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19th Century American Whaling

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No. 5.

W. H. Macy

Ballou's Monthly Magazine
Vol. LXV, No. 5 (May 1887)
pp. 402-407.


. . . .



No. 5.

Back Again Over the Glacier. – "Alexander the Great." – A Champion For Carrie McDougal. – We Build a City in the Wilderness.

      As had been predicted, the morning was ushered in with fine weather and a moderate breeze off shore; a state of things highly favorable for operations on the wreck. No time was lost by Captain McDougul and his crew, who at once set about their preparations for work.

      As had been arranged, our parly was increased to four by the addilion of Rawlings; and, fresh and vigorous under the influence of the cool, bracing air of an Antarctic morning, we wound our way between the knolls till we reached the flat, stony ground near the seaside, and followed the beach toward the foot of the ice-mountain. Lively conversation beguiled the way, for our new comrades had much to tell us, and many questions to ask in return.

      The bowlders of ice were heaped up heavily along the shore in fantastic shapes, and among these, the huge beasts so soon to be slaughtered, were sporting and floundering, or, si ill higher up, were dragging their ununwieldy bodies over the sand and stones by their powerful flippers. The three vessels could be plainly seen riding at anchor, and far in the northern board, a fourth was visible, beating up for the anchorage, though as yet too distant to determine her nation or character.

      Although my friend, Dave Bryant, was still somewhat thoughtful, for the gentle pressure of the young girl's hand was still fresh upon our own rough palms, as she bade us God-speed at parting, yet I was glad to perceive that he had formed a decision in his own mind, whatever it might be, and would permit nothing to subdue the natural cheerfulness of his disposition. He did not fail, however, on every available occasion, to lead, the conversation back to the subject nearest his thoughts—one upon which Rawlings was especially communicative and eloquent, for his respect and admiration for his beautiful shipmate, "'Miss Caroliue," knew no bounds.

      "There is one thing that troubles me somewhat," he said, " and I know that her father is rather uneasy about it,—Captain Proctor knows nothing about her being here with us, for it was not a settled thing at the time the bark sailed, and he is not just the sort of man who would be likely to be pleased with such an arrangement."

      "But he can't help himself now," I replied.

      "Of course not," said Rawlings; " but, as commander of the whole force, he may make her situation, as well as her father's, uncomfortable in many ways. If the old man had remained in command of his own vessel, it


would not have mattered so much; but, owing to this accident, we are all at his mercy, 80 to speak."

      "Who is to head your beach-gang?" inquired Fielding.

      "That was my duty, according to the original plan," the mate answered, "but I suppose Captain McDougal will now be in command of them."

      "In that case his daughter will remain on shore with him," said Bryant, with wellaffected carelessness.

      "Of course. Her father will neverconsent to be separated from her."

      Dave turned away his head, not so quickly, however, but that I caught the new light in his fine eyes, but he made no further remark at the moment. As we were now commencing the rugged ascent, our upward progress called for some effort of strength, and the circumstances were unfavorable for anything like connected conversation.

      We toiled on in silence, unbroken, save for our labored respiration, or occasionally by the rattle of a loose fragment of rock, dislodged from its bed, and tumbling far down, to be lost to sight and sound among countless others below, which had been split off at various times by the intense cold of past winters. Our lance-poles served us in good stead, as we leaped from rock to rock, and we at last reached in safety the eminence whence we had taken our first look at the low point. Here we halted to rest our weary frames, sitting again in the same spot.

      The time was more favorable for an extended view than on the previous oecasiou; for the breeze was light, and we no longer caught glimpses of distant objects through a simoom of beach sand. There was a new and striking, but melancholy break in the monotony of the shore line, as the eye rested upon the wreck of the ill-fated " Daphne." That the crew had already found means to board her was apparent, for we observed that the fluttering remnants of her canvas were being unbent from the spars.

      "She was a motherly old boat," said our new companion, gazing in a meditative way at the brig; "and I had promised myself a very pleasant voyage with Captain McDougal, who is a man every inch of him, to say nothing of having a young lady as a shipmate, who was like sunshine wherever she moved. But it's all up with the 'Daphne,' aud I've an idea that old Proctor will keep all hands in hot water the greater part of the time."

      "But you will still be with your old captain, on shore, I suppose," said Fielding.

      "That's uncertain. 'The Admiral' will distribute us as he chooses, and may see fit to keep me on board the 'Garrick.' But see, he is signalizing now, and he will have no need of my report to tell him what vessel it is that is ashore."

