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By star and compass; tales of the explorers of Canada Wallace, W. Stewart (William Stewart), 1884-1970 1922

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Array STAR
Tales of the Explorers of Canada
1922  w.
NCE the readers for whom this little
•ok is primarily intended are seldom
addicted to the unhappy practice of reading
prefaces, and since book-reviewers and public
librarians  and  school-teachers  and  rich   uncles
(all of whom, it is hoped, may look on the
book with a kindly eye) sometimes are, it is
perhaps fitting to explain here that the following pages are not intended to be a history of
Canadian exploration. They are intended rather
to set forth a series of stories illustrating the
history of Canadian exploration, linked together
by such brief comment as seems to be necessary.
It is hoped that these stories will be found,
by those most familiar with the subject, to be
abreast of recent scholarship ; but it should be
understood that, though based in the main on
they are in no sense contributions to the history
of Canada.   They are merely an attempt to vi BY STAR AND COMPASS
put into story form some of the achievements
of the great pathfinders of the northern half of
North   America,   and   thus   to   invest   these
achievements with an interest which is perhaps
lacking in historical narratives of the traditional
It is also fitting that acknowledgment should
be made here of the debt the author owes to
Mr. H. H. Langton, Librarian of the University
of Toronto, for his kindness in reading the
proofs of the following pages, and for a number
of helpful criticisms and suggestions.
JUST when the shores of Canada first discovered
themselves to the eyes of white men, it is impossible to tell with certainty. For all we know,
European sailing vessels may have blundered
on America before the birth of Christ. There
has always been a good deal of blowing and
drifting on the high seas of which the world has
known nothing. In our own time, lapanese junks
have been blown ashore on the coasts of Oregon
and California ; ships sailing down the west
coast of Africa have found themselves off the
shores of Brazil ; and it would not be surprising
if, over two thousand years ago, Phoenician
vessels from Tyre and Sidon or Carthage had
been driven across the Atlantic from the Pillars
of Hercules to America. Indeed, the great
Greek philosopher Plato, who lived four hundred
years before Christ, actually tells us of mariners
who, before his time, had visited an island far
out in the Western Sea to which they gave the
name Atlantis ; and there are those who have
conjectured that this mythical island, to which
the Atlantic Ocean owes its name, was none
other than the continent of America. But Plato
says that he heard the story of Atlantis ' from
an Egyptian priest,' which was perhaps his way
of saying that in his opinion it was a fairy tale ;
and in any case such legendary rumours as this
cannot be taken seriously by the modern his-
torian. It is within the range of possibility
that the ancients may have reached America ;
but whether they actually did so or not, we do
not know.
The first European visitors to Canada of
whom we have any authentic record are the
Northmen. These bold, fair-haired sons of
Scandinavia were among the most wonderful
of the races of mediaeval Europe. Coming
from their fastnesses in the fjords of Norway
and Denmark, they swept down on southern
Europe and for centuries terrorised the people
of Scotland, Ireland, England, and France.
They ravaged England in the time of Alfred the
Great, and later conquered it under Cnut; they
colonised parts of Ireland and Scotland ; they
wrested from the King of France the fair province
of Normandy, which is named after them;
and their descendants actually set up a Norman
kingdom in the Two Sicilies. Among their
other achievements was the colonisation in the
ninth century of the island of Iceland, where
their descendants still live. From Iceland they
found their way in the tenth century to Greenland.
Here they founded a colony, of which the ruins
are still seen standing, gaunt and mysterious,
on that desolate coast ; and from Greenland
they penetrated, just before the year iooo, to
the north-west coast of North America.
Our account of the Norse visits to America
is to be found in two or three of the old Icelandic
sagas. These historical tales were put in writing
long after the events which they purport to
describe ; and they differ greatly in their details.
Indeed, so great an authority as the Norwegian THE LEGEND OF LEIF THE LUCKY
explorer Nansen has expressed the opinion that
they are almost wholly mythical and untrustworthy.    He will not admit that they prove
more than the mere fact that the Northmen
visited the New World.   Other scholars, however, have placed more reliance in the d<
of the story contained in the sagas ; and pei
the outlines of the story have a basis in
At any rate, what the sagas tell us is so sti
and romantic that it may not be amiss t<
down here a version of their story for wh
may be worth.
npOWARD the end of the tenth cen
1 days when Ethelred the Unready
on the throne of England—there lived
a most turbulent person named Eric
had •
of s
He and his father
Norway on accoui
committed ; and t
at least,  been fo:
residence in Iceland on
murders.   Finally,   aboul
quarrelsome  nature gave
neighbours that he was i
the meeting of the folk,
one might kill him with
question now was where he should go to take
Shortly before this, an Icelandic viking named
Gunnbiorn, the son of Ulf the Crow, had been
driven by storms westward from Iceland, and
had discovered Greenland. Eric the Red decided that he would go in search of this newly
discovered country, and, if he could find it,
make his home there. He took with him not
only his family, but also a number of his friends :
and he established in Greenland a Norse colony.
It was he who gave to that bleak and barren
country its attractive name, just as in modern
times real estate agents have given to equally
undesirable properties equally attractive names.
' People will be drawn hither,' he said, ' if
the country has a good name.'
Eric the Red had a son named Leif the Lucky,
who accompanied his father to Greenland.
Leif is described in one of the sagas as ' a promising young man,' and in another as ' a man of
great accomplishments.' He was called ' the
Lucky' because on one occasion he rescued a
shipful of Norwegians who had been shipwrecked
on a reef, and because he made a small fortune
out of the salvage of the derelict vessel. He
seems, without doubt, to have been a most
vigorous and enterprising sort of person ; and
his life.was full of all kinds of adventures. At
a later date he made, a voyage to the Hebrides, ^M  THE LEGEND OF LEIF THE LUCKY 5
off the coast of Scotland, where he fell in love
with a lady of high rank, named Thorgunna,
who in turn was so infatuated with him that
she wished to accompany him on his travels.
Thence he went to Norway, and spent a winter
at the court of the King of Norway, Olaf
Tryggvason. While here Leif was converted
to Christianity (for up to this time most of the
Northmen had been pagans) ; and when he
returned to Greenland he took back with him
a priest as missionary. That unrepentant old
sinner, Eric the Red, would have nothing to do
with the new-fangled religion ; but Leif's mother
and a number of others were converted and
baptized, and thus Leif the Lucky deserves the
credit of having introduced Christianity into
But it is not these episodes in Leif's life with
which we are here mainly concerned. The
greatest and most amazing of all his adventures
was his expedition to the coast of North America,
on which, so far as we know, he was the first
white man to set foot. Just how he came to
make this expedition is a matter on which the
sagas are in disagreement. According to one of
them, he blundered on the shores of Labrador
on his return to Greenland from his visit to the
court of King Olaf of Norway ; according to
another, he made a deliberate voyage of discovery
from Greenland to the south-west to explore the
possibilities of a land which had already been
sighted by a viking named Bjarni Herjulfsson.
Which of these accounts is correct, it is very
difficult to decide. But the story of Bjarni
Herjulfsson, as told in the Saga of the Flat Island
Book, contains within it so many natural and lifelike touches that one is loath to believe there is
no truth in it.
The story runs that, in the summer of the year
985, Bjarni, who had for some time been roaming
the high seas in his ' sea-dragon,' came home to
Iceland to drink the Yule-tide ale with his father
Herjulf. Herjulf was a farmer, but Bjarni seems
to have been of a roving disposition. - While
still young,' says the saga, ' he had developed a
passion for voyaging.' He had become a trader,
and perhaps, if the truth were told, he may
have done a little buccaneering into the bargain.
He was, however, a dutiful son, and he made a
practice of spending every second winter with his
rather. What was his astonishment, when he
sailed into Eyrar harbour that summer day in
985, to find that his father had left Iceland. He
had gone, so the neighbours told Bjarni, with
Eric the Red to settle in Greenland.
Bjarni might well have hesitated before
attempting to follow his father to the new
colony. ' Our voyage,' he confessed to his
shipmates, ' must be regarded as foolhardy,
seeing that not one of us has ever been to the THE LEGEND OF LEIF THE LUCKY   7
Greenland Sea.' But if Bjarni did hesitate, it
was only for a moment. He told his men that
he always spent every second winter with his
father, and that he was going to keep to his
custom. They agreed to abide by his decision ;
and so, after taking on supplies, Bjarni weighed
anchor, and sailed westward ' until the land was
hidden by the water.'
The truth is that, for those old Norse mariners,
the sea had almost no terrors. In their beautiful
long, open, deckless 'sea-dragons'—propelled only
by a single bank of oars and a square of canvas,
and guided only by a long oar for rudder—they
went everywhere in all weathers. The mariner's
compass had not yet been invented, and they had
no guide but the stars. Yet as practical navigators they far .outshone the sailors of five
centuries later, and their ships were probably
more seaworthy than the Spanish galleons of
the time of Columbus.
Bjarni Herjulfsson was not behind his contemporaries in the science of seamanship, but
on his voyage westward he fell in with bad luck.
Not long after leaving Iceland he encountered
foggy weather, and was compelled to sail on for
many days by guesswork without seeing the sun
or the stars. When at length the sun appeared,
and Bjarni was able to get his bearings, he had
drifted far out of his course ; and when he sighted
land, he saw immediately that it was not the * BY STAR AND COMPASS
land of which he was in search. The Icelanders
had told him that in Greenland there were
' many great ice-mountains,' but as he sailed
close to the shore he saw that the coast on which
he had stumbled was low and wooded. Bjarni's
men were anxious to land, but Bjarni, whose
supplies were no doubt getting low, would not
allow them to do so. Realising that he was too
far south, he turned his prow northward ; and
after scudding for several days before a fair
wind, he at last saw the ice-bound crags of
Greenland loom up before him, and so in due
course he reached his father's new home at
If, as we are assuming, Bjarni Herjulfsson
actually made this voyage, the report which he
and his men brought back to Greenland of the
land which they had found to the south-west
must have created something of a sensation in
the little Norse colony. Certainly it must have
made a deep impression on the mind of such a
bold and enterprising person as Leif the Lucky.
For the moment, however, the time was not
propitious for organising exploring expeditions.
The colony in Greenland had just been established.
Houses had to be built; the few ships of the
colonists had to be continually employed in
trading and fishing ; and the colony was too
poor to indulge in the luxury of voyages of
discovery.    It was only after fifteen years had THE LEGEND OF LEIF THE LUCKY 9
elapsed that Leif the Lucky, who had just come
back from the court of the King of Norway,
and who had perhaps himself sighted the land
which Bjarni had seen, decided to organise an
exploring expedition. Possibly, too, he had in
mind the possibility of securing timber. Greenland, despite its name, was a barren country,
and the low wooded shores which Bjarni had
described promised a supply of building material
of which the Greenland settlers stood in great need.
Leif the Lucky bought Bjarni Herjulfsson's
ship, and, having got together a crew of thirty-
five men, set out from Greenland toward the
south-west. The first land on which he came
was bleak and barren. ' No grass grew there,
and great glaciers were seen inland, while the
coast between the glaciers and the sea looked
like a large flat stone.' To this place Leif gave
the name of Helluland, or Flat Stone Land.
Next they came to a coast which was flat and
covered with woods. ' There were extensive
white sands wherever they went, and the beach
was not steep.' To this place Leif gave the
name of Markland, or Woodland. Last of all,
they came, farther south, on a part of the country
which pleased them so greatly that they decided
to spend the winter there. They entered a
deep inlet, the shores of which were heavily
wooded, and here they proceeded to build for
themselves log-houses.
To this neighbourhood Leif gave the name of
Vinland or Wineland, because one of his men, a
German named Tyrker, found here large quantities of what the Northmen called ' wine-berries.'
Leif had followed the policy of sending out half
his party exploring during the day, but had given
orders that the exploring party should always
be back by nightfall. One night it was found
that Tyrker was missing. A search party was
organised, and Tyrker was discovered not far
away in a half-intoxicated condition. He had,
it would seem, found great quantities of ' wine-
berries ' (which were perhaps a variety of
grape), and had partaken of them too freely.
The discovery of these ' wine-berries' made a
great impression on the Northmen ; and it was
on this account that the land was called Wineland.
To identify these various places is now perhaps
impossible. Helluland was no doubt some spot
along the coast of Labrador. Markland has by
some scholars been identified with Newfoundland, and Wineland with Nova Scotia or even
with Long Island. Possibly, however, both
Markland and Wineland were also along the
Labrador coast. It has been argued that Wineland may have been the country about Hamilton
Inlet, where the Hudson's Bay Company post of
Rigolet is now situated; but any identification
of Wineland must be mere conjecture, and
all we can say with certainty is that Wineland THE LEGEND OF LEIF THE LUCKY n
was somewhere along the northern seaboard
of North America.
Wherever Wineland was, Leif and his men
spent the winter there. When the spring came,
they filled their ship with a cargo of timber and
' wine-berries,' and then set sail for Greenland.
They had a fair wind behind them, and Leif
reached without mishap, in due course, his
father's home at Brattahlid. His arrival seems
to have created a considerable stir. 'There
was much talk,' says the saga, ' about Leif's
Wineland voyage.' Leif no doubt made a very
handsome profit out of the timber and ' wine-
berries ' he brought back with him ; and he must
have won great honour on account of his discoveries. Indeed, to this day, he deserves the
proud title of the first Canadian explorer.
It might have been expected that Leif, having
made such a success of his first voyage to Wineland, would have embarked upon another.
Such, however, was not the case, so far as we
know. Perhaps by this time he was surfeited
with adventure, and wished to settle down-
especially since his father, Eric the Red, died
the next winter. Perhaps the fate of the expeditions which followed his in rapid succession
chilled any desire he may have had to see Wineland again. First of all, his brother Thorwald,
who borrowed his ship and spent a year or so
making further explorations in Wineland, was 12        ||    BY STAR AND COMPASS
killed by the natives, with whom the Northmen
now first came into conflict. Next, Thorfinn
Karlsefni, a wealthy Norwegian merchant who
married Leif the Lucky's sister-in-law, tried
to establish a colony in Wineland ; but he too
came into conflict with the savage natives, and
was compelled to give up his project. Lastly,
Leif's sister Freydis organised an expedition,
which spent the winter at the houses Leif had
built; but among the members of the expedition
bitter dissension arose, and the enterprise ended
in a carnival of blood. Freydis fell out with the
two Icelandic merchants who were her partners in
the venture, and she not only caused all the men in
the rival party to be put to death, but she slew with
her own hand five women who were with them.
This tragic climax to the Wineland voyages
seems to have saddened the soul of Leif the
Lucky. ' I have no heart,' he said, ' to treat
my sister Freydis as she deserves.' Perhaps
he began to think that a curse rested on the
country which he had called Wineland the Good.
At any rate, he seems to have made no further
attempt to revisit its shores ; and so far as we
know, he settled down at Brattahlid in Greenland, to a quiet old age. It may be that within
the ruined walls of the cathedral at Gardar there
still repose the bones of the man who introduced
Christianity into Greenland, and who, first of
white men, set foot on North American soil. THE LEGEND OF LEIF THE LUCKY    13
For very many years after the death of Leif
the Lucky, the Northmen of Greenland probably
continued to visit the shores of Markland and
Wineland. We hear of one such voyage as late
as the year 1347. But there is nothing to show
that any successful attempt was made by the
Greenlanders to establish a colony in Wineland ;
and, indeed, toward the end of the fourteenth
century the Norse settlements in Greenland
were themselves wiped out. The Eskimos, who
were at that time one of the most savage races
in the world, fell on the Greenland settlements,
carried off the inhabitants, and left nothing but
the bare and ruined walls which visitors to
Greenland see to-day.
In this way, the frail link which bound Europe
to America was severed ; and the very memory
of Wineland passed out of European minds.
Only in the primitive literature of the people
of Iceland did the. evidence of its existence lie
buried. Consequently, the discoveries of the
Northmen left behind them no tangible result ;
and it was not until Christopher Columbus and
John Cabot set out on their great transatlantic
voyages toward the end of the fifteenth century,
that the continent of America once more swam
within the horizon of Europe. The well-known
story of the voyages of Columbus does not fall
within the limits of this book ; but John Cabot
was the man who, first after the Northmen,
rediscovered the shores of Canada, and his is
the next story on which we come.
IN the year 1461—the year in which the Wars
of the Roses in England reached their climax
—there came to Venice to seek his fortune a young
man from Genoa. Venice was at that time the
great mercantile centre of southern Europe;
its merchant navy controlled the trade of the
Mediterranean and of the Orient; and ambitious
young men flocked to it to carve out careers
for themselves.
The name of this young man was Giovanni
Caboto, or, to give him the name under which
later he became famous, and which is merely an
English translation of his name—John Cabot.
About his early youth we know nothing, beyond
the bare fact that he was born in Genoa, and
was thus a contemporary and compatriot of
Christopher Columbus. There is, indeed, a
possibility that Columbus and Cabot may have
known each other as boys in Genoa. Genoa,
however, did not afford to either of them a
scope for his energy; and Columbus drifted
off to Spain, while Cabot made his way to
In Venice Cabot entered the service of one of
the great Venetian trading-houses. He became
what we to-day would call a commercial traveller A VENETIAN ADVENTURER 15
—or perhaps, to be more accurate, a ' buyer.'
The line of goods which his house handled was
the spices, perfumes, silks, and precious stones
which came from the Far East. In quest of
these commodities he travelled far and wide.
On one of his trading voyages to the eastern
Mediterranean, he made his way, we are told,
to Mecca, the holy city of the Mohammedans,
in the heart of the Arabian desert. This city
was at that time the greatest market in the
world for the exchange of goods from the West
for those from the East; and here Cabot came
into touch with the caravan-drivers who had
brought across the heart of Central Asia the
silks and spices of which he was in search.
It would have been surprising if a man of
Cabot's inquiring frame of mind had not tried
to discover from the caravan-drivers where the
spices and precious stones their camels carried
came from. When he asked them the question,
however, he got little satisfaction.
' We do not know,' said they, ' but other
caravans come to our homes with this merchandise
from distant countries, and these people again
say that it is brought to them from other remote
It became clear to Cabot that the spices and
silks and gems came, by means of a chain of
caravans, from a very great distance. The
discovery of  this  fact set  him  thinking.    He 16 BY STAR AND COMPASS
knew something about geography, having 'studied
the sphere' (as the phrase then went), and he
was aware that the earth was round. It is a
mistake to imagine that mediaeval scholars
were ignorant of this fact, or that Christopher
Columbus was the first to discover it. Learned
men in Europe had known that the earth was
round since the time of the Greek philosopher
Aristotle ; and it was only ignorant people who
regarded the earth as flat. John Cabot, attempting to figure out on the ' sphere' the distance
travelled by the caravans from Asia, came to
the conclusion that the silks and spices they
carried came from the island of Zipangu, or
Japan ; and it occurred to him that Zipangu
might be reached more easily by sailing westward across the Atlantic Ocean than by the
long camel route from Mecca to north-eastern
Asia. He was encouraged in this brilliant idea
by the fact that the ' sphere ' or globe he used,
which had been constructed by the geographer
Ptolemy in the second century, was about
20 per cent, too small ; and consequently he
got the impression that the distance between
the west coast of Europe and the east coast of
Asia was about half as great as it actually was.
Once John Cabot had conceived the idea of
sailing westward to ' the country where the
spices grew,' he lost no time in attempting to put
the idea into execution.    Oriental commodities A VENETIAN ADVENTURER 17
were then in great demand in Europe. Spices,
for example, were used for preserving food,
refrigerators being unknown at that time ; and
if Cabot could discover a shorter and cheaper
route whereby spices could be put on the European
market, he would, he foresaw, make a vast
fortune at one stroke. His idea was essentially
an attempt to get rich quick; and the visions
he saw of future wealth not only lent wings to
his preparations, but also sustained him during
the long and trying years which were to follow.
He left Venice, and came to England about
the year 1484. Doubtless England, from its
westerly position, seemed to him the most likely
point of departure for his enterprise. In England
he settled finally in Bristol, then the most important port in the country, as well as the
farthest west. He laid the details of his project
before the hard-headed merchants of Bristol ;
and so glowing were his accounts of the fabulous
wealth that would accrue to them from the
opening up of the new trade route, so plausible
were the ideas he unfolded, that he persuaded
them into giving his enterprise their financial
support. He seems to have become at this
time one of those monomaniacs who believe
in themselves so completely that their very
belief carries conviction. An Italian friend in
London, to whom he later explained his ideas,
wrote home  to the  Duke of Milan :  ' He ex-
plained his plan in such a way that I too believe
in it, though I have nothing to gain or lose by it.'
The merchants of Bristol fitted out an expedition, and in 1491 John Cabot set sail for the
West. His plan was to find first the mythical
islands of Brazil and the Seven Cities, which
were shown on most mediaeval maps as lying
to the west of Ireland. These islands he hoped
might serve as stepping-stones on the way to
Asia. Naturally, since they were pure figments
of the imagination, he did not find them. A
second expedition undertaken in 1492 yielded
no better results ; and no doubt the Bristol
merchants, finding that Cabot's ventures were
eating up a good deal of capital, and paying no
dividends, began to grow lukewarm in their
support. Perhaps Cabot himself grew discouraged, and saw his dreams of ' the wealth of
Ormuz and of Ind ' receding into the distance.
Then, suddenly, in the summer of 1493, the
great news reached England that Christopher
Columbus, by sailing westward from Spain, had
the year before reached the islands of the Indies.
This news completely altered the complexion
of things for John Cabot. Where the merchants
of Bristol had grown lukewarm, they now
became again enthusiastic. The King of
England, the cautious Henry the Seventh,
became interested in Cabot, and issued letters
patent to him authorising him to make a voyage A VENETIAN ADVENTURER 19
of discovery, and granting him a monopoly of
the trade in any lands he might find. High
hopes were held that Cabot might repeat the
success of Columbus farther south ; and no
doubt Cabot's own confidence in his star rose
All preparations for the expedition were at last
completed, and in the spring of 1497 Cabot, with
a crew of eighteen men in a small vessel called
the Matthew, set sail on the voyage which was
destined to bring him out on the shores of North
America. John Cabot was not a literary person,
like Columbus and Champlain, and we have no
first-hand account of his voyages from him.
Consequently, the details of the voyage are open
to controversy. It would appear, however,
that after rounding-Ireland Cabot sailed steadily
westward, though on an irregular and zigzag
course, and at last, about five o'clock on Saturday
morning, June 24, 1497, sighted the western
extremity of Cape Breton Island.
Here he landed, and with the royal banner
unfurled, took possession of the country in the
name of the King of England. He found the
soil fertile and the climate temperate. He did
not meet with any inhabitants, though he and
his men happened on some notched or blazed
trees and some hunting snares which indicated
that the country was inhabited. He deluded
himself into thinking that both silk and brazil- 20 BY STAR AND COMPASS
wood were to be obtained in the country ; and,
on the whole, he persuaded himself that he had
reached the north-eastern coast of Asia, and
was within reach of the fabulously wealthy
island of Zipangu. Since the expedition, however, was more in the nature of an exploring
than a trading voyage, Cabot decided not to
proceed farther for the time being, but to return
forthwith to Bristol with the good news of his
success. Having taken on board wood and
water, he returned by way of the passage between
Newfoundland and the islands of St. Pierre and
Miquelon, and on August 6 he dropped anchor
once more in Bristol harbour.
The arrival of the Matthew was the signal
for a great demonstration in Bristol, as soon as
her achievement became known. Immediately
Cabot became a great man. He was received
by the King, and so pleased was the careful
Henry by what Cabot told him that he made
him a present of ten pounds (equivalent to over
$1000 in present-day currency), and granted
him a pension of double that amount. He
promised also to fit out for him in the spring a
1 large fleet with which he might sail to Zipangu ;
and Cabot began to boast that he would make
London a greater depot for the spice trade than
Alexandria itself.
The truth is that Cabot soon had his head
turned   by   the   attentions   he   received.   He A VENETIAN ADVENTURER 21
bought himself a new silk doublet and hose, and
he began to style himself ' the Admiral.' ' Nor
does my Lord the Admiral,' one of his sarcastic
Italian friends in London wrote home, ' esteem
himself anything less than a Prince.' He made
promises of feudal lands and bishoprics right
and left. He promised an island to his barber,
who straightway began to style himself a count ;
and several poor Italian monks who attached
themselves to him were all promised bishoprics.
The sarcastic Italian friend already quoted
ventured to say that he himself might have
had the promise of an archbishopric had he
wanted it.
Pride goeth before a fall. When Cabot set
sail for ' the new found land ' in the spring of
1498, he had two large ships and a company of
three hundred men. He reached the coast of
North America safely, and he coasted down it
all the way from Labrador to the neighbourhood
of Chesapeake Bay. He came into relations
with the Indians, and he did a little trading
with them. But, to his disappointment and
dismay, he found they had nothing but a few
furs to offer him in barter. There was no sign
to be found anywhere of the silks and spices and
jewels of which he was in search ; nor was there
any trace of the Oriental civilisation which he
expected to find. One cannot help wondering,
whether, as he went farther and farther south 22 BY STAR AND COMPASS
without finding the island of Zipangu, there
may have flashed across his mind a suspicion
of the truth—of the fact that the coast he had
found was not that of Asia, but that of a vast
continent which intervened.
However this may be, the time came when
it was necessary to turn back. The season was
already far advanced ; supplies were running
low ; and the crews were anxious to get home.
Cabot, therefore, reluctant and nonplussed,
set his course for England ; and his two ships
arrived there safely the same autumn.
The reception with which Cabot met on this
occasion must have been a cold one. He had
promised to bring back with him the fabulous
wealth of the Orient; and instead he returned
with some paltry furs and a few fish. One can
imagine the disgust and anger of the Bristol
merchants when they saw his empty holds.
One can imagine, too, the chagrin and disillusionment of John Cabot himself, as he realised that
the dreams of a lifetime had turned into Dead
Sea ashes, and as he saw the friends who had
lionised him the year before fall away one by one.
With a significant suddenness he drops out
of view. One fact, and one fact only, we know
about him after his return in 1498. He drew
his pension of twenty pounds from the collectors
of customs at the port of Bristol in 1499. The
rest  is  silence.    Probably,   in  the  autumn  of A VENETIAN ADVENTURER 23
1499 or the spring of 1500, John Cabot passed
to his rest, a broken-hearted and ruined man.
