Edward Stratemeyer.

First at the North Pole: or, Two Boys in the Arctic Circle





Well, I call that a narrow escape, said Andy, after the excitement was over.

So do I, responded Chet. I dont want another such experience.

You will have to go through harder things than that up north, said Barwell Dawson, who overheard the talk.

Well be prepared then, answered Andy. This wasnt expected.

I am afraid you boys dont realize what you are up against, went on the hunter and explorer. We are going to face many perils in the polar regions. If you feel you dont want to go further, you can leave us when we get to Upernivik.

No! no! we want to see this thing through, perils or no perils, cried Andy, hastily.

Indeed we do! added Chet. I guess youll find we can stand as much as anybody after we get used to it.

Late that afternoon the steamer came in sight of a large flock of wild geese. Professor Jeffer calculated that there must be thousands of them, and ran for his camera, to take some snap-shots.

Cant we do a little shooting? asked Chet, of Mr. Dawson. They are heading this way.

Permission was granted, and both boys rushed below for shotguns. When they came up, the geese were flying almost directly over the Ice King, uttering their strange cries as they did so.

It did not take Andy and Chet long to get into action, and both shotguns spoke up at almost the same time. Each youth fired twice in rapid succession. The geese were so thick they could not help but strike some of them, and three came fluttering down on the deck of the vessel.

Not a bad haul, was Barwell Dawsons comment. Now you can have roast goose stuffed with onions for tomorrows dinner.

And well invite all hands to join us, answered Chet, gaily. I guess there will be enough to go around.

I dont know about this shooting birds from the ship, said Captain Williamson, in a low voice. Some of the sailors dont believe in that sort of thing. They think it brings bad luck.

What do you think? asked Chet.

Oh, I am not superstitious, responded the commander.

The master of the vessel was right some of his hands were very superstitious and these deplored the killing of the geese, and refused to touch any of the meat when it was cooked.

Well have trouble, see if we dont, said one sailor.

Maybe it will sink us, said another, with a serious shake of his head. Then they muttered among themselves, and cast ugly glances at Andy and Chet.

Too bad, whispered Chet to his chum. If I had known the sailors would take it so seriously, Id not have shot those geese.

Oh, the affair will soon blow over, was Andys answer. But his surmise did not prove correct.

In the morning the boys heard that the Ice King had sprung several leaks. The captain had had the well-hole sounded, and had ordered the pumps started.

The icebergs and the floating cakes did it, said Barwell Dawson.

I was hopeful we would escape, but it seems not.

What are you going to do? asked Andy.

I dont know yet well see how bad the leaks are.

The ships carpenter was below, examining the seams, and now Captain Williamson and Barwell Dawson joined him. A thorough examination was effected, and when the party came on deck again they were talking earnestly.

Its pretty bad, I guess, said Andy to Chet.

A consultation took place in the cabin, between the captain and the explorer, and at the conclusion the course of the vessel was changed.

Instead of heading for Upernivik we are going to put in at Holstenborg for repairs, explained Barwell Dawson to Professor Jeffer and the others. I am sorry for the delay, but it cannot be helped. The ice must have hit us harder than we thought.

Well, the delay wont worry me, answered the scientist, calmly. It will give me a chance to see something of another part of Greenland.

Where is Holstenborg? questioned Chet.

It is on the western coast of Greenland, about four hundred and fifty miles below Upernivik. It is not much of a place, but Captain Williamson thinks it would be unwise to attempt to reach Upernivik in our present condition.

Well, I dont care if we do land further down the coast, said Chet, thinking that here would be another chance to make inquiries concerning the lost whaler.

It soon became whispered around that the Ice King was leaking badly. Some of the hands took the matter calmly, but others were excited.

Its because those geese were shot, cried one sailor. It was wrong to do it, and I said so.

Those boys ought to be heaved overboard, said another.

Right you are, answered the tar who had first found fault.

Some of this talk presently reached the ears of Ben Haven, the mate, and watching his chance, he came up to where Chet and Andy were standing amidships.

I want to tell you lads something, said he in a low voice.

What is it? asked Chet.

If I were you boys, Id not walk forward for the present, went on Ben Haven. Some of the sailors are down on you for killing those geese. Better keep out of their way until we reach port which will be tomorrow morning.

Why, do you think theyd try to to harm us? asked Chet.

They might if matters get worse with the ship. Some sailors are awfully headstrong when they get frightened.

