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Narrative of the discoveries on the north coast of America : effected by the officers of the Hudson's… Simpson, Thomas, 1808-1840 1843

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The University of British Columbia Library
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1843. M
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Printed by S. & J. Bentley, Wilson, and Fley,
Bangor House, Shoe Lane.
Memoir of Thomas Simpson, A. M.
Introduction. — Instructions. — The Colony of Red
River.—Converted Indians.—Reconciliation of Hostile
Tribes. ......
Description of a Winter Journey from Red River to
Athabasca. . ! \ • . . - 26
Occurrences at Fort Chipewyan, spring 1837.—Traits
of the Natives. . . . . .67
Descent from Athabasca to the Polar Sea. . 82 CONTENTS.
Voyage from Mackenzie River to Franklin's Return
Reef. — Adventures among Esquimaux and Ice. — Discovery of the Franklin Mountains. . . .109
Discoveries on the Coast from Return  Reef up  to
Boat Extreme.
Journey on foot, and in an Esquimaux canoe, to Point
Barrow.—Conduct of the Natives. . . .143
Return of the Expedition from Boat Extreme to the
Mackenzie.—Ascent of that river.—Boisterous passage
of Great Bear Lake.—Arrival at Winter-quarters. . 169
Transactions at Fort Confidence, winter 1837-8.—
Death of Peter Taylor. — Winter Discoveries and
Surveys. ...... 200
Ascent of Dease River.—Passage of the Dismal Lakes
on the Ice.—Dangerous Descent of the Coppermine.—
Flight of the Esquimaux. .... 245
w**a o^T/
Second Sea Voyage. — Difficulties and detentions
amongst Ice.—Long circuit in Bathurst's Inlet.—Discovery of Copper on Barry Islands. — Boats finally
arrested near Point Turnagain. ....
Journey on foot and important discoveries to the Eastward.—Return to the Coppermine, and skilful ascent of
that river. — Traverse of the Barren Grounds, and arrival at Fort Confidence, . . . .291
Transactions at Fort Confidence, winter 1838-39.—
Murder and Distress among the Indians.—Relief afforded
them.    ....... 314
Second Descent of the Coppermine.—Interviews with
Esquimaux;—Passage of Coronation Gulph, and arrival
on new ground. ..... 342
Stupendous bay, broken into minor bays, and bordered
by countless islands. — Discovery of the Strait of
Boothia.—Back's Point Ogle doubled in a fog.—Deposit
found on Montreal Island. — Cape Britannia, and discoveries to the Eastward.—Progress arrested by gales.—
Return. — Nearest approach to Ross's Pillar and the
Magnetic Pole. — Southern shores of Boothia and Victoria Land explored.—Passage of a magnificent Strait.—
Winter sets in.—Re-entry of the Coppermine River.
859 Y>
Wintry return to Fort Confidence.—Passage of Great
Bear Lake, and ascent of the Mackenzie. — Arrival at'
Fort Simpson, and journey on the Snow from thence to
Red River.        . . ... . .389
List of the Plants collected during the Arctic Journey
of Messrs. Simpson and Dease. By Sir W. J. Hooker,
K. H.   . . . . . . .409
Table of the Magnetic Variation and Dip observed by
Mr. Simpson.    . . . . . .419
Thomas Simpson, the. writer of the narrative
contained in the following pages, was born on
the 2nd of July 1808, at Dingwall in Ross-shire,
N. B. His father, Mr. Alexander Simpson,
though a native of Aberdeenshire, had resided
for many years in that distant Highland county,
had long exercised the functions of magistrate
of his little burgh, and was well known to its
visitors and inhabitants for his hospitality and
singleness of heart. He died in the year 1821,
leaving his widow and two sons but very slenderly provided for.
Thomas, the eldest of the sons, was from his
childhood distinguished by a quiet, tractable tem-
per, and a steady attention to his studies; and,
as is the case with most boys in his sphere of
life in Scotland who manifest such dispositions,
it was early determined to educate him with a
view to his becoming a clergyman of the Scotch
In his boyhood he was rather of a weakly
constitution, having at one time shewn a strong
tendency to consumption. He was then considered by his companions as being of a timid
disposition; and, so far from taking a lead in
the games common among boys, he was remarked
for an unwillingness to join in their rougher
sports, and for a hesitation in entering upon any
exercises that could in the least expose him to
personal danger.
In these respects we find a remarkable similitude to the early years of another traveller of
much repute — Abyssinian Bruce; and, indeed,
in every matter belonging to their early lives,
and some belonging to their after career, there
is much resemblance between these explorers of
two very different portions of the globe. Both
were mild and timid in their boyhood; both
daring and impetuous in their after-life: both,
from an early age, excited much interest and
sanguine expectations of future success in everyone  connected  with   them:   both   profited  in- THOMAS  SIMPSON.
dustriously by their opportunities of education :
in both an inclination early shewed itself for
the sacred office of the ministry: both were
energetic; and their energies were directed enthusiastically to the discoveries in which they
were engaged: and both were alike regardless
of hunger, thirst, fatigue, and danger in the prosecution of these discoveries.
In pursuance of the design of educating him
for the Church of Scotland, Mr. Simpson was
sent in his seventeenth year to King's College,
Aberdeen. Here he pursued his studies for four
winters: the remaining months of each year he
spent in his native town, preparing himself for
the succeeding winter's labours; or with his
friends in the neighbourhood, to all of whom
his pleasing address made him an acceptable
The distinctions to be gained at this northern
institution are not, I am well aware, of equal
value with those to be won at the more celebrated
colleges of southern Scotland, or at the Universities of England; yet the attainment of the
highest of them is, at least, a proof of a young
man's pre-eminence among his fellow-students.
At the end of his four years' curriculum Mr.
Simpson carried off the | Huttonian " prize,—the
highest given at King's College,—on an examina- gg
tion given in England to the news of his having completed the survey of the Arctic coast of
America between the point reached by Beechey
from the Pacific, and that to which Ross had
penetrated from the Atlantic Ocean.
In both these expectations ne was most deeply
disappointed; for the annual canoes from Canada,
which arrived early in June, brought him no
ratification of his plan, nor news of the reception given by the public to the intelligence of
the success of the expedition; indeed, his letters
(contrary to his expectation) did not reach England in time to be acknowledged by that opportunity.
Having no authority for fitting out another
expedition, the local authorities of the Company
declined undertaking the responsibility of doing
so, notwithstanding the very limited and economical scale on which it was proposed by Mr.
Simpson; and he, deeply mortified at this delay
of his plans, determined upon proceeding to
England, in preference to remaining a year in
idleness waiting for the acceptance of his proposal.
That acceptance was written on the 3rd of
June, 1840, by the Directors of the Hudson's
Bay Company, to their Superintendent at Red
River, in the following terms :
" Reverting to the subject of the Arctic Discovery Expedition, the gallantry and excellent
management manifested by Messrs. Dease and
Simpson in that arduous and interesting service,
and the good conduct of the people under their
command, entitle them to our warmest commendations. The valuable and important services of Messrs. Dease and Simpson have been
brought under the consideration of her Majesty's
Government, who have not, as yet, noticed the
P We observe that Mr. Dease avails himself
of the leave of absence that has been afforded
him with the intention of visiting Canada this
season; and that Mr. Simpson volunteers to conduct another expedition, with the view of continuing the survey from the mouth of the Great
Fish River to the Straits of the Fury and Hecla.
We have much satisfaction in availing ourselves
of that gentleman's proffered services: you will
therefore be pleased to meet any demands that
may be made by Mr. Simpson for men, goods,
provisions, craft, &c. &c, and to take the necessary measures to give effect throughout the
country to that gentleman's views and wishes
in reference to the important and arduous service on which he is about to re-enter."
Had this letter, instead of being written on \4
the 3rd of June, reached Mr. Simpson on that
date, how different might have been the result!
On the 6th of June Mr. Simpson left Red
River Settlement, with the purpose of crossing
the prairies to St. Peter's on the Mississippi, and
thence making his way to England.
On starting from the Colony, he was accompanied by a party of settlers and half-breeds.
Eager to reach England, he got tired, in a very
few days, of their slow movements, and went
on ahead in company with a party of four men.
He pursued his journey with much rapidity;
for, on a chart which was found with his other
papers after his death, we trace his day's journey
on the 11th of June to have been forty-seven
miles in a straight line.
Subsequent to that date every circumstance
is involved in mystery. All that can be ascertained with certainty is, that, on the afternoon
of the 13th or 14th of June, Mr. Simpson shot
two of his companions; that the other two
mounted their horses and rejoined the larger
party, a part of which went to the encampment
where Mr. Simpson was alone, on the next
morning; and that Mr. Simpson's death then
took place.
Whether he shot these men in self-defence,
r-^r- THOMAS SIMPSON. xvii
and was subsequently put to death by their companions ; or whether the severe stretch to which
his faculties had been subjected for several years
brought on a temporary hallucination of mind,
under the influence of which the melancholy
tragedy took place, is known only to God, and
to the surviving actors in that tragedy.
But it must be noticed, in support of the
former supposition, that the depositions of those
who pretend to describe the manner of his death
are contradictory in the extreme. Moreover,
the North American half-breed is, of all races
in the world, that which most retains the odium
in longum jaciens. Mr. Simpson had, five years
before, incurred the animosity of the half-breeds
of Red River by inflicting a chastisement on one
of them who had grossly insulted him, and they
then threatened his life.
Three of his companions were of this race.
They saw Mr. Simpson returning to England after
having achieved an object important in itself,
but of which they even exaggerated the importance; their long-treasured animosity was likely
to have shewn itself in threats and insults, if not
in actual attack; and hence^—it is the opinion of
many intelligent men who have examined the
circumstances, and are acquainted with the cha- racter of the half-caste natives — resulted the
events which cut short the career of this enterprising young traveller.
If the other supposition should be true (and
there is nothing save the contradictory statements of his attendants to support it); if, indeed,
it pleased Providence to darken the spirit which
had passed undaunted through so many trials;
we can but acknowledge that the decrees of God
are inscrutable to mortals, and join in these beautiful lines of Cowper:
Man is a harp whose chords elude the sight,
Each yielding harmony disposed aright:
The chords reversed (a task which, if He please,
God in a moment executes with ease,)
Ten thousand thousand strings at once go loose;
Lost, till He tune them, all their power and use.
Thus perished, before he had completed his
thirty-second year, Thomas Simpson, a man of
great ardour, resolution, and perseverance; one
who had already achieved a great object, and
who has left a name which will be classed by
posterity with that of Cook, Parry, Lander, and
The British Government, in the same month
in which he died, intimated its intention of bestowing upon him a pension of £100 per annum
in testimony of his services. The Royal Geographical Society presented to him in 1839 their
gold medal, which never reached him, and is now
in the possession of his only surviving brother.
In person Mr. Simpson was rather under the
middle size; but he was strongly and symmetrically formed, and his whole appearance was that
of a man able to encounter a great amount of
physical fatigue. His countenance was open, and
had an expression of energy and liveliness. His
manners were pleasing and amiable. He was
much beloved by all who knew him; and his loss
has been deplored by his relatives—to whom his
kindness and affection were unbounded—as the
greatest of earthly calamities.  JOURNAL
Introduction.—Instructions.— The  Colony of Red River.
Converted Indians.—Reconciliation of Hostile Tribes.
The zealous and effective co-operation of the
Hudson's Bay Company, in the Arctic land expeditions commanded by Franklin and Back, is
well known to the British public. Notwithstanding the reiterated efforts of these able officers,
and the simultaneous enterprise by sea, a considerable extent of the northern coast of America remained unexplored at their close.
Actuated by an earnest desire to complete an
examination so important to geographical science,
and towards the achievement of which Great Britain had made so many brilliant attempts, the Directors of the Company determined, in the spring
of 1836, to equip an expedition on a small scale,
under the orders of their own officers. The facilities afforded by their extensive chain of posts,
their control over the Indian tribes, the knowledge possessed by their officers of the resources,
and their habitude to the hardships of the country, all concurred in pointing out this mode as
the most likely to ensure success.
Chief Factor Peter Warren Dease, who so ably
assisted Sir John Franklin at his winter quarters
in 1825-26, and myself, were appointed by
Governor Simpson to the joint management of
the expedition; and I was honoured with the
Governor's commands to draw out a plan of operations, upon which our instructions were to be
founded. Among various plans considered, that
which appeared the most eligible coincided in
its leading features, but on a reduced scale, with
one previously proposed by Dr. Richardson. The
following copy of the instructions, which were
soon after delivered to us by Governor Simpson,
will convey to the reader a lucid and comprehensive view of the whole subject.
" Norway House, 2nd July, 1836.
" Gentlemen,
"By the  79th  and   80th  Resolutions  of
Council of this season, you will observe that we
have determined on fitting out an Expedition
forthwith, for the purpose of endeavouring to
complete the discovery and survey of the Northern shores of this continent.
| 2. This object has, for a great length of
time, excited the most lively interest in the
public mind, and has baffled the exertions of
many enterprising men, among whom the names
of Parry, Franklin, Ross, and Back have of late
years appeared conspicuous; but I trust that the
honour of its accomplishment is reserved for the
Hudson's Bay Company through your exertions;
and, in selecting you for so important a mission,
we give the best proof of the high opinion we
entertain of your abilities and qualifications for
such an undertaking.
% 3. The expedition, consisting of twelve men,
is now placed under your direction; and you will
be pleased to conduct it without delay to the
Athabasca country, and to pass the ensuing winter at Fort Chipewyan, or Great Slave Lake, as
you may consider expedient, although, in my opinion, Great Slave Lake would be the preferable
wintering ground, in many respects, as regards
the objects of the expedition.
I 4. At the opening of the navigation in June,
you will proceed by boat down Mackenzie River
to Fort  Norman;   and  there  leave   four  men,
B %
in m
with directions that they proceed from thence to
the north-east end of Great Bear Lake, and there
erect buildings, establish fisheries, and collect
provisions, for the accommodation and maintenance of the party during the winter 1837-8.
I 5, You will then go down to the sea with
the remaining eight men, and endeavour to trace
the coast to the westward to long. 156° 21',
N. lat. 71° 23' 39", whence Captain Beechey's
barge returned. Should your progress along the
coast be obstructed by ice or fog, as Sir John
Franklin's was, you will either put the boat in
a place of security, and proceed on foot with all
your party, or leave four men with the boat for
its protection while you go along shore, carrying
a sufficient quantity of provisions with you for
the journey. It is desirable to take observations
as frequently, and to survey the coast as accurately as possible, without, however, losing
time on your outward journey in waiting for
the appearance of the sun, moon, or stars, which
are frequently obscured by the dense fogs that prevail so much on that coast; but devoting as much
time to these objects as the season and the
state of your provisions will allow on your
1 6. At the most westerly point you may reach,
you will erect, in a conspicuous situation, a pillar
or mound, and leave deposited in the earth at
its base a bottle hermetically sealed, containing
an outline of the leading circumstances connected with the voyage.
| 7. In suggesting that the boat should be
left, in the event of your progress being obstructed by ice or fog, I beg it to be understood, that that ought not to be done if there
be the least probability, that, by perseverance,
you may succeed in getting her along shore,
as the preservation of the boat I consider to be
highly essential both to the accomplishment of
the voyage and to the protection of the party;
but if there be no possibility of getting on with
the boat, I beg to recommend that you provide
yourselves with axes and cordage to make rafts
for crossing rivers, and some parchment sheeting
and oilcloths, to make a couple of small canoes
for the conveyance of the party, should it be
found impossible to cross the rivers on rafts, and
in order to secure your retreat in the event of
the loss of the boat.
" 8. Should you not be able to accomplish
the voyage or journey during the season of open
water, and that you fall in with friendly Esquimaux or Indians, as many of the party as can
be maintained may remain with them, so as
to   complete  the   survey in   the  course   of the INSTRUCTIONS.
winter or spring; in this, however, you will
exercise your own discretion, and be guided by
9. It is exceedingly desirable, however, that
you should return by open water, so as to pass
the winter at the establishment to be formed
at the north-east end of Great Bear Lake, in
order to make the necessary preparations for
another voyage of discovery, to the eastward,
at the opening of the navigation in the summer
of 1838.- .|      §
" 10. The object of that voyage is to trace the
coast, from Franklin's Point Turnagain, eastward,
to the entrance of Back's Great Fish River. To
that end, you will haul your boat across from
the north-eastern extremity of Great Bear Lake
to the Coppermine River before the winter breaks
up, and at the opening of the navigation proceed
to the sea, and make as accurate a survey of the
coast as possible, touching at Point Turnagain,
and proceeding to Back's Great Fish River, if
the strait or passage exists, which that officer
represents as separating the main land from Ross's
Boothia Felix; but should it turn out, on examination, that no such strait exists, and that
Captain Ross is correct in his statement that it
is a peninsula, not an island, you will in that
case leave  your boat and cross the isthmus  on
foot, taking with you materials for building two
small canoes, by which you may follow the coast
to Point Richardson, Point Maconochie, or some
other given spot that can be ascertained as
having been reached by Captain Back. And
you will be regulated in determining whether
you will return by Great Fish River or by the
coast, by the period of the season at which you
may arrive there, the state of the navigation, and
other circumstances.
"11. In order to guard against privation, in
the event of your returning by Great Fish
River, it will be advisable to make arrangements, at Great Slave Lake, that a supply of
provisions, with ammunition and fishing-tackle,
likewise babiche for snow-shoe lacing, be deposited at Lake Beechey, or some other point
of that route.
1 12. Should you be unable to complete the
voyage to the eastward from the Coppermine
River in one season, you may, as suggested in
reference to the other voyage, take up your
quarters with the Esquimaux for the winter,
so as to accomplish it the following season.
"13. In making your arrangements for both
voyages, I have to recommend that a considerable quantity of pemican and flour, not less than
one hundred  pieces,  be  provided for voyaging INSTRUCTIONS.
provisions, and that you be well supplied with
materials for constructing small canoes, leather
for shoes, and snow-shoe netting, likewise with
ammunition, axes, crooked knives, fishing-hooks,
net-thread, backing and setting, lines, and with
warm clothing for yourselves and the people.
I 14. The necessary astronomical and surveying instruments* are provided, to enable you
to take observations and to make surveys, in
which you will be as accurate as possible; and
you will be pleased to prepare a full and particular journal, or narrative of the voyage, likewise a chart of the coast; and to take formal
possession of the country, on behalf of Great
Britain, in your own names, acting for the Honourable Hudson's Bay Company, at every part
of the coast you may touch ; giving names to
the different headlands, mountains, rivers, and
other remarkable objects you may discover. It
is also desirable that you make a collection of
minerals, plants, or any specimens of natural
history you may fall in with, that appear to be
new, curious, or interesting.
"15. You are hereby authorised to avail yourselves, for the use of the expedition, of any assistance whatsoever you may require, at any of
the Honourable   Company's  establishments  you
* By Jones, Charing Cross.
Z^2fiE**iflFB?^ J«*
mav touch at, or have communication with,
either by letter or otherwise; and the gentlemen in charge of those establishments are hereby instructed to meet all demands you may
make upon them.
" 16. In the event of any accident occurring
to prevent either of you from proceeding on
this mission, the other will be pleased to follow
up the object of it, and to avail himself of the
assistance, as a second in command, of any clerk
of the Company he may find within his reach;
and such clerk will be pleased to act in that
capacity accordingly. With fervent prayers for
your safety and success,
I I remain, Gentlemen,
Your most obedient humble servant,
(Signed) George Simpson."
I Messrs. P. W. Dease and Thomas Simpson."
Our complement of men was completed at
the same high rate of wages as on Captain
Back's overland expedition. We were unfortunate only in our fishermen: one injured his
leg and was unable to go; another, a powerful
man, named Anderson, who had served at Fort
Reliance, being seized with a sudden panic, fled
into the woods, where he was found, after our
departure,   disordered   in  his   mind.    His place COLONY of red river.
was filled by a man subsequently engaged on
the route northward.
A supply of trading goods having been got
up from York Factory, and all the other arrangements being complete, Mr. Dease took his
departure, on the 21st of July, from Norway
House for Athabasca, in company with Chief
Factor Smith, the gentleman in charge of that
department, who afforded every possible aid in
transporting the goods and provisions destined
for the expedition, during the long and laborious
voyage to Fort Chipewyan, which they safely
reached on the 28th of September. At the
same time I returned to spend the autumn at
Red River Settlement, chiefly with a view to
refresh and extend my astronomical practice,
which had for some years been interrupted by
avocations of a very different nature.
It would be foreign to my purpose to enter
into a lengthened description of this isolated
colony: I shall merely bestow upon it a cursory
glance, to give the reader some faint idea of its
peculiar character. Situated under the 50th degree of north latitude, and 97th of west longitude,
at an elevation of eight or nine hundred feet
above the sea, and stretching for upwards of fifty
miles along the wooded borders of the Red and
Assiniboine rivers, which  flow through a level
r^Wkr-z. colony of red river.
country of vast extent, it possesses a salubrious
climate and a fertile soil; but summer frosts,
generated by undrained marshes, sometimes blast
the hopes of the husbandman, and the extremes
of abundance and want are experienced by an
improvident people. Horses, horned cattle, hogs,
and poultry, are exceedingly numerous. Sheep
have been brought by the Company, at great
expense, from England and the United States,
and are reared with success. Wheat, barley,
oats, potatoes, turnips, and most of the ordinary
culinary vegetables, thrive well. Pumpkins, melons, and cucumbers come to maturity in the
open air in favourable seasons. Maize, pease,
and beans, have not been extensively cultivated;
hops grow luxuriantly; flax and hemp are poor
and stunted; orchards are as yet unknown.
The banks of the rivers are cultivated to the
width of from a quarter to half a mile. All the
back level country remains in its original state—
a vast natural pasture, covered for the greater
part of the year with cattle, and also furnishing the inhabitants with a sufficiency of coarse
hay for the support of their herds during the
winter. The length of this severe season exceeds five months, the rivers usually freezing
in November and opening in April, when
there is a fine sturgeon-fishery; but Lake Wini-
'         ^
1   j|
'\M ■mi
colony of red river.
peg, the grand receptacle of the river waters,
does not break up till the close of May.* The
most common sorts of wood are oak, elm, poplar, and maple; pines are likewise found towards Lake Winipeg. Firewood is rafted down
the rivers, from above the limits of the colony,
during the summer, or transported on sledges
when the snow falls; but as this essential article
is now, through waste and neglect, growing less
plentiful, many of the inhabitants have provided
themselves with cast-iron stoves, which occasion
a much less consumption of fuel. The two principal churches, Protestant and Roman Catholic,
the gaol, the Company's chief buildings, the bishop's residence, and the houses of some retired
officers of the fur trade, are built of stone, which
is brought from a considerable distance. The
generality of the settlers dwell in frame or log-
houses, roofed with wooden slabs, bark, or shingles, and, for the most part, whitewashed or
painted externally. Not a man, however mean
or idle, but possesses a horse; and they vie in
gay carioles, harness, saddles, and fine clothes.
A great abundance of English goods is imported,
Two-decked vessels ply on this lake during the summer
between the colony and the entrepot of Norway House, situated
at its northern extremity, where the river navigation to Hudson's Bay commences.
