"A Voyage to the Inner World"
With Illustrations by JOHN A. WILLIAMS
Part II — Olaf Jansen's Story
Part III — Beyond the North Wind
Part IV — In the Under World
Part V — Among the Ice Packs
Part VI — Conclusion
Part VII — Author's Afterward
Part I — Author's Foreword
Marco Polo will doubtless shift uneasily in his grave at the strange story I am called upon to chronicle; a story as strange as a Munchausen tale. It is also incongruous that I, a disbeliever, should be the one to edit the story of Olaf Jansen, whose name is now for the first time given to the world, yet who must hereafter rank as one of the notables of earth.
I freely confess his statements admit of no rational analysis, but have to do with the profound mystery concerning the frozen North that for centuries has claimed the attention of scientists and laymen alike.
However much they are at variance with the cosmographical manuscripts of the past, these plain statements may be relied upon as a record of the things Olaf Jansen claims to have seen with his own eyes.
A hundred times I have asked myself whether it is possible that the world's geography is incomplete, and that the startling narrative of Olaf Jansen is predicated upon demonstrable facts. The reader may be able to answer these queries to his own satisfaction, however far the chronicler of this narrative may be from having reached a conviction. Yet sometimes even I am at a loss to know whether I have been led away from an abstract truth by the ignes fatui of a clever superstition, or whether heretofore accepted facts are, after all, founded upon falsity.
It may be that the true home of Apollo was not at Delphi, but in that older earth-center of which Plato speaks, where he says: "Apollo's real home is among the Hyperboreans, in a land of perpetual life, where mythology tells us two doves flying from the two opposite ends of the world met in this fair region, the home of Apollo. Indeed, according to Hecataeus, Leto, the mother of Apollo, was born on an island in the Arctic Ocean far beyond the North Wind."
It is not my intention to attempt a discussion of the theogony of the deities nor the cosmogony of the world. My simple duty is to enlighten the world concerning a heretofore unknown portion of the universe, as it was seen and described by the old Norseman, Olaf Jansen.
Interest in northern research is international. Eleven nations are engaged in, or have contributed to, the perilous work of trying to solve Earth's one remaining cosmological mystery.
There is a saying, ancient as the hills, that "truth is stranger than fiction," and in a most startling manner has this axiom been brought home to me within the last fortnight.
It was just two o'clock in the morning when I was aroused from a restful sleep by the vigorous ringing of my door-bell. The untimely disturber proved to be a messenger bearing a note, scrawled almost to the point of illegibility, from an old Norseman by the name of Olaf Jansen. After much deciphering, I made out the writing, which simply said: "Am ill unto death. Come." The call was imperative, and I lost no time in making ready to comply.
Perhaps I may as well explain here that Olaf Jansen, a man who quite recently celebrated his ninety-fifth birthday, has for the last half-dozen years been living alone in an unpretentious bungalow out Glendale way, a short distance from the business district of Los Angeles, California.
It was less than two years ago, while out walking one afternoon that I was attracted by Olaf Jansen's house and its homelike surroundings, toward its owner and occupant, whom I afterward came to know as a believer in the ancient worship of Odin and Thor.
There was a gentleness in his face, and a kindly expression in the keenly alert gray eyes of this man who had lived more than four-score years and ten; and, withal, a sense of loneliness that appealed to my sympathy. Slightly stooped, and with his hands clasped behind him, he walked back and forth with slow and measured tread, that day when first we met. I can hardly say what particular motive impelled me to pause in my walk and engage him in conversation. He seemed pleased when I complimented him on the attractiveness of his bungalow, and on the well-tended vines and flowers clustering in profusion over its windows, roof and wide piazza.
I soon discovered that my new acquaintance was no ordinary person, but one profound and learned to a remarkable degree; a man who, in the later years of his long life, had dug deeply into books and become strong in the power of meditative silence.
I encouraged him to talk, and soon gathered that he had resided only six or seven years in Southern California, but had passed the dozen years prior in one of the middle Eastern states. Before that he had been a fisherman off the coast of Norway, in the region of the Lofoden Islands, from whence he had made trips still farther north to Spitzbergen and even to Franz Josef Land.
