
sun; but we must come down from these flights from time to time, and accept what science
teaches us. There will not always be scientific men, perhaps; but there always will be poets.”
“We can still see cataracts,” said Joe.
“Those are the cataracts of Makedo, in the third degree of latitude. Nothing could be
more accurate. Oh, if we could only have followed the course of the Nile for a few hours!”
“And down yonder, below us, I see the top of a mountain,” said the hunter.
“That is Mount Longwek, the Trembling Mountain of the Arabs. This whole country was
visited by Debono, who went through it under the name of Latif-Effendi. The tribes living near
the Nile are hostile to each other, and are continually waging a war of extermination. You may
form some idea, then, of the difficulties he had to encounter.”
The wind was carrying the balloon toward the northwest, and, in order to avoid Mount
Longwek, it was necessary to seek a more slanting current.
“My friends,” said the doctor, “here is where OUR passage of the African Continent really
commences; up to this time we have been following the traces of our predecessors.
Henceforth we are to launch ourselves upon the unknown. We shall not lack the courage,
shall we?”
“Never!” said Dick and Joe together, almost in a shout.
“Onward, then, and may we have the help of Heaven!”
At ten o’clock at night, after passing over ravines, forests, and scattered villages, the
aeronauts reached the side of the Trembling Mountain, along whose gentle slopes they went
quietly gliding. In that memorable day, the 23d of April, they had, in fifteen hours, impelled by
a rapid breeze, traversed a distance of more than three hundred and fifteen miles.
But this latter part of the journey had left them in dull spirits, and complete silence
reigned in the car. Was Dr. Ferguson absorbed in the thought of his discoveries? Were his
two companions thinking of their trip through those unknown regions? There were, no doubt,
mingled with these reflections, the keenest reminiscences of home and distant friends. Joe
alone continued to manifest the same careless philosophy, finding it quite natural that home
should not be there, from the moment that he left it; but he respected the silent mood of his
friends, the doctor and Kennedy.About ten the balloon anchored on the side of the Trembling Mountain, so called,
because, in Arab tradition, it is said to tremble the instant that a Mussulman sets foot upon it.
The travellers then partook of a substantial meal, and all quietly passed the night as usual,
keeping the regular watches.
On awaking the next morning, they all had pleasanter feelings. The weather was fine,
and the wind was blowing from the right quarter; so that a good breakfast, seasoned with
Joe’s merry pranks, put them in high good-humor.
The region they were now crossing is very extensive. It borders on the Mountains of the
Moon on one side, and those of Darfur on the other — a space about as broad as Europe.
“We are, no doubt, crossing what is supposed to be the kingdom of Usoga. Geographers
have pretended that there existed, in the centre of Africa, a vast depression, an immense
central lake. We shall see whether there is any truth in that idea,” said the doctor.
“But how did they come to think so?” asked Kennedy.
“From the recitals of the Arabs. Those fellows are great narrators — too much so,
probably. Some travellers, who had got as far as Kazeh, or the great lakes, saw slaves that
had been brought from this region; interrogated them concerning it, and, from their different
narratives, made up a jumble of notions, and deduced systems from them. Down at the
bottom of it all there is some appearance of truth; and you see that they were right about the
sources of the Nile.”
“Nothing could be more correct,” said Kennedy. “It was by the aid of these documents
that some attempts at maps were made, and so I am going to try to follow our route by one of
them, rectifying it when need be.”
“Is all this region inhabited?” asked Joe.
“Undoubtedly; and disagreeably inhabited, too.”
“I thought so.”
“These scattered tribes come, one and all, under the title of Nyam-Nyams, and this
compound word is only a sort of nickname. It imitates the sound of chewing.”
“That’s it! Excellent!” said Joe, champing his teeth as though he were eating;
“My good Joe, if you were the immediate object of this chewing, you wouldn’t find it so
“Why, what’s the reason, sir?”
“These tribes are considered man-eaters.”
“Is that really the case?”
“Not a doubt of it! It has also been asserted that these natives had tails, like mere
quadrupeds; but it was soon discovered that these appendages belonged to the skins of
animals that they wore for clothing.”
“More’s the pity! a tail’s a nice thing to chase away mosquitoes.”
“That may be, Joe; but we must consign the story to the domain of fable, like the dogs’
heads which the traveller, Brun-Rollet, attributed to other tribes.”
“Dogs’ heads, eh? Quite convenient for barking, and even for man-eating!”
“But one thing that has been, unfortunately, proven true, is, the ferocity of these tribes,
who are really very fond of human flesh, and devour it with avidity.”
“I only hope that they won’t take such a particular fancy to mine!” said Joe, with comic
“See that!” said Kennedy.
“Yes, indeed, sir; if I have to be eaten, in a moment of famine, I want it to be for your
benefit and my master’s; but the idea of feeding those black fellows — gracious! I’d die of
“Well, then, Joe,” said Kennedy, “that’s understood; we count upon you in case of need!”
“At your service, gentlemen!”“Joe talks in this way so as to make us take good care of him, and fatten him up.”
“Maybe so!” said Joe. “Every man for himself.”
In the afternoon, the sky became covered with a warm mist, that oozed from the soil; the
brownish vapor scarcely allowed the beholder to distinguish objects, and so, fearing collision
with some unexpected mountain-peak, the doctor, about five o’clock, gave the signal to halt.
The night passed without accident, but in such profound obscurity, that it was necessary
to use redoubled vigilance.
The monsoon blew with extreme violence during all the next morning. The wind buried
itself in the lower cavities of the balloon and shook the appendage by which the dilating-pipes
entered the main apparatus. They had, at last, to be tied up with cords, Joe acquitting himself
very skilfully in performing that operation.
He had occasion to observe, at the same time, that the orifice of the balloon still
remained hermetically sealed.
“That is a matter of double importance for us,” said the doctor; “in the first place, we
avoid the escape of precious gas, and then, again, we do not leave behind us an inflammable
train, which we should at last inevitably set fire to, and so be consumed.”
“That would be a disagreeable travelling incident!” said Joe.
“Should we be hurled to the ground?” asked Kennedy.
“Hurled! No, not quite that. The gas would burn quietly, and we should descend little by
little. A similar accident happened to a French aeronaut, Madame Blanchard. She ignited her
balloon while sending off fireworks, but she did not fall, and she would not have been killed,
probably, had not her car dashed against a chimney and precipitated her to the ground.”
“Let us hope that nothing of the kind may happen to us,” said the hunter. “Up to this time
our trip has not seemed to me very dangerous, and I can see nothing to prevent us reaching
our destination.”
“Nor can I either, my dear Dick; accidents are generally caused by the imprudence of the
aeronauts, or the defective construction of their apparatus. However, in thousands of aerial
ascensions, there have not been twenty fatal accidents. Usually, the danger is in the moment
of leaving the ground, or of alighting, and therefore at those junctures we should never omit
the utmost precaution.”
“It’s breakfast-time,” said Joe; “we’ll have to put up with preserved meat and coffee until
Mr. Kennedy has had another chance to get us a good slice of venison.”
Chapter 20

The wind had become violent and irregular; the balloon was running the gantlet through
the air. Tossed at one moment toward the north, at another toward the south, it could not find
one steady current.
“We are moving very swiftly without advancing much,” said Kennedy, remarking the
frequent oscillations of the needle of the compass.
“The balloon is rushing at the rate of at least thirty miles an hour. Lean over, and see
how the country is gliding away beneath us!” said the doctor.
“See! that forest looks as though it were precipitating itself upon us!”
“The forest has become a clearing!” added the other.
“And the clearing a village!” continued Joe, a moment or two later. “Look at the faces of
those astonished darkys!”
“Oh! it’s natural enough that they should be astonished,” said the doctor. “The French
peasants, when they first saw a balloon, fired at it, thinking that it was an aerial monster. A
Soudan negro may be excused, then, for opening his eyes very wide!”
“Faith!” said Joe, as the Victoria skimmed closely along the ground, at scarcely the
elevation of one hundred feet, and immediately over a village, “I’ll throw them an empty bottle,
with your leave, doctor, and if it reaches them safe and sound, they’ll worship it; if it breaks,
they’ll make talismans of the pieces.”
So saying, he flung out a bottle, which, of course, was broken into a thousand fragments,
while the negroes scampered into their round huts, uttering shrill cries.
A little farther on, Kennedy called out: “Look at that strange tree! The upper part is of
one kind and the lower part of another!”
“Well!” said Joe, “here’s a country where the trees grow on top of each other.”
“It’s simply the trunk of a fig-tree,” replied the doctor, “on which there is a little vegetating
earth. Some fine day, the wind left the seed of a palm on it, and the seed has taken root and
grown as though it were on the plain ground.”
“A fine new style of gardening,” said Joe, “and I’ll import the idea to England. It would be
just the thing in the London parks; without counting that it would be another way to increase
the number of fruit-trees. We could have gardens up in the air; and the small house-owners
would like that!”
At this moment, they had to raise the balloon so as to pass over a forest of trees that
were more than three hundred feet in height — a kind of ancient banyan.
“What magnificent trees!” exclaimed Kennedy. “I never saw any thing so fine as the
appearance of these venerable forests. Look, doctor!”
“The height of these banyans is really remarkable, my dear Dick; and yet, they would be
nothing astonishing in the New World.”
“Why, are there still loftier trees in existence?”
“Undoubtedly; among the ‘mammoth trees’ of California, there is a cedar four hundred
and eighty feet in height. It would overtop the Houses of Parliament, and even the Great
Pyramid of Egypt. The trunk at the surface of the ground was one hundred and twenty feet in
circumference, and the concentric layers of the wood disclosed an age of more than four
thousand years.”
“But then, sir, there was nothing wonderful in it! When one has lived four thousand years,
one ought to be pretty tall!” was Joe’s remark.
Meanwhile, during the doctor’s recital and Joe’s response, the forest had given place to a
large collection of huts surrounding an open space. In the middle of this grew a solitary tree,and Joe exclaimed, as he caught sight of it:
“Well! if that tree has produced such flowers as those, for the last four thousand years, I
have to offer it my compliments, anyhow,” and he pointed to a gigantic sycamore, whose
whole trunk was covered with human bones. The flowers of which Joe spoke were heads
freshly severed from the bodies, and suspended by daggers thrust into the bark of the tree.
“The war-tree of these cannibals!” said the doctor; “the Indians merely carry off the
scalp, but these negroes take the whole head.”
“A mere matter of fashion!” said Joe. But, already, the village and the bleeding heads
were disappearing on the horizon. Another place offered a still more revolting spectacle —
half-devoured corpses; skeletons mouldering to dust; human limbs scattered here and there,
and left to feed the jackals and hyenas.
“No doubt, these are the bodies of criminals; according to the custom in Abyssinia, these
people have left them a prey to the wild beasts, who kill them with their terrible teeth and
claws, and then devour them at their leisure.
“Not a whit more cruel than hanging!” said the Scot; “filthier, that’s all!”
“In the southern regions of Africa, they content themselves,” resumed the doctor, “with
shutting up the criminal in his own hut with his cattle, and sometimes with his family. They
then set fire to the hut, and the whole party are burned together. I call that cruel; but, like
friend Kennedy, I think that the gallows is quite as cruel, quite as barbarous.”
Joe, by the aid of his keen sight, which he did not fail to use continually, noticed some
flocks of birds of prey flitting about the horizon.
“They are eagles!” exclaimed Kennedy, after reconnoitring them through the glass,
“magnificent birds, whose flight is as rapid as ours.”
“Heaven preserve us from their attacks!” said the doctor, “they are more to be feared by
us than wild beasts or savage tribes.”
“Bah!” said the hunter, “we can drive them off with a few rifle-shots.”
“Nevertheless, I would prefer, dear Dick, not having to rely upon your skill, this time, for
the silk of our balloon could not resist their sharp beaks; fortunately, the huge birds will, I
believe, be more frightened than attracted by our machine.”
“Yes! but a new idea, and I have dozens of them,” said Joe; “if we could only manage to
capture a team of live eagles, we could hitch them to the balloon, and they’d haul us through
the air!”
“The thing has been seriously proposed,” replied the doctor, “but I think it hardly
practicable with creatures naturally so restive.”
“Oh! we’d tame them,” said Joe. “Instead of driving them with bits, we’d do it with
eyeblinkers that would cover their eyes. Half blinded in that way, they’d go to the right or to the
left, as we desired; when blinded completely, they would stop.”
“Allow me, Joe, to prefer a favorable wind to your team of eagles. It costs less for
fodder, and is more reliable.”
“Well, you may have your choice, master, but I stick to my idea.”
It now was noon. The Victoria had been going at a more moderate speed for some time;
the country merely passed below it; it no longer flew.
Suddenly, shouts and whistlings were heard by our aeronauts, and, leaning over the
edge of the car, they saw on the open plain below them an exciting spectacle.
Two hostile tribes were fighting furiously, and the air was dotted with volleys of arrows.
The combatants were so intent upon their murderous work that they did not notice the arrival
of the balloon; there were about three hundred mingled confusedly in the deadly struggle:
most of them, red with the blood of the wounded, in which they fairly wallowed, were horrible
to behold.
As they at last caught sight of the balloon, there was a momentary pause; but their yells
redoubled, and some arrows were shot at the Victoria, one of them coming close enough forJoe to catch it with his hand.
“Let us rise out of range,” exclaimed the doctor; “there must be no rashness! We are
forbidden any risk.”
Meanwhile, the massacre continued on both sides, with battle-axes and war-clubs; as
quickly as one of the combatants fell, a hostile warrior ran up to cut off his head, while the
women, mingling in the fray, gathered up these bloody trophies, and piled them together at
either extremity of the battle-field. Often, too, they even fought for these hideous spoils.
“What a frightful scene!” said Kennedy, with profound disgust.
“They’re ugly acquaintances!” added Joe; “but then, if they had uniforms they’d be just
like the fighters of all the rest of the world!”
“I have a keen hankering to take a hand in at that fight,” said the hunter, brandishing his
“No! no!” objected the doctor, vehemently; “no, let us not meddle with what don’t concern
us. Do you know which is right or which is wrong, that you would assume the part of the
Almighty? Let us, rather, hurry away from this revolting spectacle. Could the great captains of
the world float thus above the scenes of their exploits, they would at last, perhaps, conceive a
disgust for blood and conquest.”
The chieftain of one of the contending parties was remarkable for his athletic proportions,
his great height, and herculean strength. With one hand he plunged his spear into the
compact ranks of his enemies, and with the other mowed large spaces in them with his
battleaxe. Suddenly he flung away his war-club, red with blood, rushed upon a wounded warrior,
and, chopping off his arm at a single stroke, carried the dissevered member to his mouth, and
bit it again and again.
“Ah!” ejaculated Kennedy, “the horrible brute! I can hold back no longer,” and, as he
spoke, the huge savage, struck full in the forehead with a rifle-ball, fell headlong to the
Upon this sudden mishap of their leader, his warriors seemed struck dumb with
amazement; his supernatural death awed them, while it reanimated the courage and ardor of
their adversaries, and, in a twinkling, the field was abandoned by half the combatants.
“Come, let us look higher up for a current to bear us away. I am sick of this spectacle,”
said the doctor.
But they could not get away so rapidly as to avoid the sight of the victorious tribe rushing
upon the dead and the wounded, scrambling and disputing for the still warm and reeking flesh,
and eagerly devouring it.
“Faugh!” uttered Joe, “it’s sickening.”
The balloon rose as it expanded; the howlings of the brutal horde, in the delirium of their
orgy, pursued them for a few minutes; but, at length, borne away toward the south, they were
carried out of sight and hearing of this horrible spectacle of cannibalism.
The surface of the country was now greatly varied, with numerous streams of water,
bearing toward the east. The latter, undoubtedly, ran into those affluents of Lake Nu, or of the
River of the Gazelles, concerning which M. Guillaume Lejean has given such curious details.
At nightfall, the balloon cast anchor in twenty-seven degrees east longitude, and four
degrees twenty minutes north latitude, after a day’s trip of one hundred and fifty miles.
Chapter 21

The night came on very dark. The doctor had not been able to reconnoitre the country.
He had made fast to a very tall tree, from which he could distinguish only a confused mass
through the gloom.
As usual, he took the nine-o’clock watch, and at midnight Dick relieved him.
“Keep a sharp lookout, Dick!” was the doctor’s good-night injunction.
“Is there any thing new on the carpet?”
“No; but I thought that I heard vague sounds below us, and, as I don’t exactly know
where the wind has carried us to, even an excess of caution would do no harm.”
“You’ve probably heard the cries of wild beasts.”
“No! the sounds seemed to me something altogether different from that; at all events, on
the least alarm don’t fail to waken us.”
“I’ll do so, doctor; rest easy.”
After listening attentively for a moment or two longer, the doctor, hearing nothing more,
threw himself on his blankets and went asleep.
The sky was covered with dense clouds, but not a breath of air was stirring; and the
balloon, kept in its place by only a single anchor, experienced not the slightest oscillation.
Kennedy, leaning his elbow on the edge of the car, so as to keep an eye on the cylinder,
which was actively at work, gazed out upon the calm obscurity; he eagerly scanned the
horizon, and, as often happens to minds that are uneasy or possessed with preconceived
notions, he fancied that he sometimes detected vague gleams of light in the distance.
At one moment he even thought that he saw them only two hundred paces away, quite
distinctly, but it was a mere flash that was gone as quickly as it came, and he noticed nothing
more. It was, no doubt, one of those luminous illusions that sometimes impress the eye in the
midst of very profound darkness.
Kennedy was getting over his nervousness and falling into his wandering meditations
again, when a sharp whistle pierced his ear.
Was that the cry of an animal or of a night-bird, or did it come from human lips?
Kennedy, perfectly comprehending the gravity of the situation, was on the point of
waking his companions, but he reflected that, in any case, men or animals, the creatures that
he had heard must be out of reach. So he merely saw that his weapons were all right, and
then, with his night-glass, again plunged his gaze into space.
It was not long before he thought he could perceive below him vague forms that seemed
to be gliding toward the tree, and then, by the aid of a ray of moonlight that shot like an
electric flash between two masses of cloud, he distinctly made out a group of human figures
moving in the shadow.
The adventure with the dog-faced baboons returned to his memory, and he placed his
hand on the doctor’s shoulder.
The latter was awake in a moment.
“Silence!” said Dick. “Let us speak below our breath.”
“Has any thing happened?”
“Yes, let us waken Joe.”
The instant that Joe was aroused, Kennedy told him what he had seen.
“Those confounded monkeys again!” said Joe.
“Possibly, but we must be on our guard.”
“Joe and I,” said Kennedy, “will climb down the tree by the ladder.”
“And, in the meanwhile,” added the doctor, “I will take my measures so that we canascend rapidly at a moment’s warning.”
“Let us go down, then!” said Joe.
“Don’t use your weapons, excepting at the last extremity! It would be a useless risk to
make the natives aware of our presence in such a place as this.”
Dick and Joe replied with signs of assent, and then letting themselves slide noiselessly
toward the tree, took their position in a fork among the strong branches where the anchor had
For some moments they listened minutely and motionlessly among the foliage, and ere
long Joe seized Kenedy’s hand as he heard a sort of rubbing sound against the bark of the
“Don’t you hear that?” he whispered.
“Yes, and it’s coming nearer.”
“Suppose it should be a serpent? That hissing or whistling that you heard before —”
“No! there was something human in it.”
“I’d prefer the savages, for I have a horror of those snakes.”
“The noise is increasing,” said Kennedy, again, after a lapse of a few moments.
“Yes! something’s coming up toward us — climbing.”
“Keep watch on this side, and I’ll take care of the other.”
“Very good!”
There they were, isolated at the top of one of the larger branches shooting out in the
midst of one of those miniature forests called baobab-trees. The darkness, heightened by the
density of the foliage, was profound; however, Joe, leaning over to Kennedy’s ear and pointing
down the tree, whispered:
“The blacks! They’re climbing toward us.”
The two friends could even catch the sound of a few words uttered in the lowest possible
Joe gently brought his rifle to his shoulder as he spoke.
“Wait!” said Kennedy.
Some of the natives had really climbed the baobab, and now they were seen rising on all
sides, winding along the boughs like reptiles, and advancing slowly but surely, all the time
plainly enough discernible, not merely to the eye but to the nostrils, by the horrible odors of
the rancid grease with which they bedaub their bodies.
Ere long, two heads appeared to the gaze of Kennedy and Joe, on a level with the very
branch to which they were clinging.
“Attention!” said Kennedy. “Fire!”
The double concussion resounded like a thunderbolt and died away into cries of rage and
pain, and in a moment the whole horde had disappeared.
But, in the midst of these yells and howls, a strange, unexpected — nay what seemed an
impossible — cry had been heard! A human voice had, distinctly, called aloud in the French
language —
“Help! help!”
Kennedy and Joe, dumb with amazement, had regained the car immediately.
“Did you hear that?” the doctor asked them.
“Undoubtedly, that supernatural cry, ‘A moi! a moi!’ comes from a Frenchman in the
hands of these barbarians!”
“A traveller.”
“A missionary, perhaps.”
“Poor wretch!” said Kennedy, “they’re assassinating him — making a martyr of him!”
The doctor then spoke, and it was impossible for him to conceal his emotions.
“There can be no doubt of it,” he said; “some unfortunate Frenchman has fallen into thehands of these savages. We must not leave this place without doing all in our power to save
him. When he heard the sound of our guns, he recognized an unhoped-for assistance, a
providential interposition. We shall not disappoint his last hope. Are such your views?”
“They are, doctor, and we are ready to obey you.”
“Let us, then, lay our heads together to devise some plan, and in the morning we’ll try to
rescue him.”
“But how shall we drive off those abominable blacks?” asked Kennedy.
“It’s quite clear to me, from the way in which they made off, that they are unacquainted
with fire-arms. We must, therefore, profit by their fears; but we shall await daylight before
acting, and then we can form our plans of rescue according to circumstances.”
“The poor captive cannot be far off,” said Joe, “because —”
“Help! help!” repeated the voice, but much more feebly this time.
“The savage wretches!” exclaimed Joe, trembling with indignation. “Suppose they should
kill him to-night!”
“Do you hear, doctor,” resumed Kennedy, seizing the doctor’s hand. “Suppose they
should kill him to-night!”
“It is not at all likely, my friends. These savage tribes kill their captives in broad daylight;
they must have the sunshine.”
“Now, if I were to take advantage of the darkness to slip down to the poor fellow?” said
“And I’ll go with you,” said Joe, warmly.
“Pause, my friends — pause! The suggestion does honor to your hearts and to your
courage; but you would expose us all to great peril, and do still greater harm to the
unfortunate man whom you wish to aid.”
“Why so?” asked Kennedy. “These savages are frightened and dispersed: they will not
“Dick, I implore you, heed what I say. I am acting for the common good; and if by any
accident you should be taken by surprise, all would be lost.”
“But, think of that poor wretch, hoping for aid, waiting there, praying, calling aloud. Is no
one to go to his assistance? He must think that his senses deceived him; that he heard
“We can reassure him, on that score,” said Dr. Ferguson — and, standing erect, making
a speaking-trumpet of his hands, he shouted at the top of his voice, in French: “Whoever you
are, be of good cheer! Three friends are watching over you.”
A terrific howl from the savages responded to these words — no doubt drowning the
prisoner’s reply.
“They are murdering him! they are murdering him!” exclaimed Kennedy. “Our
interference will have served no other purpose than to hasten the hour of his doom. We must
“But how, Dick? What do you expect to do in the midst of this darkness?”
“Oh, if it was only daylight!” sighed Joe.
“Well, and suppose it were daylight?” said the doctor, in a singular tone.
“Nothing more simple, doctor,” said Kennedy. “I’d go down and scatter all these savage
villains with powder and ball!”
“And you, Joe, what would you do?”
“I, master? why, I’d act more prudently, maybe, by telling the prisoner to make his
escape in a certain direction that we’d agree upon.”
“And how would you get him to know that?”
“By means of this arrow that I caught flying the other day. I’d tie a note to it, or I’d just
call out to him in a loud voice what you want him to do, because these black fellows don’t
understand the language that you’d speak in!”“Your plans are impracticable, my dear friends. The greatest difficulty would be for this
poor fellow to escape at all — even admitting that he should manage to elude the vigilance of
his captors. As for you, my dear Dick, with determined daring, and profiting by their alarm at
our fire-arms, your project might possibly succeed; but, were it to fail, you would be lost, and
we should have two persons to save instead of one. No! we must put all the chances on our
side, and go to work differently.”
“But let us act at once!” said the hunter.
“Perhaps we may,” said the doctor, throwing considerable stress upon the words.
“Why, doctor, can you light up such darkness as this?”
“Who knows, Joe?”
“Ah! if you can do that, you’re the greatest learned man in the world!”
The doctor kept silent for a few moments; he was thinking. His two companions looked at
him with much emotion, for they were greatly excited by the strangeness of the situation.
Ferguson at last resumed:
“Here is my plan: We have two hundred pounds of ballast left, since the bags we brought
with us are still untouched. I’ll suppose that this prisoner, who is evidently exhausted by
suffering, weighs as much as one of us; there will still remain sixty pounds of ballast to throw
out, in case we should want to ascend suddenly.”
“How do you expect to manage the balloon?” asked Kennedy.
“This is the idea, Dick: you will admit that if I can get to the prisoner, and throw out a
quantity of ballast, equal to his weight, I shall have in nowise altered the equilibrium of the
balloon. But, then, if I want to get a rapid ascension, so as to escape these savages, I must
employ means more energetic than the cylinder. Well, then, in throwing out this overplus of
ballast at a given moment, I am certain to rise with great rapidity.”
“That’s plain enough.”
“Yes; but there is one drawback: it consists in the fact that, in order to descend after
that, I should have to part with a quantity of gas proportionate to the surplus ballast that I had
thrown out. Now, the gas is precious; but we must not haggle over it when the life of a
fellowcreature is at stake.”
“You are right, sir; we must do every thing in our power to save him.”
“Let us work, then, and get these bags all arranged on the rim of the car, so that they
may be thrown overboard at one movement.”
“But this darkness?”
“It hides our preparations, and will be dispersed only when they are finished. Take care
to have all our weapons close at hand. Perhaps we may have to fire; so we have one shot in
the rifle; four for the two muskets; twelve in the two revolvers; or seventeen in all, which might
be fired in a quarter of a minute. But perhaps we shall not have to resort to all this noisy work.
Are you ready?”
“We’re ready,” responded Joe.
The sacks were placed as requested, and the arms were put in good order.
“Very good!” said the doctor. “Have an eye to every thing. Joe will see to throwing out
the ballast, and Dick will carry off the prisoner; but let nothing be done until I give the word.
Joe will first detach the anchor, and then quickly make his way back to the car.”
Joe let himself slide down by the rope; and, in a few moments, reappeared at his post;
while the balloon, thus liberated, hung almost motionless in the air.
In the mean time the doctor assured himself of the presence of a sufficient quantity of
gas in the mixing-tank to feed the cylinder, if necessary, without there being any need of
resorting for some time to the Buntzen battery. He then took out the two perfectly-isolated
conducting-wires, which served for the decomposition of the water, and, searching in his
travelling-sack, brought forth two pieces of charcoal, cut down to a sharp point, and fixed one
at the end of each wire.His two friends looked on, without knowing what he was about, but they kept perfectly
silent. When the doctor had finished, he stood up erect in the car, and, taking the two pieces
of charcoal, one in each hand, drew their points nearly together.
In a twinkling, an intense and dazzling light was produced, with an insupportable glow
between the two pointed ends of charcoal, and a huge jet of electric radiance literally broke
the darkness of the night.
“Oh!” ejaculated the astonished friends.
“Not a word!” cautioned the doctor.
Chapter 22

Dr. Ferguson darted his powerful electric jet toward various points of space, and caused
it to rest on a spot from which shouts of terror were heard. His companions fixed their gaze
eagerly on the place.
The baobab, over which the balloon was hanging almost motionless, stood in the centre
of a clearing, where, between fields of Indian-corn and sugar-cane, were seen some fifty low,
conical huts, around which swarmed a numerous tribe.
A hundred feet below the balloon stood a large post, or stake, and at its foot lay a human
being — a young man of thirty years or more, with long black hair, half naked, wasted and
wan, bleeding, covered with wounds, his head bowed over upon his breast, as Christ’s was,
when He hung upon the cross.
The hair, cut shorter on the top of his skull, still indicated the place of a half-effaced
“A missionary! a priest!” exclaimed Joe.
“Poor, unfortunate man!” said Kennedy.
“We must save him, Dick!” responded the doctor; “we must save him!”
The crowd of blacks, when they saw the balloon over their heads, like a huge comet with
a train of dazzling light, were seized with a terror that may be readily imagined. Upon hearing
their cries, the prisoner raised his head. His eyes gleamed with sudden hope, and, without too
thoroughly comprehending what was taking place, he stretched out his hands to his
unexpected deliverers.
“He is alive!” exclaimed Ferguson. “God be praised! The savages have got a fine scare,
and we shall save him! Are you ready, friends?”
“Ready, doctor, at the word.”
“Joe, shut off the cylinder!”
The doctor’s order was executed. An almost imperceptible breath of air impelled the
balloon directly over the prisoner, at the same time that it gently lowered with the contraction
of the gas. For about ten minutes it remained floating in the midst of luminous waves, for
Ferguson continued to flash right down upon the throng his glowing sheaf of rays, which, here
and there, marked out swift and vivid sheets of light. The tribe, under the influence of an
indescribable terror, disappeared little by little in the huts, and there was complete solitude
around the stake. The doctor had, therefore, been right in counting upon the fantastic
appearance of the balloon throwing out rays, as vivid as the sun’s, through this intense gloom.
The car was approaching the ground; but a few of the savages, more audacious than the
rest, guessing that their victim was about to escape from their clutches, came back with loud
yells, and Kennedy seized his rifle. The doctor, however, besought him not to fire.
The priest, on his knees, for he had not the strength to stand erect, was not even
fastened to the stake, his weakness rendering that precaution superfluous. At the instant
when the car was close to the ground, the brawny Scot, laying aside his rifle, and seizing the
priest around the waist, lifted him into the car, while, at the same moment, Joe tossed over
the two hundred pounds of ballast.
The doctor had expected to ascend rapidly, but, contrary to his calculations, the balloon,
after going up some three or four feet, remained there perfectly motionless.
“What holds us?” he asked, with an accent of terror.
Some of the savages were running toward them, uttering ferocious cries.
“Ah, ha!” said Joe, “one of those cursed blacks is hanging to the car!”
“Dick! Dick!” cried the doctor, “the water-tank!”Kennedy caught his friend’s idea on the instant, and, snatching up with desperate
strength one of the water-tanks weighing about one hundred pounds, he tossed it overboard.
The balloon, thus suddenly lightened, made a leap of three hundred feet into the air, amid the
howlings of the tribe whose prisoner thus escaped them in a blaze of dazzling light.
“Hurrah!” shouted the doctor’s comrades.
Suddenly, the balloon took a fresh leap, which carried it up to an elevation of a thousand
“What’s that?” said Kennedy, who had nearly lost his balance.
“Oh! nothing; only that black villain leaving us!” replied the doctor, tranquilly, and Joe,
leaning over, saw the savage that had clung to the car whirling over and over, with his arms
outstretched in the air, and presently dashed to pieces on the ground. The doctor then
separated his electric wires, and every thing was again buried in profound obscurity. It was
now one o’clock in the morning.
The Frenchman, who had swooned away, at length opened his eyes.
“You are saved!” were the doctor’s first words.
“Saved!” he with a sad smile replied in English, “saved from a cruel death! My brethren, I
thank you, but my days are numbered, nay, even my hours, and I have but little longer to
With this, the missionary, again yielding to exhaustion, relapsed into his fainting-fit.
“He is dying!” said Kennedy.
“No,” replied the doctor, bending over him, “but he is very weak; so let us lay him under
the awning.”
And they did gently deposit on their blankets that poor, wasted body, covered with scars
and wounds, still bleeding where fire and steel had, in twenty places, left their agonizing
marks. The doctor, taking an old handkerchief, quickly prepared a little lint, which he spread
over the wounds, after having washed them. These rapid attentions were bestowed with the
celerity and skill of a practised surgeon, and, when they were complete, the doctor, taking a
cordial from his medicine-chest, poured a few drops upon his patient’s lips.
The latter feebly pressed his kind hands, and scarcely had the strength to say, “Thank
you! thank you!”
The doctor comprehended that he must be left perfectly quiet; so he closed the folds of
the awning and resumed the guidance of the balloon.
The latter, after taking into account the weight of the new passenger, had been lightened
of one hundred and eighty pounds, and therefore kept aloft without the aid of the cylinder. At
the first dawn of day, a current drove it gently toward the west-northwest. The doctor went in
under the awning for a moment or two, to look at his still sleeping patient.
“May Heaven spare the life of our new companion! Have you any hope?” said the Scot.
“Yes, Dick, with care, in this pure, fresh atmosphere.”
“How that man has suffered!” said Joe, with feeling. “He did bolder things than we’ve
done, in venturing all alone among those savage tribes!”
“That cannot be questioned,” assented the hunter.
During the entire day the doctor would not allow the sleep of his patient to be disturbed.
It was really a long stupor, broken only by an occasional murmur of pain that continued to
disquiet and agitate the doctor greatly.
Toward evening the balloon remained stationary in the midst of the gloom, and during the
night, while Kennedy and Joe relieved each other in carefully tending the sick man, Ferguson
kept watch over the safety of all.
By the morning of the next day, the balloon had moved, but very slightly, to the
westward. The dawn came up pure and magnificent. The sick man was able to call his friends
with a stronger voice. They raised the curtains of the awning, and he inhaled with delight the
keen morning air.“How do you feel to-day?” asked the doctor.
“Better, perhaps,” he replied. “But you, my friends, I have not seen you yet, excepting in
a dream! I can, indeed, scarcely recall what has occurred. Who are you — that your names
may not be forgotten in my dying prayers?”
“We are English travellers,” replied Ferguson. “We are trying to cross Africa in a balloon,
and, on our way, we have had the good fortune to rescue you.”
“Science has its heroes,” said the missionary.
“But religion its martyrs!” rejoined the Scot.
“Are you a missionary?” asked the doctor.
“I am a priest of the Lazarist mission. Heaven sent you to me — Heaven be praised! The
sacrifice of my life had been accomplished! But you come from Europe; tell me about Europe,
about France! I have been without news for the last five years!”
“Five years! alone! and among these savages!” exclaimed Kennedy with amazement.
“They are souls to redeem! ignorant and barbarous brethren, whom religion alone can
instruct and civilize.”
Dr. Ferguson, yielding to the priest’s request, talked to him long and fully about France.
He listened eagerly, and his eyes filled with tears. He seized Kennedy’s and Joe’s hands by
turns in his own, which were burning with fever. The doctor prepared him some tea, and he
drank it with satisfaction. After that, he had strength enough to raise himself up a little, and
smiled with pleasure at seeing himself borne along through so pure a sky.
“You are daring travellers!” he said, “and you will succeed in your bold enterprise. You
will again behold your relatives, your friends, your country — you —”
At this moment, the weakness of the young missionary became so extreme that they
had to lay him again on the bed, where a prostration, lasting for several hours, held him like a
dead man under the eye of Dr. Ferguson. The latter could not suppress his emotion, for he
felt that this life now in his charge was ebbing away. Were they then so soon to lose him
whom they had snatched from an agonizing death? The doctor again washed and dressed the
young martyr’s frightful wounds, and had to sacrifice nearly his whole stock of water to refresh
his burning limbs. He surrounded him with the tenderest and most intelligent care, until, at
length, the sick man revived, little by little, in his arms, and recovered his consciousness if not
his strength.
The doctor was able to gather something of his history from his broken murmurs.
“Speak in your native language,” he said to the sufferer; “I understand it, and it will
fatigue you less.”
The missionary was a poor young man from the village of Aradon, in Brittany, in the
Morbihan country. His earliest instincts had drawn him toward an ecclesiastical career, but to
this life of self-sacrifice he was also desirous of joining a life of danger, by entering the mission
of the order of priesthood of which St. Vincent de Paul was the founder, and, at twenty, he
quitted his country for the inhospitable shores of Africa. From the sea-coast, overcoming
obstacles, little by little, braving all privations, pushing onward, afoot, and praying, he had
advanced to the very centre of those tribes that dwell among the tributary streams of the
Upper Nile. For two years his faith was spurned, his zeal denied recognition, his charities
taken in ill part, and he remained a prisoner to one of the cruelest tribes of the Nyambarra,
the object of every species of maltreatment. But still he went on teaching, instructing, and
praying. The tribe having been dispersed and he left for dead, in one of those combats which
are so frequent between the tribes, instead of retracing his steps, he persisted in his
evangelical mission. His most tranquil time was when he was taken for a madman. Meanwhile,
he had made himself familiar with the idioms of the country, and he catechised in them. At
length, during two more long years, he traversed these barbarous regions, impelled by that
superhuman energy that comes from God. For a year past he had been residing with that
tribe of the Nyam-Nyams known as the Barafri, one of the wildest and most ferocious of themall. The chief having died a few days before our travellers appeared, his sudden death was
attributed to the missionary, and the tribe resolved to immolate him. His sufferings had
already continued for the space of forty hours, and, as the doctor had supposed, he was to
have perished in the blaze of the noonday sun. When he heard the sound of fire-arms, nature
got the best of him, and he had cried out, “Help! help!” He then thought that he must have
been dreaming, when a voice, that seemed to come from the sky, had uttered words of
“I have no regrets,” he said, “for the life that is passing away from me; my life belongs to
“Hope still!” said the doctor; “we are near you, and we will save you now, as we saved
you from the tortures of the stake.”
“I do not ask so much of Heaven,” said the priest, with resignation. “Blessed be God for
having vouchsafed to me the joy before I die of having pressed your friendly hands, and
having heard, once more, the language of my country!”
The missionary here grew weak again, and the whole day went by between hope and
fear, Kennedy deeply moved, and Joe drawing his hand over his eyes more than once when
he thought that no one saw him.
The balloon made little progress, and the wind seemed as though unwilling to jostle its
precious burden.
Toward evening, Joe discovered a great light in the west. Under more elevated latitudes,
it might have been mistaken for an immense aurora borealis, for the sky appeared on fire.
The doctor very attentively examined the phenomenon.
“It is, perhaps, only a volcano in full activity,” said he.
“But the wind is carrying us directly over it,” replied Kennedy.
“Very well, we shall cross it then at a safe height!” said the doctor.
Three hours later, the Victoria was right among the mountains. Her exact position was
twenty-four degrees fifteen minutes east longitude, and four degrees forty-two minutes north
latitude, and four degrees forty-two minutes north latitude. In front of her a volcanic crater was
pouring forth torrents of melted lava, and hurling masses of rock to an enormous height.
There were jets, too, of liquid fire that fell back in dazzling cascades — a superb but
dangerous spectacle, for the wind with unswerving certainty was carrying the balloon directly
toward this blazing atmosphere.
This obstacle, which could not be turned, had to be crossed, so the cylinder was put to
its utmost power, and the balloon rose to the height of six thousand feet, leaving between it
and the volcano a space of more than three hundred fathoms.
From his bed of suffering, the dying missionary could contemplate that fiery crater from
which a thousand jets of dazzling flame were that moment escaping.
“How grand it is!” said he, “and how infinite is the power of God even in its most terrible
This overflow of blazing lava wrapped the sides of the mountain with a veritable drapery
of flame; the lower half of the balloon glowed redly in the upper night; a torrid heat ascended
to the car, and Dr. Ferguson made all possible haste to escape from this perilous situation.
By ten o’clock the volcano could be seen only as a red point on the horizon, and the
balloon tranquilly pursued her course in a less elevated zone of the atmosphere.
Chapter 23

A magnificent night overspread the earth, and the missionary lay quietly asleep in utter
“He’ll not get over it!” sighed Joe. “Poor young fellow — scarcely thirty years of age!”
“He’ll die in our arms. His breathing, which was so feeble before, is growing weaker still,
and I can do nothing to save him,” said the doctor, despairingly.
“The infamous scoundrels!” exclaimed Joe, grinding his teeth, in one of those fits of rage
that came over him at long intervals; “and to think that, in spite of all, this good man could find
words only to pity them, to excuse, to pardon them!”
“Heaven has given him a lovely night, Joe — his last on earth, perhaps! He will suffer but
little more after this, and his dying will be only a peaceful falling asleep.”
The dying man uttered some broken words, and the doctor at once went to him. His
breathing became difficult, and he asked for air. The curtains were drawn entirely back, and
he inhaled with rapture the light breezes of that clear, beautiful night. The stars sent him their
trembling rays, and the moon wrapped him in the white winding-sheet of its effulgence.
“My friends,” said he, in an enfeebled voice, “I am going. May God requite you, and bring
you to your safe harbor! May he pay for me the debt of gratitude that I owe to you!”
“You must still hope,” replied Kennedy. “This is but a passing fit of weakness. You will not
die. How could any one die on this beautiful summer night?”
“Death is at hand,” replied the missionary, “I know it! Let me look it in the face! Death,
the commencement of things eternal, is but the end of earthly cares. Place me upon my
knees, my brethren, I beseech you!”
Kennedy lifted him up, and it was distressing to see his weakened limbs bend under him.
“My God! my God!” exclaimed the dying apostle, “have pity on me!”
His countenance shone. Far above that earth on which he had known no joys; in the
midst of that night which sent to him its softest radiance; on the way to that heaven toward
which he uplifted his spirit, as though in a miraculous assumption, he seemed already to live
and breathe in the new existence.
His last gesture was a supreme blessing on his new friends of only one day. Then he fell
back into the arms of Kennedy, whose countenance was bathed in hot tears.
“Dead!” said the doctor, bending over him, “dead!” And with one common accord, the
three friends knelt together in silent prayer.
“To-morrow,” resumed the doctor, “we shall bury him in the African soil which he has
besprinkled with his blood.”
During the rest of the night the body was watched, turn by turn, by the three travellers,
and not a word disturbed the solemn silence. Each of them was weeping.
The next day the wind came from the south, and the balloon moved slowly over a vast
plateau of mountains: there, were extinct craters; here, barren ravines; not a drop of water on
those parched crests; piles of broken rocks; huge stony masses scattered hither and thither,
and, interspersed with whitish marl, all indicated the most complete sterility.
Toward noon, the doctor, for the purpose of burying the body, decided to descend into a
ravine, in the midst of some plutonic rocks of primitive formation. The surrounding mountains
would shelter him, and enable him to bring his car to the ground, for there was no tree in sight
to which he could make it fast.
But, as he had explained to Kennedy, it was now impossible for him to descend, except
by releasing a quantity of gas proportionate to his loss of ballast at the time when he had
rescued the missionary. He therefore opened the valve of the outside balloon. The hydrogenescaped, and the Victoria quietly descended into the ravine.
As soon as the car touched the ground, the doctor shut the valve. Joe leaped out,
holding on the while to the rim of the car with one hand, and with the other gathering up a
quantity of stones equal to his own weight. He could then use both hands, and had soon
heaped into the car more than five hundred pounds of stones, which enabled both the doctor
and Kennedy, in their turn, to get out. Thus the Victoria found herself balanced, and her
ascensional force insufficient to raise her.
Moreover, it was not necessary to gather many of these stones, for the blocks were
extremely heavy, so much so, indeed, that the doctor’s attention was attracted by the
circumstance. The soil, in fact, was bestrewn with quartz and porphyritic rocks.
“This is a singular discovery!” said the doctor, mentally.
In the mean while, Kennedy and Joe had strolled away a few paces, looking up a proper
spot for the grave. The heat was extreme in this ravine, shut in as it was like a sort of furnace.
The noonday sun poured down its rays perpendicularly into it.
The first thing to be done was to clear the surface of the fragments of rock that
encumbered it, and then a quite deep grave had to be dug, so that the wild animals should not
be able to disinter the corpse.
The body of the martyred missionary was then solemnly placed in it. The earth was
thrown in over his remains, and above it masses of rock were deposited, in rude resemblance
to a tomb.
The doctor, however, remained motionless, and lost in his reflections. He did not even
heed the call of his companions, nor did he return with them to seek a shelter from the heat of
the day.
“What are you thinking about, doctor?” asked Kennedy.
“About a singular freak of Nature, a curious effect of chance. Do you know, now, in what
kind of soil that man of self-denial, that poor one in spirit, has just been buried?”
“No! what do you mean, doctor?”
“That priest, who took the oath of perpetual poverty, now reposes in a gold-mine!”
“A gold-mine!” exclaimed Kennedy and Joe in one breath.
“Yes, a gold-mine,” said the doctor, quietly. “Those blocks which you are trampling under
foot, like worthless stones, contain gold-ore of great purity.”
“Impossible! impossible!” repeated Joe.
“You would not have to look long among those fissures of slaty schist without finding
peptites of considerable value.”
Joe at once rushed like a crazy man among the scattered fragments, and Kennedy was
not long in following his example.
“Keep cool, Joe,” said his master.
“Why, doctor, you speak of the thing quite at your ease.”
“What! a philosopher of your mettle —”
“Ah, master, no philosophy holds good in this case!”
“Come! come! Let us reflect a little. What good would all this wealth do you? We cannot
carry any of it away with us.”
“We can’t take any of it with us, indeed?”
“It’s rather too heavy for our car! I even hesitated to tell you any thing about it, for fear of
exciting your regret!”
“What!” said Joe, again, “abandon these treasures — a fortune for us! — really for us —
our own — leave it behind!”
“Take care, my friend! Would you yield to the thirst for gold? Has not this dead man
whom you have just helped to bury, taught you the vanity of human affairs?”
“All that is true,” replied Joe, “but gold! Mr. Kennedy, won’t you help to gather up a trifle
of all these millions?”“What could we do with them, Joe?” said the hunter, unable to repress a smile. “We did
not come hither in search of fortune, and we cannot take one home with us.”
“The millions are rather heavy, you know,” resumed the doctor, “and cannot very easily
be put into one’s pocket.”
“But, at least,” said Joe, driven to his last defences, “couldn’t we take some of that ore
for ballast, instead of sand?”
“Very good! I consent,” said the doctor, “but you must not make too many wry faces
when we come to throw some thousands of crowns’ worth overboard.”
“Thousands of crowns!” echoed Joe; “is it possible that there is so much gold in them,
and that all this is the same?”
“Yes, my friend, this is a reservoir in which Nature has been heaping up her wealth for
centuries! There is enough here to enrich whole nations! An Australia and a California both
together in the midst of the wilderness!”
“And the whole of it is to remain useless!”
“Perhaps! but at all events, here’s what I’ll do to console you.”
“That would be rather difficult to do!” said Joe, with a contrite air.
“Listen! I will take the exact bearings of this spot, and give them to you, so that, upon
your return to England, you can tell our countrymen about it, and let them have a share, if you
think that so much gold would make them happy.”
“Ah! master, I give up; I see that you are right, and that there is nothing else to be done.
Let us fill our car with the precious mineral, and what remains at the end of the trip will be so
much made.”
And Joe went to work. He did so, too, with all his might, and soon had collected more
than a thousand pieces of quartz, which contained gold enclosed as though in an extremely
hard crystal casket.
The doctor watched him with a smile; and, while Joe went on, he took the bearings, and
found that the missionary’s grave lay in twenty-two degrees twenty-three minutes east
longitude, and four degrees fifty-five minutes north latitude.
Then, casting one glance at the swelling of the soil, beneath which the body of the poor
Frenchman reposed, he went back to his car.
He would have erected a plain, rude cross over the tomb, left solitary thus in the midst of
the African deserts, but not a tree was to be seen in the environs.
“God will recognize it!” said Kennedy.
An anxiety of another sort now began to steal over the doctor’s mind. He would have
given much of the gold before him for a little water — for he had to replace what had been
thrown overboard when the negro was carried up into the air. But it was impossible to find it in
these arid regions; and this reflection gave him great uneasiness. He had to feed his cylinder
continually; and he even began to find that he had not enough to quench the thirst of his
party. Therefore he determined to lose no opportunity of replenishing his supply.
Upon getting back to the car, he found it burdened with the quartz-blocks that Joe’s
greed had heaped in it. He got in, however, without saying any thing. Kennedy took his
customary place, and Joe followed, but not without casting a covetous glance at the treasures
in the ravine.
The doctor rekindled the light in the cylinder; the spiral became heated; the current of
hydrogen came in a few minutes, and the gas dilated; but the balloon did not stir an inch.
Joe looked on uneasily, but kept silent.
“Joe!” said the doctor.
Joe made no reply.
“Joe! Don’t you hear me?”
Joe made a sign that he heard; but he would not understand.
“Do me the kindness to throw out some of that quartz!”“But, doctor, you gave me leave —”
“I gave you leave to replace the ballast; that was all!”
“But —”
“Do you want to stay forever in this desert?”
Joe cast a despairing look at Kennedy; but the hunter put on the air of a man who could
do nothing in the matter.
“Well, Joe?”
“Then your cylinder don’t work,” said the obstinate fellow.
“My cylinder? It is lit, as you perceive. But the balloon will not rise until you have thrown
off a little ballast.”
Joe scratched his ear, picked up a piece of quartz, the smallest in the lot, weighed and
reweighed it, and tossed it up and down in his hand. It was a fragment of about three or four
pounds. At last he threw it out.
But the balloon did not budge.
“Humph!” said he; “we’re not going up yet.”
“Not yet,” said the doctor. “Keep on throwing.”
Kennedy laughed. Joe now threw out some ten pounds, but the balloon stood still.
Joe got very pale.
“Poor fellow!” said the doctor. “Mr. Kennedy, you and I weigh, unless I am mistaken,
about four hundred pounds — so that you’ll have to get rid of at least that weight, since it was
put in here to make up for us.”
“Throw away four hundred pounds!” said Joe, piteously.
“And some more with it, or we can’t rise. Come, courage, Joe!”
The brave fellow, heaving deep sighs, began at last to lighten the balloon; but, from time
to time, he would stop, and ask:
“Are you going up?”
“No, not yet,” was the invariable response.
“It moves!” said he, at last.
“Keep on!” replied the doctor.
“It’s going up; I’m sure.”
“Keep on yet,” said Kennedy.
And Joe, picking up one more block, desperately tossed it out of the car. The balloon
rose a hundred feet or so, and, aided by the cylinder, soon passed above the surrounding
“Now, Joe,” resumed the doctor, “there still remains a handsome fortune for you; and, if
we can only keep the rest of this with us until the end of our trip, there you are — rich for the
balance of your days!”
Joe made no answer, but stretched himself out luxuriously on his heap of quartz.
“See, my dear Dick!” the doctor went on. “Just see the power of this metal over the
cleverest lad in the world! What passions, what greed, what crimes, the knowledge of such a
mine as that would cause! It is sad to think of it!”
By evening the balloon had made ninety miles to the westward, and was, in a direct line,
fourteen hundred miles from Zanzibar.
Chapter 24

The balloon, having been made fast to a solitary tree, almost completely dried up by the
aridity of the region in which it stood, passed the night in perfect quietness; and the travellers
were enabled to enjoy a little of the repose which they so greatly needed. The emotions of the
day had left sad impressions on their minds.
Toward morning, the sky had resumed its brilliant purity and its heat. The balloon
ascended, and, after several ineffectual attempts, fell into a current that, although not rapid,
bore them toward the northwest.
“We are not making progress,” said the doctor. “If I am not mistaken, we have
accomplished nearly half of our journey in ten days; but, at the rate at which we are going, it
would take months to end it; and that is all the more vexatious, that we are threatened with a
lack of water.”
“But we’ll find some,” said Joe. “It is not to be thought of that we shouldn’t discover some
river, some stream, or pond, in all this vast extent of country.”
“I hope so.”
“Now don’t you think that it’s Joe’s cargo of stone that is keeping us back?”
Kennedy asked this question only to tease Joe; and he did so the more willingly because
he had, for a moment, shared the poor lad’s hallucinations; but, not finding any thing in them,
he had fallen back into the attitude of a strong-minded looker-on, and turned the affair off with
a laugh.
Joe cast a mournful glance at him; but the doctor made no reply. He was thinking, not
without secret terror, probably, of the vast solitudes of Sahara — for there whole weeks
sometimes pass without the caravans meeting with a single spring of water. Occupied with
these thoughts, he scrutinized every depression of the soil with the closest attention.
These anxieties, and the incidents recently occurring, had not been without their effect
upon the spirits of our three travellers. They conversed less, and were more wrapt in their own
Joe, clever lad as he was, seemed no longer the same person since his gaze had
plunged into that ocean of gold. He kept entirely silent, and gazed incessantly upon the stony
fragments heaped up in the car — worthless to-day, but of inestimable value to-morrow.
The appearance of this part of Africa was, moreover, quite calculated to inspire alarm:
the desert was gradually expanding around them; not another village was to be seen — not
even a collection of a few huts; and vegetation also was disappearing. Barely a few dwarf
plants could now be noticed, like those on the wild heaths of Scotland; then came the first
tract of grayish sand and flint, with here and there a lentisk tree and brambles. In the midst of
this sterility, the rudimental carcass of the Globe appeared in ridges of sharply-jutting rock.
These symptoms of a totally dry and barren region greatly disquieted Dr. Ferguson.
It seemed as though no caravan had ever braved this desert expanse, or it would have
left visible traces of its encampments, or the whitened bones of men and animals. But nothing
of the kind was to be seen, and the aeronauts felt that, ere long, an immensity of sand would
cover the whole of this desolate region.
However, there was no going back; they must go forward; and, indeed, the doctor asked
for nothing better; he would even have welcomed a tempest to carry him beyond this country.
But, there was not a cloud in the sky. At the close of the day, the balloon had not made thirty
If there had been no lack of water! But, there remained only three gallons in all! The
doctor put aside one gallon, destined to quench the burning thirst that a heat of ninetydegrees rendered intolerable. Two gallons only then remained to supply the cylinder. Hence,
they could produce no more than four hundred and eighty cubic feet of gas; yet the cylinder
consumed about nine cubic feet per hour. Consequently, they could not keep on longer than
fifty-four hours — and all this was a mathematical calculation!
“Fifty-four hours!” said the doctor to his companions. “Therefore, as I am determined not
to travel by night, for fear of passing some stream or pool, we have but three days and a half
of journeying during which we must find water, at all hazards. I have thought it my duty to
make you aware of the real state of the case, as I have retained only one gallon for drinking,
and we shall have to put ourselves on the shortest allowance.”
“Put us on short allowance, then, doctor,” responded Kennedy, “but we must not despair.
We have three days left, you say?”
“Yes, my dear Dick!”
“Well, as grieving over the matter won’t help us, in three days there will be time enough
to decide upon what is to be done; in the meanwhile, let us redouble our vigilance!”
At their evening meal, the water was strictly measured out, and the brandy was
increased in quantity in the punch they drank. But they had to be careful with the spirits, the
latter being more likely to produce than to quench thirst.
The car rested, during the night, upon an immense plateau, in which there was a deep
hollow; its height was scarcely eight hundred feet above the level of the sea. This
circumstance gave the doctor some hope, since it recalled to his mind the conjectures of
geographers concerning the existence of a vast stretch of water in the centre of Africa. But, if
such a lake really existed, the point was to reach it, and not a sign of change was visible in the
motionless sky.
To the tranquil night and its starry magnificence succeeded the unchanging daylight and
the blazing rays of the sun; and, from the earliest dawn, the temperature became scorching.
At five o’clock in the morning, the doctor gave the signal for departure, and, for a considerable
time, the balloon remained immovable in the leaden atmosphere.
The doctor might have escaped this intense heat by rising into a higher range, but, in
order to do so, he would have had to consume a large quantity of water, a thing that had now
become impossible. He contented himself, therefore, with keeping the balloon at one hundred
feet from the ground, and, at that elevation, a feeble current drove it toward the western
The breakfast consisted of a little dried meat and pemmican. By noon, the Victoria had
advanced only a few miles.
“We cannot go any faster,” said the doctor; “we no longer command — we have to
“Ah! doctor, here is one of those occasions when a propeller would not be a thing to be
“Undoubtedly so, Dick, provided it would not require an expenditure of water to put it in
motion, for, in that case, the situation would be precisely the same; moreover, up to this time,
nothing practical of the sort has been invented. Balloons are still at that point where ships
were before the invention of steam. It took six thousand years to invent propellers and
screws; so we have time enough yet.”
“Confounded heat!” said Joe, wiping away the perspiration that was streaming from his
“If we had water, this heat would be of service to us, for it dilates the hydrogen in the
balloon, and diminishes the amount required in the spiral, although it is true that, if we were
not short of the useful liquid, we should not have to economize it. Ah! that rascally savage
who cost us the tank!”
“You don’t regret, though, what you did, doctor?”
“No, Dick, since it was in our power to save that unfortunate missionary from a horribledeath. But, the hundred pounds of water that we threw overboard would be very useful to us
now; it would be thirteen or fourteen days more of progress secured, or quite enough to carry
us over this desert.”
“We’ve made at least half the journey, haven’t we?” asked Joe.
“In distance, yes; but in duration, no, should the wind leave us; and it, even now, has a
tendency to die away altogether.”
“Come, sir,” said Joe, again, “we must not complain; we’ve got along pretty well, thus far,
and whatever happens to me, I can’t get desperate. We’ll find water; mind, I tell you so.”
The soil, however, ran lower from mile to mile; the undulations of the gold-bearing
mountains they had left died away into the plain, like the last throes of exhausted Nature.
Scanty grass took the place of the fine trees of the east; only a few belts of half-scorched
herbage still contended against the invasion of the sand, and the huge rocks, that had rolled
down from the distant summits, crushed in their fall, had scattered in sharp-edged pebbles
which soon again became coarse sand, and finally impalpable dust.
“Here, at last, is Africa, such as you pictured it to yourself, Joe! Was I not right in saying,
‘Wait a little?’ eh?”
“Well, master, it’s all natural, at least — heat and dust. It would be foolish to look for any
thing else in such a country. Do you see,” he added, laughing, “I had no confidence, for my
part, in your forests and your prairies; they were out of reason. What was the use of coming
so far to find scenery just like England? Here’s the first time that I believe in Africa, and I’m
not sorry to get a taste of it.”
Toward evening, the doctor calculated that the balloon had not made twenty miles during
that whole burning day, and a heated gloom closed in upon it, as soon as the sun had
disappeared behind the horizon, which was traced against the sky with all the precision of a
straight line.
The next day was Thursday, the 1st of May, but the days followed each other with
desperate monotony. Each morning was like the one that had preceded it; noon poured down
the same exhaustless rays, and night condensed in its shadow the scattered heat which the
ensuing day would again bequeath to the succeeding night. The wind, now scarcely
observable, was rather a gasp than a breath, and the morning could almost be foreseen when
even that gasp would cease.
The doctor reacted against the gloominess of the situation and retained all the coolness
and self-possession of a disciplined heart. With his glass he scrutinized every quarter of the
horizon; he saw the last rising ground gradually melting to the dead level, and the last
vegetation disappearing, while, before him, stretched the immensity of the desert.
The responsibility resting upon him pressed sorely, but he did not allow his disquiet to
appear. Those two men, Dick and Joe, friends of his, both of them, he had induced to come
with him almost by the force alone of friendship and of duty. Had he done well in that? Was it
not like attempting to tread forbidden paths? Was he not, in this trip, trying to pass the
borders of the impossible? Had not the Almighty reserved for later ages the knowledge of this
inhospitable continent?
All these thoughts, of the kind that arise in hours of discouragement, succeeded each
other and multiplied in his mind, and, by an irresistible association of ideas, the doctor allowed
himself to be carried beyond the bounds of logic and of reason. After having established in his
own mind what he should NOT have done, the next question was, what he should do, then.
Would it be impossible to retrace his steps? Were there not currents higher up that would waft
him to less arid regions? Well informed with regard to the countries over which he had
passed, he was utterly ignorant of those to come, and thus his conscience speaking aloud to
him, he resolved, in his turn, to speak frankly to his two companions. He thereupon laid the
whole state of the case plainly before them; he showed them what had been done, and what
there was yet to do; at the worst, they could return, or attempt it, at least. — What did theythink about it?
“I have no other opinion than that of my excellent master,” said Joe; “what he may have
to suffer, I can suffer, and that better than he can, perhaps. Where he goes, there I’ll go!”
“And you, Kennedy?”
“I, doctor, I’m not the man to despair; no one was less ignorant than I of the perils of the
enterprise, but I did not want to see them, from the moment that you determined to brave
them. Under present circumstances, my opinion is, that we should persevere — go clear to
the end. Besides, to return looks to me quite as perilous as the other course. So onward,
then! you may count upon us!”
“Thanks, my gallant friends!” replied the doctor, with much real feeling, “I expected such
devotion as this; but I needed these encouraging words. Yet, once again, thank you, from the
bottom of my heart!”
And, with this, the three friends warmly grasped each other by the hand.
“Now, hear me!” said the doctor. “According to my solar observations, we are not more
than three hundred miles from the Gulf of Guinea; the desert, therefore, cannot extend
indefinitely, since the coast is inhabited, and the country has been explored for some distance
back into the interior. If needs be, we can direct our course to that quarter, and it seems out
of the question that we should not come across some oasis, or some well, where we could
replenish our stock of water. But, what we want now, is the wind, for without it we are held
here suspended in the air at a dead calm.
“Let us wait with resignation,” said the hunter.
But, each of the party, in his turn, vainly scanned the space around him during that long
wearisome day. Nothing could be seen to form the basis of a hope. The very last inequalities
of the soil disappeared with the setting sun, whose horizontal rays stretched in long lines of
fire over the flat immensity. It was the Desert!
Our aeronauts had scarcely gone a distance of fifteen miles, having expended, as on the
preceding day, one hundred and thirty-five cubic feet of gas to feed the cylinder, and two pints
of water out of the remaining eight had been sacrificed to the demands of intense thirst.
The night passed quietly — too quietly, indeed, but the doctor did not sleep!
Chapter 25

On the morrow, there was the same purity of sky, the same stillness of the atmosphere.
The balloon rose to an elevation of five hundred feet, but it had scarcely changed its position
to the westward in any perceptible degree.
“We are right in the open desert,” said the doctor. “Look at that vast reach of sand! What
a strange spectacle! What a singular arrangement of nature! Why should there be, in one
place, such extreme luxuriance of vegetation yonder, and here, this extreme aridity, and that
in the same latitude, and under the same rays of the sun?”
“The why concerns me but little,” answered Kennedy, “the reason interests me less than
the fact. The thing is so; that’s the important part of it!”
“Oh, it is well to philosophize a little, Dick; it does no harm.”
“Let us philosophize, then, if you will; we have time enough before us; we are hardly
moving; the wind is afraid to blow; it sleeps.”
“That will not last forever,” put in Joe; “I think I see some banks of clouds in the east.”
“Joe’s right!” said the doctor, after he had taken a look.
“Good!” said Kennedy; “now for our clouds, with a fine rain, and a fresh wind to dash it
into our faces!”
“Well, we’ll see, Dick, we’ll see!”
“But this is Friday, master, and I’m afraid of Fridays!”
“Well, I hope that this very day you’ll get over those notions.”
“I hope so, master, too. Whew!” he added, mopping his face, “heat’s a good thing,
especially in winter, but in summer it don’t do to take too much of it.”
“Don’t you fear the effect of the sun’s heat on our balloon?” asked Kennedy, addressing
the doctor.
“No! the gutta-percha coating resists much higher temperatures than even this. With my
spiral I have subjected it inside to as much as one hundred and fifty-eight degrees sometimes,
and the covering does not appear to have suffered.”
“A cloud! a real cloud!” shouted Joe at this moment, for that piercing eyesight of his beat
all the glasses.
And, in fact, a thick bank of vapor, now quite distinct, could be seen slowly emerging
above the horizon. It appeared to be very deep, and, as it were, puffed out. It was, in reality, a
conglomeration of smaller clouds. The latter invariably retained their original formation, and
from this circumstance the doctor concluded that there was no current of air in their collected
This compact body of vapor had appeared about eight o’clock in the morning, and, by
eleven, it had already reached the height of the sun’s disk. The latter then disappeared
entirely behind the murky veil, and the lower belt of cloud, at the same moment, lifted above
the line of the horizon, which was again disclosed in a full blaze of daylight.
“It’s only an isolated cloud,” remarked the doctor. “It won’t do to count much upon that.”
“Look, Dick, its shape is just the same as when we saw it this morning!”
“Then, doctor, there’s to be neither rain nor wind, at least for us!”
“I fear so; the cloud keeps at a great height.”
“Well, doctor, suppose we were to go in pursuit of this cloud, since it refuses to burst
upon us?”
“I fancy that to do so wouldn’t help us much; it would be a consumption of gas, and,
consequently, of water, to little purpose; but, in our situation, we must not leave anything
untried; therefore, let us ascend!”And with this, the doctor put on a full head of flame from the cylinder, and the dilation of
the hydrogen, occasioned by such sudden and intense heat, sent the balloon rapidly aloft.
About fifteen hundred feet from the ground, it encountered an opaque mass of cloud,
and entered a dense fog, suspended at that elevation; but it did not meet with the least breath
of wind. This fog seemed even destitute of humidity, and the articles brought in contact with it
were scarcely dampened in the slightest degree. The balloon, completely enveloped in the
vapor, gained a little increase of speed, perhaps, and that was all.
The doctor gloomily recognized what trifling success he had obtained from his
manoeuvre, and was relapsing into deep meditation, when he heard Joe exclaim, in tones of
most intense astonishment:
“Ah! by all that’s beautiful!”
“What’s the matter, Joe?”
“Doctor! Mr. Kennedy! Here’s something curious!”
“What is it, then?”
“We are not alone, up here! There are rogues about! They’ve stolen our invention!”
“Has he gone crazy?” asked Kennedy.
Joe stood there, perfectly motionless, the very picture of amazement.
“Can the hot sun have really affected the poor fellow’s brain?” said the doctor, turning
toward him.
“Will you tell me? —”
“Look!” said Joe, pointing to a certain quarter of the sky.
“By St. James!” exclaimed Kennedy, in turn, “why, who would have believed it? Look,
look! doctor!”
“I see it!” said the doctor, very quietly.
“Another balloon! and other passengers, like ourselves!”
And, sure enough, there was another balloon about two hundred paces from them,
floating in the air with its car and its aeronauts. It was following exactly the same route as the
“Well,” said the doctor, “nothing remains for us but to make signals; take the flag,
Kennedy, and show them our colors.”
It seemed that the travellers by the other balloon had just the same idea, at the same
moment, for the same kind of flag repeated precisely the same salute with a hand that moved
in just the same manner.
“What does that mean?” asked Kennedy.
“They are apes,” said Joe, “imitating us.”
“It means,” said the doctor, laughing, “that it is you, Dick, yourself, making that signal to
yourself; or, in other words, that we see ourselves in the second balloon, which is no other
than the Victoria.”
“As to that, master, with all respect to you,” said Joe, “you’ll never make me believe it.”
“Climb up on the edge of the car, Joe; wave your arms, and then you’ll see.”
Joe obeyed, and all his gestures were instantaneously and exactly repeated.
“It is merely the effect of the mirage,” said the doctor, “and nothing else — a simple
optical phenomenon due to the unequal refraction of light by different layers of the
atmosphere, and that is all.
“It’s wonderful,” said Joe, who could not make up his mind to surrender, but went on
repeating his gesticulations.
“What a curious sight! Do you know,” said Kennedy, “that it’s a real pleasure to have a
view of our noble balloon in that style? She’s a beauty, isn’t she? — and how stately her
movements as she sweeps along!”
“You may explain the matter as you like,” continued Joe, “it’s a strange thing, anyhow!”
But ere long this picture began to fade away; the clouds rose higher, leaving the balloon,which made no further attempt to follow them, and in about an hour they disappeared in the
open sky.
The wind, which had been scarcely perceptible, seemed still to diminish, and the doctor
in perfect desperation descended toward the ground, and all three of the travellers, whom the
incident just recorded had, for a few moments, diverted from their anxieties, relapsed into
gloomy meditation, sweltering the while beneath the scorching heat.
About four o’clock, Joe descried some object standing out against the vast background
of sand, and soon was able to declare positively that there were two palm-trees at no great
“Palm-trees!” exclaimed Ferguson; “why, then there’s a spring — a well!”
He took up his glass and satisfied himself that Joe’s eyes had not been mistaken.
“At length!” he said, over and over again, “water! water! and we are saved; for if we do
move slowly, still we move, and we shall arrive at last!”
“Good, master! but suppose we were to drink a mouthful in the mean time, for this air is
“Let us drink then, my boy!”
No one waited to be coaxed. A whole pint was swallowed then and there, reducing the
total remaining supply to three pints and a half.
“Ah! that does one good!” said Joe; “wasn’t it fine? Barclay and Perkins never turned out
ale equal to that!”
“See the advantage of being put on short allowance!” moralized the doctor.
“It is not great, after all,” retorted Kennedy; “and if I were never again to have the
pleasure of drinking water, I should agree on condition that I should never be deprived of it.”
At six o’clock the balloon was floating over the palm-trees.
They were two shrivelled, stunted, dried-up specimens of trees — two ghosts of palms
— without foliage, and more dead than alive. Ferguson examined them with terror.
At their feet could be seen the half-worn stones of a spring, but these stones, pulverized
by the baking heat of the sun, seemed to be nothing now but impalpable dust. There was not
the slightest sign of moisture. The doctor’s heart shrank within him, and he was about to
communicate his thoughts to his companions, when their exclamations attracted his attention.
As far as the eye could reach to the eastward, extended a long line of whitened bones; pieces
of skeletons surrounded the fountain; a caravan had evidently made its way to that point,
marking its progress by its bleaching remains; the weaker had fallen one by one upon the
sand; the stronger, having at length reached this spring for which they panted, had there
found a horrible death.
Our travellers looked at each other and turned pale.
“Let us not alight!” said Kennedy, “let us fly from this hideous spectacle! There’s not a
drop of water here!”
“No, Dick, as well pass the night here as elsewhere; let us have a clear conscience in the
matter. We’ll dig down to the very bottom of the well. There has been a spring here, and
perhaps there’s something left in it!”
The Victoria touched the ground; Joe and Kennedy put into the car a quantity of sand
equal to their weight, and leaped out. They then hastened to the well, and penetrated to the
interior by a flight of steps that was now nothing but dust. The spring appeared to have been
dry for years. They dug down into a parched and powdery sand — the very dryest of all sand,
indeed — there was not one trace of moisture!
The doctor saw them come up to the surface of the desert, saturated with perspiration,
worn out, covered with fine dust, exhausted, discouraged and despairing.
He then comprehended that their search had been fruitless. He had expected as much,
and he kept silent, for he felt that, from this moment forth, he must have courage and energy
enough for three.Joe brought up with him some pieces of a leathern bottle that had grown hard and
hornlike with age, and angrily flung them away among the bleaching bones of the caravan.
At supper, not a word was spoken by our travellers, and they even ate without appetite.
Yet they had not, up to this moment, endured the real agonies of thirst, and were in no
desponding mood, excepting for the future.
Chapter 26

