Part III — Beyond the North Wind
"What, Olaf?" exclaimed my father, glancing hastily around. "Surely you are mistaken. There is no land. You are going mad."
"But taste it!" I cried.
And thus we made the discovery that the water was indeed fresh, absolutely so, without the least briny taste or even the suspicion of a salty flavor.
We forthwith filled our two remaining water-casks, and my father declared it was a heavenly dispensation of mercy from the gods Odin and Thor.
We were almost beside ourselves with joy, but hunger bade us end our enforced fast. Now that we had found fresh water in the open sea, what might we not expect in this strange latitude where ship had never before sailed and the splash of an oar had never been heard?
We had scarcely appeased our hunger when a breeze began filling the idle sails, and, glancing at the compass, we found the northern point pressing hard against the glass.
In response to my surprise, my father said, "I have heard of this before; it is what they call the dipping of the needle."
We loosened the compass and turned it at right angles with the surface of the sea before its point would free itself from the glass and point according to unmolested attraction. It shifted uneasily, and seemed as unsteady as a drunken man, but finally pointed a course.
Before this we thought the wind was carrying us north by northwest, but, with the needle free, we discovered, if it could be relied upon, that we were sailing slightly north by northeast. Our course, however, was ever tending northward.
The sea was serenely smooth, with hardly a choppy wave, and the wind brisk and exhilarating. The sun's rays, while striking us slant, furnished tranquil warmth. And thus time wore on day after day, and we found from the record in our logbook, we had been sailing eleven days since the storm in the open sea.
By strictest economy, our food was holding out fairly well, but beginning to run low. In the meantime, one of our casks of water had been exhausted, and my father said: "We will fill it again." But, to our dismay, we found the water was now as salt as in the region of the Lofoden Islands off the coast of Norway. This necessitated our being extremely careful of the remaining cask.
I found myself wanting to sleep much of the time; whether it was the effect of the exciting experience of sailing in unknown waters, or the relaxation from the awful excitement incident to our adventure in a storm at sea, or due to want of food, I could not say.
I frequently lay down on the bunker of our little sloop, and looked far up into the blue dome of the sky; and, notwithstanding the sun was shining far away in the east, I always saw a single star overhead. For several days, when I looked for this star, it was always there directly above us.
It was now, according to our reckoning, about the first of August. The sun was high in the heavens, and was so bright that I could no longer see the one lone star that attracted my attention a few days earlier.
One day about this time, my father startled me by calling my attention to a novel sight far in front of us, almost at the horizon. "It is a mock sun," exclaimed my father. "I have read of them; it is called a reflection or mirage. It will soon pass away."
But this dull-red, false sun, as we supposed it to be, did not pass away for several hours; and while we were unconscious of its emitting any rays of light, still there was no time thereafter when we could not sweep the horizon in front and locate the illumination of the so-called false sun, during a period of at least twelve hours out of every twenty-four.
Clouds and mists would at times almost, but never entirely, hide its location. Gradually it seemed to climb higher in the horizon of the uncertain purply sky as we advanced.
It could hardly be said to resemble the sun, except in its circular shape, and when not obscured by clouds or the ocean mists, it had a hazy-red, bronzed appearance, which would change to a white light like a luminous cloud, as if reflecting some greater light beyond.
"We finally agreed in our discussion of this smoky furnace-colored sun, that, whatever the cause of the phenomenon, it was not a reflection of our sun, but a planet of some sort — a reality.
One day soon after this, I felt exceedingly drowsy, and fell into a sound sleep. But it seemed that I was almost immediately aroused by my father's vigorous shaking of me by the shoulder and saying: "Olaf, awaken; there is land in sight!"
I sprang to my feet, and oh! joy unspeakable! There, far in the distance, yet directly in our path, were lands jutting boldly into the sea. The shore-line stretched far away to the right of us, as far as the eye could see, and all along the sandy beach were waves breaking into choppy foam, receding, then going forward again, ever chanting in monotonous thunder tones the song of the deep. The banks were covered with trees and vegetation.
