A Winter Amid the Ice by Jules Verne Chapter 3

A Ray of Hope.

At that time of the year the season was favourable, and the crew might hope promptly to reach the scene of the shipwreck.

Jean Cornbutte’s plan was naturally traced out. He counted on stopping at the Feroë Islands, whither the north wind might have carried the castaways; then, if he was convinced that they had not been received in any of the ports of that locality, he would continue his search beyond the Northern Ocean, ransack the whole western coast of Norway as far as Bodoë, the place nearest the scene of the shipwreck; and, if necessary, farther still.

André Vasling thought, contrary to the captain’s opinion, that the coast of Iceland should be explored; but Penellan observed that, at the time of the catastrophe, the gale came from the west; which, while it gave hope that the unfortunates had not been forced towards the gulf of the Maëlstrom, gave ground for supposing that they might have been thrown on the Norwegian coast.

It was determined, then, that this coast should be followed as closely as possible, so as to recognize any traces of them that might appear.

The day after sailing, Jean Cornbutte, intent upon a map, was absorbed in reflection, when a small hand touched his shoulder, and a soft voice said in his ear —

“Have good courage, uncle.”
He turned, and was stupefied. Marie embraced him.

“Marie, my daughter, on board!” he cried.

“The wife may well go in search of her husband, when the father embarks to save his child.”

“Unhappy Marie! How wilt thou support our fatigues! Dost thou know that thy presence may be injurious to our search?”

“No, uncle, for I am strong.”

“Who knows whither we shall be forced to go, Marie? Look at this map. We are approaching places dangerous even for us sailors, hardened though we are to the difficulties of the sea. And thou, frail child?”

“But, uncle, I come from a family of sailors. I am used to stories of combats and tempests. I am with you and my old friend Penellan!”

“Penellan! It was he who concealed you on board?”

“Yes, uncle; but only when he saw that I was determined to come without his help.”

“Penellan!” cried Jean.

Penellan entered.

“It is not possible to undo what you have done, Penellan; but remember that you are responsible for Marie’s life.”

“Rest easy, captain,” replied Penellan. “The little one has force and courage, and will be our guardian angel. And then, captain, you know it is my theory, that all in this world happens for the best.”

The young girl was installed in a cabin, which the sailors soon got ready for her, and which they made as comfortable as possible.

A week later the “Jeune–Hardie” stopped at the Feroë Islands, but the most minute search was fruitless. Mo wreck, or fragments of a ship had come upon these coasts. Even the news of the event was quite unknown. The brig resumed its voyage, after a stay of ten days, about the 10th of June. The sea was calm, and the winds were favourable. The ship sped rapidly towards the Norwegian coast, which it explored without better result.

Jean Cornbutte determined to proceed to Bodoë. Perhaps he would there learn the name of the shipwrecked schooner to succour which Louis and the sailors had sacrificed themselves.

On the 30th of June the brig cast anchor in that port.

The authorities of Bodoë gave Jean Cornbutte a bottle found on the coast, which contained a document bearing these words:—

“This 26th April, on board the ‘Froöern,’ after being accosted by the long-boat of the ‘Jeune–Hardie,’ we were drawn by the currents towards the ice. God have pity on us!”

Jean Cornbutte’s first impulse was to thank Heaven. He thought himself on his son’s track. The “Froöern” was a Norwegian sloop of which there had been no news, but which had evidently been drawn northward.

Not a day was to be lost. The “Jeune–Hardie” was at once put in condition to brave the perils of the polar seas. Fidèle Misonne, the carpenter, carefully examined her, and assured himself that her solid construction might resist the shock of the ice-masses.

Penellan, who had already engaged in whale-fishing in the arctic waters, took care that woollen and fur coverings, many sealskin moccassins, and wood for the making of sledges with which to cross the ice-fields were put on board. The amount of provisions was increased, and spirits and charcoal were added; for it might be that they would have to winter at some point on the Greenland coast. They also procured, with much difficulty and at a high price, a quantity of lemons, for preventing or curing the scurvy, that terrible disease which decimates crews in the icy regions. The ship’s hold was filled with salt meat, biscuits, brandy, &c., as the steward’s room no longer sufficed. They provided themselves, moreover, with a large quantity of “pemmican,” an Indian preparation which concentrates a great deal of nutrition within a small volume.

By order of the captain, some saws were put on board for cutting the ice-fields, as well as picks and wedges for separating them. The captain determined to procure some dogs for drawing the sledges on the Greenland coast.

The whole crew was engaged in these preparations, and displayed great activity. The sailors Aupic, Gervique, and Gradlin zealously obeyed Penellan’s orders; and he admonished them not to accustom themselves to woollen garments, though the temperature in this latitude, situated just beyond the polar circle, was very low.

Penellan, though he said nothing, narrowly watched every action of André Vasling. This man was Dutch by birth, came from no one knew whither, but was at least a good sailor, having made two voyages on board the “Jeune–Hardie”. Penellan would not as yet accuse him of anything, unless it was that he kept near Marie too constantly, but he did not let him out of his sight.

Thanks to the energy of the crew, the brig was equipped by the 16th of July, a fortnight after its arrival at Bodoë. It was then the favourable season for attempting explorations in the Arctic Seas. The thaw had been going on for two months, and the search might be carried farther north. The “Jeune–Hardie” set sail, and directed her way towards Cape Brewster, on the eastern coast of Greenland, near the 70th degree of latitude.