Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Final Excerpt (#24 of 24) from Adrift on an Ice Pan by Sir Wilfred Grenfell

Excerpt #24 from Adrift on an Ice Pan by Wilfred Thomasen Grenfell

(N.B. It was in 1908 that Grenfell, a medical missionary in northern Newfoundland was traveling by dog team to treat a patient, became stranded on an ice pan and came close to perishing. The following excerpt is from Grenfell's account of this adventure.)



"As soon as 'twas light us went to th' cliff wi' th' spy-glass to see
if us could see un, but thar warn't nothin' in sight. Us know by the
wind whar t' look fur un, an' us launched th' boat. George Read an'
'is two sons, an' George Davis, what seen un first, an' me, was th'
crew. George Read was skipper-man an' th' rest was just youngsters.
The sun was warm,--you mind 'twas a fine mornin',--an' us started in
our shirt an' braces fur us knowed thar'd be hard work to do. I knowed
thar was a chance o' not comin' back at all, but it didn' make no
difference. I knowed I'd as good a chance as any, _an' 'twa' for th'
doctor, an' 'is life's worth many_, an' somehow I couldn' let a man go
out like dat wi'out tryin' fur un, an' I think us all felt th' same.

"Us 'ad a good strong boat an' four oars, an' took a hot kettle o' tea
an' food for a week, for us thought u'd 'ave t' go far an' p'rhaps
lose th' boat an' 'ave t' walk ashore un th' ice. I din' 'ope to find
the doctor alive an' kept lookin' for a sign of un on th' pans. 'Twa'
no' easy gettin' to th' pans wi' a big sea runnin'! Th' big pans 'ud
sometimes heave together an' near crush th' boat, an' sometimes us 'ad
t' git out an' haul her over th' ice t' th' water again. Then us come
t' th' slob ice where th' pan 'ad ground together, an' 'twas all
thick, an' that was worse'n any. Us saw th' doctor about twenty
minutes afore us got t' un. 'E was wavin' 'is flag an' I seen 'im. 'E
was on a pan no bigger'n this flor, an' I dunno what ever kep' un fro'
goin' abroad, for 'twasn't ice, 'twas packed snow. Th' pan was away
from even th' slob, floatin' by hisself, an' th' open water all roun',
an' 'twas just across fro' Goose Cove, an' outside o' that there'd
been no hope. I think th' way th' pan held together was on account o'
th' dogs' bodies meltin' it an' 't froze hard durin' th' night. 'E
was level with th' water an' th' sea washin' over us all th' time.

"When us got near un, it didn' seem like 'twas th' doctor. 'E looked
so old an' 'is face such a queer color. 'E was very solemn-like when
us took un an' th' dogs on th' boat. No un felt like sayin' much, an'
'e 'ardly said nothin' till us gave un some tea an' loaf an' then 'e
talked. I s'pose e was sort o' faint-like. Th' first thing 'e said
was, how wonderfu' sorry 'e was o' gettin' into such a mess an' givin'
we th' trouble o' comin' out for un. Us tol' un not to think o' that;
us was glad to do it for un, an' 'e'd done it for any one o' we, many
times over if 'e 'ad th' chance;--an' so 'e would. An' then 'e
fretted about th' b'y 'e was goin' to see, it bein' too late to reach
un, an' us tol' un 'is life was worth so much more 'n th' b'y, fur 'e
could save others an' th' b'y couldn'. But 'e still fretted.

"'E 'ad ripped th' dog-harnesses an' stuffed th' oakum in th' legs o'
'is pants to keep un warm. 'E showed it to we. An' 'e cut off th' tops
o' 'is boots to keep th' draught from 'is back. 'E must 'a' worked
'ard all night. 'E said 'e droled off once or twice, but th' night
seemed wonderfu' long.

"Us took un off th' pan at about half-past seven, an' 'ad a 'ard fight
gettin' in, th' sea still runnin' 'igh. 'E said 'e was proud to see us
comin' for un, and so 'e might, for it grew wonderfu' cold in th' day
and th' sea so 'igh the pan couldn' 'a' lived outside. 'E wouldn'
stop when us got ashore, but must go right on, an' when 'e 'ad dry
clothes an' was a bit warm, us sent un to St. Anthony with a team.

"Th' next night, an' for nights after, I couldn' sleep. I'd keep
seein' that man standin' on th' ice, an' I'd be sorter half-awake
like, sayin', 'But not th' doctor. Sure _not_ th' _doctor_.'"

There was silence for a few moments, and George Andrews looked out
across the blue harbor to the sea.

"'E sent us watches an' spy-glasses," said he, "an' pictures o'
hisself that one o' you took o' un, made large an' in a frame. George
Read an' me 'ad th' watches an' th' others 'ad th' spy-glasses. 'Ere's
th' watch. It 'as 'In memory o' April 21st' on it, but us don't need
th' things to make we remember it, tho' we 're wonderful glad t' 'ave
'em from th' doctor."



The above excerpt is from Adrift on an Ice-Pan by Wilfred Thomason Grenfell. A true account of Grenfell's near death experience, the story was first published in 1909 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

The unabridged audio edition, narrated by Chris Brookes, Jay Roberts and Janis Spence, is available from Rattling Books.