First at the North Pole: or, Two Boys in the Arctic Circle
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“I’m afraid your game will have to wait. If you went for it now, you’d surely get lost. It is snowing furiously.”
What the professor said about the storm was true. The snow was accompanied by a high wind, which whistled loudly around the cabin. All of the party were glad enough to gather in front of the big open fireplace, for that was the one spot that was thoroughly warm.
As they sat around, Chet told in detail his story of the moose, and then the boys listened while Barwell Dawson and Professor Jeffer related some things that had happened to them when they had met in the far north.
“I should like exceedingly to take another trip to the polar regions,” said the professor. “The other trip was too short for me. I did not gain half the knowledge I desired.”
“I am going up there again,” answered Barwell Dawson, quietly.
“Ah, indeed! When?”
“As soon as my ship is ready for me.”
“Your ship? Are you equipping a ship?” demanded Professor Jeffer, while the boys listened in astonishment.
“I am. I have not said much about it as yet, for I did not want to excite public comment. But I am fitting out a ship for polar exploration.” And Barwell Dawson smiled quietly, as if fitting out such an expedition were an everyday occurrence.
“Why, really, you – you astonish me!” cried the professor. “This is most extraordinary, sir. Are you, may I ask, fitting out this ship yourself?”
“I am footing the bill, yes.”
“It will cost a large amount of money.”
“I guess I can afford it. I am fairly well-to-do, and last year an uncle died and left me several hundred thousand dollars.”
“I see – very good.” Professor Jeffer rubbed his hands together. “It is a grand thing to be able to gratify one’s wish in this manner. Now, I have a little money, but not enough to fit out such an expedition as you mention. Still, I’d like very much to go north again.”
“Could you stand the trip?”
“Me? Why, sir, I am as strong as iron, – you can ask Captain Welber about it. I withstood the cold and the hardships long after some of the others succumbed. I am a little weak just now – the effects of that foolhardy experiment, – but by tomorrow I’ll be as well and strong as ever. Why, sir, I can tramp twenty or thirty miles a day with ease, and I can go forty-eight hours without food if it is necessary.”
“Are you anything of a hunter?”
“Yes. Since I came to Maine I have done considerable shooting.”
“Indeed he has,” broke in Chet. “I’ve been with him, and I know of three first-class shots that he made.”
“Any one who is to go with me must be a good shot, and must be able to withstand great hardships,” pursued Barwell Dawson.
“How long do you expect to be gone?” asked Professor Jeffer, with increased interest.
“I don’t know exactly – perhaps two years.”
“Two years – in the land of ice and snow!” cried Andy. “That’s a pretty long trip.”
“Yes, but I have planned to do a great deal,” answered Barwell Dawson.“As I stated before, I don’t want to say too much about it yet, for if I do, I’ll have all sorts of curiosity seekers at my heels. If some folks knew what I had in mind to do, they’d be crazy to be taken along.”
“Well, I presume I am one of the crazy ones,” returned Professor Jeffer.
“With you, Professor, it is different. You have been to the far north, and know what to expect, – and besides, you are learned, and your knowledge might prove valuable.”
“Ah! then you will agree that I shall go?” demanded the scientist, eagerly.
“That depends. I have not told you all yet. I am going to the far north to hunt, but I am likewise going for something else – something of greater importance.”
“And that is?” asked the professor, while the boys listened in wonder.
“I am going to try to reach the North Pole.”
CHAPTER IX – SOMETHING ABOUT THE NORTH POLE
It was with much amazement that Andy and Chet, as well as Professor Upham Jeffer, listened to the words of Barwell Dawson.
“Going to try to reach the North Pole!” repeated Andy.
“It’s never been done – at least, not by anybody who came back alive,” said Chet.
“A grand project, nevertheless,” were Professor Jeffer’s words. “A truly grand project. But have you counted the cost? – I do not mean in money. It may cost you your life.”
“I shall be as careful in my plans as possible,” answered Barwell Dawson. His eyes lit up, and he arose to his feet. “I don’t mind telling you that to reach the North Pole has been my ambition ever since I first went hunting in the Arctic regions.”
“It has been the dream of many men,” said Professor Jeffer. “I once had the dream myself – I presume all those who go to the north have it.”
“It’s a good long journey from Maine,” said Andy.
“How do you expect to get there?” asked Chet. “You can’t take a ship that far, no matter how strongly she is built.”
“I shall do as the majority of North Pole explorers do,” was Barwell Dawson’s answer. “I shall sail as far north as the ship will go, then winter in the ice, and as soon as summer comes again, make a dash over the ice for the Pole with dogs, sledges, and Esquimaux.”
“It will assuredly be a grand trip,” said Professor Jeffer. “I envy you.”
“You would like to go with me?”
“Very much, sir. I have absolutely nothing to keep me here, being alone in the world.”
