Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
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'
Assuredly, if the monster ever had to deal with Ned Land's harpoon, I wouldn't bet on the
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.
And they opened amazingly wide. Eyes and spyglasses (a bit dazzled, it is true, by the
vista of $2,000.00) didn't remain at rest for an instant. Day and night we observed the
surface of the ocean, and those with nyctalopic eyes, whose ability to see in the dark
increased their chances by fifty percent, had an excellent shot at winning the prize.
As for me, I was hardly drawn by the lure of money and yet was far from the least
attentive on board. Snatching only a few minutes for meals and a few hours for sleep,
come rain or come shine, I no longer left the ship's deck. Sometimes bending over the
forecastle railings, sometimes leaning against the sternrail, I eagerly scoured that cotton-
colored wake that whitened the ocean as far as the eye could see! And how many times I
shared the excitement of general staff and crew when some unpredictable whale lifted its