NOTE: this journal contains massive spoilers. If you plan on participating in Beyond the Mountains of Madness as a player in the future, i encourage you to stop reading now. Otherwise, you will completely spoil the campaign for yourself. You have been warned.
My Dear Uncle,
Thank you so much for your last package; cousin Norbert's fruitcake was, as usual, totally inedible, but the heavy wool socks will come in handy, I'm sure...
Well, after I posted my last letter to you, I met my companions in the hotel lounge for drinks and discussions. Evidently Worthington has been doing some research on Pym and has come up with some very interesting stories. It is said that he stowed away on a ship whose crew later mutinied! The ship wrecked, Pym found himself adrift at sea but was later picked up by another expeditionary ship. He continued south to the Pacific, where the weather got progressively warmer, until the water itself grew hot. Too hot to touch, in some areas, accompanied by emissions of vapor and strange underwater explosions, with a layer of ash hovering over the surface of the water itself. As they continued, they discovered an island inhabited by what seemed to be friendly, albeit strange, black-toothed savages. These savages were rumored to be highly...paranoid...of the color white, even going into convulsions at anything of that color. These "friendly" savages later murdered almost the entire crew! Only Pym and one other survived the massacre. Fleeing deeper into the island they discovered an area covered with some sort of odd haze, with strange, large birds flying in and out of it...they went in this hazy area, into a deep chasm of sorts, where they discovered some sort of large, humanoid statue, completely white. The story fades out after that, not at all clear as to their later happenings...there were also mentions of other strange creatures on the island, such as giant polar bears, and nightmarish beasts with white fur and red teeth! (Not exactly the best of bedtime stories)! After this extremely disturbing information we decided to turn in for the night.
We had a blessedly uneventful night and there were no major announcements at the next morning's meeting. We were only told that we were to set sail the next day, and to meet at 10 that morning (the 11th) aboardship. My group of companions and myself decided that there was still much information to be sought before sailing, and so split up to obtain as much as possible in the little time we had left. Myself, Scott and Oleg made an appointment for later that morning at the Boseley's auction house in the hopes of getting any little bit about the Pym manuscript that was supposed to be auctioned off there at the time of Percival Lexington's "suicide". It may have seemed a bit of a long shot as it was a full ten years ago, but one never knows. Worthington had some phone calls to make on his part, then later to meet up with Mawson, who was going to the newspaper agencies to see what he could dig up on Acacia Lexington, her background and connections. Indeed, we were all hoping to gain some information on this subject, both for our own curiousity, protection and also to fulfill the promise made to Roerich earlier.
Myself, Scott and Oleg set out for our appointment at the auction house. We met with a Frank Boseley, a small, dapper and fastidiously groomed man. In spite of the time that had passed, he did remember the manuscript, if only due to the rumors and scandal that had surrounded it at the time of Percival's death. The most he was able to come up with, however, was a letter he had received from a Stanley Fuchs, the previous owner of the Pym manuscript. Mr. Fuchs had written the letter in response to Mr. Boseley's inquiries about the book's history and authenticity. It reads:
September 4th, 1921
Dear Mister Boseley,
I write to you in regard to your letter of August 28th.
It is always unpleasant to hear of an untimely passing, especially of one with whom I have had dealings in the past. My business with Percival Lexington having taken place more than twenty years ago, however, I find it difficult to imagine what benefit you may receive from my recollections at this late date.
I am as you know a collector of antiquities. It was in that capacity that I first purchased the erstwhile Poe manuscript from a fellow collector, a man named Lionel White. The book arrived in good order and proved exactly as promised. I recall that it was unbound, in loose form, and that a number of the pages were showing signs of wear. Mister White had also included a letter summarizing his own researches into the origin of the work. It was clear that he considered it genuine. I found, after some inspection, that I had to disagree.
