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Travel and adventure in the territory of Alaska, formerly Russian America--now ceded to the United States--and… Whymper, Frederick 1868

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The right of Translation is reserved.  
D.O.L., LL.B., P.R.S., ETC.,
f (jig Mum m <pMtaiefo,
So little is known of the interior of Russian America, that
I trust even this imperfect and meagre narrative may prove
not altogether uninteresting. A large portion of these
pages refers to a journey made in the Yukon region, which
though containing one of the grandest streams on the North
American continent, has hitherto remained almost unnoticed.
Sir John Richardson, indeed, when on the Mackenzie, collected some information respecting it, but never visited any
portion of it, whilst the travels of Zagoskin, of the Russian
Imperial Navy, have never been popularly known.
This country has recently acquired some notice from its
transfer to the United. States Government, and within a
few years we shall doubtless hear more of it. The natives
have been hitherto so isolated from civilization, that perhaps
in no other part of America can the | red-skin" be seen
to greater perfection. In a few generations he will be
I Alaska Territory"—the title by which the whole of
Russian America is to be known in future—though as good
a name as any other, is founded, apparently, on a misconception.    It seems to have been derived from the title viii PREFACE.
of that long peninsula (Aliaska) with which we are all
familiar on the map, but the title does not properly belong
to the whole territory.
I have before me a 'Report on the Resources of Iceland
and Greenland,' issued this year (1868) by the State
Department at Washington. It was compiled, at the desire
of the Hon. W. H. Seward, by B. M. Peirce, Esq. From
that production I glean that the United States Government,
so far from regretting the purchase of Alaska, are almost
ready to bid for Iceland and Greenland! Mr. Seward's
mania for icebergs and snow-fields seems insatiable.
The opening chapters contain some earlier reminiscences
of British Columbia and Vancouver Island," whilst in the
concluding pages I have attempted to sketch California of
our own time. I have also briefly recorded some visits
paid by me to the eastern coasts of Siberia and Kamchatka.
Some of the most pleasant days of my life were spent
with the two Expeditions with which I have been connected ; and of many of my old friends and companions I
shall ever think with much kindness. To Colonel Bulkley,
Engineer-in-Chief of the Russo-American Telegraph Expedition; to Captain Scammon (U. S. Revenue Service);
and to my good friends Messrs. Wright, Chappel, and Lewis,
all American gentlemen with whom it was a pleasure to be
connected, I am indebted for courtesies which it would
be difficult for me to sufficiently acknowledge. PREFACE.
To the President and Council of the Royal Geographical
Society I am specially obliged for the use of the map,
illustrating the course of the Yukon, &c, which is to appear
in their ' Journal' in connection with the paper contributed
by me. To Mr. Arrowsmith, for the trouble he has taken
to work out the crude material laid before him; to Mr.
H. W. Bates and Captain George; to Mr. Murray, and to
my father and brother, for their constant and kind assistance,
I cannot be too grateful.
The illustrations are taken, with but two exceptions, from
the original sketches made on the spot; they have gained
considerably in the hands of my friends, Messrs. Skelton,
Mahoney, and Zwecker. The portrait of an Aht native
(Vancouver Island), page 53, has been copied from an excellent photograph by Mr. Gentile, now of San Francisco;
and the picture of a Tchuktchi house, page 89, is from a
photograph by Mr. Ryder, who was for the season of 1866,
attached to the Telegraph Expedition.  CONTENTS.
Leaving England — Our passengers — Old Mo' — Freight for the
matrimonial market — Storm on board — Mutiny — Volunteer coal-
heaving— Falkland Islands — Port Stanley — The Horn — Out of
coal — San Francisco — The Straits of Fuca — Cook — Vancouver
— Juan de' Fuca — Victoria — Cariboo mines — The gold — The
discoverers of William's Creek — Journalism on the Pacific  Page 1
The mountains of British Columbia and adjacent coasts — Bute Inlet
— Chilicoten Indians — A " blow up " — Indian packers — Eoute
through the forests — Indian guide — Chinook jargon — Trackless
forests — Lost in the woods — The glacier streams — Camp — Great
Glacier — Description — Beturn journey — Second Glacier       ..    18
Reported murder — Canoe trip on the sea — Dodd's Narrows —
Island on fire — The massacre at Bute Inlet — Reports of survivors
— Second massacre — Excitement in the Colony — Expeditions in
search of the Indians — Capture of a part of the murderers — The  CONTENTS.
The voyage — Sitka Sound and harbour — Baranoff— Early history —
The town — "Water supply — Agriculture — Former Russian settlements in California — Russian American Company — The fisheries
— Kalosh Indians — Our experiences of Russian hospitality — Sitka
in new hands — Two Sundays in a week — Kodiack ice— Formal
transfer of Alaska Page 72
Departure from Sitka — Oukamok — Ounga — Breakers ahead —
Volcanoes in Ounimak Pass — St. Michael's, Norton Sound,
Alaska — Soundings of Bering Sea — Plover Bay, Eastern Siberia
— The Tchuktchis — Tents — Canoes — Tchuktchis' strength —
Children — The irrepressible "Naukum" — Native's idea of the
telegraph — The ' Shenandoah' pirate — Avatcha Bay      ..     ..    84
The Harbour — Town — Monuments — The fur trade — Kamchatka
generally — The volcanoes — The attack of the Allies in 1854 —
Their return in 1855 — The ' General Teste' —.-Rejoin the steamer
*' Wright' — Gale — Incidents of storm — Coverf s " smoke-stack " 94 XIV
Organization of the  expedition — Thirsty medical man—Our fleet
— Voyage — Petropaulovski again — The Russian corvette —• Russian wedding — Heat — International pic-nic — Voyage north —
Bering's voyages — Shipwreck — Death of Bering — Gulf of Anadyr
— The "Wandering Tchuktchis"     Page 105
Tchuktchi with letter of recommendation — Boat expedition to
the river — Our explorers — Their experiences — The Anadyr
River — Tchuktchi thieves — Plover Bay — Naukum again -
Advertising in Bering Straits — Telegraph station erected —
Foraging with a vengeance — Whaling — Norton Sound, Alaska —
Death of Major Kennicott 117
St. Michael's — The fort and its inhabitants — The 'Provalishik' —
Russian steam-bath — " Total immersion " — The island — Incident
of break-up of ice — Arrival of dead Indian sledge-driver — Steamboat trip — Steamer laid up — Russian post at TJnalacbleet —
Malemute and Kaveak Indians — Skin clothing—Intertribal commerce — Trade with the Tchuktchis — Underground houses — Fishing through the ice 127 CONTENTS.
Indian town-hall—Preparations for dance — Smoke-consuming Indians
— Feast — Dance — Chorus — The Malemutes and Kaveaks — The
chiefs — " Parka-mania" —Erection of quarters — Preparations for
     Page 141
sledge journey
Routes to the Yukon — Sledges and dogs — Our start — Our party—
Unalachleet River —Brought to a standstill—Dogs desert— Inge-
lete Indians — Underground houses, &e. — Beans versus rice —
Indian cleanliness — Medical aid — Ulukuk — The river — Indian
trading >            148
sledge journey to the yukon.—Continued.
Cross the Ulukuk River — Walking on snow shoes — Ulukuk Mountains — Land travelling — Versola Sofka — Patent camp — Our
frozen breath — Lndian honesty — The use of snow shoes — Warm
springs — First glimpse of the Yukon — Coltog — Old " Stareek "
— Travel on the Yukon — Alikoffs " barabba " — Meet a Russian
sledge-train — Arrival at Nulato     159
First  explorers  of the  Yukon — Nulato — Our quarters — Water
sledge — Fish  traps— Winter  sketching — Frozen  provisions — XVI
Coldest day — Departure of a sledge train — Dinner party — Indian
arrivals — Shortest day — Merry Christmas — Bill of fare — Aurora
— Temperatures — Supplies — Principal winter trip of our
explorers Page 169
Co-Yukon tribe — Fashions — The Nulato massacre — Incidents of
the attack — Indian murders — Mourning observances — " Wake "
— Four-post Coffins —j Superstitions — " Corralling " deer — News
travels fast—Furs and trading—Indian women — Indian "goggles"
— Children's dolls      182
Spring — Thaw — Break-up of the Yukon — Preparations for journey
— Our canoes — Start — Dangerous condition of river—Its size —
Current — Perilous navigation — Submerged  islands — Co-Yukuk
— Birch - bark  fleet — Sachertelontin — Lagoon ■— Newicargut -
Purchase  of   supplies ■— Tooth - brush   experiences — Medicine-
making — Indian dissipation — Child's birch-bark chair   ..     .. 192
canoe journey—{continued).—ASCENT OF THE YUKON.
Meet a deserter — Indian taste for " Nigger " minstrelsy — Tracking—
Lagoon — Piles of drift wood — Nuclukayette — Unsophisticated
Indians—Ceremony—Leave the Russians — The Indian's head-
Mountain gorge — Indian dogs — Canoe leak — The rapids — The
" Ramparts " - - Moose-hunting — Islands — Overhanging banks -
Shallows -r- Shortest night — First English Indians — Porcupine
River — Fort Yukon 207 CONTENTS.
Return of the Commander and Missionary — Information received from
them — Mackenzie and the Yukon — The Indians — Numerous
tribes — The furs — Fictitious black fox — Missionary work —
Return of our explorers from the Upper Yukon — Fort Yukon,
sledges, &c Page 219
Drifting down the stream — Yukon salmon — Arrival at Nulato —
Overdose of arsenic and alcohol — Trip resumed — Indian music
— Anvic — The mission — Earthquake on the water — AndreavsM
— The mouths of the Yukon — Smith's observations — Pastolik
— St. Michael's — Progress of the telegraph — Frozen soil —
Scurvy — Arrival of our barque — Plover Bay — Return to San
Francisco    ..    ..     231
The value of Alaska — The furs and fisheries — The purchase, an act
of justice to Russia — The Aleutian Islands — Volcanoes — Bogoslov
Island — The Asiatic origin of the Esquimaux — The Tchuktchis —
Sea-going canoes — The voyages of two Japanese junks — The
connecting links between the Tchuktchis and the Esquimaux —
Language — Degeneration of the Esquimaux — Community of goods
— The"Schaman" and the "Angekok."       244
Early American opinions of the country— California steamers — The-
public, lands — Extent — Price — Labour — Wages — The wine
'interests — Table of temperatures — The vineyards, &c. — Classes
suitable for immigrants — Education — Schools — School ma'ams
— Investments 292
I.—The  Proposed  Overland Route  from  the Atlantic
to the Pacific, through British Territory     ..    .. 309
n.—The W. U. Telegraph Scheme 312
HI.—Notes on Sitka 315
IV.—Port Clarence, Northern Alaska     316
V.—Indian Dialects op Northern Alaska     318
VI.—Notes on the Geology op the Yukon      , 329 LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Auroral Light   seen from  Nulato, Yukon  River, December 27th,
1866           Frontispiece.
Vignette.   Loading a sledge in Alaska      Title-page.
The Great Glacier, Bute Inlet to face 25
Island forest conflagration in the Gulf of Georgia        ,,     31
The" Raft Eampant"        ,,      49
Aht native, west coast of Vancouver Island              ,,      53
Example of mask worn by Aht natives of Vancouver Island         54
Camp with " blaze " or camp-mark             63
Sitka, or New Archangel, capital of Alaska      to-face 73
Kalosh Indian grave-boxes 78, 79
Indian stone-carving, representing a Russian soldier at Sitka       ..     ..        83
Tchuktchi skin-canoe—Frame-work of Tchuktchi house       .. face 89
Tchuktchi pipe               90
Petropaulovski, Kamchatka         to face 94
Monument to Bering, Petropaulovski                 95
The volcanoes of Koriatski, Avatcha, and Koseldskai, Kamchatka    to face 97
Fort St. Michael's, or Michaelovski   ."       128
Malemute native       134
Malemute skin-clothing              135
Malemute pipe              142
Diagram of underground-house       152
Arrival at the Frozen Yukon       to face 164
Fish-traps on the Yukon             172
Co-Yukon four-post coffin       187
A Co-Yukon deer corral        to face 188
Co-Yukon goggles       191
The Yukon River at the break-up of the ice      to face 197
Indian summer encampment, Newicargut, Yukon River      ,,      202
Yukon fire-bag, knife,' and sheath, &c       203
Indian child's birch-bark chair       206
Tanana Indian        to face 210
Moose hunting in the Yukon River          ,,      215
Yukon Indian's knife       216
Fort Yukon, Hudson's Bay Company's Post to face 219
Fort Yukon sledge (loaded)       230
Map—the course of the Yukon, &c     To be placed at the end. TEAVEL AND ADVENTUKE
Leaving England—Our passengers — Old Mo' — Freight for the matrimonial market—Storm onboard — Mutiny — Volunteer coal-heaving
— Falkland Islands — Port Stanley — The Horn — Out of coal — San
Francisco — The Straits of Fuca—Cook — Vancouver — Juan de Fuca
— Victoria — Cariboo mines — The gold — The discoverers of William's
Creek — Journalism on the Pacific.
In 1862, the Pacific coast, and especially British Columbia,
attracted much attention at home. Having, thank God, like
a good proportion of my countrymen, a little superfluous
energy—which was then lying fallow—I determined to see
something of those coasts, and accordingly commenced getting
together my traps for the voyage. I need not say that I
laid in a stock of things said to be | portable," essential, or
absolutely " indispensable," and that the larger part of them
proved to be exactly the reverse. Such, I take it, is the
experience of most young travellers. On the 6th June of
the above mentioned year—with some slight feelings of regret,
it must be admitted—we left the Thames; and on the 9th
saw the last of old England's shores, after a brief halt at
peaceful, sleepy Dartmouth. A few hours later "the waves,"
to use an expression of Lamartine's, when starting on a cruise
[Chap. I.
in the Mediterranean, | had our destinies in their power," and
made us aware of the fact.
1 Winds are rude in Biscay's sleepless bay:"
at least we found them so, for a breeze increased into a gale
before we were clear of its outer waters. Our craft was a
staunch iron screw-steamer, the [ Tynemouth,' which had won
a good reputation during the Crimean war by weathering out
that terrible storm in the Black Sea, in which so many vessels
(including the 'Black Prince') were lost. We were bound
for Vancouver Island, via the Horn, and expected to call
at one or two ports by the way. On board were some
three hundred passengers, two-thirds of whom shewed a total
loss of dignity and self-respect during these early days, and
made our vessel much resemble a floating hospital. But
there is an end to all things; and by the time we reached
the tropics, our friends had recovered their appetites, and,
clad in light attire, lounged, smoking, chatting, and reading
under the awnings, giving our decks the appearance of a
nautical pic-nic. Our passengers were a study in themselves.
They included a number of young men, much too large a
proportion of whom had apparently no profession, business,
or definite aim in life, to augur well for their future career
in a new country. Still, most branches were represented;
from farmers, tradesmen, and mechanics, to lawyers, artists,
and literary men. The greatest character on board was a
venerable Jew, generally known as " Old Mo'." He was an
Israelite of the conventional stage type, and did not neglect
turning a penny, by selling to the passengers stale lemons
and bad cigars, or by organizing raffles and mock auctions.
Towards the end of the voyage, he purchased all the odds Chap. I.]
and ends on which he could lay his hands, offering the
"highestch prishe for old closhe and zhewellry;" and with
these he afterwards stocked a small shop in Victoria. Moses,
like Shylock, had much to stand in gibes and sneers, but
bore it " with a patient shrug."
Our most noticeable living freight was, however, an "invoice " of sixty young ladies destined for the colonial and
matrimonial market. They had been sent out by a home
Society, under the watcliful care of a clergyman and
matron; and they must have passed the dreariest three
months of their existence on board, for they were isolated from the rest of the passengers, and could only look
on at the fun and amusements in which every one else could
• take a part. Every benevolent effort deserves respect; but,
from personal observation, I cannot honestly recommend
such a mode of supplying the demands of a colony. Half
of them married soon after arrival, or went into service; but
a large proportion quickly went to the bad, and, from appearances, had been there before. The influence of but a few
such on the more respectable girls could not have been
otherwise than detrimental. To speak ungallantly, but truly,
many of these ladies were neither young nor beautiful, and
reminded me of the crowd who answered the advertisement
in the farce of' Wanted 10,000 Milliners!' Of course much
might be said about giving the poor creatures a chance! but
the fact is, that the market would in the course of affairs
more naturally supply itself. The prosperous settler would
send for his sweetheart, or come home in search of one, and
could always get suitable domestics sent out by his friends,
and meet them at the port of arrival. It will be readily
understood too, that in a new country there is a floating
b 2
[Chap. L
population, among whom some individuals by " chance," or by
industry, have acquired a little money, and are ready to
plunge into matrimony on the slightest provocation; whilst
there is also a large proportion of "black sheep," who are
quite ready to amuse themselves at the expense of the poor
We were beginning to find life somewhat tedious, when
a storm arose on board that altered the aspect of affairs. In
common with a large proportion of ships—as far as my
experience goes—we were considerably undermanned, and
the overworked crew rebelled. They came aft to the
captain; and a scene ensued, in which very high words
passed, and at length one of the more daring mutineers
"planted" (to use the language of the fraternity) a blow
between the skipper's " peepers," which brought the " claret"
very freely from his nose. In consequence, the fiat went
forth—instantly and indignantly—"Put them in irons!"
which was, however, a thing easier said than done. At last
the officers—with the assistance of some of the passengers—
succeeded in handcuffing the rebels, and they were then
stowed away in a rather warm compartment near the engine-
room, till such time as mutiny should be melted out of
Our captain was in a dilemma. We were almost becalmed;
our sails flapped idly in the wind, while the arrangements
for the coals were such, that with these men off duty, our
enerine must soon come to a standstill. The coal was chiefly
in the fore-hold, and had to be raised, wheeled along deck,
and deposited in the " bunkers."
At this juncture a committee of the passengers was convened, and it was agreed that the more active of all classes Chap. I.J
should be invited to volunteer, and act as crew for the time
being. All the younger men came forward readily, were
solemnly enrolled, and set to work at once, glad of an interruption to the monotony of the voyage. We scrubbed the
decks, hauled at ropes, filled the coal-sacks, and hoisted them
on deck, getting a fair taste of a modern sailor's life on board
a steam-vessel. It is more than doubtful whether any of us
would have echoed the words of England's sea-song writer,
who says—
| Then, Bill, let us thank Providence
That you and I are sailors !"
but we found it good exercise, and worked with a will. Did
we not know that the eyes of sixty maidens were looking on
approvingly, as we helped them on to the consummation of
their dearest wishes ? We did, and even our parson creditably proved his | muscular Christianity," and soiled his irreproachable garments at one and the same time. I tasted
the dignity of labour in the role of an amateur coal-heaver,
and in the more sinecure employment of keeping the § lookout." We«cooIed our fevered frames with libations of beer,
and buckets of diluted lime-juice; in this matter having an
undoubted advantage over the old crew, who didn't get much
of such luxuries. At last the tropical heat, superadded to
that of the furnaces, brought the men to their senses, and
the larger part of them went back to work ; three, however,
held out, and were kept in irons. •
After some rough weather off the Rio de la Plata (known
familiarly by sailors as the River Plate), in which we stove
in our bulwarks and lost a boat, we at last made the Falkland Islands, and came to an anchor in Stanley Harbour.
This is a land-locked basin some six miles long' by half a mile THE FALKLAND ISLANDS.
[Chap. L
or so wide, and is on East Falkland. We arrived there early
in August, but it was the end of their winter. The snow had
just disappeared from the low lands, leaving them in places
very swampy. The island was thick with peat-moss, which
affords the inhabitants their only fuel, no timber except a
very limited amount of drift wood being attainable. There
are no trees whatever on the Falklands, and it is said that
attempts to introduce them have been unsuccessful. It was
from these islands that Col. Moody, when Colonial Governor,
brought the " Tussac " grass.
The Falklands had been in the hands of both the Spanish
and French before we obtained possession of them, and they
were not formerly valued as they are now. Port Stanley is
a pretty little town of 700 or 800 inhabitants, with a church,
government buildings, and school-house. Vessels returning
from China, Australia, or California, find these islands directly
in their course, and often put into Port Stanley for repairs,
water, coal, or supplies. Vegetables and fresh meat are
abundant, the latter selling for two-pence or three-pence a
pound. The cattle on the islands are very numerous, and
for the most part wild; they were introduced by the Spaniards. Stanley was a free port at the date of our visit, and
our passengers took advantage of the fact to lay in stocks of
hollands and brandy, much to the disgust of our steward, who
firmly believed in monopoly.
As our ship's cow had given up the ghost—frightened to
death in a storm—and the fowls were things of the past, we
were all erlad to sret ashore, luxuriate on milk and fresh
provisions, and stretch our legs. An English company had
—and I presume has—a large store there, and exported
hides and furs, employing some 150 persons directly, and Chap. I.]
a larger number indirectly, in their collection. Our vessel
coaled at this settlement.
We spent several days in excursions from the ship, shooting
wild-fowl, and amusing ourselves with watching the penguin,
which were very abundant. On the beach, when waddling:
away from us in a hurry, they suggested the idea of old
women tripping over the stones with many a fall! We
visited the excellent lighthouse at Cape Pembroke, the
easternmost point of East Falkland, about eight miles from
the port. Here we found the keeper's wife, with a family of
youngsters, some of whom had never seen even the glories
of Port Stanley, and yet were happy. The lighthouse, 110
feet in height, stands at the termination of a barren sand waste,
and the beach near it is everywhere strewed with kelp and sear
weed of the most enormous growth, resembling in fact sea trees.
Kelp is so thick in some parts of the harbour that it is next
to impossible to row through it.
Our mutineers were tried in due form, and sentenced to
a spell of hard labour, which in this case consisted of
amateur gardening, and sanding the floors of the government buildings. They were apparently rather glad than
otherwise of a brief residence in a place where fresh
food was so abundant, and knew moreover that the next
vessel touching there short-handed would probably be glad
to take them at higher wages than those ruling in the port
of London.
We were detained—partly by bad weather—for twelve
days, but at last the favourable moment arrived, and we
steamed out in good style. In the evening of the same day
we passed Staten Land, over the rugged shores of which a
canopy of mist hung gracefully.    In the valleys a lace-work 8 CAPE HORN—SAN FRANCISCO. [Chap. I.
of snow still remained. Next morning we were in the Pacific
in sight of the broken jagged coast of the famed and dreaded
" Horn." The weather was superb, the sea almost a lake
and the regulation terrors of the passage were nowhere!  For
the reader's sake, this was a great pity, but our passengers felt
a kind of relief from the lingering dread of the more usual
bad weather of the Cape. We soon got the " trade winds,"
set all sail, and knocked off steam.
Before we made the Californian coast, the wind died out,
and having again to steam, our coal got reduced to the last
gasp. All loose wood on deck, and even some valuable
spars, had to be cut up for the furnaces, and the day before
our arrival in San Francisco it was seriously contemplated
to strip the second and third cabins of their berths and furniture !
But if we had been glad to go ashore at the Falklands,
how much more so were we to land in San Francisco, to
walk about its handsome streets, and enjoy its good things.
Some of our passengers were so well satisfied with it that
they abandoned all idea of going any further, and others, who
could not imagine that our captain would start from it in
such a hurry, were in consequence left behind. Of San
Francisco, I shall speak in my concluding chapters. I have
watched its growth for five years, and believe its history to
be almost unexampled among cities that have arisen in
modern times, and that its future teems with the greatest
Resuming our trip, we at length reached Cape Flattery
and the Straits of Fuca, and obtained a first glimpse of the
interminable forests on Vancouver Island, that were to be the
home of some of us for many a day.    As late as the days Chap. L]
of Cook, it was believed that Vancouver Island was a part of
the mainland, and it was so laid down in the atlas accompanying his great work. The Straits of Fuca*were in effect
so named in 1792 by Vancouver, after their real discoverer,
Juan de Fuca, an old Greek sailor, whose pretensions, in re
gard to their exploration, were long scoffed at by geographers.
Cook sailing up the coast of New Albion, now known as
Oregon and Washington Territory, reached the promontory
which has always since borne the name he gave it—Cape
Flattery. " It is in this very latitude," says he, " where we
now were, that geographers have placed the pretended Straits
of Juan de Fuca. But we saw nothing like it; nor is there
the least probability that ever any such thing existed."
Tolerably positive language!—more especially when we know
the real facts of the voyage, as later given to the world by
Captain James Burney,* who served with Cook on this identical voyage. He says, "After making the coast, unfavourable
winds and weather forced the ships as far south as to 43°,
and when we again made way northward, blowing and thick
Unsettled weather prevented our tracing a continuation of the
coast, so that between a cape in lat. 44° 55' N., named by
Captain Cook Cape Foulweather, and a point of land in
48° 15' N., which he named Cape Flattery, because the
prospect of the land near it gave it a doubtful promise of a
harbour, we obtained only now and then a glimpse of the
"We were near the last-mentioned point on the evening of
the 22nd (March, 1778), and a little before seven o'clock; it
* 'A Chronological History of North-Eastern Voyages of Discovery,'
Chap. xix. 10
[Chap. I.
growing dark, Captain Cook tacked to wait for daylight, intending to make closer examination; but before morning a
hard gale of wind came on with rainy weather, and we were
obliged to keep off from the land. At this time a port was
necessary to both ships, to repair the lower rigging, as well
as to recruit their stock of fresh water. On the 29th, in the
forenoon, we again made the land. At noon, the latitude was
observed 49° 28' N." The reader who has followed me thus
far, will see that Cook missed the entrance to the Straits of
Fuca. There is nothing surprising in the fact, though there
is in his hasty conclusion with regard to the existence of a
strait. The last latitude is approximately that of Nootka
Sound, Vancouver Island, of which both Cook and Burney
give us full descriptions.
Between 1787-9, Captains Berkely, Duncan, Meares, and
Kendrick—the three first-named English, the latter American
—all confirmed Fuca's discovery by visits which they paid
to various parts of the Straits; and one of the objects of
Vancouver's great voyage was to determine the truth of their
statements. He arrived in the Straits—the supposed Straits
of Fuca, as he terms them—on Sunday, the 29th April,
1792, and from that date commenced the survey which has
immortalised his name. On the day of his arrival he met
Captain Grey, an American, who had made a trip up the
Straits, and had been wintering on the coast.
And now let us speak of Fuca, who seems to have been
in his own day neglected and misunderstood, as he was afterwards doubted and ignored. His real name was Apostolus
Valerianos; and all that we know of him is recorded in the
celebrated work entitled (Furchas his Filgrimes,'—first published-in 1625—under the title of "A note made by me, Chap. I.]
Michael Lok the elder, touching the Strait of the Sea, commonly called Fretum Anian, in the South Sea, through the
North-west passage of Meta incognita."
In substance the narrative is as follows:—Lok being in
Venice in 1596, was introduced to a Greek pilot—an old
man of " three-score yeares," commonly known by his companions as Juan de Fuca, although his real name was that
recorded above. He said that he had been in the Spanish
service "fortie yeares," and that, on one of his voyages, he
had been in the galleon taken off Cape California (? Cape
St. Lucas), by " Captaine Candlish Englishman, whereby he
lost sixtie thousand Duckets, of his owne goods."
In 1592, the Viceroy of Mexico sent him on a voyage of
discovery to the Straits which now bear his name. He
followed the coast of California and Oregon, &c, "vntill
hee came to the latitude of fortie-seuen degrees, and there
finding that the land trended North and North-east, with a
broad Inlet of Sea, betweene 47 and 48 degrees of Latitude:
hee entered there into, sayling therein more then twentie
dayes, and found that land trending still, sometime Northwest and North-east, and North, and also East and Southeastward, and very much broader Sea then was at the said
entrance, and he passed by diuers islands in that sayling.
And at the entrance of the said Strait, there is on the Northwest coast thereof, a great Hedland or Island, with an
exceeding high Pinacle, or spired Rock, like a pillar thereupon.
"Also he said, that he went on Land in diuers places, and
that he saw some people on Land, clad in Beasts skins:
and that the Land is very fruitful! and rich of Gold, Siluer,
Pearle, and other things, like Noua Spania. 12
[Chap. I.
"And also he said, that he being entered thus farre into
the said Strait, and being come into the North Sea already
(which means that he had rounded Vancouver Island), and
finding the Sea wide enough every-where, and to be about
thirtie or fortie leagues wide in the mouth of the Straits,
where hee entred, hee thought he had now well discharged
his office, and done the thing which he was sent to doe; and
that hee not being armed to resist the force of the Saluage
people that might happen, hee therefore set sayle and returned homewards againe towards Noua Spania, where he
arrived at Acapulco, Anno 1592."
The Viceroy welcomed him with empty compliments, and
recommended liim to go to Spain, and lay his discoveries
before the King, "which voyage hee did performe." The
King received him courteously with " wordes after the Spanish
manner," but did nothing for him, and giving up all hopes of
reward, he went to Italy, where Lok met him.
He there offered to enter the English service, hoping at the
same time to be remembered in regard to his great loss to
Candlish. Lok wrote immediately to Lord Treasurer Cecil,
Sir Walter Raleigh, and Master Richard Halduit the geographer, asking them to forward 100Z. to fetch Fuca to
England, he not being in a position to afford it. Answer
came that the idea was well liked, but the money not being
forthcoming, the matter was allowed to drop. Later, Lok—
who had been English Consul at Aleppo—corresponded
with Fuca, and when himself in the island of Zante, wrote to
Cephalonia, offering to take the old pilot at his own expense
to England. But poor old Fuca was by this time—Christmas, •
1602,—dead, or at the point of death, and we lost the chance
of making an early discovery of an important coast. Chap. L]
The Straits of Fuca have been often described, and I will
not enlarge upon the subject. Although the scenery is in
parts very beautiful, and occasionally grand, there is a monotony about them inseparable from pine-forests, rocks, and
islands. We soon arrived off Esquimalt, obtained a pilot,
and entered the harbour, now one of our most important
naval stations in the Pacific, as it is also one of the healthiest.
It is, in effect, the port of Victoria, as only moderate-sized
vessels can safely enter the harbour of the latter place, owing
to a bar at its entrance.
Of Victoria, in which town I spent three winters, what
shall I say? Its career has been a forced and unhealthy
one, and it is at the present day suffering from the effects.
For a time, indeed, the British Columbian mines gave it an
impetus, and had there been a really good agricultural
country in the neighbourhood, it would have doubtless
become a permanently prosperous settlement. But although
Victoria has much in its favour,—a climate almost unsurpassed, provisions abundant and cheap, and fair facilities of
communication with neighbouring countries,—it has dwindled
down to a very low ebb indeed. I may be excused for
alluding to one fact well known in the colony, although
most writers on the subject have persistently ignored it. It
is this: that men who have made large fortunes in the
mines, and other ways,—and there have been many such,—
do not, as a rule, become settlers in that country. In
Australia and California they do become attached to the
soil; they find abundance of available and open lands, and
end by becoming prosperous and contented residents. This
point is of great importance. The discovery of minerals,
however profitable to individuals, will not make a country; 14
[Chap. I.
but the discovery of minerals and rich lands fit for agricultural pursuits may do so.*
I spent many pleasant days in Victoria: it was my resting-
place in the intervals between many lengthened journeys.
It is a very bright, clean, well-built little town, with all the
latest improvements. There are episcopal, dissenting, and
Roman Catholic churches, a mechanics' institute, theatre,
and gas-works. There are many private and public societies,
masonic, national or charitable; and the traveller can always
be sure of much hospitality if he comes with good credentials.
The naval gentlemen from Esquimalt give life and tone to
the society of the place, while the active or retired servants
of the Hudson's Bay Company are its principal residents.
This Company has in Victoria a very fine warehouse and
wharves, and now does a miscellaneous business, in addition
to the coUection of furs.
Our fellow-passengers, who had come to make a rapid and
gigantic fortune in Cariboo, now for the most part awoke to the
fact that the mines were yet some five hundred miles away, and
out of our list of three hundred persons not more than
* The mainland of this now united colony, British Columbia, has a fair
amount of good land. The Governor in a recent Blue Book says, " The
most important advance made by British Columbia in 1866 was the rapid
development of agriculture occasioned by the increasing number of waggon
roads and other communications. Home-manufactured flour of superior
quality is already taking the place of the imported article. Use is being
made of the magnificent timber covering the sides of the harbours and
inlets; and spars and lumber of superior quality were exported in 1866 to
the value of 10,000k The yield of gold in the year is roughly estimated at
600,000?., and, as there were certainly not more than three thousand miners
engaged, the average product reached 20W. per man,—far exceeding any
average ever reached in California or Australia." Chap. L]
twenty-five ever reached the Northern El Dorado. When,
in 1863, I made a sketching and pedestrian tour to that
district, I met some of my fellow passengers already on the
way down, disgusted and crestfallen. They knew nothing
of mining, and their only chance of obtaining an interest in
a company was in the same way as in Cornwall or Wales—
by buying it. This too was a rather shaky undertaking.
If bought on the spot, there was a great probability that
the ground was " salted," a technical term for a well known
ruse, that of scattering a few ounces of gold among the dirt;
the seller (true in a double sense) re-discovering it there
before the victim's eyes. He did not always get even this
satisfaction; fragments of brass candlesticks and dutch metal
have sometimes done duty for the precious deposit, and it
is said that Chinese miners are excellent at manufacturing
fictitious nuggets and quartz specimens.
