Canadian Ctories

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Location: Eastern Townships, Quebec, Canada

I'm a father, a seakayaker, a guitarist, a writer, a geocacher and a lover of all things arctic. I try to dream big, journey far, kayak well, and above all, cherish my family and friends. I believe in self-sponsorship, Team Zero and being as carbon neutral as I can.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Ilatsiak - 12

“I was very ill when I was young, and I remember very little of my early days. Maybe I was about your age when I nearly died.” Ilatsiak told Patsy. They were sitting in the sunshine once again looking out over the sea ice. “Several shamen tried to cure me, but everything they tried, failed. My parents were sure that I would die. Everyone was sad because I was always known as the ‘gift child’. My parents had had no children of their own and I had come to them as a special gift. Later they got other gift children, but I was their first one. It was a hard time for everyone because there was little food and the weather was constantly stormy making it hard to hunt. Finally, my parents were told that my sickness would affect everyone, and many would die as others had in the past. They told me to leave the camp one morning and to walk towards the sun. If I was to live, the sun would cure me, otherwise I would die. The sickness I had was came from the east where the sun appeared each day and only there could it be cured.”
Patsy listened to Ilatsiak talk on and on. Some of the words he spoke and the complex way he would construct his sentences made it hard to follow. Patsy wanted to interrupt with questions, but Ilatsiak just ignored him. He was almost talking out of a dream. At first Ilatsiak said he could remember nothing more of his childhood. But as they talked, Ulotsaq was ministering to a sick boy in the camp, and Ilatsiak slowly began to fade this new story into the one from his own childhood. Patsy became confused and later wasn’t sure which story was which. One was here and now and the other seemed to come from a place beyond the old man’s conscious mind. Even his voice seemed to become somewhat hollow sounding and distant. Patsy wondered whether the stories were from this world or Ilatsiak’s spirit world. They seemed to be so mixed in the old man’s head.
Ilatsiak finally seemed to focus on his own story and told of how he had wandered into a sun fog which lay across the flat snow covered beaches south of the family encampment, the sun a blurring disk in his feverish eyes. He stumbled about for what seemed to be days, falling now and then into the snow where he lay asleep for hours, only to begin wandering deleriously once again, here and there, without direction or destination. Finally, even though all ideas of time or place had been erased from his mind, he slowly realised that he was on the ground, on a gravel ridge, high above the surrounding landscape. He was waking up in the moonlit darkness, his fever gone. He felt new and almost refreshed and was aware that he would live! Not certain at all where he was, he simply began walking in a direction chosen only because it seemed to be a good choice at the time and for no other reason. He could recognize nothing in the featureless landscape. Every view seemed identical. He just had the feeling inside that he was headed back to the camp and his people. As the sun’s glow on the horizon began to fade at the end of the third day, Ilatsiak saw snowhouses directly ahead. He began to run towards them and recognizing his father’s dogs, knew he was safe and back home.
Ilatsiak chuckled to himself as he told Patsy how the people, seeing him so well and obviously recovered after being so near death, created considerable talk among everyone in the camp. This was unheard of, they claimed. They were still mourning his death and now here he was among them, alive and well once again! Everyone wondered secretly how was this possible?
As the account of his recovery spread from place to place, more and more people began to refer to Ilatsiak as having special powers and that he might be a shaman in the making. “People are foolish, sometimes.” calimed Ilatsiak. But, too them, it was clear that the spirits favoured him and were beginning to work through him. Within a few years, whether he desired it or not, the story of his miraculous recovery spread slowly, but surely, turning him into a powerful shaman in the eyes of many people. Ilatsia frowned. “ I was always the same person. I never could see myself living apart from the others. “I wasn’t a shaman, I only wanted a family and to live like everyone else.”


