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A journey to Alaska in the year 1868; being a diary of the late Emil Teichmann. Edited with an introduction… Teichmann, Emil 1925

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I COLUMBIA   sA Journey to Alaska One hundred copies of this
book have been printed.
Numbers i to 12 are on
hand-made paper.
This copy is Number^*  THE   AUTHOR,   1923. 1
<tAyourney to yîlas^a
in the year 1868 f
being a diary of the late
Smil Teichmann
Edited with an Introduction
by his son Oskar
Privately printed at
The  Cayme Press
In 1866 the Author of this diary, then 21 years of
age, entered the New York branch of Messrs. J. M;
Oppenheim & Co., the leading fur merchants of London,
with branches at Leipzig, St. Petersburg and Moscow. This
firm, for many years before, had a contract with the Russian
American Company of St. Petersburg for the purchase of
the entire yearly catch of Alaskan fur seals, and consequently
enjoyed an absolute monopoly in this fur, which could be
dressed and dyed in London only.
When in 1867 Alaska and the Aleutian Islands were
purchased by the United States from Russia, Messrs.
Oppenheim's contract expired, and it became necessary
for a representative to proceed to Alaska in order to safeguard the interests of the firm. The Author was selected
for this mission, and in order to save time, owing to a gap
of 1,000 miles existing between the termini of the Union
Pacific and Central Pacific Railways, he travelled by steamer
to Aspinwall, and crossing the Isthmus of Panama (the
canal had at that time not been constructed) eventually
reached Victoria, Vancouver Island, after staying a few
weeks at San Francisco en route. In the absence of steam
communication between Victoria and Sitka (Alaska), he
had to charter a small sailing-sloop, and after a perilous
journey through the uncharted so-called inland passage
reached Sitka in the early summer 1868.
After spending some time at Sitka, he returned to San
Francisco, and travelling overland by railway and stage
coach to New York eventually reached London towards
the end of 1868. During the whole of this time Emil
Teichmann kept a most detailed diary ; the original of the
latter is written in a very fine and small hand in a pocket
book;   in January,  1869, tne Author amplified this and translated it into German for the benefit of his parents,
and it is from this MS., together with the original English
version, that the contents of this book are taken. The
original diary may be divided into four parts :—
1. New York to San Francisco via Panama. As
this narrative is too lengthy to incorporate in a book
and deals chiefly with the geographical, political and
economic conditions of the localities described, the
Editor has condensed it into a brief synopsis.
2. San Francisco to Sitka. In this portion a very
lengthy description of San Francisco and Victoria
have been omitted, but otherwise the MS. is quoted
practically verbatim.
3. Residence at Sitka and return to San Francisco.
In this part there are no omissions.
4. San Francisco to London via overland route and
New York. This was considered by the Author to
be of no interest, was never transcribed, and consists
of a few daily notes in the original English version ;
the Editor has amplified this in order to make the
book complete.
The illustrations are reproduced from sketches made
by the Author at the time.
The Editor is greatly indebted to Mrs. Ashley for the
excellent translation of the German MS., and to his old
friend Philip Gosse for his useful advice in producing this
The following is quoted from an appreciation of the late
Em il Teichmann in " The Fur World " (April, 1924).
" His advice and assistance in trade matters were repeatedly
sought, not only by private individuals and public companies,
but also by various Governments, to whom he rendered
valuable aid. It is not too much to say that throughout
the fur trade of the world there was no name more highly
known or one more highly respected and esteemed—he
was a great personality, he played the game, and endeared
himself to all." O. T.
6  THE   AUTHOR,   1867. CONTENTS.
New York To San Francisco Via Panama.       .        19
Alaska, Formerly Russian America. . . . 23
Its position and extent, its discovery by Russian
seafarers in the eighteenth century, foundation of the
Russian-American Fur Company. Terra incognita.
The American-Asiatic Telegraph. Its purchase by
the United States ; motives and consequences. Pros
and cons ;  enthusiasm for Alaska in San Francisco.
From San Francisco to the North. . . . 29
Communications with Alaska via Oregon and Vancouver
Island. Departure. On board one of the Californian,
Oregon and Mexican Steamship Company's vessels.
Foggy weather. Review of the passengers. Life of
the miners. History of three gold-diggers. Portuguese whale-fishers. Irishmen, Britons, German
adventurers, Chinese.    An unexpected plunge-bath.
The Columbia River 35
The Columbia in sight, its source, course and estuary,
Sandy shoals and dangerous entrance. Pilot's signals.
Disappointment. Two days at mouth of river in a
rough sea. Dearth of provisions and coal. Pilot boat
in sight. Entrance. Coast defences. Astoria and its
sights. Its foundation by John Jacob Astor. Original
inhabitants. Excursion on the Lower Columbia.
Settlements.    St. Helens.   The Williamette River. The Town of Portland, Oregon and its Surroundings. 41
Size and inhabitants. Excursion to the Cascade
Mountains on the Upper Columbia. The military
station of Vancouver. The Cascade Range. River
scenery. Cape Horn. A miniature railway. The
return journey. Dangerous landings. Primitive
postal delivery. Two rainy days in Portland. News
from Sitka.
From Portland to Vancouver Island. . . 47
At last we leave. Astoria once more. A deputation
of Indians from Eastern Oregon to Washington.
Anecdotes of the last Oregon Indian war. At sea once
more. The " Race Rock " lighthouse. A prompt
pilot.    Entrance to the harbour of Victoria.
Preparations for a Sailing Expedition. . . .49
A bad disappointment. Travellers to Alaska meet and
charter the Ocean Queen. Purchase of provisions. My
own preparations. Departure. Maritime routes to
Alaska. Bad prospects. Choice of the " Inner
On Board the " Ocean Queen "—I. ... 54
Comfort on board the Ocean Queen, its size and arrangement. The start. Dog overboard. The first night.
Reflections. The Island of San Juan, story of the
quarrel for it between Great Britain and the United
States.    Scenery.
On Board the " Ocean Queen "—II. . . . 57
Scenery during the day. Lying at anchor. Fishing.
Excursion to an uninhabited island. Gulf of Trin-
comali and its surroundings. " Dodd's Narrows," a
dangerous passage. Against the stream. Critical
moments. Entering the Gulf of Georgia and arrival
at Nanaimo.
Nanaimo—1 60
Reception.       Agreement  with   the   captain  of the
Oriflamme, -History of the town. Coal mines and their
8 working. Inhabitants. Indian camp of the " Flat-
heads." Their appearance. Canoes. Skilled management of them by the coast Indians.
Nanaimo—II. 64
Conjuring entertainment with a very mixed audience.
Unpleasant meetings and moral character of the
natives. Purchases. Loss of our life-boat. Preparations for continuance of journey, we part with
two of our shipmates. A late visit and well-meant
advice.     Fenian panic.     Suspicion.
Towed by the " Oriflamme." . . . .67
An unpleasant awakening. Transferring the centre
of gravity. A nightmare journey. Lengthening the
tow rope. Half under water. Useless signals of
distress. Critical moments. Sailor's heroic courage
and the captain's cowardice. Cutting the tow line.
Saved. Parting from the Oriflamme. Feelings of
thankfulness.    At the pumps.    Afloat again.
Seymour's Narrows and Johnstone's Straits. . 72
Continuance of journey. Recollections of danger
undergone. Practical comfort. Cape Mudge. A
disturbed night. Through Seymour's Narrows.
Rudderless amid the tossing waters. Again in quiet
waters. Wonderful scenery. The Norway of America.
Becalmed and a landing. A deserted camp fire.
Canoes in sight. A night journey. Fort Rupert.
Of the Hudson Bay Company. Morality amongst
the Indians.
A Visit to the Nukletah Indians. . . . 77
A calm. A little island realm. The entrance. Meeting
a canoe. A safe anchorage. Idyllic position of the
" Raucherie." Difficult landing. Hospitable reception. In the chief's house. Indian customs. Subordination of the squaws.     Importunate visitors.
Queen Charlotte Sound 82
Adverse wind.    Entrance to the Nervitty Bay.    The encampment. Reception of the Indians. Distrust.
Sketching under difficulties. The night watch.
Barter. An Indian prophecy. At last under sail.
The storm in the Sound. Canoe in sight. In Fitzhugh
Sound.    Wild scenery.    Night journey decided on.
Our Last Night Journey 88
Darkness falls. Fog. By chart and compass. Square
sail overboard. Hurricane begins. With reefed sail.
Driving on the shore. A mistake discovered in time.
Tempestuous sea. Dog overboard. A desperate
From Fitzhugh Sound to Milbank Sound. . 91
Unexpected rescue. A disturbed night. Damage
done by the storm. Preparations to continue journey.
100 miles in 18 hours. The Bella Bella Channel and
encampment. A night with the Kokai Indians.
Devastating diseases and Indian remedies. Chief
Charley Hamsched.     Hospitality.    Unpleasant news.
The Finlayson Channel 95
In Milbank Sound. Change of course. Loss of time.
Through the Klemtoo Passage. Into the Finlayson
Channel. Monte Diavolo and Monte Christi. Wonderful scenery. Disadvantages of the Inner Passage.
Meeting with the Red Rover. History of a Californian
adventurer. His followers. A valuable hound. Snow
on the 3rd May. A calm. With the tide. A pleasant
landing place. Traces of silver quartz» A race. A
wolf in sight.   A calm.    On board the Red Rover.
Through the Grenville Channel to Fort Simpson, ioi
Across the Nipean Sound. Collision. Off the mouth
of the Salmon River. Through the Grenville Channel.
The Kittkatl encampment. Rain on shore. An
Alpine landscape. Mountain sheep. In Chatham
Sound. Parting from the Red Rover. Uncomfortable
journey.    Arrival at Fort Simpson.
lu Fort Simpson—1 104
Foundation. Position. Appearance. Surroundings.
Landing. Hospitable reception. Visit to the Fort.
The Factor's house. Unusual luxury. Dinner.
Description of our host. Inspection of the Fort.
Warehouse. Fur goods. Barter on the north-west
coast.   The sale room.   Houses.
Fort Simpson—II. no
Means of defence and fortifications. A modest kitchen
garden. Burial place. Former garrison and relations
with the Indians. Domestic circumstances of the
Factor. Offspring of mixed marriages. Subordination
of the Indian women. P. Legaic, chief of the Meth-
lakatla Indians. Indian population of the settlement.
The Nass River fisheries. Disputes. Death of two
chiefs. Lamentation. Widow of the slain chief.
Return on board. Sounds of lamentation. Proposal
to take a pilot. A disturbed breakfast. Purchase of
supplies. Bad behaviour of the white men. Their
influence on the Indians. An episode in the life of
our sailor.
Fort Simpson—III. 114
Failure to engage a pilot. Purchase of a canoe. Visit
to the Indian settlement. Exterior of the houses.
Wooden carvings. Residence of the Methlakatla
chief. Sketches. Appearance of the Fort Simpson
Indians. Clothing and ornaments. Children. Departure of Legaic. Mission to the Methlakatla Indians.
Civilising influence. Mission on the Nass River.
The Tshimpsean language. Examples from a dictionary.
Fort Tongass—I.   .        .        .       .       .       .        .120
Across Chatham Sound. Good weather. Collision
with Clement City canoe. Arrival off Tongass Island.
The guard-ship. Appearance of the pilot. Camp
watch fire. Position of the military station. Accident
tô our pilot. Landing and friendly reception. Garrison.
11 w
Tents. Primitive conditions. Breakfast with the
officers. An interesting doctor. Details of the
garrison. Discipline. Indian camp out of bounds.
Recreations. Means of communication. Health
Fort Tongass—II. •       ;       .       .       .       .125
Relations of the military officials to the Indians.
The doctor's practice. Disease among the Indians.
State of war. Domestic feuds. Uselessness of Fort
Tongass as a military station. English coast defence.
Abandonment of the fort. Toasts. Medicinal brandy.
Hospitality returned on Ocean Queen. Reminiscences
of the Oriflamme. Formal engagement of the pilot.
His name and rank. Personal appearance. Knowledge
of languages.    Modest luggage.
From Fort Tongass to Fort Wrangel. . . 129
Departure from Tongass. Stormy weather. Cape
Fox. Increasing violence of storm. Collapse of our
square sail. Pilot's sense of locality. Longed for
place of refuge. Island in Gravina group. Stormy
night. Journey continued. Arrival in Ernest Sound.
Prince of Wales and Revillegigedo Islands. Fort
Stewart. Schooner in sight. Rising wind. Under
reefed sails. Canoe passage to the Stikeen and Etoline
Islands.   Anchorage.   Effect of storm.
Fort Wrangel        . 133
Position of the Fort. Surroundings. Stikeen River.
Changed course. Signal shots. Customs canoe.
Visit of an officer. Misunderstanding cleared up.
Conditions in the military camp. Smuggling trade.
News of loss of the Growler. News of our former
travelling companions. Sailor's threats. Charley's
uncertainty.    Return of the canoe.
Wrangel Canoe Passage* 138
Shallow channel. Routes to Frederick Sound. An
unpleasant discovery      Canoe passage chosen.     Bad
12 times for the pilot. Unsafe anchorage. Finding the
passage. Becalmed. Scenery. Water-fowl. Welcome
captures. Uninvited guests. Barter. Unrevealed
secret. Deception and flight. At entrance to
Frederick Sound.
Frederick Sound 143
Position and extent of Sound. Surroundings.
Kuprianoff Island. Wonderful scenery on Admiralty
Island. Glaciers. Well-earned anchorage. Neglectful
captain. Renewal of voyage. Angry sea. Dangerous
position. Visited by a canoe. Rejected invitation.
Reaching the shore. Repairs. Kaigh Indians. A
ramble. Unpleasant thoughts. Return of the hunters.
Their spoils.   Strict watch.
A Stormy Journey 148
Unpleasant awakening. Stormy weather. Cape
Fairweather. In Christian Sound. Angry channel.
Approach of the storm. Preparations. Hatchway
closed. Shut in. Beginning of the hurricane. Feelings
of the prisoners. Unpleasant company. Moments of
despair.    Under water.    Welcome sounds.    Saved.
Lost 153
Renewal of dispute. Finding our way. Search for
north-west passage. Surrounded by land. Scouting.
Vain attempts. Wild region. Disappointment and
bewilderment. Canoe in sight. The proper route.
Fresh proposals as to pilot. Hostility of the sailors.
Departure of the Chuznus.
A Night Attack 157
Awakened from sleep. Grave apprehension. Boarded
by the Chuznus. Invasion of the cabin. Critical
position. Decisive moments. Prepared to fight.
Skilful negotiator. Friendly turn. Squaw and papoose.
Forced liberality. Importunate guests. Indian watch.
Fall of snow. Engagement of a pilot. Barter. An
interrupted sketch. Towed by canoes. Departure of
the Chuznus.
13 From the Peril Straits to Sitka. . . .164
Good weather. Indian fisherman. Entrance to the
Peril Straits. Pilot's testimonials. Chuznus. A calm.
Rain. Driven back. Shallow water. Water fowl.
Seals. Water plants. The Narrows. Sitka Indians.
Adverse wind. Lonely fishing hut. Continuous rain.
Rowing. Mount Edgcumbe in sight. Impatience.
Intolerable conditions. Sitka in sight. Customs
official.    Landing.
Sitka—I.        .       ...       .       ...     172
Position of town and surroundings. Population and
nationalities. A primitive hotel. Its equipment.
Lodgings for the night. Sitka Indians and Aleutians,
their origin. Character. Occupations. Hunting and
fishing.    Summer and winter.    Emigration.
Sitka—II jj       .       .       .178
My mission. An important contract. Loss of the
monopoly. Breach of contract. Authorised robbery.
Instructions for journey. Attempt to open relations.
Obstacles. Alteration in strategy. Jesuitical
Sitka—III . . . . g . . .183
Incognito. Attempts to approach me. A rejected
invitation. Espionage. Temperature and climate.
Their influence on health. Illnesses. Russians in
Sitka, their mode of living. Piety. Clergy. The Company's officials. Workpeople. Dwellings. Immorality.
Drunkenness..,- Russian women.
Sitka—IV 188
American population. Army officers. Loose discipline. Drunkenness of soldiers. Civilians : (i)
officials, etc. (ii) Jewish traders (iii) adventurers,
gold diggers, sailors, hunters and desperadoes. Criminal
cases. Administration of justice. An important
meeting.    Engagement of a Russian spy.
14 Sitka—V 193
The Indian village. Boundary defences. Exterior of
the houses. Their situation. Life on the shore.
Number of inhabitants. Division of races. Physical
characteristics. Clothing. Decoration. Morality.
State of health.    Language.
Sitka—VI        .       .       .198
A Russian vapour bath. Its equipment. Procedure.
An unusual ceremony. Russian church service.
Arrival of a Government steamer. Increased espionage.
A disturbed night. Search for a dwelling* Sunday
in Sitka. The American church. Return of the
Ocean Queen.   A sea trip at night.
Sitka—VII. 204
Change of abode. Russian block-house. Furniture.
My house-mates. Unwelcome visitors. Primitive
toilet arrangements. Eating house. Famine in
Sitka—VIII.  ........    207
Captain F. His personality and past. Collection of
curiosities. Dangerous surveying in Indian territory.
Desecration of graves. Critical situation. Fortunate
Sitka—IX.     .       ; .212
A medicine man without conscience. A go-between
and bargainer. Protracted method of business. Visit
to the Indian village. The captain as guide. Market.
Indian haggling. Gambling to pass the time. Visit
to the huts. An unfortunate hunter. A rapid cure.
Renewed espionage. Inexplicable refusal of a passage.
Bribery and corruption. Fine weather. Excursions
and picnics. Evening entertainments of the Russians.
Discovery of gold on the Tacon River.    Departure of
15 gold prospectors. Murder and fate of the murderer.
Mysterious disappearance of the other gold prospectors. Discovery of a coal deposit. Trade in furs.
Good business.    Imprudence.
Sitka—XI 222
Arrival of a suspicious sailing-boat. Camp on the
Indian river. Explanation. Expedition of the Louisa
Downes. Experiences of the gold prospectors. A
mythical story. Experiences at sea. Fenian suspicions in Victoria. Arrival at the Tacon River.
Bitter disappointment. Lynch law by the infuriated
adventurers.    Return to Sitka.    An old story.
Sitka—XII 227
Expedition into the interior. Life in Sitka in the
early morning. Toilsome journey through the virgin
forest. Fallen forests. Wading through the mountain
stream. Tumble of our leader. Supposed copper
deposits. Siesta. Camp fire. Forest fire. Uneasy
conscience.    Prairie tactics.
Sitka—XIII. 231
Illness. Poisonous thorn. Rainy weather. Depression.
Documentary evidence. Putting together the proofs.
My legal house-mate. Celebrated " Property lawsuit " of Sitka. A valuable document. A disturbed
night. Request refused. Daily events in the town.
An unfortunate fellow.
Sitka—XIV 234
Death of an Indian prince. The body lying in state.
Strange watcher of the dead. Arrival of strange
Indians. Indian funeral rites and election of a new
prince, weird spectacle.    Safely outside again.
Sitka—XV 239
Greek Catholic funeral rites. Procession to the burial
place.   Christian burial.   Digging up and burning the
16 body. A victim saved. Rising in Indian camp. Warlike demonstration. Negotiations. Blockade of Indian
camp. A blockade runner destroyed. Vendetta of
the Indians.
Sitka—XVI 243
Arrival of war-ship Saginaw. News of shipwrecked
Growler. Squaw's deposition. Arrival of coaling
vessel, Black Diamond, from Nanaimo. Passage
engaged for the south. Violent scene with my
informant. Pressure brought to bear. Signing of the
deposition. Price of treachery. Legal confirmation.
Departure from Sitka and start on the Black Diamond.
On Board the " Black Diamond "—I. . .247
Crew and condition of our ship. Food and comfort.
Sleeping accommodation. Uninvited guests. Our
passengers. Experiences of a gold prospector. Storm.
Heroic crew.    Reward.    Feelings of thankfulness.
On Board the " Black Diamond "—II. . . 255
Becalmed. Albatrosses. Seals. Whales. Scarcity
of drinking water. Small rations. Welcome breeze.
Uncertainty as to course. Land in sight. Fog. An
uncomfortable night. Again becalmed. Ocean
currents.    Arrival in harbour of Victoria.
The Return Journey to San Francisco. . .260
A long telegram. Believed to be lost. Attacks by
Indians. Destruction of the Red Rover. Attack on
the Thornton. Attempt on the Black Diamond. On
the steamer. Parting from the gold prospectors.
Arrival at San Francisco.
San Francisco.
Overland   stage.
Salt   Lake   City.
.     266
New  York.
17  PART I.
The Author left New York on February  12th,   1868,
and arrived at Colon eight days later.
After crossing the Isthmus by train (the canal had not
been made in those days), he arrived at Panama where a
day was spent in visiting the old town.
/ VLB's    *   ^iw    \ <>&». WsKSo^ÊS-yr ?~ sC^^c£?8m>* J
E.T. 1868
B 2 Six days later the steamer arrived at Acapulco and the
Author set foot on Mexican soil for the first time : it was
scarcely a year since the ill-fated Maximilian had met his
death at the hands of this nation.
ACAPUXCO BAY. -- J^~J -y ^ -^J—^y   s I    s  —_•    _.r--   / ET> l868
1 After thirteen days steaming up the coast of Mexico
and California, the Golden Gate and harbour of San
Francisco were eventually reached, the total journey from
New York having taken 22 days and 6 hours.
After a stay of three weeks in San Francisco, on the 4th
April, 1868, I received despatches which compelled me to
go still further north.
The goal of my new journey was Sitka or New Archangel,
the chief settlement in the extensive territory formerly
known as Russian America, which was ceded by the Russian
Government to the United States in March, 1867, for a
payment of 7,000,000 dollars in gold, and formally passed
into the possession of the United States in October of that
That territory, which since its acquisition by the
Americans is called Alaska (after the peninsula which forms
23 its western portion), comprises some 500,000 square miles
and forms a great peninsula on the north-west corner
of America. It is bounded on the north by the Arctic
Ocean, on the east by the territory of the Hudson Bay
Company (which has long been regarded as a British possession), and on the south by the Pacific Ocean ; in the extreme
west it is separated from Asia by the Behring Strait. The
numerous islands along the coast, on one of which the port
of Sitka is situated, and including a group called the
Aleutian Islands which stretch westward to the neighbourhood of Kamtchatka, were included in the purchase.
The credit of the first discovery of the Behring Strait
and the west coast of America must be ascribed to Russian
seamen who, after the founding of Eastern Siberia and the
discovery of the Kamtchatkan peninsula at the instigation
of Peter the Great and the Empress Catherine, carried their
explorations still further east. Behring and his lieutenant,
Tschirikoff, landed in 1741 at various places on the mainland but then lost a large number of their crew, partly
through conflicts with the natives and partly through
scurvy—that plague of all travellers in the Far North—
and were compelled to return hastily to Asia. Tschirikoff
was fortunate enough to reach the coast of Siberia, but
24 Behring, whose weakened crew was not able to handle the
ship, was wrecked on the island which had been named
after him, and there with his fellow sufferers fell a victim
to scurvy resulting from utter want.
The search for the North-West Passage (from the Atlantic
to the Pacific Ocean) which was so much discussed at that
time, impelled other bold explorers, Cooke, La Perouse,
Van Couver, Kotzebue and others to complete the discoveries already made, and the reports brought to Siberia
by Tschirikoff as to the newly discovered territory's wealth
in furs led to the formation of a company for the purpose
of exploring the fur products of the west coast of America.
In the year 1799 this company, formed by Siberian
merchants under the name of the Russian American Company, received from the Russian Government the chartered
rights of a trade monopoly and the independent administration of their territory, just as similar rights on the eastern
coast of North America had been given to an English
trading company—the Hudson Bay Company—in the reign
of Charles II. towards the end of the seventeenth century.
In the year 1800 a Siberian merchant named Baranoff,
who was then at the head of the Russian company, established numerous " Forts " or trading stations among which
Sitka, being a harbour, was the most strongly fortified and
provided with a small garrison. Some years later, when
Baranoff chanced to be absent, the new station was attacked
by an overwhelming force of Indians and the occupants
were massacred ; only one Aleutian managed to escape and
carried the news of the disaster to Baranoff. Through the
latter's influence a Russian squadron appeared before
Sitka where the Indians who were provided with firearms,
had entrenched themselves ; there was severe righting
for several days till at last lack of ammunition forced the
dogged Indians to surrender. A fort was erected, the
residences of the Russians were surrounded with palisades,
and a larger garrison was stationed there. The Indians
made many attempts later on, even after the beginning of
the 'fifties, to capture Sitka, but were repelled on each
25 occasion with heavy loss by the Russians, who were much
better armed.
After that time the Russian American Company enjoyed
for many years a complete monopoly of trade on the northwest coast, although during the Crimean War even this
remote possession of Russia was not altogether unaffected,
since the port of Sitka was blockaded for some time by a
British squadron.
Meanwhile great changes had taken place on the west
coast of North America. Since the discovery of gold in
California in the year 1849, whole populations had streamed
towards the vaunted West and within a few years new states
had been founded by free American citizens. California,
Oregon and Washington Territory (this last separated from
the Russian possessions only by a narrow strip of land under
British rule) had developed with amazing rapidity, and the
American pioneers who had now reached the extreme
west and were prevented from going further by the Pacific
Ocean, turned their gaze to the north-west where unknown
lands of boundless extent offered themselves as a field for
The jealously guarded monopoly of the Russian company
and the consequent isolation from the rest of the world
gave the country in the eyes of the Americans all the
attractiveness of the unknown, and made them more and
more eager for its acquisition.
In the year 1865 permission was given for an expedition
sent out by the American Telegraph Union to enter the
Russian territory in order to erect a telegraph line to the
Behring Strait, whilst on the Asiatic side a second expedition
was engaged in erecting a line to the Strait. The intention
was to connect the two terminal stations by a submarine
cable and so place America in telegraphic communication
with Europe via Siberia.
This remarkable American scheme was warmly encouraged
by the Russian Government. The work was begun at both
ends at once with the customary American energy and after
innumerable difficulties due to the nature of the country,
26 the severity of the climate, the hostility of the natives, etc.,
had been partly overcome, there was reason to believe that
this vast undertaking would be carried out successfully,
when in July, 1867, the completion of the transatlantic
cable solved the problem of placing America in telegraphic
communication with the Old World. The Russian-
American line, on which three million dollars had already
been expended, suddenly became unnecessary and the work
on both sides of the Strait was brought to a standstill.
The only gain derived from these unfortunate expeditions
was the accumulation of important scientific data relating
to a country hitherto regarded as " terra incognita," and
the acquisition of the first really authentic information as
to the geographical and climatic conditions and the products of the territory which, as already remarked, passed
into the ownership of the United States in March, 1867.
It is difficult to determine the reasons which induced the
Russian Government to give up its possessions in America.
Some think that the cession must be regarded as a hostile
demonstration against England and intended to expose that
country's American dominions more and more to the
disintegrating influence of the United States. Others
contend that Russia was influenced in taking this step
simply by the large price offered to her.
The main reason is probably to be found in the tendency
of the Czar's Empire to extend its power in the Pacific
over the southern lands of the Mongols, to bring China and
Japan within its sphere of influence, and with that object
to consolidate its position rather than let it be weakened
by the existence of isolated possessions in America. In
these circumstances it is not surprising that the Czar should
not let slip the opportunity of divesting himself, on satisfactory terms, of a territory which in the event of war would
have neither the inclination nor the ability to hold out for
any length of time.
Quite different was the secret motive of Seward, the
United States Secretary of State, in supporting President
Johnson's policy of purchase ; to him it was a step towards
27 the realisation of the Monroe Doctrine—" America for the
Americans, from the Arctic to the Tropics ! "
It was indeed a European Power which by this withdrawal
lost the right to intervene in future in American affairs,
and in this way a kind of warning was given to England also.
The British Colonies, bounded on the north and south by
American territory and confined to a narrow strip of coast
and the regions behind it, would find their position more
and more untenable, and would have great difficulty in
escaping absorption into the United States as their ultimate
As the American people are always inclined to injure
Great Britain and to revenge themselves for the British
recognition of the Southern rebels, the Seward purchase
gave rise to considerable anxiety.
Two parties were immediately formed, one in favour of,
and the other opposed to, the acquisition of the territory.
To judge from the statements made by the former, Alaska
must be an " El Dorado," whose healthy climate and
abundance of furs, fish and wild animals, coal, silver and gold
they were never tired of proclaiming—in short, a land which
needed only the touch of the creative hands of the Yankees
to become forthwith a veritable gold mine. On the other
hand, the opponents poured the bitterest scorn upon a
country whose climate they described as arctic in the north
and as perpetually rainy and foggy in the south, with a
population consisting only of Indians and Eskimos, who
could never be civilised. " Have we not," cried this
party with that fervour which the Americans bring into
all political matters, " have we not hundreds of thousands
of acres of the most promising agricultural land, and shall
we part with our good money for icebergs ? "
There were stormy scenes in Congress at Washington.
The purchase proposal was nearly rejected by the House of
Representatives and it was only at the last moment, by the
exercise of the utmost pressure and appeals to the Monroe
Doctrine, that a majority was obtained, the proposal
sanctioned and the money voted.
28 Meantime on the 18th October, 1867, in Sitka, the-
United States had taken possession of Russian America or
Alaska ; two companies of artillery with their guns had been
stationed there as a garrison ; and the Russian Fur Company
had undertaken to evacuate the town and district completely
within a year.
In San Francisco, as throughout the whole western coast,
popular opinion was unanimously in favour of the purchase,
since certain advantages would naturally accrue therefrom
to the neighbouring States. One needs to know the
character of the Californians to realise the delight with
which old and young alike greeted the news of the increase
of territory. Despite constant and bitter disappointments
in mining matters the Californian is always full of excitement when he hears of any new discovery. Fabulous
stories of the wealth of Alaska's resources spread abroad ;
no one knew their origin, but everybody believed them
none the less ; and in the spring of 1868 the whole of
San Francisco was in a state of feverish excitement.
In the windows of the furriers were to be seen nothing
but Alaskan pelts; the confectioners sold Alaskan ice; the
money changers had samples of Alaskan gold and silver ores.
Views of Sitka, some imaginary, others based on old Russian
pictures, appeared by the side of Russian dictionaries in the
booksellers' windows.    In short, Alaska was the only topic.
Many enterprising merchants fitted out vessels and
waited only for the commencement of the milder weather
to send them to sea.
This was the position when, as I stated at the beginning,
business connected with the winding-up of the Russian
American Fur Company called me myself to Sitka.
It was on one of those fine and incomparably beautiful
April days, following as a rule on the rainy season which
extends over many months, that I went to the office of the
Californian   Oregon   and   Mexican   Steamship   Company
29 to make enquiries as to a passage to Alaska. Communication with Alaska was then, and so far as I know is still,
irregular and confined to occasional conveyance of supplies
for the troops stationed there ; and moreover the season
was not yet sufficiently advanced for there to be any considerable traffic. There was no possibility of getting a
steamer or sailing ship to Sitka, but I might have the chance
of a ship from Victoria (Vancouver Island), since the official
gave me to understand with an air of great mystery that the
Government had chartered one of his company's steamers
for the purpose of carrying troops and supplies to Alaska,
and that it would call at Victoria to coal.
In order not to lose any time I resolved to take the course
suggested. Victoria was at least 600 miles nearer to
Alaska and a steamer was clearing for that port that very
The most important requisites for the journey I managed
to obtain despite the lateness of the hour (it was a Saturday) ;
the remainder of my letter of credit I transferred by telegraph to be available for me at Victoria ; and, leaving
part of my luggage at the hotel in order to be somewhat
less burdened, I betook myself at 4 o'clock in the afternoon
on board the small steamer " Active," a vessel which had
formerly been employed by the Government on coast
survey work and only later fitted for the carriage of
passengers. In consequence of this the so-called " Saloon "
was dark and stuffy, and the sleeping cabins, which were
small and inconvenient, held out little hope of comfort.
After the usual turmoil before departure, the final
signal was given, the last rope cast off and our journey
The trip across San Francisco Bay is always one of the
most interesting in the neighbourhood and on that evening,
thanks to the last rays of the setting sun, the famous exit
appeared as a veritable " Golden Gate." Scarcely, however, had we passed through the Gate, when suddenly the
sky grew darker and we were caught in one of the thickest
of the thick fogs which sweep up from the sea regularly
30 every evening like a cloud over the Bay. A fog at sea is
always rather disquieting, and involuntarily the traveller
thinks of collisions and of sunken rocks. It is not possible
to stay on deck without getting wet through, and consequently in such weather the passengers assemble in the
saloon, not in the best of tempers, relyingon the steersman who,
with the look-out man in the bows, is responsible for their
safety. When an accident does occur, the collision usually
follows almost immediately upon the alarm being given,
and unhappily collisions are only too numerous in foggy
weather in the neighbourhood of a much-frequented port.
At dinner I had an opportunity of passing my fellow
passengers in review. At the top sat our captain, a quite
young man who had just retired from the navy, son of a
Minister of the Southern States and himself heart and soul
a Southerner. On his right and left sat two ship's officers,
and on both sides of the very sparsely occupied table,
waited on by untidy waiters, chiefly Irish, were seated about
a dozen rough-looking bearded fellows, whose coloured
woollen shirts proclaimed them to be miners. These were
the élite of the passengers—the so-called " first-cabin "
travellers,—whilst in the fore-cabin the second-class
passengers, some thirty men in more or less tattered garments, were encamped on old woollen blankets. My first
impression of these was that they belonged to the outcasts
of society and were adventurers of the most dangerous
kind. The first group of passengers, despite their uncouth
appearance, had at least decent clothes and new blankets,"
and their guns—each carried one—were in leather cases.
The between-decks passengers were not only insufficiently
clad, but carried their murderous-looking revolvers and
bowie knives quite openly in a way which was very disturbing
to nervous people.
As I gradually found out, most of the miners on board
worked in the northern mining districts of British Columbia
—the so-called Cariboo—and had spent the winter, when
mining is impossible, in San Francisco, where they had
squandered   their   hard-earned half-year's wages  on  the
31 pleasures of the town, and were now returning with empty
pockets to resume their adventurous life in the Far North.
There must be some very powerful attraction which draws
these men again into the wilderness, away from the alluring
attractions of the great city. Amongst those in our cabin
with whom I became more closely acquainted were two
Italians and one Frenchman ; the former came from
Genoa and the latter from Languedoc. All three of them
seemed to have received originally a good education. The
two former were involved in the revolutions of 1848, were
compelled to flee from their country, and after twenty years
wandering in South, Central and North America, found
their way to the remote mines of the extreme North-West.
Though several times on the road to prosperity, if not to
wealth, they never knew how to seize the right moment
for exchanging their adventurous life for European civilisation ; they found themselves always remorselessly set back
and forced to begin anew. Now they spoke often with
longing about their return, one day, to their native land,
to which they would go back only as successful men. Will
these people ever attain their desire, or are they fated in
their struggle for existence to fall victims to the snows, the
wild animals and the Indians of the northern regions ?
The reasons which drove the Frenchman to emigrate
were altogether different. His history is quite a romance,
the scene being his native place. He found himself scorned
by the object of his love, a rich young girl who preferred
one of his rivals. The result was a duel in which the
despised lover had wounded, and possibly killed, his more
fortunate rival. He fled to the coast, enlisted as a sailor,
sailed apparently all round the world, was a gold-miner
in Australia, a slave-owner in Brazil, a merchant in Central
America, and now for many years had spent the summer
in the mines of the North-West. He had nevertheless in
his heart a longing for " la belle France," though he would
not admit it openly.
Often in the evening from the fore-part of the ship there
were heard strains of music, softly breathing a yearning for
32 southern climes ; these were sung by the sons of Italy,
whose rough exterior belied their tender hearts.
Those engaged in occupations which bring them into
close contact with nature—such as seamen, mountaineers,
fishermen, hunters, trappers, etc.—are generally characterised by good humour, straight-forwardness, and honesty :
and so amongst the miners there are often to be found fine
characters, thoroughly original, and anyone who wins their
confidence discovers them to be as a rule reliable comrades,
always ready to help by word and deed. I, too, found
amongst my shipmates many a good fellow. These included
some Portuguese whalers, men of the true stamp, who had
often been caught in the ice in the North and had wintered
there. Once, as they told me, they had made 2,000
dollars in a twenty months' campaign against the monsters
of the deep. Now, enticed by the call of the golden
treasure of Cariboo, they intended to spend a season in the
mines there. These three seemed always to work together
whether by sea or land.
Another group was made up of sons of the green isle of
Erin, and they also were admirable specimens of that
good-natured but excitable island race, whom to make
contented is mighty England's most difficult task.
An English seaman, a regular John Bull, who was on his
way to join his ship in Victoria, and a young Scotchman
travelling to join his relatives at the same place, represented the interests of Old England. To these must be
added an old, bent, shabby-looking Jew, who professed to
have come from London and was now at an advanced
age anxious to go to the mines : he seemed to know most
of them, and in reply to my enquiries I learned that for
many years the old man had frequented the mining districts, sometimes as a trader, sometimes as a digger. If
one could trust his statements, he had occasionally been
well-to-do, but had now fallen into poverty again.
There were also a number of German adventurers ;
I am ashamed to say that they were by far the most wretched
and ragged in appearance of the whole body of passengers
33 c and their low cunning and shiftiness could be read in their
faces. Their speech was a jargon of German and English,
and they seemed to know only the most unpleasant words
of each language.
Finally, we must not omit a party of Greeks, from whom one
can never escape on the West Coast ; they spent the greater
part of the day cowering in a corner, and sought to relieve
the long monotony of the voyage with the pleasures of opium.
The first three days passed with little incident, and
quietly so far as the miserable cooking and other arrangements allowed. The sea was rather choppy and the sky
cloudy, the weather cold and rainy. Although our course
lay along the coast land was seldom in sight, and it was only
occasionally that we had glimpses of the snow-covered
mountains of the mainland in the far distance. A slight
accident which befell me did not tend to raise my spirits.
One night, in order to get rid of the oppressive smell of
my freshly-painted cabin, I imprudently left the porthole open : the sea appeared to be moderately smooth,
so I breathed the fresh air with delight and fell sound
asleep. But the awakening was unpleasant. The wind
on our course had altered in the night ; the waves beat
against my cabin, and about 6 o'clock in the morning I
was awakened to my dismay by a torrent of water which
burst through the window, flooded my berth, and threatened
to swamp the cabin. To spring up and close the porthole was the work of a moment, but already there was a
great mess ; my clothes and luggage were floating about in
the most appalling confusion as the water rose and fell
with the movement of the ship. To make my situation
still worse, I could not find my keys, which had no doubt
been swept under the berth, and consequently I had to
wait from 6 till 10 o'clock in my dripping garments until
at last one of the stewards who had been told to help in the
search brought the keys to me.
Such a soaking one would expect to be followed by a
very heavy cold ; but I found by experience on this occasion,
as on others, that salt water never has that result.
Meanwhile our gallant ship was well on its way, and on
the morning of the fourth day we approached the coast
opposite the mouth of the River Columbia, whose lime-
impregnated waters give the ocean a yellow tinge for
ten miles from where it enters the sea. The Columbia
is the largest river on the west coast of North America ;
it rises in a small lake on the western slope of the Rocky
Mountains and flows with many windings for a distance
of 1,200 miles into the Pacific, its western course forming
the boundary between the State of Oregon and the
Washington Territory. In its upper stretches the Columbia
is a rushing stream which has forced its way irresistibly
through rocky gorges, and with many falls and rapids
pours down to the lower stretches, and towards the mouth
widens out into broads four to seven miles across. Navigation, which is practicable for the largest ships for a distance
of 140 miles upstream, is at that point checked by a series
of great rapids ; after those are passed the river is navigable
again for a considerable distance.
As is generally the case with the estuaries of large rivers,
there has been formed at the mouth of the Columbia a
line of dangerous sandbanks whose constant shiftings
makes the approach extremely difficult. Vessels venture
on the passage of the sandbanks only under the guidance
of an experienced pilot stationed there, since it is well known
that deviation from the narrow channels by even a foot's
breadth would result in running aground, and this, owing
to the nature of the so-called " quicksands," would entail
a complete loss. The extent of the danger attending this
passage can be realised from the fact that it is practicable
for big ships only at certain stages of the tide and when the
sea is calm.
As out steamer was not going direct to Vancouver
Island, but had to discharge goods and passengers at
Portland, Oregon, which is situated on a tributary of the
35 C2 Columbia, about a hundred miles from the mouth, we
ourselves had occasion to make this notorious passage.
After a stormy and rainy night, we could, in the early
morning, distinguish with the naked eye the coast at the
point where the Columbia mingles its mighty waters with
the Ocean. Against the dark background of pine woods
we could pick out with our telescopes, the white lighthouse
and the fortifications placed on a height above the mouth
of the river. As we steamed up and down at half-speed the
pilot signal was hoisted and the warning gun fired from
our forecastle sounded faintly, being carried away by the
wind and the roar of the sea. Although the sea was very
rough, no one of us—not even the captain himself, who was
making this particular voyage for the first time—had the
slightest doubt that a pilot-boat would put out from the
shore and provide us with a pilot. Eagerly we looked across
the white foam that surged over the sandbanks to the coast
some eight English miles away ; but what we thought
to be a sail always proved to our disappointment to be a
rock on the shore or a white-capped wave. A second and
third signal shot was fired : 12 o'clock struck, but no pilot
boat, no sail was to be seen near or far.
Lunch time passed in silence, and the passengers became
more and more depressed at being so close to port and yet
unable to reach it. It was early in April, the days were
short, and at dusk we had to abandon hope for that day.
Towards evening the wind increased perceptibly in violence,
blowing up from the west and driving us towards the land,
so that to avoid the dangerous shallows we were compelled
to stand out to sea against the wind and waves.
The next morning, the fifth since our departure from
San Francisco, we were on the high seas, out of sight of
land, and mercilessly tossed about by the raging waves ;
our stock of provisions, sufficient only for five days—and
not even abundant for that period—began to give out,
the meat was turning bad, and though there was no danger
of absolute starvation no one quite knew what would
36 In addition to this the coal supply began to run short,
so that in order to be prepared for any contingency the
engines had to be run only at half-speed, and we could
move but slowly. Apparently we must have gone further
away from the coast during the night than was necessary,
for after steaming eastward during the whole of that day
and the following night at half our normal speed we found
ourselves at 10 o'clock in the morning of the sixth day
back again at the point from which we had been compelled
to move two days previously. This time, happily, the
weather was fine and the sea quite calm, and towards noon
we had the satisfaction of seeing our signals answered by the
appearance of a sail, which from its number we recognised
to be that of a pilot-boat. Like a swan it glided
coquettishly over the water, rising and falling with the
waves ; the swelling sails seemed to make the shapely,
rounded boat even more diminutive than it was. We
stopped, and after it had circled round us several times,
there was a conversation between our captain and the
pilot, the upshot of which was that for some reason or other
the pilot refused to come on board, but was willing to
precede us in his boat and show the way. The offer was
accepted and our steamer followed closely on the track of the
skilfully-guided sailing-boat. Though dangerous surges
beat on both sides over treacherous shallows, though
wild floods and raging whirlpools threatened to engulf us,
our pilot never failed us and within half-an-hour—during
which many hearts beat more quickly—we left the
dangerous passage behind us and were in the calm fairway
of the river.
On the left the coast rises fairly steeply about 200 feet
to a height which is crowned by a dark fir-wood, at whose
edge, close to the slope, there rise a lighthouse and a
battery which we have already observed from the sea and
recalls the great Civil War. On our right to the south the
land is flat, but also covered with dense woods. Right
on the water's edge, opposite the north battery, earthworks have been thrown up, and behind them a company
37 of artillery is encamped in tents and blockhouses, and as
we pass by they answer our salute. We draw near the
southern bank, and after rounding a wooded promontory
we come in sight of Astoria, the port of the State of Oregon,
which extends along a cove of the river.
The settlement, consisting of small wooden houses, does
not make a particularly favourable impression. The ground
is hilly, and rises somewhat abruptly from the water's edge,
so that some of the buildings, resting on piles, are actually
m the water, whilst other scattered houses and huts seem
to cling with difficulty to the side of the hill. The town,
as it exists to-day, is only a few years old : the small area
reclaimed from the forest is still strewn with half-charred
stumps of trees which detract from the charm of the
Meanwhile we had been moored to the wooden landing-
stage, and were received by about a dozen stalwart sunburned men who, with their hands in their pockets, were
awaiting our arrival. The start of our journey upstream
had to be postponed until the evening, as we had to take in
fuel and engage a river pilot, so that it was possible for me to
get a closer view of Astoria.
From the landing stage we made our way past stacks of
wooden boards, the chief product of the town, to the
lowest street, which runs parallel with the river bank and
rests on piles ; on both sides of it there are restaurants and
taverns in which my fellow travellers partook of highly-
peppered oyster soup, to make good the gastronomical
38 shortcomings of the voyage, or sought by some glasses of
stiff brandy to prepare themselves for the hardships still
to come. At the Custom House and the Astoria Hotel,
both of which are built entirely of wood, the more
respectable part of the town begins, and the numerous
little whitewashed houses with green blinds, each standing
in a small garden, look pleasant enough when seen at close
quarters. There is also a little church around which the
upper class seems to reside. A few paces uphill we found
ourselves on the edge of the settlement ; stumps of trees of
the weirdest shapes impede the intruder with their wide-
spreading roots, young fir saplings seem to be trying to
get a foothold in the clearings, and it is almost as if the dark
pine wood above were pressing forward to overwhelm the
young settlement at its feet. For a lonely place commend
me to the Astoria of to-day !
It was in 1812 that John Jacob Astor, the first and most
famous fur-trader of America, established near to the site
of the present town a settlement or so-called " fort," like
several others which he had built along the Columbia
River, for the purpose of barter with the natives. At that
time no white faces were to be seen on the banks of the
virgin stream ; undisturbed the Redskin hunted or fished,
and rich was the booty of splendid furs which he was
ready to exchange for worthless trumpery. Years have
passed since then ; the white men have increased continually in numbers, steamships plough their way along
the once so peaceful river, steam engines tear through the
dark forests, flourishing towns full of life spring up as if by
magic. Some ruins, half-rotted pillars, of J. J. Astor's
fort remain, but in its place there rose a town, named Astoria
in his honour, with several hundred white inhabitants.
But what, we ask, has become of the Redskins, the former
inhabitants of the territory over which their white brethren
now hold sway ? They have disappeared, leaving hardly
any trace, decimated in useless struggles against the white
men, but even more sorely ravaged by disease and every
kind of vice acquired through intercourse with the whites,
39 To-day there are only a few remnants left—and they are
mostly given to drunkenness—of those proud nations in
Lower Columbia which were the terror of the first settlers
and had once by their bravery gained the admiration of
men like Fennimore Cooper and Washington Irving.
Could those warlike figures of bygone decades have imagined
descendants like those three small, dirty, miserable-looking
Indians who paddled up in a canoe during our stay in
Astoria and tried cringingly to sell oysters and clams to
one of the American hotel keepers ?
By this time it was evening and our steamer had taken on
board the requisite supplies of wood as a substitute for
coal, which was not available ; but for some unknown
reason the continuance of our journey was postponed
till the next morning.    So we had wasted another day.
Beneath a cloudless sky under the guidance of the river-
pilot, a tall, thin Yankee captain who has grown grey at
sea, we continue upstream, leaving the original Astor
settlement on our right. The wreck, lying in midstream,
of a ship laden with timber which our pilot told us had been
there since 1849 and was now almost entirely overgrown
with river-weeds, helped us to realise the variations in the
level of the river-bed.