“Then, perhaps, it can be arranged.”
“I have here some books and maps relating to Polar discoveries,” continued the professor. “Perhaps you won’t mind pointing out on the maps what you hope to do.”
He brought from the bookcase several books and maps, and placed them on the table. The boys, who were sitting on the floor near the open fireplace, took them down and gazed at them with interest. Here was something that was surely new and novel.
“I have a larger map in my bedroom,” went on Professor Jeffer. “I’ll get that.”
While he was gone, the two boys and Mr. Dawson pored over the books and maps, and the hunter mentioned a place on one of the maps where he had once gone hunting.
“Here is the coast of Greenland,” he said, pointing it out. “I shall take my vessel up Baffin Bay as far as Cape York, and possibly to Etah, – and maybe further, if the ice will permit. There we shall have to spend the long Arctic night.”
“How long?” asked Andy.
“From October to February.”
“What, as long as that?” cried Chet. “Won’t there be any sun at all during that time?”
“No sunshine, but I think we can look for good moonlight, especially when the moon is full.”
“And how long is it going to take to get to the North Pole from Etah?” asked Andy. “That is, what do you calculate?”
“I haven’t any idea, excepting that I shall try to carry enough food to last for the entire summer. And I shall also do all the hunting possible, so long as there is any game in sight. I do not expect to find any in the vicinity of the Pole.”
“And what do you think is at the Pole?” questioned Chet.
“Ice and snow principally,” answered Barwell Dawson, smiling. “I do not look for anything out of the ordinary. It is only the honor of having been able to reach that point.”
“And a great honor it will be,” said Professor Jeffer, as he re-entered with another map.
“I suppose a whole lot of men have tried to reach the Pole,” said Chet.
“Yes, explorers from all over Europe as well as from America have tried their hand at it,” answered Barwell Dawson.
“One of the books I have here tells of the various American expeditions,” said Professor Jeffer, thumbing over a volume rapidly. “Ah, here it is. You ought to read it – it is very interesting.”
“I have read over the accounts many times, – trying to map out a route of my own,” said Barwell Dawson.
Then he told the boys of what had been done by various explorers to lift the mystery of the frozen north.
“One of the well-known Arctic explorers was Sir John Franklin, an Englishman,” said he. “Franklin was lost somewhere up north, and when he did not return, various expeditions were sent out for his relief. The first from America was that commanded by Lieutenant E. J. De Haven, of the United States Navy, in 1851. De Haven reached 78° N. He was followed, three years later, by Elisha Kent Kane, who sailed north by way of Smith Sound, and gained 80° 35’ N. lat.”
“How far was that from the Pole?” questioned Chet, whose knowledge of degrees and latitude was rather hazy.
“The highest degree is ninety, which is at the Pole,” explained the professor. “Roughly speaking, a degree of latitude is equal to seventy miles.”
“Then Kane was still nearly seven hundred miles from the Pole.”
“About six hundred and fifty.”
“After Kane,” continued Barwell Dawson, “Commodore John Rodgers commanded an expedition that went through Bering Strait and reached Herald Island, at 71° 18’ N. lat. Then, in 1860, Isaac L. Hayes reached Grinnell Land, at Cape Joseph Goode, and from 1860 to 1869 Charles F. Hall explored the Cumberland Gulf, and reached the Polar Sea northwest of Greenland, in 82° 11’ N.”
“That was crawling a little closer,” was Andy’s comment.
“After that, explorations were made by Lieutenant P. H. Ray, Lieutenant G. A. Doane, and Commander George W. De Long, all of the government service. The latter explored the Arctic Ocean to the coast of Asia. Then followed the International Polar Expedition, under Lieutenant, afterwards General, A. W. Greely, of the United States Army. This expedition reached a point north of 83° 24’.”
“What about Peary?” asked Chet. “I know he is a great polar explorer.”
“I was going to speak of him,” answered Barwell Dawson. “Commander Robert E. Peary is the greatest Polar explorer we have had. He has been at it since 1892, and during that time he has covered the entire northern portion of Greenland, the northern portion of Grinnell Land, and a goodly portion of the Arctic Ocean. On April 21, 1906, he managed to reach 87° 6’ N. lat., – within less than two hundred miles of the Pole.”
“It’s a pity he couldn’t make the two hundred miles – after going so far,” was Andy’s comment.
“He is now fitting out another expedition,” said Professor Jeffer. “I believe he will keep at it until he gains the Pole.”
“There have been numerous other expeditions, under Walter Wellman, Robert Stein, A. P. Low, E. P. Baldwin, and some Canadian explorers,” continued Mr. Dawson, “but nobody has been able to equal Commander Peary’s record.”
“It’s a wonder that somebody doesn’t try to reach the Pole with an airship,” said Chet.
