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Vikings of the Pacific; the adventures of the explorers who came from the West, eastward; Bering, the… Laut, Agnes C., 1871-1936 1905

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 AtClLAUT The University of British Columbia Library
Ai-Mfc*-***  Tv
fcfttlliWftil 'PACIFIC V V
1310. LAUT, A. C, Pathfinders oi me
West. Adventures of Radisson, Lewis
and Clark. Maps and illustrations of the
Indians of the Plains.    N. Y., 1906.    $3.00
1311.      Through     Our    Unknown
Southwest.     The    Home    of   the    Cliff
[ Dwellers, and the Hopi, The Forest
j Ranger and the Navajo. Plates. N. Y.,
;' 1913. $2.50
1312.   Vikings of the Pacific. Adventures of the Explorers who came from
I the West, Eastward.    Bering, The Dane,
I The  Hunters  of Russia,  etc.    Maps and
plates.   N. Y., 1905. $3.50 ,
->VX •mnrnrrnH VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC  •   ■■ "*— ■   - - OT
& Vikines of the Pacific
A.   C.   LAUT
Author of "pathfinders of the west," etc.
All rights reserved Copyright,  1905,
Set up and electrotyped.    Published December, 1905.
"Nortooou P«03
J. S. Gushing & Co. —Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. &?
At the very time the early explorers of New France
were pressing from the east, westward, a tide of adventure had set across Siberia and the Pacific from
the west, eastward. Cartier and Champlain of New
France in the east have their counterparts and contemporaries on the Pacific coast of America in Francis
Drake, the English pirate on the coast of California,
and in Staduchin and DeshnefF and other Cossack
plunderers of the North Pacific, whose rickety keels
first ploughed a furrow over the trackless sea out from
Asia. Marquette, Jolliet and La Salle — backed by
the prestige of the French government are not unlike
the English navigators, Cook and Vancouver, sent out
by the English Admiralty. Radisson, privateer and
adventurer, might find counterpart on the Pacific
coast in either Gray, the discoverer of the Columbia,
or Ledyard, whose ill-fated, wildcat plans resulted
in the Lewis and Clark expedition. Bering was contemporaneous with La Verendrye; and so the comparison might be carried on between Benyowsky, the
Polish pirate of the Pacific, or the Outlaw Hunters of
Russia, and the famous buccaneers of the eastern
Spanish Main.    The main point is — that both tides
Vll Vlll
of adventure, from the east, westward, from the west,
eastward, met, and clashed, and finally coalesced in
the great fur trade, that won the West.
The Spaniards of the Southwest — even when they
extended their explorations into the Northwest —
have not been included in this volume, for the simple
reason they would require a volume by themselves.
Also, their aims as explorers were always secondary
to their aims as treasure hunters; and their main exploits were confined to the Southwest. Other Pacific
coast explorers, like La Perouse, are not included here
because they were not, in the truest sense, discoverers,
and their exploits really belong to the story of the fights
among the different fur companies, who came on the
ground after the first adventurers.
In every case, reference has been to first sources, to
the records left by the doers of the acts themselves, or
their contemporaries — some of the data in manuscript, some in print; but it may as well be frankly
acknowledged that all first sources have not been ex-
hausted. To do so in the case of a single explorer,
say either Drake or Bering — would require a lifetime. For instance, there are in St. Petersburg some
thirty thousand folios on the Bering expedition to
America. Probably only one person — a Danish
professor — has ever examined all of these; and the
results of his investigations I have consulted. Also,
there are in the State Department, Washington, some
hundred old log-books of the Russian hunters which FOREWORD
have — as far as I know — never been turned by a
single hand, though I understand their outsides were
looked at during the fur seal controversy. The data
on this era of adventure I have chiefly obtained from
the works of Russian archivists, published in French
and English. To give a list of all authorities quoted
would be impossible. On Alaska alone, the least-
known section of the Pacific coast, there is a bibliographical list of four thousand. The better-known
coast southward has equally voluminous records. Nor
is such a list necessary. Nine-tenths of it are made
up of either descriptive works or purely scientific pamphlets; and of the remaining tenth, the contents are
obtained in undiluted condition by going directly to
the first sources. A few of these first sources are indicated in each section.
It is somewhat remarkable that Gray — as true a
naval hero as ever trod the quarter-deck, who did the
same for the West as Cartier for the St. Lawrence,
and Hudson for the river named after him — is the
one man of the Pacific coast discoverers of whom
there are scantiest records. Authentic histories are still
written, that cast doubt on his achievement. Certainly
a century ago Gray was lionized in Boston; but it may
be his feat was overshadowed by the world-history of
the new American republic and the Napoleonic wars
at the opening of the nineteenth century; or the world
may have taken him at his own valuation; and Gray
was a hero of the non-shouting sort.    The data on X
Gray's discovery have been obtained from the descendants of the Boston men who outfitted him, and
from his own great-grandchildren. Though he died
a poor man, the red blood of his courage and ability
seems to have come down to his descendants; for their
names are among the best known in contemporary
American life. To them my thanks are tendered.
Since the contents of this volume appeared serially in
Leslie's Monthly, Outing, and Harper s Magazine,
fresh data have been sent to me on minor points
from descendants of the explorers and from collectors.
I take this opportunity to thank these contributors.
Among many others, special thanks are due Dr. George
Davidson, President of San Francisco Geographical
Society, for facts relating to the topography of the
coast, and to Dr. Leo Stejneger of the Smithsonian,
Washington, for facts gathered on the very spot where
Bering perished.
Wassaic, New York,
July 15, 1905. CONTENTS
Dealing with the Russians on the Pacific Coast of
America — Bering, the Dane, the Sea-otter Hunters, the Outlaws, and Benyowsky, the Polish Pirate
H i7°°-I743
Vitus Bering, the Dane
Peter the Great sends Bering on Two Voyages : First, to discover whether America and Asia are united; Second, to
find what lies north of New Spain — Terrible Hardships
of Caravans crossing Siberia for Seven Thousand Miles —
Ships lost in the Mist—Bering's Crew cast away on a
Barren Isle     ........
Continuation of Bering, the Dane
Frightful Sufferings of the Castaways on the Commander Islands
— The Vessel smashed in a Winter Gale, the Sick are
dragged for Refuge into Pits of Sand — Here, Bering
perishes, and the Crew Winter — The Consort Ship under
Chirikoff Ambushed — How the Castaways reach Home .
37 Xll
The Sea-otter Hunters
How the Sea-otter Pelts brought back by Bering's Crew led
to the Exploitation of the Northwest Coast of America —
Difference of Sea-otter from Other Fur-bearing Animals of
the West — Perils of the Hunt .        .      62
The Outlaw Hunters
The American Coast becomes the Great Rendezvous for Siberian
Criminals and Political Exiles — Beyond Reach of Law,
Cossacks and Criminals perpetrate Outrages on the Indians
— The Indians' Revenge wipes out Russian Forts in America — The Pursuit of Four Refugee Russians from Cave to
Cave over the Sea at Night — How they escape after a
Year's Chase ........
Count Mauritius Benyowsky, the Polish Pirate
Siberian Exiles under Polish Soldier of Fortune plot to overthrow Garrison of Kamchatka and escape to West Coast
of America as Fur Traders — A Bloody Melodrama enacted
at Bolcheresk — The Count and his Criminal Crew sail to
America ........
American and English Adventurers on the West Coast
of America — Francis Drake in California — Cook,
from British Columbia to Alaska — Ledyard, the
Forerunner of Lewis and Clark — Gray, the Discoverer of the Columbia — Vancouver, the Last of
the West Coast Navigators
Francis Drake in California
How the Sea Rover was attacked and ruined as a Boy on the
Spanish Main off Mexico — His Revenge in sacking Spanish Treasure Houses and crossing Panama — The Richest
Man in England, he sails to the Forbidden Sea, scuttles all
the Spanish Ports up the West Coast of South America
and takes Possession of New Albion (California) for
England ........
Captain Cook in America
The English Navigator sent Two Hundred Years later to find
the New Albion of Drake's Discoveries — He misses both
the Straits of Fuca and the Mouth of the Columbia, but
anchors at Nootka, the Rendezvous of Future Traders — XVI
Baranof, the Little Czar of the Pacific
Baranof lays the Foundations of Russian Empire on the Pacific
Coast of America — Shipwrecked on his Way to Alaska,
he yet holds his Men in Hand and turns the Hl-hap to
Advantage — How he bluffs the Rival Fur Companies in
line — First Russian Ship built in America — Adventures
leading the Sea-otter Hunters — Ambushed by the Indians
— The Founding of Sitka—Baranof, cast off hi his Old
Age, dies of Broken Heart •        •        •        •
X IN UhX   *••••■•••.
Seal Rookery, Commander Islands
Peter the Great
Map of Course followed by Bering
The St. Peter and St. Paul, from a
comrade, Steller, the scientist
Steller's Arch on Bering Island, named
of Bering's Expedition
A Glacier      ....
Sea Cows      ....
Seals in a Rookery on Bering Island
Mauritius Augustus, Count Benyowsky
Sir John Hawkins   .
Queen Elizabeth knighting Drake
The Golden Hind   .
Francis Drake
The Crowning of Drake in California
The Silver Map of the World   .
Captain James Cook .        •
The Ice Islands      . . •
The Death of Cook
Departure of the Columbia and the Lady Washington       Facing
Charles Bulfinch      ........
Medals commemorating Columbia and Lady Washington Cruise
Building the First American Ship on the Pacific Coast Facing
Feather Cloak worn by a son  of a Hawaiian Chief, at the
celebration in honor of Gray's return   .        •        .        .
sketch by Bering's
• • •
the scientist Steller,
• • •
• • •
• Facing
• • •
• • •
• Facing
• Facing
20—2 I
226 xvm
John Derby   .
Map of Gray's two voyages, resulting in the discovery of the
A View of the Columbia River
At the Mouth of the Columbia River
Ledyard in Jbis Dugout
Captain George Vancouver
The Columbia in a Squall
The Discovery on the Rocks
Indian Settlement at Nootka
Reindeer Herd in Siberia .
Raised Reindeer Sledges   .
John Jacob Astor
Sitka from the Sea . .
Alexander Baranof , .
of the
»                  •
i                  •
i                  •
I                                        8
»                                        •
3J7 % PART   I
mmm  Vikings of the Pacific
Peter the Great sends Bering on Two Voyages: First, to discover
whether America and Asia are united; Second, to find what lies
north of New Spain — Terrible Hardships of Caravans crossing
Siberia for Seven Thousand Miles — Ships lost in the Mist —
Bering's Crew cast away on a Barren Isle
We have become such slaves of shallow science in
these days, such firm believers in the fatalism which
declares man the creature of circumstance, that we have
almost forgotten the supremest spectacle in life is when
man becomes the Creator of Circumstance. We forget
that man can rise to be master of his destiny, fighting,
unmaking, re-creating, not only his own environment,
but the environment of multitudinous lesser men.
There is something titanic in such lives. They are
the hero myths of every nation's legends.    We some-
how feel that the man who flings off the handicaps of
birth and station lifts the whole human race to a higher
plane and has a bit of the God in him, though the hero
may have feet of clay and body of beast. Such were
the old Vikings of the North, who spent their lives in
elemental warfare, and rode out to meet death in
tempest, lashed to the spar of their craft. And such,
too, were the New World Vikings of the Pacific, who
coasted the seas of two continents in cockle-shell ships,
— planks lashed with deer thongs, calked with moss,
— rapacious in their deep-sea plunderings as beasts of
prey, fearless as the very spirit of the storm itself.
The adventures of the North Pacific Vikings read more
like some old legend of the sea than sober truth; and
the wild strain had its fountain-head in the most tempestuous hero and beastlike man that ever ascended
the throne of the Russias.
When Peter the Great of Russia worked as a ship's
carpenter at the docks of the East India Company in
Amsterdam, the sailors' tales of vast, undiscovered
lands beyond the seas of Japan must have acted on his
imagination like a match to gunpowder.1 Already he
was dreaming those imperial conquests which Russia
still dreams: of pushing his realm to the southernmost
edge of Europe, to the easternmost verge of Asia, to
the doorway of the Arctic, to the very threshold of the
1Sec Life of Peter the Great, by Orlando Williams, 1859; Peter tbe Great, by
John Lothrop Motley, 1877; History of Peter I, by John Mottley, 1740; Journal
of Peter tbe Great, 1698 j Voltaire's Pierre le Grand; Segur's Histoire de Russie et
de Pierre le Grand. VITUS  BERING, THE  DANE
Chinese capital. Already his Cossacks had scoured
the two Siberias like birds of prey, exacting tribute
from the wandering tribes of Tartary, of Kamchatka,
of the  Pacific,  of the  Siberian  races  in the north-
Peter the Great.
easternmost corner of Asia. And these Chukchee
Indians of the Asiatic Pacific told the Russians of a
land beyond the sea, of driftwood floating across the
ocean unlike any trees growing in Asia, of dead whales
washed ashore with the harpoons of strange hunters, 6 VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
and — most comical of all in the light of our modern
knowledge about the Eskimo's tail-shaped fur coats —
of men wrecked on the shores of Asia who might have
qualified for Darwin's missing link, inasmuch as they
wore    tails.
And now the sailors added yet more fabulous things
to Peter's knowledge. There was an unknown continent east of Asia, west of America, called on the maps
"Gamaland." * Now, Peter's consuming ambition
was for new worlds to conquer. What of this "Gamaland" ? But, as the world knows, Peter was called
home to suppress an insurrection. War, domestic
broils, massacres that left a bloody stain on his glory,
busied his hands for the remaining years of his life;
and January of 1725 found the palaces of all the Russias
hushed, for the Hercules who had scrunched all opposition like a giant lay dying, ashamed to consult a
physician, vanquished of his own vices, calling on
Heaven for pity with screams of pain that drove physicians and attendants from the room.
Perhaps remorse for those seven thousand wretches
executed at one fell swoop after the revolt; perhaps
memories of those twenty kneeling supplicants whose
heads he had struck off with his own hand, drinking a
bumper of quass to each stroke;   perhaps reproaches
* Who this man Gama, supposed to have seen the unknown continent of Gamaland,
was, no one knew. The Portuguese followed the myth blindly; and the other geographer* followed the Portuguese. Texeira, court geographer in Portugal, in 1649 issued
a map with a vague coast marked at latitude 450 north, with the words "Land seen by
John de Gama, Indian, going from China to New Spain." VITUS  BERING, THE  DANE 7
of the highway robbers whom he used to torture to slow
death, two hundred at a time, by suspending them from
hooks in their sides; perhaps the first wife, whom he
repudiated, the first son whom he had done to death
either by poison or convulsions of fright, came to haunt
the darkness of his deathbed.
Catherine, the peasant girl, elevated to be empress
of all the Russias, could avail nothing. Physicians
and scientists and navigators, Dane and English and
Dutch, whom he had brought to Russia from all parts
of Europe, were powerless. Vows to Heaven, in all
the long hours he lay convulsed battling with Death,
were useless. The sins of a lifetime could not be undone by the repentance of an hour. Then, as if the
dauntless Spirit of the man must rise finally triumphant
over Flesh, the dying Hercules roused himself to one
last supreme effort.
Radisson, Marquette, La Salle, Verendrye, were
reaching across America to win the undiscovered
regions of the Western Sea for France. New Spain
was pushing her ships northward from Mexico; and
now, the dying Peter of Russia with his own hand
wrote instructions for an expedition to search the
boundaries between Asia and America. In a word,
he set in motion that forward march of the Russians across the Orient, which was to go on unchecked
for two hundred years till arrested by the Japanese.
The Czar's instructions were always laconic. They
were written five weeks before his  death.    "(1)  At 8
Kamchatka . . . two boats are to be built. (2) With
these you are to sail northward along the coast.
... (3) You are to enquire where the American
coast begins. . . . Write it down . . . obtain reliable information . . . then, having charted the coast, return." 1
From the time that Peter the Great began to break
down the Oriental isolation of Russia from the rest of
Europe, it was his policy to draw to St. Petersburg —
the city of his own creation — leaders of thought from
every capital in Europe. And as his aim was to establish a navy, he especially endeavored to attract foreign
navigators to his kingdom. Among these were many
Norse and Danes. The acquaintance may have dated
from the apprenticeship on the docks of the East
India Company; but at any rate, among the foreign
navigators was one Vitus Ivanovich Bering, a Dane of
humble origin from Horsens,2 who had been an East
India Company sailor till he joined the Russian fleet
as sub-lieutenant at the age of twenty-two, and fought
his way up in the Baltic service through Peter's wars
till in 1720 he was appointed captain of second rank.
To Vitus Bering, the Dane, Peter gave the commission
for the exploration of the waters between Asia and
America. As a sailor, Bering had, of course, been on
the borders of the Pacific.3
1 These instructions were handed to Peter's admiral — Count Apraxin.
2 Born 1681, son of Jonas and Anna Bering, whom a petition describes, in 1719,
as "old, miserable, decrepit people, no way able to help ourselves."
He fought in Black Sea wars of 1711 j and from  lieutenant-captain  became
captain of the second rank by 1717, when Russians, jealous of the foreigner, blocked VITUS   BERING, THE  DANE 9
The scientists of every city in Europe were in a fret
over the mythical Straits of Anian, supposed to be
between Asia and America, and over the yet more
mythical Gamaland, supposed to be visible on the way
to New Spain. To all this jangling of words without
knowledge Peter paid no heed. "You will go and
obtain some reliable information," he commands Bering. Neither did he pay any heed to the fact that the
ports of Kamchatka on the Pacific were six thousand
miles by river and mountain and tundra and desert
through an unknown country from St. Petersburg.
It would take from three to five years to transport
material across two continents by caravan and flatboat
and dog sled. Tribute of food and fur would be required from Kurd and Tartar and wild Siberian tribe.
More than a thousand horses must be requisitioned
for the caravans; more than two thousand leathern
sacks made for the flour. Twenty or thirty boats
must be constructed to raft down the inland rivers.
There were forests to be traversed for hundreds of
miles, where only the keenest vigilance could keep the
wolf packs off the heels of the travellers. And when
the expedition should reach the tundras of eastern
Siberia, there was the double danger of the Chukchee
tribes on the north, hostile as the American Indians,
and of the Siberian exile population on the south,
branded  criminals,  political malcontents, banditti of
his promotion.    He demanded promotion or discharge 5 and withdrew to Finland, where
the Czar's Kamchatkan expedition called him from retirement. IO
the wilderness, outcasts of nameless crimes beyond
the pale of law. It needed no prophet to foresee
such people would thwart, not help, the expedition.
And when the shores of Okhotsk were reached, a fort
must be built to winter there. And a vessel for inland
seas must be constructed to cross to the Kamchatka
peninsula of the North Pacific. And the peninsula,
which sticks out from Asia as Norway projects from
Europe, must be crossed with provisions — a distance
of some two hundred miles by dog trains over mountains higher than the American Rockies. And once
on the shores of the Pacific itself, another fort must
be built on the east side of the Kamchatka peninsula.
And the two double-decker vessels must be constructed
to voyage over the sleepy swell of the North Pacific to
that mythical realm of mist like a blanket, and strange,
unearthly rumblings smoking up from the cold Arctic
sea, with the red light of a flame through the gray haze,
and weird voices, as if the fog wraith were luring seamen to destruction. These were mere details. Peter
took no heed of impossibles. Neither did Bering;
for he was in the prime of his honor, forty-four years
of age. "You will go," commanded the Czar, and
Bering obeyed.
Barely had the spirit of Peter the Great passed from
this life, in 1725, when Bering's forces were travelling
in midwinter from St. Petersburg to cross Siberia to
the Pacific, on what is known as the First Expedition.1
1 The expedition left St. Petersburg February 5th. VITUS  BERING, THE  DANE
Three years it took him to go from the west coast of
Europe to the east coast of Asia, crossing from Okhotsk
to Kamchatka, whence he sailed on the 9th of July,
1728, with forty-four men and three lieutenants for
the Arctic seas.1 This voyage is unimportant, except
as the kernel out of which grew the most famous
expedition on the Pacific coast. Martin Spanberg,
another Danish navigator, huge of frame, vehement,
passionate, tyrannical but dauntless, always followed
by a giant hound ready to tear any one who approached
to pieces, and Alexei Chirikoff, an able Russian,
were seconds in command. They encountered all the
difficulties to be expected transporting ships, rigging,
and provisions across two continents. Spanberg and
his men, winter-bound in East Siberia, were reduced
to eating their dog harness and shoe-straps for food
before they came to the trail of dead horses that
marked Bering's path to the sea, and guided them
to the fort at Okhotsk.
Bering did exactly as Czar Peter had ordered. He
built the two-deckers at Kamchatka. Then he followed the coast northward past St. Lawrence Island,
which he named, to a point where the shore seemed to
turn back on itself northwestward at 67 ° 18', which
proved  to  Bering that Asia  and America were  not
1 The midshipman of this voyage was Peter Chaplin, whose journal was deposited
in the Naval College of the Admiralty, St. Petersburg. Berg gives a summary of this
journal. A translation by Dall is to be found in Appendix ig, Coast Survey, Washington, 1890.
msm 12
united.1 And they had found no "Gamaland," no
new world wedged in between Asia and America.
Twice they were within only forty miles of America,
touching at St. Lawrence Island, but the fog hung like
a blanket over the sea as they passed through the
waters now known as Bering Straits. They saw no
continent eastward; and Bering was compelled to
return with no knowledge but that Russia did not
extend into America. And yet, there were definite
signs of land eastward of Kamchatka — driftwood,
seaweed, sea-birds. Before setting out for St. Petersburg in 1729, he had again tried to sail eastward to the
Gamaland of the maps, but again foul weather had
driven him back.
It was the old story of the savants and Christopher
Columbus in an earlier day. Bering's conclusions
were different from the moonshine of the schools.
There was no "Gamaland' in the sea. There was in
the maps. The learned men of St. Petersburg ridiculed the Danish sailor. The fog was supposed to
have concealed "Gamaland." There was nothing for
Bering but to retire in ignominy or prove his conclusions. He had arrived in St. Petersburg in March,
1730. He had induced the court to undertake a
second expedition by April of the same year.2
1 A great dispute has waged among the finical academists, where the Serdze Kamen
of this trip really was; the Russian observations varying greatly owing to fog and rude
instruments. Lauridsen quarrels with Muller on this score. Muller was one of the
theorists whose wrongheadedness misled Bering.
2 It was in 1730 that Gvozdef's report of a strange land between 650 and 66° became
current.   Whether this land was America, Gamaland, or Asia, the savants could not know. 1
And for this second expedition, the court, the senate,
the admiralty, and the academy of sciences decided
to provide with a lavish profusion that would dazzle
the world with the brilliancy of Russian exploits.
Russia was in the mood to do things. The young
savants who thronged her capital were heady with
visionary theories that were to astonish the rest of
mortals. Scientists, artisans, physicians, monks,
Cossacks, historians, made up the motley roll of conflicting influences under Bering's command; but
because Bering was a Dane, this command was not
supreme. He must convene a council of the Russian
officers under him, submit all his plans to their vote,
then abide by their decision. Yet he alone must
carry responsibility for blunders. And as the days
went on, details of instructions rolling out from admiralty, senate, and academy were like an avalanche
gathering impetus to destruction from its weight. He
was to establish new industries in Siberia. He was to
chart the whole Arctic coast line of Asia. He was to
Christianize the natives. He was to provide the travelling academicians with luxurious equipment, though
some of them had forty wagon-loads of instruments
and carried a peripatetic library.
Early in 1733, the Second Expedition set out from
St. Petersburg in detachments to cross Siberia. There
were Vitus Bering, the commander, Chirikoff and
Spanberg, his two seconds, eight lieutenants, sixteen
mates,   twelve   physicians,   seven   priests,   carpenters, H
bakers, Cossacks, sailors, — in all, five hundred and
eighty men.1 Now, if it was difficult to transport
a handful of attendants across Siberia for the first
simple voyage, what was it to convoy this rabble
composed of self-important scientists bent on proving
impossible theories, of underling officers each of whom
considered himself a czar, of wives and children unused to such travel, of priests whose piety took the
extraordinary form of knouting subordinates to death,
of Cossacks who drank and gambled and brawled at
every stopping place till half the lieutenants in the
company had crossed swords in duels, of workmen
who looked on the venture as a mad banishment,
and only watched for a chance to desert ?
Scouts went scurrying ahead with orders for the
Siberian Cossacks to prepare wintering quarters for
the on-coming host, and to levy tribute on the inhabitants for provision; but in Siberia, as the Russians
say, 'God is high in the Heaven, and the Czar is
far away;9 and the Siberian governors raised not a
finger to prepare for Bering.
Spanberg left St. Petersburg in February, 1733.
Bering followed in March; and all summer the long
caravans of slow-moving pack horses — as many as
four thousand in a line — wound across the desert
wastes of West Siberia.
1 It is from the works of Gtnelin, Muller, and Steller, scientists named to accompany the expedition, that the most connected accounts are obtained. The '' menagerie,"
some one has called this collection of scientists- ^
Only the academists dallied in St. Petersburg, kissing Majesty's hand farewell, basking in the sudden
sunburst of short notoriety, driving Bering almost
mad by their exorbitant demands for luxuriously appointed barges to carry them down the Volga. Winter
was passed at Tobolsk; but May of 1734 witnessed
a firing of cannon, a blaring of trumpets, a clinking
of merry glasses among merry gentlemen; for the caravans were setting out once more to the swearing of the
Cossacks, the complaining of the scientists, the brawling of the underling officers, the silent chagrin of the
endlessly patient Bering. One can easily believe that
the God-speed from the Siberians was sincere; for the
local governors used the orders for tribute to enrich
themselves; and the country-side groaned under a
heavy burden of extortion. The second winter was
passed at Yakutsk, where the ships that were to chart
the Arctic coast of Siberia were built and launched
with crews of some hundred men.
It was the end of June, 1735, before the main forces
were under way again for the Pacific. From Yakutsk
to Okhotsk on the Pacific, the course was down the
Lena, up the Aldan River, up the Maya, up the Yu-
doma, across the Stanovoi Mountains, down the Urak
River to the sea. A thousand Siberian exiles were
compelled to convoy these boats.1 Not a roof had
been prepared to house the forces in the mountains.
Men  and horses were torn to pieces by the timber
•L Many of the workmen died of their hardships at this stage of the journey.
m, 1 i6
wolves. Often, for days at a time, the only rations
were carcasses of dead horses, roots, flour, and rice.
Winter barracks had to be built between the rivers, for
the navigable season was short. In May the rivers
broke up in spring flood. Then, the course was
against a boiling torrent. Thirty men could not tug
a boat up the Yudoma. They stood in ice-water up
to their waists lifting the barges over the turbulent
places. Sores broke out on the feet of horses and
men. Three years it took to transport all the supplies and ships' rigging from the Lena to the Pacific,
with wintering barracks constructed at each stopping
At Okhotsk on the Pacific, Major-General Pissar-
jeff was harbor master. This old reprobate, once a
favorite of Peter the Great, had been knouted, branded
and exiled for conspiracy, forbidden even to conceal
his brand; and now, he let loose all his seventy years
of bitterness on Bering. He not only had not made
preparation to house the explorers; but he refused to
permit them inside the stockades of the miserable
huts at Okhotsk, which he called his fort. When they
built a fort of their own outside, he set himself to
tantalize the two Danes, Bering and Spanberg, knout-
ing their men, sending coureurs with false accusations
against Bering to St. Petersburg, actually countermanding their orders for supplies from the Cossacks.
Spanberg would have finished the matter neatly with
a sharp  sword;   but   Bering  forbore,   and Pissarjeff VITUS  BERING,  THE DANE
was ultimately replaced by a better harbor master.
The men set to work cutting the timber for the
ships that were to cross from Okhotsk to the east
shore of Kamchatka; for Bering's ships of the first
voyage could now be used only as packet boats.
Not till the fourth of June, 1741, had all preparations
ripened for the fulfilment of Czar Peter's dying wishes
to extend his empire into America. Two vessels, the
St. Peter and the St. Paul, rode at anchor at Petro-
paulovsk in the Bay of Avacha on the east coast of
Kamchatka. On the shore was a little palisaded fort
of some fifty huts, a barrack, a chapel, a powder magazine. Early that morning, solemn religious services
had been held to invoke the blessing of Heaven on the
voyagers. Now, the chapel bell was set ringing.
Monks came singing down to the water's edge. Cannon were fired. Cheer on cheer set the echoes rolling
among the white domed mountains. There was a
rattling of anchor chains, a creaking of masts and
yard-arms. The sails fluttered out bellying full; and
with a last, long shout, the ships glided out before
the wind to the lazy swell of the Pacific for the discovery of new worlds.
And why not new worlds ? That was the question
the officers accompanying Bering asked themselves
as the white peaks of Kamchatka faded on the offing.
Certainly, in the history of the world, no expedition
had set out with greater prestige.    Eight years had it
I i8
taken to cross Siberia from St. Petersburg to the Pacific. A line of forts across two continents had been
built for winter quarters. Rivers had been bridged;
as many as forty boats knocked together in a single
year to raft down the Siberian torrents. Two hundred
thousand doUars in modern money had been spent
before the Pacific was reached. In all, nine ships had
been built on the Pacific to freight supplies across
from Okhotsk to the eastern side of Kamchatka, two
to carry Bering to the new continent of "Gamaland'
which the savants persisted in putting on the maps,
three to explore the region between Russia and Japan.
Now, Bering knew there was no "Gamaland' except
in the ignorant, heady imaginings of the foolish
geographers. So did Alexei Chirikoff, the Russian
second assistant. So did Spanberg, the Dane, third
in command, who had coasted the Pacific in charting
Roughly speaking, the expedition had gradually
focussed to three points: (i) the charting of the
Arctic coast; (2) the exploration of Japan; (3) the
finding of what lay between Asia and America. Some
two hundred men, of whom a score had already perished of scurvy, had gone down the Siberian rivers to
the Arctic coast. Spanberg, the Dane, with a hundred
others, had thoroughly charted Japan, and had seen
his results vetoed by the authorities at St. Petersburg
because there was no Gamaland. Bering, himself,
undertook the voyage to America.    All the month of VITUS BERING, THE  DANE
May, council after council had been held at Avacha
Bay to determine which way Bering's two ships should
sail. By the vote of this council, Bering, the commander, was compelled to abide; and the mythical
Gamaland proved his evil star.
The maps of the D'Isles, the famous geographers,
contained a Gamaland; and Louis la Croyere d'Isle,
relative of the great map maker, who had knocked
about in Canada and was thought to be an authority
on American matters, was to accompany Chirikoff,
Bering's first lieutenant. At the councils, these maps
were hauled out. It was a matter of family pride
with the D'Isles to find that Gamaland. Bering and
Chirikoff may have cursed all scientists, as Cook, the
great navigator, cursed savants at a later day; but
they must bow to the decision of the council; and the
decision was to sail south-southeast for Gamaland.
And yet, there could have been no bitterness in Bering's feelings; for he knew that the truth must triumph.
He would be vindicated, whatever came; and the spell
of the North was upon him with its magic beckoning on — on — on to the unknown, to the unexplored,
to the undreamed. All that the discoveries of Columbus gave to the world, Bering's voyage might give to
Russia; for he did not know that the La Verendryes
of New France had already penetrated west as far as
the Rockies; and he did know that half a continent
yet lay unexplored, unclaimed, on the other side of
the Pacific.
wm 20
s    s
(Point ofStpn
Scale: Stat Milt.
'00 to.
Map of Course
But with boats that carried only one hundred casks
of water, and provisions for but five months, the decision to sail south-southeast was a deplorable waste of
precious time. It would lead to the Spanish possessions, not to the unknown North. On Bering's boat,
the St. Peter, was a crew of seventy-seven, Lieutenant
Waxel, second in command, George William Steller,
the famous scientist, Bering's friend, on board. On
the St. Paul, under the stanch, level-headed Russian
lieutenant, Alexei Chirikoff, were seventy-six men,
with La Croyere d'Isle as astronomer.    Not the least VITUS  BERING, THE  DANE
-O- o.
followed by Bering.
complicating feature of the case was the personnel of
the crews. For the most part, they were branded
criminals and malcontents. From the first they had
regarded the Bering expedition with horror. They
had joined it under compulsion for only six years;
and the exploration was now in its eleventh year.
Spanberg, the other Dane, with his brutal tongue and
constant recourse to the knout, who had gone to St.
Petersburg to report on Japan, they cordially hated.
Chirikoff, the Russian, was a universal favorite, and
Bering, the supreme commander, was  loved  for his 22
kindness; but Bering's commands were subject to
veto by the Russian underlings; and the Russian
underling officers kept up a constant brawl of duels
and gaming and drink. No wonder the bluff Dane
sailed out from the snow-rimmed peaks of Avacha
Bay with dark forebodings. He had carried a load of
petty instructions issued by ignoramus savants for
eight years. He had borne eight years of nagging
from court and senate and academy. He had been
criticised for blunders of others' making. He had
been set to accomplish a Herculean task with tied
hands. He had been threatened with fines and court
martial for the delay caused by the quarrels of his
under officers to whom he was subject. He had been
deprived of salary for three years and accused of pilfering from public funds. His wife, who had by this
time returned with the wives of the other officers to
Russia, had actually been searched for hidden booty.1
And now, after toils and hardships untold, only five
months' provisions were left for the ships sailing from
Kamchatka; and the blockhead underlings were compelling a waste of those provisions by sailing in the
wrong direction. If the worst came, could Bering
hold his men with those tied hands of his ?
The commander shrugged his shoulders and signalled Chirikoff, the Russian, on the St. Paul, to lead
the way.    They must find out there was no Gamaland
1 Berg says Bering's two sons, Thomas and Unos, were also with him in Siberia. VITUS  BERING, THE  DANE
for themselves, those obstinate Russians! The long
swell of the Pacific meets them as they sheer out from
the mountain-girt harbor. A dip of the sails to the
swell of the rising wind, and the snowy heights of
Avacha Bay are left on the offing. The thunder of
the surf against the rocky caves of Kamchatka coast
fades fainter* The myriad birds become fewer. Steller, the scientist, leans over the rail to listen if the
huge sperm whale, there, "hums' as it "blows."
The white rollers come from the north, rolling—
rolling down to the tropics. A gray thing hangs over
the northern offing, a grayish brown thing called
"fog" of which they will know more anon. The
grayish brown thing means storm; and the "porps'
tumbling, floundering, somerseting round the ships in
circles, mean storm; and Chirikoff, far ahead there,
signals back doubtfully to know if they shouldn't
keep together to avoid being lost in the gathering fog.
The Dane shrugs his shoulders and looks to the north.
The grayish brown thing has darkened, thickened,
spread out impalpably, and by the third day, a north-
ling wind is whistling through the riggings with a rip.
Sails are furled. The white rollers roll no longer.
They lash with chopped-off tops flying backward;
and the St. Peter is churning about, shipping sea after
sea with the crash of thunder. That was what the
fog meant; and it is all about them, in a hurricane
now, stinging cold, thick to the touch, washing out
every outline but sea — sea!
>■•» 24
Never mind! They are nine days out. It is the
twelfth of June. They are down to 460 and no Gamaland ! The blockheads have stopped spreading their
maps in the captain's cabin. One can see a smile
wreathing in the whiskers of the Dane. Six hundred
miles south of Kamchatka and no Gamaland! The
council convenes again. It is decided to turn about,
head north, and say no more of Gamaland. But when
the fog, that has turned hurricane, lifts, the consort
ship, the St. Paul, is lost. Chirikoff's vessel has disappeared. Up to 490, they go; but still no Chirikoff,
and no Gamaland! Then the blunder-makers, as
usual, blunder more. It is dangerous to go on without
the sister ship. The council convenes. Bering must
hark back to 460 and hunt for Chirikoff. So passes
the whole month of June. Out of five months' provisions, one wasted, the odium on Bering, the Dane.
It was noticed that after the ship turned south, the
commander looked ill and depressed. He became intolerant of opposition or approach. Possibly to avoid
irritation, he kept to his cabin; but he issued peremptory orders for the St. Peter to head back north.
In a few days, Bering was confined to bed with
that overwhelming physical depression and fear, that
precede the scourge most dreaded by seamen — scurvy.
Lieutenant Waxel now took command. Waxel had
all a sailor's contempt for the bookful blockheads, who
wrench fact to fit theory;   and deadly enmity arose VITUS  BERING, THE  DANE
between him and Steller, the scientist. By the middle
of July, the fetid drinking water was so reduced
that the crew was put on half allowance; but on
the sleepy, fog-blanketed swell of the Pacific slipping
past Bering's wearied eyes, there were so many signs
of land — birds, driftwood, seaweed — that the commander ordered the ship hove to each night for fear
of grounding.
On the thirteenth of July, the council of underlings
had so far relinquished all idea of a Gamaland, that
it was decided to steer continuously north. Sometime between the 16th and 20th, the fog lifted like a
curtain. Such a vision met the gaze of the stolid seamen as stirred the blood of those phlegmatic Russians.
It was the consummation of all their labor, what they
had toiled across Siberia to see, what they had hoped
against hope in spite of the learned jargon of the
geographers. There loomed above the far horizon of
the north sea what might have been an immense opal
dome suspended in mid-heaven. One can guess how
the lookout strained keen eyes at this grand, crumpled
apex of snow jagged through the clouds like the celestial tent peak of some giant race; how the shout of
"land" went up, how officers and underlings flocked
round Bering with cries and congratulations. "We
knew it was land beyond a doubt on the sixteenth,"
says Steller. "Though I have been in Kamchatka, I
have never seen more lofty mountains.'3 The shore
was broken everywhere, showing inlets and harbors.
— 26
Everybody congratulated the commander, but he only
shrugged shoulders, saying: "We think we've done big
things, eh ? but who knows ? Nobody realizes where
this is, or the distance we must sail back. Winds
may be contrary. We don't know this land; and we
haven't provisions to winter."
The truth is — the maps having failed, Bering was
good enough seaman to know these uncharted signs
of a continent indicated that the St. Peter was hopelessly lost. Sixteen years of nagging care, harder
to face than a line of cannon, had sucked Bering's
capacity of resistance like a vampire. That buoyancy,
which lifts man above Anxious Fright, had been sapped.
The shadowy elemental powers — physical weakness,
disease, despair — were closing round the explorer like
the waves of an eternal sea.
The boat found itself in a wonder world, that beggared romance. The great peak, which they named
St. Elias, hung above a snowy row of lesser ridges in a
dome of alabaster. Icebergs, like floating palaces,
came washing down from the long line of precipitous
shore. As they neared anchorage at an island now
known as Kyak, they could see billows of ferns, grasses,
lady's slippers, rhododendrons, bluebells, forget-me-
nots, rippling in the wind. Perhaps they saw those
palisades of ice, that stretch like a rampart northward
along the main shore west of St. Elias.
The St. Peter moved slowly landward against a
head wind.    Khitroff and Steller put off in the small VITUS  BERING, THE  DANE
boats with fifteen men to reconnoitre. Both found
traces of inhabitants — timbered huts, fire holes, shells,
smoked fish, footprints in the grass. Steller left
some kettles, knives, glass beads, and trinkets in the
huts to replace the possessions of the natives, which
the Russians took. Many years later, another voyager
met an old Indian, who told of seeing Bering's ship
anchor at Kyak Island when he was a boy; but the
terrified Indians had fled, only returning to find the
presents in the huts, when the Russians had gone.1
Steller was as wild as a child out of school, and accompanied by only one Cossack went bounding over
the island collecting specimens and botanizing. Khit-
roff, meanwhile, filled water-casks; but on July 21,
the day after the anchorage, a storm-wind began
whistling through the rigging. The rollers came washing down from the ice wall of the coast and the far
offing showed the dirty fog that portended storm.
Only half the water-casks had been filled; but there
was a brisk seaward breeze. Without warning, contrary to his custom of consulting the other officers,
Bering appeared on deck pallid and ashen from disease, and peremptorily ordered anchors up.
In vain Steller stormed and swore, accusing the
chief of pusillanimous homesickness, "of reducing his
explorations to a six hours' anchorage on an island
shore,'3 "of coming from Asia to carry home American
water.''    The commander had  had enough of vacil-
1 Sauer relates this incident. 28
lation, delay, interference. One-third of the crew was
ailing. Provisions for only three months were in the
hold. The ship was off any known course more than
two thousand miles from any known port; and contrary winds might cause delay or drive the vessel on
the countless reefs that lined this strange coast, like
a ploughed field.
Dense clouds and a sleety rain settled over the sea,
washing out every outline, as the St. Peter began her
westward course. But what baffled both Bering and
the officers was the fact that the coast trended, not
north, but south. They were coasting that long
peninsula of Alaska that projects an arm for a thousand miles southwestward into the Pacific.
The roar of the rollers came from the reefs. Through
the blanketing fog they could discern, on the north,
island after island, ghostlike through the mist, rocky,
towering, majestic, with a thunder of surf among the
caves, a dim outline of mountains above, like Loki,
Spirit of Evil, smiling stonily at the dark forces closing
round these puny men. All along Kadiak, the roily
waters told of reefs. The air was heavy with fogs
thick to the touch; and violent winds constantly
threatened a sudden shift that might drive the vessel
on the rocks. At midnight on August i, they suddenly
found themselves with only three feet of water below
the keel. Fortunately there was no wind, but the fog
was like ink. By swinging into a current, that ran a
mill-race, they were carried out to eighteen fathoms VITUS  BERING, THE DANE
of water, where they anchored till daybreak. They
called this place Foggy Island. To-day it is known as
The underlings now came sharply to their senses
and, at the repeatedly convened and distracted councils
The St. Peter and St. Paul, from a rough sketch by Bering's comrade,
Steller, the scientist.
between July 25 and August 10, decided that there was
only one thing to do — sail at once for the home port
of Kamchatka. The St. Peter was tossing about in
frightful winds among reefs and hurricane fog like a
cork.    Half the crew lay ill and helpless of scurvy,
and only two months' provisions remained for a voyage
of two thousand miles. The whole crew signed the
resolution to go home.
Only twenty-five casks of water remained. On
August 30 the St. Peter anchored off a group of thirteen
bald, bare, treeless rocks. It was thought that if some
of the scurvy-stricken sailors could be carried ashore,
they might recover. One, Shumagin, died as he was
lifted ashore. This was the first death, and his name
was given to the islands. Bering himself was so ill
he could not stand. Twenty emaciated men were laid
along the shore. Steller hurried off to hunt antiscorbutic plants, while Waxel, who had taken command,
and Khitroff ordered the water-casks filled. Unfortunately the only pool they could find was connected
with an arm of the sea. The water was brackish,
and this afterward increased disease.
A fatality seemed to hang over the wonder world
where they wandered. Voices were heard in the
storm, rumblings from the sea. Fire could be seen
through the fog. Was this fire from volcanoes or
Indians ? And such a tide-rip thundered along the
rocks as shook the earth and set the ship trembling.
Waxel knew they must not risk delay by going to
explore, but by applying to Bering, who lay in his
berth unconscious of the dangers on this coast, Khitroff gained permission to go from the vessel on a yawl
with five sailors; but by the time he had rowed against
head winds to the scene of the fire, the Indians had VITUS  BERING, THE  DANE
fled, and such beach combers were crashing ashore,
Khitroff dare not risk going back to the ship. In vain
Waxel ground his teeth with rage, signalled, and
waited. "The wind seemed to issue from a flue,"
says Steller, "with such a whistling and roaring and
rumbling that we expected to lose mast and rudder,
or be crushed among the breakers. The dashings of
the sea sounded like a cannon."
The fact was, Khitroff's yawl had been smashed to
kindling wood against the rocks; and the six half-
drowned Russians were huddling together waiting
for help when Waxel took the other small boat and
went to the rescue. Barely had this been effected at
the cost of four days' delay, in which the ship might
have made five hundred miles toward home, when
natives were seen paddling out in canoes, gesticulating
for the white men to come ashore. Waxel lowered
away in the small boat with nine armed men to pay
the savages a visit. Close ashore, he beckoned the
Indians to wade out; but they signalled him in turn
to land, and he ordered three men out to moor the boat
to a rock. All went well between Russians and Indians, presents being exchanged, till a chief screwed
up his courage to paddle out to Waxel in the boat.
With characteristic hospitality, Waxel at once proffered some Russian brandy, which, by courtesy among
all Western sailors, is always known as "chain lightning.'3 The chief took but one gulp of the liquid
fire, when with a wild yell he spat it out, shouted that
he had been poisoned, and dashed ashore. 32
The three Russians succeeded in gaining Waxel's
boat, but the Indians grabbed the mooring ropes
and seized the Chukchee interpreter, whom Waxel
had brought from Siberia. Waxel ordered the rope
cut, but the Chukchee interpreter called out pitifully
to be saved. Quick as flash, the Russians fired two
muskets in midair. At the crash that echoed among
the cliffs, the Indians fell prostrate with fear, and the
interpreter escaped; but six days had been wasted
in this futile visit to the natives.
Scarcely had they escaped this island, when such a
hurricane broke over the St. Peter for seventeen days
that the ship could only scud under bare poles before
a tornado wind that seemed to be driving north-northwest. The ship was a chip in a maelstrom. There
were only fifteen casks of water fit to drink. All
food was exhausted but mouldy sea-biscuits. One
sailor a day was now dying of scurvy, and those left
were so weak that they had no power to man the ship.
The sailors were so emaciated they had to be carried
back and forward to the rudder, and the underling
officers were quarrelling among themselves. The
crew dared not hoist sails, because not a man of the
St. Peter had the physical strength to climb and lower
1 See Muller, p. 93, 1764 edition : "The men, notwithstanding want, misery,
sickness, were obliged to work continually in the cold and wet; and the sickness was so
dreadful that the sailors who governed the rudder were obliged to be led to it by others,
who could hardly walk. They durst not carry much sail, because there was nobody to
lower them in case of need, and they were so thin a violent wind would have torn them
to pieces.    The rain now changed to hail and snow.'' VITUS   BERING, THE  DANE
The rain turned, to sleet. The sleet froze to the
rotting sails, to the ice-logged hull, to the wan yard-
arms frost-white like ghosts. At every lurch of the sea
slush slithered down from the rigging on the shivering
seamen. The roar of the breakers told of a shallow
sea, yet mist veiled the sky, and they were above waters
whose shallows drop to sudden abysmal depths of
three thousand fathoms. Sheets of smoking vapor
rose from the sea, sheets of flame-tinged smoke from
the crevasses of land volcanoes which the fogs hid.
Out of the sea came the hoarse, strident cry of the sea-
lion, and the walrus, and the hairy seal. It was as if
the poor Russians had sailed into some under-world.
The decks were slippery as glass, the vessel shrouded
in ice. Over all settled that unspeakable dread of
impending disaster, which is a symptom of scurvy,
and saps the fight that makes a man fit to survive.
Waxel, alone, held the vessel up to the wind. Where
were they ? Why did this coasting along unknown
northern islands not lead to Kamchatka ?
