Our schooner would arrive
before the gates of the iceberg wall would be open. For three days the weather caused the working of the ship to be unusually laborious, and the new crew behaved very well; thereupon the boatswain congratulated them. Hurliguerly bore witness that Hunt, for all his awkward and clumsy build, was in himself worth three men.
“A famous recruit,” said he.
“Yes, indeed,” I replied, “and gained just at the last moment.”
“Very true, Mr. Jeorling! But what a face and head he has, that Hunt!”
“I have often met Americans like him in the regions of the Far West,” I answered, “and I should not be surprised if this man had Indian blood in his veins. Do you ever talk with Hunt?”
“Very seldom, Mr. Jeorling. He keeps himself to himself, and away from everybody. And yet, it is not for want of mouth. I never saw anything like his! And his hands! Have you seen his hands? Be on your guard, Mr. Jeorling, if ever he wants to shake hands with you.”
“Fortunately, boatswain, Hunt does not seem to be quarrelsome. He appears to be a quiet man who does not abuse his strength.”
“No—except when he is setting a halyard. Then I am always afraid the pulley will come down and the yard with it.”
Hunt certainly was a strange being, and I could not resist observing him with curiosity, especially as it struck me that he regarded me at times with a curious intentness.
On the 10th of November, at about two in the afternoon, the look-out shouted,—
“Land ahead, starboard!”
An observation had just given 55° 7’ latitude and 41° 13’ longitude. This land could only be the Isle de Saint Pierre—its British names are South Georgia, New Georgia, and King George’s Island—and it belongs to the circumpolar regions.
It was discovered by the Frenchman, Barbe, in 1675, before Cook; but, although he came in second, the celebrated navigator gave it the series of names which it still bears.
The schooner took the direction of this island, whose snow-clad heights—formidable masses of ancient rock-rise to an immense altitude through the yellow fogs of the surrounding space.
New Georgia, situated within five hundred leagues of Magellan Straits, belongs to the administrative domain of the Falklands. The British administration is not represented there by anyone, the island is not inhabited, although it is habitable, at least in the summer season.
On the following day, while the men were gone in search of water, I walked about in the vicinity of the bay. The place was an utter desert, for the period at which sealing is pursued there had not arrived. New Georgia, being exposed to the direct action of the Antarctic polar current, is freely frequented by marine mammals. I saw several droves of these creatures on the rocks, the strand, and within the rock grottoes of the coast. Whole “smalas” of penguins, standing motionless in interminable rows, brayed their protest against the invasion of an intruder—I allude to myself.
Innumerable larks flew over the surface of the waters and the sands; their song awoke my memory of lands more favoured by nature. It is fortunate that these birds do not want branches to perch on; for there does not exist a tree in New Georgia. Here and there I found a few phanerogams, some pale-coloured mosses, and especially tussock grass in such abundance that numerous herds of cattle might be fed upon the island.
On the 12th November the Halbrane sailed once more, and having doubled Charlotte Point at the extremity of Royal Bay, she headed in the direction of the Sandwich Islands, four hundred miles from thence.
So far we had not encountered floating ice. The reason was that the summer sun had not detached any, either from the icebergs or the southern lands. Later on, the current would draw them to the height of the fiftieth parallel, which, in the southern hemisphere, is that of Paris or Quebec. But we were much impeded by huge banks of fog which frequently shut out the horizon. Nevertheless, as these waters presented no danger, and there was nothing to fear from ice packs or drifting icebergs, the Halbrane was able to pursue her route towards the Sandwich Islands comfortably enough.