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
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
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 that the 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 regions.
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
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
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
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
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 bulb.
“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.




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भूते पकडणारा  तात्या नाव्ही
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पुन्हा नव्याने सुरुवात
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Understanding Itihasa
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