Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea, in the Years 1819-20-21-22, Volume 1
by John Franklin
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Transcriber's notes:

There are several inconsistencies in spelling and punctuation in the original. Some corrections have been made for obvious typographical errors; they have been noted individually in the text. All changes made by the transcriber are enumerated in braces, for example {1}; details of corrections and comments are listed at the end of the text. Note that many of the errors were introduced in the third edition, as cross-referencing the second edition has shown.

In the original, the "Mc" in Scottish names is given as "M" followed by what looks like a left single quotation mark (Unicode 2018). This has been changed to "Mc" throughout the text; note that the original also contains a few apparently inconsistent uses of "Mac", which have been retained.

Specific spellings that differ from their modern versions and have been retained in this text are "Saskatchawan" (modern "Saskatchewan"), "Winipeg" (modern "Winnipeg"), "Esquimaux" (modern "Eskimo") and "musquito" (with one instance of "moscheto", modern "mosquito").

Text in italics in the original is shown between underlines. For this text version, the oe-ligature (Unicode 0153) has been rendered as "oe". Footnote 14 in chapter IV contains two transliterations, where ā represents Latin small letter a with macron (Unicode 0101) and ō stands for Latin small letter o with macron (Unicode 014D).

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THE YEARS 1819-20-21-22.
























Departure from England—Transactions at Stromness—Enter Davis' Straits—Perilous situation on the shore of Resolution Island—Land on the coast of Labrador—Esquimaux of Savage Islands—York Factory—Preparations for the Journey into the Interior 1


Passage up Hayes', Steel, and Hill Rivers—Cross Swampy Lake—Jack River—Knee Lake, and Magnetic Islet—Trout River—Holy Lake{2}—Weepinapannis River—Windy Lake—White Fall Lake and River—Echemamis and Sea Rivers—Play-Green Lakes—Lake Winipeg—River Saskatchawan—Cross, Cedar, and Pine Island Lakes—Cumberland House 41


Dr. Richardson's residence at Cumberland-House—His account of the Cree Indians 91


Leave Cumberland House—Mode of Travelling in Winter—Arrival at Carlton House—Stone Indians—Visit to a Buffalo Pound—Goitres—Departure from Carlton House—Isle a{3} la Crosse—Arrival at Fort Chipewyan 146


Transactions at Fort Chipewyan—Arrival of Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood—Preparations for our Journey to the Northward 221


Mr. Hood's Journey to the Basquiau Hill—Sojourns with an Indian Party—His Journey to Chipewyan 260


Departure from Chipewyan—Difficulties of the various Navigation of the Rivers and Lakes, and of the Portages—Slave Lake and Fort Providence—Scarcity of Provisions, and Discontent of the Canadian Voyagers—Difficulties with regard to the Indian Guides—Refusal to proceed—Visit of Observation to the upper part of Copper-Mine River—Return to the Winter-Quarters of Fort Enterprise 301

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Directions to the Binder.


I. The CHART shewing the Connected Discoveries of Captains Ross, Parry, and Franklin, to face the Title-Page.


II. Route from York Factory } III. Isle a la Crosse } To be placed at the end. IV. Slave Lake }


His Majesty's Government having determined upon sending an Expedition from the Shores of Hudson's Bay by land, to explore the Northern Coast of America, from the Mouth of the Copper-Mine River to the eastward, I had the honour to be appointed to this service by Earl Bathurst, on the recommendation of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty; who, at the same time, nominated Doctor John Richardson, a Surgeon in the Royal Navy, Mr. George Back, and Mr. Robert Hood, two Admiralty Midshipmen, to be joined with me in the enterprize. My instructions, in substance, informed me that the main object of the Expedition was that of determining the latitudes and longitudes of the Northern Coast of North America, and the trending of that Coast from the Mouth of the Copper-Mine River to the eastern extremity of that Continent; that it was left for me to determine according to circumstances, whether it might be most advisable to proceed, at once, directly to the northward till I arrived at the sea-coast, and thence westerly towards the Copper-Mine River; or advance, in the first instance, by the usual route to the mouth of the Copper-Mine River, and from thence easterly till I should arrive at the eastern extremity of that Continent; that, in the adoption of either of these plans, I was to be guided by the advice and information which I should receive from the wintering servants of the Hudson's Bay Company, who would be instructed by their employers to co-operate cordially in the prosecution of the objects of the Expedition, and who would provide me with the necessary escort of Indians to act as guides, interpreters, game-killers, &c.; and also with such articles of clothing, ammunition, snow-shoes, presents, &c., as should be deemed expedient for me to take. That as another principal object of the Expedition was to amend the very defective geography of the northern part of North America, I was to be very careful to ascertain correctly the latitude and longitude of every remarkable spot upon our route, and of all the bays, harbours, rivers, headlands, &c., that might occur along the Northern Shore of North America. That in proceeding along the coast, I should erect conspicuous marks at places where ships might enter, or to which a boat could be sent; and to deposit information as to the nature of the coast for the use of Lieutenant Parry. That in the journal of our route, I should register the temperature of the air at least three times in every twenty-four hours; together with the state of the wind and weather, and any other meteorological phenomena. That I should not neglect any opportunity of observing and noting down the dip and variation of the magnetic needle, and the intensity of the magnetic force; and should take particular notice whether any, and what kind or degree of, influence the Aurora Borealis might appear to exert on the magnetic needle; and to notice whether that phenomenon were attended with any noise; and to make any other observations that might be likely to tend to the further development of its cause, and the laws by which it is governed.

Mr. Back and Mr. Hood were to assist me in all the observations above-mentioned, and to make drawings of the land, of the natives, and of the various objects of natural history; and, particularly, of such as Dr. Richardson, who, to his professional duties, was to add that of naturalist, might consider to be most curious and interesting.

I was instructed, on my arrival at, or near, the Mouth of the Copper-Mine River, to make every inquiry as to the situation of the spot whence native copper had been brought down by the Indians to the Hudson's Bay establishment, and to visit and explore the place in question; in order that Dr. Richardson might be enabled to make such observations as might be useful in a commercial point of view, or interesting to the science of mineralogy.

From Joseph Berens, Esq., the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, and the gentlemen of the Committee, I received all kinds of assistance and information, communicated in the most friendly manner previous to my leaving England; and I had the gratification of perusing the orders to their agents and servants in North America, containing the fullest directions to promote, by every means, the progress of the Expedition. I most cheerfully avail myself of this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to these Gentlemen for their personal kindness to myself and the other officers, as well as for the benefits rendered by them to the Expedition; and the same sentiment is due towards the Gentlemen of the North-West Company, both in England and America, more particularly to Simon McGillivray, Esq., of London, from whom I received much useful information, and cordial letters of recommendation to the partners and agents of that Company, resident on our line of route.

A short time before I left London I had the pleasure and advantage of an interview with the late Sir Alexander Mackenzie, who was one of the two persons who had visited the coast we were to explore. He afforded me, in the most open and kind manner, much valuable information and advice.

The provisions, instruments, and other articles, of which I had furnished a list, by direction of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, were embarked on board the Hudson's Bay Company's ship Prince of Wales, appointed by the committee to convey the Expedition to York Factory, their principal establishment in Hudson's Bay.

It will be seen, in the course of the Narrative how much reason I had to be satisfied with, and how great my obligations are to, all the Gentlemen who were associated with me in the Expedition, whose kindness, good conduct, and cordial co-operation, have made an impression which can never be effaced from my mind. The unfortunate death of Mr. Hood is the only drawback which I feel from the otherwise unalloyed pleasure of reflecting on that cordial unanimity which at all times prevailed among us in the days of sunshine, and in those of "sickness and sorrow."

To Dr. Richardson, in particular, the exclusive merit is due of whatever collections and observations have been made in the department of Natural History; and I am indebted to him in no small degree for his friendly advice and assistance in the preparation of the present narrative.

The charts and drawings were made by Lieutenant Back, and the late Lieutenant Hood. Both these gentlemen cheerfully and ably assisted me in making the observations and in the daily conduct of the Expedition. The observations made by Mr. Hood, on the various phenomena presented by the Aurora Borealis[1], will, it is presumed, present to the reader some new facts connected with this meteor. Mr. Back was mostly prevented from turning his attention to objects of science by the many severe duties which were required of him, and which obliged him to travel almost constantly every winter that we passed in America; to his personal exertions, indeed, our final safety is mainly to be attributed. And here I must be permitted to pay the tribute, due to the fidelity, exertion and uniform good conduct in the most trying situations, of John Hepburn, an English seaman, and our only attendant, to whom in the latter part of our journey we owe, under Divine Providence, the preservation of the lives of some of the party.

[1] Given in the Appendix to the Quarto Edition.

I ought, perhaps, to crave the reader's indulgence towards the defective style of this work, which I trust will not be refused when it is considered that mine has been a life of constant employment in my profession from a very early age. I have been prompted to venture upon the task solely by an imperious sense of duty, when called upon to undertake it.