I cannot express my feeling of exultation at this discovery. My father stood motionless, with his hand on the tiller, looking straight ahead, pouring out his heart in thankful prayer and thanksgiving to the gods Odin and Thor.
In the meantime, a net which we found in the stowage had been cast, and we caught a few fish that materially added to our dwindling stock of provisions.
The compass, which we had fastened back in its place, in fear of another storm, was still pointing due north, and moving on its pivot, just as it had at Stockholm. The dipping of the needle had ceased. What could this mean? Then, too, our many days of sailing had certainly carried us far past the North Pole. And yet the needle continued to point north. We were sorely perplexed, for surely our direction was now south.
We sailed for three days along the shoreline, then came to the mouth of a fjord or river of immense size. It seemed more like a great bay, and into this we turned our fishing-craft, the direction being slightly northeast of south. By the assistance of a fretful wind that came to our aid about twelve hours out of every twenty-four, we continued to make our way inland, into what afterward proved to be a mighty river, and which we learned was called by the inhabitants Hiddekel.
We continued our journey for ten days thereafter, and found we had fortunately attained a distance inland where ocean tides no longer affected the water, which had become fresh.
The discovery came none too soon, for our remaining cask of water was well-nigh exhausted. We lost no time in replenishing our casks, and continued to sail farther up the river when the wind was favorable.
Along the banks great forests miles in extent could be seen stretching away on the shore-line. The trees were of enormous size. We landed after anchoring near a sandy beach, and waded ashore, and were rewarded by finding a quantity of nuts that were very palatable and satisfying to hunger, and a welcome change from the monotony of our stock of provisions.
It was about the first of September, over five months, we calculated, since our leave-taking from Stockholm. Suddenly we were frightened almost out of our wits by hearing in the far distance the singing of people. Very soon thereafter we discovered a huge ship gliding down the river directly toward us. Those aboard were singing in one mighty chorus that, echoing from bank to bank, sounded like a thousand voices, filling the whole universe with quivering melody. The accompaniment was played on stringed instruments not unlike our harps.
At this particular time our sloop was becalmed, and not far from the shore. The bank of the river, covered with mammoth trees, rose up several hundred feet in beautiful fashion. We seemed to be on the edge of some primeval forest that doubtless stretched far inland.
The immense craft paused, and almost immediately a boat was lowered and six men of gigantic stature rowed to our little fishing-sloop. They spoke to us in a strange language. We knew from their manner, however, that they were not unfriendly. They talked a great deal among themselves, and one of them laughed immoderately, as though in finding us a queer discovery had been made. One of them spied our compass, and it seemed to interest them more than any other part of our sloop.
Finally, the leader motioned as if to ask whether we were willing to leave our craft to go on board their ship. "What say you, my son?" asked my father. "They cannot do any more than kill us."
"They seem to be kindly disposed," I replied, "although what terrible giants! They must be the select six of the kingdom's crack regiment. Just look at their great size."
"We may as well go willingly as be taken by force," said my father, smiling, "for they are certainly able to capture us." Thereupon he made known, by signs, that we were ready to accompany them.
Within a few minutes we were on board the ship, and half an hour later our little fishing-craft had been lifted bodily out of the water by a strange sort of hook and tackle, and set on board as a curiosity.
There were several hundred people on board this, to us, mammoth ship, which we discovered was called "The Naz," meaning, as we afterward learned, "Pleasure," or to give a more proper interpretation, "Pleasure Excursion" ship.
If my father and I were curiously observed by the ship's occupants, this strange race of giants offered us an equal amount of wonderment.
There was not a single man aboard who would not have measured fully twelve feet in height. They all wore full beards, not particularly long, but seemingly short-cropped. They had mild and beautiful faces, exceedingly fair, with ruddy complexions. The hair and beard of some were black, others sandy, and still others yellow. The captain, as we designated the dignitary in command of the great vessel, was fully a head taller than any of his companions. The women averaged from ten to eleven feet in height. Their features were especially regular and refined, while their complexion was of a most delicate tint heightened by a healthful glow.
