During one of the periods of illumination, which lasted several minutes, I hauled up a bucketful of the phosphorescent liquid and took it into the cabin. Nothing whatever could be seen in it by artificial light, but when the light had been removed, the inside of the bucket glowed, although the water itself remained dark.
The sea in the vicinity of the ship became phosphorescent three or four times; the sheet of fire in every case, sweeping down upon us from the north at a rate of speed that seemed to be about equal to the speed of sound-waves in air. The duration of the phosphorescence, at each separate appearance, was from a minute and a half to three or four minutes, and it vanished every time with a flash-like movement of translation to another and remoter area. The whole display, so far as we were concerned, was over in about twenty minutes; but long after the sheet of phosphorescence disappeared from the neighbourhood of the ship, we could see it lighting up the overhanging haze as it moved swiftly from place to place beyond the horizon line. At one time, there were three or four such areas of bright water north of us, but as they were below the curve of the earth’s convexity we could not see them, and traced them only by the shifting belts or patches of irradiated mist.
[Illustration: Reindeer Bridle Snow Shovel]
CLOSING UP THE BUSINESS—A BARGAIN SALE—TELEGRAPH TEACUPS REDUCED—CHEAP SHOVELS FOR GRAVE DIGGING—WIRE FISH NETS AT A SACRIFICE—OUR NARROWEST ESCAPE—BLOWN OUT TO SEA—SAVED BY THE “Onward”
We reached Okhotsk about the 1st of August, and after seeing the Major off for St. Petersburg, I sailed again in the Onward and spent most of the next month in cruising along the coast, picking up our scattered working-parties, and getting on board such stores and material as happened to be accessible and were worth saving.
Early in September, I returned to Gizhiga and proceeded to close up the business and make preparations for final departure. Our instructions from the Company were to sell all of our stores that were salable and use the proceeds in the payment of our debts. I have no doubt that this seemed to our worthy directors a perfectly feasible scheme, and one likely to bring in a considerable amount of ready money; but, unfortunately, their acquaintance with our environment was very limited, and their plan, from our point of view, was open to several objections. In the first place, although we had at Gizhiga fifteen or twenty thousand dollars’ worth of unused material, most of it was of such a nature as to be absolutely unsalable in that country. In the second place, the villages of Okhotsk, Yamsk, and Gizhiga, taken together, did not have more than five hundred inhabitants, and it was doubtful whether the whole five hundred could make up a purse of as many rubles, even to ensure their eternal salvation.