ZSWIP colony of red river.
both by the Company and by individuals, in the
Company's annual ships to York Factory, and
disposed of in the colony at moderate prices.
Labour is dear, and produce of all kinds sells at
a higher rate than could be expected in such a
secluded place.
Governor Simpson has long endeavoured, by
arguments and rewards, to excite an exportation
to England of hides, tallow, flax, hemp, and
wool for the benefit of the settlers, but with
little success. The bulky nature of such exports,
a long and dangerous navigation to Hudson's
Bay, but, above all, the roving and indolent
habits of the half-breed race, who form the mass
of the population, and love the chase of the buffalo better than the drudgery of agriculture or
regular industry, seem to preclude the probability of this colony rising to commercial importance.* The currency of the place consists in
the Company's notes, with a smaller amount of
* Since this was written, I have learned with infinite pleasure, that the settlers have at length found out the only practicable outlet for their cattle and grain; the fine level plains
leading to the Mississippi and the St. Peter's, where there is
the promise of a sufficient market among the Americans.
Domestic manufactures too, which ought ever to precede exportation, have at last made some progress, in the shape of
coarse cloths, stuffs, shawls, linen, sacking, tanned leather,
&c.; all which tend to diminish the annual orders from England, and to render the people independent. BB
colony of red river.
silver and copper coin. Fifteen wind and three
water mills grind the wheat and prepare the
malt of the inhabitants, who use neither barley
nor oats in bread. Of all these mills two only
have been erected by a Roman Catholic, a gentleman in the Company's pay as warden of the
plains; the rest are in the hands of the Protestants, who constitute but two-fifths of the population. It may be remarked that, while not a
few of the children, by native women, of the
Company's retired European servants, who are
chiefly Orkneymen, inherit the plodding careful
disposition of their fathers, the half-breed descendants of the French Canadians are, with
rare exceptions, characterised by the paternal levity and extravagance, superadded to the
uncontrollable passions of the Indian blood.
Many of the industrious Scotch, who first planted
the colony in 1811, under the auspices of the
late Earl of Selkirk, have saved handsome sums
of money, besides rearing large families in rustic plenty. A considerable portion of this valuable class, however, dreading the predominance
and violence of the half-breeds, with whom they
have avoided intermarrying, have converted their
property into money, and removed to the United
Besides extensive purchases of grain and pro- CONVERTED INDIANS.
visions, for their transport and other service, the
Company annually expends large sums at Red
River, in various works of public utility, such
as experimental farming, erecting churches and
other buildings, endowing schools, affording medical aid gratis to the poor, encouraging domestic manufactures, maintaining an armed police,
dispensing justice, and in contributing to the
support of twro Protestant clergymen, of a Roman
Catholic bishop, and three priests from Canada.
These self-denying men are exemplary in their
lives, zealous and indefatigable in their benevolent labours, among the fruits of which may be
reckoned the conversion and location of a great
number of Indians, of the Cree and Saulteaux or
Chipeway nations. To compensate this heavy
outlay the Company has hitherto derived no return, for the occasional sale of, lands does not
even defray the cost of the survey, they being
in most instances bestowed gratis, though regularly purchased from the Indians, and the fur
trade of the surrounding country has been long
ago ruined by the colony; but under the Company's fostering care a population of five thousand souls has been nurtured, and a comfortable retreat has been provided for such of its
retired officers and servants as prefer spending
the evening of life, with their native families, in
this oasis of the desert, to returning to the countries of their nativity. I cannot pass over without particular notice the admirable boarding-
schools established by the Rev. Mr. Jones, where
about sixty youth of both sexes, the intelligent
and interesting offspring of the Company's officers, are trained up in European accomplishments,
and in the strictest principles of religion^ Nor
should I omit mentioning the Indian settlements,
founded by the Rev. Mr. Cockran at the lower
extremity of the colony. He has provided schoolmasters for the native children, and built places
of worship where he regularly officiates. He
has constructed a windmill for the Indians, assists them in erecting their wooden houses, and
with his own hands sets them the example of
industry. At the other extremity of the colony,
M. Belcour, one of the Roman Catholic priests,
with untiring zeal conducts a location of Saul-
teaux Indians on a smaller scale. I wish I
could add that the improvement of the aborigines is commensurate to those beneficent cares.
But unhappily the experience of Canada, of the
United States, of California, in short, of all
parts of North America where the experiment
of ameliorating the character of the Indian
tribes by civilization has been tried, is renewed
at Red River.    Nothing can overcome their in- CONVERTED  INDIANS.
satiable desire for intoxicating liqUors ; and
though they are here excluded from the use of
spirits, and the settlers are fined when detected
in supplying them with ale, yet, from the great
extent of the colony, they too often contrive to
gratify that debasing inclination, to which they
are ready to sacrifice everything they possess.
They feel no gratitude to their benefactors, or
spiritual teachers; and, while they lose the
haughty independence of savage life, they acquire at once all the bad qualities of the white
man, but are slow, indeed, in imitating his industry and his virtues.*
Indian lads, educated in the Church Missionary Society's school at Red River, have been sent
to instruct their countrymen in various parts of
the Company's territory. In the countries of the
Columbia and New Caledonia, to the westward
of the great Rocky mountain chain, the missionary labours promise considerable success. There
the climate is softened by the influences of the
Pacific; food is abundant; the numerous natives
do not lead the same solitary wandering lives as
* Yet among the native tribes there exist marked distinctions. The swampy Crees, who have long been employed in
the Company's service at York Factory and other places, adopt
steady habits with far greater facility than the proud Saulteaux,
who contemptuously term the settlers gardeners and diggers of
the ground.
mI mnmni
lit '
the eastern tribes, but dwell together in villages.
They are endowed with a greater capacity and
quickness of apprehension; are more pliant and
tractable in temper; are fond of imitating the
customs of white men; and now receive, with
eagerness, the truths of Christianity, from those
upon whom but a few years ago they perpetrated the most barbarous murders: but the
fever and ague, to which the country is very
subject, has of late thinned their numbers.
The Company's principal chaplain resides at
their depot of Fort Vancouver, on the north
side of the Columbia river, where agriculture,
rearing of stock, and other commercial operations
are prosecuted on a great scale. The same
enlightened body has, of late years, liberally assisted American missionaries employed in instructing the dissolute maritime tribes, and in
founding an American colony on the Willamette,
a southern tributary of the Columbia; and has
since conveyed across the mountains several Canadian priests, who, under the authority of the
bishop at Red River, are gone to form another
British settlement on the shores of Puget's
Sound,-—the nucleus of a future empire in the far
west. The case is widely different in the frozen
regions of the north; there the Indian hunters
are scattered through interminable forests, into
which civilization can never penetrate. Since
the coalition of the rival companies, however,
and the discharge of the noxious swarm of adventurers, who, encouraged by the licence of a
hot opposition, overran and well-nigh ruined the
country, the precepts of morality and order have
been instilled into the minds of the aborigines
by many officers of the Company. No stronger
proof of the salutary effect of their injunctions
can be adduced than that, while peace and decorum mark the general conduct of the northern
tribes, bloodshed, rapine, and unbridled lust are
the characteristics of the fierce hordes of Assiniboines, Piegans, Black-feet, Circees, Fall and
Blood Indians, who inhabit the plains between
the Saskatchewan and Missouri, and are without the pale of the Company's influence and
It gives me sincere pleasure to say that a
reconciliation has at length been effected between those lately inveterate and bloody enemies, the Saulteaux and Sioux nations. Under
the safeguard of the Company's people, aided by
the settlers, two bands of the latter tribe visited
Red River during my residence there, in 1834
and 1836. Presents wrere given and speeches
were made both to them and to the assembled
Saulteaux, who upon the first occasion vere very
c 2
fl £3S
I'.u r
violent, and were only restrained from bloodshed
by disarming and other vigorous measures; but,
upon the last occasion, they smoked the calumet
of peace and slept in the same apartments with
the Sioux at the Company's' head-quarters, Fort
Garry. The Sioux seemed highly gratified with
the kindness and protection they experienced,
and have on several occasions performed friendly
offices to the Company's couriers and others
passing through their country to the American
garrison on the river St. Peter's. They are a
warlike, equestrian race, with light sinewy frames
and eagle eyes, who pursue the buffalo in the
boundless plains of the Missouri and the upper
Some of the incidents connected with the first
visit of the Sioux may be worth narrating, as
illustrative of savage passions. A party of six-
and-thirty men, headed by a daring chief, called
The Burning Earth, in consequence of some disgust which originated across the lines, resolved
to brave the danger arising from the implacable
hatred of the Saulteaux, through whose country
they must pass, and to pay a visit to the British
settlement. Being obliged to leave their horses
on the way, they marched during the night, and
reached undiscovered the woody banks of the
Red River, a short distance above the remotest
houses. There they lay concealed for several
daySj and, being almost naked, suffered much
from cold and hunger. At length one of them
venturing out to the brink of the stream, observed on the opposite side a half-breed, named
Baptiste Parisien, whom he recognised. This
man had travelled through the Sioux territories,
and served, it is said, in the United States' cavalry against the Socs and Foxes. Parisien
instantly invited the stranger to his house; and
the latter, plunging into the river, swam across
to him. He told his story, and Parisien gene-
1 rously proceeded with a canoe to ferry over the
whole party. He lodged them, collected his
friends to protect them from their enemies, and
sent a messenger to the Company's central establishment, at the forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, to report their arrival and desire
of an interview. Chief Factor Christie, the governor of the colony, acceded to their request,
and Parisien conducted them, under a strong
escort, to Fort Garry. There a conference was
opened with great form and gravity. The Sioux
declared that the object of their hazardous journey was to transfer their trade to the British,
and, to that end, to make a lasting peace with
the Saulteaux. Mr. Christie replied, that, they
being American subjects, the Company could not RECONCILIATION   OF
gratify them in the first particular, but was most
anxious to promote a cordial reconciliation between them and their ancient enemies. I was
particularly pleased with the speech of a grim
old warrior, called The Black Eagle. After describing their state of perpetual hostility with
the Saulteaux: | In our plains," said he, " every
stock, every stone, is taken for an enemy; these
fears can no longer be endured: let the Sioux
and the Saulteaux smoke the calumet of peace;
let them hunt the buffalo together, and let them
henceforth be one nation." Another orator, of
a more lively mien, concluded his harangue by
begging | a drink of (rum) fire-water;" | for,"
said he, 11 love it better than ever I did my
mother's milk." As second officer, I assisted
Mr. Christie during the interview, and officiated
at the same time as French interpreter, that
being the language of the only capable Sioux
speaker at the place. At the close of the | palaver," The Burning Earth presented Mr. Christie
and myself with ornamented pipes, and I handed
him the gun I carried in return.*    All went on
* His people then entertained us in the open air with their
national dances, which are more animated than most Indian
exhibitions of this sort. The Corypkeus, a humorous little
fellow, was really amusing. His place was on the outside of
the ring, and, as he moved round the dancers, he saluted each
with a smart lash of a thong on the bare back, and immedi- HOSTILE TRIBES.
pleasantly till the evening, when a large party
of Saulteaux, from the river Assiniboine, galloped suddenly into the court. They were completely armed, and breathed fury and revenge;
having lost forty of their relatives by an attack
of the Sioux a year or two before. We instantly
stationed a strong guard around the building, and
despatched messengers, summoning the police
and able-bodied settlers to the defence of the
strangers who had thrown themselves on our
hospitality. A sufficient number arrived in the
course of the night to prevent any violent attempt
j being made. The Saulteaux, continually augmenting, were so irritated at being repulsed from
the windows through which they sought to fire
upon the unfortunate Sioux within, that they
turned upon some of Parisien's followers, and
blood had well-nigh been spilled. The great
difficulty now was, how to get the strangers
safely home again. We supplied them with provisions, tobacco, and some clothing, and also
ammunition for their defence, in case of their
being attacked beyond the bounds of the colony.
They concealed their alarm, put on a resolute
countenance, sung their death-song, and the chief,
unsheathing his sabre, smote the bare shoulders
ately after sounded a shrill whistle with a look of malicious
I 24
of each of his followers with the flat side of the
blade. After this ceremony, they declared their
readiness to depart, and wrere led out between
two lines of the police and the settlers to the
boats, which were in readiness to convey them
across the river. The Saulteaux, who were on
the watch, now endeavoured to press forward;
but we drove them back, and disarmed.a great
many of them. Parisien and his half-breeds
undertook to conduct the Sioux safely out into
the open plains, where they might set their bush-
fighting foes at defiance. The party had no
sooner crossed the river than a number of the
Saulteaux threw themselves into their canoes
on the Assiniboine, a little distance above, with
a view to intercept their retreat. Observing this
manoeuvre, I ran towards them, followed by Mr.
M'Kinlay and a few others, and, levelling our
guns at the men in the canoes, ordered them
to turn back. They angrily complied, when the
principal man, seeing that we were but a handful,
began to vent threats against us; but, a party
opportunely riding up to our assistance, we carried
the old fellow with us to the establishment, and
his followers dispersed. Parisien sent us word
next day, that, though some ambuscades were
laid, he had seen the Sioux safely clear of the
woods; after which they had  little difficulty in HOSTILE TRIBES.
returning to their own country, about Lac Tra-
vers. I regret to add that this gallant fellow
was, three years afterwards, shot through the
heart in the melee of a buffalo hunt.
On the second occasion, the Sioux came in
double numbers, better armed, and led by Ula-
neta, the greatest chief of their whole nation.
He was distinguished by a sort of coronet of
eagle feathers and a necklace of grisly bears'
claws, with the unromantic addition of a pair
of green spectacles! He is a tall elderly man,
with a mild, almost a benignant, expression of
* countenance; yet he is said to be one of the
fiercest warriors in all the plains. He was obeyed with respect, and some of his people seemed
expressly appointed to maintain order amongst
the rest. The whole party wore painted buffalo
robes. They were, as before, hospitably received,
and dismissed with gifts, but under strict injunctions not to repeat their troublesome and perilous
visits. I
Description of a Winfer Journey from Red River to Athabasca.
In the afternoon of the 1st of December, the
day I had fixed upon for quitting the colony
on my long winter journey to Athabasca, I bade
adieu to my kind and much esteemed friend,
Chief Factor Christie, to the worthy clergymen,
and the other gentlemen forming the little society of the place, all of whom breathed the
warmest wishes for our welfare and success.
The autumn had been long and beautiful, and
the snow had not yet cast its white mantle upon
the earth. I was therefore obliged to set out
with horses and carts, which conveyed our baggage to the Manitobah Lake. My gay cariole
and three sledges followed, light drawn by the
dogs, and attended by three drivers — chosen
men — who completed the little party bound
for the distant north. I started from Fort Garry
on horseback, escorted by three or four of the
young gentlemen belonging to the establishment.
Our ride was enlivened by a spirited wolf-hunt,
one of our ordinary pastimes in the plains which
environ the colony, where the horses are trained
to the pursuit of the buffalo and wolf, and to
stand fire at full speed. At sunset we rejoined
our little caravan, which encamped on a bushy
knoll about two leagues from Fort Garry. After spending some hours with me, my young
friends retraced their steps homewards, and left
us to our night's repose.
The waning moon shone brilliantly when we
awoke; and, taking an "early breakfast, we all
started on foot. The morning was cold, but exhilarating. The sun, rising in cloudless splendour, threw his horizontal rays across the wide
plain, and, illuminating the hoar-frost upon the
long dry grass, gave to the expanse around us the
appearance of a silver-spangled sea. At noon
we halted for a short time at a cluster of trees,
in whose shade we obtained sufficient snow for
our horses and dogs, in lieu of water, a luxury
not to be found in these arid plains. The country traversed was studded with a few copses of
poplar and dwarf oak; but a great part of it
having been swept by the running fires, so frequent and terrible in the prairies, presented a
blackened and dismal aspect. I noticed a number of small natural mounds, on which lay frag- WINTER JOURNEY FROM
ments of limestone, the great basis of the plain
region ; and quantities of little shells were strewed
about in every direction. After travelling twenty-seven miles, we took up our quarters at sunset in a grove on a slight eminence, which my
guide dignified by the name of " Le Grand
On the 3rd we passed Shoal Lake, a place
where the half-breed settlers kill a great many
wild fowl in the fall and spring; after which
our course changed from north-west to west,
winding through a country agreeably varied with
woods and plains. The former abounded in
white hares (lepus Americanus); and, as our
equipage moved leisurely on, we enjoyed an
excellent and profitable day's sport. In the
afternoon we reached the borders of Manitobah
Lake, and procured a night's lodging in the
houses of some " freemen," of whom we found
eleven families resident there. These people
subsist chiefly by hunting and fishing; they
possess a few horses and cattle, and, though
separated from their fellow-men, seemed to live
quite happily. I ascertained the latitude of this
spot, by a meridian altitude of Jupiter, to be
50° 22' 45" N. I shall not fatigue the reader
by always recording the result of my observations,
which may appear more properly in an Appendix.
Suffice it to remark, that, throughout the journey northward, I took bearings with a pocket
compass ; and, at night, determined our situation
by altitudes of the planets or fixed stars.
The Manitobah Lake had but recently assumed
its icy covering, which, as far as the eye could
distinguish, rose in huge masses, as if forbidding
all farther progress. So formidable was its appearance that the people endeavoured to dissuade me from prosecuting that route; but I
resolved to persevere, and, dismissing our wheeled
vehicles, we soon had our baggage snugly stowed
upon the sledges. The cariole intended for myself I appropriated to the carriage of my booksI
instruments, &c, and preferred performing the
whole journey to Athabasca on foot. Two of
the young freemen agreed to afford us the assistance of their dogs to the Company's nearest post;
and, at each establishment on the route, I, in like
manner, procured the aid of a couple of fresh
men to accompany us to the next. Then began
the flourishing of whips, the shouts of the drivers,
and the howTling of the refractory dogs—all blending together in one horrible outcry. For some
distance we found the ice almost impracticable,
but on doubling a point the broken rugged masses
gave place to a smooth and glassy level. To
walk on such a surface, with the moccassins or i
soft leather shoes of the country, was next to
impossible; we were, however, provided with
iron crampets, which we strapped on in much
the same manner as the Kamschatdales wear
their " posluki," or ice-shoes. Thus secured from
many an awkward fall, we advanced rapidly, but
found it no easy matter to keep pace with our
dogs, who, rejoicing in the ease with which they
now dragged their burdens, scampered along at
a great rate. The young ice, as yet but a few
inches thick, crashed and rumbled like thunder
under our tread. About noon a violent storm
of snow-drift suddenly arose, and compelled us
to seek shelter among the spreading oaks and
elms that ornament the banks of this extensive
On the 5th we travelled thirty-four miles,
our course lying north-west, across a series of
gently rounded bays fringed with rushes. The
wind blew piercingly cold, so that when overheated we stopped to cut a hole for water; our
clothes, gloves, and caps immediately became
solid, and we were glad to run again to acquire
fresh warmth.
We resumed our route on the 6th, at an
early hour. When daylight appeared, the Dauphin Mountain rose before us, blue in the distance, forming a highly agreeable object in that RED RIVER TO  ATHABASCA.
level country. Our route led chiefly through a
little archipelago, which conducted us at noon to
a small trading post, called Manitobah-house.
There we were delighted to cast off, for the remainder of the day, our galling iron shoes—real
instruments of torture, which, long before we
had done with them, forced us with groans to
acknowledge that our feet were, indeed, made of
In soil and climate this place equals Red
River; barley, wheat, and potatoes, yielding, in
most seasons, excellent returns. The lake produces very fine white-fish (coregonus albus); on
some of its tributary streams tolerable salt is
obtained by the freemen from saline springs,
and the wild hop grows in many places in great
profusion, and of good quality. In the evening a
wrarm couch was spread for me in the corner of a
large room, round which, on wooden bedsteads,
lay my host Richard, his wife, and half a dozen
grown-up daughters!
At noon of the following day we passed
through a narrow strait, that gives to the
whole lake the name of Manitobah, or Evil
Spirit, by which the Saulteaux Indians believe
it to have been formerly haunted. According
to their account, terrible sounds used to be heard
here, and fearful sights seen; among others, huge WINTER JOURNEY  FROM
snakes with horns! and it was not till after the
establishment of a trading post near the spot, by
the Canadians, who, with their singing and noise,
scared the demons away, that the natives ventured
to pass by this place of dread/
On the 8th we advanced thirty-three miles, of
which the passage of an extensive bay occupied
twenty-eight. The ice in this bay was intersected by large and dangerous rents, into one of
which, while running heedlessly before the dogs,
I fell; but, luckily seizing an upright fragmenkon
the brink, I extricated myself, at the mere expense of a wetting. During the succeeding night
it blew furiously from the northward; and when
we got up at daybreak, we shook from our
blankets a quantity of snow, none of which, unfortunately, adhered to the slippery ice. Our
route followed the south side of the lake, from
point to point, and at three p.m. we reached
Portage la Prairie, a slip of land two miles broad,
separating the Manitobah from the Winipegoos or
Lesser Winipeg Lake.
The Winipegoos is a more extensive body of
water than its sister lake, and in summer is
brackish; but our route only comprehended a
portion of sixty miles, which we easily accomplished in two days. The Duck Mountain forms
a very conspicuous object in the western quarter. RED RIVER TO ATHABASCA.
The grey mists of morning were curling up its
rugged sides when it first broke gratefully on our
sight. At its base issue several saline springs*
where the freemen manufacture salt, for sale to
the Company at Norway-house. The oak region
terminates here; but the shores of the lake are
tolerably well clothed with elm, poplar, and a few
ash, birch, and pine trees. This is particularly the
case with Red Deer Island, which is large, and
affords shelter to many of the fleet and graceful
animals from which it derives its name. As w7e
approached it, on the 11th, we perceived a red
fox sporting upon the beach. He stood for a
while looking at us, till, the dogs getting scent
of him, off they went, cariole, sledges, and all,
in full chase, utterly regardless of their drivers'
cries; but reynard was unencumbered, and soon
plunged into the thickest of the wood, where the
sledges became entangled, and the laughable pursuit ceased. Crossing an arm of Duck Bay,
twenty miles broad, where the ice, having become fixed in a gale of wind, was piled up in
high sharp ridges, we encamped in a wood of
pines, the first we had yet met with. Their evergreen branches form the favourite bed of the
winter voyager — a comfort we did not fail to
enjoy. A river that empties itself into this bay,
and bears the same name, is much resorted to by
the Saulteaux. Several of them visited us in the
evening, with a supply of fresh fish, for which
they were liberally paid; and a share of our
supper, and our news, made the poor fellows
quite happy.