One likes to think, however, that to the last
he retained his faith in the possibility of the
western passage to Asia ; for he was more nearly
right than wrong. And if he did not find the
route to ' the country where the spices grew,'
he showed the way to a source of wealth more
inexhaustible, the American fisheries. He himself had told, after his first voyage, how off the
banks of Newfoundland they had been able to
catch codfish by lowering into the sea a basket
weighted with a stone ; and his son, Sebastian
Cabot, a young man with a very vivid imagination, had told on his return from the second
voyage how the shoals of codfish had been
' so numerous they sometimes stayed his ships.'
On account of the number of fast days at that
time (for the Protestant Reformation had not
yet taken place), fish were in great demand in
Europe ; and if Cabot had only known it, he
had stumbled on a gold-mine unawares. In
the same way, he did not'realise the possibilities
of the American fur-trade, of which he was
perhaps the pioneer. And so it remained for
others to exploit the fabulous resources to which
his genius led the way.
If Shakespeare had ever heard about the
story of John Cabot, he might have turned it
into one of his greatest tragedies. 24 BY STAR AND COMPASS
John Cabot probably lived and died in the
belief that the shores he had discovered were
a part of Asia. Very soon after his death,
however, it became clear that they were part
rather of a vast barrier blocking the way to
Asia. In 1513 the Spaniard Balboa, 'silent
upon a peak in Darien,' first sighted the Pacific
Ocean ; and in 1520 an expedition under the
Portuguese Magellan rounded Cape Horn.
These discoveries definitely established the fact
that America was a new continent; and henceforth the efforts of explorers were directed
toward trying to find a way through to the
' Western Sea.' England, France, Spain, and
Portugal vied with one another in attempting
to find this western passage ; and explorers
searched almost the whole of the coast of North
America. Breton sailors (after whom the
island of Cape Breton is still named) even
made their way into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
But these sailors, who were mainly interested
in fishing, though perhaps they also made a
beginning in the fur-trade with the Indians,
appear to have thought that the Gulf was a
bay; and the existence of that magnificent
waterway into the interior, the St. Lawrence
River, was not discovered until 1535, when
a French sea-captain named Jacques Carrier
sailed inland as far as the site of the present
city of Montreal. The story of how Jacques
Carrier overcame the difficulties in his way
furnishes the subject matter of our next tale.
AT the easternmost end of the Gasp6 penin-
l\ sula there is a deep bay, with a comparatively narrow entrance, which affords one
of the finest harbours on the whole North
Atlantic coast.    It is called Gasp6 Basin.
Into this harbour there sailed one day nearly
four hundred years ago—in the summer of 1534
to be exact—two white-winged sailing vessels,
of about sixty tons burden. Each of them
flew at the masthead the fleur-de-lis flag of
France; and they were commanded by a sea-
captain from the port of St. Malo in Brittany,
named Jacques Carrier. Captain Cartier had
been commissioned by the King of France
to explore the Atlantic coast of what is now
Canada, with the object of finding, if possible,
a passage through to the East Indies. He
had already coasted along the shores of the
Bay of Chaleur, only to find that it was a blind
alley ; and he had been making his way north
again when one of his vessels lost its anchor in
a storm, and he was compelled to take refuge in
the deep shelter of Gasp6 Basin.
He found here a band of about two hundred
Huron Indians, who had come from the interior
to fish for mackerel.    They had, in fact, come
from the neighbourhood of what is now the
city of Quebec ; and their chief was, as Carrier
afterwards found, a brother of the great chief
Donnacona, who was the head-man of all the
Huron Indians in the St. Lawrence region.
They were very poor ; and Carrier afterwards
set down his opinion that ' all they had together,
besides their boats and nets, was not worth ,
five cents.' They were not, as one might have .
expected, fearful and terror-stricken when they
saw the two strange white-winged ships running
into the harbour ; but as the ships hove to,
they crowded round them in their canoes,
evincing every sign of pleasure and even delight.
Obviously, they had already been visited by
some of the Basque and Breton fishermen who
had, even before this, been frequenting these
waters. They had also, no doubt, traded with
some of them ; and experience had taught
them that the bearded, white-faced strangers
in the white-winged ships brought them wonderful presents.
Their hopes were not disappointed. Captain
Carrier had brought with him from the shops
of St. Malo a variety of such trifling trinkets
as were likely to delight the Indians' savage
hearts. When he landed, he presented to each
maiden of the village a small tin bell, the pleasing
sound of which so enraptured the dusky beauties
of the tribe that they fell with one accord on the 1^
embarrassed sea-captain, and all but smothered
him with their caresses. To the others he
brought other cheap presents—ear-rings, pieces
of coloured cloth, bits of tinsel, and the like—
which seemed doubtless to the ignorant, poverty-
stricken Hurons the most marvellous treasures
they had ever seen.
Cartier remained in Gasp6 Basin for a number
of days—from July 15 to July 25—refitting
his ships. During this time he and his men
seem to have remained on the best of terms
with their dark-skinned hosts. The day before
he sailed away, however, there occurred an
incident which threatened for a time to disturb
the friendly relations that had existed. With
the object of asserting the claims of the King
of France to the country on which he had landed,
Cartier set up on the point at the entrance to
Gasp6 Basin a huge cross, thirty feet high,
and hung on it a shield emblazoned with the
lilies of France. Having done this, he gathered
his men about him and, like the good Catholic
he was, knelt down, and with uplifted hands
gave thanks to God for His goodness. The
Indians watched this solemn ceremony with
polite and reverent awe, while it lasted ; but
they do not appear to have been entirely at ease
in their minds as to what it meant, for, as Cartier
was making ready to depart, the chief, specially
attired  for  the  occasion  in  an  old  bearskin,
paddled out from the shore, and proceeded to
deliver from his canoe a long harangue, protesting against what Cartier had done.
Just what the old chief objected to is not
certain. Perhaps he thought that the cross
was a totem-pole, and he feared its malign
influence ; perhaps he realised that it was the
assertion on the part of the French of a claim
to the ownership of the country ; perhaps he
objected to Carrier's going farther inland.
Whatever his fears, Cartier had no difficulty
in allaying them. He invited the old man on
board his ship : and assured him that the
cross was merely a mark of navigation to guide
the white-winged ships along the coast, and that
he did not propose to go any farther inland.
By a generous display of presents, and by the
promise of more presents on his return, he
actually persuaded the old chief to allow his
two sons to accompany him to France, on the
understanding that he would bring them back
to Canada the following year.
The names of the two sons of the Huron
chief were Taignoagny and Domagaya. They
are the first of the Canadian Indians with whom
we are acquainted by name ; and they were
destined to play a not unimportant part in
the history of Canadian exploration. They
allowed themselves to be dressed up in the
strange  garb  of  the  white  man ;  they sailed 1  THE SECRET OF THE ST. LAWRENCE    29
back to France with Cartier, and there spent
the winter of 1534-1535, learning the janguage
of the French, and instructing Cartier in the
rudiments of the Huron tongue ; and then, in
the spring of 1535, they returned with him
to America, to help—and to hinder—him in
his further explorations.
It would be interesting to know what they
thought of the long ocean voyage and of the
scenes which met their eyes in France. The
crowded harbour of St. Malo, the narrow streets
of the mediaeval town, the tall cathedral, the
castles in the country round about—they must
have seen all these, and curious ideas must
have coursed through their primitive brains.
Wonder, fear, and admiration may have overwhelmed them in turn. Unfortunately, however, we have no knowledge of their mental
processes and reactions—except that Domagaya
appears to have been impressed with the greatness of the white man's civilisation, whereas
the less open-minded Taignoagny seems to
have regarded it as a meaningless show.
As the winter wore on, and Cartier and the
two young Indians began, as a result of their
language study, to understand each other better,
Cartier doubtless learnt of the existence of
that great waterway, the entrance to which
he had missed the previous summer, the St.
Lawrence River.   At any rate, when the spring
came, and Cartier once more crossed the Atlantic,
he lost no time in making his way into the
Gulf of St. Lawrence, and thence into the St.
Lawrence River.
At the Island of Orleans, Taignoagny and
Domagaya at last met their own people,
and great were the rejoicings at their return.
After much feasting, Cartier and his men
were led to the Indian village of Stadacona,
situated on the very site of the present city of
Quebec ; and there he was introduced to the
uncle of Taignoagny and Domagaya, the
chief Donnacona, who ruled all the Hurons in
that region.
Up to this point Taignoagny and Domagaya
had been most favourably disposed toward
Cartier, and had fallen in unreservedly with
his plans for the exploration of the St. Lawrence,
which Cartier hoped would lead him to the
Pacific Ocean. As soon, however, as they
reached their own people, their behaviour began
to change. Doubtless Donnacona began to
chide them for their rashness in leading the
white-faced strangers into the heart of his
domains; and when they told him of Carrier's
intention of going farther up the river, he immediately voiced his serious displeasure. The
very day after Cartier's arrival at Stadacona,
he was informed that Donnacona disapproved
of his proceeding farther ;   and the day after THE SECRET OF THE ST. LAWRENCE    31
that Taignoagny brought him some presents—
including some innocent little Indian children
—which were, said Taignoagny, for the purpose
of persuading him to turn back.
Jacques Cartier, however, was a brave man
who was not easily turned aside. He told
Taignoagny that he intended to go where he
wished, whether Donnacona liked it or not ;
and, in order to add emphasis to his words, he
touched off his cannon, awakening for the first
time the echo of artillery among the heights
of Quebec and Levis. In consternation,
Donnacona and his braves fled howling into
the forest. ' It was,' Cartier said, ' as though
Hell had broken loose.' The Indians had had
their first lesson—their first taste o*f the white
man's thunder.
Cartier perhaps imagined that this display
of military force would cow the Indians into
withdrawing their objections to his farther
progress. If so, he was mistaken ; for, once
the terror inspired by his cannon had passed
away, the Indian cunning reasserted itself.
A few days later, the Indians staged a performance, with the connivance of Taignoagny
and Domagaya, which was intended to persuade Cartier, definitely and finally, of the folly
of going farther. Three of the Indians were
dressed up, with horns on their heads, and
with   faces   hideously   painted,   as   emissaries 32 BY STAR AND COMPASS
of the Indian god Cudragny. These three
embarked in a canoe, and bore down on Carrier's
ships, reciting in a loud and monotonous voice
a message from the god. As the canoe touched
the shore, the would-be devils fell prostrate,
as though dead ; and Donnacona and his
people, who rushed toward them, picked them
up, and carried them, with much commotion,
into the forest. Shortly afterward, Cartier and
his men saw Taignoagny and Domagaya rush
back to the shore, as though dumbfounded by
some terrible news.
' Jesu, Jesu, Jesu,' cried Taignoagny, with
the savage's aptitude in picking up Christian
' Jesu ! Marie ! Jacques Cartier ! I cried
Cartier called out, and asked them what the
trouble was.
Thereupon they informed him that the god
Cudragny had sent his messengers to tell the
French that there was so much snow and ice
up the river that whoever went there would be
frozen to death.
At this startling intelligence Cartier and his
men laughed heartily, understanding at last
the meaning of the mumbo-jumbo they had
been witnessing.
' Cudragny,' called out Cartier, ' is nothing
but a fool and a noddy;   he does not know THE SECRET OF THE ST. LAWRENCE    33
what he is saying or what he is doing. And
as for the cold,' he added piously, ' Christ will
protect us from that, if we believe in Him.'
The next day, oblivious of the warnings of
the god Cudragny, and regardless of the wishes
of Donnacona, Cartier set sail up the St.
Lawrence in one of his ships. He was determined to wrest from the river its stubborn
secret. Was it, after all, the much-sought-
after route to the Western Sea that Balboa
had seen, and the crews of Magellan had
crossed ; or was it merely a channel that ended
in nothing ? He had heard from the Indians
vague hints of a large body of water to which
the St. Lawrence led ; but he could not be sure
of what they told him until he had seen the
truth of it with his eyes.
He made his way up the river, through what
is to-day the garden of the province of Quebec.
He was charmed with the fertility of the countryside, and he noted particularly—for the autumn
was now coming on—the rich beauty of the
trees and the profusion of the native grapevines. The Indians with whom he came
into contact were all friendly, and, unlike
Donnacona and his nephews, were glad to help
him on his way. When he reached the widening of the river, now known as Lake St. Peter,
he was compelled, by the lowness of the water,
to leave his ship behind him, and to take to his 34 BY STAR AND COMPASS
small boats. In these he and some of his men,
guided by some of the Indians, pushed on up
stream, until they reached the island of
Montreal, where they found a great Indian
village named Hochelaga.
At Hochelaga Cartier received a royal welcome.
He was met by a vast concourse of more than
a thousand savages, who danced with joy as
he landed, and who loaded down his boats
with presents of fish and of corn-meal bread.
He distributed among them presents as usual:
and all night long the forest resounded to their
jubilations, as they danced about their bonfires. Now, indeed, became apparent the
motives which had actuated Donnacona,
Taignoagny, and Domagaya, in attempting to"
prevent Cartier from going up the river. These
motives had been purely selfish 5j the people
of Stadacona, simple souls, had been anxious
to keep Cartier and his wonderful presents
for themselves, and had been loath to share
their new-found blessings with their fellow-
savages to the west.
After the formalities of his official welcome
were over, and after he recited a simple religious
service in the heart of the Indian village, Cartier
made his way up to the crest of Mount Royal
—to which he, indeed, gave the name. There,
like Moses on Pisgah, he got a sight of the
Promised   Land.   To  the  north-west  he  saw THE SECRET OF THE ST. LAWRENCE    35
the blue ribbon of the Ottawa River opening
out into the Lake of the Two Mountains;
to the south-west he saw the rapids of the St.
Lawrence broadening into Lake St. Louis.
The Indians told him half-understood tales
of great bodies of water to which these rivers
led ; and perhaps Cartier still hoped against
hope that these were a part of the Western Sea
of which he was in search. Perhaps he felt
that the great river had all but yielded up its
The season, however, was growing late. Soon
the bitter Canadian winter would be falling ;
and Cartier began to think of the safety of his
men. He was a sailor, not a landsman ; and
he never felt happy when far away from his
ships. He decided, therefore, with doubtless
many a longing glance over his shoulder, to
turn back, and to spend the winter with the
rest of his men at Stadacona.
That winter—perhaps the first which any
of the inhabitants of southern Europe had
spent in Canada—was terrible beyond anything
that Cartier had hoped or feared. The temperature sank many degrees below zero ; the
dreaded scurvy attacked the little band of
white men ; and many of them died. ' Sometimes,' Cartier wrote afterwards, ' we were
constrained to bury some of the dead under the
snow, because we were not able to dig graves
for them, the ground being so hard frozen,
and we so weak.' Had it not been that
Domagaya, who seems to have been a kind-
hearted fellow on the whole, brought them a
supply of the bark of the white spruce, which
was the Indian remedy for scurvy, it is possible
that Cartier and all his men might have been
wiped out of existence, and the secret of the
St. Lawrence might again have been lost.
The scurvy, however, was not the only peril
which the little band in the improvised fort
at Stadacona had to face. Hardly less deadly
was the danger of attack from Donnacona
and his warriors. Donnacona would appear
not to have forgiven Cartier for having ignored
his wishes ; and perhaps he thought that if
Cartier and his men were exterminated, it would
prevent any other white men from invading
his dominions. In the weakened condition of
the defenders of the fort, an attack by the
Indians was something to be gravely dreaded ;
and Cartier strove by every device in his power
to stave off the threatened hostilities. In order
to deceive the Indians as to the extent to which
the scurvy had spread among his men, he kept
up a continual rattle of hammers and sticks
inside the fort, to give the impression that a
large number of men were busily engaged;
and he even had two or three of the less feeble
among his crews show themselves occasionally THE SECRET OF THE ST. LAWRENCE    37
about the gate of the fort, so that he might
appear and order them back to work.
Toward the end of the winter, however, the
crisis came. One day Domagaya crept surreptitiously into the fort, and warned Cartier
that Donnacona was at last gathering the tribe
for an attack. New faces, Cartier observed,
began to appear in the Indian village ; and
Donnacona began to adopt a high-handed
attitude, refusing audience to Carrier's
messengers, and having them peremptorily
escorted back to the fort. The crafty
Taignoagny also gave rise to suspicion by
renewed attempts at friendliness, and by a
request to Cartier that the latter should seize
and carry back to France a rival of Taignoagny's
named Agouna.
Cartier decided that the time had come for
action. He had been hurrying on his preparations for the return voyage, and as soon as these
were completed, about the beginning of May,
he invited Donnacona, Taignoagny, Domagaya
(who seems to have thrown in his lot with the
plotters), and several others to pay him a visit
at the fort. Once he had them within the gates
of the fort, he seized them and carried them on
board his ships. Then he weighed anchor,
and set sail for St. Malo.
Neither Donnacona, nor Taignoagny, nor
Domagaya ever saw again the rugged shores
of their native land. The following winter,
in their cramped quarters at St. Malo, they
fell ill, like so many of the American aborigines
transplanted to European soil ; and long before
Jacques Cartier was ready to recross the Atlantic,
they were resting beneath holy ground in France.
Thus died the guardians of the secret of the
St. Lawrence. Henceforth the gateway was
open ; and it only remained for the French
explorers to enter in,
Though Jacques Cartier unlocked the gateway of the St. Lawrence, no one attempted to
follow up his explorations for three-quarters of
a century. This was because, during these
years, France was torn by the religious wars
between the Huguenots and the Holy League—
between those who adhered to the Protestant
Reformation and those who remained faithful
to the Catholic Church. This struggle so engrossed the attention, not only of the French
government, but even of the French people,
that no thought seems to have been given to
exploration in the far-off wilds of Canada. The
fishing fleet came out, it is true, year after year
to the Banks of Newfoundland ; but no further
attempt was made by Frenchmen to find the
elusive passage to the Western Sea until 1613,
when Samuel de Champlain, the hero of our
next story, made his first expedition into the
interior of what is now central Canada. THE CANOE-TRIPS OF CHAMPLAIN    39
IN the year 1867—the year in which the
Dominion of Canada came into being—
a settler on the banks of the Ottawa River,
not far from the town of Renfrew, made a
discovery. He was breaking some new land,
and as the ploughshare drove through the
virgin soil, it suddenly turned up a number
of metal objects. Two of these were small
silver cups, on each of which was a crest or
device which long interment in the ground had
almost obliterated. Others were small vessels
of copper, much rusted and decayed, which
might at one time have been used for cooking
purposes. Lastly, there was a curious thick
disc of beaten brass, about six inches in diameter,
on the face of which were markings like those
of a compass, and also, in clear numerals, the
date 1603.
The worthy farmer who unearthed these
curiosities must have been much puzzled by
them. He must have wondered what they
were, and who had left them to be buried in
such an unlikely spot. It is clear, however,
that he had no inkling of their value and significance, because, it would appear, he sold the
little silver cups to a passing tinker, who no
doubt  melted  them  down,  and  he  threw  the 40 BY STAR AND COMPASS
rusty copper vessels away among the ' old
metals' of the farm-house. One of them,
indeed, was used to cover over a leaky spot in
an old log canoe. The brass disc, however,
he kept—perhaps because it was a curiosity
and an antiquity, perhaps because it could not
readily be put to any useful purpose. Neglected
and ignored, it lay knocking about the farmhouse for a number of -years.
Then, one day, there came to the farm a
gentleman from Toronto. He was shown the
brass disc, and listened with great interest
to the story of how it had been found. In the
end, he persuaded the farmer to allow him to
take it away with him, in order to show it to
some friends of his, who, he said, would be able
to tell what it was. He brought it back with
him to Toronto ; and there it was examined
by a number of scholars and antiquarians.
Photographs were taken of it, and pamphlets
were written about it. Finally, those who were
best fitted to form a judgment came to the
conclusion that the disc was nothing less than
an astrolabe, or astronomical instrument for
the determination of latitude, lost by Samuel
de Champlain, the ' Founder of New France,'
on his first exploring expedition into what is
now the province of Ontario, in 1613.
The farm on which the astrolabe was found
lies across one of the old Indian portages on the THE CANOE-TRIPS OF CHAMPLAIN    41
Ottawa River ; and there can be little doubt
that it and the other utensils slipped out of the
baggage of Champlain's party as he was crossing
this portage. We have Champlain's own
account of his trip up the Ottawa River in 1613 ;
I and while he does not say, in so many words,
that he lost his astrolabe at this point, the
evidence all goes to show conclusively that he
must have lost it here. Up to this point, he
says repeatedly, ' I took the latitude of this
place, and found it to be so many degrees, etc'
After crossing this portage, however, he says
nothing about taking observations for latitude,
and when he attempts to give the latitude, he
is obviously guessing. It is practically certain,
therefore, that the articles turned up by the
ploughshare on the Muskrat Lake portage in
1867 were lost by Champlain on one of his
epoch-making canoe-trips over two hundred
and fifty years before.
Before ever Samuel de Champlain embarked
on his explorations in the interior of Canada,
he had passed a life of incident and adventure
beyond the ordinary. Born of a family of
sailors in a seaport town on the Bay of Biscay,
he had already traversed many ' perilous seas,
in faery lands forlorn.' In the service of the
King of Spain, he had visited Central America,
where his keen eye had suggested to him, three
centuries   before   it   became   an   accomplished 42 BY STAR AND COMPASS
fact, the possibility of the Panama Canal ; in
the service of the King of France, he had explored the coasts of Maine and Nova Scotia ;
he had helped to found, in 1604, the French
colony of Port Royal in the Annapolis valley ;
and in 1608 he had established, on the St.
Lawrence River, the tiny settlement which
was destined to become the city of Quebec.
The way in which Champlain became interested in the exploration of the interior of Canada
is told in his Journal. Like all his contemporaries, he was anxious to find a route
from the Atlantic to the Pacific ; for, though
Europeans had begun to discover the wealth
of the American continent, they still hankered
after an easy route to the fabled riches of the
East. In 1611, Champlain spent part of the
summer on the island of Montreal, where he
heard from the Indians accounts of great bodies
of water to the west and north-west. His
curiosity aroused, he made arrangements for
a young Frenchman, named Nicolas de Vignau,
to accompany some of the Indians up the
Ottawa River, with a view to obtaining further
information about ' the upper country.' Vignau
spent the winter of 1611-12 with an Algonquin
tribe on Allumette Island, opposite to what
is now the town of Pembroke on the Ottawa
River ; and when he returned to Paris in 1612,
he brought back with him a tale which greatly THE CANOE-TRIPS OF CHAMPLAIN    43
stirred the minds of Champlain and the shrewd
merchants who were associated with him.
He asserted that the Ottawa River took its
rise in a lake which communicated with a
northern sea, on the farther side of which were
China and the Indies and the Island of Zipangu,
or Japan. He said that he himself had seen
this northern sea, that he had witnessed with
his own eyes the wreck of an English ship on its
shores, and that he had actually talked with
a young English boy who had survived the
shipwreck, and was still a captive among the
This story, as it turned out, was a pure fabrication. Vignau had never stirred from the
Algonquin lodges on Allumette Island. But
he told his story with such plausible detail
that it completely imposed upon even the wise
Champlain. As a matter of fact, as we shall
see later, an English ship under Henry Hudson
had in 1610 penetrated into Hudson Bay, and
word of Hudson's voyage reached England in
1611. This fact seemed to lend confirmation
to the fairy tale that Vignau had woven ; and
the idea that the English were anticipating
the French in the discovery of the north-west
passage to Asia roused Champlain and his
friends to immediate action.
On May 27, 1613, Champlain set out from
St.   Helen's   Island,   opposite   Montreal,   on  a 44 BY STAR AND COMPASS
voyage of discovery up the Ottawa River. He
had with him four Frenchmen, one of whom
was the egregious Nicolas de Vignau, and one
Indian. None of the Frenchmen were expert
paddlers, and it was with great difficulty that
the party made their way up the river in their
two canoes. In the Long Sault, a series of
rapids extending over twelve miles, and now
paralleled by the Carillon and Grenville Canals,
Champlain came near to losing his life. As
he was towing his canoe up the turbulent water—
the bush being too thick for portaging—it was
caught by the current and he was pulled into
the stream. If he had not fallen between two
rocks, he would no doubt have been drowned ;
and it is not too much to say that Canadian
history might then have been vastly different.
After a week's toilsome paddling and portaging, the little party reached the site of the city
of Ottawa. Champlain stood on the cliff where
now rise the Canadian Houses of Parliament;
and he was much struck by the beauty of the
scene, and the grandeur of the Rideau and
Chaudi&re Falls. Little guessing, however, that
he was treading the ground where the future
capital of the country he was founding was
destined to rise, he pushed on ; and two days
later he reached the Muskrat Lake portage,
near the site of the present town of Pembroke.
Here it was he lost his astrolabe.    The portage THE CANOE-TRIPS OF CHAMPLAIN    45
was a long and difficult one, and it is easy to understand from the Journal how the loss took place.
' We were greatly troubled,' writes Champlain,
' in making this portage ; I myself was loaded
with three arquebuses, as many paddles, my
cloak, and some small articles. I encouraged
my men,' he adds, ' who were loaded yet more
heavily, but who suffered more from the
mosquitoes than from their burdens.'
Under these circumstances it was not surprising that some of the ' small articles' should
have been lost, without their loss being observed.
Or perhaps Nicolas de Vignau himself, foreseeing that his deception was likely to be soon
unmasked, deliberately cast away the astrolabe,
in the hope that, without it, Champlain might
be obliged to turn back.
If so, the stratagem was unsuccessful.
Champlain pushed ahead, and in another day
or so reached Allumette Island. Here the
Algonquins with whom Vignau had spent the
winter of 1611-12 were still camped. Confronted by them, Vignau broke down, and
confessed that his story had been a tissue of
lies. If he had ever visited the Sea of the
North, said the Indians, it had been in his
sleep. They were greatly scandalised by his
romancings, and wished to put him to death.
Even the equable Champlain was very angry
with him, and for- a time his life hung by a 46 BY STAR AND COMPASS
thread. In the end, Champlain merely cast
him off. ' We left him,' he says grimly, ' in
God's keeping.'
There was now no motive for further advance,
and Champlain, foiled and crestfallen, turned
back toward the St. Lawrence. Many a man,
after such an experience, would have washed
his hands of the whole business of exploration,
and would have turned to other tasks. But
it was not so with Champlain. He fell back
merely in order to jump better the next time.
He was, indeed, the sort of explorer who could not
shut out from his ears the call of the unknown :
'Something hidden.    Go and find it.    Go and look
behind the Ranges—
Something lost behind the Ranges.    Lost and waiting
for you.    Go!'