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ilatsiak - 11

Transfering the cargo from the Barretto to the two Naval ships Erebus and Terror seemed to take forever and David was quite aware of the mountaing tension in the officers. When he had a chance he slipped ashore to the Whalefish Island in Disko Bay. Here he could wander around in the native camp and see what was happening. His easygoing and quiet nature appealed to the Inuit and they soon had him in their tents for meals. In no time, David acquired an ablility to converse somewhat in the local language much to their delight. Once a few of the men tried getting him into their kayaks, but even though most of these were too small for him to fit into, they tried nonetheless, even attempting to bend his legs the wrong way to squeeze him in. David was intrigued with their paddling skills and only wished the boats were bigger. He would stand on the shore for hours, watching the Inuit roll their boats over and then magically come up, usually lying back on the rear deck as if they had fallen asleep, only to suddenly sit up and laugh!
Naturally, David was called back to his duties on the Erebus and for him the days in Disko Bay passed much too quickly. The day of departure, July 12, 1845 did arrive and heading northward, the Erebus and Terror began the real purpose of their journey: the discovery of a passage through the icy waters to China and thence home to England. He would circle the globe.
A few days later leaving Disko Bay, some whalers were sighted and again on the 25th of July two more ships were sighted while Erebus and Terror were held up by heavy ice in Baffin Bay. The last ships seen were more whalers on the 29th, but with ice conditions improving rapidly, both the Erebus and Terror headed westward and entered Lancaster Sound.
What followed was a happy time for everyone on board. The weather remained as good as any had seen it in that part of the world. While ice blocked their passage due west, they discovered open water northwards, and managed to circumnavigate Cornwallis Island before the season came to an end. Franklin and his officers were obviously elated with their new discoveries.

With the end of August, Franklin directed the ships to return to the little harbour behind Beechey Island where he had earlier made the decision to winter over if no way to the west was found that year. Accordingly, both ships anchored a mile apart and preparations were made for over-wintering. Top-masts were lowered and canopies raised over the decks to provide some additional room out of the winter storms. On shore, several buildings were erected for various purposes and duties were assigned both for ship and shore. It was a busy time. With the excitment of having already accomplished a great deal of useful exploration, the winter season was looked forward to as being even more rewarding and exciting.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ilatsiak - 10

Ulotsaq sat alone on his sled. His three dogs were ragged and worn, his caribou clothing dirty and missing much of its fur where it had been worn away with use. He must be cold, thought Ilatsiaq. Where’s the the boy and the woman who usually travel with him? He watched him swing off the sled as it reached the rough ice shelf in the tide zone. As the dogs moved through the gleaming hummocks of ice, Ulotsaq pushed and pulled, swinging the sled to avoid bumping into ice blocks which would bring the dogs to a halt. Finally through, he sat back on the sled and let the dogs pull him up the slight slope to where Ilatsiaq sat waiting. He looked tired, worn out and old. Ulotsaq got up and walking over, gave Ilatsiaq’s hand a single shake. Neither spoke. Turning, Ulotsaq walked to the closest snowhouse, pushed the skins forming the entrance aside and disappeared inside. Ilatsiaq heard a woman inside offer him some warm seal soup. Then silence. His dogs curled up where they had stopped. They too had come a long way on little food.
Ilatsiaq wondered what was going on. It wasn’t usual to see Ulotsaq so far away from the people he usually wandered about with, but this was far to the west of his usual haunts. And that he was alone was also troubling. Something must have happened. Something that reminded him of a time he didn’t like like to think about. It was too long ago and now lay muddled in his tired brain, images and thoughts and emotions all jumbled and twisted together. How could anyone make any sense of it now. Still there it was, back again to haunt him. Perhaps he should not have come to this place. He began thinking of leaving even though the others would not want to.