12th.—We now left behind us, with pleasure,
the tedious large lakes; and, after suspending our
iron shoes to the trees, with the first faint streak
of day (between six and seven o'clock) we struck
out across land for Swan River. The path was
very intricate, and in many places imperceptible
to the keenest ordinary eyes; but one of my
native companions knew it well, and set us right
when at fault. As an instance of the almost
instinctive knowledge which guides the Indian
unerringly through the pathless forest, I may
here mention that this track was first marked out
by one who was an utter stranger to the country
it traverses, and had merely been once at Swan
Lake from a different quarter; yet, though somewhat winding in its course, in order to follow the
best ground, I found its general direction- uniformly the same. There was still so little snow
on the ground, that, though our tiny vehicles
needed a track no more than eighteen inches
wide, the sharp twigs and fallen timber tore
the luckless cariole to tatters. Our route lay
through woods, small lakes, and  swamps;   the
former abounding with three different species of
grouse—the spotted, ruffed, and prairie, or sharp-
tailed, (tetrao Canadensis, cupidof et phasianellus,)
which, as I walked a-head, afforded me plentiful
sport. In the afternoon we fell upon the trail of
a solitary Indian, who had passed the day before,
and killed a lynx on our path. We likewise saw
an old camp of the natives, and several graves
rudely constructed with logs—simple, but affecting memorials of the " stoics of the wood, the
men without a tear." The weather was soft and
overcast; and, after travelling nine hours without
intermission, we only made good about twenty-
one miles. We put up on the borders of a
narrow piece of water, called Long Lake, and
partook of a sumptuous repast—the produce of
my day's shooting.
Next day the track became, if possible, worse,
and more difficult to trace, in consequence of the
fast-falling snow. At noon we found ourselves
on the banks of Swan Lake, across which a
violent storm was sweeping. Fortunately, the
wind was on our backs; and, immediately losing
sight of land, we proceeded due west for Fir Bay,
a distance of six miles. About the middle of
this passage we came suddenly upon a space of
weak ice, only an inch thick, and partially
covered with water.    It was an awkward  pre-
dicament, for advance we must; we, therefore,
laid ourselves upon the sledges, and, our weight
thus pressing on an extended surface, our sagacious dogs carried us safely over the danger.
From Fir Bay, two miles of a swampy portage
conducted us to Swan River, close to the tents
of some freemen, who subsist by hunting, fishing,
and making salt and maple sugar. We encamped a few miles further, in a fine wood of
elm. After the men had gone to rest, the dry
grass on which they lay caught fire, and before
they were aroused their blankets were in a
blaze; but, fortunately, the sleepers escaped
It snowed incessantly during the 14th, making
it heavy travelling for both men and dogs. Our
route now bent to the south-west, sometimes ascending the winding river for several miles, but
more frequently leading direct through the bordering country. The latter consists of swampy
meadows, alternating with woods of poplar fringed
with willow, and a few straggling clumps of pine.
The industry of man may, in some future age,
convert this wilderness into a habitable land, as the
climate is good, and barley, potatoes, and other
vegetable produce have been raised at several
points along Swan River.
On the 15th we came again in view of the
Duck Mountain, now lying to the southward of
us. We had, in fact, made a circuit round it, to
avoid its rude and impassable heights. We soon
after crossed an open streamlet, close to a bend
of the river, from whose high bank we looked
upon a noble prospect. From west to north lay
outstretched the blue line of the Porcupine Hills,
which are densely wooded to the very summit;
while from east to south-west extended the more
lofty elevation of the Duck Mountain, encircling
a vast extent of flat country, pleasingly diversified with wood and plain, through which, far as
the eye could reach, might be traced the river's
wandering course.
On the following morning we crossed a branch
of the Thunder Hills, two miles in breadth.
These hills afforded us some amusement in running down their steep declivities, an exercise the
more acceptable as the weather had become very
cold. In the plain beyond them we saw several tracks of red-deer, and fell in with an Indian family bound on a hunting excursion. In
the evening we crossed Swan River for the last
time, and, availing ourselves of the moonlight*
struck off through an uneven country, partially
covered with underwood, for Fort Pelly, twelve
miles distant. We reached it at 8 p.m., and the
gates were soon thrown open by Mr. Setter, to
give us admittance and a hearty welcome. Our
day's journey was thirty-seven miles, but being
able to use snow-shoes for a part of it, materially
lightened the fatigue.
Fort Pelly is a compact well-ordered little
place, sheltered from the north by a range of
woods, With the Assiniboine winding a short
distance in front. The only Indians there, during
our visit, were a Saulteaux family, who, having
suffered from privation, were kindly received,
housed, and fed till they could resume the chase
with a prospect of success. My observations
place the establishment in lat. 51° 45' 20" N.,
long. 102° 5' W.    Variation 17° E.       I',
Sunday the 18th was made a day of rest and
thankfulness. The sky was bright and cloudless,
the thermometer standing at minus 25°.
On the 19th the temperature fell to —44°;
but, being amply supplied with all things necessary, we took our departure in the forenoon.
Our path was an Indian horse-track, which now
wound beneath, now ascended, a line of gently
undulating eminences, while on our left lay the
woods that border the tortuous course of the
Assiniboine. In the evening we crossed that
jriver where it turns to the north, and encamped
in a small group of poplars. The night was
intensely cold, and I literally burned my fingers
with the sextant, while taking the usual observations. I afterwards adopted the precaution of
using very thin shamoy gloves, and have often
taken observations at still lower temperatures
without injury.
We resumed our march at 4 o'clock the following morning. The moon, now near the full,
shone coldly bright, and, as she sunk towards the
west, threw long shadows on the snow, causing
every bush and tree to assume strange and startling shapes. After proceeding fourteen miles,
we were glad to halt in a thicket, for breakfast, soon after sunrise. Having completed this
cheering operation, we with better heart gave
our faces to the cold, which a westerly wind
rendered doubly piercing. A fine pointer, though
defended from the searching cold by a warm
cloth coat and shoes to match, lay down and
refused to stir till I drove him before me with
the whip. Our route led due west, leaving the
Assiniboine far to the north; and traversing a
hillocky country, tolerably wooded, and abounding in small lakes and swamps, we saw numerous tracks of lynxes and wolves in pursuit of
hares; and found suspended on the trees, by the
natives, several splendid antlers of the stag.
Quitting the horse-track, we encamped at the
foot of the Nut Hills. WINTER JOURNEY  FROM
We started next day at the same early hour,
and, while in the act of moving out of our bivouac, a troop of prairie wolves came howling
around it, as if impatient to .seize on anything
we might have left. The morning was intolerably cold; and it required our utmost exertions
to keep the blood in circulation, and to preserve
our faces from freezing. I afterwards ascertained, at Fort Chipewyan, that this was the
coldest day of the whole winter there, the thermometer being at —46°. We encamped at tfie
west end of Stony Lake, having travelled
twenty-nine miles, through a country consisting
of narrow plains, studded with clumps of poplar,
and an abundance of underwood, interspersed
with little lakes and swamps. A great part of
it had been recently overrun by fire; and the
only interesting feature it presented was a view,
on the left, of the low range of the Beaver Hills,
which we could distinguish to be thickly covered with timber. The buffalo frequents this
quarter, and we passed several of its old beaten
On the 22d we made similar progress. In the
forenoon we crossed Fishing Lake, six miles
wide; then changing our course from west to
west-north-west, we struck out into the immense
prairies which stretch   from thence to the Sas-
katchewan River. After travelling over the
shaggy frozen grass, which bore some recent
traces of red-deer, for a few miles, we fell upon
a tract of country that the fire had bared to the
very soil. The light snowy covering rested on
the blackened plain, and our poor dogs once
more went on with comparative ease. Far on
our right appeared a line of low woods, shooting out from the Nut Hills in an immense
curve, the extremity or horn of which we reached
at our usual camping hour.
We were now at the commencement of a
plain, twenty miles in breadth, which my guide
required daylight to cross; we therefore breakfasted, and started at 7 o'clock. The wind blew
strongly from the westward ; and to face it, where
there was not a shrub, or even a blade of grass,
to break its force, with a temperature of at least
— 40°, was a serious undertaking. Muffling up
our faces with shawls, pieces of blanket, and leather, in such a manner as to leave only the eyes
exposed, we braved the blast. Each eyelash was
speedily bedizened with a heavy crop of icicles,
and we were obliged, every now and then, to
turn our backs to the wind, and thaw off these
obstructions wTith our half-frozen fingers. Early
in the afternoon we reached what are called the
Cross Woods, where we were glad to make the WINTER JOURNEY FROM
best lodging we could for the night, there being
another wide prairie on the opposite side. Notwithstanding every precaution, two of the men
were injured by the cold ; .one a half-breed from
Fort Pelly, who afterwards, at Carlton, lamented
his inability to dance in consequence of his frozen
heels; Neither bird nor beast was seen during
the day; the intense cold having driven all
living things, but ourselves, to the shelter of the
Next morning we made an early start, and
crossed the plain, which is fourteen miles wide,
before breakfast. A few willows were thinly
scattered over its barren surface, and we had a
view of the low range of the Touchwood Hills,
extending from south to south-east. We could
again discern the deeply-curved woods on our
right; in fact, we were travelling from one distant point of them to another, as if traversing
successive bays of the sea, to which these great
plains, that on the left reach to the Rocky Mountains, may well be likened. " Lac aux Plumes,"
a very large salt lake, which derives its name
from the multitude of wild fowl that moult there
every summer, lies near this part of our route.
We breakfasted in the Moose Woods, and I observed the lat. 52° 4' 16" N., variation 18° 40' E.
The   cold - continued   to   be   dreadfully  severe.
JjVEmC r*_; -JVJ- -i£i ^^^9 RED  RIVER TO  ATHABASCA.
Crossing another prairie* about half the breadth
of the last, we encamped in a cluster of small
poplars, near " the two openings," or vistas, in
the woods, as seen from the plain.
Christmas-day, Sunday, the 25th.—On shaking
off our slumbers this glad morning, a troop of
wTolves were " baying the moon" as she rode in a
cloudless sky. The country before us being intricate, we could not start till daylight; and, when
we sallied forth on our day's march, the weather
had moderated. About two miles from our resting-place we passed over a round hill, and stood
a while on its summit to enjoy the boundless
prospect. From west to south stretched a vast
plain, separated from another, of which we had a
bird's eye glimpse to the north-east, by the broad
belt of woods which we had been skirting along;
while, before us, in our line of march, lay outspread a seemingly endless tract of open underwood, varied by gently swelling eminences. For
seven miles our route led west-north-west,
through thickets and over hillocks; it then
changed to west for fourteen miles, through a
more open country, consisting of rising grounds,
or I coteaus," with bare ridges, and sides clothed
with dwarf poplar and brushwood; while here
and there, in the hollows, we crossed large ponds,
scarcely deserving, on this continent, the title of WINTER JOURNEY FROM
lakes. They have no outlet; and, on cutting
through the ice for water, we generally found it
putrid: such, however, is its scarcity in that
level country, that we were often fain to use it
When most nauseous, taking the precaution of
imbibing it through snow, which purifies it in
some slight degree. We now turned west-southwest for eight miles, keeping along a broad and
rather winding ridge, which appeared to furnish
the buffalo with a regular road of ingress to the
woods. Several tracks of moose-deer were also
seen during the day. After sunset we took up
our quarters in a small clump of poplars. The
whole country having been ravaged by fire, we
could not find dry grass, as usual, for our beds, and
spread our Christmas couch on willow branches;
rough indeed, but rendered smooth to us by
health and exercise.
Next day we continued the same direction
for twelve miles; and, though I remonstrated
with our half-breed guide on his leading us too
much to the southward, Pierre persisted in his
own accurate knowledge of the route; till suddenly we emerged into the open plains, where
an illimitable snow-covered waste alone met the
view. We made for an eminence five miles
distant, whence we gained  a  full  view of the
extraordinary country in which we now found
ourselves. What are here called plains, consist
of a collection of barren hills and hollows, tossed
together in a wild wave-like form, as if some
ocean had been suddenly petrified while heaving
its huge billows in a tumultuous swell. Sinclair,
one of my men, informed me that he had from
Fort Pelly traversed, in the summer- season, a
similar country, extending to the borders of the
Missouri. From our elevation we could discern,
due north, our eagerly looked-for mark, the
Birch Hill, by which lay our lost route. Being
thus re-assured, a smart walk of thirteen miles
brought us to the external fringe of underwood,
in which we halted at sunset. The loose snow
made the wralking this day irksome; but we had
many a capital race, as the sledges shot down the
steep hill-sides. It was rather dangerous footing on these declivities, garnished as they were
with badger-holes, which, being concealed by the
snow, repeatedly entrapped our legs, and capsized us, though we fortunately escaped without
fractures. The country is completely intersected
by buffalo-roads: we saw many skeletons and
one or two recent tracks of these animals; but
no living creature, except a fox that started from
his burrow on the top of one of the bare hills, WINTER JOURNEY  FROM
and a pair of lean ravens, which attended us for
the greater part of the day. A strong southerly
wind blew during the night.
At daylight on the 27th we found that a
strong thaw had taken place, which rendered
the travelling execrable; our route was full of
deviations, which my guide declared necessary
to avoid a rough thickety country. The fact
was, the man was again at fault; and I was on
the point of taking the guidance out of hijs
hands, to shape a straight course for Carlton,
when I found him kneeling on a hillock, with
what purpose I know not; but, on questioning
him, he said he recognised a low hill before us.
On reaching it, we found ourselves in the midst,
as it were, of a grand amphitheatre, being on
every side surrounded by superior woody ridges.
A few miles further lies the " Lake of the Moose
Deer;" after passing which we gained the top
of a range of round hills, extending across our
route, where we lodged in a little hollow at
sunset. In the course of the day we saw several
tracks of buffalo bulls, and shot some partridges.
With the dawn we were again in motion.
A light fog overhung the earth, which the rising
sun soon dissipated, lighting up its fragments, as
they rolled away, with bright and changeful hues.
Our route traversed patches of brushwood, prai- RED  RIVER TO ATHABASCA.
ries abounding in small lakes, and two broad low
ranges of hills, at the base of the last of which we
encamped. Our course all day was west-northwest by the compass. Walking was laborious
in the extreme, the snow being soft, the grass
long, and the ground lumpy; so that, though we
only advanced twenty-three miles, we were all
tired enough in the evening.
29th.—The cloudy weather having prevented
me from obtaining observations during the night,
I was desirous of taking a meridional altitude
of Arcturus in the morning twilight, which placed
us in lat. 52° 40' 36" N.; then, starting a little
before sunrise, we proceeded across the plain.
The morning, for the depth of winter, was exceedingly beautiful; and we had not gone far when
we espied, on the top of a little eminence before
us, four red-deer, inhaling the fresh breeze. They
stood gazing at us for some time; and two of
the party were preparing to creep towards them
through a bushy dingle, when the beautiful creatures took the alarm, and, darting down the declivity with the speed of light, gained the woods
and disappeared. At noon we found ourselves
on the lofty banks of the South Branch, or Bow
River, which is here a quarter of a mile wide,
and well wooded with poplar, aspen, and birch.
Descending to  the  stream, we came  upon  an
open space, where the clear current rushed sparkling over its stony bed ; and we quaffed an ample
draught of the pure element, deliciously refreshing after the foul and smoky snow-water of the
plains. Then, mounting the steep bank on the
opposite side, we pushed our way, through thicket
and swamp, to the White Hill, a bare elevation,
commanding a view of the open plains to the
westward, and, to the east, of a wooded hilly
country, with the broad river wending its wajr
majestically through it. We encamped at Du£k
Lake, which is three or four miles long.
Next morning, after breakfasting, and making
our simple toilet, we set out for Carlton, situated on the south side of the Saskatchewan
River. There we were greeted by Chief Factor
Pruden with a frank and cordial welcome; and,
at his pressing request, I consented to pass our
New-Year holidays with him. There were no
bands of the plain Indians in the neighbourhood,
and none of the alarms consequent on their
appearance. In the course of the precedino-
summer they had several times fired into the
place, which is defended by high palisades, planted
with wall-pieces. Provisions were unusually
scarce, the great fires in autumn having driven
the buffalo to a distance; but one of the Cree
hunters was fortunate enough   to kill   a female
moose and her two fawns within a short distance of the establishment.
On the 2nd a dance was given in the hall, at
which Mr. Pruden's fine family, with all the other
inmates, young and old, attended, decked in their
gayest attire ; and gave full scope to the passion
for dancing inherent in all the natives of the
country. The following day was employed in
making pemican for our journey, and in getting
everything in readiness to resume it on the morrow. There is some ground in cultivation here,
and Mr. Pruden was justly proud of the sleek
hides of the cattle and horses in his stable.
4th.—Being now reinforced with fresh men
and dogs, we set out at a rapid rate. After
crossing the river, which is nearly half a mile
broad, we entered an open country, consisting
of low, round, grassy hills, interspersed with
clumps of poplar, and occasionally of pines,
and with many small lakes; a range of hills,
called "La Montagne Forte," appearing far on
our left. We travelled on till dusk, when we
encamped in a valley.
We started next morning at 4 o'clock. It
wras exceedingly dark, but we luckily fell upon
a path made by some people who had lately
passed towards Green Lake. The snow increased
in quantity as we advanced, and the country be-
came more close and woody. After a walk of
fifteen miles, we reached Shell River, a little
stream; where we found, near an old Cree camp,
several skins of the throat of the moose-deer
suspended on poles, which are esteemed by the
natives as charms of great efficacy in their conjuring. Sixteen or seventeen miles beyond this
rivulet, we passed by Salt Lake, which is nar-r
row, but of considerable length: its waters are
unfit for use. A hill on its east side is clothed
with fine birch, and thither the Carlton people
resort to procure materials for constructing their
sledges. Proceeding seven miles farther, we came
upon a streamlet containing fine water, ironically
named by the voyageurs " La Grande Riviere,"
on the banks of which, amongst pines, we halted
for the night.
We started on the 6th at the same hour.
The weather continued mild for the season, and
cloudy, as if it would snow. After proceeding
a distance of eight miles, chiefly occupied by four
pieces of water, the largest of which is denominated Fishing Lake, we entered the boundary of
the pine forest, in lat. 53° 30' N. Two leagues
of a very rough, uneven path brought us to another rivulet, open in several places, and very
serpentine in its course, often expanding into
small lakes, and originating in one, at the dis- RED RIVER TO ATHABASCA.
tance of ten or eleven miles. It traverses a
pretty valley, the land rising gradually on either
side. Three or four miles through thick woods
lead thence to Otter Lake, five miles long, but
not exceeding a quarter of a mile in breadth.
We saw on the snow several marks of the valuable fur-animal from which it takes its name,
Beyond this we crossed six little lakes, when,
finding a fine camping-place, we halted after sunset, having travelled thirty-seven miles. One of
the men had a narrow escape, his gun going off
while carelessly fastened upon the sledge behind
which he was walking.
Next morning we crossed six more " lakelets,"
separated from each other by very close woods,
in passing through which the extreme darkness
rendered it necessary to advance in a stooping
posture, cautiously guarding our eyes from the
low hanging branches: the space thus occupied
Wfis five miles. Then followed a hilly tract of
fourteen miles in extent, dividing the waters
which flow towards the Saskatchewan and
Chupeiiill rivers; about the middle of which we
fell upon a streamlet winding through a valley,
with elevated woody sides. Along this valley
we descended, occasionally crossing the brook,
Which the recent mild weather had caused to
overflow in many places, to our no small incon-
venience. At length, between 10 and 11 a.m.,
we reached Green Lake, where we stopped to
breakfast, with enviable appetites. This lake is
narrow, and its reaches assume various bearings,
like those of a large river; its length is about
seventeen miles. Finding the ice level, and not
much encumbered with snow, we trotted briskly
over it, and reached the little post at its extremity about sunset. Here we found some Crees,
who, having been unsuccessful in hunting, were
living for a time on the produce of the abundant
fishery made by the people of the place at the
commencement of the winter season.
A considerable quantity of snow fell during
the night, and the morning of the 8th was very
boisterous. At 5 a. m. we started, and, following a few turns of the stream by which Green
Lake discharges itself into Beaver River, we
turned off into a very bad, swampy track, leading to the two Duck Lakes, each half a league
long, and nearly as far asunder. A short portage brought us to the banks of Beaver River,
which is about the same size as Swan River, and
similarly wooded. Descending it for twelve
miles, we came to some rapids, which never
freeze. Close to the open water we saw three
otters, but they plunged into the stream before
we could approach within shot. We had now
resumed our snow-shoes, but the fresh fall made
the march very fatiguing both for men and dogs;
and at 4 p.m. the violence of the gale obliged
us to encamp.
We were again on the river the following
morning at 4 o'clock; the weather desperately
cold, with a violent north-west wind. We breakfasted at the foot of the f Turned-boat Hill," so
called from its peculiar shape. The general
thickness of the ice was about eighteen inches;
but there were several open rapids, where the
current ran with considerable force, pursuing a
very irregular course, and rendering the ice extremely rough and difficult of passage. But upon the whole we made good progress, and early
in the afternoon reached the point where we
quitted the river, which describes a long circuit
to the right before falling into Lac la Crosse,
five miles to the east of the establishment. Perch
River, a small stream, joins Beaver River two
reaches lower down, and erroneously appears in
some maps as " Riv. Lac la Ronge." This lake
is fed by the Montreal River, which issues from
Lac Assiniboine, a large body of water, extending, it is said, to within a day's journey of Green
Lake, and abounding in fine white-fish.    We tra
versed part of the Long Lake Chain, and encamped in a grove of splendid pines, having travelled forty miles.
The morning of the 10th was clear, but piercingly cold. We were under way at 3 o'clock,
and passed the remainder of Long Lakes. We
then struck due north by the pole-star, and after
travelling fourteen miles, including five more
small lakes, we reached Lac la Crosse at daylight, and breakfasted. The lake here comes
almost to a point, and expands very gradually
for sixteen miles; when, having attained the
breadth of half a league, this long arm unites
to the main body, which is eight miles across
to the establishment. There being but little
snow on the ice, w^e ran all the way, and early
in the afternoon we were most kindly and hospitably received by Chief Factor Mackenzie.
It was my intention to await at this place the
arrival of an express, soon expected from Athabasca, in case there should be any arrangements
to make respecting the additional supply of goods
and provisions required by the expedition. The
weather continued mild, with some heavy falls
of snow. The " Fort" is neat and compact, the
surrounding country low and swampy. The fishery, in the laj^e close at hand, yields a constant
supply of fresh and wholesome food, summer ancj
winter; the little farm is productive, and the few
domestic cattle maintained were in excellent condition. I noticed a number of ravens stalking
about quite familiarly among the people and
the dogs, and almost making their way into the
houses. They are considered useful, during the
heats of summer, in cleansing the beach of fish
refuse, and are therefore treated with nearly as
much consideration as the stork was by the ancients, and is at this day in Holland.
On the 13th I sent back my Carlton auxiliaries,
after all hands had been gratified by a 1 ball," at
which one of my companions, who was a capital
fiddler, officiated as chief musician. A party of
Chipewyans came in with an assortment of furs.
They had been living in abundance on moose-
deer, and were clothed in the same manner as
the people of the establishment. The Chipewyans are the most provident of all the northern
tribes; and, since the union of the rival companies in 1821, their numbers are decidedly on the
increase. The longitude of the place, deduced
from three sets of lunar distances, with stars on
either side of the moon, was 107° 54' 30" W.,
differing only six seconds from that found by Sir
John Franklin in 1825.
