We should never have been able to ascend the hill without going in zigzag. We had often to get out of our sleighs and take to our skees. One Finn lent me a pair of them that were much shorter than mine, to ascend the hills. I should never have been able to do it had I not followed the track of those ahead. Though it was 43 degrees below zero, I was in a profuse perspiration.
At times the poor reindeer panted; their tongues protruded. They would fall down on their backs, breathing heavily. My reindeer was so exhausted and breathed so hard, with protruding tongue and mouth wide open, that I thought he was going to die. "Don't be afraid," said John to me with a smile, as he saw my anxious face, "reindeer often act like this when they are exhausted; yours will soon be all right."
John was not mistaken.
It was wonderful how quickly they all recovered, and after eating plenty of snow they went on as if nothing had happened to them, until they again became exhausted and powerless. When we reached the top of a mountain, we waited for those of our party that lagged behind. I said to John, "I hope we have not many more of these hills to ascend." "We have none so steep; but, Paulus, now we have come to the most dangerous part of our whole journey; we are going to run along the brink of one of the ravines of which I spoke to you. Look ahead," said he, pointing to the deep ravine.
When all the men of our party had arrived at the top of the hill, every one began to make careful preparations for the descent, and I watched with great earnestness what was done. Once in a while I gave a look towards the ugly precipice. I did not like the sight a bit. The men were anxious, and showed this in the care and pains they took in testing every plaited leather cord, and those were especially strong that were to be used for such an emergency. They knew how dangerous was the ride and that no cord must snap.
A number of sleighs were lashed with mine by a very strong plaited leather cord. When John was through he said to me: "This cord cannot break."
Behind each sleigh a reindeer was fastened, the cord being attached at the base of his horns. John said to me: "Reindeer cannot bear to be pulled quickly, and make every effort to disengage themselves, and by doing so act as a drag." All the sleighs had been lashed together by fours, sixes, eights, or tens. We had plenty of spare reindeer with us, and at the end of each set of sleighs two or three reindeer were made fast to the last one. A man was in the front sleigh of the set to lead, and another man in the last one. John was to lead the set in which I was, and his brother was to be in the last. As usual each man rode his sleigh with his legs outside, turned back somewhat, or reversed, with the top of his shoes touching the snow, the feet to act as rudder.
When I did the same a great cry went up. I heard, "No! No! Paulus, your legs will surely be broken; put them inside your sleigh, as you have always done!" and before I could say a word in reply John and a Finn were by me, each taking one of my legs and putting it inside.
A short time was to elapse between the start of each set of sleighs, so that there would be no chance of their coming in contact. The signal was given, and one set after another started with great speed. It was one of the grandest and most dangerous sights I had ever seen, but the Lapps and Finns were accustomed to this, for they generally went twice every winter to the Arctic Sea with their produce for sale.
Then my turn came. John started and off we went.
As the sleighs swerved in the descent the tension was very great. I said to myself, "If the cord that keeps our sleighs together breaks we shall be pitched far below and be dashed against the rocks with incredible force."
In the mean time every reindeer was holding back with all his power, making efforts to disengage himself, and by doing this acted as a brake on the sleighs in front. If they had not done so the descent would have been impossible.
What speed! I had never seen anything like this descent before. Here was a terrifying precipice, the sloping rocks leading towards the chasm. I was afraid the reindeer would miss their footing. I hoped that no bare ice would be met. At any moment we might have been thrown out headlong. After we reached the dale, which closed abruptly at the head of the ravine, I was breathless from excitement. I had just ended one of two of the most exciting rides I had ever taken. We waited for those that were behind, and when they had arrived we rested for a while.
I asked John what would have happened if one of the cords had snapped. He did not answer my question, but simply looked at me with a serious expression. I knew what it would have meant. Death!
Further on we had another descent of the same character, but not so dangerous.
We were all glad when we reached the station of refuge; we were so tired from the excitement of the day.
We had crossed the backbone of the mountain, and had come down the western slope. Each stream now flowed to the Arctic Sea.
The next day we continued the descent. The day before we had come to the zone where the juniper grew; to-day we passed the birch. Then came the fir trees. Darkness overtook us, and I could not make out what sort of land it was, but soon we came to the house of a fisherman, where we all spent the night.
When I awoke in the morning and looked out I found that I was at the bottom of a great chasm with towering mountains on each side. I had never seen the like. It seemed to me that I had come to a world unknown before. Looking towards the west I saw a long dark green line of water, sunk deeply into the ragged and precipitous mountains. I had come to the Ulf Fjord. The water was the Arctic Sea. I was on the shores of grand old Norway.
The fjord was frozen at its inner extremity for about one mile with thick solid ice. At the inner end of every fjord there is a river, flowing through a valley, which is the continuation of the fjord; consequently the water is only brackish and freezes more easily than salt water. Further on the fjord is free of ice, for in this part of the world, though so far north, the sea is made warm by the Gulf Stream, the very same Gulf Stream that starts from West Africa and flows westward to the coast of Brazil, then branches off northward and runs close to our American shores. Without the Gulf Stream this part of Norway would be a land of ice, just as the land of North-west America is, in the same latitude.
I remembered that I had sailed over the Gulf Stream waters near the African coast, and it had come to meet the same stream again on that far-away northern shore—beyond the Arctic Circle.
My journey over mountains 5,000 feet high, between the 69th and 70th degrees of north latitude, was over.
I saw a vessel in the distance, and with one of the fishermen living on this inhospitable shore we went on board. It was good luck the vessel was going to sail north. The captain was willing to take me with him on his voyage.
I thanked John and my other travelling companions for the kindness they had shown me. We parted with great tokens of friendship.
SAIL ON THE ARCTIC OCEAN.—THE BRIG RAGNILD.—AEGIR AND RAN, THE GOD AND GODDESS OF THE SEA.—THE NINE DAUGHTERS OF AEGIR AND RAN.—GREAT STORMS.—COMPELLED TO HEAVE TO.
As I stepped on board I said farewell to my dear skees and sleigh, as they were put into the hold. "I shall miss you very much," I said, "for we have had happy times together." Then we sailed away. Now I have laid aside my Lapp costume, and I am clad in the garb of a fisherman. I am clothed in a suit of oilskin garments, over my woollens, to protect me from the wet. I wear a big sou'wester, instead of a cap, to keep the rain and the spray from running down my neck, and huge sea-boots to keep my legs and feet dry. In these I am ready to brave the storms of the Arctic Ocean. Now a boat will be my sleigh, its sail my reindeer: these will carry me onward on the sea, as the others have done on the snow.
As I stood quietly on deck looking at the sea, the captain said to me, "For a wonder we have pleasant weather. This winter we have had nothing but a succession of gales or terrific squalls, and what is worse, blinding snowstorms, when we could not even see each other on deck."
The Ragnild—such was the name of our vessel—was a staunch Norwegian brig that had weathered many a gale on the stormy coast of Norway and the Arctic Sea. She was bound for the coast of Finmarken, on the east side of North Cape, to buy codfish. On board were provisions and clothing, boots, etc., for sale to the fishermen we were to meet in the coast settlements.
Our crew was composed of most sturdy seafaring men. The name of the captain was Ole Petersen, a real old salt who had been at sea for nearly fifty years and was part owner of the craft.
John Andersen was the first mate; the sailors were Lars, Evert, Ivor, Hakon, Pehr, and Harald. All of these men had encountered many a gale, and two had been wrecked.
Towards nine o'clock that evening, the captain and I went to our bunks, the captain leaving the first mate and three men on the watch.
When I awoke in the morning the Ragnild was rolling heavily; we were in the midst of an angry sea and of a great gale, and while I was dressing I was thrown from one side of my little stateroom to the other, and it was no fun. I came on deck, and as I looked at the big waves I said, "The wind and the waves are in their ugly mood." The wind howled and shrieked through the rigging, and waves were like big hills. I thought of the many wrecks of ships and boats, and of the multitude of passengers and seafaring men that have been drowned since people have sailed on the seas.
The captain murmured to me, "This is ugly weather indeed. We must employ all the skill we have to fight against the storm. Our sails are new, our rigging is strong, and our vessel is staunch, and we are all valiant men on board who have gone through many such a storm before."
That morning as I watched the coast, I remembered that the Vikings believed and worshipped AEgir as the god of the sea. AEgir ruled over the sea and the wind. Ran was his wife, and she had a net in which she caught all those who were lost at sea; her Hall was at the bottom of the ocean, and there she welcomed all the shipwrecked people.
AEgir and Ran had nine daughters, and their names were emblematic of the waves. They were called Hefring the Hurling, Hroenn the Towering, Bylgja the Upheaving, Bara the Lashing.
The five other daughters were called Himinglaefa the Heaven Glittering, Bloedughadda the Bloody Haired, Kolga the Cooling, Unn the Loving, Dufa the Dove.
The Vikings dreaded Hefring, Hroenn, and Bylgja when far out at sea, and Bara when they were approaching the shore. These four waves are those the mariners dread to-day.
They believed that these daughters of AEgir and Ran were seldom partial to men, that the wind awakened them and made them angry and fierce. They called them "The white-hooded daughters of AEgir and Ran." They called the spray their hair. They believed that in calm weather they walked on the reefs and wandered gently along the shores, and that their beds were rocks, stone-heaps, pebbles, and sands.
