Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea, in the years 1819-20-21-22, Volume 2
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.

Specific spellings that differ from their modern versions and have been retained in this text are "Saskatchawan" (modern "Saskatchewan"), "Esquimaux" (modern "Eskimo") and "musquito" (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 3 in chapter VIII contains several instances of [.0] as a transliteration of the symbol for "Sun" (Unicode 2609).

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THE YEARS 1819-20-21-22.









PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES, Northumberland-Court.


CHAPTER VIII. Page Transactions at Fort Enterprise—Mr. Back's Narrative of his Journey to Chipewyan, and Return 1


Continuation of Proceedings at Fort Enterprise—Some Account of the Copper Indians—Preparations for the Journey to the Northward 76


Departure from Fort Enterprise—Navigation of the Copper-Mine River—Visit to the Copper Mountain—Interview with the Esquimaux—Departure of the Indian Hunters—Arrangements made with them for our Return 122


Navigation of the Polar Sea, in two Canoes, as far as Cape Turnagain, to the Eastward, a distance exceeding Five Hundred and Fifty Miles—Observations on the probability of a North-West Passage 193


Journey across the barren grounds—Difficulty and delay in crossing Copper-Mine River—Melancholy and fatal Results thereof—Extreme Misery of the whole Party—Murder of Mr. Hood—Death of several of the Canadians—Desolate State of Fort Enterprise—Distress suffered at that Place—Dr. Richardson's Narrative—Mr. Back's Narrative—Conclusion 237


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Transactions at Fort Enterprise—Mr. Back's Narrative of his Journey to Chipewyan and Return.

1820. September.

During our little expedition to the Copper-Mine River, Mr. Wentzel had made great progress in the erection of our winter-house, having nearly roofed it in. But before proceeding to give an account of a ten months' residence at this place, henceforth designated Fort Enterprise, I may premise, that I shall omit many of the ordinary occurrences of a North American winter, as they have been already detailed in so able and interesting a manner by Ellis[1], and confine myself principally to the circumstances which had an influence on our progress in the ensuing summer. The observations on the magnetic needle, the temperature of the atmosphere, the Aurora Borealis, and other meteorological phenomena, together with the mineralogical and botanical notices, being less interesting to the general reader, are omitted in this edition.

[1] Voyage to Hudson's Bay in the Dobbs and California.

The men continued to work diligently at the house, and by the 30th of September had nearly completed it for our reception, when a heavy fall of rain washed the greater part of the mud off the roof. This rain was remarked by the Indians as unusual, after what they had deemed so decided a commencement of winter in the early part of the month. The mean temperature for the month was 33-3/4 deg., but the thermometer had sunk as low as 16 deg., and on one occasion rose to 53 deg..

Besides the party constantly employed at the house, two men were appointed to fish, and others were occasionally sent for meat, as the hunters procured it. This latter employment, although extremely laborious, was always relished by the Canadians, as they never failed to use a prescriptive right of helping themselves to the fattest and most delicate parts of the deer. Towards the end of the month, the rein-deer began to quit the barren grounds, and came into the vicinity of the house, on their way to the woods; and the success of the hunters being consequently great, the necessity of sending for the meat considerably retarded the building of the house. In the mean time we resided in our canvas tents, which proved very cold habitations, although we maintained a fire in front of them, and also endeavoured to protect ourselves from the piercing winds by a barricade of pine branches.

On the 6th of October, the house being completed, we struck our tents, and removed into it. It was merely a log-building, fifty feet long, and twenty-four wide, divided into a hall, three bed rooms and a kitchen. The walls and roof were plastered with clay, the floors laid with planks rudely squared with the hatchet, and the windows closed with parchment of deer-skin. The clay, which from the coldness of the weather, required to be tempered before the fire with hot water, froze as it was daubed on, and afterwards cracked in such a manner as to admit the wind from every quarter; yet, compared with the tents, our new habitation appeared comfortable; and having filled our capacious clay-built chimney with fagots, we spent a cheerful evening before the invigorating blaze. The change was peculiarly beneficial to Dr. Richardson, who, having, in one of his excursions, incautiously laid down on the frozen side of a hill when heated with walking, had caught a severe inflammatory sore throat, which became daily worse whilst we remained in the tents, but began to mend soon after he was enabled to confine himself to the more equable warmth of the house. We took up our abode at first on the floor, but our working party, who had shown such skill as house carpenters, soon proved themselves to be, with the same tools, (the hatchet and crooked knife,) excellent cabinet makers, and daily added a table, chair, or bedstead, to the comforts of our establishment. The crooked knife generally made of an old file, bent and tempered by heat, serves an Indian or Canadian voyager for plane, chisel, and auger. With it the snow-shoe and canoe-timbers are fashioned, the deals of their sledges reduced to the requisite thinness and polish, and their wooden bowls and spoons hollowed out. Indeed, though not quite so requisite for existence as the hatchet, yet without its aid there would be little comfort in these wilds.

On the 7th we were gratified by a sight of the sun, after it had been obscured for twelve days. On this and several following days the meridian sun melted the light covering of snow or hoar frost on the lichens, which clothe the barren grounds, and rendered them so tender as to attract great herds of rein-deer to our neighbourhood. On the morning of the 10th I estimated the numbers I saw during a short walk, at upwards of two thousand. They form into herds of different sizes, from ten to a hundred, according as their fears or accident induce them to unite or separate.

The females being at this time more lean and active, usually lead the van. The haunches of the males are now covered to the depth of two inches or more with fat, which is beginning to get red and high flavoured, and is considered a sure indication of the commencement of the rutting season. Their horns, which in the middle of August were yet tender, have now attained their proper size, and are beginning to lose their hairy covering which hangs from them in ragged filaments. The horns of the rein-deer vary, not only with its sex and age, but are otherwise so uncertain in their growth, that they are never alike in any two individuals. The old males shed their's about the end of December; the females retain them until the disappearance of the snow enables them to frequent the barren grounds, which may be stated to be about the middle or end of May, soon after which period they proceed towards the sea-coast and drop their young. The young males lose their horns about the same time with the females or a little earlier, some of them as early as April. The hair of the rein-deer falls in July, and is succeeded by a short thick coat of mingled clove, deep reddish, and yellowish browns; the belly and under parts of the neck, &c., remaining white. As the winter approaches the hair becomes longer, and lighter in its colours, and it begins to loosen in May, being then much worn on the sides, from the animal rubbing itself against trees and stones. It becomes grayish and almost white, before it is completely shed. The Indians form their robes of the skins procured in autumn, when the hair is short. Towards the spring the larvae of the oestrus attaining a large size, produce so many perforations in the skins, that they are good for nothing. The cicatrices only of these holes are to be seen in August, but a fresh set of ova have in the mean time been deposited[2].

[2] "It is worthy of remark, that in the month of May a very great number of large larvae exist under the mucous membrane at the root of the tongue, and posterior part of the nares and pharynx. The Indians consider them to belong to the same species with the oestrus, that deposits its ova under the skin: to us the larvae of the former appeared more flattened than those of the latter. Specimens of both kinds, preserved in spirits, were destroyed by the frequent falls they received on the portages."—DR. RICHARDSON'S Journal.

The rein-deer retire from the sea-coast in July and August, rut in October on the verge of the barren grounds, and shelter themselves in the woods during the winter. They are often induced by a few fine days in winter, to pay a transitory visit to their favourite pastures in the barren country, but their principal movement to the northward commences generally in the end of April, when the snow first begins to melt on the sides of the hills, and early in May, when large patches of the ground are visible, they are on the banks of the Copper-Mine River. The females take the lead in this spring migration, and bring forth their young on the sea-coast about the end of May or beginning of June. There are certain spots or passes well known to the Indians, through which the deer invariably pass in their migrations to and from the coast, and it has been observed that they always travel against the wind. The principal food of the rein-deer in the barren grounds, consists of the cetraria nivalis and cucullata, cenomyce rangiferina, cornicularia ochrileuca, and other lichens, and they also eat the hay or dry grass which is found in the swamps in autumn. In the woods they feed on the different lichens which hang from the trees. They are accustomed to gnaw their fallen antlers, and are said also to devour mice.

The weight of a full grown barren-ground deer, exclusive of the offal, varies from ninety to one hundred and thirty pounds. There is, however, a much larger kind found in the woody parts of the country, whose carcase weighs from two hundred to two hundred and forty pounds. This kind never leaves the woods, but its skin is as much perforated by the gad-fly as that of the others; a presumptive proof that the smaller species are not driven to the sea-coast solely by the attacks of that insect. There are a few rein-deer occasionally killed in the spring, whose skins are entire, and these are always fat, whereas the others are lean at that season. This insect likewise infests the red-deer (wawaskeesh,) but its ova are not found in the skin of the moose, or buffalo, nor, as we have been informed, of the sheep and goat that inhabit the Rocky Mountains, although the rein-deer found in those parts, (which are of an unusually large kind,) are as much tormented by them as the barren-ground variety.