Chet and Andy promised to heed the warning, although both were inclined to laugh at it. They kept away from the forecastle, and it was not until after supper that one of the sailors came near them. It was then reported that the steamer was leaking worse than before, and the pumps were kept going constantly.

You boys are responsible for this, said the sailor. He was a tall, thin individual, who rejoiced in the name of Pep Loggermore.

What do you mean? demanded Chet, stiffly.

You know well enough what I mean, growled the tar. If we go to the bottom, there wont be nobody to blame but you!

Thats nonsense, broke in Andy. The ice started the ships seams we had nothing to do with it.

You shot them geese, and

Oh, thats foolishness! cried Chet. We dont want to hear it. A man with sense ought to know better than to talk that way.

I know what I am talking about, grumbled Pep Loggermore.

You go on about your business, said Andy, sharply.

Loggermore was about to argue some more, when Captain Williamson put in an appearance. He slouched off, but when out of sight, turned and shook his fist at the youths.

I aint going to sail with no such fellers as you, he muttered to himself. And I dont think the other men will want to sail with you, either. If we ever get ashore alive, well see to it that you two fools dont come aboard again!

What did that fellow want of you? demanded the captain, of the chums.

Oh, it wasnt much, answered Andy, evasively. He did not want to get Loggermore into trouble.

Did he threaten you?

He didnt like it, because we shot the geese, said Chet.

What tomfoolery! muttered the captain. Well, if he bothers you again, let me know, and Ill teach him to mind his own business.

What about the leaks, Captain? asked Andy, to change the subject.

They are pretty bad, but I hope to reach port without serious trouble, was the reply.

But the look on the face of the commander of the Ice King showed that he was greatly worried.

CHAPTER XIX GREENLAND AND THE ESQUIMAUX

There was a good deal of ice near the coast, yet, by setting a constant watch in the crows nest of the steamer, Captain Williamson was able to steer a fairly straight course for Holstenborg.

It is only a small Danish settlement, said Barwell Dawson, in reply to a question from Chet. Ordinarily, on account of the marine laws made by Denmark, we might have trouble in landing, but being in need of repairs, I fancy there will be no difficulty.

A little later land was discovered, and presently the coast loomed up, dark and rocky, with the mountain tops covered with snow and ice. Then, through the glasses, they made out a few buildings, of stone and wood, clustered together near a natural harbor.

Not much of a town, thats sure, was Andys comment.

Signals were set, and as the steamer came to anchor, a small boat came out from shore. It contained one of the government officials, a round-faced, pleasant-looking Dane, with yellowish hair and mild blue eyes.

It was with some difficulty that matters were explained, and then arrangements were made to have the Ice King towed to a spot where the necessary repairs could be made. Work on the vessel began the next day, and while this was going on the boys received permission to go ashore.

They found but little to see. There was a mine back of the settlement, where ore was being blasted out, and they watched several blasts go off. Then they walked to where a fishing vessel had just come in with, a large quantity of seals, and some fish which were called cod, but which they found to be of a different variety from those caught off the New England coast.

Those seals ought to be valuable, said Andy. Think of the price of a sealskin coat!

Not this kind of seal, answered Professor Jeffer, who chanced to be near at the time. The seals from which we get sealskin coats such as you refer to come from the coast of Labrador and from Alaskan waters. These seals, as you will find by close examination, do not have a skin of fur, but one of hair, like a horse. But the Esquimaux use them for garment-making. An Esquimau woman will make herself a very fine dress out of these sealskins.

The boys watched the fish and seals taken ashore, and then caught sight of a man in the crowd who looked as if he might be American or English.

Id like to talk to that man, said Chet, and watching his chance, he called to the individual. The fellow called back, and when his work was ended, walked over to the boys.

My name is Rooney, Jack Rooney, he said after the youths had introduced themselves. Im from New Brunswick, although I once lived in Maine. Glad to know you. And he shook hands.

Have you been along the coast of Greenland long? asked Chet.

About fifteen years, off and on.

Then you must know something about the whalers that come up here.

Yes, Ive been aboard plenty of em, one time and another.

Did you ever see the Betsey Andrews?

Jack Rooney stood for a moment in deep thought, and then scratched his grizzled chin.

How long ago is it she was in these parts?

Oh, two years ago at least.

Who was her captain, do you know?

Captain Jacob Spark.

Spark? Oh, yes, I remember him! A one-armed man, an old war veteran.

Yes, I was told he had but one arm. Chets heart began to beat a little faster. Then you remember him and his ship?

Oh, yes.

My father was on board the Betsey Andrews. He shipped the last time she left New Bedford.

I see.