When I started to take my leave, he seemed reluctant to have me go, and asked me to come again. Although at the time I thought nothing of it, I remember now that he made a peculiar remark as I extended my hand in leave-taking. "You will come again?" he asked. "Yes, you will come again someday. I am sure you will; and I shall show you my library and tell you many things of which you have never dreamed, things so wonderful that it may be you will not believe me."
I laughingly assured him that I would not only come again, but would be ready to believe whatever he might choose to tell me of his travels and adventures.
In the days that followed I became well acquainted with Olaf Jansen, and, little by little, he told me his story, so marvelous, that its very daring challenges reason and belief. The old Norseman always expressed himself with so much earnestness and sincerity that I became enthralled by his strange narrations.
Then came the messenger's call that night, and within the hour I was at Olaf Jansen's bungalow.
He was very impatient at the long wait, although after being summoned I had come immediately to his bedside.
"I must hasten," he exclaimed, while yet he held my hand in greeting. "I have much to tell you that you know not, and I will trust no one but you. I fully realize," he went on hurriedly, "that I shall not survive the night. The time has come to join my fathers in the great sleep."
I adjusted the pillows to make him more comfortable, and assured him I was glad to be able to serve him in any way possible, for I was beginning to realize the seriousness of his condition.
The lateness of the hour, the stillness of the surroundings, the uncanny feeling of being alone with the dying man, together with his weird story, all combined to make my heart beat fast and loud with a feeling for which I have no name. Indeed, there were many times that night by the old Norseman's couch, and there have been many times since, when a sensation rather than a conviction took possession of my very soul, and I seemed not only to believe in, but actually see, the strange lands, the strange people and the strange world of which he told, and to hear the mighty orchestral chorus of a thousand lusty voices.
For over two hours he seemed endowed with almost superhuman strength, talking rapidly, and to all appearances, rationally. Finally he gave into my hands certain data, drawings and crude maps. "These," said he in conclusion, "I leave in your hands. If I can have your promise to give them to the world, I shall die happy, because I desire that people may know the truth, for then all mystery concerning the frozen Northland will be explained. There is no chance of your suffering the fate I suffered. They will not put you in irons, nor confine you in a mad-house, because you are not telling your own story, but mine, and I, thanks to the gods, Odin and Thor, will be in my grave, and so beyond the reach of disbelievers who would persecute."
Without a thought of the farreaching results the promise entailed, or foreseeing the many sleepless nights which the obligation has since brought me, I gave my hand and with it a pledge to discharge faithfully his dying wish.
As the sun rose over the peaks of the San Jacinto, far to the eastward, the spirit of Olaf Jansen, the navigator, the explorer and worshiper of Odin and Thor, the man whose experiences and travels, as related, are without a parallel in all the world's history, passed away, and I was left alone with the dead.
And now, after having paid the last sad rites to this strange man from the Lofoden Islands, and the still farther "Northward Ho!", the courageous explorer of frozen regions, who in his declining years (after he had passed the four-score mark) had sought an asylum of restful peace in sun-favored California, I will undertake to make public his story.
But, first of all, let me indulge in one or two reflections: Generation follows generation, and the traditions from the misty past are handed down from sire to son, but for some strange reason interest in the ice-locked unknown does not abate with the receding years, either in the minds of the ignorant or the tutored.
With each new generation a restless impulse stirs the hearts of men to capture the veiled citadel of the Arctic, the circle of silence, the land of glaciers, cold wastes of waters and winds that are strangely warm. Increasing interest is manifested in the mountainous icebergs, and marvelous speculations are indulged in concerning the earth's center of gravity, the cradle of the tides, where the whales have their nurseries, where the magnetic needle goes mad, where the Aurora Borealis illumines the night, and where brave and courageous spirits of every generation dare to venture and explore, defying the dangers of the "Farthest North."
One of the ablest works of recent years is "Paradise Found, or the Cradle of The Human Race at the North Pole," by William F. Warren. In his carefully prepared volume, Mr. Warren almost stubbed his toe against the real truth, but missed it seemingly by only a hair's breadth, if the old Norseman's revelation be true.
Dr. Orville Livingston Leech, scientist, in a recent article, says: "The possibilities of a land inside the earth were first brought to my attention when I picked up a geode on the shores of the Great Lakes. The geode is a spherical and apparently solid stone, but when broken is found to be hollow and coated with crystals. The earth is only a larger form of a geode, and the law that created the geode in its hollow form undoubtedly fashioned the earth in the same way."
