Here to return to
WHEN THE ICE CAME IN
DURING the cutting in and trying out of the three whales the wind and current steadily carried the Bowhead northward, until on July fourth they again sighted the pack extending from the headland of Cape Lisburne westward indefinitely. Along between the ice and the land was a space of open water, and into this the Bowhead passed, working her way northeast as the summer season opened and the ice gradually receded from the shore. Now and then a whale was sighted in the opening leads of the retreating pack, and they occasionally captured one, though these whales in the ice were far smaller than the ones they had found in the open and consequently much less valuable. Moreover, in the ice-fields they were difficult to get at, and almost invariably escaped by plunging beneath the floes and coming up in some distant lead whither the boat could not follow them. In this way the ship reached the shallow and dangerous coast off Blossom Shoals and beyond to Wainright Inlet with the waning of the brief Arctic summer without any special adventures.
Every day had hardened Harry in rugged strength and vigor, and he and Joe were as fine specimens of young whalemen as the sea could boast. They had met and traded with the Eskimo tribes alongshore and exchanged the reindeer skins for fox and ermine pelts, ivory, and whalebone, thus adding to the value of their cruise. Harry and Joe had been rivals in acquiring the Eskimo dialect of this coast, and had been helped greatly in this by the presence aboard of a young Eskimo of the Point Hope tribe, who worked as a sailor, with the understanding that when the ship should go out he would be paid “in trade” and left with his tribe. Thus both were quite fluent and could understand much that the Eskimos said among themselves. This was of great assistance to them.
As far north as Wainwright Inlet you begin to see the end of the summer often by the last of August. Already the sun, which in June simply circled the sky without setting, has begun to set again, and there is a considerable period of darkness each night.
The marvelous growth of beautiful flowers, which stud the moss and grass of the Arctic tundra during midsummer, has already passed to quick maturity, and the slopes are brown and autumnal by the middle of the month. Gales set in and bring snow on their icy wings, and the threat of winter is everywhere. The whalers take this warning and begin, about the middle of the month, to work south again, unless they intend to winter in the region. Oftentimes the Arctic pack hangs just offshore here and with westerly winds menaces the ship with destruction, but more often — indeed, it is counted upon by the whalers — a northeast gale comes with the first of September and drives the pack seaward, while giving them a fair wind for the strait. It was about this time that the cruise, thus far prosperous, began to meet with a series of mishaps that ended in disaster.
It was the last day of August that the west wind began to blow, and Captain Nickerson was uneasy directly. The Bowhead was just north of Icy Cape, in comparatively shoal water and with much floating ice in the sea. The pack ice was not in sight, but it might loom up at any moment, so steam was got up on the vessel and she poked her way among the floating cakes to windward, working out as fast as possible. The sky was still clear and it did not promise to be much of a blow, but things work together for evil quickly in the Arctic, and it behooves a navigator to be very wary there. The wisdom of the immediate move was shown in this case, for the ship was scarcely well off the shoals and round the cape into the deep water to westward, before a long, slender point of solid ice was noted to the windward. It might be the main pack or not. There was open water to seaward and clear sea between the ice and the land, and Captain Nickerson was puzzled which course to take. If it was but a detached floe, as it well might be, the open course lay to windward of it, away from the land. If, on the other hand, it was part of the main pack, the proper course lay between it and the coast. Captain Nickerson finally decided that the seaward course was the wise one, and soon a widening point of ice separated them from the shoreward stretch of open water. An hour later they were among drifting floes, but still had good water ahead of them toward the southwest. The breeze was gentle, but the sky was hazing up a little, and the sun shone coldly.
WHALEMEN’S CAMP ON ARCTIC SHORE
The next afternoon at eight bells (four o’clock), as the watch was changed, the man on lookout called down to the deck.
“Something adrift on the ice off the starboard bow, sir.”
“What is it?” asked Mr. Jones, whose watch on deck it was.
“Can’t make it out, sir,” replied the lookout; “it might be a seal, then again it might be a man.”
There was much interest at once. Several other vessels were cruising in the Arctic, and they had occasionally sighted one at a distance, though there had been chance for a meeting and a “gam” but once. They knew that the other ships were already to the southward on their way out. Perhaps this was a man from one of them, gone adrift on the ice, and having but one chance in a thousand for rescue. Captain Nickerson was not called, as he had just gone below after a long siege on deck, but Mr. Jones took the responsibility of changing the vessel’s course slightly, and they approached the figure on the ice. It was difficult to make it out. All hands on deck saw it, — a motionless huddle on a cake of ice, driving before the wind in the dreary polar sea.
