Log of the S. S. Hope
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
The Log of the S. S. Hope is a manuscript diary written by Arthur Conan Doyle recounting his travel in the Arctic as a surgeon on the ship "Hope" between 28 february and 11 august 1880.
Log of the S. S. Hope
LOG OF THE S.S. HOPE 1880
Greenland whale and seal fishing
Saturday February 28
Sailed at 2 o'clock amid a great crowd and greater cheering. The Windward Captain Murray went out in front of us, their Captain bellowing "port" and "starboard" like a Bull of Bashan. We set about it in a quieter and more business-like way. We are as clean as a gentleman's yacht, all shining brass and snow white decks. Saw a young lady that I was introduced to but whose name I did not catch waving a handkerchief from the end of the pier. Took off my hat from the Hope's quarterdeck though I don't know her from Eve. Rather rough outside and the glass falling rapidly. Beat about the bay for several hours and had dinner with champagne in honour of Baxter and grandees on board. Pilot boat came and fetched them all off at last, together with an unfortunate stowaway who tried to conceal himself in the tween decks. Sailed for Shetland in a rough wind, glass going down like oysters. As long as I stick on deck I'll do.
Sunday March 1st'
Got into Lerwick at 7.30 PM. Deuced lucky for us as a gale is rising and if we hadn't made the land we might have lost boats and bulwarks. We were uneasy
222 about it, but we sighted the Bressay light about 5.30. Captain's very pleased we got in before the Windward, though they had 5 hours start.
Monday March 1st
Blowing a hurricane. Windward got in at 2 AM only just in time. The whole harbour is one sheet of foam. Feel very comfortable aboard. Have a snug little cabin. Telegraph gone wrong between this and Peterhead. Pokey hole.
Tuesday March 2nd
Glass down at 28.375. Captain has never seen it so low. Blowing like Billy outside. Made out the hosiery list. Tait on religion and atheism. He is our Shetland agent, not half such a fool as he looks.
Wednesday March 3rd
Fine day. Glass still very low. Went on shore with the Captain after breakfast. Enlisted our Shetland hands. Fearful rush and row in Tait's small office. Jan Mayen & Victor came in. Murray of the Windward seems a decent fellow. Captain [Gray] and I were going from Tait's shop when a drunken Shetlander got hold of him. "Capn, I'm (hic!) goin' with you. Oh such a voyage, Captain, such a voyage as never was landed! (hic!) Three hundred and fifty tons, sir, I've brought the luck with me." Gray turned back in the back room, and seemed annoyed. I said "I'll turn him out if you like, Captain." He said "Ah, I know fine you'd like a smack at him, Doctor. I would mysel but it wouldna do." We had locked the door of the back room when there was an apparition of a hand and arm through the smoked glass window which formed the upper half of the door. Bang! Crash! Wood and glass came rattling into the room, and we saw our indomitable Shetlander, with his hands cut and bleeding, looking through the hole. "Wood and iron won't keep me from you, Captain Gray. Go I will." The Captain coolly smoked his pipe the whole time and never moved from the stove. The man was carried off, kicking & thumping to the gaol, I suppose, though the
223 infirmary would have been a far better place. If ever I saw D T that was it. Had Murray of Windward and Tait to dinner, talk of masonry, whaling &c. Dispute with Murray about efficacy of drugs. Plenty of good wine going. Finished the evening with the Captain very pleasantly. By the way another stowaway turned up today, a wretched looking animal. The Captain was frightening him at first by telling him he'd have to go back, but he finally signed the Articles.
Thursday March 4th
Gave out tobacco in the morning. Slept forenoon. Went ashore in the evening. Went first with second mate and Stewart to the Queen's and had something short as he calls it. Then went to Mrs Brown's and lost sight of them. Had a very hospitable reception there. Told me to make their home my home. Went down to the Commercial where an F&E was going on. Heard some good songs and sang Jack's Yarn. Chat with Captain about Prince Jerome, &c.
