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Seed of the Arctic Ice   By: (1900-1981)

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Seed of the Arctic Ice

By H. G. Winter

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from Astounding Stories February 1932. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: Killer whales and seal creatures tangle Ken Torrance in an amazing adventure under the ice roofed arctic sea.]

Sleepily the lookout stared at the scope screen before him, wishing for something that would break the monotony of the scene it pictured: the schools of ghostly fish fleeting by, the occasional shafts of pale sunlight filtering down through breaks in the ice floes above, the long snaky ropes of underwater growth. None of this was conducive to wakefulness; nor did the half speed drone of the electric engines aft and the snores of some distant sleeper help him. The four other men on duty in the submarine the helmsman; the second mate, whose watch it was; the quartermaster and the second engineer might not have been present, so motionless and silent were they.

The lookout man stifled another yawn and glanced at a clock to see how much more time remained of his trick. Then suddenly something on the screen brought him to alert attention. He blinked at it; stared hard and thrilled.

Far ahead, caught for an instant by the submarine Narwhal's light beams, a number of sleek bodies moved through the foggy murk, with a flash of white bellies and an easy graceful thrust of flukes.

The watcher's hands cupped his mouth; he turned and sang out:

"K i i ll ers! I see killers!"

The cry rang in every corner, and immediately there was a feverish response. Rubbing their eyes, men appeared as if from nowhere and jumped to posts; with a clang, the telegraph under the second mate's hand went over to full speed; Captain Streight rolled heavily out of his bunk, flipped his feet mechanically into sea boots and came stamping forward. First Torpooner Kenneth Torrance, as he sat up and stretched, heard the usual crisp question:

"Where away?"

"Five points off sta'b'd bow, sir; quarter mile away; swimming slow."

"How large a school?"

"Couldn't say, sir. Looks around a dozen."

"Whew!" whistled Ken Torrance. "That's a strike!" He pulled on a sweater and strode forward to the scope screen to see for himself, even as Captain Streight, all at once testy with eagerness, bawled:

"Sta'b'd five! Torpoon ready, Mister Torrance! Mister Torr oh, here you are. Take a look."

Never in the two years of experience which had brought him to the important post of first torpooner had Ken failed to thrill at the sight which now met his eyes. Directly ahead, now that the Narwhal's bow was turned in pursuit, but veering slowly to port, swam a pack of the twenty to thirty foot dolphins which are called "killer whales," their bodies so close pressed that they seemed to be an undulating wave of black, occasionally sliced with white as the fluke thrusts brought their bellies into view. Their speed through the shadowed, gloomy water was equal to the submarine's; when alarmed, it would almost double.

"Three more of 'em will fill our tanks," grunted Streight, his chunky face almost glowing. He bit on a plug of tobacco, his eyes never moving from the screen. "Now, if only we hadn't lost Beddoes.... Y' think you can bag three, Mister Torrance?"

"Well, if three'll fill our tanks sure!" grinned Ken.

The other's eyebrows twitched suddenly. "They're speeding up!" he shouted, and then: "That torpoon ready, there? Good." His voice lowered again as Ken pulled his belt a notch tighter and snatched a last glimpse of the fish before leaving. "I want you to try for three, son," he said soberly: "but be careful. Don't take fool chances, and keep alert. Remember Beddoes."

Ken nodded and walked to the torpoon catapult, hearing Streight's familiar send off echoed by the men of the crew who were nearby:

"Good hunting!"

The idea of an underwater craft for the pursuit of killer whales tremendously valuable since the discovery of valuable medicinal qualities in their oil had been scoffed at by the majority of the Alaska Whaling Company's officials at the time of its suggestion, but the Narwhal after her first two months of service had decisively proved her worth... Continue reading book >>

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