By and by the ship was as near as it could well get, a heavy floe crowding in between it and the open lead in which the cake floated. Still it was difficult to decide just what the figure was, but Mr. Jones finally said: “Humph! Dead seal,” and changed the vessel’s course again.
Harry and Joe looked at each other. They also had been carefully examining the object through the glass, and each thought it might be a man, fur-clad and lying in a heap, dead or exhausted.
“I don’t care,” said Joe; “I’m going to speak to father, if he is tired out. We don’t want to take chances of passing any one that way.”
He hastened below with Harry at his heels, both with hearts swelling with indignation. They knew that Mr. Jones was probably right in his guess, but the thought of the possibility of a fellow creature floating thus into the desolate Arctic winter filled them with pity and a great desire to leave nothing to chance.
Captain Nickerson listened to their story with attention, and so eager and excited were they that he finally gave them permission to have Mr. Jones stop the ship long enough for them to man the dingey and investigate.
“Can you make it with the dingey?” he asked.
“Oh, yes, sir,” replied Joe. “There’s a narrow lead or two that will take us part way, and the dingey is so light that we can haul her across in the other places.”
The dingey had been the special care of the boys, and rarely used except by them. They had been duck shooting in her during the summer, when whales were not in sight, and had kept the ship’s larder well supplied with the great ducks which swarm in that region all summer long. They had fitted her with a light sail and a few reserve provisions, — a tin or two of meat and some hard-tack, in case they should happen to be away over meal time. There was also a small keg of fresh water, and in the locker forward a one-burner oil stove with tea, sugar, and condensed milk, by way of refreshment. The boatswain used to laugh at this “life-boat,” as he called it, but the arrangement had often been useful, and the little craft was very handy at all times.
Mr. Jones did not look particularly happy when he heard the order to stop and lower the dingey, but he did as requested and the boat was soon on its way. The boys entered one of the narrow leads in the floe which barred their way, traversed it to its end, and hauled their boat out. It was some way across to another open space and this did not take them far in the right direction, but it led to where they could haul to another, and so little by little they won their way across. As they came to the open water, they found to their chagrin that other ice-fields had crowded in between them and their object, and they were obliged to make a wide and winding detour to approach it. Distance is always far greater than it looks to be in the Arctic, and they were fully an hour in getting near the motionless heap. At last the dingey grazed the floating cake and they sprang out on it, dropped the ice anchor at the end of the two-fathomed painter into a chink in the ice, and hastened toward the motionless object.
As they reached it the huddled heap of fur moved, wavered, and sat up, smiled faintly from a face sunken-cheeked and hollow-eyed, murmured the Eskimo word “Nagouruk,” then wavered back into a motionless heap once more; and as it did so a whirl of great flakes came pelting down on the little group on the cake of ice, and the world was blotted out in snow.
All eyes on board the ship had been fastened on the two in the dingey, and the squall had taken them as much by surprise as it did the boys. It had come up with a sudden veering of the wind to the southward, and had taken them from behind. Before they knew it all things were smothered in the whirl of snow, and, though he thought it probably only a passing squall, Mr. Jones was very uneasy about it, and when after a half hour had passed with no signs of letting up, he called Captain Nickerson. As the wind and snow increased, all hands became very anxious, and everything possible was done to give the boys knowledge of the ship’s whereabouts. The whistle was blown frequently and shots were fired in volleys every few minutes, but there was still no sign of them.
It soon became evident that a severe blow was threatening and, though terribly anxious about the boys, Captain Nickerson realized that he must give his attention to the safety of the ship. The south wind was bringing the shoreward floe out upon her rapidly. It had already closed the lead just ahead of them, and if they would not be crushed they must retreat. The ship was therefore put about and slowly worked its way eastward again, keeping just out of the jaws of destruction, in the vain hope that the dingey would reappear. Day wore on and darkness came with no sign of the missing boat, and during the next day the best they could do was to work back to Icy Cape, where the floes grounded on the shoals and they found safe refuge, partly behind them and partly behind the cape. The wind had swung to the westward again during the night and the morning brought no snow, but the air was full of a black mist and bitter cold. There was but faint hope that they would see the boys again unless the weather soon moderated, and Captain Nickerson was overcome with grief and self-accusation. Nor was the taciturn Mr. Jones much better off. Each felt that he had been careless to let them go as they had, yet the squall was so sudden and unforeseen that they could hardly be blamed.
