From Quebec to Montreal, the country may be considered as one long village. On each shore there is a stripe of land, seldom exceeding a mile in breadth, which is bounded by forests, and thickly studded with farm-houses, white-washed from top to bottom: to these, log-barns and stables are attached, and commonly a neat plot of garden-ground.
Mr. Hall preferred the travelling in Lower Canada to that in every other part of the American continent. You arrive (he says) at the post-house, (as the words "maison de poste," scrawled over the door, give you notice;) "Have you horses, Madame?" "Oui, Monsieur, tout de suite." A loud cry of "Oh! bon homme," forwards the intelligence to her husband, at work, perhaps, in an adjacent field. "Mais, asseyez vous, Monsieur;" and, if you have patience to do this quietly, for a few minutes, you will see crebillion, papillon, or some other on arrive, at a full canter, from pasture, mounted by honest Jean, in his blue nightcap, with all his habiliments shaking in the wind. The preliminary of splicing and compounding the broken harness having been adjusted, the whip cracks, and you start to the exhilarating cry of "marche donc," at the rate of six, and often seven miles an hour.
The village of "Trois Rivieres" stands at the three mouths of the River St. Maurice. It contains an Ursuline convent, which marks it for a place of some note, in a catholic country; but it is still more worthy of distinction, as being the residence of the amiable Abbe de la Colonne, brother to the unfortunate French minister of that name.
Having engaged two experienced boatmen, and a bark canoe, Mr. Hall ascended the St. Maurice, to visit the falls of Shawinne Gamme, distant somewhat more than twenty miles. At his return, he left the St. Maurice, and, having been ferried from Berthier to Contrecoeur, he proceeded, "en caleche," with two crebillions, towards St. Ours, in the direction of the Beloeil Mountain, which was seen before him in the misty horizon. The meadows were profusely decorated with orange lilies; and the banks and dingles with the crimson cones of the sumac, and a variety of flowering shrubs. Several brigs and merchants' ships were dropping down with the tide, their crowded sails scarcely swelling in the languid summer breeze.
The Canadian summer, observes Mr. Hall, is hot in proportion to the severity of the winter; and the heat is sufficient to enable the cultivator to raise Indian corn, water-melons, gourds, capsicums, and such vegetables as require a short and intense heat. Hence the country assumes the aspect of a Portuguese summer, by way of appendix to a Russian winter.
Mr. Hall passed through the village of Beloeil; again crossed the river, and proceeded towards the mountain, which towered, like an immense wall of rock, above the flat surrounding country. Scattered at its base were a few wretched houses, the inhabitants of which subsisted by the produce of their apple-orchards.
The weather was excessively hot; and volumes of smoke, from the casual, or intentional burning of the woods, every where clouded the horizon, and seemed to give additional heat to the glowing landscape.
The basis of the Montreal Mountain is freestone; the ascent is consequently less steep, and the surface less broken, than that of Beloeil: it is thickly wooded, and, from the river, forms an elegant back-ground to the city.
A Description of Montreal.
When approached from the water, the town of Montreal, which is situated on an island in the River St. Lawrence, has a very singular appearance. This is occasioned by the grey stone of the buildings, and their tin-covered roofs; the latter of which emit a strong glare, when the sun shines. The shore is steep, and forms a kind of natural wharf, upon which the vessels discharge their cargoes: hence the shipping which frequent the harbour of Montreal are often anchored close to the shore. Many English vessels visit this place; but the navigation of the St. Lawrence, above Quebec, is so hazardous, that few captains are willing to make the voyage a second time.
The interior of the town of Montreal is extremely gloomy. The streets are regularly built, but the buildings are ponderous masses of stone, erected with little taste, and less judgment. Including the garrets, they have seldom more than two stories above the ground-floor. The doors and window-shutters are covered with large sheets of tin, painted red or lead-colour, and corresponding with the gloomy colour of the stone, with which most of the houses have been built; hence a heavy sameness of appearance pervades all the streets.
The only open places in the town, are the two markets, and a square, called the Place d'Armes, in which, under the French government, the troops of the garrison are accustomed to parade. The French catholic church occupies the whole east side of the square; and, on the south side, is a tavern, called the Montreal Hotel. Every thing, in this tavern, is neat, cleanly, well conducted, and perfectly agreeable to an Englishman's taste.
Montreal is divided into the Upper and Lower towns, though these have very little difference in elevation. The principal street of the latter, extends, from north to south, through the whole length of the place. This street contains the wholesale and retail stores of the merchants and traders, the lower market-place, the post-office, the Hotel Dieu, a large tavern, and several smaller ones. It is narrow, but it presents a scene of greater bustle than any other part of the town; and is the chief mart of the trade carried on in Montreal.
Most of the streets are well paved; and the improvements which are going on throughout the town, will, in a few years, render it much more commodious and agreeable than it is at present. The four streets or suburbs occupy a considerable space of ground, and the number of inhabitants is computed at twelve thousand. The religious and charitable institutions of this place, are counterparts to those at Quebec. There are a general hospital, and an Hotel Dieu, for the relief of sick poor. The principal catholic church is rich and handsome. The college or seminary, is a capacious stone building, and has lately been repaired and enlarged. It was originally endowed as a branch of the seminary at Paris; but, since the French Revolution, it has afforded an asylum to several members of the latter, whose learning and talents have been employed in its advancement. Among other public edifices must be reckoned the English church, an unfinished building; the old monastery of Franciscan Friars, now converted into barracks; the court-house, and the government-house. The court-house is a neat and spacious building. In front of it, a column has been erected in honour of Lord Nelson, and is crowned with a statue of him. Near the court-house a gaol has been built, upon the site of the old college of Jesuits.
There seems to be a greater spirit of municipal improvement in Montreal than in Quebec. It is also, probably, a richer place; for, being the emporium of the fur-trade, its merchants carry on a considerable traffic with the United States, and particularly with Vermont and New York.
At the back of the town, and behind the court-house, is a parade, where the troops are exercised. The ground, along this part, is considerably elevated, and forms a steep bank, several hundred yards in length. Here the inhabitants walk in an evening, and enjoy a beautiful view of the suburbs of St. Lawrence and St. Antoine; and of numerous gardens, orchards, and plantations, adorned with neat, and, in many instances, even handsome villas. Green fields are interspersed amidst this rich variety of objects, which are concentrated in an extensive valley, that gradually rises towards a lofty mountain, about two miles and a half distant; and covered, towards its upper part, with trees and shrubs. It is from this mountain that the town obtained its name of Montreal, or "Royal Mount."
All the principal north-west merchants reside in this town; which is the emporium of their trade, and the grand mart of the commerce carried on between Canada and the United States: they live in a splendid style, and keep expensive tables.
The markets of Montreal are plentifully supplied with provisions, which are much cheaper here than in Quebec. Large supplies are brought in, every winter, from the United States; particularly cod-fish, which is packed in ice, and conveyed in sledges from Boston. Two weekly newspapers, called the Gazette and the Canadian Courant, are published here.
At Montreal, the winter is considered to be two months shorter than it is at Quebec; and the heat of summer is more oppressive.
Twenty-third Day's Instruction.
NORTH WESTERN TERRITORY.
The Route, from Montreal to Fort Chepewyan, pursued by a company of traders, called the North-west Company.
The requisite number of canoes being purchased, the goods being formed into packages, and the lakes and rivers being free from ice, which they usually are in the beginning of May, the persons employed by the North-west Company set out from La Chine, eight miles above Montreal.
Each canoe carries eight or ten men, and a luggage consisting of sixty-five packages of goods, about six hundred weight of biscuit, two hundred weight of pork, and three bushels of peas, for the men's provisions: two oil-cloths to cover the goods, a sail, and an axe, a towing-line, a kettle, and a sponge to bail out the water; together with a quantity of gum, bark, and watape, to repair the canoe. An European, on seeing these slender vessels, thus laden, heaped up, and their sides not more than six inches out of the water, would imagine it impossible that they should perform a long and perilous voyage; but the Canadians are so expert in the management of them, that few accidents happen.
Leaving La Chine, they proceed to St. Ann's, within two miles of the western extremity of the island of Montreal. At the rapid of St. Ann, the navigators are obliged to take out part, if not the whole of the lading; and to replace it when they have passed the cataract. The Lake of the two Mountains, which they next reach, is about twenty miles long, but not more than three miles wide, and is, nearly surrounded by cultivated fields.
At the end of the lake, the water contracts into the Utawas river; which, after a course of fifteen miles, is interrupted by a succession of rapids and cascades for upwards of ten miles: at the foot of these the Canadian Seignories terminate. Here the voyagers are frequently obliged to unload their canoes, and carry the goods upon their backs, or rather suspended in slings from their heads. Each man's ordinary load is two packages, though some of the men carry three. In some places, the ground will not admit of their carrying the whole at once: in this case, they make two trips; that is, the men leave half their lading, land it at the distance required, and then return for that which was left. There are three carrying places; and, near the last of them, the river is a mile and a half wide, and has a regular current, for about sixty miles, to the first portage de Chaudiere. The whole body of water is here precipitated, twenty-five feet, down, craggy and excavated rocks, and in a most wild and romantic manner.