In presenting the theme of this almost incredible story, as told by Olaf Jansen, and supplemented by manuscript, maps and crude drawings entrusted to me, a fitting introduction is found in the following quotation: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form and void." And also, "God created man in his own image." Therefore, even in things material, man must be God-like, because he is created in the likeness of the Father.
A man builds a house for himself and family. The porches or verandas are all without, and are secondary. The building is really constructed for the conveniences within.
Olaf Jansen makes the startling announcement through me, an humble instrument, that in like manner, God created the earth for the "within" -- that is to say, for its lands, seas, rivers, mountains, forests and valleys, and for its other internal conveniences, while the outside surface of the earth is merely the veranda, the porch, where things grow by comparison but sparsely, like the lichen on the mountain side, clinging determinedly for bare existence.
Take an egg-shell, and from each end break out a piece as large as the end of this pencil. Extract its contents, and then you will have a perfect representation of Olaf Jansen's earth. The distance from the inside surface to the outside surface, according to him, is about three hundred miles. The center of gravity is not in the center of the earth, but in the center of the shell or crust; therefore, if the thickness of the earth's crust or shell is three hundred miles, the center of gravity is one hundred and fifty miles below the surface.
In their log-books Arctic explorers tell us of the dipping of the needle as the vessel sails in regions of the farthest north known. In reality, they are at the curve; on the edge of the shell, where gravity is geometrically increased, and while the electric current seemingly dashes off into space toward the phantom idea of the North Pole, yet this same electric current drops again and continues its course southward along the inside surface of the earth's crust.
In the appendix to his work, Captain Sabine gives an account of experiments to determine the acceleration of the pendulum in different latitudes. This appears to have resulted from the joint labor of Peary and Sabine. He says: "The accidental discovery that a pendulum on being removed from Paris to the neighborhood of the equator increased its time of vibration, gave the first step to our present knowledge that the polar axis of the globe is less than the equatorial; that the force of gravity at the surface of the earth increases progressively from the equator toward the poles."
According to Olaf Jansen, in the beginning this old world of ours was created solely for the "within" world, where are located the four great rivers — the Euphrates, the Pison, the Gihon and the Hiddekel. These same names of rivers, when applied to streams on the "outside" surface of the earth, are purely traditional from an antiquity beyond the memory of man.
On the top of a high mountain, near the fountain-head of these four rivers, Olaf Jansen, the Norseman, claims to have discovered the long-lost "Garden of Eden," the veritable navel of the earth, and to have spent over two years studying and reconnoitering in this marvelous "within" land, exuberant with stupendous plant life and abounding in giant animals; a land where the people live to be centuries old, after the order of Methuselah and other Biblical characters; a region where one-quarter of the "inner" surface is water and three-quarters land; where there are large oceans and many rivers and lakes; where the cities are superlative in construction and magnificence; where modes of transportation are as far in advance of ours as we with our boasted achievements are in advance of the inhabitants of "darkest Africa."
The distance directly across the space from inner surface to inner surface is about six hundred miles less than the recognized diameter of the earth. In the identical center of this vast vacuum is the seat of electricity — a mammoth ball of dull red fire — not startlingly brilliant, but surrounded by a white, mild, luminous cloud, giving out uniform warmth, and held in its place in the center of this internal space by the immutable law of gravitation. This electrical cloud is known to the people "within" as the abode of "The Smoky God." They believe it to be the throne of "The Most High."
Olaf Jansen reminded me of how, in the old college days, we were all familiar with the laboratory demonstrations of centrifugal motion, which clearly proved that, if the earth were a solid, the rapidity of its revolution upon its axis would tear it into a thousand fragments.
The old Norseman also maintained that from the farthest points of land on the islands of Spitzbergen and Franz Josef Land, flocks of geese may be seen annually flying still farther northward, just as the sailors and explorers record in their log-books. No scientist has yet been audacious enough to attempt to explain, even to his own satisfaction, toward what lands these winged fowls are guided by their subtle instinct. However, Olaf Jansen has given us a most reasonable explanation.