For days the wind hung to the westward, veering to the northwest, and at the end of the third the main pack came in in earnest, pushing the shore floes on the ship till she was forced into shallow water and grounded. It became evident that she would hardly be got off again that fall, and that immediate measures must be taken for the safety of the crew. Leaving Mr. Jones in charge, Captain Nickerson took a strong crew of his best men and set off down the coast, hoping to find one of the other ships of the little Arctic fleet. The journey was hard and dangerous. Now they found a space of open water, again they had to drag the boat over the ice for a long distance, camping for the night under the overturned boat, and looking anxiously for traces of the boys, but finding none.
At the end of the fifth day the wind and cold diminished, and they joyfully sighted the Belvidere in open water near the shore, with what seemed a fair chance to work out. They were taken aboard, and the captain of the Belvidere readily agreed to wait until the remainder of the crew of the Bowhead could reach him. For his own safety this was as much as he could do. He could not agree to stay in and risk his own vessel and crew for the chance of getting the Bowhead out of her difficulty. It was decided that she must be abandoned, and Captain Nickerson, with one man, started back on foot to get the crew. The journey was made successfully, and within a day after his return the balance of the crew in four boats, with merely what provisions they needed for the trip, abandoned ship and contents, and, after a hard struggle, reached the Belvidere.
It was time. Already she was hard pressed by the shoreward-moving ice, and the captain was taking great risks in remaining. She pushed slowly down the coast, forcing her way through closing floes and running a hundred hazards successfully, till at last they rounded Lisburne and were in comparatively clear water. Captain Nickerson had not made any further efforts to discover the lost boys. He knew that these would be useless. Depending on their own exertions, they had a slender chance for escape to some other vessel, if any remained, or they might reach shore and winter with the natives. In either case he felt that the chances were slight, and he aged perceptibly in the cruise back to the States. The loss of his only son and his protégé weighed heavily upon him with the loss of his vessel and valuable cargo. The taciturn Mr. Jones became more silent than ever, and hardly spoke the whole voyage through. It was a sad home-coming for the ship’s company.
As for the boys, their plight was bad enough, but at first, at least, their anxiety was only for themselves.
Indeed, in the very beginning, it was only for their new found friend. “He’s dying,” cried Harry, when the Eskimo collapsed at their feet; “what shall we do?”
“Give him something hot,” cried the practical Joe. “If we only had some brandy! But we haven’t. I’ll tell you — you chafe his hands and I’ll make some hot tea.”
So Harry fell to chafing the cold, skeleton-like hands, while Joe eagerly lighted the little oil lamp and soon had a pot of hot tea made, sheltered from the wind in the forward locker of the dingey. He poured this between the clenched teeth of the unconscious man, who choked a bit as it went down and opened his eyes.
“There!” said Joe; “I thought that would fetch him. It’s strong enough to raise the dead and — well, I guess it’s pretty hot, too. Lucky we stocked the dingey this way, ain’t it? Whew! how it does snow. We’ll have to wait till it quits before we think of getting back to the ship again. It’s kind of risky to get too far away from your ship when the ice is coming in. Guess we’ll make it all right, though.”
For the first time Harry looked around him and thought of his surroundings. The snow was pelting in on them in great flakes, and he could hardly see across the ice cake they were on. He did not realize that the wind had changed, but he noticed that it blew strongly, and he felt singularly lonely and distant from shelter and aid. Something of the eerie wildness of the Arctic came over him, as it had that night in the storm in Bering Sea, and he had a sense of desolation that was beyond words. The only link between him and life seemed to be the dingey, and even then an ice cake crushed against it with an alarming crash. He rushed to it and, hauling with all his strength, got it out on the ice. The planking was cracked, and it had barely escaped utter ruin.
“Whew!” exclaimed Joe; “they’re after us, aren’t they! We’ll have to mend that a bit before we can start out. But that will be easy. Once we get our friend here fixed up so he can travel, we’ll tend to all those things.” He crumbed a little hard bread into the balance of the tea, making a sort of soup which the Eskimo took eagerly. After a time he spoke briefly in his own language.
“No catch seal,” he said; “kayak gone. Nine sleeps and no eat.”