The councils were no longer the orderly conferences
of savants over cut-and-dried maps. They were bedlam. Panic was in the marrow of every man, even the
passionate Steller, who thought all the while they were
on the coast of Kamchatka and made loud complaint
that the expedition had been misled by "unscrupulous leaders."
At eight o'clock on the morning of October 30 it
was seen that the ice-clogged ropes on the starboard
■SUM 34
side had been snapped by the wind like dry sticks.
Offerings, vows, prayers went up from the stricken
crew. Piety became a very real thing. The men
prayed aloud and conferred on ways to win the favor
of God. The colder weather brought one relief. The
fog lifted and the air was clear. The wind veered
northeast, and on November 4, to their inexpressible
joy, a dim outline sharpened to hard, clear horizon;
and the gazing crew gradually saw a high, mountainous
coast become clear beyond doubt directly ahead sixteen miles. Surely, this was Kamchatka ? Surely,
God had heard their vows ? The sick crawled on
hands and knees above the hatchway to see land once
more, and with streaming eyes thanked Heaven for
the escape from doom. Grief became joy; gruff,
happy, hilarious laughter; for a few hidden casks of
brandy were brought out to celebrate the end of their
miseries, and each man began pointing out certain
headlands that he thought he recognized. But this
ecstasy was fool joy born of desperation. As the ship
rounded northeastward, a strangeness came over the
scene; a chill over the good cheer — a numbing,
silent, unspeakable dread over the crew. These turbulent waters running a mill-race between reefs looked
more like a channel between two islands than open
coast. The men could not utter a word. They hoped
against hope. They dare not voice their fears. That
night, the St. Peter stood off from land in case of storm.
Topsails were furled, and the wind had ripped the other VITUS  BERING, THE  DANE
sails to tatters, that flared and beat dismally all night
against the cordage. One can imagine the anxiety of
that long night with the roar of the breakers echoing
angrily from shore, the whistle of the wind through the
rotten rigging, the creaking of the timbers to the crash
and growl and rebound of the tide. Clear, refulgent
with sunshine like the light of creation's first day, the
sting of ozone in the air, and the freshness of a scene
never before witnessed by human eyes — dawned the
morning of November 5.
The shore was of black, adamant rock rising sheer
from the sea in a rampart wall. Reefs, serried, rank
on rank, like sentinels, guarded approach to the coast
in jagged masses, that would rip the bottom from any
keel like the teeth of a saw; and over these rolled the
roaring breakers with a clutch to the back-wash that
bade the gazing sailors beware. Birds, birds in myriads
upon myriads, screamed and circled over the eerie
heights of the beetling cliffs. This did not look like
Kamchatka. These birds were not birds of the
Asiatic home port. These cliffs were not like the snow-
rimmed mountains of Avacha Bay.
Waxel called a council.
Officers and men dragged themselves to Bering's
cabin. Waxel had already canvassed all hands to
vote for a landing to winter on these shores. This,
the dying Bering opposed with all his might. "We
must be almost home," he said. "We still have six
casks of water, and the foremast.    Having risked so
■'g^HsW'HBVBHa'Bl 36
much, let us risk three days more, let us risk everything to reach Avacha Bay.'3 Poor Bering! Had his
advice been followed, the saddest disaster of northern
seas might have been averted; for they were less than
ten days' run from the home harbor; but inspired by
fool hopes born of fear, like the old marsh lights that
used to lure men to the quicksands — Waxel and
Khitroff actually persuaded themselves this was Kamchatka, and when one lieutenant, Ofzyn, who knew the
north well from charting the Arctic coast, would have
spoken in favor of Bering's view, he was actually clubbed
and thrown from the cabin. The crew voted as a man
to land and winter on this coast. Little did they know
that vote was their own death warrant. CHAPTER  II
Frightful Sufferings of the Castaways on the Commander Islands —
The Vessel smashed in a Winter Gale, the Sick are dragged for
Refuge into Pits of Sand — Here, Bering perishes, and the Crew
Winter — The Consort Ship under Chirikoff Ambushed — How
the Castaways reach Home
Without pilot or captain, the St. Peter drifted to
the swirling current of the sea along a high, rocky,
forbidding coast where beetling precipices towered
sheer two thousand feet above a white fret of reefs,
that gave the ocean the appearance of a ploughed field.
The sick crawled mutely back to their berths. Bering
was past caring what came and only semiconscious.
Waxel, who had compelled the crew to vote for landing here under the impression born of his own despair,
— that this was the coast of Avacha Bay, Kamchatka,
— saw with dismay in the shores gliding past the keel
momentary proofs that he was wrong. Poor Waxel
had fought desperately against the depression- that
precedes scurvy; but now, with a dumb hopelessness
settling over the ship, the invisible hand of the scourge
mam BH
was laid on him, too. He went below decks completely
The underling officers still upon their feet, whose
false theories had led Bering into all this disaster,
were now quarrelling furiously among themselves,
blaming one another. Only Ofzyn, the lieutenant,
who had opposed the landing, and Steller, the scientist,
remained on the lookout with eyes alert for the impending destruction threatened from the white fret of the
endless reefs. Rocks rose in wild, jagged masses out
of the sea. Deep V-shaped ravines, shadowy in the
rising moonlight, seemed to recede into the rock wall
of the coast, and only where a river poured out from
one of these ravines did there appear to be any gap
through the long lines of reefs where the surf boomed
like thunder. The coast seemed to trend from northwest to southeast, and might have been from thirty to
fifty miles long, with strange bizarre arches of rock
overhanging endless fields of kelp and seaweed. The
land was absolutely treeless except for willow brushwood the size of one's finger. Lichens, moss, sphagnum,
coated the rocks. Inland appeared nothing but billowing reaches of sedges and shingle and grass.
Suddenly Steller noticed that the ebb-tide was causing
huge combing rollers that might dash the ship against
the rocks. Rushing below decks he besought Bering's
permission to sound and anchor. The early darkness
of those northern latitudes had been followed by moonlight bright as day.    Within a mile of the east shore, CONTINUATION  OF  BERING
Steller ordered the anchor dropped, but by this time,
the rollers were smashing over decks with a quaking
that seemed to tear the ship asunder. The sick were
hurled from their berths. Officers rushed on deck to
be swept from their feet by blasts of salt spray, and just
Steller's Arch on Bering Island, named after the scientist Steller,
of Bering's Expedition.
ahead, through the moonlight, could be seen the sharp
edge of a long reef where the beach combers ran with
the tide-rip of a whirlpool. There is something inexpressibly terrifying even from a point of safety in
these beach combers, clutching their long arms hungrily for prey.    The confusion of orders and counter- 4o
orders, which no man had strength to carry out, of
terrified cries and prayers and oaths — was indescribable. The numb hopelessness was succeeded by sheer
panic terror. Ofzyn threw out a second anchor that
raked bottom. Then, another mountain roller thundering over the ship with a crash — and the first cable
snapped like a pistol shot. The ship rebounded;
then drove before the back-wash of the angry sea.
With no fate possible but the wall of rocks ahead, the
terrorized crew began heaving the dead overboard in
the moonlight; but another roaring billow smashed
the St. Peter squarely broadside. The second hawser
ripped back with the whistling rebound of a whip-lash,
and Ofzyn was in the very act of dropping the third
and last anchor, when straight as a bullet to the mark,
as if hag-ridden by the northern demons of sailor fear,
hurled the St. Peter for the reef! A third time the
beach combers crashed down like a falling mountain.
When the booming sheets of blinding spray had cleared
and the panic-stricken sailors could again see, the St.
Peter was staggering stern foremost, shore ahead, like
a drunken ship. Quick as shot, Ofzyn and Steller
between them heaved over the last anchor. The
flukes gripped — raked — then caught — and held.
The ship lay rocking inside a reef in the very centre
of a sheltered cove not six hundred yards from land.
The beach comber had either swept her through a gap
in the reef, or hurled her clear above the reefs into
For seven hours the ship had battled against tide
and counter-current. Now, at midnight, with the air
clear as day, Steller had the small boat lowered and with
another — some say Waxel, others Pleneser, the artist,
or Ofzyn, of the Arctic expedition — rowed ashore to
reconnoitre. Sometime between the evening of November 5 and the morning of November 6, their eyes
met such a view as might have been witnessed by an
Alexander Selkirk, or Robinson Crusoe. The exact
landing was four or five miles north of what is now
known as Cape Khitroff, below the centre of the east
coast of Bering Island.1 Poor Waxel would have it,
they were on the coast of Kamchatka, and spoke of
sending messengers for help to Petropaulovsk on
Avacha Bay; but, as they were to learn soon enough,
the nearest point in Kamchatka was one hundred miles
across the sea. Avacha Bay was two hundred miles
away. And the Spanish possessions of America,
three thousand. They found the landing place literally swarming with animal life unknown to the world
before. An enormous mammal, more than three tons
in weight, with hind quarters like a whale, snout and
fore fins resembling a cow, grazed in herds on the
fields of sea-kelp and gazed languidly without fear
on the newcomer — Man. This was the famous sea-
cow described by the enthusiastic Steller, but long since
extinct.    Blue foxes swarmed round the very feet of the
1 I adopt the views of Dr. Stejneger, of the National Museum, Washington, on
this point, as he has personally gone over every foot of the ground.
ci ii
BferiaNttaM*~--laiWHtaHta 4*
men with such hungry boldness that half a dozen could
be clubbed to death before the others scampered.
Later, Steller was to see the seal rookeries, that were to
bring so much wealth to the world, the sea-lions that
roared along the rocks till the surf shook, the sea-otter
whose rare pelt, more priceless than beaver or sable,
was to cause the exploration and devastation of the
northern half of the Pacific coast.
The land was as it had appeared to the ship —
utterly treeless except for trailing willows. The brooks
were not yet frozen, and snow had barely powdered
the mountains; but where the coves ran in back between the mountains from the sea were gullies or
ditches of sand and sedge. When Steller presently
found a broken window casing of Kamchatka half
buried in the sand, it gave Waxel some confidence
about being on the mainland of Asia; but before Steller
had finished his two days' reconnoitre, there was no mistaking the fact — this was an island, and a barren one
at the best, without tree or shelter; and here the castaways must winter.
The only provisions now remaining to the crew were
grease and mouldy flour. Steller at once went to work.
Digging pits in the narrow gullies of sand, he covered
these over with driftwood, the rotten sail-cloth, moss,
mud, and foxskins. Cracks were then chinked up
with clay and more foxskins. By the 8th of November
he was ready to have the crew landed; but the ship
rolled helpless as a log to the tide, and the few well CONTINUATION  OF  BERING
men of the staff, without distinction of officers from
sailors, had to stand waist-deep in ice-slush to steady
the stretchers made of mast poles and sail-cloth, that
received the sick lowered over decks. Many of the
scurvy stricken had not been out of their berths for
six weeks. The fearful depression and weakness,
that forewarn scurvy, had been followed by the pains,
the swollen limbs, the blue spots that presage death.
A spongy excrescence covered the gums. The teeth
loosened. The slightest noise was enough to throw
the patient into a paroxysm of anguished fright; and
some died on the decks immediately on contact with
the cuttingly cold air. Others expired as they were
lowered to the stretchers; others, as they were laid
along the strip of sandy shore, where the bold foxes
were already devouring the dead and could scarcely
be driven off by the dying. In this way perished
nine of the St. Peter s crew during the week of the
By November 10, all was in readiness for Bering's
removal from the ship. As the end approached, his
irritability subsided to a quieted cheerfulness; and
he could be heard mumbling over thanks to God for
the great success of his early life. Wrapped in furs,
fastened to a stretcher, the Dane was lowered over the
ship, carried ashore, and laid in a sand pit. All that
day it had been dull and leaden; and just as Bering
was being carried, it began to snow heavily. Steller
occupied the sand pit next to the commander;  and in
i t
Hli 44
addition to acting as cook and physician to the entire
crew, became Bering's devoted attendant.
By the 13th of November, a long sand pit had been
roofed over as a sort of hospital with rug floor; and
here Steller had the stricken sailors carried in from
the shore. Poor Waxel, who had fought so bravely,
was himself carried ashore on November 21.
Daily, officers tramped inland exploring; and daily,
the different reconnoitring parties returned with word
that not a trace of human habitation, of wood, or the
way to Kamchatka had been discovered. Another
island there was to the east — now known as Copper
Island — and two little islets of rock; but beyond
these, nothing could be descried from the highest
mountains but sea — sea. Bering Island, itself, is
some fifty miles long by ten wide, very high at the
south, very swampy at the north; but the Commander
Group is as completely cut off from both Asia and
America as if it were in another world. The climate
was not intensely cold; but it was so damp, the very
clothing rotted; and the gales were so terrific that the
men could only leave the mud huts or yurts by crawling on all fours; and for the first three weeks after the
landing, blast on blast of northern hurricane swept
over the islands.
The poor old ship rode her best at anchor through
the violent storms; but on November 28 she was
seen to snap her cable and go staggering drunkenly to
open sea.    The terror of the castaways at this spectacle CONTINUATION  OF  BERING
was unspeakable. Their one chance of escape in
spring seemed lost; but the beach combers began
rolling landward through the howling storm; and when
next the spectators looked, the St. Peter was driving
ashore like a hurricane ship, and rushed full force,
nine feet deep with her prow into the sands not a pistol
shot away from the crew. The next beach comber
could not budge her. Wind and tide left her high
and dry, fast in the sand.
But what had become of Chirikoff, on board the St.
Paul, from the 20th of June, when the vessels were
separated by storm ? Would it have been any easier
for Bering if he had known that the consort ship had
been zigzagging all the while less than a week's cruise
from the St. Peter? When the storm, which had
separated the vessels, subsided, Chirikoff let the St.
Paul drift in the hope that Bering might sight the
missing vessel. Then he steered southeast to latitude 480 in search of the commander; but on June 23
a council of officers decided it was a waste of time to
search longer, and ordered the vessel to be headed
northeastward. The wind was light; the water,
clear; and Chirikoff knew, from the pilot-birds following the vessel, from the water-logged trees churning
past, from the herds of seal floundering in the sea,
that land must lie in this direction. A bright lookout
was kept for the first two weeks of July. Two hundred and forty miles were traversed;   and on a calm,
I 46
clear night between the 13th and 15th of July, there
loomed above the horizon the dusky heights of a
wooded mountainous land in latitude 550 21'* Chirikoff was in the Alexander Archipelago. Daybreak
came with the St. Paul only four miles off the conspicuous heights of Cape Addington. Chirikoff had
discovered land some thirty-six hours before Bering.
The new world of mountains and forests roused the
wildest   enthusiasm   among   the   Russians.    A   small
A Glacier.
boat was lowered; but it failed to find a landing. A
light wind sprang up, and the vessel stood out under
shortened sails for the night. By morning the wind
had increased, and fog had blurred out all outlines of
the new-found land. Here the ocean currents ran
northward; and by morning of the 17th, when the
sun pierced the washed air and the mountains began
to appear again through jagged rifts of cloud-wraith,
Chirikoff found himself at the entrance of a great bay,
girt by forested mountains to the water's edge, beneath
the high cone of what is now known as Mount Edge- CONTINUATION  OF  BERING
cumbe, in Sitka Sound. Sitka Sound is an indentation
about fifteen miles from north to south, with such
depths of water that there is no anchorage except
south and southwestward of Mount Edgecumbe. Impenetrable woods lined the mountains to the very
shore. Great trunks of uprooted trees swept past the
ship continually. Even as the clouds cleared, leaving
vast forests and mountain torrents and snowy peaks
visible, a hazy film of intangible gloom seemed to
settle over the shadowy harbor.1
Chirikoff wished to refill his water-casks. Also, he
was ambitious to do what the scientists cursed Bering
for not doing off St. Elias — explore thoroughly the
land newly found. The long-boat was lowered with
Abraham Dementieff and ten armed men. The crew
was supplied with muskets, a brass cannon, and provisions for several days. Chirikoff arranged a simple
code of signals with the men — probably a column of
smoke, or sunlight thrown back by a tin mirror — by
which he could know if all went well. Then, with a
cheer, the first Russians to put foot on the soil of
America bent to the oar and paddled swiftly away
from the St. Paul for the shadow of the forested mountains etched from the inland shore. The long-boat
seemed smaller as the distance from the St. Paul increased.     Then men and boat disappeared behind an
1 Dr. George Davidson, President of the Geographical Society of the Pacific, has
written an irrefutable pamphlet on why Kyak Island and Sitka Sound must be accepted
as the landfalls of Bering and Chirikoff.
*~ 48
elbow of land. A flash of reflected light from the
hidden shore; and Chirikoff knew the little band of
explorers had safely landed. The rest of the crew
went to work putting things shipshape on the St.
Paul. The day passed with more safety signals from
the shore. The crew of the St. Paul slept sound out
in mid-harbor unsuspicious of danger. Another day
passed, and another night. Not so many signals!
Had the little band of Russians gone far inland for
water, and the signals been hidden by the forest gloom ?
A wind was singing in the rigging — threatening a
landward gale that might carry the St. Paul somewhat
nearer those rocky shores than the Russians could
wish. Chirikoff sent a sailor spying from the lookout of the highest yard-arm. No signals at all this
day; nor the next day; nor the next! The St. Paul
had only one other small boat. Fearing the jolly-
boat had come to grief among the rocks and counter-
currents, Chirikoff bade Sidor Savelief, the bo'swain,
and six armed sailors, including carpenters to repair
damages, take the remaining boat and go to De-
mentieff's rescue. The strictest orders were given that
both boats return at once. Barely had the second
boat rounded the elbow of shore where the first boat
had disappeared when a great column of smoke burst
from the tree-tops of the hidden shore. To Chirikoff's
amazement, the second crew made no signal. The
night passed uneasily. Sailors were on the watch.
Ship's rigging was put in shape.    Dawn was witnessed CONTINUATION  OF  BERING
by eager eyes gazing shoreward. The relief was inexpressible when two boats — a long and a short one like
those used by the two crews — were seen rounding the
elbow of land. The landward breeze was now straining the St. PauFs hawsers. Glad to put for open sea
to weather the coming gale, Chirikoff ordered all
hands on deck and anchors up. The small boats
came on with a bounce over the ocean swell; but
suddenly one of Chirikoff's Russians pointed to the
approaching crafts. There was a pause in the rattle
of anchor chains. There was a pause in the bouncing of the small boats, too. They were not the Russian jolly-boats. They were canoes; and the canoes
were filled with savages as dumb with astonishment at
the apparition of the St. Paul as the Russians were at
the canoes. Before the Russians had come to their
senses, or Chirikoff had time to display presents to
allure the savages on board as hostages, the Indians
rose in their places, uttered a war-whoop that set the
rocks echoing, and beating their paddles on the gun'els,
scudded for shore. Gradually the meaning dawned
on Chirikoff. His two crews had been destroyed.
His small boats were lost. His supply of fresh water
was running low. The fire that he had observed
had been a fire of orgies over mutilated men. The
St. Paul was on a hostile shore with such a gale blowing as threatened destruction on the rocks. There
was nothing to do but scud for open sea. When the
gale abated, Chirikoff returned to Sitka and cruised 5°
the shore for some sign of the sailors: but not a trace
of the lost men could be descried. By this time
water was so scarce, the men were wringing rain moisture out of the sails and distilling sea-water. A council
was called. All agreed it would be worse than folly to
risk the entire crew for the twelve men, who were probably already dead. There was no small boat to land
for more water; and the St. Paul was headed about
with all speed for the northwest.1
Slant rain settled over the sea. The wind increased
and grew more violent. The St. Paul drove ahead
like a ghost form pursued through a realm of mist.
Toward the end of July, when the weather cleared,
stupendous mountains covered with snow were seen
on the northwestward horizon like walls of ice with the
base awash in thundering sea. Thousands of cataracts, clear as crystal, flashed against the mountain
sides; and in places the rock wall rose sheer two
thousand feet from the roaring tide. Inlets, gloomy
with forested mountain walls where impetuous streams
laden with the milky silt of countless glaciers tore
their way through the rocks to the sea, could be seen
receding inland through the fog. Then the foul
weather settled over the sea again;   and by the first
1 Thus the terrible Sitkan massacre of a later day was preceded by the slaughter of
the first Russians to reach America. The Russian government of a later day originated
a comical claim to more territory on the ground that descendants of these lost Russians
had formed settlements farther down the coast, alleging in proof that subsequent explorers
had found red-headed and light-complexioned people as far south as the Chinook tribes.
To such means will statecraft stoop. CONTINUATION  OF   BERING
week of August, with baffling winds and choppy
sea, the St. Paul was veering southwestward where
Alaska projects a long arm into the Pacific. Chirikoff
had passed the line where forests dwarf to willows, and
willows to sedges, and sedges to endless leagues of
rolling tundras. Somewhere near Kadiak, land was
again sighted. When the fog lifted, the vapor of far
volcanoes could be seen hanging lurid over the mountain tops.
Wind was followed by dead calm, when the sails
literally fell to pieces with rain-rot in the fog; and on
the evening of September 8 the becalmed crew were
suddenly aroused by the tide-rip of roaring breakers.
Heaving out all anchors at once, Chirikoff with difficulty made fast to rocky bottom. In the morning,
when the fog lifted, he found himself in the centre of
a shallow bay surrounded by the towering cliffs of
what is now known as Adakh Island. While waiting
for a breeze, he saw seven canoe loads of savages put
out from shore chanting some invocation. The Russians threw out presents, but the savages took no
notice, gradually surrounding the St. Paul. All this
time Chirikoff had been without any water but the
stale casks brought from Kamchatka; and he now
signalled his desperate need to the Indians. They responded by bringing bladders full of fresh water; but
they refused to mount the decks. And by evening
fourteen canoe loads of the taciturn savages were
circling  threateningly  round the  Russians.    Luckily,
vn 52
at  nightfall a wind  sprang up.     Chirikoff  at once
slipped anchor and put to sea.
By the third week of August, the rations of rye
meal had been reduced to once a day instead of twice
in order to economize water. Only twelve casks of
water remained; and Chirikoff was fifteen hundred
miles from Kamchatka. Cold, hunger, thirst, then
did the rest. Chirikoff himself was stricken with
scurvy by the middle of September, and one sailor died
of the scourge. From the 26th, one death a day followed in succession. Though down, Chirikoff was
not beaten. Discipline was maintained among the
hungry crew; and each day Chirikoff issued exact
orders. Without any attempt at steering, the ship
drifted westward. No more land was seen by the
crew; but on the 2d of October, the weather clearing,
an observation was taken of the sun that showed them
they were nearing Kamchatka. On the 8th, land was
sighted; but one man alone, the pilot, Yelagin, had
strength to stay at the helm till Avacha Bay was approached, when distress signals were fired from the
ship's cannon to bring help from land. Poor Croyere
de l'lsle, kinsman to the map makers whose mistakes
had caused disaster, sick unto death of the scurvy,
had kept himself alive with liquor and now insisted on
being carried ashore. The first breath of clear air
above decks was enough. The scientist fell dead
within the home harbor. Chirikoff was landed the
same day, all unaware that at times in the mist and 1
rain he had been within from fifteen to forty miles of
poor Bering, zigzagging across the very trail of the
afflicted sister ship.
By December the entire crew of Bering's castaways,
prisoners on the sea-girt islands of the North Pacific,
were lodged in five underground huts on the bank of a
stream. In 1885, when these mud huts or yurts were
examined, they were seen to have walls of peat three
feet thick. To each man was given a pound of flour.
For the rest, their food must be what they caught or
clubbed — mainly, at first, the sea-otter, whose flesh
was unpalatable to the taste and tough as leather.
Later, Steller discovered that the huge sea-cow —
often thirty-five feet long;— seen pasturing on the
fields of sea-kelp at low tide, afforded food of almost
the same quality as the land cow. Seaweed grew in
miniature forests on the island; and on this pastured
the monster bovine of the sea — true fish in its hind
quarters but oxlike in its head and its habits — herding together like cattle, snorting like a horse, moving
the neck from side to side as it grazed, with the hind
leg a fin, the fore fin a leg, udder between the fore legs,
and in place of teeth, plates. Nine hundred or more
sea-otter — whose pelts afterward brought a fortune
to the crew — were killed for food by Steller and his
companions; but two sea-cows provided the castaways
with food for six weeks. On November 22d died the
old mate, who had weathered northern seas for fifty
1 54
years. In all, out of a crew of seventy-seven, there had
perished by January 6, 1742, when the last death occurred, thirty-one men.
Steller's hut was next to Bering's. From that November day when he was carried from the ship through
the snow to the sand pit, the commander sank without
rallying. Foxskins had been spread on the ground
as a bed; but the sand loosened from the sides of
the pit and kept rolling down on the dying man.
Toward the last he begged Steller to let the sand
rest, as it kept in the warmth; so that he was soon
covered with sand to his waist. White billows and a
gray sky followed the hurricane gale that had hurled
the ship in on the beach. All night between the evening of the 7th and the morning of the 8th of December,
the moaning of the south wind could be heard through
the tattered rigging of the wrecked ship; and all
night the dying Dane was communing with his God.
He was now over sixty years of age. To a constitution
already broken by the nagging cares of eight years
and by hardships indescribable, by scurvy and by exposure, was added an acute inflammation. Bering's
power of resistance was sapped. Two hours before
daybreak on December 8, 1741, the brave Dane
breathed his last. He was interred on the 9th of
December between the graves of the mate and the
steward on the hillside; and the bearded Russians
came down from the new-made grave that day bowed
and hopeless.    A plain Greek cross was placed above CONTINUATION   OF  BERING
his grave; and a copy of that cross marks the same
grave to-day.
The question arises — where does Bering stand
among the world heroes ? The world loves success
better than defeat; and spectacular success better than
duty plainly done. If success means accomplishing
what one sets out to do in spite of almost insuperable
difficulties — Bering won success. He set out to discover the northwest coast of America; and he perished
doing it. But if heroism means a something more
than tangible success; if it means that divine quality
of fighting for the truth independent of reward, whether
one is to be beaten or not; if it means setting to one's
self the task of perishing for a truth, without the slightest hope of establishing that truth — then, Bering
stands very high indeed among the world's heroes.
Steller, who had cursed him for not remaining longer
at Mount St. Elias, bore the highest testimony to his
integrity and worth. It may be said that a stronger
type of hero would have scrunched into nothingness
the vampire blunderers who misled the ship; but it
must be remembered that stronger types of heroes
usually save their own skins and let the underlings
suffer. While Bering might have averted the disaster
that attended the expedition, it must not be forgotten
that when he perished, there perished the very soul of
the great enterprise, which at once crumbled to pieces.
On a purely material plane, what did Bering accomplish ?
f i
IM 56
He dispelled forever the myth of the Northeast
Passage if the world would have but accepted his conclusions. The coast of Japan was charted under his
direction. The Arctic coast of Asia was charted under
his direction. A country as large as from Maine to
Florida, or Baltimore to Texas, with a river comparable only to the Mississippi, was discovered by him.
The furs of this country for a single year more than
paid all that Russia spent to discover it; all that the
United States later paid to Russia for it.
A dead whale thrown up on the shore proved a
godsend to the weak and famishing castaways. As
their bodies grew stronger, the spirit of merriment that
gilds life's darkest clouds began to come back, and
the whale was jocularly known among the Russians as
"our magazine of provisions."
Then parties of hunters began going out for the sea-
otter, which hid its head during storm under the kelp
of the sea fields. Steller knew the Chinese would pay
what in modern money is from one hundred to one
hundred and fifty dollars for each of these sea-otter
skins; and between nine hundred and one thousand
were taken by the wrecked crew. The same skin of
prime quality sells in a London auction room to-day
for one thousand dollars. And in spring, when the
sea-otter disappeared, there came herds — herds in
millions upon millions — of another visitant to the
shores   of  the   Commander   Islands — the   fur   seal, CONTINUATION  OF  BERING
which  afforded  new  hunting to  the  crew,  and  new
wealth to the world.
The terrible danger now was not from starvation,
but mutiny, murder, or massacre among the branded
criminals of the discontented crew.    Waxel, as he re-
Seals in a Rookery on Bering Island.
covered, was afraid of tempting revolt with orders, and
convened the crew by vote to determine all that should
be done. Officers and men — there was no distinc-
iton. By March of 1742 the ground had cleared of
snow. Waxel called a meeting to suggest breaking
up the packet vessel to build a smaller craft.    A vote 58
was asked. The resolution was called, written out,
and signed by every survivor, but afterward, when
officers and men set themselves to the well-nigh impossible task of untackling the ship without implements
of iron, revolt appeared among the workers. Again
Waxel avoided mutiny. A meeting was called, another
vote taken, the recalcitrants shamed down. The crew
lacked more than tools. There was no ship's carpenter. Finally a Cossack, who was afterward raised
to the nobility for his work, consented to act as director
of the building, and on the 6th of May a vessel forty
feet long, thirteen beam, and six deep, was on the stocks.
All June, the noise of the planking went on till the
mast raised its yard-arms, and an eight-oared single-
master, such as the old Vikings of the North Sea used,
was well under way.
The difficulties of such shipbuilding can hardly be
realized. There was no wood but the wood of the old
ship, no rigging but the old hemp, no tar but such as
could be melted out of the old hemp in earth pits; and
very few axes. The upper part was calked with
tallow of the sea-cow, the under with tar from the old
hull. The men also constructed a second small boat
or canoe.
On the ioth of August, with such cheers as the
island never heard before or since, the single-master
was launched from the skids and named the St.
Peter. Cannon balls and cartridges were thrown in
bottom as ballast.    Luckily, eight hundred pounds of CONTINUATION  OF  BERING 59
meal had been reserved for the return voyage, and
Steller had salted down steaks of whale meat and sea-
cow. On the evening of August 16, after solemn
prayer and devotions, with one last look to the lonely
crosses on the hillside where lay the dead, the castaways
went on board. A sharp breeze was blowing from the
north. Hoisting sail, they glided out to sea. The
old jolly-boat bobbled behind in tow. Late at night,
when the wind fell, the eager mariners bent to the oar.
By noon next day they had rounded the southeast
corner of the island. Two days afterward, rough
weather set the old jolly-boat bumping her nose so
violently on the heels of the St. Peter, that the cable
had to be cut and the small boat set adrift. That
night the poor tallow-calked planks leaked so badly,
pumps and buckets were worked at fever heat, and all
the ballast was thrown overboard. Sometime during
the 25th, there shone above the silver rim where
sea and sky met, the opal dome of far mountains,
The bearded men could control themselves no
longer. Shout on shout made the welkin ring. Tears
streamed down the rough, unwashed faces. The Cossacks wept like children. Men vied with each other
to seize the oars and row like mad. The tide-rip
bounding — lifting — falling — racing over seas for the
shores of Kamchatka never ran so mad and swift a
course as the crazy craft there bouncing forward
over the waves.    And when they saw the home harbor
— 6o
of Petropaulovsk, Avacha Bay, on August 27* exultation knew no bounds. The men fired off guns,
beat oars on the deck rail, shouted — shouted —
shouted till the mountains echoed and every living soul
of Avacha dashed to the waterside scarcely believing
the evidence of his eyes — that the castaways of
Bering's ship had returned. Then one may well
believe that the monks set the chapel bells ringing and
the cannon roared a welcome from Avacha Bay.
Chirikoff had in May sailed in search of Bering,
passing close to the island where the castaways were
prisoners of the sea, but he did not see the Commander
Islands; and all hope had been given up for any word
of the St. Peter. Waxel wintered that year at Avacha
Bay, crossing the mainland in the spring of 1743. In
September of the same year, an imperial decree put an
end to the Northern Expedition, and Waxel set out
across Siberia to take the crew back to St. Petersburg.
Poor Steller died on the way from exposure.
So ended the greatest naval exploration known to
the world. Beside it, other expeditions to explore
America pale to insignificance. La Salle and La Ver-
endrye ascended the St. Lawrence, crossed inland
plains, rafted down the mighty tide of the great inland
rivers; but La Salle stopped at the mouth of the Mississippi, and La Verendrye was checked by the barrier
of the Rockies. Lewis and Clark accomplished yet
more. After ascending the Missouri and crossing the
plains,  they  traversed  the  Rockies;   but  they were CONTINUATION  OF  BERING
stopped at the Pacific. When Bering had crossed
the rivers and mountains of the two continents — first
Europe, then Asia — and reached the Pacific, his expedition had only begun. Little remains to Russia
of what he accomplished but the group of rocky islets
where he perished. But judged by the difficulties
which he overcame; by the duties desperately impossible, done plainly and doggedly, by death heroic in
defeat — Bering's expedition to northwestern America
is without a peer in the annals of the New World
1 Coxe's Discoveries of the Russians between Asia and America (Paris, 1781) supplies local data on Siberia in the time of Bering. Voyages from Asia to America, by
S. Muller of the Royal Academy, St. Petersburg, 1764, is simply excellent in that part
of the voyage dealing with the wreck. Peter Lauridscri* s Vitus Bering translated from
tbe Danish by Olson covers all three aims of the expedition, Japanese and Arctic voyages
as well as American.
How the Sea-otter Pelts brought back by Bering's Crew led to the
Exploitation of the Northwest Coast of America — Difference of
Sea-otter from Other Fur-bearing Animals of the West — Perils
of the Hunt
When the castaway crew of Vitus Bering looked
about for means to exist on the barren islands where
they were wrecked, they found the kelp beds and seaweed fields of the North Pacific literally alive with a
little animal, which the Russians called "the sea-
beaver.' Sailors of Kamchatka and eastern Siberia
knew the sea-beaver well, for it had been found on
the Asiatic side of the Pacific, and its pelt was regarded
as priceless by Chinese and Tartar merchants. But
where did this strange denizen of northern waters live ?
Only in rare seasons did the herds assemble on the
rocky islets of Kamchatka and Japan. And when
spring came, the sea-beaver disappeared. Asia was
not its home.    Where did it go ?
Russian adventurers who rafted the coast of Siberia
in crazy skiffs, related that the sea-beaver always
disappeared northeastward, whence the spruce driftwood and dead whales with harpoons of strange hunters and occasionally wrecks of walrus-skin boats came
washing from an unknown land.
It was only when Bering's crew were left prisoners
of the sea on an island barren as a billiard ball that
the hunger-desperate men found the habitat of the
sea-beaver to be the kelp beds of the Aleutian Islands and northwestern America. But what use were
priceless pelts where neither money nor merchant was,
and men mad with hunger were thrown back on the
primal necessities without thought of gain ?
The hungry Russian sailors fell on the kelp beds,
clubbing right and left regardless of pelts. What
matter if the flesh was tough as leather and rank as
musk ? It filled the empty stomachs of fifty desperate
men; and the skins were used on the treeless isle as
rugs, as coats, as walls, as stuff to chink the cracks of
earth pits, where the sailors huddled like animals in
underground caves with no ceiling but the tattered
sails. So passed a year — the most desolate year in
the annals of ocean voyaging, and when the castaways
rafted back to Asia on a skiff made of their wrecked
ship, they were clad in the raw skins of the sea-otter,
which they had eaten. In all, nearly a thousand skins
were carried back; and for those skins, which the
Russian sailors had scarcely valued, Chinese merchants  paid what in modern  money would   be from
*» 64
one hundred and fifty to two hundred dollars a
After that, the Russians of Siberia needed no incentive to hunt the sea-beaver. Its habitat was known,
and all the riffraff adventurers of Siberian exile, Tartars, Kamchatkans, Russians, criminals, and officers
of royal lineage, engaged in the fur trade of western
America. Danger made no difference. All that was
needed was a boat; and the boat was usually rough-
hewn out of the green timbers of Kamchatka. If iron
bolts were lacking so far from Europe as the width of
two continents, the boat builders used deer sinew, or
thongs of walrus hide. Tallow took the place of tar,
deerskin the place of hemp, and courage the place
of caution. A Siberian merchant then chanced an
outfit of supplies for half what the returns might be.
The commander — officer or exile — then enlisted
sailors among landsmen. Landsmen were preferable
for this kind of voyaging. Either in the sublime courage of ignorance, or with the audacity of desperation,
the poor landsmen dared dangers which no sailors
would risk on such crazy craft, two thousand miles
from a home port on an outrageous sea.
England and the United States became involved in
the exploitation of the Pacific coast in almost the same
way. When Captain Cook was at Nootka Sound
thirty years  after  Bering's  death,  his  crews  traded
* The price of the sea-otter varied, falling in seasons when the market was glutted
to $ 40 a pelt, selling as high, in cases of rare beauty, as $ 1000 a pelt. ii
trinkets over the taffrail netting for any kind of furs
the natives of the west coast chose to exchange. In
the long voyaging to Arctic waters afterward, these
furs went to waste with rain-rot. More than two-
thirds were thrown or given away. The remaining
third sold in China on the home voyage of the ships
for what would be more than ten thousand dollars of
modern money. News of that fact was enough.
Boston, New York, London, rubbed their eyes to possibilities of fur trade on the Pacific coast. As the
world knows, Boston's efforts resulted in the chance
discovery of the Columbia; New York's efforts, in the
foundation of the Astor fortunes. East India, France,
England, Spain, the United States, vied with each
other for the prize of America's west coast.
Just as the beaver led French voyagers westward
from Quebec to the Rocky Mountains, south to Texas,
north to the Athabasca, so the hunt of the sea-beaver
led to the exploration of the North Pacific coast.
"Sea-beaver" the Russians called the owner of the
rare pelt. "Sea-otter" it was known to the English
and American hunters. But it is like neither the otter
nor beaver, though its habits are akin to both. Its
nearest relative is probably the fur seal. Like the seal,
its pelt has an ebony shimmer, showing silver when
blown open, soft black tipped with white, when examined hair by hair. Six feet, the full-grown sea-otter
measures from nose to stumpy tail, with a beaver-
$&&# &vt-.&*4 fc^-4 Jk> <^*-^-* *G
111 66
shaped face, teeth like a cat, and short webbed feet.
Some hunters say the sea-otter is literally born on the
tumbling waves — a single pup at a time; others,
that the sea-otter retire to some solitary rocky islet to
bring forth their young. Certain it is they are
rocked on the deep from their birth, "cradled' in the
sea, sleeping on their backs in the water, clasping the
young in their arms like a human being, tossing up
seaweed in play by the hour like mischievous monkeys,
or crawling out on some safe, sea-girt rocklet, where
they shake the water from their fur and make their
toilet, stretching and arranging and rearranging hair
like a cat. Only the fiercest gales drive the sea-otter
ashore, for it must come above water to breathe; and
it must come ashore to sleep where it can breathe;
for the ocean wash in a storm would smother the
sleeper. And its favorite sleeping grounds are in the
forests of kelp and seaweed, where it can bury its
head, and like the ostrich think itself hidden. A
sound, a whiff—the faintest tinge — of smoke from
miles away is enough to frighten the sleeper, who leaps
up with a fierce courage unequalled in the animal
world, and makes for sea in lightning-flash bounds.
When Bering found the northwest coast of America,
the sea-otter frequented all the way from what is now
California to the Commander Islands, the last link of
the chain from America to Asia. Sea-otter were found
and taken in thousands at Sitka Sound, in Yakutat
Bay,   Prince William  Sound,  Cook's  Inlet,  and  all THE  SEA-OTTER  HUNTERS
along the chain of eleven hundred Aleutian Islands to
the Commander Group, off Kamchatka. Where they
were found in thousands then, they are seen only in
tens and hundreds to-day. Where they are in hundreds one year, they may not come at all the next,
having been too hard hunted. This explains why
there used to be returns of five thousand in a single
year at Kadiak or Oonalaska or Cook's Inlet; and
the next year, less than a hundred from the same
places. Japan long ago moved for laws to protect
the sea-otter as vigorously as the seal; but Japan was
only snubbed by England and the United States for
her pains, and to-day the only adequate protection
afforded the diminishing sea-otter is in the tiny remnant
of Russia's once vast American possessions — on the
Commander Islands where by law only two hundred
sea-otter may be taken a year, and the sea-otter rookeries are more jealously guarded than diamond mines.
The decreasing hunt has brought back primitive
methods. Instead of firearms, the primitive club and
net and spear are again used, giving the sea-otter a
fair chance against his antagonist — Man. Except
that the hunters are few and now dress in San Francisco clothes, they go to the hunt in the same old way
as when Baranof, head of the Russian Fur Company,
led his battalions out in companies of a thousand and
two thousand "bidarkies" — walrus-skin skiffs taut
as a drumhead, with seams tallowed and an oilskin
wound round each of the manholes, so that the boat
A 68
could turn a somerset in the water, or be pitched off a
rock into the surf, and come right side up without
taking water, paddler erect.
The first thing the hunter had to look to was boat
and hunting gear. Westward of Cook's Inlet and
Kadiak was no timber but driftwood, and the tide
wash of wrecks; so the hunter, who set out on the
trail of the pathless sea, framed his boat on the bones
of the whale. There were two kinds of boats — the
long ones, for from twelve to twenty men, the little
skiffs which Eskimos of the Atlantic call kyacks —
with two or three, seldom more, manholes. Over
the whalebone frame was stretched the wet elastic
hide of walrus or sea-lion. The big boat was open on
top like a Newfoundland fisherman's dory or Frenchman's bateau, the little boat covered over the top
except for the manholes round which were wound oilskins to keep the water out when the paddler had
seated himself inside. Then the wet skin was allowed
to dry in sunshine and wind. Hot seal oil and tallow
poured over the seams and cracks, calked the leaks.
More sunshine and wind, double-bladed paddles for
the little boats, strong oars and a sail for the big ones,
and the skiffs were ready for water. Eastward of
Kadiak, particularly south of Sitka, the boats might
be hollowed trees, carved wooden canoes, or dugouts —
not half so light to ride shallow, tempestuous seas as
the skin skiff of the Aleut hunter.
We supercilious civilized folk laugh at the odd dress THE  SEA-OTTER  HUNTERS
of the savage; but it was exactly adapted to the need.
The otter hunter wore the fur in, because that was
warmer; and the skin out, because cured in oil, that
was waterproof; and the chimney-pot capote, because
that tied tight enough around his neck kept the ice-
water from going down his back when the bidarka
turned heels up; and the skin boots, because they, too,
were waterproof; and the sedge grass padding in
place of stockings, because it protected the feet from
the jar of rocks in wild runs through surf and kelp
after the game. On land, the skin side of the coats
could be turned in and the fur out.
Oonalaska, westward of the Aleutian chain of islands
and Kadiak, just south of the great Alaskan peninsula,
were the two main points whence radiated the hunting
flotillas for the sea-otter grounds. Formerly, a single
Russian schooner or packet boat would lead the way
with a procession of a thousand bidarkas. Later,
schooners, thirty or forty of them, gathered the hunters
at some main fur post, stowed the light skin kyacks in
piles on the decks, and carried the Aleuts to the otter
grounds. This might be at Atka, where the finest
otter hunters in the world lived, or on the south shore
of Oonalaska, or in Cook's Inlet where the rip of the
tide runs a mill-race, or just off Kadiak on the Saanach
coast, where twenty miles of beach boulders and surf
waters and little islets of sea-kelp provide ideal fields
for the sea-otter.    Here the sweeping tides and boom- 7°
ing back-wash keep up such a roar of tumbling seas,
the shy, wary otter, alert as an eagle, do not easily get
scent or sound of human intruder. Surf washes out
the scent of the man track. Surf out-sounds noise of
the man killer; and no fires are lighted, be it winter
or summer, unless the wind is straight from the southward; for the sea-otter always frequent the south
shores. The only provisions on the carrying schooner
are hams, rancid butter or grease, some rye bread
and flour; the only clothing, what the Aleut hunters
No sooner has the schooner sheered off the hunting-
grounds, than the Aleuts are over decks with the agility
of performing monkeys, the schooner captain wishing
each good luck, the eager hunters leaping into their
bidarkas following the lead of a chief. The schooner
then returns to the home harbor, leaving the hunters
on islands bare as a planed board for two, three, four
months. On the Commander Group, otter hunters
are now restricted to the use of the net alone, but
formerly the nature of the hunting was determined
entirely by the weather. If a tide ran with heavy surf
and wind landward to conceal sound and sight, the
hunters lined alongshore of the kelp beds and engaged
in the hunt known as surf-shooting. Their rifles would
carry a thousand yards. Whoever saw the little round
black head bob above the surface of the water, shot,
and the surf wash carried in the dead body. If the
weather was dead calm, fog or clear, bands of twenty THE SEA-OTTER  HUNTERS
and thirty men deployed in a circle to spear their
quarry. This was the spearing-surround. Or if such
a hurricane gale was churning the sea so that gusty
spray and sleet storm washed out every outline, sweeping the kelp beds naked one minute, inundating them
with mountainous rollers that thundered up the rocks
the next, the Aleut hunters risked life, scudded out on
the back of the raging storm, now riding the rollers,
now dipping to the trough of the sea, now scooting
with lightning paddle-strokes right through the blasts
of spray athwart wave wash and trough — straight for
the kelp beds or rocky boulders, where the sea-otter
must have been driven for refuge by the storm. This
hunting is the very incarnation of the storm spirit
itself, for the wilder the gale, the more sea-otter have
come ashore; the less likely they will be to see or
hear or smell the hunter. Gaff or paddle in hand, the
Aleut leaps from rock to rock, or dashes among
the tumbling beds of tossed kelp. A quick blow of
the bludgeon; the otter never knows how death came.
This is the club hunt. But where the shore is honeycombed with caves and narrow inlets of kelp fields,
is a safer kind of hunting. Huge nets now made of
twine, formerly of sinew, with wooden floaters above,
iron sinkers below, are spread athwart the kelp fields.
The tide sweeps in, washing the net flat. And the sea-
otter swim in with the tide. The tide sweeps out,
washing the net up, but the otter are enmeshed in a
tangle that holds neck and feet.    This is, perhaps, the 72
best kind of otter hunting, for the females and young
can be thrown back in the sea.
Barely has the supply schooner dipped over the
offing, when the cockle-shell bidarkas skimming over
the sea make for the shore of the hunting-grounds.
Camping is a simple matter, for no fires are to be lighted,
and the tenting place is chosen if possible on the north
side of some knoll. If it is warm weather, the Aleut
will turn his skin skiff upside down, crawl into the
hole head first and sleep there. Or he may erect the
V-shaped tent such as the prairie tepee. But if it is
cold, he has a better plan yet. He will dig a hole in the
ground and cover over the top with sail-cloth. Let the
wind roar above and the ice bang the shore rocks,
the Aleut swathed in furs sleeps sound close to earth.
If driftwood lines the shore, he is in luck; for he props
up the poles, covers them with furs, and has what might
be mistaken for a wigwam, except that these Indians
construct their tents round-topped and always turn
the skin side of the fur out.
For provisions, he has brought very little from the
ship. He will depend on the winds driving in a dead
whale, or on the fish of the shore, or on the eggs of the
sea-birds that nest on these rocks millions upon millions
— such myriads of birds they seem to crowd each other
for foot room, and the noise of their wings is like a great
wind.1   The Aleut himself is what any race of men
1 See John Burroughs's account of birds observed during the Harriman Expedition.
Elliott and Stejenger have remarked on the same phenomenon. THE  SEA-OTTER HUNTERS
would become in generations of such a life. His skin
is more like bronze than leather. His chest is like a
bellows, but his legs are ill developed from the cramped
posture of knees in the manhole. Indeed, more than
knees go under the manhole. When pressed for room,
the Aleut has been known to crawl head foremost
body whole, right under the manhole and lie there prone
between the feet of the paddlers with nothing between
him and the abysmal depths of a hissing sea but the
parchment keel of the bidarka, thin as paper.