Over this portage, it is requisite to carry the canoe and all its lading; but the rock is so steep, that the canoe cannot be taken out of the water by fewer than twelve men, and it is carried by six men.
The next remarkable object which the traders approach, is a lake called Nepisingui, about twelve leagues long, and fifteen miles wide, in the widest part. The inhabitants of the country adjacent to this lake, consist of the remainder of a numerous tribe called Nepisinguis, of the Algonquin nation.
Out of the lake flows the Riviere de Francois, over rocks of considerable height. This river is very irregular, both as to its breadth and form; and it is so interspersed with islands, that, in its whole course, its banks are seldom visible. Of its various channels, that which is generally followed by the canoes is obstructed by five portages. The distance hence to Lake Huron is about twenty-five leagues. There is scarcely a foot of soil to be seen from one end of the river to the other; for its banks consist entirely of rock.
The coast of Lake Huron is similar to this; but it is lower, and backed, at some distance, by high lands. The canoes pass along the northern bank of this lake, into Lake Superior, the largest and most magnificent body of fresh water in the world. It is clear, of great depth, and abounds in fish of various kinds. Sturgeon are caught here, and trout, some of which weigh from forty to fifty pounds each. The adjacent country is bleak, rocky, and desolate: it contains no large animals, except a few moose and fallow deer; and the little timber that is to be seen, is extremely stunted in its growth. The inhabitants of the coast of Lake Superior are all of the Algonquin nation, who subsist chiefly on fish. They do not, at present, exceed one hundred and fifty families; though, a century ago, the whole adjacent country is said to have been inhabited by them.
Near the north-western shore of Lake Superior, and beneath a hill, three or four hundred feet in height, is a fort, containing several houses, erected for the accommodation of the North-west Company and their clerks. This place is called the Grande Portage. The traders, who leave Montreal in the beginning of May, usually arrive here about the middle of June. They are met by men who had spent the winter in the establishments; towards the north, and from whom they receive the furs which had been collected in the course of their winter traffic. Upwards of twelve hundred men are thus assembled, every summer, in this remote wilderness; and live together, for several days, in a comfortable and convivial manner. After their accounts are settled, the furs are embarked for Montreal; and the rest of the men proceed to the different posts and establishments in the Indian country. The canoes which are used from the Grande Portage, upwards, are but half the size of those from Montreal. They are each navigated by four, five, or six men, according to the distance which they have to go.
Having embarked on the river Au Tourt; and, having overcome numerous obstacles, in cataracts, and other impediments to their course, the persons proceeding on this voyage, reach a trading establishment, on the north side of the river, in 48 degrees 37 minutes, north latitude. Here they are met by people from the Athabasca country, and exchange lading with them. This place also is the residence of the grand chief of the Algonquin Indians; and here the elders of these Indians meet in council, to treat of peace or war.
The Au Tourt is one of the finest rivers in the north-western parts of America. Its banks are covered with a rich soil, and, in many parts, are clothed with groves of oak, maple, and cedar-trees. The southern bank is low, and displays the maple, the white birch, and cedar; with the spruce, the alder, and various kinds of underwood. Its waters abound in fish, particularly in sturgeons. In the low grounds, betwixt Lake Superior and this river, are seen vast quantities of rice, which the natives collect, in the month of August, for their winter stores.
Lake Winipic, which the traders next approach, is the great reservoir of several large rivers. It is bounded, on the north, by banks of black and grey rock; and, on the south, by a low and level country, occasionally interrupted with ridges or banks of limestone, from twenty to forty feet in height, bearing timber, but only of moderate growth. From its peculiar situation, this lake seems calculated to become a grand depot of traffic. It communicates, in a direct and short channel, with the southern shores of Hudson's Bay, by the rivers Severn and Nelson; and it is connected with the countries at the head of the Mississippi and Missouri, by the Assiniboin and Red rivers. The Indians, who inhabit its banks, are of the Knisteneaux and Algonquin tribes.
Beyond lake Winipic, the canoes have to pass along many rapids, and through several small lakes, called Cedar lake, Mud lake, and Sturgeon lake. This part of the country is frequented by beavers, and numerous animals, valuable on account of their furs; and the plains are inhabited by buffaloes, wolves, and foxes.
On the banks of the rivers, there are factories for the convenience of trade with the natives; and near each of these are tents of different nations of Indians; some of whom are hunters, and others deal in provisions, wolf, buffalo, and fox-skins.
From the mouth of the Saskatchiwine river, the canoes proceed, in a northerly direction, through Sturgeon lake, and Beaver lake. The banks of the river are high, and clothed with cypress-trees; and the inhabitants of the adjacent districts are chiefly Knisteneaux Indians. This description of country, with some variation, prevails as far as the trading establishment of Fort Chepewyan, on the south-eastern bank of the Lake of the Hills.
Fort Chepewyan is the residence of a considerable number of persons, who are employed by the North-west Company. Except during a short time in the spring and autumn, when thousands of wild-fowl frequent the vicinity of the lake, these persons subsist almost wholly on fish. This they eat without the variety of any farinaceous grain for bread, any root, or vegetable; and without even salt to quicken its flavour.
Every year, in the autumn, the Indians meet the traders, at this and other forts, where they barter such furs, or provisions, as they have procured. They are here fitted out, by the traders, with such articles as they may want, after which they proceed to hunt beavers; and they return about the end of March or the beginning of April, when they are again fitted out as before. During the summer, most of these Indians retire to the barren grounds, and live there, with their relations and friends.
Account of the Knisteneaux and Chepewyan Indians.
When, in the year 1777, the Europeans first penetrated into the north-western regions of America, these two tribes of Indians were very numerous; but the small-pox, introduced among them by the strangers, proved so fatal, that, at the end of fifteen years, not more than seventy families were left.
The Knisteneaux, though at present few in number, occupy a great extent of country. They are of moderate stature, well-proportioned, and extremely active. Their complexion is of a copper-colour, and their hair black. In some of the tribes, the hair is cut into various forms, according to their fancy; and, by others, it is left in the long and lank flow of nature. These Indians, in general, pluck out their beards. Their eyes are black, keen, and penetrating; and their countenance is open and agreeable. Fond of decoration, they paint their bodies with different colours of red, blue, brown, white, and black.
Their dress is, at once, simple and commodious. It consists of tight leggings or leather-gaiters, which reach nearly to the hip; a strip of cloth or leather, about a foot wide, and five feet long, the ends of which are drawn inward, and hang behind and before, over a belt, tied round the waist for that purpose; a close vest or shirt, reaching down to the former garment, and bound at the waist by a broad strip of parchment, fastened with thongs behind; and a cap for the head, consisting of a piece of fur, or a small skin, with the tail of the animal, as a suspended ornament. A kind of robe is occasionally thrown over the whole of this dress, and serves them to wear by day, and to sleep in at night. These articles, with the addition of shoes and mittens, constitute their chief apparel. The materials vary, according to the season, and consist of dressed moose-skin, beaver-skins, prepared with the fur, or European woollens. The leather is neatly painted, and, in some parts, is fancifully worked with porcupine-quills and moose-deer hair. The shirts and leggings are adorned with fringe and tassels; and the shoes and mittens have somewhat of appropriate decoration, and are worked with a considerable degree of skill and taste. Their head-dresses are composed of the feathers of the swan, the eagle, and other birds. The teeth, horns, and claws of different animals, are also the occasional ornaments of their head and neck.
The female dress is composed of materials similar to those used by the men; but it is of a somewhat different form and arrangement. Several of the women have the skin of their faces tatooed or marked with three perpendicular lines: one from the centre of the chin to the under lip, and one on each side parallel to the corner of the mouth.
The Knisteneaux women are very comely. Their figure is generally well proportioned, and the regularity of their features would be acknowledged even by the civilized nations of Europe.
This people are naturally mild and affable. They are just in their dealings, not only among themselves, but with strangers. They are also generous and hospitable; and good-natured in the extreme, except when under the influence of spirituous liquors. Towards their children they are indulgent to a fault. The father, however, though he assumes no command over them, anxiously instructs them, in all the preparatory qualifications, for war and hunting; while the mother is equally attentive to her daughters, in teaching them every thing that is considered necessary to their character and situation.