“Do you hear that?” said Joe to Harry;
“No wonder he’s used up. Guess I’ll give him some more to eat.”
The Eskimo answered this in English as he got up, rather waveringly. “No,” he said; “bimeby want.”
Born of generations inured to famine, no one recovers from it more quickly than the Eskimo, and within half an hour he was able to walk about and take a hand, in a feeble way, in patching up the injured dingey. They found that he was a Point Hope man by birth, and had learned a little English at the mission there. He had come north with some of his tribe a summer or two before, and finding a place to his liking near Point Lay, had settled there with them. He had been out after seal among the floes and lost his kayak, and had drifted on the cake for nine days. A day or so before, he had given himself up for lost, and calmly covered his head with his skin coat, waiting for death, as an Eskimo will. He had taken the boys at first for the ghosts of the ice world, come for him, and had gone to sleep at sight of them. Now he knew them to be men, his friends, and some day he would save their lives as they had his.
All this he explained, bit by bit, partly in brief English, partly in Eskimo which they understood, as the boat was being patched with a bit of canvas tacked over the break in the planking. They had no tacks, but Harry had a many-bladed knife with an awl in it, and they made holes with this and used pegs whittled from a thwart. These they made a trifle long for the awl-holes, and hammered the protruding ends to a fuzzy head. It was not a good job, but it would do.
Harry was eager to start back for the ship at once, but Joe, wiser in the ways of the Arctic, wanted to wait. He knew that in that driving snow it would be almost impossible to reach her unless constantly guided by sound. Without that they might row within a dozen yards of her and not see her. More than one whaleman has lost his ship while wintering in the Arctic, and died in the storm within a few rods of her, never knowing that he was so near safety. So Joe, backed by the Eskimo, judged that they would better wait until they were sure in what direction to go. As a matter of fact, the ship, floe-bound near the shore, had drifted but slowly in the southerly wind, while the cake on which they were had gone northward quite rapidly. Hence when the shots and whistle sounded they heard them only faintly, and could not tell, in the drive of the storm, from what direction they came.
Thus time slipped by and they still clung to their floating cake, a pitiful little ice world in a gray universe of flying snow. They were warmly dressed, but the inaction in the chill wind soon set the white men to shivering. The Eskimo, on the contrary, seemed comfortable in his furs, and regained strength every moment. He noted how cold they were, and, motioning them to his assistance, they turned the boat over, keel to the wind, spread the sail beneath it, and drew part of . it up so as to close the opening. With the movable thwarts they blocked the wider apertures, and then, still at the bidding of the Eskimo, heaped the fast gathering snow about it. This gave them a narrow igloo, where they huddled for warmth. From now on the dusky brother they had rescued proceeded to rescue them, and they soon learned to trust his judgment implicitly.
As time passed more snow accumulated and was banked about, until their cave was well fortified and quite comfortable.
Gradually dusk came on, but still the snow fell as thick as ever, and there was no alternative but to remain where they were. Matters did not look very cheerful, and Harry, for one, heartily wished he had never seen the Arctic, or, for that matter, left the pleasant confines of Quincy Point. However, a healthy boy grows hungry at supper time, wherever he is, and he pulled one of the three or four tins of canned meat out of the locker, together with about half the hard-tack.
“Let’s have some supper,” he said; “I’m hungry.”
They divided the meat, and each ate several squares of hard-tack. Joe made shift to boil some water with the little oil stove, and they made tea. The glow of the flame lighted their shelter with cheer and helped to warm it. The drifting snow wrapped it closer, and, in spite of the keen nip of the frost and the icy gale without, they had a sense of warmth and comfort. Joe, however, put out the flame as soon as the tea was done.
“We may need that oil badly before we get back,” he said, “and it won’t do to waste it. No, we’d best sleep if we can till daylight. The storm may break by that time, and we can see better what to do. This ice cake is big enough to hold us safe till the blow is over, and that is the best we can do at present.”
They cuddled together for warmth, and in spite of the obviously great danger of their situation, two at least, Joe and the Eskimo, soon slept soundly. Harry did not sleep so readily. He was fairly warm and comfortable lying between his two friends in the narrow cubby-hole, now wrapped deep in the sheltering snow, but he could hear the howl of the storm without, and a sense of the weird and supernatural was strong upon him. It seemed as if the wild powers of the unknown ice world laughed and gibbered in the gale. He thought he heard low wails, hideous laughter, and a sort of insane babbling that sounded now far, now near at hand, and he did not blame the Eskimos for thinking the world of unknown ice and desolation to the north to be peopled by strange spirits. Once it seemed as if the Innuit at his side was awake and listening too, and he poked him gently and asked, “What’s that?” as a sound of ghostly footsteps and something like deep breathing came to him in a lull of the gale.