The presence of the open sea in the Northland is also explained. Olaf Jansen claims that the northern aperture, intake or hole, so to speak, is about fourteen hundred miles across. In connection with this, let us read what Explorer Nansen writes, on page 288 of his book: "I have never had such a splendid sail. On to the north, steadily north, with a good wind, as fast as steam and sail can take us, an open sea mile after mile, watch after watch, through these unknown regions, always clearer and clearer of ice, one might almost say: 'How long will it last?' The eye always turns to the northward as one paces the bridge. It is gazing into the future. But there is always the same dark sky ahead which means open sea." Again, the Norwood Review of England, in its issue of May 10, 1884, says: "We do not admit that there is ice up to the Pole — once inside the great ice barrier, a new world breaks upon the explorer, the climate is mild like that of England, and, afterward, balmy as the Greek Isles."
Some of the rivers "within," Olaf Jansen claims, are larger than our Mississippi and Amazon rivers combined, in point of volume of water carried; indeed their greatness is occasioned by their width and depth rather than their length, and it is at the mouths of these mighty rivers, as they flow northward and southward along the inside surface of the earth, that mammoth icebergs are found, some of them fifteen and twenty miles wide and from forty to one hundred miles in length.
Is it not strange that there has never been an iceberg encountered either in the Arctic or Antarctic Ocean that is not composed of fresh water? Modern scientists claim that freezing eliminates the salt, but Olaf Jansen claims differently.
Ancient Hindoo, Japanese and Chinese writings, as well as the hieroglyphics of the extinct races of the North American continent, all speak of the custom of sun-worshiping, and it is possible, in the startling light of Olaf Jansen's revelations, that the people of the inner world, lured away by glimpses of the sun as it shone upon the inner surface of the earth, either from the northern or the southern opening, became dissatisfied with "The Smoky God," the great pillar or mother cloud of electricity, and, weary of their continuously mild and pleasant atmosphere, followed the brighter light, and were finally led beyond the ice belt and scattered over the "outer" surface of the earth, through Asia, Europe, North America and, later, Africa, Australia and South America.
It is a notable fact that, as we approach the Equator, the stature of the human race grows less. But the Patagonians of South America are probably the only aborigines from the center of the earth who came out through the aperture usually designated as the South Pole, and they are called the giant race.
Olaf Jansen avers that, in the beginning, the world was created by the Great Architect of the Universe, so that man might dwell upon its "inside" surface, which has ever since been the habitation of the "chosen."
They who were driven out of the "Garden of Eden" brought their traditional history with them.
The history of the people living "within" contains a narrative suggesting the story of Noah and the ark with which we are familiar. He sailed away, as did Columbus, from a certain port, to a strange land he had heard of far to the northward, carrying with him all manner of beasts of the fields and fowls of the air, but was never heard of afterward.
On the northern boundaries of Alaska, and still more frequently on the Siberian coast, are found boneyards containing tusks of ivory in quantities so great as to suggest the burying-places of antiquity. From Olaf Jansen's account, they have come from the great prolific animal life that abounds in the fields and forests and on the banks of numerous rivers of the Inner World. The materials were caught in the ocean currents, or were carried on ice-floes, and have accumulated like driftwood on the Siberian coast. This has been going on for ages, and hence these mysterious bone-yards.
On this subject William F. Warren, in his book already cited, pages 297 and 298, says: "The Arctic rocks tell of a lost Atlantis more wonderful than Plato's. The fossil ivory beds of Siberia excel everything of the kind in the world. From the days of Pliny, at least, they have constantly been undergoing exploitation, and still they are the chief headquarters of supply. The remains of mammoths are so abundant that, as Gratacap says, 'the northern islands of Siberia seem built up of crowded bones.' Another scientific writer, speaking of the islands of New Siberia, northward of the mouth of the River Lena, uses this language: 'Large quantities of ivory are dug out of the ground every year. Indeed, some of the islands are believed to be nothing but an accumulation of drift-timber and the bodies of mammoths and other antediluvian animals frozen together.' From this we may infer that, during the years that have elapsed since the Russian conquest of Siberia, useful tusks from more than twenty thousand mammoths have been collected."
But now for the story of Olaf Jansen. I give it in detail, as set down by himself in manuscript, and woven into the tale, just as he placed them, are certain quotations from recent works on Arctic exploration, showing how carefully the old Norseman compared with his own experiences those of other voyagers to the frozen North. Thus wrote the disciple of Odin and Thor:
Part II — Olaf Jansen's Story
My parents were on a fishing cruise in the Gulf of Bothnia, and put into this Russian town of Uleaborg at the time of my birth, being the twenty-seventh day of October, 1811.