The distance made by the balloon during the preceding day did not exceed ten miles,
and, to keep it afloat, one hundred and sixty-two cubic feet of gas had been consumed.
On Saturday morning the doctor again gave the signal for departure.
“The cylinder can work only six hours longer; and, if in that time we shall not have found
either a well or a spring of water, God alone knows what will become of us!”
“Not much wind this morning, master,” said Joe; “but it will come up, perhaps,” he added,
suddenly remarking the doctor’s ill-concealed depression.
Vain hope! The atmosphere was in a dead calm — one of those calms which hold
vessels captive in tropical seas. The heat had become intolerable; and the thermometer, in
the shade under the awning, indicated one hundred and thirteen degrees.
Joe and Kennedy, reclining at full length near each other, tried, if not in slumber, at least
in torpor, to forget their situation, for their forced inactivity gave them periods of leisure far
from pleasant. That man is to be pitied the most who cannot wean himself from gloomy
reflections by actual work, or some practical pursuit. But here there was nothing to look after,
nothing to undertake, and they had to submit to the situation, without having it in their power
to ameliorate it.
The pangs of thirst began to be severely felt; brandy, far from appeasing this imperious
necessity, augmented it, and richly merited the name of “tiger’s milk” applied to it by the
African natives. Scarcely two pints of water remained, and that was heated. Each of the party
devoured the few precious drops with his gaze, yet neither of them dared to moisten his lips
with them. Two pints of water in the midst of the desert!
Then it was that Dr. Ferguson, buried in meditation, asked himself whether he had acted
with prudence. Would he not have done better to have kept the water that he had
decomposed in pure loss, in order to sustain him in the air? He had gained a little distance, to
be sure; but was he any nearer to his journey’s end? What difference did sixty miles to the
rear make in this region, when there was no water to be had where they were? The wind,
should it rise, would blow there as it did here, only less strongly at this point, if it came from
the east. But hope urged him onward. And yet those two gallons of water, expended in vain,
would have sufficed for nine days’ halt in the desert. And what changes might not have
occurred in nine days! Perhaps, too, while retaining the water, he might have ascended by
throwing out ballast, at the cost merely of discharging some gas, when he had again to
descend. But the gas in his balloon was his blood, his very life!
A thousand one such reflections whirled in succession through his brain; and, resting his
head between his hands, he sat there for hours without raising it.
“We must make one final effort,” he said, at last, about ten o’clock in the morning. “We
must endeavor, just once more, to find an atmospheric current to bear us away from here,
and, to that end, must risk our last resources.”
Therefore, while his companions slept, the doctor raised the hydrogen in the balloon to
an elevated temperature, and the huge globe, filling out by the dilation of the gas, rose
straight up in the perpendicular rays of the sun. The doctor searched vainly for a breath of
wind, from the height of one hundred feet to that of five miles; his starting-point remained
fatally right below him, and absolute calm seemed to reign, up to the extreme limits of the
breathing atmosphere.
At length the feeding-supply of water gave out; the cylinder was extinguished for lack of
gas; the Buntzen battery ceased to work, and the balloon, shrinking together, gently
descended to the sand, in the very place that the car had hollowed out there.It was noon; and solar observations gave nineteen degrees thirty-five minutes east
longitude, and six degrees fifty-one minutes north latitude, or nearly five hundred miles from
Lake Tchad, and more than four hundred miles from the western coast of Africa.
On the balloon taking ground, Kennedy and Joe awoke from their stupor.
“We have halted,” said the Scot.
“We had to do so,” replied the doctor, gravely.
His companions understood him. The level of the soil at that point corresponded with the
level of the sea, and, consequently, the balloon remained in perfect equilibrium, and absolutely
The weight of the three travellers was replaced with an equivalent quantity of sand, and
they got out of the car. Each was absorbed in his own thoughts; and for many hours neither of
them spoke. Joe prepared their evening meal, which consisted of biscuit and pemmican, and
was hardly tasted by either of the party. A mouthful of scalding water from their little store
completed this gloomy repast.
During the night none of them kept awake; yet none could be precisely said to have
slept. On the morrow there remained only half a pint of water, and this the doctor put away, all
three having resolved not to touch it until the last extremity.
It was not long, however, before Joe exclaimed:
“I’m choking, and the heat is getting worse! I’m not surprised at that, though,” he added,
consulting the thermometer; “one hundred and forty degrees!”
“The sand scorches me,” said the hunter, “as though it had just come out of a furnace;
and not a cloud in this sky of fire. It’s enough to drive one mad!”
“Let us not despair,” responded the doctor. “In this latitude these intense heats are
invariably followed by storms, and the latter come with the suddenness of lightning.
Notwithstanding this disheartening clearness of the sky, great atmospheric changes may take
place in less than an hour.”
“But,” asked Kennedy, “is there any sign whatever of that?”
“Well,” replied the doctor, “I think that there is some slight symptom of a fall in the
“May Heaven hearken to you, Samuel! for here we are pinned to the ground, like a bird
with broken wings.”
“With this difference, however, my dear Dick, that our wings are unhurt, and I hope that
we shall be able to use them again.”
“Ah! wind! wind!” exclaimed Joe; “enough to carry us to a stream or a well, and we’ll be
all right. We have provisions enough, and, with water, we could wait a month without suffering;
but thirst is a cruel thing!”
It was not thirst alone, but the unchanging sight of the desert, that fatigued the mind.
There was not a variation in the surface of the soil, not a hillock of sand, not a pebble, to
relieve the gaze. This unbroken level discouraged the beholder, and gave him that kind of
malady called the “desert-sickness.” The impassible monotony of the arid blue sky, and the
vast yellow expanse of the desert-sand, at length produced a sensation of terror. In this
inflamed atmosphere the heat appeared to vibrate as it does above a blazing hearth, while the
mind grew desperate in contemplating the limitless calm, and could see no reason why the
thing should ever end, since immensity is a species of eternity.
Thus, at last, our hapless travellers, deprived of water in this torrid heat, began to feel
symptoms of mental disorder. Their eyes swelled in their sockets, and their gaze became
When night came on, the doctor determined to combat this alarming tendency by rapid
walking. His idea was to pace the sandy plain for a few hours, not in search of any thing, but
simply for exercise.
“Come along!” he said to his companions; “believe me, it will do you good.”“Out of the question!” said Kennedy; “I could not walk a step.”
“And I,” said Joe, “would rather sleep!”
“But sleep, or even rest, would be dangerous to you, my friends; you must react against
this tendency to stupor. Come with me!”
But the doctor could do nothing with them, and, therefore, set off alone, amid the starry
clearness of the night. The first few steps he took were painful, for they were the steps of an
enfeebled man quite out of practice in walking. However, he quickly saw that the exercise
would be beneficial to him, and pushed on several miles to the westward. Once in rapid
motion, he felt his spirits greatly cheered, when, suddenly, a vertigo came over him; he
seemed to be poised on the edge of an abyss; his knees bent under him; the vast solitude
struck terror to his heart; he found himself the minute mathematical point, the centre of an
infinite circumference, that is to say — a nothing! The balloon had disappeared entirely in the
deepening gloom. The doctor, cool, impassible, reckless explorer that he was, felt himself at
last seized with a nameless dread. He strove to retrace his steps, but in vain. He called aloud.
Not even an echo replied, and his voice died out in the empty vastness of surrounding space,
like a pebble cast into a bottomless gulf; then, down he sank, fainting, on the sand, alone,
amid the eternal silence of the desert.
At midnight he came to, in the arms of his faithful follower, Joe. The latter, uneasy at his
master’s prolonged absence, had set out after him, easily tracing him by the clear imprint of
his feet in the sand, and had found him lying in a swoon.
“What has been the matter, sir?” was the first inquiry.
“Nothing, Joe, nothing! Only a touch of weakness, that’s all. It’s over now.”
“Oh! it won’t amount to any thing, sir, I’m sure of that; but get up on your feet, if you can.
There! lean upon me, and let us get back to the balloon.”
And the doctor, leaning on Joe’s arm, returned along the track by which he had come.
“You were too bold, sir; it won’t do to run such risks. You might have been robbed,” he
added, laughing. “But, sir, come now, let us talk seriously.”
“Speak! I am listening to you.”
“We must positively make up our minds to do something. Our present situation cannot
last more than a few days longer, and if we get no wind, we are lost.”
The doctor made no reply.
“Well, then, one of us must sacrifice himself for the good of all, and it is most natural that
it should fall to me to do so.”
“What have you to propose? What is your plan?”
“A very simple one! It is to take provisions enough, and to walk right on until I come to
some place, as I must do, sooner or later. In the mean time, if Heaven sends you a good
wind, you need not wait, but can start again. For my part, if I come to a village, I’ll work my
way through with a few Arabic words that you can write for me on a slip of paper, and I’ll bring
you help or lose my hide. What do you think of my plan?”
“It is absolute folly, Joe, but worthy of your noble heart. The thing is impossible. You will
not leave us.”
“But, sir, we must do something, and this plan can’t do you any harm, for, I say again,
you need not wait; and then, after all, I may succeed.”
“No, Joe, no! We will not separate. That would only be adding sorrow to trouble. It was
written that matters should be as they are; and it is very probably written that it shall be quite
otherwise by-and-by. Let us wait, then, with resignation.”
“So be it, master; but take notice of one thing: I give you a day longer, and I’ll not wait
after that. To-day is Sunday; we might say Monday, as it is one o’clock in the morning, and if
we don’t get off by Tuesday, I’ll run the risk. I’ve made up my mind to that!”
The doctor made no answer, and in a few minutes they got back to the car, where he
took his place beside Kennedy, who lay there plunged in silence so complete that it could notbe considered sleep.
Chapter 27

The doctor’s first care, on the morrow, was to consult the barometer. He found that the
mercury had scarcely undergone any perceptible depression.
“Nothing!” he murmured, “nothing!”
He got out of the car and scrutinized the weather; there was only the same heat, the
same cloudless sky, the same merciless drought.
“Must we, then, give up to despair?” he exclaimed, in agony.
Joe did not open his lips. He was buried in his own thoughts, and planning the expedition
he had proposed.
Kennedy got up, feeling very ill, and a prey to nervous agitation. He was suffering horribly
with thirst, and his swollen tongue and lips could hardly articulate a syllable.
There still remained a few drops of water. Each of them knew this, and each was thinking
of it, and felt himself drawn toward them; but neither of the three dared to take a step.
Those three men, friends and companions as they were, fixed their haggard eyes upon
each other with an instinct of ferocious longing, which was most plainly revealed in the hardy
Scot, whose vigorous constitution yielded the soonest to these unnatural privations.
Throughout the day he was delirious, pacing up and down, uttering hoarse cries, gnawing
his clinched fists, and ready to open his veins and drink his own hot blood.
“Ah!” he cried, “land of thirst! Well might you be called the land of despair!”
At length he sank down in utter prostration, and his friends heard no other sound from
him than the hissing of his breath between his parched and swollen lips.
Toward evening, Joe had his turn of delirium. The vast expanse of sand appeared to him
an immense pond, full of clear and limpid water; and, more than once, he dashed himself
upon the scorching waste to drink long draughts, and rose again with his mouth clogged with
hot dust.
“Curses on it!” he yelled, in his madness, “it’s nothing but salt water!”
Then, while Ferguson and Kennedy lay there motionless, the resistless longing came
over him to drain the last few drops of water that had been kept in reserve. The natural
instinct proved too strong. He dragged himself toward the car, on his knees; he glared at the
bottle containing the precious fluid; he gave one wild, eager glance, seized the treasured
store, and bore it to his lips.
At that instant he heard a heart-rending cry close beside him — “Water! water!”
It was Kennedy, who had crawled up close to him, and was begging there, upon his
knees, and weeping piteously.
Joe, himself in tears, gave the poor wretch the bottle, and Kennedy drained the last drop
with savage haste.
“Thanks!” he murmured hoarsely, but Joe did not hear him, for both alike had dropped
fainting on the sand.
What took place during that fearful night neither of them knew, but, on Tuesday morning,
under those showers of heat which the sun poured down upon them, the unfortunate men felt
their limbs gradually drying up, and when Joe attempted to rise he found it impossible.
He looked around him. In the car, the doctor, completely overwhelmed, sat with his arms
folded on his breast, gazing with idiotic fixedness upon some imaginary point in space.
Kennedy was frightful to behold. He was rolling his head from right to left like a wild beast in a
All at once, his eyes rested on the butt of his rifle, which jutted above the rim of the car.
“Ah!” he screamed, raising himself with a superhuman effort.Desperate, mad, he snatched at the weapon, and turned the barrel toward his mouth.
“Kennedy!” shouted Joe, throwing himself upon his friend.
“Let go! hands off!” moaned the Scot, in a hoarse, grating voice — and then the two
struggled desperately for the rifle.
“Let go, or I’ll kill you!” repeated Kennedy. But Joe clung to him only the more fiercely,
and they had been contending thus without the doctor seeing them for many seconds, when,
suddenly the rifle went off. At the sound of its discharge, the doctor rose up erect, like a
spectre, and glared around him.
But all at once his glance grew more animated; he extended his hand toward the horizon,
and in a voice no longer human shrieked:
“There! there — off there!”
There was such fearful force in the cry that Kennedy and Joe released each other, and
both looked where the doctor pointed.
The plain was agitated like the sea shaken by the fury of a tempest; billows of sand went
tossing over each other amid blinding clouds of dust; an immense pillar was seen whirling
toward them through the air from the southeast, with terrific velocity; the sun was
disappearing behind an opaque veil of cloud whose enormous barrier extended clear to the
horizon, while the grains of fine sand went gliding together with all the supple ease of liquid
particles, and the rising dust-tide gained more and more with every second.
Ferguson’s eyes gleamed with a ray of energetic hope.
“The simoom!” he exclaimed.
“The simoom!” repeated Joe, without exactly knowing what it meant.
“So much the better!” said Kennedy, with the bitterness of despair. “So much the better
— we shall die!”
“So much the better!” echoed the doctor, “for we shall live!” and, so saying, he began
rapidly to throw out the sand that encumbered the car.
At length his companions understood him, and took their places at his side.
“And now, Joe,” said the doctor, “throw out some fifty pounds of your ore, there!”
Joe no longer hesitated, although he still felt a fleeting pang of regret. The balloon at
once began to ascend.
“It was high time!” said the doctor.
The simoom, in fact, came rushing on like a thunderbolt, and a moment later the balloon
would have been crushed, torn to atoms, annihilated. The awful whirlwind was almost upon it,
and it was already pelted with showers of sand driven like hail by the storm.
“Out with more ballast!” shouted the doctor.
“There!” responded Joe, tossing over a huge fragment of quartz.
With this, the Victoria rose swiftly above the range of the whirling column, but, caught in
the vast displacement of the atmosphere thereby occasioned, it was borne along with
incalculable rapidity away above this foaming sea.
The three travellers did not speak. They gazed, and hoped, and even felt refreshed by
the breath of the tempest.
About three o’clock, the whirlwind ceased; the sand, falling again upon the desert,
formed numberless little hillocks, and the sky resumed its former tranquillity.
The balloon, which had again lost its momentum, was floating in sight of an oasis, a sort
of islet studded with green trees, thrown up upon the surface of this sandy ocean.
“Water! we’ll find water there!” said the doctor.
And, instantly, opening the upper valve, he let some hydrogen escape, and slowly
descended, taking the ground at about two hundred feet from the edge of the oasis.
In four hours the travellers had swept over a distance of two hundred and forty miles!
The car was at once ballasted, and Kennedy, closely followed by Joe, leaped out.
“Take your guns with you!” said the doctor; “take your guns, and be careful!”Dick grasped his rifle, and Joe took one of the fowling-pieces. They then rapidly made for
the trees, and disappeared under the fresh verdure, which announced the presence of
abundant springs. As they hurried on, they had not taken notice of certain large footprints and
fresh tracks of some living creature marked here and there in the damp soil.
Suddenly, a dull roar was heard not twenty paces from them.
“The roar of a lion!” said Joe.
“Good for that!” said the excited hunter; “we’ll fight him. A man feels strong when only a
fight’s in question.”
“But be careful, Mr. Kennedy; be careful! The lives of all depend upon the life of one.”
But Kennedy no longer heard him; he was pushing on, his eye blazing; his rifle cocked;
fearful to behold in his daring rashness. There, under a palm-tree, stood an enormous
blackmaned lion, crouching for a spring on his antagonist. Scarcely had he caught a glimpse of the
hunter, when he bounded through the air; but he had not touched the ground ere a bullet
pierced his heart, and he fell to the earth dead.
“Hurrah! hurrah!” shouted Joe, with wild exultation.
Kennedy rushed toward the well, slid down the dampened steps, and flung himself at full
length by the side of a fresh spring, in which he plunged his parched lips. Joe followed suit,
and for some minutes nothing was heard but the sound they made with their mouths, drinking
more like maddened beasts than men.
“Take care, Mr. Kennedy,” said Joe at last; “let us not overdo the thing!” and he panted
for breath.
But Kennedy, without a word, drank on. He even plunged his hands, and then his head,
into the delicious tide — he fairly revelled in its coolness.
“But the doctor?” said Joe; “our friend, Dr. Ferguson?”
That one word recalled Kennedy to himself, and, hastily filling a flask that he had brought
with him, he started on a run up the steps of the well.
But what was his amazement when he saw an opaque body of enormous dimensions
blocking up the passage! Joe, who was close upon Kennedy’s heels, recoiled with him.
“We are blocked in — entrapped!”
“Impossible! What does that mean? —”
Dick had no time to finish; a terrific roar made him only too quickly aware what foe
confronted him.
“Another lion!” exclaimed Joe.
“A lioness, rather,” said Kennedy. “Ah! ferocious brute!” he added, “I’ll settle you in a
moment more!” and swiftly reloaded his rifle.
In another instant he fired, but the animal had disappeared.
“Onward!” shouted Kennedy.
“No!” interposed the other, “that shot did not kill her; her body would have rolled down
the steps; she’s up there, ready to spring upon the first of us who appears, and he would be a
lost man!”
“But what are we to do? We must get out of this, and the doctor is expecting us.”
“Let us decoy the animal. Take my piece, and give me your rifle.”
“What is your plan?”
“You’ll see.”
And Joe, taking off his linen jacket, hung it on the end of the rifle, and thrust it above the
top of the steps. The lioness flung herself furiously upon it. Kennedy was on the alert for her,
and his bullet broke her shoulder. The lioness, with a frightful howl of agony, rolled down the
steps, overturning Joe in her fall. The poor fellow imagined that he could already feel the
enormous paws of the savage beast in his flesh, when a second detonation resounded in the
narrow passage, and Dr. Ferguson appeared at the opening above with his gun in hand, and
still smoking from the discharge.Joe leaped to his feet, clambered over the body of the dead lioness, and handed up the
flask full of sparkling water to his master.
To carry it to his lips, and to half empty it at a draught, was the work of an instant, and
the three travellers offered up thanks from the depths of their hearts to that Providence who
had so miraculously saved them.
Chapter 28

The evening was lovely, and our three friends enjoyed it in the cool shade of the
mimosas, after a substantial repast, at which the tea and the punch were dealt out with no
niggardly hand.
Kennedy had traversed the little domain in all directions. He had ransacked every thicket
and satisfied himself that the balloon party were the only living creatures in this terrestrial
paradise; so they stretched themselves upon their blankets and passed a peaceful night that
brought them forgetfulness of their past sufferings.
On the morrow, May 7th, the sun shone with all his splendor, but his rays could not
penetrate the dense screen of the palm-tree foliage, and as there was no lack of provisions,
the doctor resolved to remain where he was while waiting for a favorable wind.
Joe had conveyed his portable kitchen to the oasis, and proceeded to indulge in any
number of culinary combinations, using water all the time with the most profuse extravagance.
“What a strange succession of annoyances and enjoyments!” moralized Kennedy. “Such
abundance as this after such privations; such luxury after such want! Ah! I nearly went mad!”
“My dear Dick,” replied the doctor, “had it not been for Joe, you would not be sitting here,
to-day, discoursing on the instability of human affairs.”
“Whole-hearted friend!” said Kennedy, extending his hand to Joe.
“There’s no occasion for all that,” responded the latter; “but you can take your revenge
some time, Mr. Kennedy, always hoping though that you may never have occasion to do the
same for me!”
“It’s a poor constitution this of ours to succumb to so little,” philosophized Dr. Ferguson.
“So little water, you mean, doctor,” interposed Joe; “that element must be very
necessary to life.”
“Undoubtedly, and persons deprived of food hold out longer than those deprived of
“I believe it. Besides, when needs must, one can eat any thing he comes across, even
his fellow-creatures, although that must be a kind of food that’s pretty hard to digest.”
“The savages don’t boggle much about it!” said Kennedy.
“Yes; but then they are savages, and accustomed to devouring raw meat; it’s something
that I’d find very disgusting, for my part.”
“It is disgusting enough,” said the doctor, “that’s a fact; and so much so, indeed, that
nobody believed the narratives of the earliest travellers in Africa who brought back word that
many tribes on that continent subsisted upon raw meat, and people generally refused to credit
the statement. It was under such circumstances that a very singular adventure befell James
“Tell it to us, doctor; we’ve time enough to hear it,” said Joe, stretching himself
voluptuously on the cool greensward.
“By all means. — James Bruce was a Scotchman, of Stirlingshire, who, between 1768
and 1772, traversed all Abyssinia, as far as Lake Tyana, in search of the sources of the Nile.
He afterward returned to England, but did not publish an account of his journeys until 1790.
His statements were received with extreme incredulity, and such may be the reception
accorded to our own. The manners and customs of the Abyssinians seemed so different from
those of the English, that no one would credit the description of them. Among other details,
Bruce had put forward the assertion that the tribes of Eastern Africa fed upon raw flesh, and
this set everybody against him. He might say so as much as he pleased; there was no one
likely to go and see! One day, in a parlor at Edinburgh, a Scotch gentleman took up thesubject in his presence, as it had become the topic of daily pleasantry, and, in reference to the
eating of raw flesh, said that the thing was neither possible nor true. Bruce made no reply, but
went out and returned a few minutes later with a raw steak, seasoned with pepper and salt, in
the African style.
“‘Sir,’ said he to the Scotchman, ‘in doubting my statements, you have grossly affronted
me; in believing the thing to be impossible, you have been egregiously mistaken; and, in proof
thereof, you will now eat this beef-steak raw, or you will give me instant satisfaction!’ The
Scotchman had a wholesome dread of the brawny traveller, and did eat the steak, although
not without a good many wry faces. Thereupon, with the utmost coolness, James Bruce
added: ‘Even admitting, sir, that the thing were untrue, you will, at least, no longer maintain
that it is impossible.’”
“Well put in!” said Joe, “and if the Scotchman found it lie heavy on his stomach, he got
no more than he deserved. If, on our return to England, they dare to doubt what we say about
our travels —”
“Well, Joe, what would you do?”
“Why, I’ll make the doubters swallow the pieces of the balloon, without either salt or
All burst out laughing at Joe’s queer notions, and thus the day slipped by in pleasant
chat. With returning strength, hope had revived, and with hope came the courage to do and to
dare. The past was obliterated in the presence of the future with providential rapidity.
Joe would have been willing to remain forever in this enchanting asylum; it was the realm
he had pictured in his dreams; he felt himself at home; his master had to give him his exact
location, and it was with the gravest air imaginable that he wrote down on his tablets fifteen
degrees forty-three minutes east longitude, and eight degrees thirty-two minutes north
Kennedy had but one regret, to wit, that he could not hunt in that miniature forest,
because, according to his ideas, there was a slight deficiency of ferocious wild beasts in it.
“But, my dear Dick,” said the doctor, “haven’t you rather a short memory? How about the
lion and the lioness?”
“Oh, that!” he ejaculated with the contempt of a thorough-bred sportsman for game
already killed. “But the fact is, that finding them here would lead one to suppose that we can’t
be far from a more fertile country.”
“It don’t prove much, Dick, for those animals, when goaded by hunger or thirst, will travel
long distances, and I think that, to-night, we had better keep a more vigilant lookout, and light
fires, besides.”
“What, in such heat as this?” said Joe. “Well, if it’s necessary, we’ll have to do it, but I do
think it a real pity to burn this pretty grove that has been such a comfort to us!”
“Oh! above all things, we must take the utmost care not to set it on fire,” replied the
doctor, “so that others in the same strait as ourselves may some day find shelter here in the
middle of the desert.”
“I’ll be very careful, indeed, doctor; but do you think that this oasis is known?”
“Undoubtedly; it is a halting-place for the caravans that frequent the centre of Africa, and
a visit from one of them might be any thing but pleasant to you, Joe.”
“Why, are there any more of those rascally Nyam-Nyams around here?”
“Certainly; that is the general name of all the neighboring tribes, and, under the same
climates, the same races are likely to have similar manners and customs.”
“Pah!” said Joe, “but, after all, it’s natural enough. If savages had the ways of gentlemen,
where would be the difference? By George, these fine fellows wouldn’t have to be coaxed long
to eat the Scotchman’s raw steak, nor the Scotchman either, into the bargain!”
With this very sensible observation, Joe began to get ready his firewood for the night,
making just as little of it as possible. Fortunately, these precautions were superfluous; andeach of the party, in his turn, dropped off into the soundest slumber.
On the next day the weather still showed no sign of change, but kept provokingly and
obstinately fair. The balloon remained motionless, without any oscillation to betray a breath of
The doctor began to get uneasy again. If their stay in the desert were to be prolonged
like this, their provisions would give out. After nearly perishing for want of water, they would,
at last, have to starve to death!
But he took fresh courage as he saw the mercury fall considerably in the barometer, and
noticed evident signs of an early change in the atmosphere. He therefore resolved to make all
his preparations for a start, so as to avail himself of the first opportunity. The feeding-tank and
the water-tank were both completely filled.
Then he had to reestablish the equilibrium of the balloon, and Joe was obliged to part
with another considerable portion of his precious quartz. With restored health, his ambitious
notions had come back to him, and he made more than one wry face before obeying his
master; but the latter convinced him that he could not carry so considerable a weight with him
through the air, and gave him his choice between the water and the gold. Joe hesitated no
longer, but flung out the requisite quantity of his much-prized ore upon the sand.
“The next people who come this way,” he remarked, “will be rather surprised to find a
fortune in such a place.”
“And suppose some learned traveller should come across these specimens, eh?”
suggested Kennedy.
“You may be certain, Dick, that they would take him by surprise, and that he would
publish his astonishment in several folios; so that some day we shall hear of a wonderful
deposit of gold-bearing quartz in the midst of the African sands!”
“And Joe there, will be the cause of it all!”
This idea of mystifying some learned sage tickled Joe hugely, and made him laugh.
During the rest of the day the doctor vainly kept on the watch for a change of weather.
The temperature rose, and, had it not been for the shade of the oasis, would have been
insupportable. The thermometer marked a hundred and forty-nine degrees in the sun, and a
veritable rain of fire filled the air. This was the most intense heat that they had yet noted.
Joe arranged their bivouac for that evening, as he had done for the previous night; and
during the watches kept by the doctor and Kennedy there was no fresh incident.
But, toward three o’clock in the morning, while Joe was on guard, the temperature
suddenly fell; the sky became overcast with clouds, and the darkness increased.
“Turn out!” cried Joe, arousing his companions. “Turn out! Here’s the wind!”
“At last!” exclaimed the doctor, eying the heavens. “But it is a storm! The balloon! Let us
hasten to the balloon!”
It was high time for them to reach it. The Victoria was bending to the force of the
hurricane, and dragging along the car, the latter grazing the sand. Had any portion of the
ballast been accidentally thrown out, the balloon would have been swept away, and all hope of
recovering it have been forever lost.
But fleet-footed Joe put forth his utmost speed, and checked the car, while the balloon
beat upon the sand, at the risk of being torn to pieces. The doctor, followed by Kennedy,
leaped in, and lit his cylinder, while his companions threw out the superfluous ballast.
The travellers took one last look at the trees of the oasis bowing to the force of the
hurricane, and soon, catching the wind at two hundred feet above the ground, disappeared in
the gloom.
Chapter 29

From the moment of their departure, the travellers moved with great velocity. They
longed to leave behind them the desert, which had so nearly been fatal to them.
About a quarter-past nine in the morning, they caught a glimpse of some signs of
vegetation: herbage floating on that sea of sand, and announcing, as the weeds upon the
ocean did to Christopher Columbus, the nearness of the shore — green shoots peeping up
timidly between pebbles that were, in their turn, to be the rocks of that vast expanse.
Hills, but of trifling height, were seen in wavy lines upon the horizon. Their profile, muffled
by the heavy mist, was defined but vaguely. The monotony, however, was beginning to
The doctor hailed with joy the new country thus disclosed, and, like a seaman on lookout
at the mast-head, he was ready to shout aloud:
“Land, ho! land!”
An hour later the continent spread broadly before their gaze, still wild in aspect, but less
flat, less denuded, and with a few trees standing out against the gray sky.
“We are in a civilized country at last!” said the hunter.
“Civilized? Well, that’s one way of speaking; but there are no people to be seen yet.”
“It will not be long before we see them,” said Ferguson, “at our present rate of travel.”
“Are we still in the negro country, doctor?”
“Yes, and on our way to the country of the Arabs.”
“What! real Arabs, sir, with their camels?”
“No, not many camels; they are scarce, if not altogether unknown, in these regions. We
must go a few degrees farther north to see them.”
“What a pity!”
“And why, Joe?”
“Because, if the wind fell contrary, they might be of use to us.”
“How so?”
“Well, sir, it’s just a notion that’s got into my head: we might hitch them to the car, and
make them tow us along. What do you say to that, doctor?”
“Poor Joe! Another person had that idea in advance of you. It was used by a very gifted
French author — M. Mery — in a romance, it is true. He has his travellers drawn along in a
balloon by a team of camels; then a lion comes up, devours the camels, swallows the
towrope, and hauls the balloon in their stead; and so on through the story. You see that the whole
thing is the top-flower of fancy, but has nothing in common with our style of locomotion.”
Joe, a little cut down at learning that his idea had been used already, cudgelled his wits
to imagine what animal could have devoured the lion; but he could not guess it, and so quietly
went on scanning the appearance of the country.
A lake of medium extent stretched away before him, surrounded by an amphitheatre of
hills, which yet could not be dignified with the name of mountains. There were winding valleys,
numerous and fertile, with their tangled thickets of the most various trees. The African oil-tree
rose above the mass, with leaves fifteen feet in length upon its stalk, the latter studded with
sharp thorns; the bombax, or silk-cotton-tree, filled the wind, as it swept by, with the fine down
of its seeds; the pungent odors of the pendanus, the “kenda” of the Arabs, perfumed the air
up to the height where the Victoria was sailing; the papaw-tree, with its palm-shaped leaves;
the sterculier, which produces the Soudan-nut; the baobab, and the banana-tree, completed
the luxuriant flora of these inter-tropical regions.
“The country is superb!” said the doctor.“Here are some animals,” added Joe. “Men are not far away.”
“Oh, what magnificent elephants!” exclaimed Kennedy. “Is there no way to get a little
“How could we manage to halt in a current as strong as this? No, Dick; you must taste a
little of the torture of Tantalus just now. You shall make up for it afterward.”
And, in truth, there was enough to excite the fancy of a sportsman. Dick’s heart fairly
leaped in his breast as he grasped the butt of his Purdy.
The fauna of the region were as striking as its flora. The wild-ox revelled in dense
herbage that often concealed his whole body; gray, black, and yellow elephants of the most
gigantic size burst headlong, like a living hurricane, through the forests, breaking, rending,
tearing down, devastating every thing in their path; upon the woody slopes of the hills trickled
cascades and springs flowing northward; there, too, the hippopotami bathed their huge forms,
splashing and snorting as they frolicked in the water, and lamantines, twelve feet long, with
bodies like seals, stretched themselves along the banks, turning up toward the sun their
rounded teats swollen with milk.
It was a whole menagerie of rare and curious beasts in a wondrous hot-house, where
numberless birds with plumage of a thousand hues gleamed and fluttered in the sunshine.
By this prodigality of Nature, the doctor recognized the splendid kingdom of Adamova.
“We are now beginning to trench upon the realm of modern discovery. I have taken up
the lost scent of preceding travellers. It is a happy chance, my friends, for we shall be enabled
to link the toils of Captains Burton and Speke with the explorations of Dr. Barth. We have left
the Englishmen behind us, and now have caught up with the Hamburger. It will not be long,
either, before we arrive at the extreme point attained by that daring explorer.”
“It seems to me that there is a vast extent of country between the two explored routes,”
remarked Kennedy; “at least, if I am to judge by the distance that we have made.”
“It is easy to determine: take the map and see what is the longitude of the southern point
of Lake Ukereoue, reached by Speke.”
“It is near the thirty-seventh degree.”
“And the city of Yola, which we shall sight this evening, and to which Barth penetrated,
what is its position?”
“It is about in the twelfth degree of east longitude.”
“Then there are twenty-five degrees, or, counting sixty miles to each, about fifteen
hundred miles in all.”
“A nice little walk,” said Joe, “for people who have to go on foot.”
“It will be accomplished, however. Livingstone and Moffat are pushing on up this line
toward the interior. Nyassa, which they have discovered, is not far from Lake Tanganayika,
seen by Burton. Ere the close of the century these regions will, undoubtedly, be explored.
But,” added the doctor, consulting his compass, “I regret that the wind is carrying us so far to
the westward. I wanted to get to the north.”
After twelve hours of progress, the Victoria found herself on the confines of Nigritia. The
first inhabitants of this region, the Chouas Arabs, were feeding their wandering flocks. The
immense summits of the Atlantika Mountains seen above the horizon — mountains that no
European foot had yet scaled, and whose height is computed to be ten thousand feet! Their
western slope determines the flow of all the waters in this region of Africa toward the ocean.
They are the Mountains of the Moon to this part of the continent.
At length a real river greeted the gaze of our travellers, and, by the enormous ant-hills
seen in its vicinity, the doctor recognized the Benoue, one of the great tributaries of the Niger,
the one which the natives have called “The Fountain of the Waters.”
“This river,” said the doctor to his companions, “will, one day, be the natural channel of
communication with the interior of Nigritia. Under the command of one of our brave captains,
the steamer Pleiad has already ascended as far as the town of Yola. You see that we are notin an unknown country.”
Numerous slaves were engaged in the labors of the field, cultivating sorgho, a kind of
millet which forms the chief basis of their diet; and the most stupid expressions of
astonishment ensued as the Victoria sped past like a meteor. That evening the balloon halted
about forty miles from Yola, and ahead of it, but in the distance, rose the two sharp cones of
Mount Mendif.
The doctor threw out his anchors and made fast to the top of a high tree; but a very
violent wind beat upon the balloon with such force as to throw it over on its side, thus
rendering the position of the car sometimes extremely dangerous. Ferguson did not close his
all night, and he was repeatedly on the point of cutting the anchor-rope and scudding away
before the gale. At length, however, the storm abated, and the oscillations of the balloon
ceased to be alarming.
On the morrow the wind was more moderate, but it carried our travellers away from the
city of Yola, which recently rebuilt by the Fouillans, excited Ferguson’s curiosity. However, he
had to make up his mind to being borne farther to the northward and even a little to the east.
Kennedy proposed to halt in this fine hunting-country, and Joe declared that the need of
fresh meat was beginning to be felt; but the savage customs of the country, the attitude of the
population, and some shots fired at the Victoria, admonished the doctor to continue his
journey. They were then crossing a region that was the scene of massacres and burnings,
and where warlike conflicts between the barbarian sultans, contending for their power amid
the most atrocious carnage, never cease.
Numerous and populous villages of long low huts stretched away between broad
pasturefields whose dense herbage was besprinkled with violet-colored blossoms. The huts, looking
like huge beehives, were sheltered behind bristling palisades. The wild hill-sides and hollows
frequently reminded the beholder of the glens in the Highlands of Scotland, as Kennedy more
than once remarked.
In spite of all he could do, the doctor bore directly to the northeast, toward Mount Mendif,
which was lost in the midst of environing clouds. The lofty summits of these mountains
separate the valley of the Niger from the basin of Lake Tchad.
Soon afterward was seen the Bagele, with its eighteen villages clinging to its flanks like a
whole brood of children to their mother’s bosom — a magnificent spectacle for the beholder
whose gaze commanded and took in the entire picture at one view. Even the ravines were
seen to be covered with fields of rice and of arachides.
By three o’clock the Victoria was directly in front of Mount Mendif. It had been impossible
to avoid it; the only thing to be done was to cross it. The doctor, by means of a temperature
increased to one hundred and eighty degrees, gave the balloon a fresh ascensional force of
nearly sixteen hundred pounds, and it went up to an elevation of more than eight thousand
feet, the greatest height attained during the journey. The temperature of the atmosphere was
so much cooler at that point that the aeronauts had to resort to their blankets and thick
Ferguson was in haste to descend; the covering of the balloon gave indications of
bursting, but in the meanwhile he had time to satisfy himself of the volcanic origin of the
mountain, whose extinct craters are now but deep abysses. Immense accumulations of
birdguano gave the sides of Mount Mendif the appearance of calcareous rocks, and there was
enough of the deposit there to manure all the lands in the United Kingdom.
At five o’clock the Victoria, sheltered from the south winds, went gently gliding along the
slopes of the mountain, and stopped in a wide clearing remote from any habitation. The
instant it touched the soil, all needful precautions were taken to hold it there firmly; and
Kennedy, fowling-piece in hand, sallied out upon the sloping plain. Ere long, he returned with
half a dozen wild ducks and a kind of snipe, which Joe served up in his best style. The meal
was heartily relished, and the night was passed in undisturbed and refreshing slumber. Chapter 30

On the next day, May 11th, the Victoria resumed her adventurous journey. Her
passengers had the same confidence in her that a good seaman has in his ship.
In terrific hurricanes, in tropical heats, when making dangerous departures, and descents
still more dangerous, it had, at all times and in all places, come out safely. It might almost
have been said that Ferguson managed it with a wave of the hand; and hence, without
knowing in advance, where the point of arrival would be, the doctor had no fears concerning
the successful issue of his journey. However, in this country of barbarians and fanatics,
prudence obliged him to take the strictest precautions. He therefore counselled his
companions to have their eyes wide open for every thing and at all hours.
The wind drifted a little more to the northward, and, toward nine o’clock, they sighted the
larger city of Mosfeia, built upon an eminence which was itself enclosed between two lofty
mountains. Its position was impregnable, a narrow road running between a marsh and a thick
wood being the only channel of approach to it.
At the moment of which we write, a sheik, accompanied by a mounted escort, and clad in
a garb of brilliant colors, preceded by couriers and trumpeters, who put aside the boughs of
the trees as he rode up, was making his grand entry into the place.
The doctor lowered the balloon in order to get a better look at this cavalcade of natives;
but, as the balloon grew larger to their eyes, they began to show symptoms of intense affright,
and at length made off in different directions as fast as their legs and those of their horses
could carry them.
The sheik alone did not budge an inch. He merely grasped his long musket, cocked it,
and proudly waited in silence. The doctor came on to within a hundred and fifty feet of him,
and then, with his roundest and fullest voice, saluted him courteously in the Arabic tongue.
But, upon hearing these words falling, as it seemed, from the sky, the sheik dismounted
and prostrated himself in the dust of the highway, where the doctor had to leave him, finding it
impossible to divert him from his adoration.
“Unquestionably,” Ferguson remarked, “those people take us for supernatural beings.
When Europeans came among them for the first time, they were mistaken for creatures of a
higher race. When this sheik comes to speak of to-day’s meeting, he will not fail to embellish
the circumstance with all the resources of an Arab imagination. You may, therefore, judge
what an account their legends will give of us some day.”
“Not such a desirable thing, after all,” said the Scot, “in the point of view that affects
civilization; it would be better to pass for mere men. That would give these negro races a
superior idea of European power.”
“Very good, my dear Dick; but what can we do about it? You might sit all day explaining
the mechanism of a balloon to the savants of this country, and yet they would not
comprehend you, but would persist in ascribing it to supernatural aid.”
“Doctor, you spoke of the first time Europeans visited these regions. Who were the
visitors?” inquired Joe.
“My dear fellow, we are now upon the very track of Major Denham. It was at this very
city of Mosfeia that he was received by the Sultan of Mandara; he had quitted the Bornou
country; he accompanied the sheik in an expedition against the Fellatahs; he assisted in the
attack on the city, which, with its arrows alone, bravely resisted the bullets of the Arabs, and
put the sheik’s troops to flight. All this was but a pretext for murders, raids, and pillage. The
major was completely plundered and stripped, and had it not been for his horse, under whose
stomach he clung with the skill of an Indian rider, and was borne with a headlong gallop fromhis barbarous pursuers, he never could have made his way back to Kouka, the capital of
“Who was this Major Denham?”
“A fearless Englishman, who, between 1822 and 1824, commanded an expedition into
the Bornou country, in company with Captain Clapperton and Dr. Oudney. They set out from
Tripoli in the month of March, reached Mourzouk, the capital of Fez, and, following the route
which at a later period Dr. Barth was to pursue on his way back to Europe, they arrived, on
the 16th of February, 1823, at Kouka, near Lake Tchad. Denham made several explorations
in Bornou, in Mandara, and to the eastern shores of the lake. In the mean time, on the 15th of
December, 1823, Captain Clapperton and Dr. Oudney had pushed their way through the
Soudan country as far as Sackatoo, and Oudney died of fatigue and exhaustion in the town of
“This part of Africa has, therefore, paid a heavy tribute of victims to the cause of
science,” said Kennedy.
“Yes, this country is fatal to travellers. We are moving directly toward the kingdom of
Baghirmi, which Vogel traversed in 1856, so as to reach the Wadai country, where he
disappeared. This young man, at the age of twenty-three, had been sent to cooperate with Dr.
Barth. They met on the 1st of December, 1854, and thereupon commenced his explorations
of the country. Toward 1856, he announced, in the last letters received from him, his intention
to reconnoitre the kingdom of Wadai, which no European had yet penetrated. It appears that
he got as far as Wara, the capital, where, according to some accounts, he was made
prisoner, and, according to others, was put to death for having attempted to ascend a sacred
mountain in the environs. But, we must not too lightly admit the death of travellers, since that
does away with the necessity of going in search of them. For instance, how often was the
death of Dr. Barth reported, to his own great annoyance! It is, therefore, very possible that
Vogel may still be held as a prisoner by the Sultan of Wadai, in the hope of obtaining a good
ransom for him.
“Baron de Neimans was about starting for the Wadai country when he died at Cairo, in
1855; and we now know that De Heuglin has set out on Vogel’s track with the expedition sent
from Leipsic, so that we shall soon be accurately informed as to the fate of that young and
interesting explorer.”
Mosfeia had disappeared from the horizon long ere this, and the Mandara country was
developing to the gaze of our aeronauts its astonishing fertility, with its forests of acacias, its
locust-trees covered with red flowers, and the herbaceous plants of its fields of cotton and
indigo trees. The river Shari, which eighty miles farther on rolled its impetuous waters into
Lake Tchad, was quite distinctly seen.
The doctor got his companions to trace its course upon the maps drawn by Dr. Barth.
“You perceive,” said he, “that the labors of this savant have been conducted with great
precision; we are moving directly toward the Loggoum region, and perhaps toward Kernak, its
capital. It was there that poor Toole died, at the age of scarcely twenty-two. He was a young
Englishman, an ensign in the 80th regiment, who, a few weeks before, had joined Major
Denham in Africa, and it was not long ere he there met his death. Ah! this vast country might
well be called the graveyard of European travellers.”
Some boats, fifty feet long, were descending the current of the Shari. The Victoria, then
one thousand feet above the soil, hardly attracted the attention of the natives; but the wind,
which until then had been blowing with a certain degree of strength, was falling off.
“Is it possible that we are to be caught in another dead calm?” sighed the doctor.
“Well, we’ve no lack of water, nor the desert to fear, anyhow, master,” said Joe.
“No; but there are races here still more to be dreaded.”
“Why!” said Joe, again, “there’s something like a town.”
“That is Kernak. The last puffs of the breeze are wafting us to it, and, if we choose, wecan take an exact plan of the place.”
“Shall we not go nearer to it?” asked Kennedy.
“Nothing easier, Dick! We are right over it. Allow me to turn the stopcock of the cylinder,
and we’ll not be long in descending.”
Half an hour later the balloon hung motionless about two hundred feet from the ground.
“Here we are!” said the doctor, “nearer to Kernak than a man would be to London, if he
were perched in the cupola of St. Paul’s. So we can take a survey at our ease.”
“What is that tick-tacking sound that we hear on all sides?”
Joe looked attentively, and at length discovered that the noise they heard was produced
by a number of weavers beating cloth stretched in the open air, on large trunks of trees.
The capital of Loggoum could then be seen in its entire extent, like an unrolled chart. It is
really a city with straight rows of houses and quite wide streets. In the midst of a large open
space there was a slave-market, attended by a great crowd of customers, for the Mandara
women, who have extremely small hands and feet, are in excellent request, and can be sold
at lucrative rates.
At the sight of the Victoria, the scene so often produced occurred again. At first there
were outcries, and then followed general stupefaction; business was abandoned; work was
flung aside, and all noise ceased. The aeronauts remained as they were, completely
motionless, and lost not a detail of the populous city. They even went down to within sixty feet
of the ground.
Hereupon the Governor of Loggoum came out from his residence, displaying his green
standard, and accompanied by his musicians, who blew on hoarse buffalo-horns, as though
they would split their cheeks or any thing else, excepting their own lungs. The crowd at once
gathered around him. In the mean while Dr. Ferguson tried to make himself heard, but in vain.
This population looked like proud and intelligent people, with their high foreheads, their
almost aquiline noses, and their curling hair; but the presence of the Victoria troubled them
greatly. Horsemen could be seen galloping in all directions, and it soon became evident that
the governor’s troops were assembling to oppose so extraordinary a foe. Joe wore himself out
waving handkerchiefs of every color and shape to them; but his exertions were all to no
However, the sheik, surrounded by his court, proclaimed silence, and pronounced a
discourse, of which the doctor could not understand a word. It was Arabic, mixed with
Baghirmi. He could make out enough, however, by the universal language of gestures, to be
aware that he was receiving a very polite invitation to depart. Indeed, he would have asked for
nothing better, but for lack of wind, the thing had become impossible. His noncompliance,
therefore, exasperated the governor, whose courtiers and attendants set up a furious howl to
enforce immediate obedience on the part of the aerial monster.
They were odd-looking fellows those courtiers, with their five or six shirts swathed around
their bodies! They had enormous stomachs, some of which actually seemed to be artificial.
The doctor surprised his companions by informing them that this was the way to pay court to
the sultan. The rotundity of the stomach indicated the ambition of its possessor. These
corpulent gentry gesticulated and bawled at the top of their voices — one of them particularly
distinguishing himself above the rest — to such an extent, indeed, that he must have been a
prime minister — at least, if the disturbance he made was any criterion of his rank. The
common rabble of dusky denizens united their howlings with the uproar of the court, repeating
their gesticulations like so many monkeys, and thereby producing a single and instantaneous
movement of ten thousand arms at one time.
To these means of intimidation, which were presently deemed insufficient, were added
others still more formidable. Soldiers, armed with bows and arrows, were drawn up in line of
battle; but by this time the balloon was expanding, and rising quietly beyond their reach. Upon
this the governor seized a musket and aimed it at the balloon; but, Kennedy, who waswatching him, shattered the uplifted weapon in the sheik’s grasp.
At this unexpected blow there was a general rout. Every mother’s son of them
scampered for his dwelling with the utmost celerity, and stayed there, so that the streets of
the town were absolutely deserted for the remainder of that day.
Night came, and not a breath of wind was stirring. The aeronauts had to make up their
minds to remain motionless at the distance of but three hundred feet above the ground. Not a
fire or light shone in the deep gloom, and around reigned the silence of death; but the doctor
only redoubled his vigilance, as this apparent quiet might conceal some snare.
And he had reason to be watchful. About midnight, the whole city seemed to be in a
blaze. Hundreds of streaks of flame crossed each other, and shot to and fro in the air like
rockets, forming a regular network of fire.
“That’s really curious!” said the doctor, somewhat puzzled to make out what it meant.
“By all that’s glorious!” shouted Kennedy, “it looks as if the fire were ascending and
coming up toward us!”
And, sure enough, with an accompaniment of musket-shots, yelling, and din of every
description, the mass of fire was, indeed, mounting toward the Victoria. Joe got ready to throw
out ballast, and Ferguson was not long at guessing the truth. Thousands of pigeons, their tails
garnished with combustibles, had been set loose and driven toward the Victoria; and now, in
their terror, they were flying high up, zigzagging the atmosphere with lines of fire. Kennedy
was preparing to discharge all his batteries into the middle of the ascending multitude, but
what could he have done against such a numberless army? The pigeons were already
whisking around the car; they were even surrounding the balloon, the sides of which, reflecting
their illumination, looked as though enveloped with a network of fire.
The doctor dared hesitate no longer; and, throwing out a fragment of quartz, he kept
himself beyond the reach of these dangerous assailants; and, for two hours afterward, he
could see them wandering hither and thither through the darkness of the night, until, little by
little, their light diminished, and they, one by one, died out.
“Now we may sleep in quiet,” said the doctor.
“Not badly got up for barbarians,” mused friend Joe, speaking his thoughts aloud.
“Oh, they employ these pigeons frequently, to set fire to the thatch of hostile villages; but
this time the village mounted higher than they could go.”
“Why, positively, a balloon need fear no enemies!”
“Yes, indeed, it may!” objected Ferguson.
“What are they, then, doctor?”
“They are the careless people in the car! So, my friends, let us have vigilance in all
places and at all times.”
Chapter 31

About three o’clock in the morning, Joe, who was then on watch, at length saw the city
move away from beneath his feet. The Victoria was once again in motion, and both the doctor
and Kennedy awoke.
The former consulted his compass, and saw, with satisfaction, that the wind was carrying
them toward the north-northeast.
“We are in luck!” said he; “every thing works in our favor: we shall discover Lake Tchad
this very day.”
“Is it a broad sheet of water?” asked Kennedy.
“Somewhat, Dick. At its greatest length and breadth, it measures about one hundred and
twenty miles.”
“It will spice our trip with a little variety to sail over a spacious sheet of water.”
“After all, though, I don’t see that we have much to complain of on that score. Our trip
has been very much varied, indeed; and, moreover, we are getting on under the best possible
“Unquestionably so; excepting those privations on the desert, we have encountered no
serious danger.”
“It is not to be denied that our noble balloon has behaved wonderfully well. To-day is May
12th, and we started on the 18th of April. That makes twenty-five days of journeying. In ten
days more we shall have reached our destination.”
“Where is that?”
“I do not know. But what does that signify?”
“You are right again, Samuel! Let us intrust to Providence the care of guiding us and of
keeping us in good health as we are now. We don’t look much as though we had been
crossing the most pestilential country in the world!”
“We had an opportunity of getting up in life, and that’s what we have done!”
“Hurrah for trips in the air!” cried Joe. “Here we are at the end of twenty-five days in
good condition, well fed, and well rested. We’ve had too much rest in fact, for my legs begin to
feel rusty, and I wouldn’t be vexed a bit to stretch them with a run of thirty miles or so!”
“You can do that, Joe, in the streets of London, but in fine we set out three together, like
Denham, Clapperton, and Overweg; like Barth, Richardson, and Vogel, and, more fortunate
than our predecessors here, we are three in number still. But it is most important for us not to
separate. If, while one of us was on the ground, the Victoria should have to ascend in order to
escape some sudden danger, who knows whether we should ever see each other again?
Therefore it is that I say again to Kennedy frankly that I do not like his going off alone to hunt.”
“But still, Samuel, you will permit me to indulge that fancy a little. There is no harm in
renewing our stock of provisions. Besides, before our departure, you held out to me the
prospect of some superb hunting, and thus far I have done but little in the line of the
Andersons and Cummings.”
“But, my dear Dick, your memory fails you, or your modesty makes you forget your own
exploits. It really seems to me that, without mentioning small game, you have already an
antelope, an elephant, and two lions on your conscience.”
“But what’s all that to an African sportsman who sees all the animals in creation strutting
along under the muzzle of his rifle? There! there! look at that troop of giraffes!”
“Those giraffes,” roared Joe; “why, they’re not as big as my fist.”
“Because we are a thousand feet above them; but close to them you would discover that
they are three times as tall as you are!”“And what do you say to yon herd of gazelles, and those ostriches, that run with the
speed of the wind?” resumed Kennedy.
“Those ostriches?” remonstrated Joe, again; “those are chickens, and the greatest kind
of chickens!”
“Come, doctor, can’t we get down nearer to them?” pleaded Kennedy.
“We can get closer to them, Dick, but we must not land. And what good will it do you to
strike down those poor animals when they can be of no use to you? Now, if the question were
to destroy a lion, a tiger, a cat, a hyena, I could understand it; but to deprive an antelope or a
gazelle of life, to no other purpose than the gratification of your instincts as a sportsman,
seems hardly worth the trouble. But, after all, my friend, we are going to keep at about one
hundred feet only from the soil, and, should you see any ferocious wild beast, oblige us by
sending a ball through its heart!”
The Victoria descended gradually, but still keeping at a safe height, for, in a barbarous,
yet very populous country, it was necessary to keep on the watch for unexpected perils.
The travellers were then directly following the course of the Shari. The charming banks of
this river were hidden beneath the foliage of trees of various dyes; lianas and climbing plants
wound in and out on all sides and formed the most curious combinations of color. Crocodiles
were seen basking in the broad blaze of the sun or plunging beneath the waters with the
agility of lizards, and in their gambols they sported about among the many green islands that
intercept the current of the stream.
It was thus, in the midst of rich and verdant landscapes that our travellers passed over
the district of Maffatay, and about nine o’clock in the morning reached the southern shore of
Lake Tchad.
There it was at last, outstretched before them, that Caspian Sea of Africa, the existence
of which was so long consigned to the realms of fable — that interior expanse of water to
which only Denham’s and Barth’s expeditions had been able to force their way.
The doctor strove in vain to fix its precise configuration upon paper. It had already
changed greatly since 1847. In fact, the chart of Lake Tchad is very difficult to trace with
exactitude, for it is surrounded by muddy and almost impassable morasses, in which Barth
thought that he was doomed to perish. From year to year these marshes, covered with reeds
and papyrus fifteen feet high, become the lake itself. Frequently, too, the villages on its shores
are half submerged, as was the case with Ngornou in 1856, and now the hippopotamus and
the alligator frisk and dive where the dwellings of Bornou once stood.
The sun shot his dazzling rays over this placid sheet of water, and toward the north the
two elements merged into one and the same horizon.
The doctor was desirous of determining the character of the water, which was long
believed to be salt. There was no danger in descending close to the lake, and the car was
soon skimming its surface like a bird at the distance of only five feet.
Joe plunged a bottle into the lake and drew it up half filled. The water was then tasted
and found to be but little fit for drinking, with a certain carbonate-of-soda flavor.
While the doctor was jotting down the result of this experiment, the loud report of a gun
was heard close beside him. Kennedy had not been able to resist the temptation of firing at a
huge hippopotamus. The latter, who had been basking quietly, disappeared at the sound of
the explosion, but did not seem to be otherwise incommoded by Kennedy’s conical bullet.
“You’d have done better if you had harpooned him,” said Joe.
“But how?”
“With one of our anchors. It would have been a hook just big enough for such a rousing
beast as that!”
“Humph!” ejaculated Kennedy, “Joe really has an idea this time —”
“Which I beg of you not to put into execution,” interposed the doctor. “The animal would
very quickly have dragged us where we could not have done much to help ourselves, andwhere we have no business to be.”
“Especially now since we’ve settled the question as to what kind of water there is in Lake
Tchad. Is that sort of fish good to eat, Dr. Ferguson?”
“That fish, as you call it, Joe, is really a mammiferous animal of the pachydermal
species. Its flesh is said to be excellent and is an article of important trade between the tribes
living along the borders of the lake.”
“Then I’m sorry that Mr. Kennedy’s shot didn’t do more damage.”
“The animal is vulnerable only in the stomach and between the thighs. Dick’s ball hasn’t
even marked him; but should the ground strike me as favorable, we shall halt at the northern
end of the lake, where Kennedy will find himself in the midst of a whole menagerie, and can
make up for lost time.”
“Well,” said Joe, “I hope then that Mr. Kennedy will hunt the hippopotamus a little; I’d like
to taste the meat of that queer-looking beast. It doesn’t look exactly natural to get away into
the centre of Africa, to feed on snipe and partridge, just as if we were in England.”
Chapter 32

Since its arrival at Lake Tchad, the balloon had struck a current that edged it farther to
the westward. A few clouds tempered the heat of the day, and, besides, a little air could be
felt over this vast expanse of water; but about one o’clock, the Victoria, having slanted across
this part of the lake, again advanced over the land for a space of seven or eight miles.
The doctor, who was somewhat vexed at first at this turn of his course, no longer thought
of complaining when he caught sight of the city of Kouka, the capital of Bornou. He saw it for
a moment, encircled by its walls of white clay, and a few rudely-constructed mosques rising
clumsily above that conglomeration of houses that look like playing-dice, which form most
Arab towns. In the court-yards of the private dwellings, and on the public squares, grew palms
and caoutchouc-trees topped with a dome of foliage more than one hundred feet in breadth.
Joe called attention to the fact that these immense parasols were in proper accordance with
the intense heat of the sun, and made thereon some pious reflections which it were needless
to repeat.
Kouka really consists of two distinct towns, separated by the “Dendal,” a large boulevard
three hundred yards wide, at that hour crowded with horsemen and foot passengers. On one
side, the rich quarter stands squarely with its airy and lofty houses, laid out in regular order;
on the other, is huddled together the poor quarter, a miserable collection of low hovels of a
conical shape, in which a poverty-stricken multitude vegetate rather than live, since Kouka is
neither a trading nor a commercial city.
Kennedy thought it looked something like Edinburgh, were that city extended on a plain,
with its two distinct boroughs.
But our travellers had scarcely the time to catch even this glimpse of it, for, with the
fickleness that characterizes the air-currents of this region, a contrary wind suddenly swept
them some forty miles over the surface of Lake Tchad.
Then then were regaled with a new spectacle. They could count the numerous islets of
the lake, inhabited by the Biddiomahs, a race of bloodthirsty and formidable pirates, who are
as greatly feared when neighbors as are the Touaregs of Sahara.
These estimable people were in readiness to receive the Victoria bravely with stones and
arrows, but the balloon quickly passed their islands, fluttering over them, from one to the other
with butterfly motion, like a gigantic beetle.
At this moment, Joe, who was scanning the horizon, said to Kennedy:
“There, sir, as you are always thinking of good sport, yonder is just the thing for you!”
“What is it, Joe?”
“This time, the doctor will not disapprove of your shooting.”
“But what is it?”
“Don’t you see that flock of big birds making for us?”
“Birds?” exclaimed the doctor, snatching his spyglass.
“I see them,” replied Kennedy; “there are at least a dozen of them.”
“Fourteen, exactly!” said Joe.
“Heaven grant that they may be of a kind sufficiently noxious for the doctor to let me peg
away at them!”
“I should not object, but I would much rather see those birds at a distance from us!”
“Why, are you afraid of those fowls?”
“They are condors, and of the largest size. Should they attack us —”
“Well, if they do, we’ll defend ourselves. We have a whole arsenal at our disposal. I don’t
think those birds are so very formidable.”“Who can tell?” was the doctor’s only remark.
Ten minutes later, the flock had come within gunshot, and were making the air ring with
their hoarse cries. They came right toward the Victoria, more irritated than frightened by her
“How they scream! What a noise!” said Joe.
“Perhaps they don’t like to see anybody poaching in their country up in the air, or daring
to fly like themselves!”
“Well, now, to tell the truth, when I take a good look at them, they are an ugly, ferocious
set, and I should think them dangerous enough if they were armed with Purdy-Moore rifles,”
admitted Kennedy.
“They have no need of such weapons,” said Ferguson, looking very grave.
The condors flew around them in wide circles, their flight growing gradually closer and
closer to the balloon. They swept through the air in rapid, fantastic curves, occasionally
precipitating themselves headlong with the speed of a bullet, and then breaking their line of
projection by an abrupt and daring angle.
The doctor, much disquieted, resolved to ascend so as to escape this dangerous
proximity. He therefore dilated the hydrogen in his balloon, and it rapidly rose.
But the condors mounted with him, apparently determined not to part company.
“They seem to mean mischief!” said the hunter, cocking his rifle.
And, in fact, they were swooping nearer, and more than one came within fifty feet of
them, as if defying the fire-arms.
“By George, I’m itching to let them have it!” exclaimed Kennedy.
“No, Dick; not now! Don’t exasperate them needlessly. That would only be exciting them
to attack us!”
“But I could soon settle those fellows!”
“You may think so, Dick. But you are wrong!”
“Why, we have a bullet for each of them!”
“And suppose that they were to attack the upper part of the balloon, what would you do?
How would you get at them? Just imagine yourself in the presence of a troop of lions on the
plain, or a school of sharks in the open ocean! For travellers in the air, this situation is just as
“Are you speaking seriously, doctor?”
“Very seriously, Dick.”
“Let us wait, then!”
“Wait! Hold yourself in readiness in case of an attack, but do not fire without my orders.”
The birds then collected at a short distance, yet to near that their naked necks, entirely
bare of feathers, could be plainly seen, as they stretched them out with the effort of their
cries, while their gristly crests, garnished with a comb and gills of deep violet, stood erect with
rage. They were of the very largest size, their bodies being more than three feet in length, and
the lower surface of their white wings glittering in the sunlight. They might well have been
considered winged sharks, so striking was their resemblance to those ferocious rangers of the
“They are following us!” said the doctor, as he saw them ascending with him, “and,
mount as we may, they can fly still higher!”
“Well, what are we to do?” asked Kennedy.
The doctor made no answer.
“Listen, Samuel!” said the sportsman. “There are fourteen of those birds; we have
seventeen shots at our disposal if we discharge all our weapons. Have we not the means,
then, to destroy them or disperse them? I will give a good account of some of them!”
“I have no doubt of your skill, Dick; I look upon all as dead that may come within range of
your rifle, but I repeat that, if they attack the upper part of the balloon, you could not get asight at them. They would tear the silk covering that sustains us, and we are three thousand
feet up in the air!”
At this moment, one of the ferocious birds darted right at the balloon, with outstretched
beak and claws, ready to rend it with either or both.
“Fire! fire at once!” cried the doctor.
He had scarcely ceased, ere the huge creature, stricken dead, dropped headlong,
turning over and over in space as he fell.
Kennedy had already grasped one of the two-barrelled fowling-pieces and Joe was taking
aim with another.
Frightened by the report, the condors drew back for a moment, but they almost instantly
returned to the charge with extreme fury. Kennedy severed the head of one from its body with
his first shot, and Joe broke the wing of another.
“Only eleven left,” said he.
Thereupon the birds changed their tactics, and by common consent soared above the
balloon. Kennedy glanced at Ferguson. The latter, in spite of his imperturbability, grew pale.
Then ensued a moment of terrifying silence. In the next they heard a harsh tearing noise, as
of something rending the silk, and the car seemed to sink from beneath the feet of our three
“We are lost!” exclaimed Ferguson, glancing at the barometer, which was now swiftly
“Over with the ballast!” he shouted, “over with it!”
And in a few seconds the last lumps of quartz had disappeared.
“We are still falling! Empty the water-tanks! Do you hear me, Joe? We are pitching into
the lake!”
Joe obeyed. The doctor leaned over and looked out. The lake seemed to come up
toward him like a rising tide. Every object around grew rapidly in size while they were looking
at it. The car was not two hundred feet from the surface of Lake Tchad.
“The provisions! the provisions!” cried the doctor.
And the box containing them was launched into space.
Their descent became less rapid, but the luckless aeronauts were still falling, and into the
“Throw out something — something more!” cried the doctor.
“There is nothing more to throw!” was Kennedy’s despairing response.
“Yes, there is!” called Joe, and with a wave of the hand he disappeared like a flash, over
the edge of the car.
“Joe! Joe!” exclaimed the doctor, horror-stricken.
The Victoria thus relieved resumed her ascending motion, mounted a thousand feet into
the air, and the wind, burying itself in the disinflated covering, bore them away toward the
northern part of the lake.
“Lost!” exclaimed the sportsman, with a gesture of despair.
“Lost to save us!” responded Ferguson.
And these men, intrepid as they were, felt the large tears streaming down their cheeks.
They leaned over with the vain hope of seeing some trace of their heroic companion, but they
were already far away from him.
“What course shall we pursue?” asked Kennedy.
“Alight as soon as possible, Dick, and then wait.”
After a sweep of some sixty miles the Victoria halted on a desert shore, on the north of
the lake. The anchors caught in a low tree and the sportsman fastened it securely. Night
came, but neither Ferguson nor Kennedy could find one moment’s sleep.
Chapter 33

On the morrow, the 13th of May, our travellers, for the first time, reconnoitred the part of
the coast on which they had landed. It was a sort of island of solid ground in the midst of an
immense marsh. Around this fragment of terra firma grew reeds as lofty as trees are in
Europe, and stretching away out of sight.
These impenetrable swamps gave security to the position of the balloon. It was
necessary to watch only the borders of the lake. The vast stretch of water broadened away
from the spot, especially toward the east, and nothing could be seen on the horizon, neither
mainland nor islands.
The two friends had not yet ventured to speak of their recent companion. Kennedy first
imparted his conjectures to the doctor.
“Perhaps Joe is not lost after all,” he said. “He was a skilful lad, and had few equals as a
swimmer. He would find no difficulty in swimming across the Firth of Forth at Edinburgh. We
shall see him again — but how and where I know not. Let us omit nothing on our part to give
him the chance of rejoining us.”
“May God grant it as you say, Dick!” replied the doctor, with much emotion. “We shall do
everything in the world to find our lost friend again. Let us, in the first place, see where we
are. But, above all things, let us rid the Victoria of this outside covering, which is of no further
use. That will relieve us of six hundred and fifty pounds, a weight not to be despised — and
the end is worth the trouble!”
The doctor and Kennedy went to work at once, but they encountered great difficulty.
They had to tear the strong silk away piece by piece, and then cut it in narrow strips so as to
extricate it from the meshes of the network. The tear made by the beaks of the condors was
found to be several feet in length.
This operation took at least four hours, but at length the inner balloon once completely
extricated did not appear to have suffered in the least degree. The Victoria was thus
diminished in size by one fifth, and this difference was sufficiently noticeable to excite
Kennedy’s surprise.
“Will it be large enough?” he asked.
“Have no fears on that score, I will reestablish the equilibrium, and should our poor Joe
return we shall find a way to start off with him again on our old route.”
“At the moment of our fall, unless I am mistaken, we were not far from an island.”
“Yes, I recollect it,” said the doctor, “but that island, like all the islands on Lake Tchad, is,
no doubt, inhabited by a gang of pirates and murderers. They certainly witnessed our
misfortune, and should Joe fall into their hands, what will become of him unless protected by
their superstitions?”
“Oh, he’s just the lad to get safely out of the scrape, I repeat. I have great confidence in
his shrewdness and skill.”
“I hope so. Now, Dick, you may go and hunt in the neighborhood, but don’t get far away
whatever you do. It has become a pressing necessity for us to renew our stock of provisions,
since we had to sacrifice nearly all the old lot.”
“Very good, doctor, I shall not be long absent.”
Hereupon, Kennedy took a double-barrelled fowling-piece, and strode through the long
grass toward a thicket not far off, where the frequent sound of shooting soon let the doctor
know that the sportsman was making a good use of his time.
Meanwhile Ferguson was engaged in calculating the relative weight of the articles still left
in the car, and in establishing the equipoise of the second balloon. He found that there werestill left some thirty pounds of pemmican, a supply of tea and coffee, about a gallon and a half
of brandy, and one empty water-tank. All the dried meat had disappeared.
The doctor was aware that, by the loss of the hydrogen in the first balloon, the
ascensional force at his disposal was now reduced to about nine hundred pounds. He
therefore had to count upon this difference in order to rearrange his equilibrium. The new
balloon measured sixty-seven thousand cubic feet, and contained thirty-three thousand four
hundred and eighty feet of gas. The dilating apparatus appeared to be in good condition, and
neither the battery nor the spiral had been injured.
The ascensional force of the new balloon was then about three thousand pounds, and, in
adding together the weight of the apparatus, of the passengers, of the stock of water, of the
car and its accessories, and putting aboard fifty gallons of water, and one hundred pounds of
fresh meat, the doctor got a total weight of twenty-eight hundred and thirty pounds. He could
then take with him one hundred and seventy pounds of ballast, for unforeseen emergencies,
and the balloon would be in exact balance with the surrounding atmosphere.
His arrangements were completed accordingly, and he made up for Joe’s weight with a
surplus of ballast. He spent the whole day in these preparations, and the latter were finished
when Kennedy returned. The hunter had been successful, and brought back a regular cargo
of geese, wild-duck, snipe, teal, and plover. He went to work at once to draw and smoke the
game. Each piece, suspended on a small, thin skewer, was hung over a fire of green wood.
When they seemed in good order, Kennedy, who was perfectly at home in the business,
packed them away in the car.
On the morrow, the hunter was to complete his supplies.
Evening surprised our travellers in the midst of this work. Their supper consisted of
pemmican, biscuit, and tea; and fatigue, after having given them appetite, brought them
sleep. Each of them strained eyes and ears into the gloom during his watch, sometimes
fancying that they heard the voice of poor Joe; but, alas! the voice that they so longed to
hear, was far away.
“At the first streak of day, the doctor aroused Kennedy.
“I have been long and carefully considering what should be done,” said he, “to find our
“Whatever your plan may be, doctor, it will suit me. Speak!”
“Above all things, it is important that Joe should hear from us in some way.”
“Undoubtedly. Suppose the brave fellow should take it into his head that we have
abandoned him?”
“He! He knows us too well for that. Such a thought would never come into his mind. But
he must be informed as to where we are.”
“How can that be managed?”
“We shall get into our car and be off again through the air.”
“But, should the wind bear us away?”
“Happily, it will not. See, Dick! it is carrying us back to the lake; and this circumstance,
which would have been vexatious yesterday, is fortunate now. Our efforts, then, will be limited
to keeping ourselves above that vast sheet of water throughout the day. Joe cannot fail to see
us, and his eyes will be constantly on the lookout in that direction. Perhaps he will even
manage to let us know the place of his retreat.”
“If he be alone and at liberty, he certainly will.”
“And if a prisoner,” resumed the doctor, “it not being the practice of the natives to confine
their captives, he will see us, and comprehend the object of our researches.”
“But, at last,” put in Kennedy — “for we must anticipate every thing — should we find no
trace — if he should have left no mark to follow him by, what are we to do?”
“We shall endeavor to regain the northern part of the lake, keeping ourselves as much in
sight as possible. There we’ll wait; we’ll explore the banks; we’ll search the water’s edge, forJoe will assuredly try to reach the shore; and we will not leave the country without having done
every thing to find him.”
“Let us set out, then!” said the hunter.
The doctor hereupon took the exact bearings of the patch of solid land they were about
to leave, and arrived at the conclusion that it lay on the north shore of Lake Tchad, between
the village of Lari and the village of Ingemini, both visited by Major Denham. During this time
Kennedy was completing his stock of fresh meat. Although the neighboring marshes showed
traces of the rhinoceros, the lamantine (or manatee), and the hippopotamus, he had no
opportunity to see a single specimen of those animals.
At seven in the morning, but not without great difficulty — which to Joe would have been
nothing — the balloon’s anchor was detached from its hold, the gas dilated, and the new
Victoria rose two hundred feet into the air. It seemed to hesitate at first, and went spinning
around, like a top; but at last a brisk current caught it, and it advanced over the lake, and was
soon borne away at a speed of twenty miles per hour.
The doctor continued to keep at a height of from two hundred to five hundred feet.
Kennedy frequently discharged his rifle; and, when passing over islands, the aeronauts
approached them even imprudently, scrutinizing the thickets, the bushes, the underbrush — in
fine, every spot where a mass of shade or jutting rock could have afforded a retreat to their
companion. They swooped down close to the long pirogues that navigated the lake; and the
wild fishermen, terrified at the sight of the balloon, would plunge into the water and regain their
islands with every symptom of undisguised affright.
“We can see nothing,” said Kennedy, after two hours of search.
“Let us wait a little longer, Dick, and not lose heart. We cannot be far away from the
scene of our accident.”
By eleven o’clock the balloon had gone ninety miles. It then fell in with a new current,
which, blowing almost at right angles to the other, drove them eastward about sixty miles. It
next floated over a very large and populous island, which the doctor took to be Farram, on
which the capital of the Biddiomahs is situated. Ferguson expected at every moment to see
Joe spring up out of some thicket, flying for his life, and calling for help. Were he free, they
could pick him up without trouble; were he a prisoner, they could rescue him by repeating the
manoeuvre they had practised to save the missionary, and he would soon be with his friends
again; but nothing was seen, not a sound was heard. The case seemed desperate.
About half-past two o’clock, the Victoria hove in sight of Tangalia, a village situated on
the eastern shore of Lake Tchad, where it marks the extreme point attained by Denham at the
period of his exploration.
The doctor became uneasy at this persistent setting of the wind in that direction, for he
felt that he was being thrown back to the eastward, toward the centre of Africa, and the
interminable deserts of that region.
“We must absolutely come to a halt,” said he, “and even alight. For Joe’s sake,
particularly, we ought to go back to the lake; but, to begin with, let us endeavor to find an
opposite current.”
During more than an hour he searched at different altitudes: the balloon always came
back toward the mainland. But at length, at the height of a thousand feet, a very violent
breeze swept to the northwestward.
It was out of the question that Joe should have been detained on one of the islands of
the lake; for, in such case he would certainly have found means to make his presence there
known. Perhaps he had been dragged to the mainland. The doctor was reasoning thus to
himself, when he again came in sight of the northern shore of Lake Tchad.
As for supposing that Joe had been drowned, that was not to be believed for a moment.
One horrible thought glanced across the minds of both Kennedy and the doctor: caymans
swarm in these waters! But neither one nor the other had the courage to distinctlycommunicate this impression. However, it came up to them so forcibly at last that the doctor
said, without further preface:
“Crocodiles are found only on the shores of the islands or of the lake, and Joe will have
skill enough to avoid them. Besides, they are not very dangerous; and the Africans bathe with
impunity, and quite fearless of their attacks.”
Kennedy made no reply. He preferred keeping quiet to discussing this terrible possibility.
The doctor made out the town of Lari about five o’clock in the evening. The inhabitants
were at work gathering in their cotton-crop in front of their huts, constructed of woven reeds,
and standing in the midst of clean and neatly-kept enclosures. This collection of about fifty
habitations occupied a slight depression of the soil, in a valley extending between two low
mountains. The force of the wind carried the doctor farther onward than he wanted to go; but
it changed a second time, and bore him back exactly to his starting-point, on the sort of
enclosed island where he had passed the preceding night. The anchor, instead of catching the
branches of the tree, took hold in the masses of reeds mixed with the thick mud of the
marshes, which offered considerable resistance.
The doctor had much difficulty in restraining the balloon; but at length the wind died away
with the setting in of nightfall; and the two friends kept watch together in an almost desperate
state of mind.
Chapter 34

