CHAPTER 6: At Full Steam
AT THIS SHOUT the entire crew rushed toward the harpooner--
commander, officers, mates,
sailors, cabin boys, down to engineers leaving their machinery
and stokers neglecting their furnaces. The order was given to stop,
and the frigate merely coasted.
By then the darkness was profound, and as good as the Canadian's
eyes were, I still wondered how he could see--and what he had seen.
My heart was pounding fit to burst.
But Ned Land was not mistaken, and we all spotted the object his
hand was indicating.
Two cable lengths off the Abraham Lincoln's starboard quarter,
the sea seemed to be lit up from underneath. This was no
mere phosphorescent phenomenon, that much was unmistakable.
Submerged some fathoms below the surface of the water, the monster
gave off that very intense but inexplicable glow that several
captains had mentioned in their reports. This magnificent radiance
had to come from some force with a great illuminating capacity.
The edge of its light swept over the sea in an immense,
highly elongated oval, condensing at the center into a blazing core
whose unbearable glow diminished by degrees outward.
"It's only a cluster of phosphorescent particles!" exclaimed one
of the officers.
"No, sir," I answered with conviction. "Not even angel-wing
clams or salps have ever given off such a powerful light.
That glow is basically electric in nature. Besides . . . look, look!
It's shifting! It's moving back and forth! It's darting at us!"
A universal shout went up from the frigate.
"Quiet!" Commander Farragut said. "Helm hard to leeward!
Sailors rushed to the helm, engineers to their machinery.
Under reverse steam immediately, the Abraham Lincoln beat to port,
sweeping in a semicircle.
"Right your helm! Engines forward!" Commander Farragut called.
These orders were executed, and the frigate swiftly retreated
from this core of light.