March 24th was Palm Sunday,---that day when the streets of the towns and villages of Europe are filled with flowers and leaves; bells are ringing, and the air is filled with rich perfumes. But here, in this desolate country, what sadness and silence! The wind was keen and bitter; not a leaf of foliage was to be seen! But still, this Sunday was a day of rejoicing for our travellers, for at last they were about to find the supplies which would save them from certain death. They hastened their steps; the dogs drew the sledge briskly, Duke barked joyously, and they all soon reached the American ship. The Porpoise was wholly buried beneath the snow; there was no sign of mast, yard, or rigging; all had been lost at the time of the shipwreck; the ship lay on a bed of rocks now completely hidden. The Porpoise was careened to one side by the violence of the shock, her bottom was torn open, so that the ship seemed uninhabitable. This was soon seen by the captain, the doctor, and Johnson, after they had entered the vessel; they had to cut away fifteen feet of ice to get to the hatchway; but to their great joy they saw that the animals,
many traces of which were to be seen, had spared the supplies.
“If we have here,” said Johnson, “plenty of food and fuel,
this hull does not seem inhabitable.”
“Well, we must build a snow-house,” answered Hatteras, “and
make ourselves as comfortable as possible on the mainland.”
“Without doubt,” continued the doctor; “but don't let us
hurry; let us do things carefully; if need be we can fit out some
quarters in the ship; meanwhile we can build a strong house,
capable of protecting us against the cold and wild beasts. I am
willing to be the architect, and you'll see what I can do.”
“I don't doubt your skill, Doctor,” answered Johnson; “we'll
make ourselves as comfortable as possible here, and we'll make
an inventory of all that the ship contains; unfortunately, I don't
see any launch, or boat, and these ruins are in too bad a state to
permit of our making a small boat.”
“Who can say?” answered the doctor. “With time and thought
a great deal can be done; now we have not to trouble ourselves
about navigation, but about a house to live in; I propose not to
form any other plans, and to let everything have its turn.”
“That is wise,” answered Hatteras; “let us begin with the
The three companions left the ship, returned to the sledge, and
announced their determination to Bell and the American; Bell
said he was ready to work; the American shook his head, on
learning that nothing could be done with his ship; but since all
discussion would have been idle, they determined at first to take
refuge in the Porpoise, and to build a large building on the
At four o'clock in the afternoon the five travellers were installed
as comfortably as possible between decks; by means of
spars and fragments of masts, Bell had made a nearly level floor;
there they placed coverings stiffened by the frost, which the heat
of the stove soon brought back to their natural state; Altamont,
leaning on the doctor, was able to make his way to the corner
which had been set aside for him; on setting foot on his ship, he
had sighed with a feeling of relief, which did not encourage the
“He feels at home,” the old sailor thought, “and one would
say that he had invited us here.”
The rest of the day was devoted to repose; the weather threatened
to change under the influence of the westerly winds; the
thermometer outside stood at -26°. In fact, the Porpoise lay
beyond the pole of cold, at a latitude relatively less severe,
though farther to the north. On that day they finished the bear,
with some biscuits they found on the ship, and a few cups of tea,
then fatigue overcame them, and each one sank into a sound
The next morning they all awoke rather late; they soon recalled
the difference in their situation; they were no longer perplexed
with uncertainty about the morrow; they only thought
of establishing themselves comfortably. These castaways looked
at themselves as colonists who had reached their destination, and,
forgetting the sufferings of their long march, they had no other
thought than that of securing a comfortable future.
“Well,” said the doctor, stretching his arms, “it's something
not to have to wonder where one will sleep to-night and what one
will have to eat to-morrow.”
“Let us first make an inventory of the ship,” answered
The Porpoise had been carefully equipped for a long voyage.
The inventory, when complete, indicated the following supplies:


    flour, fat and raisins for puddings;
     beef and salt pork; 
1½   chests of tea, weighing 87 lbs;

many barrels of canned fruits and vegetables, lime-juice in abundance,
cochlearia, sorrel and water-cresses, and three hundred gallons
of rum and brandy; in the hold there was a large supply
of ammunition; there was plenty of coal and wood. The doctor
collected carefully the nautical instruments, and he also found a
Bunsen's Pile, which had been carried for electrical tests and
experiments. In short, they had supplies enough to keep five
men on whole rations for two years; all fear of starving or freezing
to death was hence wholly removed.
“Our means of living are certain,” said the doctor to the
captain, “and there is nothing to prevent our reaching the
“The Pole!” answered Hatteras, trembling with excitement.