At three o’clock in the morning the wind was raging. It beat down with such violence that
the Victoria could not stay near the ground without danger. It was thrown almost flat over
upon its side, and the reeds chafed the silk so roughly that it seemed as though they would
tear it.
“We must be off, Dick,” said the doctor; “we cannot remain in this situation.”
“But, doctor, what of Joe?”
“I am not likely to abandon him. No, indeed! and should the hurricane carry me a
thousand miles to the northward, I will return! But here we are endangering the safety of all.”
“Must we go without him?” asked the Scot, with an accent of profound grief.
“And do you think, then,” rejoined Ferguson, “that my heart does not bleed like your
own? Am I not merely obeying an imperious necessity?”
“I am entirely at your orders,” replied the hunter; “let us start!”
But their departure was surrounded with unusual difficulty. The anchor, which had caught
very deeply, resisted all their efforts to disengage it; while the balloon, drawing in the opposite
direction, increased its tension. Kennedy could not get it free. Besides, in his present position,
the manoeuvre had become a very perilous one, for the Victoria threatened to break away
before he should be able to get into the car again.
The doctor, unwilling to run such a risk, made his friend get into his place, and resigned
himself to the alternative of cutting the anchor-rope. The Victoria made one bound of three
hundred feet into the air, and took her route directly northward.
Ferguson had no other choice than to scud before the storm. He folded his arms, and
soon became absorbed in his own melancholy reflections.
After a few moments of profound silence, he turned to Kennedy, who sat there no less
“We have, perhaps, been tempting Providence,” said he; “it does not belong to man to
undertake such a journey!” — and a sigh of grief escaped him as he spoke.
“It is but a few days,” replied the sportsman, “since we were congratulating ourselves
upon having escaped so many dangers! All three of us were shaking hands!”
“Poor Joe! kindly and excellent disposition! brave and candid heart! Dazzled for a
moment by his sudden discovery of wealth, he willingly sacrificed his treasures! And now, he
is far from us; and the wind is carrying us still farther away with resistless speed!”
“Come, doctor, admitting that he may have found refuge among the lake tribes, can he
not do as the travellers who visited them before us, did; — like Denham, like Barth? Both of
those men got back to their own country.”
“Ah! my dear Dick! Joe doesn’t know one word of the language; he is alone, and without
resources. The travellers of whom you speak did not attempt to go forward without sending
many presents in advance of them to the chiefs, and surrounded by an escort armed and
trained for these expeditions. Yet, they could not avoid sufferings of the worst description!
What, then, can you expect the fate of our companion to be? It is horrible to think of, and this
is one of the worst calamities that it has ever been my lot to endure!”
“But, we’ll come back again, doctor!”
“Come back, Dick? Yes, if we have to abandon the balloon! if we should be forced to
return to Lake Tchad on foot, and put ourselves in communication with the Sultan of Bornou!
The Arabs cannot have retained a disagreeable remembrance of the first Europeans.”
“I will follow you, doctor,” replied the hunter, with emphasis. “You may count upon me!
We would rather give up the idea of prosecuting this journey than not return. Joe forgothimself for our sake; we will sacrifice ourselves for his!”
This resolve revived some hope in the hearts of these two men; they felt strong in the
same inspiration. Ferguson forthwith set every thing at work to get into a contrary current, that
might bring him back again to Lake Tchad; but this was impracticable at that moment, and
even to alight was out of the question on ground completely bare of trees, and with such a
hurricane blowing.
The Victoria thus passed over the country of the Tibbous, crossed the Belad el Djerid, a
desert of briers that forms the border of the Soudan, and advanced into the desert of sand
streaked with the long tracks of the many caravans that pass and repass there. The last line
of vegetation was speedily lost in the dim southern horizon, not far from the principal oasis in
this part of Africa, whose fifty wells are shaded by magnificent trees; but it was impossible to
stop. An Arab encampment, tents of striped stuff, some camels, stretching out their viper-like
heads and necks along the sand, gave life to this solitude, but the Victoria sped by like a
shooting-star, and in this way traversed a distance of sixty miles in three hours, without
Ferguson being able to check or guide her course.
“We cannot halt, we cannot alight!” said the doctor; “not a tree, not an inequality of the
ground! Are we then to be driven clear across Sahara? Surely, Heaven is indeed against us!”
He was uttering these words with a sort of despairing rage, when suddenly he saw the
desert sands rising aloft in the midst of a dense cloud of dust, and go whirling through the air,
impelled by opposing currents.
Amid this tornado, an entire caravan, disorganized, broken, and overthrown, was
disappearing beneath an avalanche of sand. The camels, flung pell-mell together, were
uttering dull and pitiful groans; cries and howls of despair were heard issuing from that dusty
and stifling cloud, and, from time to time, a parti-colored garment cut the chaos of the scene
with its vivid hues, and the moaning and shrieking sounded over all, a terrible accompaniment
to this spectacle of destruction.
Ere long the sand had accumulated in compact masses; and there, where so recently
stretched a level plain as far as the eye could see, rose now a ridgy line of hillocks, still
moving from beneath — the vast tomb of an entire caravan!
The doctor and Kennedy, pallid with emotion, sat transfixed by this fearful spectacle.
They could no longer manage their balloon, which went whirling round and round in contending
currents, and refused to obey the different dilations of the gas. Caught in these eddies of the
atmosphere, it spun about with a rapidity that made their heads reel, while the car oscillated
and swung to and fro violently at the same time. The instruments suspended under the
awning clattered together as though they would be dashed to pieces; the pipes of the spiral
bent to and fro, threatening to break at every instant; and the water-tanks jostled and jarred
with tremendous din. Although but two feet apart, our aeronauts could not hear each other
speak, but with firmly-clinched hands they clung convulsively to the cordage, and endeavored
to steady themselves against the fury of the tempest.
Kennedy, with his hair blown wildly about his face, looked on without speaking; but the
doctor had regained all his daring in the midst of this deadly peril, and not a sign of his
emotion was betrayed in his countenance, even when, after a last violent twirl, the Victoria
stopped suddenly in the midst of a most unlooked-for calm; the north wind had abruptly got
the upper hand, and now drove her back with equal rapidity over the route she had traversed
in the morning.
“Whither are we going now?” cried Kennedy.
“Let us leave that to Providence, my dear Dick; I was wrong in doubting it. It knows
better than we, and here we are, returning to places that we had expected never to see
The surface of the country, which had looked so flat and level when they were coming,
now seemed tossed and uneven, like the ocean-billows after a storm; a long succession ofhillocks, that had scarcely settled to their places yet, indented the desert; the wind blew
furiously, and the balloon fairly flew through the atmosphere.
The direction taken by our aeronauts differed somewhat from that of the morning, and
thus about nine o’clock, instead of finding themselves again near the borders of Lake Tchad,
they saw the desert still stretching away before them.
Kennedy remarked the circumstance.
“It matters little,” replied the doctor, “the important point is to return southward; we shall
come across the towns of Bornou, Wouddie, or Kouka, and I should not hesitate to halt
“If you are satisfied, I am content,” replied the Scot, “but Heaven grant that we may not
be reduced to cross the desert, as those unfortunate Arabs had to do! What we saw was
“It often happens, Dick; these trips across the desert are far more perilous than those
across the ocean. The desert has all the dangers of the sea, including the risk of being
swallowed up, and added thereto are unendurable fatigues and privations.”
“I think the wind shows some symptoms of moderating; the sand-dust is less dense; the
undulations of the surface are diminishing, and the sky is growing clearer.”
“So much the better! We must now reconnoitre attentively with our glasses, and take
care not to omit a single point.”
“I will look out for that, doctor, and not a tree shall be seen without my informing you of
And, suiting the action to the word, Kennedy took his station, spy-glass in hand, at the
forward part of the car.
Chapter 35

What had become of Joe, while his master was thus vainly seeking for him?
When he had dashed headlong into the lake, his first movement on coming to the
surface was to raise his eyes and look upward. He saw the Victoria already risen far above
the water, still rapidly ascending and growing smaller and smaller. It was soon caught in a
rapid current and disappeared to the northward. His master — both his friends were saved!
“How lucky it was,” thought he, “that I had that idea to throw myself out into the lake! Mr.
Kennedy would soon have jumped at it, and he would not have hesitated to do as I did, for
nothing’s more natural than for one man to give himself up to save two others. That’s
Satisfied on this point, Joe began to think of himself. He was in the middle of a vast lake,
surrounded by tribes unknown to him, and probably ferocious. All the greater reason why he
should get out of the scrape by depending only on himself. And so he gave himself no farther
concern about it.
Before the attack by the birds of prey, which, according to him, had behaved like real
condors, he had noticed an island on the horizon, and determining to reach it, if possible, he
put forth all his knowledge and skill in the art of swimming, after having relieved himself of the
most troublesome part of his clothing. The idea of a stretch of five or six miles by no means
disconcerted him; and therefore, so long as he was in the open lake, he thought only of
striking out straight ahead and manfully.
In about an hour and a half the distance between him and the island had greatly
But as he approached the land, a thought, at first fleeting and then tenacious, arose in
his mind. He knew that the shores of the lake were frequented by huge alligators, and was
well aware of the voracity of those monsters.
Now, no matter how much he was inclined to find every thing in this world quite natural,
the worthy fellow was no little disturbed by this reflection. He feared greatly lest white flesh like
his might be particularly acceptable to the dreaded brutes, and advanced only with extreme
precaution, his eyes on the alert on both sides and all around him. At length, he was not more
than one hundred yards from a bank, covered with green trees, when a puff of air strongly
impregnated with a musky odor reached him.
“There!” said he to himself, “just what I expected. The crocodile isn’t far off!”
With this he dived swiftly, but not sufficiently so to avoid coming into contact with an
enormous body, the scaly surface of which scratched him as he passed. He thought himself
lost and swam with desperate energy. Then he rose again to the top of the water, took breath
and dived once more. Thus passed a few minutes of unspeakable anguish, which all his
philosophy could not overcome, for he thought, all the while, that he heard behind him the
sound of those huge jaws ready to snap him up forever. In this state of mind he was striking
out under the water as noiselessly as possible when he felt himself seized by the arm and
then by the waist.
Poor Joe! he gave one last thought to his master; and began to struggle with all the
energy of despair, feeling himself the while drawn along, but not toward the bottom of the
lake, as is the habit of the crocodile when about to devour its prey, but toward the surface.
So soon as he could get breath and look around him, he saw that he was between two
natives as black as ebony, who held him, with a firm gripe, and uttered strange cries.
“Ha!” said Joe, “blacks instead of crocodiles! Well, I prefer it as it is; but how in the
mischief dare these fellows go in bathing in such places?”Joe was not aware that the inhabitants of the islands of Lake Tchad, like many other
negro tribes, plunge with impunity into sheets of water infested with crocodiles and caymans,
and without troubling their heads about them. The amphibious denizens of this lake enjoy the
well-deserved reputation of being quite inoffensive.
But had not Joe escaped one peril only to fall into another? That was a question which he
left events to decide; and, since he could not do otherwise, he allowed himself to be
conducted to the shore without manifesting any alarm.
“Evidently,” thought he, “these chaps saw the Victoria skimming the waters of the lake,
like a monster of the air. They were the distant witnesses of my tumble, and they can’t fail to
have some respect for a man that fell from the sky! Let them have their own way, then.”
Joe was at this stage of his meditations, when he was landed amid a yelling crowd of
both sexes, and all ages and sizes, but not of all colors. In fine, he was surrounded by a tribe
of Biddiomahs as black as jet. Nor had he to blush for the scantiness of his costume, for he
saw that he was in “undress” in the highest style of that country.
But before he had time to form an exact idea of the situation, there was no mistaking the
agitation of which he instantly became the object, and this soon enabled him to pluck up
courage, although the adventure of Kazah did come back rather vividly to his memory.
“I foresee that they are going to make a god of me again,” thought he, “some son of the
moon most likely. Well, one trade’s as good as another when a man has no choice. The main
thing is to gain time. Should the Victoria pass this way again, I’ll take advantage of my new
position to treat my worshippers here to a miracle when I go sailing up into the sky!”
While Joe’s thoughts were running thus, the throng pressed around him. They prostrated
themselves before him; they howled; they felt him; they became even annoyingly familiar; but
at the same time they had the consideration to offer him a superb banquet consisting of sour
milk and rice pounded in honey. The worthy fellow, making the best of every thing, took one of
the heartiest luncheons he ever ate in his life, and gave his new adorers an exalted idea of
how the gods tuck away their food upon grand occasions.
When evening came, the sorcerers of the island took him respectfully by the hand, and
conducted him to a sort of house surrounded with talismans; but, as he was entering it, Joe
cast an uneasy look at the heaps of human bones that lay scattered around this sanctuary.
But he had still more time to think about them when he found himself at last shut up in the
During the evening and through a part of the night, he heard festive chantings, the
reverberations of a kind of drum, and a clatter of old iron, which were very sweet, no doubt, to
African ears. Then there were howling choruses, accompanied by endless dances by gangs of
natives who circled round and round the sacred hut with contortions and grimaces.
Joe could catch the sound of this deafening orchestra, through the mud and reeds of
which his cabin was built; and perhaps under other circumstances he might have been
amused by these strange ceremonies; but his mind was soon disturbed by quite different and
less agreeable reflections. Even looking at the bright side of things, he found it both stupid and
sad to be left alone in the midst of this savage country and among these wild tribes. Few
travellers who had penetrated to these regions had ever again seen their native land.
Moreover, could he trust to the worship of which he saw himself the object? He had good
reason to believe in the vanity of human greatness; and he asked himself whether, in this
country, adoration did not sometimes go to the length of eating the object adored!
But, notwithstanding this rather perplexing prospect, after some hours of meditation,
fatigue got the better of his gloomy thoughts, and Joe fell into a profound slumber, which
would have lasted no doubt until sunrise, had not a very unexpected sensation of dampness
awakened the sleeper. Ere long this dampness became water, and that water gained so
rapidly that it had soon mounted to Joe’s waist.
“What can this be?” said he; “a flood! a water-spout! or a new torture invented by theseblacks? Faith, though, I’m not going to wait here till it’s up to my neck!”
And, so saying, he burst through the frail wall with a jog of his powerful shoulder, and
found himself — where? — in the open lake! Island there was none. It had sunk during the
night. In its place, the watery immensity of Lake Tchad!
“A poor country for the land-owners!” said Joe, once more vigorously resorting to his skill
in the art of natation.
One of those phenomena, which are by no means unusual on Lake Tchad, had liberated
our brave Joe. More than one island, that previously seemed to have the solidity of rock, has
been submerged in this way; and the people living along the shores of the mainland have had
to pick up the unfortunate survivors of these terrible catastrophes.
Joe knew nothing about this peculiarity of the region, but he was none the less ready to
profit by it. He caught sight of a boat drifting about, without occupants, and was soon aboard
of it. He found it to be but the trunk of a tree rudely hollowed out; but there were a couple of
paddles in it, and Joe, availing himself of a rapid current, allowed his craft to float along.
“But let us see where we are,” he said. “The polar-star there, that does its work
honorably in pointing out the direction due north to everybody else, will, most likely, do me that
He discovered, with satisfaction, that the current was taking him toward the northern
shore of the lake, and he allowed himself to glide with it. About two o’clock in the morning he
disembarked upon a promontory covered with prickly reeds, that proved very provoking and
inconvenient even to a philosopher like him; but a tree grew there expressly to offer him a bed
among its branches, and Joe climbed up into it for greater security, and there, without
sleeping much, however, awaited the dawn of day.
When morning had come with that suddenness which is peculiar to the equatorial
regions, Joe cast a glance at the tree which had sheltered him during the last few hours, and
beheld a sight that chilled the marrow in his bones. The branches of the tree were literally
covered with snakes and chameleons! The foliage actually was hidden beneath their coils, so
that the beholder might have fancied that he saw before him a new kind of tree that bore
reptiles for its leaves and fruit. And all this horrible living mass writhed and twisted in the first
rays of the morning sun! Joe experienced a keen sensation or terror mingled with disgust, as
he looked at it, and he leaped precipitately from the tree amid the hissings of these new and
unwelcome bedfellows.
“Now, there’s something that I would never have believed!” said he.
He was not aware that Dr. Vogel’s last letters had made known this singular feature of
the shores of Lake Tchad, where reptiles are more numerous than in any other part of the
world. But after what he had just seen, Joe determined to be more circumspect for the future;
and, taking his bearings by the sun, he set off afoot toward the northeast, avoiding with the
utmost care cabins, huts, hovels, and dens of every description, that might serve in any
manner as a shelter for human beings.
How often his gaze was turned upward to the sky! He hoped to catch a glimpse, each
time, of the Victoria; and, although he looked vainly during all that long, fatiguing day of sore
foot-travel, his confident reliance on his master remained undiminished. Great energy of
character was needed to enable him thus to sustain the situation with philosophy. Hunger
conspired with fatigue to crush him, for a man’s system is not greatly restored and fortified by
a diet of roots, the pith of plants, such as the Mele, or the fruit of the doum palm-tree; and
yet, according to his own calculations, Joe was enabled to push on about twenty miles to the
His body bore in scores of places the marks of the thorns with which the lake-reeds, the
acacias, the mimosas, and other wild shrubbery through which he had to force his way, are
thickly studded; and his torn and bleeding feet rendered walking both painful and difficult. But
at length he managed to react against all these sufferings; and when evening came again, heresolved to pass the night on the shores of Lake Tchad.
There he had to endure the bites of myriads of insects — gnats, mosquitoes, ants half
an inch long, literally covered the ground; and, in less than two hours, Joe had not a rag
remaining of the garments that had covered him, the insects having devoured them! It was a
terrible night, that did not yield our exhausted traveller an hour of sleep. During all this time
the wild-boars and native buffaloes, reenforced by the ajoub — a very dangerous species of
lamantine — carried on their ferocious revels in the bushes and under the waters of the lake,
filling the night with a hideous concert. Joe dared scarcely breathe. Even his courage and
coolness had hard work to bear up against so terrible a situation.
At length, day came again, and Joe sprang to his feet precipitately; but judge of the
loathing he felt when he saw what species of creature had shared his couch — a toad! — but
a toad five inches in length, a monstrous, repulsive specimen of vermin that sat there staring
at him with huge round eyes. Joe felt his stomach revolt at the sight, and, regaining a little
strength from the intensity of his repugnance, he rushed at the top of his speed and plunged
into the lake. This sudden bath somewhat allayed the pangs of the itching that tortured his
whole body; and, chewing a few leaves, he set forth resolutely, again feeling an obstinate
resolution in the act, for which he could hardly account even to his own mind. He no longer
seemed to have entire control of his own acts, and, nevertheless, he felt within him a strength
superior to despair.
However, he began now to suffer terribly from hunger. His stomach, less resigned than
he was, rebelled, and he was obliged to fasten a tendril of wild-vine tightly about his waist.
Fortunately, he could quench his thirst at any moment, and, in recalling the sufferings he had
undergone in the desert, he experienced comparative relief in his exemption from that other
distressing want.
“What can have become of the Victoria?” he wondered. “The wind blows from the north,
and she should be carried back by it toward the lake. No doubt the doctor has gone to work to
right her balance, but yesterday would have given him time enough for that, so that may be
to-day — but I must act just as if I was never to see him again. After all, if I only get to one of
the large towns on the lake, I’ll find myself no worse off than the travellers my master used to
talk about. Why shouldn’t I work my way out of the scrape as well as they did? Some of them
got back home again. Come, then! the deuce! Cheer up, my boy!”
Thus talking to himself and walking on rapidly, Joe came right upon a horde of natives in
the very depths of the forest, but he halted in time and was not seen by them. The negroes
were busy poisoning arrows with the juice of the euphorbium — a piece of work deemed a
great affair among these savage tribes, and carried on with a sort of ceremonial solemnity.
Joe, entirely motionless and even holding his breath, was keeping himself concealed in a
thicket, when, happening to raise his eyes, he saw through an opening in the foliage the
welcome apparition of the balloon — the Victoria herself — moving toward the lake, at a
height of only about one hundred feet above him. But he could not make himself heard; he
dared not, could not make his friends even see him!
Tears came to his eyes, not of grief but of thankfulness; his master was then seeking
him; his master had not left him to perish! He would have to wait for the departure of the
blacks; then he could quit his hiding-place and run toward the borders of Lake Tchad!
But by this time the Victoria was disappearing in the distant sky. Joe still determined to
wait for her; she would come back again, undoubtedly. She did, indeed, return, but farther to
the eastward. Joe ran, gesticulated, shouted — but all in vain! A strong breeze was sweeping
the balloon away with a speed that deprived him of all hope.
For the first time, energy and confidence abandoned the heart of the unfortunate man.
He saw that he was lost. He thought his master gone beyond all prospect of return. He dared
no longer think; he would no longer reflect!
Like a crazy man, his feet bleeding, his body cut and torn, he walked on during all thatday and a part of the next night. He even dragged himself along, sometimes on his knees,
sometimes with his hands. He saw the moment nigh when all his strength would fail, and
nothing would be left to him but to sink upon the ground and die.
Thus working his way along, he at length found himself close to a marsh, or what he
knew would soon become a marsh, for night had set in some hours before, and he fell by a
sudden misstep into a thick, clinging mire. In spite of all his efforts, in spite of his desperate
struggles, he felt himself sinking gradually in the swampy ooze, and in a few minutes he was
buried to his waist.
“Here, then, at last, is death!” he thought, in agony, “and what a death!”
He now began to struggle again, like a madman; but his efforts only served to bury him
deeper in the tomb that the poor doomed lad was hollowing for himself; not a log of wood or a
branch to buoy him up; not a reed to which he might cling! He felt that all was over! His eyes
convulsively closed!
“Master! master! — Help!” were his last words; but his voice, despairing, unaided, half
stifled already by the rising mire, died away feebly on the night.
Chapter 36

From the moment when Kennedy resumed his post of observation in the front of the car,
he had not ceased to watch the horizon with his utmost attention.
After the lapse of some time he turned toward the doctor and said:
“If I am not greatly mistaken I can see, off yonder in the distance, a throng of men or
animals moving. It is impossible to make them out yet, but I observe that they are in violent
motion, for they are raising a great cloud of dust.”
“May it not be another contrary breeze?” said the doctor, “another whirlwind coming to
drive us back northward again?” and while speaking he stood up to examine the horizon.
“I think not, Samuel; it is a troop of gazelles or of wild oxen.”
“Perhaps so, Dick; but yon throng is some nine or ten miles from us at least, and on my
part, even with the glass, I can make nothing of it!”
“At all events I shall not lose sight of it. There is something remarkable about it that
excites my curiosity. Sometimes it looks like a body of cavalry manoeuvring. Ah! I was not
mistaken. It is, indeed, a squadron of horsemen. Look — look there!”
The doctor eyed the group with great attention, and, after a moment’s pause, remarked:
“I believe that you are right. It is a detachment of Arabs or Tibbous, and they are
galloping in the same direction with us, as though in flight, but we are going faster than they,
and we are rapidly gaining on them. In half an hour we shall be near enough to see them and
know what they are.”
Kennedy had again lifted his glass and was attentively scrutinizing them. Meanwhile the
crowd of horsemen was becoming more distinctly visible, and a few were seen to detach
themselves from the main body.
“It is some hunting manoeuvre, evidently,” said Kennedy. “Those fellows seem to be in
pursuit of something. I would like to know what they are about.”
“Patience, Dick! In a little while we shall overtake them, if they continue on the same
route. We are going at the rate of twenty miles per hour, and no horse can keep up with that.”
Kennedy again raised his glass, and a few minutes later he exclaimed:
“They are Arabs, galloping at the top of their speed; I can make them out distinctly. They
are about fifty in number. I can see their bournouses puffed out by the wind. It is some
cavalry exercise that they are going through. Their chief is a hundred paces ahead of them
and they are rushing after him at headlong speed.”
“Whoever they may be, Dick, they are not to be feared, and then, if necessary, we can
go higher.”
“Wait, doctor — wait a little!”
“It’s curious,” said Kennedy again, after a brief pause, “but there’s something going on
that I can’t exactly explain. By the efforts they make, and the irregularity of their line, I should
fancy that those Arabs are pursuing some one, instead of following.”
“Are you certain of that, Dick?”
“Oh! yes, it’s clear enough now. I am right! It is a pursuit — a hunt — but a man-hunt!
That is not their chief riding ahead of them, but a fugitive.”
“A fugitive!” exclaimed the doctor, growing more and more interested.
“Don’t lose sight of him, and let us wait!”
Three or four miles more were quickly gained upon these horsemen, who nevertheless
were dashing onward with incredible speed.
“Doctor! doctor!” shouted Kennedy in an agitated voice.“What is the matter, Dick?”
“Is it an illusion? Can it be possible?”
“What do you mean?”
“Wait!” and so saying, the Scot wiped the sights of his spy-glass carefully, and looked
through it again intently.
“Well?” questioned the doctor.
“It is he, doctor!”
“He!” exclaimed Ferguson with emotion.
“It is he! no other!” and it was needless to pronounce the name.
“Yes! it is he! on horseback, and only a hundred paces in advance of his enemies! He is
“It is Joe — Joe himself!” cried the doctor, turning pale.
“He cannot see us in his flight!”
“He will see us, though!” said the doctor, lowering the flame of his blow-pipe.
“But how?”
“In five minutes we shall be within fifty feet of the ground, and in fifteen we shall be right
over him!”
“We must let him know it by firing a gun!”
“No! he can’t turn back to come this way. He’s headed off!”
“What shall we do, then?”
“We must wait.”
“Wait? — and these Arabs!”
“We shall overtake them. We’ll pass them. We are not more than two miles from them,
and provided that Joe’s horse holds out!”
“Great God!” exclaimed Kennedy, suddenly.
“What is the matter?”
Kennedy had uttered a cry of despair as he saw Joe fling himself to the ground. His
horse, evidently exhausted, had just fallen headlong.
“He sees us!” cried the doctor, “and he motions to us, as he gets upon his feet!”
“But the Arabs will overtake him! What is he waiting for? Ah! the brave lad! Huzza!”
shouted the sportsman, who could no longer restrain his feelings.
Joe, who had immediately sprung up after his fall, just as one of the swiftest horsemen
rushed upon him, bounded like a panther, avoided his assailant by leaping to one side, jumped
up behind him on the crupper, seized the Arab by the throat, and, strangling him with his
sinewy hands and fingers of steel, flung him on the sand, and continued his headlong flight.
A tremendous howl was heard from the Arabs, but, completely engrossed by the pursuit,
they had not taken notice of the balloon, which was now but five hundred paces behind them,
and only about thirty feet from the ground. On their part, they were not twenty lengths of their
horses from the fugitive.
One of them was very perceptibly gaining on Joe, and was about to pierce him with his
lance, when Kennedy, with fixed eye and steady hand, stopped him short with a ball, that
hurled him to the earth.
Joe did not even turn his head at the report. Some of the horsemen reined in their barbs,
and fell on their faces in the dust as they caught sight of the Victoria; the rest continued their
“But what is Joe about?” said Kennedy; “he don’t stop!”
“He’s doing better than that, Dick! I understand him! He’s keeping on in the same
direction as the balloon. He relies upon our intelligence. Ah! the noble fellow! We’ll carry him
off in the very teeth of those Arab rascals! We are not more than two hundred paces from
“What are we to do?” asked Kennedy.“Lay aside your rifle,Dick.”
And the Scot obeyed the request at once.
“Do you think that you can hold one hundred and fifty pounds of ballast in your arms?”
“Ay, more than that!”
“No! That will be enough!”
And the doctor proceeded to pile up bags of sand in Kennedy’s arms.
“Hold yourself in readiness in the back part of the car, and be prepared to throw out that
ballast at a single effort. But, for your life, don’t do so until I give the word!”
“Be easy on that point.”
“Otherwise, we should miss Joe, and he would be lost.”
“Count upon me!”
The Victoria at that moment almost commanded the troop of horsemen who were still
desperately urging their steeds at Joe’s heels. The doctor, standing in the front of the car,
held the ladder clear, ready to throw it at any moment. Meanwhile, Joe had still maintained the
distance between himself and his pursuers — say about fifty feet. The Victoria was now ahead
of the party.
“Attention!” exclaimed the doctor to Kennedy.
“I’m ready!”
“Joe, look out for yourself!” shouted the doctor in his sonorous, ringing voice, as he flung
out the ladder, the lowest ratlines of which tossed up the dust of the road.
As the doctor shouted, Joe had turned his head, but without checking his horse. The
ladder dropped close to him, and at the instant he grasped it the doctor again shouted to
“Throw ballast!”
“It’s done!”
And the Victoria, lightened by a weight greater than Joe’s, shot up one hundred and fifty
feet into the air.
Joe clung with all his strength to the ladder during the wide oscillations that it had to
describe, and then making an indescribable gesture to the Arabs, and climbing with the agility
of a monkey, he sprang up to his companions, who received him with open arms.
The Arabs uttered a scream of astonishment and rage. The fugitive had been snatched
from them on the wing, and the Victoria was rapidly speeding far beyond their reach.
“Master! Kennedy!” ejaculated Joe, and overwhelmed, at last, with fatigue and emotion,
the poor fellow fainted away, while Kennedy, almost beside himself, kept exclaiming:
“Saved — saved!”
“Saved indeed!” murmured the doctor, who had recovered all his phlegmatic coolness.
Joe was almost naked. His bleeding arms, his body covered with cuts and bruises, told
what his sufferings had been. The doctor quietly dressed his wounds, and laid him comfortably
under the awning.
Joe soon returned to consciousness, and asked for a glass of brandy, which the doctor
did not see fit to refuse, as the faithful fellow had to be indulged.
After he had swallowed the stimulant, Joe grasped the hands of his two friends and
announced that he was ready to relate what had happened to him.
But they would not allow him to talk at that time, and he sank back into a profound sleep,
of which he seemed to have the greatest possible need.
The Victoria was then taking an oblique line to the westward. Driven by a tempestuous
wind, it again approached the borders of the thorny desert, which the travellers descried over
the tops of palm-trees, bent and broken by the storm; and, after having made a run of two
hundred miles since rescuing Joe, it passed the tenth degree of east longitude about nightfall.
Chapter 37

During the night the wind lulled as though reposing after the boisterousness of the day,
and the Victoria remained quietly at the top of the tall sycamore. The doctor and Kennedy
kept watch by turns, and Joe availed himself of the chance to sleep most sturdily for
twentyfour hours at a stretch.
“That’s the remedy he needs,” said Dr. Ferguson. “Nature will take charge of his care.”
With the dawn the wind sprang up again in quite strong, and moreover capricious gusts.
It shifted abruptly from south to north, but finally the Victoria was carried away by it toward the
The doctor, map in hand, recognized the kingdom of Damerghou, an undulating region of
great fertility, in which the huts that compose the villages are constructed of long reeds
interwoven with branches of the asclepia. The grain-mills were seen raised in the cultivated
fields, upon small scaffoldings or platforms, to keep them out of the reach of the mice and the
huge ants of that country.
They soon passed the town of Zinder, recognized by its spacious place of execution, in
the centre of which stands the “tree of death.” At its foot the executioner stands waiting, and
whoever passes beneath its shadow is immediately hung!
Upon consulting his compass, Kennedy could not refrain from saying:
“Look! we are again moving northward.”
“No matter; if it only takes us to Timbuctoo, we shall not complain. Never was a finer
voyage accomplished under better circumstances!”
“Nor in better health,” said Joe, at that instant thrusting his jolly countenance from
between the curtains of the awning.
“There he is! there’s our gallant friend — our preserver!” exclaimed Kennedy, cordially.
— “How goes it, Joe?”
“Oh! why, naturally enough, Mr. Kennedy, very naturally! I never felt better in my life!
Nothing sets a man up like a little pleasure-trip with a bath in Lake Tchad to start on — eh,
“Brave fellow!” said Ferguson, pressing Joe’s hand, “what terrible anxiety you caused
“Humph! and you, sir? Do you think that I felt easy in my mind about you, gentlemen?
You gave me a fine fright, let me tell you!”
“We shall never agree in the world, Joe, if you take things in that style.”
“I see that his tumble hasn’t changed him a bit,” added Kennedy.
“Your devotion and self-forgetfulness were sublime, my brave lad, and they saved us, for
the Victoria was falling into the lake, and, once there, nobody could have extricated her.”
“But, if my devotion, as you are pleased to call my summerset, saved you, did it not save
me too, for here we are, all three of us, in first-rate health? Consequently we have nothing to
squabble about in the whole affair.”
“Oh! we can never come to a settlement with that youth,” said the sportsman.
“The best way to settle it,” replied Joe, “is to say nothing more about the matter. What’s
done is done. Good or bad, we can’t take it back.”
“You obstinate fellow!” said the doctor, laughing; “you can’t refuse, though, to tell us your
adventures, at all events.”
“Not if you think it worth while. But, in the first place, I’m going to cook this fat goose to a
turn, for I see that Mr. Kennedy has not wasted his time.”
“All right, Joe!”“Well, let us see then how this African game will sit on a European stomach!”
The goose was soon roasted by the flame of the blow-pipe, and not long afterward was
comfortably stowed away. Joe took his own good share, like a man who had eaten nothing for
several days. After the tea and the punch, he acquainted his friends with his recent
adventures. He spoke with some emotion, even while looking at things with his usual
philosophy. The doctor could not refrain from frequently pressing his hand when he saw his
worthy servant more considerate of his master’s safety than of his own, and, in relation to the
sinking of the island of the Biddiomahs, he explained to him the frequency of this phenomenon
upon Lake Tchad.
At length Joe, continuing his recital, arrived at the point where, sinking in the swamp, he
had uttered a last cry of despair.
“I thought I was gone,” said he, “and as you came right into my mind, I made a hard fight
for it. How, I couldn’t tell you — but I’d made up my mind that I wouldn’t go under without
knowing why. Just then, I saw — two or three feet from me — what do you think? the end of
a rope that had been fresh cut; so I took leave to make another jerk, and, by hook or by
crook, I got to the rope. When I pulled, it didn’t give; so I pulled again and hauled away and
there I was on dry ground! At the end of the rope, I found an anchor! Ah, master, I’ve a right
to call that the anchor of safety, anyhow, if you have no objection. I knew it again! It was the
anchor of the Victoria! You had grounded there! So I followed the direction of the rope and
that gave me your direction, and, after trying hard a few times more, I got out of the swamp. I
had got my strength back with my spunk, and I walked on part of the night away from the
lake, until I got to the edge of a very big wood. There I saw a fenced-in place, where some
horses were grazing, without thinking of any harm. Now, there are times when everybody
knows how to ride a horse, are there not, doctor? So I didn’t spend much time thinking about
it, but jumped right on the back of one of those innocent animals and away we went galloping
north as fast as our legs could carry us. I needn’t tell you about the towns that I didn’t see nor
the villages that I took good care to go around. No! I crossed the ploughed fields; I leaped the
hedges; I scrambled over the fences; I dug my heels into my nag; I thrashed him; I fairly lifted
the poor fellow off his feet! At last I got to the end of the tilled land. Good! There was the
desert. ‘That suits me!’ said I, ‘for I can see better ahead of me and farther too.’ I was hoping
all the time to see the balloon tacking about and waiting for me. But not a bit of it; and so, in
about three hours, I go plump, like a fool, into a camp of Arabs! Whew! what a hunt that was!
You see, Mr. Kennedy, a hunter don’t know what a real hunt is until he’s been hunted himself!
Still I advise him not to try it if he can keep out of it! My horse was so tired, he was ready to
drop off his legs; they were close on me; I threw myself to the ground; then I jumped up again
behind an Arab! I didn’t mean the fellow any harm, and I hope he has no grudge against me
for choking him, but I saw you — and you know the rest. The Victoria came on at my heels,
and you caught me up flying, as a circus-rider does a ring. Wasn’t I right in counting on you?
Now, doctor, you see how simple all that was! Nothing more natural in the world! I’m ready to
begin over again, if it would be of any service to you. And besides, master, as I said a while
ago, it’s not worth mentioning.”
“My noble, gallant Joe!” said the doctor, with great feeling. “Heart of gold! we were not
astray in trusting to your intelligence and skill.”
“Poh! doctor, one has only just to follow things along as they happen, and he can always
work his way out of a scrape! The safest plan, you see, is to take matters as they come.”
While Joe was telling his experience, the balloon had rapidly passed over a long reach of
country, and Kennedy soon pointed out on the horizon a collection of structures that looked
like a town. The doctor glanced at his map and recognized the place as the large village of
Tagelei, in the Damerghou country.
“Here,” said he, “we come upon Dr. Barth’s route. It was at this place that he parted from
his companions, Richardson and Overweg; the first was to follow the Zinder route, and thesecond that of Maradi; and you may remember that, of these three travellers, Barth was the
only one who ever returned to Europe.”
“Then,” said Kennedy, following out on the map the direction of the Victoria, “we are
going due north.”
“Due north, Dick.”
“And don’t that give you a little uneasiness?”
“Why should it?”
“Because that line leads to Tripoli, and over the Great Desert.”
“Oh, we shall not go so far as that, my friend — at least, I hope not.”
“But where do you expect to halt?”
“Come, Dick, don’t you feel some curiosity to see Timbuctoo?”
“Certainly,” said Joe; “nobody nowadays can think of making the trip to Africa without
going to see Timbuctoo.”
“You will be only the fifth or sixth European who has ever set eyes on that mysterious
“Ho, then, for Timbuctoo!”
“Well, then, let us try to get as far as between the seventeenth and eighteenth degrees
of north latitude, and there we will seek a favorable wind to carry us westward.”
“Good!” said the hunter. “But have we still far to go to the northward?”
“One hundred and fifty miles at least.”
“In that case,” said Kennedy, “I’ll turn in and sleep a bit.”
“Sleep, sir; sleep!” urged Joe. “And you, doctor, do the same yourself: you must have
need of rest, for I made you keep watch a little out of time.”
The sportsman stretched himself under the awning; but Ferguson, who was not easily
conquered by fatigue, remained at his post.
In about three hours the Victoria was crossing with extreme rapidity an expanse of stony
country, with ranges of lofty, naked mountains of granitic formation at the base. A few isolated
peaks attained the height of even four thousand feet. Giraffes, antelopes, and ostriches were
seen running and bounding with marvellous agility in the midst of forests of acacias, mimosas,
souahs, and date-trees. After the barrenness of the desert, vegetation was now resuming its
empire. This was the country of the Kailouas, who veil their faces with a bandage of cotton,
like their dangerous neighbors, the Touaregs.
At ten o’clock in the evening, after a splendid trip of two hundred and fifty miles, the
Victoria halted over an important town. The moonlight revealed glimpses of one district half in
ruins; and some pinnacles of mosques and minarets shot up here and there, glistening in the
silvery rays. The doctor took a stellar observation, and discovered that he was in the latitude
of Aghades.
This city, once the seat of an immense trade, was already falling into ruin when Dr. Barth
visited it.
The Victoria, not being seen in the obscurity of night, descended about two miles above
Aghades, in a field of millet. The night was calm, and began to break into dawn about three
o’clock a.m.; while a light wind coaxed the balloon westward, and even a little toward the
Dr. Ferguson hastened to avail himself of such good fortune, and rapidly ascending
resumed his aerial journey amid a long wake of golden morning sunshine.
Chapter 38

The 17th of May passed tranquilly, without any remarkable incident; the desert gained
upon them once more; a moderate wind bore the Victoria toward the southwest, and she
never swerved to the right or to the left, but her shadow traced a perfectly straight line on the
Before starting, the doctor had prudently renewed his stock of water, having feared that
he should not be able to touch ground in these regions, infested as they are by the
AouelimMinian Touaregs. The plateau, at an elevation of eighteen hundred feet above the level of the
sea, sloped down toward the south. Our travellers, having crossed the Aghades route at
Murzouk — a route often pressed by the feet of camels — arrived that evening, in the
sixteenth degree of north latitude, and four degrees fifty-five minutes east longitude, after
having passed over one hundred and eighty miles of a long and monotonous day’s journey.
During the day Joe dressed the last pieces of game, which had been only hastily
prepared, and he served up for supper a mess of snipe, that were greatly relished. The wind
continuing good, the doctor resolved to keep on during the night, the moon, still nearly at the
full, illumining it with her radiance. The Victoria ascended to a height of five hundred feet, and,
during her nocturnal trip of about sixty miles, the gentle slumbers of an infant would not have
been disturbed by her motion.
On Sunday morning, the direction of the wind again changed, and it bore to the
northwestward. A few crows were seen sweeping through the air, and, off on the horizon, a
flock of vultures which, fortunately, however, kept at a distance.
The sight of these birds led Joe to compliment his master on the idea of having two
“Where would we be,” said he, “with only one balloon? The second balloon is like the
lifeboat to a ship; in case of wreck we could always take to it and escape.”
“You are right, friend Joe,” said the doctor, “only that my life-boat gives me some
uneasiness. It is not so good as the main craft.”
“What do you mean by that, doctor?” asked Kennedy.
“I mean to say that the new Victoria is not so good as the old one. Whether it be that the
stuff it is made of is too much worn, or that the heat of the spiral has melted the gutta-percha,
I can observe a certain loss of gas. It don’t amount to much thus far, but still it is noticeable.
We have a tendency to sink, and, in order to keep our elevation, I am compelled to give
greater dilation to the hydrogen.”
“The deuce!” exclaimed Kennedy with concern; “I see no remedy for that.”
“There is none, Dick, and that is why we must hasten our progress, and even avoid night
“Are we still far from the coast?” asked Joe.
“Which coast, my boy? How are we to know whither chance will carry us? All that I can
say is, that Timbuctoo is still about four hundred miles to the westward.
“And how long will it take us to get there?”
“Should the wind not carry us too far out of the way, I hope to reach that city by Tuesday
“Then,” remarked Joe, pointing to a long file of animals and men winding across the open
desert, “we shall arrive there sooner than that caravan.”
Ferguson and Kennedy leaned over and saw an immense cavalcade. There were at least
one hundred and fifty camels of the kind that, for twelve mutkals of gold, or about twenty-five
dollars, go from Timbuctoo to Tafilet with a load of five hundred pounds upon their backs.Each animal had dangling to its tail a bag to receive its excrement, the only fuel on which the
caravans can depend when crossing the desert.
These Touareg camels are of the very best race. They can go from three to seven days
without drinking, and for two without eating. Their speed surpasses that of the horse, and they
obey with intelligence the voice of the khabir, or guide of the caravan. They are known in the
country under the name of mehari.
Such were the details given by the doctor while his companions continued to gaze upon
that multitude of men, women, and children, advancing on foot and with difficulty over a waste
of sand half in motion, and scarcely kept in its place by scanty nettles, withered grass, and
stunted bushes that grew upon it. The wind obliterated the marks of their feet almost instantly.
Joe inquired how the Arabs managed to guide themselves across the desert, and come
to the few wells scattered far between throughout this vast solitude.
“The Arabs,” replied Dr. Ferguson, “are endowed by nature with a wonderful instinct in
finding their way. Where a European would be at a loss, they never hesitate for a moment. An
insignificant fragment of rock, a pebble, a tuft of grass, a different shade of color in the sand,
suffice to guide them with accuracy. During the night they go by the polar star. They never
travel more than two miles per hour, and always rest during the noonday heat. You may judge
from that how long it takes them to cross Sahara, a desert more than nine hundred miles in
But the Victoria had already disappeared from the astonished gaze of the Arabs, who
must have envied her rapidity. That evening she passed two degrees twenty minutes east
longitude, and during the night left another degree behind her.
On Monday the weather changed completely. Rain began to fall with extreme violence,
and not only had the balloon to resist the power of this deluge, but also the increase of weight
which it caused by wetting the whole machine, car and all. This continuous shower accounted
for the swamps and marshes that formed the sole surface of the country. Vegetation
reappeared, however, along with the mimosas, the baobabs, and the tamarind-trees.
Such was the Sonray country, with its villages topped with roofs turned over like
Armenian caps. There were few mountains, and only such hills as were enough to form the
ravines and pools where the pintadoes and snipes went sailing and diving through. Here and
there, an impetuous torrent cut the roads, and had to be crossed by the natives on long vines
stretched from tree to tree. The forests gave place to jungles, which alligators, hippopotami,
and the rhinoceros, made their haunts.
“It will not be long before we see the Niger,” said the doctor. “The face of the country
always changes in the vicinity of large rivers. These moving highways, as they are sometimes
correctly called, have first brought vegetation with them, as they will at last bring civilization.
Thus, in its course of twenty-five hundred miles, the Niger has scattered along its banks the
most important cities of Africa.”
“By-the-way,” put in Joe, “that reminds me of what was said by an admirer of the
goodness of Providence, who praised the foresight with which it had generally caused rivers to
flow close to large cities!”
At noon the Victoria was passing over a petty town, a mere assemblage of miserable
huts, which once was Goa, a great capital.
“It was there,” said the doctor, “that Barth crossed the Niger, on his return from
Timbuctoo. This is the river so famous in antiquity, the rival of the Nile, to which pagan
superstition ascribed a celestial origin. Like the Nile, it has engaged the attention of
geographers in all ages; and like it, also, its exploration has cost the lives of many victims;
yes, even more of them than perished on account of the other.”
The Niger flowed broadly between its banks, and its waters rolled southward with some
violence of current; but our travellers, borne swiftly by as they were, could scarcely catch a
glimpse of its curious outline.“I wanted to talk to you about this river,” said Dr. Ferguson, “and it is already far from us.
Under the names of Dhiouleba, Mayo, Egghirreou, Quorra, and other titles besides, it
traverses an immense extent of country, and almost competes in length with the Nile. These
appellations signify simply ‘the River,’ according to the dialects of the countries through which
it passes.”
“Did Dr. Barth follow this route?” asked Kennedy.
“No, Dick: in quitting Lake Tchad, he passed through the different towns of Bornou, and
intersected the Niger at Say, four degrees below Goa; then he penetrated to the bosom of
those unexplored countries which the Niger embraces in its elbow; and, after eight months of
fresh fatigues, he arrived at Timbuctoo; all of which we may do in about three days with as
swift a wind as this.”
“Have the sources of the Niger been discovered?” asked Joe.
“Long since,” replied the doctor. “The exploration of the Niger and its tributaries was the
object of several expeditions, the principal of which I shall mention: Between 1749 and 1758,
Adamson made a reconnoissance of the river, and visited Gorea; from 1785 to 1788,
Golberry and Geoffroy travelled across the deserts of Senegambia, and ascended as far as
the country of the Moors, who assassinated Saugnier, Brisson, Adam, Riley, Cochelet, and so
many other unfortunate men. Then came the illustrious Mungo Park, the friend of Sir Walter
Scott, and, like him, a Scotchman by birth. Sent out in 1795 by the African Society of London,
he got as far as Bambarra, saw the Niger, travelled five hundred miles with a slave-merchant,
reconnoitred the Gambia River, and returned to England in 1797. He again set out, on the
30th of January, 1805, with his brother-in-law Anderson, Scott, the designer, and a gang of
workmen; he reached Gorea, there added a detachment of thirty-five soldiers to his party, and
saw the Niger again on the 19th of August. But, by that time, in consequence of fatigue,
privations, ill-usage, the inclemencies of the weather, and the unhealthiness of the country,
only eleven persons remained alive of the forty Europeans in the party. On the 16th of
November, the last letters from Mungo Park reached his wife; and, a year later a trader from
that country gave information that, having got as far as Boussa, on the Niger, on the 23d of
December, the unfortunate traveller’s boat was upset by the cataracts in that part of the river,
and he was murdered by the natives.”
“And his dreadful fate did not check the efforts of others to explore that river?”
“On the contrary, Dick. Since then, there were two objects in view: namely, to recover
the lost man’s papers, as well as to pursue the exploration. In 1816, an expedition was
organized, in which Major Grey took part. It arrived in Senegal, penetrated to the Fonta-Jallon,
visited the Foullah and Mandingo populations, and returned to England without further results.
In 1822, Major Laing explored all the western part of Africa near to the British possessions;
and he it was who got so far as the sources of the Niger; and, according to his documents,
the spring in which that immense river takes its rise is not two feet broad.
“Easy to jump over,” said Joe.
“How’s that? Easy you think, eh?” retorted the doctor. “If we are to believe tradition,
whoever attempts to pass that spring, by leaping over it, is immediately swallowed up; and
whoever tries to draw water from it, feels himself repulsed by an invisible hand.”
“I suppose a man has a right not to believe a word of that!” persisted Joe.
“Oh, by all means! — Five years later, it was Major Laing’s destiny to force his way
across the desert of Sahara, penetrate to Timbuctoo, and perish a few miles above it, by
strangling, at the hands of the Ouelad-shiman, who wanted to compel him to turn
“Still another victim!” said the sportsman.
“It was then that a brave young man, with his own feeble resources, undertook and
accomplished the most astonishing of modern journeys — I mean the Frenchman Rene
Caillie, who, after sundry attempts in 1819 and 1824, set out again on the 19th of April, 1827,from Rio Nunez. On the 3d of August he arrived at Time, so thoroughly exhausted and ill that
he could not resume his journey until six months later, in January, 1828. He then joined a
caravan, and, protected by his Oriental dress, reached the Niger on the 10th of March,
penetrated to the city of Jenne, embarked on the river, and descended it, as far as
Timbuctoo, where he arrived on the 30th of April. In 1760, another Frenchman, Imbert by
name, and, in 1810, an Englishman, Robert Adams, had seen this curious place; but Rene
Caillie was to be the first European who could bring back any authentic data concerning it. On
the 4th of May he quitted this ‘Queen of the desert;’ on the 9th, he surveyed the very spot
where Major Laing had been murdered; on the 19th, he arrived at El-Arouan, and left that
commercial town to brave a thousand dangers in crossing the vast solitudes comprised
between the Soudan and the northern regions of Africa. At length he entered Tangiers, and on
the 28th of September sailed for Toulon. In nineteen months, notwithstanding one hundred
and eighty days’ sickness, he had traversed Africa from west to north. Ah! had Callie been
born in England, he would have been honored as the most intrepid traveller of modern times,
as was the case with Mungo Park. But in France he was not appreciated according to his
“He was a sturdy fellow!” said Kennedy, “but what became of him?”
“He died at the age of thirty-nine, from the consequences of his long fatigues. They
thought they had done enough in decreeing him the prize of the Geographical Society in 1828;
the highest honors would have been paid to him in England.
“While he was accomplishing this remarkable journey, an Englishman had conceived a
similar enterprise and was trying to push it through with equal courage, if not with equal good
fortune. This was Captain Clapperton, the companion of Denham. In 1829 he reentered Africa
by the western coast of the Gulf of Benin; he then followed in the track of Mungo Park and of
Laing, recovered at Boussa the documents relative to the death of the former, and arrived on
the 20th of August at Sackatoo, where he was seized and held as a prisoner, until he expired
in the arms of his faithful attendant Richard Lander.”
“And what became of this Lander?” asked Joe, deeply interested.
“He succeeded in regaining the coast and returned to London, bringing with him the
captain’s papers, and an exact narrative of his own journey. He then offered his services to
the government to complete the reconnoissance of the Niger. He took with him his brother
John, the second child of a poor couple in Cornwall, and, together, these men, between 1829
and 1831, redescended the river from Boussa to its mouth, describing it village by village, mile
by mile.”
“So both the brothers escaped the common fate?” queried Kennedy.
“Yes, on this expedition, at least; but in 1833 Richard undertook a third trip to the Niger,
and perished by a bullet, near the mouth of the river. You see, then, my friends, that the
country over which we are now passing has witnessed some noble instances of self-sacrifice
which, unfortunately, have only too often had death for their reward.”
Chapter 39

During this dull Monday, Dr. Ferguson diverted his thoughts by giving his companions a
thousand details concerning the country they were crossing. The surface, which was quite flat,
offered no impediment to their progress. The doctor’s sole anxiety arose from the obstinate
northeast wind which continued to blow furiously, and bore them away from the latitude of
The Niger, after running northward as far as that city, sweeps around, like an immense
water-jet from some fountain, and falls into the Atlantic in a broad sheaf. In the elbow thus
formed the country is of varied character, sometimes luxuriantly fertile, and sometimes
extremely bare; fields of maize succeeded by wide spaces covered with broom-corn and
uncultivated plains. All kinds of aquatic birds — pelicans, wild-duck, kingfishers, and the rest
— were seen in numerous flocks hovering about the borders of the pools and torrents.
From time to time there appeared an encampment of Touaregs, the men sheltered
under their leather tents, while their women were busied with the domestic toil outside, milking
their camels and smoking their huge-bowled pipes.
By eight o’clock in the evening the Victoria had advanced more than two hundred miles
to the westward, and our aeronauts became the spectators of a magnificent scene.
A mass of moonbeams forcing their way through an opening in the clouds, and gliding
between the long lines of falling rain, descended in a golden shower on the ridges of the
Hombori Mountains. Nothing could be more weird than the appearance of these seemingly
basaltic summits; they stood out in fantastic profile against the sombre sky, and the beholder
might have fancied them to be the legendary ruins of some vast city of the middle ages, such
as the icebergs of the polar seas sometimes mimic them in nights of gloom.
“An admirable landscape for the ‘Mysteries of Udolpho’!” exclaimed the doctor. “Ann
Radcliffe could not have depicted yon mountains in a more appalling aspect.”
“Faith!” said Joe, “I wouldn’t like to be strolling alone in the evening through this country
of ghosts. Do you see now, master, if it wasn’t so heavy, I’d like to carry that whole landscape
home to Scotland! It would do for the borders of Loch Lomond, and tourists would rush there
in crowds.”
“Our balloon is hardly large enough to admit of that little experiment — but I think our
direction is changing. Bravo! — the elves and fairies of the place are quite obliging. See,
they’ve sent us a nice little southeast breeze, that will put us on the right track again.”
In fact, the Victoria was resuming a more northerly route, and on the morning of the 20th
she was passing over an inextricable network of channels, torrents, and streams, in fine, the
whole complicated tangle of the Niger’s tributaries. Many of these channels, covered with a
thick growth of herbage, resembled luxuriant meadow-lands. There the doctor recognized the
route followed by the explorer Barth when he launched upon the river to descend to
Timbuctoo. Eight hundred fathoms broad at this point, the Niger flowed between banks richly
grown with cruciferous plants and tamarind-trees. Herds of agile gazelles were seen skipping
about, their curling horns mingling with the tall herbage, within which the alligator, half
concealed, lay silently in wait for them with watchful eyes.
Long files of camels and asses laden with merchandise from Jenne were winding in
under the noble trees. Ere long, an amphitheatre of low-built houses was discovered at a turn
of the river, their roofs and terraces heaped up with hay and straw gathered from the
neighboring districts.
“There’s Kabra!” exclaimed the doctor, joyously; “there is the harbor of Timbuctoo, and
the city is not five miles from here!”“Then, sir, you are satisfied?” half queried Joe.
“Delighted, my boy!”
“Very good; then every thing’s for the best!”
In fact, about two o’clock, the Queen of the Desert, mysterious Timbuctoo, which once,
like Athens and Rome, had her schools of learned men, and her professorships of philosophy,
stretched away before the gaze of our travellers.
Ferguson followed the most minute details upon the chart traced by Barth himself, and
was enabled to recognize its perfect accuracy.
The city forms an immense triangle marked out upon a vast plain of white sand, its acute
angle directed toward the north and piercing a corner of the desert. In the environs there was
almost nothing, hardly even a few grasses, with some dwarf mimosas and stunted bushes.
As for the appearance of Timbuctoo, the reader has but to imagine a collection of
billiardballs and thimbles — such is the bird’s-eye view! The streets, which are quite narrow, are
lined with houses only one story in height, built of bricks dried in the sun, and huts of straw
and reeds, the former square, the latter conical. Upon the terraces were seen some of the
male inhabitants, carelessly lounging at full length in flowing apparel of bright colors, and lance
or musket in hand; but no women were visible at that hour of the day.
“Yet they are said to be handsome,” remarked the doctor. “You see the three towers of
the three mosques that are the only ones left standing of a great number — the city has
indeed fallen from its ancient splendor! At the top of the triangle rises the Mosque of Sankore,
with its ranges of galleries resting on arcades of sufficiently pure design. Farther on, and near
to the Sane-Gungu quarter, is the Mosque of Sidi-Yahia and some two-story houses. But do
not look for either palaces or monuments: the sheik is a mere son of traffic, and his royal
palace is a counting-house.”
“It seems to me that I can see half-ruined ramparts,” said Kennedy.
“They were destroyed by the Fouillanes in 1826; the city was one-third larger then, for
Timbuctoo, an object generally coveted by all the tribes, since the eleventh century, has
belonged in succession to the Touaregs, the Sonrayans, the Morocco men, and the
Fouillanes; and this great centre of civilization, where a sage like Ahmed-Baba owned, in the
sixteenth century, a library of sixteen hundred manuscripts, is now nothing but a mere
halfway house for the trade of Central Africa.”
The city, indeed, seemed abandoned to supreme neglect; it betrayed that indifference
which seems epidemic to cities that are passing away. Huge heaps of rubbish encumbered
the suburbs, and, with the hill on which the market-place stood, formed the only inequalities of
the ground.
When the Victoria passed, there was some slight show of movement; drums were
beaten; but the last learned man still lingering in the place had hardly time to notice the new
phenomenon, for our travellers, driven onward by the wind of the desert, resumed the winding
course of the river, and, ere long, Timbuctoo was nothing more than one of the fleeting
reminiscences of their journey.
“And now,” said the doctor, “Heaven may waft us whither it pleases!”
“Provided only that we go westward,” added Kennedy.
“Bah!” said Joe; “I wouldn’t be afraid if it was to go back to Zanzibar by the same road, or
to cross the ocean to America.”
“We would first have to be able to do that, Joe!”
“And what’s wanting, doctor?”
“Gas, my boy; the ascending force of the balloon is evidently growing weaker, and we
shall need all our management to make it carry us to the sea-coast. I shall even have to throw
over some ballast. We are too heavy.”
“That’s what comes of doing nothing, doctor; when a man lies stretched out all day long
in his hammock, he gets fat and heavy. It’s a lazybones trip, this of ours, master, and whenwe get back every body will find us big and stout.”
“Just like Joe,” said Kennedy; “just the ideas for him: but wait a bit! Can you tell what we
may have to go through yet? We are still far from the end of our trip. Where do you expect to
strike the African coast, doctor?”
“I should find it hard to answer you, Kennedy. We are at the mercy of very variable
winds; but I should think myself fortunate were we to strike it between Sierra Leone and
Portendick. There is a stretch of country in that quarter where we should meet with friends.”
“And it would be a pleasure to press their hands; but, are we going in the desirable
“Not any too well, Dick; not any too well! Look at the needle of the compass; we are
bearing southward, and ascending the Niger toward its sources.”
“A fine chance to discover them,” said Joe, “if they were not known already. Now,
couldn’t we just find others for it, on a pinch?”
“Not exactly, Joe; but don’t be alarmed: I hardly expect to go so far as that.”
At nightfall the doctor threw out the last bags of sand. The Victoria rose higher, and the
blow-pipe, although working at full blast, could scarcely keep her up. At that time she was
sixty miles to the southward of Timbuctoo, and in the morning the aeronauts awoke over the
banks of the Niger, not far from Lake Debo.
Chapter 40

The flow of the river was, at that point, divided by large islands into narrow branches,
with a very rapid current. Upon one among them stood some shepherds’ huts, but it had
become impossible to take an exact observation of them, because the speed of the balloon
was constantly increasing. Unfortunately, it turned still more toward the south, and in a few
moments crossed Lake Debo.
Dr. Ferguson, forcing the dilation of his aerial craft to the utmost, sought for other
currents of air at different heights, but in vain; and he soon gave up the attempt, which was
only augmenting the waste of gas by pressing it against the well-worn tissue of the balloon.
He made no remark, but he began to feel very anxious. This persistence of the wind to
head him off toward the southern part of Africa was defeating his calculations, and he no
longer knew upon whom or upon what to depend. Should he not reach the English or French
territories, what was to become of him in the midst of the barbarous tribes that infest the
coasts of Guinea? How should he there get to a ship to take him back to England? And the
actual direction of the wind was driving him along to the kingdom of Dahomey, among the
most savage races, and into the power of a ruler who was in the habit of sacrificing thousands
of human victims at his public orgies. There he would be lost!
On the other hand, the balloon was visibly wearing out, and the doctor felt it failing him.
However, as the weather was clearing up a little, he hoped that the cessation of the rain would
bring about a change in the atmospheric currents.
It was therefore a disagreeable reminder of the actual situation when Joe said aloud:
“There! the rain’s going to pour down harder than ever; and this time it will be the deluge
itself, if we’re to judge by yon cloud that’s coming up!”
“What! another cloud?” asked Ferguson.
“Yes, and a famous one,” replied Kennedy.
“I never saw the like of it,” added Joe.
“I breathe freely again!” said the doctor, laying down his spy-glass. “That’s not a cloud!”
“Not a cloud?” queried Joe, with surprise.
“No; it is a swarm.”
“A swarm of grasshoppers!”
“That? Grasshoppers!”
“Myriads of grasshoppers, that are going to sweep over this country like a water-spout;
and woe to it! for, should these insects alight, it will be laid waste.”
“That would be a sight worth beholding!”
“Wait a little, Joe. In ten minutes that cloud will have arrived where we are, and you can
then judge by the aid of your own eyes.”
The doctor was right. The cloud, thick, opaque, and several miles in extent, came on with
a deafening noise, casting its immense shadow over the fields. It was composed of
numberless legions of that species of grasshopper called crickets. About a hundred paces
from the balloon, they settled down upon a tract full of foliage and verdure. Fifteen minutes
later, the mass resumed its flight, and our travellers could, even at a distance, see the trees
and the bushes entirely stripped, and the fields as bare as though they had been swept with
the scythe. One would have thought that a sudden winter had just descended upon the earth
and struck the region with the most complete sterility.
“Well, Joe, what do you think of that?”
“Well, doctor, it’s very curious, but quite natural. What one grasshopper does on a smallscale, thousands do on a grand scale.”
“It’s a terrible shower,” said the hunter; “more so than hail itself in the devastation it
“It is impossible to prevent it,” replied Ferguson. “Sometimes the inhabitants have had
the idea to burn the forests, and even the standing crops, in order to arrest the progress of
these insects; but the first ranks plunging into the flames would extinguish them beneath their
mass, and the rest of the swarm would then pass irresistibly onward. Fortunately, in these
regions, there is some sort of compensation for their ravages, since the natives gather these
insects in great numbers and greedily eat them.”
“They are the prawns of the air,” said Joe, who added that he was sorry that he had
never had the chance to taste them — just for information’s sake!
The country became more marshy toward evening; the forests dwindled to isolated
clumps of trees; and on the borders of the river could be seen plantations of tobacco, and
swampy meadow-lands fat with forage. At last the city of Jenne, on a large island, came in
sight, with the two towers of its clay-built mosque, and the putrid odor of the millions of
swallows’ nests accumulated in its walls. The tops of some baobabs, mimosas, and date-trees
peeped up between the houses; and, even at night, the activity of the place seemed very
great. Jenne is, in fact, quite a commercial city: it supplies all the wants of Timbuctoo. Its
boats on the river, and its caravans along the shaded roads, bear thither the various products
of its industry.
“Were it not that to do so would prolong our journey,” said the doctor, “I should like to
alight at this place. There must be more than one Arab there who has travelled in England and
France, and to whom our style of locomotion is not altogether new. But it would not be
“Let us put off the visit until our next trip,” said Joe, laughing.
“Besides, my friends, unless I am mistaken, the wind has a slight tendency to veer a little
more to the eastward, and we must not lose such an opportunity.”
The doctor threw overboard some articles that were no longer of use — some empty
bottles, and a case that had contained preserved-meat — and thereby managed to keep the
balloon in a belt of the atmosphere more favorable to his plans. At four o’clock in the morning
the first rays of the sun lighted up Sego, the capital of Bambarra, which could be recognized
at once by the four towns that compose it, by its Saracenic mosques, and by the incessant
going and coming of the flat-bottomed boats that convey its inhabitants from one quarter to
the other. But the travellers were not more seen than they saw. They sped rapidly and directly
to the northwest, and the doctor’s anxiety gradually subsided.
“Two more days in this direction, and at this rate of speed, and we’ll reach the Senegal
“And we’ll be in a friendly country?” asked the hunter.
“Not altogether; but, if the worst came to the worst, and the balloon were to fail us, we
might make our way to the French settlements. But, let it hold out only for a few hundred
miles, and we shall arrive without fatigue, alarm, or danger, at the western coast.”
“And the thing will be over!” added Joe. “Heigh-ho! so much the worse. If it wasn’t for the
pleasure of telling about it, I would never want to set foot on the ground again! Do you think
anybody will believe our story, doctor?”
“Who can tell, Joe? One thing, however, will be undeniable: a thousand witnesses saw us
start on one side of the African Continent, and a thousand more will see us arrive on the
“And, in that case, it seems to me that it would be hard to say that we had not crossed
it,” added Kennedy.
“Ah, doctor!” said Joe again, with a deep sigh, “I’ll think more than once of my lumps of
solid gold-ore! There was something that would have given WEIGHT to our narrative! At agrain of gold per head, I could have got together a nice crowd to listen to me, and even to
admire me!”
Chapter 41

