He accepted. Here was a new field of work and adventure offering ever greater possibilities than the old, and he never hesitated about it.
He began preparations for the new enterprise at once. The Albert, a little ketch-rigged vessel of ninety-seven tons register, was selected. Iron hatches were put into her, she was sheathed with greenhart to withstand the pressure of ice, and thoroughly refitted. Captain Trevize, a Cornishman, was engaged as skipper. Though Doctor Grenfell was himself a master mariner and thoroughly qualified as a navigator, he had never crossed the Atlantic, and in any case he was to be fully occupied with other duties. There was a crew of eight men including the mate, Skipper Joe White, a famous skipper of the North Sea fleets.
On June 15, 1892, the Albert was towed out of Great Yarmouth Harbor, and that day she spread her sails and set her course westward. The great work of Doctor Grenfell’s life was now to begin. All the years of toil on the North Sea had been but an introduction to it and a preparation for it. His little vessel was to carry him to the bleak and desolate coast of Labrador and into the ice fields of the North. He was to meet new and strange people, and he was destined to experience many stirring adventures.
DOWN ON THE LABRADOR
Heavy seas and head winds met the Albert, and she ran in at the Irish port of Cookhaven to await better weather. In a day or two she again spread her canvas, Fastnet Rock, at the south end of Ireland, the last land of the Old World to be seen, was lost to view, and in heavy weather she pointed her bow toward St. Johns, Newfoundland.
Twelve days later, in a thick fog, a huge iceberg loomed suddenly up before them, and the Albert barely missed a collision that might have ended the mission. It was the first iceberg that Doctor Grenfell had ever seen. Presently, and through the following years, they were to become as familiar to him as the trees of the forests.
Four hundred years had passed since Cabot on his voyage of discovery had, in his little caraval, passed over the same course that Grenfell now sailed in the Albert. Nineteen days after Fastnet Rock was lost to view, the shores of Newfoundland rose before them. That was fine sailing for the landfall was made almost exactly opposite St. Johns.
The harbor of St. Johns is like a great bowl. The entrance is a narrow passage between high, beetling cliffs rising on either side. From the sea the city is hidden by hills flanked by the cliffs, and a vessel must enter the narrow gateway and pass nearly through it before the city of St. Johns is seen rising from the water’s edge upon sloping hill-sides on the opposite side of the harbor. It is one of the safest as well as most picturesque harbors in the world.
As the Albert approached the entrance Doctor Grenfell and the crew were astonished to see clouds of smoke rising from within and obscuring the sky. As they passed the cliffs waves of scorching air met them.