How do these thin skin boats escape wreckage on a
sea where tide-rip washes over the reefs all summer
and ice hummocks sweep out from the shore in winter
tempest ? To begin with, the frost that creates the ice
clears the air of fog, and the steel-shod pole either
sheers the bidarka off from the ice, or the ice off from
the bidarka. Then, when the fog lies knife-thick over
the dangerous rocks in summer time, there is a certain
signal to these deep-sea plunderers. The huge Pacific
walrus — the largest species of walrus in the world —-
lie in herds of hundreds on these danger rocks, and the
walrus snorts through the gray mist like a continual
fog-horn. No better danger signal exists among the
rocks of the North Pacific than this same snorting
walrus, who for all his noise and size is a floundering
coward. The great danger to the nutshell skiffs is
from becoming ice-logged when the sleet storms fall
and freeze; and for the rest, the sea makes small matter
of a hunter more or less.
BsaiaHiSi 74
No landsman's still-hunt affords the thrilling excitement of the otter hunter's spearing-surrounds. Fifteen or twenty-five little skin skiffs, with two or three
men in each, paddle out under a chief elected by common consent. Whether fog or clear, the spearing is
done only in calm weather. The long line of bidarkas
circles silently over the silver sea. Not a word is spoken,
not a paddle blade allowed to click against the bone
gun'els of the skiff. Double-bladed paddles are frequently used, so shift of paddle is made from side to
side of the canoe without a change of hands. The
skin shallops take to the water as noiselessly as the
glide of a duck. Yonder, where the boulders lie mile
on mile awash in the surf, kelp rafts — forests of seaweed — lift and fall with the rhythmical wash of the
tide. Hither the otter hunters steer, silent as shadows.
The circle widens, deploys, forms a cordon round the
outermost rim of the kelp fields. Suddenly a black
object is seen floating on the surface of the waters —
a sea-otter asleep. Quick as flash, the steersman lifts
his paddle. Not a word is spoken, but so keen is the
hearing of the sleeping otter, the drip of the lifted
paddle has not splashed into the sea before the otter
has awakened, looked and dived like lightning to the
bottom of the sea before one of the Aleut hunters can
hurl his spear. Silently, not a whisper, the steersman signals again. The hunters deploy in a circle
half a mile broad round the place where the sea-otter
disappeared;   for they know that in fifteen or twenty
minutes the animal must come up for breath, and it
cannot run farther than half a mile under sea before
it reappears.
Suddenly somebody sees a round black-red head
poke above water, perhaps close to the line of watchers.
With a wild shout, the nearest bidarkas dart forward.
Whether the spear-throw has hit or missed, the shout
has done enough. The terrified otter dives before it
has breath. Over the second diving spot a hunter is
stationed, and the circle narrows, for the otter must
come up quicker this time. It must have breath.
Again and again, the little round head peeps up.
Again the shout greets it. Again the lightning dive.
Sometimes only a bubble gurgling to the top of the
water guides the watchers. Presently the body is so
full of gases from suppressed breathing, it can no
longer sink, and a quick spear-throw secures the quarry.
One animal against, perhaps, sixty men. Is the quest
fair ? Yonder thunders the surf below beetling precipices. Then the tide wash comes in with a rip like a
whirlpool, or the ebb sets the beach combers rolling —
lashing billows of tumbling waters that crash together
and set the sheets of blinding spray shattering. Or
the fog comes down over a choppy sea with a whizzing
wind that sets the whitecaps flying backward like a
horse's mane. The chase may have led farther and
farther from land. As long as the little black head
comes up, as long as the gurgling bubble tells of a
struggling breather below, the hunters follow, be it
mm 76
near or far, till, at the end of two or three hours, the
exhausted sea-otter is taken. Perhaps forty men have
risked their lives for a single pelt for which the trader
cannot pay more than forty dollars; for he must have
his profit, and the skin must be dressed, and the middlemen must have their profit; so that if it sells even for
eleven hundred dollars in London — though the average is nearer one hundred and fifty dollars — the Aleut
is lucky to receive forty or fifty dollars. Day after day,
three months at a time, warm or cold, not daring to
light fires on the island, the Aleut hunters go out to the
spearing-surround, till the schooner returns for them
from the main post; and whether the hunt is harder
on man or beast may be judged from the fact that where
the hunting battalions used to rally out in companies
of thousands, they to-day go forth only in twenties
and forties. True, the sea-otter has decreased and is
almost extinct in places; but then, where game laws
protect it, as in the Commander Islands, it is on the
increase, and as for the Aleut hunters — their thousands lie in the bottom of the sea; and of the thousands
who rallied forth long ago, often only a few hundred
But while the spearing-surround was chiefly followed
in battalions under the direction of a trading company,
the clubbing was done by the individuals — the dauntless hunters, who scudded out in twos and threes in the
wake ofthe blast, lost themselves in the shattering sheets
of spray, with the wind screaming mad riot in their ears THE  SEA-OTTER HUNTERS 77
and the roily rollers running a mill-race against tide and
wind. How did they steer their cockle-shell skiffs —
these Vikings of the North Pacific; or did they steer at
all, or only fly before the gale on the wings of the mad
north winds ? Who can tell ? The feet of man leave
earth sometimes when the spirit rides out reckless of
land or sea, or heaven or hell, and these plunderers
of the deep took no reckoning of life or death when they
rode out on the gale, where the beach combers shattered up the rocks, and the creatures of the sea came
huddling landward to take refuge among the kelp rafts.
Tossing the skin skiffs high and dry on some rock,
with perhaps the weight of a boulder to keep them from
blowing away, the hunters rushed off to the surf wash
armed only with a stout stick.
The otters must be approached away from the wind,
and the noise of the surf will deaden the hunter's approach; so beating their way against hurricane gales
— winds that throw them from their feet at times —
scrambling over rocks slippery as glass with ice, running out on long reefs where the crash of spray confuses earth and air, wading waist-deep in ice slush,
the hunters dash out for the kelp beds and rocks where
the otter are asleep. Clubbing sounds brutal, but this
kind of hunting is, perhaps, the most merciful of all —
to the animal, not the man. The otter is asleep. The
gaje conceals the approaching danger. One blow of
the gaff, and the otter never awakes. In this way
have three hunters killed as many as a hundred otter
—: ; =—; =-— 78
in two hours; and in this way have the thousands of
Aleutian otter hunters, who used to throng the inlets of
the northern islands, perished and dwindled to a population of poverty stricken, scattered men.
What were the rewards for all this risk of life ? A
glance at the records of the old fur companies tells
why the Russian and American and English traders
preferred sea-otter to the gold mines of the Spaniards
in Mexico. Less than ten years after Cook's crew
had sold their sea-otter for ten thousand dollars, the
East India Company sold six hundred sea-otter for
from sixty to one hundred dollars each. Two years
later, Portlock and Dixon sold their cargo for fifty-
five thousand dollars; and when it is remembered
that two hundred sea-otter — twelve thousand dollars'
worth at the lowest average — were sometimes got
from the Nootka tribes for a few dollars' worth of old
chisel iron — the profit can be estimated.
In 1785 five thousand sea-otter were sold in China
for one hundred and sixty thousand dollars. A capital
of fifty thousand usually yielded three hundred thousand dollars; that is — if the ships escaped the dangers
of hostile Indians and treacherous seas. What the
Russians made from sea-otter will probably never be
known; for so many different companies were engaged
in the trade; and a hundred years ago, as many as
fifteen thousand Indian hunters went out for the Russians yearly.    One ship, the year after Bering's wreck,
is known to have made half a million dollars from its
cargo. By definite figures — not including returns not
tabulated in the fur companies — two hundred thousand
sea-otter were taken for the Russians in half a century.
Just before the United States took over Alaska, Russia
was content with four hundred sea-otter a year; but
by 1875 the Americans were getting three thousand a
year. Those gathered at Kadiak have totalled as
many as six thousand in a year during the heyday of
the hunt, at Oonalaska three thousand, on the Prybi-
lofs now noted for their seal, five thousand. In 1785
Cook's Inlet yielded three thousand; in 1812, only one
hundred. Yakutat gave two thousand in 1794, only
three hundred, six years later. Fifteen thousand were
gathered at Sitka in 1804, only one hundred and fifty
thirty years later. Of course the Russians obtained
such results only by a system of musket, bludgeon, and
outrage, that are repellent to the modern mind. Women
were seized as hostages for a big hunt. Women were
even murdered as a punishment for small returns.
Men were sacrificed like dogs by the "promyshleniki"
— riffraff blackguard Russian hunters from the Siberian exile population; but this is a story of outrageous
wrong followed by its own terrible and unshunnable
Nemesis which shall be told by itself. CHAPTER  IV      p
The American Coast becomes the Great Rendezvous for Siberian
Criminals and Political Exiles — Beyond Reach of Law, Cossacks
and Criminals perpetrate Outrages on the Indians — The Indians'
Revenge wipes out Russian Forts in America — The Pursuit of
Four Refugee Russians from Cave to Cave over the Sea at Night
— How they escape after a Year's Chase
'God was high in the Heavens, and the Czar was far
away,,y as the Russians say, and the Siberian exile's —
coureurs of the sea — who flocked to the west coast
of America to hunt the sea-otter after Bering's discoveries in 1741 took small thought and recked no consequences of God or the Czar.
They timbered their crazy craft from green wood in
Kamchatka, or on the Okhotsk Sea, or among the forests of Siberian rivers. They lashed the rude planks
together, hoisted a sail of deer hide above a deck of,
perhaps, sixty feet, and steering by instinct across seas
as chartless as the forests where French coureurs
ran, struck out from Asia for America with wilder
dreams of plunder than ever Spanish galleon or English
freebooter hoped coasting the high seas.
The crews were criminals with the brands of their
crimes worn uncovered, banded together by some
Siberian merchant who had provided goods for trade,
and set adrift under charge of half a dozen Cossacks
supposed to keep order and collect tribute of one-tenth
as homage from American Indians for the Czar. English buccaneers didn't scruple as to blood when they
sacked Spanish cities for Spanish gold. These Russian outlaws scrupled less, when their only hope of
.bettering a desperate exile was the booty of precious
furs plundered, or bludgeoned, or exacted as tribute
from the Indians of Northwest America. The plunder,
when successful, or trade, if the crazy planks did not go
to pieces above some of the reefs that cut up the North
Pacific, was halved between outfitter and crew. If
the cargo amounted to half a million dollars in modern
money — as one of Drusenin's first trips did — then
a quarter of a million was a tidy sum to be divided
among a crew of, say, thirty or forty. Often as not,
the long-planked single-master fell to pieces in a gale,
when the Russians went to the bottom of the sea, or
stranded among the Aleutian Islands westward of
Alaska, when the castaways took up comfortable
quarters among the Indians, who knew no other code
of existence than the rights of the strong; and the Russians with their firearms seemed strong, indeed, to the
Aleuts.    As long as the newcomer demanded only furs,
G 82
on his own terms of trade — the Indians acquiesced.
Their one hope was to become strong as the Russians
by getting iron in "toes" — bands two inches thick,
two feet long. It was that ideal state, which finical
philosophers describe as the " survival of the fit," and it
worked well till the other party to the arrangement
resolved he would play the same game and become fit,
too, when there resulted a cataclysm of bloodshed.
The Indians bowed the neck submissively before oppression. Abuse, cruelty, outrage, accumulated on
the heads of the poor Aleuts. They had reached the
fine point where it is better for the weak to die trying
to overthrow strength, than to live under the iron heel
of brute oppression.
The immediate cause of revolt is a type of all that
preceded it.1 Running out for a thousand miles from
the coast of Alaska is the long chain of Aleutian Islands linking across the Pacific toward Asia. Oonalaska, the most important and middle of these, is as
far from Oregon as Oregon is from New York. Near
Oonalaska were the finest sea-otter fields in the world;
and the Aleutians numbered twenty thousand hunters
— men, women, children — born to the light skin
boat as plainsmen were born to the saddle. On Oonalaska and its next-door neighbor westward were at
least ten thousand of these Indian otter hunters, when
Russia first sent her ships to America. Bassof came
soonest after Bering's discovery;  and he carried back
•*• See Coxe's Discoveries of tbe Russians. THE  OUTLAW HUNTERS
on each of three trips to the Commander Islands a
cargo of furs worth from seventy-five thousand to one
hundred thousand dollars in modern money. The
effect on the Siberian mind was the same as a gold
find. All the riffraff adventurers of Siberia swarmed
to the west coast of America.
We have only the Russian version of the story —
not the Indians' — and may infer that we have the
side most favorable to Russia. When booty of half a
million was to be had for the taking, what Siberian
exiles would permit an Indian village to stand between
them and wealth ? At first only children were seized
as hostages of good conduct on the part of the Indians
while the white hunters coasted the islands. Then
daughters and wives were lured and held on the ships,
only to be returned when the husbands and fathers
came back with a big hunt for the white masters.
Then the men were shot down; safer dead, thought
the Russians; no fear of ambush or surprise; and the
women were held as slaves to be knouted and done to
death at their masters' pleasure.
In 1745 — four years after Russia's discovery of
western America — a whole village in Attoo was destroyed so that the Russians could seize the women and
children fleeing for hiding to the hills. The next year
Russians were caught putting poison in the food of
another village: the men ate first among the Indians.
The women would be left as slaves to the Russians;
and these same Russians carried a pagan boy home to T
be baptized in the Christian faith; for the little convert could come back to the Aleutian Islands as interpreter. It was as thorough a scheme of subjugation
as the wolf code of existence could have entailed.
The culmination came with the crew of Betshevin,
a Siberian merchant, in 1760. There were forty Russians, including Cossacks, and twenty other Asiatic
hunters and sailors. Four of the merchant's agents
went along to enforce honest returns. Sergeant Push-
kareff of the Cossacks was there to collect tribute
from Russia's Indian subjects on the west coast of
America. The ship was evidently better than the
general run, with ample room in the hold for cargo,
and wide deck room where the crew slept in hammocks without cover — usually a gruff, bearded,
ragged, vermin-infested horde. The vessel touched at
Oomnak, after having met a sister ship, perhaps with
an increase of aggressiveness toward the natives owing
to the presence of these other Russians under Alixei
Drusenin; and passed on eastward to the next otter
resort, Oonalaska Island.
Oonalaska is like a human hand spread out, with
the fingers northeast, the arm end down seventy miles
long toward Oomnak Island. The entire broken
coast probably reaches a circuit of over two hundred
miles. Down the centre and out each spur are
high volcanic mountains, two of them smoking volcanoes, all pitted with caves and hot springs whose
course can be traced in winter by the runnels of steam THE  OUTLAW  HUNTERS
down the mountain side. On the south side, reefs
line all approach. North, east, and west are countless
abrupt inlets opening directly into the heart of the
mountains down whose black cliffs shatter plumes of
spray and cataract. Not a tree grows on the island.
From base to summit the hills are a velvet sward,
willow shrubs the size of one's finger, grass waist high,
and such a wealth of flowers — p°ppy fields, anemones,
snowdrops, rhododendrons — that one might be in a
southern climate instead of close proximity to frozen
zones. Fogs wreathe the island three-quarters of the
time; and though snow lies five feet deep in winter,
and such blizzards riot in from the north as would tear
trees up by the roots, and drive all human beings to
their underground dwellings, it is never cold, never
below zero, and the harbors are always open. Whaling, fishing, fur hunting — those were the occupations
of the islanders then, as now.
Here, then, came Pushkareff in 1762 after two years'
cruising about the Aleutian Islands. The natives are
friendly, thinking to obtain iron, and knives, and firearms like the other islanders who have traded with the
Russians. Children are given as hostages of good
conduct for the Oonalaskan men, who lead the Russians off to the hunt, coasting from point to point.
Pushkareff, the Cossack, himself goes off with
twenty men to explore; but somehow things go wrong
at the native villages on this trip. The hostages find
they are not guests, but slaves.    Anyway, Betshevin's 86
agent is set upon and murdered. Two more Russians
are speared to death under Pushkareff's eyes, two
wounded, and the Cossack himself, with his fourteen
men, forced to beat a hasty retreat back to ships and
huts on the coast. Here, strange enough, things have
gone wrong, too! More women and children objecting to their masters' pleasure — slavery, the knout, the
branding iron, death by starvation and abuse. Two
Russians have been slain bathing in the hot springs
near Makushin Volcano, four murdered at the huts,
four wounded; and the barrack is burned to the
ground. Promptly the Cossack wreaks vengeance by
slaughtering seven ofthe hostages on the spot; but he
deems it wise to take refuge on his ship, weigh anchor
and slip out to sea carrying with him by way of a lesson
to the natives, two interpreters, three boys, and twenty-
five women, two of whom die of cruelty before the
ship is well out of Oonalaskan waters.
He may have intended dropping the captives at
some near island on his way westward; for only blind
rage could have rendered him so indifferent to their
fate as to carry such a cargo of human beings back to
the home harbor of Kamchatka. Meanwhile a hurricane caught Pushkareff's ship, chopping the wave tops
off and driving her ahead under bare poles. When
the gale abated, the ship was off Kamchatka's shore
and the Cossack in a quandary about entering the
home port with proofs of his cruelty in the cowering
group of Indian women huddled above the deck.
itess 1
On pretence of gathering berries, six sailors were
landed with fourteen women. Two watched their
chance and dashed for liberty in the hills. On the
way back to the ship, one woman was brained to death
by a sailor, Gorelin; seeing which, the others on board
the jolly-boat took advantage of the confusion, sprang
overboard, and suicided. But there were still a dozen
hostages on the ship. These might relate the crime
of their companions' murder. It was an old trick out
of an ugly predicament — destroy the victim in order
to dodge retribution, or torture it so it would destroy
itself. Fourteen had been tortured into suicide. The
rest Pushkareff seized, bound, and threw into the sea.
To be sure, on official investigation, Betshevin, the
Siberian merchant, was subjected to penal tortures for
this crime on his ship; and an imperial decree put an
end to free trade among the fur hunters to America.
Henceforth a government permit must be obtained;
but that did not undo the wrong to the Aleutian Islanders. Primal instincts, unhampered by law, have
a swift, sure, short-cut to justice; to the fine equipoise
between weak and strong. It was two years before
punishment was meted out by the Russian government for this crime. What did the Aleut Indian care
for the law's slow jargon ? His only law was self-
preservation. His furs had been plundered from him;
his hunting-fields overrun by brigands from he knew
not where; his home outraged; his warriors poisoned,
bludgeoned, done to death;   his women and children
s 88
kidnapped to lifelong slavery; the very basic, brute
instincts of his nature tantalized, baited, tortured to
It was from January to September of 1762, that
Pushkareff had run his mad course of outrage on
Oonalaska Island. It was in September of the same
year, that four other Russian ships, all unconscious of
the reception Pushkareff's evil doings had prepared
for them, left Kamchatka for the Aleutian Islands.
Each of the ships was under a commander who had
been to the islands before and dealt fairly by the
Betshevin's ship with Pushkareff, the Cossack,
reached Kamchatka September 25. On the 6th there
had come to winter at the harbor a ship under the
same Alexei Drusenin, who had met Pushkareff the
year before on the way to Oonalaska. Drusenin was
outward bound and must have heard the tales told of
Pushkareff's crew; but the latter had brought back
in all nearly two thousand otter, — half sent by Drusenin, half brought by himself, — and Oonalaska became the lodestar of the otter hunters. The spring of
'63 found Drusenin coasting the Aleutians. Sure
enough, others had heard news of the great find of the
new hunting-grounds. Three other Russian vessels
were on the grounds before him, Glottoff and Med-
vedeff at Oomnak, Korovin halfway up Oonalaska.
No time for Drusenin to lose! A spy sent out came
back with the report that every part of Oomnak and
Oonalaska was being thoroughly hunted except the
extreme northeast, where the mountain spurs of Oonalaska stretch out in the sea like a hand. Up to the
northeast end, then, where the tide-rip thunders up
the rock wall like an inverted cataract, posts Drusenin
where he anchors his ship in Captain Harbor, and has
winter quarters built before snow-fall of '63.
An odd thing was — the Indian chiefs became so
very friendly they voluntarily brought hostages of good
conduct to Drusenin. Surely Drusenin was in luck!
The best otter-hunting grounds in the world! A harbor as smooth as glass, mountain-girt, sheltered as a
hole in a wall, right in the centre ofthe hunting-grounds,
yet shut off from the rioting north winds that shook the
rickety vessels to pieces! And best of all, along the
sandy shore between the ship and the mountains that
receded inland tier on tier into the clouds — the dome-
roofed, underground dwellings of two or three thousand native hunters ready to risk the surf of the otter
hunt at Drusenin's beck! Just to make sure of safety
after Pushkareff's losses of ten men on this island, Drusenin exchanges a letter or two with the commanders
of those other three Russian vessels. Then he laid
his plans for the winter's hunt. But so did the Aleut
Indians; and their plans were for a man-hunt of every
Russian within the limits of Oonalaska.
A curious story is told of how the Aleuts arranged
to have the uprising simultaneous and certain. A
bunch of sticks was carried to the chief of every tribe.
ill go
These were burned one a day, like the skin wick in the
seal oil of the Aleut's stone lamp. When the last
stick had burned, the Aleuts were to rise.
Now, the northeast coast was like the fingers of a
hand. Drusenin had anchored between two mountain spurs like fingers. Eastward, across the next
mountain spur was another village — Kalekhta, of
some forty houses; eastward of Kalekhta, again, ten
miles across, another village of seventy families on the
island of Inalook. Drusenin decided to divide his
crew into three hunting parties: one of nine men to
guard the ship and trade with the main village of Captain Harbor; a second of eleven, to cross to the native
huts at Kalekhta; a third of eleven, to cross the hills,
and paddle out to the little island of Inalook. To the
island ten miles off shore, Drusenin went himself,
with Korelin, a wrecked Russian whom he had picked
up on the voyage. On the way they must have passed
all three mountains, that guard the harbor of Oonalaska, the waterfalls that pour over the cliffs near
Kalekhta, and the little village itself where eleven men
remained to build huts for the winter. From the village to the easternmost point was over quaking moss
ankle-deep, or through long, rank grass, waist-high and
water-rotted with sea-fog. Here they launched their
boat of sea-lion skin on a bone frame, and pulled
across a bay of ten miles to the farthermost hunting-
grounds. Again, the natives overwhelm Drusenin
with kindness.    The Russian keeps  his sentinels  as THE  OUTLAW  HUNTERS
vigilant as ever pacing before the doors of the hut;
but he goes unguarded and unharmed among the
native dwellings. Perhaps, poor Drusenin was not
above swaggering a little, belted in the gay uniform
Russian officers loved to wear, to the confounding of
the poor Aleut who looked on the pistols in belt, the
cutlass dangling at heel, the bright shoulder straps
and colored cuffs, as insignia of a power almighty.
Anyway, after Drusenin had sent five hunters out in
the fields to lay fox-traps, early in the morning of
December 4, he set out with a couple of Cossack friends
to visit a native house. Korelin, the rescued castaway,
and two other men kept guard at the huts.1
At that time, and until very recently, the Aleuts'
winter dwelling was a domed, thatched roof over a
cellar excavation three or four feet deep, circular and
big enough to lodge a dozen families. The entrance
to this was a low-roofed, hall-like annex, dark as
night, leading with a sudden pitch downward into the
main circle. Now, whether the Aleut had counted
burning fagots, or kept tally some other way, the
count was up. Barely had Drusenin stepped into the
dark of the inner circle, when a blow clubbed down on
his skull that felled him to earth. The Cossack, coming second, had stumbled over the prostrate body before either had  any suspicion of danger;   and in  a
1 Some of the old records spell the name of this wrecked Russian " Korelin," as
if it were "Gorelin," the sailor, of Pushkareff's crew, who brained the Indian girl 5
I am unable to determine whether 1 Korelin" and " Gorelin" are the same man 01
not.    If so, then the punishment came home indeed. VIKINGS  OF THE  PACIFIC
second, both were cut to pieces by knives traded to
the Indians the day before for otter skins.
Shevyrin, the third man, happened to be carrying
an axe. One against a score, he yet kept his face to the
enemy, beat a retreat backward striking right and
left with the axe, then turned and fled for very life,
with a shower of arrows and lances falling about him,
that drenched him in his own blood. Already a
crash of muskets told of battle at the huts. More
dead than alive, the pursued Russian turned but to
strike his assailants back. Then, he was at the huts
almost stumbling over the man who had probably
been doing sentinel duty but was now under the spears
of the crowd—when the hut door opened; and Korelin,
the Russian, dashed out flourishing a yard-long bear
knife under protection of the other guard's musket
fire from the window, slashed to death two of the
nearest Indians, cut a swath that sent the others scattering, seized the two wounded men, dragged them
inside the hut, and slammed the door to the enraged
yells of the baffled warriors.
Some one has said that Oonalaska and Oomnak are
the smelting furnaces of America. Certainly, the
volcanic caves supplied sulphur that the natives knew
how to use as match lighters. The savages were without firearms, but might have burned out the Russians
had it not been for the constant fusillade of musketry
from door and roof and parchment windows of the
hut.    Two of the Russians were wounded and weak THE  OUTLAW  HUNTERS
from loss of blood. The other two never remitted
their guard day or night for four days, neither sleeping
nor eating, till the wounded pair, having recovered
somewhat, seized pistols and cutlasses, waited till a
quelling of the musketry tempted the Indians near,
then sallied out with a flare of their pistols, that dropped
three Aleuts on the spot, wounded others, and drove
the rest to a distance. But in the sortie, there had
been flaunted in their very faces, the coats and caps
and daggers of the five hunters Drusenin had sent fox
trapping. Plainly, the fox hunters had been massacred. The four men were alone surrounded by
hundreds of hostiles, ten miles from the shores of
Oonalaska, twenty from the other hunting detachments and the ship. But water was becoming a desperate need. To stay cooped up in the hut was to be
forced into surrender. Their only chance was to risk
all by a dash from the island. Dark was gathering.
Through the shadowy dusk watched the Aleuts; but
the pointed muskets of the two wounded men kept
hostiles beyond distance of spear-tossing, while the
other two Russians destroyed what they could not
carry away, hauled down their skin boat to the water
loaded with provisions, ammunition, and firearms,
then under guard of levelled pistols, pulled off in the
darkness across the sea, heaving and thundering to
the night tide.
But  the  sea  was  the  lesser  danger.    Once  away
from the enemy, the four fugitives pulled for dear life 94
across the tumbling waves — ten miles the way they
went, one account says — to the main shore of Oonalaska. It was pitch dark. When they reached the
shore, they could neither hear nor see a sign of life;
but the moss trail through the snows had probably
become well beaten to the ship by this time — four
months from Drusenin's landing — or else the fugitives found their way by a kind of desperation; for
before daybreak they had run within shouting distance
of the second detachment of hunters stationed at
Kalekhta. Not a sound ! Not a light! Perhaps they
had missed their way! Perhaps the Indians on the
main island are still friendly! Shevyrin or Korelin
utters a shout, followed by the signal of a musket shot
for that second party of hunters to come out and help.
Scarcely had the crash died over the snows, when out
of the dark leaped a hundred lances, a hundred faces,
a hundred shrieking, bloodthirsty savages. Now they
realize the mistake of having landed, of having abandoned the skin boat back on the beach there ! But no
time to retrace steps! Only a wild dash through the
dark, catching by each other to keep together, up to a
high precipitous rock they know is somewhere here,
with the sea behind, sheer drop on each side, and but
one narrow approach! Here they make their stand,
muskets and sword in hand, beating the assailants
back, wherever a stealthy form comes climbing up the
rock to hurl spear or lance ! Presently, a well-directed
fusillade drives the savages off!    While night still hid
them, the four fugitives scrambled down the side of
the rock farthest from the savages, and ran for the
roadstead where the ship had anchored.
As dawn comes up over the harbor something catches
the attention of the runners. It is the main hatch, the
planking, the mast poles of the ship, drawn up and
scattered on the beach. Drusenin's ship has been
destroyed. The crew is massacred; they, alone, have
escaped; and the nearest help is one of those three other
Russian ships anchored somewhere seventy miles west.
Without waiting to look more, the three men ran for
the mountains ofthe interior, found hiding in one ofthe
deep-grassed ravines, scooped out a hole in the sand,
covered this with a sail white as snow, and crawled
under in hiding for the day.
The next night they came down to the shore, in the
hope, perhaps, of finding refugees like themselves.
They discovered only the mangled bodies of their
comrades, literally hacked to pieces. A saint's image
and a book of prayers lay along the sand. Scattered
everywhere were flour sacks, provisions, ships' planking. These they carried back as well as they could
three miles in the mountains. A pretty legend is told
of a native hunter following their tracks to this retreat,
and not only refusing to betray them but secretly carrying provisions; and some such explanation is needed
to know how the four men lived hidden in the mountains from December 9 to February 2, 1764.
If they had known where those other Russian ships
m 96
were anchored, they might have struck across country
to them, or followed the coast by night; but rival hunters
did not tell each other where they anchored, and tracks
across country could have been followed. The trackless sea was safer.
There is another story of how the men hid in mountain caves all those weeks, kept alive by the warmth of
hot springs, feeding on clams and shell-fish gathered
at night. This, too, may be true; for the mountains
inland of Oonalaska Harbor are honeycombed with
caves, and there are well-known hot springs.
By February they had succeeded in making a skin
skiff of the leather sacks. They launched this on the
harbor and, stealing away unseen, rounded the northwest coast of Oonalaska's hand projecting into the sea,
travelling at night southwestward, seeking the ships
of Korovin, or Medvedeff, or Glottoff. Now the majority of voyagers don't care to coast this part of Oonalaska at night during the winter in a safe ship; and
these men had nothing between them and the abyss of
the sea but the thickness of a leather sack badly oiled
to keep out water. Their one hope was — a trader's
All night, for a week, they coasted within the shadow
of the shore rocks, hiding by day, passing three Indian
villages undiscovered. Distance gave them courage.
They now paddled by day, and just as they rounded
Makushin Volcano, lying like a great white corpse five
thousand feet above Bering Sea, they came on five '
Indians, who at once landed and running alongshore
gave the alarm. The refugees for the second time
sought safety on a rock; but the rising tide drove them
off. Seizing the light boat, they ran for shelter in a
famous cave of the volcanic mountain. Here, for five
weeks, they resisted constant siege, not a Russian of
the four daring to appear within twenty yards of the
cave entrance before a shower of arrows fell inside.
Their only food now was the shell-fish gathered at
night; their only water, snow scooped from gutters of
the cave. Each night one watched by turn while the
others slept; and each night one must make a dash
to gather the shell-fish. Five weeks at last tired the
Indians' vigilance out. One dark night the Russians
succeeded in launching out undetected. That day
they hid, but daybreak of the next long pull showed
them a ship in the folds of the mountain coast —
Korovin's vessel. They reached the ship on the 30th
of March. Poor Shevyrin soon after died from his
wounds in the underground hut, but Korovin's troubles
had only begun.
Ivan Korovin's vessel had sailed out of Avacha Bay,
Kamchatka, just two weeks before Pushkareff's crew
of criminals came home. It had become customary for
the hunting vessels to sail to the Commander Islands
— Bering and Copper — nearest Kamchatka, and
winter there, laying up a store of sea-cow meat, the huge
bovine of the sea, which was soon to be exterminated
by the hunters.    Here Korovin met Denis Medvedeff 's
iHi 98
crew, also securing a year's supply of meat for the hunt
of the sea-otter. The two leaders must have had
some inkling of trouble ahead, for Medvedeff gave
Korovin ten more sailors, and the two signed a written
contract to help each other in time of need.
In spring (1763) both sailed for the best sea-otter
fields then known — Oonalaska and Oomnak, Korovin
with thirty-seven men, Medvedeff, forty-nine. In
order not to interfere with each other's hunt, Medvedeff stopped at Oomnak, Korovin went on to Oonalaska.
Anchoring sixty yards from shore, not very far from the
volcano caves, where Drusenin's four fugitives were to
fight for their lives the following spring, Korovin
landed with fourteen men to reconnoitre. Deserted
houses he saw, but never a living soul. Going back to
the ship for more men, he set out again and went
inland five miles where he found a village of three
hundred souls. Three chiefs welcomed him, showed
receipts for tribute of furs given by the Cossack collector
of a previous ship, and gave over three boys as hostages
of good conduct — one, called Alexis, the son of a
chief. Meanwhile, letters were exchanged with Medvedeff down a hundred miles at Oomnak. All was
well. The time had not come. It was only September
— about the same time that Drusenin up north was
sending out his hunters in three detachments.
Korovin was so thoroughly satisfied all was safe,
that he landed his entire cargo and crew, and while the
carpenters were building wintering huts out of drift- THE  OUTLAW  HUNTERS
wood, set out himself, with two skin boats, to coast
northeast. For four days he followed the very shore
that the four escaping men were to cruise in an opposite direction. About forty miles from the anchorage
he met Drusenin himself, leading twenty-five Russian hunters out from Captain Harbor. Surely, if ever
hunters were safe, Korovin's were, with MedvedefFs
forty-nine men southwest a hundred miles, and Drusenin's thirty sailors forty miles northeast. Korovin
decided to hunt midway between Drusenin's crew
and MedvedefFs. It is likely that the letters exchanged
among the different commanders from September to
December were arranging that Drusenin should keep
to the east of Oonalaska, Korovin to the west of the
island, while Medvedeff hunted exclusively on the other
island — Oomnak.
By December Korovin had scattered twenty-three
hunters southwest, keeping a guard of only sixteen
for the huts and boat. Among the sixteen was little
Alexis, the hostage Indian boy. The warning of danger was from the mother of the little Aleut, who reported that sixty hostiles were advancing on the ship
under pretence of trading sea-otter. Between the
barracks and the sea front flowed a stream. Here
the Cossack guard took their stand, armed head to
foot, permitting only ten Indians at a time to enter the
huts for trade. The Aleuts exchanged their sea-otter
for what iron they could get, and departed without any
sign.    Korovin had almost concluded it was a false
""•Trim IOO
alarm, when three Indian servants of Drusenin's ship
came dashing breathless across country with news that
O 7
the ship and all the Russians on the east end of Oonalaska had been destroyed.
Including the three newcomers, Korovin had only
nineteen men; and his hostages numbered almost as
strong. The panic-stricken sailors were for burning
huts and ship, and escaping overland to the twenty-
three hunters somewhere southwest.
It was the ioth of December — the very night when
Drusenin's fugitives had taken to hiding- in the north
mountains. While Korovin was still debating what to
do, an alarm came from beneath the keel of the ship.
In the darkness, the sea was suddenly alive with hundreds of skin skiffs each carrying from eight to twenty
Indian warriors. One can well believe that lanterns
swinging from bow and stern, and lights behind the
talc windows of the huts, were put suddenly out to
avoid giving targets for the hurricane of lances and darts
© ©        ©
and iavelins that came hurtling through the air.    Two
J © ©
Russians fell dead, reducing Korovin's defence to
fourteen; but a quick swing of musketry exacted five
Indian lives for the two dead whites. At the end of
four days, the Russians were completely exhausted.
The besiegers withdrew to a cave on the mountain side,
perhaps to tempt Korovin on land.
Quick as thought, Korovin buried his iron deep
under the barracks, set fire to the huts, and concentrated
all his forces on the vessel, where he wisely carried the
hostages with him and sheered fifty yards farther off
shore. Had the riot of winter winds not been driving
mountain billows along the outer coast, he might have
put to sea; but he had no proof the twenty-three men
gone inland hunting to the south might not be yet alive,
and a winter gale would have dashed his ship to kindling wood outside the sheltered harbor.
Food was short, water was short, and the ship overcrowded with hostages. To make matters worse,
scurvy broke out among the crew; and the hostiles
renewed the attack, surrounding the Russian ship in
forty canoes with ten to twenty warriors in each. An
ocean vessel ofthe time, or even a pirate ship, could have
scattered the assailants in a few minutes; but the Russian hunting vessels were long, low, flat-bottomed,
rickety-planked craft, of perhaps sixty feet in length,
with no living accommodation below decks, and very
poor hammock space above. Hostages and scurvy-
stricken Russians were packed in the hold with the
meat stores and furs like dying rats in a garbage barrel.
It was as much as a Russian's life was worth, to show
his head above the hatchway; and the siege lasted
from the middle of December to the 30th of March,
when Drusenin's four refugees, led by Korelin, made a
final dash from Makushin Volcano, and gained Korovin's ship.
With the addition of the fugitives, Korovin now had
eighteen Russians.    The Indian father of the hostage, ri
Alexis, had come to demand back his son. Korovin
freed the boy at once. By the end of April, the spring
gales had subsided, and though half his men were
prostrate with scurvy, there was nothing for Korovin
to do but dare the sea. They sailed out from Oonalaska on April 26 heading back toward Oomnak,
where Medvedeff had anchored.
In the straits between the different Aleutian Islands
runs a terrific tide-rip. Crossing from Oonalaska to
Oomnak, Korovin's ship was caught by the counter-
currents and cross winds. Not more than five men
were well enough to stand upon their feet. The ship
drifted without pilot or oarsmen, and driving the full
force of wind and tide foundered on the end of Oomnak Island. Ammunition, sails, and skins for fresh
rowboats were all that could be saved of the wreck.
One scurvy-stricken sailor was drowned trying to
reach land; another died on being lifted from the
stiflingly close hold to fresh air. Eight hostages sprang
overboard and escaped. Of the sixteen white men and
four hostages left, three were powerless from scurvy.
This last blow on top of a winter's siege was too much
for the Russians. Their enfeebled bodies were totally
exhausted. Stretching sails round as a tent and stationing ten men at a time as sentinels, they slept the
first unbroken sleep they had known in five months.
The tired-out sentinels must have fallen asleep at their
places; for just as day dawned came a hundred savages,
stealthy and silent, seeking the ship that had slipped
out from Oonalaska. Landing without a sound, they
crept up within ten yards of the tents, stabbed the sleeping sentinels to death, and let go such a whiz of arrows
and lances at the tent walls, that three of the Indian
hostages inside were killed and every Russian wounded.
Korovin had not even time to seize his firearms.
Cutlass in hand, followed by four men — all wounded
and bleeding like himself— he dashed out, slashed two
savages to death, and scattered the rest at the sword
point. A shower of spears was the Indians' answer to
this. Wounded anew, the five Russians could scarcely
drag themselves back to the tent where by this time
the others had seized the firearms.
All that day and night, a tempest lashed the shore.
The stranded ship fell to pieces like a boat of paper;
and the attacking islanders strewed the provisions to
the winds with shrieks of laughter. On the 30th of
April, the assailants began firing muskets, which they
had captured from Korovin's massacred hunters; but the
shots fell wide of the mark. Then they brought sulphur from the volcanic caves, and set fire to the long
grass on the windward side of the tents. Again, Korovin
sallied out, drove them off, and extinguished the fire.
May, June, and half July he lay stranded here, waiting
for his men to recover, and when they recovered, setting
them to build a boat of skin and driftwood.
Toward the third week of July, a skin boat twenty-
four feet long was finished. In this were laid the
wounded;  and the well men took to the paddles.    All
, -firWT*i 1, ^^
night they paddled westward and still westward,
night after night, seeking the third vessel — that of
Denis Medvedeff, who had come with them the year
before from Bering Island. On the tenth day, Russian
huts and a stone bath-house were seen on the shore of
a broad inlet. Not a soul was stirring. As Korovin's
boat approached, bits of sail, ships' wreckage, and provisions were seen scattered on the shore. Fearing the
worst, Korovin landed. Signs of a struggle were on
every hand; and in the bath-house, still clothed but
with thongs round their necks as if they had been
strangled to death, lay twenty of MedvedefFs crew.
Closer examination showed Medvedeff himself among
the slain. Not a soul was left to tell the story of the
massacre, not a word ever heard about the fate of the
others in the crew. Korovin's last hope was gone.
There was no third ship to carry him home. He was
in the very act of ordering his men to construct
winter quarters, when Stephen Glottoff, a famous
hunter on the way back from Kadiak westward,
appeared marching across the sands followed by eight
men. Glottoff had heard ofthe massacres from natives
on the north shore with whom he was friendly; and
had sent out rescue parties to seek the survivors on the
south coast of whom the Indian spies told.
The poor fugitives embraced Glottoff, and went
almost mad with joy. But like the prospector, who
suffers untold hardships seeking the wealth of gold,
these seekers of wealth in furs could not relinquish the THE  OUTLAW  HUNTERS
wild freedom of the perilous life.    They signed contracts to hunt with Glottoff for the year.
It is no part of this story to tell how the Cossack,
Solovieff, entered on a campaign of punishment for
the Aleuts when he came. Whole villages were blown
up by mines of powder in birch bark. Fugitives
dashing from the conflagration were sabred by the
Russians, as many as a hundred Aleuts butchered at a
time, villages of three hundred scattered to the winds,
warriors bound hand and foot in line, and shot down.
Suffice it to say, scurvy slaked Solovieff's vengeance.
Both Aleuts and Russians had learned the one all-important lesson — the Christian's doctrine of retribution,
the scientist's law of equilibrium — that brute force met
by brute force ends only in mutual destruction, in
anarchy, in death. Thirty years later, Vancouver visiting the Russians could report that their influence on
the Indians was of the sort that springs from deep-
rooted kindness and identity of interests. Both sides
had learned there was a better way than the wolf code.1
1 It would be almost impossible to quote all the authorities on this massacre of the
Russians; and every one who has written on Russian fur trade in America gives different
scraps ofthe tragedy; but nearly all can be traced back to the detailed account in Coxe's
Discoveries of the Russians betiveen Asia and America, and on this I have relied, the
French edition of 1781. The Census Report, Vol. VIII, 1880, by Ivan Petroff, is
invaluable for topography and ethnology of this period and region. It was from Korelin,
one ofthe four refugees, that the Russian archivists took the first account ofthe massacre ;
and Coxe's narrative is based on Korelin's story, though the tradition of the massacre
has been handed down from father to child among Oonalaskans to this day 5 so that
certain caves near Captain Harbor, and Makushin Volcano are still pointed out as the
refuge of the four pursued Russians. CHAPTER  V
-   -      ^     PIRATE
Siberian Exiles under Polish Soldier of Fortune plot to overthrow
Garrison of Kamchatka and escape to West Coast of America as
Fur Traders — A Bloody Melodrama enacted at Bolcheresk — The
Count and his Criminal Crew sail to America
Fur hunters, world over, live much the same life.
It was the beaver led French voyageurs westward to
the Rocky Mountains. It was the sea-otter brought
Russian coasters cruising southward from Alaska to
California; and it was the little sable set the mad pace
of the Cossacks' wild rush clear across Siberia to the
shores of the Pacific. The tribute that the riotous
Cossacks collected, whether from Siberia or America,
was tribute in furs.
The farther the hunters wandered, the harder it was
to obtain supplies from the cities. In each case — in
New France, on the Missouri, in Siberia — this compelled resort to the same plan; a grand rallying place,
a yearly rendezvous, a stamping-ground for hunters
and  traders.    Here  merchants  brought   their   goods;
hunters, their furs; light-fingered gentry, offscourings
from everywhere, horses to sell, or smuggled whiskey,
or plunder that had been picked up in ways untold.
The great meeting place for Russian fur traders was
on a plain east ofthe Lena River, not far from Yakutsk,
a thousand miles in a crow line from the Pacific. In
the fall of 1770 there had gathered here as lawless
birds of a feather as ever scoured earth for prey. Merchants from the inland cities had floated down supplies
to the plain on white and black and lemon-painted
river barges. Long caravans of pack horses and mules
and tented wagons came rumbling dust-covered across
the fields, bells ajingle, driven by Cossacks all the way
from St. Petersburg, six thousand miles. Through
snow-padded forests, over wind-swept plains, across
the heaving mountains of two continents, along deserts
and Siberian rivers, almost a year had the caravans
travelled. These, for the most part, carried ship
supplies — cordage, tackling, iron — for vessels to be
built on the Pacific to sail for America.
Then there rode in at furious pace, from the northern
steppes of Siberia, the Cossack tribute collectors —
four hundred of them centred here — who gathered
one-tenth of the furs for the Czar, nine-tenths for
themselves: drunken brawlers they were, lawless as
Arabs; and the only law they knew was the law
they wielded. Tartar hordes came with horses to
sell, freebooters of the boundless desert, banditti in
league with the  Cossacks to smuggle across the bor- lmmin
ders of the Chinese. And Chinese smugglers, splendid
in silk attire, hobnobbed with exiles, who included
every class from courtiers banished for political offences to criminals with ears cut off and faces slit open.
What with drink and play and free fights — if the
Czar did not hear, it was because he was far away.
On this August night half a dozen new exiles had
come in with the St. Petersburg cavalcade. The
prisoners were set free on parole to see the sights,
while their Cossack guard went on a spree. The newcomers seemed above the common run of criminals
sent to Siberia, better clothed, of the air born to command, and in possession of money. The leading
spirit among them was a young Pole, twenty-eight
years or thereabouts, of noble rank, Mauritius Be-
nyowsky, very lame from a battle wound, but plainly
a soldier of fortune who could trump every trick
fate played him, and give as good knocks as he got.
Four others were officers of the army in St. Petersburg,
exiled for political reasons. Only one, Hippolite
Stephanow, was a criminal in the sense of having
broken law.
Hoffman, a German surgeon, welcomed them to his
quarters at Yakutsk. Where were they going ? — To
the Pacific? — "Ah; a long journey from St. Petersburg; seven thousand miles!' That was where he
was to go when he had finished surgical duties on the
Lena. By that they knew he, too, was an exile,
practising his profession on parole.    He would advise THE  POLISH   PIRATE
them — cautiously feeling his ground — to get transferred as soon as they could from the Pacific coast to
the Peninsula of Kamchatka; that was safer for an
exile — fewer guards, farther from the Cossacks of
the mainland; in fact, nearer America, where exiles
might make a
fortune in the
fur trade. Had
they heard of
schemes in the
air among Russians for ships
to plunder furs
in America
"with powder
and hatchets and
the help of God,"
as the Russians
Mauritius Augustus, Count Benyowsky.
the Pole, jumped to the bait like a trout to the fly. If
"powder and hatchets and the help of God" — and
an exile crew — could capture wealth in the fur trade
of western America, why not a break for freedom ?
They didn't scruple as to means, these men. Why
should they ? They had been penned in festering
dungeons, where the dead lay, corrupting the air till
living and dead became a diseased mass. They had
been knouted for differences of political opinion.    They *
had been whisked off at midnight from St. Petersburg
— mile after mile, week after week, month after month,
across the snows, with never a word of explanation,
knowing only from the jingle of many bells that other
prisoners were in the long procession. Now their
hopes took fire from Hoffman's tales of Russian plans
for fur trade. The path of the trackless sea seems
always to lead to a boundless freedom.
