Sea and land, as far as it was possible to distinguish one from the other, were covered with a sheet of ice.
A new project struck the Doctor’s mind, which was soon matured and ripe for execution. He lost no time in going back to the snow house, and consulting over it with his companions.
“I have got an idea,” he said; “I think of constructing a lighthouse on the top of that cone above our heads.”
“A lighthouse!” they all exclaimed.
“Yes, a lighthouse. It would be a double advantage. It would be a beacon to guide us in distant excursions, and also serve to illumine our plateau in the long dreary winter months.”
“There is no doubt,” replied Altamont, “of its utility; but how would you contrive to make it?”
“With one of the lanterns out of the Porpoise.”
“All right; but how will you feed your lamp? With seal oil?”
“No, seal oil would not give nearly sufficient light. It would scarcely be visible through the fog.”
“Are you going to try to make gas out of our coal then?”
“No, not that either, for gas would not be strong enough; and, worse still, it would waste our combustibles.”
“Well,” replied Altamont; “I’m at a loss to see how you—”
“Oh, I’m prepared for everything after the mercury bullet, and the ice lens, and Fort Providence. I believe Mr. Clawbonny can do anything,” exclaimed Johnson.
“Come, Clawbonny, tell us what your light is to be, then,” said Altamont.
“That’s soon told,” replied Clawbonny. “I mean to have an electric light.”
“An electric light?”
“Yes, why not? Haven’t you a galvanic battery on board your ship?”
“Well, there will be no difficulty then in producing an electric light, and that will cost nothing, and be far brighter.”
“First-rate?” said Johnson; “let us set to work at once.”
“By all means. There is plenty of material. In an hour we can raise a pillar of ice ten feet high, and that is quite enough.
Away went the Doctor, followed by his companions, and the column was soon erected and crowned with a ship lantern. The conducting wires were properly adjusted within it, and the pile with which they communicated fixed up in the sitting-room, where the warmth of the stove would protect it from the action of the frost.
As soon as it grew dark the experiment was made, and proved a complete success. An intense brilliant light streamed from the lantern and illumined the entire plateau and the plains beneath.
Johnson could not help clapping his hands, half beside himself with delight.
“Well, I declare, Mr. Clawbonny,” he exclaimed, “you’re our sun now.”
“One must be a little of everything, you know,” was Clawbonny’s modest reply.
It was too cold. however, even to stand admiring more than a minute, and the whole party were glad enough to get indoors again, and tuck themselves up in their warm blankets.
A regular course of life commenced now, though uncertain weather and frequent changes of temperature made it sometimes impracticable to venture outside the hut at all, and it was not till the Saturday after the installation, that a day came that was favourable enough for a hunting excursion; when Bell, and Altamont, and the Doctor determined to take advantage of it, and try to replenish their stock of provisions.
They started very early in the morning, each armed with a double- barrelled gun and plenty of powder and shot, a hatchet, and a snow knife.
The weather was cloudy, but Clawbonny put the galvanic battery in action before he left, and the bright rays of the electric light did duty for the glorious orb of day, and in truth was no bad substitute, for the light was equal to three thousand candles, or three hundred gas burners.
It was intensely cold, but dry, and there was little or no wind. The hunters set off in the direction of Cape Washington, and the hard snow so favoured their march, that in three hours they had gone fifteen miles, Duk jumping and barking beside them all the way. They kept as close to the coast as possible, but found no trace of human habitation and indeed scarcely a sign of animal life.