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THE "GHOST SHIP" AS SHE APPEARED ON HER LAST TRIP FROM THE POLAR SEAS.
SAILS FOR THE ICY POLE
ALL BY HERSELF.
Remarfcaßle Voyages for Over a Decade of . the
Abandoned Whafer Young Phoenix in .
N the folklore of the polar latitudes the legend of
*m a Flying Dutchman is of very late origin.
h Who shall say this strange story, well known
Ia Flying Dutchman is of very the North, but
Who shall say this strange story, well known
to the pelt and blubber hunters of the North, but
X told here in print for the first time, did not reach
jj the ears of Nansen and embolden him ln the the
ory of the trans-polar current?
The apparition of a strange vessel many years
ago, off Cape Slvernoi, inspired among the Si
berian Tuskis an elaborate fable whicn the amphibi
ous travelers of the kayaks spread among the Eskimo
hamlets on the shores of the north sea.
When the vessel was first observed by the natives
it was aiding off shore, south of Wrangel Island,
in a May gale, as if plunging through tne south bound
ice pack. Its ghostly hull and rakish rigging loomed
up indistinctly through the sleet and mist of the polar
hurricane and vanished in the gloom. She came from
the ice bound North, where no human being lived and
in her flight before the storm the fanciful Tuskis saw
in her a mysterious messenger from the fabled beings
their fathers had told of that lived in that ice locked
land. Now. a vessel that halls from that region and
carries no sign of distress, that does not trade and
that gives no sigh of familiar life, is something to be
talked about by curious natives to whom the arrival
of a vessel is a tremendous advent. As the story trav
eled from mouth to mouth the mysterious vessel was
given all sorts of fantastical embellishments and a
crew of weird beings from a far away continent. In
their simple stories the Tuskis declared that these be
ings did not come to trade or explore, but to lure
foolish hunters and fishers to their doom. In the
mysterious vessel they saw a bait to tempt the fool
hardy white men of the warm south to more reckless
daring in search of the mysterious northern land in
habited by these wonderful beings.
Though the theory of myth and the fancy of the
Lorelei was preserved, the fable changed in form and
substance as it traveled eastward on the Arctic circle.
The strange craft there took on herculean dimensions,
as a monster uniak, with balloon sails, and manned
by giant ice gods. Sometimes it appeared ethereal
ized with wings. At last, so it was said, the strange
craft was seen in reality off the east coast of Bering
Bea.a fleeting thing of a thousand sails and the elon
gation of a sea serpent, in the far away fluorescence
of an aurora. Hanging over it in the polar heavens
was a crown of tremendous rays. The stars fluttered,'
the dazzling prisms dissolved into phosphorescent
whiteness and then the specter sped away into the
abysmal blackness of the horizon.
Once the marvel was reported to have been ob
served off Herschel Island, like a speck on the remote
fringe of the winter pack, flying before a sou-wester
for the pole. Another time the natives of Prince of
WaleS Island testified to having caught sight of this
fabled Flying Eskimo, skimming into the south. They
watched diligently for its reappearance, but in vain.
It disappeared again in the direction of the pole,
whence it came.
The hard headed. Incredulous old whalers had a
hard time making anything tangible out of these
fables of a Flying Eskimo ghost ship, or whatever
phenomenon or ordinary thing the ample-minded In
dians had seen. Even those among the superstitious
sailors who were prone to believe almost any tale of
mystery concerning the sea could hardly accept ths
yarn of a sea serpent ship navigated by a crew of na
tives from a land at the North Pole.
But the closer the whalers questioned the excited
and talkative natives the clearer it became that they
had seen a mysterious craft of some kind, and that
they really had some foundation for their wild stories.
"The natives at Belcher Point," said Jim Wheeler,
an intelligent New England whaler, who was out
with the fleet of 1888, "were sure that this ghost ship
was some sort of messenger from the other world.
They conceived the place to be an Island paradise at
the polar center, reserved for the good and great Es
kimos, and governed by strange Eskimo spirits. Their
idea was that some terrible catastrophe was about to
visit the world, a kind of universal shakeup. At the
same time, farther to the east, the natives believed the
queer ship was— well— a hallucination, a device of
fiendish spirits of the polar region to entice explorers
and hunters to their deaths.
