Three hours after this sad conclusion to the adventures of
Captain Hatteras, Clawbonny, Altamont, and the two sailors
were assembled in the cavern at the foot of the volcano.
Clawbonny was asked to give his opinion on what was to be
“My friends,” he said, “we cannot prolong our stay at Queen's
Island; the sea is open before us; our provisions are sufficient;
we must set out and reach Fort Providence as soon as possible,
and we can go into winter-quarters till next summer.”
“That is my opinion,” said Altamont; “the wind is fair, and
to-morrow we shall set sail.”
The day passed in great gloom. The captain's madness was
a sad foreboding, and when Johnson, Bell, and Altamont thought
of their return, they were afraid of their loneliness and remoteness.
They felt the need of Hatteras's bold soul.
energetic men they made ready for a new struggle with the
elements, and with themselves, in case they should feel themselves
The next day, Saturday, July 13th, the camping materials were
put on the boat, and soon everything was ready for their departure.
But before leaving this rock forever, the doctor, following
Hatteras's intentions, put up a cairn at the place where the
captain reached the island; this cairn was built of large rocks
laid on one another, so as to form a perfectly visible landmark,
if it were not destroyed by the eruption.
On one of the lateral stones Bell carved with a chisel this
A copy of the document was placed inside of the cairn in an
hermetically sealed tin cylinder, and the proof of this great discovery
was left here on these lonely rocks.
Then the four men and the captain,—a poor body without a
mind,—and his faithful Duke, sad and melancholy, got into the
boat for the return voyage. It was ten o'clock in the morning.
A new sail was set up with the canvas of the tent. The launch,
sailing before the wind, left Queen's Island, and that evening the
doctor, standing on his bench, waved a last farewell to Mount
Hatteras, which was lighting up the horizon.
Their voyage was very quick; the sea, which was always
open, was easy sailing, and it seemed really easier to go away
from the Pole than to approach it.
But Hatteras was in no
state to understand what was going on about him; he lay at full
length in the launch, his mouth closed, his expression dull, and
his arms folded. Duke lay at his feet. It was in vain that the
doctor questioned him. Hatteras did not hear him.
For forty-eight hours the breeze was fair and the sea smooth.
Clawbonny and his companions rejoiced in the north wind.
15th, they made Altamont Harbor in the south; but since the
Polar Ocean was open all along the coast, instead of crossing New
America by sledge, they resolved to sail around it, and reach
Victoria Bay by sea.
This voyage was quicker and easier. In
fact, the space which had taken them a fortnight on sledges took
them hardly a week by sail; and after following the rugged outline
of the coast, which was fringed with numerous fiords, and
determining its shape, they reached Victoria Bay, Monday evening,
The launch was firmly anchored to the shore, and each one ran
to Fort Providence. The Doctor's House, the stores, the magazine,
the fortifications, all had melted in the sun, and the supplies
had been devoured by hungry beasts.
It was a sad sight.
They were nearly at the end of their supplies, and they had
intended to renew them at Fort Providence. The impossibility
of passing the winter there was evident. Like people accustomed
to decide rapidly, they determined to reach Baffin's Bay as soon
“We have nothing else to do,” said the doctor; “Baffin's Bay
is not six hundred miles from here; we might sail as far as our
launch would carry us, reach Jones's Sound, and from there the
“Yes,” answered Altamont; “let us collect all the provisions
we can, and leave.”
By strict search they found a few chests of pemmican here and
there, and two barrels of preserved meat, which had escaped
destruction. In short, they had a supply for six weeks, and
powder enough. This was promptly collected. The day was
devoted to calking the launch, repairing it, and the next day,
July 24th, they put out to sea again.
The continent towards latitude 83° inclined towards the east.
