The men of the expedition gathered round the observers with their sextants ready in their hands. The brave fellows awaited the result of the observation with an impatience which will be readily understood. It was now to be decided whether they had come to the end of their journey, or whether they must search still further for a spot fulfilling the conditions imposed by the Company.
Probably no good result would have followed upon further explorations, According to the maps of North America-imperfect, it is true-the western coast beyond Cape Bathurst sloped down below the seventieth parallel, not again rising above it until it entered Russian America, where the English had as yet no right to settle; so that Hobson had shown considerable judgment in directing his course to Cape Bathurst after a thorough examination of the maps of these northern regions. This promontory is, in fact, the only one which juts out beyond the seventieth parallel along the whole of the North American continent, properly so called-that is to say, in English America. It remained to be proved that it really occupied the position assigned to it in maps.
At this moment the sun was approaching the culminating-point of its course, and the two observers pointed the telescopes of their sextants upon it. By means of inclined mirrors attached to the instruments, the sun ought apparently to go back to the horizon itself; and the moment when it seemed to touch it with the lower side of its disc would be precisely that at which it would occupy the highest point of the diurnal arc, and consequently the exact moment when it would pass the meridian-in other words, it would be noon at the place where the observation was taken.
All watched in anxious silence.
“Noon!” cried Jaspar Hobson and the astronomer at once.
The telescopes were immediately lowered. The Lieutenant and Thomas Black read on the graduated limbs the value of the angles they had just obtained, and at once proceeded to note down their observations.
A few minutes afterwards, Lieutenant Hobson rose and said, addressing his companions
“My friends, from this date, July 6th, I promise you double pay in the name of the Hudson’s Bay Company!”
“Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah for the Company!” shouted the worthy companions of the Lieutenant with one voice.
Cape Bathurst and its immediate neighbourhood were in very truth above the seventieth degree of north latitude.
We give the result of these simultaneous observations, which agreed to a second.
Longitude, 127° 36’ 12” west of the meridian of Greenwich.
Latitude, 70° 44’ 37” north.
And that very evening these hardy pioneers, encamped so far from the inhabited world, watched the mighty luminary of day touch the edges of the western horizon without dipping beneath it.
For the first time they saw the shining of the midnight sun.
The site of the new fort was now finally determined on. It would be impossible to find a better situation than on the level ground behind Cape Bathurst, on the eastern bank of the lagoon Hobson determined to commence the construction of the principal house at once. Meanwhile all must accommodate themselves as best they could; and the sledges were ingeniously utilised to form a provisional encampment.
His men being very skilful, the Lieutenant hoped to have the principal house ready in a month. It was to be large enough to accommodate for a time the nineteen persons of the party. Later, and before the excessive cold set in, if there should be time, the barracks for the soldiers and the magazines for the furs and skins were to be built. There was not much chance of getting it all done before the end of September; and after that date, the winter, with its first bitter frosts and long nights, would arrest all further progress.
Of the ten soldiers chosen by Captain Craventy, two-Marbre and Sabine-were skilful hunters; the other eight handled the hatchet with as much address as the musket. Like sailors, they could turn their hands to anything, and were now to be treated more like workmen than soldiers, for they were to build a fort which there was as yet no enemy to attack.