An Antarctic Mystery

An Antarctic Mystery

By:  Jules Verne  Completed
Language: English
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No more appropriate scene for the wonderful and terrible adventures which I am about to relate could be imagined than the Desolation Islands, so called, in 1779, by Captain Cook. I lived there for several weeks, and I can affirm, on the evidence of my own eyes and my own experience, that the famous English explorer and navigator was happily inspired when he gave the islands that significant name.

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26 Chapters
CHAPTER I. THE KERGUELEN ISLANDS
No doubt the following narrative will be received with entire incredulity, but I think it well that the public should be put in possession of the facts narrated in “An Antarctic Mystery.” The public is free to believe them or not, at its good pleasure.No more appropriate scene for the wonderful and terrible adventures which I am about to relate could be imagined than the Desolation Islands, so called, in 1779, by Captain Cook. I lived there for several weeks, and I can affirm, on the evidence of my own eyes and my own experience, that the famous English explorer and navigator was happily inspired when he gave the islands that significant name.Geographical nomenclature, however, insists on the name of Kerguelen, which is generally adopted for the group which lies in 49° 45’ south latitude, and 69° 6’ east longitude. This is just, because in 1772, Baron Kerguelen, a Frenchman, was the first to discover those islands in the southern part of the Indian Ocean. Indeed, the commander of t
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CHAPTER II. THE SCHOONER HALBRANE
The Halbrane was a schooner of three hundred tons, and a fast sailer. On board there was a captain, a mate, or lieutenant, a boatswain, a cook, and eight sailors; in all twelve men, a sufficient number to work the ship. Solidly built, copper-bottomed, very manageable, well suited for navigation between the fortieth and sixtieth parallels of south latitude, the Halbrane was a credit to the ship-yards of Birkenhead.All this I learned from Atkins, who adorned his narrative with praise and admiration of its theme. Captain Len Guy, of Liverpool, was three-fifths owner of the vessel, which he had commanded for nearly six years. He traded in the southern seas of Africa and America, going from one group of islands to another and from continent to continent. His ship’s company was but a dozen men, it is true, but she was used for the purposes of trade only; he would have required a more numerous crew, and all the implements, for taking seals and other amphibia. The Halbrane was not defenceles
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CHAPTER III. CAPTAIN LEN GUY
I slept ill. Again and again I “dreamed that I was dreaming.” Now—this is an observation made by Edgar Poe—when one suspects that one is dreaming, the waking comes almost instantly. I woke then, and every time in a very bad humour with Captain Len Guy. The idea of leaving the Kerguelens on the Halbrane had full possession of me, and I grew more and more angry with her disobliging captain. In fact, I passed the night in a fever of indignation, and only recovered my temper with daylight. Nevertheless I was determined to have an explanation with Captain Len Guy about his detestable conduct. Perhaps I should fail to get anything out of that human hedgehog, but at least I should have given him a piece of my mind.I went out at eight o’clock in the morning. The weather was abominable. Rain, mixed with snow, a storm coming over the mountains at the back of the bay from the west, clouds scurrying down from the lower zones, an avalanche of wind and water. It was not likely that Captain Len Guy
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CHAPTER IV. FROM THE KERGUELEN ISLES TO PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
Never did a voyage begin more prosperously, or a passenger start in better spirits. The interior of the Halbrane corresponded with its exterior. Nothing could exceed the perfect order, the Dutch cleanliness of the vessel. The captain’s cabin, and that of the lieutenant, one on the port, the other on the starboard side, were fitted up with a narrow berth, a cupboard anything but capacious, an arm-chair, a fixed table, a lamp hung from the ceiling, various nautical instruments, a barometer, a thermometer, a chronometer, and a sextant in its oaken box. One of the two other cabins was prepared to receive me. It was eight feet in length, five in breadth. I was accustomed to the exigencies of sea life, and could do with its narrow proportions, also with its furniture—a table, a cupboard, a cane-bottomed arm-chair, a washing-stand on an iron pedestal, and a berth to which a less accommodating passenger would doubtless have objected. The passage would be a short one, however, so I took possess
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CHAPTER V. EDGAR POE’S ROMANCE
In this chapter I have to give a brief summary of Edgar Poe's romance, which was published at Richmond under the title ofTHE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUR GORDON PYM.We shall see whether there was any room for doubt that the adventures of this hero of romance were imaginary. But indeed, among the multitude of Poe's readers, was there ever one, with the sole exception of Len Guy, who believed them to be real? The story is told by the principal personage. Arthur Pym states in the preface that on his return from his voyage to the Antarctic seas he met, among the Virginian gentlemen who took an interest in geographical discoveries, Edgar Poe, who was then editor of the Southern Literary Messenger at Richmond, and that he authorized the latter to publish the first part of his adventures in that journal "under the cloak of fiction." That portion having been favourably received, a volume containing the complete narrative was issued with the signature of Edgar Poe.Arthur Gordon Pym was born at