In the ensuing Narrative the notices of the moral condition of the Indians as influenced by the conduct of the traders towards them, refer entirely to the state in which it existed during our progress through the country; but lest I should have been mistaken respecting the views of the Hudson's Bay Company on these points, I gladly embrace the opportunity which a Second Edition affords me of stating that the junction of the two Companies has enabled the Directors to put in practice the improvements which I have reason to believe they had long contemplated. They have provided for religious instruction by the appointment of two Clergymen of the established church, under whose direction school-masters and mistresses are to be placed at such stations as afford the means of support for the establishment of schools. The offspring of the voyagers and labourers are to be educated chiefly at the expense of the Company; and such of the Indian children as their parents may wish to send to these schools, are to be instructed, clothed, and maintained at the expense of the Church Missionary Society, which has already allotted a considerable sum for these purposes, and has also sent out teachers who are to act under the superintendence of the Rev. Mr. West, the principal chaplain of the Company.

We had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman at York Factory, and witnessed with peculiar delight the great benefit which already marked his zealous and judicious conduct. Many of the traders, and of the servants of the Company, had been induced to marry the women with whom they had cohabited; a material step towards the improvement of the females in that country.

Mr. West, under the sanction of the Directors, has also promoted a subscription for the distribution of the Bible in every part of the country where the Company's Fur Trade has extended, and which has met with very general support from the resident chief factors, traders, and clerks. The Directors of the Company are continuing to reduce the distribution of spirits gradually among the Indians, as well as towards their own servants, with a view to the entire disuse of them as soon as this most desirable object can be accomplished. They have likewise issued orders for the cultivation of the ground at each of the posts, by which means the residents will be far less exposed to famine whenever through the scarcity of animals, the sickness of the Indians, or any other cause, their supply of meat may fail.

It is to be hoped that intentions, so dear to every humane and pious mind, will, through the blessing of God, meet with the utmost success.


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Departure from England—Transactions at Stromness—Enter Davis' Straits—Perilous Situation on the Shore of Resolution Island—Land on the Coast of Labrador—Esquimaux of Savage Islands—York Factory—Preparations for the Journey into the Interior.

1819. May.

On Sunday, the 23d of May, the whole of our party embarked at Gravesend on board the ship Prince of Wales, belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, just as she was in the act of getting under weigh, with her consorts the Eddystone and Wear. The wind being unfavourable, on the ebb tide being finished, the vessels were again anchored; but they weighed in the night and beat down as far as the Warp, where they were detained two days by a strong easterly wind.

Having learned from some of the passengers, who were the trading Officers of the Company, that the arrival of the ships at either of the establishments in Hudson's Bay, gives full occupation to all the boatmen in their service, who are required to convey the necessary stores to the different posts in the interior; that it was very probable a sufficient number of men might not be procured from this indispensable duty; and, considering that any delay at York Factory would materially retard our future operations, I wrote to the Under Secretary of State, requesting his permission to provide a few well-qualified steersmen and bowmen, at Stromness, to assist our proceedings in the former part of our journey into the interior.

May 30.—The easterly wind, which had retarded the ship's progress so much, that we had only reached Hollesley Bay after a week's beating about, changed to W.S.W. soon after that anchorage had been gained. The vessels instantly weighed, and, by carrying all sail, arrived in Yarmouth Roads at seven P.M.; the pilots were landed, and our course was continued through the anchorage. At midnight, the wind became light and variable, and gradually drew round to the N.W.; and, as the sky indicated unsettled weather, and the wind blew from an unfavourable quarter for ships upon that coast, the commander bore up again for Yarmouth, and anchored at eight A.M.

This return afforded us, at least, the opportunity of comparing the longitude of Yarmouth church, as shewn by our chronometers, with its position as laid down by the Ordnance Trigonometrical Survey; and, it was satisfactory to find, from the small difference in their results, that the chronometers had not experienced any alteration in their rates, in consequence of their being changed from an horizontal position in a room, to that of being carried in the pocket.

An untoward circumstance, while at this anchorage, cast a damp on our party at this early period of the voyage. Emboldened by the decided appearance of the N.W. sky, several of our officers and passengers ventured on shore for a few hours; but, we had not been long in the town before the wind changed suddenly to S.E., which caused instant motion in the large fleet collected at this anchorage. The commander of our ship intimated his intention of proceeding to sea, by firing guns; and the passengers hastened to embark. Mr. Back, however, had unfortunately gone upon some business to a house two or three miles distant from Yarmouth, along the line of the coast; from whence he expected to be able to observe the first symptoms of moving, which the vessels might make. By some accident, however, he did not make his appearance before the captain was obliged to make sail, that he might get the ships through the intricate passage of the Cockle Gat before it was dark. Fortunately, through the kindness of Lieutenant Hewit, of the Protector, I was enabled to convey a note to our missing companion, desiring him to proceed immediately by the coach to the Pentland Firth, and from thence across the passage to Stromness, which appeared to be the only way of proceeding by which he could rejoin the party.

June 3.—The wind continuing favourable after leaving Yarmouth, about nine this morning we passed the rugged and bold projecting rock, termed Johnny Groat's house, and soon afterwards Duncansby Head, and then entered the Pentland Firth. A pilot came from the main shore of Scotland, and steered the ship in safety between the different islands, to the outer anchorage at Stromness, though the atmosphere was too dense for distinguishing any of the objects on the land. Almost immediately after the ship had anchored, the wind changed to N.W., the rain ceased, and a sight was then first obtained of the neighbouring islands, and of the town of Stromness, the latter of which, from this point of view, and at this distance, presented a pleasing appearance.

Mr. Geddes, the agent of the Hudson's Bay Company at this place, undertook to communicate my wish for volunteer boatmen to the different parishes, by a notice on the church-door, which he said was the surest and most direct channel for the conveyance of information to the lower classes in these islands, as they invariably attend divine service there every Sunday. He informed me that the kind of men we were in want of would be difficult to procure, on account of the very increased demand for boatmen for the herring fishery, which had recently been established on the shores of these islands; that last year, sixty boats and four hundred men only were employed in this service, whereas now there were three hundred boats and twelve hundred men engaged; and that owing to this unexpected addition to the fishery, he had been unable to provide the number of persons required for the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. This was unpleasant information, as it increased the apprehension of our being detained at York Factory the whole winter, if boatmen were not taken from hence. I could not therefore hesitate in requesting Mr. Geddes to engage eight or ten men well adapted for our service, on such terms as he could procure them, though the Secretary of State's permission had not yet reached me.

Next to a supply of boatmen, our attention was directed towards the procuring of a house conveniently situated for trying the instruments, and examining the rates of the chronometers. Mr. Geddes kindly offered one of his, which, though in an unfinished state, was readily accepted, being well situated for our purpose, as it was placed on an eminence, had a southern aspect, and was at a sufficient distance from the town to secure us from frequent interruption. Another advantage was its proximity to the Manse, the residence of the Rev. Mr. Clouston, the worthy and highly respected minister of Stromness; whose kind hospitality and the polite attention of his family, the party experienced almost daily during their stay.

For three days the weather was unsettled, and few observations could be made, except for the dip of the needle, which was ascertained to be 74 deg. 37' 48", on which occasion a difference of eight degrees and a half was perceived between the observations, when the face of the instrument was changed from the east to the west, the amount being the greatest when it was placed with the face to the west. But, on the 8th, a westerly wind caused a cloudless sky, which enabled us to place the transit instrument in the meridian, and to ascertain the variation of the compass, to be 27 deg. 50' west. The sky becoming cloudy in the afternoon, prevented our obtaining the corresponding observations to those gained in the morning; and the next day an impervious fog obscured the sky until noon. On the evening of this day, we had the gratification of welcoming our absent companion, Mr. Back. His return to our society was hailed with sincere pleasure by every one, and removed a weight of anxiety from my mind. It appears that he had come down to the beach at Caistor, just as the ships were passing by, and had applied to some boatmen to convey him on board, which might have been soon accomplished, but they, discovering the emergency of his case, demanded an exorbitant reward which he was not at the instant prepared to satisfy; and, in consequence, they positively refused to assist him. Though he had travelled nine successive days, almost without rest, he could not be prevailed upon to withdraw from the agreeable scene of a ball-room, in which he joined us, until a late hour.

On the 10th, the rain having ceased, the observations for ascertaining the dip of the needle were repeated; and the results, compared with the former ones, gave a mean of 74 deg. 33' 20". Nearly the same differences were remarked in reversing the face of the instrument as before. An attempt was also made to ascertain the magnetic force, but the wind blew too strong for procuring the observation to any degree of accuracy.

The fineness of the following day induced us to set up the different instruments for examination, and to try how nearly the observations made by each of them would agree; but a squall passed over just before noon, accompanied by heavy rain, and the hoped-for favourable opportunity was entirely lost. In the intervals between the observations, and at every opportunity, my companions were occupied in those pursuits to which their attention had been more particularly directed in my instructions. Whilst Dr. Richardson was collecting and examining the various specimens of marine plants, of which these islands furnish an abundant and diversified supply, Mr. Back and Mr. Hood took views and sketches of the surrounding scenery, which is extremely picturesque in many parts, and wants only the addition of trees to make it beautiful. The hills present the bold character of rugged sterility, whilst the valleys, at this season, are clothed with luxuriant verdure.

It was not till the 14th, that, by appointment, the boatmen were to assemble at the house of Mr. Geddes, to engage to accompany the Expedition. Several persons collected, but to my great mortification, I found they were all so strongly possessed with the fearful apprehension, either that great danger would attend the service, or that we should carry them further than they would agree to go, that not a single man would engage with us; some of them, however, said they would consider the subject, and give me an answer on the following day. This indecisive conduct was extremely annoying to me, especially as the next evening was fixed for the departure of the ships.

