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Robur the Conqueror

Chapter 17. The Shipwrecked Crew
Next day was the 24th of July; and the 24th of July in the southern hemisphere
corresponds to the 24th of January in the northern. The fifty-sixth degree of
latitude had been left behind. The similar parallel in northern Europe runs through
Edinburgh.
The thermometer kept steadily below freezing, so that the machinery was called
upon to furnish a little artificial heat in the cabins. Although the days begin to
lengthen after the 21st day of June in the southern hemisphere, yet the advance
of the "Albatross" towards the Pole more than neutralized this increase, and
consequently the daylight became very short. There was thus very little to be
seen. At night time the cold became very keen; but as there was no scarcity of
clothing on board, the colleagues, well wrapped up, remained a good deal on
deck thinking over their plans of escape, and watching for an opportunity. Little
was seen of Robur; since the high words that had been exchanged in the
Timbuktu country, the engineer had left off speaking to his prisoners. Frycollin
seldom came out of the cook-house, where Tapage treated him most hospitably,
on condition that he acted as his assistant. This position was not without its
advantages, and the Negro, with his master's permission, very willingly accepted.
it. Shut up in the galley, he saw nothing of what was passing outside, and might
even consider himself beyond the reach of danger. He was, in fact, very like the
ostrich, not only in his stomach, but in his folly.
But whither went the "Albatross?" Was she in mid-winter bound for the southern
seas or continents round the Pole? In this icy atmosphere, even granting that the
elements of the batteries were unaffected by such frost, would not all the crew
succumb to a horrible death from the cold? That Robur should attempt to cross
the Pole in the warm season was bad enough, but to attempt such a thing in the
depth of the winter night would be the act of a madman.
Thus reasoned the President and Secretary of the Weldon Institute, now they
had been brought to the end of the continent of the New World, which is still
America, although it does not belong to the United States.
What was this intractable Robur going to do? Had not the time arrived for them to
end the voyage by blowing up the ship?
It was noticed that during the 24th of July the engineer had frequent
consultations with his mate. He and Tom Turner kept constant watch on the
barometer--not so much to keep themselves informed of the height at which they
were traveling as to be on the look-out for a change in the weather. Evidently
some indications had been observed of which it was necessary to make careful
note.
Uncle Prudent also remarked that Robur had been taking stock of the provisions
and stores, and everything seemed to show that he was contemplating turning
back.
"Turning back!" said Phil Evans. "But where to?"
"Where he can reprovision the ship," said Uncle Prudent.
 
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