* * *

Patsy watched his father moving through the kitchen dawn. He was easy to see. The sun had been up now literally for weeks, and wouldn’t set until sometime in August. He watched his father as he fussed with this and that obviously searching for more tea.
“Looking for the tea, Father?” he finally said, grinning to himself because he knew he would never break down and ask. Sometimes he wondered why the old man had bothered to marry his mother, he was so damned independent. But then, he really did need her. Independence didn’t guarantee his survival completely, especially as he got older, more set in his ways.
“Where has your mother hid it this time?” he wasn’t going to admit he didn’t remember where it was usually kept. “Why can’t things be left out where they can be handy...”
Patsy got up and pretended to search for the ‘missing’ tea, suddenly finding a small metal tin of the stuff hidden behind several boxes of rock hard ship’s biscuits on the wooden shelf to the left of the only window in the building. Passing back in front of the window, his eye caught sight of his father’s boat frozen into the ice out in the bay. He handed the tin to him. “Have you met Ilatsiak? He’s an old shaman. The one who came in with the Bathurst people the other day? He’s quite different. Funny guy... strange almost. I get the feeling there’s something going on between him and that loner who came in yesterday. Have you seen him?”
The Captain shook out a handful of tea from the tin and lifting the lid off the kettle, dumped the whole fistful into the water. Patsy watched his tea brewing technique, again for the umpteenth time. “Typical,” he thought. “Who taught him to make tea? He just adds more and more tea and water until at the end, the kettle becomes filled completely with soggy leaves. Then he finally cleans it out and the process is started over again.”
Patsy’s father added a few scoops of water from the barrel of melting lake ice to the kettle, topped it up and then placed it back on the stove in its usual position. It would slowly simmer away all day, the tea reaching a strength unknown to most tea lovers in the rest of the world.
“Old man? What old man?” Patsy’s father finally joined the conversation. “You mean the old man, the one who sits outside his tent and stares into the bay all day?” he suddenly said, looking up from his chore.
“Yes. He was talking about your boat yesterday. He said it was too small.”
“Too small? It’s the biggest boat he’s ever seen!” The Captain looked up quickly, laughing at the odd remark. “Biggest boat he ever saw, was no bigger than a glorified rowboat!” Klengenberg, shook his head, laughing all the while. “What a strange thing to say!”
“When I asked him what other ships he had seen though, he quickly changed the topic and asked where I had come from, how I could speak Inuktitut and things like that.”
“Now that I think about it, you know, he might have seen other ships, I suppose. Some of the old guys, I quess made it this far, maybe a few whalers and the explorers, you know Collinson was through here, I think. Got to Cambridge Bay, east of here, on Victoria Island. I wonder how old he is?”
“Hard to tell. He could be really old, eighty or more. I suspect he’s older than he looks. Just as I was leaving he said ships used to have two and three masts, not just one! See what I mean about being strange?”
“Yes, that would be odd. Where did he see these ships?” the Captain was intrigued now as well.
“ When he said that, I stopped and looked back at him, but he just waved me away. He didn’t want to tell me more.” Patsy raised his shoulders and eyes as he spoke.
“I think I’ll see the scientists talk to him. Might be an interesting fellow to talk with. There are lots of old stories in this country going back to the old days of the explorers and so on. Must be people still around who remember seeing them.”


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ilatsiak - 9

The supply ship Barretto Junior which was to carry much of the livestock and additional food supplies for the period to be spent in the ice finally arrived in Stromness. Being somewhat smaller than the ship David was aboard, she had left several days previous to them, but had not been able to make as good time in the foul weather coming up the east coast of England in spite of the Erebus having put in at both Harwick and Aberdeen. But now, once again, after their brief stay, an Orkney crowd was in a jovial mood watching the ships drop their lines from the tugboats. Flags rose lightly to the sunny breeze in the Scapa Flow. The docks and the slate roofs of the dockside warehouses glistened from a sudden brief shower as if washed especially for the departing ships. On board, the men set the main-sails while everyone cheered them on. The ships’ bows fell off the wind which bellied the canvas and then, gaining leeway, their bows turned towards the north Atlantic Ocean and the real voyage began. Two steamers accompanied them out into Hoy Sound and continued as far as Cape Smith. Here they gave the expedition another hearty cheer. The day was clear with a fair wind. The next landfall would be the western coast of Greenland, where the livestock would be transferred, and any men found unfit would also be transhipped over to the Barretto Junior to return to England.
* * *

Crossing the Atlantic the ships experienced every sort of weather one might expect on such a voyage, some days really lovely, clear and sunny with a fair breeze, while others nothing but annoying with stubborn southerly winds or no wind at all, simply a rolling and uncomfortable sea . Finally on the 22nd of June a NE gale struck the ships and continued to blow fiercely for three days. The seas it created were steep and high but did allow the ships to run faster than ever towards the Greenland coast. The whole crew were in a high state of anxiety as much with the winds as with the thick fog and haze which restricted their view ahead into seas known to be ice filled...
* * *

