Hollister yawned and took a sip of hot tea from the ceramic mug he was holding, breakfast? Hell, it didn’t matter, it was something hot and it kept him warm and that was all that mattered at the moment. There were six others besides Hollister and a total of five sleds. Mason and Dunn of course, two dog drivers from the ship, Goodman and Michaels as well as Peter and another Inuit named Wacha. They would be on the move soon. They had been traveling for seven days (if one could say such a thing in constant darkness, but Hollister and the others had continued to measure time as if there were day and night, it gave them some form of normalcy in what might be considered otherwise in their current circumstances) and still had another three to go before they reached their first depot. The first depot! Christ what was Hollister thinking when he volunteered for this trip? He looked at the figures around him they were all dressed the same in wolf skin parkas and sealskin trousers with mukluks on their feet. Every man carried a pair of beaver fur mittens (attached to a leather cord so there was less chance of losing them) which were used when they were moving over the ice, though when making or breaking camp, the men wore heavy wool gloves as Hollister did at that moment. The five sleds were loaded with sleeping bags made from reindeer hides, canvas tent shelters, snow shoes as well as three alcohol cooking stoves and heaters and the fuel for such. They were also carrying dog booties, food, tea and cocoa, six rifles, three pistols and needed ammunition. The dogs were barking but they did that all the time, all forty of them. Finishing his tea he put his ceramic mug on the sled he shared with Dunn and after clapping his arms to ensure some circulation he began to hitch up the eight dogs they were using, each animal attached to the sled with a separate tagline. The arrangement was a “fan hitch” which spread the dogs out in a “fan” formation, giving the dogs more room to maneuver and distributing their weight on the ice instead of centering it as it would in a “gangline” arrangement which was a tighter formation of two columns of dogs, better suited for trails and forested areas. As he was finishing up, Mason approached him. “How are you holding up Jack?” The newspaperman looked up. “I’m doing fine Captain, how bout yourself?” “Quite well, thank you,” replied Mason. “How far today, Captain?” Mason shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t know, depends on the conditions before us. We just have to wait and see but we will be closer to our goal, that I can tell ya.” Hollister nodded. Pressure ridges, thin ice, frequent stops to check position. Leading dogs, pushing and pulling heavily loaded sleds up and over rough ice, loudly cursing, their voices carrying in the frigid air. It was the type of day that no man in his right mind would look forward to and though Hollister had done some crazy things in his life, the writer was far from insane. Another day at the office, he thought and with a sigh, checked the taglines again. Peter walked among the sleds smoking a cigarette and checking the load straps and taglines, sometimes batting down dog or two. For the life, he still didn’t quite understand what Dunn and Mason wanted up here even though they told him what they were looking for. Hunting whales was easier than doing this. Well, they had their reasons and he’d just leave it at that. Coming up to Wacha’s sled he patted his old friend on the arm. “Doe’s all look well?” he asked. Wacha nodded, “Things look good.” “Watch the one called Hollister. His skills have improved since he started but still…” Wacha nodded again, “I’ll watch him. How far does Mason wish to go today?” asked the older Inuit. Peter shrugged. “Mason knows and when he wants to stop, he’ll let us know.” “Tell me again Peter, why do the outsiders wish to go where here is as good as there?” Peter grinned, “Whales, my old friend. They believe there is a place where the whales go to die. It is this place that they seek.” “I don’t know why,” said Wacha shaking his head, “anyone would go this far for a dead fish.” “They have their reasons Wacha. I trust them and I ask that you do as well.” “I will do as you ask Peter even if I do not understand,” said Wacha, who went back to lashing his sled. Dick Goodman, former mail carrier and landsman signed onto the SHY LADY, beat his arms and stomped his feet. Getting started any cold morning was difficult as it was, but here…well, it didn’t really matter, at least he was working again and it was something he knew or at least thought he did. He had to confess, this was a bit different than running mail in Canada. His opinions of those around him weren’t necessarily bad. Goodman himself had no doubts about his ability to handle a sled, the captain did well enough and Dunn had no problems snapping a dog