224 Friday March 5th
Captain and I were invited to Tait's for dinner. Both thought it a horrid bore. Went to the Queen's and played billiards. Then toddled down to Tait's. Met Murray of the Windward and Galloway, the latter a small lawyer, insufferably conceited — hate the fellow. Had a heavy weary dinner with very inferior champagne. Old Tait expressed great surprise at my saying I was RD's nephew — the old cow, I found out afterwards that the Captain had just been telling him about it. He has a dog who has been taught to love the name of Napoleon, if you talk of shooting Napoleon he will make a dart at you, and probably leave with some things of yours in his mouth, muscles and clothes and things. Murray talked about putting three men under the ice, seeing ten men shot in a mob row, and several curious things. We got the boat at nine o'clock and were both delighted to get on board again, and stretch our legs quietly. Wind rising. Saw what the Captain says is a Roman camp, but I think it is a round Pictish tower.
Saturday March 6th
Raining and blowing hard. Did nothing all day. Colin McLean and men went ashore in the evening and hailed for boat, which we had to give though it was rather rough. Began Boswell's life of Johnson.
Sunday March 7th
Nothing doing except that the mail steamer St Magnus came in with a letter from home and one from Letty, also a week's Scotsmen. Satisfactory news. We shifted our berth the other day in the harbour and now lie apart from the other ships with the Windward. Colin the mate was at the Queen's last night among a lot of Dundeesmen who spoke of those two D-d Peterheadsmen who went and moped by
225 themselves. Colin got up and after proclaiming himself a "Hope" man ran amuck through the assembly knocking down a Dundee doctor. He remarked to me this morning when I was giving him a pick me up "It's lucky I was sober, Doctor, or I might have got into a regular row." I wonder what Colin's idea of a regular row is. Lerwick is a dirty little town with very hospitable simple inhabitants. Main Street was designed by a man with a squint, builded on the lines of a corkscrew. Noticed today that some of the ships in harbour flew Freemason flags, Murray has the Royal arch [Ark] up, Compasses on a blue ground.
[DRAWING OF PENNANT]
Fishermen sell cod here at 5/ a hundredweight, and have caught as much as 25 Cwt in a night. By the way the Engineer of the Windward got his two forefingers crushed in machinery yesterday and I had to go over before breakfast and dress them. Twenty sail of whalers in the bay.
Monday March 8th
Nothing like a quill.pen for writing a journal with, but this is such a confound-edly bad one. Went ashore today and after knocking about some time went up to see a football match between Orkney and Shetland — play rather poor. Met Captains of Jan Mayen (Denchars), Nova Zembla, and Erik, also a London man, Brown, doctor of the Erik. Six of us went down to the Queens after the match and started on bad whiskey and went on to coffee. Then Brown ordered a bottle of champagne, and Murray and I followed suit. Cigars and pipes. I think we all had quite enough liquor. Brown was wrecked in the Ravenscraig last year. Says he is a very superior sort of shot. Captain' and I got home about half past nine.
LETTER THAT DAY TO HIS MOTHER, MARY FOLEY DOYLE, IN EDINBURGH
S. S. Hope Lerwick Monday Dearest Ma'am. here goes by the aid of a quill pen and a pot of ink to let you know all the news from the North: the mail steamer came in yesterday with your letter and a very kind one from that dear girl Letty, who seems to have a vague idea that I am going to Greenland to pass an examination or face some medical board, judging from her wishes for my success and talk about coming back quite a finished doctor. What a jolly little soul she is though! The Scotsman came too as also did the forceps. Now as to your inquiries I'll answer them as best I can
- 1st I got your letters, parcels, etc.
- 2nd I have not got my [?] but want it.
- 3rd I was not sick.
- 4th I have answered Mrs Hoare's letter
- 5th I went and saw the Rodgers like a good little boy as I am.