In a word, before they had left Hoffman, they had
bound themselves by oath to try to seize a fur-trading ship to escape across the Pacific. Stephanow, the
common convict, was the one danger. He might play
spy and obtain freedom by betraying all. To prevent this, each man was required to sign his name to
an avowal of the conspirators' aim. Hoffman was to
follow as soon as he could. Meanwhile he kept the
documents, which were written in German; and Benyowsky, the Pole, was elected chief.
The Cossack guards came sulkily back from their
gambling bout. The exiles were placed in elk-team
sleds, and the remaining thousand miles to the Pacific
resumed. But the spree had left the soldiers with sore
heads. At the first camping place they were gambling again. On the sixth day out luck turned so
heavily against one soldier that he lost his entire
belongings to the captain of the troops, flew in a
towering rage, and called his officer some blackguard name.    The officer nonchalantly took over the THE  POLISH  PIRATE
gains, swallowed the insult, and commanded the other
Cossacks to tie the fellow up and give him a hundred lashes.
For a moment consternation reigned. There are
some unwritten laws even among the Cossacks. To
play the equal, when there was money to win, then act
the despot when offended, was not according to the
laws of good fellows among Cossacks. Before the
officer knew where he was, he had been seized, bundled
out of the tent, stripped naked and flogged on the bare
back three hundred  strokes.
He was still roaring with rage and pain and fear
when a coureur came thundering over the path from
Yakutsk with word that Hoffman had died suddenly,
leaving certain papers suspected of conspiracy, which
were being forwarded for examination to the commander on the Pacific. The coureur handed the
paper to the officer of the guards. Not a man of the
Cossacks could read German. What the papers were
the terrified exiles knew. If word of the plot reached
the Pacific, they might expect knouting, perhaps mutilation, or lifelong, hopeless servitude in the chain-
gangs of the mines.
One chance of frustrating detection remained —
the Cossack officer looked to the exiles for protection
against his men. For a week the cavalcade moved
sullenly on, the soldiers jeering in open revolt at the
officer, the officer in terror for his life, the exiles quaking with  fear.    The  road  led to a  swift,  somewhat
'-•imiiT- r^7~
dangerous river. The Cossacks were ordered to swim
the elk teams across. The officer went on the raft to
guard the prisoners, on whose safe delivery his own
life depended. With hoots of laughter, that could
not be reported as disobedience, the Cossacks hustled
the snorting elk teams against the raft. A deft hoist
from the pole of some unseen diver below, and the raft
load was turned helter-skelter upside down in the
middle of the river, the commander going under heels
up! When officer and exiles came scrambling up the
bank wet as water-rats, they were welcomed with shouts
by the Cossacks. Officer and prisoners lighted a fire
to dry clothes. Soldiers rummaged out the brandy
casks, and were presently so deep in drunken sleep not
a man of the guard was on his feet. Benyowsky
waited till the commander, too, slept. Then the Pole
limped, careful as a cat over cut glass, to the coat drying
before the fire, drew out the packet of documents, and
found what the exiles had feared — Hoffman's papers
in German, with orders to the commander on the
Pacific to keep the conspirators fettered till instructions came the next year from St. Petersburg.
The prisoners realized that all must be risked in
one desperate cast of the dice. "I and time against
all men," says the proverb. No fresh caravan would
be likely to come till spring. Meanwhile they must
play against time. Burning the packet to ashes, they
replaced it with a forged order instructing the commander on the Pacific to treat the exiles with all free- THE  POLISH   PIRATE 113
dom and liberality, and to forward them by the first
boat outward bound for Kamchatka.
The governor at Okhotsk did precisely as the packet
instructed. He allowed them out on parole. He supplied them with clothing and money. He forwarded
them to Kamchatka on the first boat outward bound,
the St. Peter and Paul, with forty-three of a crew and
ten cannon, which had just come back from punishing
American Indians for massacring the Russians.
A year less two days from the night they had been
whisked out of St. Petersburg, the exiles reached their
destination —the little log fort or ostrog of Bolche-
resk, about twenty miles up from the sea on the inner
side of Kamchatka, one hundred and fifty miles overland from the Pacific. The rowboat conducting the
exiles up-stream met rafts of workmen gliding down
the current. Rafts and rowboat paused within call.
The raftsmen wanted news from Europe. Benyowsky
answered that exiles had no news. "Who are you?'
an officer demanded bluntly. Always and unconsciously playing the hero part of melodrama, Benyowsky replied —" Once a soldier and a general, now a
slave.'1 Shouts of laughter broke from the raftsmen.
The enraged Pole was for leaping overboard and
thrashing them to a man for their mockery; but they
called out, "no offence had been meant": they, too, were
exiles; their laughter was welcome; they had suffered
enough in Kamchatka to know that when men must
laugh or weep, better, much better, laugh !   Even as they
msm '"T"
laughed came the tears. With a rear sweep, the rafts
headed about and escorted the newcomers to the fortress, where they were locked for the night. After all,
a welcome to exile was a sardonic sort of mirth.
Kamchatka occupies very much the same position
on the Pacific as Italy to the Mediterranean, or Norway to the North Sea. Its people were nomads, wild
as American Indians, but Russia had established, garrisons of Cossacks — collectors of tribute in furs —
all over the peninsula, of whom four hundred were
usually moving from place to place, three hundred
stationed at Bolcheresk, the seat of government, on
the inner coast of the peninsula.
The capital itself was a curious conglomeration
of log huts stuck away at the back of beyond, with all
the gold lace and court satins and regimental formalities of St. Petersburg in miniature. On one side of
a deep ravine, was the fort or ostrog — a palisaded
courtyard of some two or three hundred houses, joined
together like the face of a street, with assembly rooms,
living apartments, and mess rooms on one side of a
passageway, kitchens, servants' quarters, and barracks
for the Cossacks on the other side of the aisle. Two
or three streets of these double-rowed houses made up
the fort. Few of the houses contained more than
three rooms, but the rooms were large as halls, one
hundred by eighty feet, some of them, with whip-
sawed floors, clay-chinked log walls, parchment win- THE  POLISH  PIRATE
dows, and furniture hewed out of the green fir trees of
the mountains. But the luxurious living made up for
the bareness of furnishings. Shining samovars sung
in every room. Rugs of priceless fur concealed the
rough flooring. Chinese silks, Japanese damasks,—
Oriental tapestries smuggled in by the fur traders, —
covered the walls; and richest of silk attired the Russian officers and their ladies, compelled to beguile time
here, where the only break in monotony was the arrival
of fresh ships from America, or exiles from St. Petersburg, or gambling or drinking or dancing or feasting
the long winter nights through, with, perhaps, a duel in
the morning to settle midnight debts. Just across a
deep ravine from the fort was another kind of settlement — ten or a dozen yurts, thatch-roofed, circular
houses half underground like cellars, grouped about
a square hall or barracks in the centre. In this village
dwelt the exiles, earning their living by hunting or
acting as servants for the officers of the Cossacks.
Here, then, came Benyowsky and his companions,
well received because of forged letters sent on, but with
no time to lose; for the first spring packet overland
might reveal their conspiracy. The raftsmen, who
had welcomed them, now turned hosts and housed
the newcomers. The Pole was assigned to an educated
Russian, who had been eight years in exile.
" How can you stand it ? Do you fear death too
much to dare one blow for liberty ?' Benyowsky asked
the other, as they sat over their tea that first night.
— n6
But a spy might ask the same question. The Russian evaded answer, and a few hours later showed the
Pole books of travel, among which were maps of the
Philippines, where twenty or thirty exiles might go
if they had a leader.
Leader ? Benyowsky leaped to his feet with hands
on pistol and cutlass with which he had been armed
that morning when Governor Nilow liberated them to
hunt on parole. Leader ? Were they men ? Was this
settlement, too, ready to rise if they had a leader ?
No time to lose! Within a month, cautious as a
man living over a volcano, the Polish nobleman had
enlisted twenty recruits from the exile settlement,
bound to secrecy by oath, and a score more from a
crew of sailor exiles back from America, mutinous over
brutal treatment by their captain. In addition to
secrecy, each conspirator bound himself to implicit
and instant obedience to Benyowsky, their chief, and
to slay each with his own hand any member of the
band found guilty of betrayal. But what gave the
Pole his greatest power was his relation to the governor. The coming of the young nobleman had
caused a flutter in the social life of the dull little fort.
He had been appointed secretary to Governor Nilow,
and tutor to his children. The governor's lady was
the widow of a Swedish exile; and it took the Pole but
a few interviews to discover that wife and family favored the exiles rather than their Russian lord. In
fact, the good woman suggested to the Pole that he THE  POLISH  PIRATE
should prevent her sixteen-year-old daughter becoming
wife to a Cossack by marrying her himself.
The Pole's first move was to ask the governor's
permission to establish a colony of exile farmers in the
south of the peninsula. The request was granted.
This created a good excuse for the gathering of the
provisions that would be needed for the voyage on the
Pacific; but when the exiles further requested a fur-
trading vessel to transport the provisions to the new
colony, their design was balked by the unsuspecting
governor granting them half a hundred row boats, too
frail to go a mile from the coast. There seemed no
other course but to seize a vessel by force and escape,
but Benyowsky again played for time. The governor's daughter discovered his plot through her servant
planning to follow one ofthe exiles to sea; but instead
of betraying him to her Russian father, she promised
to send him red clippings of thread as danger signals if
the governor or his chancellor got wind of the treason.
Their one aim was to get away from Asia before
fresh orders could come overland from Yakutsk. Ice
still blocked the harbor in April, but the St. Peter and
Paul, the armed vessel that had brought the exiles
across the sea from the mainland, lay in port and was
already enlisting a crew for the summer voyage to
America. The Pole sent twelve of his men to enlist
among the crew, and nightly store provisions in the
hold. The rest of the band were set to manufacturing
cartridges, and buying or borrowing all the firearms n8
they could obtain on the pretence of hunting. Word
was secretly carried from man to man that, when a
light was hoisted on the end of a flagstaff above the
Benyowsky hut, all were to rally for the settlement
across the ravine from the fort.
The crisis came before the harbor had opened.
Benyowsky was on a sled journey inland with the governor, when an exile came to him by night with word
that one of the conspirators had lost his nerve and
determined to save his own neck by confessing all to
the governor.
The traitor was even now hard on the trail to overtake the governor. Without a moment's wavering,
Benyowsky sent the messenger with a flask of poisoned
brandy back to meet the man.
The Pole had scarcely returned to his hut in the
exile village, when the governor's daughter came to
him in tears. Ismyloff, a young Russian trader, who
had all winter tried to join the conspirators as a spy,
had been on the trail when the traitor was poisoned
and was even now closeted with Governor Nilow.
It was the night of April 23. No sooner had the
daughter gone than the light was run up on the flagstaff, the bridge across the ravine broken down, arms
dragged from hiding in the cellars, windows and doors
barricaded, sentinels placed in hiding along the ditch
between village and fort. For a whole day, no word
came.    Governor and chancellor were still busy ex
amining witnesses.
In  the   morning  came  a  maid THE  POLISH   PIRATE 119
from the governor's daughter with a red thread of
warning, and none too soon, for at ten o'clock, a Cossack sergeant brought a polite invitation from the governor for the pleasure of M. Benyowsky's company
at breakfast.
M. Benyowsky returns polite regrets that he is
slightly indisposed, but hopes to give himself the
pleasure later.
The sergeant winked his eyes and opined it was
wiser to go by fair means than to be dragged by main
The Pole advised the sergeant to make his will before
repeating that threat.
Noon saw two Cossacks and an officer thundering
at the Pole's door. The door opened wide. In
marched the soldiers, armed to the teeth; but before
their clicking heels had ceased to mark time, the door
was shut again. Benyowsky had whistled. A dozen
exiles rose out of the floor. Cossacks and captors
rolled in a heap. The soldiers were bound head to
feet, and bundled into the cellar. Meanwhile the
sentinels hidden in the ravine had captured Ismyloff,
the nephew of the chancellor, and two other Russians,
who were added to the captives in the cellar; and the
governor changed his tactics. A letter was received
from the governor's daughter pleading with her lover
to come and be reconciled with her father, who had
now no prejudice against the exiles; but in the letter
were two or three tiny red threads such as might have 120
been pulled out of a dress sleeve. The letter had been
written under force.
Benyowsky's answer was to marshal his fifty-seven
men in three divisions round the village; one round
the house, the largest hidden in the dark on the fort
side of the ravine, a decoy group stationed in the ditch
to draw an attack.
By midnight, the sentinels sent word that the main
guard of Cossacks had reached the ravine. The decoy had made a feint of resistance. The Cossacks
sent back to the fort for reinforcements. The Pole
waited only till nearly all the Cossacks were on the
ditch bank, then instructing the little band of decoys
to keep up a sham fight, poured his main forces through
the dark, across the plain at a run, for the fort. Palisades were scaled, gates broken down, guards stabbed
where they stood! Benyowsky's men had the fort and
the gates barricaded again before the governor could
collect his senses. As Benyowsky entered the main
rooms, the enraged commander seized a pistol, which
missed fire, and sprang at the Pole's throat, roaring out
he would see the exiles dead before he would surrender.
The Pole, being lame, had swayed back under the
onslaught, when the circular slash of a cutlass in the
hand of an exile officer severed the governor's head
from his body.
Twenty-eight Cossacks were put to the sword inside
the fort; but the exiles were not yet out of their troubles.
Though they had seized the armed vessel at once and THE  POLISH  PIRATE 121
transferred to the hold the entire loot of the fort, —
furs, silks, supplies, gold, — it would be two weeks
before the ice would leave the port. Meanwhile the
two hundred defeated Cossacks had retreated to a hill,
and sent coureurs scurrying for help to the other forts
of Kamchatka. Within two weeks seven hundred
Cossacks would be on the hills; and the exiles, whose
supplies were on board the vessel, would be cut off in
the fort and starved into surrender.
No time to waste, Benyowsky! Not a woman or
child was harmed, but every family in the fort was
quickly rounded up in the chapel. Round this, outside, were piled chairs, furniture, pitch, tar, powder,
whale-oil. Promptly at nine in the morning, three
women and twelve young girls — wives and daughters
of the Cossack officers — were despatched to the Cossack besiegers on the hill with word that unless the
Cossacks surrendered their arms to the exiles and sent
down fifty soldiers as hostages of safety for the exiles
till the ship could sail — precisely at ten o'clock the
church would be set on fire.
The women were seen to ascend the hill. No
signal came from the Cossacks. At a quarter past
nine Benyowsky kindled fires at each of the four
angles of the church. As the flames began to mount
a forest of handkerchiefs and white sheets waved
above the hill, and a host of men came spurring to
the fort with all the Cossacks' arms and fifty-two hostages. L:
The exiles now togged themselves out in all the
gay regimentals of the Russian officers. Salutes of
triumph were fired from the cannon. A Te Deum was
sung. Feast and mad wassail filled both day and
night till the harbor cleared. Even the Cossacks
caught the madcap spirit of the escapade, and helped
to load ammunition on the St. Peter and Paul. Nor
were old wrongs forgiven. Ismyloff was bundled on
th# vessel in irons. The chancellor's secretary was
seized and compelled to act as cook. Men, who had
played the spy and tyrant, now felt the merciless
knout. Witnesses, who had tried to pry into the exiles'
plot, were hanged at the yard-arm. Nine women,
relatives of exiles, who had been compelled to become
the wives of Cossacks, now threw off the yoke of
slavery, donned the costly Chinese silks, and joined
the pirates. Among these was the governor's daughter,
who was to have married a Cossack.
On May n, 1771, the Polish flag was run up on
the St. Peter and Paul. The fort fired a God-speed —
a heartily sincere one, no doubt — of twenty-one guns.
Again the Te Deum was chanted; again, the oath of
obedience taken by kissing Benyowsky's sword; and
at five o'clock in the evening the ship dropped down
the river for the sea, with ninety-six exiles on board,
of whom nine were women; one, an archdeacon;
half a dozen, officers of the imperial army; one, a
gentleman in waiting to the Empress; at least a dozen,
convicts of the blackest dye.
The rest of Benyowsky's adventures read more like
a page from some pirate romance than sober record of
events on the west coast of America. Barely had the
vessel rounded the southern cape of the peninsula into
the Pacific, when Ismyloff, the young Russian trader,
who had been carried on board in irons, rallied round
Benyowsky such a clamor of mutineers, duels were
fought on the quarter-deck, the malcontents clapped in
handcuffs again, and the ringleaders tied to the masts,
where knouting enough was laid on to make them sue
for peace.
The middle of May saw the vessel anchoring on the
west coast of Bering Island, where a sharp lookout was
kept for Russian fur traders, and armed men must go
ashore to reconnoitre before Benyowsky dared venture
from the ship. The Pole's position was chancy
enough to satisfy even his melodramatic soul. Apart
from four or five Swedes, the entire crew of ninety-six
was Russian. Benyowsky was for sailing south at
once to take up quarters on some South Sea island, or
to claim the protection of some European power. The
Russian exiles, of whom half were criminals, were for
coasting the Pacific on pirate venture, and compelled
the Pole to steer his vessel for the fur hunters' islands
of Alaska.
The men sent to reconnoitre Bering Island came
back with word that while they were gathering driftwood on the south shore, they had heard shots and
met five Russians belonging to a Saxon exile, who had 124
turned fur hunter, deposed the master of his ships,
gathered one hundred exiles around him, and become
a trader on his own account. The Saxon requested
an interview with Benyowsky. What was the Pole to
do ? Was this a decoy to test his strength ? Was the
Saxon planning to scuttle the Pole's vessel, too ? Benyowsky's answer was that he would be pleased to meet
his Saxon comrade in arms on the south shore, each
side to approach with four men only, laying down
arms instantly on sight of each other. The two exile
pirates met. Each side laid down arms as agreed.
Ochotyn, the Saxon, was a man of thirty-six years,
who had come an exile on fur trading vessels, gathered
a crew of one hundred and thirty-four around him,
and, like the Pole, become a pirate. His plan in meeting Benyowsky was to propose vengeance on Russia:
let the two ships unite, go back to Siberia, and sack
the Russian ports on the Pacific. But the Pole had
had enough of Russia. He contented himself with
presenting his brother pirate with one hundred pounds
of ammunition; and the two exiles sat round a camp-
fire of driftwood far into the night, spinning yarns of
blasted hopes back in Europe, and desperate venture
here on the Pacific. The Saxon's headquarters were
on Kadiak, where he had formed alliance with the
Indians. Hither he advised the Pole to sail for a
cargo of furs.
Ismyloff, the  mutineer, was   marooned   on  Bering
Island.     Ice-drift had seemed to bar the way north- THE  POLISH   PIRATE 125
ward through Bering Straits. June saw Benyowsky
far eastward at Kadiak on the south shore of Alaska,
gathering in a cargo of furs; and from the sea-otter
fields of Kadiak and Oonalaska, Benyowsky sailed
southwest, past the smoking volcanoes of the Aleutians, vaguely heading for some of those South Sea
islands of which he used to read in the exile village of
Not a man of the crew knew as much about
navigation as a schoolboy. They had no idea where
they were going, or where the ship was. As day
after day slipped past with no sight but the heaving
sea, the Russian landsmen became restive. Provisions had dwindled to one fish a day; and scarcely a
pint of water for each man was left in the hold. In
flying from Siberian exile, were they courting a worse
fate ? Stephanow, the criminal convict, who had
crossed Siberia with the Pole, dashed on deck demanding a better allowance of water as the ship entered
warmer and warmer zones. The next thing the Pole
knew, Stephanow had burst open the barrel hoops of
the water kegs to quench his thirst. By the time the
guard had gone down the main hatch to intercept him,
Stephanow and a band of Russian mutineers had
trundled the brandy casks to the deck and were-in a
wild debauch. The main hatch was clapped down,
leaving the mutineers in possession of the deck, till
all fell in drunken torpor, when Benyowsky rushed
his soldiers up the fore scuttle, snapped handcuffs on 126
the rebels, and tied them to the masts. In the midst
of this disorder, such a hurricane broke over the ocean
that the tossing yard-arms alternately touched water.
To be sure, Benyowsky had escaped exile; but his
ship was a hornets' nest. After the storm all hands
were busy sewing new sails. The old sails were distributed as trousers for the ragamuffin crew. For ten
days no food was tasted but soup made from sea-
otter skins. Then birds were seen, and seaweed
drifted past the vessel; and a wild hope mounted
every heart of reaching some part of Japan.
On sunset of July 15, the Pole's watch-dog was
noticed standing at the bow, sniffing and barking.
Two or three of the ship's hands dashed up to the
masthead, vowing they would not come down till
they saw land. Suddenly the lookout shouted,
Land ! The exiles forgot their woes. Even the mutineers tied to the masts cheered. Darker and darker
grew the cloud on the horizon. By daybreak the
cloud had resolved itself to a shore before the eager
eyes of the watching crew. The ship had scarcely
anchored before every man was overboard in a wild
rush for the fresh water to be found on land. Tents
were pitched on the island; and the wanderers of the
sea rested.
It is no part of this narrative to tell of Benyowsky's
adventures on Luzon of the Philippines, or the La-
drones,—whichever it was,—how he scuttled Japan- THE  POLISH   PIRATE
ese sampans of gold and pearls, fought a campaign
in Formosa, and wound up at Macao, China, where
all the rich cargo of sea-otter brought from America
was found to be water rotted; and Stephanow, the
criminal convict, left the Pole destitute by stealing and
selling all the Japanese loot.
This part of the story does not concern America; and
the Pole's whole life has been told by Jokai, the Hungarian novelist, and Kotzebue, the Russian dramatist.
Benyowsky got passage to Europe from China on
one of the East India Company ships, whose captain
was uneasy enough at having so many pirates on board.
In France he obtained an appointment to look after
French forts in Madagascar; but this was too tame an
undertaking for the adventure-loving Pole. He threw
up his appointment, returned to Europe, interested
English merchants in a new venture, sailed to Baltimore in the Robert Anne of twenty cannon and four
hundred and fifty tons, interested merchants there in
his schemes, and departed from Baltimore October 25,
1784, to conquer Madagascar and set up an independent commercial government. Here he was slain by
the French troops on the 23d of May, 1786 — to the
ruin of those Baltimore and London merchants who
had advanced him capital. His own account of his
adventures is full of gross exaggerations; but even the
Russians were so impressed with the prowess of his
valor that a few years later, when Cook sailed to Alaska,
Ismyloff could not be brought to mention his name;
'■■ I ')p
and when the English ships went on to Kamchatka,
they found the inhabitants hidden in the cellars, for
fear the Polish pirate had returned. But like many
heroes of misfortune, Benyowsky could not stand success. It turned his head. He entered Macao with
the airs of an emperor, that at once discredited him
with the solid people. If he had returned to the west
coast of America, as a fur trader, he might have
wrested more honors from Russia; but his scheme to
capture an island of which he was to be king, ended in
ruin for himself and his friends.1
1 It may as well be acknowledged that Mauritius Augustus, Count Benyowsky
(pronounced by himself Be-nyov-sky), is a liar without a peer among the adventurers
of early American history. If it were not that his life was known to the famous
men of his time, his entire memoirs from 1741 to 1771 might be rejected as fiction
of the yellow order j but the comical thing is, the mendacious fellow cut a tremendous swath in his day. The garrisons of Kamchatka trembled at his name twenty-five
years after his escapades. Ismyloff, who became a famous trader in the Russian Fur
Company, could not be induced to open his mouth about the Pole to Cook, and actually
made use of the universal fear of Benyowsky among Russians, to keep Cook "from
learning Russian fur trade secrets, when the Englishman went to Kamchatka, by representing that Cook was a pirate, too. The Gentleman's Magazine for June, 1772,
contained a letter from Canton, dated November 19, 1771, giving a full account of the
pirate's arrival there with his mutineers and women refugees. The Bishop Le Bon
of Macao writes, September 24, 1771 : "Out of his equipage, there remain no more
than eight men in health. All the rest are confined to their beds. For two months
they suffered hunger and thirst." Captain King of Cook's staff writes of Kamchatka :
H We were informed that an exiled Polish officer named Beniowski had seized upon a
galliott, lying at the entrance of the harbor, and had forced on board a number of
Russian sailors, sufficient to navigate her 5 that he had put on shore a part of the
crew . . . among the rest, Ismyloff." In Paris he met and interested Benjamin
Franklin. Hyacinth de Magellan, a descendant of the great discoverer, advanced
Benyowsky money for the Madagascar filibustering expedition. So did certain merchants of Baltimore in 1785. On leaving England, Benyowsky gave his memoirs to
Magellan, who passed their editing over to William Nicholson of the Royal Society, by THE  POLISH  PIRATE
whom they were given to the world in 1790. German, French, and Russian translations followed. This called forth Russia's account of the matter, written by Ivan
Ryu min, edited by Berg, St. Petersburg, 1822. These accounts, with the facts as cited
from contemporaries, enable one to check the preposterous exaggerations of the Pole.
Of late years, between drama and novels, quite a Benyowsky literature has sprung up about
this Cagliostro of the sea. His record in the continental armies preceding his exile
would fill a book by itself- and throughout all, Benyowsky appears in the same light,
an unscrupulous braggart lying gloriously, but withal as courageous as he was mendacious.
K  \
How the Sea Rover was attacked and ruined as a Boy on the
Spanish Main off Mexico — His Revenge in sacking Spanish Treasure Houses and crossing Panama — The Richest Man in England,
he sails to the Forbidden Sea, scuttles all the Spanish Ports up the
West Coast of South America and takes Possession of New Albion
(Cahfornia) for England
If a region were discovered where gold was valued
less than cartloads of clay, and ropes of pearls could be
obtained in barter for strings of glass beads, the
modern mind would have some idea of the frenzy that
prevailed in Spain after the discovery of America by
Columbus. Native temples were found in Chile, in
Peru, in Central America, in Mexico, where gold
literally lined the walls, silver paved the floors, and
handfuls of pearls were as thoughtlessly thrown in
the laps of the conquerors as shells might be tossed at
a modern clam-bake.
Within half a century from the time Spain first
learned of America, Cortes not only penetrated Mexico, but sent his corsairs up the west coast of the con-
1 *34
tinent. Pizarro conquered Peru. Spanish ships plied
a trade rich beyond dreams of avarice between the
gold realms of Peru and the spice islands of the Philippines. The chivalry of the Spanish nobility suddenly
became a chivalry of the high seas. Religious zeal
burned to a flame against those gold-lined pagan
temples. It was easy to believe that the transfer of
wedges of pure gold from heathen hands to Spain
was a veritable despoiling of the devil's treasure boxes,
glorious in the sight of God. The trackless sea became the path to fortune. Balboa had deeper motives
than loyalty, when, in 1513, on his march across Panama
and discovery of the Pacific, he rushed mid-deep into
the water, shouting out in swelling words that he
took possession of earth, air, and water for Spain "for
all time, past, present, or to come, without contradiction, . . . north and south, with all the seas from the
Pole Arctic to the Pole Antarctic, . . . both now, and
as long as the world endures, until the final day of
judgment." 1
Shorn of noise, the motive was simply to shut out
the rest of the world from Spain's treasure box. The
Monroe Doctrine was not yet born. The whole Pacific
was to be a closed sea! To be sure, Vasco da Gama
had found the way round the Cape of Good Hope to
the Indian Ocean; and Magellan soon after passed
through the strait of his name below South America
1 This is but a brief epitome of the Spaniard's swelling words. Only the Heavens
above were omitted from Spain's claim. 1 Sir John Hawkins. ■K
right into the Pacific Ocean; but round the world by
the Indian Ocean was a far cry for tiny craft of a few
hundred tons; and the Straits of Magellan were so
storm-bound, it soon became a common saying that
they were a closed door. Spain sent her sailors across
Panama to build ships for the Pacific. The sea that
bore her treasure craft — millions upon millions of
pounds sterling in pure gold, silver, emeralds, pearls
— was as closed to the rest of the world as if walled
round with only one chain-gate; and that at Panama,
where Spain kept the key.
That is, the sea was shut till Drake came coursing
round the world; and his coming was so utterly im*-
possible to the Spanish mind that half the treasure
ships scuttled by the English pirate mistook him for a
visiting Spaniard till the rallying cry, "God and Saint
George!'   wakened them from their dream.
It was by accident the English first found themselves
in the waters of the Spanish Main. John Hawkins
had been cruising the West Indies exchanging slaves
for gold, when an ominous stillness fell on the sea.
The palm trees took on the hard glister of metal leaves.
The sunless sky turned yellow, the sea to brass; and
before the six English ships could find shelter, a hurricane broke that flailed the fleet under sails torn to
tatters clear across the Gulf of Mexico to Vera Cruz,
the stronghold of Spanish power.
But Hawkins feared  neither  man nor devil.    He 136
reefed his storm-torn sails, had the stoppers pulled out
of his cannon in readiness, his gunners alert, ran up
the English ensign, and boldly towed his fleet into port
directly under Spanish guns. Sending a messenger
ashore, he explained that he was sorry to intrude on
forbidden waters, but that he needed to careen his
ships for the repair of leakages, and now asked permission from the viceroy to refit. Perhaps, in his
heart, the English adventurer wasn't sorry to get an
inner glimpse of Mexico's defences. As he waited for
permission, there sailed into the harbor the Spanish
fleet itself, twelve merchantmen rigged as frigates,
loaded with treasure to the value of one million eight
hundred thousand pounds. The viceroy of Mexico,
Don Martin Henriquez himself, commanded the fleet.
English and Spanish ships dipped colors to each other
as courteous hidalgoes might have doffed hats; and
the guns roared each other salutes, that set the seas
churning. Master John Hawkins quaffed mug after
mug of foaming beer with a boisterous boast that if
the Spaniards thought to frighten him with a waste of
powder and smoke, he could play the same game, and
"singe the don's beard."
Came a messenger, then, clad in mail to his teeth, very
pompous, very gracious, very profuse of welcome, with
a guarantee in writing from the viceroy of security for
Hawkins while dismantling the English ships. In
order to avoid clashes among the common soldiers, the
fortified island was assigned for the English to disem- FRANCIS DRAKE IN CALIFORNIA    137
bark. It was the 12th of August, 1568. Darkness
fell with the warm velvet caress of a tropic sea. Half
the crew had landed, half the cannon been trundled
ashore for the vessels to be beached next day, when
Hawkins noticed torches — a thousand torches —
glistening above the mailed armor of a thousand Spanish soldiers marching down from the fort and being
swiftly transferred to the frigates. A blare of Spanish
trumpets blew to arms! The waters were suddenly
alight with the flare of five fire-rafts drifting straight
where the disarmed English fleet lay moored. Hawkins had just called his page to hand round mugs of
beer, when a cannon-shot splintering through the mast
arms overhead ripped the tankard out of his hand.1
"God and Saint George," thundered the enraged
Englishman, "down with the traitorous devils!'
No time to save sailors ashore ! The blazing rafts had
already bumped keels with the moored fleet. No chance
to raise anchors! The Spanish frigates were already
abreast in a life-and-death grapple, soldiers boarding
the English decks, sabring the crews, hurling hand
grenades down the hatches to blow up the powder
magazines. Hawkins roared "to cut the cables." It
was a hand-to-hand slaughter on decks slippery with
blood. No light but the musketry fire and glare of
burning masts! The little English company were
fighting like a wild beast trapped, when with a thunder-
1 The exact position of the English towards the port is hard to give j as the site of
Vera Cruz has been changed three tfmes. HB
clap that tore bottom out of hull — Hawkins's ship
flew into mid-air, a flaring, fiery wreck — then sank
in the heaving trough of the sea, carrying down five
hundred Spaniards to a watery grave. Cutlass in
hand, head over heels went Hawkins into the sea.
The hell of smoke, of flaming mast poles, of blazing
musketry, of churning waters — hid him. Then a
rope's end flung out by some friend gave handhold.
He was up the sides of a ship, that had cut hawsers
and off before the fire-rafts came! Sails were hoisted
to the seaward breeze. In the carnage of fire and
blood, the Spaniards did not see the two smallest
English vessels scudding before the wind as if fiend-
chased. Every light on the decks was put out. Then
the dark of the tropic night hid them. Without food,
without arms, with scarcely a remnant of their crews
— the two ships drifted to sea.
Not a man of the sailors ashore escaped. All were
butchered, or taken prisoners for a fate worse than
butchery — to be torn apart in the market-place of
Vera Cruz, baited in the streets to the yells of onlookers, hung by the arms to out-of-doors scaffolding
to die by inches, or be torn by vultures. The two
ships at sea were in terrible plight. North, west, south
was the Spanish foe. Food there was none. The
crews ate the dogs, monkeys, parrots on board. Then
they set traps for the rats of the hold. The starving
seamen begged to be marooned. They would risk
Spanish cruelty to escape starvation.    Hawkins landed FRANCIS DRAKE IN CALIFORNIA    139
three-quarters of the remnant crews either in Yucatan or Florida. Then he crept lamely back to England, where he moored in January, 1569.
Of the six splendid ships that had spread their
sails from Plymouth, only the Minion and Judith
came back; and those two had been under command
of a thick-set, stocky, red-haired English boy about
twenty-four years of age — Francis Drake of Devon,
one of twelve sons of a poor clergyman, who eked out
a living by reading prayers for the Queen's Navy
Sundays, playing sailor week days. Francis, the eldest son, was born in the hull of an old vessel where the
family had taken refuge in time of religious persecution. In spite of his humble origin, Sir Francis Russell had stood his godfather at baptism. The Earl
of Bedford had been his patron. John Hawkins, a
relative, supplied money for his education. Apprenticed before the mast from his twelfth year, Drake
became purser to Biscay at eighteen; and so faithfully
had he worked his way, when the master of the sloop
died, it was bequeathed to young Drake. Emulous
of becoming a great sailor like Hawkins, Drake sold
the sloop and invested everything he owned in Hawkins's venture to the West Indies. He was ruined to
his last penny by Spanish treachery. It was almost
a religion for England to hate Spain at that time.
Drake hated tenfold more now. Spain had taught
the world to keep off her treasure box. Would Drake
accept the lesson, or challenge it ? VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
Men who master destiny rise, like the Phenix, from
the ashes of their own ruin. In the language of the
street, when they fall — these men of destiny — they
make a point of falling upstairs. Amid the ruin of
massacre in Mexico, Drake brought away one fact —
memory of Spanish gold to the value of one million
eight hundred thousand pounds. Where did it come
from ? Was the secret of that gold the true reason for
Spain's resentment against all intruders ? Drake had
coasted Florida and the West Indies. He knew they
yielded no such harvest. Then it must come from one
of three other regions — South America, Central
America, Mexico.
For two years Drake prospected for the sources of
that golden wealth. In the Dragon and Swan, he
cruised the Spanish Main during 1570. In 1571 he was
out again in the Swan. By 1572 he knew the secret
of that gold — gold in ship-loads, in caravans of one
thousand mules, in masses that filled from cellar to
attic of the King's Treasure House, where tribute of
one-fifth was collected for royalty. It came from the
subjugated Kingdom of Peru, by boat up the Pacific
to the Port of Panama, by pack-train across the isthmus
— mountainous, rugged, forests of mangroves tangled
with vines, bogs that were bottomless — to Nombre de
Dios, the Spanish fort on the Atlantic side, which had
become the storehouse of all New Spain. Drake took
counsel of no one.
Next year he was back on the Spanish Main, in the FRANCIS DRAKE IN CALIFORNIA    141
Pacha, forty-seven men; his brother John commanding
the Swan with twenty-six of a crew, only one man older
than fifty, the rest mere boys with hate in their hearts
for Spanish blood, love in their hearts for Spanish gold.
Touching at a hidden cove for provisions left the year
before, Drake found this warning from a former comrade, stuck to the bark of a tree by a hunting knife: —
'Captain Drake — if you do fortune into this port,
haste away; for the Spaniards have betrayed this place,
and taken all away that you left here — your loving
friend — John Garret."
Heeding the warning, Drake hastened away to the
Isle of Pinos, off the isthmus, left the ships at a concealed cove here, armed fifty-three of his boldest fellows
with muskets, crossbows, pikes, and spontoons. Then
he called for drummers and trumpeters, and rowed in a
small boat for Nombre de Dios, the treasure house of
New Spain. The small boat kept on the offing till
dark, then sent ashore for some Indians — half-breeds
whom Spanish cruelty had driven to revolt. This increased Drake's force to one hundred and fifty men.
Silently, just as the moon emerged from clouds lighting up harbor and town, the long-boat glided into
Nombre de Dios. A high platform, mounted with
brass cannon, fronted the water. Behind were thirty
houses, thatch-roofed, whitewashed, palisaded, surrounded by courtyards with an almost European pomp.
The King's Treasure House stood at one end ofthe mar-
ket.    Near it was a chapel with high wooden steeple. 142
A Spanish ship lay furled in port. From this
glided out a punt poled like mad by a Spaniard racing
to reach the platform first. Drake got athwart the
fellow's path, knocked him over, gagged his yells, and
was up the platform before the sleepy gunner on guard
was well awake. The sentry only paused to make sure
that the men scrambling up the fort were not ghosts.
Then he tore at the top of his speed for the alarm-bell
of the chapel and, clapping down the hatch door of the
steeple stairs in the faces of the pursuing Englishmen,
rang the bells like a demon possessed.
Leaving twelve men to hold the platform as a retreat,
Drake sent sixteen to attack the King's Treasure just
at the moment he himself, with his hundred men,
should succeed in drawing the entire Spanish garrison
to a sham battle on the market-place. The cannon on
the platform were spiked and overturned. Drums
beating, trumpets blowing, torches aflare, the English
freebooter marched straight to the market. Up at the
Treasure House, John Drake and Oxenham had burst
open, the doors of the store-room just as the saddled
mules came galloping to carry the booty beyond danger.
A lighted candle on the cellar stair showed silver piled
bar on bar to the value of one million pounds. Down
on the market, the English trumpeter lay dead. Drake
had fallen from a sword slash and, snatched up by comrades, the wound stanched by a scarf, was carried back
to the boat, where the raiders made good their escape,
richer by a million pounds with the loss of only one man.
Drake cruised the Spanish Main for six more months.
From the Indians he learned that the mule trains with
the yearly output of Peruvian gold would leave the
Pacific in midwinter to cross overland to Nombre de
Dios. No use trying to raid the fort again! Spain
would not be caught napping a second time. But
Pedro, a Panama Indian, had volunteered to guide a
small band of lightly equipped English inland behind
Nombre de Dios, to the halfway house where the gold
caravans stopped. The audacity of the project is unparalleled. Eighteen boys led by a man not yet in his
thirtieth year accompanied by Indians were to invade a
tangled thicket of hostile country, cut off from retreat,
the forts of the enemy—the crudest enemy in Christendom—on each side, no provisions but what each carried in his haversack!
Led by the Indian Pedro, the freebooters struck
across country, picked up the trail behind Nombre de
Dios, marched by night, hid by day, Indian scouts
sending back word when a Spaniard was seen, the
English scudding to ambush in the tangled woods.
Twelve days and nights they marched. At ten in
the morning of February 11, they were on the Great
Divide. Pedro led Drake to the top of the hill. Up
the trunk of an enormous tree, the Indians had cut
steps to a kind of bower, or lookout. Up clambered
Francis Drake.    Then he looked westward.
Mountains, hills, forested valleys, rolled from his
feet  westward.   Beyond — what f   The   shining  ex-
panse ofthe fabled South Sea! The Pacific silver in
the morning light! A New World of Waters, where
the sun's track seemed to pave a new path, a path of
gold, to the mystic Orient! Never before had English
eyes seen these waters! Never yet English prow cut
these waves! Where did they lead — the endlessly
rolling billows ? For Drake, they seemed to lead to a
New World of Dreams — dreams of gold, of glory, of
immortal fame. He came down from the lookout so
overcome with a great inspiration that he could not
speak. Then, as with Balboa, the fire of a splendid
enthusiasm lighted up the mean purposes of the adventurer to a higher manhood. Before his followers,
he fell on his knees and prayed Almighty God to grant
him the supreme honor of sailing an English ship on
that sea!
That night the Indian came back with word that the
mule train laden with gold was close on the trail.
Drake scattered his men on each side of the road flat
on their faces in high grass. Wealth was almost in their
grasp. Hope beat riotous in the young bloods. No
sound but the whir of wings as great tropic insects
flitted through the dark with flashes of fire; or the clank
of a soldier unstrapping haversack to steel courage by
a drink of grog! An hour passed ! Two hours before
the eager ears pressed to earth detected a padded hoof-
beat over grass. Then a bell tinkled, as the leader of
the pack came in sight. Drunk with the glory of the
day, or too much grog, some fool sailor leaped in mid- FRANCIS DRAKE  IN  CALIFORNIA    145
air with an exultant yell!    In a second the mule train
had stampeded.
By the time Drake came to the halfway house,1
the^gold was hidden in the woods, and the Spaniards
fleeing for their lives; though an old chronicle declares
"the general' went from house to house assuring the
Spanish ladies they were safe. The Spaniards of
Tierra Firme were simply paralyzed with fright at the
apparition of pirates in the centre of the kingdom.
Then scouts brought word of double danger: on the
Atlantic side, Spanish frigates were searching for
Drake's ships; from the Pacific, two hundred horsemen were advancing in hot pursuit. Between the two
— was he trapped ? — Not he ! Overland went a
scout to the ships — Drake's own gold toothpick as
token — bidding them keep offshore; he would find
means to come out to them. Then he retreated over
the trail at lightning pace, sleeping only in ambush,
eating in snatches, coming out on the coast far distant
from Nombre de Dios and Spanish frigates. Binding
driftwood into a raft, Drake hoisted sail of flour sacks.
Saying good-by to the Indian, the freebooter noticed
Pedro's eyes wander to the gold-embossed Turkish
cimeter in his own hand, and at once presented scabbard and blade to the astonished savage. In gratitude
the Indian tossed three wedges of gold to the raft now
sheering out with the tide to sea.    These Drake gave
1 This halfway station was known as Venta Cruz,
lives in Drake's attack.
Seven of the traders lost their 146
to his men. Six hours the raft was drifting to the sails
on the offing, and such seas were slopping across the
water-logged driftwood, the men were to their waists
in water when the sail-boats came to the rescue.
On Sunday morning, August 9, 1573, the ships were
once more in Plymouth. Whispers ran through the
assembled congregations of the churches that Drake,
the bold sea-rover, was entering port loaded with
foreign treasure; and out rushed every man, woman,
and child, leaving the scandalized preachers thundering to empty pews.
Drake was now one of the richest men in England.
At his own cost he equipped three frigates for service
under Essex in Ireland, and through the young Earl
was introduced to the circle of Elizabeth's advisers.
To the Queen he told his plans for sailing an English
ship on the South Sea. To her, no doubt, he related
the tales of Spanish gold freighting that sea, closed to
the rest of the world. Good reason for England —
Spain's enemy — to prove that the ocean, like air, was
free to all nations! The Pope's Bull dividing off the
southern hemisphere between Portugal and Spain
mattered little to a nation belligerently Protestant, and
less to a seaman whose dauntless daring had raised
him from a wharf-rat to Queen's adviser. Elizabeth
could not yet wound Spain openly; but she received
Drake in audience, and presented him a magnificent
sword with the words — "Who striketh thee, Drake,
striketh us!" ■-.
Five ships, this time, he led out from Plymouth in
November of 1577. Gales drove him back. It was
December before his fleet was at sea — the Pelican of
one hundred tons and twenty or thirty cannon under
Drake, Thomas Doughty, a courtier second to Drake,
the Elizabeth of eighty tons, the Swan, Christopher,
and Mary gold no. larger than fishing schooners; manned
in all by one hundred and sixty sailors, mostly boys.
Outward bound for trade in Egypt, the world was
told, but as merchantmen, the ships were regally
equipped — Drake in velvets and gold braid, served
by ten young gentlemen of noble birth, who never sat
or covered in his presence without permission; service
of gold plate at the mess table, where Drake dined
alone like a king to the music of viols and harps; military drill at every port, and provisions enough aboard
to go round the world, not just to Egypt.
January saw the fleet far enough from Egypt, at the
islands off the west coast of Africa, where three vessels
were scuttled, the crews all put ashore but one Portuguese pilot carried along to Brazil as guide. Thomas
Doughty now fell in disfavor by openly acting as equal
in command with Drake. Not in Egypt, but at Port
St. Julian — a southern harbor of South America —
anchored Drake's fleet. The scaffold where Magellan
had executed mutineers half a century before still stood
in the sands.
The Christopher had already been sent adrift as useless.    The Swan was now broken up as unseaworthy, VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
leaving only the Pelican, the Elizabeth, and the Mary-
gold. One thing more remained to be done — the
greatest blot across the glory of Drake. Doughty was
defiant, a party growing in his favor. When sent as
prisoner to the Mary gold, he had angered every man of
the crew by high-handed authority. Drake dared not
go on to unknown, hostile seas with a mutiny, or the
chance of a mutiny brewing. Whether justly or unjustly, Doughty was tried at Port St. Julian under the
shadow of Magellan's old scaffold, for disrespect to
his commander and mutiny; and was pronounced
guilty by a jury of twelve. A council of forty voted
his death. The witnesses had contradicted themselves
as if in terror of Drake's displeasure; and some plainly
pleaded that the jealous crew of the Marygold were
doing an innocent gentleman to death. The one thing
Drake would not do, was carry the trouble maker
along on the voyage. Like dominant spirits world
over, he did not permit a life more or less to obstruct
his purpose. He granted Doughty a choice of fates —
to be marooned in Patagonia, or suffer death on the
spot. Protesting his innocence, Doughty spurned
the least favor from his rival.    He refused the choice.
Solemnly the two, accuser and accused, took Holy
Communion together. Solemnly each called on God
as witness to the truth. A day each spent in prayer,
these pirate fellows, who mixed their religion with their
robbery, perhaps using piety as sugar-coating for
their   ill-deeds.     Then   they   dined   together   in   the FRANCIS DRAKE IN CALIFORNIA    149
commander's tent, — Fletcher, the horrified chaplain,
looking on, — drank hilariously to each other's healths,
to each other's voyage whatever the end might be,
looked each in the eye of the other without quailing,
talking nonchalantly, never flinching courage nor balking at the grim shadow of their own stubborn temper.
Doughty then rose to his feet, drank his last bumper,
thanked Drake graciously for former kindness, walked
calmly out to the old scaffold, laid his head on the
block, and suffered death. Horror fell on the crew.