Only two years later he was on the trail
again. This time he set out with two Frenchmen and ten Indians, to visit the country from
which the Huron Indians had begun to come
down to Montreal to trade. Embarking at the
Sault St. Louis, he made his way up the Ottawa
River again to Allumette Island ; thence he
paddled up to the Mattawa River, crossed
over into Lake Nipissing, paddled down the
French River to the Georgian Bay ; and through
the thirty thousand islands of the Bay he
thridded his course southward until he reached THE CANOE-TRIPS OF CHAMPLAIN    47
what is now the harbour of Penetanguishene.
Here he found himself in the heart of the Huron
country, where the famous and ill-fated Jesuit
missions were later to be established.
Among the Hurons he received a cordial
welcome, and he was invited to accompany
them on a warlike expedition against the
Iroquois south of Lake Ontario. He accepted
the invitation. With five hundred Huron
warriors, he paddled up the Severn River to
Lake Simcoe, crossed Lake Simcoe, portaged
into Balsam or Sturgeon Lake, and then proceeded down the chain of lakes which lie at the
head of the Trent valley. From the mouth of
the Trent River, the party crossed Lake Ontario,
and plunged into what is now the northern
part of New York State. Here a battle took
place between the Hurons and their hereditary
foes, the Iroquois—a battle in which Champlain
was slightly wounded. Then the Hurons retreated, and Champlain was compelled to retreat with them. He wished to return to
Quebec by Lake Ontario, but his new allies
would not agree to his proposal, and he had to
accompany them all the way back to the Huron
country south of the Georgian Bay. Here he
was forced to spend the winter ; and it was
only when the spring came that he was allowed
to return, by way of Lake Simcoe and the
Trent  valley,   to  the   St.   Lawrence.    By  the
time he got back to Quebec, he must have
covered fully two thousand miles of wilderness
travel ; and in doing this he had laid bare a
good part of the geography of the present
province of Ontario.
It is difficult to realise that these canoe-trips
in Ontario took place five years before the
Pilgrim Fathers ever set foot on Plymouth
Rock in New England. At that early date,
Samuel de Champlain had seen with his own
eyes more of Eastern Canada than any but a
favoured few even in these days of railways
and steamships and motor cars.
Champlain's exploring days ended in 1616.
He was by that time approaching fifty years
of age, and was doubtless no longer equal to
the hardships of the explorer's life. He had
trained, however, a number of bold and daring
lieutenants who carried on his work. One of
these, Etienne Brul6, who had been one of the
two Frenchmen who accompanied Champlain
to the Huron country in 1615, pushed further
the work of exploration in almost every direction.
He crossed Lake Erie, and travelled south as
far as Chesapeake Bay ; he roamed all over
the peninsula of western Ontario ; he discovered the strait of Sault Ste. Marie ; and he
pushed northward into Lake Superior. Later,
in 1634, Champlain sent out a young man named
Jean Nicollet to push westward in the hope of
finding a  ' great  water'  of which  Brul6 and THE CANOE-TRIPS OF CHAMPLAIN   49
others had heard tales from the Indians. This
1 great water'—which the French, of course,
thought must be the Pacific Ocean—was probably
the Mississippi River; and Nicollet passed,
in search of it, through the Strait of Michili-
mackinac and across Lake Michigan, and
actually reached the height of land which divides
the valley of the St. Lawrence from the valley
of the Mississippi. In the wake of these explorers there followed a succession of Jesuit
missionaries and fur-trading coureurs-de-bois,
who gradually filled in the outlines of the
geography of the region of the Great Lakes
and beyond. Among these coureurs-de-bois,
however, two stand out pre-eminent—M&Iard
Chouart des Groseilliers and Pierre Esprit
The story of the achievements of these two
men was almost unknown until only a little over
a quarter of a century ago, when there turned
up in the Bodleian -Library at Oxford, among
the papers of the diarist, Samuel Pepys,
Radisson's own account of his explorations.
This journal, which was first published in
1888, is one of the most extraordinary documents in the whole range of historical literature.
It is written in grotesque and sometimes unintelligible English, with a disregard for dates
and distances which contrasts strongly with
the detailed accuracy, for example, of Champlain's
narrative; but it contains, nevertheless, a
story of vivid and compelling interest.
IT was an August midnight in 1661. The
little town of Three Rivers, on the north
bank of the St. Lawrence, lay sleeping beneath
the peaceful beams of the summer moon ; and
no sound was heard save the occasional footfall
of the sentinel at the gate.
Out of the shadow of one of the houses adjacent to the gate stole three figures who carried
packs on their backs and guns in their hands,
and who strode almost noiselessly in the direction
of the sentry.
As they approached, the low voice of the
sentry rang out, ' Who goes there ? '
' Hush !' answered one of the figures, ' it is
The sentry drew himself up and saluted.
Groseilliers was the captain of the guard, and
kept the keys of the town. It was true, as
every one in the settlement knew, that
Groseilliers had been forbidden by old Jacques
de la Poterie, the governor of Three Rivers,
to leave the town ; and doubtless the worthy
soldier on guard was torn for an instant between
his affection for his captain and his reverence
for the constituted authorities. But his hesitation lasted for but a moment; and on
Groseilliers drawing forth his keys, the sentry A FORTUNE IN FURS 51
helped him open the gate. The three heavily
laden figures slipped out into the darkness,
and, followed by the sentry's fervent Bon voyage,
disappeared in the direction of the -landing-
Thus, in the dead of night, and with careful
secrecy, began a journey which was destined to
become famous in the history of Canadian
The three figures that left Three Rivers that
August midnight were M6dard Chouart des
Groseilliers, his young brother-in-law Pierre
Esprit Radisson, and a coureur-de-bois named
Frangois Larivifere.
Chouart des Groseilliers was a fur-trader
who had lived a varied and adventurous life.
He had been with the Jesuit Fathers in 1646-47
at Ste. Marie in the. Huron country, when the
missions were wiped out by the Iroquois ; he
had covered more ground probably than any
other fur-trader in New France ; and he had
prospered to such an extent that he was ranked
among the men of substance in Three Rivers.
Radisson, his youthful . companion, had,
however, led a life even more adventurous
and picturesque. He had come to Canada
from France in 1651, a boy of only seventeen
years of age. One year after his arrival in the
country he had been captured by the Iroquois,
while  he  was   hunting  with   two  companions 52
in the neighbourhood of Lake St. Peter. His
two companions were murdered before his
eyes ; but his courage, when he was captured,
was so admired by the Iroquois, that his own
life was spared. He was adopted by one of the
Iroquois chiefs, and was received into the tribe
as a warrior. For two years Radisson lived
with the Iroquois, hunting and fighting with
them ; and had he been cast in a less heroic
mould, he would probably have sunk to the
level of savagery to which so many other white
men, adopted into Indian tribes, did sink.
But Radisson longed for Three Rivers and
civilisation ; and as soon as an opportunity
presented itself, he escaped to the Dutch colony
at Orange, to the south. Thence he got passage
to La Rochelle, in France, and from La Rochelle
he made his way back to Three Rivers.
On his return Radisson had entered the
fur-trade with the husband of his half-sister,
Chouart des Groseilliers. Groseilliers had
supplied the capital, and Radisson had supplied
the brains. Not content with the old hunting
grounds, Radisson and Groseilliers had struck
out into new and unexplored regions. In 1658
they had penetrated to Green Bay, on Lake
Michigan ; and thence they had struck inland
until, first of white men, they came to the
waters of the Upper Mississippi. There is
even reason for believing that they reached the A FORTUNE IN FURS 53
Missouri and the Bad Lands beyond ; but the
English jargon in which Radisson afterwards
attempted to describe his travels is so unintelligible in parts that one cannot be sure of
From this expedition the brothers-in-law returned in 1660 with a cargo of furs which saved
New France from a beaver famine. So great
were their profits that they determined, in
spite of the dangers which lay in their path, to
repeat their venture. They were particularly
anxious to do this, since they had heard tales
from the Indians of a ' great bay in the north,'
about which furs were to be found in great
abundance. Radisson felt sure that this was
the bay which had been discovered by Henry
Hudson half a century before ; and the explorer in him, as well as the fur-trader, urged
him on.
But the government of New France kept in
those days a very tight hold on the fur-traders.
Every one who engaged in the fur-trade had to
procure a licence from the governor, and had to
hand over to the government one-quarter of
the proceeds of his venture. When the Marquis
d'Argenson, who was then the governor at
Quebec, heard of the plans of Radisson and
Groseilliers, he refused to let them depart on
their expedition unless they agreed to hand
over to him, not one-quarter, but one-half of the
profits of their trade, and to take with them
some of his servants to look after his interests.
This unprecedented proposal Radisson and
Groseilliers rejected with indignation. They
did not desire to be burdened with any superfluous men, and they were willing to give the
government its legal share of their profits, and
no more. Therefore, on a night of August
1661, the brothers-in-law quietly slipped out
of the gates of Three Rivers, and took French
leave of governors, fur-trading licences, and all
such vexatious restrictions on individual
The route that Radisson and Groseilliers
followed in their journey westward was the
same as was used until nearly two centuries
later by the brigades of the fur-trading companies. They paddled and portaged up the
Ottawa, and across by way of Lake Nipissing
and the French River to Lake Huron ; they
coasted the north shore of Lake Huron as far
as Sault Ste. Marie ; and there they portaged
into Lake Superior.
First of all, a few miles above Three Rivers,
the three Frenchmen were joined by a party
of seven canoes of Indians from the upper
country, who were there by appointment with
Radisson to act as an escort. The little fleet
of canoes ascended the St. Lawrence to the
Island  of   Montreal,   and  then   turned  in  by A FORTUNE IN FURS 55
the back river to the Ottawa, without going
near the settlement of Ville Marie. In their
ascent of the Ottawa they had to use the most
elaborate precautions. It was only a year
since, at the foot of the Grand Sault, Dollard
and his sixteen young crusaders had been cut
to pieces by the Iroquois ; and the forests
were still infested by these implacable foes
of the French. Once the party heard guns.
Turning a bend in the river, they discovered
five Iroquois canoes, just in time to avoid
them. The next day they came on the fresh
tracks of the Iroquois at a portage. The
frightened Indians from the upper country
dashed off through the woods, with their canoes
on their heads. Radisson and Groseilliers, accustomed as they were to the bush, kept up
with them only with difficulty. The third
white man, Lariviere, fell far behind, and had
to be abandoned to his fate. He was picked
up, in a starving and almost insensible condition, about two weeks later, by a party of
French hunters.
Three days after the loss of Lariviere,
Radisson and Groseilliers caught up with seven
more canoes of upper country Indians. The
reinforcement proved a fortunate one ; for the
very next day the party was set upon at a
portage by the Iroquois. In the running fight
which ensued, Radisson and his men had the
best of the argument. They stormed the
barricade in which the Iroquois took refuge ;
and nothing saved the Iroquois from extermination but a terrific storm of thunder and sheeted
rain that swept across the forest. ' I think,'
wrote afterwards the disgusted Radisson, ' that
the Devil himself sent that storm to let those
wretches escape, so that they might destroy
more innocents.'
The defeat of the Iroquois made the danger
of another attack still greater ; and Radisson
and his men exerted all their efforts to leave
the Iroquois country behind them as soon as
possible. From Friday night to Tuesday morning they paddled steadily, without so much
as stopping to kindle a camp fire. On Tuesday
they reached Lake Nipissing, and there they
rested. They had travelled from Three Rivers
to Lake Nipissing in twenty-two days, and
during that time they had not slept an hour
on land.
By October the explorers had reached Sault
Ste. Marie, and had entered Lake Superior.
They coasted along the southern shore of the
lake, until they came to its western extremity.
Here they landed, and here, near the site of the
present towns of Ashland and Washburn,
Wisconsin, they built the first fur-post in the
great North-West.
The post was rushed up by the brothers-in- A FORTUNE IN FURS 57
law in two days. It was on the side of a river,
built in the shape of a triangle, with the base
at the water side. The walls were of unbarked
logs; the roof was of branches interlaced,
through which the smoke of the camp fire
easily found its way. Beside the fire, two
pine logs overlaid with saplings and brush
made a bed. Scattered everywhere, littering
the floor so that it was difficult to move about,
were the firearms, clothing, and merchandise
of the two traders.
Naturally, the position of this little fort,
situated thousands of miles from help in the
midst of an unknown country, was precarious
in the extreme. At first, the traders, who had
now been left by their Indians, took turns at
keeping watch ; but that proved a very arduous
arrangement, and Radisson's fertile brain devised
a substitute. About the little fort he stretched
in the grass and undergrowth carefully concealed cords, and to these he fastened bells,
which would give immediate warning of the
approach of any prowling savages. With these
new sentries, the two traders were able to sleep
soundly without fear of surprise.
Soon the Indians of the neighbourhood, who
were Crees, came flocking to the fort to see
the white men and trade with them. At first
there was danger that the savages might be
tempted to kill the traders for the sake of their 58 BY STAR AND COMPASS
firearms. But Radisson's genius found once
again a means of warding off the danger. He
rolled gunpowder in twisted tubes of birch
bark, and ran a circle of this about the fort.
When the Indians came to visit him, he touched
off the gunpowder, and displayed to the amazed
savages a circle of fire running along the ground
around the cabin in a series of jumps. To
the Indians it was magic ; and they regarded
the traders as engirt with a charm.
Through the Crees the explorers came into
direct relations with the Sioux. These horsemen of the prairies were among the most powerful and the most feared of all the Indian tribes ;
and that Radisson and Groseilliers were able
to obtain their good wishes, was of good augury
for the French in the West. Radisson spent
six weeks in the Sioux Country, hunting buffalo
and deer. Then he struck back to the little
fort at Lake Superior.
On his way back he met some Indians who
were going up to summer at the ' Bay of the
North' (Hudson Bay). For years Radisson
had been longing to discover the overland
route to Hudson Bay ; and in spite of the
fact that he was suffering from a severe sprain
of the foot, he set out with them.
The party launched their canoes in a river
flowing north-r-which river, it is now impossible
to   say.   Whether   or   not   Radisson   actually   A FORTUNE IN FURS 59
reached Hudson Bay on this trip, scholars are
not agreed. Whatever be the rights of the
case, it cannot do any harm to reprint Radisson's
own words :
' At last we came full sail to a deep bay . . .
We came to the seaside, where we found an old
house all demolished and battered with bullets.
.... They [the Crees] told us about Europeans.
. . . We went from isle to isle all that summer.
, . . We went farther to see the place that the
Indians were to pass the summer.'
If Radisson, as this passage seems to indicate,
actually reached Hudson Bay overland, he was
the first European to do it ; and to his title as
discoverer of the Upper Mississippi must be
added that of discoverer of the overland passage
to Hudson Bay.
The spring of 1663 found the explorers back
in the region of Lake Superior, preparing for a
return to civilisation. They set out, accompanied by over seven hundred Indians ; and the
pelts which they had obtained filled three
hundred and sixty canoes. They paddled across
Lake Superior; scudded across Lake Huron
and Lake Nipissing, with blankets raised for
sails; and from Lake Nipissing they rode
safely down the Ottawa to Montreal. Here
they were welcomed by the firing of cannon ;
for they had arrived once more just in time
to save New France from a beaver famine. 60 BY STAR AND COMPASS
At Quebec a different welcome awaited the
explorers. D'Argenson there had been
succeeded by a new governor, the Baron
d'Avaugour ; but the authorities had not forgotten the contumelious manner in which
Groseilliers and Radisson had set out in 1661.
Not only had they gone without a fur-trading
licence, but they had disobeyed the express
orders of the King's representative. Such a
flouting of the royal authority could not be
allowed to pass without punishment. No sooner
had Radisson and Groseilliers landed than
Groseilliers was arrested and imprisoned by the
governor's command. The brothers-in-law were
fined on one pretext and another up to the tune
of $110,000—more than one-third of the value
of their cargo. Out of a cargo worth in modern
money over $300,000, they had less than $200,000
Great was the indignation of Radisson and
Groseilliers over their treatment by D'Avaugour.
With the object of obtaining redress at Paris,
Groseilliers, when he was released from prison,
took passage for France. He wOuld have been
much better off if he had swallowed his chagrin,
and remained in Canada ; for what with high
living in Paris, and bribes about the court for
the purpose of getting the ear of influential
persons, Groseilliers ran through nearly all
his money in half a year's time.   He did not A FORTUNE IN FURS 61
succeed in getting anything more from the
authorities than fair words and empty promises ;
and he came back to Canada, having nothing
more to show for his journey but a new high
record in the art of spending money. It must
be admitted that for a French-Canadian coureur-
de-lois to run through the greater part of
$200,000 in six months argued a positive genius
for extravagance.
That   is   the   story   of   how   Radisson   and
Groseilliers made and lost a fortune in furs.
Some at least of the benefit of the discoveries
of Radisson and Groseilliers was reaped by the
English, with whom the two bush-rangers,
disgruntled at their treatment by the French
authorities, took service. The Hudson's Bay
Company, in fact, partly owes its origin to
their initiative. The French, however, were
not slow to follow up their footsteps. In 1672
Louis Joliet, the royal hydrographer of New
France, was sent out by Frontenac to explore
in a scientific way part of the country Radisson
and Groseilliers had traversed so rapidly ; and
in 1673 Joliet, with a Jesuit missionary named
Marquette, explored the whole of the Upper
Mississippi. But the most striking of the
successors of Radisson and Groseilliers was
La Salle, the great French explorer who first
followed the Mississippi to its mouth, and who
led the way to that second colony of France in
North   America,   Louisiana.    The   field   of  La
Salle's explorations falls outside the bounds
of what is now the Dominion of Canada ; but
the story of his life and death is such an epic
of New France that it may fittingly be told
A FEW miles above Montreal, looking
out over the restless waters of the St.
Lawrence, there stands to-day a little French-
Canadian town named Lachine. Opposite to
it, and deriving their name from it, are the
famous Lachine rapids. The name Lachine
is nothing more or less than the French equivalent of the English word China ; and if they
were entirely consistent, English Canadians
would refer to the town as Chinatown, and to
the rapids as the China rapids.
Just how this curious name attached itself
to the town and the rapids, one must go back
into early Canadian history to explain. In the
year 1666 there came out to Canada to seek
his fortune a young Norman gentleman named
Ren6-Robert Cavelier de la Salle. From the
Sulpician Fathers of Ville Marie, who owned
at this time the entire island of Montreal, the
young La Salle obtained the grant of a seigneurie
opposite what was then known as the Sault
St.  Louis.    Here,  where Lachine now stands, THE SEIGNEUR OF CHINA 63
he built a trading-post and lived for three years,
trading with the Indians. But La Salle was
not the sort of man to be satisfied with a
fur-trader's existence. He was a young man
who saw visions and dreamed dreams. He
dreamed that it was he who was going to discover the western passage to China. That
wifl-o'-the-wisp, which glittered before Columbus
and Cabot and Champlain, and which lured
Hudson and Franklin and many another to their
northern doom, flashed before the brain of
Cavelier de la Salle. Amid the quiet life of the
trading-post he grew restless. At last, in 1669,
his chance seemed to have come. Two of the
Sulpician fathers of Montreal, Dollier de Casson
and Gallinee, with a party of twenty-two men,
were setting out for the western country to
establish missions among the Indians. La Salle
made arrangements to go with them. He was
probably at this time something of a greenhorn
both in the canoe and in the bush ; and even
the reverend fathers seem to have been amused
at his crack-brained idea of trying to find the
way to China. In a spirit of gentle sarcasm and
derision, they dubbed his seigneurie with the
name of the country which he longed to discover. It was, they doubtless said among
themselves, the only China he would ever see.
They were right.     Neither in  1669,  nor in
any subsequent year, did Cavelier de la Salle 64 BY STAR AND COMPASS
discover the passage through to' China. The
expedition of 1669 came to nought, owing to
a difference of opinion which split up the party
when they had gone no farther than the end
of Lake Ontario. But in his goings and comings
between 1669 and his death in 1687, La Salle
did some things scarcely less noteworthy than
discovering the western passage. He was the
first man to build and navigate a sailing vessel
on Lake Erie ; he was the first white man to
follow the Mississippi to its mouth; and it was
he who pointed the way for the French settlement of Louisiana later.
Few men have ever been so unlucky as La
Salle. His men were always in a state of
mutiny ; he was always suffering shipwreck,
and losing his furs ; his creditors were always
seizing his goods when he was away in the
bush ; he himself was always falling ill at the
most inopportune moments. Seldom has there
been a great explorer against whom fortune
conspired in so cruel a manner. Yet no obstacles
were too great for him to overcome. His insatiable energy and iron resolution conquered
all barriers but death ; and his achievements
loom up the more remarkable in view of the
difficulties by which he was beset.
His great achievement, of course, was the
exploration of the Mississippi to its mouth in
'1682.    Ten years before, Joliet and Marquette THE SEIGNEUR OF CHINA
had paddled down the Mississippi, but they
had gone no farther than the mouth of the
Arkansas ; and it remained for La Salle, after
years of fruitless effort, to plant the cross and
the fleur-de-lis where the Father of Waters
debouches into the Gulf of Mexico. The expedition had occupied his energies for no less
than five years. In 1677 he had been forced
to cross the Atlantic to Versailles in order to
get the royal authority for his venture. The
next year he had been compelled to spend at
Fort Cataraqui (Kingston) on Lake Ontario,
making preparations ; and it was only in 1679
that he actually set out. He had with him a
brave Italian officer, the Chevalier de Tonti,
who had joined the enterprise, and two Re-
collet missionaries, Father de la Ribourde and
Father Membre. The party passed through
the Strait of Michilimackinac in the autumn
of 1679, and in midwinter reached the site of
what was afterwards Fort Crevecceur, on the
Illinois River. Here La Salle left Tonti and
the priests, while he returned to face his creditors
at Cataraqui. In his absence the party were
attacked by the Iroquois, and one of the priests
killed ; and when La Salle returned to the west
in the late autumn of 1681, he found his men
back at Michilimackinac. Undismayed, however, by this setback, he started off once more ;
on February 6 he reached  the  confluence of 66 BY STAR AND COMPASS
the Illinois and the Mississippi; and by April 9
he saw opening before him the shimmering blue
waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
It is probable that, when he reached the
mouth of the Mississippi, La Salle saw the
significance of what he had done. He was
the sort of man who thought in continents. He
must have seen that, by his journey, he had
drawn a net about the English colonies on the
Atlantic seaboard. He had hemmed them in ;
and if he could make good the French control
of the Mississippi, there was no good reason
why the vast hinterland of the English colonies
should not become part of New France, or why
the English in America should not eventually
be driven into the sea.
The first thing to be done was obviously to
garrison and colonise the mouth of the Mississippi. With this object in view, La Salle made
all haste, once he had retraced his steps to
Michilimackinac, to repair to the court at
Versailles to induce the French government to
send out a colonising expedition. He obtained
audience with the son of the great Colbert,
who was then in charge of colonial affairs, and
succeeded in persuading him to fit out an expedition. In the spring of 1684 the expedition
set out; it comprised a small fleet of no less
than four vessels, and a total of two hundred
and eighty colonists. THE SEIGNEUR OF CHINA 67
It might have seemed that at last La Salle
was out of his difficulties, and on the high
road to success. As a matter of fact his troubles
were only begun. It was not only that the
colonists sent out were criminals taken from
the prisons, or vagabonds impressed on the
streets : that was to be expected in a colonising expedition at that time. It was not that
the soldiers were mutinous, the sailors incompetent, the pilot ignorant : La Salle had
triumphed over obstacles of this sort before.
It was that fortune deserted him on the very
threshold of success. As luck would have it,
he sailed past the entrance to the Mississippi,
and landed on the coast of what is now Texas.
Here the store-ship Aimable, on which were
all the supplies of the colony, went to pieces on
a reef, and nearly everything on board was
lost. The other ships, with the exception of
the little Belle, having carried out their task
of transporting their passengers to the New
World, returned to France ; and La Salle
and his colonists were left to their own devices
on that desolate shore.
La Salle, with his usual energy, set to work
to bring order out of chaos. From the wreckage
of the store-ship he had a fort constructed
(to which he gave his favourite name of St.
Louis), and he immediately sent out parties
to hunt on the prairies and fish in the lagoons. 68 BY STAR AND COMPASS
Then he set out to discover the whereabouts
of the Mississippi, by means of which he hoped
once more to establish communications with
But here he was doomed to disappointment.
The farther he went, and the longer he searched,
the more it was borne in upon him that he was
nowhere in the neighbourhood of the Mississippi. It was at this juncture that he began to
realise the desperate and precarious position
in which he was placed. The Belle had been
wrecked, and La Salle had no longer any means
of escape by sea. His supplies were none too
plentiful, and he was liable to attack at any
time by the Spaniards and the Indians. It
was indeed a position which might have daunted
the bravest leader.
For nearly two years the colony eked out a
precarious existence, while La Salle strove to
locate the mouth of the Mississippi. Numbers
died from illness, many were drowned, some
deserted to the Indian tribes round about, some
were lost in the southern wilderness. At last
only about forty persons remained alive in the
little fort.
Desperate situations require heroic remedies.
La Salle decided that there was no alternative
but for a party, led by himself, to push northward on foot to the country of the Illinois,
where he expected that his friend and lieutenant, THE SEIGNEUR OF CHINA 69
Tonti, would be waiting for him. What he
proposed was an overland journey from the
Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, yet there
does not appear to have been any reluctance
on the part of his followers to follow him. They
all knew it was their only bid for safety.
On January 7, 1687, La Salle set out on
his long northward march. He had with him
a party of eighteen men, almost half of the
surviving population of the fort. There was
his brother Cavelier, who was a priest ; his
nephews, Moranget and Cavelier, the latter a
mere lad ; the Recollet friar Anastase Douay ;
the soldier Joutel, who was the son of La Salle's
father's gardener, and who was to be the historian of the expedition ; a German buccaneer
named ' English Jem' ; the surgeon Liotot;
Nika, La Salle's Shawnee hunter ; and a number
of others. It was a weird and picturesque
party. They were all wonderfully and fearfully clad ; some in their old clothes, patched
with furs and skins, others in suits made of old
sailcloth. Their baggage, which was composed
mainly of presents intended for the Indians
through whose country they expected to pass,
was borne by five horses.