The other lifted his head and was silent. “Hush,” he replied, after a moment. “Nunatak mute (ghost people) come. Perhaps no hear, no see, bimeby go away.”
He lay down again and was soon asleep, and at last tired nature soothed Harry to slumber, and he slipped away into the world of dreams where was no ice or gale, no strange ghosts of the frigid night, but the pleasant warmth of his own fireside at home, his father and mother sitting by the evening lamp, and he himself propped among cushions, slipping gently into dreamland in the comfort of his own home.
Hours afterward he was wakened by a familiar scratching sound. It was pitch dark, and he was warm and comfortable though the air was oppressive. By and by there was a spurt of flame, and he saw that Joe was lighting a match. He touched it to the wick of the oil stove, put the teapot on, then looked at his watch.
“It ought to be light by this time,” he said. “It’s five o’clock. What do you suppose is the matter?” The Innuit was awake at this, and sat up also in his cramped quarters.
“Plenty snow,” he said. “Eat first, bimeby look out. Much cold.”
They made a hasty breakfast from the scanty stock of food, and the Innuit pushed his arm through the drift that had snowed them completely under, safe and warm from the tempest. Light came in through the hole which his arm had made, and a whiff of fresh but very keen air. He enlarged the hole carefully, making it a sort of burrow out of which each crawled. The snow had ceased, but the wind still blew hard, and the air was full of a black fog, which gave no sight of the sun. It was bitter cold, and the short distance which they could see about them showed only a rugged mass of snow-covered ice. During the night their floating cake had joined with larger ones, how large they could not tell, and they were now on what seemed an ice-field.
“Shall we try to make the ship?” asked Harry dubiously, his teeth chattering in the keen air. Joe shook his head.
“I’m afraid we’re in a bad scrape,” he said. “We can’t be sure of the direction, and even if we could, we might pass within a short distance of the ship and not see her. Seems to me there is nothing to do but to wait for the weather to clear up. Then we can tell what we are doing.”
The Eskimo nodded his head in approval of this. “Too much cold,” he said. “Too much no see. Wait in igloo long time, maybe five, six sleeps. Then sun come.”
“If I only had a compass, so that we could get the general direction, I’d chance it,” said Joe; “but there is no telling how the wind may have changed, and we might be traveling right out to sea. It’s better to wait where we are safe till we can be sure. They’ll be anxious on the ship, but what can we do? No, the Eskimo is right. We’ve got to stay here till we can see the sun, at least.”
The bite of the wind warned them to get within their shelter again, and they did so. The Eskimo, however, continued to work on the snow entrance to their cave beneath the drift, and soon had it made into a veritable tunnel, through which they could crawl, but which was long enough to keep out the worst of the cold. Then he enlarged their igloo by pushing out the sail, compacting the snow behind it, till they had quite a little room in which to turn round, though they could barely sit upright there. He almost blocked the far end of his entrance tunnel with snow, and closed the nearer end with the boat’s thwarts. Thus the wind and cold were shut out, and they were surprisingly comfortable, considering that they had no fire. Their eyes became accustomed to the semi-darkness, and they felt themselves quite at home. It was a long day, though they whiled away the time talking with the Eskimo, who was quite recovered from his nine days of starvation.
At nightfall there was no change in the weather, and they resigned themselves to a long siege. Neither was there any change the next day, nor the next. Occasionally they went out and plunged through the snow about their igloo for exercise, but the Eskimo warned them not to go but a few steps away from it, for to be lost in the cold and black frost-fog was to meet certain death from exposure. Now and then it snowed again, but they did not care for this, as it drifted higher about their shelter and made it warmer. On the third day a serious matter was forced upon their attention. At breakfast, that morning, Joe divided the last of the meat and hardtack. Only a little tea stood between them and starvation.
The night of the fourth day they were much disturbed by crushing and grinding noises, and got little sleep. Sometimes the ice beneath them seemed to jar as if hit by a tremendous blow. The Eskimo hailed this with delight.
“Nagouruk,” he said. “Ice talk. Bimeby get seal.”