At the appointed time on the following morning, four men only presented themselves, and these, after much hesitation, engaged to accompany the Expedition to Fort Chipewyan, if they should be required so far. The bowmen and steersmen were to receive forty pounds' wages annually, and the middle men thirty-five pounds. They stipulated to be sent back to the Orkney Islands, free of expense, and to receive their pay until the time of arrival. Only these few men could be procured, although our requisition had been sent to almost every island, even as far as the northernmost point of Ronaldsha. I was much amused with the extreme caution these men used before they would sign the agreement; they minutely scanned all our intentions, weighed every circumstance, looked narrowly into the plan of our route, and still more circumspectly to the prospect of return. Such caution on the part of the northern mariners forms a singular contrast with the ready and thoughtless manner in which an English seaman enters upon any enterprise, however hazardous, without inquiring, or desiring to know where he is going, or what he is going about.

The brig Harmony, belonging to the Moravian Missionary Society, and bound to their settlement at Nain, on the coast of Labrador, was lying at anchor. With the view of collecting some Esquimaux words and sentences, or gaining any information respecting the manners and habits of that people, Doctor Richardson and myself paid her a visit. We found the passengers, who were going out as Missionaries, extremely disposed to communicate; but as they only spoke the German and Esquimaux languages, of which we were ignorant, our conversation was necessarily much confined: by the aid, however, of an Esquimaux and German Dictionary, some few words were collected, which we considered might be useful. There were on board a very interesting girl, and a young man, who were natives of Disco, in Old Greenland; both of them had fair complexions, rather handsome features, and a lively manner; the former was going to be married to a resident Missionary, and the latter to officiate in that character. The commander of the vessel gave me a translation of the Gospel of St. John in the Esquimaux language, printed by the Moravian Society in London.

June 16.—The wind being unfavourable for sailing I went on shore with Dr. Richardson, and took several lunar observations at the place of our former residence. The result obtained was latitude 58 deg. 56' 56"{4} N.; longitude 3 deg. 17' 55" W.; variation 27 deg. 50' W.; dip of the magnetic needle, 74 deg. 33' 20". In the afternoon the wind changed in a squall some points towards the north, and the Prince of Wales made the preparatory signal for sea. At three P.M. the ships weighed, an hour too early for the tide; as soon as this served we entered into the passage between Hoy and Pomona, and had to beat through against a very heavy swell, which the meeting of a weather tide and a strong breeze had occasioned.

Some dangerous rocks lie near the Pomona shore, and on this side also the tide appeared to run with the greatest strength. On clearing the outward projecting points of Hoy and Pomona, we entered at once into the Atlantic, and commenced our voyage to Hudson's Bay—having the Eddystone, Wear, and Harmony, Missionary brig, in company.

The comparisons of the chronometers this day indicated that Arnold's Nos. 2148 and 2147, had slightly changed their rates since they had been brought on board; fortunately the rate of the former seems to have increased nearly in the same ratio as the other has lost, and the mean longitude will not be materially affected.

Being now fairly launched into the Atlantic, I issued a general memorandum for the guidance of the officers during the prosecution of the service on which we were engaged, and communicated to them the several points of information that were expected from us by my instructions. I also furnished them with copies of the signals which had been agreed upon between Lieutenant Parry and myself, to be used in the event of our reaching the northern coast of America, and falling in with each other.

At the end of the month of June, our progress was found to have been extremely slow, owing to a determined N.W. wind and much sea. We had numerous birds hovering round the ship; principally fulmars (procellaria glacialis,) and shearwaters, (procellaria puffinus,) and not unfrequently saw shoals of grampusses sporting about, which the Greenland seamen term finners from their large dorsal fin. Some porpoises occasionally appeared, and whenever they did, the crew were sanguine in their expectation of having a speedy change in the wind, which had been so vexatiously contrary, but they were disappointed in every instance.

Thursday, July 1.—The month of July set in more favourably; and, aided by fresh breezes, we advanced rapidly to the westward, attended daily by numerous fulmars and shearwaters. The Missionary brig had parted company on the 22d of June. We passed directly over that part of the ocean where the "Sunken Land of Buss" is laid down in the old, and continued in the Admiralty charts. Mr. Bell, the commander of the Eddystone, informed me, that the pilot who brought his ship down the Thames told him that he had gained soundings in twelve feet somewhere hereabout; and I am rather inclined to attribute the very unusual and cross sea we had in this neighbourhood to the existence of a bank, than to the effect of a gale of wind which we had just before experienced; and I cannot but regret that the commander of the ship did not try for soundings at frequent intervals.

By the 25th July we had opened the entrance of Davis' Straits, and in the afternoon spoke the Andrew Marvell, bound to England with a cargo of fourteen fish. The master informed us that the ice had been heavier this season in Davis' Straits than he had ever recollected, and that it lay particularly close to the westward, being connected with the shore to the northward of Resolution Island, and extending from thence within a short distance of the Greenland coast; that whales had been abundant, but the ice so extremely cross, that few could be killed. His ship, as well as several others, had suffered material injury, and two vessels had been entirely crushed between vast masses of ice in latitude 74 deg. 40' N., but the crews were saved. We inquired anxiously, but in vain, for intelligence respecting Lieutenant Parry, and the ships under his command; but as he mentioned that the wind had been blowing strong from the northward for some time, which would, probably, have cleared Baffin's Bay of ice, we were disposed to hope favourably of his progress.

The clouds assumed so much the appearance of icebergs this evening, as to deceive most of the passengers and crew; but their imaginations had been excited by the intelligence we had received from the Andrew Marvell, that she had only parted from a cluster of them two days previous to our meetings.

On the 27th, being in latitude 57 deg. 44' 21" N., longitude 47 deg. 31' 14" W., and the weather calm we tried for soundings, but did not reach the bottom. The register thermometer was attached to the line just above the lead, and is supposed to have descended six hundred and fifty fathoms. A well-corked bottle was also fastened to the line, two hundred fathoms above the lead, and went down four hundred and fifty fathoms. The change in temperature, shewn by the register thermometer during the descent, was from 52 deg. to 40.5; and it stood at the latter point, when taken out of the tin case. The temperature of the water brought up in the bottle was 41 deg., being half a degree higher at four hundred and fifty than at six hundred and fifty fathoms, and four degrees colder than the water at the surface, which was then at 45 deg., whilst that of the air was 46 deg.. This experiment in shewing the water to be colder at a great depth than at the surface, and in proportion to the increase of the descent, coincides with the observations of Captain Ross and Lieutenant Parry, on their late voyage to these seas, but is contrary to the results obtained by Captain Buchan and myself, on our recent voyage to the north, between Spitzbergen and Greenland, in which sea we invariably found the water brought from any great depth to be warmer than that at the surface.

On the 28th we tacked, to avoid an extensive stream of sailing ice. The temperature of the water fell to 39.5 deg.{5}, when we were near it, but was at 41 deg., when at the distance of half a mile. The thermometer in the air remained steadily at 40 deg.. Thus the proximity of this ice was not so decidedly indicated by the decrease of the temperature of either the air or water, as I have before witnessed, which was probably owing to the recent arrival of the stream at this point, and its passing at too quick a rate for the effectual diffusion of its chilling influence beyond a short distance. Still the decrease in both cases was sufficient to have given timely warning for a ship's performing any evolution that would have prevented the coming in contact with it, had the thickness of the weather precluded a distant view of the danger.

The approach to ice would be more evidently pointed out in the Atlantic, or wherever the surface is not so continually chilled by the passing and the melting of ice as in this sea; and I should strongly recommend a strict hourly attention to the thermometrical state of the water at the surface, in all parts where ships are exposed to the dangerous concussion of sailing icebergs, as a principal means of security.

The following day our ship came near another stream of ice, and the approach to it was indicated by a decrease of the temperature of the water at the surface from 44 deg. to 42 deg.. A small pine-tree was picked up much shattered by the ice. In the afternoon of the 30th, a very dense fog came on; and, about six P.M., when sailing before a fresh breeze, we were suddenly involved in a heavy stream of ice. Considerable difficulty was experienced in steering through the narrow channels between the different masses in this foggy weather, and the ship received several severe blows.

The water, as usual in the centre of the stream, was quite smooth, but we heard the waves beating violently against the outer edge of the ice. There was some earthy matter on several of the pieces, and the whole body bore the appearance of recent separation from the land. In the space of two hours we again got into the open sea, but had left our two consorts far behind; they followed our track by the guns we discharged. The temperature of the surface water was 35 deg. when amongst the ice, 38 deg. when just clear of it, and 41.5 deg. at two miles distant.

On the 4th of August, when in latitude 59 deg. 58' N., longitude 59 deg. 53' W., we first fell in with large icebergs; and in the evening were encompassed by several of considerable magnitude, which obliged us to tack the ship in order to prevent our getting entangled amongst them. The estimated distance from the nearest part of the Labrador coast was then eighty-eight miles; here we tried for soundings, without gaining the bottom. The ship passed through some strong riplings, which evidently indicated a current, but its direction was not ascertained. We found, however, by the recent observations, that the ship had been set daily to the southward, since we had opened Davis' Straits. The variation of the compass was observed to be 52 deg. 41' W.

At nine P.M., brilliant coruscations of the Aurora Borealis appeared, of a pale ochre colour, with a slight tinge of red, in an arched form, crossing the zenith from N.W. to S.E., but afterwards they assumed various shapes, and had a rapid motion.

