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Edgar Allan Poe
A Descent into the Maelstrom
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The ways of God in Nature, as in Providence, are not as our
ways ; nor are the models that we frame any way commensurate to the
vastness, profundity, and unsearchableness of His works, which have
a depth in them greater than the well of Democritus.
--Joseph Glanville.


We had now reached the summit of the loftiest crag. For some
minutes the old man seemed too much exhausted to speak.

"Not long ago," said he at length, "and I could have guided you
on this route as well as the youngest of my sons ; but, about three
years past, there happened to me an event such as never happened to
mortal man -- or at least such as no man ever survived to tell of --
and the six hours of deadly terror which I then endured have broken
me up body and soul. You suppose me a very old man -- but I am not.
It took less than a single day to change these hairs from a jetty
black to white, to weaken my limbs, and to unstring my nerves, so
that I tremble at the least exertion, and am frightened at a shadow.
Do you know I can scarcely look over this little cliff without
getting giddy ?"

The "little cliff," upon whose edge he had so carelessly thrown
himself down to rest that the weightier portion of his body hung over
it, while he was only kept from falling by the tenure of his elbow on
its extreme and slippery edge -- this "little cliff" arose, a sheer
unobstructed precipice of black shining rock, some fifteen or sixteen
hundred feet from the world of crags beneath us. Nothing would have
tempted me to within half a dozen yards of its brink. In truth so
deeply was I excited by the perilous position of my companion, that I
fell at full length upon the ground, clung to the shrubs around me,
and dared not even glance upward at the sky -- while I struggled in
vain to divest myself of the idea that the very foundations of the
mountain were in danger from the fury of the winds. It was long
before I could reason myself into sufficient courage to sit up and
look out into the distance.

"You must get over these fancies," said the guide, "for I have
brought you here that you might have the best possible view of the
scene of that event I mentioned -- and to tell you the whole story
with the spot just under your eye."

"We are now," he continued, in that particularizing manner which
distinguished him -- "we are now close upon the Norwegian coast -- in
the sixty-eighth degree of latitude -- in the great province of
Nordland -- and in the dreary district of Lofoden. The mountain upon
whose top we sit is Helseggen, the Cloudy. Now raise yourself up a
little higher -- hold on to the grass if you feel giddy -- so -- and
look out, beyond the belt of vapor beneath us, into the sea."

I looked dizzily, and beheld a wide expanse of ocean, whose
waters wore so inky a hue as to bring at once to my mind the Nubian
geographer's account of the Mare Tenebrarum. A panorama more
deplorably desolate no human imagination can conceive. To the right
and left, as far as the eye could reach, there lay outstretched, like
ramparts of the world, lines of horridly black and beetling cliff,
whose character of gloom was but the more forcibly illustrated by the
surf which reared high up against its white and ghastly crest,
howling and shrieking forever. Just opposite the promontory upon
whose apex we were placed, and at a distance of some five or six
miles out at sea, there was visible a small, bleak-looking island ;
or, more properly, its position was discernible through the
wilderness of surge in which it was enveloped. About two miles nearer
the land, arose another of smaller size, hideously craggy and barren,
and encompassed at various intervals by a cluster of dark rocks.

The appearance of the ocean, in the space between the more
distant island and the shore, had something very unusual about it.
Although, at the time, so strong a gale was blowing landward that a
brig in the remote offing lay to under a double-reefed trysail, and
constantly plunged her whole hull out of sight, still there was here
nothing like a regular swell, but only a short, quick, angry cross
dashing of water in every direction -- as well in the teeth of the
wind as otherwise. Of foam there was little except in the immediate
vicinity of the rocks.

"The island in the distance," resumed the old man, "is called by
the Norwegians Vurrgh. The one midway is Moskoe. That a mile to the
northward is Ambaaren. Yonder are Islesen, Hotholm, Keildhelm,
Suarven, and Buckholm. Farther off -- between Moskoe and Vurrgh -- are
Otterholm, Flimen, Sandflesen, and Stockholm. These are the true
names of the places -- but why it has been thought necessary to name
them at all, is more than either you or I can understand. Do you hear
anything ? Do you see any change in the water ?"