      We turned at the word, and looked down from our giddy eminence at the vessels still uneasily pitching at their anchors. The bark had her British ensign set, and beneath it three small telegraphic flags, the meaning of which Ilawlings declared himself unable to interpret without the aid of the signalbook. But a few minutes later, another set, four in number, were to be seen fluttering from the masthead of the wreck, showing that they understood, and had found means to reply.

      The "Woodlark" still rode securely where we had left her; but the other schooner was much nearer the base of the " iceberg," having dragged during the gale, and was now in the act of heaving her chain, evidently intending to take up a new berth. The stranger, also a fore-and-after, was earn ing all sail, and slowly working up towards the island.

      "Come on, boys!" said Mr. Fielding. "Let's push forward."

      We did so, and with reucwed vigor, after our much needed rest. The downward slope of the mountain, though, perhaps, more dangerous thau the ascent, was less fatiguing; and we soon stood upon the beach abreast of our schooner, and beckoned for a boat, which was at once sent to bring us on board. AVe observed another boat pass from the Englishman to our vessel, in the meantime, and she still lay alongside when we arrived.

      "Welcome back, boys!" said Captain Comstock, cheerfully, as we jumped in on deck. "So you've had to rough it a little on the point, and I've been a little uneasy about you, but you look none the worse for your cruise. How does the prospect look for us, over there, Mr. Fielding?"

      "Good, sir," was the ready answer. "I wish we had our shanty and provisions ashore there, now."

      "All right; we'll have them there tomorrow. It's growing smoother every hour. So you've had a shipwreck down there, I


see. I hope no lives were lost. And this

      is" extending his hand to our stranger

      companion, with an inquiring look.

      "Mr. Rawlings, first officer of the brigantine 'Daphne,' of Hobart Town, driven ashore in the gale yesterday morning," said Fielding, introducing him. "Tender to the 'Garrick,' " he added.

      "Glad to see you. Mr. Rawlings! " with a vigorous shake of the hand, "and truly sorry for your misfortune. Can I assist you or your shipmates in any way? If so, say the word."

      "So you've made a landfall, with a vengeance, haven't you?" spoke up a new voice, in a sneering tone, as its owner came waddling forward from behind the companionway, where he had, until now, kept out of sight. No hand was extended, in this case, to greet the unfortunate mate, who, observing this, coolly folded his arms, and stood confronting his superior officer, with an expression which plainly said that he had expected nothing better of him, all along, and that anything better would have been rather a disappointment to him, but that he considered the opening speech unworthy of any reply.

      A very marvel of ugliness, considered either in reference to figure, features or disposition of mind, was Captain Alexander Proctor, of the bark "Garrick." In the first respect, he was dumpy and clumsy, resembling a huge, bulbous root, elevated upon two others, quite as ill-shaped, but not quite as bulbous. In the second, the predominant points were small eyes, of a color rarely seen in a human being, though common among animals of the genus felis, a huge, Bardolphian nose, and a skin not unlike that of a boiled beet, partially scraped off. In the last, he was the incarnation of selfishness, and a most unmitigated brute, as was known to every seaman sailing from the colony, among whom the name of Aleck Proctor was a very byword; and, as was evident enough to us, from his first salutation to a most worthy but unfortunate subordinate.

      "So, you couldn't find any better way to handle a good vessel than to pile her up on that point, eh? That wasn't where I wanted her, I suppose you know, and"

      "Who said it was ?" demanded Rawlings, quietly; thereby raising a general laugh at the expense of Captain Proctor, and exciting his ire to the verge of madness.

      "None of your insolence, sir, or I'll disrate you, and send you into the ' Garrick's' forecastle. Remember, you are all under my orders now."

      "I am not likely to lose sight of that fact, sir," replied Rawlings.

      "No, nor I don't mean you shall!" said Proctor, with increasing anger. "Where's McDougal? Wiry isn't he here to report to me, as it was his duty?"

      "Captain McDougal is down there, at the wreck," Rawlings answered, pointing wilh his hand in that direction. "As for his first duty, that may be a matter of opinion, sir. He thought I could report the facts as ¦well as himself; and that it was quite as much his duty to stay by the brig and strip her, as to cross the glacier for the pleasure of seeing you. He had another reason, too, I suppose, for not coming," he continued, with a little malice in his tones, I thought.

      "What's that, sir? What do you mean by another reason?" demanded Captain Proctor.

      "1 suppose he did not wish to leave his daughter, sir, and he could not well bring her over the iceberg."

      "What daughter? AVho? What do you mean? Where is she?"