A friend of mine purchased in Victoria a share in a Cariboo
mine, and on arrival there was unable to find or hear of any
traces of it. It existed only on paper. On the other hand
Cariboo was, and still is, a very rich field. A single com-
pany once realized 180 lbs. of gold as the result of one
day's work.* I have myself seen 200 oz. collected from the
" dump-box," as the proceeds of one " shift," or eight hours'
work. Much of this kind of thing has been already laid
before the public, but the deductions made therefrom have
not been by any means correct.   The fact is, that in a large
* For the week ending July 9th, 1865, the Ericson Company took out
1400 oz. The following week reached still higher,—1926 oz., worth over
6000Z. I well remember the first gold "struck" in that claim, and
the general surprise that anything whatever was to be found in that
locality. 16
[Chap. 1.
number of cases the working expenses were very heavy, and
one, two, or even three seasons' work had often to be first
expended before there were any returns. The price of provisions, at the date of my visit, averaged all round a dollar
(4s. 2d.) a pound, and labour commanded ten dollars a day.
Even the hardy pioneers, men who had been " broken in"
in California or Australia, were by no means universally
lucky. The fate of the discoverers of "William's Creek,"
the richest valley in Cariboo, is a case in point. One of
them, William Dietz, a German, broken down by hardship
and exposure, was dependent on charity while I was in
Victoria ; and the second, Rose, a Scotchman, died of
starvation in the woods, and was afterwards found by horror-
stricken friends. On his tin-cup he had attempted to
record his sufferings, by scratching thereon a few broken
Of my experiences on the grand Cariboo road, a work of
great engineering skill, especially in the Canons of the
Fraser, of that great river itself, of lakes, forests and torrents,
"ranches" and road-side houses, I could relate enough to
fill this volume,, but will say nothing; * for the very good
* But I must mention one fact interesting in the history of journalism on
the Pacific. In 1865 a small newspaper was started in the mines, and was
named ' The Cariboo Sentinel.' It consisted of one (foolscap) sheet of four
pages, and with an occasional supplement, sold at one dollar (4s. 2d.) a
copy! The editor, Mr. Wallace, whom I knew well, was the all-in-all of
the office. He was his own compositor, pressman, advertisement agent,
publisher, and collector, and doubtless would have been his own paper
maker on the spot if rags had been less valuable! He was very successful
in a pecuniary point of view, and afterwards sold the concern to some one
else.   He then commenced the publication of a paper at the town of Yale, Chap. L]
reason that the country has already been admirably described
in the work of Lord Milton and Dr. Cheadle.f These gentlemen went over exactly the same ground, and have presented
a faithful picture of the whole, as far as the subject can
possibly interest the public. The succeeding chapters contain
some account of my trips in other and less known parts of
the same country, while the bulk of this volume describes
visits paid to much more northern climes.
in the Canons of the Fraser, and has since returned to England, having
retired with a competency.
f Capt. Mayne's ' Four Years in British Columbia,' a very reliable and
interesting work, touches on the same subject. THE  GLACIEES  OF  BUTE  INLET,  BRITISH  COLUMBIA.
The Mountains of British Columbia and adjacent coasts — Bute Inlet —
Chilicoten Indians — A " blow up " — Indian packers — Route through
the forests — Indian guide — Chinook jargon — Trackless forests —
Lost in the woods — The glacier streams — Camp — Great glacier —
Description — Return journey — Second glacier.
A glance at the map of British Columbia shows us one of
the most broken jagged coast lines in the world, with arms
of the sea innumerable, into each of which some river, small
or large, finds its way. These streams, fed by numerous
tributaries, born of the snow and ice, pass through the
valleys of the Cascade and coast ranges, bordering on the
Gulf of Georgia, Straits of Fuca, and adjacent coast.
The general character of these mountain ranges is Alpine;
perpetual snow reigns in their upper regions, and glaciers
exist in their valleys. Such are known to exist at the
Stekine River in particular.
A direct route from the coast into the Cariboo mines by
the way of Bute Inlet had been projected and partly carried
out in the year 1864; and in consequence the writer was
induced to visit this otherwise inaccessible country. A
schooner, with men and supplies on board, left Victoria
Vancouver Island, on the 16th March of that year; and he
then took the opportunity, kindly given him by the projector of the road, Mr. Alfred Waddington, of paying the
glaciers a visit. Chap, n.]
Omitting all details of a tedious passage, we arrived at
Bute Inlet on the 22nd March, and getting a fair breeze, we
made the mouth of the Homathco River the same day.    On
entering the inlet, the transition from the low rocky islands
of  the Gulf  of Georgia to the   precipitous  snow-capped
mountains of the mainland was very marked.    The skipper,
who knew the Norway coast, said that it exactly resembled
the scenery of the " Fiords."    The snow, then fast melting,
yielded many a streamlet which glided peacefully through
the forest to the sea, and many a thundering cataract which
fell over bare and abrupt cliffs.   Near the river some Chil-
icoten Indians paddled out in their canoes, and came on  C&x.'-
board to get a free ride.    They had rings through their
noses, were much painted, and wore the inevitable blanket of
the coast.   For the rest, there was nothing very characteristic
in their costume; some having a shirt without breeches, some
breeches without a shirt.    Two  of them were picturesque
with wolf-skin robes, hair turned inwards, and the outer side
adorned with fringes of tails derived from marten or squirrel.
Among them one old hag attracted some notice, from her
repulsive appearance and the short pipe which she seemed to
On nearing a small'wharf already erected at the mouth of
the river, a solitary white man, Mr. C , made his appearance, and was evidently glad to see us. He had been left
in charge of stores, mules, &c, during winter, and the
Indians had at times threatened his life.
An amusing incident had occurred during his stay. He
had missed many small things from his log house, and could
not catch the thief, whoever he might be, but who he had
reason to believe must have entered the cabin by the large open
c 2
fifoR 20
[Chap. II.
chimney. At last he got a friend to go inside with a quarter
of a pound of gunpowder, and locking the door, made pretence of leaving, but crept back near the house to watch the
result. Soon, an Indian came stealthily along, sans culottes,
sans everything. He climbed on the roof, and got nearly
down the chimney, when the man inside threw the powder
on the smouldering ashes, and off it went. The Indian went
off also! and with a terrific yell; but over his condition a veil
must be drawn. He afforded for some time afterwards a
very wholesome warning to his tribe, being unable to sit or
lie down.
These people appeared to be very bare of provisions, and
disputed with their wretched "cayota" dogs anything that
we threw out of our camp, in the shape of bones, bacon rind,
or tea leaves, and similar luxuries. Many of them were
subsequently employed in packing goods on their backs,
always carrying their loads fixed to a strap which came round
and over their foreheads. As they would pack 100 lbs. and
upwards this way, their heads must be regarded as tolerably
strong and thick! Some of them were also employed in
building the road.
After making sundry arrangements, we started up. The
route lay through a magnificent forest of cedar,* hemlock,
and Douglas pine, individual specimens of which almost
* Cedar, as it is popularly known on the coast, is the Thuja gigantea of
botanists. Douglas Pine, Abies Douglasii, and Hemlock (Abies Bridget,
' Proc. California Acad. Natural Sciences,' Vol. 2.). Maple (Acer macro-
phyllum), Alder (Alnus Oregana), White Pine (Pinus strobus tj and
Spruce (Abies Menziesii), are also common trees of the coast. For these
scientific names I am indebted to Mr. Brown, with whom I was afterwards associated on the Vancouver Island expedition. Chap. H.]
rivalled the "big trees" of California. One of the cedars
measured forty-five feet in circumference at the butt (about
the height from the ground of a man's chest). Although the
snow lay on the ground so thickly, that the heavily-laden
pack-traia of mules could hardly proceed without a path
being cleared for them, .the musquitoes were already out in
full force. So abundant were they that the writer took nine
from the back of his hand at one pinch between finger and
thumb. They bit through anything from blankets to cord
unmentionables, and against their inflictions there was literally | nothing like leather."
The road followed more or less the river valley, the scenery
of which was not seen to advantage till, after crossing the
stream by a rope-ferry, we commenced the ascent of a mountain by a zigzag trail, in order to avoid the passage of a
rock-girt canon. From this the views were superb. Purple
cliffs rose—pine-clad and abrupt—-whilst below the Homathco
made its way to the sea, realizing the words of our Laureate,
| Waters between walls
Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass."
Afar off, snow-crowned peaks and blue valleys completed
the picture.
On the 19 th April, having arrived at the furthest camp of
the constructing party, I engaged an Indian who was supposed to know the country well, and started with him for the
Great Glacier. The Chinook jargon, the only medium of
converse with these Indians, has no equivalent for | glacier."
It could only be expressed by hyu ice, hyu snow,—| plenty of
ice and snow;" and I was very much in the fix of a dignitary
of the Church on that coast, who began an address to the
Indians with " Children of the forest," but was rather disgusted 22
[Chap. II.
to find his interpreter could only render it, Hyu tenass man
copa stick—"Many little men among the sticks (or stumps)!"
I could not make the man thoroughly understand, and after
two days' wandering it became obvious that it would be better
to return and seek another guide. We accordingly returned,
and, having secured the services of an Indian of some intelligence—Tellot by name—an old chief, I again started; this
time, as it proved, with more success.
Few can have any conception of the old forests through
which our course lay, who have not themselves seen such.
Thick with living vegetation, they were equally so with decay
and death. Now an immense fallen trunk, over which we
had to climb, blocked the path; now one under which
we were obliged to creep; and now and again, an accumulation of the same, the effect of some wintry storm or natural
death. Here, as the tree falls so it lies, and has lain undisturbed for ages. Hence, a log, green with moss, suddenly
collapsed as we trod on it, and we were half-buried in tinder.
Prickly thickets were common.
Men have frequently been lost in the woods of this country
for long periods; and some, unable to discover a way out from
them, have suffered protracted and painful deaths.
In 1865, a merchant of Victoria went out on an excursion
trip on the occasion of the Queen's birthday, and landed with
others at Sooke Harbour—a »place sixteen miles from the
town, and where, as is common on Vancouver Island, the
forest is extremely dense. Being rather short-sighted, he
wandered off a trail, and was six days in the woods without
A party of sixty men, among whom was the writer, volunteered to go in search of him, and made a detailed examina- Chap. II.]
tion of the locality, proceeding in the manner of riflemen
when " extended," with as much regularity as was possible in
that broken country, thick with timber and underbrush, and
where you often could not see the next man ten feet off.
But these efforts were entirely unsuccessful, although continued for several days; and eventually this gentleman
wandered out again on the ill-defined trail, and was found
there—in total ignorance of the fact—by some hunters passing by. It need not be said that he was in a very exhausted
state. He had heard the bugle-calls and shouts of the
searching party, but was at the time in too feeble a condition
to make himself heard. On the fourth day he had made his
will, and having no paper, had written it in pencil on his white
Later the same year Mr. Butler, an explorer, in a different
branch of the same service as the writer—the Russo-American Telegraph Expedition—was lost for nearly two weeks in:
Northern British Columbia, near the Upper Fraser. He had,
when in pursuit of a Cariboeuf deer, wandered far from the
camp of his companions, and attempting to retrace his steps,
found that he had lost his reckoning entirely.   In order to
try and discover a way out of the forest he climbed a tree;
but a branch gave way, and he was unfortunate enough to
fall from it, remaining at its base stunned and half-unconscious for two days. At last, partially recovering his strength,
he managed to reach Fraser River, and to construct a raft of
small logs; but from his weakness, and from the rapidity
of the current, he was unable to manage it, and it left him at
last stuck on a bar of the river, with the pleasure of seeing
it float away in the distance. He, however, reached the bank,
and took to the slower but surer mode of following the course 24
[Chap. II.
of the river by land through the woods and thickets. He at
length reached a small " clearing " owned by Chinamen, who
treated him kindly and took him to the " city " (a board and
shingle one) at the Mouth of Quesnelle. He had subsisted
for twelve days on fern and " gamass," or lily roots, and a
few berries.
To return to our narrative:—we found that rotten snow
covered the ground, logs, and underbrush, to a depth of
several feet, and travelling with the loads we carried was
hardly pleasurable. We, however, pushed on, and, after following the Homathco River more or less closely for the greater
part of a day, we reached the first glacier stream, and soon
obtained a distant view of the great " frozen torrent" itself,
with the grand snow-peaks behind it.
This stream, with several others derived from the same
source, ran with great violence, and had to be waded; it was
as much as I could possibly do to cross them, and I thought
that but for the additional fifty pounds on my back I should
have been taken off my legs.
To this point several Indians had accompanied us, and I
was not over-grieved to see them continue following the main
river; they were bound for Tatla Lake. They begged for a
" potlatch " or gift, and, glad to get rid of them*, I acceded to
their request for a little flour, tobacco, &c. To one of the
children I gave a sixpence, explaining in doubtful Chinook
that her Majesty, as thereon portrayed, was Victoria, Klootch-
man tyhee copa King. George illi-he,—or " Woman-chief of the
King George Land " or England,* and he immediately sug-
* " King George man," in the Chinook jargon (a mixture of English,
French, and Indian,-used as a means of converse among most of the white   Chap. II.]
gested by motions that he intended to hang the coin from
his nose!
We pitched our camp in an open space from which the
snow had melted, on the flat of land extending for several
miles below the glacier. On the next morning (24th April)
after our simple repast, and one pipe, I left Tellot in camp
to look after the traps, as he was unwilling to take any more
trouble, and struggled up by myself to the base of the glacier,
a distance of about two and a half miles, through very deep,
but rotten and thawing snow. The flat was strewed with
boulders and drift-wood, with here and there a sand-bar, and
covered with snow so' soft, that I frequently slipped in
between masses of rock up to my chest, or higher, and occasionally jerked down, without any warning, into a streamlet
that had undermined it. The streams were large and swift;
one of them in fact was a small river, too deep and strong
to be waded. Pine and alder woods enclosed this open space
on either side.
On reaching the glacier, its presence was rendered very
obvious, by the cracking of the ice, and the careering of the
stones from its surface. This was incessant; now a shower
of pebbles, now a few hundredweight of boulders, and now a
thimbleful of sand, but always something coming over. The
ice—very evidently such, at the cracks where you saw its
true colour, and its dripping lower edges of stalactite form—
yet appeared for the most part like wet smooth rock, from
men and natives of the coast) simply means an Englishman, and was
originated by the fact that our first acquaintance with them was made in
the Georgian era. "Boston man," or "Boston" simply, stands for an
American; the first vessels bearing the stars and stripes, hailed from that
port. 26
[Chap. II.
the quantity of dirt on its surface. At its termination the
glacier must have been three-quarters of a mile in width;
it was considerably wider higher up. Whilst sketching it,
all around was so supremely tranquil, that its action was
very noticeable. Rocks and boulders fell from it sufficient
to crush any too eager observer. A great quantity of snow
was on its surface, but fast melting and forming streamlets
that glistened in the sun, whilst from innermost icy caverns,
torrents of discoloured water poured. The day was extremely
warm, and the glacier in full activity. It ran east and west,
the sun setting behind the grand peaks, from whose snows
it derived its existence.
The terminal moraines were very distinctly marked by
pyramids, islands (between the streams), and heaps of boulders, some of them a quarter of a mile in advance, on the
flat. That these pointed to a former Period when the glacial
mass extended thus far cannot be doubted. The green pine
woods came almost to the glacier in places. Its surface was
strewed with boulders, and both the lateral and medial
moraines were strongly marked. Here and there a sapling,
either detached from the side precipices, or possibly sprung
from a wafted seed, was peacefully moving on to its destruction. The crevasses were large and yawning. Square
hummocks of ice, forced up by the closing of crevasses,
existed in many places on its surface, whilst at the western
or upper end, pinnacles, peaks, and pyramids of ice were
seen in the distance. I have little doubt that nearly all the
features usually observable in connection with glaciers were
to be found there.
,  The mountains behind were lofty, and  one  peak was
slightly horned; whilst one immense black mass of ruck, Chap. IT.]
with precipitous sides, reared itself from the surrounding
purity. After spending the day in such crude examination
as my time would permit, I returned late in the evening
to the camp, where Tellot had remained all day. From his
manner, I should suppose that he thought me a fool for my
pains, although he showed some little interest in my sketches.
After joining once more the camp of the road party, and
resting there a day or two, I turned my face coastwards—
proceeding leisurely to the Ferry station, and sketching in
the neighbourhood.    There I stopped two days with S ,
the man in charge, and later with the Superintendent, and
some of the workmen who came down for supplies; I then
started down for the coast with a pack-train then returning'
When within eleven miles from the sea, I left them; and this
time proceeded entirely alone to visit a second glacier, which
could be seen from the trail, and very much resembled in
general appearance the Mer de Glace. This was less troublesome to reach, but the streams had to be waded constantly.
Often an accumulation of drift-wood on a bar or " riffle," as
it is termed on that coast, would assist me in crossing; but
the principal stream from the glacier could not be crossed at
all, and so turbulent was it that it had swept away a substantial bridge, formerly built over it (at the crossing of the
The ice of this glacier, and the water from it, were comparatively pure, and it was really a very beautiful sight.
The mountains behind it seemed of less height, and more
rounded in form, than in the case of the other glacier. One
immense slope of dazzling purity was very striking. The
cliffs and hills, by which it was shut in, were more precipitous.   The woods almost extended to its base.   The flat 28
[Chap. TI.
in front was strewed with trees swept from the river's banks
at times when its waters were unusually swollen, or in some
instances doubtless brought down on the glacier itself. The
boulders here were neither so large nor so abundant, but
there was more sand.
As a canoe was to leave Bute Inlet* the following day, and
it was getting late, after sketching the glacier. I reluctantly
made my way back to the trail, and followed it through the
woods to the station at the mouth of the river.
* In a paper read before the Royal Geographical Society last session
(1868), Bute Inlet was mentioned as the terminal point on the Pacific
of a proposed railway and steam-boat route from the Atlantic sea-board.
See Appendix (I.). The same scheme has been more recently laid before
the British Association. Chap. 11 I.J
Reported murder — Canoe trip on the sea—Dodd's Narrows —Island on
fire — The massacre at Bute Inlet — Reports of survivors — Second
massacre — Excitement in the Colony — Expeditions in search of the
Indians — Capture of a part of the murderers — The ideal and real
Indian—His ultimate extinction — Reasons for it — Indian traders —
Proposed semi-secular, semi-missionary settlements — The mission at
I reached the station late in the evening, and, after a little
refreshment, turned into my blankets immediately, and was
soon fast asleep. Early next morning, whilst I was yet
sleeping soundly in company with the packers and two of
the workmen who were about to leave the party, some
friendly Indians broke into the room without warning, and
awoke us, saying, in an excited and disjointed manner, that
the man in charge of the ferry (thirty miles higher up the
river) had been murdered by the Chilicotens for refusing to
give away the provisions and other property in his care.
We  simply laughed at the idea,  knowing   that  although
S , the man in question,  was sometimes living alone,
the working-party was near him, engaged in blasting rock,
bridging, and otherwise building the road. Moreover, constant communication was necessarily held between them,—|
his station being a temporary depot for provisions, tools,
and blasting-powder. The pack-train from the mouth of
the river made a regular trip to him about every six days, 30
[Chap. JH.
and we believed that he and the party generally were well
The superintendent had gladly entrusted letters of importance to me, and had in fact rather hurried my departure
in order that they should reach Victoria by an early date.
^ I therefore, on the noon of the same day, the 30th April,
left the river by canoe, in company with two of the workmen, and on^Clayoosh J^idian. The latter being the owner
of the canoe, proved an inexorable tyrant, and kept us
paddling for three days, from early dawn to dewy eve.
Although these "light kanims," built of cedar, appear too
frail for the sea, we came down the inlet, and crossed the
Gulf of Georgia to Nanaimo Point, Vancouver Island, in
perfect safety, getting then a fair breeze till the end of our
I have many times seen the Indians of that coast, when
migrating from one village to another, employ two canoes, set
a little apart, but parallel to each other, and covered with
planks. Their household gods, their strings of clams, and
dried fish, are piled on the top of this arrangement, and a
man seated in one of the canoes can steer it. It is a capital
contrivance for use on the sea: a small sail is often hoisted
on the top of the planks.
As long as the weather is moderate there is nothing more
pleasurable than lying at the bottom of a canoe, smoking or
dozing, whilst it cleaves through the water, but in a rough
or chopping sea one's time is occupied in keeping it baled
out, and the Indian's in steering,—a careful and difficult operation. We camped on some of the numerous islands of the
Gulf, and had capital weather. Whilst passing through
"Dodd's Narrows" we had a near tussle with fate.    The   Chap, m.]
water there at ebb or flow comes with the whole force of
the tide through a small rocky passage in eddies and currents,
and our Indian, usually so impassible, was evidently scared,
as we passed between two opening whirlpools, and within a
few feet of them. We paddled.for life, and got through
safely. He afterwards told us, pointing back to the place
with a shudder, " Hyu si-wash hyach clattawa keekwully
ya-wa!"—" Many savages (Indians) had quickly gone to
the bottom there," or had found a watery grave.
At one of our mid-day halts for tea, &c, we set a whole
island on fire. Our camp-fire being built at the base of a
shelving cliff, set light to some dry grass, which in its turn
communicated the flame to the underbrush at a short distance,
and in a little while the forest itself, covering the whole
island, formed one immense conflagration. The last we
saw of it was a cloud of smoke on the horizon some hours
afterwards as we skimmed away from it with a favouring
breeze. These forest-fires are often very grand sights, and
bum for weeks. New Westminster, on the Fraser, has had
some very narrow escapes from total destruction from them.
We arrived safely in Victoria without meeting with any
further incidents of special interest, and were generally congratulated by persons of experience on having made a very
quick trip. The distance, 185 miles, had occupied us five
days, camping every night.
But a week after our arrival—on the morning of the 12th
May—the writer, in common with all Victoria, was startled
and horrified by news just arrived from Bute Inlet via
Nanaimo.   Fourteen out of seventeen men of the working 32
[Chap. DX
party had been massacred by the Chilicotens under circumstances of peculiar atrocity, on the very morning (the 30th
April) that the Indians had awoke us at the station (forty-
three miles distant), with the reported death of the ferry-
keeper. He, poor fellow, had indeed been killed the day
before, but they had not been satisfied with his blood. On
the early morning of the day following his murder, whilst the
workmen were yet soundly sleeping, the Indians had surrounded the camp, cut the tent-poles, and dropped the tents
on their victims, firing into them with their muskets, and
running knives into their bodies till all but three were
One of the survivors, Petersen, a Dane, told the writer that
hearing the shots, he jumped out of his blankets, and Avas
immediately struck at by an Indian with an axe; he stepped
aside just to see it fall heavily on the ground, and a few
seconds after this was shot in the arm. Faint, and bleeding
copiously, he plunged into the river hard by, and its swift
waters carried him down half a mile over the stones and
"snags," bruising him much. He managed to reach the bank,
and was soon after rejoined by Mosley, a man who had
escaped almost unhurt, although he had, whilst struggling to
release himself from the fallen tent, seen long knives,
on either side of him pierce the prostrate bodies of his companions. The third man, Buckley, an Irishman, who
afterwards joined them, had been stabbed repeatedly by the
Chilicotens, and fell, faint from the loss of blood, remaining
unconscious for hours, and they left him, imagining he was
dead. These men, sick and down-hearted, on arrival at the
rope-ferry found that the boat or "scow" had been cut
adrift, and the swift current had carried it awav.   In their MASSACRE AT BUTE INLET.
Chap. HI J
weak condition, they had no means of crossing till Buckley,
who had been a sailor, managed to rig up a " travelling loop,"
as he termed it, and succeeded in hauling himself over on the
cable stretched across the river, which was 200 yards wide
at that spot. He then sent over the "travelling block"
(formerly attached to ropes fixed to the boat), and Petersen
and Mosley were at length brought over safely. They
eventually reached the coast, and leaving the river's mouth
by canoe, travelled slowly to Nanaimo, Vancouver Island,
where they got the mail steamer for Victoria. The superintendent, and two others who on the morning of the attack
were camped a little way a-head of the main party, had risen
early, and were at work " blazing," i. e. marking the trees
with an axe to show where the trail should go. They were
attacked and shot before they could offer any resistance. It
is said that the Indians, glutted with blood, tore the heart
out of one of them and ate it! With these poor fellows I had
just been stopping; with three of them, indeed, I had camped
as late as the 28th of April, or but two days before this
brutal transaction. I had reason indeed to be grateful for my
escape. The Chilicotens were well provided with fire-arms.
As it afterwards appeared, a number of guns, sent for the
protection of the workmen, had been paid away to these
natives for various services, and it was therefore true that the
party was killed by its own weapons. On the other hand,
the men were virtually unarmed, having, as it was afterwards
shown, but one gun and one revolver among them. These,
from the sudden and treacherous nature of the attack, do not
appear to have been of the slightest assistance. From the
apparent friendliness of the natives, a fatal security had
reigned among the party, nor could any of us detect the
D 34
[Chap. III.
slightest ground for alarm. I was myself, also, totally
unarmed, but got at that time a lesson which I have taken
to heart. I have always since carried a trusty revolver, and
have found that except in those rare cases where pistols
have been traded to natives, they have a wholesome dread
of it.
Alas! -the story is but half told. Three weeks later a
large party of packers, with a train of well-laden mules, were
attacked by the same tribe on the Bentinck Arm trail,* and
* Bentinck Arm is on the northern coast of British Columbia. A second
route by a trail exists from the head of this arm of the sea to the Cariboo
road. The particulars of the second massacre were as follows:—" On the
17th of May M'Donald and his party started from New Aberdeen, at the
head of Bentinck Ann, for Fort Alexandria on the Fraser. They had forty-
two pack animals, twenty-eight of which were loaded with goods for the
mines, valued at between four thousand and five thousand dollars. On
arriving at Nancootioon Lake, about seventy-five miles from the Arm, they
met with a party of Indians, composed of the Chilicoten, Tatla, and Sitleece
tribes, among the number being two of the murderers of Mr. Waddington's
party at Bute. M'Dougall's squaw, who was a daughter of one of the
Chilicoten chiefs, here learnt from one of her old tiUicums (friends) that
the Indians intended to rob and murder the whole party, and at once
informed the packers, who, becoming alarmed, began to retrace their steps,
when they were attacked by the savages. Two of the number, M'Dougall
and Higgins, fell from their horses at the first fire, the latter shot through
the breast; M'Donald's horse was shot under him, on which he at once
mounted another, which was also shot down; he then took to the bush,
and when last seen was standing behind a tree, shooting at the Indians with
his revolver. Barney Johnson was badly wounded in the face and breast
by heavy shot, and a ball passed through his horse's head, killing the
animal and tearing open the rider's cheek. Malcolm M'Leod was wounded
with shot, and his hand badly torn by a ball. Grant got a ball through
his arm, and his side filled with shot. Frederick Harrison was also considerably cut up. Farquharson was the only one who escaped unhurt,
although his horse was shot under him. He escaped into the bush, where
he was four days wandering about without food, except berries, not daring Chap. HJ.]     CAPTURE OF SOME OF THE MURDERERS.
most of these men were also murdered. It need hardly be
said that intense excitement prevailed in the colony; many
settlers having relatives and friends in isolated spots of this
thinly settled country, and being apprehensive of further
danger from the natives. Great sympathy was naturally
expressed for Mr. Waddington, who had, in an almost unparalleled manner, undertaken a grand work at his own
expense,—one which, if completed, would have been of great
value to the country.- . The Colonial Government acted with
great promptness. A force of marines, an additional selected
and paid body of men, and the New Westminster Volunteers,
with the assistance of friendly Indians, endeavoured to catch
the murderers. Parties proceeding from the coast at Bentinck
Arm and Bute Inlet, and from the interior, attempted to
hem them in from all sides, and Governor Seymour himself
took a prominent part in these undertakings; but, from
the inaccessible nature of the country, a part only of the
Indians concerned were ever captured, and that with the loss
of an excellent and well-known Hudson Bay Company's man,
—Captain MacLean.    He was shot by the Chilicotens whilst
to return to the trail for fear of being seen by the Indians. He at last
made his way back to the head of the Arm. M'Dougall's squaw was also
shot by the Indians, and all the horses and property carried off. Grant
found his way to Mr. Hamilton's ranch, about twenty-five miles above the
settlement, at the head of the Arm, and burst in upon the family, his face
and body streaming with blood, telling them of the massacre. They at
once packed up a few valuables, and, taking their arms and ammunition,
hastened down to the river and embarked in a canoe. They had hardly got
afloat when the bloodthirsty villains appeared on the high bank above
them. They did not fire, however, being intent on plundering the house,
and the little party fortunately made their escape unhurt."—j British
Colonist,' June 28th, 1864.
D  2 36
[Chap. HI.
incautiously riding in advance of his party. The Indians
taken were afterwards tried in due form, and hanged, and
among them was old Tellot, my companion to the glacier.
It may very naturally be asked, What motives led the
natives to perpetrate this crime ?
I believe the answer is a simple one: a strong desire for
plunder, accompanied by the knowledge of the improbability
in that country of ever being taken and brought to justice.
That any provocation had been given them I do not
believe; Mr. Waddington was well known to have been
specially indulgent to them.
The Indian is to this day but little understood. By some
he is looked on as an animal, by others as almost a hero
of romance. The ideal Red-skin, the painted and much
adorned native with lofty sentiments, is certainly, as far as
my experience goes, a very rare being at the present day,
if indeed his existence at any time is not to be considered
mythical. A creature, half child—half animal, a mixture of
simplicity and ferocity, certainly exists; but though- a partial
civilization may have varnished -his exterior, beneath the thin
crust the savage nature lurks, ever ready to break forth, like
those volcanic mountains whose pure snows only hide the
molten lava within.
It is easy enough to find natives who have abandoned that
simple costume—a blanket, for more decorous clothing, who
can swear in broken English, sing " Sally come up!" and drink
all the camphine* whiskey they can obtain, but it is very rare
* In Victoria, V. I., a comparatively small town, there were between
1858-64, inclusive, no less than 336 " whiskey cases," i. e., men taken
up on suspicion of having sold ardent spirits to natives, and 240 of
the number resulted in convictions. Chap. III.]
to find those who are the better for intercourse with the
"pale faces." My experience is decidedly this, that the
least degraded Indians were those who had least to do with
the white man.
But the importation of " fire-water " is not the only evil:
diseases unknown, or little known before, are introduced, and
the mere fact of the white man's presence among the Indians
seems to foreshadow their ultimate extinction. This very curious point is carefully discussed by a recent writer, Mr. Sproat,
in his I Scenes and Studies of Savage Life.' He had excellent opportunities for a detailed examination of the subject,
at his saw-mill settlement of Alberni, Barclay Sound, V. I.
He was a large employer of native as well as of white
labour, and from personal observation I can confirm his
statements with regard to it. The place was conducted on
temperance principles, while no violence was used or permitted towards the natives. They were perhaps better fed,
better clothed, and better taught than they had ever been
before. "' It was only," says Mr. Sproat, | after a considerable
time, that symptoms of a change, amongst the Indians living
nearest the white settlement, could be noticed. Not having
observed the gradual process, my mind being occupied with
other matters, I seemed all at once to perceive that a few
sharp-witted young natives had become what I can only call
offensively European, and that the mass of the Indians no
longer visited the settlement in their former free inde-
pendent way, but lived listlessly in the villages, brooding
seemingly over heavy thoughts." Their curiosity had been
satisfied, they had been surprised and bewildered by the
presence of " machinery, steam vessels, and the active labour
of civilized men," and they seemed to have acquired a 38
TChap. III.
distrust, nay almost a disgust for themselves. They began
to abandon their old habits, tribal practices, and ceremonies.
"By and bye," continues Mr. Sproat, "it was noticed that
more than the usual amount of sickness existed among the
Indians" and " a high death-rate continued during the five
years I was there." " Nobody molested them, they had
ample sustenance and shelter for the support of life, yet
the people decayed. The steady brightness of civilized life
seemed to dim and extinguish the flickering light of savageism
as the rays of the sun put out a common fire."
Now supposing these views to be correct, and the Indian
to be aware of all this—as he must be if there is truth in it
at all—can we wonder if he takes any chance, fair or foul, to
expel those whom, at the best, he looks upon as intruders
on his native soil ?
There are few places more favourably situated than
Alberni, placed as it is on a secluded canal or arm of the sea,
and it was really a model settlement. Yet—if the above
statements represent the actual facts of the case, and it is
my belief they do—how infinitely worse is it for the Indian
in places open to every trader, and where there is no chock
on him but a half-sustained law. Great corporations like
the Hudson's Bay and the Russian American Companies did
not usually sell spirits to natives at all; but private traders,
from the large profits attached to their sale, did, and do it
without hesitation, and the mixtures sold would infallibly
kill any ordinary person,—in fact frequently do kill them.
For the Indian who has acquired a love of liquor there is
little hope, for with him there is no middle course. Catlin
concisely summed up our relations with the red men when
he   said,  " White  men — whiskey — tomahawks—scalping- Chap. III.]