Even Drake was shaken from his wonted calm; for he
sat apart, his velvet cloak thrown back, slapping his
crossed knees, and railing at the defenders of the dead
man.1 To rouse the men, he had solemn service held
for the crew, and for the first time revealed to them his
project for the voyage on the Pacific. After painting
the glories of a campaign against Spanish ports of the
South Seas, he wound up an inspiriting address with
the rousing assurance that after this voyage, "the
worst boy aboard would never nede to goe agayne to sea,
but be able to lyve in England like a right good gentleman." Fletcher, the chaplain, who secretly advocated
the dead man's cause, was tied to a mast pole in bilboes,
with the inscription hung to his neck — " Falsest knave
that liveth"
On August 17 they departed from "the port   ac-
1 The Hakluyt Society Proceedings, 1854, give all details of this terrible crime.
Fletcher, the chaplain, thought Doughty innocent; but Drake considered the chaplain
" the falsest knave that liveth." VIKINGS  OF THE  PACIFIC
cursed," for the Straits of Magellan, that were to lead
to Spanish wealth on the Pacific.1
The superstitious crews' fears of disaster for the
death of Doughty seemed to become very real in the
terrific tempests that assailed the three ships as they
entered the straits. Gales lashed the cross tides to a
height of thirty feet, threatening to swamp the little
craft. Mountains emerged shadowy through the mists
on the south. Roiling waters met the prows from end
to end of the straits. Topsails were dipped, psalms
of thanks chanted, and prayers held as the ships came
out on the west side into the Pacific on the 6th of September. In honor of the first English vessel to enter
this ocean, Drake renamed his ship "Golden Hind."
1 Don Francisco de Zarate, commander of a Spanish ship scuttled by Drake off
Guatalco, gives this description to the Spanish government of the Englishman's equipage : "The general ofthe Englishmen is the same who five years ago took Nombre
de Dios, about thirty-five years old, short, with a ruddy beard, one ofthe greatest mariners there are on the sea, alike for his skill and power of command. His ship is a
galleon of four hundred tons, a very fast sailer, and there are aboard her, one hundred
men, all skilled hands and of warlike age, and all so well trained that they might be old
soldiers —they keep their harquebusses clean. He treats them with affection, they him
with respect. He carries with him nine or ten gentlemen cadets of high families in
England. These are his council. He calls them together, tho* he takes counsel of no
one. He has no favorite. These are admitted to his table, as well as a Portuguese
pilot whom he brought from England. (?) He is served with much plate with gilt
borders engraved with his arms and has all possible kinds of delicacies and scents, which
. . . the Queen gave him. (?) None of the gentlemen sit or cover ia his presence
without first being ordered once or even several times. The galleon carries thirty pieces
of heavy ordnance, fireworks and ammunition. They dine and sup to the music of
violins. He carries carpenters, caulkers, careeners. The ship is sheathed. The men
are paid and not regular pirates. No one takes plunder and the slightest fault is punished. *' The don goes on to say that what troubled him most was that Drake captured
Spanish charts ofthe Pacific, which would guide other intruders on the Pacific FRANCIS DRAKE IN  CALIFORNIA    151
The gales continued so furiously, Drake jocosely
called the sea, Mare Furiosum, instead of Pacific. The
first week of October storms compelled the vessels to
anchor. In the raging darkness that night, the explosive rip of a snapping hawser was heard behind the
The Golden Hind.
stern of the Golden Hind. Fearful cries rose from the
waves for help. The dark form of a phantom ship
lurched past in the running seas — the Marygold
adrift, loose from her anchor, driving to the open storm;
fearful judgment — as the listeners thought — for the
crew's false testimony against Doughty; for, as one
old record states, "they could by no means help spoom- VIKINGS  OF THE  PACIFIC
ing along before the sea;" and the Marygold was never
more seen.
Meanwhile like disaster had befallen the Golden
Hind, the cable snapping weak as thread against the
drive of tide and wind. Only the Elizabeth kept her
anchor grip, and her crew became so panic-stricken,
they only waited till the storm abated, then turned
back through the straits, swift heels to the stormy, ill-
fated sea, and steered straight for England, where they
moored in June. Towed by the Golden Hind, now
driving southward before the tempest, was a jolly-boat
with eight men. The mountain seas finally wrenched
the tow-rope from the big ship, and the men were adrift
in the open boat. Their fortunes are a story in itself.
Only one of the eight survived to reach England after
nine years' wandering in Brazil.1
Onward, sails furled, bare poles straining to the
storm, drifted Drake in the Golden Hind. Luck,
that so often favors daring, or the courage, that is its
own talisman, kept him from the rocks. With
battened hatches he drove before what he could not
1 The eight castaways in the shallop succeeded in passing back through the straits.
At Plata they were attacked by the Indians j four, wounded, succeeded in escaping.
The others were captured. Reaching islands off the coast of Patagonia, two of the
wounded died. The remaining two suffered shipwreck on a barren island, where the
only food was fruit j the only drink, the juice of the fruits. Making a raft of floating
planks ten feet long, the two committed themselves to God and steered for the mainland. Here Pilcher died two hours after they had landed from drinking too much
water. The survivor, Peter Carder, lived among the savages of Brazil for eight years
before he escaped and got passage to England, where he related his adventures to Queen
Elizabeth. The Queen gave him twenty-two angels and sent him to Admiral Howard
for employment.    Purcbas' Pilgrims, Vol. IV. FRANCIS DRAKE IN CALIFORNIA    153
stem, southward and south, clear down where Atlantic
and Pacific met at Cape Horn, now for the first time
seen by navigator. Here at last, on October 30, came
a lull. Drake landed, and took possession of this
earth's end for the Queen. Then he headed his prow
northward for the forbidden waters of the Pacific
bordering New Spain. Not a Spaniard was seen up to
the Bay of San Filipe off Chile, where by the end of
November Drake came on an Indian fisherman.
Thinking the ship Spanish, the fellow offered to pilot
her back eighteen miles to the harbor of Valparaiso.
Spanish vessels lay rocking to the tide as Drake
glided into the port. So utterly impossible was it
deemed for any foreign ship to enter the Pacific, that
the Spanish commander of the fleet at anchor dipped
colors in salute to the pirate heretic, thinking him a
messenger from Spain, and beat him a rattling welcome
on the drum as the Golden Hind knocked keels with the
Spanish bark. Drake, doubtless, smiled as he returned
the salute by a wave of his plumed hat. The Spaniards
actually had wine jars out to drown the newcomers
ashore, when a quick clamping of iron hooks locked
the Spanish vessel in death grapple to the Golden Hind.
An English sailor leaped over decks to the Spanish
galleon with a yell of "Downe, Spanish doggesV The
crew of sixty English pirates had swarmed across the
vessel like hornets before the poor hidalgo knew what
had happened. Head over heels, down the hatchway,
reeled   the   astonished   dons.    Drake   clapped   down VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
hatches, and had the Spaniards trapped while his men
went ashore to sack the town. One Spaniard had succeeded in swimming across to warn the port.1 When
Drake landed, the entire population had fled to the
hills. Rich plunder in wedges of pure gold, and gems,
was carried off from the fort. Not a drop of blood was
shed. Crews of the scuttled vessels were set ashore,
the dismantled ships sent drifting to open sea. The
whole fiasco was conducted as harmlessly as a melodrama, with a moral thrown in; for were not these
zealous Protestants despoiling these zealous Catholics,
whose zeal, in turn, had led them to despoil the Indian ?
There was a moral; but it wore a coat of many colors.
The Indian was rewarded, and a Greek pilot forced
on board to steer to Lima, the great treasury of Peruvian gold. Giving up all hope of the other English
vessels joining him, Drake had paused at Coquimbo to
put together a small sloop, when down swooped five
hundred Spanish soldiers. In the wild scramble for
the Golden Hind, one sailor was left behind. He was
torn to pieces by the Spaniards before the eyes of
Drake's crew. Northling again sailed Drake, piloted
inshore by the Greek to Tarapaca, where Spanish
treasure was sent out over the hills to await the call
of ship; and sure enough, sound asleep in the sunlight,  fatigued from his trip  lay  a Spanish carrier,
1 The plunder of this port was 60,000 pesos of gold, jewels, and goods (pesos about
8 shillings, $a) j 1770 jars of wine, together with the silver ofthe chapel altar, which
was given to Fletcher.   FRANCIS DRAKE IN CALIFORNIA    155
thirteen bars of silver piled beside him on the sand.
When that carrier wakened, the ship had called ! Farther on the English moored and went inland to see if
more treasure might be coming over the hills. Along
the sheep trails came a lad whistling as he drove eight
Peruvian sheep laden with black leather sacks full
of gold.
Drake's men were intoxicated with their success.
It was impossible to attack Panama with only the
Golden Hind; but what if the Golden Hind could catch
the Glory of the South Seas — the splendid Spanish
galleon that yearly carried Peruvian gold up to Panama ?
Drake gained first news of the treasure ship being
afloat while he was rifling three barks at Aricara below
Lima; but he knew coureurs were already speeding
overland to warn the capital against the Golden Hind.
Drake pressed sail to outstrip the land messenger, and
glided into Callao, the port of Lima, before the
thirty ships lying dismantled had the slightest inkling
of his presence.
Viceroy Don Francisco de Toledo of Lima thought
the overland coureur mad. A pirate heretic in the
South Seas! Preposterous! Some Spanish rascal
had turned pirate; so the governor gathered up two
thousand soldiers to march with all speed for Callao,
with hot wrath and swift punishment for the culprit.
Drake had already sacked Callao, but he had missed
the treasure ship. She had just left for Panama.
The Golden Hind was lying outside the port becalmed i56
when Don Toledo came pouring his two thousand
soldiers down to the wharves. The Spaniards dashed
to embark on the rifled ships with a wild halloo! He
was becalmed, the blackguard pirate, — whoever he
was, — they would tow out! Divine Providence had
surely given him into their hands; but just as they
began rowing might and main, a fresh wind ruffled
the water. The Golden Hind spread her wings to the
wind and was off like a bird! Drake knew no ship
afloat could outsail his swift little craft; and the Spaniards had embarked in such haste, they had come
without provisions. Famine turned the pursuers back
near the equator, the disgusted viceroy hastening to
equip frigates that would catch the English pirate
when famine must compel him to head  southward.
Drake slackened sail to capture another gold cargo.
The crew of this caravel were so grateful to be put
ashore instead of having their throats cut, that they
revealed to Drake the stimulating fact that the Glory
of the South Seas, the treasure ship, was only two days
ahead laden with golden wealth untold.
It was now a wild race for gold — for gold enough
to enrich every man of the crew; for treasure that
might buy up half a dozen European kingdoms and
leave the buyer rich; for gold in huge slabs the shape
of the legendary wedges long ago given the rulers of
the Incas by the descendants of the gods; gold to be
had for the taking by the striking of one sure blow at
England's enemy!   Drake called on the crew to acquit
themselves like men. The sailors answered with a
shout. Every inch of sail was spread. Old muskets
and cutlasses were scoured till they shone like the sun.
Men scrambled up the mast poles to gaze seaward for
sight of sail to the fore. Every nerve was braced.
They were now across the equator. A few hundred
miles more, and the Glory of the South Seas would lie
safe inside the strong harbor of Panama. Drake ordered the thirty cannon ready for action, and in a loud
voice offered the present of his own golden chain to
the man who should first descry the sails of the Spanish treasure. For once his luck failed him. The wind
suddenly fell. Before Drake needed to issue the order,
his "brave boys" were over decks and out in the small
boats rowing for dear life, towing the Golden Hind.
Day or night from February twenty-fourth, they did
not slack, scarcely pausing to eat or sleep. Not to
lose the tremendous prize by seeing the Glory of the
South Seas sail into Panama Bay at the last lap of the
desperate race, had these bold pirates ploughed a
furrow round the world, daring death or devil!
At three in the afternoon of March the 1st, John
Drake, the commander's brother, shouted out from
the mast top where he clung, "Sail ho!' and the
blood of every Englishman aboard jumped to the
words ! At six in the evening, just off Cape Francisco,
they were so close to the Glory of the South Seas, they
could see that she was compelled to sail slowly, owing
to the weight of her cargo.    So unaware of danger was VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
the captain that he thought Drake some messenger
sent by the viceroy, and instead of getting arms in
readiness and pressing sail, he lowered canvas, came
to anchor, and waited!1 Drake's announcement was
a roaring cannonade that blew the mast poles off the
Spanish ship, crippling her like a bird with wings
broken. For the rest, the scene was what has been
enacted wherever pirates have played their game —
a furious fusillade from the cannon mouths belching
from decks and port-holes, the unscathed ship riding
down on the staggering victim like a beast on its prey,
the clapping of the grappling hooks that bound the
captive to the sides of her victor, the rush over decks,
the flash of naked sword, the decks swimming in blood,
and the quick surrender. The booty from this treasure ship was roughly estimated at twenty-six tons of
pure silver, thirteen chests of gold plate, eighty pounds
of pure gold, and precious jewels — emeralds and
pearls — to the value in modern money of seven hundred and twenty thousand dollars.
Drake realized now that he dared not return to
England by the Straits of Magellan. All the Spanish
frigates of the Pacific were on the watch. The Golden
Hind was so heavily freighted with treasure, it was
actually necessary to lighten ballast by throwing spices
and silks overboard. One can guess that the orchestra
played a stirring refrain off Cape Francisco that night.
The Northeast Passage from Asia to Europe was
1 The captain was a Biscayan, one Juan de Anton. FRANCIS DRAKE IN  CALIFORNIA    159
still a myth of the'geographers. Drake's friend, Fro-
bisher, had thought he found it on the Atlantic side.
After taking counsel with his ten chosen advisers,
Drake decided to give the Spanish frigates the slip by
returning through the mythical Northeast Passage.
Stop was made at Guatalco, off the west coast of
New Spain, for repairs. Here, the poor Portuguese
pilot brought all the way from the islands off the
west coast of Africa, was put ashore.1 He was
tortured by the Spaniards for piloting Drake to the
South Seas. In the course of rifling port and ship
at Guatalco, charts to the Philippines and Indian
Ocean were found; so that even if the voyage to England by the Northeast Passage proved impossible,
the Golden Hind could follow these charts home
round the world by the Indian Ocean and Good Hope
up Africa.
It was needless for Drake to sack more Spanish
floats. He had all the plunder he could carry. From
the charts he learned that the Spaniards always struck
north for favorable winds. Heading north, month
after month, the Golden Hind sailed for the shore that
should have led northeast, and that puzzled the mariners by sheering west and yet west; fourteen hundred
leagues she sailed along a leafy wilderness of tangled
trees and ropy mosses, beauty and decay, the froth
of the beach combers aripple on the very roots of the
1 Nuno Silva is the name of this pilot. It is from his story that many of the
details of this part of the voyage are obtained. i6o
trees; dolphins coursing round the hull like greyhounds; flying fish with mica for wings flitting over
the decks; forests of seaweed warning out to deeper
water. Then, a sudden cold fell, cold and fogs that
chilled the mariners of tropic seas to the bone. The
veering coast pushed them out farther westward, far
north of what the Spanish charts showed. Instead
of flying fish now, were whales, whales in schools of
thousands that gambolled round the Golden Hind.
As the north winds — "frozen nimphes," the record
calls them — blew down the cold Arctic fogs, Drake's
men thought they were certainly nearing the Arctic
regions. Where were they ? Plainly lost, lost somewhere along what are now known as Mendocino, and
Blanco, and Flattery. In a word, perhaps up as far
as Oregon, and Washington. One record says they
went to latitude 43. Another record, purporting to
be more correct, says 48. The Spaniards had been
north as far as California, but beyond this, however
far he may have gone, Drake was a discoverer in the
true sense of the word. Mountains covered with snow
they saw, and white cliffs, and low shelving shores,
which is more descriptive of Oregon and Washington
than California; but only the sudden transition from
tropic heat to chilling northern fogs can explain the
crew's exaggerated idea of cold along the Pacific coast.
Land was sighted at 42, north of Mendocino, and an
effort made to anchor farther north; but contrary *
winds   and   a   rock   bottom   gave   insecure   mooring. FRANCIS DRAKE IN CALIFORNIA    161
This was not surprising, as it was on this coast that
Cook and Vancouver failed to find good harborage.
The coast still seemed to trend westward, dispelling
hopes of a Northeast Passage \ and if the world could
have accepted Drake's conclusions on the matter, a
deal of expenditure in human life and effort might
have been saved.
Two centuries before the deaths of Bering and Cook,
trying to find that Passage, Drake's chronicler wrote:
'The cause of this extreme cold we conceive to be the
large spreading of the Asian and American continent,
if they be not fully joined, yet seem they to come very
neere, from whose high and snow-covered mountains,
the north and north-west winds send abroad their frozen
nimphes to the infecting of the whole air — hence comes
it that in the middest of their summer^ the snow hardly
departeth from these hills at all; hence come those thicke
mists and most stinking fogges, . . . for these reasons
we coniecture that either there is no passage at all
through these North erne coasts, which is most likely,
or if there be, that it is unnavigable. . . . Adde there
unto, that though we searched the coast diligently even
unto the 48 degree, yet found we not the land to trend in
any place towards the East, but rather running continually North-west, as if it went directly to meet with Asia.
... 0/ which we infallibly concluded rather than con-
iectured, that there was none."
Giving up all idea of a Northeast Passage, Drake
turned south, and on June 17 anchored in a bay now
M l62
thoroughly identified as Drake's Bay, north of San
The next morning, while the English were yet on
the Golden Hind, came an Indian in a canoe, shouting
out oration of welcome, blowing feather down on the
air as a sign of dovelike peace, and finally after three
times essaying courage, coming near enough the English to toss a rush basket full of tobacco into the ship.
In vain Drake threw out presents to allure the Indian
on board. The terrified fellow scampered ashore,
refusing everything but a gorgeous hat, that floated
out on the water. For years the legend of Drake's
ship was handed down as a tradition among the Indians of this bay.1
By the 2ist tents were erected, and a rude fortification of stone thrown round in protection where the
precious cargo of gold could be stored while the ship
was to be careened and scraped. At the foot of the
hill, the poor Indians gathered and gazed spellbound
at the sight of this great winged bird of the ocean,
sending thirty cannon trundling ashore, and herself
beginning to rise up from the tide on piles and scaffolding. As Drake sent the assembled tribe presents,
the Indians laid down their bows and spears. So
marvellously did the wonders of the white men grow
— sticks that emitted puffs of fire (muskets), a ship
so large it could have carried their tribe, clothing in
velvet and gold braid gorgeous as the plumage of a
1 See Professor George Davidson's pamphlet on Drake.
bird, cutlasses of steel — that by the 23d great assemblages of Indians were on their knees at the foot
of the hill, offering sacrifices to the wonderful beings
in the fort. Whatever the English pirate's faults, he
deserves credit for treating the Indians with an honor
that puts later navigators to shame. When he saw
them gashing bodies in sacrifice, his superstition took
fire with fear of Divine displeasure for the sacrilege;
and the man who did not scruple to treat black slaves
picked up among the Spaniards baser than he would
have treated dogs, now fell "to prayers," as the old
chronicle says, reading the Bible aloud, and setting
his crew to singing psalms, and pointing to the sky,
at which the Indians grunted approvals of "ho—ho!"
Three days later came coureurs from the "King of
the Indians" — the chief—bidding the strangers
prepare for the great sachem's visit. The coureurs
advanced gyrating and singing; so that the English
saw in this strange people nomads like the races of
Scripture, whose ceremony was one of song and dance.
The warriors preceding the chief carried what the
English thought " a sceptre," but what we moderns
would call a peace-pipe. The chains in their hands
were probably strings of bears' claws, or something
like wampum; the "crowns of feathers," plumed
head-dresses; the gifts in the rush baskets borne by
the women to the rear, maize and tobacco.
Drake drew his soldiers up in line, and with trumpets sounding and armor at gleam marched out to wel- 164
come the Indian chief. Then the whole company of
savages broke out in singing and dancing. Drake
was signalled to sit down in the centre. Barely had
he obeyed when to the shouting and dancing ofthe
multitude, "a chain'1 was thrown over his neck, "a
crown' placed on his head, and "the sceptre'' put in
his hand. According to Indian custom, Drake was
welcomed by the ceremony of adoption in the tribe,
"the sceptre" being a peace-pipe; "the crown," an
Indian warrior's head-dress. Far otherwise the ceremony appeared to the romantic treasure hunters.
"In the name and to the use of Her Most Excellent
Majesty," records the chaplain, "he {Drake) tooke the
sceptre, crowne, and dignity of the sayd countrie into
his hand;' though, added the pious chaplain of pirates,
when he witnessed the Indians bringing the sick to be
healed by the master pirate's touch, — "we groane in
spirit to see the power of Sathan so farre prevails."
To avert disaster for the sacrilege of the sacred
touch of healing, Drake added to his prayers strong
lotions and good ginger plasters. Sometime in the
next five weeks, Drake travelled inland with the Indians, and because of patriotism to his native land
and the resemblance of the white sand cliffs to
that land, called the region "New Albion." "New
Albion" would be an offset to "New Spain." Drake
saw himself a second Cortes, and nailed to a tree a
brass plate on which was graven the Queen's name,
the year, the free surrender of the  country  to  the
JH !;'>■&$!
til   §■   11
• 1—•
i i
Queen, and Drake's own name; for, says the chaplain,
quite ignorant of Spanish voyages, "the Spaniards
never had any dealing, or so much as set a foot in this
country, the utmost of their discoveries reaching only
many degrees Southward of this place."
Drake's misunderstanding of the Indian ceremony
would be comical if it were not that later historians
have solemnly argued whether an act of possession by
a pirate should hold good in international law.
On the 23d of July the English pirate bade farewell to the Indians. As he looked back from the sea,
they were running along the hilltops burning more of
the fires which he thought were sacrifices.
Following the chart taken from the Spanish ship,
Drake steered for the Philippines, thence southward
through the East Indies to the Indian Ocean, and
past Good Hope, back to Plymouth, where he came
to anchor on September 26, 1580. Bells were set
ringing. Post went spurring to London with word
that Drake, the corsair, who had turned the Spanish
world upside down, had come home. For a week
the little world of England gave itself up to feasting.
Ballads rang with the fame of Drake. His name was
on every tongue. One of his first acts was to visit his
old parents. Then he took the Golden Hind round
the Channel to be dry-docked in Deptford.
For the once, the tactful Queen was in a quandary.
Complaints were pouring in from Spain.   The Span-
=-=■•——---=—*=-^-—**= VIKINGS  OF THE  PACIFIC
ish ambassador was furious, and presented bills of
sequestration against Drake, but as the amount
sequestered, pending investigation, was only fifty-six
thousand pounds, one may suspect that Elizabeth let
Drake protect in his own way what he had taken in
his own way. For six months, while the world resounded with his fame, the court withheld approval.
Jealous courtiers "deemed Drake the master thief
of the unknown world," till Elizabeth cut the Gor-
dian knot by one of her defiant strokes. On April 4
she went in state to dine on the Golden Hind, to the
music of those stringed instruments that had harped
away Drake's fear of death or devil as he ploughed
an English keel round the world. After the dinner,
she bade him fall to his knees and with a light touch
of the sword gave him the title that was seal of the
court's approval. The Golden Hind was kept as
a public relic till it fell to pieces on the Thames,
and the wood was made into a memorial chair for
After all the perils Drake saw in the subsequent
war — Cadiz and the Armada — it seems strange that
he should return to the scene of his past exploits to die.
He was with Hawkins in the campaign of 1595 against
Spain in the New World. Things had not gone well.
He had not approved of Hawkins's plans of attack,
and the venture was being bungled. Sick of the equatorial fever, or of chagrin from failure, Drake died off
Porto Bello in the fifty-first year of his age.   His body FRANCIS DRAKE IN CALIFORNIA    167
was placed in a leaden coffin, and solemnly committed
to that sea where he had won his first glory.1
1 To give even a brief account of Drake's life would fill a small encyclopaedia. The
story of his first ruin off Vera Cruz, of his campaign of vengeance, of his piratical voyage to the Pacific, of his doings with the California Indians, of his fight in the Armada
— any one of these would fill an ordinary volume. Only that part of his life bearing on
American exploration has been given here, and that sacrificed in detail to keep from
cumbering the sweep of his adventure. No attempt has been made to pass judgment on
Drake's character. Like Baranof of a later day, he was a curious mixture of the
supremely selfish egoist, and of the religious enthusiast, alternately using his egoism as
a support for his religion, and his religion as a support for his egoism $ and each reader
will probably pass judgment on Drake according as the reader's ideal of manhood is the
altruist or the egoist, the Christ-type or "the great blond beast" of modern philosophic thought, the man supremely indifferent to all but self, glorying in triumph though
it be knee-deep in blood. Nor must we moderns pass too hypocritical judgment on the
hero of the Drake type. Drake had invested capital in his venture. He had the blessing of Church and State on what he was about to do j and what he did was to take what
he had strength and dexterity to take independent of the Ten Commandments, which is
not so far different from many commercial methods of to-day. We may appear as
unmoral in our. methods to future judges as Drake appears to us. Just as no attempt
has been made to analyze Drake's character — to balance his lack of morals with his
courage — so minor details, that would have led off from the main current of events,
have been omitted. For instance, Drake spilled very little Spanish blood and was Christian in his treatment of the Indians; but are these credit marks offset by his brutality
toward the black servants whom the pirates picked up among the Spaniards, of whom
one poor colored girl was marooned on a Pacific island to live or die or rot ? To be
sure, the Portuguese pilot taken from a scuttled caravel off the west coast of Africa on
the way out, and forced to pilot Drake to the Pacific, was well treated on the voyage.
At least, there is no mention to the contrary; but when Drake had finished with the
fellow, though the English might have known very well what terrible vengeance Spain
would take, the pilot was dumped off on the coast of New Spain, where, one old record
states, he was tortured, almost torn to pieces, for having guided Drake.
The great, indeed, primary and only authorities for Drake's adventures are, of course,
Hakluyt, Vol. Ill j for the fate of the lost crews, Purchas" Pilgrims, Vol. Ill and
Vol. I, Book II, and Vol. IV j and the Hakluyt Society Proceedings, 18 54, which are
really a reprint of The World Encompassed, by Francis Fletcher, the chaplain, in 162.8,
with the addition of documents contemporary with Fletcher's by unknown writers. The
title-page of The World Encompassed reads almost like an old ballad — lifor tbe stir'
ring up of beroick spirits to  benefit their countries, and eternize their names by like VIKINGS  OF THE  PACIFIC
attempts." Kohl and Davidson's Reports of tbe Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1884
and 1886, are also invaluable as establishing Drake's land-fall in California. Miller
Christy's Silver Map of the World gives a splendid facsimile of the medal issued to
commemorate Drake's return, of which the original is in the British Museum. Among
biographers, Corbett's Drake, and Barrow's Life of Sir Francis Drake, give full details
of his early and personal life, including, of course, his great services in the Armada.
Furious controversy has waged over Drake on two points : Did he murder Doughty ?
Did he go as far north on the west coast of America as 480 ? Hakluyt's account says
The World Encompassed, by Fletcher, the chaplain, says 480; though all
accounts agree it was at 38° he made harbor. I have not dealt with either dispute,
stating the bare facts, leaving each reader to draw his own conclusions, though it seems
to me a little foolish to contend that the claim of the 48 th degree was an afterthought
interpolated by the writer to stretch British possessions over a broader swath; for even
two hundred years after the issue of the Silver Map of the World, when Cook was on
this coast, so little was known of the west shores of America by Englishmen that men
were still looking out for a Gamaland, or imaginary continent in the middle of the
The words of the narrative bearing on America are : " We came to 42 degree of
North latitude, where on the night following (June 3) we found such alterations of
heat, into extreme and nipping cold, that our men in general did grievously complain
thereof, some of them feeling their health much impaired thereby ; neither was it that
this chanced in the night alone, but the day following carried with it not only the
markes, but the stings and force of the night . . . j besides that the pinching and
biting air was nothing altered, the very ropes of our ship were stiffe, and the rain which
fell was an unnatural congealed and frozen substance so that we seemed to be rather in the
frozen Zone than any where so neere unto the sun or these hotter climates ... it
came to that extremity in sayling but two degrees farther to the northward in our course,
that though seamen lack not good stomachs ... it was a question whether hands
should feed their mouths, or rather keepe from the pinching cold that did benumme
them . . . our meate as soone as it was remooved from the fire, would presently in a
manner be frozen up, and our ropes and tackling in a few days were growne to that
stiffnesse . . . yet would not our general be discouraged but as well by comfortable
speeches, of the divine providence, and of God's loving care over his children, out of the
Scriptures . . . the land in that part of America, beares farther out into the West than
we before imagined, we were neerer on it than we were aware; yet the neerer still we
came unto it, the more extremity of cold did sease upon us. The fifth day of June, we
were forced by contrary windes to runne in with the shoare, which we then first descried,
and to cast anchor in a bad bay, the best roade we could for the present rheete with,
where we were not without some danger by reason of the many extreme gusts and flawes
that beate upon us, which if they ceased, and were still at any time . . . there followed most vile, thicke and stinking fogges against which the sea prevailed nothing FRANCIS DRAKE IN CALIFORNIA    169
. . . to go further North, the extremity of the cold would not permit us and the winds
directly bent against us, having once gotten us under sayle againe, commanded us to the
Southward whether we would or no.
" From the height of 48 degrees in which now we were to 38, we found the land
by coasting alongst it, to be but low and plaine — every hill whereof we saw many but
none were high, though it were in June, and the sunne in his nearest approach . . .
being covered with snow. ... In 38 deg. 30 min. we fell with a convenient and fit
harborough and June 17 came to anchor therein, where we continued till the 23rd day
of July following . . . neither could we at any time in whole fourteen days together
find the aire so cleare as to be able to take the height of sunne or starre . . . after our
departure from the heate we always found our bodies, not as sponges, but strong and
hardened, more able to beare out cold, though we came out of the excesse of heate, then
chamber champions could hae beene, who lye in their feather beds till they go to sea.
" . . . Trees without leaves, and the ground without greennes in these months of
June and July ... as for the cause of this extremity, they seem . . . chiefest we
conceive to be the large spreading of the Asian and American continent, which (somewhat Northward of these parts) if they be not fully joyned, yet seeme they to come
very neere one to the other. From whose high and snow-covered mountains, the
North and Northwest winds (the constant visitants of those coasts) send abroad their
frozen nimphes, to the infecting of the whole aire with this insufferable sharpnesse.
. . *. Hence comes the generall squalidnesse and barrennesse of the countrie j hence
comes it that in the midst of their summer, the snow hardly departeth . . . from their
hils at all; hence come those thicke mists and most stinking fogges, which increase so
much the more, by how much higher the pole is raised . . . also from these reasons
we coniecture that either there is no passage at all through these Northern coasts which is
most likely or if there be, that yet it is unnavigable. . . . Add here unto, that though
we searched the coast diligently, even unto the 48 °, yet found we not the land to trend
so much as one point in any place towards the East, but rather running on continually
Northwest, as if it went directly to meet with Asia j and even in that height, when we
had a franke winde to have carried us through, had there been a passage, yet we had a
smoothe and calme sea, with ordinary flowing and reflowing, which could not have beene
had there been a frete j of which we rather infallibly concluded, then coniectured, that
there was none.
lt The next day, after coming to anchor in the aforesaid harbour, the people of the
countrey showed themselves, sending off a man with great expedition to us in a canow,
who being yet but a little from the shoare, and a great way from our ship, spake to us
continually as he came rowing in. And at last at a reasonable distance, staying himself,
he began more solemnly a long and tedious oration, after his manner j using in the
deliverie thereof, many gestures and signes, mouing his hands, turning his head and body
many wayes ; and after his oration ended, with great show and reverence and submission
returned backe to shoare again.    He shortly came againe the second time in like manner,
and so the third time, when he brought with him (as a present from the rest) a bunch
of feathers, much like the feathers of a blacke crowe, very neatly and artificially gathered
upon a string, and drawne together into a round bundle, being verie cleane and finely cut,
and bearing in length an equall proportion one with another a special cognizance (as we
afterwards observed) which they . . . weare on their heads. With this also he brought
a little basket made of rushes, and filled with an herbe which they called Tobah. Both
which being tyed to a short rodde, he cast into our boate. Our generall intended to
haue recompenced him immediately with many good things he would haue bestowed on
him j but entering into the boate to deliver the same, he could not be drawne to receive
them by any meanes, save one hat, which being cast into the water out of the ship, he
took up (refusing utterly to meddle with any other thing) though it were upon a board
put off unto him, and so presently made his returne. After which time our boate could
row no way, but wondering at us as at gods, they would follow the same with admiration. .  . .
<( The third day following, viz., the 21, our ship having received a leake at sea, was
brought to anchor neerer the shoare, that her goods being landed she might be repaired 5
but for that we were to prevent any danger that might chance against our safety, our
Generall first of all landed his men, with all necessary provision, to build tents and make
a fort for the defence of ourselves and our goods . . . which when the people of the
country perceived us doing, as men set on fire to war in defence of their countrie, in
great hast and companee, with such weapons as they had, they came down unto us, and
yet with no hostile meaning or intent to hurt us : standing when they drew neerer, as
men ravished in their mindes, with the sight of such things, as they never had seene or
heard of before that time : their errand being rather with submission and feare to worship
us as Gods, than to have warre with us as mortall men : which thing, as it did partly
show itselfe at that instant, so did it more and more manifest itself afterwards, during the
whole time of our abode amongst them. At this time, being veilled by signs to lay
from them their bowes and arrowes, they did as they were directed and so did all the
rest, as they came more and more by companies unto him, growing in a little while to a
great number, both of men and women.
" . . . Our Generall, with all his company, used all meanes possible gently to
intreate them, bestowing upon each of them liberally good and necessary things to cover
their nakedness; withall signifying unto them we were no Gods but men, and had need
of such things to cover our owne shame 5 teaching them to use them to the same ends,
for which cause also we did eate and drinke in their presence, . . . they bestowed upon
our Generall and diverse of our company, diverse things as feathers, cawles of networke,
the quivers of their arrowes, made of faune skins, and the very skins of beasts that their
women wore upon their bodies . . . they departed with joy to their houses, which
houses are digged round within the earth, and have from the uppermost brimmes of the
circle, clefts of wood set up, and joyned close together at the top, like our spires on the
steeple of a church, which being covered with earth, . . . are very warme: the doore  •Ml*
jPsp^-^M'm wN*^^«i
^Ki^i a'4~ *? (,mi5 rm^W&<\*ft'- WtW
in the most of them performs the office also of a chimney to let out the smoakc j it's
made in bignesse and fashion like to an ordinary scuttle in a ship, and standing slope-wise j
the beds are the hard ground, onely with rushes strewed upon it and lying round about
the house, have their fire in the middest, . . . with all expedition we set up our tents,
and intrenched ourselves with walls of stone. . . . Against the end of two daies,
there was gathered together a great assembly of men, women and children, bringing with
them as they had before done, feathers and bagges of Tobah for present, or rather for
sacrifices upon this persuasion that we were Gods.
*' When they came to the top of the hill at the bottom whereof we had built our
fort, they made a stand j " . . . li this bloodie sacrifice (against our wils) being thus
performed, our generall, with his companie, in the presence of those strangers, fell to
prayers j and by signes in lifting up our eyes and hands to heaven, signified unto them
that that God whom we did serve and whom they ought to worship, was above :
beseeching God, if it were his good pleasure, to open by some meanes their blinded eyes,
that they might in due time be called to the knowledge of Him, the true and everliving
God j and of Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent, the salvation of the Gentiles. In the
time of which prayers, singing of Psalmes, and reading of certaine Chapters in the Bible,
they sate very attentively, and observing the end of every pause, with one voice still cried
' oh' greatly rejoicing in our exercises.
M Our generall be set up a monument of our being there, as also of her
majesties and successors right and title to that kingdom; namely a plate of brasses, fast
nailed to a great and firme poste j whereon is engraven her graces' name, and the day
and year of our arrival there, and of the free giving up of the province and kingdom,
both by the king and people, unto her majesties' hands: together with her highnesse
picture and arms, in a piece of sixpence current English monie, shewing itselfe by a hole
made of purpose through the plate j underneath was likewise engraven the name of our
Generall.  .  .  .
il The Spaniards never had any dealings, or so much as set a foote in this country,
the utmost of their discoveries reaching onely to many degrees Southward of this place.'*
The Spanish version of Drake's burial is, that the body was weighted with shot at
the heels and heaved over into the sea, without coffin or ceremony. CHAPTER VII
The English Navigator sent Two Hundred Years later to find the
New Albion of Drake's Discoveries — He misses both the Straits of
Fuca and the Mouth of the Columbia, but anchors at Nootka, the
Rendezvous of Future Traders — No Northeast Passage found
through Alaska—The True Cause of Cook's Murder in Hawaii
told by Ledyard — Russia becomes Jealous of his Explorations
It seems impossible that after all his arduous labors
and death, to prove his convictions, Bering's conclusions should have been rejected by the world of learning.
Surely his coasting westward, southwestward, abreast
the long arm of Alaska's peninsula for a thousand
miles, should have proved that no open sea — no
Northeast Passage — was here, between Asia and
America. But no! the world of learning said
fog had obscured Bering's observations. What he
took for the mainland of America had been only a
chain of islands. Northward of those islands was open
sea between Asia and Europe, which might afford
direct passage between East and West without circumnavigating the globe.    In fact, said Dr. Campbell,
one of the most learned English writers of the day,
"Nothing is plainer than that his (Bering's) discovery
does not warrant any such supposition as that he
touched the great? continent making part of North
The moonshine of the learned men in France and
Russia was even wilder. They had definitely proved,
even if there were no Gamaland — as Bering's voyage
had shown — then there must be a southern continent
somewhere, to keep the balance between the northern
and southern hemispheres; else the world would turn
upside down. And there must also be an ocean between northern Europe and northern Asia, else the
world would be top-heavy and turn upside down. It
was an age when the world accepted creeds for piety,
and learned moonshine instead of scientific data; when,
in a word, men refused to bow to fact!
All sorts of wild rumors were current. There was a
vast continent in the south. There was a vast sea in
the north. Somewhere was the New Albion, which
Francis Drake had found north of New Spain. Just
north of the Spanish possessions in America was a
wide inlet leading straight through from the Pacific
to the Atlantic, which an old Greek pilot — named Juan
de Fuca — said he had traversed for the viceroy of
New Spain.
Even stolid-going England was infected by the rage
for imaginary oceans and continents. The Hudson's
Bay Fur Company was threatened with a withdrawal
p— - 1 - .*■  "!_V*i—'—
of its charter because it had failed to find a Northwest
Passage from Atlantic to Pacific. Only four years
after the death of Bering, an act of Parliament offered
a reward of twenty thousand pounds to the officers
and crew of any ships discovering a passage between
Atlantic and Pacific north of 520. There were even
ingenious fellows with the letters of the Royal Society
behind their names, who affected to think that the great
Athabasca Lake, which Hearne had found, when he
tramped inland from the Arctic and Coppermine
River, was a strait leading to the Pacific. Athabasca
Lake might be the imaginary strait of the Greek pilot,
Juan de Fuca. To be sure, two Hudson's Bay Company ships' crews — those under Knight and Barlow —
had been totally lost fifty years before Hearne's tramp
inland in 1771, trying to find that same mythical strait
of Juan de Fuca westward of Hudson Bay.
But so furious did public opinion wax over a Northwest Passage at the very time poor Bering was dying
in the North Pacific, that Captain Middleton was sent
to Hudson Bay in 1741-1742 to find a way to the Pacific. And when Middleton failed to find water where
the Creator had placed land, Dobbs, the patron of the
expedition and champion of a Northwest Passage at
once roused the public to send out two more ships —
the Dobbs and California. Failure again! Theories
never yet made Fact, never so much as added a hair's
weight to Fact! Ellis, who was on board, affected to
think that Chesterfield Inlet — a great arm of the sea, CAPTAIN  COOK  IN AMERICA     175
westward of Hudson Bay — might lead to the Pacific.
This supposition was promptly exploded by the Hudson's Bay Fur Company sending Captain Christopher
and Moses Norton, the local governor of the company,
up Chesterfield inlet for two hundred miles, where
they found, not the Pacific, but a narrow river.
Then the hue and cry of the learned theorists was —
the Northwest Passage lay northward of Hudson Bay.
Hearne was sent tramping inland to find — not sea,
but land; and when he returned with the report of
the great Athabasca Lake of Mackenzie River region,
the lake was actually seized on as proof that there was
a waterway to the Pacific. Then the brilliant plan
was conceived to send ships by both the Atlantic and
the Pacific to find this mythical passage from Europe
to Asia. Pickersgill, who had been on the Pacific, was
to go out north of Hudson Bay and work westward.
To work eastward from the Pacific to the Atlantic was
chosen a man who had already proved there was no
great continental mass on the south, and that the world
did not turn upside down, and who was destined to
prove there was no great open ocean on the north,
and still the world did not turn upside down. He was
a man whose whole life had been based and built upon
Fact, not Theory. He was a man who accepted
Truth as God gave it to him, not as he had theorized
it ought to be; a man who had climbed from a mud
cottage to the position of the greatest navigator in the
world — had climbed on top of facts mastered, not 176
of schoolgirl moonshine, or study-closet theories.
That man was Captain James Cook.
Cook's life presents all the contrasts of true greatness
world over. Like Peter the Great, of Russia, whose
word had set in motion the exploration of the northwest coast of America, Cook's character consisted
of elements that invariably lead to glory or ruin; often,
both. The word "impossible" was not in his vocabulary. He simply did not recognize any limitations to
what a man might do, could do, would do, if he tried;
and that means, that under stress of risk or temptation, or opposition, a man's caution goes to the winds.
With Cook, it was risk that caused ruin. With the
Czar of Russia, it was temptation.
Born at Marton, a small parish of a north riding in
the county of York, October 27, 1728, James Cook
was the son of a day-laborer in an age when manual
toil was paid at the rate of a few pennies a day. There
were nine of a family. The home was a thatch-roofed
mud cottage. Two years after Cook's birth, the father
was appointed bailiff, which slightly improved family
finances; but James was thirteen years of age before
it was possible to send him to school. There, the
progress of his learning was a gallop. He had a wizard-
genius for figures. In three short years he had mastered
all the Ayton school could teach him. At sixteen, his
schooling was over. The father's highest ambition
seems to have been for the son to become a successful
shopkeeper in one of the small towns.    The future
navigator was apprenticed to the village shop; but
Cook's ambitions were not to be caged behind a counter.
Eastward rolled the North Sea. Down at Hull
were heard seamen's yarns to make the blood of a boy
jump. It was 1746. The world was ringing with
tales of Bering on the Pacific, of a southern continent,
which didn't exist, of the Hudson's Bay Fur Company's
illimitable domain in the north, of La Verendrye's
wonderful discoveries of an almost boundless region
westward of New France toward the uncharted
Western Sea. In a year and a half, Cook had his fill
of shopkeeping. Whether he ran away, or had served
his master so well that the latter willingly remitted
the three years' articles of apprenticeship, Cook now
followed his destiny to the sea. According to the
world's standards, the change seemed progress backward. He was articled to a ship-owner of Whitby as a
common seaman on a coaler sailing between Newcastle
and London. One can see such coalers any day —
black as smut, grimed from prow to stern, with workmen almost black shovelling coal or hoisting tackling
— pushing in and out among the statelier craft of any
seaport. It is this stage in a great man's career
which is the test. Is the man sure enough of himself
to leave everything behind, and jump over the precipice
into the unknown ? If ever he wishes to return to what
he has left, he will have just the height of this jump to
climb back to the old place. The old place is a certainty.    The   unknown   may   engulf in   failure.    He
<*-=' 178
must chance that, and all for the sake of a faith in himself, which has not yet been justified; for the sake of a
vague star leading into the misty unknown. He knows
that he could have been successful in the old place.
He does not know that he may not be a failure in the
new place. Art, literature, science, commerce — in
all — it is the men and women who have dared to risk
being failures that have proved the mainspring of
progress. Cook was sure enough of himself to exchange shopkeeper's linen for the coal-heaver's blue
jeans, to risk following the star of his destiny to the
Presently, the commonplace, grimy duties which he
must fulfil are taking him to Dublin, to Liverpool,
to Norway; and by the time he is twenty-two, he knows
the Baltic trade well, and has heard all the pros and
cons of the furious cackle which the schools have
raised over that expedition of Bering's to the west
coast of America. By the time he is twenty-four he
is a first mate on the coal boats. Comes another vital
change! When he left the shop, he felt all that he had
to do to follow his destiny was to go to sea. Now the
star has led him up to a blank wall. The only promotion he can obtain on these merchantmen is to a captainship; and the captaincy on a small merchantman
will mean pretty much a monotonous flying back and
forward like a shuttle between the ports of Europe and
Cook took a resolution that would have cost any
man but one with absolute singleness of purpose a
poignant effort. At the age of twenty-seven, he decided to enter the Royal Navy. Now, in a democratic
age, we don't talk about such things; but there are
unwritten laws and invisible lines just the same. Standing on the captain's deck of an American warship not
long ago, watching the deck hands below putting
things shipshape, I asked an officer — "Is there any
chance for those men to rise ?"
"Yes, some," he answered tentatively, "but then,
there is a difference between the men who have been
trained for a position, and those who have worked up
the line to it." If that difference exists in a democratic country and age, what was it for Cook in a country and at a time when lines of caste were hard and
fast drawn ? But he entered the navy on the Eagle
under Sir Hugh Palliser, who, almost at once,
transferred him from the forecastle to the quarterdeck. What was the explanation of such quick recognition ? Therein lies the difference between the man
who tries and succeeds, and the man who tries and
fails. Cook had qualified himself for promotion. He
was so fitted for the higher position, that the higher
position could not do without him. Whether rocking
on the Baltic, or waiting for the stokers to heave out
coal at Liverpool, every moment not occupied by seaman's duties, Cook had filled by improving himself,
by increasing his usefulness, by sharpening his brain,
so that his brain could better direct his hands, by r~Jr
studying mathematics and astronomy and geography
and science and navigation. As some one has said —
there are lots of people with hands and no brain; and
there are lots of people with brains and no hands;
but the kind who will command the highest reward
for their services to the world are those who have the
finest combination of brains and hands.
Four years after Cook had joined the navy, he was
master on the Mercury with the fleet before Quebec,
making a chart of the St. Lawrence for Wolfe to take
the troops up to the Heights of Abraham, piloting the
boats to the attack on Montmorency, and conducting
the embarkation of the troops, who were to win the
famous battle, that changed the face of America.
Now, the Royal Society wished to send some one to
the South Seas, whose reliability was of such a recognized and steady-going sort, that his conclusions would
be accepted by the public. Just twenty years from the
time that he had left the shop, Cook was chosen for
this important mission. What manner of man was he,
who in that time had risen from life in a mud hut to
the rank of a commander in the Royal Navy ? In
manner, he was plain and simple and direct, no flourish,
no unnecessary palaver of showy words, not a word he
did not mean. In form, he was six feet tall, in perfect
proportion, with brown hair and eyes, alertly penetrating, with features sharp rather from habit of
thought than from natural shape.
On this mission he left England in 1768, anchored at 1    ■" '--■
V -:-*'***-
Captain James Cook. 1 CAPTAIN  COOK  IN  AMERICA     181
the Society Islands of the South Seas in the spring of
1769, explored New Zealand in the fall ofthe same year,
rounded Australia in 1770 and returned to England
in 1771, the very year Hearne was trying to tramp it
overland in search of a Northwest Passage. And he
brought back no proof of that vast southern world
which geographers had put on their maps. Promptly
he was sent out on a second voyage to find or demolish
that mythical continent of the southern hemisphere;
and he demolished the myth of a southern continent
altogether, returning from circumnavigating the globe
just at the time when the furor of a Northwest Passage
northward of Hudson Bay, northward even of Bering's
course on the Pacific, was at its height.