You will be aware, sir, that the Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym differs in several aspects of style from the rest of Mister Poe's body of work. The manuscript I had acquired was substantially the same as the publihed work in it's first twenty-five chapters, including those same uncharacteristic usages and turns of phrase. The additional four chapters, hwoever, were quite different even from the remainder of the manuscript, in both style and content, and clearly had been written by a different hand.
Once this was clear to me, I had no further interest in the work. However clever the fiction, it was evidently not Poe's tale but an homage or attempted forgery, and thus I sought to recover my purchase price by any means possible. Mister Lexington bought it eagerly and I was able to secure a small profit for my trouble.
I concealed nothing from Mister Lexington when he came to examine the manuscript. That is my way of doing business. He drew his own conclusions and was delighted at his purchase, for which I wished him well. As I recall, he was excited by the possiblity that the "Narrative" represented an udocumented collaboration rather than an original work. I did not seek to dissuade him.
Several other collectors inquired about the work. I referred them all to Lexington. There is very little else I can say about the purchase.
As to your other question regarding the content of the additional chapters I fear I can be of little use. I recall that they were unpleasantly speculative, more than usually macabre, and dealt with a tribe of inhuman horrors that dwelt in the Antarctic and practiced human sacrifice. More than that I cannot now say.
Wishing you the best of luck in your continuing research, I am
Stanley Edgar Fuchs
As there was no further information to be obtained from Mr. Boseley, we decided to return to the hotel to make some calls to see if we could speak to this Mr. Fuchs, if indeed he were still alive. We were successful in reaching him and speaking to him about the manuscript. We were not able to glean much more than what we had gotten from his letter, with the exception that the chapters that had been written in a different hand were also along a different theme, much darker and more macabre. Also that there were references to other chasms on the island, deep chasms through which people were transported to other "plateaus". This Lionel White that he had purchased it from is no longer alive.
Late that afternoon, we all met to discuss the results of our various searches. Worthington was able to get some facts about Acacia's background; evidently she was being groomed by her father as a debutante around the year 1818. It was rumored that this was not the lifestyle she wished for herself, being much more interested in following in her father's footsteps. Strangely enough, though, she had an apparent change of heart and was "presented" to society the following year. What precipitated the change can only be speculated upon...
After his calls, Worthington had met Mawson to help research any news articles on Acacia and her family, and came up with a few. They read:
DARING RESCUE OF HEIRESS
Nairobi (INS) ---The dark continent where the wonders of nature can turn on man and prove deadly has shown once again that wherever European man goes, so goes chivalry. Wireless reports out of the Belgian colonies in Africa tell of the daring rescue of our own socialite scamp Acacia Lexington by the daring Englishman, Captain James Starkweather.
Lovely Lexington has been touring the regions of darkest Africa dominated by the mighty Lake Tanganyika. Savages fight daily with alligators longer than a Deusenberg to ensure the passage of commerce in this wild region. Against the advice of her elders, Lady Lexington insisted upon seeing the fabled giraffe mating grounds of Eyasi. Under the expert leadership of Captain Starkweather the band braved the wilderness and arrived at the plains of tall swaying grasses the giraffes find so compelling for their very survival.
The wild beasts, gentled by our own lovely Lady Lexington, came within a few feet of the party without making threatening gestures. Lady Lexington's presence was so compelling that when she came upon a baby giraffe in the grasses, she immediately tamed it and was able to even embrace it briefly before it returned to it's herd, earning her the nickname among the savages as 'The Woman Whom the Giraffes Love.'
On the return trip to Nairobi, sudden rains caught the party crossing a branch of the mighty Nakuru river. The party was nearly lost as savages panicked under the onslaught of the rain and river. Brave Captain Starkweather rallied the natives and had them chop trees and fashion rafts to carry the supplies to safety. A personal trip by Captain Starkweather to a nearby village procured enough canoes to carry the party across the river. The crossing was treacherous but under the skilled hand of Captain Starkweather the entire party made it to port in time for Lady Lexington's return trip to America.
