The Fur Country Part 02 Page 01
I. A Floating Fort II. Where Are We? III. A Tour Of The Island IV. A Night Encampment V. From July 25th To August 20th VI. Ten Days Of Tempest VII. A Fire And A Cry VIII. Mrs. Paulina Barnett’s Excursion IX. Kalumah’s Adventures X. The Kamtchatka Current XI. A Communication From Lieutenant Hobson XII. A Chance To Be Tried XIII. Across The Ice-Field XIV. The Winter Months XV. A Last Exploring Expedition XVI. The Break-Up Of The Ice XVII. The Avalanche XVIII. All At Work XIX. Behring Sea XX. In The Offing XXI. The Island Becomes An Isle XXII. The Four Following Days XXIII. On A Piece Of Ice XXIV. Conclusion
A FLOATING FORT.
And so Fort Hope, founded by Lieutenant Hobson on the borders of the Polar Sea, had drifted! Was the courageous agent of the Company to blame for this? No; any one might have been deceived as he had been. No human prevision could have foreseen such a calamity. He meant to build upon a rock, and he had not even built upon sand. The peninsula of Victoria, which the best maps of English America join to the American continent, had been torn suddenly away from it. This peninsula was in fact nothing but an immense piece of ice, five hundred square miles in extent, converted by successive deposits of sand and earth into apparently solid ground well clothed with vegetation. Connected with the mainland for thousands of centuries, the earthquake of the 8th of January had dragged it away from its moorings, and it was now a floating island, at the mercy of the winds and waves, and had been carried along the Arctic Ocean by powerful currents for the last three months!
Yes, Fort Hope was built upon ice! Hobson at once understood the mysterious change in their latitude. The isthmus—that is to say, the neck of land which connected the peninsula of Victoria with the mainland—had been snapped in two by a subterranean convulsion connected with the eruption of the volcano some months before. As long as the northern winter continued, the frozen sea maintained things as they were; but when the thaw came, when the ice fields, melted beneath the rays of the sun, and the huge icebergs, driven out into the offing, drew back to the farthest limits of the horizon—when the sea at last became open, the whole peninsula drifted away, with its woods, its cliffs, its promontories, its inland lagoon, and its coast-line, under the influence of a current about which nothing was known. For months this drifting had been going on unnoticed by the colonists, who even when hunting did not go far from Fort Hope. Beach-marks, if they had been made, would have been useless; for heavy mists obscured everything at a short distance, the ground remained apparently firm and motionless, and there was, in short, nothing to hint to the Lieutenant and his men that they had become islanders. The position of the new island with regard to the rising and setting of the sun was the same as before. Had the cardinal points changed their position, had the island turned round, the Lieutenant, the astronomer, or Mrs Barnett, would certainly have noticed and understood the change; but in its course the island had thus far followed a parallel of latitude, and its motion, though rapid, had been imperceptible.
Although Hobson had no doubt of the moral and physical courage and determination of his companions, he determined not to acquaint them with the truth. It would be time enough to tell them of their altered position when it had been thoroughly studied. Fortunately the good fellows, soldiers or workmen, took little notice of the astronomical observations, and not being able to see the consequences involved, they did not trouble themselves about the change of latitude just announced.
The Lieutenant determined to conceal his anxiety, and seeing no remedy for the misfortune, mastered his emotion by a strong effort, and tried to console Thomas Black, who was lamenting his disappointment and tearing his hair.