On the 20th the long-looked for couriers arrived, with letters from   Mr.  Dease, communi-
eating the welfare of the expedition. After writing on its affairs to the gentlemen in charge of
York Factory, Norway House, and Red River,
and being most liberally supplied, by my worthy
friend Mr. Mackenzie, with everything requisite
for the journey, we took our departure the same
At our usual breakfast hour, on the 21st, we
reached Clear Lake, a tolerable day's walk on
snow-shoes. Our route thence to Athabasca
being precisely that followed by Sir John Franklin, scarcely needs the minute description which
I have given of the preceding portion. Adhering to the general line of the summer water communication, the road was not so readily mistaken
as heretofore; and we were able to make a great
part of our way during the night, which all experienced snow-travellers know to be less wearisome to the spirits than broad day, when the
traverses of lakes, and long reaches of rivers, are
seen in all their tedious extent, and the eyes are
oppressed by the glare of the snow. The remainder was, consequently, the most rapid part
of our journey. The weather was dark and
snowy. Three large wolves followed us, and a
pair of white owls serenaded us with their harsh
notes during the night, as we lay on Buffalo
Next morning we set out at 2 o'clock. A
dense fog concealed the land, and hid the
Buffalo Mountain, so dreaded by superstitious
voyagers; but we took our course west-northwest, across a very wide bay. After a smart
walk of eight hours, in which we advanced
twenty-eight miles, we landed for breakfast near
the extremity of the lake, where we found the
ice to be three feet thick. We encamped in
the Methye River.
||f-,0n the 23rd we started at 3 a. m. Some
time before daylight there was a magnificent
display of the aurora borealis, commencing with
an arch of singular lustre in the north, which
suddenly flashed up towards the zenith, and represented the interior of a stupendous cone, the
apex and upper part being of the bright yellow
hue, while the lower assumed a very rich carmine colour. I had scarcely time to admire this
resplendent phenomenon, when it disappeared.
We pursued as direct a line as the country permitted, now following the river, where we found
it straight, then traversing the intervening woods.
Our moonlight transit disturbed from their sleeping-places a couple of foxes, and several large
coveys of white partridges. Early in the afternoon we reached Methye Lake, near the middle
of which,   on  a  long  projecting point, we en- I
camped, among firs of great size. While crossing the lake, I witnessed an extraordinary effect
of the mirage caused by the rays of the evening sun. It covered the land to the west with a
mist-like veil; and the ice, even close around us,
appeared to dance with a strange undulating motion, as if tossed up and down on a heavy swell.
I was walking about half a mile a-head of the
rest of the party, and, chancing to look back, the
people seemed to be seated on their sledges*;
but on their arrival at the encampment, when I
taxed them with their laziness, they assured me
that they had been on foot the whole time, and
that I had also appeared to them in a recumbent attitude, borne forward as it wrere by some
unseen power. Our dogs showing symptoms of
sore feet, we equipped them all in shoes of white
After I had ascertained the latitude 56° 28'
48*5" N., we quitted our snug quarters at 3 A. m.
of the 24th. Scarcely had we started when the
weather became overcast and snowy; but we took
our course, by compass, across the remaining section of the lake, to the celebrated Portage la
Loche. The snow was very deep throughout
this formidable barrier; and the white hares,
which  had been strangers  to us since  leaving RED  RIVER TO ATHABASCA.
Lac la Crosse, now often leaped across our path.
From the hills on  the  north side,   a thousand
feet in height, we obtained that noble view of
the Clear Water River, which has been drawn
with so much truth and beauty by Sir George
Back; though the dark day, and the livery of
winter, were unfavourable to our full enjoyment
of the prospect.    Launching down the steep and
slippery descents, we turned off to the left, and
halted for breakfast on the bank of a streamlet
flowing into the Clear Water River, distant fourteen miles from the creek which the boats enter
at the end of this long carrying-place.    The Indians sometimes strike off from hence,  through
a   hilly  wooded   country,   direct  to   Athabasca
Lake, and, as I knew that a saving of at least two
days in distance might be effected by that route,
I was desirous of adopting it; but none of my
men had ever followed it, and, from the report
of the natives, they declared it to be impracticable   with   sledges;   we   therefore  turned   our
faces down the deep and picturesque  valley of
the Clear Water River, and advanced as usual
till sunset.    This is the best plan on such journeys, as the preparation of the encampment takes
more time and labour, and, is never so well done,
after nightfall.    One of the pines, under shelter
i ;:
of which we took up our night's lodgings, measured three yards in girth, at five feet from the
25th.—There fell a light rain during the night,
and a dense mist hung low down upon the sides
of the lofty hills. We soon reached a narrow
channel, where the stream rushes impetuously
between overhanging turret-shaped rocks, and
descended it for upwards of a mile; the water
boiling and hissing under our feet, with numerous open places on either side of us. Proceeding alternately upon the river and through the
woods, we crossed " Portage la Bonne," where
two Indians had recently cut their hieroglyphics
on the trees, to notify to their friends that they
had passed on a hunting excursion, and what
animals they had killed. This is a fine country
for the chase, and so little frequented in the
winter, that it may be regarded as an extensive
preserve. We saw three moose-deer on the top
of one of the hills; and their tracks, and those
of the wood-buffalo, were numerous in every direction. The valley of the river is entirely sheltered from the inclement north and north-west
winds, but its exposure to the east usually renders the snow deep and soft, as we found to our
cost. It had rained smartly here in the beginning of the month, while it snowed  elsewhere, RED  RIVER TO ATHABASCA.
and over the sharp crust produced by the rain
a foot of fresh snow had fallen. Our poor dogs
sunk through both, and, with all our precautions,
their paws were sorely galled. The passage of
the cascades was rendered hazardous by a number of treacherous holes in the ice, which the
snow concealed. Ten miles lower down, some
strong sulphur springs issue from the left bank of
the river, in a narrow channel formed by an island,
leaving a copious deposit on the stones over
which they flow. The water was nauseous to
my people; but, being accustomed to the powerful mineral springs of Strath Peffer, I took a
liberal draught, which doubly whetted the keen
edge of hunger. We encamped soon after, and,
the snow falling very heavily, we made ourselves
covered huts with pine branches, in which we
considered ourselves superbly lodged.
The travelling next morning was excessively
bad. The weather was cloudy, and even oppressively mild for the violent exertion of wading
through deep snow; but with the dawn a cool
westerly breeze sprung up, which refreshed us,
and rendered the atmosphere beautifully clear.
Just before breakfasting we saw, on the northern
hills, a large moose and a band of five wood-
buffaloes sunning their fat sides—a sight sufficient
to make the mouths of pemican-eaters water; Wj
but they were beyond our reach, and, taking the
alarm, quickly disappeared. The declivities of
the hills seemed, as we passed along, completely
chequered with the tracks of these and smaller
animals. We slept at the mouth of the Pembina,
or Red Willow River.
On the 27th our route lay chiefly along the
river; the hills enclosing it became lower, and
approached nearer together, depriving the valley
Of its former romantic character. A walk of
seventeen miles brought us to the confluence of
Clear Water River with the Athabasca. From
the high point of " the-forks" we enjoyed a fine
view of that majestic stream, stretching away to
the north, its broad bosom studded with numerous wooded islands, which give it a grand
lake-like appearance. We now emerged from
the deep soft snows of the valley, through which,
as well as during the whole journey, I had myself
raised the road, my companions being sufficiently
occupied, each with the care of his sledge. The
dogs, in fact, were so accustomed to follow me,
that when, at any time, I quitted my usual
station in front, they stopped, kept looking wistfully back, and the whips of their drivers failed
to inspire them with the same ardour, till I resumed the lead, when they testified their satisfaction by straining to keep at my heelsy the leader
often thrusting forward his black muzzle to be
caressed. This fondness usually procured me the
close society of a whole posse of them during
the night, which, when not extremely cold, was
anything but agreeable.* By marks on the snow,
it appeared that the owls (stria cinerea) were
making sad havoc among the hares. In the
evening a lynx sprang up the bank, at the very
spot we were making for, and, on looking out, we
saw our old friends, the wolves, following us at a
respectful distance. They regularly, established
their night's quarters on the opposite side of the
Next morning a strong cold north wind blew,
driving in our faces a storm of snow wrhich
almost blinded us. We marched against it for
several hours, when, at an island, we fell in
with a Chipewyan hunter, visiting his traps,
and invited him to share our breakfast. After
messing with the people, I gave him a cup of
tea and a handful of biscuit, when I was no
less surprised than pleased to see the poor fellow reserve the latter, to carry to his children
at the lodge. At noon we spoke another hunter belonging  to the  same camp;  he had just
* In consequence of the good treatment they received, half
the number that left Red River with me reached Athabasca—
the longest continuous journey ever performed by the same
dogs.    The others I exchanged on the route. WINTER  JOURNEY FROM
killed a badger, which he was taking home.
These men were well-clothed, and supplied from
Fort. Chipewyan with everything necessary for
this mode of life. The weather changed, and
became clear and very cold. In many places
we found the ice covered with water, which
had overflowed from tributary creeks, and from
open places in the river itself. The snow, too,
was soft and deep; and our progress was much
retarded by these circumstances. At dusk we
encamped below the upper tar springs, among
the huge pines and poplars, which are everywhere of a growth worthy of the noble stream
whose banks they shelter and adorn.
It snowed as usual during the night, and the
morning of the 29th was piercingly cold, a
strong north wind sweeping up the exceedingly
long reaches leading to Pierre au Calumet.
Our dogs began to knock up one by one, and
three wTere untackled all day. These lagged behind, unobserved, in the afternoon; and I had
to send a man back to look for them. He
met them just as our pertinacious followers,
the wolves, were coming up; and saved the
poor animals,. who were in no condition to
resist such powerful adversaries. In the plain
districts many horses yearly fall a prey to their
y ~*¥r
The 30th was intensely cold, with a penetrating head wind, and not an incident occurred
to vary the scene as we passed down the long
monotonous reaches of the river.
The cold during the succeeding night was
excessive. At the end of sixteen miles we
made a land-cut of two miles in length to
avoid a detour. The wolves having become very
daring, lured on by the prints of the dogs'
bleeding feet, I lay in wait for them, after the
rest of the party had passed, and fired upon the
foremost as they dashed up the bank, which
effectually checked the pursuit. We encamped
at the mouth of a small creek, thirty miles from
Fort Chipewyan.
1st February.—This being the day I had
fixed, on leaving Red River, for my arrival at
Fort Chipewyan, we were on the move at 2
a. m. The morning was windy, but not cold;
the sky was clear, and a vivid arch of the aurora
spanned it to the north, but speedily resolved
itself into a thousand flashes and coruscations
of extreme brilliancy. Leaving the main channel by which the Athabasca pours its waters
into the lake, we struck across the land to a
minor branch, called the Embarras. We followed its narrow and devious course for several
miles, rousing  the  moose-deer from their lairs
by the noise of our dog-bells. Crossing a short
portage, we reached Lake Mamawee, where we
despatched the small remainder of our provisions. Then continuing onwards with accelerated speed, at 3 p. m. we were warmly welcomed
by Chief Factors Smith and Dease, who did not
expect me for more than a month to come.
Thus happily terminated a winter journey of
1277 statute miles.* In the wilderness time and
space seem equally a blank, and for the same
reason—the paucity of objects to mark or diversify their passage; but, in my opinion, the
real secret of the little account which is made
of distance in these North American wilds is,
that there is nothing to pay. Every assistance
is promptly rendered to the traveller without
fee or reward, while health and high spirits
smile at the fatigues of the way.
* From Fort Garry to Fort Pelly .        . .394 miles.
Fort Pelly to Carlton .        .        . 276
Carlton to Isle a. la Crosse .        . . 236
Isle a la Crosse to Fort Chipewyan .    371
*'-' "W^^TvT - ^d
"-WHH 67
Occurrences at Fort Chipewyan, spring, 1837.
■Traits of the
The whole month of February was unusually
mild, and at noon the sun not unfrequently asserted
his increasing power by a gentle thaw. Messengers were continually arriving with favourable
accounts from the Indian camps; a pleasing contrast to the preceding winter, which is rendered
memorable to the poor natives by the ravages
of an influenza—scarcely less dreadful than the
cholera—that carried off nearly two hundred of
the distant Chipewyans. I say distant, because
all who were within reach of the establishments were sent for and carried thither, where
every care was taken of them; warm clothing
and lodgings were provided; medicines administered ; the traders and servants fed them, parting with  their own  slender stock  of luxuries*
* A few pounds of tea, sugar, &c, allowed to officers and
guides, and purchased by fhe common-men, are called " luxuries" in Hudson's Bay.    The old Canadian " voyageurs," who
f 2
for their nourishment; till even the cold heart
of the red man warmed into gratitude, and his
lips uttered the unwonted accents of thanks.
The first point  determined, after my arrival,
in  reference  to  the   expedition,  was,  that  instead of one large boat for the coast, we should
immediately get two built, of smaller dimensions.
The purpose of this change was, to provide for
the greater security of the party; to render our
craft so light as to admit of their being carried
over the icy reefs obstructing the passage along
the western coast,  and   that  they might  afterwards be  transported   with  facility,  across  the
Coppermine portage, to another scene of operations.    This step was the more necessary, as it
was  extremely  doubtful  whether the  northern
parts of Great Bear  Lake produced  timber fit
for the construction of boats of any description,
and as we should  there be  unprovided with  a
boat-house, forge, and many other requisites for
that purpose, which we possessed  at Fort Chipewyan.    It will be abundantly evident, in the
course of the narrative, that, with a single boat,
the expedition must have terminated disastrous-
lament the degeneracy of their successors, are nothing loth to
imitate their example in adding these comforts to their fare;
and an encampment of the present day exhibits a regular assortment of tea-kettles, pots, and pans.
ananraM *fc-r
ly. To complete the crews, we required only
two additional men, whom Chief Factor Smith
promptly provided from among several volunteers, the service being now popular with the
northern voyageurs. We likewise engaged, as
hunters for Great Bear Lake, a Chipewyan
family, comprehending an old man, his two sons
and two sons-in-law, accompanied by their wives
and children.
It is with sincere pleasure I take this occasion of observing, that the harsh treatment of
their women, for which the Chipewyans were,
not long since, remarkable, even among the
North American tribes, is now greatly alleviated,
especially among those who have frequent communication with the establishments. At Great
Bear Lake I had many opportunities of witnessing the conduct of this particular family, and
always saw the females treated with kindness.
The present Chipewyan character, indeed, contrasts most favourably with that of the party
which accompanied Hearne on his discovery of
the Coppermine River, and who massacred the
unhappy Esquimaux, surprised asleep in their
tents at the Bloody Fall. A large proportion of
the Company's servants, and, with very few exceptions, the officers, are united to native women.
A kindly feeling of relationship thus exists be- TRAITS  OF THE NATIVES.
tween them and the Indians, which tends much to
the safety of the small and thinly scattered posts,
placed, as they are, among overwhelming numbers, were those numbers hostile. The rising
class of officers have begun to marry the young
ladies educated at Red River, which will tend to
give a higher tone to the manners and morals of
the country, without, it is to be hoped, diminishing those mutual feelings of good-will that now
subsist between the Indians and the traders resident amongst them.
The month of March proved as severe as
February was mild. The thermometer fell to
—36°, and ranged from —20° to —30° for many
days. The aurora frequently exhibited its fantastic
lights, but only once or twice vividly displayed
the prismatic colours. An aged Cree hunter
arrived with his family. Feeling his strength—
which had borne him through forest and flood for
many a year—no longer equal to the chase, the
old man said that he was come to end his days at
the Fort. With care and attention, however, he
soon began to revive; the whole family were
furnished with everything necessary, had the
same rations assigned them as the regular servants, and continued to live in comfort at the
establishment.    Many   other   Indians   came  in TRAITS OF THE NATIVES.
from  the   different   camps   with   furs   and   for
From some of the Chipewyans I learned that
they had, in the course of the preceding summer,
met with a party of Esquimaux at the confluence
of the noble Thelew or Thelon River with the
Doobaunt of Hearne, below the lake of the latter
name, and not far from the influx of these united
streams into Chesterfield Inlet. This meeting
was of the most amicable character, and they
spent a great part of the summer together. The
Esquimaux even proposed to send two of their
young men to Athabasca, inviting the same
number Of Indians to pass the winter with them.
The arrangement was agreed to by both parties,
but was frustrated by some petty jealousy among
the women. They also informed me that, in
1832, some of the Athabasca Chipewyans accompanied the Churchill branch of their tribe on
their annual meeting with other Esquimaux at
Yath Kyed, or White Snow Lake of Hearne,
which receives the united waters of the Cathaw-
chaga and the rapid Kasan, or White Partridge
River. This remarkable change, from mortal
hatred to frank and confident intercourse, is
solely owing to the humane interposition of the
Company's officers, who neglect no opportunity of *^s£?*Sffl
inculcating" on the minds of these savage tribes
the propriety of their forgiving ancient wrongs,
and uniting together in the bonds of peace and
friendship. By the same influence, the warlike
Beaver Indians of Peace River have been, of late
years, reconciled to their old enemies—the Thoe-
canies of the Rocky Mountains, and the Carriers
of New Caledonia.
April opened with the unpromising temperature of 5° below zero, but the weather soon
became mild and pleasant. On the 13th there
fell a copious shower of rain; on the 17th the
first swans were seen, on the south side of the
lake ; and on the 21st several flocks of wild fowl
flew past the establishment. In the woods the
cranberry and juniper disclosed their crimson and
purple fruit, so long hidden beneath the snow;
the buds of the willow began to appear; from
bush and tree a tribe of little birds twittered and
carolled in the glad sunshine; the axes of the
woodsmen resounded from the adjacent hills;
while the numerous Indian tents, pitched on the
rocks around the Fort, poured forth a swarm of
youthful savages, who gambolled in the full activity of untutored nature. Spring—joyous, animated spring—was returned, and the death-like
silence of winter was past!
During this month I had the most convincing
proofs of that recklessness which prompts the
Indian to prefer a momentary gratification to a
substantial benefit. Earnest applications were
made by the assembled Chipewyans for the re-
introduction into their country of ardent spirits,
which had been for many years discontinued by
the Company's humane policy. Their attachment
to the poisonous beverage, however, remained so
strong, that, every season, parties of the tribe
traversed the continent to Churchill, on Hudson's
Bay, with no other purpose than to obtain it.
At length its use was prohibited there also,
and the Chipewyans renewed their solicitations.
Instead of gaining their point, they were now
justly reproved by their benefactor, Mr. Smith,
and obliged to confess their own folly. The
following is an extract of the Company's standing
orders on these subjects:—"That the Indians be
treated with kindness and indulgence, and mild
and conciliatory means resorted to, in order to
encourage industry, repress vice, and inculcate
morality; that the use of spirituous liquors be
gradually discontinued in the few districts in
which it is yet indispensable; and that the Indians
be liberally supplied with requisite necessaries,
particularly with articles of ammunition, whether
they have the means of paying for it or not."
It is equally the Company's inclination, and their
interest, to render the natives comfortable. It is
when they are well-clothed, and amply provided
with ammunition, that they are best able to exert
themselves in collecting furs and provisions.
But, so far is it from the Company's wish to
acquire an undue influence over them, by loading
them with debts, that repeated attempts have
been made to reduce the trade to a simple barter.
In order to effect an object so beneficial to the
natives themselves, the arrears of the Chipewyans
have been twice cancelled since the junction of
the two Companies in 1821; but the generous experiment has signally failed. The improvidence
of the Indian character is an unsurmountable
obstacle to its success, and in the Chipewyans is
aggravated by a custom which the whites have
not yet been able wholly to eradicate. On the
death of a relative, they destroy guns, blankets,
kettles, everything, in short, they possess, concluding the havoc by tearing their lodges to
pieces. When these transports of grief have
subsided, they must have recourse to the nearest
establishment for a fresh supply of necessaries,
and thus their debts are renewed. The debts of
the deceased are, in every case, lost to the Company. The Indian debt system is, in reality,
equivalent to the practice, in many civilised
countries, of making advances to hired servants
previous to the commencement of their actual
duties. This is particularly remarkable among
the French Canadians, who can scarcely be induced to undertake any work or service without
first receiving part payment in advance. Their
improvidence approaches to that of the Indian,
and produces similar effects.
It is not perhaps generally known that, in
some parts of the Indian territory, the hunting-
grounds descend by inheritance among the natives, and that this right of property is rigidly
enforced. Where no such salutary law prevails, their main source of wealth, the beaver,
would soon be exhausted by the eager search
of the hunters, were it not for the judicious regulations of the Company, whose officers have,
for many years past, exhorted the natives to
spare the young of that valuable animal. In
this praiseworthy design they have met with
increasing success, according as the eyes of the
Indians have been opened to their own true interests. But the attempt will be understood to
be one of extreme difficulty, in consequence of
that passion for depriving the animal creation
of life, so deeply implanted in the breast of the
North American Indian, that it costs him a pang
to pass bird, beast, or fish without an effort to
destroy it, whether he stands in need of it or
*    Jt '■■#
not. Near York Factory, in 1831, this propensity, contrary to all the remonstrances of
the gentlemen of that place, led to the indiscriminate destruction of a countless herd of reindeer, while crossing the broad stream of Haye's
River, in the height of summer. The natives
took some of the meat for present use, but
thousands of carcases were abandoned to the
current, and infected the river banks, or floated
out into Hudson's Bay, there to feed the sea-
fowl and the Polar bear. As if it were a judgment for this barbarous slaughter, in which
women and even children participated, the deer
have never since visited that part of the country
in similar numbers. It is to their own headstrong imprudence, which the example and influence of the traders cannot at all times control, that the occasional deaths by starvation
among the natives, and still more rare abandonment of the aged and helpless, must be
The quantity of provisions furnished by the
Indians to the establishments throughout the
northern districts is inconsiderable. In the winter season it is generally limited to the rib-
pieces of the moose, red, and rein-deer, half-
dried in the smoke of their tents, and the bones
removed for lightness of carriage; to which a
few tongues are perhaps added. In the course
of the summer, when the animals are easily
hunted, and there is water transport everywhere,
the more industrious families usually bring to
their Fort a bale of " dried meat," consisting of
the fleshy parts of the deer cut into large slices
and dried in the sun, with a bladder or two containing fat; or a bag of " pounded meat," which,
when mixed with boiled fat, forms the renowned
pemican. When these scanty supplies prove insufficient, with the produce of their own fisheries,
and, where the climate is suitable, of the ground
cultivated, to support the few people who reside
at each of the widely separate posts, two or
more young active Indians without family, or
with but small families, are engaged as " Fort
hunters," and regarded as regular servants. The
duty of these hunters is confined to the killing
of large animals for the establishment; and such
part of the meat as is not required by themselves and their families, is transported thither,
with dogs and sledges, by the servants belonging to the place. To become Fort hunter is the
ambition of a northern Indian, for the situation
is at once an acknowledgment of his skill, and
places the finest and gayest clothing at his command. It is, however, necessary to change them
from time to time, as an Indian no sooner forms
'TIB 78
the notion that his services are indispensable,
than from that moment he slackens his exertions.
Every prudent manager of a post endeavours to
procure more provisions than the actual wants
of his charge. He is thus enabled, when scarcity
or ill-success overtakes his Indians, to afford
them a timely, and always a gratuitous relief.
