Floating ice, which they had not encountered for ten or fifteen days, now became very frequent. It was necessary to ward it off, as they had been compelled to do in Baffin’s Bay. Erik, feeling sure that they would soon reach fields of ice, was careful to steer obliquely to the right of the “Albatross” so as to bar the way toward the east if she should attempt to change her course, finding her path toward the north obstructed. His foresight was soon rewarded, for in two hours a lofty barrier of ice casts its profile on the horizon. The American yacht immediately steered toward the west, leaving the ice two or three miles on its starboard. The “Alaska” immediately imitated this maneuver, but so obliquely to the left of the “Albatross” as to cut her off if she attempted to sail to the south.
The chase became very exciting. Feeling sure of the course which the “Albatross” would be compelled to take, the “Alaska” tried to push her more toward the ice. The yacht’s course becomes more and more wavering, every moment they made some change, at one time steering north at another west. Erik, mounted aloft, watched every movement she made, and thwarted her attempts to escape by appropriate maneuvers. Suddenly she stopped short, swung round and faced the “Alaska.” A long white line which was apparent extending westward told the reason of this change. The “Albatross” found herself so close to the ice-banks that she had no recourse but to turn and face them.
The young captain of the “Alaska” had scarcely time to descend, before some missile whistled past his head. The “Albatross” was armed, and relied upon being able to defend herself.
“I prefer that it should be so, and that he should fire the first shot,” said Erik, as he gave orders to return it.
His first attack was not more successful than that of Tudor Brown—for it fell short two or three hundred yards. But the combat was now begun, and the firing became regular. An American projectile cut the large sail yards of the “Alaska,” and it fell upon the deck killing two men. A small bomb from the Swedish vessel fell upon the bridge of the “Albatross,” and must have made great havoc. Then other projectiles skillfully thrown lodged in various parts of the vessel.
They had been constantly approaching each other, when suddenly a distant rumbling mingled with the roar of artillery, and the crews raising their heads saw that the sky was very black in the east.
Was a storm with its accompanying fog and blinding snow, coming to interpose between the “Albatross” and the “Alaska,” to permit Tudor Brown to escape?
This Erik wished to prevent at any price. He resolved to attempt to board her. Arming his men with sabers, cutlasses, and hatchets, he crowded on all the steam the vessel could carry and rushed toward the “Albatross.”
Tudor Brown tried to prevent this. He retreated toward the banks of ice, firing a shot from his cannon every five minutes. But his field of action had now become too limited; between the ice and the “Alaska” he saw that he was lost unless he made a bold attempt to regain the open sea. He attempted this after a few feigned maneuvers to deceive his adversary.