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CHAPTER VI. AN OCEAN WAIF.
The navigation of the Halbrane went on prosperously with the help of the sea and the wind. In fifteen days, if this state of things lasted, she might reach Tristan d’Acunha. Captain Len Guy left the working of the ship to James West, and well might he do so; there was nothing to fear with such a seaman as he.“Our lieutenant has not his match afloat,” said Hurliguerly to me one day. “He ought to be in command of a flag-ship.”“Indeed,” I replied, “he seems to be a true son of the sea.”“And then, our Halbrane, what a craft! Congratulate yourself, Mr. Jeorling, and congratulate yourself also that I succeeded in bringing the captain to change his mind about you.”“If it was you who obtained that result, boatswain, I thank you heartily.”“And so you ought, for he was plaguily against it, was our captain, in spite of all old man Atkins could say. But I managed to make him hear reason.”“I shan’t forget it, boatswain, I shan’t forget it, since, thanks to your intervention, instead of
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CHAPTER VII. TRISTAN D’ACUNHA.
Four days later, the Halbrane neared that curious island of Tristan d’Acunha, which may be described as the big boiler of the African seas. By that time I had come to realize that the “hallucination” of Captain Len Guy was a truth, and that he and the captain of the Jane (also a reality) were connected with each other by this ocean waif from the authentic expedition of Arthur Pym. My last doubts were buried in the depths of the ocean with the body of Patterson.And now, what was Captain Len Guy going to do? There was not a shadow of doubt on that point. He would take the Halbrane to Tsalal Island, as marked upon Patterson’s note-book. His lieutenant, James West, would go whithersoever he was ordered to go; his crew would not hesitate to follow him, and would not be stopped by any fear of passing the limits assigned to human power, for the soul of their captain and the strength of their lieutenant would be in them.This, then, was the reason why Captain Len Guy refused to take passeng
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CHAPTER VIII. BOUND FOR THE FALKLANDS.
On the 8th of September, in the evening, I had taken leave of His Excellency the Governor-General of the Archipelago of Tristan d’Acunha—for such is the official title bestowed upon himself by that excellent fellow, Glass, ex-corporal of artillery in the British Army. On the following day, before dawn, the Halbrane sailed.After we had rounded Herald Point, the few houses of Ansiedlung disappeared behind the extremity of Falmouth Bay. A fine breeze from the east carried us along gaily.During the morning we left behind us in succession Elephant Bay, Hardy Rock, West Point, Cotton Bay, and Daly’s Promontory; but it took the entire day to lose sight of the volcano of Tristan d’Acunha, which is eight thousand feet high; its snow-clad bulk was at last veiled by the shades of evening.During that week our voyage proceeded under the most favourable conditions; if these were maintained, the end of the month of September ought to bring us within sight of the first peaks of the Falkland Grou
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CHAPTER IX. FITTING OUT THE HALBRANE
On the 15th of October, our schooner cast anchor in Port Egmont, on the north of West Falkland. The group is composed of two islands, one the above-named, the other Soledad or East Falkland. Captain Len Guy gave twelve hours' leave to the whole crew. The next day the proceedings were to begin by a careful and minute inspection of the vessel's hull and keel, in view of the contemplated prolonged navigation of the Antarctic seas. That day Captain Len Guy went ashore, to confer with the Governor of the group on the subject of the immediate re-victualling of the schooner. He did not intend to make expense a consideration, because the whole adventure might be wrecked by an unwise economy. Besides I was ready to aid with my purse, as I told him, and I intended that we should be partners in tile cost of this expedition.James West remained on board all day, according to his custom in the absence of the captain, and was engaged until evening in the inspection of the hold. I did not wish to go
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CHAPTER X. THE OUTSET OF THE ENTERPRISE.
Here was I, then, launched into an adventure which seemed likely to surpass all my former experiences. Who would have believed such a thing of me. But I was under a spell which drew me towards the unknown, that unknown of the polar world whose secrets so many daring pioneers had in vain essayed to penetrate. And this time, who could tell but that the sphinx of the Antarctic regions would speak for the first time to human ears!The new crew had firstly to apply themselves to learning their several duties, and the old—all fine fellows—aided them in the task. Although Captain Len Guy had not had much choice, he seemed to have been in luck. These sailors, of various nationalities, displayed zeal and good will. They were aware, also, that the mate was a man whom it would not do to vex, for Hurliguerly had given them to understand that West would break any man’s head who did not go straight. His chief allowed him full latitude in this respect.“A latitude,” he added, “which is obtained by
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