Some miles above Astoria the Columbia narrows considerably. Its width, which near that town is some seven
miles, dwindles to about one mile, and apparently it
remains of that size for a long distance. The banks,
however, become relatively steeper and higher, and the
further we get from the mouth the wilder becomes the
scene. The dark pine and fir forests, reaching down to the
water's edge, are broken from time to time by bare masses
of rock, which rise in fantastic forms often perpendicularly
from out the river ; and numerous gorges and gullies,
cutting deep into the mountain barrier, remind the
tourists of the streams and avalanches which doubtless
produced them.
Very occasionally, we noticed on the bank a small clearing,
in the middle of which there stood a cabin made of rough
40 logs, generally inhabited by fishermen, white men who had
taken to themselves Indian squaws, and showed themselves
quite unconcernedly by the side of their brown companions
and frequently surrounded by a number of dusky-hued
children. As the Columbia is very rich in all kinds of
fish, and particularly in excellent salmon which when
preserved forms an important export from Oregon and is
shipped even to China and Australia, the fishing industry
is very remunerative and the fishermen on the Columbia
have an assured market.
It was not till the afternoon that we passed the first
little town, Monticello, and towards 8 o'clock in the
evening, when off the settlement of St. Helen, we fired a
signal gun in order that a telegraphic warning of our
approaching arrival might be sent to Portland, which was
still about 30 miles away. Meanwhile the scenery along
the river had become decidedly less interesting, and the
banks were less steep and high, so that we did not miss much
when it grew dark, but resumed tranquilly our walks on
the deck, which wiled away some of the evening hours,
or leaning on the bulwark watched the sparks that poured
from the funnel like a fiery shower against the dark evening
sky. Reaching a bend of the river we turned sharply
to the right and entered the Williamette, a tributary of the
Columbia, on whose high bank about 15 miles from its
junction with the main stream lies Portland, the most
important town of Oregon. It was midnight when the
steamer arrived there—too late for us to land and consequently, despite our curiosity, we had to postpone till
the next day our first view of San Francisco's northern
Portland, the largest and most important town in Oregon,
contains at the present time (1868) about 1,300 houses
and some 7,000 inhabitants, of whom 400 are Chinese
and  about  80 are  " coloured."    Situated  in  the  fertile
41 valley of the Williamette, and in direct and regular communication with the Pacific, it is the centre of a considerable trade.
Early on Sunday morning I went on land in order to
spend a day on solid ground after eight days at sea.    In
Arigoni's Hotel, kept by an Italian, I found good entertainment, a clean room, and satisfactory food which was
very acceptable after the monotony of ship's fare. The
weather was cool and rainy, so that I made use of the
opportunity to look round the town itself. Sunday is
observed in Portland much more strictly than in California, and so the church which I visited was quite full of
decently dressed people. It was Easter Sunday, and as I
was about to begin a long and wearisome journey I thought
of my dear ones at home, from whom I was separated by so
many thousands of miles.    Our own steamer, the not very
42 active Actice had postponed the continuance of her
voyage till Tuesday, so resolving to make use of the time
I went early next morning on board the steamer Cascade,
which was going up the Columbia River.    It was 5 o'clock
in the morning and the day had scarcely dawned when we
left Portland.
The first 15 miles from the junction of the Williamettre
and the Columbia were quickly traversed and offered only
a view of thickly wooded banks, with strips of arable and
pasture land interspersed with a few farmhouses and numerous herds of cattle ; there was no wide prospect. Rounding
a wooded promontory we suddenly beheld the mighty
Columbia lying before our astonished gaze with its waters
43 broadening out like a lake. Continuing "the journey we
passed on the right bank Van Couver, which was formerly
a station of the Hudson Bay Company, but after the
occupation of the territory by the United States was made
an important military post. Most of the generals who
became famous in the recent war spent part of their period
of service here. The present President of the United
States, General Grant, was stationed here for a long time
and it was here that he retired from the service ; only at
the outbreak of the Civil War did he take up the sword
again in defence of his country.
A further 25 miles brings us to the foot of the Cascade
Range, which runs parallel with the coast and is a prolongation of the range forming the Sierra Nevada, which with a
breadth of 40-60 miles rises to a height of 14,000-17,000
feet, with  its  summits  covered with  everlasting snows.
44 It was indeed a mighty stream that broke its way through
such a mountain range, and its waters rush fiercely through
the narrow rocky gorge. Progress is difficult—the last
five miles take almost an hour. On both sides are perpendicular walls of basalt many hundred feet high, and masses
of rock of colossal size, detached from the banks, stand
erect in the raging waters and remind us of the battle of the
elements. At a bend of the river a pyramidal rock, named
Cape Horn, rises some 600 feet out of the water, on whose
rugged outline some suggestion of a human countenance
may be traced. With its setting it forms one of the most
satisfying features of the river. The stream becomes still
more narrow, the water ever wilder ; deep breaks appear in
the grey walls of the gorge, made by miniature waterfalls
which look like silver veins ; the air grows cold and damp
and the traveller feels as if he were in a cellar.
The end of the voyage is reached ; the ship is moored by
a floating stage and we are at the Cascade landing. Beyond
this the river forms a series of rapids and waterfalls which
make navigation impossible for a distance of about 10 miles.
Consequently passengers and goods are landed and conveyed
by a five-mile railway belonging to the steamship company
to a point where the Columbia again becomes navigable
for a distance of 45 miles and a steamer is waiting to convey
them to the eastern mining districts.
45 The majority of our passengers left the boat, which
immediately began its return journey ; only a few people
took the miniature railway. The journey downstream
was much more tranquil since we were rid of the noisiest
of the passengers and the only distraction was the occasional
landing of a traveller or the delivery of letters, which took
place sometimes at a lonely log cabin or small farming settlement. In the first case the passenger had to point out to
the steersman the precise point at which he wished to land.
The steamer was brought as close as possible to the bank
and a long plank, kept ready for the purpose, was thrown
out to the shore—an undertaking which only succeeded
after repeated attempts—and the passenger had to reach
the land as best he could without getting wet. The
delivery of the mail is an even more simple affair. As we
approached a mail station—usually an isolated log cabin—
a signal was given, a man appeared on the bank and without
more ado the leather bag containing the mails was thrown
to him.
When we got back to Portland towards evening, I
learned to my great disappointment that the steamer
Active had again postponed the continuance of her
voyage for two days and it was only on the evening of the
next day but one that she would be ready for sea.
As I feared that these repeated delays would end in my
missing the steamer from Victoria to Alaska, I joined with
my fellow passengers in making the most urgent representations to the captain to expedite the sailing of his ship.
He informed us, however, that he must wait for coal and
consequently, as no other means of transport were available,
we were compelled to spend the next two days in Portland
in rainy weather and to wile away our time in very successful
fishing and walks in the town.
On this occasion I made the acquaintance in a book shop
of a man who professed to have been in Sitka in October of
the previous year, but gave such an account of the place
that credulous folk would have given up for ever the idea
of going there.   According to his account, Sitka was a
46 little Russian settlement consisting of log cabins surrounded
on three sides by the sea and on the fourth by a palisade
beyond which no white man could go without the risk of
being kidnapped by the Indians, who were constantly at
feud with the Russians. The American garrison, instead
of protecting the few settlers left after the withdrawal of
the Russians, gave itself up to excesses of every kind and
theft, robbery and arson were everyday occurrences.
Meanwhile the eagerly awaited time for our departure
had come. The few passengers travelling to Victoria
were on board, the saluting gun was fired, and the captain
gave the order to " Go ahead !" ; the flag was hauled down,
and soon we were out in the channel of the Williamette.
It was 8 o'clock in the evening when we reached the
Columbia River and proceeding down the stream at half-
speed under a clear sky we arrived in Astoria at daybreak.
There we stayed only for a short time since we wanted to
avail ourselves of the high tide, which was at about midday, in order to clear the mouth of the river.
The little town, which on our previous visit had been so
quiet, was now somewhat excited by the arrival of a delegation consisting of three Indian chiefs from Eastern Oregon,
who were about to make the long journey to Washington
in order to lay before the " Big Father " (as they call the
President) complaints about the non-delivery of the supplies
of blankets and foodstuffs which they had hitherto received
regularly, to carry them through the winter months.
They were the representatives of a number of fairly important tribes from the upper reaches of the Columbia River,
who lived on peaceful terms with the white men, and therefore laid claim to this support. To judge them from their
chiefs they seemed to be an intelligent people, strong and
stoutly built, with copper-coloured complexions and long
coal-black hair hanging straight down their backs. A
large number of these Indians are successfully occupied in
horse  rearing—some  of the  tribes  have  thereby  raised
</ themselves to a fair level of prosperity. The ponies which
they rear, though small and unattractive in appearance,
are unsurpassed in their endurance and suitability for the
rough and trackless mountain regions, and are sold in
Oregon for 25-30 dollars each.
The good relations between the Indians and the white
immigrants have not always been undisturbed, and the
famous Oregon Indian war of the 'fifties furnishes proof that
the fighting powers of the Red men are not to be despised.
That war, which was admittedly, started by some settlers
who were eager for adventures or thought that a war
would give them a chance of improving their personal
position, lasted for several years and it was only after heavy
losses in men and property that the white men were able,
with the help of regular troops to subdue the rebel Indians.
In connection with the war the following anecdote is current
in Oregon :—
A number of Indian chiefs were assembled at a council
of war ; the question was whether the struggle should be
renewed at the beginning of the warmer weather. The
representatives of the various tribes declared almost
unanimously for the vigorous continuance of the struggle
until the last white man had disappeared from the territory
of Oregon—the scalp of the last Paleface would be the signal
for peace. Already the eldest of the chiefs had risen to
disinter (according to the ancient custom) the hatchet
buried when war had come to an end, when there stepped
forward an old Indian who in his younger days had been
with a consignment of furs to the Eastern States of America,
and there had convinced himself of the existence beyond
the snow-topped mountains of those millions of Palefaces
of whom his kinsmen seemed to have no idea. Plucking
some blades of the grass that covered the boundless stretches
of the prairie he asked the Indians assembled there in
council whether the number of blades left seemed to be
diminished. Those who stood round shook their heads in
answer. " The number of blades of grass that cover the
prairie," he said to them, " is like the number of the white
48 men who are spread all over the world, and just as the
plucking of a few blades of grass does not reduce the
unending numbers that are left, so the destruction of the
Palefaces that live in Oregon will not lessen the number of
the Palefaces throughout the world." The comparison
drawn by this travelled Indian enlightened the assembly :
a deputation to offer peace was immediately despatched
to the frontier and within a few days the very tribes which
had been a short time before bent on a life-and-death
struggle smoked the pipe of peace with the dreaded white
About mid-day we passed the lighthouse of Race Rock,
which stands on a dangerous group of rocks isolated from the
coast, and right in the channel, and a few hours later we
anchored off the harbour of Victoria, which was not conspicuous as it was separated from us by a low tongue of
land. The signal for a pilot was again given and this time,
fortunately, with greater success than at Columbia. Within
a quarter of an hour a prosperous looking broad-shouldered
figure with a round rosy face, a typical John Bull, was
rowed up to us by two sturdy fellows dressed in tidy seaman's
garb, presented himself to our captain as the British pilot,
and took over from him the command of the ship. Steering
straight for the unbroken coast-line, it was only when we
got quite close to it that we became aware of a narrow
opening, scarcely 50 feet wide, through which, after many
windings we entered the small and well-protected natural
harbour of Victoria. We were greatly surprised to see
spread out before us a quite attractive town of whose very
existence the traveller coming from the sea would have no
My stay in Victoria was inevitably a short one, for, as I
mentioned previously, I had to move on towards the north
as quickly as possible. My first step, on my arrival was,
of course, to enquire about a steamer bound for Alaska,
and I learned to my great annoyance that the Oriflamme,
49 with a contingent of American troops and war material on
board, had actually arrived in Victoria, but instead of
touching at Sitka had been ordered to set up military
stations at two points on the newly acquired coast, the most
northerly of which was 200 miles south of Sitka. It was no
use thinking of any communication between these two places
because the Indians there were in a state of warfare with their
northern neighbours and could not, therefore, be induced
to provide any transport. In these circumstances, there
was nothing left for me to do but either to wait for a suitable
opportunity (which would have entailed a loss of precious
time) or to undertake this long journey on a vessel provided
by myself. I decided on the latter course, and was fortunate
enough to meet with five other people all of whom had
come with the same intention as myself and having also
been disappointed with regard to the Oriflamme, were
animated by the same wish as myself to push on at all costs.
Two of them had already been in Sitka, one as a clerk at
the quartermaster's office, the other was a Jewish merchant ;
the remaining three proved to be an engineer, an ex-rebel
cavalry officer and a lawyer, all emigrating to Alaska to
try and improve their position in the much vaunted North,
after the failure of many attempts at making their fortune
in the South. We had several discussions and eventually
decided to charter a small one-masted sailing vessel,
commonly called a " sloop," of the kind which is used all
along the coast for trading purposes. When I first set
eyes on the pompously styled Ocean Queen, I almost
repented of my original decision—I found a flat boat of
scarcely 20 feet long by 8 feet broad, a so-called " Plunger,"
without any gunwale or elevation except for a cabin, half
sunk in the deck and half raised above it, measuring about
12 feet in length, 6 in width and 4 in height, which was
intended to shelter for a voyage of a week's duration the
six passengers and two seamen as well as their luggage,
which had to be reduced to a minimum.
" Needs must when the devil drives "—at any rate I
ought to be thankful at finding travelling companions.
50 I was assured that the seamen were well acquainted with
the route and that the course itself was along the coast in
waters sheltered from wind and waves, and so I agreed to
the arrangement. We passengers made an agreement with
the owner of the boat under the terms of which he undertook to convey us safely to Sitka for a payment of 240
We had to provide our own supplies for the journey.
Two of the party who were particularly expert in these
matters were entrusted with the task of making the purchases and the rest of us undertook to see about the
blankets, fire-arms and the numerous small requirements
for a long journey.
Each of us was provided with one or more pairs of
blankets of coarse but strong material, and a revolver with
the requisite ammunition, while the crew was furnished
with two muskets.
I myself took also a thermometer, a pocket-compass
and a sailing chart, a precaution which I had no reason to
regret since the nautical instruments belonging to the
crew proved later on to be in a most deplorable condition.
On the evening of the 20th April, all our preparations
for the journey were complete and our departure was
fixed for the following day about noon. I bade farewell
to my friends in Victoria, who had given me a most friendly
reception, thanks to my letters of introduction ; and after
I had reduced my luggage as much as possible and provided
myself with the money necessary to meet my personal
and some entertainment expenses in Alaska (this money
owing to the lack of any notes took the form of a considerable number of 20-dollar gold pieces) I made my way at
the appointed time to the harbour, where I found my
fellow travellers already assembled, wearing the strangest
garb. Then we had to partake of a variety of farewell
" drinks all round " and so often that most of my companions including the crew were obviously affected by the
strong liquors.   At last, at my earnest persuasion, we got
51 D2 the party on board and availing ourselves of a mild southwest breeze which sprang up, we slowly passed the harbour,
not without exchanging many a jest and farewell signal
shots with our friends who remained behind.
Before I proceed to describe our journey, it will not be
out of place to say something about the route we were
From Victoria to Sitka there are three sea routes. The
first, which is taken only by large sailing vessels and steamers
is the so-called f outside passage," which is first westward
into the open Pacific and then northward direct to Sitka.
On this route land is out of sight from the departure from
Victoria till the arrival at Sitka. The second route, taken
chiefly by steamers, lies through the Gulf of Georgia
between the Island of Vancouver on the left and the
mainland on the right up to the northern end of the
island, at which point the open sea is reached and the first
route then followed to Sitka. Finally, the third route,
the so-called " inside passage," is taken by the quite small
and unseaworthy sailing boats. This hugs the coast as
close as possible, taking care to be protected from the waves
of the open sea by the numerous islands large and small
which are strewn all along the coast.
The advantages of the first route described above are
first of all greater likelihood of the breezes needed by
sailing ships, smaller risk of striking rocks or shallows and
a shorter passage when the wind is favourable. The
second route, of which the latter part offers the same
advantages as the outside passage, is utilised by steamships
for the purpose of taking supplies of coal, a fuel which is
produced in substantial quantities at the mines of Nanaimo,
situated 70 miles north of Victoria on the eastern coast
of Vancouver Island.
Finally, the inner passage, the one which we ourselves
proposed to take, has the advantage of a calm sea, but on
the other hand the disadvantage of a longer passage caused
by the irregularity and mildness of the breezes, and partly
also by the necessity of skirting the numerous bays and
52 George Philip & Son, Ltd.
53 promontories. To this it must be added that the coast,
so far as it lies within British territory, has been surveyed
and properly charted, but the northern part which
formerly belonged to Russia was, on the other hand, not
officially surveyed and is only roughly set down in a few
sailing charts drawn by Russian captains.
One can give an impression of the nature of this coast
with its channels, bays and other water-ways cutting deep
into the mainland and its chain of islands by comparing
it with the fiords of Norway ; but it is not easy to convey
any idea of the difficulties which we had to overcome in
finding our way with the help of a copy of a Russian chart,
when it became apparent that our captain was completely
ignorant of these regions.
But none of us had then any conception of the troubles
which were in store for us, and we commenced our journey
in good spirits.
When we were once under way our first task was to
arrange our cabin and settle the sleeping accommodation
as well as possible. The hatch of the little hold was
raised, the trunks and boxes of supplies were stowed in the
fore part, boards laid over them and these in turn covered
with blankets. Then we realised how restricted the space
was ; four men had to lie side by side with a two foot
allowance for each, the other two men and both the sailors
lying at their feet. I thought with dismay of the coming
night. The small remaining space left in the cabin was
occupied by a little stove which was barely adequate to
meet even the most modest requirements in the way of
On deck the space was equally restricted. The stern
of our flat boat, which had no gunwale, so that any water
which swept over it could run off easily, held the rudder
which was operated by a long spar in a strong but very
primitive manner. On both sides of the hold, which rose
about two feet above the level of the deck, was a space
54 of some two feet wide, barely sufficient for one to pass to
the fore-deck, from which there rose our one mast, leaving
only a few square feet unencumbered. At the side of the
hatchway leading to the cabin stood the indispensable
water barrel containing a two days' supply, and above the
cabin itself a small flat-bottomed boat by which we could
land in an emergency. Some large oars and poles, to be
used should the wind drop suddenly, completed our
equipment. The 15-foot mast carried two sails, one the
four-cornered main-sail spread out horizontally from the
mast, which could be swung from one side to the other
of the ship according to the wind, and the other a smaller
three-cornered jib-sail spread forward of the mast.
In these confined quarters eight persons as well as two
large dogs belonging to one of the passengers had to live
and move—a problem the solution of which remains a
mystery to me to this day. It was regarded as an evil
omen when one of our dogs accidentally fell overboard ;
as there was only a light breeze it was easy to turn the boat
and get him on board again. The impression which this
incident, so unimportant in itself, made upon us was
reflected in every countenance and when, soon after,
the wind dropped altogether, the reaction from the extreme
cheerfulness of our start was very apparent. It was
already evening, and so we decided to run close to the shore
and drop anchor for the night ; we were scarcely four
miles from Victoria.
I shall never forget the first night aboard the Ocean
Queen. I could not sleep a wink, my miserable couch
was so hard and the air so moist and close in the hold,
occupied as it was by eight men and ventilated only by the
companion 3 feet high and 3 feet wide. There I lay
with only my coat for a pillow and a single covering,
between two snoring fellow creatures, and during this
first night I had ample opportunity to reflect on my
situation, which looked quite different now from what it
did before I left hospitable Victoria, where I was surrounded
by kindly friends.
55 Now for the first time I thought seriously of the great
distance we had to travel and also, strangely enough, for
the first time I began to wonder what security I really had
that these complete strangers into whose company I had
been thrown would act loyally towards me.
Although from the very beginning I had been consistently simple both in dress and manner, they must have
soon realised my real standing which was in sharp contrast
with theirs, if indeed they had any at all. All kinds of
ideas crowded into my mind—I remembered that one of
the sailors when he carried on board the small but heavy
chest, containing my money and closely packed belongings,
asked jestingly whether it was so heavy because it contained
gold, and I thought then how easy it would be to put me
out of the way somehow or other in the remote regions
where we were to travel.
I was heartily glad when at last day dawned. A fresh
sunny spring morning is the best cure for such fancies.
After a frugal breakfast, with a favourable south-west
wind we resumed our journey, in the^ course of which we
were able to increase our food supply by the purchase of a
quantity of smelts from fishermen who were returning to
the town.
Towards mid-day as we threaded our way through a
labyrinth of small flat but thickly-wooded islands, we
passed the Island of San Juan, which at one time gave rise
to a dispute that nearly brought Great Britain and the
United States to war. The original cause was a lawsuit
brought by the Hudson Bay Company, who in their
capacity of ground landlords of several farms had come into
conflict with the neighbouring American authorities over
some trifling matter, and when they failed to get their
rights by their own unaided efforts had invoked the protection of the British Crown. This was followed by an
exchange of notes between the cabinets of St. James's
and Washington, which became more and more violent.
Both parties were discussing preparations for war when,
on  the  eve  of sanguinary conflict,  the ingenuity of an
56 English statesman brought about a kind of armistice, by
the terms of which the Island of San Juan was to be treated
as neutral territory and both parties were to maintain a
garrison there.
Owing to other and more important events these events
were relegated somewhat to the background ; still for
many years companies of English and American troops
were stationed on the island and, if report speaks true,
they drank together so convivially at their secluded post
that they could be distinguished only by their respective
red and blue uniforms
It was but quite recently, in the winter of 1869, tnat tne
San Juan dispute, which might have led to serious dissension,
was settled by the High Court of Washington in favour of
the Hudson Bay Company, whose claims were finally
satisfied by a fairly large sum as compensation. Moreover,
the little island of only a few square miles in extent sœmed
to us, who saw it from the boat, scarcely worth disputing
about when a district of thousands of square miles on the
mainland lies fallow and unutilised.
After San Juan came the Pender and Prévost, Admiral
and Galio Islands, all bearing a striking resemblance to one
another and showing no trace of cultivation save an
occasional tumbledown fishing-hut nestling in the woods.
Towards evening the fitful breeze died away entirely, and
we sought anchorage for the night in the shelter of a small
bay formed by two tiny islands, and after several casts of
our sounding-lead we took up our position quite close to
the shore. Even for our boat of shallow draught, it was
dangerous to go too near the shore because of the great
difference in depth (often amounting to 20 feet) between
high and low tide and also because, being held merely by
one anchor at the bow, the movement of the waves made
our vessel move slowly but continuously round, as it were,
its centre.    The evening was cool but cloudless ;  a solemn
57 silence reigned on land and sea, broken only from time to
time by the rising of a fish.
In order to pass the time we tried to angle with hooks and
plummet attached to a fine, but soon gave up the attempt
after we had pulled up one after another three so-called
dog-fish, the largest of which must have weighed 15 lbs.
at the very least.
The next morning we went ashore with the aid of our
little boat in order to procure fuel, of which our stock was
running low. While some of the party, who were entrusted
with this task, hewed wood, brought the best and driest of
it to the ship and kindled a large fire on the shore with what
was left, we others roamed through the island seldom
trodden by human feet, with its thick forest of stunted
cypress trees, which seemed capable of striking only weak
roots into the rocky, indurated soil.
Long after we had left the island we could see the smoke
of our fire rising like a pillar in the clear transparent air.
The day passed in the usual way without any particular
incidents, the monotony being broken only by our modest
meals, an occasional tack, or a shot at the diver-ducks
floating in calm unconcern upon the waves. Sailing on at
about 4 miles an hour we reached near mid-day the Gulf of
Trincomatil, a stretch of water some seven miles wide
and twenty long, shut in by a chain of islands which together
formed a wonderful panorama. On our right there towered
in the distance the snow-covered heights of the Cascade
Range, lit up by the reflection of the setting sun, whilst
on our left the mountain range of Vancouver Island, also
covered with snow, seemed gilded by the fiery rays that
fell upon it, long after the lower slopes were hidden in
darkness. Gradually the glowing red faded to a dull
pink tinge upon the summits ; a little while and the first
stars appeared in the clear sky. By this time we had reached
the northern exit from the Gulf, and as it was now late in
the evening had cast anchor in one of the numerous bays.
We had to look forward to the passage next day of the
dreaded   " Dodd's   Narrows,"   a   strait   which   separated ,
58 us from the Gulf of Georgia, and was feared because the
water rushed through the narrow rocky passage in a raging
torrent, and navigation was not possible except when the
tide was highest just before beginning to ebb.
Our anchorage was about five miles from the beginning
of this rocky pass ; the sailors reckoned that high tide would
be about 3 o'clock, and so it was decided that we would
resume our journey at 1 o'clock and that, if necessary, we
should row the boat for this part of our course.
We had gone to sleep fairly late and should probably have
missed the all important time to start had I not awakened
about 1 o'clock, roused the sailors and myself taken a hand
with the oars. The night was cold and still, no breath of
air ruffled the dark green water—with a rattling noise the
anchor chain was hauled in, and with regular strokes of the
oars we moved slowly on. Either the distance to the
entrance of the Narrows was greater than our sailors
reckoned, or else the boat moved too slowly, but anyhow
it was 3 o'clock when we reached a passage, at most 1,000 feet
wide, between low thickly wooded islands with rocky shores,
which formed the entrance to the three miles of the
Narrows. Scarcely had our boat entered them, than a
suspicious noise of waters in the distance warned us that the
turn of the tide had already begun. Straining every nerve
we struggled against the stream which ran perceptibly
more and more against us ; no breath of air came to the
aid of our drooping sails. We had managed to go about
half the distance when to our dismay we saw that instead
of moving forward we were being dragged back by the tide.
Everything was at stake, since it was idle to hope to control
the boat if it were once caught by the tide, and we
remembered only too clearly the dangerous ledges of rock
about the entrance to the Narrows we had come through.
Those passengers who were still asleep were hastily roused,
two men took each oar and with the utmost effort we
succeeded in reaching the left bank. The captain and one
of the seamen, carrying a towing line fastened to the prow,
jumped on to the rocky but happily fairly flat shore and
59 dragged the boat forward, whilst the rest of us armed with
oars and poles kept it off the projecting rocks and also
sought to help it forward.
For half-an-hour we struggled on in this way against the
angry water, but to me it seemed an eternity and the recollection of that night is stamped indelibly on my mind,
never to be erased. Even to-day it is a mystery to me how
we managed to get through, but we did succeed after
almost superhuman exertions in reaching the exit from the
Narrows, just as the first faint streaks of light in the eastern
sky heralded the coming day. Our comrades who had done
so much to help us from the bank came on board with their
clothes torn to rags and their feet wounded ; they had been
obliged to force their way through thick and thin, clambering over rocks and trunks of trees in order to follow us along
the shore. We others were bathed in perspiration and had
to allow ourselves a short rest before we could resume our
journey over the Gulf of Georgia, which lay before us
like a sea. At daybreak a light breeze came to our help
and, in a few hours, steering along the coast we arrived at
Nanaimo, the second and last town on Vancouver Island.
We were pleasantly surprised to encounter at the landing-
stage the familiar shape of the Oriflamme, which was
taking in her supply of coal and from whose upper deck
many a hearty welcome was shouted to us. We fastened
our boat by the bank near the steamer, and went as quickly as
possible on shore, where we were most cordially received
by some officers of our acquaintance belonging to the
American contingent on the Oriflamme. There was,
of course, much to relate on both sides as to what had
happened since leaving Victoria, and we were never weary
of recapitulating our experiences on the tiring journey
which, however, was only the prelude to a greater enterprise. Once more we lamented our ill-luck that we could
not avail ourselves of the steamer to Sitka, and were forced
60 to spend possibly weeks in the confined space of our sailing
boat. Then one of us suggested that we might be given
a tow by the Oriflamme and taken by her, if not to our
destination, at any rate as far as Fort Wrangel. In this
way we should accomplish the larger part of our journey
in a comparatively short time and the rest could be done
without undue difficulty under our own sails. No sooner
said than done. A deputation was despatched to Captain
W., the commander of the Oriflamme, to present our
request. After much discussion, and only when some of
the American officers had intervened on our behalf, did the
old and somewhat obstinate captain consent to take us in
tow for the sum of 75 dollars paid in advance. Unfortunately it now appeared that one of the passengers and the
sailors were either unwilling or unable to contribute
their share of this amount, and it was not till I offered to
pay a second share that the matter was settled. The
Oriflamme was to sail the next day, but we brought
our boat alongside the steamer that evening in order to
be ready for departure at any time.
1 \ \
A great weight was taken off our minds ; the omens for
our journey seemed now most auspicious. We went
cheerfully on shore to take a look at Nanaimo.
61 Nanaimo, like Victoria and most of the settlements on
the north-west coast, owes its foundation to the Hudson
Bay Company who very early pushed their trading posts,
which are also called commercial harbours, forward into
the wilderness where white men had penetrated very
rarely, and dealt in furs for which they paid very low
prices in kind to the ignorant Indians. The officials of the
company had their attention drawn by accident to the coal
deposits near the fort and began a profitable business since
they mined that fuel with the help of Indians who got as
wages a blanket for every eight tubs of coal. With the
growth of Victoria and the settlement of white men on
Vancouver Island, the Hudson Bay Company suppressed
its post at Nanaimo and sold its coal mine, which was
but slightly developed and hardly exploited, to an English
company which in the year 1850 with the help of experienced
miners began the exploitation in earnest.
During our stay the little place was enlivened by the
brief visit of the American soldiers ; otherwise the deathlike quiet of the town seemed rarely to be disturbed. On
the afternoon of our arrival, in company with two officers
and one of our seamen, I paid a visit to the Indian encampment about half a mile from the town. It consisted of
some twenty huts hastily constructed of old boards, trunks
of trees and undergrowth, and occupied by about 300 men
and some women. They were the " Flatheads," a race
from the most northerly part of the island, who had come to
exchange the furs collected during the past year for other
commodities, as had been their custom for years past.
In each hut we found ten to twenty people crouching round
a wood fire that burned in the centre, and talking noisily
with much gesticulation. Whilst some gnawed greedily
at dried or smoked fish, others dipped long wooden spoons
into a kind of fat or blubber cooking in a great pot, and
others again, having no doubt satisfied their hunger, were
enjoying a smoke from wooden pipes carved by themselves.
Our visit appeared not to disturb them in the very least—
they sat quietly while some of the older Indians who
62 understood " Chinook," the universal language of the
Redskins who come in contact with white men, immediately
engaged in talk with our sailor and as a result after much
discussion a number of marten, otter, beaver and bearskins were brought out from old, blackened, roughly-
carved chests and boxes or from quite skilfully plaited
baskets, and these they were ready to exchange for so
many blankets.
Whether because the price asked was too high or the
quality of the furs too low, no purchase was effected at
our first visit, but we had the opportunity of studying the
character of those children of the wilds. They are generally
of small build and their figures, clad simply in a blanket,
are by no means attractive. Their long, coarse hair,
which is in a very few cases bound up with a coloured
handkerchief in turban fashion, or by a plain leather strap,
their black and red painted faces, disfigured by disease,
and their restless, half-closed eyes lend them a repellent
aspect, which is further increased by their harsh, guttural
dialect. They gave us to understand that they proposed to
set out on their return journey in a few days and accordingly
their boats were in a seaworthy state and already partly
loaded with the goods and supplies which they had
acquired. So far as we could see they had brought with
them some fifteen to twenty canoes, the largest of which
was 25 feet long, hollowed out of the trunks of trees and
capable of holding as many as thirty men. Though the
canoes varied greatly in size, they were all of the same type,
and it appears as if each tribe has its own special design
for the construction of its canoes. In fact anyone well
acquainted with the Indians of the North-West coast can,
as soon as he sees a boat, name the tribe to which its
occupants belong.
These light craft can make long voyages in smooth water
with the aid of short paddles or, when the wind is favourable,
their small sails ; and their construction seems to be so
good that they can encounter even a fairly high sea. The
Indians, who sit or kneel in the canoes, keep as close to the
63 coast as possible and lay up on the bank every evening
as soon as it is dusk ; the canoes are drawn ashore, a fire is
kindled round which they camp for the night, and the
journey is resumed at daybreak. It sometimes happens
that they are caught in a sudden storm when crossing a
gulf and then they show an instinctive knowledge of wind
and wave and a coolness in the handling of their light craft
which generally bring them safely through. Kneeling on
the bottom of their canoes they know how by tricks of
balancing to prevent them being overturned or by a quick
turn of the rudder to avoid a sudden breaker ; with their
sharp eyes they can detect a spot on the coast protected
from the waves and, though mercilessly battered by the sea
and wet through from the water that they have shipped,
slowly but steadily they paddle on and reach the shore in
Our study of Indian life had occupied the whole afternoon, and when darkness set in we returned to the town,
where a new spectacle awaited us. A certain Professor
Martin, a ventriloquist and conjuror of some note, chanced
to be in Nanaimo on his way back from an unsuccessful
trip to AJaska, and had announced his high-class entertainment for that evening. On our arrival we found that the
temporary theatre, set up hastily in a barn, was packed with
soldiers, miners, seamen, half-castes and others, including
many Indian squaws in company with the whites with
whom they lived. Although the performance could only be
described as moderately good, it seemed to be well received
by the audience, and to be especially approved by the
squaws, to judge by their delighted faces as they went away.
The ventriloquism, however, nearly caused a fight, as one
of the American soldiers took some of the Professor's jests
seriously, and was prevented only by force from assaulting
The night was very dark when, in company with one of
64 my travelling companions, I walked along the path which
led to the shore and would take us to the landing-stage ;
we had gone only a few paces when I felt a touch on my
shoulder. Instinctively laying my hand on a loaded revolver
I hastily turned round and was much dismayed to see
immediately behind me the fantastic figure of an Indian.
At first I thought it was an attempt at assault, but soon
abandoned that idea as I saw him nodding and gesticulating,
and my companion explained the object of his appearance.
The noble Redskin was broaching a proposal to sell his wife
to us, a proceeding which, originating in the immorality
of the white men, has unhappily become a habit among
the Indians of the West coast. On two other occasions the
same proposal was made to us before we reached our
boat, and it was with a feeling of deep disgust at this
horrible trade in human beings that I lay down to rest
that night.
The next day we spent in making preparations for the
continuance of our journey, and in improving our store of
provisions by the purchase of fresh meat and new bread,
of which our supply had been exhausted several days before,
and even now I can recollect the relish with which we partook of both these at our mid-day dinner. In the afternoon
the sailors had set out in our little landing-boat to replenish
our supply of fresh water, but had met with an accident
on the way—close to the shore their boat filled with water
and sank. The two men saved their lives by swimming,
but we lost our only boat, without which we had no means of
landing. A similar boat was unobtainable anywhere in
Nanaimo, neither were we able to purchase from the Indians
one of their small canoes ; we were therefore forced to
depend entirely and exclusively on our Ocean Queen.
Returning to the landing-stage we found the Ocean
Queen already fastened to the Oriflamme by a strong
tow-rope, and both ships prepared to start. Our vessel
did not look very different, the only change being that the
sails were closely furled ; but the steamer presented a
remarkable appearance as she was piled high above the
65 e bulwarks with munitions and bales of forage so that the
crew of 200 men had scarcely room to move about.
Had the steamer been less heavily laden, no doubt her
captain would have agreed to our suggestion to carry our
boat on deck instead of taking it in tow, but as things were
we saw that this was quite impossible ; but to give us more
room on the sailing boat, two of our companions, who had
personal friends on the steamer, resolved to travel by her
for the first fewT days and then to complete the journey with
us. Our party was therefore reduced for the time being
to four passengers and two sailors, so that it was possible to
make the cabin, hitherto so overcrowded, rather more
comfortable, though even so it was very close quarters.
As we were having our supper by the light of a small
oil lamp we received a visit from an American whose
acquaintance we had made in Nanaimo, where he resided
as agent of the Wells Fargo Express Company. Inspired
no doubt by patriotic motives, he informed us with an air
of great mystery, of a plot which according to his statement,
had been concocted by the English authorities against us,
and doubtless would have been carried through by this time
had not the accidental presence of the American war-ship
impeded the measures which had been planned. The
position was as follows : At this time the British possessions in North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific
were in a state of great unrest owing to the numerous raids,
some actually carried out, others only projected by American
Fenians, who, under cover of the Fenian movement were
making savage attacks on the life and property of British
subjects. In Canada, where there had actually been sanguinary conflicts with the Fenians gathered from the slums
of the big towns, volunteer defence corps had been formed
all along the frontier and even in remote British Columbia
the patriotic fervour of the population capable of bearing
arms was very marked, and on all sides people were pre-
Victoria with its larger popula-
1,200 sailors and marines was
, but the outlying, undefended
paring against Fenian raids,
tion and garrison of about
fairly immune from an attacl places like Nanaimo, for example, were exposed to a sudden
raid ; in this particular case the important coal mines were likely
to attract the attention of the Fenian organisation, and such a
blow at England would be certain to receive, if not the
actual, at any rate the moral support of the Americans.
To come back to our own adventure, it appeared that the
arrival of a well-armed sailing-boat flying the American
flag and with a crew of eight young men had aroused the
suspicion of the English officials in Nanaimo—a suspicion
which increased as we did not appear to be either sailors
or fishermen or hunters or traders, and moreover were
evidently on intimate terms with the American soldiers
on the Oriflamme, who were open sympathisers with the
Fenians. Our American friend said quite frankly that we
were regarded as Fenian freebooters, and our harmless
Ocean Queen as a disguised privateer. If we wanted
proof of the truth of this story we had only to notice the
detective who was walking up and down on the landing-
stage. As as matter of fact we had noticed by the shore a
person whom we took for a customs or excise officer, and had
observed that he was always near our boat. At this very
moment he passed along the beach and was obviously watching our movements. As we proposed to start very early in
the morning in company with the steamer we had no
further cause for anxiety that night. On leaving, our friend
assured us that should the British officials put any difficulties
in our way, we could rely at any moment on the support of
fifty avowed Fenian soldiers whom he had placed at our
disposal (he seemed to be one of the Fenian chiefs) and who
only waited our summons for help to run down immediately
from the steamer to our aid. Happily the contingency
did not arise and a sound sleep quieted our excited spirits.
It must have been about 6 o'clock next morning that I
awoke and to my astonishment saw our seamen excitedly
occupied in moving the iron blocks and heavy packages
67 E2 that had been put in the front of the boat as ballast back
to the rear of the cabin. Half asleep and half awake
I could not, for the moment, understand the meaning of
their activity, but my ignorance was soon dispelled. I
and the other passengers who were still asleep were summoned to get up and lend a hand with the ballast, if we did
not want to be entirely dragged under. Collecting our
clothes and boots in the dim light of the cabin we all
jumped up as quickly as possible. In front of us, above
us, on both sides we could clearly hear the rushing of the
water ; though our boat did not roll it trembled all over
and creaked and groaned in an appalling manner as if
hammered by a mighty force. We flew straight as an
arrow through the turbulent water ; we found out that we
had already been in tow for two hours.
Hastening on deck I saw at a distance of quite a thousand
feet away the dark bulk of the big steamer, which by means of
the tow-rope fastened securely to our mast drew us, or
rather tore us, along. Our boat was obviously too deep
in the water forward, so that the waves swept over half the
deck. This was clear enough and I did not delay to do my
best to help in shifting the centre of gravity of the boat
more to the stern. In a very short time all the ballast,
the boxes of provisions, trunks and casks were piled pell-mell
in the most amazing chaos at the entrance to our cabin,
and thereby the sleeping arrangements which we had made
with so much trouble were entirely ruined. But nobody
troubled about this as it was necessary for the safety of the
boat ; the prow of the vessel rose quite markedly and
thereby prevented the water from inundating the deck.
Matters went on in this way fairly tolerably for half an
hour, and then the wind that was blowing against us
suddenly increased in violence and the waves rose higher
in proportion. We were somewhere in the middle of the
gulf and about 25 miles from Nanaimo. A drenching
rain began to fall and shut us off from anything more than
an occasional glimpse of the distant shore on our right.
The Oriflamme was hidden from us as by a veil, and only
68 every now and then did the wind sweep aside the misty
clouds and let us see her more clearly. The prow of our
boat again began to sink and every few minutes a wave
swept over the whole deck and to stay on it was to say the
least unpleasant, though it was better to be on deck and see
what was happening than to shut oneself up in the cabin.
It was difficult to know how to improve the situation—we
could do no more to lighten the prow than we had already
done ; the wind increased and the rate at which we were
cutting through the waves must have been at least ten miles
an hour. At last one of our seamen had the unfortunate
idea of lessening the strain on the boat by lengthening the
tow-rope. It was lighter now and we could see a number of
figures on the stern of the steamer ; we shouted to them
as loudly as we could and tried to make them understand
by despairing gestures that they must give us more rope.
For some anxious moments we were uncertain if we had
been heard or understood, but then to our delight we saw
the rope lengthen until finally we were some 1,500 feet away
from the steamer.
Unfortunately our joy was of short duration. The
alteration seemed to have exactly the opposite effect from
what we expected. Our poor Ocean Queen settled deeper
than ever into the water ; whereas before although too deep
we were being dragged at least in a straight line, now the
longer tow-line gave our boat far too much free play.
When the rope was loose the boat would rock from side to
side, when taut the vessel was jerked with tremendous force
through the waves. We had taken the precaution to carry
below deck everything that could be moved and rope up
everything else, and to close the companion as best we could.
It was a good thing that we did so, for our deck was entirely
swamped several times, and the only comparatively dry
spot was the elevated part of the cabin, on which I,
together with the other passengers had taken refuge so as
to be ready for any emergency. The captain, who could
scarcely keep his foothold, was at the helm ; a sailor stood
at the prow armed with an axe and prepared for all con-
69 tingencies. Then we suddenly noticed that the clouds of
smoke rising from the funnel of the steamer were increasing
in volume, which showed that the engine fires had been
freshly stoked and that the vessel's speed had consequently
been augmented. The result we dreaded now came to
pass—a gigantic wave rushed towards us—instead of gliding
over it, our ship looked as if it would be engulfed. We
called out to the sailor, who was waist deep in the streaming
water, to cut the towing-line. He tried to do this but
without success and the force of the water was so tremendous
that he sank back on the deck though he managed still to
cling to the mast. Fortunately at the critical moment
the rope became taut and with a powerful heave we were
dragged through the wave. For the moment we were
safe. In spite of our repeated signals of distress we could
not make the people on the steamer hear us, and we pursued
our wild course ; a sudden gust of wind made the foaming
waves rise still higher and, horror-stricken, we perceived
another enormous breaker which threatened to overwhelm
us with crushing force. In tones of despair we shouted
for the rope to be cut and, heedless of danger, the sailor,
swinging his axe, rushed to the prow of the ship. I myself,
with the engineer (the two other passengers seemed to have
disappeared) clung to the mast expecting the worst.
Nearer and nearer rolled the raging water ; then at the
critical moment, preferring his own safety to that of the
ship, our cowardly captain let go the helm and, expecting
the ship to heel over every moment, leaped to the side
which was bound to be uppermost. But scarcely had the
engineer seen the helm abandoned than with admirable
presence of mind he seized hold of it, and with a powerful
twist prevented our boat being swung broadside on to the
waves and capsized. Our dauntless sailor in the bows
displayed equal heroism ; clinging with his left hand to the
mast he hacked with the strength of despair at the rope
below the water. Twice his blows seemed ineffective, as
they were weakened by the resistance of the waves, and
the stern of our boat was already sinking beneath the rushing
70 torrent ; the angry water surrounded me and, believing
my last moment had come, I wanted at any rate to face
death with composure. My past life rose before me in
that instant—I thought of my loved ones in my distant
home and gazed passively at the unbridled fury of the
sea. Suddenly I heard the sailor's reassuring shout, " We
are off ! " At the very last moment he had managed to
sever the rope and once free of the pull our sorely tried
boat rose up as if by magic, the water ran off the deck
and for the time being at any rate we were afloat. The
steamer, it is true, stayed her course for a few minutes in
order to ascertain whether we wanted a fresh tow; but
she never came nearer us, nor sent a boat to our assistance^
and presently she got up steam and in a short time
vanished from our sight.
So we were once more thrown upon our own resources.
The deadly peril we had all escaped had at least the good
result of drawing us more closely together, and henceforth we behaved like brothers. Our features quivering
with emotion we congratulated one another on our safety,
and our most grateful thanks were accorded to those who
had played such noble parts in attaining it. On the other
hand, we looked on the captain with diminished favour
since he had earned our distrust by his cowardly behaviour
at the time of our greatest danger—a distrust which on
later occasions was renewed and led eventually to an
open rupture.
Even if we were safe for the moment, we were still in a
very unenviable situation ; miles away from land, with
close-reefed sails and at least a foot of water in the hold,
we were the plaything of the angry waves. Our first care
was, of course, to see whether we had sprung a leak or
whether the water in the cabin had penetrated from
above. Making our way with difficulty to the entrance
choked with ballast, we waded through the water strewn
with objects of every kind, to the pumps at which two
men worked for half an hour at a time. These were
anxious moments for us—not a word was uttered as the
71 wooden pistons regularly rose and fell. After two shifts
we noticed to our joy that the water was diminishing,
and soon afterwards we were quite reassured that our boat
was not taking in any more. A short discussion was held
as to whether we should continue our journey or return
to Nanaimo, and the unanimous wish was expressed that
we should continue, now that we had once started. The
sails were refurled as speedily as possible, the wind had
become more favourable, and with good courage we
continued on our way.
It was 7.30 a.m. when we cut through the towing-line,
and within half an hour we had made a fresh start ; the
weather became clearer and the sun even came out from
behind the clouds. We opened the companion and tried
in some measure to dry our cabin, which was, of course,
frightfully wet, to bring the ballast forward again and
tidy up our sleeping quarters ; and after some hours of
toil we succeeded in accomplishing all this. Fortunately
our coverings were only slightly damp, but our boots and
clothes had fared much worse and it took several hours
in the open air to dry them. But these were all trifles
in comparison with what we had undergone, and the
evening found us talking cheerfully on deck and discussing
the events of the day. Each of us related what he was
doing at the moment of our greatest peril, and even
humorous incidents were not entirely lacking.
As I have previously mentioned, I missed two of our
passengers, the lawyer and the Jewish trader, when I was
waiting for the boat to sink. It appeared that the former
possessed several important legal documents and when he
realised in what danger we were, he tried to fetch these
papers from the cabin and carry them on his person in
order to save this much at least. Either in his excitement
he forgot which of his boxes contained the papers or in the appalling confusion he failed to find it, anyhow it was too
late for him to get back on the deck. A torrent of water
burst into the cabin—he gave himself up for lost and
resigned himself to his apparently inevitable fate. Much
the same thing happened to the Jew, whose deathly pale
and distorted features still bore witness to his fright. He,
too, had sought to save some of his money from the cabin,
but failed owing to his excitement. He lost his head and
fell down in a faint there, and was found by us later
Had the boat capsized, both of these men would certainly
have been lost beyond all hope of rescue, and so we had a
striking instance of the way in which men often put their
lives in peril for the sake of their worldly possessions.
Admittedly even for those of us who were on deck the
chance of rescue had our boat capsized would at best have
been dubious, but at any rate we should have had some
chance of help from the steamer, whereas those in the cabin
would have had no chance whatever.
The chief consolation we had in trying to forget the
disappointment of the hopes we had set on the Oriflamme,
was that probably the reckless speed of the steamer would
have certainly exposed us to danger, and owing to the
readily explosive ammunition which she had on board,
her nearness would have been a perpetual menace to our
safety. On the other hand, the thought of the money we
had paid in advance to the captain of the Oriflamme and
the loss thereby incurred was a galling one, and the faint
hope then expressed that it would be refunded was doomed
to disappointment.
