After breakfast the Indians struck their tents, and the women, the boys, and the old men who had to drag sledges, took their departure. It was three P.M. however before Akaitcho and the hunters left us. We issued thirty balls to the leader and twenty to each of the hunters and guides with a proportionate quantity of powder, and gave them directions to make all the provision they could on their way to Point Lake. I then desired Mr. Wentzel to inform Akaitcho in the presence of the other Indians that I wished a deposit of provision to be made at this place previous to next September as a resource should we return this way. He and the guides not only promised to see this done but suggested that it would be more secure if placed in the cellar or in Mr. Wentzel's room. The Dog-Ribs, they said, would respect anything that was in the house as knowing it to belong to the white people. At the close of this conversation Akaitcho exclaimed with a smile, "I see now that you have really no goods left (the rooms and stores being completely stripped) and therefore I shall not trouble you any more but use my best endeavours to prepare provision for you, and I think if the animals are tolerably numerous we may get plenty before you can embark on the river."
Whilst the Indians were packing up this morning one of the women absconded. She belongs to the Dog-Rib tribe and had been taken by force from her relations by her present husband who treated her very harshly. The fellow was in my room when his mother announced the departure of his wife and received the intelligence with great composure as well as the seasonable reproof of Akaitcho. "You are rightly served," said the chief to him, "and will now have to carry all your things yourself instead of having a wife to drag them." One hunter remained after the departure of the other Indians.
On the 5th the Dog-Rib woman presented herself on a hill at some distance from the house, but was afraid to approach us until the interpreter went and told her that neither we nor the Indian who remained with us would prevent her from going where she pleased. Upon this she came to solicit a fire-steel and kettle. She was at first low-spirited from the non-arrival of a countrywoman who had promised to elope with her, but had probably been too narrowly watched. The Indian hunter however, having given her some directions as to the proper mode of joining her own tribe, she became more composed and ultimately agreed to adopt his advice of proceeding at once to Fort Providence instead of wandering about the country all summer in search of them at the imminent hazard of being starved.
On the 7th the wind, shifting to the southward, dispersed the clouds which had obscured the sky for several days and produced a change of temperature under which the snow rapidly disappeared. The thermometer rose to 73 degrees, many flies came forth, mosquitoes showed themselves for the first time, and one swallow made its appearance. We were the more gratified with these indications of summer that St. Germain was enabled to commence the repair of the canoes, and before night had completed the two which had received the least injury. Augustus killed two deer today.
On the 10th the dip of the magnetic needle, being observed, showed a decrease of 22 minutes 44 seconds since last autumn. The repairs of the third canoe were finished this evening.
The snow was now confined to the bases of the hills and our Indian hunter told us the season was early. The operations of nature however seemed to us very tardy. We were eager to be gone and dreaded the lapse of summer before the Indians would allow it had begun.
On the 11th the geese and ducks had left the vicinity of Fort Enterprise and proceeded to the northward. Some young ravens and whiskey-johns made their appearance at this time.
On the 12th Winter River was nearly cleared of ice and on the 13th the men returned, having left Dr. Richardson on the borders of Point Lake. Dr. Richardson informed me by letter that the snow was deeper in many parts near his encampment than it had been at any time last winter near Fort Enterprise, and that the ice on Point Lake had scarcely begun to decay. Although the voyagers were much fatigued on their arrival, and had eaten nothing for the last twenty-four hours, they were very cheerful and expressed a desire to start with the remainder of the stores next morning. The Dog-Rib woman, who had lingered about the house since the 6th of June, took alarm at the approach of our men, thinking perhaps that they were accompanied by Indians, and ran off. She was now provided with a hatchet, kettle, and fire-steel, and would probably go at once to Fort Providence in the expectation of meeting with some of her countrymen before the end of summer.
(*Footnote. It will be seen hereafter that I had the misfortune to lose my portfolio containing my journals from Fort Enterprise to the 14th of September. But the loss has been amply redeemed by my brother officers' journals from which the narrative up to that period has been chiefly compiled.)
DEPARTURE FROM FORT ENTERPRISE. NAVIGATION OF THE COPPER-MINE RIVER. VISIT TO THE COPPER MOUNTAIN. INTERVIEW WITH THE ESQUIMAUX. DEPARTURE OF THE INDIAN HUNTERS. ARRANGEMENTS MADE WITH THEM FOR OUR RETURN.
DEPARTURE FROM FORT ENTERPRISE.
June 14, 1821.
The trains for the canoes having been finished during the night the party attached to them commenced their journey at ten this morning. Each canoe was dragged by four men assisted by two dogs. They took the route of Winter Lake with the intention of following, although more circuitous, the watercourse as far as practicable, it being safer for the canoes than travelling overland. After their departure the remaining stores, the instruments, and our small stock of dried meat, amounting only to eighty pounds, were distributed equally among Hepburn, three Canadians, and the two Esquimaux; with this party and two Indian hunters we quitted Fort Enterprise, most sincerely rejoicing that the long-wished-for day had arrived when we were to proceed towards the final object of the Expedition.
We left in one of the rooms a box containing a journal of the occurrences up to this date, the charts and some drawings, which was to be conveyed to Fort Chipewyan by Mr. Wentzel on his return from the sea and thence to be sent to England. The room was blocked up and, by the advice of Mr. Wentzel, a drawing representing a man holding a dagger in a threatening attitude was affixed to the door to deter any Indians from breaking it open. We directed our course towards the Dog-Rib Rock but, as our companions were loaded with the weight of near one hundred and eighty pounds each, we of necessity proceeded at a slow pace. The day was extremely warm and the mosquitoes, whose attacks had hitherto been feeble, issued forth in swarms from the marshes and were very tormenting. Having walked five miles we encamped near a small cluster of pines about two miles from the Dog-Rib Rock. The canoe party had not been seen since they set out. Our hunters went forward to Marten Lake, intending to wait for us at a place where two deer were deposited. At nine P.M. the temperature of the air was 63 degrees.
We resumed our march at an early hour and crossed several lakes which lay in our course as the ice enabled the men to drag their burdens on trains formed of sticks and deers' horns with more ease than they could carry them on their backs. We were kept constantly wet by this operation as the ice had broken near the shores of the lakes but this was little regarded as the day was unusually warm, the temperature at two P.M. being at 82 1/2 degrees. At Marten Lake we joined the canoe party and encamped with them. We had the mortification of learning from our hunters that the meat they had put en cache here had been destroyed by the wolverines, and we had in consequence to furnish the supper from our scanty stock of dried meat. The wind changed from South-East to North-East in the evening and the weather became very cold, the thermometer being at 43 degrees at nine P.M. The few dwarf birches we could collect afforded fire insufficient to keep us warm and we retired under the covering of our blankets as soon as the supper was despatched. The North-East breeze rendered the night so extremely cold that we procured but little sleep, having neither fire nor shelter for, though we carried our tents, we had been forced to leave the tent-poles which we could not now replace; we therefore gladly recommenced the journey at five in the morning and travelled through the remaining part of the lake on the ice. Its surface being quite smooth the canoes were dragged along expeditiously by the dogs, and the rest of the party had to walk very quick to keep pace with them, which occasioned many severe falls. By the time we had reached the end of the lake the wind had increased to a perfect gale and the atmosphere was so cold that we could not proceed farther with the canoes without the risk of breaking the bark and seriously injuring them; we therefore crossed Winter River in them and put up in a well-sheltered place on a ridge of sandhills but, as the stock of provision was scanty, we determined on proceeding as quick as possible and leaving the canoe party under the charge of Mr. Wentzel. We parted from them in the afternoon, and first directed our course towards a range of hills where we expected to find Antonio Fontano, who had separated from us in the morning. In crossing towards these hills I fell through the ice into the lake with my bundle on my shoulders but was soon extricated without any injury, and Mr. Back, who left us to go in search of the straggler, met with a similar accident in the evening. We put up on a ridge of sandhills where we found some pines, and made a large fire to apprise Mr. Back and Fontano of our position. St. Germain having killed a deer in the afternoon we received an acceptable supply of meat. The night was stormy and very cold.
At five the next morning our men were sent in different directions after our absent companions, but as the weather was foggy we despaired of finding them unless they should chance to hear the muskets our people were desired to fire. They returned however at ten, bringing intelligence of them. I went immediately with Hepburn to join Mr. Back and directed Mr. Hood to proceed with the Canadians and halt with them at the spot where the hunters had killed a deer. Though Mr. Back was much fatigued he set off with me immediately, and in the evening we rejoined our friends on the borders of the Big Lake. The Indians informed us that Fontano only remained a few hours with them and then continued his journey. We had to oppose a violent gale and frequent snowstorms through the day, which unseasonable weather caused the temperature to descend below the freezing-point this evening. The situation of our encampment being bleak, and our fuel stunted green willows, we passed a very cold and uncomfortable night.
