The Planting Of The Flagstaff
From: Doctor Jones' Picnic
The whole of the party now shouted--Sing always excepted. That
individual was strictly attending to his business in the kitchen during
the excitement. They ran--or waddled, for they moved with difficulty,
loaded as they were--to the spot where the two men and Mrs. Jones were
standing. They gathered in a circle about the steel rod that marked the
exact spot for which the boldest navigators and explorers have longed,
and striven, and died by thousands during many decades of the past.
The Doctor broke out in his sonorous voice, the rest immediately joining
him in the familiar doxology, "Old Hundred,"
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow."
When they had finished, at a signal from the Doctor, they all kneeled
upon the icy pavement, and he offered up a fervent prayer of praise and
thanksgiving for the preservation of their lives, and for the wonderful
success that had attended their enterprise. Then in unison they repeated
the Lord's prayer.
And what could be more appropriate? The echoes first awakened in this
ultra-frigid region by the human voice were praises to God in song and
prayer. The ends of the earth had bowed the knee to the Father Almighty,
and it seemed to the little band to be the beginning of the good time
foretold, when the glory of God shall cover the earth as the waters do
the face of the deep.
"Now let us see what Sing has for breakfast, lunch, or whatever meal it
may be. I have been so interested in our work the last few hours that I
have paid no attention to time," said Dr. Jones.
A few moments later they were seated about their dining table, and no
happier company could be found in Christendom that day.
"Did anyone note the time that we arrived here?" asked Will.
"At 7 o'clock, 45 min., 20 sec., August 6, 19--, we located the North
Pole, and planted our steel rod as marker thereof," replied Professor
"What is the next thing on the program, Doctor?" asked Denison.
"We will immediately set about planting our aluminum flagstaff. We are
liable to a terrible storm at any moment, and might be driven away
before we had accomplished that important ceremony. It would possibly be
months before we should encounter so favorable a gale again. Let us not
rest until we have finished all we came to do, then away for home."
"It is all very well to say 'Plant the flagstaff'; but how on earth can
we possibly set up a 300 foot metal pole at this extremity of the earth,
without derrick, blocks and tackles, or any machinery whatever?"
"I'll show you a Yankee trick in a short time," cried Dr. Jones.
They hurried through the meal and prepared again to go out into the
terribly cold atmosphere. The fireboxes were again lighted and
distributed about their clothing as before. All then went out and
assembled again about the rod.
"I must get through this crust of ice and see what depth of snow there
is below," said the Doctor.
With the sharp-pointed steel rod he picked and worked several minutes,
but made very little progress in the flinty ice.
"Get a hammer, Denison," said he.
The tool being procured, they hammered upon the upper end of the rod,
and drilled as miners do in rock. After some time of this work the
"This will never do. We have evidently a great thickness of ice to go
through, possibly more than we can ever penetrate. We can do no work in
these fur suits, and we should instantly freeze if we took them off. We
must settle the globe upon this spot, then we shall be within the cabin
and can throw off our coats and go to work. We have a big job on hand.
Let's pull the ship over at once."
The wind had subsided to a nearly dead calm, and it was remarkable how
all nature seemed to be auspicious to the occasion. She had been forced
to yield up her secrets, fast locked and frozen by the chill hand of
Jack Frost so many centuries, and now seemed disposed to surrender them
with a good grace. The globe was raised a few feet from the earth. Two
of the anchors were carried to the opposite side of the Pole, and Will
turned on the spring windlasses. Thus they easily drew the ship to the
desired spot, and it was slowly settled down so that the "manhole," as
they called the hole in the floor through which the cage operated, came
directly over the steel rod, the rod standing precisely in the center of
"Now, my hearties, furs off!" cried the energetic little Doctor. He
doffed his own suit hurriedly, pulled on a pair of woolen gloves in lieu
of the sealskin ones, pulled the steel rod out and laid it aside,
grasped an axe and began chopping into the ice with all his might. The
ice chips flew about the engine-room in a shower. He was soon obliged to
stop for breath. Will shoveled the loosened ice out, then seized the axe
and worked for a short time with the same spirit that animated the
Doctor. And so by turns they kept the axe and shovel flying, making very
rapid progress. They soon were too deep to use long-handled tools, and
resorted to mallet and chisel, and a short-handled hand axe. Slowly and
more slowly progressed the work as the shaft grew deeper. Finally the
head of the man in the shaft disappeared below the surface, being now
nearly seven feet deep.