Knives—guns, powder, and ball—small-pox—debauchery—
The subject is a sad and wearying one, for the Missionary
can hope to do but little, in counteracting such influences.
Mr. Sproat suggests the formation of half-secular, half-missionary establishments in native villages at a distance from
white settlements.   He.considers that five white men—men
of courage, energy, and proved   morality,  and  willing  to
forego the use  of alcoholic drinks—might form such an
establishment, and that at least two of them should know
a trade.    The leader might act as a magistrate; and, from
the writer's observation, he would have enough to  do in
keeping white traders from the neighbourhood, and in preventing such men from overturning the very objects of the
Success would depend purely on the earnest, unselfish, and,
in a word, Christian efforts of those employed in the work.
In the United States, the "Indian Agencies," something
very similar in theory, have not been satisfactory in practice,
solely owing to the greediness of those engaged, who used
them as a means of personal aggrandizement, and left the
Indians for whose benefit they were intended "out in the
The Missionary Duncan, at the Metlakahtla village on
the coast of British Columbia, has inaugurated such an experiment. Among the natives there are now to be found expert
carpenters, builders, gardeners, and road makers. A part of
them own a small vessel which takes their produce—oil, furs,
and manufactured articles—to Victoria. On her periodical
return to the settlement, dividends are declared: on one
such occasion, they termed her Ahah, "the slave," signi- 40
[Chap. HI.
fying that she did the work, and they reaped the benefit
The success of this station is, doubtless, due in part to its
isolation from any large white settlement, but Mr. Duncan
must have laboured earnestly and incessantly in his ndble
I think it is fair to allude to one objection I have heard
used—both in and out of the colony—to Mr. Duncan's work.
It is this, that—for a missionary—he is "too much of a
trader." I cannot say to what extent, or in what sense, this
may be true; I do not myself believe it in any offensive sense.
If, however, Mr. Duncan, from a little pecuniary advantage
accruing to him, should be induced to prolong Ms stay
among the Indians, and follow out the work of civilization he.
is engaged in, no one can rightly complain. The majority
of missionaries do not stop long enough in any one locality
to acquire a thorough knowledge of the native dialects, and
this of itself must be a fatal hindrance to their efforts.
If this gentleman, by giving up a large part of his life for
the benefit of these savages, can at the same time make a
fortune, may success attend him! Chap. IT.]
Pleasures of labour—Unknown interior of Vancouver Island — Expedition
organised—Cowichan River—Somenos — Kakalatza and his hat-box —
Travel up the river — Our camps — Camp yarns — Indian version of the
Book of Jonah — Cowichan Lake — Rafting experiences—The " Bampant
Raft"— Brown's Camp —Acquisition of a canoe.
Travelling in the interior of Vancouver Island exhibits
little beyond an alternation of various shades of monotony,
so that the narrative of one month's experiences is as good,
or a good deal better, than the details of five.   Notwith-
standing the truth of this statement, I count some of the
happiest hours of my life in the time spent there.    Although
no believer in the " dignity " of labour, I can well believe in
its pleasures.    When a man can enjoy any diet, even one of
beans—of a kind at home only given to horses—when he
considers tea the best and most refreshing of drinks, it is a
pretty good sign that he is in vigorous health, that he sleeps
well, and that life is no burden to him.    Such was our experience at times when we carried on our backs loads from
50 to 120 lbs. in weight, through a rugged country where
rivers were mountain torrents, the woods almost a jungle,
and where we rarely turned into  our blankets at night,
except in a wet condition.
In 1864, but few of the settlers in this colony had penetrated ten miles back from the towns and settlements of the
East coast; for although Captain Richards (now Hydrogra- 42
[Chap. IV.
pher to the Navy), Captain Mayne, and Messrs. Pemberton
and Pearce had already made very interesting journeys into
the interior, yet the results of their explorations were little
known. Victoria had been built and sustained by the
British Columbian mines, and fluctuated with them. In the
spring of the above-mentioned year her citizens woke up to
this fact, and an expedition organized by a popular committee, and endorsed by the Colonial Government, was
immediately started. A naturalist—Mr. Robert Brown, of
Edinburgh—was unanimously chosen leader. JFor astronomer
we had Mr. P. Leech, formerly of the Royal Engineers; and
the writer accompanied the expedition as artist Our party
numbered nine persons exclusive of Indians, and was at
a later period slightly increased. The men were selected
for special qualifications; many of them were miners by profession, and the V. I. E. E. had no cause to be ashamed of its
On the 7th June, 1861, after an address from Governor
Kennedy,! himself in truth the originator of the expedition,
we left the Hudson's Bay Company's wharf in Victoria on
board H.M. Gun-boat * Grappler,' bound for Cowichan, a
settlement thirty-five miles north of Victoria, on the east
coast of the island.   Her commander, Captain Verney, was
* Our party comprised the following men, in addition to those named
above:—Mr. John Buttle, assistant naturalist; Messrs. Barnston, Mac-
douald, Lewis, Meade, and Foley, pioneers and miners; and Thomas
Antoine, and Lazare* de Buscay, half-breed hunters. At a later period
Mr. Foley left our party, and Messrs. Drew and Hooper were added
to it.
f Now Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy, C.B., Governor of the West Africa
Settlements. Chap. IV
also an ardent promoter of the proposed explorations, and to
him the writer is indebted for much kindly courtesy.
On arrival at Cowichan Bay we landed at the pretty little
settlemen% of Comiaken, a place which boasts a Roman
Catholic mission and several farms and settlers' houses.
In one of the latter we enjoyed so much hospitality that it
was a serious question whether some of us would not stop
there, and let our travels end where they had begun!
7 JO
On the 9th June, after a " hyas wa-wa " (big talk) with the
Indians, Brown at length succeeded in hiring a canoe, and,
putting the larger part of the stuff therein, sent it up the
Cowichan River in charge of one white man of our party and
several Indians. The larger part of us proceeded by land
direct to the village of Somenos, where we found several
large lodges, or " rancheries," as they are termed in the
colony. The natives were drying fish and clams on strings
hanging from the rafters of their dwellings, and were by no
means anxious to engage in our service. There were two
reasons for this reluctance, which was one of the main draw-
backs of our journey. The first was simply that they lived
so easily, getting salmon, deer, and beaver meat in abundance, and consequently were indifferent to anything but
extremely high pay. The second and main reason was fear
of surrounding tribes, especially those of the west coast, who
were accustomed occasionally to kidnap " unprotected males,''
and carry them off as slaves. At length u Kakalatza," an old
" tyhee " or chief, of grave but dignified appearance, and who
persisted in wearing a battered chimney-pot hat, given to him
by some settler, was engaged to act as our guide to the
Cowichan Lake, but this was on the understending that we
allowed him to take his hat-box with him; and every night 44 OUR CAMPS. [Chap. IV.
afterwards he carefully deposited his beaver in it, before
retiring into his blankets. Kakalatza and his hat were
inseparable. Here, too, a half-breed, Thomas Antoine by
name, but known elsewhere as " Tomo," joined us, and proved
a great acquisition. He could speak any number of Indian
dialects, was a good shot, though he had but one arm, could
travel or "pack" with the best, and was reliable except
when he got hold of some whiskey, when he was a perfect
devil. Spirits seem to have even more attraction for the
half-breed than for the full Indian, and more influence upon
The succeeding days much resembled each other, most of
us proceeding through the forests with packs of no light
weight, whilst the canoe was poled up the strong current of
the river,—paddles being useless, and oars impracticable.
The river was a succession of " riffles," or rapids,—small and
large—alternating with comparatively quiet water.    Sometimes the canoe had to be towed, and sometimes carried
bodily; in several places all hands had to make a " portage,"
or carry the goods over the rocks, to a higher and better
part of the stream.    We *found the banks thickly timbered,
and where' the Douglas pine, spruce, and hemlock had grown
under favourable circumstances, the place resembled a beautiful park; but for the most part it was a tangle of underbrush,
mingled with fallen logs in all stages of decay, and woods in
all degrees of luxuriance.   But if our travelling was troublesome, the evening camp more than made up for all, when a
good log-fire, a bed of fir-brush, and a pipe made us happy,
and where we could comfortably sleep—for the most part,
with no canopy but that of heaven.   There is no climate in
the world, California not excepted, more delicious than that Chap. IV.]
of Vancouver Island. We were generally fortunate, too, at
this time in getting grouse or deer meat; and our party
thought nothing of polishing off a whole deer at a couple of
meals. We had to abandon and leave behind many a rib,
and even haunch of venison, it being impossible to carry
any more than we already had on our backs in the shape
of beans and flour, blankets, frying-pans, pots, and instruments.
And then the yarns of those evening camps! Mac I
Donald's story—often begun and never ended—the narrative
of his eventful life. Born on Fraser River, the son of a
Hudson's Bay chief trader, the tedious barter with Indians
for their peltries had proved distasteful to him, and he ran
away, when quite young, to sea, got shipwrecked and detained a prisoner in Japan. Here he was closely confined,
but on the whole well treated, till he was rescued from the
Japanese by Commodore Perry, U. S. Navy, when he called
there on his well-known expedition. After many wanderings
Mac brought up in Australia, mined, made money, and
spent it; had once kept a gambling-house and dancing-
booth at the "diggings." Later the British Columbian
mines had attracted him back to his earliest home ; he had
" run " a ferry on Fraser River, kept a grog-shop at Lillooet,
and played the " honest miner" in Cariboo, and now, hale
and hearty as ever, was a member of the V. I. E. E. Or
else the Indian yarns of Tomo—many of them childish,
some incomprehensible, but sometimes showing that the
natives have inventive power and a sense of humour, Here
is one of them, apparently a native version of the book of
Jonah! " An Indian, paddling in his '.frail kanim' on the
great 'salt chuck' or sea, was swallowed—canoe and all— 46
[Chap. P7.
by a great fish, and lay down at the bottom of its belly, sad
at heart, thinking it was all up with him, and that never
more would he see his people. But in the midst of his
affliction comfort came to him; a brilliant idea flashed
through his brain,—sweet revenge was at least possible I
and he proceeded to execute a hastily conceived project*
He cut his paddles into shavings—'wittled' them, as a
Yankee would say—broke his canoe into fragments, and
lighted a great fire on the floor of the creature's stomach.
It was not long before the fish showed, by a tortuous uncomfortable wriggling of his body, that this operation did not
agree with him, and he consequently attempted, by swallowing wave after wave, to cool his fevered body, but did not
succeed in putting out the fire, though our hero was nearly
drowned in the operation. Our Indian, averse to water at
all times, appeared at this juncture ^fco get in a very bad
temper, and drawing his long knife, stabbed the lining of
the creature's inside, till the coats of its stomach were in a
very dilapidated state. It was evidently expiring fast, and
swam ashore on the beach. Here, while it lay in the
agonies of death, our friend cautiously crept up its throat,
and through its gasping mouth, just in time to avoid the
collision of its jaws, which came together with a terrific
crash, and the great fish was dead!" This formed part only
of a long story,—many such we had, and varied them by
making the woods echo with the latest gems of "nigger"
minstrelsy, or even more classical productions.
The Cowichan River is about forty miles in length; but a
much shorter route to the great lake, its source, is possible
by land. In several places it passes through canons,—small
rocky gorges, in which the water boils and frets in eddies Chap. IV.]
and rapids over sunken rocks. It was but a type of three
parts of the streams on the island. Every locality on its
banks had appropriate native names. One fresh verdant
spot near a deserted Indian lodge was Saatlam, " the place
of green leaves;" another, an open prairie in the woods, was
QuaHs, " the warm place."
On the 15th June we found the forest getting thicker, the
trees larger, and the soil evidently richer, a sign that we
were nearing the lake; and later the same day we camped
by its placid waters. One cedar near this spot measured
thirty-five feet in circumference, at a height of five feet from
the ground. In this country very valuable timber is necessarily useless at the present time, from the fact that there
are in most cases no available means of transport to the
coast,—the rivers usually being tortuous, and blocked at
intervals by accumulations of drift-wood. One occupation
is alone possible—so far as the interior forests are concerned
—and that has hitherto attracted little attention on Vancouver Island: I allude to the manufacture of rosin and
turpentine. In forests in Oregon, of almost exactly the
same character, it has become a profitable employment, and
the products are items of export from that country.
The Indian name for Cowichan Lake, a very calm,
beautiful sheet of water, is " Kaatza," and a long peninsula
stretching into it, and widening at its. termination into a
thickly-wooded knoll, is "Kanatze," "the island in tow."
One considerable stream and several minor ones enter it.
After making sundry surveys and explorations, we divided
our forces: one party, under Leech, proceeded in as direct
a course as might be to Port San Juan; while Brown, myself, and four of the men, started for the Nittinaht River, 48
[Chap. IV.
in the direction (as we had learnt on Indian authority) of its
upper waters.
Bidding then adieu to "Kakalatza" and his hat, we
shouldered our packs, and, travelling through the forests,
at length reached a stream flowing in a westerly direction,
which we concluded was the one in question. Our supplies
were down to starvation point; and we lost no time in
commencing the construction of a raft. On the 26th June,
this being finished, we started down, going smoothly enough,
except when our bark was brought to a standstill on the
shallow "riffles." ■ Then all hands lightened her by getting
into the water, lifted her over the boulders, and then all
aboard! and away we went, shooting some of the deeper
rapids very successfully. But at length the distant, though
unmistakable roar of a fall, warned us that we must resume
our travel by land. It was fortunate that we did so in time,
for on examination of the rapid we found it to be one of a
serious nature, and, had we proceeded, it is questionable
whether there would have been one left to tell the tale.
We resumed our packs, and followed an Indian trail, which
brought us at night to a deserted lodge, and there we
camped. Near it on the bank lay an old cedar canoe, and
we at once set to work to caulk it, and make it as watertight as possible. Mr. Brown, who had planned the routes
with care, knew that an inlet existed at the termination of
the Nittinaht River; but it was a matter of uncertainty
whether we had reached that stream, and it behoved us all
to bestir ourselves on account of the state of our supplies.
On the morning of the 27th, Brown and Barnston started
down in this shaky old canoe, which leaked like a sieve; and
an hour or so afterwards MacDonald  and myself got on   Chap. IV.]
board a raft of very limited dimensions, to follow them. It
was composed of boards and logs, mostly taken from the
Indian lodge, and was held together by the ropes of our
blanket packs, the necessary holes pierced in some cases by
pistol bullets. We left our companions, Buttle and Lewis,
to follow through the bush, and to attempt, as they fondly
hoped it might prove, a " short cut." We tied our bundles
to two upright posts fixed on the raft, poled into the stream,
and off we shot.
We found the river a series of rapids alternating with
silent and deep pools. These last gave us really harder work
than any other part of our journey. We could not usually
touch bottom with our poles, whilst it was very difficult to
keep the raft in shore. On the " riffles" it was pure fun
mixed with a dash of danger. The current acting on the
stern of our craft with 300 lb.—MacDonald's weight, as steersman—took it under water several feet, while the bows were
elevated in the air. Several times a curious sight might
have been witnessed, that of a raft shooting past at the rate
of six or eight miles an hour, and, standing nearly upright in
the water, a " raft rampant," as it were, with a couple of half-
drowned explorers hanging on with comical desperation. It
need not be stated, that on such a river our bark whirled
rouna in the eddies every few minutes, and the stern became
the bows and vice versa. Twice we were directly spilt in the
water, and once sucked in beneath a number of huge logs,
under which the current swept violently, but we escaped
with a few bruises. Aecumulations of drift-wood occurred
constantly on the river, and made navigation an affair of constant watchfulness.
We often as  before brought up against boulders in the aau
[Chap. IV.
river, and had to lighten her, the water meantime rushing
past with fury, and then had to scramble on again, or we
should have been left behind. A few moments after this
the cry, a very constant one, was " Duck your head!" as we
shot under overhanging banks, branches, and half fallen
trees. I was reminded ever and anon of early experiences
in donkey-riding, when that patient but vicious animal would
bruise my legs against every wall, and would run under trees
that just allowed him to pass completely, but that nearly
swept me from the saddle. Our raft seemed to be " possessed "
in like manner. Mac was as usual thoroughly good-tempered,
and the events of that day made us faster friends than ever.
We went ashore two or three times, and had several luscious
though unsatisfying meals of '* salmon " and " salall" berries.
In other respects our provisions were so low that we were
well inclined to make a quick trip.
We despaired of reaching Brown's camp that evening,
when smoke wafting up the river—the grateful smell of a
camp fire reached our nostrils, and a few minutes afterwards,
turning a bend of the stream, we discovered our friends
camped on a flat bar at what was virtually its termination. After their experiences in the canoe they were surprised to see us, and as it proved we were more fortunate
than the men who followed us. The next afternoon' they
arrived fatigued and hungry, and perfectly satisfied that
"short cuts" in that country were a delusion and a snare.
They had like us essayed a raft, but had not been able to
manage it.
Before they arrived our companions had found, at a little
distance below the mouth of the river, &n uninhabited lodge,
and near it a canoe, which was immediately "pressed," says Chap. IV]
Brown, in his Report to the Colonial Government, "into the
service of the Expedition, in the name of her most gracious
Majesty, Queen Victoria, and her faithful Deputy, his
Excellency Arthur Edward Kennedy." We set to work to
caulk it with flour-bags and pine-gum, preparatory to an
early start on the morrow.
E 2 52
[Chap. V.
Nittinaht Inlet—" Whyack " — The Indians—Aht tribes — The breakers
— Port San Juan — Indian yarn — Sooke—Basin and river—Discovery
of gold — Gold on Queen Charlotte's Island — Nanaimo — Coal-seam at
Comox — Ascent of Puntledge River—Wreck of canoe — Interior lakes
— Barclay Sound — Game list — Camp-marks.
Very early the next morning we made a start, a light
favourable breeze had risen, and, hoisting a blanket sail,
we skimmed away gaily before it. Even now we were
not absolutely certain that we had reached the wished-for
Nittinaht Inlet, but appearances were in favour of that
view. We passed several Indian villages with, however, no
signs of life about them, and towards evening found the
Inlet narrowing. The tide swept through it in many an
eddy and whirlpool, and we could hear the noise of breakers
outside, a convincing proof that we had almost reached the
coast. A few minutes of specially hard paddling took us
out of the current into a quiet bay behind the Nittinaht
village of " Whyack," where a troop of wild-looking savages
watched our approach with evident surprise.
" Mokoola," the chief, was absent, and a part of his tribe
with him; but those remaining in the village treated us welL
and pointed out a flat place behind it for our camp. We
were soon engaged in bartering for halibut, &c, and they
crowded round to see how we cooked it, and perhaps to
watch an opportunity for pilfering.    Their blankets give  AHT NATIVE,   WEST  COAST  OF  VANCOUVER  ISLAND, Chap. V.]
an excellent chance for obtaining and concealing anything
lying round a camp: we lost two axes and an auger at this
It was on this coast and neighbourhood that Mr. Sproat
made the careful studies and observations on Indian habits
and character, which he has recently laid before the public.
The annexed portrait of an Aht * native is no imaginative
production, but is taken from a photograph made on the
spot, and gives a fair idea of the type of native we met at
this village. The unkempt hair, the wreath of leaves put
on much for the same purpose as they are often put on the
heads of cart-horses—to keep off flies and musquitoes, and
also for ornament—and the limited amount of costume, are
all characteristics of the west coast natives. The pin stuck
in one side of his nostril is simply put there for convenience,
when not required for fastening the blanket across his manly
bosom! A large number of these people have small holes
drilled through the cartilage between the nostrils, in which
they not unfrequently wear rings; it is no uncommon
thing for them to insert their blanket-pins in them temporarily, for want of a better place.
But on festive occasions and dances these " nasty Injiens "
do not deem themselves sufficiently ugly, and therefore put
on masks carved from wood, and often very grotesque and
curious. The original of our illustration is nearly two feet
in height, but much larger ones are worn, and some of the
chiefs have a complete series of "properties" of this kind.
* Aht is the generic name given by Mr. Sproat to the tribes of the west
and south coast of Vancouver Island, or rather is the generic termination of
most of the native names; thus Nittinaht, Klaho-quaht, &c. 54
[Chap. V.
Some of them are ingeniously constructed, and have strings
arranged to move the
eyes, open the beak,
&c. They are common to all the tribes
of Vancouver Island.
The Nittinahts bear
a bad reputation, and
owing to the inaccessible coast round
"Whyack," the heavy
surf and breakers off
the entrance to the
Inlet, and the fact
that they have stockaded their village,
they consider themselves almost impregnable, and safe from
attack. They have in days gone by often waged war on
surrounding tribes, and even on those of the opposite coast
of Washington Territory. The terrible Bute Inlet massacre
was so fresh in our memories that we kept a careful " watch "
by turns all night. "Whyack" is famous for the manu-
facture of cedar canoes, and we saw many there in course
of construction from single logs. The models of these craft
were extremely good; I have not seen better in any other
part of the island.
Next morning, after a couple of hours' haggling, we hired
a large canoe and three Indians to manage it Our goods
being put on board, it was hauled to the water's edge, where
we all stood more or less in the surf. The right moment
at length arrived, the retreating wave lifted our bark, we
Example of Mask worn by natives of Vancouver Island. Chap. V.]
scrambled on board, and paddled with all our might till
clear of the breakers. We then hoisted a mat sail, and,
leaving the Indians to manage it, lay down at the bottom of
the canoe, and smoked our pipes in comfort.
We rounded the southernmost end of Vancouver Island,
and arrived at Port San Juan, or Pachenah, without
accident, finding there Mr. Lawton, a well-known trader,
who welcomed us kindly, and immediately spread a meal
that seemed a princely banquet after our week of semi-
starvation. A few days after our arrival, Leech and his
party came in, worn out with fatigue and hunger, and their
clothes in tatters. A distance of twenty miles—on the map—
had occupied ten days to travel, and they used very strong
and emphatic language in regard to an old Admiralty chart
on which their route was marked as " level plains "! Their
journey had been of the most difficult nature, over a constant
succession of mountains, and through the usual thick forests.
To proceed one mile they had to travel five, and when they
at length reached the San Juan River, it was found to pass'
through gorges specially inaccessible, and to be in fact, for
the larger part of its course, a brawling torrent. Among
other specimens brought in by Leech was a fragment of
undoubted plumbago. Coal was also observed by us in the
neighbourhood, but in thin seams only.
Mr. Lawton, then living bv himself, and with no white
neighbours within thirty or forty miles, was very glad to see
us, and had an unlimited budget of yarns. Once during his
stay at Pachenah, the Nittinahts had made a warlike excursion to the Cape Flattery Indians of the opposite coast
(Washington Territory), and had brought home twenty-six
human heads as their spoil, which they brought up to his 56
[Chap. V.
log house with savage glee. They then left for their own
village, and Lawton knew well that a return visit would
be made by the outraged tribe, and that they would not be
particular whom they attacked, even though they were white
settlers. He accordingly, with one white man then with
him, barricaded the doors and windows of his house, and
kept a constant watch They had a large quantity of trading
guns lying there, and they determined to load every one
of them, and give the attacking party a thorough good
peppering. They had not long to wait; but one night
elapsed before the plash of paddles was heard approaching
in the bay. They stopped opposite the Pachenah Indian
lodges; all was silent as the tomb, the inhabitants had fled.
Enraged, they made for Lawton's house, their hearts full of
vengeance, and ready to wreak it on the first man they met.
Their canoes were just touching the beach, when the two
men inside let fly at them, and took up musket after musket
so rapidly, that the Indians thought there must be a large
party inside, and, howling with disappointment, made off in
the greatest confusion, paddling for dear life. They never
gave any further trouble.
After the arrival of a sloop from Victoria with provisions
for the ensuing month, we left for Sooke Basin or Harbour in
two canoes, and in the lovely Straits of Fuca soon got a
favourable breeze. This increased so suddenly, that we lost
one of our sails by a squall of wind, and we had to make
a tent do duty for it. On this trip we noticed fair out-
croppings of coal on a low cliff on the coast near Sooke.
This may well be considered a continuation of the coal
measures already worked on the opposite coast, at Clallam
Bay, Washington Territory.
Li£ Chap. V.'
On the 13th July we commenced the ascent of the Sooke
River (" Soak " more nearly expresses the Indian pronunciation), a stream much resembling the Cowichan River before
mentioned, but even less navigable. It was there that we made
the first important discovery of our expedition,-^one that for
a time revolutionised Victoria. In brief, gold was found in
paying quantities; a "*ush" took place when the news reached
Victoria, and before the end of the season, 100,000 dollars'
worth of the precious metal had been taken out. It is
admitted that few persons made extremely large "piles"
or stakes, but many made for the time very high wages.
Board and "shingle" stores, grog-shops, and hotels, were
run up in numbers out of all proportion to the wants of
the locality, and, as in other places, it was a question
whether for every dollar obtained, two had not been spent in
the operation!
Large numbers of Chinamen eventually worked this ground,
and as provisions were tolerably cheap on the spot, especially
after trails were made from the nearest road, the discovery
was deemed one of value, and a reward in hard cash was
voted and paid to us by the Colonial Government. The
principal stream was, by the general wish of the members of
the expedition, named after Leech, our astronomer.
As yet nothing equal to these diggings has been found on
—' J      - OX DO       O
the island, but from the indications observed by us in innu-
merable other places,* and from the well-known yield of the
mainland, it cannot be doubted that Vancouver Island has
* On a stream entering Cowichan Lake, on rivers falling* into Barclay
Sound on the southern side, and on streams falling into the Puntledg*
Lake, near Comox, very good " colours " of gold were obtained.
I 58
other fields of the same character, as yet undeveloped. On
Queen Charlotte's Island also, the precious metal is known
to exist, although the precise locality of the deposit has
never been satisfactorily ascertained. It is stated that a
gentleman in the Hudson's Bay service found the Haidah
Indians of that island using golden bullets in place of leaden
For very interesting reports of the explorations once
made on Queen Charlotte's Island by Captain Torrens, and
also by Major Downie, both gentlemen well known to me,
I must refer the reader to Captain Mayne's work on that
The gold on Vancouver Island was usually found in small
specks and scales (dust), but nuggets up to six and a half
ounces have been obtained. The great drawback was the
scarcity of the "pay-dirt," that is to say, that there were
more rocks and boulders, than earth impregnated with gold
resting on them ; sometimes in cracks and corners, however,
of the former, very nice little " pockets" or accumulations of
nuggets were struck. I cannot leave this subject without
alluding to the great assistance afforded us in the first
discovery by Mr; Foley, then a member of the expedition, a practical miner of considerable experience, who knew
more of gold and its whereabouts than any five of the other
On the Sooke River deer were especially abundant, and
when/mce we had arrived at the lake of the same name, one
of its sources, we lived for a time in clover, catching some
salmon trout in its limpid waters. Owing to the dryness of
the weather at this period, our camp fires were on several
occasions the means of setting the forest on fire; and at the Chap. V.]
lake we were burnt out of our camp, and had to retreat to an
island, from which we could watch the conflagration in safety.
Here we should have been happy, but for the musquitoes.
It has been distinctly stated that they do not exist on Vancouver Island, but the writer knows, from this and subsequent trips, that they are abundant in the interior, though
not perhaps as bad as those in British Columbia. We always
kept a pan of smouldering ashes at our tent door, when
camped for any length of time in one spot, yet we passed
many a restless night from their inflictions.
From Sooke Lake we proceeded by Shawnigan Lake and
Cowichan to Nanaimo, where a delay occurred owing to the
difficulty of obtaining Indians. Nanaimo, seventy miles
north of Victoria, is the second town in point of size on the
island: in fact the list ends here; there is no third as yet.
It owes its existence mainly to the valuable coal deposits
which are successfully worked by an English company,' and
it has had a steadier *and more healthy career than Victoria.
It lies in a pleasant bay sheltered by islands, and there is
depth of water sufficient for large vessels close in shore. A
quantity of the coal is shipped to San Francisco, Victoria,
and Fraser River, while there is an expectation that the
recent annexation of " Alaska " will create a further demand
for steam-ship purposes. The main deposit is situated at
about a quarter of a mile from the town, and the coal reaches
the wharf by means of a railway and locomotive. The
principal shaft is a hundred feet in depth, and a "drift"
runs in an inclined plane for 1200 feet,, sinking in that
distance 170 feet, so that the perpendicular depth from which
the coal is now taken is 270 feet The bed has naturally
varied considerablv in thickness; in 1867 it was about five 60
FChap. V.
feet through. 150 to 800 tons are taken out daily; the coal
brings an average of six dollars a ton on delivery at the ship.
In San Francisco it is retailed at an average price of twelve
dollars (or about £2 10*. gold: t here are no " greenbacks"
accepted in California except at the regular discount). The
Hudson's Bay Company, which had formerly a fort at
Nanaimo, were the first to work this seam, hiring Indians
to dig it from the outcroppings, and paying them at the rate
of one blanket for eight barrels. It is an undoubted fact
that the coal of Vancouver Island is its most valuable production, and that it is abundant. After leaving Nanaimo,
we discovered, on a stream entering the Puntledge River near
the small settlement of Comox, a very important deposit.
A seam from two to eight feet in thickness, disappearing and
again reappearing on the rocky walls of a small canon,
extended for a mile of its course. This occurred ■ five miles
from navigable water, and would require the construction of
a tramway through the woods for its successful development.
We camped by the principal seam, and made a gigantic fire
of the coal, which really appeared to be of excellent quality.
The stream on which we observed it was named in honour of
our leader, Mr. Brown.
Our journey from this place up the Puntledge River to the
lake of the same name was one of difficulty. We had determined to take a canoe there, and it had to be carried or
towed nearly the whole distance. Piles of drift-wood blocked
the river, while its bed consisted of boulders of all sizes. We
all spent more of our time in the water than out of it; and
often, when dragging the canoe by main force through.the
shallow but swift current, got into holes out of our depth,
and clung to it with great pertinacity, till once more we Chap. V.]
could get a foothold. There were two falls of importance
on this river, one of them bearing the poetical name of Ski-ep,
" the whirl of waters." At last we reached the lake, one of
the most picturesque on the island, and our canoe was
of much service to us. Alas! it was near here that our craft,
that had gone through so much, at length came to grief.
Descending a tributary of the lake which we had previously
examined, owing to the bad steering of one of our party it
came broadside on a log, and in a second was cracked up like
a nut-shell into a hundred pieces, and we were all spilt in
the swift current. We hung on to the larger part of the
fragments, and succeeded in getting ashore. After several
hours' patching, sewing, and caulking, we managed to rig her
up again, but had subsequently to treat her as a very cripple
of a canoe, and to get out at all the rapids and shallows and
carry her tenderly over. With great care we at length
reached our camp by the lake, where doubtless she still lies,
the wreck we left her.
Between the east coast at Comox and the west coast at
Barclay Sound, we found a series of seven lakes, extending
almost across the island. One of these, the Central Lake, is
about eighteen miles long by one to one and a half in width,
and our travelling was spasmodic, constantly making halts to
construct rafts. On this rather tedious trip our supplies
again got down to a very limited ration of flour, and that
" strait," that is to say, unaccompanied by tea, beans, or
bacon. We varied a diet of soggy bread with a kind of thin
paste or soup of flour and water; not very good " working"
grub. It was a sad but true fact, that, when our commissariat
department was exhausted, nothing was to be obtained in the
way of game or outside supplies;  and we were  not sorry 62
[Chap. V
when on the 23rd September we reached a " logging camp "
near the Opichesaht village on the Somass River, where the
workmen, who had been expecting us for some time, spread
a repast to which we well knew how to do justice. The
same day, descending the river, we reached the large saw-
mill and lumber establishment of Alberni, Barclay Sound,
where Messrs. Johnston and Raymur, the gentlemen then in
charge, received us with great kindness. Two hundred
workmen—representing a dozen nationalities, and, including
among the number, Kanakas from the Sandwich Islands, and
the Indians and half-breeds of many tribes—were busily engaged in the mill and neighbourhood. Seven vessels were, at
the date of our visit, loading with lumber for England, California, Chili, China, and Australia, and the settlement presented
a lively aspect.
Our subsequent canoe-trips down Barclay Sound—on
streams entering which, we again found the " colour" of
gold,—our journey once more across the island to Quali-
cum, and thence by canoe to Nanaimo, would, if narrated
be little more than a repetition of what has been said
above, and I will not enlarge upon them. Our party in
detachments had crossed the island in seven directions.
In the interior game is fairlv abundant, and our list
included three elk, twenty-five deer, and two beaver, shot
mainly at the commencement of our journeys. Owing to the
noise made in travelling through the thickets and woods,
and the density of the forest itself, we saw but few wild
animals, and of those generally only their hind-quarters
retreating in the distance. The animals above named, with
a few bears, panthers, martens, and coons, are about all that
the traveller will see at any time on that island. Chap. V]
The future explorer will have no trouble in finding our
tracks, for at each camp the trees were " blazed," i. e., marked
with an axe, and an inscription affixed as represented below
—the artistic part of the work being usually performed by
the writer—painter, but not glazier, to the expedition.
Camp with " blaze," or Camp-mark, 64
[Chap. VI.