And the baby too, at least I saw a pair of enormous watery eyes staring at me from a bundle of clothes, a sort of female octopus with four tentacles (Octopus Dumpling = iformis). It was far from dumb though 'Son et oculi et prosterea nihil,' except a slightly mawkish odour. Oh yes Beelzebub is a fine child — I beg its pardon — Christabel. And now that I have satisfied your perturbed spirit by soothing answers, let me fish about for something to interest you. And first of all you will be glad to hear that I never was more happy in my life. I've got a strong Bohemian element in me, I'm afraid, and the life just seems to suit me. Fine honest fellows the men are and such a strapping lot. You've no idea how self-educated some of them are. The chief engineer came up from the coal hole last night & engaged me upon Darwinism, in the moonlight on deck. I overthrew him with great slaughter but then he took me on to Colenso's objections to the Pentateuch and got rather the best of me there. The captain is a well informed man too. There are nearly 3o sail of whalers in Lerwick Bay now. There are only 2 Peterhead ships, the Windward & Hope; there is a lot of bad blood between the two sets, Gray and Murray being both looked upon as aristocrats. Colin McLean our 1st Mate was at the Queen's on Saturday
when half a dozen Dundee officers began to run down the Hope. Colin is a great red bearded Scotchman of few words, so he got up slowly and said "I'm a Hope man mysel," and began to run amuck through the assembly. He floored a doctor & maimed a captain & got away in triumph. He remarked to me in the morning "It's lucky I was sober, Doctor, or there might have been a row." I wonder what Colin's idea of a row may be. Lerwick is the town of crooked streets and ugly maidens & fish. A most dismal hole, with 2 hotels & r billiard table. Country round is barren & ugly. No trees in the island. Went to Tait our agent for dinner on Friday, heavy swell feed, champagne & that sort of thing, but rather tiresome. By the way we carry capital champagne & every wine on board, & feed like prize pigs. I haven't known what it was to eat with an appetite for a long time, I want some more exercise, that's what I want. I box a little but that is positively all. We just got in in time to avoid the full fury of that gale the other day. The captain says if we had stayed out we would have lost our boats & bulwarks, possibly our masts. The weather is better now. I fancy we will sail about Thursday.
There, my dear, that's about my sum total of news. God bless you all while I'm away. You'll hear from me in little more than 2 months. There is an act of Parlia-ment forbidding us to kill a seal before April 2nd, that is why we are kicking about here. Love to all and kind remembrances to Greenhill Pl.
Yr loving son
A C D
I've got the Captain's leave to go with a few of the biggest of the petty officers to the Queen's today to see if we can't have a row.
You must have got the wrong name from Mrs. Drummond.
Lottie's letter was very clever & amusing.
LETTER CONCLUDES, DIARY RESUMES
Tuesday March 9th
Went ashore with Captain before dinner. Jack Webster was drunk and playing old Harry in the streets. Captain got hold of him and sent him on board the
Hope in the pilot boat, but when he got half way he sprang over and swam ashore again. Cane and a boat's crew captured him afterwards. Had a very dull morning going from shop to shop. We will sail tomorrow if it is any way fair. Tait came on board afterwards and we had a pleasant talk. He is a sensible fellow tho' rather a bore. Looked over Scoresby. Captain told me some curious things about whaling. The great distance at which they can hear a steamer and how it frightens them. Oil is about £5o a ton and bone L800 or so. All bone goes to the continent. Sea Unicorns are very common, so are sharks, and dolphins, but the curiosity of the place are the animaliculae which the whale eats.
Wednesday March 10th
A North wind prevented our getting off. The old Eclipse steamed in grandly about four o'clock being cheered by each ship as she passed. Went on board and saw Captain David, Alec and Crabbe. Went ashore in the evening and played Captain, also had the honour of beating Crabbe at billiards. He has a great local reputation. Left my meerschaum and gloves in the smoking room.
Thursday March 11th
A big day for Leith. The ships began to steer out from Lerwick Sound after breakfast. It was a pretty thing on the beautifully clear and calm day to hear the men singing across the bay to the clank clank of the anchors. Every ship as it passed out got 3 cheers from all the others. Captain and I went ashore, and the boat's crew and I went in search of that beggar Jack Webster. We found him at
last and five of us carried him, cursing horribly, down the main street of Lerwick to the boat, where I had to hold him to keep him from jumping overboard. We left about one o'clock and steamed through the islands till about seven when we came to an anchorage with the Jan Mayen, Erik, and Active in a little voe. We raced the Jan Mayen up from Lerwick and beat her all the way, anchored within a stone throw of the Erik. Talking to McLeod and Captain about getting to the Pole in the evening. There is no doubt about it that everyone has been on a wrong tack. The broad ocean is the way to find a way up to the Pole, not by going up a drain which gradually grows narrower, and down which the ice naturally runs, as it does in Davis' Straits.