I do not speak here of the comparatively mild
climate of the Saskatchewan, where the mounted
plain hordes often glut the establishments with
the spoils of myriads of buffaloes, and threaten
their existence by their dangerous visits. Nor
are these remarks applicable to the still more
southerly districts bordering on Canada, where
the natives, as well as the people in the Company's service, are in a great measure fed upon
imported provisions, purchased by the Company
from the Americans. The principle universally
acted on throughout the vast and now admirably
governed fur-countries is, that the true interests
of the native Indian, and of the white man who
resides in voluntary exile on his lands, are in-
dissolubly united.
All attempts to raise farm produce among
the rocks at Fort Chipewyan have proved abortive, even potatoes being brought down from
Peace River; but there are never-failing fisheries
in Athabasca Lake.    The few horses and oxen
required for hauling firewood to the place are
maintained, during the long winter of seven
months, upon coarse grass cut in the swamps,
and, when that fails, upon fish.
May, like April, was a fine month; but, till
near its close, there was little sultry weather.
Swallows appeared about the houses on the
19th; and, during the whole month, the geese,*
on their northward migration, afforded the native camp food, and the Fort sportsmen amusement. The environs of the lake, for miles, resounded with the fusilade, as if bands of skirmishers, hotly engaged, were scattered over the
On the 11th we had a smart thunderstorm;
and another, more distant, a few days afterwards : these were the only ones of the spring.
Owing to the general coolness of the season,
and the low state of the waters,; the ice lingered
on the lake until the 22nd ; j" a party of Indians
having crossed it, opposite the Fort, only the day
before. It continued alternately driving and
stopping for several days.
* There were four kinds of geese, the Snow, Canada,
Laughing, and Hutchin's ; of which the first were by far the
most numerous.
•j* The eastern part of the lake, which, unlike the western,
is traversed by no large river, never opens till the month of
41 w
On the 23rd the Peace River boats reached
English Island," and their cargoes were carried
by land to the establishment, a distance of two
On the 25th, Chief Factor M'Leod arrived with
the canoes from Fort Resolution. This gentleman, already known to the public as Sir George
Back's intrepid assistant at Great Slave Lake, volunteered, in the handsomest manner, to conduct
a party of Chipewyans to meet us at the mouth,
of the Great Fish River in August 1838. Circumstances, however, prevented our availing ourselves of his gallant proposal; and, without the
aid of an experienced officer, it would have been
vain to attempt, through Indians, making any
deposit of provisions, &c, at Lake Beechey, as
suggested in our instructions.
From the mean of a great number of observations, I deduced the position of Fort Chipewyan, which accords well with the results in
Sir John Franklin's first and second journeys.
Lat. 58° 42' 38" N.; long. 111° 18' 32" W.
The variation, by several sets of azimuths, was
26° 6' 23" E., showing an increase of 36' 46"
since 1825, or about three minutes per annum.
Our sea-boats were now finished. They were
light clinker-built craft, of twenty-four feet keel
and six feet beam, furnished with wash-boards. FORT CHIPEWYAN.
and carrying each two lug-sails. They were expressly adapted for a shallow navigation, by their
small draught of water ; were payed with a mixture of clear pine-resin, which gave them a light
and elegant appearance, and with the coloured
earths of the country we manufactured paints
for their further decoration. So perfectly alike
and admirable were they, that they were honoured with the classical appellations of the twins
Castor and Pollux; while the more capacious
bateau for Great Bear Lake gloried in the redoubtable name of Goliah. Each of the sea-
boats was provided with a small,, oiled, canvass
canoe, and portable wooden frame, which proved
highly serviceable in the sequel.
On the 30th we had a trial of our boats on
the lake in a stiff breeze, and were well satisfied
with their respective performances.
a 82
Descent from Athabasca to the Polar Sea.
Having, with Chief Factor Smith's kind and
liberal assistance, satisfactorily completed every
arrangement, the expedition took its departure,
on the evening of Thursday the 1st of June,
from Fort Chipewyan, under a salute, which we
returned with three hearty cheers. As soon as
the first shade of regret at parting from so sincere a friend had passed away, we warmly congratulated each other on being at length fairly
embarked in the interesting service of discovery.
Our hopes of achieving what far more distinguished names had left undone were high, and
we may be pardoned if we exulted in the flattering prospect. Traversing the western extremity of the Athabasca Lake, we entered
Rocky River, its principal outlet, and encamped.
We formed a small but happy party; and as our
white tents glittered in the rays of the sun,
now  declining to   the  horizon   after   his   long
diurnal course, with the broad river running in
front, and around us the green woods, the view
was pleasing, if not picturesque.
The succeeding morning broke sweetly, and
we were on the water at 3 o'clock. The day
proved sultry, but a gentle northerly breeze occasionally freshened the air, and the men rowed
with energy. Passing the confluence of the noble Peace River, we entered the augmented
volume of the Great Slave River, which we descended for upwards of thirty miles, and encamped. It thundered and rained a little in the
evening. We could not help being struck with
the rapid advance of vegetation, now that we
were beyond the chilling influence of the lake.
Here the bright green of the poplar and willow
blended with and lightened the deeper and more
durable verdure of the pine.
On the 3rd we were favoured with a fine
breeze on the quarter, and our craft shot swiftly
down the wide stream for nearly forty miles;
when, coming to a rapid, we lowered sail, and ran
it in excellent style. The Cassette Portage soon
I followed, and at its north end we encamped early;
a heavy rain falling, which continued throughout the night. In the afternoon we saw some
Indians, from whom we obtained an acceptable
supply of fresh moose meat.
G %
ill r
4th.—We were involved all day among portages and rapids; the river rushing impetuously,
in numerous channels, among rocky wooded
islands, with a breadth of from one to two miles.
Many patches of snow still adhered to the river
banks.   We encamped on the Mountain Portage.
A considerable part of the 5th was occupied
by the Pelican Portage, and that of The Drowned.
The desert-bird frequents the first in prodigious
numbers; and the rocky islands, a mile out in
the stream, were crowded with their white ran£s
reposing after their morning's fishing. After
passing these turbulent barriers, we descended
the now tranquil river for about five leagues,
and found our hunters (who had been despatched
two days a-head), with a large camp of other
Chipewyans, squatted, like so many beavers, in
their lodges on the muddy banks of the Salt
River. We chose our station in the neighbouring woods.
On the morning of the 6th I mustered in
the camp three of the largest canoes, and ascended
Salt River, in order to procure a supply of its
most useful production, and to view the beautiful plain represented with so much spirit by
Back's able pencil. The distance to the opening of the plain exceeds twenty miles, following the tortuous  course  of the  stream,   which
is shallow, and, as we advanced, became salt as
brine. We had not the good fortune to fall in
with buffaloes, though their tracks, and those of
moose and bears, were numerous; but consoled
ourselves in an attack upon the wild fowl attracted hither by the briny waters. There were
swans; Canada and laughing geese; several species
of ducks, the most remarkable of which were
the beautiful light blue; and a very small but
splendidly variegated teal, so tame as almost to
allow itself to be caught with the hand. We
had not to search long for salt: a single mound
on the plain furnished us with thirty bags of the
finest quality, and seemed undiminished by the
removal of a quantity sufficient for our own
wants, and for the supply of the Athabasca and
Mackenzie River districts. A mountain, which
terminates the plain at the distance of four or
five miles, glistened as if incrusted with the
same pure white substance. From the hill-sides
gush delicious springs of fresh water. Having
finished our work, we bivouacked and feasted
under as lovely an evening sky as fancy could
paint. A sudden gust of wind, which bent the
tall pines and poplars like wands, cleared off the
musquitoes; and we enjoyed a few hours of refreshing rest in the soft twilight, for there was
no longer any night in these regions.
I a
We returned to the boats the following day
at noon. The interval had been employed by
the carpenter in re-caulking the seams opened
by the frost and heat, which rendered them perfectly tight during the remainder of the voyage.
As soon as this operation was completed, we
re-embarked, and descended Slave River for
twenty miles.
The 8th was fine, but a fresh north-west wind
much retarded our progress; and, though we
were on the water fourteen hours, we advanced
little more than forty miles. The Indian flotilla
came up to us while ashore breakfasting. They
had two large beavers on board, just killed,
and a little cub, which they picked up as it
was helplessly carried down by the stream. We
encamped at Stony Point, which was strewed
with fragments of gypsum. Our journey next
day was precisely similar. Though travelling
directly northward, the warm limestone bed over
which the river floWs nourished an advanced
vegetation. We several times put ashore, and
availing ourselves of the willowy covert, here
in full leaf, shot a number of geese that were
basking on the sunny beach. We halted at a
late hour below the channel called Riviere &
Following the principal  mouth of the  river,
on the morning of the 10th we entered Great
Slave Lake. Every eye was directed across that
inland sea, and great was our mortification when,
with the glass, we discerned an unbroken line
of ice embracing the land beyond Moose-deer
Island. We advanced to the edge of that unwelcome barrier; but it was firm and immoveable, threatening us with a long detention. Turning within the islands, a portage, performed with
the aid of canoes, brought our provisions and
other property, in the course of the day, to
Fort Resolution; the boats crossing the shallows
From the 10th to the 21st of June the ice
kept us prisoners at Fort Resolution, occasionally
retreating a mile or two, as if to tantalize us,
then closing and driving the fishermen and their
nets ashore.
On the 1,2th we indulged our people with a
dance, though the constant daylight was rather
unfavourable to the dark complexions of the
ladies. It was concluded by a general supper,
at which tea was the beverage, all intoxicating
liquors being, as already noticed, excluded from
this sober land.
The 13th was marked by a thunderstorm of
a terrible violence, unusual in these high latitudes ; to which succeeded a week of beautiful t
weather. The games and sports of the people
without the gates were generally at their height
at midnight, when the coolness of the atmosphere
incited to exertion. At every shout the echoes
ran along the floating ice in the bay, passing
from one fragment to another, and producing
a succession of sounds, that became gradually
softer and fainter, till they seemed to mingle
with the horizon. The mirage, too, exhibited
some curious appearances. Mr. Dease vacci*
nated all the young people, Indian or half-breed,
at the place; a benefit already conferred on the
whole concourse of natives at Fort Chipewyan.
Several sets of azimuths made the variation here
37° 16' 30" E. The variation found by Back,
in 1833, was 37° 20'; and by Franklin, in 1825,
29° 15' 9" E. For the last four years, then,
the quantity would seem to have remained nearly
stationary, but from 1825 to 1833 to have increased annually one degree; while at Fort Chipewyan, as formerly stated, the annual increase,
since 1825, has only been about three minutes.
Local attraction and difference of instruments
have probably a share in these discrepancies,
which might otherwise throw some light upon
the motion of the magnetic pole. In this manner was the delay beguiled; but our main object languished, and many an anxious glance was TO THE POLAR SEA.
directed to the ice, which a southerly breeze
at length wrafted outwards on the morning of
the 21st. We now embarked in the Goliah all
the dogs I had brought with me from Red River,
which, with some additions, numbered twenty-
one, the complement of seven sledges, and proved
most unruly passengers.
We set sail in the forenoon of the 21st, having despatched our hunters along shore two or
three days before. The day was delightful, the
wind light; and we had advanced about forty
miles, when we found the Indians encamped on
a point close to the fixed ice, and with them we
put up late in the evening. A westerly wind
opened a passage for us during the night. After
pulling against it for a few hours, and forcing our
way in many places through the loose ice, we
landed to breakfast in Sulphur Cove. The springs
here are well worthy of inspection. They are
large, clear, and leave a deep sulphureous deposit
wherever their waters run, as well as in the
fountains themselves. The wind blew strongly
now; and our Indian companions, having to repair their canoes, had not come up. They at
last made their appearance; and, the breeze falling, we started at 6 p. m. and proceeded all
At 5 in the  morning of the 23rd we made DESCENT FROM ATHABASCA
Hay River, and, the ice being jammed to the
shore close beyond it, we halted for the remainder of the day. A net set across the stream
supplied us with a number of dory and inconnu,
while its banks furnished wild onions in abundance.
On the 24th we found the ice in many places
still wedged-in to the land, and, though we
pushed through it with unabated energy all
day, it was midnight when we reached the head
of the great river Mackenzie, where we encamped.
Sunday, 25th.—After rowing against a strong
contrary wind, to very little purpose, all the
morning, we caught sight of the Fort Simpson
boats ascending the current under sail. We immediately landed on a small island, and spent the
rest of the day with our esteemed friend Chief
Trader M'Pherson. There were several arrangements to concert with that gentleman touching
the expedition; which done, he resumed his route
to Portage la Loche about midnight, and we
remained wind-bound on our islet. We afterwards learned that he experienced quite as much
difficulty as ourselves in making his way through,
the ice of Great Slave Lake.
The gale moderating on the 26th, we took our
departure in the afternoon.    After a couple of TO THE POLAR SEA.
hours' tough pulling, during which we shipped
some water, and were assailed by several heavy
squalls with rain, the wind came round upon our
starboard bow. Setting sail,—for the boats stood
well within four points,—we made tolerable progress till 10 P. M., when we put ashore for supper,
and to wait for our Indian squadron, now left
far behind. The richness of the foliage on the
banks of the Mackenzie, after issuing from the
inhospitable climate of Great Slave Lake, was
refreshing to the eye; but the musquitoes acted
as a check upon our admiration, and we were
glad to re-embark before midnight.
The weather Was now beautiful; a light cool
breeze played upon the water; our men were in
high spirits, and lightened the labours of the
oar with the enlivening strains of the Canadian
voyageur songs. Soon after 2 a. m., just as the
Sun emerged in glory from his short rest, " firing
the high tops of the eastern pines," we approached the first camp we had yet seen of the Dog-rib
Indians. They came out in their curiously-shaped
canoes to welcome us ashore, their animated gestures and sparkling eyes testifying the pleasure
they derived from the meeting. Their tents
wrere pitched on a pretty point, just within the
margin of the green wood, where we held an
hour's talk with these kind inoffensive people.
I noticed some fine faces among the younger
men; and the women, though not so good-looking, have an affectionate and pleasing address.
They all, down to the very children, expressed
their thanks by the French abbreviation, "mer-
ci," for the various articles presented to them;
a most agreeable contrast to the sullen indifference of the Chipewyans. Our hunters not making their appearance, we engaged one or two of
the most active youths to escort them to Fort
Simpson, and pursued our way.
Several more Dog-ribs were passed during the
day; and at 10 p.m. we landed at one of their
huts, placed on an island near the site of the
ill-fated Livingstone's establishment, who, with
most of his crew, was massacred by the Esquimaux, many years ago, on his attempting to open
a trade with them. The children and dogs were
huddled together asleep when we arrived, andL
formed rather a queer group. We continued
our route at 11, and, having rowed for an hour,
lashed the boats together, and resigned them
to the guidance of the wide deep stream.
When we awoke on the 28th, we found that
we had drifted three or four leagues with the
current. The morning sun shone brilliantly, tinging the broad waters and the wood-crowned cliffs
with golden hues.    The verdure on the banks TO  THE  POLAR SEA.
was luxuriant, and, viewed in that glowing light
the scenery produced a very imposing effect.   A
fine breeze bore us swiftly down the stream, and,
crossing the mouth of the picturesque River of
the Mountains, we reached Fort Simpson.
Our hunters cast up in the forenoon of the
29th. They had stove one of their canoes, had
narrowly escaped foundering in the attempt to
follow us near the shore in the boisterous weather
of the 26th, and were much fatigued. The fields
here looked well, but the young barley had a
troublesome enemy in the passenger pigeons.
Except one in Salt River, we saw none of these
graceful birds elsewhere throughout our journey. The wild rose and a variety of flowers
ornamented the woods. From two meridional
observations, the latitude of this establishment
is 61° 51' 25" N.; the variation of the compass
37° 10' E.; and, at a subsequent period, the
longitude, 121° 25' 15" W. was obtained from
a number of lunar distances. The latitude deduced by Sir John Franklin, in 1825, from the
dead reckoning, was 62° 11', being nearly twenty
miles too far to the north ; an error easily accounted for by the difficulty of making a just
allowance for the strength of an unequal current.
The temperature in the shade at noon was 62°.
We had some blacksmith-work to get executed DESCENT FROM ATHABASCA
provisions and sledges to take on board, and
other matters to arrange, which occupied the
time till sunset, when we set our sails to a light
southerly breeze. At no great distance we passed a conflagration of the woods on the river
bank, which at one moment threw a long reflected beam of light across the water, and, the
next, broke into a thousand quivering flashes on
the curling eddies.
At 2 o'clock the following morning we came
in view of a branch of the great Rocky Mountain
chain. The day was lovely, and I fed my eyes
with gazing on scenery so novel and romantic,
that forcibly recalled to mind my native highlands. At noon we passed within a few miles
of the mountains, where they cause the river to
change its course from west to north. Their
summits were still streaked with snow, but on
the face of the cliffs we distinctly perceived the
stratification noticed by Sir John Franklin. At
midnight the men took in their oars, and we
drifted down the stream.
July 1.—When our labours were resumed at
5 o'clock, we found ourselves at the foot of " the
hill by the river side" ascended by that dauntless traveller, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, in July
1789. A camp of Dog-ribs stood on the opposite bank: they were much  alarmed, and were
taking to flight, when we called out to them who
we were, upon which they instantly turned their
canoes towards us. They were in dread, they
said, of the Mountain Indians, and did not know
what to make of our noiseless approach. We
treated them to their favourite luxury, tobacco,
and fell in with many more of them during the
day. At 10 P. M. we reached Fort Norman, having travelled two hundred and fifty miles in
exactly forty-eight hours.
At this northerly spot, situated in lat. 64° 40',
a small quantity of green barley, and of potatoes,
almost as big as pigeon eggs, is now annually
raised. I was afterwards surprised to find this
vain attempt to vanquish nature made even at
Fort Good Hope, with turnips and radishes.
Next day our hunters cast up about noon. We
hired three Dog-ribs to guide and complete the
crew of the luggage-boat to Dease River, at the
north-eastern extremity of Great Bear Lake,
where our winter quarters were to be established.
John Ritch, our boat-builder, was Entrusted with
the execution of this most important duty, assisted by John Norquay and Laurent Cartier,
fishermen, and Francois Framond, a rough carpenter. Ritch's instructions were, to- erect the
necessary buildings on a very small scale, agreeably to a plan drawn by me, to establish a fishery 96
in the best situation he could discover, and to
keep our Chipewyan hunters and the native
Indians employed in collecting the meat of the
reindeer and musk-ox against our return from the
coast. From the trading goods we selected such
articles as we considered most suitable for presents to the Esquimaux; the rest, together with
a small surplus of provisions, was to be deposited
at our new establishment. The stock of provisions
appropriated to our coasting voyage, and the long
retreat from the mouth of the Mackenzie to
winter quarters, was thirty bags of pemican, each
weighing ninety pounds, and ten hundred-weight
of Red River flour. This was an ample allowance for the whole season of open water; and we.
found that the union of flour with the pemican
produced a saving of one-third in the consumption. Three pounds of pemican alone form a
man's daily ration; but, though the food is highly
nourishing, it soon becomes distasteful and
cloying. With the flour it makes an excellent,
and not unpalatable, soup, or rather " bergoo,"
which formed our own sustenance, as wTell as the
men's, and was relished by all. These victuals
were used by the crews without any restriction;
and it was ascertained, at the end of the voyage,
that the average daily consumption had been
exactly two pounds per man.    Our crews for TO THE  POLAR  SEA.
the sea were composed of the following indivi
James M'Kay,
George Sinclair,
Francois Felix,
Pierre Morin,
George Flett,
Charles Begg,
William M'Donald,
Hector Morrison,
John M'Key,
Peter Taylor,
Steersman, Highlander.*
Ditto, Half-breed.*
Bowman, Canadian.-j-
Ditto, Ditto.
Middleman, Orkney sailor.
Ditto, Ditto.
Ditto, Highlander.
Ditto,       i   Ditto.
Ditto, Canadian Highlander.
Ditto, Half-breed*
Francois Boucher,   ) Half-breed lads, fifteen or sixteen
Ferdinand Wentzel, /     years of age.
Everything being thus settled, we all took our
departure together at sunset.
After a splendid trial at the oar, which served
to shew the superiority of the little sea-boats, we
came in view of Bear Lake River, at 3 o'clock
on the morning of the 3rd. We landed a
short distance above it, where Ritch embarked
a supply of unctuous earth to whitewash our
intended residence, and he was directed to procure some black chalk near Port Franklin.
Wood-coal was in a state of combustion for
several miles on both sides of the Mackenzie,
and these natural fires seem to have spread considerably since last described by Dr. Richardson,
* Three of Back's crew in 1834.
f One of Franklin's men in 1826.
H am-
The jets of smoke, issuing in many places from
the perpendicular face of the clayey cliffs, presented a singular spectacle. The combustion
had in many places scorched the layers of unctuous earth that interstratify the coal formation,
and turned their surface to a lively red colour.
After spending some time ashore in the examination of these curious phenomena, we parted
from our comrades with three hearty huzzas,
displaying the British ensigns as we launched
into the broad, swift stream. On either hand
rose the Rocky Mountains and the Eastern Hills,
now shadowred by floating clouds, now reflecting
from their snowy peaks the dazzling sunshine.
The scene was to me enchanting, and its excitement was increased by our rapid descent of the
river. We saw a few Indians during the day, from
whom we procured some of the fish called Back's
grayling, the " wing-like fin" of the Esquimaux.
Our progress was continued, as usual, all night.
Early the following morning, a light breeze filled
our sails for a while, but soon died away. We
breakfasted on the curious madrepore rocks above
the Rapid," which we descended at noon. In
the evening we spoke a large camp of Hare Indians, who were fishing in the eddies along The
Ramparts. That singular defile is well named;
but its  only  garrison  consisted of a legion of TO  THE  POLAR  SEA.
swallows that nestle in the summits of its rocky
precipices. These now echoed wTith the shouts of
the natives, who followed us, with their whole
pigmy fleet, to Fort Good Hope, which we
reached between 8 and 9 o'clock, and were joyfully welcomed by Mr. Bell, who is son-in-law
to Mr. Dease.
The establishment is now placed on the right
bank of the river, opposite the upper Manitoo
Island, where it stood for several years. The
new situation is elevated; a precaution rendered
necessary by the entire destruction, in June,
1836, of the former post, at the disruption of the
ice, which rushed down with such overwhelming
force as to sweep almost completely over the
island, though several miles in extent, cutting
down the timber, like grass before the scythe,
and burying the place under two fathoms water.
The terrified residents took to their boat, and
escaped, almost miraculously, into a small lake in
the centre of the island. There the ruins of the'
overthrown wood averted the fury of the inundation ; and in this place of refuge they remained,
with the ice tossed up in huge fragments, forming a gigantic wall around them, till the danger
was past. We found here five Loueheux, from
whom we learned the distressing fact, that three
of their   tribe  had  been  killed,   and  a  fourth
H 2
desperately wounded, by the Esquimaux in the
preceding month. This unhappy quarrel precluded the prosecution of a design, which we had
formed, of taking two of the Loucheux with us
to the coast as substitutes for Esquimaux interpreters ; although the men who had been applied
to by Mr. Bell were desirous of accompanying us
at all risks. These people are distinguished from
every other Indian tribe with which we are acquainted by the frankness and candour of theif
demeanour. Their bold countenances give expression to their feelings, and a bloody intent
with them lurks not under a smile. Among the
aborigines of North America, the Loucheux
alone have never imbrued their hands in the
blood of the w7hites. They amused us during the
night with their dances, which abound in extravagant gestures, and demand violent exertion.
