CHAPTER II. THE WINTER CAMP.
The route chosen by our guide was to follow the shore ice around until the harbor was reached. This was a very circuitous and dangerous road, as in the darkness one would frequently pitch headlong over a steep precipice upon the snow beneath. My trousers were so stiff that I could not bend my knee or lift my foot high enough to clear ordinary impediments, and I fell very often. It was fortunate for me that I never fell upon the shore ice beneath the cliff, for in many places it was very deep, and I could not see where I trod. When I commenced falling I never knew where I would alight, though I usually brought up in some friendly snow-drift. At last all the Inuits grew so impatient to reach the ships that they left Henry and me to find our way as best we could, and pushed on as rapidly as their better vision and greater familiarity with the country would permit. In half an hour from the time they left us they had reached the harbor; but with their accustomed indifference to the comfort of others they failed to say that two "kodlunars" (white men) were still out upon the island - one of them too weak and frozen to keep up with them. As soon as the officers learned the fact from them, Captain Barry despatched "Domino," one of the natives with his ship, to find us and bring us to the vessel. We saw a lantern which he carried, and, coming down from the cliff upon the smooth ice, were overjoyed to find ourselves in the harbor and but a few hundred yards from the ships. We shouted at the top of our voices, and "Domino" ran at once to us. I never was so glad to see any one in my life, for I felt that the terrible ordeal through which I had passed was at an end. We were soon in the warm cabin of the 'Eothen', where my frozen garments were removed and warm, dry "kodlunar" clothing substituted. Were it not for the previous training we had undergone in igloo life, I could not have survived the hardships of that day. As it was, I felt very little inconvenience, except from a severe cold, which always follows a change such as moving from an igloo into the heated air on shipboard. My appetite was enormous, and it seemed as if I could not eat enough of the generous fare of our hosts. I soon regained my usual robust health, and gained flesh at the rate of a pound a day for three weeks.
In the harbor, besides the 'Eothen', and the 'Abbie Bradford', the latter commanded by Captain Fisher, we found the 'Abbott Lawrence', Captain Mozier, and the 'Isabella', Captain Garvin, all except the 'Eothen' being from New Bedford. The ships were all comfortably housed with boards, and so banked up with snow that ordinary coal fires made them uncomfortably warm. It was painful to see, however, that scurvy had broken out in the fleet, and each vessel has had an average of half a dozen cases during our stay with them. They had more than the usual amount of fresh meat at this season, and it was difficult to account for the unusually large percentage of scurvy, unless Captain Fisher's theory were the correct one. He attributed it to the unusual severity of the fall and early winter-season, which, he said, was unprecedented in his experience of over fourteen years in these waters. The ships were driven into winter quarters nearly a month previous to the usual time by a succession of gales and heavy weather, which occasioned the loss of one vessel of the fleet - the brig 'A. J. Ross' of New Bedford, Captain Sinclair, which went ashore near Cape Kendall, on the eastern coast of Rowe's Welcome during the latter part of August. Though scurvy had been so prevalent it had not been so severe as usual, and as yet the graveyard on "Deadmen's Island," on the outer harbor, had received no accession from the crews. The successful treatment of the disease seems to be to compel the patient to eat abundantly of raw walrus or seal meat, and to take moderate exercise, at first under shelter and then in the open air.
The officers of the vessels treated us with the most unbounded generosity, and readily placed at our disposal whatever they could spare that we required. The wreck of the 'A. J. Ross' had thrown the care of another crew upon them, and yet they could find plenty to add to the comfort of those who have another season in this climate and a long and severe journey before them. Captain Sinclair, though himself so great a sufferer by the loss of a vessel in which nearly his whole means were invested, had been a large contributor toward the search party. They expected to be frozen in here till about the 1st of June, when they could saw a channel through the ice to the clear water beyond Deadmen's Island. Marble Island has been the winter quarters of whaling vessels for many years, though not altogether a safe harbor. In the winter of 1872 two vessels were wrecked here, the 'Ansel Gibbs' and the 'Oray Taft'. The hulk of the latter still lay upon the shore of the inner harbor, but the 'Ansel Gibbs' broke up outside and had long since gone to pieces. The graves of a number of their crews are in the graveyard by the sea. Upon the bald face of a rock near the outside harbor is a list of names written in red paint nearly a century ago; but whether a visitor's list or a gigantic tombstone to record those who perished here long ago by shipwreck is unknown. Upon the north-east end of the island, partly hidden by moss, is a quantity of soft coal, which was probably left here by one of the early Arctic explorers.
The loss of so many vessels in these waters is chiefly attributable to the imperfections in the admiralty charts. The coast line is altogether wrong, and Marble Island is laid down several degrees west of its actual position. Lieutenant Schwatka and Henry Klutschak made careful surveys from Cape Fullerton to the island, and made a chart which has already proved useful to the whalers.