We had now been about ten minutes upon the top of Helseggen, to
which we had ascended from the interior of Lofoden, so that we had
caught no glimpse of the sea until it had burst upon us from the
summit. As the old man spoke, I became aware of a loud and gradually
increasing sound, like the moaning of a vast herd of buffaloes upon
an American prairie; and at the same moment I perceived that what
seamen term the chopping character of the ocean beneath us, was
rapidly changing into a current which set to the eastward. Even while
I gazed, this current acquired a monstrous velocity. Each moment
added to its speed -- to its headlong impetuosity. In five minutes the
whole sea, as far as Vurrgh, was lashed into ungovernable fury ; but
it was between Moskoe and the coast that the main uproar held its
sway. Here the vast bed of the waters, seamed and scarred into a
thousand conflicting channels, burst suddenly into phrensied
convulsion -- heaving, boiling, hissing -- gyrating in gigantic and
innumerable vortices, and all whirling and plunging on to the
eastward with a rapidity which water never elsewhere assumes except
in precipitous descents.

In a few minutes more, there came over the scene another radical
alteration. The general surface grew somewhat more smooth, and the
whirlpools, one by one, disappeared, while prodigious streaks of foam
became apparent where none had been seen before. These streaks, at
length, spreading out to a great distance, and entering into
combination, took unto themselves the gyratory motion of the subsided
vortices, and seemed to form the germ of another more vast. Suddenly
-- very suddenly -- this assumed a distinct and definite existence, in
a circle of more than a mile in diameter. The edge of the whirl was
represented by a broad belt of gleaming spray ; but no particle of
this slipped into the mouth of the terrific funnel, whose interior,
as far as the eye could fathom it, was a smooth, shining, and
jet-black wall of water, inclined to the horizon at an angle of some
forty-five degrees, speeding dizzily round and round with a swaying
and sweltering motion, and sending forth to the winds an appalling
voice, half shriek, half roar, such as not even the mighty cataract
of Niagara ever lifts up in its agony to Heaven.

The mountain trembled to its very base, and the rock rocked. I
threw myself upon my face, and clung to the scant herbage in an
excess of nervous agitation.

"This," said I at length, to the old man -- "this can be nothing
else than the great whirlpool of the Maelstr?m."

"So it is sometimes termed," said he. "We Norwegians call it the
Moskoe-str?m, from the island of Moskoe in the midway."

The ordinary accounts of this vortex had by no means prepared me
for what I saw. That of Jonas Ramus, which is perhaps the most
circumstantial of any, cannot impart the faintest conception either
of the magnificence, or of the horror of the scene -- or of the wild
bewildering sense of the novel which confounds the beholder. I am
not sure from what point of view the writer in question surveyed it,
nor at what time ; but it could neither have been from the summit of
Helseggen, nor during a storm. There are some passages of his
description, nevertheless, which may be quoted for their details,
although their effect is exceedingly feeble in conveying an
impression of the spectacle.

"Between Lofoden and Moskoe," he says, "the depth of the water is
between thirty-six and forty fathoms ; but on the other side, toward
Ver (Vurrgh) this depth decreases so as not to afford a convenient
passage for a vessel, without the risk of splitting on the rocks,
which happens even in the calmest weather. When it is flood, the
stream runs up the country between Lofoden and Moskoe with a
boisterous rapidity ; but the roar of its impetuous ebb to the sea
is scarce equalled by the loudest and most dreadful cataracts ; the
noise being heard several leagues off, and the vortices or pits are
of such an extent and depth, that if a ship comes within its
attraction, it is inevitably absorbed and carried down to the bottom,
and there beat to pieces against the rocks ; and when the water
relaxes, the fragments thereof are thrown up again. But these
intervals of tranquility are only at the turn of the ebb and flood,
and in calm weather, and last but a quarter of an hour, its violence
gradually returning. When the stream is most boisterous, and its fury
heightened by a storm, it is dangerous to come within a Norway mile
of it. Boats, yachts, and ships have been carried away by not
guarding against it before they were within its reach. It likewise
happens frequently, that whales come too near the stream, and are
overpowered by its violence; and then it is impossible to describe
their howlings and bellowings in their fruitless struggles to
disengage themselves. A bear once, attempting to swim from Lofoden to
Moskoe, was caught by the stream and borne down, while he roared
terribly, so as to be heard on shore. Large stocks of firs and pine
trees, after being absorbed by the current, rise again broken and
torn to such a degree as if bristles grew upon them. This plainly
shows the bottom to consist of craggy rocks, among which they are
whirled to and fro. This stream is regulated by the flux and reflux
of the sea - it being constantly high and low water every six hours.
In the year 1645, early in the morning of Sexagesima Sunday, it raged
with such noise and impetuosity that the very stones of the houses on
the coast fell to the ground."