The Knisteneaux have frequent feasts; and, at some of these, they offer dogs as sacrifices, and make large offerings of their property. The scene of their most important ceremonies is usually an enclosure on the bank of some river or lake, and in a conspicuous situation. On particular occasions they have private sacrifices in their houses. The ceremony of smoking precedes every affair of importance. When a feast is proposed to be given, the chief sends quills or small pieces of wood, as tokens of invitation, to such persons as he wishes to partake of it. At the appointed time the guests arrive, each bringing with him a dish or platter, and a knife; and they take their seats on each side of the chief. The pipe is then lighted, and the chief makes an equal division of every thing that is provided for the occasion. During the eating the chief sings, and accompanies his song with a tambourine. The guest who has first eaten his share of provision is considered as the most distinguished person. At all these feasts a small quantity of meat or drink is sacrificed, by throwing it into the fire or on the earth, before the guests begin to eat. It is expected that each person should devour the whole food that is allotted to him, how great soever the quantity may be; and those who are unable to do this, endeavour to prevail with their friends to assist them. Care is always taken that the bones are burned, as it would be considered a profanation, if the dogs were to touch them.
The medicinal virtues of many herbs are known to the Knisteneaux; and they apply the roots of plants and the bark of trees in the cure of various diseases. But there is among them a class of men, called conjurers, who monopolize the medical science; and who, blending mystery with their art, do not choose to communicate their knowledge.
Like all their other solemn ceremonials, the funeral rites of the Knisteneaux begin with smoking, and are concluded by a feast. The body is dressed in the best habiliments of the deceased, or his relatives, and is then deposited in a grave lined with branches: some domestic utensils are placed on it, and a kind of canopy is erected over it. During this ceremony, great lamentations are made; and, if the deceased is much regretted, the near relations cut off their hair, pierce the fleshy part of their thighs and arms with arrows, knives, &c. and blacken their faces with charcoal. The whole property belonging to him is destroyed, and the relations take, in exchange for the wearing apparel, any rags that will cover their nakedness.
* * * * *
The Chepewyans are a sober, timorous, and vagrant people, and of a disposition so selfish as sometimes to have excited suspicions of their integrity. Their complexion is swarthy; their features are coarse, and their hair is lank, but not always of a black colour; nor have they, universally, the piercing eye, which generally animates the Indian countenance. The women have a more agreeable aspect than the men; but, in consequence of their being accustomed, nine months in the year, to travel on snow-shoes, and to drag heavy sledges, their gait is awkward. They are very submissive to their husbands, who sometimes treat them with great cruelty. The men, in general, extract their beards; though some of them are seen to prefer a bushy beard to a smooth chin. They cut their hair in various forms, or leave it in a long, natural flow, according as caprice or fancy suggests. The women always have their hair of great length, and some of them are very attentive to its arrangement. Both sexes have blue or black marks, or from one to four straight lines on their cheeks or forehead, to distinguish the tribe to which they belong. These marks are either tatooed, or are made by drawing a thread, dipped in colour, beneath the skin.
Few people are more attentive to the comforts of dress than these. In winter they wear the skins of deer or fawns, prepared with the hair on, and rendered as fine and soft as chamois leather. In summer their apparel is of similar skins, but prepared without the hair. A ruff or tippet surrounds the neck; and the skin of the head of a deer forms a curious kind of cap.
Plurality of wives is allowed among the Chepewyans; and the ceremony of marriage is very simple. At a very early period, the girls are betrothed to such persons as the parents consider best able to support them. The desires of the women are never considered; and whenever a separation takes place, which sometimes happens, it depends entirely on the will of the husband.
These Indians are not remarkable for activity as hunters: this is owing to the ease with which they snare deer, and spear fish. They are not addicted to the use of spirituous liquors; and are, on the whole, an extremely peaceful tribe. Their weapons and domestic apparatus, in addition to articles procured from Europeans, are spears, bows and arrows, fishing-nets, and lines made of deer-skin thongs. Their amusements are but few. Their music is so inharmonious, and their dancing so awkward, that they might be supposed to be ashamed of both, as they seldom practise either. They shoot at marks, and play at different games; but they prefer sleeping to any of these: and the greatest part of their time is passed in procuring food, and resting after the toil of obtaining it.
The notion which these people entertain of the creation of the world is a very singular one. They believe that the globe was originally one vast ocean, inhabited by no living creature, except an immense bird, whose eyes were of fire, whose glances were lightning, and the clapping of whose wings was thunder. On the descent of this bird to the ocean, and at the instant of touching it, they say that the earth arose, and remained on the surface of the waters. This omnipotent bird then called forth all the variety of animals from the earth, except the Chepewyans, who were produced from a dog; and to this circumstance they attribute their aversion to dog's-flesh. The tradition proceeds to relate, that the great bird, having finished his work, made an arrow, which was to be preserved with great care, and to remain untouched; but that the Chepewyans were so devoid of understanding, as to carry it away; and this sacrilege so enraged the bird, that he has never since appeared. They believe also, that, in ancient times, their ancestors lived till their feet were worn out with walking, and their throats with eating; and they describe a deluge, in which the waters spread over the whole earth, except the highest mountains, on the tops of which the Chepewyans preserved themselves.
They are superstitious in an extreme; and almost every action of their lives, however trivial, is more or less influenced by some superstitious notion. They believe in a good and evil spirit; and in a future state of rewards and punishments. They assert that the souls of persons deceased pass into another world, where they arrive at a large river, on which they embark, in a stone canoe, and that a gentle current bears them on to an extensive lake, in the centre of which is a beautiful island. Within view of this island they receive that judgment for their conduct during life, which terminates their state. If their good actions predominate, they are landed upon the island, where there is to be no end of their happiness. But if their bad actions prevail, the stone canoe sinks, and leaves them up to their chins in the water, to behold and regret the reward which is enjoyed by the good; and eternally to struggle, but with unavailing endeavours, to reach the bliss from which they are for ever excluded.
Twenty-fourth Day's Instruction.
NORTH-WESTERN TERRITORY CONCLUDED.
Fort Chepewyan was, for eight years, the head quarters of Mr. (now Sir Alexander) Mackenzie, who held an official situation under the North-west Company; and who, from this place, made two important and laborious excursions, one northward, to the Frozen Sea; and the other westward, to the Pacific Ocean.
Narrative of a Voyage from Fort Chepewyan, along the Rivers to the north Frozen Ocean. From Voyages through the Continent of North America, by ALEXANDER MACKENZIE.
In the first of his excursions, Mr Mackenzie embarked at Fort Chepewyan, about nine o'clock in the morning of the 3d of June, 1789. His vessel was a canoe formed of birch-bark, and his crew consisted of one German and four Canadians, two of whom were attended by their wives. He was also accompanied, in a small canoe, by an Indian chief and his two wives. The men were engaged to serve in the twofold capacity of interpreters and hunters.
Mr. Mackenzie had also with him a canoe which he had equipped for the purpose of trade, and had given in charge to M. Le Roux, one of the Company's clerks. In this canoe was shipped part of his provision, the clothing necessary on the voyage, a requisite assortment of articles of merchandise as presents, to ensure them a friendly reception among the Indians; and such arms and ammunition as were considered necessary for defence, as well as for the use of the hunters.
Crossing the south-western extremity of the Lake of the Hills, they entered the Slave river, and steered, along that river, in a northerly direction. On the ensuing day they arrived at the foot of a succession of rapids; and, in the course of twelve miles, were obliged five times to unload the canoes, and carry the luggage considerable distances overland. One of the Indian canoes was borne, by the fury of the current, down the last of the cataracts, and was dashed to pieces. The hunters here killed seven geese, four ducks, and a beaver. The progress of the boats was much impeded by ice.
The banks of the river, both above and below the rapids, were covered with wood. This was more particularly the case on the western side, where the land was low, and had a black and rich soil. The eastern banks were somewhat elevated; and the soil was a yellow clay, mixed with gravel. At a little distance from the banks were extensive plains, frequented by numerous herds of buffaloes; and the woods, adjacent to the river, were inhabited by elks and rein-deer. The habitations of beavers were seen in all the small lakes and rivers; and the swamps adjacent to the Slave-river, were sometimes covered with wild-fowl.
In the morning of the 9th the voyagers arrived at the Great Slave Lake. Here they experienced a most uncomfortable change in the weather, which became extremely cold. The lake was still frozen; and they were obliged to delay their progress for several days, until they could effect a passage across it. In the mean while they occupied themselves in fishing and hunting, for the purpose of adding to their stock of provisions. They had more or less rain almost every day.
On the 20th the ice had somewhat given way, and they recommenced their voyage, in a north-westerly direction. A few days after this, they landed on the main land, at three lodges of Red-knife Indians, so called from the copper knives which they use. M. le Roux purchased, of these Indians, some packs of beaver and marten-skins; and Mr. Mackenzie had several consultations with them concerning the country he was about to traverse; but he could obtain from them no information that was important to the objects of his expedition. He, however, engaged one of them, as a guide, in navigating the bays of the lake.
The musquitoes were now so troublesome as to occasion the voyagers much inconvenience. After having, with considerable difficulty, navigated the northern side of the lake, they entered the mouth of a river, which lay in a westerly direction. On the 2d of July, they perceived, at a distance before them, a high mountain, or rather a cluster of mountains, which stretched southward, as far as the view could reach, and had their tops lost in the clouds. The declivities of these mountains were covered with wood; and they were sprinkled with glistening patches of snow, which, at first, Mr. Mackenzie mistook for white stones.