Towards evening the south-easterly breeze which had
hitherto favoured us, began to drop and about 9 o'clock
completely ceased ; we were still about six miles distant
from Cape Mudge, a point at the northern outlet of the
Gulf of Georgia. We intended to pass the cape at dawn,
and as we had already sailed 85 miles during the day, we
gave up the idea of continuing our journey by night and
contented ourselves with lying-to, with one watchman at
73 the rudder. Quite unexpectedly a strong breeze began to
blow from the coast about midnight and threatened to
drive us out to sea. The sailor who had just taken over
the watch from the captain awakened me at I o'clock in
the morning, as I was regarded as the most experienced
oarsman, to help him row our boat to the shore ; it took
us a full hour until we could drop anchor in the shelter of
the wooded bank. At daybreak the longed-for southern
wind came to our aid and at 6 o'clock we passed the cape
and entered a narrow strait between two mountain masses.
This was not more than two miles wide, and in the course
of a two hours' passage became more and more restricted
until we reached Seymour's Narrows (which are also called
the Ukeltah Rapids). Seymour's Narrows, like Dodd's
Narrows which we passed shortly before Nanaimo, are the
meeting point of the tides which move from north and
south between the Island of Vancouver and the mainland ;
but they are much more dangerous than Dodd's Narrows
and everywhere notorious on that account. The narrow
channel is strewn with a multitude of rocks, some of which
are visible while others lie just below the surface. Through
these the angry current runs at a pace of 7-8 miles an hour,
and drags the largest sailing ships and even big steamers
which entrust themselves to it unresistingly with it. Consequently there are frequent accidents, and what is very
remarkable is that no fragments of any wreck caught in the
whirlpool and dragged down have ever appeared above
water again. As a rule small light craft are much safer
than the heavily-laden steamers with deep draught.
Happily the tide was with us, and towards 8 o'clock we
observed the first indications that we were caught in the
current. So the sails were furled, the deck cleared and the
oars and boat-hooks got ready for any emergency. We
kept as close as possible to the left bank, but when we came
to the narrowest part we rowed our boat with powerful
strokes into mid-stream, where we were swept along with
irresistible force. Steering was impossible ; I well remember that we escaped a rock by a very few feet and suddenly
74 found ourselves caught in a foaming breaker which whirled
our boat round in a circle five times, and it was only after
crossing a number of great and small rapids that in a quarter
of an hour we came into smoother water.
We all breathed more freely when we had left the dangerous passage behind us, and with a strong favouring
south-west wind we sailed merrily onwards at a speed of
some six miles an hour. The scenery after leaving the
Narrows was wonderfully fine. The channel, scarcely half-
a-mile wide, was shut in on both sides by steep mountain
walls at whose feet the dark green cypress woods were
mirrored in the clear water, whilst higher up the bare
mountains covered with snow gave place to ice-fields and
glaciers, some of them at a height of 5,000 feet or more.
The stillness of nature was broken from time to time by the
splash of small mountain streams which, had their source in
the snowy heights and formed numerous miniature waterfalls leaping from rock to rock. The charm of this part
of the journey was increased by the fact that the stream
was very winding and constantly presented new vistas to
our gaze. Sometimes it became no wider than a canal,
sometimes like a sea it was so broad that its outlet was
difficult to find.
The rocky walls on both sides were broken by numerous
small channels and the mouths of larger streams which
caused the whole landscape to resemble Norwegian fiords.
An inexperienced captain might easily lose himself for days
in this labyrinth of channels and passages, and even a
boatman who knows the neighbourhood well can only
find his way by observing certain familiar landmarks,
consisting sometimes of curiously-shaped masses of rock
and sometimes of high mountain tops which can be seen
from afar off and enable him to take his bearings. On the
other hand a compass or a map, especially if the latter is
not absolutely accurate, is of much less use.
About mid-day we passed a small Indian settlement at
the mouth of a tiny river ; it consisted of some poorly
constructed huts with a few inmates, some of whom seemed to be busy with the making of a new canoe, as we could see
them hollowing out a long tree-trunk. Towards 4 o'clock
the wind dropped altogether and as shortly before this
we had noticed a small bay with gravelly bottom we decided
to go ashore until a breeze sprang up again. All along the
coast the banks are so steep that a boat can be brought
close to the land, and though the gravelly bottom sloped
very gently we were able to jump from the boat right on
to the shore. Near to the bay, which was enclosed by
beautiful encircling woods, we found a little stream of
fresh water at which we filled our two casks. The dogs
also found the remnants of a deserted Indian camp near
which the game they had caught had evidently been
cooked. The place had certainly been chosen with true
native instinct, and was by no means to be despised as a
summer abode. Stately cypresses and cedars were mingled
with towering fir trees whose lichen-covered trunks seemed
bound together by a tangle of rankly-growing creepers and
drooping mosses. The ground was strewn with rocks and
decayed tree trunks and covered with a layer of moss a
foot deep, so soft and springy that it made a most comfortable couch. The district owed this luxuriance to the
cool and humid atmosphere which, however, we were
assured would be very unhealthy for Europeans.
An hour was spent in taking in our supply of water and
firewood, and when towards evening a light south wind
sprang up we started again and coasted along the western
shore. The nature of the scenery was unchanged. About
6 o'clock we passed on our left a larger bay, the estuary of
the Salmon River, one of the chief streams of Vancouver
Island, and shortly afterwards two large canoes manned by
Indians who, as soon as they saw us, disappeared swiftly
into one of the side channels.
In order to make full use of the favourable wind, and as
our sailors professed to know the way exactly, we decided
to travel all night. The steersman was relieved every
four hours and next morning found us at the entrance to
Brougham's   Straits,   which   steadily  broadened  out   till
76 gradually towards the north-west they formed an open
arm of the sea strewn with numerous islands. We held
as close as we could to the Vancouver shore, since to the
east the great masses of rock and channels cutting into the
mainland made the fairway unsafe. As the gulf broadened
the banks became flatter and the snow mountains in the
background were less frequent and at last ceased entirely
on our left. Near Beaver Harbour we passed Fort Rupert,
a trading station of the Hudson Bay Company, concealed
from our view by a headland, and close by it an Indian
village which a few years ago had a population of 1,600
but now, owing to the epidemic sickness caused by the
devastating " Fire Water," can show hardly one-tenth of
that number. There are coal deposits in this neighbourhood but owing to the difficulties of transport they have been
worked only occasionally and to a small extent.
Steering northward from Fort Rupert we came to a
stretch of water some fifteen miles wide whose northern
part, between the Galiano Islands and the mainland, forms
the entrance to Queen Charlotte Sound. It was our
intention to anchor for the night at the entrance to the
Sound, but unfortunately the south-easterly breeze which
had filled our sails dropped about 4 o'clock, and to make
matters still worse it began to rain heavily, so against our
will we were compelled to seek a premature anchorage for
the night ; this we were fortunate enough to find quickly
in the form of a quite small island lying in the middle of
the gulf. We had to row hard to reach it, but we did this
willingly and soon found ourselves close to what proved
to be a whole group of islands. One of our sailors told us
that he had once been here before, and found an Indian
village on one of the islands. Only after we had passed
half-way round the group did we succeed in finding the
narrow entrance, which according to our steersman would
77 bring us to an anchorage. It took us half-an-hour's journey
between the low islands or islets, emerald green in their
covering of cypress trees, until we came into a large bay,
almost surrounded by land, at the end of which the Indian
village was believed to be. A shot from our boat was
answered quickly by the appearance of a canoe paddled at
incredible speed by five Indians, which came towards us
and was soon alongside. The occupants of the canoe, thin,
half-naked, ape-like figures with dirty brown complexions
and long coal-black hair, some having rings through their
noses and others decked with chains of mussel shells, sought
with many gestures and unintelligible guttural sounds to be
allowed to come on board. This, of course, we did not
permit, but made signs to them to conduct us to their
village. Passing round a small promontory we found
ourselves in a short time opposite the Indian village, whose
picturesque situation tempted me to make a small sketch of it.
Before us there was outspread a little crescent-shaped
bay whose two ends, formed of rocky wooded land, protected the already calm water in the bay from any breath of
wind and kept the blue surface smooth as a mirror. Inside
the bay the gently sloping beach was covered with pure
78 white sand strewn with shells like a girdle. At the edge of
the sand where the dark green cypress wood, distant only
a few paces from the shore, formed the background of the
picture, stood the few native huts built of tree-trunks,
thatch and matting. The smoke from them rose straight
up in the clear air and stood out in sharp contrast to the
roseate hues of the evening sky. I could not gaze enough
at the idyllic beauty of the landscape before me, and it was
with the greatest regret that I heard the confused cries of
the excited Indians and the wolfish howls of the Indian
dogs which rose from the camp and brought me back to the
commonplaces of life.
By this time the canoe which had guided us had reached
the land, in order to give information as to what we were like
and what we wanted to do—information which a crowd
of forty to fifty natives received with great interest, as we
gathered from their gestures. Our appearance seemed to
win their confidence as, after a short consultation, a number
of the canoes drawn up on the beach were put afloat, each
with a crew of four or five Indians, and paddled towards us.
Soon a number of these boats were gathered round us
and an old Indian, who seemed to be a kind of chief, invited
us by signs and a few words in " Chinook " to visit his
camp. We gladly accepted the invitation, since we already
had in mind the possibility of renewing our store of water
and fire-wood. The sails were closely furled and the anchor
dropped and leaving two of our party as a watch on board
the remaining four of us, prudently armed with loaded
revolvers, made our way to the shore in canoes paddled by
the Indians. This was my first opportunity of appreciating the insecurity of these fragile boats ; crouching in
Eastern fashion at the bottom of the canoe I thought every
moment to be overturned, since even the slightest movement had the inevitable result of bringing the side of the
boat dangerously close to the surface of the water, and had
it not been that the Indian steersman, evidently conscious
of my insecurity, balanced my every movement by a
counter-movement of his own, I should not have been able
79 to reach the shore without a ducking. Thanks to his skill,
however, all went well and our whole party came safely to
land. The discomfort which I experienced during my
first trip in a canoe disappeared in the course of time, and
later on I was able to handle a canoe by myself. A natural
poise I found to be the chief requisite in keeping one's
balance, and the experienced canoeist knows instinctively
how to counterbalance by certain movements of the body the
shock caused by the waves or anythingelse. The short paddles
used by the seated canoeist and dipped alternately from one
side to the other also  help  to keep the boat balanced.
When we reached the shore we were surrounded by the
whole company consisting almost entirely of women, children
and old men, to whom our arrival caused no small excitement
as we judged from their inquisitive looks and lively talk.
The old chief signed to us with great respect to follow
him into his house, the best of the six huts, and invited us,
when we had entered, to sit down by the fire. The interior
of the hut, which served only as a temporary dwelling-place
for the summer, was remarkably simple. The floor was
covered with dry leaves and in the middle, as I have related
previously, there was a big fire the smoke from which
filled the whole room and then found its way out, as best it
could, through some opening in the roof. We sat round the
fire on stumps of trees or chests covered with mats amidst
the dusky figures of some old Indians, whilst in the centre
sat the chief smoking a wooden pipe which he himself had
carved. Round the sides stood a number of wooden
chests, mats and baskets which no doubt contained the
property of the inhabitants of the hut, a few old flintlocks and some fishing tackle leaned against a corner and,
finally, a number of nets were suspended from the ceiling
containing dried fish in the process of being smoked, which
filled the air with a smell of train-oil.
After exchanging the customary " Kid how y a " (How
are you ?), the chief, who spoke more and more fluently
in Chinook, entered into a long conversation with us,
from which we gathered that we were with a tribe of the
80 Nukletah Indians which was on a fishing expedition and had
made a temporary camp here, whilst its actual " Smoke "
(derived from a Mexican term and meaning " settlement ")
that is, its permanent winter home, was several days'
journey away on one of the fiords that cut into the mainland. All their men and youths were at the moment
further out at sea engaged in fishing and only sent their
catch to this place from time to time in order that the fish
might be prepared, that is, dried and smoked, by the women
who remained behind. It was for this reason that we found
the population of the camp to consist almost exclusively
of women and children. Our host would not have been a
true Indian had he not attempted to do some trade or barter
with us. The wonderfully made chests and boxes were
opened and skin after skin was carefully laid before us in the
expectation that we should make an offer for them. But
as none of us except the seamen were prepared for a deal,
we expressed our thanks for the opportunity given to us
and for our part presented the old " Tyhee " (chief)
with a clay pipe and some tobacco as a gift. But then we
were so beset on all sides with similar requests for tobacco
and pipes, that we withdrew through the narrow doorway
to get into the open air again. On the shore we found a
number of squaws busy unloading a cargo of fish, which
had apparently just arrived in a canoe in charge of two
youths. It seemed below their dignity to take any part in
the preparation of the fish, since they both sat there
motionless with folded arms, looking at us in a way which
was by no means friendly. As we found later, the men
consider themselves a privileged race and jealously guard
their rights, which consist in occupying themselves exclusively with fighting, hunting and fishing, whilst all the really
indispensable work is without exception put upon the weaker
sex. In general, that is so far as we were able to judge,
the Nukletah Indians were of medium height and not
remarkably robust ; the squaws on the other hand, were
small and well-built with unusually small hands and feet,
which were adorned with numerous silver rings and bangles ;
81 F their clothing consisted as a rule of a single blanket
reaching from head to foot. I was much struck by the
scars which were visible on the upper part of their bodies
and on their shoulders, the cause of which was by no
means apparent, but I was assured that they were simply
the marks of bites inflicted on them as signs of affection
in the madness of winter time orgies and dances. At
dusk we embarked on the canoes again and returned to our
ship, where we found the two sailors busily employed in
taking on board the two casks of water and a good supply
of wood from the hands of a number of Indians who had
volunteered to do this work for a small gift of tobacco,
and carried it out to our complete satisfaction. After
some time we managed to get rid of the importunate crowd
and, leaving a watch on deck, the rest of us settled down in
the cabin for the night.
At dawn next day we weighed anchor, bade farewell to
our Indian friends, who despite the early hour had come
out to us, and sailed before a light south-east breeze to the
exit from the archipelago. It was only by the exercise
of the greatest care that we reached the open channel
unscathed, since the low tide revealed a number of
dangerous reefs which we had not noticed when we entered.
Some of these were indeed not yet visible above the water,
but were already so near to the surface that the lurking
danger was indicated by a line of foam. Towards 8 o'clock
in the morning we passed on our left the low-lying Galiano
Island, encircled with rocks, and we were about to pass
between that island and the mainland into Queen
Charlotte Sound when the faint south-east breeze gradually
died away and suddenly a strong north-westerly wind
sprang up which precluded any idea of steering northward.
To avoid being driven on the reef-strewn coast of the
mainland we had to seek an anchorage on the coast of Galiano
Island, where we should be protected against the wind ;
but in order to find this we had to tack in a south-westerly
82 B.T.X868
83 direction for five hours against a fairly high wind and in a
rough sea (as the wind blew straight from the ocean) and
it was not till 3 o'clock in the afternoon that we managed
to reach the natural harbour known as Nervitty.
At the upper end of the deep bay we found the settlement
of the Nervitty Indians. This was quite an important
village of about twenty huts built regularly and solidly of
planks, each of which would hold about twenty persons.
The front or gable side of each hut, which was provided with,
a small and very low door, faced towards the water and in
most cases was painted with designs and figures quite
remarkably executed. The figures represented grotesque
bird-like or human forms and were rather repulsive. Besides
this the better class of dwellings had high flag-staffs and a
few of the huts had on both sides of the entrance curious
figures carved of wood, which were no doubt idols. The
rather large number of canoes drawn up on the shore seemed
to indicate that the population was a considerable one, and
as a matter of fact we counted no less than eighty Indians
assembled on the beach. It was not long before we were
surrounded by a crowd of curious natives, who overwhelmed us with offers of every kind and tried to barter
with us a number of quite worthless skins. When they
discovered that we were not traders they were somewhat
puzzled, and possibly the crew of our little vessel seemed
too numerous ; anyhow they all fell back, with the
exception of one old man who seemed to be a sort of interpreter and whom they left with us to find out what he could
as to our purpose there. The old man, who had tied his
boat alongside, came on to our vessel and asked us a string
of questions in fluent Chinook. Finding we were not so
responsive as he expected he sat down with unruffled
calm and, smoking hard, blinked cunningly at us with his
crafty eyes. We had anchored a few hundred yards from
the shore and as I was much interested in the architecture
of the houses I gave the interpreter to understand that I
should be very glad to land. A call from him immediately
brought out a canoe into which I stepped together with one
84 of my companions. The reception which we had was
much colder than any I had hitherto experienced from the
Indians and, although the sailors assured me that there was
no danger in broad daylight and within hail of our ship,
nevertheless I felt somewhat apprehensive when I began
to draw and noticed that I was surrounded by a number of
Indians pointing at me with an air of mystery. It was
evident that my occupation intrigued them, and involuntarily I placed my hand on my revolver to make sure that
it was there. However, my visit was concluded without
any mishap, and having made various little sketches and
thoroughly inspected the settlement, I returned to the ship
and nothing happened to me except an onslaught by a
pack of Indian dogs ; these half-tamed, hungry animals,
not unlike small prairie wolves but mostly spotted, are
found in hundreds in the Indian villages and make their
presence known from a distance by their hoarse yelping.
Back on board again I found our intrusive visitor still
sitting there quite oblivious of our requests for him to
depart at once ; it was only when we threatened to cut
his boat loose that he sulkily prepared to obey our orders.
As we were rather dubious about the behaviour of the
Indians altogether and had also heard various rumours
that were current about them, we thought it advisable to
keep a watch on deck all night. It was quite uncanny in
that dark starless night on the deck, rendered slippery by
the dew. The ebb and flow of the water swung the ship
slowly in a circle round the anchor, so that she seemed to
be moving continually in the dark water towards the ghostly
outlines of the shore hard by.
Now and then the bark of a dog was heard from the
village wrapped in slumber, and at the entrance to the
Sound the waves beat against the granite rocks with a dull
thud. The four long hours which form a watch, namely,
the ones from midnight onward, seemed unending and we
hailed the dawn with delight. There were also signs of
stirring in the Indian camp and a small flotilla of canoes
paddled towards us as soon as our preparations for starting
85 were noticed. Our departure seemed to be welcomed
by the Indians, who were rather suspicious of us and,
as if trying to make up in some measure for their reticence
of the previous day, they now offered to sell us fish and
game. In exchange for a few clay pipes and some tobacco
we obtained four magnificent codfish, each weighing 10 lbs.,
an enormous so-called halibut of at least 30 lbs. which was
rather similar to a pike, and a fine wild goose.
The old Indian who acted as interpreter in this bartering
accompanied us to the mouth of the harbour where he
took leave of us with the ominous words, " Skokum pask,
heyu chuck, helo illihe," which means " Strong wind, heavy
weather, little land." We attached no importance to his
warning as the cloudless sky seemed to presage a pleasant
day. Once we were wTell away from land the moderate
but steady south wind carried us along at about four miles
an hour, and so we calculated that we should cover the
fifty miles which separated us from our next anchorage by
the beginning of dusk. In the best of spirits we prepared
with the help of the supplies we had bought a dinner
which for people in our situation was quite magnificent,
consisting of fish-soup and boiled goose. We thoroughly
enjoyed it, and had already begun to congratulate each
other on having crossed the quite open and dangerous
stretch of Queen Charlotte Sound under such favourable
conditions, when about 1 o'clock—we had gone halfway
and were quite twenty-five miles from the nearest land—
the southerly breeze suddenly changed into a southwesterly wind blowing from the open sea and increasing
in violence every quarter of an hour. Our speed increased
quickly to six miles an hour, and the waves rolling in from
the ocean rose so high that we found ourselves compelled
to shorten sail so as to lessen the pressure of the wind. In
an amazingly short time the " white horses " rose up—
the foaming masses thrown up by the waves—and the overcast sky lent to the whole scene a strangely desolate and
gloomy aspect. Only the sailors' shouts as to the handling
of the sails and rudder broke the silence of our speechless company. By 3 o'clock the land behind us was no longer
visible, and straight before us there appeared in the misty
distance the steep outlines of the rock-strewn coast, on
which every now and then we could perceive the white
foam of the breaking waves. How our steersman kept his
course, how he managed not to miss the entrance, a quite
narrow passage, into the Fitzhugh Sound was a marvel to us
all. But he must have recognised some landmarks along
the coast, since about 5 o'clock we came without the help of
compass or chart to the entrance of the passage. Here
the sea was raging furiously, yet we saw in the distance a
canoe with one tiny sail steering towards the land. Sometimes it seemed actually to fly through the air, and sometimes
to shoot down a wave as though it were being engulfed in
the sea ; how so light a craft managed to live in such
a sea, or how it succeeded in getting through undamaged
was a mystery to us. We quickly lost sight of it and were
glad enough when we reached a channel where the water
was quieter because it was sheltered on each side. Shortly
after 5 o'clock we passed Safety Cove, a natural harbour
which we had originally chosen as our anchorage for the
night, but as some hours of daylight still remained and the
wind continued in our favour we decided to go on and to
travel through the night—a decision which nearly cost us
dear. At first all went well ; the scenery, though as a
whole unchanged, had features somewhat different from
those we had hitherto observed. On our left we had Calvert
Island, on our right the jagged, irregular coast of the
mainland. The height of the mountains, covered from
base to summit with needle-pines, ranged from 1,000 to
3,000 feet and bore the signs of great convulsions of nature.
Whole mountain-sides, particularly the spurs that sloped
to the sea on the western side, seemed to have been swept
by tempests. Vast masses of uprooted and shattered
trees were interspersed with huge grotesquely shaped masses
of rock, whilst the existence at intervals of numerous
broad tracks leading down to the water's edge seemed to
be due to earthquakes or avalanches.    Probably the rocky
87 ledges with which the coast was strewn owed their origin
to these same convulsions.
Meanwhile there had unfortunately been no improvement in the weather. The wind blew in violent, irregular
gusts behind us and a damp mist hastened the fall of
darkness, so -that, as early as 8 o'clock, we were forced to
depend on our compass. Already we were regretting that
we had not dropped anchor at the entrance to the sound.
The nautical knowledge of our sailors we well knew to be
extremely small, and we could not rely on them for anything
that was not within their actual experience hitherto.
Besides this, our chart, a copy of an ancient Russian map,
was extremely defective as we had already discovered on
many occasions, and the old ship's compass in its wooden
box was so out of order that occasionally the needle would
not move at all, and we could only get our bearings by
using my pocket compass, which was very small but quite
accurate. It was on this occasion that we noticed for the
first time that the sailors were no longer quite sure of the
route, and as a matter of fact, it appeared later that only
one of them had ever been so far.
At 8 o'clock, when it was already quite dark, I was
standing by the steersman on deck and clad in my waterproof, was looking at the compass by the dim light of a
lantern, when suddenly there was a crash forward and our
square sail, struck by a sudden gust of wind, collapsed and
was swept overboard. Our shouts brought our companions promptly to our aid, and after great efforts we
succeeded in hauling the sail on deck ; it was still held
by the ropes and so water-logged that, until we regained it,
it threatened to overturn the boat. As if this accident
had been a signal the violence of the elements was renewed.
The wind had risen to a veritable hurricane, which seemed
to stir the sea to its very depths. Lashed by the storm
the rain fell in torrents on the deck and the darkness of the
88 night added a touch of horror. Soon we had to take in
our foresail because of the violence of the wind that blew
from our right. Up to now we had managed to keep in the
middle of the channel which was not very wide, but now we
had to take care lest we should be driven by the storm,
that beat on our side, against the left bank. Our only
safety lay in tacking against the wind with as little sail as
possible and in reaching, if we could, the shelter of the
right bank. Though we flew swift as an arrow, we saw only
too plainly that we were being driven more and more to
our left, and about 9 o'clock we had come so near the
coast that we could plainly hear the breaking of the surf
and could see the foam of the onrushing waves. According
to the reckoning of our steersman we must be quite near the
Bella Bella Rocks, a conspicuous landmark showing the
entrance to the Bella Bella Sound that stretched to the
west. If we could reach this before we were driven on to
the coast we should be safe.
The storm increased in violence. The steersman could
hardly see a ship's length in front of him and besides this
the sail was between him and the land. The other sailor
had stationed himself in the prow and looked out in vain
for the rocks we sought. Fortunately, as he possessed only
an old and useless telescope, I had lent him my small
but very good binoculars. We had shortened sail as much
as possible, and contented ourselves with a small triangular
jib, which was fastened on a boom that stretched horizontally far over the ship's side and threatened every minute
to capsize us. At last there came from the prow the cry,
" Rocks ahead ! " We dashed forward and through the
glass we could see clearly the white foam breaking over a
rock that lay immediately ahead. Right by this should be
the entrance to the Sound. Now our seaman could see the
rock ; for a moment he seemed uncertain and to doubt
if it was the right place, then suddenly with a powerful
twist of the rudder he swept the boat away from the
land. The ship trembled under the mighty blows of the
storm, and with a mad rush, we passed, scarcely fifty paces
89 on our left, the foam-covered ridge that we had mistakenly
thought to be the entrance to the passage—a mistake which
had very nearly cost us our lives.
Now the wild struggle began again, but this time with
the courage of despair. We had no time to think about
taking our bearings—we could only think of saving our
lives. Phantom-like the coast flashed by us as a perpendicular wall, its base battered by the waves. Far as we
strained our eyes there was no bay that broke the coast line,
no channel came in view—whenever we thought we saw
one we were doomed to disappointment. Silence reigned
among us, broken only from time to time by a shout from
the seaman posted in the prow to warn us of a dangerous-
looking spot in the channel, or summoning us to a special
effort to keep the boat off the coast. Now the ever increasing waves began to break over our deck, so that it was
only possible to remain there by holding on to the mast.
A heavy sea of this kind washed one of our dogs overboard,
and it was only with great difficulty that we rescued him
half-suffocated. The poor beast owed his safety to the
strong iron chain by which he was fastened to the deck.
I shall never forget the faithful creature's look of gratitude
as we snatched him from a watery grave. After another
quarter of an hour we gave up all hope of being able to
hold out any longer against the storm that was driving us
shorewards, and we unanimously resolved to run the
boat on to the first place where a landing seemed possible
and to try at least to save our lives, even though we had to
lose the ship and all our baggage. The choice of the place
we had of course, to leave to the steersman, and soon his
practised eye observed a little spit of land, behind which
he was resolved to run ashore at any cost.
On his advice we had equipped ourselves with the barest
necessities and carried on our persons some food and our
weapons. Now we waited apprehensively for the decisive
moment. Each of us, of course, asked himself whether he
could make the leap. For a few minutes it seemed as if we
were steering straight for the rocky coast, but just as we were
90 about to strike it the steersman turned the boat to the
right, tacked for a short time against the wind and then,
once we had passed behind the reef, turned the helm to
the left towards the coast.
Who can describe our astonishment when we saw in
front of us, instead of the inexorable and cruel rocks which
we expected, a narrow channel cutting like a gap into the
steep shore, which not only afforded us protection from the
raging breakers but even offered the hope of an anchorage
for the remainder of the night. We did not even ask
ourselves where we could be, but directly we entered the
calmer water took soundings and dropped anchor in about
a ten fathom depth of water on a somewhat rocky, uneven
It was io o'clock at night when we had accomplished
this ; we made sure that we had sufficient space on both
sides, so as not to be driven by the rapid current against
the shore which was only a very short distance away, and
exhausted by our violent exertions of the day lay down to
rest with a feeling of deepest gratitude towards Providence
which had preserved us in such a marvellous manner from
this second deadly peril.
We passed a restless night. Whether the cause was the
storm, accompanied by gusts of rain, which howled over
the hills all through the night, or the rocking of the ship
which, though sheltered from the violence of the storm,
was buffetted by the waves rolling in from the Sound,
or possibly the effects of our tremendously severe exertions
—at any rate, all of us without exception were unable to
sleep and rushed on deck several times under the impression
that our anchor had broken loose and we were being driven
on shore. I need not try to describe how welcome was the
dawn after such a night.
Our first task was, of course, to make a thorough examination of the boat in case it had suffered any damage the
91 preceding day. There was a fearful mess in the cabin ;
all the contents of the boxes and trunks were thrown
together pell-mell and were soaked with the sea-water
which had penetrated into the cabin from the sides and
through the deck, whilst clothing, shoes, toilet articles and
kitchen utensils of all kinds were strewn about and filled
all the space amidships. A half-hour shift at the two pumps
convinced us that, although we had taken in much water,
it was not rising and so we need have no apprehension as
to a leak.
After we had roughly taken our bearings with the help
of our chart and compass and come to the conclusion that
we were about twenty miles from the entrance to the
Bella Bella Sound, we prepared to continue our journey.
Some essential repairs had to be made to the sail which was
torn in several places ; but, owing to lack of time, we did
not replace the square sail which had collapsed the day
before. Many repairs were necessary on deck, the small
lead chimney of the cabin was badly twisted and partly
broken, so that we were much troubled by the smoke from
the fire, and lastly, one of our oars, a boat-hook and many
small things, though we thought them securely fastened,
had been washed overboard and lost during the night.
Soon after 6 o'clock in the morning we were ready to
weigh anchor, and with a last thankful glance at the rocky
cleft that had given us shelter we steered for the open
channel. The day was warm and rainy, the sea was somewhat less rough although a strong south-west wind blew in
irregular gusts, and proceeding northward we made quite
rapid progress. The rocky coast on either side stood out
steep and straight without any foothold, so that we
realised even more vividly the danger which had threatened
us in the night.
About 9 o'clock, that is to say after three hours' sail,
we came in sight of the Bella Bella Rocks, which showed that
on the previous day we had covered not less than a hundred
miles, a record we never surpassed on any day during the
whole of our journey.    Whilst from this point onward a
92 number of arms of the sea formed by numerous islands
stretched deep into the mainland to the east and north,
our course, going northward past the rocks, lay through a
narrow passage to the west between moderately low-lying
wooded islands. The wind was almost dead against us
so that we were compelled to tack, a manoeuvre for which
our boat was not at all well designed, since it was of shallow
draught and flat-bottomed and instead of a rigid keel was
provided only with a centre-board, which had to be pushed
up and let down whenever we changed our direction.
Besides this the weather was not calculated to raise our
spirits ; rain and hail alternated the whole morning and
forced us to remain in the narrow, evil-smelling, smoke
blackened cabin. The channel was at times so narrow that
we could almost touch the bushes on either side, but the
scenery was not worth looking at.
At 2 o'clock we passed a settlement of the Bella Bella
Indians on a small island ; so far as we could see it consisted
only of a few huts. Through the trees we thought we
caught a glimpse of masts which must be those of a large
ship. Welcome as the society of civilised people would
have been we did not think ourselves justified in losing on
that account the chance of a favourable breeze which had
sprung up, and we passed the settlement without being
observed. As we learned later, the ship anchored near
the settlement was the schooner Thornton, of Victoria,
engaged in the coasting trade.
Two hours later we reached the Kokai Settlement, also
inhabited by Bella Bella Indians with whose chief named
Charley Hamsched (probably an assumed name) our
steersman was acquainted. We anchored about fifty paces
from the shore and made our way to land with the help
as usual of canoes paddled out to us by the Indians. The
settlement consisted of six roomy huts built of timber, with
a population of rather less than two hundred, many of
whom were suffering from small-pox or scarlet fever—
diseases which cause terrible mortality among the poor
ignorant natives since when the fever is highest they try to
93 get cool by plunging into the ice-cold sea, which only too
often causes death. The incantations of their medicine
men are harmless but quite useless ; in every illness they
see the work of an evil spirit and seek to drive it out by all
kinds of fantastic contortions.
The Indians themselves, who seemed to consist mainly
of women (part of the " Bucks " were no doubt away
hunting or on the war-path), were generally of a darker hue
than any we had previously seen and had thick, coal-black
hair which hung down in long straight strands ; their
clothing consisted of the usual blanket, mostly blue in
colour. The chief, Charley Hamsched, who received us
with great dignity, wore as a symbol of rank a cap with a
silver band of which he was evidently very proud. He
invited us into his hut. Entering, we shook hands with
all the inmates amid innumerable repetitions of" Glachoja "
(" Good day, how are you ? "), and sitting round the fire
were regaled with a kind of wild rhubarb, a plant which the
Indians consume with great relish in the summer months.
The Kokai and Bella Bella Indians are much superior in
intelligence to those we had previously visited further to
the south—the Nukletahs and the Nervittys. Not only
could Hamsched stammer out a few English words, but many
of the inmates of his house could speak Chinook fluently,
so that we were able to talk with them as much as they
liked. Hamsched, who seemed to be very loquacious,
told us in the course of conversation about the loss of the
English schooner Growler, of Victoria, which during a
voyage to Sitka had been wrecked near the boundary
between British and Russian America (we could not obtain
more definite information) and had gone down with all
hands. The schooner Thornton had some fragments of the
wreckage on board which left no doubt that the ill-fated
vessel was a total loss. During the narrative a knowing
smile played over the faces of many of the Indians who were
listening, and we could not help thinking that our hosts
knew a good deal more about the shipwreck than they
thought fit to tell us.
94 Greatly pestered by the importunities of the squaws,
we returned before dusk to our ship, which was still for
some time surrounded by a swarm of inquisitive canoes.
A few small gifts secured for us in the evening a supply of
firewood and fresh water, and after arranging for a night
watch on the deck we retired to rest.
At dawn next day before there was any movement in
the settlement we were ready to resume our journey, and
with a good south-west breeze we made our way between
small islands- to the Seaforth Channel by means of which
at about 8 a.m., we reached the entrance to Milbank
Sound, a stretch of water about fifteen miles wide, exposed
to the open sea. A strong south-wTest wind caught us at
the entrance to the Sound and carried us in two hours
through a fairly high sea to the opposite coast where we
expected to find the Klemtor Passage leading northward ;
but to our surprise when we were near the entrance indicated by the neighbouring lofty and conical mountain
called Mount Diavolo, which could be seen from a long way
off, our steersman turned to the west in order, as he
explained, in reply to our urgent enquiries, to look for
Crow Creek, a so-called " canoe " passage which could be
traversed by only very small vessels and at high tide, but
which, he thought, would be a shorter route. Though
we were by no means averse to the steersman shortening
the journey, the captain as owner of the boat was not at all
willing to risk his property or we passengers either to risk
our property or to imperil our lives in the dangerous
passage. Completely outvoted the steersman had to yield
to our wishes, though it went much against the grain,
and after he had got within a few hundred yards of the
entrance to the Canoe Passage he had to turn back and
steer against the wind towards Mount Diavolo. Whether
it was that he wanted to pay us out a little for our objection
to his course, or whether it was the inevitable consequence of
95 tacking in a fairly high sea and in a strong wind, anyhow
our poor boat was ruthlessly tossed about and heeled
over so much as we tacked, that we feared to be overturned
despite the centre-board. Fortunately this uncomfortable
journey, which lasted fully two hours, was completed without mischance and about 12 o'clock we reached once more
the entrance to the Klemtor Passage. The coast, which
sloped down westward towards the open sea, rose on the
east to a considerable height. The two banks of the narrow
passage which cut at right angles through the coast must be
some thousand feet high and above them towered a huge
landmark of a mountain like Mount Diavolo. After leaving
the Klemtor Passage we made rapid progress to the
Finlayson Channel, its entrance guarded by the sugar-
loaf mountain of Monte Christi. The scenery reminded
us vividly of that we had enjoyed in Johnstone Straits, and
was an effective contrast to the bare and later flat districts
of the Fitzhugh and Bella Bella Channels. Nevertheless,
despite the channels which cut their way like deep gorges
into the mountains ; despite the crystal clearness of the
water ; despite the almost perpendicular mountain walls
clad in dark green cypresses and their summits covered with
snow ; despite the silver threads of the mountain streams
that leapt down over the rocks, our eyes soon grew weary of
the monotony of the scenery and we yearned for some signs
of human life, if only the smoke of a settlement or a canoe
gliding by the shore. The stillness, the loneliness of the
whole district, had a somewhat oppressive effect from which
the newcomer could not easily escape. The weather,
hitherto favourable, changed towards noon and the wind
blew irregularly and in gusts which kept us continually on
the alert. Here we had our first experience of the disadvantage of the inner passage as compared with the outer
one, which was always exposed to the wind. Shut in as they
are on both sides by very high banks, the channels of the
inner passage are characterised generally by a complete
absence of wind ; if however, a breeze gets into the narrow
cuttings it does not blow steadily, but comes now from this
90 direction and now from that, according as mountain
hollows or valley-like clefts give it scope. Sometimes,
but very rarely, a hurricane sweeps in and then to be caught
in the narrow arm of the sea shut in with rocks and stirred
to its lowest depths is an extremely dangerous experience
for ships of any kind.
Towards evening when we were thinking about our
anchorage for the night we had a great surprise. We
noticed a sail a good way behind us and at first took it for
that of a canoe ; but it gained on us rapidly, and as it came
up we saw that the vessel was the Red Rover sloop of
Victoria ; on its deck four people appeared in blue soldiers'
cloaks and asked the name of our ship and its destination.
The Red Rover and its captain, one Mr. King, were well-
knowQ to our sailors and passengers, and in order that we
might have an opportunity of exchanging experiences it
was decided that at least we would spend the evening
together, and therefore drop anchor by a bank of shingle,
formed by the mouth of a mountain stream, in a fairly
sheltered position. Amid torrents of rain we anchored
side by side, and Mr. King and his steersman, George,
came on board and formed with our party of six a quite
pleasant gathering which would have been thoroughly
enjoyable if we had had rather more room. But despite
this we did as well as we could, and with the aid of a glass
of rum and the recounting of marvellous adventures the
evening seemed extraordinarily short.
From the conversation it appeared that the owner of the
Red Rover was one of those restless characters that one so
often encounters in America and particularly on the West
Coast, where California is so strong an attraction. Coming
to California by the overland route early in life at the time
of the discovery of gold, he was at first one of the most
enterprising miners and in that capacity faced dangers of
every kind—adventures with hostile Indians, fights with
wild beasts and with still more dangerous savage white
men through the gold areas, from the shores of Colorado
and the Mexican boundary right up to the inhospitable
97 G regions of the Cariboo district in the far North. At one
time rich, at another poor, he would not exchange his
adventurous life in the wilderness for safer residence in
civilised places, and so at this time he was again on a hunting
expedition towards the boundary of Russian-America, and
for this purpose he had procured the boat and had engaged
these men who were skilled in fishing and hunting ; a
Nukletah Indian who acted as pilot and a fine big Newfoundland dog completed his party. The dog, after whom
he had named his ship Red Rover, seemed to be greatly
treasured by him and accompanied him on all his adventurous expeditions, and had given proof of remarkable intelligence. According to his owner if the dog were allowed to
go on shore at night he would be certain to see him return
next morning with some game in his jaws. The appearance
of this animal showed quite clearly that he was ready to
fight with any kind of wild beast whatsoever, and presented
a striking contrast to the utter uselessness of our own dogs.
During the night we were awakened several times by the
hoarse baying of wolves who no doubt had come down to
the shore in search of prey and joined with our dogs in a
regular concert, which repeated by the echo resounded
far and wide through the clefts of rock.
When we awoke next morning, the 3rd May, we found
the deck and all the rigging covered with snow and the two
banks were clothed in white to the water's edge ; there
must have been a very heavy fall during the night, and at
4 a.m. my thermometer registered 440 F. = about 50
Reaumur. There was no sign of a breeze, but on the
other hand the tide running fairly swiftly in the narrow
channel favoured us and furthered our progress to some
extent. I myself took the opportunity of obtaining some
exercise (which was almost impossible to get
in the confined space of our vessel) by helping with the long
heavy oars and at least keeping the boat on a straight
course. About 10 o'clock the tide changed and as there
was still a complete absence of wind, we were compelled
to drop anchor for a while to avoid being carried back,
98 and we made use of the time to take in supplies of fresh
water and wood and to stretch our legs again on dry land.
A mountain stream, which here leapt down over the rocks,
filled the already moist air with a fine spray and gave an
unwonted freshness to the almost tropical beauty of the
various mosses, those ornaments of the northern clime,
which covered the ground and the trees, sometimes forming
a soft springy cushion, sometimes hanging down from the
branches in fantastic forms. Though the coloured glory
of flowers was lacking, there was compensation in the varied
shades of green, from the almost yellow tint of the hanging
mosses to the dark shades of the cypresses. No sound
disturbed the heavenly peace of nature's unchallenged
reign, and it was not without a start that the intruder heard
the noise of a stone rolling beneath his feet or the cracking
of a dry twig ; he seemed to realise that he had no right to
set his foot on the virgin soil.
Before we returned on board one of the party thought
he discovered traces of silver-bearing quartz. On closer
investigation by an experienced miner it appeared that the
silver content, if it existed at all, must be quite insignificant,
nevertheless we took careful note of the place and carried
away some specimens of the stone with us for more exact
analysis.    But who of us will ever visit the spot again !
About noon the watchful eye of our steersman detected
the first signs of a rising breeze, which gave warning of its
approach by a slight ruffling of the surface of the water
and eventually filled our drooping sail and made it possible
for us to go on. We had of course hoisted every rag of
canvas that we had, and as our boat was more speedy
we should soon have left the Red Rover far behind us,
had not its crew, who had already spread out their blankets
as additional sails, helped to quicken her pace by hard
work at the oars. The only notable event in the afternoon
was the appearance of a black wolf, who stood for some
minutes on a rock some hundreds of feet above us and
seemed to be watching us closely. It was only when our
dogs gave tongue that he deigned to retreat.    To judge
99 oav, by his size he must have been a dangerous beast, as the
wolves of the north-west coast generally far surpass the
comparatively small bears in ferocity and strength.
The banks became steeper and higher the further we went
along the Finlayson Channel ; towards evening they were
over 3,000 feet high and the mountain streams on both
sides became much more numerous. The left bank,
formed by the Princess Royal Island, was an almost straight
unbroken line, but the coast of the mainland on our right
was indented by many bays and channels, some of which
were like narrow passes, others broad as inland seas and
altogether formed an enchanting scene.
Unfortunately every breath of wind ceased towards
evening, and at the same time the apparently inevitable
rain warned us to seek quarters for the night. After two
hours' hard rowing against the current we reached at
6 o'clock, a little bay near Work Island, not far from the
exit of the channel. Here amidst heavy rain we anchored
side by side with the Red Rover, whose captain had already
invited us on board.
The cabin of the Red Rover (which was of the same tonnage as our sloop) was no larger than our own, but it was
divided into sleeping and living rooms and was altogether
cleaner and better fitted than ours. The equipment was
characteristic of the owner and included a regular arsenal
of weapons and a complete supply of fishing and hunting
gear, traps, etc. Antlers of deer, every kind of skin and
hunting trophies of all sorts decked the cabin and there was
evidence of the geological interests of our host in a collection of ore-bearing specimens. We were much less
impressed by the nautical knowledge of this strange hunting
party, as in spite of a quite good chart and the presence
of the Indian pilot, they seemed to be very uncertain about
their course up to now and had to get their first information
as to their precise position from us.
By daybreak next morning we were already under sail
again, this time with the help of a favouring south-west
wind, thanks to which at 11 o'clock we reached the Nipean
Sound, a stretch of sea about 10 miles wide and 20 long
almost shut in by islands. At its north-east shore the big
Salmon River empties itself into the sea through two
branches each several miles wide, known to seamen as the
First and Second Kittimat Arms, and gives to the otherwise clear dark green water of its estuaries a muddy whitish
hue. Our course lay north-west towards the entrance of the
Grenville Channel, which lies between Pitt Island and the
mainland and forms the connecting link between the
Nipean Sound and Chatham Sound, the latter lying further
to the north.
We had traversed about two-thirds of the Sound and
were off the mouth of the Second Kittimat Arm, our pace
must have been quite six miles an hour, and the whole
party with the exception of the steersman had gone below
for our simple meal of salt meat and potatoes, when
suddenly we felt a severe shock which made the boat tremble
in all its timbers and gave us a terrible fright. We ran on
deck in breathless excitement, but were met by the steersman with the assurance that there was no danger. Our
vessel had struck with great violence against a huge drifting
log which he had not noticed, and had received a very severe
shock but was undamaged, as the pumps quickly proved.
Our meal was quite spoiled and all the afternoon we stayed
on deck in our anxiety to avoid another collision with the
numerous trunks and logs which were floating in our
course ; they had no doubt been swept down into the Sound
by the Salmon River, and called for great care on the part
of the steersman.
At 1 o'clock without further mischance we reached the
entrance to the Grenville Channel, through which we
sailed steadily in torrential rain, but with a strong south-east
101 wind, and about 4 o'clock we passed on our right the
Kittcattle Arm, with a settlement of the Kittcattle
Indians. Two hours more brought us to a very sheltered
anchorage on the left bank, formed here by Pitt Island,
near the northern end of the channel, where we had arranged
to wait for the Red Rover, of which we had lost sight during
the day.
Despite the rain which poured down as if the clouds had
broken and even penetrated into our cabin, I could not but
admire the wonderful and impressive beauty of the neighbourhood. With the crystal, glacier-like stream, the steep
banks and boldly hewn sturdy cliffs now covered with dark
woods, the fantastic masses of rock rising amid the trees,
and finally the mountain peaks that sometimes were lost
in the clouds and sometimes were covered with eternal
snow or gleamed with the blue of glaciers—it presented a
picture which could bear comparison with the scenery
of the Grisons or the Tyrol. Noteworthy also was a range
of mountain gorges stretching from east to west, in which
at high altitudes there appeared cup-shaped hollows
suggesting the presence of mountain lakes.
Although the left bank of the channels and arms of the
sea which we had traversed was formed exclusively of
islands, whilst the right or eastern coast was generally that
of the mainland, the scenery on both sides was so much
alike, that one was forced to believe that the chain of
islands which lies along the coast from Victoria to Sitka
had originally formed part of the continent and had been
separated from it by some great upheaval. Further
evidence in support of this view is afforded by the fact that
the fauna and flora of almost all the islands, some of which
are quite small and lie miles away from the coast, are
identical with those of the mainland.
Darkness had fallen by the time the Red Rover had at
last come in sight and taken her place alongside. It was
our last night together, for we proposed to proceed next day
direct to Fort Simpson whilst the other vessel intended to
102 go eastwards and first visit Methlakatla, a native settlement
and mission on the Skinner River.
Next morning the weather had not improved, and when
we resumed our journey at 4 a.m., the rain fell in torrents
despite the fairly strong south-west wind. Before we came
to the outlet of the Grenville Channel we had the rare
opportunity of seeing a specimen of the mountain sheep,
which are regarded by hunters as the most elusive and
therefore most highly prized wild animals on the North-
West coast The creature seemed to be twice the size of
an ordinary sheep and was covered, legs and all, with a
dirty brown fleece. It was standing on a rather high
ridge of rock at the entrance to a deep inlet, but vanished
inland with a great leap before we could get near.
Shortly after 6 o'clock we reached the mouth of the
channel in Chatham Sound, and here we parted from the
Red Rover, whose crew responded to our farewells with three
From this point our course was north-westerly over the
Sound, which is about 40 miles long and 10 wide. Its
southern portion is hemmed in by islands, but the northern
part is fairly open. Its numerous shallows and dangerous
ridges of rock make it one of the most dreaded parts of the
coast. As a matter of fact the Sound deserved its reputation, for it needed every conceivable precaution on the
part of our steersman to find a safe channel in that jumble
of islands and reefs, and also the dogged patience of an
experienced seaman to keep in a good temper amid the
heavy rain, tempestuous sea and a strong wind that came
in gusts.
We passengers kept ourselves to the cabin as we could do
nothing to help on deck and the captain, to whose guidance
in such stormy weather we were not inclined to trust
ourselves, was summoned on deck from time to time at a
word of command from the steersman to help him.
