With a strong wind filling her sails, the SHY LADY moved with a commanding presence through the cold dark water as if daring the elements of Mother Nature to challenge her and knowing she could win any fight that another woman might throw at her. The crew worked the ship, those new to such work learning quickly what was required of them and how to work as a team with men who were more experienced. The mates pushed them hard, they didn’t have the luxury of mistakes, the arctic was unforgiving enough as it was and for anybody aboard who thought that this trip was one of easy money, they were quickly convinced otherwise. They learned to be out of their hammocks when called, to climb aloft regardless of time and weather, handling canvas and lines, to eat the food they were given and cherish the warmth of a galley fire or dry wool blanket. They learned to endure Ed’s coffee because it was hot, the smell that all whale ships carried, the noise of the dogs, the odor of animal shit and the silent disapproving gaze of the ship’s master if he was displeased. They learned quickly that the SHY LADY was not run along democratic lines but that of a dictatorship with Mason in total control and to speak ones opinion sometimes meant a crack on the jaw as a few unlucky ones had already discovered. Keelut watched it all through baggy, bloodshot eyes, seeing the men who walked the deck of the whaling ship. His presence in Halifax wasn’t a complete coincidence. He knew many ships stopped there before proceeding to Greenland and when he learned that a large number of dogs were being collected, he reasoned that they would probably be used for work in the north and presented himself as a man with experience handling dogs and in need of a job. When he found out that they were indeed for work up north and that a ship was coming to pick them up, Keelut felt this was the one Ahnah had seen in her dreams, the one she had spoken of. Kura, the old Indian had collected 100 dogs, but as the mail contracts were steady and paid better, he only offered Dunn the 64 that he did because he been paid and even they weren’t the best of the lot. Keelut told the old man he wouldn’t say anything, if he allowed the Inuit to go in his place to take care of the animals, which was fine with Kura because he didn’t want to go with the SHY LADY anyway. One thing was for certain, this ship certainly wasn’t run in the same manner as the HARMONY and the Eskimo’s old tricks wouldn’t carry him very far. Getting the information he wanted was going to be a little more difficult than he had planned as he attempted to gauge those about him. The ship’s master, Mason was a hard man that much Keelut could see, a far different man than Captain McCloud that was for sure. He didn’t mix much with the crew and was reserved with strangers. At first Keelut didn’t know if he just disliked the Eskimo or simply had nothing to say to him, after a few days he began to see that Mason didn’t talk much to anyone other than the mates or the ship’s cook who made the worst coffee he’d ever tasted. Still, he could keep trying. Being the captain’s toad had its advantages. The first mate, the black man called MacDonald was as tough as the captain and Keelut could see that he was more than capable of taking care of any problems aboard ship. He had heard that before, the whites had kept blacks as slaves in America and wondered if MacDonald had been Mason’s slave. He seemed intelligent enough, maybe that’s why Mason kept him around. He hadn’t said a word to Keelut since he had been signed on in Halifax. Dunn, the man he worked with the most concerning the dogs was quiet towards him. He had heard someone mention that this one had lived with the Inuit for a period of time but he was starting to have his doubts. Every time he tried to engage the second mate in conversation using the Inuit tongue, the one called Dunn just shrugged his shoulders and told Keelut to look after the animals. Higgins the third mate, would talk to him and answer any questions he might have. Keelut made a point of making his questions simple as if the mate were explaining something to a child. The Eskimo always listened wide eyed and thanked him afterwards. If a person asked the right questions, that person could learn quite a few things. So far Keelut had found out two very important items which suited him fine for the moment. Where they were stopping and where they were going. There were other things of course, but those two pieces of information were most important to Keelut, they would make him important in the eyes of Lak. Irwin looked down at his hands and sighed, they were chapped and bleeding. Mary had been right, this type of life was certainly different from his brother’s boat, not that his hands didn’t chap or bleed there, they did but it was the whole aura of the SHY LADY, he didn’t think there was anything that this ship and her crew couldn’t handle and this was a good place to prove himself as far as he was concerned, to prove he was as good as his older brother. Irwin knew