During their progress the voyagers saw several Indian encampments. The current, in some places, was so rapid as to produce a hissing noise, somewhat like the boiling of a kettle. Though it was now the month of July, the weather was extremely cold. The sun set at seven minutes before ten, and rose at seven minutes before two in the morning.
Having passed several islands, and, not long afterwards having seen, on the northern shore, the smoke of several fires, the voyagers made every exertion to approach the spot; and, as they drew near, they observed a party of Indians, running about in great apparent confusion. Some of them were endeavouring to escape into the woods, and others were hurrying to their canoes. The hunters landed, and, in the Chepewyan language, addressed the few who had not escaped; but, so great was their terror, that they did not appear to understand it. When, however, they found it was impossible to conceal themselves, they made signs to the strangers to keep at a distance. With these the latter complied, and not only unloaded their canoe, but pitched their tents, before the Indians made any attempt to approach them. After considerable difficulty they became reconciled; and, as soon as their fears were dissipated, they called their fugitive companions from the woods.
The inhabitants of this place were five families of Slave and Dog-rib Indians. They were unacquainted with the use of tobacco and ardent spirits; but were delighted to receive, as presents, knives, beads, awls, rings, fire-steels, flints, and hatchets; and, after a little while, they became so familiar, that it was difficult to keep them out of the tents.
These Indians seemed totally ignorant respecting the distant parts of the river, for they believed its course to be so long that it would occupy the voyagers several years to reach the sea. They also described the intervening regions to be inhabited by monsters of the most horrid shapes and destructive powers. One of them, however, by the bribe of a small kettle, an axe, a knife; and some other articles, was induced to accompany the voyagers as a guide.
They amused the strangers by dancing and singing; but neither the dance nor the song had much variety. The men and women arranged themselves promiscuously in a ring. The former had each a bone-dagger, or a piece of stick, between the fingers of his right hand, which he kept extended above his head, in continual motion; while he held his left in an horizontal direction. They leaped about, and threw themselves into various antic postures, to the measure of their music, bringing their heels close together at every pause. Sometimes the men howled, like wild beasts; and he who continued to howl the longest, appeared to be considered the best performer. The women suffered their arms to hang down, as if they were without the power of motion.
These people are of middle stature, thin, ugly, and ill made, particularly about the legs. Many of them appeared to be in a very unhealthy state, owing, probably, to their filthiness. As far as could be discerned, through the grease and dirt that covered them, they were of fairer complexion than the generality of Indians. The women have two double lines of black or blue colour upon each cheek, from the ear to the nose; and the gristle of the nose is perforated, so as to admit a goose-quill, or a small piece of wood to be passed through it. The clothing of these Indians is made of the dressed skins of the rein or moose-deer. Some of them, says Mr. Mackenzie, were decorated with a neat embroidery of porcupine-quills and hair, coloured red, black, yellow, and white; and they had bracelets for their wrists and arms, made of wood, horn, or bone. Round their head they had a kind of band, embroidered with porcupine quills, and ornamented with the claws of bears and wild-fowl.
Their huts or lodges are very simple. A few poles, supported by forks, and forming a semicircle, with some branches or pieces of bark as a covering, constitute the whole of the architecture. Two of these huts are constructed facing each other, and a fire is made between them. Among the furniture are dishes of wood, bark, or horn; and vessels in which they cook their food, narrow at the top, and wide at the bottom. The latter are formed of roots of the spruce fir-tree, so closely interwoven as to hold water. This people have also small leather bags, to hold their embroidered work, their lines, and fishing-nets. They twist the fibres of willow-bark, and the sinews of rein-deer, into fishing-lines; and they make fishing-hooks of horn, wood, or bone. Their weapons for hunting are bows and arrows, spears, daggers, and clubs. They kindle fire, by striking together a piece of white or yellow pyrites and a flint-stone, over a piece of touchwood.
Their canoes are small, pointed at both ends, flat-bottomed, and covered in the fore part. They are made of the bark of the birch-tree, and of fir-wood; but are so light, that the man whom one of these vessels bears on the water, is able to carry it overland, without any difficulty.
On the 9th of July the voyagers had an interview with a party of Indians, who were more pleasing, both in appearance and manners, than any they had hitherto seen. They were stout, healthy, and clean in their persons; and their utensils and weapons resembled those of the Slave and Dog-rib Indians. They obtained iron, in small pieces, from the Esquimaux. Their garments were bordered with a kind of fringe; and their shirts tapered to a point, from the belt downward. One of the men whom Mr. Mackenzie saw, was clad in a shirt made of the skins of musk-rats. These Indians tie their hair in a very singular manner. That which grows on the temples, or on the fore part of the head, is formed into two queues, which hang down before the ears: and that on the crown of the head, is fashioned, in the same manner, towards the back of the neck, and is tied, with the rest of the hair, at some distance from the head. The women, and indeed some of the men, suffer their hair to hang loose on their shoulders.
Mr. Mackenzie prevailed with one of these Indians to accompany him on his voyage; and this man, who was one of the most intelligent Indians he had seen, stated that it would be requisite to sleep ten nights before they could reach the sea; and that, after three nights, the voyagers would reach a settlement of Esquimaux, with whom his nation had formerly made war.
He accompanied Mr. Mackenzie in a canoe; and two of his companions followed in two other canoes. The latter sung their native songs; and this new guide was so much enlivened by these, that the antics he performed, in keeping time to the singing, excited continual alarm lest he should overset his boat. He afterwards went on board Mr. Mackenzie's canoe, where he began to perform an Esquimaux dance, to the no small alarm of the voyagers.
Lower down the river, Mr. Mackenzie had an interview with a party of Indians called Quarrellers. They consisted of about forty men, women, and children, and, at first, seemed inclined to offer resistance; but they were soon pacified by presents, of which blue beads were the most acceptable articles.
These Indians represented the distance, over land, to the northern sea, as not very great; and the distance to the sea, westward, (the Pacific Ocean,) to be still shorter.
The river here flowed between high rocks. Indeed, in this part of the country, the banks were, in general, lofty. In some places they were nearly naked, and in others thickly clad with small trees, particularly fir-trees and birch. The tops of the mountains, towards the north, were covered with snow. The channels of the river were so various, that the voyagers were at a loss which to take. They, however, directed their course chiefly towards the north-west.
In this part of the voyage, Mr. Mackenzie was induced to sit up all night, for the purpose of observing the sun: which, at half-past twelve o'clock, was considerably above the horizon.
At four in the morning he landed at three Indian huts. These were of an oval form, each about fifteen feet long, and ten feet wide; and in the middle, only, they were high enough for a person to stand upright. In one part of each the ground was strewed with willow branches, probably as a bed for the family. The door or entrance was about two feet and a half high, and had a covered way or porch, five feet in length; so that it was necessary to creep on all fours, in order to get into or out of these curious habitations. In the top of each hut there was a hole, about eighteen inches square, which served the threefold purpose of a window, a chimney, and occasionally a door. These edifices were formed of wood, covered with branches and grass. On each side of the huts were a few square holes in the ground, probably contrived for the preservation of the winter stock of provisions.
On the 12th of July, the voyagers had reached what they imagined to be an immense lake; and, shortly after they had retired to rest, at night, the man on watch called them up, to remove the baggage, on account of the sudden rising of the water. Some fish were afterwards caught, about the size of a herring, and resembling a species of fish which abounds in Hudson's Bay. On the ensuing day, Mr. Mackenzie ascended an adjacent hill, and saw much ice; and, towards the north-west, two small islands in the ice. On the 14th, many animals were seen in the water, which, at first, were supposed to be pieces of floating-ice, but which were afterwards ascertained to be whales. Hence it became evident that this apparent lake was a part of the Northern Ocean. Mr. Mackenzie sailed upon it, to some distance from the shore, and landed at the eastern extremity of an island, which he called Whale Island, and which was about seven leagues in length, but not more than a mile broad. The ebbing and flowing of the tide were here observed. He subsequently landed on another island, where an Indian burying-place was observed. The latitude of the shore of this northern ocean, was ascertained to be 69 degrees 14 minutes, north; and the longitude 135 degrees, west.
Narrative of the Return of MR. MACKENZIE from the Frozen Ocean to Fort Chepewyan.
This gentlemen embarked, on his return, at half-past one o'clock, of the 21st of July, the weather being extremely cold and unpleasant. At ten, the canoes re-entered the river; but the opposing current was so strong, that the men were obliged, for a considerable distance, to tow them along. The land on both sides was elevated, and almost perpendicular. Much rain fell.
Mr. Mackenzie subsequently encamped near an Indian village, the inhabitants of which were at first considerably alarmed. They afterwards, however, became familiar. Some of them, having kindled a fire, laid themselves round it, to sleep; and, notwithstanding the excessive coldness of the climate, they had neither skins nor garments to cover them.
