Page:The cruise of the Corwin.djvu/18

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tains, called by De Long in San Francisco before the departure of his expedition, hesitated to give an opinion on the practicability of De Long's plans. But when urged for an expression of his views, he said, "Put her [the Jeannette] into the ice and let her drift, and you may get through, or you may go to the devil, and the chances are about equal."

In the service of the United States Treasury Department there was at this time a stanch little steamer called the Corwin. Built at Abina, Oregon, she was constructed through out of the finest Oregon fir, fastened with copper, galvanized iron, and locust-tree nails. She had a draught of nearly eleven feet, twenty-four feet beam, and was one hundred and thirty-seven feet long between perpendiculars. The ordinary duties of the captain of such a revenue steamer involved primarily the enforcement of federal laws for the protection of governmental interests on the Fur Seal Islands and the sea-otter hunting grounds of Alaska. But the supposed plight of the Jeannette and the unknown fate of two whalers caught in the ice were soon to increase the Corwin's duties, and call her into regions where her sturdy sailing qualities were to prove of the utmost importance.

In the spring of 1880 the Corwin, in com-