We'll all be thanking Captain Starkweather for the safe return of one of the brightest lights of our social season. Hurrah for him and hurrah for chivalry!The next article reads:
New York (AP)---A shocking scene greeted police at the P.W. Lexington mansion on Fifth Avenue today. They came to investigate what appears to be the death of one of New York City's greatest industrialists at his own hand.
Percival Woodrow Lexington was discovered in his study dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Police initially suspected foul play from the disheveled nature of the study.
"But there are obvious powder burns on his head and right hand," said Police Detective Ronald O'Meira. "That coupled with the position of the body and gun lead us more toward a self-inflicted wound than foul play."
>But his daughter Acacia does not agree. "Daddy wouldn't kill himself. These buffoons are looking for an easy answer to keep from doing any real work," the distraught young woman said. "I vow I'll find my father's killers and make them pay."
Meanwhile an anonymous Wall Street source has hinted that the Lexington fortunes were severely over-extended.
The sky in New York society has grown dimmer this evening and the murky surroundings of this death surely spurs further inquiry.
And yet another interesting one:
RARE MANUSCRIPT LINKED TO LEXINGTON DEATH
(Special)---A notice from the estate of Percival Lexington warns rare book dealers to watch out for a missing manuscript that could be linked to foul play in Lexington's recent death.
An extremely valuable and rare galley proof of the Edgar Allen Poe book "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym" has been reported missing from Lexington's study where hsi body was found yesterday.
"Robbery would be a motive for murder," said police detective Ronald O'Meira. "But the physical evidence points to a different conclusion. The book may show up in a few days. It's very difficult for most families to accept the loss of a loved one in this way."
Issuing the notice was daughter Acacia Lexington who previously raised suspicions of foul play and a lax attitude by police in investigating this case.
"This manuscript is unique. I believe it is involved in my father's death," she said. "This manuscript differs greatly from the published version. I fear some collector has killed for it."
The manuscript was to have been sold in public auction today, along with other rare and valuable items from Percival Lexington's collection.
A coroner's report is expected tomorrow. A public service and private family funeral will be held Friday. The public service will be held at St. John the Divine Cathedral at 11 A.M.
Here's another related piece:
HEIRESS DENIES OWN TALE OF MURDER
New York (AP)---A startling retraction came today from the daughter of the late industrialist Percival Lexington. Just days after she was claiming foul play and police mishandling of the case, Acacia Lexington came out from the funeral of her father with a very different story.
"With the coroner's report and the physical evidence I have no choice but to face the facts about my father's death," Miss Lexington said.
Earlier this week Lexington claimed that her father's death was linked to the disappearance of a rare manuscript he kept in the study where his body was found.
"I believe that book is still in my father's library," Miss Lexington said when asked about her earlier claim. "I haven't finished cataloging the contents of the house to see if anything is missing. When it is done I'm sure we'll find the book."
"We know this is a hard time for Miss Lexington," said police detective Ronald O'Meira who investigated the Lexington suicide. "Any suggestions she made earlier were obviously the result of the strain of the situation," O'Meira said.
Percival Lexington was eulogized by several business leaders including fellow industrialist John D. Rockefeller and esteemed banker John Pierpont Morgan. He was laid to rest in a private ceremony at the family's estate in Suffolk County.
Lexington's last will and testament will be read at his attorney's next Wednesday. It is expected that his daughter Acacia will be his sole beneficiary. Questions still remain as to who will run the Lexington enterprises for this young woman.
And there was just one more article titled 'Young Lady Takes Charge', an article not worth quoting in it's entirety. Evidently Acacia took over her father's business and financial dealings and made quite a good fist of it. Of course, the times being what they were, her being a woman, it was considered quite scandalous that such a high society lady had such a very keen and "unfeminine" business acumen. Just the sort of thing you know I despise! It was even rumored that her success was due to a "deal with the devil" and, more believably, that her business dealings were with some rather unsavory characters, as her father's dealings had also been rumored to be.