Frequently it was necessary to counter the gusts of wind
that" blew so strongly against us by a slight turn of the
wheel or the lowering of the sails, and great skill was needed
103 to do this at the right moment. Thus in the course of
time the captain of the Ocean Queen was reduced to the
rank of a sailor, whilst the sailor by virtue of his seamanship
took command—a reversal of positions which gave rise to
some apprehension on our part.
The further we got from the channel, the more uninteresting became our surroundings. The islands we passed
seemed to be more and more flat and were covered with
low copses, whilst the rain-soaked haze shut off any wider
view. Had not the danger from the reefs on the right and
left of our course and the occasional pulling up or lowering
of the centre-board as we tacked kept us in activity, we must
have regarded our journey across the Chatham Sound as
one of the most monotonous parts of our voyage.
Nevertheless we made good progress and at noon we
passed the entrance of the Skinner River and the Methlakatla Settlement, and after another four hours' passage
in a high sea we dropped anchor at last on the evening of
the 5th May in sight of Fort Simpson.
Fort Simpson, established by the Hudson Bay Company
in 1834, is one of the most northerly points of the British
North-West coast, and lies about 600 miles (by our reckoning
619 miles) from Victoria and approximately 300 miles from
Sitka. So for fourteen days (one of which had been wasted
at Nanaimo) we had voyaged at least 45 miles a day, and
so could not complain of the speed at which we had
travelled. True, a third of the entire distance to Sitka
remained to be traversed, but at this rate we should take
at most a week—a hope which proved to be unfounded.
Situated as it is on a quite safe bay of a flat peninsula,
Fort Simpson is an important place of call for the small
trading vessels which ply along the coast, and as such is
widely known. One of our sailors had spent some time there
recently, and had roused our curiosity by his descriptions of
its importance.   But nevertheless we were greatly surprised
104 when on entering the bay we saw a great fort formed of
palisades and comprising towers and large buildings and
surrounded by a veritable town of Indian houses decked in
many cases with flag-staffs and carvings. Lying stretched
along the shore this Indian town made a complete semicircle, formed of several hundred wooden houses ; and the
smoke which rose from every house led one to suppose that
they were all inhabited.
Immediately we dropped anchor we were beset, as usual,
by a crowd of canoes manned by Indians, and with their
help three of us went on shore. When we reached the
approach to the stately fort, over which there floated the
British flag with the arms of the Hudson Bay Company,
we were met by two white men, well dressed in English
fashion and of very respectable appearance, who introduced themselves to us as the Factors, gave us a hearty
British welcome and invited us to the fort.
Although we were total strangers to them, we accepted
this invitation with pleasure, told them our names and
business, and made our way, through a number of loitering
natives, up the short road to the fort, the gate of which was
opened as we approached.
We were now able to examine the fort close at hand.
It seemed to be of great extent and was surrounded by a
double palisade. The outer ring consisted of strong
pointed stakes  about ten feet high.   The second ring,
105 which was some forty feet inside the first, was about twenty
feet high and flanked at the sides by massive towers constructed of logs laid diagonally and provided with gun
embrasures ;   it was so high that only the roofs of the
buildings inside rose above it. Passing through the outer
palisade we reached the heavy entrance door, with its iron
clamps and loopholes ; this was kept shut, but a small
postern door gave us admittance to the interior of the fort.
But even this gateway, above which rose a tower with a
bell, was equipped with gun embrasures on both sides
within the door, so that to get into the fort against the
will of the garrison would be no easy task. Under the
guidance of our hosts we entered a spacious courtyard,
surrounded by five blockhouses built of wood, and went
across it to the entrance to the main building or dwelling
house. There we were conducted into a large room,
extending almost the whole depth of the building, in the
centre of which was a long table—this with a row of chairs
along the walls constituted almost the only furniture.
The room was made more habitable by a glowing fire which
crackled on an immense hearth ; an Indian of quite
civilised appearance stood ready to replenish it with huge
106 Realising the very neglected state of our toilet we were
delighted to find in a small room to which we were conducted, washing materials which enabled us after fourteen
days' deprivation to enjoy once more to our hearts' content
essentials of civilisation. Anybody who for a fortnight
has been able to wash only with salt water and the very
coarse so-called salt-water soap, and to dry himself with
ships' towels stiff with salt, will be able to appreciate the
feeling of comfort with which after thorough ablutions we
met our host.
In the living-room or parlour the table had been laid
in the meantime and we were invited to partake of a
lunch which with the conversation that accompanied it,
forms one of the really pleasant memories of our tour.
The participants were only our two hosts and we three
visitors ; we were waited on by the young and intelligent
Indian, who acted on the slightest hint from his master.
The meal was excellent and consisted of tender mutton
with sauce and vegetables, good English beer, bread and
cheese, served in real English style and perfectly cooked,
and to our palates which were not spoiled by a great
variety of food it was a veritable feast, for which we could
not be sufficiently grateful to our hosts.
Mr. Cunningham, the elder of the two gentlemen, who
with his jolly round face, strikingly white skin and very
light curly hair, was a typical Englishman, was not really
-the Factor but was temporarily in charge in place of a
107 Mr. Manson (or Mansell ?) who had gone to establish a
new trading post on the Stikeen (Stikine ?) River, closer to
the American boundary. His companion, Mr. Hawkins,
was a much younger man who had come to Victoria in the
service of the company a few years before and was now
assistant to the Factor.
After lunch we were invited to inspect the interior of
the fort. Proceeding from the dwelling house towards
the entrance, we went first into the warehouse where not
only were there European goods of all kinds carefully
packed in cases and bales, but a great variety of the skins
traded by the Indians were also stored.
Amongst the goods of the first class the chief place was
taken by blankets ; there were whole rows of bales full of
these commodities which are in such demand among the
Indians, and there were also other articles of clothing.
A second very important group consisted of iron goods,
axes, knives and smaller wares and fancy goods (strings of
beads, mirrors, etc.) ; then there was Colonial produce
such as sugar, syrup, coffee, tea, and in addition flour,
tobacco, pipes, tinder, and finally, fire-arms, powder and
lead, small shot, flints, and in the cellar there were alcoholic
drinks, namely, brandy, rum, beer, etc.
The collection of skins was fairly comprehensive, and
also very large as the steamship Otter, which belongs to the
Company and takes the pelts twice a year to Victoria, was
expected to arrive shortly. The skins of each kind were
sorted out into numerous grades and most carefully arranged.
The most abundant were the small otter skins, which are
used to some extent as currency on the North-West coast.
The classes were :—
Sea otter value
Marten       value
Fur seal        „
Small otter      „
Hair seal       „
Silver fox         „
Bear              „
Cross fox         „
Red fox           „
Lynx            „
Wolverine       „
Small lynx    „
108 These skins were all exchanged for European goods
imported from England via Victoria, and almost exclusively
by Indians of the coast districts. The stations further
inland send the skins collected in the winter down to the
coast station in the spring and thence the whole consignment is brought by the steamer mentioned above to
the chief depot in Victoria. That town is the great centre
not only for all the skins collected on the North-West
coast, but also for the European goods which are distributed to the smaller trading stations. Consequently
every station, even the most remote, is in communication
with the chief depot to which it sends its skins and whence
the whole supply is despatched twice a year to London to
be sold at public auction. Thus the Hudson Bay Company
has established a chain of stations over the whole northern
part of North America except the extreme North-West
coast (Alaska) and until recently it could claim a monopoly
of the trade, but now the Company has given up this
monopoly on payment of compensation by the Canadian
Government and the trade in furs is now open to all. But
nevertheless the collections of skins made by the Company
are by far the most important, since the Indians know the
Company's representatives well and are, as a rule, much more
fairly treated by them than by the grasping and unscrupulous smaller traders.
The skins thus dealt in are paid for entirely by goods,
and as the Company is entitled to import all its goods free
of duty the profits made in this bartering are always high.
Money is never seen amongst the Indians, but it sometimes
happens that dealers add to their stocks of bartered goods
by purchases at the Hudson Bay Station and pay for them
with gold ; but they also frequently pay partly in skins.
From the store we made our way to the " shop." At
the entrance there was hung up a list of prices for the
various commodities and the number of skins taken as
equivalent to the price in each case. Here the actual
deals were carried out, the skins bartered and goods delivered
in exchange.   It presented a curious jumble of all kinds of
W articles ; there were even Indian weapons, knives, muskets,
hunting and fishing gear which served, Mr. Cunningham
explained, as pledges in respect of deals not yet completed.
Passing the entrance we came to the quarters of the
staff (assistant factors, clerks, etc.) and then to those of the
workmen and so back to the main building.
In order to get a wider view of the surroundings of the
fort and also of its defences we mounted the gallery which
runs round the whole fort inside the inner palisade, whence
we could get an extensive view through the numerous gun
openings. Behind the fort, but within the line of the
inner palisade, was a fairly large kitchen garden, watered
by a small stream flowing through it, where with difficulty
a few potato and cabbage plants were being grown. On
one side of it lay the modest burial ground, marked by a
few crosses. Lonely graves of white men so far from the
place of their birth ! With sympathy for the lot of our
hosts, probably destined one day to die in this remote
spot, we continued our tour. I was particularly interested
in the watch-towers at each corner of the fort, whose
height and massive construction seemed such as to baffle
any attack by the Indians, and besides in each there was a
cannon, which alone would suffice to put an army of Indian
braves to flight.
As a matter of fact there was no danger from the Indians.
Their disposition was friendly and it was so much in their
interest to keep on good terms with the occupants of the
fort that there was not the slightest reason to apprehend
their hostility. Formerly the fort had a garrison of fifty
men, and had to withstand many an attack, but at this
time there were only four white men in the population—
the others were Indian servants who at a wage of half-a-
dollar a day were good workers.
An additional fact was Mr. Cunningham's marriage to a
squaw, which greatly strengthened his position in regard
110 to the Indians around him ; it is the practice of the Company's officials to marry Indian women. It is reported
that they make very good wives, and are very devoted to
their husbands and children. The differences between the
offspring of such mixed marriages are very striking. In
one and the same family some of the children of an Indian
mother have all the characteristic features of the full-
blooded Indian, whilst others, offspring of the same marriage,
are scarcely distinguishable from the children of white
parents. Generally these half-castes are of poor physique
and have bad health, so that they seldom reach any considerable age, but are frequently victims of consumption.
The marriage of the Governor of British Columbia to a
squaw attracted much attention at the time ; it was,
however, a happy marriage and there were a number of
Whether or not because our host at Fort Simpson did
not regard his wife as a social equal and presentable, at any
rate he did not introduce her, and had we not accidentally
seen two healthy and lively children in the courtyard we
should have remained for that day quite ignorant of his
domestic circumstances.
On our return from inspecting the fort we encountered
in the parlour a very intelligent looking Indian fully dressed
in European fashion, who was introduced to us by our host
as P. Legaic, chief of the neighbouring Methlakatla
Indians. Legaic, who conversed with Mr. Cunningham in
the Tshimpsean dialect, had also a fair mastery of English,
and his manners were far superior to those of many of the
white men in these regions. Not only had he a high reputation amongst his own people on account of his acute
intelligence, but his wealth had made him well-known in
a wider circle, and he had great influence over other tribes,
including the Indians of Fort Simpson. Legaic had a
house of his own near the fort, and occupied it during his
frequent visits.
According to our host the number of Indians settled
round the fort was about 2,000, divided into eight tribes
111 each under its own chief. At this time the majority of the
" Bucks " (or men) were away on a fishing expedition to
the River Nass, which enters the sea north of the fort and
affords an extraordinarily rich fishery which is particularly
famous on account of the great quantities of small fish
(a species of herring) which are caught there. At the
fishing season in the spring a host of Indians of various
tribes gather there to lay in a stock of this popular fish,
which is generally salted and on account of its oiliness is
greatly esteemed. Such a heterogeneous gathering of
Indians unfortunately seldom passes off without disturbance
and thus there were recently open hostilities between the
Fort Simpson and the Nass Indians, in the course of which,
besides a number of lesser braves, two chiefs of the former
tribe were killed. This act of violence the friends
of the slain chieftains managed to avenge in native
fashion by killing the next five Nass Indians that they
The dead chiefs had been brought to the fort only on the
preceding day and were lying there still unburied, or rather
still unburned—burning is the customary method by which
the coast Indians dispose of their dead—in houses of their
followers, so that naturally the whole settlement was in
mourning. Whilst we were in the fort the squaw of one
of the victims came to beg for some candles, as she intended
to watch by the dead man throughout the night. Mr.
Cunningham gave them readily and tried to comfort her,
but her dark countenance showed no signs of cheering up ;
by the dim light of a lantern her close-cut hair and face
painted black as signs of mourning gave her a most repellent
By this time it was late and our captain, who had come
on shore with us, had gone back to the boat some time
before without taking leave ; we, too, now bade a hearty
farewell for the night to our hosts and were conveyed to
the Ocean Queen, where we found the companions we
had left behind still engaged in a lively discussion with the
Indian men and women.
112 I shall always remember how the stillness of the night was
disturbed by the animal-like howling which reached us
from the Indians, who were mourning their dead, and
seemed to stop only at dawn.
Before we went on shore next morning we had a consultation as to whether it would not be advisable to obtain an
Indian pilot from Fort Simpson, as it had now become quite
clear that neither our captain nor the steersmen had ever
been further than this point and could know nothing of the
remainder of the route. Our seaman professed to know an
Indian pilot at Fort Tongass which was near by, but we
thought that the Factor's authority was sufficient assurance
that we should be able to engage through him an Indian
for this purpose, and we decided that at any rate we would
try this first.
Quite unexpectedly on visiting the fort we found Mr.
Cunningham about to sit down to breakfast in company
with his wife and children ; on our entrance the latter
disappeared at a sign from Mr. Cunningham, despite our
attempts to avoid this disturbance of their meal.
With his usual kindness our host immediately sent a
messenger to find some pilots from whom we could choose,
and we occupied the time of waiting in purchasing some
provisions for our journey. These consisted of three small
barrels of the famous salted herrings, for which we paid
2f dollars per barrel, and some bottles of good brandy or
cognac for special occasions, the price being if dollars per
Mr. Cunningham, who seemed to be well acquainted
with everything that went on in the settlement, complained
to us about the behaviour of the white men who visited it,
and said that in the short period of their stay amongst the
Indians they heedlessly counteracted all his efforts to improve their condition, and seemed to take a delight in
introducing the ignorant and credulous Indians to their
characteristic vices.
The drunkenness and infectious maladies from which the
Indians suffered so much were the outcome of their contact
113 H with the unscrupulous whites and consequently—this was
our friend's conclusion—it was with great regret that he
saw any intercourse between strangers and his Indians.
As appeared later, our captain, who had spent a night on
shore amongst the Indians, had behaved disgracefully, and
it was probably his conduct which had given rise to Mr.
Cunningham's remarks. There was complaint also against
one of our sailors, who had wisely not put in an appearance
at the fort. A short time previously he had been at Fort
Simpson in company with a French trader in a small
merchant vessel, and during his stay had sought to form
a liaison with the squaw of the captain of his boat ; and
when the jealous husband threatened to shoot him he was
compelled suddenly to leave the ship (in which he had a
share) and take refuge on land. Being entirely without
resources he was looked after in the fort and promised a
passage to Victoria on the next steamer of the Company.
Instead of showing himself grateful for this kindness he
left the fort without saying good-bye, spent several days
in the company of some dissolute Indians and finally joined
an Indian trail to the south, whereby he got to Victoria.
Thus we got an even poorer opinion of our two sailors
than we had had before and our confidence in them was
entirely destroyed. Yet we were probably bound to these
wretches for some weeks to come.
Meanwhile the messenger came back to the fort and
brought with him only one old Indian who was ready to
go with us as pilot. From our conversation with this man,
in which the Factor acted as interpreter, it appeared that
many of the " Bucks " in the settlement knew the way
but none of them were disposed to make the journey with
us because of the Stikeen Indians who dwelt midway
along the route to Sitka and with whom they were in open
feud. The old man who was ready to go proved, on
cross-examination, not to have been at Sitka himself, and
114 only once, as he explained in rather an original manner,
had he seen from a distance the mountains behind which
he was told Sitka was situated. We could, of course, not
conceal the fact that we were reluctant to trust ourselves
to such a guide and as Mr. Cunningham, who clearly
knew the character of his Indians, held out no prospect of
overcoming their timidity, there was nothing for us to do
except try our luck with the next Indian tribe, the Tongass.
Possibly some of the soldiers landed at Tongass by the
Oriflamme which had passed Fort Simpson, some eight
days before, could help us to find a pilot.
Accompanied by the Factor and despite the rainy weather
(which seems to be the general rule here) we went to the
Indian town to buy a canoe to replace the small boat which
we had lost at Nanaimo and missed greatly whenever we
wanted to land. The canoe, together with paddles and a
bailer, we obtained for six dollars. The vendor was
credited at the fort with the amount which we paid to the
I could not lose the opportunity of making some sketches
of the fort and its surroundings.   Particularly interesting
H2 and novel were the wooden carvings that stood above the
entrance of almost every house ; the grotesque designs
showed much ability. These carvings seem to take the
place of coats of arms, since no two of them are alike. The
quaint images placed in a curious manner one above another
and carved on a single tree-stem were sometimes 20 feet
high and more, and rose considerably above the huts,
whose apparently quite small entrances were between the
Over the houses of the Methlakatla chief was a copper
plaque with an eagle on it, and beneath the name of the
owner the motto : " My crest is the eagle, the king of the
birds "—truly a proud device I The houses are all very
large and can shelter 20-25 persons comfortably. Those
which stand by the water's edge are built on piles, and when
at high tide the water sweeps under them they can only
be reached by means of ladders.
We did not go into the houses, as our guide advised us
not to do so on account of smallpox and scarlet fever,
which was rampant at the time. But we were everywhere
received with a friendliness that bordered on respect, and
my sketches seemed very greatly to interest the Indians
who stood round me. It was quite amusing to see how,
looking over my shoulder, they were delighted when they
thought they saw that the drawing resembled the original
and they called my attention to any instance in which they
thought I had overlooked any detail of the carvings.
The people whom we did manage to see were very sturdy
and well-grown, many of them being quite six feet high
without their shoes ; and as a whole they seemed quite
superior to the Indians whom we had met hitherto. All
the men and women wore as their sole garment a blanket
sometimes decked with beads. The squaws generally
had silver bangles and rings on their arms and feet and in a
few cases through the ears and nose. The children, even
the bigger ones, went about quite naked. The boys
exercised themselves with bows and arrows, whilst the girls
plaited and sewed.   Amongst the older people many of the
116 rrnr>»
INDIAN CARVING, FORT SIMPSON. women were painted black and had their hair cut off as a
sign of mourning.
When we arrived at the beach we witnessed the departure
of Chief Legaic of the Methlakathla Indians. A large
canoe fully 20 feet long packed full of goods of every kind
(obtained mostly from the Hudson Bay Fort) had been
launched on the water by six sturdy fellows. Legaic was
still on the beach, quite elegantly dressed in a kind of
travelling costume and distinguished by a large pair of opera
glasses slung over his shoulder, of which he seemed to be very
proud. After a long conversation with the Factor he
finally took leave, sprang with great agility into the canoe,
waved us a ceremonious farewell and then lying back
comfortably gave the order to start. The six short paddles
struck the water with machine-like precision, and it was not
without a feeling of respect for this Indian dictator that we
gazed after the rapidly disappearing canoe. P. Legaic
certainly displayed a higher degree of civilisation than any
Indian we had hitherto encountered, but Mr. Cunningham
assured us that the case was by no means an isolated one
in this particular tribe and that amongst the Methlakathla
Indians, thanks to the unceasing efforts during many years
of an English missionary named Duncan, a certain level of
civilisation had been reached. At the time more than 300
Indians, including 80 children, belonged to the Mission,
which was carried on by Mr. Duncan in quite a patriarchal
manner. He watched over the worldly interests as well as
the spiritual well-being of his flock, and acted not only as a
pastor but as a judge. He had established a kind of police,
and small coasting vessels manned by Mission Indians
carried to market the skins which they wished to barter
and brought back other commodities in exchange. In
short, his self-sacrificing activity had at any rate met with
a measure of success, in that at least a superficial culture
had been reached by his Indians, although their general
condition still left much to be desired.
A second Mission recently founded on the Nass River,
directly north of Fort Simpson, by a missionary named
118 Tomlinson was only in an early stage of development, but
it was likely to be ultimately of far-reaching influence,
since every year there was a gathering at that place of many
Indian tribes.
One immediate result of the Mission activities in the
Tshimpsean peninsula is that the domestic conditions of the
Indians inhabiting that part, their language, customs and
habits and their religion has been studied more carefully
and thoroughly than is the case with the other tribes of the
North-West coast. It is the Tshimpsean language in
particular which has aroused very great interest as it was
found that it is not only an entirely independent language,
quite unrelated to the dialects of the neighbouring tribes,
but that it has also a grammatical form with conjugations
and declensions, which could hardly be expected in the case
of coast Indians, who dwell in such remote districts. Moreover, the importance of this language seems to be recognised
by many other tribes who dwell in the interior since they
regard Tshimpsean as a kind of superior language of which
every intelligent Indian should at least understand the
Through the instrumentality of the missionaries, books
in Tshimpsean have been printed at Victoria, and I have
before me now a dictionary and phrase book from which the
following words will give an idea of the language, which is
unaccented but rather too guttural. I should add that in
contrast with Chinook it is a genuinely Indian language.
Numbers : I Kooll             4 Tum-alp
7 Tup-old
2 Koopel           5 Shtones
3 Kwula           6 Ha-gold
8 Yugh-talt
9 Kist-more
10 Keap
20 Koo-pel-wul-keap
100 Kwe-stin-sole
i De sto
Pronouns : I         Nu-yu                   you
thou   Nu-un                   they
he       Ne-ed                    we
119 Adjectives :
Black    Dotsk
Blue     Kus-kwash
White   Moxk
Green   Meet-leth
Red      Musk
Cardinal Points :
Natural Phenomena :
North   Ke-seas
World   Ke-am-a got
East      Hy-wass
Sun       Seo
South    Ugh-pala
Star      Be-a-list
West     Gu-il-Ka
Snow    Ma-tum
Rain     Wass
Days and Seasons :
Sunrise   Tse yoost
Sunset     Koo pell
Evening Mia wo rumel
Spring    Koy un
Autumn Kwus-oot
Mid-day   Suego-Uh
Morning  Kum Klay pa
Night       Kl   hoop
Summer   Soond
Winter   Kome-sam
Conjugations :
I thank            Nu-ya-chrodote    I see           Neet sote
thou thankest   Lil-chroda
thou seest   Neet sin e
he thanks         Lip-chrod-ca
he sees       Neet set
we thank          Lip-caro-dum
we see        Neet sund
you thank        Lip-carod-sam
you see       Neet se sund
they thank       Lip-carod-ca
they see     Neet set ca
Such time as we had to spare had been spent in inspecting
the settlement and purchasing all we required, and so,
shortly after mid-day on the 6th May, we bade farewell
to our kind hosts and set sail once more. The weather,
which had been rainy during the whole of our stay at the
fort, now cleared up, the sun shone bright and warm, the
wind was favourable and, towing the canoe we had purchased, we soon left the flat coast of the Tshimpsean
peninsula far behind us and about two o'clock, favoured by a
120 moderate south-east wind, we passed the mouth of the
Nass River, near which the land again rises to a considerable
From this point our course was almost due west, obliquely
across the northern part of Chatham Sound towards
Tongass Island, which was about 30 English miles distant.
This journey which was a somewhat slow one as the wind
dropped from time to time, was about four o'clock interrupted by an accident which nearly cost the lives of some
Indians who were coming to meet us. We had already
noticed for some time a canoe under sail approaching from
the opposite direction and apparently making straight
towards us. As we had no wish to meet the Indians and
were just being carried by a favouring breeze we kept on our
course ; the canoe, however, had got its paddles out and
was already within hailing distance of our ship. Whether
it happened that the Indians were trying to cut across us
at the last moment or that our steersman deliberately
turned the helm round towards them, at any rate we
struck the canoe broadside with such force that we all
believed we had cut it in two. However, despite the
violence of the collision, which hurled the canoe some
distance backwards, the five Indians in it escaped with
nothing worse than a fright. Their canoe, constructed of
tough cedar wood, was of such light build and consequently
offered so little resistance that we did not sink it. Without
paying any heed to the gestures and loudly expressed protests
of the Indians against the brutal treatment they had
experienced, we continued on our way and soon lost sight
of them. According to our calculations they must have
come from Clement City and were making for Fort Simpson,
where they probably gave vent to their grievances against us.
It was eight o'clock and already dusk as we drew near the
flat, thickly-wooded Tongass Island, surrounded by
numerous reefs, when a canoe manned by ten armed
Indians suddenly blocked our entrance to the bay. We
were at first somewhat alarmed at the forbidding aspect of
the savages who, holding their muskets between their knees,
121 bombarded us with unintelligible questions. A few words
from our steersman, who knew and pronounced the name
of the Indian pilot, had the effect of pacifying them, and
when shortly after this the pilot himself came on board our
ship, we were permitted to enter the bay ; but as it was
quite strange to our steersman and was rendered dangerous
by strong currents and sunken rocks, he gave over the helm
to the pilot with whom we were quite easily able to make
ourselves understood in Chinook. It was not our intention
to drop anchor by the Indian settlement, which we recognised by its lights in the distance, but in the vicinity of the
military station, which was about a mile distant ; and as the
wind had died down we had to make our way along the
shore with the help of our oars. It was not till 9.30, with
a very dark night, that we anchored opposite the watch-fire
of the troops encamped on the shore. After we had
answered a few questions by the sentry we decided to dismiss for the night the pilot, who was allowed to make use
of our canoe with instructions to return to the ship at
When we awoke next morning we found ourselves in
a narrow channel—it could not be called a bay—with
flat, thickly-wooded banks on both sides. In front of us
there was a space cleared of trees on which were erected
some twenty tents amidst the undergrowth which still
remained ; their whiteness against the green background
made a picturesque sight. Some officers who were already
on the shore despite the early hour invited us to land, and
fortunately Charley, as we called our pilot, had already come
alongside in the canoe accompanied by his wife, so we could
make use of it to go on shore. Charley had already had
an accident with our boat, as he and his " Klootschman,"
as he called his squaw, had been upset. But he seemed to
regard this as nothing unusual and if we had not seen him
bailing out water he would probably have said nothing
about it. This made us cautious and though subsequently
the canoe justified its claim to be regarded as seaworthy,
we never allowed more than two people to be in it at once.
122 In the camp we were most cordially greeted by the
officers with whom we were acquainted ; most of them
were already about, but others we sought out in their tents
and there were some amusing episodes. There were
50 men and 10 officers of the 2nd United States Artillery
Regiment; they had been landed eight days previously
from the Oriflamme and had found it necessary in the
first place to form a tent encampment. Now they were
busy clearing a large area of trees before commencing the
building of the block-houses.    Consequently it was not
surprising to find the camp in a state of confusion ; the
path up to the tents, which were very irregularly placed,
passed through many felled tree-trunks, stumps and roots
which had been left, so that communications were greatly
hindered. It was laughable when the garrison drew up
on the parade ground and it was manifestly impossible for
the men to form a straight line and the commanding officer
could only supervise a part of his forces.
By this time a table had been laid in front of one of the
officers' tents and we were invited to breakfast, which was
a very pleasant meal.   The most interesting person present
123 was certainly Dr. Chismore, attached to the force as surgeon,
whose wide acquaintance with the country and people
of the whole North-West coast seemed to give him special
qualifications for his present appointment. His knowledge
of the Indians of this neighbourhood dated from the time
of the American-Siberian Telegraph Expedition which he
had accompanied for several years and on which he had had
some remarkable experiences. Dr. Chismore was consequently in the best position to form an opinion as to the
condition of the troops in the camp, their relations with the
neighbouring Tongass Indians, and particularly the importance of a military station here, and I am indebted to him
for the following information.
The troops sent here from Fort Vancouver in Lower
Columbia were made up, like practically the whole of the
standing army in time of peace, of men who hailed from
the older countries, the Irish element being predominant.
As they came mostly from the rough and reckless element
of the big towns (the " rowdies ") and had enlisted as a
last resource, there was need for the strictest discipline,
which could not, however, always be maintained whatever
efforts were made. Spirits were entirely prohibited in the
camp ; the troops could not go out of bounds without
special permission ; and the neighbouring Indians were
forbidden to enter the camp on. pain of death. Nevertheless a number of soldiers had already managed to slip
out to the Indian settlement, so strong was the attraction
of the Indian squaws.
The commissariat of the troops consisted of provisions
which they had brought with them, and game and fish
sold by the Indians, of which there seemed great abundance.
Outings for the garrison, hunting and fishing expeditions
for the officers and communications with Fort Simpson
and the American Fort Wrangel lying still further to the
north were made feasible by two very long, narrow, open
rowing boats, so-called " whalers," which could carry the
greater part of the troops. A flat raft, also lying at anchor,
was used for the transport of munitions.    The state of
124 health of the troops was at the moment fairly good, but
though they had been landed only eight days the wet
weather and the damp mist rising from the woodland in
which they were encamped were already having a bad effect
and rheumatic complaints were on the increase. The
novelty of their surroundings made the officers for a time,
forget their somewhat unenviable position, but already most
of them were looking longingly back at the garrison towns
of California and Oregon which were less cut off from the
world, but which they had been compelled to exchange for
their lonely station on Tongass Island.
The relations of the military officials with the Indians
were very good, thanks to the mediation of the doctor,
who enjoyed in the settlement a respect which was not
common amongst the Indians in consequence of some successful operations and cures which he had performed, and
his reputation had already spread beyond the boundaries
of Tongass. Strange Indians now came from great distances to be treated by the white Medicine Man, and his
services among the natives were the more acceptable because
they were given gratuitously. Medicine was also supplied
without charge to the natives whom he befriended. The
diseases most prevalent amongst them were scarlet fever,
smallpox, skin complaints and rheumatic affections. The
Indians never reached an advanced age—fifty years seemed
to be about the limit. Those who were not carried off
by disease lost their lives in war or hunting. At this time
the Tongass natives had a feud with the Stikeen Indians
who dwelt in the north ; the Tongass had recently inflicted
a defeat on their enemies and were now expecting an attack
in their own territory. The state of war explained the
action of the canoe which we had seen guarding the harbour
and, as we were told, kept watch day and night for the
dreaded Stikeens. The Tongass had, however, not much
reason for alarm since the American troops would not have
125 allowed a conflict between the two tribes so near their
camp, and would certainly have taken the side of the
Tongass Indians.
What advantage the American Government expected
to derive from the existence of Fort Tongass is not very
apparent, unless its purpose was to check the quarrels amongst
the Indians ; the weak and isolated garrison could not have
resisted a serious attack from a foreign enemy. No more
unfavourable site could have been chosen, but Tongass was
the most southerly point of the newly-acquired territory
which had formerly been Russian and possibly had some
importance as a frontier post in the eyes of the military
authorities. But in these undeveloped areas only sparsely
inhabited by natives a strict surveillance of the frontier
was of little importance, and the station itself was so
situated amidst a labyrinth of islands and channels and the
mobility of the troops on the only lines of communication
available to them was so hampered, that the establishment
of the post, which had involved considerable expenditure,
seemed quite superfluous.
The English in the neighbouring British Columbia
make use of a much simpler and less costly method of guarding
their customs frontier and of taking action against insubordinate Indian tribes. This takes the form of some
gun-boats of shallow draught, built for coastal service,
which are constantly cruis ng up and down the shores
and have not only suppressed smuggling almost entirely,
but by firing a few well-directed shots into the settlements
of some tribes which had become notorious for their deeds
of violence had imbued the Indians with a wholesome
After two years' experience the American Government
appears to have seen the error of its ways. It is stated
that all the military posts established on the coast of Alaska,
that is to say, Tongass, Wrangel and Kadiac (in the Aleutian
Islands) are to be abandoned and Sitka alone retained as a
military base, whilst the coastal service, following England's
example, will be maintained solely by light cruisers.
126 At the time of our visit, however, no one imagined that
the newly-erected fort would last so short a time, and when
after breakfast Dr. Chismore produced a bottle of his
medicinal brandy (which should really only be given to the
sick) we all drank to the health and long life of the first
American fort in Alaska.
In return we invited the officers on board our vessel,
where, thanks to the purchase of spirits which we had made
at Fort Simpson, we spent a very pleasant hour despite the
rather limited accommodation of the cabin. Naturally
there was much talk of our adventures and perils, and it was
a puzzle to our guests how the Ocean Queen, with its small
dimensions, had held together so valiantly. At the time
of the accident with the tow-rope, the Oriflamme had
given us up for lost, so perilous was our position as seen from
the steamer. We learned that we owed to our friends the
fact that the rope which was dragging us to destruction was
cut on the steamer at the same time as we cut it, and that
she was forced to heave-to at least for a time. Our two
fellow travellers had gone on by the Oriflamme right to Fort
Wrangel, where they had to find the
best way they could of getting to
Sitka. The steamer herself had passed
Tongass on the previous day on her
return journey and reported that
troops andpassengershadbeen landed
safely at Wrangel. When we parted
from our friends the commandant
of the post handed us an official
letter which he asked us to take to
Fort Wrangel, which we were in any
case bound to visit.
Meantime the negotiations be-
CHARLEY. ^'T l868 tween our captain and Charley, the
pilot, as to the latter's engagement,
had been completed, and Kainook-Skutleyikah-Koaigh-
Kayaghs-Cut-layam-Klaytohts, elder son of Hovats, chief
of the Tongass Indians, alias Charley, was taken on as pilot
tu and interpreter for the journey to Sitka, on condition that
he was guaranteed a free passage back to his native village.
This Charley, as we called him for short, presented a remarkable appearance ; about 30 years old, of medium height and
rather squat, with black hair cut short, a stupid-looking
face covered with a beard, cunning eyes which were always
half-closed, well-shaped features and wearing European
clothes he would hardly have looked like an Indian had not
the silver ring hanging through his nose betrayed his descent.
From his youth onward Charley had been engaged as
pilot and interpreter on the small ships carrying on barter
with the Indians, and besides this he had made a trip on
a steamer to Victoria and seemed to be very proud of it,
although on that journey he had had the misfortune to
lose his left hand when splitting wood. To compensate
him for this loss the captain of the steamer gave him the
outfit in which he appeared before us. Besides knowing
some English words our new pilot possessed a qualification
of great importance to us ; he spoke Chinook quite
fluently and so could carry on detailed conversations with
us. As, in addition, the Tongass dialect, his mother tongue,
was closely allied to those of the six other tribes along the
coast between this point and Sitka (the Stikeen, Kaigh,
Hennega, Tacon, Chilcaht and Kolosch or Sitka Indians), we
found him an extremely useful interpreter on our journey.
He assured us that he was well acquainted with the route
to Sitka and when we asked him if he were not afraid to go
through the territory of the Stikeen Indians, who were
hostile to his tribe, he asserted that they would not recognise
him in his European costume, and he would take care that
his dialect did not betray him as a Tongass. Charley's
luggage was very simple ; it was brought on board to him
by his " Klootschman," and consisted of a tanned deerskin
for him to sleep on and a small pouch quite prettily
embroidered with beads containing a small wooden pipe,
flint and steel and some ammunition. He did not appear
to carry any weapons, or at any rate he did not show them
to us.
At 9 o'clock in the morning, with a strong south-east
wind blowing, we left our anchorage after exchanging
final greetings with the friends whom we were leaving,
and quickly lost sight of the camp. As we passed from the
channel into the open Chatham Sound the sky, which had
been overcast all the morning, dissolved into torrential
rain and the wind increased in violence and came in gusts.
We had been spoilt by the two fair preceding days and now
at the very beginning of our journey had to encounter the
rage of the elements. Our course was westerly ; to the
right was the flat bare coast-line of the mainland thickly
strewn with rocks, and on the left at a greater distance
the island of Old Tongass and smaller rocky ledges marked
only by the white foam of the breakers and, though lying
between us and the open sea, not big enough to serve as a
barrier against the ocean waves.
At noon we passed Cape Fox, and then took a northwesterly course in order to reach Ernest Sound which lies
between Prince of Wales Island and Revillagigedo. But
before we could reach the Sound we had to traverse a
stretch of more than twenty miles which on the western
side was completely exposed to the full force of the ocean
beating through Dixon's Passage, and so we were likely to
have a stormy voyage. At the south-western extremity
of Prince of Wales Island, that is to say, only some 50 miles
from where we were, lay Cape Chacoum near which, as
we had heard at Tongass, the Growler had been wrecked,
and as we had not been able to glean any further information
as to the mysterious disappearance of that ship our nearness
to the scene of the catastrophe increased our perturbation.
We had shaken out all three sails and with a wind that
filled them blowing strongly right behind us we were
making six miles an hour at the very least, a very remarkable
achievement considering the kind of boat we had. The
sea became rougher—the water which at first beat against
us   in   short   irregular   waves   had   gradually   risen into
129 I mountainous billows that followed each other with great
regularity and threatened to engulf our cockleshell boat.
As one stood at the stern of the deck, which was only a few
feet above the water and was quite flat and without a bulwark, it was a strange sensation to be lifted as it were by a
magic hand suddenly to the summit of a gigantic wave and
after a wonderful but terrifying glimpse slipping down
almost unconsciously into the depths on the other side of
it, and seeing the dark green breaker rearing itself up like a
threatening monster behind us again.
So long as we could carry enough sail not to lose ground in
the race with the waves that threatened to overtake us,
and so long as they did not begin to break over us, we were
fairly safe. In fact the movement of the boat was less
violent than we would have expected in such a high sea,
thanks to our pace and the regular intervals between the
breakers. Our boat was so light that it offered little resistance to the waves and rose and fell with them.
But when about 4 o'clock a gust of wind tore down our
square sail and the sailors nevertheless proposed to go on,
we passengers resolved to seek shelter on the first coast that
came in sight. After some grumbling the sailors gave way
and asked the pilot which was the nearest anchorage. As
soon as we had come in sight of Chatham Sound in the
morning, Charley had pointed to the lowering clouds,
ominously shaking his head, and advised that we should
not venture into the open Sound. When his warning
remained unheeded he had sat down on deck, despite the
rain, in silence and with his legs crossed gazed at the
increasing violence of the sea as if he had no longer any
interest in the matter ; if he had any fears as to our safety
there was no trace of them in his impassive face which never
moved a muscle. But when we turned to him and asked
about landing, he became animated at once, and springing up
quickly, stood for a few minutes gazing out over the foaming
waves. He did not strain his eagle eyes in vain, but must
have recognised a familiar spot, for he indicated with his
one arm a point lying not far from our course where we
130 would find a safe anchorage. Hard as we tried we were
unable even with the aid of a telescope to distinguish
anything except the white foam of the raging waves, which
could just as well have been caused by the breaking of
huge masses of water as by the surges upon the coast.
But the atmosphere was so cloudy and the movement of
the boat so violent that our observations were likely to be
of no great value and so we trusted ourselves blindly to
the keener sight (or perhaps instinct) of the Indian and
steered our course in a more westerly direction. Fortunately we could then go with the wind and though our speed
was somewhat diminished by the loss of a sail, we were
able to dodge the waves which were already beginning to
break over us and within half-an-hour to reach a low
island which lay to our left, the existence of which we
should never have suspected were it not for the guidance
of the pilot, so completely was it hidden from us by the
towering waves.
A small sandy bay into which Charley steered us offered
a fairly safe anchorage and we were all glad when our
sorely-tried boat lay once more quietly at anchor with
furled sails. Despite the rain, which had streamed down
all day without a break, we went on shore in the canoe to
replenish our stock of firewood and fresh water.
The small island seemed quite uninhabited and was
covered with dwarf cypresses and undergrowth. Nevertheless we found a small brook with clear fresh water, as
in the case of almost every island along the coast, and near
it what were probably the remnants of an Indian camp
fire. It appeared that we were on one of the small islets
off the south-west end of Gravina Island and therefore,
though we had only been seven hours on the way, we had
covered about fifty miles, which meant a pace of more
than seven miles an hour.
We spent an uncomfortable night ; the rain beat on
the deck, the storm which continued all night whistled
and howled over the flat islet and through our rigging and,
as the tide was higher, the waves swept up to us through
131 12 the opening of the bay. Scarcely was it dawn when at
5 o'clock in the morning we were again under sail ; the sea
was somewhat moderated by the heavy rain, and a strong
south-east wind presaged a quick passage. Our course
lay between Gravina Island and Revillagigedo Island to
Ernest Sound, which we reached about 8 o'clock. On our
left, that is to say to the west, there now lay Prince of
Wales Island with the Indian Settlements of Georgina and
Kasan, and on our right Revillagigedo Island with the
small trading-post, Fort Stewart, with coal deposits in the
neighbourhood. The breadth of the Sound, whose northern
part is known as the Clarence Straits, is from ten to twenty
miles ; both shores, so far as we could judge from a distance, seemed to be steep and rocky with deep gaps in them
like gorges. Soon after, we noticed to our left but at a
considerable distance, a two-masted vessel steering towards
Georgina, which was recognised by our seaman as the
Nanaimo Packet schooner.
About mid-day the wind which was carrying us forward
became stronger but more irregular and there was rain with
it, so that we were compelled to take a reef in our mainsail
which had become waterlogged, but kept our two other
sails still fully spread. At 2 o'clock we had to take in the
square sail, which we had set up again during the morning,
so that our spread of canvas was reduced to a minimum.
An hour later we passed on our right the canoe passage
which leads between Etoline Island and the mainland to
the Stikeen River. About 4 o'clock the storm increased so
much that we began to look about again for a place of
refuge, which we found after another half-an-hour's sail
in the form of a quite safe bay almost shut in by rocks
on the west coast of Etoline Island.
This was now the second day since our departure from
Fort Simpson that we found ourselves compelled by the ■
violence of the weather to drop anchor before darkness
had set in, and although on this day we had done 75 miles
we began to be apprehensive about the duration of our
journey.    We were still some 200 miles from our destination
132 and the further north we went the more dangerous our
journey seemed to become. We were suffering particularly
from the unfavourable weather (frequently at 6 o'clock in
the morning the thermometer stood at 420 Fahrenheit
= 50 Reaumur), and some of us began to suffer from
rheumatic pains. If the journey were prolonged we could
not escape serious illness in the form of scurvy owing to the
absence of fresh meat and vegetables from our dietary ;
and we hardly dared think what might happen if we and
our vessel met with any accident or perhaps were wrecked.
After a night of rain and storm we started again at
5.30 a.m. and reaching in two hours the north-west point of
Etoline Island, keeping its shore to our right we steered
in a north-easterly direction with a good favouring breeze.
At 10.30 we passed to our right the so-called " Canoe
Passage," between Etoline and Wrangel Islands (the
southern entrance to which I have previously mentioned)
and an hour later, steering towards the estuary of the
Stikeen River, we came in sight of Fort Wrangel, whose
white tents we could distinguish clearly against the dark
Wrangel Island is the eastern limit of a group of waterways of considerable extent formed by a series of small
and large islands, and into which the Stikeen River flows
at its north-east corner. Low-lying and thickly wooded,
the island is dominated by the lofty and snow-clad mountains
of the neighbouring mainland, through which the great
river has forced its way in gorges strewn with glaciers.
The scenery in the estuary of the Stikeen is rightly ranked
with the finest along the coast, and the glaciers and icefields which give it a special interest are among the largest
in the whole territory.
At 12 noon we were opposite the Fort, at about four
. miles distance, and had already decided to spend the night
there, when to our surprise we observed that the steersman
133 apparently intended to leave the Fort on our right and to
keep our course to the north. The captain and steersman-
now declared that they proposed not to call at the Fort,
but to take advantage of the favourable wind in order to
reach Kuprianoff Island by the evening ; this lay to the
north in Hennega Strait. This proposal conflicted so
directly with our original intention that we passengers
protested strongly. Whilst the matter was being discussed
suddenly a gun was fired from the Fort, no doubt as a signal
to us to heave-to. Our steersman nevertheless kept on
his course, but when after a short time a second gun was
fired and the shot passed over our boat, our seamen were
compelled to drop sails and wait to see what would happen.
Meanwhile we had gone a considerable way past the camp,
and could only have returned to it by tacking against the
wind. The garrison appeared to realise this, as we soon
perceived a sail coming from the camp and overtaking us
rapidly, and in half an hour a canoe commanded by an
American officer and with a crew of five Indians came
alongside. Lieutenant King, who was discharging at the
time the duties of a customs officer, as was shown by the
customs' flag flying at the stern of the canoe, came on
board to search for dutiable goods and particularly for
spirits which it was forbidden to import. He was greatly
surprised at seeing us as we had made his acquaintance at
Nanaimo, and without troubling further about our cargo
or papers he accepted an invitation to take a glass of cognac
with us in the cabin.
It appeared that the fact that we were carrying three
sails—one of which, the square-sail, we had set up only
after leaving Nanaimo—had misled the garrison and
prevented them from recognising our boat ; they took us,
especially when we seemed unwilling to stop for search by
them, to be one of the many trading ships which came up
from British territory to engage in smuggling along the
Alaska coast. The lieutenant assured us that a third shot
would have given us clear evidence of their prowess as
gunners, had we not stopped in the nick of time.
134 Our sailors, who as appeared later, carried many kegs of
rum and must have had uneasy consciences, excused their
discourtesy by saying that the wind had prevented them
from making for the fort, and as on our account the lieutenant did not trouble himself about the incident, the
conversation soon turned to other matters.
The garrison had been landed only a week previously
by the Oriflamme, and was already complaining bitterly
about the hardships suffered since then, which were due
chiefly to the extraordinarily damp climate. As at Tongass
Island, so here, the soldiers had to clear the site proposed
for the fort from the dense cedar woods, hitherto untouched
by the axe, before they could think about erecting the
block-houses which were to shelter them, and for which
they had to bring the materials with them. But this took
a good deal of time, and meanwhile they had to camp on
the damp woodland under canvas and the sickness returns
already began to be a cause for anxiety. Moreover, since
the landing they had had a good deal of trouble with the
neighbouring Stikeen Indians, and were able to induce
the latter to bring supplies to the camp only by paying
high prices ; the Indians showed themselves generally
much more unfriendly and sullen than was expected.
The position of the Fort seemed on the other hand to
be much better than that of Fort Tongass, since Fort
Wrangel was also a customs office, and all the coasting vessels
which made use of the Inner Passage (many of which were
trading to the Stikeen River) had to pass within sight of
the fort, and so it was able to exercise a real check upon the
lucrative smuggling trade, especially in spirits, although
despite this many gallons of rum and whisky were disposed
of to the ignorant Indians.
We were much disturbed by information which had
recently come to light and was given to us by the lieutenant
as to the loss of the Growler at the southern point of Prince
of Wales Island. It was reported by Indians on Tongass
Island that the natives in the Georgiana and Kasan settlements, near to the scene of the wreck, had recently been in
135 possession of a great quantity of modern firearms, articles
of clothing and ship's provisions, which they professed to
have obtained by barter from Indians living at Cape
Chacoum, but which certainly formed part of the rich
cargo of that ill-fated vessel, as the Chacoum Indians
maintained that they had picked them up on the shore.
It was a remarkable fact that of the crew of the schooner,
ten in number and all experienced men, not a single one
was saved, though the greater part of the cargo was picked
up ; and in Fort Wrangel the belief was openly expressed
that the crew had been murdered by the natives whilst
attempting to get to the shore by means of their boat.
A report of the facts, so far as known up to the present,
had already been sent to the chief command at Sitka, by a
coasting vessel that was going there, so that further investigations might be made immediately on the spot.