The third voyage was to determine finally the bounds
of western America, the possibilities of a passage between Europe and Asia by way of the Pacific. Two
ships — the Resolution, four hundred and sixty tons,
one hundred and twelve men, which Cook had used
before, and the Discovery, three hundred tons, eighty
men — were purchased at Hull, the old port of Cook's
boyhood dreams. To secure the good will ofthe crews,
two months' wages were paid in advance. Captain
Clerke commanded the Discovery; and the two crews
numbered men of whom the world was to hear more
in connection with the northwest coast of America —
a* young midshipman, Vancouver, whose doings were
yet to checkmate Spain; a young American, corporal VIKINGS  OF THE  PACIFIC
of marines, Ledyard, who was to have his brush with
Russia; and other ambitious young seamen destined
to become famous traders on the west coast of America.
The two ships left England in midsummer of 1776,
crossed the equator in September when every man fresh
to the episode was caught and ducked overrails in
equatorial waters, rounded Good Hope, touched at
the Society Islands of the first voyage, and by spring of
1778 had explored and anchored at the Sandwich
Islands. Once on the Pacific, Cook mustered his
crews and took them into his confidence; he was going
to try for that reward of twenty thousand pounds to
the crew that discovered a Northeast Passage; and
even if he missed the reward, he was going to have
a shy at the most northern latitude ever attempted
by navigator — 890; would they do it? The crew
cheered. Whether they reached 890 or not, they
decided to preserve their grog for the intense cold to
be encountered in the north; so that the daily allowance was now cut to half.
By March, the ships were off from the Sandwich
Islands to the long swell of the Pacific, the slimy
medusa lights covering the waters with a phosphorescent trail of fire all night, the rockweed and sea leek
floating past by day telling their tale of some far land.
Cook's   secret   commission   had   been   very   explicit:
You are to proceed on as direct a course as you can
to the coast of New Albion, endeavoring to fall in with
it in latitude 450 north . . . and are strictly enjoined CAPTAIN  COOK  IN  AMERICA     183
not to touch on any part of the Spanish dominions
. . . unless driven by accident . . . and to be very
careful not to give any umbrage to the subjects of his
Catholic Majesty . . . and if in further progress
northward . . . you find any subjects of a European
prince . . . you are not to give any cause of offence
. . . proceed northward to 650, carefully search for
such inlets as appear pointing to Hudson Bay . . .
use your utmost endeavors to pass through." The commission shows that England was unaware Spain had
pushed north of 450, and Russia north of 650; for
Spain jealously kept her explorations secret, and
Russia's were not accepted. The commission also
offered a reward for any one going within i° of the
Pole.    It may be added — the offer is still open.
For days after leaving the Sandwich Islands, not a
bird was to be seen. That was a bad omen for land.
Land must be far, indeed; and Cook began to fear
there might be as much ocean in that northern hemisphere as the geographers of Russia and France —
who actually tabulated Bering's discoveries as an
island — had placed on the maps. But in the first
week of March, a sea-gull came swimming over the
crest of a wave. Where did she come from ? Then
an albatross was seen wheeling above the sea. Then,
on March 6, two lonely land seals went plying past;
and whales were noticed. Surely they were nearing
the region that Drake, the English freebooter, had seen
and named New Albion two hundred years before. VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
Suddenly, on the morning of March 7, the dim offing
ahead showed thin, sharp, clear lines. The lines rose
higher as the ship approached. They cut themselves
against the sky in the form of mountains and hills with
purple mist lying in the valleys. It was the New Albion
at latitude 440 33', which Drake had discovered. The
day was hazy and warm. Cook's crews wondered
why Drake had complained of such cold. By night
they found out. A roaring hurricane burst from the
northern darkness with squalls of hail and snow and
sleet, that turned the shore to one long reach of whitened
cliffs straight up and down out of the sea. In commemoration, they called the first landfall, Cape Foul-
weather; and, in spite of the commission to sail north,
drove under bare poles before the storm to 430, naming
the two capes passed Perpetua and Gregory. Only
by the third week of March had the storm abated
enough for them to turn north again.1
Now, whether the old Greek pilot, Juan de Fuca,
lied or dreamed, or only told a yarn of what some
Indian had told him, it was along this coast that he
had said the straits leading to the east side of America
lay; and Cook's two ships hugged the coast as close as
they dared for fear of roaring breakers and a landward
wind. On March 23 rocks were seen lying off a high
point  capped  with  trees, behind which  might  be  a
1 The question may occur, why in the account of Cook's and Bering's voyage,
the latitude is not oftener given. The answer is, the latitudes as given by Cook and
Bering vary so much from the modern, it would only confuse the reader trying to follow
a modern map. ^
strait; but a gale ashore and a lashing tide thundering
over the rocks sent the ships scudding for the offing
through fog and rain; and never a glimpse of a passage
eastward could the crews obtain. Cook called the
delusive point Cape Flattery and added: 'It is in this
very latitude (480 15') that geographers have placed
the pretended Straits of Juan de Fuca; but we saw
nothing like it; nor is there the least possibility that any
such thing ever existed." But Cook was too far out to
descry the narrow opening — but thirteen miles wide
— of Juan de Fuca, where the steamers of three continents ply to-day; though the strait by no means led
to Europe, as geographers thought.
All night a hard gale drove them northward. When
the weather cleared, permitting them to approach the
coast again, high mountains, covered with snow and
forests, jagged through the clouds like tent peaks.
Tremendous breakers roared over sunken rocks.
Point Breakers, Cook called them. Then the wind
suddenly fell; and the ships were becalmed directly
opposite the narrow entrance of a two-horned cove
sheltered by the mountains. The small boats had all
been mustered out to tow the two ships in, when a
slight breeze sprang up. j» The flotilla drifted inland
just as three canoes, carved in bizarre shapes of birds5
heads and eagle claws, came paddling across the inlet.
Three savages were in one, six in the other, ten in the
third. They came slowly over the water, singing some
song  of welcome,   beating  time  with  their  paddles. VIKINGS  OF THE  PACIFIC
scattering downy white feathers on the air, at intervals
standing up to harangue a welcome to the newcomers.
Soon thirty canoes were around the ships with some
ten warriors in each. Still they came, shoals of them,
like fish, with savages almost naked, the harbor smooth
as glass, the grand tyee, or great chief of the tribes,
standing erect shouting a welcome, with long elf-locks
streaming down his back. Women and children now
appeared in the canoes. That meant peace. The
women were chattering like magpies; the men gurgling and spluttering their surprise at the white visitors.
For safety's sake the guns of the two ships were
pointed ready; but the natives did not know the fear
of a gun. It was the end of March when Cook first
anchored off what he thought was the mainland of
America. It was not mainland, but an island, and
the harbor was one to become famous as the rendezvous of Pacific traders — Nootka!
Three armed boats commanded by Mr. King, and
one under Cook, at once proceeded from the ships to
explore and sound the inlet. The entrance had been
between two rocky points four miles apart past a chain
of sunken rocks. Except in a northwest corner ofthe
inlet, since known as Snug Cove, the water was too deep
for anchorage; so the two ships were moored to trees,
the masts unrigged, the iron forge set to work on the
oo      "■ o
shore; and the men began cutting timber for the new
masts. And still the tiny specks dancing over the waves
carrying canoe loads of savages to the English ships, CAPTAIN  COOK  IN  AMERICA     187
continued to multiply till the harbor seemed alive
with warriors — two thousand at least there must have
been by the first week of April after Cook's arrival.
Some of the savages wore brightly painted wooden
masks as part of their gala attire. Others carried
totems — pieces of wood carved in the likeness of
bird or beast to typify manitou of family or clan. By
way of showing their prowess, some even offered the
white men human skulls from which the flesh had not
yet been taken. By this Cook knew the people were
cannibals. Some were observed to be wearing spoons
of European make as ornaments round their necks.
What we desire to believe we easily accept. The
white men did not ascribe the spoons to traders from
New Spain on the south, or the Russian settlements to
the north; but thought this place must be within trading distance of Hudson Bay, whence the Indians must
have obtained the spoons. And so they cherished the
hope of a Northeast Passage from this slim sign. In
a few days fifteen hundred beaver and sea-otter had
been obtained in trade, sixty-nine sea-otter — each of
which was worth at that time one hundred dollars in
modern money — for a handful of old nails.
To these deep-sea wanderers of Cook's crews, the
harbor was as a fairy-land. Snow still covered the
mountain tops; but a tangled forest of dank growth
with roots awash in the ripple of the sea, stretched
down the hillsides. Red cedar, spruce, fir, — of
enormous growth, broader in girth than a cart and VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
wagon in length, — cypress with twisted and gnarled
knots red against the rank green; mosses swinging
from branch to branch in snaky coils wherever the
clouds settled and rested; islands studding the sea
like emerald gems; grouse drumming their spring song
through the dark underbrush; sea-mew and Mother
Carey's chickens screaming and clacking overhead;
the snowy summits red as wine in the sunset glow —
all made up an April scene long cherished by these
adventurers of the North.
Early one morning in April the men cutting timber
inland were startled to notice the underbrush alive
with warriors armed. The first fear was of an ambush.
Cook ordered the men to an isolated rock ready for
defence; but the grand tyee or chief explained by
signs that his tribe was only keeping off another tribe
that wanted to trade with the white men. The worst
trouble was from the inordinate thieving propensities
of the natives. Iron, nails, belaying pins, rudders,
anchors, bits of sail, a spike that could be pulled from
the rotten wood of the outer keel by the teeth of a thief
paddling below — anything, everything was snatched
by the light-fingered gentry. Nor can we condemn
them for it. Their moral standard was the Wolf Code
of Existence — which the white man has elaborated
in his evolution — to take whatever they had the dexterity and strength to take and to keep. When caught
in theft, they did not betray as much sense of guilt as
a   dog  stealing   a   bone.    Why  should  they ?    Their CAPTAIN  COOK  IN  AMERICA     189
code was to take. The chief of the Nootkas presented
Cook with a sea-otter cloak. Cook reciprocated with
a brass-hiked sword.
By the end of April the ships had been overhauled,
and Cook was ready to sail. Porpoise were coursing
the sea like greyhounds, and the stormy petrels in a
clatter; but Cook was not to be delayed by storm.
Barely had the two ships cleared the harbor, when
such a squall broke loose, they could do nothing but
scud for open sea, turn tails to the wind, and lie helpless as logs, heads south. If it had not been for this
storm, Cook would certainly have discovered that
Nootka was on an island, not the coast of the mainland; but by the time the weather permitted an approach to land again, Friday, May if the ships were
abreast that cluster of islands below the snowy cone of
Mt. Edgecumbe, Sitka, where Chirikoff's Russians had
first put foot on American soil. Cook was now at the
northernmost limit of Spanish voyaging.
By the 4th of May Cook had sighted and passed
the Fairweather Range, swung round westward on the
olcf course followed by Bering, and passed under the
shadow of St. Elias towering through the clouds in a
dome of snow. On the 6th the ships were at Kyak,
where Bering had anchored, and amid myriad ducks
and gulls were approaching a broad inlet northward.
Now, just as Bering had missed exploring this part of
the coast owing to fog, so Cook had failed to trace that
long archipelago of islands from Sitka Sound north- VIKINGS  OF THE  PACIFIC
ward; but here, where the coast trends straight westward, was an opening that roused hopes of a Northeast
Passage. The Resolution had sprung a leak; and in
the second week of May, the inlet was entered in the
hope of a shelter to repair the leak and a way northeast to the Atlantic. Barely had the ships passed up
the sound, when they were enshrouded in a fog that
wiped out every outline; otherwise, the high coast of
glacial palisades — two hundred feet in places and
four miles broad — might have been seen landlocked
by mountains; but Mr. Gore launched out in a small
boat steering north through haze and tide-rip. Twenty
natives were seen clad in sea-otter skins, by which —
the white men judged — no Russians could have
come to this sound; for the Russians would not have
permitted the Indians to keep such valuable sea-otter
clothing. The glass beads possessed by the natives
were supposed to attest proximity to traders of Hudson
Bay. With an almost animal innocence of wrong, the
Indians tried to steal the small boat of the Discovery,
flourishing their spears till the white crew mustered.
At another time, when the Discovery lay anchored,
few lanterns happened to be on deck. No sailors
were visible. It was early in the morning and everybody was asleep, the boat dark. The natives swarmed
up the ship's sides like ants invading a sugar canister.
Looking down the hatches without seeing any whites,
they at once drew their knives and began to plunder.
The whites dashed up the hatchway and drove the CAPTAIN  COOK  IN  AMERICA     191
plunderers over the rails at sword point. East and
north the small boats skirted the mist-draped shores,
returning at midnight with word the inlet was a closed
shore. There was no Northeast Passage. They
called the spider-shaped bay Prince William Sound;
and at ten in the morning headed out for sea.
Here a fresh disappointment awaited them. The
natives of Prince William Sound had resembled the
Eskimos of Greenland so much that the explorers
were prepared to find themselves at the westward end
of the American continent ready to round north into
the Atlantic. A long ledge of land projected into the
sea. They called this Cape Elizabeth, passed it,
noted the reef of sunken rocks lying directly athwart a
terrific tidal bore, and behold! not the end of the continent — no, not by a thousand miles — but straight
across westward, beneath a smoking volcano that
tinged the fog ruby-red, a lofty, naked spur three
miles out into the sea, with crest hidden among the
clouds and rock-base awash in thundering breakers.
This was called Cape Douglas. Between these two
capes was a tidal flood of perhaps sixty miles' breadth.
Where did it come from ? Up went hopes again for
the Northeast Passage, and the twenty thousand
pounds! Spite of driftwood, and roily waters, and a
flood that ran ten miles an hour, and a tidal bore that
rose twenty feet, up the passage they tacked, east to
west, west to east, plying up half the month of June in
rain and sleet, with the heavy pall of black smoke 192
rolling from the volcano left far on the offing! At
last the opening was seen to turn abruptly straight
east. Out rattled the small boats. Up the muddy
waters they ran for nine miles till salt water became
fresh water, and the explorers found themselves on a
river. In irony, this point was called Turn-Again.
The whole bay is now known as Cook's Inlet. Mr.
King was sent ashore on the south side of Turn-Again
to take possession. Twenty natives in sea-otter skins
stood by watching the ceremony of flag unfurled and
the land of their fathers being declared the possession
of England. These natives were plainly acquainted
with the use of iron; but "I will be bold to say,"
relates Cook, "they do not know the Russians, or they
would not be wearing these valuable sea-otter skins."
No Northeast Passage here! So out they ply again
for open sea through misty weather; and when it
clears, they are in the green treeless region west of
Cook's Inlet. Past Kadiak, past Bering's Foggy Island, past the Shumagins where Bering's first sailor
to die of scurvy had been buried, past volcanoes throwing up immense quantities of blood-red smoke, past
pinnacled rocks, through mists so thick the roar of the
breakers is their only guide, they glide, or drift, or
move by inches feeling the way cautiously, fearful of
Toward the end of June a great hollow green swell
swings them through the straits past Oonalaska,
northward at last!   Natives are seen in green trousers CAPTAIN   COOK  IN  AMERICA     193
and European shirts; natives who take off their hats
and make a bow after the pompous fashion of the
Twice natives bring word to Cook by letter and
sign that the Russians of Oonalaska wish to see him.
But Captain Cook is not anxious to see the Russians
just now. He wants to forestall their explorations
northward and take possession of the Polar realm for
England. In August they are in Bristol Bay, north
of the Aleutians, directly opposite Asia. Here Dr.
Anderson, the surgeon, dies of consumption. Not so
much fog now. They can follow the mainland. Far
ahead there projects straight out in the sea a long spit
of land backed by high hills, the westernmost point
of North America — Cape Prince of Wales ! Bering
is vindicated ! Just fifty years from Bering's exploration of 1728, the English navigator finds what Bering
found: that America and Asia are not united; that no
Northeast Passage exists; that no great oceanic body
lies north of New Spain; that Alaska — as the Russian maps had it after Bering's death — is not an
Wind, rain, roily, shoaly seas breaking clear over the
ship across decks drove Cook out from land to deeper
water. With an Englishman's thoroughness for doing
things and to make deadly sure just how the two continents lay to each other, Cook now scuds across Bering
Strait thirty-nine miles to the Chukchee land of Siberia
in Asia.    How he praises the  accuracy of poor Be- i94        VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
ring's work along this coast: Bering, whose name had
been a target for ridicule and contempt from the time
of his death; whose death was declared a blunder;
whose voyage was considered a failure; whose charts
had been rejected and distorted by the learned men of
the world.
t*fC*i5Sk. *»
The Ice Islands.
From the Chukchee villages of Asia, Cook sailed
back to the American coast, passing north of Bering
Straits directly in mid-channel. It is an odd thing,
while very little ice-drift is met in Bering Sea, you
have no sooner passed north of the straits than a white
world surrounds you. Fog, ice, ice, fog — endlessly,
with palisades of ice twelve feet high, east and west,
far as the eye can see! The crew amuse themselves
alternately gathering driftwood for fuel, and hunting CAPTAIN  COOK  IN AMERICA     195
walrus over the ice. It is in the North Pacific that the
walrus attains its great size — nine feet in length,
broader across its back than any animal known to the
civilized world. These piebald yellow monsters lay
wallowing in herds of hundreds on the ice-fields. At
the edge lay always one on the watch; and no matter
how dense the fog, these walrus herds on the ice,
braying and roaring till the surf shook, acted as a
fog-horn to Cook's ships, and kept them from being
jammed in the ice-drift. Soon two-thirds of the furs
got at Nootka had spoiled of rain-rot. The vessels
were iced like ghost ships. Tack back and forward as
they might, no passage opened through the ice. Suddenly Cook found himself in shoal water, on a lee
shore, long and low and shelving, with the ice drifting
on his ships. He called the place Icy Cape. It was
their farthest point north; and the third week of
August they were compelled to scud south to escape
the ice. Backing away toward Asia, he reached the
North Cape there. It was almost September. In accordance with the secret instructions, Cook turned
south to winter at the Sandwich Islands, passing
Serdze Kamen, where Bering had turned back in
1728, East Cape on the Straits of Bering just opposite
the American Prince of Wales, and St. Lawrence islands where the ships anchored.
Norton Sound was explored on the way back; and
October saw Cook down at Oonalaska, where Ledyard
was sent overland across the island to conduct the
**-*~iJu 196
Russian traders to the English ships. Three Russians
came to visit Cook. One averred that he had been
with Bering on the expedition of 1741, and the rough
adventurers seemed almost to worship the Dane's
memory. Later came Ismyloff, chief factor of the
Russian fur posts in Oonalaska, attended by a retinue
of thirty native canoes, very suave as to manners, very
polished and pompous when he was not too convivial,
but very chary of any information to the English,
whose charts he examined with keenest interest, giving
them to understand that the Empress of Russia had
first claim to all those parts of the country, rising,
quaffing a glass and bowing profoundly as he mentioned the august name. " Friends and fellow-countrymen glorious," the English were to the smooth-tongued
Russian, as they drank each other's health. Learning
that Cook was to visit Avacha Bay, Ismyloff proffered
a letter of introduction to Major Behm, Russian commander of Kamchatka. Cook thought the letter one
of commendation. It turned out otherwise. Fur
traders, world over, always resented the coming of the
explorer. Ismyloff was neither better nor worse than
his kind.1
Heavy squalls pursued the ships all the way from
Oonalaska, left on October 26, to the Sandwich Islands, reached in the new year 1779* A thousand
canoes of enthusiastic natives welcomed Cook back to
the sunny islands of the Pacific.    Before the explorer
1 This is the Ismyloff who was marooned by Benyowsky.
could anchor, natives were swimming round the ship
like shoals of fish. When Cook landed, the whole
population prostrated itself at his feet as if he had
been a god. It was a welcome change from the desolate cold of the inhospitable north.
Situated midway in the Pacific, the Sandwich Islands were like an oasis in a watery waste to Cook's
mariners. The ships had dropped anchor in the
centre of a horn-shaped bay called Karakakooa, in
Hawaii, about two miles from horn to horn. On the
sandy flats of the north horn was the native village of
Kowrowa: amid the cocoanut grove of the other horn,
the village of Kakooa, with a well and Morai, or sacred
burying-ground, close by. Between the two villages
alongshore ran a high ledge of black coral rocks. In
all there were, perhaps, four hundred houses in the
two villages, with a population of from two to three
thousand warriors; but the bay was the rallying place
for the entire group of islands; and the islands numbered in all several hundred thousand warriors.
Picture, then, the scene to these wanderers of the
northern seas: the long coral reef, wave-washed by
bluest of seas; the little village and burying-ground
and priests' houses nestling under the cocoanut grove
at one end of the semicircular bay, the village where
Terreeoboo, king of the island, dwelt on the long sand
beach at the other end; and swimming through the
water like shoals of fish, climbing over the ships' rigging like monkeys, crowding the decks of the Discovery VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
so that the ship heeled over till young chief Pareea
began tossing the intruders by the scuff of the neck
back into the sea — hundreds, thousands, of half-
naked, tawny-skinned savages welcoming the white
men back to the islands discovered by them. Chief
among the visitors to the ship was Koah, a little, old,
emaciated, shifty-eyed priest with a wry neck and a
scaly, leprous skin, who at once led the small boats
ashore, driving the throngs back with a magic wand
and drawing a mystic circle with his wizard stick round
a piece of ground near the Morai, or burying-place,
where the white men could erect their tents beside the
cocoanut groves. The magic line was called a taboo.
Past the tabooed line of the magic wand not a native
would dare to go. Here Captain King, assisted by
the young midshipman, Vancouver, landed with a
guard of eight or ten mariners to overhaul the ships'
masts, while the rest of the two crews obtained provisions by trade.
Cook was carried off to the very centre of the Morai
— a circular enclosure of solid stone with images and
priests' houses at one end, the skulls of slain captives
at the other. Here priests and people did the white
explorer homage as to a god, sacrificing to him their
most sacred animal — a strangled pig.
All went well for the first few days. A white gunner, who died, was buried within the sacred enclosure
of the Morai. The natives loaded the white men's
boats with  provisions.    In ten days  the wan, gaunt CAPTAIN  COOK  IN  AMERICA     199
sailors were so sleek and fat that even the generous
entertainers had to laugh at the transformation. Old
King Terreeoboo came clothed in a cloak of gaudy
feathers with spears and daggers at his belt and a
train of priestly retainers at his heels to pay a visit of
state to Cook; and a guard of mariners was drawn up
at arms under the cocoanut grove to receive the visitor
with fitting honor. When the king learned that Cook
was to leave the bay early in February, a royal proclamation gathered presents for the ships; and Cook
responded by a public display of fireworks.
Now it is a sad fact that when a highly civilized
people meet an uncivilized people, each race celebrates
the occasion by appropriating all the evil qualities of
the other. Vices, not virtues, are the first to fraternize.
It was as unfair of Cook's crew to judge the islanders
by the rabble swarming out to steal from the ships,
as it would be for a newcomer to judge the people
of New York by the pickpockets and under-world of
the water front. And it must not be forgotten that
the very quality that had made Cook successful — the
quality to dare — was a danger to him here. The
natives did not violate the sacred taboo, which the
priest had drawn round the white men's quarters of
the grove. It was the white men who violated it by
going outside the limit; and the conduct of the white
sailors for the sixteen days in port was neither better
nor worse than the conduct of sailors to-day who go
on a wild spree with the lowest elements of the harbor. VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
The savages were quick to find out that the white
gods were after all only men. The true story of what
happened could hardly be written by Captain King,
who finished Cook's journal; though one can read between the lines King's fear of his commander's rashness. The facts of the case are given by the young
American, John Ledyard, of Connecticut, who was
corporal of marines and in the very thick of the fight.
At the end of two weeks the white seamen were,
perhaps, satiated of their own vices, or suffering from
the sore head that results from prolonged spreeing.
At all events the thieving, which had been condoned
at first, was now punished by soundly flogging the
natives. The old king courteously hinted it was time
for the white men to go. The mate, who was loading
masts and rudder back on board the Resolution, asked
the savages to give him a hand. The islanders had
lost respect for the white men of such flagrant vices.
They pretended to give a helping hand, but only
jostled the mate about in the crowd. The Englishman lost his temper, struck out, and blustered. The
shore rang with the shrill laughter of the throngs. In
vain the chiefs of authority interposed. The commands to help the white men were answered by showers
of stones directly inside the taboo. Ledyard was
ordered out with a guard of sailors to protect the white
men loading the Resolution. The guard was pelted
black and blue. "There was nothing to do," relates
Ledyard, "but move to new lands where our vices CAPTAIN  COOK  IN  AMERICA     201
were not known." At last all was in readiness to
sail — one thing alone lacking — wood; and the
white men dare not go inland for the needed wood.
So far the entire blame rested on the sailors. Now
Cook committed his cardinal error. With that very
dare and quickness to utilize every available means to
an end — whether the end justified the means —
Cook ordered his men ashore to seize the rail fence
round the top of the stone burying-ground — the
sacred Morai — as fuel for his ships. Out rushed the
priests from the enclosure in dire distress. Was this
their reward for protecting Cook with the wand of the
sacred taboo? Two hatchets were offered the leading
priest as pay. He spurned them as too loathsome to
be touched. Leading the way, Cook ordered his men
to break the fence down, and proffered three hatchets,
thrusting them into the folds of the priest's garment.
Pale and quivering with rage, the priest bade a slave
remove the profaning iron. Down tumbled the fence!
Down the images on poles! Down the skulls of the
dead sacred to the savage as the sepulchre to the white
man! It may be said to the credit of the crew, that
the men were thoroughly frightened at what they were
ordered to do; but they were not too frightened to
carry away the images as relics. Cook alone was
blind to risk. As if to add the last straw to the Hawaiians' endurance, when the ships unmoored and
sailed out from the bay, where but two weeks before
they had been so royally welcomed, they carried elop- 202
ing wives and children from the lower classes of the
two villages.
It was one of the cases where retribution came so
swift it was like a living Nemesis. If the weather had
continued fair, doubtless wives and children would
have been dumped off at some near harbor, the incident considered a joke, and the Englishmen gone
merrily on their way; but a violent gale arose. Women
and children were seized with a seasickness that was
no joke. The decks resounded with such wails that
Cook had to lie to in the storm, put off the pinnace,
and send the visitors ashore. What sort of a tale they
carried back, we may guess. Meanwhile the storm
had snapped the foremast of the Resolution. As if
rushing on his ruin, Cook steered back for the bay and
anchored midway between the two villages. Again
the tents were pitched beside the Morai under the
cocoanut groves. Again the wand was drawn round
the tenting place; but the white men had taught the
savages that the taboo was no longer sacred. Where
thousands had welcomed the ships before, not a soul
now appeared. Not a canoe cut the waters. Not a
voice broke the silence of the bay.
The sailors were sour; Cook, angry. When the
men rowed to the villages for fresh provisions, they
were pelted with stones. When at night-time the
savages came to the ships with fresh food, they asked
higher prices and would take only daggers and knives
in pay.    Only by firing its great guns could the D/V-
covery prevent forcible theft by the savages offering
provisions; and in the scuffle of pursuit after one thief,
Pareea — a chief most friendly to the whites — was
knocked down by a white man's oar. "I am afraid,"
remarked Cook, "these people will compel me to use
violent measures." As if to test the mettle of the
tacit threat, Sunday, daybreak, February 14, revealed
that the large rowboat of the Discovery had been
When Captain King, who had charge of the guard
repairing the masts over under the cocoanut grove
came on board Sunday morning, he found Cook loading his gun, with a line of soldiers drawn up to go ashore
in order to allure the ruler of the islands on board, and
hold him as hostage for the restitution of the lost boat.
Clerke, of the Discovery, was too far gone in consumption to take any part. Cook led the way on the pinnace with Ledyard and six marines. Captain King
followed in the launch with as many more. All the
other small boats of the two ships were strung across
the harbor from Kakooa, where the grove was, to
Kowrowa, where the king dwelt, with orders to fire
on any canoe trying to escape.
Before the fearless leader, the savages prostrated
themselves in the streets. Cook strode like a conqueror straight to the door of the king's abode. It
was about nine in the morning. Old Terreeoboo —
peace lover and lazy — was just awake and only too
willing to go aboard with Cook as the easiest way out VIKINGS  OF THE  PACIFIC
of the trouble about the stolen boat. But just here
the high-handedness of Cook frustrated itself. That
line of small boats stretched across the harbor began
firing at an escaping canoe. A favorite chief was
killed. Word of the killing came as the old king was
at the water's edge to follow Cook; and a wife caught
him by the arm to drag him back. Suddenly a throng
of a thousand surrounded the white men. Some one
stabs at Phillips of the marines. Phillips's musket
comes down butt-end on the head of the assailant. A
spear is thrust in Cook's very face. He fires blank
shot. The harmlessness of the shot only emboldens
the savages. Women are seen hurrying off to the
hills; men don their war mats. There is a rush of the
white men to get positions along the water edge free
for striking room; ofthe savages to prevent the whites'
escape. A stone hits Cook. "What man did that?'
thunders Cook; and he shoots the culprit dead. Then
the men in the boats lose their heads, and are pouring
volleys of musketry into the crowds.
"It is hopeless," mutters Cook to Phillips; but
amid a shower of stones above the whooping of the
savages, he turns with his back to the crowd, and
shouts for the two small boats to cease firing and pull
in for the marines.    His caution came too late.
His back is to his assailants. An arm reached out
— a hand with a dagger; and the dagger rips quick as
a flash under Cook's shoulder-blade. He fell without
a groan, face in the water, and was hacked to pieces ffir
Is ""
before the eyes of his men. Four marines had already fallen. Phillips and Ledyard and the rest
jumped into the sea and swam for their lives. The
small boats were twenty yards out. Scarcely was
Phillips in the nearest, when a wounded sailor, swimming  for  refuge,   fainted   and   sank  to  the  bottom.
The Death of Cook.
Though half stunned from a stone blow on his head
and bleeding from a stab in the back, Phillips leaped
to the rescue, dived to bottom, caught the exhausted
sailor by the hair of the head and so snatched him into
the boat. The dead and the arms of the fugitives had
been deserted in the wild scramble for life.
Meanwhile the masts of the Resolution, guarded by VIKINGS  OF THE PACIFIC
only six marines, were exposed to the warriors of the
other village at the cocoanut grove. Protected by the
guns of the two ships under the direction of Clerke,
who now became commander, masts and men were
got aboard by noon. At four that afternoon, Captain King rowed toward shore for Cook's body. He
was met by the little leprous priest Koah, swimming
halfway out. Though tears of sorrow were in Koah's
treacherous red-rimmed eyes as he begged that Clerke
and King might come ashore to parley, King judged
it prudent to hold tightly on the priest's spear handle
while the two embraced.
Night after night for a week, the conch-shells blew
their challenge of defiance to the white men. Fires
rallying to war danced on the hillsides. Howls and
shouts of derision echoed from the shore. The stealthy
paddle of treacherous spies could be heard through
the dark under the keel of the white men's ships.
Cook's clothing, sword, hat, were waved in scorn under
the sailors' faces. The women had hurried to the hills.
The old king was hidden in a cave, where he could
be reached only by a rope ladder; and emissary after
emissary tried to lure the whites ashore. One pitch-
dark night, paddles were heard under the keels. The
sentinels fired; but by lantern light two terrified faces
appeared above the rail of the Resolution. Two
frightened, trembling savages crawled over the deck,
prostrated themselves at Clerke's feet, and slowly unrolled a small wrapping of cloth that revealed a small CAPTAIN  COOK  IN AMERICA     207
piece of human flesh — the remains of Cook. Dead
silence fell on the horrified crew. Then Clerke's
stern answer was that unless the bones of Cook were
brought to the ships, both native villages would be
destroyed. The two savages were former friends of
Cook's and warned the whites not to be allured on
land, nor to trust Koah, the leper priest, on the ships.
Again the conch-shells blew their challenge all
night through the darkness. Again the war fires
danced; but next morning the guns of the Discovery
were trained on Koah, when he tried to come on board.
That day sailors were landed for water and set fire to
the village of the cocoanut groves to drive assailants
back. How quickly human nature may revert to the
beast type ! When the white sailors returned from this
skirmish, they carried back to the ships with them, the
heads of two Hawaiians they had slain. By Saturday,
the 20th, masts were in place and the boats ready to
sail. Between ten and eleven o'clock in the morning,
a long procession of people was seen filing slowly
down the hills preceded by drummers and a white
flag. Word was signalled that Cook's bones were on
shore to be delivered. Clerke put out in a small boat
to receive the dead commander's remains — from which
all flesh had been burned. On Sunday, the 21st, the
entire bay was tabooed. Not a native came out of the
houses. Silence lay over the waters. The funeral
service was read on board the Resolution, and the
coffin committed to the deep. 208
A curious reception awaited the ships at Avacha
Bay, Kamchatka, whence they now sailed. Ismy-
loff's letter commending the explorers to the governor
of Avacha Bay brought thirty Cossack soldiers floundering through the shore ice of Petropaulovsk under
the protection of pointed cannon. Ismyloff, with fur
trader's jealousy of intrusion, had warned the Russian
commander that the English ships were pirates like
Benyowsky, the Polish exile, who had lately sacked the
garrisons of Kamchatka, stolen the ships, and sailed to
America. However, when Cook's letters were carried
overland to Bolcheresk, to Major Behm, the commander, all went well. The little log-thatched fort
with its windows of talc opened wide doors to the far-
travelled English. The Russian ladies of the fort
donned their China silks. The samovars were set
singing. English sailors gave presents of their grog
to the Russians. Russian Cossacks presented their
tobacco to the English, adding three such cheers as
only Cossacks can give and a farewell song.
In 1779 Clerke made one more attempt to pass
through the northern ice-fields from Pacific to Atlantic;
but he accomplished nothing but to go over the ground
explored the year before under Cook. On the 5th of
July at ten p.m. in the lingering sunlight of northern
latitudes, just as the boats were halfway through the
Straits of Bering, the fog lifted, and for the first time
in history — as far as known — the westernmost part
of America, Cape Prince of Wales, and the eastern- CAPTAIN  COOK  IN AMERICA    209
most part of Asia, East Cape, were simultaneously
seen by white men.
Finding it impossible to advance eastward, Clerke
decided there was no Northeast Passage by way of
the Pacific to the Atlantic; and on the 21st of July,
to the cheers of his sailors, announced that the Ships
would turn back for England.1
Poor Clerke died of consumption on the way, August
22, 1779, only thirty-eight years of age, and was buried
at Petropaulovsk beside La Croyere de l'lsle, who
perished on the Bering expedition. The boats did not
reach England till October of 1780. They had not
won the reward of twenty thousand pounds; but they
had charted a strange coast for a distance of three
thousand five hundred miles, and paved the way for
the vast commerce that now plies between Occident
and Orient.2
1 The authority for Cook's adventures is, of course, his own journal, Voyage to the
Pacific Ocean, London, 1784, supplemented by the letters and journals of men who
were with him, like Ledyard, Vancouver, Portlock, and Dixon, and others.
2 In reiterating the impossibility of finding a passage from ocean to ocean, either
northeast or northwest, no disparagement is cast on such feats as that of Nordenskjold
along the north of Asia, in the Vega in 1882.
By " passage " is meant a waterway practicable for ocean vessels, not for the ocean
freak of a specially constructed Arctic vessel that dodges for a year or more among the
ice-floes in an endeavor to pass from Atlantic to Pacific, or vice versa. I CHAPTER VIII
S; 1785-1792
THE  COLUMBIaHB       I^M      *.
Boston Merchants, inspired by Cook's Voyages, outfit two Vessels
under Kendrick and Gray* for Discovery and Trade on the Pacific
— Adventures ofthe First Ship to carry the American Flag around
the World — Gray attacked by Indians at Tillamook Bay — His
Discovery of the Columbia River on the Second Voyage — Fort
Defence and the First American Ship built on the Pacific
It is an odd thing that wherever French or British
fur traders went to a new territory, they found the
Indians referred to American traders, not as "Americans," but "Bostons' or " Bostonnais." The reason
was plain. Boston merchants won a reputation as
first to act. It was they who began a certain memorable "Boston Tea Party"; and before the rest of the
world had recovered the shock of that event, these
same merchants were planning to capture the trade of
the Pacific Ocean, get possession of all the Pacific
coast not already preempted by Spain, Russia, or
England, and push American commerce across the
Pacific to Asia.
What with slow printing-presses and slow travel, the
account of Cook's voyages on the Pacific did not become generally known in the United States till 1785 or
1786. Sitting round the library of Dr. Bulfinch's
residence on Bowdoin Square in Boston one night in
1787, were half a dozen adventurous spirits for whom
Cook's account of the fur trade on the Pacific had an
irresistible fascination. There was the doctor himself. There was his son, Charles, of Harvard, just
back from Europe and destined to become famous as
an architect. There was Joseph Barrell, a prosperous
merchant. There was John Derby, a shipmaster of
Salem, a young man still, but who, nevertheless, had
carried news of Lexington to England. Captain
Crowell Hatch of Cambridge, Samuel Brown, a trader
of Boston, and John Marden Pintard of the New York
firm of Lewis Pintard Company were also of the little
If Captain Cook's crew had sold one-third of a
water-rotted cargo of otter furs in China for ten thousand dollars, why, these Boston men asked themselves, could not ships fitted expressly for the fur
trade capture a fortune in trade on that unoccupied
strip of coast between Russian Alaska, on the north,
and New Spain, on the south ?
"There is a rich harvest to be reaped by those who
are on the ground first out there," remarked Joseph
Then the thing was to  be on the ground first — VIKINGS  OF THE  PACIFIC
that was the unanimous decision of the shrewd-headed
men gathered in Bulfinch's study.
The sequence was that Charles  Bulfinch and the
other five at once formed a partnership with a capital
of fifty thousand dollars, divided into fourteen shares,
for trade on the Pacific. This was ten years before
Lewis and Clark reached the Columbia, almost twenty
years before Astor had thought of his Pacific Company.
The Columbia, a full-rigged two-decker, two hundred
and twelve tons and eighty-three feet long, mounting ROBERT  GRAY
ten guns, which had been built fourteen years before
on Hobart's Landing, North River, was immediately
purchased. But a smaller ship to cruise about inland waters and collect furs was also needed; and for
this purpose the partners bought the Lady Washington, a little sloop of ninety tons. Captain John Kendrick of the merchant marine was chosen to command
the Columbia, Robert Gray, a native of Rhode Island,
who had served in the revolutionary navy, a friend of
Kendrick's, to be master of the Lady Washington.
Kendrick was of middle age, cautious almost to indecision ; but Gray was younger with the daring characteristic of youth.
In order to insure a good reception for the ships,
letters were obtained from the federal government to
foreign powers. Massachusetts furnished passports;
and the Spanish minister to the United States gave
letters to the viceroy of New Spain. Just how the information of Boston plans to intrude on the Pacific
coast was received by New Spain may be judged by
the confidential commands at once issued from Santa
Barbara to the Spanish officer at San Francisco:
" Whenever there may arrive at the Port of San Francisco, a ship named the Columbia said to belong to
General Wanghington {Washington) of the American
States, under command of *John Kendrick which sailed
from Boston in September 1787 bound on a voyage of
Discovery and of Examination of the Russian Estab~
hshments on the Northern Coast of this Peninsula, you
warn 214
will cause said vessel to be secured together with her
officers and crew."
Orders were also given Kendrick and Gray to avoid
offence to any foreign power, to treat the natives with
kindness and Christianity, to obtain a cargo of furs on
the American coast, to proceed with the same to China
to be exchanged for a cargo of tea, and to return to
Boston with the tea. The holds of the vessels were
then stowed with every trinket that could appeal to
the savage heart, beads, brass buttons, ear-rings,
calico, tin mirrors, blankets, hunting-knives, copper
kettles, iron chisels, snuff, tobacco. The crews were
made up of the very best class of self-respecting seafaring men. Woodruff, Kendrick's first mate, had been
with Cook. Joseph Ingraham, the second mate, rose
to become a captain. Robert Haswell, the third mate,
was the son of a British naval officer. Richard Howe
went as accountant; Dr. Roberts, as surgeon; Nutting,
formerly a teacher, as astronomer; and Treat, as fur
trader. Davis Coolidge was the first mate under Gray
on the Lady Washington.
Some heroes blunder into glory. These didn't.
They deliberately set out with the full glory of their
venture in view. Whatever the profit and loss account
might show when they came back, they were well
aware that they were attempting the very biggest and
most venturesome thing the newly federated states had
essayed   in   the  way  of exploration   and  trade.    To
commemorate the event, Joseph Barrell had medals
struck in bronze and silver, showing the two vessels on
one side, the names of the outfitters on the other. All
Saturday afternoon sailors and officers came trundling
down to the wharf, carpet bags and seamen's chests in
tow, to be rowed out where the Columbia and Lady
Washington lay at anchor. Boston was a Sabbath-
observing city in those days; but even Boston could
not keep away from the two ships heaving to the tide,
'•£/     J'SARRBIili,
^fe*BRO*WNr,C*BlJLPI*N cu.\ ,_J
<i IS
p*$  -J-DarbvjC'Hatoh, $£
A.      -JM'PlNTAUfc   f*$l
which for the first time in American history were to
sail around an unknown world. All Saturday night
and Sunday morning the sailors scoured the decks
and put berths shipshape; and all Sunday afternoon
the visitors thronged the decks. By night outfitters
and relatives were still on board. The medals of
commemoration were handed round. Health and
good luck and God-speed were drained to the heel
taps. Songs resounded over the festive board. It
was all "mirth and glee'" writes one of the men on *« nt
board. But by daybreak the ships had slipped
cables. The tide, that runs from round the underworld, raced bounding to meet them. A last dip of
land behind; and on Monday, October 1, 1787, the
ships'  prows were cleaving the waters of their fate.
The course lay from Boston to Cape Verde Islands,
from Verde Islands to the Falklands north of Cape
Horn, round Cape Horn, up the west coast of South
America, touching at Masafuera and Juan Fernandez, and thence, without pause, to the west coast
of North America. At Cape Verde, Gray hired a
valet, a colored boy, Marcus Lopez, destined to play
an important part later. Crossing the equator, the
sailors became hilarious, playing the usual pranks of
ducking the men fresh to equatorial waters. So long
did the ships rest at the Verde Islands, taking in fresh
provisions, that it was January before the Falkland
Islands were reached. Here Kendrick's caution became almost fear. He was averse to rounding the
stormy Horn in winter. Roberts, the surgeon, and
Woodruff, who had been with Cook, had become disgusted with Kendrick's indecision at Cape Verde, and
left, presumably taking passage back on some foreign
cruiser. Haswell, then, went over as first mate to
Gray. Mountain seas and smashing gales assailed the
ships from the time they headed for the Horn in April
of 1788. The Columbia was tossed clear up on her
beam ends, and sea after sea crashed over the little
Lady Washington, drenching everything below decks
like soap-suds in a rickety tub. Then came a hurricane of cold winds coating the ship in ice like glass,
till the yard-arms looked like ghosts. Between scurvy
and cold, there was not a sailor fit to man the
decks. Somewhere down at 570 south, westward of
the Horn, the smashing seas and driving winds
separated the two ships; but as they headed north,
bright skies and warm winds welcomed them to the
Pacific. At Masafuera, off Chile, the ships would
have landed for fresh water; but a tremendous backwash of surf forewarned reefs; and the Lady Washington stretched her sails for the welcome warm winds,
and tacked with all speed to the north. A few weeks
later, Kendrick was compelled to put in for Juan
Fernandez to repair the Columbia and rest his scurvy-
stricken crew. They were given all aid by the governor
of the island, who was afterward reprimanded by the
viceroy of Chile and degraded from office for helping
these invaders of the South Seas.
Meantime the little sloop, guided by the masterful
and enthusiastic Gray, showed her heels to the sea.
Soon a world of deep-sea, tropical wonders was about
the American adventurers. The slime of medusa
lights lined the long foam trail of the Lady Washington
each night. Dolphins raced the ship, herd upon herd,
their silver-white bodies aglisten in the sun. Schools of
spermaceti-whales to the number of twenty at a time
gambolled lazily  around  the  prow.    Stormy  petrels, VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
flying-fish, sea-lions, began to be seen as the boat passed
north of the seas bordering New Spain. Gentle winds
and clear sunlight favored the ship all June. The
long, hard voyage began to be a summer holiday on
warm, silver seas. The Lady Washington headed inland, or where land should be, where Francis Drake
two centuries before had reported that he had found
New Albion. On August 2, somewhere near what is
now Cape Mendocino, daylight revealed a rim of green
forested hills above the silver sea. It was New Albion,
north of New Spain, the strip of coast they had come
round the world to find. Birds in myriads on myriads
screamed the joy that the crew felt over their find;
but a frothy ripple told of reefs; and the Lady Washington coasted parallel with the shore-line northward.
On August 4, while the surf still broke with too great
violence for a landing, a tiny speck was seen dancing
over the waves like a bird. As the distance lessened,
the speck grew and resolved itself to a dugout, or long
canoe, carved with bizarre design stem and stern,
painted gayly on the keel, carrying ten Indians, who
blew birds' down of friendship in midair, threw open
their arms without weapons, and made every sign of
friendship. Captain Gray tossed them presents over
the deck rail; but the whistle of a gale through the
riggings warned to keep off the rock shore; and the
sloop's prow cut waves for the offing. All night
camp-fires and columns of smoke could be seen on
shore, showing that the coast was inhabited.    Under ROBERT  GRAY
clouds of sail, the sloop beat north for ten days, passing
many savages, some of whom held up sea-otter to
trade, others running along the shore brandishing
their spears and shouting their war-cry. Two or three
at a time were admitted on board to trade; but they
evinced such treacherous distrust, holding knives ready
to strike in their right hand, that Gray was cautious.
During the adverse wind they had passed one opening on the coast that resembled the entrance to a river.
Was this the fabled river of the West, that Indians said
ran to the setting sun ? Away up in the Athabasca
Country of Canadian wilds was another man, Alexander Mackenzie, setting to himself that same task of
finding the great river of the West. Besides, in 1775,
Heceta, the Spanish navigator from Monterey, had
drifted close to this coast with a crew so stricken with
scurvy not a man could hoist anchor or reef sails.
Heceta thought he saw the entrance to a river; but
was unable to come within twenty miles of the opening
to verify his supposition. And now Gray's crew were
on the watch for that supposed river; but more mundane things than glory had become pressing needs.
Water was needed for drinking. The ship was out of
firewood. The live stock must have hay; and in the
crew of twelve, three-quarters were ill of the scurvy.