Though the breeze was moderate this morning the air was piercingly keen. When on the point of starting we perceived Mr. Wentzel's party coming, and awaited his arrival to learn whether the canoes had received any injury during the severe weather of yesterday. Finding they had not we proceeded to get upon the ice on the lake, which could not be effected without walking up to the waist in water for some distance from its borders. We had not the command of our feet in this situation and the men fell often; poor Junius broke through the ice with his heavy burden on his back but fortunately was not hurt.
This lake is extensive and large arms branch from its main course in different directions. At these parts we crossed the projecting points of land and on each occasion had to wade as before, which so wearied everyone that we rejoiced when we reached its north side and encamped, though our resting-place was a bare rock. We had the happiness of finding Fontano at this place. The poor fellow had passed the three preceding days without tasting food and was exhausted by anxiety and hunger. His sufferings were considered to have been a sufficient punishment for his imprudent conduct in separating from us, and I only admonished him to be more cautious in future.
Having received information that the hunters had killed a deer we sent three men to fetch the meat, which was distributed between our party and the canoe-men who had been encamped near to us. The thermometer at three P.M. was 46 degrees, at nine 34 degrees.
We commenced the following day by crossing a lake about four miles in length and then passed over a succession of rugged hills for nearly the same distance. The men, being anxious to reach some pine-trees which they had seen on their former journey, walked at a quick pace though they were suffering from swelled legs and rheumatic pains; we could not however attain the desired point and therefore encamped on the declivity of a hill which sheltered us from the wind, and used the reindeer moss for fuel, which afforded us more warmth than we expected. Several patches of snow were yet remaining on the surrounding hills. The thermometer varied today between 55 and 45 degrees.
On the 20th of June we began our march by crossing a small lake, not without much risk as the surface of the ice was covered with water to the depth of two feet and there were many holes into which we slipped in spite of our efforts to avoid them. A few of the men, being fearful of attempting the traverse with their heavy loads, walked round the eastern end of the lake. The parties met on the sandy ridge which separates the streams that fall into Winter Lake from those that flow to the northward; and here we killed three deer. Near the base of this ridge we crossed a small but rapid stream in which there is a remarkable cascade of about fifty feet. Some Indians joined us here and gave information respecting the situation of Dr. Richardson's tent, which our hunters considered was sufficient for our guidance, and therefore proceeded as quickly as they could. We marched a few miles farther in the evening and encamped among some pines; but the comfort of a good fire did not compensate for the torment we suffered from the host of mosquitoes at this spot. The temperature was 52 degrees.
We set off next morning at a very early hour. The men took the course of Point Lake that they might use their sledges, but the officers pursued the nearest route by land to Dr. Richardson's tent, which we reached at eleven A.M. It was on the western side of an arm of the lake and near the part through which the Copper-Mine River runs. Our men arrived soon after us and in the evening Mr. Wentzel and his party, with the canoes in excellent condition. They were much jaded by their fatiguing journey and several were lame from swellings of the lower extremities. The ice on the lake was still six or seven feet thick and there was no appearance of its decay except near the edges and, as it was evident that, by remaining here until it should be removed, we might lose every prospect of success in our undertaking, I determined on dragging our stores along its surface until we should come to a part of the river where we could embark, and directions were given this evening for each man to prepare a train for the conveyance of his portion of the stores. I may remark here, as a proof of the strong effect of radiation from the earth in melting the ice, that the largest holes in the ice were always formed at the base of the high and steep cliffs which abound on the borders of this lake.
We found Akaitcho and the hunters encamped here but their families and the rest of the tribe had gone off two days before to the Bethseeto, a large lake to the northward where they intended passing the summer. Long-legs and Keskarrah had departed to desire the Hook to collect as much meat as he could against our arrival at his lodge. We were extremely distressed to learn from Dr. Richardson that Akaitcho and his party had expended all the ammunition they had received at Fort Enterprise without having contributed any supply of provision. The Doctor had however, through the assistance of two hunters he kept with him, prepared two hundred pounds of dried meat, which was now our sole dependence for the journey. On the following morning I represented to Akaitcho that we had been greatly disappointed by his conduct which was so opposite to the promise of exertion he had made on quitting Fort Enterprise. He offered many excuses but, finding they were not satisfactory, admitted that the greater part of the ammunition had been given to those who accompanied the women to the Bethseeto, and promised to behave better in future. I then told him that I intended in future to give them ammunition only in proportion to the meat which was brought in, and that we should commence upon that plan by supplying him with fifteen balls, and each of the hunters with ten.
The number of our hunters was now reduced to five as two of the most active declined going any farther, their father, who thought himself dying, having solicited them to remain and close his eyes. These five were furnished with ammunition and sent forward to hunt on the south border of the lake, with directions to place any meat they might procure near the edge of the lake and set up marks to guide us to the spots. Akaitcho, his brother, the guide, and three other men remained to accompany us. We were much surprised to perceive an extraordinary difference in climate in so short an advance to the northward as fifty miles. The snow here was lying in large patches on the hills. The dwarf-birch and willows were only just beginning to open their buds which had burst forth at Fort Enterprise many days before our departure. Vegetation seemed to be three weeks or a month later here than at that place. We had heavy showers of rain through the night of the 22nd which melted the snow and visibly wasted the ice.
On the 23rd the men were busily employed in making their trains and in pounding the meat for pemmican. The situation of the encampment was ascertained latitude 65 degrees 12 minutes 40 seconds North, longitude 113 degrees 8 minutes 25 seconds West, and the variation 43 degrees 4 minutes 20 seconds East. The arrangements being completed we purposed commencing our journey next morning, but the weather was too stormy to venture upon the lake with the canoes. In the afternoon a heavy fall of snow took place, succeeded by sleet and rain. The north-east gale continued but the thermometer rose to 39 degrees.
The wind having abated in the night we prepared for starting at an early hour. The three canoes were mounted on sledges and nine men were appointed to conduct them, having the assistance of two dogs to each canoe. The stores and provisions were distributed equally among the rest of our men, except a few small articles which the Indians carried. The provision consisted of only two bags of pemmican, two of pounded meat, five of suet, and two small bundles of dried provision, together with fresh meat sufficient for our supper at night. It was gratifying to witness the readiness with which the men prepared for and commenced a journey which threatened to be so very laborious, as each of them had to drag upwards of one hundred and eighty pounds on his sledge.
Our course led down the main channel of the lake, which varied in breadth from half a mile to three miles; but we proceeded at a slow pace as the snow which fell last night and still lay on the ice very much impeded the sledges. Many extensive arms branched off on the north side of this channel and it was bounded on the south by a chain of lofty islands. The hills on both sides rose to six or seven hundred feet and high steep cliffs were numerous. Clusters of pines were occasionally seen in the valleys. We put up at eight P.M. in a spot which afforded us but a few twigs for fuel. The party was much fatigued and several of the men were affected by an inflammation on the inside of the thigh attended with hardness and swelling. The distance made today was six miles.
We started at ten next morning. The day was extremely hot and the men were soon jaded; their lameness increased very much and some not previously affected began to complain. The dogs too showed symptoms of great weakness, and one of them stretched himself obstinately on the ice and was obliged to be released from the harness. We were therefore compelled to encamp at an early hour, having come only four miles. The sufferings of the people in this early stage of our journey were truly discouraging to them and very distressing to us, whose situation was comparatively easy. I therefore determined on leaving the third canoe which had been principally carried to provide against any accident to the others. We should thus gain three men to lighten the loads of those who were most lame, and an additional dog for each of the other canoes. It was accordingly properly secured on a stage erected for the purpose near the encampment. Dried meat was issued for supper but in the course of the evening the Indians killed two deer for which we immediately sent.
The channel of the lake through which we had passed today was bounded on both sides by islands of considerable height, presenting bold and rugged scenery. We were informed by our guide that a large body of the lake lies to the northward of a long island which we passed.
Another deer was killed next morning but, as the men breakfasted off it before they started, the additional weight was not materially felt. The burdens of the men being considerably lightened by the arrangements of last evening, the party walked at the rate of one mile and three-quarters an hour until the afternoon, when our pace was slackened as the ice was more rough and our lame companions felt their sores very galling. At noon we passed a deep bay on the south side which is said to receive a river. Throughout the day's march the hills on each side of the lake bore a strong resemblance in height and form to those about Fort Enterprise. We encamped on the north main shore among some spruce trees, having walked eight miles and a half. Three or four fish were caught with lines through holes which the water had worn in the ice. We perceived a light westerly current at these places.