As regards our two former companions we learned that
they had resumed their journey to Sitka five days previously,
on board the schooner Sweepstakes, which had chanced to
touch at Fort Wrangel ; and so they had got several days
start of us. The Sweepstakes was the ship in which our
steersman formerly had a share, and it was by its captain,
a Frenchman known on the coast as " Frank," that during a
stay at Fort Simpson he had been put on shore in so discreditable a fashion.
So there was now a prospect that the culprit would meet
his enemy on his arrival at Sitka, and would perhaps overtake him even before that ; and he had a strong motive
for pushing on with our journey as rapidly as possible.
He had kept his weapon, a long five-barrelled so-called
cavalry revolver, loaded for a long time with a view to a
possible meeting with his foe, and his boast that when
they met he would put a bullet through the Frenchman's
brain was distinctly disquieting to the peaceably-disposed
passengers who were expected to be witnesses of the
proposed murder.
Whilst we were talking in the cabin the Stikeen Indians
in the canoe that lay alongside tried in vain to enter into
137 conversation with our pilot Charley, whose nationality
they probably guessed. The noble son of the Tongass
chief Hovat sat like a mummy near the entrance to the
cabin, his legs crossed and his arms folded in oriental
fashion, and with stoical indifference answered the innumerable questions addressed to him in Stikeen by a long drawn
out " Waak Kumtux " (" Don't understand ") and by using
only a few words of the universal language, Chinook, was
able slyly to conceal his nationality. He must have been
very glad when the lieutenant again took his place at the
stern of the canoe and gave the Indians the signal to start.
It was a curious spectacle, that vessel steered by an
American officer in full uniform and manned by a crew of
savage-looking Indians which now, tacking against the wind,
made its way back to the Fort ; and the builder of the
canoe certainly never imagined that one day the Stars and
Stripes would be seen floating over his craft.
Our sails were quickly hoisted again, and with a strong
breeze we steered towards the Hennega Strait, as we
proposed to pass the night on its coast ; but before we were
out of sight of Fort Wrangel we unfortunately ran on the
sands in a channel near the estuary of the Stikeen. Happily
just as we had made up our minds that we should have to
go ashore in our canoe, the tide rose and floated us again.
Nevertheless we lost a good deal of time in finding by
sounding the deeper channel of the muddy and yellowish
sea, and it was only at nightfall that we reached on the
northern coast of the island an anchorage formed by a
shallow and only partially sheltered bay.
Here by the dim light of a lantern the charts were
spread out and we had a consultation as to the course which
we should take. To arrive at Frederick Sound, which
lay to the north but with a group of islands intervening,
there were three distinct routes. First, a western or
outer passage through Christian Sound was very exposed
138 to the open sea ; secondly, an eastern course by a channel
passing the estuary of the Stikeen River and skirting the
mainland was well sheltered, but in addition to the fact
that the stretch by the estuary was full of shallows and
quicksands, this had the disadvantage of being much
longer. Finally, a third course directly opposite us ran
from south to north cutting across the Sound at right angles
and was only indicated on the chart but not properly
marked, which meant that it must l>e regarded as navigable
only by canoes.
In choosing between these three routes the experience of
our Indian pilot should have been helpful to us, and our
annoyance was great when it eventually became apparent
that he knew absolutely nothing of the two inside channels
and that his information was confined to the outside
channel which led through Christian Sound—a channel
which we were not disposed to attempt in view of the
limited sea-going qualities of our boat, although the steersman was in favour of taking it. Thus, though we had a
pilot, we were entirely dependent on our charts and as
these had more than once proved defective, we must
be prepared for deviations from the right course. We could
certainly return to Fort Wrangel and engage a new pilot
there, but after long discussion we decided at any rate to
make one attempt on the middle " canoe passage " which
was marked on our chart as the Wrangel Channel.
From now on Charley, the one-armed pilot, had a very
bad time on the Ocean Queen, since the sailors, finding
themselves misled as to his utility and that he was now
rather a burden than a help to them, would give him
neither food nor drink and never ceased reproaching him
for his duplicity, whereas it was largely their fault that they
had not made certain as to the extent of his knowledge.
I believe that had we not taken pity on him and intervened, " Klaytohts," alias Charley, would have remorselessly been put on shore by these rough seamen and left to
his fate, so embittered were they against the hapless Indian.
The rascals forgot that whilst our deception by the Indian
139 might be due to ignorance and insufficient knowledge of the
language, they themselves had deceived us far more when
before our departure they professed to know the whole
route to Sitka. Unfortunately it was we passengers who
were the victims of these repeated frauds, in that they
prolonged our journey indefinitely.
We had a disturbed night ; the movement of our vessel,
which was only partially protected against the waves that
rolled in from the sea, was so violent that during the night
we had many times to look to our anchor cable, and it was
only with great trouble that we avoided being driven against
the reef-strewn shore of the shallow bay. On the following
morning at low tide there were visible many rocks which
we had not noticed as we entered the bay, so that great
care was needed to enable our boat to reach the open
sea again undamaged.
At 6 o'clock in the morning we made our way, steering
by chart and compass, to the entrance of the Wrangel
Channel, and after a number of vain attempts we found it
at 7 o'clock, amid torrential rain. The entrance to the
channel, which is only a few hundred yards wide, is hidden
by an island lying before it in such a way that no one would
expect to find an opening there, and we should have probably passed it unwittingly had not our Indian pilot, though,
he had never been in the place, instinctively realised that
the entrance to the channel was close at hand.
As soon as we were in the narrow channel, which was
often so blocked with small islands and rocks as scarcely
to give us room to pass, the south-east wind which had
hitherto been blowing strongly began to fail us and consequently we made only slow progress ; about 9 o'clock
the wind dropped altogether and as the current was against
us we dropped anchor in the middle of the channel which
was as unruffled as a mirror. Both banks were low, rocky
and covered with dwarf pines and similar trees, but to our
right, looking across the flat island, we could see in the
distance the snow-covered mountains of the Stikeen
territory towering to the sky, and despite the showery
140 ■NU
WVH^t*^-   ETi   Ig68
weather we could pick out with the naked eye their fields
of ice.
At io o'clock the tide turned and ran northward so,
resuming our journey, we were carried slowly forward by
it. Numerous flocks of wild ducks and smaller water-
birds covered the low banks of the small bays which
extended on either side, and they often let us come
quite close before they flew away
uttering harsh cries. One of the
sailors shot a very fine specimen of
a wild duck which was brought on
board by one of our dogs. It was
the first time that this animal,
which we had taken with us
primarily for hunting purposes, had brought us anything
at all though we had taken a lot of trouble with him ;
and as if he wished to maintain his bad reputation, he
devoured next day our last ham, which rather carelessly
was being got ready for cooking on deck.
Directly afterwards we heard some little way behind us
many shots which at first we took to be the echo of those
we had fired, until we were undeceived by the appearance
of a canoe in the distance. As the firing by the Indians
made us somewhat apprehensive and we did not wish to
be overtaken by them in the narrow channel, we paid no
attention to the shots which signalled to us to stop, but
attempted to get out of range of them. But the wind was so
light that the canoe paddled by five Indians soon overtook
us and was alongside almost before we realised it. They
were Stikeen Indians, who were evidently on a hunting
expedition and wanted to sell skins to us. As we desired
to keep on friendly terms with them we made a deal, and
for a sack of flour and some powder and shot the sailors
got five mink and one sable skin, which was certainly worth
double what they gave for them. There was one curious
thing—in the canoe we saw a small girl about ten years
old with beautiful black hair and eyes and a remarkably
fair complexion, who particularly attracted our attention,
141 She was very pleased when we gave her a few ship's biscuits
and some apples (a delicacy greatly prized by the natives
who have very little fruit). We had the impression that
the little creature was of white parentage, and as slavery
is customary in all the tribes along the coast, it was not
impossible that the child had been kidnapped. Unfortunately it was not in our power to investigate the matter,
since the neighbourhood of the Stikeen Indians was by no
means agreeable to us, and we were only able to get rid of
our visitors by promising them through Charley's intervention to wait at that place for their fellow tribesmen who
could not be far away. But their canoe had hardly passed
behind the next spit of land than we had spread every
scrap of canvas in order to get out of their reach as quickly
as possible.
In great anxiety we approached the exit from the channel
as the fairway was so shallow that the plummet showed a
depth of scarcely ten feet. We were particularly afraid that
our craft might not be able to cross the mouth of the
channel into the Sound as it might be entirely silted up,
and that we should consequently be compelled to retrace
the whole of the route which we had covered that day and
run the gauntlet of the Stikeen Indians who were certainly
trying to overtake us.
Shortly before 3 o'clock, looking ahead over the bank
which was covered with low bushes we saw the broad,
dark-green surface of Frederick Sound, whose white foaming
waves we could clearly see on the opposite shore and were
a sign of a strong wind. But even yet the exit from the
channel might be barred. We looked expectantly at the
captain whose plummet showed that the water was getting
shallower every minute. Finally it marked only one
fathom, and a few minutes later we should have had to
give up in sight of the open sound. Fortunately we had
passed the shallowest part of the channel and we joyfully
greeted the sight of Frederick Sound, that stretched out
before us like a vast sea between two low tongues of land,
rising only a few feet above the surface of the deep.
Frederick Sound is a stretch of water extending from
south-west to north-east ; it is bounded on the west by
Baranoff Island (on which Sitka is situated) on the east
by the mainland and on the south and north by the two large
islands known as Admiralty and Kuprianoff Islands, the
former of which rises to a considerable height. The
Sound is connected with the open sea on the soutfy-west,
whilst at its north-easterly and north-westerly corners,
which are formed in the one case by Cape Fanshaw and in
the other by Cape Fairweather, the Stephen Channel and
Christian Sound form its two northern outlets ; and at
its extreme end the Tacon and Chilcaht Rivers flow into it.
In order to reach Sitka which is situated in the most
northerly part of Christian Sound (called the Chatham
Straits) we were bound to take a south-westerly course
and get off Cape Fairweather before we could continue
to the north. We decided to sail along the coast of Kuprianoff Island, so as to be sheltered from the south-east wind,
which was blowing with great violence across the Sound,
and to escape being driven by it against the unusually
steep and rocky northern shores of the sound formed by
Admiralty Island, which like a gigantic granite wall rose
almost perpendicularly from the sea. There was a wonderful view of a field of ice set between colossal masses of rock
not far from Cape Fanshaw ; it was no doubt a frozen river
whose many windings could be clearly followed up into the
mountains.    The summits of the mountains and all the
143 gorges were glittering with eternal snow, whilst the bare
rocks of which the lower slopes were mostly formed were
tinged with blue. And as the reflection of the setting
sun gave to the whole range a crimson hue, even our rough
sailors were filled with admiration. Long after the shades
of night had covered the lower stretches and only the very
summits were coloured a faint violet, I stood on deck to
watch the wondrous spectacle.
We did not make much progress that evening. It may
have been that the nearness of the shore robbed us of the
wind, but towards 7 o'clock every breath of air ceased and
we began to look for an anchorage. An island close to the
shore seemed likely to afford this, but in order to reach it
we had to row for three long hours—so difficult was it to
make our way in a sea which was rough, though the wind
had dropped, and against the tide. Though we needed
two men for the oars, one of the sailors was asleep in the
cabin owing to the effect of too much rum during the day ;
so I offered my help, and I remember well how anxiously
we watched the rocks on the neighbouring shore to see if
we made any progress at all, and if so how much. They
were three very trying hours that we spent at the heavy
oars, and only the thought of being overtaken by night
whilst still out in the open sound and of being driven on
shore in the darkness gave us the strength which we needed
to reach the shelter of the bay. When we got there it was
very dark, and we lay down to sleep feeling most resentful
against the captain whose drunken state had left the
passengers to take charge of the vessel.
Favoured with a strong south-west breeze we left Island
Point, as we called the anchorage, early next morning,
and in order to get away from the area in which the coast
shut off the wind from us we sailed some six miles further
out from it. About 9 o'clock the wind began to rise and in
the course of the next hour became so boisterous that we
were forced to take a reef in the main-sail. In a remarkably
short time the sea Tose dangerously high and its billows
striking us broadside on often swept over the deck and even
144 penetrated into the hold. With dull thud wave after wave
beat against the side of the ship and splashed in streams over
our helpless vessel. The situation began to make us very
apprehensive as we did not know how long the deck, which
was not a very strong one, could withstand the violent
onslaught of the sea, and we made every effort, even putting
out the oars, heavy as they were to handle in the rough
water, in order to reach once more the shelter of the
coast from which we had now been driven a good long way.
Though tossed about unmercifully we had towards
11 o'clock the satisfaction of seeing that we were getting
nearer to the coast, though our progress was very slow,
and that the sea was becoming less rough ; though further
out in the Sound the surface of the water was a mass of
white foam, which was conclusive evidence of the increasing
violence of the storm.
Shortly after this, when we must have been some three
miles distant from the shore, our pilot, who was looking
anxiously for a bay, saw rising above the trees on the shore
a column of smoke which must come from an Indian
settlement, and soon we noticed a
canoe making towards us from the
shore. There must have been some
very strong reason for the Indians to
put out in such a sea ; the small craft
which carried a single sail sometimes
disappeared entirely behind a towering
wave and the next moment reappeared
suddenly on its crest. But it kept its
course despite wind and waves and
came rapidly towards us. The canoe
was manned by four Kaigh Indians ;
at their request we threw them  a E*T-l868
rope so that they could keep near us. The purpose of their
visit seemed to be to induce us to anchor near their settlement; but when we explained to them that it was
not possible for us to get to the shore at this point,
and   asked   about   a   bay   lying   further   to   the   west,
145 they seemed to become unfriendly and flatly refused
to give us the information which we desired. After a
short consultation they cast off the rope and turned back
towards their settlement. A little later we observed
to our surprise that another small canoe steering along the
shore seemed to have us under observation, and when,
at last, after many fruitless attempts to gain the shore, we
reached about noon a fairly well-sheltered bay, this canoe
which had followed our movements closely was already
quite near to us.
Whilst the two sailors made use of the half-day off to
which they were entitled to put the ship in order after the
battering she had received during the morning, and
especially to mend the sail which was badly torn and almost
in rags, we passengers went on shore with our pilot, making
use of the canoe which despite the storm had so far proved
to be completely seaworthy, in order to get water and firewood. Then we encountered two Indians carrying guns
who, interpreted by Charley, told us that if we would
supply them with powder and shot they would procure
us a supply of game.
As we were very glad to have some change from our everlasting salt meat, we gave them what they asked and in a
moment both of them had disappeared behind the nearest
Four long hours passed without our seeing or hearing
anything of them, and we began to think that the natives
had regarded the ammunition we had supplied as a gift
and had left us for ever—possibly they had returned to their
silence of Nature. Behind us a dense wood of cedars
enclosed the sandy crescent-shaped bay into whose centre a
clear mountain stream flowed over the clean shingle.
Directly in front of us, some hundred paces distant, but
inside the shelter of two tongues of land which stretched
far out, our vessel rose and fell on the clear water and
further out still, where our view was bounded by the open
sound,  there  rolled  unceasingly the
146 waves. It was a wonderful but solemn sight, and involuntarily we also grew serious as we thought on the dangers
through which we had passed and those which were still
to come.
At odds with our sailors, on whose reliability we depended
for our very lives, we were here in the lonely wilderness
without a guide and entirely at the mercy of these ignoble
wretches. What guarantee had we that they would not
at any moment abandon us to our fate and, from fear lest
they should be made to answer for their fraud, desert
and make off in the ship with our arms and supplies and
indeed with everything we possessed. Without any provisions, on a lonely coast very seldom visited by white men,
and exposed to the rapacity of the Indians our position would
not have been at all enviable, and although I myself had
always with me my revolver and some money the latter
would have been of very little use to us among the Indians.
As if he had guessed our thoughts the interpreter, who
kept more with us than with the seamen since they treated
him so badly, began to talk about the dangerous and
treacherous character of the Kaigh Indians, who had a bad
reputation all along the coast. Only in the previous
year they had wrecked a steamer after a quarrel with its
crew, killed everyone on board and burnt the ship, after
plundering it completely, so that there was nothing left
to reveal the crime they had committed. Unfortunately
the Indians kept the matter secret and it had not been
punished as yet, since at the time it took place the ownership of the territory was being changed and the American
officials were only just beginning to take possession of it.
Whilst we were sitting on the bank, oppressed by these
disquieting thoughts, suddenly two shots rang out in
succession in the wood near by and before long the two
Indians who we so unjustly thought had played us false,
came towards us and with delight at their achievement
showed us their booty, two fine hazel-hens.
The greed of the Indians and the meanness which they
display in their dealings with the white men was once
147 K2 more brought to our notice on this occasion. We had
given the two Kaigh Indians at their request a considerable
supply of powder and shot for their hunting and we expected
that the game which they obtained would be handed over
to us without further payment. The Indians thought
quite differently. As is usual with all the Redskins they
had been extremely sparing with their ammunition and
had fired only when quite sure of their prey, and so they
had kept the greater part of what we had given them
intact and yet now demanded also full payment for the
two birds. Though this consisted only of pipes and
tobacco it was a comparatively high price.
At nightfall the two Kaighs went away, assuring us that
they would return the next morning and bring their fellow
tribesmen with them. As the proximity of these Indians
caused us some anxiety we decided not only to keep a good
watch but to resume our journey next morning if possible
at dawn, without waiting for them to appear. Charley,
who did not seem in good spirits, now explained that he
associated the somewhat repellent appearance of the elder
of the two Indians with a plundering raid towards the
south which had recently taken place. It was difficult
to tell whether he was giving play to his imagination, but
certainly that Indian with his strongly-marked features,
close cut hair which stood up like a bush, and his deep sunk,
shifty eyes seemed capable of any sort of crime.
We must have made a very early start the next day, as
when I woke up at 7 o'clock, being very tired from my
night watch, I already heard the heavy thud of the waves
as they beat against our craft. The movement was so
violent that it was only with great difficulty that I could
extricate my outer garments (we never removed our undergarments during the journey) from the chaos in the cabin.
Going on deck I was met by a violent south-east wind that
blew in great gusts.    Clouds torn to ribands swept across
148 the horizon, showers of rain and hail were interspersed with
brief periods of sunshine. The sea was violently agitated,
some threatening whitecaps already appeared on the crests
of the high waves, sure signs of an approaching storm.
We had left Kuprianoff and our anchorage far behind us ;
Cape Fairweather, which marks the entrance to the
northern part of Christian Sound, was already in sight and
to our left the ridges of the high ranges of Baranoff Island
showed themselves on the horizon.
With a steadily-increasing wind we passed at 9 o'clock
the cape, recognisable by some rocks, detached from the
coast and rising perpendicularly out of the sea, and found
ourselves in the Sound, which was only some 6-8 miles wide
and stretched straight away to the north ; its two rocky
banks rising like steep mountains enclosed it, as it were, within
natural walls. We had to follow this as far as the " Peril
Straits," which branched off in a northerly direction at a
distance of about 40 miles, and could hope to cover this
stretch long before nightfall.
We had indeed hoped that inside the comparatively-
narrow channel the water would be smoother than in the
much broader Frederick Sound which we had previously
crossed, but were sadly disappointed. The strong southeast wind that came from the open sea must have been
blowing here violently for several days, for the form and
size of the waves that rolled in the Sound clearly indicated
that they had swept in direct from the ocean in unbroken
succession between the Kuprianoff and Baranoff Islands.
But whilst the violence of the wind was driving the waves
into the Sound, they met at the entrance with the seaward
current of the falling tide and the cross-currents were so
strong that we would gladly have abandoned the attempt
to go on had it been possible to turn back. But the wind
now rising to a storm swept us forward so that only one
direction was practicable for us ; happily it coincided with
our proper course, for tacking was out of the question.
Our sailors themselves seemed to think we were in grave
danger, for a thunderstorm rising and sweeping after us
149 with great rapidity foretold a more violent tempest. All
our sails were furled as quickly as possible except a small
three-cornered section of the mainsail ; it was only by
exerting all his strength that the steersman managed to
keep the vessel to her course. The captain, who seemed
completely unnerved, was stationed at the bow holding on
to the mast and with an axe in his hand, often enveloped by
the sweeping waves but ready, should the mast or yard-arm
snap, to cut it loose so as to free the ship from the wreckage,
but ready also, should the worst come to the worst, to look
after his own safety first, as he had done on the previous
occasion. I was the only passenger to keep near the steersman, by holding on to the hatchway of the cabin, and was
often in danger of being swept away by the torrents that
dashed over the ship. Wave after wave towered up,
the same threatening monsters that we remembered only
too well encountering near Cape Fox. The canoe which
we had in tow was violently tossed about and sometimes
disappeared entirely from our sight ; half-full of water
it seemed likely to sink and only the idea that it might
conceivably prove a means of safety in case of shipwreck
kept us from cutting the tow-rope which caused it to act
as a drag on us.
I had gone down to the cabin to see my comrades in
danger, who were in great trepidation, when suddenly the
companion-way to the deck was closed from outside and a
number of heavy blows on it made it clear that we had been
put under lock and key by the sailors.
In vain did we beg and pray and threaten the relentless
fellows to let us out ; in vain we hurled ourselves with all
our strength against the hatch to force an exit. The oak
planks were too strong ; they withstood even the attack of
desperate men. It was no use, and we had to submit to the
inevitable. Then all at once the tempest broke over the
boat ; whipped by the storm, mingled rain and hail rattled
furiously on the deck and even in our prison we could
hear the shrill whistling of the wind through the rigging.
Our craft heeled over now to one side now to the other ;
150 sometimes it seemed to sweep straight down into the depths,
sometimes to rise as sharply from them. Under the
pressure of the rudder the weather-beaten timber of the
ship strained and groaned against the raging sea, and it
seemed as if at last, weary of the unequal contest, they
would go to pieces. And every time the mountainous
waves swept over our poor craft and made it tremble in
every joint we thought our last hour had surely come.
This unequal struggle with the violence of the elements
lasted a full hour. In the darkness of the cabin I could
hardly distinguish the faces of my companions ; they were
all deadly pale, sometimes resigned, sometimes indifferent,
sometimes following every movement of the ship with
straining eyes and faces distorted by fear. The worst case
seemed to be that of the Jewish trader ; every day since our
departure from Victoria he had shown an increasing nervous
irritability, which whenever the slightest danger threatened
changed to a state bordering on madness. During the
previous days, when the weather was growing worse, his
behaviour had been most unpleasant for the rest of us, but
we had at least been able to avoid him as he kept in the
cabin ; but now we were shut up with the madman in a
confined space and compelled to listen to his despairing
outbreaks. His features were no longer those of a human
being ; his eyes rolled wildly and seemed to be starting from
their sockets ; a white foam gathered on his lips ; he dug
his nails deep into the woodwork of the deck to which he
clung in terror. It was useless for us to talk to him, every
movement of the ship served to excite him more and more ;
he had become a wild beast, and finally sank unconscious
on the floor of the cabin.
The Indian was altogether different ; he sat as usual,
only looking from time to time with a pitying smile at the
Jew, and had it not been for an occasional remark of" Hayuh
Pask " (" Much wind "), we should hardly have been aware
of his presence. The rest of us seized a chance when the
ship, which had been heeling well over on her side, righted
herself a little, to open a small porthole, which was closed
151 by a wooden shutter, and to take a swift survey of our
position. At the moment we were running quite near the
shore, which lay to our left but was so steep and rocky as to
preclude all hope of a landing there. Shortly before
noon during one of these observations, often interrupted
by a sudden dash of water against the porthole, we saw at
a distance in front of us a spit of land stretching well out
to sea. The surf was beating against it so violently that
it was only visible every now and then between the white
spray. Our sailors evidently meant to seek shelter behind
it if they could. If they succeeded we should be safe,
but if we were driven by the violence of the storm against
the projecting rocks we should inevitably perish.
The waves, whose violence was increased by the reefs on
which they broke, raged with terrific fury ; great masses of
water thundered over the deck. On one occasion our
vessel was so buried in the water that suddenly every movement ceased, every noise from outside was silenced, and it
seemed as though sinking deeper and deeper in the
merciless sea we should find an unmarked and watery grave
far from our native land.
These were moments which could never be forgotten
by those who had lived through them—it is true they
were but moments, but they seemed to last for an eternity.
Suddenly there was a jerk, a quiver of the oaken planks,
and swept forward mightily by a fresh wave our gallant
vessel righted itself again. How reassuring it was to feel
once again the movement of the boat and the pressure of
the rudder ; even the crashing of the waves and the
howling of the wind were greeted with delight, for they
told us that we were still alive, that we had escaped the
death-like silence of the deep even if we were not yet safe.
And now our ordeal was at an end. After a few minutes
we must have rounded the promontory, for all at once the
sea became calmer, we heard the hatchway that confined
us being opened from outside and with cries of delight we
rushed out into the open air. Words fail me to describe
the rapture we felt at finding ourselves safe within a bay
192 sheltered against wind and weather ; suffice it to say that
weeping with joy we fell on each others' necks, and congratulated ourselves on our marvellous escape.
When the excitement over our experiences of the morning
had abated to some extent there arose a violent dispute
between ourselves and our two seamen, whom we reproached
for their inconsiderate behaviour in confining us to the
cabin. Their excuse that our safety was due to their action
and that we should have been in their way on deck was
naturally not good enough for us, and although the steersman in particular (who had fastened himself to the rudder
with a rope) had shown great courage and resource during
the storm, we knew only too well that he would not have
done anything for us had not his own safety depended on
his handling of the ship. So the relations between
passengers and crew became still more strained.
A mid-day meal which had meanwhile been prepared
and was particularly tempting because it included the two
hazel-hens helped to calm us down, and as we had had
nothing to eat since the previous evening it was thoroughly
enjoyed. The next problem was, of course, to find out
exactly where we were. So far as we could see from the
boat we were at the entrance to a bay which stretched
far inland and was cut off from the sound by a number of
islands, but it was quite possible that it was really a channel
running to the open sea.
Our sailors thought that we were at the entrance to
Peril Straits, which led to Sitka, and their opinion appeared
to be confirmed by our map, as the entrance to the
Straits, as shown on it agreed fairly well with our surroundings. The general position, the width of the estuary,
the small islands, all seemed to justify this assumption.
Certainly we did find a small bay marked on the chart
about twelve miles south of the passage, but its shape and
depth did not seem to tally in the least with our position,
153 and it was so difficult to estimate the distance we had
traversed in our wild rush during the morning that it did
not seem impossible for us to have sailed eight to nine
miles an hour during the storm—a speed that would have
enabled us to reach the passage, which was about 60 miles
from Kuprianoff Island.
As soon as the draggled state of our sails permitted we
started on our course at 2 o'clock, steering westward
towards the land and keeping close to the northern bank.
With the help of a gentle breeze we sailed along the clear
and almost motionless water, but the further we went
the narrower became the channel and after half-an-hour we
found ourselves opposite the sandy estuary of a little
river where there was no sign of a passage. One of the
sailors went in the canoe with the Indian to reconnoitre,
but soon came back to report that there was no passage
of any kind. The hills which rose to a thousand feet on
three sides of us seemed also to bar our progress. We
must have missed the passage, and we remembered that
during our course we had noticed on our left hand two
channels that branched off more to the south—these
must lead into the main channel. So we had to make our
way back against wind and stream to our first starting point,
which we reached after a toilsome three hours' cruise
at 6 o'clock in the evening. Within the shelter of a quite
small natural harbour which offered just room for our
craft we dropped anchor for the night, giving up all idea
of going further. But a reconnaissance made by the
Indian resulted in finding again the two channels which
branched off at a short distance from the bay.
Very early next morning we were again under sail,
testing the various channels one by one, always hopeful
that we had discovered the passage we were seeking, only
after wearisome tacking and rowing to find ourselves
once again shut in by the land. From the main bay there
branched off a number of arms of the sea which, sometimes broad and sometimes narrow, were enclosed by high
mountain ranges of bare rocks covered on the western
154 side with snow, and into which there flowed streams fed
from the field of snow. In vain did the scenery offer
much of interest, in vain from time to time we heard
avalanches rolling down the gorge-like rifts in the mountains
and re-echoed from the neighbouring heights until at last
they sounded fainter and fainter like shots in the lowest
depths of the valleys. Even the sight of a bear within range
at the edge of a snow field failed to arouse us from the
depression caused by our disappointment. Slowly the
beast crawled away, standing out like a black ball on the
white surface, and disappeared behind some stunted
bushes that clung to the mountain side.
Utterly discouraged we returned at 8 o'clock in the
evening after many hours of futile cruising to our starting
point at the entrance to the bay. After a three weeks'
journey, after all the dangers we had succeeded in overcoming, after great privations and despite pilot, compass
and chart we had completely lost the way. If we were
really off Baranoff Island, Sitka could be hardly 20 miles
away from us in a straight line, but how were we to get
there if we could not find the passage ? How could we
cross the mountains which separated us from our destination ? The more we thought about our position the more
hopeless it seemed and we began to wonder whether the
passage we sought existed any longer or had been closed
by some convulsion of Nature since our chart was made.
But the mountain ranges that enclosed us seemed so
primaeval and weathered, as if they had seen the storms
of centuries beat on their stubborn rocky slopes, and the
Peril Straits were so clearly marked on the chart as a
channel between Baranoff and Chicagos Islands, that finally
we came to the conclusion that we had overlooked the
entrance during the storm of the preceding day and had
passed by it.
In the course of the day we had repeatedly fired shots in
order to attract any Indians who might be in the neighbourhood, since in our helpless condition any information
even from the Indians would have been welcome.    The
1 reports, though repeated far and wide by the echo, died
away each time without bringing any response and we were
forced to conclude that no human beings were anywhere
near the bay. So we were all the more pleased when
almost before our boat came to anchor in the shelter of the
little island a canoe came in sight, apparently steering
towards us. The wild-looking Indians on it, who were
unusually big and strongly built, came alongside, and with
Charley acting as interpreter we entered into a parley
with them from which we learned that they were Chuznus
and had been attracted by our shots. Sitka, about which we
naturally asked most eagerly, lay to the west (indicated by
the setting sun) : only the passage thither was not at this
point but some ten miles further to the north. If the wind
were favourable we could get there in two days ; to indicate
the length of the journey they pointed twice to the course
of the sun. When it disappeared for the second time
behind the mountains Sitka would not be far away.
Naturally we tried to engage one of them immediately
as pilot, but they rejected the proposal, excusing themselves
by saying that they must communicate with their fellow
tribesmen who were camping some distance away on the
sound. Persuasion was useless, but a substantial present
induced them to promise to bring us an answer on the
following morning. Soon the canoe and its crew disappeared behind the nearest spit of land.
During the day we had given vent to our grievances by
frequent complaints against our sailors, to whose false
statements about their knowledge of the whole route we
owed our present plight. Whether because of these
repeated complaints or because of their own annoyance at
the length of the journey, anyhow the mutual recriminations became more and more violent and on that night
ended in an open quarrel. We passengers, who had no
desire to cruise around for weeks in uncertainty in this
wilderness, announced our intention not to move from our
present position without engaging one of the Chuznus as a
pilot.   The sailors protested against this on the ground that
156 they had already engaged one pilot (the Tongass Indian)
and were unwilling to pay for a second. Even when we
announced that we were prepared to pay the pilot ourselves
they asserted that they would not allow a second Indian to
come on board, and finally they declared their intention of
sailing away the next morning without awaiting the
arrival of the Chuznus. We could not tolerate their
behaviour any longer. We were absolutely determined to
prevent by force the resumption of the journey, and if
necessary even to compel the two seamen to leave the boat
and to take charge of her ourselves with the help of the
Indians. If it came to a fight we were the stronger party,
since there were four passengers—all of us armed—and
the Indian pilot would certainly have joined us against the
men who had treated him so badly.
This was the position of affairs when about 10 o'clock we
sought our rough couch. We quickly took off our outer
garments and wrapped our blankets around us as well as
we could, and used as we were to our humble quarters
soon fell asleep one after another.
I alone sought sleep in vain ; no doubt the excitement
caused by the quarrel and the prospect of further unpleasantness next day kept me awake. I lay with half-closed eyes,
looking in the dim light of the lantern across my sleeping
companions towards the hatchway. The fire in our small
stove was almost out, but from time to time an unburned
fragment of wood flared up suddenly and for a moment
faintly illuminated the interior of our humble cabin.
Overhead there was heard occasionally the footsteps of the
watch and the whining of the dogs. The weather must
have been terrible, for the watch came in dripping with
rain and half-melted snow to get a light for his pipe, with
the help of which he was trying to pass the weary hours.
I asked him the time. It was 10 o'clock. He could
scarcely have got back on deck when suddenly the dogs
157 began to bark loudly. Before I could ask myself what was
happening the watch rushed down breathless, shouting,
" Get up, canoes in sight ! " We started up in a flash ;
the appearance of Indians at such an hour must be with
hostile intent—an attack was undoubtedly intended !
Throwing on our clothes and snatching up our weapons,
which fortunately were ready loaded, we tried to get on
deck, meaning to sell our lives as dearly as possible. There
were six of us, all armed with revolvers, the two sailors had
their guns also and in presence of a common danger all
internal quarrels were forgotten.
But the Indians had forestalled us ; they must have crept
close up to the boat before the alarm was given, as before we
could get on deck the steersman, who was trying to bar the
entrance to the cabin against them, was driven back into it
and with him a crowd of Indians broke into the narrow
hold. We had just time to fall back behind our principal
luggage, which was piled up in the centre of the cabin
like a barricade, so that if there was a fight we might keep
together. The end of the cabin near the companion was
quickly crowded with Indians ; ten were inside it and how
many more there were on deck we could not tell, but it
seemed to be thronged up to the hatchway and we reckoned
the total number of natives to be at least eighteen, as a
third canoe must have followed close on the heels of the
first two.
Between us and the Indians who stared at us with
glittering eyes sat our pilot as if on thorns. He seemed
disinclined to side with either party and to want to keep
neutral, at any rate to begin with. From time to time he
looked longingly at the entrance, but it was useless to think
of escape. An ominous silence prevailed in the little
cabin, broken only now and then by subdued whispers.
The dim lantern cast a meagre light on our surroundings
and made the dark faces of our uninvited guests still darker
than they usually were. Some of them had even blacked
their faces, covered their foreheads and cheeks with red
lines, and given themselves a diabolical appearance.   Apart
158 from one old Indian who seemed to be their chief, they
were mostly young men in their prime. They carried no
weapons, or if they had any they were concealed under the
broad folds of their blankets. In the foremost row we
noticed one of the two Indians who had visited us during
the evening, but he behaved now as if he did not want to
know us and seemed to be telling the chief, who was distinguished by the way his hair was coiled, about our first
encounter, as he kept pointing at us.
The position became more and more intolerable. We
would gladly have commenced to parley but could not
induce the interpreter to open a conversation with the
Chuznus. Our steersman, who had the most experience
in dealing with the Indians, bade us above everything to
give no sign of our uneasiness with regard to the natives :
" Be ready to use your weapons at a moment's notice, but
don't show the Indians that you distrust them. If they
once make up their minds to attack us that will only have the
effect of putting them on their guard without abandoning
their intention. The Indians are remarkably quick in
reading from their enemies' faces courage or fear." Then
he stepped forward, bowed to the chief and said to him a
few phrases in Chinook, which, of course, were not understood, and then handed to him a small clay pipe and some
tobacco as a token of friendliness. The little gift, combined with the bold demeanour of the donor, had the
desired effect. The eyes of the old man brightened at once ;
the pipe was passed from hand to hand and its contents
tried by each. The faces of the old chief's followers
quickly became more friendly. Then they appeared to
hold a consultation the result of which the chief told our
Indian interpreter. The latter, who had behaved at first
as if he did not understand the Chuznu language at all,
now translated a long speech quite fluently. The substance
of it was that the chief thanked us for the present of the
pipe and asked for gifts for the other Indians who
were all " Closh turn turn" ("friendly disposed")
towards us.
159 We were so delighted at the pacific outcome of our
adventure that we were quite ready to bestow further
gifts, and the next half-hour was taken up with the distribution of pipes, tobacco, matches, syrup, ship's biscuits,
apples, etc., on a scale which, in our circumstances, was
quite extravagant. The Indians changed places until
all had taken their turn. Amongst the last comers was a
young and quite good-looking squaw, carrying on her back
a papoose who from his primitive cradle gazed out wonder-
ingly on a world which was still so new
to him, and for whom his proud
mother demanded tribute. Only the
flat, expressionless face of the little
creature could be seen ; his body
was hidden in a cradle consisting of
a cushion on a board about three
feet long and rounded at the top,
with a deerskin bound over it by
leather straps. It was amusing to
see how the Jewish dealer, who had been greatly agitated
by the sudden appearance of the Indians, now sought to
curry favour with them. With hands still trembling with
fright he prepared some coffee and distributed it among
them with a lavish helping of sugar (of which the Indians
are very fond) ; he surpassed himself in friendly speeches
to the natives, which were quite unintelligible to them, and
even tried by small attentions to the baby to get into the
good graces of the mother.
So far all was well ; we were on the best possible terms
with our guests, who voluntarily promised us a pilot to
Sitka ; and now we wished for nothing better than to bid
them farewell, for it was getting late and the Indians gave
no sign of departure though they could have nothing against
us on the score of generosity.
However much we urged our interpreter to convey to
them our wish to be left alone and even to promise more
gifts next morning, however much we tried to make them
understand by signs that we were very tired and needed
160 '
rest, the Indians were importunate as usual and would not
move. Either Charley had not the courage to tell them to
go away or believed that he would offend them if he did so,
or the Indians found themselves far too comfortable by the
glowing stove ; in any event our desire had no effect. We
were beginning again to be uncomfortable as to what was
their real purpose, although the sailor declared that the
presence of the squaw and the child was a sure indication
that they were friendly disposed. It was past II o'clock
before the old chief, who must have seen that his people
were not likely to get anything more
out of us, gave the signal for departure,
and to our great relief the whole party
got up. Following them on deck we
saw them go in three large canoes to a
little island only a few yards distant
from us, and land there directly
opposite our boat. Soon a great fire
was crackling on the shore ; the Indians
began to lie down around it and soon
they all seemed to have fallen fast
asleep. A log or a bundle of brushwood
thrown from time to time on the fire showed us, however, that
we were not going to be let out of sight and warned us of the
need for a good look-out, which was maintained all night
despite the appallingly cold and wet weather. The nearness
of the Indians was disquieting to us all, and as not one of us
got much sleep that night the first glimmer of dawn was hailed
with delight by all. During the night it snowed heavily,
and at 5 o'clock in the morning our deck was covered with
snow a foot deep and the shores around us were hidden by
a white mantle, and though it was the middle of May they
looked as if it were mid-winter.
Our Indian friends did not keep us waiting long. We had
scarcely appeared on deck when their canoes left the bank
and came across to us. Consequently the sailors had no
opportunity to carry out their threat of the previous day,
and with Charley as interpreter we  began  at  once  to
J.61 negotiate for a pilot. After endless discussions and many
difficulties the old chief, Takuschki by name, said that
he was prepared to give us as a pilot his son, a very intelligent
but extremely ugly youth of 16 or 17, for a payment of
ten dollars to be made at Sitka. At the request of Takuschki
who seemed, unlike most other Indians, to know something
about monetary affairs and who repeatedly asked us for a
" paper," we gave him a kind of agreement which he took
with a satisfied smile, wrapped in a piece of deerskin and
hid under his dirty robe. In this way the business, which
to us was the most important of all, was satisfactorily settled,
and we could now give our undivided attention to our
In bright daylight they appeared by no means so formidable as we had thought when they surprised us on the
previous night. Certainly so far as physical strength went
they would have been foes not to be despised, but their
conduct generally convinced us now that they were quite
friendly and there was absolutely no reason to be afraid of
them. A quite lively barter took place between them and
the sailors who made many cheap purchases from the
Indians' large stock of bear, otter, sable, mink, bear and
seal skins.
Whilst they were bargaining with the grasping natives,
who were very acute in trade matters, about the price of a
skin, I occupied myself in sketching the chief personages
amongst our visitors and particularly the old and very astute
chief and his squaw. I had nearly finished when all at once
one of the Indians noticed what I was doing. The friendly
looks of the chief grew hostile and there was general excitement amongst the others ; in a fright our interpreter
begged me to stop the " picture-making," as the Chuznus
were annoyed by it. I found out later from our new pilot
that the Indians whom I had sketched were greatly exercised
and thought that if I took their portraits I should have some
power over them in the future. Fortunately it occurred
to me that by tearing up some pieces of paper I could
make them believe that I had destroyed their pictures ;
162 of wind.
KESTE.    E.T. 1868
us the Indians, old
this little trick was so successful that the " entente cordiale "
between us was completely restored.
About 9 o'clock we were prepared to start, although
there was a thick mist over the bay and complete absence
Keste, as our new pilot was named, bade farewell
to his kinsmen, was provided by his
father with a bright shirt made out
of the coloured ends of blankets which
the old man touchingly exchanged for
his son's torn cotton shirt, and joined
us on our vessel. A tanned deerskin for a couch and a piece of
smoked fish by way of provisions
constituted the whole equipment
of this untutored child of nature.
The sails were unfurled and the
oars put out ; a rope was thrown to
the three canoes and at a signal from
and young, seized their paddles and
amidst loud cries, partly by towing and partly by rowing,
the strange flotilla moved forward towards the open Sound.
As there was still a complete absence of wind we made
slow progress, despite the noisy help of the Chuznus, and
it was 11 o'clock before we reached the mouth of the bay.
At that time the mist which had hitherto enveloped us
dissolved, the sun shone out brightly and a fresh breeze
coming from the sound swept the mist more and more
inland and soon filled our swelling sails. The Chuznus
left us at this point, with loud cries and many gestures of
farewell, and turned their course towards the settlement,
whose position on the southern shore of the bay we could
distinguish by the pillars of smoke rising straight up in the
Thus the supposed attack ended harmlessly. Whether
the Indians when they saw the strength of our party changed
their minds, or whether they were friendly disposed from
the first remained uncertain, but their sudden visit "so late
at night was bound to make us suspicious, since owing to
163 L2 the position of their settlement they must have seen us
from the moment we entered the bay, and possibly had
followed us unnoticed for some time.
In gorgeous sunshine we sailed cheerfully along the
Sound, keeping Baranoff about four miles to our left. The
fine clear weather seemed to have brought the Indian
fishermen out from their settlements, since we met a number
of small canoes, mostly with only two Indians in each,
gliding over the gently-rippling water and dragging their
fishing-fines—made of gut—behind them. Some came
quite close and asked for tobacco ; they were engaged in
halibut fishing, as was shown by the wooden hooks 8-10
inches long which they carried in the canoes. How
different it was on the Sound now than on the day of our
arrival ; then the angry elements were in conflict with
almost despairing men, now all nature was peaceful and
The nearer we approached the northern end of Baranoff
Island the lower were its banks which, however, were thickly
wooded to the water's edge. On the opposite side the coast
of Admiralty Island rose to a considerable height, and,
despite the distance, we could see its snowy peaks and
projecting masses of rock rising out of the blue mist and
glittering like silver in the sunshine.
After a three hours' journey Keste pointed out the
entrance to Peril Strait, which certainly resembled closely
the bay we had left twelve miles behind us. Though the
two banks were somewhat lower, and the width of the
entrance perhaps rather greater, nevertheless the outline
of the coast, the small islands lying in front and the general
direction were in the two cases almost identical. An
Indian village was evidently close by, for a number of poles
set up on one of the islands, decked with wisps of straw,
and the canoes hung between the trees (each marking the
last resting-place of its owner) denoted a burial place, as
164 the  coast   Indians  prefer  to  have  their  cemeteries  on
uninhabited, isolated and rocky islands.
A short time only elapsed and the inevitable canoe
appeared. Its steersman waved a fragment of white cloth,
and with the help of a torn sail came up to us. He was an
old, grey-haired man very ragged and dirty, but with
great dignity he handed to us a number of yellow and almost
illegible documents which he produced wrapped in a piece
of leather from under his grimy blanket. From what he
said to our pilot it appeared that these papers were evidence
of his qualifications to pilot us through the passage, but
we found that they contained little in the way of praise
of their holder—even if they related to him at all. They
consisted mainly of reports, short notices and extracts
from the logs of ships bound for the north, some of remote
dates in which the reader was asked to give news and
greetings from people who had perhaps long been dead to
their friends in the south. Others contained information
about dangerous reefs and shallows, warnings about the
Chuznu Indians in the neighbourhood, and even an amusing
verse about the pilot himself, which ran as follows :—
" This Indian is a rascal
Who committed many sins,
But although you may mistrust him
You will find him to have good skins."
As we already had two pilots we declined his services
in spite of all \M " papers," but gave him some biscuits
which pleased him very much and with which he went off
in his worm-eaten, half waterlogged canoe. More interesting than anything else was his report that a two-masted
ship en route for Sitka had passed through the Straits
seven days before, and had taken a Chuznu as pilot. From
his description it must have been Frank's schooner, The
Sweepstakes, on which our former companions had taken a
passage from Fort Wrangel. During the afternoon we
passed a fleet of Chuznu canoes all engaged in halibut
fishing. Some of their occupants wore very unusual garb
—costumes of deerskin trimmed with fringes and beads
165 were not unusual in place of blankets ; many had cloaks
of fox and marten skins and one old chief appeared in a
costume made of sable skins, for which we vainly offered him
a very high price.
Unfortunately there was very little wind in the narrow
passage after leaving the Sound and as it died away
altogether at 7 o'clock we were forced to anchor only about
12 miles from the entrance. For a supply of fresh water
and firewood we were indebted to young Keste, who also
showed us a deserted Indian camp. The seamen, who were
already treating the young man as a kind of slave, set him
to work to wash their things, a menial task which the chief's
son carried out unwillingly but skilfully.
Towards evening the rain began again and lasted all
night. The next morning we looked in vain for any sign
of a breeze—the persistent and heavy rain seemed as if
it would prevent one from rising. Sometimes rowing
and sometimes making use of the tide we got by noon to
the neighbourhood of the " Peril Strait Narrows," but
through the turn of the tide were driven back about half
the distance we had come. The shores on both sides were
quite flat, the low ranges of hillocks densely wooded ; the
channel, frequently impeded by small islands and sandbanks, was shallow and would not have permitted the
passage of a large vessel of deep draught. Great flocks of
water-fowl, particularly wild ducks, let us come quite close
and seemed to be rarely disturbed in their haunts. For
a change, here and there appeared out of the water the
flat head of a seal, who looked at us for a moment with
his bright eyes and disappeared before we could make use
of our weapons. We were especially interested in the
yellow water-snakes, about two feet long, which swam a
few feet beneath the surface, but our efforts to catch a
specimen were unsuccessful. Before dusk we decided, as
all hope of a breeze must be abandoned, to take to the oars
and try at least to regain the ground which we had lost
since mid-day. After two hours of this work, which was
made doubly unpleasant by the persistent rain, we managed
166 to drop anchor at the entrance to the Narrows. The whole
distance travelled during the day amounted only to 15
miles, which afforded little satisfaction to people in such a
state of impatience as ourselves.
Early next morning we passed at high tide without mishap
through the Narrows, which are dangerous in some places,
with a very slight breeze and soon met a large canoe painted
black and manned by twelve Indians who had evidently
left Sitka early that morning, so that now we could not be
far from our destination. The noisy and rather overbearing behaviour of these Sitka Indians, who were evidently
bound on a fishing expedition, did not inspire us with
great confidence, and we were glad when the turbulent
party continued on its way. At 11 o'clock a strong northwest wind suddenly sprang up and at first we tried to tack,
but owing to the narrowness of the channel we made no
progress in that way. So in order to avoid being driven
back we decided to drop anchor in the shelter of a small
island. Opposite us there was a poorly-built hut, and an
overturned canoe lay near it on the sandy beach. A thin
column of smoke rose from this lonely dwelling and after
a while a single Indian appeared in the entrance. Our
presence did not disturb him in his occupation of getting
fish and drying them at the fire, and in contrast to our
previous experiences he did not even come over to us and
soon disappeared from our sight. After a four-hour halt,
made thoroughly uncomfortable by the incessant and
heavy rain, we tried our luck once more. The light breeze
had died away completely and when the tide turned in our
favour we again took to the oars and made some progress,
though it was very slow—scarcely three miles an hour.