On the 5th of August, a party of the officers endeavoured to get on one of the larger icebergs, but ineffectually, owing to the steepness and smoothness of its sides, and the swell produced by its undulating motion. This was one of the largest we saw, and Mr. Hood ascertained its height to be one hundred and forty-nine feet; but these masses of ice are frequently magnified to an immense size, through the illusive medium of a hazy atmosphere, and on this account their dimensions have often been exaggerated by voyagers.

In the morning of the 7th, the Island of Resolution was indistinctly seen through the haze, but was soon afterwards entirely hidden by a very dense fog. The favourable breeze subsided into a perfect calm, and left the ship surrounded by loose ice. At this time the Eddystone was perceived to be driving with rapidity towards some of the larger masses; the stern-boats of this ship and of the Wear were despatched to assist in towing her clear of them. At ten, a momentary clearness presented the land distinctly at the distance of two miles; the ship was quite unmanageable, and under the sole governance of the currents, which ran in strong eddies between the masses of ice. Our consorts were also seen, the Wear being within hail, and the Eddystone at a short distance from us. Two attempts were ineffectually made to gain soundings, and the extreme density of the fog precluded us from any other means of ascertaining the direction in which we were driving until half past twelve, when we had the alarming view of a barren rugged shore within a few yards, towering over the mast heads. Almost instantly afterwards the ship struck violently on a point of rocks, projecting from the island; and the ship's side was brought so near to the shore, that poles were prepared to push her off. This blow displaced the rudder, and raised it several inches, but it fortunately had been previously confined by tackles. A gentle swell freed the ship from this perilous situation, but the current hurried us along in contact with the rocky shore, and the prospect was most alarming. On the outward bow was perceived a rugged and precipitous cliff, whose summit was hid in the fog, and the Vessel's head was pointed towards the bottom of a small bay, into which we were rapidly driving. There now seemed to be no probability of escaping shipwreck, being without wind, and having the rudder in its present useless state; the only assistance was that of a boat employed in towing, which had been placed in the water between the ship and the shore, at the imminent risk of its being crushed. The ship again struck in passing over a ledge of rocks, and happily the blow replaced the rudder, which enabled us to take advantage of a light breeze, and to direct the ship's head without the projecting cliff. But the breeze was only momentary, and the ship was a third time driven on shore on the rocky termination of the cliff. Here we remained stationary for some seconds, and with little prospect of being removed from this perilous situation; but we were once more extricated by the swell from this ledge also, and carried still farther along the shore. The coast became now more rugged, and our view of it was terminated by another high projecting point on the starboard bow. Happily, before we had reached it, a light breeze enabled us to turn the ship's head to seaward, and we had the gratification to find, when the sails were trimmed, that she drew off the shore. We had made but little progress, however, when she was violently forced by the current against a large iceberg lying aground.

Our prospect was now more alarming than at any preceding period; and it would be difficult for me to portray the anxiety and dismay depicted on the countenances of the female passengers and children, who were rushing on deck in spite of the endeavours of the officers to keep them below, out of the danger which was apprehended if the masts should be carried away. After the first concussion, the ship was driven along the steep and rugged side of this iceberg with such amazing rapidity, that the destruction of the masts seemed inevitable, and every one expected we should again be forced on the rocks in the most disabled state; but we providentially escaped this perilous result, which must have been decisive.

The dense fog now cleared away for a short time, and we discovered the Eddystone close to some rocks, having three boats employed in towing; but the Wear was not visible.

Our ship received water very fast; the pumps were instantly manned and kept in continual use, and signals of distress were made to the Eddystone, whose commander promptly came on board, and then ordered to our assistance his carpenter and all the men he could spare, together with the carpenter and boat's crew of the Wear, who had gone on board the Eddystone in the morning, and were prevented from returning to their own vessel by the fog. As the wind was increasing, and the sky appeared very unsettled, it was determined the Eddystone should take the ship in tow, that the undivided attention of the passengers and crew might be directed to pumping, and clearing the holds to examine whether there was a possibility of stopping the leak. We soon had reason to suppose the principal injury had been received from a blow near the stern-post, and, after cutting away part of the ceiling, the carpenters endeavoured to stop the rushing in of the water, by forcing oakum between the timbers; but this had not the desired effect, and the leak, in spite of all our efforts at the pumps, increased so much, that parties of the officers and passengers were stationed to bail out the water in buckets at different parts of the hold. A heavy gale came on, blowing from the land, as the night advanced; the sails were split, the ship was encompassed by heavy ice, and, in forcing through a closely connected stream, the tow-rope broke, and obliged us to take a portion of the seamen from the pumps, and appoint them to the management of the ship.

Fatigue, indeed, had caused us to relax in our exertions at the pumps during a part of the night of the 8th, and on the following morning upwards of five feet water was found in the well. Renewed exertions were now put forth by every person, and before eight A.M. the water was so much reduced as to enable the carpenters to get at other defective places; but the remedies they could apply were insufficient to repress the water from rushing in, and our labours could but just keep the ship in the same state throughout the day, until six P.M.; when the strength of every one began to fail, the expedient of thrusting in felt, as well as oakum, was resorted to, and a plank nailed over all. After this operation a perceptible diminution in the water was made, and being encouraged by the change, we put forth our utmost exertion in bailing and pumping; and before night, to our infinite joy, the leak was so overpowered that the pumps were only required to be used at intervals of ten minutes. A sail, covered with every substance that could be carried into the leaks by the pressure of the water, was drawn under the quarter of the ship, and secured by ropes on each side.

As a matter of precaution in the event of having to abandon the ship, which was for some time doubtful, the elderly women and children were removed to the Eddystone when the wind was moderate this afternoon, but the young women remained to assist at the pumps, and their services were highly valuable, both for their personal labour, and for the encouragement their example and perseverance gave to the men.

At day-light, on the 9th, every eye was anxiously cast around the horizon in search of the Wear, but in vain; and the recollection of our own recent peril caused us to entertain considerable apprehensions for her safety. This anxiety quickened our efforts to exchange our shattered sails for new ones, that the ship might be got, as speedily as possible, near to the land, which was but just in sight, and a careful search be made for her along the coast. We were rejoiced to find that our leak did not increase by carrying sail, and we ventured in the evening to remove the sail which had been placed under the part where the injury had been received, as it greatly impeded our advance.

We passed many icebergs on the 10th, and in the evening we tacked from a level field of ice, which extended northward as far as the eye could reach. Our leak remained in the same state; the pumps discharged in three minutes the quantity of water which had been received in fifteen.

The ship could not be got near to the land before the afternoon of the 11th. At four P.M. we hove to, opposite to, and about five miles distant from, the spot on which we had first struck on Saturday. Every glass was directed along the shore (as they had been throughout the day,) to discover any trace of our absent consort; but, as none was seen, our solicitude respecting her was much increased, and we feared the crew might be wrecked on this inhospitable shore. Guns were frequently fired to apprize any who might be near of our approach; but, as no one appeared, and no signal was returned, and the loose ice was setting down towards the ship, we bore up to proceed to the next appointed rendezvous. At eight P.M. we were abreast of the S.W. end of the island called Cape Resolution, which is a low point, but indicated at a distance by a lofty round backed hill that rises above it. We entered Hudson's Straits soon afterwards.

The coast of Resolution Island should be approached with caution, as the tides appear to be strong and uncertain in their course. Some dangerous rocks lie above and below the water's edge, at the distance of five or six miles from East Bluff, bearing S. 32 deg. E.

August 12.—Having had a fresh gale through the night, we reached Saddleback Island by noon—the place of rendezvous; and looked anxiously, but in vain, for the Wear. Several guns were fired, supposing she might be hid from our view by the land; but, as she did not appear, Captain Davidson, having remained two hours, deemed further delay inexpedient, and bore up to keep the advantage of the fair wind. The outline of this island is rugged; the hummock on its northern extremity appeared to me to resemble a decayed martello tower more than a saddle.

Azimuths were obtained this evening that gave the variation 58 deg. 45' W., which is greater than is laid down in the charts, or than the officers of the Hudson's Bay ships have been accustomed to allow. We arrived abreast of the Upper Savage Island early in the morning, and as the breeze was moderate, the ship was steered as near to the shore as the wind would permit, to give the Esquimaux inhabitants an opportunity of coming off to barter, which they soon embraced.

Their shouts at a distance intimated their approach sometime before we descried the canoes paddling towards us; the headmost of them reached us at eleven; these were quickly followed by others, and before noon about forty canoes, each holding one man, were assembled around the two ships. In the afternoon, when we approached nearer to the shore, five or six larger ones, containing the women and children, came up.