It rained heavily during the night and this was succeeded by a dense fog on the morning of the 28th. Being short of provisions we commenced our journey though the points of land were not discernible beyond a short distance. The surface of the ice, being honeycombed by the recent rains, presented innumerable sharp points which tore our shoes and lacerated the feet at every step. The poor dogs too marked their path with their blood.
NAVIGATION OF THE COPPER-MINE RIVER.
In the evening the atmosphere became clear and at five P.M. we reached the rapid by which Point Lake communicates with Red-Rock Lake. This rapid is only one hundred yards wide and we were much disappointed at finding the Copper-Mine River such an inconsiderable stream. The canoes descended the rapid but the cargoes were carried across the peninsula and placed again on the sledges as the next lake was still frozen. We passed an extensive arm branching to the eastward, and encamped just below it on the western bank among spruce pines, having walked six miles of direct distance. The rolled stones on the beach are principally red clay slate, hence its Indian appellation which we have retained.
We continued our journey at the usual hour next morning. At noon the variation was observed to be 47 degrees East. Our attention was afterwards directed to some pine branches scattered on the ice which proved to be marks placed by our hunters to guide us to the spot where they had deposited the carcasses of two small deer. This supply was very seasonable and the men cheerfully dragged the additional weight. Akaitcho, judging from the appearance of the meat, thought it had been placed here three days ago and that the hunters were considerably in advance. We put up at six P.M. near the end of the lake, having come twelve miles and three-quarters, and found the channel open by which it is connected with the Rock-nest Lake. A river was pointed out bearing south from our encampment, which is said to rise near Great Marten Lake. Red-Rock Lake is in general narrow, its shelving banks are well clothed with wood and even the hills, which attain an elevation of four hundred or five hundred feet, are ornamented halfway up with stunted pines.
On June 30 the men, having gummed the canoes, embarked with their burdens to descend the river; but we accompanied the Indians about five miles across a neck of land, when we also embarked. The river was about two hundred yards wide and, its course being uninterrupted, we cherished a sanguine hope of now getting on more speedily, until we perceived that the waters of Rock-nest Lake were still bound by ice and that recourse must again be had to the sledges. The ice was much decayed and the party were exposed to great risk of breaking through in making the traverse. In one part we had to cross an open channel in the canoes, and in another were compelled to quit the Lake and make a portage along the land. When the party had got upon the ice again our guide evinced much uncertainty as to the route. He first directed us towards the west end of the lake but, when we had nearly gained that point, he discovered a remarkable rock to the north-east, named by the Indians the Rock-nest, and then recollected that the river ran at its base. Our course was immediately changed to that direction, but the traverse we had then to make was more dangerous than the former one. The ice cracked under us at every step and the party were obliged to separate widely to prevent accidents. We landed at the first point we could approach but, having found an open channel close to the shore, were obliged to ferry the goods across on pieces of ice. The fresh meat being expended we had to make another inroad on our pounded meat. The evening was very warm and the mosquitoes numerous. A large fire was made to apprise the hunters of our advance. The scenery of Rock-nest Lake is picturesque, its shores are rather low except at the Rock-nest, and two or three eminences on the eastern side. The only wood is the pine which is twenty or thirty feet high and about one foot in diameter. Our distance today was six miles.
Our guide directed us to proceed towards a deep bay on the north side of the lake where he supposed we should find the river. In consequence of the bad state of the ice we employed all the different modes of travelling we had previously followed in attaining this place and, in crossing a point of land, had the misfortune to lose one of the dogs, which set off in pursuit of some reindeer. Arriving at the bay we only found a stream that fell into it from the north-east and looked in vain for the Copper-Mine River. This circumstance confused the guide and he confessed that he was now doubtful of the proper route; we therefore halted and despatched him with two men to look for the river from the top of the high hills near the Rock-nest. During this delay a slight injury was repaired which one of the canoes had received. We were here amused by the sight of a wolf chasing two reindeer on the ice. The pursuer, being alarmed at the sight of our men, gave up the chase when near to the hindmost, much to our regret for we were calculating upon the chance of sharing in his capture.
At four P.M. our men returned with the agreeable information that they had seen the river flowing at the base of the Rock-nest. The canoes and stores were immediately placed on the ice and dragged thither; we then embarked but soon had to cut through a barrier of drift ice that blocked up the way. We afterwards descended two strong rapids and encamped near the discharge of a small stream which flows from an adjoining lake. The Copper-Mine River at this point is about two hundred yards wide and ten feet deep, and flows very rapidly over a rocky bottom. The scenery of its banks is picturesque, the hills shelve to the waterside and are well covered with wood, and the surface of the rocks is richly ornamented with lichens. The Indians say that the same kind of country prevails as far as Mackenzie's River in this parallel, but that the land to the eastward is perfectly barren. Akaitcho and one of the Indians killed two deer which were immediately sent for. Two of the hunters arrived in the night and we learned that their companions, instead of being in advance as we supposed, were staying at the place where we first found the river open. They had only seen our fires last evening and had sent to examine who we were. The circumstance of having passed them was very vexatious as they had three deer en cache at their encampment. However an Indian was sent to desire those who remained to join us and bring the meat.
We embarked at nine A.M. on July 2nd and descended a succession of strong rapids for three miles. We were carried along with extraordinary rapidity, shooting over large stones upon which a single stroke would have been destructive to the canoes; and we were also in danger of breaking them, from the want of the long poles which lie along their bottoms and equalise their cargoes, as they plunged very much, and on one occasion the first canoe was almost filled with the waves. But there was no receding after we had once launched into the stream, and our safety depended on the skill and dexterity of the bowmen and steersmen. The banks of the river here are rocky and the scenery beautiful, consisting of gentle elevations and dales wooded to the edge of the stream and flanked on both sides at the distance of three or four miles by a range of round-backed barren hills, upwards of six hundred feet high. At the foot of the rapids the high lands recede to a greater distance and the river flows with a more gentle current in a wider channel through a level and open country consisting of alluvial sand. In one place the passage was blocked up by drift ice still deeply covered with snow. A channel for the canoes was made for some distance with the hatchets and poles but, on reaching the more compact part, we were under the necessity of transporting the canoes and cargoes across it, an operation of much hazard as the snow concealed the numerous holes which the water had made in the ice. This expansion of the river being mistaken by the guide for a lake which he spoke of as the last on our route to the sea, we supposed that we should have no more ice to cross, and therefore encamped after passing through it, to fit the canoes properly for the voyage and to provide poles, which are not only necessary to strengthen them when placed in the bottom, but essentially requisite for the safe management of them in dangerous rapids. The guide began afterwards to doubt whether the lake he meant was not farther on, and he was sent with two men to examine into the fact, who returned in the evening with the information of its being below us but that there was an open channel through it. This day was very sultry and several plants appeared in flower.
The men were employed in repairing their canoes to a late hour and commenced very early next morning as we were desirous of availing ourselves of every part of this favourable weather. The hunters arrived in the course of the night. It appeared that the dog which escaped from us two days ago came into the vicinity of their encampment, howling piteously; seeing him without his harness they came to the hasty conclusion that our whole party had perished in a rapid and, throwing away part of their baggage and leaving the meat behind them, they set off with the utmost haste to join Long-legs. Our messenger met them in their flight but too far advanced to admit of their returning for the meat. Akaitcho scolded them heartily for their thoughtlessness in leaving the meat, which we so much wanted. They expressed their regret and, being ashamed of their panic, proposed to remedy the evil as much as possible by going forward without stopping until they came to a favourable spot for hunting, which they expected to do about thirty or forty miles below our present encampment. Akaitcho accompanied them but previous to setting off he renewed his charge that we should be on our guard against the bears, which was occasioned by the hunters having fired at one is morning as they were descending a rapid in their canoe. As their small canoes would only carry five persons two of the hunters had to walk in turns along the banks.
In our rambles round the encampment we witnessed with pleasure the progress which vegetation had made within the few last warm days; most of the trees had put forth their leaves and several flowers ornamented the moss-covered ground; many of the smaller summer birds were observed in the woods, and a variety of ducks, gulls, and plovers, sported on the banks of the river. It is about three hundred yards wide at this part, is deep and flows over a bed of alluvial sand. We caught some trout of considerable size with our lines, and a few white-fish in the nets, which maintained us with a little assistance from the pemmican. The repair of our canoes was completed this evening. Before embarking I issued an order that no rapid should in future be descended until the bowman had examined it and decided upon its being safe to run. Wherever the least danger was to be apprehended or the crew had to disembark for the purpose of lightening the canoe, the ammunition, guns, and instruments were always to be put out and carried along the bank, that we might be provided with the means of subsisting ourselves in case of any accident befalling the canoes.