There was no lack of volunteers for the oars that evening,
as we were all equally anxious to press on, and even the
two Indians took the short paddles of the canoe and, sitting
one on each side of the boat, helped us as well as they could.
For a time we put them in the canoe in front of the boat,
but their powers of endurance at the paddles were not
great.    Despite  their  shouts   and  gestures   at   the  com-
167 mencement, their energy soon flagged and only persistent
efforts on our part prevented them from sitting quite idle.
Pushing on slowly between the narrow banks, which bore
only occasional traces of snow, we came about 7 o'clock in
sight of Mount Edgcumbe, a lonely mountain visible from
a great distance which stands at the entrance to Sitka Bay
and serves as a landmark for all the ships approaching from
the sea. Looking across to the low-lying banks we saw
quite clearly the cone-shaped cliffs of the mountain that
sloped downward at the further end and bore only too
plainly the traces of volcanic action in the past ; even at
the present time the smoke that rises occasionally shows that
within the mountain that activity has not entirely ceased.
It will be readily understood that we hailed this welcome
landmark with rapture but we could not hope, whatever
effort we made, to reach our goal that evening and so we
decided to spend another night—we hoped it would be the
last—on board the Ocean Queen. Living in that little
boat had become for all of us in the course of time almost
unendurable. In wet weather we were compelled to stay
in the cabin, even during the day ; it was impossible to
have any ventilation when the rain was heavy—on the
contrary even the porthole had to be kept closed to prevent
the water from driving in. The chimney was defective
and quite useless when the wind was against us, and the
pipes, or rather the tobacco, of my fellow travellers was not
the most odorous. The mixture of blubber and fat with
which the two Indians were accustomed to rub themselves
all over gave them a very unpleasant smell, and so the whole
atmosphere at night, when of the eight men at least seven
were shut up inside the cabin, was such that I was often
compelled to go on deck for a while to get a breath of air,
since sleep was hopeless—so close and oppressive was it in
For other reasons it was high time that our journey came
to an end. Rheumatic complaints, warning us of scurvy,
were being felt more and more. Lack of exercise and bad
air destroyed the only thing which hitherto had not failed
168 tis—namely, our appetites—and during the last days
especially the general apathy had become so great that no
proper cooking was done and we contented ourselves
with what was absolutely necessary ; and we often had
nothing all day except biscuits and cheese and perhaps
potatoes, although there was no lack of other provisions,
such as salt meat and fish, if anyone had been there to get
them ready for us. Our relations with the sailors were so
strained that often we did not exchange a word with them
all day.
We were again under sail next morning before it was
light, and tacking against the gusty wind that was mingled
with rain—a toilsome task for which our flat-bottomed
boat was ill-adapted. To cover the first ten miles took us
eight hours, and it was 11 o'clock before we turned a tongue
of land and saw at the far end of a deep bay the town of
Sitka. We greeted it with loud cheers ; our long-sought
goal was before us. With what impatience we endured
the zig-zag course of our boat, the handling of which would
in any case have been difficult enough in the rough sea,
and what discomfort we felt as our craft heeled right over
on her side again and again beneath the violence of the wind.
To meet with an accident in sight of the harbour that
offered us shelter and security after all the perils we had
passed through, and to have our good fortune suddenly
fail us—that would have been too appalling ! About
2 o'clock we were so near the town that we could plainly
see the Government building on a small elevation and the
cupolas and pinnacles of the Russian church, and soon an
open sailing-boat came out to us with two customs officers
on board to take the mail bag, which we had brought with
us with as many newspapers as possible from the post office
at Victoria. At first they would not believe that we had
really made the long journey in our insignificant little
craft. The high sea made it impossible for the two vessels
to keep alongside each other, and so we parted after a few
brief questions and each boat made for the shore as quick
as she could.   At this point we dismissed the two Indians,
169  giving them permission to go in our canoe to the Indian
settlement which lay close to the town, on condition that it
was returned to us in due course.
Soon we passed a buoy which marked the entrance to
the harbour, and then a number of steamers and warships
lying at anchor, one of which—a sailing-vessel—sent a boat
whose crew rowing with uniform stroke came up and
asked us for letters. Then passing on our left some smaller
schooners and sloops and a number of Indian canoes we
came, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, opposite the wharf and
dropped anchor. The examination of the ship's papers
and our baggage by the customs officers was quickly over.
In a rowing boat we made our way to the steps of the
landing stage and there our two former shipmates rushed
forward to give us a hearty welcome and congratulate us
on our safe arrival. They themselves had reached Sitka
a week before us in the schooner Sweepstakes.
I breathed freely when I once more felt the solid earth
beneath my feet, and with the deepest gratitude I gave
thanks to Providence which had so wonderfully preserved
us, and vowed to heaven that I would not tempt it a second
time in that way. I would sooner wait for months in Sitka
than risk my life again on the Ocean Queen with her untrustworthy crew. So our wearisome sailing-trip came to an
end. We had left Victoria on Tuesday, the 21st April
and arrived at Sitka on Sunday, the 17th May, after a
journey lasting 26 days, during which, according to our
reckoning, we had covered 987 English miles.
171 —i
SITKA—I. itself lies on a sheltered bay, and to those
approaching from the sea it presents quite a foreign aspect,
with its churches built in the Grecian style with pinnacles
and cupolas, its palatial Government building, and houses
mostly painted white ; and this impression is intensified by
the adjoining Indian settlement and the numerous shipping
basins which are used as warehouses.
Sitka is built along the shore of a peninsula which stretches
out into the bay, and on the landward side is surrounded
by a palisade with bastions at intervals. At the extreme
point the Governor's residence stands on a rock some
50 feet high, and so in the event of an attack would be the
key of the position. By it, near the landing-stage, are
ranged the warehouses and offices of the old Russian-
American company ; on slightly rising ground close by the
palisades are the so-called Indian church and burial ground.
Below there are some roughly-built block-houses and adjoining them, standing by itself, the cathedral, if one can
bestow that name on a building made entirely of wood,
which, however, is regarded as a model of a Greek church.
172 Close by, facing the sea, is the casino or club of the officers
and officials, constructed of wood and painted yellow like
all the other buildings in Sitka, and rows of one-storied
barrack-like houses of the Russian work-people. And
finally, separated by a narrow brook and surrounded by a
number of small block-houses, there are the hospital and
the episcopal palace which, however, is not distinguished
in any way from the other houses except by its size.
Close to the town, and only separated from it by the
palisade, the Indian village stretches along the western
shore of the peninsula for about one English mile, and the
whole terrain that slopes down to the bay is enclosed at
its rear by a range of wooded hills that rise steeply to a
height of some 500-600 feet, whilst further back still the
mountain heights,  covered with eternal snow,  give the
whole district an Alpine character. On the south the bay
is hemmed in by a multitude of small islands and islets,
some of which are only visible at low tide, and right to the
west where a quite narrow passage leads to the open sea
there rises in the blue distance on Krooze Island that extinct
volcano, Mount Edgcumbe, from whose depths even to-day
sulphurous smoke rises from time to time and which, as
already observed, serves as a landmark for this, the most
northerly harbour of the west coast. The low swampy
ground, covering only a few square miles, which lies between
the town and the chain of hills, is overgrown with heather
and low bushes which at the foot of the hills merge into
the dense primaeval forest.
178 The population of Sitka consisted at the time of our visit
of about 800 persons of whom 250 were American soldiers
and 50 American settlers, whilst the remainder was made up
of Russians, Creoles and half-breeds. The company of
Russian infantry, which had constituted the garrison, had
been sent back to Siberia before my arrival, and the
Russians who still remained were a remnant of the officials
and workmen of the Company, and had to leave the place
within a year. In the Government building an American
general had taken the place of the Russian, Prince M. ;
the club-house was the haunt of officials of the United States;
and on the parade ground the orders of American soldiers
were heard instead of those of the Russian overseer with
his knout. Only in the churches and in the warehouses
that were still partly occupied by the Company, and in the
barracks of the Russian workmen, was Russian life to be
seen going on as usual.
As soon as I felt the firm ground beneath my feet my
first enquiry was naturally for a place where I could get a
meal and have some sleep, and I gladly accepted the
invitation of one of my travelling companions to accompany
him to an eating-house whose proprietor he knew and where
I should perhaps find a bedroom.
So I handed my small trunk to an obsequious Indian, took
up my travelling bag and marched by the side of my Jewish
companion, who was evidently not at Sitka for the first
time, steadily upwards through the only street of the town,
running the gauntlet of inquisitive glances from people
who were obviously discussing my business and intentions.
A new settlement of this kind consists chiefly of adventurers
of every sort, who regard each newcomer with distrust until
they have got some idea as to his proceedings.
Making our way toilsomely over carelessly-laid planks,
which took the place of a pavement, and were still slippery
after a heavy storm of rain, we came to a one-storied wooden
house, near the church, which was outwardly in no way
different from the other block-houses, except that the part
which faced the street served as a dining-saloon whilst
174 the rear portion shut off by a wooden partition contained
the kitchen and other dining-rooms. The arrangement
of the saloon was very primitive—two long roughly-made
wooden tables with forms of the same kind and a few
chairs constituted the whole of the furniture.
The proprietor of the hotel came out to us from the
kitchen. He was a fair man in the fifties, a German by
birth who after many wanderings had settled in Sitka
and established the one and only restaurant for American
visitors. Henry, as the host was named, received me in a
friendly manner on the introduction of my companion
and offered me a share in a room with two other men in a
hut constructed of unplaned boards near to his restaurant.
The offer was not very attractive, for the hut contained
absolutely nothing except three roughly-made wooden
stands without any overlay except the hard boards which
were to serve as beds ; there were no mattresses, no pillows,
in fact there was nothing at all. Nevertheless I was forced
to accept the offer. Fortunately I had with me my large
blanket and a small travelling rug, with which I had to
make my bed as well as I could, just as I had to do throughout the voyage. In the hut there was nothing whatever
to serve as table, chair or washing apparatus ; for the
latter a tub of rain-water stood on a trestle outside the hut
and had to suffice for all requirements.
After I had put my trunk under my sleeping-place and
had put my travelling-bag to serve as a pillow I returned
from my inspection to the dining-room, where a good meal
awaited me. Venison, fish and potatoes formed a most
satisfactory dinner, at which two of my travelling companions also put in an appearance, and in contrast with
our monotonous fare on the boat tasted excellent.
The evening was rainy and after a short walk through
the town I retired early on that first evening to a rest which
was interrupted by the noisy entrance late at night of my
fellow-lodgers. Nevertheless the night passed without
incident, though in my unusual situation I was prepared
contingency.    It was not till early morning that
for any
175 I was awakened by my two room-fellows, who were evidently
going to their work and were highly surprised at finding me
After making an elementary toilet, which was interrupted
several times by sudden showers, and taking a breakfast
of black coffee and new bread in the saloon, I went with
my travelling companion down to the harbour to have our
luggage brought on shore from the Ocean- Queen. Some
sturdy Indians were soon found who took the trunks and
boxes of provisions (of which a good deal was left) on their
shoulders, and we also took ashore the canoe which we had
purchased, in order to sell it at the best price we could.
Customers for the food supplies were quickly found, the
salt meat in particular seemed greatly in request, and we
also sold the canoe to an American.
Meanwhile we met a number of Indians clad like their
kinsmen in the south in the inevitable blankets and mostly
with their faces painted black. They seemed unfriendly
and reticent and, as we were told, were allowed inside the
settlement only from sunrise to sunset ; gun-fire from the
fort gave warning for them to leave the town and those
who did not do so wTere sent to prison. Besides these
Indians I saw a certain number of people of a Mongolian
type, whiter in hue than the copper-coloured aborigines.
These were natives of the Aleutian Islands—that chain of
islands which extends in the south of the Behring Sea from
the western point of the Alaskan peninsula across to the
Asiatic coast and serves to-day, as it did in former times, as
a bridge between the natives of America and of Asia.
Hence comes the Mongolian stamp of these islanders, who
have been mostly Russianised and have adopted Christianity
(of the Greek Church). The Aleutians are adaptable,
good-natured and very contented. They were formerly
employed by the Russians partly as hunters and fishermen
and partly as seamen, and showed no trace of that resistance
to outside influences which characterises the natives of the
American mainland and the adjacent islands, whom
hitherto it has not been possible to raise to a higher level of civilisation. As hunters and fishers the Aleutians are
unsurpassed; in their remarkably light canoes made of
seal hide, which barely afford room for one person to sit,
they often venture from their island miles out to sea pursuing with the help of two-bladed paddles, which they
use with great skill, the inquisitive seal or the timid sea-
otter and slaying them by unerring casts of their harpoon-
shaped spears. It often happens that the daring hunter
in his light craft is capsized by the wounded creature, but
he cares little for that since his coat of waterproof sealskin
is fastened as a protective cover over the small opening of the
canoe, which is so built that it can right itself. The
hunting season is, of course, the best time for the easily-
contented islanders, and in it they must earn enough to
keep themselves for the remainder of the year. In May
when the spring gales that rage with great fury in these
northern regions have passed, and the ice-fields which
enclose the islands in winter like an iron girdle can no longer
withstand the warming rays of the sun, the Aleutian
villages awake, the " Bajaren " (canoes) are brought out
and put in condition, and spears and fishing-tackle are made
ready. With child-like faith the men who preparing to go
on hunting and fishing expeditions receive the blessing of
the Russian priest, and to the sound of the solitary little
church bell the flotilla sets out, followed by the good
wishes of the women, children and old men who remain
behind. Then follow long months of great anxiety for
the latter ; how great are the dangers which the seafarers
must encounter until in August, when the short summer
draws to an end, sounds of rejoicing are once more heard in
the villages so long silent. Richly laden with their booty,
the skins of the valuable sea-otter and the no less prized
sea-lion and numerous other kinds of furs, they return
bringing plenty and prosperity to their modest homes.
Women and children all help to stretch the skins and dry
and clean them. The Russian dealers are ready to exchange
them at fixed rates for foodstuffs, clothes and the other
necessaries with which the Aleutians, who are fairly advanced
177 m in civilisation, keep themselves supplied. Many a woman
must watch with a heavy heart the welcome given to those
who return, for her only support has perchance fallen a
victim to his own daring. But even her grief will soon be
alleviated, for according to the Aleutian custom the widow
of a man who has perished thus receives a share of the booty
of those who do return. Then come the long months of
the northern winter and violent storms which, raging the
more furiously in the shallow waters of those regions,
make any attempt to put to sea impossible. Then follow
snow and ice, the country seems to be petrified and the
hapless native buries himself with wife and child in a hut
half-underground and spends the next six months in drowsy
inactivity, broken only occasionally by the capture of some
It should be noted that the Aleutians have held fast to
their Russian creed and customs since the transfer of their
country to the Government of the United States, and so
far have shown no inclination to make use in any way of their
newly-acquired American citizenship.
At the very time of my visit to Sitka a proclamation by the
former Russian governor was issued in which a free transfer
to Siberia or Russia was offered to every Russian, half-caste
or Aleutian—an opportunity of which a good many Aleutians and others availed themselves.
My experiences in Sitka were so closely bound up with
my business there, that I must give an account of its nature
before continuing this narrative.
The London business house in whose agency in New York
I had been employed for some years had for a long time held
a contract with the Board of the Russian-American Company, whereby the latter was bound to deliver its whole
catch of sealskins each year to the London house at a fixed
price. The skins, in quantities large or small according
as the season was a productive one or not, were collected at
178 the Aleutian Islands, especially at St. Paul and St. George
in the Behring Sea, and were transported at the end of the
season by various small vessels to Sitka, the entrepôt for
all the goods, whence they were shipped every year at the
beginning of December in a large sailing-vessel round
Cape Horn to England. All this had gone on smoothly
for a number of years and the English company had through
the contract obtained the exclusive monopoly in these
skins, which were not to be obtained in the same quality
from anywhere else, and it had laid out an important
factory to treat them. In short no one anticipated any
change in the position when suddenly in the autumn of
1867 the sale of the Russian territory to the United States
became known.
The Russian-American Company, which held its charter
direct from the Russian government, of course lost on the
transfer its exclusive trading rights and was compelled to
go into liquidation. Our English contract, which was to
last till the end of 1868, was thereby jeopardised.
In the late autumn very contradictory rumours reached
us. At one time it was reported from St. Petersburg that
the Company would not surrender its rights till the end of
the year 1868. At another time reports came from San
Francisco that the Company had been bought out and that
expeditions under American leadership were starting for the
newly-acquired territory. It was, of course, of the greatest
importance for us that in any event the seal catch of 1867,
and, if at all possible, that of the following year also should
remain in our hands.
The value of the skins had meanwhile made a marked
advance and was far above our contract prices, aiid consequently there was a risk that the Russian officials, with
or without the connivance of the Company, would attempt
to take advantage of the confusion caused by its winding-
up to sell to speculators a part of the skins which were
properly due to us. In order to keep a watch so far as
possible on the conduct of the Russian employés in these
circumstances, and at least to discover and notify, if not to
179 M 2 prevent, a breach of the contract, I was commissioned first
to go to San Francisco and collect there all the information
that I could.
My business was, therefore, at first rather that of a passive
observer than of an active participant, and was, of course,
made the more difficult by the fact that all the agents and
officers of the Company to whom I had official letters of
introduction regarded me with disfavour, as they fully
understood that I was sent merely to keep a watch on them.
Immediately on my arrival at San Francisco I learned
that the Governor of the Company, Prince M., after selling
the whole assets of the company to some American capitalists,
had come to San Francisco and was staying there on account
of some legal business. At the same time I received
information from an independent source that a cargo of
sealskins had arrived in San Francisco, a few weeks previously, and been delivered to an American merchant
who had shipped it to Europe. No information was
given me by the agents of the Company or by the Russian
consul or by the princely Governor, with whom I had a
personal interview, and of was only from strangers that I
ascertained the names of the ship and her captain and the
nature of the cargo—facts from which it appeared that the
captain, formerly an official of the company, had gone from
Sitka to the islands and making use of his position had
brought to San Francisco part of the skins which properly
belonged to us and sold them there in the presence of the
governor or at any rate with his knowledge.
Our fears were therefore justified, only evidence was
lacking. Sworn statements of sailors and hunters well
acquainted with the northern waters put it beyond doubt
that the skins must have been obtained in the course of the
summer, that is to say that the Company was not entitled
to dispose of them. But to obtain definite and conclusive
evidence I was compelled to go myself to Sitka, the more
so as I failed, despite all the efforts of the detectives whom
we employed, to find any seamen who had been on the
particular ship concerned.    So I sent all the evidence I
180 had obtained to New York to be forwarded to London and
travelled, as inconspicuously as possible so as not to arouse
the distrust of my opponents and without saying where
I was going, further to the north.
In Victoria my suspicions were strengthened by the fact
that people said quite openly, that the cargo of the Olga
(which was the snip's name, had certainly been brought
from the islands to San Francisco with the connivance of
the Russian officials, and was not the captain's own catch
as he had declared.
On the morning after my arrival in Sitka I prepared my
plan of campaign. I had a letter to a Russian official,
Mr. L., who had considerable influence with the administration of the Company. The letter had been sent to me
from St. Petersburg and was intended to secure the support
of this official for the interests which I represented against
any improper action by the employés of the Company.
Had I obtained the support of this gentleman I should
have gained my end, for with it it would have been easy to
bring to light the intrigues of the various officials concerned.
Hitherto it had not been possible for anyone to guess my
real position with regard to the Company. Before making
myself known to Mr. L., I wished to get some information
as to his relations with his fellow officials, and so I occupied
the first day in learning what I could about his character.
The result was not favourable. Mr. L. was not only one of
the most influential of the local officials, but he was also
closely related to the superintendent of the island by whom
the stolen skins had been shipped, so that it was scarcely
to be expected that he would give any information which
would implicate his kinsman. Nevertheless I decided to
make the attempt, relying on my letter of introduction. I
had ample funds and wanted at least to know definitely if
I should regard Mr. L. as an ally or an enemy.
In one of the Company's houses a small insignificant-
looking man introduced himself to me as Mr. L. and conducted me with the usual Russian courtesy to his reception
room, a very large apartment furnished in the customary
181 Russian style with a great number of seats and resembling
an audience chamber rather than a private room.
Mr. L., who spoke German and English very well and
acted as interpreter for the Company, seemed greatly
surprised and confused when I presented my letter. With
careful handling I succeeded in obtaining some not unimportant facts as to the voyage of the Olga ; but despite
all my efforts and veiled promises I failed to get anything
that would compromise any one of the Company's officials.
But from what he said it was quite clear that immediately
on the transfer of the territory some of the Company's
officials, under the leadership of Captain H., had gone in
the Olga (the Company's steamer) from Sitka to the sealing
islands, but as to the purpose or result he would say nothing.
In his opinion the officials had at that time left the employ
of the Company, which had therefore ceased to have any
responsibility for them. The worthy gentleman had no
idea that I had already made myself acquainted in San
Francisco with the arrival there of the cargo and with its
nature, so that two of the chief points, namely, the departure and arrival of the expedition, were definitely established
and the main task now was to ascertain what had happened
during the voyage.
Before I left him he introduced me to his wife, a very
pretty Creole who graciously handed me a cup of good
tea which apparently was kept always ready in a kettle
(the Russian samovar) on the fire. Unfortunately Mrs. L.
spoke only Russian.
Somewhat discouraged by my first visit I had an attack
of home sickness that night. The outlook was certainly
not very promising. I had given up the letter of introduction on which my firm had based great hopes, but it
had not had the desired effect. Mr. L. was evidently not
inclined to do more for me than ordinary courtesy required ;
all that I thought I could expect from him was that he would
not betray my incognito to the other officials and would not
put any difficulties in the way of further investigations on
my part.
182 So I was entirely thrown on my own resources. Except
Mr. L. no one had any suspicion as to my real position, and
so I sustained to the best of my ability my rôle as a
naturalist and tourist ; I showed great interest in the
country and its people, collected curiosities and minerals,
and went about sketching as ostentatiously as possible in
the settlement, so that my American friends in any event,
and possibly many of my Russian acquaintances also, might
think me an eccentric person who had chosen this remote
region for purposes of study.
The first few days passed without any event of importance. As is usual in a small settlement I quickly made the
acquaintance of the American officers and soldiers, and the
German-speaking Russian officials overwhelmed me with
attentions and invitations of every kind. There was,
of course, no lack of attempts to find out what I was after,
but I succeeded in evading the questions and not giving
myself away. I rejected many offers by Russians to provide
me with a lodging, since their excessive officiousness seemed
suspicious and I preferred to know that my property was in
the care of disinterested Americans. In the same way on
the occasion of the departure of a Russian vessel for
Siberia I refused, perhaps from excessive caution, an invitation to a farewell feast on board, as the opportunity to
abduct an awkward witness by that means might have
proved too tempting. In Sitka I was reasonably safe on
land because of the presence of the Americans, although
even there I often believed I was being watched and that
probably all my movements were being spied on by the
Russians who were perhaps only waiting for a chance to
get hold of me. During the whole of my stay I never went
outside the settlement and even so I always carried a
When the weather permitted I devoted myself mainly to
sketching, but unfortunately during the first part of my stay
183 in Sitka, the weather was so changeable that one could go
out into the open only between the frequent storms. On
many days it rained uninterruptedly, as Sitka, according
to general report ranks among the wettest places of the
earth. Even in summer only a few sunshiny days can be
expected and in winter, when the sun is visible only for
a few days all told, there is almost unbroken darkness,
and snow and rain fall alternately. The climate here is
tempered to a marked extent by the neighbouring ocean-
currents, so that in Sitka itself even in the depth of winter
the thermometer rarely falls below 200 F., and the
harbour is never entirely frozen up, in marked contrast
with the mainland which is shut off from the sea by a
chain of mountains and experiences a real Arctic winter.
Curiously enough in Sitka the general health is better
in the wet season than in the dry ; this is due to the fact
that in the latter period the great quantity of decaying
vegetable matter gives off noxious emanations which
to some extent poison the atmosphere. But at all times the
climate is injurious to health, and rheumatism, fever and
diseases of the lungs are only too prevalent amongst the
white population as well as the Indian.
To this must be added the fact that the nature of the
food supply, which as a whole is very monotonous and
consists mostly of game and fish (there is no possibility of
growing vegetables on the spot, and indeed even fodder
for the cattle and sheep is unobtainable), sets up a condition
of the body which is conducive to scurvy.
With the utmost difficulty a species of potato has been
grown, but it has nothing in common except its name with
those which are a product of the more favoured south ;
the few summer days scarcely suffice to make even this
unassuming vegetable fit to eat.
The Russians seem to have acclimatised themselves best
of all, though even in their higher ranks few really healthy
looking persons were to be seen.
The officials of the Company receive a small salary
and get all their subsistence free, and consequently are
184 able to live fairly well. They do not seem to be very hard
pressed as the very large number of Russian festivals gives
them ample time for recreation even if they did work hard
during business hours. Very few days pass without the
church bells ringing for hours to summon the faithful tô
Mass, and there is no official or workman, be he Russian,
half-breed or Aleutian, who fails to make his way to the
church in his Sunday garb. A bishop and no fewer than ten
priests take part in the service, at which the congregation
either stands or kneels (there are no seats in the church).
A strong smell of incense and innumerable lighted candles
have an overpowering effect as one enters the building. In
the afternoon the upper class holds small dances when the
weather is bad, and have expeditions by sea or land when
it is fine—at all these tea and whisky play the chief part.
In short, the people seem to have led a dolce far niente
existence which suddenly had to come to an end. It is
not surprising in the circumstances that they sought to
get as much as possible for themselves out of the winding-
up of the Company, especially as they did not expect to
receive a pension or even a lump sum by way of compensation.
In marked contrast with the officials, who lead their lives
apart, the workmen dwell with their families in barrack-like
185 buildings where frequently 30-40 persons are herded
together. It is impossible to form any conception of the
uncleanliness which prevails there ; an Indian hut seemed
a paradise in comparison with the abodes of these semi-
barbarous people, who lived together with dogs and pigs
and whose animal passions were only too plainly marked on
their faces. As already noted they were only the remnant
of the Russian population, but it appeared as if it were the
dregs of it that had been left behind.
The Company paid their workpeople a very small wage
and provided them with food, which consisted chiefly of
dried fish and bread—the latter prepared in a special way
must have been their staple food. As is almost inevitably
the case under such a patriarchal system, the men lost
in the course of time any sense of responsibility for themselves which they ever had, and their mental forces becoming
more and more atrophied they sank into a state of animal
apathy, knowing perfectly well that their daily bread was
assured and that nothing more was to be hoped for however hard they might work. It was only necessary to compare a number of these workmen, toiling mechanically to
the word of command under the supervision of a military
overseer, with the Americans who were working perhaps
close at hand, to appreciate the difference between slave
and free labour.
Every day at noon the workmen could be seen drawn up,
in quite the old Muscovite fashion, in a long row in front
of the foreman who was distributing their ration of spirits
taken from a big copper cask. The quantity of the fiery
liquor given to each man depended on the number of
persons in his family. The number of rations was increased
according to the status of the employé, so that even the
higher officials got their whisky in this way unless they
preferred to exchange it at the warehouse for other
Like all Russians these workmen show a respect that
almost borders on reverence to any well-dressed person
and never pass him with their heads covered.    Almost
186 every evening, and especially on festivals, almost the whole
community gets drunk and merry, and whilst the higher
officials are better able to conceal their condition by drinking
in the privacy of their own homes, the noise made by the
workmen, maddened by drink, resounds throughout the
eerie settlement.
An even worse state of affairs prevailed among the wives
of these unfortunates since they (and not only the younger
ones among them) gave themselves up openly to prostitution and in their intercourse with the American soldiers
disseminated most terrible diseases. In these conditions
heaven only knows what happened to the children of the
wretched people. If they grew up to a life of crime and
immorality what better could be expected of them ?
Very few of the women were of pure Russian origin ;
most of them had at least some Indian blood in their veins
and had been born in the settlement, and so dark complexions and the Indian type of features were predominant
in the children.
If the Russians were to be believed, this sad state of
affairs began with the arrival of the American troops.
It is possible that this may have aggravated the evil, but
it seems quite evident that a very low state of morality
reigned in the colony previously. When human beings
live together without regard for age or sex, as is the case in
the Russian tenements, even the strongest morality must be
undermined by the sordid surroundings and eventually
give way. In the highest circles there came to light almost
every day some scandal not unlike those which have become
familiar in the demi-monde of Paris. What made matters
still worse was that the men not only disregarded the
shameful trade plied by their womenfolk but in some cases
even openly promoted it in order to gain a profit for
But it would be a great mistake to suppose that the
American population showed greater restraint and propriety than the Russians, for drunkenness and loose living
were rampant among both officers and men. The former,
who lived in what used to be the Russian club-house, spent
all their time, except the few hours they were on duty,
sitting round the stove, drinking and gambling till their
credit was exhausted ; they also carried on the most
disreputable intrigues with the wives of the Russian officials
and in general behaved so badly that even the Russians,
who were by no means irreproachable in this respect,
complained of their conduct.
There was a marked lack of discipline, due no doubt to
the weakness of the general in command ; like so many
American officers he had been a civilian and entered the
army only at the outbreak of the Civil War, and apparently
he did not know his business at all well.
The conduct of the officers was bad enough, but language
fails to describe that of the rank and file. Released convicts
would not have been more dangerous to the public security
than were these men whose task it was to enforce the law.
Scarcely a day passed without a robbery, or a case of arson
or a violent assault which must be ascribed to the soldiers,
and the few respectable people in the town were more on
their guard against the soldiers than against the Russians,
who were at least good-natured, or even the treacherous
Although the sale of spirits to the troops was permitted
only in special circumstances, they managed to get supplies
in one way or another ; and drunkenness and debauchery
of every kind, together with the unhealthy climate, combined to fill the hospital to overflowing and to increase the
number of deaths appallingly.
The situation grew so bad that it became a question at
Washington whether it would not be advisable to transfer
the troops from Sitka, where they were exposed to the
188 demoralising influence of a loose-living white population
and an even more dissolute Indian population, to some
smaller and if possible uninhabited station on the coast—a
proposal which to the best of my belief was carried out later.
The American civil population fell into three classes,
which had little to do with each other.
The most respectable class, and that which was of the
best social standing, included the officials of the Quartermaster's Department and of the Customs, the small number
of municipal authorities, a military chaplain, and finally
the agent of the American Company which, as successor to
the Russian Company, was represented in Sitka.
With all these people, some of whom had their families
with them, I was in daily intercourse and in their company
I was able to some extent, to forget the physical and moral
degradation that surrounded me. The agent whom I
mentioned above was a German by birth and showed me
great hospitality. I was only sorry that my interests and
those of his Company were in direct conflict, and that I
had to repay much kindness on his part with ingratitude,
as I was bound not to let him know my real business, and
had later to intrigue against those whom he represented.
The second class, of a much lower standing, comprised
the traders, keepers of billiard saloons and dealers in spirits
—these were mostly of the Jewish race and carried on a
more or less illicit trade with the soldiers and Indians,
evaded customs and excise duties, and were liable to prosecution at any moment had the administration of the law
not been so lax.
Especial mention should be made of a Polish Jew, who
since he had some acquaintance with the Russian language,
conducted a disreputable moneylending business between
the Americans and the Russians, and under the guise of a
spirit dealer carried on a disgraceful traffic in Russian and
Indian girls—on both accounts he should have been in
Finally, the background to the picture which I have
tried to draw of the population of Sitka was formed by a
189 number of those adventures who were to be found in all
new settlements ; but even these were of various grades.
Whilst to outward appearance there was no difference
between them, with their torn and tattered clothing and
general air of being down on their luck, some quite decent
people were to be found amongst them—shipwrecked
seamen, who were waiting for a chance of returning to the
south, and gold-miners who had not been successful in their
prospecting and were now without resources in this remote
region. But most of them were the so-called " Rowdies,"
professional loafers, who only waited for an opportunity to
take to their evil courses, and looked searchingly at every
respectable passer-by.    I was always uncomfortable when
E.T. 1868
any of these fellows were about, the more so as they made a
practice of ppenly displaying their weapons—loaded
revolvers. A vain attempt was made to deport some of these
undesirables, who simply made their living by terrorising
the well-to-do, on a south-bound ship, generous payment
being promised to the captain, but despite all the promises
made he refused to take the ruffians on board.
Criminal cases were frequent. Scarcely a day passed
without a trial by jury being held before the Mayor in
the Custom House, which took the place of a town hall ;
190 the minimum number of jurymen—twelve—could only be
got together with great difficulty ; some pettifogging little
attorneys, one of whom had travelled with me, supplied
counsel for the prosecution and defence, and an honest
time-expired soldier, who acted as constable, brought the
accused before the Court.
Out of sheer boredom I frequently attended the court.
One of the first cases that I heard was the claim made by
our steersman against the captain of the Sweepstakes who,
as I have stated elsewhere, instead of treating him at
Fort Simpson as a part owner of the ship, had put him
ashore ignominiously ; the captain made a counterclaim
in respect of the seduction of his Indian squaw. In the
result both parties lost their case. On the same day an
Indian who, of course, could only make himself understood
through an interpreter—and as there was no one available
who could speak English and the Indian dialect the statements had first to be translated into Russian—was accused
of theft and sentenced to several days' imprisonment,
whilst an American tramp was on the same occasion accused
of threatening people with a revolver and was also rendered
incapable of doing any harm for several days. On the point
as to whether in these cases there was a strict observance
of legal procedure and principles I am not able to express an
A few days after my arrival I had been present at a trial
and was about to go from the Custom House to my lodging
when I noticed an American soldier who stared hard at
me and whose face seemed familiar. Deliberately turning
round and looking him full in the face I recognised a
young man who had acted as secretary and interpreter to
the Prince-Governor during his stay in San Francisco
and whom I had frequently met at the audiences given me
by the prince. He had attracted my attention, since his
slender, almost girlish, figure, pale complexion, long,
black curly hair and black moustache betrayed his Russian
origin even when he was in American uniform. He seemed
to feel that his presence in Sitka as a soldier could not fail
191 to strike me, so he introduced himself to me in quite good
English as Mr. P., and explained that having been for a year
in the American service on account of his knowledge of
Russian, he had been on leave in Sitka and during that leave
had accompanied the Prince on his journey to San Francisco
as interpreter. With a meaning smile he added that he
knew most of the officials of the Company well and during
his stay in Sitka had become well-acquainted with all their
affairs, and if I so desired he was entirely at my service.
Then he looked at me enquiringly with his grey, cat-like
eyes and hoped he would see me again shortly.
This chance encounter was of great value to me ; Mr. P.
must not only have a full knowledge of the secret deals of
the officials through his acquaintance in Sitka, but in his
capacity of secretary to the governor had been present in
San Francisco at the time of the arrival of the ship Olga
with her cargo of stolen sealskins ; and so I could not have
wished for a more effective weapon against the Company's
officials, provided, of course, that he placed himself entirely
at my disposal.
The result of a second meeting was that under a pledge of
secrecy and by means of a number of good twenty-dollar
pieces I persuaded him to enter my service and furnish me
with the necessary evidence. P. made only one condition,
that he should delay taking up his new part until the
departure of a Russian ship then in harbour, some of whose
Russian officers, as he said, were keeping him under observation—a condition to which I could agree the more readily
as owing to the lack of travelling facilities I was not yet
able to think about my return journey.
Now I had at least made a beginning and had opened a
channel of communication with the hostile headquarters.
It was, therefore, only necessary to keep my achievement
secret and not to compromise my informant in Russian
eyes. So with renewed energy I devoted myself to sketching
and the collection of all kinds of curiosities, and for this the
neighbouring Indian settlement provided a large and
fruitful field.
192 SITKA—V.
The Indian village lay close by the Russian settlement
and was separated from it by the line of fortifications, which
consisted here of a double palisade fully 18 feet high and
was also defended by a bastion built of strong oak planks
and provided with gun casements. Going through a low
sally-port and passing the American sentry one came into
the open on the shore and found immediately in front the
Indian dwellings which lay along the bank. Their construction was in no way characteristic ; almost without
exception they consisted of huts some 20 feet long, facing
the water and constructed of strong deal planks. They were
so regularly built as to resemble the block-houses of the white
settlers and were all alike, with the exception of the first
house which was marked out as the residence of the chief
by a staff flying the American flag. Only at the furthest
end of the village, which as I have already remarked,
stretched very far along the shore, there were some more
primitive ones which obviously housed a less important
tribe. The number of houses was probably between 80
and 100 and if necessary they could accommodate 150 to
200 Indians.
I The houses are built so close to the shore and so little
above the level of the sea that at high tide it comes quite
close to the dwellings, which can then only be reached by
a very narrow path. Close in front of each house lie the
canoes of its inhabitants. They are of all sizes, from the
smallest craft which have just room for one man to the
great war canoes which are frequently decked at the prow
with carved figures, are built of specially strong wood,
and can easily carry 20-30 warriors or even more. These
canoes are very carefully looked after by the Indians who
-'■L\ n
know only too well how much time and labour is required
to hollow out the cedar trunks from which they are made.
According to the state of the tide they are drawn up high
or low on the fine white sand, thickly strewn with mussels,
from time to time water is thrown over them to keep the
timber moist, and if there is only a little sunshine the
precious craft are covered with sacking or brushwood to
prevent them from warping or splitting.
Immediately behind the houses, which stand 30 feet deep,
the ground rises gently to a chain of hills covered with low
bushes which serve as a burial place for one section of the
Indians, as is clearly shown by numerous little wooden huts
which serve to guard the ashes of the dead.
The shore presents as a rule, a very lively scene as a large
part of the population gathers there. There is always
something going on—either a canoe is being launched or a
craft comes in from a fishing expedition and is hauled in
194 by the house-mates of the fishermen, whilst the women
are busy unloading and preparing the catch and the little
naked children watch the proceedings with childish curiosity.
The men, as lords of creation, stand about with folded arms
and relate their adventures.
Among the Sitka Indians, as with the Indians who dwell
further to the south, the women are apparently regarded
as much inferior to the men and are forced by the latter to
do all the household work.
The Indians who live around Sitka belong to the Galloche
tribe, which is one of the seven northern coastal tribes and
numbers from 7,000 to 10,000 souls
of whom between 1,500 and 2,000
live close to the Russian settlement.
In size and strength the Galloches
stand pre-eminent amongst the
Indians I have seen and are far
superior even to those of Fort
Simpson. It is not unusual to sec
men standing 6 foot high in their
bare feet and they are also without
exception strongly built and well
nourished ; the women, on the
other hand, are much smaller than
the men and are frequently pretty
and almost graceful in their youth,
but tend to become corpulent as
they grow older.
The clothing of both men and
women consists only of the usual
blankets, generally blue in colour.
Those of the women are as a rule
embroidered with beads or mother-
of-pearl buttons. A few wear curiously-shaped hats woven
"of rushes which are waterproof and serve as a protection
against both sun and rain, but the majority have their
long, straight black hair uncovered or at most bound
with a band round the forehead.    In winter the Galloches
E.T. 1868
195 wear garments of leather or fur dressed by themselves,
but these are giving way more and more every year to the
blankets which are more convenient and more easily
Frequently, and especially on cold days, they wear cloaks
made of fur, particularly that of the lynx, which often become
an article of commerce in this form.
During my stay in Sitka I noticed that most of the Indians,
both men and women, painted their faces black, thus giving
themselves a weird appearance. This was a sign of mourning for relatives fallen in battle or who had died in any other
way, and for the same reason a number of the squaws
wore their hair cut short.
Many of the Indians have rings and shells pierced through
their noses and ears and the older squaws, as a sign that
they were no longer unwed, had needles of bone or steel
through their lower lips.
Their general health would not be bad were it not for
the diseases contracted as a result of their intercourse with
the American troops—diseases which have increased rapidly
just recently. On the other hand at the time of my visit,
cases of smallpox and scarlet fever were rare, but many of
the older Indians suffered from rheumatism.
It is worthy of note that any Indian who is ill can obtain
advice and medicine free on application to the American
hospital, but unfortunately superstition still has a very
strong hold over them, so that they prefer to sit patiently
and have incantations chanted over them for days by their
medicine men rather than have recourse to the help of a
white man.
Many of the Sitka Indians can speak a little Russian,
and with their usual facility some of the more intelligent
men have already added a few English and Chinook words
to their vocabulary. Their own language is related to
that of the seven kindred tribes, but is more guttural and
has fewer vowels than that for instance of the Fort Simpson
196 The following words give an idea of the sounds :
to find
to steal
to give
to take
to kill
The following are numerals :—
1 klach
2 tach
3 natsk
4 tachun
5 chlidschin
6 chliduscho
7 tachaduscho
8 nuskaduscho
9 chuschok
io tschinkaht
11 tschinkahtkaklach
12 tschinkahtkatach
13 tschinkahtkanatsk
14 tschinkahtkatachun
15 tschinkahtkachlidschin
16 tschinkahtkachleduscho
17 tschinkahtkatachaduscho
18 tschinkahtkanuskkaduscho
19 tschinkahtkachuschok
20 klachka
21 klachkakaklach
30 klachkakatschinkaht
40 klachkakatschinkaht
50 tachka-ka-tschinkaht
60 nutskaka
70 nutskaka-tschinkaht
80 tachunka
90 tachunka-ka-tschinkaht
100 kitschinka
197 The following are some short sentences :—
Open the door = chre-dach-schan-tan.
Shut the door = chre-tschu-tan.
Sit down, put away, etc. = ganu.
I want nothing = chlechlatoa andusko.
Stop talking = katadlché.
I don't understand = klakh-ra-sa-ko.
What do you want ? = tasse-it-owa-seko ?
What's the matter ? = maséjo ?
It would be unjust to accuse the Russians of indifference
to bodily cleanliness. Although the provision made for
washing in the private houses was of the most primitive
kind, there was at least a public bathing-house, which
I visited a few days after my arrival (it is open only on
Fridays) with some Americans. On knocking at the door
of a block-house, of the simplest possible construction and
almost hermetically sealed up, we were admitted by a
small Russian youth who acted as master of the bath ;
he invited us to sit down on the benches in the waiting-room
until he had got the bath ready for us. Here we undressed
and then walked into the actual bathroom, equipped only
with a great vessel of boiling water built round with stone.
The temperature was so high that one seemed to be in a
vapour bath. The procedure was simply that we dashed
hot and cold water over each other, beat one another with
whisks woven of bast and fed the steam from time to time
by emptying buckets of water over the red hot stones of
the boiler—in this way the heat in the small room was
raised to such a point that we were compelled against our
will to crouch down as low as possible, as the temperature
only a few feet above the ground was almost suffocating.
A quarter of an hour's stay in this vapour bath was
regarded as sufficient and had a most refreshing effect.
After the bath it was customary to spend half-an-hour in
198 the waiting-room, and to have a glass of milk punch and
smoke a Russian cigarette there.
On that same Friday evening before going to bed I
attended a curious ceremony. Our sleeping quarters,
which were built only of planks, abutted on another hut
which was used as a warehouse by a Jewish trader. Up
to then I had never heard a sound there in the evenings,
but on that night my curiosity was aroused by the murmur
of several voices in the adjoining room. Looking through
a crevice I saw quite an assembly of some twenty men, all
of the Jewish persuasion, who were holding their Sabbath
service and reading their prayers under the leadership of
the oldest man present who took the place of the Rabbi.
It was a memorable thing to see this religious gathering in
so strange a setting and it said a great deal for the persistence
with which the Jews everywhere, even in the most remote
countries, practise their devotional exercises. I myself
should scarcely have expected it in Sitka among a community which was engaged in such very disreputable
On the following day, Saturday, there was a service in
the Russian church which was attended as usual by all the
Russian residents. It was particularly elaborate on this
occasion as the Bishop of Sitka and some of the priests were
going on a Russian ship for the annual visitation of the
settlements on the Aleutian Islands.
At the same time the American warship which had been
lying in the harbour sailed for Fort Tongass in order to
investigate the sinister reports which were current about the
shipwreck of the Growler, and if need be, to demand
satisfaction from the Indians for their treachery. Our
best wishes accompanied the steamer, which though small
was strongly manned and well-armed, as it started out to
sea with its flags flying and a farewell salute. Only one
American warship remained in the harbour ; this was a
sailing frigate whose guns were directed threateningly
towards the Indian village. The other craft were only
fmall coasting vessels with one or two masts.
199 Towards evening a report suddenly spread of the arrival
of another steamer, a vessel belonging to the coast defence
service, which had on board some customs officers engaged
in a coast inspection, but as it had left San Francisco more
than a month previously it did not bring any news which
was particularly fresh. Nevertheless information as to my
intentions in regard to the Company must have been
brought to the Director from San Francisco by this vessel,
as from that time onward I noticed a certain reticence on
the part of the Russian official and a closer watch on my
So the first week passed. Up to now it had rained every
single day without interruption and the bad climate, the
monotonous food and depressing surroundings seemed
already to be affecting my health, and I was feeling far from
well when on that Saturday evening I went to my lodging,
which was almost soaked with rain, and wrapped myself in
my meagre blankets.
I must have been asleep about two hours when a noise
woke me up. Sitting up on my couch I listened with bated
breath. I heard voices outside the hut ; someone was
fumbling at the door, which was always unfastened, in an
effort to find the lock. Suddenly it yielded and two
noisy, swearing ruffians burst in. It was pitch dark and the
rain splashed incessantly on the floor. I could see nothing,
but I recognised the voices of my room-mates, who had
evidently come home very drunk. My anxiety was somewhat allayed as at any rate I did not have to deal with
complete strangers, but I was by no means at ease when
instead of lying down quietly they continued to rampage
about. Apparently they were trying to knock each other
down, since they struggled from one corner to another
and often stood close to my bed, but fortunately without
noticing me. The fracas lasted more than half-an-hour ;
finally they must both have calmed down. I heard a heavy
fall which shook the whole hut, and this was followed by a
dead silence. Nothing stirred. At first I thought there
had been an accident and was about to get up and give the
200 alarm when a loud snoring convinced me that at least one
of the disputants was still alive.
But I got no more sleep that night and lay on my couch
with half-closed eyes longing for the dawn. A more
repulsive sight than that which met my gaze cannot easily
be imagined ; and, in short, despite the repeated excuses
and asseverations on the part of my landlord I determined,
if possible, not to pass another night under this roof. So
I set out forthwith to look for other apartments. In the
course of my wanderings I came across a varied assortment
of dwellings, some of them so horrible that I should have
really been ashamed to be seen there. The best houses
that I inspected belonged to Russians and as I had determined in no circumstances to enter a Russian house, my
choice was very limited.
I was just returning from one of these room-hunting
expeditions when I met a party of American acquaintances
who were on their way to the Protestant church, which
under the Russian rule was the place of worship of the
Finnish-Lutheran officials, of whom there were a fair
number. All the important people of Sitka were present ;
the front seats were occupied by the general, the chief
officers and the mayor with their families ; behind them
were the lesser American officials and finally the few non-
Jewish traders.
The service was simple but affecting. The military
chaplain gave a short address mainly extempore in which
he compared great men of various countries—Kossuth of
Hungary, Kosciusko of Poland, Alfred the Conqueror (sic)
of England and Garibaldi of Italy were all great men in
their time, but their greatness was only transitory in
comparison with that of Our Lord. A good English hymn
led by a small but well-trained choir ended the service.