I had not been long on the sea before I found that I had exchanged the terrific winds of Arctic "Snow Land" for the gales of the Arctic Ocean. The weather was fearful! Snow, sleet, hurricanes, treacherous heavy squalls, followed each other in succession.
"This is the winter weather we have here," said the captain; "we do not expect any better at this time of the year. When there is a lull, it is only to deceive us; then it blows harder than ever, and the snow or the sleet falls thicker than before."
My fancy recalled again to me the words of the "Long Night": "I send terrific gales and mighty snowstorms over oceans and lands."
As I looked at the ocean I saw a big towering wave rolling up towards the stern of the ship and apparently gaining upon us. It was transparent and of a deep green color. I imagined I could see Hefring with glittering eyes, one of her arms directing the wave against us.
The men looked anxiously towards the wave, which was steadily advancing, but our ship rode over it as if she were a gull resting on the ocean. Then the ugly wave formed a crest, curled upon itself, and with a heavy boom broke into fragments of snowy foam.
I said to the men: "This wave has missed us." They answered in serious voices, "And we must watch, for a more towering one will follow, as there are always three of them going together, and this second one may come and break over us."
These words were hardly uttered when I saw far off another mountainous wave rolling up. I imagined it was Hroenn. It was so high as it neared us that we could not see the horizon beyond; it looked fierce and dangerous. Its crest gradually rose higher and higher, as if getting ready to strike. Steadily Hroenn advanced. We are lost, and our ship is sure to founder if her wave breaks over our stern. The faces of the captain and men were serious. I said to myself: "If we get into the whirlpool of its crest there will be no escape; we are sure to founder."
The wave broke about fifty yards before reaching us. It had become harmless, but the foaming, scattered billows enveloped the ship in their thick spray. It was a narrow escape; but we were saved thus far! Then in the wake of the imaginary Hroenn rose another wave. I imagined Bylgja was coming. It advanced slowly and angrily towards us, ready to sweep our deck and to do the work the two others had tried to do and missed—demolish our ship. It broke before reaching us with a loud boom, making the sea a surging sheet of foam as white as snow for a long distance. This was a beautiful sight. We gave a great shout of joy; we had had a narrow escape.
After these three heavy seas came a lull. The captain said thoughtfully, "Those are the waves that disable or founder ships and send them to the bottom of the sea!"
We were indeed still in the midst of a great gale. But the captain and our crew had thus far fought against the storm successfully. I thought of the great Viking Half, and of his champions. It was their custom always to lie before capes, never to put up a tent on board, and never to reef a sail in a storm. Half had never more than sixty men on board of his ship, nor could any one go with him who was not so hardy that he never was afraid or changed countenance on account of his wounds. I wondered if Half and his men had ever encountered such a storm as we were having. If so his ship must have been a staunch vessel indeed.
As the hours passed the storm continued, the Daughters of AEgir and Ran rose again and again, trying to strike our ship; when their hoods were rent asunder, their long hair streamed on the gale.
In the afternoon the dark clouds were lower than usual and moved rapidly over our heads. The wind howled and hissed through the rigging. Wave after wave struck against the ship's side and deluged the deck with water. One of them took me off my feet and pitched me to the other side against the bulwarks, almost washing me overboard.
"You had better go into the cabin," said the captain; "this is no weather for you." But I replied, "Yes, captain, it is; I want to see this big storm with its mighty sea." I had hardly said these words when another wave came aboard of us. Two men were nearly washed overboard; fortunately they held fast to the rigging.
Soon after another big wave struck our port side, and carried away a part of our bulwarks, swamping our decks with a huge mass of water; this time nearly washing overboard all of us who were on deck. Looking at the havoc the wave had wrought, I remembered the saga which tells of the storm the celebrated Viking Fridthjof encountered at sea, and which says:
"Then came a wave breaking so strongly that it carried away the gunwales and part of the bow, and flung four men overboard, who were lost.
"'Now it is likely,' said Fridthjof, 'that some of our men will visit Ran. We shall not be thought fit to go there unless we prepare ourselves well. I think it is right that every man should carry some gold with him!' He cut asunder the arm ring of his sweetheart Ingibjoerg, and divided it among his men."
We had been running before the wind with all the sails we could carry safely, so that the ship might not be overtaken and swamped. As long as the ship can sail faster or quite as fast as the waves, it is all right; but if the waves go faster then there is great danger that the ship will be pooped by the sea,—that is, that the seas may come over the stern, and sweep over the deck, carrying everything away. In such a case it happens sometimes that all those who are on deck are swept overboard.
The sea finally became so high and so threatening that the captain ordered that we should heave to and wait for the storm to abate. To heave a ship to before the wind is a dangerous manoeuvre. We waited until three big seas had passed. There is generally a lull after that, and then is the time to bring the ship's head to the wind. During the evolution the ship is liable to get in the trough of the sea, when she rolls heavily, and has her deck swept by the waves. The dangerous operation in our case proved successful.
While our ship lay to we had just sail enough to keep her head to the wind, and she rode like a big albatross on the water, drifting a little to leeward. When she was in the hollow of two waves, these seemed like mountains ready to engulf us, but we rode safely over every one. As we lay to we felt perfectly secure. Our ship did not roll as if broadside to the seas, but pitched, rising slowly, over every wave.
After lying to for over six hours, the storm having somewhat moderated, we sailed east towards the shore; but before the day was over we encountered a cross-sea, the waves coming in every direction and striking against each other. The man at the helm had to watch them. Evidently there had been two or three heavy storms blowing in different directions. A cross-sea is very dangerous, for the man at the helm never knows where the wave will strike. After a while the wind shifted and was ahead, and now we had to beat against it and we sailed under close reefed sails. The wind seemed ten times stronger than before, for when a ship runs before the wind, the wind is not felt so much, as it goes with the ship.
As we came to a barren island, running parallel with the main land, we saw the angry sea lashing itself with a tremendous force against the solid base of mountain walls, filling the air each time it struck with a deep booming sound which seemed like the roar of cannon heard far off; the waves, as they struck the immovable wall of rocks which stopped their advance, breaking into a tumultuous mass of seething billows, which recoiled from the barrier that opposed them and fell back into a surging, boiling mass of white which soon after was hurled forward again by another advancing wave rushing on to meet the same fate. The whole coast was fringed as far as the eye could see with a mass of angry white billows. It was an awful sight.
Seamen dread the coast in a storm more than they do the waves in the middle of the ocean. We steered for the leeward of the island, and when we reached the sound separating it from the main land we came into smooth water where we cast anchor. We were to remain there until the storm abated, to give a good rest to the crew.
A DARK NIGHT AT SEA.—WAKE OF THE RAGNILD.—THOUSANDS OF PHOSPHORESCENT LIGHTS.—A LIGHT AHEAD.—AN ARCTIC FAIR.—A FISHING SETTLEMENT.—HOW THE COD ARE CURED.—FISH AND FERTILIZER FRAGRANCE.
The weather having moderated, we raised our anchor and with a fair wind continued our voyage. When the night came it was so pitch-dark that I could not distinguish the sea from the horizon and the sky. It was impressive. I felt so little in the immensity that surrounded our craft. Our ship, to my eyes, when compared with the size of the ocean, was not bigger than a tiny hazelnut tossed to and fro upon it.
Once in a while the crest of a wave broke into a long snowy-white line which appeared to be filled with a thousand lights; this effect was caused by the infinite number of animalculae, which are struck together by the movement of the wave and give out phosphorescence. These animalculae are living creatures which cannot be seen without the help of the microscope. It is wonderful that such small things can give such glowing light.
The long heavy swells, pushed by the southerly gales that had passed away, moved irresistibly on towards the North, one after another, to break the wall of ice the Long Night had built round the pole. What terrific booming must take place there at times, when the ice gives way, breaks up, and rises in great ridges over the Long Wall!
A light at our masthead told of our presence to the mariners of the fishing boats, or the vessels coming from far northern ports across our course, and warned them of danger.
Our ship ploughed her way through the sea, raising a mass of foam brilliant with globules of light. These globules swept astern along the sides of the ship, and disappeared further on. We left behind us an undulating luminous wake, resembling a long bright snake following us, which was gradually in the distance engulfed by the ocean. This luminous track seemed to be reeled off from a windlass at the stern of the ship.
As I watched this white serpentine phosphorescent pathway, I thought of the countless wakes that had been made in like manner since vessels sailed upon the seas, on their way to different lands, for thousands of years past, yet not one of those tracks has ever been seen again. No wonder that the Norsemen called the sea "The Hidden Path."
On deck were four men on the watch, who guarded the lives of those who had gone below to sleep. The man at the helm watched the compass, which was lighted by a lamp. A man at the prow was on the lookout for sudden danger—ships, derelicts, or rocks. Another stood amidships. The first mate paced the deck, watching for any change in the wind. Suddenly the man at the prow shouted:
"Light on the starboard bow!" It was the light of a ship sailing in the opposite direction towards us. In a snowstorm, in a fog, we might have collided; then both might have gone to the bottom of the sea.
To the leeward of us was the barren, forbidding coast; to the windward lay rocky islands. "Dear compass," I whispered, "we trust in thee; lead us right; the night is very dark, and our eyes cannot see rocks ahead, except, perchance, when it is too late."