The Esquimaux immediately evinced their desire to barter, and displayed no small cunning in making their bargains, taking care not to exhibit too many articles at first. Their principal commodities were, oil, sea-horse teeth, whale-bone, seal-skin dresses, caps and boots, deer-skins and horns, and models of their canoes; and they received in exchange small saws, knives, nails, tin-kettles, and needles. It was pleasing to behold the exultation, and to hear the shouts of the whole party, when an acquisition was made by any one; and not a little ludicrous to behold the eagerness with which the fortunate person licked each article with his tongue, on receiving it, as a finish to the bargain, and an act of appropriation. They in no instance omitted this strange practice, however small the article; the needles even passed individually through the ceremony. The women brought imitations of men, women, animals, and birds, carved with labour and ingenuity out of sea-horse teeth. The dresses and the figures of the animals, were not badly executed, but there was no attempt at the delineation of the countenances; and most of the figures were without eyes, ears, and fingers, the execution of which would, perhaps, have required more delicate instruments than they possess. The men set most value on saws; kuttee-swa-bak, the name by which they distinguish them, was a constant cry. Knives were held next in estimation. An old sword was bartered from the Eddystone, and I shall long remember the universal burst of joy on the happy man's receiving it. It was delightful to witness the general interest excited by individual acquisitions. There was no desire shewn by any one to over-reach his neighbour, or to press towards any part of the ship where{6} a bargain was making, until the person in possession of the place had completed his exchange and removed; and, if any article happened to be demanded from the outer canoes, the men nearest assisted willingly in passing the thing across. Supposing the party to belong to one tribe, the total number of the tribe must exceed two hundred persons, as there were, probably, one hundred and fifty around the ships, and few of these were elderly persons, or male children.

Their faces were broad and flat, the eyes small. The men were in general stout. Some of the younger women and the children had rather pleasing countenances, but the difference between these and the more aged of that sex, bore strong testimony to the effects which a few years produce in this ungenial climate. Most of the party had sore eyes, all of them appeared of a plethoric habit of body; several were observed bleeding at the nose during their stay near the ship. The men's dresses consisted of a jacket of seal-skin, the trowsers of bear-skin, and several had caps of the white fox-skin. The female dresses were made of the same materials, but differently shaped, having a hood in which the infants were carried. We thought their manner very lively and agreeable. They were fond of mimicking our speech and gestures; but nothing afforded them greater amusement than when we attempted to retaliate by pronouncing any of their words.

The canoes were of seal-skin, and similar in every respect to those used by the Esquimaux in Greenland; they were generally new and very complete in their appointments. Those appropriated to the women are of ruder construction, and only calculated for fine weather; they are, however, useful vessels, being capable of containing twenty persons with their luggage. An elderly man officiates as steersman, and the women paddle, but they have also a mast which carries a sail, made of dressed whale-gut.

When the women had disposed of all their articles of trade they resorted to entreaty; and the putting in practice many enticing gestures was managed with so much address, as to procure them presents of a variety of beads, needles, and other articles in great demand among females.

It is probable these Esquimaux go from this shore to some part of Labrador to pass the winter, as parties of them have been frequently seen by the homeward-bound Hudson's Bay ships in the act of crossing the Strait.

They appear to speak the same language as the tribe of Esquimaux, who reside near to the Moravian settlements in Labrador: for we perceived they used several of the words which had been given to us by the Missionaries at Stromness.

Towards evening, the Captain, being desirous to get rid of his visitors, took an effectual method by tacking from the shore; our friends then departed apparently in high glee at the harvest they had reaped. They paddled away very swiftly, and would, doubtless, soon reach the shore though it was distant ten or twelve miles.

Not having encountered any of the ice, which usually arrests the progress of ships in their outward passage through the Straits, and being consequently deprived of the usual means of replenishing our stock of water, which had become short, the Captain resolved on going to the coast of Labrador for a supply. Dr. Richardson and I gladly embraced this opportunity to land, and examine this part of the coast. I was also desirous to observe the variation on shore, as the azimuths, which had been taken on board both ships since our entrance into the Straits, had shewn a greater amount than we had been led to expect; but, unluckily the sun became obscured. The beach consisted of large rolled stones of gneiss and syenite{7}, amongst which many pieces of ice had grounded, and it was with difficulty that we effected a landing in a small cove under a steep cliff. These stones were worn perfectly smooth; neither in the interstices, nor at the bottom of the water, which was very clear, were there any vestiges of sea-weed.

The cliff was from forty to fifty feet high and quite perpendicular, and had at its base a small slip of soil formed of the debris of a bed of clay-slate. From this narrow spot Dr. Richardson collected specimens of thirty different species of plants; and we were about to scramble up a shelving part of the rock, and go into the interior, when we perceived the signal of recall, which the master had caused to be made, in consequence of a sudden change in the appearance of the weather.

On the evening of the 19th, we passed Digge's Islands, the termination of Hudson's Strait. Here the Eddystone parted company, being bound to Moose Factory at the bottom of the Bay. A strong north wind came on, which prevented our getting round the north end of Mansfield, and, as it continued to blow with equal strength for the next five days, we were most vexatiously detained in beating along the Labrador coast, and near the dangerous chain of islands, the Sleepers, which are said to extend from the latitude of 60 deg. 10' to 57 deg. 00' N. The press of sail, which of necessity we carried caused the leak to increase and the pumps were kept in constant use.

A favouring wind at length enabled us, on the 25th, to shape our course across Hudson's Bay. Nothing worthy of remark occurred during this passage, except the rapid decrease in the variation of the magnetic needle. The few remarks respecting the appearance of the land, which we were able to make in our quick passage through these Straits, were transmitted to the Admiralty; but as they will not be interesting to the general reader, and may not be sufficiently accurate for the guidance of the Navigator, they are omitted in this narrative.

On the 28th we discovered the land to the southward of Cape Tatnam, which is so extremely low, that the tops of the trees were first discerned; the soundings at the time were seventeen fathoms, which gradually decreased to five as the shore was approached. Cape Tatnam is not otherwise remarkable than as being the point from which the coast inclines rather more to the westward towards York Factory.

The opening of the morning of the 30th presented to our view the anchorage at York Flats, and the gratifying sight of a vessel at anchor, which we recognised, after an anxious examination, to be the Wear. A strong breeze blowing from the direction of the Flats, caused the water to be more shallow than usual on the sandy bar, which lies on the seaward side of the anchorage, and we could not get over it before two P.M., when the tide was nearly at its height.

Immediately after our arrival, Mr. Williams, the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company's posts, came{8} on board, accompanied by the Commander of the Wear. The pleasure we felt in welcoming the latter gentleman can easily be imagined, when it is considered what reason we had to apprehend that he and his crew had been numbered with the dead. We learned that one of the larger masses of ice had providentially drifted between the vessel's side and the rocks just at the time he expected to strike, to which he secured it until a breeze sprang up, and enabled him to pursue his voyage.

The Governor acquainted me that he had received information from the Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company of the equipment of the Expedition, and that the officers would come out in their first ship. In the evening Dr. Richardson, Mr. Hood, and I, accompanied him to York Factory, which we reached after dark; it is distant from the Flats seven miles. Early next morning the honour of a salute was conferred on the members of the Expedition.

Having communicated to the Governor the objects of the Expedition, and that I had been directed to consult with him and the senior servants of the Company as to the best mode of proceeding towards the execution of the service, I was gratified by his assurance that his instructions from the Committee directed that every possible assistance should be given to forward our progress, and that he should feel peculiar pleasure in performing this part of his duty. He introduced me at once to Messrs. Charles, Swaine, and Snodie, masters of districts, who, from long residence in the country, were perfectly acquainted with the different modes of travelling, and the obstructions which might be anticipated. At the desire of these gentlemen, I drew up a series of questions respecting the points on which we required information; to which, two days afterwards they had the kindness to return very explicit and satisfactory answers; and on receiving them I requested the Governor to favour me with his sentiments on the same subject in writing, which he delivered to me on the following day.

Having learned that Messrs. Shaw, McTavish, and several other partners of the N.W. Company, were under detention at this place, we took the earliest opportunity of visiting them; when having presented the general circular, and other introductory letters, with which I had been furnished by their agent Mr. Simon McGillivray, we received from them the most friendly and full assurance of the cordial endeavours of the wintering partners of their company to promote the interests of the Expedition. The knowledge we had now gained of the state of the violent commercial opposition existing in the country, rendered this assurance highly gratifying; and these gentlemen added to the obligation by freely communicating that information respecting the interior of the country, which their intelligence and long residence so fully qualified them to give.

I deemed it expedient to issue a memorandum to the officers of the Expedition, strictly prohibiting any interference whatever in the existing quarrels, or any that might arise, between the two Companies; and on presenting it to the principals of both the parties, they expressed their satisfaction at the step I had taken.

The opinions of all the gentlemen were so decidedly in favour of the route by Cumberland House, and through the chain of posts to the Great Slave Lake, that I determined on pursuing it, and immediately communicated my intention to the Governor, with a request that he would furnish me with the means of conveyance for the party as speedily as possible.

It was suggested in my instructions that we might probably procure a schooner at this place, to proceed north as far as Wager Bay; but the vessel alluded to was lying at Moose Factory, completely out of repair; independently of which, the route directly to the northward was rendered impracticable by the impossibility of procuring hunters and guides on the coast.

I found that as the Esquimaux inhabitants had left Churchill a month previous to our arrival, no interpreter from that quarter could be procured before their return in the following spring. The Governor, however, undertook to forward to us, next season, the only one amongst them who understood English, if he could be induced to go.

The governor selected one of the largest of the Company's boats for our use on the journey, and directed the carpenters to commence refitting it immediately; but he was only able to furnish us with a steersman; and we were obliged to make up the rest of the crew with the boatmen brought from Stromness, and our two attendants.