The herds of rein-deer are attended in their migrations by bands of wolves, which destroy a great many of them. The Copper Indians kill the rein-deer in the summer with the gun, or taking advantage of a favourable disposition of the ground, they enclose a herd upon a neck of land, and drive them into a lake, where they fall an easy prey; but in the rutting season and in the spring, when they are numerous on the skirts of the woods, they catch them in snares. The snares are simple nooses, formed in a rope made of twisted sinew, which are placed in the aperture of a slight hedge, constructed of the branches of trees. This hedge is so disposed as to form several winding compartments, and although it is by no means strong, yet the deer seldom attempt to break through it. The herd is led into the labyrinth by two converging rows of poles, and one is generally caught at each of the openings by the noose placed there. The hunter, too, lying in ambush, stabs some of them with his bayonet as they pass by, and the whole herd frequently becomes his prey. Where wood is scarce, a piece of turf turned up answers the purpose of a pole to conduct them towards the snares.

The rein-deer has a quick eye, but the hunter by keeping to leeward and using a little caution, may approach very near; their apprehensions being much more easily roused by the smell than the sight of any unusual object. Indeed their curiosity often causes them to come close up and wheel around the hunter; thus affording him a good opportunity of singling out the fattest of the herd, and upon these occasions they often become so confused by the shouts and gestures of their enemy, that they run backwards and forwards with great rapidity, but without the power of making their escape.

The Copper Indians find by experience that a white dress attracts them most readily, and they often succeed in bringing them within shot, by kneeling and vibrating the gun from side to side, in imitation of the motion of a deer's horns when he is in the act of rubbing his head against a stone.

The Dog-Rib Indians have a mode of killing these animals, which though simple, is very successful. It was thus described by Mr. Wentzel, who resided long amongst that people. The hunters go in pairs, the foremost man carrying in one hand the horns and part of the skin of the head of a deer, and in the other a small bundle of twigs, against which he, from time to time, rubs the horns, imitating the gestures peculiar to the animal. His comrade follows treading exactly in his footsteps, and holding the guns of both in a horizontal position, so that the muzzles project under the arms of him who carries the head. Both hunters have a fillet of white skin round their foreheads, and the foremost has a strip of the same kind round his wrists. They approach the herd by degrees, raising their legs very slowly, but setting them down somewhat suddenly, after the manner of a deer, and always taking care to lift their right or left feet simultaneously. If any of the herd leave off feeding to gaze upon this extraordinary phenomenon, it instantly stops, and the head begins to play its part by licking its shoulders, and performing other necessary movements. In this way the hunters attain the very centre of the herd without exciting suspicion, and have leisure to single out the fattest. The hindmost man then pushes forward his comrade's gun, the head is dropt, and they both fire nearly at the same instant. The herd scampers off, the hunters trot after them; in a short time the poor animals halt to ascertain the cause of their terror, their foes stop at the same instant, and having loaded as they ran, greet the gazers with a second fatal discharge. The consternation of the deer increases, they run to and fro in the utmost confusion, and sometimes a great part of the herd is destroyed within the space of a few hundred yards.

A party who had been sent to Akaitcho returned, bringing three hundred and seventy pounds of dried meat, and two hundred and twenty pounds of suet, together with the unpleasant information, that a still larger quantity of the latter article had been found and carried off, as he supposed, by some Dog-ribs, who had passed that way.

The weather becoming daily colder, all the lakes in the neighbourhood of the house were completely, and the river partially, frozen over by the middle of the month. The rein-deer now began to quit us for more southerly and better-sheltered pastures. Indeed, their longer residence in our neighbourhood would have been of little service to us, for our ammunition was almost completely expended, though we had dealt it of late with a very sparing hand to the Indians. We had, however, already secured in the store-house the carcases of one hundred deer, together with one thousand pounds of suet, and some dried meat; and had, moreover, eighty deer stowed up at various distances from the house. The necessity of employing the men to build a house for themselves, before the weather became too severe, obliged us to put the latter en cache, as the voyagers term it, instead of adopting the more safe plan of bringing them to the house. Putting a deer en cache, means merely protecting it against the wolves, and still more destructive wolverenes, by heavy loads of wood or stones; the latter animal, however, sometimes digs underneath the pile, and renders the precaution abortive.

On the 18th, Mr. Back and Mr. Wentzel set out for Fort Providence, accompanied by Beauparlant, Belanger, and two Indians, Akaiyazza and Thoolezzeh, with their wives, the Little Forehead, and the Smiling Marten. Mr. Back had volunteered to go and make the necessary arrangements for transporting the stores we expected from Cumberland House, and to endeavour to obtain some additional supplies from the establishments at Slave Lake. If any accident should have prevented the arrival of our stores, and the establishments at Moose-Deer Island should be unable to supply the deficiency, he was, if he found himself equal to the task, to proceed to Chipewyan. Ammunition was essential to our existence, and a considerable supply of tobacco was also requisite, not only for the comfort of the Canadians, who use it largely, and had stipulated for it in their engagements, but also as a means of preserving the friendship of the Indians. Blankets, cloth, and iron-work, were scarcely less indispensible to equip our men for the advance next season.

Mr. Wentzel accompanied Mr. Back, to assist him in obtaining from the traders, on the score of old friendship, that which they might be inclined to deny to our necessities. I forwarded by them letters to the Colonial Office and Admiralty, detailing the proceedings of the Expedition up to this period.

On the 22d we were surprised by a visit from a dog; the poor animal was in low condition, and much fatigued. Our Indians discovered, by marks on his ears, that he belonged to the Dog-ribs. This tribe, unlike the Chipewyans and Copper Indians, had preserved that useful associate of man, although from their frequent intercourse with the latter people, they were not ignorant of the prediction alluded to in a former page. One of our interpreters was immediately despatched, with an Indian, to endeavour to trace out the Dog-ribs, whom he supposed might be concealed in the neighbourhood from their dread of the Copper Indians; although we had no doubt of their coming to us, were they aware of our being here. The interpreter, however, returned without having discovered any traces of strange Indians; a circumstance which led us to conclude, that the dog had strayed from his masters a considerable time before.

Towards the end of the month the men completed their house, and took up their abode in it. It was thirty-four feet long and eighteen feet wide; was divided into two apartments, and was placed at right angles to the officers' dwelling, and facing the store-house: the three buildings forming three sides of a quadrangle.

On the 26th Akaitcho and his party arrived, the hunting in this neighbourhood being terminated for the season, by the deer having retired southward to the shelter of the woods.

The arrival of this large party was a serious inconvenience to us, from our being compelled to issue them daily rates of provision from the store. The want of ammunition prevented us from equipping and sending them to the woods to hunt; and although they are accustomed to subsist themselves for a considerable part of the year by fishing, or snaring the deer, without having recourse to fire-arms, yet, on the present occasion, they felt little inclined to do so, and gave scope to their natural love of ease, as long as our store-house seemed to be well stocked. Nevertheless, as they were conscious of impairing our future resources, they did not fail, occasionally, to remind us that it was not their fault, to express an ardent desire to go hunting, and to request a supply of ammunition, although they knew that it was not in our power to give it.

The summer birds by this time had entirely deserted us, leaving, for our winter companions, the raven, cinereous crow, ptarmigan, and snow-bird. The last of the water-fowl that quitted us was a species of diver, of the same size with the colymbus arcticus, but differing from it in the arrangement of the white spots on its plumage, and in having a yellowish white bill. This bird was occasionally caught in our fishing nets.

The thermometer during the month of October, at Fort Enterprise, never rose above 37 deg., or fell below 5 deg.; the mean temperature for the month was 23 deg..

In the beginning of October a party had been sent to the westward to search for birch to make snow-shoe frames, and the Indian women were afterwards employed in netting the shoes and preparing leather for winter-clothing to the men. Robes of rein-deer skins were also obtained from the Indians, and issued to the men who were to travel, as they are not only a great deal lighter than blankets, but also much warmer, and altogether better adapted for a winter in this climate. They are, however, unfit for summer use, as the least moisture causes the skin to spoil, and lose its hair. It requires the skins of seven deer to make one robe. The finest are made of the skins of young fawns.

The fishing, having failed as the weather became more severe, was given up on the 5th. It had procured us about one thousand two hundred white fish, from two to three pounds each. There are two other species of Coregoni in Winter Lake, Back's grayling and the round fish; and a few trout, pike, methye, and red carp, were also occasionally obtained from the nets. It may be worthy of notice here, that the fish froze as they were taken out of the nets, in a short time became a solid mass of ice, and by a blow or two of the hatchet were easily split open, when the intestines might be removed in one lump. If in this completely frozen state they were thawed before the fire, they recovered their animation. This was particularly the case with the carp, and we had occasion to observe it repeatedly, as Dr. Richardson occupied himself in examining the structure of the different species of fish, and was, always in the winter, under the necessity of thawing them before he could cut them. We have seen a carp recover so far as to leap about with much vigour, after it had been frozen for thirty-six hours.