At the first light he was out, taking his spear with him, but he returned at nightfall, thoroughly chilled and empty-handed. Matters looked dubious. They drank tea and licked the inside of the can that had held the condensed milk. It was a poor substitute for a meal. They learned that the Eskimo had hunted long for an open lead, and had risked his life by venturing far from their shelter, but had found only a small crack, which he had watched all day without success. The next morning, however, Joe, who was first out, gave a great shout of delight. The gale had abated, and there was a faint glow through the black fog which showed the direction of the sun. He wished to start southeast at once, for that must be the direction in which they should go, but the Eskimo wished to wait.
“Get seal,” he said. “Much eat. Bimeby go;” and though Joe chafed at the delay, the weakness of hunger made him think it wise to defer to the man of the ice. The Eskimo went off with his spear, found an opening within sight of the igloo, and stood there motionless for literal hours, his spear poised, himself a statue frozen upon the frozen scene. Suddenly the poised spear shot downward, and with a shout of triumph he hauled a seal out upon the ice, tossed him upon his shoulder, and came running to the igloo with him.
It took him but a moment to strip off the already freezing hide, and slice off big strips of blubber and meat from the carcass. Passing these to the boys he proceeded to eat others immediately. Joe and Harry were hungry enough to follow his example, but they nevertheless lighted the oil stove and partly broiled their steaks before eating. It must be confessed, however, that they were cooked rare. When they had satisfied their hunger the Eskimo carefully rolled up the remainder of the meat and blubber in the hide, and it soon froze solid, making a compact bundle.
The cold abated with the wind, and as the sun struggled through more and more, they made an immediate start. They dug the dingey out of the snow shelter that had saved their lives, packed their belongings carefully in it, and, with the Eskimo tugging at the painter, and Joe and Harry lifting and sliding it over the snow and rough ice, headed southeast as nearly as they could tell by the sun.
ROUGH ARCTIC CLIFFS
It was hard work, but the boat was still their only salvation, and they stuck to it. The good meal of seal meat had put renewed life into them, and, in the clear Arctic air, headed toward safety once more, they felt almost jovial. The brown man of the ice seemed to have completely recovered his strength, and tugged manfully, working like a beaver, and leading the way with a discretion born of generations of men trained to the work.
By mid-afternoon it had grown quite clear, and they paused for a rest, making another meal of seal meat, very slightly cooked this time, for the oil in the stove gave out as they were cooking. When they started on, the Eskimo swung sharply to the south with a joyful shout.
“Emik! Emik!” (Water! Water!) he cried; and soon they saw an open lead in a southerly direction. It was not long before they had the boat in this, and with a sigh of relief Harry settled to the oars, while Joe took the tiller, and the Eskimo ensconced himself in the bow, spear in hand, in the hope of seeing another seal. An hour or two later the clouds to the eastward settled away, and they saw at no great distance the glimmer of snow-clad peaks in the setting sun. Land was in sight, and it seemed as if their troubles were soon to be over. The open water between the pack and the shore could not be far ahead of them, and they found a place where a haul over a space of ice let them into another lead that took them in the right direction. Just before sunset a warning word from the Eskimo bade Harry cease his rowing, and the boat glided gently along through the water, while the Eskimo stood erect with poised spear.
Again there was the sudden thrust and the shout of triumph, and another seal was added to their larder. This was a larger one, and they had at least no fear of the starvation which had threatened them at sunrise. Still there was no sign of the ship, and even now a return of the gale, with snow, might easily prove disastrous. Therefore, changing places at the oars, they toiled doggedly on, making another short haul over the ice, and finding the open water just at twilight. They found it full of floating cakes, and as they neared the shore there was much “mush ice” newly formed in the open, which made their passage difficult. It was well into the night when they finally hauled the boat out on the snow-clad land with a great sigh of weariness and relief. It was like coming to a new and strange world, however. The brown tundra was now drifted with snow, and the country round about was in the grip of the beginning of the long Arctic winter. There are years in which this is delayed until late in September, but in others it comes by the very first, and happy are those ships which escape to the warmer waters of the south before it happens.
They had not got sight of the ship, but they hoped to on the morrow. At least they were safe from the terrible drifting Arctic pack, and with thankfulness for the watchful care of Providence they once more overturned the dingey, rigged the sail over its open side, packed snow from a drift about it, and crawled into the improvised igloo for the heavy dreamless sleep that follows severe and long-continued toil.