"We shall have to devise some plan for hoisting before long," said Dr.
"Can't we use the windlass?" suggested Denison.
"So we can!" cried the Doctor. "The steel springs forever! Will never
did a better thing than when he invented the spring power windlass. We
may have to go twenty-five or thirty feet. But we will hoist by hand for
They had reached the depth of between eight and nine feet, when Will,
who was in the hole, shouted, "Hurrah! I've broken through!" and he
tossed up a handful of snow.
"Good boy!" cried the Doctor. "Now try with the rod and see if there be
another layer of ice within reach."
The rod, which was six feet long, was easily passed its full length into
the underlying snow.
"All right!" said Dr. Jones. "The flagstaff will settle sufficiently
deep to hold it there forever. Fire up, Will. I want to rise forty or
fifty feet above this hole."
This was accomplished in a very few minutes.
"Now let us get the foot of the mast precisely over that hole. I mean to
let it drop from this height, and its weight will sink it 25 or 30 feet
into the snow. That, with 9 feet of ice, will hold it for centuries. We
will fill the space in the ice shaft about the foot of the mast with the
ice chips that we have taken out, ram them down good and solid, then
pour water in. This will instantly freeze, and all the gales that ever
howled can never blow down the finest flagstaff that ever stood upon the
face of the earth."
The plumb-line was lowered and cables tautened here and slackened there
until the butt of the great mast stood precisely over the shaft. The
spiral stair had been so constructed that it nowhere touched the mast.
At its entrance into, and exit from the globe, heavy collars connected
the mast with the ship. These were removed, and a heavy trap door, upon
which the foot of the flagstaff rested, was its only support. A massive
bolt alone held the trap in place. Will and the Professor were by the
ice shaft, watching the plumb-line. At a signal, the Doctor struck the
bolt a heavy blow with a sledge, the trap fell, and the beautiful mast
shot like a flash of lightning down through the frosty atmosphere,
entered the ice hole precisely in the center, and sank to the depth of
35 feet into the snow, which, added to the 9 feet of ice, made a footing
of 44 feet for the towering flagstaff. The globe was again settled to
the foot of the mast, the ice chips filled in and rammed solidly, the
water poured about it, and their work was completed. The ingenuity
displayed by the Doctor upon this occasion showed him to be a born
leader of men, and the little band of associates so acknowledged to him
upon the spot. Dr. Jones shut off their effusive demonstrations as
quickly as possible. He did not appear to be possessed of any degree of
love of praise; on the contrary, it always embarrassed and made him
"And now let us eat again," said Dr. Jones. "We must get away from here
before we sleep."
So they sat down to a hearty dinner, all tired and very hungry. But the
coffee and smoking food immediately reinvigorated them, and they arose
from the table anxious to complete their work and be off for home.
"Shall we rest a few hours, or go on with our celebration, and
immediately sail for home--or wherever the wind may carry us?" asked Dr.
"O, let us go on by all means! plenty of time for rest and sleep," was
the unanimous decision.
"All right," he replied. "That suits me perfectly. This good weather
will not last long. The Arctics are subject to fearful and sudden
storms, and we must be ready to go at any instant. Whatever we are to
do, let us do quickly."
"I think we should have a patriotic piece or two at the foot of the
mast, and then our North Pole March. I have had in my mind that it would
be fine to raise the globe up ten feet or so, and beneath it we will
have our concert."
"But how can we sing with our mouths all wrapped up in furs? We shall
instantly freeze if we expose our faces to the cold. See, the
thermometer now marks nearly 70 degrees below zero."
It was Mattie who put this poser.
"I will tell you the only thing we can do," said Will. "We have an
abundance of coal oil. We will set all the pots, pans, and kettles
aboard ship in a circle around the mast at a sufficient distance from it
for our purpose. We will fill these dishes with coal oil, set fire to
them, and within this charmed circle you may sing to your hearts'
"Aye, aye, Will!" cried Dr. Jones. "You've struck it!"