“One explorer intends to try that. A European explorer, Andree, once went up from Spitzbergen in a balloon, and he was never heard of again. It’s a dangerous piece of business, for one cannot tell where one is going to land, and to get much in the way of supplies in that forsaken portion of the globe is out of the question.”
“Maybe somebody will reach the Pole with an aeroplane,” suggested Andy.
“Not all the exploring has been done by the Americans,” resumed Barwell Dawson. “One of the greatest foreign explorers was Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian. He made a memorable voyage in a vessel named the Fram, and managed to reach 86° 14’ N. lat.”
“Almost as high as Commander Peary got,” cried Chet.
“Another explorer of note was the Duke of the Abruzzi, an Italian, who sailed for Franz Josef Land and wintered at Teplitz Bay, in 1899 and 1900. The Duke managed to reach 86° 33’ N. lat., thus doing a trifle better than Nansen.”
“Good for the Duke,” said Chet.
“You certainly know a lot about the Pole,” said Andy, admiringly. “You’ve got it on your fingers’ ends.”
“Ever since I took the question up seriously I have read everything I could find on the subject,” answered Barwell Dawson. “I do not intend to go at this in a haphazard fashion. My ship is going to be fitted out with the best possible care, – re?nforced throughout the entire hull to resist the ice pressure, – and I shall pick my crew from among the strongest and bravest fellows I can find. To take a weakling on board would be foolhardy, for he could never stand the cold.”
“I suppose it is much colder than here in Maine,” said Chet.
“Yes, although not always. Even in upper Greenland the weather is at times comparatively mild. The worst time is the Long Night, as it is termed. Then, it is not only bitterly cold, but darkness is apt to take the heart out of a fellow. Some men cannot stand the night at all, and nearly go crazy, but I have never been affected that way.”
“Give me a good lamp and I shall not mind it,” said Professor Jeffer. “I would spend the time in profitable reading, or in writing a book or magazine article.”
“When you were up there hunting, did you sail along the Greenland coast?” asked Chet, suddenly.
“Did you ever meet any whalers?”
“Oh, yes, quite a number. Some of them go north quite a distance. They have to sail many miles to get the right kind of whales.”
“Did you – did you ever meet a whaler named the Betsey Andrews?”
“The Betsey Andrews?” mused Barwell Dawson. “Where was she from?”
“From New Bedford, Captain Jacob Spark.”
“Why, yes, I did. What do you know of her?”
“I don’t know much, excepting that my father sailed on her some years ago, and the vessel has failed to come back – so far as I know.”
“That’s too bad. So far as I can remember, the ship was all right when I saw her. If I remember rightly, however, our captain said he thought she was pretty far north for a whaler.”
“Do you think she was wrecked in a storm?”
“I don’t know. We did have some pretty fierce storms just before I landed to go hunting. I know one storm came up right after a dense fog, and it nearly ran us into a tremendous iceberg.
“Maybe an iceberg sunk the Betsey Andrews,” said Chet, and his voice quivered a little in spite of his effort to control himself.
“Have you made inquiries about the whaler lately?” asked Professor Jeffer. “You know there is a regular record kept of all marine disasters.”
“I didn’t know where to go – or who to write to,” answered Chet. “I hated to bother strangers.”
“But you want to find your father, don’t you?” asked Barwell Dawson.
“Oh, very much!”
“Then we’ll have to look into this matter – when this storm clears away, and we are able to get out of here.”
After that the hunter questioned Chet about his parent, and the youth told him how his father had shipped aboard the whaler. He did not mention that Tolney Greene had disappeared under a cloud, as it did not seem necessary, and Chet wanted to avoid anything that was so unpleasant.
Following this, Barwell Dawson told more of his proposed trip north. Now that he had revealed what was on his mind, he was very enthusiastic, and he communicated a great deal of his enthusiasm to his listeners.
“You must take me along!” cried Professor Jeffer. “I will pay my way – that is, so far as I am able, – and I will promise not to be a hindrance. You’ll certainly want one scientist on your expedition, even though it is not what you might term a scientific expedition.”
“I will give the matter every consideration,” answered Barwell Dawson, “and if I can possibly arrange it, you shall become one of the party.”
“How many will there be?” asked Chet.
“Outside of the captain and the crew, I do not expect to carry more than five or six men. Of course, up in Greenland, I shall hire a number of Esquimaux, to do some hunting for me, and to manage the dogs and sledges.”
Chet said no more just then. But he was wondering if it would aid him to find his father if he should join this expedition to the frozen north.
“I’d be willing to suffer anything – if only I could learn where dad was,” he told Andy, afterwards.
CHAPTER X – BRINGING IN SOME GAME
The snowstorm proved such a heavy one that for three days the party at Professor Jeffer’s cabin were completely stormbound. Once Andy and Chet went out – in an endeavor to bring the dead moose in, but were unable to accomplish their object.