"You know the Eskimos can lie the Arabians to a
standstill. They have a more fertile im_,_.nation, and
are full of odd. weird fancies about the eternal night
that cloaks the north almost all the year. No one is
surprised at this state who has passed through the
weird experiences of the aurora polarls, felt the pelt
ing of the electrified particles in the atmosphere and
heard the hissing, whizzing noises that seem to be
nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Another
influence oppressive and bewildering to the ignorant
mind is the awful din and roar of the buckling ice
pack, above which the human voice can hardly make
itself heard. No wonder the Eskimos believe that a
superhuman power, in the exaggerated form of man,
lives in the center of the polar darkness, and there
performs prodigies like the Cyclops.
"This new tradition of theirs about the ghost ship,
that always appeared beating through the ice pack,
they accepted with keen delight. It is almost too bad
the vessel didn't tie up at the pole before it made the
|ast voyage out that wrecked an Indian delusion that
might have given birth to no end of Interesting fables
and mythical literature."
Here is the true story of this mysterious ghost
ship or Flying Eskimo that has been puzzling the
northern whalers, and wondering Eskimo for years
past- One fair June day, the few Americans who had
wintered in the fax northern settlement of natives at
Cape Smythe were astonished to see approaching on
the distant western sea and in the path of the spring
ice floes a little speck which at first they took for an
approaching steamer. The Arctic jam was Just break
ing and it was remarkably early for such an arrival.
Exepectantly and speculatively the daring visitor was
watched until it loomed up, apparently under fore
and aft sails, and with Jibs and staysails set- When
within about ten miles, however, it was plain that the
vessel was a partly dismantled bark set firmly in a
ragged field of ice, which was moving eastward at the
rate of five or six miles an hour. There was no signal
of distress flying. The Americans on shore discharged
their firearms without attracting any notice from
those on board. The Americans on shore soon felt
certain that the luckless crew must have met with
some terrible disaster. To a man they believed that
the strange vessel was the floating sepulchre of luck
less whalers caught in the ice pack th_ previous fall.
No time was lost in Jumping Into kayaks and put
ting off to th* derelict, From the ice rim it was three
THE SAN FBA-yCISCO CALL, STT_NT>AY, DECEMBER 19, 1897.
miles across the field to the bark. Once on board, the
rescuers found her to be the whaler Young Phoenix of
San Francisco. A hurried * search was made, but
nothing ghastly or ghostly was discovered nothing
but deep scars and wrenched furnishings, that showed
the terrible storms and voyaging the vessel had gone
The mlzzenmast and Jlbboom weve gone. To the
fore and aft yards small tatters and shreds of sail
were still hanging. Her hold was halt filled with
frozen water. No doubt this solid cargo of ice was all
that carried her hull safely through the jams and
grlndings of the battling ice packs. -V:"'_
The searchers looked up her story and found that
on her last trip this tattered and battered derelict had
been pursuing her lonesome patrol of the Arctic
Ocean. It Is considered as entirely likely by exper
ienced whalers that she may have floated across or
very near the pole, in her circuit from the American
to the Asiatic coast.
Could she have spoken what a narrative of the
polar mysteries. she might have told.
But her eccentric journeylngs were not at an end.
While the curious visitors from Cape Smythe were
rummaging in her cabins the icefield in which the ves
sel was locked swung away from the coast and the
lonely derelict took up her travels again toward the
distant pole. • ''.
The visitors took away such instruments and port
able things as were still serviceable, and left her amid
the drifting Ice field thirty miles at sea. They had
drifted twenty miles while they were on board of her.
The last seen of the Young Phoenix that summer was
when she disappeared at nightfall into the dim and
The following year Captain Warren of the Triton,
6ince crushed to death against the Belvedere logger
head by a whale, overhauled the Young Phoenix in an
Ice floe on her last reported trip from the north. He
took from her some chain and other materials. *
In the Intervening years her apparition has not
been spoken. Is she at the bottom of the Arctic, or
harbored permanently ln the farthest northern ice,
lodged in the crystalized paradise of the Eskimo? In
her unknown voyages does she ever pass that bit of
land or sea spot which polar explorers have struggled
so long to reach? Had Nansen and Andree been pas
sengers on her would their hearts have been glad
dened with a sight of the most northernmost point of
How the Young Phoenix became a derelict, a per
iodically reappearing ghost ship amid the Ice floes of
the distant waters of the north, is one of Its stories of
wild storms and terrible wrecks. She was abandoned
by her crew as a helpless wreck, given over for dead;
that's why some seamen give her the name, ghost
Years ago she was one of a fleet of twelve whalers
lying off the west shore of Point Barrow, the northern
most point of the American continent, it was Au
gust, and a terrific storm came up from the south
west, something most unusual for that season of
Imagine a huge mushroom-shaped projection of
land, with the cap facing the north, and you have a
perfect idea of Point Barrow. On both sides of the
stem, and between the crown of the point and the
outlying sand shoals, Is excellent harborage, though
of course the safest of the three places is under that
part of the crown which happens to De leeward cf a
storm. What is known as the lagoon or anchorage
against southwest storms is on the east side of the
stem of land. ,*- YtY, V
When this memorable August hurricane swept out
of a clear southern sky the whaling fleet promptly
scampered around to leeward, . between the crown of
the point and the shoals, and cast anchor. The fury
of the storm was so increased that the Young Phoenix,
the May and Susan, the Fleetwing and the Jane Gray
dragged their anchors. The Jane Gray, a .fine
schooner, was picked up bodily by the giant waves
and smashel completely to pieces. Her crew were
saved by great good luck and heroism. The May and
Susan and the Fleetwing were stranded on the shoals.