It was possible that it joined the countries known under the
name of Grinnell Laud, Ellesmere, and North Lincoln, which form
the coast-line of Baffin's Bay. They could then hold it for certain
that Jones's Sound opened in the inner seas, like Lancaster
The launch then sailed without much difficulty, easily
avoiding the floating ice. The doctor, by way of precaution
against possible delay, put them all on half-rations; but this did
not trouble them much, and their health was unimpaired.
Besides, they were able to shoot occasionally; they killed
ducks, geese, and other game, which gave them fresh and wholesome
food. As for their drink, they had a full supply from the
fixating ice, which they met on the way, for they took care not
to go far from the coast, the launch being too small for the open
At this period of the year the thermometer was already, for
the greater part of time, beneath the freezing-point; after a certain
amount of rainy weather snow began to fall, with other signs
of the end of summer; the sun sank nearer the horizon, and more
and more of its disk sank beneath it every day. July 30th they
saw it disappear for the first time, that is to say, they had a few
minutes of night.
Still, the launch sailed well, sometimes making from sixty to
seventy-five miles a day; they did not stop a moment; they
knew what fatigues to eudure, what obstacles to surmount; the
way by land was before them, if they had to take it, and these
confined seas must soon be closed; indeed, the young ice was
already forming here and there. Winter suddenly succeeds
summer in these latitudes; there are no intermediate seasons; no
spring, no autumn. So they had to hurry.
July 31st, the sky
being clear at sunset, the first stars were seen in the constellations
overhead. From this day on there was perpetual mist,
which interfered very much with their sailing.
The doctor, when
he saw all the signs of winter's approach, became very uneasy;
he knew the difficulties Sir John Ross had found in getting to
Baffin's Bay, after leaving his ship; and indeed, having once tried
to pass the ice, he was obliged to return to his ship, and go into
winter quarters for the fourth year; but he had at least a shelter
against the weather, food, and fuel. If such a misfortune were to
befall the survivors of the Forward, if they had to stop or put
back, they were lost; the doctor did not express his uneasiness
to his companions; but he urged them to get as far eastward as
Finally, August 15th, after thirty days of rather good sailing,
after struggling for forty-eight hours against the ice, which was
accumulating, after having imperilled their little launch a hundred
times, they saw themselves absolutely stopped, unable to go
farther; the sea was all frozen, and the thermometer marked on
an average +15°. Moreover, in all the north and east it was
easy to detect the nearness of land, by the presence of pebbles;
frozen fresh water was found more frequently.
an observation with great exactness, and found they were in
latitude 77°15', and longitude 85°2'.
“So, then,” said the doctor, “this is our exact position; we
have reached North Lincoln, exactly at Cape Eden; we are entering
Jones's Sound; if we had been a little luckier, we should
have found the sea open to Baffin's Bay. But we need not complain.
If my poor Hatteras had at first found so open a sea, he
would have soon reached the Pole, his companions would not have
deserted him, and he would not have lost his reason under his
“Then,” said Altamont, “we have only one course to follow;
to abandon the launch, and get to the east coast of Lincoln by
“Abandon the launch and take the sledge? Well,” answered
the doctor; “but instead of crossing Lincoln, I propose going
through Jones's Sound on the ice, and reaching North Devon.”
“And why?” asked Altamont.
“Because we should get nearer to Lancaster Sound, and have
more chance of meeting whalers.”
“You are right, Doctor, but I am afraid the ice is not yet hard
“We can try,” said Clawbonny.
The launch was unloaded; Bell and Johnson put the sledge
together; all its parts were in good condition. The next day the
doge were harnessed in, and they went along the coast to reach
Then they began again the journey which has been so often
described; it was tiresome and slow; Altamont was right in
doubting the strength of the ice; they could not go through
Jones's Sound, and they had to follow the coast of Lincoln.
August 21st they turned to our side and reached the entrance
of Glacier Sound; then they ventured upon the ice-field,
and the next day they reached Cobourg Island, which they
crossed in less than two days amid snow-squalls.
advance more easily on the ice-fields, and at last, August 24th,
they set foot on North Devon.
