Wednesday, January 30, 2013


I recently finished a book called Cast Away in the Cold An Old Man's Story of a Young Man's Adventures, as Related by Captain John Hardy, Mariner by I.I. Hayes and is available as free Kindle download

It's a fictional tale but, still a good nautical read about survival in a harsh environment.  In the book a retired sea captain named John Hardy befriends some local children and tells them the story of how he first went to sea. He was raised on a farm and soon grew tired of the labor involved. So he ran away to New Bedford Massachusetts with the plan to get on a ship and go to sea:
“Up to this period of my life, I had never been ten miles from home, and had never seen a city, so of course everything was new to me. By this time, however, I had come to reflect seriously on my folly, and this, coupled with hunger and fatigue, so far banished curiosity from my mind that I was not in the least impressed by what I saw. In truth, I very heartily wished myself back on the farm; for if the labor there was not to my liking, it was at least not so hard as what I had performed these past two days, in walking along the dusty road,—and then I was, when on the farm, never without the means to satisfy my hunger.

“What I should have done at this critical stage, had not some one come to my assistance, I cannot imagine. I was afraid to ask any questions of the passers-by, for I did not really know what to ask them, or how to explain my situation; and, seeing that everybody was gaping at me with wonder and curiosity (and many of them were clearly laughing at my absurd appearance), I hurried on, not having the least idea of where I should go or what I should do.

“At length I saw a man with a very red face approaching on the opposite side of the street, and from his general appearance I guessed him to be a sailor; so, driven almost to desperation, I crossed over to him, looking, I am sure, the very picture of despair, and I thus accosted him: ‘If you please, sir, can you tell me where I can go and ship for a voyage?’

“‘A voyage!’ shouted he, in reply, ‘a voyage! A pretty looking fellow you for a voyage!’—which observation very much confused me. Then he asked me a great many questions, using a great many hard names, the meaning of which I did not at all understand, and the necessity for which I could not exactly see. I noticed that he called me ‘landlubber’ very frequently, but I had no idea whether he meant to compliment or abuse me, though it seemed more likely to me that it was the latter. After a while, however, he seemed to have grown tired of talking, or had exhausted all his strange words, for he turned short round and bade me follow him, which I did, with very much the feelings a culprit must have when he is going to prison".

Of course he gets on a ship and things get even worse as he experiences his first bout of sea sickness:

“In the first place, you see, they gave me such wretched food to eat, all out of a rusty old tin plate, and I was all the time so sick from the motion of the vessel as we went tossing up and down on the rough sea, and from the tobacco-smoke of the forecastle, and all the other bad smells, that I could hardly eat a mouthful, so that I was half ready to die of starvation; and, as if this was not misery enough, the sailors were all the time, when in the forecastle, quarrelling like so many wild beasts in a cage; and as two of them had pistols, and all of them had knives, I was every minute in dread lest they should take it into their heads to murder each other, and kill me by mistake. So, I can tell you, being a young sailor-boy isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.”

“O, wasn’t it dreadful!” said Alice, “to be sick all the time, and nobody there to take care of you.”

“Well, I wasn’t so sick, maybe, after all,” answered the Captain, smiling,—“only sea-sick, you know; and then, for the credit of the ship, I’ll say that, if you had nice plum-pudding every day for dinner, you would think it horrid stuff if you were sea-sick.”

“But don’t people die when they are sea-sick?” inquired Alice.

“Not often, child,” answered the Captain, playfully; “but they feel all the time as if they were going to, and when they don’t feel that way, they feel as if they’d like to.

He eventually gets his sea legs and actually starts to become familiar with the ways of the ship he is on as it sails into the Arctic waters to hunt for whales and seals.  But, disaster soon strikes and he finds himself alone stranded in the Arctic:
“We were but a moment getting into the boats. The boat which I was in had something the start of the other two. Just as we were pulling away, the master of the ship came on deck, and ordered us to do what, had the red-faced mate done an hour before, would have made it impossible that this danger should have come upon us. ‘Carry your line out to the fast ice,’ was the order we received from the master; and every one of us, realizing the great danger, pulled as hard as he could. The ‘fast ice’ was dimly in sight when we started, for we had drifted while at breakfast towards it, as well as towards the berg. Only a few minutes were needed to reach it. We jumped out and dug a hole, and planted the ice-anchor. The ship was out of sight, buried in the fog. A faint voice came from the ship. It was, ‘Hurry up! we have struck.’ They evidently could not see us. The line was fastened to the anchor in an instant, and the second mate shouted, ‘Haul in! haul in!’ There was no answer but ‘Hurry up! we have struck.’ ‘Haul in! haul in!’ shouted the second mate, but still there was no answer. ‘They can’t hear nor see,’ said he, hurriedly; and then, turning to me, said, ‘Hardy, you watch the anchor that it don’t give way. Boys, jump in the boat, and we’ll go nearer the ship so they can hear.’ The boat was gone quickly into the fog, and I was then alone on the ice by the anchor,—how much and truly alone you shall hear. 

So begins Captain Hardy's story of Arctic survival.  As I read the book and was impressed by it's detail of how people stranded in the harsh Arctic environment could survive for an extended period of time. It was then I found it's author Issac I. Hayes had been part of the Second Grinnell Expedition to search for John Franklin.  An expedition which became a matter of survival as the expedition's ship Advance became stuck in ice. Three members of the crew died and the others including Hayes embarked on an epic journey of Arctic survival. No wonder this book has such detail how to survive in Arctic conditions. Hayes is also the author of other non fiction books about his Arctic adventures:
An Arctic Boat Journey: In the Autumn of 1854
The Land of Desolation, being a personal narrative of adventures in Greenland. With illustrations

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