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"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.
"Yeah! But the ice cap never melts! I know that - because it says so in my book!" Jason pulled his well worn copy of The Arctic World from his pocket. "We're at the top of the world!"
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 Franklin Expedition, had met disaster. Most of the crew were never 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 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!"
"Look lively everyone!" The Captain shouted as loud as he could to be heard above the storm. "We've got trouble! Are your survival suits fastened up? Good! Now clip onto this lifeline and follow me. Quickly!"
Everyone fought their way out onto the deck as the ship rocked wildly.
"Kids! Come quickly!" shouted their father.
Jason stumbled and slipped on the wet deck. "Aaugh! I wish... I wish this deck would stop bouncing up and - and - down!"
"Hurry! Hurry! Don't panic!" their mother shouted.
"I - I'm not p - p - picnicking... I mean p - panicking! Not ME!" Kevin wasn't about to admit to being afraid of anything - even if he was the youngest. "Hey! What will I do with my hat? It won't fit under my hood!"
"Just hang on to it!"
Sara was shaking with fright. "Mom! Dad! Stay close..."
The lifeboats swung on their lines - almost out of control. The children climbed into the closest lifeboat as the crew prepared to lower it into the water.
"Mom! Dad! HURRY! Get in!" Sara screamed.
Before anyone else could follow the children aboard, a gigantic wave hit the ship and slammed it into the side of another iceberg. The ship rocked and shook violently. The Captain stumbled backward.
"Watch out, Captain!"
"The lifeboat is slipping! I can't... I can't hold the line!"
The rope was ripped from the Captain's hand as he crashed to the deck. The lifeboat swung wildly on the lines and then plunged downward. The rope whipped and twisted through the spinning pulleys and followed the lifeboat, like a long streamer spiralling downward, as the boat, the rope, and three frightened children crashed into the sea.
"HELP! MOM! DAD! HELP! HELLLLP!" Terrified voices shouted out into the night, but the wind snatched the words away.
The ship rocked again, leaning its huge dark hull straight toward the lifeboat. It sent up a wave so high and furious that it flung the tiny boat and its passengers away in an instant.
Sara gripped the railing with all her might and shouted as loud as she could to be heard above the howling wind. "What happened? Where's Mom? Where's Dad? Jason, can you see the ship?"
"No! It's... It's GONE!"
The three children were alone - with nothing for company but the ice floes, the icebergs, and the wind.
Jason was terrified. It was impossible to see anything through the storm, but he knew that they would all have to keep their wits about them if they were going to survive. "B - be calm everyone! Let's be calm!" He took a deep breath. He was the oldest and it was up to him to look after his younger brother and sister. "Try to remember what the Captain told us!"
"I'm not s - s - scared! N - not one bit!" Kevin shouted, barely able to speak. "I'm only sh - sh - shaking because - because this stupid boat won't stay still!"
Jason desperately tried to remember what to do. "Umm... Oh, yeah! Don't stand up! Keep low, and hold on as tight as you can!" he shouted. "Kevin! How does the boat look up front?"
"It's wet! There's water! WE'RE SINKING!" Kevin kept a firm grip on the side of the boat, and took another look. "No! We're not sinking! The water just - splashed in!" The lifeboat was suddenly buffeted by ice. "Hey! Get back - you bergy bits!"
Jason pulled back the cover from the boxes of emergency supplies. "Look! We've got food and water! He tried to sound calm even though he was still very frightened. "And here's a flashlight!"
"Do you remember the 'help' signal, Jason?" Sara called out. "I know..."
"Yes, I remember. S.O.S. Three short - three long - and... Umm..."
"Three short again," Sara reminded him.
Jason tested the flashlight and blinked the signal - but the light was swallowed up by the fog.
"Look!" Jason shouted. "The radio beacon! It sends a signal to the searchers - so they'll know where we are! I'll turn it on! This will save us!"
Suddenly, the wind caught the propeller on Kevin's hat, ripping it from his hand and lifting it into the air. The propeller spun wildly.
"My hat! My hat!"
"Sara! Grab it! Grab the hat!" Jason shouted.
Sara lunged forward. "I've got... No! I missed it!"
Kevin stumbled across the tossing lifeboat. "I'll get it! Come back here - you..." He jumped for the hat and snatched it from the air just before it was out of reach, but he stumbled, bounced off the railing, and tumbled over the side of the lifeboat.
Sara screamed in horror. "KEVIN!" She lunged forward and grabbed Kevin's foot just before it disappeared. "JASON! HELP ME!"
Jason's hand flashed out and grabbed the wiggling boot. "I've got him! Pull!"
Kevin, wet and sputtering, plopped back into the boat and proudly held up his dripping hat. "Pffft! I've got it! See! I've got it!" The propeller started to spin again in the strong wind.
"Hold on!" Sara shouted. "Here comes a - a GROWLER!"
The little lifeboat was rocked again. Icy water sprayed over the side. This was no place to be! Jason held up the lifeboat cover. "C'mon!" he shouted.
The children scurried underneath. As they huddled together in the darkness, Jason flicked on the flashlight.
"Jason, I'm afraid." Sara's words were faint.
"So am I, Sara," Jason replied.
"I'm n - not af - afraid at all. See! I still have my hat!" Kevin held his hat under the flashlight beam.
"I don't know why you had to bring your hat - and that was a silly thing to do - chasing it like that. You could have drowned!" Jason scolded. "What good is a stupid hat with a propeller on top anyway?" he muttered.
"It's NOT a stupid hat! It's my thinking hat!"
"Jason, what are we going to do?" Sara asked in a voice that did not hide her fear.
"I don't know."
Kevin looked up with a very surprised look. "I thought you knew everything!"
"Well, I don't know about THIS stuff!" Jason took the flare gun out of the box and tried to figure out how to load a flare. He was too young for this - this was a job for Dads! He wasn't a Dad - he was only twelve years old!
"This isn't what I wished for," said Sara, just before they all fell asleep.
No, this wasn't what she had wished for at all.
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