As Will Murray points out in the recent
reprint of The Polar Treasure & Pirate of
the Pacific, the former story was influenced by the
famous Wilkins-Ellsworth Submarine Expedition.
It seems likely Dent interjected the Helldiver
into the story as a way of grabbing onto some of the
excitement surrounding this notable and exciting
scientific adventure. Both the submarine and
the local in which the story takes place can be attributed
to this newsworthy event.
But there is more going on in this story than the Wilkins-Ellsworth Submarine Expedition. Dent included significant elements from another source in The Polar Treasure. Consider the plot in this story. A treasure map is found. An expedition is mounted to recover the treasure. The main characters charter a craft to take them to a remote location. The ship’s crew learns of the treasure, filling the ship with a sense of unease and foreboding. At one point, a person disappears from the ship and is presumed lost at sea. They arrive at the treasure location which is supposed to be deserted only to find an inhabitant on the island. The treasure has been moved from its original location. A battle ensues in which the pirates are defeated and the treasure recovered by the rightful parties.
Does any of this sound familiar? It should if you have ever read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson as it is the basic plot for that novel. Treasure Island starts off with two pirate factions trying to get the map showing the treasure location. The Polar Treasure begins in exactly the same way. Just as in Treasure Island, Doc and his men set out on a charted vessel to a remote location in order to obtain the treasure. It turns out that they pirates are also on the same boat. The mate on the Hispaniola, Mr. Arrow, disappears at sea. Doc wakes up on to learn that Monk and Renny have disappeared. Ben Gunn moves Flint’s treasure while Ben O’Gard’s men move the Oceanic treasure.
Ben Gunn is marooned on the island. Victor Vail’s wife and daughter suffer a similar fate. The treasure has been moved. In Treasure Island it is Ben Gunn who has moved it. In The Polar Treasure, Keelhaul de Rosa learns that Ben O’Gard’s faction has moved it. Treasure Island has the pirate blind Pew. Victor Vail mirrors this malady as well as actually being the treasure map. Captain Flint’s ship was named the Walrus. Dent persistently refers to Captain McCluskey as a “walrus.” Like Long John Silver, Ben O’Gard puts one over on the treasure seekers who believe him to be trustworthy. The Admiral Benbow Inn becomes Doc’s headquarters.
The name Oceanic is an interesting choice. There are two ships of this name that are notable in the context of this story. The first was RMS Oceanic which was operated by the White Star Line. With the start of World War I, the ship was commissioned as an armed merchantman by the Royal Navy. She sank in the early days of the war as a result of running aground. The other Oceanic was never built. The White Star Line began construction in 1928 on the ship which would be the largest in their fleet. Financial difficulties lead to the cancellation of the ship and the partially constructed hull was scrapped and melted down for reuse.