The people of this nation are continually at variance with the Esquimaux, who are said to take every opportunity of attacking them, when not in a state to defend themselves. From their account it appeared that a strong party of Esquimaux occasionally ascended the river, in large canoes, to search for flint-stones, which they used as points for their spears and arrows. These Esquimaux were said to wear their hair short; and to have a hole perforated on each side of their mouth, in a line with the under lip, and to place beads in the holes, by way of ornament. Their weapons were bows, arrows, and spears; but they also used slings, from which they threw stones with great dexterity.
The weather was now fine; and Mr. Mackenzie and his men renewed their voyage on the 27th of July. At seven o'clock they once more reached the rapids. Here they found three families of Indians, from whom they obtained some information respecting the adjacent country, and particularly respecting a river which was stated to run on the opposite side of the mountains, in a westerly direction; and which, from the description given of it, Mr. Mackenzie conjectured to be that called Cook's River.
At a subsequent interview, with another party of Indians, a misunderstanding took place, in which the Indians seized one of Mr. Mackenzie's boats, and dragged it on shore. Peace, however, being restored, Mr. Mackenzie endeavoured to obtain some further intelligence concerning the river to the westward. His enquiries, however, were to little purpose. The account given by these Indians was very vague; and their description of the inhabitants of the country adjacent to it, was extremely absurd. These, it was stated, were of gigantic stature, and furnished with wings; which, however, they never employed in flying: that they fed on large birds, which they killed with the greatest ease; though common men would be the certain victims of the voracity of such birds. The Indians also described the people who inhabited the mouth of the river, as possessing the extraordinary power of killing with their eyes; and as each being able to devour a large beaver at a single meal. They added that canoes, or vessels of immense size, visited that place. They did not, however, pretend to relate these particulars from their own observation, but from the report of other Indians; for they had themselves never ventured beyond the first range of mountains, from their own dwellings. It, however, appeared to Mr. Mackenzie that, either the Indians knew more of this country than they chose to communicate, or that his interpreter, who had long been tired of the voyage, gave him purposely a wrong account, in order that he might not be induced to extend his excursions.
As soon as the conference was ended, the Indians began to dance; and, in this pastime, old and young, male and female, continued their exertions, till their strength was exhausted. Their actions were accompanied by various noises, in imitation of the rein-deer, the bear, and the wolf.
When the dancing was ended, Mr. Mackenzie assumed an angry tone, expressed his suspicions that information had been purposely withheld from him; and concluded with a threat, that if they did not give him a more satisfactory account, he would compel one of them to accompany him, for the purpose of pointing out the road to the other river. No sooner did they hear this declaration, than they all, in a moment, became sick; and answered, in a faint tone, that they knew no more than what they had already communicated. Finding it useless to persevere in his enquiries, he ceased them; and having purchased a few beaver-skins, and obtained a plentiful supply of food, he continued his voyage.
On the 1st of August, the weather was clear and cold. This was the first night, for many weeks, that the stars had been visible. Nine days afterwards, they arrived in the vicinity of a range of lofty mountains. Accompanied by a young Indian, Mr. Mackenzie landed, for the purpose of ascending one of them. They passed through a wood, chiefly of spruce-firs, so thick that it was with difficulty they could penetrate it. After they had walked more than an hour, the underwood decreased; and was succeeded by birch and poplar trees, the largest and tallest that Mr. Mackenzie had ever seen. The mountains, which had been concealed, by the woods, from their view, were again visible, but, apparently, at as great a distance as when they were first seen from the river. This was a very mortifying circumstance, for Mr. Mackenzie and his companion had been walking nearly three hours. The Indian expressed great anxiety to return; for his shoes and leggings had been torn to pieces, and he was alarmed at the idea of having to proceed all night, through this trackless country. Mr. Mackenzie was, however, determined to proceed, and to return the next day. As they approached the mountains, the ground became marshy; and they waded, in water and grass, up to their knees, till they came within a mile of them; when, suddenly, Mr. Mackenzie sank, up to his armpits, in mud and water. Having, with considerable difficulty, extricated himself, he found it impossible to proceed any further. To cross this unexpected morass was impracticable; and it extended so far, both to the right and left, that he could not attempt to make the circuit of either extremity. He therefore determined to return; and, about midnight, he again reached the river, excessively fatigued with his fruitless expedition.
In the afternoon of the 13th, the voyagers continued their route, and with very favourable weather. They passed several places, where fires had recently been made; and beyond these, they observed a party of Indians, drawing their canoes on the beach, and endeavouring to escape into the woods. These had been so much terrified, by the appearance of the strangers, and the report of their guns, in shooting wild-geese, that they left, on the beach, several weapons and articles of dress. Mr. Mackenzie directed his men to go into the woods, in search of them, but in vain; for they had fled too rapidly to be overtaken.
The voyagers had, for some time, subsisted chiefly on fish, which they had caught in their nets, and on deer and other game, which the hunters had killed.
On Saturday, the 12th of September, at three o'clock in the afternoon, they again arrived at Fort Chepewyan; and thus concluded an arduous voyage, which, in the whole, had occupied the space of one hundred and two days.
The Western Coast of America, from California to Behring's Strait.
On the western coast of North America, and lying between the twenty-second and thirty-second degrees of latitude, is a very singular promontory, near seven hundred miles in length, called California. It is at present subject to Spain; and is separated from New Mexico, by the Gulf of California, an arm of the sea, which is navigable by vessels of the largest size. The general surface of the country is barren, rugged, overrun with hills, rocks, and sand-banks, and unfit for agriculture. But, in a few places, where the Spanish missionaries have established settlements, the lands are fertile, and singularly productive of maize, barley, and peas. The plains, in the interior, are noted for the production of rock-salt.
The Indians of California are very expert in the use of the bow, and subsist chiefly by hunting and fishing. Their skin is dark, and they paint their bodies, by way of ornament: they also pierce their ears, and wear in them trinkets of various kinds. The wealthiest of them wear cloaks made of sea-otter skins, which cover the loins, and reach below their middle. Others, however, have only a piece of cloth round their waist, and a little cloak, formed of rabbit-skin, which covers their shoulders, and is tied beneath the chin. The huts of these Indians are the most miserable that can be imagined. Their form is circular; and about six feet wide and four feet high. In the construction of them, stakes, eight or ten feet long, are driven into the ground, and are brought together so as to form an arch at the top; and trusses of straw, badly arranged upon these stakes, defend the inhabitants from the wind and rain.
Near the Spanish settlement of Monterey, in north latitude 30 degrees 35 minutes, M. de la Perouse, the French navigator, states that the soil is tolerably fertile and productive; and the climate is mild, though foggy. This part of California produces, in abundance, olives, figs, pomegranates, grapes, and peaches; the trees of which have all been planted by the missionaries. Beyond Monterey, the interior of the country is covered with immense forests of pines and other trees.
North of California is New Albion, a country so called by Sir Francis Drake, who originally discovered it in the year 1578. It was visited about two hundred years afterwards, by Captain Cook. The country is mountainous; and, during the winter and spring, the mountains are covered with snow. The valleys and the grounds along the sea-coast, are clad with trees, and appear like a vast forest.
Captain Cook sailed northward along the coast of New Albion, and anchored his vessels in an inlet called Nootka Sound. The inhabitants of the adjacent country approached his ships, and offered for sale the skins of various animals; garments of different kinds, some of fur, and others formed of the bark of trees. But, of all the articles brought to market, the most extraordinary, were human skulls, and hands not quite stripped of their flesh, some of which had evident marks of having been upon the fire. The articles which the natives took, in exchange for their commodities, were knives, chisels, pieces of iron and tin, nails, looking-glasses, buttons, or any kind of metal. Though the commerce was, in general, carried on with mutual honesty, there were some among these people who were much inclined to theft. And they were extremely dangerous thieves; for, possessing sharp iron instruments, they could cut a hook from a tackle, or any other piece of iron from a rope, the moment that the backs of the English were turned; and the dexterity with which they conducted their operations of this nature, frequently eluded the most cautious vigilance. In the progress of the commerce, they would deal for nothing but metal; and, at length, brass was so eagerly sought for, in preference to iron, that, before the navigators quitted the place, scarcely a bit of brass was left in the ships, except what belonged to the different instruments. Whole suits of clothes were stripped of every button; bureaus were deprived of their furniture; copper-kettles, tin-canisters, candlesticks, and whatever of the like kind could be found, all were seized and carried off.
On Captain Cook's first arrival in this inlet, he had honoured it with the name of King George's Sound; but as it was called Nootka, by the natives, the latter appellation has since been generally adopted. The climate appeared to be much milder than that on the east coast of America, in the same parallel of latitude. With regard to trees, those of which the woods are chiefly composed, are the Canadian pine and white cypress; of the land animals, the most common were bears, deer, foxes, and wolves. The sea animals, which were seen off the coast, were whales, porpoises, seals, and sea-otters. Birds, in general, were not only rare as to the different species, but few in number.
