Abbildungen der Seite


This state of things continued hour after hour until the evening of the 10th, when the ship was only half a mile off the tremendous cliffs of Cape Victoria. Then a sudden change of wind set in, and they were hurled round the rocks into the open of Frobisher Straits, " the beautiful aurora flickering in the heavens like another bow of promise."

During the remainder of November and the month of December the Diana was drifting in the entrance of Cumberland Sound and Frobisher Straits. On the 23rd November, the nip was so severe that all hands were called on deck to prepare for the worst. The ship was actually laid on her beam-ends, and the cry of “She's stove ! she's stove !” rang along the decks. The pumps were ordered to be manned, but they were found to be so completely frozen as to be useless, and had to be disconnected and thawed out over a fire before they could be worked.

The ship now began to leak so fearfully that the crew tore away some of the inside planking, to try to stop the leak forward, but without success, and the pumps were kept going night and day, having constantly to be lifted and burnt out. The hardships were telling sadly on the crew, and the poor captain, completely worn out with anxiety and depression, was fast sinking. He had gone into a tent, which was rigged upon the ice near the ship, in case of their having suddenly to leave her, and he there tried to get some rest from the constant groaning and creaking of the ship; but almost perished with the cold, he had returned on board in a worse state than before.

Christmas day passed gloomily enough : at 8 A.M. the ship narrowly escaped destruction upon an iceberg, which was aground, and against which she was so nearly driven that the crew all prepared to seek escape

At 9 A.M. another struggle with the same berg, the current driving them well upon it. At 11, a prayer-meeting was held upon the half-deck, and a hymn was sung; then dinner was served out, consisting of a slice of pudding, and a piece of cold salted beef, and some tripe which had been saved by the mate for the occasion. The crew sat down upon their chests in groups of two and three, and tried to forget their troubles in their first good meal since their being beset. In the cabin the officers had formed a table, and ate their dinner almost in silence, for the poor captain was in a dying state upon a sofa, and in a halfunconscious slumber, from which they feared to awake him. Even now they were not at rest, for at 3 P.M. the ice was again in motion, and the pressure upon the ship became so great that she was half lifted on her side, and even the cabin deck was bending under their feet. Thus they spent the day. No Christmas song or evening mirth was attempted, and all felt relieved when the night-watch was set, and they could retire to their berths and try to escape their gloomy thoughts in sleep.

On the following day the captain died, notwithstanding the unremitting attentions of those about him. They had sat up with him night after night as he lay with all his clothes on, ready at any moment to be carried out of the ship, and always anxiously inquiring

upon the floe.

how things were going on on deck. Well might his late companions feel his loss, for never was a man more respected by his crew. Many of them had been with him from their boyhood, for year after year, in these hazardous voyages, and all looked up to him as a father and a friend. They placed his body upon the bridge, in a coffin made by the carpenter.

The New Year commenced without change in their prospects. The ship gradually drove southward through the month of January, and on the 16th was off Cape Labrador. Only one cask of beef now remaining, the allowance was again reduced. The spare wood, cask-staves, and some of the boats were burnt for fuel, and an oil-lamp was kept barning to melt snow for water. Small stores were all gone, and still there were no hopes of an early release. The entries in the log-book recount the constant struggles of the crew with the ice, and their attempts to keep the ship afloat. On one or two occasions, a lean and hungry bear would come to look at the ship; but the whalers have an unfortunate prejudice against eating the flesh, which they consider poisonons, although it is really wholesome and nutritious food. They do not appear to have killed or attempted to hunt the bears.

A few snowy owls and ravens also visited the ship; but beyond this they do not seem to have met with any opportunity of getting any fresh food whatever.

To pass the time, they told stories of their former adventures in the fisheries, illustrating the extraordinary dangers they frequently undergo; and one of the harpooners related the following to the surgeon :

“I went to sea for the first time in 1854, as half-deck boy on board the Violet, of Hull, on a sealing voyage to East Greenland. It was perhaps the severest weather ever known in the country. One day we noticed something black upon the ice, and thinking it was the seals, a boat was sent away and found five poor fellows laid side by side, all frozen to death, and another kneeling by himself close by, with a boat-hook as a signal. We took them on board and buried them next day. The survivor told us that they belonged to a Danish ship, and had been away sealing, when a gale coming on, their boat was stove and the ship driven out of sight. He lived six weeks, but had to have both his legs taken off, and died afterwards. A good many ships were lost that year, and three Hall ships, the Germania, the Hebe, and the Violet, which I was aboard of. We drove into the pack in a gale of wind, and was store in. We were eight days upon the wreck, the empty casks holding her up, but were taken off by a Dutch vessel and were kindly taken care of. It was fearfully cold that year; some of the crews were wrecked three times, and you'd see ships with their ensigns flying for doctors to come off to the wrecked crews, many of whom were badly frost-bitten.” Such were the tales these


fellows told each other as they sat over the flaring oil-lamps on board the Diana.