On the 27th of May, at nine o’clock in the morning, the country presented an entirely
different aspect. The slopes, extending far away, changed to hills that gave evidence of
mountains soon to follow. They would have to cross the chain which separates the basin of
the Niger from the basin of the Senegal, and determines the course of the water-shed,
whether to the Gulf of Guinea on the one hand, or to the bay of Cape Verde on the other.
As far as Senegal, this part of Africa is marked down as dangerous. Dr. Ferguson knew it
through the recitals of his predecessors. They had suffered a thousand privations and been
exposed to a thousand dangers in the midst of these barbarous negro tribes. It was this fatal
climate that had devoured most of the companions of Mungo Park. Ferguson, therefore, was
more than ever decided not to set foot in this inhospitable region.
But he had not enjoyed one moment of repose. The Victoria was descending very
perceptibly, so much so that he had to throw overboard a number more of useless articles,
especially when there was a mountain-top to pass. Things went on thus for more than one
hundred and twenty miles; they were worn out with ascending and falling again; the balloon,
like another rock of Sisyphus, kept continually sinking back toward the ground. The rotundity
of the covering, which was now but little inflated, was collapsing already. It assumed an
elongated shape, and the wind hollowed large cavities in the silken surface.
Kennedy could not help observing this.
“Is there a crack or a tear in the balloon?” he asked.
“No, but the gutta percha has evidently softened or melted in the heat, and the hydrogen
is escaping through the silk.”
“How can we prevent that?”
“It is impossible. Let us lighten her. That is the only help. So let us throw out every thing
we can spare.”
“But what shall it be?” said the hunter, looking at the car, which was already quite bare.
“Well, let us get rid of the awning, for its weight is quite considerable.”
Joe, who was interested in this order, climbed up on the circle which kept together the
cordage of the network, and from that place easily managed to detach the heavy curtains of
the awning and throw them overboard.
“There’s something that will gladden the hearts of a whole tribe of blacks,” said he;
“there’s enough to dress a thousand of them, for they’re not very extravagant with cloth.”
The balloon had risen a little, but it soon became evident that it was again approaching
the ground.
“Let us alight,” suggested Kennedy, “and see what can be done with the covering of the
“I tell you, again, Dick, that we have no means of repairing it.”
“Then what shall we do?”
“We’ll have to sacrifice every thing not absolutely indispensable; I am anxious, at all
hazards, to avoid a detention in these regions. The forests over the tops of which we are
skimming are any thing but safe.”
“What! are there lions in them, or hyenas?” asked Joe, with an expression of sovereign
“Worse than that, my boy! There are men, and some of the most cruel, too, in all Africa.”
“How is that known?”
“By the statements of travellers who have been here before us. Then the French settlers,
who occupy the colony of Senegal, necessarily have relations with the surrounding tribes.Under the administration of Colonel Faidherbe, reconnoissances have been pushed far up into
the country. Officers such as Messrs. Pascal, Vincent, and Lambert, have brought back
precious documents from their expeditions. They have explored these countries formed by the
elbow of the Senegal in places where war and pillage have left nothing but ruins.”
“What, then, took place?”
“I will tell you. In 1854 a Marabout of the Senegalese Fouta, Al-Hadji by name, declaring
himself to be inspired like Mohammed, stirred up all the tribes to war against the infidels —
that is to say, against the Europeans. He carried destruction and desolation over the regions
between the Senegal River and its tributary, the Fateme. Three hordes of fanatics led on by
him scoured the country, sparing neither a village nor a hut in their pillaging, massacring
career. He advanced in person on the town of Sego, which was a long time threatened. In
1857 he worked up farther to the northward, and invested the fortification of Medina, built by
the French on the bank of the river. This stronghold was defended by Paul Holl, who, for
several months, without provisions or ammunition, held out until Colonel Faidherbe came to
his relief. Al-Hadji and his bands then repassed the Senegal, and reappeared in the Kaarta,
continuing their rapine and murder. — Well, here below us is the very country in which he has
found refuge with his hordes of banditti; and I assure you that it would not be a good thing to
fall into his hands.”
“We shall not,” said Joe, “even if we have to throw overboard our clothes to save the
“We are not far from the river,” said the doctor, “but I foresee that our balloon will not be
able to carry us beyond it.”
“Let us reach its banks, at all events,” said the Scot, “and that will be so much gained.”
“That is what we are trying to do,” rejoined Ferguson, “only that one thing makes me feel
“What is that?”
“We shall have mountains to pass, and that will be difficult to do, since I cannot augment
the ascensional force of the balloon, even with the greatest possible heat that I can produce.”
“Well, wait a bit,” said Kennedy, “and we shall see!”
“The poor Victoria!” sighed Joe; “I had got fond of her as the sailor does of his ship, and
I’ll not give her up so easily. She may not be what she was at the start — granted; but we
shouldn’t say a word against her. She has done us good service, and it would break my heart
to desert her.”
“Be at your ease, Joe; if we leave her, it will be in spite of ourselves. She’ll serve us until
she’s completely worn out, and I ask of her only twenty-four hours more!”
“Ah, she’s getting used up! She grows thinner and thinner,” said Joe, dolefully, while he
eyed her. “Poor balloon!”
“Unless I am deceived,” said Kennedy, “there on the horizon are the mountains of which
you were speaking, doctor.”
“Yes, there they are, indeed!” exclaimed the doctor, after having examined them through
his spy-glass, “and they look very high. We shall have some trouble in crossing them.”
“Can we not avoid them?”
“I am afraid not, Dick. See what an immense space they occupy — nearly one-half of the
“They even seem to shut us in,” added Joe. “They are gaining on both our right and our
“We must then pass over them.”
These obstacles, which threatened such imminent peril, seemed to approach with
extreme rapidity, or, to speak more accurately, the wind, which was very fresh, was hurrying
the balloon toward the sharp peaks. So rise it must, or be dashed to pieces.
“Let us empty our tank of water,” said the doctor, “and keep only enough for one day.”“There it goes,” shouted Joe.
“Does the balloon rise at all?” asked Kennedy.
“A little — some fifty feet,” replied the doctor, who kept his eyes fixed on the barometer.
“But that is not enough.”
In truth the lofty peaks were starting up so swiftly before the travellers that they seemed
to be rushing down upon them. The balloon was far from rising above them. She lacked an
elevation of more than five hundred feet more.
The stock of water for the cylinder was also thrown overboard and only a few pints were
retained, but still all this was not enough.
“We must pass them though!” urged the doctor.
“Let us throw out the tanks — we have emptied them.” said Kennedy.
“Over with them!”
“There they go!” panted Joe. “But it’s hard to see ourselves dropping off this way by
“Now, for your part, Joe, make no attempt to sacrifice yourself as you did the other day!
Whatever happens, swear to me that you will not leave us!”
“Have no fears, my master, we shall not be separated.”
The Victoria had ascended some hundred and twenty feet, but the crest of the mountain
still towered above it. It was an almost perpendicular ridge that ended in a regular wall rising
abruptly in a straight line. It still rose more than two hundred feet over the aeronauts.
“In ten minutes,” said the doctor to himself, “our car will be dashed against those rocks
unless we succeed in passing them!”
“Well, doctor?” queried Joe.
“Keep nothing but our pemmican, and throw out all the heavy meat.”
Thereupon the balloon was again lightened by some fifty pounds, and it rose very
perceptibly, but that was of little consequence, unless it got above the line of the
mountaintops. The situation was terrifying. The Victoria was rushing on with great rapidity. They could
feel that she would be dashed to pieces — that the shock would be fearful.
The doctor glanced around him in the car. It was nearly empty.
“If needs be, Dick, hold yourself in readiness to throw over your fire-arms!”
“Sacrifice my fire-arms?” repeated the sportsman, with intense feeling.
“My friend, I ask it; it will be absolutely necessary!”
“Samuel! Doctor!”
“Your guns, and your stock of powder and ball might cost us our lives.”
“We are close to it!” cried Joe.
Sixty feet! The mountain still overtopped the balloon by sixty feet.
Joe took the blankets and other coverings and tossed them out; then, without a word to
Kennedy, he threw over several bags of bullets and lead.
The balloon went up still higher; it surmounted the dangerous ridge, and the rays of the
sun shone upon its uppermost extremity; but the car was still below the level of certain broken
masses of rock, against which it would inevitably be dashed.
“Kennedy! Kennedy! throw out your fire-arms, or we are lost!” shouted the doctor.
“Wait, sir; wait one moment!” they heard Joe exclaim, and, looking around, they saw Joe
disappear over the edge of the balloon.
“Joe! Joe!” cried Kennedy.
“Wretched man!” was the doctor’s agonized expression.
The flat top of the mountain may have had about twenty feet in breadth at this point,
and, on the other side, the slope presented a less declivity. The car just touched the level of
this plane, which happened to be quite even, and it glided over a soil composed of sharp
pebbles that grated as it passed.
“We’re over it! we’re over it! we’re clear!” cried out an exulting voice that madeFerguson’s heart leap to his throat.
The daring fellow was there, grasping the lower rim of the car, and running afoot over the
top of the mountain, thus lightening the balloon of his whole weight. He had to hold on with all
his strength, too, for it was likely to escape his grasp at any moment.
When he had reached the opposite declivity, and the abyss was before him, Joe, by a
vigorous effort, hoisted himself from the ground, and, clambering up by the cordage, rejoined
his friends.
“That was all!” he coolly ejaculated.
“My brave Joe! my friend!” said the doctor, with deep emotion.
“Oh! what I did,” laughed the other, “was not for you; it was to save Mr. Kennedy’s rifle. I
owed him that good turn for the affair with the Arab! I like to pay my debts, and now we are
even,” added he, handing to the sportsman his favorite weapon. “I’d feel very badly to see you
deprived of it.”
Kennedy heartily shook the brave fellow’s hand, without being able to utter a word.
The Victoria had nothing to do now but to descend. That was easy enough, so that she
was soon at a height of only two hundred feet from the ground, and was then in equilibrium.
The surface seemed very much broken as though by a convulsion of nature. It presented
numerous inequalities, which would have been very difficult to avoid during the night with a
balloon that could no longer be controlled. Evening was coming on rapidly, and,
notwithstanding his repugnance, the doctor had to make up his mind to halt until morning.
“We’ll now look for a favorable stopping-place,” said he.
“Ah!” replied Kennedy, “you have made up your mind, then, at last?”
“Yes, I have for a long time been thinking over a plan which we’ll try to put into execution;
it is only six o’clock in the evening, and we shall have time enough. Throw out your anchors,
Joe immediately obeyed, and the two anchors dangled below the balloon.
“I see large forests ahead of us,” said the doctor; “we are going to sweep along their
tops, and we shall grapple to some tree, for nothing would make me think of passing the night
below, on the ground.”
“But can we not descend?” asked Kennedy.
“To what purpose? I repeat that it would be dangerous for us to separate, and, besides, I
claim your help for a difficult piece of work.”
The Victoria, which was skimming along the tops of immense forests, soon came to a
sharp halt. Her anchors had caught, and, the wind falling as dusk came on, she remained
motionlessly suspended above a vast field of verdure, formed by the tops of a forest of
Chapter 42

Doctor Ferguson’s first care was to take his bearings by stellar observation, and he
discovered that he was scarcely twenty-five miles from Senegal.
“All that we can manage to do, my friends,” said he, after having pointed his map, “is to
cross the river; but, as there is neither bridge nor boat, we must, at all hazards, cross it with
the balloon, and, in order to do that, we must still lighten up.”
“But I don’t exactly see how we can do that?” replied Kennedy, anxious about his
firearms, “unless one of us makes up his mind to sacrifice himself for the rest — that is, to stay
behind, and, in my turn, I claim that honor.”
“You, indeed!” remonstrated Joe; “ain’t I used to —”
“The question now is, not to throw ourselves out of the car, but simply to reach the coast
of Africa on foot. I am a first-rate walker, a good sportsman, and —”
“I’ll never consent to it!” insisted Joe.
“Your generous rivalry is useless, my brave friends,” said Ferguson; “I trust that we shall
not come to any such extremity: besides, if we did, instead of separating, we should keep
together, so as to make our way across the country in company.”
“That’s the talk,” said Joe; “a little tramp won’t do us any harm.”
“But before we try that,” resumed the doctor, “we must employ a last means of lightening
the balloon.”
“What will that be? I should like to see it,” said Kennedy, incredulously.
“We must get rid of the cylinder-chests, the spiral, and the Buntzen battery. Nine
hundred pounds make a rather heavy load to carry through the air.”
“But then, Samuel, how will you dilate your gas?”
“I shall not do so at all. We’ll have to get along without it.”
“But —”
“Listen, my friends: I have calculated very exactly the amount of ascensional force left to
us, and it is sufficient to carry us every one with the few objects that remain. We shall make in
all a weight of hardly five hundred pounds, including the two anchors which I desire to keep.”
“Dear doctor, you know more about the matter than we do; you are the sole judge of the
situation. Tell us what we ought to do, and we will do it.”
“I am at your orders, master,” added Joe.
“I repeat, my friends, that however serious the decision may appear, we must sacrifice
our apparatus.”
“Let it go, then!” said Kennedy, promptly.
“To work!” said Joe.
It was no easy job. The apparatus had to be taken down piece by piece. First, they took
out the mixing reservoir, then the one belonging to the cylinder, and lastly the tank in which
the decomposition of the water was effected. The united strength of all three travellers was
required to detach these reservoirs from the bottom of the car in which they had been so
firmly secured; but Kennedy was so strong, Joe so adroit, and the doctor so ingenious, that
they finally succeeded. The different pieces were thrown out, one after the other, and they
disappeared below, making huge gaps in the foliage of the sycamores.
“The black fellows will be mightily astonished,” said Joe, “at finding things like those in the
woods; they’ll make idols of them!”
The next thing to be looked after was the displacement of the pipes that were fastened in
the balloon and connected with the spiral. Joe succeeded in cutting the caoutchouc jointings
above the car, but when he came to the pipes he found it more difficult to disengage them,because they were held by their upper extremity and fastened by wires to the very circlet of
the valve.
Then it was that Joe showed wonderful adroitness. In his naked feet, so as not to scratch
the covering, he succeeded by the aid of the network, and in spite of the oscillations of the
balloon, in climbing to the upper extremity, and after a thousand difficulties, in holding on with
one hand to that slippery surface, while he detached the outside screws that secured the
pipes in their place. These were then easily taken out, and drawn away by the lower end,
which was hermetically sealed by means of a strong ligature.
The Victoria, relieved of this considerable weight, rose upright in the air and tugged
strongly at the anchor-rope.
About midnight this work ended without accident, but at the cost of most severe exertion,
and the trio partook of a luncheon of pemmican and cold punch, as the doctor had no more
fire to place at Joe’s disposal.
Besides, the latter and Kennedy were dropping off their feet with fatigue.
“Lie down, my friends, and get some rest,” said the doctor. “I’ll take the first watch; at
two o’clock I’ll waken Kennedy; at four, Kennedy will waken Joe, and at six we’ll start; and may
Heaven have us in its keeping for this last day of the trip!”
Without waiting to be coaxed, the doctor’s two companions stretched themselves at the
bottom of the car and dropped into profound slumber on the instant.
The night was calm. A few clouds broke against the last quarter of the moon, whose
uncertain rays scarcely pierced the darkness. Ferguson, resting his elbows on the rim of the
car, gazed attentively around him. He watched with close attention the dark screen of foliage
that spread beneath him, hiding the ground from his view. The least noise aroused his
suspicions, and he questioned even the slightest rustling of the leaves.
He was in that mood which solitude makes more keenly felt, and during which vague
terrors mount to the brain. At the close of such a journey, after having surmounted so many
obstacles, and at the moment of touching the goal, one’s fears are more vivid, one’s emotions
keener. The point of arrival seems to fly farther from our gaze.
Moreover, the present situation had nothing very consolatory about it. They were in the
midst of a barbarous country, and dependent upon a vehicle that might fail them at any
moment. The doctor no longer counted implicitly on his balloon; the time had gone by when he
manoevred it boldly because he felt sure of it.
Under the influence of these impressions, the doctor, from time to time, thought that he
heard vague sounds in the vast forests around him; he even fancied that he saw a swift gleam
of fire shining between the trees. He looked sharply and turned his night-glass toward the
spot; but there was nothing to be seen, and the profoundest silence appeared to return.
He had, no doubt, been under the dominion of a mere hallucination. He continued to
listen, but without hearing the slightest noise. When his watch had expired, he woke Kennedy,
and, enjoining upon him to observe the extremest vigilance, took his place beside Joe, and fell
sound asleep.
Kennedy, while still rubbing his eyes, which he could scarcely keep open, calmly lit his
pipe. He then ensconced himself in a corner, and began to smoke vigorously by way of
keeping awake.
The most absolute silence reigned around him; a light wind shook the tree-tops and
gently rocked the car, inviting the hunter to taste the sleep that stole over him in spite of
himself. He strove hard to resist it, and repeatedly opened his eyes to plunge into the outer
darkness one of those looks that see nothing; but at last, yielding to fatigue, he sank back and
How long he had been buried in this stupor he knew not, but he was suddenly aroused
from it by a strange, unexpected crackling sound.
He rubbed his eyes and sprang to his feet. An intense glare half-blinded him and heatedhis cheek — the forest was in flames!
“Fire! fire!” he shouted, scarcely comprehending what had happened.
His two companions started up in alarm.
“What’s the matter?” was the doctor’s immediate exclamation.
“Fire!” said Joe. “But who could —”
At this moment loud yells were heard under the foliage, which was now illuminated as
brightly as the day.
“Ah! the savages!” cried Joe again; “they have set fire to the forest so as to be the more
certain of burning us up.”
“The Talabas! Al-Hadji’s marabouts, no doubt,” said the doctor.
A circle of fire hemmed the Victoria in; the crackling of the dry wood mingled with the
hissing and sputtering of the green branches; the clambering vines, the foliage, all the living
part of this vegetation, writhed in the destructive element. The eye took in nothing but one
vast ocean of flame; the large trees stood forth in black relief in this huge furnace, their
branches covered with glowing coals, while the whole blazing mass, the entire conflagration,
was reflected on the clouds, and the travellers could fancy themselves enveloped in a hollow
globe of fire.
“Let us escape to the ground!” shouted Kennedy, “it is our only chance of safety!”
But Ferguson checked him with a firm grasp, and, dashing at the anchor-rope, severed it
with one well-directed blow of his hatchet. Meanwhile, the flames, leaping up at the balloon,
already quivered on its illuminated sides; but the Victoria, released from her fastenings, spun
upward a thousand feet into the air.
Frightful yells resounded through the forest, along with the report of fire-arms, while the
balloon, caught in a current of air that rose with the dawn of day, was borne to the westward.
It was now four o’clock in the morning.
Chapter 43

“Had we not taken the precaution to lighten the balloon yesterday evening, we should
have been lost beyond redemption,” said the doctor, after a long silence.
“See what’s gained by doing things at the right time!” replied Joe. “One gets out of
scrapes then, and nothing is more natural.”
“We are not out of danger yet,” said the doctor.
“What do you still apprehend?” queried Kennedy. “The balloon can’t descend without
your permission, and even were it to do so —”
“Were it to do so, Dick? Look!”
They had just passed the borders of the forest, and the three friends could see some
thirty mounted men clad in broad pantaloons and the floating bournouses. They were armed,
some with lances, and others with long muskets, and they were following, on their quick, fiery
little steeds, the direction of the balloon, which was moving at only moderate speed.
When they caught sight of the aeronauts, they uttered savage cries, and brandished
their weapons. Anger and menace could be read upon their swarthy faces, made more
ferocious by thin but bristling beards. Meanwhile they galloped along without difficulty over the
low levels and gentle declivities that lead down to the Senegal.
“It is, indeed, they!” said the doctor; “the cruel Talabas! the ferocious marabouts of
AlHadji! I would rather find myself in the middle of the forest encircled by wild beasts than fall
into the hands of these banditti.”
“They haven’t a very obliging look!” assented Kennedy; “and they are rough, stalwart
“Happily those brutes can’t fly,” remarked Joe; “and that’s something.”
“See,” said Ferguson, “those villages in ruins, those huts burned down — that is their
work! Where vast stretches of cultivated land were once seen, they have brought barrenness
and devastation.”
“At all events, however,” interposed Kennedy, “they can’t overtake us; and, if we succeed
in putting the river between us and them, we are safe.”
“Perfectly, Dick,” replied Ferguson; “but we must not fall to the ground!” and, as he said
this, he glanced at the barometer.
“In any case, Joe,” added Kennedy, “it would do us no harm to look to our fire-arms.”
“No harm in the world, Mr. Dick! We are lucky that we didn’t scatter them along the
“My rifle!” said the sportsman. “I hope that I shall never be separated from it!”
And so saying, Kennedy loaded the pet piece with the greatest care, for he had plenty of
powder and ball remaining.
“At what height are we?” he asked the doctor.
“About seven hundred and fifty feet; but we no longer have the power of seeking
favorable currents, either going up or coming down. We are at the mercy of the balloon!”
“That is vexatious!” rejoined Kennedy. “The wind is poor; but if we had come across a
hurricane like some of those we met before, these vile brigands would have been out of sight
long ago.”
“The rascals follow us at their leisure,” said Joe. “They’re only at a short gallop. Quite a
nice little ride!”
“If we were within range,” sighed the sportsman, “I should amuse myself with
dismounting a few of them.”
“Exactly,” said the doctor; “but then they would have you within range also, and ourballoon would offer only too plain a target to the bullets from their long guns; and, if they were
to make a hole in it, I leave you to judge what our situation would be!”
The pursuit of the Talabas continued all morning; and by eleven o’clock the aeronauts
had made scarcely fifteen miles to the westward.
The doctor was anxiously watching for the least cloud on the horizon. He feared, above
all things, a change in the atmosphere. Should he be thrown back toward the Niger, what
would become of him? Besides, he remarked that the balloon tended to fall considerably.
Since the start, he had already lost more than three hundred feet, and the Senegal must be
about a dozen miles distant. At his present rate of speed, he could count upon travelling only
three hours longer.
At this moment his attention was attracted by fresh cries. The Talabas appeared to be
much excited, and were spurring their horses.
The doctor consulted his barometer, and at once discovered the cause of these
“Are we descending?” asked Kennedy.
“Yes!” replied the doctor.
“The mischief!” thought Joe
In the lapse of fifteen minutes the Victoria was only one hundred and fifty feet above the
ground; but the wind was much stronger than before.
The Talabas checked their horses, and soon a volley of musketry pealed out on the air.
“Too far, you fools!” bawled Joe. “I think it would be well to keep those scamps at a
And, as he spoke, he aimed at one of the horsemen who was farthest to the front, and
fired. The Talaba fell headlong, and, his companions halting for a moment, the balloon gained
upon them.
“They are prudent!” said Kennedy.
“Because they think that they are certain to take us,” replied the doctor; “and, they will
succeed if we descend much farther. We must, absolutely, get higher into the air.”
“What can we throw out?” asked Joe.
“All that remains of our stock of pemmican; that will be thirty pounds less weight to
“Out it goes, sir!” said Joe, obeying orders.
The car, which was now almost touching the ground, rose again, amid the cries of the
Talabas; but, half an hour later, the balloon was again falling rapidly, because the gas was
escaping through the pores of the covering.
Ere long the car was once more grazing the soil, and Al-Hadji’s black riders rushed
toward it; but, as frequently happens in like cases, the balloon had scarcely touched the
surface ere it rebounded, and only came down again a mile away.
“So we shall not escape!” said Kennedy, between his teeth.
“Throw out our reserved store of brandy, Joe,” cried the doctor; “our instruments, and
every thing that has any weight, even to our last anchor, because go they must!”
Joe flung out the barometers and thermometers, but all that amounted to little; and the
balloon, which had risen for an instant, fell again toward the ground.
The Talabas flew toward it, and at length were not more than two hundred paces away.
“Throw out the two fowling-pieces!” shouted Ferguson.
“Not without discharging them, at least,” responded the sportsman; and four shots in
quick succession struck the thick of the advancing group of horsemen. Four Talabas fell, amid
the frantic howls and imprecations of their comrades.
The Victoria ascended once more, and made some enormous leaps, like a huge
gumelastic ball, bounding and rebounding through the air. A strange sight it was to see these
unfortunate men endeavoring to escape by those huge aerial strides, and seeming, like thegiant Antaeus, to receive fresh strength every time they touched the earth. But this situation
had to terminate. It was now nearly noon; the Victoria was getting empty and exhausted, and
assuming a more and more elongated form every instant. Its outer covering was becoming
flaccid, and floated loosely in the air, and the folds of the silk rustled and grated on each
“Heaven abandons us!” said Kennedy; “we have to fall!”
Joe made no answer. He kept looking intently at his master.
“No!” said the latter; “we have more than one hundred and fifty pounds yet to throw out.”
“What can it be, then?” said Kennedy, thinking that the doctor must be going mad.
“The car!” was his reply; “we can cling to the network. There we can hang on in the
meshes until we reach the river. Quick! quick!”
And these daring men did not hesitate a moment to avail themselves of this last
desperate means of escape. They clutched the network, as the doctor directed, and Joe,
holding on by one hand, with the other cut the cords that suspended the car; and the latter
dropped to the ground just as the balloon was sinking for the last time.
“Hurrah! hurrah!” shouted the brave fellow exultingly, as the Victoria, once more relieved,
shot up again to a height of three hundred feet.
The Talabas spurred their horses, which now came tearing on at a furious gallop; but the
balloon, falling in with a much more favorable wind, shot ahead of them, and was rapidly
carried toward a hill that stretched across the horizon to the westward. This was a
circumstance favorable to the aeronauts, because they could rise over the hill, while Al-Hadji’s
horde had to diverge to the northward in order to pass this obstacle.
The three friends still clung to the network. They had been able to fasten it under their
feet, where it had formed a sort of swinging pocket.
Suddenly, after they had crossed the hill, the doctor exclaimed: “The river! the river! the
Senegal, my friends!”
And about two miles ahead of them, there was indeed the river rolling along its broad
mass of water, while the farther bank, which was low and fertile, offered a sure refuge, and a
place favorable for a descent.
“Another quarter of an hour,” said Ferguson, “and we are saved!”
But it was not to happen thus; the empty balloon descended slowly upon a tract almost
entirely bare of vegetation. It was made up of long slopes and stony plains, a few bushes and
some coarse grass, scorched by the sun.
The Victoria touched the ground several times, and rose again, but her rebound was
diminishing in height and length. At the last one, it caught by the upper part of the network in
the lofty branches of a baobab, the only tree that stood there, solitary and alone, in the midst
of the waste.
“It’s all over,” said Kennedy.
“And at a hundred paces only from the river!” groaned Joe.
The three hapless aeronauts descended to the ground, and the doctor drew his
companions toward the Senegal.
At this point the river sent forth a prolonged roaring; and when Ferguson reached its
bank, he recognized the falls of Gouina. But not a boat, not a living creature was to be seen.
With a breadth of two thousand feet, the Senegal precipitates itself for a height of one
hundred and fifty, with a thundering reverberation. It ran, where they saw it, from east to west,
and the line of rocks that barred its course extended from north to south. In the midst of the
falls, rocks of strange forms started up like huge ante-diluvian animals, petrified there amid
the waters.
The impossibility of crossing this gulf was self-evident, and Kennedy could not restrain a
gesture of despair.
But Dr. Ferguson, with an energetic accent of undaunted daring, exclaimed —“All is not over!”
“I knew it,” said Joe, with that confidence in his master which nothing could ever shake.
The sight of the dried-up grass had inspired the doctor with a bold idea. It was the last
chance of escape. He led his friends quickly back to where they had left the covering of the
“We have at least an hour’s start of those banditti,” said he; “let us lose no time, my
friends; gather a quantity of this dried grass; I want a hundred pounds of it, at least.”
“For what purpose?” asked Kennedy, surprised.
“I have no more gas; well, I’ll cross the river with hot air!”
“Ah, doctor,” exclaimed Kennedy, “you are, indeed, a great man!”
Joe and Kennedy at once went to work, and soon had an immense pile of dried grass
heaped up near the baobab.
In the mean time, the doctor had enlarged the orifice of the balloon by cutting it open at
the lower end. He then was very careful to expel the last remnant of hydrogen through the
valve, after which he heaped up a quantity of grass under the balloon, and set fire to it.
It takes but a little while to inflate a balloon with hot air. A head of one hundred and
eighty degrees is sufficient to diminish the weight of the air it contains to the extent of
onehalf, by rarefying it. Thus, the Victoria quickly began to assume a more rounded form. There
was no lack of grass; the fire was kept in full blast by the doctor’s assiduous efforts, and the
balloon grew fuller every instant.
It was then a quarter to four o’clock.
At this moment the band of Talabas reappeared about two miles to the northward, and
the three friends could hear their cries, and the clatter of their horses galloping at full speed.
“In twenty minutes they will be here!” said Kennedy.
“More grass! more grass, Joe! In ten minutes we shall have her full of hot air.”
“Here it is, doctor!”
The Victoria was now two-thirds inflated.
“Come, my friends, let us take hold of the network, as we did before.”
“All right!” they answered together.
In about ten minutes a few jerking motions by the balloon indicated that it was disposed
to start again. The Talabas were approaching. They were hardly five hundred paces away.
“Hold on fast!” cried Ferguson.
“Have no fear, master — have no fear!”
And the doctor, with his foot pushed another heap of grass upon the fire.
With this the balloon, now completely inflated by the increased temperature, moved
away, sweeping the branches of the baobab in her flight.
“We’re off!” shouted Joe.
A volley of musketry responded to his exclamation. A bullet even ploughed his shoulder;
but Kennedy, leaning over, and discharging his rifle with one hand, brought another of the
enemy to the ground.
Cries of fury exceeding all description hailed the departure of the balloon, which had at
once ascended nearly eight hundred feet. A swift current caught and swept it along with the
most alarming oscillations, while the intrepid doctor and his friends saw the gulf of the
cataracts yawning below them.
Ten minutes later, and without having exchanged a word, they descended gradually
toward the other bank of the river.
There, astonished, speechless, terrified, stood a group of men clad in the French
uniform. Judge of their amazement when they saw the balloon rise from the right bank of the
river. They had well-nigh taken it for some celestial phenomenon, but their officers, a
lieutenant of marines and a naval ensign, having seen mention made of Dr. Ferguson’s daring
expedition, in the European papers, quickly explained the real state of the case.The balloon, losing its inflation little by little, settled with the daring travellers still clinging
to its network; but it was doubtful whether it would reach the land. At once some of the brave
Frenchmen rushed into the water and caught the three aeronauts in their arms just as the
Victoria fell at the distance of a few fathoms from the left bank of the Senegal.
“Dr. Ferguson!” exclaimed the lieutenant.
“The same, sir,” replied the doctor, quietly, “and his two friends.”
The Frenchmen escorted our travellers from the river, while the balloon, half-empty, and
borne away by a swift current, sped on, to plunge, like a huge bubble, headlong with the
waters of the Senegal, into the cataracts of Gouina.
“The poor Victoria!” was Joe’s farewell remark.
The doctor could not restrain a tear, and extending his hands his two friends wrung them
silently with that deep emotion which requires no spoken words.
Chapter 44

The expedition upon the bank of the river had been sent by the governor of Senegal. It
consisted of two officers, Messrs. Dufraisse, lieutenant of marines, and Rodamel, naval
ensign, and with these were a sergeant and seven soldiers. For two days they had been
engaged in reconnoitring the most favorable situation for a post at Gouina, when they became
witnesses of Dr. Ferguson’s arrival.
The warm greetings and felicitations of which our travellers were the recipients may be
imagined. The Frenchmen, and they alone, having had ocular proof of the accomplishment of
the daring project, naturally became Dr. Ferguson’s witnesses. Hence the doctor at once
asked them to give their official testimony of his arrival at the cataracts of Gouina.
“You would have no objection to signing a certificate of the fact, would you?” he inquired
of Lieutenant Dufraisse.
“At your orders!” the latter instantly replied.
The Englishmen were escorted to a provisional post established on the bank of the river,
where they found the most assiduous attention, and every thing to supply their wants. And
there the following certificate was drawn up in the terms in which it appears to-day, in the
archives of the Royal Geographical Society of London:

We, the undersigned, do hereby declare that, on the day herein mentioned, we
witnessed the arrival of Dr. Ferguson and his two companions, Richard Kennedy
and Joseph Wilson, clinging to the cordage and network of a balloon, and that the
said balloon fell at a distance of a few paces from us into the river, and being swept
away by the current was lost in the cataracts of Gouina. In testimony whereof, we
have hereunto set our hands and seals beside those of the persons hereinabove
named, for the information of all whom it may concern.
Done at the Cataracts of Gouina, on the 24th of May, 1862.
Samuel Ferguson
Richard Kennedy,
Joseph Wilson,
Dufraisse, Lieutenant of Marines,
Rodamel, Naval Ensign,
Dufays, Sergeant,
Flippeau, Mayor, Pelissier, Lorois, Rascagnet, Guillon, Lebel, Privates.

Here ended the astonishing journey of Dr. Ferguson and his brave companions, as
vouched for by undeniable testimony; and they found themselves among friends in the midst
of most hospitable tribes, whose relations with the French settlements are frequent and
They had arrived at Senegal on Saturday, the 24th of May, and on the 27th of the same
month they reached the post of Medina, situated a little farther to the north, but on the river.
There the French officers received them with open arms, and lavished upon them all the
resources of their hospitality. Thus aided, the doctor and his friends were enabled to embark
almost immediately on the small steamer called the Basilic, which ran down to the mouth of
the river.
Two weeks later, on the 10th of June, they arrived at Saint Louis, where the governor
gave them a magnificent reception, and they recovered completely from their excitement and
fatigue.Besides, Joe said to every one who chose to listen:
That was a stupid trip of ours, after all, and I wouldn’t advise any body who is greedy for
excitement to undertake it. It gets very tiresome at the last, and if it hadn’t been for the
adventures on Lake Tchad and at the Senegal River, I do believe that we’d have died of
An English frigate was just about to sail, and the three travellers procured passage on
board of her. On the 25th of June they arrived at Portsmouth, and on the next day at London.
We will not describe the reception they got from the Royal Geographical Society, nor the
intense curiosity and consideration of which they became the objects. Kennedy set off, at
once, for Edinburgh, with his famous rifle, for he was in haste to relieve the anxiety of his
faithful old housekeeper.
The doctor and his devoted Joe remained the same men that we have known them,
excepting that one change took place at their own suggestion.
They ceased to be master and servant, in order to become bosom friends.
The journals of all Europe were untiring in their praises of the bold explorers, and the
Daily Telegraph struck off an edition of three hundred and seventy-seven thousand copies on
the day when it published a sketch of the trip.
Doctor Ferguson, at a public meeting of the Royal Geographical Society, gave a recital of
his journey through the air, and obtained for himself and his companions the golden medal set
apart to reward the most remarkable exploring expedition of the year 1862.
The first result of Dr. Ferguson’s expedition was to establish, in the most precise
manner, the facts and geographical surveys reported by Messrs. Barth, Burton, Speke, and
others. Thanks to the still more recent expeditions of Messrs. Speke and Grant, De Heuglin
and Muntzinger, who have been ascending to the sources of the Nile, and penetrating to the
centre of Africa, we shall be enabled ere long to verify, in turn, the discoveries of Dr. Ferguson
in that vast region comprised between the fourteenth and thirty-third degrees of east

The Adventures of Captain Hatteras
Original title: Voyages et Aventures du Capitaine Hatteras (1864)
Series: Voyages Extraordinaires #2
Anonymous Translation

Chapter 1 — The Forward

To-morrow, at the turn of the tide, the brig Forward, K. Z., captain, Richard
Shandon, mate, will clear from New Prince’s Docks; destination unknown.

This announcement appeared in the Liverpool Herald of April 5, 1860.
The sailing of a brig is not a matter of great importance for the chief commercial city of
England. Who would take notice of it in so great a throng of ships of all sizes and of every
country, that dry-docks covering two leagues scarcely contain them?
Nevertheless, from early morning on the 6th of April, a large crowd collected on the
quays of the New Prince’s Docks; all the sailors of the place seemed to have assembled
there. The workingmen of the neighboring wharves had abandoned their tasks, tradesmen
had left their gloomy shops, and the merchants their empty warehouses. The many-colored
omnibuses which pass outside of the docks were discharging, every minute, their load of
sight-seers; the whole city seemed to care for nothing except watching the departure of the
The Forward was a vessel of one hundred and seventy tons, rigged as a brig, and
carrying a screw and a steam-engine of one hundred and twenty horse-power. One would
have very easily confounded it with the other brigs in the harbor. But if it presented no
especial difference to the eye of the public, yet those who were familiar with ships noticed
certain peculiarities which could not escape a sailor’s keen glance.
Thus, on the Nautilus, which was lying at anchor near her, a group of sailors were trying
to make out the probable destination of the Forward.
“What do you say to her masts?” said one; “steamers don’t usually carry so much sail.”
“It must be,” answered a red-faced quartermaster, “that she relies more on her sails than
on her engine; and if her topsails are of that size, it’s probably because the lower sails are to
be laid back. So I’m sure the Forward is going either to the Arctic or Antarctic Ocean, where
the icebergs stop the wind more than suits a solid ship.”
“You must be right, Mr. Comhill,” said a third sailor. “Do you notice how straight her stem
“Besides,” said Mr. Cornhill, “she carries a steel ram forward, as sharp as a razor; if the
Forward, going at full speed, should run into a three-decker, she would cut her in two.”
“That’s true,” answered a Mersey pilot, “for that brig can easily run fourteen knots under
steam. She was a sight to see on her trial trip. On my word, she’s a swift boat.”
“And she goes well, too, under sail,” continued the quartermaster; “close to the wind, and
she’s easily steered. Now that ship is going to the polar seas, or my name is not Cornhill. And
then, see there! Do you notice that large helm-port over the head of her rudder?”
“That’s so,” said some of the sailors; “but what does that prove?”
“That proves, my men,” replied the quartermaster with a scornful smile, “that you can
neither see nor think; it proves that they wanted to leave the head of the rudder free, so that it
might be unshipped and shipped again easily. Don’t you know that’s what they have to do very
often in the ice?”
“You are right,” answered the sailors of the Nautilus.
“And besides,” said one, “the lading of the brig goes to prove what Mr. Cornhill has said.
I heard it from Clifton, who has shipped on her. The Forward carries provisions for five or six
years, and coal in proportion. Coal and provisions are all she carries, and a quantity of woollen
and sealskin clothing.”
“Well,” said Mr. Cornhill, “there’s no doubt about it. But, my friend, since you knowClifton, has n’t he told you where she’s bound?”
“He could n’t tell me, for he did n’t know; the whole crew was shipped in that way. Where
is he going? He won’t know till he gets there.”
“Nor yet if they are going to Davy Jones’s locker,” said one scoffer, “as it seems to me
they are.”
“But then, their pay,” continued the friend of Clifton enthusiastically, — “their pay! it’s five
times what a sailor usually gets. If it had not been for that, Richard Shandon would not have
got a man. A strangely shaped boat, going no one knows where, and as if it never intended
coming back! As for me, I should not have cared to ship in her.”
“Whether you would or not,” answered Mr. Cornhill, “you could never have shipped in the
“Why not?”
“Because you would not have answered the conditions. I heard that married men were
not taken. Now you belong to that class. So you need not say what you would or would not
do, since it’s all breath thrown away.”
The sailor who was thus snubbed burst out laughing, as did his companions, showing in
this way that Mr. Cornhill’s remarks were true.
“There’s nothing but boldness about the ship,” continued Cornhill, well pleased with
himself. “The Forward, — forward to what? Without saying that nobody knows who her
captain is.”
“O, yes, they do!” said a young sailor, evidently a green-hand.
“What! They do know?”
“Of course.”
“My young friend,” said Cornhill, “do you think Shandon is the captain of the Forward?”
“Why —” answered the boy.
“Shandon is only the mate, nothing else; he’s a good and brave sailor, an old whaler, a
good fellow, able to take command, but he’s not the captain; he’s no more captain than you or
I. And who, under God, is going to have charge of the ship, he does not know in the least. At
the proper time the captain will come aboard, I don’t know how, and I don’t know where; for
Richard Shandon did n’t tell me, nor has he leave to tell me in what direction he was first to
“Still, Mr. Cornhill,” said the young sailor, “I can tell you that there’s some one on board,
some one who was spoken of in the letter in which Mr. Shandon was offered the place of
“What!” answered Cornhill, “do you mean to tell me that the Forward has a captain on
“Yes, Mr. Cornhill.”
“You tell me that?”
“Certainly, for I heard it from Johnson, the boatswain.”
“Boatswain Johnson?”
“Yes, he told me himself.”
“Johnson told you?”
“Not only did he tell me, but he showed him to me.”
“He showed him to you!” answered Cornhill in amazement.
“He showed him to me.”
“And you saw him?”
“I saw him with my own eyes.”
“And who is it?”
“It’s a dog.”
“A dog?”
“A four-footed dog?”“Yes.”
The surprise of the sailors of the Nautilus was great. Under any other circumstances they
would have burst out laughing. A dog captain of a one hundred and seventy ton brig! It was
certainly amusing enough. But the Forward was such an extraordinary ship, that one thought
twice before laughing, and before contradicting it. Besides, Quartermaster Cornhill showed no
signs of laughing.
“And Johnson showed you that new sort of captain, a dog?” he said to the young sailor.
“And you saw him?”
“As plainly as I see you, with all respect.”
“Well, what do you think of that?” asked the sailors, turning to Cornhill.
“I don’t think anything,” he answered curtly, “except that the Forward is a ship of the
Devil, or of fools fit for Bedlam.”
Without saying more, the sailors continued to gaze at the Forward, which was now
almost ready to depart; and there was no one of them who presumed to say that Johnson,
the boatswain, had been making fun of the young sailor.
This story of the dog had already spread through the city, and in the crowd of sight-seers
there were many looking for the captain-dog, who were inclined to believe that he was some
supernatural animal.
Besides, for many months the Forward had been attracting the public attention; the
singularity of its build, the mystery which enshrouded it, the incognito maintained by the
captain, the manner in which Richard Shandon received the proposition of superintending its
outfit, the careful selection of the crew, its unknown destination, scarcely conjectured by any,
— all combined to give this brig a reputation of something more than strangeness.
For a thoughtful, dreamy mind, for a philosopher, there is hardly anything more touching
than the departure of a ship; the imagination is ready to follow her in her struggles with the
waves, her contests with the winds, in her perilous course, which does not always end in port;
and if only there is something unusual about her, the ship appears like something fantastic,
even to the least imaginative minds.
So it was with the Forward. And if most of the spectators were unable to make the
ingenious remarks of Quartermaster Cornhill, the rumors which had been prevailing for three
months were enough to keep all the tongues of Liverpool busy.
The brig had been built at Birkenhead, a suburb of the city on the left bank of the
Mersey, and connected with it by numerous ferry-boats.
The builders, Scott & Co., as skilful as any in England, had received from Richard
Shandon careful plans and drawings, in which the tonnage, dimensions, and model of the brig
were given with the utmost exactness. They bore proof of the work of an experienced sailor.
Since Shandon had ample means at his command, the work began, and, in accordance with
the orders of the unknown owner, proceeded rapidly.
Every care was taken to have the brig made exceedingly strong; it was evidently
intended to withstand enormous pressure, for its ribs of teak, an East Indian wood remarkable
for its solidity, were further strengthened by thick iron braces. The sailors used to ask why the
hull of a ship, which was intended to be so strong, was not made of iron like other steamers.
But they were told that the mysterious designer had his own reasons for having it built in that
Gradually the shape of the brig on the stocks could be clearly made out, and the strength
and beauty of her model were clear to the eye of all competent judges. As the sailors of the
Nautilus had said, her stem formed a right angle with the keel, and she carried, not a ram, but
a steel cutter from the foundry of R. Hawthorn, of Newcastle. This metallic prow, glistening in
the sun, gave a singular appearance to the brig, although there was nothing warlike about it.
However, a sixteen-pound gun was placed on her forecastle; its carriage was so arranged that
it could be pointed in any direction. The same thing can be said of the cannon as of her bows,neither were positively warlike.
On the 5th of February, 1860, this strange vessel was successfully launched in the sight
of an immense number of spectators,
But if the brig was not a man-of-war, nor a merchant-vessel, nor a pleasure-yacht, for no
one takes a pleasure trip with provisions for six years in the hold, what could she be?
A ship intended for the search of the Erebus and the Terror and of Sir John Franklin? No;
for in 1859, the previous year Captain MacClintock had returned from the Arctic Ocean, with
convincing proof of the loss of that ill-fated expedition.
Did the Forward want to try again the famous Northwest Passage? What for? Captain
MacClure had discovered it in 1853, and his lieutenant, Cresswell, had the honor of first
skirting the American continent from Behring Strait to Davis Strait.
It was nevertheless absolutely certain to all competent observers that the Forward was
preparing for a voyage to icy regions. Was it going to push towards the South Pole, farther
than the whaler Wedell, farther than Captain James Ross? But what was the use, and with
what intention?
It is easy to see that, although the field for conjecture was very limited, the imagination
could easily lose itself.
The day after the launching of the brig her machinery arrived from the foundry of R.
Hawthorn at Newcastle.
The engine, of one hundred and twenty horse-power, with oscillating cylinders, took up
but little space; its force was large for a vessel of one hundred and seventy tons, which
carried a great deal of sail, and was, besides, remarkably swift. Of her speed the trial trips left
no doubt, and even the boatswain, Johnson, had seen fit to express his opinion to the friend
of Clifton in these terms, —
“When the Forward is under both steam and sail, she gets the most speed from her
Clifton’s friend had not understood this proposition, but he considered anything possible
in a ship commanded by a dog.
After the engines had been placed on board, the stowage of provisions began; and that
was no light task, for she carried enough for six years. They consisted of salted and dried
meats, smoked fish, biscuit, and flour; mountains of coffee and tea were deposited in the
store-room. Richard Shandon superintended the arrangement of this precious cargo with the
air of a man who perfectly understood his business; everything was put in its place, labelled,
and numbered with perfect precision; at the same time there was stowed away a large
quantity of pemmican, an Indian preparation, which contains a great deal of nutriment in a
small compass.
This sort of supply left no doubt as to the length of the cruise; but an experienced
observer would have known at once that the Forward was to sail in polar waters, from the
barrels of lime-juice, of lime lozenges, of bundles of mustard, sorrel, and of cochlearia, — in a
word, from the abundance of powerful antiscorbutics, which are so necessary in journeys in
the regions of the far north and south. Shandon had doubtless received word to take
particular care about this part of the cargo, for he gave to it especial attention, as well as to
the ship’s medicine-chest.
If the armament of the vessel was small enough to calm the timid souls, on the other
hand, the magazine was filled with enough powder to inspire some uneasiness. The single gun
on the forecastle could not pretend to require so large a supply. This excited curiosity. There
were, besides, enormous saws and strong machinery, such as levers, masses of lead,
handsaws, huge axes, etc., without counting a respectable number of blasting-cylinders,
which might have blown up the Liverpool custom-house. All this was strange, if not alarming,
not to mention the rockets, signals, lights, and lanterns of every sort.
Then, too, the numerous spectators on the quays of the New Prince’s Docks gazed withadmiration at a long mahogany whale-boat, a tin canoe covered with gutta-percha, and a
number of halkett-boats, which are a sort of india-rubber cloaks, which can be inflated and
thereby turned into canoes. Every one felt more and more puzzled, and even excited, for with
the turn of the tide the Forward was to set sail for its unknown destination.
Chapter 2 — An Unexpected Letter

This is a copy of the letter received by Richard Shandon eight months previously: —

Aberdeen, August 2, 1859.
Mr. Richard Shandon, Liverpool.
This letter is to advise you of a remittance of £16,000, deposited with Messrs.
Marcuart & Co., bankers, at Liverpool. Enclosed you will find a series of drafts,
signed by me, which will enable you to draw upon Messrs. Marcuart & Co. to the
amount mentioned above.
You do not know me. No matter; I know you, and that is enough. I offer you
the position of mate on board of the brig Forward, for a voyage which may be long
and perilous.
If you decline, well and good. If you accept, five hundred pounds will be
assigned you as salary, and at the end of each year of the voyage your pay will be
increased one tenth.
The brig Forward does not exist. You will be obliged to have it built so that it
will be possible to set to sea in the beginning of April, 1860, at the latest. Enclosed
is a drawing with estimates. You will follow them exactly. The ship will be built in the
stocks of Scott & Co., who will arrange everything with you.
I beg of you to be specially cautious in selecting the crew of the Forward; it will
consist of a captain (myself), a mate (you), a second mate, a boatswain, two
engineers, an ice-master, eight sailors, two stokers, in all eighteen men, including
Dr. Clawbonny of this city, who will join you at the proper time.
Those who are shipped on board of the Forward must be Englishmen,
independent, with no family ties, single and temperate; for the use of spirits, and
even of beer, will be strictly forbidden on shipboard: the men must be ready to
undertake and endure everything.
In your selection you will prefer those of a sanguine temperament, and so
inclined to maintain a higher degree of animal heat.
You will offer the crew five times their usual pay, to be increased one tenth at
the end of each year. At the end of the voyage each one shall receive five hundred
pounds, and you yourself two thousand. The requisite sum shall be deposited with
the above-named Messrs. Marcuart & Co.
The voyage will be long and difficult, but one sure to bring renown. You need
not hesitate, then, Mr. Shandon.
Send your answer to the initials K. Z., at Gottenburg, Sweden, poste restante.
P. S. On the 15th of February next you will receive a large Danish dog, with
hanging lips, of a dark tawny color, with black stripes running crosswise. You will
find place for him on board, and you will feed him on barley bread mixed with a
broth of lard. You will acknowledge the receipt of this dog by a letter to the same
initials at Leghorn, Italy.
The captain of the Forward will appear and make himself known at the proper
time. As you are about setting sail you will receive new instructions.
Captain of the Forward.
Chapter 3 — Dr. Clawbonny

Richard Shandon was a good sailor; for a long time he had commanded whalers in the
Arctic seas, with a well-deserved reputation throughout all Lancaster. Such a letter was well
calculated to astonish him; he was astonished, it is true, but with the calmness of a man who
is accustomed to surprises.
He suited all the required conditions; no wife, child, nor relatives. He was as independent
as man could be. There being no one whose opinion he needed to consult, he betook himself
to Messrs. Marcuart & Co.
“If the money is there,” he said to himself, “the rest is all right.”
At the banking-house he was received with the respect due to a man who has sixteen
thousand pounds deposited to his credit; having made that point sure, Shandon asked for a
sheet of white paper, and in his large sailor’s handwriting he sent his acceptance of the plan to
the address given above.
That very day he made the necessary arrangements with the builders at Birkenhead, and
within twenty-four hours the keel of the Forward was laid on the stocks.
Richard Shandon was a man about forty years old, strong, energetic, and fearless, three
qualities most necessary for a sailor, for they give him confidence, vigor, and coolness. He
was known to be severe and very hard to please; hence he was more feared than loved by his
men. But this reputation was not calculated to interfere with his selection of a crew, for he was
known to be skilful in avoiding trouble.
Shandon feared that the mysterious nature of the expedition might stand in his way.
“In that case,” he said, “it’s best not to say anything about it; there will always be plenty
of men who will want to know the why and the wherefore of the whole matter, and, since I
don’t know anything about it myself, I should find it hard to answer them. This K. Z. is certainly
an odd stick; but, after all, he knows me, he depends on me, and that is enough. As for his
ship, it will be a good one, and if it’s not going to the Arctic Ocean, my name is not Richard
Shandon. But I shall keep that fact for myself and my officers.”
Thereupon Shandon began to choose his crew, bearing in mind the captain’s wishes
about the independence and health of the men.
He knew a very capital fellow, and a good sailor, James Wall by name. Wall might have
been about thirty years old, and had already made some voyages in the northern seas.
Shandon offered him the place of second mate, and Wall accepted it at once; all he cared for
was to be at sea. Shandon confided all the details of the affair to him and to a certain
Johnson, whom he took as boatswain.
“All right,” answered James Wall, “that’s as good as anything. Even if it’s to seek the
Northwest Passage, some have come back from that.”
“Not all,” said Johnson, “but that’s no reason that we should not try it.”
“Besides, if our guesses are right,” said Shandon, “it must be said that we start with a fair
chance of success. The Forward will be a stanch ship and she will carry good engines. She
can go a great distance. We want a crew of only eighteen men.”
“Eighteen men,” answered Johnson; “that’s the number the American, Kane, took with
him on his famous voyage towards the North Pole.”
“It’s strange,” said Wall, “that a private person should try to make his way from Davis
Strait to Behring Strait. The expeditions in search of Sir John Franklin have already cost
England more than seven hundred and sixty thousand pounds, without producing any practical
good. Who in the world wants to throw away his money for such a purpose?”
“In the first place, James,” answered Shandon, “we are in the dark about it all. I don’tknow whether we are going to the northern or the southern seas. Perhaps there’s some new
discovery to be tried. At any rate, some day or other a Dr. Clawbonny is to come aboard who
will probably know more about it and will be able to tell us. We shall see.”
“Let us wait, then,” said Johnson; “as for me, I’m going to look after some good men,
and I’ll answer now for their animal heat, as the captain calls it. You can depend on me.”
Johnson was an invaluable man; he was familiar with high latitudes. He had been
quartermaster aboard of the Phoenix, which belonged to one of the expeditions sent out in
1853 in search of Franklin; he had been an eye-witness of the death of the French lieutenant
Bellot, whom he had accompanied in his expedition across the ice. Johnson knew all the
sailors in Liverpool, and immediately set about engaging a crew.
Shandon, Wall, and he succeeded in filling the number by the middle of December, but
they met with considerable difficulty; many who were attracted by the high pay were alarmed
by the danger, and more than one who had boldly enlisted came later to say that he had
changed his mind on account of the dissuasion of his friends. They all tried to pierce the
mystery, and pursued Shandon with their questions. He used to refer them to Johnson.
“What can I say, my man?” the boatswain used to answer; “I don’t know any more about
it than you do. At any rate you will be in good company, with men who won’t shirk their work;
that’s something! So don’t be thinking about it all day: take it or leave it!” And the greater
number took it.
“You understand,” added Johnson, sometimes, “my only trouble is in making my choice.
High pay, such as no sailor ever had before, with the certainty of finding a round sum when
we get back. That’s very tempting.”
“The fact is,” answered the sailors, “that it is hard to refuse. It will support a man all the
rest of his life.”
“I won’t hide from you,” continued Johnson, “that the voyage will be long, difficult, and
dangerous; that’s all stated in our instructions; it’s well to know beforehand what one
undertakes to do; probably it’s to try all that men can possibly do, and perhaps even more.
So, if you have n’t got a bold heart and a strong body, if you can’t say you have more than
twenty chances to one of staying there, if, in short, you are particular about leaving your body
in one place more than another, here rather than there, get away from here and let some
bolder man have your place!”
“But, at least,” said the confused sailor, — “at least, you know the captain?”
“The captain is Richard Shandon, my friend, until we receive another.”
Now it must be said that was what the commander thought; he allowed himself to think
that at the last moment he would receive definite instructions as to the object of the voyage,
and that he would remain in command of the Forward. He was fond of spreading this opinion
about, either in conversation with his officers or in superintending the building of the brig, of
which the timbers were now rising in the Birkenhead ship-yard like the sides of a huge whale.
Shandon and Johnson conformed strictly with the recommendation about the health of
the crew; they all looked hardy and possessed enough animal heat to run the engines of the
Forward; their elastic limbs, their clear and ruddy skin, showed that they were fit to encounter
intense cold. They were bold, determined men, energetic and stoutly built; they were not all
equally vigorous. Shandon had even hesitated about accepting some of them; for instance,
the sailors Gripper and Garry, and the harpooner Simpson, who seemed to him too thin; but,
on the other hand, they were well built, they were earnest about it, and they were shipped.
All the crew were members of the same church; in their long voyage their prayers and
the reading of the Bible would call them together and console them in the hours of depression;
so that it was advisable that there should be no diversity on this score. Shandon knew from
experience the usefulness of this practice and its good influence on the men, so valuable that
it is never neglected on board of ships which winter in the polar seas.
When all the crew had been engaged, Shandon and his two officers busied themselveswith the provisions; they followed closely the captain’s instructions, which were definite,
precise, and detailed, in which the quality and quantity of the smallest articles were clearly set
down. Thanks to the drafts placed at the commander’s order, every article was paid for, cash
down, with a discount of eight per cent, which Richard carefully placed to the credit of K. Z.
Crew, provisions, and outfit were all ready in January, 1860; the Forward was
approaching completion. Shandon never let a day pass without visiting Birkenhead.
On the morning of the 23d of January he was, as usual, on one of the double-ended
ferry-boats which ply between the two shores of the Mersey; everything was enveloped in one
of the ordinary fogs of that region, which compel the pilot to steer by compass, although the
trip is one of but ten minutes.
However, the thickness of the fog could not prevent Shandon from noticing a short,
rather stout man, with a refined, agreeable face and pleasant expression, who came towards
him, seized both his hands, and pressed them with a warmth and familiarity which a
Frenchman would have said was “very southern.”
But if this stranger was not from the South, he had escaped it narrowly; he spoke and
gesticulated freely; his thoughts seemed determined to find expression, even if they had to
burst out. His eyes, small like the eyes of witty men, his large and mobile mouth, were
safetyvalves which enabled him to rid himself of too strong a pressure on his feelings; he talked; and
he talked so much and joyously, that, it must be said, Shandon could not make out what he
was saying.
Still the mate of the Forward was not slow in recognizing this short man whom he had
never seen; it flashed into his mind, and the moment that the other stopped to take breath,
Shandon uttered these words, —
“Dr. Clawbonny?”
“The same, in person, Commander! For nearly a quarter of an hour I have been looking
after you, asking for you of every one and everywhere. Imagine my impatience. Five minutes
more and I should have lost my head! So this is you, officer Shandon? You really exist? You
are not a myth? Your hand, your hand! Let me press it again in mine! Yes, that is indeed the
hand of Richard Shandon. Now, if there is a commander Richard, there is a brig Forward
which he commands; and if he commands it, it will sail; and if it sails, it will take Dr. Clawbonny
on board.”
“Well, yes, Doctor, I am Richard Shandon, there is a brig Forward, and it will sail.”
“There’s logic,” answered the doctor, taking a long breath, — “there’s logic. So I am
delighted, enchanted! For a long time I’ve been waiting for something of this sort to turn up,
and I’ve been wanting to try a voyage of this sort. Now, with you —”
“Excuse me —” said Shandon.
“With you,” continued Clawbonny, paying him no attention, “we are sure of going far
without turning round.”
“But —” began Shandon.
“For you have shown what stuff you are made of, and I know all you’ve done. Ah, you
are a good sailor!”
“If you please —”
“No, I sha’ n’t let your courage and skill be doubted for a moment, even by yourself. The
captain who chose you for mate is a man who knew what he was about; I can tell you that.”
“But that is not the question,” said Shandon, impatiently.
“What is it, then? Don’t keep me anxious any longer.”
“But you won’t let me say a word. Tell me. Doctor, if you please, how you came to join
this expedition of the Forward?”
“By a letter, a capital letter; here it is, the letter of a brave captain, very short, but very
With these words he handed Shandon a letter running as follows:
Inverness, January 22, 1860.
To Dr. Clawbonny, Liverpool.
If Dr. Clawbonny wishes to sail on the Forward for a long voyage, he can
present himself to the mate, Richard Shandon, who has been advised concerning
K. Z.,
Captain of the Forward.

“The letter reached me this morning, and I’m now ready to go on board of the Forward.”
“But,” continued Shandon, “I suppose you know whither we are bound.”
“Not the least idea in the world; but what difference does it make, provided I go
somewhere? They say I’m a learned man; they are wrong; I don’t know anything, and if I have
published some books which have had a good sale, I was wrong; it was very kind of the public
to buy them! I don’t know anything, I tell you, except that I am very ignorant. Now I have a
chance offered me to complete, or, rather, to make over my knowledge of medicine, surgery,
history, geography, botany, mineralogy, conchology, geodesy, chemistry, physics, mechanics,
hydrography; well, I accept it, and I assure you, I did n’t have to be asked twice.”
“Then,” said Shandon in a tone of disappointment, “you don’t know where the Forward is
“0, but I do, commander; it’s going where there is something to be learned, discovered;
where one can instruct himself, make comparisons, see other customs, other countries, study
the ways of other people; in a word, it’s going where I have never been.”
“But more precisely?” cried Shandon.
“More precisely,” answered the doctor, “I have understood that it was bound for the
Northern Ocean. Well, good for the North!”
“At any rate,” said Shandon, “you know the captain?”
“Not at all! But he’s a good fellow, you may depend on it.”
The mate and the doctor stepped ashore at Birkenhead; Shandon gave his companion all
the information he had, and the mystery which lay about it all excited highly the doctor’s
imagination. The sight of the Forward enchanted him. From that time he was always with
Shandon, and he came every morning to inspect the hull of the Forward.
In addition he was specially intrusted with the providing of the ship’s medicine-chest.
For Clawbonny was a physician, and a good one, although he had never practised much.
At twenty-five he was an ordinary young doctor, at forty he was a learned man; being known
throughout the whole city, he became a leading member of the Literary and Philosophical
Society of Liverpool. His moderate fortune allowed him to give some advice which was no less
valuable for being without charge; loved as a thoroughly kind-hearted man must be, he did no
harm to any one else nor to himself; quick and garrulous, if you please, but with his heart in
his hand, and his hand in that of all the world.
When the news of his intended journey on board the Forward became known in the city,
all his friends endeavored to dissuade him, but they only made him cling more obstinately to
his intention; and when the doctor had absolutely determined on anything, he was a skilful
man who could make him change.
From that day the rumors, conjectures, and apprehensions steadily increased; but that
did not interfere with the launching of the Forward on the 5th of February, 1860. Two months
later she was ready for sea.
On the 15th of March, as the captain’s letter had said, a Danish dog was sent by rail
from Edinburgh to Liverpool, to the address of Richard Shandon. He seemed morose, timid,
and almost wicked; his expression was very strange. The name of the Forward was engraved
on his collar.The commander gave him quarters on board, and sent a letter, with the news of his
arrival, to Leghorn.
Hence, with the exception of the captain, the crew of the Forward was complete. It was
composed as follows: —
1. K. Z., captain; 2. Richard Shandon, first mate, in command; 3. James Wall, second
mate; 4. Dr. Clawbonny; 5. Johnson, boatswain; 6. Simpson, harpooner; 7. Bell, carpenter; 8.
Brunton, first engineer; 9. Plover, second engineer; 10. Strong (negro), cook; 11. Foker,
icemaster; 12. Wolston, gunner; 13. Bolton, sailor; 14. Garry, sailor; 15. Clifton, sailor; 16.
Gripper, sailor; 17. Pen, sailor; 18. Warren, stoker.
Chapter 4 — The Dog Captain

The 5th of April, the day of departure, came. The fact that the doctor had joined the
expedition gave some comfort to those on board. Wherever he could go they could follow.
Still, most of the sailors were very uneasy, and Shandon, fearing that their number might be
diminished by desertion, was very anxious to get to sea. The land once out of sight, the men
would soon be resigned.
Dr. Clawbonny’s cabin was situated on the poop, occupying the extreme after-part of the
ship. The cabins of the captain and mate opened on the deck. That of the captain was kept
tightly closed, after it had been provided with various instruments, furniture, clothing, books,
and utensils, all of which had been set down in detail in a letter. As he had asked, the key was
sent to the captain at Lübeck; so he alone had admission into the cabin.
This fact annoyed Shandon, and diminished his chances of having chief command. As
for his own cabin, he had arranged it suitably for the presumed voyage, for he knew very well
what was necessary for a polar expedition.
The second mate’s cabin was on the lower deck, where the sailors were domiciled; the
crew had very comfortable quarters; they would hardly have had such accommodations in any
other ship. They were treated as if they were a valuable cargo; a huge stove stood in the
middle of their sleeping-room.
Dr. Clawbonny was very enthusiastic about it; he took possession of his cabin on the 6th
of February, the day after the ship was launched.
“The happiest animal in the world,” he used to say, “would be a snail who could make
himself just such a shell as he wanted; I shall try to be an intelligent snail.”
And, in fact, for a shell which he was not going to leave for some time, his cabin
presented a very comfortable appearance; the doctor took a scientific or childlike pleasure in
arranging his scientific paraphernalia. His books, his specimens, his cases, his instruments,
his physical apparatus, his thermometers, barometers, field-glasses, compasses, sextants,
charts, drawings, phials, powder, and medicine-bottles, all were classified in a way which
would have done honor to the British Museum. This space of six feet square contained
incalculable wealth; the doctor needed only to stretch out his hand without rising, to become at
once a physician, a mathematician, an astronomer, a geographer, a botanist, or a
To tell the truth, he was proud of his arrangements, and very contented in his floating
sanctum, which three of his thinnest friends would have completely filled. They used to crowd
there in great numbers, so that even so good-natured a man as the doctor was occasionally
put out; and, like Socrates, he came at last to say, —
“My house is small, but may Heaven grant that it never be filled with friends!”
To complete our account of the Forward, it is only necessary to add that a kennel for the
huge Danish dog was built just beneath the window of the closed cabin; but he preferred to
keep himself between decks and in the hold; it seemed impossible to tame him; no one ever
conquered his shyness; he could be heard, at night especially, howling dismally in the ship’s
Was it because he missed his master? Had he an instinctive dread of the dangers of the
voyage? Had he a presentiment of the coming perils? The sailors were sure that he had, and
more than one said the same in jest, who in his heart regarded the dog as a sort of diabolic
Pen, a very brutal man, one day, while trying to kick him, slipped, and fell on the corner
of the capstan in such a way that he cut his head badly. It is easy to see how the sailors putall the blame upon the dog.
Clifton, who was the most superstitious man in the crew, made, one day, the strange
observation that the dog, when on the poop, would always walk on the windward side; and
afterwards, when the brig was at sea and under sail, this singular animal would shift his
position to the other side after every tack, so as to be windward, as the captain of the Forward
would have done.
Dr. Clawbonny, who by his gentleness and caresses would have almost tamed the heart
of a tiger, tried in vain to make friends with the dog; he met with no success.
The dog, too, did not answer to any of the usual names of his kind. So the men used to
call him “Captain,” for he seemed perfectly familiar with all the ways on shipboard. He had
evidently been to sea before.
It is hence easy to understand the boatswain’s answer to Clifton’s friend, and how this
idea found but few sceptics; more than would repeat it jestingly, who was fully prepared to see
the dog, some fine day, take human shape, and with a loud voice assume command.
If Richard Shandon did not share such apprehensions, he was far from being
undisturbed, and on the eve of departing, on the night of April 5th, he was talking on this
subject with the doctor. Wall, and Johnson, in the mess-room.
These four persons were sipping their tenth grog, which was probably their last, too; for,
in accordance with the letter from Aberdeen, all the crew, from the captain to the stoker, were
tee-totalers, never touching beer, wine, nor spirits, except in case of sickness, and by the
advice of the doctor.
For an hour past they had been talking about their departure. If the captain’s instructions
were to be completely carried out, Shandon would the next day receive a letter containing his
last orders.
“If that letter,” said the mate, “doesn’t tell me the captain’s name, it must at least tell us
whither we are bound. If not, in what direction shall we sail?”
“Upon my word,” answered the impatient doctor, “if I were in your place, Shandon, I
should set sail even without getting a letter; one will come after us, you may be sure.”
“You have a great deal of faith. Doctor. But, if you please, to what part of the world would
you sail?”
“Towards the North Pole, of course; there can be no doubt about that.”
“No doubt indeed!” said Wall. “Why not towards the South Pole?”
“The South Pole! Never!” cried the doctor. “Would the captain ever have thought of
sending a brig across the whole Atlantic Ocean? Just think for a moment, my dear Wall.”
“The doctor has an answer for everything,” was his only reply.
“Granted it’s northward,” resumed Shandon. “But tell me, Doctor, is it to Spitzbergen,
Greenland, or Labrador that we have to sail, or to Hudson’s Bay? If all these routes come to
the same end at last, — the impassable ice, — there is still a great number of them, and I
should find it very hard to choose between them. Have any definite answer to that. Doctor?”
“No,” answered the doctor, annoyed that he had nothing to say; “but if you get no letter,
what shall you do?”
“I shall do nothing; I shall wait.”
“You won’t set sail!” cried Clawbonny, twirling his glass in his despair.
“No, certainly not.”
“That’s the best course,” said Johnson, mildly; while the doctor walked around the table,
being unable to sit quiet any longer. “Yes, that’s the best course; and still, too long a delay
might have very disastrous consequences. In the first place, the season is a good one, and if
it’s north we are going, we ought to take advantage of the mild weather to get through Davis
Straits; besides, the crew will get more and more impatient; the friends and companions of the
men are urging them to leave the Forward, and they might succeed in playing us a very bad
turn.”“And then, too,” said James Wall, “if any panic should arise among the men, every one
would desert us; and I don’t know, Commander, how you could get together another crew.”
“But what is to be done?” cried Shandon.
“What you said,” answered the doctor: “wait; but wait till to-morrow before you despair.
The captain’s promises have all been fulfilled so far with such regularity that we may have the
best hopes for the future; there’s no reason to think that we shall not be told of our destination
at the proper time. As for me, I don’t doubt in the least that to-morrow we shall be sailing in
the Irish Sea. So, my friends, I propose one last drink to a happy voyage; it begins in a
mysterious way, but, with such sailors as you, there are a thousand chances of its ending
And they all touched their glasses for the last time.
“Now, Commander,” resumed Johnson, “I have one piece of advice to give you, and that
is, to make everything ready for sailing. Let the crew think you are certain of what you are
about. To-morrow, whether a letter comes or not, set sail; don’t start your fires; the wind
promises to hold; nothing will be easier than to get off; take a pilot on board; at the ebb of the
tide leave the docks; then anchor beyond Birkenhead Point; the crew will have no more
communication with the land; and if this devilish letter does come at last, it can find us there
as well as anywhere.”
“Well said, Johnson!” exclaimed the doctor, reaching out his band to the old sailor.
“That’s what we shall do,” answered Shandon. Each one then withdrew to his cabin, and
took what sleep he could get till morning.
The next day the first distribution of letters took place in the city, but there was none for
Commander Richard Shandon.
Nevertheless he made his preparations for departure; the news spread immediately
throughout the city, and, as we have seen, a great concourse of spectators thronged the piers
of the New Prince’s Docks.
A great many people came on board the brig, — some to bid a friend good by, or to urge
him to leave the ship, or to gaze at this strange vessel; others to ascertain the object of the
voyage; and there were many murmurs at the unusual silence of the commander.
For that he had his reasons.
Ten o’clock struck. Eleven, The tide was to turn at half past twelve. Shandon, from the
upper deck, gazed with anxious eyes at the crowd, trying in vain to read on some one’s face
the secret of his fate. But in vain. The sailors of the Forward obeyed his orders in silence,
keeping their eyes fixed upon him, ever awaiting some information which he did not give.
Johnson was finishing the preparations for setting sail. The day was overcast, and the
sea, outside of the docks, rather high; a stiff southwest breeze was blowing, but they could
easily leave the Mersey.
At twelve o’clock still nothing. Dr. Clawbonny walked up and down uneasily, looking
about, gesticulating, and “impatient for the sea,” as he said. In spite of all he could do, he felt
excited. Shandon bit his lips till the blood came.
At this moment Johnson came up to him and said, —
“Commander, if we are going to take this tide, we must lose no time; it will be a good
hour before we can get off from the docks.”
Shandon cast one last glance about him, and looked at his watch. It was after the time of
the midday distribution of letters.
“Cast off!” he said to his boatswain.
“All ashore who are going!” cried the latter, ordering the spectators to leave the deck of
the Forward.
Thereupon the crowd, began to move toward the gangway and make its way on to the
quay, while the crew began to cast off the last moorings.
At once the inevitable confusion of the crowd, which was pushed about without muchceremony by the sailors, was increased by the barking of the dog. He suddenly sprang from
the forecastle right through the mass of visitors, barking sullenly.
All made way for him. He sprang on the poop-deck, and, incredible as it may seem, yet,
as a thousand witnesses can testify, this dog-captain carried a letter in his mouth.
“A letter!” cried Shandon; “but is he on board?”
“He was, without doubt, but he’s not now,” answered Johnson, showing the deck cleared
of the crowd.
“Here, Captain! Captain!” shouted the doctor, trying to take the letter from the dog, who
kept springing away from him. He seemed to want to give the letter to Shandon himself.
“Here, Captain!” he said.
The dog went up to him; Shandon took the letter without difficulty, and then Captain
barked sharply three times, amid the profound silence which prevailed on board the ship and
along the quay.
Shandon held the letter in his hand, without opening it.
“Read it, read it!” cried the doctor. Shandon looked at it. The address, without date or
place; ran simply, — “Commander Richard Shandon, on board the brig Forward.”
Shandon opened the letter and read: —

You will sail towards Cape Farewell. You will reach it April 20. If the captain
does not appear on board, you will pass through Davis Strait and go up Baffin’s Bay
as far as Melville Sound.
Captain of the Forward.