Both men and women seemed to possess that particular ease of manner which we deem a sign of good breeding, and, notwithstanding their huge statures, there was nothing about them suggesting awkwardness. As I was a lad in only my nineteenth year, I was doubtless looked upon as a true Tom Thumb. My father's six feet three did not lift the top of his head above the waist line of these people.
Each one seemed to vie with the others in extending courtesies and showing kindness to us, but all laughed heartily, I remember, when they had to improvise chairs for my father and myself to sit at table. They were richly attired in a costume peculiar to themselves, and very attractive. The men were clothed in handsomely embroidered tunics of silk and satin and belted at the waist. They wore knee-breeches and stockings of a fine texture, while their feet were encased in sandals adorned with gold buckles. We early discovered that gold was one of the most common metals known, and that it was used extensively in decoration.
Strange as it may seem, neither my father nor myself felt the least bit of solicitude for our safety. "We have come into our own," my father said to me. "This is the fulfillment of the tradition told me by my father and my father's father, and still back for many generations of our race. This is, assuredly, the land beyond the North Wind."
We seemed to make such an impression on the party that we were given specially into the charge of one of the men, Jules Galdea, and his wife, for the purpose of being educated in their language; and we, on our part, were just as eager to learn as they were to instruct.
At the captain's command, the vessel was swung cleverly about, and began retracing its course up the river. The machinery, while noiseless, was very powerful.
The banks and trees on either side seemed to rush by. The ship's speed, at times, surpassed that of any railroad train on which I have ever ridden, even here in America. It was wonderful.
In the meantime we had lost sight of the sun's rays, but we found a radiance "within" emanating from the dull-red sun which had already attracted our attention, now giving out a white light seemingly from a cloud-bank far away in front of us. It dispensed a greater light, I should say, than two full moons on the clearest night.
In twelve hours this cloud of whiteness would pass out of sight as if eclipsed, and the twelve hours following corresponded with our night. We early learned that these strange people were worshipers of this great cloud of night. It was "The Smoky God" of the "Inner World."
The ship was equipped with a mode of illumination which I now presume was electricity, but neither my father nor myself were sufficiently skilled in mechanics to understand whence came the power to operate the ship, or to maintain the soft beautiful lights that answered the same purpose of our present methods of lighting the streets of our cities, our houses and places of business.
It must be remembered, the time of which I write was the autumn of 1829, and we of the "outside" surface of the earth knew nothing then, so to speak, of electricity.
The electrically surcharged condition of the air was a constant vitalizer. I never felt better in my life than during the two years my father and I sojourned on the inside of the earth.
To resume my narrative of events; The ship on which we were sailing came to a stop two days after we had been taken on board. My father said as nearly as he could judge, we were directly under Stockholm or London. The city we had reached was called "Jehu," signifying a seaport town. The houses were large and beautifully constructed, and quite uniform in appearance, yet without sameness. The principal occupation of the people appeared to be agriculture; the hillsides were covered with vineyards, while the valleys were devoted to the growing of grain.
I never saw such a display of gold. It was everywhere. The door-casings were inlaid and the tables were veneered with sheetings of gold. Domes of the public buildings were of gold. It was used most generously in the finishings of the great temples of music.
Vegetation grew in lavish exuberance, and fruit of all kinds possessed the most delicate flavor. Clusters of grapes four and five feet in length, each grape as large as an orange, and apples larger than a man's head typified the wonderful growth of all things on the "inside" of the earth.
The great redwood trees of California would be considered mere underbrush compared with the giant forest trees extending for miles and miles in all directions. In many directions along the foothills of the mountains vast herds of cattle were seen during the last day of our travel on the river.
"We heard much of a city called "Eden," but were kept at "Jehu" for an entire year. By the end of that time we had learned to speak fairly well the language of this strange race of people. Our instructors, Jules Galdea and his wife, exhibited a patience that was truly commendable.