From the 12th to the 16th we had fine, and for the season, warm weather; and the deer, which had not been seen since the 26th of October, reappeared in the neighbourhood of the house, to the surprise of the Indians, who attributed their return to the barren grounds to the unusual mildness of the season. On this occasion, by melting some of our pewter cups, we managed to furnish five balls to each of the hunters, but they were all expended unsuccessfully, except by Akaitcho, who killed two deer.

By the middle of the month Winter River was firmly frozen over, except the small rapid at its commencement, which remained open all the winter. The ice on the lake was now nearly two feet thick. After the 16th we had a succession of cold, snowy, and windy weather. We had become anxious to hear of the arrival of Mr. Back and his party at Fort Providence. The Indians, who had calculated the period at which a messenger ought to have returned from thence to be already passed, became impatient when it had elapsed, and with their usual love of evil augury tormented us by their melancholy forebodings. At one time they conjectured that the whole party had fallen through{1} the ice; at another, that they had been way-laid and cut off by the Dog-ribs. In vain did we urge the improbability of the former accident, or the peaceable character of the Dog-ribs, so little in conformity with the latter. "The ice at this season was deceitful," they said, "and the Dog-ribs, though unwarlike, were treacherous." These assertions, so often repeated, had some effect upon the spirits of our Canadian voyagers, who seldom weigh any opinion they adopt; but we persisted in treating their fears as chimerical, for had we seemed to listen to them for a moment, it is more than probable that the whole of our Indians would have gone to Fort Providence in search of supplies, and we should have found it extremely difficult to have recovered them.

The matter was put to rest by the appearance of Belanger on the morning of the 23d, and the Indians, now running into the opposite extreme, were disposed to give us more credit for our judgment than we deserved. They had had a tedious and fatiguing journey to Fort Providence, and for some days were destitute of provisions.

Belanger arrived alone; he had walked constantly for the last six-and-thirty hours, leaving his Indian companions encamped at the last woods, they being unwilling to accompany him across the barren grounds during the storm that had prevailed for several days, and blew with unusual violence on the morning of his arrival. His locks were matted with snow, and he was incrusted with ice from head to foot, so that we scarcely recognised him when he burst in upon us. We welcomed him with the usual shake of the hand, but were unable to give him the glass of rum which every voyager receives on his arrival at a trading post.

As soon as his packet was thawed, we eagerly opened it to obtain our English letters. The latest were dated on the preceding April. They came by way of Canada, and were brought up in September to Slave Lake by the North-West Company's canoes.

We were not so fortunate with regard to our stores; of ten pieces, or bales of 90lbs. weight, which had been sent from York Factory by Governor Williams, five of the most essential had been left at the Grand Rapid on the Saskatchawan, owing, as far as we could judge from the accounts that reached us, to the misconduct of the officer to whom they were intrusted, and who was ordered to convey them to Cumberland-House. Being overtaken by some of the North-West Company's canoes, he had insisted on their taking half of his charge as it was intended for the service of Government. The North-West gentlemen objected, that their canoes had already got a cargo in, and that they had been requested to convey our stores from Cumberland House only, where they had a canoe waiting for the purpose. The Hudson's-Bay officer upon this deposited our ammunition and tobacco upon the beach, and departed without any regard to the serious consequences that might result to us from the want of them. The Indians, who assembled at the opening of the packet, and sat in silence watching our countenances, were necessarily made acquainted with the non-arrival of our stores, and bore the intelligence with unexpected tranquillity. We took care, however, in our communications with them to dwell upon the more agreeable parts of our intelligence, and they seemed to receive particular pleasure on being informed of the arrival of two Esquimaux interpreters at Slave Lake, on their way to join the party. The circumstance not only quieted their fears of opposition from the Esquimaux on our descent to the sea next season, but also afforded a substantial proof of our influence in being able to bring two people of that nation from such a distance.

Akaitcho, who is a man of great penetration and shrewdness, duly appreciated these circumstances; indeed he has often surprised us by his correct judgment of the character of individuals amongst the traders or of our own party, although his knowledge of their opinions was, in most instances, obtained through the imperfect medium of interpretation. He was an attentive observer, however, of every action, and steadily compared their conduct with their pretensions.

By the newspapers we learned the demise of our revered and lamented sovereign George III., and the proclamation of George IV. We concealed this intelligence from the Indians, lest the death of their Great Father might lead them to suppose that we should be unable to fulfil our promises to them.

The Indians who had left Fort Providence with Belanger arrived the day after him, and, amongst other intelligence, informed Akaitcho of some reports they had heard to our disadvantage. They stated that Mr. Weeks, the gentleman in charge of Fort Providence, had told them, that so far from our being what we represented ourselves to be, the officers of a great King, we were merely a set of dependant wretches, whose only aim was to obtain subsistence for a season in the plentiful country of the Copper Indians; that, out of charity we had been supplied with a portion of goods by the trading Companies, but that there was not the smallest probability of our being able to reward the Indians when their term of service was completed. Akaitcho, with great good sense, instantly came to have the matter explained, stating at the same time, that he could not credit it. I then pointed out to him that Mr. Wentzel, with whom they had long been accustomed to trade, had pledged the credit of his Company for the stipulated rewards to the party that accompanied us, and that the trading debts due by Akaitcho, and his party had already been remitted, which was of itself a sufficient proof of our influence with the North-West Company. I also reminded Akaitcho, that our having caused the Esquimaux to be brought up at a great expense, was evidence of our future intentions, and informed him that I should write to Mr. Smith, the senior trader in the department, on the subject, when I had no doubt that a satisfactory explanation would be given. The Indians retired from the conference apparently satisfied, but this business was in the end productive of much inconvenience to us, and proved very detrimental to the progress of the Expedition. In conjunction also with other intelligence conveyed in Mr. Back's letters respecting the disposition of the traders towards us, particularly a statement of Mr. Weeks, that he had been desired not to assist us with supplies from his post, it was productive of much present uneasiness to me.

On the 28th St. Germain, the interpreter, set out with eight Canadian voyagers and four Indian hunters to bring up our stores from Fort Providence. I wrote by him to Mr. Smith, at Moose-Deer Island, and Mr. Keith, at Chipewyan, both of the North-West Company, urging them in the strongest manner to comply with the requisition for stores, which Mr. Back would present. I also informed Mr. Simpson, principal agent in the Athabasca for the Hudson's Bay Company, who had proffered every assistance in his power, that we should gladly avail ourselves of the kind intentions expressed in a letter which I had received from him.

We also sent a number of broken axes to Slave Lake to be repaired. The dog that came to us on the 22d of October, and had become very familiar, followed the party. We were in hopes that it might prove of some use in dragging their loads, but we afterwards learned, that on the evening after their departure from the house, they had the cruelty to kill and eat it, although they had no reason to apprehend a scarcity of provision. A dog is considered to be delicate eating by the voyagers.

The mean temperature of the air for November was -0 deg..7. The greatest heat observed was 25 deg. above, and the least 31 deg. below, zero.

On the 1st of December the sky was clear, a slight appearance of stratus only being visible near the horizon; but a kind of snow fell at intervals in the forenoon, its particles so minute as to be observed only in the sunshine. Towards noon the snow became more apparent, and the two limbs of a prismatic arch were visible, one on each side of the sun near its place in the heavens, the centre being deficient. We have frequently observed this descent of minute icy spiculae when the sky appears perfectly clear, and could even perceive that its silent but continued action, added to the snowy covering of the ground.

Having received one hundred balls from Fort Providence by Belanger, we distributed them amongst the Indians, informing the leader at the same time, that the residence of so large a party as his at the house, amounting, with women and children, to forty souls, was producing a serious reduction in our stock of provision. He acknowledged the justice of the statement, and promised to remove as soon as his party had prepared snow-shoes and sledges for themselves. Under one pretext or other, however, their departure was delayed until the 10th of the month, when they left us, having previously received one of our fishing-nets, and all the ammunition we possessed. The leader left his aged mother and two female attendants to our care, requesting that if she died during his absence, she might be buried at a distance from the fort, that he might not be reminded of his loss when he visited us.

Keskarrah, the guide, also remained behind, with his wife and daughter. The old man has become too feeble to hunt, and his time is almost entirely occupied in attendance upon his wife, who has been long affected with an ulcer on the face, which has nearly destroyed her nose.

Lately he made an offering to the water spirits, whose wrath he apprehended to be the cause of her malady. It consisted of a knife, a piece of tobacco, and some other trifling articles, which were tied up in a small bundle, and committed to the rapid with a long prayer. He does not trust entirely, however, to the relenting of the spirits for his wife's cure, but comes daily to Dr. Richardson for medicine.

Upon one occasion he received the medicine from the Doctor with such formality, and wrapped it up in his rein-deer robe with such extraordinary carefulness, that it excited the involuntary laughter of Mr. Hood and myself. The old man smiled in his turn, and as he always seemed proud of the familiar way in which we were accustomed to joke with him, we thought no more upon the subject. But he unfortunately mentioned the circumstance to his wife, who imagined in consequence, that the drug was not productive of its usual good effects, and they immediately came to the conclusion that some bad medicine had been intentionally given to them. The distress produced by this idea, was in proportion to their former faith in the potency of the remedy, and the night was spent in singing and groaning. Next morning the whole family were crying in concert, and it was not until the evening of the second day that we succeeded in pacifying them. The old woman began to feel better, and her faith in the medicine was renewed.