When church was over people paid calls ; even the
Russians, who had celebrated their own Sabbath on the
preceding day, did the same. On that Sunday the sun
showed itself, so that Sitka made a more favourable impression  than   it   usually  did,  with  well-dressed  ladies   and
201 gentlemen walking about the usually-deserted streets.
The fine weather had brought everybody out and in the
evening there was a variegated assembly at the landing-
stage. Here also there was something to be seen, for our
former craft, the Ocean Queen, was sailing that Sunday for
the south. From the first I had given up all idea of
returning on that poor little boat and moreover my task
in Sitka had only just begun so I could not think of leaving,
but nevertheless I felt homesick when I saw the sloop with
its sails outspread drawing near the mouth of the harbour.
A Russian official had ventured to take a passage to Victoria
on the Ocean Queen ; a few days afterwards a letter was
brought by Indians from him which stated that shortly
after the departure from Sitka the mainmast had been
carried away in a storm. On my way back I heard in
Victoria that the sloop had been six weeks on the voyage
and had reached Victoria only after many difficulties and
dangers, so I did not envy the poor Russian, who arrived
nearly half-dead.
On Sundays and other festivals the Russian officials were
in the habit after supper of going towards midnight for a
sea-trip ; and on several occasions I joined one of these
parties which, even if the Russians themselves harboured
any evil intentions towards me, were not likely to bring me
into any danger owing to the presence of their wives and
occasionally of some Americans.
For these trips we provided ourselves with cloaks,
blankets and fur coats, also some food and a large wicker
bottle of whisky, and thus equipped the nocturnal party,
often numbering eight to ten persons, took one of the
roomy and fast rowing-boats which are known as " whalers."
It is impossible to imagine anything more romantic than
one of these excursions, which lasted often for several hours.
Sheltered from the breaking waves by the line of islands
the water of the bay was as smooth as a mirror, and the sky
was covered with light clouds through which from time to
time the crescent moon shone out casting her silvery
beam athwart the dark water.    Thus we made our way
202 slowly along the coast ; before us the settlement lay at
rest and only dimly could we distinguish the outlines of
the fort. A few lights indicated the town, and now we
passed by the Indian village which was entirely in darkness,
and only the savage baying of the Indian dogs reminded
us that the redskins were there. Turning away from the
land we steer across the bay to the small islands. On our
left a number of sailing boats lie at anchor, their hulls
looking ghost-like in the dark water and their long masts
and spars resembling immense outstretched arms. But
here people are about for when we come near the flotilla
the " Boat ahoy !" of the watchman warns us that he is
at his post. Our " Ay, ay, sir " suffices to convince him
that we are not pirates or thieving Indians, and without
further question he lets us pass.
During all this time the wicker bottle had been greatly
in demand ; both men and women applied themselves to
it vigorously. We all became more cheerful ; one of the
Russians had his mandoline with him and accompanied the
melancholy strains of a Russian folk-song sung by Mrs. L.
Meanwhile we had passed by a number of little islands and
heard the surging of the open sea ; by this time the party
had become courageous and wanted to experience the
tossing of the waves. A few powerful strokes of the oars
drove the swift boat between two ridges of rock out into
the surf—in a moment we were wet through from the
spray. The little craft tossed about, the situation became
unpleasant and the lady passengers begged us to turn back.
Happily the sea was quite calm apart from the foam along
the shore and the shelter of the bay was reached without
mishap. But that outings of this kind at night were not
free from peril was demonstrated by some dangerous rocks,
half under water, which we encountered on our return
and whose nearness we observed just in time to avoid
running on them.
It is early morning when we reach the landing-place,
the Indian village is already animated, the canoes are being
got  ready to  carry the early  hunters to  their hunting
203 grounds, the pale light of morning begins to glimmer in the
east. In summer the nights here are very short, but I
wonder what they are like in winter—so I thought to
myself as
I souf
nng I
After a long search for a satisfactory lodging two of my
fellow travellers proposed that I should join them. Shortly
after reaching Sitka they had rented the cabin of one of the
humbler Russian priests, who was obliged to go on a journey
with the Bishop, and were ready to place one apartment—
if a very small room without furniture of any kind could be
called an apartment—at my disposal. The rent for the
whole house was 7^ dollars a month, but as I hoped not to
remain any length of time in Sitka I paid my share in
^The .hut was made of untrimmed trunks of trees still
covered with bark. As regards the interior, which was
divided into two parts, a badly-secured door led into a
kind of covered front yard, which had apparently served
for the storage of wood, straw, hay, etc., and was not
floored with planks. The roof was so defective that in
wet weather the rain came in steadily and the muddy
floor was extremely unpleasant.
204 - From this yard a second door led into the front part of
the house which, having at least a roof and a floor, looked
more like a human habitation. Of the two rooms which
it contained the front one, in which my two house-mates
slept in the solitary iron bedstead, was very poorly furnished;
from the window there was a view of the Bishop's palace (!)
and of the bay beyond.
The second and only other room, which was assigned to
me, had at first absolutely nothing more than the bare walls,
but as its dimensions were only 6x8 feet it was not possible,
with the best intentions in the world, to put much there.
The little window on one side made it look like a prison
Nevertheless I was very glad to have found this shelter.
Above all here I was with Americans, and, more than that,
with people as to whose character I had been able to some
extent to form an opinion during our adventurous voyage.
One of them, the engineer, seemed likely to be a tower of
strength to me should any crisis arise, since more than once
he had given proof of courage and coolness. I liked him
far the better of the two. His room-fellow, an advocate,
was much inferior to him in character, morals and personal
courage, but he seemed to be friendly towards me, and as
in my private enquiries and in the collection of documents
and evidence I might well be able to make use of his professional experience, it was worth while having him as a
neighbour. A further advantage offered by my new
lodging was that I could keep my luggage and private papers
as far as possible out of the reach of Russian spies, which was,
of course, by no means the case in the sleeping hut of the
eating-house, with the door always standing open. So I
gave notice to my landlord Henry (a notice which I may
remark he quite expected after what had happened in the
previous night). An Indian volunteered to take my
modest luggage and going on in front of him I sought
my new abode.
First of all I busied myself with preparing a sleeping
place.    Fortunately my comrades had some blankets which
205 they no longer required and seemed to have been used in
every possible sleeping place ; with the help of these I
made my humble bed in the corner of the small room on
the hard ground. My own blankets I put on top ; an
old cushion had to serve as a pillow and then my lordly
couch was ready.
How I managed for weeks to put up with this wretched
accommodation remains a mystery to me even now. During
the daytime I naturally stayed in this damp and unhealthy
place as little as possible, but at night when I was compelled
to remain in I suffered greatly from my surroundings.
Often I was awakened by the mice running about on the
floor and scampering over my bed and the other vermin,
no doubt left behind by my predecessor and with which
the house was swarming, were a horrible infliction. I
was always glad when the dawn drove these unpleasant
room-mates away, but even then my trials were not over.
It was impossible to take off one's clothes for the night
and consequently I always felt very tired and unnerved
by a sleep which instead of being a refreshment was almost
a torture. In order to get a wash it was necessary, however
bad the weather might be, to go out of the house and seek
to fulfil the requirements of cleanliness under an open
sky with the help of rain-water collected from the eaves.
We considered ourselves fortunate so long as the supply of
rain-water used very sparingly held out, but a time came
when our stock was not renewed owing to a period of
drought, and then one fine morning we were compelled
to fetch water for washing purposes in small vessels from a
mill-stream that flowed at some five minutes' distance
from our hut. The fact that in such circumstances we
did not follow in the footsteps of our Russian predecessor
says a great deal for the essential cleanliness of our little
community. Certainly the old priest who had occupied
this place before us had made himself much more comfortable. Our Russian neighbour, a bone turner who was
always drunk, assured us that the priest spent the greater
part of the day in bed not at his studies but simply drinking
206 whisky and smoking a Turkish pipe. The library which he
had left behind in a corner of the house amongst other
rubbish consisted of a few books which were by no means of
a religious character.
We all three took our meals in the old eating-house
kept by Henry, where at breakfast, dinner and supper
all the unattached people of standing in Sitka came together.
One could not complain of the food ; despite the lack of
fresh meat, vegetables, milk, butter, eggs, etc., Henry did
all that was humanly possible to give variety to the menu.
His coffee was served without milk, but with a large helping
of brown sugar. His puddings and pastries, when he was
able to supply them, were made entirely of flour and
syrup and his home-made bread was so hard and heavy that
it had to be eaten quite hot. The soup at dinner-time was
made out of a puzzling mixture of various soup extracts,
and venison, fish and salt meat appeared so regularly that
the necessary variety could only be obtained by changing
the order in which they were served up. But despite all
these difficulties the meals there were quite good, and only
on one occasion when the supply of flour, that essential;
commodity of the kitchen, was greatly reduced and at the
same time trouble amongst the Indians who furnished game
and fish threatened to cut off the supply of these foodstuffs which were absolutely vital to us, did our faces grow
long. Had it not been for the arrival of a supply ship with
a moderate surplus of provisions, the citizens of Sitka
might have had to depend on ship's biscuits for their
One of the most striking personalities in Sitka during my
visit was Captain F., a man in the early forties, who, despite
his rank of captain, was serving as a humble lieutenant in
the Artillery. A German by birth he had certainly held
a good social position in Germany and had served in the army
of his native land.    What it was that had brought him to
Wit America I never ascertained, but he had undoubtedly
gone through the Civil War there and risen to the rank
of captain—most likely in a militia regiment—and at
its conclusion he had entered the regular army. In the
absence of his wife, who lived in Washington, the captain
found himself in a very unenviable position when transferred to Sitka ; a quiet and scientifically-trained man he,
of course, kept aloof from the noisy and often rough company of his American colleagues, and consequently had to
put up with many jesting or offensive remarks from them,
which made his life in the little settlement far from pleasant.
For these reasons the captain had sent in his resignation
some months previously, and was waiting only for its formal
acceptance by the War Department at Washington. The
ample leisure left to him by his military duties was occupied
entirely by scientific enquiries as to the country in which
he was for the time being an exile, and particularly as to the
aboriginal inhabitants, the Indians.
As I, like himself, had almost unlimited time at my disposal and was interested in the same subjects, I gladly
sought his company and in it learned much more of the
habits and customs of the Red Men than would have been
possible had I been alone.
The captain's rooms, which were in the Officers' Club
(formerly the Governor's house) contained a whole collection of curiosities. The walls of a quite large room, with
an outlook on the sea, were covered with Indian weapons
and fishing tackle. Old bows made of whalebone and seal
gut, stone battle-axes, short two-edged Indian swords
mostly made of copper and with wooden or bone handles,
javelins and spears represented the various periods of their
war equipment, to which in modern times they had added
flint guns generally bearing Russian inscriptions. Amongst
these war-like emblems were standing or hanging complete
Indian costumes, mostly made of tanned leather and
richly embroidered with fringes and beads and in some cases
lined inside with warm fur. But even more interesting
were the remnants of a still older epoch, cuirasses and
208 jerkins made of thick buffalo-hide and also helmet-shaped
headgear and face masks made of hard cedar wood. The
latter were, as a rule, painted black with blood-red stripes,
which must have given their wearers a fiendish appearance.
Some of this headgear was in the shape of complete animal
heads, generally of bears or wolves, though eagles' heads
were not uncommon. How the Indians thus masked were
able to fight is inexplicable to the modern observer. They
must have been very strong men to have carried such a
burden and yet been able to move about.
When the captain took a particular liking to anyone—
and very few people could gain his confidence—then he
produced his secret treasures. In well-secured chests and
boxes there was a very valuable collection of Indian household utensils, drinking vessels, ornaments, amulets, small
images carved in wood or bone, knives, combs, artistically
woven mats made of the inner bark of the cedar tree, baskets,
hats and numerous head-dresses, etc. In addition, the
collection included old Russian coins of silver and copper
which had come for the most part from Siberia to America,
leather tokens used by the Russian Company instead of
money, and finally the drink tokens of the Russian employés,
which were already becoming obsolete. There was also a
fine collection of specimens of the mineral wealth of Alaska
and fossils and plants had not been omitted.
T^he captain, who proposed to exhibit his collection as
an " Alaska Museum " in the United States and, of course,
to sell it for the highest price obtainable, had spared neither
time, trouble nor money in its formation and in his
researches had often run grave risk of being murdered by
the suspicious natives.
From the outset the captain had made it his business
to get on good terms with the Indians and this he quickly
accomplished by means of valuable presents to them, but
unfortunately one incident occurred which threatened to
nullify all his efforts.
In his character of an officer, particularly concerned with
the   topographical   section   of   the   command,   he   was
209 entrusted with the duty of surveying the settlement and
the surrounding country in order to prepare a map. In
carrying out his orders he went outside the fortifications
to the Indian village, escorted by only two soldiers, in order
to survey that part of the district. The Indians, under
the impression that the Americans proposed to extend
their territory so as to include the Indian settlement,
were greatly mystified by the proceedings of the officer
which were quite unintelligible to them. A crowd assembled and before the unsuspecting officer was aware of the
danger he was surrounded by the Indians, the two soldiers
were deprived of their side-arms, their only weapons,
and had not the sentry on the bastion seen what was
happening and given the alarm, whereupon a detachment
of the guard advanced, it would have gone very badly with
the officer, for apparently most of the Indians were armed
and had any resistance been made they would have handled
the white men very roughly. But they retreated quickly
at the sight of the fixed bayonets, and when matters were
explained to them later they restored the side-arms they
had taken.
On another occasion the captain was in equal danger.
One section of the Indians—probably part of the Sitka
tribe—had their burial place not like most of them on the
hill close behind their settlement, but on a small island
lying some distance away which was used only for that
purpose and on which the canoes of the deceased could be
seen from a distance hanging in the trees. Our indefatigable collector, accompanied by an Indian who was in his
employ, went to the island in order to get from the graves
Indian relics, of which a large number were buried with the
dead—a proceeding which even his strong scientific interests
hardly justified and brought the investigator into grave
Considerable spoils had been collected and the captain
was just stooping down to pick up an " ash box " containing
the incinerated remains of an Indian warrior, when he
suddenly felt himself seized by the Indian who was standing
210 behind him and thrown violently down. He believed that
he was the victim of treachery and every moment he
expected to be stabbed in the back by the broad Indian
sword. He was helpless and could not even move, for the
sturdy native was lying on him with all his weight. The
fear of death lasted only a few minutes but it seemed
As the death stroke did not come, the captain pulled
himself together and tried to lift his head from the wet
ground and get hold of the revolver which was strapped
at his back.   The Indian pressed him down again but after
o.    *K
a few moments allowed him to rise and, hand on mouth,
pointed meaningly to a canoe manned by several Indians
which had passed close to the island and was just disappearing
behind the nearest spit of land. Had these Indians seen
the desecration of the graves it would have gone very badly
with the captain and his guide, and it is easy to imagine
the relief of our explorer thus to escape a dangerous
encounter with the Indians. For the guide who had saved
his life he always cherished a great regard, but he never
interfered with the graves again.
The captain's Indian guide and interpreter was in rank a
" medicine man," that is, it was his task to heal the sick,
and as such he had considerable influence amongst his
fellow tribesmen. It was the less excusable therefore
for him to enter the service of a white man whose object
it was to exploit the Indians for his own purposes. In
collecting his curiosities the captain made use of the wily
old medicine man as a medium between the Indian village
and the white settlement, and did this with great success.
Every morning at a fixed time there was a knock at the
collector's door and in response to his loud " Chredach-
schantan " (Come in), there appeared the tall thin figure
of the old scoundrel, wrapped in the usual blanket. With
cat-like steps he glided along the wall to the captain's
table, blinking at him dubiously, and only after the captain
had offered him his hand in greeting and said, " Yake
touthaht, ganu, anchao " (Good morning, sit down, chief)
did the Indian become reassured and sit down respectfully,
drawing his blanket round him in picturesque folds. Pointing to his mouth and licking his lips he said, " Chradaha
nuahu, anchao." (The chief is thirsty.) That was the
signal for the collector to produce the usual glass of whisky,
which the old sinner emptied with great enjoyment.
Evidently he liked it very much, for he rubbed his stomach
and said, " Atchra " (Good) and held out his glass for more,
which he did not get. Then they proceeded to the real
business. The following questions and answers were
exchanged regularly every. day :—
Captain : Tasse itowaseko ? (What do you want ?)
Indian : Chlechlatoa. (I don't want anything.)
Then followed a few moments silence during which the
Indian pulled out an old pipe which he had himself cut
from rough wood, begged for tobacco and began to smoke.
The uninitiated might believe that the Indian had come
only for the spirits and tobacco and had brought nothing
with him, but our experienced captain had observed from
212 the first that the Indian was continually feeling under his
dirty blanket as if to assure himself that some object was
still there. In fact, after a fairly long pause, during which
he evidently hoped to get some further attention and be
given another drink, but which the experienced collector
bore with calm indifference, the crafty old man at last
produced, as if by accident, an old piece of carving or some
trifle of that kind. The captain apparently took no
notice and the Indian, growing bolder, laid it on the table ;
the captain just glanced at it, shook his head and indicated
that the article was of no use to him. The native looked
gloomy and reiapsed i nto his previous silence, but he could
not hold out much longer and after a few puffs at his pipe
put his hand under his blanket and with a shamefaced grin
produced the article about which he had really come, and
hoped to sell to the collector. It was an artistically worked
braid of Indian hair which, quite apart from its value as
human hair, was worth a good deal as a product of the art
of this otherwise so uncultivated race of men. The
captain, of course, saw at the first glance what a treasure
had been put before him, but he took good care to conceal
his pleasure from the native who watched him closely
and was quite ready to put up his price in proportion to the
captain's eagerness. As indifferently as possible the captain now asked, " Chonséo whas ? " (What do you want
for it ?) and then ensued a long haggling. Both parties
got excited. Several times the old man picked up the
plait and threatened to go away. For a long time he would
not name a price at all but at last he asked ten dollars and
was finally beaten down to 25 cents which was paid him at
once ; he then begged for some tobacco and went away
saying, " Sakanch." (Till to-morrow.)
This transaction was repeated every day. The old man
always pretended that he had brought nothing, then he
produced some worthless trifle and finally the real curio,
either a valuable plait or an amulet made of walrus ivory
or an old weapon. The captain had obtained most of the
items in his collection in this way, but he himself also made
« frequent visits to the Indian settlement and on several
occasions I accompanied him.
The first time that he invited do so I observed
that since the misunderstanding on the occasion of the
land survey the Indians had become very friendly towards
the captain. As soon as we had passed the American lines
and reached the so-called Indian market at the entrance to
their village, I noticed that many of the vendors exchanged
greetings with him, whereas some American soldiers who
had come down to make purchases were regarded with
unconcealed hostility.
I was very much interested in seeing this primitive
market, as the whole white population of Sitka obtained
from it their supplies of fresh game and salt-water fish. As
regards the first, every morning several stags were brought in
as well as snow-geese, ptarmigan, hazel-hens and other
wild game. As to fish there were always large supplies of
halibut, a fish peculiar to this coast and often weighing up
to ioo lbs. each, and rock cod, a reddish-gold fish which in
this region is reckoned a great delicacy.
The white inhabitants are so dependent on the Indians
for the supply of fish and game that when there is unrest
amongst the Indians—a frequent occurrence—Sitka often
gets near to famine, as the first sign of a hostile attitude on
the part of the Indians is always their absence from the
Marketing is one of the most long-winded performances
that can be imagined. It is necessary to be extraordinarily
patient until the Indian market-woman makes up her
mind to part with her goods. The Sitka Indians readily
take American gold and silver as they understand its value
and use it for their purchases in the American settlement.
In order to pass the time the Indians form little groups
who crouch round fires and gamble. For this purpose they
use little shells which are current amongst them for small
change. Each takes up a handful in turn and the others
guess how many he has in his fist. To a curious chant the
gamblers sway to and fro and then all shout out the numbers
214 together. The winner is he who guesses the correct
number. It is extraordinary how this simple game, which
is greatly in vogue in Italy, has made its way to this distant
spot. The Indians may be seen playing this game often
for hours together.
After going through the market we visited some Indian
huts where we were received with great respect. As a
rule we found the whole household camped round a fire in
the middle of the hut. The eldest of the group, for each
family has a chief of its own, stood up courteously and made
room for us by the fire after shaking hands. The captain,
who was a master in the art of gaining the goodwill of the
natives, presented the chief with some tobacco and was at
once on good terms. If the Indians had anything for sale
it was now produced. Trivial objects appeared first, the
better things last, and with repeated expressions of friendliness we escaped from the smoke-filled hut into the fresh air.
What makes the atmosphere of these huts so particularly unpleasant for Europeans is the smell of fish and oil
given out by everything which the Indians touch.
In one hut there was great lamentation.   All the inhabitants were groaning and weeping, the men had their faces
215 painted black and the women had their hair cut short.
The captain ascertained that a young Indian had met with
a fatal accident whilst hunting during the previous night
and had been brought home dead^ In fact, in a remote
corner of the hut we saw a bier, covered with a blanket,
on which lay the body of the dead man. The Indians
present would not allow the captain to lift the cover to
view the corpse and from this we concluded that the face
was disfigured, for amongst the Indians a death accompanied
by mutilation of this kind is considered a dishonoured one.
Laying a small coin at the foot of the bier we left this
house of mourning, where we could do nothing more to
help, and made our way to a neighbouring hut in which as
it happened we could be of much greater use, for there we
found quite a young man huddled up in his blanket before
the fire and shivering with cold. Evidently he was in a
high fever and suffering great pain.
At first he would not let anyone see what was the matter
with hirn^ but after repeated questioning he pointed to
his foot which was terribly swollen and in such a bad state
as to be evidently the cause of the whole trouble. The
captain, who seemed prepared for any emergency, examined
the foot carefully and ascertained that the Indian had run
a nail or some other sharp piece of iron into his foot, that
the wound had festered and that he was likely to lose his
leg and possibly his life if he continued to rely on the
incantations of the medicine men. The captain, who had
a lancet with him, made a deep cut and extracted a piece
of rusty nail ; then he had the foot washed and bandaged
it himself and was .warmly thanked by the patient who had
borne the painful operation with stoicism. Of course
the captain did not show the cause of the trouble to the
Indians and so the latter regarded the skilful paleface as a
great medicine man and showed him much respect. He
was not always able to effect cures so easily, but he had
many successes which did him great credit as he was not a
trained doctor. On going again through the Indian village
a few days later we met the patient quite well again and
216 about to join a hunting expedition, the other members of
which had already taken their places in a number of canoes
lying along the shore.
After I had been a fortnight in Sitka and despite all my
efforts my investigations had been quite unsuccessful, I
was suddenly given the chance of leaving the settlement.
In order not to rouse the suspicions of people who would
be hostile to the object which I had in view I had frequently
Said how disappointed I was in my stay at Sitka and expressed
my desire to return to California at the earliest opportunity.
Either because these people really believed me or were in
doubt as to my real purpose and wanted to get rid of me,
anyhow they managed to have a passage to Victoria offered
me by the captain of the war frigate.
To everybody's astonishment, however, I declined the
offer ; the only excuse I could give for staying on in Sitka
was my determination never again to trust myself to a
sailing-ship, however large, but rather to wait for a steamer.
Glad as I should have been to bid farewell to this very
unattractive town I could not go away without rendering
futile all that I had accomplished hitherto, and so I was
forced to stay on whether I wanted to or not until my
informant had furnished me with all the evidence.
With renewed vigour I urged him to spare neither time
nor money and in order not to leave any stone unturned I
presented him with twelve bottles of red wine which I
obtained from what had been the Russian warehouse. The
vendor certainly did not imagine that he was selling me a
gift for his deadly enemy.
By this time the weather had greatly improved and one
could count on at least some fine days in the week. We
were now at the beginning of June, that is at the commencement of the period of fine weather which often
lasted only eight to ten weeks. There was a hot sun
during the day but the short nights were cool and refreshing.
217 Life became more tolerable, although the doctors assured
me that owing to the emanations from the warm moist
soil these fine days were also the most unhealthy.
The Russians, who for months past had been greatly
enjoying the few fine days we did have, made all the use
they could of this warm spell and on practically every bright
summer afternoon they went with their wives and children
out into the open country, sometimes to an islet in the bay
and sometimes to the Indian river which flows into the bay
at its north-east end about a mile away from the settle-^
ment—as already stated, this walk to the river was the only
one along the sea-front. There were no other known
ways into the interior of the island ; on the other side of
the river and in fact all round the settlement there was an
unexplored wilderness.
These land excursions were often very animated and
cheerful. A shady spot was chosen on the bank of the
limpid, rushing mountain stream and everyone set to work
to collect dry wood. Under the care of one skilled in such
matters a bright fire was soon burning and the inevitable
copper samovar boiling over it. Willing hands brought
out the supplies, mostly of cold viands ; strong tea was
passed round in small cups, fiery rum being used as a
substitute for milk, and the party soon became very cheerful.
The Russians are a very musical race, and usually on an
occasion like this many of those present had brought their
instruments. The Russian ladies do not require much
pressing and readily join in the sometimes cheerful, sometimes sad, melodies of the Russian folk-songs. When the
sun begins to go down people amuse themselves usually
with round games of various kinds, something like our
German ones. It was strange to see how a Russian priest,
who was one of the party in his long robe fastened by a
cord round the waist, took part in the games of " Captain "
and M Hide and Seek " and on one occasion (it was a festival
of the Greek Church) he had to allow himself, according to
the old Russian custom, to be kissed by any of the women and
girls who could manage to throw a wreath over his head.
218 It was usually late when the party returned leisurely to
the town in the cool of the evening, but the festivity
generally continued, since some member of the party
would invite the others to his hospitable house in order to
end up the evening in proper style with song and dance.
At these middle-class gatherings it was sometimes rather
too lively, for the Russians are wont to become very cheerful
and even the Russian ladies, nearly every one of whom had
a cigarette in her fingers, are not far behind their husbands
and lovers in the consumption of strong drink.
Nevertheless these parties formed the few bright spots
in the otherwise very dull life of the little colony, and -the
visitor was much touched by the boundless hospitality of
his Russian hosts and gladly draws a veil over certain
incidents which took place on these occasions not entirely
creditable to this somewhat eccentric gathering.
Despite the monotony of life in Sitka there were some
striking episodes.
At one time a report suddenly became current that gold
had been found on the Tacon River, close to which we had
passed on our journey, and immediately bold adventurers
equipped themselves to prospect this new discovery. Two
soldiers deserted after making arrangements with two white
adventurers to place a boat at their disposal, and they
started off for the new gold-field supplied with the barest
necessaries and in complete ignorance of the coast. The
two soldiers were brought back a few days later by Sitka
Indians. One of them had been mortally wounded by a
stab in the back and the other was a prisoner bound hand
and foot. The Indians' declared that as a result of a
drunken quarrel the first soldier had been stabbed by his
comrade, and that the other white men had given both of
them into the charge of the Indians with the request that
they would convey the wounded man and his assailant
back to Sitka. The Indians had honourably discharged
their task and had travelled night and day to get the
wounded man to Sitka while still alive. He died soon after
their arrival ;   the murderer, who admitted his guilt so
219 far as he could remember what had happened when he was
drunk, was for a time in danger of being lynched by his
enraged comrades, but escaping this he was brought to
trial before a court-martial and condemned to death. Of
the other two adventurers nothing was ever heard, and
it may be assumed that venturing along the dangerous coast
in an open boat, and ignorant of the topography, they had
lost their lives before they could reach the Tacon River.
An expedition undertaken in the neighbourhood of Mount
Edgcumbe under the guidance of the American general in
command at Sitka passed off more peacefully. It lasted
two days and those who took part in it maintained at first
a complete silence as to the results. But it was not long
before it became known that large coal deposits had been
discovered at the foot of the mountain and, as I learned
later, these were subsequently exploited under the supervision of American engineers.
The trade in furs offered another very favourable field
for the wild speculation to which the Americans are
addicted. Alaska as a whole and Sitka as the headquarters
of the Russian Company were reputed not without justice
to have great quantities of valuable furs, and all the American
immigrants, from the poorest adventurer to the highest
ranks in the army and navy, expected to acquire great
wealth from this traffic. Each newcomer was ready to
deal in furs of any kind and at any price, in the firm conviction that he would make large profits. The astute
Russians, who seemed to have instinctively a first-class
knowledge of the value of furs, and had managed to get
from the Russian Company by fair or unfair means large
quantities of furs of every kind, exploited greatly to their
own advantage the eagerness of the quite inexperienced
Americans and sold them almost worthless skins at enormous
All the buyers watched one another keenly and even a
small purchase was magnified by local gossip into a huge
transaction. I myself invested the greater part of my cash
which, even after deducting current expenses and gifts to
220 my informant, was a substantial amount, in various furs
which I took to New York and sold there at a large profit.
Some of these purchases, particularly those made from
hunters and trappers who were not experts in furs, were
very profitable ; for example, the French captain, " Frank,"
of the little merchant ship Sweepstakes allowed me to choose
250 of the darkest skins out of a stock of 500 mink. A dark
skin was worth twice as much as a light one, but for the
250 he charged me scarcely more apiece than he had at
first asked for the whole quantity. I bought these furs on
board the schooner which was at anchor in the bay, to
which I was taken by an Indian canoe from the shore, and
there I met Frank's Indian wife, on whose account our
former boatman had nearly lost his life. She was quite a
young woman, distinctly good-looking, and she cooked dinner
for the whole party. When the business was settled an
Indian porter carried the furs to my lodging, to which
Frank, who was overjoyed at being able to converse in his
own language, accompanied me to get his money. Later
on I regretted having brought a man who was quite a stranger
to me into the hut, as I did not fail to observe with what
curiosity and greed he watched me take the shining gold
pieces out of my chest. Nothing would have been easier
than to break into that badly-secured and lonely hut, and
to this day I am surprised that despite the temptation which
it offered I was not the victim of robbery. Certainly I
put off the purchase of furs as long as possible and increased
my vigilance. Nevertheless I often had anxious moments
when I was away from the house and thought of my property which was so poorly protected, and had I stayed
longer in Sitka I should inevitably have been robbed. But
fortune favoured me and I had no losses at all.
A few days after the excitement over the discovery of
gold on the Tacon River had subsided, owing to the unfortunate expedition of the two deserters, there was a sudden
rumour that a sailing-boat, manned by freebooters, had
approached the settlement and tried to land, but had been
driven off by the military authorities and consequently
had betaken itself to the mouth of the Indian river which
was outside the town limits and cast anchor there. The
crew of the vessel, which in popular report numbered
from twenty to fifty men, had encamped on the shore,
posted a regular guard and allowed no one to approach.
Of course the whole population of Sitka had nothing more
pressing to do than to go and look at this strange camp
from a distance, but came back bitterly disappointed, for
there was nothing to see except the much-tattered and
patched canvas tops of two tents among the trees and the
smoke of fires. A savage-looking fellow armed with a
Henry rifle, which holds fourteen rounds, defied anyone to
approach nearer.
This mysterious aloofness lasted for several days and the
strange camp and the unwelcome guests were the talk
of the whole settlement. Then suddenly the mystery was
cleared up, for one morning two of the men came unarmed
into the town to make some purchases, and then everything
was explained. It appeared that the sailing-boat was the
schooner Louisa Downes and came originally from Portland,
Oregon. Instead of a supposed crew of fifty there were
only fourteen men on board—they were reckless and very
greatly incensed because on their arrival in Sitka they had
asked for help from the Governor and had been refused, and
being consequently very resentful against the authorities
preferred to make their lonely camp-fire in the open forest
rather than to appeal again to official benevolence. It was
impossible to be surprised at the men's anger and defiance
on hearing the account of their experiences, and curiosity
quickly yielded to sympathy for these unfortunate people,
222 ^^
who had been disappointed in all their hopes and found
themselves in this strange and remote place without any
means of sustenance, except what their rifles could provide.
In the course of conversation with their leader, a stalwart
one-eyed man burnt almost black by the sun, I discovered
that the whole party came from Oregon and were gold-
miners by occupation. Most of them had worked during
the past summer at the Cariboo mines, which lie far in
the interior, and when the good season was over and the
setting-in of the winter, which in those northern regions
is very severe, had~put an end to the mining they had come
down to Portland to wait there for the return of better
weather in the spring. In winter all the larger towns of
the west coast—San Francisco, Portland, Victoria, etc.—
are filled by gold-diggers, many of whom during that season
squander in the wildest revelry what they have earned with
such toil during the summer. It can be readily imagined
that amongst these rough fellows who have nothing to do
and are rolling in money for a time, many wild schemes are
hatched for the coming year, and that there is no lack of
cunning sharpers who beguile the generally sanguine, open-
hearted and rarely distrustful miners and exploit them to
their own advantage.
The old miner, who took a glass of grog at my invitation,
told me that in the previous winter a certain adventurer
went round in Portland and made himself the talk of the
whole town. His story was that more than five years
previously he had been wrecked on the coast of Alaska,
rescued by some Indians and sold as a slave from one tribe
of coast Indians in the neighbourhood of Sitka to another,
and been treated fairly well by the natives until at last he
had come to the Tacon Indians who lived on the Tacon
River north-east of Sitka. By giving them great help in
repelling a hostile attack he had gained their friendship,
and in recognition of his service their chief had shown him
a place on the river bank where according to his account,
gold could be gathered in handfuls only a few inches
beneath the soil.   The chief allowed him to take as much as
223 he could carry but forbade him ever to give any information about this gold-field to the palefaces.
Becoming thus suddenly the owner of such wealth the
man, whose previous position as a slave does not seem to
have been altogether unbearable, had at the time no other
thought than to escape to Sitka or some other station of the
white men and to betray his knowledge of this great store
of gold. After incredible efforts and endless perils, and
not until he had lost every bit of his gold, he succeeded at
last in getting to a small coasting-boat and on board of it
in reaching Victoria. For five years this reticent individual
had kept his secret to himself, until poverty forced him to
sell it.
" We trusted the man implicitly," my informant continued, " and soon fourteen determined men were found to
undertake an expedition to this wondrous new Eldorado.
The money needed was quickly collected, a schooner was
purchased^-the Louisa Downes—and fitted out for a trip
that would last six months. The discoverer of the gold-
field was engaged as guide for a high salary, we promised
ourselves unheard-of wealth and sailed for Portland on
the loth of March, envied by all the friends we left behind.
Four of us had formerly served as seamen on board sailing-
ships and could handle the boat well. We had no charts
of the coast and relied entirely on our guide's sense of
locality. Nothing untoward happened on the voyage from
Columbia to Victoria, but on arriving there at the end of
March we met with our first adventure. The English
colonists who had settled at that place were living then in
fear of raids by the Fenians, and the arrival of a vessel"
with fourteen armed men (including some Irish-Americans)
caused great commotion amongst the worthy citizens.
As soon as our boat was signalled the alarm was given and
the small garrison and the volunteers were called to arms.
In vain did we try to explain who we really were, and
asserted that we had* nothing to do with politics ; our
boat was seized, we ourselves were placed under arrest,
and we were told that we should be prosecuted as Fenian
224 pirates. Fortunately before matters got as far as that the
American consul, to whom we had appealed as American
citizens, intervened on our behalf with the British
authorities and after much discussion we were allowed to
continue our journey, but not without repeated warnings
to do nothing which would injure the British colony.
" The journey from Victoria " (by the route I have
already described) " to the Stikeen River and from that
point to the Tacon River lasted nearly a whole month,
and it was the end of April before we came at last in sight
of the shores of Tacon after the usual experiences of every
traveller along the north-west coast. Our expectations
were at their height. After seemingly unending difficulties
and dangers we stood at last on the threshold of the
promised land of gold. Our guide, who throughout the
journey had shown his ignorance of the district and would
not have found the Tacon country at all without the
Indian pilot whom we had engaged, became more and more
uneasy the nearer we drew to our goal. We ascribed this
not so much to his uncertainty as to the locality as to his
eagerness for the gold which was within our grasp, and
we did not imagine there was anything wrong.
We experienced our first disappointment as we
approached the mouth of the river, for we encountered
great floes of drifting ice which had no doubt been carried
down by the river-current to the sea. The nearer we got
to the coast the more numerous became the ice-floes and
at last to prevent our boat being crushed by the ice we had
to turn back to the open sea. It was impossible to push on
towards the river, for the ice-drift blocked the whole estuary
in a broad field about a mile wide. So we had to wait
until the breaking-up of the ice, for, owing to the unapproachable coasts, it was not possible to reach our destination,
which was five miles upstream, by any other route than the
river gorge itself. We drifted about at sea for two long
weeks ; we were in sight of the promised land and could
not reach it. The temper of our party on the boat, which
had already displayed itself in various outbursts during
225 P
m the journey, now became very bad ; scarcely a day passed
without a quarrel and I had to exert all my authority to
prevent open violence.
At last heavy south-west storms, accompanied by
continuous rain, broke the ice-barrier and we made our way
to the estuary of the river. The journey upstream against
the swollen current was very toilsome and we had much
difficulty with floating timber, but the longing to reach the
gold deposit overcame all difficulties and on the second
evening of our river journey we found ourselves at the
spot indicated by the old prospector, which he professed
to recognise. It was a wild district—steep rocks scantily
clothed with distorted pines in the foreground, snow
mountains and glaciers towering in the background. We
set up our camp in a little bay and brought our mining
tools on land. Then we took an oath to divide the treasure
we should get into equal shares, and set to work under the
directions of the guide.
" We ought to have found the gold only a few inches
below the surface. We dug four feet deep through the
river gravel and struck the solid rock. The old man was
perspiring with anxiety and at last declared that he must
have been mistaken about the place. We dug in two,
three, four, five different spots. No one would admit
discouragement, but when at the last attempt we found
nothing but sand and pebbles, and the hard rock prevented
us from digging any deeper all of us, even the calmest,
became so angry with the scoundrel who had tricked us in
this shameful way that we swore we would hang him on
the nearest tree. No sooner said than done. Despite all
his protestations of innocence a rope was slung round the
neck of the wretched old man and he was dangling lifeless
between heaven and earth."
An act of summary justice or of lynch law, as it is called
in America, never fails to make a deep impression on all
who take part in it, and then those men who had been so
enraged seemed suddenly to come to their senses.
226 1
" That the swindler had been punished as he deserved
for his heartless fraud all of us," continued my informant,
" were agreed. The problem now before us was how to
get out of our unfortunate plight. Our stock of goods,
for exchange with the Indians, and of food would give out
very soon, and we did not know at all how far we were from
Sitka, the nearest white settlement. We had already
given up all hope of finding gold and decided to sail away
without losing any time.
" Before we left we received a visit from a chieftain
accompanied by a number of Tacon Indians who warned
us with tragi-comic gestures to leave his territory without
delay. His summons was quite superfluous as we had already
put all our tools on board, so we sent him a few shots as a
greeting when we were well away.
" That was how we left the golden river which we have
often cursed since and none of us ever wants to behold
again, and after a repetition of our adventure and toils
we came at last on the 6th June, three months after leaving
Portland, to the town of Sitka, which gave us so unfriendly
a reception.
" Here we are," concluded my informant, " robbed of
all our savings of the past year, almost without resources
to continue our journey to the south. We have lost the
summer which is so important for us gold-diggers, and besides
this, when we return we shall be the laughing stock of all
our fellow miners."
It is an old story which is repeated over and over again
in the life of the gold-digger, but without making him any
The arrival of the gold prospectors who, though their
expedition had been unsuccessful, told many stories of their
previous exploits, and the discovery of coal deposits at
Mount Edgcumbe revived many of there ports that were
current in the early Russian period about the existence of
large copper deposits near Sitka.   Although I personally
227 p 2 attached little importance to the matter and even in the
most favourable circumstances could profit little by it on
account of my approaching departure, I nevertheless took
part in an expedition which was to go some ten miles into
the interior of the island and test the existence of the copper
deposit. The scheme was prepared by Russian officials,
who gave me permission to participate. We met for this
purpose at 5 o'clock in the morning at the house of the
leader of the party, the former director of the Russian
Company. There were six of us all armed and supplied with
provisions for one day ; a Russian youth accompanied us
as porter. It was a dull day and the sky was overcast ;
the town was sunk in sleep and the only sound was a confused
uproar made by Russian workmen in a drinking bar on our
route, where they had evidently been soaking themselves
all night. Before we left the town we were alarmed by a
shot fired close by and then noticed for the first time that
our Russian porter was not following us. As we turned
back to look for him he came running up and, trembling in
every limb, explained that someone had fired at him from
the drinking bar and he dared not pass it, so he had made a
detour in order to overtake us. Such sorry jests were of
such frequent occurrence that no one troubled about them
so long as no one was injured, and we continued on our way.
About 6 o'clock we arrived at the Indian river and, after
we had breakfasted on the bank, we continued our journey
upstream. At first we followed a well-trodden path
which was a favourite walk of picnic parties, but gradually
the track became fainter and fainter and at the end of a
mile it ceased altogether. We now pushed on very slowly,
for we had to force our way through the thickets. Sometimes it was a huge tree trunk felled by a storm or old age
which blocked our way with its innumerable branches and
twigs ; sometimes it was thorn bushes growing in wild
confusion and rank creeping plants which, though more
yielding, clung to us continually and impeded our progress.
Besides this the ground was covered a foot deep with loose
moss which seemed smooth enough, but woe to the man who
228 carelessly stepped thereon without first testing it. The
deceptive covering gave way beneath his feet and often
some of the party sank in suddenly and disappeared up to the
waist. The tree trunks, which had fallen in the course of
time and in these virgin woods had not been cleared out
of the way by any human agency lay where they had been
wrecked, and it was a long time before they and their
branches were completely decayed. But trunks and
branches alike were quickly covered with that green carpetlike moss which grows so luxuriantly in the northern
forests. The creeping plants that become so rank in the
moist air grew over this and in a short time filled up the
numerous hollows with a loose veil. When we remember
how many thousands and thousands of years this process of
decay has been going on without cessation, how generation
after generation of trees weakened by old age have sunk back
into the ground from which they originally sprang, we can
easily understand how from these dead forests the brown and
later the hard coal has been formed and slowly but steadily
renewed. That in all these primaeval woods of the northwest coast coal is to be found and can be exploited when
opportunity offers is an established fact, and we should have
done better to search for coal than for copper.
We pushed on valiantly, always keeping close to the stream
in order to be sure of the way back. Sometimes we found
it impossible to keep to one bank and then we boldly
plunged through the foaming and ice-cold mountain stream,
which, however, was only a foot or two deep in order to
try out luck on the other bank. If that side were not
practicable then we had to make our way in the stream
itself, which, owing to the coldness of the water, was very
tiresome and unpleasant. Despite all these difficulties,
and without any mischance except a tumble of our leader—
which happily had no serious consequences—we arrived
about one o'clock at the place where, according to Russian
stories the copper deposit ought to be. We may have
mistaken the place or we may not have, had the patience
or the skill to investigate properly, but in any event we found
1 nothing and as not one of us had really expected anything
much from the scheme we were not seriously disappointed,
and in the enjoyment of our dinner, which was spread out
on the soft moss, we soon forgot the original purpose of the
expedition. It was very good to have a sleep after our hard
tramp and all of us, with the exception of the Russian youth,
were soon enjoying a well-earned siesta.
At 3 o'clock in the afternoon we began our return journey,
which took much less time as we were now better acquainted
with the route, and without seeing an Indian or a single wild
animal or any game even from a distance we emerged from
the wood, at 6 o'clock, on to the heath which stretched
between the wood and the town, and had the towers of
Sitka before us. We camped again and quickly lit a fire
and in the enjoyment of a cup of tea we soon forgot our
toilsome march. It was very pleasant to camp on the
scented heather, and the fire crackled and leaped up here
and there in tongues from the dry grass so cheerily that we
amused ourselves by setting light to small patches of the
grass in order to form some conception of what a prairie
fire was like.
An hour later we were all back in Sitka and gathered in
the house of one of our party when suddenly we heard the
alarm given. Hastening into the street we encountered
most of the citizens in front of their houses and saw a
detachment of soldiers and marines running at the double
to the north end of the town. The air was heavy with
thick smoke, filling one's eyes and nose, which was evidently
being driven from the forest towards the town by the strong
north wind. The cause of the commotion was a forest fire
and there was danger that the town would be imperiled
by the approaching flames. Our folly in lighting a fire
on the edge of the forest made us conscience-stricken and
we would have given a great deal not to have done it, but
it was too late. Thanks to the praiseworthy energy of the
commanding general who, well acquainted with the
practice of meeting prairie fires with a counter-fire, immediately ordered the soldiers to dig trenches round the town
230 and set fire to a small belt of heath grass on their outer edge,
the fire did no damage to the town itself. Later in the
night the wind fell and the heavy rain that followed put a
stop to the fire in the forest. Nevertheless even in this
short time a surprisingly large stretch of the heath and
undergrowth was completely destroyed or charred, as we
saw next day, and even the lower parts of great old trees
had begun to catch fire.
Naturally we did not tell anyone that we had caused the
fire, but we vowed that we would never again be guilty of
such an act of folly.
Most of these exploring parties had no particular result
and in fact they were really only a pretext for many of the
inhabitants of Sitka, who wanted a change, to get away
from their business for a day or so. That these trips into
the interior of the island were not beneficial to the health
of those who took part in them was proved by the various
illnesses which ensued, amongst which rheumatic ailments
were the most common. Another trouble was caused by a
poisonous plant of a thorny nature, the so-called " Devil's
Rush," which grew in profusion in the forest. Sufficient
precautions could hardly be taken to avoid contact with
this plant, for by merely touching it the thorns stuck in one's
skin and unless they were immediately cut out they caused
violent inflammation which was sometimes fatal, since in
this climate even the most trivial wound healed slowly and
with difficulty. I myself had my finger violently inflamed
in this way and was altogether so unwell as a result of
a recurrence of wet weather, that every now and then I
retired to my bed feeling very ill and almost gave up hope
of the success of my mission. True my informant had
obtained answers to a considerable proportion of my questions, but the most important evidence which would have
been decisive in any action against the Company he had not
yet delivered to me, excusing himself on the ground that
231 access to the archives where the particular documents were
deposited was very difficult to obtain and required a great
deal of time. But in order to be ready for any eventuality
and to put what information I already had in such a
form as could be utilised, I employed the long hours when I
was unwell and stayed in the house, in putting the evidence
I had received in the form of an affidavit, and added to it
from time to time any further information supplied by my
My house-mate, the lawyer, was of course of great use to
me in this respect, although I could not acquaint him at
the time with the real importance of my mission. Apart
from the occasional defence of an accused person, who had
in such cases to pay a fee in advance, unless his friends would
do this for him, this unfortunate jurist had practically no
work to do, and to judge by his general attitude, already
regretted that he had ever come to Sitka.
In the only case of importance which was at this time
in his hands he obtained by purchase an old document
according to which the holder was entitled to claim a large
part of the land on which the town of Sitka stood, as his
The document in question which, if it were authentic,
was by no means dear at the price of 500 dollars paid by
the lawyer to a Jewish dealer, originated with the Aleutian
who sixty years ago in Baranoff's time was the sole survivor
of the Indian attack, and as such received the grant of the
property from the Russian officials. From that time the
documents had passed through various hands and the present
owner was determined to enforce his rights. I never heard
if he succeeded in doing so.
Claims of this kind on real property are by no means
uncommon in America, and even at the present time there
are persons still living, descendants of the first settlers,
who claim whole counties with towns, villages and estates,
basing their claims on the rights of their ancestors who a
hundred years ago and more had settled in these districts
when still undeveloped.   At that time the boundaries of
232 real estates were not so clearly defined as they are to-day,
and each squatter regarded as his own property everything
that was not claimed by his neighbour, who often lived
many miles away.