One day an envoy from the Ruler at "Eden" came to see us, and for two whole days my father and myself were put through a series of surprising questions. They wished to know from whence we came, what sort of people dwelt "without," what God we worshiped, our religious beliefs, the mode of living in our strange land, and a thousand other things.
The compass which we had brought with us attracted especial attention. My father and I commented between ourselves on the fact that the compass still pointed north, although we now knew that we had sailed over the curve or edge of the earth's aperture, and were far along southward on the "inside" surface of the earth's crust, which, according to my father's estimate and my own, is about three hundred miles in thickness from the "inside" to the "outside" surface. Relatively speaking, it is no thicker than an egg-shell, so that there is almost as much surface on the "inside" as on the "outside" of the earth.
The great luminous cloud or ball of dull-red fire — fiery-red in the mornings and evenings, and during the day giving off a beautiful white light, "The Smoky God," — is seemingly suspended in the center of the great vacuum "within" the earth, and held to its place by the immutable law of gravitation, or a repellant atmospheric force, as the case may be. I refer to the known power that draws or repels with equal force in all directions.
The base of this electrical cloud or central luminary, the seat of the gods, is dark and non-transparent, save for innumerable small openings, seemingly in the bottom of the great support or altar of the Deity, upon which "The Smoky God" rests; and, the lights shining through these many openings twinkle at night in all their splendor, and seem to be stars, as natural as the stars we saw shining when in our home at Stockholm, excepting that they appear larger. "The Smoky God," therefore, with each daily revolution of the earth, appears to come up in the east and go down in the west, the same as does our sun on the external surface. In reality, the people "within" believe that "The Smoky God" is the throne of their Jehovah, and is stationary. The effect of night and day is, therefore, produced by the earth's daily rotation.
I have since discovered that the language of the people of the Inner World is much like the Sanskrit.
After we had given an account of ourselves to the emissaries from the central seat of government of the inner continent, and my father had, in his crude way, drawn maps, at their request, of the "outside" surface of the earth, showing the divisions of land and water, and giving the name of each of the continents, large islands and the oceans, we were taken overland to the city of "Eden," in a conveyance different from anything we have in Europe or America. This vehicle was doubtless some electrical contrivance. It was noiseless, and ran on a single iron rail in perfect balance. The trip was made at a very high rate of speed. We were carried up hills and down dales, across valleys and again along the sides of steep mountains, without any apparent attempt having been made to level the earth as we do for railroad tracks. The car seats were huge yet comfortable affairs, and very high above the floor of the car. On the top of each car were high geared fly wheels lying on their sides, which were so automatically adjusted that, as the speed of the car increased, the high speed of these fly wheels geometrically increased. Jules Galdea explained to us that these revolving fan-like wheels on top of the cars destroyed atmospheric pressure, or what is generally understood by the term gravitation, and with this force thus destroyed or rendered nugatory the car is as safe from falling to one side or the other from the single rail track as if it were in a vacuum; the fly wheels in their rapid revolutions destroying effectually the so-called power of gravitation, or the force of atmospheric pressure or whatever potent influence it may be that causes all unsupported things to fall downward to the earth's surface or to the nearest point of resistance.
The city of "Eden" is located in what seems to be a beautiful valley, yet, in fact, it is on the loftiest mountain plateau of the Inner Continent, several thousand feet higher than any portion of the surrounding country. It is the most beautiful place I have ever beheld in all my travels. In this elevated garden all manner of fruits, vines, shrubs, trees, and flowers grow in riotous profusion.
In this garden four rivers have their source in a mighty artesian fountain. They divide and flow in four directions. This place is called by the inhabitants the "navel of the earth," or the beginning, "the cradle of the human race." The names of the rivers are the Euphrates, the Pison, the Gihon, and the Hiddekel.