My father, Jens Jansen, was born at Rodwig on the Scandinavian coast, near the Lofoden Islands, but after marrying made his home at Stockholm, because my mother's people resided in that city. When seven years old, I began going with my father on his fishing trips along the Scandinavian coast.
Early in life I displayed an aptitude for books, and at the age of nine years was placed in a private school in Stockholm, remaining there until I was fourteen. After this I made regular trips with my father on all his fishing voyages.
My father was a man fully six feet three in height, and weighed over fifteen stone, a typical Norseman of the most rugged sort, and capable of more endurance than any other man I have ever known. He possessed the gentleness of a woman in tender little ways, yet his determination and will-power were beyond description. His will admitted of no defeat.
I was in my nineteenth year when we started on what proved to be our last trip as fishermen, and which resulted in the strange story that shall be given to the world, — but not until I have finished my earthly pilgrimage.
I dare not allow the facts as I know them to be published while I am living, for fear of further humiliation, confinement and suffering. First of all, I was put in irons by the captain of the whaling vessel that rescued me, for no other reason than that I told the truth about the marvelous discoveries made by my father and myself. But this was far from being the end of my tortures.
After four years and eight months' absence I reached Stockholm, only to find my mother had died the previous year, and the property left by my parents in the possession of my mother's people, but it was at once made over to me.
All might have been well, had I erased from my memory the story of our adventure and of my father's terrible death.
Finally, one day I told the story in detail to my uncle, Gustaf Osterlind, a man of considerable property, and urged him to fit out an expedition for me to make another voyage to the strange land.
At first I thought he favored my project. He seemed interested, and invited me to go before certain officials and explain to them, as I had to him, the story of our travels and discoveries. Imagine my disappointment and horror when, upon the conclusion of my narrative, certain papers were signed by my uncle, and, without warning, I found myself arrested and hurried away to dismal and fearful confinement in a madhouse, where I remained for twenty-eight years -- long, tedious, frightful years of suffering!
I never ceased to assert my sanity, and to protest against the injustice of my confinement. Finally, on the seventeenth of October, 1862, I was released. My uncle was dead, and the friends of my youth were now strangers. Indeed, a man over fifty years old, whose only known record is that of a madman, has no friends.
I was at a loss to know what to do for a living, but instinctively turned toward the harbor where fishing boats in great numbers were anchored, and within a week I had shipped with a fisherman by the name of Yan Hansen, who was starting on a long fishing cruise to the Lofoden Islands.
Here my earlier years of training proved of the very greatest advantage, especially in enabling me to make myself useful. This was but the beginning of other trips, and by frugal economy I was, in a few years, able to own a fishing-brig of my own. For twenty-seven years thereafter I followed the sea as a fisherman, five years working for others, and the last twenty-two for myself.
During all these years I was a most diligent student of books, as well as a hard worker at my business, but I took great care not to mention to anyone the story concerning the discoveries made by my father and myself. Even at this late day I would be fearful of having any one see or know the things I am writing, and the records and maps I have in my keeping. When my days on earth are finished, I shall leave maps and records that will enlighten and, I hope, benefit mankind.
The memory of my long confinement with maniacs, and all the horrible anguish and sufferings are too vivid to warrant my taking further chances.
In 1889 I sold out my fishing boats, and found I had accumulated a fortune quite sufficient to keep me the remainder of my life. I then came to America.
For a dozen years my home was in Illinois, near Batavia, where I gathered most of the books in my present library, though I brought many choice volumes from Stockholm. Later, I came to Los Angeles, arriving here March 4, 1901. The date I well remember, as it was President McKinley's second inauguration day. I bought this humble home and determined, here in the privacy of my own abode, sheltered by my own vine and fig-tree, and with my books about me, to make maps and drawings of the new lands we had discovered, and also to write the story in detail from the time my father and I left Stockholm until the tragic event that parted us in the Antarctic Ocean.