The globe was adjusted, the vessels of oil set in place, the oil
instantly congealed, but Will had taken the precaution to place into
each vessel several wicks. He lighted these ends, and in a little while
the temperature in the circle rose very perceptibly. The organ was then
brought down and placed by the mast. They threw back their hoods and
sang America with deep solemnity and feeling. When they had finished,
Professor Gray said:
"I now propose that we have a speech from Doctor Jones. But first, three
cheers for the projector of this glorious enterprise and discoverer of
the North Pole. Hip, hip, hurrah!"
These cheers were given with all possible zest and enthusiasm.
"Friends and fellow citizens," began the Doctor, smiling good-naturedly
upon them, "I sincerely thank you for your expressions of good will. I
did not suppose that I was on the program for a speech. My heart is too
full for utterance when I contemplate the fact that we now actually
stand, safe, sound, and comfortable, at that spot so long sought by the
bravest men of all civilized lands. That the world will receive us with
open arms, and will heap honors and riches upon us, I do not for a
moment doubt. But all this will do us no good, on the contrary, much
harm, if we allow ourselves to become puffed up thereby, and cease to
give to God all the glory and honor. As for myself, I am only proud of
this achievement by so much as it shall prove a blessing to mankind. I
believe that true happiness is found alone in working for others.
Selfishness is the direct source of all the unhappiness upon earth, and
is the chief or only difference between a devil and an angel. But I see
that our fires are fast burning low, and I must hasten.
"So by right of discovery, I claim this island for our great republic,
the United States of America; and its name shall be, owing to its
position upon the top of the earth, Summit Island!"
This speech was received with great applause. Fred then struck up on the
organ the music of the North Pole March. The company began to circle
about the mast, keeping step to the inspiring notes and singing the four
parts. By the time this music was ended the fires were nearly burned
down and the temperature within the circle lowered rapidly. The vessels
were hastily gathered up and all entered the cabin.
As they were about to hoist the anchors, Professor Gray said:
"I am not perfectly satisfied as to the location of our pole being
exactly correct. And, to tell you the truth, it has been demonstrated
that the Pole is not a fixed, unchangeable spot, but really swings about
in a circle, varying from six to thirty feet in diameter, just as the
upper end of the stem of a spinning top does when it begins to run down
or lose its momentum. Now I am positive that our flagstaff stands
within this circle. But I would like, by another very satisfactory
experiment, to verify the one we have already made. It will require
another twenty-four hours."
"By all means, Professor," answered Dr. Jones, "do so. Let us do
everything possible to establish the fact that we are scientifically
correct in our location of the Pole. What would you have us do now?"
"I will explain what I intend doing, and then we will understand and we
can work intelligently together. I wish to photograph the stars directly
above our heads. If we were here during the winter season, when the sun
was below the horizon, we could see the stars distinctly with the
unassisted eye. But from March 21st to September 21st we cannot do that
because of continuous daylight. Now you are probably aware that looking
up from the bottom of a deep well or shaft in the daytime, the stars are
visible, even in the sunlight. And that is what I purpose doing."
"Well, and where is your shaft that you intend looking up through?"
inquired Dr. Jones.
The Professor significantly laid his hand upon the zinc tube which
enveloped the flagstaff. "O ho!" cried the Doctor, "why did not I think
We should have explained before that the spiral stairs ran up between
two zinc tubes, the one six feet in diameter, and the other two feet in
diameter. The latter surrounded the mast, and after the globe should
rise from the flagstaff this tube would indeed be a shaft two hundred
feet in depth, or two hundred and ten feet, for it extended to the top
of the roof of the observatory.
Accordingly, the burners were lighted, the globe arose until the ball of
the mast was just below the level of the floor of the engine-room. Upon
looking through the tube after all light had been excluded from the
engine-room, a bright star could be seen shining down upon them with
"Now, Will," cried Professor Gray, "I wish you could go up and lower a
plumb-line from the exact center of the top of the shaft. I want to see
if our tube stands perpendicularly. If it does, and the plumb-line
points straight through the center of it to yonder star, then we are at
the exact spot we seek."
