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hopeful, could not be too prompt. What pressed on my mind most was, where the sufferers were to be looked for among the drifts. Ohlsen seemed to have his faculties rather more at command than his associates, and I thought that he might assist us as a guide; but he was sinking with exhaustion, and if he went with us we must carry him.
4. There was not a moment to lose. While some were still busy with the newcomers and getting ready a hasty meal, others were rigging out the Little Willie with a buffalo cover, a small tent, and a package of pemmican; and as soon as we could hurry through our arrangements, Ohlsen was strapped on in a fur bag, his legs wrapped in dogskins and eider-down, and we were off upon the ice. Our party consisted of nine men and myself. We carried only the clothes on our backs. The thermometer stood at 46 degrees, seventy-eight degrees below the freezing-point.
5. A well-known peculiar tower of ice, called by the men the "Pinnacly Berg," served as our first landmark; other icebergs of colossal size, which stretched in long, beaded lines across the bay, helped to guide us afterward; and it was not until we had traveled for sixteen hours that we began to lose our way.
6. We knew that our lost companions must be somewhere in the area before us, within a radius of forty miles. Mr. Ohlsen, who had been for fifty hours without rest, fell asleep as soon as we began to move, and awoke now with unequivocal signs of mental disturbance. It became evident that he had lost the bearing of the icebergs, which in form and color endlessly repeated themselves; and the uniformity of the vast field of snow utterly forbade the hope of local landmarks.
7. Pushing ahead of the party, and clambering over
some rugged ice piles, I came to a long, level floe, which I thought might probably have attracted the eyes of weary men in circumstances like our own. It was a light conjecture; but it was enough to turn the scale, for there was no other to balance it. I gave orders to abandon the sledge and disperse in search of foot-marks. We raised our tent, placed our pemmican in cache, except a small allowance for each man to carry on his person; and poor Ohlsen, now just able to keep his legs, was liberated from his bag.
8. The thermometer had fallen by this time to -49 degrees, and the wind was setting in sharply from the northwest. It was out of the question to halt: it required brisk exercise to keep us from freezing. I could not even melt ice for water; and, at these temperatures, any resort to snow for the purpose of allaying thirst was followed by bloody lips and tongue: it burned like caustic.
9. It was indispensable, then, that we should move on, looking out for traces as we went. Yet when the men were ordered to spread themselves, so as to multiply the chances, though they all obeyed heartily, some painful impress of solitary danger, or perhaps it may have been the varying configuration of the ice-field, kept them closing up continually into a single group.
10. The strange manner in which some of us were affected I now attribute as much to shattered nerves as to the direct influence of the cold. Men like McGary and Bonsall, who had stood out our severest marches, were seized with trembling-fits and short breath, and, in spite of all my efforts to keep up an example of sound bearing, I fainted twice on the snow.
11. We had been nearly eighteen hours out without water or food, when a new hope cheered us. I think it was Hans, our Esquimau hunter, who thought he saw a
broad sledge-track. The drift had nearly effaced it, and we were some of us doubtful at first whether it was not one of those accidental rifts which the gales make in the surface snow.
12. But as we traced it on to the deep snow among the hummocks, we were led to footsteps; and following these with religious care, we at last came in sight of a small American flag fluttering from a hummock. It was the camp of our disabled comrades; we reached it after an unbroken march of twenty-one hours.
13. The little tent was nearly covered. I was not among the first to come up; but, when I reached the tent curtain, the men were standing in silent file on each side of it. With more kindness and delicacy of feeling than is often supposed to belong to sailors, but which is almost characteristic, they intimated their wish that I should go in alone. As I crawled in, and, coming upon the darkness, heard before me the burst of welcome gladness that came from the four poor fellows stretched on their backs, and then for the first time the cheer outside, my weakness and my gratitude together almost overcame me. "They had expected me they were sure I would come!"
Explain the expressions: "could hardly be rallied enough" (2) ; "icebergs of colossal size" (5); "it was a light conjecture" (7) ; "with religious care” (12).
The "Little Willie" (4) was the name given to a sledge. An "Esquimau" (11) is an Indian of any of the tribes inhabiting Arctic America or Greenland.
HOWE'ER it be, it seems to me
Kind hearts are more than coronets,
4. ěs sĕn' tial; a. highly important.
5. stāy; v. to hold.
6. su per' flu qùs; a. more than is sufficient;
7. prē' mo nľtion; n. a previous warning.
8. le thär' ġie; a. strangely inclined to sleep.
9. ar tie' ū lāte; v. to utter any words.
Lost on the Floes.
1. We were now fifteen souls; the thermometer 75 degrees below the freezing-point, and our sole accommodation a tent barely able to contain eight persons; more than half our party were obliged to keep from freezing by walking outside while the others slept. We could not halt long. Each of us took a turn of two hours' sleep; and then we prepared for our homeward march.
2. We took with us nothing but the tent, furs to protect the rescued party, and food for a journey of fifty hours. Everything else was abandoned. Two large buffalo-bags, each made of four skins, were doubled up, so as to form a sort of sack, lined on each side by fur, closed at the bottom but open at the top. This was laid on the sledge; the tent, smoothly folded, serving as a floor.
3. The sick, with their limbs sewed up carefully in reindeer-skins, were placed upon the bed of buffalo-robes, in a half-reclining posture; other skins and blanket-bags were thrown above them; and the whole litter was lashed together so as to allow but a single opening opposite the mouth for breathing.
4. This necessary work cost us a great deal of time and effort; but it was essential to the lives of the sufferers. It took us no less than four hours to strip and refresh them, and then to embale them in the manner I have described.
Few of us escaped without frost-bitten fingers; the thermometer was 55 degrees below zero, and a slight wind added to the severity of the cold.
5. It was completed at last, however; all hands stood round; and, after repeating a short prayer, we set out on our retreat. It was fortunate indeed that we were not inexperienced in sledging over the ice. A great part of our track lay among a succession of hummocks; some of them extending in long lines, fifteen and twenty feet high, and so uniformly steep that we had to turn them by a considerable deviation from our direct course; others that we forced our way through, far above our heads in height, lying in parallel ridges, with the space between too narrow for the sledge to be lowered into it safely, and yet not wide enough for the runners to cross without the aid of ropes to stay them.
6. These spaces too were generally choked with light snow, hiding the openings between the ice fragments. They were fearful traps to disengage a limb from, for every man knew that a fracture or a sprain even would cost him his life. Besides all this, the sledge was top-heavy with its load the maimed men could not bear to be lashed down tight enough to secure them against falling off. Notwithstanding our caution in rejecting every superfluous burden, the weight, including bags and tent, was eleven hundred pounds.
7. And yet our march for the first six hours was very cheering. We made, by vigorous pulls and lifts, nearly a mile an hour, and reached the new floes before we were absolutely weary. Our sledge sustained the trial admirably. Ohlsen, restored by hope, walked steadily at the leading belt of the sledge-lines; and I began to feel certain of reaching our half-way station of the day before, where we had left our tent But we were still nine miles from it,