While speaking of this family, I may remark that the daughter, whom we designated Green-stockings from her dress, is considered by her tribe to be a great beauty. Mr. Hood drew an accurate portrait of her, although her mother was averse to her sitting for it. She was afraid, she said, that her daughter's likeness would induce the Great Chief who resided in England to send for the original. The young lady, however, was undeterred by any such fear. She has already been an object of contest between her countrymen, and although under sixteen years of age, has belonged successively to two husbands, and would probably have been the wife of many more, if her mother had not required her services as a nurse.

The weather during this month, was the coldest we experienced during our residence in America. The thermometer sunk on one occasion to 57 deg. below zero, and never rose beyond 6 deg. above it; the mean for the month was -29 deg..7. During these intense colds, however, the atmosphere was generally calm, and the wood-cutters and others went about their ordinary occupations without using any extraordinary precautions, yet without feeling any bad effects. They had their rein-deer shirts on, leathern mittens lined with blankets, and furred caps; but none of them used any defence for the face, or needed any. Indeed we have already mentioned that the heat is abstracted most rapidly from the body during strong breezes, and most of those who have perished from cold in this country, have fallen a sacrifice to their being overtaken on a lake or other unsheltered place, by a storm of wind. The intense colds, were, however, detrimental to us in another way. The trees froze to their very centres and became as hard as stones, and more difficult to cut. Some of the axes were broken daily, and by the end of the month we had only one left that was fit for felling trees. By intrusting it only to one of the party who had been bred a carpenter, and who could use it with dexterity, it was fortunately preserved until the arrival of our men with others from Fort Providence.

A thermometer, hung in our bed-room at the distance of sixteen feet from the fire, but exposed to its direct radiation, stood even in the day-time occasionally at 15 deg. below zero, and was observed more than once previous to the kindling of the fire in the morning, to be as low as 40 deg. below zero. On two of these occasions the chronometers 2149 and 2151, which during the night lay under Mr. Hood's and Dr. Richardson's pillows, stopped while they were dressing themselves.

The rapid at the commencement of the river remained open in the severest weather, although it was somewhat contracted in width. Its temperature was 32 deg., as was the surface of the river opposite the house, about a quarter of a mile lower down, tried at a hole in the ice, through which water was drawn for domestic purposes. The river here was two fathoms and a half deep, and the temperature at its bottom was at least 42 deg. above zero. This fact was ascertained by a spirit thermometer; in which, probably, from some irregularity in the tube, a small portion of the coloured liquor usually remained at 42 deg. when the column was made to descend rapidly. In the present instance the thermometer standing at 47 deg. below zero, with no portion of the fluid in the upper part of the tube, was let down slowly into the water, but drawn cautiously and rapidly up again, when a red drop at +42 deg. indicated that the fluid had risen to that point or above it. At this period the daily visits of the sun were very short, and owing to the obliquity of his rays, afforded us little warmth or light. It is half past eleven before he peeps over a small ridge of hills opposite to the house, and he sinks in the horizon at half past two. On the 28th Mr. Hood, in order to attain an approximation to the quantity of terrestrial refraction, observed the sun's meridian altitude when the thermometer stood at 46 deg. below zero, at the imminent hazard of having his fingers frozen.

He found the sextant had changed its error considerably, and that the glasses had lost their parallelism from the contraction of the brass. In measuring the error he perceived that the diameter of the sun's image was considerably short of twice the semi-diameter; a proof of the uncertainty of celestial observations made during these intense frosts. The results of this and another similar observation are given at the bottom of the page[3].

[3] "The observed meridian altitude of [.0] upper limb was 2 deg. 52' 51". Temperature of the air -45 deg. 5'{2}. By comparing this altitude, corrected by the mean refraction and parallax, with that deduced from the latitude which was observed in autumn, the increase of refraction is found to be 6' 50", the whole refraction, therefore, for the altitude 2 deg. 52' 51" is 21' 49". Admitting that the refraction increases in the same ratio as that of the atmosphere at a mean state of temperature, the horizontal refraction will be 47' 22". But the diameter of the sun measured immediately after the observation, was only 27' 7", which shews an increase of refraction at the lower limb of 3' 29". The horizontal refraction calculated with this difference, and the above-mentioned ratio, is 56' 3", at the temperature -45 deg. 5'. So that in the parallel 68 deg. 42', where if there was no refraction, the sun would be invisible for thirty-four days, his upper limb, with the refraction 56' 3", is, in fact, above the horizon at every noon.

The wind was from the westward a moderate breeze, and the air perfectly clear. January 1st, 1821. Observed meridian altitude of [.0] lower limb 2 deg. 35' 20". [.0] apparent diameter 29 deg. 20'. For apparent altitude 2 deg. 35' 20", the mean refraction is 16' 5" (Mackay's Tables), and the true, found as detailed above, is 20' 8": which increasing in the same ratio as that of the atmosphere, at a mean state of temperature, is 41' 19" at the horizon. But the difference of refraction at the upper and lower limbs, increasing also in that ratio, gives 55' 16" for the horizontal refraction. Temperature of the air -41 deg.. Wind north, a light breeze, a large halo visible about the sun. January 15th, 1821.—Observed an apparent meridian altitude [.0] lower limb 4 deg. 24' 57". [.0] apparent diameter 31' 5". For apparent altitude 4 deg. 24' 57", the mean refraction is 10' 58" (Mackay's Tables), and the true, found as detailed above, is 14' 39", which, increasing in the same ratio as that of the atmosphere at a mean state of temperature, is 43' 57" at the horizon. But the difference of refraction between the upper and lower limbs increasing also in that ratio, gives 48' 30" for the horizontal refraction.

Temperature of the air -35 deg., a light air from the westward, very clear.

The extreme coldness of the weather rendered these operations difficult and dangerous; yet I think the observations may be depended upon within 30", as will appear by their approximate results in calculating the horizontal refraction; for it must be considered that an error of 30", in the refraction in altitude, would make a difference of several minutes in the horizontal refraction."—MR. HOOD'S Journal.

The aurora appeared with more or less brilliancy on twenty-eight nights in this month, and we were also gratified by the resplendent beauty of the moon, which for many days together performed its circle round the heavens, shining with undiminished lustre, and scarcely disappearing below the horizon during the twenty-four hours.

During many nights there was a halo round the moon, although the stars shone brightly, and the atmosphere appeared otherwise clear. The same phenomenon{3} was observed round the candles, even in our bed-rooms; the diameter of the halo increasing as the observer receded from the light. These halos, both round the moon and candles, occasionally exhibited faintly some of the prismatic colours.

As it may be interesting to the reader to know how we passed our time at this season of the year, I shall mention briefly, that a considerable portion of it was occupied in writing up our journals. Some newspapers and magazines, that we had received from England with our letters, were read again and again, and commented upon, at our meals; and we often exercised ourselves with conjecturing the changes that might take place in the world before we could hear from it again. The probability of our receiving letters, and the period of their arrival, were calculated to a nicety. We occasionally paid the woodmen a visit, or took a walk for a mile or two on the river.

In the evenings we joined the men in the hall, and took a part in their games, which generally continued to a late hour; in short, we never found the time to hang heavy upon our hands; and the peculiar occupations of each of the officers afforded them more employment than might at first be supposed. I re-calculated the observations made on our route; Mr. Hood protracted the charts, and made those drawings of birds, plants, and fishes, which cannot appear in this work, but which have been the admiration of every one who has seen them. Each of the party sedulously and separately recorded their observations on the aurora; and Dr. Richardson contrived to obtain from under the snow, specimens of most of the lichens in the neighbourhood, and to make himself acquainted with the mineralogy of the surrounding country.

The Sabbath was always a day of rest with us; the woodmen were required to provide for the exigencies of that day on Saturday, and the party were dressed in their best attire. Divine service was regularly performed, and the Canadians attended, and behaved with great decorum, although they were all Roman Catholics, and but little acquainted with the language in which the prayers were read. I regretted much that we had not a French Prayer-Book, but the Lord's Prayer and Creed were always read to them in their own language.

Our diet consisted almost entirely of rein-deer meat, varied twice a week by fish, and occasionally by a little flour, but we had no vegetables of any description. On the Sunday mornings we drank a cup of chocolate, but our greatest luxury was tea (without sugar,) of which we regularly partook twice a-day. With rein-deer's fat, and strips of cotton shirts, we formed candles; and Hepburn acquired considerable skill in the manufacture of soap, from the wood-ashes, fat, and salt. The formation of soap was considered as rather a mysterious operation by our Canadians, and, in their hands, was always supposed to fail if a woman approached the kettle in which the ley{4} was boiling. Such are our simple domestic details.

On the 30th, two hunters came from the leader, to convey ammunition to him, as soon as our men should bring it from Fort Providence.