One evening we had been talking for a long time by the
bright light of the full moon about that valuable deed of
gift and I had been lying down for perhaps an hour, when
there was a knock at the door. Half-dressed as I was, I
cautiously opened the shuttered window by the door and
asked who was there and what he wanted so late at night.
A young Russian whom I remembered having seen occasionally in the company of the Russian workmen answered in
an appalling jargon of English, German and Russian that
I was wanted in the house of a Russian captain to take a
Believing the whole matter to be a bad joke I slammed the
window, whereupon the Russian went off quietly. Next
day the affair was explained. During the night a child had
died at the house of a Russian captain who was away on
his ship, and as the child was his favourite one, the bereaved
mother wanted to have a portrait made immediately after
death for her absent husband and had sent for me as she
thought I was a professional portrait-painter. I expressed
my thanks suitably for such a commission, but excused
myself by explaining that I was a landscape painter and did
not undertake portraits and in this way I escaped applications for the latter. On the other hand I received many
requests that I would allow my sketches of Sitka to be
published, and the Mayor of Sitka was willing to certify
to the correctness of the sketches which I had made on
the spot in order that they might appear in the New York
illustrated papers, but I declined the offer with thanks.
During the long and mostly rainy days which followed
on the short summer, when the time dragged drearily on,
people were glad if the monotony of life was interrupted by
anything unusual. Sometimes idle soldiers, in order to
pass the time, set a barn on fire. Sometimes a drunken
sailor in his excitement challenged the whole male popula-
233 tion of the town to a fight. There was a remarkabl
person named Rapaport, a German Polish Jew by origin,
who spent the greater part of his life in prison and as soon
as he came out was again accused. Rapaport was the
recognised scapegoat of the whole settlement ; whenever
anything happened—theft, arson, assault, whatever it might
be—he was believed to be the criminal or at any rate to have
had a hand in the crime. On one occasion he had a very
bad time. He had won heavily when playing cards with
three sailors, who accused him, rightly or wrongly, of
cheating and assaulted the poor fellow so violently with
sticks and knives that next morning he was picked up for
dead. Only after long efforts was he brought to. Nothing
much happened to the sailors and only one was imprisoned
because he was recognised as a deserter. But Rapaport
as a result of his injuries was a real picture of misery and had
to endure much scoffing.
Almost at the same time in one of the Russian workmen's
dwellings a coloured woman was murdered ; a young negro
who had got into a similar house on amorous intent was
thrown out of the window by the enraged husband in
defence of his hearth and home ; and a half-breed woman,
the mother of several young children, eloped with the
captain of a coasting vessel.
These incidents constituted the chronique scandaleuse
of Sitka in a little less than a week, and these are actual
facts. Rumours of other events were going about during
this same period amongst the idle settlers, but they are not
An event in the neighbouring Indian village with its far-
reaching effects threw the quixotic experiences of a Rapaport
into the shade.
" Prince Nicholas," an old man of sixty years of age
(according to his own statement) who was regarded by the
Sitka Indians as their chief and was recognised as such by
234 ^M
the Russian officials, had ended his days. For some time
past the medicine men of three different tribes had been
performing their incantations by his couch, but it was all
of no avail. Nicholas became weaker and weaker and after
the last resource, namely, the hot springs some 30 miles
from Sitka, had been tried without success the old chief's
superstitious subjects gave up all hope of his recovery,
and without seeking help from thé white men the old
warrior took to his bed, hovered for a few days between
life and death, and at last passed away with true Indian
fortitude, an example to his tribesmen.
We received the first news of the old chieftain's death
from Russian priests ; for the dead man, like most of the
Indians living at Sitka, had been baptised in the way I
have previously described and received into the Russian
Either from some real religious belief or because they
hoped to obtain some gifts from the church the surviving
members of his family notified his death to the priests,
who made arrangements for the funeral to be carried out
with fitting ceremony.
The day after his death I went to the chief's house, a
roomy building made of boards, at the entrance to the
Indian village. It differed from the other huts only by
its greater size and by the flag flying at half-mast which
could be seen from a distance and indicated the death of
some important person.
Apparently most of the Indians were keeping in their
own huts, for only a few were to be seen ; without exception
they were all painted black and the women had their hair
cut short. In the chiePs house his relatives were crouching
over separate little fires at the sides.
In the back of the hut there was a catafalque covered
with a black cloth which contained the body of the deceased,
and at the head were two lighted wax candles. A general's
cocked hat and a Russian sword were laid on the coffin
together with some ornaments, chiefly beads and brass
chains.   At  the foot of the catafalque knelt a Russian
235 acolyte in white surplice, who was saying the Prayers for
the Dead. New blankets were spread out all around and
guns and hunting and fishing tackle, no doubt the property
of the deceased chief, were laid out on them ; even his
favourite canoe was exhibited—it would never be used
again as it must be kept as a memorial. The hut was quite
full of incense which the acolyte burned anew from time to
time—the whole scene seemed quite unreal. Is it possible
to imagine any greater contrast than Greek Catholic funeral
rites taking place in the house of an Indian whose conversion
was only superficial and whose idols and amulets were hanging on the walls of the hut in evidence of his heathen
beliefs ?
The news of the death of the Sitka chief must have spread
with great rapidity to the friendly tribes in the neighbourhood, for on the next day but one a great deal of excitement was noticeable in the village. From early morning
until dusk there appeared a large number of strange canoes
filled with deputations of Indians from the Tacon, Chilcaht,
Hennega and all the other tribes friendly to the Sitka
Indians, who had come to take part in the ceremonies
connected with the death of the former chief and the
election of his successor.
As they were supplied by the American officials with
liberal rations of the much coveted " fire-water " things
soon became very lively in the Indian camp, and when on
the afternoon of the same day I happened to be at the
harbour, which was not far from the camp, I heard a most
remarkable noise of cymbals, drums and fifes. Although
some of my friends advised me not to go near the Indians,
who would all be more or less worked up, I could not resist
the temptation to try and see how the savages conducted
their ceremonies and so I went down to the camp in company with one other white man—we had our revolvers
ready for any emergency. The sentry on the bastion,
though he did not attempt to prevent us from going out,
warned us not to mingle with the excited natives as the
many Indians who had come from elsewhere could not be
236 relied on ;  but now that we had started we were ashamed
to go back without having seen something.
In front of the chief's house there was a dense throng of
Indians gesticulating wildly and just making way for a medicine man who was making a dreadful din by rattling his
medicine box. After this the crowd of Indians pressed
through the low door by which only one person could enter
at a time, stooping as he went. We thought this was a
favourable opportunity and although we encountered many
a hostile glance from the lynx-eyed natives, we managed to
get into the hut along with the crowd before the little
door was shut. When, however, we did get in we regretted
that we had gone so far, and we reluctantly realised how
very difficult it would be to get out again should any
unpleasantness occur. If the Indians wanted to do us any
harm it would be very easy for them. The whole interior
of the roomy hut was packed full of natives who all stood on
a gradual slope to the exit, forming a strange spectacle,
and showed their approval by making animal-like cries
and their disapproval by yelling and stamping.
At the back of the hut near the body, which to-day was
not surrounded by Christian emblems, but was simply
covered with skins and blankets, a kind of platform had been
erected a few feet above the ground. On it there was an
Indian dressed in skins, with a hideous mask over his face,
and his head decked with feathers, who executed a series of
the wildest leaps and bounds. This he did at first slowly,
then more and more rapidly rising to a frenzy that bordered
on madness until the poor wretch at last sank down exhausted
and was carried away by his comrades who were prepared for
this to happen. The whole performance was accompanied
by an orchestra of Indian cymbals, fifes and clappers, the
noise of which grew louder and louder as the dancing
quickened until when the half-maddened performer collapsed it suddenly stopped with a deafening crash, whereon
the spectators broke out into a tremendous noise of their own.
If one of the candidates for the chieftainship (for that was
what the performance appeared to be) were carried away
237 unconscious another was immediately ready to go on with
the interrupted performance. Each tried to excel the others
in his devil dance ; the longer a performer could hold out
and the greater the applause, the better prospect had he
probably of being chosen as chief.
After we had seen no fewer than three candidates dance till
they were half-dead we began to think seriously of getting
out, for the whole scene in the semi-darkness of the hut,
which had only the poor light from two fires, the faces of
the Indians which though mostly painted black were
reddened by the fire light, the horrible noise and the
atmosphere, which was thick with the smoke and the
odour of such a crowd of natives, made our stay there a
real torture. In order not to attract the attention of the
Indians we had kept as much as possible in the shadow of
the walls, but that meant that we were forced by the press
of the natives away from the door towards the side and did
not see how we could get out, for several times when we
attempted to push our way through we were driven
violently back by some broad-shouldered Indian.
In this uncertainty we had a piece of good fortune for
I noticed near me the old medicine man whose acquaintance
I had made through his traffic with the collector of curios.
I tapped him cautiously on the shoulder and made him
understand that I wanted to get to the door. The wily
old man pretended at first that he did not understand me,
but a roll of tobacco, which my companion fortunately had
with him and which I pressed unobtrusively into the
Indian's hand, had the desired effect. He stood near us
and signed to us to keep close to him and without taking any
notice of the objections and occasional shoves of unfriendly
Indians, the skilful old man manoeuvred us quickly towards
the door. We waited until some other Indians went out
and then made our way through the open door into the
fresh air, breathing freely when we saw the clear sky over
us once more and had no half-drunken natives near us.
For three days the dead chief lay in state in his house,
then the solemn burial was to take place ; this the proselytising Russian clergy had been able to arrange in such
a way as to give the dead chief Christian burial, although the
Indians from other tribes who were not friendly to the
Russian Church had strongly opposed it. The dull and
rainy day which was early heralded by the bell from the
Russian church was a fitting one for the sad ceremony
which was to take place in honour of the deceased. The
Russian priests hastened earlier still to the church in which
the body of old Nicholas was to be blessed and the whole
Russian population was out in its Sunday raiment to attend
the ceremony.
On the stroke of eleven the funeral procession started
from the Indian camp. At its head there walked with
military bearing the solitary town policeman, accompanied
by three bandsmen who played a funeral march. Behind
these, borne by six Indians, came the coffin with the hat and
sword of the dead chieftain on it. The pall-bearers, relatives
of the chief dressed in European clothes, followed close
behind the coffin and some twenty Indians, mostly women,
brought up the rear of the simple procession. The great
majority of the Sitka Indians and all the men of the other
tribes had apparently stayed away.
On entering the church, which was quickly filled with
Russians, the coffin was set down and a Russian " Pope "
gave a short address in which he set out the merits of the
dead chief and at the end to show that his sins were forgiven
he made the sign of the cross over him. A prayer repeated
by the kneeling congregation ended the service, during
which the Russians present—all without exception—held
lighted wax candles and a number of choir boys continually
burnt incense.
The six Indian bearers, who had knelt throughout the
service, took the coffin again on their shoulders and the
burial procession, accompanied now by three priests and a
239 large number of Russians, moved towards the burial place,
which lay beyond the fortifications and behind the Indian
The place was reached amid torrents of rain, and the
mourners assembled amidst the burial huts that held the
ashes of the chieftain's subjects. Here a very deep grave
had been dug and after a short prayer the coffin was let down
into it. The American flag, which had hitherto covered
the coffin, was drawn away, but in its place the deceased's
umbrella and walking stick were laid there. Some matting
was put on next, then food and a bottle of wine, and
finally everything was covered with an old sail. Amidst
the lamentations of the Indian women who served as
professional mourners the grave was filled up, and the
bystanders went away in silence.
I am bound to say that I was not very favourably
impressed with the whole proceeding, and I was actually
glad to hear from a Russian, who was well acquainted with
Indian conditions, that the funeral ceremony was merely
a pretence intended to uphold the dignity of the church
amongst the natives, and that after a few hours the latter
would take up the body of the chief and conduct the
funeral in their own way.
This statement explained the absence of the uncivilised
Indian, from the Christian ceremony and, as foreseen,
the mortal remains of old Nicholas did not rest for long in
the cold earth and the great pieces of timber which the
natives had collected denoted that the funeral would, as
usual, be completed by burning the body.
Whilst we were eagerly watching the movements of the
Indians from a distance (a near approach was prevented
by a native who was stationed as a sentry) an extraordinary
event occurred.
Suddenly an Indian youth broke out of the undergrowth
which reached up to the palisade ; at the same instant a
shot rang out behind him and a second one followed.
Like a hunted deer the youth ran along the palisade towards
the little sallyport, which he reached uninjured though a
240 -^çi
third shot struck it at that moment close above his head.
But the guard had now taken him in and the door was
closed, and the poor fellow was in safety, though he fell
senseless from the strain.
Through an interpreter we learned what had happened.
It appeared that, according to the custom of the Sitka
Indians—which however was kept secret lest the white men
should intervene—when an important Indian died a slave
was sacrificed to appease the evil spirits, who amongst these
natives seemed to play a more important part than the good
spirits. This youth, barely fifteen years old, had been
taken prisoner in a war with the Kaigh Indians and consequently made a slave ; now he had been chosen as the victim
and was about to be sacrificed when he had cleverly eluded
the vigilance of his guards and made a successful attempt
to escape in order to put himself under the protection of the
white men. Whatever happened he was safe there, but the
Indians were greatly enraged at the escape of their intended
victim and prepared quite openly to revolt.
As if at a command the natives who during the day had
been wandering about a good deal inside the palisade
suddenly vanished. The Indian market, usually so busy,
was absolutely deserted and an eerie silence reigned in the
settlement. The commander of the American troops
realised immediately what the behaviour of the natives
meant and prepared to repel them vigorously if they should
take the offensive. The guards were strengthened, two
12-pounders were directed against the Indian camp, and a
strict watch was kept throughout the night.
At dawn next day from 600-800 Indians, all armed with
guns, were to be seen assembled on the shore ; and one of
them waved a small piece of white sail-cloth as a sign that
they wished for a parley. In order to avoid a conflict
the American general agreed to receive their proposals.
The determined attitude of the garrison had apparently
already impressed them, for they were willing to make a
compromise. Their actual offer was to give up to the
American commander four male Indian slaves if he would
241 R
. return the youth who was under his protection but in their
view had been condemned to death.
Of course the general rejected this proposal firmly, and
at the same time gave them twenty-four hours in which to
make complete submission. During that time a gun-boat
which was lying opposite the Indian village had orders
not to allow any canoe to pass to or from the shore.
Either because of this measure which struck the Indians
in their most vulnerable spot, as they earned their livelihood
entirely by means of their canoes, or because wiser counsels
prevailed,   anyhow  when   the   time   allowed   them   had
expired they sent a deputation which abandoned the demand
for the surrender of the boy and asked for peace and an
amnesty. This was readily granted, for the white population would have suffered severely from a dispute with the
Indians and the lack of the game and fish which the natives
brought to market was already beginning to make itself
Unfortunately the dispute did not pass off without
bloodshed. During the blockade by sea a canoe manned
by Indians contravened the prohibition by setting out
from the shore ; the American sentries fired on it, killing
one and wounding two of the crew. This unfortunate
incident, perhaps due to a misunderstanding, had an
unhappy result when shortly afterwards two white men
who had started before this on an expedition to the Chatham
Straits, about thirty miles from Sitka, for barter with the
242 tH
Indians, met a relative of the native who had been killed.
He, as it appeared later, had sworn to avenge the death of
his kinsman on the first white man he met, and so he
killed one of the traders. The other escaped with great
difficulty and hardship and brought the news to Sitka.
Thus an entirely innocent person had lost his life. I do
not know if the murderer was ever brought to justice.
Nor do I know what became of the fugitive slave. The
American commandant intended to return him to his
tribe, the Kaigh Indians, when opportunity offered, since
if he remained near the Sitkas he might have fallen a secret
victim to their fanaticism.
Owing to the excitement in Sitka caused by these events
in the Indian encampment the arrival of two ships, which
would have been of great interest in ordinary times, passed
almost unnoticed.
One of them was the warship Saginaw, which for the
second time had visited the scene of the wreck of the
Growler in order to investigate that catastrophe, and on
this occasion brought back with it conclusive evidence that
the crew of the schooner had been slain, when they landed,
by the piratical natives. A number of Hyder Indians were
prisoners on board the warship and were to be brought
for trial before the general in command. In course of the
investigations it had already been proved that practically
the whole cargo of the Growler had been salvaged by the
Indians and part of it had been sold to other tribes ; in
fact, a mass of goods and provisions had been found in the
camps of the Cape Chacoum and Georgina Indians which
must have come from the ill-fated ship. A compass and
sextant and some other nautical instruments which were
of course of no value to the natives, had been recovered
from the Indians by the captain of the war-ship. One of
the life-boats of the Growler in an absolutely seaworthy
state was found in a camp, and obviously, if the crew of
243    . R*
II the wrecked vessel had been able to save themselves in it,
they would not have been attacked by the Indians.
Besides this an Indian squaw who had been brought by
the warship as a witness seemed to have declared when
she was drunk that the schooner had run aground near the
coast during a violent storm ; that the crew had tried to
reach the shore in their boats but had been received with
gun-fire from the natives and been driven back. Some were
drowned in the breakers and the few who managed to get
ashore were killed by the Indians.
It is difficult to say whether this story was entirely
reliable, but the general opinion was that the squaw had
told the truth while she was half-stupefied even though,
when being examined later, she tried to contradict her
previous statement.
The second ship which entered the harbour at almost the
same time was a two-masted sailing-ship, the schooner
Black Diamond, which came from the Nanaimo mines
near Victoria with a cargo of coal. This vessel had been
fourteen days on the way, having come by the so-called
Outer Passage westward of Vancouver and Queen Charlotte
Islands. I at once got into communication with the
captain in order to ascertain if the ship brought any news
from California and heard from him nothing new except,
what was very important for me, that he proposed to start
on the return journey to Victoria in eight days. He was
not fitted out for carrying passengers but nevertheless
offered to make room for me if I was disposed to travel with
him. Henceforth I thought of nothing else than of finishing my business as quickly as possible and not to let slip
this opportunity. In consequence of my constant urging
I had already received a large amount of important evidence
from my informant, but it seemed to me that he was
intentionally delaying matters and so, being driven to
extremes, I had recourse to threats and gave him to understand that he had delivered himself into my hands by the
evidence which he had already supplied, and now it rested
with him to decide whether I should give him the promised
.   244 reward or expose him to his fellow countrymen as a spy
and a traitor.
There was a violent scene, but where entreaties failed
threats were successful, and much as he hated me his cupidity
drove him at last to complete what he had undertaken.
I then obtained information which could not possibly be
controverted, not only as to the earlier trickery of the
officials in selling dishonestly to third persons part of the
sealskins to which my firm was entitled and putting the
proceeds in their own pockets, but also as to the intention
of these unscrupulous individuals to sell a large part of
this year's catch at high prices to American dealers and
thereby defraud my firm, which, according to the contract,
was entitled to the whole catch.
The various pieces of evidence which had been contained
in the archives of the Company, I had carefully arranged in
order, with the help of my house-mate, and when armed with
this document I sent for the last time for my informant,
I am bound to confess that I felt somewhat nervous at
being alone with this shifty fellow in my lonely dwelling on
the shore. I read the document to him slowly and carefully and as I had adhered very closely to his verbal and
written statements there was nothing to which he could
object seriously. But when I wanted him to come with
me to the Town Hall in order to complete his statement
by an affidavit made in the presence of the Mayor, the
coward tried to raise new difficulties and to excuse himself
by saying that his signature on such a document would
stamp him for ever as a criminal in the eyes of the Russian
I explained curtly that even if he did not do what I now
wanted he had put himself in my power, but that should
there be any legal proceedings I would protect him as much
as possible and only reveal his name as a last resort. After
prolonged hesitation he at last accompanied me to the
registry. It was a usual custom when statements were
sworn to, to read the declaration out loud before the oath
was administered.    I was well aware of that, and also that
245 publicity of this kind would betray to the inquisitive
officials not only the name of my informant but also the
whole character of my mission.
To avoid both these difficulties I had chosen a time when
the official who administered oaths was particularly busy.
I laid the complete documents before him with as little
show of concern as possible. My plan succeeded. Without
even looking at the statement the official administered the
short oath to my witness. The old and dirty Bible which
had been touched by so many lying lips was kissed and the
document was signed. He himself added his own name
and the official seal and both of these I then had certified
by the commanding general, who at the time was taking
statements through two interpreters from a number of
Hyder Indians, and with a light heart and the important
documents in my pocket I left the Government building
and handed over to my witness the gold dollars which were
the price of his treachery.
All this took place on the day before the Black Diamond
was to sail. My acquaintances, to whom I had said nothing
as to my intention of going back on that ship and who
remembered only too clearly the determination which I
had formally avowed never again to travel by a sailing-vessel,
could, of course, not understand what it was that had
suddenly induced me to rush off on a sailing-ship which
was not fitted up for passengers.
I packed my goods that same evening and sent them on
board and very early next morning I went on the ship
accompanied by one of my house-mates. The absence of
wind compelled the captain to remain at anchor some
hours longer and during that time I made a mental picture
of the homely town with its Russian cupolas and spires,
the picturesquely-situated Indian camp, and the mountain
ranges in the background.
The sun rose full over the nearest mountain tops, the
deep blue sea was smooth as a mirror, the white sailing-
ships in the harbour lay asleep in the still water, light
246 columns of smoke rose from the Indian huts and a few
canoes were putting out from the shore.
Soon the melancholy peal from the Cathedral began the
summons to early Mass and the ship showed signs of life.
The deck had to be washed and the mast and the yards
rubbed down. Then the town began to wake up ; many
of my acquaintances came to say good-bye. About 9 o'clock
a breeze sprang up, the anchor was weighed, the wind
caught the sails, there was a loud greeting from the shore,
hats and handkerchiefs were waved and amidst loud cheers
our vessel glided slowly towards the mouth of the bay.
It was not altogether without regret that I looked back
on that place which to-day lay so peacefully in the golden
sunlight and I should be hardly likely ever to see again.
Anxious as I had been during my six weeks' stay to get
away from the town, my departure now caused me a pang,
and with the deepest sympathy I thought of the many
good fellows whom I, coming as a stranger there, had made
my friends and who were condemned to lead, heaven only
knows how long, a life full of hardship in that barren spot
shut off from the rest of the world.
Whilst our ship was tacking against the light breeze
and making its way cautiously between the many rocky
islands, we met at a considerable distance from Sitka many
canoes with Indians engaged in fishing who, with their
conical rush hats as their only clothing, pressed round the
ship and offered to sell us fish.
" Halibut " (a kind of perch), " haju halibut " (large
halibut), was shouted on all sides and it was very difficult
for our steersman to avoid running down the poor devils,
who crowded round the bows and held on to every rope that
hung down. At last we shook them all off. Mount
Edgcumbe with its Vesuvius-like outlines lay almost to our
right, apparently at no great distance, and as we steered
to the south the land soon lay behind us in a blue mist.
247  lu
About 6 o'clock in the evening we were on the open sea
with a good north-west wind blowing, and I began to take
notice of my fellow-travellers.
The crew of our ship consisted of the Scotch captain,
whose personality and seamanship I cannot sufficiently
praise, the steersman called " Ned " (a seaman of the good
old English type in the prime of life) and two sailors, one
of whom had to serve at the same time as cook, and a
young Indian youth, a Stikeen.
Besides the crew there were as passengers five members
of the unsuccessful gold prospecting party ; they were
rough-looking fellows somewhat of the adventurer class.
These were berthed with the sailors in the forecastle and
had to supply their own provisions, whilst I shared with the
captain and steersman a small cabin erected on the quarterdeck. This was, as a matter of fact, provided with only
two bunks, but as the captain and the steersman shared
the night watch they also had in turn one of the bunks
while I made myself comfortable in the other.
Even though I had again to live in very rough company
the conduct of the captain and the steersman inspired me
with such complete confidence from the first, that I had
not the least hesitation in putting myself in their hands.
Moreover I had the careless and slipshod navigation of
the Ocean Queen so constantly in my mind that I could not
but be very pleased with the seaman-like order that was
maintained on this ship, which apparently was due to the
supervision and ability of the captain.
With conscientious regularity two men took the watch
on deck and kept at their posts until relieved by two others
at the end of four hours. The captain or steersman was
always one of the watch and often when I was lying peacefully in my bunk I heard the alert captain get up to see if
all was well.
Our ship had originally been designed as a tug for the
carriage of coal between the Nanaimo mines and the town
of Victoria, and as on this passage it had to make use of
more or less narrow channels its design was particularly
249 long and narrow. It was only a comparatively short time
previous that the mines administration had taken over
the ship, provided it with two masts and assigned it to sea
transport. Captain MacCulloch, who had formerly been
in command of a steamer in the service of the Company
which had been wrecked, was given the command of the
newly-fitted-out schooner and was now making his third
journey to and from Sitka.
It will be readily understood that he was not particularly
pleased at the transfer from the command of a steamer to
that of a sailing-vessel, but he appeared to regard this as a
kind of punishment for the accident which was in no way
his fault, and he adapted himself to the change as well as
he could. He was not particularly impressed by the seaworthiness of the Black Diamond since, as he explained to
me in the course of conversation, the ship in proportion to
its size and length was too narrow and consequently was in
danger of being capsized if struck broadside and so, he
commented with a sailor's coolness, he must keep the ship
as much as possible before the wind and hope for the best.
This conversation caused me some apprehension when
I remembered that the vessel, though 81 feet long and 7 in
depth, was only 17 feet broad and that we were in the North
Pacific which was often very dangerous. Her carrying
capacity was 63 tons but we were actually sailing only in
ballast. Still the weather on that first evening gave promise of remaining fine and at any rate I had begun the
journey and I must put up with whatever fate had in store.
I have so far not spoken of the meals which I took in
the cabin in the company of the captain or steersman.
They consisted of simple but wholesome and sustaining
food and were quite excellent. We had regularly breakfast, dinner and supper with good tea and I could not
fail to draw a comparison between this and our old mode of
life on the Ocean Queen—the thought of what we had
undergone there made me shudder.
My first night on board the Black Diamond was nevertheless not undisturbed.   I had only been lying down for
250 â short time and had blown out the lamp when I felt
something crawling over my face and hands. I sprang up
in dismay, got a light and to my horror saw that my whole
body was covered with black beetles which, as soon as they
saw the light, disappeared in the wainscotting of the cabin.
So long as I kept the lamp burning these vermin left me
alone, but as soon as I put it out they appeared again
en masse and finally I was compelled to keep a light burning
all night, although the captain assured me that this kind of
beetle was quite harmless. I don't know if there were any
other kinds of creatures and I prefer to keep silent on the
The next two days followed each other almost without
incident ; there was no land in sight, only sea and sky.
The north-west wind, usually light, carried us forward
slowly but surely.
When one is on the open sea one certainly feels drawn
to one's fellow passengers who are the only possible company
and even when, as in the present case, they were not very
attractive they were better than no company at all, and
so I made an effort to get into conversation with the rough-
looking gold prospectors. At first they were sulky and
reticent, probably because they were not sure whether I
wanted to listen to them simply out of curiosity and not
because I was really interested. I treated them, however,
quite frankly and by a few neighbourly acts soon brought
them to the point of talking quite openly and, strange as
it may sound, in the course of our thirteen days' voyage
we developed such friendly relations that these men who
seemed so rough and hardened would scarcely refuse me
anything and fell in with all that I suggested.
There were some interesting personalities, amongst them
particularly the leader of the party—who had been in
command of the Louisa Downes. This Wilmer, a one-eyed,
strongly-built person, was a man of a type that is only
to be found amongst the adventurous population of the
West Coast. Sometimes favoured by fortune, sometimes
deserted by it, this fellow who was now over fifty, had
251 passed through all the stages of Californian adventure.
In his youth he had served in Mexico in the United States
army ; after the campaign was over he went to the Mormon
City at Salt Lake and then had to guide the caravans of
emigrants over the Sierra Nevada to California. At that
time the whole district was swarming with hostile Indians.
After many a hard fight with the marauding natives, in one
of which he owed the loss of his eye to a hostile arrow,
the service became too strenuous. Moreover he had saved
some money and resolved to use it to go to the gold-mines
of California which were then so flourishing. Here he had
the same experience as the majority of those who were
fired by the gold-fever. He was often the owner of considerable property but could never bring himself to give
up this kind of life, and then lost all he had got together
with so much toil.
Whenever there was a rumour of a fresh discovery of gold
anywhere Henry Wilmer was certain to be one of the foremost amongst the adventurers who rushed to the spot,
and only too often the over-hasty hunt for gold ended in
disappointment. Thus he had let himself be drawn into
the ill-fated expedition to the Stikeen River, and now found
himself with the pitiable remnant of what had once been a
substantial property on the way to Oregon to commence
life over again.
It appeared that Wilmer was the only one of the prospectors that had come to Sitka who had managed to save
something from the almost utter ruin of the expedition,
and he had given it all up in order to secure the return
of at any rate four of his companions. The latter were
evidently in great poverty and bore all the marks of bitter
We were not to complete our journey, without a storm
for on the evening of the fourth day dark clouds heralded
rough weather during the night and our steersman felt
these weather signs confirmed by rheumatism in the left
arm, which since he had been bitten by a poisonous snake
in East India had become a reliable barometer.
252 ^
Immediately all possible precautions were taken. The
deck was cleared, the sails furled and two men ordered to
take the rudder. I felt rather sea-sick and at dusk retired
to the cabin after a searching glance at the sea which was
as black as ink.
The captain and steersman were both on deck and I
was alone in the cabin. I may have been lying awake for
about two hours, the atmosphere was heavy and stifling,
and I could hear the roaring of the wind through the open
companion. At first I heard the sound of the wind only
over the water, then suddenly it began to whistle in the
sails and rigging. Quick and heavy steps sounded on the
deck over my head and then the storm broke out. Our
poor little ship was tossed mercilessly about—a more
appalling sight it was impossible to imagine. The tempest
sighed in high shrill tones through the spars, sometimes
moaning lightly, sometimes raging furiously. Then the
rain pelted on the deck, lightning flashed and lit up the
cabin with glaring light and was followed by rolling thunder
amid which I could hear from time to time the orders of
the captain and the " Aye, aye " of the seamen. Now the
sea began to swell and I could feel our little ship rise and
fall ; how she creaked and groaned as the powerful strain
of the rudder turned her against the waves, and how she
trembled in every limb when a specially-powerful wave
swept over her. My lantern had long since been blown
out, so, crawling on all fours, in the darkness I made my way
to the ship's ladder which led to the companion and
cautiously put my head out.
I shall never forget the sight. The night was pitch dark
and so was the sea except where the white foam showed the
breaking of the ceaseless waves. Our ship was running
like a hunted beast ; the foam of the waves combined with
the torrential rain to soak me to the skin in a few minutes.
As if from the clouds above I heard the cries of the seamen
who were up in the yards. At first I could not see them,
but then there was a glaring flash of lightning and by its
light I could make out three men up on the spars struggling
	 with a sail that had broken loose and seemed every moment,
as they strove to master it as if it, would hurl them into the
I had seen enough—shivering with cold I climbed back
into my bunk and prayed for those poor fellows who in
such a deadly struggle were exposed to the rage of the
elements. In that hour I did not think of myself, for I
felt so insignificant and helpless in comparison with those
heroic men that I forgot everything else.
It was only after two hours' desperate battle that they
mastered the storm and it was midnight before the captain
came into the cabin for a few minutes to get a drink.
Without thinking of sleep that conscientious man stayed on
deck the whole night, encouraging his men and himself
lending a hand when they hesitated.
The next morning when I came on deck the sky was free of
clouds, there was hardly any wind, and only the sea which
was still running strong showed how violent the storm had
been during the night.
The ship was not seriously damaged ; true there were
many gaps in the bulwarks caused by the violent sea, our
sails were badly tattered, but that damage could all be easily
repaired and in a short time was made good by the industry
of the sailors. Some water had got into the hold but
two hours' pumping sufficed to force it all out.
Then the captain called his men together on the after-
deck and in simple words praised their courage and endurance during the night and ordered extra rations to be
served out. The gold prospectors with Wilmer at their
head, who seemed to be quite at home on the sea, also
got their share since, as the captain told me, they had
placed themselves at his disposal when the storm broke out
and had done particularly good service in taking in the
I could not refrain from comparing my sensations during
this storm with my feelings during the many dangers we
underwent on board the Ocean Queen. It may be that our
present ship was never in such peril as our former one, but
254 in any event during the past night I never lost heart for
I knew that everything in human power was being done
to save us, and that thought alone inspired me with
unshaken courage and confidence, whereas in the hours of
danger on board the Ocean Queen I felt our condition to be
so desperate that I gave myself up to what can only be called
the most arrant fatalism.
After the storm there was an absence of wind for days
and with it a period of monotony such as can be experienced
only on sailing-ships.
It is pleasant enough when the slender ship with, outspread sails, cuts through the waves and glides merrily
along like a swan. Then the log is cast out in order to
measure the speed of the ship, at one time a sail is furled,
at another a rope is hauled to change the yards, and all
goes well. In such conditions it is much more pleasant
to be on a sailing-vessel than on a steamer, for the movement of the former is quieter, more graceful and comfortable and more natural. The boat rises and falls with
the waves and therefore causes much less sea-sickness
than the strong motion and constant shaking of a steamer.
But it is quite different when a sailing-ship is becalmed.
The general good humour disappears, the captain and
crew become irritable ; the little work to be done seems
too much, and the crew lie about idly on the fore-deck.
Only those who have experienced a calm can realise what
it means when, day after day, the boundless sea remains
the same, unruffled by any breath of wind, when the captain
scans the heavens in every direction but sees not the
slightest trace of wind—even a contrary wind would be
welcome as some progress, however slow, could be made by
tacking. He calls, he whistles for a wind in the customary
sailor fashion but it does not come. The sails hang limp
and flap from one side to another as the ship sways about—
even the steersman is useless since the helm does not answer
255 when there is no breeze, and he can scarcely hold the ship
to her course. This was our lot now and, though this may
seem a mere idle boast, even a storm would have been
more welcome to us than this monotonous death-like
Certainly at first we tried to pass the time with tales
of our adventures, but when people are together all day long
subjects of conversation give out at last and had it not been
that now and then the impudent head of a seal emerged
from the water or one of those great sea-birds, called
albatrosses, came in sight we could scarcely have endured
it. Of course the seals Were fired at immediately, but the
intelligent creatures were so quick in their movement,
and seemed to watch our actions so closely, that they
always dived before we could take aim at them and reappeared in a quite different place.
The hunt for the sea-birds was more successful. With
the help of a piece of bacon fastened to a cord, which we
threw out and on which they cast themselves voraciously,
we pulled a number of these creatures on board and were
greatly amused by their comical behaviour. They weigh
about 30 lbs. each and are the size of a full-grown swan,
are usually striped black and white and have remarkably
long and narrow wings. The strength of these wings is
amazing and one of the sailors had his arm quite lamed
through getting in the way of the angry, struggling birds.
The helpless movements of the terrified creatures on the
deck was an extraordinary sight as they rolled from one side
to another and shuffled laboriously forward, and their
wings seemed to be so constructed that they could not
rise directly from the ground, but had to mount on to
something higher before they could take flight. There is
an old tradition amongst sailors that the albatross brings
luck to a ship and that to kill one brings misfortune, and
so after keeping them prisoners for a short time we set them
free again. Another thing that helped to pass the time was
the occasional appearance some distance away of whales,
which are to be seen fairly often on this coast.    They were
256 usually brought to our notice by an upright jet of water
and when we looked more closely we could clearly distinguish
the black, ungainly bulk of these giant denizens of the
deep. There were often three or four of them together
and they seemed to be swimming round carelessly, not
troubling in the least about us.
On the fourth day of the calm, when there was still no
sign of a change in the weather, the captain called us
together and told us that our situation was beginning to
cause him some anxiety. According to his reckoning we
were about 400 miles from our starting-point, that is,
scarcely half-way between Sitka and Victoria and therefore
had a long stretch still before us, but our water supply
was only enough for six more days and if no wind sprang
up within the next twenty-four hours we must put ourselves on short rations. In fact, on the following day only
a small amount of water was measured out to us which
we had to conserve as much as possible. For washing
purposes, of course, we could now only use sea-water,
which was by no means good for the skin and could be
used only with a special kind of salt-water soap.
The crew and passengers put up with the new regulation
without complaint, as we realised that our lives might
depend on its observance. As I had always been accustomed
to an unlimited use of fresh water I suffered the most from
this restriction, and it was really touching to see how the
gold-diggers, who seemed so rough and hardened, readily
gave up part of their own ration in order that I might
not suffer any deprivation. Fortunately I had brought
some extra provisions on board at Sitka and I distributed
part of these to my fellow-travellers in return for their
At last towards evening on the fifth day of the calm we
noticed a light breath of wind stirring the water ; it came
nearer and nearer and finally our sails began to fill out.
Gradually the breeze increased and at dusk we moved
south-eastwards at about five miles an hour.
257 For two days we made slow but steady progress in this
way and our spirits began to rise. The captain alone
seemed rather uneasy. I took him aside and asked what it
was that was troubling him when all was going on so well.
He told me straightforwardly that he must have made a
mistake in his reckoning ; according to his calculations we
ought to have reached the coast of Vancouver long before
this, but there was no sign of it. Unfortunately he had only
a sextant and no chronometer and consequently could
only determine our latitude. According to his last
observation we were in the latitude of Vancouver, but
without a chronometer it was totally impossible for him
to determine the longitude. Therefore, so far as he
could estimate, we were just as likely to be off the Chinese
as the American coast—a pleasant outlook for us with a
short supply of water As appeared later we had in fact
been carried by the ocean-currents some hundreds of
miles away from the coast and driven right out of our proper
course, for we sailed for three whole days with a strong
westerly wind direct towards the east before, on the evening
of the twelfth day after our departure from Sitka, shortly
before sunset, we saw the heights of Vancouver and soon
after, the rays from the lighthouse on Cape Flattery. As
darkness fell thick clouds of mist swept out towards us from
the land and soon we were enveloped in thicker and thicker
fog which dripped cold and damp upon the deck.
It was an uncomfortable night and none of us slept
much. I lay in my bunk and saw the captain come down
from time to time, bend over the chart and with compass
and parallels make his reckoning. Apparently the sudden
descent of the fog had made him uncertain as to the position
of the land for I heard him several times order the ship's
direction to be changed. Great care was certainly necessary.
Not only were we dangerously near to the coasts of Vancouver with their outlying reefs—and could not tell where
the strong cross-currents might drive us—but we were in
the course of the large number of steamers and sailing-
ships which went in and out of the Fuca Straits and there
258 might be a collision in the thick fog. So at night both at
bow and stern a sharp watch was kept and we listened
carefully for the noise of the breakers along the coast or
the sound of a ship's approach.
The night passed without accident and when next morning the sun dispelled the heavy mist, to our surprise and
delight we saw about a quarter of a mile away Cape Flattery
lighthouse, which stands on a steep bare promontory and
marks the entrance to the channel. With a light-westerly
breeze we sailed up the sound and greeted cheerily a number
of ships which passed us loaded with timber. During the
whole of our journey these were always the first signs that
a harbour was at hand. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon we
reached Sook Bay, about 15 miles from Victoria, and were
confident that we should be able to make the harbour
before dark ; but the breeze suddenly died away and we
had to undergo another test of our patience which was not
free from danger.
The Fuca Straits are swept by unusually strong currents,
chiefly caused by the tide streaming in and out between
numerous islands. Safe enough as the channel is for
steamers in calm weather it often becomes dangerous for
sailing-vessels which are becalmed. As they do not then
answer their helms, these craft are easily driven by the crosscurrents on to the coast and wrecked on the rocks by which
it is studded. In just this way the ship on which our
captain had come for the first time to the West Coast, a
stately three-master had been wrecked almost on this
spot in calm weather and so lost close to harbour when it
had accomplished in safety a voyage half round the world.
We ourselves narrowly escaped a similar fate, for to our
dismay we realised that our ship had been caught in the
current and was rapidly nearing the dangerous reefs.
Never had we longed so eagerly for a rescuing breeze than
we did at that moment, and strangely enough we saw at
that instant a ripple on the surface of the water and our
ship answering again to the helm we passed the dangerous
spot.   But the wind was so light, and it died away so often,
259 that we made scarcely three miles an hour and it was not
until about n o'clock that we entered the harbour of
Victoria. To our left and right we saw in the darkness
the ghostly outlines of two steamers and without being
hailed by them we tacked cautiously towards the inner bay.
It was striking midnight when we came alongside the
wharf of the Hudson Bay Company's warehouse and at
daybreak the next morning, on" the 3rd July, on the
thirteenth day after leaving Sitka, we were once more on
dry land.
My first business when I had settled myself comfortably
in the French hotel, where I had previously stayed, was to
get into telegraphic communication with my firm in New
York and to inform my friends there of the success of my
expedition. This was the longest telegram that I had ever
sent—it consisted of 147 words and cost 120 gold dollars.
Then I sought out my former acquaintances and was
unpleasantly surprised to hear that our ship had been given
up as lost and they had not expected to see me again.
It is a strange experience when one's death has been reported
to appear suddenly in the flesh, and I shall never forget the
glad surprise of my English hotel acquaintance when,
scarcely trusting his eyes, he saw before him a man whom
he believed to have perished.
So far as I could make out, the report of our loss had
already been sent to San Francisco and naturally I was
very much distressed at the thought that the news might
have been sent on from San Francisco to New York and
thence to my relatives. The tidings must have been
brought to Victoria by one of the northern coasting
steamers and it was the more readily believed because
just at that time two trading-vessels, the Red Rover and
the Thornton, both of which we had encountered on our
outward journey, had been attacked by Indians. The
former had been lost with all hands, whilst the Thornton
had had a very narrow escape.
260 Precise details of the loss of the Red Rover, with which
it will be remembered we had voyaged for some days, were
never known. It was certain, however, that the ship
had been attacked by Indians, had been run on the rocks
by the crew in their efforts to escape pursuit and gone down
with all hands on board. The disaster must have taken
place shortly after we had left them, somewhere between
Fort Simpson and Fort Tongass. On the other hand, the
Thornton which had been the first to tell us of the loss of the
Growler, and had even obtained some fragments of the wreck,
had on its way back to Victoria been near the settlement
of the Nukletah Indians, that small cluster of islands in
Queen Charlotte Sound where we had spent a night and
been well received by the natives. Whether the Indians
had some particular grudge against the crew of the
Thornton, or wanted to avenge themselves in their usual
way for some wrong done to them by the white men, was
never cleared up. Perhaps they knew that the trading-
ship, which was returning from a long voyage, had a
valuable cargo of furs. Anyhow when the ship, which had
no intention of going to their settlement, which lay deep in
the island labyrinth, was coming from Nervitty and wanted
to pass by them, a canoe manned by three Indians came out
and called on the ship to come to their camp and do trade
with them. The captain of the Thornton declined the
request but was becalmed and so compelled to remain in
that neighbourhood much against his will, for the Indian
pilot from the neighbouring Nervitty settlement warned
him that the Nukletahs were not to be trusted, as in his
opinion they had evil designs and probably only wanted
the ship to stay in the narrow channel in order that they
might be able to capture it more easily.
In fact something seemed to be going on on the adjacent
bank. When the first canoe had returned nearly to the
shore, suddenly three large war-canoes appeared round the
next headland, behind which they had evidently been
lying hidden, and paddled down towards the sailing-ship.
Meantime the two white men had  not  been idle and
261 everything had been put in a state of defence. A number
of empty casks were rolled on deck to serve as a barricade ;
the captain placed himself with his Henry rifle, which
held fourteen rounds, behind the mast, the sailor posted
himself behind the life-boat armed with two revolvers, the
Indian pilot stationed himself at the helm protected as
much as possible by a rampart improvised from mattresses.
A young Indian, who was on board as cabin-boy, lay down
in the hatchway armed with an old-fashioned carbine with
wide mouth like a funnel, which was capable of keeping up
a destructive fire at a short range. Two squaws, who
would not venture outside the cabin, volunteered at any
rate to help with the loading, so everything was ready
when the three canoes approached.
" We counted," so the captain, who still seemed to be
suffering from his wound, told me, " twenty-three Indian
warriors all painted with red-and-black stripes, which
clearly showed that they had hostile intentions. As they
came up to the ship, which was now feeling a light breeze,
the three canoes, which had hitherto kept close together,
separated and tried to get alongside, so that the Indians
could jump on board. I called to them twice to keep
back but when despite this, one of the Indians at the bow
of our boat seized a rope which was hanging there and
tried to swing himself on board, I shot him down. The
poor wretch, wounded in the breast, fell overboard and
sank. At the same moment the other Indians had thrown
off the cedar-bark mats, which covered the bottoms of the
canoes and revealed an extraordinary number of guns
which they had kept hidden. Instantly each seized one
and from three different directions the fire of the assailants
broke out. Fortunately for us, though there was little
Wind, the sea was rather rough so that the canoes were
very unsteady and the Indians could not aim straight.
Most of the shots flew over our heads but others struck,
and after a few moments all of us had got our share of the
hail of shot which they poured on us. Each Indian appeared
to have three or four loaded guns, mostly double-barrelled
262 ones, for they fired without interruption, though we did
not see them reload. They thought that by this means
they would offset the deadly revolvers.
" But meantime we had also been busy. Almost every
shot from my Henry rifle was a hit ; the sailor fired only
when he was certain of hitting his man ; and the fire of the
cabin-boy was quite remarkably effective, for he used his
carbine untiringly and once emptied the whole charge
into one of the well-manned canoes. Against a fire of this
kind the Indians, who had only small shot, could not make
a stand. Two canoes were literally riddled and sank ;
fourteen Indians in them were either killed or mortally
wounded, and the remainder saved themselves on the other
canoe in miserable flight.
" The retreat of our foes did not take place a minute
too soon, for with the exception of the pilot, who must have
protected himself in a remarkable way, we were all wounded
though only by small shot. The Indian youth seemed to
be in the worst plight, for as soon as the excitement of the
repelled attack was over he suddenly collapsed and came
to himself only after a few minutes under the care of the
Indian women. The whole upper part of his body was
literally full of shot but happily his face was not injured.
The sailor too had many of the small shot in his arms and
shoulders, and I myself felt a stinging pain in the abdomen
where, as I discovered later, I had received a whole charge
at the range of only a few feet.
" Wounded and exhausted though we were we took to
the oars and tried to get away from that dangerous place
as quickly as possible for the Indians might be reinforced
and renew the attack and we could scarcely have withstood
a second onslaught.
" A breeze now came to our help and in the evening we
reached Fort Rupert, where we were looked after until
we were able to resume our journey to the south. Our
pilot, however, begged for permission to return immediately
to his own tribe that he might call on them to prepare for
the conflict with the Nukletahs, who were enraged by the
263 defeat they had sustained and would also know that it was
he who had played the part of informer.
" It was only five days ago " concluded my informant,
" that we reached this harbour and the state of our sails,
which are as full of holes as a sieve, as well as my own
ruined health will be sufficient to convince you of the
terrible time we passed through."
The crime committed by the Nukletah Indians, formerly
so peaceable, and thus brought to the notice of the
authorities at Victoria naturally caused a great stir. One
of the gun-boats which served to guard the coast was
immediately despatched to the Nukletah settlement with
orders to raze the whole camp to the ground and if possible
to bring back some of the chiefs as hostages for future good
behaviour. The order was doubtless carried out, so far
as concerns the first part ; but, as always happens, the
gun-boat on its arrival must have found the birds flown,
so it fired on and completely destroyed the miserable huts,
whilst the wily Indians, having received timely warning,
watched this useless destruction from a secure hiding-
place, and when the warship had gone merely built a new
camp a short distance away.
The small effect of such reprisals is shown by the fact
that a few weeks later, when our old ship, the Black Diamond,
was returning from her next voyage to Sitka and on that
occasion was taking the inner passage by Quee