Suddenly the bell struck: One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. It was midnight—time for the watch below to relieve the one on duty, and for the captain to take the place of the mate. Every four hours this change is made. I remained on deck, for I wanted to watch this dark night.
I came on deck early the next morning, for I smothered in the close confined cabin—I had been so accustomed to the bracing open air. As I looked around me I saw nothing but the great horizon which surrounded us. It had seemed so near every day, as we sailed towards it, and yet, no matter how long we sailed, we never came nearer. This was because the horizon is the boundless space in the midst of which the earth moves on its axis round the sun.
In the morning we came to a place full of people dressed in furs. They were Laplanders and Finlanders. A great fair was taking place, and most of the people had crossed the mountains to the Arctic Sea, taking with them for sale reindeer meat, butter, cheese, reindeer cheese made in the summer and autumn, frozen ptarmigans, skins of reindeer, bears, foxes, ermines, and other animals; ready-made clothing, gloves and shoes of reindeer skin; hoofs of reindeer, and other things. They bought salted and dried codfish, sugar, coffee, salt, and other groceries, flour, lamp oil, tobacco, and things for their wives and children, and took back cash with them.
After a short stay we raised our anchor, and continued to sail along that bleak coast until we came to a hidden harbor, well protected by a number of barren islands from the storms of the Arctic Ocean, and cast anchor before a large fishing settlement. It was the beginning of April.
It was a strange place indeed. The port was filled with fishing boats. Hundreds of them were drawn up on the shore, and other hundreds were at anchor. There were also a number of good-sized vessels and smaller craft. All along the rocky shore were huge piles of codfish caught that day. The water was crowded with boats moving in every direction, loaded with cod.
Alongside the big piles of fish, men dressed in wide trousers and overalls of leather were busy preparing the codfish. Some were cutting the heads off and throwing them into a pile, while others were opening the fish, cleaning them, and then, after flattening them, throwing them to other men, who salted them. After this operation they were carried to the warehouses and were ready for drying.
By some of the piles men opened and cleaned the fish and tied them together by twos. After this they were hung on frames or poles. In other places the men divided the cod in halves, taking their spines out, but kept them connected by their gills. These were also hung on the poles. When dry the fish is as hard as wood.
The eggs or ova were put into barrels and salted, and Captain Ole Petersen, who was with me, said to me: "Each barrel contains the ova of three hundred cod. They are sent to Italy and France and used in the sardine fisheries of those countries." Other men were busy putting the livers into barrels, two barrels of fat liver yielding about one barrel of brown oil. The tongues of the cod were taken out of the heads, put into barrels and salted.
I visited the warehouses, built partly on piles projecting into the sea. Along some of these were brigs and schooners loading.
What a sight was the inside of these warehouses! They were filled with long deep rows of freshly salted codfish, piled higher than a man and about the same width. These fish were to be put on board ships and landed upon rocks, there to stay until they were dried and ready to be shipped to foreign countries. The cod is the gold of the people living on this desolate land.
The country around was covered with frames upon which fish were hanging. Nets and lines were seen in every direction on the rocks, left to dry or ready to be mended. Wherever I turned the place was saturated with the blood of fish and offal. The sea was covered with offal; thousands of gulls were flying in every direction and feeding upon it, while great numbers of eider ducks, as tame as farm ducks, were swimming everywhere and feeding. They were not afraid, for no one is allowed to shoot them. The bare rocks were black with hundreds of thousands of heads of cod that had been put there to dry.
These heads, with the bones of fish, are turned into a fertilizer, or used to feed cattle. The heads are boiled before they are given to the animals. "Cattle and sheep feeding on dried fish heads!" I exclaimed with astonishment to my companion, "I never heard of this before."
I asked one of the merchants how he could live in such a place. "The atmosphere that brings money," he replied, "never smells bad. Where there is no smell there is no business and no money with us."
Goodness gracious! what a smell there was in this fishing settlement. It was far from pleasant, especially when compared with the pure air of the land over which I had travelled.
Several nice houses belonged to the merchants of the place. These were painted white and were very comfortable.
The cabins of the fishermen were scattered everywhere and were all alike. They were built of logs, with roofs covered with earth. I wanted to live with the fishermen and become acquainted with them.
AMONG THE FISHERMEN.—THEIR LODGINGS AND HOW THEY LOOK.—WHAT THEY HAVE TO EAT.—AN EVENING OF TALK ABOUT COD, SALMON, AND HERRING.—THE IMMENSE NUMBER OF FISH.—A SNORING MATCH.
Soon after Captain Petersen and I entered one of the houses of the fishermen. They had just returned from their fishing. I asked them if I could live with them for a few days. "Yes," they all replied with one voice. They knew Captain Petersen, I was with him: that was enough for them.
Strange indeed was the room. Each fisherman's cabin had only one. The wall was surrounded by two rows of bunks, on top of each other. The room was arranged like the forecastle of a ship.
"Where are you from?" one of the fishermen asked me.
"From America," I replied.
"From America!" they all exclaimed at once. "Is that possible?"
"Yes, he is from America," said Captain Petersen.
"I have a brother in America, in Minnesota," exclaimed one.
A second said: "I have a sister in Dakota."
A third: "I also have a brother in America; he sails on the Great Lakes."
From that moment those fishermen and I were great friends. They asked me my name. I replied, "My name is Paul Du Chaillu."
"Why!" some of the younger fishermen said, "we have read in school the translation of your travels in Africa. Are you really he?"
"Yes," I replied.
Twenty-eight men, the crews of four boats, including the captains, lived together. A cooking-stove was in the centre of the room; a few wooden benches and a table composed the rest of the furniture, while a number of chests contained the garments of the men, several coffee kettles, a pan and a big pot, etc.
All these twenty-eight men insisted that I should have a whole bunk to myself—the occupant would shift and go to another fellow. I must be comfortable, they said. I was not accustomed to living in their way.
A man took his things from his bunk. He was the captain of one of the boats. He said to me: "Paul, my bunk is yours." I had to accept.
When they had cooked their meal, they said: "Paul, eat with us simple fisher folk; we will give you the best we have; you are welcome." We had only one dish, and it was entirely new to me.
It was what the sailors called lobscouse, a sort of pudding made of ship biscuits, liver, and fish. I did not care much for it, but I said nothing to the fishermen. One said: "We eat this dish every day, and that will be your food when you are with us."
"Humph!" I said to myself. I remembered the elephants, the crocodiles, the snakes, and the monkeys, etc., I had had to eat while in Africa. The monkeys when fat were fine, and tasted so good I should have been willing to exchange a dish of lobscouse for a monkey.
After our meal we had coffee; each man owned his own cup. "We drink only coffee," they said, "for no spirits are allowed to be sold here, for fear some of the men while going to sea might become drunk, and endanger their lives, and the lives of those that are with them."
Our coffee drunk, we talked first about fish and their peculiar habits. The names of the four captains were John Ericksen, Hakon Johansen, Ole Larsen, Harald Andersen.
"Every spring," said Captain Ole, "salmon come up from the sea and ascend our rivers to spawn, and in time the little ones go to sea. As they grow up they continue to come every year to the same river where they were born, and nobody knows where they spend the interval."
After a pause, during which the fishermen filled their pipes, Captain Ericksen said: "Every year the codfish make their appearance in winter in vast shoals and countless millions on the Lofoden Islands banks to spawn. Then they migrate further north to the coast of Finmarken, then eastward as far as Russia. Then they disappear until the following winter. No one knows where they come from or where they go."
One of the men observed: "I have been a fisherman for over forty years, and it is wonderful how regularly the cod make their appearance on the fishing banks. We depend so much on their time of coming that we leave home every year at the same date. They must know their way in the ocean and recognize different marks on their journey, for they have to travel thousands of miles before they return to the fishing banks to spawn. The cod in their migration leave behind them a great many stragglers, which are caught all the year round. The number of cod caught on the banks of Finmarken and of the Lofoden Islands averages about forty to forty-two millions a year, and the total catch along the coasts of Norway amounts to about fifty millions a year. The land is barren, and if it were not for the fish we could not live in our country."
"Fifty millions of cod is a great number," I observed.
"Yes," he replied, "but these fifty millions are nothing but a small fraction compared with the great number that are not caught."
After our talk on the cod was finished, Captain Ericksen spoke about herrings as follows: "If the number of codfish caught is great, the number of herring is far greater. The herrings make their appearance in immense shoals, and it is beyond the power and calculation of man to guess their number, for their millions are countless. The migration of the herring is often very irregular. They appear generally from January to March. The herring are known to have disappeared for years in some districts, then suddenly reappear."
"That is strange," I said. "Can you account for that?"
"No," the captain replied; "if I were a herring I probably could tell." We all laughed when he said this.
I remarked: "The number of Norwegian fishing boats is so great, how do you know when some are missing and have foundered at sea?"
Captain Ericksen replied: "Every fishing district has its own letter on each boat belonging to it, and a number, and the name of every man composing its crew is registered; also his residence, the day of his birth, etc. This is necessary, for every year some poor fisherman's boat is lost and the crew drowned; thus the boat and crew missing can be identified. All the Norwegian men you see at the fisheries have homes—humble it is true—either on the fjords, by the coast, or on some little islands where there are a few patches of land which they can cultivate, raise potatoes and some grain, and where there is grass enough to keep a cow or two, sometimes more, some goats, and a few sheep to give us wool.