Shandon folded carefully this brief letter, put it in his pocket, and gave the order to cast
off. His voice, which arose alone above the roaring of the wind, sounded very solemn.
Soon the Forward had left the docks, and under the care of a pilot, whose boat followed
at a distance, put out into the stream. The crowd hastened to the outer quay by the Victoria
Docks to get a last look at the strange vessel. The two topsails, the foresail, and staysail were
soon set, and under this canvas the Forward, which well deserved its name, after rounding
Birkenhead Point, sailed away into the Irish Sea.
Chapter 5 — At Sea

The wind, which was uncertain, although in general favorable, was blowing in genuine
April squalls. The Forward sailed rapidly, and its screw, as yet unused, did not delay its
progress. Towards three o’clock they met the steamer which plies between Liverpool and the
Isle of Man, and which carries the three legs of Sicily on its paddle-boxes. Her captain hailed
them, and this was the last good-by to the crew of the Forward.
At five o’clock the pilot resigned the charge of the ship to Richard Shandon, and sailed
away in his boat, which soon disappeared from sight in the southwest.
Towards evening the brig doubled the Calf of Man, at the southern extremity of the island
of that name. During the night the sea was very high; the Forward rode the waves very well,
however, and leaving the Point of Ayr on the northwest, she ran towards the North Channel.
Johnson was right; once at sea the sailors readily adapted themselves instinctively to the
situation. They saw the excellence of their vessel and forgot the strangeness of their situation.
The ship’s routine was soon regularly established.
The doctor inhaled with pleasure the sea-air; he paced up and down the deck in spite of
the fresh wind, and showed that for a student he had very good sea-legs.
“The sea is a fine thing,” he said to Johnson, as he went upon the bridge after breakfast;
“I am a little late in making its acquaintance, but I shall make up for my delay.”
“You are right, Dr. Clawbonny; I would give all the land in the world for a bit of ocean.
People say that sailors soon get tired of their business; but I’ve been sailing for forty years,
and I like it as well as I did the first day.”
“What a pleasure it is to feel a stanch ship under one’s feet! and, if I’m not mistaken, the
Forward is a capital sea-boat.”
“You are right, Doctor,” answered Shandon, who had joined the two speakers; “she’s a
good ship, and I must say that there was never a ship so well equipped for a voyage in the
polar regions. That reminds me that, thirty years ago, Captain James Ross, going to seek the
Northwest Passage —”
“Commanded the Victory,” said the doctor, quickly, “a brig of about the tonnage of this
one, and also carrying machinery.”
“What! did you know that?”
“Say for yourself,” retorted the doctor. “Steamers were then new inventions, and the
machinery of the Victory was continually delaying him. Captain Ross, after in vain trying to
patch up every piece, at last took it all out and left it at the first place he wintered at.”
“The deuce!” said Shandon. “You know all about it, I see.”
“More or less,” answered the doctor. “In my reading I have come across the works of
Parry, Ross, Franklin; the reports of MacClure, Kennedy, Kane, MacClintock; and some of it
has stuck in my memory. I might add that MacClintock, on board of the Fox, a propeller like
ours, succeeded in making his way more easily and more directly than all his successors.”
“That’s perfectly true,” answered Shandon; “that MacClintock is a good sailor; I have
seen him at sea. You might also say that we shall be, like him, in Davis Strait in the month of
April; and if we can get through the ice our voyage will be very much advanced.”
“Unless,” said the doctor, “we should be as unlucky as the Fox in 1857, and should be
caught the first year by the ice in the north of Baffin’s Bay, and we should have to winter
among the icebergs.”
“We must hope to be luckier, Mr. Shandon,” said Johnson; “and if, with a ship like the
Forward, we can’t go where we please, the attempt must be given up forever.”
“Besides,” continued the doctor, “if the captain is on board he will know better than wewhat is to be done, and so much the better because we are perfectly ignorant; for his
singularly brief letter gives us no clew to the probable aim of the voyage.”
“It’s a great deal,” answered Shandon, with some warmth, “to know what route we have
to take; and now for a good month, I fancy, we shall be able to get along without his
supernatural intervention and orders. Besides, you know what I think about him.”
“Ha, ha!” laughed the doctor; “I used to think as you did, that he was going to leave the
command of the ship in your hands, and that he would never come on board; but —”
“But what?” asked Shandon, with some ill-humor.
“But since the arrival of the second letter, I have altered my views somewhat.”
“And why so, doctor?”
“Because, although this letter does tell you in which direction to go, it still does not inform
you of the final aim of the voyage; and we have yet to know whither we are to go. I ask you
now can a third letter reach us now that we are on the open sea. The postal service on the
shore of Greenland is very defective. You see, Shandon, I fancy that he is waiting for us at
some Danish settlement up there, — at Holsteinborg or Upernavik. We shall find that he has
been completing the supply of seal-skins, buying sledges and dogs, — in a word, providing all
the equipment for a journey in the arctic seas. So I shall not be in the least surprised to see
him coming out of his cabin some fine morning and taking command in the least supernatural
way in the world.”
“Possibly,” answered Shandon, dryly; “but meanwhile the wind’s freshening, and there’s
no use risking our topsails in such weather.”
Shandon left the doctor, and ordered the topsails furled.
“He still clings to that idea,” said the doctor to the boatswain.
“Yes,” was the answer, “and it’s a pity; for you may very well be right, Dr. Clawbonny.”
Towards the evening of Saturday the Forward rounded the Mull of Galloway, on which
the light could be seen in the north-east. During the night they left the Mull of Cantire to the
north, and on the east Fair Head, on the Irish coast. Towards three o’clock in the morning, the
brig, passing Rathlin Island on its starboard quarter, came out from the North Channel into the
That was Sunday, April 8. The English, and especially sailors, are very observant of that
day; hence the reading of the Bible, of which the doctor gladly took charge, occupied a good
part of the morning.
The wind rose to a gale, and threatened to drive the ship back upon the Irish coast. The
waves ran very high; the vessel rolled a great deal. If the doctor was not sea-sick, it was
because he was determined not to be, for nothing would have been easier. At midday Malin
Head disappeared from their view in the south; it was the last sight these bold sailors were to
have of Europe, and more than one gazed at it for a long time who was doubtless fated never
to set eyes on it again.
By observation the latitude then was 55°57’, and the longitude, according to the
chronometer, 7°40’.
The gale abated towards nine o’clock of the evening; the Forward, a good sailer, kept on
its route to the northwest. That day gave them all a good opportunity to judge of her sea-going
qualities; as good judges had already said at Liverpool, she was well adapted for carrying sail.
During the following days, the Forward made very good progress; the wind veered to the
south, and the sea ran high. The brig set every sail. A few petrels and puffins flew about the
poop-deck; the doctor succeeded in shooting one of the latter, which fortunately fell on board.
Simpson, the harpooner, seized it and carried it to the doctor. “It’s an ugly bird, Dr.
Clawbonny,” he said. “But then it will make a good meal, my friend.”
“What, are you going to eat it?”
“And you shall have a taste of it,” said the doctor, laughing.
“Never!” answered Simpson; “it’s strong and oily, like all seabirds.”“True,” said the doctor; “but I have a way of dressing such game, and if you recognize it
to be a seabird, I’ll promise never to kill another in all my life.”
“So you are a cook, too, Dr. Clawbonny?” asked Johnson.
“A learned man ought to know a little of everything.”
“Then take care, Simpson,” said the boatswain; “the doctor is a clever man, and he’ll
make us take this puffin for a delicious grouse.”
In fact, the doctor was in the right about this bird; he removed skilfully the fat which lies
beneath the whole surface of the skin, principally on its thighs, and with it disappeared all the
rancid, fishy odor with which this bird can be justly charged. Thus prepared, the bird was
called delicious, even by Simpson.
During the recent storm, Richard Shandon had made up his mind about the qualities of
his crew; he had tested his men one by one, as every officer should do who wishes to be
prepared for future dangers; he knew on whom he could rely.
James Wall, who was warmly attached to Richard, was intelligent and efficient, but he
had very little originality; as second officer he was exactly in his place.
Johnson, who was accustomed to the dangers of the sea, and an old sailor in arctic
regions, lacked neither coolness nor courage.
Simpson, the harpooner, and Bell, the carpenter, were steady men, obedient and well
disciplined. The ice-master, Foker, an experienced sailor, who had sailed in northern waters,
promised to be of the greatest service.
Of the other men, Garry and Bolton seemed to be the best; Bolton was a jolly fellow,
always laughing and joking; Garry, a man about thirty-five years old, had an energetic, but
rather pale and sad face.
The three sailors, Clifton, Gripper, and Pen, seemed to be the least enthusiastic and
determined; they were inclined to grumbling. Gripper had even wished to break his
engagement when the time came for sailing, and only a feeling of shame prevented him. If
things went well, if they encountered no excessive dangers, and their toil was not too severe,
these three men could be counted on; but they were hard to please with their food, for they
were inclined to gluttony. In spite of their having been forewarned, they were by no means
pleased with being teetotalers, and at their meals they used to miss their brandy or gin; but
they made up for it with the tea and coffee which were distributed with a lavish hand.
As for the two engineers, Brunton and Plover, and the stoker, Warren, they had been so
far well satisfied with having nothing to do.
Shandon knew therefore what to expect from each man. On the 14th of April, the
Forward crossed the Gulf Stream, which, after following the eastern coast of America as far
as Newfoundland, turns to the northeast and moves towards the shore of Norway. They were
then in latitude 51°37’, and longitude 22°37’, two hundred miles from the end of Greenland.
The weather grew colder; the thermometer fell to 32°, the freezing-point.
The doctor, without yet putting on his arctic winter dress, was wearing a suit of
seaclothes, like all the officers and sailors; he was an amusing sight in his high boots, in which he
could not bend his legs, his huge tarpaulin hat, his trousers and coat of the same material; in
heavy rain, or when the brig was shipping seas, the doctor used to look like a sort of
seamonster, a comparison which always flattered him.
For two days the sea was very rough; the wind veered to the northwest, and delayed the
Forward. From the 14th to the 16th of April there was still a high sea running; but on Monday
there fell a heavy shower which almost immediately had the effect of calming the sea.
Shandon called the doctor’s attention to it.
“Well,” said the doctor, “that confirms the curious observations of the whaler Scoresby,
who was a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, of which I have the honor to be a
corresponding member. You see that while the rain is falling the waves are hardly to be
noticed, even when the wind is strong. On the other hand, in dry weather the sea would berougher even with a gentler wind”
“But what is the explanation of it, Doctor?”
“It’s very simple; there is no explanation.”
At that moment the ice-master, who as on watch in the topmast cross-trees, cried out
that there was a floating mass on the starboard quarter, about fifteen miles to windward.
“An iceberg in these latitudes!” cried the doctor.
Shandon turned his glass in that direction, and corroborated the lookout’s words.
“That’s strange,” said the doctor.
“Are you surprised?” asked the commander, laughing. “What! are we lucky enough to
find anything that will surprise you?”
“I am surprised without being surprised,” answered the doctor, smiling, “since the brig
Ann Poole, of Greenspond, was caught in the ice in the year 1813, in the forty-fourth degree
of north latitude, and Dayement, her captain, saw hundreds of icebergs.”
“Good,” said Shandon; “you can still teach us a great deal about them.”
“O, not so very much!” answered Clawbonny, modestly, “except that ice has been seen
in very much lower latitudes.”
“That I know, my dear Doctor, for when I was a cabin-boy on the sloop-of-war, Fly —”
“In 1818,” continued the doctor, “at the end of March, or it might have been the
beginning of April, you passed between two large fields of floating ice, in latitude forty-two.”
“That is too much!” exclaimed Shandon.
“But it’s true; so I have no need to be surprised, now that we are two degrees farther
north, at our sighting an iceberg.”
“You are bottled full of information, Doctor,” answered the commander; “one needs only
draw the cork.”
“Very well, I shall be exhausted sooner than you think; and now, Shandon, if we can get
a nearer view of this phenomenon, I should be the gladdest of doctors.”
“Exactly, Johnson,” said Shandon, summoning the boatswain; “I think the wind is
“Yes, Commander,” answered Johnson, “we are making very little headway, and soon
we shall feel the currents from Davis Strait.”
“You are right, Johnson, and if we mean to make Cape Farewell by the 20th of April, we
must go under steam, or we shall be cast on the coast of Labrador. — Mr. Wall, give the
order to light the fires.”
The mate’s orders were obeyed; an hour later the engines were in motion; the sails were
furled; and the screw, turning through the waves, was driving the Forward rapidly in the teeth
of the northwest wind.
Chapter 6 — The Great Polar Current

Soon more numerous flocks of birds, petrels, puffins, and others which inhabit those
barren shores, gave token of their approach to Greenland. The Forward was moving rapidly
northward, leaving behind her a long line of dark smoke.
Tuesday, the 17th of April, the ice-master caught the first sight of the blink of the ice. It
was visible at least twenty miles off to the north-northwest. In spite of some tolerably thick
clouds it lighted up brilliantly all the air near the horizon. No one of those on board who had
ever seen this phenomenon before could fail to recognize it, and they felt assured from its
whiteness that this blink was due to a vast field of ice lying about thirty miles farther than they
could see, and that it came from the reflection of its luminous rays.
Towards evening the wind shifted to the south, and became favorable; Shandon was
able to carry sail, and as a measure of economy they extinguished the furnace fires. The
Forward under her topsails, jib, and foresail, sailed on towards Cape Farewell.
At three o’clock on the 18th they made out an ice-stream, which, like a narrow but
brilliant band, divided the lines of the water and sky. It was evidently descending rather from
the coast of Greenland than from Davis Strait, for the ice tended to keep on the western side
of Baffin’s Bay. An hour later, and the Forward was passing through the detached fragments
of the ice-stream, and in the thickest part the pieces of ice, although closely welded together,
were rising and falling with the waves.
At daybreak the next morning the watch saw a sail; it was the Valkyria, a Danish
corvette, sailing towards the Forward, bound to Newfoundland. The current from the strait
became perceptible, and Shandon had to set more sail to overcome it.
At that moment the commander, the doctor, James Wall, and Johnson were all together
on the poop-deck, observing the force and direction of the current. The doctor asked if it were
proved that this current was felt throughout Baffin’s Bay.
“There’s no doubt of it,” answered Shandon; “and sailing-vessels have hard work in
making headway against it.”
“And it’s so much the harder,” added James Wall, “because it’s met on the eastern coast
of America, as well as on the western coast of Greenland.”
“Well,” said the doctor, “that serves to confirm those who seek a Northwest Passage.
The current moves at the rate of about five miles an hour, and it is hard to imagine that it rises
at the bottom of a gulf.”
“That is very likely. Doctor,” answered Shandon, “because, while this current flows from
north to south, there is a contrary current in Behring Strait, which flows from south to north,
and which must be the cause of this one.”
“Hence,” said the doctor, “you must admit that America is completely separated from the
polar regions, and that the water from the Pacific skirts its whole northern coast, until it
reaches the Atlantic. Besides, the greater elevation of the water of the Pacific is another
reason for its flowing towards the European seas.”
“But,” said Shandon, “there must be some facts which support this theory; and if there
are,” he added with gentle irony, “our learned friend must be familiar with them.”
“Well,” answered the latter, complacently, “if it interests you at all I can tell you that
whales, wounded in Davis Strait, have been found afterwards on the coast of Tartary, still
carrying a European harpoon in their side.”
“And unless they doubled Cape Horn, or the Cape of Good Hope,” answered Shandon,
“they must have gone around the northern coast of America. There can be no doubt of that,
Doctor.”“And if you were not convinced, my dear Shandon,” said the doctor, smiling, “I could
produce still other evidence, such as the floating wood with which Davis Strait is filled, larch,
aspen, and other southern kinds. Now we know that the Gulf Stream could not carry them into
the strait; and if they come out from it they must have got in through Behring Strait.”
“I am perfectly convinced, Doctor, and I must say it would be hard to maintain the other
side against you.”
“See there,” said Johnson, “there’s something that will throw light on this discussion. It’s
a large piece of wood floating on the water; if the commander will give us leave, we can put a
rope about it, hoist it on board, and ask it the name of its country.”
“That’s the way!” said the doctor; “after the rule we have the example.”
Shandon gave the necessary orders; the brig was turned towards the piece of wood, and
soon the crew were hoisting it aboard, although not without considerable trouble.
It was the trunk of a mahogany-tree, eaten to its centre by worms, which fact alone
made it light enough to float.
“This is a real triumph,” exclaimed the doctor, enthusiastically, “for, since the Atlantic
currents could not have brought it into Davis Strait, since it could not have reached the polar
waters from the rivers of North America, as the tree grows under the equator, it is evident that
it must have come direct from Behring Strait. And besides, see those sea-worms which have
eaten it; they belong to warm latitudes.”
“It certainly gives the lie to those who deny the existence of a Northwest Passage.”
“It fairly kills them,” answered the doctor. “See here, I’ll give you the route of this
mahogany-tree: it was carried to the Pacific Ocean by some river of the Isthmus of Panama
or of Guatemala; thence the current carried it along the coast of America as far as Behring
Strait, and so it was forced into the polar waters; it is neither so old nor so completely
waterlogged that we cannot set its departure at some recent date; it escaped all the obstacles of
the many straits coming into Baffin’s Bay, and being quickly seized by the arctic current it
came through Davis Strait to be hoisted on board the Forward for the great joy of Dr.
Clawbonny, who asks the commander’s permission to keep a piece as a memorial.”
“Of course,” answered Shandon; “but let me tell you in my turn that you will not be the
only possessor of such a waif. The Danish governor of the island of Disco —”
“On the coast of Greenland,” continued the doctor, “has a mahogany table, made from a
tree found in the same way; I know it, my dear Shandon. Very well; I don’t grudge him his
table, for if there were room enough on board, I could easily make a sleeping-room out of
On the night of Wednesday the wind blew with extreme violence; drift-wood was
frequently seen; the approach to the coast became more dangerous at a time when icebergs
are numerous; hence the commander ordered sail to be shortened, and the Forward went on
under merely her foresail and forestay-sail.
The thermometer fell below the freezing-point. Shandon distributed among the crew
suitable clothing, woollen trousers and jackets, flannel shirts, and thick woollen stockings, such
as are worn by Norwegian peasants. Every man received in addition a pair of water-proof
As for Captain, he seemed contented with his fur; he appeared indifferent to the changes
of temperature, as if he were thoroughly accustomed to such a life; and besides, a Danish
dog was unlikely to be very tender. The men seldom laid eyes on him, for he generally kept
himself concealed in the darkest parts of the vessel.
Towards evening, through a rift in the fog, the coast of Greenland longitude 37°2’7”.
Through his glass the doctor was able to distinguish mountains separated by huge glaciers;
but the fog soon cut out this view, like the curtain of a theatre falling at the most interesting
part of a play.
On the morning of the 20th of April, the Forward found itself in sight of an iceberg onehundred and fifty feet high, aground in this place from time immemorial; the thaws have had
no effect upon it, and leave its strange shape unaltered. Snow saw it; in 1829 James Ross
took an exact drawing of it; and in 1851 the French lieutenant, Bellot, on board of the Prince
Albert, observed it. Naturally the doctor wanted to preserve a memorial of the famous
mountain, and he made a very successful sketch of it.
It is not strange that such masses should run aground, and in consequence become
immovably fixed to the spot; as for every foot above the surface of the water they have nearly
two beneath, which would give to this one a total height of about four hundred feet.
At last with a temperature at noon as low as 12°, under a snowy, misty sky, they sighted
Cape Farewell. The Forward arrived at the appointed day; the unknown captain, if he cared to
assume his place in such gloomy weather, would have no need to complain.
“Then,” said the doctor to himself, “there is this famous cape, with its appropriate name!
Many have passed it, as we do, who were destined never to see it again! Is it an eternal
farewell to one’s friends in Europe You have all passed it, Frobisher, Knight, Barlow, Vaughan,
Scroggs, Barentz, Hudson, Blosseville, Franklin, Crozier, Bellot, destined never to return
home; and for you this cape was well named Cape Farewell!”
It was towards the year 970 that voyagers, setting out from Iceland, discovered
Greenland. Sebastian Cabot, in 1498, went as high as latitude 56°; Gaspard and Michel
Cotréal, from 1500 to 1502, reached latitude 60°; and in 1576 Martin Frobisher reached the
inlet which bears his name.
To John Davis belongs the honor of having discovered the strait, in 1585; and two years
later in a third voyage this hardy sailor, this great whaler, reached the sixty-third parallel,
twenty-seven degrees from the Pole.
Barentz in 1596, Weymouth in 1602, James Hall in, 1605 and 1607, Hudson, whose
name was given to the large bay which runs so far back into the continent of America, James
Poole in 1611, went more or less far into the straits, seeking the North-west Passage, the
discovery of which would have greatly shortened the route between the two worlds.
Baffin, in 1616, found in the bay of that name Lancaster Sound; he was followed in 1619
by James Monk, and in 1719 by Knight, Barlow, Vaughan, and Scroggs, who were never
heard of again.
In 1776, Lieutenant Pickersgill, sent to meet Captain Cook, who tried to make his way
through Behring Strait, reached latitude 68°; the next year. Young, on the same errand, went
as far as Woman’s Island.
Then came James Boss, who in 1818 sailed all around the shores of Baffin’s Bay, and
corrected the errors on the charts of his predecessors.
Finally, in 1819 and 1820, the famous Parry made his way into Lancaster Sound. In spite
of numberless difficulties he reached Melville Island, and won the prize of five thousand
pounds offered by act of Parliament to the English sailors who should cross the meridian at a
latitude higher than the seventy-seventh parallel.
In 1826, Beechey touched at Chamisso Island; James Ross wintered, from 1829 to
1833, in Prince Regent’s Inlet, and, among other important services, discovered the magnetic
During this time Franklin, by a land-journey, defined the northern coast of America, from
Mackenzie River to Turnagain Point; Captain Back followed the same route from 1823 to
1835; and these explorations were completed in 1839 by Dease, Simpson, and Dr. Rae.
At last, Sir John Franklin, anxious to discover the Northwest Passage, left England in
1845, with the Erebus and the Terror; he entered Baffin’s Bay, and since his leaving Disco
Island there has been no news of his expedition.
His disappearance started numerous search-expeditions, which have effected the
discovery of the passage, and given the world definite information about the rugged coasts of
the polar lands. The boldest sailors of England, France, and the United States hastened tothese terrible latitudes; and, thanks to their exertions, the tortuous, complicated map of these
regions has at last been placed in the archives of the Royal Geographical Society of London.
The strange history of these lands crowded on the imagination of the doctor, as he stood
leaning on the rail, and gazing on the long track of the brig. The names of those bold sailors
thronged into his memory, and it seemed to him that beneath the frozen arches of the ice he
could see the pale ghosts of those who never returned.
Chapter 7 — The Entrance of Davis Strait

During that day the Forward made easy progress through the loose ice; the breeze was
in a good quarter, but the temperature was very low; the wind coming across the ice-fields
was thoroughly chilled.
At night the strictest care was necessary; the icebergs crowded together in this narrow
passage; often they could be counted by the hundred on the horizon; they had been loosened
from the lofty coasts by the incessant beating of the waves and the warmth of the spring
month, and they were floating down to melt away in the depths of the ocean. Often, too, they
came across large masses of floating wood, which they were obliged to avoid, so that the
crow’s-nest was placed in position on the top of the foremast; it consisted of a sort of tub, in
which the ice-master, partly sheltered from the wind, scanned the sea, giving notice of the ice
in sight, and even, if necessary, directing the ship’s course.
The nights were short; since the 31st of January the sun had reappeared in refraction,
and was every day rising higher and higher above the horizon. But it was hid by the snow,
which, if it did not produce utter darkness, rendered navigation difficult.
April 21st, Cape Desolation appeared through the mist; hard work was wearying the
crew; since the brig had entered the ice, the sailors had had no rest; it was now necessary to
have recourse to steam to force a way through the accumulated masses. The doctor and
Johnson were talking together on the afterdeck, while Shandon was snatching a few hours of
sleep in his cabin. Clawbonny was very fond of talking with the old sailor, whose numerous
voyages had given him a valuable education. The two had made great friends of one another.
“You see, Dr. Clawbonny,” said Johnson, “this country is not like any other; its name is
Greenland, but there are very few weeks of the year in which it deserves this name.”
“But, Johnson,” answered the doctor, “who can say whether in the tenth century this
name did not suit it? More than one change of this sort has taken place on the globe, and I
should astonish you much more by saying that, according to Icelandic chroniclers, two
hundred villages flourished on this continent eight or nine hundred years ago.”
“You astonish me so much, Dr. Clawbonny, that I can’t believe you; for it’s a sterile
“Well, sterile as it is, it supports a good many inhabitants, and among them are some
civilized Europeans.”
“Without doubt; at Disco and at Upernavik we shall find men who are willing to live in
such a climate; but I always supposed they stayed there from necessity, and not because
they liked it.”
“I think you are right; still, men get accustomed to everything, and these Greenlanders
appear to me better off than the workingmen of our large cities; they may be unfortunate, but
they are not miserable. I say unfortunate, but that is not exactly what I mean; in fact, if they
are not quite as comfortable as those who live in temperate regions, they, nevertheless, are
accustomed to the severity of the climate, and find in it an enjoyment which we should never
“We have to think so, Dr. Clawbonny, because Heaven is just; but I have often visited
these coasts, and I am always saddened at the sight of its gloomy loneliness; the capes,
promontories, and bays ought to have more attractive names, for Cape Farewell and Cape
Desolation are not of a sort to cheer sailors.”
“I have often made the same remark,” answered the doctor; “but these names have a
geographical value which is not to be forgotten; they describe the adventures of those who
gave them; along with the names of Davis, Baffin, Hudson, Ross, Parry, Franklin, Bellot, if Ifind Cape Desolation, I also find soon Mercy Bay; Cape Providence makes up for Port
Anxiety, Repulse Bay brings me to Cape Eden, and after leaving Point Turnagain I rest in
Refuge Bay; in that way I have under my eyes the whole succession of dangers, checks,
obstacles, successes, despairs, and victories connected with the great names of my country;
and, like a series of antique medals, this nomenclature gives me the whole history of these
“Well reasoned, Doctor; and may we find more bays of Success in our journey than
capes of Despair!”
“I hope so, Johnson; but, tell me, have the crew got over their fears?”
“Somewhat, sir; and yet, to tell the truth, since we entered these straits, they have begun
to be very uneasy about the unknown captain; more than one expected to see him appear at
the end of Greenland; and so far no news of him. Between ourselves, Doctor, don’t you think
that is a little strange!”
“Yes, Johnson, I do.”
“Do you believe the captain exists?”
“Without any doubt.”
“But what reason can he have had for acting in this way?”
“To speak frankly, Johnson, I imagine that he wants to get the crew so far away that it
will be impossible for them to turn back. Now, if he had appeared on board when we set sail,
and every one had known where we were going, he might have been embarrassed.”
“How so?”
“Why, if he wants to try any superhuman enterprise, if he wants to go where so many
have failed, do you think he would have succeeded in shipping a crew? But, once on the way,
it is easy to go so far that to go farther becomes an absolute necessity.”
“Possibly, Doctor; I have known more than one bold explorer, whose name alone would
have frightened every one, and who would have found no one to accompany him on his
perilous expeditions —”
“Except me,” said the doctor.
“And me,” continued Johnson. “I tell you our captain is probably one of those men. At
any rate, we shall know sooner or later; I suppose that at Upernavik or Melville Bay he will
come quietly on board, and let us know whither he intends to take the ship.”
“Very likely, Johnson; but the difficulty will be to get to Melville Bay; see how thick the ice
is about us! The Forward can hardly make her way through it. See there, that huge expanse!”
“We whalers call that an ice-field, that is to say, an unbroken surface of ice, the limits of
which cannot be seen.”
“And what do you call this broken field of long pieces more or less closely connected?”
“That is a pack; if it’s round we call it a patch, and a stream if it is long.”
“And that floating ice?”
“That is drift-ice; if a little higher it would be icebergs; they are very dangerous to ships,
and they have to be carefully avoided. See, down there on the ice-field, that protuberance
caused by the pressure of the ice; we call that a hummock; if the base were under water, we
should call it a cake; we have to give names to them all to distinguish them.”
“Ah, it is a strange sight,” exclaimed the doctor, as he gazed at the wonders of the
northern seas; “one’s imagination is touched by all these different shapes!”
“True,” answered Johnson, “the ice takes sometimes such curious shapes; and we men
never fail to explain them in our own way.”
“See there, Johnson; see that singular collection of blocks of ice! Would one not say it
was a foreign city, an Eastern city with minarets and mosques in the moonlight? Farther off is
a long row of Gothic arches, which remind us of the chapel of Henry VII., or the Houses of
“Everything can be found there; but those cities or churches are very dangerous, and wemust not go too near them. Some of those minarets are tottering, and the smallest of them
would crush a ship like the Forward.”
“And yet men have dared to come into these seas under sail alone! How could a ship be
trusted in such perils without the aid of steam?”
“Still it has been done; when the wind is unfavorable, and I have known that happen
more than once, it is usual to anchor to one of these blocks of ice; we should float more or
less around with them, but we would wait for a fair wind; it is true that, travelling in that way,
months would be sometimes wasted where we shall need only a few days.”
“It seems to me,” said the doctor, “that the temperature is falling.”
“That would be a pity,” answered Johnson, “for there will have to be a thaw before these
masses separate, and float away into the Atlantic; besides, they are more numerous in Davis
Strait, because the two stretches of land approach one another between Cape Walsingham
and Holsteinborg; but above latitude 67° we shall find in May and June more navigable seas.”
“Yes; but we must get through this first.”
“We must get through, Doctor; in June and July we should have found the passage free,
as do the whalers; but our orders were strict; we had to be here in April. If I’m not very much
mistaken, our captain is a sound fellow with an idea firm in his head; his only reason for
leaving so early was to go far. Whoever survives will see.”
The doctor was right about the falling of the temperature; at noon the thermometer stood
at 6°, and a breeze was blowing from the northwest, which, while it cleared the sky, aided the
current in accumulating the floating ice in the path of the Forward. It did not all follow the
same course; often some pieces, and very high ones, too, floated in the opposite direction
under the influence of a submarine current.
The difficulties of this navigation may be readily understood; the engineers had no
repose; the engines were controlled from the bridge by means of levers, which started,
stopped, and reversed them instantly, at the orders of the officer in command. Sometimes it
was necessary to hasten forward to enter an opening in the ice, again to race with a mass of
ice which threatened to block up their only egress, or some piece, suddenly-upsetting, obliged
the brig to back quickly, in order to escape destruction. This mass of ice, carried and
accumulated by the great polar current, was hurried through the strait, and if the frost should
unite it, it would present an impassable barrier to the Forward.
In these latitudes numberless birds were to be found; petrels and contremaitres were
flying here and there, with deafening cries; there were also many gulls, with their large heads,
short necks, and small beaks, which were extending their long wings and braving the snow
which the storm was whirling about. This profusion of winged beings enlivened the scene.
Numerous pieces of wood were drifting along, clashing continually into one another; a
few whales with large heads approached the ship; but they could not think of chasing them,
although Simpson, the harpooner, earnestly desired it. Towards evening several seals were
seen, which, with their noses just above the water, were swimming among the great pieces of
On the 22d the temperature was still falling; the Forward carried a great deal of steam to
reach an easier sailing-place; the wind blew steadily from the northwest; the sails were furled.
During Sunday the sailors had little to do. After divine service, which was read by
Shandon, the crew betook themselves to chasing wild birds, of which they caught a great
many. These birds, prepared according to Dr. Clawbonny’s method, were an agreeable
addition to the messes of the officers and crew.
At three o’clock in the afternoon, the Forward sighted the Kin of Sael, which lay east one
quarter northeast, and the Mount Sukkertop, southeast one quarter east half-east; the sea
was very high; from time to time a dense fog descended suddenly from the gray sky.
Notwithstanding, at noon they were able to take an observation. The ship was found to be in
latitude 65°20’ and longitude 54°22’. They would have to go two degrees farther north beforethey would find clearer sailing.
During the three following days, the 24th, 25th, and 26th of April, they had
uninterruptedly to fight with the ice; the management of the engines became very tedious;
every minute steam was shut off or reversed, and escaped from the safety-valve.
In the dense mist their approach to the icebergs could be known only by the dull roar of
the avalanches; then the vessel would shift its course at once; then there was the danger of
running into the masses of frozen fresh water, which were as clear as crystal and as hard as
stone. Richard Shandon used to take aboard a quantity of this ice every day to supply the ship
with fresh water.
The doctor could not accustom himself to the optical illusions produced by refraction;
indeed, an iceberg ten or twelve miles distant used to seem to him to be a small piece of ice
close by; he tried to get used to this strange phenomenon, in order to be able by and by to
overcome the mistakes of his eyesight.
At last, both by towing the brig along the fields of ice and by pushing off threatening
blocks with poles, the crew was thoroughly exhausted; and yet, on the 27th of April, the
Forward was still detained on the impassable Polar Circle.
Chapter 8 — The Talk of the Crew

Nevertheless, by taking advantages of such openings as there were, the Forward
succeeded in getting a few minutes farther north; but, instead of escaping the enemy, it would
soon be necessary to attack it; ice-fields of many miles in extent were drawing together, and
as these moving masses often represent a pressure of ten millions of tons, they were obliged
to take every precaution against being crushed by them. Ice-saws were placed outside the
vessel, where they could be used without delay.
Some of the crew endured their hard toil without a murmur, but others complained or
even refused to obey orders. While they were putting the saws in place, Garry, Bolton, Pen,
and Gripper exchanged their diverse opinions as follows.
“Deuce take it,” said Bolton, cheerfully; “I don’t know why it just occurs to me that in
Water Street there’s a comfortable tavern, where one might be very well off between a glass
of gin and a bottle of porter. Can you see it from here, Gripper?”
“To tell the truth,” answered the sailor who had been addressed, and who generally
pretended to be very sullen, “I must say I can’t see it from here.”
“That’s merely your way of talking, Gripper; it is evident that, in those snow towns which
Dr. Clawbonny is always admiring, there’s no tavern where a poor sailor can moisten his
throat with a drink or two of brandy.”
“You may be sure of that, Bolton; and you might add that on board of this ship there’s no
way of getting properly refreshed. A strange idea, sending people into the northern seas, and
giving them nothing to drink!”
“Well,” answered Garry, “have you forgotten, Gripper, what the doctor said? One must
go without spirits if he expects to escape the scurvy, remain in good health, and sail far.”
“I don’t care to sail far, Garry; and I think it’s enough to have come as far as this, and to
try to get through here where the Devil does n’t mean to let us through.”
“Well, we sha’ n’t get through,” retorted Pen. “0, when I think I have already forgotten
how gin tastes!”
“But,” said Bolton, “remember what the doctor said.”
“0,” answered Pen, with his rough voice, “that’s all very well to say! I fancy that they are
economizing it under the pretext of saving our health.”
“Perhaps that devil Pen is right,” said Gripper.
“Come, come!” replied Bolton, “his nose is too red for that; and if a little abstinence
should make it a trifle paler. Pen won’t need to be pitied.”
“Don’t trouble yourself about my nose,” was the answer, for Pen was rather vexed. “My
nose does n’t need your advice; it does n’t ask for it; you’d better mind your own business.”
“Come, don’t be angry, Pen; I did n’t think your nose was so tender. I should be as glad
as any one else to have a glass of whiskey, especially on such a cold day; but if in the long
run it does more harm than good, why, I’m very willing to get along without it.”
“You may get along without it,” said Warren, the stoker, who had joined them, “but it’s
not everybody on board who gets along without it.”
“What do you mean, Warren?” asked Garry, looking at him intently.
“I mean that for one purpose or another there is liquor aboard, and I fancy that aft they
don’t get on without it.”
“What do you know about it?” asked Garry.
Warren could not answer; he spoke for the sake of speaking.
“You see, Garry,” continued Bolton, “that Warren knows nothing about it.”
“Well,” said Pen, “we’ll ask the commander for a ration of gin; we deserve it, and we’llsee what he’ll say.”
“I advise you not to,” said Garry.
“Why not?” cried Pen and Gripper.
“Because the commander will refuse it. You knew what the conditions were when you
shipped; you ought to think of that now.”
“Besides,” said Bolton, who was not averse to taking Garry’s side, for he liked him,
“Richard Shandon is not master; he’s under orders like the rest of us.”
“Whose orders?” asked Pen.
“The captain’s.”
“Ah, that ridiculous captain’s!” cried Pen. “Don’t you know there’s no more captain than
there is tavern on the ice? That’s a mean way of refusing politely what we ask for.”
“But there is a captain,” persisted Bolton; “and I’ll wager two months’ pay that we shall
see him before long.”
“All right!” said Pen; “I should like to give him a piece of my mind.”
“Who’s talking about the captain?” said a new speaker.
It was Clifton, who was inclined to be superstitious and envious at the same time.
“Is there any news about the captain?” he asked.
“No,” a single voice answered.
“Well, I expect to find him settled in his cabin some fine morning, and without any one’s
knowing how or whence he came aboard.”
“Nonsense!” answered Bolton; “you imagine, Clifton, that he’s an imp, a hobgoblin such
as are seen in the Scotch Highlands.”
“Laugh if you want to, Bolton; that won’t alter my opinion. Every day as I pass the cabin I
peep in through the keyhole, and one of these days I’ll tell you what he looks like, and how
he’s made.”
“0, the devil!” said Pen; “he’ll look like everybody else. And if he wants to lead us where
we don’t want to go, we’ll let him know what we think about it.”
“All right,” said Bolton; “Pen does n’t know him, and wants to quarrel with him already.”
“Who does n’t know all about him’?” asked Clifton, with the air of a man who has the
whole story at his tongue’s end; “I should like to know who does n’t.”
“What do you mean?” asked Gripper.
“I know very well what I mean.”
“But we don’t.”
“Well, Pen has already had trouble with him.”
“With the captain?”
“Yes, the dog-captain; for it’s the same thing precisely.”
The sailors gazed at one another, incapable of replying.
“Dog or man,” muttered Pen, between his teeth, “I’ll bet he’ll get his account settled one
of these days.”
“Why, Clifton,” asked Bolton, seriously, “do you imagine, as Johnson said in joke, that
that dog is the real captain?”
“Certainly, I do,” answered Clifton, with some warmth; “and if you had watched him as
carefully as I have, you’d have noticed his strange ways.”
“What ways? Tell us.”
“Have n’t you noticed the way he walks up and down the poop-deck as if he commanded
the ship, keeping his eye on the sails as if he were on watch?”
“That’s so,” said Gripper; “and one evening I found him with his paws on the wheel.”
“Impossible!” said Bolton.
“And then,” continued Clifton, “does n’t he run out at night on the ice-fields without caring
for the bears or the cold?”
“That’s true,” said Bolton.“Did you ever see him making up to the men like an honest dog, or hanging around the
kitchen, and following the cook when he’s carrying a savory dish to the officers? Have n’t you
all heard him at night, when he’s run two or three miles away from the vessel, howling so that
he makes your blood run cold, and that’s not easy in weather like this? Did you ever seen him
eat anything? He never takes a morsel from any one; he never touches the food that’s given
him, and, unless some one on board feeds him secretly, I can say he lives without eating.
Now, if that’s not strange, I’m no better than a beast myself.”
“Upon my word,” answered Bell, the carpenter, who had heard all of Clifton’s speech, “it
may be so.”
But all the other sailors were silent.
“Well, as for me,” continued Clifton, “I can say that if you don’t believe, there are wiser
people on board who don’t seem so sure.”
“Do you mean the mate?” asked Bolton.
“Yes, the mate and the doctor.”
“Do you think they fancy the same thing?”
“I have heard them talking about it, and they could make no more out of it than we can;
they imagined a thousand things which did not satisfy them in the least.”
“Did they say the same things about the dog that you did, Clifton?” asked the carpenter.
“If they were not talking about the dog,” answered Clifton, who was fairly cornered, “they
were talking about the captain; it’s exactly the same thing, and they confessed it was all very
“Well, my friends,” said Bell, “do you want to hear my opinion?”
“What is it!” they all cried.
“It is that there is not, and there will not be, any other captain than Richard Shandon.”
“And the letter?” said Clifton.
“The letter was genuine,” answered Bell; “it is perfectly true that some unknown person
has equipped the Forward for an expedition in the ice; but the ship once off, no one will come
on board.”
“Well,” asked Bolton, “where is the ship going to?”
“I don’t know; at the right time, Richard Shandon will get the rest of the instructions.”
“But from whom?”
“From whom?”
“Yes, in what way?” asked Bolton, who was becoming persistent.
“Come, Bell, an answer,” said the other sailors.
“From whom? in what way? 0, I’m sure I don’t know!”
“Well, from the dog!” cried Clifton. “He has already written once, and he can again. 0, if I
only knew half as much as he does, I might be First Lord of the Admiralty!”
“So,” added Bolton, in conclusion, “you persist in saying that dog is the captain?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Well,” said Pen, gruffly, “if that beast doesn’t want to die in a dog’s skin, he’d better
hurry and turn into a man; for, on my word, I’ll finish him.”
“Why so?” asked Garry.
“Because I want to,” answered Pen, brutally; “and I don’t care what any one says.”
“You have been talking long enough, men,” shouted the boatswain, advancing at the
moment when the conversation threatened to become dangerous; “to work, and have the
saws put in quicker! We must get through the ice.”
“Good! on Friday too,” answered Clifton, shrugging his shoulders. “You won’t find it so
easy to cross the Polar Circle.”
Whatever the reason may have been, the exertions of the crew on that day were nearly
fruitless. The Forward, plunging, under a full head of steam, against the floes, could not
separate them; they were obliged to lie at anchor that night.On Saturday, the temperature fell still lower under the influence of an east-wind; the sky
cleared up, and they all had a wide view over the white expense, which shone brilliantly
beneath the bright rays of the sun. At seven o’clock in the morning, the thermometer stood at
8° above zero.
The doctor was tempted to remain quietly in his cabin, or read over the accounts of arctic
journeys; but he asked himself, following his usual habit, what would be the most disagreeable
thing he could do at that moment. He thought that to go on deck on such a cold day and help
the men would not be attractive. So, faithful to his line of conduct, he left his well-warmed
cabin, and went out to help tow the ship. He looked strange with his green glasses, which he
wore to protect his eyes against the brilliancy of the sun, and after that he always took good
care to wear snow-spectacles as a security against the inflammation of the eyes, which is so
common in these latitudes.
By evening the Forward had got several miles farther north, thanks to the energy of the
men and the intelligence of Shandon, who was quick at utilizing every favorable circumstance;
at midnight they crossed the sixty-sixth parallel, and the lead announcing a depth of
twentythree fathoms, Shandon knew that he was in the neighborhood of the shoal on which her
Majesty’s ship Victory grounded. Land lay thirty miles to the east.
But then the mass of ice, which had hitherto been stationary, separated, and began to
move; icebergs seemed to rise in all points of the horizon; the brig was caught in a number of
whirlpools of irresistible force; controlling her became so hard, that Garry, the best steersman,
took the helm; the masses began to close behind the brig, hence it was necessary to cut
through the ice; both prudence and duty commanded them to go forward. The difficulties were
enhanced by the impossibility of Shandon’s fixing the direction of the brig among all the
changing points, which were continually shifting and presenting no definite point to be aimed
The crew were divided into two forces, and one stationed on the starboard, the other on
the larboard side; every man was given a long iron-headed pole, with which to ward off
threatening pieces of ice. Soon the Forward entered such a narrow passage between two lofty
pieces, that the ends of the yards touched its solid walls; gradually it penetrated farther into a
winding valley filled with a whirlwind of snow, while the floating ice was crashing ominously all
But soon it was evident that there was no outlet to this gorge; a huge block, caught in the
channel, was floating swiftly down to the Forward; it seemed impossible to escape it, and
equally impossible to return through an already closed path.
Shandon and Johnson, standing on the forward deck, were viewing their position.
Shandon with his right hand signalled to the man at the wheel what direction he was to take,
and with his left hand he indicated to James Wall the orders for the engines.
“What will be the end of this?” asked the doctor of Johnson.
“What pleases God,” answered the boatswain.
The block of ice, eight hundred feet high, was hardly more than a cable’s length from the
Forward, and threatened to crush it.
Pen broke out with a fearful oath.
“Silence!” cried a voice which it was impossible to recognize, in the roar of the hurricane.
The mass appeared to be falling upon the brig, and there was an indefinable moment of
terror; the men, dropping their poles, ran aft in spite of Shandon’s orders.
Suddenly, a terrible noise was heard; a real water-spout fell on the deck of the brig,
which was lifted in the air by a huge wave. The crew uttered a cry of terror, while Garry, still
firm at the wheel, kept the course of the Forward steady, in spite of the fearful lurch.
And when they looked for the mountain of ice, it had disappeared; the passage was free,
and beyond, a long channel, lit up by the sun, allowed the brig to continue her advance.
“Well, Dr. Clawbonny,” said Johnson, “can you explain that?”“It’s very simple, my friend,” answered the doctor. “It happens very often; when these
floating masses get detached in a thaw, they float away in perfect equilibrium; but as they get
towards the south, where the water is relatively warmer, their base, eaten away by running
into other pieces, begins to melt, and be undermined; then comes a moment when the centre
of gravity is displaced, and they turn upside down. Only, if this had happened two minutes
later, it would have fallen on the brig and crushed us beneath it.”
Chapter 9 — Another Letter

The Polar Circle was crossed at last; on the 30th of April, at midday, the Forward passed
by Holsteinborg; picturesque mountains arose in the east. The sea appeared almost free of
ice, or, more exactly, the ice could be avoided. The wind was from the southeast, and the
brig, under foresail, staysail, and topsails, sailed up Baffin’s Bay.
That day was exceptionally calm and the crew was able to get some rest; numerous
birds were swimming and flying about the ship; among others, the doctor noticed some wild
birds which were very like teal, with black neck, wings, and back, and a white breast; they
were continually diving, and often remained more than forty seconds under water.
This day would not have been marked by any new incident, if the following extraordinary
fact had not taken place.
At six o’clock in the morning, on returning to his cabin after his watch was over, Richard
Shandon found on his table a letter, addressed as follows: —

To Commander Richard Shandon,
On board the Forward,
Baffin’s Bay.

Shandon could not believe his eyes; but before reading it, he summoned the doctor,
James Wall, and the boatswain, and showed them the letter.
“It’s getting interesting,” said Johnson.
“It’s delightful,” thought the doctor.
“Well,” cried Shandon, “at last we shall know his secret.” He tore open the envelope
rapidly, and read the following: —

The captain of the Forward is satisfied with the coolness, skill, and courage
which the crew, officers, and you, yourself, have shown of late; he begs of you to
express his thanks to the crew.
Be good enough to sail due north towards Melville Bay, and thence try to
penetrate into Smith’s Sound.
K. Z.,
Captain of the Forward.
Monday, April 30, Off Cape Walsingham.

“And is that all?” cried the doctor.
“That’s all,” answered Shandon.
The letter fell from his hands.
“Well,” said Wall, “this imaginary captain says nothing about coming on board. I don’t
believe he ever will.”
“But how did this letter get here?” asked Johnson.
Shandon was silent.
“Mr. Wall is right,” answered the doctor, who had picked up the letter, and who was
turning it over with hands as well as in his mind. “The captain won’t come on board, and for an
excellent reason.”
“What is it?” asked Shandon, quickly.
“Because he’s on board now,” answered the doctor, simply.“Now!” exclaimed Shandon, “what do you mean?”
“How else can you explain the arrival of this letter?”
Johnson nodded approvingly.
“Impossible!” said Shandon, warmly. “I know all the men in the crew; can he have
smuggled himself into their number since we left? It’s impossible, I tell you. For more than two
years I’ve seen every one of them more than a hundred times in Liverpool; so your
conjecture, Doctor, is untenable.”
“Well, what do you admit, Shandon?”
“Everything, except that. I admit that the captain or some tool of his, for all I know, may
have taken advantage of the darkness, the mist, or whatever you please, to slip on board; we
are not far from shore; there are the kayaks of the Esquimaux which could get through the ice
without our seeing them; so some one may have come on board the ship, left the letter, —
the fog was thick enough to make this possible.”
“And to prevent them from seeing the brig,” answered the doctor; “if we did n’t see the
intruder slip aboard the Forward how could he see the Forward in the fog?”
“That’s true,” said Johnson.
“So I return to my explanation,” said the doctor; “what do you think of it, Shandon?”
“Whatever you please,” answered Shandon, hotly, “except that the man is on board.”
“Perhaps,” added Wall, “there is some man in the crew who is acting under his
“Perhaps,” said the doctor.
“But who can it be?” asked Shandon. “I’ve known all my men for a long time.”
“At any rate,” resumed Johnson, “if this captain presents himself, whether as man or
devil, we shall receive him; but there’s something else to be drawn from this letter.”
“What is that?” asked Shandon.
“It is that we must go not only into Melville Bay, but also into Smith’s Sound.”
“You are right,” said the doctor.
“Smith’s Sound,” repeated Shandon, mechanically.
“So it’s very plain,” continued Johnson, “that the Forward is not intended to seek the
Northwest Passage, since we leave to the left, the only way towards it, that is to say,
Lancaster Sound. This would seem to promise a difficult journey in unknown seas.”
“Yes, Smith’s Sound,” replied Shandon; “that’s the route Kane, the American, took in
1853, and it was full of dangers. For a long time he was given up for lost. Well, if we must go,
we’ll go. But how far? To the Pole?”
“And why not?” cried the doctor.
The mention of such a foolhardy attempt made the boatswain shrug his shoulders.
“Well,” said James Wall, “to come back to the captain, if he exists. I don’t see that there
are any places on the coast of Greenland except Disco and Upernavik, where he can be
waiting for us; in a few days that question will be settled.”
“But,” asked the doctor of Shandon, “are you not going to tell the crew about this letter?”
“With the commander’s permission,” answered Johnson, “I should not do so.”
“And why not?” asked Shandon.
“Because everything mysterious and extraordinary tends to discourage the men; they are
already very much troubled, as it is, about the nature of the journey. Now, if any supernatural
circumstances should become known, it might be harmful, and perhaps at a critical moment
we should not be able to count on them. What do you think, Commander?”
“And what do you think. Doctor?” asked Shandon.
“Boatswain Johnson seems to me to reason well,” answered the doctor.
“And you, James?”
“Having no better opinion I agree with these gentlemen.”
Shandon reflected for a few minutes; he reread the letter attentively.“Gentlemen,” said he, “your opinion is certainly worthy of respect, but I cannot adopt it.”
“Why not, Shandon?” asked the doctor.
“Because the instructions in this letter are formal; it tells me to give the captain’s thanks
to the crew; now, hitherto I have strictly obeyed his orders, in whatever way they have been
given to me, and I cannot —”
“Still —” interposed Johnson, who had a warrantable dread of the effect of such
communications on the men’s spirits.
“My dear Johnson,” said Shandon, “I understand your objection; your reasons are very
good, but read that: —
“He begs of you to express his thanks to the crew.”
“Do as he bids,” replied Johnson, who was always a strict disciplinarian. “Shall I
assemble the crew on deck?”
“Yes,” answered Shandon.
The news of a message from the captain was immediately whispered throughout the
ship. The sailors took their station without delay, and the commander read aloud the
mysterious letter.
It was received with dead silence; the crew separated under the influence of a thousand
suppositions; Clifton had plenty of material for any superstitious vagaries; a great deal was
ascribed by him to the dog-captain, and he never failed to salute him every time he met him.
“Did n’t I tell you,” he used to say to the sailors, “that he knew how to write?”
No one made any answer, and even Bell, the carpenter, would have found it hard to
Nevertheless, it was plain to every one, that if the captain was not on board, his shade or
spirit was watching them; henceforth, the wisest kept their opinions to themselves.
At midday of May 1st, their observation showed them that they were in latitude 68° and
longitude 56°32’. The temperature had risen, the thermometer standing at 25° above zero.
The doctor amused himself with watching the gambols of a she-bear and two cubs on
some pack-ice near the shore. Accompanied by Wall and Simpson, he tried to chase them in
a canoe; but she was in a very peaceful mood, and ran away with her young, so that the
doctor had to give up his attempt.
During the night a favorable breeze carried them well to the north, and soon the lofty
mountains of Disco were peering above the horizon; Godharn Bay, where the governor of the
Danish settlements lived, was left on the right. Shandon did not consider it necessary to land,
and he soon passed by the canoes of the Esquimaux, who had put out to meet him.
The island of Disco is also called Whale Island; it is from here that, on the 12th of July,
1845, Sir John Franklin wrote to the Admiralty for the last time, and it was also here that
Captain MacClintock stopped on his way back, bringing too sure proofs of the loss of that
This coincidence was not unknown to the doctor; the place was one of sad memories,
but soon the heights of Disco were lost to view.
There were many icebergs on its shores, which no thaws ever melt away; this gives the
island a singular appearance from the sea.
The next day, at about three o’clock, Sanderson’s Hope appeared in the northeast; land
lay about fifteen miles to starboard; the mountains appeared of a dusky red hue. During the
evening many fin-backs were seen playing in the ice, and occasionally blowing.
It was in the night of May 3d, that the doctor for the first time saw the sun touch the
horizon without setting: since January 31st its orbit had been getting longer every day, and
now there was unbroken daylight.
For those who were unaccustomed to it, this continuance of the day is a cause of
perpetual surprise, and even of weariness; it is difficult to believe how necessary the darkness
of the night is for the eyes; the doctor actually suffered from the continual brilliancy, which wasincreased by the reflection from the ice.
May 5th the Forward passed the sixty-second parallel. Two months later they would have
met numerous whalers in these latitudes; but the straits were not yet free enough to allow
easy ingress into Baffin’s Bay.
The next day, the brig, after passing Woman’s Island, came in sight of Upernavik, the
northernmost station of Denmark in these lands.
Chapter 10 — Dangerous Sailing

Shandon, Dr. Clawbonny, Johnson, Foker, and Strong, the cook, got into one of the
boats and made their way to shore.
The Governor, his wife and five children, all Esquimaux, received their visitors kindly. The
doctor, who was the philologist of the party, knew enough Danish to establish friendly
relations; moreover, Foker, the interpreter of the party as well as ice-master, knew a dozen or
two words of the language of the Greenlanders; and with that number of words one can
express a great deal, if he is not too ambitious.
The Governor was born on the island of Disco, and he has never left the place; he did
the honors of his capital, which consisted of three wooden houses, for himself and the
Lutheran minister, of a school, and shops which were supplied by what was cast upon the
shore from wrecked ships. The rest of the town consisted of snow huts, into which the
Esquimaux crawl through a single opening.
A great part of the population came out to meet the Forward and more than one of them
went as far as the middle of the bay in his kayak, fifteen feet long and two broad at the widest
The doctor knew that the word Esquimaux meant “eater of raw fish”; but he knew too
that this name is considered an insult in this country, so he forbore giving it to the inhabitants
of Greenland.
And yet, from the oily sealskin clothes and boots, from their squat, fat figures, which
make it hard to distinguish the men from the women, it was easy to declare the nature of their
food; besides, like all fish-eating people, they were somewhat troubled by leprosy, but their
general health was not impaired by it.
The Lutheran minister and his wife, with whom the doctor had promised himself an
interesting talk, happened to be away on the shore of Proven, south of Upernavik; hence he
was compelled to seek the company of the Governor. The chief magistrate did not appear to
be very well informed: a little less, he would have been a fool; a little more, and he would have
known how to read.
In spite of that, the doctor questioned him about the commerce, habits, and manners of
the Esquimaux; and he learned, by means of gestures, that the seals were worth about forty
pounds when delivered at Copenhagen; a bear-skin brought forty Danish dollars, the skin of a
blue fox four, and of a white fox two or three dollars.
In order to make his knowledge complete, the doctor wanted to visit an Esquimaux hut; a
man who seeks information is capable of enduring anything; fortunately the opening of these
huts was too small, and the enthusiastic doctor could not get through. It was fortunate for him,
for there is nothing more repulsive than the sight of that crowd of living and dead objects, of
seal’s bodies and Esquimaux-flesh, decayed fish and unclean clothing, which fill a Greenland
hut; there is no window to renew that suffocating air; there is only a hole at the top of the
cabin which lets the smoke out, but gives no relief to the stench.
Foker gave all these details to the doctor, but he none the less bewailed his portliness.
He wanted to judge for himself these emanations sui generis.
“I am sure,” said he, “that one could get used to it in time.” In time shows clearly the
doctor’s character.
During these ethnographic studies on his part, Shandon was busying himself, according
to his instructions, with procuring means of travel on the ice; he was obliged to pay four
pounds for a sledge and six dogs, and the natives were reluctant to sell even at this price.
Shandon would have liked to engage Hans Christian, the skilful driver of the dogs, whoaccompanied Captain MacClintock, but Hans was then in Southern Greenland.
Then came up the great question of the day; was there at Upernavik a European
awaiting the arrival of the Forward? Did the Governor know of any stranger, probably an
Englishman, who had come into these latitudes? How recently had they seen any whalers or
other ships?
To these questions the Governor answered that no stranger had landed on that part of
the coast for more than ten months.
Shandon asked the names of the whalers which had last arrived; he recognized none. He
was in despair.
“You must confess, Doctor, that it passes all comprehension,” he said to his companion.
“Nothing at Cape Farewell! nothing at Disco! nothing at Upernavik!”
“Tell me in a few days from now, nothing at Melville Bay, my dear Shandon, and I will
salute you as sole captain of the Forward.”
The boat returned to the brig towards evening, bringing back the visitors to the shore;
Strong had bought several dozen eider-duck’s eggs, which were twice as large as hen’s eggs,
and of a greenish color. It was not much, but it was very refreshing for a crew accustomed to
little but salt meat.
The next day the wind was fair, but yet Shandon did not set sail; he wanted to wait
another day, and, to satisfy his conscience, to give time for any member of the human race to
rejoin the Forward; he even fired off, every hour, the ship’s gun, which re-echoed among the
icebergs; but he only succeeded in frightening the flocks of molly-mokes and rotches. During
the night many rockets were set off; but in vain. He had to give the order to set sail.
The 8th of May, at six o’clock in the morning, the Forward, under her topsails, foresail,
and main-top-gallant-sail, soon lost sight of the station of Upernavik, and hideous long poles
on which were hanging along the shore the seals’ entrails and deers’ stomachs.
The wind was southeast, the thermometer stood at 32°. The sun pierced through the fog
and the ice melted a little.
The reflection, however, injured the sight of many of the crew. Wolston, the armorer,
Gripper, Clifton, and Bell were attacked by snow-blindness, which is very common in the
spring, and which totally blinds many of the Esquimaux. The doctor advised all, the unharmed
as well as the suffering, to cover their faces with a green veil, and he was the first to follow his
own recommendation.
The dogs bought by Shandon at Upernavik were rather wild; but they soon got used to
their new quarters, and Captain showed no dislike of his new companions; he seemed to know
their ways. Clifton was not the last to remark that Captain seemed to be familiar with the dogs
of Greenland. And they, always half starved on shore, only thought of making up for it when at
The 9th of May the Forward passed within a few cable-lengths of the westernmost of the
Baffin Islands. The doctor noticed many rocks between the islands and the mainland which
were what are called crimson cliffs; they were covered with snow as red as carmine, which Dr.
Kane says is of purely vegetable origin; Clawbonny wanted to examine this singular
phenomenon, but the ice forbade their approaching them; although the temperature was
rising, it was easy to see that the icebergs and ice-streams were accumulating toward the
north of Baffin’s Bay.
After leaving Upernavik the land presented a different appearance, and huge glaciers
were sharply defined against the gray horizon. On the 10th the Forward left on its right
Kingston Bay, near the seventy-fourth degree of latitude; Lancaster Sound opened into the
sea many hundred miles to the west.
But then this vast expanse of water was hidden beneath enormous fields of ice, in which
arose the hummocks, uniform as a homogeneous crystallization. Shandon had the
furnacefires lighted, and until the 11th of May the Forward advanced by a tortuous course, tracingwith her smoke against the sky the path she was following through the water.
But new obstacles soon presented themselves; the passages were closing in
consequence of the incessant crowding of the floating masses; every moment threatened to
close up the clear water before the Forward, and if she were nipped, it would be hard to get
her out. Every one knew it and was thinking about it.
Hence, on board of this ship without any definite aim, any known destination, which was
blindly pushing on northward, some symptoms of hesitation began to appear; among these
men accustomed to dangers, many, forgetting the advantages which were promised them,
regretted having ventured so far. A certain demoralization became common, which was
further increased by the fears of Clifton and the talk of two or three ringleaders, such as Pen,
Gripper, Warren, and Wolston.
Exhausting fatigue was added to the moral disquiet of the crew, for, on the 12th of May,
the brig was caught fast; the steam was of no avail. A path had to be cut through the ice. It
was no easy task to manage the saws in the floes which were six or seven feet thick; when
two parallel grooves had divided the ice for a hundred feet, it was necessary to break the part
that lay between with axes and bars; next they had to fasten anchors in a hole made by a
huge auger; then the crew would turn the capstan and haul the ship along by the force of their
arms; the greatest difficulty consisted in driving the detached pieces beneath the floes, so as
to give space for the vessel, and they had to be pushed under by means of long iron-headed
Moreover, this continued toil with saws, capstan, and poles, all of which was persistent,
compulsory, and dangerous, amid the dense fog or snow, while the air was so cold, and their
eyes so exposed, their doubt so great, did much to weaken the crew of the Forward and to
act on their imagination.
When sailors have to deal with a man who is energetic, bold, and determined, who
knows what he wants, whither he is going, what aim he has in view, confidence animates
them all in spite of themselves; they are firmly united to their leader, strong with his force and
calm with his calmness. But on board of the brig they were aware of the commander’s
uncertainty, they knew that he hesitated before the unknown aim and destination. In spite of
the energy of his character, his uncertainty was clearly to be seen by his uncertain orders,
incomplete manœuvres, his sudden outbursts, and a thousand petty details which could not
escape the sharp eyes of the crew.
And then, Shandon was not the captain of the ship, the master under God, which was
enough to encourage the discussion of his orders; and from discussion to disobedience is but
a short step.
The malcontents soon brought over to their number the first engineer, who, hitherto, had
been a slave to his duty.
The 16th of May, six days after the Forward had reached the ice, Shandon had not made
two miles to northward. They were threatened with being detained in the ice until the next
season. Matters had a serious look.
Towards eight o’clock of the evening, Shandon and the doctor, accompanied by Garry,
went out to reconnoitre the vast plains; they took care not to go too far from the ship, for it
was hard to find any fixed points in this white solitude, which was ever changing in
appearance. Refraction kept producing strange effects, much to the doctor’s astonishment; at
one place, where he thought he had but an easy jump before him, he had to leap some five or
six feet; or else the contrary happened, and in either case the result was a tumble, which if
not dangerous was at any rate painful, for the ice was as hard and slippery as glass.
Shandon and his two companions went out to seek a possible passage; three miles from
the ship, they succeeded with some difficulty in ascending an iceberg about three hundred
feet high. From that point nothing met their eyes but a confused mass, like the ruins of a vast
city, with shattered monuments, overthrown towers, and prostrate palaces, — a real chaos.The sun was just peering above the jagged horizon, and sent forth long, oblique rays of light,
but not of heat, as if something impassable for heat lay between it and this wild country.
The sea appeared perfectly covered as far as eye could reach.
“How shall we get through’?” asked the doctor.
“I don’t know,” answered Shandon; “but we shall get through, if we have to blow our way
through with powder. I certainly sha’ n’t stay in the ice till next spring.”
“But that happened to the Fox, and not far from here. Bah!” said the doctor; “we shall get
through with a little philosophy. You will see that is worth all the machinery in the world.”
“I must say,” answered Shandon, “this year does not begin very well.”
“True, Shandon, and I notice also that Baffin’s Bay seems to be returning to the state it
was in before 1817.”
“Don’t you think, Doctor, it has always been as it is now?”
“No, my dear Shandon, from time to time there have been great breakings of the ice
which no one can explain; so, up to 1817 this sea was continually full, when an enormous sort
of inundation took place, which cast the icebergs into the ocean, most of which reached the
banks of Newfoundland. From that day Baffin’s Bay was nearly free, and was visited by
“So,” asked Shandon, “from that time voyages to the North became easier?”
“Incomparably; but for some years it has been noticed that the bay seems to be
resuming its old ways and threatens to become closed, possibly for a long time, to sailors. An
additional reason, by the way, for pushing on as far as possible. And yet it must be said, we
look like people who are pushing on in unknown ways, with the doors forever closing behind
“Would you advise me to go back?” asked Shandon, trying to read into the depths of the
doctor’s eyes.
“I! I have never retreated yet, and, even if we should never get back, I say go on. Still, I
want to make it clear that if we act imprudently, we do it with our eyes open.”
“And you, Garry, what do you think about it?” asked Shandon of the sailor.
“I, Commander, should go straight on; I agree with Dr. Clawbonny; but do as you please;
command, we shall obey.”
“They don’t all talk as you do, Garry,” resumed Shandon; “they are not all ready to obey.
And if they refuse to obey my orders?”
“I have given you my opinion, Commander,” answered Garry, coldly, “because you asked
for it; but you are not obliged to follow it.”
Shandon did not answer; he scanned the horizon closely, and then descended with his
companions to the ice-fields.
Chapter 11 — The Devil’s Thumb

During the commander’s absence the men had been variously busied in attempts to
relieve the ship from the pressure of the ice. Pen, Clifton, Bolton, Gripper, and Simpson had
this in charge; the fireman and the two engineers came to the aid of their Comrades, for, as
soon as the engines did not require their attention, they became sailors, and as such could be
employed in all that was going on aboard the ship.
But there was a great deal of discontent among them.
“I declare I’ve had enough,” said Pen; “and if we are not free in three days, I swear I sha’
n’t stir a finger to get the ship out.”
“Not stir a finger!” answered Plover; “you’d better use them in getting back. Do you think
we want to stay here till next year?”
“It certainly would be a hard winter,” said Pen, “for we are exposed on all sides.”
“And who knows,” said Brunton, “whether next spring the sea will be any freer than it is
“Never mind about next spring,” answered Pen; “to-day is Thursday; if the way is not
clear Sunday morning, we shall turn back to the south.”
“Good!” cried Clifton.
“Don’t you agree with me?” asked Pen.
“We do,” cried his companions.
“That’s so,” said Warren; “for if we have to work in this way and haul the ship along with
our own arms, I think it would be as well to haul her backwards.”
“We shall do that on Sunday,” said Wolston.
“Only give me the order,” resumed Brunton, “and my fires shall be lighted.”
“Well,” remarked Clifton, “we shall light them ourselves.”
“If any officer,” said Pen, “is anxious to spend the winter here, he can; we can leave him
here contentedly; he’ll find it easy to build a hut like the Esquimaux.”
“Not at all, Pen,” retorted Brunton, quickly; “we sha’ n’t abandon any one here; do you
understand that, all of you? I think it won’t be hard to persuade the commander; he seems to
me to be very much discouraged, and if we propose it to him gently —”
“But,” interrupted Plover, “Richard Shandon is often very obstinate; we shall have to
sound him cautiously.”
“When I think,” said Bolton, with a sigh of longing, “that in a month we might be back in
Liverpool! We can easily pass the line of ice at the south! Davis Strait will be open by the
beginning of June, and then we shall have nothing but the free Atlantic before us.”
“Besides,” said the cautious Clifton, “if we take the commander back with us, and act
under his commands, we shall have earned our pay; but if we go back without him, it’s not so
“True,” said Plover; “Clifton talks sense. Let’s try not to get into any trouble with the
Admiralty, that’s safer, and don’t let us leave any one behind.”
“But if they refuse to come with us?” continued Pen, who wished to compel his
companions to stand by him.
They found it hard to answer the question thus squarely put them.
“We shall see about that when the time comes,” replied Bolton; “it will be enough to bring
Richard Shandon over to our side, and I fancy that won’t be hard.”
“There’s one I shall leave here,” exclaimed Pen with fierce oaths, “even if he should bite
my arm off.”
“O, the dog!” said Plover.“Yes, that dog! I shall soon settle accounts with him.”
“So much the better,” retorted Clifton, returning to his favorite theory; “he is the cause of
all our troubles.”
“He has thrown an evil spell upon us,” said Plover.
“He led us into the ice,” remarked Gripper.
“He brought more ice in our way,” said Wolston, “than was ever seen at this season.”
“He made my eyes sore,” said Brunton.
“He shut off the gin and brandy,” cried Pen.
“He’s the cause of everything,” they all exclaimed excitedly.
“And then,” added Clifton, “he’s the captain.”
“Well, you unlucky Captain,” cried Pen, whose unreasonable fury grew with the sound of
his own words, “you wanted to come here, and here you shall stay!”
“But how shall we get hold of him?” said Plover.
“Well, now is a good time,” answered Clifton. “The commander is away; the second mate
is asleep in his cabin; the fog is so thick that Johnson can’t see us —”
“But the dog?” said Pen.
“He’s asleep in the coal,” answered Clifton, “and if any one wants —”
“I’ll see to it,” replied Pen, angrily.
“Take care. Pen; his teeth would go through a bar of iron.”
“If he stirs, I’ll rip him open,” answered Pen, drawing his knife.
And he ran down between decks, followed by Warren, who was anxious to help him.
Soon they both returned, carrying the dog in their arms; his mouth and paws were
securely tied; they had caught him asleep, and the poor dog could not escape them.
“Hurrah for Pen!” cried Plover.
“And what are you going to do with him now?” asked Clifton.
“Drown him, and if he ever comes back —” answered Pen with a smile of satisfaction.
Two hundred feet from the vessel there was a hole in the ice, a sort of circular crevasse,
made by the seals with their teeth, and always dug out from the inside to the outside; it was
there that the seals used to come to breathe on the surface of the ice; but they were
compelled to take care to prevent the aperture from closing, for the shape of their jaws did not
permit them to make the hole from the outside, and in any danger they would not be able to
escape from their enemies.
Pen and Warren hastened to this crevasse, and then, in spite of his obstinate struggles,
the dog was pitilessly cast into the sea; a huge cake of ice they then rolled over the aperture,
closing all means of escape for the poor dog, thus locked in a watery prison.
“A pleasant journey. Captain!” cried the brutal sailor.
Soon they returned on board; Johnson had seen nothing of it all; the fog was growing
thick about the ship, and the snow was beginning to fall with violence.
An hour later, Richard Shandon, the doctor, and Garry regained the Forward.
Shandon had observed in the northeast a passage, which he determined to try. He gave
his orders to that effect; the crew obeyed with a certain activity; they wanted to convince
Shandon of the impossibility of a farther advance, and besides, they bad before them three
days of obedience.
During a part of the following night and day the sawing and towing went on busily; the
Forward made about two miles of progress. On the 18th they were in sight of land, five or six
cable-lengths from a strange peak, to which its singular shape had given the name of the
Devil’s Thumb.
At this very place the Prince Albert, in 1851, the Advance, with Kane, in 1853, had been
caught in the ice for many weeks.
The odd shape of the Devil’s Thumb, the barren and desolate surroundings, which
consisted of huge icebergs often more than three hundred feet high, the cracking of the ice,repeated indefinitely by the echo, made the position of the Forward a very gloomy one.
Shandon saw that it was necessary to get away from there; within twenty-four hours, he
calculated he would be able to get two miles from the spot. But that was not enough. Shandon
felt himself embarrassed by fear, and the false position in which he was placed benumbed his
energy; to obey his instructions in order to advance, he had brought his ship into a dangerous
position; the towing wore out his men; more than three hours were necessary to cut a canal
twenty feet in length through ice which was generally four or five feet thick; the health of the
crew gave signs of failing. Shandon was astonished at the silence of the men, and their
unaccustomed obedience; but he feared it was only the calm that foreboded a storm.
We can, then, easily judge of the painful surprise, disappointment, and even despair
which seized upon him, when he noticed that by means of an imperceptible movement in the
ice, the Forward lost in the night of the 18th all that had been gained by such toilsome efforts;
on Saturday morning he was opposite the Devil’s Thumb, in a still more critical position; the
icebergs increased in number and passed by in the mist like phantoms.
Shandon was thoroughly demoralized; it must be said that fear seized both this bold man
and all his crew. Shandon had heard of the disappearance of the dog; but he did not dare to
punish the guilty persons; he feared exciting a mutiny.
The weather during that day was horrible; the snow, caught up in dense whirls, covered
the brig with an impenetrable veil; at times, under the influence of the hurricane, the fog would
rise, and their terror-stricken eyes beheld the Devil’s Thumb rising on the shore like a spectre.
The Forward was anchored to a large piece of ice; there was nothing to be done, nothing
to be tried; darkness was spreading about them, and the man at the helm could not see
James Wall, who was on watch forward.
Shandon withdrew to his cabin, a prey to perpetual disquiet; the doctor was arranging his
notes of the expedition; some of the crew were on the deck, others in the common room.
At a moment when the violence of the storm was redoubling, the Devil’s Thumb seemed
to rise immoderately from the mist.
“Great God!” exclaimed Simpson, recoiling with terror.
“What’s the matter?” asked Foker.
Soon shouts were heard on all sides.
“It’s going to crush us!”
“We are lost!”
“Mr. Wall, Mr. Wall!”
“It’s all over!”
“Commander, Commander!”
All these cries were uttered by the men on watch.
Wall hastened to the after-deck; Shandon, followed by the doctor, flew to the deck and
looked out.
Through a rift in the mist, the Devil’s Thumb appeared to have suddenly come near the
brig; it seemed to have grown enormously in size; on its summit was balanced a second cone,
upside down, and revolving on its point; it threatened to crush the ship with its enormous
mass; it wavered, ready to fall down. It was an alarming sight. Every one drew back
instinctively, and many of the men, jumping upon the ice, abandoned the ship.
“Let no one move!” cried the commander with a loud voice; “every one to his place!”
“My friends, don’t be frightened,” said the doctor, “there is no danger! See, Commander,
see, Mr. Wall, that’s the mirage and nothing else.”
“You are right. Dr. Clawbonny,” replied Johnson; “they’ve all been frightened by a
When they had heard what the doctor said, most of the sailors drew near him, and from
terror they turned to admiration of this wonderful phenomenon, which soon passed from their
view.“They call that a mirage,” said Clifton; “the Devil’s at the bottom of it, I’m sure.”
“That’s true,” growled Gripper.
But the break in the fog had given the commander a glimpse of a broad passage which
he had not expected to find; it promised to lead him away from the shore; he resolved to
make use of it at once; men were sent out on each side of the canal; hawsers were given
them, and they began to tow the ship northward.
During long hours this work was prosecuted busily but silently; Shandon had the
furnacefires lighted to help him through this passage so providentially discovered.
“That’s great luck,” he said to Johnson, “and if we can only get on a few miles, we may
be free. Make a hot fire, Mr. Brunton, and let me know as soon as you get steam on.
Meanwhile, men, the farther on we get, the more gained! You want to get away from the
Devil’s Thumb; well, now is your chance!”
Suddenly the brig stopped. “What’s the matter?” shouted Shandon. “Wall, have the
towropes broken?”
“No,” answered Wall, leaning over the ratling. “See, there are the men running back; they
are climbing on board; they seem very much frightened.”
“What’s happened?” cried Shandon, running forward.
“On board, on board!” cried the sailors, evidently exceedingly terrified.
Shandon looked towards the north, and shuddered in spite of himself.
A strange animal, with alarming motions, whose steaming tongue hung from huge jaws,
was bounding along within a cable’s length from the ship; it seemed more than twenty feet
high; its hair stood on end; it was chasing the sailors as if about to seize them, while its tail,
which was at least ten feet long, lashed the snow and tossed it about in dense gusts. The
sight of the monster froze the blood in the veins of the boldest.
“It’s an enormous bear,” said one.
“It’s the beast of Gévaudan!”
“It’s the lion of the Apocalypse!”
Shandon ran to his cabin to get a gun which he kept always loaded; the doctor seized his
arms, and made ready to fire at the beast, which by its size, recalled antediluvian monsters.
It drew near with long leaps; Shandon and the doctor fired at the same time, and
suddenly the report of the pieces agitated the air and produced an unlooked-for effect.
The doctor gazed attentively, and could not help bursting out laughing. “It’s refraction!”
said he.
“Refraction!” cried Shandon.
But a terrible cry from the crew interrupted them.
“The dog!” shouted Clifton.
“The dog-captain!” repeated his companions.
“It’s he!” cried Pen.
In fact, it was the dog who had burst his bonds and had made his way to the surface of
the ice through another hole. At that moment the refraction, by a phenomenon common in
these latitudes, exaggerated his size, and this had only been broken by the report of the guns;
but, notwithstanding, a disastrous impression had been produced upon the minds of the
sailors, who were not very much inclined to admit any explanation of the fact from physical
causes. The adventure of the Devil’s Thumb, the reappearance of the dog under such peculiar
circumstances, completely upset them, and murmurs arose on all sides.
Chapter 12 — Captain Hatteras