On the 25th, the winds died suddenly to a flat calm. At first David assumed the whiteness off the port bows were clouds on the horizon. The next time he had a chance to slip up on deck, several hours later, the clouds had turned into white, glacial mountains complete with patches of dark rock sticking out here and there. The sea was beginning to be dotted with large pieces of ice, the famous icebergs which sailors with more experience than he were talking about in the forecastle at night. Hitting even a smallish bit of ice could damage even a ship as large as the Erebus, so considerable caution was to be taken. More than once, Mr Reid, who was really the ice-master on board, required David to carry messages between the helmsman and the officers' quarters below where decisions were made on the best route to take. For the first time in his life David heard the growling of the pack-ice which kept them from approaching too close to the Greenland coast.
Later in the day, the Terror was sighted and the two ships sailed to within a half mile of each other on the calm sea. Fairholme and Le Visconte took one of the inflatable boats with which Sir John was experimenting and together with a couple of crew, paddled over to visit her. It seemed to David the paddle took a while and that for all the effort it took, they didn’t stay long. One thing they did was to get a list of all of Terror’s library books so that all aboard would be able to know who had what in their libraries. All together, there were sufficient books that no one should lack for things to read during the year or two of the voyage! Fairholme was very excited about his paddle in the inflatable boat, but again was quite tired from his sudden exercise. He also mentioned to David that they were definitely on the better ship, saying twice that he would not switch ships with anyone!
Twice, during the previous night, the ship had had to change course to a more southernly route because of the movement of the ice. Now, with the sun shining brightly from the south, Erebus was able to pick up speed and David could feel the excitment growing on the ship. In three more days, at the whaling depot in Disko Bay, West Greenland, they would rendezvous with Terror and the transport ship, the final crew would be selected and the voyage into the icy Passage itself would begin. David already knew of several men on board who would probably not continue because of illness or accident. In particular, he had overheard Fitzjames and the Surgeon, Mr. Stanley discussing the fact that several men were thought to have signs of tuberculosis. In fact, the Armourer, Mr Burt, was already confined to his bunk by Mr. Stanley so he would be leaving the ship when they arrived. There was also a rumour in the forecastle that several men were also caughing up blood and should stay behind as well. Things being what they were, with so much riding on the success of the voyage, those who were sick were hiding it as best they could. Afterall, who wanted to miss being on the voyage that finally solved the riddle of the Passage? They would be famous on their return to England, with tales to last a lifetime. There was even talk they might become rich from this trip.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Ilatsiak - 8

Once in Stromness, orders were given to dine with Sir John at 9.00 in the evening. David and the cook’s steward were busy all day getting ready. At the same time, the wind began rising along with the bread. By 8.00 the action of the ship in the seaway was so violent that extra anchors were set and the formal dinner called off. The next day, as the seas had died down somewhat, Lt. Fairholme and a few others decided to try going ashore and walking across to Kirkwell to see the old Medieval church there, As David was a native, he was invited to come along and show them the way. Fairholme’s father had told him that the visit to the old church would be well worthwhile and so they all set out. Getting ashore was not as hard as they had feared and except for getting a little wet, they soon reached the docks at Logan’s Well where so many ships were outfitted for the Arctic and elsewhere. The three-quarters of a mile to the end of the town was a narrow one of well-worn flag-stones, grey buildings and not much else. Cheerily, they all set out. The land quickly became steep to and before an hour’s walk was up they began joking about hiring the first cart they came across to take them the remaining distance. Several times, the officers commented on how barren and uninteresting the country was, but David could not see the barrenness. Rather, it was home to him and he could see that while it was different from southern England where most of the officers originated, it was also an intriguing place, full of mysterious ruins and ancient tombs and definitely well worth exploring even by a native to the islands like himself.
When nearly within sight of Kirkwell a horse-drawn cart came into view. Fairfolm pounced on it’s owner and promised him all sorts of things if only he would turn about for Kirkwell. Of course as the chance to separate some fancy English gentlemen from their money was always a pleasant duty, he quickly agreed to carry them into the first tavern in Kirkwell and afterwards to return the party the the ship once they had eaten and seen the old church.
There were no end of complaints over the rough fare at the tavern, although all agreed the ale was excellent. The large bulk of red stone which composed the church itself was truely a wonder and David was pleased the officers agreed it was a beauty, especially having been built in such a wild, far-off place. There only sour comment was regarding the head stones, blackened with age to the point of being hardly legible in the graveyard beside the church. Oh, how horrid, to be buried without a decent marker one of them moaned. What a nasty end, indeed. People should be more respectful of the dead.
On the way back to Stromness, it occurred to them that they never did visit the interior of the church, nor the palace of the Bishop, the intended objects of the visit in the first place! Laying on his bunk once aboard the Erebus, David thought about the officers. They seemed to be so out of shape for men he thought of as his superiors. He could easily have made it to Kirkwell and back and run all the way!