What followed was pure tragedy, and reads
like a page out of some Treasure Island. ~Lsl
Salle was a leader who ruled his men with a rod
of iron ; his great defect was a harshness toward 70 BY STAR AND COMPASS
his subordinates which alienated their affections. For a long time there had been disaffection toward him, but it had not hitherto
become open. Now, when the expedition had
barely begun, it flamed out in mutiny and
The cause of the outbreak Was trifling. There
was a dispute between Moranget, La Salle's
hot-headed nephew, and a malcontent named
Duhaut over the marrow bones of some buffalo
killed while they were on a hunting expedition. That night Duhaut and his accomplices, ' English Jem,' the pilot Teissier, and
a servant of Duhaut's named ' the Archbishop,'
fell on Moranget and La Salle's two Indian
servants and dispatched them in their sleep.
Having once set their hands to the plough,
they could not turn back. It was clear that
La Salle himself must be their next victim.
He was at that moment sleeping in his camp
six miles away ; and the conspirators resolved
to wait until the morning. In the morning,
La Salle, surprised at the non-arrival of the
hunters, and fearing lest something had gone
astray, went out to look for them, with the friar
Anastase Douay.
' All the way,' wrote the friar afterwards,
' he spoke to me of nothing but matters of
piety, grace and predestination ; enlarging on
the debt he owed to God, who had saved him THE SEIGNEUR OF CHINA 71
from so many perils during more than twenty
years of travel in America. Suddenly, I saw
him overwhelmed with a profound sadness,
for which he could not account. He was so
much moved that I scarcely knew him.'
As he drew near the camp of the hunters,
La Salle, with his woodsman's eye, perceived
two eagles hovering and circling overhead,
as though attracted by the carcasses of beasts
or men. He fired his gun as a signal to any of
his men who were near, and approached the
camp. The first man he saw was ' the Archbishop.'
' Where is Moranget ?' called out La
' He is strolling about somewhere,' replied
' the Archbishop' in a tone of studied insolence.
At that moment a tongue of flame darted
forth from a bush behind which were hidden
Duhaut and the surgeon Liotot. The bullet
crashed into La Salle's brain ; he staggered,
and dropped in his tracks.
Thus died, in the forty-third year of his age,
Robert Cavelier de la Salle, one of the greatest
explorers of all time. He did not realise his
youthful ambition of finding the passage to
China ; and he died an inglorious death, in the
midst of failure and disappointment. But his
harsh, cold, intrepid spirit had blazed out a
trail where a nation in the making was to follow.
j 72
There were other murders after La Salle's.
The villain Duhaut was shot down by ' English
Jem,' and the surgeon was slain by a French
deserter named Ruter. The remainder of the
party, however, led by Joutel and Cavelier,
pushed northward, and at the junction of the
Arkansas and the Mississippi, they met, to
their surprise and relief, the faithful Tonti and
his men, who had been patiently awaiting the
arrival of La Salle. As for the colonists left
behind on the Texan coast, in the fort of St.
Louis, they perished miserably at the hands of
the Indians ; and when a Spanish expedition
made its way to the fort the next year, it found
nothing but three unrecognisable corpses lying
on the prairie. Thus ended the last venture
of the Seigneur of China.
While La Salle was pushing south through
the valley of the Mississippi, other Frenchmen
were following up the explorations of Radisson
and Groseilliers toward the north-west. Among
these the most notable figure was that of Daniel
de Greysolon, Sieur du L'hut, a Frenchman
of gentle birth who came to Canada, engaged
in the fur-trade, and about 1678 made his
headquarters on the site of the present city of
Fort William. In the course of his trading
expeditions he explored the whole of the country
west and south-west of Lake Superior, as far
west as the basin of the Winnipeg River ; and THE SHINING MOUNTAINS 73
it is after him that the city of Duluth takes its
name. But Du L'hut was a fur-trader rather
than an explorer ; and it was not until nearly
half a century after he went to the ' Upper
Country,' as the West was then called, that any
really notable strides were made in exploration in that direction. Then, in the second
quarter of the eighteenth century, a French-
Canadian seigneur named La V6rendrye, with
his four heroic sons, instituted a series of explorations in the north-west which actually
rolled the map back for a thousand miles. It is
the story of the culminating achievement of
the La V6rendryes which is the subject of the
next tale.
ONE Sunday, in February, 1913, a number
of school children of the city of Pierre,
the capital of South Dakota, were playing
on a hill on the outskirts of the city, when one
of them, Miss Hattie Foster, stumbled on an
oblong plate of lead, the corner of which projected from the earth. The plate, which was
only about eight inches wide, was dug up;
and on both sides it was found to bear clearly
engraved inscriptions. On'the one side were
stamped, with a cold die, the arms of the King
of France and a Latin inscription ; and on the
other was scratched, evidently with the point 74 BY STAR AND COMPASS
of a knife, a legend in French, which may be
translated as follows :
Placed here by the
Chevalier de la Verendrye.
Witnesses: Louis, La Londette,
. The 30TH of March, 1743.
This little leaden plate, which had lain buried
beside the Missouri River for one hundred
and seventy years, was a silent but eloquent
memorial of one of the most daring expeditions
ever made by a Canadian explorer. The
Chevalier de la Wrendrye, by whose hand the
irregular lines of the inscription were probably
traced, was the third son of Pierre Gaultier de
Varennes, Sieur de la Verendrye, the founder
of the fur-trade on the prairies of the Canadian
west. ' Louis' was the Chevalier's younger
brother, Louis Joseph de la Verendrye ; and
La Londette and Amiotte were two voyageurs
in La V6rendrye's employ. The four constituted the party that penetrated farthest
west during the French regime in Canada.
The Chevalier de la Wrendrye and his younger
brother had grown up in an atmosphere of
exploration and discovery. Their father, the
Sieur de la Wrendrye, was one of that succession
of pathfinders—among whom were Cabot and
Cartier, Champlain and Joliet, Radisson and
La Salle—who dreamed of finding the  route
to the Western Sea. After an adventurous
career as a soldier, during which he fought in
the army of Louis xrv. at the battle of
Malplaquet against the English, the elder La
Verendrye had settled down to the fur-trade ;
and in pursuit of his business, he had pushed
farther and farther west, until, in 1728, he found
himself at the lonely trading-post of Nepigon,
on Lake Superior. Here he heard tales from
the Indians about the western prairies and the
great rivers that water them which piqued his
curiosity, and awakened the explorer in him.
Like his contemporaries, he knew that somewhere to the west lay the Pacific Ocean , and
when an old Indian named Ochagach drew
for him on birch bark maps of the western
country which showed a river that flowed
westward, his hopes of being able to reach the
Pacific rose high. -
La Wrendrye, however, was not the sort of
person to undertake a madcap dash into the
unknown. He realised that exploration in the
Great West must go hand in hand with the
fur-trade ; and he planned to establish west
of Lake Superior a chain of trading-posts which
would serve as a basis for his explorations.
He enlisted the support, in furtherance of this
plan, of the governor of New France, the Marquis
de Beauharnois ; and he obtained, for the
commercial  end  of  his  project,  the  financial 76 BY STAR AND COMPASS
backing of some of the merchants of Quebec.
These merchants took shares in La Verendrye's
venture in much the same spirit as business
men to-day sometimes invest in oil prospects:
they stood a chance of making vast profits,
or of losing their money entirely.
Bit by bit, in the face of great obstacles and
disappointments, La Verendrye carried forward
his programme. He first built a fort on Rainy
Lake, then one on the Lake of the Woods, then
one on Lake Winnipeg, at the mouth of the
Red River. His eldest son, Jean de la
Verendrye, together with a priest and some
voyageurs, was massacred by hostile Indians ;
and his nephew, the Sieur de la Jemmeraye,
succumbed to the hardships of a winter expedition. But not even these catastrophes were
able to daunt the discoverer's intrepid heart.
He pushed up the Red River, and in 1738
established a post (later known as Fort Rouge)
on the site of the present city of Winnipeg.
From here he struck west, by the Assiniboine
River, to what is now known as Portage la
Prairie, where he built Fort La Reine. From
Fort La Reine he plunged north-west to the
Saskatchewan River, and south-west to the
Upper Missouri ; and on the banks of this latter
river he came into relations with a tribe of
Indians, the Mandans, who had actually heard
of  the  Spaniards  in   California.   Far  to  the THE SHINING MOUNTAINS 77
south-west, they said, on the shores of a sea
that was bitter to drink, there lived a people
whose skin was white, who were clad in armour,
and who lived in houses built of stone.
By this time, however, the hardships through
which the elder La Verendrye had passed had
begun to tell on his health. He was already
over fifty-five years of age, and the trip to
the Missouri had in particular tried his constitution. He therefore handed over his great
mission to his sons ; and in the spring of 1742
he sent his son the Chevalier, with his youngest
son Louis and two of his men, back to the
Mandan villages, with instructions that they
should make an attempt to reach the Western
The two young La V6rendryes were admirably equipped for their great adventure.
Frangois, the Chevalier, had a genius for learning languages : he was later reputed to be able
to speak fluently seven Indian tongues, and he
had also, it would appear, a working knowledge of Spanish. Louis, the younger brother,
had been specially trained in map-making and
geography, and, it was hoped, would be able
to take observations for latitude and longitude.
The party took with them an astrolabe, though
this instrument was unfortunately broken at
an early stage of their explorations ; and they
took   with   them   also   a  plentiful supply   of 78 BY STAR AND COMPASS
presents for the Indians whom they might
meet. Seldom did an exploring party set out,
during the French regime, so carefully chosen
and so admirably outfitted as this little band
of four men.
They left Fort La Reine on April 29, 1742,
and reached the Mandan villages on the Upper
Missouri without adventure three weeks later.'
From inquiries which they made among the
Mandans, they came to the conclusion that
their best chance of finding the way to the
Spanish settlements on the Pacific coast would
be to attach themselves to a tribe known as the
Horsemen—probably the tribe we now know
as the Cheyennes. This tribe, said the Mandans,
hunted near what they described as ' the Shining
Mountains' or ' the Mountains of Bright Stones'
(that is, the snow-capped Rockies), and traded
with the Spaniards on the other side of the
There was a possibility that some of the
Horsemen might that summer visit the Mandan
villages, and in the hope of meeting them the
young Chevalier waited at the villages until
nearly the end of July. But the Horsemen
failed to make their appearance ; and rather
than delay longer, the Frenchmen decided to
set out for the Horsemen's country. They
obtained two Mandan guides, and on July 23
set out fearlessly to the west through an un- THE SHINING MOUNTAINS 79
known country where no white man had preceded them.
For twenty days they pushed forward on their
Indian ponies through a rolling prairie-land,
and through the Bad Lands of the Little
Missouri, where the Chevalier noted with
curiosity the ' earths of different colours, blue,
green, red, or black, white as chalk, or yellowish
like ochre,' which are characteristic of this
region. Finally they reached the mountains
(probably the Powder River Mountains) where
some of the Horsemen usually lived—only to
find that they were not there. Here the Mandan
guides refused to go farther, and the party was
compelled to halt. One of the guides, fearful
of remaining in a hostile country, actually
deserted them, and fled back home.
In order to attract the attention of any
passing Indians, the Chevalier had fires lit to
serve as beacons, and every day either he or
another of the party went up to the hills to look
around. At length, after over a month of
waiting, they were rewarded by seeing smoke
to the south-west. This turned out to be a
village of the Crow Indians, who proved very
friendly, and, since the remaining Mandan
guide now desired to return to the Missouri,
readily agreed to supply guides to take the
Chevalier and his companions to a village of
the Horsemen.
Once more, then, on November 9, the
explorers took to the trail, still bearing somewhat south of west. They passed through a
number of villages of the Little Fox Indians,
among all of whom they dispensed presents,
and some of whom insisted on escorting them
on their way ; and in ten days they reached
a village of the Horsemen. Here they met
with a disappointment. The Horsemen Indians
were in a state of great desolation. They had
been all but wiped out by the Snake or Shoshone
Indians, in one of those vendettas which the
Indian tribes were constantly waging; and
they were weeping and wailing and gnashing
their teeth. Obviously, nothing was to be
hoped for from them. They informed the
Chevalier, moreover, that none of them had
ever visited the Spanish settlements, as the
Snake Indians barred the way. All they could
do was to offer to guide him to another tribe,
the Bow Indians, who were on friendly terms
with the tribes that traded with the white
men at the seashore, and who, on account of
their valour, did not live in dread of the Snakes.
At last, on November 21, the explorers
reached a great village of the Bow tribe. The
chief of the Bow Indians, who received the
explorers with a quite unusual display of stately
courtesy, proved to be one of those ' grand old
men'   sometimes   found   among   the   Indians THE SHINING MOUNTAINS 81
of North America. Between him and the
Chevalier de la V6rendrye there quickly sprang
up a sincere friendship. ' I became greatly
attached to this chief,' says the Chevalier,
'and he richly merited all our best friendship.
He took so much care to teach me his language
that in a very short time I was able to make
myself understood and to understand him.'
One of the first questions which the Chevalier
asked his new-found friend was, of course,
whether he was acquainted with the white men
at the sea-coast, and whether he could take them
to them.
' We know them,' replied the Bow chief,
'from the stories told by the prisoners brought
by the Snake Indians. The latter we shall
soon meet. Do not be surprised if you see
us soon joined by many other villages. Word
has gone out for them to meet us. Every day
you will hear the war chant. It is not without
purpose. We are going to the Shining Mountains
near the sea, to seek out the Snake Indians.
Do not be afraid to come with us. You will
be able to look upon the sea of which you are
in search.'
The old chief actually repeated a number
of the words used by the white men living
by the sea, and the Chevalier recognised these
as Spanish. He was a little disappointed to
find that the sea of which he was in search was 82 BY STAR AND COMPASS
already well known ; but he was still anxious
to reach the sea overland, if it were possible.
He and his companions therefore joined the
Bow Indians, when they set out on the warpath ; and for many days accompanied them to
the westward, being joined continually by fresh
bands of Indians, who had come to join the
war party.
On New Year's Day, 1743, they came at
last in sight of the Shining Mountains. Another
week of travelling brought them to the end of
the prairies. Here the Chevalier left his younger
brother in charge of the baggage at the camp,
and himself pushed on with the warriors. These
advanced in good order, and a day or so later
entered the foothills of the Rockies, amid forests
of high and heavy timber, where the Snake
Indians were usually to be found.
To their consternation, however, they discovered that the villages of the Snakes were
deserted. Warned of the approach of the Bow
Indians, the Snakes had evidently fled. The Bows,
however, were afraid that the Snakes, having
discovered their approach, were making a detour
to attack the villages of women and children they
had left behind, and a sort of panic came over
them. Despite all their chief could do, they
turned, and fled back ; and the Chevalier was
obliged, with the crests of the Shining Mountains
looming just above him, to turn back too. THE SHINING MOUNTAINS 83
' I was exceedingly disappointed,' he says,
' not to be able to ascend the mountains as I
had intended.' Perhaps he thought that, from
the crest of the mountains, he would be able
to see the Pacific Ocean. Certainly, he did
not know that between the mountains and the
sea there still lay some hundreds of miles of
difficult country. But if he did not succeed in
his ambition of reaching the sea, he had at least
succeeded in doing what no white man had done
before him, crossing the heart of the North
American continent and reaching the mighty
ridge which divides the prairies from the Pacific
slope. That alone Was an achievement which,
in itself, entitled him to an immortality of fame.
The return journey was made in helter skelter
confusion. At one time the Frenchmen became
separated from their Indian allies, and only
came up with them again by accident. Finally
they reached the Missouri, though much farther
south than the point from which they had set
out; and then they made their way north by
gradual stages, passing through several new
tribes. At last, after various adventures, they
reached once again Fort la Reine at Portage
la Prairie on July 2, 1843, having been absent
practically a year and three months. Needless
to say, they were welcomed with great joy
and relief by the Sieur de la Wrendrye, who
had almost given them up for lost. 84 BY STAR AND COMPASS
Before they left the Missouri, however, the
Chevalier took the trouble to build a cairn of
stones on a hill on the banks of the river, and to
bury there, unknown to the Indians, a leaden
plate bearing the arms of the King of France,
and an inscription containing his name and the
names of his companions. That is how, one
February Sunday, one hundred and seventy
years later, little Miss Hattie Foster, of Pierre,
South Dakota, happened to find the leaden tablet
described above.
In the search for the Western Sea, the explorers
of Canada followed two routes. The French
followed the route of the St. Lawrence valley
and the Great Lakes ; the English, farther north,
followed the route through Hudson Strait and
Hudson Bay. By the end of the French regime,
the French had reached the Rocky Mountains,
while the English were still sitting tight on the
shores of Hudson Bay. But by this time the
English had been in Hudson Bay for a century
and a half. They had entered the Bay in 1610,
before Champlain had even begun his explorations
in what is now the province of Ontario. Having
completed our survey of the work of the French
explorers, we must now turn back and trace the
work of the English explorers farther north ; and
first of all we come upon the story of the discovery of Hudson Bay by Henry Hudson—one
of the most moving episodes in the whole of
Canadian history. MUTINEERS AND CASTAWAYS       85
ONE September morning in the year 1611
the master of a fishing smack off the
west coast of Ireland spied on the horizon what
looked like a derelict ship. He put the helm
about, and as he drew nearer he saw that the
sails of the ship were flapping to the wind in
tatters. Splintered yardarms hung in the
ragged rigging, and a mast was snapped off
The ship proved to be the bark Discovery,
master, Henry Hudson, belonging to three members of the Muscovy Company of England. It
was manned by only three men, all of whom
were so weak from starvation and hardships
that they could scarcely stand at the helm.
There was no sign of either the master or the
mate of the ship, and the man who seemed to
have assumed command described himself as
Abacuk Prickett, agent and servant of Sir Dudley Digges, one of the owners.
The story which Abacuk Prickett had to tell
was so extraordinary that the fishermen, who
were not ignorant of the strange things which
happened on the high seas in those times, could
not help looking at him and his companions
askance. They gave him some provisions and
supplied a pilot and crew to take the ship into 86 BY STAR AND COMPASS
Plymouth Harbour; but when they reached
Plymouth they handed over Prickett and the
others to the authorities, and had them clapped
in Plymouth jail, until they could give a satisfactory account of themselves.
When Prickett had sufficiently recovered from
his privations, he set down in writing his account
of the voyage of the Discovery. This account,
which has come down to us, and which may be
perused by any one taking the trouble to examine
it, reads like a tale of piracy in the South Sea.
Checked by the ship's logs, part of which has
been preserved, the story runs somewhat as
The Discovery had left the Thames on April 17
of the previous year, with a crew of twenty men.
It had been under the command of a master
mariner named Henry Hudson, who had been
engaged by Sir Dudley Digges and two other
members of the Muscovy Company of London,
to search for a north-western passage to China.
Hudson had already made several attempts to
reach China by way of the Arctic Ocean ; in
1607 and in 1608 he had endeavoured to discover a north-eastern passage to China by way
of Spitsbergen, but had been turned back by
the ice at a distance of only eight degrees from
the North. Pole. In 1609 he had, in an attempt
to find a western passage, tried to penetrate the
American continent;   he had entered, first of   MUTINEERS AND CASTAWAYS       87
white men, what is now the harbour of New
York, and he had explored the Hudson River.
Having satisfied himself that America was an
inseparable barrier to a western passage, he had
decided in the spring of 1610 to discover whether
a passage to China could not be discovered to the
north of the American continent. He set out
with the idea which has since his time lured so
many other dauntless mariners to their fate,
the idea of a north-west passage to China.
Hudson had with him his mate, Juet, who
had been with him the year before on his expedition to the Hudson River. He had his young
son, and his secretary, Henry Greene, a ragamuffin
whom Hudson had picked up off the streets of
London. Representing the owners there were
Abacuk Prickett, a servant of Sir Dudley Digges,
and one Coleburne, who was sent as official
adviser to the expedition. Coleburne's advice,
however, proved so unacceptable to the tyrannical old sea-dog who was master of the ship that
he was packed off home on the first craft that
offered. The rest of the crew were the usual
off-scourings of the port of London, many of
them impressed against their will.
It is obvious that Hudson did not take his
crew into his confidence regarding the destination of the trip. They seem to have been under
the impression that they were going to repeat
their voyage of the previous year to the pleasant 88 BY STAR AND COMPASS
land about the Hudson River. When, therefore,
they sailed north to Iceland, and thence beat up
toward Greenland, there was open murmuring
among the crew. Even the mate grumbled and
swore with many nautical oaths that ' there
would be bloodshed if the master persisted in
going by Greenland.'
Henry Hudson, however, believed in being
master on his own ship, and he paid no more
attention to the murmurings of his men than
if they had been the murmurings of the waves.
Behind and beyond the jutting promontories
of Greenland, he believed, lay the goal on which
for years his hopes had been set—the passage to
the South Sea and to China.
He held on his way, and by the end of July
had rounded Cape Farewell, at the south end
of Greenland, and had entered what is to-day
known, after him, as Hudson Strait. This is,
perhaps, the most terrible and dangerous stretch
of water in the world. Here for four hundred
miles the vast icefields of the Arctic Ocean are
crushed into a narrow passage less than fifty
miles wide at each end. Against this ice-jam
the Atlantic tide dashes itself in that ' furious
overfall' which has ever been a nightmare of
northern navigators—a cataract of waters thirty
feet high flinging itself against the southward
flow of the ice.
Notwithstanding the advance in the science of MUTINEERS AND CASTAWAYS       89
navigation, these straits are passable, even
to-day, only by specially constructed ships and
at certain times of the year. Hudson's Discovery
was a frail little wooden bark, which the ice
would crack like an egg-shell. Yet the fearless
old mariner does not seem to have thought of
turning back. By means of a small sail and a
constant use of grappling-irons Hudson literally
wormed his way through the ice-floes until he
reached Ungava Bay, part way through the strait.
Here he came nearest to extinction. It
seemed as though there were no escape from the
merciless ice-floes that pressed on every side.
An island of ice near the Discovery turned turtle,
and there was an avalanche of falling seas.
Some of the men, says Prickett, were sick with
fear. Henry Greene, Hudson's secretary, led the
men to the master and begged him to turn
back. As Hudson reasoned with them there
was a rift in the ice. The rift widened to a
channel. There came a spurt of wind, and
the Discovery sailed into open water. Beyond
this open water there appeared in due course a
vast sea.
As Hudson saw for the first time what are now
the waters of Hudson Bay, his heart must have
leapt with exultation. He had apparently no
doubt that he had at last come upon the South
Sea, and that he had only to sail south-west
until he came to China. Wfff
He was, of course, bound to be bitterly disappointed. As he sailed south, it became
obvious that he was in a great land-locked sea,
and not in the Pacific at all. When the crew
realised this fact Hudson had a mutiny on his
hands. Juet, the old mate, threw down his
boat-hook and refused to serve longer. He
pointed out that unless they turned back immediately they would find Hudson Strait closed
to them, and they would be compelled to winter
in Hudson Bay with only a few months' provisions in the hold. Hudson, however, was
adamant. He was confident they would find
the way through to Asia and he would not
turn back. He tried Juet for mutiny, deposed
him with loss of wages, and put a sailor named
Robert Bylot in his place.
With a crew on the verge of mutiny, Hudson
made his way down to that southern arm of
Hudson Bay which is called, after a later
explorer, James Bay ; and there, in the month
of November, he was caught by the terrible
northern winter.
The ice closed in around the ship. The
thermometer sank below zero. Stone fireplaces
had to be built on the decks of the ship, and
pans of shot heated red-hot taken to the berths
as warming-pans. All over the ship the hoarfrost lay an inch thick.
It might have been expected that men thus MUTINEERS AND CASTAWAYS       91
circumstanced would have forgotten their differences ; but such was not the case. Mutiny
was still in the air. It was only by threatening
to hang the mutineers at the yardarm, or maroon
them on a barren island, that Hudson was able
to get obedience at all. It was with the greatest
difficulty that some of the men could be induced
to go hunting, and, naturally, the supplies fell
very low. By the spring Hudson had distributed
to the crew the last pound of bread and cheese,
except for a reserve store of provisions for
fourteen days, which he had locked in his
No sooner had Hudson started on his return
trip in the early summer than mutiny broke
out. It was clear to every one that there was
not food enough to go round. Hudson had
been responsible for the perilous situation in
which they were ; he, the mutineers agreed,
should be sacrificed first. There were also nine
of the men ill in their berths ; they were of no
use, and might as well be sacrificed too. The
chief conspirator was Juet, the deposed mate,
and he was joined by Greene, Hudson's secretary,
who now turned on the hand that had fed
One night Greene came into the cabin of
Abacuk Prickett, who had acted as a sort of
agent for the ship's owners, and unfolded his
plan.   Vowing that he would cut the throat of 92 BY STAR AND COMPASS
any man that betrayed him, he swore with
many imprecations :
' I am going to end it or mend it—go through
with it or die. The sick men are useless. There
are provisions for half the crew, but not all '
Prickett stopped him. ' This is mutiny,'
he said, ' and mutiny is punished in England
by the gallows.'
' By heaven,' swore Greene, ' I would rather
be hanged at home than starve at sea.'
In the end Prickett allowed himself to be
persuaded. He could not save Hudson, and to
save his own neck he kept quiet. The mutineers
promised him that he would be spared on
condition that he agreed to intercede for them
with Sir Dudley Digges, his master. In vain
Prickett pleaded for Hudson's life. The mutineers had made up their minds, and they were
determined to go through with the business
while their blood was up.
That night was black and windy. Through- '
out its long hours the mutineers kept watch
and ward. At daybreak three stationed themselves outside Hudson's cabin. As the master
came out in the early morning they leapt upon
him, and bore him down. Once they had overpowered him they bound his arms behind his
back and gathered round him, jeering at and
cursing him. The eight sick men were tumbled
out of their berths and hustled on deck.   The MUTINEERS AND CASTAWAYS       93
shallop was lowered over the side, and Hudson,
with his son and the eight sick men, were bundled
into it. One man, a sailor from Ipswich, was
given the chance of remaining on board. He
chose to go in the shallop with his master. His
name was Philip Staffe.
The mutineers then hoisted the sails of the
Discovery. As these filled with the wind, the
tow-rope by which the shallop was attached to
the stern tightened. For a moment or so the
tiny craft breasted the waves gallantly, then
the tow-rope parted and the castaways were
As Prickett looked out of his cabin window
he saw Hudson sitting in the shallop with bound
arms and angry, panic-stricken face. He caught
a curse which the old sea-dog sent after his
traitorous crew.
' Juet,' he cried, ' will ruin you all.'
' Nay,' shouted Prickett, ' it is that villain
Henry Greene.'
The distance between the two boats widened.