With respect to the inhabitants, their persons are generally under the common stature; but they are usually full or plump, though without being muscular. From their bringing to sale human skulls and bones, it may be inferred that they treat their enemies with a degree of brutal cruelty. To the navigators, however, they appeared to be a docile, courteous, and good-natured people. The chief employments of the men, were those of fishing, and of killing land or sea animals for the sustenance of themselves and their families; while the women were occupied in manufacturing flaxen or woollen garments, and in other domestic offices.
North of Nootka Sound is Port St. Francois, which was visited by M. de la Perouse. There is, at this place, a deep bay which affords a safe anchorage. During three or four months of the year, vegetation near Port St. Francois is vigorous. In the interior of the country are forests of stately trees; and mountains of granite rise from the sea, and to such an elevation that their summits are capped with snow. Some of the highest mountains were computed by M. de la Perouse, to be ten thousand feet in perpendicular height.
The inhabitants of this part of America are more robust, and better proportioned, than the Californians. The faces of the women are, however, disfigured by having, through the under lip, a piece of wood, by way of ornament. They paint their body and face, tatoo themselves, and pierce their ears and the cartilage of their nose, for the purpose of placing ornaments in them. Their food consists chiefly of game and fish. Their huts, or cabins, are constructed of rushes, or the branches of trees, and are covered with bark. The weapons of the men are bows, javelins, and daggers. The women are chiefly employed in domestic concerns: their dress consists of a leathern shirt, and a mantle of skins; and their feet are generally naked.
The inhabitants of the country, adjacent to an inlet which Captain Cook named Prince William's Sound, appeared to have a strong resemblance to the Esquimaux and Greenlanders. Their canoes, their weapons, and their implements for fishing and hunting, are exactly similar, in materials and construction, to those used in Greenland; and the animals are, in general, similar to those that are found at Nootka. Humming-birds frequently flew about the ships while at anchor. Waterfowl were in considerable abundance: but torsk and holibut were almost the only kinds of fish that were caught. Vegetables were few in number; and the trees were chiefly the Canadian and spruce pine.
North of Prince William's Sound, Captain Cook entered an inlet, which, it was hoped, would be found to communicate either with Baffin's or Hudson's Bay to the east; but, after an examination of it, to the distance of seventy leagues from the sea, it was proved to be a river. It is now called Cook's River.
The inhabitants who were seen during the examinations of this river, appeared to resemble those of Prince William's Sound. They essentially differed from those of Nootka Sound, both in their persons and language. The only articles seen among them, which were not their own manufacture, were a few glass beads, the iron points of their spears, and their knives of the same metal. A very beneficial fur-trade, might be carried on with the inhabitants of this vast coast; but, without a practical northern passage, the situation is too remote to render such a trade of any advantage to Great Britain.
A long peninsula, called Alyaska, extends, from the mouth of Cook's River, in a westerly direction; and, from its extremity a chain of islands stretches almost to the coast of Asia. The main land was observed, by Captain Cook, to be mountainous; and some of the mountains towered above the clouds. One of them, of conical shape, was discovered to be a volcano: smoke issued from its summit.
Northward of Alyaska is a promontory to which Captain Cook gave the name of Cape Newenham. At this place he directed one of his lieutenants to land: this gentleman ascended the highest hill within sight, but from its summit he could not see a tree or shrub of any description. The lower grounds, however, were not destitute of grass and herbage.
At the entrance of Behring's Strait, is a point of land which Captain Cook called Cape Prince of Wales, and which is remarkable as being the most westerly extremity of America hitherto explored. It is not forty miles distant from the coast of Siberia. From near this place, Captain Cook crossed to the opposite shore of Asia; and he continued to traverse the Frozen Sea, in various directions, and through innumerable difficulties, till, at length, the increase of the ice prevented his further progress northward, and he returned into the Pacific Ocean.
Twenty-fifth Day's Instruction.
DAVIS'S STRAIT AND BAFFIN'S BAY.
Several expeditions have, at different times, been fitted out, for the purpose of ascertaining whether there exists a north-west passage, or navigable communication, between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The supposed points of communication are the north-western side of Baffin's Bay, on the east, and Behring's Strait on the west. Within the last four years the attention of the public has been more particularly called to this subject, by the fitting out, and progress, of two successive expeditions into Baffin's Bay. To the commander of each, instructions were given that he should, if possible, effect a passage thence, westward, into the Pacific. The first of these expeditions, under the command of Captain Ross, sailed from England in the month of April, 1818: the other, under Captain Parry, who, in the previous expedition, had accompanied Captain Ross as the second in command, sailed on the 10th of May, 1819. Some of the most interesting adventures which they each experienced, and of the most important discoveries which they effected, will now require our attention.
A Narrative of CAPTAIN ROSS'S Voyage of Discovery, for the purpose of exploring Baffin's Bay, and enquiring into the probability of a North-west Passage.
The Isabella and Alexander, commanded by Captain Ross and Lieutenant Parry, passed Cape Farewell, the south-eastern extremity of Greenland, on the 26th of May, 1818. The voyagers had previously seen a great number of icebergs, or islands of ice, of various shape and size, and of singular and grotesque figure. The height of one of them was estimated at three hundred and twenty-five feet; and a torrent of water was pouring down its side. On another, to which the ships were, for a while, made fast, a stratum of gravel, and stones of various kinds was observed.
Whilst the vessels were near this iceberg, which was in latitude 68 degrees, 22 minutes, they were visited by some Esquimaux, inhabitants of the adjacent country. From these persons they learnt that it had remained aground since the preceding year; and that there was ice all the way thence to Disco Island.
In the evening of the 12th of June, the weather being clear and serene, the sky and the water presented one of the most beautiful scenes that can be imagined. The former, near the horizon, was interspersed with light and fleecy clouds, which decreased gradually in colour and density, according to their height; until, in the zenith, they disappeared entirely, and there the sky assumed a rich cerulean blue. The water, on the other hand, presented a spectacle superbly grand. Let any one fancy himself (says Captain Ross) in the midst of an immense plain, extending further than the eye can penetrate, and filled with masses of ice, which present a greater variety of form than the most fertile imagination can conceive; and as various in size as in shape, from the minutest fragments, to stupendous islands, more than one hundred feet in perpendicular height above the surface of the ocean.
In the afternoon of the 14th of June, being near the Danish settlement, on Kron Prins Island, in latitude 63 degrees, 54 minutes, the governor of the settlement came on board the Isabella. This person stated that the weather of the preceding winter had been unusually severe; and that, during his residence of eleven years, in Greenland, the intensity of the cold had gradually continued to increase. The whole population of the island consisted of himself and family, six Danes, and one hundred Esquimaux, whose occupation consisted chiefly in the capture of whales and seals.
The vessels proceeded northward, along the edge of the ice, through a crooked and narrow channel, in the midst of a firm field of ice, and a tremendous ridge of icebergs.
At Wayat's or Hare Island, the astronomical instruments were landed, and some important errors, both of latitude and longitude, were discovered and corrected. Thirty or forty whale-ships were seen fastened to the icebergs along the shore of this island. The only four-footed animals observed on it were white hares and a fox: the birds were ptarmigans, snipes, snow-buntings, and larks.
Beyond Wayat's Island the ships were surrounded by ice of various and extensive forms; and much skill, ardour, and perseverance, were manifested by the navigators working through the narrow channels and floes. On the 23d, and at the distance of ten miles north of Wayat, they reached Four Island Point, where they found several whalers which had been stopped by the ice.
A sort of Danish factory was established at this spot, and some Indian huts were seen; but they were in ruins and apparently deserted. Captain Ross sent to the shore one of his crew, an Esquimaux, named John Sacheuse. This man, who had been resident nearly two years in England, and had acquired some knowledge of the English language, had been taken on board the Isabella as an interpreter.
He found a village, consisting of a few huts, formed of seal-skins, and sufficient for the residence of about fifty persons. Being desirous of obtaining from these persons a sledge and dogs, in exchange for a rifle-musket, he conducted seven of them, in their canoes, to the ship. As soon as the bargain was made, they went on shore, and returned, with the sledge and dogs, in a larger canoe, rowed by five women in a standing posture, and all dressed in deer-skins. These people were highly pleased with the treatment they received; and, having partaken of some refreshment in the cabin, they danced on the deck with the sailors, to the animating strains of a Shetland fiddler. Two of the women were daughters of a Danish resident, by an Esquimaux woman: one of the men was the son of a Dane; and they were all of the colour of Mulattoes. After the dance, coffee was served; and, at eight o'clock, the party returned to land.
The progress of the vessels had hitherto been much impeded by the state of the ice. This, however, now began to separate, and they once more proceeded on their voyage; passing among hundreds of icebergs, of extraordinary colours, and the most fantastical shapes.
In latitude 74 degrees 30 minutes, the Isabella was jammed in by the ice, and sustained a severe pressure; being lifted several feet out of the water, but she did not receive any material injury. On the 31st of July, whales were seen in great numbers; and, the boats being sent in pursuit of them, one was killed: it measured forty-six feet in length, and yielded thirteen tons of blubber.