The men, at this time, coated the walls of the house on the outside, with a thin mixture of clay and water, which formed a crust of ice, that, for some days, proved impervious to the air; the dryness of the atmosphere, however, was such, that the ice in a short time evaporated, and gave admission to the wind as before. It is a general custom at the forts to give this sort of coating to the walls at Christmas time. When it was gone, we attempted to remedy its defect, by heaping up snow against the walls.

1821, January 1.

This morning our men assembled, and greeted us with the customary salutation on the commencement of the new year. That they might enjoy a holiday{5}, they had yesterday collected double the usual quantity of fire-wood, and we anxiously expected the return of the men from Fort Providence, with some additions to their comforts. We had stronger hope of their arrival before the evening, as we knew that every voyager uses his utmost endeavour to reach a post upon, or previous to, the jour de l'an, that he may partake of the wonted festivities. It forms, as Christmas is said to have done among our forefathers, the theme of their conversation for months before and after the period of its arrival. On the present occasion we could only treat them with a little flour and fat; these were both considered as great luxuries, but still the feast was defective from the want of rum, although we promised them a little when it should arrive.

The early part of January proved mild, the thermometer rose to 20 deg. above zero, and we were surprised by the appearance of a kind of damp fog approaching very nearly to rain. The Indians expressed their astonishment at this circumstance, and declared the present to be one of the warmest winters they had ever experienced. Some of them reported that it had actually rained in the woody parts of the country. In the latter part of the month, however, the thermometer again descended to -49 deg., and the mean temperature for the month proved to be -15 deg..6. Owing to the fogs that obscured the sky the aurora was visible only upon eighteen nights in the month.

On the 15th seven of our men arrived from Fort Providence with two kegs of rum, one barrel of powder, sixty pounds of ball, two rolls of tobacco, and some clothing. They had been twenty-one days on their march from Slave Lake, and the labour they underwent was sufficiently evinced by their sledge-collars having worn out the shoulders of their coats. Their loads weighed from sixty to ninety pounds each, exclusive of their bedding and provisions, which at starting must have been at least as much more. We were much rejoiced at their arrival, and proceeded forthwith to pierce the spirit cask, and issue to each of the household the portion of rum which had been promised on the first day of the year. The spirits, which were proof, were frozen, but after standing at the fire for some time they flowed out of the consistency of honey. The temperature of the liquid, even in this state, was so low as instantly to convert into ice the moisture which condensed on the surface of the dram-glass. The fingers also adhered to the glass, and would, doubtless, have been speedily frozen had they been kept in contact with it; yet each of the voyagers swallowed his dram without experiencing the slightest inconvenience, or complaining of tooth-ache.

After the men had retired, an Indian, who had accompanied them from Fort Providence, informed me that they had broached the cask on their way up and spent two days in drinking. This instance of breach of trust was excessively distressing to me; I felt for their privations and fatigues, and was disposed to seize every opportunity of alleviating them, but this, combined with many instances of petty dishonesty with regard to meat, shewed how little confidence could be put in a Canadian voyager when food or spirits were in question. We had been indeed made acquainted with their character on these points by the traders; but we thought that when they saw their officers living under equal if not greater privations than themselves, they would have been prompted by some degree of generous feeling to abstain from those depredations which, under ordinary circumstances, they would scarcely have blushed to be detected in.

As they were pretty well aware that such a circumstance could not long be concealed from us, one of them came the next morning with an artful apology for their conduct. He stated, that as they knew it was my intention to treat them with a dram on the commencement of the new year, they had helped themselves to a small quantity on that day, trusting to my goodness for forgiveness; and being unwilling to act harshly at this period, I did forgive them, after admonishing them to be very circumspect in their future conduct.

The ammunition, and a small present of rum, were sent to Akaitcho.

On the 18th Vaillant, the woodman, had the misfortune to break his axe. This would have been a serious evil a few weeks sooner, but we had just received some others from Slave Lake.

On the 27th Mr. Wentzel and St. Germain arrived with the two Esquimaux, Tattannoeuck and Hoeootoerock, (the belly and the ear.) The English names, which were bestowed upon them at Fort Churchill in commemoration of the months of their arrival there, are Augustus and Junius. The former speaks English.

We now learned that Mr. Back proceeded with Beauparlant to Fort Chipewyan, on the 24th of December, to procure stores, having previously discharged J. Belleau from our service at his own request, and according to my directions. I was the more induced to comply with this man's desire of leaving us, as he proved to be too weak to perform the duty of bowman which he had undertaken.

Four dogs were brought up by this party, and proved a great relief to our wood-haulers during the remainder of the season.

By the arrival of Mr. Wentzel, who is an excellent musician, and assisted us (con amore) in our attempts to amuse the men, we were enabled to gratify the whole establishment with an occasional dance. Of this amusement the voyagers were very fond, and not the less so, as it was now and then accompanied by a dram as long as our rum lasted.

On the 5th of February, two Canadians came from Akaitcho for fresh supplies of ammunition. We were mortified to learn that he had received some further unpleasant reports concerning us from Fort Providence, and that his faith in our good intentions was somewhat shaken. He expressed himself dissatisfied with the quantity of ammunition we had sent him, accused us of an intention of endeavouring to degrade him in the eyes of his tribe, and informed us that Mr. Weeks had refused to pay some notes for trifling quantities of goods and ammunition that had been given to the hunters who accompanied our men to Slave Lake.

Some powder and shot, and a keg of diluted spirits were sent to him with the strongest assurances of our regard.

On the 12th, another party of six men was sent to Fort Providence, to bring up the remaining stores. St. Germain went to Akaitcho for the purpose of sending two of his hunters to join this party on its route.

On comparing the language of our two Esquimaux with a copy of St. John's Gospel, printed for the use of the Moravian Missionary Settlements on the Labrador coast, it appeared that the Esquimaux who resort to Churchill speak a language essentially the same with those who frequent the Labrador coast. The Red Knives, too, recognise the expression Teyma, used by the Esquimaux when they accost strangers in a friendly manner, as similarly pronounced by Augustus, and those of his race who frequent the mouth of the Copper-Mine River.

The tribe to which Augustus belongs resides generally a little to the northward of Churchill. In the spring, before the ice quits the shores, they kill seal, but during winter they frequent the borders of the large lakes near the coast, where they obtain fish, rein-deer, and musk-oxen.

There are eighty-four grown men in the tribe, only seven of whom are aged. Six Chiefs have each two wives; the rest of the men have only one, so that the number of married people may amount to one hundred and seventy. He could give me no certain data whereby I might estimate the number of children.

Two great Chiefs, or Ackhaiyoot, have complete authority in directing the movements of the party, and in distributing provisions. The Attoogawnoeuck, or lesser Chiefs, are respected principally as senior men. The tribe seldom suffers from want of food, if the Chief moves to the different stations at the proper season. They seem to follow the eastern custom respecting marriage. As soon as a girl is born, the young lad who wishes to have her for a wife goes to her father's tent, and proffers himself. If accepted, a promise is given which is considered binding, and the girl is delivered to her betrothed husband at the proper age.

They consider their progenitors to have come from the moon. Augustus has no other idea of a Deity than some confused notions which he has obtained at Churchill.

When any of the tribe are dangerously ill, a conjurer is sent for, and the bearer of the message carries a suitable present to induce his attendance. Upon his arrival he encloses himself in the tent with the sick man, and sings over him for days together without tasting food; but Augustus, as well as the rest of the uninitiated, are ignorant of the purport of his songs, and of the nature of the Being to whom they are addressed. The conjurers practise a good deal of jugglery in swallowing knives, firing bullets through their bodies, &c., but they are at these times generally secluded from view, and the bystanders believe their assertions, without requiring to be eye-witnesses of the fact. Sixteen men and three women amongst Augustus' tribe are acquainted with the mysteries of the art. The skill of the latter is exerted only on their own sex.

Upon the map being spread before Augustus, he soon comprehended it, and recognised Chesterfield Inlet to be "the opening into which salt waters enter at spring tides, and which receives a river at its upper end." He termed it Kannoeuck Kleenoeuck. He has never been farther north himself than Marble Island, which he distinguishes as being the spot where the large ships were wrecked, alluding to the disastrous termination of Barlow and Knight's Voyage of Discovery[4]. He says, however, that Esquimaux of three different tribes have traded with his countrymen, and that they described themselves as having come across land from a northern sea. One tribe, who named themselves Ahwhacknanhelett, he supposes may come from Repulse Bay; another, designated Ootkooseek-kalingmoeoot, or Stone-Kettle Esquimaux, reside more to the westward; and the third, the Kang-orr-moeoot, or White Goose Esquimaux, describe themselves as coming from a great distance, and mentioned that a party of Indians had killed several of their tribe on the summer preceding their visit. Upon comparing the dates of this murder with that of the last massacre which the Copper Indians have perpetrated on these harmless and defenceless people, they appear to differ two years; but the lapse of time is so inaccurately recorded, that this difference in their accounts is not sufficient to destroy their identity; besides the Chipewyans, the only other Indians who could possibly have committed the deed, have long since ceased to go to war. If this massacre should be the one mentioned by the Copper Indians, the Kang-orr-moeoot must reside near the mouth of the Anatessy, or River of Strangers.