She never came back, and I cant find out what became of her, continued Chet.

What! was she lost at sea? But hold on, I remember hearing something about that. Jack Rooney scratched his head. Lets see, who was it told me? Oh, I remember now, Tom Fetjen. He told me something about her getting fast in the ice, but I dont remember the particulars.

Who is Tom Fetjen?

Oh, hes a fellow who travels up and down the Greenland coast, bartering with the Esquimaux in a small way, you know.

You dont remember what he said about the Betsey Andrews?

None of the particulars, no. But Fetjen could tell you, I am sure. He knew this one-armed Spark quite well. Often told stories about the captain.

Where is Tom Fetjen now?

I dont know, but maybe I can find out, answered Jack Rooney.

The fisherman became interested in the boys, and had Chet tell more about his missing parent. Then he went in search of some men who had business dealings with Tom Fetjen, and talked to them in Danish.

They say Tom Fetjen went up the coast to Upernivik, said Rooney, after the interview. If your ship is bound for that port, youll probably find him there. He owns a boat called the Northland, a little two-master.

This was all the information Chet could obtain in Holstenborg concerning the missing whaler.

Well, thats something, said Andy. You can talk to this Tom Fetjen when we reach Upernivik.

If he doesnt leave there before we arrive.

Rooney said he was apt to stay there quite a while, Chet.

I know he did. Well, I suppose I can only wait and see. And Chet heaved a deep sigh.

While Andy and Chet were ashore interviewing Jack Rooney and others who could speak English, Captain Williamson was waited on by three of his hands. The delegation was headed by Pep Loggermore.

What do you want? demanded the master of the Ice King, briefly. He could readily see that trouble was brewing.

We came to speak about them boys, replied Loggermore, doggedly. We been talkin amongst ourselves, and we dont want to take no more chances.

What boys? asked the captain, although he knew perfectly well who were meant.

The boys that shot them geese and brought us bad luck.

See here, Loggermore, this is all nonsense.

Excuse me, Capn, but it aint nonsense at all. We talked it over, and we are sure it was the killin of them geese

You talk like a fool, interrupted the master of the steamer. Those boys are no more responsible for our ill luck than you or I. The ice knocked us a bit too hard, thats all.

We want them boys kept ashore! cried Pep Loggermore. Aint that so, mates? he added, turning to his companions, and they nodded.

What! Are you going to try to dictate to me? roared Captain Williamson.

We aint asking anything but whats right. We

Not another word, Loggermore. Go forard, all of you, and dont let me hear another word of this nonsense, said the captain, sharply.

But, Capn

Not another word, I told you, unless you want the cat! answered Captain Williamson.

He drew himself up, and his eyes flashed dangerously, and the men silently left him and resumed their work in the forward part of the ship.

Sailors are queer fellows, was Dr. Blades comment. Once they get an idea in their heads, you cant drive it out.

Ill drive it out, dont fear! answered the captain.

It is too bad that the boys have made such enemies, went on the ships physician. I am afraid it will spoil a good deal of their pleasure.

When the chums came back to the steamer that evening, they noticed that two of the sailors looked at them darkly. Yet nothing was said to them of what had occurred, the sailors being afraid to speak, and the others not wishing to make the boys uneasy.

But among the sailors there was quite a talk over Andy and Chet.

Well make em stay ashore if we can, said Loggermore. Just wait until we are ready to sail. I am not going to trust myself with fellows like that to bring me bad luck.

The repairs to the Ice King took the best part of a week to make, but at the end of that time the ships carpenter pronounced the craft as seaworthy as ever.

She may stay up here for a year now, and never start those seams again, he said.

Let us hope so, answered Barwell Dawson. A leaky ship isnt at all to my liking.

Pep Loggermore and a crony watched for a chance to catch Andy and Chet ashore. What the sailors might have done, there is no telling, but certainly they would have done all in their power to prevent the boys from returning to the Ice King. But the lads kept on the vessel, there being nothing more to visit on land.

We might heave em overboard some night, suggested Loggermore, but the other sailor would not listen to this proposal. He was willing to have the youths left behind, but that was as far as he cared to go.

Never mind, we can watch them at Upernivik, said the tar. There will be a better chance to leave them behind there than there was here. And with this proposal the affair rested, although Loggermore declared that if there was any more killing of birds from the ship he would heave the boys overboard sure. This may seem a terrible threat to some of my readers, but they must remember that some sailors, especially ignorant ones, are extremely superstitious, and they deem the killing of a bird at sea the worst kind of a bad omen.