In regard to the depth of the water, I could not see how this
could have been ascertained at all in the immediate vicinity of the
vortex. The "forty fathoms" must have reference only to portions of
the channel close upon the shore either of Moskoe or Lofoden. The
depth in the centre of the Moskoe-str?m must be immeasurably greater
; and no better proof of this fact is necessary than can be obtained
from even the sidelong glance into the abyss of the whirl which may
be had from the highest crag of Helseggen. Looking down from this
pinnacle upon the howling Phlegethon below, I could not help smiling
at the simplicity with which the honest Jonas Ramus records, as a
matter difficult of belief, the anecdotes of the whales and the
bears; for it appeared to me, in fact, a self-evident thing, that the
largest ship of the line in existence, coming within the influence of
that deadly attraction, could resist it as little as a feather the
hurricane, and must disappear bodily and at once.

The attempts to account for the phenomenon -- some of which, I
remember, seemed to me sufficiently plausible in perusal -- now wore a
very different and unsatisfactory aspect. The idea generally received
is that this, as well as three smaller vortices among the Ferroe
islands, "have no other cause than the collision of waves rising and
falling, at flux and reflux, against a ridge of rocks and shelves,
which confines the water so that it precipitates itself like a
cataract ; and thus the higher the flood rises, the deeper must the
fall be, and the natural result of all is a whirlpool or vortex, the
prodigious suction of which is sufficiently known by lesser
experiments." -- These are the words of the Encyclop?dia Britannica.
Kircher and others imagine that in the centre of the channel of the
Maelstr?m is an abyss penetrating the globe, and issuing in some very
remote part -- the Gulf of Bothnia being somewhat decidedly named in
one instance. This opinion, idle in itself, was the one to which, as
I gazed, my imagination most readily assented ; and, mentioning it
to the guide, I was rather surprised to hear him say that, although
it was the view almost universally entertained of the subject by the
Norwegians, it nevertheless was not his own. As to the former notion
he confessed his inability to comprehend it ; and here I agreed with
him -- for, however conclusive on paper, it becomes altogether
unintelligible, and even absurd, amid the thunder of the abyss.

"You have had a good look at the whirl now," said the old man,
"and if you will creep round this crag, so as to get in its lee, and
deaden the roar of the water, I will tell you a story that will
convince you I ought to know something of the Moskoe-str?m."

I placed myself as desired, and he proceeded.

"Myself and my two brothers once owned a schooner-rigged smack of
about seventy tons burthen, with which we were in the habit of
fishing among the islands beyond Moskoe, nearly to Vurrgh. In all
violent eddies at sea there is good fishing, at proper opportunities,
if one has only the courage to attempt it ; but among the whole of
the Lofoden coastmen, we three were the only ones who made a regular
business of going out to the islands, as I tell you. The usual
grounds are a great way lower down to the southward. There fish can
be got at all hours, without much risk, and therefore these places
are preferred. The choice spots over here among the rocks, however,
not only yield the finest variety, but in far greater abundance ; so
that we often got in a single day, what the more timid of the craft
could not scrape together in a week. In fact, we made it a matter of
desperate speculation -- the risk of life standing instead of labor,
and courage answering for capital.