T h e Forward was advancing rapidly under steam between the ice-fields and the
mountains of ice. Johnson was at the helm. Shandon was examining the horizon with his
snow-spectacles; but his joy was brief, for he soon saw that the passage was blocked up by a
circle of mountains.
Nevertheless, he preferred to take his chances with pushing on, to returning.
The dog followed the brig on the ice, but he kept at a respectful distance. Only, if he
lagged too far, there was to be heard a singular whistle which at once brought him on.
The first time that this whistle was heard, the sailors looked around; they were alone on
the deck, talking together; there was no unknown person there; and yet this whistle was often
Clifton was the first to take alarm.
“Do you hear that?” he said; “and do you see how the dog starts as soon as he hears it?”
“It’s past belief,” said Gripper.
“Very well!” cried Pen; “I’m not going any farther.”
“Pen is right,” said Brunton; “it’s tempting Providence.”
“Tempting the Devil,” answered Clifton. “I should rather give up all my share of the pay
than go on.”
“We shall never get back,” said Bolton, dejectedly.
The crew was exceedingly demoralized.
“Not a foot farther!” cried Wolston; “is that your opinion?”
“Yes, yes!” answered the sailors.
“Well,” said Bolton, “let’s go find the commander; I’ll undertake to tell him.”
The sailors in a dense group made their way to the quarterdeck.
The Forward was then advancing into a large arena, which had a diameter of about eight
hundred feet; it was completely closed, with the exception of one place through which the ship
Shandon saw that he was locking himself in. But what was to be done? How could he
retreat? He felt all the responsibility, and his hand nervously grasped his glass.
The doctor looked on in silence, with folded arms; he gazed at the walls of ice, the
average height of which was about three hundred feet. A cloud of fog lay like a dome above
the gulf.
Then it was that Bolton spoke to the commander.
“Commander,” said he in a broken voice, “we can’t go any farther.”
“What’s that you are saying?” said Shandon, who felt enraged at the slight given to his
“We have come to say, Commander,” resumed Bolton, “that we have done enough for
this invisible captain, and that we have made up our minds not to go on any farther.”
“Made up your minds?” cried Shandon. “Is that the way you talk to me, Bolton? Take
“You need not threaten,” retorted Pen, brutally, “we are not going any farther.”
Shandon stepped towards the mutinous sailors, when the boatswain said to him in a low
voice, —
“Commander, if we want to get out of this place, we have not a moment to lose. There’s
an iceberg crowding towards the entrance; it may prevent our getting out and imprison us
Shandon returned to look at the state of affairs.“You will account for this afterwards,” he said to the mutineers. “Now, go about!”
The sailors hastened to their places. The Forward went about rapidly; coal was heaped
on the fires; it was necessary to beat the iceberg. There was a race between them; the brig
stood towards the south, the berg was drifting northward, threatening to bar the way.
“Put on all the steam, Brunton, do you hear?” said Shandon.
The Forward glided like a bird through the broken ice, which her prow cut through easily;
the ship shook with the motion of the screw, and the gauge indicated a full pressure of steam,
the deafening roar of which resounded above everything.
“Load the safety-valve!” cried Shandon.
The engineer obeyed at the risk of bursting the boilers.
But these desperate efforts were vain; the iceberg, driven by a submarine current,
moved rapidly towards the exit; the brig was still three cable-lengths distant, when the
mountain, entering the vacant space like a wedge, joined itself to its companions, and closed
the means of escape.
“We are lost!” cried Shandon, who was unable to restrain that unwise speech.
“Lost!” repeated the crew.
“Lower the boats!” cried many.
“To the steward’s pantry!” cried Pen and some of his set; “if we must drown, let us drown
in gin!”
The wildest confusion raged among these half-wild men. Shandon felt unable to assert
his authority; he wanted to give some orders; he hesitated, he stammered; his thoughts could
find no words. The doctor walked up and down nervously. Johnson folded his arms stoically,
and said not a word.
Suddenly a strong, energetic, commanding voice was heard above the din, uttering these
words: —
“Every man to his place! Prepare to go about!”
Johnson shuddered, and, without knowing what he did, turned the wheel rapidly.
It was time; the brig, going under full steam, was about crashing against the walls of its
But while Johnson instinctively obeyed, Shandon, Clawbonny, the crew, all, even down to
Warren the fireman, who had abandoned his fires, and Strong the cook, who had fled from his
galley, were collected on the deck, and all saw issuing from the cabin, the key of which he
alone possessed, a man.
This man was the sailor Garry.
“Sir!” cried Shandon, turning pale, “Garry — by what right do you give orders here?”
“Duke!” said Garry, repeating the whistle which had so surprised the crew.
The dog, on hearing his real name, sprang on the quarter-deck, and lay down quietly at
his master’s feet.
The crew did not utter a word. The key which the captain alone should possess, the dog
which he had sent and which had identified him, so to speak, the tone of command which it
was impossible to mistake, — all this had a strong influence on the minds of the sailors, and
was enough to establish firmly Garry’s authority.
Besides, Garry was hardly to be recognized; he had removed the thick whiskers which
had surrounded his face, thereby giving it a more impassible, energetic, and commanding
expression; he stood before them clothed in a captain’s uniform, which he had had placed in
his cabin.
So the crew of the Forward, animated in spite of themselves, shouted, —
“Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah for the captain!”
“Shandon,” he said to his first officer, “have the crew put in line; I want to inspect them.”
Shandon obeyed, and gave the requisite orders with an agitated voice.
The captain walked in front of the officers and men, saying a word to each, and treatinghim according to his past conduct.
When he had finished his inspection, he went back to the quarter-deck, and calmly
uttered these words: —
“Officers and sailors, I am an Englishman like you all, and my motto is that of Lord
Nelson, — ‘England expects every man to do his duty.’
“As Englishmen, I am unwilling, we are unwilling, that others should go where we have
not been. As Englishmen, I shall not endure, we shall not endure, that others should have the
glory of going farther north than we. If human foot is ever to reach the Pole, it must be the
foot of an Englishman! Here is the flag of our country. I have equipped this ship, I have
devoted my fortune to this undertaking, I shall devote to it my life and yours, but this flag shall
float over the North Pole. Fear not. You shall receive a thousand pounds sterling for every
degree that we get farther north after this day. Now we are at the seventy-second, and there
are ninety in all. Figure it out. My name will be proof enough. It means energy and patriotism.
I am Captain Hatteras.”
“Captain Hatteras!” cried Shandon. And this name, familiar to them all, soon spread
among all the crew.
“Now,” resumed Hatteras, “let us anchor the brig to the ice; let the fires be put out, and
every one return to his usual occupation. Shandon, I want to speak with you about the ship.
You will join me in my cabin with the doctor. Wall, and the boatswain. Johnson, dismiss the
Hatteras, calm and cold, quietly left the poop-deck, while Shandon had the brig made
fast to the ice.
Who was this Hatteras, and why did his name make so deep an impression upon the
John Hatteras, the only son of a London brewer, who died in 1852, worth six million
pounds, took to the sea at an early age, unmindful of the large fortune which was to come to
him. Not that he had any commercial designs, but a longing for geographical discovery
possessed him; he was continually dreaming of setting foot on some spot untrodden of man.
When twenty years old, he had the vigorous constitution of thin, sanguine men; an
energetic face, with well-marked lines, a high forehead, rising straight from the eyes, which
were handsome but cold, thin lips, indicating a mouth chary of words, medium height, well-knit
muscular limbs, indicated a man ready for any experience. Any one who saw him would have
called him bold, and any one who heard him would have called him coldly passionate; he was
a man who would never retreat, and who would risk the lives of others as coldly as his own.
One would hence think twice before following him in his expeditions.
John Hatteras had a great deal of English pride, and it was he who once made this
haughty reply to a Frenchman.
The Frenchman said with what he considered politeness, and even kindness, —
“If I were not a Frenchman, I should like to be an Englishman.”
“If I were not an Englishman, I should like to be an Englishman!”
That retort points the nature of the man.
He would have liked to reserve for his fellow-countrymen the monopoly of geographical
discovery; but much to his chagrin, during previous centuries, they had done but little in the
way of discovery.
America was discovered by the Genoese, Christopher Columbus; the East Indies by the
Portuguese, Vasco de Gama; China by the Portuguese, Fernao d’Andrada; Terra del Fuego
by the Portuguese, Magellan; Canada by the Frenchman, Jacques Cartier; the islands of
Sumatra, Java, etc., Labrador, Brazil, the Cape of Good Hope, the Azores, Madeira,
Newfoundland, Guinea, Congo, Mexico, White Cape, Greenland, Iceland, the South Pacific
Ocean, California, Japan, Cambodia, Peru, Kamschatka, the Philippine Islands, Spitzbergen,
Cape Horn, Behring Strait, New Zealand, Van Diemen’s Land, New Britain, New Holland, theLouisiana, Island of Jan-Mayen, by Icelanders, Scandinavians, Frenchmen, Russians,
Portuguese, Danes, Spaniards, Genoese, and Dutchmen; but no Englishmen figured among
them, and it was a constant source of grief to Hatteras to see his fellow-countrymen excluded
from the glorious band of sailors who made the great discoveries of the fifteenth and sixteenth
Hatteras consoled himself somewhat when he considered modern times: the English
took their revenge with Stuart, McDougall Stuart, Burke, Wells, King, Gray, in Australia; with
Palliser in America; with Havnoan in Syria; with Cyril Graham, Waddington, Cunningham, in
India; and with Barth, Burton, Speke, Grant, and Livingstone in Africa.
But this was not enough; for Hatteras these men were rather finishers than discoverers;
something better was to be done, so he invented a country in order to have the honor of
discovering it.
Now he had noticed that if the English were in a minority with regard to the early
discoveries, that if it was necessary to go back to Cook to make sure of New Caledonia in
1774, and of the Sandwich Islands where he was killed in 1778, there was nevertheless one
corner of the globe on which they had centred all their efforts.
This was the northern seas and lands of North America.
In fact, the list of polar discoveries runs as follows: —

Nova Zambia, discovered by Willougbby in 1553.
Island of Wiegehts, discovered by Barrow in 1556.
West Coast of Greenland, discovered by Davis in 1585.
Davis Strait, discovered by Davis in 1587.
Spitzbergen, discovered by Willougbby in 1596.
Hudson’s Bay, discovered by Hudson in 1610.
Baffin’s Bay, discovered by Baffin in 1616.

During recent years Hearne, Mackenzie, John Ross, Parry, Franklin, Richardson,
Beechey, James Ross, Back, Dease, Simpson, Rae, Inglefield, Belcher, Austin, Kellet, Moore,
MacClure, Kennedy, MacClintock, were incessantly exploring these unknown regions.
The northern coast of America had been accurately made out, the Northwest Passage
nearly discovered, but that was not enough; there was something greater to be done, and this
John Hatteras had twice tried, fitting out ships at his own expense; he wanted to reach the
Pole itself, and thus to crown the list of English discoveries by a glorious success.
To reach the Pole itself was the aim of his life.
After many successful voyages in the southern seas, Hatteras tried for the first time in
1846 to reach the North through Baffin’s Bay, but he could get no farther than latitude 74°; he
sailed in the sloop Halifax; his crew suffered terribly, and John Hatteras carried his temerity so
far that henceforth sailors were averse to undertaking a similar expedition under such a
Notwithstanding, in 1850, Hatteras succeeded in obtaining for the schooner Farewell
about twenty determined men, but who were persuaded especially by the high pay offered
their boldness. It was then that Dr. Clawbonny began to correspond with John Hatteras, whom
he did not know, about accompanying him; but the post of surgeon was filled, fortunately for
the doctor.
The Farewell, following the route taken by the Neptune of Aberdeen in 1817, went to the
north of Spitzbergen, as far as latitude 76°. There they were obliged to winter; but their
sufferings were such, and the cold so intense, that of all on board, Hatteras alone returned to
England. He was picked up by a Danish whaler after he had walked more than two hundred
miles across the ice.
The excitement produced by the return of this man alone was intense; who, after this,would accompany Hatteras in his bold attempts? Still he did not abandon the hope of trying
again. His father, the brewer, died, and he came into possession of an enormous fortune.
Meanwhile something had happened which cut John Hatteras to the heart.
A brig, the Advance, carrying seventeen men, equipped by Mr. Grinnell, a merchant,
commanded by Dr. Kane, and sent out in search of Franklin, went as far north, through
Baffin’s Bay and Smith’s Sound, as latitude 82°, nearer to the Pole than any of his
predecessors had gone.
Now this was an American ship. Grinnell was an American, Kane was an American!
It is easy to understand how the customary disdain of the Englishman for the Yankee
turned to hatred in the heart of Hatteras; he made up his mind, at any price, to beat his bold
rival, and to reach the Pole itself.
For two years he lived at Liverpool incognito. He was taken for a sailor. He saw in
Richard Shandon the man he wanted; he presented his plans by an anonymous letter to him
and to Dr. Clawbonny. The Forward was built and equipped. Hatteras kept his name a secret;
otherwise no one would have gone with him. He resolved only to take command of the brig at
some critical juncture, and when his crew had gone too far to be able to retreat; he kept in
reserve, as we have seen, the power of making generous offers to the men, so that they
would follow him to the end of the world.
In fact, it was to the end of the world that he wanted to go.
Now matters looked very serious, and John Hatteras made himself known.
His dog, the faithful Duke, the companion of his expeditions, was the first to recognize
him, and fortunately for the bold, and unfortunately for the timid, it was firmly established that
the captain of the Forward was John Hatteras.
Chapter 13 — The Captain’s Plans

The appearance of this famous person was variously received by the different members
of the crew: some allied themselves strongly with him, moved both by boldness and by
avarice; others took renewed interest in the expedition, but they reserved to themselves the
right of protesting later; besides, at that time, it was hard to make any resistance to such a
man. Hence every man went back to his place. The 20th of May was Sunday, and
consequently a day of rest for the crew.
The officers took counsel together in the doctor’s cabin; there were present Hatteras,
Shandon, Wall, Johnson, and the doctor.
“Gentlemen,” said the captain, with his peculiarly gentle but impressive voice, “you know
my project of going to the Pole; I want to get your opinion of the undertaking. What do you
think about it, Shandon?”
“I have not to think. Captain,” answered Shandon, coldly; “I have only to obey.”
Hatteras was not surprised at this answer.
“Richard Shandon,” he resumed with equal coldness, “I ask your opinion about our
probable chance of success.”
“Well, Captain,” answered Shandon, “facts must answer for me; all attempts hitherto
have failed; I hope we may be more fortunate.”
“We shall be. And, gentlemen, what do you think?”
“As for me,” replied the doctor, “I consider your design practicable, Captain; and since
there is no doubt but that at some time or other explorers will reach the Pole, I don’t see why
we should not do it.”
“There are very good reasons why we should,” answered Hatteras, “for we have taken
measures to make it possible, and we shall profit by the experience of others. And, Shandon,
you must accept my thanks for the care you have given to the equipment of the brig; there
are some ill-disposed men in the crew, whom I shall soon bring to reason; but on the whole, I
can give nothing but praise.”
Shandon bowed coldly. His position on the Forward, of which he had thought himself
commander, was a false one. Hatteras understood this, and said nothing more about it.
“As for you, gentlemen,” he resumed, addressing Wall and Johnson, “I could not myself
have chosen officers more skilled and intrepid.”
“On my word, Captain, I am your man,” answered Johnson; “and although I think your
plan a very bold one, you can count on me to the end.”
“And on me too,” said Wall.
“As for you, Doctor, I know your worth —”
“Well, you know then a great deal more than I do,” answered the doctor, quickly.
“Now, gentlemen,” said Hatteras, “it is well that you should know on what good grounds I
have made up my mind about the accessibility of the Pole. In 1817 the Neptune, of Aberdeen,
went to the north of Spitzbergen, as far as latitude 82°. In 1825the celebrated Parry, after his
third voyage in polar seas, started also from the extremity of Spitzbergen, and on sledges
went one hundred and fifty miles farther north. In 1852, Captain Inglefield reached, through
Smith’s Sound, latitude 78°35’. All these were English ships, and were commanded by
Englishmen, our fellow-countrymen.”
Here Hatteras paused.
“I ought to add,” he resumed with some formality, and as if he could hardly bring himself
to utter the words, — “I ought to add that in 1854 the American, Captain Kane, in the brig
Advance, went still farther north, and that his lieutenant, Morton, journeying over the ice,hoisted the United States flag beyond the eighty-second degree. Having once said this, I shall
not return to it. Now the main point is that the captains of the Neptune, the Enterprise, the
Isabella, and the Advance agree in the statement that beyond these high latitudes there is an
open polar sea, entirely free from ice.”
“Free from ice!” cried Shandon, interrupting the captain, “it’s impossible!”
“You will notice, Shandon,” observed Hatteras, quietly, while his eye lighted up for an
instant, “that I quote both facts and authorities. I must add that in 1851, when Penny was
stationed by the side of Wellington Channel, his lieutenant, Stewart, found himself in the
presence of an open sea, and that his report was confirmed when, in 1853, Sir Edward
Belcher wintered in Northumberland Bay, in latitude 76°52’, and longitude 99°20’; these
reports are indisputable, and one must be very incredulous not to admit them.”
“Still, Captain,” persisted Shandon, “facts are as contradictory —”
“You’re wrong, Shandon, you’re wrong!” cried Dr. Clawbonny; “facts never contradict a
scientific statement; the captain will, I trust, excuse me.”
“Go on, Doctor!” said Hatteras.
“Well, listen to this, Shandon; it results very clearly from geographical facts, and from the
study of isothermal lines, that the coldest spot on the globe is not on the Pole itself; like the
magnetic pole, it lies a few degrees distant. So the calculations of Brewster, Berghaus, and
other physicists prove that in our hemisphere there are two poles of extreme cold: one in Asia
in latitude 79°30’ N., and longitude 120° E.; the other is in America, in latitude 78° N., and
longitude 97° W. This last alone concerns s, and you see, Shandon, that it is more than
twelve degrees below the Pole. Well, I ask you why, then, the sea should not be as free from
ice as it often is in summer in latitude 66° that is to say, at the southern end of Baffin’s Bay?”
“Well put,” answered Johnson; “Dr. Clawbonny talks of those things like a man who
understands them.”
“It seems possible,” said James Wall.
“Mere conjectures! nothing but hypotheses!” answered Shandon, obstinately.
“Well, Shandon,” said Hatteras, “let us consider the two cases; either the sea is free from
ice, or it is not, and in neither case will it be impossible to reach the Pole. If it is free, the
Forward will take us there without difficulty; if it is frozen, we must try to reach it over the ice
by our sledges. You will confess that it is not impracticable; having once come with our brig to
latitude 83°, we shall have only about six hundred miles between us and the Pole.”
“And what are six hundred miles,” said the doctor, briskly, “when it is proved that a
Cossack, Alexis Markoff, went along the frozen sea, north of Russia, on sledges drawn by
dogs, for a distance of eight hundred miles, in twenty-four days?”
“You hear him, Shandon,” answered Hatteras, “and will you say that an Englishman
cannot do as much as a Cossack?”
“Never!” cried the enthusiastic doctor.
“Never!” repeated the boatswain.
“Well, Shandon?” asked the captain.
“Captain,” answered Shandon, coldly, “I can only repeat what I have said, — I shall obey
“Well. Now,” continued Hatteras, “let us consider our present situation; we are caught in
the ice, and it seems to me impossible for us to reach Smith’s Sound this year. This is what
we must do.”
Hatteras unfolded on the table one of the excellent charts published in 1859 by the order
of the Admiralty.
“Be good enough to look here. If Smith’s Sound is closed, Lancaster Sound is not, to the
west of Baffin’s Bay; in my opinion, we ought to go up this sound as far as Barrow Strait, and
thence to Beechey Island. This has been done a hundred times by sailing-vessels; we shall
have no difficulty, going under steam. Once at Beechey Island, we shall follow WellingtonSound as far northward as possible, to where it meets the channel, connecting it with Queen’s
Sound, at the place where the open sea was seen. It is now only the 20th of May; if nothing
happens, we shall be there in a month, and from there we shall start for the Pole. What do
you say to that, gentlemen?”
“Evidently,” said Johnson, “it’s the only way open to us.”
“Well, we shall take it, and to-morrow. Let Sunday be a day of rest; you will see,
Shandon, that the Bible is read as usual; the religious exercises do the men good, and a sailor
more than any one ought to put his trust in God.”
“Very well, Captain,” answered Shandon, who went away with the second officer and the
“Doctor,” said Hatteras, pointing at Shandon, “there’s an offended man, whose pride has
ruined him; I can no longer depend upon him.”
Early the next day the captain had the launch lowered; he went to reconnoitre the
icebergs about the basin, of which the diameter was hardly more than two hundred yards. He
noticed that by the gradual pressure of the ice, this space threatened to grow smaller; hence it
became necessary to make a breach somewhere, to save the ship from being crushed; by the
means he employed, it was easy to see that John Hatteras was an energetic man.
In the first place he had steps cut, by which he climbed to the top of an iceberg; from
that point he saw it would be easy to open a path to the southwest; by his orders an opening
was made in the middle of an iceberg, a task which was completed by Monday evening.
Hatteras could not depend on his blasting-cylinders of eight or ten pounds of powder,
whose action would have been insignificant against such large masses; they were only of use
to break the field-ice; hence he placed in the opening a thousand pounds of powder, carefully
laying it where it should be of the utmost service. This chamber, to which ran a long fuse,
surrounded by gutta-percha, opened on the outside. The gallery, leading thereto, was filled
with snow and lumps of ice, to which the cold of the next night gave the consistency of
granite. In fact, the temperature, under the influence of the east-wind, fell to 12°.
The next day at seven o’clock the Forward was under steam, ready to seize any chance
of escape. Johnson was charged with lighting the mine; the fuse was calculated to burn half
an hour before exploding the powder. Hence Johnson had plenty of time to get back to the
ship; indeed, within ten minutes he was at his post.
The crew were all on deck; the day was dry and tolerably clear; the snow was no longer
falling; Hatteras, standing on the deck with Shandon and the doctor, counted the minutes on
his watch.
At thirty-five minutes after eight a dull explosion was heard, much less deafening than
had been anticipated. The outline of the mountains was suddenly changed, as by an
earthquake; a dense white smoke rose high in the air, and long cracks appeared in the side of
the iceberg, of which the upper part was hurled to a great distance, and fell in fragments
about the Forward.
But the way was by no means free yet; huge lumps of ice were suspended upon the
neighboring icebergs, and their fall threatened to close the exit.
Hatteras saw their situation in a flash of the eye.
“Wolston!” he shouted.
The gunner hastened to him.
“Captain!” he said.
“Put a triple charge in the forward gun, and ram it in as hard as possible!”
“Are we going to batter the iceberg down with cannon-balls?” asked the doctor.
“No,” answered Hatteras. “That would do no good. No balls, Wolston, but a triple charge
of powder. Be quick!”
In a few moments the gun was loaded.
“What is he going to do without a ball?” muttered Shandon between his teeth.“We’ll soon see,” answered the doctor.
“We are all ready. Captain,” cried Wolston.
“Well,” answered Hatteras. “Brunton!” he shouted to the engineer, “make ready! Forward
a little!”
Brunton opened the valves, and the screw began to move; the Forward drew near the
blown-up iceberg.
“Aim carefully at the passage!” cried the captain to the gunner.
He obeyed; when the brig was only half a cable-length distant, Hatteras gave the order,

A loud report followed, and the fragments of ice, detached by the commotion of the air,
fell suddenly into the sea. The simple concussion had been enough.
“Put on full steam, Brunton!” shouted Hatteras. “Straight for the passage, Johnson!”
Johnson was at the helm; the brig, driven by the screw, which tossed the water freely,
entered easily the open passage. It was time. The Forward had hardly passed through the
opening, before it closed behind it.
It was an exciting moment, and the only calm and collected man on board was the
captain. So the crew, amazed at the success of this device, could not help shouting, —
“Hurrah for John Hatteras!”
Chapter 14 — The Expeditions in Search of Franklin

Wednesday, the 21st of May, the Forward resumed her perilous voyage, making her way
dexterously through the packs and icebergs, thanks to steam, which is seldom used by
explorers in polar seas; she seemed to sport among the moving masses; one would have said
she felt the hand of a skilled master, and that, like a horse under a skilful rider, she obeyed
the thought of her captain.
The weather grew warmer. At six o’clock in the morning the thermometer stood at 26°,
at six in the evening at 29°, and at midnight at 25°; the wind was light from the southeast.
Thursday, at about three o’clock in the morning, the Forward arrived in sight of
Possession Bay, on the American shore, at the entrance of Lancaster Sound; soon Cape
Burney came into sight. A few Esquimaux came out to the ship; but Hatteras could not stop to
speak with them.
The peaks of Byam Martin, which rise above Cape Liverpool, were passed on the left,
and they soon disappeared in the evening mist; this hid from them Cape Hay, which has a
very slight elevation, and so is frequently confounded with ice about the shore, a circumstance
which very often renders the determination of the coast-line in polar regions very difficult.
Puffins, ducks, and white gulls appeared in great numbers. By observation the latitude
was 74°1’, and the longitude, according to the chronometer, 77°15’.
The two mountains, Catherine and Elizabeth, raised their snowy heads above the clouds.
At ten o’clock on Friday Cape Warrender was passed on the right side of the sound, and
on the left Admiralty Inlet, a bay which has never been fully explored by navigators, who are
always hastening westward. The sea ran rather high, and the waves often broke over the
bows, covering the deck with small fragments of ice. The land on the north coast presented a
strange appearance with its high, flat table-lands sparkling beneath the sun’s rays.
Hatteras would have liked to skirt these northern lands, in order to reach the sooner
Beechey Island and the entrance of Wellington Channel; but, much to his chagrin, the
bankice obliged him to take only the passes to the south.
Hence, on the 26th of May, in the midst of a fog and a snow-storm, the Forward found
herself off Cape York; a lofty, steep mountain was soon recognized; the weather got a little
clearer, and at midday the sun appeared long enough to permit an observation to be taken:
latitude 74°4’, and longitude 84°23’. The Forward was at the end of Lancaster Sound.
Hatteras showed the doctor on the chart the route he had taken and that which he was
to follow. At that time the position of the brig was interesting.
“I should have liked to be farther north,” he said, “but it was impossible; see, here is our
exact position.” The captain pointed to a spot near Cape York. “We are in the middle of this
open space, exposed to every wind; into it open Lancaster Sound, Barrow Strait, Wellington
Channel, and Regent’s Inlet; here, of necessity, come all northern explorers.”
“Well,” answered the doctor, “so much the worse for them; it is indeed an open space,
where four roads meet, and I don’t see any sign-post to point out the right way! What did
Parry, Ross, and Franklin do?”
“They did n’t do anything in particular; they let themselves be governed by
circumstances; they had no choice, I can assure you; at one time Barrow Strait would be
closed against one, and the next year it would be open for another; again the ship would be
irresistibly driven towards Regent’s Inlet. In this way we have at last been able to learn the
geography of these confused seas.”
“What a strange region!” said the doctor, gazing at the chart. “How everything is divided
and cut up, without order or reason! It seems as if all the land near the Pole were divided inthis way in order to make the approach harder, while in the other hemisphere it ends in
smooth, regular points, like Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope, and the Indian peninsula!
Is it the greater rapidity at the equator which has thus modified things, while the land lying at
the extremity, which was fluid at the beginning of the world, could not condense and unite as
elsewhere, on account of slower rotation?”
“That may be, for there is a reason for everything, and nothing happens without a cause,
which God sometimes lets students find out; so, Doctor, find it out if you can.”
“I shall not waste too much time over it, Captain. But what is this fierce wind?” added the
doctor, wrapping himself up well.
“The north-wind is the common one, and delays our progress.”
“Still it ought to blow the ice toward the south, and leave our way free.”
“It ought to, Doctor, but the wind does n’t always do what it ought to. See, that ice looks
impenetrable. We shall try to reach Griffith Island, then to get around Cornwallis Island to
reach Queen’s Channel, without going through Wellington Channel. And yet I am anxious to
touch at Beechey Island to get some more coal.”
“How will you do that?” asked the astonished doctor.
“Easily; by order of the Admiralty, a great amount has been placed on this island, to
supply future expeditions, and although Captain MacClintock took some in 1859, I can assure
you there is still some left for us.”
“In fact, these regions have been explored for fifteen years, and until certain proof of
Franklin’s death was received, the Admiralty always kept five or six ships cruising in these
waters. If I’m not mistaken, Griffith Island, which I see in the middle of the open space, has
become a general rendezvous for explorers.”
“True, Doctor, and Franlkin’s ill-fitted expedition has been the means of our learning so
much about these parts.”
“Exactly; for there have been a great many expeditions since 1845. It was not till 1848
that there was any alarm about the continued non-appearance of the Erebus and the Terror,
Franklin’s two ships. Then the admiral’s old friend, Dr. Richardson, seventy years of age, went
through Canada, and descended Coppermine River to the Polar Sea; on the other side,
James Ross, in command of the Enterprise and the Investigator, sailed from Upernavik in
1848, and reached Cape York, where we are now. Every day he threw overboard a cask
containing papers telling where he was; during fogs he fired cannon; at night he burned
signalfires and sent off rockets, carrying always but little sail; finally, he wintered at Leopold’s Harbor
in 1848-49; there he caught a large number of white foxes; he had put on their necks copper
collars on which was engraved a statement of the position of the ship and where supplies had
been left, and he drove them away in every direction; then, in the spring, he explored the
coast of North Somerset on sledges, amid dangers and privations which disabled nearly all his
men. He built cairns, enclosing copper cylinders with instructions to the absent expedition;
during his absence, Lieutenant MacClure explored fruitlessly the northern coast of Barrow
Strait. It is noteworthy, Captain, that James Ross had among his officers two men who
afterwards became celebrated, MacClure, who found the Northwest Passage, and
MacClintock, who found the last remains of the Franklin expedition.”
“Two good and brave captains, two brave Englishmen; go on. Doctor, with this account
which you know so well; there is always something to be learned from the account of bold
“Well, to conclude with James Ross, I have only to add that he tried to go farther west
from Melville Island; but he nearly lost his ships, and being caught in the ice he was carried,
against his will, to Baffin’s Bay.”
“Carried,” said Hatteras, frowning, — “carried against his will!”
“He had discovered nothing,” resumed the doctor; “it was only after 1850 that English
ships were always exploring there, when a reward of twenty thousand pounds was offered toany one who should discover the crews of the Erebus and Terror. Already, in 1848, Captains
Kellet and Moore, in command of the Herald and the Plover, tried to make their way through
by Behring Strait. I ought to say that the winter of 1850-51, Captain Austin passed at
Cornwallis Island; Captain Penny, with the Assistance and Resolute, explored Wellington
Channel; old John Ross, who discovered the magnetic pole, started in his yacht, the Felix, in
search of his friend; the brig Prince Albert made her first voyage at the expense of Lady
Franklin; and, finally, two American ships, sent out by Grinnell, under Captain Haven, carried
beyond Wellington Channel, were cast into Lancaster Sound. It was during this year that
MacClintock, Austin’s lieutenant, pushed on to Melville Island and to Cape Dundas, the
extreme points reached by Parry in 1819, and on Beechey Island were found traces of
Franklin’s wintering there in 1845.”
“Yes,” answered Hatteras, “three of his sailors were buried there, three fortunate men!”
“From 1851 to 1852,” continued the doctor, with a gesture of agreement, “we find the
Prince Albert making a second attempt with the French lieutenant, Bellot; he winters at Batty
Bay in Prince Regent’s Sound, explores the southwest of Somerset, and reconnoitres the
coast as far as Cape Walker. Meanwhile, the Enterprise and Investigator, having returned to
England, came under the command of Collinson and MacClure, and they rejoined Kellet and
Moore at Behring Strait; while Collinson returned to winter at Hong-Kong, MacClure went on,
and after three winters, 1850–51, 1851–52, and 1852–53, he discovered the Northwest
Passage without finding any traces of Franklin. From 1852 to 1853, a new expedition,
consisting of three sailing-vessels, the Assistance, the Resolute, the North Star, and two
steam-vessels, the Pioneer and the Intrepid, started out under the orders of Sir Edward
Belcher, with Captain Kellet second in command; Sir Edward visited Wellington Channel,
wintered in Northumberland Bay, and explored the coast, while Kellet, pushing on as far as
Brideport on Melville Island, explored that region without success. But then it was rumored in
England that two ships, abandoned in the ice, had been seen not far from New Caledonia. At
once Lady Franklin fitted out the little screw-steamer Isabella, and Captain Inglefield, after
ascending Baffin’s Bay to Victoria Point, at the eightieth parallel, returned to Beechey Island
with equal unsuccess. At the beginning of 1855 the American Grinnell defrays the expense of
a new expedition, and Dr. Kane, trying to reach the Pole...”
“But he did not succeed,” cried Hatteras with violence, “and thank God he did not! What
he did not do, we shall!”
“I know it, Captain,” answered the doctor, “and I only speak of it on account of its
connection with the search for Franklin. Besides, it accomplished nothing. I nearly forgot to
say that the Admiralty, regarding Beechey Island as a general rendezvous, ordered the
steamer Phoenix, Captain Inglefield, in 1853, to carry provisions there; he sailed with
Lieutenant Bellot, who for the second, and last, time offered his services to England; we can
get full details about the catastrophe, for Johnson, our boatswain, was eye-witness of this sad
“Lieutenant Bellot was a brave Frenchman,” said Hatteras, “and his memory is honored
in England.”
“Then,” resumed the doctor, “the ships of Belcher’s squadron began to return one by
one; not all, for Sir Edward had to abandon the Assistance in 1854, as McClure had the
Investigator in 1853. Meanwhile Dr. Rae, in a letter dated July 29, 1854, written from Repulse
Bay, gave information that the Esquimaux of King William’s Land had in their possession
different objects belonging to the Erebus and Terror; then there was no doubt possible about
the fate of the expediton; the Phoenix, the North Star, and the ship of Collinson returned to
England; there was then no English ship in these waters. But if the government seemed to
have lost all hope, Lady Franklin did not despair, and with what was left of her fortune she
fitted out the Fox, commanded by MacClintock; he set sail in 1857, wintered about where you
made yourself known to us, Captain; he came to Beechey Island, August 11, 1858; the nextwinter he passed at Bellot Sound; in February, 1859, he began his explorations anew; on the
6th of May he found the document which left no further doubt as to the fate of the Erebus and
Terror, and returned to England at the end of the same year. That is a complete account of all
that has been done in these regions during the last fifteen years; and since the return of the
Fox, no ship has ventured among these dangerous waters!”
“Well, we shall try it!” said Hatteras.
Chapter 15 — The Forward Driven Southward

Towards evening the weather cleared up, and land was clearly to be seen between Cape
Sepping and Cape Clarence, which juts out to the east, then to the south, and is connected to
the mainland on the west by a low tongue of land. There was no ice at the entrance of
Regent’s Sound; but it was densely massed beyond Leopold Harbor, as if to form an
impassable barrier to the northward progress of the Forward.
Hatteras, who, although he carefully concealed his feelings, was exceedingly annoyed,
had to blow out a way with powder in order to enter Leopold Harbor; he reached it at midday,
on Sunday, May 27th; the brig was securely anchored to the large icebergs, which were as
firm, solid, and hard as rock.
At once the captain, followed by the doctor, Johnson, and his dog Duke, leaped out upon
the ice and soon reached the land. Duke leaped about with joy; besides, since the captain had
made himself known, he had become very sociable and very gentle, preserving his ill-temper
for some of the crew, whom his master disliked as much as he did.
The harbor was free from the ice which is generally forced there by the east-wind; the
sharp peaks, covered with snow, looked like a number of white waves. The house and lantern,
built by James Ross, were still in a tolerable state of preservation; but the provisions appeared
to have been eaten by foxes, and even by bears, of which fresh traces were to be seen; part
of the devastation was probably due to the hand of man, for some ruins of Esquimaux huts
were to be seen on the shores of the bay.
The six tombs, enclosing six sailors of the Enterprise and the Investigator, were
recognizable by little mounds of earth; they had been respected by all, by both men and
On first setting his foot on this northern earth, the doctor was really agitated; it would not
be easy to describe the emotions one feels at the sight of these ruined houses, tents, huts,
supplies, which nature preserves so perfectly in cold countries.
“There,” said he to his companions, — “there is the spot which James Ross himself
named Camp Refuge! If Franklin’s expedition had reached this spot, it would have been
saved. Here is the engine which was taken out and left here, and the furnace which warmed
the crew of the Prince Albert in 1851; everything remains as it was left, and one might fancy
that Kennedy, her captain, had sailed away from here yesterday. This is the launch that
sheltered them for some days, for Kennedy was separated from his ship, and only saved by
Lieutenant Bellot, who braved the cold of October to join him.”
“A brave and excellent officer he was,” said Johnson. “I knew him.”
While the doctor eagerly sought for traces of previous winterings there, Hatteras busied
himself with collecting the scanty fragments of fuel and provisions which lay there. The next
day was devoted to carrying them on board ship. The doctor explored the whole
neighborhood, never going too far from the brig, and sketched the most remarkable views.
The weather gradually grew milder; the snow-drifts began to melt. The doctor made a
tolerably large collection of northern birds, such as gulls, divers, molly-nochtes, and
eiderducks, which resemble ordinary ducks, with a white back and breast, a blue belly, the top of
the head blue, the rest of the plumage white, shaded with different tints of green; many of
them had already plucked from their bellies the eider-down, which both the male and the
female devote to lining their nests. The doctor also saw great seals breathing at the surface of
the water, but he was unable to draw one.
In his wanderings he discovered the stone on which is engraved the following inscription:

[E I]

which marks the passage of the Enterprise and Investigator; he pushed on to Cape Clarence,
to the spot where, in 1833, John and James Ross waited so impatiently for the ice to thaw.
The earth was covered with the skulls and bones of animals, and traces of the dwellings of
Esquimaux were to be seen.
The doctor thought of erecting a cairn at Leopold Harbor, and of leaving a letter there to
indicate the passage of the Forward and the aim of the expedition. But Hatteras formally
objected; he did not wish to leave behind him any traces which might be of use to a rival. In
spite of all he could say, the doctor was obliged to yield to the captain’s will. Shandon was
ready enough to blame this obstinacy, for, in case of accident, no ship could have put out to
the aid of the Forward.
Hatteras refused to comply. Having completed his preparations on Monday, he tried
once more to go to the north through the ice, but, after dangerous efforts, he was obliged to
descend again Regent’s Channel; he was utterly averse to remaining at Leopold’s Harbor,
which is open one day and closed the next by the unheralded motion of the ice, — a frequent
phenomenon in these seas, and one against which navigators have to be ever on their guard.
If Hatteras kept his anxiety from the others, he was at heart very anxious; he wanted to
go northward, and he was obliged to retreat to the south! Where would that bring him? Was
he going as far back as Victoria Harbor in the Gulf of Boothia, where Sir John Ross wintered
in 1833? Should he find Bellot Sound free at this time, and, by going around North Somerset,
could he ascend through Peel Sound? Or should he, like his predecessors, be caught for
many winters, and be obliged to consume all his supplies and provisions?
These fears tormented him; but he had to decide; he put about and started for the south.
Prince Regent’s Channel is of nearly uniform width from Leopold’s Harbor to Adelaide
Bay. The Forward went rapidly through the ice, with better fortune than many other ships,
most of which required a month to descend the channel, even in a better season; it is true
that none of these ships, except the Fox, had steam at their command, and were obliged to
do their best against frequent unfavorable winds.
The crew seemed overjoyed at leaving the northern regions; they had but a slight desire
to reach the Pole; they were alarmed at Hatteras’s plans, for his reputation as a fearless man
inspired them with but little confidence. Hatteras tried to make use of every opportunity to go
forward, whatever the consequences might be. And yet in these parts, to advance is all very
well, but one must also maintain his position and not run the risk of losing it.
The Forward went on under full steam; the black smoke whirled in spirals about the
sparkling summits of the icebergs; the weather was changeable, turning from a dry cold to a
snow-storm with inconceivable rapidity. Since the brig drew but little water, Hatteras hugged
the west shore; he did not want to miss the entrance of Bellot Sound, for the Gulf of Boothia
has no other entrance towards the south than the slightly known sound of the Fury and the
Hecla; hence the gulf would be impassable, if Bellot Sound were missed or found
By evening the Forward was in sight of Elwin Bay, which was recognized by its high,
steep cliffs; Tuesday morning Batty Bay was seen, where, on the 10th of September, 1851,
the Prince Albert anchored for the winter. The doctor examined the coast with interest through
his glass. From this point started the expeditions which determined the shape of North
Somerset. The weather was clear enough for them to see the deep ravines surrounding the
The doctor and Johnson were probably the only ones who took any interest in these
deserted countries. Hatteras, always studying his charts, talked little; his silence increased asthe ship drew southward; he often went upon the quarter-deck, and there he would remain for
hours, with folded arms, gazing absently at the horizon. His orders, when he gave any, were
short and quick. Shandon maintained a cold silence, and drawing more and more into himself,
he had nothing more to do with Hatteras than was officially required; James Wall remained
devoted to Shandon, and modelled his conduct after that of his friend. The rest of the crew
waited for whatever might turn up, ready to make the best use of it for their own profit. On
board there was none of the unanimity which is so necessary for the accomplishment of great
things. Hatteras knew this well.
During the day two whalers were seen making toward the south; a white bear, too, was
saluted with a few rifle-shots, but apparently without success. The captain knew the worth of
an hour at that time, and refused permission to chase the animal.
Wednesday morning the end of Regent Channel was passed; the angle of the west coast
was followed by a deep curve in the land. On examining his chart, the doctor recognized
Somerset-House Point, or Point Fury.
“There,” he said to his usual companion, — “there is where he first English ship was lost
that was sent to these seas in 1815, in Parry’s third voyage; the Fury was so much injured by
the ice in her second winter, that the crew were obliged to abandon her and to return to
England in her companion, the Hecla.”
“A good reason for having another ship,” answered Johnson; “that is a precaution which
polar explorers should not neglect; but Captain Hatteras was not the man to burden himself
with a companion!”
“Do you consider him rash, Johnson?” asked the doctor.
“I? 0, I don’t say anything of the sort. Dr. Clawbonny! But see those piles there, with
fragments of a tent hanging to them.”
“Yes, Johnson, it is there Parry unloaded all his ship’s supplies, and, if my memory
serves me right, the roof of the hut he built was made out of a mainsail covered by the
running-rigging of the Fury.”
“That must have changed a good deal since 1825.”
“Not so very much. In 1829, John Ross kept his crew safe and sound in this light
building. In 1851, when Prince Albert sent out an expedition, this hut was still standing;
Captain Kennedy repaired it nine years ago. It would be interesting to visit it, but Hatteras is
unwilling to stop.”
“And he is probably right, Dr. Clawbonny; if in England time is money, here it is safety,
and for the delay of a day, of an hour even, the whole voyage might be rendered useless. We
must let him do as he pleases.”
On Thursday, June 1st, the Forward sailed diagonally across Creswell Bay; from Point
Fury the coast rises in steep rocks three hundred feet high; towards the south, it is lower; a
few snowy summits are to be seen, of a regular shape, while others, more fantastic, were
hidden in the clouds.
During that day the weather grew milder, but cloudier; they lost sight of land; the
thermometer rose to 32°; a few water-quail quail were to be seen, and flocks of wild geese
flew toward the north; the crew laid aside some of their thick clothes; they began to be aware
of the approach of summer in the arctic regions.
Toward evening the Forward doubled Cape Garry, a quarter of a mile from the shore.
The lead marked ten to twelve fathoms, and they bore along the shore to Brentford Bay. In
this latitude they were to find Bellot Sound, a sound which entirely escaped the notice of Sir
John Ross in his expedition of 1828; his charts indicated an unbroken coast-line, with the least
irregularities indicated with the utmost care; hence it is to be supposed that when he passed
by the entrance of the sound, it was completely closed with ice and so could not be
distinguished from the land.
This sound was really discovered by Captain Kennedy in an excursion made in April,1852; he named it after Lieutenant Bellot, as “a just tribute,” as he said, “to the important
services rendered to our expedition by the French officer.”
Chapter 16 — The Magnetic Pole

As Hatteras drew near this sound he felt his anxiety redoubling; in fact, the success of
his expedition was at stake; so far he had done nothing more than his predecessors, the most
successful of whom, MacClintock, had consumed fifteen months in reaching this spot; but that
was little, indeed nothing, if he could not make Bellot Sound; being unable to return, he would
be kept a prisoner until the next year.
Hence he took upon himself the care of examining the coast; he went up to the lookout,
and on Saturday passed many hours there.
The crew were all acquainted with the situation of the ship; an unbroken silence reigned
on board; the engine was slackened; the Forward ran as near shore as possible; the coast
was lined with ice which the warmest summers could not melt; a practised eye was needed to
make out an entrance through them.
Hatteras was comparing his charts with the coast-line. The sun having appeared for a
moment at noon, Shandon and Wall took an observation, the result of which was at once told
There was half a day of anxiety for all. But suddenly, at about two o’clock, these words
were shouted from aloft, —
“Head to the west, and put on all steam.”
The brig obeyed at once, turning to the point directed; the screw churned the water, and
the Forward plunged under a full lead of steam between two swiftly running ice-streams.
The path was found; Hatteras came down to the quarter-deck, and the ice-master went
“Well, Captain,” said the doctor, “we have entered this famous sound at last!”
“Yes,” answered Hatteras; “but entering is not all, we have got to get out of it too.”
And with these words he went to his cabin.
“He is right,” thought the doctor; “we are in a sort of trap, without much space to turn
about in, and if we had to winter here! — well, we should n’t be the first to do it, and where
others lived through it, there is no reason why we should not!”
The doctor was right. It was at this very place, in a little sheltered harbor called Port
Kennedy by MacClintock himself, that the Fox wintered in 1858. At that moment it was easy to
recognize the lofty granite chains, and the steep beaches on each side.
Bellot Sound, a mile broad and seventeen long, with a current running six or seven knots,
is enclosed by mountains of an estimated height of sixteen hundred feet; it separates North
Somerset from Boothia; it is easy to see that there is not too much sailing room there. The
Forward advanced carefully, but still she advanced; tempests are frequent in this narrow pass,
and the brig did not escape their usual violence; by Hatteras’s orders, all the topsail-yards
were lowered, and the topmasts also; in spite of everything the ship labored fearfully; the
heavy seas kept the deck continually deluged with water; the smoke flew eastward with
inconceivable rapidity; they went on almost at haphazard through the floating ice; the
barometer fell to 29°; it was hard to stay on deck, so most of the men were kept below to
spare them unnecessary exposure.
Hatteras, Johnson, and Shandon remained on the quarter-deck, in spite of the whirlwinds
of snow and rain; and the doctor, who had just asked himself what was the most disagreeable
thing to be done at that time, soon joined them there; they could not hear, and hardly could
they see, one another; so he kept his thoughts to himself.
Hatteras tried to pierce the dense cloud of mist, for, according to his calculation, they
should be through the strait at six o’clock of the evening. At that time exit seemed closed, andHatteras was obliged to stop and anchor to an iceberg; but steam was kept up all night.
The weather was terrible. Every moment the Forward threatened to snap her cables;
there was danger, too, lest the mountain should be driven by the wind and crush the brig. The
officers kept on the alert, owing to their extreme anxiety; besides the snow, large lumps of
frozen spray were blown about by the hurricane like sharp arrows.
The temperature arose strangely in that terrible night; the thermometer marked 57°; and
the doctor, to his great surprise, thought he noticed some flashes of lightning followed by
distant thunder. This seemed to corroborate the testimony of Scoresby, who noticed the same
phenomenon above latitude 65°. Captain Parry also observed it in 1821.
Towards five o’clock in the morning the weather changed with singular rapidity; the
temperature fell to the freezing-point; the wind shifted to the north and grew quiet. The
western opening of the strait could be seen, but it was entirely closed. Hatteras gazed
anxiously at the coast, asking himself if there really were any exit.
Nevertheless, the brig put out slowly into the ice-streams, while the ice crushed noisily
against her bows; the packs at this time were six or seven feet thick; it was necessary
carefully to avoid them, for if the ship should try to withstand them, it ran the risk of being
lifted half out of the water and cast on her beam-ends.
At noon, for the first time, a magnificent solar phenomenon could be observed, a halo
with two parhelions; the doctor observed it, and took its exact dimensions; the exterior arc
was only visible for about thirty degrees each side of the horizontal diameter; the two images
of the sun were remarkably clear; the colors within the luminous area were, going toward the
outside, red, yellow, green, faint blue, and last of all white, gently fading away, without any
sharp line of termination.
The doctor remembered Thomas Young’s ingenious theory about these meteors; he
supposed that certain clouds composed of prisms of ice are hanging in the air; the sun’s rays
falling on these prisms are refracted at angles of sixty and ninety degrees. The halos can only
be formed in a clear sky. The doctor thought this an ingenious explanation.
Sailors, who are familiar with northern seas, consider this phenomenon a forerunner of
heavy snow. If this should be the case, the position of the Forward was very critical. Hence
Hatteras resolved to push on; during the rest of that day and the next night he took no rest,
but examined the horizon through his glass, entering every inlet, and losing no opportunity to
get out of the strait.
But in the morning he was compelled to stop before the impenetrable ice. The doctor
joined him on the quarter-deck. Hatteras led him clear aft where they could talk without fear of
being overheard.
“We are caught,” said Hatteras. “It’s impossible to go on.”
“Impossible?” said the doctor.
“Impossible! All the powder on board the Forward would not open a quarter of a mile to
“What are we to do?” asked the doctor.
“I don’t know. Curse this unlucky year!”
“Well, Captain, if we must go into winter-quarters, we’ll do it. As well here as anywhere
“Of course,” said Hatteras in a low voice, “but we ought not to be going into
winterquarters, especially in the month of June. It is demoralizing, and bad for the health. The spirits
of the crew are soon cast down during this long rest among real sufferings. So I had made up
my mind to winter at a latitude nearer the Pole.”
“Yes, but, unluckily, Baffin’s Bay was closed.”
“Any one else would have found it open,” cried Hatteras; “that American, that —”
“Come, Hatteras,” said the doctor, purposely interrupting him, “it’s now only the 5th of
June; we should not despair; a path may open before us suddenly; you know the ice oftenbreaks into separate pieces, even when the weather is calm, as if it were driven apart by
some force of repulsion; at any moment we may find the sea free.”
“Well, if that happens, we shall take advantage of it. It is not impossible that beyond
Bellot Strait we might get northward through Peel Sound or MacClintock Channel, and then
“Captain,” said James Wall, approaching, “the ice threatens to tear away the rudder.”
“Well,” answered Hatteras, “never mind; I sha’ n’t unship it; I want to be ready at any
hour, day or night. Take every precaution, Mr. Wall, and keep the ice off; but don’t unship it,
you understand.”
“But —” began Wall.
“I don’t care to hear any remarks, sir,” said Hatteras, severely. “Go!”
Wall returned to his post.
“Ah!” said Hatteras, angrily, “I would give five years of my life to be farther north! I don’t
know any more dangerous place; and besides, we are so near the magnetic pole that the
compass is of no use; the needle is inactive, or always shifting its direction.”
“I confess,” said the doctor, “that it is not plain sailing; but still, those who undertook it
were prepared for such dangers, and there is no need to be surprised.”
“Ah, Doctor! the crew has changed very much, and you have seen that the officers have
begun to make remarks. The high pay offered the sailors induced them to ship; but they have
their bad side, for as soon as they are off they are anxious to get back. Doctor, I have no
encouragement in my undertaking, and if I fail, it won’t be the fault of such or such a sailor,
but of the illwill of certain officers. Ah, they’ll pay dearly for it!”
“You are exaggerating, Hatteras.”
“Not at all! Do you fancy the crew are sorry for the obstacles we are meeting? On the
contrary, they hope I shall be compelled to abandon my plans. So they do not murmur, and
when the Forward is headed for the south, it will be the same thing. Fools! They imagine they,
are returning to England! But when I’m turned towards the north, you will see a difference! I
swear solemnly that no living being shall make me swerve from my course! Give me a
passage, an opening through which my brig can go, and I shall take it, if I have to leave half
her sheathing behind!”
The desires of the captain were destined to be satisfied in a measure. As the doctor had
foretold, there was a sudden change in the evening; under some influence of the wind, the
ice-fields separated; the Forward pushed on boldly, breaking the ice with her steel prow; all
the night they advanced, and towards six o’clock they were clear of Bellot Strait.
But great was Hatteras’s anger at finding the way to the north closed! He was able to
hide his despair; and as if the only open path were the one of his choice, he turned the
Forward towards Franklin Sound. Being unable to go up Peel Sound, he determined to go
around Prince of Wales Land, to reach MacClintock Channel. But he knew that Shandon and
Wall could not be deceived, and were conscious of the failure of his hopes.
Nothing especial happened on the 6th of June; snow fell, and the prophecy of the halo
came true.
For thirty-six hours the Forward followed the sinuosities of the coast of Boothia, without
reaching Prince of Whales Land. Hatteras put on all steam, burning his coal extravagantly; he
still intended to get further supplies on Beechey Island; on Thursday he arrived at Franklin
Sound, and he still found the way northward impassable.
His position was a desperate one; he could not return; the ice pushed him onward, and
he saw his path forever closing behind him, as if there were no open sea where he had
passed but an hour before.
Hence, not only was the Forward unable to go toward the north, but she could not stop
for a moment lest she should be imprisoned, and she fled before the ice like a ship before a
storm.Friday, June 7th, she arrived near the coast of Boothia, at the entrance of James Ross
Sound, which had to be avoided because its only exit is to the west, close to the shore of
The observations taken at noon showed them to be in latitude 70°5’11”, and longitude
96°46’45”; when the doctor heard this he examined his chart, and found that they were at the
magnetic pole, at the very point where James Ross, the nephew of Sir John, came to
determine its situation.
The land was low near the coast, and it rose only about sixty feet at the distance of a
mile from the sea.
The boiler of the Forward needed cleaning; the captain anchored his ship to a field of ice,
and gave the doctor leave to go ashore with the boatswain. For himself, being indifferent to
everything outside of his own plans, he shut himself up in his cabin, and studied the chart of
the Pole.
The doctor and his companion easily reached land; the first-named carried a compass
for his experiments; he wanted to test the work of James Ross; he easily made out the
mound of stones erected by him; he ran towards it; an opening in the cairn let him see a tin
box in which James Ross had placed an account of his discovery. No living being had visited
this lonely spot for thirty years.
At this place a needle suspended as delicately as possible assumed a nearly vertical
position under the magnetic influence; hence the centre of attraction was near, if not
immediately beneath, the needle.
The doctor made the experiment with all care. But if James Ross, owing to the
imperfection of his instruments, found a declination of only 89°50’, the real magnetic point is
found within a minute of this spot. Dr. Clawbonny was more fortunate, and at a little distance
from there he found a declination of 90°.
“This is exactly the magnetic pole of the earth!” he cried, stamping on the ground.
“Just here?” asked Johnson.
“Precisely here, my friend!”
“Well, then,” resumed the boatswain, “we must give up all the stories of a magnetic
mountain or large mass.”
“Yes, Johnson,” answered the doctor, laughing, “those are empty hypotheses! As you
see, there is no mountain capable of attracting ships, of drawing their iron from them anchor
after anchor, bolt after bolt! and your shoes here are as light as anywhere in the world.”
“But how do you explain —”
“There is no explanation, Johnson; we are not wise enough for that. But what is
mathematically certain is that the magnetic pole is at this very spot!”
“Ah, Dr. Clawbonny, how glad the captain would be to say as much of the North Pole!”
“He’ll say it, Johnson; he’ll say it!”
“God grant it!” was the answer.
The doctor and his companion raised a cairn at the spot where they tried their
experiment, and the signal for their return being made, they returned to the ship at five o’clock
of the evening.
Chapter 17 — The Fate of Sir John Franklin

The Forward succeeded, though not without difficulty, in getting by James Ross Sound,
by frequent use of the ice-saws and gunpowder; the crew was very much fatigued.
Fortunately the temperature was agreeable, and even thirty degrees above what James Ross
found at the same time of year. The thermometer marked 34°.
Saturday they doubled Cape Felix at the northern end of King William’s Land, one of the
smaller islands of northern seas.
At that time the crew became very much depressed; they gazed wistfully and sadly at its
far-stretching shores.
In fact, they were gazing at King William’s Land, the scene of one of the saddest
tragedies of modern times! Only a few miles to the west the Erebus and Terror were lost.
The sailors of the Forward were familiar with the attempts made to find Franklin, and the
result they had obtained, but they did not know all the sad details. Now, while the doctor was
following on his chart the course of the ship, many of them. Bell, Bolton, and Simpson, drew
near him and began to talk with him. Soon the others followed to satisfy their curiosity;
meanwhile the brig was advancing rapidly, and the bays, capes, and promontories of the
coast passed before their gaze like a gigantic panorama.
Hatteras was pacing nervously to and fro on the quarter-deck; the doctor found himself
on the bridge, surrounded by the men of the crew; he readily understood the interest of the
situation, and the impression that would be made by an account given under those
circumstances, hence he resumed the talk he had begun with Johnson.
“You know, my friends, how Franklin began: like Cook and Nelson, he was first a
cabinboy; after spending his youth in long sea-voyages, he made up his mind, in 1845, to seek the
Northwest Passage; he commanded the Erebus and the Terror, two stanch vessels, which
had visited the antarctic seas in 1840, under the command of James Ross. The Erebus, in
which Franklin sailed, carried a crew of seventy men, all told, with Fitz-James as captain;
Gore and Le Vesconte, lieutenants; Des Vœux, Sargent, and Couch, boatswains; and
Stanley, surgeon. The Terror carried sixty-eight men. Crozier was the captain; the lieutenants
were Little, Hodgson, and Irving; boatswains, Horesby and Thomas; the surgeon, Peddie. In
the names of the bays, capes, straits, promontories, channels, and islands of these latitudes
you find memorials of most of these unlucky men, of whom not one has ever again seen his
home! In all one hundred and thirty-eight men! We know that the last of Franklin’s letters were
written from Disco Island, and dated July 12, 1845. He said, `I hope to set sail to-night for
Lancaster Sound’. What followed his departure from Disco Bay? The captains of the whalers,
the Prince of Wales and the Enterprise, saw these two ships for the last time in Melville Bay,
and nothing more was heard of them. Still we can follow Franklin in his course westward; he
went through Lancaster and Barrow Sounds and reached Beechey Island, where he passed
the winter of 1845–46.”
“But how is this known?” asked Bell, the carpenter.
“By three tombs which the Austin expedition found there in 1850. Three of Franklin’s
sailors had been buried there: and, moreover, by a paper found by Lieutenant Hobson of the
Fox, dated April 25, 1848. We know also that, after leaving winter-quarters, the Erebus and
Terror ascended Wellington Channel as far as latitude 77°; but instead of pushing to the
north, which they doubtless found impossible, they returned towards the south —”
“And that was a fatal mistake!” uttered a grave voice. “Safety lay to the north.”
Every one turned round. It was Hatteras, who, leaning on the rail of the quarter-deck,
had just made that solemn remark.“Without doubt,” resumed the doctor, “Franklin intended to make his way to the American
shore; but tempests beset him, and September 12, 1846, the two ships were caught in the
ice, a few miles from here, to the northwest of Cape Felix; they were carried to the
northnorthwest of Point Victory; there,” said the doctor, pointing out to the sea. “Now,” he added,
“the ships were not abandoned till April 22, 1848. What happened during these nineteen
months? What did these poor men do? Doubtless they explored the surrounding lands, made
every effort to escape, for the admiral was an energetic man; and if he did not succeed —”
“It’s because his men betrayed him,” said Hatteras in a deep voice.
The sailors did not dare to lift their eyes; these words made them feel abashed.
“To be brief, this paper, of which I spoke, tells us; besides, that Sir John Franklin died,
worn out by his sufferings, June 11, 1847. All honor to his memory!” said the doctor, removing
his hat.
The men did the same in silence.
“What became of these poor men, deprived of their leader, during the next ten months?
They remained on board of their ships, and it was not till April, 1848, that they made up their
mind to abandon them; one hundred and five men survived out of the hundred and
thirtyeight. Thirty-three had died! Then Captains Crozier and Fitz-James erected a cairn at Point
Victory, and left their last paper there. See, my friends, we are passing by that point. You can
see traces of the cairn, placed, so to speak, at the farthest point reached by John Ross in
1831! There is Cape Jane Franklin! There Point Franklin! There Point Le Vesconte! There
Erebus Bay, where the launch, made of pieces of one of the ships, was found on a sledge!
There were found silver spoons, plenty of food, chocolate, tea, and religious books. The
hundred and five survivors, under the command of Captain Crozier, set out for Great Fish
River. How far did they get? Did they reach Hudson’s Bay? Have any survived? What became
of them after that? —”
“I will tell you what became of them,” said John Hatteras in an energetic voice. “Yes, they
tried to reach Hudson’s Bay, and separated into several parties. They took the road to the
south. In 1854 a letter from Dr. Rae states that in 1850 the Esquimaux had met in King
William’s Land a detachment of forty men, chasing sea-cows, travelling on the ice, dragging a
boat along with them, thin, pale, and worn out with suffering and fatigue. Later, they
discovered thirty corpses on the mainland and five on a neighboring island, some half buried,
others left without burial; some lying beneath an overturned boat, others under the ruins of a
tent; here lay an officer with his glass swung around his shoulder, and his loaded gun near
him; farther on were kettles with the remains of a horrible meal. At this news, the Admiralty
urged the Hudson’s Bay Company to send its most skilful agents to this place. They
descended Black River to its mouth. They visited Montreal and Maconochie Islands, and Point
Ogle. In vain! All these poor fellows had died of misery, suffering, and starvation, after trying
to prolong their lives by having recourse to cannibalism. That is what became of them along
their way towards the south, which was lined with their mutilated bodies. Well, do you want to
follow their path?”
Hatteras’s ringing voice, passionate gestures, and glowing face produced an
indescribable effect. The crew, moved by the sight of these ill-omened lands, cried with one
voice, —
“To the north! to the north!”
“Well, to the north! Safety and glory await us there at the north! Heaven is declaring for
us! The wind is changing! The passage is free! Prepare to go about!”
The sailors hastened to their places; the ice-streams grew slowly free; the Forward went
about rapidly, and ran under full steam towards MacClintock’s Channel.
Hatteras was justified in counting on a freer sea; on his way he retraced the probable
path of Franklin; he went along the eastern side of Prince of Wales Land, which is clearly
defined, while the other shore is still unknown. Evidently the clearing away of the ice towardsthe south took place through the eastern strait, for it appeared perfectly clear; so the Forward
was able to make up for lost time; she was put under full steam, so that the 14th they passed
Osborne Bay, and the farthest points reached by the expeditions of 1851. There was still a
great deal of ice about them, but there was every indication that the Forward would have clear
sailing-way before her.
Chapter 18 — The Way Northward

The crew seemed to have returned to their habits of discipline and obedience. Their
duties were slight and infrequent, so that they had plenty of leisure. The temperature never
fell below the freezing-point, and the thaw removed the greatest obstacles from their path.
Duke had made friends with Dr. Clawbonny. They got on admirably together. But as in
friendship one friend is always sacrificed to the other, it must be said that the doctor was not
the other. Duke did with him whatever he pleased. The doctor obeyed him as a dog obeys his
master. Moreover, Duke conducted himself very amicably with most of the officers and
sailors; only, instinctively doubtless, he avoided Shandon; he had, too, a grudge against Pen
and Foker; his hatred for them manifested itself in low growls when they came near him.
They, for their part, did not dare attack the captain’s dog, “his familiar spirit,” as Clifton called
In a word, the crew had taken courage again.
“It seems to me,” said James Wall one day to Richard Shandon, “that the men took the
captain’s words for earnest; they seem to be sure of success.”
“They are mistaken,” answered Shandon; “if they would only reflect, and consider our
condition, they would see we are simply going from one imprudence to another.”
“Still,” resumed Wall, “we are in a more open sea; we are going along a well-known
route; don’t you exaggerate somewhat, Shandon?”
“Not a bit, Wall; the hate and jealousy, if you please, with which Hatteras inspires me,
don’t blind my eyes. Say, have you seen the coal-bunkers lately?”
“No,” answered Wall.
“Well! go below, and you’ll see how near we are to the end of our supply. By right, we
ought to be going under sail, and only starting our engine to make headway against currents
or contrary winds; our fuel ought to be burned only with the strictest economy, for who can
say where and for how long we may be detained? But Hatteras is pushed by this mania of
going forward, of reaching the inaccessible Pole, and he does n’t care for such a detail.
Whether the wind is fair or foul, he goes on under steam; and if he goes on we run a risk of
being very much embarrassed, if not lost.”
“Is that so, Shandon? That is serious!”
“You are right, Wall, it is; not only would the engine be of no use to us if we got into a
tight place, but what are we to do in the winter? We ought to take some precautions against
the cold in a country where the mercury often freezes in the thermometer.”
“But if I’m not mistaken, Shandon, the captain intends getting a new supply at Beechey
Island; they say there is a great quantity there.”
“Can any one choose where he’ll go in these seas, Wall? Can one count on finding such
or such a channel free of ice? And if he misses Beechey Island, or can’t reach it, what is to
become of us?”
“You are right, Shandon; Hatteras seems to me unwise; but why don’t you say
something of this sort to him?”
“No, Wall,” answered Shandon, with ill-disguised bitterness, “I have made up my mind
not to say a word; I am not responsible any longer for the ship; I shall await events; if I receive
any commands, I obey, and I don’t proclaim my opinions.”
“Let me tell you you are wrong, Shandon; for the well-being of all is at stake, and the
captain’s imprudence may cost us all dear.”
“And if I were to speak, Wall, would he listen to me?”
Wall did not dare say he would.“But,” he added, “he would perhaps listen to remonstrances of the crew.”
“The crew,” said Shandon, shrugging his shoulders; “but, my dear Wall, have n’t you
noticed that they care for everything else more than for their safety? They know they’re
getting near latitude 72°, and that a thousand pounds is paid for every degree of latitude
beyond which is reached.”
“You are right, Shandon,” answered Wall, “and the captain has taken the surest means
of securing his men.”
“Without doubt,” answered Shandon; “for the present, at least.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that all will go very well in the absence of all dangers and fatigues, in an open
sea; Hatteras has caught them by his money; but what is done for pay is ill done. But once let
hardships, dangers, discomfort, sickness, melancholy, and fierce cold stare them in the face,
— and we are flying towards them now, — and you will see whether they remember the pay
they are to get.”
“So, in your opinion, Shandon, Hatteras will fail?”
“Exactly; he will fail. In such an enterprise, there should be an identity of interests among
the leaders, a sympathy which is lacking here. Besides, Hatteras is mad; his whole past
proves it! But we shall see! Circumstances may arise in which the command of the ship will
have to be given to a less foolhardy captain —”
“Still,” said Wall, shaking his head doubtfully, “Hatteras will always have on his side —”
“He will have,” interrupted Shandon, — “he will have that Dr. Clawbonny, who only cares
to study; Johnson, who is a slave to discipline, and who never takes the trouble to reason;
perhaps one or two besides, like Bell, the carpenter, — four at the most, and there are
eighteen on board! No, Wall, Hatteras has not the confidence of the crew; he knows it well,
and he tries to make up for it by bribery; he made a good use of the account of Franklin’s
catastrophe to create a different feeling in their excited minds; but that won’t last, I tell you;
and if he don’t reach Beechey Island, he is lost!”
“If the crew suspected —”
“I beg of you,” said Shandon, quickly, “not to say a word about this to the crew; they’ll
find it out for themselves. Now, at any rate, it is well to go on towards the north. But who can
say whether what Hatteras takes for a step towards the Pole may not be really retracing our
steps? At the end of MacClintock Channel is Melville Bay, and thence open the straits which
lead back to Baffin’s Bay. Hatteras had better take care! The way west is easier than the way
From these words Shandon’s state of mind may be judged, and how justified the captain
was in suspecting a treacherous disposition in him.
Shandon, moreover, was right when he ascribed the present satisfaction of the crew to
the prospect they had of passing latitude 72°. This greed of gold seized the least audacious.
Clifton had made out every one’s share with great exactness. Leaving out the captain and the
doctor, who could not be admitted to the division, there were sixteen men on board the
Forward. The amount was a thousand pounds, that was £72 10s. for each man, for every
degree. If they should ever reach the Pole the eighteen degrees to be crossed would give
each one a sum of £1,125, a fair fortune. This whim would cost the captain £18,000; but he
was rich enough to pay for such a costly trip to the Pole.
These calculations aroused wonderfully the avarice of the crew, as can be readily
believed, and more than one longed to pass latitude 72°, who, a fortnight before, rejoiced to
be sailing southward.
The Forward sailed by Cape Alworth June 16th. Mount Rawlinson raised its white peaks
towards the sky; the snow and mist exaggerated its size so that it appeared colossal; the
temperature remained a few degrees above the freezing-point; cascades and cataracts
appeared on the sides of the mountain; avalanches kept falling with a roar like that of artillery.The long stretches of glaciers made a loud echo. The contrast between this wintry scene and
the thaw made a wonderful sight. The brig sailed along very near the coast; they were able to
see on some sheltered rocks a few bushes bearing modest little roses, some reddish moss,
and a budding dwarf willow barely rising above the ground.
At last, June 19th, in latitude 72°, they doubled Point Minto, which forms one of the
extremities of Ommanney Bay; the brig entered Melville Bay, called “the Sea of Money” by
Bolton; this good-natured fellow used to be always jesting on this subject, much to
Clawbonny’s amusement.
The obstacles to their course were but few, for June 23d, in the teeth of a strong
northeasterly breeze, they passed latitude 74°. This was at the middle of Melville Bay, one of
the largest seas of this region. It was first crossed by Captain Parry, in his great expedition of
1819, and there it was that his crew won the £5,000 promised by act of Parliament.
Clifton contented himself with remarking that there were two degrees between latitude
72° and latitude 74°: that was £125 to his credit. But they told him that a fortune did not
amount to much up there, and that a man could be called rich only when he could have a
chance to drink to his wealth; it seemed better to wait for the moment when they could meet
at some tavern in Liverpool before rejoicing and rubbing their hands.
Chapter 19 — A Whale in Sight