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Ilatsiak - 7

Patsy could see a dog team forming in the the dazzling whiteness out on the sea ice. It was merely a speck in his eye, but the fact that it was moving told him it was time to go and warn his father, People were coming, perhaps to trade, perhaps just with stories to tell, in which case the scientists would be wanting to know and he would get some money working as a translater.
“That’s all, old man,” Patsy said as he got to his feet. “You must tell me about the times you had with your new wife. I bet you had many children, yes?”
“No, we had hardly any...” Ilatsiak quietly said. There was something about his eyes that let Patsy know there were stories lying behind them and he smiled back. Then he turned and headed towards his father’s cabin. As he walked along, the old man stayed in his mind. What is it about him, he thought. He is not like the others, yet he is... It’s as if he knows things the rest of us don’t know, yet what he says is perfectly ordinary. He made up his mind to spend more time talking with him. Maybe he would find out about him, who is was and more of his stories. Maybe the scientists would like to meet him. They were always looking for new people and especially shamen with supernatural powers.
At the trader’s combined store and cabin dwelling, several members of Ilatsiak’s band were already milling around talking with Patsy’s father, the Captain. The news in the air was that a dog team was coming up the bay. Everyone had a pretty good idea who it might be. Even at this distance, there was considerable certainty about the driver. The way he moved, the colour of his dogs, the way they moved through the ice ridges all told his name as if he had yelled it out. Ulotsaq was coming.
Ulotsaq was a powerful shaman from Bathurst Inlet and well known to Ilatsiak’s people. He had bought his powers from another shaman. Or, to be more truthful, he had bought the goodwill and knowledge of how to summon certain spirits to him. Some spirits were willing to come of their own accord, but others had to be summoned through special knowledge and it was this knowledge that Ulotsaq had acquired. At first, none came to him and he thought he had been tricked by the old shaman who had sold him the knowledge. However, one day while hunting, as he usually did, he arrived at a small island. Several spirits appeared to him one after another. They forbade him to eat any part of the stomach of the caribou, but to eat plenty of brains. If he did as he was asked, the spirits promised him they would stay with him and give him magical powers. He readily accepted. However, for his troubles, he was roughed up and beaten about and began dreaming that he had become a white man - a type of person he had only heard stories about, but had never actually seen alive.
Ilatsiak met him soon after this strange transformation and convinced him that he was really an Inuk and not possessed of any shaman abilities. It was only that bad spirits were at work within him. Several shaman then worked together to rid Ulotsaq of his white man images, but the end result was finally to make Ulotsaq into one of the more powerful shamen in the area. He became both loved and feared at the same time by many people. Everyone agreed he was nearly as powerful a man as Ilatsiak, the greatest shaman known to the Bathurst people.
Patsy felt a rush of blood through his body! So, the old man was a shaman, and a powerful one at that! He knew why he had felt Ilatsiak was special and now it was clear why. A shaman, and not just an ordinary one, but someone with immense powers!


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Ilatsiak - 6

Those new to sailing found the trip up the coast a difficult ride. The weather was squally and nasty for the most part and the two ships were forced to beat into the wind much of the way. Franklin finally gave orders to stand in towards Aberdeen, Scotland and here they anchored off shore to wait for the weather to change.
David took the opportunity to fix up his tiny cabin by doing a little of his own carpentry. He had discovered that a nasty, cold draft came down the companionway from the open hatch above and that by hanging a heavy blanket across the entrance he was able to stop the worst of it. His main duty of the day was to be on hand to assist Sir John and also Lt. James Fairholme. Sir John was most anxious that David see to it that his meals were served promptly and on time. Sir John dined with a rotation of three of his officers every day and then on Sunday, all the officers would dine together with him aft in the main cabin. These dinners were semi-formal affairs where Sir John got to know his officers and they him in turn. It was obvious to David as he moved among them serving drinks and then dinner itself, that the voyage was to bode well. The officers were quickly developing a certain cameradery and he several times heard them mention how they appreciated Sir John’s ability to quickly and efficiently make decisions and how he fully took into account their comfort and the well-being of all aboard. Only on one occasion did he overhear a comment about Capt Crozier of the Terror being upset with Sir John’s ability to command the expedition. It seemed that Cozier was of the opinion that Sir John was too old and had been too long out of the “new Arctic” as he put it where things were done much differently than had been done in the 1820’s when Franklin had last made a voyage into these regions.
However when David looked over at Sir John and watched his animated talk he seemed even younger now that he had been just a few days previously. When he mentioned this to Lt. Fairholme he commented back that Sir John was indeed a new man and that no one need be concerned with his being nearly 60 years of age!
After remaining off Aberdeen for a few days, the ships weighed anchored and under steam motored along towards the Orkneys in conditions of dead calm. Several people had been put ashore in Aberdeen as they had taken advantage of the trip up the coast and David had been able to assist in getting them ashore. He had sailed here several years ago with Fergus and was hoping to get a look around again, but orders to sail had been given and he was obliged to return to the Erebus immediately upon seeing his charges ashore.
This was the first real chance most of the officers and men aboard had to see what the newly installed engines were capable off doing. It was definitely impressive to see the bows cut through the calm water so cleanly. Just sitting in the bows looking at the cut-water, David could see the arctic ice being cast aside as they sliced their way quickly through the Northwest Passage. It was a dream that more and more of the men on board could clearly see happening.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ilatsiak - 5

