The “Nordenskiold,” he said to himself, would follow the same course as the “Vega.” It was therefore necessary that she should be equally successful in making the first part of the voyage, and double Cape Tchelynskin, but they might not be able to do this, since it had only been accomplished once. Besides, the last news which they had received from the “Vega,” she was only two or three hundred leagues from Behring’s Straits; therefore they would have a better chance of meeting her. The “Nordenskiold” might follow her for many months without overtaking her. But the other vessel could hardly fail to meet her, if she was still in existence.
The principal thing in Erik’s eyes was to reach the “Vega” as quickly as possible, in order to meet Patrick O’Donoghan without delay.
The doctor and Mr. Bredejord warmly approved of his motives when he explained them to them.
The work of preparing the “Alaska” was pushed on as rapidly as possible. Her provisions, equipments, and the clothing, were all carefully chosen, for they profited by the experience of former Arctic explorers. Her crew were all experienced seamen, who had been inured to cold by frequent fishing voyages to Iceland and Greenland. Lastly, the captain chosen by the committee, was an officer of the Swedish marines, then in the employment of a maritime company, and well known on account of his voyages to the Arctic Ocean; his name was Lieutenant Marsilas. He chose for his first lieutenant Erik himself, who seemed designed for the position by the energy he had displayed in the service of the expedition, and who was also qualified by his diploma. The second and third officers were tried seamen, Mr. Bosewitz and Mr. Kjellguist.
The “Alaska” carried some explosive material in order to break the ice, if it should be necessary, and abundant provisions of an anti-scorbutic character, in order to preserve the officers and crew from the common Arctic maladies. The vessel was furnished with a heater, in order to preserve an even temperature, and also with a portable observatory called a “raven’s nest,” which they could hoist to the top of the highest mast, in those regions where they meet with floating ice, to signal the approach of icebergs.
By Erik’s proposal this observatory contained a powerful electric light, which at night could illuminate the route of the “Alaska.” Seven small boats, of which two were whale-boats, a steam-cutter, six sledges, snow-shoes for each of the crew, four Gatling cannons and thirty guns, with the necessary ammunition, were stored away on board. These preparations were approaching an end, when Mr. Hersebom and his son Otto arrived from Noroe with their large dog Kaas, and solicited the favor of being employed as seamen on board of the “Alaska.” They knew from a letter of Erik’s the strong personal interest which he had in this voyage, and they wished to share its dangers with him.
Mr. Hersebom spoke of the value of his experience as a fisherman on the coast of Greenland, and of the usefulness of his dog Kaas, who could be used as a leader of the dogs which would be necessary to draw the sledges. Otto had only his good health, his herculean strength, and his devotion to the cause to recommend him. Thanks to the influence of the doctor and Mr. Bredejord, they were all three engaged by the committee.