The unexpected awaited us in this palace of beauty, in the finding of our little fishing-craft. It had been brought before the High Priest in perfect shape, just as it had been taken from the waters that day when it was loaded on board the ship by the people who discovered us on the river more than a year before.
"We were given an audience of over two hours with this great dignitary, who seemed kindly disposed and considerate. He showed himself eagerly interested, asking us numerous questions, and invariably regarding things about which his emissaries had failed to inquire.
At the conclusion of the interview he inquired our pleasure, asking us whether we wished to remain in his country or if we preferred to return to the "outer" world, providing it were possible to make a successful return trip, across the frozen belt barriers that encircle both the northern and southern openings of the earth.
My father replied: "It would please me and my son to visit your country and see your people, your colleges and palaces of music and art, your great fields, your wonderful forests of timber; and after we have had this pleasurable privilege, we should like to try to return to our home on the 'outside' surface of the earth. This son is my only child, and my good wife will be weary awaiting our return."
"I fear you can never return," replied the Chief High Priest, "because the way is a most hazardous one. However, you shall visit the different countries with Jules Galdea as your escort, and be accorded every courtesy and kindness. Whenever you are ready to attempt a return voyage, I assure you that your boat which is here on exhibition shall be put in the waters of the river Hiddekel at its mouth, and we will bid you Jehovah-speed."
Thus terminated our only interview with the High Priest or Ruler of the continent.
Part IV — In the Under World
During the following year we visited many villages and towns, prominent among them being the cities of Nigi, Delfi, Hectea, and my father was called upon no less than a half-dozen times to go over the maps which had been made from the rough sketches he had originally given of the divisions of land and water on the "outside" surface of the earth.
I remember hearing my father remark that the giant race of people in the land of "The Smoky God" had almost as accurate an idea of the geography of the "outside" surface of the earth as had the average college professor in Stockholm.
In our travels we came to a forest of gigantic trees, near the city of Delfi. Had the Bible said there were trees towering over three hundred feet in height, and more than thirty feet in diameter, growing in the Garden of Eden, the Ingersolls, the Tom Paines and Voltaires would doubtless have pronounced the statement a myth. Yet this is the description of the California sequoia gigantea; but these California giants pale into insignificance when compared with the forest Goliaths found in the "within" continent, where abound mighty trees from eight hundred to one thousand feet in height, and from one hundred to one hundred and twenty feet in diameter; countless in numbers and forming forests extending hundreds of miles back from the sea.
The people are exceedingly musical, and learned to a remarkable degree in their arts and sciences, especially geometry and astronomy. Their cities are equipped with vast palaces of music, where not infrequently as many as twenty-five thousand lusty voices of this giant race swell forth in mighty choruses of the most sublime symphonies.
The children are not supposed to attend institutions of learning before they are twenty years old. Then their school life begins and continues for thirty years, ten of which are uniformly devoted by both sexes to the study of music.
Their principal vocations are architecture, agriculture, horticulture, the raising of vast herds of cattle, and the building of conveyances peculiar to that country, for travel on land and water. By some device which I cannot explain, they hold communion with one another between the most distant parts of their country, on air currents.
All buildings are erected with special regard to strength, durability, beauty and symmetry, and with a style of architecture vastly more attractive to the eye than any I have ever observed elsewhere.
About three-fourths of the "inner" surface of the earth is land and about one-fourth water. There are numerous rivers of tremendous size, some flowing in a northerly direction and others southerly. Some of these rivers are thirty miles in width, and it is out of these vast waterways, at the extreme northern and southern parts of the "inside" surface of the earth, in regions where low temperatures are experienced, that fresh-water icebergs are formed. They are then pushed out to sea like huge tongues of ice, by the abnormal freshets of turbulent waters that, twice every year, sweep everything before them.
We saw innumerable specimens of bird-life no larger than those encountered in the forests of Europe or America. It is well known that during the last few years whole species of birds have quit the earth. A writer in a recent article on this subject says: "Almost every year sees the final extinction of one or more bird species. Out of fourteen varieties of birds found a century since on a single island — the West Indian island of St. Thomas — eight have now to be numbered among the missing."
