Thursday, October 18, 2018

Voyages Extraordinaires #10: Le Pays des fourrures

On the evening of the 17th March 1859, Captain Craventy gave a fête at Fort Reliance. Our readers must not at once imagine a grand entertainment, such as a court ball, or a musical soirée with a fine orchestra. Captain Craventy’s reception was a very simple affair, yet he had spared no pains to give it éclat.

The Fur Country is the tale of a Canadian expedition, led by Lieutenant Jasper Hobson to establish a fort north of the Arctic Circle in anticipation of the probable sale of Alaska to the Americans by Russia, which would make a northerly fort useful to the Hudson's Bay Company. With them goes Thomas Black, an astronomer, who hopes to study the corona of the sun during total eclipse. They succeed in establishing the fort and braving the extraordinarily dangerous winter of northern Canada, but a freak earthquake seems to throw the world into a strange disorder -- the landscape changes, and Hobson notes that the tide is not fitting the predictions of the almanac. The truth is established by astronomy: Black discovers (to his horror) that the eclipse is not, as predicted, total, which can only mean one thing: they are in fact drifting on a large ice floe. Their only hope is if their floating fort drifts close enough to land to hop off and possibly be rescued by a passing ship. It is a thin hope indeed, but they are an intrepid group.

[With this Voyage, I have gone through 2/3 of the entire series of the Voyages Extraordinaires, and have thus met my minimal goal. We'll see how close I can get to 3/4 by the end of the year -- that would require four or five more works.]

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