The most frustrating part of our day's research was that it was apparent that there was more information to be gleaned from what we had already gotten. Unfortunately, we had virtually no time left in which to do it, as we were sailing the next day. Mawson came up with the excellent idea of hiring a private investigator to do the work for us and wire/post us the details along our way. We spoke to the desk clerk, our faithful Smitty, and learned that he "knew someone" who might be able to help us out. Name of Frank...
So, an hour later, we met this Frank in the lounge. A tall, blond, bearded man, seemingly quite competent for the task at hand. After paying him a healthy retainer and arranging for further financial payments, we gave him all the necessary details, information wanted and our own contact specifics. I hope he can help us...there is much we still need to know. The bits we have are disturbingly tantalizing at best.
After dinner, and seeing as we had much going on the next day, we retired early. The next morning we all packed up and met on the ship promptly at 10 A.M. as instructed. We were welcomed aboard and stowed away our gear in our various areas. At 2:30 P.M. we set sail. About five miles or so out to sea, one could hear the distinct sound of corks popping as the real festivities began. We all gathered in the dining quarters to celebrate with Starkweather and Moore, both of whom were obviously relieved and excited to finally be underway. The day had finally come! Champagne flowed like water, and many an old expeditionary tale was exchanged...you would have thoroughly enjoyed it, uncle dear!
We all cleared out to set up for dinner, which was much enjoyed later, the cook being more than adequate. I suspect we won't always eat as well. After dinner we had some free time during which we familiarized ourselves with our cabin assignments and bunkmates.
Feeling a bit tired, uncle, I am going to rest for a bit, having imbibed perhaps just a tad too much champagne. I will keep a journal letter from now on, and will post as often as a I can. Please add the enclosed articles and letters to our scrapbook. I remain as always,
Your Loving Niece,
My Dear Uncle,
Well, I have met my roommate for the voyage, fortunately there is only one as our cabin is rather small and cramped. His name is Pierce Albemarle, one of the expedition’s meteorologists. He is a portly old fellow, complete with monacle and a love for the game of chess and a good cup of tea. You’d like him, I think. We shared a cup of tea and spoke a little about our respective backgrounds. He did seem to have a number of questions regarding Starkweather; I get the feeling that, like myself, he is not sure of Starkweather’s motives or disclosure on the previous expedition. Time will tell, I suppose. Anyway, as people go, Albemarle seems a good fellow and one I will enjoy spending time with.
Later on, our little group met Starkweather and Moore for a celebratory drink. They gave the typical motivational speeches and regaled us with stories of past adventures, obviously terribly excited about our journey. As it was getting late, we decided to retire. On my way back to my cabin, I gave Worthington Corbitt’s journal to read as we have plenty of time while at sea. I myself will be perusing the skin-bound book found in the foundations of that horrid little “church”, if you remember from my earlier letters. Hopefully, these books will yield some useful information to us.
The next morning we all met for breakfast at 8 am. There is a chalkboard set up in the main dining area, with our longitude and latitude, the expected weather for the day, and any other main announcements. There was a notice that there will be a variety of classes available for all interested party, such as polar survival and navigation with Sykes and Mawson, basic polar first aid with Dr. Green and myself, equipment care, etc. I will also be teaching basic Latin for our little group as well as an interested Dr. Greene. It would be helpful if we find more papers, books, etc. in Latin if there were others in our group who could help translate.
There are no formal lunches served, just a layout of cold cuts, breads, etc. Suppers are served at 8pm. Every few days Starkweather and Moore broadcast an expedition update to the public over the radio, as the outside interest in this is significant. We have basically full rein on the ship, with the exception of the cargo holds and the engine room.
