They were fairly caught. Ice surrounded them on every side. The boat was in imminent danger of being crushed before they realized their danger. Grenfell and his companion sprang from the boat to a pan, and seizing the prow of the boat hauled upon it with the energy of desperation. They succeeded in raising the prow upon the ice, but they were too late. The edge of the ice was high and the pans were moving rapidly, and to their chagrin they heard a smashing and splintering of wood, and the next instant were aware that the stern of the boat had been completely bitten off and that they were adrift on an ice pan, cut off from the land by open water.
An inspection of the boat proved that it was wrecked beyond repair. All of the after part had been cut off and ground to pulp between the ice pans. In the distance, to the westward, rose the coast, a grim outline of rocky bluffs. Between them and the shore the sea was dotted with pans and pieces of ice, separated by canals of black water. The men looked at each other in consternation as they realized that they had no means of reaching land and safety, and that a few hours might find them far out on the Atlantic.
In the hope of attracting attention, Dr. Grenfell and William Taylor, his companion, fired their guns at regular intervals. Expectantly they waited, but there was no answering signal from shore and no sign of life anywhere within their vision.
For a long while they waited and watched and signalled. With a turn in the tide it became evident, finally, that the pan on which they were marooned was drifting slowly seaward. If this continued they would soon be out of sight of land, and then all hope of rescue would vanish.
“I’ll tell you what I’ll do, now,” suggested Taylor. “I’ll copy toward shore. I’ll try to get close enough for some one to see me.”
To “copy” is to jump from one pan or piece of ice to another. The gaps of water separating them are sometimes wide, and a man must be a good jumper who lands. Some of the pieces of ice are quite too small to bear a man’s weight, and he must leap instantly to the next or he will sink with the ice. It is perilous work at best, and much too dangerous for any one to attempt without much practice and experience.
They had a boat hook with them, and taking it to assist in the long leaps, Taylor started shore-ward. Dr. Grenfell watched him anxiously as he sprang from pan to pan making a zigzag course toward shore, now and again taking hair-raising risks, sometimes resting for a moment on a substantial pan while he looked ahead to select his route, then running, and using the boat hook as a vaulting pole, spanning a wide chasm. Then, suddenly, Dr. Grenfell saw him totter, throw up his hands and disappear beneath the surface of the water. In a hazardous leap he had missed his footing, or a small cake of ice had turned under his weight.