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   Chapter 1 THE POLAR SHIP.

The Boy Aviators' Polar Dash; or, Facing Death in the Antarctic By John Henry Goldfrap Characters: 13141

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

"Oh, it's southward ho, where the breezes blow; we're off for the pole, yo, ho! heave ho!"

"Is that you, Harry?" asked a lad of about seventeen, without looking up from some curious-looking frames and apparatus over which he was working in the garage workshop back of his New York home on Madison Avenue.

"Ay! ay! my hearty," responded his brother, giving his trousers a nautical hitch; "you seem to have forgotten that to-day is the day we are to see the polar ship."

"Not likely," exclaimed Frank Chester, flinging down his wrench and passing his hand through a mop of curly hair; "what time is it?"

"Almost noon; we must be at the Eric Basin at two o'clock."

"As late as that? Well, building a motor sledge and fixing up the

Golden Eagle certainly occupies time."

"Come on; wash up and then we'll get dinner and start over."

"Will Captain Hazzard be there?"

"Yes, they are getting the supplies on board now."

"Say, that sounds good, doesn't it? Mighty few boys get such a chance. The South Pole,-ice-bergs-sea-lions,-and-and-oh, heaps of things."

Arm in arm the two boys left the garage on the upper floor of which they had fitted up their aeronautical workshop. There the Golden Eagle, their big twin-screw aeroplane, had been planned and partially built, and here, too, they were now working on a motor-sledge for the expedition which now occupied most of their waking-and sleeping-thoughts.

The Erie Basin is an enclosed body of water which forms at once a repair shop and a graveyard for every conceivable variety of vessel, steam and sail, and is not the warmest place in the world on a chill day in late November, yet to the two lads, as they hurried along a narrow string-piece in the direction of a big three-masted steamer, which lay at a small pier projecting in an L-shaped formation, from the main wharf, the bitter blasts that swept round warehouse corners appeared to be of not the slightest consequence-at least to judge by their earnest conversation.

"What a muss!" exclaimed Harry, the younger of the two lads.

"Well," commented the other, "you'd hardly expect to find a wharf, alongside which a south polar ship is fitting up, on rush orders, to be as clean swept as a drawing-room, would you?"

As Harry Chester had said, the wharf was "a muss." Everywhere were cases and barrels all stenciled "Ship Southern Cross, U. S. South Polar Expedition." As fast as a gang of stevedores, their laboring bodies steaming in the sharp air, could handle the muddle, the numerous cases and crates were hauled aboard the vessel we have noticed and lowered into her capacious holds by a rattling, fussy cargo winch. The shouts of the freight handlers and the sharp shrieks of the whistle of the boss stevedore, as he started or stopped the hoisting engine, all combined to form a picture as confused as could well be imagined, and yet one which was in reality merely an orderly loading of a ship of whose existence, much less her destination, few were aware.

As the readers of The Boy Aviators in Record Flight; or, The Rival Aeroplane, will recall, the Chester boys, in their overland trip for the big newspaper prize, encountered Captain Robert Hazzard, a young army officer in pursuit of a band of renegade Indians. On that occasion he displayed much interest in the aeroplane in which they were voyaging over plains, mountains and rivers on their remarkable trip. They in turn were equally absorbed in what he had to tell them about his hopes of being selected for the post of commander of the expedition to the South Pole, which the government was then considering fitting out for the purpose of obtaining meteorological and geographical data. The actual attainment of the pole was, of course, the main object of the dash southward, but the expedition was likewise to do all in its power to add to the slender stock of the world's knowledge concerning the great silences south of the 80th parallel. About a month before this story opens the young captain had realized his wish and the Southern Cross-formerly a stanch bark-rigged whaler-had been purchased for uses of the expedition.

Their friend had not forgotten the boys and their aeroplane and in fact had lost no time in communicating with them, and a series of consultations and councils of war had ended in the boys being signed on as the aviators of the expedition. They also had had assigned to their care the mechanical details of the equipment, including a motor sledge, which latter will be more fully described later.

That the consent of the boys' parents to their long and hazardous trip had not been gained without a lot of coaxing and persuasion goes without saying. Mrs. Chester had held out till the last against what she termed "a hare-brained project," but the boys with learned discourses on the inestimable benefits that would redound to humanity's benefit from the discovery of the South Pole, had overborne even her rather bewildered opposition, and the day before they stood on the wharf in the Erie Basin, watching the Southern Cross swallowing her cargo, like a mighty sea monster demolishing a gigantic meal, they had received their duly signed and witnessed commissions as aviators to the expedition-documents of which they were not a little proud.

"Well, boys, here you are, I see. Come aboard."

The two boys gazed upward at the high side of the ship from whence the hail had proceeded. In the figure that had addressed them they had at first no little difficulty in recognizing Captain Hazzard. In grimy overalls, with a battered woolen cap of the Tam o' Shanter variety on his head, and his face liberally smudged with grime and dust,-for on the opposite side of the Southern Cross three lighters were at work coaling her,-a figure more unlike that of the usually trim and trig officer could scarcely be imagined.

The lads' confusion was only momentary, however, and ended in a hearty laugh as they nimbly ascended the narrow gangway and gained the deck by their friend's side. After a warm handshake, Frank exclaimed merrily:

"I suppose we are now another part of the miscellaneous cargo, sir. If we are in the way tell us and we'll go ashore again."

"No, I've got you here now and I don't mean to let you escape," laughed the other in response; "in my cabin-its aft there under the break in the poop, you'll find some more overalls, put them on and then I'll set you both to work as tallyers."

