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
“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
“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 we what 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
“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
“Possibly,” answered Shandon, dryly; “but meanwhile the
wind's freshening, and there's no use risking our topsails in
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 ocean.
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?”
“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
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
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 sea-clothes, 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 sea-monster, 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 be rougher 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
Shandon turned his
glass in that direction,
and corroborated the
“That's strange,” said
“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
“Good,” said Shandon; “you can still teach us a great deal
“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 freshening.”
“Yes, Commander,” answered Johnson, “we are making very
little headway, and soon we shall feel the currents from Davis
“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 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
1^ Meridian of Greenwich.