quirt. Peter the half breed was quite the expert as well as the other native, Wacha then again that was to be expected. Michaels was good, not as good as Goodman but still. Hollister was still clumsy which Goodman found annoying but to his credit he was learning fast and didn’t wish to be a burden. Though it had been explained to him before they had started out, Goodman didn’t quite understand why they were going to where they were and the truth was he didn’t really care. He wasn’t a whaleman and finding a whale’s graveyard to him was about as exciting as a sleepy town meeting in July. As for the work, it weren’t bad. Mason and Dunn could be pricks but he’d worked for such before. When it came down to it, he supposed it was his definition of success. He wanted to finish this and go home. Penny was waiting for him and he’d been saving his money. If all went well, they could be married when he returned and he’d be able to accept that clerk’s position. It wasn’t much but it was a start and it sure as hell beat freezing his ass off in some God damned wilderness. He could get married, wear a white starched collar and live a respectable life. He’d never have to worry about stupid fucking dogs or trail food ever again. To him that was success. Goodman sighed and wiped some snot from his nose and spat some tobacco juice into a small pile of white snow. When one looked up, all a person could see was high jagged ice, slopping and uneven. What a mess all this was! Hell of a lot different than running the mail. Michaels came up to him, his foggy white breath made him resemble a dragon of sorts when he breathed. “Morning Goodman!” said the other dog driver in his usual good humor. “Ready for a long haul?” Goodman nodded, only he wished it was the other way for more reasons than just getting married and having a good job. He shared a tent with Michaels who really wasn’t a bad fellow but he seemed to talk continuously and damn if the man didn’t stink up the place with his farts. That in itself made the open air, as cold as it was, much more appealing. “Yeah Mike,” he said using the man’s nickname, “ready to go as ever. Hey did ya check Mr. Hollister’s sled?” “Yeah, everything looked ok, and that Peter fellow looked at it too.” “Well, the captain and Mr. Dunn want us to watch him, though I don’t know why. If you ask me he shouldn’t even be on this trip and besides he shares a sled with Dunn, it should be his responsibility,” said Goodman with some anger. “I don’t mind,” said Michaels, “he’s an alright guy.” “Yeah, well,” said Goodman. “I just think its bullshit we get singled out to have to watch him. I mean what about them Eskimos, huh? They should be the ones doing most of the work if ya ask me, including watching Mr. Important Big City Newsman over there. But that Dunn, he’s all chummy with’ em, that’s why we got the extra work.” The other man shrugged his shoulders. “They ain’t bad fellows I don’t mind them so much.” Goodman just shook his head a little hurt that Michaels didn’t wholeheartedly agree with him and walked to his sled, “Yeah, whatever you say Mike.” Michaels shrugged his shoulders and walked to his sled as well. He wouldn’t let Goodman’s foul mood ruin his good one. Michaels was excited, he always was in the morning. He was very caught up in the adventure of the unknown, wondering what they would find up ahead, what was over the next ridge. The spirit of adventure was very alive in this man. He knew what he wanted in life, to go to new places and see new things. He felt himself a wandering spirit and had desire to stop. He tapped each of his barking dogs on the head as was his habit, time to start another day. Dunn checked their position on the chart and made some notations. They weren’t moving as fast as he would have liked. The pressure ridges had become higher and more difficult to travel over since they had last come through here. He was also worried about the depots they had set up, with the ridges getting higher he wondered if their supplies would still be there. In order to keep everything dry as possible they had placed everything on pallets secured to empty wooden barrels, so if it became warmer and the ice melted they wouldn’t lose their valuable foodstuffs to the sea. Of course that didn’t mean a hungry Polar bear couldn’t devour what they had left. Dunn crossed his fingers. Mason walked up to the second mate. “How do things look Isaac?” Dunn sighed. “We’ve got to move faster, Captain.” Mason nodded, “Yeah, I’ve noticed the pressure ridges are higher.” “At this rate I don’t know sir, we’ve really got to start pushing things.” “Noted, Isaac, now let’s get going. We ain’t gonna get there by standing here and talking about it,” said Mason. “Aye, aye sir.” When all was ready, the crack of several dog quirts could be heard and seven men and their dogs continued on their travel to the distant horizon.