"We kept the smack in a cove about five miles higher up the coast
than this ; and it was our practice, in fine weather, to take
advantage of the fifteen minutes' slack to push across the main
channel of the Moskoe-str?m, far above the pool, and then drop down
upon anchorage somewhere near Otterholm, or Sandflesen, where the
eddies are not so violent as elsewhere. Here we used to remain until
nearly time for slack-water again, when we weighed and made for home.
We never set out upon this expedition without a steady side wind for
going and coming -- one that we felt sure would not fail us before our
return -- and we seldom made a mis-calculation upon this point. Twice,
during six years, we were forced to stay all night at anchor on
account of a dead calm, which is a rare thing indeed just about here
; and once we had to remain on the grounds nearly a week, starving
to death, owing to a gale which blew up shortly after our arrival,
and made the channel too boisterous to be thought of. Upon this
occasion we should have been driven out to sea in spite of
everything, (for the whirlpools threw us round and round so
violently, that, at length, we fouled our anchor and dragged it) if
it had not been that we drifted into one of the innumerable cross
currents -- here to-day and gone to-morrow -- which drove us under the
lee of Flimen, where, by good luck, we brought up.

"I could not tell you the twentieth part of the difficulties we
encountered 'on the grounds' -- it is a bad spot to be in, even in
good weather -- but we made shift always to run the gauntlet of the
Moskoe-str?m itself without accident ; although at times my heart
has been in my mouth when we happened to be a minute or so behind or
before the slack. The wind sometimes was not as strong as we thought
it at starting, and then we made rather less way than we could wish,
while the current rendered the smack unmanageable. My eldest brother
had a son eighteen years old, and I had two stout boys of my own.
These would have been of great assistance at such times, in using the
sweeps, as well as afterward in fishing -- but, somehow, although we
ran the risk ourselves, we had not the heart to let the young ones
get into the danger -- for, after all is said and done, it was a
horrible danger, and that is the truth.

"It is now within a few days of three years since what I am going
to tell you occurred. It was on the tenth day of July, 18-, a day
which the people of this part of the world will never forget -- for it
was one in which blew the most terrible hurricane that ever came out
of the heavens. And yet all the morning, and indeed until late in the
afternoon, there was a gentle and steady breeze from the south-west,
while the sun shone brightly, so that the oldest seaman among us
could not have foreseen what was to follow.

"The three of us -- my two brothers and myself -- had crossed over
to the islands about two o'clock P. M., and had soon nearly loaded
the smack with fine fish, which, we all remarked, were more plenty
that day than we had ever known them. It was just seven, by my
watch, when we weighed and started for home, so as to make the worst
of the Str?m at slack water, which we knew would be at eight.

"We set out with a fresh wind on our starboard quarter, and for
some time spanked along at a great rate, never dreaming of danger,
for indeed we saw not the slightest reason to apprehend it. All at
once we were taken aback by a breeze from over Helseggen. This was
most unusual -- something that had never happened to us before -- and I
began to feel a little uneasy, without exactly knowing why. We put
the boat on the wind, but could make no headway at all for the
eddies, and I was upon the point of proposing to return to the
anchorage, when, looking astern, we saw the whole horizon covered
with a singular copper-colored cloud that rose with the most amazing
velocity.

"In the meantime the breeze that had headed us off fell away, and
we were dead becalmed, drifting about in every direction. This state
of things, however, did not last long enough to give us time to think
about it. In less than a minute the storm was upon us -- in less than
two the sky was entirely overcast -- and what with this and the
driving spray, it became suddenly so dark that we could not see each
other in the smack.

"Such a hurricane as then blew it is folly to attempt describing.
The oldest seaman in Norway never experienced any thing like it. We
had let our sails go by the run before it cleverly took us ; but, at
the first puff, both our masts went by the board as if they had been
sawed off -- the mainmast taking with it my youngest brother, who had
lashed himself to it for safety.

"Our boat was the lightest feather of a thing that ever sat upon
water. It had a complete flush deck, with only a small hatch near the
bow, and this hatch it had always been our custom to batten down when
about to cross the Str?m, by way of precaution against the chopping
seas. But for this circumstance we should have foundered at once --
for we lay entirely buried for some moments. How my elder brother
escaped destruction I cannot say, for I never had an opportunity of
ascertaining. For my part, as soon as I had let the foresail run, I
threw myself flat on deck, with my feet against the narrow gunwale of
the bow, and with my hands grasping a ring-bolt near the foot of the
fore-mast. It was mere instinct that prompted me to do this -- which
was undoubtedly the very best thing I could have done -- for I was too
much flurried to think.

