“An American yacht?” repeated Erik, half stupefied.
“Yes—the ‘Albatross,’ Captain Tudor Brown, from Vancouver’s Island. I told him what I had heard, and he immediately started for Cape Serdze-Kamen.”
FROM SERDZE-KAMEN TO LJAKOW.
Tudor Brown had evidently heard of the change in the route of the “Alaska.” He had reached Behring’s Straits before them. But by what means? It seemed almost supernatural, but still the fact remained that he had done so.
Erik was greatly depressed by this information, but he concealed his feelings from his friends. He hurried on the work of transporting the coal, and set out again without losing a moment.
Serdze-Kamen is a long Asiatic-promontory situated nearly a hundred miles to the west of Behring’s Straits, and whaling-vessels from the Pacific visit it every year.
The “Alaska” reached there after a voyage of twenty-four hours, and soon in the bay of Koljutschin behind a wall of ice, they discovered the masts of the “Vega,” which had been frozen in for nine months.
The barrier which held Nordenskiold captive was not more than ten kilometers in size. After passing around it, the “Alaska” came to anchor in a little creek, where she would be sheltered from the northerly winds. Then Erik with his three friends made their way overland to the establishment which the “Vega” had made upon the Siberian coast to pass this long winter, and which a column of smoke pointed out to them.
This coast of the Bay of Koljutschin consists of a low and slightly undulating plain. There are no trees, only some dwarf willows, marine grasses and lichens. Summer had already brought forth some plants, which Mr. Malarius recognized as a species which was very common in Norway.
The encampment of the “Vega” consisted of a large store-house for their eatables, which had been made by the orders of Nordenskiold, in case the pressure of the ice should destroy his ship, which so frequently happens on these dangerous coasts. It was a touching fact that the poor population, although always half starved, and to whom this depot represented incalculable wealth in the shape of food, had respected it, although it was but poorly guarded. The huts of skin of these Tschoutskes were grouped here and there around the station. The most imposing structure was the “Tintinjaranga,” or ice-house, which they had especially arranged to use for a magnetic observatory, and where all the necessary apparatus had been placed. It had been built of blocks of ice delicately tinted and cemented together with snow; the roof of planks was covered with cloth.
The voyagers of the “Alaska” were cordially welcomed by the young astronomer, whom they found at the time of their arrival holding a consultation with the man in charge of the store-house. He offered with hearty goodwill to take them on board the “Vega” by the path which had been cut in the ice in order to keep open the means of communication between the vessel and the land, and a rope attached to stones served as a guide on dark nights. As they walked, he related to them their adventures since they had been unable to send home any dispatches.