The Everest, newly launched, the biggest and fastest boat in the Trans-Atlantic services, was on her maiden voyage to New York. The fortunes of that voyage concern our story simply from the fact that it brought our two adventurers together and helped to show the manly stuff of which they were made. Thereafter the sea was not for them, but the far-off swamps and forests of the mighty Amazon Valley, where most amazing adventures befel them. On the Everest Dick Cavendish was fifth officer.
The run from Liverpool to Queenstown was made under easy steam in order that the ship might arrive off the Irish port at a reasonable hour in the morning; but no sooner were the Irish passengers and the supplementary mails shipped than the word went quietly round among the officers that the “Old Man” was bent upon breaking the best previous record for the run across the herring pond and setting up a new one unassailable by any other craft than the Everest herself. And certainly when, as the liner passed Daunt Rock lightship shortly after nine o’clock on the Sunday morning following her departure from Liverpool, and the moment was carefully noted by chronometer, the omens were all most favourable for the weather was fine, though cold, with a light northerly wind and smooth water, and with her turbines running at top speed the chief engineer reported that the hands in the stokeholds were keeping a full head of steam without difficulty. At noon the patent log showed that the Everest was within a fraction of eighty miles from the lightship; and Captain Prowse already began to picture himself as holding the blue ribbon of the Atlantic.
And so things continued without a hitch or break of any description until half the journey across the Atlantic had been accomplished; the weather remained fine, with light winds, no sea, and very little swell to speak of, while the ship ran as smoothly and steadily as though she were travelling on land-locked waters instead of in mid-Atlantic.
Meanwhile she kept in almost hourly touch with other ships going east or west, reporting her position and progress and asking from time to time for the latest news; but it was not until Tuesday afternoon, about three o’clock, local time, that she got any intelligence of the slightest moment, this being a message from the homeward bound liner Bolivia, to the following effect—
“Warning! S.S. Bolivia, New York—Liverpool, Latitude 45 degrees, 7 minutes North, Longitude 37 degrees, 57 minutes West. Just cleared large area consisting of detached masses of field ice with several bergs, through which we have been working for the last three hours. Very dangerous. Advise ships approaching it to observe utmost caution, particularly at night time.”
This message was duly handed to Captain Prowse in his own cabin by the wireless operator, who waited while the skipper read it, to see whether the latter desired to address any inquiry to the Bolivia. But after cogitating over it for two or three minutes, the skipper crumpled up the paper and thrust it into his pocket, saying—
“All right, ‘Sparks’, that’ll do....