"For some moments we were completely deluged, as I say, and all
this time I held my breath, and clung to the bolt. When I could stand
it no longer I raised myself upon my knees, still keeping hold with
my hands, and thus got my head clear. Presently our little boat gave
herself a shake, just as a dog does in coming out of the water, and
thus rid herself, in some measure, of the seas. I was now trying to
get the better of the stupor that had come over me, and to collect my
senses so as to see what was to be done, when I felt somebody grasp
my arm. It was my elder brother, and my heart leaped for joy, for I
had made sure that he was overboard - but the next moment all this
joy was turned into horror - for he put his mouth close to my ear,
and screamed out the word 'Moskoe-str?m !'

"No one ever will know what my feelings were at that moment. I
shook from head to foot as if I had had the most violent fit of the
ague. I knew what he meant by that one word well enough -- I knew what
he wished to make me understand. With the wind that now drove us on,
we were bound for the whirl of the Str?m, and nothing could save us !

"You perceive that in crossing the Str?m 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 sure,' I thought, 'we shall get there just about the slack --
there is some little hope in that' -- but in the next moment I cursed
myself for being so great a fool as to dream of hope at all. I knew
very well that we were doomed, had we been ten times a ninety-gun
ship.

"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 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
burst out, all at once, a circular rift of clear sky -- as clear as I
ever saw -- and of a deep bright blue -- and through it there blazed
forth the full moon with a lustre that I never before knew her to
wear. She lit up every thing about us with the greatest distinctness
-- but, oh God, what a scene it was to light up !

"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 of my voice in his ear. Presently he shook his head, looking
as pale as death, and held up one of his finger, 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 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 Str?m was in full fury!

"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 -- which appears very strange to a landsman --
and this is what is called 'riding', in sea phrase. Well, so far we
had ridden the swells very cleverly ; but presently a gigantic sea
happened to take us right under the counter, and 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 was
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 Moskoe-Str?m
whirlpool was about a quarter of a mile dead ahead -- but no more like
the every-day Moskoe-Str?m, than the whirl as you now see it is like
a mill-race. If I had not known where we were, and what we had to
expect, I should not have recognised the place at all. As it was, I
involuntarily closed my eyes in horror. The lids clenched themselves
together as if in a spasm.

"It could not have been more than two minutes afterward until we
suddenly felt the waves subside, and were enveloped in foam. The boat
made a sharp half turn to larboard, and then 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 the waste-pipes of many
thousand steam-vessels, letting off their steam all together. We were
now in the belt of surf that always surrounds the whirl ; and I
thought, of course, that another moment would plunge us into the
abyss -- down which we could only see indistinctly on account of the
amazing velocity with which we wore borne along. The boat did not
seem to sink into the water at all, but to skim like an air-bubble
upon the surface of the surge. Her starboard side was next the whirl,
and on the larboard arose 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 which unmanned me at first. I suppose it was despair that
strung my nerves.

"It may look like boasting -- but what I tell you is truth -- I
began to reflect how magnificent a thing it was to die in such a
manner, and how foolish it was in me to think of so paltry a
consideration as my own individual life, in view of so wonderful a
manifestation of God's power. I do believe that I blushed with shame
when this idea crossed my mind. After a little while I became
possessed with the keenest curiosity about the whirl itself. I
positively felt a wish to explore its depths, even at the sacrifice
I was going to make ; and my principal grief was that I should never
be able to tell my old companions on shore about the mysteries I
should see. These, no doubt, were singular fancies to occupy a man's
mind in such extremity -- and I have often thought since, that the
revolutions of the boat around the pool might have rendered me a
little light-headed.

