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
“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 1826
the 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
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,
“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 you.”
“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 Wellington Sound 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 boatswain.
“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
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
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
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
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!”




Please join our telegram group for more such stories and updates.telegram channel

Books related to The Voyages and Adventures of Captain Hatteras

कल्पनारम्य कथा भाग २
भूते पकडणारा  तात्या नाव्ही
छोटे बच्चों  के लिए -अस्सी घाट की कविताएँ
सुभाषित माला
महाभारत सत्य की मिथ्य?
इच्छापूर्ती शाबरी मंत्र
तुम्हाला तुमची स्वतःची ओळख करुन घ्यायचीय का?
पुन्हा नव्याने सुरुवात
अदभूत  सत्ये -  भाग १
कविता संग्रह
Understanding Itihasa
आरतियाँ Arati in Hindi
 पांच सौ वर्ष का अघोरी