On the 6th and 7th of August, the two ships were again in great danger from the ice. Whilst they were in the midst of the icebergs, they were driven, by a gale of wind, so forcibly against each other, that their sterns came violently in contact, and crushed to pieces a boat that could not be removed in time; and, had not the vessels themselves been excessively strong, they must have been totally destroyed. Attempts were made to liberate them by sawing through the ice: not long after the commencement of the operation, two immense masses of ice came violently in contact, and one of them, fifty feet in height, suddenly broke. Its elevated part fell back with a terrible crash; and overwhelmed, with its ruins, the very spot which the officers had marked out as a place of safety for the ships. Soon afterwards the ice opened, and they were once more out of danger.
The gale having abated, and the weather, which of late had been snowy, having cleared up, land was seen in latitude 75 degrees 54 minutes; and on the 9th of August, the voyagers beheld, at a distance, upon the ice, some people who seemed to be hallooing to the ships. At first they were supposed to be shipwrecked sailors, whose vessel had perished in the late gale; the ships, therefore, were steered nearer to the ice, and the colours were hoisted. It was, however, now discovered, that they were natives of the country, drawn by dogs on sledges, and with wonderful velocity.
When they had approached near enough to the ships, for Sacheuse to be heard, he hailed them in his own language, and they answered him; but neither party seemed to be intelligible. For some time the strangers remained silent; but, on the ships' tacking, they set up a shout, and wheeled off, with amazing swiftness, towards the land.
On the ensuing day eight sledges were seen to approach the ships. Sacheuse volunteered his services to go on the ice, with presents: this was done in the hope of bringing the people to a parley. They halted at some distance from the ships, and by the edge of a canal or chasm in the ice, which prevented any fear or danger of attack from either party. Sacheuse soon discovered that these Indians spoke a dialect of his own language; and he invited them to approach nearer, but they replied, "No, no, go you away;" and one of them, drawing a knife out of his boot, exclaimed: "Go away; I can kill you." Sacheuse told them that he wished to be their friend; and, as a proof of it, he threw them, across the canal, some strings of beads, and a checked shirt. These were beheld with great distrust, and Sacheuse threw them a knife. They approached with caution, took up the knife, and then shouted and pulled their noses. These actions were imitated by Sacheuse, who, in return, called out, "Heigh-yaw!" pulling his nose, with the same gesture. They then pointed to the shirt, and asked him of what skin it was made; but some time elapsed before they would venture to touch it. After this they pointed to the ships, and eagerly enquired, "What are those great creatures? Do they come from the sun or the moon? Do they give us light by night or by day?" Sacheuse said that they were houses made of wood; but this, they replied, could not be the case, for the creatures were alive: they had been seen to flap their wings. Sacheuse again assured them of the truth of all he had told them, and that he was a man like themselves; then pointing towards the south, he said he came, in those houses, from a distant country in that direction. To this they replied, "No, that cannot be: there is nothing but ice there."
On Sacheuse asking these Indians who they were, they replied that they were men, and that they lived in a country towards which they pointed (in the north:) that they had there plenty of water; and that they had come to the present spot, to catch seals and sea-unicorns.
Sacheuse, wishing to become better acquainted with them, returned to the ship, for a plank, to enable him to cross over the chasm. He crossed it; but, on approaching them, they entreated that he would not touch them, as, in that case, they should certainly die. One of them, however, more courageous than the rest, ventured to touch his hand; then, pulling his own nose, he set up a loud shout, in which he was joined by Sacheuse and the other three.
The whole of the natives, eight in number, now came forward, and were met by the commanders of the vessels, and the other officers; but they were, evidently, in a state of great alarm, until the ceremony of pulling noses had been gone through by both parties, shouting, at the same time, heigh-yaw! With this people the pulling of noses is a mode of friendly salutation; and their interjection of "heigh-yaw!" is an expression of surprise and pleasure.
The officers gave to the foremost of the natives a looking-glass and a knife; and presented similar articles to the others, as they came up in succession. On seeing their faces in the glasses, their astonishment appeared extreme. They looked round in silence, for a moment, at each other, and at their visitors, and immediately afterwards set up a general shout: this was succeeded by a loud laugh, expressive of delight and surprise. Having, at length, acquired some degree of confidence, they advanced, and, in return for knives, glasses, and beads, gave their own knives, sea-unicorn's horns, and sea-horse teeth.
On approaching the ship, they halted, and were evidently much terrified; and one of the party, after surveying the Isabella, and examining every part of her with his eyes, thus addressed her, in a loud tone: "Who are you? Where do you come from? Is it from the sun or the moon?" pausing between every question, and pulling his nose with the greatest solemnity. This ceremony was repeated, in succession, by all the rest.
Sacheuse again assured them that the ships were only wooden houses; and he showed them the boat, which had been hauled on the ice, for the purpose of being repaired, explaining to them, that it was a smaller vessel of the same kind. This immediately arrested their attention: they advanced to the boat, and examined her, and the carpenter's tools and the oars, very minutely; each object, in its turn, exciting the most ludicrous ejaculations of surprise. The boat was then ordered to be launched into the sea, with a man in it, and hauled up again; at the sight of this operation there seemed no bounds to their clamour. The cable and the ice-anchor, the latter a heavy piece of iron, shaped like the letter S, excited much interest. They tried in vain to remove it; and they eagerly enquired of what skins the cable was made.
By this time the officers of both the ships had surrounded the Indians; while the bow of the Isabella, which was close to the ice, was crowded with sailors; and a more ludicrous, yet more interesting scene, was, perhaps, never beheld, than that which took place whilst the Indians were viewing the ship. Nor is it possible to convey to the imagination any thing like a just representation of the wild amazement, joy, and fear, by which they were successively agitated. The circumstance, however, which chiefly excited their admiration, was a sailor going aloft; for they kept their eyes intently fixed upon him, till he had reached the summit of the mast. The sails, which hung loose, they supposed to be skins.
After this, they were conducted to the foot of a rope-ladder suspended from the deck of the ship; and the mode of ascending it was shown to them; but a considerable time elapsed before they could be prevailed with to ascend. At length one of them went up, and he was followed by the rest. The wonders with which they were now surrounded, excited additional astonishment.
The knowledge which these Indians had of wood seemed to be confined to some kinds of heath, which had stems not thicker than the finger: hence they knew not what to think of the timber with which the ships were constructed. Not being aware of its weight, two or three of them, successively, seized hold of the spare topmast, and evidently with an intention of carrying it off. The only object on board which they seemed to view with contempt, was a little terrier dog; judging, no doubt, that it was too small for drawing a sledge: but they shrunk back, in terror, from a pig, whose pricked ears, and ferocious countenance, presented a somewhat formidable appearance. This animal happening to grunt, one of them was so much terrified, that he became, from that moment, uneasy, and impatient to get out of the ship. In carrying his purpose into effect, however, he did not lose his propensity to thieving, for he seized hold of, and endeavoured to carry off, the smith's anvil: but, finding it infinitely too heavy for his strength, he laid hold of the large hammer, threw it on the ice; and, following it himself, deliberately laid it on his sledge, and drove off. As this was an article that could not be spared, Captain Ross sent a man from the ship, who pursued the depredator, and, with some difficulty, recovered it.
The officers and men on board were much amused by putting into the hands of these Indians a magnifying mirror. On beholding themselves in it, their grimaces were highly entertaining. They first looked into, and then behind it, in hopes of finding the monster which was exaggerating their hideous gestures. A watch was held to the ear of one of them; and he, supposing it alive, asked if it was good to eat. On being shown the glass of the skylight and binnacle, they touched it, and desired to know what kind of ice it was.
Three of the men who remained on board were handed down into the captain's cabin, and shown the use of the chairs: this, however, they did not comprehend; for they appeared to have no notion of any other seat than the ground. They were shown paper, books, drawings, and various mathematical instruments, but these produced in them only the usual effect of astonishment. On being conducted to the gun-room, and afterwards round the ship, they did not appear to notice any thing particularly, except the wood that had been used in her construction. They stamped upon the deck, as if in surprise at the great quantity of this valuable material which they beheld. By the direction of the officers, Sacheuse enquired of these people, whether their country had as many inhabitants as there were pieces of ice, floating round the ship: they replied, "Many more;" and it was supposed that at least a thousand fragments could be distinguished.
The men were now loaded with presents of various kinds, consisting of articles of clothing, biscuit, and pieces of wood; in addition to which the plank that had been used in crossing the chasm, was given to them. They then departed, promising to return as soon as they had eaten and slept. The parting was attended, on each side, by the ceremony of pulling noses.
It has been remarked that these Indians were in possession of knives; and the iron of which their knives were made, was stated to have been procured from a mountain near the sea-shore. They informed Sacheuse that there was a rock, or great quantity of it; and that they cut off from this rock, with a sharp stone, such pieces as they wanted.