"That is the reason you see us so warmly clad. Our wives, daughters, or sisters, while we are absent from home think of us. They spin and weave the wool from our sheep into outer garments and underwear, knit stockings for us, and with some of the money we get from our catch of fish we buy waterproof clothing. With a good part of the money we save we buy things for our family and the provisions that we need, and put the rest in the bank."
It was time to retire, for we had to start up at five in the morning, if the weather permitted, for the fishing bank. It was agreed among the fishermen that I should go net-fishing in the boat owned by Captain Ole. What music we had during the night! All the fishermen snored. I thought I had never heard such a snoring before! I amused myself by wondering which one of them would have received the prize had it been a snoring match.
DEPARTURE FOR THE FISHING BANKS.—GREAT NUMBER OF BOATS.—MORE THAN FIVE THOUSAND OARS FALL INTO THE WATER AT THE SAME TIME.—QUANTITIES OF BUOYS AND GLASS BALLS.—A NOTABLE CATCH OF COD.
At four o'clock the next morning we were up. It was the dawn of the day. It was wonderful how quickly the nights shortened. Coffee, flat bread, butter, and cheese made our breakfast.
When we came out almost all the boats with their full crews were ready waiting for the hoisting of the flag at five o'clock, which is the signal for the start, the time changing according to the length of the day. We all had to leave together, and to return the same day. Every one, including myself, was dressed in oilskin garments, sou'wester, and high sea-boots. There were more than nine hundred fishing boats. As soon as the flag was hoisted over five thousand oars struck the water at the same time, and filled the air with a deep booming sound. I had never seen so many sea boats and oars together. It was a grand sight!
As soon as we were out of the harbor the boats hoisted their sails, and soon we were scattered in every direction, each boat going towards its buoys. I looked at the thousands of white sails with wonder.
Our fishing boat was a fine craft, forty-two feet long and about seven feet and a half beam. The poop was decked under for a cabin, with bunks for the men to sleep in. The rudder-like oar, several feet long, is held by the captain, who sculls and steers at the same time.
Captain Ole was a regular "old salt." Our crew was composed of Sven, Hakon, Fridthjof, Ivor, Evert, Harald and Erik. Evert and Harald were lads about seventeen years old; they were learning to be hardy sailors like their father.
After a sail of three hours' beating against the wind, we came to the fishing banks and towards our buoys. The water for as far as I could see was filled with buoys and glass balls (floaters to hold the nets) enclosed in netted ropes. These glass balls were attached by a short cord to the nets to keep them floating, while stones at the bottom held the nets stretched. It was no easy matter to sail among them.
Looking at the multitudes of buoys I asked Captain Ole, "How can you ever find and recognize your own buoys?"
He answered smiling, "We can find our nets by the bearings, and every buoy has its special mark of ownership. It is hard work to haul in the nets, especially when the sea is rough. Each net is one hundred and twenty fathoms long, and about three fathoms deep;—we sailors do not count by yards but by fathoms. Each fathom is six feet long. In our boat we have to raise twenty-four nets tied together in fours."
"I will help you all I can," I replied; "I am willing to work. I have come to sea and I am in your boat as one of the crew, and I will try to do my part. I hope we are going to have good luck, and that the catch of cod will be big."
To Evert and Hakon was assigned the duty of pulling in the nets. Two other men stowed the nets carefully. Near the net-reels were two men who hooked the fish as they appeared and threw them inside of the boat, and another man and I arranged the nets. How eager we were as the nets were hauled up to peep and see how plentiful the fish were; for these represented money—and the poor fishermen work so hard to get a livelihood.
The sea was rough and it took us about ten minutes to haul each net. After they were all in, we estimated that we had caught about eight hundred codfish. This was considered a very fine catch. Then a consultation was held to decide where to re-set the nets. It was very important to know the direction in which the fish had gone on the banks, for these big shoals were constantly moving as they spawned.
After they had decided where to go our sail was hoisted, and we started for another part of the fishing banks; in the mean time the nets were inspected and put into good order. When we reached the spot, we sounded twice and found the sea too deep. When we found a depth of one hundred fathoms we set our nets, after which we returned home.
On our return we went on board of one of the ships, and our fish was bought by the captain at a little over eight dollars a "big hundred,"—that is, 112 cod.
On the deck of this ship were already several boat-loads of cod; the fish were cleaned, flattened, washed and salted, and laid in the hold on the top of one another.
The captain said to me: "When I am loaded I shall sail for my farm, and then lay the fish on the rocks to dry. I have a nice little home by the sea. I hope my boys will one of these days be sailors as I am." Then we shook hands with the captain and returned to our cabin.
Before we went to bed we learned that the catch of all the boats of the settlement that day had been over six hundred thousand cod.
The following morning found me ready to start at the appointed time for fishing with hook and line. The departure of the boats took place in the same manner as the day before. Our boat was not so large as the netting boat; it was not decked over.
Captain Johansen steered. The men of our crew were Mats, Pehr, Anders, Ole, Knut, and Roar.
Captain Johansen had fished in the Arctic regions for forty-two consecutive years. His face had been permanently reddened by the wind. Whenever he had a chance he had his pipe in his mouth, and he told me that his pipe was one of his best friends.
We had a fair wind at the start and in about one hour the men came to their buoys. Then we lowered the sail. The sea was covered with boats; there were nearly fifteen hundred in sight, for they had come to that part of the banks from several other fishing settlements. These boats were manned by about eleven thousand sailors; men enough to man a big fleet of men-of-war.
Captain Johansen said: "We are going to have hard work raising our lines, but if we catch many fish the work will seem to be much lighter to us."
"That is so," I said, "Captain, for when I go hunting and see no game I get tired; but if I see plenty of game, then I can tramp all day without fatigue."
A large reel was placed on one side of the boat to haul in the line. Before we began to haul the lines the captain remarked: "We attach four lines together; each line is one hundred fathoms long. The hooks are generally from four to six feet apart and there are about one hundred and twenty on each line. We have to pull in over twenty-four hundred fathoms or over twenty-six thousand feet of line, to which are attached about five thousand hooks."
"Indeed," I said to the captain, "it will be hard work and will take quite a while, especially if many fish are caught."
"I hope, nevertheless, we shall catch many," he replied with a smile, "for most of us have a home to keep and a wife and children to clothe and feed."
We began to haul in the lines on the reel. How we watched! How deep our eyes tried to see into the water! It was quite exciting. We were fortunate: a big shoal of fish had been passing on that part of the banks, and on many a hook a cod was hanging. After we got through, we pulled towards another of our buoys, passing several that belonged to other fishermen on the way.
Having pulled in about three hundred fathoms of our next line, we found that the rest of the line had drifted into a net and some of the hooks were caught and entangled in it, and we had a hard job to free the line.
Then we rowed to a third buoy belonging to us and began hauling. Almost every other hook had caught a fish. The faces of the fishermen were full of happiness. They felt that on that day they would have a great catch, when suddenly one of the men shouted, "Our line is entangled; I wonder whether it has fouled a net or another line." But as we pulled in the line we raised another line with it not belonging to us. We had a hard time to separate them, but after nearly half an hour's work succeeded in doing so. We had caught over two hundred cod on this line.
Our fourth line proved to be entangled in nets as well as also in several lines belonging to different owners. The untwisting was something awful, and it was no joke to separate them. Fortunately we could tell to whom the lines belonged, for each one is marked from distance to distance with the number of the boat and the letter of the district from which the craft comes. The rest of the lines were so badly tangled that we concluded to cut them. Then we pulled the cut pieces with the fish on them into our boat, intending to give them to their owners—not a difficult task, as the marks of ownership were on the tackles—and if they belonged to another settlement the fish would be sold and the money given them.
Captain Johansen and the crew thought the cod would remain two days more. Their advance guard had passed, but a great deal of the shoal was going northward; and there were miles of cod still to pass over the bank upon which we fished.
The wind had been gradually rising. We had had two days of good weather, and now the sea was covered with white caps. The daughters of AEgir and Ran were all white-hooded. But as we sailed for home the wind suddenly increased; squall after squall followed each other. We had to reef the sail; the sea at times washed over us, and the poor fishermen began to think seriously of throwing our cargo of fish overboard, for we were pretty deeply loaded, but it would have been like throwing away money, and they had worked so hard to get it.
A big black cloud overspread our heads and hail fell thickly upon us, and it hurt us badly for the hailstones were hard and very big. I tried to protect my face, for my sou'wester only protected well the back of my head. The hail was succeeded by sleet, the rigging and mast were covered with ice; our garments and sou'westers were stiff, and we looked like big icy things. The captain, looking at me with a smile,—for he saw I did not like this sort of weather, said: "This weather is the forerunner of spring in these high latitudes; the sun is getting higher at its meridian every day."
It was dark long before we reached port, but the men knew every rock on the coast, and yonder was the lighthouse guiding us on our way. Boat after boat entered the harbor, and not one of them was lost.
The next day the gale was such that no boat was permitted to put out to sea. In the evening there was very little talking, and for a while no one said a word; then Captain Johansen broke the silence and said: "Paul, this Arctic Ocean is the home of gales; these often bring sadness to many homes; some of us here have lost friends and relatives at sea. Some years ago a fishing fleet of eight hundred boats was caught in one of these sudden gales. After the boats had come safely into port the roll-call showed that twenty boats with their crews were missing."