The Hare Indians afterwards exhibited theirs, in
which many of the younger women joined;
whilst the old ones got up a crying-match, at a
little distance, for some relative whom they had
recently lost.
On the 5th, we had a conference with the
Loucheux, in which we declined their reiterated
offers to send two, or more, of their number with
us along the sea-coast, assigning the late murders
as the cause of this  resolution.    At  the same TO THE POLAR  SEA.
time we laboured to dissuade them from their
plans of retaliation and revenge. They expressed
their sorrow at our determination to expose the
lives of so small a party among such a treacherous
people as the Esquimaux; earnestly cautioned us
to be on our guard in every meeting with these
perfidious savages, especially in the act of embarking, the moment they usually select for an attack;
and declared, that if the latter injured us—whom,
in common with all the whites, they regarded as
their fathers and friends,—the whole tribe would
combine to exact a terrible vengeance. To this
comfortable assurance we replied, that we ourselves entertained no apprehensions, and therefore
enjoined them to banish all useless fears on our
account. It is but justice to the Esquimaux to
state, that, from our inquiries, the Loucheux appear to have drawn the above chastisement upon
themselves. For several years they had exacted,
and received, a gift, as " blood-money," from the
former, on account of a Loucheux whom they
asserted to have died of his wounds in an old
encounter. On this last occasion three of the
Loucheux repeated the annual demand, with
which the Esquimaux were about to comply,
when unfortunately the very man, so long reported dead, made his appearance. On this, the
Esquimaux, after reviling the Loucheux for their
r Yi
falsehood and extortion, fell upon them; and, of
the four, one only escaped, wounded, by flying to
the woods. The traders have long been at great
pains to effect a permanent reconciliation between these hereditary enemies. For this purpose, in 1817, and again in 1819, Mr. Dease
gave considerable presents to the Loucheux
chief to negotiate a peace, which lasted for
several years.
We waited to obtain some observations, whicli
gave the lat. 66° 16' N., variation 44° 12' 3" E.
The temperature of the air was 72°. We then
took our final departure for the ocean, and soon
crossed the Arctic circle. At 9 p. m. we put
ashore for supper, and at 10 re-embarked.
The weather on the 6th was still warmer, the
thermometer in the shade standing at 77°, and
rising 30° higher when exposed to the sun in
the boat. The majestic river and its high banks
were steeped in a flood of light, and, except the
diminutive size of the wood, there was nothing
in the landscape to suggest the thought that we
had penetrated so far into the regions of the
north. At 5 p. m. we reached the spot where
Fort Good Hope stood during Sir John Franklin's last expedition, and landed to obtain the
variation; after which we pursued our route
throughout the night. TO THE POLAR SEA.
On the 7th the stunted woods were in several
places on fire.    The river banks were lined with
straggling huts of the Loucheux, formed of green
branches.    The   inhabitants  of  these   primitive
dwellings came off in numbers, in their canoes,
to visit us, and loud  were their vociferations as
we  came  successively  in  sight   of  their   little
camps.    The aged  hobbled   after   us along the
beach, the women  whined  and  simpered   after
their most attractive   fashion, and the children,
" in puris naturalibus," crowded round our gaily
painted boats to see the wonders they contained.
Wherever we landed, logs were instantly carried
to the water's edge, to enable us to step ashore
dry-shod.    A small present of tobacco to each of
the   men,   with a   few  beads  or needles distributed among the women and children, satisfied
their modest desires; and, for a trifling remuneration, they supplied us with as much fresh and
half-dried fish as we chose to take on board.   We
remarked among them some knives and buttons,
apparently of Russian manufacture, obtained from
the Esquimaux during their intervals of amicable
intercourse.    The deer-skin jackets of the men
have long flaps behind, reaching almost to the
ground, and shaped like a beaver's tail.     Like
their  neighbours   of   the   sea, both  sexes wear
breeches; a distinctive costume from that of the DESCENT FROM ATHABASCA
other northern tribes. In the afternoon we
passed through I the Narrows," where the Loucheux chief was encamped, like a brave gene*
ral protecting his frontier. We had given a passage from Fort Good Hope to one of his young
men, who seemed to consider himself as not a
little honoured by our attentions; and he now
explained to the chief our intention not to take
any of his people to the coast. Yet such was
their confidence in or regard for us, that several
again volunteered their services. After thanking them, and acknowledging their kindness by
some small gifts, we re-embarked. We had provided ourselves with an Esquimaux vocabulary,
which we hoped would serve our purpose in our
intercourse with that singular race; but, to guard
more effectually against danger, we now issued
to each of the men a gun and. ammunition, to
be used only at our express command. We
supped at Point Separation; and, as we passed
the mouth of Peel River, had the satisfaction,
new to most of the party, of beholding the sun
at midnight, more than his own diameter elevated above the horizon.
Just as our people were almost exhausted with
rowing and the merciless assaults of the musquitoes, a gentle northerly breeze sprang up in the
forenoon of the 8th, and for a while cleared the TO THE POLAR SEA.
air of our tormentors. We saw, in the course of
the morning, two reindeer, and a female moose
followed by her fawns, but very few wild fowl.
Several fine views of the Rocky Mountains opened as we passed down the winding western
channel. Landing in the evening on an islet
in an expansion of the stream, we found a cache
of dried fish, wooden sledges shod with bone,
reindeer horns, and other articles left by the
Esquimaux. We disturbed nothing, but appended to the stage a few trinkets, with a hie-
roglyphical letter carved on bark, intimating that
the donors were wThite men, in two boats, on
their way to the western sea. After supping we
resumed our nocturnal route.
On the morning of Sunday the 9th, a strong
southerly wind very opportunely arose, before
which we made rapid progress, keeping always
to the extreme left, in a narrow serpentine channel washing the foot of the mountains. About
8 a. m., on turning a sharp point, we came suddenly upon an Esquimaux oomiak, containing
four women and a couple of dogs. The ladies,
throwing off their coverings, leaped ashore, and
fled through the willows with the utmost precipitation. We did not land, but passed on
under full sail. Finding that there was still no
appearance of the sea, we concluded from  this
circumstance, and from the greater distance to
which the spruce-trees extended,* that we were
now following a more westerly branch of the
river than that by which Sir John Franklin descended. At 10 o'clock we landed to breakfast,
and to examine the circumjacent country. It
embraced rich and extensive meadows, enamelled
with flowers, intersected by the river channels,
and covered with deserted wooden huts of the
Esquimaux. This open tract seems much fref-
quented in summer by moose and reindeer. One
of the former appeared at no great distance on
an island, and, after scanning us for an instant,
trotted off at a great rate. Scarcely had we
made these remarks, when we perceived a single
kayak gliding down the stream. Its conductor,
after indulging for a while in noise and gesticulation, landed on the opposite bank, laid his
canoe on the beach, pulled off his boots and habiliments, and seemed inclined for a run. But
on our shouting the well-known " teyma," and
hoisting a flag, he changed his mind, and, resuming his deer-skin shirt, paddled fearlessly
across. He was a good-looking, athletic, middle-
aged man, and soon gave us to understand,
by  words   helped   out   by  signs,  that  he  was
They approach within thirty miles of the coast, including
the windings of the western channel.
zssarsse TO THE  POLAR SEA.
the chief who interfered to stop the plunder
of Sir John Franklin's party by his countrymen at Pillage Point. He likewise told us that
it was his wives who, terrified by our sudden
appearance, abandoned the oomiak, which was
laden with reindeer meat. We presented our
new friend with an axe, a knife, and several
other articles, besides a liberal share of our repast. But, notwithstanding our generosity, he
was immediately after detected in the act of
concealing, in the breast of his dress, a knife
and fork, having previously secreted a tin dish
among the willows, where on a search it was
discovered. He laughed at all this as a good
joke; and, when we re-embarked, he did the same,
declaring his resolution to accompany us, and
protect us from his ill-disposed brethren at the
mouth of the river. He persisted in his intention for some time, holding on by one of the
boats, till the breeze freshening, and his canoe
being almost run under, we cast him off. Even
then so swiftly did he propel the light skin vessel with his broad two-bladed paddle, that we
should scarcely have dropped him, had not a
goose with her young brood upon the bank attracted his notice. We saw him no more. At
4 p. m. the Arctic Ocean burst into view. We
saluted it with joyous cheers,  and, immediately DESCENT TO THE POLAR SEA.
landing, found ourselves at the bottom of Shoal-
water Bay, the western point of Tent Island
bearing N. 16° E. (true), distant about six miles.
This then was that western channel which the
Esquimaux messengers exhorted Sir John Franklin to ascend in August 1826, to escape the pursuit of the Mountain Indians. It is certainly
preferable to the one he followed, as we nowhere found less than five feet water; and, steer-
ing straight out through the bay, there was a
depth of fully three feet. Upon the point stood
several old winter habitations of the Esquimaux;
and, directing our glasses to Tent Island, we descried their summer camp. We halted for an
hour, during which the variation 49° 22' E. was
obtained, the thermometer indicating 78°; and
then stood out to sea.
«:i#m 109
Voyage from Mackenzie River to Franklin's Return Reef.—
Adventures among Esquimaux and Ice.—Discovery of the
Franklin Mountains.
July 9th.—We had almost lost sight of Tent
Island when we discovered several kayaks paddling swiftly after us. As the wind was now
decreasing, the canoes, nineteen in number, soon
came up with us. It required little encouragement to bring the Esquimaux alongside, when
each man received a knife, a file, some rings,
beads, and awls. They then became importunate to trade for their bows and arrows, darts, lip-
ornaments, in fact, everything they had. We
had no desire to enter into this kind of traffic;
but, to quiet them, we traded for a few of those
articles. One lively youngster attracted our
notice by his activity in the noisy barter. He
shot his arrows and lance repeatedly on the
water, to shew us their excellence ; at the same
time shouting "Neittuke," and "Took-took"—the 110
seal, and reindeer. On receiving a hatchet and
some other things for his weapons, he beat
upon his breast, laughed, whooped, and capered
in the utmost extravagance of animal joy. He
was afterwards employed by several of his less
adroit friends to exchange their goods. A fine-
looking young man, whose face was not disfigured by the labrets, was remarkable for his
modesty, but did not fare the worse on that
account. There was only one old man of the
party. They appeared to us a stout, well-looking people, with complexions considerably fairer
than the Indian tribes. Having finished our
transactions with them, and satisfied our curiosity,
we told the strangers to return to their village;
upon which they gave us to understand that
they wished to accompany us to our encampment, and to spend the evening in our society.
To this, however, we had a decided objection.
Already had they made several unsuccessful attempts to pilfer out of the boats; fresh numbers would soon have joined them, stimulated
by the remembrance of former success; and we
had Escape Reef, and a shallow bad navigation,
before us. We therefore peremptorily ordered
them back, but to no purpose. Two or three
guns were shewn, which alarmed them a little.
They held up their hands deprecatingly, calling
out I Caw-caw!"—but persisted in following at
a short distance, even after one or two blank
shots, till I fired with ball over them; upon
which they instantly ducked their heads, veered
round, and, after paddling out of reach, halted
to hold a consultation,—more canoes now appearing in the distance. Thus delivered, we continued our course under sail, with a light close
wind, passing the reefs and shoals about four
miles from the land; the weather dark and
threatening. At 10 o'clock a violent squall took
us, and it was with the utmost exertion that
we were able to gain the shore at midnight.
The tide rose here about one foot on the
morning of the 10th, bringing with it great
numbers of methy (lota maculosa), many of which
we speared with the Esquimaux lances. Before
we had time to take any rest, a heavy swell
came rolling in upon the beach, and compelled
us to look out for another harbour. After pulling for several hours along the steep mud-banks
that form the coast-line, we reached Shingle
Point, lying under the 69th parallel of latitude,
and there erected our tents, for the first time,
since our detention by wind at the head of
Mackenzie River. A north-west gale had now
commenced, and raged all day. We found at
this  place  a  number   of winter   huts,  and   of FROM  MACKENZIE   RIVER
graves covered with the implements used by1
the deceased. There was also the frame of an
oomiak, twenty-four feet long; and a large sledge
with side-rails, well mortised, and strongly knit
with whalebone, so that our Canadians pronounced it made " comme a Montreal,"—the
very superlative of commendation in their opinion.* We enjoyed a very cold bath in the sea.
The musquitoes had now finally abandoned us,
and there can be no stronger proof of the unusual severity of this season along the coast;
for Franklin, Beechey, and Richardson complain
of the attacks of these insects throughout their
Arctic voyages.
The wind having abated, we started on the
11th at 3 a. m. To seaward there were some
large icebergs in motion, but we proceeded
without interruption till 11, when we landed
to breakfast. A fog now enveloped every object, and already had the temperature fallen thirty
degrees since issuing from the Mackenzie.    We
French vanity has lost nothing of its point in the New
World. The largest sort of ducks in the interior are
called "Canards de France;" English tan-leather shoes,
" Souliers Francois;" the whites in general, " les Francois, "
as all Europeans of old were Franks ; and one old guide,
talking of the place whence the Company's merchandize
came, took it for granted that it was from " la vieille France
de Londres !"
soon came to the margin of the ice, which fortunately was afloat near the shore. We twisted
and poled our way through it: the transparent
masses exhibiting every variety of fantastic
shapes,—altars, caverns, turrets, ships, crystal
fabrics,—wThich changed as we gazed upon them ;
and often rolling over or breaking down, with
a thundering noise, tossed our little boats on
the swell caused by their fall. In the small
open spaces, and on the floes, numberless seals
were sporting; one of which would every now
and then follow for a while in our wake, rising
breast-high to gratify his curiosity, and then
giving place to another. I wounded one of the
largest size, but he escaped from us by getting
within the close ice. Point Kay was doubled
with much difficulty in the afternoon. Here
we had the mortification to find farther progress impossible, for the ice blocked Phillips'
Bay. Our fires were scarcely lighted when we
perceived three Esquimaux approaching us along
the reef. They halted at a little distance to
reconnoitre, and then sat down, apparently afraid
to advance. Upon our calling to them, they
threw down their weapons, and approached us
with perfect confidence. One of them then went
away, and soon returned with the rest of the
party, consisting  of five  women, two   lads, anfl
I r
several children. They seemed poor, but were
lively in their demeanour, and, what recommended
them still more to us, in no way troublesome
or intrusive. Every individual, young and old,
was gratified with a suitable present; and we
afterwards purchased from them some fresh herring-salmon (coregonus lucidus), and a bundle of
whalebone.    They left us late in the evening.
During the whole of the 12th it blew strongly
from the northward, with a dense fog and cheerless weather. Our Esquimaux neighbours paid
us another visit, and then took their departure,
probably to inform their friends at Herschel Island of our appearance on the coast. Next day
the ice wras still more closely packed, and numerous masses were cast upon the beach. About
noon the gale abated, the thermometer rose as
high as 51°, and the latitude 69° 18' 19" was
obtained; variation 49° East. We made excursions upon the green hills, which were embellished with the brilliant tints of innumerable flowers : specimens of these were gathered,
and some water-fowl were shot. A row of marks
was observed extending across the point, evidently designed to lead the reindeer to the edge of
the steep bank; over which, pursued by one party
of hunters, they dash into the sea, where they
fall an easy prey to another party, stationed in
canoes below. There were also a number of
old marmot snares set upon the slope, but none
of those curious little animals were to be seen.
The fog and cold returned in the evening, attended with a drizzling rain.
The morning of the 14th was calm, and we observed the first regular flow of the tide. At
8 o'clock it had risen eight inches, detaching
the heavy field-ice to seaward from the broken
ice in the bay, and opening a narrow passage to
the opposite land, of which we immediately took
advantage. It was, however, a work of labour
and some danger to force our way through in
many places, and it was noon before we reached
Point Stokes. At a stream issuing out of a
lake farther on, we found another small camp
of Esquimaux, whose conduct was similar to
that of the last party, and equally well rewarded.
We procured from them some fine salmon-trout,
taken in a seine of whalebone, which they
dragged ashpre by means of several slender poles
spliced together to a great length. A tame
full-grown seal was playing in the water around
the tents, and, while we were there, came to the
brink to be fed. We found the strait between
Herschel Island and the mainland open. While
passing through it, we were visited by three
men, and two oomiaks  filled with women  and
m 116
children. They received the usual presents, and
informed us that there were five more men of
their party hunting reindeer on the island. At
9 p. m. we landed on its extreme western point,
from whence the sea, except close in-shore,
appeared quite covered with ice. Clouds obscured the sky, and encircled the mountain tops ;
but from the north-west a golden gleam shot
down upon the icy horizon. On the beach were
found some bones of an enormous whale, probably stranded here, of which the skull measured eight feet in breadth. Another oomiak,
containing a man and his family, came to us
shortly after we quitted the island. The evening was mild, with a gentle easterly breeze,
before which we sailed all night, between the
margin of the ice and the land.
At 10 in the forenoon of the 15th we halted
to breakfast at Demarcation Point, where the
lat. 69° 40' 31" N,, and the variation 48° 23' 10"
E., were observed. In the afternoon the breeze
freshened, and we made rapid progress along and
through the grounded ice; fragments of which,
occasionally detaching themselves, plunged headlong into the sea with a noise rivalling the discharge of heavy artillery. Large flocks of white
and brown ducks flew past us; many floes were
covered  with the  noisy   " cacawees;"  while on
the plains between the British chain of mountains and Beaufort Bay browsed numerous herds
of reindeer. Farther on stood a camp of Esquimaux, who, after shouting to us, pushed off in
their kayaks; but the fast sailing of our boats,
and our disinclination to sacrifice the favourable
wind, prevented any communication with them.
The weather was cold and dark, and heavy
masses of clouds were hurrying rapidly towards
the west. The mountains were almost hidden
from view; but ever and anon their snow-capped
summits glared portentously through the cloudy
canopy, whose vagueness strangely magnified
their height. We supped at Point Humphreys*
and proceeded on till midnight, when our career
was arrested, at some distance from land, by ice
adhering to Point Griffin, and extending in every
direction beyond the reach of vision. With considerable difficulty we reached the shore at 2 a.m.
of the 16th, and encamped.
It was high-water at noon, the rise being nine
and a half inches. This insignificant tide did us
good service, in opening a lane along the shore,
into which we immediately launched. It blew
freshly from the east, and we ran among the ice
at a great rate, keeping of course a sharp lookout in our bows. The narrow, crooked openings
drew us out two miles to seaward, and at length I
terminated abruptly, leaving us completely embayed in the ice, which was driving rapidly westward. Our only resource was to gain the land,
which, after much shoving and cutting, we effected at 5 p. m., near Point Manning. The reef
bore numerous recent foot-prints of Esquimaux,
probably bound on their annual westward journey to Barter Island. We had in the course of
the afternoon seen several people on the shores
but they did not venture off. The lofty peaks
of the Romanzoff Mountains seemed to look
scornfully down upon the little party that now
sat at their humble evening meal. Finding a
fine open space of water within the reef, we carried the .boats and cargoes across it, and again
set sail. Steering outside of Barter Island, we
saw on its western extremity a single tent, the
inmates of which were asleep; while a large dog
stood sentinel, but let us pass without alarming
his friends within. The wind increased as we
stood across Camden Bay.
We sailed without material interruption till
between 2 and 3 a. m. of the 17th, When a great
pack of ice, stretching out to seaward, obliged
us to put in near a considerable camp of the natives. These soon visited us, to the number of
twenty men, and twice as many women, lads, and
children.    A place was assigned, and a fire made ^ESQUIMAUX  AND  ICE.
for them, at the distance of fifty or sixty paces
from our tents. A friendly communication was
immediately opened, in which our vocabularies
were summoned to play their part, to the great
amazement of the savages, who declared that the
books spoke to us. A valuable selection of presents was then distributed among them, consisting of axes, trenches, knives, files, and fire-steels,
to the men; awls, needles, rings, beads, and
scissors, to the women and children. We next
traded for a number of pairs of their waterproof
boots, sufficient for ourselves and the crews; likewise for a few of their lip ornaments, on which
they set a high value, demanding a dagger or a
hatchet for each pair. Those purchased by us
were formed of very large blue beads, glued on
to pieces of ivory. We did not observe that this
kind of labret constituted any distinction of rank,
as remarked by Captain Beechey. The rest were
made of ivory only, and the boys wore them of a
smaller size. Three of the men were remarkable for their good looks, and a stature of from
five feet ten to six feet. We asked their names,
and wrote them down as follows: Kenaweye-
wangha, Koowoknoo, Kooyouwok-chena. Upon
observing what we were about, all the men, and
two or three of the old women, came forward
to get their names   similarly honoured;  at the If
same time inquiring and then repeating ours.*
One of the Highlanders' Gaelic appellation, Eachin
(i. e. Hector), happening to resemble some word
in their own language, called forth bursts of merriment. At our request, they gave us a specimen of their dances, accompanied by a somewhat monotonous chorus; and we could not help
admiring their activity in leaping from side to
side, when imitating their manner of avoiding
the weapons of their enemies. In return for this
exhibition, four of our men danced a Scottish
reel in very spirited style, with which the strangers were highly delighted. When the women
and children and some of the men had withdrawn, the remainder were permitted to come to
our fire, and to satiate their curiosity by examining the boats and the tents. This went on
very well for a while, but indulgence rendered
them troublesome; and one fellow, who had received an axe, seeing a bright tin bason at the
tent-door, took a fancy to it, threw down his
axe, snatched up the dish, and was making off
with it, when he was seized by Mr. Dease, and,
some of our people at the same moment shewing their arms, the Esquimaux retired with many
protestations of good-will.    We had only, how-
* The Indian, on the contrary, like Ossian's heroes, scorns
to tell his name.
ever, enjoyed about two hours' repose, when they
returned; but the check they had received seemed
to have cemented our friendship. There were
but few cases of ophthalmia among these people.
Most of the women wore their hair in lofty topknots, as described by Franklin; and they carried their infants between their reindeer-skin
jackets and their naked backs. Some of them
had light-coloured eyes and complexions, which,
if cleansed from grease, might have passed for
fair in most parts of Europe. It was high-water
at 1 p. m., the rise of the tide being eleven inches.
The weather, which had been very foggy since
the preceding evening, now cleared a little ; and,
from an adjoining eminence, we fancied we could
discern open water some distance to seaward.
We made for it without delay, through a narrow lane extending outwards, and soon reached
its termination. At the same time the ice closed
rapidly upon us, before a strong north-east wind.
We turned about, but it was too late. The
boats were repeatedly squeezed; and mine, which
was foremost, was only saved from entire destruction by throwing out everything it contained
upon the floating masses. By means of portages
made from one fragment to another,—the oars
forming the perilous bridges,—and after repeated
risks of boats, men, and baggage being separated
[ '>>,   ;
by the motion of the ice, we at length succeeded,
with infinite labour, in collecting our whole equipage upon a small floe; which, being partially
covered with water, formed a sort of wet-dock.