“Certainly,” continued the doctor; “what's to prevent our
pushing on during the summer across the land?”
“Across the land! true! But how about the sea?”
“Can't we build a small boat out of the timber of the Porpoise?”
“An American boat, you mean,” answered Hatteras, scornfully,
“and commanded by this American!”
The doctor understood the captain's repugnance, and judged it
best to change the conversation.
“Now that we know what our supplies are,” he went on, “we
must build some safe place for them, and a house for ourselves.
We have plenty of material, and we can settle ourselves very
comfortably. I hope, Bell,” he added, turning to the carpenter,
“that you are going to distinguish yourself; I may be able to
help you too, I trust.”
“I'm ready, Doctor,” answered Bell; “if it were necessary I
could easily build a whole city with houses and streets out of
these blocks of ice---”
“We shan't need as much as that; let us follow the example
of the agents of the Hudson's Bay Company; they build forts
which protect them from the wild beasts and the Indians; that
is all we need; let us make it no larger than necessary; on one
side the dwelling, on the other the stores, with a sort of curtain,
and two bastions. I'll try to rub up what I know about fortification.”
“Upon my word, Doctor,” said Johnson, “I don't doubt that
we shall make something very fine under your direction.”
“Well, my friends, we must first choose a site; a good engineer
should first study the lay of the land. Will you come with me,
“I shall trust to you, Doctor,” answered the captain. “You
see about that, while I explore the coast.”
Altamont, who was still too feeble to get to work, was left on
board of his ship, and the two Englishmen set foot on the mainland.
The weather was thick and stormy; at noon the thermometer
stood at -11°, but, there being no wind, that temperature
was comfortable.
Judging from the outline of the shore, a large
sea, at that time wholly frozen, stretched out farther than eye
could reach in the west; on the east it was limited by a rounded
coast, cut into by numerous estuaries, and rising suddenly about
two hundred yards from the shore; it formed a large bay, full of
dangerous rocks, on which the Porpoise had been wrecked; far
off on the land rose a mountain, which the doctor conjectured to
be about three thousand feet high. Towards the north a promontory
ran into the sea, after hiding a part of the bay. An island
of moderate size rose from the field of ice, three miles from the
mainland, so. that it offered a safe anchorage to any ship that
could enter the bay. In a hollow cut of the shore was a little
inlet, easily reached by ships, if this part of the arctic seas was
ever open. Yet, according to the accounts of Beecher and Penny,
this whole sea was open in the summer months.
In the middle of the coast the doctor noticed a sort of plateau
about two hundred feet in diameter; on three sides it was open
to the bay; the fourth was enclosed by an elevation about a hundred
and twenty feet high; this could be ascended only by steps
cut in the ice. This seemed a proper place for a solid building,
and it could be easily fortified; nature had adapted it for the
purpose; it was only necessary to make use of the place.
doctor, Bell, and Johnson reached this place by means of steps
cut in the ice. As soon as the doctor saw the excellence of the
place, he determined to dig away the ten feet of hardened snow
which covered it; the buildings had to be built on a solid
Daring Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, work went on without
relaxation; at last the ground appeared; it consisted of a
hard, dense granite, with the angles as sharp as glass; it contained,
moreover, garnets and large crystals of feldspar, against
which the pickaxe struck fire.
The doctor then gave them the dimensions and plan of the
snow-house; it was to be forty feet long, twenty broad, and ten
deep; it was divided
into three rooms, a
sitting-room, a bedroom,
and a kitchen;
more was not needed.
To the left was
the kitchen, to the
right the bedroom,
in the middle the
five days they worked
busily. There was
no lack of material;
the ice walls were
thick enough to resist
thawing, for they
could not risk being
wholly without protection,
even in summer.
In proportion
as the house rose, it
became agreeable to
see; there were four front windows, two in the sitting-room,
one in the kitchen, another in the bedroom; for panes of glass
they substituted large sheets of ice, in the Esquimaux fashion,
which served as well as unpolished glass for the passage of light.
In front of the sitting-room, between two windows, there ran a
long entry like a tunnel, which gave admission to the house; a
solid door, brought from the Porpoise, closed it hermetically.