The shallop fell away, first out of earshot, then
out of sight. When last seen the castaways
had their oars going and their sail spread, and
they were coming on after the Discovery, as if
in mad pursuit.
The mutineers crowded on all sail, and stood
away for Hudson Strait. Here they felt the
need of their old master's skill and knowledge. IT
They missed the entrance to the strait, they
lost themselves in fog, they ran on rocks and
icebergs. Henry Greene and four others were
murdered by Eskimos on the way through the
strait. The remaining four continued their
course alone. By the time they had reached
the eastern end of the strait they were reduced
to a ration of half a bird a day. Half-way
across the Atlantic they were eating the refuse of
the cook's barrel. In actual sight of Ireland, one
of the four, the ex-mate Juet, died of starvation.
Prickett and the other survivors reached
Plymouth. Why they were not all promptly
hanged there is one of the enigmas of British
justice. Possibly it was thought they had
already suffered enough ; possibly those who
knew that domineering old sailor, Henry Hudson,
felt they may have been justified in their mutiny.
The next spring a search expedition was sent
out for Hudson under the command of Sir
Thomas Button. Button carefully explored
Hudson Bay, but found no traces of the castaways. The fate of Hudson is one of the mysteries of the sea. Did he attempt to penetrate
the strait, and there perish in the ice, or at
the hands of the Eskimos, or did he turn back
into Hudson Bay and attempt to eke out an
existence on the shores ? The question is one
without an answer, the mystery one without
a clue. ■wr
Henry Hudson was soon followed by others.
The exploits of almost every one of these explorers would furnish a tale by itself; but
especial interest perhaps attaches to the adventures of a Danish sea-captain named Munk,
who visited Hudson Bay in 1619.
IN the early summer of 1620, as was their
annual custom, the Indians came down to
the shores of Hudson Bay. At the mouth of
what is now known as Churchill River, they
came across something the like of which they
had never seen before. On the shore they found
the corpses of a strange race and the clothes
in which they had clad themselves. And when
the tide went out, they beheld to their astonishment, in the natural harbour formed at the
mouth of the river, a sunken ship of what
seemed to them portentous proportions. Making a timid advance, they ventured to board
the vessel ; and what was their wonder and
delight when they found it was stocked with
plunder. Clothes of brilliant colours, mirrors,
and trinkets, steel axes and weapons, together
with a multitude of other articles, the use of
which baffled their intelligence, were theirs
only for the taking. In the seventh heaven of
delight, they transported their plunder to the 96 BY STAR AND COMPASS
shore and proceeded to dry it above their fires.
Little did they know the fate in store for them.
Among the booty which they had carried
ashore were several kegs of gunpowder. Perhaps some luckless savage thought these needed
drying out ; perhaps a spark from the camp-
fire fell upon them. Whatever the cause, the
kegs of gunpowder exploded, and half the
plunderers were blown into eternity. In terror
and trembling the rest of the Indians beat a
hasty retreat; and for many a long year after,
the mouth of Churchill River passed among
them by the ominous name of River-of-the-
Eighty years afterwards, when the Hudson's
Bay Company traders came to Churchill to
build a fort, they found imbedded in the river
flats several brass cannon bearing stamped
upon them the cryptic letters ' C4.'
The solution of the mystery of who those
strangers were who left behind them a sunken
ship and kegs of gunpowder and brass cannon,
is to be found in the journals of a captain of
the Danish Royal Navy, named Jens Munk,
which may be seen by any one who cares to
examine them in the publications of the Hakluyt
Captain Jens Munk had a career which was
adventurous, even in the adventurous times in
which he lived.   He was the son of a Danish THE RIVER OF THE STRANGERS    97
nobleman, but when he was still a child his
father had been imprisoned by the King for
misappropriation of public funds, and while
in prison had committed suicide. At the age
of twelve years Jens Munk had been thrown
on the cold world. He promptly took service
as ship's boy on board a Dutch merchant
vessel, bound for South America. Off the
coast of Brazil the vessel on which he was
was attacked by the French and sunk. The
young Danish lad was one of the few who
escaped. He plunged into the water, and,
clinging to bits of wreckage, succeeded after
some effort in swimming ashore in the dark.
In the town of Bahia, to which the lad made
his way, he succeeded in earning a livelihood by
turning his hand to any trade that offered. For
a time he was a cobbler's apprentice, and then
he served as the apprentice of a house painter.
Incidentally, he picked up a fair knowledge of
Spanish and Portuguese.
When he was eighteen years of age he escaped
in a Dutch ship which had come into Bahia,
and returned in it to Europe. Here he resumed
again the life of the sea, sailing in all manner of
ships to all manner of ports. Within five years
of his return to Europe he was commanding
his own ship ; we find him sailing on his own
account to Iceland, to Nova Zembla, to Russia.
His ability was such that it attracted the atten- 98 BY STAR AND COMPASS
tion of the Danish government, and they
offered him a post in the Danish Royal Navy.
King Christian of Denmark was a ruler who
was interested in the exploration of the New
World. The other countries of Europe were
founding colonies beyond the sea, and he was
anxious to do the same. He had heard with
interest of the English sailors, who had, in
1610, penetrated to Hudson Bay, and he decided
to send out an expedition to spy out the possibilities of colonisation there. When he looked
about for a sailor to command the expedition,
he could find no better man than Captain
Jens Munk.
Munk set out from Copenhagen for Hudson
Bay on Sunday, May 16, 1619. He had two
ships, the frigate Unicorn, with a crew of forty-
eight men, and the sloop Lamprey, with a crew
of sixteen men. The expedition was fitted out
with the greatest care ; King Christian himself
had supervised the preparations. For instance,
Munk had with him a chaplain and two surgeons,
luxuries which most explorers in those days
went without. It must be confessed, however,
that neither of these luxuries did Munk and his
men much good in Hudson Bay.
The story of the expedition, as set down by
Munk in his journal day by day, in a dry,
laconic style, affords as heartrending a record
as any page in the annals of exploration.   The THE RIVER OF THE STRANGERS
passage from Norway to Greenland was made
in an astonishingly short time, but in Hudson
Strait Munk's troubles began. The inexorable
ice-floes hemmed in his ships, and threatened a
dozen times to crush them into match-wood.
Time and again Munk was compelled to take
refuge in the shelter of the north shore. It
took him six weeks to make the passage of the
strait, where the fur-trade captains of later
times used to take a week.
In Hudson Bay a heavy gale was blowing.
In a hurricane of sleet the ships parted company ; and Munk, in the Unicorn, was driven
before the wind clean across the Bay. There
are not many good harbours in Hudson Bay,
but, as luck would have it, the storm drove
the Unicom straight as an arrow into the best
harbour on the whole coast, the harbour at the
mouth of Churchill River. Four days later the
little Lamprey appeared on the horizon, and in
answer to the beacons of driftwood built by
Munk's men, took refuge also within the river's
It was only the beginning of September when
Munk reached Churchill harbour, but already
the northern winter was beginning to settle
down. The thermometer had dropped, and
snow was beginning to fly, in small, stinging
particles. Ice-pans were beginning to heap
themselves up on the shore.    It became clear ioo BY STAR AND COMPASS
to Munk that no time should be lost in getting
into winter quarters ; and since the harbour
into which he had been blown served his
purpose admirably, he decided to winter there.
He moved farther up the river to a place which
still bears the name of Munk's Cove.
The crews had barely time to build breakwaters of logs and stones about the ships, to
protect them from the ice-jam in the spring,
when the winter fell. Ice formed in the
harbour. The mercury sank below zero. The
snow began to fall in blinding and inexhaustible
eddies. Used as they were to the mild and
humid atmosphere of Denmark, the explorers
were agh
ist at the intensity of the cold that
settled   d
own   upon   them.   They   had   never
rf anything like it.   Glass beer bottles
bound th
;ine bottles went off in loud explosions,
into atoms by the cold.    Wine kegs
en solid,  and burst the hoops that
em.   The nights were broken by the
as of the frost, as great rocks were
split in tvi
and his men were not prepared for
had were
places bu
they wer
hot as w
iance of clothes.   The only fires they
those they made in open stone fire-
ilt on deck.   To warm their bunks
; compelled to use shot heated red-
irming-pans.   Instead of taking exer- THE RIVER OF THE STRANGERS    101
cise on shore, they hung about the fire-places,
or took refuge in their bunks. ' One of my
surgeons,' says Munk, under date of December 12,
' died, and his corpse had to remain unburied
for two days, because the frost was so terrible
that no one dared go on shore.'
The inevitable result of this kind of life was
that illness broke out among the crews. Lack
of fresh meat and vegetables, combined with a
sedentary life, brought on the dreaded scurvy.
On January 10, Munk writes in his journal,
' The priest and the other surgeon took to
their beds. A violent sickness rages among
the men.    My head cook died.'
Eleven days later, on January 21, there is a
pathetic entry. ' I asked the surgeon, who
was lying mortally ill,' writes Munk, ' whether
any remedy mighfbe found in his chest. He
answered that he had used as many remedies
as he knew, and if God would not help, there
was no remedy.'
On January 23 the mate died. The minute
guns discharged in honour of his burial were so
brittle from the frost that they exploded. By
February 17 there had been twenty deaths,
and only seven men remained well and able
to work.    On February 20 the priest died.
By the end of March, Munk is forced to
write, ' I am like a lonely wild bird, running
to and fro waiting on the sick. . . . Not one 102 BY STAR AND COMPASS
of us is well enough to fetch water and fuel.'
On Good Friday there were only four men,
beside Munk himself, able to sit up and listen
to the sermon which Munk read. By May 6
there is the ominous entry, ' The bodies of the
dead he uncovered because none of us has
strength to bury them.'
In June, Munk himself, the last to give in,
collapsed. The ship had become a pest-house.
On the floor beside the captain's berth lay the
body of the cook's boy. In the bunks were
three other corpses. On deck were some more.
' Nobody,' says Munk, ' had strength to throw
them overboard.'
For four days Munk lay in his bunk without
a bite of food. As he felt his strength ebbing
away, he traced in his journal what he thought
were his last words :
' As I have now no more hope of life in this
world, I request, for the sake of God, if any
Christians should happen to come here, they
will bury my poor body together with the
others found, and this my journal forward to
the king. . . . Herewith, good-night to all the
world, and my soul to God.'
Having written these words, Jens Munk
crawled to the deck for a last look at the shore.
As he pulled himself painfully up to the bulwark,
he was surprised to see the figures of two men
standing on the shore.   They were two of the THE RIVER OF THE STRANGERS    103
men who had crawled ashore one evening at
ebb tide, and had not hitherto had the strength
to return. When they saw him they came over
the river flats (for the tide was out), and, with
great difficulty, helped him down the ship's ladder.
The three men built a fire of driftwood on
shore, partly to keep themselves warm, and
partly to keep the wolves away. They had
no provisions, but they ate what roots and
weeds and grasses were at hand. This, as it
happened, was the best thing they could have
done. Scurvy is caused by lack of fresh food,
and green sprouts were the best remedy they
could have hit upon. From the moment they
began to eat green food, they began to recover.
By the end of June their strength was sufficiently revived to enable them to rig up the
little Lamprey. They threw out all the ballast,
and at high tide the sloop floated free of the
breakwater which had been built about it.
The Unicorn Munk and his companions sank,
by drilling holes in her hull, in the hope that they
might be able to return with a crew and raise
her again.
' On July 16,' writes Munk in the journal,
' in the afternoon, we set sail from there in the
name of God.' Three emaciated men, weakened
by hunger and hardships unspeakable, were
all the crew that manned the sloop. But they
were men who had cheated death once,  and 104
way aero
broke, at
ice-floe a
the wind
Here he
nk ha
:heat death again. Half-
le rudder of the Lamprey
I to moor the ship to an
i the wind. Fortunatelym
dear into Hudson Strait.
: rudder and worked his
Outside the strait he
1 the Atlantic, ' such as
f his legs.' As he passed
d the seas were so heavy
i land. But he won safely
nber 20 the little Lamprey
ugh the foam into one of
/. With the help of a
his companions moored
the ship; and then they fell on their knees,
thanking God for their deliverance from ' icebergs and dreadful storms and foaming seas.'
This is how it came about that the Indians
called Churchill River the River of the Strangers,
and that the Hudson Bay traders found cannon
at Churchill Factory stamped with the mystic
letters ' C4.' The strangers were the corpses
of Captain Munk's men, and the cannon belonged
to Captain Munk's sovereign, King Christian iv.
of Denmark.
would blow a
the islands of
that he did no
through, and 0
ploughed its v
the fjords of
peasant,   Muz
the Western Oce
in discovering that
ced sea and did not
halted exploration MR RADISHES AND MR. GOOSEBERRY 105
in that direction for many years ; and it was not
until the Hudson's Bay Company was formed
in 1670, and the fur-trade organised on the
shores of the Bay, that further progress became
possible. The story of the foundation of the
Hudson's Bay Company—a story in which
our old friends Radisson and Groseilliers played
a leading part—has been often told ; but
perhaps it will bear telling again.
IT was the year of the great plague in London.
His Majesty King Charles the Second had
taken refuge, together with all his court, in the
ancient university town of Oxford, and was
there transacting the business of state. To
Oxford there came one day, to have audience
with the King, a gentleman named Sir George
Carterett. Sir George Carterett had just returned from America, where he had been sent
as one of His Majesty's Commissioners to inquire
into the affairs of His Majesty's American
colonies. He had brought back with him from
Boston two French-Canadian coureurs-de-bois,
whose names were Pierre Esprit Radisson and
M6dard Chouart des Groseilliers (or, as the
English called them, ' Mr. Radishes and Mr.
Gooseberry'). - Thinking that Charles might be
1 IT
interested in the marvellous story which these
men had to tell, Sir George asked for an audience for them ; and Charles, who seemed
greatly interested by what he heard about them,
granted it.
The meeting, which took place in Oxford one
autumn day of 1665, between King Charles
and the two French-Canadians, must have been
a dramatic subject for the artist's brush. On
the one hand, there was the merry monarch
himself, with his perfumed curls and gay clothes
and graceful manners. Beside him was probably his uncle, Prince Rupert, the dashing
adventurer who had been cavalry officer, pirate,
and politician in turn. On the other hand
were Mr. Radishes and Mr. Gooseberry, the
two fur-traders who had penetrated farther
than any other white men into the interior of
North America, and who had made and lost a
fortune by the way. Radisson was young and
smooth-faced, lithe as a panther ; Groseilliers
was middle-aged and heavily bearded, and burnt
black with the sun and wind of the wilds. They
both doubtless looked and felt uncouth in their
court clothes.
The story which Radisson poured out before
the ears of the King and Prince Rupert was
one of thrilling interest. He told how he and
his brother-in-law, Groseilliers, had penetrated
far into unexplored  territory to the west of MR RADISHES AND MR. GOOSEBERRY 107
New France ; how they had heard there of the
Bay of the North, to which the Indians went
"down in the summer; and how they had
actually reached, by an overland route, that
great Bay in which, half a century before, Henry
Hudson had lost his life. He described the
vast cargoes of furs which they had obtained
there, six hundred thousand peltries in all,
worth fabulous sums of money. He told how
on their return to New France, they had been
plundered by the governor, under the pretence
of fining them for trading without a licence ;
how they had tried in vain to obtain redress at
Paris ; how they had fitted out an expedition
of their own at Port Royal, for the purpose of
trading in Hudson Bay ; how the expedition
had been turned back by the ice at Hudson
Strait; and how,' at last, when their hopes
and patience were at the lowest ebb, they had
met in Boston Sir George Carterett, the Royal
Commissioner to America, who had induced
them to return with him to England.
Throughout the narrative, it was clear that
Radisson and Groseilliers were so disgusted
with the treatment which had been meted out
to them in Quebec and in Paris, that they were
ready and willing to take service under the
One does not as a rule think of Charles the
Second as a company promoter, but he was a 108 BY STAR AND COMPASS
shrewd business man, with a keen eye for the
main chance. He saw the possibilities of exploiting the fur-trade in Hudson Bay, and he
attached the two Canadians to his court. At
the moment, owing to the plague, the great fire
in London, and the war with the Dutch, he was
not in a position to fit out an expedition. But
as soon as possible he gave orders to the
Admiralty to hand over to the adventurers the
ship Eaglet for the purpose of making an expedition to Hudson Bay, and trading in and
exploring that region. The cost of the expedition
was to be borne by Prince Rupert and half a
dozen members of the court, who had sufficient
business foresight to see the prospect of large
dividends in return. These men were the
nucleus out of which later the great Hudson's
Bay Company developed.
The expedition set sail in the spring of 1668.
In addition to the Eaglet, under Captain
Stannard, the adventurers were given the
Nonsuch, commanded by Captain Gillam, of
Boston. Radisson was to sail on board the
first, Groseilliers on board the latter ; and the
captains were to take their orders from them.
The instructions which were issued to the
captains are still to be seen in Hudson's Bay
House, London ; they conclude thus :
' Lastly wee advise and require you to use the
said  Mr.  Gooseberry and  Mr.  Radisson with MR RADISHES AND MR. GOOSEBERRY 109
all manner of civility and courtesy, and to
take care that all your company doe bear a
particular respect unto them, they being the
persons upon whose credit wee have undertaken
this expedition.
' Which wee beseech Almighty God to prosper.
(Signed) Rupert,       Albemarle,
Craven,       G. Carterett,
J. Hayes,     P. Colleton.'
In mid-Atlantic the two ships encountered
heavy gales. Mountainous combers threatened
at every minute to inundate them ; and they
tossed about, with hatches battened down, like
helpless derelicts. In the storm they were
driven far apart. The smaller vessel, the
Nonsuch, with Groseilliers on board, weathered
the gale, and proceeded on its way to Hudson
Strait. But Radisson's ship, the Eaglet, was
so badly battered that it was forced to put
about, and crawl in a disabled condition back to
London Port.
It must have been a sore trial to the eager
and irrepressible Radisson to be driven back to
England. For all he knew, his brother-in-law
Groseilliers might have gone to the bottom of
the sea, and in that case the expedition would
have proved a hopeless failure. Radisson, however,   philosophically  occupied  himself  in  the
winter of 1668-69 in making preparations for a
new venture, and in writing an account of his
former journeys of discovery, the account which,
written in the curious and obscure English
Radisson had picked up since he reached
England, came to fight only a few years ago.
In the spring of 1669, Radisson made a second
attempt to reach Hudson Strait; but the
vessel which he had been given, the Wavero,
proved unseaworthy, and he was again compelled to turn back. What was his delight,
however, on sailing up the Thames, to find tied
up to the dock the little Nonsuch, with Groseilliers
and Gillam on board. Groseilliers had wintered
in Hudson Bay, had explored the greater part
of the coastline, had found the Ojibway encampments, and had done a roaring trade with
them in furs. The hold of the little ship was
filled with the precious bundles of pelts ; Prince
Rupert and the other gentlemen adventurers
were highly delighted with the success of the
expedition ; and Radisson found that, in spite
of the ill-luck which had dogged him, he was at
last on the high road to fortune.
Once the possibilities of the fur-trade in
Hudson Bay had been demonstrated, Prince
Rupert and his friends applied themselves to
obtaining a charter from the King. This charter
they obtained in the year 1670. It incorporated a new company entitled ' The Governor mm
and Company of Adventurers of England
Trading into Hudson's Bay,' and it granted
this company ' the whole trade and commerce
of all those seas, straits, bays, rivers, creeks and
sounds in whatsoever latitude that lie within
the entrance of the straits called Hudson's
Straits, together with all the lands, countries
and territories upon the coasts and confines of
the seas, straits, bays, lakes, rivers, creeks,
and sounds not now actually possessed by the
subjects of any other Christian state.' This
meant that the new company was to have
sovereignty over all those lands watered by the
rivers flowing into Hudson Bay, from Labrador
on the east to the Rocky Mountains on the
Thus was born the most prosperous chartered
company which the- world has seen, a company
that ruled nearly half a continent for two
hundred years, and that during nearly all
that time paid dividends beside which even the
marvels of modern finance pale into insignificance.
In June, 1670, Radisson and Groseilliers set
sail once more for Hudson Bay, with three ships
chartered by the company. For two or three
years they laboured at establishing the company on the shores of the Bay ; they built forts,
and worked up the trade with the Indians,
and in general spied out the land. The two
brothers-in-law,   however,   were   better   bush- U2 BY STAR AND COMPASS
whackers than they were business men. They
had come out to the Bay without any definite
understanding or contract with the company j
and when they returned to England they found
that the company was not disposed to treat
them as liberally as they thought they had a
right to expect. They had probably expected
to be made partners, and given shares in the
company for their part in founding it ; they
had expected, as we should say to-day, to be
given watered stock. But the company was
not disposed to grant them anything more than
an annual allowance of £100. This meant that
they were to be servants, and not partners, in
the company.
The high-spirited French-Canadians, who had
blazed out the trails of an empire's commerce,
bore grievously this ungrateful treatment. They
realised that they had been duped. Now that
the company had no further necessity for their
services, it was no longer disposed to treat them
with the same consideration as before. It was
while they were in this frame of mind that an
offer came to them from the great French
minister, Colbert, inviting them to return to
the allegiance of France. They accepted the
invitation with alacrity; and from 1674 to
1682, they had the pleasure and satisfaction of
playing havoc with .the trade of the English in
Hudson   Bay.   In   the   latter  year,   Radisson MR. RADISHES AND MR. GOOSEBERRY 113
actually captured the most northern and most
profitable of the English trading - posts, that
which he himself had founded at Nelson River.
These depredations, however, got Radisson
into trouble with the French government, which
at that moment was anxious for diplomatic
reasons to conciliate England. He became
entangled, as it were, in the meshes of European
diplomacy. At the same time, attempts were
made on the part of the English to induce
Radisson and Groseilliers to return to London.
The Company of Gentlemen Adventurers had
found out to their cost that it was better to have
Radisson as a friend than as an enemy. They
held out, therefore, considerable inducements
to him, and in 1683 he once more changed his
allegiance, and returned to England. Groseilliers,
by this time growing an old man, declined to
follow his brother-in-law, and returned to New
France, where he died thirteen years later among
the humble habitants from whom he was sprung.
On his return to London, Radisson was at
first royally treated. The Adventurers presented him with a purse of gold ' for his extraordinary services to their great liking and
satisfaction.' A merchant was ordered ' to
keep Mr. Radisson in stock of fresh provisions,'
another dealer was ordered to supply him with
' a hogshead of claret.' The Secretary of the
Committee begged him to accept a silver tankard H4 BY STAR AND COMPASS
(costing, by the account books, £10 4s.) as a
token of their esteem. He was able to set up
house near Tower Street, in one of the fashionable quarters of London at that day. About
him lived the merchant princes who held stock
in the Hudson's Bay Company, and only a few
doors away lived the famous Samuel Pepys,
the gentleman in whose collection of manuscripts Radisson's journals were found. So
far as it is possible to estimate his income,
Radisson must at this time have been in receipt
of £200 a year, which went farther and was
worth more then than it would be now.
But with the Revolution of 1688 a change
took place in Radisson's fortunes. The departure of the Stuarts from England brought about
a transformation in the Hudson's Bay Company.
The names of the shareholders changed ; of
Radisson's old friends, hardly one remained.
At the same time, the company fell on evil days.
The French were once more raiding the Bay,
and cutting off the furs. The dividends, which
had been as high as 50 per cent, per annum,
dropped to nothing. The company had to
They started by cutting Radisson's pension
in two. One or two of the old shareholders
protested ; but the new shareholders knew not
Joseph, and paid no attention to the protest.
Radisson, now growing an old man, was forced MR. RADISHES AND MR. GOOSEBERRY 115
to file a suit against them in Chancery, and
petition Parliament for redress. From his
petition it is clear that he had been reduced to
destitution ; he was living in the Parish of
St. James ' in a low and mean condition,' and
in fear lest his family should be driven to the
poorhouse. He won his suit, but never again
did prosperity shine upon him. Toward the
end of his life, we find him petitioning the
Company to be made the warehouse keeper of
their London premises. To the eternal shame
of the Hudson's Bay Company this petition
was refused. The last instalment of Radisson's
pension was paid him on March 29, 1710.
Sometime between this date and the beginning
of July, 1710, the old fur-trader passed down
the long trail. With his death there ceased to
beat one of the -most daring and ingenious
hearts of the seventeenth century.
Strangely enough, the names of the officers
of the Hudson's Bay Company do not occupy
high places in the honour roll of Canadian
exploration. For many years after its formation
the company was content to limit its operations
to the shore of the Bay, and to trade with the
Indians that happened to come down there in
the summer. -Not only was exploration inland
not encouraged ; it was actually forbidden.
But about the end of the seventeenth and the
beginning of the eighteenth century, the com- n6 BY STAR AND COMPASS
pany was roused from its sleep on the Hudson
Bay littoral, first of all by the inroads of the
French into the Bay itself, and in the second
place by the arrival of French fur-traders in
the prairie country. The latter soon cut off
the trade of the English at its source, and
compelled the company to send its men inland
to found posts and renew relations with the
THE first of the Hudson's Bay Company
explorers to reach the western prairies
was a youth named Henry Kelsey. Henry
Kelsey, before he became apprenticed to the
company, had been a ragamuffin street-arab of
London. He had grown up under the shadow
of the gay and dissolute court of Charles the
Second, a little waif of humanity living in the
gutters and on the wharves. How he came to
be apprenticed to the company, we do not
know. It was not easy for the company to get
men to expatriate themselves on the inhospitable
shores of Hudson Bay, and young Kelsey may
have been impressed, as one of the Hudson's
Bay Company ships was setting sail in the
Port of London ; or his relatives may have
bound him over as an apprentice to the company
to get rid of him. EXPLORATIONS OF A STREET-ARAB    117
He first appears, after his arrival at Port
Nelson, in Hudson Bay, in the year 1688.
Instructions were sent in that year to Governor
Geyer, of" Port Nelson, to send ' the boy, Henry
Kelsey ' to Churchill River, ' because, we are
informed, he is a very active lad, delighting
much in Indians' company, being never better
pleased than when he is travelling amongst
them.' This entry in the records of the Hudson's
Bay Company is more remarkable than might
at first appear. In 1688 there was no Hudson's
Bay Company post at Churchill River, and
Henry Kelsey was evidently to be sent up
there to induce the northern Indians—probably
the Chippewyans—to come down to Port Nelson
to trade. The Gentlemen Adventurers apparently considered that the lively and mischievous
little London street-arab, whom they had
sent out a few years before, had shown such an
aptitude for getting on with the Indians, and
for learning their language, that he should be
given every opportunity for using his talents
in that direction.