The line was lowered, and after a little adjustment of the cables, the
lower end of the plumb-line passed through the exact center of the tube.
The Professor ran his eye up the line and smiled with satisfaction.
"Look at it, Doctor," he said.
"Well, that is wonderful!" cried Dr. Jones. "Look at it Fred, Denison.
The line runs precisely in alignment with the star."
"And now," said Professor Gray, after all had verified this last
statement, "let's not lose a moment's time. Get your camera out. We want
a twenty-four hours' exposure through our shaft, and photograph that
star. If we be exactly at the Pole, it will describe a perfect circle
upon the sensitive plate. If we are not so located, the line upon the
plate will form an ellipse."
The camera was set as suggested by the Professor, and then the party
retired for the night. We say "night," but the reader will constantly
bear in mind that this term is not used with reference to daylight or
darkness, simply to the clock, or time of day.
There was an absolute, dead calm during the following twenty-four hours
after Will had set the camera. Nature was so extraordinarily kind to Dr.
Jones during the time that we almost tremble for our reputation for
veracity as we record the last-mentioned fact. Any swaying of the globe
by the wind would have effectually prevented anything like a good
negative being made. But the globe remained in the exact position, the
atmosphere in the hot air chamber being kept up sufficiently so that a
steady strain was maintained upon the four cables. At the end of the
time mentioned the Professor examined the negative with a magnifying
glass, and pronounced the test perfectly satisfactory.
The globe was lowered down the mast for the last time. Denison and Will
ran out and loosened the anchors Slowly the ship then glided up the
beautiful mast. The flag, which had been wrapped about the small upper
end of the staff to prevent injury being done it while passing through
the tube, was shaken out at the moment it left the floor of the
engine-room. Its fastenings to the peak had been made doubly secure, and
it was tenderly manipulated through the final opening by loving hands.
The whole company involuntarily shouted at the inspiring sight. The
ship was lowered as it moved away, and the patriotic voyagers were
treated to a side view of the most beautiful, thrilling sight upon
earth--the American flag flying at the North Pole at the peak of the
loftiest flagstaff ever erected! Well might their hearts swell with
pride and their voices break forth in songs of triumph and praise. The
Star Spangled Banner! Emblem of Liberty! How exquisitely meet that it
should be thus planted forever at the summit of the earth, a terror to
tyrants, and a never-failing beacon of Light and Freedom to all people
of the world!
The Professor pointed out certain conformations of the mountain's
summit, and said: "This island is of volcanic formation, and this
mountain an extinct volcano. Yonder flagstaff stands upon the center of
a crater that has been filled with many centuries of ice and snow. At
some future time I hope to return prepared to penetrate this coat of
mail and determine, if possible, whether Summit Island has ever been the
habitat of any form of life, animal or vegetable."
Professor Gray had made such observations by the aid of instruments as
should be of interest to science. This he did while the others were
sinking the ice shaft, and during the time of the photographing of the
They were straining their eyes from the observatory to catch the last
glimpse of "Old Glory," when a sudden storm gathered about the island,
and it was shut out from view. They involuntarily cast their eyes up to
its former place, and they realized that Silver Cloud had been
dismantled of her chief beauty and glory.
"This will never do," exclaimed Dr. Jones. "Silver Cloud is like a bird
of paradise with its tail feathers all plucked. We must replace that
pole and flag as soon as we return to Washington."
"It seems like a cruelty to leave them in such a fearful place," said
Mrs. Jones. "Think of the awful storms that will gather and howl around
them for ages."
"They will outlast them all, praise God!" replied the Doctor. "As a
'Government of the people, for the people, and by the people shall not
perish from the earth,' so shall our flag and staff defy all the Arctic
storms that ever blew."
Then they descended to the cabin.
"I think it is about time to see which way we are heading," said the
Professor. "We are pointing straight for Alaska, as nearly as I can
judge," he said a few moments later.
All retired but Dr. Jones. He said that he really preferred to sit and
rest awhile before going to bed. So he sat for several hours, looking
occasionally at the barometer, thermometer, etc. Toward morning he
called Denison to "take the helm," as he jocosely termed it.
Next: Battle Of Missionary Ridge And Lookout Mountain
Previous: Woman Locates The North Pole