“The cannon of the ‘Alaska!’ We are saved!” cried Erik, jumping up and climbing a hummock to get a better view of the sea that surrounded them.
He saw nothing at first but the icebergs, driven by the wind and sparkling in the sunshine. But Mr. Hersebom, who had immediately reloaded his gun, fired into the air, and a second discharge from the cannon answered him almost immediately.
Then Erik discovered a thin streak of black smoke toward the west, clearly defined against the blue sky. Gunshots, answered by the cannon, were repeated at intervals of a few minutes, and soon the “Alaska” steamed around an iceberg and made all speed toward the north of the island.
Erik and Mr. Hersebom, weeping for joy, threw themselves into each other’s arms. They waved their handkerchiefs and threw their caps into the air, seeking by all means to attract the attention of their friends.
At length the “Alaska” stopped, a boat was lowered, and in twenty minutes it reached their island.
Who can describe the unbounded joy of Dr. Schwaryencrona, Mr. Bredejord, Mr. Malarius, and Otto when they found them well and safe; for through the long hours of that sad night they had mourned them as lost.
They related all that had befallen them—their fears and despair during the night, their vain appeals, their useless anger. The “Alaska” had been found in the morning to be almost entirely clear of the ice, and they had dislodged what remained with the assistance of their gunpowder. Mr. Bosewitz had taken command, being the second-officer, and had immediately started in search of the floating island, taking the direction in which the wind would carry it. This navigation amidst floating icebergs was the most perilous which the “Alaska” had as yet attempted; but thanks to the excellent training to which the young captain had accustomed his crew, and to the experience which they had acquired in maneuvering the vessel, they passed safely among these moving masses of ice without being crushed by them. The “Alaska” had had the advantage of being able to travel more swiftly than the icebergs, and she had been able to benefit by this circumstance. Kind Providence had willed that her search should not prove fruitless. At nine o’clock in the morning the island had been sighted. They recognized it by its shape, and then the two shots from the guns made them hopeful of finding their two shipwrecked friends.
All their other troubles now appeared to them as insignificant. They had a long and dangerous voyage before them, which they must accomplish under sail, for their coal was exhausted.
“No,” said Erik, “we will not make it under sail. I have another plan. We will permit the ice island to tow us along, as long as she goes toward the south or west. That will spare us incessantly fighting with the icebergs, for our island will chase them ahead of her. Then we can collect here all the combustibles that we will require in order to finish the voyage, when we are ready to resume it.”