CHAPTER I. NORTHWARD.
"Haul in the gang-plank;" "Let go the tow-line," shouted the captain of the 'Fletcher'. Then he signalled the engineer to go ahead, and the little schooner 'Eothen' was abandoned to her own resources and the mercy of the mighty ocean. The last frantic handshaking was over, and only wind-blown kisses and parting injunctions passed back and forth as the distance between the voyagers and their escort kept continually increasing, until nothing could be heard but the hearty cheers that wished for us a pleasant journey and unbounded success. There was no time now for regrets, for if we would be comfortable we must direct our thoughts seaward and get our bunks ready for sleeping. So we were paired off and went immediately to work. As Lieutenant Schwatka was not only the senior officer of the expedition, but at the same time taller than I by several inches, I willingly yielded him the top bunk of our state-room, and waited patiently outside until he had prepared his lair, for it would be impossible for two to work at the same time in such very narrow space. He at last arranged his two buffalo robes to his perfect satisfaction, and I soon spread my humbler blankets to the best advantage. So much accomplished we retired to our first sleep on shipboard.
We had left New York on the 19th June, 1878, a party of five, none of us unaccustomed to hardship and adventure. Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka, of the Third United States Cavalry, Polish by descent, American by birth, had been distinguished in the war; and I, who was second in command, had seen a good deal of active service. Henry Klutschak, a Bohemian by birth, a civil engineer by profession, brought us the advantage of his previous experiences in the Arctic; Frank E. Melms was an experienced whaleman; and Joseph Ebierbing, well known as "Esquimau Joe," had been with Captain Hall and Captain Hayes in their journeys, and with the 'Pandora' expedition from England. The 'Eothen', that carried us, was commanded by Captain Thomas F. Barry. Her crew included a first, second, and third mate, a carpenter, blacksmith, cooper, steward and cook, three boat-steerers, and twelve men before the mast. To prepare her for encounters with the ice, the hull had been overlaid to the chain-plates with oak planking an inch and a half thick, and the stem had been covered with oak about two feet thick, over which was iron plating to the depth of three-quarters of an inch. She was a stout vessel of one hundred and two tons. The stock of provisions laid in on board of her for the use of the party included hard bread, Indian-meal, flour, molasses, pemmican, canned meats, preserved vegetables, preserved fruits, coffee, tea, and chocolate. Horseradish was taken as a preventive against scurvy, and tobacco was stored in abundance for the use of such Esquimaux as might have stories to tell or assistance to offer. Arms and ammunition had been generously presented to us by several manufacturers, and to individual bounty we also owed many of our books, night-signals, instruments, and the timber for our sledges.
The commander of the 'Eothen' was, indirectly, the originator of the expedition. Everybody knows that for more than twenty years explorers had been sailing from English and American ports in search of the bodies or the papers of Sir John Franklin and his party. The partial success which attended the investigations of Sir Leopold McClintock had served to whet the public appetite. A story which Captain Barry brought home from the Arctic made the curiosity still greater. He said that in 1871-73, while on a whaling expedition, he was frozen in with the 'Glacier' in Repulse Bay, and was there visited by several Esquimaux who brought their families on board his vessel. They had lost their way while hunting, and were anxious to see the ships of white men. While on board the 'Glacier' they spoke of a stranger in uniform who had visited them some years before, and who was accompanied by many other white men. All of the party had afterward died, but the chief had meanwhile collected a great quantity of papers. He had left these papers behind him in a cairn, where, among other things, some silver spoons had since been found. In the winter of 1876, while the captain was with the bark 'A. Houghton' before Marble Island, another set of Esquimaux visited him, and while looking at his logbook said that the great white man who had been among them many years before had kept a similar book, and having told him this one of them gave him a spoon engraved with the word "Franklin."