York Factory, the principal depot of the Hudson's Bay Company, stands on the west bank of Hayes' River, about five miles above its mouth, on the marshy peninsula which separates the Hayes and Nelson Rivers. The surrounding country is flat and swampy, and covered with willows, poplars, larch, spruce, and birch-trees; but the requisition for fuel has expended all the wood in the vicinity of the fort, and the residents have now to send for it to a considerable distance. The soil is alluvial clay, and contains imbedded rolled stones. Though the bank of the river is elevated about twenty feet, it is frequently overflown by the spring-floods, and large portions are annually carried away by the disruption of the ice, which grounding in the stream, have formed several muddy islands. These interruptions, together with the various collection of stones that are hid at high water, render the navigation of the river difficult; but vessels of two hundred tons burthen may be brought through the proper channels as high as the Factory.

The principal buildings are placed in the form of a square, having an octagonal court in the centre; they are two stories in height, and have flat roofs covered with lead. The officers dwell in one portion of this square, and in the other parts the articles of merchandise are kept: the workshops, storehouses for the furs, and the servants' houses are ranged on the outside of the square, and the whole is surrounded by a stockade twenty feet high. A platform is laid from the house to the pier on the bank for the convenience of transporting the stores and furs, which is the only promenade the residents have on this marshy spot during the summer season. The few Indians who now frequent this establishment, belong to the Swampy Crees. There were several of them encamped on the outside of the stockade. Their tents were rudely constructed by tying twenty or thirty poles together at the top, and spreading them out at the base so as to form a cone; these were covered with dressed moose-skins. The fire is placed in the centre, and a hole is left for the escape of the smoke. The inmates had a squalid look, and were suffering under the combined afflictions of hooping-cough and measles; but even these miseries did not keep them from an excessive indulgence in spirits, which they unhappily can procure from the traders with too much facility; and they nightly serenaded us with their monotonous drunken songs. Their sickness at this time, was particularly felt by the traders, this being the season of the year when the exertion of every hunter is required to procure their winter's stock of geese, which resort in immense flocks to the extensive flats in this neighbourhood. These birds, during the summer, retire far to the north, and breed in security; but, when the approach of winter compels them to seek a more southern climate, they generally alight on the marshes of this bay, and fatten there for three weeks or a month, before they take their final departure from the country. They also make a short halt at the same spots in their progress northwards in the spring. Their arrival is welcomed with joy, and the goose hunt is one of the most plentiful seasons of the year. The ducks frequent the swamps all the summer.

The weather was extremely unfavourable for celestial observations during our stay, and it was only by watching the momentary appearances of the sun, that we were enabled to obtain fresh rates for the chronometers, and allow for their errors from Greenwich time. The dip of the needle was observed to be 79 deg. 29' 07", and the difference produced by reversing the face of the instrument was 11 deg. 3' 40". A succession of fresh breezes prevented our ascertaining the intensity of the magnetic force. The position of York Factory, by our observations, is in latitude 57 deg. 00' 03" N., longitude 92 deg. 26' W. The variation of the compass 6 deg. 00' 21" E.


Passage up Hayes', Steel, and Hill Rivers—Cross Swampy Lake—Jack River—Knee Lake and Magnetic Islet—Trout River—Holy Lake—Weepinapannis River—Windy Lake—White-Fall Lake and River—Echemamis and Sea Rivers—Play-Green Lakes—Lake Winipeg—River Saskatchawan—Cross, Cedar, and Pine-Island Lakes—Cumberland House.

1819. September.

On the 9th of September, our boat being completed, arrangements were made for our departure as soon as the tide should serve. But, when the stores were brought down to the beach, it was found that the boat would not contain them all. The whole, therefore, of the bacon, and part of the flour, rice, tobacco, and ammunition, were returned into the store. The bacon was too bulky an article to be forwarded under any circumstances; but the Governor undertook to forward the rest next season. In making the selection of articles to carry with us, I was guided by the judgment of Governor Williams, who assured me that tobacco, ammunition, and spirits, could be procured in the interior, otherwise I should have been very unwilling to have left these essential articles behind. We embarked at noon, and were honoured with a salute of eight guns and three cheers from the Governor and all the inmates of the fort, who had assembled to witness our departure. We gratefully returned their cheers, and then made sail, much delighted at having now commenced our voyage into the interior of America. The wind and tide failing us at the distance of six miles above the Factory, and the current being too rapid for using oars to advantage, the crew had to commence tracking, or dragging the boat by a line, to which they were harnessed. This operation is extremely laborious in these rivers. Our men were obliged to walk along the steep declivity of a high bank, rendered at this season soft and slippery by frequent rains, and their progress was often further impeded by fallen trees, which, having slipped from the verge of the thick wood above, hung on the face of the bank in a great variety of directions. Notwithstanding these obstacles, we advanced at the rate of two miles an hour, one-half of the crew relieving the other at intervals of an hour and a half. The banks of the river, and its islands, composed of alluvial soil, are well covered with pines, larches, poplars, and willows. The breadth of the stream, some distance above the Factory, is about half a mile, and its depth, during this day's voyage, varied from three to nine feet.

At sunset we landed, and pitched the tent for the night, having made a progress of twelve miles. A large fire was quickly kindled, supper speedily prepared, and as readily despatched, when we retired with our buffalo robes on, and enjoyed a night of sound repose.

It may here be stated, that the survey of the river was made by taking the bearings of every point with a pocket compass, estimating the distances, and making a connected eye-sketch of the whole. This part of the survey was allotted to Messrs. Back and Hood conjointly: Mr. Hood also protracted the route every evening on a ruled map, after the courses and distances had been corrected by observations for latitude and longitude, taken by myself as often as the weather would allow. The extraordinary talent of this young officer in this line of service proved of the greatest advantage to the Expedition, and he continued to perform that duty until his lamented death, with a degree of zeal and accuracy that characterized all his pursuits.

The next morning our camp was in motion at five A.M., and we soon afterwards embarked with the flattering accompaniment of a fair wind: it proved, however, too light to enable us to stem the stream, and we were obliged to resume the fatiguing operation of tracking; sometimes under cliffs so steep that the men could scarcely find a footing, and not unfrequently over spots rendered so miry by the small streams that trickled from above, as to be almost impassable. In the course of the day we passed the scene of a very melancholy accident. Some years ago, two families of Indians, induced by the flatness of a small beach, which lay betwixt the cliff and the river, chose it as the site of their encampment. They retired quietly to rest, not aware that the precipice, detached from the bank, and urged by an accumulation of water in the crevice behind, was tottering to its base. It fell during the night, and the whole party was buried under its ruins.

The length of our voyage to-day was, in a direct line, sixteen miles and a quarter, on a S.S.W. course. We encamped soon after sunset, and the tent was scarcely pitched when a heavy rain began, which continued all night.

Sixteen miles on the 11th, and five on the following morning, brought us to the commencement of Hayes' River, which is formed by the confluence of the Shamattawa and Steel Rivers. Our observations place this spot in latitude 56 deg. 22' 32" N., longitude 93 deg. 1' 37" W. It is forty-eight miles and a half from York Factory including the windings of the river. Steel River, through which our course lay, is about three hundred yards wide at its mouth; its banks have more elevation than those of Hayes' River, but they shelve more gradually down to the stream, and afford a tolerably good towing path, which compensates, in some degree, for the rapids and frequent shoals that impede its navigation. We succeeded in getting about ten miles above the mouth of the river, before the close of day compelled us to disembark.

We made an effort, on the morning of the 13th, to stem the current under sail, but as the course of the river was very serpentine, we found that greater progress could be made by tracking. Steel River presents much beautiful scenery; it winds through a narrow, but well wooded, valley, which at every turn disclosed to us an agreeable variety of prospect, rendered more picturesque by the effect of the season on the foliage, now ready to drop from the trees. The light yellow of the fading poplars formed a fine contrast to the dark evergreen of the spruce, whilst the willows of an intermediate hue, served to shade the two principal masses of colour into each other. The scene was occasionally enlivened by the bright purple tints of the dogwood, blended with the browner shades of the dwarf birch, and frequently intermixed with the gay yellow flowers of the shrubby cinquefoil. With all these charms, the scene appeared desolate from the want of the human species. The stillness was so great, that even the twittering of the whiskey-johneesh, or cinereous crow, caused us to start. Our voyage to-day was sixteen miles on a S.W. course.

Sept. 14.—We had much rain during the night, and also in the morning, which detained us in our encampment later than usual. We set out as soon as the weather cleared up; and in a short time arrived at the head of Steel River, where it is formed by the junction of Fox and Hill Rivers. These two rivers are nearly of equal width, but the latter is the most rapid. Mr. McDonald, on his way to Red River, in a small canoe, manned by two Indians, overtook us at this place. It may be mentioned as a proof of the dexterity of the Indians, and the skill with which they steal upon their game, that they had on the preceding day, with no other arms than a hatchet, killed two deer, a hawk, a curlew, and a sturgeon. Three of the Company's boats joined us in the course of the morning, and we pursued our course up Hill River in company. The water in this river was so low, and the rapids so bad, that we were obliged several times, in the course of the day, to jump into the water, and assist in lifting the boat over the large stones which impeded the navigation. The length of our voyage to-day was only six miles and three quarters.

