1933-06 The Polar Treasure

Cover Date: June 1933
Volume 1 # 4
Copyright Date: Friday, May 19, 1933
Author: Lester Dent and Robert Louis Stevenson
Editor: John Nanovic
Story Length: 46,600 words
WHMC: The collection contains eight folders for this story, f. 65-72.

The Polar Treasure by Kenneth Robeson 
Fiesta of Death by Hal Field Leslie 
The Power of Allah by George Allan Moffat 
Thief River Trouble by Clay Perry 
Treasure Trove
– Watching the Weather
– Nova Scotia
– National Monuments
– A Bottle’s Journey
– King of the Penguins
– The Lutine Bell
– Three Thousand Ducks
– Steady! Boat!
– Greenland
– Wind Tunnel
– North Dakota Barter
– India’s Great Wall
– Deep Sea Riches

Recurring Characters.  The entire Iron Crew are all present in this story.

Piracy: Here is the story of a mutiny with the prize being a fabulous treasure carried by the Oceanic.  The Helldiver makes its first appearance here, being the personal craft of Captain Chauncey McCluskey.

This is the first of Dent’s “pirate” stories, but it will not be the last.  The pirate theme is reused repeatedly in several later stories.  Dent was very interested in treasure hunting.  Dent spent some time out west panning for gold.  Dent eventually bought a small schooner, the Albatross, on which he lived for several years.  During this time, he went on several excursions looking for lost Spanish gold.  The pirate theme reflects his interest in this subject.

Dent’s choice of the name for the ship may have been purely romantic but in 1928 the White Star Line ordered a new ocean liner that was to be named Oceanic.  Construction did not go smoothly, and the ship was eventually stopped, and the order cancelled.

Treasure: The Oceanic treasure consists of $50,000,000 in gold and diamonds lost during World War I.

There have been past comments in some of the fan groups about Doc Savage and his men stealing the treasure of the Oceanic.  That is not the way Doc Savage operates.  The story notes that Ham had taken care of all the legalities.  I am sure that while it is not specifically mentioned, Doc Savage had acquired the salvage rights to the ship and its contents. 

At one point in the story, Captain McClusky quizzes Doc Savage about the legality of his quest.  Doc tells the captain that everything is perfectly legal.

“I can assure you, though, that it does not involve breaking the law in any way.”

For several decades now, heroes have been depicted as dark characters with deep secrets and flaws.  Those type stories are more about the authors than the characters.  I do not read those kinds of stories. 

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.

Jules Verne’s character Captain Nemo conquers the South Pole in his vessel the Nautilus. Doc and his crew prevail over the northern ice in “The Polar Treasure.” Whereas the Nautilus has a near disaster after being trapped in an icy sepulcher, Doc’s vessel, the Helldiver, carries a quantity of liquid chemicals that will melt the ice should their ship become similarly trapped.

The Polar expedition aspect of Dent’s story has some basis in fact.  In 1931 famed explorer George Hubert Wilkins set off for the North Pole in a surplus World War I submarine, the USS O-12, now christened Nautilus.  It is also interesting to note that Wilkins middle name, Hubert, was used in “The Man of Bronze” for Hubert Robertson.  Perhaps Dent was paying homage. 


Wilkins did not give up on his polar expedition.  He was again in the news in September 1932 attempting to build a new polar exploration craft.

 Hubert Wilkins died in 1958.  On March 17, 1959, the nuclear submarine, USS Skate surfaced at the North Pole.  Wilkins’ ashes were on board the submarine.  The crew built an icy cairn in which they placed the explorer’s ashes.









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.

Dent adopts the basic plot elements for this story from “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson.  

“The Polar Treasure” was published in June 1933.  It is the fourth adventure and revolves around a trip to the North Pole in the submarine Helldiver. This is all loosely based on some past news articles from 1931 about the Wilkins-Ellsworth Submarine Expedition.  

But there is more going on in this story than a Polar 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.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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 the 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.


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