[4] See Introduction to HEARNE'S Journey, page xxiv.

The winter habitations of the Esquimaux, who visit Churchill are built of snow, and judging from one constructed by Augustus to-day, they are very comfortable dwellings. Having selected a spot on the river, where the snow was about two feet deep, and sufficiently compact, he commenced by tracing out a circle twelve feet in diameter. The snow in the interior of the circle was next divided with a broad knife, having a long handle, into slabs three feet long, six inches thick, and two feet deep, being the thickness of the layer of snow. These slabs were tenacious enough to admit of being moved about without breaking, or even losing the sharpness of their angles, and they had a slight degree of curvature, corresponding with that of the circle from which they were cut. They were piled upon each other exactly like courses of hewn stone around the circle which was traced out, and care was taken to smooth the beds of the different courses with the knife, and to cut them so as to give the wall a slight inclination inwards, by which contrivance the building acquired the properties of a dome. The dome was closed somewhat suddenly and flatly by cutting the upper slabs in a wedge-form, instead of the more rectangular shape of those below. The roof was about eight feet high, and the last aperture was shut up by a small conical piece. The whole was built from within, and each slab was cut so that it retained its position without requiring support until another was placed beside it, the lightness of the slabs greatly facilitating the operation. When the building was covered in, a little loose snow was thrown over it, to close up every chink, and a low door was cut through the walls with a knife. A bed-place was next formed and neatly faced up with slabs of snow, which was then covered with a thin layer of pine branches, to prevent them from melting by the heat of the body. At each end of the bed a pillar of snow was erected to place a lamp upon, and lastly, a porch was built before the door, and a piece of clear ice was placed in an aperture cut in the wall for a window.

The purity of the material of which the house was framed, the elegance of its construction, and the translucency of its walls, which transmitted a very pleasant light, gave it an appearance far superior to a marble building, and one might survey it with feelings somewhat akin to those produced by the contemplation of a Grecian temple, reared by Phidias; both are triumphs of art, inimitable in their kinds.

Annexed there is a plan of a complete Esquimaux snow-house and kitchen and other apartments, copied from a sketch made by Augustus, with the names of the different places affixed. The only fire-place is in the kitchen, the heat of the lamps sufficing to keep the other apartments warm:—


A. Ablokeyt, steps. B. Pahloeuk, porch. C. Wadl-leek, passage. D. Haddnoeweek, for the reception of the sweepings of the house. E. G. Tokheuook, antechamber, or passage. F. Annarroeartoweek. H. Eegah, cooking-house. I. Eegah-natkah, passage. K. Keidgewack, for piling wood upon. L. Keek kloweyt, cooking side. M. Keek loot, fire-place built of stone.{6} N. Eegloo, house. O. Kattack, door. P. Nattoeuck, clear space in the apartment. a. d. Eekput, a kind of shelf where the candle stands; and b. c. a pit where they throw their bones, and other offal of their provision. Q. Eegl-luck, bed-place. R. Eegleeteoet, bed-side or sitting-place. S. bed-place, as on the other side.{7} T. Kietgn-nok, small pantry. U. Hoergloack, store-house{8} for provisions.

Several deer were killed near the house, and we received some supplies from Akaitcho. Parties were also employed in bringing in the meat that was placed en cache in the early part of the winter. More than one half of these caches, however, had been destroyed by the wolves and wolverenes; a circumstance which, in conjunction with the empty state of our store-house, led us to fear that we should be much straitened for provisions before the arrival of any considerable number of rein-deer in this neighbourhood.

A good many ptarmigan were seen at this time, and the women caught some in snares, but not in sufficient quantity to make any further alteration in the rations of deers' meat that were daily issued. They had already been reduced from eight, to the short allowance of five pounds.

Many wolves prowled nightly about the house, and even ventured upon the roof of the kitchen, which is a low building, in search of food; Keskarrah shot a very large white one, of which a beautiful and correct drawing was made by Mr. Hood.

The temperature in February was considerably lower than in the preceding month, although not so low as in December, the mean being -25 deg..3. The greatest temperature was 1 deg. above zero, and the lowest 51 deg. below.

On the 5th of March the people returned from Slave Lake, bringing the remainder of our stores, consisting of a cask of flour, thirty-six pounds of sugar, a roll of tobacco, and forty pounds of powder. I received a letter from Mr. Weeks, wherein he denied that he had ever circulated any reports to our disadvantage; and stated that he had done every thing in his power to assist us, and even discouraged Akaitcho from leaving us, when he had sent him a message, saying, that he wished to do so, if he was sure of being well received at Fort Providence.

We mentioned the contents of the letter to the Indians, who were at the house at the time, when one of the hunters, who had attended the men on their journey, stated, that he had heard many of the reports against us from Mr. Weeks himself, and expressed his surprise that he should venture to deny them. St. Germain soon afterwards arrived from Akaitcho, and informed us, that he left him in good humour, and, apparently, not harbouring the slightest idea of quitting us.

On the 12th, we sent four men to Fort Providence; and, on the 17th Mr. Back arrived from Fort Chipewyan, having performed, since he left us, a journey of more than one thousand miles on foot. I had every reason to be much pleased with his conduct on this arduous undertaking; but his exertions may be best estimated by the perusal of the following narrative.

"On quitting Fort Enterprise, with Mr. Wentzel and two Canadians, accompanied by two hunters and their wives, our route lay across the barren hills. We saw, during the day, a number of deer, and, occasionally, a solitary white wolf; and in the evening halted near a small knot of pines. Owing to the slow progress made by the wives of the hunters, we only travelled the first day a distance of seven miles and a half. During the night we had a glimpse of the fantastic beauties of the Aurora Borealis, and were somewhat annoyed by the wolves, whose nightly howling interrupted our repose. Early the next morning we continued our march, sometimes crossing small lakes (which were just frozen enough to bear us,) and at other times going large circuits, in order to avoid those which were open. The walking was extremely bad throughout the day; for independent of the general unevenness of the ground, and the numberless large stones which lay scattered in every direction, the unusual warmth of the weather had dissolved the snow, which not only kept us constantly wet, but deprived us of a firm footing, so that the men, with their heavy burdens, were in momentary apprehension of falling. In the afternoon a fine herd of deer was descried, and the Indians, who are always anxious for the chase, and can hardly be restrained from pursuing every animal they see, set out immediately. It was late when they returned, having had good success, and bringing with them five tongues, and the shoulder of a deer. We made about twelve miles this day. The night was fine, and the Aurora Borealis so vivid, that we imagined, more than once, that we heard a rustling noise like that of autumnal leaves stirred by the wind; but after two hours of attentive listening, we were not entirely convinced of the fact. The coruscations were not so bright, nor the transition from one shape and colour to another so rapid, as they sometimes are; otherwise, I have no doubt, from the midnight silence which prevailed, that we should have ascertained this yet undecided point.

"The morning of the 20th was so extremely hazy that we could not see ten yards before us; it was, therefore, late when we started, and during our journey the hunters complained of the weather, and feared they should lose the track of our route. Towards the evening it became so thick that we could not proceed; consequently, we halted in a small wood, situated in a valley, having only completed a distance of six miles.

"The scenery consisted of high hills, which were almost destitute of trees, and lakes appeared in the valleys. The cracking of the ice was so loud during the night as to resemble thunder, and the wolves howled around us. We were now at the commencement of the woods, and at an early hour, on the 21st, continued our journey over high hills for three miles, when the appearance of some deer caused us to halt, and nearly the remainder of the day was passed in hunting them. In the evening we stopped within sight of Prospect Hill, having killed and concealed six deer. A considerable quantity of snow fell during the night.

"The surrounding country was extremely rugged; the hills divided by deep ravines, and the valleys covered with broken masses of rocks and stones; yet the deer fly (as it were,) over these impediments with apparent ease, seldom making a false step, and springing from crag to crag with all the confidence of the mountain goat. After passing Rein-Deer Lake, (where the ice was so thin as to bend at every step for nine miles,) we halted, perfectly satisfied with our escape from sinking into the water. While some of the party were forming the encampment one of the hunters killed a deer, a part of which was concealed to be ready for use on our return. This evening we halted in a wood near the canoe track, after having travelled a distance of nine miles. The wind was S.E. and the night cloudy, with wind and rain.

"On the 24th and 25th we underwent some fatigue from being obliged to go round the lakes, which lay across our route, and were not sufficiently frozen to bear us. Several rivulets appeared to empty themselves into the lakes, no animals were killed, and few tracks seen. The scenery consisted of barren rocks and high hills, covered with lofty pine, birch, and larch trees.

"October 26.—We continued our journey, sometimes on frozen lakes, and at other times on high craggy rocks. When we were on the lakes we were much impeded in our journey by different parts which were unfrozen. There was a visible increase of wood, consisting of birch and larch, as we inclined to the southward. About ten A.M. we passed Icy Portage, where we saw various tracks of the moose, bear, and otter; and after a most harassing march through thick woods and over fallen trees, we halted a mile to the westward of Fishing Lake; our provisions were now almost expended; the weather was cloudy with snow.