For your interest and our scrapbook records, here is a list of most of the classes available and who of us will be taking them:
Care and Use of Polar Clothes and Equipment - all of us
Antarctic/Polar First Aid - all of us
Climbing and Snowski Repair - all of us
Aeroplane Mechanics and Care - Scott and Worthington
Sledding - Oleg
Aerial Navigation - Scott
Antarctic Weather and Meteorology - myself, Scott, Worthington and Mawson
Radio Use and Care - myself and Scott
Drill Rig Use and Care - Worthington
Antarctic Geology - myself, Oleg and Worthington
Antarctic Expedition History - all of us
Dynamite Use and Care - all of us (a rather unnerving thought, considering some of our personalities)!
As we went further into the Caribbean sea, the air became warmer and the rain, though frequent, was soft and clean. We arrived safely in Cuba on September 15th. That night, we learned through radio broadcasts that the Lexington expedition had reached Panama. They certainly aren’t wasting any time! The rains became more frequent as we continued. The barking and wailing of the dogs began to get on my nerves as they were echoing throughout the ship; the poor canines did not seem pleased at being so cooped up in the holds. Also, an interesting side note is that it came to our attention these past few days that the ship’s crew regard us with some suspicion and fear, evidently due to the many problems we have had with getting underway, the deaths, fires, past expedition history, etc. Hopefully this will not prove to be a significant problem as we continue on our way.
We reached Panama on September 19th, going through several canal locks before docking in Balboa Bay. Though we were not going to be there long, only to restock, we were given permission to go ashore. We all separated to do some shopping and perhaps some fact-finding. I spoke to the harbor master regarding the Lexington ship that had been there a few days ago. I wanted to find out if any of them had come ashore and for what reasons. Evidently no one came ashore, they just restocked from the smaller boats. Not very common, to have no one come ashore. They must be in a raving hurry.
I also went shopping to see what kinds of local medical remedies and supplies they had, hoping to supplement my own. I purchased some interesting ones, as well as some gifts for some of the folks back on board. Tea and port for Albemarle and some cigars and brandy for Starkweather and Moore in thanks for letting us go ashore. While there, Worthington received a package from our private investigator, Frank Dukowski. There is not much information yet, though he did confirm from his research that the Pym Narrative was unique, one-of-a-kind; no copies were ever made. Frank was told to continue his work at least until our next docking.
We set sail once again on September 21st, heading south. By noon there was no sight of land. The sea became rough and choppy, with much overcast to the weather. The ship bucked and swayed like a drunken horse, and the dogs trebled their very vocal displeasure…I wonder if it is possible to drug them…
The classes we are attending keep us from complete boredom, and during the bad weather of the last few days there have been some new announcements on the chalkboard. Evidently Dr. Greene will be teaching a class on ballroom dancing, Winslow is looking for people to start up a barbershop quartet. Worthington is starting up a bridge club, Charlene Whiston, our photographer, is teaching beginning photography, andPockard will be teaching origami. As you remember, I am starting a Latin class and Scott is teaching basic firearms use and care. Around the 24th, after a few days of rough sailing, the weather began to improve. Other than a number of seasick passengers, I sailed through with flying colors. And this, dear uncle, is where I shall stop for now. I will continue my journaling later and post at the next docking.
Well, it’s simply amazing how much can happen in such a short period of time. I continue where I left off…
Around the 24th the weather did improve significantly, although the mood of the crew did not indeed, has not improved as well. I have begun to see small groups of them together, whispering and looking about, cutting off any conversation as soon as any of us get near. I find it disturbing and more than a little frightening. All of our attempts to make friends have been for nought, it seems.
In the evening, about an hour past sunset, we heard the ship’s engines go quiet, then a loud horn sounded three times. From the looks of everyone rushing topside, I assumed it was an “all hands on deck” call, and so followed.
On deck, towards the bow area and with a spotlight on him, was an elaborately costumed man walking towards us. It looked like the engineer’s mate. He stepped up to one of the crew and, in rather archaic and medieval-type language asked if he could board. The sailor played right along, calling him ‘Davey Jones’. He then walked up to the captain and pulled out some sort of scroll, telling him he had a summons for him from Neptunis Rex. The captain seemed to play along as well. I became more confused by the minute, though all became clear later.