Friday March 12th
We'll have to stay here all day, I fear, for it is blowing half a gale tho' the glass is high. Nothing to do all day. The land is a succession of long low hills with peat cuttings and funny little thatched cottages here and there. Captain went over to the Erik in the evening. They seemed to be catching fish but we had no proper bait, so mate and I went ashore with a boat's crew to get some clams. It was nearly dark so we couldn't gather them, but we went the round of the little cottages begging. Such dismal hovels, the esquimeaux have better houses. Each has a little square hole in the ceiling to let out the smoke of a large peat fire in the middle of the room. They were all civil enough. Met one rather pretty but shy girl even in this barbarous spot. Got some razor fish as bait and departed triumphant. Up to our thighs in mud coming and going. Revenue cutter boarded
us this evening and Lieutenant was only pacified by the present of a stick of baccy. I'm afraid Colin will eat all our bait. Captain rather annoyed about being kept in this hole. Glass high.
Saturday March 13th
Wind high and raining hard. Active and Jan Mayen are off already. We follow them soon. They are pulling up the anchor now and singing "Goodbye, Fare-thee-well, Goodbye Fare-thee-well." A pretty song it is too. Sea was not very rough outside. Went through the islands, keeping full at the right at the extreme north of Shetland we passed some curious rocks in the sea called Ramna Stacks.
[DRAWING 'Ramna Stacks']
Raining hard all day. We raced with the Erik and had rather the best of it. Not a bit seasick. Saw Burrafiord Holms the extreme north point of Great Britain, and then lost sight of land about four P.M. Ran with an oblique wind and three quarter steam all night. Dreamed of being beaten by a gorilla, and of pulling in the Oxford boat. 167 miles.
Sunday March 14th
Erik rather ahead of us and only occasionally in sight. Heavy Atlantic swell doing the Grand Northward Ho! all day under steam and sail.
[DRAWING 'Heavy Atlantic Swell']
Northward Ho! ran about 150 miles. About getting to the Pole, the Gulf Stream runs up past Spitzbergen so of course that is the way to go. It is one of the most extraordinary delusions in history how ship after ship has run up into a cul-de-sac, for Davis' Straits is nothing better. Read Boswell. Don't agree with Macauley at all about Boswell being a man of no intellect. If ever a man was
afflicted with what he calls "morbus Boswellianus" it is Lord Macauley himself in the case of Willy the Silent.
Monday March 15th
First under steam and sail, and then under sail alone. Must have got about half way today. Kept in the cabin until evening. Read Boswell. Like that old boy Johnson for all his pomposity. A thorough old felow, I fancy. He was in Plymouth, it seems, for a couple of days, and there was considerable ill-feeling between the townsmen and the men about the docks. Johnson who had nothing in the world to do with it was often heard to exclaim "I hate a docker." I like that sort of thing. Sky looked like ice this evening. Surface temperature fallen from 44 to 38 in one day.
Tuesday March 16th
Still under canvas, wind continues fair. I've brought the luck with me. Two bottlenose whales were playing round the ship in the morning but I did not see them. It seems we are crossing a very favourite feeding ground of theirs. Expect to come on the ice tomorrow. We made 159 miles yesterday. Are hundreds of miles north of Iceland, about sixty southeast of Jan Mayen. Old hands on board say they never knew such a good passage, however we mustn't crow until we are out of the wood. Water temperature has fallen 2° since 12 o'cl which looks like ice. White line on the sky. Everyone seems to think we will see ice before tomorrow. We can tell that we are under the lea of ice by the calm. Captain told me about some curious dreams of his, notably about the Germans and the black heifers.
Wednesday March 17th
Dies creta notanda. About five o'clock I heard the second mate tell the Captain that we were among the ice. He got up but I was too lazy. Passed a Norwegian about 8 o'clock. When we rose at nine the keen fresh air told me it was freezing. I went on deck and there was the ice. It was not in a continuous sheet but the
whole ocean was covered with little hillocks of it, rising and falling with the waves, pure white above and of a wonderful green below. None were more than 4 or 6 feet out of the water but they were of every shape. No seals. Put up the crow's nest in the morning.