"On the 27th we crossed two lakes, and performed a circuitous route, frequently crossing high hills to avoid those lakes which were not frozen; during the day one of the women made a hole through the ice, and caught a fine pike, which she gave to us; the Indians would not partake of it, from the idea (as we afterwards learnt,) that we should not have sufficient for ourselves: 'We are accustomed to starvation,' said they, 'but you are not.' In the evening, we halted near Rocky Lake. I accompanied one of the Indians to the summit of a hill, where he shewed me a dark horizontal cloud, extending to a considerable distance along the mountains in the perspective, which he said was occasioned by the Great Slave Lake, and was considered as a good guide to all the hunters in the vicinity. On our return we saw two untenanted bears' dens.

"The night was cloudy with heavy snow, yet the following morning we continued our tedious march; many of the lakes remained still open, and the rocks were high and covered with snow, which continued to fall all day, consequently we effected but a trifling distance, and that too with much difficulty. In the evening we halted; having only performed about seven miles. One of the Indians gave us a fish which he had caught, though he had nothing for himself; and it was with much trouble that he could be prevailed upon to partake of it. The night was again cloudy with snow. On the 29th we set out through deep snow and thick woods; and after crossing two small lakes stopped to breakfast, sending the women on before, as they had already complained of lameness, and could not keep pace with the party. It was not long before we overtook them on the banks of a small lake, which though infinitely less in magnitude than many we had passed, yet had not a particle of ice on its surface. It was shoal, had no visible current, and was surrounded by hills. We had nothing to eat, and were not very near an establishment where food could be procured; however, as we proceeded, the lakes were frozen, and we quickened our pace stopping but twice for the hunters to smoke. Nevertheless the distance we completed was but trifling, and at night we halted near a lake, the men being tired, and much bruised from constantly falling amongst thick broken wood and loose stones concealed under the snow. The night was blowing and hazy with snow.

"On the 30th we set out with the expectation of gaining the Slave Lake in the evening; but our progress was again impeded by the same causes as before, so that the whole day was spent in forcing our way through thick woods and over snow-covered swamps. We had to walk over pointed and loose rocks, which sliding from under our feet, made our path dangerous, and often threw us down several feet on sharp-edged stones lying beneath the snow. Once we had to climb a towering, and almost perpendicular, rock, which not only detained us, but was the cause of great anxiety for the safety of the women who being heavily laden with furs, and one of them with a child at her back, could not exert themselves with the activity which such a task required. Fortunately nothing serious occurred, though one of them once fell with considerable violence. During the day one of the hunters broke through the ice, but was soon extricated; when it became dark we halted near the Bow String Portage, greatly disappointed at not having reached the lake. The weather was cloudy, accompanied with thick mist and snow. The Indians expected to have found here a bear in its den, and to have made a hearty meal of its flesh: indeed it had been the subject of conversation all day, and they had even gone so far as to divide it, frequently asking me what part I preferred; but when we came to the spot—oh! lamentable! it had already fallen a prey to the devouring appetites of some more fortunate hunters, who had only left sufficient evidence that such a thing had once existed, and we had merely the consolation of realizing an old proverb. One of our men, however, caught a fish which with the assistance of some weed scraped from the rocks, (tripe de roche,) which forms a glutinous substance, made us a tolerable supper; it was not of the most choice kind, yet good enough for hungry men. While we were eating it I perceived one of the women busily employed scraping an old skin, the contents of which her husband presented us with. They consisted of pounded meat, fat, and a greater proportion of Indians' and deers' hair than either; and though such a mixture may not appear very alluring to an English stomach, it was thought a great luxury after three days' privation in these cheerless regions of America. Indeed had it not been for the precaution and generosity of the Indians, we must have gone without sustenance until we reached the Fort.

"On the 1st of November our men began to make a raft to enable us to cross a river which was not even frozen at the edges. It was soon finished, and three of us embarked, being seated up to the ankles in water. We each took a pine branch for a paddle, and made an effort to gain the opposite shore, in which, after some time, (and not without strong apprehensions of drifting into the Slave Lake,) we succeeded. In two hours the whole party was over, with a comfortable addition to it in the shape of some fine fish, which the Indians had caught: of course we did not forget to take these friends with us, and after passing several lakes, to one of which we saw no termination, we halted within eight miles to the fort. The Great Slave Lake was not frozen.

"In crossing a narrow branch of the lake I fell through the ice, but received no injury; and at noon we arrived at Fort Providence, and were received by Mr. Weeks, a clerk of the North-West Company, in charge of the establishment. I found several packets of letters for the officers, which I was desirous of sending to them immediately; but as the Indians and their wives complained of illness and inability to return without rest, a flagon of mixed spirits was given them, and their sorrows were soon forgotten. In a quarter of an hour they pronounced themselves excellent hunters, and capable of going any where; however, their boasting ceased with the last drop of the bottle, when a crying scene took place, which would have continued half the night, had not the magic of an additional quantity of spirits dried their tears, and once more turned their mourning into joy. It was a satisfaction to me to behold these poor creatures enjoying themselves, for they had behaved in the most exemplary and active manner towards the party, and with a generosity and sympathy seldom found even in the more civilized parts of the world: and the attention and affection which they manifested towards their wives, evinced a benevolence of disposition and goodness of nature which could not fail to secure the approbation of the most indifferent observer.

"The accounts I here received of our goods were of so unsatisfactory a nature, that I determined to proceed, as soon as the lake was frozen, to Moose-Deer Island, or if necessary to the Athabasca Lake; both to inform myself of the grounds of the unceremonious and negligent manner in which the Expedition had been treated, and to obtain a sufficient supply of ammunition and other stores, to enable it to leave its present situation, and proceed for the attainment of its ultimate object.

"November 9.—I despatched to Fort Enterprise one of the men, with the letters and a hundred musquet-balls, which Mr. Weeks lent me on condition that they should be returned the first opportunity. An Indian and his wife accompanied the messenger. Lieutenant Franklin was made acquainted with the exact state of things; and I awaited with much impatience the freezing of the lake.

"November 16.—A band of Slave Indians came to the fort with a few furs and some bear's grease. Though we had not seen any of them, it appeared that they had received information of our being in the country, and knew the precise situation of our house, which they would have visited long ago, but from the fear of being pillaged by the Copper Indians. I questioned the chief about the Great Bear and Marten Lakes, their distance from Fort Enterprise, &c.; but his answers were so vague and unsatisfactory that they were not worth attention; his description of Bouleau's Route, (which he said was the shortest and best, and abundant in animals,) was very defective, though the relative points were sufficiently characteristic, had we not possessed a better route. He had never been at the sea; and knew nothing about the mouth of the Copper-Mine River. In the evening he made his young men dance, and sometimes accompanied them himself. They had four feathers in each hand. One commenced moving in a circular form, lifting both feet at the same time, similar to jumping sideways. After a short time a second and a third joined, and afterwards the whole band was dancing, some in a state of nudity, others half dressed, singing an unmusical wild air with (I suppose,) appropriate words; the particular sounds of which were, ha! ha! ha! uttered vociferously, and with great distortion of countenance, and peculiar attitude of body, the feathers being always kept in a tremulous motion. The ensuing day I made the chief acquainted with the object of our mission, and recommended him to keep at peace with his neighbouring tribes, and to conduct himself with attention and friendship towards the whites. I then gave him a medal, telling him it was the picture of the King, whom they emphatically term 'their Great Father.'

"November 18.—We observed two mock moons at equal distances from the central one; and the whole were encircled by a halo: the colour of the inner edge of the large circle was a light red, inclining to a faint purple.

"November 20.—Two parhelia were observable with a halo; the colours of the inner edge of the circle were a bright carmine and red lake, intermingled with a rich yellow, forming a purplish orange; the outer edge was pale gamboge.

"December 5.—A man was sent some distance on the lake, to see if it was sufficiently frozen for us to cross. I need scarcely mention my satisfaction, when he returned with the pleasing information that it was.

"December 7.—I quitted Fort Providence, being accompanied by Mr. Wentzel, Beauparlant, and two other Canadians, provided with dogs and sledges. We proceeded along the borders of the lake, occasionally crossing deep bays; and at dusk encamped at the Gros Cap, having proceeded twenty-five miles.

"December 8.—We set out on the lake with an excessively cold north-west wind, and were frequently interrupted by large pieces of ice which had been thrown up by the violence of the waves during the progress of congelation, and at dusk we encamped on the Rein-Deer Islands.

"The night was fine, with a faint Aurora Borealis. Next day the wind was so keen, that the men proposed conveying me in a sledge that I might be the less exposed, to which, after some hesitation, I consented. Accordingly a rein-deer skin and a blanket were laid along the sledge, and in these I was wrapped tight up to the chin, and lashed to the vehicle, just leaving sufficient play for my head to perceive when I was about to be upset on some rough projecting piece of ice. Thus equipped, we set off before the wind (a favourable circumstance on a lake), and went on very well until noon; when the ice being driven up in ridges, in such a manner as to obstruct us very much, I was released; and I confess not unwillingly, though I had to walk the remainder of the day.