There we hauled up our little vessels, and, momentarily liable as we were to be overwhelmed
by the turning over of our icy support, trusted to
a gracious Providence for the event. We were
three miles from the land; the fog again settleo*
round us, and the night was very inclement.
At 4 next morning, finding that the gale
had abated, and the ice relaxed a little around
our hazardous position, we pushed for a lane of
water that appeared at a short distance to seaward. After a considerable circuit it fortunately
led to the shore, about a league to the eastward
of our former situation. There, at the foot of a
green hill, near a stream, we encamped to await
the chances of time and tide. The tracks of
reindeer in the vicinity were innumerable. It
was high-water at half-past 1, the tide having
risen ten and a half inches. The evening was
calm, with a dense fog and drizzling rain.
The 19th was dark and cold, the temperature
at noon rising no higher than 39°. We were
favoured with another visit from a party of our
Esquimaux neighbours, apprized of our return
hj one of their hunters, who  chanced to  pass
near our camp. As a mark of confidence, they
laid down their bows and arrows, and long Russian knives, as they approached us; but were
with difficulty prevented from encroaching on a
line of separation marked out upon the beach.
At their earnest desire we purchased a few
more articles from them. Their weapons are
the same as those often described by other travellers : viz. two sorts of bows; arrows pointed
With iron, flint, and bone, or blunt for birds; a
dart with, thro wing-board for seals; a spear
headed with iron or copper, the handle about six
feet long; and formidable iron knives, equally
adapted for throwing, cutting, or stabbing. Two
irregular tides were this day observed: the
first, of six inches, at 1 in the morning; the
other, of eight, about 2 in the afternoon. In
both cases the flow appeared to come from the
westward. The weather cleared a little as it
grew late; and, for the first time since we
reached the coast, we had the pleasure of seeing
the sun at midnight, about twice his own diameter above the horizon. His level rays glanced
upon a watery space to seaward; and, hailing the
glad prospect, we instantly embarked.
Favoured by a fresh easterly breeze, we rounded the icy pack at the distance of about four
miles  from the shore.    The  fog returned;   but ADVENTURES AMONG
we steered by compass for Flaxman Island, which
we reached at 5 a. m. on the 20th. In crossing
the mouth of Canning River, such was the
strength of the current it emitted that the boat
nearest the shore was turned almost round before the steersman had time to be on his guard.
At the entrance of the bay which receives
Staines' River we could distinguish through the
haze a very large Esquimaux camp, being, in all
probability, the western traders, on their way to
meet the various parties we had passed. The
ice was closely packed on the north side of Flax-
man Island, but we passed unobserved by the
natives through the channel that divides it from
the mainland. Almost benumbed with cold, we
landed to breakfast near Point Bullen. The
weather again cleared up a little; and Mount
Coplestone, the western termination of the Ro-
manzoff chain, appeared through its robe of
clouds. The ice became heavier as. we advanced,
obliging us to keep within the Lion and Reliance
reefs; and at 1 p. m. it entirely arrested our progress in Foggy Island Bay. We had scarcely
landed, and secured the boats, when a violent
north-east gale commenced, overspreading the
sky with lurid clouds, and tossing the icy masses
like foam upon the waves. The atmosphere
cleared   in   the  evening,   but   it   continued   to
blow with great fury. An immense herd of reindeer had recently passed, and we saw fresh footprints of the natives in pursuit. The country
is a grassy flat, interspersed with little lakes
well stocked with wild fowl. As on the burning1
sands of Egypt, the mirage sometimes converted
the whole plain into the semblance of one vast
sheet of water. The portion of the Rocky Mountains visible from the coast does not terminate,
as conjectured by Sir John Franklin, with the
Romanzoff chain. After a brief interval, another
chain commences, less lofty perhaps, but equally
picturesque; which, in honour of the distinguished officer whose discoveries we were following
up, we named the Franklin Range.
On the 21st the storm raged fiercely, but we
bore with patience the detention on witnessing
the havoc made among the landward ice. A few
miles out to sea, a continuous white line proclaimed it still unbroken. The beach was strewed with sea-wrack, amongst which we picked
up some pieces of delicate branched sponge. An
incredible number of seals were seen on the
shores of this bay.
The gale continued during the 22nd, but with
less violence. The morning was darkened by
fog, and it was bitterly cold. At 7 we stood
out, under close-reefed sails, for Point Anxiety. DISCOVERY   OF
When we had neared it, by our reckoning, we
found ourselves barred from the land by a broad
stream of heavy ice, extending out to seaward,
and lashed by a strong swell. The fog was so
thick that we were in the danger ere we knew
of it, and my boat was driven against the ice.
With violent exertion she was fended off till
the sails filled, and away she dashed upon the
other tack. After a few hours' cruise and a
thorough drenching we made the shore in the
bottom of the bay, about three miles to the westward of our former position. At noon, the lat.
70° 9' 48" N., variation 45° E., were ascertained.
The longitude, reduced from Foggy Island, was
147°30,W. fa |
In the afternoon we enjoyed a distinct view
of the Franklin Mountains, extending from S. E.
to S.W. by S. (true), the central and highest
peak bearing S. by E. about twenty miles distant.
They were still partially covered with snow; and
the whole range presents a precipitous front to
the coast. The storm again increased during
the evening, and the hardiest among us were
glad to assume the warm dresses provided against
a winter residence on the shores of the Polar
Sunday, 23rd.-—The weather moderated as the
morning advanced, and at 10 we once more set THE FRANKLIN  MOUNTAINS.
sail for Point Anxiety. The ice again prevented
our approaching it, and let us far to seaward,
till, in passing Yarborough Inlet, the low coast
was only visible from the mast-head, distant
about six miles. The ice, to our great joy,
then turned abruptly in towards Return Reef,
which we reached at 9 in the evening. I may
here mention that our early arrival at the point
where our discoveries were to commence, is,
under Providence, mainly attributable to our
inflexible perseverance in doubling these great
icy packs, any of which might have confined us
a fortnight to the beach, had we chosen to wait
for its dispersion, or even till its extent could
have been ascertained. Our humble thanks were
offered to the Omnipotent Being whose arm had
guarded us thus far, and we fervently implored
a continuance of His gracious protection. Some
Esquimaux had been, not long before, engaged
in plundering the eggs of the ducks hatching
upon the reefs. After supper we resumed our
route, and the regular survey began. DISCOVERIES  FROM  RETURN  REEF
Discoveries on the Coast from  Return  Reef  up  to   Boat
July 24th.—We coasted along Gwydyr Bay,
which proved less extensive than we supposed
on entering it. The extreme lowness of the
land on this part of the coast is very deceptive
to the eye when viewed from any distance, and
a highly refracting atmosphere increases the illusion. We applied the names of Point Back
and Point Beechey to the projections agreeing
nearest with the hummocks of land seen by
Franklin. I must, however, remark that the
bearings are different; and that Point Beechey,
distant twelve miles* from Return Reef, is certainly invisible from thence in any state of the
atmosphere. The whole bay is protected from
the sea by a chain of gravel reefs, on the outside of which the ice lay hard aground.    The
* All the coasting distances throughout the journal are
given in geographical miles.
soundings within varied from a quarter to one
fathom—a sufficient depth of water for such light
craft as ours.
Opposite to Point Beechey, and at the distance of a mile to seaward, the gravel reefs are
succeeded by a range of low islands, eight miles
in length, to which wre attached the name of the
Rev. David T. Jones, the faithful and eloquent
minister at Red River. From Point Milne we enjoyed a transient prospect of another magnificent
mountain range, about fifty miles to the westward. In honour of the public-spirited Governor
of the Hudson's Bay Company, this chain was
called Pelly's Mountains. The coast from Point
Beechey has a westerly trending, for twelve
miles, to Point Berens, so named after one of
the Company's Directors; which proved to be the
commencement of a very extensive bay, the land
from thence turning off to the south-west. Coasting along it for eight miles, the beach preserved
the same low character, consisting of mud and
gravel; the soundings nowhere exceeding seven
or eight feet on a bottom of gravel and sand.
At length, at 9 A. m., the water shoaled to from
one to two feet, and, after seeking in vain for
a deeper channel, we were obliged to stand out
to sea. We, however, had the satisfaction of
tracing the land to the bottom of the bay, into
which a very large river falls; for the water,
even at the distance of three leagues to seaward,
was perfectly fresh. We called it Colvile River,
as a mark of our respect for Andrew Colvile,
Esquire, of the Hudson's Bay Company. The
wind now freshened, and with it came a dense
cold fog that immediately concealed the land.
We had great difficulty in extricating ourselves
from the shallows formed by the alluvial deposits
of the Colvile ; and, after steering fourteen miles
north and north-west, till we approached the
edge of the ice, found only seven feet water.
We then tacked, and steered south-west; in which
direction a stretch of sixteen miles brought us
near to, but not within view of, the shore. We
followed along it for four miles, keeping close
in among the shoals; the water still quite fresh.
Tired of such tedious progress, and being utterly unable to distinguish the beach, though we
reckoned it to be no more than half a mile
distant, we again stood out, for seventeen miles,
to the north and north-west; the greatest depth
.during this run being one and a half fathoms, and
the water salt. The wind had now veered to the
northward, driving the ice down upon us; we
had not seen land since the morning, and were
quite uncertain what direction it might take.
We steered   westward at a venture, and, after TO  BOAT   EXTREME.
sailing five miles, at length made the shore at
midnight. It was with difficulty we found" a
landing-place on a large fragment of ice, upon
which the boats were hauled up. Having fasted
for twenty-five hours, and being moreover benumbed with cold, it will readily be believed
that we eagerly set about collecting wrood and
making a fire to cook our supper, to which, of
course, we did ample justice. In gratitude for
these seasonable enjoyments, this spot was denominated Point Comfort. Most of the party
had caught severe colds from the constant exposure and unhealthy fogs; and all would have
been incapacitated for wading through the ice-
cold water, had it not been for the seal-skin boots
procured from the Esquimaux — an invaluable
acquisition on such service. Tracks of deer, and
of a man and dog, were fresh upon the beach.
During the whole of the 25th it blew strongly
from the north-east; which being right a-head,
with the flats around us, and a dense fog shrouding everything, we were unable to quit our po-
.s^iron. That was now bleak and cheerless, the
thermometer standing at the freezing point, and
little or no wood to be found. I took advantage of a few glimpses of sunshine to obtain
the lat. 70° 43' N., long. 152° 14' W., variation
43° 8-|' E.    It was most satisfactory to find, that DISCOVERIES FROM RETURN REEF.
in one extraordinary run we had thus made good
three degrees, twenty-two minutes, of westing,
or nearly half the distance between Return Reef
and Point Barrow. I ought here to remark, that
we were not provided by the Company with chronometers, but that the want was efficiently supplied by a very valuable watch, generously lent
to the expedition by Chief Factor Smith. While
in search of wood, a mile or tw7o from the encampment, some of our people had another view
of Pelly's Mountains, now south-east of us, and
not more than twenty miles distant. The intervening country consists of plains clothed with
very short grass and moss, the favourite pasture
of the reindeer, of which some large herds were
seen. The immediate coast-line is formed of
frozen mud-banks, from ten to fifteen feet high.
About a mile to the northward we discovered
another splendid river, flowing from the southwest, and named it after Nicholas Garry, Esquire,
whose name has long been associated with Arctic
It was high-water on the 26th at 6 in the
morning; the wind having raised the tide about
two feet, which enabled us safely to cross the
shoals. The weather had become clear and intolerably cold. We found the mouth of the
Garry one mile wide, and its banks thickly co
vered with drift timber, evidently brought down
by the stream. Though now full tide, the water
tasted fresh for several miles. From thence the
land trended north-east, for eight miles, to a
small island, separated from the mainland by
a channel too shallow for boats. This island appeared to be a favourite resort of the natives
in the spring, for we found a spot where baidars
had been built, and picked up an antler cut
asunder with a saw. There is little question
but these were some of the people whose camp
we saw on the 20th near Flaxman Island. The
lat. 70° 47' 45" N., long. 151° 55' 30" W.,
were here observed; and this remarkable point
was named Cape Halkett, in compliment to one
of the Company's Directors. It terminates the
great bay, which, from Point Berens, is^ forty-
three geographical, or fifty statute miles, in
breadth. On this spacious basin, which receives
the waters of two noble rivers, we conferred the
name of Harrison Bay, in honour of the Deputy
Governor of the Company, whose attention has
long been sedulously directed to the moral and
religious improvement of the natives of the Indian country. From Cape Halkett the coast
resumes its westerly trending, and for fifteen
miles presents to the eye nought but a succession
of low banks of frozen mud.    The substratum DISCOVERIES FROM RETURN REEF
consists of a yellow clay, thinly covered with
vegetable soil, which nourishes short grass and
a variety of mosses. Many reindeer were seen
as we coasted along. These swift-footed creatures came to the bank in small herds* gazed
at us for a moment, and then bounded out of
sight. We could not spare time for the chase.
The ice was very heavy all along this part of
the coast, and but very recently detached from
the beach. We made tolerable progress through
tfee narrow and intricate channels, the soundings
averaging one fathom, on a sandy bottom. After
rounding a point, distinguished by the name of
the Right Honourable Edward Ellice, the mud-
banks" are succeeded by gravel reefs; which, at
a short distance, are intersected by the months
of a considerable river, named after William
Smith, Esquire, Secretary to the Hudson's Bay
Company. For ten miles the external line is
formed by these reefs, on which large mounds
of mud and shingle have been raised by the
tremendous pressure of the ice. Several shallow channels appeared within, but they were not
Point Pitt, the northernmost spot passed during1
this day's, march, is situated in lat. 70° 53', long*
152° 54'. A few miles on either side of it,
we? observed a stream of discoloured fresh water
rushing through the reefs, probably from a considerable lake, but the atmosphere was too hazy
for ascertaining the fact. At the last of these
streams the mud-banks recommenced. The
water becoming much shallower, with numerous
sunken masses of ice, we were obliged to stand
out from the shore. A fog-bank, looking at
first very like land, now came driving on us before a strong north-east wind. After sailing some
distance to seaward, we found ourselves embayed in the iee; and, on wearing round, one of
the rudders gave way. The weather was dark,
stormy, and so cold that the boats were in-
crusted with ice. We, however, escaped from
this dangerous situation without further damage ;
and after a hard tug at the oars, in the teeth of
the wind, we effected a landing at midnight on
one of the numerous blocks of ice adhering to
the shore. The men had to search for wood a
good way off, and while so employed fell in with
a herd of deer; but, though our three best marks>-
men started in pursuit, they returned in the
morning without success.
27th.—On examining the vicinity, we discovered a large reindeer pound, simply contrived
with double rows of turf set up to represent
men, and inclosing a space of ground lower than
the rest.    The inclosure was two miles broad at DISCOVERIES FROM RETURN REEF
the beach, and narrowed towards a lake of some
extent, where the unsuspecting animals are surrounded and speared in the water. On the
shore were the remains of an Esquimaux camp.
The earth was impenetrably frozen at the depth
of four inches, so that our tent-pegs could not
be driven home. Even this miserable soil produced a few flowers, but nothing new to add to
our collection ; and, since entering on new ground,
not a rock in situ, or even a boulder-stone, had
yet been found. The point of our encampment
was about twenty feet high; and across the deef-
pound, at the distance of four miles, the land
formed another point of equal elevation. These
two points we named after Messrs. A. R. M'Leod
and M. M'Pherson, two gentlemen to whose
good offices the expedition is under great obligations. About noon we observed, with pleasure, the ice beginning to open, and at 2
discovered a narrow lane of water leading out
from the land, and apparently turning again inwards a few miles farther on. It blew a cutting
blast from the north-east, and the spray froze
upon the oars and rigging. Yet were we now
in the midst of the Dog-days, that pre-eminent
season of sunshine and beauty in more favoured
lands! Having made our way, with considerable risk, amongst the ice,  for seven miles, "we TO BOAT EXTREME.
reached a point, named after Richard Drew,
Esquire, of the Hudson's Bay Company, where
the land turned suddenly off at a right angle to
the southward. We now found ourselves in a:
large and very shallow bay, which we had much
pleasure in naming after our worthy friend Chief
Factor Smith, to whose unwearied aid in preparing the expedition for sea we were so deeply
indebted. Near the middle of this bay a concealed reef ran far out, upon which lay a stream
of floating ice, lashed by the breakers. We were
at the same time partially enveloped in fog,
but after an hour of hazardous labour we forced
our way through the narrowest part of the barrier. Though the boats received repeated concussions, and took in much water among the
surf, we were delighted to find that, after baling,
they continued perfectly tight. We now made
the best of our way, north-west and north, through
the flats, sailing, poling, or pulling, in the verge
of the ice, as wind and water served. Though
we kept a vigilant look-out, my boat struck its
stem forcibly against a piece of ice, the shock-
starting the iron fastenings of the foremast thaft,
fortunately without doing any other injury. Farther out in the bay the ice lay smooth and solid,
as in the depth of a sunless winter. So un-*
broken  was its  appearance,  that  some  among EBB
the party longed for horses and carioles, to drive
at once to Point Barrow! Upon the flat shore
were seen countless herds of deer. At length,
at midnight, as we drew near a sharp projecting
j3oint, the crews declared that it was covered
with white tents; which, upon a closer approach,
proved to be a cluster of tall icebergs, towering
over the point on the northern side. A dense wet
fog setting in, we encamped on the extremity
of this well-defined point, which, as a testimony
of sincere respect and regard for the able and
indefatigable Governor of all the Company's
territories, we named Cape George Simpson. It
is situated in lat. 70° 59' N., long. 154° 21' W.,
and bore traces of Esquimaux.
High-water took place at 10 a.m. on the 28th,
the rise of the tide being ten inches. It widened
the narrow passage between the icebergs and the
shore, and enabled us to double the cape; but we
had only proceeded between two and three miles
when our further progress was arrested by an
impenetrable body of ice, extending, as we found
in the course of the day, all along the coast.
We were, therefore, compelled once more to
encamp. The ground was spongy and wet; the
fog had turned into sleet; and the few pieces
of pine and poplar we collected were saturated
with  the salt-water.     These uncomfortable  cir ^m
cumstances greatly aggravated the sore-throats
and severe colds with which most of the party
were afflicted. We had spared no pains to provide for the health of our people. Each boat's
crew was furnished with a tent and oilcloth; and
the men were strictly enjoined to carry with
them to the sea a sufficiency of blankets and
warm clothing to protect them even amidst the
rigours of a Polar winter, which, happily, we
were not doomed to sustain on this desolate and
inhospitable coast.
The fog and cold continued next day. Numerous flocks of white-backed ducks flew near
the shore, on their autumnal migration to the
westward. A few of us took our station upon
hummocks of ice, and shot above a hundred of
these large birds. They formed an acceptable
change of diet, being fat, and good eating, though
rather oily. At various times we saw along the
coast, but in comparatively small numbers,
Canada, laughing, and Hutchin's* geese, large
dun-coloured duck% golden and red-breasted
plovers, boatswains, gulls, northern divers* snow
buntings^ and ptarmigan. The claw of a middle*-
sdzed Polar bear was here picked up; likewise
* Called " braillards" by the voyageurs, from fiheir complaining cry. 140
some   small  scattered  pieces   of   light-coloured
granite, blueish-green slate, and red sand-stone.
Sunday, 30th.—At mid-day the temperature
rose as high as 46°, and the fog partially cleared
off for about three hours. This interval was employed in astronomical observations, which placed
our encampment in lat. 71° V 44" N., long.
154° 22' 53" W., variation 42° 36' 18" E. Little
or no change was perceptible in the ice. Just at
midnight the opaque misty veil was drawn aside,
as if by magic, and revealed to view a party-
coloured sky in the north, richly illuminated by
the rays of the sun, now almost touching the
horizon. The effect was as beautiful as novel to
us; but it was evanescent, and only served to
aggravate the deep and settled gloom which
soon involved that bright vision and everything
The ice appearing somewhat loosened on the
morning of the 31st, we embarked at 9, and
forced our way through the crowded masses for
about two miles, with serious risk to the boats.
In this sort of progress, to which we so frequently
had recourse, it must be understood that, except
the bowman or steersman, all the crew were out
upon the ice, with poles, pushing aside and fending off the successive fragments. The advance
thus effected was always slow, painful, and pre- TO  BOAT EXTREME.
carious; and we considered ourselves particularly
fortunate whenever we found a natural channel
through the ice wide enough to admit our little
boats. These narrow channels were generally
very crooked; and, when carrying sail, it required
the utmost tact on the part of the steersman,
aided by the look-out in the bows, and men on
either side standing ready with poles, to avoid
the innumerable floating rocks—if I may use the
expression—that endangered this intricate navigation. Again were we stopped, and compelled
to encamp.
From the extreme coldness of the weather, and
the interminable ice, the farther advance of our
boats appeared hopeless. In four days we had
only made good as many miles; and, in the event
of a late return to the Mackenzie, we had every
reason to apprehend being set fast in Bear Lake
River, or, at least, at Fort Franklin, which would
have been ruinous to our future plans. I therefore lost no time in imparting to Mr. Dease my
desire of exploring the remainder of the coast to
Point Barrow on foot. In order to secure the
safe retreat of the party, he handsomely consented to remain with the boats; and, as Point
Barrow was still distant only two degrees of longitude, ten or twelve days were considered sufficient for my return, making every allowance for
Mf 142
bays, inlets, and other irregularities of the coast.
The men having, to their credit, unanimously
volunteered to accompany me, I selected five,
M'Kay, Taylor, Morrison, Felix, and Morin, who
were directed to hold themselves in readiness the
following morning. 143
Journey  on  foot,  and  in  an  Esquimaux   canoe,   to  Point
Barrow. — Conduct of the Natives.
August 1st. — My little party quitted Boat
Extreme on foot at 8 a.m. Our provisions consisted of pemican and flour; besides which, each
man carried his blanket, spare shoes, gun, and
ammunition. A single kettle and a couple of
axes sufficed for us all; and a few trinkets were
added for the natives. I carried a sextant and
artificial horizon ; and one man was charged with
a canvass canoe, stretched on its wooden frame,
which proved not the least important part of our
arrangements. The whole amounted to forty or
fifty pounds per man—about a quarter of the
weight carried by the voyageurs across the portages
of the interior. The day was dark and dismal in
the extreme, a cutting north wind bearing on its
wings a fog that hid every object at the distance
of a hundred yards. We were, therefore, under
the necessity of closely following the coast-line, JOURNEY TO POINT BARROW.
which much increased the distance and fatigue.
The land is very low, and intersected by innumerable salt creeks. In fording these we were
constantly wet to the waist, and the water was
dreadfully cold. We crossed a strong deep river,
and a shallow inlet, half a mile broad, in our
portable canoe, which transported us all at two
trips. The former was subsequently ascertained
by Sinclair, after whom I called it, to issue from
a large brackish body of water about five miles
from our ferry. The latter, to which I gave the
name of our other guide, M'Kay, receives a
stream at no great distance from where we
crossed it, for its waters flowed gently towards
the sea, and were nearly fresh. Our route was
tortuous in the extreme, and we had ascended
M'Kay's inlet for several miles before we could
distinguish the opposite shore. We passed
during the day many large Esquimaux sledges,
exceedingly well put together, and stoutly shod
with horn. These vehicles were, in all probability, left here by the people of the great camp
at Staines' River, on their eastward journey, to
be resumed on their return when winter sets in.
