Page:Biagi - The Centaurians.djvu/75

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The Centaurians

gradually the ice peaks reared farther apart, juts, waves, smoothened; and we finally ploughed into a far-reaching plain of snow, with the distant horizon cut by the familiar, illusive range of mountains capped with their azure veil. We had reached 87 degrees, and were miles from our original course, but steadily advancing toward the Pole.

"87-5° north latitude, and 175-6° east longitude," rattled off Saunders. The Propellier was put at full speed, but soon slackened as we continually encountered lanes concealed by soft, new snow. So frequent did these partings become the machine was forced to a zig-zag course. It took half a day to make two miles, and when we halted the situation was alarming. The ice was shallow and breaks continual, having the appearance of lakes or rivers, the black, sullen water rippled and flowed with a swift undercurrent. Some of the lanes measured thirty feet in width, and one reached 700 yards in length. We agreed the danger was about equal in turning back or pushing forward; we had nothing to gain in turning back.

Sheldon was nonplussed. He could not account for the swiftly flowing surface streams at 88 degrees. He finally ventured they were not breaks in the ice, but freshets coursing from the north, ploughing their own avenues, and creating one of the phenomenons of the polar sphere. Saunders snickered, but Saxe. looked worried.

"A thaw somewhere," he muttered.

But he was wrong; the cold was intense, and were it not for our superb heating apparatus, the