[DRAWING 'A Peterhead Whaler' SUBTITLED `(Ice in the background by Capt John Gray of the Hope)']
[DRAWING 'Sealing Costume']
All day we were steaming or rather sailing through lumps of ice which studded the water, sometimes so thickly that you could jump from one to another for hundreds of yards, and sometimes only a bit or two visible. The large ice field seems to be on our left. See a ship about 5 miles behind us, supposed to be the Jan Mayen, while far away in front a sail is dimly visible. From the masthead Cane says he can see 9 vessels.
Thursday 18th March
Stewart dreamed that he was among a great herd of swine last night, so we are sure to see seals today. If a man dreams of anything agricultural it always means that seals are somewhere near. A curious fact. Ice lying in lumps much the same as yesterday. Stewart's dream seems true for we saw our first seal, a bladdernose, about 11 AM. It was speckled black and white and lay on the ice as the ship steamed past, only about a dozen yards from it, looking at it quietly. Poor brute, if they are all as tame it seems a shame to kill them.
[DRAWING 'our first seal']
Captain saw a large speckled owl a couple of hundred yards from the ship, saw a few roaches and guillemots but we are too far from land to have many. We are considerably to the North of Jan Mayen now. Passed another bladdernose and a saddleback seal later. Some were seen in the water afterwards. A most lovely morning but hazy towards evening. Spoke to the Erik and mutually congratulated
each other on our passage. By the way Walker said to me at Lerwick "If I had known who you were, sir, last year, things might have been different." I'm a lot better as I am, though I didn't make that remark to him.
Friday March 19th
A thick haze with the lumps of ice looming out of it. Could see about a hundred yards in each direction. Passed two large bladdernoses, male & female on a bit of ice.
[FOLDED-OVER DRAWING "The Hope among loose ice March 16th 1880"]
We tried the whistling and certainly the male did stop and listen to it, the female wasn't so susceptible but shunted at once. The male was about 10 feet long, I should think, the female 7 or 8. I wish the haze would clear up. Drizzling a little. Haze continued all day so we lay to at night. Cane and Stewart were sparring in the evening. Talk on literature with the Captain, he thinks Dickens very small beer beside Thackery. Buckland seems to be a lovely sort of cove.
Saturday March 10th
Only a week from Shetland and here we are far into the icefields. It has certainly been a splendid voyage. Beautiful day, wonderfully clear. Icefields, snow white on very dark blue water as far as the eye can reach. We are ploughing through in grand style. Five sail in sight, one the Erik. Stewart insists on my accepting a pretty Esquimeaux tobacco pouch; I suppose he means it as a quid pro quo for the pipe I gave him. No seals seen as yet. Got near heavy ice in the evening and lay to. Several bladdernoses playing about the ship. About a couple of hundred seals visible from the crow's nest, so we seem to be coming near the pack. Eleven sail in sight. Adam Carner saw the steps of a bear in the ice.
Sunday March 21st
Lay to all day owing to the thick haze. Bladdernoses by the dozen are all around us. A few saddlebacks. The Captain thinks the pack is about 20 miles or so in
front of us. Johnny had a meeting in the evening, the singing sounded well from the deck. Split a bottle of port after dinner. Captain tells me he tried fixing a cone full of prussic acid onto the end of the harpoon. He fired it into a finner from his small steamer. The brute went away at such a rate that it very nearly set the bows on fire by the friction. The line broke and it got away, but seems to have died, for no dogfish were seen on the coast for some days. Many finners are zoo feet long. By the way Carner taught me some esquimeaux. Amalang (yes), piou (very good), piou smali (bad), kisi-micky (ice-dog — ie bear).
Monday March 22nd
Very foggy again, but we have drifted among a few saddlebacks with their little fat yellow offspring. Got the quarter boats out, and the rifles. A long time to wait yet, though, till April 3d, Saturday week. Fog lasted all day so that we lay to. Boxed in evening. Finished Boswell Vol I. Dreamed of G. P.
Tuesday March 23d
Clear morning, a good few seals in sight.
[DRAWING 'male, female & young saddleback']
Eclipse came in at last, and Captain boarded it before dinner. Steamed a few miles in the right direction. Blowing a gale all day. 11 degrees below freezing point. Very cold wind. Rigging covered with ice. Climbed up to the crow's nest before tea, but the Captain called me down just as I got up to it, as he thought I might get frostbitten. Got a fine pouch from Cane. Carner tells me at New Orleans before the war a dock labourer could make £1 a day. Now they make a dollar only. Captain saw blockade runners leaving Liverpool during the war, long spider like steamers of great speed, and painted the colour of the ocean. Cargo mostly quinine, needed hardly any crew. Glass rising again.