It is to be presumed (though we have no
direct evidence of the fact) that Kelsey was
sent off to Churchill River, and established
relations with the Indians there. Guttersnipe
as he was, reared under the shadow of the
great St. Paul's, one can imagine the perennial
delight and interest he must have taken in the Ii8 BY STAR AND COMPASS
life of the bush, in the wood-craft of the Indians,
and in the tales told by the old men of the
tribe over the camp fire at night.
The freedom of the forest life, however, in
one sense did him no good. When he returned
to Fort Nelson, he began to find the strict discipline of the fort most irksome. The martinet
rule of the Hudson's Bay Company governors
at that time was rigid almost beyond belief.
Only the governor and the chief trader were,
as a rule, allowed to converse with the Indians.
No servant of the company was allowed to
leave the fort to hunt except with special
permission, and under parole. The head officials
exacted from their subordinates implicit obedience ; and no junior was permitted to address
his seniors unless spoken to. The walls were
plastered with rules and regulations ; and any
infraction of these rules was rewarded with
detention in the guard-room, or with corporal
punishment. The governor, with his uniform
of red and gold, and his cocked hat and lace
ruffles, was a little despot within his wilderness
The little London ragamuffin, who. had tasted
the pleasure of free life once, refused to submit
to the discipline of the fort, and proceeded to
break all rules, regardless of the consequences.
He went in and out of the gates without leave ;
and when the gates were closed, he climbed the Tl
walls. Just when he was needed in the fort,
it was often found that he had run away with
his friends, the Indians, hunting. At last,
however, Governor Geyer, thinking to subdue
him by means of bodily punishment, switched
him soundly and put him in the guard-room.
He little knew the spirit that was in Henry
Kelsey's breast. The lad escaped from his
guards, jumped the walls, and took refuge with
"the Indians ; and for many a long day the
occupants of the fort saw neither hide nor hair
of him. Where he went with his dusky friends,
we do not know ; possibly he did not know
very clearly himself. But while he was away,
he slipped completely into the Indian manner
of life ; he was adopted into the tribe, married
an Indian wife, and donned the Indian costume.
It was just after Kelsey ran away from Fort
Nelson that the company in Hudson Bay began
to be troubled by the incursions of the French.
In order to make up for the losses sustained
because of French competition, the company
endeavoured to induce some of the servants to
go inland to get in touch with the Indian trade.
Owing, however, to the sedentary policy the
company had adopted, none of the company's
servants was well qualified to undertake such
a trip. It was at this juncture that Henry
Kelsey reappeared. One day an Indian runner
brought to Governor Geyer a piece of birch bark, 120 BY STAR AND COMPASS
with a message from Kelsey scrawled in charcoal
upon it. This message was to the effect that
Kelsey had been inland with the Indians, and
that he would lead an expedition of discovery
into the interior if Governor Geyer would
pardon him for running away.
Geyer replied that he was quite ready to
pardon him, and Kelsey presented himself at
the gates of the fort with his Indian wife. Geyer
made some trouble about admitting the squaw
into the fort (it was against all the rules of the
company) ; but Kelsey refused to enter without
her, and she was admitted with him.
Geyer issued to Kelsey a formal commission
for discovery, and the next summer (1691),
Kelsey set out for the interior.
We have Kelsey's own account of his remarkable and trying journey, in the Hudson's Bay
report of 1749. His narrative is in some respects
more detailed than many of the records of
exploration ; but he gives little indication of
the route which he followed. His journey
seems to have taken him between five and six
hundred miles inland ; but the only clue to the
direction he took is to be found in his general
descriptions of the country through which he
passed, and his remarks on the game encountered.
A difficulty in his narrative is the fact that he
mentions crossing only one river, and that a
small one ;   yet it is impossible to travel five EXPLORATIONS OF A STREET-ARAB 121
hundred miles in any direction from Nelson
Factory without encountering many rivers and
streams. This fact has been taken as throwing
doubt on Kelsey's journey ; but it must be
remembered that Kelsey was not, like David
Thompson, the London lad who traversed the
same country a century later, a professional
surveyor, and he gives just as accurate an
account of his route as men like Radisson and
Groseilliers had done before him. The country
he covered was new ground to him, and he
probably resigned himself to the guidance of
the Indians who were with him. It is not
surprising, then, to find him vague as to the
course he pursued.
The likelihood seems to be that Kelsey penetrated to the northern part of the modern
province of Saskatchewan. Farther south he
would have struck a country which, owing to
the network of lakes and rivers running through
it, is almost impassable ; and his journal shows
that he abandoned his canoes in order to travel
faster. Farther north he would have struck
the Lake Athabaska district; and it is difficult
to conceive how he could have come near that
great expanse of water without hearing of it
from the Indians. If he ever made the trip he
describes, he made it in the direction of the
Saskatchewan prairies, but without reaching
the Saskatchewan River. 122 BY STAR AND COMPASS
In his wanderings, Kelsey did not lack for
adventures. Just one month after he set out
from Deering's Point, one of the Indians who
was with him sickened and died. Kelsey gives
in his journal an interesting description of the
burial; the corpse ' was burnt in a fire, according to their way, they making a feast for him
that did it; so, after the flesh was burned, the
bones were buried, with logs set up round it.'
By a characteristic course of Indian reasoning,
Kelsey's companions blamed him for the sick
man's death. It so happened that Kelsey
dissuaded them from going on the warpath to
avenge three of their squaws, who had been
killed by a neighbouring tribe of Indians;
they reasoned that the gods were angry with
them for omitting the work of vengeance, and
had punished them with the death of their
comrade. It was only by giving what he calls
' a Feast of Tobacco,' and talking to them
roundly, that Kelsey was able to pacify them.
He told them plainly that they had not been
given arms and ammunition by the company
in order to slay their enemies ; and he promised
them that, if they went to war, they need never
again show their faces at Fort Nelson, or expect
to get any more guns and knives and beads.
It was Kelsey's first lesson in the art of managing Indians, and he seems to have proved
himself an adept at the outset. EXPLORATIONS OF A STREET-ARAB 123
Once, after the party had reached the prairies,
Kelsey lost his way. Exhausted with hunting
the buffalo, he fell asleep on the trail; and
when he awoke there were none of the Indians
to be seen. There was not even the dust of the
buffalo hunt to give him a clue as to the whereabouts of his companions. About him stretched
the illimitable prairie, with its grasses waving
breast-high. It was only by following laboriously
the trail of the crumpled grasses, and by watching
the sky at night for the reflection of the camp
fires, that Kelsey found his way back to the
Indian camp.
What increased the respect of the Indians
for Kelsey most of all, however, was an adventure he had with two grizzly bears. He was
out hunting one day with one of the Indians
when he came unexpectedly upon bruin and his
mate. The bears knew no fear of fire-arms,
and seemed disposed to parley. Kelsey and
his companion, however, made for shelter.
The Indian climbed a small tree, and Kelsey
hid in a clump of willows, firing as he ran. The
bears mistook the direction of the shot and
pursued the Indian. From the vantage-ground
of the willows, Kelsey took careful aim ; and
first one, and then the other, of the grizzlies
was brought low by his bullets. The grizzly
bear is a dangerous animal, and one hard to
kfll; and Kelsey's double victory over the beast 124 BY STAR AND COMPASS
of prey most feared by the Indians gained him
the name of Miss-top-ashish, or Little Giant.
Kelsey found the Indians of the interior, in
search of whom he had made his journey. To
their chief he presented, on behalf of the Hudson's
Bay Company, a coat, a cap, and a sash, one
of his own guns, some knives, awls, and tobacco,
and a small quantity of powder and shot. With
these presents the chief was greatly delighted.
He expressed his sorrow that he had nothing
worthy to offer in exchange ; but when Kelsey
invited him to bring his furs down to Hudson
Bay the following spring, he readily gave his
promise to do so.
Having fulfilled his mission, Kelsey turned
back toward Port Nelson, where he duly
reported himself to Governor Geyer. Nothing
immediate came of his mission, for, although
the Indians of the prairies, true to their promise,
did set out in the spring for Deering's Point,
with a cargo of beaver skins, they were set on
by hostile Crees and forced to turn back.
But even if nothing immediate in the way of
trade returns resulted from Kelsey's journey,
the journey was, nevertheless, an important
one in the history of American exploration.
It was the first attempt to explore the interior
from Hudson Bay, and it foreshadowed the
expansion of the company through the length
and breadth of the great West.   Kelsey was 1
the first man, with the exception of Radisson, to
explore any part of what we know as the North-
West ; the first to visit one of the western tribes;
the first to see and hunt the buffalo. Though
he little knew it, the explorations of the little
London street-arab were a great step in advance
in the practical study of Canadian geography.
Kelsey lived for many years after 1691, and
rose to a position of high authority in the
Hudson's Bay Company. In 1697 he was deputy
governor of York Fort, and afterwards, in 1717,
he became governor. For a short time he was
actually governor of the whole Bay.
He died in 1729. Behind him he left his Indian
wife, who was granted by the company a gratuity
of ten guineas, and a race of half-breed children,
who perpetuated on the shores of Hudson Bay
for many years the name of Kelsey.
The first organised attempt of the Hudson's
Bay Company to carry out exploration was
in the direction of the north-west. A generation after Henry Kelsey's day, the company
sent out several expeditions by water in the
hope of finding a north-west passage through
the Arctic, and with the object also of investigating rumours of mineral wealth on the Arctic
Coast. All these expeditions were comparatively
fruitless ; but the first of them, that of Captain
Knight in 1719, was so disastrous that it stands
out from all the others. 126 BY STAR AND COMPASS
ON the west side of Hudson Bay, south of
that arm of the sea known as Chesterfield Inlet, there is an island which the whalers
still call by the ominous name of Dead Man's
Island. On the maps it is marked Marble
Island, probably owing to the fact that it is
as bare of vegetable growth as a gravestone.
At the east end of this island is a natural
harbour, almost hidden to view by the rocky
walls which guard the narrow entrance, and
knOwn for many years only to the Eskimos,
who took refuge there in their bladder kayacks
from the fury of the north-eastern gales.
One night, in the autumn of 1719, the Eskimos
who were camped on the island were startled
by the appearance of two huge ships, driving
before the storm straight at the rocks at the
entrance to the harbour. Two great shadows
emerging from the blackness of the hurricane,
they seemed like leviathans of the deep rushing
for shelter. As the awestricken and superstitious natives watched, one of the ships ran
foul of a reef. They saw the masts fall, and
the frame of the vessel slowly dissolve, under
the impact of the mountainous seas. The
other ship, more fortunate, made the narrow TRAGEDY OF DEAD MAN'S ISLAND    127
entrance to the harbour, and shot into shelter ;
but so great was its momentum that it climbed
with a grinding sound heard above the clamour
of the storm, up on the rocky shore. Human
forms immediately appeared about the vessel,
toiling like madmen to save the cargo before
the storm completed its havoc; they could
be seen running to and fro, now in the water
and now out of it, carrying heavy loads, under
which they staggered and reeled.
In an access of terror, the Eskimos fled from
the spot. In the morning, however, filled with
that curiosity which possesses primitive peoples,
they returned cautiously to inspect once more
the scene of the wreck. They found the
survivors, who numbered about fifty souls,
already at work setting up a house. Of the
ships there was nothing to be seen but wreckage ; but the white" men seemed to have saved
a good deal before the second ship went to
Whether the Eskimos made their presence
known to the white men, is not clear ; but if
they did so, they did not remain with them
long. The winter was soon to settle down,
and the Eskimos, in anticipation of it, made off
in their kayacks to the mainland.
The next summer (1720), as soon as the
breaking up of the ice permitted it, the
Eskimos returned to Marble Island to see how 128 BY STAR AND COMPASS
the shipwrecked white men were getting along.
The sight which they encountered as they
entered the little harbour must have wrung
their savage hearts. The numbers of the white
men was reduced by about half, and there were
many graves on the shore, graves scooped out
of the drift sand, with boulders for a headstone.
Those that remained alive seemed very unhealthy. The trutih is that probably they had
all fallen victims to the dreaded scurvy. What
they had lived on during that terrible winter,
it is difficult to imagine. They must have
saved some provisions from the ship's stores;
for the rest, they must have depended on an
occasional Arctic hare or the carcass of a dead
porpoise cast up on the shore. Of fresh meat
and vegetable food which alone is a preventive against scurvy, they can have had almost
none. When the Eskimos offered them raw
seal meat and whale oil, they fell upon them
like ravenous beasts.
In spite of their weakened condition, however, the castaways were, according to the
Eskimos' account, busily engaged. Just what
they were doing is not easy to understand.
They may have been trying to lengthen the
longboat, which had apparently been saved
in a battered condition ; or they may have been
trying to make a new boat out of the ship's
timbers that had  drifted ashore.   For many TRAGEDY OF DEAD MAN'S ISLAND    129
years the chips that had flown from the carpenters'
adzes were to be seen near the shore.
For some reason or other, the poor wretches
were not able to complete their task. Perhaps
they were physically unequal to it. So pitiable
was their condition that some of the Eskimos,
out of the kindness of their savage hearts,
determined to spend the winter on the island.
They took up their abode on the opposite side
of the harbour to that on which the white men
had erected their house, and frequently supplied them with such provisions as they had,
which was chiefly whale's blubber and seal's
flesh and train oil.
But in the spring of 1721 the Eskimos were
compelled to return once again to the mainland ; and the handful of white men were left
once more to their own devices.
When the Eskimos came back in the summer
of 1721, they found the castaways in the last
stages of starvation. Only five of them were
left, and these were in such distress that they
eagerly ate the seal's flesh and whale's blubber
quite raw, just as they received it. This surfeit
of raw food disordered them to such an extent
that three of the five died in the next few days.
The picture drawn by the Eskimos of the
plight of the last two survivors is pitiable in
the extreme. After having buried their comrades, they lasted on for many days.   Their 130 BY STAR AND COMPASS
clothes were in tatters, and they were clad in
the skins of animals. They looked and behaved like madmen. Frequently they went to
the top of an adjacent rock, and scanned the
horizon, as if in expectation of some vessels
coming to their relief. When nothing appeared,
they would come back, and sitting close together,
would weep bitterly. At length, one of the
two died. His companion attempted to dig a
grave for him ; but his strength was so exhausted that he too fell, and died among the
Eskimo huts. So perished the last survivor
of that ill-fated company.
The identity of these unfortunates, who
suffered such a long-drawn-out death on that
bald and barren island, is. explained by a couple
of laconic entries in the Parliamentary Report
of the committee appointed to investigate the
affairs of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1749.
In the list of vessels fitted out by the company
for the purpose of discovering the north-west
passage, the first two entries run :
' 1719. Albany, frigate ; Capt. George Berley,
sailed from England on or about 5th June.
Never returned.
' 1719. Discovery, Capt. David Vaughan,
sailed from England on or about 5th June.
Never returned.'
From the records of the company, preserved
in   Hudson's   Bay   House,   London,   may   be mm
gathered the details with regard to the setting-
out of these ships. The expedition was under
the command of Captain James Knight. Knight
was a man who had grown old in the service
of the company. He had risen from a humble
position until he had become the governor of
the whole Bay. He seems to have been a man
of unconquerable energy, for in 1719 he was
already eighty years of age. The idea of the
expedition was his own. As governor of Albany
he had come into relations with Indians who
told him of vast copper mines to the northwest (about what is now known as the Coppermine River), and about a metal which Captain
Knight believed to be gold dust. They gave
him to understand that the sea stretched to the
north-westward of Hudson Bay, and that it
was possible to reach the mouth of the Coppermine River by sliip. Old Captain Knight's
imagination immediately took fire. He began
to dream of the possibility of finding his way
by a north-west passage to the Western Sea or
Pacific Ocean, of finding thpse mythical ' Straits
of Anian,' of which the Russians who had been
to Alaska told ; and, in addition to this, he was
filled with dreams of gold-dust wealth along
the shores of the Arctic Sea. He proposed to
the company that he should be sent on a combined prospecting and exploring expedition ;
and the partners of the company were so much 132 BY STAR AND COMPASS
enamoured of his proposal that they promptly
fitted him out with two ships, and sent him
off, wishing him ' God-speed, a prosperous
discovery, a fair wind, and a good sail.' Those
were the days of the South Sea Bubble, when
England was swept with a craze for wild-cat
speculation ; and even the staid old Gentlemen
Adventurers were caught by the mania. Knight
himself was so confident that he would not only
discover the elusive ' Straits of Anian,' but
that he would also discover the gold and copper
mines of which the Indians told, that he took
with him a large number of iron-bound chests,
in which he was going to bring the treasure
It was on June 3, 1719, that Knight set out,
in company with two of the company's merchantmen, from Gravesend. After a dangerous
passage, during which one of the merchantmen was crushed to kindling-wood in the ice
of Hudson Strait, the expedition reached Fort
Churchill. Here Knight stayed only long
enough to leave provisions for the occupants of
the port; and then he turned his prows northward, toward the unknown Arctic Sea.
It was his intention to winter in the north.
With that object in view, he had taken with
him not only many months' provisions, but
also the complete frame of a house, which
could be set up in a few hours.   Among his TRAGEDY OF DEAD MAN'S ISLAND    133
men were blacksmiths and carpenters ; and
the expedition was even furnished with a
surgeon, who was paid the unusually large
salary of £50 a year. No expense had been
spared to fit out the expedition in a thorough
and complete fashion, and in such a way as to
prepare it against a long absence from
When, therefore, Captain Knight did not
return to Churchill in the summer of 1720,
little anxiety was felt about him. It was
thought probable that he had discovered ' the
Straits of Anian,' which led to the Western
Sea, and that he was then sailing southward
through the Pacific Ocean, and would in due
course return to England by way of Cape
Horn, with a cargo of spices and gold dust.
But when the spring of 1721 came, and there
was still no word" or sign of Knight and his
men, some alarm began to be felt by the officials
of the company, both in England and in Hudson
Bay. On June 26, Henry Kelsey, the London
street- arab who had risen in the service of the
company until he had been appointed deputy-
governor of the Bay during Captain Knight's
absence, fitted out the sloop Prosperous, and
sailed north from York Factory in quest of the
missing explorers ; but he returned in September
without having found any trace of them. If
Kelsey   sailed   near   Dead   Man's   Island,   he 134 BY STAR AND COMPASS
must have missed the narrow entrance to the
harbour, where the wrecks of the Albany and
the Discovery lay.
The same summer the partners of the company in London bought the sloop Whalebone,
John Scroggs, master, and sent it off to search
for Knight. Scroggs arrived at Churchill while
Kelsey was away in the Prosperous, and when
it was too late for him to go far himself. He,
therefore, wintered at Churchill, and set off
north in the summer of 1722. He, too, failed
to find the hidden hole-in-the-wall, which would
have revealed the fate of Knight and his men ;
and he returned empty-handed on July 25.
A few years later a Hudson's Bay Company
officer named Norton, travelling inland with the
Indians, heard rumours from the Eskimos regarding the wreck of Captain Knight's expedition. But it was not until 1767 that the fate
of the expedition was actually discovered. In
that year one of the company's vessels, engaged
in the whale fishery, visited Dead Man's Island,
and discovered the harbour at the eastern end
of the island, which the search parties had
hitherto overlooked. Sailing into this harbour,
they found relics on every side of the lost expedition. The shores were strewn with guns,
anchors, cables, bricks, a blacksmith's anvil,
and many other articles which the Eskimos
had found too heavy to carry away in their TRAGEDY OF DEAD MAN'S ISLAND    135
light skin kayacks. The remains of the portable
frame house which Knight had taken with him
were still to be seen, as well as the hulls of the
two vessels, which were lying in about five
fathoms of water near the head of the harbour.
Beside the house were found the skulls and other
large bones of two men. These were, undoubtedly, the mortal remains of the last two
survivors of the expedition.
Two years later Samuel Hearne visited the
scene of the tragedy, and there he met a number
of the Eskimos, among whom were several aged
men. From these latter Hearne obtained a
full and circumstantial account of what had
happened. He was able to count the graves,
which had been scraped open by the wolves ;
and he gathered up the skeletons along the
shore, and buried them deep in a common
grave. And to this day the whalers of those
northern waters come to Dead Man's Island
to bury their dead, and to set up crosses for
those who lie in the sea without a sepulchre.
The island has become the cemetery of the
Toward the end of the French period, the
Hudson's Bay Company began to suffer from
the competition of the French fur-traders who
had gone into the West in the wake of the La
Verendryes,   and   who   were   cutting   off   the 136 BY STAR AND COMPASS
Hudson Bay trade at its source. In 1754 they
decided to send inland to strengthen their
relations with the Indians one of the company's
servants, Anthony Hendry. Hendry was the
first of the English traders from Hudson Bay
to meet on the prairies the French traders from
New France ; and a dramatic interest therefore
attaches to the story of his journey.
7"THE occupants of a Hudson's Bay Company
fort in the eighteenth century were a
picturesque and motley crew. The fort was
perhaps governed by a drunken, uncivilised
half-breed, like Governor Moses Norton, who
decked himself out in the fripperies of a gold
lace uniform and ruled his subordinates with a
rod of iron, and whose only qualification for
his post was his ability to bring in trade returns.
Under him were often the younger sons of
English gentry, relatives perhaps of the partners
of the company, packed off to Hudson Bay
to be out of the way, or to expiate their early
sins. There were street-arabs, picked up by
the company off the streets of London ; there
were country lads from the southern shires ;
and already the company had begun to draw
on the Orkneys and the Hebrides for that
rugged and hardy Highland stock which has
provided it with so many of its best men. As
the terrible Hudson Bay winter closed down,
the hearts of the company's men must have
gone out in longing to many different parts of
the world. The heart of the sailor yearned for
the high seas and the bustle of many a foreign
port ; the younger son of the English squire
longed for the green lawns and stately trees of
his ancestral home ; the heart of the London
ragamuffin was homesick for the sounds and
smells of the Strand ; and the eyes of the
Orkneyman were dim with longing for the
grey, forbidding, northern islands whence he
' From the lone shieling of the misty island,
Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas;
But still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland,
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.'
Among the company's servants at the middle
of the century, there were few more interesting
figures than that of Anthony Hendry. Hendry
was (so we are told by his Scottish friend,
Andrew Graham) a native "of the Isle of Wight,
off the south coast of England. He had been,
if the truth must be told, a smuggler. The
Isle of Wight was a centre for the smuggling
trade between England and France, and Hendry
had probably swung a lantern in many a cove
along the shore,  and helped in the unloading ffW
of many a keg of French brandy, while he
was still a lad. Smuggling had been with him
his natural profession. One day, however, His
Majesty's revenue cutter happened along unexpectedly, and Hendry and his companions-
were taken prisoners. In consequence of his
arrest, he had sentence of outlawry passed
against him. This meant that any one who
wished to do so might shoot him down with
Under the circumstances, since England had
become too hot for him, Hendry enlisted his
services with the Hudson's Bay Company.
It is probable that the partners of the company
did not know of the sentence of outlawry passed
against him ; but even if they had, the knowledge would not perhaps have made the slightest
difference. A bold, adventurous smuggler, accustomed to a dangerous life on sea and land,
was just the sort of servant for which the
company was looking.
It was in 1748 that Hendry had been outlawed for smuggling. It was in 1750 that he
entered the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. He was engaged as bookkeeper at York
Factory, and came out to the Bay the same
year. His bold and enterprising nature, however, did not allow him to limit himself to the
duties of his office, but he interested himself
from the first in the fife of the bush, in the THE OUTLAWED SMUGGLER       139
ways of the Indians, and in the character of the
country which stretched to the westward. Like
Henry Kelsey, he spent his spare time conversing with the Indians, and trying to penetrate the veil of mystery which shrouded the
It was just at this time that the company
began to notice a shrinkage in the beaver
returns. The Indians were not bringing their
furs down to the Bay in such numbers as they
had heretofore. The reason of this the officials
of the company could only surmise, but they
suspected, quite rightly, that the French coureurs-
de-bois, who had followed La Verendrye and
his sons to the West, were cutting off their fur
supply at its source. The company woke up
from its long inaction on the shores of the
Bay to find that the French from Canada had
stolen a march «n them. It became clear
that if the fur-trade was to be retained the
Hudson's Bay Company would have to go
into the interior in quest of it.
Accustomed only to the sedentary life about
the fur-post, most of the" company's servants
were loath to undertake a long and arduous
journey into the interior, over country of
which they knew nothing. But not so Anthony
Hendry. He was a comparative tenderfoot;
but in 1754, after having been on the Bay
only   four  years,   he   volunteered   to   journey
inland with the Indians, to explore the vast,
unknown regions from which the Indians came,
and to discover the why and wherefore of the
shrinkage in the beaver supplies. His offer
was accepted with alacrity by Governor Isham
of York Factory; and on June 26, 1754, Hendry
set off from York Factory with a party of Cree
Indians, and paddled inland up the Hayes River.
It was almost twelve months before his
friends at York Factory saw Anthony Hendry
again. During that time Hendry accomplished
a journey which was a landmark in the history
of western exploration. First of white men,
he reached, from Hudson Bay, Lake Winnipeg
and the Saskatchewan River, and came in
touch with the Blackfeet Indians of the far
western plains. He wintered in what is now
the southern part of the province of Alberta,
west of the Red Deer River, almost under the
shadow of the Rockies.
Hendry's own account of his journey, with
marginal notes by his friend, Andrew Graham,
has been found among the countless manuscript journals and reports of Hudson's Bay
Company officials stored up in Hudson's Bay
House, in London. As mignt be expected
it is a document of intense interest. It describes Hendry's progress inland with such
detail that it is possible to follow his course
on the map to-day.    After a long and difficult THE OUTLAWED SMUGGLER       141
journey, during which Hendry and the Indians
were more than once reduced to smoking their
pipes in order to allay the pangs of hunger,
the party reached the Saskatchewan.
Hendry was the first Englishman to reach
the Saskatchewan, but not the first white man,
for the French had already explored its course,
and Hendry had not gone far upstream before
he reached a trading-post which had been built
the preceding year by a French trader named
La Corne. He promptly paddled over to the
landing-place ; and his account of this first
meeting between French and English in the
great West is worthy of reproduction in his
own words :
' On our arrival,' writes Hendry, ' two Frenchmen came to the water side and in a very
genteel manner invited me to their home,
which I readily accepted. One of them asked
if I had any letter from my master, and where,
on what design, I was going inland. I answered
that I had no letter, and that I was sent to
view the country, and intended to return in the
spring. He told me that the master and men
were gone down to Montreal with the furs,
and that they must detain me till their return.