The situation of our encampment was ascertained to be 65 degrees 43 minutes 28 seconds North, longitude 114 degrees 26 minutes 45 seconds West, and the variation 42 degrees 17 minutes 22 seconds East.
At four in the morning of July 4th we embarked and descended a succession of very agitated rapids, but took the precaution of landing the articles mentioned yesterday wherever there appeared any hazard; notwithstanding all our precautions the leading canoe struck with great force against a stone and the bark was split, but this injury was easily repaired and we regretted only the loss of time. At eleven we came to an expansion of the river where the current ran with less force and an accumulation of drift ice had in consequence barred the channel; over this the canoes and cargoes were carried. The ice in many places adhered to the banks and projected in wide ledges several feet thick over the stream, which had hollowed them out beneath. On one occasion as the people were embarking from one of these ledges it suddenly gave way and three men were precipitated into the water but were rescued without further damage than a sound ducking, and the canoe fortunately (and narrowly) escaped being crushed. Perceiving one of the Indians sitting on the east bank of the river we landed and, having learned from him that Akaitcho and the hunters had gone in pursuit of a herd of musk-oxen, we encamped, having come twenty-four miles and a half.
In the afternoon they brought us the agreeable intelligence of having killed eight cows, of which four were full-grown. All the party were immediately despatched to bring in this seasonable supply. A young cow, irritated by the firing of the hunters, ran down to the river and passed close to me when walking at a short distance from the tents. I fired and wounded it, when the animal instantly turned and ran at me, but I avoided its fury by jumping aside and getting upon an elevated piece of ground. In the meantime some people came from the tents and it took to flight.
The musk-oxen, like the buffalo, herd together in bands and generally frequent the barren grounds during the summer months, keeping near the rivers, but retire to the woods in winter. They seem to be less watchful than most other wild animals and, when grazing, are not difficult to approach provided the hunters go against the wind; when two or three men get so near a herd as to fire at them from different points these animals, instead of separating or running away, huddle closer together and several are generally killed; but if the wound is not mortal they become enraged and dart in the most furious manner at the hunters, who must be very dextrous to evade them. They can defend themselves by their powerful horns against the wolves and bears which, as the Indians say, they not unfrequently kill.
The musk-oxen feed on the same substances with the reindeer, and the prints of the feet of these two animals are so much alike that it requires the eye of an experienced hunter to distinguish them. The largest killed by us did not exceed in weight three hundred pounds. The flesh has a musky disagreeable flavour, particularly when the animal is lean which, unfortunately for us, was the case with all that we now killed.
During this day's march the river varied in breadth from one hundred to two hundred feet, and except in two open spaces a very strong current marked a deep descent the whole way. It flows over a bed of gravel, of which also its immediate banks are composed. Near to our encampment it is bounded by cliffs of fine sand from one hundred to two hundred feet high. Sandy plains extend on a level with the summit of these cliffs, and at the distance of six or seven miles are terminated by ranges of hills eight hundred or one thousand feet high. The grass on these plains affords excellent pasturage for the musk-oxen and they generally abound here. The hunters added two more to our stock in the course of the night. As we had now more meat than the party could consume fresh we delayed our voyage next day to dry it. The hunters were supplied with more ammunition and sent forward; but Akaitcho, his brother, and another Indian remained with us.
It may here be proper to mention that the officers had treated Akaitcho more distantly since our departure from Point Lake, to mark their opinion of his misconduct. The diligence in hunting however which he had evinced at this place induced us to receive him more familiarly when he came to the tent this evening. During our conversation he endeavoured to excite suspicions in our minds against the Hook by saying, "I am aware that you consider me the worst man of my nation; but I know the Hook to be a great rogue and I think he will disappoint you."
On the morning of the 6th we embarked and descended a series of rapids, having twice unloaded the canoes where the water was shallow. After passing the mouth of the Fairy Lake River* the rapids ceased. The main stream was then about three hundred yards wide and generally deep, though in one part the channel was interrupted by several sandy banks and low alluvial islands covered with willows. It flows between banks of sand thinly wooded and as we advanced the barren hills approached the water's edge.
(*Footnote. This is an Indian name. The Northern Indian fairies are six inches high, lead a life similar to the Indians, and are excellent hunters. Those who have had the good fortune to fall in with their tiny encampments have been kindly treated and regaled on venison. We did not learn with certainty whether the existence of these delightful creatures is known from Indian tradition or whether the Indians own their knowledge of them to their intercourse with the traders, but think the former probable.)
At ten we rejoined our hunters who had killed a deer and halted to breakfast. We sent them forward; one of them who was walking along the shore afterwards fired upon two brown bears and wounded one of them, which instantly turned and pursued him. His companions in the canoes put ashore to his assistance but did not succeed in killing the bears, which fled upon the reinforcement coming up. During the delay thus occasioned we overtook them and they continued with us the rest of the day.
We encamped at the foot of a lofty range of mountains which appear to be from twelve to fifteen hundred feet high; they are in general round-backed but the outline is not even, being interrupted by craggy conical eminences. This is the first ridge of hills we have seen in this country that deserves the appellation of a mountain range; it is probably a continuation of the Stony Mountains crossed by Hearne. Many plants appeared in full flower near the tents and Dr. Richardson gathered some high up on the hills. The distance we made today was fifty miles.
There was a hoar frost in the night and the temperature at four next morning was 40 degrees: embarking at that hour we glided quickly down the stream and by seven arrived at the Hook's encampment which was placed on the summit of a lofty sand cliff whose base was washed by the river. This chief had with him only three hunters and a few old men and their families, the rest of the band having remained at their snares in Bear Lake. His brother Long-legs and our guide Keskarrah, who had joined him three days before, had communicated to him our want of provision, and we were happy to find that, departing from the general practice of Indian chiefs, he entered at once upon the business without making a long speech. As an introductory mark of our regard I decorated him with a medal similar to those which had been given to the other leaders. The Hook began by stating that he was aware of our being destitute of provision, and of the great need we had of an ample stock to enable us to execute our undertaking, and his regret that the unusual scarcity of animals this season, together with the circumstance of his having only just received a supply of ammunition from Fort Providence, had prevented him from collecting the quantity of meat he had wished to do for our use. "The amount indeed," he said, "is very small, but I will cheerfully give you what I have: we are too much indebted to the white people to allow them to want food on our lands whilst we have any to give them. Our families can live on fish until we can procure more meat, but the season is too short to allow of your delaying to gain subsistence in that manner." He immediately desired aloud that the women should bring all the meat they had to us; and we soon collected sufficient to make three bags and a half of pemmican, besides some dried meat and tongues. We were truly delighted by this prompt and cheerful behaviour and would gladly have rewarded the kindness of himself and his companions by some substantial present, but we were limited by the scantiness of our store to a small donation of fifteen charges of ammunition to each of the chiefs. In return for the provision they accepted notes on the North-West Company to be paid at Fort Providence, and to these was subjoined an order for a few articles of clothing as an additional present. I then endeavoured to prevail upon the Hook to remain in this vicinity with his hunters until the autumn, and to make deposits of provision in different parts of the course to the sea as a resource for our party, in the event of our being compelled to return by this route. He required time however to consider this matter, and promised to give me an answer next day. I was rejoiced to find him then prepared to meet my wish and the following plan was agreed upon: As the animals abound at all times on the borders of Bear Lake he promised to remain on the east side of it until the month of November, at that spot which is nearest to the Copper-Mine River, from whence there is a communication by a chain of lakes and portages. There the principal deposit of provision was to be made, but during the summer the hunters were to be employed in putting up supplies of dried meat at convenient distances, not only along the communication from this river, but also upon its banks as far down as the Copper Mountain. They were also to place particular marks to guide our course to their lodges. We contracted to pay them liberally, whether we returned by this way or not; if we did they were to accompany us to Fort Providence to receive the reward, and at any rate I promised to send the necessary documents by Mr. Wentzel from the sea-coast to ensure them an ample remuneration. With this arrangement they were perfectly satisfied and we could not be less so, knowing they had every motive for fulfilling their promises, as the place they had chosen to remain at is their usual hunting ground. The uncommon anxiety these chiefs expressed for our safety appeared to us likely to prompt them to every care and attention, and I record their expressions with gratitude. After representing the numerous hardships we should have to encounter in the strongest manner, though in language similar to what we had often heard from our friend Akaitcho, they earnestly entreated we would be constantly on our guard against the treachery of the Esquimaux, and no less forcibly desired we would not proceed far along the coast, as they dreaded the consequences of our being exposed to a tempestuous sea in canoes, and having to endure the cold of the autumn on a shore destitute of fuel. The Hook having been an invalid for several years rejoiced at the opportunity of consulting Dr. Richardson, who immediately gave him advice and supplied him with medicine.