The four boats commenced operations together at five o'clock the following morning; but our boat being overladen, we soon found that we were unable to keep pace with the others; and, therefore, proposed to the gentlemen in charge of the Company's boats, that they should relieve us of part of our cargo. This they declined doing, under the plea of not having received orders to that effect, notwithstanding that the circular, with which I was furnished by Governor Williams, strictly enjoined all the Company's servants to afford us every assistance. In consequence of this refusal we dropt behind, and our steersman, who was inexperienced, being thus deprived of the advantage of observing the route followed by the guide, who was in the foremost boat, frequently took a wrong channel. The tow-line broke twice, and the boat was only prevented from going broadside down the stream, and breaking to pieces against the stones, by the officers and men leaping into the water, and holding her head to the current until the line could be carried again to the shore. It is but justice to say, that in these trying situations, we received much assistance from Mr. Thomas Swaine, who with great kindness waited for us with the boat under his charge at such places as he apprehended would be most difficult to pass. We encamped at sunset, completely jaded with toil. Our distance made good this day was twelve miles and a quarter.

The labours of the 16th commenced at half past five, and for some time the difficulty of getting the boats over the rapids was equal to what we experienced the day before. Having passed a small brook, however, termed Half-way Creek, the river became deeper, and although rapid, it was smooth enough to be named by our Orkney boatmen Still-water. We were further relieved by the Company's clerks consenting to take a few boxes of our stores into their boats. Still we made only eleven miles in the course of the day.

The banks of Hill River are higher, and have a more broken outline, than those of Steel or Hayes' Rivers. The cliffs of alluvial clay rose in some places to the height of eighty or ninety feet above the stream, and were surmounted by hills about two hundred feet high, but the thickness of the wood prevented us from seeing far beyond the mere banks of the river.

September 17.—About half past five in the morning we commenced tracking, and soon came to a ridge of rock which extended across the stream. From this place the boat was dragged up several narrow rocky channels, until we came to the Rock Portage, where the stream, pent in by a range of small islands, forms several cascades. In ascending the river, the boats with their cargoes are carried over one of the islands, but in the descent they are shot down the most shelving of the cascades. Having performed the operations of carrying, launching, and restowing the cargo, we plied the oars for a short distance, and landed at a depot called Rock House. Here we were informed that the rapids in the upper parts of Hill River were much worse and more numerous than those we had passed, particularly in the present season, owing to the unusual lowness of the water. This intelligence was very mortifying, especially as the gentlemen in charge of the Company's boats declared that they were unable to carry any part of our stores beyond this place; and the traders, guides, and most experienced of the boatmen, were of opinion, that unless our boat was still further lightened, the winter would put a stop to our progress before we could reach Cumberland House, or any eligible post. Sixteen pieces were therefore necessarily left with Mr. Bunn, the gentleman in charge of the post, to be forwarded by the Athabasca canoes next season, this being their place of rendezvous.

After this we recommenced our voyage, and having pulled nearly a mile, arrived at Borrowick's Fall, where the boat was dragged up with a line, after part of the cargo had been carried over a small portage. From this place to the Mud Portage, a distance of a mile and three quarters, the boats were pushed on with poles against a very rapid stream. Here we encamped, having come seven miles during the day on a S.W. course. We had several snow showers in the course of the day, and the thermometer at bed-time stood at 30 deg..

On the morning of the 18th, the country was clothed in the livery of winter, a heavy fall of snow having taken place during the night. We embarked at the usual hour, and in the course of the day, crossed the Point of Rocks and Brassa Portages, and dragged the boats through several minor rapids. In this tedious way we only made good about nine miles.

On Sunday the 19th we hauled the boats up several short rapids, or, as the boatmen term them, expressively enough, spouts, and carried them over the Portages of Lower Burntwood and Morgan's Rocks; on the latter of which we encamped, having proceeded, during the whole day only one mile and three quarters.

The upper part of Hill River swells out considerably, and at Morgan's Rocks, where it is three quarters of a mile wide, we were gratified with a more extensive prospect of the country than any we had enjoyed since leaving York Factory. The banks of the river here, consisting of low flat rocks with intermediate swamps, permitted us to obtain views of the interior, the surface of which is broken into a multitude of cone-shaped hills. The highest of these hills, which gives a name to the river, has an elevation not exceeding six hundred feet. From its summit, thirty-six lakes are said to be visible. The beauty of the scenery, dressed in the tints of autumn called forth our admiration, and was the subject of Mr. Hood's accurate pencil. On the 20th we passed Upper Burntwood and Rocky Ledge Portages, besides several strong spouts; and in the evening arrived at Smooth Rock Portage, where we encamped, having come three miles and a half. It is not easy for any but an eye-witness to form an adequate idea of the exertions of the Orkney boatmen in the navigation of this river. The necessity they are under of frequently jumping into the water to lift the boats over the rocks, compels them to remain the whole day in wet clothes, at a season when the temperature is far below the freezing point. The immense loads too, which they carry over the portages, is not more a matter of surprise than the alacrity with which they perform these laborious duties.

At six on the morning of the 21st, we left our encampment, and soon after arrived at the Mossy Portage, where the cargoes were carried through a deep bog for a quarter of a mile. The river swells out, above this portage, to the breadth of several miles, and as the islands are numerous there are a great variety of channels. Night overtook us before we arrived at the Second Portage, so named from its being the second in the passage down the river. Our whole distance this day was one mile and a quarter.

On the 22d our route led us amongst many wooded islands, which, lying in long vistas, produced scenes of much beauty. In the course of the day we crossed the Upper Portage, surmounted the Devil's Landing Place, and urged the boat with poles through Groundwater Creek. At the upper end of this creek, our bowman having given the boat too great a sheer, to avoid the rock, it was caught on the broadside by the current, and, in defiance of our utmost exertions, hurried down the rapid. Fortunately, however, it grounded against a rock high enough to prevent the current from oversetting it, and the crews of the other boats having come to our assistance, we succeeded, after several trials, in throwing a rope to them, with which they dragged our almost sinking vessel stern foremost up the stream, and rescued us from our perilous situation. We encamped in the dusk of the evening amidst a heavy thunder-storm, having advanced two miles and three quarters.

About ten in the morning of the 23d we arrived at the Dramstone, which is hailed with pleasure by the boats' crews, as marking the termination of the laborious ascent of Hill River. We complied with the custom from whence it derives its name, and soon after landing upon Sail Island prepared breakfast. In the mean time our boatmen cut down and rigged a new mast, the old one having been thrown overboard at the mouth of Steel River, where it ceased to be useful. We left Sail Island with a fair wind, and soon afterwards arrived at a depot situated on Swampy Lake, where we received a supply of mouldy pemmican[2]. Mr. Calder and his attendant were the only tenants of this cheerless abode, and their only food was the wretched stuff with which they supplied us, the lake not yielding fish at this season. After a short delay at this post, we sailed through the remainder of Swampy Lake, and slept at the Lower Portage in Jack River; the distance sailed to-day being sixteen miles and a half.

[2] Buffalo-meat, dried and pounded, and mixed with melted fat.

Jack River is only eight miles long; but being full of bad rapids, it detained us considerably. At seven in the morning of the 24th, we crossed the Long Portage, where the woods, having caught fire in the summer, were still smoking. This is a common accident, owing to the neglect of the Indians and voyagers in not putting out their fires, and in a dry season the woods may be seen blazing to the extent of many miles. We afterwards crossed the Second, or Swampy Portage, and in the evening encamped on the Upper Portage, where we were overtaken by an Indian bringing an answer from Governor Williams to a letter I had written to him on the 15th, in which he renewed his injunctions to the gentlemen of the boats accompanying us, to afford us every assistance in their power. The Aurora Borealis appeared this evening in form of a bright arch, extending across the zenith in a N.W. and S.E. direction. The extent of our voyage to-day was two miles.

About noon, on the 25th, we entered Knee Lake, which has a very irregular form, and near its middle takes a sudden turn, from whence it derives its name. It is thickly studded with islands, and its shores are low and well-wooded. The surrounding country, as far as we could see, is flat, being destitute even of the moderate elevations which occur near the upper part of Hill River. The weather was remarkably fine, and the setting sun threw the richest tints over the scene that I remember ever to have witnessed.

About half a mile from the bend or knee of the lake, there is a small rocky islet, composed of magnetic iron ore, which affects the magnetic needle at a considerable distance. Having received previous information respecting this circumstance, we watched our compasses carefully, and perceived that they were affected at the distance of three hundred yards, both on the approach to and departure from the rock: on decreasing the distance, they became gradually more and more unsteady, and on landing they were rendered quite useless; and it was evident that the general magnetic influence was totally overpowered by the local attraction of the ore. When Kater's compass was held near to the ground on the N.W. side of the island, the needle dipped so much that the card could not be made to traverse by any adjustment of the hand; but on moving the same compass about thirty yards to the west part of the islet, the needle became horizontal, traversed freely, and pointed to the magnetic north. The dipping needle being landed on the S.W. point of the islet, was adjusted as nearly as possible on the magnetic meridian by the sun's bearings, and found to vibrate freely, when the face of the instrument was directed to the east or west. The mean dip it gave was 80 deg. 37' 50". When the instrument was removed from the N.W. to the S.E. point, about twenty yards distant, and placed on the meridian, the needle ceased to traverse, but remained steady at an angle of 60 deg.. On changing the face of the instrument, so as to give a S.E. and N.W. direction to the needle, it hung vertically. The position of the slaty strata of the magnetic ore is also vertical. Their direction is extremely irregular, being much contorted.

Knee Lake towards its upper end becomes narrower, and its rocky shores are broken into conical and rounded eminences, destitute of soil, and of course devoid of trees. We slept at the western extremity of the lake, having come during the day nineteen miles and a half on a S.W. course.

