Johnson and Bell carried in provisions, and gave the dogs their liberty.
About eleven o’clock, breakfast, or rather dinner, was ready, consisting of pemmican, salt meat, and smoking-hot tea and coffee.
But Hatteras would do nothing till the exact position of the island was ascertained; so the Doctor and Altamont set to work with their instruments, and found that the exact latitude of the grotto was 89° 59’ 15”. The longitude was of little importance, for all the meridians blended a few hundred feet higher.
The 90° of lat. was then only about three quarters of a mile off, or just about the summit of the volcano.
When the result was communicated to Hatteras, he desired that a formal document might be drawn up to attest the fact, and two copies made, one of which should be deposited on a cairn on the island.
Clawbonny was the scribe, and indited the following document, a copy of which is now among the archives of the Royal Geographical Society of London:—
“On this 11th day of July, 1861, in North latitude 89° 59’ 15” was discovered Queen’s Island at the North Pole, by Captain Hatteras, Commander of the brig Forward of Liverpool, who signs this, as also all his companions.
“Whoever may find this document is requested to forward it to the Admiralty.
“(Signed) JOHN HATTERAS, Commander
of the Forward
“ALTAMONT, Commander of the Porpoise
“And now, friends, come to table,” said the Doctor, merrily.
Coming to table was just squatting on the ground.
“But who,” said Clawbonny, “would not give all the tables and dining-rooms in the world to dine at 89” 59’ and 15” N. lat.?”
It was an exciting occasion this first meal at the Pole! What neither ancients nor moderns, neither Europeans, nor Americans, nor Asiatics had been able to accomplish was now achieved, and all past sufferings and perils were forgotten in the glow of success.
“But, after all,” said Johnson, after toasts to Hatteras and the North Pole had been enthusiastically drunk, “what is there so very special about the North Pole? Will you tell me, Mr. Clawbonny?”
“Just this, my good Johnson. It is the only point of the globe that is motionless; all the other points are revolving with extreme rapidity.”
“But I don’t see that we are any more motionless here than at Liverpool.”
“Because in both cases you are a party concerned, both in the motion and the rest; but the fact is certain.”
Clawbonny then went on to describe the diurnal and annual motions of the earth—the one round its own axis, the extremities of which are the poles, which is accomplished in twenty-four hours, and the other round the sun, which takes a whole year.
Bell and Johnson listened half incredulously, and
couldn’t see why the earth could not have been allowed to keep still, till Altamont informed them that they would then have had neither day nor night, nor spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
“Ay, and worse still,” said Clawbonny, “if the motion chanced to be interrupted, we should fall right into the sun in sixty-four and a half days.”
“What! take sixty-four and a half days, to fall?” exclaimed Johnson.
“Yes, we are ninety-five millions of miles off. But when I say the Pole is motionless, it is not strictly true; it is only so in comparison with the rest of the globe, for it has a certain movement of its own, and completes a circle in about twenty-six thousand years. This comes from the precession of the equinoxes.”
A long and learned talk was started on this subject between Altamont and the Doctor, simplified, however, as much as possible for the benefit of Bell and Johnson.
Hatteras took no part in it, and even when they went on to speculate about the earth’s centre, and discussed several of the theories that had been advanced respecting it, he seemed not to hear; it was evident his thoughts were far away.
Among other opinions put forth was one in our own days, which greatly excited Altamont’s surprise. It was held that there was an immense opening at the poles which led into the heart of the earth, and that it was out of the opening that the light of the Aurora Borealis streamed.