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by Edgar Allan Poe

We kept our course southwardly for four days after giving up

the search for Glass's islands, without meeting with any ice at all.
On the twenty-sixth, at noon, we were in latitude 63 degrees 23' S.,
longitude 41 degrees 25' W. We now saw several large ice islands, and
a floe of field ice, not, however, of any great extent. The winds
generally blew from the southeast, or the northeast, but were very
light. Whenever we had a westerly wind, which was seldom, it was
invariably attended with a rain squall. Every day we had more or less
snow. The thermometer, on the twenty-seventh stood at thirty-five.

January 1, 1828.- This day we found ourselves completely hemmed

in by the ice, and our prospects looked cheerless indeed. A strong
gale blew, during the whole forenoon, from the northeast, and drove
large cakes of the drift against the rudder and counter with such
violence that we all trembled for the consequences. Toward evening,
the gale still blowing with fury, a large field in front separated,
and we were enabled, by carrying a press of sail to force a passage
through the smaller flakes into some open water beyond. As we
approached this space we took in sail by degrees, and having at
length got clear, lay-to under a single reefed foresail.

January 2.- We had now tolerably pleasant weather. At noon we

found ourselves in latitude 69 degrees 10' S, longitude 42 degrees
20' W, having crossed the Antarctic circle. Very little ice was to be
seen to the southward, although large fields of it lay behind us.
This day we rigged some sounding gear, using a large iron pot capable
of holding twenty gallons, and a line of two hundred fathoms. We
found the current setting to the north, about a quarter of a mile per
hour. The temperature of the air was now about thirty-three. Here we
found the variation to be 14 degrees 28' easterly, per azimuth.

January 5.- We had still held on to the southward without any

very great impediments. On this morning, however, being in latitude
73 degrees 15' E., longitude 42 degrees 10' W, we were again brought
to a stand by an immense expanse of firm ice. We saw, nevertheless,
much open water to the southward, and felt no doubt of being able to
reach it eventually. Standing to the eastward along the edge of the
floe, we at length came to a passage of about a mile in width,
through which we warped our way by sundown. The sea in which we now
were was thickly covered with ice islands, but had no field ice, and
we pushed on boldly as before. The cold did not seem to increase,
although we had snow very frequently, and now and then hail squalls
of great violence. Immense flocks of the albatross flew over the
schooner this day, going from southeast to northwest.

January 7.- The sea still remained pretty well open, so that we

had no difficulty in holding on our course. To the westward we saw
some icebergs of incredible size, and in the afternoon passed very
near one whose summit could not have been less than four hundred
fathoms from the surface of the ocean. Its girth was probably, at the
base, three-quarters of a league, and several streams of water were
running from crevices in its sides. We remained in sight of this
island two days, and then only lost it in a fog.

January 10.- Early this morning we had the misfortune to lose a

man overboard. He was an American named Peter Vredenburgh, a native
of New York, and was one of the most valuable hands on board the
schooner. In going over the bows his foot slipped, and he fell
between two cakes of ice, never rising again. At noon of this day we
were in latitude 78 degrees 30', longitude 40 degrees 15' W. The cold
was now excessive, and we had hail squalls continually from the
northward and eastward. In this direction also we saw several more
immense icebergs, and the whole horizon to the eastward appeared to
be blocked up with field ice, rising in tiers, one mass above the
other. Some driftwood floated by during the evening, and a great
quantity of birds flew over, among which were nellies, peterels,
albatrosses, and a large bird of a brilliant blue plumage. The
variation here, per azimuth, was less than it had been previously to
our passing the Antarctic circle.

January 12.-Our passage to the south again looked doubtful, as

nothing was to be seen in the direction of the pole but one
apparently limitless floe, backed by absolute mountains of ragged
ice, one precipice of which arose frowningly above the other. We
stood to the westward until the fourteenth, in the hope of finding an

January 14.-This morning we reached the western extremity of the

field which had impeded us, and, weathering it, came to an open sea,
without a particle of ice. Upon sounding with two hundred fathoms, we
here found a current setting southwardly at the rate of half a mile
per hour. The temperature of the air was forty-seven, that of the
water thirtyfour. We now sailed to the southward without meeting any
interruption of moment until the sixteenth, when, at noon, we were in
latitude 81 degrees 21', longitude 42 degrees W. We here again
sounded, and found a current setting still southwardly, and at the
rate of three quarters of a mile per hour. The variation per azimuth
had diminished, and the temperature of the air was mild and pleasant,
the thermometer being as high as fifty-one. At this period not a
particle of ice was to be discovered. All hands on board now felt
certain of attaining the pole.