"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 than the general bed
of the ocean, and this latter now towered above us, a high, black,
mountainous 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 together. They blind, deafen, and strangle you, and take away
all power of action or reflection. But we were now, in a great
measure, rid of these annoyances -- just us death-condemned 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 impossible 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 then nearer and nearer to its horrible inner edge. All
this time I had never let go of the ring-bolt. My brother was at the
stern, holding on to a small empty water-cask which had been securely
lashed under the coop of the counter, and was the only thing on deck
that had not been swept overboard when the gale first took us. As we
approached the brink of the pit he let go his hold upon this, and
made for the ring, from which, in the agony of his terror, he
endeavored to force my hands, as it was not large enough to afford us
both a secure grasp. I never felt deeper grief than when I saw him
attempt this act -- although I knew he was a madman when he did it -- a
raving maniac through sheer fright. I did not care, however, to
contest the point with him. I knew it could make no difference
whether either of us held on at all ; so I let him have the bolt,
and went astern to the cask. This there was no great difficulty in
doing ; for the smack flew round steadily enough, and upon an even
keel -- only swaying to and fro, with the immense sweeps and swelters
of the whirl. Scarcely had I secured myself in my new position, when
we gave a wild lurch to starboard, and rushed headlong into the
abyss. I muttered a hurried prayer to God, and thought all was over.

"As I felt the sickening sweep of the descent, I had
instinctively tightened my hold upon the barrel, 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, while in the belt of foam,
with the exception that she now lay more along. 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, upon the interior surface of a
funnel vast in circumference, prodigious in depth, and whose
perfectly smooth sides might have been mistaken for ebony, but for
the bewildering rapidity with which they spun around, and for the
gleaming and ghastly radiance they shot forth, as the rays 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.

"At first I was too much confused to observe anything accurately.
The general burst of terrific grandeur was all that I beheld. When I
recovered myself a little, however, my gaze fell instinctively
downward. In this direction I was able to obtain an unobstructed
view, from the manner in which the smack hung on the inclined surface
of the pool. She was quite upon an even keel -- that is to say, her
deck lay in a plane parallel with that of the water -- but this latter
sloped at an angle of more than forty-five degrees, so that we seemed
to be lying upon our beam-ends. I could not help observing,
nevertheless, that I had scarcely more difficulty in maintaining my
hold and footing in this situation, than if we had been upon a dead
level ; and this, I suppose, was owing to the speed at which we
revolved.

"The rays of the moon seemed to search the very bottom of the
profound gulf ; but still I could make out nothing distinctly, on
account of a thick mist in which everything there was enveloped, and
over which there hung a magnificent rainbow, like that narrow and
tottering bridge which Mussulmen say is the only pathway between Time
and Eternity. This mist, or spray, was no doubt occasioned by the
clashing of the great walls of the funnel, as they all met together
at the bottom -- but the yell that went up to the Heavens from out of
that mist, I dare not attempt to describe.

"Our first slide into the abyss itself, from the belt of 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
nearly the complete circuit of the whirl. Our progress downward, at
each revolution, was slow, but very perceptible.

"Looking about me upon the wide waste of liquid ebony on which we
were thus borne, I perceived that our boat was not the only object in
the embrace of the whirl. Both above and below us were visible
fragments of vessels, large masses of building timber and trunks of
trees, with many smaller articles, such as pieces of house furniture,
broken boxes, barrels and staves. I have already described the
unnatural curiosity which had taken the place of my original terrors.
It appeared to grow upon me as I drew nearer and nearer to my
dreadful doom. I now began to watch, with a strange interest, the
numerous things that floated in our company. I must have been
delirious -- for I even sought amusement in speculating upon the
relative velocities of their several descents toward the foam below.
'This fir tree,' I found myself at one time saying, 'will certainly
be the next thing that takes the awful plunge and disappears,' -- and
then I was disappointed to find that the wreck of a Dutch merchant
ship overtook it and went down before. At length, after making
several guesses of this nature, and being deceived in all -- this fact
-- the fact of my invariable miscalculation -- set me upon a train of
reflection that made my limbs again tremble, and my heart beat
heavily once more.