The pounded meat and fat were converted into pemmican preparatory to our voyage.
The result of our observations at the Hook's encampment was latitude 66 degrees 45 minutes 11 seconds North, longitude 115 degrees 42 minutes 23 seconds West, variation of the compass 46 degrees 7 minutes 30 seconds East.
We embarked at eleven to proceed on our journey. Akaitcho and his brother the guide being in the first canoe and old Keskarrah in the other. We wished to dispense with the further attendance of two guides and made a proposition that either of them might remain here, but neither would relinquish the honour of escorting the Expedition to the sea. One of our hunters however was less eager for this distinction and preferred remaining with Green-stockings, Keskarrah's fascinating daughter. The other four, with the Little Singer accompanied us, two of them conducting their small canoes in turns and the rest walking along the beach.
The river flows over a bed of sand and winds in an uninterrupted channel of from three-quarters to a mile broad between two ranges of hills, which are pretty even in their outline and round-backed, but having rather steep acclivities. The immediate borders of the stream consist either of high banks of sand or steep gravel cliffs and sometimes, where the hills recede to a little distance, the intervening space is occupied by high sandy ridges.
At three P.M., after passing along the foot of a high range of hills, we arrived at the portage leading to the Bear Lake, to which we have previously alluded. Its position is very remarkable, being at the most westerly part of the Copper-Mine River and at the point where it resumes a northern course and forces a passage through the lofty ridge of mountains to which it has run parallel for the last thirty miles. As the Indians travel from hence with their families in three days to the point where they have proposed staying for us, the distance I think cannot exceed forty miles and, admitting the course to be due west, which is the direction the guide pointed, it would place the eastern part of Bear Lake in 118 1/4 degrees West longitude.
Beyond this spot the river is diminished in breadth and a succession of rapids are formed but, as the water was deep, we passed through them without discharging any part of the cargoes. It still runs between high ranges of mountains, though its actual boundaries are banks of mud mixed with clay which are clothed with stunted pines. We picked up a deer which the hunters had shot and killed another from the canoe, and also received an addition to our stock of provision of seven young geese which the hunters had beaten down with their sticks. About six P.M. we perceived a mark on the shore which on examination was found to have been recently put up by some Indians: and on proceeding farther we discerned stronger proofs of their vicinity; we therefore encamped and made a large fire as a signal which they answered in a similar way. Mr. Wentzel was immediately sent in expectation of getting provision from them. On his return we learned that the party consisted of three old Copper Indians with their families, who had supported themselves with the bow and arrow since last autumn, not having visited Fort Providence for more than a year, and so successful had they been that they were enabled to supply us with upwards of seventy pounds of dried meat, and six moose skins fit for making shoes, which were the more valuable as we were apprehensive of being barefooted before the journey could be completed. The evening was sultry and the mosquitoes appeared in great numbers. The distance made today was twenty-five miles.
On the following morning we went down to these Indians and delivered to them notes on the North-West Company for the meat and skins they had furnished, and we had then the mortification of learning that, not having people to carry a considerable quantity of pounded meat which they intended for us, they had left it upon the Bear Lake Portage. They promised however to get it conveyed to the banks of this river before we could return and we rewarded them with a present of knives and files.
After reembarking we continued to descend the river which was now contracted between lofty banks to about one hundred and twenty yards wide; the current was very strong. At eleven we came to a rapid which had been the theme of discourse with the Indians for many days, and which they had described to us as impassable in canoes. The river here descends for three-quarters of a mile in a deep but narrow and crooked channel which it has cut through the foot of a hill of five hundred or six hundred feet high. It is confined between perpendicular cliffs resembling stone walls, varying in height from eighty to one hundred and fifty feet, on which lies a mass of fine sand. The body of the river pent within this narrow chasm dashed furiously round the projecting rocky columns and discharged itself at the northern extremity in a sheet of foam. The canoes, after being lightened of part of their cargoes, ran through this defile without sustaining any injury. Accurate sketches of this interesting scene were taken by Messrs. Back and Hood. Soon after passing this rapid we perceived the hunters running up the east side of the river to prevent us from disturbing a herd of musk-oxen which they had observed grazing on the opposite bank; we put them across and they succeeded in killing six, upon which we encamped for the purpose of drying the meat. The country below the Rocky Defile Rapid consists of sandy plains, broken by small conical eminences also of sand, and bounded to the westward by a continuation of the mountain chain which we had crossed at the Bear Lake Portage, and to the eastward and northward at the distance of twelve miles by the Copper Mountains, which Mr. Hearne visited. The plains are crowned by several clumps of moderately large spruces about thirty feet high.
This evening the Indians made a large fire as a signal to the Hook's party that we had passed the TERRIFIC rapid in safety.
The position of our encampment was ascertained to be latitude 67 degrees 1 minute 10 seconds North, longitude 116 degrees 27 minutes 28 seconds West, variation of the compass 44 degrees 11 minutes 43 seconds East, dip of the needle 87 degrees 31 minutes 18 seconds.
Some thundershowers retarded the drying of the meat and our embarkation was delayed till the next day. The hunters were sent forward to hunt at the Copper Mountains under the superintendence of Adam the interpreter who received strict injunctions not to permit them to make any large fires lest they should alarm straggling parties of the Esquimaux.
The mosquitoes were now very numerous and annoying but we consoled ourselves with the hope that their season would be short.
VISIT TO THE COPPER MOUNTAIN.
On the 11th we started at three A.M. and, as the guide had represented the river below our encampment to be full of shoals, some of the men were directed to walk along the shore, but they were assailed so violently by the mosquitoes as to be compelled to embark very soon; and we afterwards passed over the shallow parts by the aid of the poles without experiencing much interruption. The current ran very rapidly, having been augmented by the waters of the Mouse River and several small streams. We rejoined our hunters at the foot of the Copper Mountains and found they had killed three musk-oxen. This circumstance determined us on encamping to dry the meat as there was wood at the spot. We availed ourselves of this delay to visit the Copper Mountains in search of specimens of the ore, agreeably to my Instructions; and a party of twenty-one persons, consisting of the officers, some of the voyagers, and all the Indians, set off on that excursion. We travelled for nine hours over a considerable space of ground but found only a few small pieces of native copper. The range we ascended was on the west side of the river extending West-North-West and East-South-East. The mountains varied in height from twelve to fifteen hundred feet. The uniformity of the mountains is interrupted by narrow valleys traversed by small streams. The best specimens of metal we procured were among the stones in these valleys, and it was in such situations that our guides desired us to search most carefully. It would appear that, when the Indians see any sparry substance projecting above the surface, they dig there, but they have no other rule to direct them, and have never found the metal in its original repository. Our guides reported that they had found copper in large pieces in every part of this range for two days' walk to the north-west, and that the Esquimaux come hither to search for it. The annual visits which the Copper Indians were accustomed to make to these mountains, when most of their weapons and utensils were made of copper, have been discontinued since they have been enabled to obtain a supply of ice chisels and other instruments of iron by the establishment of trading posts near their hunting grounds. That none of those who accompanied us had visited them for many years was evident from their ignorance of the spots most abundant in metal.
The impracticability of navigating the river upwards from the sea, and the want of wood for forming an establishment, would prove insuperable objections to rendering the collection of copper at this part worthy of mercantile speculation.
We had the opportunity of surveying the country from several elevated positions. Two or three small lakes only were visible, still partly frozen, and much snow remained on the mountains. The trees were reduced to a scanty fringe on the borders of the river and every side was beset by naked mountains.
The day was unusually warm and therefore favourable for drying meat. Our whole stock of provision, calculated for preservation, was sufficient for fourteen days without any diminution of the ordinary allowance of three pounds to each man per day. The situation of our tents was 67 degrees 10 minutes 30 seconds North, longitude 116 degrees 25 minutes 45 seconds West.
The Indians, knowing the course of the river below this point to be only a succession of rapids, declined taking their canoes any farther but, as I conceived one of them would be required, should we be compelled to walk along the coast, two of our men were appointed to conduct it.