The run up the Greenland coast was made without unusual incident. They passed a number of icebergs, but always at a distance, and the small ice did not bother them seriously. The weather moderated a little, so that life on deck proved delightful. The boys saw more wild geese, some ducks, and also some northern petrel, but, warned by Captain Williamson, did no more shooting.

Upernivik is about the last settlement north of any importance, said Professor Jeffer to the boys. It can be called the most northern town in the world. It is a trading station for the Esquimaux, and also has a mine, from which large quantities of cryolite are obtained.

And what is cryolite? asked Chet, curiously.

The professor smiled faintly. It is a substance, found only in Greenland, from which washing soda is made, and also some kinds of baking powder. The metal, aluminum, is obtained from it, and it is also used in the making of certain kinds of glass. Greenland has a very large stratum or deposit of cryolite, and it is a source of considerable revenue to the mine owners, and also to the Danish government, the latter putting a heavy export tax on it.

It was nightfall when the steamer dropped anchor in the harbor of Upernivik. From the deck of the vessel Barwell Dawson, who had visited the settlement before, pointed out the governors house, the Moravian church, and other buildings.

There are quite a number of Esquimaux here, full-blooded and half-breeds, said he. Most of them live in the stone huts along the mountain side.

What do you mean by half-breeds? questioned Andy.

The half-breeds are the families of the Danish men who have married Esquimaux women, replied the explorer. Some of the half-breeds are very intelligent, and they are also much cleaner than the full-blooded Esquimaux.

Are the Esquimaux very dirty? asked Chet.

They are the dirtiest people on earth, was the emphatic answer. And why shouldnt they be? They never wash, and the only thing they rub on their bodies is whale or seal oil, to keep out the cold and to help limber them up.

Gracious! I shouldnt want to live in the same house with them! cried Andy.

You couldnt live with them, that is, not for any great length of time. The smell would make you sick.

CHAPTER XX FAST IN THE ICE

Well, there is one piece of luck, said Barwell Dawson, the next morning. Our collier is here, so we can take on coal at once, and get away from here inside of three or four days.

Yes, we want to take advantage of the weather while it lasts, answered the captain of the Ice King. And the task of transferring the coal began an hour later.

Andy and Chet asked for permission to go ashore, and, after word had been sent to the governor of the place, they entered a steam launch in company with Barwell Dawson and Professor Jeffer. The explorer knew what was on Chets mind, and aided him to find out if the Northland was at Upernivik.

She is here, said Barwell Dawson, after making inquiries. I will have you taken to her.

Chet found Tom Fetjen, a Danish-American, tall and powerful, with a shrewd but kindly face. He listened to the boys story with interest, and then shrugged his big shoulders.

I no can tell you mooch bout dat whaler, Betsey Andrews, he said, slowly. I not know for truf what happen to him. But I hear somting las year. Two Esquimaux men come to me an da say dat de whaleboat he got stuck by de ice far up dare. And Tom Fetjen waved his hand northward.

Stuck in the ice? queried Chet.

Dat is what de Esquimaux men say. Da climb up de ice mountain an see him ship stuck fast, but go what you say him? float, yes, float up dat way, and again the trader pointed northward.

Do you mean that the Betsey Andrews got stuck in some floating ice, and was carried northward? asked Chet.

Yes, dat is eet. Nobody hear more of de whaleboat.

Where did you hear this?

Hear him at Etah, las summer.

How did the Esquimaux know it was the Betsey Andrews? asked Andy.

One Esquimau big chief, got glass to look. He see de capn who got de one arm. He try to git to ship, but tumble in water most drown heem. Den snowstorm come big an cant see de ship no more.

This was all the trader could tell. He was of the opinion, however, that the whaler had been finally crushed in the ice, and all those aboard had been lost.

But Chet would not believe this. He shut his teeth hard and looked at his chum.

Ive got to have positive proof before I give up, he said, in a voice that choked with sudden emotion.

Although the boys were not aware of it, Pep Loggermore and his crony did their best to follow them around Upernivik, hoping to place them in some position whereby it would be impossible to regain the ship. But, by mere chance, the boys kept out of the sailors way, and when the coaling was at an end, and the Ice King sailed, they were on the ship.

Let us try it again at Etah, said Loggermore to his crony.

As you please, Pep, answered the other. His hatred of the lads who had killed the geese had somewhat subsided. But Loggermore was as much against Andy and Chet as ever. He had it firmly fixed in his mind that if they were taken along, dire disaster would surely overtake the expedition.





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