These men must be taken ashore. Somewhere near
what is now Cape Lookout, or Tillamook Bay, the
rowboat was launched to sound, safe anchorage
found, and the Lady Washington towed in harbor. VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
The Lady Washington had anchored about half a
mile from shore, but the curiously carved canoes came
dancing over the waves in myriads. Gray noticed
the natives were all armed with spears and knives, but
they evinced great friendliness, bringing the crew baskets of berries and boiled crabs and salmon, in exchange for brass buttons. They had anchored at
ten on the night of August 14, and by the afternoon
ofthe 15th the Indians were about the sloop in great
numbers, trading otter skins for knives, axes, and
other arms — which, in itself, ought to have put the
crew on guard. When the white men went ashore
for wood and water, the Indians stood silently by,
weapons in hand, but offered no hostility. On the
third day in harbor an old* chief came on board followed by a great number of warriors, all armed. Gray
kept careful guard, and the old Indian departed in
possession of the stimulating fact that only a dozen
hands manned the Lady Washington. Waiting for
the tide the next afternoon, Haswell and Coolidge, the
two mates, were digging clams on shore. Lopez, the
black man, and seven of the crew were gathering grass
for the stock. Only three men remained on the sloop
with Captain Gray. Only two muskets and three or
four cutlasses had been brought ashore. Haswell and
Coolidge had their belt pistols and swords. The two
mates approached the native village. The Indians
began tossing spears, as Haswell thought, to amuse
their visitors.    That failing to inspire these white men, ROBERT  GRAY
rash as children, with fear, the Indians formed a ring,
clubbed down their weapons in pantomime, and executed all the significant passes of the famous war-dance.
"It chilled my veins," says Haswell; and the two
mates had gone back to their clam digging, when there
was a loud, angry shout. Glancing just where the
rowboat lay rocking abreast the hay cutters, Haswell
saw an Indian snatch at the cutlass of Lopez, the black,
who had carelessly stuck it in the sand. With a wild
halloo, the thief dashed for the woods, the black in
pursuit, mad as a hornet.
Haswell went straight to the chief and offered a
reward for the return of the sword, or the black man.
The old chief taciturnly signalled for Haswell to do
his own rescuing.
Theft and flight had both been part of a design to
scatter the white men. "They see we are ill armed,"
remarked Haswell to the other. Bidding the boat row
abreast with six of the hay cutters, the two mates and
a third man ran along the beach in the direction Lopez
had disappeared. A sudden turn into a grove of trees
showed Lopez squirming, mid a group of Indians,
holding the thief by the neck and shouting for "help !
help!" No sooner had the three whites come on the
scene, than the Indians plunged their knives in the
boy's back. He stumbled, rose, staggered forward,
then fell pierced by a flight of barbed arrows. Haswell had only time to see the hostiles fall on his body
like a pack of wolves on prey, when more Indians 222
emerged from the rear, and the whites were between
two war parties under a shower of spears. A wild
dash was made to head the fugitives off from shore.
Haswell and Coolidge turned, pistols in hand, while the
rowboat drew in. Another flight of arrows, when
the mates let go a charge of pistol shot that dropped
the foremost three Indians. Shouting for the rowers
to fire, Haswell, Coolidge, and the sailor plunged into
the water. To make matters worse, the sailor fainted
from loss of blood, and the pursuers threw themselves
into the water with a whoop. Hauling the wounded
man in the boat, the whites rowed for dear life. The
Indians then launched their canoes to pursue, but by
this time Gray had the cannon of the Lady Washington trained ashore, and three shots drove the hostiles
scampering. For two days tide and wind and a thundering surf imprisoned Gray in Murderers' Harbor,
where he had hoped to find the River of the West,
but met only danger. All night the savages kept up
their howling; but on the third day the wind veered.
All sails set, the sloop scudded for the offing, glad to
keep some distance between herself and such a dangerous coast.
The advantage of a small boat now became apparent.
In the same quarter, Cook was compelled to keep out
from the coast, and so reported there were no Straits
of Fuca. By August 21 the sloop was again close
enough to the rocky shore to sight the snowy, opal  Tr
ranges of the Olympus Mountains. By August 26
they had passed the wave-lashed rocks of Cape Flattery, and the mate records: " I am of opinion that
the Straits of Fuca exist; for in the very latitude they
are said to lie, the coast takes a bend, probably the
By September, after frequent stops to trade with the
Indians, they were well abreast of Nootka, where Cook
had been ten years before. A terrible ground-swell of
surf and back-wash raged over projecting reefs. The
Indians, here, knew English words enough to tell
Gray that Nootka lay farther east, and that a Captain
Meares was there with two vessels. A strange sail
appeared inside the harbor. Gray thought it was the
belated Columbia under Kendrick"; but a rowboat
came out bearing Captain Meares himself, who breakfasted with the Americans on September 17, and had
his long-boats tow the Lady Washington inside Nootka,
where Gray was surprised to see two English snows
under Portuguese colors, with a cannon-mounted garrison on shore, and a schooner of thirty tons, the Northwest-America, all ready to be launched. This was
the first ship built on the northwest coast. Gray
himself later built the second. Amid salvos of cannon
from the Lady Washington, the new fur vessel was
launched from her skids; and in her honor September 19 was observed as a holiday, Meares and
Douglas, the two English captains, entertaining Gray
and  his  officers.    Meares  had  come  from  China  in 224
January, and during the summer had been up the
Straits of Fuca, where another English captain, Barclay, had preceded him. Then Meares had gone
south past Flattery, seeking in vain for the River of
the West. Gales and breakers had driven him off
the coast, and the very headland which hid the mouth
of the Columbia, he had named Cape Disappointment,
because he was so sure — in his own words — " that
the river on the Spanish charts did not exist." He
had also been down the coast to that Tillamook, or
Cape Meares, where Gray's valet had been murdered.
This was in July, a month before the assault on Gray;
and if Haswell's report of Meares's cruelty be accepted
— taking furs by force of arms — that may have explained the hostility to the Americans. Meares was
short of provisions to go to China, and Gray supplied
them. In return Meares set his workmen to help
clean the keel ofthe Lady Washington from barnacles;
but the Englishman was a true fur trader to the core.
In after-dinner talks, on the day of the launch, he tried
to frighten the Americans away from the coast. Not
fifty skins in a year were to be had, he said. Only
the palisades and cannon protected him from the Indians, of whom there were more than two thousand
hostiles at Nootka, he reported. They could have
his fort for firewood after he left. He had purchased
the right to build it from the Indians. (Whether he acknowledged that he paid the Indians only two old pistols
for this privilege, is not recorded.)    At all events, it ROBERT  GRAY
would not be worth while for the Americans to remain
on the coast. The Americans listened and smiled.
Meares offered to carry any mail to China, and on the
2d was towed out of port by Gray and the other English captain, Douglas; but what was Gray's astonishment to receive the packet of mail back from Douglas.
Meares had only pretended to carry it out in order
that none of his crew might be bribed to take it, and
then had sent it back by his partner, Douglas — true
fur trader in checkmating the moves of rivals. Later
on, when Meares's men were in desperate straits in this
same port, they wondered that the Americans stood
apart from the quarrel, if not actually siding with
On September 23 appeared a strange sail on the
offing — the Columbia, under Kendrick, sails down
and draggled, spars storm-torn, two men dead of
scurvy, and the crew all ill.
October 1 celebrated a grand anniversary of the
departure from Boston the previous year. At precisely midday the Columbia boomed out thirteen guns.
The sloop set the echoes rocketing with another thirteen.
Douglas's ship roared out a salute of seven cannon
shots, the fort on land six more, and the day was given
up to hilarity, all hands dining on board the Columbia
with such wild fowl as the best game woods in the
world afforded, and copious supply of Spanish wines.
Toasts were drunk to the first United States ship on
the   Pacific   coast   of   America.      On   October   26
Q 226
Douglas's ship and the fur trader, Northwest-America,
were towed out, bound for the Sandwich Islands, and
the Americans were left alone on the northwest
coast, the fort having been demolished, and the logs
turned over to Kendrick for firewood.
Feather Cloak worn by a son of an Hawaiian Chief, at the celebration in
honor of Gray's return. Photographed by courtesy of Mrs. Joy, the
present owner.
The winter of 1788-1789 passed uneventfully except
that the English were no sooner out of the harbor,
than the Indians, who had kept askance of the
Americans, came in flocks to trade. Inasmuch as
Cook's name is a household word, world over, for what
he did on the Pacific coast, and Gray's name barely
known outside the city of Boston and the state of Ore- ROBERT  GRAY
gon, it is well to follow Gray's movements on the Lady
Washington. March found him trading south of
Nootka at Clayoquot, named Hancock, after the governor of Massachusetts. April saw him fifty miles
up the Straits of Fuca, which Cook had said did not
exist. Then he headed north again, touching at
Nootka, where he found Douglas, the Englishman,
had come back from the Sandwich Islands with the
two ships. Passing out of Nootka at four in the afternoon of May I, he met a stately ship, all sails set,
twenty guns pointed, under Spanish colors, gliding
into the harbor. It was the flag-ship of Don Joseph
Martinez, sent out to Bering Sea on a voyage of discovery, with a consort, and now entering Nootka to
take possession in the name of Spain. Martinez examined Gray's passports, learned that the Americans
had no thought of laying claim to Nootka and, finding
out about Douglas's ship inside the harbor, seemed to
conclude that it would be wise to make friends of the
Americans; and he presented Gray with wines, brandy,
hams, and spices.
"She will make a good prize," was his sententious
remark to Gray about the English ship.
Rounding northward, Gray met the companion ship
of the Spanish commander. It will be remembered
Cook missed proving that the west coast was a chain
of islands. Since Cook's time, Barclay, an Englishman, and Meares had been in the Straits of Fuca.
Dixon had  discovered Queen Charlotte Island;   but 228
the cruising of the little sloop, Lady Washington, covered a greater area than Meares's, Barclay's and Dixon's
ships together. First it rounded the north end of
Vancouver, proving this was island, not continent.
These northern waters Gray called Derby Sound, after
the outfitter. He then passed up between Queen
Charlotte Island and the continent for two hundred
miles, calling this island Washington. It was northward of Portland Canal, somewhere near what is now
Wrangel, that the brave little sloop was caught in a terrific gale that raged over her for two hours, damaging
masts and timbers so that Gray was compelled to turn
back from what he called Distress Cove, for repairs at
Nootka. At one point off Prince of Wales Island,
the Indians willingly traded two hundred otter skins,
worth eight thousand dollars, for an old iron chisel.
In the second week of June the sloop was back at
Nootka, where Gray was not a little surprised to find
the Spanish had erected a fort on Hog Island, seized
Douglas's vessel, and only released her on condition
that the little fur trader Northwest-America should
become Spanish property on entering Nootka.
Gray and Kendrick now exchanged ships, Gray,
who had proved himself the swifter navigator, going on
the Columbia, taking Haswell with him as mate. In
return for one hundred otter skins, Gray was to carry
the captured crew of the Northwest-America to China
for the Spaniards. On July 30, 1789, he left Vancouver Island.    Stop was made at Hawaii for pro-   ROBERT  GRAY
visions, and Atto, the son of a chief, boarded the
Columbia to visit America. On December 6 the Columbia delivered her cargo of furs to Shaw & Randall
of Canton, receiving in exchange tea for Samuel Park-
man, of Boston. It was February, 1790, before the
Columbia was ready to sail for Boston, and dropping
down the river she passed the Lady Washington, under
Kendrick, in a cove where the gale hid her from Gray.
On August 11, 1790, after rounding Good Hope
and touching at St. Helena, Gray entered Boston. It
was the first time an American ship had gone round
the world, almost fifty thousand miles, her log-book
showed, and salvos of artillery thundered a welcome.
General Lincoln, the port collector, was first on board
to shake Gray's hand. The whole city of Boston was
on the wharf to cheer him home, and the explorer
walked up the streets side by side with Atto, the Hawaiian boy, gorgeous in helmet and cloak of yellow
plumage. Governor Hancock gave a public reception
to Gray. The Columbia went to the shipyards to be
overhauled, and the shareholders met.
Owing to the glutting of the market at Canton, the
sea-otter had not sold well. Practically the venture
of these glory seekers had not ended profitably. The
voyage had been at a loss. Derby and Pintard sold
out to Barrell and Brown. But the lure of glory, or
the wilds, or the venture of the unknown, was on the
others.    They decided to send the Columbia back at VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
once on a second voyage. Perhaps, this time, she would
find that great River of the West, which was to be to
the Pacific coast what the Hudson was to the East.
Coolidge and Ingraham now left the Columbia for
ventures of their own to the Pacific. Haswell, whose
diary, with Gray's log-book, gives all details of the
voyage, went as first mate. George Davidson, an
artist, Samuel Yendell, a carpenter, Haskins, an accountant of Barrell's Company, Joshua Caswell of
Maiden, Abraham Waters, and John Boit were the
new men to enlist for the venturesome voyage. The
Columbia left Boston for a second voyage September
28, 1790, and reached Clayoquot on the west coast of
Vancouver Island on June 5, 1791. True to his
nature, Gray lost not a day, but was off for the sea-
otter harvest of the north, up Portland Canal near
what is now Alaska. The dangers of the first voyage
proved a holiday compared to this trip. Formerly,
Gray had treated the Indians with kindness. Now,
he found kindness was mistaken only for fear.
Joshua Caswell, Barnes, and Folger had been sent up
Portland Canal to reconnoitre. Whether ambushed
or openly assaulted, they never returned. Only Caswell's body was found, and buried on the beach.
Later, when the grave was revisited, the body had
been stolen, in all likelihood for cannibal rites, as no
more degraded savages exist than those of this archipelago. Over on Queen Charlotte Island, Kendrick,
who had returned from China on the Lady Washington, Map of Gray's two voyages, resulting in the discovery
of the Columbia. w—
was having his own time. One day, when ajl had gone
below decks to rest, a taunting laugh was heard from
the hatchway. Kendrick rushed above to find Indians
scrambling over the decks of the Lady Washington
like a nest of disgruntled hornets. A warrior flourished the key of the ammunition chest, which stood
by the hatchway, in Kendrick's face with the words:
" Key is mine!    So is the ship !"
If Kendrick had hesitated for the fraction of a
second, all would have been lost, as on Astor's ship a
few years later; but before the savages had time for
any concerted signal, he had seized the speaker by
the scruff of the neck, and tossed him into the sea. In
a second every savage had scuttled over decks; but
the scalp of Kendrick's son Solomon was found on
the beach. Henceforth neither Kendrick nor Gray
allowed more than ten savages on board at a time,
and Kendrick at once headed south to take the harvest
of furs to China. At Nootka things had gone from
bad to worse between the English and the Spaniards.
Though Kendrick bought great tracts of land from
the Indian chiefs at Nootka for the price of a copper
kettle, he judged it prudent to keep away from a Spanish commander, whose mission it was to capture the
ships of rival traders; so the American sloop moored
in Clayoquot, south of Nootka, where Gray found
Kendrick ready to sail for China by September.
At Clayoquot was built the first American fort on
the Pacific coast.    Here Gray erected winter quarters. ROBERT  GRAY
The Columbia was unrigged and beached. The dense
forest rang with the sound of the choppers. The enormous spruce, cedar, and fir trees were hewn into logs
for several cabins and a barracks, the bark slabs being
used as a palisade. Inside the main house were quarters for ten men. Loopholes punctured all sides of
the house. Two cannon were mounted outside the
window embrasures, one inside the gate or door. The
post was named Fort Defence. Sentinels kept guard
night and day. Military discipline was maintained,
and divine service held each Sunday. On October 3
timbers were laid for a new ship, to be called the Adventure, to collect furs for the Columbia. All the
winter of 1791-1792, Gray visited the Indians, sent
medicines to their sick, allowed his men to go shooting with them, and even nursed one ill chief inside the
barracks; but he was most careful not to allow women
or more than a few warriors inside the fort.
What was his horror, then, on February 18, when
Atto, the Hawaiian boy, came to him with news that
the Indians, gathered to the number of two thousand,
and armed with at least two hundred muskets got in
trade, had planned the entire extermination of the
whites. They had offered to make* the Hawaiian boy
a great chief among them if he would steal more ammunition for the Indians, wet all the priming of the
white men's arms, and join the conspiracy to let the savages get possession of fort and ship. In the history of
American pathfinding, no explorer was ever in greater y
danger. Less than a score of whites against two
thousand armed warriors! Scarcely any ammunition
had been brought in from the Columbia. All the
swivels of the dismantled ship were lying on the bank.
Gray instantly took advantage of high tide to get the
ship on her sea legs, and out from the bank. Swivels
were trundled with all speed back to the decks. For
that night a guard watched the fort; but the next
night, when the assault was expected, all hands were
on board, provisions had been stowed in the hold, and
small arms were loaded. The men were still to mid-
waist in water, scraping barnacles from the keel, when
a whoop sounded from the shore; but the change in
the ship's position evidently upset the plans of the
savages, for they withdrew. On the morning of the
20th the woods were seen to be alive with ambushed
men; and Haswell had the cannon loaded with canister fired into the woods. At eleven that very morning, the chief, at the head of the plot, came to sell otter
skins, and ask if some of the crew would not visit the
village. Gray jerked the skins from his arms, and
the rascal was over decks in terror of his life. That
was the end of the plot. On the 23d the Adventure
was launched, the second vessel built on the Pacific,
the first American vessel built there at all; and by
April 2 Haswell was ready to go north on her. Gray
on the Columbia was going south to have another try
at that great River of the West, which Spanish charts
represented. ROBERT  GRAY
Without a doubt, if the river existed at all, it was
down behind that Cape Disappointment where Meares
had failed to go in, and Heceta been driven back.
Just what Gray did between April 2 and May 7
is a matter of guessing. Anyway, Captain George
Vancouver sent out from England to settle the dispute
about Nootka, at six o'clock on the morning of April
29, just off the wave-lashed rocks of Cape Flattery,
and within sight of Olympus's snowy sky-line, noticed
a ship on the offing carrying American colors. He
sent Mr. Puget and Mr. Menzies to inquire.
They brought back word that Gray "had been off
the mouth of a river in 460 io' where the outset and
reflux was so strong as to prevent entering for nine
days," and that Gray had been fifty miles up the
Straits of Fuca.
Both facts were distasteful to Vancouver. He had
wished to be the first to explore the Straits of Fuca,
and on only April 27, had passed an opening which
he pronounced inaccessible and not a river, certainly
not a river worthy of his attention. Yet the exact
words of Captain Bruno Heceta, the Spaniard, in 1775
were: "These currents . . . cause me to believe that
the place is the mouth of some great river. ... I did
not enter and anchor there because ... if we let go
the anchor, we had not enough men to get it up.
(Thirty-five were down with scurvy.) ... At the distance of three or four leagues, I lay too. I experienced
heavy currents, which made it impossible to enter the 236
bay, as I was far to leeward. . . . These currents,
however, convince me that a great quantity of water
rushed from this bay on the ebb of the tide."
So the Spaniard failed to enter, and now the
great English navigator went on his way, convinced
there was no River of the West; but Robert Gray
headed back south determined to find what lay behind the tremendous crash of breakers and sand
bar. On the 7th of May, the rowboat towed the
Columbia into what is now known as Gray's Harbor,
where he opened trade with the Indians, and was presently so boldly overrun by them, that he was compelled
to fire into their canoes, killing seven. Putting out
from this harbor on the 10th, he steered south, keeping
close ashore, and was rewarded at four o'clock on the
morning of the 1 ith by hearing a tide-rip like thunder
and seeing an ocean of waters crashing sheer over sand
bar and reef with a cataract of foam in midair from
the drive of colliding waves. Milky waters tinged the
sea as of inland streams. Gray had found the river,
but could he enter ? A gentle wind, straight as a die,
was driving direct ashore. Gray waited till the tide
seemed to lift or deepen the waters of the reef, then
at eight in the morning, all sails set like a bird on wing,
drove straight for the narrow entrance between reefs
and sand. Once across the bar, he saw the mouth
of a magnificent river of fresh water. He had found
the River of the West.
Gray describes the memorable event in these simple
words: "May nth ... at four a.m. saw the entrance
of our desired port bearing east-southeast, distance six
leagues ... at eight a.m. being a little to windward of
the entrance of the harbor, bore away, and ran in east-
southeast between the breakers. . . . When we were
over the bar, we found this to be a large river of fresh
A View of the Columbia River.
canoes   came
water,   up   which   we   steered.    Many
alongside.    At one p.m. came to (anchor). . .
By the 14th, Gray had ascended the river twenty
or thirty miles from the sea, but was compelled to
turn, as he had taken a shallow channel. Dropping
down with the tide, he anchored on the 19th and went
ashore, where he planted coins under a tree, took pos- VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
session in the name of the United States, and named
the river "Columbia." On the 20th, he crossed the
bar and was out again on the Pacific. The most of
men would have rested, satisfied with half he had
done. Not so Gray. He headed the Columbia north
again for the summer's trade in what is now known as
southern Alaska. Only damages to the Columbia
drove her down to Nootka in July, where Don Quadra,
the new Spanish commander, and Captain Vancouver were in conference over those English ships
seized by Martinez. To Quadra, Gray sold the little
Adventure, pioneer of American shipbuilding on the
Pacific, for seventy-five otter skins. From Spanish
sources it is learned Gray's cargo had over three
thousand otter skins, and fifteen thousand other peltries; so the second voyage may have made up for
the loss of the first.
On October 3 the Columbia left America for
China; and on July 29, 1793, came to the home
harbor of Boston. Sometime between 1806 and 1809,
Gray died in South Carolina, a poor man. It is doubtful if his widow's petition to Congress ever materialized
in a reward for any of his descendants. Kendrick,
eclipsed by his brilliant assistant, was accidentally
killed in Hawaii by the wad of a gun fired by a British
vessel to salute the Lady Washington. From the
date 1793 or 1795 the little sloop drops out of seafaring annals.
What is Gray's place among pathfinders and naval ROBERT  GRAY
heroes ? Where does his life's record leave him ? It
was not spectacular work. It was not work backed
by a government, like Bering's or Cook's. It was
the work of an individual adventurer, like Radis-
son east of the Rockies. Gray was a man who did
much and said little.    He was not accompanied by a
At the Mouth of the Columbia River.
host of scientists to herald his fame to the world.
Judged solely by results, what did he accomplish r
The same for the United States that Cook did for England. He led the way for the American flag around
the world. Measuring purely by distance, his ship's
log would compare well with Cook's or Vancouver's.
The same part of the Pacific coast, .which  they ex- X.
plored, he explored, except that he did not go to northern Alaska; and he compensated for that by discovering
the great river, which they both said had no existence.
And yet, who that knows of Cook and Vancouver, knows
as much of Gray ? Authentic histories are still written
that speak of Gray's discovery doubtfully. Gray did
much, but said little; and the world is prone to take
a man at his own valuation. Yet if the world places
Cook and Vancouver in the niches of naval heroes,
Gray must be placed between them.
There is a curious human side to the story of these
glory seekers, too. Bulfinch was so delighted over the
discovery of the Columbia, that he had his daughter
christened "Columbia," to which the young lady objected in later years, so that the name was dropped.
In commemoration of Don Quadra's kindness in repairing the ship Columbia, Gray named one of his
children Quadra. The curios brought back by In-
graham on the first voyage were donated to Harvard.
Descendants of Gray still have the pictures drawn by
Davidson and Haswell on the second voyage. The
sea chest carried round the world by Gray now rests in
the keeping of an historical society in Portland; and the
feather cloak worn up the street by the boy Atto, when
he marched in the procession with Gray, is treasured
in Boston.1
1 Much concerning Gray's voyages can be found in the accounts of contemporary
navigators like Meares and Vancouver • but the essential facts of the voyages are
obtainable from the records of Gray's log-book, and of diaries kept by his officers. ROBERT  GRAY
Gray's log-book itself seems to have passed into the hands of the Bulfinch family.
From a copy of the original, Thomas Bulfinch reprinted the exact entry of the discovery
on May 11, 179a, in his Oregon and Eldorado, a Romance of tbe Rivers, Boston, 1866.
The log-book is now on file in the Department of State, Washington j but that part from
which Bulfinch made his extract is missing j nor is it known where this section was lost:
as it was in 1816 that Mr. Charles Bulfinch made a copy of this section from the original. Greenhow's Oregon and California, Boston, 1844, issued under the auspices of
Congress, gives the log-book in full from May 7th to May aist. Hubert Howe Bancroft in his Northwest Coast, Volume I, 1890, reproduces the diary in full of Haswell
for both voyages. It is from Haswell that the fullest account of the Indian plots are
obtained 3 but at the time of the discovery of the Columbia, Haswell was on the little
sloop Adventure, and what he reports is from hearsay. His words in the entry of June
14 are: " They (the Columbia) had very disagreeable weather but . . . good success.
. . , They discovered a harbor in latitude 460 53' north. . . . This is Gray's
Harbor. Here they were attacked by the natives, and the savages had a considerable
slaughter made among them. They next entered Columbia River, and went up it
about thirty miles, and doubted not it was navigable upwards of a hundred miles. . . .
The ship (Columbia) during the cruise had collected upwards of seven hundred sea-otter
skins and fifteen thousand skins of other species." The pictures made by Davidson, the
artist, on the second voyage, owned by collectors in Boston, tell their own story. From
all these sources, and from the descendants of Gray, the Rev. Edward G. Porter collected data for his lecture before the Massachusetts Historical Society, afterward published
in the New England Magazine of June, 1892. The Massachusetts Historical Proceedings for 1892 have, by all odds, the most complete collection of data bearing on
Gray. The archives include the medal and three of Davidson's drawings, also papers
relating to the Columbia presented by Barrell. The Salem Institute has also some data
on the ships. The Massachusetts Proceedings for 1869-1870 also give, from the
Archives of California, the letter of Governor Don Pedro Fages of Santa Barbara to
Don Josef Arguello of San Francisco, warning the latter against the American navigators. Greenhow obtained from the Hydrographical Office at Madrid the report of
Captain Bruno Heceta's voyage in 1775, when he sighted the mouth of a river supposed to be the Columbia.
■*»•■ 4
|H § CLARK I      I
A New England Ne'er-do-well, turned from the Door of Rich Relatives, joins Cook's Expedition to America — Adventure among the
Russians of Oonalaska — Useless Endeavor to interest New England Merchants in Fur Trade — A Soldier of Fortune in Paris, he
meets Jefferson and Paul Jones and outlines Exploration of Western
America — Succeeds in crossing Siberia alone on the Way to America,
but is thwarted by Russian Fur Traders
When his relatives banged the door in his face,
turning him destitute in the streets of London, if John
Ledyard could have foreseen that the act would indirectly lead to the Lewis and Clark exploration of the
great region between the Mississippi and the Pacific,
he would doubtless have regarded the unkindness as
Dick Whittington did the cat, that led on to fortune.
He had been a dreamer from the time he was born in
Groton, opposite New London, Connecticut — the
kind of a dreamer whose moonshine lights the path of
other men to success; but his wildest dreams never
dared the bigness of an empire many times greater
than the original states of the Union.
Instead he had landed at Plymouth, ragged, not a
farthing in the bottom of his pockets, not a farthing's
possession on earth but his hopes. Those hopes were
to reach rich relatives in London, who might give him
a lift to the first rung of the world's climbers. He was
twenty-five years old. He had burned his ships behind him. That is, he had disappointed all his relatives in America so thoroughly that he could never
again turn for help to the home hands.
They had designed him for a profession, these New
England friends. If Nature had designed him for the
same thing, it would have been all right; but she
hadn't. The son of a widowed mother, the love of
the sea, of pathless places, of what is just out of sight
over the dip of the horizon, was in his blood from his
father's side. Friends thought he should be well satisfied when he was sent to live with his grandfather at
Hartford and apprenticed to the law; but John Ledyard hated the pettifogging of the law, hated roofed-
over, walled-in life, wanted the kind of life where men
do things, not just dicker, and philosophize, and compromise over the fag-ends of things other men have
done. At twenty-one years of age, without any of the
prospects that lure the prudent soul, he threw over all
idea of law.1
Friends   were   aghast.    Manifestly,   the   boy   had
1 The world owes all knowledge of Ledyard's intimate life to Jared Sparks, who
compiled his life of Ledyard from journals and correspondence collected by Dr. Ledyard
and Henry Seymour of Hartford.
**m 244
brains.    He devoured information, absorbed facts like
an encyclopaedia, and observed everything.    The Greek
Ledyard in his dugout, from a contemporaneous print.
Testament and Ovid were his companions; yet he rebelled at the immured existence of the scholar. At
that time (1772), Dartmouth was the rendezvous of JOHN   LEDYARD
missionaries to the Indians. The college itself held
lectures to the singing of the winds through the forests
around it. The blowing of a conch-shell called to
lessons; and a sort of wildwood piety pervaded the
atmosphere. Urged by his mother, Ledyard made one
more honest attempt to fit his life to a stereotyped
form, and came to study at Dartmouth for the missionary's career.
It was not a success. When he thought to get a
foretaste of the missionary vocation by making a dugout and floating down the whole length of Connecticut
River, one hundred and forty miles, the scholarly
professors were shocked. And when he disappeared
for four months to make a farther test by living among
the Mohawks, the faculty was furious. His friends
gave him up as hopeless, a ne'er-do-well; and Ledyard
gave over the farce of trying to live according to other
men's patterns.
What now determined him was what directs the
most of lives — need for bread and butter. He became a common sailor on the ship of a friend in New
London, and at twenty-five landed in Plymouth, light
of heart as he was light of purse. The world was an
oyster to be opened by his own free lance; and up he
tramped from Plymouth to London in company with
an Irishman penniless as himself, gay as a lark, to the
world's great capital with the world's great prizes for
those with the wits to win them.    A carriage with driver
;.--     -/ ; - = .: .
"•»•■ ;
and footman in livery wearing the armorial design of
his own Ledyard ancestors rolled past in the street.
He ran to the coachman, asked the address, and presented himself at the door of the ancestral Ledyards,
hope beating high. The relationship was to be the key
to open all doors. And the door of the ancestral Ledyards was shut in his face. The father was out. The
son put no stock in the story of the ragged stranger.
He did not even know that Ledyards existed in America. What was to hinder any common tramp trumping up such a story ? Where were the tattered fellow's
proofs ? Ledyard came away with just enough wholesome human rage to keep him from sinking to despair,
or to what is more unmanning, self-pity. He had
failed before, through trying to frame his life to other
men's plans. He had failed now, through trying to
win success through other men's efforts — a barnacle
clinging to the hull of some craft freighted with fortune. Perhaps, too, he fairly and squarely faced the
fact that if he was to be one whit different from the
beggar for whom he had been mistaken, he must
build his own life solely and wholly on his own efforts.
On he wandered, the roar of the great city's activities rolling past him in a tide. His rage had time to
cool. Afternoon, twilight, dark; and still the tide
rolled past him; past him because like a stranded hull
rotting for lack of use, he had put himself outside the
tide of human effort. He must build up his own
career.     That was the fact he had wrested out of his
rage; but unless his abilities were to rot in some stagnant pool, he must launch out on the great tide of
human work. Before he had taken that resolution,
the roar of the city had been terrifying — a tide that
might swamp. Now, the thunder of the world's traffic
was a shout of triumph. He would launch out, let the
tide carry him where it might.
All London was resounding with the project of
Cook's third voyage round the world — the voyage
that was to settle forever how far America projected
into the Pacific. Recruits were being mustered for
the voyage. It came to Ledyard in an inspiration —
the new field for his efforts, the call of the sea that
paved a golden path around the world, the freedom for
shoulder-swing to do all that a man was worth. Quick
as flash, he was off—going with the tide now, not a derelict, not a stranded hull — off to shave, and wash, and
respectable-ize, in order to apply as a recruit with Cook.
In the dark, somewhere near the sailors' mean lodgings, a hand touched him. He turned; it was the
rich man's son, come profuse of apologies: his father
had returned; father and son begged to proffer both
financial aid and hospitality— Ledyard cut him short
with a terse but forcible invitation to go his own way.
That the unknown colonial at once received a berth
with Cook as corporal of marines, when half the young
men of England with influence to back their applications were eager to join the voyage, speaks well for
the sincerity of the new enthusiasm. JL
Cook left England in midsummer of 1776. He
sighted the Pacific coast, northward of what is now
San Francisco, in the spring of 1778. Ledyard was
the first American to see the land that lay beyond the
Rockies. It was not a narrow strip as men had
thought, but a broad belt a thousand miles long by a
thousand broad, an unclaimed world; for storms
drove Cook offshore here; and the English discoverer
did not land till abreast of British America.
At Nootka thousands of Indians flocked round the
two vessels to trade. For some trinkets of glass beads
and iron, Ledyard obtained one thousand five hundred
skins for Cook. Among the Indians, too, he saw
brass trinkets, that must have come all the way from
New Spain on the south, or from the Hudson's Bay
Fur Company on the east. What were the merchants
of New York and Philadelphia doing, that their ships
were not here reaping a harvest of wealth in furs ? If
this were the outermost bound of Louisiana, Louisiana
might some day be a part of the colonies now struggling for their liberties; and Ledyard's imagination
took one of those leaps that win a man the reputation
of a fool among his contemporaries, a hero to future
generations. 1 If it was necessary that a European
should discover the existence of the continent," he
afterward wrote, "in the name of Amor Patriae let a
native explore its resources and boundaries. It is my
wish to be the man."
Cook's   ships   passed   north   to   Oonalaska.    Only JOHN   LEDYARD
twenty-five years before, the Indians of Oonalaska had
massacred every white settlement on the island. Cook
wished to send a message to the Russian fur traders.
Not many men could be risked from the ship. Fired
with the ambition to know more of the coast which he
had determined to explore, Ledyard volunteered to go
for the Russians with two Indian guides. The pace
was set at an ambling run over rocks that had cut
Ledyard's boots to tatters before nightfall. He was
quite unarmed; and just at dark the way seemed to
end at a sandy shore, where the waves were already
chopping over on the rising tide, and spiral columns of
smoke betrayed the underground mud huts of those
very Indian villages that had massacred the Russians a
quarter of a century before. The guides had dived
somewhere underground and, while Ledyard stood nonplussed, came running back carrying a light skin boat
which they launched. It was made of oiled walrus
hide stretched like a drum completely round whalebones, except for two manholes in the top for the
rowers. Perpheela, the guide, signalled Ledyard to
embark; and before the white man could solve the
problem of how three men were to sit in two manholes, he was seized head and heels, and bundled clear
through a manhole, lying full length imprisoned like
Jonah in the whale. Then the swish of dipping
paddles, of the cold waves above and beneath, shut out
by parchment thin as tissue paper, told Ledyard that
he was being carried out to sea, spite of dark and storm, 250
in a craft light as an air-blown bladder, that bounced
forward, through, under, over the waves, undrownable
as a fish.
There was nothing to do but lie still. The slightest
motion might have ruptured the thin skin keel. On
he was borne through the dark, the first American in
history to travel by a submarine. At the end of what
seemed ages — it could not have been more than two
hours — after a deal of bouncing to the rising storm
with no sound but the whistling of wind and rush of
mountain seas, the keel suddenly grated pebbles. Starlight came through the vacated manholes; but before Ledyard could jump out, the boat was hoisted on
the shoulders of four men, and carried on a run overland. The creak of a door slammed open. A bump
as the boat dumped down to soft floor; and Ledyard
was dazzled by a glare of light to find himself in the
mess room ofthe Russian barracks on Captain Harbor,
in the presence of two bearded Russian hunters gasping
speechless with surprise to see a man emerging from
the  manhole  like  a newly hatched chicken from an
Fur rugs covered the floor, the walls, the benches,
the berth beds lining the sides of the barnlike Russian barracks. The windows were of oiled bladder
skin; the lamps, whale-oil in stone basins with skin
for wick. Arms were stacked in the corner. The two
Russians had been sitting down to a supper of boiled
salmon,  when   Ledyard   made  his   unannounced  en-
trance. By signs he explained that Captain Cook's
ships were at a near harbor and that the English commander desired to confer with Ismyloff, chief factor of
the Russians. Rising, kissing their hands ceremoniously as they mentioned the august name and taking
off their fur caps, the Russians made solemn answer
that all these parts, with a circumambient wave,
belonged to the Empress of Russia; that they were her
subjects — with more kissing of the hands/ Russia
did not want foreigners spying on her hunting-grounds.
Nevertheless, Ledyard was given a present of fresh
Chinese silk underwear, treated to the hottest Russian
brandy in the barracks, and put comfortably to bed on
a couch of otter skins. From his bed, he saw the Indians crowd in for evening services before a little Russian crucifix, the two traders leading prayers. These
were the tribes, whom the Russians had hunted with
dogs fifty years before; and who in turn had slain all
Russians on the Island. A better understanding now
In the morning Ledyard looked over the fur establishment; galliots, cannon-mounted in the harbor for
refuge in case of attack; the huge lemon-yellow, red-
roofed store-room that might serve as barracks or fort
for a hundred men; the brigades of eight, of nine, of
eleven hundred Indian hunters sailing the surfs under
the leadership of Ismyloff, the chief factor. Oonalaska
was the very centre of the sea-otter hunt. Here,
eighteen thousand otter a year were taken.    At once,
■■*■■ .i_
Ledyard realized how he could pay the cost of exploring that unclaimed world between New Spain and
Alaska: by turning fur trader as Radisson, and La
Salle, and the other explorers had done.
Ismyloff himself, who had been out with his brigade
when Ledyard came, went to visit the Englishman;
but Ismyloff had little to say, little of Benyowsky, the
Polish pirate, who had marooned him; less of Alaska;
and the reason for taciturnity was plain. The Russian
fur traders were forming a monopoly. They told no
secrets to the world. They wanted no intruders on
their hunting-ground. Could Ledyard have known
that the surly, bearded Russian was to blast his newborn ambitions; could Ismyloff have guessed that the
eager, young, beardless corporal of marines was indirectly to be the means of wresting the Pacific coast
from Russia — each might have smiled at the tricks of
Ledyard had two more years to serve in the British
navy when he returned from Cook's voyage. By another trick of destiny he was sent out on a battle ship
to fight against his native country in the Revolutionary
War. It was a time when men wore patriotic coats of
many colors. His ship lay at anchor off Long Island.
He had not seen his mother for seven years, but knew
that the war had reduced her to opening a lodging
house for British officers. Asking for a week's furlough, Ledyard went ashore, proceeded to his mother's JOHN   LEDYARD
house, knocked at the door, and was taken as a lodger
by her without being recognized, which was, perhaps,
as well; for the house was full of British spies. Ledyard waited till night. Then he went to her private
apartments and found her reading with the broad-
rimmed, horn-framed spectacles of those days. He
took her hands. "Look at me," he said. One glance
was enough. Then he shut the door; and the door
remains shut to the world on what happened there.
That was the end of British soldiering for Ledyard.
He never returned to the marines. He betook himself
to Hartford, where he wrote an account of Cook's
voyage. Then he set himself to move heaven and
earth for a ship to explore that unknown coast from
New Spain to Alaska. This was ten years before
Robert Gray of Boston had discovered the Columbia; twenty years before the United States thought
of buying Louisiana, twenty-five years before Lewis
and Clark reached the Pacific. Many influences
worked against him. Times were troublous. The
country had not recovered sufficiently from the throes
of the Revolution to think of expanding territory.
Individually and collectively, the nation was desperately poor. As for private sailing masters, they
smiled at Ledyard's enthusiasm. An unclaimed world ?
What did they care ? Where was the money in a
venture to the Pacific ? When Ledyard told how
Russia was reaping a yearly harvest of millions in furs,
even his old friend, Captain Deshon, whose boat had
•*!■ jL
2 54
carried him to Plymouth, grew chary of such roseate
prospects. It was characteristic of Ledyard that the
harder the difficulties proved, the harder grew his
determination to overcome. He was up against the
impossible, and instead of desisting, gritted his teeth,
determined to smash a breach through the wall of the
impossible, or smash himself trying. For six months
he besieged leading men in New York and Philadelphia, outlining his plans, meeting arguments, giving proofs for all he said of Pacific wealth, holding
conference after conference. Robert Morris entered
enthusiastically into the scheme; but what with
shipmasters' reluctance to embark on such a dangerous voyage and the general scarcity of funds, the
patience of both Ledyard and Morris became exhausted. Ledyard's savings had meanwhile dwindled
down to $4.27.
In Europe, Cook's voyage was beginning to create
a stir. The Russian government had projected an
expedition to the Pacific under Joseph Billings, Cook's
assistant astronomer. These Russian plans aimed at
no less than dominance on the Pacific. Forts were
to be built in California and Hawaii. In England and
India, private adventurers, Portlock, Dixon, Meares,
Barclay, were fitting out ships for Pacific trade. Some
one advised Ledyard to attempt his venture in the
country that had helped America in the Revolution,
France; and to France he sailed with money loaned by
Mr. Sands of New York, in 1784. JOHN   LEDYARD
In Paris Ledyard met two of the most remarkable
men in American history, Paul Jones, the naval hero,
and Jefferson. To them both he told the marvels of
Pacific wealth, and both were far-sighted enough to
share his dreams. It was now that Jefferson began
to formulate those plans that Lewis and Clark afterward carried out. The season was too late for a
voyage this year, but Paul Jones loaned Ledyard
money and arranged to take out a ship of four hundred
tons the following year. The two actually went over
every detail together. Jones was to carry the furs to
China, Ledyard with assistants, surgeon, and twenty
soldiers to remain at the fur post and explore.
But Paul Jones was counting on the support of the
American government; and when he found that the
government considered Ledyard's promises visionary,
he threw the venture over in a pique.
Was Ledyard beaten ? Jefferson and he talked
over the project day after day. Ledyard was willing
to tramp it across the two Siberias on foot, and to
chance over the Pacific Ocean in a Russian fur-trading
vessel, if Jefferson could obtain permission from the
Russian Empress. Meanwhile, true soldier of fortune,
without money, or influence, he lived on terms of intimacy with the fashion of Paris.
"I have but five French crowns," he wrote a friend.
"The Fitzhughes (fellow-roomers) haven't money for
tobacco.     Such   a   set   of  moneyless   rascals   never 256
appeared since the days of FalstafF." Again — " Sir
James Hall, on his way from Paris to Cherbourg,
stopped his coach at our door. I was in bed, but
having flung on my robe de chambre, met him at the
door. ... In walking across the chamber, he laughingly put his hand on a six livre piece and a louis d'or
on my table, and with a blush asked me how I was in
the money way. Blushes beget blushes. 'If fifteen
guineas,' said he, 'will be of any service to you, here
they are.    You have my address in London.'
While waiting the passports from the Empress of
Russia, he was invited by Sir James Hall to try his
luck in England. The very daring of the wild attempt
to cross Siberia and America alone appealed to the English. Half a dozen men, friends of Cook, took the venture up, and Ledyard found himself in the odd position
of being offered a boat by the country whose navy he
had deserted. Perhaps because of that desertion all
news of the project was kept very quiet. A small ship
had slipped down the Thames for equipments, when the
government got wind of it. Whether the great Hudson's Bay Company of England opposed the expedition as intrusion on its fur preserve, or the English
government objected to an American conducting the
exploration for the expansion of American territory,
the ship was ordered back, and Ledyard was in no
position to confront the English authorities. Again
he was checkmated, and fell back on Jefferson's plan
to cross the two Siberias on foot, and chance it over JOHN   LEDYARD
the Pacific.    His friends in London gathered enough
money to pay his way to St. Petersburg.
January of 1787 saw him in Sweden seeking passage
across the Baltic. Usually the trip to St. Petersburg
was made by dog sleighs across the ice. This year
the season had been so open, neither boats nor dog
trains could be hired to make the trip. Ledyard was
now thirty-six years old, and the sum of his efforts
totalled to a zero. The first twenty-five years of his
life he had wasted trying to fit his life to other men's
patterns. The last five years he had wasted waiting
for other men to act, men in New York, in Philadelphia,
in Paris, in London, to give him a ship. He had done
with waiting, with dependence on others. When boats
and dog trains failed him now, he muffled himself in
wolfskins to his neck, flung a knapsack on his back,
and set out in midwinter to tramp overland six hundred
miles north to Tornea at the head of the Baltic, six
hundred miles south from Tornea, through Finland
to St. Petersburg. Snow fell continually. Storms
raged in from the sea. The little villages of northern
Sweden and Finland were buried in snow to the chimney-tops. Wherever he happened to be at nightfall,
he knocked at the door of a fisherman's hut. Wherever
he was taken in, he slept, whether on the bare floor
before the hearth, or among the dogs of the outhouses,
or in the hay-lofts of the cattle sheds. No more waiting for Ledyard!    Storm or shine, early and late, he
mm JL
tramped two hundred miles a week for seven weeks
from the time he left Stockholm. When he marched
into St. Petersburg on the 19th of March, men hardly
knew whether to regard him as a madman or a wonder. Using the names of Jefferson and Lafayette, he
jogged up the Russian authorities by another application for the passport. The passport was long in
coming. How was Ledyard to know that Ismyloff,
the Russian fur trader, whom he had met in Oonalaska, had written letters stirring up the Russian government to jealous resentment against all comers to
the Pacific ? Ledyard was mad with impatience.
Days slipped into weeks, weeks into months, and no
passport came. He was out of clothes, out of money,
out of food. A draft on his English friends kept him
from destitution. Just a year before, Billings, the
astronomer of Cook's vessel, had gone across Siberia
on the way to America for the Russian government.
If Ledyard could only catch up to Billings's expedition,
that might be a chance to cross the Pacific. As if to
exasperate his impatience still more, he met a Scotch
physician, a Dr. William Brown, now setting out for
Siberia on imperial business, who offered to carry him
along free for three thousand of the seven thousand
miles to the Pacific. Perhaps the proceeds of that
English draft helped him with the slow Russian authorities, but at last, on June I, he had his passport, and
was off* with Dr. Brown. His entire earthly possessions at this time consisted of a few guineas, a suit of
 =■—■*- JOHN   LEDYARD
clothes, and large debts. What was the crack-brained
enthusiast aiming at anyway ? An empire half the
present size of the United States.
From St. Petersburg to Moscow in six days, drawn
by three horses at breakneck pace, from Moscow to
Kazan through the endless forests, on to the Volga,
Brown and Ledyard hastened. By the autumn they
were across the Barbary Desert, three thousand miles
from St. Petersburg. Here Brown remained, and
Ledyard went on with the Cossack mail carriers. All
along the endless trail of two continents, the trail of
East and West, he passed the caravans of the Russian
fur traders, and learned the astonishing news that more
than two thousand Russians were on the west coast of
America. Down the Lena next, to Yakutsk, the
great rendezvous of the fur traders, only one thousand
miles more to the Pacific; and on the great plain of
the fur traders near Yakutsk he at last overtook the
Billings explorers on their way to America. Only one
guinea was left in his pocket, and the Cossack commandant reported that the season was too far advanced
for him to cross the Pacific. What did it matter ? He
would cross the Pacific with Billings in spring. He
was nearer the realization of his hopes than ever before
in his life; and surely his success in tramping twice
the length of Sweden, and in crossing two continents
when almost destitute augured well for his success in
crossing from the Pacific to the Missouri.