‘Davey Jones’ called out a number of names, all of us who were on our virgin voyage, as it turned out…landlubbers as opposed to the experienced sailors, know as ‘shellbacks’. Mawson was not called, as he is hardly inexperienced at sea. We were all given a scroll. Here is a copy of mine:
ON ENTERING DOMAIN OF NEPTUNIS REX NOTICE AND LISTEN YE LANDLUBBER
I order and command you to appear before me and my court on the morrow to be initiated in the mysteries of my Empire. If not, you shall be given as food for sharks, whales, pollywogs, frogs and all living things of the sea, who will devour you, head, body, and soul as a warning to landlubbers entering my Domain without warrant.
You are charged with the following offenses:
Looking presentable when doing an honest day’s work.
Therefore, appear and obey or suffer the penalty.
Registered: Davy Jones
Sec’y to His Majesty
After reading this, I knew it must be some kind of initiation process, as all who were ‘summoned’ were us ‘landlubbers’. No one was acting surprised in the slightest except for us. The captain turned to Turlow and told him to announce a general assembly on deck for 11:30 the next morning. There didn’t seem to be much to say after that, so, with a certain amount of trepidation we all retired to our quarters for the night.
The next morning, promptly at 11:30, the engines again went silent and again the horn sounded for ‘all hands on deck’. Once on top, we noticed that the ship’s flag had been replaced with one bearing a trident. On the aft-end of the deck were a large number of people, all dressed in very garish costumes reminiscent of a more medieval time. There was Neptunus Rex himself, along with his ‘royal company’ which consisted of a royal doctor, dentist, baby, navigator, bears, and some nymphs who were obviously not female! Most of the faces were recognizable as the ship’s crew.
Neptunus Rex and the captain gave a short speech about us officially crossing the equator, which, combined with this process, would officially make us ‘shellbacks’. They then presented some awards to some of the veteran shellbacks, which consisted of a conch shell and a beer. And then it was our turn…
We were all made to crawl through a long, seaweed-encrusted tube of some sort, then to drink a beer once we had come out the other side. We were then set down in a chair, with a man standing behind us brandishing a pair of scissors. Yes, uncle dear, they shaved us bald! We were then made to drink another beer. After this we were set in another chair that had been suspended above a large tank of water. The rest of the costumed crew then began to throw balls at a square of wood attached to a suspension setup. When they struck it, the chair tilted, dropping us into the water. Very reminiscent of some of those Greek fairs we frequented in my younger days!
After this, we were roughly dried off and then made to drink yet another beer before being ordered to eat a meat pie, followed by the inevitable beer…thank god for my drinking days, or I might not have been standing at this point!
I observed that while Oleg and myself were still fairly steady, the rest of our comrades were getting quite tipsy, with Worthington swaying on his feet and muttering incoherently. Mawson, who had been observing all of this, was laughing mightily with the rest of the ‘shellbacks’!
The royal ‘devil’ came over to us, brandishing a trident that he jabbed us with. As soon as it made contact with our bodies, we received a mild electrical jolt! After which yes, you’ve guessed it we drank another beer. I noticed that it had ceased to taste like beer, but had been switched to something else…rum, I think.
At the end of the ceremony, we were given another ‘beer’ and a certificate, which reads as follows:
His Oceanic Majesty
Lord of the Seven Seas
Be it hereby known that he whose name doth appear below has manifestly demonstrated the proper scorn for those who do not sail My waters, or sail only the shores of their home lands.
And further, In Latitude 00* 0’ 0”, Longitude 87* 21’ 33” W, he has been purged of his lubberly ways.