However, they were very kind, and at night
I went to my tent and told Attickashish or
Little Deer, my leader, that had the charge of
me, who smiled and said they dared not.' 142 BY STAR AND COMPASS
Attickashish was right. The French invited
Hendry to breakfast and dinner the next day,
but nothing more was said apparently about
detaining him until La Corne returned from
Montreal, for on the morning of the second day
Hendry and his Indian friends embarked in
their canoes and continued their journey.
This meeting of English and French in the
north-west (the only meeting, so far as we
know, before the English conquest of Canada)
is very interesting. The relations between
Hendry and the French traders were courteous
in the extreme. Hendry gave to the French a
present of two feet of tobacco, which, he says,
' was very acceptable to them,' and they
returned the compliment with the gift of some
moose meat. Hendry must have picked up,
in the course of his smuggling career, a working
knowledge of French ; and he and his hosts
seem to have got along very pleasantly together.
But in spite of all surface politeness, Hendry's
appearance cannot have been a welcome one to
the French. It presaged over half a century
of warfare between the Company of Gentlemen
Adventurers and the traders from Montreal,
a warfare that did not end until the union of
the Hudson's Bay men and the Nor'-Westers,
in 1821.
A few miles west of the French post Hendry
and his men ' cached' their canoes, and took THE OUTLAWED SMUGGLER       143
to foot. They were now well out on the plains,
and very soon came to the Assiniboine Indians.
It was Hendry's object to induce these Indians
to come down to Hudson Bay to trade, but
all his efforts to persuade them proved unavailing. Everywhere Hendry got the same
answer. ' We are,' said the Indians, ' conveniently supplied from the Frenchmen's trading
house ; why should we attempt the long and
dangerous journey to Hudson's Bay to secure
what the French bring to our very doors ? '
When Hendry reached the Blackfoot Indians,
or as he called them the ' Archithinue Indians,'
he received the same answer. These mounted
warriors and huntsmen of the plains had not
yet come to the knowledge of the Hudson Bay
traders, and Hendry was very much surprised
by their life and appearance, so different from
that of the other-Indians. When he returned
to York Factory and told of the ' Archithinue
Indians,' who rode furiously on horseback, he
was regarded as a romancer of a malignant
type. The Archithinue received him in one of
their villages, where two bundred tepees were
pitched opposite one another in two parallel
rows. Hendry was led down the thoroughfare
between the tents, spied upon by hundreds of
eyes which never before had seen a white man,
and was ushered into the lodge of the great
chief at the farther end.
Here sat the chief of the Archithinue, with
twenty elders about him. Hendry was bidden
to sit down at his right hand. The pipe of
peace was produced, and passed around in
silence. A feast followed. Then Hendry,
through his interpreter, told the great chief
of the Blackfeet that he had been sent into
his country by the Great Leader of the white
men, to invite the young men of the Blackfeet
to come down to see him and bring with them
beaver and wolf skins, in return for which they
would get guns, powder and shot, cloth, beads,
and other commodities. The old man listened
patiently, but shook his head. The Great
Leader of the white men, he said, lived very
far away. The young men of the tribe were
accustomed   to   travel  on   horseback,   not  in
canoes;   th
lsed t
d buffs
do me
at, and
could   not
would, ther
fish   a
ed wit
h grea
t hard-
ships to tl
hey h
as they w
r bow
s and
s were
sufficient tc
o ;  w
he had
heard  that
ith   fi
s,   tho
;e   who
ey  to
Hudson  Bay often
died of star
Hendry 1
s com
es ;   a
id was
to ad
> force
nit the
truth of th
i, after
spending tl
on  11
e pla:
ns,   to
in the spri
*g   <
dson  Bay w
having THE OUTLAWED SMUGGLER       145
accomplished much in the way of expanding
trade. He found, what it was going to take
the Hudson's Bay Company years to learn,
that if the Indians were to be induced to trade,
it would be by traders going inland.
On his return journey Hendry stopped at
the French post on the Saskatchewan, and
found that Monsieur de la Corne had returned
in the interval. La Corne was all politeness ;
he invited the Englishman to dine with him,
and offered to do anything in his power to
help him. His politeness was doubtless due
to the knowledge that Hendry had really
failed in his mission. Yet La Corne omitted
nothing to impress his English visitor. He
attired himself in the uniform of a French
captain of marine, which was his official standing at the time ; and he took Hendry in to
show him his stock of furs—' a brave parcel,'
says Hendry, ' of cased cats, martens, and
parchment beaver.'
Poor Hendry was much discouraged. ' The
French,' he came to the conclusion, ' speak
several [Indian] languages to perfection ; they
have the advantage of us in every shape ; and
if they had Brazile tobacco, which they have
not, would entirely cut off our trade.'
With this doleful news to report, he set off for
York Factory, and reached there on June 20, 1755,
almost twelve months from the day he had left it.
Almost immediately after Anthony Hendry's
return to Hudson Bay, the Seven Years War
broke out, and the upshot of this war was that
Canada passed in 1763 into British hands.
The conquest of Canada, however, brought no
relief to the Hudson's Bay Company; for the
French fur-trade in the West was immediately
taken over by a swarm of English and American
traders who made Montreal their base. The
competition of these traders proved even more
harassing than that of the French, and in
1774 the Hudson's Bay Company departed
from its century-old policy of sitting tight on
the shores of the Bay, and sent Samuel Hearne
inland to establish a rival trading-post,
Cumberland House, on the Saskatchewan River.
Hearne was the first real explorer whom the
Hudson's Bay Company had had in its service.
His chief title to fame, however, rests, not on
his establishment of Cumberland House or on
his journeys to the prairie country, but on his
earlier expedition of discovery overland toward
the Arctic. It is the story of this which
F*ROM the beginning of the eighteenth
century, many rumours about copper
deposits in the interior had reached the Hudson's
Bay men at Prince of Wales Fort, on Churchill
River. The Indians who came to trade at the
fort often brought with them rough pieces of THE MINE OF COPPER 147
copper ore, and ornaments and weapons
fashioned out of the ore, which they readily
traded instead of furs. On being asked where
the copper came from, they said it was found.
on the banks of a river which they called the
Far-off-Metal River, where it could be picked
up from the surface of the ground in great
quantities ; but that the distance of this river
from the Hudson Bay fort was so great as to
prevent them bringing in much of it to
As early as 1719 an attempt had been made
by the Hudson's Bay men to reach this fabulous
bed of copper. In that year, as we have seen,
old Captain Knight, the governor of Churchill,
set out to reach the place by way of the Arctic
Ocean. ' Governor Knight,' says one of the
chroniclers of the company, ' and Captain
Barlow, being well assured that there were
rich mines to the northward, from the accounts
of the Indians of those parts who had brought
some of the ore to the factory, were bent upon
making the discovery ; and the Governor said
he knew the way to the place as well as to his
bedside.' Captain Knight, however, did not
come within hundreds of miles of the mineral
wealth he sought ; and with the exception of
one or two sporadic attempts at discovery, the
project of reaching the Far-off-Metal River fell
into the background for half a century or so. 148 BY STAR AND COMPASS
It was probably the discovery of the remains
of Captain Knight's ill-starred expedition on
Marble Island, in 1767, that turned the thoughts
of the Hudson's Bay men once more to the
copper mine in the interior. It so happened
also that a band of Northern or Athabaskan
Indians, who visited the fort the next year,
in 1768, brought with them some fine specimens
of copper ore, which they said came from the
Coppermine or Far-Off-Metal River.
The governor of Churchill at that time was
Moses Norton, who, drunken half-breed though
he was, was a man of more than ordinary
intelligence and strength of character. He
questioned the Indians minutely as to the
distance and direction of the Coppermine
River ; and when he found that it was only
four hundred miles north-west of the mouth of
Churchill River, he determined to send out an
expedition to visit it and report upon it. He
induced the Indians to prepare rough charts
on birch bark; he placed all the information he
could gather before the partners of the Hudson's
Bay Company in London ; and he obtained their
sanction for his venture. The plan which he proposed was not one which entailed much expense
upon the company ; he was going to send out
one or two of the company's servants with a
band of Northern Indians, who would both
guide them and support them as they proceeded. Tl  THE MINE OF COPPER 149
The man whom Moses Norton selected as
the leader of the expedition was a young
Englishman named Samuel Hearne. Like
many another man commissioned to report
upon a mining property, both before and since
that time, Samuel Hearne knew little or nothing
of mining. He had been brought up as a
midshipman in the Royal Navy, in which he
had been placed by a widowed mother at an
early age ; but he had, while still a youth,
left the navy, and taken service on one of the
sloops of the Hudson's Bay Company, trading
with the Eskimos in Hudson Bay. The reason
why he was chosen to lead the expedition to
the Coppermine River was because his nautical
training had given him a knowledge of geography and surveying which, defective as it
was, was superior to that of the other servants
of the company.  ~
Hearne's first attempt to reach the Coppermine was made in the autumn of 1769. He
was at that time only twenty-four years of
age. As he marched out of the gates of Fort
Prince of Wales that November morning, under
the salute of seven cannon, he must have felt
confident of success. He had with him a
carefully picked party. There were two
Englishmen, volunteers; two of the Home-
Guard Southern Indians or Crees, in whom
Norton   placed   especial   confidence,   perhaps FT
because they were of his own particular tribe;
and a band of Northern Indians or Chip-
pewyans, under their leader, Chawchinahaw;
and he was equipped with instruments, maps,
ammunition, and supplies sufficient for two
years. Yet neither on that expedition nor
on the next did he come anywhere near the
objective of his journey.
On the first trip, the party were hardly out
of sight of Churchill before Chawchinahaw
and his Indians began to give Hearne trouble.
Unfortunately,   Hearne,   although   a   man   of
pluck   and   perse
verance,   did   not   have   the
knack of control
ling the Indians.   There was
rain of weakness in his char-
not take Chawchinahaw long
He  had   been  induced  to
embark on the e.
cpedition against his will, and
he promptly set
himself to thwart it in every
possible   way.   I
inally,   finding   that   Hearne
was not to be tun
tied back by petty annoyances,
he and his men
one day deserted in a body,
and with shouts
of derisive laughter,  which
made the woods
ring, left Hearne to his own
devices.   Hearne
and the men that were left
him were compe
led to make their way back
to the fort, a di
stance of nearly two hundred
miles, as best th
ey could;   and they had to
endure the morti
licat ion of marching into the
fort only a month
after they had set out. THE MINE OF COPPER 151
A second start was made two or three months
later, on February 23, 1770. This time Hearne
took with him a smaller party, three Northern
Indians and two of the Home-Guard Indians
settled about the fort. The Englishmen he
left behind, convinced that they were more of
a hindrance than a help.
On this journey Hearne was absent from
the fort nearly nine months. In that time he
penetrated farther to the north-west than
probably any white man up to this time. But
once more he experienced trouble with the
Indians. They pottered about all winter and
spring, and when the summer came, they
wandered hither and thither in search of caribou
and musk-ox, until the year became too far
advanced to admit of their reaching the Coppermine that summer. Hearne would have wintered
with them and pushed on the following spring,
but on August 11 he suffered a catastrophe
which made a further advance fruitless. On
that day, when he went to eat his midday
meal, he left his quadrant standing upright on
the rocks. A heavy gust of wind came along
and blew it down, smashing it to pieces. Having
lost his quadrant, there was now little object in
pursuing his explorations further, and he sorrowfully retraced his steps to Fort Prince of Wales,
which he reached in safety on November 25.
On his way back to the fort, Hearne fell in r
with a famous Northern Indian named Maton-
abbee. Matonabbee was a splendid example
of the North American Indian at his best,
such as has given rise to the epithet of
' the noble red man.' Hearne treated Matonabbee, who was half-starved and half-frozen,
with great kindness, helping to fit him out
again with clothes and supplies; and when
Matonabbee learned of the repeated failure
which had dogged Hearne's footsteps in his
attempt to reach the Coppermine, he offered
his services as guide if Hearne wished to make
Hearne gladly accepted Matonabbee's offer,
and put himself unreservedly in his hands.
Matonabbee did not hesitate to point out to
Hearne where he had made mistakes. He
ridiculed Hearne's idea of setting out, for
instance, without women. Women, he said,
were indispensable. They could carry or haul
twice as much as a man ; they could pitch the
ng expense ; for as
lg, the very licking
imes is sufficient for
was much shocked
rous ideas ;  but he THE MINE OF COPPER 153
had the good sense to adopt them, and the
wives of Matonabbee's followers who accompanied him on his third expedition probably
had a large share in accomplishing its success.
It was on December 7, 1770, that Hearne
and Matonabbee set out on the journey,
which was to take them to the mouth of the
Coppermine River. It would be tedious to
describe in detail the course which they followed.
Much of it has never been traversed either
before or since by the feet of white men ; and
Hearne's survey of some of his course is still
the basis of the map of that part of Canada.
As they approached the neighbourhood of the
copper mine, they struck one of the main
Indian trails to the mine, a road so well travelled
that Hearne describes it as being ' as plain and
well-beaten as any bye foot-path in England.'
On reaching the copper mine, Hearne experienced a disappointment. The Indians had
represented the river as a mighty stream,
navigable by large vessels for many miles from
the mouth. Hearne found it to be scarcely
navigable by canoes, being less than two
hundred yards wide and full of shoals. The
much-talked-of copper mines he found to be
an even greater disappointment. They were,
he wrote afterwards, ' nothing but a jumble of
rocks and gravel.' The Indians had reported
that the mines were so rich that if a factory 154 BY STAR AND COMPASS
were built at the mouth of the river a ship
might be ballasted with the ore instead of
stone. As a matter of fact, after a search of
four hours, all Hearne was able to find was one
piece of ore, about four pounds in weight, which
he took back with him to Fort Prince of Wales.
That Hearne did not find any valuable copper
deposits, does not, of course, argue that none
existed ; for Hearne was not a mineralogist.
What Hearne did do, was to point out the
inaccessibility of the mine, and the impossibility of making much use of it, no matter how
rich it was.
After following the Coppermine River to its
mouth, where it flowed into the Arctic Ocean,
and where his Indians mercilessly slaughtered
a band of helpless Eskimos, Hearne struck
south and west to what is now Great Slave
Lake. He was the first white man to gaze
upon that vast expanse of water. His course
for the latter part of his journey is very uncertain, for he lost his quadrant just after
leaving the Coppermine River, and while he
was at Great Slave Lake his watch stopped,
so that he was left without any means of
estimating distances with any degree of accuracy.
After an absence of nearly nineteen months,
however, he once more found himself back at
Fort Prince of Wales, on June 26, 1772.
Hearne's  third  journey  was   probably   the "U
most notable feat of exploration in the annals
of the Hudson's Bay Company. Not only
did it add greatly to the geographical knowledge
of the interior of the northern part of the
continent, but it also set at rest the question
of a ' north-west passage through Hudson Bay.'
Hearne had penetrated so far inland that it
became clear that the Pacific Ocean was not to
be easily reached by that route. The journey
set at rest also the rumours of vast mineral
wealth in the interior, and caused the Hudson's
Bay Company to devote its energies thenceforth to the acquisition of furs. The account
of Hearne's journey, which was published in 1795
in London under the title of A Journey from
Prince of Wales Fort in Hudson's Bay to the
Northern Ocean, proved to be a storehouse of
information regarding the Indian tribes and the
flora and fauna of the country he traversed.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the book
is one of the two or three classics of Canadian
Two years after his return from the Coppermine, Hearne was sent inland again, but this
time upon a different errand. The traders
from Montreal had been cutting off the company's supply of furs at its source, and Hearne
was sent inland to cope with them. He built
on the Lower Saskatchewan River the first
inland   trading - post   of   the   Hudson's   Bay
Company, Cumberland House, on Cumberland
Island. In 1775 he was appointed Governor
of Fort Prince of Wales ; and he was still in
command in 1782 when the famous French
admiral, La Perouse, appeared before the fort
and forced it to surrender. Heame's prompt
and unconditional surrender of the post has
given rise to charges of cowardice on his part;
and it is difficult to acquit him altogether of
weakness on that occasion. He might at least
have made a show of resistance. But at worst
his surrender of the fort can only be described
as an error in judgment; for the man who
blazed the trail to the Coppermine, and who
braved the competition of the Nor'-Westers
on the Saskatchewan cannot fairly be dubbed
a coward.
In 1787 Hearne left the service of the Hudson's
Bay Company, and returned to England.
There he died, still a comparatively young
man, in 1792.
In the fight for the fur, the Hudson's Bay
Company was soon outdistanced by the merchants from Montreal, who in time organised
themselves into the North-West Company. It
was not long before the latter stopped the
supply of furs above Cumberland House. In
1778, a rough American trader, named Peter
Pond,  penetrated  to  Lake  Athabaska,  Which THE FROZEN AND PACIFIC OCEANS   157
he was the first white man to visit ; and in
1786 Cuthbert Grant built a trading-post on
Great Slave Lake, which Hearne had discovered fifteen years before. The Hudson's
Bay Company was compelled to redouble its
efforts, and so began that bitter rivalry between
the Hudson's Bay men and the Nor'-Westers
which ended only with the union of the two
companies in 1821. But in the struggle the
Nor'-Westers were generally a lap ahead of
the Hudson's Bay Company ; and it was a
Nor'-Wester, Alexander Mackenzie, who first
achieved the object which had been the goal
of the desires of so many explorers through so
many centuries—the discovery of an overland
route to the Pacific.
IN the year 1801 there was published in
London, and dedicated to His Majesty
King George in., a book entitled Voyages from
Montreal through the Continent of North America
to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans, in 1789 and
^S- Though the name of the author, Alexander Mackenzie, was new to the reading
public, the book had an immediate success.
It was read both by those who were interested
in thrilling narratives of discovery, and by
those   who were   interested   in   scientific geo-
graphy. The Earl of Selkirk read it, and it
prompted his purchase of a controlling interest
in the Hudson's Bay Company, and his colonisation schemes in eastern and western Canada.
The great Napoleon read it, and had it translated for the benefit of his staff officers. The
ministers of George m. read it, and recommended the author for the honour of knighthood.
Alexander Mackenzie was a poor Scottish
lad, born at Stornoway in the Isle of Lewis,
in 1763. He came of good family, as indeed
every Highlander does, for the clansmen are
all the cousins of the chief. There was, however, no future before him in Scotland, and
at the age of sixteen he emigrated to Canada.
His first position was in the Montreal counting-
house of Gregory, M'Leod and Company, the
fur-trading firm which was later known as ' the
Little Company,' to distinguish it from the
North-West Company, of which it was a
rival. After several years in the counting-
house, Mackenzie was promoted to take part
in the inland trade. For a year he was at
Detroit, then an isolated settlement hundreds
of miles from anywhere ; and it was here that
he gained his apprenticeship as a fur-trader.
He must early have impressed his employers
by bis ability and resourcefulness, for in 1785
he was given shares in the company, and raised
to the dignity of a bourgeois or partner.   From THE FROZEN AND PACIFIC OCEANS   159
Detroit he was sent to the West, and there
he was given the dangerous and difficult task
of intercepting the furs destined for the Hudson's Bay Company, on the Churchill River.
Not only did he have to face the rivalry of
the Hudson's Bay Company, but he had to
encounter the still more severe competition
of the North-West Company, who camped
on his trail with panther-like watchfulness.
In the manoeuvring and jockeying for position,
blood was spilt. One of Mackenzie's men
was murdered, one was lamed, and another
was wounded in the body. Mackenzie, however, succeeded in outwitting the Nor'-Westers,
and it was he that got the furs that were bound
j for Hudson Bay.
After the union of the Little Company and
the North-West Company, in 1787, Mackenzie
was sent up to take-charge of the farthest and
most dangerous of all the fur-trading districts,
that about Lake Athabaska. Lake Athabaska
was, on account of its geographical position,
the key to the far north-west. It was surrounded by the richest of all the fur-bearing
countries. Owing, however, to the violent conduct of an American trader named Peter
Pond, who had been in charge of the district
before Mackenzie, the Indians of the neighbourhood were unsettled and difficult to handle.
Mackenzie's  appointment  to  the  post  was  a 160 BY STAR AND COMPASS
compliment of the highest sort. It had been
hitherto the policy of the fur-trading companies
to trust the command of important posts only
to the old and tried men. Alexander Mackenzie,
in 1787, was a young man of no more than
twenty-four years of age, and he had been
actively engaged in the fur-trade for only two
or three years. His appointment- to the command of the Athabaska district was, therefore,
almost as remarkable as the appointment of
Sir George Simpson to the governorship of the
Hudson's Bay Company, after only one winter
spent in Rupert's Land.
The life of the factor of a fur-trading post in
the early days was never, in spite of the romantic
colours in which it has sometimes been depicted,
a very exciting one. ' How do you spend
your time ?' wrote a young clerk of the North-
West Company to a friend at another post,
who, like himself, had received a good education. ' I rise with the sun ; I go to see the
traps ; if a number of Indians arrive I buy
their furs, then I eat Tollibee [white fish] three
times a day. Do you see ? I find the time
very long, and I fear that my constitution will
be seriously injured by that kind of a life, but
what can be done ? I make a dog train ; I
bend some wood for snowshoes; and with
perseverance I hope to learn the use of the
crooked knife.' THE FROZEN AND PACIFIC OCEANS    161
Such a life as this Alexander Mackenzie
found very wearisome at Athabaska. He was
consumed with ennui, and began to feel himself degraded and useless. At first he turned
to reading, and he began to collect a library
at the post which was for many years the best
and largest library in the West. But he did
not find that reading allayed his restless feeling. He became conscious of a desire to strike
out into wider fields, to penetrate the unknown
territories to the north and west, and if possible to discover that north-west passage for
which Cartier and Champlain, La Salle and
La Verendrye, Hudson and Knight, had all
searched in vain. His ambition was to be up
and doing, and he felt that on an exploring
trip he might begin to live again.
There were, however, two obstacles in the
way. In the first place, it was difficult for
him to leave his post on the Athabaska ; and
in the second place, he was in such ill favour
with the great M'Tavish, who was at the head
of the North-West Company, that he felt it
very doubtful if he would be given a commission
to explore the countries to the north and west.
The first difficulty was overcome by his inducing his cousin, Roderick Mackenzie, who
was afterwards the historian of the fur-trade,
to take his place. ' He informed me,' wrote
Roderick Mackenzie in his Reminiscences,  ' in 162 BY STAR AND COMPASS
confidence that he had determined on undertaking a voyage of discovery the ensuing spring
(1789) by the water communications reported
to lead from Slave Lake to the Northern Ocean,
adding that if I could not return and take
charge of his department in his absence, he
must abandon his intentions.' The second
difficulty he obviated by keeping his plans to
himself, and not depending upon the company.
' I already mentioned to you,' he wrote to his
cousin in 1788, ■ some of my distant intentions.
I beg you will not reveal them to any person,
as .it might be prejudicial to me, though I may
never have it in my power to put them in
As soon as Rory Mackenzie had mastered
the details of the administration of the post,
Alexander Mackenzie felt at liberty to set out
on his journey of exploration. He took with
him four French-Canadian voyageurs, two of
them having their wives with them, and a
steady young German named Steinbruck. As
a guide he secured a splendid Indian named
English Chief, who accompanied him with
■ two canoes filled with his wives and dependants.
The party set out on June 3, 1798. We have
Mackenzie's own record of the departure in his
Journal; and surely no more memorable occasion was ever commemorated in so modest and
commonplace a manner : THE FROZEN AND PACIFIC OCEANS    163
' June, 1789, Wednesday 3. We embarked
at nine in the morning at Fort Chipewyan,
on the south side of the Lake of the Hills . . .
in a canoe made of birch-bark.'
For the details of the journey the reader
must refer to Mackenzie's own journal. The
party crossed Lake Athabaska, entered Peace
River or Slave River, descended it to Great
Slave Lake, and then launched their canoes
in the waters of the river which is still known
by the name of Mackenzie. The journey was
accompanied by bitter discomforts and toils.
For nine nights fog lay so heavy on the river
that not a star was seen. This was followed
by driving wind and rain. So rough were the
portages that the voyageurs wore out their
moccasins at the rate of a pair a day. Even
Mackenzie's tough French-Canadians began to
murmur. Mackenzie had to promise them that
if they did not reach the Arctic Ocean in seven
days, he would turn back.
That very night Mackenzie saw a cheering
sight. The sun hung so high above the
northern horizon that the men rose by mistake
to embark at midnight. They did not know,
as Mackenzie knew, that they were in the
land of the midnight sun, and that they were
near the sea. They pushed on until one
morning they found that the water had risen,
and   that   their   baggage   was   threatening   to 164 BY STAR AND COMPASS
float away. Then they realised, with a shout,
what had happened. They had reached tidewater, and they were on the borders of the
Frozen Sea.
On July 14, forty-three days after setting
out, Mackenzie erected on an island at the
mouth of the river, which he named Whale
Island, a wooden post on which he engraved
the latitude of the place, his own name, the
number of persons he had with him, and
the time he remained there. Then he commenced in haste the return journey, fearful
lest he might be frozen in, and forced to spend
a long northern winter in the precarious hunting grounds of the Arctic Circle.
Both descending and ascending the Mackenzie,
the explorers saw to the west a line of snowcapped mountains. Gazing at them, the idea
occurred to Mackenzie that perhaps it might
be possible to cross them and reach the Pacific
He questioned the Indians, but got no satisfaction from them. In any case, he reflected,
such an expedition could only be undertaken
at another time.
But when he was back at Fort Chipewyan
on Lake Athabaska, the idea continued to
germinate in his mind. In the spring of 1790
he descended with the furs to Grand Portage
on Lake Superior, which was the headquarteis
of the North-West Company.   There he re- THE FROZEN AND PACIFIC OCEANS    165
ported his voyage of exploration; but the
partners were so much taken up with the
preparations being made for a life-and-death
struggle with the Hudson's Bay Company that
they had little attention to bestow on an expedition which had no immediate connection
with furs. ' My expedition,' wrote Mackenzie
to his cousin, ' was hardly spoken of, but that
is what I expected.' Nothing abashed, he
placed his other project before the partners.
He asked permission to explore the Peace
River to its source in the mountains and to
cross the mountains in the hope of reaching
the Pacific. The partners consented. The
North Pacific coast was beginning to loom
up in men's minds. The voyages of discovery
of Captain Cook and Captain Meares up the
coast of British Columbia were reviving in
men's minds the desire to find the overland
route to the Western Sea.
