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|Athropolis: Iceberg - the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots. Copyright © 1994-2002 Athropolis Productions Limited.|
"Double-click" any unlinked word in the story and a new window will open with the definition from Merriam-Webster's Student Electronic Dictionary at
"Brrrr! It's cold out here." Kevin turned his collar up and pulled his hat down tight to keep it from blowing away. He was never without his favorite hat with the propeller on top, even in weather like this. The propeller began to spin wildly in the cold Arctic wind.
Sara's eyes were wide with excitement. What a strange and wonderful place this was - high above the Arctic Circle. No matter in which direction she looked, all that she could see was water and ice and snow.
Kevin strutted down the deck, his six year old imagination running wild. "Ta da! The space ship lands on the frozen planet - full of - hmmm - ZORKS! Yeah! ICE Zorks!"
Jason was bursting with information. "Guess what! We're not far from the North Pole! There's no land there - there's just ice - floating on the ocean!"
"The ship could sail all the way there if it wasn't for the ice cap," Sara added, somewhat softly as if she wasn't sure.
The ship's captain stood on the bridge with the mother and father of the children. He looked out over the water with his binoculars. He was always watching for signs of danger. Towering icebergs drifted by like huge white ghost ships and he knew that they could easily crush his little vessel. Many ships and explorers had passed through these dangerous waters before - following the North Star in search of the Northwest Passage. Some ships, like the "Terror" and the "Erebus" of the lost Franklin Expedition, had vanished altogether, never to be seen or heard from again.
Sara waved up to the bridge from down on the deck. "Hi Mom! Hi Dad!"
"Some of those icebergs are as big as islands!" Jason called out. "Wow! People could live on them!"
The Captain shouted back, "Do you remember what the small icebergs are called?"
"Bergy bits!" the children shouted.
"And the wee little ones you see bobbing about?"
Jason looked up from his book. "In the winter - up here - it stays dark for months! This place sure is different than where we come from!"
"We come from - Earth!" Kevin marched down the deck like an explorer. "I'll claim this ice - for ME!" Kevin suddenly stopped in his tracks and looked very surprised. "Huh? Dark for MONTHS?"
"Yeah, and when the sun comes back, it just shines a little bit each day. See, it's twilight already."
"But every day the sun stays in the sky longer, doesn't it, Jason?" Sara asked.
"Yes! Soon it'll be daylight for almost half of every day, and then it won't be long before the sun won't set at all. It'll shine all day and all night!"
Sara spoke quietly to herself. "The land of the midnight sun."
"That's why they call the Arctic the land of the midnight sun - in the summer the sun will still be shining at midnight!" Jason continued.
Sara smiled and whispered quietly to herself. "I was right!"
"Look! A glacier!" Jason pointed off into the distance. "Some of that ice is still here from the Ice Age, and that ended thousands and thousands of years ago! That's when the Great Woolly Mammoths lived - they were big hairy elephants with long curved tusks! But then - they disappeared. Look! Here - in my book!"
What strange looking creatures, thought Sara. "Maybe other strange creatures lived then, too," she said. "Maybe there were even - MONSTERS! Maybe some are still living, and people just haven't found them yet!"
"Yeah," added Jason, "and maybe I'LL discover something - like an archaeologist! Then I'll be famous! My picture will be everywhere! I'll be on T.V.!"
"I know what that is - an archie - something." Kevin knew a thing or two, too. "That means you're going to look at old people!"
Jason rolled his eyes upward. "An archaeologist is a scientist, Kevin. They know almost everything - just like me! They discover things - things that tell what people did - a long long time ago!"
"See! I know everything, too!" Kevin said proudly. He then shrugged his shoulders with a giggle. "I just know most of it wrong."
The wind was blowing stronger now and the sky was growing dark. Sara looked up and saw the first evening star peek through the gathering storm clouds. She made a wish.
"The first star I see tonight... I wish... I wish that we could discover something - something that nobody has ever seen before. That's what I wish."
Up on the bridge, the Captain spoke quietly to the children's parents. "There's too much ice floating about. An earthquake churned up the water and broke up the ice cap. We've got to be very careful - ice can easily crush a little ship..."
His words were suddenly cut short as a sailor rushed onto the bridge.
"Captain! Captain! A message! There's a storm coming, and it looks like its gonna be a rough one!"
"Then get the passengers inside! I don't want anyone out on deck where they might get swept overboard. Quickly!"
The storm hit with a fury! The ship tossed and turned wildly in the darkness as the wind whipped the sea into a foaming frenzy. The Captain struggled to steer the little vessel through the ice, but no matter how hard he tried, he could not control it.
The sea was full of icebergs, many towering far above the ship itself. The little ship was tossed about - barely missing one jagged mountain of ice after another.
Waves washed over the bow with such force that if the sailors had not been fastened to the railing by their lifelines, they surely would have been swept overboard. Time after time they thought the ship would crash into the ice and each time they waited for the sound of metal tearing from the hull.
"Iceberg!" The shout went up. "Iceberg off the starboard bow!" The Captain had already seen the wall of ice loom out of the darkness on the right side of the ship, but there was nothing he could do. The ship was out of control.
"Iceberg off the port bow! The PORT bow, Captain!"
"I see it! But... Ughhhh!" The Captain struggled with the wheel as another iceberg passed by on the left side of the ship. That was too close for comfort!
"Another one! On the starboard side, Captain! On the starboard... "
The terrible sound of ripping metal could be heard above the howling wind as the bow of the ship rose up onto the ice. The ship came to a grinding stop, and then splashed backward into the water. Sailors tumbled about - thrown across the decks at the mercy of the wind and the sea.
The Captain did not need to go below deck to know what had happened. A large hole had been torn in the hull and the ship was taking on water. It was already beginning to tip and there was no time to lose. There was only one thing he could do. He gave the command.
The call was passed from sailor to sailor as they scrambled about. "Abandon ship! Abandon ship!"
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