Not for a moment was his almost childlike confidence I
disturbed by a suspicion of bad faith, of intentional
delay in issuing the passports, of excuses to hold him
back at Yakutsk till the jealous fur traders could send
secret complaints to St. Petersburg. Much less was
he suspicious when Billings, his old friend of Cook's
voyage, himself arrived, and invited him on a sled
journey of exploration up the Lena while waiting.1
On sledges he went up the Lena River with a party
of explorers. On the night of February 24 two or
three of the officers and Ledyard were sitting in the
mess room of Irkutsk playing cards. They might
laugh at Ledyard. They also laughed with him.
Wherever he went, went gayety. Gales of boisterous
laughter were on the wind. Hopes as tenuous as the
wind were in the air. One of the great Bering's sons
was there, no doubt telling tales of discovery that set
each man's veins jumping. Suddenly a tremendous
jingling of bells announced some midnight arrival posthaste at the barracks' door. Before the card players
had risen from their places, two Cossacks had burst
into the room stamping snow from their feet. Marching straight over to Ledyard, they seized him roughly
by the arms and arrested him for a French spy, displaying the Empress's written orders, brought all the
way from St. Petersburg. To say that Ledyard was
dumfounded is putting it mildly. Every man in the
room knew that he was not a French spy.    Every man
1 In Sauer's account of the Billings Expedition, some excuse is given for the conduct of Billings on the ground that Ledyard had been insolent to the Russians. JOHN   LEDYARD
in the room knew that the arrest was a farce, instigated
by the jealous fur traders whom Ismyloff's lying
letters had aroused. For just a second Ledyard lost
his head and called on Billings as a man of honor to
confute the charge. However Ledyard might lose his
head, Billings was not willing to lose his. He advised
Ledyard not to provoke conflict with the Russian
authorities, but to go back to St. Petersburg and disprove the charge. Was it a case of one explorer being
jealous of another, or had Billings played Ledyard
into the fur traders' trap ? That will never be known.
Certain it is, Billings made mess enough of his own
expedition to go down to posterity as a failure. Some
of the officers ran to get Ledyard a present of clothes
and money. As he jumped into the waiting sledge and
looked back over his shoulder at the group of faces
smiling in the lighted doorway, he burst into a laugh,
but it was the laugh of an embittered man, whose life
had crumbled to ruin at one blow. The Cossacks
whipped up the horses, and he was off on the long
trail back, five thousand miles, every mile a sign post
of blasted hopes. Without a word of explanation or
the semblance of a trial on the false charge, he was
banished out of St. Petersburg on pain of death if he
Ragged, destitute, the best years of his life gone, he
reached London, heartbroken. "I give up," he told
the English friends, who had backed him with money,
and what was better than money — faith.    " I give up,"
1 J_
he wrote Jefferson, who afterward had Lewis and
Clark carry out Ledyard's plans.
The men of the African Geographical Society in
London tried to cheer him. When could he set out
to explore the source of the Nile for them ?
"To-morrow," answered Ledyard, with the heedlessness of one who has lost grip on life. The salary
advanced paid off the moss-grown debts of his disappointed past, but he never reached the scene of his
new venture. He died on the way at Cairo, in November, 1788, for all hope had already died in his
heart. The world that has entered into the heritage
of his aims has forgotten Ledyard; for the public acclaims only the heroes of success, and he was a hero
of defeat. All that Lewis and Clark succeeded in
doing for the West, backed by the prestige of government, Ledyard, the penniless soldier of fortune, had
foreseen and planned with Jefferson in the attic apartments of Paris.1
1 Ledyard's Journal of Cook's Last Voyage, Hartford, 1783, and Sparks's Life of
Ledyard, Cambridge, 1829. CHAPTER  X
Activities of Americans, Spanish, and Russians on the West Coast of
America arouse England — Vancouver is sent out ostensibly to
settle the Quarrel between Fur Traders and Spanish Governors at
Nootka — Incidentally, he is to complete the Exploration of
America's West Coast and take Possession for England of Unclaimed Territory — The Myth of a Northeast Passage dispelled
With Gray's entrance of the Columbia, the great
drama of discovery on the northwest coast of
America was drawing to a close.
After the death of Bering on the Commander Islands,
and of Cook at Hawaii, while on voyages to prove
there was no Northeast Passage, no open waterway
between Pacific and Atlantic, it seems impossible that
the myth of an open sea from Asia to Europe could
still delude men; but it was in hunting for China that
Columbus found America; and it was in hunting for
a something that had no existence except in the foolish
theories of the schoolmen that the whole northwest
coast of America was exploited.
263 264
Bering had been called "coward' for not sailing
through a solid continent. Cook was accused of fur
trading, "pottering in peltries," to the neglect of discovery, because his crews sold their sea-otter at profit.
To be sure, the combined results of Bering's and
Cook's voyages proved there was no waterway through
Alaska to the Atlantic; but in addition to blackening
the reputations of the two great navigators in order
to throw discredit on their conclusions, the schoolmen
bellicosely demanded — Might there not be a passage
south of Alaska, between Russia's claim on the north
and Spain's on the south ? Both Bering and Cook
had been driven out from this section of the coast by
gales. This left a thousand miles of American coast
unexplored. Cook had said there were no Straits of
Fuca, of which the old Greek pilot in the service of
New Spain had told legends of fictitious voyages two
centuries before; yet Barclay, an East India English
trader, had been up those very straits. So had
Meares, another trader. So had Kendrick and Gray,
the two Americans. This was the very section which
Bering and Cook had left untouched; and who could
tell where these straits might lead ? They were like
a second Mediterranean. Meares argued they might
connect with Hudson Bay.
Then Spain had forced matters to a climax by
seizing Meares's vessels and fort at Nootka as contraband. That had only one meaning: Spain was trying
to lay hands on everything from New Spain to Russian  i
Captain George Vancouver. GEORGE  VANCOUVER
territory on the north. If Spain claimed all north to
the Straits of Fuca, and Russia claimed all south to
the Straits of Fuca, where was England's claim of
New Albion discovered by Sir Francis Drake, and of
all that coast which Cook had sighted round Nootka ?
Captain George Vancouver, formerly midshipman
with Cook, was summoned post-haste by the British
Admiralty. Ostensibly, his mission was to receive
back at Nootka all the lands which the Spaniards
had taken from Meares, the trader. Really, he was
to explore the coast from New Spain on the south, to
Russian America on the north, and to hold that coast
for England. That Spain had already explored the
islands of this coast was a mere detail. There remained the continental shore still to be explored.
Besides, Spain had not followed up her explorations
by possession. She had kept her navigations secret.
In many cases her navigators had not even landed.
Vancouver was still in his prime, under forty. Serving in the navy from boyhood, he had all a practical
seaman's contempt for theories. This contempt was
given point by the world's attitude toward Cook.
Vancouver had been on the spot with Cook. He
knew there was no Northeast Passage. Cook had
proved that.    Yet the world refused credence.
For the practical navigator there remained only one
course, and that course became the one aim, the consuming ambition of Vancouver's life — to destroy the
i JL_
last vestige of the myth of a Northeast Passage; to
explore the northwest coast of America so thoroughly
there would not remain a single unknown inlet that
could be used as a possible prop for the schoolmen's
theories, to penetrate every inlet from California
to Alaska — mainland and island; to demonstrate
that not one possible opening led to the Atlantic.
This was to be the object of Vancouver's life, and he
carried it out with a thoroughness that left nothing
for subsequent explorers to do; but he died before the
record of his voyages had been given to the world.
The two ships, Discovery and Chatham, with a
supply ship, the Dcedalus, to follow later, were fitted
out for long and thorough work. Vancouver's vessel,
the Discovery, carried twenty guns with a crew of a
hundred men. The tender, Chatham, under Brough-
ton, had ten guns and forty-five men. With Vancouver went Menzies, and Puget, and Baker, and
Johnstone — names that were to become place marks
on the Pacific. The Discovery and Chatham left England in the spring of 1791. A year later found them
cutting the waves from Hawaii for America, the New
Albion of Drake's discovery, forgotten by England
until Spain's activity stimulated memory of the pirate
A swashing swell met the ships as they neared America. Phosphorescent lights blue as sulphur flame slimed
the sea in a trail of rippling fire; and a land bird,
washed out by the waves, told of New Albion's shore. GEORGE  VANCOUVER
For the first two weeks of April, the Discovery and
Chatham had driven under cloud of sail and sunny
skies; but on the 16th, just when the white fret of reefs
ahead forewarned land, heavy weather settled over
the ships. To the fore, bare, majestic, compact as a
wall, the coast of New Albion towered out of the surf
near Mendocino. Cheers went up from the lookout
for the landfall of Francis Drake's discovery. Then
torrents of rain washed out surf and shore. The hurricane gales, that had driven all other navigators out to
sea from this coast, now lashed Vancouver. Such
smashing seas swept over decks, that masts, sails,
railings, were wrenched away.
Was it ill-luck or destiny, that caught Vancouver
in this gale ? If he had not been driven offshore
here, he might have been just two weeks before Gray
on the Columbia, and made good England's claim of
all territory between New Spain and Alaska. When
the weather cleared on April 27, the ocean was turgid,
plainly tinged river-color by inland waters; but ground
swell of storm and tide rolled across the shelving sandbars. Not a notch nor an opening breached through
the flaw of the horizon from the ocean to the source of
the shallow green. Vancouver was too far offshore to
see that there really was a break in the surf wash. He
thought — and thought rightly — this was the place
where the trader, Meares, had hoped to find the great
River of the West, only to be disappointed and to name
the   point   Cape   Disappointment.     Vancouver   was x_
not to be fooled by any such fanciful theories. "Not
considering this opening worthy of more attention,"
he writes, "I continued to the northwest." He had
missed the greatest honor that yet remained for any
discoverer on the Pacific. Within two weeks Gray,
the American, heading back to these baffling tides with
a dogged persistence that won its own glory, was to
succeed in passing the breakers and discovering the
Columbia. As the calm permitted approach to the
shore again, forests appeared through the haze — that
soft, velvet, caressing haze of the dreamy, lazily swelling Pacific — forests of fir and spruce and pine and
cypress, in all the riot of dank spring growth, a dense
tangle of windfall and underbrush and great vines
below, festooned with the light green stringy mosses
of cloud line overhead and almost impervious to sunlight. Myriad wild fowl covered the sea. The coast
became beetling precipice, that rolled inland forest-
clad to mountains jagging ragged peaks through the
clouds. This was the Olympus Range, first noticed
by Meares, and to-day seen for miles out at sea like a
ridge of opalescent domes suspended in mid-heaven.
Vancouver was gliding into the Straits of Fuca when
the slender colors of a far ship floated above the blue
horizon outward bound. Another wave-roll, and the
flag was seen to be above full-blown sails and a square-
hulled, trim little trader of America. At six in the
morning  of April 29, the American saluted with  a GEORGE  VANCOUVER
cannon-shot. Vancouver answered with a charge
from his decks, rightly guessing this was Robert Gray
on the Columbia.
Puget and Menzies were sent to inquire about
Gray's cruise. They brought back word that Gray had
been fifty miles up the Straits  of Fuca;  and — most
The Columbia in a Squall.
astounding to Vancouver's ambitions — that the American had been off the mouth of a river south of the
straits at 460 io', where the tide prevented entrance
for nine days. "The river Mr. Gray mentioned,
says Vancouver, "should be south of Cape Disappointment. This we passed on the forenoon of the
27th;   and if any inlet or river be found, it must be a -*■»
very intricate one, inaccessible . . . owing to reefs
and broken water. ... I was thoroughly convinced,
as were most persons on board, that we could not possibly have passed any cape . . . from Mendocino to
Classet (Flattery)."
Keen to prove that no Northeast Passage existed by
way of the Straits of Fuca, Vancouver headed inland,
close to the south shore, where craggy heights offered
some guidance through the labyrinth of islands and fog.
Eight miles inside the straits he anchored for the night.
The next morning the sun rose over one of the fairest
scenes of the Pacific coast — an arm of the sea placid
as a lake, gemmed by countless craggy islands. On
the land side were the forested valleys rolling in to
the purple folds of the mountains; and beyond, eastward, dazzling as a huge shield of fire in the sunrise,
a white mass whiter than the whitest clouds, swimming
aerially in mid-heaven. Lieutenant Baker was the
first to catch a glimpse of the vision for which every
western traveller now watches, the famous peak seen
by land or sea for hundreds of miles, the playground
of the jagged green lightnings on the hot summer
nights; and the peak was named after him — Mount
For the first time in history white men's boats plied
the waters of the great inland sea now variously known
as Admiralty Inlet, Puget Sound, Hood Canal. There
must be no myth of a Northeast Passage left lurking
in any of the many inlets of this spider-shaped sea. GEORGE  VANCOUVER
Vancouver, Menzies, Puget, and Johnstone set out in
the small boats to penetrate every trace of water passage.
Instead of leading northeast, the tangled maze of forest-hidden channels meandered southward. Savages
swarmed over the water, paddling round and round
the white men, for all the world like birds of prey circling for a chance to swoop at the first unguarded
moment. Tying trinkets to pieces of wood, Puget let
the gifts float back as peace-offerings to woo good will.
The effect was what softness always is to an Indian
spoiling for a fight, an incentive to boldness. When
Puget landed for noon meal, a score of redskins lined
up ashore and began stringing their bows for action.
Puget drew a line along the sand with his cutlass and
signalled the warriors to keep back. They scrambled
out of his reach with a great clatter. It only needed
some fellow bolder than the rest to push across the line,
and massacre would begin. Puget did not wait. By
way of putting the fear of the Lord and respect for the
white man in the heart of the Indian, he trained the
swivel of the small boat landward, and fired in midair.
The result was instant. Weapons were dropped.
On Monday, midday, June 4, Vancouver and Brough-
ton landed at Point Possession. Officers drew up in
line. The English flag was unfurled, a royal salute
fired, and possession taken of all the coast of New
Albion from latitude 39 to the Straits of Fuca, which
Vancouver named Gulf of Georgia. Just a month
before, Gray, the American, had preceded this act of 272
possession by a similar ceremony for the United States
on the banks of the Columbia.
The sum total of Vancouver's work so far had been
the exploration of Puget Sound, which is to the West
what the Gulf of St. Lawrence is to the East. For
Puget Sound and its allied waters he had done exactly
what Cartier accomplished for the Atlantic side of
America. His next step was to learn if the Straits of
Fuca leading northward penetrated America and came
out on the Atlantic side. That is what the old Greek
pilot in the service of New Spain, Juan de Fuca, had
said some few years after Drake and Cavendish had
been out on the coast of California.
Though Vancouver explored the Pacific coast more
thoroughly than all the other navigators who had preceded him, — so thoroughly, indeed, that nothing was
left to be done by the explorers who came after him,
and modern surveys have been unable to improve upon
his charts, — it seemed his ill-luck to miss by just a
hair's breadth the prizes he coveted. He had missed
the discovery of the Columbia. He was now to miss
the second largest river of the Northwest, the Fraser.
He had hoped to be the first to round the Straits of
Fuca, disproving the assumption that they led to the
Atlantic; and he came on the spot only to learn that
the two English traders, Meares and Barclay, the two
Americans, Kendrick and Gray, and two Spaniards,
Don Galiano and  Don  Valdes, had   already  proved GEORGE VANCOUVER
practically that this part of the coast was a large
island, and the Straits of Fuca an arm of the Pacific
Fifty Indians, in the long dugouts, of grotesquely
carved prows and gaudy paint common among Pacific
tribes, escorted Vancouver's boats northward the
second week in June through the labyrinthine passageways of cypress-grown islets to Burrard Inlet. To
Peter Puget was assigned the work of coasting the mainland side and tracing every inlet to its head waters.
Johnstone went ahead in a small boat to reconnoitre
the way out of the Pacific. On both sides the shores
now rose in beetling precipice and steep mountains,
down which foamed cataracts setting the echo of
myriad bells tinkling through the wilds. The sea
was tinged with milky sediment; but fog hung thick
as a blanket; and Vancouver passed on north without
seeing Fraser River. A little farther on, toward the
end of June, he was astonished to meet a Spanish brig
and schooner exploring the straits. Don Galiano and
Don Valdes told him ofthe Fraser, which he had missed,
and how the Straits of Fuca led out to the North Pacific.
They had also been off Puget Sound, but had not gone
inland, and brought Vancouver word that Don Quadra,
the Spanish emissary, sent to restore to England the
fort from which Meares, the trader, had been ousted,
hacM arrived at Nootka on the other side of the island,
and was waiting. The explorers all proceeded up the
straits together; but the little Spanish crafts were unable 274
to keep abreast of the big English vessels, so with a
friendly cheer from both sides, the English went on
Strange Indian villages lined the beetling heights of
the straits. The houses, square built and of log slabs,
row on row, like the streets of the white man, were
The Discovery on the Rocks.
situated high on isolated rocks, inaccessible to approach
except by narrow planking forming a causeway from
rock walls across the sea to the branches of a tree.
In other places rope ladders formed the only path
to the aerial dwellings, or the zigzag trail up the steep
face of a rock down which defenders could hurl stones.
Howe's Sound, Jervis Canal, Bute Inlet, were passed; GEORGE  VANCOUVER
and in July Johnstone came back with news he  had
found a narrow channel out to the Pacific.
The straits narrowed to less than half a mile with
such a terrific tide wash that on Sunday, July 29, the
ships failed to answer to the helm and waves seventeen
feet high dashed over decks. Progress was made by
hauling the boats alongshore with ropes braced round
trees. By the first of August a dense fog swept in
from the sea. The Discovery crashed on a sunken
rock, heeling over till her sails were within three inches
of water. Ballast was thrown overboard, and the next
tide-rush lifted her. By August 19 Vancouver had
proved — if any doubt remained — that no Northeast
Passage was to be found by way ofthe Straits of Fuca.1
Then, veering out to sea at midnight through squalls
1 The legend of Juan de Fuca became current about 1592, as issued in Samuel
Purchas1 Pilgrims in 1625, Vol. Ill : **-* A note made by Michael Lok, the elder,
touching the strait of sea commonly called Fretum Anian in the South Sea through the
North-West Passage of Meta Incognita." Lok met in Venice, in April, 1596, an
old man called Juan de Fuca, a Greek mariner and pilot, of the crew of the galleon
Santa Anna taken by Cavendish near southern California in 1587. The pilot narrated
after his return to Mexico, he was sent by the viceroy with three vessels to discover the
Strait of Anian. This expedition failing, he was again sent in 1592, with a small
caravel in which * * he followed the course west and northwest to latitude 47 north,
there finding a broad inlet between 47 and 48, he entered, sailing therein more than
twenty days . . . and found very much broader sea than was at the said entrance . . .
a great island with a high pinnacle. . . . Being come into the North Sea ... he
returned to Acapulco." According to the story the old pilot tried to find his way to
Englarji in the hope of the Queen recouping him for goods taken by Cavendish, and
furnisl^lng him with a ship to essay the Northeast Passage again. The old man died
before Raleigh and other Englishmen could forward money for him to come to England.
Whether the story is purely a sailor's yarn, or the pilot really entered the straits named
after him, and losing his bearings when he came out in the Pacific imagined he was on
the Atlantic, is a dispute among savants. 11
of rain, he steered to Nootka for the conference with
Vancouver came to Nootka on the 28th of August.
Nootka was the grand rallying place of fur traders on
the Pacific. It was a triangular sound extending into
the shores of Vancouver Island.    On an island at the
Indian Settlement at Nootka.
mouth of the sound the Spaniards had built their
fort. This part of the bay was known as Friendly
Cove. To the north was Snug Cove, where Cook
had anchored; to the south the roadstead of the fur
traders. Mountains rose from the water-line; and on a
terrace of hills above the Spanish fort was the native
village of Maquinna, the Indian chief. GEORGE  VANCOUVER
Here, then, came Vancouver, met at the harbor mouth
by a Spanish officer with pilot to conduct the Discovery
to the Spanish fort of Nootka. The Chatham, the
Dcedalus, Vancouver's store ship, two or three English
fur-trading ships, Spanish frigates bristling with cannon,
were already at anchor ; and the bright Spanish pennant, red and yellow, waved to the wind above the
cannon-mounted, palisaded log fort of Nootka.
Donning regimentals, Lieutenant Puget marched
solemnly up to the fort to inform Don Juan de la
Bodega y Quadra, representative of Spain, that Captain
George Vancouver, representative of England, had
arrived at Nootka to await the pleasure of New Spain's
commander. It was New Spain's pleasure to receive
England's salute; and Vancouver's guns roared out a
volley of thirteen shots to the amaze of two thousand
or more savages watching from the shores. Formally
accompanied by his officers, Vancouver then paid his
respects to New Spain. Don Quadra returned the
compliment by breakfasting next morning on board the
Discovery, while his frigates in turn saluted England
by a volley of thirteen guns. In all this solemn parade
of formality, Maquinna, lord ofthe wild domain, began
to wonder what part he was to play, and ventured to
board the Discovery, clad in a garb of nature, to join
th© breakfast of the leaders; when he was summarily
cu Jed overboard by the guard, who failed to recognize
the Indian's quality. Don Quadra then gave a grand
dinner to the English, to which the irate Maquinna J^
was invited. Five courses the dinner had, with royal
salutes setting the echoes rolling in the hills. Seventeen guns were fired to the success of Vancouver's
explorations. Toasts were drunk, foaming toasts to
glory, and the navigators of the Pacific, and Maquinna,
grand chief of the Nootkas, who responded by rising
in his place, glass in hand, to express regret that Spain
should withdraw from the North Pacific. It was then
the brilliant thought flashed on Don Quadra to win the
friendship of the Indians for all the white traders on
the Pacific coast through a ceremonious visit by Vancouver and himself to Maquinna's home village, twenty
miles up the sound.
Cutter and yawl left Friendly Cove at eight in the
morning of September 4, coming to Maquinna's home
village at two in the afternoon. Don Quadra supplied
the dinner, served in style by his own Spanish lackeys;
and the gallant Spaniard led Maquinna's only daughter
to the seat at the head of the spread, where the young
squaw did the honors with all the hauteur ofthe Indian
race. Maquinna then entertained his visitors with a
sham battle of painted warriors, followed by a mask
dance. Not to be outdone, the whites struck up fife
and drum, and gave a wild display of Spanish fandangoes and Scotch reels. In honor of the day's outing,
it was decided to name the large island which Vancouver
had almost circumnavigated, Quadra and Vancouver.
When Maquinna returned this visit, there were fireworks, and more toasts, and more salutes.    All this GEORGE  VANCOUVER
was very pleasant; but it was not business. Then
Vancouver requested Don Quadra to ratify the international agreement between England and Spain; but
there proved to be a wide difference of opinion as to
what that agreement meant. Vancouver held that it
entailed the surrender of Spain's sovereignty from San
Francisco northward. Don Quadra maintained that
it only surrendered Spanish rights north of Juan de
Fuca, leaving the northwest coast free to all nations
for trade. With Vancouver it was all or nothing.
Don Quadra then suggested that letters be sent to Spain
and England for more specific instructions. For this
purpose Lieutenant Broughton was to be despatched
overland across Mexico to Europe. It was at this stage
that Robert Gray came down from the north on the
damaged Columbia, to receive assistance from Quadra.
Within three weeks Gray had sailed for Boston, Don
Quadra for New Spain, and Vancouver to the south,
to examine that Columbia River of Gray's before proceeding to winter on the Sandwich Islands.
The three English ships hauled out of Nootka in
the middle of October, steering for that new river of
Gray's, of which Vancouver had expressed such doubt.
The foaming reefs of Cape Disappointment were
gghted and the north entrance seen just as Gray had
described it. The Chatham rode safely inside the
heavy cross swell, though her small boat smashed
to chips among the breakers;  but on Sunday, October JL_
21, such mountainous seas were running that Vancouver
dared not risk his big ship, the Discovery, across the
bar. Broughton was intrusted to examine the Columbia before setting out to England for fresh orders.
The Chatham had anchored just inside Cape Disappointment on the north, then passed south to Cape
Adams, using Gray's chart as guide. Seven miles up
the north coast, a deep bay was named after Gray.
Nine or ten Indian dugouts with one hundred and
fifty warriors now escorted Broughton's rowboat upstream. The lofty peak ahead covered with snow
was named Mt. Hood. For seven days Broughton
followed the river till his provision ran out, and the
old Indian chief with him explained by the signs of
pointing in the direction of the sunrise and letting
water trickle through his fingers that water-falls ahead
would stop passage. Somehow, Broughton seemed to
think because Gray, a private trader, had not been
clad in the gold-braid regimentals of authority, his
act of discovery was void; for Broughton landed,
and with the old chief assisting at the ceremony by
drinking healths, took possession of all the region for
England, "having' as the record ofthe trip explains,
"every reason to believe that the subjects of no other
civilized nation or state had ever entered this river
before; in this opinion he was confirmed by Mr.
Gray's sketch, in which it does not appear that Mr.
Gray either saw or was ever within five leagues of the
Any comment on this proceeding is superfluous.
It was evidently in the hope that the achievement of
Gray — an unassuming fur trader, backed by nothing
but his own dauntless courage — would be forgotten,
which it certainly was for fifty years by nearly all
Americans. Three days later, on November 3, Broughton was back down-stream at the Chatham, noting the
deserted Indian village of Chinook as he passed to
the harbor mouth. On November 6, in heavy rain, the
ship stood out for sea, passing the Jenny of Bristol,
imprisoned inside the cape by surf. Broughton landed
to reconnoitre the passage out. The wind calmed next
day, and a breach was descried through the surf. The
little trading ship led the way, Broughton following,
hard put to keep the Chatham headed for the sea,
breakers rolling over her from stem to stern, snapping
the tow-rope of the launch and washing a sailor overboard; and we cannot but have a higher respect for
Gray's feat, knowing the difficulties that Broughton
Meanwhile Vancouver on the Discovery had coasted
on down from the mouth of the Columbia to Drake's
Bay, just outside the Golden Gate of San Francisco,
where the bold English pirate had anchored in 1579.
By nightfall of November 14 he was inside the spacious
ha$bor of San Francisco. Two men on horseback
rope out from the Spanish settlement, a mile back
from the water front, firing muskets as a salute to
Vancouver.    The next morning, a Spanish friar and JL_
ensign came aboard the Discovery for breakfast, pointing out to Vancouver the best anchorage for both
wood and water. While the sailors went shooting
quail on the hills, or amused themselves watching the
Indians floating over the harbor on rafts made of dry
rushes and grass, the good Spanish padre conducted
Vancouver ashore to the presidio, or house of the commandant, back from the landing on a little knoll surrounded by hills. The fort was a square area of adobe
walls fourteen feet high and five deep, the outer beams
filled in between with a plaster of solid mortar, houses
and walls whitewashed from lime made of sea-shells.
A small brass cannon gathered rust above one dilapidated carriage, and another old gun was mounted by
being lashed to a rotten log. A single gate led into the
fort, which was inhabited by the commandant, the
guard of thirty-five soldiers, and their families. The
windows of the houses were very small and without
glass, the commandant's house being a rude structure
thirty by fourteen feet, whitewashed inside and out,
the floor sand and rushes, the furnishings of the roughest handicraft. The mission proper was three miles
from the fort, with a guard of five soldiers and a corporal. Such was the beginning of the largest city on
the Pacific coast to-day.
Broughton was now sent overland to England for
instructions about the transfer of Nootka. Puget became commander of the Chatham. The store ship
Dcedalus was sent to the South Seas, and touching only GEORGE VANCOUVER
at Monterey, Vancouver sailed to winter in the Sandwich Islands. Here two duties awaited the explorer,
which he carried out in a way that left a streak both of
glory and of shame across his escutcheon. The Sandwich Islands had become the halfway house of the
Pacific for the fur traders. How fur traders — riffraff adventurers from earth's ends beyond the reach of
law — may have acted among these simple people
may be guessed from the conduct of Cook's crews;
and Cook was a strict disciplinarian. Those who sow
to the wind, need not be surprised if they reap the
whirlwind. White men, welcomed by these Indians as
gods, repaid the native hospitality by impressing natives as crews to a northern climate where the transition
from semitropics meant almost certain death. For a
fur trader to slip into Hawaii, entice women aboard,
then scud off to America where the victims might rot
unburied for all the traders cared *— was considered
a joke. How the joke caused Captain Cook's death
the world knows; and the joke was becoming a little
frequent, a little bold, a little too grim for the white
traders' sense of security. The Sandwich Islanders had
actually formed the plot of capturing every vessel that
came into their harbors and holding the crews for extortionate ransom. How many white men were victims
of this plot — to die by the assassin's knife or waiting
f$r the ransom that never came — is not a part of
this record. It was becoming a common thing to find
white men living in a state of quasi-slavery among the 284
islanders, each white held as hostage for the security of
the others not escaping. Within three years three
ships had been attacked, one Spanish, one American,
one English — the store ship Daedalus on the way out
to Nootka with supplies for Vancouver. Two officers,
Hergest and Gooch of the Daedalus, had been seized,
stripped naked, forced at the point of spears up a hill
to the native village, and cut to pieces. Vancouver
determined to put a stop to such attacks. Arriving at
the islands, he trained his cannon ashore, demanded
that the murderers of the Dcedalusfs officers be surrendered, tried the culprits with all the solemnity and
speed of English court-martial, sentenced them to
death, had them tied up to the mast poles and executed.
That is the blot against Vancouver; for the islanders
had put up a trick. The real murderers had been
leading chiefs. Not wishing to surrender these, the
islanders had given Vancouver poor slaves quite guiltless of the crime.
In contrast to this wrong-headed demonstration of
justice was Vancouver's other act. At Nootka he
had found among the traders two young Hawaiian
girls not more than fifteen and nineteen years of age,
whom some blackguard trader had forcibly carried off.
The most of great voyagers would not have soiled their
gloves interfering with such a case. Cook had winked
at such crimes. Drake, two hundred years before,
had laughed. The Russians outdid either Drake or
Cook.    They dumped the victims overboard where the GEORGE VANCOUVER
sea told no tales. Vancouver might have been strict
enough disciplinarian to execute the wrong men by
way of a lesson; but he was consistent in his strictness.
Round these two friendless savages he wrapped all the
chivalry and the might of the English flag. He received them on board the Discovery, treated them as he
might have treated his own sisters, prevented the possibility of insult from the common sailors by having
them at his own table on the ship, taught them the
customs of Europeans toward women and the reasons
for those customs, so that the young girls presently had
the respect and friendship of every sailor on board the
Discovery. In New Spain he had obtained clothing
and delicacies for them that white women have; and
in the Sandwich Islands took precautions against their
death at the hands of Hawaiians for having been on the
ship with strange men, by securing from the Sandwich Island chief the promise of his protection for
them and the gifts of a home inside the royal enclosure.
April of 1793 saw Vancouver back again on the west
coast of America. In results this year's exploring was
largely negative; but the object of Vancouver's life
was a negative one — to prove there was no passage
between Pacific and Atlantic. He had missed the
Columbia the previous year by standing off the coast
north of Mendocino. So this year, he again plied up
the same shore to Nootka.    No fresh instructions had VIKINGS  OF  THE  PACIFIC
come from England or Spain to Nootka; and Vancouver took up the trail of the sea where he had stopped
the year before, carrying forward survey of island and
mainland from Vancouver Island northward to the
modern Sitka or Norfolk Sound. Gray, the American,
had been attacked by Indians here the year before;
and Vancouver did not escape the hostility of these
notoriously treacherous tribes. Up Behm Canal the
ships were visited by warriors wearing death-masks,
who refused everything in exchange for their sea-otter
except firearms. The canal here narrowed to a dark
canyon overhung by beetling cliffs. Four large war
canoes manned by several hundred savages daubed
with war paint succeeded in surrounding the small
launch, and while half the warriors held the boat to
prevent it escaping, the rest had rifled it of everything
they could take, from belaying-pins and sail rope to firearms, before Vancouver lost patience and gave orders to
fire. At the shot the Indians were over decks and
into the sea like water-rats, while forces ambushed on
land began rolling rocks and stones down the precipices. One gains some idea of Vancouver's thoroughness by his work up Portland Canal, which was to
become famous a hundred years later as the scene of
boundary disputes. Here, so determined was he to
prove none of the passages led to the Atlantic that his
small boat actually cruised seven hundred miles without going more than sixty miles from ocean front. By
October of 1793 Vancouver had demolished the myth of GEORGE VANCOUVER
a possible passage between New Spain and Russian
America; for he had examined every inlet from San
Francisco to what is now Sitka. While the results
were negative to himself, far different were they to
Russia. It was Vancouver's voyage northward that
stirred the Russians up to move southward. In a
word, if Vancouver had not gone up as far as Norfolk
Sound or Sitka, the Russian fur traders would have
drowsed on with Kadiak as headquarters, and Canada
to-day might have included the entire gold-fields of
Again Vancouver wintered in the Sandwich Islands.
In the year 1794 he changed the direction of his exploring. Instead of beginning at New Spain and working north, he began at Russian America and worked
south. Kadiak and Cook's Inlet were regarded as the
eastern bounds of Russian settlement at this time,
though the hunting brigades of the Russians scoured
far and wide; so Vancouver began his survey eastward
at Cook's Inlet. Terrific floods of ice banged the ships'
bows as they plied up Cook's Inlet; and the pistol-shot
reports of the vast icebergs breaking from the walls of
the solid glacier coast forewarned danger; but Vancouver was not to be deterred. Again the dogged ill—
lucf of always coming in second for the prize he coveted
marked each stage of his trip. Russian forts were
seen on Cook's Inlet, Russian settlements on Prince
William   Sound,   Russian   flotillas   of  nine   hundred 288
Aleutian hunters steering by instinct like the gulls
spreading over the sea as far east as Bering Bay, or
where the coast of Alaska dips southward. Everywhere he heard the language of Russia, everywhere
saw that Russia regarded his explorations with jealousy
as intrusion; everywhere observed that Russian and
savage had come to an understanding and now lived as
friends, if not brothers. Twice Baranof, the little
Czar of the North, sent word for Vancouver to await a
conference; but Vancouver was not keen to meet the
little Russian potentate. One row at a time was
enough; and the quarrel with Spain was still unsettled.
The waters of to-day plied by the craft of gold seekers,
Bering Bay, Lynn Canal, named after his birthplace,
were now so thoroughly surveyed by Vancouver that
his charts may still be used.
Only once did the maze of waterways seem to promise a northeast passage. It was up Lynn Canal, where
so many gold seekers have rushed to have their hopes
dashed, like Vancouver. Two officers had gone up
the channel in a small boat to see if any opening led to
the Atlantic. Boisterous weather and tremendous tide
had lashed the sea to foam. The long daylight was so
delusive that the men did not realize it was nearly midnight. At ten o'clock they had rowed ashore, to rest
from their fight with wave and wind, when armed
Indians suddenly rushed down to the water's edge in
battle array, spears couched. The exhausted rowers
bent to the oars all night.    At one place in their re- aS
treat to open sea, the fog lifted to reveal the passage
between precipices only a few feet wide with warriors'
canoes on every side. A crash of musketry drove the
assailants off. Two or three men kept guard with
pointed muskets, while the oarsmen pulled through a
rolling cross swell back to the protection of the big
ships outside.
On August 19, as the ships drove south to Norfolk
or Sitka Sound, the men suddenly recognized headlands where they had cruised the summer before. For
a second they scarcely realized. Then they knew
that their explorations from Alaska southward had
come to the meeting place of their voyage from New
Spain northward. Just a little more than fifty years
from Bering's discoveries, the exploration of the northwest coast of America had been completed. Some one
emitted an incoherent shout that the work was finished !
The cheer was caught up by every man on board.
Some one else recalled that it had been April when they
set out on the fool-quest of the Northeast Passage; and
a true April's fool the quest had proved! Then flags
were run up; the wine casks brought out, the marines
drawn up in line, and three such volleys of joy fired as
those sailors alone could feel. For four years they had
followed the foolish quest of the learned world's error.
Thst night Vancouver gave a gala dinner to his crews.
THey deserved it. Their four years' cruise marked the
close of the most heroic epoch on the Pacific coast.
Vancouver had accomplished his life-work — there
u 290
was no northeast passage through the west coast of
1 The data of Vancouver's voyage come chiefly, of course, from the volume by
himself, issued after his death, Voyage of Discovery to tbe Pacific Ocean, London, 1798.
Supplementary data may be found in the records of predecessors and contemporaries like
Meares's Voyages, London, 1790 ; Portlock's Voyage, London, 1789 ; Dixon's Voyage,
London, 1789, and others, from whom nearly all modern writers, like Greenhow, Hubert
Howe Bancroft, draw their information. The reports of Dr. Davidson in his Coast
and Survey work, and his Alaska Boundary, identify many of Vancouver's landfalls,
and illustrate the tremendous difficulties overcome in local topography. It is hardly
necessary to refer to Begg and Mayne, and other purely local sketches of British Columbian coast lines j as Begg's History simply draws from the old voyages. Of modern
works, Dr. Davidson's Survey works, and the official reports of the Canadian Geological Survey (Dawson), are the only ones that add any facts to what Vancouver has
recorded. PART  III
The Pursuit of the Sable leads Cossacks across Siberia, of the Sea-
Otter, across the Pacific as far South as California — Caravans of
Four Thousand Horses on the Long Trail Seven Thousand Miles
across Europe and Asia — Banditti of the Sea — The Union of All
Traders in One Monopoly — Siege and Slaughter of Sitka — How
Monroe Doctrine grew out of Russian Fur Trade — Aims of Russia
to dominate North Pacific
'Sea Voyagers of the Northern Ocean," they styled
themselves, the Cossack banditti — robber knights,
pirates, plunderers — who pursued the little sable
across Europe and Asia eastward, just as the French
coureurs des bois followed the beaver across America
westward. And these two great tides of adventurers
— the French voyager, threading the labyrinthine
waterways of American wilds westward; the Russian
voyager exchanging his reindeer sled and desert caravans for crazy rafts of green timbers to cruise across
the Pacific eastward — were directed both to the same
region, animated by the same impulse, the capture of
the Pacific coast of America.
293 294
The tide of adventure set eastward across Siberia at
the very time (1579) Francis Drake, the English freebooter, was sacking the ports of New Spain on his way
to California. Yermac, robber knight and leader of
a thousand Cossack banditti, had long levied tribute
of loot on the caravans bound from Russia to Persia.
Then came the avenging army of the Czar. Yermac
fled to Siberia, wrested the country from the Tartars,
Raised Reindeer Sledges.
and obtained forgiveness from the Czar by laying a
new realm at his feet. But these Cossack plunderers
did not stop with Siberia. Northward were the ivory
tusks of the frozen tundras. Eastward were precious
furs of the snow-padded forests and mountains toward
Kamchatka. For both ivory and furs the smugglers
of the Chinese borderlands would pay a price. On
pretence of collecting one-tenth tribute for the Czar,
forward pressed the Cossacks; now on horseback,— RUSSIAN AMERICAN FUR COMPANY  295
wild, brutes got in trade from Tartars, — now behind
reindeer teams through snowy forests where the spreading hoofs carried over drifts; now on rude-planked
rafts hewn from green firs on the banks of Siberian
rivers; on and on pushed the plunderers till the Arctic
rolled before them on the north, and the Pacific on the
east.1 Nor did the seas of these strange shores bar the
Cossacks. Long before Peter the Great had sent
Vitus Bering to America in 1741, Russian voyagers had
launched out east and north with a daredevil recklessness that would have done honor to prehistoric man.
That part of their adventures is a record that exceeds
the wildest darings of fiction. Their boats were called
kotches. They were some sixty feet long, flat bottomed,
planked with green timber. Not a nail was used.
Where were nails to come from six thousand miles
across the frozen tundras ? Indeed, iron was so scarce
that at a later day when ships with nails ventured on
1 Coxe and Muller are the two great authorities on the early Russian fur trade.
Data on later days can be found in abundance in Krusenstern's Voyage, London, 1813 5
Kohl's History, London, 1862; LangsdorfFs Travels, London, 1813; Stejneger's
Contributions to Smithsonian, 1884, and Report on Commander Islands;.Elliott's Our
Arctic Province; Dall's Alaska; Veniaminof's Letters on Aleutians; Cleveland's
Voyages, 1842; "p-Jordenskjold's Voyage of the Vega; Macfie's Vancouver Island;
Ivan PetrofFs Report on Alaska, 1880 5 Lisiansky's Voyage Round the World; Sauer's
Geographical Account of Expedition to Northern Parts; Kotzebue's Voyages of Discovery, 1819, and Neva Voyage, 1831 ; Chappe d'Auteroche's Siberia and Krache-
ninnikofs Kamchatka, 1764; Simpson's Voyage Round World, 1847- Burney's
Voyages; Gmelin's Siberia, Paris, 1767; Greenhow's Oregon;- Pallas's Northern
Settlements; Broughton's Voyage, 18045 Berg's Aleutian Islands; Bancroft's Alaska;
Massa. Hist. Coll., 1793—1795} U. S. Congressional Reports from 1867: Martin's
Hudson s Bay Territories, London, 1849. 296
these seas natives were detected diving below to pull the
nails from the timbers with their teeth. Instead of
nails, the Cossack used reindeer thongs to bind the
planking together. Instead of tar, moss and clay and
the tallow of sea animals calked the seams. Needless
to say, there was neither canvas nor rope. Reindeer
thongs supplied the cordage, reindeer hides the sails.
On such rickety craft, "with the help of God and a
little powder," the Russian voyagers hoisted sail and
put to sea. On just such vessels did Deshneff and
Staduchin attempt to round Asia from the Arctic into
Bering Sea (1647-1650).
To be sure, the first bang of the ice-floes against the
prow of these rickety boats knocked them into kindling-
wood. Two-thirds of the Cossack voyagers were lost
every year; and often all news that came of the crew
was a mast pole washed in by the tide with a dead man
lashed to the crosstrees. Small store of fresh water
could be carried. Pine needles were the only antidote
for scurvy; and many a time the boat came tumbling
back to the home port, not a man well enough to stand
before the mast.
Always it is what lies just beyond that lures. It is
the unknown that beckons like the arms of the old sea
sirens. Groping through the mists that hang like a
shroud over these northern seas, hoar frosts clinging to
masts and decks till the boat might have been some
ghost ship in a fog world, the Cossack plunderers some- RUSSIAN AMERICAN FUR COMPANY  297
times caught glimpses far ahead — twenty, thirty, forty
miles eastward — of a black line along the sea. Was
it land or fog, ice or deep water ? And when the wind
blew from the east, strange land birds alighted on the
yard-arms. Dead whales with the harpoons of strange
hunters washed past the ship; and driftwood of a kind
that did not grow in Asia tossed up on the tide wrack.
It was the word brought back by these free-lances of
the sea that induced Peter the Great to send Vitus
Bering on a voyage of discovery to the west coast of
America; and when the castaways of Bering's wreck
returned with a new fur that was neither beaver nor
otter, but larger than either and of a finer sheen than
sable, selling the pelts to Chinese merchants for what
would be from one hundred and fifty to two hundred
dollars each in modern money, the effect was the same
as the discovery of a gold mine. The new fur was the
sea-otter, as peculiar to the Pacific as the seal and
destined to lead the Cossacks on a century's wild hunt
from Alaska to California. Cossacks, Siberian merchants, exiled criminals, banded together in as wild a
stampede to the west coast of America as ever a gold
mine caused among civilized men of a later day.
The little kotches that used to cruise out from Siberian rivers no longer served. Siberian merchants
advanced the capital for the building of large sloops.
Cargo of trinkets for trade with American Indians was
supplied in the same way. What would be fifty thousand dollars in modern money, it took to build and 298
equip one of these sloops; but a cargo of sea-otter was
to be had for the taking — barring storms that yearly
engulfed two-thirds of the hunters, and hostile Indians
that twice wiped Russian settlements from the coast of
America — and if these pelts sold for one hundred and
fifty dollars each, the returns were ample to compensate
risk and outlay. Provisions, cordage, iron, ammunition, firearms, all had to be brought from St. Petersburg, seven thousand miles to the Pacific coast. From
St. Petersburg to Moscow, Kasan, the Tartar desert
and Siberia, pack horses were used. It was a common
thing for caravans of four or even five thousand pack
horses employed by the Russian fur traders of America
to file into Irkutsk of a night. At the head waters of
the Lena, rafts and flatboats, similar to the old Mackinaw boats of American fur traders on the Missouri,
were built and the cargo floated down to Yakutsk, the
great rendezvous of Siberian fur traders. Here exiles
acting as packers and Cossacks as overseers usually
went on a wild ten days' spree. From Yakutsk pack
horses, dog trains, and reindeer teams were employed
for the remaining thousand miles to the Pacific; and
this was the hardest part of the journey. Mountains
higher than the Rockies had to be traversed. Mountain torrents tempestuous with the spring thaw had to be
forded — ice cold and to the armpits of the drivers;
and in winter time, the packs of timber wolves following on the heels of the cavalcade could only be driven
off by the hounds kept to course down grouse and hare RUSSIAN AMERICAN FUR COMPANY  299
for the evening meal. If an exile forced to act as
transport packer fell behind, that was the last of him.
The Russian fur traders of America never paused in
their plans for a life more or less. Ordinarily it took
three years for goods sent from St. Petersburg to reach
the Pacific; and this was only a beginning of the hardships. The Pacific had to be crossed, and a coast
lined with reefs like a ploughed field traversed for two
thousand miles among Indians notorious for their
The vessels were usually crammed with traps and
firearms and trinkets to the water-line. The crews
of forty, or seventy, or one hundred were relegated to
vermin-infested hammocks above decks, with short
rations of rye bread and salt fish, and such scant supply
of fresh water that scurvy invariably ravaged the ship
whenever foul weather lengthened the passage. Having equipped the vessel, the Siberian merchants passed
over the management to the Cossacks, whose pretence
of conquering new realms and collecting tribute for
the Czar was only another excuse for the same plunder
in gathering sea-otter as their predecessors had practised in hunting the sable. Landsmen among Siberian exiles were enlisted as crew of their own free will
at first, but afterward, when the horrors of wreck and
scurvy and massacre became known, both exiles and
Indians were impressed by force as fur hunters for the
Cossacks.    If the voyage were successful, half the pro* 3oo
ceeds went to the outfitter, the remaining half to Cossacks and crew.
The boats usually sailed in the fall, and wintered
on Bering Island. Here stores of salted meat, sea-
lion and sea-cow, were laid up, and the following
spring the ship steered for the Aleutians, or the main
coast of Alaska, or the archipelago round the modern
Sitka. Sloops were anchored offshore fully armed
for refuge in case of attack. Huts were then constructed of driftwood on land. Toward the east and
south, where the Indians were treacherous and made
doubly so by the rum and firearms of rival traders,
palisades were thrown up round the fort, a sort of
balcony erected inside with brass cannon mounted
where a sentry paraded day and night, ringing a bell
every hour in proof that he was not asleep. Westward toward the Aleutians, where driftwood was
scarce, the Russians built their forts in one of two
places: either a sandy spit where the sea protected
them on three sides, as at Captain Harbor, Oonalaska, and St. Paul, Kadiak, or on a high, rocky eminence only approachable by a zigzag path at the top
of which stood cannon and sentry, as at Cook's Inlet.
Chapel and barracks for the hunters might be outside
the palisade; but the main house w