Acquisition of Russian America by the United States—American criticisms on the purchase — Coal and gold discoveries — Mock advertisements—America for the Americans — Geographical literature of the
Pacific — Of Russian America—The Treaty— W. U. Telegraph Expedition—Its organization — Preference for young men.
The recent acquisition of Russian America by the United
States Government is one of the events of our day. 400,000
square miles of territory have been, under the name of
"Alaska,"* added to the already vast domain of Uncle Sam,
and Russia has rid herself of an isolated possession of dubious
The purchase was not allowed to be completed quietly.
On its announcement the people of the United States were,
in fact, taken by surprise; there was much hostile criticism,
and strong political opposition. That has now for the most
part passed away, and American enterprise has begun to
develop the resources of the country.f    For some time,
* By this purchase the U. S. Government has acquired also one of the
largest mountains of the continent^ Mount St. Elias.
+ Coal has been discovered at Cook's Inlet, and a recent newspaper paragraph (July 30th, 1868) tells us that " A party of explorers started some
time back from the State of Oregon for the Skena River, in Alaska, and
were subsequently reported to have been lost in a schooner in Queen
Charlotte's Sound. The American consul at Victoria, Vancouver Island,
now announces theu» safety, and adds that they state themselves to have
discovered a rich gold-field in the Taquo River, where they are picking up Chap. VI.]
indeed, Mr. Seward's position in regard to it—he being
always considered the originator of the project—was anything but a desirable one. It was regarded as a bad business
and as an unfortunate speculation, and was ridiculed as " our
new possession of ' Walrus-sia.'" Mock advertisements—
purporting to come from the Secretary of State—appeared
in the daily papers of New York and the large cities
generally, offering the highest price for "waste lands and
worn-out colonies," "submerged and undiscovered islands,"
icebergs, polar bears, volcanoes, and earthquakes, " provided
they should not shake the confidence of the State Department." In the House of Congress it was made a party
question, and therefore the colony was on the one hand
described as the tag end of creation, and on the other as
an Elysian field. Virtually there was, and is, little known
about it; and the following pages must be regarded simply
as an early and superficial contribution to our better knowledge of it.
There are, however, many, both in England and America,
who look on this purchase as the first move towards an
American occupation of the whole continent, and who foresee that Canada and British America generally, will sooner
the precious metal in lumps. This news is credited in Sitka, and every
available craft is being brought into requisition to convey adventurers to
the spot." Gold has been frequently obtained in the Stekine River, a large
stream near the boundary line, running partly through British and partly
through Russian America.
It has also been recently stated that a company was prepared to " take "
Alaska, pay 10,000,000 dollars in gold to the United States Government (nearly 3,000,000 dollars over the sum to be paid to Russia), and
leave the supreme authority to Congress. Their object was of course to
trade for furs, mine, and otherwise develop the country. 66
[Chap. VI:
or later become part of the United States. Looking at the
matter without prejudice, I believe that it will be better for
those countries and ourselves when such shall be the case.
We shall be released from an encumbrance, a source of expense and possible weakness; they, freed from the trammels
of periodical alarms of invasion, and, feeling the strength of
independence, will develop and grow; and—speaking very
plainly and to the point—our commercial relations with
them will double and quadruple themselves in value. No
one now supposes, that, had the United States remained
nought but " our American colonies," they would have progressed as they have done; and it is equally obvious that
our commerce with them must have been restricted in equal
ratio. That it is the destiny of the United States to possess
the whole northern continent I fully believe.
The geographical literature of the Pacific is abundant;
but that part of it which has reference to Russian America is
comparatively restricted. Mailer's* narrative of the voyages
of Bering and his companions deservedly heads the list.
Bering and Tschirikoff may be fairly regarded as the discoverers of the country, and their names will ever be
associated with the North Pacific. Immediately following
their adventurous voyages, a number of Russian merchants
of Eastern Siberia sent vessels from Ochotsk and neighbouring ports on trading excursions, mainly to the Aleutian
Islands. " Within a period of ten years," says Coxe,f their
historian, " more important discoveries were made by these
individuals at their own private cost, than had been hitherto
* Muller's i Voyages from Asia to America,' &cj
t Coxc's ' Russian Discoveries.' Chap. VI.]       RUSSIAN AND OTHER EXPLORERS.
effected by all the expensive efforts of the Crown." Byron,
Carteret, Wallis, and Cook follow next in chronological
order; the latter especially helped to clear up the fogs that
encompassed the coast. Cook's Inlet, Ounalaska, Norton
Sound, and Bering Straits were all examined by the great
Passing over the illustrious La Perouse, who explored
portions of the N.W. coast, adjacent to Mount St. Elias, and
several Spanish commanders who did next to nothing for
Russian America, we come to our countryman Vancouver,
whose laborious surveys have left their mark on the whole
of the coast from San Francisco to Cook's Inlet, and whose
great work deserves a fuller recognition from the public than
it has ever yet received.
Russia has naturally done much towards the exploration
of her colony; and some of her naval officers hold a
deservedly high rank as geographers. Lisiansky, Kotsebue,
and Liitke are names as familiar to men of science as to
navigators. Among our own countrymen, Moore, Kellet,
Collinson, and McClure, when engaged in the search for
Sir John Franklin, also examined some portions of the
coasts,* while Captain Bedford Pirn, who made some extensive land-trips, is well remembered at some of the (late)
Russian posts. But, with the exception of the one visit paid
by a Russian, Zagoskin, until our expedition commenced its
work, the  interior of the  country had been little visited,
* Findlay's ' Directory for the Navigation of the Pacific Ocean' gives—
up to the date of its publication—an exhaustive resume of this subject.
Although a little out of date, from the rapid development of the north-west
coasts of America, it was used constantly on our vessels, and looked upon
as an invaluable work on the subject.
p 2 68
[Chap. VI.
except by the traders of the Russian American Fur Company ; and much valuable information has been hitherto
locked up in their archives. By the recent treaty all the
documents relating to the territory were to be handed over
to the United States Government. Let us hope that they
may, in the interests of geography, receive a thorough
The treaty between Russia and the United States establishes the eastern and southern boundary lines as arranged
by Russia, and Great Britain in 1825. The western line
includes the whole of the Aleutian Islands; Attou is distinctly named as the most westerly island ceded. The
northern boundary is only limited by the ice and snow of
the Arctic.
In 1865, the Western Union Telegraph Company of
America, the largest corporation of its kind in existence,
commenced the explorations for a'proposed overland telegraph, which, by means of a cable, via Bering Straits, was
to unite the old and new world. The project—of itself not
entirely new—was virtually started by Mr. P. D. Collins, an
enterprising American, who had, after several years' perseverance, obtained the necessary charters and right of way from
the British and Russian Governments. The scheme, after
an expenditure of three million dollars, was abandoned in
1867, owing to the success of the Atlantic cable, and not
from any overwhelming difficulties in the way of the undertaking itself. There was, at the date at which our explorations commenced, no faith in the great submarine cable, at
least among telegraphic engineers.*
* It is by no means improbable that this enterprise may be again Chap. VI.]        W. U. TELEGRAPH EXPEDITION.
It is needless to state that an expedition employing several
hundred explorers, who examined six thousand miles of
country on both sides of the Pacific—from Fraser River to
Bering Straits, and thence southward, to the Amoor—has
added something to our knowledge of those countries. In
point of fact, five volumes like the present would hardly give
a fair idea of the amount of travel undertaken. Much of the
information acquired is in the hands of the Telegraph Company, and much more in the possession of individuals, and is
virtually lost to the world. I have confined myself almost
exclusively to the narration of my own experiences, ranging
over nearly two and a half years.
Colonel Bulkley, engineer-in-chief of the projected line, in
the spring of the above-mentioned year, left San Francisco
(where the head-quarters of the expedition were established),
and paid a preliminary visit to Sitka. He there left Dr.
Fisher, the surgeon-in-chief, to collect information while he
himself returned to California to organise the expedition.
I first had the pleasure of meeting Colonel Bulkley in
Victoria, V. I., and immediately volunteered to serve
on the expedition. He expressed himself gratified at the
idea of an artist accompanying him, and we commenced
a friendship that has but increased with better acquaintance. Colonel Bulkley inspired affection and esteem in
all who knew him.
revived, if the Atlantic cable or cables should " give out" or work with
uncertainty, although it would be an expensive line to construct and to
keep in good order. That the scheme is practicable there can be no doubt.
Portions of the line which were completed between New Westminster and
the Mouth of Quesnelle—both on Fraser River—are' now used for the
transmission of messages.   See Appendix (II.). 70
Our expedition had a military organization, and to each
man was assigned a special duty. The principal officers for
the first season (1865) were as follow:—
Col. Bulkley, Engineer-in-Chief (on leave of absence U.S. regular army.)
Capt. Scammon, Chief of Marine (U.S. Revenue Service).
Major Wright, Adjutant.
Major Chappel, Chief Quartermaster.
Mr. Lewis, Assistant Engineer.
Dr. Fisher, Surgeon-in-Chief.
Major Kennicott (in charge of Yukon party).
Lieut. MacCrea (in charge of Anadyr party).
Major Abasa (in charge of Siberian party).
Major Pope (in charge of British Columbian party).'
Capt. Conway (in charge of building party).
E. K. Laborne, Interpreter.
Fredk. Whymper, Artist.
It would occupy an unnecessary amount of space to give the
details and numbers of each party, more especially as reference will be made to them subsequently; but I may add that
several collectors for the Smithsonian Institution at Washington accompanied us, among the principal of whom were
Messrs. Dall, Rothrock, Bannister, and Elliot. Major Kennicott, besides being selected on account of his previously
acquired knowledge of the country, was the appointed
director of the scientific corps.
The men selected by Colonel Bulkley were nearly all
young, and hardly one beyond the prime of life. He more
than once said that no old man (or old woman either) should
serve on his expedition, and he could have hardly found' a
better place than San Francisco for the selection of active
and " live " men. There, nearly every one has been more or
less a traveller, and knows something of the many acquirements valuable in a new country. Chap. VI.]
Doubtless Colonel Bulkley's preference for youth, activity,
and "go" is that of Americans generally. Here, in England, I have sometimes thought that youth was considered
more of a crime than a recommendation, and that you were
nowhere until you had—like old port—acquired "body"
and " age "! 72
[Chap. VII.
The voyage — Sitka Sound and Harbour — Baranoff—Early history —
The town—Water supply—Agriculture — Former Russian settlements
in California — Russian American Company — The fisheries — Kalosh
Indians — Our experiences of Russian hospitality — Sitka in new hands
— Two Sundays in a week — Kodiak ice — Formal transfer of Alaska.
On the 30th July, 1865, I bade a final adieu to Victoria,
joined the W. U. Telegraph Company's steamer 'Wright,'
and the following day we were en route for Sitka, the then
capital of Russian America.
Our voyage, made in calm summer weather, was not
specially eventful. Early in our trip we were unfortunate
enough to lose one of the fans of our screw, which of course
somewhat diminished the speed of our vessel. At Port
McNeil, near Fort Rupert, V. I., we stopped to take on
board a small quantity of native coal to test its value for
steaming purposes.
After threading Johnstone Straits we passed to the north
of Vancouver Island, and outside Queen Charlotte's Island.
I mention this fact because there is well known to be
an "inside passage" threading the archipelago of islands
north of Vancouver Island. In winter it may possibly
be the better route, but it is of a difficult and tortuous
On the 8th August we reached the intricate and rock-girt
shores of Sitka Sound, and soon came to an anchor imme-
Rii.  t_)
z (
Chap. VII.]
diately abreast of the town of Sitka. The harbour, though
small, is commodious, and the water is usually as smooth as a
mill-pond.    It is in lat. 57° 2' 45" N., long. 135° 17' 10" W.
Sitka, or New Archangel, is as yet the only " city " in the
country, and therefore deserves some little notice. Formerly
it was exclusively the headquarters of the Russian American
Fur Company; but has now become a town of some life, and
will probably much increase in size.
The island on which Sitka is built is one of a group or
archipelago, discovered in 1741 by Tschirikoff, the companion
of Bering, who, unlike that brave commander, lived to return
from his adventurous voyage, the third and last of an
important series. The island is named in honour of Baranoff,
the real founder of the settlement of New Archangel, who
for a long period managed the.affairs of the Russian American
Company in the days of its early history,—a troubled and
eventful time. Baranoff had been a merchant in Siberia,
and was a man of education and superior attainments, with a
large amount of courage and perseverance. After the establishment of this post the Kalosh Indians, a neighbouring
tribe, gave the Russians much trouble; and in 1804, while
the commander was absent, they attacked and murdered the
larger part of the garrison, one or two Aleuts alone escaping
to the island of Kodiak. Baranoff returned shortly afterwards, and with the assistance of a part of Admiral Krusen-
stern's fleet, then on a voyage in the North Pacific, attacked
and besieged the Kaloshes till they acknowledged themselves
beaten; not, however, until they had murdered all the old and
helpless of their number who could not go off with them.
They have threatened and attacked the town subsequently,
and the Russians feared them a good deal.    At the date of 74
[Chap. VII.
our visit, a palisade or stockade divided the Russian and
Indian habitations, and no native, unless working in some
private house, was allowed in the town after dark.
Sitka was not overlooked during our war. with Russia, and
after the second visit to Petropaulovski, recorded later in
these pages, the English and French admirals, with a portion
of the combined fleet) visited the coast No vessel, however, of
the squadron entered the port except Her Majesty's steamer
' Brisk,' and the object of their visit was merely to ascertain
whether any naval force belonging to the Czar was to be
found there. A compact had been entered into by the
British and Russian Governments, that the property of the
Hudson's Bay Company, and of the Russian American Company, should be respected. The right of blockade was, howr
ever, reserved, although not exercised in this case. The
admirals, satisfied that no government vessels or supplies
were there, left Sitka undisturbed. No special defences had
been prepared.*
The town is situated on a low strip of land, the Governor's
house rising on a rocky height a hundred feet or so above the
general level. Snow-capped and peaked mountains, and
thickly-wooded hills surround it, and Mount Edgcumbe on
Crooze Island immediately opposite the town, an extinct
volcano of eight thousand feet in height, is the great landmark of this port—the most northern harbour on the Pacific
shores of America. The colouring of the town is gay, and
the surroundings picturesque. The houses yellow, with sheet-
iron roofs painted red; the bright green spire and dome of
the Greek Church, and the old battered hulks, roofed in and
ee ' Nautical Magazine,' October, 185£ '"
Chap. VH.]
used as magazines, lying propped up on the rocks at the
water's edge, with the antiquated buildings of the Russian
Fur Company, gave Sitka an original, foreign, and fossilized
kind of appearance.
Landing at the wharf, and passing a battery of ancient
and dilapidated guns, we first saw the stores and warehouses
of the Company, where furs of the value of £200,000 were
sometimes accumulated. Sitka in itself had but a moderate
Indian trade, but was the head-quarters of the Company,
whence the peltries of twenty-one different stations were
annually brought. After passing the Governor's, house,
which is perched on a rock, and only reached by a steep
flight of stairs, we found the bureau and workshops of the
Company, and a number of the better class of houses of
employes. On the left of the street a shrubbery, the " Club
Gardens," with summer-houses, card and supper rooms, and.
swings for the children, and a little further the Greek Church
with its dome and spire of oriental style overshadowing a
plainer Lutheran structure within a few steps of it, attracted
our attention. Then came the " Club-house" occupied by
unmarried servants of the Company—the school-house, from
which scholars of promise were sent to St. Petersburg—and
the hospital, a very neat and clean building. Beyond these
were a few dozen cottages and shanties, and then—the
woods! with the one promenade of the place running through
Sitka enjoys the unenviable position of being about the
most rainy place in the world. Rain ceases only when
there is a good prospect of snow. Warm sunny weather
is invariably accompanied by the prevalence of fever and
pulmonary complaints, and  rheumatism is looked upon as 76
[Chap. VH.
an inevitable concomitant to a residence in the settlement
Doubtless the miasma arising from damp and decaying
vegetable matter is one reason why Sitka is more unhealthy
in fine weather than in wet: a fact which was constantly
stated to us by the inhabitants. The winter is by no means
severe: the thermometer rarely standing below 20° Fahr.
A vast deal of nonsense has been published and republished
in the newspapers of the United States relative to the agricultural resources of their new acquisition. The reader may
take my word for it that the culture of a few potatoes and
other vegetables is all that has been done in this way,
and that the acres of barley mentioned in some of these
high-flown paragraphs are purely mythical. There is not
an acre of grain in the whole country.
For a long period, from 1812 to 1841, the Russian Company had settlements in California, at Ross, and Bodega,
and they have left their name attached to the principal
stream in that part of the country—Russian River. In 1841
Captain Sutter, a well-known Californian of the early days,
purchased the- Company's settlements, stock, &c, for 30,000
dollars. These establishments were kept up expressly for
the supply of Sitka and the other posts, and were given up
when they found it more convenient to purchase from the
Hudson's Bay Company on Vancouver Island. For a full
account of this the reader is referred to the fifth volume of
Wilkes' 'Narrative of the U. S. Exploring Expedition.'
The white and half-breed population of Sitka was about
eight hundred, but has risen since the American occupation to
about two thousand persons. A company of Russian infantry
formed the garrison, and the soldiers were allowed to work
*or the Company, receiving extra pay. Chap. VIL] THE FISHERIES, 77
The Russian American Company, formed on the model of
our Hudson's Bay Company, commenced its existence as a
chartered corporation in 1799, but had existed as a' body of
traders and merchants long before that date. Between the
two Fur Companies there have been disputes. Latterly
the coast, as far as the Chilcat River, had been leased by the
•former to the latter Company for trading purposes. The most
valuable station of the Russians, without exception, was
the Island of St. Paul (Pribylov Group in Bering Sea),
which yielded the larger part of the sea-otter obtained by
In the neighbourhood of Sitka extensive fisheries existed,
and from 100,000 to 150,000 salmon were annually exported
to the Sandwich Islands and elsewhere. Immediately on
the arrival of a boat-load of fish at the wharf, a number
of the poorer women, some of them Indians, arranged
themselves in two long lines, and very rapidly cleaned
and gutted the salmon. A few buckets of water were
then thrown over the heap, and they were carried to
the vats, and put in brine at once. Each woman took
as her share a large fish weighing 20 or 30 lbs., and worth
—just nothing! It is said that the salmon is so abundant
in the streams in the spring time that they impede the
passage of 'boats, and that when a strong south-east wind
comes, it drives them ashore, where they lie in piles putri-
The Kalosh Indians seen at Sitka inhabit the coast between
the Stekine and Chilcat rivers. At the date of our visit
large numbers were absent, but in winter they are said to
congregate to the number of 2500. The Chilcat Indians
also come to Sitka. 78
[Chap. VII
These people dwell in a long line of rude houses outside
the settlement Their dwellings are shanties on a lanre
scale, with a small entrance, often circular in shape, and a
hole in the roof to let the smoke out The idea of these
constructions must have been derived from the Russians;
in some cases the very unusual circumstance of the sleeping rooms being apart from the main chamber was to be
" The Kaloshes are by no means a prepossessing people, and
have a bad reputation. Their dress is commonly a blanket,
at least in summer time; they frequently black their faces all
over, and'sometimes paint themselves in red, black and blue
stripes and patches. They wear a pin of bone or metal stuck
in their lower lip; this is said to denote maturity; it is at
least never worn by the young. They appear to be more
than usually lazy natives, probably from the fact that Nature
K.ilosh Indian G rave-box.
has been so kind to them; salmon is abundant, deer and
bear meat are to be had for the hunting, and the berries Chap. VII.]
are innumerable. Their canoes are much inferior to those
of the lower coast, whilst
their skin " baidarkes "
(kyacks) are not equal to
those of Norton Sound
and the northern coast
Their grave boxes or tombs
are interesting; they contain only the ashes of the
dead. These people invariably burn the deceased.
On one  of the boxes I
Kalosh Indian Grave-box.
saw a number of faces painted, long tresses of human hair
depending therefrom. Each head represented a victim of
the (happily) deceased one's .ferocity. In his day he was
doubtless more esteemed than if he had never harmed a fly.
All their graves are much ornamented. with carved and
painted faces and other devices.
We shall not readily forget the reception given us by
the residents of Sitka, who seemed bent on making up for the
absence of the Governor, Prince Maksutoff. Russian hospitality is proverbial, and we all somewhat suffered therefrom.
The first phrase of their language acquired by us, was
"Petnatchit copla" (fifteen drops). Now this quantity—in
words so modest—usually meant a good half tumbler of some
unmitigated spirit, ranging from Cognac to raw vodka of a
class which can only be described by a Californian term as
" chain lightning," and which was pressed upon us on every
available occasion. To refuse was simply to insult your
host. Then memory refuses to retain the number of times
we had to drink tea, which was served sometimes in tumblers, Ml
[Chap. VII.
sometimes in cups. I need not say the oft described samovar
was in every household. Several entertainments—balls,
suppers, and a f6te in the club gardens—were organised for
our benefit, and a number of visitors came off daily to our
fleet of four vessels,—strangely enough the only ones in
harbour, though the Company owned many sailing-vessels
and steamers. We found the Russians there living on terms
of great intimacy with their domestics. The latter almost
invariably addressed their masters and mistresses by their
Christian names, and often by abbreviations thereof. Tlras
a gentleman by name " Ivan " (John) would be so called by
his servants, and his wife whose name was Maria, but by her
husband known as Molly, would be so addressed by the servants, to the great scandal of propriety.
But Sitka in the hands of the Russian Company, and
Sitka in those of its new owners, are already very different
tilings. An Anglo-Russian newspaper, to be printed in double
columns, is projected, and is to appear this spring (1868).
Town "lots" are held at fabulous prices; for a small log
house 10,000 dollars (£2000) is asked, and I should not
be surprised to learn that salmon was half a dollar a
pound, that a dozen "saloons," hotels, barbers' shops, and
"lager bier" cellars had been started, or especially that
the Sitka water-works were a great success! Every "correspondent's " letter from thence, and I have read a score,
agrees in one fact, " that our aqueous supply evinces no
sign of failure!"
In the " good old Russian times " there were, it is said, about
180 church holidays to the year, now they will be confined
to Christmas and New Year's days, Washington's birthday
and the 4th of July (Independence day).   But if the enlight- Chap. VII.]
ened citizens of the country choose to avail themselves of the
privilege, they can enioy two Sundays each week. Owing
to the fact that the Russians came eastward and we came
westward, there is of course a day's difference where the two
meet, and their Sunday in Sitka falls on our Saturday.
" The San Franciscan," says a Californian newspaper, " who
arrives at Archangel on Friday night, according to his reckon-
ing, will find the stores closed and business suspended on the
following'morning, and so will lose not only that day, but
the next, too, if his conscientious convictions and the force of
habit are only strong enough. On the other hand, the pious
Alaskan merchant, who belongs to the Greek Church, will
look with horror on the impious stranger who offers to trade
or swap jack-knives on Sunday, but who on Monday morning
suddenly assumes a clean shirt, black broadcloth, a nasal
twang, and that demurely self-satisfied air which is our
national idea of a religious demeanour."
As before stated, Sitka itself yielded but a limited quantity
of furs; hence the mistake made last year (1867) by numerous Jews and other traders, who thought they could buy to
advantage there. By latest accounts you could almost as
cheaply obtain furs in San Francisco! not one of the places
in the world most celebrated for moderate charges, and in
consequence the steamers were well filled by disgusted
Israelitish traders on their return trips to California. Yet
in the north of Russian America—a country that few perhaps
will venture into—there is undoubtedly a large trade yet to
be developed, and the energy of the American people will
hardly let the opportunity pass unimproved, if the difficulties
in the way of the transportation of large quantities of trading
goods and provisions do not prove of too serious a nature.    I
I 82
[Chap. VII.
shall have to allude to this subject again, in the chapters on
the Yukon River.
A San Francisco company leased from the Russians the
privilege of obtaining ice from St. Paul's, Kodiak Island. The
Americans, as it is unnecessary perhaps to remark, use ice at
table to a far greater extent than we do, and in the Atlantic
States it is sold at an almost nominal price. California, about
the warmest State in the Union, naturally consumes a large
quantity of ice. It is cut from an artificial lake, which has
an area of forty acres. The labourers are all Aleuts (Aleutian
islanders), and are principally engaged for three or four
months of winter, while the ice is firm, in cutting it up and
storing it for summer consumption. The larger part of this
luxury is consumed in San Francisco, but it finds its way to
Mexican, Central, and even South American ports. Kodiak,*
which is included in the purchase, is therefore by no means
an unimportant acquisition.
The formal transfer of Russian America to the United
States authorities took place on October 18th, 1867. It is
said that the Russian flag showed great reluctance to come
down, and stuck on the yard-arm of the flag-staff. A man
was sent up to detach the halyards, when it fell on the
heads of the Russian soldiers, its appointed defenders!
* On September 5th, 1866, at 4 a.m., there was a very violent earthquake on Kodiak Island. A correspondent of 'The Alta California,'
writing thence, said :—" The sensation on shipboard was very terrifying,
seeming as though the ship was going at railway speed over the rocks,
while many articles came tumbling down which the most violent gale at
sea had not disturbed. Other slight shocks were felt at intervals for four
hours in some of the southern portions of the island. Huge rocks were torn
from their places, and came tumbling down the mountains j but no lives
were lost." Chap. VTL]
I present the reader with a representation of one of the
Sitka "army," copied from an Indian stone carving in my
possession. Although it may seem a caricature, it is really
an accurate likeness of the stolid features and antiquated
cut of the late defenders of Russian America.*
* For some additional notes on Sitka, see Appendix (1H.).
Indian stone carving, representing a Russian Soldier at Sitka.
G  2 84
Departure from Sitka—Oukamok—Ounga—Breakers ahead! —Volcanoes
in Ounimak Pass — St. Michael's, Norton Sound, Alaska — Soundings
of Bering Sea — Plover Bay, Eastern Siberia — The Tchuktchis —
Tents — Canoes — Tchuktchi strength — Children — The irrepressible
"Naukum" — Native's idea of the telegraph—The ' Shenandoah' pirate
— Avatclia Bay.
During our stay at Sitka, Colonel Bulkley, besides collecting
much valuable information from the Russian Company, was
engaged in organising the parties for the Anadyr and Yukon
rivers. Lieut. MacCrea, in charge of the former division,
was with his party transferred to the schooner 'Milton
Badger,' and despatched to his destination. The Yukon
party were mostly on board the barque 'Goldmen Gate,'
then considered the " flag-ship" of our expedition, and to
this vessel I was myself transferred. I was the guest of
Captain Scammon, to whose kindness I owe much.
We left the harbour of Sitka on the 22nd August,-and the
entire population turned out to see us depart They gave us
a full though rather irregular salute, which nearly brought
down the old wharf, and we returned it in better style. For
several days after leaving we kept company with the steamer,
being in fact towed by her. On the 28th we again saw land,
the grassy slopes and abrupt cliffs of Oukamok Island. There
were no trees apparent   On the 29th we sighted the penin- Chap. VIH.]
sula of Aliaska, a jagged rock-bound coast with many snow
peaks, and the next day we got a glimpse of Cape Ivanoff,—a
promontory that appeared at a distance to be detached
from the mainland. Later in the day we came to an anchor
in Zakharovskaia Bay, in the Island of Ounga. Our object
in calling there was to examine some coal seams known to
exist on the coast. They proved to be lignite of poor quality,
and apparently not abundant. The seams have been worked,
and the products used on- board the Russian American Fur
Company's steamers, but not to any great extent. On the
31st August we again started in company with the steamer,
but the following night our hawser broke, and we parted
company in a fog. The next morning, while I was quietly
drawing in the cabin, the steward's boy, a wild Irish juvenile,
known as "Brick-top," from the red colour of his moppy
head, rushed in with the pleasing announcement of " Breakers
ahead!" and that we were all coming to grief. I went on
deck, and found some very ugly looking rocks on the starboard side, within a few hundred yards, and the white surf
and foam breaking round them. The weather was extremely
foggy and thick, and the danger while it lasted was unmis-
takable. Captain Scammon, seconded by his officers, soon,
however, brought the vessel round, and we passed within a
hundred yards of them, our craft rolling and pitching a-good
deal. It proved to be a reef outside Sanak or Halibut Island,
—a known yet dangerous coast.
On the 3rd September, when tacking and trying to make
Ounimak Pass or passage, between Ounimak and Ougamok,
two of the Aleutian Islands, we caught a glimpse through
the opening mists of the volcano of Chichaldinskoi. This
mountain is, on the authority of Lutke, 8935 feet in height, 86
[Chap. VIII.
and is situated on Ounimak Island. It has a very graceful
form. Near it is a second mountain of less elevation, with a
jagged double summit, of very odd and irregular appearance.
On the evening of the 4th Chichaldinskoi loomed out very
distinctly, and when the clouds cleared from it we could see
smoke issuing from a large cleft near the summit. In
Ounimak Passage a second volcano over 5000 feet in height
was seen, and Captain Scammon observed during the night
the fire of one on Akoutan Island. The whole chain of the
Aleutian Islands is volcanic. They deserve an expedition to
We arrived in Norton Sound on the 12th September,
having experienced very rough weather in Bering Sea; in
fact, during part of the time we had to " lay to." Approaching
for the first time these northern coasts of Russian America,
we observed with surprise the dried up and sunburnt appearance of everything on shore. The hills varied much in colour,
from shades of crimson and red, to tints of brown and yellow.
The summer in this country, though short,-is intensely warm
while it lasts; late in the season hot days alternate with
frosty nights, and the vegetation is much affected thereby.
We went into* the Sound carefully taking soundings, and
indeed it was very necessary, as our later experience will
show. We arrived off the Island of St. Michael's at 10 a.m.
on the 13th, and found that our steamer had already called
there, and had again started for Bering Straits.
On the Island of St. Michael's, or Michaelovski, is a
Russian trading-post of some importance, which will be
hereafter described. Major Kennicott began at once to
land his party with their supplies and personal effects,
and  also to fit up the 'Lizzie Horner,' a small steamer Chap. VIIL]
which had been brought up on the deck of our ship.
She was intended for the navigation of the Yukon, but
alas! proved worthless, and in fact never left Norton
Major Kennicott found at St. Michael's an Indian who
stated that he had been up the Yukon to its junction with
the Porcupine. Colonel Bulkley, before leaving in the
steamer ' Wright,' had taken on board a little half-breed boy
to give him the advantage of a good education in San Fran-
cisco. This was, of course, done with his friends' perfect
consent. On leaving, his Indian mother said to the Colonel,
" Teach him, sir, nothing but good." Could any mother
have said more ? *
On the 17th we parted from our exploring friends and
turned our ship's bows towards the Asiatic coast. Captain
Scammon made a series of very interesting soundings on this
trip. Bering Sea is well known to be extremely shallow, but
few would suppose that the whalers can and do anchor in
nearly every part of it on occasions, weather permitting.
Between latitudes 64° and 66° N. the average depth is
slightly under nineteen and a half fathoms. We passed to
the south of the large island of St. Lawrence, and found the
bottom very even. At the starting-point of this voyage
—St. Michael's—the soundings gave five fathoms, deepening
* This boy, with a second taken from Petropaulovski, made good
progress in San Francisco. Col. Bulkley's object was, of course, eventually to make these youths of service to the Telegraph Company. They
were, at the abandonment of the scheme, returned to their friends. Col.
Bulkley also took down a Tchuktchi boy from Plover Bay, who was
educated in the same manner, and we had, at different periods, several
Aleutian Islanders (Aleuts) as sailors on our vessels. 88
[Chap. VIII.
gradually to twenty-five fathoms off the S.E. end of St.
Lawrence Island. From thence to Plover Bay it averaged
thirty-five fathoms, and shoaled to nineteen fathoms immediately off the bay itself. The bottom was found to
consist mainly of a soft mud and sand: one cast off the
eastern end of St. Lawrence Island, near a rocky islet,
brought up gravel.
On the 22nd we made the land off Port Providence, or
I Plover " Bay, as it has always been called by the whalers who
frequent it, since the winter of 1848-9, when H.M.S. ' Plover'
laid up there, when on the search for Sir John Franklin.*
It does not derive its name from whaling pursuits, although
an ingenious Dutchman of our number persisted in calling it
" Blubber" Bay. But we were doomed to disappointment,
for when in sight of the Bay a gale of wind rose, and we were
driven several hundred miles to the southward, not regaining
our position till the 26th, when we went in successfully, to
find the ' Wright' awaiting us.
Plover Bay, when once you are in it, is a very secure
haven. It is sheltered at its southern end by a long spit of
land, and it is no uncommon thing to find several whaling
vessels lying inside in the summer. It includes two smaller
basins; one known as Emma Harbour, the second to be hereafter mentioned. Bare cliffs and rugged mountains hem it
in on three sides, the mountains composed of an infinite
number of fragments split up by the action of frost. Innumerable and many - coloured lichens and mosses are
the only vegetation to be seen, except on a patch of open
* See Lieut. Hooper's ' Tents of the Tuski' for a full account of the
Plover's' stay.  TCHUKTCHI  SKIN  CANOE,
country near Emma Harbour, where domesticated reindeer
On the spit before mentioned is a village of Tchuktchi
natives; their tents are composed of skin. The remains of
underground houses are seen, but the people who used them
have passed away. • The present race makes no use of such
Although their skin dwellings appear outwardly rough,
and are patched with every variety of hide,—walrus, seal, and
reindeer,—with here and there a fragment of a sail obtained
from the whalers; they are in reality constructed over frames,
built of the large bones of whales and walrus, and very
admirably put together. In this most exposed of villages
the wintry blasts must be fearful, yet these people are to
be found there at all seasons. Wood they have none, and
blubber lamps are the only means they have for warming
their tents. The frames of some of their skin canoes are
also of bone. On either side of these craft, which are the
counterpart ef the Greenland " Oomiak," it is usual to
find a sealskin blown out tight and the ends secured.