We began the ascent of Trout River early in the morning of the 27th, and in the course of the day passed three portages and several rapids. At the first of these portages the river falls between two rocks about sixteen feet, and it is necessary to launch the boat over a precipitous rocky bank. This cascade is named the Trout-Fall, and the beauty of the scenery afforded a subject for Mr. Hood's pencil. The rocks which form the bed of this river are slaty, and present sharp fragments, by which the feet of the boatmen are much lacerated. The Second Portage, in particular, obtains the expressive name of Knife Portage. The length of our voyage to-day was three miles.

On the 28th we passed through the remainder of Trout River; and, at noon, arrived at Oxford House, on Holey Lake. This was formerly a post of some consequence to the Hudson's Bay Company, but at present it exhibits unequivocal signs of decay. The Indians have of late years been gradually deserting the low or swampy country, and ascending the Saskatchawan, where animals are more abundant. A few Crees were at this time encamped in front of the fort. They were suffering under hooping-cough and measles, and looked miserably dejected. We endeavoured in vain to prevail on one of them to accompany us for the purpose of killing ducks, which were numerous, but too shy for our sportsmen. We had the satisfaction, however, of exchanging the mouldy pemmican, obtained at Swampy Lake, for a better kind, and received, moreover, a small, but very acceptable, supply of fish. Holey Lake, viewed from an eminence behind Oxford House, exhibits a pleasing prospect; and its numerous islands, varying much in shape and elevation, contribute to break that uniformity of scenery which proves so palling to a traveller in this country. Trout of a great size, frequently exceeding forty pounds' weight, abound in this lake. We left Oxford House in the afternoon, and encamped on an island about eight miles' distant, having come, during the day, nine miles and a quarter.

At noon, on the 29th, after passing through the remainder of Holey Lake, we entered the Weepinapannis, a narrow grassy river, which runs parallel to the lake for a considerable distance, and forms its south bank into a narrow peninsula. In the morning we arrived at the Swampy Portage, where two of the boats were broken against the rocks. The length of the day's voyage was nineteen miles and a half.

In consequence of the accident yesterday evening, we were detained a considerable time this morning, until the boats were repaired, when we set out, and, after ascending a strong rapid, arrived at the portage by John Moore's Island. Here the river rushes with irresistible force through the channels formed by two rocky islands; and we learned, that last year a poor man, in hauling a boat up one of these channels, was, by the breaking of the line, precipitated into the stream and hurried down the cascade with such rapidity, that all efforts to save him were ineffectual. His body was afterwards found, and interred near the spot.

The Weepinapannis is composed of several branches which separate and unite, again and again, intersecting the country in a great variety of directions. We pursued the principal channel, and having passed the Crooked Spout, with several inferior rapids, and crossed a small piece of water, named Windy Lake, we entered a smooth deep stream about three hundred yards wide, which has got the absurd appellation of the Rabbit Ground. The marshy banks of this river are skirted by low barren rocks, behind which there are some groups of stunted trees{9}. As we advanced, the country becoming flatter, gradually opened to our view, and we at length arrived at a shallow, reedy lake, the direct course through which leads to the Hill Portage. This route has, however, of late years been disused, and we therefore turned towards the north, and crossing a small arm of the lake, arrived at Hill Gates by sunset; having come this day eleven miles.

October 1.—Hill gates is the name imposed on a romantic defile, whose rocky walls, rising perpendicularly to the height of sixty or eighty feet, hem in the stream for three quarters of a mile, in many places so narrowly, that there is a want of room to ply the oars. In passing through this chasm we were naturally led to contemplate the mighty but, probably, slow and gradual effects of the water in wearing down such vast masses of rock; but in the midst of our speculations, the attention was excited anew to a grand and picturesque rapid, which, surrounded by the most wild and majestic scenery, terminated the defile. The brown fishing-eagle had built its nest on one of the projecting cliffs. In the course of the day we surmounted this and another dangerous portage, called, the Upper and Lower Hill Gate Portages, crossed a small sheet of water, termed the White Fall Lake, and entering the river of the same name, arrived at the White Fall about an hour after sunset, having come fourteen miles on a S.W. course.

The whole of the 2d of October was spent in carrying the cargoes over a portage of thirteen hundred yards in length, and in launching the empty boats over three several ridges of rock which obstruct the channel and produce as many cascades. I shall long remember the rude and characteristic wildness of the scenery which surrounded these falls; rocks piled on rocks hung in rude and shapeless masses over the agitated torrents which swept their bases, whilst the bright and variegated tints of the mosses and lichens, that covered the face of the cliffs, contrasting with the dark green of the pines which crowned their summits, added both beauty and grandeur to the scene. Our two companions, Back and Hood, made accurate sketches of these falls. At this place we observed a conspicuous lop-stick, a kind of land-mark, which I have not hitherto noticed, notwithstanding its great use in pointing out the frequented routes. It is a pine-tree divested of its lower branches, and having only a small tuft at the top remaining. This operation is usually performed at the instance of some individual emulous of fame. He treats his companions with rum, and they in return strip the tree of its branches, and ever after designate it by his name.

In the afternoon, whilst on my way to superintend the operations of the men, a stratum of loose moss gave way under my feet, and I had the misfortune to slip from the summit of a rock into the river betwixt two of the falls. My attempts to regain the bank were, for a time ineffectual, owing to the rocks within my reach having been worn smooth by the action of the water; but, after I had been carried a considerable distance down the stream, I caught hold of a willow, by which I held until two gentlemen of the Hudson's Bay Company came in a boat to my assistance. The only bad consequence{10} of this accident was an injury sustained by a very valuable chronometer, (No. 1733,) belonging to Daniel Moore, Esq., of Lincoln's Inn. One of the gentlemen to whom I delivered it immediately on landing, in his agitation let it fall, whereby the minute-hand was broken, but the works were not in the smallest degree injured, and the loss of the hand was afterwards supplied.

During the night the frost was severe; and at sunrise, on the 3d, the thermometer stood at 25 deg.. After leaving our encampment at the White Fall, we passed through several small lakes connected with each other by narrow deep, grassy streams, and at noon arrived at the Painted Stone. Numbers of musk-rats frequent these streams; and we observed, in the course of the morning, many of{11} their mud-houses rising in a conical form to the height of two or three feet above the grass of the swamps in which they were built.

The Painted Stone is a low rock, ten or twelve yards across, remarkable for the marshy streams which arise on each side of it, taking different courses. On the one side, the water-course which we had navigated from York Factory commences. This spot may therefore be considered as one of the smaller sources of Hayes' River. On the other side of the stone the Echemamis rises, and taking a westerly direction falls into Nelson River. It is said that there was formerly a stone placed near the centre of this portage on which figures were annually traced, and offerings deposited, by the Indians; but the stone has been removed many years, and the spot has ceased to be held in veneration. Here we were overtaken by Governor Williams, who left York Factory on the 20th of last month in an Indian canoe. He expressed much regret at our having been obliged to leave part of our stores at the Rock depot, and would have brought them up with him had he been able to procure and man a boat, or a canoe of sufficient size.

Having launched the boats over the rock, we commenced the descent of the Echemamis. This small stream has its course through a morass, and in dry seasons its channel contains, instead of water, merely a foot or two of thin mud. On these occasions it is customary to build dams that it may be rendered navigable by the accumulation of its waters. As the beavers perform this operation very effectually, endeavours have been made to encourage them to breed in this place, but it has not hitherto been possible to restrain the Indians from killing that useful animal whenever they discover its retreats. On the present occasion there was no want of water, the principal impediment we experienced being from the narrowness of the channel, which permitted the willows of each bank to meet over our heads, and obstruct the men at the oars. After proceeding down the stream for some time, we came to a recently-constructed beaver-dam through which an opening was made sufficient to admit the boat to pass. We were assured that the breach would be closed by the industrious creature in a single night. We encamped about eight miles from the source of the river, having come during the day seventeen miles and a half.

On the 4th we embarked amidst a heavy rain, and pursued our route down the Echemamis. In many parts the morass, by which the river is nourished, and through which it flows, is intersected by ridges of rock which cross the channel, and require the boat to be lifted over them. In the afternoon we passed through a shallow piece of water overgrown with bulrushes, and hence named Hairy Lake; and, in the evening, encamped on the banks of Blackwater Creek, by which this lake empties itself into Sea River; having come during the day twenty miles and three quarters.

On the morning of the 5th, we entered Sea River, one of the many branches of Nelson River. It is about four hundred yards wide, and its waters are of a muddy white colour. After ascending the stream for an hour or two, and passing through Carpenter's Lake, which is merely an expansion of the river to about a mile in breadth, we came to the Sea River Portage, where the boat was launched across a smooth rock, to avoid a fall of four or five feet. Re-embarking at the upper end of the portage, we ran before a fresh gale through the remainder of Sea River, the lower part of Play Green Lake, and entering Little Jack River, landed and pitched our tents. Here there is a small log-hut, the residence of a fisherman, who supplies Norway House with trout and sturgeon. He gave us a few of these fish, which afforded an acceptable supper. Our voyage this day was thirty-four miles.

October 6.—Little Jack River is the name given to a channel that winds among several large islands which separate Upper and Lower Play Green Lakes. At the lower end of this channel, Big Jack River, a stream of considerable magnitude, falls into the lake. Play Green is a translation of the appellation given to that lake by two bands of Indians, who met and held a festival on an island situated near its centre. After leaving our encampment we sailed through Upper Play Green Lake, and arrived at Norway Point in the forenoon.

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