As we were now entering the confines of the Esquimaux country our guides recommended us to be cautious in lighting fires lest we should discover ourselves, adding that the same reason would lead them to travel as much as possible in the valleys, and to avoid crossing the tops of the hills. We embarked at six A.M., taking with us only old Keskarrah. The other Indians walked along the banks of the river. Throughout this day's voyage the current was very strong, running four or five miles an hour, but the navigation was tolerable and we had to lighten the canoes only once, in a contracted part of the river where the waves were very high. The river is in many places confined between perpendicular walls of rock to one hundred and fifty yards in width, and there the rapids were most agitated. Large masses of ice twelve or fourteen feet thick were still adhering to many parts of the bank, indicating the tardy departure of winter from this inhospitable land, but the earth around them was rich with vegetation. In the evening two musk-oxen, being seen on the beach, were pursued and killed by our men. Whilst we were waiting to embark the meat the Indians rejoined us and reported they had been attacked by a bear which sprung upon them whilst they were conversing together. His attack was so sudden that they had not time to level their guns properly, and they all missed except Akaitcho who, less confused than the rest, took deliberate aim and shot the animal dead. They do not eat the flesh of the bear but, knowing that we had no such prejudice, they brought us some of the choice pieces which upon trial we found to be very excellent meat.
The Indians having informed us that we were now within twelve miles of the rapid where the Esquimaux have invariably been found, we pitched our tents on the beach under the shelter of a high hill whose precipitous side is washed by the river, intending to send forward some persons to determine the situation of their present abode. Some vestiges of an old Esquimaux encampment were observed near the tents and the stumps of the trees bore marks of the stone hatchets they use. A strict watch was appointed consisting of an officer, four Canadians, and an Indian, and directions were given for the rest of the party to sleep with their arms by their side. That as little delay as possible might be experienced in opening a communication with the Esquimaux we immediately commenced arrangements for sending forward persons to discover whether there were any in our vicinity. Akaitcho and the guides proposed that two of the hunters should be despatched on this service who had extremely quick sight and were accustomed to act as scouts, an office which requires equal caution and circumspection. A strong objection however lay against this plan in the probability of their being discovered by a straggling hunter, which would be destructive to every hope of accommodation. It was therefore determined to send Augustus and Junius, who were very desirous to undertake the service. These adventurous men proposed to go armed only with pistols concealed in their dress, and furnished with beads, looking-glasses, and other articles, that they might conciliate their countrymen by presents. We could not divest our minds of the apprehension that it might be a service of much hazard if the Esquimaux were as hostile to strangers as the Copper Indians have invariably represented them to be, and we felt great reluctance in exposing our two little interpreters, who had rendered themselves dear to the whole party, to the most distant chance of receiving injury, but this course of proceeding appeared in their opinion and our own to offer the only chance of gaining an interview. Though not insensible to the danger they cheerfully prepared for their mission, and clothed themselves in Esquimaux dresses which had been made for the purpose at Fort Enterprise. Augustus was desired to make his presents and to tell the Esquimaux that the white men had come to make peace between them and all their enemies, and also to discover a passage by which every article of which they stood in need might be brought in large ships. He was not to mention that we were accompanied by the Indians but to endeavour to prevail on some of the Esquimaux to return with him. He was directed to come back immediately if there were no lodges at the rapid.
The Indians were not suffered to move out of our sight, but in the evening we permitted two of them to cross the river in pursuit of a musk-ox, which they killed on the beach and returned immediately. The officers, prompted by an anxious solicitude for Augustus and Junius, crawled up frequently to the summit of the mountain to watch their return. The view however was not extensive, being bounded at the distance of eight miles by a range of hills similar to the Copper Mountains but not so lofty. The night came without bringing any intelligence of our messengers, and our fears for their safety increased with the length of their absence.
As everyone had been interested in the welfare of these men through their vivacity and good nature and the assistance they had cheerfully rendered in bearing their portion of whatever labour might be going on, their detention formed the subject of all our conversation and numerous conjectures were hazarded as to the cause.
Dr. Richardson, having the first watch, had gone to the summit of the hill and remained seated, contemplating the river that washed the precipice under his feet long after dusk had hid distant objects from his view. His thoughts were perhaps far distant from the surrounding scenery, when he was roused by an indistinct noise behind him and, on looking round, perceived that nine white wolves had ranged themselves in form of a crescent and were advancing, apparently with the intention of driving him into the river. On his rising up they halted, and when he advanced they made way for his passage down to the tents. He had his gun in his hand but forbore to fire lest there should be Esquimaux in the neighbourhood. During Mr. Wentzel's middle watch the wolves appeared repeatedly on the summit of the hill, and at one time they succeeded in driving a deer over the precipice. The animal was stunned by the fall but, recovering itself, swam across the stream and escaped up the river. I may remark here that at midnight it was tolerably dark in the valley of the river at this time but that an object on the eminence above could be distinctly seen against the sky.
The following observations were taken at this encampment, latitude 67 degrees 23 minutes 14 seconds North, longitude 116 degrees 6 minutes 51 seconds West, variation 49 degrees 46 minutes 24 seconds East. Thermometer 75 degrees at three P.M. Sultry weather.
Augustus and Junius not having returned next morning we were more alarmed respecting them, and determined on proceeding to find out the cause of their detention, but it was eleven A.M. before we could prevail upon the Indians to remain behind, which we wished them to do lest the Esquimaux might be suspicious of our intentions if they were seen in our suite. We promised to send for them when we had paved the way for their reception, but Akaitcho, ever ready to augur misfortune, expressed his belief that our messengers had been killed and that the Esquimaux, warned of our approach, were lying in wait for us, and "although," said he, "your party may be sufficiently strong to repulse any hostile attack, my band is too weak to offer effectual resistance when separated from you, and therefore we are determined to go on with you or to return to our lands." After much argument however he yielded and agreed to stay behind, provided Mr. Wentzel would remain with him. This gentleman was accordingly left with a Canadian attendant and they promised not to pass a range of hills then in view to the northward unless we sent notice to them.
The river during the whole of this day's voyage flowed between alternate cliffs of looses and intermixed with gravel and red sandstone rocks, and was everywhere shallow and rapid. As its course was very crooked much time was spent in examining the different rapids previous to running them, but the canoes descended, except at a single place, without any difficulty. Most of the officers and half the men marched along the land to lighten the canoes and reconnoitre the country, each person being armed with a gun and a dagger. Arriving at a range of mountains which had terminated our view yesterday, we ascended it with much eagerness, expecting to see the rapid that Mr. Hearne visited near its base, and to gain a view of the sea; but our disappointment was proportionably great when we beheld beyond a plain, similar to that we had just left, terminated by another range of trap hills, between whose tops the summits of some distant blue mountains appeared. Our reliance on the information of the guides, which had been for some time shaken, was now quite at an end, and we feared that the sea was still far distant. The flat country here is covered with grass and is devoid of the large stones so frequent in the barren grounds, but the ranges of trap hills which seem to intersect it at regular distances are quite barren. A few decayed stunted pines were standing on the borders of the river. In the evening we had the gratification of meeting Junius who was hastening back to inform us that they had found four Esquimaux tents at the Fall which we recognised to be the one described by Mr. Hearne. The inmates were asleep at the time of their arrival but rose soon afterwards, and then Augustus presented himself and had some conversation across the river. He told them the white people had come, who would make them very useful presents. The information of our arrival seemed to alarm them very much but, as the noise of the rapid prevented them from hearing distinctly, one of them approached him in his canoe and received the rest of the message. He would not however land on his side of the river, but returned to the tents without receiving the present. His language differed in some respects from Augustus's but they understood each other tolerably well. Augustus, trusting for a supply of provision to the Esquimaux, had neglected to carry any with him, and this was the main cause of Junius's return. We now encamped, having come fourteen miles. After a few hours' rest Junius set off again to rejoin his companion, being accompanied by Hepburn who was directed to remain about two miles above the fall to arrest the canoes on their passage, lest we should too suddenly surprise the Esquimaux. About ten P.M. we were mortified by the appearance of the Indians with Mr. Wentzel, who had in vain endeavoured to restrain them from following us. The only reason assigned by Akaitcho for this conduct was that he wished for a reassurance of my promise to establish peace between his nation and the Esquimaux. I took this occasion of again enforcing the necessity of their remaining behind until we had obtained the confidence and goodwill of their enemies. After supper Dr. Richardson ascended a lofty hill about three miles from the encampment and obtained the first view of the sea; it appeared to be covered with ice. A large promontory, which I named Cape Hearne, bore North-East and its lofty mountains proved to be the blue land we had seen in the forenoon, and which had led us to believe the sea was still far distant. He saw the sun set a few minutes before midnight from the same elevated situation. It did not rise during the half hour he remained there, but before he reached the encampment its rays gilded the tops of the hills.