Is it not possible that these disappearing bird species quit their habitation without, and find an asylum in the "within world"?
Whether inland among the mountains, or along the seashore, we found bird life prolific. When they spread their great wings some of the birds appeared to measure thirty feet from tip to tip. They are of great variety and many colors. We were permitted to climb up on the edge of a rock and examine a nest of eggs. There were five in the nest, each of which was at least two feet in length and fifteen inches in diameter.
After we had been in the city of Hectea about a week, Professor Galdea took us to an inlet, where we saw thousands of tortoises along the sandy shore. I hesitate to state the size of these great creatures. They were from twenty-five to thirty feet in length, from fifteen to twenty feet in width and fully seven feet in height. When one of them projected its head it had the appearance of some hideous sea monster.
The strange conditions "within" are favorable not only for vast meadows of luxuriant grasses, forests of giant trees, and all manner of vegetable life, but wonderful animal life as well.
One day we saw a great herd of elephants. There must have been five hundred of these thunder-throated monsters, with their restlessly waving trunks. They were tearing huge boughs from the trees and trampling smaller growth into dust like so much hazel-brush. They would average over 100 feet in length and from 75 to 85 in height.
It seemed, as I gazed upon this wonderful herd of giant elephants, that I was again living in the public library at Stockholm, where I had spent much time studying the wonders of the Miocene age. I was filled with mute astonishment, and my father was speechless with awe. He held my arm with a protecting grip, as if fearful harm would overtake us. We were two atoms in this great forest, and, fortunately, unobserved by this vast herd of elephants as they drifted on and away, following a leader as does a herd of sheep. They browsed from growing herbage which they encountered as they traveled, and now and again shook the firmament with their deep bellowing.
There is a hazy mist that goes up from the land each evening, and it invariably rains once every twenty-four hours. This great moisture and the invigorating electrical light and warmth account perhaps for the luxuriant vegetation, while the highly charged electrical air and the evenness of climatic conditions may have much to do with the giant growth and longevity of all animal life.
In places the level valleys stretched away for many miles in every direction. "The Smoky God," in its clear white light, looked calmly down. There was an intoxication in the electrically surcharged air that fanned the cheek as softly as a vanishing whisper. Nature chanted a lullaby in the faint murmur of winds whose breath was sweet with the fragrance of bud and blossom.
After having spent considerably more than a year in visiting several of the many cities of the "within" world and a great deal of intervening country, and more than two years had passed from the time we had been picked up by the great excursion ship on the river, we decided to cast our fortunes once more upon the sea, and endeavor to regain the "outside" surface of the earth.
We made known our wishes, and they were reluctantly but promptly followed. Our hosts gave my father, at his request, various maps showing the entire "inside" surface of the earth, its cities, oceans, seas, rivers, gulfs and bays. They also generously offered to give us all the bags of gold nuggets — some of them as large as a goose's egg — that we were willing to attempt to take with us in our little fishing-boat.
In due time we returned to Jehu, at which place we spent one month in fixing up and overhauling our little fishing sloop. After all was in readiness, the same ship "Naz" that originally discovered us, took us on board and sailed to the mouth of the river Hiddekel.
After our giant brothers had launched our little craft for us, they were most cordially regretful at parting, and evinced much solicitude for our safety. My father swore by the Gods Odin and Thor that he would surely return again within a year or two and pay them another visit. And thus we bade them adieu. We made ready and hoisted our sail, but there was little breeze. We were becalmed within an hour after our giant friends had left us and started on their return trip.
The winds were constantly blowing south, that is, they were blowing from the northern opening of the earth toward that which we knew to be south, but which, according to our compass's pointing finger, was directly north.
For three days we tried to sail, and to beat against the wind, but to no avail. Whereupon my father said: "My son, to return by the same route as we came in is impossible at this time of year. I wonder why we did not think of this before. We have been here almost two and a half years; therefore, this is the season when the sun is beginning to shine in at the southern opening of the earth. The long cold night is on in the Spitzbergen country."