These serve as floats when the canoe heels over. " They
have very strong fishing-nets, made of thin strips of walrus
The Tchuktchis appear to be a strongly-built race, although
the inhabitants of this particular village, from intercourse
with whaling vessels, have been much demoralized. I have
seen one of these natives carry the awkward burden of a
carpenter's chest weighing two hundred pounds, without apparently considering it any great exertion. They are a
good-humoured people, and not greedier than the average of natives, so far as our experience goes.    They were 90
[Chap. VUJ.
of some service to a party of our men who wintered there
in 1866-7.
The children are so tightly sewn up in reindeer-skin
clothing that they look like walking bags, and tumble
about with the greatest impunity. All of these people wear
skin coats, pantaloons, and boots, excepting only on high
days in summer, when you may see a few old garments
of more civilized appearance that have seen better days,
and have been traded off by the sailors of vessels calling
The true Tchuktchi method of smoking is to swallow all
the fumes of the tobacco, and I have seen them after six or
eight pulls at a pipe fall back completely intoxicated for the
time being. Their pipes are infinitely larger in the stem
than in the bowl; the latter, indeed, holds an infinitesimally
small amount of tobacco.
Tchuktchi Pipe.
It is said that the Tchuktchis murder the old and feeble,
but only with the victims' consent! They do not appear to
indulge in any unnecessary cruelty, but endeavour to stupify
the aged sacrifice before letting a vein. This is said to be
done by putting some substance up the nostrils; but the
whole statement must be received with caution, although we
derived it from a shrewd native who had been much em-
HHtara Chap. VOL]
ployed by the captains of vessels in the capacity of interpreter, and who could speak in broken English.
This man, by name "Nau-kum," was of service on various
occasions, and was accordingly much petted by us. Some of
his remarks are worthy of record. On being taken down into
the engine-room of the 'Wright' he examined it carefully,
and then shaking his head, said solemnly, " Too muchee
wheel, makee man too muchee think!" His curiosity when
on board was unappeasable. " What's that fellow ?" was
his constant query with regard to anything from the
"donkey engine" to the mainmast. On one occasion he
heard two men discussing rather warmly, and could not
at all understand such unnecessary excitement, " That fellow
crazy?" said he.
Colonel Bulkley gave him a suit of clothes, with gorgeous
brass buttons, and many other presents. One of our men
remarked to him, " Why, Naukum, you'll be a king soon ! "
" King be d d," was his extremely radical answer!    It is
of course obvious where he had got his schooling. The
whalers use such men on occasions as pilots, traders, and
interpreters, and to Naukum in particular I know as much as
five barrels of villanous whiskey have been intrusted, for
which he accounted satisfactorily.
The truth-loving Chippewa, when asked, " Are you a
Christian Indian ? " promptly replied, " No, I whishkey Injen!"
and the truthful Tchuktchi would say the same. They all
appear to be intensely fond of spirits. The traders sell them
liquor of the most horrible kind, not much superior to the
" coal oil" or " kerosene " used for lamps.
They appeared to understand the telegraph scheme in
a general way, and had probably been enlightened by the 92
whaling captains before our arrival. "Enoch," a very intelligent and quiet native, gave us an outline of the project
■somewhat as follows:—"S'pose lope fixy, well—one Melican
man Plower Bay, make talky all the same San Flancisco
Melican." Perhaps quite as lucid an explanation as you
could get from an agricultural labourer, or a " city Arab," at
We had been expecting to meet at some part of our
northern voyage, the famed and dreaded 'Shenandoah.'
It is an old story to return to now, but I was an eye-witness
of the havoc wrought by her. The whole of the coast was
strewed with fragments of the vessels burnt by her, and the
natives had several boats and other remains of her wanton
doings. She had left the Arctic and Bering Sea at the end
of June of the same year (1865), but not till thirty American
whaling vessels had been burnt by her. The captains and
crews had been for the most part sent down to San
Francisco, and I have since met a gentleman who was one
of the victims. He did not complain of ill-usage from the
pirate captain, but spoke much of the wholesale destruction
of private property. The captain of an English whaler,
the ' Robert Tawns,' of Sydney, had warned and saved some
of the American vessels, and he was in consequence threatened
by the ' Shenandoah.'
26th—29th September.—The weather was now getting cold
and brisk, a skin of ice forming on the bay, and icicles
hanging from the shrouds and ship's boats. We learnt on
good authority, that the whole of Plover Bay was frozen
up by the 5th October, in 1864. The smaller bay (Emma
Harbour), leading out of the main one, was frozen up at the
above dates. Chap. VIILl
On the 29th we got a favourable breeze, and set sail for
Petropaulovski. The following days were only remarkable
for light breezes, or baffling head winds, and we did not make
the entrance to Avatcha Bay till the 14th October, on which
day we got our first glimpse of the grand volcanoes, which
are so important a feature of the scenery in the Peninsula of
Kamchatka.* On the morning of the 15th we passed through
the entrance to the Bay of Avatcha, and soon dropped anchor
outside the harbour of Petropaulovski, not, however, before
several of the foreign residents had boarded us.
* The above mode of spelling the word represents the sound in a
phonetic sense better than the common version. I had opportunities of
becoming familiar with the Russian pronunciation of the word on many
occasions, and not merely at this visit. 94
[Chap. IX.
The Harbour — Town — Monuments — The fur trade — Kamchatka
generally — The volcanoes — The attack of the Allies in 1854 — Their
return in 1855 — The 'General Teste' — Rejoin the steamer 'Wright'
— Gale — Incidents of storm — Covert's " smoke stack."
The Harbour of Petropaulovski is protected by a long spit,
an apparently common feature of the coast. Inside it there is
a good depth of water, and a vessel, once in, can ride in safety
though storms rage outside. The town encircles the haven
on the north and east sides, and it is shut in by a hilly
promontory on the west. Behind the town is some steep
hilly ground, through a gap in which the volcano of Koriatski
towers grandly. It is over thirty miles distant, and yet,
in clear weather, it does not appear five.
With the exception of a few decent houses, the residences of
the Russian officials and foreign merchants, the town makes
no great show. The poorer dwellings are very rough indeed,
and are almost exclusively rude log cabins. The only
noticeable building is the old Greek church, which has
painted red and green roofs, and a belfry entirely detached
from the building. It is to be remarked that the town, as it
existed in Captain Clerke's time, was built on the sand spit,
but no remains or indications of it were discovered by us.
Petropaulovski was once a military post, and had a rather <
Oh 11 Chap. IX.
larger population than at present.  The Cossack soldiers have
now been removed to the Amoor.
There are two monuments of interest in the town: the first
in honour of Bering, the other to the memory of La Perouse.
Monument to Bering, Petropaulovski.
The former is a cast-iron column of no great pretensions; the
latter, a nondescript erection of octagonal form, constructed
of sheet iron. Neither of these navigators is buried in Petropaulovski. Bering's remains lie on the island where he died,
and which bears his name; while La Perouse, and his unfortunate companions, suffered shipwreck, and but little traces
were ever found of their expedition. We looked in vain for
the monument to Captain Clerke (Captain Cook's successor),
which existed as late as the date of Beechey's visit. The
spot (in an "inclosure belonging to the captain of the port)
where once it stood was pointed out to us, much overgrown
with nettles and weeds. f
[Chap. IX.
The Russian American Company had at one period stations
in Petropaulovski, and other parts of Kamchatka, but abandoned them, owing doubtless to the competition of private
traders. To such a pitch has competition brought the fur
trade of that country, that it is now only a very moderately
profitable pursuit. As much as thirty dollars—sometimes in
hard cash—is paid for one Siberian sable of good quality; and
the merchants have frequently to advance goods to the native
traders and hunters a long time before they get any returns.
Petropaulovski is one of the centres of this trade, but Nijne
(New) Kamchatka is the present capital. Bolcheretsk was
considered the principal town formerly, but it has dwindled
down to an inconsiderable village, and indeed the population,
and with it the products of Kamchatka, are on the decline.
Yet the by no means so bad as commonly believed.
Colonel Bulkley considered it better than that of some
of the New England States and Canada, and it is quite
certain that agriculture is possible. The grass round Petropaulovski ripens into hay during the brief summer, and
garden stuff is raised in small quantities in the outskirts of
the town.
I am convinced that Kamchatka would repay a detailed
examination. It is a partially settled country; the Kam-
chatdales are a good-humoured, harmless, semi-civilized race;
and the few Russian officials and settlers would gladly
welcome the traveller. The attractions of the country for
the Alpine climber cannot be overstated. The peninsula
contains a chain of volcanic peaks of the grandest character,
attaining, it is said, in the Klutchevskoi Mountain, a height
of 16,000 feet. In the country immediately behind Petropaulovski, are the three mountains, Koriatski, Avatcha, and t^_
I *    v JJlSiiiMiWRi
ft   2
■< Chap. IX.]
Koseldskai; the first of these is between eleven and twelve
thousand feet in height, and is an unfailing land-mark for
the port.
From the summit of the steep hills* which-so nearly enclose Petropaulovski, a grand view of these mountains is
obtained; a comparatively level country stretches to their
base. It is, however, covered with rank grass and underbrush, and intersected by numerous streams: a journey to
them would be more easily made in winter time than in
summer. To the S.S.W. of the town a fourth peak—that
of Vilutchinski—towers above the coast-line, and is a very
beautiful feature in the landscape. Petropaulovski has been
frequently visited by earthquake, accompanied sometimes by
showers of ashes from these volcanoes. The smoke from
Koriatski was several times observed by us; its pure snows
only hid the boiling, bubbling lava beneath.
The object of our visit was to communicate, by special
courier, with Major. Abasa, a Russian gentleman in our
Telegraph service who had formed a station at Ghijega at
the head of the Ochotsk Sea.* The facilities of travel
on the peninsula are superior to those on the coast of the
above-mentioned sea. In winter small Siberian horses, reindeer, and dogs are all employed for sledging purposes. The
feeding of the dogs of Petropaulovski took place every
evening, and their yelps and howlings made night hideous.
One dried salmon per diem was each dog's allowance, and
they were much better off than their Russian-American
cousins, who in summer have to forage for themselves.
* See the' Proceedings' of the Royal Geographical Society for Feb. 11th,
TChap. rx.
The hospitality extended to us was almost unlimited.
Dinners, balls, suppers followed each other in rapid succession;
we had a steam-boat excursion in Avatcha Bay. One of the
dishes common in Petropaulovski was salmon pie, constructed
apparently of eggs and salmon, covered with a crust. Salmon
is very abundant in the harbour and neighbouring streams,
and some has been put up in salt for export.
We also got a little sledging, when the snow fell just
before our departure. The ice was fast forming in the
harbour, and it was often a serious undertaking to row
It is well known that in 1855—during the Crimean war—
Petropaulovski was visited by the Allied fleet. The record
of that visit has been duly laid before the public, commented
on, and forgotten; but it is not so generally known that our
first attack, the previous year, was by no means a subject of
congratulation for us, and (although well understood by naval
officers, and especially by those who have served on the
Pacific station) it has been kept uncommonly quiet. The
fact is, that at the first visit, the wretched little town made
—greatly to its own surprise—a successful resistance, and is
very proud of the fact. The inhabitants look upon the
combat at Petropaulovski as one of the decisive battles of
the world!
The narrative I am about to lay before the reader was
obtained on the spot, but not merely from the Russians. An
Englishman—Mr. Fletcher—who had resided there for thirty
years, and several of the foreign merchants who were in
the town at the date of the attack, confirmed the Muscovite
versions of the story.
In the autumn of 1854 (28th August) six vessels of war— Chap. IX.]
French and English—comprising the ' President,' ' Virago,'
'Pique' 'La Fort,''L'Eurydice,' and ' Obligado'—arrived off
Avatcha Bay; a gun, placed near the lighthouse at the
entrance, was fired by the Russians, and gave the inhabitants
of Petropaulovski notice to be on the alert. Admiral Price
immediately reconnoitred the harbour and town, and placed
the ' Virago' in position at a range of 2000 yards.
The Russians were by no means unprepared. Two of their
vessels, the ' Aurora' and ' Dwina,' defended the harbour, and
a chain crossing the narrow entrance shut it in. There were
seven batteries and earthworks, mounting about fifty guns of
fair calibre.
The ' Virago' commenced the action with a well-directed
fire, and several of the batteries were either temporarily or
entirely disabled. The one furthest from the town, on the
western side, was taken by a body of marines landed for
the purpose. The guns were spiked. Four of the Allied
fleet were specially engaged, and the Russians returned their
fire with spirit. There were three batteries outside and on
the spit, two at the termination of the promontory on the
western side of the harbour, and one in a gorge of the same,
which opens on Avatcha Bay. It is in this little valley
that the monument to La Perouse stands.
The town was well defended both by nature and by art.
The hills shut it in so completely, that it was apparently
only vulnerable at the rear. There, a small valley opened out
into a flat strip of land immediately bordering the bay, and,
although there was a battery on it, it seemed an excellent
spot to land troops.
Our vessels having taken up a new position, and silenced
the batteries commanding it, 700 marines and sailors were
h 2 100
[Chap. IX.
put ashore. Half of them were English, half French; a
large number of officers accompanied them, while they had
for guides two Americans, said to know the ground. They
appear to have expected a very easy victory, and hurried in a
detached and straggling style in the direction of the town,
instead of proceeding in compact form, in military order. A
number of bushes and small trees existed and still exist on
the hill-sides surrounding this spot, and behind them were
posted Cossack sharp-shooters, who fired into our men, and
either from skill or accident picked off nearly every officer.
The men not seeing their enemy, and having lost their
leaders, became panic-struck, and fell back in disorder. A
retreat was sounded, but the men struggling in the bushes
and underbrush (and, in truth, most of them being sailors,
were out of their element on land) became much scattered,
and it was generally believed that many, were killed by the
random shots of their companions. A number fled up a hill
at the. rear of the town. Their foes pursued and pressed upon
them, and many were killed by falling over the steep cliff in
which the hill terminates.
The inhabitants—astonished at their own prowess, and
knowing that they could not hold the town against a more
vigorous attack, were preparing to vacate it—when the fleet
weighed anchor and set sail, and no more was seen of them
that year! The sudden death of our admiral is always
attributed to the events of that attack, as he was known not
to have been killed by a ball from the enemy.*
Before the second visit in May and June, 1855, every-
* See 'Nautical Magazine,' October, 1855.   It is there stated that 107
English were killed or wounded in the engagement. Chap. IX.]
body—except the foreign residents—had vacated the town.'
Early in the spring of the same year the Russian squadron
had received orders to leave it to its fate at the break-up of
the ice. The Russian Government had indeed given up all
idea of defending so worthless a town, and, for two reasons,
we also should have left it alone. First, it was an insignificant place, and victory could never be glorious; whilst,
secondly, it has been—from the time of Cook to our own
days—famous for the hospitality and assistance extended to
our explorers and voyagers.*   All is not fair in war.
When therefore the Allies landed at their second visit they
found an empty town.t They, however, captured a Russian
whaler, and burnt some of the government buildings. The
latter it is said was done unintentionally, or more probably
was the work of some wanton jack-tar. The batteries and
earthworks were of course razed to the ground.
We all visited the battle-field, and found it still strewed
with the remains of shells, &c. In getting out ballast from
a bank near the town, several cannon-balls were unearthed.
The monument to La Perouse was peppered all over with
bullet marks.
It was at that period, that an old French captain, commanding a whaler named the [ General Teste,' was saved
from the Russian hands by a rather ingenious ruse. He
was in a terrible state of mind, when cruising in Bering
Sea, expecting hourly to lose his vessel, and the American
captains of the whaling fleet, pitying him, came to his aid.
* See Cook, Cochrane, Beechey and others.
f For an account of the second visit in 1855, see Tronson's ' Voyage to
Japan, Kamschatka,' &c. 102
[Chap. IX.
They induced him first to substitute 'Washington' for
' Teste.' His vessel then became the ' General Washington.'
Next they got him to hoist the " stars and stripes " in place
of the " tri-colour." Lastly, they made him, much against
his will, keep a bottle of " cocktails" ready mixed for
all-comers; and by these three devices his vessel escaped
On the 31st October I again joined my old friends on the
'Wright,' and on the 1st November we steamed out of
Avatcha Bay. By-the-bye, why will geographers persist in
spelling the distinctly pronounced Avatcha as though it were
a difficult and excruciating word ? We in all shapes
—Awatska, Awatscha, Awatcha, and Avatska. From long
intercourse with educated Russians I know that Avatcha
represents the word phonetically (and it is useless to attempt
to render Russian in any other way).
During the next fortnight we experienced very bad
weather, which culminated on the 14th in a gale from the
S.E,, in which a series of disasters made us fear for our
vessel's safety. The first was a novelty in its way. A rope
snapped, our "main boom" swung round and knocked the
funnel overboard! and, as the weather was so tempestuous,
we had simply to cut the chains or "guys," which held it,
and let it drop to the ocean's bed. A little later, our steering
apparatus got out of order, and our little steamer lay in
the trough of the sea as helpless as a log, steaming being
rendered impossible by these two accidents. The waves
washed over her every few minutes, and her bulwarks (or
" guards") were so low, that we expected every moment
to see the " house on deck " carried overboard. It was stove
in in a score of places, and the cabins presented a pitiable Chap. IX.]
spectacle,—a wreck of trunks, furniture, and crockery. Sail
after sail was carried away by the sudden squalls, and we
were at length left with nothing to lie under. A few long
streamers of canvas, hanging from the yards, alone showed
where they had been. On the 17th we shipped a sea, which
threatened to engulf us. A torrent rushed into the aft cabin,
down the stairs, and through the skylight, extinguished the
lamps and fire, and left us tumbling about in two or three
feet of water. This night our vessel seemed to be constantly
driving under water, and our sailors were often thrown down
and much bruised, although no one happily was lost. Captain Marston behaved with great coolness, lashed himself on
deck, and remained there all night, half-frozen, and with
seas washing over him every few minutes. We landsmen did
not expect to see our native element again, and although
I had been in many gales, it was, without exception, the
very worst I had experienced. Fortunately, the hull of our
vessel was staunch and sound, and our pumps in perfect
The storm lasted for nearly a week, and was not devoid
of incident. For part of one day, the sea driving faster than
our vessel, acted in such a manner on the screw, that in its
turn, it worked the engine at a greater rate than we had ever
attained by steam! In the end the coupling was disconnected, fearing injury to the machine.
In the " state room " of the house on deck, occupied by Mr.
Laborne our interpreter, and myself, some boxes of soap were
stowed away. This being constantly worked about the floor
under water, raised one of the most magnificent lathers ever
witnessed, which ran through the series of rooms, and did not
improve our possessions.    After the storm had subsided, w
[Chap. IX.
we opened the boxes, to find bars of soap, of about eighteen
inches in length, reduced to the dimensions of sticks of
It became absolutely necessary to rig up something in place
of our lost funnel, or " smoke stack," as it is invariably called
by Americans. At length Mr. Covert, our chief engineer,
hit upon a device. He caused his men to knock out one
end of a square water-tank, and, with some extra sheet iron,
made a chimney about ten feet high, which gave sufficient
draught to the furnaces. Covert's "patent" was a great
success, and created some little notice on our arrival in San
Francisco, which took place on the 30th November.
Thus ended the not uneventful voyage of 1865, in which
we had gone over 10,000 miles of ocean travel, and we
were not sorry to reach our head-quarters in the "Bay
City," and have once more a spell of civilized life. Chap. X.]      W. U. TEL. EXPEDITION, SECOND SEASON.     106
Organization of the expedition — Thirsty medical man — Our fleet —
Voyage — Petropaulovski again — The Russian corvette — Russian
wedding — Heat — International pic-nic — Voyage north — Bering's
voyages — Shipwreck — Death of Bering — Gulf of Anadyr — The
" wandering Tchuktchis."
The winter of 1865-6 was spent by Colonel Bulkley and his
staff in San Francisco, and their time was fully occupied
in organizing the parties for the following season. A large
number of labourers were engaged, and these, with assistant-
surgeons,* quartermasters, and foremen, brought our expedi-
* One of these individuals soon after his engagement showed a decided
leaning towards stimulating fluids, and, having drunk up his salary, was at
his wit's end to know how to keep up the supply. In each of our company's medicine chests there were a few bottles of wine and brandy,
intended exclusively for medicinal purposes. These our doctor, in the
discharge of his arduous duties, soon discovered and finished, but—like
Okver—wanted more. Our hero of the bottle next ferreted out a small can
of alcohol, which slightly—very stightly—diluted with water, made a
drinkable mixture, and enabled him to hold out a day or two longer. The
reader may suppose that when this was finished he was nipped in his
career. Not a bit of it! Were there not the ethers, tinctures, and spirits
contained in every well regulated chest ? Bottle after bottle, phial after
phial, of spirits of lavender, peppermint, and sweet nitre followed each
other to the same goal. There was still the camphor and tincture of
myrrh, rhubarb, and aloes left, but not for long; and when there was
nothing remaining but the laudanum, that also went the same way.
About this period his "weaknesses were discovered, and he was discharged
from the service. 106
[Chap. X.
tion up to a formidable size; not less than 500 " white men,"
besides bands of Cossacks in Eastern Siberia, Chinamen in
British Columbia, and Indians everywhere, were employed
in building telegraph, exploring the route, or transporting goods, during the season of 1866 and following
Our fleet alone made a perceptible difference at the
wharves of San Francisco. We had seven sea-going vessels,
besides smaller craft; the steamer 'Wright' was refitted, a
7 o *
clipper, the ' Nightingale' * purchased, and one large and two
small river steamers built specially for our service. We had
five barques—several of them excellent vessels.
During the winter, a commissioner from the Russian
Imperial Government, M. Paul Anasoff, and Mr. Knox,
a well-known "correspondent" $i the leading New York
papers, arrived in San Francisco. Both of these gentlemen
accompanied us on our second voyage.
On the 23rd June, 1866, we left California, and after an uneventful trip, made Petropaulovski once more. Our voyage
occupied us thirty-one days, the weather being perfect for
the whole time, and the ocean unmistakably " Pacific." Our
little steamer, now fitted up in the best style, and carrying
heavier spars and more sail, was almost equal in accommodation and appearance to a steam yacht, and our trip, taking
into consideration the pleasant company on board, was simply
* The ' Nightingale's' history had been an eventful one. Built at first as
a model clipper, intended for exhibition in London in 1851, she had been
for a long period used as a slaver, then captured by the U. S. Government,
and employed as a blockading vessel during the war, and was now the
" flag-ship " of our expedition. Chap. X.]
a holiday excursion—-the very antithesis of the return voyage
in 1865. On the 25th July we arrived in Petropaulovski
Harbour, and found a Russian corvette, the ' Variag,' awaiting
our arrival. She was a fine steam vessel of 2156 tons, and
her commander Captain Lund immediately reported, in
accordance with his instructions, to Colonel Bulkley, our
The day of our arrival had been fixed for the celebration
of two Russian weddings, and a general invitation was at once
sent on board. The ceremony commenced at 5 p.m. in the
old Greek church, and was rather long and fatiguing.
The congregation stood: in fact there were no seats in the
church. It is the custom for the bride and bridegroom to be
crowned. In this "case the brides wore elaborate head-dresses,
and considerate male friends—the " best men " of the occasion
—held the crowns for three-quarters of an hour a few inches
above the ladies' heads. I imagine they were rejoiced when
the pairs were satisfactorily spliced; I know that we were, for
we were in tight uniforms, extremely gorgeous, and equally
It is the fashion apparently—when the persons, as in this
case, are in the lower walks of life—to ask some more
wealthy individual to be master of the ceremonies, and it is
understood that he stands all the expenses! On this occasion
the victim was M. Phillipeus, a merchant, who brings his
vessels annually from Hong Kong to Kamchatka, and the
neighbouring coasts.*    He accepted the burden willingly,
* M. Phillipeus took his more valuable furs, &c, annually to St. Peters-
burgh, wfi theAmoor and Siberia, returning thence to Hong Kong via Suez.
He had made this lengthened journey five times at the date of our visit. 108
[Chap. X.
and gave a very liberal entertainment to the whole town, the
officers of the ' Variag,' ourselves, and the captains of several
small vessels lying there. So many were invited that no one
house was large enough for the purpose. The party was
therefore divided, and the guests occupied two buildings, one
on either side of the main street. The band of the ' Variag'
played outside, and a messenger was kept constantly running
between the two houses to keep the merry party in either
informed of the nature of the toasts. Such rousing cheers
and "tigers" had never been heard before in that usually
sleepy, half-dead town.
After the feast, we adjourned by invitation, to the house
of the Captain of the Port, where dancing was kept up with
great vigour till the small hours next morning. The brides
had to dance with everyone present, and it was amusing to
see them change from one gentleman to another: during
the time occupied by one waltz they had ten or a dozen
partners. Petropaulovski had not nearly ladies enough
for the invited males, and, in consequence, a number of
very clean and sedate Kamchatdale peasant women were
asked for the occasion. Our efforts at conversation with
the latter were ludicrous and extremely unsatisfactory; but
with our Russian friends of the 'Variag' we got along
capitally, and found them splendid fellows.*   The following
* These gentlemen all spoke, more or less fluently, French and English,
or rather American. The reader is doubtless aware that at the termination
of the Crimean war, French—once the court language in Russia—got out of
favour there; but he may not know that the American tongue was ordered
to be taught in place of JEnglish at the universities and schools—a distinction without a difference. So, at least, I was informed by an intelligent
Russian officer. Chap. X.]
day the brides and their relations paid return complimentary
We found Petropaulovski in its brief summer garb; wild
flowers, coarse grass, and musquitoes all abundant. The
thermometer stood at 80° in the shade, and the writer found
himself nodding over his out-door sketching, which was
perhaps partly due to the constant round of festivities.
Three months of Russian hospitality would kill most men;
and the fortnight spent on this visit was the hardest work
I have ever done in my life!—done, too, at a time when
the summer heat was intense, and when every one who
could, got into silk, duck, or alpaca clothing—like that worn
in tropical countries. Our pre-conceived ideas of Kamchatka
were entirely upset.
I shall never forget an " international" pic-nic held during
our stay, in which the representatives of six or eight countries
took part. There were European and Asiatic Russians,—
from the Finlander to the Kamchatdale; Americans, Northerners and Southerners; Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans,
and an Italian.
Chatting in a babel of tongues, we walked leisurely by an
upland path, skirting beautiful Avatcha Bay, till we found
a grassy opening, pleasantly shaded, where the servants and
sailors were beginning to unpack the hampers. The weather
was perfect, there was scarcely a ripple on the blue water
below us, flowers made the air fragrant, and, but for an occasional musquito, we should have forgotten we were on earth
at all! And then—bliss of blisses!—we not merely raised a
cloud of balmy smoke, but were encouraged therein by the
sanction of our lady friends, some of whom joined us. At all
their entertainments, or at quieter family parties, cigars and 110
[Chap. X.
cigarettes were always served with the tea and coffee, and the
ladies retained their seats with us. Would it were so in our
own otherwise—more or less—happy land I When we were
tired of games—one of them a Russian version of " hunt the
slipper"—and toasts and songs, an alfresco repast was served;
and we did not leave the place till long after twinkling stars
studded the heavens.
It would be a serious undertaking to acknowledge duly all
the kindness lavished upon us by the Russians and foreign
residents. Messrs. Pflueger, Peirce, and Hunter, of the
German and American houses, did everything to make our
stay agreeable.
Messrs. Anasoff and Knox now left us, and were conveyed
to various points on the Ochotsk Sea on board the ' Variag,'
and eventually went to Nicolaiefski at the mouth of the
Amoor. From thence Mr. Knox made the trip via Siberia
to St. Petersburgh.
We left Petropaulovski on the 6th of August, and then
steamed up the coast, keeping in sight of land for several
days. Not merely is it a grand and rugged coast-line, but
the ever-recurring volcanic peaks are a great source of beauty
and interest.
Many of these mountains appeared at this season to be
very bare of snow. The volcano of Koriatski—which as we
had seen it, in the late autumn time of the previous year,
was one vast sheet of snow—now showed immense sterile
rocky sides.
On the 8th August we passed the promontory which
terminates in the two capes Kamchatka and Stolbovoy. It
had the appearance of two islands detached from the mainland, the intervening country being low.   This—a circum- Chap. X.]
stance to be constantly observed on all coasts—was perhaps
specially noticeable on this. The island of St. Lawrence in
Bering Sea, which I have passed twice, was a very prominent
example. It has always appeared to me that the apparent
gradual rise of a coast, seen from the sea as you approach it,
affords a far better proof of the rotundity of the earth, than
the illustration usually employed, that of a ship, which you
are supposed to see by instalments, from the main-royal sail
(if not from the " sky-scraper " or " moon-raker "), to the hull.
The fact is that the royal and top-gallant sails of a vessel on
the utmost verge of the horizon may be, in certain lights,
barely distinguishable, while the dark outline of an irregular
and rock-bound coast can be seen by any one. First, may be,
appears a mountain-peak towering in solitary grandeur above
the coast-line, and often far behind it, then the high lands
and hills, then the cliffs and. lowlands, and lastly the flats and
Immediately by Cape Kamchatka the river of the same
name empties into Bering Sea.
It was from this river that Bering sailed on his first
voyages, and his name will ever be associated with the coast.
He deserves to rank among the great adventurers of the last
century; yet his voyages are little known. He was a Dane
drawn into the Russian service by the fame of Peter the
Great, and his expeditions had been directly organized by
that sagacious monarch. Peter did not, however, live to
carry them out. Their principal object was to find out
whether Asia and America were one, or whether any part of
their coasts were contiguous. Miiller, the historian of Bering's
life, who accompanied him on land, but does not appear to
have made any sea voyages with him whatever, says, "The
■ "*/"
[Chap. X.
Empress Catherine, as she endeavoured in all points to
execute most precisely the plans of her deceased husband, in
a manner began her reign with an order for the expedition to
Kamtschatka," Vitus Bering was to be commander, and
to be assisted by two lieutenants, Martin Spanberg, and
Alexei Tschirikoff. They left St. Petersburgh on the 5th of
February, 1725, and proceeded to the Ochotsk Sea via Siberia.
It gives some idea of the difficult nature of the overland route
in those days, to find that it occupied them over two years to
transport their outfit to Ochotsk. From thence, after a vessel
had been specially built for them, they crossed to Bolcheretsk
in Kamchatka, and the following winter transported their provisions and naval stores to the town of Nishni (New),
Kamchatka. " On the 4th of April, 1728 " says Muller, " a
boat was put upon the stocks, like the packet-boats used in
the Baltick; and on the 10th of July was launched, and named
the boat Gabriel." On the 20th of the same month they
went to sea. Bering followed the E. coast of Kamchatka and
Siberia, and discovered the island of St Lawrence. He
reached as far north as lat 67° 18', and -then found the coast
trend to the west, whereon he seems to have come to the
conclusion that he had reached the extremity of Asia, and
that there was no connection between the continents. In the
main point, of course, he was right; but he was totally wrong
in his conclusion as to the Asiatic coast commencing its
westward course from the point reached by him. He returned to the Kamchatka River without serious injury to his
vessel. The second voyage of his first expedition calls for little
remark, as he was unable, from contrary winds, to carry out
his plans, which were virtually to attempt the discovery of
the Pacific shores of America.   He eventually sailed round Chap. X.
the south promontory of Kamchatka and returned by Ochotsk
to St Petersburgh.
But it is to the second expedition of Bering that we must
look for adventure and interest. He with his two faithful
lieutenants proposed it; and they were all promoted, a number
of naval lieutenants and midshipmen being ordered to join
them. Muller says, " The design of the first voyage was not.
brought on the carpet again upon this occasion, since it was
looked upon as completed ; but instead of that, orders were
given to make voyages, as wetl eastward to the continent of
America as southward to Japan, and to discover if possible,
at the same time, through the frozen sea the north passage,
which had been so frequently attempted by the English and
Dutch. The Senate, the Admiralty Office, and the Academy
of Sciences all took their parts to complete this important
undertaking." Several scientific professors volunteered to
accompany Bering (John George Gmelin, Lewis de Lisle de
la Croyere, S. Muller, and Steller, a student), and were nominated for the purpose. Two of these individuals never went
to sea, but confined • themselves to various researches in
Siberia. One of Bering's subordinates—Spanberg—made at
this time a voyage from Ochotsk to Japan; but it is aside
from the narrative of Bering's life.
