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Archive for the ‘17th century polar explorers’ Category

I fear ambush, although better judgment tells me Juet has gotten under my skin, into my head.  Day after day, and night after night he urges me to set more men on watch, expecting the people of the country to come over the bulwarks.

extraordinaryfish

I see nothing by night, and by day my eyes detect shoals at every turn.  Juet, in the attracting pull of the new continent, has been so thoroughly transformed that I suspect he’s no longer the same man.  Days before, we caught a most extraordinary fish. As Juet struggled to bring the fish in, he spoke of dominating this new people. He’s a new soul, his old soul having been banished back to England by the spirits of these waters.

Cathay, the ship’s cat, knows it.  As captain, I’m resisting it, denying  any distraction.

Bend on more sail, tomorrow I’ll tell the men.  Full speed ahead;  drive us northward and then on to Cathay, ye zephyrs of August.

(Painting: retouched image of Frederic Edwin Church’s Grand Manan Island, Bay of Fundy, 1852)

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This dark time always sends me back to this log page:

15 June 1608: All day and through the night there was sunshine,

sunrisesetflat4

with the wind out of the east; latitude at noon was 75 degrees 7 minutes. This morning crewman Thomas Hiles and Robert Rayner while looking overboard saw a mermaid, calling the rest of the crew to see her. One more came up; by that time she was close to the ship’s side and looking earnestly at the men; a little after, the sea came up and overturned her. As they saw her from the navel upward, her back and breasts were like a woman’s, her body as big as ours, her skin very white, and she had long, black hair hanging down behind. In her going down they saw her tail, which was like the tail of a porpoise, and speckled like a mackerel.

16 June 1608: Clear weather with an east wind.

Now in the obscurity of the advent or solstice, even the roaring fire in the hearth beside my desk fails to warm me, illuminate me, or block out recall of this event from six months back. Where our manly crewmen Hiles and Rayner saw a beauty, I feared the appearance of Sedna, reputed to be the ruler and regulator of the northern regions. What if she had claimed a life to spare ours?

mermaidflat

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My brilliant navigation succeeded again in 1608 no matter the drivel about my “twice-failed voyage to Cathay” as scuttlebutt has it amongst certain detractors.  Jealous they are, those certain scalawags with the Muscovy Company.   I have now successfully concluded that the Northeast Passage to Cathay is not.  We cast off in late April of this year 1608 in our good vessel Hopewell and sailed north to where the summer sees no night.  By early July, we found ourselves farthest east . . . about 52 degrees . . . and we were pinned against the rocky headlands of Nova Zembla.

hensob

I am now more assured than ever that just as ice and cold forbid us the northern and eastern routes,  and pirates and distance discourage the southern and southeast passage, that the future routes to Cathay’s charms and riches lie will be found through the northwest and the furious overfall there awaiting.

Finally, dear reader, I prithee not to be impatient in my halfmoonthly story-telling pace.  Seeking another ship occupies much of my time, as I’m restless to return to sea in spring.  But, sometimes after too long napping, I do hear voices from the future and find I can answers questions there-posed.  See the “right sidebar,” whatever that is.

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Let me explain about my first voyage.  I had learned from Captain Knight—the late Captain Knight, bless him—who had the right idea but lost his nerve when the shrouds and sails glazed over with ice.  He lost his judgment, and let the men eat frozen but rotten ice bear meat.  He went mad the days last far longer than they should have.

Then Muscovy made me Hopewell‘s master, and, armed with the maps of Robert Thorne and Barrents, we sailed Hopewell straight north for Tabis.  We saw sunlight at midnight and then some.

3hob

My critics say I failed when I first sailed for Cathay through the Scylla and Charbdis of Tabis . . .  but no–they delude themselves!!   Those scoundrels blind themselves to the fact that I discoved Thorne’s map was wrong.  To those chthonic rapscallions I say that to disprove a cartographer’s theory is to succeed at updating guides into the unknown, into the future, toward Cathay!

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