Melville Bay, although perfectly navigable, was not wholly free of ice; immense ice-fields
could be seen stretching to the horizon; here and there appeared a few icebergs, but they
stood motionless as if anchored in the ice. The Forward went under full steam through broad
passes where she had plenty of sailing-room. The wind shifted frequently from one point of
the compass to another.
The variability of the wind in the arctic seas is a remarkable fact, and very often only a
few minutes intervene between a calm and a frightful tempest. This was Hatteras’s experience
on the 23d of June, in the middle of this huge bay.
The steadiest winds blow generally from the ice to the open sea, and are very cold. On
that day the thermometer fell several degrees; the wind shifted to the southward, and the
heavy gusts, having passed over the ice, discharged themselves of their dampness under the
form of a thick snow. Hatteras immediately ordered the sails which were aiding the engine to
be reefed; but before this could be done his main-topsail was carried away.
Hatteras gave his orders with the utmost coolness, and did not leave the deck during the
storm; he was obliged to run before the gale. The wind raised very heavy waves which hurled
about pieces of ice of every shape, torn from the neighboring ice-fields; the brig was tossed
about like a child’s toy, and ice was dashed against its hull; at one moment it rose
perpendicularly to the top of a mountain of water; its steel prow shone like molten metal; then
it sank into an abyss, sending forth great whirls of smoke, while the screw revolved out the
water with a fearful clatter. Rain and snow fell in torrents.
The doctor could not miss such a chance to get wet to the skin; he remained on deck,
gazing at the storm with all the admiration such a spectacle cannot fail to draw forth. One
standing next to him could not have heard his voice; so he said nothing, but looked, and soon
he saw a singular phenomenon, one peculiar to the northern seas.
The tempest was confined to a small space of about three or four miles; in fact, the wind
loses much of its force in passing over the ice, and cannot carry its violence very far; every
now and then the doctor would see, through some rift in the storm, a clear sky and a quiet
sea beyond the ice-fields; hence the Forward had only to make her way through the passes to
find smooth sailing; but she ran a risk of being dashed against the moving masses which
obeyed the motion of the waves. Notwithstanding, Hatteras succeeded in a few hours in
carrying his vessel into smooth water, while the violence of the storm, now at its worst at the
horizon, was dying away within a few cable-lengths from the Forward.
Melville Bay then looked very different; by the influence of the winds and waves a large
number of icebergs had been detached from the shores and were now floating northward,
continually crashing against one another. They could be counted by hundreds; but the bay is
very broad, and the brig avoided them without difficulty. The sight of these floating masses,
which seemed to be racing together, was indeed magnificent.
The doctor was wild with enthusiasm about it, when Simpson, the harpooner, came up to
him and asked him to notice the changing tints of the sea, which varied from deep blue to
olive green; long bands ran from north to south with edges so sharply cut that the line of
division could be seen as far as the horizon. Sometimes a transparent sheet would stretch out
from an opaque one.
“Well, Dr. Clawbonny, what do you think of that?” said Simpson.
“I agree, my friend, with what Scoresby said about these differently colored waters,”
answered the doctor, “namely, that the blue water does not contain the millions of animalcules
and medusæ which the green water contains; he made a great many experiments to test it,and I am ready to agree with him.”
“0, but there’s something else it shows!”
“What is that?”
“Well, if the Forward were only a whaler, I believe we should have some sport.”
“But,” answered the doctor, “I don’t see any whales.”
“We shall very soon, though, I promise you. It’s great luck for a whaler to see those
green patches in these latitudes.”
“Why so?” asked the doctor, whose curiosity was aroused by these remarks of a man
who had had experience in what he was talking about.
“Because,” answered Simpson, “it is in that green water that most of the whales are
“What is the reason, Simpson?”
“Because they get more food there.”
“You are sure of that I”
“0, I have seen it a hundred times in Baffin’s Bay! I don’t see why the same should n’t be
the case in Melville Bay.”
“You must be right, Simpson.”
“And see,” Simpson continued as he leaned over the rail, — “see there, Doctor.”
“One would say it was the track of a ship.”
“Well,” said Simpson, “it’s an oily substance that the whale leaves behind it. Really, the
whale itself can’t be far off.”
In fact, the atmosphere was filled with a strong fishy smell. The doctor began to examine
the surface of the sea, and the harpooner’s prediction was soon verified. Foker was heard
shouting from aloft, —
“A whale to leeward!”
All turned their eyes in that direction; a low spout was seen rising from the sea about a
mile from the brig.
“There she spouts!” shouted Simpson, whose experienced eye soon detected it.
“It’s gone,” said the doctor.
“We could soon find it again, if it were necessary,” said Simpson, regretfully.
But to his great surprise, although no one had dared to ask it, Hatteras gave the order to
lower and man the whale-boat; he was glad to give the men some distraction, and also to get
a few barrels of oil. They heard the order with great satisfaction.
Four sailors took their places in the whale-boat; Johnson took the helm; Simpson stood
in the bow, harpoon in hand. The doctor insisted on joining the party. The sea was quite
smooth. The whale-boat went very fast, and in about ten minutes she was a mile from the
The whale, having taken another breath, had dived again; but soon it came up and
projected fifteen feet into the air that combination of gases and mucous fluid which escapes
from its ventholes.
“There, there!” cried Simpson, pointing to a place about eight hundred yards from the
They approached it rapidly; and the brig, having also seen it, drew near slowly.
The huge monster kept appearing above the waves, showing its black back, which
resembled a great rock in the sea; a whale never swims rapidly unless pursued, and this one
was letting itself be rocked by the waves.
The hunters approached in silence, choosing the green water, which was so opaque as
to prevent the whale from seeing them. It is always exciting to watch a frail bat attacking one
of these monsters; this one was about one hundred and thirty feet long, and often between
latitude 72° and 80° whales are found more than one hundred and twenty-four feet long;
ancient writers have often spoken of some longer than seven hundred feet, but they areimaginary animals.
Soon the boat was very near the whale. Simpson made a sign, the men stopped rowing,
and, brandishing his harpoon, he hurled it skilfully; this, with sharp barbs, sank into the thick
layers of fat. The wounded whale dived rapidly. At once the four oars were unshipped; the
rope which was attached to the harpoon ran out rapidly, and the boat was dragged along while
Johnson steered it skilfully.
The whale swam away from the brig and hastened towards the moving icebergs; for half
an hour it went on in this way; the cord had to be kept wet to prevent its taking fire from
friction. When the animal seemed to go more slowly, the rope was dragged back and carefully
coiled; the whale rose again to the surface, lashing violently with its tail; huge spouts of water
were dashed up by it and fell in torrents on the boat, which now approached rapidly; Simpson
had taken a long lance and was prepared to meet the whale face to face.
But it plunged rapidly into a pass between two icebergs. Further pursuit seemed
“The devil!” said Johnson.
“Forward, forward, my friends,” shouted Simpson, eager for the chase; “the whale is
“But we can’t follow it among the icebergs,” answered Johnson, turning the boat away.
“Yes, yes!” cried Simpson.
“No, no!” said some of the sailors.
“Yes!” cried others.
During this discussion the whale had got between two icebergs which the wind and
waves were driving together.
The whale-boat was in danger of being dragged into this dangerous pass, when Johnson
sprang forward, axe in hand, and out the line.
It was time; the two icebergs met with irresistible force, crushing the whale between
“Lost!” cried Simpson.
“Saved!” said Johnson.
“Upon my word,” said the doctor, who had not flinched, “that was well worth seeing!”
The crushing power of these mountains is enormous. The whale was the victim of an
accident that is very frequent in these waters. Scoresby tells us that in the course of a single
summer thirty whalers have been lost in this way in Baffin’s Bay; he saw a three-master
crushed in one minute between two walls of ice, which drew together with fearful rapidity and
sank the ship with all on board. Two other ships he himself saw cut through, as if by a long
lance, by huge pieces of ice more than a hundred feet long.
A few moments later the whale-boat returned to the brig, and was hauled up to its usual
place on deck.
“That’s a lesson,” said Shandon, aloud, “for those who are foolhardy enough to venture
into the passes!”
Chapter 20 — Beechey Island

June 25th the Forward sighted Cape Dundas, at the northwest extremity of Prince of
Wales Land. There they found more serious difficulties amid thicker ice. The channel here
grows narrower, and the line of Crozier, Young, Day, and Lowther Islands ranged in a line, like
forts in a harbor, drive the ice-streams nearer together. What would otherwise have taken the
brig a day now detained her from June 25th to the end of the month; she was continually
obliged to stop, to retreat, and to wait for a favorable chance to reach Beechey Island.
Meanwhile a great deal of coal was consumed; though during the frequent halts only small
fires were kept burning, sufficient to keep steam up day and night.
Hatteras knew as well as Shandon the reduced state of their supply; but feeling sure that
he would find fuel at Beechey Island, he did not wish to lose a minute for the sake of
economy; he had been very much delayed by running south; and, although he had taken the
precaution of leaving England in April, he now found himself no farther advanced than
previous expeditions had been at that time of year.
The 30th they passed Cape Walker at the northeast extremity of Prince of Wales Land;
this is the farthest point seen by Kennedy and Bellot, May 3d, 1852, after an expedition
across North Somerset. In 1851, Captain Ommaney of the Austin expedition had been
fortunate enough to get fresh supplies there for his detachment.
This cape, which is very lofty, is remarkable for its reddish-brown color; in clear weather
one can see as far as the entrance of Wellington Channel. Towards evening they saw Cape
Bellot, separated from Cape Walker by MacLeon’s Bay. Cape Bellot was so named in
presence of that young French officer to whom the English expedition gave three cheers. At
this place the coast consists of a yellowish limestone, very rough in appearance; it is protected
by huge masses of ice which the north wind collects there in the most imposing way. It was
soon no longer to be seen from the Forward’s deck, as she was making her way amid the
loose ice towards Beechey Island through Barrow Strait.
Hatteras, having resolved to go on in a straight line, in order not to be carried past the
island, hardly left the deck during the subsequent days; he would go aloft to the cross-trees in
order to pick out the most favorable path for the brig. All that skill, coolness, boldness, and
even maritime genius could do, was done by him while sailing through the strait. It is true that
fortune did not favor him, for at that season he ought to have found the sea nearly open. But
by dint of sparing neither steam, his men, nor himself, he succeeded in his aim.
July 3d, at eleven o’clock in the morning, the ice-master saw land to the north; Hatteras
soon made it out as Beechey Island, the general rendezvous for arctic explorers. Almost all
the ships which sail in these latitudes touch here. Here Franklin passed his first winter before
advancing into Wellington Channel. Here Creswell, MacClure’s lieutenant, after a march of
four hundred and sixty miles on the ice, rejoined the Phoenix and returned to England. The
last ship which anchored at Beechey Island before the Forward was the Fox; MacClintock took
in supplies there, August 11, 1855, and repaired the dwellings and storehouses; that was but
a short time previous. Hatteras knew all these details.
The boatswain’s heart beat strongly at the sight of this island; when he had last seen it
he had been quartermaster on the Phoenix; Hatteras asked him about the coast, the place for
anchoring, the possible change of the bottom. The weather was perfect; the thermometer
marked 57°.
“Well, Johnson,” said the captain, “do you recognize this place?”
“Yes, Captain, it’s Beechey Island! Only we ought to bear a little farther north; the coast
is more easily approached there.”“But the buildings, the stores?” said Hatteras.
“0, you can’t see them till you get ashore; they are hidden behind those hillocks you see
“And did you carry large supplies there?”
“Yes, they were large. The Admiralty sent us here in 1853, under the command of
Captain Inglefield, with the steamer Phoenix and a transport, the Breadalbane, loaded with
supplies; we carried enough to revictual a whole expedition.”
“But did not the commander of the Fox take a great deal away in 1855?” said Hatteras.
“0, don’t be anxious, Captain!” answered Johnson; “there will be enough left for you; the
cold keeps everything wonderfully, and we shall find everything as fresh and in as good
condition as on the first day.”
“I’m not so anxious about the provisions,” answered Hatteras; “I have enough for several
years; what I stand in need of is coal.”
“Well, Captain, we left more than a thousand tons there; so you can feel easy about
“Let us stand nearer,” resumed Hatteras, who, glass in hand, kept examining the shore.
“You see that point,” said Johnson; “when we’ve doubled it, we shall be near our
anchorage. Yes, it’s from there we started for England with Lieutenant Creswell and twelve
sick men of the Investigator. But if we were fortunate enough to be of service to Captain
MacClure’s lieutenant, Bellot, the officer who accompanied us on the Phoenix, never saw his
home again! Ah, that’s a sad memory! But, Captain, I think it’s here we ought to anchor.”
“Very well,” answered Hatteras.
And he gave the proper orders. The Forward lay in a little harbor sheltered from the
north, east, and south winds, about a cable-length from the shore.
“Mr. Wall,” said Hatteras, “you will lower the launch and send six men to bring coal
“Yes, sir,” answered Wall.
“I am going ashore in the gig with the doctor and the boatswain; Mr. Shandon, will you go
with us?”
“At your orders,” answered Shandon.
A few minutes later the doctor, with gun and baskets for any specimens he might find,
took his place in the gig with his companions; ten minutes later they stepped out on a low,
rocky shore.
“Lead the way, Johnson,” said Hatteras; “do you remember it?”
“Perfectly, Captain; only here is a monument which I did not expect to find here.”
“That,” shouted the doctor, “I know what it is; let’s go look at it; it will tell us of itself why it
was put here.”
The four men went up to it, and the doctor, baring his head, said,
“This, my friends, is a monument raised to the memory of Franklin and his companions.”
In fact, Lady Franklin having, in 1855, sent a tablet of black marble to Dr. Kane, gave
another in 1858 to MacClintock to be placed on Beechey Island. MacClintock discharged his
duty, and placed this tablet near a funeral pile raised to the memory of Bellot by Sir John
This tablet bore the following inscription:

Who have suffered and perished in the cause of science
and the service of their country.
Is erected near the spot where they passed their first arctic Winter, and whence they issued forth to conquer difficulties or
It commemorates the grief of their Admiring Countrymen and Friends, and the
anguish, subdued by Faith, of her who has lost, in the heroic Leader of the
Expedition, the Most Devoted and Affectionate of Husbands.

“And so he bringeth them unto the Haven where they would he.”

This stone, on a lonely shore of these remote regions, touched every one’s heart; the
doctor felt the tears rising in his eyes. On the very spot whence Franklin and his men sailed,
full of hope and strength, there was now merely a slab of marble to commemorate them; and
in spite of this solemn warning of fate, the Forward was about to follow the path of the Erebus
and Terror.
Hatteras was the first to rouse himself; he ascended quickly a rather high hillock, which
was almost entirely bare of snow.
“Captain,” said Johnson, following him, “from there we ought to see the stores.”
Shandon and the doctor joined them just as they reached the top of the hill.
But their eyes saw nothing but large plains with no trace of a building.
“This is very strange,” said the boatswain.
“Well, these stores?” said Hatteras, quickly.
“I don’t know,... I don’t see...” stammered Johnson.
“You must have mistaken the path,” said the doctor.
“Still it seems to me,” resumed Johnson after a moment’s reflection, “that at this very
“Well,” said Hatteras, impatiently, “where shall we go?”
“Let’s go down again,” said the boatswain, “for it’s possible I’ve lost my way! In seven
years I may have forgotten the place.”
“Especially,” said the doctor, “when the country is so monotonous.”
“And yet...” muttered Johnson.
Shandon said not a word. After walking a few minutes, Johnson stopped.
“No,” he said, “I’m not mistaken.”
“Well,” said Hatteras, looking around.
“What makes you say so, Johnson?” asked the doctor.
“Do you see this little rise in the earth?” asked the boatswain, pointing downwards to a
mound in which three elevations could be clearly seen.
“What does that mean?” asked the doctor.
“There,” answered Johnson, “are the three tombs of Franklin’s sailors. I’m sure of it! I’m
not mistaken, and the stores must be within a hundred paces of us, and if they’re not there,
it’s because...”
He durst not finish his sentence; Hatteras ran forward, and terrible despair seized him.
There ought to stand those much-needed storehouses, with supplies of all sorts on which he
had been counting; but ruin, pillage, and destruction had passed over that place where
civilized hands had accumulated resources for battered sailors. Who had committed these
depredations? Wild animals, wolves, foxes, bears? No, for they would have destroyed only the
provisions; and there was left no shred of a tent, not a piece of wood, not a scrap of iron, no
bit of any metal, nor what was more serious for the men of the Forward a single lump of coal.
Evidently the Esquimaux, who have often had much to do with European ships, had
finally learned the value of these objects; since the visit of the Fox they had come frequently
to this great storehouse, and had pillaged incessantly, with the intention of leaving no trace of
what had been there; and now a long drift of half-melted snow covered the ground.Hatteras was baffled. The doctor gazed and shook his head. Shandon said nothing, but
an attentive observer would have noticed a wicked smile about his lips.
At this moment the men sent by Wall arrived. They took it all in at a glance. Shandon
went up to the captain and said:
“Mr. Hatteras, we need not despair; fortunately we are near the entrance to Barrow
Strait, which will carry us back to Baffin’s Bay.”
“Mr. Shandon,” answered Hatteras, “we are fortunately near the entrance of Wellington
Channel, and it will lead us to the north.”
“And how shall we go. Captain?”
“Under sail, sir. We have two months’ fuel left, and that is more than we shall need for
next winter.”
“Permit me to say,” began Shandon.
“I permit you to follow me to the ship, sir,” was Hatteras’s answer.
And turning his back on his first officer, he returned to the brig and locked himself in his
For two days the wind was unfavorable; the captain did not come on deck. The doctor
profited by this forced delay to examine Beechey Island; he collected a few plants which a
comparatively high temperature let grow here and there on some rocks which projected from
the snow, such as heather, a few lichens, a sort of yellow ranunculus, a plant like sorrel with
leaves a trifle larger, and some sturdy saxifrages.
The fauna of this country was much richer; the doctor saw large flocks of geese and
cranes flying northward; partridges, eider-ducks, northern divers, numerous ptarmigans, which
are delicious eating, noisy flocks of kittiwakes, and great white-bellied loons represented the
winged tribe. The doctor was lucky enough to kill some gray hares, which had not yet put on
their white winter coat of fur, and a blue fox, which Duke skilfully caught. A few bears,
evidently accustomed to fear men, could not be approached, and the seals were very timid,
probably for the same reason. The harbor was full of a very good tasting shellfish. The genus
articulata, order diptera, family culicides, division nemocera, was represented by a simple
mosquito, a single one, which the doctor, though much bitten, had the pleasure of catching.
As a conchologist, he was less fortunate, and he was obliged to content himself with a sort of
mussel and some bivalves.
Chapter 21 — The Death of Bellot

The temperature remained at 57° during July 3d and 4th; this was the highest
temperature observed. But on Thursday, the 5th, the wind shifted to the southeast, with
violent snow-squalls. The thermometer fell twenty-three degrees in the preceding night.
Hatteras, indifferent to the hostility of the crew, gave the order to set sail. For thirteen days,
ever since passing Cape Dundas, the Forward had not gone a single degree farther north;
hence the party represented by Clifton was dissatisfied; their wishes, it is true, coincided with
those of the captain. namely, that they should make their way through Wellington Channel,
and they were all glad to be off once more.
It was with difficulty that sail was set; but having in the course of the night run up the
mainsail and topsails, Hatteras plunged boldly into the ice, which the current was driving
towards the south. The crew became very tired of this tortuous navigation, which kept them
very busy with the sails.
Wellington Channel is not very broad; it lies between North Devon on the east and
Cornwallis Island on the west; for a long time this island was considered a peninsula. It was
Sir John Franklin who circumnavigated it, in 1846, from the western side, going about its
northern coast.
The exploration of Wellington Channel was made in 1851, by Captain Penny, in the
whale-ships Lady Franklin and Sophia; one of his lieutenants, Stewart, who reached Cape
Beechey, latitude 76°20’, discovered the open sea. The open sea! It was for that Hatteras
“What Stewart found, I shall find,” he said to the doctor; “and I shall be able to get to the
Pole under sail.”
“But,” answered the doctor, “don’t you fear lest the crew —”
“The crew!” said Hatteras, coldly.
Then in a lower tone he murmured, —
“Poor men!” much to the doctor’s surprise.
It was the first sentiment of this sort which he had ever noticed in the captain.
“No,” he went on warmly, “they must follow me, and they shall.”
Still, if the Forward need not fear collision with the ice-streams, she made but little way
northward, being much delayed by contrary winds. With some difficulty they got by Capes
Spencer and Innis, and Tuesday, the 10th, latitude 75° was at last reached, much to Clifton’s
The Forward was now at the very spot where the American ships, the Rescue and the
Advance, commanded by Captain Haven, ran such terrible dangers. Dr. Kane accompanied
this expedition; towards the end of September, 1850, these ships were caught in the ice, and
carried with irresistible force into Lancaster Sound.
Shandon told James Wall about it in the presence of some of the men.
“The Advance and the Rescue,” he said, “were so tossed about by ice, that they could
keep no fires on board; and yet the thermometer stood at 18° below zero. During the whole
winter the crews were kept imprisoned, ready to abandon their ships, and for three weeks
they did not take off their clothes! It was a terrible situation; after drifting a thousand miles,
they were driven to the middle of Baffin’s Bay!”
One may easily judge of the effect of such a narration on a crew already discontented.
While this conversation was going on, Johnson was talking with the doctor about an
event which had taken place here; the doctor, at his request, told him the exact moment when
the brig reached latitude 75°30’.“There it is! there it is!” said Johnson, “there is that unlucky land!”
And so speaking, tears came into the boatswain’s eyes.
“You mean Lieutenant Bellot’s death,” said the doctor.
“Yes, sir, of that brave, good man!”
“And it was here, you say, that it took place?”
“Just here, on this part of the coast of North Devon. It was very great ill-luck, and this
would not have happened if Captain Pullen had come on board sooner.”
“What do you mean, Johnson?”
“Listen, Doctor, and you will see by how slight a thread life is held. You know that
Lieutenant Bellot had already made an expedition in search of Franklin, in 1850?”
“Yes; in the Prince Albert.”
“Well, in 1853, having returned to France, he got permission to sail in the Phœnix, in
which I was a sailor, under Captain Inglefield. We came with the Breadalbane to carry supplies
to Beechey Island.”
“Those which we did not find!”
“Exactly, Doctor. We arrived at Beechey Island at the beginning of August; the 10th of
that month. Captain Inglefield left the Phœnix to rejoin Captain Pullen, who had been away for
a month from his ship, the North Star. He intended on his return to send the Admiralty
despatches to Sir Edward Belcher, who was wintering in Wellington Channel. Now, shortly
after our captain’s departure, Captain Pullen reached his ship. If he had only come back
before Captain Inglefield had left! Lieutenant Bellot, fearing that our captain’s absence might
be a long one, and knowing that the Admiralty despatches were important, offered to carry
them himself. He left the two ships under Captain Pullen’s charge, and left August 12, with a
sledge and an india-rubber canoe. He took with him Harvey, quartermaster of the North Star,
and three sailors. Madden, David Hook, and me. We thought that Sir Edward Belcher would
be somewhere near Cape Beecher, at the northern part of the channel; hence we made for
that part in our sledge, keeping on the east bank. The first day we encamped three miles from
Cape Innis; the next day we stopped on the ice nearly three miles from Cape Bowden. During
the night, which was as bright as day, land being only three miles distant, Lieutenant Bellot
determined to go and camp there; he tried to reach it in the canoe; a violent southeast breeze
drove him back twice; Harvey and Madden tried in their turn, and with success; they carried a
rope, and with it they established communication with the shore; three objects were carried
across by it; but at the fourth attempt, we felt the ice moving away from us; Mr. Bellot shouted
to his companions to loosen the rope, and we (the lieutenant, David Hook, and I) were carried
to a great distance from the shore. Then a strong south-easter was blowing, and snow was
falling. But we were, not in any great danger, and he might have been saved, since the rest of
us were saved.”
Johnson stopped for a moment, and gazed at the ill-fated shore, then he went on: —
“After losing sight of our companions, we tried at first to shelter ourselves under the
cover of our sledge, but in vain; then with our knives we began to cut a house in the ice. Mr.
Bellot sat down for half an hour, and talked with us about the danger of our situation; I told
him I was not afraid. ‘With God’s protection,’ he said, ‘not a hair of our heads shall be hurt.’ I
then asked him what time it was. He answered, `About quarter past six.’ It was quarter past
six in the morning of Thursday, August 18th. Then Mr. Bellot bound on his books, and said he
wanted to go and see how the ice was moving; he was gone only four minutes, when I went to
seek him behind the floe which sheltered us; but I did not find him, and, returning to our
retreat, I saw his stick on the opposite side of a crevasse about three fathoms wide, where
the ice was all broken. I shouted, but there was no answer. At that time the wind was blowing
very hard. I searched all around, but I could find no trace of the poor lieutenant.”
“And what do you suppose became of him?” asked the doctor, who was much moved by
this account.“I suppose that when he left the shelter, the wind drove him into the crevasse, and that,
being thickly clad, he could not swim to the surface. Dr. Clawbonny, I never felt worse in my
life! I could not believe it! That brave officer fell a victim to his sense of duty! For you know
that it was in order to obey Captain Pullen’s instructions that he was trying to reach the land
before the ice began to break! He was a brave man, liked by every one, faithful, courageous!
All England mourned him, and even the Esquimaux, when they heard of his death from
Captain Inglefield, when he returned from Pound Bay, did nothing but weep and repeat, `Poor
Bellot! Poor Bellot!’ “
“But you and your companions, Johnson,” asked the doctor, much moved by this
touching account, — “how did you manage to get to shore?”
“0, it was very simple! We remained twenty-four hours on the ice without food or fire, but
finally we reached a firmly fastened ice-field; we sprang upon it, and with an oar we got near a
floe capable of supporting us, and being controlled like a boat. In that way we reached the
shore, but alone, without our brave officer.”
At the end of this account the Forward had passed by this fatal shore, and Johnson soon
lost sight of the scene of this terrible catastrophe. The next day they left Griffin’s Bay on the
starboard, and two days later, Capes Grinnell and Helpman; finally, July 14th, they doubled
Osborne Point, and the 15th the brig anchored in Baring Bay at the end of the channel. The
navigation had not been very difficult; Hatteras found a sea nearly as free as that by which
Belcher profited to go and winter with the Pioneer and Assistance in latitude 77°. That was his
first winter, 1852 — 53, for the next he spent in Baring Bay, where the Forward now lay at
It was in consequence of the most terrible dangers and trials that he was obliged to
abandon the Assistance in the midst of the eternal ice.
Shandon gave a full account of this catastrophe to the demoralized sailors. Was Hatteras
aware of the treachery of his first officer? It is impossible to say, but, at any rate, he said
nothing about it.
At the end of Baring Bay is a narrow canal uniting Wellington Channel with Queen’s
Strait. There the ice had accumulated very closely. Hatteras made vain efforts to get through
the passages to the north of Hamilton Island; the wind was unfavorable; hence it was
necessary to go between Hamilton and Cornwallis Islands; five precious days were lost in vain
attempts. The air grew colder, and, July 19th, fell as low as 26°; the next day was warmer,
but this harbinger of the arctic winter warned Hatteras not to linger longer. The wind seemed
to blow steadily from the west and delayed his progress. And yet he was in haste to reach the
point whence Stewart saw an open sea. The 19th he resolved to enter the channel at any
price; the wind blew dead against the brig, which, with her screw, could have made headway
against the violent snow-squalls, but Hatteras had before all to be economical with the fuel; on
the other hand, the channel was too broad to permit of the brig being towed. Hatteras, without
taking into account the fatigue of his crew, made use of a device which whalers often employ
under similar circumstances. He lowered the small boats to the surface of the water, not
letting them free from their tackle; then they were made fast, fore and aft; oars were put out,
to starboard on one side and to port on the other; the men sat on the thwarts and rowed
vigorously, so as to propel the brig against the wind.
The Forward made slight headway; this method of working was very fatiguing; the men
began to murmur. For four days they advanced in that way, until July 23d, when they reached
Baring Island, in Queen’s Channel.
The wind was still unfavorable. The crew could go no farther. The doctor found the
strength of the crew much pulled down, and he thought he detected the first symptoms of
scurvy; he used every precaution against this terrible disease, having abundant supplies of
lime-juice and chalk-pastilles.
Hatteras soon saw there was nothing more to be got from his crew; kindness andpersuasion were fruitless; he resolved to employ severity, and, if need be, to be pitiless; he
distrusted especially Richard Shandon, and even James Wall, who, however, never dared to
speak too loud. Hatteras had on his side the doctor, Johnson, Bell, and Simpson; these were
all devoted to him body and soul. Among the uncertain were Foker, Bolton, Wolston, the
gunner, Brunton, the first engineer, who might at any moment declare against him. As to the
others. Pen, Gripper, Clifton, and Warren, they openly meditated mutiny; they wanted to bring
their companions over and compel the Forward to return to England.
Hatteras soon saw that he could get no more work from his dispirited crew, who now
were worn out with fatigue from their hard work. For twenty-four hours they remained in sight
of Baring Island without getting a foot forward. Still the weather grew colder, and in these high
latitudes even July felt the influence of the approaching winter. The 24th, the thermometer fell
to 22°. The young ice formed during the night to a depth of about half an inch; if snow should
fall on it, it would soon be strong enough to bear the weight of a man. The sea soon acquired
the turbid tint which indicates the formation of the first crystals.
Hatteras read aright these alarming signs; if the passes should close, he would be
obliged to winter here, far from the aim of his voyage, and without even having seen that open
sea which he must have got very near, according to the accounts of his predecessors. Hence
he resolved to get on at any price a few degrees farther north; seeing that he could neither try
rowing with his crew exhausted, nor going under sail with the wind always unfavorable, he
ordered the fires to be lighted.
Chapter 22 — The First Signs of Mutiny

At this unexpected command, the surprise on board of the Forward was very great.
“Light the fires!” said some.
“With what?” said others.
“When we have only two months’ supply in the hold!” cried Pen.
“And how are we to keep warm in the winter?” asked Clifton.
“We shall have to burn the ship down to the water-line, I suppose,” said Gripper.
“And cram all the masts into the stove,” answered Warren, “from the foretopmast to the
Shandon gazed intently at Wall. The surprised engineers hesitated to go down into the
“Did you hear what I said?” shouted the captain, angrily.
Brunton walked toward the hatchway; but he stopped before going down.
“Don’t go, Brunton,” some one said.
“Who spoke then?” shouted Hatteras.
“I did,” said Pen, approaching the captain.
“And what is it you’re saying?” asked the captain.
“I say — I say,” answered Pen with many oaths, — “I say that we have had enough of
this, that we are not going any farther, that we don’t want to wear ourselves out with fatigue
and cold during the winter, and that the fires shall not be lighted.”
“Mr. Shandon,” answered Hatteras, coldly, “have this man put in irons.”
“But, Captain,” said Shandon, “what this man said —”
“If you repeat what this man said,” retorted Hatteras, “I shall order you to your cabin and
confine you there. Seize that man! Do you hear?”
Johnson, Bell, and Simpson stepped towards the sailor, who was beside himself with
“The first man who lays a finger on me —” he cried, seizing a handspike, which he
flourished about his head.
Hatteras walked towards him.
“Pen,” he said very quietly, “if you move hand or foot, I shall blow your brains out!”
With these words he drew a revolver and aimed it at the sailor.
A murmur arose from the crew.
“Not a word from any of you,” said Hatteras, “or he’s a dead man.”
At that moment Johnson and Bell disarmed Pen, who no longer resisted, and suffered
himself to be led to the bottom of the hold.
“Now go below, Brunton,” said Hatteras.
The engineer, followed by Plover and Warren, went below. Hatteras returned to the
“That Pen is a worthless fellow,” the doctor said to him.
“No man was ever nearer death,” answered the captain, simply.
Soon there was enough steam on; the anchors of the Forward were raised; and the brig
started eastward, heading for Point Beecher, and cutting through the newly formed ice.
A great number of islands lie between Baring Island and Point Beecher, scattered in the
midst of the ice-fields; the ice-streams crowd in great numbers in the little straits into which
they divide the sea; when the weather is cold they have a tendency to accumulate; here and
there hummocks were forming, and it was easy to see that the floes, already harder and more
crowded, would, under the influence of the first frosts, soon form an impenetrable mass.It was with great difficulty that the Forward made her way through the whirling snow. Still,
with the variability which is a peculiarity of these regions, the sun would appear from time to
time; the air grew much milder; the ice melted as if by enchantment, and a clear expanse of
water, a most welcome sight to the eyes of the crew, spread out before them where a few
moments before the ice had blocked their progress. All over the horizon there spread
magnificent orange tints, which rested their eyes, weary with gazing at the eternal snow.
Thursday, July 26th, the Forward coasted along Dundas Island, and then stood more
northward; but there she found herself face to face with a thick mass of ice, eight or nine feet
high, consisting of little icebergs washed away from the shore; they had to prolong the curve
they were making to the west. The continual cracking of the ice, joining with the creaking of
the rolling ship, sounded like a gloomy lamentation. At last the brig found a passage and
advanced through it slowly; often a huge floe delayed her for hours; the fog embarrassed the
steersman; at one moment he could see a mile ahead, and it was easy to avoid all obstacles;
but again the snow-squalls would hide everything from their sight at the distance of a cable’s
length. The sea ran very high.
Sometimes the smooth clouds assumed a strange appearance, as if they were reflecting
the ice-banks; there were days when the sun could not pierce the dense mist.
The birds were still very numerous, and their cries were deafening; the seals, lying lazily
on the drifting ice, raised their heads without being frightened, and turned their long necks to
watch the ship go by. Often, too, the brig would leave bits of sheathing on the ice against
which she grazed.
Finally, after six days of this slow sailing, August 1st, Point Beecher was made, sighted in
the north; Hatteras passed the last hours in the lookout; the open sea, which Stewart had
seen May 30, 1851, towards latitude 76°20’ could not be far off, and yet, as far as Hatteras
could see, he could make out no sign of an open polar sea. He came down without saying a
“Do you believe in an open sea?” asked Shandon of the second mate.
“I’m beginning to have my doubts,” answered James Wall.
“Was n’t I right in considering this pretended discovery as a mere hypothesis’? No one
agreed with me, and you too, Wall, — you sided against me.”
“They’ll believe you next time, Shandon.”
“Yes,” he answered, “when it’s too late.”
And he returned to his cabin, where he had kept himself almost exclusively since his
discussion with the captain.
Towards evening the wind shifted to the south. Hatteras then set his sails and had the
fires put out; for many days the crew were kept hard at work; every few minutes they had to
tack or bear away, or to shorten sail quickly to stop the course of the brig; the braces could
not run easily through the choked-up pulleys, and added to the fatigue of the crew; more than
a week was required for them to reach Point Barrow. The Forward had not made thirty miles
in ten days.
Then the wind flew around to the north, and the engine was started once more. Hatteras
still hoped to find an open sea beyond latitude 77°, such as Edward Belcher had seen.
And yet, if he believed in Penny’s account, the part of the sea which he was now
crossing ought to have been open; for Penny, having reached the limit of the ice, saw in a
canoe the shores of Queen’s Channel at latitude 77°.
Must he regard their reports as apochryphal, or had an unusually early winter fallen upon
these regions?
August 15th, Mount Percy reared into the mist its peaks covered with eternal snow; a
violent wind was hurling in their teeth a fierce shower of hail. The next day the sun set for the
first time, terminating at last the long series of days twenty-four hours long. The men had
finally accustomed themselves to this perpetual daylight; but the animals minded it very little;the Greenland dogs used to go to sleep at the usual hour, and even Duke lay down at the
same hour every evening, as if the night were dark.
Still, during the nights following August 16th the darkness was never very marked; the
sun, although it had set, still gave light enough by refraction.
August 19th, after taking a satisfactory observation, Cape Franklin was seen on the
eastern side, and opposite it Cape Lady Franklin; at what was probably the farthest point
reached by this bold explorer, his fellow-countrymen wanted the name of his devoted wife
should be remembered along with his own, as an emblem of the sympathy which always
united them. The doctor was much moved by this sight in this distant country.
In accordance with Johnson’s advice, he began to accustom himself to enduring low
temperature; he kept almost all the time on deck, braving the cold, wind, and snow. Although
he had grown a little thinner, he did not suffer from the severity of the climate. Besides, he
expected other dangers, and he rejoiced, almost, as he saw the winter approaching.
“See,” said he one day to Johnson, — “see those flocks of birds flying south! How they
fly and cry adieu!”
“Yes, Dr. Clawbonny,” answered Johnson, “something has told them it was time to go,
and they are off.”
“More than one of our men, Johnson, would be glad to imitate them, I fancy.”
“They are timid fellows, Doctor; what a bird can’t do, a man ought to try! Those birds
have no supply of food, as we have, and they must support themselves elsewhere. But
sailors, with a good deck under the feet, ought to go to the end of the world.”
“You hope, then, that Hatteras will succeed in his projects?”
“He will succeed. Doctor.”
“I agree with you, Johnson, even if only one faithful man accompanies him —”
“There will be two of us!”
“Yes, Johnson,” the doctor answered, pressing the brave sailor’s hand.
Prince Albert’s Land, along which the Forward was now coasting, is also called Grinnell’s
Land; and although Hatteras, from his dislike to Americans, never was willing to give it this
name, nevertheless, it is the one by which it is generally known. This is the reason of this
double title: at the same time that the Englishman Penny gave it the name of Prince Albert,
the captain of the Rescue, Lieutenant DeHaven, named it Grinnell’s Land, in honor of the
American merchant who had fitted out the expedition in New York.
As the brig followed the coast it met with serious difficulties, going sometimes under sail,
sometimes under steam. August 18th, Mount Britannia was sighted through the mist, and the
next day the Forward cast anchor in Northumberland Bay. The ship was completely protected.
Chapter 23 — Attacked by the Ice

Hatteras, after seeing to the anchorage of the ship, returned to his cabin, took out his
chart, and marked his position on it very carefully; he found himself in latitude 76°57’, and
longitude 99°20’, that is to say, only three minutes from latitude 77°. It was here that Sir
Edward Belcher passed his first winter with the Pioneer and Assistance. It was from here that
he organized his sledge and canoe expeditions; he discovered Table Island, North Cornwall,
Victoria Archipelago, and Belcher Channel. Having gone beyond latitude 78°, he saw the
coast inclining towards the southeast. It seemed as if it ought to connect with Jones’s Strait,
which opens into Baffin’s Bay. But, says the report, an open sea, in the northwest, “stretched
as far as the eye could reach.”
Hatteras gazed with emotion at that portion of the charts where a large white space
marked unknown regions, and his eyes always returned to the open polar sea.
“After so many statements,” he said to himself, — “after the accounts of Stewart, Penny,
and Belcher, doubt is impossible! These bold sailors saw, and with their own eyes! Can I
doubt their word? No! But yet if this sea is closed by an early winter — But no, these
discoveries have been made at intervals of several years; this sea exists, and I shall find it! I
shall see it!”
Hatteras went upon the quarter-deck. A dense mist enveloped the Forward; from the
deck one could hardly see the top of the mast. Nevertheless, Hatteras ordered the ice-master
below, and took his place; he wanted to make use of the first break in the fog to look at the
horizon in the northwest.
Shandon took occasion to say to the second mate, —
“Well, Wall, and the open sea?”
“You were right, Shandon,” answered Wall, “and we have only six weeks’ coal in the
“The doctor will invent some scientific way,” continued Shandon, “of heating us without
fuel. I’ve heard of making ice with fire; perhaps he will make fire with ice.”
Shandon returned to his cabin, shrugging his shoulders.
The next day, August 20th, the fog lifted for a few minutes. From the deck they saw
Hatteras in his lofty perch gazing intently towards the horizon; then he came down without
saying a word and ordered them to set sail; but it was easy to see that his hopes had been
once more deceived.
The Forward heaved anchor and resumed her uncertain path northward. So wearisome
was it that the main-topsail and fore-topsail yards were lowered with all their rigging; the masts
were also lowered, and it was no longer possible to place any reliance on the varying wind,
which, moreover, the winding nature of the passes made almost useless; large white masses
were gathering here and there in the sea, like spots of oil; they indicated an approaching thaw;
as soon as the wind began to slacken, the sea began to freeze again, but when the wind
arose this young ice would break and disperse. Towards evening the thermometer fell to 17°.
When the brig arrived at the end of a closed pass, it rushed on at full steam against the
opposing obstacle. Sometimes they thought her fairly stopped; but some unexpected motion
of the ice-streams would open a new passage into which she would plunge boldly; during
these stoppages the steam would escape from the safety-valves and fall on the deck in the
form of snow. There was another obstacle to the progress of the brig; the ice would get
caught in the screw, and it was so hard that the engine could not break it; it was then
necessary to reverse the engines, turn the brig back, and send some men to free the snow
with axes and levers; hence arose many difficulties, fatigues, and delays.It went on in this way for thirteen days; the Forward advanced slowly through Penny
Strait. The crew murmured, but obeyed; they knew that retreat was now impossible. The
advance towards the north was less perilous than a return to the south; it was time to think of
going into winter-quarters.
The sailors talked together about their condition, and one day they even began to talk
with Shandon, who, they knew, was on their side. He so far forgot his duty as an officer as to
allow them to discuss in his presence the authority of his captain.
“So you say, Mr. Shandon,” asked Gripper, “that we can’t go back now?”
“No, it’s too late,” answered Shandon.
“Then,” said another sailor, “we need only look forward to going into winter-quarters?”
“It’s our only resource! No one would believe me —”
“The next time,” said Pen, who had returned to duty, “they will believe you.”
“Since I sha’ n’t be in command —” answered Shandon.
“Who can tell?” remarked Pen. “John Hatteras is free to go as far as he chooses, but no
one is obliged to follow him.”
“Just remember,” resumed Gripper, “his first voyage to Baffin’s Bay and what came of
“And the voyage of the Farewell,” said Clifton, “which was lost in the Spitzenberg seas
under his command.”
“And from which he came back alone,” added Gripper.
“Alone, but with his dog,” said Clifton.
“We don’t care to sacrifice ourselves for the whims of that man,” continued Pen.
“Nor to lose all the wages we’ve earned so hard.”
They all recognized Clifton by those words.
“When we pass latitude 78°,” he added, “and we are not far from it, that will make just
three hundred and seventy-five pounds for each man, six times eight degrees.”
“But,” asked Gripper, “sha’ n’t we lose them if we go back without the captain?”
“No,” answered Clifton, “if we can prove that it was absolutely necessary to return.”
“But the captain — still —”
“Don’t be uneasy, Gripper,” answered Pen; “we shall have a captain, and a good one,
whom Mr. Shandon knows. When a captain goes mad, he is dismissed and another
appointed. Is n’t that so, Mr. Shandon?”
“My friends,” answered Shandon, evasively, “you will always find me devoted to you. But
let us wait and see what turns up.”
The storm, as may be seen, was gathering over Hatteras’s head; but he pushed on
boldly, firm, energetic, and confident. In fact, if he had not always managed the brig as he
wanted to, and carried her where he was anxious to go, he had still been very successful; the
distance passed over in five months was as great as what it had taken other explorers two or
three years to make. Hatteras was now obliged to go into winter-quarters, but this would not
alarm men of courage, experience, and confidence. Had not Sir John Ross and MacClure
spent three successive winters in the arctic regions. Could not he do what they had done?
“Yes, of course,” Hatteras used to say, “and more too, if need be. Ah!” he said regretfully
to the doctor, “why was I unable to get through Smith’s Sound, at the north of Baffin’s Bay? I
should be at the Pole now!”
“Well,” the doctor used invariably to answer, — if necessary he could have invented
confidence, — “we shall get there. Captain, but, it is true, at the ninety-ninth meridian instead
of the seventy-fifth; but what difference does that make? If every road leads to Rome, it is
even surer that every meridian leads to the Pole.”
August 31st, the thermometer fell to 13°. The end of the summer was evidently near;
the Forward left Exmouth Island to starboard, and three days afterward she passed Table
Island, lying in the middle of Belcher Channel. Earlier in the season it would have beenpossible to reach Baffin’s Bay through this channel, but at this time it was impossible to think
of it. This arm of the sea was completely filled with ice, and would not have offered a drop of
open water to the prow of the Forward; for the next eight months their eyes would see nothing
but boundless, motionless ice-fields.
Fortunately, they could still get a few minutes farther north, but only by breaking the new
ice with huge beams, or by blowing it up with charges of powder. They especially had cause to
fear calm weather while the temperature was so low, for the passes closed quickly, and they
rejoiced even at contrary winds. A calm night, and everything was frozen!
Now the Forward could not winter where she was, exposed to the wind, icebergs, and
the drift of the channel; a safe protection was the first thing to be found; Hatteras hoped to
gain the coast of New Cornwall, and to find, beyond Point Albert, a bay sufficiently sheltered.
Hence he persisted in crowding northward.
But, September 8, an impenetrable, continuous mass of ice lay between him and the
north; the temperature fell to 10°. Hatteras, with an anxious heart, in vain sought for a
passage, risking his ship a hundred times and escaping from his perils with wonderful skill. He
might have been accused of imprudence, recklessness, folly, blindness, but he was one of the
best of sailors.
The situation of the Forward became really dangerous; in fact, the sea was closing
behind her, and in a few hours the ice grew so hard that men could run upon it and tow the
brig in perfect safety.
Hatteras, not being able to get around this obstacle, determined to attack it boldly in
front. He made use of his strongest blasting cylinders, containing eight or ten pounds of
powder. The men would dig a hole in the broadest part of the ice, close the orifice with snow,
after having placed the cylinder in a horizontal position, so that a greater extent of ice might
be exposed to the explosion; then a fuse was lighted, which was protected by a gutta-percha
In this way they tried to break the ice; it was impossible to saw it, for the fissures would
close immediately. Still, Hatteras was hoping to get through the next day.
But during the night the wind blew a gale; the sea raised the crust of ice, and the terrified
pilot was heard shouting, —
“Look out there aft, look out there aft!”
Hatteras turned his eyes in that direction, and what he saw in the dim light was indeed
A great mass of ice, drifting northward with the tide, was rushing towards the brig with
the speed of an avalanche.
“All hands on deck!” shouted the captain.
This floating mountain was hardly half a mile away; the ice was all in confusion and
crashing together like huge grains of sand before a violent tempest; the air was filled with a
terrible noise.
“That, Doctor,” said Johnson, “is one of the greatest perils we have yet met with.”
“Yes,” answered the doctor, quietly; “it is terrible enough.”
“A real attack which we must repel,” resumed the boatswain.
“In fact, one might well think it was an immense crowd of antediluvian animals, such as
might have lived near the Pole. How they hurry on, as if they were racing!”
“Besides,” added Johnson, “some carry sharp lances, of which you had better take care,
“It’s a real siege,” shouted the doctor. “Well, let us run to the ramparts!”
He ran aft where the crew, provided with beams and bars, were standing ready to repel
this formidable assault.
The avalanche came on, growing larger at every moment as it caught up the floating ice
in its eddy; by Hatteras’s orders the cannon was loaded with ball to break the threatening line.But it came on and ran towards the brig; a crash was heard, and as it came against the
starboard-quarter, part of the rail had given way.
“Let no one stir!” shouted Hatteras. “Look out for the ice!”
They swarmed on board the ship with an irresistible force; lumps of ice, weighing many
hundredweight, scaled the sides of the ship; the smallest, hurled as high as the yards, fell
back in sharp arrows, breaking the shrouds and cutting the rigging. The men were overcome
by numberless enemies, who were heavy enough to crush a hundred ships like the Forward.
Every one tried to drive away these lumps, and more than one sailor was wounded by their
sharp ends; among others, Bolton, who had his left shoulder badly torn. The noise increased
immensely. Duke barked angrily at these new enemies. The darkness of the night added to
the horrors of the situation, without hiding the ice which glowed in the last light of the evening.
Hatteras’s orders sounded above all this strange, impossible, supernatural conflict of the
men with the ice. The ship, yielding to this enormous pressure, inclined to larboard, and the
end of the main-yard was already touching the ice, at the risk of breaking the mast.
Hatteras saw the danger; it was a terrible moment; the brig seemed about to be
overturned, and the masts might be easily carried away.
A large block, as large as the ship, appeared to be passing along the keel; it arose with
irresistible power; it came on past the quarter-deck; if it fell on the Forward, all was over; soon
it rose even above the topmasts, and began to totter.
A cry of terror escaped from every one’s lips. Every one ran back to starboard.
But at that moment the ship was relieved. They felt her lifted up, and for an instant she
hung in the air, then she leaned over and fell back on the ice, and then she rolled so heavily
that her planks cracked. What had happened?
Raised by this rising tide, driven by the ice which attacked her aft, she was getting across
this impenetrable ice. After a minute of this strange sailing, which seemed as long as a
century, she fell back on the other side of the obstacle on a field of ice; she broke it with her
weight, and fell back into her natural element.
“We have got by the thick ice!” shouted Johnson, who had run forward.
“Thank God!” said Hatteras.
In fact, the brig lay in the centre of a basin of ice, which entirely surrounded her, and
although her keel lay under water she could not stir; but if she were motionless, the field was
drifting along.
“We are drifting, Captain!” shouted Johnson.
“All right,” answered Hatteras.
Indeed, how was it possible to resist it?
Day broke, and it was evident that under the influence of a submarine current the bank
of ice was floating northward with great rapidity. This floating mass carried the Forward with it,
in the midst of the ice-field, the edge of which could not be seen; to provide for any accident
that might happen, Hatteras had a large supply of provisions carried on deck, as well as
materials for camping, clothing, and cover; as MacClure had done under similar
circumstances, he surrounded the ship with hammocks filled with air to protect her from
damage. Soon it was so cold (7°), that the ship was surrounded by a wall from which only the
masts issued.
For seven days they sailed iii this way; Point Albert, which forms the western extremity of
New Cornwall, was seen September 10th, and soon disappeared; the ice-field was seen to be
drifting eastward from that time. Where was it going? Where would it stop? Who could say?
The crew waited with folded arms. At last, September 15th, towards three o’clock in the
afternoon, the ice-field, having probably run against another one, stopped suddenly; the ship
was jarred violently; Hatteras, who had kept his reckoning all along, looked at his chart; he
found himself in the north, with no land in sight, in longitude 95°35’, and latitude 78°15’ in the
centre of the region of the unknown sea, which geographers have considered the place ofgreatest cold.
Chapter 24 — Preparations for Wintering

The same latitude is colder in the southern than in the northern hemisphere; but the
temperature of the New World is fifteen degrees beneath that of the other parts of the world;
and in America these countries, known under the name of the region of greatest cold, are the
most inclement.
The mean temperature for the whole year is two degrees below zero. Physicists have
explained this fact in the following way, and Dr. Clawbonny shared their opinion.
According to them, the most constant winds in the northern regions of America are from
the southwest; they come from the Pacific Ocean, with an equal and agreeable temperature;
but before they reach the arctic seas they are obliged to cross the great American continent,
which is covered with snow; the contact chills them, and communicates to these regions their
intense cold.
Hatteras found himself at the pole of cold, beyond the countries seen by his
predecessors; he consequently expected a terrible winter, on a ship lost amid the ice, with a
turbulent crew. He resolved to meet these dangers with his usual energy. He faced what
awaited him without flinching.
He began, with Johnson’s aid and experience, to take all the measures necessary for
going into winter-quarters. According to his calculation the Forward had been carried two
hundred and fifty miles from any known land, that is to say, from North Cornwall; she was
firmly fixed in a field of ice, as in a bed of granite, and no human power could extricate her.
There was not a drop of open water in these vast seas chained by the fierce arctic
winter. The ice-fields stretched away out of sight, but without presenting a smooth surface.
Far from it. Numerous icebergs stood up in the icy plain, and the Forward was sheltered by
the highest of them on three points of the compass; the southeast wind alone reached them.
Let one imagine rock instead of ice, verdure instead of snow, and the sea again liquid, and the
brig would have quietly cast anchor in a pretty bay, sheltered from the fiercest blasts. But
what desolation here! What a gloomy prospect! What a melancholy view!
The brig, although motionless, nevertheless had to be fastened securely by means of
anchors; this was a necessary precaution against possible thaws and submarine upheavals.
Johnson, on hearing that the Forward was at the pole of cold, took even greater precautions
for securing warmth.
“We shall have it severe enough,” he had said to the doctor; “that’s just the captain’s
luck, to go and get caught at the most disagreeable spot on the globe! Bah! you will see that
we shall get out of it.”
As to the doctor, at the bottom of his heart he was simply delighted. He would not have
changed it for any other. Winter at the pole of cold! What good luck!
At first, work on the outside occupied the crew; the sails were kept furled on the yards
instead of being placed at the bottom of the hold, as the earlier explorers did; they were
merely bound up in a case, and soon the frost covered them with a dense envelope; the
topmasts were not unshipped, and the crow’s-nest remained in its place. It was a natural
observatory; the running-rigging alone was taken down.
It became necessary to cut away the ice from the ship to relieve the pressure. That
which had accumulated outside was quite heavy, and the ship did not lie as deep as usual.
This was a long and laborious task. At the end of some days the ship’s bottom was freed, and
could be inspected; it had not suffered, thanks to its solidity; only its copper sheathing was
nearly torn away. The ship, having grown lighter, drew about nine inches less than she did
earlier; the ice was cut away in a slope, following the make of the hull; in this way the iceformed beneath the brig’s keel and so resisted all pressure.
The doctor took part in this work: he managed the ice-cutter well; he encouraged the
sailors by his good-humor. He instructed them and himself. He approved of this arrangement
of the ice beneath the ship.
“That is a good precaution,” he said.
“Without that, Dr. Clawbonny,” answered Johnson, “resistance would be impossible. Now
we can boldly raise a wall of snow as high as the gunwale; and, if we want to, we can make it
ten feet thick, for there is no lack of material.”
“A capital idea,” resumed the doctor; “the snow is a bad conductor of heat; it reflects
instead of absorbing, and the inside temperature cannot escape.”
“True,” answered Johnson; “we are building a fortification against the cold, and also
against the animals, if they care to visit us; when that is finished, it will look well, you may be
sure; in this snow we shall cut two staircases, one fore, the other aft; when the steps are cut
in the snow, we shall pour water on them; this will freeze as hard as stone, and we shall have
a royal staircase.”
“Precisely,” answered the doctor; “and it must be said it is fortunate that cold produces
both snow and ice, by which to protect one’s self against it. Without that, one would be very
much embarrassed.”
In fact, the ship was destined to disappear beneath a thick casing of ice, which was
needed to preserve its inside temperature; a roof made of thick tarred canvas and covered
with snow was built above the deck over its whole length; the canvas was low enough to cover
the sides of the ship. The deck, being protected from all outside impressions, became their
walk; it was covered with two and a half feet of snow; this snow was crowded and beaten
down so as to become very hard; so it resisted the radiation of the internal heat; above it was
placed a layer of sand, which as it solidified became a sort of macadamized cover of great
“A little more,” said the doctor, “and with a few trees I might imagine myself at Hyde
Park, or even in the hanging-gardens at Babylon.”
A trench was dug tolerably near the brig; this was a circular space in the ice, a real pit,
which had to be kept always open. Every morning the ice formed overnight was broken; this
was to secure water in case of fire or for the baths which were ordered the crew by the
doctor; in order to spare the fuel, the water was drawn from some distance below the ice,
where it was less cold. This was done by means of an instrument devised by a French
physicist (François Arago); this apparatus, lowered for some distance into the water, brought
it up to the surface through a cylinder.
Generally in winter everything which encumbers the ship is removed, and stored on land.
But what was practicable near land is impossible for a ship anchored on the ice.
Every preparation was made to fight the two great enemies of this latitude, cold and
dampness; the first produces the second, which is far more dangerous. The cold may be
resisted by one who succumbs to dampness; hence it was necessary to guard against it.
T h e Forward, being destined to a journey in arctic seas, contained the best
arrangements for winter-quarters: the large room for the crew was well provided for; the
corners, where dampness first forms, were shut off; in fact, when the temperature is very low,
a film of ice forms on the walls, especially in the corners, and when it melts it keeps up a
perpetual dampness. If it had been round, the room would have been more convenient; but,
being heated by a large stove, and properly ventilated, it was very comfortable; the walls were
lined with deerskins, not with wool, for wool absorbs the condensed moisture and keeps the
air full of dampness.
Farther aft the walls of the quarter were taken down, and the officers had a larger
common-room, better ventilated, and heated by a stove. This room, like that of the crew, had
a sort of antechamber, which cut off all communication with the outside. In this way, the heatcould not be lost, and one passed gradually from one temperature to the other. In the
anterooms were left the snow-covered clothes; the shoes were cleansed on the scrapers, so
as to prevent the introduction of any unwholesomeness with one into the room.
Canvas hose served to introduce air for the draught of the stoves; other pieces of hose
permitted the steam to escape. In addition two condensers were placed in the two rooms, and
collected this vapor instead of letting it form into water; twice a week they were emptied, and
often they contained several bushels of ice. It was so much taken from the enemy.
The fire was perfectly and easily controlled, by means of the canvas hose; by use of
merely a small quantity of coal it was easy to keep the temperature of 50°. Still, Hatteras,
having examined the bunkers, soon saw that the greatest economy was necessary, for there
was not two months’ fuel on board.
A drying-room was set apart for the clothes which were to be washed; they could not be
dried in the open air, for they would freeze and tear.
The delicate pieces of the machinery were carefully taken down, and the room which
contained them was hermetically closed.
The life on board became the object of serious meditation; Hatteras regulated it with the
utmost caution, and the order of the day was posted up in the common-room. The men arose
at six o’clock in the morning; three times a week the hammocks were aired; every morning the
floors were scoured with hot sand; tea was served at every meal, and the bill of fare varied as
much as possible for every day of the week; it consisted of bread, farina, suet and raisins for
puddings, sugar, cocoa, tea, rice, lemon-juice, potted meats, salt beef and pork, cabbages,
and vegetables in vinegar; the kitchen lay outside of the living-rooms; its heat was
consequently lost; but cooking is a perpetual source of evaporation and dampness.
The health of the men depends a great deal on the sort of food they get; in high
latitudes, the greatest amount of animal food ought to be eaten. The doctor had supervised
the sort of food to be given.
“We ought to follow the Esquimaux,” he used to say; “they have received their lessons
from nature, and are our masters in that; if the Arabs and Africans can content themselves
with a few dates and a handful of rice, here it is important to eat, and to eat a good deal. The
Esquimaux take from ten to fifteen pounds of oil a day. If that fare does not please you, we
must try food rich in sugar and fat. In a word, we need carbon, so let us manufacture carbon!
It is well to put coal in the stove, but don’t let us forget to fill that precious stove we carry
about with us.”
With this bill of fare, strict cleanliness was enforced; every other day each man was
obliged to bathe in the half-frozen water which the iron pump brought up, and this was an
excellent way of preserving their health. The doctor set the example; he did it at first as a
thing which ought to be very disagreeable; but this pretext was quickly forgotten, for he soon
took real pleasure in this healthy bath.
When work or hunting or distant expeditions took the men off in the severe cold, they
had to take special care not to be frost-bitten; if they were, rubbing with snow would restore
the circulation. Moreover, the men, who all wore woollen clothes, put on coats of deerskin and
trousers of sealskin, which perfectly resist the wind.
The different arrangements of the ship, the getting-to-rights on board, took about three
weeks, and they reached October 10th without any special incident.
Chapter 25 — One of James Ross’s Foxes

On that day the thermometer fell to three degrees below zero. The day was calm; the
cold was very endurable in the absence of wind. Hatteras took advantage of the clearness of
the air to reconnoitre the surrounding plains; he ascended one of the highest icebergs to the
north, but even with his glass he could make out nothing but a series of ice-mountains and
ice-fields. There was no land in sight, nothing but gloomy confusion. He returned, and tried to
calculate the probable length of their imprisonment.
The hunters, and among them the doctor, James Wall, Simpson, Johnson, and Bell, kept
them supplied with fresh meat. The birds had disappeared, seeking a milder climate in the
south. The ptarmigans alone, a sort of rock-partridge peculiar to this latitude, did not flee the
winter; it was easy to kill them, and there were enough to promise a perpetual supply of
Hares, foxes, wolves, ermines, and bears were plentiful; a French, English, or Norwegian
hunter would have had no right to complain; but they were so shy that it was hard to approach
them; besides, it was hard to distinguish them on the white plain, they being white themselves,
for in winter they acquire that colored fur. In opposition to the opinions of some naturalists, the
doctor held that this change was not due to the lowering of the temperature, since it took
place before October; hence it was not due to any physical cause, but rather providential
foresight, to secure these animals against the severity of an arctic winter.
Often, too, they saw sea-cows and sea-dogs, animals included under the name of seals;
all the hunters were specially recommended to shoot them, as much for their skins as for their
fat, which was very good fuel. Besides, their liver made a very good article of food; they could
be counted by hundreds, and two or three miles north of the ship the ice was continually
perforated by these huge animals; only they avoided the hunter with remarkable instinct, and
many were wounded who easily escaped by diving under the ice.
Still, on the 19th, Simpson succeeded in getting one four hundred yards distant from the
ship; he had taken the precaution to close its hole in the ice, so that it could not escape from
its pursuers. He fought for a long time, and died only after receiving many bullets. He was
nine feet long; his bull-dog head, the sixteen teeth in his jaw, his large pectoral fins shaped like
little wings, his little tail with another pair of fins, made him an excellent specimen. The doctor
wished to preserve his head for his collection of natural history, and his skin for future
contingences, hence he prepared both by a rapid and economical process. He plunged the
body in the hole, and thousands of little prawns removed the flesh in small pieces; at the end
of half a day the work was half finished, and the most skilful of the honorable corporation of
tanners at Liverpool could not have done better.
When the sun had passed the autumn equinox, that is to say, September 23d, the winter
fairly begins in the arctic regions. The sun, having gradually sunk to the horizon, disappeared
at last, October 23d, lighting up merely the tops of the mountains with its oblique rays. The
doctor gave it his last farewell. He could not see it again till the month of February.
Still the darkness was not complete during this long absence of the sun; the moon did its
best to replace it; the stars were exceedingly brilliant, the auroras were very frequent, and the
refractions peculiar to the snowy horizons; besides, the sun at the time of its greatest
southern declension, December 21st, approaches within thirteen degrees of the polar horizon;
hence, every day there was a certain twilight for a few hours. Only the mist and snow-storms
often plunged these regions in the deepest obscurity.
Still, up to this time the weather was very favorable; the partridges and hares alone had
reason to complain, for the hunters gave them no rest; a great many traps were set for foxes,but these crafty animals could not be caught; very often they scraped the snow away beneath
the trap and took the bait without running any risk; the doctor cursed them, being very averse
to making them such a present.
October 25th, the thermometer fell as low as -4°. A violent hurricane raged; the air was
filled with thick snow, which permitted no ray of light to reach the Forward. For several hours
there was some anxiety about the fate of Bell and Simpson, who had gone some distance
away hunting; they did not reach the ship till the next day, having rested for a whole day
wrapped up in their furs, while the hurricane swept over them and buried them under five feet
of snow. They were nearly frozen, and the doctor found it very hard to restore their circulation.
The tempest lasted eight days without interruption. No one could set foot outside. In a
single day there were variations in the temperature of fifteen or twenty degrees.
During this enforced leisure every one kept to himself, some sleeping, others smoking,
others again talking in a low tone and stopping at the approach of Johnson or the doctor;
there was no moral tie between the men of the crew; they only met at evening prayers and at
Sunday services.
Clifton knew perfectly well that when the seventy-eighth parallel was passed, his share of
the pay would amount to three hundred and seventy-five pounds; he thought it a good round
sum, and his ambition did not go any further. His opinion was generally shared, and all looked
forward to the day when they should enjoy this hardly-earned fortune.
Hatteras kept almost entirely out of sight. He never took part in the hunts or the walks
from the ship. He took no interest in the meteorological phenomena which kept the doctor in a
constant state of admiration. He lived with but a single idea; it consisted of three words, —
The North Pole. He only thought of when the Forward, free at last, should resume her bold
In fact, the general feeling on board was one of gloom. Nothing was so sad as the sight
of this captive vessel, no longer resting in its natural element, but with its shape hidden
beneath thick layers of ice; it looks like nothing; it cannot stir, though made for motion; it is
turned into a wooden storehouse, a sedentary dwelling, this ship which knows how to breast
the wind and the storms. This anomaly, this false situation, filled their hearts with an
indefinable feeling of disquiet and regret.
During these idle hours the doctor arranged the notes he had taken, from which this
book is made up; he was never out of spirits, and never lost his cheerfulness. Yet he was glad
to see the end of the storm, and prepared to resume his hunting.
November 3d, at six o’clock in the morning, with a temperature of -5°, he set off in
company with Johnson and Bell; the expanse of ice was unbroken; all the snow which had
fallen so abundantly during the preceding days was hardened by the frost, and made good
walking; the air was keen and piercing; the moon shone with incomparable purity, glistening on
the least roughness in the ice; their footprints glowed like an illuminated trail, and their long
shadows stood out almost black against the brilliant ice.
The doctor had taken Duke with him; he preferred him to the Greenland dogs to hunt
game, and he was right; for they are of very little use under such circumstances, and they did
not appear to possess the sacred fire of the race of the temperate zone. Duke ran along with
his nose on the ground, and he often stopped on the recent marks of bears. Still, in spite of
his skill, the hunters did not find even a hare in two hours’ walking.
“Has all the game felt it necessary to go south?” said the doctor, stopping at the foot of a
“I should fancy it must be so. Doctor,” answered the carpenter.
“I don’t think so,” said Johnson; “the hares, foxes, and bears are accustomed to this
climate; I think this last storm must have driven them away; but they will come back with the
south-winds. Ah, if you were to talk about reindeer and musk-deer, that might be different!”
“And yet at Melville Island numberless animals of this sort are found,” resumed thedoctor; “it lies farther south, it is true, and during the winters he spent there Parry always had
plenty of this magnificent game.”
“We have much poorer luck,” answered Bell; “if we could only get enough bear’s meat,
we would do very well.”
“The difficulty is,” said the doctor, “the bears seem to me very rare and very wild; they
are not civilized enough to come within gun-shot.”
“Bell is talking about the flesh of the bear,” said Johnson, “but his grease is more useful
than his flesh or his fur.”
“You are right, Johnson,” answered Bell; “you are always thinking of the fuel.”
“How can I help it? Even with the strictest economy, we have only enough for three
“Yes,” resumed the doctor, “that is the real danger, for we are now only at the beginning
of November, and February is the coldest month in the frigid zone; still, if we can’t get bear’s
grease, there’s no lack of seal’s grease.”
“But not for a very long time, Doctor,” answered Johnson; “they will soon leave us;
whether from cold or fright, soon they won’t come upon the ice any more.”
“Then,” continued the doctor, “we shall have to fall back on the bear, and I confess the
bear is the most useful animal to be found in these countries, for he furnishes food, clothing,
light, and fuel to men. Do you hear, Duke?” he said, patting the dog’s head, “we want some
bears, my friend, bears! bears!”
Duke, who was sniffing at the ice at that time, aroused by the voices, and caresses of
the doctor, started off suddenly with the speed of an arrow. He barked violently and, far off as
he was, his loud barks reached the hunters’ ears.
The extreme distance to which sound is carried when the temperature is low is an
astonishing fact; it is only equalled by the brilliancy of the constellations in the northern skies;
the waves of light and sound are transmitted to great distances, especially in the dry cold of
the nights.
The hunters, guided by his distant barking, hastened after him; they had to run a mile,
and they got there all out of breath, which happens very soon in such an atmosphere. Duke
stood pointing about fifty feet from an enormous mass which was rolling about on the top of a
small iceberg.
“Just what we wanted!” shouted the doctor, cocking his gun.
“A fine bear!” said Bell, following the doctor’s example.
“A curious bear!” said Johnson, who intended to fire after his companions.
Duke barked furiously. Bell advanced about twenty feet, and fired; but the animal
seemed untouched, for he continued rolling his head slowly.
Johnson came forward, and, after taking careful aim, he pulled the trigger.
“Good!” said the doctor; “nothing yet! Ah, this cursed refraction! We are too far off; we
shall never get used to it? That bear is more than a mile away.”
“Come on!” answered Bell.
The three companions hastened toward the animal, which had not been alarmed by the
firing; he seemed to be very large, but, without weighing the danger, they gave themselves up
already to the joy of victory. Having got within a reasonable distance, they fired; the bear
leaped into the air and fell, mortally wounded, on the level ice below.
Duke rushed towards him.
“That’s a bear,” said the doctor, “which was easily conquered.”
“Only three shots,” said Bell with some scorn, “and he’s down!”
“That’s odd,” remarked Johnson.
“Unless we got here just as he was going to die of old age,” continued the doctor,
“Well, young or old,” added Bell, “he’s a good capture.”Talking in this way they reached the small iceberg, and, to their great surprise, they
found Duke growling over the body of a white fox.
“Upon ray word,” said Bell, “that’s too much!”
“Well,” said the doctor, “we’ve fired at a bear, and killed a fox!”
Johnson did not know what to say.
“Well,” said the doctor with a burst of laughter in which there was a trace of
disappointment, “that refraction again! It’s always deceiving us.”
“What do you mean, Doctor?” asked the carpenter.
“Yes, my friend; it deceived us with respect to its size as well as the distance! It made us
see a bear in a fox’s skin! Such a mistake is not uncommon under similar circumstances!
Well, our imagination alone was wrong!”
“At any rate,” answered Johnson, “bear or fox, he’s good eating. Let’s carry him off.”
But as the boatswain was lifting him to his shoulders: —
“That’s odd,” he said.
“What is it?” asked the doctor.
“See there. Doctor, he’s got a collar around his neck.”
“A collar?” asked the doctor again, examining the fox.
In fact, a half-worn-out copper collar appeared under his white fur; the doctor thought he
saw letters engraved upon it; he unfastened it from the animal’s neck, about which it seemed
to have been for a long time.
“What does that mean?” asked Johnson.
“That means,” said the doctor, “that we have just killed a fox more than twelve years old,
— a fox who was caught by James Ross in 1848.”
“Is it possible?” said Bell.
“There’s no doubt about it. I’m sorry we killed him! While he was in winter-quarters,
James Ross thought of trapping a large number of white foxes; he fastened on their necks
copper collars on which was engraved the position of his ships, the Enterprise and
Investigator, as well as where the supplies were left. These animals run over immense
distances in search of food, and James Ross hoped that one of them might fall into the hands
of one of the men of the Franklin expedition. That’s the simple explanation; and this poor
beast, who might have saved the life of two crews, has fallen uselessly beneath our guns.”
“Well, we won’t eat it,” said Johnson, “especially if it’s twelve years old. But we shall keep
the skin as a memento.”
Johnson raised it to his shoulders. The hunters made their way to the ship, guiding
themselves by the stars; their expedition was not wholly without result; they were able to bring
back several ptarmigans.
An hour before reaching the Forward, there was a singular phenomenon which greatly
interested the doctor. It was a real shower of shooting-stars; they could be counted by
thousands, flying over the heavens like rockets; they dimmed the light of the moon. For hours
they could have stood gazing at this beautiful sight. A similar phenomenon was observed in
Greenland in 1799, by the Moravians. It looked like an exhibition of fireworks. The doctor after
his return to the ship spent the whole night gazing at the sight, which lasted till seven o’clock
in the morning, while the air was perfectly silent.
Chapter 26 — The Last Piece of Coal

