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 ice formed 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
“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
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 hardness.
“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
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
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.
The 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
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 heat could 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
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.




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