“Now,” said the doctor, “we have only to cross this, and
reach Cape Warender, at the entrance of Lancaster Sound.”
But the weather became very cold and unpleasant; the snow-squalls
became as violent as in winter; they all found themselves
nearly exhausted. Their provisions were giving out, and each
man had but a third of a ration, in order to allow to the dogs
enough food in proportion to their work.
The nature of the ground added much to the fatigue of the
journey; North Devon was far from level; they had to cross
the Tranter Mountains by almost impassable ravines, struggling
against all the fury of the elements. The sledge, men, and
dogs had to rest, and more than once despair seized the little
band, hardened as it was to the fatigues of a polar journey. But,
without their noticing it, these poor men were nearly worn out,
physically and morally; they could not support such incessant
fatigue for eighteen months with impunity, nor such a succession
of hopes and despairs. Besides, it should be borne in mind that
they went forward with enthusiasm and conviction, which they
lacked when returning. So they with difficulty dragged on; they
walked almost from habit, with the animal energy left almost
independent of their will.
It was not until August 30th that they at last left the chaos of
mountains, of which one can form no idea from the mountains of
lower zones, but they left it half dead. The doctor could no
longer cheer up his companions, and he felt himself breaking
The Tranter Mountains ended in a sort of rugged plain,
heaped up at the time of the formation of the mountains.
they were compelled to take a few days of rest; the men could
not set one foot before another; two of the dogs had died of exhaustion.
They sheltered themselves behind a piece of ice, at a
temperature of -2°; no one dared put up the tent.
had become very scanty, and, in spite of their extreme economy
with their rations, they had a supply for but a week more; game
became rarer, having left for a milder climate. Starvation threatened
these exhausted men.
Altamont, who all along had shown great devotion and unselfishness,
took advantage of the strength he had left, and
resolved to procure by hunting some food for his companions.
He took his gun, called Duke, and strode off for the plains to the
north; the doctor, Johnson, and Bell saw him go away without
much interest. For an hour they did not once hear his gun, and
they saw him returning without firing a single shot; but he was
running as if in great alarm.
“What is the matter?” asked the doctor.
“There! under the snow!” answered Altamont in great
alarm, indicating a point in the horizon.
“A whole band of men—”
The American did not finish his sentence, but his face
expressed clearly his horror. The doctor, Johnson, Bell, aroused
by this incident, were able to rise, and drag themselves along in
Altamont's footprints to the part of the plain to which he had
pointed. They soon reached a narrow space, at the bottom of a
deep ravine, and there a terrible sight met their eyes.
Bodies were lying half buried beneath the snow; here an arm,
there a leg, or clinched hands, and faces still preserving an expression
The doctor drew near; then he stepped back, pale and agitated,
while Duke barked mournfully.
“Horror!” he said.
“Well?” asked the boatswain.
“Did n't you recognize them?” said the doctor in a strange
“What do you mean?”
This ravine had been the scene of the last struggle between the
men and the climate, despair, and hunger, for from some horrible
signs it was easy to see that they had been obliged to eat
human flesh. Among them the doctor had recognized Shandon,
Penn, and the wretched crew of the Forward; their strength and
food had failed them; their launch had probably been crushed by
an avalanche, or carried into some ravine, and they could not
take to the open sea; probably they were lost among these unknown
continents. Besides, men who had left in mutiny could
not long be united with the closeness which is necessary for the
accomplishment of great things. A ringleader of a revolt has
never more than a doubtful authority in his hands. And, without
doubt, Shandon was promptly deposed.
However that may have been, the crew had evidently undergone
a thousand tortures, a thousand despairs, to end with this
terrible catastrophe; but the secret of their sufferings is forever
buried beneath the arctic snows.
“Let us flee!” cried the doctor.
And he dragged his companions far from the scene of the
disaster. Horror lent them momentary strength. They set out