During the time spent at the cabin, the boys became very well acquainted with Barwell Dawson, and found the hunter and explorer a person very much to their liking. Although he was rich and well educated, he did not act as if he considered himself above them. He took a lively interest in all they had to tell, and knew how to “draw them out,” so that, almost before he knew it, Andy had related the details of his troubles with his shiftless Uncle Si and with the mysterious Mr. A. Q. Hopton.
“More than likely that fellow, Hopton, will bear close watching,” said Barwell Dawson. “If he is a sharper – and it looks as if he might be – he will try to swindle both you and your uncle. It was very unwise for your uncle to try to do business with him without seeing a lawyer.”
“Uncle Si wanted to get the money without my knowing it,” answered Andy, bitterly. He was glad to open his heart to somebody who could understand him.
“I believe you – and that is not to your uncle’s credit. You say he is shiftless and lazy?”
“Very – and everybody around here knows it.”
“Then he is not fit to be your guardian.”
“I don’t believe he is, legally. He just said he was going to be, that’s all.”
“Well, that doesn’t make him so,” answered the hunter, with a grim smile.
With Andy he went over the papers the boy had brought from home. They seemed to prove that the lad’s father owned a divided interest in a large tract of timber in the upper portion of Michigan. The papers had evidently been drawn up by somebody who knew very little about legal matters, and the phraseology was highly perplexing. After poring over them for an hour, and asking Professor Jeffer’s advice, Barwell Dawson shook his head slowly.
“I think it is an honest claim, and in your father’s favor,” he said. “But it will take a skillful lawyer to unravel it. Certainly your father bought something, and paid for it, for here are the words, ‘one thousand dollars, the receipt of which from Andrew S. Graham is hereby admitted.’ The writer meant ‘acknowledged,’ but I guess ‘admitted’ is good enough.”
“I was going to take it to a lawyer in Lodgeport.”
“Is he a reliable man, Andy?”
“I don’t know – I suppose so.”
“Well, supposing you let me look into this matter with you? I am in no hurry to get away from these parts, and I feel that you ought to let me do something in return for what you and Chet did for me.”
“I’ll be very glad to have your help, Mr. Dawson – if you can spare the time.”
“I hope the claim proves of value – for I take you to be the kind of a lad who deserves to get along,” said Barwell Dawson, smiling.
During the time spent in the cabin, Barwell Dawson and Professor Jeffer discussed the trip to the far north in many details, and the hunter even traced out an imaginary route on one of the scientist’s maps. Both men were equally enthusiastic, and after Mr. Dawson had asked the professor some more questions about himself, he at last consented that the latter should become one of the exploring party.
“But remember,” he said, impressively; “if you suffer great hardships or lose your life, nobody must blame me.”
“Trust me; no one will be blamed but myself,” answered Professor Jeffer, with equal gravity. Then his face beamed. “It will be a wonderful trip, wonderful! And we shall see so many new things, – make so many interesting discoveries! I shall take along a set of the best instruments available, and make all sorts of observations. Such a record alone will be worth all it costs to get it.”
“I do not doubt it, Professor.”
“And then the fame – think of it, the fame! Why, sir, if we succeed in gaining the North Pole, – or even if we succeed in going above Commander Peary’s highest mark, latitude 87° 6’, – it will be something for the entire civilized world to know.”
“From today on I shall go into the hardest kind of training,” continued Professor Jeffer. “I shall fit myself to withstand the most intense hunger and the most intense cold. It is the only way.”
“It is certainly a good idea,” answered Barwell Dawson. “It won’t do to go up north ‘soft,’ as they call it.”
On the morning of the fourth day it cleared, and Andy and Chet decided to go out once more after the moose. Mr. Dawson’s ankle was now well, but he did not want to try walking a long distance on it just yet.
“You can get your game today,” he said, “and we can start for Lodgeport tomorrow. There I’ll see that lawyer for Andy, and then I’ll try to return to my camp back of Moose Ridge, and see what the storm did to it.”
“If you want me to, I’ll go back to the Ridge with you,” said Chet. “I haven’t anything else to do, now that I can’t get work at one of the lumber camps.”
“Very well, I’ll be glad of your company.”
Andy and Chet were soon on their way to where the latter had left the moose. Fortunately they had been able to borrow snow-shoes from Professor Jeffer, who owned several pairs. Both lads knew how to use the articles, and glided over the newly fallen snow with ease.
“Just imagine we were bound for the North Pole!” cried Andy. “Wouldn’t it be great!”
“I’d like to look for my father, Andy,” and Chet’s face clouded.
“Oh, Chet, I’m sorry I spoke – I didn’t want to remind you – ”
“Oh, it’s all right, Andy. If I don’t hear from my father soon, I’d like first-rate to go north with Mr. Dawson’s expedition.”
“I don’t think he’d want to bother with boys.”
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