January 17.- This day was full of incident. Innumerable flights

of birds flew over us from the southward, and several were shot from
the deck, one of them, a species of pelican, proved to be excellent
eating. About midday a small floe of ice was seen from the masthead
off the larboard bow, and upon it there appeared to be some large
animal. As the weather was good and nearly calm, Captain Guy ordered
out two of the boats to see what it was. Dirk Peters and myself
accompanied the mate in the larger boat. Upon coming up with the
floe, we perceived that it was in the possession of a gigantic
creature of the race of the Arctic bear, but far exceeding in size
the largest of these animals. Being well armed, we made no scruple of
attacking it at once. Several shots were fired in quick succession,
the most of which took effect, apparently, in the head and body.
Nothing discouraged, however, the monster threw himself from the ice,
and swam with open jaws, to the boat in which were Peters and myself.
Owing to the confusion which ensued among us at this unexpected turn
of the adventure, no person was ready immediately with a second shot,
and the bear had actually succeeded in getting half his vast bulk
across our gunwale, and seizing one of the men by the small of his
back, before any efficient means were taken to repel him. In this
extremity nothing but the promptness and agility of Peters saved us
from destruction. Leaping upon the back of the huge beast, he plunged
the blade of a knife behind the neck, reaching the spinal marrow at a
blow. The brute tumbled into the sea lifeless, and without a
struggle, rolling over Peters as he fell. The latter soon recovered
himself, and a rope being thrown him, he secured the carcass before
entering the boat. We then returned in triumph to the schooner,
towing our trophy behind us. This bear, upon admeasurement, proved
to be full fifteen feet in his greatest length. His wool was
perfectly white, and very coarse, curling tightly. The eyes were of a
blood red, and larger than those of the Arctic bear, the snout also
more rounded, rather resembling the snout of the bulldog. The meat
was tender, but excessively rank and fishy, although the men devoured
it with avidity, and declared it excellent eating.

Scarcely had we got our prize alongside, when the man at the

masthead gave the joyful shout of "land on the starboard bow!" All
hands were now upon the alert, and, a breeze springing up very
opportunely from the northward and eastward, we were soon close in
with the coast. It proved to be a low rocky islet, of about a league
in circumference, and altogether destitute of vegetation, if we
except a species of prickly pear. In approaching it from the
northward, a singular ledge of rock is seen projecting into the sea,
and bearing a strong resemblance to corded bales of cotton. Around
this ledge to the westward is a small bay, at the bottom of which our
boats effected a convenient landing.

It did not take us long to explore every portion of the island,

but, with one exception, we found nothing worthy of our observation.
In the southern extremity, we picked up near the shore, half buried
in a pile of loose stones, a piece of wood, which seemed to have
formed the prow of a canoe. There had been evidently some attempt at
carving upon it, and Captain Guy fancied that he made out the figure
of a tortoise, but the resemblance did not strike me very forcibly.
Besides this prow, if such it were, we found no other token that any
living creature had ever been here before. Around the coast we
discovered occasional small floes of ice- but these were very few.
The exact situation of the islet (to which Captain Guy gave the name
of Bennet's Islet, in honour of his partner in the ownership of the
schooner) is 82 degrees 50' S. latitude, 42 degrees 20' W. longitude.

We had now advanced to the southward more than eight degrees

farther than any previous navigators, and the sea still lay perfectly
open before us. We found, too, that the variation uniformly decreased
as we proceeded, and, what was still more surprising, that the
temperature of the air, and latterly of the water, became milder. The
weather might even be called pleasant, and we had a steady but very
gentle breeze always from some northern point of the compass. The sky
was usually clear, with now and then a slight appearance of thin
vapour in the southern horizon- this, however, was invariably of
brief duration. Two difficulties alone presented themselves to our
view; we were getting short of fuel, and symptoms of scurvy had
occurred among several of the crew. These considerations began to
impress upon Captain Guy the necessity of returning, and he spoke of
it frequently. For my own part, confident as I was of soon arriving
at land of some description upon the course we were pursuing, and
having every reason to believe, from present appearances, that we
should not find it the sterile soil met with in the higher Arctic
latitudes, I warmly pressed upon him the expediency of persevering,
at least for a few days longer, in the direction we were now holding.
So tempting an opportunity of solving the great problem in regard to
an Antarctic continent had never yet been afforded to man, and I
confess that I felt myself bursting with indignation at the timid and
ill-timed suggestions of our commander. I believe, indeed, that what
I could not refrain from saying to him on this head had the effect of
inducing him to push on. While, therefore, I cannot but lament the
most unfortunate and bloody events which immediately arose from my
advice, I must still be allowed to feel some degree of gratification
at having been instrumental, however remotely, in opening to the eye
of science one of the most intensely exciting secrets which has ever
engrossed its attention.

More Great Books and Authors to Explore!
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
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William Hope Hodgson
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