That winter Mackenzie spent in England,
studying astronomy and surveying, so that, on
his trip to the Pacific, he might take more
accurate observations for longitude and latitude,
and reading geography, so that he might be
well furnished with information regarding the
shores he was anxious to reach. The autumn
of 1792 found him back at Fort Chipewyan.
There he spent a restless winter waiting for the
navigation to open.    ' I  have been so vexed 166 BY STAR AND COMPASS
of late that I cannot sit down to anything
steadily,' he confesses in a letter to his cousin.
But by April he had shipped the season's furs
off to the east, and on May 9, 1793, he set off
on his quest for the sea.
In the party there were in all ten men. There
was Mackenzie himself and his assistant,
Alexander Mackay, a clerk of the North-West
Company ; and there were six French-Canadian
voyageurs, and two Indians. They were all
tried men, and well they needed to be. Mackenzie took them up the Peace River to its
source, across a pass of the Rockies, and down
the Fraser River. Any one who knows anything about these torrents of the mountain
regions will realise something of the dangers
and hardships which Mackenzie and his men
had to endure. A dozen times they nearly
lost their lives in the whirlpools and the rapids.
They paddled ahead without map or guide.
The Indians were hostile and suspicious. Mackenzie's own men were panic-stricken and
mutinous. Worst of all, the river seemed
to be taking them in the wrong direction.
At last they came to some Indians who, on
the display of presents, were willing to hold
parley with them. From these Indians Mackenzie learned that the river he was following
ran for ' many moons * through the ' shining
mountains'   before   it   reached   the   ' midday THE FROZEN AND PACIFIC OCEANS    167
sun.' They told him, however, that by returning up the river they would reach a carrying-
place from which they could reach the sea
overland in eleven days.
Mackenzie offered his men two alternatives.
He offered either to return with them to Fort
Chipewyan or to lead them on this eleven days'
dash to the sea. To his delight they all chose
the latter alternative; and after a terrible
march on reduced rations, the party reached the
Pacific on July 22, 1793. ' Alexander Mackenzie
from Canada by land,' they wrote on the face
of a great rock, ' the twenty-second of July,
one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three.
Lat. 52 deg. 20 min. 28 sec. N.'
The search for the Western Sea, which had
been for two or three centuries the lodestar of
explorers, was at last crowned with success.
What Cartier and Champlain and Hudson
and La Salle and" La Verendrye had failed to
accomplish, Alexander Mackenzie, a young
Scotsman, barely thirty years of age, had
succeeded in doing.
After his overland journey to the Pacific,
Alexander Mackenzie rested on his laurels.
The publication of his Journal, in 1801, brought
him the honour of knighthood at the hands of
the Crown. He was for many years an important figure in the councils of the North-
West Company.   In 1808, however, he retired 168 BY STAR AND COMPASS
to Scotland, bought himself an estate in the
Highlands, and there spent the remaining years
of his life.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century,
Mackenzie's exploits were gradually followed
up. In 1806 Simon Fraser, another member
of the North-West Company, crossed the Peace
River Pass, built some trading-posts on the
west side of the mountains, and in 1807 followed
to its mouth that river which Mackenzie had
found unnavigable. Both Mackenzie and Fraser
thought this river the Columbia, the mouth of
which had been discovered by an American
navigator in 1792 ; but in this they were mistaken, and the river has since that time borne
fittingly the name of the Fraser. The exploration of the Columbia was carried out a
few years later by another Nor'-Wester, David
Thompson. Thompson occupies, for a variety
of reasons, such a unique place in the history
of Canadian exploration, and the story of his
life is so little known, that it is fitting that
some account of it should be set down here.
WHEN one looks at a map, one does not
as a rule realise what the making of
the map has meant. One does not realise
that every crooked line in its delicate tracery
has meant toils and privations unspeakable; THE MAN WHO READ THE STARS    169
that here and there rivers and lakes and hills
have been drawn at the cost of lost lives and
ruined careers. Looked at rightly, there is
nothing more instinct with romance and adventure than a map. But people to-day are
not romantic ; they take their maps as they
find them, and do not ask any questions.
The readers of this page will all have studied,
at some time or other, the map of the Canadian
West. Yet it will doubtless not have occurred
to many of them to ask who the man was that
drew the map, or at any rate filled in the outlines of it. And the strange thing is that if
they were told the name of this man, it would
probably be quite unfamiliar to them, and
would convey nothing to them at all. The
record of his work is to be found almost solely
in the maps which he drew ; and as every one
knows, even great maps are allowed to pass
unnoticed, while the most trivial books are
published in large editions, and read with
The man who did the ground-work in connection with the map of Western Canada was
David Thompson. Thanks especially to Mr.
J. B. Tyrrell, the Canadian scholar and explorer,
who has followed David Thompson's footsteps
over a great part of the West, Thompson's
work is at last beginning to emerge from the
obscurity in which it has languished for over 170 BY STAR AND COMPASS
a century, and we are beginning to find out
something about his life, and to understand
something of the magnitude of his achievement.
David Thompson was born on April 30,
1770, in the parish of St. John the Evangelist,
Westminster, England. His parents were of
Welsh origin, and late in life David Thompson
was observed to betray, by his speech, his
Welsh extraction. His parents must have been
very poor, for at the age of seven years David
Thompson was sent to the famous charity
school in Westminster known as the Grey
Coat School. In this school he remained until
he was fourteen years of age, studying especially
mathematics and navigation.
In 1784 the Hudson's Bay Company, being
desirous of obtaining recruits for their trading-
posts in America, applied to the Governors of
the Grey Coat School to obtain boys who
might be apprenticed to the company. They
evidently desired boys who were qualified to
do surveying, for the only boy sent them was
David Thompson, whose training had been
along mathematical lines.
Thompson arrived at Churchill, on Hudson
Bay, in September 1784. Here he commenced
his career in the fur-trade, which lasted without interruption for twenty-eight years. At
Churchill, he was under the command of Samuel THE MAN WHO READ THE STARS    171
Hearne, the explorer who twelve years before
had made the overland journey to the mouth
of the Coppermine River, and set at rest the
vexed question of the existence or non-exist-.
ence of the North-West Passage. Thompson
was set at work copying part of the manuscript of Hearne's Journey ; and undoubtedly
his association with his superior did much to
stimulate his interest in geography and
It was not, however, until 1787 that Thompson
was sent on his first trip into the interior.
In that year he went in with two other servants
of the company to a point on the North
Saskatchewan River, not far from the present
town of Battleford, where the party built a
fur-trading post named Manchester House. He
spent a winter among the Indians; and in
1789 he was back at Cumberland House, on
Pine Island Lake^ the post which Samuel
Hearne had built fifteen years before for the
purpose of competing with the merchants from
It was at Cumberland House that Thompson
began his career as a scientific surveyor and
observer of natural phenomena. He began
to keep, what he never afterwards in the West
failed to keep, a journal in which were entered
the readings of the thermometer, the force and
direction of the wind, and general remarks on 172 BY STAR AND COMPASS
the climate. More than that, he took during
the winter a series of astronomical observations, for the purpose of determining the latitude and longitude of Cumberland House.
It is interesting to notice that the position on
the earth's surface which he assigned to Cumberland House is precisely that which it occupies on the most modern and authoritative
maps. This is the more remarkable when it
is remembered that Thompson was at this
time only nineteen years of age, that he had
had a very slight training, and that his instruments were so small they could be held in the
hand. When Samuel Hearne attempted to
determine the latitude of the mouth of the
Coppermine River, he placed it four degrees
too far north ; when David Thompson determined the latitude of Cumberland House, he
determined it for all time.
From 1789 until he left the western country
in 1812, David Thompson never ceased to
carry on the surveying which he thus began.
There was no lake or river which he traversed
of which he did not make a careful survey;
and there was no post at which he stopped of
which he did not find the latitude and longitude.
Nor was he satisfied with making one survey
or taking one series of observations. If ever
he came the same way again he made a new
survey and  took new  observations  with  the THE MAN WHO READ THE STARS    173
object of checking and verifying the old. Thus
he had, after his many years in the West,
definite points established on the earth's surface, between which he had made the connecting surveys. All he had to do was to put
these points down on paper, and then to fill
in the lines between them ; and so the map
of Western Canada took shape.
Among the fur-traders and voyageurs and
Indians with whom his lot was cast there were
almost none who understood this scientific
zeal. The French-Canadians and Indians with
him always regarded his instruments with awe,
and believed that, when he spent his nights
gazing at the stars, he was looking into the
future. They credited him with powers of
divination ; and nothing he could say would
disabuse them of this view. Several things
happened which gave colour to this belief.
Thompson very early proved himself an expert
woodsman. He developed a power of reading
the signs of the bush no less accurately and
skilfully than the acutest of the Indians. One
time when he was with the brigade of furs
coming down to Lake Winnipeg, he prophesied,
as a result of his observation of the camp fires
they had made and of the weather they would
encounter at the entrance to Lake Winnipeg,
that his men would catch up with the brigade
ahead of them on such and such a morning.
On the morning in question, as they entered
the lake, his men saw the brigade they were
following only a short distance ahead of them.
Their wonder and admiration was unbounded.
They would not believe that Thompson had
made the prophecy merely by using his eyes
and common sense ; nothing would persuade
them that he had not learnt the truth by gazing
through his telescope.
The Indians believed he had the power of
raising the wind. One time when he was
taking astronomical observations, an Indian
hunter came to him and begged him to raise a
big wind, as there had been a calm for a long
time, and the hunting had been so bad that
his family were on the verge of starvation.
Thompson tried to reason with him, and explained that no one but the Great Manitou
could raise the wind. The Indian was not
satisfied. In a short time he returned again,
with the same request. By this time it had
become clear to Thompson, from his study of the
weather, that a windstorm was looming up. In
order to get rid of the Indian, he told him to go
away and make preparations for hunting, as he
would get a wind that night. When the wind
came, not only the Indians, but also Thompson's
own men were firm in the belief that ' the man
who read the stars' had raised the wind by
looking through his telescope into the future, THE MAN WHO READ THE STARS    175
The fur-traders showed their lack of understanding in another way. All Thompson's
surveys had been carried on in conjunction
with the fur-trade. The fur-trade was the
main thing, and the surveying was supposed
to be merely incidental to it. It is possible,
however, that since Thompson's heart was in
the surveying rather than in the fur-trade, the
surveying sometimes took first place, and the
fur-trade suffered. At any rate, after a year
during which the fur-trade returns had proved
especially disappointing, he received orders from
Joseph Colen, the factor at York Factory, to
drop his surveying for the time being, and devote himself exclusively to the acquisition of furs.
From the standpoint of trade returns these
instructions of the governor of York Factory
may have been wise ; but they lost for the
Hudson's Bay Company the services of one
of the greatest men it ever had in its employ.
Thompson was in no mind to drop the task
which he had set himself ; and so in the spring
of 1795, after having been with the Hudson's
Bay Company for thirteen years, he summarily
left its service, and walking south seventy-five .
miles to the nearest post of the North-West
Company of Montreal, he enlisted with that
rival organisation of the Hudson's Bay Company, and received permission to prosecute his
gurveys to his heart's content. 176 BY STAR AND COMPASS
The leading spirits in the North-West Company at that time were men like Alexander
Mackenzie, Roderick Mackenzie, and Simon
Fraser, who had the interests of discovery and
exploration as much at heart as David Thompson. They immediately sent him off on a
surveying trip which was to prove one of the
most remarkable in the history of North
American map-making. He was to be unhampered by the necessity for looking after
trade returns, and was to devote himself to
surveying alone. It must be confessed that
he made the most of his opportunities. Starting at Grand Portage on Lake Superior, he
struck north-west to Lakes Winnipeg and
Winnipegosis ; thence he struck south down
the Assiniboine to the Souris River, and across
the plains to the Mandan villages on the
Missouri ; from there he returned to the
Assiniboine, followed it down to the Red River,
struck across to the headwaters of the Mississippi,
and made his way north-west to Lake Superior,
• which he struck near the site of the present city
of Duluth ; and then he made a complete
survey of the shore-line of Lake Superior, from
Duluth to Sault Ste. Marie, and from Sault
Ste. Marie to Grand Portage—having covered
a total of four thousand miles of survey through
virgin territory in a period of about ten months'.
This is a record that has rarely-been equalled. THE MAN WHO READ THE STARS    177
But David Thompson's greatest achievement,
and that which most entitles him to his fame
as an explorer, was his survey of the Columbia
River. In the opening years of the nineteenth
century, there was great rivalry as to who
should first get to the Pacific coast, and seize
and hold the fur-trade there. In 1805 the
United States government sent out the famous
Lewis and Clark expedition, which blazed a
trail to the Pacific ; and it was known that
J. J, Astor, of New York, was planning to
capture the fur-trade in that district for himself. The North-West Company, anxious to
anticipate him, sent David Thompson across
the Rockies in the spring of 1807 to open up
trade with the Indians of what is now British
Columbia. For three years Thompson passed
to and fro across the Rockies, opening up new
trading-posts and blading new trails, preparatory
to a descent on the coast.
He had some difficulty with the Indians,
for the Indians of the plains did not care to
have their enemies, the Indians of British
Columbia, supplied with fire-arms ; but Thompson circumvented them by marching through
one of the northern passes in the dead of winter,
and in 1811 he made the difficult and dangerous
descent of the Columbia River to its mouth.
There he found the agents of J. J. Astor's
Pacific  Fur   Company  already  entrenched  in
Fort Astoria ; but although they had robbed
him of the honour of setting up the British
flag on Cape Disappointment, they could not
rob him of the honour of being the first to
traverse and survey that mighty river. It is
an interesting fact that portions of the Columbia
River have never been surveyed from that
day to this ; and here too Thompson's work is
the basis of every map that is published.
In 1812 Thompson returned to Grand Portage,
and thence to Montreal. He had put the
coping-stone on his work of exploration ; and
never again did he visit the western country in
which he had lived so long. He settled down
at Williamstown, Glengarry, and afterwards at
Terrebonne, near Montreal, and devoted himself to the preparation of his monumental
map. His last years were sad and piteous.
He lost his money, largely through the fault
of his half-breed sons, and in his later years
he lost his eyesight. People forgot the greatness of his achievement, and he died in extreme poverty and neglect. In one of the
last of his note-books, which are still to be
seen in the Crown Lands Department at the
Parliament Buildings in Toronto, there is a
pathetic entry in the old man's handwriting :
' Borrowed 2s. 6d. from a friend. Thank God
for this relief.' AN ARCTIC MYSTERY 179
*By the time of the union of the Hudson's
Bay and North-West Companies in 1821, not
one but several overland routes to the Pacific
had been discovered. The vision of a water-
route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, however,
still tarried. If this route existed, it could
only be by way of the Arctic Ocean ; and
during the nineteenth century the interest of
explorers shifted to the finding of such a route,
and the uncovering of the Arctic Coast. The
story of the exploration of the Arctic Coast of
Canada is indissolubly bound up with the
name of Sir John Franklin ; and the story of
his last tragic expedition is the final chapter
of the series of tales which we have ventured
to re-tell.
IN 1844—in the first decade of the famous
Victorian Era—the British Admiralty decided to make a final effort to discover the
North-West Passage. There was now no
thought that the discovery of a water-route
from the Atlantic to the Pacific around the
north of the American continent would yield
any commercial results ; but it was felt that
geographical science and the honour of the
British people demanded that the work of
Samuel Hearne and Alexander Mackenzie should
not remain uncompleted. It was known that,
in the brief Arctic summer, ships could pene-
trate the Arctic Sea for great distances both
from the Atlantic and from the Pacific, and
all that remained was to bridge the intervening
The man chosen to command the proposed
expedition was perhaps the most famous British
sailor and explorer then living. Sir John
Franklin had been one of ' Nelson's men.'
He had fought, as a midshipman, at Copenhagen
and Trafalgar. In 1815 he had been wounded
in the British attack on New Orleans. After
the declaration of peace he had turned his
attention to exploration in Northern Canada.
In 1820-21 he had taken a party inland to the
Athabaska district, and then struck north, by
way of Great Slave Lake, to the mouth of the
Coppermine River. From here, in two frail
canoes, he and his men had attempted to link
up the mouth of the Coppermine with the
mouth of the Mackenzie—to bridge the gap
between the farthest north of Hearne and
the farthest north of Mackenzie. The expedition had been a failure, for supplies gave
out, and the party was compelled to make a
short-cut overland in the hope of reaching
their base. Two of the party died of hunger;
and one, who showed signs of cannibalism, had
to be shot. The party was reduced, Franklin
afterwards testified, ' to eating our old shoes
and a few scraps of leather,' and only a lucky AN ARCTIC MYSTERY 181
encounter with some Indians saved them from
Even this gruesome experience, however, had
not daunted Franklin's gallant spirit. In 1826
he renewed his attempt to link up the Mackenzie
and the Coppermine. This time he descended
the Mackenzie to the Arctic, and explored the
Arctic coast both to the east and the west of the
mouth of the Mackenzie. One of his parties,
under his friend Dr. Richardson, actually
reached the Coppermine, and mapped out this
portion of the northern shores of Canada ; while
Franklin himself pushed west, along the northern
coast of Alaska.
After these efforts Franklin had been for
many years claimed by other duties. For a
number of years he had been governor of
Tasmania, in the Southern Hemisphere. During
these years his work in the Arctic regions had
been amplified and extended by others; but
the actual discovery of the North-West Passage
still remained a problem to be solved in the
future, and when the British Admiralty decided
in 1844 to make a final attempt to solve the
problem, it was not surprising that they should
have confided the task to the distinguished officer
who, twenty years before, had done so much to
make the solution of the problem possible.
Sir John Franklin was in 1844 a man of
fifty-eight   years   of  age,   but   he   carried  his 182 BY STAR AND COMPASS
years as jauntily as a midshipman. He went
about his preparations for the great adventure
with the vigour and enthusiasm of a man half
his age. The Admiralty gave him two ships, the
Erebus and the Terror, which had been specially
constructed for a voyage towards the South
Pole, and which had actually penetrated farther
into the southern ice-fields than any vessels
up to that time. These were both stout,
square-rigged sailing ships, fitted out with the
latest improvements which the science of the
period had been able to devise for Arctic
navigation. A special apparatus had been installed between decks for heating and ventilation ; and in each vessel auxiliary engines and
screws had been placed—the first attempt to
utilise steam as a motive power in northern
exploration. The holds were filled with vast
quantities of stores, enough, it was said, for the
sustenance of the crews for a period of three
years ; and it was arranged, in addition, that a
transport carrying further supplies should accompany the expedition as far as Greenland. The
crews themselves were the pick of the Royal
Navy and the merchant marine, all men after
Franklin's instructions were to proceed by
way of Greenland to Baffin Bay. From there
he was to push westward into the Arctic Ocean
along the parallel of 740 15' north latitude, AN ARCTIC MYSTERY 183
through the already familiar waters of Lancaster
Sound and Barrow Strait, in the direction of
the great body of water known as Melville
Sound. From this line he was to endeavour to
push south and to west toward the mouth of
the Coppermine, whence it was known that a
sea-passage existed to Bering Strait.
The Erebus and the Terror, with the transport detailed to accompany them on the first
stage of their voyage, set sail from the Thames
on June 19, 1845. They crossed to Greenland,
and at the Whale Fish Islands, off the west
coast of Greenland, they took on board the
transport's supplies. The transport then returned to England, and the Erebus and the
Terror sailed west across Baffin Bay to Lancaster
Sound. Here they were sighted, on July 26, by
a whaling ship, the Prince of Wales. Franklin
sent over to the master of the whaling ship an
invitation to dine with him on the following
day. At that moment, however, a strong
breeze sprang up, and a clear sea appeared
ahead. Without delay, the Erebus and the
Terror stood away toward the west, not even
taking time to leave a message with the whaler.
They were never seen again by white men.
The year 1846 came and passed. So did 1847,
and yet no word of the explorers came out of
the Arctic silence. As the year 1848 dawned,
and winter advanced into summer, the gravest
fears began to be entertained. It was known
that Franklin had taken with him supplies to
last three years. The three years had come
and gone. It was clear that somewhere amid
the northern ice a fearful tragedy had been,
or was being, enacted. Franklin and his gallant
crews if alive at all, must be suffering the last
tortures of starvation on some cruel and frozen
shore of the Arctic archipelago.
The English people roused themselves to
action. The Admiralty sent out relief expeditions both by way of Hudson Bay and
by way of Bering Strait. Franklin's friends,
Richardson, Ross, M'Clure, and many another,
volunteered to try to find him. In the years
that followed no fewer than fifty-two separate
and distinct expeditions were organised, with
the object of solving the mystery of Franklin's
fete. In the course of the grim search, the
whole of the Arctic coast of Canada was explored, and ships sailing west from the Atlantic
met ships coming east from the Pacific—thus
demonstrating the existence of a north-west
passage, and incidentally defining the northernmost limits of the mainland of Canada.   But
of F
ranklin and
lis men for many years no
was found,
was not until
1854 that the first hint was
ned of what 1
lad happened.   In the spring
of th
at year, Dr.
John Rae, a Hudson's Bay AN ARCTIC MYSTERY 185
man who had gone north to the Arctic by an
overland route from the shores of Hudson
Bay, fell in with some Eskimos who told him
that, several years before, they had encountered
a party of about forty white men on the island
called King William's Land, hauling a boat
and sledges over the ice. The Eskimos had
gathered from these white men that they had
had to abandon their ships, and that they
were trying to make their way to where deer
were to be found. They had bought some
food from the Eskimos, and had seemed to be
hungry. Later, the Eskimos had found the
boat overturned, and under it and about it a
number of dead bodies. They had picked up
a variety of relics—guns, telescopes, compasses,
forks, spoons, and so on—and some of these
Dr. Rae had recovered. One of them was a
small silver plate engraved ' Sir John Franklin,
K.C.B.,' and another was a spoon bearing the
crest and initials of Captain Crozier, Franklin's
There seemed a possibility, however, that
some of the party were still alive, since the
.Eskimos had discovered near the upturned boat
the feathers and fresh bones of geese—evidence
that there were still live men in the party when
the wild fowl came north in the spring. Lady
Franklin, for one, refused to believe that all
hope was lost, and with a brave and pathetic
resolution which defied despair decided to continue the search. In 1857 she devoted the
last remnant of her fortune to fitting out a
final expedition. Under Captain M'Clintock, a
gallant sailor who, touched by Lady Franklin's
grief and courage, gave his services free, the
Fox, a small yacht, manned largely by volunteers, set out in a last attempt to trace the fate
of the missing explorers.
Two years later the Fox returned with the
first, and" the last, direct word ever received
from the Erebus and the Terror. In a cairn of
stones found on King William's Island, Captain
M'Clintock had discovered a document placed
there by Franklin himself. It was dated
May 28, 1847, two full years after Franklin
had sailed from the Thames, and it read :
' H.M. Ships Erebus and Terror wintered in
the ice lat. 700 5' N. long., 980 23' west,
having wintered in 1845-46 at Beechey
Island, after having ascended Wellington
Channel to lat. 770 and returned by the
west side of Cornwallis Island. Sir John
Franklin commanding the expedition. AU
This show
find a pa
ed that
ssage  to
nklin, having
failed to
lad  been
caught in
the ice-
,  and forced
to spend
there his s
econd wi
.   It showed i
tlso, how- AN ARCTIC MYSTERY 187
ever, that supplies were in the spring of 1847
still holding out, and that Franklin was still
hopeful of being able, when the ice-pack broke
up, to sail south to the American coast.
But the document contained more than this
-original record. A year later, apparently, the
cairn had been reopened, and there had been
added, around the edge and on the back of
the document, some notes which revealed the
full horror of the tragedy that followed. The
edges of the paper had been torn, but this much
of the later record on the face of the document
was legible :
'. . . 848. H.M. Ships Erebus and Terror
were deserted on the 22 of April, 5 leagues
NNW. of this . . . been beset since 12th
Sept. 1846. The officers and crews consisting of 105 souls under the command ...
tain F. R.-M. Crozier landed here in
Lat. 69 ° 37' 42" Long. 980 41'.'
On the back of the paper was written in the
same hand :
'Sir John Franklin died on the nth June
1847 and the total loss by death to the
expedition has been to date 9 officers
and 14 men. F. R. M. Crozier, Captain
and Senior Officer. James Fitzjames,
Captain H.M.S. Erebus:
And at one corner of the torn paper there stood
the words, all too significant of the fate of the
survivors : '. . . and start to-morrow 26th
for Back's Fish River.'
Captain M'Clintock, with this clue in his
hands, traced out the last march of Franklin's
men. At one place he found the skeleton of one
of them, stretched out on the ground, his head
pointing south. At another point he found a
boat with two corpses in it, the one lying in the
stern carefully covered over, the other lying in
the bow, with two loaded muskets standing
upright beside it. The Eskimos he met told
him how the white men had abandoned their
ships, and taken to the ice ; how one ship had
been crushed and sunk, and how the other had
lain a wreck for years beside the coast of King
William's Island ; and how the white men, on
their southward march, had perished. ' They
fell down and died,' said an old Eskimo woman,
' as they walked away.'
The rest is silence. Over the details of the
tragedy a kindly Providence has thrown an
impenetrable veil; nor is it ever likely that the
veil will now be lifted. But we know enough.
We know that on the shores of the Arctic in
1848 over a hundred English sailors gave their
lives that the world might know the truth ;
and we know that they met their martyrdom
without leaving behind them a word of regret,
or whimpering, or complaint. EPILOGUE
THE discovery of Canada did not end with
the search for Franklin. In a sense, it
has not ended yet; for there are still vast
spaces in the map of Canada ' where no man
comes or hath come since the making of the -
world.' It has been only in recent years that
the outlines of the geography of the Yukon
and the Labrador peninsula have been laid
bare ; it was only in 1906 that the Norwegian
explorer, Roald Amundsen, who later discovered the South -Pole, succeeded in sailing
through the Arctic Sea from the Atlantic to
the Pacific ; and even to-day new features of
the geography of Canada are being revealed by
explorers such as Mr. Vilhjalmur Stefansson
and the members of the Canadian Geological
Survey. The work of some of these latter-
day explorers has been no less striking and
thrilling than that of Champlain and Hudson
and Radisson and La V6rendrye ; there is, in
truth, almost no end to the stories that might
be woven out of the exploits of the Canadian
J I <jo
explorers. But, though the half has not been
told, it is hoped that the stories set forth in
the preceding pages will give some idea of the
romance and adventure that have gone to the
making of the map of Canada.      


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