All that happened in March, just about the time of his birthday, and now it was May 19, 1845, the day of departure. Much had taken placed during those months. David now knew the ships, their officers and in the last few days was getting to know all the other men who were to sail with them. The two ships had been recently towed to the small port village of Greenhithe for final fitting out, which included fitting the new steam engines, something David was very proud to have aboard. His ship was to be fitted with all the latest technology and modern scientific gadgets.
The Commander, Sir John Franklin had come aboard the night before, but immediately retired below. He seemed to be moody and Mr Reid, who David had liked immediately, told him that the Commander had the flu. David had never met Sir John, but had seen him engaged in meetings with the officers and Captain Crozier of the HMS Terror, their sistership for the voyage and was sure he was a kind and gentle man.
“Be attentive, in case you’re needed, boy, but otherwise be silent.” were Mr. Reid’s words of instructions.
However, early on the nineteeth, all seemed gay again and full of exciting things to do and see. The docks were lined with people waving and cheering. Hankies seemed to wave in the breeze like wild flowers in a meadow, hundreds of colours and a sea of shapes. David could see Lady Franklin. Wouldn’t she be proud to see her husband home for good once this voyage was done and he a national hero having finally found the Northhwest Passage’s secrets for England. David’s thoughts again went back to the night a few days previous when Lady Franklin had presented the crew with various gifts including their mascot, Jacko, the monkey! He was such a little devil, he was glad he wasn’t put in charge of him. That job had fallen to George Chambers, the other cabin boy on the Erebus.
The two ships leaving that bright and sunny English day, The command ship HMS Erebus and the almost identical HMS Terror, both stubby Hecla class bomb vessels with fresh coats of black paint with yellow trim, three tall masts and, of course, the newly installed 20 hp auxiliary steam engines borrowed from the railways and driving screw propellers, the very latest technology. These would enable these large ships to plow through ice and push their over 300 tons through the Passage unlike any other ship so far had been able to do. It was the single great advantage which would make navigating the Passage a possibility. All too often in the past ships driven only by sail would sit facing a wide open sea to the west, the way through clear and free, yet not a drop of wind to sail in. With the engines, this would not happen to Erebus and Terror.
As the ships were turned by the tugs and given their final signals, Fitzjames turned to his mate and casually said, “Shall we be underway, Mr. Des Voeux?” Immediately he turned and the orders rang into the rigging, “Away aloft! Trice up and lay out!” David took his position along the rail out of the way, but ready if called. The topmen scrambled upward and then edged out along the yards. “Let fall and sheet ‘em home, sheet ‘em home. Man your halliards: haul tight and belay, ‘em!” The sails billowed out as the sheets were trimmed to take advantage of the favouring winds and tide. Men began springing into action, preparing the ship for sea, running the remaining fathoms of cable in as briskly as the capstan could handle it. “Lay me a course north by north-east as you clear the last river buoy, Mr. Des Voeux.” Fitzjames then headed below. Unlike the more casual action of Fergus’s crew, the naval sailors made setting sail a spectacle for all who watched. After all, these men were the pride of England, the men who ruled the seas.
David loved the feeling of a ship as it began to feel the long set of the waves at sea. The heel of the ship to the wind as it settled into the groove it carves in the ocean’s watery field delights every sailor and no less so David. He was on deck every chance he could find from his duties. As the Erebus left the land she turned further northward and laid a course for the Orkneys at the northern end of Britain. First however, there would be a mail drop at Harwich just up the coast.