      "I mean Captain McDougal's daughter. Caroline, who is on the beach, there, with him," replied the mate, deliberately, seeming to enjoy the process of thus gradually lashing the tyrant to a fury.

      "What business has she here?" he roared. "Who ever heard of bringing a woman to such a God-forsaken region as this? Did you ever hear the like. Cornstock?"

      "Can't say that I have ever seen a woman brought here,'' answered our captain, "but I've known many a one to go to the Ar'tic and Nor'west; and really, I don't see the great harm of it, if the owners agree to it."

      "But what manner of woman must she be ?—a single woman—that would come such a voyage as this, among a whole ship's company"

      "Avast there!" roared Rawlings, springing forward with a sudden fury, that caused the blustering Proctor to fall back in dismay. "Not a word about Miss Caroline from your lips! That 'whole ship's company' that you speak of, will defend her honor with their lives!"

      "Why, this is mutiny!" yelled the captain, now fairly foaming at the mouth.


"Rank mutiny and conspiracy! Do you know who you are talking to?"

      "I'm only sorry the young lady is here for one reason!" continued Rawlings, wilh a vehemence that nothing could check. "Because she may be forced to come in contact with you! She's too good for such as you even to look at."

      "Silence, sir! Get into the boat, at once! Get into my boat!" gasped the infuriated Proctor, seizing a capstan-bar that lay at hand. But Uawlings was almost as quick with another, and serious harm might have ensued to one or both, had not our captain and officers crowded round them and interposed to prevent any violence.

      "Not here! " said Captain Comstock. "I shall keep the peace on board my vessel."

      "Man my boat, there!" shouted the English captain. "D'ye hear, there? Man my boat at once! We'll finish this matter on board my ship!"

      "Perhaps you had better go on board with him quietly, Mr. Rawlings," said Comstock, aside to him. "You will see, of course, that I have no control in the matter, further than to prevent harm being done on board my own vessel."

      "I'm all ready to go," replied Rawlings. "It needed no capstan-bar to compel me; though, if that is his game, I'm ready to meet him at the bow-thwart. Two can play at that, Aleck Proctor, and it'll be the worse for you if you provoke me too far. I expect to swallow a deal of abuse from you on my own account, but beware how you touch on sacred subjects. The young lady will find champions enough to protect her."

      "Get into my boat!" was all the captain could command himself to say.

      "Ay, ay, sir! I'll be there in a moment. Captain Comstock, in answer to a remark you made at our first greeting, I am sorry to say that four good men were lost from the brig, though Captain Proctor had not thought it worth inquiring about. We might have all been lost, but for the efforts of Mr. Fielding, and your other two fine fellows. I cannot leave without expressing my thanks to them, as well as to yourself for your kind offers of assistance. Goodday, sir."

      And Rawlings disappeared over the rail into the boat alongside.

      "Good-by, Rawlings," said Mr. Fielding, leaning over the side. "Stand your ground, my boy!"

      "Oh, I don't fear Aleck Proctor!" was the answer. "Let him do his worst."

      "Pleasant old gentleman to sail with, that." said Dave Bryant to me, after the boat had pushed off for the bark. "He can't help it, though, I suppose. He is so thoroughly wrapped up in egotism that he knows no world beyond himself. The whole race of mankind, as well as nature and all her works, were created for his own special service and benefit. I wonder he hasn't taken possession of this island, and warned all the rest of us off as trespassers, so that he may have a clear field to monopolize the sealmg business. But what do you think, Joe," he asked, lowering his voice to a more confidential tone, " of the relation of our friend Rawlings to Miss McDougal?"

      "You need not be uneasy on that head, Dave," said I. "She cares nothing for him, depend upon it, nor he for her, in the sense which you fear. His championship of ' Miss Caroline,' as he calls her, is highly creditable to him, but his feeling is simply that of respect and admiration. You know, yourself, that he speaks of her without concealment or embarrassment. But, judging others' feelings by your own, I suppose you think he could not have been so closely associated with your little Nereid without falling in love with her."

      Dave made no reply, and the subject was dropped for the time, as all hands were turned to to break out our lumber and provisions, ready for rafting ashore. I could not fail to see, however, that his mind appeared relieved by the decided opinion which I had expressed.

      We could detect no signs of any further altercation on board the " Garrick," though she lay but a short distance from us. We came to the conclusion that " King Alexander the Great," as his own boat's crew derisively teamed him, had thought it expedient to recede a little, in view of the unexpected spirit shown by Rawlings, or perhaps, was nursing his wrath till a better opportunity. It appeared he had no intention of communicating further with his castaways, till the morrow, when he would, in all probability, be able to land a boat near the wreck.

