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You perceive that in crossing the Ström channel we always went a long way up above the whirl, even in the calmest weather, and then had to wait and watch carefully for the slack; but now we were driving right upon the pool itself, and in such a hurricane as this ! “To be 5
sure,” I thought, “ we shall get there just about the slack; there is some little hope in that.”
By this time the first fury of the tempest had spent itself, or perhaps we did not feel it so much as we scudded before it; but at all events the seas, which at first had 10 been kept down by the wind and lay flat and frothing, now got up into absolute mountains. A singular change, too, had come over the heavens. Around in every direction it was still as black as pitch, but nearly overhead there
She lit up every
burst out, all at once, a circular rift of clear sky, clear as I ever saw, and of a deep, bright blue, through it there blazed forth the full moon with a luster
that I never before knew her to wear. 5 thing about us with the greatest distinctness.
I now made one or two attempts to speak to my brother, but, in some manner which I could not understand, the din had so increased that I could not make
him hear a single word, although I screamed at the top 10 of my voice in his ear. Presently he shook his head,
looking as pale as death, and held up one of his fingers as if to say “ Listen!”
At first I could not make out what he meant, but soon a hideous thought flashed upon me.
I dragged my 15 watch from its fob. It was not going. I glanced at its
face by the moonlight, and then burst into tears as I flung it far away into the ocean. It had run down at seven o'clock! We were behind the time of the slack, and the whirl of the Ström was in full fury!
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM - II
When a boat is well built, properly trimmed, and not deep laden, the waves in a strong gale, when she is going large, seem always to slip from beneath her, and this is what is called “riding,” in sea phrase.
in sea phrase. Well, so far
we had ridden the swells very cleverly, but presently a gigantic sea bore us with it as it rose — up — up — as if into the sky. I would not have believed that any wave could rise so high. And then down we came with a sweep, a slide, and a plunge, that made me feel sick and dizzy, as if I were falling from some lofty mountain top in a dream. But while we were up I had thrown a quick glance around —
and that one glance was all-sufficient. I saw our exact position in an instant. The Maelström was about a quarter of a mile dead ahead — but no more like the 20 everyday Maelström than the whirl as you now see it is like a mill race.
It could not have been more than two minutes afterwards when we suddenly felt the waves subside, and were enveloped in foam. The boat made a sharp half turn and 15 shot off in its new direction like a thunderbolt. At the same moment the roaring noise of the water was completely drowned in a kind of shrill shriek — such a sound as you might imagine given out by many thousand steam vessels letting off steam together. We were now in the belt of 20 surf that always surrounds the whirl; and I thought, of course, that another moment would plunge us into the abyss. The boat did not seem to sink into the water at all, but to skim like a bubble upon the surface. Her starboard side was next the whirl, and on the larboard arose 25 the world of ocean we had left. It stood like a huge writhing wall between us and the horizon.
It may appear strange, but now when we were in the very jaws of the gulf I felt more composed than when we were only approaching it. Having made up my mind to
hope no more, I got rid of a great deal of that terror 5 which unmanned me at first.
There was another circumstance which tended to restore my self-possession, and this was the cessation of the wind, which could not reach us in our present situation ; for, as
you saw •yourself, the belt of surf is considerably lower 10 than the general bed of the ocean, and this latter now
towered above us, a high, black ridge. If you have never been at sea in a heavy gale, you can form no idea of the confusion of mind occasioned by the wind and spray to
gether. They blind, deafen, and strangle you, and take 15 away all power of action or reflection. But we were now,
in a great measure, rid of these annoyances — just as deathcondemned felons in prison are allowed petty indulgences forbidden them while their doom is yet uncertain.
How often we made the circuit of the belt it is impos20 sible to say. We careered round and round for perhaps
an hour, flying rather than floating, getting gradually more and more into the middle of the surge, and nearer and nearer to its horrible inner edge. Scarcely had I
secured myself in a new position when we gave a wild 25 lurch to starboard and rushed headlong into the abyss.
As I felt the sickening sweep of the descent I had instinctively tightened my hold and closed my eyes. For some
seconds I dared not open them, while I expected instant destruction and wondered that I was not already in my death struggles with the water. But moment after moment elapsed. I still lived. The sense of falling had ceased, and the motion of the vessel seemed much as it had been before 5 while in the belt of foam. I took courage and looked once again upon the scene.
Never shall I forget the sensations of awe, horror, and admiration with which I gazed about me. The boat appeared to be hanging, as if by magic, midway down 10 upon the interior surface of a funnel vast in circumference, prodigious in depth, whose perfectly smooth sides might have been mistaken for ebony but for the bewilder: ing rapidity with which they spun around, and for the gleaming and ghastly radiance they shot forth, as the rays 15 of the full moon, from that circular rift amid the clouds which I have already described, streamed in a flood of golden glory along the black walls and far away down into the inmost recesses of the abyss.
Our first slide into the abyss itself, from the belt of 20 foam above, had carried us a great distance down the slope, but our farther descent was by no means proportionate. Round and round we swept - not with any uniform movement, but in dizzying swings and jerks that sent us sometimes only a few hundred yards, sometimes 25 nearly the complete circuit of the whirl. Our progress downward at each revolution was slow but very perceptible.