The night was warm and we were much annoyed by the mosquitoes.
We this morning experienced as much difficulty as before in prevailing upon the Indians to remain behind, and they did not consent until I had declared that they should lose the reward which had been promised if they proceeded any farther before we had prepared the Esquimaux to receive them. We left a Canadian with them and proceeded, not without apprehension that they would follow us and derange our whole plan by their obstinacy. Two of the officers and a party of men walked on the shore to lighten the canoes. The river in this part flows between high and stony cliffs, reddish slate clay rocks, and shelving banks of white clay, and is full of shoals and dangerous rapids. One of these was termed Escape Rapid, both the canoes having narrowly escaped foundering in its high waves. We had entered the rapid before we were aware and, the steepness of the cliffs preventing us from landing, we were indebted to the swiftness of our descent for preservation. Two waves made a complete breach over the canoes; a third would in all probability have filled and overset them, which must have proved fatal to everyone in them. The powder fortunately escaped the water, which was soon discharged when we reached the bottom of the rapid. At noon we perceived Hepburn lying on the left bank of the river and landed immediately to receive his information. As he represented the water to be shoal the whole way to the rapid (below which the Esquimaux were) the shore party were directed to continue their march to a sandy bay at the head of the fall and there await the arrival of the canoes. The land in the neighbourhood of the rapid is of the most singular form: large irregular sandhills bounding both banks, apparently so unconnected that they resemble icebergs, the country around them consisting of high round green hills. The river becomes wide in this part and full of shoals, but we had no difficulty in finding a channel through them. On regaining the shore party we regretted to find that some of the men had incautiously appeared on the tops of the hills just at the time Augustus was conversing with one of the Esquimaux, who had again approached in his canoe and was almost persuaded to land. The unfortunate appearance of so many people at this instant revived his fears, and he crossed over to the eastern bank of the river, and fled with the whole of his party. We learned from Augustus that this party, consisting of four men and as many women, had manifested a friendly disposition. Two of the former were very tall. The man who first came to speak to him inquired the number of canoes that we had with us, expressed himself to be not displeased at our arrival, and desired him to caution us not to attempt running the rapid, but to make the portage on the west side of the river. Notwithstanding this appearance of confidence and satisfaction it seems they did not consider their situation free from danger, as they retreated the first night to an island somewhat farther down the river, and in the morning they returned and threw down their lodges, as if to give notice to any of their nation that might arrive that there was an enemy in the neighbourhood. From seeing all their property strewed about, and ten of their dogs left, we entertained the hope that these poor people would return after their first alarm had subsided, and therefore I determined on remaining until the next day, in the expectation of seeing them as I considered the opening of an early communication a matter of the greatest importance in our state of absolute ignorance respecting the sea-coast. The canoes and cargoes were carried across the portage and we encamped on the north side of it. We sent Augustus and Junius across the river to look for the runaways but their search was fruitless. They put a few pieces of iron and trinkets in their canoes, which were lying on the beach. We also sent some men to put up the stages of fish and secure them as much as possible from the attacks of the dogs. Under the covering of their tents were observed some stone kettles and hatchets, a few fish spears made of copper, two small bits of iron, a quantity of skins, and some dried salmon, which was covered with maggots and half putrid. The entrails of the fish were spread out to dry. A great many skins of small birds were hung up to a stage, and even two mice were preserved in the same way. Thus it would appear that the necessities of these poor people induce them to preserve every article that can be possibly used as food. Several human skulls, which bore the marks of violence, and many bones were strewed about the ground near the encampment and, as the spot exactly answers the description given by Mr. Hearne of the place where the Chipewyans who accompanied him perpetrated the dreadful massacre on the Esquimaux, we had no doubt of this being the place, notwithstanding the difference in its position as to latitude and longitude given by him and ascertained by our observation. We have therefore preserved the appellation of Bloody Fall which he bestowed upon it. Its situation by our observations is in latitude 67 degrees 42 minutes 35 seconds North, longitude 115 degrees 49 minutes 33 seconds West, variation 50 degrees 20 minutes 14 seconds East. This rapid is a sort of shelving cascade, about three hundred yards in length, having a descent of from ten to fifteen feet. It is bounded on each side by high walls of red sandstone, upon which rests a series of lofty green hills. On its north side close to the east bank is the low rocky island which the Esquimaux had deserted. The surrounding scenery was accurately delineated in a sketch taken by Mr. Hood. We caught forty excellent salmon and white-fish in a single net below the rapid. We had not seen any trees during this day's journey; our fuel consisted of small willows and pieces of dried wood that were picked up near the encampment. The ground is well clothed with grass and nourishes most of the shrubs and berry-bearing plants that we have seen north of Fort Enterprise; and the country altogether has a richer appearance than the barren lands of the Copper Indians. We had a distinct view of the sea from the summit of a hill behind the tents; it appeared choked with ice and full of islands.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ESQUIMAUX.
On the morning of the 16th three men were sent up the river to search for dried wood to make floats for the nets. Adam the interpreter was also despatched with a Canadian to inform Akaitcho of the flight of the Esquimaux. We were preparing to go down to the sea in one of the canoes, leaving Mr. Back to await the return of the men who were absent but, just as the crew were putting the canoe in the water, Adam returned in the utmost consternation and informed us that a party of Esquimaux were pursuing the men whom we had sent to collect floats. The orders for embarking were instantly countermanded and we went with a part of our men to their rescue. We soon met our people returning at a slow pace and learned that they had come unawares upon the Esquimaux party, which consisted of six men with their women and children, who were travelling towards the rapid with a considerable number of dogs carrying their baggage. The women hid themselves on the first alarm, but the men advanced and, stopping at some distance from our men, began to dance in a circle, tossing up their hands in the air and accompanying their motions with much shouting, to signify I conceive their desire of peace. Our men saluted them by pulling off their hats and making bows, but neither party was willing to approach the other, and at length the Esquimaux retired to the hill from whence they had descended when first seen. We proceeded in the hope of gaining an interview with them but lest our appearance in a body should alarm them we advanced in a long line, at the head of which was Augustus. We were led to their baggage, which they had deserted, by the howling of the dogs, and on the summit of a hill we found lying behind a stone an old man who was too infirm to effect his escape with the rest. He was much terrified when Augustus advanced and probably expected immediate death but, that the fatal blow might not be unrevenged, he seized his spear and made a thrust with it at his supposed enemy. Augustus however easily repressed the feeble effort and soon calmed his fears by presenting him with some pieces of iron and assuring him of his friendly intentions. Dr. Richardson and I then joined them and, after receiving our presents, the old man was quite composed and became communicative. His dialect differed from that used by Augustus but they understood each other tolerably well.
It appeared that his party consisted of eight men and their families who were returning from a hunting excursion with dried meat. After being told who we were he said that he had heard of white people from different parties of his nation which resided on the sea-coast to the eastward and, to our inquiries respecting the provision and fuel we might expect to get on our voyage, he informed us that the reindeer frequent the coast during the summer, the fish are plentiful at the mouths of the rivers, the seals are abundant, but there are no sea-horses nor whales, although he remembered one of the latter, which had been killed by some distant tribe, having been driven on shore on his part of the coast by a gale of wind. That musk-oxen were to be found a little distance up the rivers, and that we should get driftwood along the shore. He had no knowledge of the coast to the eastward beyond the next river, which he called Nappaarktoktowock, or Tree River. The old man, contrary to the Indian practice, asked each of our names and, in reply to a similar question on our part, said his name was Terregannoeuck, or the White Fox, and that his tribe denominated themselves Naggeooktormoeoot, or Deer-Horn Esquimaux. They usually frequent the Bloody Fall during this and the following moons for the purpose of salting salmon, and then retire to a river which flows into the sea a short way to the westward (since denominated Richardson's River) and pass the winter in snow-houses.
After this conversation Terregannoeuck proposed going down to his baggage, and we then perceived he was too infirm to walk without the assistance of sticks. Augustus therefore offered him his arm which he readily accepted and, on reaching his store, he distributed pieces of dried meat to each person which, though highly tainted, were immediately eaten, this being a universal token among the Indians of peaceable intention.
We then informed him of our desire to procure as much meat as we possibly could and he told us that he had a large quantity concealed in the neighbourhood which he would cause to be carried to us when his people returned.