      When the anchor watch was set for the night, ever} thing was ready to start at daylight, not only from our schooner, but also from the " Ripple," which had shifted her berth, and now occupied, perhaps, the


safest one of the three. The newly-arrived schooner had also anchored, and we had made out the name on her stern, "Adelaide of New London."

      All is stir and bustle on the three schooners on the morning succeeding our return; for the looked for fair weather has set in, and for the first time since her arrival, it is possible to work the beach. "Up anchor!" is the cry, and we are soon gliding towards our new station near the point, with the "Hippie" and "Adelaide" in company. There is, of course, a high spirit of rivalry between the crews of the different vessels, for each is anxious to have their shanty first built and get the start of the others in the attack upon the sea-elephants. Some precaution is still necessary in beaching a boat, for the heavy breakers raised by the norther have not entirely subsided. But beyond a cold immersion now and then, no harm is done; and the line of beach soon presents an animated appearance, dotted at intervals by the fleet of light craft, and thickly strewn with lumber and casks of provisions, as they are rafted ashore. The various parts of our house are ready for putting together, having been prepared at home before the vessel sailed.

      A site is selected for building, at a considerable distance inland, so as to be somewhat protected under the lee of the high land, and yet sufficiently removed from it to avoid the danger and inconvenience from heavy snowdrifts, should we find it necessary to winter here. We make beasts of burden of ourselves for the time being, and transport the lumber on our shoulders to the spot. Strong and willing hands make rapid progress with the building; an old sail is stretched over the roof, and a few buckets of tar, thickly laid on and thoroughly rubbed in, serves to complete the work. Our habitation lays no claim to architectural beauty; it is enough for us that it' be warm and water-proof.

      Its interior arrangements are simple enough. A little room is divided off for the officers' use, like a counting-room, or office; one end of the building is devoted to the bunks, or standing bed-places, and a few rudely constructed benches serve as seats and tables, A large cooking-stove warms the whole establishment, and thus our headquarters are ready for the campaign. Before night, the provisions are all rolled up and stowed in, and about "The Woodlurk's Nest," as we had already christened the place, the sea-beach has resumed its former wild and deserted aspect; the schooners have returned to their old anchorage in The Bight, and fourteen of us, with a similar number from each of the other vessels, are as thoroughly domiciled as if we had been natives, born and bred here.

      The "Garrick," being a heavy ship, and riding by both anchors on an immense mooring-shackle, did not, of course, get underway; but we had seen her boat pass us in the morning, on her way to the wreck, and were able to distinguish the dumpy, ungraceful figure of Proctor at the steeringoar. Bawlings was not with him, which we thought strange, to say the least. But, in addition to the regular crew at the oars, an unknown man was seated in the bow of the boat. As the brig lay a mile or more below the spot which we had selected for a landing-place, they soon passed out of sight and hearing of us, and busied each with his own affairs, we had no communication with any one of the English party for the day.

      While we were all assembled at supper, Fielding improved the occasion to lay down a few rules for our government, and especially impressed upon us the necessity of caution in our attacks upon the elephants. He was determined to have no wanton destruction, or indiscriminate slaughter. At least nothing of the kind should be commenced by our party with his sanction. If our rivals could not be controlled, we might find it necessary to change our tactics. But so important did ho consider it that the fishing should be regulated so as to economize it, that, for the present, ho forbade any one to kill a single animal, except under his eye, and by bis orders.

      He appointed Dave Bryant and myself as petty officers, and authorized us to take up our quarters in the cabin, as he termed his small room, partitioned off from the rest.

      Fatigued as we all were with the exertions of the day, we were not slow to avail ourselves of the opportunity to turn in under a warm roof, with an unwonted feeling of delight that we had no night watch to stand on the wet, cheerless deck of the little schooner; and all was dark and quiet within the Nest at an early hour. The remains of the glowing fire in the stove diffused a grateful warmth through the cosy little apartment, and the murmuring of the now gentle


breakers on the shore, blending with the more distant voices of the penguins at the Rookery, fell soothingly upon our senses; and soon no other sound could be heard in our dwelling. I was roused about midnight by Fielding, whom I found fully armed and equipped for a tramp.

      "Come, Joe," said he," let's have a cruise down on the point, and see if we can't kill enough before day, to make a day's work for the rest."


Author: Macy, William Hussey
Title: Beyond Desolation - No. 5.
Publication: Ballou's Monthly Magazine.
Vol/No/Date: Vol. 65, No. 5 (May 1887)
Pages: 402-407