At dawn the next day Hatteras gave the signal for departure.
The dogs were harnessed to the sledge; since they were well fed
and had thoroughly rested, after a comfortable winter there was
no reason for their not being of great service during the summer.
Hence they were not averse to being put into harness.
After all, these Greenland dogs are kind beasts. Their wildness
was partly gone; they had lost their likeness to the wolf, and
had become more like Duke, the finished model of the canine
race,—in a word, they were becoming civilized. Duke could
certainly claim a share in their education; he had given them
lessons and an example in good manners. In his quality of
Englishman, and so punctilious in the matter of cant, he was
a long time in making the acquaintance of the other dogs, who
had not been introduced to him, and in fact ho never used to
speak to them; but after sharing the same dangers and privations,
they gradually grew used to one another. Duke, who had a kind
heart, made the first advances, and soon all the dogs were friends.
The doctor used to pet the Greenland dogs, and Duke saw him do
it without jealousy. The men were in equally good condition;
if the dogs could draw well, the men could walk well.
They left at six o'clock in the morning; it, was a very pleasant
day. After they had followed the line of the bay and passed
Cape Washington, Hatteras gave the order to turn northward;
by seven the travellers lost sight of the lighthouse and of Fort
Providence in the south.
The journey promised well, much better than the expedition
begun in the dead of winter in search of coal. Hatteras then left
behind him, on board of the ship, mutiny and despair, without
being certain of the object of his journey; he left a crew half
dead with cold, he started with companions who were weakened
by the miseries of an arctic winter; he, too, eager for the north,
had to return to the south! Now, on the other hand, surrounded
by vigorous, healthy friends, encouraged and aided in many ways,
he was starting for the Pole, the object of his whole life! No
man had ever been nearer acquiring this glory for himself and
his country.
Was he thinking of all this, which was so naturally inspired by
his present position? The doctor liked to think so, and could
hardly doubt it when he he saw him so eager. Clawbonny rejoiced
in what so pleased his friend; and since the reconciliation
of the two captains, the two friends, he was the happiest of men;
for hatred, envy, and rivalry were passions he had never felt.
What would be the issue of this voyage he did not know; but,
at any rate, it began well, and that was a good deal.
The western shore of New America stretched out in a series of
bays beyond Cape Washington; the travellers, to avoid this long
curve, after crossing the first spurs of Mount Bell, turned northward
over the upper plateaus. This was a great saving of time;
Hatteras was anxious, unless prevented by seas or mountains, to
make a straight line of three hundred and fifty miles to the Pole
from Fort Providence.
Their journey was easy; these lofty plains were covered with
deep snow, over which the sledge passed easily, and the men in
their snow-shoes walked easily and rapidly.
The thermometer stood at 37°. The weather was not absolutely
settled; at one moment it was clear, the next cloudy: but neither
cold nor showers could have stopped the eager party. They could
be followed easily by the compass; the needle was more active as
they receded from the magnetic pole; it is true that it turned to
the opposite direction and pointed to the south, while they were
walking northward; but this did not in any way embarrass them.
Besides, the doctor devised a simple method of staking out the
way and thereby avoiding perpetual reference to the compass;
when once they had got their bearings by some object two or
three miles to the north, they walked till they reached it, when
they chose another, and so on. In this way they had a straight
In the first two days they made twenty miles in twelve hours;
the rest of the time was devoted to meals and rest. The tent was
ample protection against the cold when they were sleeping. The
temperature gradually rose. The snow melted away in some
places, according to the shape of the ground, while in others it
lay in large patches. Proud pools appeared here and there, often
almost as large as lakes. They would walk in up to their waists
very often; but they only laughed at it, and the doctor more
than any.
“Water has no right to wet us in this country,” he used to
Bay; “it Ought to appear only as a solid, or a gas; as to its being
liquid, it's absurd! Ice or vapor will do, but water won't!”
They did not forget their shooting, for thereby they got fresh
meat. So Altamont and Bell, without going very far away,
scoured the neighboring ravines; they brought back ptarmigan,
geese, and a few gray rabbits. Gradually these animals became
very shy and hard to approach. Without Duke they would
often have found it hard to get any game. Hatteras advised
them not to go off farther than a mile, for not a day nor an
hour was to be lost, and he could not count on more than
three months of good weather.
Besides, each one had to be at his post by the sledge whenever
a hard spot, a narrow gorge, or steep inclines lay in the path;
then each one helped pull or push. More than once everything
had to be taken off; and this even did not fully protect against
shocks and damage, which Bell repaired as well as he could.
The third day, Wednesday, June 26th, they came across a vast
lake, still frozen by reason of its being sheltered from the sun;
the ice was even strong enough to bear both men and sledge. It
was a solid mirror which no arctic summers had melted, as was
shown by the fact that its borders were surrounded by a dry
snow, of which the lower layers evidently belonged to previous
From this moment the land grew lower, whence the doctor
concluded that it did not extend very far to the north. Besides,
it was very likely that New America was merely an island, and
did not extend to the Pole. The ground grew more level; in
the west a few low hills could be seen in the distance, covered
with a bluish mist.
So far they had experienced no hardships; they had suffered
from nothing except the reflection of the sun's rays upon the
snow, which could easily give them snow-blindness. At any
other time they would have travelled by night to avoid this inconvenience,
but then there was no night. The snow was fortunately
melting away, and it was much less brilliant when it was
about turning into water.
June 28th the temperature arose to 45°; this was accompanied
with heavy rain, which the travellers endured stoically, even with
pleasure, for it hastened the disappearance of the snow. They
bad to put on their deer-skin moccasins, and change the runners
of the sledge. Their journey was delayed, but still they were
advancing without any serious obstacles.