In the course of the three following days, the Isabella changed her station some miles westward. At length she was again moored near the ice; and, shortly afterwards, three of the natives appeared at a distance. Sacheuse, who had been furnished with presents, and sent to speak with them, induced them to drive, on their sledges, close to the vessel. The dogs attached to each sledge were six in number. Each dog had a collar of seal-skin, two inches wide, to which one end of a thong, made of strong hide, and about three yards in length, was fastened: the other end was tied to the front of the sledge: thus the dogs were ranged nearly abreast, each dog drawing by a single trace, and without reins. No sooner did they hear the crack of the driver's whip, than they set off at full speed, while he managed them with the greatest apparent ease, guiding them partly by his voice, and partly by the sound of his whip. One of these men pointed out to Captain Ross his house, which was about three miles distant, and could be discerned with a telescope.
A party of ten natives approached the ship, on the ensuing day. These having with them a seal-skin bag filled with air, they began to kick it at each other and at the strangers: in this play the Englishmen joined, to the great amusement of both parties. The inflated skin was what the men had been using as the buoy to a harpoon, in the killing of a sea-unicorn. They gave to Captain Ross a piece of dried sea-unicorn's flesh, which appeared to have been half roasted. This gentleman had already seen them eat dried flesh; and he now had an opportunity of ascertaining that they did not scruple to eat flesh in any state; for, one of them who had a bag full of marine-birds, took out one and devoured it raw.
The officers, desirous of ascertaining whether these Indians had any amusements of music or dancing, prevailed with two of them to give a specimen of their dancing. One of them began to distort his features and turn up his eyes. He then proceeded to execute, in succession, a variety of strange gestures and attitudes, accompanied by hideous distortions of countenance. His body was generally in a stooping posture; and his hands rested on his knees. After a few minutes, he began to sing; and, in a little while, the second performer, who, hitherto, had been looking on, in silence, began to imitate his comrade. They then sang, in chorus, the word, "hejaw! hejaw!" After this had continued, with increasing energy, for several minutes, the tune was suddenly changed to one of shrill notes, in which the words "weehee! weehee!" were uttered with great rapidity. They then approached each other, by slipping their feet forward: they grinned, and, in great agitation, advanced until their noses touched, when a loud and savage laugh terminated the extraordinary performance.
While this performance was going on, one of the Indians, seeing that the attention of every person was engaged, seized the opportunity of descending into the state-room, and of purloining Captain Ross's best telescope, a case of razors, and a pair of scissors, which he artfully concealed in his tunic, rejoining the party and the amusements, as if nothing had happened. He did not, however, escape detection, for the ship's steward had witnessed the theft, and, now charging him with it, made him return all the articles he had stolen.
Captain Ross gave the name of Arctic Highlands to the country inhabited by these Indians, and that of Prince Regent's Bay, to the place where the vessels had anchored. It is situated in the north-east corner of Baffin's Bay, between the latitudes of 76 and 79 degrees north; and is bounded, towards the south, by an immense barrier of mountains covered with ice. The interior of the country presents an irregular group of mountainous land, declining gradually towards the sea, which it reaches in an irregular manner, the cliffs ranging from five hundred to one thousand feet in height. This tract was almost covered with ice, and appeared to be impassable.
On the surface of the land, above the cliffs, a scanty appearance of vegetation, of a yellowish green colour, and, in some places, of a heathy brown, was to be seen; and, at the foot of the cliffs, similar traces of a wretched verdure were also apparent. Among the cliffs were seen deep ravines filled with snow, through which the marks of torrents were perceptible. These cliffs run out, in many places, into capes, and are skirted by islands, which, at this time, were clear of ice, and consequently were washed by the waves. Many species of wild-fowl were seen.
The vegetable productions of this country may be said to consist of heath, moss, and coarse grass. There is nothing like cultivation, nor did it appear that the natives used any kind of vegetable food. The moss is in great abundance: it is six or eight inches in length, and, when dried and immersed in oil or blubber, it serves for a wick, and produces a comfortable fire for cooking and warmth, as well as for light.
The whale-fishery might, undoubtedly, be pursued with great success, in this bay and its vicinity. The whales are here not only large and numerous, but, probably from their having been undisturbed, they are tame, and easy to be approached.
The dress of the Arctic Highlanders, as Captain Ross has denominated the people of this country, consists of three pieces, which are all comprised in the name of tunic. The upper piece is made of seal-skin, with the hair outside; and is open near the top, so as to admit the wearer's face. The hood part is neatly trimmed with fox's-skin, and is made to fall back on the shoulders, or to cover the head, as may be required. The next piece of dress, which scarcely reaches to the knee, is made of bear's or dog's skin. The boots are of seal-skin, with the hair inward. In the winter this people have a garment of bear-skin, which they put on as a cloak.
The Arctic Highlanders are of a dirty copper colour. Their stature is about five feet: their bodies are corpulent, and their features much resemble those of the Esquimaux. Their cheeks are full and round. Their lips are thick, their eyes are small, and their hair is black, coarse, long, and lank. These people appear to be filthy in the extreme. The faces, hands, and bodies of such as were seen by the voyagers, were covered with oil and dirt; and they seemed never to have washed themselves since they were born: even their hair was matted with filth.
Some attempts were made to ascertain the religious notions of the Arctic Highlanders, but these seem to have proved unsatisfactory; and, perhaps, from the inability of Sacheuse to question them on such a subject. They had a king, whom they represented to be a strong man, very good, and greatly beloved. His house was described to be of stone, and nearly as large as the ship; and they said that every man paid to him a portion of all which they caught or found. They could not be made to understand what was meant by war, nor did the voyagers see, among them, any warlike weapons. It is peculiarly deserving of remark, that these Indians, who derive much of their subsistence from the water, have no canoes or vessels of any description, in which they can go afloat; nor do they appear to have any names by which boats or canoes are designated. It is true that they have no wood for the construction of floating vessels; but such might, without difficulty, be constructed of bone covered with skins.
On the 16th of August, the ice had become sufficiently open, to permit the passage of the vessels to the northward; and they consequently proceeded on their voyage.
In these high latitudes, a kind of marine birds, called Little Awks (alca alle) were observed in countless multitudes, and afforded to the sailors, a grateful supply of fresh food. With three muskets, no fewer than one thousand two hundred and sixty-three of them were killed in one day; and, of this number, ninety-three were brought down by one discharge of the muskets.
When the ships were in latitude 75 degrees 54 minutes, the snow on the face of the cliffs was observed to be stained of a deep crimson colour. Some of this snow being collected in buckets, it was found to resemble, in appearance, raspberry ice-cream: when dissolved, the liquor seemed not unlike muddy port-wine; and the sediment appeared, through a microscope, to be composed of dark-red globules. Some of this sediment was brought to England, and it is generally supposed to have been a vegetable substance, the seed, probably, of some species of fungus; or, perhaps, to have been itself a minute kind of fungus.
On the 18th of August, the ships passed Cape Dudley Digges, six miles northward of which a majestic glacier, or mass of ice, was remarked to occupy a space of four miles square, extending one mile into the sea, and rising to the height of at least a hundred feet. On the same day the vessels passed Wolstenholme and Whale Sounds.
About midnight of the 19th, Sir Thomas Smith's Sound was distinctly seen. Captain Ross considered the bottom of this sound to have been eighteen leagues distant; but its entrance, he says, was completely blocked up by ice. On the 21st, the ships stood over to explore an opening, supposed to have been that called Alderman Jones's Sound; but Captain Ross says that the ice and fog prevented a near approach.
The night of the 24th of August was remarkable for having been the first on which the sun had been observed to set, since the 7th of June. The land was now seen to take a southerly direction; and the ships proceeded along it, as near as they could conveniently approach for the floating masses of ice.
On the 30th they entered a wide opening in the land, the Sir James Lancaster's Sound of Baffin. On each side of this opening was a chain of high mountains. The sea was perfectly free from ice, and the vessels proceeded on a westward course for several leagues. The weather had, for some time, been hazy; but, on its clearing up, Captain Ross states that a range of mountains about twenty-four miles distant, were seen to occupy the centre of the inlet. To these he gave the name of Croker Mountains, and, imagining that no passage existed through them, he returned into the open sea, and, not long afterwards, sailed for England.
Twenty-sixth Day's Instruction.
DAVIS'S STRAIT AND BAFFIN'S BAY CONCLUDED.
The accounts that had been given by Captain Ross, particularly respecting the apparent mountains, named by him Croker Mountains, across Sir James Lancaster's Sound, not proving either conclusive or satisfactory, the Lords of the Admiralty ordered two ships, the Hecla and Griper, to be prepared for a further voyage of discovery in Baffin's Bay. The command of these vessels, as already stated, was given to Captain Parry, who, in the previous expedition, had been second in command under Captain Ross. It was one important part of his instructions, that he should advance to the northward, as far as the opening into Lancaster's Sound; that he should explore the bottom of that Sound, and, if possible, pass through it to Behring's Strait. The number of men in both the vessels was ninety-four; and many of them were those who had accompanied Captain Ross.