Therefore, to all Mermaids, Sea Serpents, Whales, Sharks, Porpoises, Dolphins, Skates, Eels, Suckers, lobsters, Crabs, Pollywogs, and other living things of the sea
Has been found worthy to be numbered as one of our trusty Shellbacks, has been gathered into our fold and duly initiated into the solemn mysteries of the Ancient Order of the Deep.
He is entitled to be termed a Son of Neptune, and further entitled to travel Our seas without let or hindrance, to the very ends of the Earth.
In Witness Thereof, on this day, September 25, 1933, I set my Royal Seal: Nr
Neptunus Rex, King of the Oceans, Lord of the Seven Seas, etc.
Secretary to His Majesty
I’m almost proud, uncle dear…
The party went well into the afternoon and then dispersed, as most of us needed to recuperate! Oleg and I were pretty tipsy, though still mostly in control of ourselves. The rest of our comrades were more than significantly drunk, and Worthington! Hah!! The last I saw of him he was sitting on the deck, conversing with a wooden barrel, muttering something about lawn gnomes? Or lying gnomes, or somesuch nonsense! Oleg went off to play bridge with some of the crew and I retired to my quarters to lay down for a while.
A while later, we heard the ‘all hands’ alarm again. Soon after, the very strong smell of ammonia began to permeated the ship. We all headed topside to see what the trouble was. When we reached the deck, we could see one of the mess boys doubled over in front of Starkweather, who appeared absolutely furious. As we got closer, we could hear the conversation. The boy was saying that there was ammonia in the reefer hold. As the refrigeration units are ammonia-based, something had broken, and much of the food was being damaged. I could understand why Starkweather was furious; we were more than a little concerned ourselves. After all, that is our supply of food until we reach Melbourne unless we turn back!
As dinner was being served, we went to the mess hall, which was full of noise and a general uproar at the latest events. This is not going to bode well with a crew who already think we brought our bad luck on board…Starkweather asked for volunteers to help clean up the mess. Our group of comrades as well as some of the crew stepped up, went down and began to scrub all the floors and walls down of the hold. The smell was tremendous! So much so, that even wearing masks we could work in shifts of only a few minutes each! After cleaning up as best as we could, we took stock of the remaining supplies. Out of the original 12 tons of food, at least a quarter of it is contaminated, and much of what remains is the pemmican jerky.
Starkweather and the captain were having a conversation out in the hallway, a rather heated one from the sound of it. The captain was trying to convince Starkweather to turn back, that Melbourne was still two weeks away and we needed to restock our food supplies. He also stated that due to the broken refrigeration unit more of our food would spoil before we reached port. Starkweather was adamant that we would NOT turn back, that Lexington was already a few days ahead of us. He is rather obsessed with our timetable, and with Acacia reaching the Antarctic before us. Starkweather then stalked off to the bridge. The captain stood there for a moment, shaking his head, then slowly walked off. Some of the crew which had also overheard the conversation looked visibly upset. I fear this does not bode well for their already waning morale.
And so the Gabriel and all of us continued on. The meals that were prepared after the breakdown consisted mainly of tinned/preserved food and the ever-present pemmican. The crew was not happy, morale continued to go down, and suspicion reigned. Starkweather made some calls ahead to Melbourne, that we might resupply what we needed when we docked.
A little later on when our little group got together to discuss the situation, Mawson said some interesting things. He said that based on his own considerable experience, that an ammonia leak in the refrigeration unit is not a common thing. We began to suspect that there might be a saboteur on board. We immediately expressed our concerns to the captain, who asked us, with our combined experience and Scott’s mechanical/engineering skills, to do some investigation into the situation and report back to him.
Scott and I went off to look at the broken equipment while Mawson went to talk to his friend and contact, the cook, to see if they could puzzle out who might have done this. Mawson wanted to know who had access to the food supplies in the hold. The cook said that it wasn’t kept locked, but that the only personnel who would have a reason to be in there would be himself and his mess crew. So, no obvious answers there.
