CHAPTER 5: At Random!
FOR SOME WHILE the voyage of the Abraham Lincoln was marked by
no incident. But one circumstance arose that displayed Ned Land's
marvelous skills and showed just how much confidence we could
place in him.
Off the Falkland Islands on June 30, the frigate came in contact
with a fleet of American whalers, and we learned that they hadn't
seen the narwhale. But one of them, the captain of the Monroe,
knew that Ned Land had shipped aboard the Abraham Lincoln
and asked his help in hunting a baleen whale that was in sight.
Anxious to see Ned Land at work, Commander Farragut authorized him
to make his way aboard the Monroe. And the Canadian had such good luck
that with a right-and-left shot, he harpooned not one whale but two,
striking the first straight to the heart and catching the other
after a few minutes' chase!
Assuredly, if the monster ever had to deal with Ned Land's harpoon,
I wouldn't bet on the monster.
The frigate sailed along the east coast of South America with
prodigious speed. By July 3 we were at the entrance to the Strait
of Magellan, abreast of Cabo de las Virgenes. But Commander Farragut
was unwilling to attempt this tortuous passageway and maneuvered
instead to double Cape Horn.
The crew sided with him unanimously. Indeed, were we
likely to encounter the narwhale in such a cramped strait?
Many of our sailors swore that the monster couldn't negotiate this
passageway simply because "he's too big for it!"
Near three o'clock in the afternoon on July 6, fifteen miles south
of shore, the Abraham Lincoln doubled that solitary islet at the tip
of the South American continent, that stray rock Dutch seamen had
named Cape Horn after their hometown of Hoorn. Our course was set
for the northwest, and the next day our frigate's propeller finally
churned the waters of the Pacific.
"Open your eyes! Open your eyes!" repeated the sailors of
the Abraham Lincoln.