After much trouble in transporting their goods and building
ships, they at last, on the 4th of July, 1741, went to sea; their
port of departure being this time, Petropaulovski. On the
20th of the same month the vessels of their little fleet got
separated during a storm, and each had to prosecute the
voyage alone. They discovered many of the Aleutian and
other islands nearer the American coast, and had many
adventures with the natives.    At length the «curvy made its
[Chap. X.
appearance among them, and Bering turned back to try and
make the coast of Kamchatka. The sickness increased, and
so weakened the crew that "two sailors who used to be at
the rudder were obliged to be led in by two others who could
hardly walk. And when one could sit and steer no longer,
another in little better condition supplied his place. Many
.sails they durst not hoist, because there was nobody to lower
them in case of need." At last land appeared, and a council
was held; they determined to sail towards it, and getting near
it they dropped anchor. A violent storm rose, and the ship
was driven on the rocks, which she touched; they cast their
second anchor; its cable was torn in pieces before the anchor
took ground. A great sea pitched them clean over the rocks;
behind which, however, they found quieter water, and the
crew having rested, at last put their boat overboard, and
some of them went ashore. There was but little drift-wood,
and no trees on the island; hence they came to the determination to roof over some small ravines they found near the
beach. On the " 8th of November a beginning was made to
land the sick, but some died as they were brought
7 J o
from between decks in the open air, others during the time
they were on the deck, some in the boat, and many more as
soon as they, were brought on shore."
On the 9th of November the Commander Bering—himself
prostrated by scurvy—was brought ashore on a hand-barrow,
and a month later died on this island, which now, in consequence, bears his name. " He may have been said to be
buried half alive, for the sand rolling down continually from
the side of the ditch in which he lay, and covering his feet,
he at last would not suffer it to be removed, and said that he
felt some warmth from it, which otherwise he should want in Chap. X.]
the remaining parts of his body: and thus the sand increased
to his belly, so that after his decease they were obliged to
scrape him out of the ground in order to inter him in a
proper manner.
Their vessel, lying unguarded, was wrecked in a storm, and
the larger part of their provisions lost They subsisted for a
long time on dead whales that had been driven ashore. At
last, in the spring, they came to the conclusion to try and
break up the wreck and construct a smaller vessel from its
remains, which was done, and they left the island. At last, to
their great joy, they reached the coast of Kamchatka. The
previous autumn Tschirikoff, the companion of Bering, had
arrived at Petropaulovski, with the loss of twenty-one men
by scurvy, and the Professor de la Croyere, who had lingered
to the end of the voyage, died before they could get him
Late in the evening of the 13th Aug. we reached the Gulf
of Anadyr (pronounced Andrder, and not "Annie, dear," as
some of our men persisted in calling it), and anchored till daylight next morning. The land round it was low, and, in spite of
the heat of the weather, a good deal of ice and snow remained
packed on the beach. We steamed slowly up the gulf, and
very soon some Tchuktchi natives came off, and convinced
us that they were men and brethren by asking for " lum "
(rum) and " tabak." On approaching the entrance to Anadyr
Bay there is a very curious island, to which we gave the name
* In the above narrative I have followed Muller exclusively. A second,
and not very different account was given to the world in the journal of
Heller, which is to be found, translated in an abbreviated form, in the
fourth edition of Coxes ' Russian Discoveries.'
I 2 116
[Chap. X.
of "Sarcophagus," from a supposed resemblance. The entrance to the bay is about a mile and a half wide at the
narrowest point.
We came to anchor off a Tchuktchi village similar to that
in Plover Bay before described. On shore large herds of
domesticated reindeer were peacefully grazing. It need not
be stated that we immediately bargained for some. These
constitute the wealth of the " wandering Tchuktchis;" some
of them own many thousands, and employ their poorer countrymen in herding them. They wander from place to place
with their deer, and may be regarded as Arctic patriarchs. Chap. XI.]       BOAT EXPEDITION TO THE ANADYR.
Tchuktchi with letter of recommendation — Boat expedition to the river
— Our explorers — Their experiences — The Anadyr River — Tchuktchi
thieves — Plover Bay — Naukum again — Advertising in Bering Straits
— Telegraph station erected e& Foraging- with a vengeance — Whaling —
Norton Sound — Alaska—.Death of Major Kennicott.
One of the Tchuktchis, immediately on our arrival, hastened
on board with a letter. It was from Mr. MacCrea, the officer
in charge of the explorations at the Anadyr, and stated that
" a bigger liar never walked the earth " than the gentleman
who delivered the epistle, and cautioned us against him. He
bore the euphonious title of | O-cock-cray."
On the 15th a boat expedition to the mouth of the Anadyr
River was organised, and I obtained permission to accompany
it. The second mate of the steamer, Mr. Laborne, and
myself, with three sailors, formed the party. We had nothing
to guide us but a sketch chart, constructed the preceding
year by two of our captains, and there is little reliable information on any part of the country. On the eastern side of
the bay, Mount Dionysius, a mountain of no great height, is
the only landmark of the district. We steered due west from
it. The weather was foggy and showery, but a favouring
breeze helped us on, and we proceeded steadily for several
hours, when we noticed an opening in the land, a little to the
south of west, and immediately put our boat's head for it. M.
[Chap. XL
Soon we found the bay getting'very shoal, so much so that
in sailing we left a "tail" of discoloured water behind us,
from constantly touching bottom on sand-bars. Sometimes'
we stuck, and had to lower the sail, and get out in the water
to help our boat off. . We then had to tack and keep off, and
by this we lost much time. In the evening we bad to give up
for the time being, and ran in to a spit of land to the south
of the opening. It was raining hard, and we found it rather
difficult to raise a fire from the scanty underbrush and driftwood. We at length succeeded, and the sailors rigged up a
shelter tent from the oars, mast, and sail. But for the rain
the musquitoes would have been out in full force, for even
as it was they gave us very decided intimations of their
Inside the spit there appeared to be a second bay, and
from the number of " snags" 'and small trees stuck on the
sand-bars, it was evident that a river entered there. Early
the next morning we again started. Laborne's recollections
of a trip the preceding year made him decide, as it proved
rightly, that the Anadyr must be farther to the west. About
9 a.m. we found the right opening, and a little later reached
" Camp MacCrea," at the mouth of the river.
The journey had been undertaken in order to leave a
notice for the explorers there, but we did not expect to meet
any* of them, so that on entering their log house we were
much surprised to find four of our old friends. They had
been subsisting for about two months on an exclusive diet of
salmon, which fish is abundant in the river. They h^d almost
given up expecting to see any of the expedition ; we, on the
other hand, believed them to be at the Ochotsk.Sea. Three
of these gentlemen, MacCrea, Harder, and Smith, belonged Chap. XL] EXPERIENCES OF OUR EXPLORERS.
to this section, but my astonishment was great to find with
them Mr. Bush, who had made the entire journey from the
Amoor River to the mouth of the Anadyr the preceding
winter. His trip of at least 2500 miles, deserves to rank as
the most remarkable of the many undertaken by members of
our expedition. Nearly the first thing our friends asked was,
" Have you brought any grub ? " and we soon satisfied them
on the point by fetching up a supply of bread, tea, and salt
meat from the boat, and spreading an extempore lunch.
They had got heartily sick of " toujours" salmon, and infinitely preferred salt pork!
As we all very naturally wished to reach the steamer before
night, we stopped but an hour or so and then started back,
leaving Harder, by his own agreement to keep camp. We
rowed the entire distance, thirty miles, while it rained incessantly ; but we made the time pass very quickly in a most
animated and disjointed conversation. Our friends had been
absent a year from civilization, and we were curious in regard
to their travels, and, as each asked for what came uppermost,
our spasmodic discussion would have puzzled a stranger.
Now it was dog-sleighing, or reindeer riding; now the policy
of the President, or the last opera; now the latest events in
California, or those of the Anadyr. Tchuktchi, Lamutki, or
Koriak lore was mixed with inquiries for absent friends, and
nitro-glycerine explosions with Anadyr scandal.
The Anadyr River, as we learnt from these gentlemen, is
subject to violent freshets in the spring; it then rises fifteen
to twenty feet above its usual level, flooding the country in all
directions. It is navigable for 300 miles, and has no rapids
of importance in that distance. A considerable amount of
light timber was found on its banks.    Our explorers had 120
rcnAP. xi.
constructed eight log-houses, at intervals of twelve miles
apart, and we found them in a very tolerable building at the
mouth of the river. The logs for the latter had been rafted
down forty miles. Mr. Bush told me that the natives catch
and dry a quantity of salmon, and that deer are abundant.
The latter, crossing the streams in herds, are speared in the
water. The Tchuktchis have small canoes constructed of
three planks, called " vetkas," which are used mainly for this
purpose. Geese are plentiful, and when moulting are driven
ashore by the natives, and knocked on the head by others
remaining there. Musquitoes are a great pest in the short
summer season. The lowest cold experienced by our friends
during the preceding winter of 1865-6 was —52° Fahr., or
84° below freezing.
We were also informed that the opening in the land mistaken by us for the Anadyr River was the mouth of a large
river called by the natives the " Arnoura." A third stream
enters Anadyr Bay from the north, and the effect of so much
river water falling into what would otherwise be an arm of
the sea is to render it entirely fresh. Our steamer watered
from the bay itself, the hose being simply put overboard, and
the pumps set to work at filling the tanks.
During Mr. MacCrea's absence on lengthened explorations, the natives had broken into his hut, and had stolen
a quantity of powdered arsenic intended for the preservation
of specimens. They probably mistook it for sugar. The
result was never known. They also carried off a bottle of
liniment, supposing it to be whisky. It was composed
of turpentine, sugar of lead, &c.; the native who drank it
will never steal again! One man was known to have been
killed by it. Chap. XL]
On the 16th we left the Anadyr direct for Plover Bay,
and here we met several of our vessels. My good friend,
Major Wright, though but just risen from a bed of sickness,
had made a very successful exploration through the barren
country towards PentigU Gulf. The irrepressible | Naukum,"
the native spoken of at our first visit, had accompanied him.
"Nothing," said Wright, speaking of this trip, "that the
'white man' did could astonish him or make him for an
instant lose his gravity, except the introduction of pepper-
sauce into his food. The taste of this was a novelty, and
after an experiment nothing could induce him to repeat it.
He says: ' Me sabe good deal, but me no sabe white man
eat fire on meat' Having been presented with a complete
suit of woollen clothing, he sported it with much dignity,
varying his costume now and then by wearing his drawers
about his neck. His tent may easily be found by any enterprising traveller, as over the door is one of Heuston and
Hastings' signs, while the door-post is ornamented with a
poster directing everybody to go to Lamott's for hats,
caps, &c."
This was a fact. The signs of several San Francisco
houses were taken up—as a joke,—and left in various parts
of the coast, where some future traveller may perhaps see
them. In this instance it attracted a good deal of notice
from the whalers who frequent the bay, itself within sight of
Bering Straits. After this the enterprising advertisers who
plastered the Pyramids and Palmyra with their posters must
hide their diminished heads.
Colonel Bulkley caused a small house of planks to be constructed for " Naukum," and made him many presents. My
friend Grob—a mechanical draughtsman attached to us, and 122
[Chap. XL
a genius in every form of sketching—made a drawing, "a
dream of the future." It represented the interior of Nau-
kum's dwelling. Madame, seated on a whiskey barrel, was
playing the piano, Mr. Naukum engaged in a game of billiards
in a further apartment, and a small boy, of blubbery aspect,
handing him the " cock-tails " on a salver. The room was
picturesque with paddles, skins, preserved-meat cans, dogs,
and children; but civilization was triumphant! I am sorry
that I cannot include this sketch among my illustrations.
My kind friend, Mrs. Scammon, had accompanied her
husband on this voyage, and she invited "Naukum" into
the cabin to look at some pet canaries. Although he had
never seen such birds, he preserved a gentlemanly apathy,
and would show no surprise whatever. Some one, a little
piqued perhaps that he would not be astonished, said,
" Why,~ Naukum, they are worth ten dollars each in San
Francisco !"—" Ah," replied he, shrugging his shoulders,
" too muchee!"
We stopped the larger part of a month in Plover Bay, our
carpenters and labourers being engaged in the construction
of a station. When the flooring and foundations were-ready,
the National and Company's flags Avere raised on a tall telegraph pole, a salute fired, and the health of Kelsey, the
captain in charge, drunk enthusiastically. Fourteen men
were left with him for the winter of 1866-7, and immediately
commenced the erection of the line through a most rugged
and difficult country.
In spite of the proximity of Plover Bay to the Arctic, very
little snow remained on the barren country round it, except
on the distant mountains, or in deep " gulches " or gullies,
where it has lain for centuries.    " That there snow," said one Chap. XI.]
of our sailors to me, pointing to such a spot, " is three hundred years old if it's a day. Why, don't you see the wrinkles
all over the face of it?" . Every one has noticed the
wrinkles and ridges in snow; but the idea of associating age
with them was rather original.
Of course, when our men were landed at their destinations
it was frequently found that some trifles, necessary to their
comfort, had been omitted in the hurry of preparation. One
of the leaders of an exploring party said to his men at the
last moment, " I haven't time to tell you all you want, but
look round, and take all you can get." Now, although there
was much bonhommie generally, and every one, at some time
or another, helped his acquaintances, not knowing how soon
his turn might come, it was not pleasant to miss one's
favourite coat or boots, knife, or scissors, as the case might
be, from the cabin; and there were those who took an undue
advantage of the circumstances, to beg, borrow, or steal all
they could lay their hands on. One man was caught going
over the side of the vessel with five caps as the results
of his loot; they were unmistakably forage caps. Several
individuals, whose packages had been very limited in extent
in San Francisco, went ashore with quite a handsome
collection of baggage, and were taken by the natives to
be persons of much distinction. I am afraid that some
liberal free-hearted members of our expedition, who returned to San Francisco, were considerably out of pocket in
In Plover Bay the whalers often succeed in capturing their
prey in quiet water. We had opportunities of seeing their
boats in pursuit of white grampus, and afterwards of true
whale.   Each boat is known by a distinguishing mark on
—t 124
[Chap. XL
its sail, such as red stripes or a cross; they can then be told
at a distance by the vessels to which they respectively belong;
When the whale is harpooned, and floating dead in the water,
it is usual to plant a small flag in it. After the leviathan is
towed alongside the vessel, it is cut up into large chunks,
and it is a very curious sight to witness the deck of a whaling
vessel covered with great masses of blubber. Eventually it
is cut up into " mincemeat," in order that all the oil may be
extracted, and chopping-knives and even mincing machines
are employed for the purpose. The oil is boiled out on
board, and, if not otherwise informed, a stranger seeing a
whaler a little way off with volumes of smoke and steam
arising from it, would suppose that the vessel was on fire.
On these occasions the sailors have a feast of dough-nuts
cooked in boiling whale-oil, whale-brain fritters, and other
joints. My friend, Captain Redfield, a very successful whaler
well known in San Francisco and Honolulu, invited me, when
in Plover Bay, to witness the deck of his vessel with the
blubber lying on it, and gave me every chance of tasting
whale in various shapes. I don't think that I wish to repeat
the experiment.
On the 20th we left Plover Bay for Norton Sound, Russian
America, arriving there on the 24th. We anchored under
the lee of Whale Island, and later at an anchorage within
four miles of our destination, the Island of St. Michael's.
Norton Sound* is so shallow that vessels frequently touch
* Norton Sound was surveyed roughly by Captain Cook. It was named,
in the fashion of those days, after Sir Fletcher Norton, once Speaker of the
House of Commons (afterwards Lord Grantley), and a near relation of
Captain King, to whom Cook entrusted the exploration. Chap. XI.]        DEATH OF MAJOR KENNICOTT.
bottom at a mile or more from the coast. The wind, blowing
off land, reduces its depth very perceptibly, and completely
bares sand-bars at the mouths of the rivers entering it. The
wind, too, very quickly raises a bad sea. On the night of
the 28-29th a strong gale blew from the north-east, and our
largest vessel, the 'Nightingale' (drawing 16 feet), touched
bottom at stern or bows each time she pitched. Men on
board were thrown off their feet, and out of their berths,
and but for the soft mud bottom she must have sustained
Here we met the explorers left the preceding season; and
very shaggy and unkempt they looked, though, with one or
two exceptions, in excellent health. But with the pleasure of
meeting them was mingled one sad regret. Poor Kennicott
had died suddenly at Nulato, on the Yukon, on the 13th
May, 1866. His kind-heartedness, zeal, and earnestness, had
endeared him to all of us who knew him, and it was believed
that anxiety for the welfare and success of his party bad
accelerated his death.
Kennicott's name, by no means unknown in England, is
much better known in the United States as that of an indefatigable traveller and collector. In 1859 he started on a
prolonged exploration of the Hudson's Bay territory, and spent
nearly four years in his favourite pursuit as a naturalist. The
results of his labour have enriched the collections of the
Smithsonian Institute, at Washington, and the Chicago
Academy of Sciences. Through the former institution (which
owes its existence to the bequest of an Englishman, Mr.
Smithson), other museums, in both the old and new world,
have benefited; and his services in the cause of Science
entitle him to the grateful remembrance of his fellow men. 126
[Chap. XL
His party had followed out his instructions to the letter.
Ketchum and Labarge had made the first trip through from
the coast to Fort Tukon, and Ennis had explored the country
north of Norton Sound as far as Port Clarence.
On the 1st October, we saw the last of the Telegraph fleet,
and watched the ' Nightingale' till she was out of sight,
knowing that for nearly a year our vessels could not return.
The lateness of the season admonished us to make a rapid
move for Unalachleet—the head-quarters of this section—as
" between the seasons " there would be a period when travelling would be much impeded or wholly stopped. We therefore immediately commenced our preparations for leaving
St. Michael's. Chap. XII.]
St. Michael's —The fort and its inhabitants — The " Provalishik"—
Russian steam-bath — " Total immersion " — The island — Incident of
break-up of ice — Arrival of dead Indian sledge-driver — Steamboat trip
— Steamer laid up — Russian post at Unalachleet — Malemute and
Kaveak Indians — Skin clothing—Inter-tribal commerce — Trade with
the Tchuktchis — Underground houses — Fishing through the ice.
Redoubt St. Michael's, or Michaelovski, the principal station
of the Russian American Fur Company in this northern
section of " Walrus-sia," deserves something more than a
passing notice. It is not merely the best point * for a vessel
to touch at, in order to land goods for the interior, including
that great tract of country watered by the Yukon; but it has
been, and is, to a great extent, a central post for Indian trade,
and for the collection of furs from distant and interior posts.
It has been already proposed—since the American occupation—to make it -a military station; we may, not improbably, live to hear of a town springing up on the borders of
the Arctic, and within 200 miles of Bering Straits.
* After what has been said about the shallow nature of Norton Sound,
this might be considered open to doubt; the practical experience of our
expedition proved, however, that both the mouths of the Yukon, or
Kwich-pak, and the northern part of Norton Sound, were even worse, and
St. Michael's was for over two years our base of supplies. Port Clarence
was too far north for the goods intended for the Yukon, but is for certain
parts of the country an excellent place for a station.    See Appendix (TV.). 128
Fort St. Michnel's, or Michaelovski.
St. Michael's is (on the authority of Zagoskin) in lat.
63° 28' N., and long. 161° 44' W. of Greenwich. It is situated
on the south-east side of the island of the same name, and
was founded in 1833, by Michael Tebenkoff, an energetic
employe of the Russian Fur Company.
The station is built on the model of a Hudson's Bay Co.'s
Fort, with enclosure of pickets, and with bastions flanking it.
Inside are the store-houses and dwellings of the employes,
including the "casine" (caserne), or general barrack, bath and
cook-houses. These painted yellow, and surmounted by red
roofs, gave it rather a gay appearance.
The inhabitants of the fort—all servants of the company—
were a very mixed crowd, including pure Russians and Fin-
landers, Takutz, from Eastern Siberia, Aleuts, from the
islands, and Creoles from all parts.    They were not a very Chap. XK] THE "PROVALISHIK." 129
satisfactory body of men; in point of fact, it is said that
some of them had been criminals, who had been convicted in
St. Petersburgh, and offered the alternative of going to prison,
or into the service of the Russian American Company I We
found them—as did Zagoskin years before—muck given to
laziness and drunkenness.. Fortunately, their opportunity for
this latter indulgence was limited, usually, to one bout per
annum, on the arrival of the Russian ship from Sitka with
their supplies; whilst the "Provalishik," Mr. Stephahoff, the
commander of this fort, who had charge of the whole district,
stood no nonsense with them, and was ever ready to make
them yield assistance. His arguments were of a forcible character : I believe the knout formed no part of his establishment, but he used his fists with great effect! To this
gentleman we were all very much indebted, for enforcing the
orders of the Russian Company in our behalf; often to
the sacrifice of his own comfort, to say nothing of the skin
from his knuckles. The Russian American Company, however, gave these men salaries proportioned to their deserts:
1J poods of coarse flour (about 60 pounds) per month, and
from 5d. to lOd. per day was the average allowance, and most
of them were hopelessly in debt to the Company. Fish and
game at this post were not reliable resources; and their pay
would barely keep them in tea, sugar, tobacco, and clothing.
The tea used was of a superior and expensive kind (worth 5s.
to 5». lOd. a pound in the Company's store).
The true " Russian steam-bath " was always to be obtained
at these posts, as at every other settlement we visited, and it
was very popular among us. The bath-house consisted always
of two or more chambers, the first used for undressing, &c. The
inner room had a stone furnace, in which a fire was lighted
K 130
[Chap. XII.
till it was intensely hot, and large barrels of hot and ice-
cold water were always ready. Water was from time to time
thrown on the heated stones, keeping the room full of steam,
almost to suffocation. Entering, we invariably threw a bowl
of cold water over our heads, and then reclined on shelves or
benches provided for the purpose, till we were thoroughly
steamed, then washed in hot water. On leaving the room it
was very essential to throw cold water again over the head
and whole person, or headache would result The transition
from the inner to the outer room, the latter sometimes having
a temperature considerably below zero, was very sudden, and
made us rub with great vigour, but we found ourselves much
refreshed. The Russians invariably take a nap after the bath.
Persons with apoplectic tendencies, or weak lungs, would probably suffer from their use; I have seen men frequently sit
or stoop down on the floor to get a cool gasp of air; owing,
perhaps, to the bath-house being too full of steam.
Outside the post, besides othef buildings^ there was a small
chapel, in which, on " Prasniks," or holidays of the Church,
and on each Sunday, a service was performed. A priest of
the Greek Church, resident at the " Mission," on the Lower
Yukon, comes down occasionally to baptize the natives. The
Greek Church practises, it may be observed, total immersion,
and when an infant is christened it is dipped bodily. In the
case of Indians, they are baptized in the sea at this fort, and
rumour says that some of them have been so christianized
many years in succession, in order that they may obtain small
gilt crosses, and other presents given them at such times. It
becomes an interesting question, whether such a zealous con-'
vert, counts—in the missionary's reports—as one person, or
os four or jive, as the case may be? Chap. Xn.]
St. Michael's, though threatened by distant Indians, has
never been seriously attacked. A small village of Indian
houses—underground, or excavated in the hill—exists near
the fort. A similar and larger village of natives of the same
tribe will be hereafter described.
The Island of St. Michael's is mainly composed of a porous
lava rock, riddled with holes (air bubbles ?) innumerable.
This formation apparently extends to the Yukon, and'cliffs
of a similar nature, but rather more crumbling in character,
were observed by us at the station known as the " Mission "
(Missie), on the lower part of the great river. Zagoskin says
that the Indians have a tradition that St. Michael's was upheaved from the sea—an occurrence at least possible. A large
rocky island (in the chain of the Aleutian Islands), known by
the Russians as the Bogoslov Volcano, rose from the sea
in 1796. The same writer says that the spot where the fort
now stands has been covered by the sea within the memory of
Indians living at the date of his visit, 1842-3. The water
of pools and creeks on the island is extremely nauseous, and
our men always thought they could detect a sulphurous taste
in it, probably from the decomposition of the rocks just
mentioned. In fact, all the water used at the fort, in summer
time, is brought from a spring on the mainland. The island
is thick with moss, covering up, in some places, a bed of clay;
berries in summer are abundant, and can be obtained fresh in
winter by digging through their thick covering of snow..
There are no trees whatever, and the fort is dependent on
drift-wood from the mouths of the Yukon or Kwich-pak,
which is fortunately landed in large quantities by the prevailing winds and currents, all over the shores of Norton
Sound.   A garden at the fort (perhaps 10 ft. by 3 ft. in size!),
k 2 132
[Chap. XII.
which yields a few radishes and turnips, proves the practicability of growing something there.
The ice in Norton Sound forms early in October, but is
frequently broken up and carried to sea till late in winter.
On Christmas Eve some of the telegraph employes arrived at
St. Michael's from Unalachleet, having travelled on the ice,
sometimes at a distance of a mile or two from the coast. They,
as usual, were invited in at once by the Russians to "chi-
peat," or drink tea, &c. After tins was over, they sauntered
outside the fort, to smoke their pipes, and look after the dogs.
What must have been their surprise to find that the ice, as
far as the eye could reach, that they had last travelled on, was
broken up, and gone on a cruise! Had they been half an
hour later, they would have gone with it, and would have
been floating about Bering Sea on a field of ice.*
On the coast, although the thermometer usually stands
rather higher than in the interior, the climate is really more
felt. Nearly, all the cases of frost-bite among our men
occurred whilst travelling in and north of Norton Sound.
Again, whilst clear ice—that is, ice free from a covering of
snow—is scarce on the rivers, except very early in winter, it
is common for a long, period on the coast. When your sledge
arrives at such ice, the dogs will often start off at a great
rate, although, but a few minutes before, they may have been
proceeding with difficulty. At such a time, it is usual to
jump on and take a ride, and you have to look sharp to do it.
Now, if there is much wind at such a time, however warm you
may be from previous exercise, you chill very readily.  Under
* Norton Sound was not clear of ice till the third week in June,
1867, Chap; XII.]
exactly such circumstances as these, the Russians at St.
Michael's were once horrified at the arrival of a sledge with
an Indian on it—sitting erect—but perfectly dead. Unable
to stop his dogs, the poor fellow had jumped on his sledge,
and had probably frozen to death in a few minutes. Such
incidents are rare; but it is common enough to find Indians
with faces much disfigured, and having lost part of their
ears or noses. It has been the universal testimony of
Arctic travellers, that comparatively moderate cold, with
wind, was more to be feared than the most extreme
temperature without it.
By noon, on the 2nd October, we had loaded up a
" baidarre," a whale-boat, and a little steamer, the ' Wilder,'
left for our use, and, by detachments, we set off for Una-
lachleet, a distance of sixty miles.
I took passage on the steamer, and found her crowded with
freight and passengers to her utmost capacity. She was but
sixty feet long, with a perfectly flat bottom, and a house of
planks, covering two-thirds of her deck. Outside, the thermometer stood at about 10° Fahr.; inside the house we were
at fever heat. We anchored at night off the Indian village of
Taupanica, and early the next morning resumed our trip,
soon reaching the sand-bars outside the Unalachleet River,
immediately opposite Besborough Island, where we grounded,,
and the steamer had to be unloaded by Indians in " baidarres."
The same evening she entered the mouth of the river safely,
but it proved her last trip for the season.
On the 7th she was beached for the winter, about eighty
telegraph men, Russians and Indians, assisted in hauling her
high and dry. The river was almost completely frozen up, and
our little craft a mass of ice from stem to stern.   It was no 134
[Chap. XII.
small work to break up and clear the space round her in
the river, before she could be moved.
At the mouth of the Unalachleet River, on the north bank,
is the most northern settlement on the coast, a Russian trading post, founded in 1840, and bearing the same name. It is
in lat. 63° 53' 33" N., and long. 160° 30' 16" W., and resembles
St. Michael's in being enclosed by a picket, but is otherwise
on a much smaller and poorer scale. The ". bidarshik," or
head man, had but one room for himself and family. The
"casine" was occupied by several men with families, and by
Malemute Native.
an immense number of cockroaches, apparently with families
also! A large "pitchka,"or oven, occupied an important
position in this establishment.    The windows did not, as at Chap. XH.]
St. Michael's, aspire to the dignity of glass, but were of the
gut of fur seal, white and translucent, if not transparent.
To the N.W. of the post was a large village of Malemute
and Kaveak Indians, a race of tall and stout people, but in
other respects much resembling the Esquimaux. The men
very generally shaved the crown of the head, and wore the
ornaments known as the To-took, pieces of bone run through
holes on either side of the face, immediately below the
mouth. The women were generally tattooed on the chin,
and wearing ornaments of beads from their hair, and leaden
or iron bracelets.    All adopted skin clothing; the true Male-
Malemute Skin Clothing.
mute coat or shirt is square cut at the bottom, is of but
moderate length, and has a hood almost invariably. The
woman's  dress is  longer,   and  has   a  rounded  shape  at 136
[Chap. XU.
the lower part of it Into the composition of these dresses
many furs may enter; the hood is almost invariably wolfskin, the long hairs of which shelter and half cover the
face. Inside it is sometimes a lining of soft, white Arctic
hare-skin. The body may be squirrel, mink, marten, seal,
or reindeer skins, but, in point of fact, is nearly always of the
latter. This, again, varies much; it may be the thick covering of an old buck, or the but half-developed skin of a fawn
that has never lived. Zagoskin tells" us how it is obtained,
by practising a great cruelty: the poor doe, known to be
with young, is driven from place to place by the natives, till
her offspring is prematurely born. Then again it may be of
the wild, or domesticated reindeer, shot by themselves,
or imported from the Tchuktchis of the Asiatic coast, with
whom they carry on a very extensive native trade. The
Tchuktchis have large herds of tame reindeer (some of which
I have mentioned at the Anadyr River, and elsewhere), whilst
the animal is never met with in Russian America but in a
wild state. I shall have to allude to this trade subsequently.
The edges of coats and boots are often trimmed with strips of
the much-prized wolverine-skin. This animal, the "carcajou"
of the trappers, is well-known to be so wary and cunning that
it is but rarely taken, and its fur is valued more highly than
any other, without exception, by the natives of the whole
coast and interior.
Pantaloons of seal or reindeer skin are worn by both sexes;
the women's often have the socks attached, and in one
piece. Their boots vary in length, and in the material
used for the sides, but all have soles of "maclock," or
seal-skin, with the hair removed. Fur socks, with the
hair turned inside, are very common, and mits or gloves Chap. XH.]
are made of all shapes and sizes, I have a pair made
from dog-skin, two feet in length, and coming up far above
the elbow.
These natives almost universally use a very unpleasant
liquid for cleansing purposes.* They tan and soften the sealskin used for boot soles with it.
The seal is perhaps their most useful animal, not merely
furnishing oil and blubber, but the skin used for their canoes,
thongs, nets, lassoes, and boot-soles. Their " baidarres,"
similar to the " oomiak" of the Greenlander, vary in size
from those intended for three or four persons to others capable of holding fifteen or twenty persons. With them they
go to sea, and cross the narrow part of Bering. Straits. Their
"baidarkes" are similar to the Greenland "kyack," but are
more commonly constructed with three holes than with one.
Both are admirably made; the frames light and strong,
the skin covering sewn with sinew, and the seams rendered
watertight by rubbing fat into them. The skin is prepared
in the first instance, while yet the hair is on it, by spreading
fermented fish-spawn over it, and allowing it to remain till
the hair rots off. It is then stretched on a frame, and saturated with the liquid before alluded to, when it becomes
translucent. The fat is removed with bone or stone knives,
metal being considered likely to cut it.
In spite of the Russian posts in Norton Sound, a large part
of the Indian trade was carried on with the American whaling
vessels, who annually visited Port Clarence, Kotsebue Sound,
and adjacent coasts, and paid much larger prices than the
tariff fixed by the Fur Company.   Another important part
* The scientific reader is referred to a paper by the author in the
: Transactions of the Ethnological Society' for 1868. 138
[Chap. XII.
of the commerce leaves the country by the hands of the
Tchuktchis before mentioned, who cross from the coast of
Siberia by the narrow part of Bering Straits, and generally
meet the Kaveaks and Malemutes in Port Clarence. It is
said that the natives from either side also meet on the Dio-
mede Islands in the straits.
Inter-tribal commerce goes on to such an extent that
clothing worn hundreds of miles up the Yukon, and in other
parts of the interior of Russian America, is of Tchuktchi
origin, and is made up by the women of the coast tribes, who
sew better than those of the interior. This trade is principally for tame reindeer skins, of which the Tchuktchis have
an overplus, and in exchange they receive bone, oil, and the
furs of smaller animals. By constant inquiry I found that
marten (American or Hudson's Bay sable of commerce),
beaver, and fox skins, taken high up the Yukon, traded to
the Co-Yukons, from them to the coast natives, and again
from them to the Tchuktchis, eventually reach Russian
traders on the Anadyr River, Eastern Siberia, or the American whaling vessels on the coast.
One object of Zagoskin's mission was to promote the establishment of an additional fort near Bering Straits, in order
to put a stop to this trade, and he favoured the idea of placing
it in Kotsebue Sound. This was, however, never accomplished,
and from our party, who wintered in Port Clarence, J learnt
that the larger part of the furs leave the country by that outlet.
In spring several hundred natives meet there, and, in all
probability, some station may now be formed in that neighbourhood by its American owners.*
In 1867, Port Clarence was not clear of ice till the third week in June. Chap. XII.]