I well remember that we left Stockholm in our fishing-sloop on the third day of April, 1829, and sailed to the southward, leaving Gothland Island to the left and Oeland Island to the right. A few days later we succeeded in doubling Sandhommar Point, and made our way through the sound which separates Denmark from the Scandinavian coast. In due time we put in at the town of Christiansand, where we rested two days, and then started around the Scandinavian coast to the westward, bound for the Lofoden Islands.
My father was in high spirit, because of the excellent and gratifying returns he had received from our last catch by marketing at Stockholm, instead of selling at one of the seafaring towns along the Scandinavian coast. He was especially pleased with the sale of some ivory tusks that he had found on the west coast of Franz Joseph Land during one of his northern cruises the previous year, and he expressed the hope that this time we might again be fortunate enough to load our little fishing-sloop with ivory, instead of cod, herring, mackerel and salmon.
We put in at Hammerfest, latitude seventy-one degrees and forty minutes, for a few days' rest. Here we remained one week, laying in an extra supply of provisions and several casks of drinking-water, and then sailed toward Spitzbergen.
For the first few days we had an open sea and a favoring wind, and then we encountered much ice and many icebergs. A vessel larger than our little fishing-sloop could not possibly have threaded its way among the labyrinth of icebergs or squeezed through the barely open channels. These monster bergs presented an endless succession of crystal palaces, of massive cathedrals and fantastic mountain ranges, grim and sentinel-like, immovable as some towering cliff of solid rock, standing; silent as a sphinx, resisting the restless waves of a fretful sea.
After many narrow escapes, we arrived at Spitzbergen on the 23d of June, and anchored at Wijade Bay for a short time, where we were quite successful in our catches. We then lifted anchor and sailed through the Hinlopen Strait, and coasted along the North-East-
A strong wind came up from the southwest, and my father said that we had better take advantage of it and try to reach Franz Josef Land, where, the year before he had, by accident, found the ivory tusks that had brought him such a good price at Stockholm.
Never, before or since, have I seen so many sea-fowl; they were so numerous that they hid the rocks on the coast line and darkened the sky.
For several days we sailed along the rocky coast of Franz Josef Land. Finally, a favoring wind came up that enabled us to make the West Coast, and, after sailing twenty-four hours, we came to a beautiful inlet.
One could hardly believe it was the far Northland. The place was green with growing vegetation, and while the area did not comprise more than one or two acres, yet the air was warm and tranquil. It seemed to be at that point where the Gulf Stream's influence is most keenly felt.
On the east coast there were numerous icebergs, yet here we were in open water. Far to the west of us, however, were icepacks, and still farther to the westward the ice appeared like ranges of low hills. In front of us, and directly to the north, lay an open sea.
My father was an ardent believer in Odin and Thor, and had frequently told me they were gods who came from far beyond the "North Wind."
There was a tradition, my father explained, that still farther northward was a land more beautiful than any that mortal man had ever known, and that it was inhabited by the "Chosen."
My youthful imagination was fired by the ardor, zeal and religious fervor of my good father, and I exclaimed: "Why not sail to this goodly land? The sky is fair, the wind favorable and the sea open."
Even now I can see the expression of pleasurable surprise on his countenance as he turned toward me and asked: "My son, are you willing to go with me and explore -- to go far beyond where man has ever ventured?" I answered affirmatively. "Very well," he replied. "May the god Odin protect us!" and, quickly adjusting the sails, he glanced at our compass, turned the prow in due northerly direction through an open channel, and our voyage had begun.
The sun was low in the horizon, as it was still the early summer. Indeed, we had almost four months of day ahead of us before the frozen night could come on again.
Our little fishing-sloop sprang forward as if eager as ourselves for adventure. Within thirty-six hours we were out of sight of the highest point on the coast line of Franz Josef Land. "We seemed to be in a strong current running north by northeast. Far to the right and to the left of us were icebergs, but our little sloop bore down on the narrows and passed through channels and out into open seas -- channels so narrow in places that, had our craft been other than small, we never could have gotten through.
On the third day we came to an island. Its shores were washed by an open sea. My father determined to land and explore for a day. This new land was destitute of timber, but we found a large accumulation of drift-wood on the northern shore. Some of the trunks of the trees were forty feet long and two feet in diameter.
After one day's exploration of the coast line of this island, we lifted anchor and turned our prow to the north in an open sea.
