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Woman Locates The North Pole







From: Doctor Jones' Picnic

Silver Cloud hastened on with the favoring gale from the balmy South. By
noon the coast of Franz Joseph Land could be seen. They were now near
the eightieth degree of latitude. During the afternoon they crossed that
land of eternal winter. Monotonous mountains, hills, and plains of
everlasting snow and ice wearied the eye, and caused a sense of
seasickness and vertigo if looked upon too long. The Doctor had treated
these symptoms in each as they occurred, and our friends had experienced
but little of the inconvenience due to this cause that is suffered by
most aeronauts. They had entirely lost their sense of insecurity and
fear, and nothing could be more comfortable and pleasant than were the
accommodations of the cabin of Silver Cloud, even in this exceedingly
high latitude. And oh! those walks about the balcony of Silver Cloud!
How invigorating and healthful! So vast were the proportions of the
globe that there was no swaying, shaking, nor trembling ever
perceptible. It was as if the splendid structure were a rock, and all
the world a swift flying panorama far beneath them. Very strange and
weird was the sight of the sun, traveling in one continuous circuit but
a few degrees above the horizon, never rising nor setting during six
months of the year. The atmosphere was particularly clear and frosty, so
that as they promenaded the balcony, or sat in the observatory, they
were obliged to don their beautiful sealskins, a complete outfit of
which Count Icanovich had presented to each member of the company.

All were exceedingly happy and jubilant. The wind continued very nearly
as before, and within twenty-four hours, nothing preventing, they would
stand at the coveted spot--the North Pole.

At dinner time Franz Joseph Land was far behind them, and they were
sailing over the dark blue waters of the Arctic Ocean, more or less
filled with great floes and icebergs, illustrating to the voyagers the
terrible perils and hardships through which Arctic explorers had passed,
and amidst which so many of them had died.

"What wonder," said the Professor, as he scanned the unnavigable seas
with his glass, "that man has thus far utterly failed in his attempts to
overcome these insuperable obstacles. Think of the cold, hunger, and
awful wretchedness these poor fellows have suffered. And Doctor, see! Is
not that a ship I see yonder? It is! It is!" cried the Professor
excitedly, pointing to an object sailing in a bit of open sea, her nose
pointing stubbornly toward the North.

"We can hail them," cried the Doctor.

The upper and lower traps of the air chamber were opened, and Silver
Cloud settled like a great roc toward the toiling little ship. They
passed nearly directly over it, and at an altitude of but 300 feet.

"Ship ahoy!" shouted the Doctor through a speaking trumpet.

"Ahoy!" came from the vessel.

"Where are you bound?"

"North Pole!"

"Sail due west twenty miles and you will find an open sea to the North.
All closed ahead. Good luck to you! Good-bye!"

"Aye, aye, sir! Good-bye!" came cheerily from the quarterdeck of the
little ship, and they had passed beyond hailing distance.

"Poor, brave fellows," sighed the Doctor.

"They have reached an amazingly high latitude," said the Professor.
"They have crossed the 83rd parallel, very nearly as high as Nansen got
with his expedition last year."

"I declare that I am sorry for them, and really dislike to take the
glory of the discovery from them. But we cannot stop now, and it is
utterly impossible for them to get there anyway."

"They would have soon been shut in, and probably forever as they were
heading," observed Will.

North and east, as they could distinctly see from their elevation of two
thousand feet, far as the eye could reach, all was one vast field of
huge piles of ice, exceedingly rough and broken, with here and there
towering spires that seemed to reach up toward the globe like grizzly
arms that would prevent them from penetrating the secrets of the north
that had been held for untold centuries.

As the Doctor had informed the captain of the ship, away to the west was
a certain amount of open sea, but it was of limited extent, and the
prospects of the poor fellows getting much farther looked more than
doubtful.

"And what is to become of them if they cannot get through?" asked Mrs.
Jones.

"I cannot tell," returned the Doctor, "but the chances are that they
will be crushed in the ice."

"O dear, what a fate!" cried Mrs. Jones. "Can we do nothing for them?"

"Nothing at all, my dear. They are beyond our reach, and it is not
likely that they would desert their ship if we could offer to take them
with us. Such men are not easily turned from their purpose."

"All we can do then is to pray that God will preserve them, and permit
them to return safely home," said the sympathetic little woman.

"And let us ask Him that this favoring gale may continue a few hours
longer," added Dr. Jones.

There was no thought of retiring as the usual hour for doing so arrived.
They all felt impressed with the thought that they were now looking upon
scenes never before seen by mortal eye, and that they were very near the
object of their journey. How their hearts warmed and palpitated with the
thought!

"We have crossed the 85th parallel," said the Professor, "and in six or
seven hours will reach the Pole at this rate."

"This is the Lord's doings, and it is marvelous in our eyes," quoted the
Doctor with great fervency.

Busy feet climbed and descended the spiral stairway many times that
night, but could see nothing but a frozen sea in every direction. The
wind blew from due south, and they were flying at tremendous speed
directly toward the Pole as if drawn there by a great magnet. The cold
was intense--the thermometer registering more than 60 deg. below zero.
But as we said before, no wind was ever felt aboard Silver Cloud, and it
has been ascertained that man can endure almost any degree of cold if
it be quiet and still.

At midnight they all sat down to a good substantial supper that had been
prepared by Sing. The aroma of the coffee filled the little dining-room,
and was grateful to the senses. How merry and happy they were! And they
ate and drank with appetites that were very complimentary to Sing's
cooking, and the faithful Mongolian was well pleased to see the food
thus disappearing.