he’d been a disappointment to his family. His father and brother both considered him worthless, only his dearly departed mother (as only a mother can, God rest her soul) saw any redeeming qualities in her younger son. Contrary to what many people thought, Irwin wasn’t stupid, he was just slower than most people and because he was slower, he found it difficult to be accepted by others and find his place in society. Prior to leaving New Bedford, his work record consisted of a couple weeks on a small fishing boat and sweeping an old warehouse. So when an opportunity to sail with Mason and MacDonald presented itself, Irwin jumped at the chance. His brother laughed when he heard that his younger brother had signed up aboard a whale ship and the SHY LADY, no less. The next day, he went aboard with a shy Irwin in tow and spoke to MacDonald about releasing his brother from his obviously spur of the moment decision. The first mate listened and looked at the younger Irwin, he could have let him go, it would have been easy enough to explain to Mason but there was something about the young man, a potential that others missed perhaps that made MacDonald refuse the older brother’s request, and for that the younger Irwin was grateful and he was anxious to show that Mr. MacDonald had made the right choice, but at the moment… Oaks saw Irwin looking at his hands and sympathized. He had never served on a whaling ship in the north but had experience aboard china tea clippers and runs across the Atlantic. He had taken a liking to the clumsy Irwin and had taken him under his wing. Irwin saw Oaks looking at him and held up his hands for the other man to see. “Too soft,” was all he said. Oaks grinned, “Hell, that ain’t no problem Ray, same thing happened to me first time out.” “Really Jasper?” asked Irwin. “Yeah really, Ray. Tell ya what ya do. When we finish the watch, you head to the paint locker and get ya some turpentine.” “Turpentine, Jasper?” said Irwin a bit perplexed. Oaks nodded his head. “Yeah Ray, turpentine. You get some of that and rub it into your hands, that’ll cool ‘em off and ease the pain until they toughen up.” “Ok Jasper, I’ll try it, I trust ya’s.” Oaks clamped him on the shoulder. “Good. Now let’s get to checking that capstan or Mr. Higgins is gonna have our asses.” “Ok, Jasper,” said Irwin picking up their tools. Hollister walked about the ship, listening to creaks, admiring the cold emptiness about him and thankful that he was not seasick, which he attributed to the way the ship was handled. So far he could honestly say he was impressed with Mason and the others and by the way things were going. He himself would confess his knowledge of the sea and of the arctic was marginal at best but sailing with the crew of the SHY LADY eased his worries some. He liked to talk to people and found those aboard the whaling ship most interesting. Yesterday he had talked to Sherman and Goodman, the two of them had worked as trappers and mail carriers in Canada before signing on. Two of the seamen, Braun and Schultz hailed from Munich. Landsman Charles Rivers was a stable hand from St. Louis looking for a change and ordinary seaman Antonio Grubber was once a barber. Everyone had a story everyone had a reason for being there. They were either running away from something or to something. As he talked to them, Hollister began to wonder about himself, what did the future hold for him? Was he running away? Was Nancy correct in her words? This was still not an answer readily available to him. Hollister was tired of running after stories, competing against younger reporters, hoping for that one story that would make him stand out above all others. Oh, he had done good work in the past that he knew but nothing that he would be remembered for in the next hundred years, a certain immortality with the pen that would be admired for generations to come. That was something he had yet to achieve. He hoped at the end of the voyage, the question he asked himself would cease to be. This voyage meant many things to many people, how many would find their answers? The wind was beginning to pick up and the barometer was beginning to fall, foul weather from the northeast was to be expected, not unusual in this section of the Davis Strait thought Dunn as he stood near the helm, hands clasped behind his back. The SHY LADY was sailing before the wind and it was his watch, the ship was his responsibility. It was a trust he did not take lightly. He listened to the sounds of the ship and without thought, adjusted his balance to its roll. Lines and canvas stretched with the wind, pushing the ship to its destination, far reaches seen by few, known to an even a lesser number and at that point in time, the second mate commanded the SHY LADY. After checking their heading and satisfied that all was well for the time being, Dunn allowed himself some private thoughts on a matters that were bothering him and what was bothering most was the Eskimo they had taken on to help with the dogs. There was something about him that didn’t