I remember that neither my father nor myself had tasted food for almost thirty hours. Perhaps this was because of the tension of excitement about our strange voyage in waters farther north, my father said, than anyone had ever before been. Active mentality had dulled the demands of the physical needs.
Instead of the cold being intense as we had anticipated, it was really warmer and more pleasant than it had been while in Hammerfest on the north coast of Norway, some six weeks before.
We both frankly admitted that we were very hungry, and forthwith I prepared a substantial meal from our well-stored larder. When we had partaken heartily of the repast, I told my father I believed I would sleep, as I was beginning to feel quite drowsy. "Very well," he replied, "I will keep the watch."
A fierce snow-storm was raging. The wind was directly astern, driving our sloop at a terrific speed, and was threatening every moment to capsize us. There was no time to lose, the sails had to be lowered immediately. Our boat was writhing in convulsions. A few icebergs we knew were on either side of us, but fortunately the channel was open directly to the north. But would it remain so? In front of us, girding the horizon from left to right, was a vaporish fog or mist, black as Egyptian night at the water's edge, and white like a steam-cloud toward the top, which was finally lost to view as it blended with the great white flakes of falling snow. Whether it covered a treacherous iceberg, or some other hidden obstacle against which our little sloop would dash and send us to a watery grave, or was merely the phenomenon of an Arctic fog, there was no way to determine.
By what miracle we escaped being dashed to utter destruction, I do not know. I remember our little craft creaked and groaned, as if its joints were breaking. It rocked and staggered to and fro as if clutched by some fierce undertow of whirlpool or maelstrom.
Fortunately our compass had been fastened with long screws to a crossbeam. Most of our provisions, however, were tumbled out and swept away from the deck of the cuddy, and had we not taken the precaution at the very beginning to tie ourselves firmly to the masts of the sloop, we should have been swept into the lashing sea.
Above the deafening tumult of the raging waves, I heard my father's voice. "Be courageous, my son," he shouted, "Odin is the god of the waters, the companion of the brave, and he is with us. Fear not."
To me it seemed there was no possibility of our escaping a horrible death. The little sloop was shipping water, the snow was falling so fast as to be blinding, and the waves were tumbling over our counters in reckless white-sprayed fury. There was no telling what instant we should be dashed against some drifting ice-pack. The tremendous swells would heave us up to the very peaks of mountainous waves, then plunge us down into the depths of the sea's trough as if our fishing-sloop were a fragile shell. Gigantic white-capped waves, like veritable walls, fenced us in, fore and aft.
This terrible nerve-racking ordeal, with its nameless horrors of suspense and agony of fear indescribable, continued for more than three hours, and all the time we were being driven forward at fierce speed. Then suddenly, as if growing weary of its frantic exertions, the wind began to lessen its fury and by degrees to die down.
At last we were in a perfect calm. The fog mist had also disappeared, and before us lay an iceless channel perhaps ten or fifteen miles wide, with a few icebergs far away to our right, and an intermittent archipelago of smaller ones to the left.
I watched my father closely, determined to remain silent until he spoke. Presently he untied the rope from his waist and, without saying a word, began working the pumps, which fortunately were not damaged, relieving the sloop of the water it had shipped in the madness of the storm.
He put up the sloop's sails as calmly as if casting a fishing-net, and then remarked that we were ready for a favoring wind when it came. His courage and persistence were truly remarkable.
On investigation we found less than one-third of our provisions remaining, while to our utter dismay, we discovered that our water-casks had been swept overboard during the violent plungings of our boat.
Two of our water-casks were in the main hold, but both were empty. We had a fair supply of food, but no fresh water. I realized at once the awfulness of our position. Presently I was seized with a consuming thirst. "It is indeed bad," remarked my father. "However, let us dry our bedraggled clothing, for we are soaked to the skin. Trust to the god Odin, my son. Do not give up hope."
The sun was beating down slantingly, as if we were in a southern latitude, instead of in the far Northland. It was swinging around, its orbit ever visible and rising higher and higher each day, frequently mist-covered, yet always peering through the lacework of clouds like some fretful eye of fate, guarding the mysterious Northland and jealously watching the pranks of man. Far to our right the rays decking the prisms of icebergs were gorgeous. Their reflections emitted flashes of garnet, of diamond, of sapphire. A pyrotechnic panorama of countless colors and shapes, while below could be seen the green-tinted sea, and above, the purple sky.