I now communicated to him that we were accompanied by some Copper Indians who were very desirous to make peace with his nation, and that they had requested me to prevail upon the Esquimaux to receive them in a friendly manner, to which he replied he should rejoice to see an end put to the hostility that existed between the nations and therefore would most gladly welcome our companions. Having despatched Adam to inform Akaitcho of this circumstance we left Terregannoeuck, in the hope that his party would rejoin him but, as we had doubts whether the young men would venture upon coming to our tents on the old man's bare representation, we sent Augustus and Junius back in the evening to remain with him until they came, that they might fully detail our intentions.
The countenance of Terregannoeuck was oval with a sufficiently prominent nose and had nothing very different from a European face, except in the smallness of his eyes and perhaps in the narrowness of his forehead. His complexion was very fresh and red and he had a longer beard than I had seen on any of the aboriginal inhabitants of America. It was between two and three inches long and perfectly white. His face was not tattooed. His dress consisted of a shirt, or jacket with a hood, wide breeches reaching only to the knee, and tight leggings sewed to the shoes, all of deer skins. The soles of the shoes were made of seal-skin and stuffed with feathers instead of socks. He was bent with age but appeared to be about five feet ten inches high. His hands and feet were small in proportion to his height. Whenever Terregannoeuck received a present he placed each article first on his right shoulder then on his left, and when he wished to express still higher satisfaction he rubbed it over his head. He held hatchets and other iron instruments in the highest esteem. On seeing his countenance in a glass for the first time he exclaimed, "I shall never kill deer more," and immediately put the mirror down. The tribe to which he belongs repair to the sea in spring and kill seals; as the season advances they hunt deer and musk-oxen at some distance from the coast. Their weapon is the bow and arrow and they get sufficiently nigh the deer, either by crawling or by leading these animals by ranges of turf towards a spot where the archer can conceal himself. Their bows are formed of three pieces of fir, the centrepiece alone bent, the other two lying in the same straight line with the bowstring; the pieces are neatly tied together with sinew. Their canoes are similar to those we saw in Hudson's Straits but smaller. They get fish constantly in the rivers and in the sea as soon as the ice breaks up. This tribe do not make use of nets but are tolerably successful with the hook and line. Their cooking utensils are made of pot-stone, and they form very neat dishes of fir, the sides being made of thin deal, bent into an oval form, secured at the ends by sewing, and fitted so nicely to the bottom as to be perfectly water-tight. They have also large spoons made of the horns of the musk-oxen.
Akaitcho and the Indians arrived at our tents in the evening and we learned that they had seen the Esquimaux the day before and endeavoured without success to open a communication with them. They exhibited no hostile intention but were afraid to advance. Akaitcho, keeping out of their sight, followed at a distance, expecting that, ultimately finding themselves enclosed between our party and his, they would be compelled to come to a parley with one of us. Akaitcho had seen Terregannoeuck soon after our departure; he was much terrified and thrust his spear at him as he had done at Augustus, but was soon reconciled after the demonstrations of kindness the Indians made in cutting off the buttons from their dress to present to him.
We waited all this forenoon in momentary expectation of the return of Augustus and Junius but as they did not appear at two P.M. I sent Mr. Hood with a party of men to inquire into the cause of their detention and to bring the meat which Terregannoeuck had promised us. He returned at midnight with the information that none of the Esquimaux had yet ventured to come near Terregannoeuck except his aged wife, who had concealed herself amongst the rocks at our first interview, and she told him the rest of the party had gone to a river a short distance to the westward where there was another party of Esquimaux fishing. Augustus and Junius had erected the tent and done everything in their power to make the old man comfortable in their absence. Terregannoeuck, being unable to walk to the place where the meat was concealed, readily pointed the spot out to Mr. Hood who went thither but, after experiencing much difficulty in getting at the column of rock on which it was deposited, he found it too putrid for our use. The features of Terregannoeuck's wife were remarkable for roundness and flatness; her face was much tattooed and her dress differed little from the old man's.
In the afternoon a party of nine Esquimaux appeared on the east bank of the river about a mile below our encampment, carrying their canoes and baggage on their backs, but they turned and fled as soon as they perceived our tents. The appearance of so many different bands of Esquimaux terrified the Indians so much that they determined on leaving us the next day lest they should be surrounded and their retreat cut off. I endeavoured, by the offer of any remuneration they would choose, to prevail upon one or two of the hunters to proceed but in vain; and I had much difficulty even in obtaining their promise to wait at the Copper Mountains for Mr. Wentzel and the four men, whom I intended to discharge at the sea.
The fears which our interpreters, St. Germain and Adam, entertained respecting the voyage were now greatly increased and both of them came this evening to request their discharge, urging that their services could be no longer requisite as the Indians were going from us. St. Germain even said that he had understood he was only engaged to accompany us as long as the Indians did, and persisted in this falsehood until his agreement to go with us throughout the voyage had been twice read to him. As these were the only two of the party on whose skill in hunting we could rely I was unable to listen for a moment to their desire of quitting us and, lest they should leave us by stealth, their motions were strictly watched. This was not an unnecessary precaution as I was informed that they had actually laid a plan for eloping; but the rest of the men, knowing that their own safety would have been compromised had they succeeded, kept a watchful eye over them. We knew that the dread of the Esquimaux would prevent these men from leaving us as soon as the Indians were at a distance, and we trusted to their becoming reconciled to the journey when once the novelty of a sea voyage had worn off.
DEPARTURE OF THE INDIAN HUNTERS. ARRANGEMENTS MADE WITH THEM FOR OUR RETURN.
As the Indians persevered in their determination of setting out this morning I reminded them, through Mr. Wentzel and St. Germain, of the necessity of our having the deposit of provision made at Fort Enterprise, and received a renewed assurance of their attending to that point. They were also desired to put as much meat as they could en cache on the banks of the Copper-Mine River on their return. We then furnished them with what ammunition we could spare and they took their departure promising to wait three days for Mr. Wentzel at the Copper Mountains. We afterwards learned that their fears did not permit them to do so, and that Mr. Wentzel did not rejoin them until they were a day's march to the southward of the mountains.
We embarked at five A.M. and proceeded towards the sea which is about nine miles beyond the Bloody Fall. After passing a few rapids the river became wider and more navigable for canoes, flowing between banks of alluvial sand. We encamped at ten on the western bank at its junction with the sea. The river is here about a mile wide but very shallow, being barred nearly across by sandbanks which run out from the mainland on each side to a low alluvial island that lies in the centre and forms two channels, of these the westernmost only is navigable even for canoes, the other being obstructed by a stony bar. The islands to seaward are high and numerous and fill the horizon in many points of the compass; the only open space seen from an eminence near the encampment being from North by East to North-East by North. Towards the east the land was like a chain of islands, the ice apparently surrounding them in a compact body, leaving a channel between its edge and the main of about three miles. The water in this channel was of a clear green colour and decidedly salt. Mr. Hearne could have tasted it only at the mouth of the river, when he pronounced it merely brackish. A rise and fall of four inches in the water was observed. The shore is strewed with a considerable quantity of drift timber, principally of the Populus balsamifera, but none of it of great size. We also picked up some decayed wood far out of the reach of the water. A few stunted willows were growing near the encampment. Some ducks, gulls, and partridges were seen this day. As I had to make up despatches for England to be sent by Mr. Wentzel the nets were set in the interim and we were rejoiced to find that they produced sufficient fish for the party. Those caught were the Copper-Mine River salmon, white-fish, and two species of pleuronectes. We felt a considerable change of temperature on reaching the sea-coast, produced by the winds changing from the southward to the North-West. Our Canadian voyagers complained much of the cold but they were amused with their first view of the sea and particularly with the sight of the seals that were swimming about near the entrance of the river, but these sensations gave place to despondency before the evening had elapsed. They were terrified at the idea of a voyage through an icy sea in bark canoes. They speculated on the length of the journey, the roughness of the waves, the uncertainty of provisions, the exposure to cold where we could expect no fuel, and the prospect of having to traverse the barren grounds to get to some establishment. The two interpreters expressed their apprehensions with the least disguise and again urgently applied to be discharged, but only one of the Canadians made a similar request. Judging that the constant occupation of their time as soon as we were enabled to commence the voyage would prevent them from conjuring up so many causes of fear, and that familiarity with the scenes on the coast would in a short time enable them to give scope to their natural cheerfulness, the officers endeavoured to ridicule their fears and happily succeeded for the present. The manner in which our faithful Hepburn viewed the element to which he had been so long accustomed contributed not a little to make them ashamed of their fears.