When the house was finished, the doctor was delighted with his
handiwork; it would have been impossible to say to what school
of architecture the building belonged, although the architect
would have avowed his preferences for the Saxon Gothic, so
common in England; but the main point was, that it should be
solid; therefore the
doctor placed on the
front short uprights;
on top a sloping roof
rested against the
granite wall. This
served to support the
stove-pipes, which
carried the smoke
away. When the task
was computed, they
began to arrange the interior. They carried into the bedroom the
sleeping-accommodations from the Porpoise; they were arranged
in a circle about a large stove. Benches, chairs, sofas, tables,
wardrobes, were arranged
in the sitting-room,
which was also
used as a dining-room;
the kitchen received
the cooking-stoves of
the ship, and the various
utensils. Sails,
stretched on the floor,
formed the carpet, and
also served as hangings
to the inner
doors, which had no other way of closing.
The walls of the house
averaged five feet in thickness, and the recesses for the windows looked like embrasures in a fort.
It was all built with great solidity; what more was to be desired? Ah, if they had listened to the doctor, there is no knowing what they would not have made of this ice and snow, which can be so easily manipulated! He all day long would ponder over plans which he never hoped to bring about, but he thereby lightened the dull work of all by the ingenuity of his suggestions.
Besides, he had come across, in his wide reading, a rather rare book by one Kraft, entitled Detailed Description of the Snow-Palace built at St. Petersburg, in January, 1740, and of all the Objects it contained. The recollection of this book impressed him. One evening he gave his companions a full account of the wonders of that snow-palace.
“Why could n't we do here,” he asked, “what they did at St. Petersburg? What do we need? Nothing, not even imagination!”
“So it was very handsome?” said Johnson.
“It was fairy-like, my friend. The house, built by order of the Empress Anna, and in which she had celebrated the marriage of one of her buffoons in 1740, was nearly as large as ours; but in front stood six cannons of ice; they were often fired without bursting; there were also mortars to hold sixty-pound shells; so we could have some formidable artillery; the bronze is handy, and falls even from heaven. But the triumph of taste and art was on
the front of the palace, which was adorned with handsome statues; the steps were garnished with vases of flowers of the same material; on the right stood an enormous elephant, who played water through his trunk by day, and burning naphtha by night. What a menagerie we might have if we only wanted to!”
“As for animals,” answered Johnson, “we sha' n't lack them, I fancy, and they won't be any the less interesting for not being made of ice.”
“Well,” said the doctor, “we shall be able to defend ourselves against their attacks; but to return to the palace, I should add that inside there were mirrors, candelabra, beds, mattresses, pillows, curtains, clocks, chairs, playing-cards, wardrobes well furnished, and all cut out of ice; in fact, nothing was lacking.”
“It was then a true palace?” said Bell.
“A splendid palace, worthy of a sovereign! Ice! It was kind of Providence to invent it, since it lends itself to so many miracles and accommodates so readily to the needs of castaways!”
It took them until March 31st to get the house ready; this was Easter Sunday, and the day was set aside for rest; the whole day was spent in the sitting-room, where divine service was read, and each was able to judge of the excellent arrangements of the snow-house.
The next morning they set about building stores and a magazine; this took them about a week, including the time employed for emptying the Porpoise, which was not done without difficulty, for the low temperature did not permit them to work very long. At last, April 8th, provisions, food, and supplies were safely sheltered on land; the stores were placed to the north, and the powder-house to the south, about sixty feet from the end of the house; a sort of dog-kennel was built near the stores; it was destined
for the Greenland dogs, and the doctor honored it with the
title of “Dog-Palace.” Duke partook of the common quarters.
Then the doctor passed to the means of defence of the place.
Under his direction the plateau was surrounded by a real fortification
of ice which secured it against every invasion; its height
made a natural protection, and as there was no salient, it was
equally strong on all sides. The doctor's system of defence recalled
strongly the method of Sterne's Uncle Toby, whose gentleness
and good-humor he also shared. He was a pleasant sight
when he was calculating the inclination of the platform and the
breadth of the causeway; but this task was so easy with the
snow, that he enjoyed it, and he was able to make the wall seven
feet thick; besides the plateau overlooking the bay, he had to
build neither counterscarp nor glacis; the parapet of snow, after
following the outlines of the plateau, joined the rock on the other
side. The work of fortification was finished April 15th. The fort
was completed, and the doctor seemed very proud of his work.
In truth, this fortified enclosure could have withstood for a
long time against a tribe of Esquimaux, if such enemies were met
under that latitude; but there was no trace of human beings
there; Hatteras, in making out the outline of the bay, did not
sec any ruins of the huts which are so commonly found in the
places resorted to by Greenland tribes; the castaways of the
Forward and the Porpoise appeared to be the first ever to set
foot on this unknown shore. But if they need not fear men, animals
were to be dreaded, and the fort, thus defended, would have
to protect the little garrison against their attacks.




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