Meanwhile, Scott and I had gone down into the hold to inspect the damaged equipment. Lo and behold, it appeared that some kind of caustic acid had been dripped onto the pipes, causing rapid corrosion and damage to the unit! After telling the others, we decided to call an immediate meeting with Starkweather and the captain, informing them of our findings. There were no definite conclusions at the end of it. As it was late, we retired to our cabins for the night.
The next couple of days were blessedly uneventful, being much taken up with classes. Scott approached me at one point with some interesting gossip about Charlene Whiston, the expedition’s photographer who is currently teaching a class in beginning photography. It is a class I avoided as I got the distinct impression that Ms. Whiston, not knowing my true gender, is rather enamoured of me! Yes, go ahead and laugh, I’m sure it looks very humorous from your end of things! Anyway, Scott confirmed those suspicions, as well as passing a message from Ms. Winston that she would be happy to meet with me privately to discuss some individual photographs for my own personal collection. I’m sure I will have to deal with this sooner or later, though I’m not sure at present how to do that without making a cock-up of the whole affair no pun intended! I retired for the night, being much irritated by the whole situation.
The next morning after breakfast, around 10, the dogs started up with the most ungodly howling, barking and wailing. It sounded as if they had gone mad! Oleg raced down to their hold, followed by the rest of us and some of the crew. The scene that met us was horrific! Some, or most, of the dogs had been attacking each other, ripping and tearing, having obviously gone mad, snarling, teeth showing…the smell and appearance of blood and gore was everywhere! Many of the dogs were seriously injured and four of them lay dead on the floor. The ones still in their cages were not much better off, having injured themselves by throwing their bodies against the bars and ripping and tearing at themselves. And although this was a first for me, having a strong stomach as you well know, the stench was so bad that I was temporarily overcome and had to leave the hold for the hallway outside of it.
Oleg and some of the others tried to stop the dogs by hosing them with water, which had absolutely no effect whatsoever. He went in, and succeeded in calming one of the dogs down, but ended up being attacked by a total of six dogs. The dogs who attacked Oleg were all shot dead during the next few minutes, though not before Oleg was severely bitten and mauled by them. I could only hope for his sake that it wasn’t rabies! After fetching my bag, I patched Oleg up as well as I could, after which he attended to the remaining dogs and the crew cleaned up the stomach-turning mess in the hold.
Dr. Greene and I took the body of one of the dogs to examine both the structure of the body itself and the contents of it’s stomach. After sending the sample to the lab and receiving the results, we found that the dogs had gone mad due to some sort of poisoning, most likely strychnine. After informing the others, we examined the dog’s food supply and discovered that much of their supply of pemmican had been contaminated with lethal doses of the toxin. Once again, we called an emergency meeting with Starkweather, Moore and the other dog handlers and caretakers to report our findings.
Dr. Greene gave a very serious and disturbing speech about the danger involved. Lethal doses of a poison means that someone wants us to turn around, possibly killing any of us to achieve that end. Also, the remaining supply of pemmican meant to feed the dogs will have to be supplemented with our own, as we have no way of getting any more until Melbourne. This will not, I think, bode well for the already suspicious crew. Worthington was dead set on “tossing” all of the cabins to see what could be found, though I had to heartily disagree. First of all, this is a big ship, and the saboteur could be hiding stuff anywhere, as well as the fact that we are still at least 12 days or so from Melbourne, and an already unhappy and restless crew will not take kindly to being under that kind of suspicion. It would take days to search the entire ship, during which time anything suspicious could be moved from place to place. I understand his concerns about our lives being in danger, but I worry about the mutiny of the crew more, as there are many of them and I fear they are looking towards that end more and more.
In any case, it was decided to pass it on to the captain, as it is his ship and ultimately his decision. The meeting was concluded and we all dispersed for a time to reflect.
I will conclude this entry for now. I have much to think about, and many pieces to try to put together.
Much love to you, uncle.