Wednesday March 24th
Another big day for Leith. We have seen the pack, and an enormous pack it is too. I have not seen it from the nest yet but it extends from one side of the horizon to the other, and so deep that we can see no end to it. The nearer we steam towards it, the bigger it grows. Colin says he never saw such a one in his life. It is certainly the largest collection of big animals in the world at present, at least I know no other beast that goes in herds of millions, covering a space about 15 miles long and 8 deep. We ought to have a good voyage now, my old luck. All the ships are lying round now and taking up their positions. Windward steamed past us today flying her Jack, and dipped it as a salute. io days yet to wait. Oysters.
Thursday March 25th
Hurrah for a quill pen! 19° below freezing point this evening. Have been taking up our position, and mounting boats and cleaning guns all day. Edge of pack can be seen from the bridge now. Good many isolated ones about the ship. I can hear the young ones squeaking as I write. It is a noise between the mew of a cat and the bleat of a lamb. They look a sort of cross between a lamb & a gigantic slug. Our only fear now is that some of these great blundering Norwegians or Dundeesmen go and put their foot into it. If we get less than 5o tons I'll be disappointed, if we get less than zoo I'll be surprised. Captain is going to teach me to take the latitude and longitude. Saw a clever couplet today
"Till Silence, like a poultice comes, To heal the blows of Sound."
Holmes' I think. Sported my sea boots today.
Friday March 26th
Frost still continues, 17° today, 20° during the night. This is just what we want to fill up gaps in the icefield and make it safe walking. Steamed very little. The mate says the seals are lying in an almost solid mass. He says there are more than in '55, and in that year 50 vessels were among them, and all got filled. We are 23 vessels now all told so the prospect is cheery. Bar earthquakes we'll make a voyage of it. It is very trying work waiting, though this close time is an excellent
provision. The poor brutes used to be killed before they had pupped. Eclipse got a bear today, and we saw the steps of one on the snow beside our ship. They are cowardly brutes unless in a corner. Captain killed one once with a boat hook. Engineer told me how one chased a crew for miles across the snow once, and how they had to throw down article after article to engage his attention, so that they got to the ship nearly naked and in a blue funk. There is no specimen of a right whale in any British museum, except a foetus. Saw the young seals suckling today. Hurt my hand boxing with the Stewart. Stuffed old Keith's tooth, and cured young Keith's collywobbles. It seems to be the family's day out.
Saturday March 27th
This day week is our day. Got my knife and my sharpener today, and asked Carner to see about my club.
Beautiful day, still lying on the skirts of the pack, all seem satisfied except the Captain and he grumbles a bit, but I think he is only joking. Saw another bear's footsteps.
[DRAWING 'Bear's Step']
The Eclipse has killed two and we have never seen one. They tell me bears go in flocks of 20 or 30 very often. Rifles given out tonight. Steamed a little. Haggie Milne better tonight. No news. Wrote my "Modern Parable."
Sunday March 28th
Haggie bad again so I gave him some Chlorodyne. Captain went on board the Eclipse and in a little the boat came off for me for dinner. Had a very pleasant feed with good wine afterwards. The conversation turned upon the war, politics, the North Pole, Darwinism, Frankenstein, free trade, whaling and
local matters. Captain David seems to take a sinister view of our case. Says we'll be lucky if we get 20 tons; he may say it, but I don't think he thinks it. Saw his bear's skins. By the way he told us some strange stories which I will try to write as he told them.
"When I was a young fellow," he said "I happened to be in London with a gold watch and a good deal of money. I was at the Lyceum one night and wanted to get back to my lodgings in Holborn but wandered about a long time unable to find my way. At last I saw a respectable looking man and asked him the way to Holborn, adding that I was a stranger. He said he was going that way himself, and that he was Captain Burton of the 17th Lancers. We walked on together and Captain Burton by turning the conversation on the danger of carrying money about in London, learned about my watch and gold, and warned me against it. We shortly afterwards turned into an open door and the Captain said 'What shall we have here, I'll have some Cognac.' I said 'Coffee is strong enough for me.' The waiter who brought in the things was the most repulsive looking ruffian I ever clapt eyes on, and I saw him stick his tongue in his cheek and leer at the Captain. It was then that I first suspected that I had got into a trap.