"There is no place like the Arctics for getting hungry and giving food a
relish. I declare that I have not eaten so since a boy," exclaimed
Denison.

"I really eat until I am ashamed of myself," said Mattie.

"Well, it agrees with you, Mattie," replied Denison. "Just look at her
plump cheeks, and the beautiful roses upon them!"

"Indeed, I never saw you look so well as you do now," said Mrs. Jones,
looking at her admiringly.

"And I am glad that I can return the compliment," replied Mattie.

"I am of the opinion that a trip to the Arctics in Silver Cloud would
cure any case of dispepsia in the world," said Dr. Jones.

"What a wonderful stimulant coffee is," remarked the Professor, as he
sipped a cup of that beverage.

"I never realized that fact so much as when in the army," replied Dr.
Jones. "After a long day's march we would get into camp so tired that we
could scarcely move. We would start our camp-fires, and very soon after
you could hear a musical clink, clink, clinking in every direction. It
was the sound produced by the soldier boys, pounding their coffee fine
in their tin cups with the butt of their bayonets. And the effect of a
pint of that hot Government Java coffee was perfectly marvelous. It
would almost instantly take the aching and tired feeling from the
muscles, and we could have marched all night if necessary."

"I cannot realize that this is midnight," said Mattie, as they stood
upon the balcony, well wrapped in furs, looking over the vast fields of
ice and snow. "One would hardly know when to get up or go to bed in this
wonderful country."

The time rapidly passed; they reached the 86th, 87th, 88th, 89th degrees
of latitude, and the strain upon their nerves grew to be tremendous. The
Doctor and Professor could not rest anywhere but in the observatory,
glasses in hand. Each was pale with excitement.

"I believe that to be land ahead," said the Doctor, pointing to a high
elevation directly before them.

The Professor looked at it earnestly a few moments and replied:

"It is, Doctor, and we have settled the fact that the North Pole is
situated upon an island. The open sea at the Pole is a myth, as I always
believed it to be."

The rest of the party was notified of the fact that land was near at
hand, and that very shortly the North Pole would be reached. So they all
assembled upon the balcony, except Sing. That individual could not be
enthused upon so small a matter as the discovery of the North Pole; and
after washing the supper dishes and cleaning up the kitchen and
dining-room, retired as unconcernedly as if nothing unusual were at
hand.

Rapidly and unerringly as a dart flew the beautiful ship to the place of
all places upon earth to our exultant voyagers. Nearer and nearer grew
the elevation before them.

"We are within less than half an hour of the Pole," announced the
Professor in a low constrained voice.

"Glory be to God!" said Dr. Jones with great solemnity. "I never felt
His presence more than at this moment. To Him be all the praise."

"Amen!" responded every one of the little company.

They were now passing over the island. They could see that it was
several miles in diameter, and nearly circular in form. Almost exactly
in the center arose a conical hill or mountain, about one thousand feet
in altitude.

"Upon the summit of that mount I am of the opinion we will find the
North Pole," said Professor Gray.

"And we are heading directly for it!" cried Dr. Jones. "Just a few
moments more, dear friends, and we shall have reached our journey's end.
Now get ready to drop the anchor when Professor Gray gives the signal."

Silver Cloud was lowered as they neared the mount. They were just over
the summit at but fifty feet from the surface. The signal was given, the
anchors dropped. At first they dragged upon the frozen snow, but soon
the flukes caught in the crevices of the icy masses, and the great globe
was securely anchored at the North Pole!

They instantly prepared to descend in the cage. The cold was terrible,
so much so that they could not have endured it at all but for provisions
that Dr. Jones had made for this very event. Besides their splendid
silk-lined and padded sealskin suits, he had brought a large number of
Japanese fireboxes. The punks in these were lighted, and when all were
very hot they were wrapped in flannels and distributed about their
persons inside their sealskins. With this arrangement, Jack Frost's
chances of nipping their persons were very slim indeed.

The thermometer registered seventy degrees below zero. Having taken
every possible precaution, the Doctor and Professor descended. Their
feelings cannot be described as they stepped upon the solidly frozen
surface, and realized that they were the first human beings who had thus
stood upon the summit of the earth! After looking about a few moments,
Professor Gray said:

"We must settle the globe to the earth, and from the observatory I can
make observations that will locate the Pole exactly."

This was accordingly done. From the observatory with a sextant he made
an observation every six hours, making allowance for the declination of
the sun, meantime. This was an exceedingly delicate problem, but the
Professor was fully equal to it. At the end of twenty-four hours he and
the Doctor again donned their furs, stepped over the railing of the
balcony and walked out upon the snow. The rest of the party had amused
themselves while awaiting the Professor's observations by setting up
little mounds of ice, upon what they guessed to be the spot where the
learned Professor would declare the geographical pole to be. His mind,
meantime, was too engrossed with the momentous business in hand to pay
the least attention to their frivolities; and, utterly unmindful of the
fur-clad figures that stood scattered about, each by its respective ice
mound, he measured a certain number of lengths of a sharp pointed steel
rod which he carried in his hand, directly to Mrs. Jones, and with a
side swipe of his foot he swept aside her pile of ice lumps, raised the
steel rod in both hands and drove it down with all his force just where
the ice mound had stood, and cried with all his power in a fur-muffled
voice, "The North Pole!" And Mrs. Jones jumped up and down as nimbly as
her load of furs and fireboxes would permit, banged her great sealskin
mittens together, and cried, "Goody! Goody! I guessed it! I am the
discoverer of the North Pole! I always knew that a woman would be the
first one there!"





Next: The Planting Of The Flagstaff

Previous: Farewell To Beauty And The Beast



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