"How sad!" I exclaimed; and as Captain Johansen was speaking I wondered how many people thought, when they ate fish, of the hard life of the poor and brave fishermen and of the gales they encounter.
The fishermen wanted to entertain me before we retired for the night, and Captain Larsen said, "I will tell you, Paul, about one of the great sea battles of the Vikings."
A GREAT VIKING SEA FIGHT.—SVEIN KING OF DENMARK, OLAF KING OF SWEDEN, ERIK JARL OF NORWAY, AGAINST KING OLAF TRYGGVASSON OF NORWAY.—THEY LIE IN AMBUSH.—MAGNIFICENT SHIPS.—THE LONG SERPENT.—READY FOR THE FIGHT.—THE ATTACK.—THE JARN BARDI.—DEFEAT OF OLAF TRYGGVASSON.
After we had clustered round Captain Larsen, he gave three or four big puffs of his pipe and began:
The battle of Svold took place in the year one thousand. Olaf Tryggvasson, King of Norway, had left Vindland in the Baltic and was on his way back to Norway with his fleet. He was on his ship the Ormrinn Lange (the "Long Serpent"). Svein, the King of Denmark, Olaf King of Sweden, and Erik Jarl of Norway, his enemies, lay in ambush for him under the island of Svold with all their ships. The three chiefs landed on the island. After a while they espied some ships of the fleet of Olaf. Among them was a particularly large and splendid one. Both kings said: "This is an exceedingly fine ship; it must be the Long Serpent."
Erik Jarl, who knew the Long Serpent, answered: "This is not the Long Serpent, which is much larger and grander, though this is a fine ship."
Ship after ship passed by and the two kings took each of them to be the Long Serpent, but they received invariably the same answer from Erik Jarl.
The three chiefs drew lots to know who should first attack Olaf Tryggvasson's ship. Svein, King of Denmark, drew the lot to attack first; then Olaf, King of Sweden, and Erik Jarl last, if it should be found necessary. It was agreed between the three chiefs that each should own the ships which he himself cleared of men and captured.
Erik Jarl's ship was called the Jarn Bardi, an iron-clad ram which had the reputation of cleaving through every ship it attacked; there were beaks on the top of both stem and stern, and below these were thick iron plates which covered the whole of the stem and stern all the way down to the water.
When the chiefs had arranged their plan, they saw three very large ships, and following them a fourth; they all saw a dragon-head on the stem, ornamented so that it seemed of pure gold, and it gleamed far and wide over the sea as the sun shone on it. As they looked at the ship, they wondered greatly at its length, for the stern did not appear till long after they had seen the prow, as the ship glided past the point of the island slowly; then all knew that this was the Long Serpent—a ship about three hundred and sixty feet long, with a crew of over seven hundred and fifty men.
At this sight many a man grew silent.
Sigvaldi Jarl, one of Olaf Tryggvasson's commanders, let down the sails on his ship and rowed up towards the island. Thorkel Dydril on the Tranan (the "Crane"), and the other ship-steerers (for the commanders were so called), lowered their sails also and followed him. All waited for Olaf Tryggvasson. When King Olaf saw that his men had lowered their sails and were waiting for him, he steered towards them and asked them why they did not go on. They told him that a host of foes was before them and that the fleets of the allied kings lay around the point.
Advancing further the King Olaf Tryggvasson and his men saw that the sea was covered far and wide with the warships of his foes. Thorkel Dydril, a wise and valiant man, said: "Lord, here is an overwhelming force to fight against: let us hoist our sails and follow our men out to sea. We can still do so while our foes prepare themselves for battle, for it is not looked upon as cowardice by any one for a man to use forethought for himself and his men." King Olaf Tryggvasson's men now missed the ships that had sailed ahead.
King Olaf replied loudly: "Tie together the ships and let the men prepare for battle!" for in those days it was the custom to tie the ships together. Then the commanders arranged the host.
The Long Serpent was in the middle, with the Short Serpent on one side and the Crane on the other, and four other ships on each side of them; but this fleet was but a small one compared with the overwhelming fleet which their enemies had.
When Olaf saw that they began to tie together the stern of the Long Serpent and of the Short Serpent, he called out loudly, "Bring the Long Serpent forward; I will not be the hindmost of all my men in this fleet when the battle begins!"
Then Ulf ("Wolf") the Red, the king's standard bearer, and who was also his prow-defender, said: "If the Long Serpent shall be put as much forward as it is larger and longer than other ships, the men in the bows will have a hard time of it!"
The king cried: "I had the Serpent made longer than other ships so that it should be put forward more boldly in battle, but I did not know I had a prow-defender who was faint-hearted!"
Ulf replied: "Turn thou, King, no more back in defending the high deck than I will in defending the prow!"
Olaf Tryggvasson stood aloft on the high deck of the Long Serpent. He had a shield, and gilt helmet, and was easily recognized. He wore a red silk kirtle over his ring-armor.
When he saw that the ships of his foes began to separate, and that the standards were raised in front of each chief, he asked: "Who is the chief of that standard which is opposite us?" He was told that it was King Svein of Denmark with the Danish ships.
"What chief follows the standard which is to the right?" He was told that it was Olaf of Sweden.
"Who owns those large ships to the left of King Olaf of Sweden?"
"It is Erik Jarl Hakonson," they replied.
Then Svein of Denmark, Olaf of Sweden, and Erik Jarl rowed towards the Long Serpent.
The battle horns were blown and both sides shouted a war-cry, and soon the combat raged fiercely,—at first with arrows from crossbows and long bows, then with spears and javelins and slings—and King Olaf Tryggvasson fought most manfully. King Svein's men turned the prows of many of their ships towards both sides of the Long Serpent. The Danes also attacked the Short Serpent and the Crane. The carnage was great.
King Svein made the stoutest onset. King Olaf Tryggvasson made the bravest defence with his men, but they fell one after another. King Olaf fought almost too boldly, shooting arrows and hurling spears; he went forward in hand-to-hand fight, and cleft many a man's skull with his sword.
The attack proved difficult for the Danes, for the stern-defenders of the Long Serpent and of the Short Serpent hooked anchors and grappling hooks to King Svein's ships, and as they could strike down upon the enemy with their weapons, for they had much larger and higher boarded ships, they cleared of men all the Danish ships which they had laid hold of. King Svein had to retreat.
In the mean time Erik Jarl had come first with the Jarn Bardi alongside the farthest ship of Olaf Tryggvasson on one wing, cleared it, and cut it from the fastenings; he then boarded the next one, and fought until it was cleared of men; and as the men fell on his ship, other Danes and Swedes took their places. At last all of Olaf Tryggvasson's ships had been cleared of men and captured except the Long Serpent, which carried all the men who were now able to fight.
Erik Jarl then attacked the Long Serpent with five large ships; he laid the Jarn Bardi alongside, and then ensued the fiercest fight and the most terrible hand-to-hand struggle of the day, and such a shower of weapons was poured upon the Long Serpent that the men could hardly protect themselves.
King Olaf Tryggvasson's men became so furious that they jumped upon the gunwales in order to reach their foes with their swords and kill them, and many went straight overboard; for out of eagerness and daring they forgot that they were not fighting on dry ground, and sank down with their weapons between the ships.
When only a few men were left on the Long Serpent around the mast amidships, Erik Jarl boarded it with fourteen men. Then came against him King Olaf's brother-in-law, Hyrning, with his followers, and between them ensued a hard fight. It was ended by Erik Jarl's retreating onto the Bardi, which took away the dead and the wounded, and in their stead brought fresh and rested men.
When Erik had prepared his men, he said to Thorkel the High, a wise and powerful chief: "Often have I been in battles, and never have I before found men equally brave and so skilled in fighting as those on the Long Serpent, nor have I seen a ship so hard to conquer. Now, as thou art one of the wisest of men, give me the best advice thou knowest as to how the Long Serpent may be won!"
Thorkel replied: "I cannot give thee sure advice, but I can say what seems to me best to do. Thou must take large timbers, and let them fall from thy ship upon the gunwales of the Long Serpent, so that it will careen; then thou wilt find it the easier to board the ship."
Erik Jarl did as Thorkel had told him.
King Olaf and his men defended themselves with the utmost bravery and manliness; they slew many of their foes, both on the Jarn Bardi and on other ships which lay near theirs.
When the defenders of the Long Serpent began to thin out, Erik Jarl boarded it and met with a warm reception.
Olaf Tryggvasson shot at him with spears. The first flew past his right side, the second his left, and the third struck the fore part of the ship above his head.
Then King Olaf said: "Never before did I thus miss a man; great is the Jarl's luck."
In a short time most of King Olaf's champions fell, though they were both strong and valiant. Among them Hyrning, Thorgier, Vikar, and Ulf the Red, and many other brave men who left a famous name behind. The Long Serpent was now cleared of men and captured, but Olaf Tryggvasson was never seen or heard of more. He probably threw himself into the sea not to survive his defeat.
"It was a grand fight, Captain Larsen!" I exclaimed, as the narrator concluded his story. I thanked the captain, and after this we all went to our bunks to sleep.
The following day was Sunday. There was no buying or selling of fish. Every man was shaved and wore clean linen; the church was crowded with fishermen, and the afternoon was spent in making social visits.