sit right with Dunn. He knew the Inuit, or at least thought he did. He had lived with them for over two years and contrary to what Keelut might believe, Dunn did understand his feeble attempts at communication but that in itself was something that the ice master sensed was sinister about the man they had brought aboard, he was having second thoughts about him. He didn’t like him but he knew that Mason and his old friend MacDonald would need more to go on than his suspicion, so he kept his eye on him, waiting for the Inuit to slip up. The dogs were another concern. It was obvious that Kura had cheated them and if they had had the time Dunn would have corrected the problem, the trouble was, they didn’t have the time. That old bastard Kura probably sold his best stock to those with mail contracts or sled dogs to be sent west on the railroad and hadn’t given them a good selection which meant more problems. The dogs had already killed two of the weaker ones and three more were sick, causing Dunn to separate them from the others in their already limited amount of space. “Sir,” said one of the lookouts “looks like some heavy ice ahead of us there.” Dunn looked over the railing. “Alright Smith, Thank you. Braun, stand by to shorten sail.” He turned to the helmsman, “Starboard the helm.” He said and waited for the ship to respond, making its turn slowly to the larboard side. “Hard over!” commanded Dunn wanting the SHY LADY to complete her swing more quickly. Dunn walked quickly forward to see what was before them and seeing a relatively clear path, shouted to the helm, “Helm amidships! Braun, belay my last on shorting sail!” To shorten sail would lessen the ships speed and most would think this a prudent decision, but Dunn had no desire to lose steerage in these waters. As far as he was concerned, he could avoid a problem faster if the ship was moving at a reasonable rate. “Helmsman, right your helm and keep her steady.” Dunn would be a happy man when they reached anchorage, that much was certain. Mason and MacDonald leaned over the chart showing the Davis Strait between Canada and Greenland. On paper, it all looked so clear and simple but distances could be deceiving and in this place, deadly. “Isaac says we can skirt most of the ice in this area,” said MacDonald pointing at the chart. Mason nodded his head, “Yeah, I can see that. Question is, do we go up the coast or try to cross Baffen Bay?” MacDonald shook his head, “Hell, I don’t know Jon. If we was whaling, I know where we’d go to winter over, but now, I don’t know, with the ice the way it is I’m not sure how far we can go.” Mason agreed, “The bay is 700 miles across, and you’re right, it’s that damned ice that’s bothering me, if we can’t break through we’ll be farther from our objective, which means more time with the dogs and sledges.” “We should be alright if we stay in deep water,” said MacDonald. “I figure this course,” said Mason drawing a line “is better than headin’ up the coast. Ice will be thicker there I reckon.” “Isaac said about the same thing,” said MacDonald. “How far ya think we can get?” Mason shook his head and sighed, “Once we finish at the post, I wanna head up to Craig Harbor, straight through to Smith Sound and into Kane Basin. If we’re lucky, we can sail right into the Lincoln Sea.” “And if we’re not lucky?” asked MacDonald. Mason pointed to a point on the map and MacDonald nodded. Ellesmere Island. Timmy winced as Ed tightened the bandage he had just wrapped around the boy’s left hand and listened as the cook gently scolded him. “Them dogs ain’t pets Timmy, you’re lucky they didn’t chew off your damn hand.” Timmy nodded his head and did his best to hold back the tears, but it was hard. “I’m sorry, Ed, I just wanted to pet ‘em, that’s all. I didn’t mean no harm.” “Them’s working dogs boy, mean as the Devil, but I guess you know that now, don’t ya!” “Keelut said it’d be alright,” said the young ship’s boy. The old cook nodded thoughtful like, “Yeah, well, you stay away from him too. I got a feeling that one is bad news. You spend your time concentrating on your duties and ship learnin’.” “Yes Ed,” said the boy meekly. The cook smiled and mussed the boy’s hair, “You was pretty scared though, huh?” Timmy nodded, “Ya got that right Ed, I was powerful scared,” he said with a shy smile. “Hey, Ed where we going again?” “We’re heading up to a trading post near Upernavik, hopefully get some help and some information.” “Information on what, Ed?” asked the boy. “Oh stuff. The weather, the ice, things like that, anything else the Captain and Mr. MacDonald can think to ask, I guess.” “What about after that Ed?” Ed thought for a moment, “Well, I don’t rightly know Timmy, but Captain Mason says we’s looking for new hunting grounds, which probably means further north. I figure if that be the case, then we’ll make our way up through the Kane Basin, maybe to the Lincoln Sea, but me, I’m just guessing boy.” Keelut listening outside the galley smiled, he had guessed the same thing. His work aboard the SHY LADY was almost done.