"It was not a new terror that thus affected me, but the dawn of a
more exciting hope. This hope arose partly from memory, and partly
from present observation. I called to mind the great variety of
buoyant matter that strewed the coast of Lofoden, having been
absorbed and then thrown forth by the Moskoe-str?m. By far the
greater number of the articles were shattered in the most
extraordinary way -- so chafed and roughened as to have the appearance
of being stuck full of splinters -- but then I distinctly recollected
that there were some of them which were not disfigured at all. Now
I could not account for this difference except by supposing that the
roughened fragments were the only ones which had been completely
absorbed -- that the others had entered the whirl at so late a period
of the tide, or, for some reason, had descended so slowly after
entering, that they did not reach the bottom before the turn of the
flood came, or of the ebb, as the case might be. I conceived it
possible, in either instance, that they might thus be whirled up
again to the level of the ocean, without undergoing the fate of those
which had been drawn in more early, or absorbed more rapidly. I made,
also, three important observations. The first was, that, as a general
rule, the larger the bodies were, the more rapid their descent -- the
second, that, between two masses of equal extent, the one spherical,
and the other of any other shape, the superiority in speed of
descent was with the sphere -- the third, that, between two masses of
equal size, the one cylindrical, and the other of any other shape,
the cylinder was absorbed the more slowly. Since my escape, I have
had several conversations on this subject with an old school-master
of the district ; and it was from him that I learned the use of the
words 'cylinder' and 'sphere.' He explained to me -- although I have
forgotten the explanation -- how what I observed was, in fact, the
natural consequence of the forms of the floating fragments -- and
showed me how it happened that a cylinder, swimming in a vortex,
offered more resistance to its suction, and was drawn in with greater
difficulty than an equally bulky body, of any form whatever.

"There was one startling circumstance which went a great way in
enforcing these observations, and rendering me anxious to turn them
to account, and this was that, at every revolution, we passed
something like a barrel, or else the yard or the mast of a vessel,
while many of these things, which had been on our level when I first
opened my eyes upon the wonders of the whirlpool, were now high up
above us, and seemed to have moved but little from their original
station.

"I no longer hesitated what to do. I resolved to lash myself
securely to the water cask upon which I now held, to cut it loose
from the counter, and to throw myself with it into the water. I
attracted my brother's attention by signs, pointed to the floating
barrels that came near us, and did everything in my power to make him
understand what I was about to do. I thought at length that he
comprehended my design -- but, whether this was the case or not, he
shook his head despairingly, and refused to move from his station by
the ring-bolt. It was impossible to reach him; the emergency admitted
of no delay; and so, with a bitter struggle, I resigned him to his
fate, fastened myself to the cask by means of the lashings which
secured it to the counter, and precipitated myself with it into the
sea, without another moment's hesitation.

"The result was precisely what I had hoped it might be. As it is
myself who now tell you this tale -- as you see that I did escape --
and as you are already in possession of the mode in which this escape
was effected, and must therefore anticipate all that I have farther
to say -- I will bring my story quickly to conclusion. It might have
been an hour, or thereabout, after my quitting the smack, when,
having descended to a vast distance beneath me, it made three or four
wild gyrations in rapid succession, and, bearing my loved brother
with it, plunged headlong, at once and forever, into the chaos of
foam below. The barrel to which I was attached sunk very little
farther than half the distance between the bottom of the gulf and the
spot at which I leaped overboard, before a great change took place in
the character of the whirlpool. The slope of the sides of the vast
funnel became momently less and less steep. The gyrations of the
whirl grew, gradually, less and less violent. By degrees, the froth
and the rainbow disappeared, and the bottom of the gulf seemed slowly
to uprise. The sky was clear, the winds had gone down, and the full
moon was setting radiantly in the west, when I found myself on the
surface of the ocean, in full view of the shores of Lofoden, and
above the spot where the pool of the Moskoe-str?m had been. It was
the hour of the slack -- but the sea still heaved in mountainous waves
from the effects of the hurricane. I was borne violently into the
channel of the Str?m, and in a few minutes was hurried down the coast
into the 'grounds' of the fishermen. A boat picked me up -- exhausted
from fatigue -- and (now that the danger was removed) speechless from
the memory of its horror. Those who drew me on board were my old
mates and daily companions -- but they knew me no more than they would
have known a traveller from the spirit-land. My hair which had been
raven-black the day before, was as white as you see it now. They say
too that the whole expression of my countenance had changed. I told
them my story -- they did not believe it. I now tell it to you -- and
I can scarcely expect you to put more faith in it than did the merry
fishermen of Lofoden."

---------------------------------THE END----------------------------------
 

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