A large proportion of these natives have guns—both flintlock and percussion-cap—obtained in trade. Guns, obtained
as far off as the Hudson's Bay Company's fort at the junction
of the Porcupine, find their way to the coast by inter-tribal
barter. The smaller animals—hares, grouse, marten, &c.—are
generally snared. The berries in summer are obtained in
large quantities, and are eagerly sought. Yarieties resembling blue-berries, huckle-berries, and a kind of dwarf raspberry (resembling- in other respects the " salmon-berry " of
Vancouver Island, &c.,) are all abundant. These mixed with
seal-oil are considered a luxury, and are gathered in quantities for winter use. I have often obtained them in winter,
from beneath the snow, and in almost as fresh a state as
when* they were first buried. Reindeer fat, raw, is always
considered a treat, and an Indian cannot better show his
esteem for a white visitor than by presenting him with a
piece of buck-fat.
Their houses are usually underground, the roof only rising
above the surface; the entrance is by a kind of tunnel or
passage, by which you crawl into the room, and a hole in the
roof lets out the smoke. This, when there is no fire on the
floor of the room, is covered tightly with a skin. Nearly
every dwelling has a stage for hanging furs or fish on, and
a small wooden house or " cache " perched in the air on four
poles, with a notched log for a ladder, is used to stow away
supplies, and keep them safe from their dogs, or from wild
animals prowling round the village. Canoes not in use are
generally raised above the ground on trestles.
We frequently saw the Indians at this place engaged in
fishing through holes made in the ice, catching quantities of
a small kind of " white-fish."   If we gave fish-hooks to the 140
[Chap. XII.
natives, they usually tried to cut off the barbs; they took
the fish so readily that they could afford to lose a few from
the hook. Involuntarily I thought of patient anglers by the
brook-side at home, waiting a day for a tenth part of the fish
caught there by an Indian .in the same time, and could not
help coming to the conclusion that the Indian has the best
of it. In windy weather, they frequently erect a screen of
skins, &c, and stakes. Chap. XHT.
Indian town-hall — Preparations for dance — Smoke-consuming Indians —
Feast — Dance — Chorus — The Malemutes and Kaveaks — The chiefs
— "Parka-mania" — Erection of quarters—Preparations for sledge
In the village at Unalachleet, as in most others of the coast,
there are buildings set apart for dances and gatherings of the
people ; at other times, indeed, they are used for occupations
requiring space, as the manufacture of sledges or snow shoes.
These buildings may be regarded as the natives' town hall;
orations are made, festivals and feasts are held in them, and
the passing stranger is sometimes accommodated in them, as
in an Eastern caravanserai.
I witnessed several of their public dances; they are
constantly, indeed, held during winter, and it is surprising
to see how long and how much the older people are pleased
by such very monotonous performances. In some of them
the actors imitate and burlesque the motions of birds and
quadrupeds, and of course here there is some scope for fun,
while some of their songs are said to have some meaning,
although on this point I cannot speak positively; the only
ones I heard were the same words repeated over and over
To one dance we were specially invited. On arriving at
the doorway we found a narrow subterranean passage, two
I 142
[Chap. XIII.
and a half feet high, crawling through which we at last
reached the room, itself partly underground, and dimly
lighted by blubber lamps.
The Indians who were to take part in the dance, chiefly
young men, were engaged in dressing, and bathing them-
selves in the liquid not before mentioned. All were nude
to the waist, and wore seal, deer skin, or cotton pantaloons,
with the tails of wolves or dogs hanging behind, and
feathers and cheap handkerchiefs round their heads. The
elders sat on a bench or shelf, running round the entire
building, and looked on approvingly, whilst they consumed
their own smoke, as is the manner of the Tchuktchis, by
swallowing all they made, and getting partially intoxicated
thereby. Their pipe-bowls were on the smallest scale, and
they even diluted their tobacco by mixing willow shavings
" fine cut" with it.
Example of Pipe used by the Malemutes.
Meantime the women were bringing in contributions of
berries and fish in large "contogs," or wooden bowls, varying
in shape from a deep dish to an oblong soup-tureen.
The performance commenced by the actors ranging them- Chap. XITL]
selves in a square, and raising these dishes of provisions to
the four cardinal points successively, and once to the skies
with a sudden noise like " swish! " or the flight of a rocket.
May-be it meant an offering to the seasons and to the Great
Spirit Then came the feast; and that over, a monotonous
ehorus, with an accompaniment of gongs was started. The
gongs were made of seal-gut stretched on a circular frame, and
were struck with a flat stick. The words of the song commenced, " Yung i ya, i ya, i ya!" and continued throughout
" Yung i ya! " Then a boy sprang out on the floor, he was
speedily joined by a second, then a third, till a circle of
twenty was formed. Now they appeared violently.attracted
together, and now as much repelled; now they were horrified
at one another's conduct, and held up their arms in warning
gestures, and again all were friends and made pantomime of
their happiness. In this performance there was" nearly as
much done by arms and bodies as with the feet. When
there was a lull in the entertainment, small presents were
brought round to all the strangers present; mine was a pair
of boot soles of seal-skin.
So decided an odour at length pervaded the ball-room that
we one by one dropped off from the festive scene; the Indians
kept it up for hours afterwards.
The Malemutes and Kaveaks intermingle considerably, and
have therefore been spoken of here as one people. Their
habits, manners, and customs are identical, but they speak
different dialects* and inhabit different parts of the country.
The former extend from the Island of St. Michael's to Sound
Golovnin, whilst the latter occupy a still more northern coun-
*- For a brief vocabulary of Malemute words, see Appendix (V). 144
try adjacent to Port Clarence and Bering Straits. Although
so much resembling the Esquimaux in habits, they are a
larger, finer race, and it is by no means uncommon to find
men of six feet in height; some, perhaps, over that standard.
Nearly all the women are stout and blubbery in aspect, but
have good-humoured features. Both sexes were employed
in various ways by our expedition, and they were universally
considered far above the average of Indians in every respect
The Malemute chief "Aleuyanuk" was a fine-looking old
man, erect and soldierly, and wearing a moustache and imperial; his manners would not have disgraced a civilized
assembly. "Comokin," the Kaveak chief, was as useful to
us as he had been many years before to some of the expeditions engaged in the search for Sir John Franklin.
From our first arrival at Unalachleet, the men had very
naturally a strong desire to obtain skin clothing for winter
use, and also as curiosities, and, in the excessive competition
for the limited supply in the hands of the Russians and
Indians, prices went up abou1^200 per cent.! This was
generally knowu as the "Parka mania*' (from parka, Russian
for skin shirt or coat) and was a great benefit to some of the
more enterprising Russians, who set their Indian wives to
work making up coats, boots, caps, and fur-socks in great
variety, whilst they reaped themselves a harvest of five-dollar
pieces. We all became extremely well informed on the
different names and styles of furs. Of rein-deer alone, we
distinguished three varieties: the ordinary thickly furred skin
was in Russian simply * Alany scoora; Nederist was that of
* It is impossible to represent in English anything but the sound of
Russian word, as there are thirty-six letters in the Russian alphabet.* Chap. XIII. 1
fawns of a few months old, while Veperai was the half-
developed covering of the unborn young. We all acquired
some little of the Russian language, or rather that patois
of it spoken among the low-class Russians and half-breeds,
many of whom had been born in Russian America.
During my stay at this station, all the men were employed in putting up quarters for winter use. A rude
erection of earth and logs had been built for the Telegraph explorers the previous season, and now that a party
of nearly forty were to winter there and commence the
line, it was necessary to remodel the establishment. All
hands then set to work with a will, and officers and men
alike showed a determination to prove the energy of their
race: besides, while some were shivering by night in tents,
others were occupying the Russian employes' quarters, much,
doubtless, to the disgust of the latter, although they took
it philosophically.
The writer soon became au fait at building sod walls, and
was consequently allowed to follow the natural bent of his
genius, and each man, as far as possible, did that which he
could do best. In consequence, we soon had a double-
roomed house, well earthed round, and with a large open
fire-place in one chamber. This fact is mentioned to show
that an ordinary house on the surface, where, as in this
neighbourhood, there is sufficient wood for fuel, can be
successfully used in an Arctic climate. The other chamber,
used as a kitchen, had an American cooking-stove; one of
those excellent little institutions which will bake, boil, stew,
fry, and broil, in the best manner, with the smallest possible
expenditure of fuel.
The officers occupied (with the cockroaches) every avail-
I' 146
able corner and bastion of the Fort, and several small rooms
were lined with deer-skins, making very cosy little places
of them.
During a portion of the time passed by me at this place we
had extremely bad weather, with strong N. and N.E. winds.
The thermometer invariably rose during the prevalence of
wind: it stood at points ranging between -f- 7° and -f- 32°
during our stay.
Col. Bulkley, our Engineer-in-chief, had very kindly left to
me the privilege of selecting my own course of travel, with
due regard to the interests of the Company. I had the
previous year volunteered to accompany Major Kennicott;
but his party had been completely organized before I joined
the expedition, and my request could not be granted. I was,
however, determined to visit the unknown Yukon country,
which had been, from the commencement of our explorations,
more spoken about than any other. Ketchum, who had made
his very adventurous trip the previous summer, promised me
every facility, and kept his word. Indeed I can say, with
much gratitude, that I received every possible attention from
all the officers of the expedition, and am especially indebted
to Messrs. Ennis, Dennison, Dyer, Labarge, and the gentleman just mentioned.
We knew that early winter was not a favourable time for
travelling; the snow, but just fallen, is not " set" as it is at a
later period, and some parts of the rivers, are not completely
frozen up. We, however, determined to lose no time, and
commenced our preparations. These included the selection
and purchase of sledges, dogs, harness, and skin-clothing, and
the division of the " spoil" that fell to our share, in flour, tea
and sugar, dried apples, bacon, beans, and rice.    By the 26th Chap. XI11.1
of October everything was ready for a start, and on the next
morning we commenced our journey, by the shortest known
route from the coast, to the Yukon River *
* Captain Bedford Pirn made—when engaged in the search for Sir John
Franklin—a very adventurous journey through a country of almost identical
nature lying between Kotsebue Sound, Unalachleet, and St. Michael's.
Many of the Russians and half-breeds remembered his visit, and he had
evidently left a very pleasant impression behind him.
L 2 148
[Chap. XIV.
Routes to the Yukon — Sledges and dogs —Our start — Our party
— IJnalachleet River — Brought to a standstill — Dogs desert—In-
gelete Indians — Underground-houses, &c. — Beans versus rice —
Indian cleanliness — Medical aid — Ulukuk — The river — Indian
The distance to that portion of the Yukon we were about to
visit is, by the mouths of the river, 700 miles, but a land route
to it is always employed in winter by the Russians travelling
from Norton Sound. By the latter route the total distance
from St Michael's does not exceed 230 miles, and from
Unalachleet is approximately 170 miles.
The Russo-Indian form of sledge adopted by us was a very
light construction of birch wood, the knees alone sometimes
made of spruce, whilst it commonly had bone runners. Behind it were usually two guiding poles, and the general
appearance when loaded will be seen represented on our title
page. A lower and inferior kind, which may be regarded as
purely Indian, was occasionally used by us for very light
Although our expedition was well fitted out in the absolute
essentials of travel, no provision had been made with regard
to either sledges or dogs, it having been very naturally
supposed that the country itself was the best source from
whence to obtain these. Y\ e found, however, that the dogs
were neither plentiful nor of a good class.   They were har< 11 y Chap. XIV.]
above the average of the sneaking, snarling Indian curs
of Oregon and British Columbia, and it was very difficult to
make them attached to you,—a proof to my mind that they
had as much of the wolf as the dog in them. I have always
succeeded in making a good dog my friend, and was much
chagrined at my want of success among these animals. They
are very hairy, are of all colours, iron grey predominating,
have wolfish features and short legs, but their immense bushy
tails make up for all deficiencies. Taking them all in all,
they did good service in transporting our goods, and with
them all of us made many lengthened journeys. Captain
Ennis twice made the trip from Norton Sound to Port
Clarence, Bering Straits; and the journey on the ice from
St. Michael's to Unalachleet was made a score of times, while
that to Nulato must have been made a dozen times during
the winter of 1866-7. The more remarkable journey of
Ketchum and Labarge will be mentioned hereafter.
On the morning of the 27th October, at eleven o'clock, we
bade adieu to our friends, some of whom persisted in accompanying us a little way on the frozen surface of the Unalachleet River, whilst the others honoured us with a grand, but
rather irregular volley of blank-cartridge from revolvers,
muskets, and the old battered cannon of the Russian post.
Our party comprised nine persons, as follows:—Captain
Ketchum and Lieutenant Labarge, his .right-hand man,
Mr. Dall, a collector for the Smithsonian Institute, myself,
and Pickett, a man detailed for our service. Mr. Francis,
engineer of our little steamer, started with us on an excursion
trip, and three Indians completed our list. We took four
sledges, each drawn by five dogs, and very well laden
with a miscellaneous collection of boxes, barrels, tools, furs,
blankets, and snow shoes.     Each load averaged 350 lbs.
le day was beautifully calm and clear, the temperature
just before starting was -f- 5° Fahr., but got much colder
during the day. As we had to run alongside of, or behind our
sledges, we soon found that the heavy fur clothing, so very
comfortable when stationary, was infinitely too much for us
when in violent exercise, and we accordingly divested ourselves of much of it. Many of our workmen wore ordinary
thick woollen clothing during the greater part of winter, but
native skin-boots were always adopted by us.
The record of this trip will be presented to the reader
mainly as it stands in my journal.  We found the frozen river,
on whose surface we travelled all day, for the most part well
covered with snow.   In a few patches the wind had bared the
ice, and there we could observe its true colours; sometimes
glassy green and transparent, so that we could see the pebbly
bottom of the shallow stream, in other places dark, opaque,
.    and colourless, with the shaded water underneath it giving
the impression of infinite depth.    Some few parts of the
stream were not completely frozen; this generally occurred
on bars or small rapids, where the water ran swiftly.   The
river was of moderate size,—as large as the Thames at
Hampton, but (excepting in the early spring freshets) even
more shallow.   Within a few miles of the Russian station we
lad just left we found spruce-fir and birch abundant on the
lanks of the river, and a certain amount of drift-wood—the
wreck of larger trees swept from the skirts of the woods at
times of flood—is brought down by the swollen waters at the
reak-up of the ice.
A few small accidents varied the day's travel, such as the Chap. XIV.]        BROUGHT TO A STANDSTILL.
bone runners of our sledges cracking off, or the dogs getting
loose and making a break for the woods. At four o'clock in
the afternoon we stopped for a rest, raised a good fire of driftwood on the surface of the ice, and then cooked our bacon
and made some refreshing tea. We then resumed our trip by
starlight, hoping to make the Indian village of Igtigalik the
same evening. About six o'clock we came to a standstill; a
great patch of the river was entirely open, nor could we see a
way round. Attempting to creep round the shelving banks
our sledges were half-buried in the soft snow, and as the
O 7
night was very dark, and we did not wish to risk losing our
loads in the river, we came to the conclusion that we must
camp. We unloaded the sledges, tied up the dogs, cleared a
space in the snow at the top of the bank, and raised a magnificent log-fire. We spread a quantity of fir-brush on the
ground, made up our beds on it, and slept closely packed
together, with a large deer-skin robe covering us.
We had unfortunately relied on the next village for a
supply of dog-feed. The Russian post we had just left was
famous for " ukalee," an inferior kind of salmon dried for this
purpose; but our men wintering there would, we knew,
require so much of it that we had determined to obtain ours
on the route. Our sledges, too, were otherwise filled to their
uttermost capacity. The poor dogs passed a hungry night,
howling dismally. We had to place everything eatable out
of their reach, and as they did not object to skin clothing
or old boots, and would readily devour their own harness, it
was a somewhat difficult task.
28th.—In the morning we found that four of our doss,
disgusted and hungry, had deserted from our service, and we
were sure that they had " made tracks " for the Russian post, 152
[Chap. XIV.
We made an early start in the brisk cold morning (temp.
— 6° Fahr.), and reached the village without any trouble,
after we had passed round the edge of the open water just
mentioned. There, however, the thin ice cracked beneath
the weight of our sledges, and we " kept moving," expecting
a ducking every moment
On the right bank of the river we found a number of
Indian summer dwellings,—simply wooden shanties, built
above ground, with a small doorway, sometimes circular, and
a hole in the roof to let out the smoke. Behind them on
posts were the fish-houses, or " caches," as before described.
On the left bank were a few underground houses, intended
for winter use. These were simply square holes in the
ground, roofed in, and earthed over. The entrance of each
was always a rude shanty of logs or planks, passing into
which we found a hole in the ground, the entrance to a subterranean passage. Into this we dropped, and crawled on our
hands and knees into the room.    " Amilka," the owner of one
L £a*™?f_  M&-.
Diaorram of Underground House.
of these houses, put half his floor at our disposal, and we
cleared it of dirt and encumbrances, and spread our skins
over it A part of us stopped there some days, studying
the manners and customs of the people. Their manners
might pass, but some of their customs were decidedly nasty. Chap. XIV.
Igtigalik (known by the Russians as Nove, or New Ulukuk, to
distinguish it from a neighbouring place of a similar name) was
inhabited by a totally different tribe from that we had met at
Unalachleet, and called the Ingelete people. Although only
twenty-five miles from the Malemute village, they speak an
entirely different dialect, one—as we afterwards discovered—
nearly allied to the Co-Yukon. These people were a fine stout
race, with fair intelligence, and generally appeared to be very
good humoured. Many of the men were above the average
in stature, and their general appearance much resembled the
coast natives. Polygamy exists, but not to any great extent,
and occasionally a man discharges his wife and takes another,
if the first proves barren, or disappoints with too many girls.
Daughters are at a discount.
Their houses at this time were full of baskets for fish, traps,
frames for snow shoes, and parts of sledges in course of
The passage way into these houses was in wet mild
weather nothing but a sewer. The fire was built on the floor
in the centre'of the chamber, and when it burnt low the
embers and sticks were always thrown out of the smoke-hole
in the roof by the natives inside, and it was then covered
with a skin. This process effectually shut in all the, warmth,
but with it a good deal of smoke and carbonic acid gas. The
entrance hole was also usually covered with a deer skin, and
the mixture of close smells inside the house, arising from
more or less stale fish, meat, old skin clothes, young dogs, dirt
and smoke, was very sickening. The dogs scrambling and
fighting on the roof above, sometimes tumbled through the
smoke-hole on to the fire below, upsetting all the cooking
arrangements,  and adding a new smell   to   those   above
o 7 O 154
[Chap. XIV
mentioned,—that of singed hair! It need not be said that
they retreated with great alacrity, yelping and snarling as
they went.
In place of soap these people use for cleansing purposes
the liquid before mentioned as adopted by the Malemutes.
The little children are plump and good tempered, suck a
stick of ice as though it were barley-sugar, and are totally
unacquainted with the use of the pocket-handkerchief. They
seemed to be cowardly. IT a strapping youngster tumbled
down, and bruised or scratched himself, the women gathered
round, gesticulating, and making a great fuss. If a few
drops of blood appeared, they hid their eyes in their hands,
as though it were something too terrible to behold.
Both men and women smoke; the latter, however, do so
only on occasions. Many, like the Malemutes and Tchuktchis, swallow the smoke; and their pipe-bowls only hold a
pinch of tobacco. They also use snuff, rubbing up the
Russian leaf-tobacco in a kind of wooden pestle and mortar.
This is simply a circular cup, roughly cut out from a knot
of wood, and is held in the left hand, whilst the right grasps
a stout round stick, the top of which is weighted with a
stone. They have small oval-shaped wooden or bone snuffboxes, and sniff the powdered tobacco into their nostrils
through a small wooden tube.
At this, and other Ingelete villages, our goods lay un-
guarded in our absence; and I cannot recall a single case of
proved dishonesty among them, although we found them
gradually becoming more greedy in their demands for
payment. Here we obtained a few Arctic grouse (ptarmigan)
and dried deer-meat. We all became, from constant practice, accomplished cooks; nor do I think an epicure, especially Chap. XIV.]
BEANS versus RICE.
after a day's travel in that appetizing climate, would have
despised our " Telegraph" stews, flavoured and thickened
at the right moment, with salt, pepper, and flour.
It was in Igtigalik that Francis and myself engaged in a
great discussion—known afterwards as a cause ceTebre—"beans
versus rice." Francis, but recently arrived from China, was
persuaded that rice was the staff of life, and that millions
of Chinamen lived on little else. On the other hand, I
contended that beans were more nourishing and glutenous,
and that the miners and travellers of the Pacific coast
swore by them as the most portable and satisfying of food.
Francis pointed out the short time taken to cook rice; but
I showed that beans, when cooked, were more inviting food.
Beans fried a la mineur, baked a la Yankee, or boiled a la
chd-hopper, were lively food, compared with insipid rice.
We advanced our opinions with deep feeling and earnestness
on either side, yet I fear left each other, and our listeners,
exactly where they were before!
A propos of Indian cleanliness, a brief anecdote may be
narrated. The previous winter an Ingelete had applied to
Mr. Frederick Smith, a member of our expedition, asking
him for medical assistance, stating at the same time that
his chest pained him.- A powerful blister was prescribed,
applied, and left on all night. In the morning it was
expected that his breast would be raw; but the only effect
it had on his skin was to leave a clean space, the exact
impression of the plaster! The man got better immediately.
A little Indian boy, playing with other children, received
a gash in the cheek from a knife, and came to us for
medical aid.   A large piece of sticking-plaster was put over 156
[Chap. XIV.
the wound, and the child was told that he must neither
cry, talk, nor eat, as it would interfere with the charm of
the application. The little fellow complied perfectly, would
not utter a word, and starved himself for a week, so that
his cut, being absolutely undisturbed, soon healed up, and
our reputation was established. A small stock of simple
medicines would be very useful to any future traveller;
among them should be included pills, capable of acting
powerfully, for natives who had over-gorged themselves.
Healing ointments, for outward application, would, with
sticking-plaster and lint, be of real service, as a great many
of the natives suffer from skin diseases.
During our stay at the village, on October 30th and 31st,
and on the 1st November, a thaw set in; the thermometer
standing at points between -f- 32° and -f- 35° Fahr., and the
wind south. Snow also fell. On the 2nd, Dall and Francis
returned to Unalachleet, with the hope of recovering our
dogs, several more of whom had left our service. Many of
them had been borrowed from the Indian village, and very
naturally preferred their lazy life there, to hard work with
us. I saw no dogs in Russian America equal to the picked
teams in Petropaulovski; but they had been selected from
the best breeds of the whole peninsula It was the intention
of Colonel Bulkley to import a number from thence for our
use, had the expedition continued for another season. Before
leaving, Ketchum and myself purchased a small skin boat—
which was subsequently used on my Yukon trip, and served
for 1200 miles of river travel. We paid five dollars in
American silver, and an axe worth two and a half dollars, so
that it was not an expensive craft
On the 3rd we started with four sledges for the upper Chap. XIV.]
village of Ulukuk, a distance of fifteen miles.    Our route
lay mainly on a "peronose" (as the Russians term a portage),
over land thickly covered with soft snow, in which our dogs,
sledges, and selves' were half buried.   On the top of an
ordinary sledge load we carried our skin canoe, and had no
small work in helping it along, more  especially  at snow
banks.   We crossed many small streams, on which the ice
was not thoroughly formed, slipping into rather cool water
up to our waists.    We carefully lifted our sledges over such
places to prevent wetting   our  goods.     On some of the
tributaries of the river the route was like a well-made road,
with but a slight covering of snow, and we occasionally got a
few minutes' ride.   It was, however, a luxury but rarely
attained.    In the woods, through which our  course partly
lay, the dogs invariably ran the sledges against the trees
and stumps, and there they would remain, till two or three
of us could clear them.   Late in the day we arrived at the
Ulukuk River, which was still open.   Rapids abound in it;
and there are warm springs in the neighbourhood, so that
this stream is but rarely quite frozen up.    The Tngeletes
have availed themselves of this chance, by placing one of
their principal villages near it.    They have Targe fish-traps
in the stream; and the village is very prettily situated on
an open  space in the woods hard by the river.    In the
distance is to be seen the range of the Ulukuk Mountains,
which are seen from the coast, and will be hereafter mentioned.   Ulukuk is the paradise of this part of the country
in regard to salmon, salmon-trout, grouse, and deer meat;
and a larger number of Ingeletes congregate there than in
any other of their villages.   There is no fear of your dogs
deserting from such a place.
ill 158
TChap. XIV.
The common native mode of cooking is roasting by the
fire; some of them have, however, bought iron pots from
the Russians. Salmon cooked on a stick placed near the fire,
and occasionally turned till " done brown," is luscious.
On the 4th a terrible snow-storm occurred, with a strong
N.E. wind. We were fortunately at that time in an underground house, exhibiting our treasures in magnetic compasses, pencils, note-books, &c, to an admiring crowd, and
trading with them for dried fish for our dogs. It would be
worth the traveller's, while to take with him a small stock
of toys and instruments of a simple nature, in place of so
much of the conventional rubbish usually brought for Indian
trade. Beads and bracelets are all very well, but burning-
glasses, multiplying-glasses, kaleidoscopes, whistles, and small
things in cutlery are novelties to them. Generally speaking,
we found that the natives very sensibly preferred useful to
ornamental things; and axes, knives, powder, caps, flints,
and bullets were by far the best goods for trading. Yet, if
they did become violently in love with a novelty, of however
trifling a nature, there was no price they would refuse to
give; and the traveller who has, above everything, to consider the portability of his goods, may, by selecting those
small things which please even grown-up children here, save
himself the trouble of transporting more unwieldy and less
attractive goods. On several occasions we "astonished the
natives " by lighting " Pharaoh's serpents," a novelty at that
time even in San Francisco. A few small fireworks (packed
in tin or zinc for safe transportation) would be much
appreciated by the Indians, when gathered at their spring
meetings. Chap. XV.]
sledge journey to the yukon.—Continued.
Cross the Ulukuk River — "Walking on snow shoes — Ulukuk Mountains
— Land   travelling — Versola   Sofka — Patent   camp — Our   frozen
breath — Indian  honesty — The use of snow shoes — Warm springs
— First glimpse of the Yukon — Coltog — Old " Stareek " — Travel
on the Yukon—Alikoffs "barabba" — Meet a Russian sledge-train
— Arrival at Nulato.
On the morning of the 5th we turned our skin canoe to good
account by using it to cross the Ulukuk River. By making
several trips, we transported to the opposite bank our sledges,
dogs, and goods. At Ulukuk I essayed my first pair of
snow shoes, to the amusement of the natives, who wondered
where a man could have been all his life who had not
become familiar with their use!
Snow Shoe.
On the 6th we made a start, taking two sledges, an
Indian man, and a boy; the latter we named " Tommy."
We "cached" our skin-boat; it was to be brought up for
us at a later period. The day was pleasant—temperature
-f- 23° Fahr.;—but the snow was fresh and soft, and all of
our party wore snow shoes.     After a little use, I became 160
[Chap. XV.
quite proficient The only secret in wearing them is to
strive to forget you have them on at all, and to walk exactly
as you would anywhere else. The snow shoe then moves
forward with the foot, but is not lifted much above the
snow, and the lashings are so arranged that the toe remains
fixed, while the rest of the foot moves up and down in the
usual manner. Of course, the great object in using them
is to diffuse your whole weight over a large surface, and they
are usually of a good length, sometimes five and a-half feet
long and upwards. An average length is four and a-half
feet. All used in this part of the country are rounded and
bent upwards in front, and pointed behind. They are made
of birch-wood, covered at either end with a fine network of
gut; the lashings for the foot are strips of hide.
We travelled N.N.E. magnetic, and followed pretty closely
the base of the Ulukuk Mountains which in themselves are
hills of inconsiderable altitude, not usually exceeding 3000
feet in height; they are, however, conspicuous landmarks
in a country which is otherwise/ comparatively level. These
mountains run north and south for 100 miles. One of their
outlying hills, the "Versola Sofka," has a very graceful
rounded form: To the west were hills and mountains of
apparently greater altitude.
We occasionally stopped for a draught of ice-cold water.
After breaking a hole in the ice of a creek, I noticed that
our Indian invariably filled it up with loose snow before
stooping down on hands and knees to drink. This was done to
filter the water, and to prevent some little red worms, said to
infest it, from being swallowed. Our route again lay through
a " peronose," or portage, and presented alternations of open
spaces, and light woods of spruce-fir, birch, and willow.   At Chap. XV.l
4 p.m. we reached the base of the " Versola Sofka " Mountain,
where we found a large frozen stream. We camped hard by
it, and made a glorious fire and a bed of aromatic fir-brush;
a screen of canvas, fixed behind our camp to the trees, and
our snow shoes stuck in the ground, sheltered us from the only
enemy we feared—the wind. We found from experience that
tents were not in winter as comfortable as these open camps, as
they could not be with safety placed sufficiently near the fire.
After having arranged the camp, unloaded the sledges as
far as necessary, and fed our dogs, we divested ourselves
of our damp fur socks and skin boots, and hung them up to
dry at a moderate distance from the fire. Our Indian meantime took the pots, and went to break a hole in the nearest
frozen stream, to get the water for our tea. One of us sliced
the bacon, got out a bag of " hard bread," or biscuit, or set to
work concocting a stew of dried deer-meat or fresh grouse.
Soon our meal was over, the ever grateful pipe smoked by
one and all of us, and we turned into our blankets and furs,
the stars looking down calmly upon us
| Because they'd nothing else to do,"
and in a few minutes we were soundly sleeping. We woke
in the morning to find our breath congealed in masses of
ice on our moustachios and other. hairy appendages. So
great a nuisance was this, that many of our men shaved
closely all winter. A merchant I had met the previous
summer in Petropaulovski had once narrowly escaped suffocation from the ice forming in this way on his luxuriant
beard and moustache. While travelling, he was unfortunate
enough to wander into the woods, and lose his reckoning.
He remained there a whole night, and. in the morning, when
[Chap. XV.
found by his anxious friends, the ice had almost completely
glued up his nostrils and mouth. We always had to break
up the clotted ice formed on our faces in this way, and then
to perform our limited toilet by taking a little snow in our
hands, and rubbing it over our faces,—a very refreshing operation. We then hastily cooked the breakfast, and were
soon on our way again. We, once or twice, made a stew,
and left it simmering all night at the camp fire.
We left the " Versola Sofka" on the morning of the 7th,
and, finding the loads too great for our dogs under the cir-
cumstances, we raised an erection of poles, and deposited
some bags thereon. I may here say, once for all, that
our men often left goods, consisting of tea, flour, molasses,
bacon, and all kinds of miscellaneous items—scattered in
this way over the country, and that they remained untouched
by the Indians, who frequently travelled past them. It
would require some faith in one's species to do the same
in St. James's Park! This day's travel was especially
troublesome, the snow was deeper and softer than before,
some little having recently fallen, and our sledges were
perpetually upsetting. In order to make a track for our
dogs, we frequently with the Indian, walked on a-head,
returned, and again started forward, thus going over the
ground three times. At night, after crossing a stream still
open, we came to a small and very dilapidated Indian shanty,
not much better than an open camp, known by the Russians
as " Ivan's barabba" (house). It was a very wretched place,
and we foimd it temporarily occupied by an Indian, with
wife and child, whose apparent possessions no beggar could
covet. Yet they appeared happy; for did they not know that
on the morrow the hares and ptarmigan could be snared, the Chap. XV.]
deer hunted with a little more exertion, and that if they
were positively " hard up" they could get all they wanted
for subsistence at the nearest village ? A little tobacco and
a few trifles were given them, and from them we obtained
O 7
a light sledge, standing no more than fifteen inches above
the ground, to be used by us for transporting our blankets
and light possessions.
On the 8th snow fell thickly, and travelling was so difficult
that with our best exertions we did not make ten miles
during the day. We camped thoroughly worn out. Although
the use of snow shoes renders travelling possible, where otherwise it would hardly be so, they are very fatiguing in soft or
soggy snow. The difference may be stated thus:—whereas
without them you might sink in three or four feet, with them
you only sink as many inches. But in certain conditions of
climate the snow shoes get loaded with adhering snow and
ice, and then every time you raise you foot you have to lift
10 or 15 lbs. extra. The shoes have to be constantly shaken,
or otherwise cleared, at such times.
The morning of the 9th broke fine and clear, with- a tern-
o 7
perature of -f- 4° Fahr., and we travelled with greater ease
through level country diversified by low rises from which
we could see the break in the hills towards the Yukon.
Our Indian, proceeding a .good way a-head, shot several
ptarmigan, and we made a fair day's journey of eighteen
miles before camping. The next morning a north wind
blew, and made us feel the cold very decidedly. It is
wonderful how searching the wind is in this Arctic climate:
each little seam, slit, or tear in your fur or wooUen clothing
makes you aware of its existence; and one's nose, ears, and
angles generaUy, are specially the sufferers.    We passed this
M r
[Chap. XV
day over a rather more hilly country (in a north?east direction), and in the valleys observed many warm springs which
are said never to freeze in winter. I examined one, and
found bubbles of gas rising to the surface. The temperature
of the water was one degree above freezing, while the air was
twenty-three degrees colder. Towards night it got down to
zero, and the wind died out.