I had fished with the four boats of our house, and now I made my preparations for sailing northward. Our catch of fish and that in several neighboring fishing settlements during the fishing season had amounted to over twenty-two millions of cod.
SAILING ALONG THE COAST OF FINMARKEN.—HAMMERFEST, THE MOST NORTHERN TOWN IN THE WORLD.—SCHOOLS.—FRUHOLMEN, THE MOST NORTHERN LIGHTHOUSE IN THE WORLD.—AMONG THE SEA LAPPS.—MEN AND WOMEN SAILORS.
Leaving the fishing settlement, the Ragnild, which I had rejoined, sailed along the rugged and dreary shore of Finmarken, the most northern part of the continent of Europe, passing now and then a solitary fisherman's house, or a settlement hidden from sight, though the stranger would never dream that any human being lived in this land of rocks and desolation.
We next came to Hammerfest, in 70 deg. 40' north latitude, the most northern town in the world. In its commodious port were English, French, Russian, German, Swedish, and Norwegian vessels. Hundreds of fishing boats were there also, waiting for favorable winds to continue their voyage. Steamers were going and coming from the south.
The population was about three thousand souls. There were warehouses owned by rich merchants, a church, a comfortable hotel, good schools where boys and girls can learn French, English, German, Latin and Greek.
The streets were filled with snow. But though so far north there was not a particle of ice in the port, on account of the warm Gulf Stream, though sometimes the thermometer reaches 20 degrees below zero. Often during the winter the mercury stands for consecutive days above the freezing point.
After leaving Hammerfest we sailed towards North Cape. Suddenly I heard one of the sailors on the watch shout, "Light! Light!" "What," said I, "a lighthouse so far north?"
"Yes," replied the captain, who was standing near me; "it is the most northern light on the globe. It is the light on the island of Fruholmen, situated in latitude 71 deg. 5' north." We sailed as far as North Cape, on the island of Mageroe, rising majestically to a height of nine hundred and eighty feet above the sea, and in latitude 71 deg. 10'. At the top of the cape there was evidently a gale, for the snow was flying to a great height.
As we were sailing along the shore, I saw some strange-looking weather-beaten logs, covered with barnacles. The captain said to me, "Some of these logs come probably from the coast of South America, from the Amazon and Orinoco rivers; the Gulf Stream has brought them here. It has taken them a long time to reach this place, for they are covered with barnacles."
Instead of doubling North Cape, we sailed through the narrow Mageroe Sound which separates the island from the mainland.
We had hardly entered the sound when I was astonished by the view that met my eyes, for now there were fishing settlements coming suddenly into view, with comfortable, white-painted houses, ships at anchor, glittering churches shining in the sun, and school buildings.
We sailed across the Porsanger Fjord. Far off was Nordkyn, upon the summit of which I had stood. The coast looked dreary indeed! We sailed across Laxe Fjord and doubled Nordkyn.
The following day we entered a fjord and came upon a number of fishing boats that were returning from the open sea. Some of these boats rowed towards us, and soon were alongside of our craft, and we engaged in conversation.
These people appeared very strange; they were dressed like the nomadic Lapps, with the noteworthy exception, however, that the fur of the reindeer skin was on the inside of their garments. They were Sea Lapps.
I looked at the crews of the boats, and was more astonished still, for some of the boats were partly manned by women, and big girls; other crews were entirely composed of women with a man for captain. One boat was entirely manned by women, the captain included. I could not easily distinguish the men from the women, for the features of the women were coarse from exposure to the storms of the Arctic Sea. They wore reindeer trousers like the men, as indeed do the women of the nomadic Lapps. They rowed quite as well as the men, too. They were distinguishable by their long shaggy hair. It was of a dark chestnut, with a reddish tinge—almost black in some. They wore it hanging over their shoulders. It was indeed a strange sight, and I looked at them with great curiosity, for I had never seen such people before—women who were sailors, some captains of boats, going to sea and braving the storms of the inhospitable ocean.
Captain Petersen said to me: "Almost all these sea Laplanders own their crafts. Some of these are commanded by the husband, while the wife, the daughters, sister or hired woman form the crew; the women are very hardy, and excellent sailors; they pull as hard as strong men, and can use the oar as long as the men do."
The captain was right—for I could not see any difference between their rowing and that of the men as they followed us.
When they learned that I had come to see their land and wanted to live among them, they were glad. They asked my name, and they were told that I was called Paulus.
Then many of these Sea Lapps said:
"Come, Paulus, and stay a few days with us; we will take good care of you;" and pointing to a hamlet at a distance, "there we live, and soon we shall be at home."
Looking towards where they pointed, I saw smoke curling up from strange-looking dwellings. The settlement was scattered on the brow of a hill looking down upon the fjord.
As the word went round that I was coming to stay with them, the Sea Lapps made haste and rowed with all their might; the women were especially in earnest, for they wanted to prepare their houses for my reception before I landed. Soon they all were far ahead, and after they had landed I saw them running as fast as they could towards their homes. Evidently they were going to announce my arrival to the people who had remained at home.
Here I parted with the Ragnild, which sailed to another fjord for more fish.
A SEA LAPP HAMLET.—STRANGE HOUSES.—THEIR INTERIORS.—SUMMER DRESS OF THE SEA LAPPS.—PRIMITIVE WOODEN CART.—ANIMALS EAT RAW FISH.—I SLEEP IN A SEA LAPP'S HOUSE.—THEY TELL ME TO HURRY SOUTHWARD.
When I had landed, and ascended the hill towards the settlement, I found myself in a Sea Lapp hamlet. I looked at their dwellings with great curiosity. Some of the buildings were conical and resembled the tent of the nomadic Lapps; but they were built of sod or turf. There were others resembling in shape log houses, with only a ground floor, built entirely of the same material. Others were partly of stone and turf. Some were entirely of stone slabs. Two houses were built of logs.
In the mean time the people had changed their clothes, and wore their summer every-day dress called vuolpo (though it was still cold), ready to receive me.
Some of these summer dresses were made of coarse vadmal of a gray or blackish color; others were blue. Most were in a ragged state, or patched—having when new been used as Sunday clothes. The men wore square caps of red or blue flannel, and the women had extraordinary looking head-gear resembling casques of dragoons, on account of the wooden frame under the cloth. These were also red or blue.
"Come in," said one of the Sea Lapps, "come into my gamme (house) and see how I live." His house was of conical shape and built of sod, supported inside by a rough frame formed of branches of trees. A fire was burning in the centre of the hut, the smoke escaping by an aperture above; and upon cross poles hung shoes, boots, and clothing. This sod hut was about twelve feet high and eight feet in diameter. A large kettle hung over the fire. It was filled with seaweed, which was cooking for the cows. I tasted it and found it very palatable and not at all salt.
I was hardly in this gamme when I wished myself out, but kept this to myself, for I did not want to hurt the feelings of the poor Lapp. The interior of the place was horribly filthy—dirty reindeer skins lay on the ground upon old dirty dried grass. A tent of a nomadic Lapp was a model of cleanliness compared with this! The outside was just as bad; on the ground lay the entrails and heads of fish, and a couple of barrels filled with half-putrid liver which in time would make a barrel of brown oil; there were a great many codfish heads drying on the rocks.
"Will you stay and have a cup of coffee with us?" my host asked.
"Yes," added his wife, "it will not take long to make a cup of coffee."
"Not to-day," I replied, "but some other time."
"All right," the host said; "don't forget."
I was glad when I got out. This abode was the gamme of a poor Sea Lapp, and the poorest kind of dwelling seen among them.
The next house, which was at a short distance, belonged to the captain of one of the boats which had been alongside of our ship. He and his wife were waiting for me outside and bade me come in. His house was long, narrow, and low, and built entirely of flat stones. I entered through a wooden door a room built in the centre of the house. Their winter garments hung on poles, there was a pile of firewood, and a heap of dry seaweed and reindeer moss.
I followed him to the room on the left. There the family lived. The floor of the room was covered with flat slabs; in one corner was a bed on the floor, itself made of young branches of birch, kept together by logs. The skins that made the rest of the bed were outside to be aired. This room was about ten feet long and about ten feet wide, the whole width of the house, and lighted by a small window with tiny panes of glass.
At the foot of the bed in the corner was a small cow. Such a cow! I had never seen one so small. In the opposite corner was another one. These two cows were hardly three feet high, and between the two were a calf and three sheep. "These animals," said my host, "help us to keep our room warm and comfortable during the winter months."
This was a very strange way of heating a room, I thought to myself.
"Come and stay with us to-night," added the Lapp. "You will sleep comfortably and you will not be cold."
The furniture of the room consisted of some kettles, a coffee pot, coffee grinder, a lamp, and a few chests. Everything, strange to say, was very clean. The third room contained a few nets, and on the floor were a few reindeer skins upon which slept any stranger who chanced to share their dwelling. I was a favored guest. I was to sleep in the same room with the host, hostess, cows and sheep. I was considered as one of the family.
I slept splendidly. In the morning I had water to wash my face with. That was fine! I gave myself a good rubbing with soap, for I said, "Paul, after you leave this place it will be quite a while before you wash your face, except with snow." But I could not as successfully get rid of the odor of the stable, which clung to my clothes with a persistence that would have driven every friend I had away from me if I had been at home.
Not far from this gamme was the house of another well-to-do Sea Lapp, one of the rich fellows of the hamlet. His house was long and narrow, one part built of logs, the remainder of layers of turf.