Harry looked blank at this. He had counted on rambling over the ship and examining her at his leisure. It see

med, however, that they were to be allowed no time for skylarking. Frank, however, obeyed with alacrity.

"Ay, ay, sir!" he exclaimed, with a sailor-like hitch at his trousers; "come, Harry, my hearty, tumble aft, we might as well begin to take orders now as any other time."

"That's the spirit, my boy," exclaimed the captain warmly, as Harry, looking a bit shamefaced at his temporary desire to protest, followed his brother to the stern of the ship.

Once on board there was no room to doubt that the Southern Cross had once been a whaler under the prosaic name of Eben A. Thayer. In fact if there had been any indecision about the matter the strong smell of oil and blubber which still clung to her, despite new coats of paint and a thorough cleaning, would have dispelled it.

The engine-room, as is usual in vessels of the type of the converted whaler, was as far aft as it could be placed, and the boys noticed with satisfaction as they entered the officers' quarters aft, that the radiators had been connected with the boilers and had warmed the place up to a comfortable temperature. A Japanese steward showed them into Captain Hazzard's cabin, and they selected a suit of overalls each from a higgledy-piggledy collection of oil-skins, rough pilot-cloth suits and all manner of headgear hanging on one of the cabin bulkheads.

They had encased themselves in them, and were laughing at the whimsical appearance they made in the clumsy garments, when the captain himself entered the cabin.

"The stevedores have knocked off for a rest spell and a smoke and the lighters are emptied," he announced, "so I might as well show you boys round a bit. Would you care to?"

Would they care to? Two hearty shouts of assent left the young commander no doubt on this score.

The former Eben A. Thayer had been a beamy ship, and the living quarters of her officers astern left nothing to be desired in the way of room. On one side of the cabin, extending beneath the poop deck, with a row of lights in the circular wall formed by the stern, were the four cabins to be occupied by Captain Hazzard, the chief engineer, a middle-aged Scotchman named Gavin MacKenzie, Professor Simeon Sandburr, the scientist of the expedition, and the surgeon, a Doctor Watson Gregg.

The four staterooms on the other side were to be occupied by the boys, whom the lieutenant assigned to the one nearest the stern, the second engineer and the mate were berthed next to them. Then came the cabin of Captain Pent Barrington, the navigating officer of the ship, and his first mate, a New Englander, as dry as salt cod, named Darius Green. The fourth stateroom was empty. The steward bunked forward in a little cabin rigged up in the same deck-house as the galley which snuggled up to the foot of the foremast.

Summing up what the boys saw as they followed their conductor over the ship they found her to be a three-masted, bark-rigged vessel with a cro' nest, like a small barrel, perched atop of her mainmast. Her already large coal bunkers had been added to until she was enabled to carry enough coal to give her a tremendous cruising radius. It was in order to economize on fuel she was rigged for the carrying of sail when she encountered a good slant of wind. Her forecastle, originally the dark, wet hole common to whalers, had been built up till it was a commodious chamber fitted with bunks at the sides and a swinging table in the center, which could be hoisted up out of the way when not in use. Like the officers' cabins, it was warmed by radiators fed from the main boilers when under way and from the donkey, or auxiliary, boiler when hove to.

Besides the provisions, which the stevedores, having completed their "spell," were now tumbling into the hold with renewed ardor, the deck was piled high with a strange miscellany of articles. There were sledges, bales of canvas, which on investigation proved to be tents, coils of rope, pick-axes, shovels, five portable houses in knock-down form, a couple of specially constructed whale boats, so made as to resist any ordinary pressure that might be brought to bear on them in the polar drift, and nail-kegs and tool-chests everywhere.

Peeping into the hold the boys saw that each side of it had been built up with big partitions, something like the pigeon-holes in which bolts of cloth are stored in dry-goods shops-only much larger. Each of these spaces was labeled in plain letters with the nature of the stores to be placed there so that those in charge of the supplies would have no difficulty in laying their hands at once on whatever happened to be needed. Each space was provided with a swiveled bar of stout timber which could be pulled across the front of the opening in heavy weather, and which prevented anything plunging out.

Captain Hazzard explained that the heavy stores were stowed forward and the provisions aft. A gallery ran between the shelves from stem to stern and provided ready access to any part of the holds. A system of hot steam-pipes had been rigged in the holds so that in the antarctic an equable temperature could be maintained. The great water tanks were forward immediately below the forecastle. The inspection of the engines came last. The Southern Cross had been fitted with new water-tube boilers-two of them-that steamed readily on small fuel consumption. Her engine was triple expansion, especially installed, as the boilers had been, to take the place of the antiquated machinery boasted by the old Thayer.

"Hoot, mon, she's as fine as a liner," commented old MacKenzie, the "chief," who had taken charge of the boys on this part of their expedition over the vessel, which was destined to be their home for many months.

"Some day," said Frank, "every vessel will be equipped with gasoline motors and all this clumsy arrangement of boilers and complicated piping will be done away with."

The old Scotch engineer looked at him queerly.

"Oh, ay," he sniffed, "and some day we'll all go to sea in pea-soup bowls nae doot."

"Well, a man in Connecticut has built a schooner out of cement," declared Harry.

The engineer looked at him and slowly wiped his hands on a bit of waste.

"I ken his head must be a muckle thicker nor that," was his comment, at which both the boys laughed as they climbed the steel ladders that led from the warm and oily regions to the deck. The engineer, with a "dour" Scot's grin, gazed after them.

"Hoots-toots," he muttered to his gauges and levers, "the great ice has a wonderful way with lads as cocksure as them twa."

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