We made an early start next morning, travelling E.N.E.,
and later in a more northerly direction. About noon, from
a slight eminence, we could see a faint streak of blue over
O 7
the trees; we travelled hard to reach it, and at sundown
broke from the woods, shot down a steep bank, and stood
on an immense snow-clad field of ice,—the mighty Yukon!
Hardly a patch of clear ice was to be seen,—all was covered
by a wintry mantle. Large accumulations of hummucks
had been in many places forced on the surface before the
river had become thoroughly frozen, and even now the water
was still open, and running swiftly in a few isolated and
detached streaks.- From bank to bank was not less than a
mile, and several islands were visible in either direction.
Let the reader think of a river 2000 miles long, and anywhere, at this part of its course, from one to four or five miles
wide, one unbroken mass of snow-covered ice, from its source
to its mouth, and he will then jh.ave pictured to himself the
Yukon in winter. I had been prepared to see a large stream,
but had formed no conception of the reality. Neither pen
nor pencil can give any idea of the dreary grandeur, the vast
monotony, or the unlimited expanse we saw before us.*
* The artist will understand me when I state that it would be necessary
in a sketch of this river to make its width out of all proportion to its  A Chap. XV.]
My first acquaintance witn the Yukon, in common with
several of my companions, was made sliding down the bank
at the rate of " 2.40 " (to use an Americanism *), comfortably
seated on my snow shoes. At such snow banks it is a very
common thing for the sledge to shoot down faster than the
dogs, who then get entangled in their harness, run over, and
mashed in the snow. They frequently break loose at such
times. The driver often throws himself down, and hangs on
to the sledge to act as a drag. In Siberia, as I learnt from
my friends who had wintered there, it is usual for the driver
of a sledge, when riding on it, to have a pole or stake which
he uses to impede its progress, driving it down into the snow
every few seconds.
A quarter of an hour's travelling over this expanse of snow
brought us to the Ingelete village of Coltog, where we again
made a halt, and stopped in one of the largest underground
houses we had seen; one inhabited by several families.    The
owner  of  this dwelling,   old " Stareek," received us well,
and  produced  white  ptarmigan and  berries.     They  were
unfortunately short of dog-feed.     This is one of the constant drawbacks in travelling, and stands much in the way
of the  transportation  of large  quantities  of goods.     The
dogs, of course, weaken quickly without regular feed, and
very naturally prowl about seeking something to devour.
Provisions, even when packed up in boxes or barrels, are not
safe where there are many dogs.    The previous year they
managed to burst open a keg of oil, and in a very short
height, and therefore as a picture it could not be satisfactory.   This is my
excuse for not reproducing more of my sketches of the Yukon.
' Two minutes forty seconds is the time taken by a high class trotting
horse to run a mile. at
[Chap. XV.
time there was nothing left but a few scattered staves and
hoops; on this trip one had gorged himself on half a ham,
and was in consequence very unwell.
We stopped over the 12th and 13th at this village; both
days being very gusty and stormy. Old "Stareek" harangued
his neighbours by the hour together, and they brought us a
fair amount of supplies. The poor old man—probably the
" oldest inhabitant" of this district—with his shrivelled form,
wrinkled face, long scattered hair, stubbly chin, and toothless
mouth, wagging about in the most uncertain and eccentric
manner, was a pitiable object; but we made his ancient heart
rejoice by presenting him with cotton-drill, powder, and
balls. Our teams, passing and repassing, would have to
halt at this village constantly during winter. In | Stareek's "
house several of the Indians slept on shelves or benches
built round the walls, and by this means four or five families
were packed into one room. When camped at these places,
after taking our own meals, we invariably filled up the teakettle, and handed round to each of those natives who had
done us any service, a cup of weak tea with a little broken
biscuit floating on the top of it. Some of them have acquired
from the Russians a taste for tea, but more especially for
sugar. As these things were not articles of trade at the
Russian Fur Company's posts, they rarely got a taste of
either, nor do I believe that tea, per se, was much cared for
by them, but that they simply liked it when hot and sweet.
We started up the Yukon on the 14th. An occasional
patch of open water, running perhaps at the rate of three
knots an hour, alone showed us that it was a river at all,
and the dreary expanse of snow almost made us forget that
we were on a sheet of ice.    The river winds considerably, Chap. XV.]
and our course was often therefore from one point of land
to another. We several times crossed from bank to bank to
cut off corners and bends, and, although we met with some
obstructions from masses of ice of all forms and shapes piled
wildly and irregularly around, travelling was on the whole
immeasurably easier than on the land portage. Many cliffs
abutted on the river, and islands of sombre green forest
studded it in all directions. We made about twenty-five
miles, then camped in a new but empty Indian house, known
by the Russians as " Alikoff 's barabba." The temperature at
sunset was — 2° Fahr.
On the morning of the 15th we rose early, and, after
travelling seven miles or so, met a large train of sledges
accompanied by several Russians and Indians. They had
been sent down by the head man, or " bidarshik " of Nulato,
to transport their own winter suppKes, and to assist us. As it
was arranged that some of our men should make the return
journey to Norton Sound, a few days later, the Russians
turned round, and went back with us. After about eight
miles' travel we reached Nulato, our destination, and made
a grand entry with much noise and fun, and the firing of
innumerable discharges. All hands helped the sledges up
the incline leading up to the station, and a few minutes
later we were lunching at the " bidarshik's" table on raw
salt-fish and bread. It need not be said that the " samovar "
had been prepared as soon as they sighted us in the distance.
The poorest Russian never neglects the sacred rite of hospitality, and we pledged each other in massive cups of strong
tea.   Later in the day we had something stronger.
Thus ended our trip to Nulato, a journey made by our
men later in the winter in much less time when the snow
.^        ~!,"g. 168
[Chap. XV.
was well packed,  and when they could sometimes travel
without snow shoes.
We found the quarters appropriated to our use—a low
building forming one of the boundaries of the courtyard—to
be large and reasonably comfortable. The place had been
cleaned out, a large fire lighted in the "pitchka," or oven,
straw laid on the floor, and, in short, everything done that
was possible with the limited means at command. Later
in the day we took a delicious steam-bath, and soon came to
the conclusion that, after all, life in Russian America was
perfectly endurable. .Chap. XVL]
First explorers of the Yukon — Nulato — Our quarters — Water sledge —
Fish traps — Winter sketching — Frozen provisions — Coldest day —
Departure of a sledge train — Dinner party — Indian arrivals — Shortest
day — Merry Christmas — Bill of fare — Aurora — Temperatures —
Supplies — Principal winter trip of our explorers.
Employes of the Russian-American Fur Company were
certainly the first explorers of the Yukon. Malakoff, in
1838, and Derabin, the following year, reached this portion
of the river; the latter in the autumn of 1842 commenced
the establishment of the post at Nulato, which, in consequence, long bore his name. In the early winter of 1843,
Zagoskin, of the Russian Imperial Navy, arrived, having
reached Nulato by the route just described, and he himself
assisted at the building of the fort.*
Nulato is the most inland, and also most northern of all
the Russian Eur Company's posts ; on Zagoskin's authority it
is in lat. 64° 42' 11" N., and long. 157° 58' 18" W. (of Greenwich). It is on the north bank of the Yukon, and is situated
on a flat stretch of comparatively open land, bounded on the
south-west by the Nulato River, a tributary of the Yukon,
* Zagoskin's work contains nearly all the information we possess on the
Lower Yukon. It was translated by Mr. E. K. Laborne, the interpreter of
our expedition, but was not printed.   It exists in a German form.
_£.' *MB 170
[Chap. XVI.
—a stream one of whose mouths is at least seventy yards in
A smaUer stream, also falling into the great river, bounds-
this open patch of land on the north-east. Trees of good
average growth, and sufficiently large for building purposes,
are to be found in the woods at a moderate distance from the
fort, and the soil, a rich vegetable mould, with clay underlying, though swampy in spring, might possibly be turned to
somev account. Luxuriant grass and innumerable berries
grow up and ripen in the brief summer-time.
The post resembles those before described, and differs only
in having two watch-towers. It is surrounded by a picket,
and during our stay the gate was always shut at night, and
Indians excluded when present in large numbers. Before
our arrival a " watch " had been kept regularly at night, for
reasons that will afterwards appear. The log building occupied by us formed a part of one side of the fort square. The
windows of our room were of seal-gut, and, as the days were
now about two hours in length, our light inside was none of
O 7 O
the best. We slept wrapped up in fur-lined blankets and
skins, on a platform raised about two feet above the floor,
which latter we had caulked with moss and covered with
straw and skins. Even then, although our room was generally warm enough, the floor was sometimes intensely cold.
I once hung up some damp cloth to dry; near the rafters it
steamed, within a foot of the ground it froze firmly, with
long icicles hanging therefrom.    The air near the floor has
shown a temperature of -f- 4° when the upper part of the
room was -j- 60° or -j- 65° Eahr.
Our supply of water was obtained from a hole kept constantly open—or as open as nature would allow it to be— Chap. XVI.l
through the ice of the Yukon, at a distance of a quarter of a
mile from the post.    The "water-sledge" was one of the
institutions of the place, and a large barrel was taken down
and filled with water—and a good deal of broken ice—and
brought back for the supply of the station.    It was generally
dragged by men, and  sometimes by Indian, women, as it
would have taken more dogs than the place possessed to
move it.    It may very naturally be  asked,  Does not  a
river like the Yukon freeze to the bottom? and the answer
is, most emphatically, "No;  excepting  only in extremely
shallow places.""  We saw ice nine feet thick and upwards,
but it was not produced by the natural process of gradual
freezing and thickening, but had been forced up on other
ice before the river was completely and firmly frozen.    I
think an average of five feet of ice will form where there
is sufficient depth of water.    Its universal covering of snow
has, doubtless, the  effect  of preventing  the  formation  of
extremely thick ice; the current of the river has the same
I have before mentioned the Indian mode of fishing through
holes in the ice, but had not been prepared to see it practised
on the large scale common on the Yukon.    Early in the
winter large piles or stakes had been driven down through
the ice to the bottom of the river; to these were affixed traps-,
consisting simply of a wicker-work funnel leading into a long
basket, not unlike the eel-pots to be seen on the Thames, but
on a larger scale.    Oblong holes above them were kept open
through the ice by frequent breaking, and sometimes a great
number of « white fish " and a large black fish (known by the
Russians as Nalima) were taken, and we fell in for a share.
The last-named is mainly used for dog-feed, but its very WINTER SKETCHING.
[Chap. XVI.
rich and oily liver was much eaten by the Russians, and
was not despised by us.
Fish-traps on the YukoH.
In November and December I succeeded in making
sketches of the fort and neighbourhood at times when the
temperature was as low as thirty degrees below zero. It was
done, it need not be said, with difficulty, and often by instalments. Between every five strokes of the pencil, I ran about
to exercise myself, or went into our quarters foj. v/armth.
Several times I skinned my fingers, once froze my left ear,
which swelled up nearly to the top of my head, and I was
always afraid that my prominent nasal organ would get
bitten. The use of water-colours was of course impracticable
—except when I could keep a pot of warm water on a small
fire by my side—a thing done by me on two or three occasions,
when engaged at a distance from the post. Even inside the
house the spaces near the windows—as well as the floor—were
often below freezing-point.    Once, forgetful of the fact (and Chap. XVI.]     FROZEN PROVISIONS — COLDEST DAY.
it is a fact of which you do become forgetful), I mixed some
colours up with water that had just stood near the oven, and,
wetting a small brush, commenced to apply it to my drawing-
block. Before it reached the paper, it was covered with a
skin of ice, and simply scratched the surface, and I had to
give up for the time being. One of our number going
into a store-house to do some carpenter's work, put a large
iron nail between his lips—to hold it for a moment—
and, before he thought anything more about it, found them
glued together, and had to go' and thaw himself out by
the fire!
The effect of intense cold on our stores in the magazine
was a very interesting study; our dried apples were a mass
of rock, and had to be smashed up with an axe, our molasses
formed a thick, blackpaste, and no knife we had would cut a
slice of ham from the bone, till it was well thawed in our
warmer room. Our preserved meats, would, with a continuation of those times, have been preserved for ever, and would
have made, as Kane says, excellent " canister shot." After
purchasing grouse or hares from the Indians, they would
remain, uneaten, for a month or longer period, in as good
condition as ever, and there was no fear of their getting too
"high " in that climate.
Our coldest day for the whole season occurred in December.
On the 26th of November the thermometer fell suddenly
from the comparatively moderate temperature of -j- 2° to
— 18°, and continued lowering steadily—day by day—till
it reached (on the 5th December) — 58° Eahr., or ninety
degrees below freezing. But the weather was lovely; no wind
blew or snow fell during the whole time, and we did not feel
the cold as much as at many other times.   Meantime the
[Chap. XVI.
barometer rose rapidly, and stood at slightly above thirty
inches on our coldest day.
On the 7th of the same month, the barometer fell considerably, the thermometer rose to — 24° and later — 16°, when
snow fell thickly. The spirit thermometer used by myself
(although by a San Francisco maker) agreed perfectly with a
standard mercurial thermometer supplied by the Smithsonian
Institute, as far down as — 40° (below which, as the reader
doubtless knows, a mercurial instrument is of no further value):
other thermometers showed a much lower temperature; one,
in the hands of an explorer, then travelling up to Nulato,
showed on the 5th a temperature of — 68°, but this, was not
a reliable instrument.
A few extracts from my journal will give—in perhaps the
briefest form—an insight into some other of our experiences
at this time:—
Nov. 18ih (temperature at sunrise — 16° Fahr.).—Labarge,
with Indians, started down to bring up another load from
Unalachleet, and the Russians accompanied him. No less
than ten sledges were employed, and the court-yard presented a lively scene, the men chattering with, or bidding
adieu to their friends, shouting, and dragging their dogs
to the " narta" (sledge); the dogs impatient, and ever
and again trying to make a break for the frozen river.
Here and there one was found who didn't want to go
at all, and was seized by the scruff of the neck, and half
carried, whining piteously the while, to his harness, which
he then tried to chew to pieces. At last all was ready,
and the fort gate opened; they ran down the incline
made in the bank, and were soon lost to sight in the
distance, their light loads enabling their drivers often to Chap. XVI.]
ride, and make quick time. They would not return quite
so pleasantly.
19th (temp. — 32°).—Small supplies begin to arrive.
*j Larrione" a Co-Yukon, and his brat, who carried a gun
twice his own length, brought us sweet fat melted into birch-
bark boxes and some Arctic grouse (ptarmigan), and we, of
course, returned the compliment, and both paid them and
gave them some tea and bread.
This day we gave a dinner-party to " Ivan," the bidarshik,
and his clerk "Iagor." Ivan, a half-breed, had been promoted to his present position from the fact that he was a
good trader; in other respects he was an ignorant man,
able neither to read nor write. We found him a pretty good
fellow. Our banquet of baked ptarmigan and fried ham,
pancakes (known, reader, by the poetical name of "flap-jacks ")
molasses (known by us as "long-tailed sugar"), and coffee,
pleased our Russian friends well, but our tea was not to their
standard. They universally use a very superior kind. In
Petropaulovski, a merchant told me that he had once
imported a quantity of second-rate tea, and had to re-export
it, for the poorest Kamchatdale would neither buy it nor
take it as a gift.
17th December.—The first arrival of Indians from a distance ; among them came an old chief from Nuclukayette,
240 miles up the river. He brought with him eight marten-
robes of twenty-four skins each, and was consequently a big
man with the Russians. We made him some presents—a coat,
a can of powder, and some balls, and a few trinkets—and he
harangued his companions in a peculiarly high-pitched voice,
as is the mode of the Upper Yukon Indians. Had we not
known that his speech was in our favour, we should have 176
[Chap. XVI.
supposed that he was making a war oration, in order to incite
them to murder and revenge. He was not a bad featured old
man, and our object in making friends with him was for the
very good reason that we should afterwards—in the spring—
pass his village, and probably be glad to get supplies from
him. I tickled his fancy by slipping a plug of tobacco into
his hand, when he had it extended in a theatrical manner in
the middle of his speech, like Brutus pausing " for a reply."
The reply was in this case satisfactory.
21st.—Our shortest day, the sun rose at 10*40 A.M., and set
soon after 12*30 p.m. The interval is given correctly, but we
had no" Greenwich time " to go by, and, therefore, it is only
the duration of sun-light that is to be depended upon.
25th.—Merry Christmas! not the first by a good many that
I had spent away from home and kindred. We all tried to
be jolly, and were moderately successful, yet there was a
slight " back current" of regret, and a tinge of melancholy
in our proceedings. We decorated our room with flags and
Indian trading goods, and spruce-fir brush, in place of holly;
got out the newest and brightest of our tin plates and pewter
spoons, raised a big fire of logs in the oven! and Dall set
to work vigorously in the manufacture of gingerbread and
pies, but it could not quite put out of mind the dear ones at
home, and what we well knew they were about. We, again,
had our Russian friend Iagor with us, but the " bidarshik"
was away on a trip. Our little company was composed of
Ketchum, a jolly New Brunswicker; Labarge, a French
Canadian, who had lived in the States most of his days, and
was a gay free-hearted fellow, *the favourite of all; Dall, a
Bostonian, an enthusiastic collector and student of natural
history, always ready to assist to the best of his power; and Chap. XVI.]
myself. Our Indian servant, Kuriler, might have passed for
a Russian, as he had been brought up in the Fort, and spoke
the patois of the employes better than his own tongue. He
was over six feet high, very steady and good tempered, a
pretty fair cook, and a good shot, and had only one failing.
He could never resist shooting at anything where there was
the most remote chance of hitting it, even though it were
a crow or a gull. As long as his powder held out—and we
were obliged to put him on allowance—he would blaze away
at the slightest provocation, and, like the Indians of the whole
course of the river, was very fond of saluting any arrivals at
the fort with blank discharges from his flint-lock gun.
But I am forgetting Christmas. About five o'clock in the
afternoon, the table neatly covered with cotton drill, and set
out with the " plate " provided by the company, in the shape
of iron mess-kettles, tin platters, and cups, was ready, and we
sat down to a repast — to use a Californianism—of a § high-
toned and elegant nature."
Soupe a la Yukon.
Aectic Gbotjse—roast.
Alaska   Reindeer  Meat.
Nulato Cranberry Sauce.
California (preserved) Peas and Tomatoes.
Dried-Apple Pudding.
Pies. Gingerbread a la Dall.
Iced Cheese.
Coffee. Tea.
Iced Water.
Winding up with a limited supply of rum punch, and pipes
ad libitum!
1 178
[Chap. XVI.
Not a bad dinner of itself; the iced cheese was a
novelty I can recommend • only the traditional pudding was
We passed the evening singing and reciting. Dall read
an original poem; and I brought out a MS. story (still
there!), entitled the "Missing Mummy!"*
27th.—Just as we were turning in for the night a fine
auroral display in the N.W. was announced, and we all
rushed out to witness it from the roof of the tallest building
in the Fort It was not the conventional arch, but a
graceful, undulating, ever-changing "snake" of electric
light; evanescent colours, pale as those of a lunar rainbow.
ever and again flitting through it, and long streamers and
scintillations moving upward to the bright stars, which
distinctly shone through its hazy, ethereal form. The night
was beautifully calm and clear, cold, but not intensely so,
the thermometer at -f-16°. A second one was seen by us
pn the 13th January (1867), which had the arched form,
but not of that exact nature which has been so often represented; and later we witnessed other displays, though
not so frequently as we had expected.
The new year of 1867 began cold, and with some variations in the interval, reached as low as — 49° on the 15th.
January was our coldest month, and included three days in
which the thermometer showed a temperature below the
freezing-point of mercury ; but although the mean temperature of the month was lower, the exceptional days in Decem-
* Our men at Unalachleet organized some "private theatricals, and an
original piece, called * Roderick Doo, and how He was Done,' was played
with great success. Chap. XVI.]
ber had been even more intensely cold. In December there
were six days in which the thermometer fell below the
freezing-point of mercury; eleven such days occurred during
the winter.
Our supplies from the resources of the country, though
very variable, were not at times inconsiderable; occasionally
we were down to flour "strait," but more commonly got
enough of either Arctic grouse, hares, or fish. Very little
deer meat came in for several months. We carefully preserved the white soft skins of the hares to cover our blankets;
and all of us there luxuriated in such by night. It takes forty
to cover an ordinary blanket. Our indefatigable quartermaster, Mr. Dyer, looking a-head for the future, got together
at the end of winter about 800 of these skins. It must not,
however, be supposed that our small party had eaten that
number of hares! The larger part of them were purchased
from the Indians, who were ready enough to sell us the skins,
but preferred to eat the meat themselves.
Many an excursion on the frozen river was made by us,
many a visit to the fish-traps, or to the snares set in the
woods by the Indian women of the Fort. The river at
Nulato is, by measurement, from bank to bank, a mile and a
quarter, and to an island opposite the station 1000 yards;
and often did we cross it in pursuit of health, exercise,
natural history specimens, our daily food, or for sketching
purposes. A large log building was put up at a mile from
the post, and was intended to serve as a telegraph station;
we all, more or less, took part in the erection of this
building.    Some future traveller may reap the benefit.
The principal event of the winter was, undoubtedly, the
trip made by Ketchum and Labarge from Nulato to Fort
n 2
[Chap. XVL
Yukon. On the 2nd March, Labarge arrived from Una-
lachleet, bringing with him twenty-two dogs, and " ukalee,"
or dried salmon, enough for twenty-five or thirty days' use.
As it was necessary to keep all of this for the trip, it was
no easy matter to feed so many hungry dogs; nevertheless,
we were determined they should start in good condition.
We therefore got together every eatable thing that was
available, and made a soup for them, as the Russians also do
at times, of oil, fish, scraps of meat, bran, and rice. We
even sacrificed our last beans for their benefit, and found—
contrary to Dr. Kane's experience—that they would eat
them, when properly -softened. This concoction was stewed
slowly on a moderate fire, and when ready, was allowed to
cool partially; it was then turned into a long wooden trough,
round which the dogs scrambled and fought, until the last
morsels and drops were licked up. It evidently suited them;
they fattened on it.
Two Ingelete Indians, who had promised to accompany
Ketchum, backed out at the last moment, doubtless afraid of
travelling so far from their own villages: and their place
was filled by Co-Yukons, with the addition of two boys,
one of whom proved the best of the batch. At last, on the
11th, all their preparations were made, and they started
with four sledges; one of these being exclusively filled with
dried fish, and another with the lighter necessaries. We
all feared that the trip had been attempted too late; snow
had but recently fallen, and the surface of the river was
in as soft a condition as it had been in the early winter.
We gave them a good start, helping the sledges through
the soft snow; while Dyer almost brought down one of the
old watch-towers,  by firing off a rusty unused piece of Chap. XVI.]
artillery which he found lying there.   The result of this trip
I must leave to its proper place in the narrative.
In place of interspersing the numerous references to
Indians among other matters, as in my journal, I have
massed them together in the succeeding chapter. As
Indians come to Nulato, even from a distance of several
hundred miles, we had much opportunity of intercourse
with them. 182
[Chap. XVUL
Co-Yukon trihe — Fashions — The Nulato massacre — Incidents of the
attack — Indian murders — Mourning observances — " Wake " — Four-
post Coffins — Superstitions — " Corralling " deer — News travels fast-
Furs and trading— Indian women — Indian "goggles."—Children's dolls.
The Co-Yukon is the largest tribe on the Yukon River, and
extends virtually from the confluence of the Co-Yukuk
River to Nuclukayette at the junction of the Tanana with
the Yukon; for, although some of the intervening tribes
have local names, yet they speak one dialect, and may fairly
be considered as one people. They also inhabit the banks
of the Co-Yukuk, and other interior rivers.
In general appearance they somewhat resemble the In-
geletes before mentioned; but have a wilder and more
ferocious cast of feature. The true Co-Yukon dress is a
double-tailed coat, one tail before, and one behind. If the
reader will imagine a man dressed in two swallow-tail
coats, one of them worn as usual, the other covering
his stomach, and buttoned behind, he will get some idea
of this garment! Owing to inter-tribal commerce, Malemute clothing is much seen on the Yukon; but the style
just mentioned is regarded as a Co-Yukon fashion, and,
with various modifications, is adopted by the other tribes
on the upper Yukon for at least a thousand miles of its
course. The women's dress is more squarely cut; and they
adopt very much   a   long   ornament  of Hy-a-qua  shells Chap. XVII.]
(DentaUwrn), obtained from both the trading companies on
the river. This is worn on the nose, and runs through a
hole made in the cartilage between the nostrils. Strange
to say, higher up the river, as will be mentioned hereafter,
it is the men exclusively who adopt this ornament. The
Co-Yukon winter dwellings are underground, the same as
those already described.
These people are much feared by surrounding tribes, and
gave the Russians much trouble in the early history of
Nulato. Behind the post there is a small burial-ground,
where lies one brave Englishman, a lieutenant of our Navy,
and a member of Captain (now Admiral) Collinson's expedition, who, in the search for Sir John Franklin, met
his death at the hands of these Indians. The narrative
of this occurrence, as learnt from the Russians, is as follows :—
Lieutenant Barnard was landed at St. Michael's on October
12th, 1850, and remained there till the Commander of the
post at Nulato came down in the early winter. He then
accompanied this Russian up to the Yukon, travelling there
by the route used by ourselves. Mr. Adams, an Assistant-
Surgeon, R.N., and one seaman, were left at St. Michael's.
On arriving at Nulato, Lieutenant Barnard despatched one
of the employes of the Fur Company and an Indian to
Co-Yukuk to make some inquiries. The Russian, on arrival
there, fell asleep on his sledge, and in the absence of his
Indian servant, was killed by the Co-Yukons. The Indian,
who had but gone a little way to obtain water, on his
return found his master dead, and immediately ran away
affrighted. The others beckoned him back, saying they
had no intention   of injuring him.    He,  believing them, 184
[Chap. XVII.
returned, and as he approached, was shot by arrows, and
killed also.
The murderers—numbering, it is said, more than a hundred
men—then started down for Nulato. About forty Nulato
Indians were congregated in some underground houses, near
the mouth of the Nulato River, and not more than a mile
from the post. The Co-Yukons surrounded these dwellings,
heaped wood, broken canoes, paddles, and snow shoes over
the entrance and smoke-holes, and then set them on fire.
All of the unfortunate victims below were suffocated, or
shot in attempting to escape. Only five or six solitary
Nulatos are now in existence.
Early the next morning the Co-Yukons swarmed into the
court-yard of the fort, which then had no picket fence
surrounding it. A fatal security reigned among the Russians,
and they had not even secured the doors; it is said that an
Indian woman in the fort knew of the occurrence of the
night before; but was afraid to impart her knowledge to
the others. Finding the commander outside, they stabbed
him in the back repeatedly. He lived for a few minutes,
only just managing to stagger into his own doorway. The
Indians then rushed into the room where Barnard and
another man, an interpreter, were still lying on their beds.
They jumped up and grasped their guns and pistols. The
Englishman fired several shots, but without much effect, and
O 7 7
a powerful struggle ensued. His double gun was afterwards
found broken in the stock. At last, numbers overpowered
him, and they threw him on the bed, stabbing him re-
peatedly.   The interpreter was also severely wounded.
As they came out from this house a Russian shot at them
from the building opposite through a hole in one of the gut Chap. XVDL]       MYSTERY OF THE BUTCHERY.
windows. Instantly an Indian raised his' bow and arrow in
position, when the Russian again fired and shot him so dead
that he fell with the bow and arrow stiff in his grasp. The
others immediately dispersed.
An Indian "Lofka" was at once despatched to St. Michael's
with a letter for Mr. Adams, the surgeon there. This native
put the paper in his skin boot, and was on the road con-?
fronted by the Co-Yukons, who examined his blankets and
clothes; they, however, overlooked his boots, and did not
therefore discover his ruse. Mr. Adams at once started
up; but arrived too late to be of any assistance. The
cross and inscribed board on the grave, put up by this
gentleman, were last summer (1867) in good preservation.
The Commander of Nulato is said to have ill-used these
Indians; but their reason for this wholesale butchery is involved in mystery. Admiral Collinson very kindly put his
notes of this transaction at my disposal, and I found no
essential difference in the two versions of this sad story,
excepting only as to whether the Indian murders preceded or
followed those of the white men.
We heard of recent brutal murders among themselves;
and although we got along well enough with them, they are,
O O O O 7 J 7
undoubtedly, a wilder and more savage race than those of
the coast. In the autumn of 1865, an Indian of this tribe
went hunting in the mountains with two men, brothers,
inhabitants of the same village as himself. In the woods he
got them apart on some pretence, and succeeded in killing
both. He returned to the village, seized their possessions in
fish and furs, and bullied the widow of one of them into
living with him. Some of the murdered men's relatives
came from a distance to punish this monster ; but he learnt 186
[Chap. XVH.
of their approach in time, and escaped to the forest, taking
the woman with him; up to the time of our leaving he
had not been caught, but will eventually meet his reward,
as the Indians round were much exasperated at his villany.
These tribes mourn for the dead one year, and the women
during that time often gather together, talking and crying
over the deceased. At the expiration of that term, they
have a feast or "wake," and the mourning is over.   One
7 o
such entertainment took place at Nulato during our stay,
and. by special request was allowed to be held in the general
barrack of the fort. It was to commemorate the death of a
Co-Yukon child, and was a queer mixture of jollity and grief.
The poor old mother and some of her friends wept bitterly,
while the guests were gaily dancing round a painted pole, on
which strings of beads and some magnificent wolf skins were
hung. They kept up singing, dancing, and feasting to a
fashionable hour of the morning; and one little savage, who
had been shouting at the top of his lungs for hours, got up
the next day without any voice at all—a case of righteous
retribution. The decorations of the pole were divided among
those who took part in the "wake." So vigorously did they
dance, that the old oven, used in warming the building,
shook to its foundations, and part of it fell in.
They do not inter the dead, but put them in oblong boxes,
raised on posts, sometimes decorated with strips of skin hanging over them; sometimes with the possessions of the deceased
(as a " baidarre," or other canoe, with paddles, &c.) on the
top of the box. Small possessions are often put inside with
the corpse. The tomb cannot be better described than as a
four-post coffin!   These are common to the coast tribes also.
They have certain superstitions with regard to the bones of
tf IT O Chap. XVII.]
animals, which they will neither throw on the fire nor to the
dogs, but save them in their houses or caches.   When they
Co-Yukon Fouv-post Coffin.
saw us careless in such matters,, they said it would prevent
them from catching or shooting successfully. Also, they will
not throw away their hair or nails, just cut short, but save
them, sometimes hanging them in packages to the trees.
The mode of fishing through the ice practised by the
Russians is much in vogue with them, and they also have an
ingenious mode of catching reindeer in the mountain valleys.
A kind of corral, or enclosure, elliptical in form, and open at
one end, is made on a deer-trail, generally near the outlet of
a wood. The further end of the enclosed space is barricaded;
the sides are built of stakes, with slip-nooses or loops between
them. Herds of deer are driven in from the woods, and,
trying to break from the trap, generally run their heads into 7
the nooses, tighten them, and so get caught, or are shot,
whilst still bewildered, and running from side to side. Near
the opening it is common to erect piles of snow, with " portholes," through which natives hidden shoot at the passing
It is surprising, in this thinly inhabited country, how fast
news of any kind will travel from tribe to tribe. Should a
vessel call at St Michael's, in a week or two it will be known-
on three parts of the Yukon. During winter false rumours
reached our men at the coast station that we had been
attacked by Indians, and Captain Ennis immediately sent
up, offering assistance. On the other hand, reports, equally
false, reached us with regard to the coast parties; all being
probably caused by some petty disagreement, exaggerated
from mouth to mouth.
We once said, jokingly, that if supplies did not come in
faster, we should have to eat up the plump babies of the
settlement. Before many days elapsed, it was spread all over
the country that we were cannibals, and devoured children
wholesale! and many a serious enquiry was made about it.
Generally speaking, we found it answered our purpose to joke
sing, and affect gaiety with them, but we had to be very careful what statements we advanced. We told them confidently,
however, of the expected advent of a big steamer for the
Yukon, as, indeed, we ourselves believed at the time; but,
unless some private individuals do what our Company
proposed to do, I am afraid the Indians will think us terrible
liars. Many of them went down to see our little steamer,
then at the mouth of the Unalachleet River, and it excited a
good deal of interest, as they spread the news throughout the
country.   Few individuals, even of the Co-Yukons, have ever   .Chap. XVII.]
tasted " fire-water." How long that happy state of things
will last, remains to be seen. Their smoking habits are the
same as those of the coast peoples, modified, of course, by
the introduction of pipes of a larger growth, introduced
by the trading companies and ourselves.
The women are often passably pretty, and when living in
the forts often improve in habits. They are there sometimes
allowed a " steam-bath." They are very fond of playing
together, behaving at such times like children, snow-balling
each other, rolling each other in the snow, or sliding down
banks on sledges or snow shoes. I think they treat their
children well, and the young mothers are certainly very fond
of their first-born.
One day in summer, Dall gallantly presented a wild rose to
a youn