During the whole month of February the ship made but little progress, being jammed in the open of Frobisher Straits. The crew pow began to get worse and worse from the effects of the short allowance of food, and on the 15th, Forbes, a Shetlander, died. The day previously he was " I can

working at the pumps (which he had resolutely refused to quit, determining to do his duty to the last), when he suddenly fell down, exclaiming, do no more.” He was immediately carried below to his berth, but said to the surgeon, “ It is too cold there, doctor ; it is full of ice, and I cannot sleep there.” He was then put into another bed with one of his countrymen, but he never rallied again. Poor fellow, he had been allowed three extra biscuits in the last week, but was quite unable to eat them. On March 4th, Abernethy (Shetlander) died, and the two bodies were laid upon the bridge beside the captain. Towards the middle of March they had drifted down to the entrance of Hudson's Strait, and the ice becoming more slack, they were enabled at times to force the ship, with all sail and warps, short distances to the south-eastward, and on the 17th a heavy swell setting into the pack indicated their approach to the open ocean. The excitement was now intense. Every effort was made night and day; and at last, on the 18th, they broke out, after a gale of wind which severely damaged the rudder.

The broad Atlantic was now before them. They were released, and bore away with a loud cheer for home; but they were so reduced in strength as to be almost incapable of working the ship. The dreadful scurvy increased in violence on the sudden change from the frosts of the ice-pack to the damps and fogs of the open water. The 'tween-deck was in a fearful state from the sleeping berths, which had boen almost constantly coated with ice, now becoming thawed and dripping wet. They had stripped the ship of almost everything inflammable, and so were unable to make any fire below, and many of the crew lay in their berths unable to help themselves or each other, and as all who were capable of duty were constantly called to the work upon deck, and that finished, they were so fatigued as to be just able to crawl to their beds, the unfortunate sick men were almost dependent upon the ship's cook, who sat up night and day trying to afford them some relief by feeding them with soaked biscuit and a thin soup made from his scraps which he had saved for the purpose. Some of those who had struggled upon deck in the first excitement of their release, soon fell down at the pumps, and as each day another death occurred the bodies were brought up from below, wrapped in canvas, and laid in rows upon deck. Some of the deaths of these scurvy-stricken men were so sudden—the effects of the slightest exertion followed by a fatal syncope---as scarcely to give time for the surgeon to be called to the bedside. On one occasion the surgeon was assisting upon deck, when a sailor said to him, " Doctor, you're wanted below," and he arrived between decks only in time to find a poor fellow who, in struggling out of his berth, had been thrown down from the rolling of the ship, and was lying dead upon the decks. On another occasion, the slight exertion of crawling out of bed was instantly fatal-poor Arthur Yell being found dead upon his two companions, over whom he had tried to pass, and who were too weak to remove his body from off them. Most providentially, strong fair winds drove them across the Atlantic, and they

managed to get the sails set upon the ship, but were utterly unable to reduce it to the gales. In this state they flew before the wind in their race with death, until at last three only of the whole company were able to go aloft. The surgeon appears to have done everything in his power; for besides attending the sick and performing the sad offices for the dead, he took his turn at the pumps, kept the watch, and assisted with the sails and ropes. Messrs. Clark, Loffey, Byers, Smith, and Reynolds, mates and harpooners, worked with desperate energy, as indeed all did while capable of the least exertion. They fortunately made the land on March 31, and it was determined to run the ship into the nearest harbour, Ronas Voe, early on the 2nd April, 1867. So completely were they exhausted that had they been out for another day they must have been lost; for the night previous to sighting the land three men fell at the pumps, and one of the principal snils blew away from their inability to secure it. On entering Ronas Voe nine corpses were lying on the deck, two men only could go aloft, and two other poor fellows died in their berths; but with the aid of help from the shore the ship was brought safely to anchor, and a messenger despatched to Lerwick for assistance.

The kind people of the neighbourhood immediately sent off refreshments, and every attention was given to the poor worn-out sailors, who speak with the greatest gratitude of all the kindness, and who, now that their anxieties were at an end, soon began to improve in health. Help, however, came too late to save three other poor fellows, who died on the following day.

The sad funerals having taken place, and the Diana again prepared for sea, she subsequently sailed for Hull with a fresh crew sent to bring her round. Arriving in the Humber the news spread rapidly over the town that the “ long-lost whaler" was in sight. How sadly different her present from many a former arrival, when she had returned triumphantly, with her crew rejoicing in success and health, and bringing a good account of their voyage to their employers and families. Crowds now flocked down to stare at her bleached rigging and her worn and whitened sides, and to lend their hearty sympathy; but no ringing cheer welcomed her coming, and no garland wove by fair hands fluttered from her maintopgallant-stay, and her ensign half lowered from her peak was the sad signal of her sacred charge the coffin of her good captain, who was now borne back upon the deck of his ship to his last home upon earth.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »