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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter XVIII - MR. MARCY'S CANAL
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The Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter XVIII - MR. MARCY'S CANAL Post by :Edo_Rajh Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :April 2011 Read :2931

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The Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter XVIII - MR. MARCY'S CANAL

The twelve men and the one woman on board the Dipsey, now lying
at anchor in the polar sea, were filled with a warming and
cheering ardor as they began their preparations for the homeward
journey, although these preparations included what was to all of
them a very painful piece of work. It was found that it would be
absolutely necessary to disengage themselves from the electric
cord which in all their voyaging in these desolate arctic
regions, under water and above water, had connected them with the
Works of Roland Clewe at Sardis, New Jersey. A sufficient length
of this cord, almost too slight to be called cable, to reach from
Cape Tariff to the pole, with a margin adequate for all probable
emergencies, had been placed on board the Dipsey, and it was
expected that on her return these slender but immensely strong
wires would be wound up, instead of being let out, and so still
connect the vessel with Mr. Clewe's office.

But the Dipsey had sailed in such devious ways and in so many
directions that she had laid a great deal of the cable upon the
bottom of the polar sea, and it would be difficult, or perhaps
impossible, to sail back over her previous tracks and take it up
again; and there was not enough of it left for her to proceed
southward very far and still keep up her telegraphic communication.
Consequently it was considered best, upon starting southward, that
they should cut loose from all connection with their friends and
the rest of the world. They would have to do this anyway in a short
time. If they left the end of the wire in some suitable position on
the coast of the polar sea, it might prove of subsequent advantage
to science, whereas if they cut loose when they were submerged in
the ocean, this cable from Cape Tariff to the pole must always be
absolutely valueless. It was therefore determined to build a little
house, for which they had the material, and place therein a
telegraph instrument connected with the wire, and provided with one
of the Collison batteries, which would remain in working order with
a charge sufficient to last for forty years, and this, with a
ground-wire run down through the ice to the solid earth, might make
telegraphic communication possible to some subsequent visitor to
the pole.

But apart from the necessity of giving up connection with Sardis,
the journey did not seem like such a strange and solemn progress
through unknown regions as the northern voyage had been. If they
could get themselves well down into the deep sea at a point on
the seventieth line of longitude, they would sail directly south
with every confidence of emerging safely into Baffin's Bay.

The latest telegrams between Sardis and the polar sea were
composed mostly of messages of the warmest friendship and
encouragement. If Mr. Clewe and Mrs. Raleigh felt any fears as
to the success of the first part of the return journey, they
showed no signs of them, and Sammy never made any reference to
his wife's frequently expressed opinion that there was good
reason to believe that the end of this thing would be that the
Dipsey, with everybody on board of her, would suddenly, by one of
those mishaps which nobody can prevent, be blown into fine dust.

Mr. Marcy's plan was a very simple one. The Dipsey carried a
great store of explosive appliances of various patterns and of
the most improved kinds, and some of them of immense power, and
Mr. Marcy proposed that a long line of these should be laid over
the level ice and then exploded. The ice below them would be
shivered into atoms, and he believed that an open channel might
thus be made, through which the Dipsey might easily proceed.
Then another line of explosives would be laid ahead of the
vessel, and the length of the canal increased. This would be a
slow method of proceeding, but it was considered a sure one.

As to the progress over the snow and ice of those who were to
lay the lines of shells, that would be easy enough. It had been
supposed that it might be necessary for the party to make
overland trips, and for this purpose twenty or more electric-motor
sledges had been provided. These sledges were far superior
to any drawn by dogs or reindeer; each one of them, mounted on
broad runners of aluminium, was provided with a small engine,
charged at the vessel with electricity enough to last a week, and
was propelled by means of a light metal wheel with sharp points
upon its outer rim. This wheel was under the fore part of the
sledge, and, revolving rapidly, its points caught in the ice or
frozen snow and propelled the sledge at a good rate of speed.
The wheel could be raised or lowered, so that its points should
take more or less hold of the ice, according as circumstances
demanded. In descending a declivity it could be raised entirely,
so that the person on the sledge might coast, and it could at any
time be brought down hard to act as a brake.

As soon as it was possible to get everything in order, a party of
six men, on electric sledges, headed by Mr. Marcy, started
southward over the level ice, carrying with them a number of
shells, which were placed in a long line, and connected by an
electric wire with the Dipsey. When the party had returned and
the shells were exploded, the most sanguine anticipations of Mr.
Marcy were realized. A magnificent canal three miles long lay
open to the south.

Now the anchor of the Dipsey was weighed, and our party bade
farewell to the polar sea. The great ball buoy, with its tall
pole and weathervane, floated proudly over the northern end of
the earth's axis. The little telegraph-house was all in order,
and made as secure as possible, and under it the Dipsey people
made a "cache" of provisions, leaving a note in several languages
to show what they had done.

"If the whale wants to come ashore to get somethin' to eat and
send a message, why, here's his chance!" said Sammy; "but it
strikes me that if any human beings ever reach this pole again,
they won't come the way we came, and they'll not see this little
house, for it won't take many snow-storms--even if they are no
worse than some of those we have seen--to cover it up out o'

"I don't believe the slightest good will ever result on account
of leaving this instrument here," said Mr. Gibbs; "but it seemed
the right thing to do, and I would not be satisfied to go away
and leave the useless end of the cable in these regions. We will
set up the highest rod we have by the little house, and then we
can do no more."

When the Dipsey started, everybody on board looked over the stern
to see if they could catch a glimpse of their old companion, the
whale. Nearly all of them were sorry that it was necessary to go
away and desert this living being in his lonely solitude. They
had not entered the canal when they saw the whale. Two tall
farewell spouts rose into the air, and then his tail with its
damaged fluke was lifted aloft and waved in a sort of gigantic
adieu. Cheers and shouts of good-bye came from the Dipsey, and
the whale disappeared from their sight.

"I hope he won't come up under us," said Mrs. Block. "But I
don't believe he will do that. He always kept at a respectful
distance, and as long as we are goin' to sail in a canal, I
wouldn't mind in the least if he followed us. But as for goin'
under water with him--I don't want anybody to speak of it."

Our exploring party now found their arctic life much more
interesting than it had lately been, for, from time to time, they
were all enabled to leave the vessel and travel, if not upon
solid land, upon very solid ice. The Dipsey carried several
small boats, and even Sarah Block frequently landed and took a
trip upon a motor sledge. Sometimes the ice was rough, or the
frozen snow was piled up into hillocks, and in such cases it was
easy enough to walk and draw the light sledges; but as a general
thing the people on the sledges were able to travel rapidly and
pleasantly. The scenery was rather monotonous, with its
everlasting stretches of ice and snow, but in the far distance
the mountains loomed up in the beautiful colors given them by an
arctic atmosphere, and the rays of the sun still brightened the
landscape at all hours. Occasionally animals, supposed to be
arctic foxes, were seen at a great distance, and there were those
in the company who declared that they had caught sight of a bear.
But hunting was not encouraged. The party had no need of fresh
meat, and there was important work to be done which should not be
interfered with by sporting expeditions.

There were days of slow progress, but of varied and often
exciting experiences, for sometimes the line of Mr. Marcy's canal
lay through high masses of ice, and here the necessary blasting
was often of a very startling character. They expected to cease
their overland journey before they reached the mountains, which
on the south and west were piled up much nearer to them than
those in other quarters, but they were surprised to find their
way stopped much sooner than they had expected it would be by
masses of icebergs, which stood up in front of them out of the
snowy plain.

When they were within a few miles of these glittering eminences
they ceased further operations and held a council. It was
perfectly possible to blow a great hole in the ice and descend
into the sea at this point, but they would have preferred going
farther south before beginning their submarine voyage. To the
eastward of the icebergs they could see with their glasses great
patches of open water, and this would have prevented the making
of a canal around the icebergs, for it would have been impossible
to survey the route on sledges or to lay the line of bombs.

A good deal of discussion followed, during which Captain Hubbell
strongly urged the plan of breaking a path to the open water, and
finding out what could be done in the way of sailing south in
regular nautical fashion. If the Dipsey could continue her
voyage above water he was in favor of her doing it, but even
Captain Jim Hubbell could give no good reason for believing that
if the vessel got into the open water the party would not be
obliged to go into winter-quarters in these icy regions; for in a
very few weeks the arctic winter would be upon them. Once under
the water, they would not care whether it was light or dark, but
in the upper air it would be quite another thing.

So Captain Hubbell's plan was given up, but it was generally
agreed that it would be a very wise thing, before they took any
further steps, to ascend one of the icebergs in front of them and
see what was on the other side.

The mountain-climbing party consisted of Mr. Gibbs, Mr. Marcy,
and three of the most active of the men. Sammy Block wanted to
go with them, but his wife would not allow him to do it.

"You can take possession of poles, Sammy," said she, "for that is
the thing you are good at, but when it comes to slidin' down
icebergs on the small of your back you are out of place; and if I
get that house that Mr. Clewe lives in now, but which he is goin'
to give up when he gets married, I don't want to live there
alone. I can't think of nothin' dolefuler than a widow with a
polar rheumatism, and that's what I'm pretty sure I'm goin' to

The ascent of the nearest iceberg was not such a difficult piece
of work as it would have been in the days when Sammy Block
and Captain Hubbell were boys. The climbers wore ice-shoes
with leather suckers on the soles, such as the feet of flies are
furnished with, so that it was almost impossible for them to
slip; and when they came to a sloping surface, where it was
too steep for them to climb, they made use of a motor sledge
furnished with a wheel different from the others. Instead of
points, this wheel had on its outer rim a series of suckers,
similar to those upon the soles of the shoes of the party. As
the wheel, which was of extraordinary strength, revolved, it
held its rim tightly to whatever surface it was pressed against,
without reference to the angle of said surface. In 1941, with
such a sledge, Martin Gallinet, a Swiss guide, ascended
seventy-five feet of a perpendicular rock face on Monte Rosa.
The sledge, slowly propelled by its wheel, went up the face of
the rock as if it had been a fly climbing up a pane of glass, and
Gallinet, suspended below this sledge by a strap under his arms,
was hauled to the top of the precipice.

It was not necessary to climb any such precipices in ascending an
iceberg, but there were some steep slopes, and up these the party
were safely carried, one by one, by what they called their
Fly-foot Sledge.

After an hour or two of climbing, our party safely reached the
topmost point of the iceberg, and began to gaze about them. They
soon found that beyond them there were other peaks and pinnacles,
and that it would have been difficult to make a circuit which
would enable them to continue Mr. Marcy's plan of a canal along
the level ice. Far beyond them, to the south, ice hills and ice
mountains were scattered here and there.

Suddenly Mr. Gibbs gave a shout of surprise.

"I have been here before," said he.

"Of course you have," replied Mr. Marcy. "This is Lake Shiver.
Don't you see, away over there on the other side of the open
water below us, that little dark spot in the icy wall? That is
the frozen polar bear. Take your glass and see if it isn't."

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The Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter XIX - THE ICY GATEWAY The Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter XIX - THE ICY GATEWAY

The Great Stone Of Sardis - Chapter XIX - THE ICY GATEWAY
When Mr. Gibbs and his party returned to the Dipsey, afterdescending the iceberg, their report created a lively sensation."Why, it's like goin' home," said Mrs. Block. "Perhaps I mayfind my shoes."It was not a very strange thing that they should have again metwith this little ice-locked lake, for they had endeavored toreturn by a route as directly south as the other had beendirectly north. But no one had expected to see the lake again,and they were not only surprised, but pleased and encouraged.Here was a spot where they knew the water was deep enough forperfectly safe submarine navigation, and


The most impatient person on board the Dipsey was Captain JimHubbell. Sarah Block was also very anxious to go home as soon asmatters could be arranged for the return journey, and she talkeda great deal of the terrible fate which would be sure to overtakethem if they should be so unfortunate as to stay until the seasonof the arctic night; but, after all, she was not as impatient asCaptain Hubbell. She simply wanted to go home; but he not onlygreatly desired to return to his wife and family, but he wantedto do something else before he started south; he