"I threw half a sovereign on the counter and rose to go out, but the waiter put his back against the door and said 'We don't allow our visitors to leave us like this.' The Captain said 'Come on, sir, and we'll make a night of it; hullo give us some sherry out of bin No 3.' The waiter called 'Janet' and a girl appeared rather pretty and very pale. He said 'Bin No 3.' The girl said 'Surely, surely you don't need that bin tonight.' He said 'do what you are told.' As she brought in the wine she whispered to me 'Pretend to sleep.' I drank a little of the wine, but spilled most of it. Then I sank down & closed my eyes. Soon the two villains came over and whispered together, and one passed the candle over my eyes and said 'He is off.' They whispered a little again, and one said 'Dead men tell no tales.' The other said 'Then we had better get the bed ready' and they both left the room. I flung open the window and was off down the street like a shot, and ran about half a mile before I saw a bobby, and then I found it impossible, with
my imperfect knowledge of London to find the house again. I heard no more of it. Get out another bottle of Port, Doctor." The conclusion of the story was considered to be a very able effort. He told us another story about how he acted as a spy in the Boer service, and murdered 3 Kaffirs in their sleep, and shot a German through the body.
He saw a walrus eating a Narwhal once. He is a fine fellow, and Dr Walker seems a very decent chap too. He thinks more whales are found at night than in the day, so when he gets North into the Twilight land, he has his breakfast at io P.M., dinner at 2 in the morning, and supper at 7 A.M. Then he sleeps all day. He says whales leave a very characteristic odour behind them, and you often smell them before you see them.
March 29th Monday
Our time is coming now. Thick day with a driving snow. Nothing particular going on. Had a pleasant evening in the mates' berth. Songs all round. Sang "Jack's Yarn," "The Mermaid" and "Steam Arm." Good fun. By the way Colin the mate paid me a high compliment today. He said "I'm going to have every man working hard when we start sealing. I've no fears of you, Surgeon. I'll back you to do a day's work with any man aboard. You suit me, and I liked the style of you the first time I saw ye. I hate your clean-handed gentlemen." This was a high compliment from taciturn Colin.
March 30th Tuesday
Nothing much doing. Windward came alongside and Murray came on board. He seemed to have small prospects, 10 tons was more than he expected, he said. Told us about Sir John Ross firing his gun through the window of a house because his mate was inside & he wanted him. Murray was one of the Franklin searchers. Ross said "Every step onwards, boys, is honour and glory to us. Death before dishonour," when they were starting sledging. Sparred with Colin & Stewart.
Wednesday March 31st
Very little doing all day. A heavy swell has set in and we are uneasy about the result. If it continues until Saturday it will make our work both difficult and dangerous. The ice is not a solid sheet, but made up of thousands of pieces of all sizes floating close to each other. Now in a swell those pieces alternately separate and come together with irresistible force. If a poor fellow slips in between two pieces as is easily done, he runs a good chance of being cut in two, as actually happened to several Dundeesmen. Men played leapfrog on a big piece. I started a story "A Journey to the Pole," which I intend to be good. We are going to write to Gladstone and Disraeli when the Dundeesmen go home.
Thursday April 1st
Swell continues and things look badly. We steamed a bit during the day. This is the first time for 3 years that I have not been examined today. Sent the Chief Engineer to the Captain with a cock and bull story about curtain rings. Johnny's dignity was very much hurt. By the way I was at the masthead yesterday, and also on the ice some time. Saluted the Harald Haarfager tonight 7.30. Swell still on.
[FOLDED-OVER DRAWING "Ships taking up their positions among the seals"]
Friday April 2nd
Swell still on and the pack growing more scattered. I'm afraid our prospects will not be realized. However every man must do his best, and then we can do no more. Stayed up until 12 o'clock to see the close time out.
Saturday April 3rd
Up at 2.30 AM. Swell still on, so as to make good work impossible. Lowered away our boats in the sludge about 4.30. I stayed aboard at the captain's command much against my will and helped as well as I could by pulling the skins up the