"There are large openings in many parts where the ice had separated; and in attempting to cross one of them, the dogs fell into the water, and were saved with difficulty. The poor animals suffered dreadfully from the cold, and narrowly escaped being frozen to death. We had quickened our pace towards the close of the day, but could not get sight of the land; and it was not till the sun had set that we perceived it about four miles to our left, which obliged us to turn back, and head the wind. It was then so cold, that two of the party were frozen almost immediately about the face and ears. I escaped, from having the good fortune to possess a pair of gloves made of rabbits' skin, with which I kept constantly chafing the places which began to be affected. At six P.M. we arrived at the fishing-huts near Stony Island, and remained the night there. The Canadians were not a little surprised at seeing us whom they had already given up for lost—nor less so at the manner by which we had come—for they all affirmed, that the lake near them was quite free from ice the day before.

"December 10.—At{9} an early hour we quitted the huts, lashed on sledges as before, with some little addition to our party; and at three hours thirty minutes P.M. arrived at the North-West Fort on Moose-Deer Island, where I was received by Mr. Smith, with whom I had been acquainted at the Athabasca. He said he partly expected me. The same evening I visited Messrs. McVicar and McAuley{10} at Hudson's Bay Fort, when I found the reports concerning our goods were but too true, there being in reality but five packages for us. I also was informed that two Esquimaux, Augustus the chief, and Junius his servant, who had been sent from Fort Churchill by Governor Williams, to serve in the capacity of interpreters to the Expedition, were at the Fort. These men were short of stature but muscular, apparently good-natured, and perfectly acquainted with the purpose for which they were intended. They had built themselves a snow-house on an adjacent island, where they used frequently to sleep. The following day I examined the pieces, and to my great disappointment found them to consist of three kegs of spirits, already adulterated by the voyagers who had brought them; a keg of flour, and thirty-five pounds of sugar, instead of sixty. The ammunition and tobacco,{11} the two greatest requisites, were left behind.

"I lost no time in making a demand from both parties; and though their united list did not furnish the half of what was required, yet it is possible that every thing was given by them which could be spared consistently with their separate interests, particularly by Mr. McVicar, who in many articles gave me the whole he had in his possession. These things were sent away immediately for Fort Enterprise, when an interpreter arrived with letters from Lieutenant Franklin, which referred to a series of injurious reports said to have been propagated against us by some one at Fort Providence.

"Finding a sufficiency of goods could not be provided at Moose-Deer Island, I determined{12} to proceed to the Athabasca Lake, and ascertain the inclinations of the gentlemen there. With this view I communicated my intentions to both parties; but could only get dogs enough from the North-West Company to carry the necessary provisions for the journey. Indeed Mr. Smith informed me plainly he was of opinion that nothing could be spared at Fort Chipewyan; that goods had never been transported so long a journey in the winter season, and that the same dogs could not possibly go and return; besides, it was very doubtful if I could be provided with dogs there; and finally, that the distance was great, and would take sixteen days to perform it. He added that the provisions would be mouldy and bad, and that from having to walk constantly on snow-shoes, I should suffer a great deal of misery and fatigue. Notwithstanding these assertions, on the 23d of December I left the Fort, with Beauparlant and a Bois-brule, each having a sledge drawn by dogs, laden with pemmican. We crossed an arm of the lake, and entered the Little Buffalo River, which is connected with the Salt River, and is about fifty yards wide at its junction with the lake—the water is brackish. This route is usually taken in the winter, as it cuts off a large angle in going to the Great Slave River. In the afternoon we passed two empty fishing-huts, and in the evening encamped amongst some high pines on the banks of the river, having had several snow-showers during the day, which considerably{13} impeded the dogs, so that we had not proceeded more than fifteen miles.

"December 24 and 25.—We continued along the river, frequently making small portages to avoid going round the points, and passed some small canoes, which the Indians had left for the winter. The snow was so deep that the dogs were obliged to stop every ten minutes to rest; and the cold so excessive, that both the men were badly frozen on both sides of the face and chin. At length, having come to a long meadow, which the dogs could not cross that night, we halted in an adjoining wood, and were presently joined by a Canadian, who was on his return to the fort, and who treated us with some fresh meat in exchange for pemmican. During the latter part of the day we had seen numerous tracks of the moose, buffalo, and marten.

"December 26.—The weather was so cold that we were compelled to run to prevent ourselves from freezing; our route lay across some large meadows which appeared to abound in animals, though the Indians around Slave Lake are in a state of great want. About noon we passed a sulphur-stream, which ran into the river; it appeared to come from a plain about fifty yards distant. There were no rocks near it, and the soil through which it took its course was composed of a reddish clay. I was much galled by the strings of the snow-shoes during the day, and once got a severe fall, occasioned by the dogs running over one of my feet, and dragging me some distance, my snow-shoe having become entangled with the sledge. In the evening we lost our way, from the great similarity of appearance in the country, and it was dark before we found it again, when we halted in a thick wood, after having come about sixteen miles from the last encampment. Much snow fell during the night.

"At an early hour on the 27th of December, we continued our journey over the surface of a long but narrow lake, and then through a wood, which brought us to the grand detour on the Slave River. The weather was extremely cloudy, with occasional falls of snow, which tended greatly to impede our progress, from its gathering in lumps between the dogs' toes; and though they did not go very fast, yet my left knee pained me so much, that I found it difficult to keep up with them. At three P.M. we halted within nine miles of the Salt River, and made a hearty meal of mouldy pemmican.

"December 28 and 29.—We had much difficulty in proceeding, owing to the poor dogs being quite worn out, and their feet perfectly raw. We endeavoured to tie shoes on them, to afford them some little relief, but they continually came off when amongst deep snow, so that it occupied one person entirely to look after them. In this state they were hardly of any use among the steep ascents of the portages, when we were obliged to drag the sledges ourselves. We found a few of the rapids entirely frozen. Those that were not had holes and large spaces about them, from whence issued a thick vapour, and in passing this we found it particularly cold; but what appeared most curious was the number of small fountains which rose through the ice, and often rendered it doubtful which way we should take. I was much disappointed at finding several falls (which I had intended to sketch) frozen almost even with the upper and lower parts of the stream; the ice was connected by a thin arch, and the rushing of the water underneath might be heard at a considerable distance. On the banks of these rapids there was a constant overflowing of the water, but in such small quantities as to freeze before it had reached the surface of the central ice, so that we passed between two ridges of icicles, the transparency of which was beautifully contrasted by the flakes of snow and the dark green branches of the over-hanging pine.

"Beauparlant complained bitterly of the cold whilst among the rapids, but no sooner had he reached the upper part of the river than he found the change of the temperature so great, that he vented his indignation against the heat.—"Mais c'est terrible," said he, to be frozen and sun-burnt in the same day. The poor fellow, who had been a long time in the country, regarded it as the most severe punishment that could have been inflicted on him, and would willingly have given a part of his wages rather than this disgrace had happened; for there is a pride amongst "Old Voyagers," which makes them consider the state of being frost-bitten as effeminate, and only excusable in a "Pork-eater," or one newly come into the country. I was greatly fatigued, and suffered acute pains in the knees and legs, both of which were much swollen when we halted a little above the Dog River.

"December 30 and 31.—Our journey these days was by far the most annoying we had yet experienced; but, independent of the vast masses of ice that were piled on one another, as well as the numerous open places about the rapids (and they did not a little impede us,) there was a strong gale from the north-west, and so dreadfully keen, that our time was occupied in rubbing the frozen parts of the face, and in attempting to warm the hands, in order to be prepared for the next operation. Scarcely was one place cured by constant friction than another was frozen; and though there was nothing pleasant about it, yet it was laughable enough to observe the dexterity which was used in changing the position of the hand from the face to the mitten, and vice versa. One of the men was severely affected, the whole side of his face being nearly raw. Towards sunset I suffered so much in my knee and ankle, from a recent sprain, that it was with difficulty I could proceed with snow-shoes to the encampment on the Stony Islands. But in this point I was not singular: for Beauparlant was almost as bad, and without the same cause.

1821. January 1.

"We set out with a quick step, the wind still blowing fresh from the north-west, which seemed in some measure to invigorate the dogs; for towards sunset they left me considerably behind. Indeed my legs and ankles were now so swelled, that it was excessive pain to drag the snow-shoes after me. At night we halted on the banks of Stony River, when I gave the men a glass of grog, to commemorate the new year; and the next day, January 2, we arrived at Fort Chipewyan, after a journey of ten days and four hours—the shortest time in which the distance had been performed at the same season. I found Messrs. G. Keith and S. McGillivray in charge of the fort, who were not a little surprised to see me. The commencement of the new year is the rejoicing season of the Canadians, when they are generally intoxicated for some days. I postponed making any demand till this time of festivity should cease; but on the same day I went over to the Hudson's Bay Fort, and delivered Lieutenant Franklin's letters to Mr. Simpson. If they were astonished on one side to see me, the amazement was still greater on the other; for reports were so far in advance, that we were said to have already fallen by the spears of the Esquimaux.

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