The wooden part was the every-day room—parlor, bedroom, kitchen. The roof was supported by poles and covered with birch bark, over which more than a foot of earth had been placed to keep the cold out; the birch bark was used as shingles and kept the rain from dripping inside. Two little cows, two dwarfish oxen, eight sheep, and two goats completed the household, and these were housed in the turf compartment.
Further on I passed a somewhat long and narrow house built entirely of turf, which I also visited, and as I came out of it a very strange sight greeted me. Several people were returning with their dwarfish carts loaded with seaweed; each was drawn by a team of two wretched little oxen not bigger than the cows of the place—that is, not more than three feet in height. Some were driven by women, others by men or children.
These queer-looking small carts were of the same pattern as those used thousands of years ago. The wheels were of a solid block of wood hewn out of the trunk of fir trees, which grow on the banks of some of the fjords, though the land is so far north, owing to the effects of the Gulf Stream. These wheels were of the pattern first made by man, and for thousands of years there had been no improvement; just as in some parts of the world the natives to-day still use the dug-out, or canoe made of the trunk or bark of a tree—the primitive boat of man. The carts were loaded with seaweed, fish, or reindeer moss.
I stayed here several days, and one day I went to see Ole Maja, the nabob of the place. Ole was an old Sea Lapp, who was considered very rich among his neighbors. His house was entirely built of logs, and was much admired by the people. The little room had two plain pine-wood beds, a cast-iron stove (the only one in the hamlet), a clock and three wooden chairs. Everything was exceedingly clean. He belonged to the best type of Sea Lapps.
Ole owned a horse, which had a special stable built of turf, and his four cows, two oxen, and twelve sheep were kept in another building. I asked what he wanted a horse for in these high latitudes. He answered: "We use them on the frozen rivers to draw logs." "The hay I gather in summer," he added, "is for him. Horses are very particular, they will not eat the kind of food we give to our cattle, sheep or goats." I did not wonder at this.
I noticed, as there was no snow on the ground, that all the dwellings of the little hamlet had small patches of land round them, which were to be planted with potatoes when warm weather came.
Those who had the best houses wanted me to stay with them, and to avoid making distinctions I agreed to remain with each family one day until I went away. They seemed very much pleased.
I witnessed one day the feeding of the cattle, sheep, and goats. This was a sight! They were to be fed on that day with raw fish cut in pieces, instead of boiled heads of dry cod, or boiled lichen. These pieces of fish were put in large wide wooden pails, the animals were called, and they devoured the contents with great avidity. This amazed me greatly. Just think of cattle feeding on raw fish!
One day found me comfortably settled in a gamme which belonged to Matias Laiti. The chief meal was of reindeer meat and fish,—a boiled head of fresh cod. This is considered the sweetest and nicest part of the fish. A great wooden bowl of milk was given to me. The milk had a queer taste—it had a fishy taste—so had everything else, I thought. I am sure that if the cannibals that were my friends in Africa had been here, and eaten me up, they would have found that I tasted of fish, for I had been living on fish ever so long.
I kept visiting one Sea Lapp and his family after another, and had a good time—living on fish and reindeer meat, for the Sea Lapps own reindeer which are kept for their relations or friends further in the interior. Sea Lapps intermarry much with river Lapps, and also with nomadic Lapps. They form really one family.
On Sunday morning they were dressed in their best vuolpo head-dresses and garments. These were red, blue and white, with red and yellow bands at the bottom of the skirt. Some had pretty belts, and wore necklaces of large glass beads. The women and men had combed their hair, and it was not to be combed again for a week. They all had washed their faces and hands. One woman wore a pair of blue woollen trousers, fitting tight from the knees to the ankle, had put on a new pair of Lapp shoes, and wore casque-like head-gear, which was blue like her dress and had red seams. The boats were ready to be rowed across the fjord to take them to the church, where service was held once in three weeks. They were all Lutherans.
There were hardly any children in the place. The school was the other side of the fjord by the church. The children were about to return to their parents, for in summer there is no school. All the Swedish-Norwegian Lapps know how to read and write.
One evening as we were talking round a bright fire, one of the Lapps said to me, "Paulus, you have told us that you intend to travel southward by land. If that is so, there is no time to be lost, for the sun is getting more powerful every day, and the snow will soon be in an unfit condition for reindeer to travel on, and the ice over the rivers and lakes will break; besides you are going to have great difficulty in procuring reindeer, for no reindeer can be had at the post stations now. You may be detained on the way, and be obliged to wait until snow has melted and the rivers become navigable. At this time of the year the reindeer are very feeble; it is the worst time to travel with them; they shed their coats and horns and are weak and lean from their winter digging. During the day they feel the heat of the sun, and do not go as fast as during the winter months. So, though we love to have you stay with us, if you want to go you had better hasten your departure. Do not forget to take with you blue or green goggles, for the glare is so intense, on account of the bright sun, you will surely become snow-blind if you have none with you. We are going to send for reindeer, and we will give you a guide to go with you."
The long days come on with remarkable rapidity in this far North. The sun was below the horizon till the latter part of January, and now on the 25th of April in clear weather I could read a newspaper at midnight. There were to be no more nights. The Long Night had been driven away from the pole.
COMPARISON OF FINMARKEN WITH ALASKA.—THE TWO LANDS MUCH ALIKE.—WHAT MUST BE DONE FOR ALASKA.—COLONIZATION.—IMPORTATION OF REINDEER.—PROTECTION OF FISHERIES.—HOUSES OF REFUGE.
That same evening (it has to be called so for the sake of distinction) I stood out on the brow of the hill, looking at the fjord and Arctic Ocean. Suddenly Alaska came to my mind. I remembered all I had seen on the coast of Finmarken, and also all I had encountered and done in "Snow Land", "The Land of the Long Night," and "The Land of the Winds," and I said to myself, "Why should not Alaska have its fishing towns, settlements, and hamlets, like those of Finmarken, and become as prosperous as the country I have travelled through?" There is a wonderful similarity between these two countries; they are both exactly in the same latitudes; they have the same kind of barren coast bathed by a warm stream, and both have fjords.
Alaska has immense shoals of codfish and herring, besides salmon. Both have their long nights, and then long days of Midnight Sun. We must give inducements to the people of Finmarken to come to Alaska. They will find in their new country something similar to the one they have left, they will enjoy the same life. California and Oregon will provide the people with flour and send them delicacies and products of their state, and take in return the cod and herring. The southern American countries would be a great market for their codfish.
Then I thought that the only way to make Alaska prosperous eventually, is to do exactly what the Swedes and Norwegians have done for their country in the far North. The fisheries must be protected, and the laws regulating them must be enforced. Then, as on the Finmarken coast, towns, hamlets, and fishing settlements will rise in the course of time, and the wealth of the people will come from the fish—their gold from the sea. Then we shall have more American-born sailors to man our ships.
Some of the barren hills of Alaska should be planted with juniper, birch, alder, and with pine and fir and other trees growing in the high altitudes of the mountains of Scandinavia. It will take a good deal of time, but the world was not made in one day. The Scandinavian laws regarding the cutting of trees below a certain size ought to be adopted for Alaska.
Then we must import many reindeer, and establish the same laws in regard to them and their pasture as the Swedes and Norwegians have done. A great many of these reindeer must be broken, and brought up to eat kept reindeer moss. Samoides and Laplanders must be induced to come to Alaska; they know how to take care of the reindeer, they are accustomed to law and order, and they are absolutely honest.
"Yes, indeed, they are honest," I said loudly without knowing it; "for they knew I had money with me, and I have never been afraid of being robbed or murdered. Such thoughts have never entered my head." Then I thought of the good care these kind people took of me when there was danger in travelling.
Wherever there is a little good grazing land, houses and farms of refuge, and post stations where reindeer can be procured, must be built by the government in the interior, so that people can find refuge from the terrific storms that blow over Alaska, and I cannot realize how they could be fiercer than those I had encountered in Finmarken. With reindeer and skees, travelling will become easy, and good distances will be made in a short time.
In summer boat stations must be established along navigable rivers, also a tariff made for distances and for food—so that there be no overcharge—as is done in Sweden, Norway, and Finland.
Little hamlets with the church and the school will rise. Doctors must be sent, and paid a salary by the government; besides a fee must be given by the patient, who will then not call the doctor for a trifle.
PREPARATIONS TO LEAVE THE ARCTIC COAST.—GREAT DANGER OF ENCOUNTERING MELTING SNOW, OR RIVERS MADE DANGEROUS BY THE ICE BREAKING.—REINDEER COME.—FAREWELL TO THE SEA LAPPS.—I LEAVE FOR MORE SOUTHERN LAND.
The advice the Sea Lapps had given me was not to be neglected, and I at once made hasty preparations for my journey southward. There was not one hour or one minute to be lost. I did not want to be caught in the midst of vast tracts of half-melted snow, seven, eight, or ten feet deep, with reindeer unable to travel further; or to drive over rivers and lakes covered with treacherous ice, made the more dangerous by being hidden under the snow—or, worst of all, to find no reindeer to carry me onward; or delayed somewhere, waiting for the snow to melt and the land to become dry and the rivers navigable, for during the time of thaw the country is full of bogs and swamps, and the rivers become in many places but roaring torrents, their waters dashing against huge boulders strewn in their beds, or breaking over them in rapids and pouring cataracts.