The rest of the fleet slipped cables and put to sea.
-. The Young Phoenix in striking the shoal, stern on,
lost her rudder. She broached to, collided with the
Bounding Billow and carried away the foreyard and
boats of the latter. The Young Phoenix lost her flying
jlbboom In the crash.
The ships then separated, the Young Phoenix,
without her rudder, scurrying northward on the port
tack. Every effort was made by tne crew to wear
round. The mizzen mast was cut away, and all sail
made forward, but without effect. By this time sh*
had worked herself far off shore and was beating into,
heavy ice. In this terrible mess the crew saw
nothing else to do but abandon the fated vessel. At 2
o'clock in the morning, the tempest still raging, the
crew tumbled into the small boats. They were res
cued at daylight by the steam bark Orca. The aban
doned Young Phoenix drifted pole>»_.rd before the
driving storm and that's the last the whalers saw of
her that season, and that Is the way she began her
unrecorded and mysterious travels in unexplored
Her remarkable drifting since goes far to prove
the correctness of Nansen's theory that the Arctic
Ocean is a wide river, having a current that sets
poleward, and that a vessel capable or withstanding
the force of the ice pack might in time be borne across
the pole's station. Some mariners argue that Nansen
may be in error in assuming that this polar drift does
not touch any part of the American continent.
Captain Elwood S. West of the Horatio, who wit
nessed the Point Barrow disaster when the aban
doned vessel disappeared in the north, has very de
cided opinions on the subject. The captain is excep
tionally intelligent; moreover, he is a close student of
Arctic exploration. ;^;' :
When the Young Phoenix passed northward in the
Ice, and later driftings when she followed the same
track after having been boarded off Cape Smythe, she
coursed along the 160 th meridian. The distance she
drifted in and out of the ice packs, and the question as
to whether she is imprisoned in a crush of ice now
moving across the pole that will eventually drift out
on the Spltzbergen side, are subjects of speculation.
Captain West's observations convince him that a
strong polar current, practically from spring to fall,
courses from the j break of the American continent at
Point Barrow, due north. He believes that If taken
advantage of in some propitious season, when this side
of the Arctic Ocean is exceptionally open, a condition
which occurs once in every four or five years, a ves
sel built on lines similar to those of the Fram could
penetrate to a point where the winter setback of the
current would affect her so little that in another year
or two she could make across or closely past, the pole.
In other words, the polar current has no contin
uous set, but follows a course to and fro between the
American coast and the pole. During the lesser num
ber of months in the year, when the ice pack is heav
iest, it moves with the course of the wind, which is
southwest. This might be described as the setback
from the pole. The remainder of the year, including
the open season, the current and ice drift, much more
rapid then, are governed by an unvarying southwest
wind, which blows on to the pole.
The Young Phoenix has gone north at least three
times on this current, after having been beaten back
two seasons below the 70th parallel. As her hold is
solid with frozen water it is not improbable that hav
ing finally voyaged north In one of the exceptionally
open years, she has passed the line of the reactive
tides, and is now wedged in the mass that is slowly
crunching over the pole and south .on the Atlantic
side. Will Atlantic mariners be the ones to catch the
next glimpse of this wandering ghost ship? _
E. D. COWEN.
HOW THE MATADOR
MET HIS DEATH.
I WAS early in my seat, for I like, above all things,
to see the motley crowd of sunburned Spaniards
come trooping to their national game.
I was surprised to see the crowd; there was no
great matador going to kill bulls to-day. I asked my
neighbor, "Senor, can you tell me why so many peo
ple are ehre to-day?"
"You do not know! Sebastian will kill the bull."