"What shall we do?" I inquired.
"There is only one thing we can do," my father replied, "and that is to go south." Accordingly, he turned the craft about, gave it full reef, and started by the compass north but, in fact, directly south. The wind was strong, and we seemed to have struck a current that was running with remarkable swiftness in the same direction.
In just forty days we arrived at Delfi, a city we had visited in company with our guides Jules Galdea and his wife, near the mouth of the Gihon river. Here we stopped for two days, and were most hospitably entertained by the same people who had welcomed us on our former visit. We laid in some additional provisions and again set sail, following the needle due north.
On our outward trip we came through a narrow channel which appeared to be a separating body of water between two considerable bodies of land. There was a beautiful beach to our right, and we decided to reconnoiter. Casting anchor, we waded ashore to rest up for a day before continuing the outward hazardous undertaking. We built a fire and threw on some sticks of dry driftwood. While my father was walking along the shore, I prepared a tempting repast from supplies we had provided.
There was a mild, luminous light which my father said resulted from the sun shining in from the south aperture of the earth. That night we slept soundly, and awakened the next morning as refreshed as if we had been in our own beds at Stockholm.
After breakfast we started out on an inland tour of discovery, but had not gone far when we sighted some birds which we recognized at once as belonging to the penguin family.
They are flightless birds, but excellent swimmers and tremendous in size, with white breast, short wings, black head, and long peaked bills. They stand fully nine feet high. They looked at us with little surprise, and presently waddled, rather than walked, toward the water, and swam away in a northerly direction.
The events that occurred during the following hundred or more days beggar description. We were on an open and iceless sea. The month we reckoned to be November or December, and we knew the so-called South Pole was turned toward the sun. Therefore, when passing out and away from the internal electrical light of "The Smoky God" and its genial warmth, we would be met by the light and warmth of the sun, shining in through the south opening of the earth. We were not mistaken.
There were times when our little craft, driven by wind that was continuous and persistent, shot through the waters like an arrow. Indeed, had we encountered a hidden rock or obstacle, our little vessel would have been crushed into kindling-wood.
We were soon amid the ice-packs, and how our little craft got through. the narrow channels and escaped being crushed I know not. The compass behaved in the same drunken and unreliable fashion in passing over the southern curve or edge of the earth's shell as it had done on our inbound trip at the northern entrance. It gyrated, dipped and seemed like a thing possessed.
One day as I was lazily looking over the sloop's side into the clear waters, my father shouted: "Breakers ahead!" Looking up, I saw through a lifting mist a white object that towered several hundred feet high, completely shutting off our advance. We lowered sail immediately, and none too soon. In a moment we found ourselves wedged between two monstrous icebergs. Each was crowding and grinding against its fellow mountain of ice. They were like two gods of war contending for supremacy. We were greatly alarmed. Indeed, we were between the lines of a battle royal; the sonorous thunder of the grinding ice was like the continued volleys of artillery. Blocks of ice larger than a house were frequently lifted up a hundred feet by the mighty force of lateral pressure; they would shudder and rock to and fro for a few seconds, then come crashing down with a deafening roar, and disappear in the foaming waters. Thus, for more than two hours, the contest of the icy giants continued.
It seemed as if the end had come. The ice pressure was terrific, and while we were not caught in the dangerous part of the jam, and were safe for the time being, yet the heaving and rending of tons of ice as it fell splashing here and there into the watery depths filled us with shaking fear.
Finally, to our great joy, the grinding of the ice ceased, and within a few hours the great mass slowly divided, and, as if an act of Providence had been performed, right before us lay an open channel. Should we venture with our little craft into this opening? If the pressure came on again, our little sloop as well as ourselves would be crushed into nothingness. We decided to take the chance, and, accordingly, hoisted our sail to a favoring breeze, and soon started out like a race-horse, running the gauntlet of this unknown narrow channel of open water.