My little sleigh, my skees, my bags, and winter outfits were landed, and were before me. I left off my sou'wester and oilskin garments and sea-boots, and I said to them: "We have had rough weather together on this stormy Arctic sea. Henceforth I do not need you any more; I hope you will keep the Sea Lapp to whom I give you as dry as you did me."
Then I donned my Lapp costume once more. Now the fur shoes of winter were unsuitable to travel with, for being porous they are only good to get over dry and crisp snow with. I had to wear henceforth the shoes or boots that are without fur and the leather of which is prepared in such a manner as to be impermeable to water or damp snow. I had provided myself with two pairs of these, while at Haparanda on my way to "The Land of the Long Night," for my return journey,—a short pair, of the shape of the winter shoes, and a pair of boots coming as high as my knees.
One of the Lapps smeared them with a preparation of tar and fat that he used for his own shoes. When they were ready he said: "Now you are all right, no dampness or water will penetrate them," and he gave me some of the stuff to use on my journey, saying, "Rub your shoes every two days with it." I thanked him. Then I put on a new pair of woollen socks. I surrounded my feet with the Lapp grass, and wore my short boots.
While turning over in my mind the mishaps that might come to me on this southward journey, I fancied the same friendly voices I had heard before from across the Atlantic called to me: "Hurry on, Friend Paul! Hurry on! for there is danger in delay; and when your journey is finished come back to us at once."
"I will hurry on," I replied aloud. "Do not be afraid. I will return at once to our dear United States." After this I was more impatient to leave than before. I waited anxiously for the reindeer to arrive.
Henceforth I shall wear only one fur garment, instead of two as I did during my journey northward, for the weather is getting warmer every day. After I was dressed completely I looked affectionately at my little sleigh, for I remembered the many hundreds of miles we had travelled together, what fun I had had, and how hard it was at first to learn to drive reindeer and to keep inside the sleigh, and all the sudden upsettings I had.
Then I looked at my skees, and said: "Dear skees, we are again to tramp over the snow together. I wish I could leap over chasms with you, as the Lapps do. I cannot do that; but we will walk on the snow, and go down hill riding a stick. This will be great fun for me anyhow."
Then I turned to the bags, and I said: "Dear bags, I have often thought of you and how comfortable I was with you." I remembered how cosy I was when I slept in them on the snow. I did not mind how hard the wind blew; the harder it blew the more comfortable I felt inside of them. Near by them was the big brown bearskin, which was safely fastened over me in the sleigh. I said: "Dear bearskin, I think a great deal of you also, for you have been my friend and have kept my legs so warm when I was driving."
The next morning to my great joy the reindeer came,—one for me, one for my guide, and a spare one; but how differently they looked compared with those I had in the winter. They were thin, and were changing their coats. I did not wonder that the poor reindeer did not look frisky—they had had to work so hard for their living, digging the snow to reach the moss during the whole of the winter.
I looked at the guide the kind Sea Lapps had provided for me. He was the man who had come with the reindeer. His name was Mikel. He was a nomadic Lapp, but had come to visit his sister, who had married a Sea Lapp. He was about four feet eight inches in height, well built, broad shouldered, nimble as a deer, about forty years old, with a face made by the wind as red as a ripe tomato. He lived and pastured his herd of reindeer south of Karesuando.
As we were introduced to each other we shook hands, and I said, "Mikel, we are going to be friends."
"Yes," he replied, "we are to be friends."
Then all the Sea Lapps that were round us shouted with one voice: "Paulus, we are all your friends! Mikel will take good care of you."
"I will," said Mikel. "I will take good care of Paulus." "Thank you, Mikel," I replied. From that moment Mikel and I became fast friends.
An hour after the arrival of the reindeer and after a hearty meal of codfish and black bread we were ready to start.
Before seating myself in the sleigh, I turned my face towards the North Pole and looked at the Arctic Ocean beyond the fjord, and shouted: "Farewell to thee! farewell, tempestuous Arctic Sea! farewell to thy gales! farewell to thy snow and sleet storms. But I am glad I have been through it all, for I have learned something I did not know before. I have gained knowledge about the people and 'The Land of the Long Night.'"
One of the Sea Lapps held my reindeer, and after I was seated another drew my bearskin round me, and made it secure with the cord belonging to my sleigh.
When Mikel saw that I was ready he jumped into his sleigh and we started.
"Good-bye, good-bye, Paulus!" shouted all the Lapps.
"Good-bye, good-bye, dear Sea Lapps!"—I shouted back to them, and the last words I heard were: "Lucky journey, Paulus, come to see us again, come to see us again."
WE ENTER A BIRCH FOREST.—THE REINDEER ARE SOON FAGGED.—SLEEP ON THE SNOW.—THE RAYS OF THE SUN MELT THROUGH THE SNOW.—GREAT DIFFICULTY IN TRAVELLING.—MEET HERDS OF REINDEER.—REINDEER BULLS FIGHT EACH OTHER.
We entered the birch forest soon after our departure. We had great difficulty in driving among the trees. I was glad our reindeer were not as frisky as in the earlier part of the winter. I could hardly follow the track of Mikel, and sometimes I could not do so at all. I drove sometimes against one tree and then against another, then the boughs of the birch would strike against my face. I had not been five minutes among the birches when I was upset.
At last, losing patience, I shouted to Mikel, "When are we to get out of these birch trees into the open country?" He replied: "We shall reach the river soon."
The snow was not more than three or four or five inches deep at first, but grew gradually deeper as we moved further south. Along the coast of Finmarken the heat of the Gulf Stream prevents it from lying deep on the ground.
That afternoon we reached the Tana river, at a place called Polmak, and sped on over its snow-covered ice.
Seven or eight miles was all that our reindeer could do in an hour, and during the day we had to stop several times to give them rest.
About eleven o'clock we stopped for the night. We spread our bags upon the snow, but we got into one only, for two would have been too warm at this time of the year; and as Mikel and I were ready to disappear in them, I said "Good-night, Mikel," and he replied "Good-night, Paulus."
It snowed during the night, and when we awoke in the morning our bags were covered with it. I did not wonder when I saw this that I had felt so warm during the night.
I was the first to be up. I shook Mikel's bag and shouted to him, "Get up, Mikel," and as his head peeped out of his bag, I said "Good-morning," and he cried "Good-morning, Paulus." Then we took our breakfast. The reindeer, while we were asleep, had dug through the snow to the lichen and fed, and now were quietly resting.
We were soon on the way. As the sun rose higher and higher and its rays grew more powerful, the snow became soft, and the travelling so hard for our reindeer that we had to stop; the thermometer marked 44 degrees in the shade and 80 degrees in the sun. There were sometimes twenty or thirty degrees' difference of temperature during the twenty-four hours, but the change came so slowly, hour after hour, that I did not notice it.
So we had to stop travelling, and while the reindeer rested we took to our skees and went in search of game, but no foxes or wolves were to be seen. Towards four o'clock in the afternoon the snow began to freeze again, and we again took up our journey. Now the nights have to be turned into days, for we can only travel during the time when the sun is not shining or has not great power.
We travelled without interruption the following day, as the sky was cloudy and the snow was hard. Towards midnight Mikel said: "Our reindeer are tired, we must rest; but we will not sleep more than three or four hours, for we must reach a station where we can procure fresh reindeer."
We unharnessed our reindeer, and tied them with long ropes. When this was done we got into our bags and soon were fast asleep.
At about three o'clock Mikel awoke me, saying, "Paulus, it is about time to go."
"Oh, Mikel," I replied, "let me sleep one hour more, for I need more sleep. I want another snooze."
"There is no time to be lost," he replied; "you will have a snooze later in the day."
So I rubbed my eyes to get fully awake, and washed my face with snow, and felt ready for another start.
That morning the sky was very clear, and after a while the sun shone brightly and the glare on the snow was so great that it would have been impossible to travel without green or blue goggles. I had two pairs with me, in case I should lose or break one by some accident.
On account of the strength of the sun's rays, which melted the snow, we had to stop our travelling by eleven o'clock. Our reindeer were exhausted.
I took my short pair of skees, covered with sealskin, and went ptarmigan hunting. I killed four. The birds had already dropped many of their white feathers, which had been replaced by gray ones. They were getting their summer coats, and would soon be entirely gray.
After killing these I went further, and saw something in the distance moving on the snow. Soon I discovered it was a fox of a peculiar color which I had not seen before. I lay flat on the snow, as the animal was coming in my direction. He was evidently hungry, and was hunting ptarmigans himself. When he came within shooting distance I fired and killed him. He was a white fox, but much of his snowy-white fur had dropped, and was replaced by bluish. I wondered if the change took place for his own protection and advantage. When white he could not be seen so easily by the creatures upon which he preyed, and when bluish he could not be so easily seen as if he had remained white.
When I returned Mikel was stretched on his back on the snow with his arms spread out, and was snoring like a good fellow. Oh, what a noise he made! He had succeeded in frightening our reindeer, which had moved away as far as the rope would allow them. I did not wonder that they did not like Mikel's snoring.
After looking at Mikel I stretched myself on the snow, but quite a distance from him, not to be disturbed by his snoring. Now we did not require any masks on our faces, and during the day slept without being obliged to get into our bags.