"Sebastian? I know no bull-fighter by that
"He has never killed a bull before. I will tell you
his story. Sebastian is only a muleteer. Once a week
he comes, with his burden of fruit. But he is poor;
the mules are not his; he only works for another."
He paused for a moment and added, "You are a
stranger?" %fjSfe_j __■';;.-,: -;:)Y.
"Yes," I said. I arrived yesterday.**
"Every one falls in love with Juniata. Sebastian
prayed and besought her to marry him, but she is
proud. and would not look at the humble muleteer.
But after a time his handsome face impressed her;
she told him she would marry him if he would kill a
bull in the ring at to-day's fair. But hush! there she
is, standing near that column.
She took her seat among the common people,
whom she entiredy ignored, and drew out a great fan
of black lace, which she opened and closed, leaning
back with a weary look in her half-shut eyes.
It was time the bullfight commenced. I gazed
round the ring. Behind and around me was the dusty
crowd, among which passed the sellers of water with
their shrill cry of "Aqua, aqua fresca," and the ven
dors of biscuits and nuts.
Four of the matadors were professionals; the fifth
was Sebastian. Pale in his scarlet and gold costume,
but dignified and graceful, he approached the admin
istrator's box, before which he bowed. Tnen he came
close to where I was sitting and bowed to Juanita
herself, who acknowledged his bow with a scarce per
ceptible sign of recognition over the top of her black
A gate Is opened in the arena. With a roar, and a
shout from the people, the bull rushes from his dark
ened cell into the ring. He looks round him; for a mo
ment he paws the ground, then led on by the moving
cloak of one of the matadors he charges but his
horns touch nothing more solid than the crimson
cloak. For a moment "Toro" stands as if stupefied,
then espies a large and safer bait, and with a fearful
rush lifts horse and picador into the air, hurling them
to the ground in a heap. The matadors are quick,
however, and they call off the bull by waving their
cloaks and keep his attention fixed on themselves. He
is a good bull. The people are delighted. "Bravo,
Toro!" they cry. : i ; v -
Another horse falls dead, the third is wounded
and led out, the fourth killed. But the Spaniards are
not satisfied in their love of blood. 'Mas caballos!
Mas caballos!" Then the bugle sounds.
Two of the matadors step to the side of the arena,
leaving their cloaks and taking in each hand a bande
rillo. Four times does the bull receive the sharp
forked points and four times does he miss his man.
Again the bggle blows. Sebastian steps forward,
takes the sword and flag and marches to the admin
istrator's box, where he swears to kill the bull.
There is a deafening cheer as he throws his hat
among the people until he returns victorious — or dead.
I turn instinctively toward Juanita. She is lean
ing back in her seat, slowly fanning herself, her half
closed eyesscarcely conveying any expression of in
Sebastian faces the bull, the flag In his left hand,
his eye on the beast's. His hand is as steady as a
rock. •* * •■■'■-
The bull charged. I drew a quick breath; Sebas
tian gracefully, with the ease of a practiced bull
fighter, escaped the horns. A cheer rings out from th*
crowd, bringing a sudden flush to his cheek.
Again the bull charges, again and again. Each
time Sebastian is unscathed, but as yet he has had no
chance of killing the bull. He is facing it now; slowly
he raises the sword the point never trembles. For
one second all is dust, the next I saw his manly form
laid out full length in the sand of the arena.
"He is killed!" cry the people, "he is killed!"
I gaze at Juanita once more. The expression of
that beautiful face has not altered to the least de
I hated that woman!
A shout from the people! Sebastian has reisen
and is facing the bull once more. There was a silence
like death. Again his sword is raised, again all ls
dust, again a form lies prostrate in the sand— but this
time it is the bull! Sebastian has killed it and at one
Sebastian approached the gobernador and bowed-
He is paler than ever, but a smile of victory lights up
his lips. Then, sword in hand, he turned, approached
and faced Juanita. Her expression is the same as
ever. There is no smile of encouragement, scarcely
a sign of recognition; she plucks a rose, however,
from the boquet at her breast and throws it to him
He stoops and picks it up and, with his eyes fixed
on hers, lifts it toward his lips— hesitates— throws it
to the ground and tramples it under foot .j : ti' ;
A deafening cheer rises from the crowd.
I look for Juanita. She has left the ring.
• Five minutes later, as Sebastian passed through
the archway into the open air, still in his scarlet and
gold, a dagger was buried deep In his breast.
I saw Juanita do It and it was the only time dur
ing the whole performance that I saw her smil*.