The bears, it seemed, could not be caught; a few seals were killed on the 4th, 5th, and
6th of November, and the wind shifted and the weather grew much milder; but the snow-drifts
began again with incomparable severity. It became impossible to leave the ship, and it was
hard to subdue the dampness. At the end of the week the condensers contained several
bushels of ice.
The weather changed again November 15th, and the thermometer, under the influence
of certain atmospheric conditions, sank to -24°. That was the lowest temperature they had yet
observed. This cold would have been endurable in calm weather; but the wind was blowing at
that time, and it seemed as if the air was filled with sharp needles.
The doctor regretted his captivity, for the snow was hardened by the wind, so as to make
good walking, and he might have gone very far from the ship.
Still, it should be said that the slightest exercise in. so low a temperature is very
exhausting. A man can perform hardly more than a quarter of his usual work; iron utensils
cannot be touched; if the hand seizes them, it feels as if it were burned, and shreds of skin
cleave to the object which had been incautiously seized.
The crew, being confined to the ship, were obliged to walk on the covered deck for two
hours a day, where they had leave to smoke, which was forbidden in the common-room.
There, when the fire got low, the ice used to cover the walls and the intervals between
the planks; every nail and bolt and piece of metal was immediately covered with a film of ice.
The celerity of its formation astonished the doctor. The breath of the men condensed in
the air, and, changing from a fluid to a solid form, it fell about them in the form of snow. A few
feet from the stove it was very cold, and the men stood grouped around the fire.
Still, the doctor advised them to harden themselves, and to accustom themselves to the
cold, which was not so severe as what yet awaited them; he advised them to expose their skin
gradually to this intense temperature, and he himself set the example; but idleness or
numbness nailed most of them to their place; they refused to stir, and preferred sleeping in
that unhealthy heat.
Yet, according to the doctor, there was no danger in exposing one’s self to great cold
after leaving a heated room; these sudden changes only inconvenience those who are in a
perspiration; the doctor quoted examples in support of his opinion, but his lessons were for
the most part thrown away.
As for John Hatteras, he did not seem to mind the inclement cold. He walked to and fro
silently, never faster or slower. Did not the cold affect his powerful frame? Did he possess to a
very great degree the principle of natural heat which he wanted his men to possess? Was he
so bound up in his meditations that he was indifferent to outside impressions? His men saw
him with great astonishment braving a temperature of -24°; he would leave the ship for hours,
and come back without appearing to suffer from the cold.
“He’s a singular man,” said the doctor to Johnson; “he astonishes me! He carries a
glowing furnace within him! He is one of the strongest natures I ever saw!”
“The fact is,” answered Johnson, “he goes and comes and circulates in the open air,
without dressing any more thickly than in the month of June.”
“0, it does n’t make much difference what one wears!” answered the doctor; “what is the
use of dressing warmly if one can’t produce heat within himself? It’s like trying to heat ice by
wrapping it up in wool! But Hatteras does n’t need it; he’s built that way, and I should not be
surprised if his side was as warm as the neighborhood of a glowing coal.”
Johnson, who was charged with clearing away the water-hole every morning, noticed thatthe ice was ten feet thick.
Almost every night the doctor could observe the magnificent auroras; from four o’clock till
eight of the evening, the sky in the north was slightly lighted up; then this took a regular
shape, with a rim of light yellow, the ends of which seemed to touch the field of ice. Gradually
the brilliancy arose in the heavens, following the magnetic meridian, and appeared striped with
black bands; jets of luminosity shot with varying brightness here and there; when it reached
the zenith it was often composed of several arcs bathed in waves of red, yellow, or green
light. It was a dazzling sight. Soon the different curves met in a single point, and formed
crowns of celestial richness. Finally the arcs all crowded together, the splendid aurora grew
dim, the intense colors faded away into pale, vague, uncertain tints, and this wonderful
phenomenon vanished gradually, insensibly, in the dark clouds of the south.
It is difficult to realize the wonderful, magical beauty of such a spectacle in high latitudes,
less than eight degrees from the pole; the auroras which are seen in the temperate zone give
no idea of it; it seems as if Providence wished to reserve the greatest wonders for these
Numerous mock-moons appeared also while the moon was shining, and a great many
would appear in the sky, adding to the general brilliancy; often, too, simple lunar halos
surrounded the moon with a circle of splendid lustre.
November 26th the tide rose very high, and the water came through the hole with great
violence; the thick crust of ice seemed pushed up by the force of the sea, and the frequent
cracking of the ice proclaimed the conflict that was going on beneath; fortunately the ship
remained firm in her bed, but her chains worked noisily; it was as a precaution against just
such an event, that Hatteras had made the brig fast.
The following days were still colder; a dense fog hid the sky; the wind tossed the snow
about; it was hard to determine whether it came from the clouds or from the ice-fields;
everything was in confusion.
The crew kept busy with various interior occupations, the principal one being the
preparation of the grease and oil from the seal; it was frozen into blocks of ice, which had to
be cut with a hatchet; it was broken into small fragments, which were as hard as marble; ten
barrels full were collected. As may be seen, every vessel became nearly useless, besides the
risk of its breaking when the contents froze.
The 28th the thermometer fell to -32°; there was only ten days’ coal on board, and every
one awaited with horror the moment when it should come to an end.
Hatteras, for the sake of economy, had the fire in the stove in the after-room put out;
and from that time Shandon, the doctor, and he were compelled to betake themselves to the
common-room of the crew. Hatteras was hence brought into constant communication with his
men, who gazed at him with surly, dejected glances. He heard their fault-finding, their
reproaches, even their threats, without being able to punish them. However, he seemed deaf
to every remark. He never went near the fire. He remained in a corner, with folded arms,
without saying a word.
In spite of the doctor’s recommendations, Pen and his friends refused to take the
slightest exercise; they passed whole days crouching about the stove or under their
bedclothes; hence their health began to suffer; they could not react against the rigor of the
climate, and scurvy soon made its appearance on board.
The doctor had long since begun to distribute, every morning, lemon-juice and lime
pastilles; but these precautions, which were generally so efficacious, did very little good to the
sick; and the disease, following its usual course, soon showed its most horrible symptoms.
Terrible indeed it was to see those wretches with their nerves and muscles contracted
with pain! Their legs were fearfully swollen, and were covered with large bluish-black patches;
their bleeding gums, their swollen lips, permitted them to utter only inarticulate sounds; their
blood was poisoned, deprived of fibrine, and no longer carried life to the extremities.Clifton was the first to be attacked by this cruel malady; soon Gripper, Brunton, and
Strong had to keep to their hammocks. Those whom the illness spared could not avoid the
sight of the sufferings of their friends; the common-room was the only place where they could
stay; so it was soon transformed into a hospital, for of the eighteen sailors of the Forward,
thirteen were soon down with scurvy. It seemed as if Pen would escape the contagion; his
strong constitution preserved him; Shandon felt the first symptoms, but it went no further with
him, and plenty of exercise soon restored him to good health.
The doctor tended his patients with the greatest devotion, and his heart would bleed at
the sight of the sufferings he could not assuage. Still, he inspired as much cheerfulness as he
could in the lonely crew; his words, his consolations, his philosophical reflections, his fortunate
inventions, broke the monotony of those long days of suffering; he would read aloud to them;
his wonderful memory kept him supplied with amusing anecdotes, while the men who were
well stood pressing closely around the stove; but the groans of the sick, their complaints, and
their cries of despair would continually interrupt him, and, breaking off in the middle of a story,
he would become the devoted and attentive physician.
Besides, his health remained good; he did not grow thin; his corpulence stood him in
better stead than the thickest raiment, and he used to say he was as well clad as a seal or a
whale, who, thanks to their thick layers of fat, easily support the rigors of the winter.
Hatteras did not suffer physically or morally. The sufferings of the crew did not seem to
depress him. Perhaps he would not let his emotions appear on his face, while an acute
observer would have detected the heart of a man beneath this mask of iron.
The doctor analyzed him, studied him, and could not classify this strange organization,
this unnatural temperament.
The thermometer fell still lower; the deck was entirely deserted; the Esquimaux dogs
alone walked up and down it, barking dismally.
There was always a man on guard near the stove, who superintended putting on the
coal; it was important not to let it go out; when the fire got low the cold crept into the room,
formed on the walls, and the moisture suddenly condensed and fell in the form of snow on the
unfortunate occupants of the brig.
It was among these terrible sufferings that they reached December 8th; that morning the
doctor went as usual to look at the thermometer. He found the mercury entirely frozen in the
“Forty-four degrees below zero!” he said with terror.
And on that day the last piece of coal on board was thrown into the stove.
Chapter 27 — The Great Cold at Christmas

For a moment he had a feeling of despair. The thought of death, and death by cold,
appeared in all its horror; this last piece of coal burned with an ominous splutter; the fire
seemed about to go out, and the temperature of the room fell noticeably. But Johnson went to
get some of the new fuel which the marine animals had furnished to them, and with it he filled
the stove; he added to it some tow filled with frozen oil, and soon obtained sufficient heat. The
odor was almost unendurable; but how get rid of it? They had to get used to it. Johnson
agreed that his plan was defective, and that it would not be considered a success in Liverpool.
“And yet,” he added, “this unpleasant smell will, perhaps, produce good results.”
“What are they?” asked the carpenter.
“It will doubtless attract the bears this way, for they are fond of the smell.”
“Well,” continued Bell, “what is the need of having bears?”
“Bell,” replied Johnson, “we can’t count on seals any longer; they’re gone away, and for a
long time; if bears don’t come in their place to supply us with their share of fuel, I don’t know
what is to become of us.”
“True, Johnson, our fate is very uncertain; our position is a most alarming one. And if this
sort of fuel gives out, I don’t see how —”
“There might be another —”
“Another?” asked Bell.
“Yes, Bell! in despair on account of — but the captain would never — but yet we shall
perhaps have to come to it.”
And Johnson shook his head sadly, and fell to thinking gloomily. Bell did not interrupt
him. He knew that the supply of fat, which it had been so hard to acquire, would only last a
week, even with the strictest economy.
The boatswain was right. A great many bears, attracted by the scent, were seen to
leeward of the Forward; the healthy men gave chase; but these animals are very swift of foot,
and crafty enough to escape most stratagems; it was impossible to get near them, and the
most skilful gunners could not hit them.
The crew of the brig was in great danger of dying from the cold; it could not withstand,
for forty-eight hours, such a temperature as would exist in the common-room. Every one
looked forward with terror to getting to the end of the fuel.
Now this happened December 20th, at three o’clock in the afternoon; the fire went out;
the sailors, grouped about the empty stove, gazed at one another with haggard eyes.
Hatteras remained without moving in his corner; the doctor, as usual, paced up and down
excitedly; he did not know what was to be done.
The temperature in the room fell at once to -7°.
But if the doctor was baffled and did not know what they should turn their hands to,
others knew very well. So Shandon, cold and resolute. Pen, with wrath in his eyes, and two or
three of his companions, such as he could induce to accompany him, walked towards
“Captain!” said Shandon.
Hatteras, absorbed in his thoughts, did not hear him.
“Captain!” repeated Shandon, touching him with his hand.
Hatteras arose.
“Sir,” he said.
“Captain, the fire is out.”
“Well?” continued Hatteras.“If you intend that we shall freeze to death,” Shandon went on with grim irony, “we should
be glad if you would tell us.”
“My intention,” answered Hatteras with a deep voice, “is that every man shall do his duty
to the end.”
“There’s something superior to duty. Captain,” answered his first officer, “and that is the
right of self-preservation. I repeat it, we have no fire; and if this goes on, in two days not one
of us will be alive.”
“I have no wood,” answered Hatteras, gloomily.
“Well,” shouted Pen, violently, “when the wood gives out, we must go cut it where it
Hatteras grew pale with anger.
“Where is that?” he asked.
“On board,” answered the sailor, insolently.
“On board!” repeated the captain, with clinched fists and sparkling eyes.
“Of course,” answered Pen, “when the ship can’t carry the crew, the ship ought to be
At the beginning of this sentence Hatteras had grasped an axe; at its end, this axe was
raised above Pen’s head.
“Wretch!” he cried.
The doctor sprang in front of Pen, and thrust him back; the axe fell on the floor, making a
deep gash. Johnson, Bell, and Simpson gathered around Hatteras, and seemed determined
to support him. But plaintive, grievous cries arose from the berths, transformed into
“Fire, fire!” they cried, shivering beneath their now insufficient covering.
Hatteras by a violent effort controlled himself, and after a few moments of silence, he
said calmly, —
“If we destroy the ship, how shall we get back to England?”
“Sir,” answered Johnson, “perhaps we can without doing any material damage burn the
less important parts, the bulwarks, the nettings —”
“The small boats will be left,” said Shandon; “and besides, why might we not make a
smaller vessel out of what is left of the old one?”
“Never!” answered Hatteras.
“But —” interposed many of the men, shouting together.
“We have a large quantity of spirits of wine,” suggested Hatteras; “burn all of that.”
“All right; we’ll take the spirits of wine!” answered Johnson, assuming an air of confidence
which he was far from feeling. And with the aid of long wicks, dipped into this liquid of which
the pale flame licked the walls of the stove, he was able to raise the temperature of the room
a few degrees.
In the following days the wind came from the south again and the thermometer rose; the
snow, however, kept falling. Some of the men were able to leave the ship for the driest hours
of the day; but ophthalmia and scurvy kept most of them on board; besides, neither hunting
nor fishing was possible.
But this was only a respite in the fearful severity of the cold, and on the 25th, after a
sudden change of wind, the frozen mercury disappeared again in the bulb of the instrument;
then they had to consult the spirit-thermometer, which does not freeze even in the most
intense colds.
The doctor, to his great surprise, found it marking -66°. Seldom has man been called
upon to endure so low a temperature.
The ice stretched in long, dark lines upon the floor; a dense mist filled the room; the
dampness fell in the form of thick snow; the men could not see one another; their extremities
grew cold and blue; their heads felt as if they wore an iron band; and their thoughts grewconfused and dull, as if they were half delirious. A terrible symptom was that their tongues
refused to articulate a sound.
From the day the men threatened to burn the ship, Hatteras would walk for hours upon
the deck, keeping watch. This wood was flesh and blood to him. Cutting a piece from it would
have been like cutting off a limb. He was armed, and he kept constant guard, without minding
the cold, the snow, or the ice, which stiffened his clothing as if it covered it with a granite
cuirass. Duke understood him, and followed him, barking and howling.
Nevertheless, December 25th he went down into the common-room. The doctor, with all
the energy he had left, went up to him and said, —
“Hatteras, we are going to die from want of fire!”
“Never!” said Hatteras, knowing very well what request he was refusing.
“We must,” continued the doctor, mildly.
“Never!” repeated Hatteras more firmly; “I shall never give my consent! Whoever wishes,
may disobey me.”
Thus was permission given them. Johnson and Bell hastened to the deck. Hatteras
heard the wood of the brig crashing under the axe, and wept.
That was Christmas Day, the great family festival in England, one specially devoted to
the amusement of the children. What a painful recollection was that of the happy children
gathered about the green Christmas tree! Every one recalled the huge pieces of roast meat,
cut from the fattened ox, and the tarts, the mince-pies, and other luxuries so dear to the
English heart! But here was nothing but suffering, despair, and wretchedness, and for the
Christmas log, these pieces of a ship lost in the middle of the frigid zone!
Nevertheless, under the genial influence of the fire, the spirits and strength of the men
returned; the hot tea and coffee brought great and immediate consolation, and hope is so firm
a friend of man, that they even began to hope for some luckier fate. It was thus that the year
1860 passed away, the early winter of which had so interfered with Hatteras’s plans.
Now it happened that this very New Year’s Day was marked by an unexpected discovery.
It was a little milder than the previous days had been; the doctor had resumed his studies; he
was reading Sir Edward Belcher’s account of his expedition in the polar regions. Suddenly, a
passage which he had never noticed before filled him with astonishment; he read it over
again; doubt was no longer possible.
Sir Edward Belcher states that, having come to the end of Queen’s Channel, he found
there many traces of the presence of men. He says:
“There are remains of dwellings far superior to what can be attributed to the savage
habits of the wandering tribes of Esquimaux. The walls are firmly placed on deep-dug
foundations; the inside, covered with a thick layer of gravel, has been paved. Skeletons of
moose, reindeer, and seals abound. We found coal there.”
At these last words an idea occurred to the doctor; he took his book and ran to tell
“Coal!” shouted the captain.
“Yes, Hatteras, coal; that is to say, our preservation!”
“Coal, on this lonely shore!” continued Hatteras; “no, that’s impossible!”
“How can you doubt it, Hatteras? Belcher would not have mentioned it if he had not been
sure, without having seen it with his own eyes.”
“Well, what then, Doctor?”
“We are not a hundred miles from the place where Belcher saw this coal! What is a
journey of a hundred miles? Nothing. Longer expeditions have often been made on the ice,
and with the cold as intense. Let us go after it. Captain!”
“We’ll go!” said Hatteras, who had made up his mind quickly; and with his active
imagination he saw the chance of safety.
Johnson was informed of the plan, of which he approved highly; he told his companions;some rejoiced, others heard of it with indifference.
“Coal on these shores!” said Wall from his sick-bed.
“We’ll let them go,” answered Shandon, mysteriously.
But before they had begun to make preparations for the trip, Hatteras wanted to fix the
position of the Forward with the utmost exactitude. The importance of this calculation it is easy
to see. Once away from the ship, it could not be found again without knowing its position
So Hatteras went up on deck; he took observations at different moments of several lunar
distances, and the altitude of the principal stars. He found, however, much difficulty in doing
this, for when the temperature was so low, the glass and the mirrors of the instrument were
covered with a crust of ice from Hatteras’s breath; more than once his eyelids were burned by
touching the copper eye-pieces. Still, he was able to get very exact bases for his calculations,
and he returned to the common-room to work them out. When he had finished, he raised his
head with stupefaction, took his chart, marked it, and looked at the doctor.
“Well?” asked the latter.
“What was our latitude when we went into winter-quarters?”
“Our latitude was 78°15’, and the longitude 95°35’, exactly the pole of cold.”
“Well,” added Hatteras in a low voice, “our ice-field is drifting! We are two degrees farther
north and farther west, — at least three hundred miles from your coal-supply!”
“And these poor men who know nothing about it!” cried the doctor.
“Not a word!” said Hatteras, raising his finger to his lips.
Chapter 28 — Preparations for Departure

Hatteras did not wish to let his crew know about this new condition of affairs. He was
right. If they had known that they were being driven towards the north with irresistible force,
they would have given way to despair. The doctor knew this, and approved of the captain’s
Hatteras had kept to himself the impressions which this discovery had caused within him.
It was his first moment of joy during these long months of struggle with the hostile elements.
He was one hundred and fifty miles farther north; hardly eight degrees from the Pole! But he
hid his joy so well that the doctor did not even suspect it; he asked himself why Hatteras’s eye
shone with so unusual a lustre; but that was all, and the natural reply to this question did not
enter his head.
The Forward, as it approached the Pole, had drifted away from the coal which had been
seen by Sir Edward Belcher; instead of a hundred miles, it would have to be sought two
hundred and fifty miles farther south. Still, after a short discussion between Hatteras and
Clawbonny, they determined to make the attempt.
If Belcher was right, and his accuracy could not be doubted, they would find everything
just at he had left it. Since 1853, no new expedition had visited these remote continents. Few,
if any, Esquimaux are found in this latitude. The disaster which had befallen at Beechey Island
could not be repeated on the shores of North Cornwall. Everything seemed to favor an
excursion across the ice.
They estimated that they would be gone forty days at the outside, and preparations were
made by Johnson for that time of absence.
In the first place, he saw about the sledge; it was of the shape of those used in
Greenland, thirty-five inches broad and twenty-four feet long. The Esquimaux sometimes
make them fifty feet long. It was built of long planks, bent at each end, and kept in position by
two strong cords. This shape adapted it to resist violent shocks. The sledge ran easily upon
the ice; but before the snow had hardened, it was necessary to place two vertical frames near
together, and being raised in this way, it could run on without cutting too much into the snow.
Besides, by rubbing it with a mixture of sulphur and snow in the Esquimaux fashion, it ran very
It was drawn by six dogs; they were strong in spite of their thinness, and did not appear
to be injured by the severity of the winter; the harnesses of deerskin were in good condition;
perfect reliance could be placed on the equipment, which the Greenlanders at Upernavik had
sold in conscience. These six animals alone could draw a weight of two thousand pounds
without inordinate fatigue.
They carried with them a tent, in case it should be impossible to build a snow-house; a
large sheet of mackintosh to spread over the snow, so that it should not melt at contact with
their bodies; and, last of all, many coverings of wool and buffalo-skin. In addition, they carried
the Halkett-boat.
Their provisions consisted of five chests of pemmican, weighing four hundred and fifty
pounds; a pound of pemmican was allotted for each man and dog; of the latter there were
seven, including Duke; there were to be four men. They carried, besides, twelve gallons of
spirits of wine, weighing nearly a hundred and fifty pounds; tea and biscuit, in proper amounts;
a little portable kitchen, with a great many wicks; and much tow, ammunition, and four
doublebarrelled guns. The men of the party made use of Captain Parry’s invention, and wore girdles
of india-rubber in which the heat of the body and the motion in walking could keep tea, coffee,
and water in a liquid state.Johnson took special care of the preparation of snow-shoes, with their wooden frames
and leathern straps; they served as skates; on thoroughly frozen spots deerskin moccasins
could be worn with comfort; every man carried two pairs of each.
These preparations, which were so important because the omission of a single detail
might have caused the ruin of the whole expedition, required four whole days. Every day at
noon Hatteras took an observation of the ship’s position; it was no longer drifting, and this had
to be perfectly sure in order to secure their return.
Hatteras undertook to choose the four men who were to accompany him. It was not an
easy decision to take; some it was not advisable to take, but then the question of leaving them
on board had also to be considered. Still, the common safety demanded the success of this
trip, and the captain deemed it right to choose sure and experienced men.
Hence Shandon was left out, but not much to his regret. James Wall was too ill to go.
The sick grew no worse; their treatment consisted of repeated rubbing and strong doses of
lemon-juice; this was easily seen to without the presence of the doctor being essential. Hence
he enrolled himself among those who should go, and no voice was raised against it. Johnson
would have gladly gone with the captain in his dangerous expedition; but Hatteras drew him to
one side and said to him in an affectionate, almost weeping voice, —
“Johnson, you are the only man I can trust. You are the only officer with whom I can
leave the ship. I must know that you are here to keep an eye on Shandon and the others.
They are kept to the ship by the winter; but who can say what plans they are not capable of
forming? You shall receive my formal instructions, which shall place the command in your
hands. You shall take my place. We shall be absent four or five weeks at the most, and I shall
be at ease having you here where I cannot be. You need wood, Johnson. I know it! But, as
much as possible, spare my ship. Do you understand, Johnson?”
“I understand, Captain,” answered the old sailor, “and I will remain if you prefer it.”
“Thanks!” said Hatteras, pressing the boatswain’s hand; and he added, “In case we don’t
come back, Johnson, wait till the next thaw, and try to push on to the Pole. If the rest refuse,
don’t think of us, but take the Forward back to England.”
“That is your wish, Captain?”
“It is,” answered Hatteras.
“Your orders shall be obeyed,” said Johnson, quietly.
The doctor regretted that his friend was not going to accompany him, but he was obliged
to recognize the wisdom of Hatteras’s plan.
His two other companions were Bell the carpenter, and Simpson. The first, who was
sturdy, brave, and devoted, would be of great service in their camping in the snow; the other,
although less resolute, nevertheless determined to take part in this expedition in which he
might be of use as hunter and fisher.
So this detachment consisted of Hatteras, Clawbonny, Bell, Simpson, and the faithful
Duke, making in all four men and seven dogs to be fed. A suitable amount of provisions was
made ready.
During the early days of January the mean temperature was -33°. Hatteras waited
impatiently for milder weather; he frequently consulted the barometer, but no confidence could
be placed in this instrument, which in these high latitudes seems to lose some of its
customary accuracy; in these regions there are many exceptions to the general laws of
nature: for instance, a clear sky was not always accompanied by cold, nor did a fall of snow
raise the temperature; the barometer was uncertain, as many explorers in these seas have
noticed; it used to fall when the wind was from the north or east; when low it foretold fine
weather; when high, rain or snow. Hence its indications could hardly be relied on.
Finally, January 5th an easterly breeze brought with it a rise in the thermometer of fifteen
degrees, so that it stood at -18°. Hatteras resolved to start the next day; he could no longer
endure seeing his ship torn to pieces before his eyes; the whole quarter-deck had beenburned up.
So, January 6th, amid squalls of snow, the order to depart was given; the doctor gave
his last words of advice to the sick; Bell and Simpson shook hands silently with their
companions. Hatteras wanted to make a farewell speech to the men, but he saw nothing but
angry faces around him. He fancied he saw an ironical smile playing about Shandon’s lips. He
held his peace. Perhaps he had a momentary pang at parting as he gazed at the Forward.
But it was too late for him to change his mind; the sledge, loaded and harnessed, was
waiting on the ice; Bell was the first to move; the others followed. Johnson accompanied the
travellers for a quarter of a mile; then Hatteras asked him to return, which he did after a long
leave-taking. At that moment, Hatteras, turning for the last time towards the brig, saw the tops
of her masts disappearing in the dark snow-clouds.
Chapter 29 — Across the Ice-Fields

The little band made their way towards the southeast. Simpson drove the sledge. Duke
aided him much, without being disturbed at the occupation of his mates. Hatteras and the
doctor followed behind on foot, while Bell, who was charged with making a road, went on in
advance, testing the ice with the iron point of his stick.
The rise in the thermometer foretold a fall of snow, and soon it came, beginning in large
flakes. This added to the hardships of their jourpey; they kept straying from a straight line;
they could not go quickly; nevertheless, they averaged three miles an hour.
The ice-field, under the pressure of the frost, presented an unequal surface; the sledge
was often nearly turned over, but they succeeded in saving it.
Hatteras and his companions wrapped themselves up in their fur clothes cut in the
Greenland fashion; they were not cut with extraordinary neatness, but they suited the needs
of the climate; their faces were enclosed in a narrow hood which could not be penetrated by
the snow or wind; their mouths, noses, and eyes were alone exposed to the air, and they did
not need to be protected against it; nothing is so inconvenient as scarfs and nose-protectors,
which soon are stiff with ice; at night they have to be cut away, which, even in the arctic seas,
is a poor way of undressing. It was necessary to leave free passage for the breath, which
would freeze at once on anything it met.
The boundless plain stretched out with tiresome monotony; everywhere there appeared
heaped-up ice-hills, hummocks, blocks, and icebergs, separated by winding valleys; they
walked staff in hand, saying but little. In this cold atmosphere, to open the mouth was painful;
sharp crystals of ice suddenly formed between the lips, and the heat of the breath could not
melt them. Their progress was silent, and every one beat the ice with his staff. Bell’s footsteps
were visible in the fresh snow; they followed them mechanically, and where he had passed,
the others could go safely.
Numerous tracks of bears and foxes crossed one another everywhere; but during this
first day not one could be seen; to chase them would have been dangerous an useless: they
would only have overloaded the already heavy sledge.
Generally, in excursions of this sort, travellers take the precaution of leaving supplies
along their path; they hide them from the animals, in the snow, thus lightening themselves for
their trip, and on their return they take the supplies which they did not have the trouble of
carrying with them.
Hatteras could not employ this device on an ice-field which perhaps was moving; on firm
land it would have been possible; and the uncertainty of their route made it doubtful whether
they would return by the same path.
At noon, Hatteras halted his little troop in the shelter of an ice-wall; they dined off
pemmican and hot tea; the strengthening qualities of this beverage produced general comfort,
and the travellers drank a large quantity. After an hour’s rest they started on again; in the first
day they walked about twenty miles; that evening men and dogs were tired out.
Still, in spite of their fatigue, they had to build a snow-house in which to pass the night;
the tent would not have been enough. This took them an hour and a half. Bell was very skilful;
the blocks of ice, which were cut with a knife, were placed on top of one another with
astonishing rapidity, and they took the shape of a dome, and a last piece, the keystone of the
arch, established the solidity of the building; the soft snow served as mortar in the interstices;
it soon hardened and made the whole building of a single piece.
Access was had into this improvised grotto by means of a narrow opening, through which
it was necessary to crawl on one’s hands and knees; the doctor found some difficulty inentering, and the others followed. Supper was soon prepared on the alcohol cooking-stove.
The temperature inside was very comfortable; the wind, which was raging without, could not
get in.
“Sit down!” soon shouted the doctor in his most genial manner.
And this meal, though the same as the dinner, was shared by all. When it was finished
their only thought was sleep; the mackintoshes, spread out upon the snow, protected them
from the dampness. At the flame of the portable stove they dried their clothes; then three of
them, wrapped up in their woollen coverings, fell asleep, while one was left on watch; he had
to keep a lookout on the safety of all, and to prevent the opening from being closed, otherwise
they ran a risk of being buried alive.
Duke shared their quarters; the other dogs remained without, and after they had eaten
their supper they lay down and were soon hidden by the snow.
Their fatigue soon brought sound sleep. The doctor took the watch until three of the
morning. In the night the hurricane raged furiously. Strange was the situation of these lonely
men lost in the snow, enclosed in this vault with its walls rapidly thickening under the snow-fall.
The next morning at six o’clock their monotonous march was resumed; there were ever
before them the same valleys and icebergs, a uniformity which made the choice of a path
difficult. Still, a fall of several degrees in the temperature made their way easier by hardening
the snow. Often they came across little elevations, which looked like cairns or storing-places
of the Esquimaux; the doctor had one destroyed to satisfy his curiosity, but he found nothing
except a cake of ice.
“What do you expect to find, Clawbonny?” asked Hatteras; “are we not the first men to
penetrate into this part of the globe?”
“Probably,” answered the doctor, “but who knows?”
“Don’t let us waste our time in useless searching,” resumed the captain; “I am in a hurry
to rejoin the ship, even if this long-wanted fuel should not be found.”
“I have great hopes of finding it,” said the doctor.
“Doctor,” Hatteras used to say frequently, “I did wrong to leave the Forward; it was a
mistake! The captain’s place is on board, and nowhere else.”
“Johnson is there.”
“Yes! but let us hurry on!”
They advanced rapidly; Simpson’s voice could be heard urging on the dogs; they ran
along on a brilliant surface, all aglow with a phosphorescent light, and the runners of the
sledge seemed to toss up a shower of sparks. The doctor ran on ahead to examine this snow,
when suddenly, as he was trying to jump upon a hummock, he disappeared from sight. Bell,
who was near him, ran at once towards the place.
“Well, Doctor,” he cried anxiously, while Hatteras and Simpson joined him, “where are
“Doctor!” shouted the captain.
“Down here, at the bottom of a hole,” was the quiet answer. “Throw me a piece of rope,
and I’ll come up to the surface of the globe.”
They threw a rope down to the doctor, who was at the bottom of a pit about ten feet
deep; he fastened it about his waist, and his three companions drew him up with some
“Are you hurt?” asked Hatteras.
“No, there’s no harm done,” answered the doctor, wiping the snow from his smiling face.
“But how did it happen?”
“0, it was in consequence of the refraction,” he answered, laughing; “I thought I had
about a foot to step over, and I fell into this deep hole! These optical illusions are the only
ones left me, my friends, and it’s hard to escape from them! Let that be a lesson to us all
never to take a step forward without first testing the ice with a staff, for our senses cannot bedepended on. Here our ears hear wrong, and our eyes deceive us! It’s a curious country!”
“Can you go on?” asked the captain.
“Go on, Hatteras, go on! This little fall has done me more good than harm.”
They resumed their march to the southeast, and at evening they halted, after walking
about twenty-five miles; they were all tired, but still the doctor had energy enough to ascend
an ice-mountain while the snow-hut was building.
The moon, which was nearly at its full, shone with extraordinary brilliancy in a clear sky;
the stars were wonderfully brilliant; from the top of the iceberg a boundless plain could be
seen, which was covered with strangely formed hillocks of ice; in the moonlight they looked
like fallen columns or overthrown tombstones; the scene reminded the doctor of a huge, silent
graveyard barren of trees, in which twenty generations of human beings might be lying in their
long sleep.
In spite of the cold and fatigue, Clawbonny remained for a long time in a revery, from
which it was no easy task for his companions to arouse him; but they had to think of resting;
the snow-hut was completed; the four travellers crawled in like moles, and soon were all
The following days went on without any particular incident; at times they went on slowly,
at times quickly, with varying ease, according to the changes in the weather; they wore
moccasins or snow-shoes, as the nature of the ice demanded.
In this way they went on till January 15th; the moon, now in its last quarter, was hardly
visible; the sun, although always beneath the horizon, gave a sort of twilight for six hours
every day, but not enough to light up the route, which had to be directed by the compass.
Then Bell went on ahead; Hatteras followed next; Simpson and the doctor sought also to keep
in a straight line behind, with their eyes on Hatteras alone; and yet, in spite of all their efforts,
they often got thirty or forty degrees from the right way, much to their annoyance.
Sunday, January 15th, Hatteras judged that they had come about one hundred miles to
the south; this morning was set aside to mending their clothes and materials; the reading of
divine service was not forgotten.
At noon they started again; the temperature was very low; the thermometer marked only
-22°; the air was very clear.
Suddenly, without warning, a frozen vapor arose into the air from the ice, to a height of
about ninety feet, and hung motionless; no one could see a foot before him; this vapor formed
in long, sharp crystals upon their clothing.
The travellers, surprised by this phenomenon, which is called frost-rime, only thought of
getting together; so immediately various shouts were heard: —
“O Simpson!”
“Bell, this way!”
“Dr. Clawbonny!”
“Captain, where are you?”
They began to look for one another with outstretched arms, wandering through the fog
which their eyes could not pierce. But to their disappointment they could hear no answer; the
vapor seemed incapable of carrying sound.
Each one then thought of firing his gun as a signal to the others. But if their voices were
too feeble, the reports of the fire-arms were too loud; for the echoes, repeated in every
direction, made but a confused roar, in which no particular direction could be perceived.
Then they began to act, each one as he thought best. Hatteras stood still and folded his
arms. Simpson contented himself with stopping the sledge. Bell retraced his steps, feeling
them with his hand. The doctor, stumbling over the blocks of ice, wandered here and there,
getting more and more bewildered.
At the end of five minutes he said to himself, —“This can’t last long! Singular climate! This is too much! There is nothing to help us,
without speaking of these sharp crystals which cut my face. Halloo, Captain!” he shouted
But he heard no answer; he fired his gun, but in spite of his thick gloves the iron burned
his hands. Meanwhile he thought he saw a confused mass moving near him.
“There’s some one,” he said. “Hatteras! Bell! Simpson! Is that you? Come, answer!”
A dull roar was alone heard.
“Ah!” thought the doctor, “what is that?”
The object approached; it lost its first size and appeared in more definite shape. A
terrible thought flashed into the doctor’s mind.
“A bear!” he said to himself.
In fact, it was a huge bear; lost in the fog, it came and went with great danger to the
men, whose presence it certainly did not suspect.
“Matters are growing complicated!” thought the doctor, standing still.
Sometimes he felt the animal’s breath, which was soon lost in the frost-rime; again he
would see the monster’s huge paws beating the air so near him that his clothes were
occasionally torn by its sharp claws; he jumped back, and the animal disappeared like a
phantasmagoric spectre.
But as he sprang back he found an elevation beneath his feet; he climbed up first one
block of ice, then another, feeling his way with his staff.
“An iceberg!” he said to himself; “if I can get to the top I am safe.”
With these words he climbed up an elevation of about ninety feet with surprising agility;
he arose above the frozen mist, the top of which was sharply defined.
“Good!” he said to himself; and looking about him he saw his three companions emerging
from the vapor.
“Dr. Clawbonny!”
These names were shouted out almost at the same time; the sky, lit up by a magnificent
halo, sent forth pale rays which colored the frost-rime as if it were a cloud, and the top of the
icebergs seemed to rise from a mass of molten silver. The travellers found themselves within
a circle of less than a hundred feet in diameter. Thanks to the purity of the air in this upper
layer in this low temperature, their words could be easily heard, and they were able to talk on
the top of this iceberg. After the first shots, each one, hearing no answer, had only thought of
climbing above the mist.
“The sledge!” shouted the captain.
“It’s eighty feet beneath us,” answered Simpson.
“Is it all right?”
“All right.”
“And the bear?” asked the doctor.
“What bear?” said Bell.
“A bear!” said Hatteras; “let’s go down.”
“No!” said the doctor; “we shall lose our way, and have to begin it all over again.”
“And if he eats our dogs —” said Hatteras.
At that moment Duke was heard barking, the sound rising through the mist.
“That’s Duke!” shouted Hatteras; “there’s something wrong. I’m going down.”
All sorts of howling arose to their ears; Duke and the dogs were barking furiously. The
noise sounded like a dull murmur, like the roar of a crowded, noisy room. They knew that
some invisible struggle was going on below, and the mist was occasionally agitated like the
sea when marine monsters are fighting.“Duke, Duke!” shouted the captain, as he made ready to enter again into the frost-rime.
“Wait a moment, Hatteras, — wait a moment! It seems to me that the fog is lifting.”
It was not lifting, but sinking, like water in a pool; it appeared to be descending into the
ground from which it had risen; the summits of the icebergs grew larger; others, which had
been hidden, arose like new islands; by an optical illusion, which may be easily imagined, the
travellers, clinging to these ice-cones, seemed to be rising in the air, while the top of the mist
sank beneath them.
Soon the top of the sledge appeared, then the harnessed dogs, and then about thirty
other animals, then great objects moving confusedly, and Duke leaping about with his head
alternately rising and sinking in the frozen mist.
“Foxes!” shouted Bell.
“Bears!” said the doctor; “one, two, three.”
“Our dogs, our provisions!” cried Simpson.
A troop of foxes and bears, having come across the sledge, were ravaging the
provisions. Their instinct of pillaging united them in perfect harmony; the dogs were barking
furiously, but the animals paid no heed, but went on in their work of destruction.
“Fire!” shouted the captain, discharging his piece.
His companions did the same. But at the combined report the bears, raising their heads
and uttering a singular roar, gave the signal to depart; they fell into a little trot which a
galloping horse could not have kept up with, and, followed by the foxes, they soon
disappeared amid the ice to the north.
Chapter 30 — The Cairn

This phenomenon, which is peculiar to the polar regions, had lasted three quarters of an
hour; the bears and foxes had had plenty of time; these provisions arrived opportunely for
these animals, who were nearly starved during the inclement weather; the canvas cover of the
sledge was torn by their strong claws, the casks of pemmican were opened and emptied; the
biscuit-sacks pillaged, the tea spilled over the snow, a barrel of alcohol torn open and its
contents lost, their camping materials scattered and damaged, bore witness to the ferocity of
these wild beasts, and their greediness.
“This is a misfortune,” said Bell, gazing at this scene of ruin.
“Which is probably irreparable,” said Simpson.
“Let us first estimate the loss,” interrupted the doctor, “and we’ll talk about it afterwards.”
Hatteras, without sayings a word, began to gather the scattered boxes and sacks; they
collected the pemmican and biscuits which could be eaten; the loss of part of their alcohol was
much to be regretted; for if that was gone there would be nothing warm to drink; no tea, no
coffee. In making an inventory of the supplies left, the doctor found two hundred pounds of
pemmican gone, and a hundred and fifty pounds of biscuit; if their journey continued they
would have to subsist on half-rations.
They then began to discuss what should be done, whether they should return to the ship
and start out again. But how could they make up their minds to lose the hundred and fifty
miles they had already made? To return without fuel would have a depressing effect upon the
spirits of the crew. Could men be found again to resume their march across the ice?
Evidently it was better to push on, even at the risk of severe privations.
The doctor, Hatteras, and Bell were of this opinion; Simpson wanted to go back; the
fatigue of the journey had worn upon his health; he was visibly weaker; but finding himself
alone of this opinion, he resumed his place at the head of the sledge, and the little caravan
continued its journey to the south.
During the three next days, from the 15th to the 17th of January, all the monotonous
incidents of the voyage were repeated; they advanced more slowly, and with much fatigue;
their legs grew tired; the dogs dragged the sledge with difficulty; their diminished supply of
food could not comfort men or beasts. The weather was very variable, changing from intense,
dry cold to damp, penetrating mists.
January 18th the aspect of the ice-fields changed suddenly; a great number of peaks,
like sharp-pointed pyramids, and very high, appeared at the horizon; the ground in certain
places came through the snow; it seemed formed of gneiss, schist, and quartz, with some
appearance of limestone. The travellers at last touched earth again, and this land they judged
to be that called North Cornwall.
The doctor could not help striking the earth with joy; they had now only a hundred miles
to go before reaching Cape Belcher, but their fatigue increased strangely on this soil, covered
with sharp rocks, and interspersed with dangerous points, crevasses, and precipices; they had
to go down into the depths of these abysses, climb steep ascents, and cross narrow gorges,
in which the snow was drifted to the depth of thirty or forty feet.
The travellers soon regretted the almost easy journey over the ice-fields, which so well
suited the sledge; now it had to be dragged by main force; the weary dogs were insufficient;
the men, compelled to take their place alongside of them, wore themselves out with hauling;
often they had to take off the whole load to get over some steep hills; a place only ten feet
wide often kept them busy for hours; so in this first day they made only five miles in North
Cornwall, which is certainly well named, for it exhibits all the roughness, the sharp points, thesteep gorges, the confused rockiness, of the southwest coast of England.
The next day the sledge reached the top of the hills near the shore; the exhausted
travellers, being unable to make a snow-hut, were obliged to pass the night under the tent,
wrapped up in buffalo-skins, and drying their wet stockings by placing them about their bodies.
The inevitable consequences of such conduct are easily comprehended; that night the
thermometer fell below -44°, and the mercury froze.
Simpson’s health caused great anxiety; a persistent cough, violent rheumatism, and
intolerable pain obliged him to lie on the sledge which he could no longer guide. Bell took his
place; he too was suffering, but not so much as to be incapacitated. The doctor also felt the
consequences of this trip in this terrible weather; but he uttered no complaint; he walked on,
resting on his staff; he made out the way and helped every one. Hatteras, impassible, and as
strong as on the first day, followed the sledge in silence.
January 20th the weather was so severe that the slightest effort produced complete
prostration. Still, the difficulties of the way were so great, that Hatteras, the doctor, and Bell
harnessed themselves with the dogs; sudden shocks had broken the front of the sledge, and
they had to stop to repair it. Such delays were frequent every day.
The travellers followed a deep ravine, up to their waists in snow, and perspiring violently
in spite of the intense cold. They did not say a word. Suddenly Bell, who was near the doctor,
looked at him with some alarm; then, without uttering a word, he picked up a handful of snow
and began rubbing his companion’s face violently.
“Well, Bell!” said the doctor, resisting.
But Bell continued rubbing.
“Come, Bell,” began the doctor again, his mouth, nose, and eyes full of snow, “are you
mad? What’s the matter?”
“If you have a nose left,” answered Bell, “you ought to be grateful to me.”
“A nose!” answered the doctor, quickly, clapping his hand to his face.
“Yes, Doctor, you were frost-bitten; your nose was white when I looked at you, and if I
had not done as I did, you would have lost that ornament which is in the way on a journey, but
agreeable to one’s existence.”
In fact, the doctor’s nose was almost frozen; the circulation of the blood was restored in
time, and, thanks to Bell, all danger was gone.
“Thanks, Bell!” said the doctor; “I’ll be even with you yet.”
“I hope so. Doctor,” the carpenter answered; “and may Heaven protect us from worse
“Alas, Bell,” continued the doctor, “you mean Simpson! The poor fellow is suffering
“Do you fear for his life?” asked Hatteras, quickly.
“Yes, Captain,” answered the doctor.
“And why?”
“He has a violent attack of scurvy; his legs have begun to swell, and his gums too; the
poor fellow lies half frozen on the sledge, and every movement redoubles his suffering. I pity
him, Hatteras, and I can’t do anything to relieve him.”
“Poor Simpson!” murmured Bell.
“Perhaps we shall have to halt for a day or two,” resumed the doctor.
“Halt!” shouted Hatteras, “when the lives of eighteen men are hanging on our return!”
“Still —” said the doctor.
“Clawbonny, Bell, listen to me,” said Hatteras; “we have food for only twenty days! Judge
for yourselves whether we can stop for a moment!”
Neither the doctor nor Bell made any reply, and the sledge resumed its progress, which
had been delayed for a moment. That evening they stopped beneath a hillock of ice, in which
Bell at once cut a cavern; the travellers entered it; the doctor passed the night attending toSimpson; the scurvy had already made fearful ravages, and his sufferings caused perpetual
laments to issue from his swollen lips.
“Ah, Dr. Clawbonny!”
“Courage, my dear fellow!” said the doctor.
“I shall never get well! I feel it! I’d rather die!”
The doctor answered these despairing words by incessant cares; although worn out by
the fatigue of the day, he spent the night in composing a soothing potion for his patient; but
the lime-juice was ineffectual, and continual friction could not keep down the progress of the
The next day he had to be placed again upon the sledge, although he besought them to
leave him behind to die in peace; then they resumed their dreary and difficult march.
The frozen mists penetrated the three men to the bone; the snow and sleet dashed
against them; they were working like draught-horses, and with a scanty supply of food.
Duke, like his master, kept coming and going, enduring every fatigue, always alert,
finding out by himself the best path; they had perfect confidence in his wonderful instinct.
During the morning of January 23d, amid almost total darkness, for the moon was new,
Duke had run on ahead; for many hours he was not seen; Hatteras became uneasy,
especially because there were many traces of bears to be seen; he was uncertain what to do,
when suddenly a loud barking was heard.
Hatteras urged on the sledge, and soon he found the faithful animal at the bottom of a
ravine. Duke stood as motionless as if turned to stone, barking before a sort of cairn made of
pieces of limestone, covered with a cement of ice.
“This time,” said the doctor, detaching his harness, “it’s a cairn, there’s no doubt of that.”
“What’s that to us?” asked Hatteras.
“Hatteras, if it is a cairn, it may contain some document of value for us; perhaps some
provisions, and it would be worth while to see.”
“What European could have come as far as this?” asked Hatteras, shrugging his
“But in lack of Europeans,” answered the doctor, “cannot Esquimaux have made it here
to contain what they have fished or shot? It’s their habit, I think.”
“Well, go and look at it,” continued Hatteras; “but I’m afraid it will be hardly worth your
Clawbonny and Bell walked to the cairn with picks in their hands. Duke continued barking
furiously. The limestones were firmly fastened together by the ice; but a few blows scattered
them on the ground.
“There’s something there, evidently,” said the doctor.
“I think so,” answered Bell.
They rapidly destroyed the cairn. Soon they found a bundle and in it a damp paper. The
doctor took it with a beating heart. Hatteras ran forward, seized the paper, and read:
“Altam .... Porpoise, December 13, 1860, longitude 12°, latitude 8°35’.”
“The Porpoise?” said the doctor.
“The Porpoise!” replied Hatteras. “I never heard of a ship of this name in these seas.”
“It is clear,” resumed the doctor, “that travellers, perhaps shipwrecked sailors, have been
here within two months.”
“That is sure,” said Bell.
“What are we going to do?” asked the doctor.
“Push on,” answered Hatteras, coldly. “I don’t know anything about any ship called the
Porpoise, but I know that the brig Forward is waiting for our return.”
Chapter 31 — The Death of Simpson

They resumed their journey; the mind of every one was filled with new and unexpected
ideas, for to meet any one in these regions is about the most remarkable event that can
happen. Hatteras frowned uneasily.
“The Porpoise!” he kept saying to himself; “what ship is that? And what is it doing so near
the Pole?”
At the thought, he shuddered. The doctor and Bell only thought of the two results which
might follow the discovery of this document, that they might be of service in saving some one,
or, possibly, that they might be saved by them; But the difficulties, obstacles, and dangers
soon returned, and they could only think of their perilous position.
Simpson’s condition grew worse; the doctor could not be mistaken about the symptoms
of a speedy death. He could do nothing; he was himself suffering from a painful ophthalmia,
which might be accompanied by deafness if he did not take care. The twilight at that time
gave light enough, and this light, reflected by the snow, was bad for the eyes; it was hard to
protect them from the reflection, for glasses would be soon covered with a layer of ice which
rendered them useless. Hence they had to guard carefully against accident by the way, and
they had to run the risk of ophthalmia; still, the doctor and Bell covered their eyes and took
turns in guiding the sledge. It ran far from smoothly on its worn runners; it became harder and
harder to drag it; their path grew more difficult; the land was of volcanic origin, and all cut up
with craters; the travellers had been compelled gradually to ascend fifteen hundred feet to
reach the top of the mountains. The temperature was lower, the storms were more violent,
and it was a sorry sight to see these poor men on these lonely peaks.
They were also made sick by the whiteness of everything; the uniform brilliancy tired
them; it made them giddy; the earth seemed to wave beneath their feet with no fixed point on
the immense white surface; they felt as one does on shipboard when the deck seems to be
giving way beneath the foot; they could not get over the impression, and the persistence of
the feeling wearied their heads. Their limbs grew torpid, their minds grew dull, and often they
walked like men half asleep; then a slip or a sudden fall would rouse them for a few moments
from their sluggishness.
January 25th they began to descend the steep slopes, which was even more fatiguing; a
false step, which it was by no means easy to avoid, might hurl them down into deep ravines
where they would certainly have perished. Towards evening a violent tempest raged about the
snowy summit; it was impossible to withstand the force of the hurricane; they had to lie down
on the ground, but so low was the temperature that they ran a risk of being frozen to death at
Bell, with Hatteras’s aid, built with much difficulty a snowhouse, in which the poor men
sought shelter; there they partook of a few fragments of pemmican and a little hot tea; only
four gallons of alcohol were left; and they had to use this to allay their thirst, for snow cannot
be absorbed if taken in its natural state; it has to be melted first. In the temperate zone, where
the cold hardly ever sinks much below the freezing-point, it can do no harm; but. beyond the
Polar Circle it is different; it reaches so low a temperature that the bare hand can no more
touch it than it can iron at a white heat, and this, although it is a very poor conductor of heat;
so great is the difference of temperature between it and the stomach that its absorption
produces real suffocation. The Esquimaux prefer severe thirst to quenching it with this snow,
which does not replace water, and only augments the thirst instead of appeasing it. The only
way the travellers could make use of it was by melting it over the spirit-lamp.
At three in the morning, when the tempest was at its height, the doctor took his turn atthe watch; he was lying in a corner of the hut when a groan of distress from Simpson
attracted his attention; he arose to see to him, but in rising he hit his head sharply against the
icy roof; without paying any attention to that, he bent over Simpson and began to rub his
swollen, discolored legs; after doing this for a quarter of an hour he started to rise, and
bumped his head again, although he was on his knees.
“That’s odd,” he said to himself.
He raised his hand above his head; the roof was perceptibly sinking.
“Great God!” he cried; “wake up, my friends!”
At his shouts Hatteras and Bell arose quickly, striking their heads against the roof; they
were in total darkness.
“We shall be crushed!” said the doctor; “let’s get out!”
And all three, dragging Simpson after them, abandoned their dangerous quarters; and it
was high time, for the blocks of ice, ill put together, fell with a loud crash.
The poor men found themselves then without shelter against the hurricane. Hatteras
attempted to raise the tent, but it was impossible, so severe was the wind, and they had to
shelter themselves beneath the canvas, which was soon covered with a thick layer of snow;
but this snow prevented the radiation of their warmth and kept them from being frozen to
The storm lasted all night; Bell, when he was harnessing the half-starved dogs, noticed
that three of them had begun to eat the leather straps; two were very sick and seemed unable
to go on. Still, they set out as well as they could; they had sixty miles between them and the
point they wished to reach.
On the 26th, Bell, who was ahead, shouted suddenly to his companions. They ran
towards him, and he pointed with astonishment to a gun resting on a piece of ice.
“A gun!” cried the doctor.
Hatteras took it; it was in good condition, and loaded.
“The men of the Porpoise can’t be far off.”
Hatteras, as he was examining the gun, noticed that it was of American make; his hands
clinched nervously its barrel.
“Forward!” he said calmly.
They continued to descend the mountains. Simpson seemed deprived of all feeling; he
had not even strength left to moan.
The tempest continued to rage; the sledge went on more and more slowly; they made
but a few miles in twenty-four hours, and, in spite of the strictest economy, their supplies
threatened to give out; but so long as enough was left to carry them back, Hatteras pushed
On the 27th they found, partly buried beneath the snow, a sextant and then a flask,
which contained brandy, or rather a piece of ice, in the middle of which all the spirit of the
liquor had collected in the form of snow; it was of no use.
Evidently, without meaning it, Hatteras was following in the wake of some great disaster;
he went on by the only possible route, collecting the traces of some terrible shipwreck. The
doctor kept a sharp lookout for other cairns, but in vain.
Sad thoughts beset him: in fact, if he should discover these wretches, of what service
could he be to them? He and his companions were beginning to lack everything; their clothing
was torn, their supplies were scanty. If the survivors were many, they would all starve to
death. Hatteras seemed inclined to flee from them! Was he not justified, since the safety of
the crew depended upon him? Ought he to endanger the safety of all by bringing strangers on
But then strangers were men, perhaps their countrymen! Slight as was their chance of
safety, ought they to be deprived of it? The doctor wanted to get Bell’s opinion; but Bell
refused to answer. His own sufferings had hardened his heart. Clawbonny did not dare askHatteras: so he sought aid from Providence.
Towards the evening of that day, Simpson appeared to be failing fast; his cold, stiff
limbs, his impeded breathing, which formed a mist about his head, his convulsive movements,
announced that his last hour had come. His expression was terrible to behold; it was
despairing, with a look of impotent rage at the captain. It contained a whole accusation, mute
reproaches which were full of meaning, and perhaps deserved.
Hatteras did not go near the dying man. He avoided him, more silent, more shut into
himself than ever!
The following night was a terrible one; the violence of the tempest was doubled; three
times the tent was thrown over, and snow was blown over the suffering men, blinding them,
and wounding them with the pieces torn from the neighboring masses. The dogs barked
incessantly. Simpson was exposed to all the inclemency of the weather. Bell succeeded in
again raising the canvas, which, if it did not protect them from the cold, at least kept off the
snow. But a sudden squall blew it down for the fourth time and carried it away with a fierce
“Ah, that is too much!” shouted Bell.
“Courage, courage!” answered the doctor, stooping down to escape being blown away.
Simpson was gasping for breath. Suddenly, with a last effort, he half rose, stretched his
clinched fist at Hatteras, who was gazing steadily at him, uttered a heart-rending cry, and fell
back dead in the midst of his unfinished threat.
“Dead!” said the doctor.
“Dead!” repeated Bell.
Hatteras, who was approaching the corpse, drew back before the violence of the wind.
He was the first of the crew who succumbed to the murderous climate, the first to offer
up his life, after incalculable sufferings, to the captain’s persistent obstinacy. This man had
considered him an assassin, but Hatteras did not quail before the accusation. But a tear,
falling from his eyes, froze on his pale cheek.
The doctor and Bell looked at him in terror. Supported by his long staff, he seemed like
the genius of these regions, straight in the midst of the fierce blast, and terrible in his stern
He remained standing, without stirring, till the first rays of the twilight appeared, bold and
unconquerable, and seeming to defy the tempest which was roaring about him.
Chapter 32 — The Return to the Forward

Toward six o’clock in the morning the wind fell, and, shifting suddenly to the north, it
cleared the clouds from the sky; the thermometer stood at -33°. The first rays of the twilight
appeared on the horizon above which it would soon peer.
Hatteras approached his two dejected companions and said to them, sadly and gently, —
“My friends, we are more than sixty miles from the point mentioned by Sir Edward
Belcher. We have only just enough food left to take us back to the ship. To go farther would
only expose us to certain death, without our being of service to any one. We must return.”
“That is a wise decision, Hatteras,” answered the doctor; “I should have followed you
anywhere, but we are all growing weaker every day; we can hardly set one foot before the
other; I approve of returning.”
“Is that your opinion, Bell?” asked Hatteras.
“Yes, Captain,” answered the carpenter.
“Well,” continued Hatteras, “we will take two days for rest. That’s not too much. The
sledge needs a great many repairs. I think, too, we ought to build a snow-house in which we
can repose.”
This being decided, the three men set to work energetically. Bell took the necessary
precautions to insure the solidity of the building, and soon a satisfactory retreat arose at the
bottom of the ravine where they had last halted.
It was doubtless after a hard struggle that Hatteras had decided to discontinue his
journey. So much effort and fatigue thrown away! A useless trip, entailing the death of one of
his men! To return without a scrap of coal: what would the crew say? What might it not do
under the lead of Shandon? But Hatteras could not continue the struggle any longer.
He gave all his attention to their preparations for returning; the sledge was repaired; its
load, too, had become much lighter, and only weighed two hundred pounds. They mended
their worn-out, torn clothes, all soaked through and through by the snow; new moccasins and
snow-shoes replaced those which were no longer serviceable. This kept them busy the whole
of the 29th and the morning of the 30th; then they all sought what rest they could get, and
prepared for what was before them.
During the thirty-six hours spent in or near the snow-house, the doctor had been noticing
Duke, whose singular behavior did not seem to him to be natural; the dog kept going in circles
which seemed to have a common centre; there was a sort of elevation in the soil, produced by
accumulated layers of ice; Duke, as he ran around this place, kept barking gently and wagging
his tail impatiently, looking at his master as if asking something.
The doctor, after reflecting a moment, ascribed this uneasiness to the presence of
Simpson’s corpse, which his companions had not yet had time to bury. Hence he resolved to
proceed to this sad ceremony on that very day; the next morning they were to start. Bell and
the doctor, picks in hand, went to the bottom of the ravine; the elevation which Duke had
noticed offered a suitable place for the grave, which would have to be dug deep to escape the
The doctor and Bell began by removing the soft snow, then they attacked the solid ice; at
the third blow of his pick the doctor struck against some hard body; he picked up the pieces
and found them the fragments of a glass bottle. Bell brought to light a stiffened bag, in which
were a few crumbs of fresh biscuit.
“What’s this?” said the doctor.
“What can it be?” asked Bell, stopping his work.
The doctor called to Hatteras, who came at once.Duke barked violently, and with his paws tried to tear up the ice.
“Have we by any possibility come across a supply of provisions?” said the doctor.
“It looks like it,” answered Bell.
“Go on!” said Hatteras.
A few bits of food were found and a box quarter full of pemmican.
“If we have,” said Hatteras, “the bears have visited it before we did. See, these
provisions have been touched already.”
“It is to be feared,” answered the doctor, “for —”
He did not finish his sentence; a cry from Bell interrupted him; he had turned over a
tolerably large piece of ice and showed a stiff, frozen human leg in the ice.
“A corpse!” cried the doctor.
“It’s a grave,” said Hatteras.
It was the body of a sailor about thirty years old, in a perfect state of preservation; he
wore the usual dress of Arctic sailors; the doctor could not say how long he had been dead.
After this, Bell found another corpse, that of a man of fifty, exhibiting traces of the
sufferings that had killed him.
“They were never buried,” cried the doctor; “these poor men were surprised by death as
we find them.”
“You are right. Doctor,” said Bell.
“Go on, go on!” said Hatteras.
Bell hardly dared. Who could say how many corpses lay hidden here?
“They were the victims of just such an accident as we nearly perished by,” said the
doctor; “their snow-house fell in. Let us see if one may not be breathing yet!”
The place was rapidly cleared away, and Bell brought up a third body, that of a man of
forty; he looked less like a corpse than the others; the doctor bent over him and thought he
saw some signs of life.
“He’s alive!” he shouted.
Bell and he carried this body into the snow-house, while Hatteras stood in silence, gazing
at the sunken dwelling.
The doctor stripped the body; it bore no signs of injury; with Bell’s aid he rubbed it
vigorously with tow dipped in alcohol, and he saw life gradually reviving within it; but the man
was in a state of complete prostration, and unable to speak; his tongue clove to his palate as
if it were frozen.
The doctor examined his patient’s pockets; they were empty. No paper. He let Bell
continue rubbing, and went out to Hatteras.
He found him in the ruined snow-house, clearing away the floor; soon he came out,
bearing a half-burned piece of an envelope. A few words could be deciphered: —

.... tamont
.... orpoise
....w York.

“Altamont!” shouted the doctor, “of the Porpoise! of New York!”
“An American!” said Hatteras.
“I shall save him,” said the doctor; “I’ll answer for it, and we shall find out the explanation
of this puzzle.”
He returned to Altamont, while Hatteras remained pensive. The doctor succeeded in
recalling the unfortunate man to life, but not to consciousness; he neither saw, heard, nor
spoke, but at any rate he was alive!
The next morning Hatteras said to the doctor, —
“We must start.”“All right, Hatteras! The sledge is not loaded; we shall carry this poor fellow back to the
ship with us.”
“Very well,” said Hatteras. “But first let us bury these corpses.”
The two unknown sailors were placed beneath the ruins of the snow-house; Simpson’s
body took the place of Altamont’s.
The three travellers uttered a short prayer over their companion, and at seven o’clock in
the morning they set off again for the ship.
Two of the dogs were dead. Duke volunteered to drag the sledge, and he worked as
resolutely as a Greenland dog.
For twenty days, from January 31st to February 19th, the return was very much like the
first part of the journey. Save that it was in the month of February, the coldest of the whole
year, and the ice was harder; the travellers suffered terribly from the cold, but not from the
wind or snow-storm.
The sun reappeared for the first time January 31st; every day it rose higher above the
horizon. Bell and the doctor were at the end of their strength, almost blind and quite lame; the
carpenter could not walk without crutches. Altamont was alive, but continued insensible;
sometimes his life was despaired of, but unremitting care kept him alive! And yet the doctor
needed to take the greatest care of himself, for his health was beginning to suffer.
Hatteras thought of the Forward! In what condition was he going to find it? What had
happened on board? Had Johnson been able to withstand Shandon and his allies? The cold
had been terrible! Had they burned the ship? Had they spared her masts and keel?
While thinking of this, Hatteras walked on as if he had wished to get an early view of the
February 24th, in the morning, he stopped suddenly. Three hundred paces before him
appeared a reddish glow, above which rose an immense column of black smoke, which was
lost in the gray clouds of the sky.
“See that smoke!” he shouted.
His heart beat as if it would burst.
“See that smoke!” he said to his companions. “My ship is on fire!”
“But we are more than three miles from it,” said Bell. “It can’t be the Forward!”
“Yes, but it is,” answered the doctor; “the mirage makes it seem nearer.”
“Let us run!” cried Hatteras.
They left the sledge in charge of Duke, and hastened after the captain. An hour later
they came in sight of the ship. A terrible sight! The brig was burning in the midst of the ice,
which was melting about her; the flames were lapping her hull, and the southerly breeze
brought to Hatteras’s ears unaccustomed sounds.
Five hundred feet from the ship stood a man raising his hands in despair; he stood there,
powerless, facing the fire which was destroying the Forward.
The man was alone; it was Johnson.
Hatteras ran towards him.
“My ship! my ship!” he cried.
“You! Captain!” answered Johnson; “you! stop! not a step farther!”
“Well?” asked Hatteras with a terrible air.
“The wretches!” answered Johnson, “they’ve been gone forty-eight hours, after firing the
“Curse them!” groaned Hatteras.
Then a terrible explosion was heard; the earth trembled; the icebergs fell; a column of
smoke rose to the clouds, and the Forward disappeared in an abyss of fire.
At that moment the doctor and Bell came up to Hatteras. He roused himself suddenly
from his despair.
“My friends,” he said energetically, “the cowards have taken flight! The brave willsucceed! Johnson, Bell, you are bold; Doctor, you are wise; as for me, I have faith! There is
the North Pole! Come, to work!”
Hatteras’s companions felt their hearts glow at these brave words.
And yet the situation was terrible for these four men and the dying man, abandoned
without supplies, alone at the eighty-fourth degree of latitude, in the very heart of the polar
Chapter 33 — The Doctor’s Inventory

The design which Captain Hatteras had formed of exploring the North, and of giving
England the honor of discovering the Pole, was certainly a bold one. This hardy sailor had just
done all that human skill could do. After struggling for nine months against contrary winds and
seas, after destroying icebergs and ice-fields, after enduring the severity of an
unprecedentedly cold winter, after going over all that his predecessors had done, after
carrying the Forward beyond the seas which were already known, in short, after completing
half his task, he saw his grand plans completely overthrown. The treachery, or rather the
demoralization of his wearied crew, the criminal folly of some of the ring-leaders, left him in a
terrible situation; of the eighteen men who had sailed in the brig, four were left, abandoned
without supplies, without a boat, more than twenty-five hundred miles from home!
The explosion of the Forward, which had just blown up before their eyes, took from them
their last means of subsistence. Still, Hatteras’s courage did not abandon him at this terrible
crisis. The men who were left were the best of the crew; they were genuine heroes. He made
an appeal to the energy and wisdom of Dr. Clawbonny, to the devotion of Johnson and Bell, to
his own faith in the enterprise; even in these desperate straits he ventured to speak of hope;
his brave companions listened to him, and their courage in the past warranted confidence in
their promises for the future.
The doctor, after listening to the captain’s words, wanted to get an exact idea of their
situation; and, leaving the others about five hundred feet from the ship, he made his way to
the scene of the catastrophe.
Of the Forward, which had been built with so much care, nothing was left; pieces of ice,
shapeless fragments all blackened and charred, twisted pieces of iron, ends of ropes still
burning like fuse, and scattered here and there on the ice-field, testified to the force of the
explosion. The cannon had been hurled to some distance, and was lying on a piece of ice that
looked like a gun-carriage. The surface of the ice, for a circle of six hundred feet in diameter,
was covered with fragments of all sorts; the brig’s keel lay under a mass of ice; the icebergs,
which had been partly melted by the fire, had already recovered their rock-like hardness.
The doctor then began to think of his ruined cabin, of his lost collections, of his precious
instruments destroyed, his books torn, burned to ashes. So much that was valuable gone! He
gazed with tearful eyes at this vast disaster, thinking not of the future, but of the irreparable
misfortune which dealt him so severe a blow. He was immediately joined by Johnson; the old
sailor’s face bore signs of his recent sufferings; he had been obliged to struggle against his
revolted companions, defending the ship which had been intrusted to his care. The doctor
sadly pressed the boatswain’s hand.
“Well, my friend, what is going to become of us?” asked the doctor.
“Who can say?” answered Johnson.
“At any rate,” continued the doctor, “don’t let us give way to despair; let us be men!”
“Yes, Doctor,” answered the old sailor, “you are right; it’s when matters look worst that
we most need courage; we are in a bad way; we must see how we can best get out of it.”
“Poor ship!” said the doctor, sighing; “I had become attached to it; I had got to look on it
as on my own home, and there’s not left a piece that can be recognized!”
“Who would think, Doctor, that this mass of dust and ashes could be so dear to our
“And the launch,” continued the doctor, gazing around, “was it destroyed too?”
“No, Doctor; Shandon and the others, who left, took it with them.”
“And the gig?”“Was broken into a thousand pieces. See, those sheets of tin are all that’s left of her.”
“Then we have nothing but the Halkett-boat?”
“That is all, and it is because you insisted on our taking it, that we have that.”
“It’s not of much use,” said the doctor.
“They were a pack of miserable, cowardly traitors who ran away!” said Johnson. “May
they be punished as they deserve!”
“Johnson,” answered the doctor, mildly, “we must remember that their suffering had
worn upon them very much. Only exceptional natures remain stanch in adversity, which
completely overthrows the weak. Let us rather pity than curse them!”
After these words the doctor remained silent for a few minutes, and gazed around
“What is become of the sledge?” asked Johnson.
“We left it a mile back.”
“In care of Simpson?”
“No, my friend; poor Simpson sank under the toil of the trip.”
“Dead!” cried the boatswain.
“Dead!” answered the doctor.
“Poor fellow!” said Johnson; “but who knows whether we may not soon be reduced to
envying his fate?”
“But we have brought hack a dying man in place of the one we lost,” answered the
“A dying man?”
“Yes, Captain Altamont.”
The doctor gave the boatswain in a few words an account of their finding him.
“An American!” said Johnson, thoughtfully.
“Yes; everything seems to point that way. But what was this Porpoise which had
evidently been shipwrecked, and what was he doing in these waters?”
“He came in order to be lost,” answered Johnson; “he brought his crew to death, like all
those whose foolhardiness leads them here. But, Doctor, did the expedition accomplish what it
set out for?”
“Finding the coal?”
“Yes,” answered Johnson.
The doctor shook his head sadly.
“None at all?” asked the old sailor.
“None; our supplies gave out, fatigue nearly conquered us. We did not even reach the
spot mentioned by Edward Belcher.”
“So,” continued Johnson, “you have no fuel?”
“Nor food?”
“And no boat