At times the doctor
would pick up rounded or flat stones like pebbles worn smooth by
the waves, and then he thought he was near the Polar Sea; but
yet the plain stretched on out of sight.
There was no trace of
man, no hut, no cairn nor Esquimaux snow-house; they were
evidently the first to set foot in this new land. The Greenlander's
never had gone so far, and yet this country offered plenty of game
for the support of that half-starved people. Sometimes bears
appeared in the distance, but they showed no signs of attacking;
afar off were herds of musk-oxen and reindeer. The doctor
would have liked to catch some of the latter to harness to the
sledge; but they were timid, and not to be caught alive.
The 29th, Bell shot a fox, and Altamont was lucky enough to
bring down a medium-sized musk-ox, after giving his companions
a high idea of his bravery and skill; he was indeed a remarkable
hunter, and so much admired by the doctor. The ox was cut
out, and gave plenty of excellent meat. These lucky supplies
were always well received; the least greedy could not restrain
their joy at the sight of the meat. The doctor laughed at himself
when he caught himself admiring these huge joints.
“Let us not be afraid to eat it,” he used to say; “a good
dinner is a good thing in these expeditions.”
“Especially,” said Johnson, “when it depends on a better or
worse shot.”
“You are right, Johnson,” replied the doctor; “one thinks
less of one's food when one gets a regular supply from the
The 30th, the country became unexpectedly rugged, as if it
had been upheaved by some volcanic commotion; the cones and
peaks increased indefinitely in number, and were very high.
A southeast breeze began to blow with violence, and soon became
a real hurricane. It rushed across the snow-covered rocks,
among the ice-mountains, which, although on the firm land,
took the form of hummocks and icebergs; their presence on
these lofty plateaus could not be explained even by the doctor,
who had an explanation for almost everything.
Warm, damp
weather succeeded the tempest; it was a genuine thaw; on all
sides resounded the cracking of the ice amid the roar of the
The travellers carefully avoided the base of these hills; they
even took care not to talk aloud, for the sound of the voice
could shake the air and cause accident. They were witnesses
of frequent and terrible avalanches which they could not have
foreseen. In fact, the main peculiarity of polar avalanches is
their terrible swiftness; therein they differ from those of Switzerland
and Norway, where they form a ball, of small size at
first, and then, by adding to themselves the snow and rocks in
its passage, it falls with increasing swiftness, destroys forests
and villages, but taking an appreciable time in its course. Now,
it is otherwise in the countries where arctic cold rages; the fall
of the block of ice is unexpected and startling; its fall is almost
instantaneous, and any one who saw it from beneath would be
certainly crushed by it; the cannon-ball is not swifter, nor lightning
quicker; it starts, falls, and crashes down in a single moment
with the dreadful roar of thunder, and with dull echoes.
So the amazed spectators see wonderful changes in the appearance
of the country; the mountain becomes a plain under the
action of a sudden thaw; when the rain has filtered into the
fissures of the great blocks and freezes in a single night, it breaks
everything by its irresistible expansion, which is more powerful
in forming ice than in forming vapor: the phenomenon takes
place with terrible swiftness.
No catastrophe, fortunately, threatened the sledge and its
drivers; the proper precautions were taken, and every danger
avoided. Besides, this rugged, icy country was not of great
extent, and three days later, July 3d, the travellers were on
smoother ground. But their eyes were surprised by a new
phenomenon, which has for a long time claimed the attention
of the scientific men of the two worlds. It was this: the party
followed a line of hills not more than fifty feet high, which
appeared to run on several miles, and their eastern side was
covered with red snow.
The surprise and even the sort of alarm which the sight of
this crimson curtain gave them may be easily imagined. The
doctor hastened, if not to reassure, at least to instruct, his companions;
he was familiar with this red snow and the chemical
analysis made of it by Wollaston, Candolle, Bauer. He told them
this red snow was not found in the arctic regions alone, but in
Switzerland in the middle of the Alps; De Saussure collected a
large quantity on the Breven in 1760; and since then Captains
Ross, Sabine, and others had brought some back from their
arctic journeys.
Altamont asked the doctor about the nature of this extraordinary
substance. He was told that its color came simply from
the presence of organic corpuscles. For a long time it was a
question whether these corpuscles were animal or vegetable;
but it was soon ascertained that they belonged to the family of
mici mushrooms, of the genus Uredo, which Bauer proposed
naming Uredo vivalis.[1]
Then the doctor, prying into the snow with his cane, showed
his companions that the scarlet layer was only nine feet deep,
and he bade them calculate how many of these mushrooms there
might be on a space of many miles, when scientific men estimated
forty-three thousand in a square centimetre.
This coloring probably ran back to a remote period, for the
mushrooms were not decomposed by either evaporation or the
melting of the snow, nor was their color altered.
The phenomenon, although explained, was no less strange.
Red is a rare color in nature; the reflection of the sun's rays on
this crimson surface produced strange effects; it gave the surrounding
objects, men and animals, a brilliant appearance, as if
they were lighted by an inward flame; and when the snow was
melting, streams of blood seemed to be flowing beneath the
travellers' feet.
The doctor, who had not been able to examine this substance
when he saw it on crimson cliffs from Baffin's Bay, here examined
it at his ease, and gathered several bottlefuls of it.
This red ground, the “Field of Blood,” as he called it, took
three hours' walk to pass over, and then the country resumed its
habitual appearance.

1^  Uredo nivalis (misspelt in Osgood).




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