We also saw innumerable tracks of reindeer, and
the trail of two hunters. Several Canada geese,
with their young brood, ran across our path, but I
did not allow them to be fired at. * The snow
geese (anser hyperboreus) do not appear to frequent this coast, being replaced by the large
white-backed ducks already mentioned. The
former retire, in the autumn, south and southeast, by Athabasca and Hudson's Bay; the
latter direct their flight towards Behring's Strait.
Having accomplished twenty miles at 7 p.m., we
found a grassy plat, with a few pieces of wood.
Little or none of that essential article had been
seen during the day, this part of the coast being
shut out from the action of the sea by a chain of
reefs. Here then we encamped, half-congealed
by the cold wet fog and wind, which incrusted
our clothes with hoar-frost and ice, as in the
severity of winter. Unfortunately, the spot
where we halted was wet beneath the deceitful
surface; and, being quite exposed to the weather,
we passed a miserable night.
When our march was resumed next morning,
the weather had sensibly improved. A dull rainbow spanned the wet fog, which soon cleared off,
and we enjoyed some hours of pleasant sunshine.
The land, which so far had led north-westerly,
soon turned sharply off to S.S.W., forming an
acute angle, well termed Point Tangent. The
gravel reefs here separate from the muddy beach,
and stretch, as I found on our return, in a direct
line of eleven miles to Boat Extreme, enclosing 146
the singularly shaped bay, of which we had now
completed the tedious circuit, and on which I
conferred the appropriate title of Fatigue Bay.
After turning Point Tangent, I obtained a meridian altitude of the sun, which determined the
latitude to be 71° 9' 45" N.; longitude, by the
reckoning, 154° 52' W. We immediately after
traversed an inlet, a quarter of a mile wide, in our
portable canoe. On the bank three Arctic foxes
were sporting, and allowed us to approach pretty
near before they ran into their holes. We sa,W
many tracks of reindeer, still pursued by the two
hunters, Who had very lately been successful,
for we found the remains of a fire, beside which
lay the head and antlers of a deer. After travelling about ten miles, and wading through
many a salt creek, the waters of which were at
the freezing temperature, the land, to our dismay, turned off to the eastward of south, and a
boundless inlet lay before us. Almost at the
same instant, to our inexpressible joy, we descried
four Esquimaux tents, at no great distance, with
figures running about. We immediately directed
our steps towards them; but, on our approach,
the women and children threw themselves into
their canoes, and pushed off from the shore. I
shouted | Kabloonan teyma Inueet," meaning*
We are white men, friendly to the Esquimaux;
upon which glad news the whole party hurried
ashore, and almost overpowered us with caresses.
The men were absent, hunting, with the exception of one infirm individual, who, sitting
under a reversed canoe, was tranquilly engaged
in weaving a fine whalebone net. Being unable
to make his escape with the rest, he was in an
agony of fear; and, when I first went up to him,
with impotent hand he made a thrust at me with
his long knife. He was, however, soon convinced
of our good intentions; and his first request was
for tobacco, of which we found men, women, and
even children inordinately fond. This taste they
have, of course, acquired in their indirect intercourse with the Russians; for the Esquimaux we
had last parted with were ignorant of the luxury.
Our new friends forthwith brought us some fresh
venison; and, concluding, not without reason,
that we were very hungry, they presented, as a
particular delicacy, a savoury dish of choice
pieces steeped in seal-oil. Great was their surprise when we declined their favourite mess; and
their curiosity in scrutinizing the dress, persons,
and complexions of the first white men they had
ever beheld, seemed insatiable. They shewed us,
with evident satisfaction, their winter store of oil,
secured in seal-skin bags buried in the frozen earth.
Some of their reindeer robes, ivory dishes, and
other trifles were purchased; and I exchanged
the tin pan, which constituted my whole table
service, for a platter made out of a mammoth
tusk! This relic of an antediluvian world contained my two daily messes of pemican throughout the remainder of the journey. It is seven
inches long, four wide, and two deep; and is exactly similar to one figured by Captain Beechey
at Escholtz Bay, only the handle is broken off.
Confidence being now fully established, I told
them that I required one of their oomiaks, />r
large family canoes, to take us two or three days'
journey—or sleeps, as they term it—to the westward ; after which we should return. These skin
boats float in half a foot of water. No ice was
visible from the tents; and, from the trending of
the coast, it was more than doubtful that our
journey could have been accomplished in any
reasonable time on foot. They acceded to my
demand, without a scruple. We selected the
best of three oomiaks; obtained four of their
slender oars, which they used as tent-poles, besides a couple of paddles; fitted the oars with
lashings; and arranged our strange vessel so well
that the ladies were in raptures, declaring us to
be genuine Esquimaux, and not poor white men.
Whilst my companions were thus employed, I
procured, from the most intelligent of the wo- CONDUCT  OF THE NATIVES.
men, a sketch of the inlet before us, and of the
coast to the westward, as far as her knowledge
extended. She represented the inlet as very
deep; that they make many encampments in
travelling round it; but that it receives no river.
She also drew a bay of some size to the westward ; and the old man added a long and very
narrow projection, covered with tents, which I
could not doubt to mean Point Barrow. The
first and only rock seen in the whole extent of
our discoveries—an angular mass of dark-coloured
granite—lay off the point without the tents. We
Were just embarking when the hunters arrived.
After exchanging a brief greeting, we gave each
a piece of tobacco, distributed some rings and
beads among the women and children, and took
our departure. Scarcely had we left the shore
when a strong north-east wind sprung up from
seaward, bringing back the cold dense fog. We
could not see a hundred yards ahead, but steered
due west, by compass, across the inlet, which at
this narrowest part proved to be five miles wide.
I had much gratification in naming it Dease
Inlet, as a mark of true esteem for my worthy
colleague. The waves ran high on the passage,
but our new craft surmounted them with wonderful buoyancy. The coast we attained was
from ten to fifteen feet high, and the ground waa
i 150
solidly frozen within two inches of the surface.
Not a morsel of drift wood was to be found in
this land of desolation; but we followed the
example of the natives, and made our tiny fire
of the roots of the dwarf willow, between three
upright pieces of turf. Our oomiak turned to
windward, and propped up with the paddles,
formed a good shelter; and under it we stowed
ourselves snugly away for the night.
The weather clearing a little, we set off at 8 a.m.
on the 3rd. We found the ice close-jammed along
the shore, which ran out for five miles to the northward. The wind blew bitterly from the east; and,
as we had to weather the pack, we were exposed
to a heavy breaking swell, which soon drenched us
to the skin, and, notwithstanding the admirable
qualities of our boat, half filled it with water.
Halting to bale out the intrusive element in the
lee of a mass of ice, we found, to our surprise, that
the muddy bottom was still impenetrably frozen.
We breakfasted at the northern point of land, on
a gravel reef, where some drift wood had been
washed up. Here I obtained an observation,
placing us in lat. 71° 12' 36* N.; long., by account, 155° 18' W. It afforded me unfeigned
pleasure to call this point after Chief Factor
Christie, a warm personal friend, and also a
zealous promoter of the interests of the expe- CONDUCT  OF THE  NATIVES.
dition. Lofty icebergs appeared to seaward;
dark-coloured seals were sporting among the
masses in~shore; and one of those gelatinous substances called by sailors | sea-blubber" was, for the
first time, seen floating in Dease Inlet. From
Point Christie the low coast, consisting of mud
and sand, with a facing of ice, again turns westward for eight miles. We proceeded through
the shallow openings between the detached ice
and the shore, passing Point Charles and Point
Rowand, and crossing Ross Bay, so named in
compliment to three valued friends, partners in
the fur trade. A dense fog again enshrouded
us; and, on doubling Point Rowand, an opening,
of which we could not discover the extent, led
away to the southward. I therefore put ashore
at 5 p. m. to sup, and examine the country.
The soil consisted of hard dry clay, bearing
patches of very short grass, and imbedding some
splinters of granite, slate, and sand-stone. Of
these I gathered specimens; but they were unluckily lost, together with a collection of pebbles
from Point Barrow, through the ignorance of my
men in emptying the canoe on our return. In
about two hours a bright opening appeared in
the east, which speedily extended athwart the
heavens; and at length the sun shone out with
cheerful radiance, dispelling the detestable fogs,
and restoring us to the light of day. I now discovered that we were in the mouth of a semicircular bay, four miles in diameter, which I
named after Chief Factor Roderick Mackenzie.
It was soon traversed; and its depth midway was
found to be one and a half fathoms, on a sandy
bottom. The coast then trended W.N.W., exhibiting a dismal succession of frozen mud-banks,
varying from ten to fifteen feet high. We had
not gone far when we came to a compact body
of ice, extending beyond the reach of vision-
Carrying our light vessel across a corner of this
barrier, we pursued our way through the little
channels between it and the shore. It was now
calm; the ducks flew westward in immensely
long files, and young ice had formed on every
open space,—a timely warning to travellers who
adventure far into these regions of frost. But
we were fast approaching the goal that was to
crown our enterprise, and disregarded all impediments. Seven miles beyond Point Scott we
crossed the mouth of a fine deep river, a quarter
of a mile wide, which I called the Bellevue.
Landing beyond it I saw, with indescribable
emotions, Point Barrow, stretching out to the
northward, and enclosing Elson Bay, near the
bottom of which we now were.
The sun was just reappearing, a little before
1 in the morning of the 4th, when this joyful sight met my eyes. His early rays decked
the clouds in splendour as I poured forth my
grateful orisons to the Father of Light, who had
guided our steps securely through every difficulty
and danger. We had now only to pass Elson Bay,
which is for the most part shallow. It was covered with a tough coat of young ice, through
which we broke a passage; and then forced our
way amid a heavy pack, nearly half a mile broad,
that rested upon the shore. On reaching it, and
seeing the ocean spreading far and wide to the
south-west, we unfurled our flag, and with three
enthusiastic cheers took possession of our discoveries in his Majesty's name.
Point Barrow is a long low spit, composed of
gravel and coarse sand, forced up by the pressure of the ice into numerous mounds, that,
viewed from a distance, might be mistaken for
gigantic boulders. At the spot where we landed
it is only a quarter of a mile across, but is considerably wider towards its termination, where it
subsides into a reef running for some distance
in an easterly direction, and partly covered by
the sea. One of the first objects that presented
itself, on looking around, was an immense cemetery. There the miserable remnants of humanity lay on the ground, in the seal-skin dresses worn while alive. A few were covered with an
old sledge or some pieces of wood, but far the
greater number were entirely exposed to the voracity of dogs and wild animals. The bodies here
lay with the heads turned north-east, towards the
extremity of the point; and many of them appeared so fresh, that my followers caught the
alarm that the cholera or some other dire disease was raging among the Esquimaux. We
had landed half-way between a winter village
and a summer camp of these people, situate^
about three miles asunder; and, as it was very
early in the morning, they were, perhaps, roused
from their slumbers by our shouts when the British standard was first planted on their shores.
It will be remembered by those conversant in
northern voyages, that, in August 1826, Mr. Elson, who commanded the Blossom's barge, judged
it imprudent, from the hostile demeanour of the
natives, to land on this point, and that his observations were taken on an iceberg near the shore.
On the present occasion, whether from astonishment or suspicion, none of the Esquimaux ventured towards us. Trusting to the superiority of
our arms, and the effect of a frank and confident
bearing, I resolved to anticipate the meeting.
The yourls near the extremity of the point appeared very numerous, but I could not, through
the hazy atmosphere, discover whether they were
inhabited ; I therefore proceeded towards the tents
on the other side, leaving a sentinel at our canoe?
with orders to suffer no one to approach it. To
prevent surprise, we marched along the highest
shingle ridge; and, on drawing near the tents,
could see the men, armed with bows and arrows,
conceal themselves behind the mounds already
described. As soon as we got within hearing, I
stepped forward, and called out that our visit was
a friendly one; upon which our antagonists immediately started up, and advanced to meet us
with loud acclamations. We were not, however,
either upon this or any other occasion, favoured
with the kooniks or nose-rubbing salutations,
that have so annoyed other travellers. The
women and children now issued from their tents,
and a brisk traffic opened; but, as I felt anxious
about our canoe, I signified my intention of immediately returning to the landing-place. The
whole party accompanied us; their patriarch
headed the grotesque procession, carrying our
flag upon a long fish-spear; and every article
we had purchased found a willing bearer. We
had scarcely established a boundary line on the
beach, when the inhabitants of the other village,
who had been watching our motions, swelled the
throng, and welcomed us with an equal show of JOURNEY TO POINT BARROW.
pleasure. I explained how we happened to be in
possession of a vessel so familiar to them; and I
believe that its evident emptiness rendered them
much less troublesome than they would have
been had our riches appeared greater. All were
eager to trade; and we were soon loaded with
seal-skin boots, kamleikas, or water-proof shirts,*
weapons, and gimcracks, some of which had
figures of marine animals rudely carved in ivory.
But what most attracted our curiosity was an
ingenious and novel contrivance for capturing
wild fowl. It consists of six or eight small perforated ivory balls, attached separately to cords
of sinew three feet long; the ends of which being
tied together, an expanding or radiating sling
is thus framed, which, dexterously thrown at
the birds as they fly past, entangles and brings
them to the ground. During our stay we repeatedly saw these simple inventions effectively
used. I likewise remarked some ponds on the
point, set round with whalebone nooses, to ensnare the fowl when they come to peck the fine
gravel carefully exposed to attract them. The
grand article in demand here was tobacco, which,
as in Dease Inlet, they call tawac, or tawacah, a
name acquired of course from the Russian traders.
Not content with chewing and smoking it, they
* Made of the entrails of seals, &c.
swallowed the fumes till they became sick, and
seemed to revel in a momentary intoxication.
Beads, rings, buttons, fire-steels, everything we
had, were regarded as inferior to tobacco, a single inch of which was an acceptable equivalent
for the most valuable article they possessed.
When in the course of this barter some of the
younger people became forward and troublesome,
the seniors more than once restrained them; using
an expression which, to our ears, sounded exactly
like the French words | C'est assez," and which,
like tawac, they may also have borrowed from
the Russians. Meanwhile the old flag-bearer,
whom my fellows nicknamed Mallette, paraded
a roll of raw meat, fashioned like a huge sausage,
severing therefrom sundry slices, or rather junks,
which he imparted most liberally to every one
who chose to partake of his good cheer. The
whole band were well clothed in seal and reindeer skins. All the men wore labrets, and the
tonsure on the crown of the head was universal
among both men and boys. The women had
their chins tattooed, but did not display the preposterous topknots of hair so fashionable to the
eastward. There was nothing else, either in
their manners or habits, remarked as differing
from the well-known characteristics of the tribe.
I could not learn whether there had been any JOURNEY TO  POINT BARROW.
unusual mortality among them, and am of opinion that the concourse of natives who inhabit
Point Barrow at all seasons, together with the
frigid climate, sufficiently accounts for the number and appearance of the remains already noticed. When the means of buyers and sellers
were at length exhausted, some of the women
and girls ranged themselves in a circle, to gratify us with an exhibition of their national
dances. Each of the damsels successively figured
in the midst; while the remainder, joining hancjs,
danced round her and sung in unison, some of
their airs being by no means unmusical. The
lady in the centre who performed most extravagantly elicited the highest applause; and one
bold dame imitated, with great success, the violent gestures of the men when encountering
their enemies, or when engaged in mortal combat with the monsters of the deep. As they
waxed warm in this exercise, the whole of the
fair dancers doffed their upper garments, retaining only their deer-skin breeches, and thus disencumbered these land mermaids renewed their
amusement. While all were thus pleasantly occupied, I walked across the point, to obtain the
requisite bearings. The day was unusually fine.
To the northward a multitude of icebergs covered the ocean, in the east nothing but ice was
visible, but on the western side a broad lane of
wrater stretched away towards Cape Smyth. So
inviting was the prospect in that direction, that
I would not have hesitated a moment to prosecute the voyage to Behring's Strait, and the
Russian settlements, in my skin canoe. I could
scarcely, in fact, suppress an indefinite feeling of
regret that all was already done.
That eloquent and philosophical historian, Doctor Robertson, has all but demonstrated that
America was first peopled from Asia by Behring's Strait. The Esquimaux inhabiting all
the Arctic shores of America have doubtless originally spread from Greenland, which was peopled
from northern Europe; but their neighbours,
the Loucheux of Mackenzie River, have a clear
tradition that their ancestors migrated from the
westward, and crossed an arm of the sea. The
language of the latter is entirely different from
that of the other known tribes who possess the
vast region to the northward of a line drawn
from Churchill, on Hudson's Bay, across the
Rocky Mountains, to New Caledonia. These,
comprehending the Chipewyans, the Copper Indians, the Beaver Indians of Peace River, the
Dog-ribs and Hare Indians of Mackenzie River
and Great Bear Lake, the Thoecanies, Nahanies,
and   Dahadinnehs  of  the   Mountains,   and  the 160
Carriers of New Caeldonia, all speak dialects
of the same original tongue. Next to them succeed the Crees, speaking another distinct language, and occupying another great section of
the continent, extending from Lesser Slave
Lake through the woody country on the north
side of the Saskatchewan River, by Lake Winipeg to York Factory, and from thence round
the shores of Hudson and James bays. South
of the fiftieth parallel, the circles of affinity contract, but are still easily traced. The Carreers
of New Caledonia, like the people of Hindostan,
used till lately to burn their dead; a ceremony
in which the widow of the deceased, though not
sacrificed as in the latter country, was compelled
to continue beating with her hands upon the
breast of the corpse while it slowly consumed
on the funeral pile, in which cruel duty she was
often severely scorched*
My old banner-man informed me that whales
were, in some seasons, seen without the point,
* Instead of being burnt, the New Caledonian widow (till
the custom was abolished by the Company) was obliged to
serve, as a slave, the relatives of her deceased husband for
a term of one, two, or three years, during which she wore round
her neck a small bag containing part of the bones or ashes
of her former husband : at the end of the allotted term a feast
was made, and she was declared at liberty to cast off her
weeds and wed again.
and troops of seals were now sporting amongst
the ice. The Esquimaux of Point Barrow have
unquestionably an indirect trade with the Russians, whom they call " Noonatagmun." The
old man readily took charge of, and promised
to convey, a letter which I addressed to them,
or to any other whites on the western coast,
containing a brief notice of the success of
the expedition; and I made him a small present to confirm his seeming good-will. We had
no other means of marking our visit, the coast
being destitute of wood or stone for the construction of a pillar on the shifting gravel; not
to mention the inutility, perhaps danger, of the
attempt, in the presence of more than a hundred
savages, whose apparent friendship was, I believe, greatly owing to our being never off our
guard. The configuration of Point Barrow afforded me a decisive opportunity of ascertaining
the direction of the flood and ebb tides. Both
were equally strong: the former coming from
the south-west, and sweeping round the point;
the latter retiring in the reverse direction. When
we arrived, the morning tide had just turned
and the fall was fourteen inches. The moon
being then three days old, the time of high-
water at full and change will be noon. The afternoon tide was still rising when we took our
« 81
departure at 1 p.m., and I could not help remarking that the velocity of both ebb and flow
was far greater than the inconsiderable rise and
fall would have led me to expect. I likewise
obtained astronomical observations, which determine the position of our landing-place to be
71° 23' 33" north lat., 156° 20' 0" west long.
Our Esquimaux friends assisted in gathering
some chips of wood to cook our breakfast, and
stood amazed at seeing me light a piece of touchwood with a burning-glass. Their own clum'sy
method of producing fire is by friction, with two
pieces of dry wood in the manner of a drill.
They seemed astonished when I used the sextant,
but their wonder changed into terror on my applying the watch to their ears. They certainly
took it for a " tornga," or familiar spirit, holding
some sort of mysterious communication with my
" speaking book." They were very solicitous for
a few grains of shot, which they suspended round
their necks as an amulet; and they held our
fire-arms in great respect. We were nevertheless obliged to keep a strict watch over our
things; and, when about to embark, our paddles
were missing. As these implements were essential to us, and could be of little value to the
thieves, I insisted upon their being restored.
After some hesitation, one of the men, stepping
aside, laughingly dug them out of the sand;
and we bade them farewell. No sooner had we
pushed off, than the men crowded together, as
if to hold a consultation. Their countenances
grew dark; and they called out to us to keep
along shore, towards the extremity of the point.
This could only have been intended to deceive,
for we were at the very narrowest part of the
icy bar, where alone it was practicable to reach
open water. We therefore disregarded their insidious advice, recollecting the warning of the
Loucheux ; and, if evil wras meant, were soon out
of their power. With great labour, and some
damage to our canoe, we forced our way again
through and over the heavy pack of ice, which
had considerably increased in breadth. Then, re-
crossing Elson Bay, we continued on through
the narrow channels leading along the shore, till,
on rounding Point Rose, the ice became so closely
locked that farther progress was impossible, and
we encamped to enjoy some rest, having had
none the previous night. The evening was calm
and fine, but new ice formed on the beach.
5th.—An easterly wind most seasonably loosened the pack of ice this morning; and, taking an
early breakfast, we re-embarked. The day was
clear and serene; and I took advantage of it, as
we coasted back, to correct the bearings of the
M   2
1 f
land, which had been obscured by fog on the
outward journey. The reindeer seemed animated by the unwonted fineness of the weather,
and were grazing in great numbers near the
shore. In Dease Inlet three noble bucks stood
so nigh the bank, that I landed with Taylor to
get a shot. The deer could not see us; but wTe
had not crawled far towards them, when, warned
by their acute sense of smell, they tossed up
their antlers, whose tips guided our approach,
and started off as if impelled by wings acrpss
the plain. The ebbing tide ran strongly out of
the inlet as we traversed it in the evening. The
depth midway was two fathoms, on a bottom
of mud. Our Esquimaux friends seemed overjoyed at our return, and would fain have detained us all night: but, not choosing to lose
the fine weather, I told them we must be off
immediately; and, as we still stood in need of
their valuable canoe, I invited some of the men
to accompany us to Boat Extreme, where they
should be liberally recompensed. Four of them
accordingly embarked in their kayaks ; of whose
speed, with their mode of shooting their arrows
and darting their lances, they gave us an ample
exhibition. We ourselves struck up some French
and Highland boat-songs, which probably for
the  first  time  resounded   from  an   Esquimaux CONDUCT OF THE NATIVES.
baidar, and undoubtedly for the first time assailed the ears of our auditory. These evinced
their love of harmony, indifferent as it was, by
instantly relinquishing their sports, bending their
heads down to the water, and beating on their
breasts, whilst their little sparkling eyes shewed
the gratification they felt. The Loucheux possess the same sensibility, and have often entreated Mr. Dease to entertain them with his
violin. The morose Chipewyans, on the other
hand, seemed almost devoid of this taste, and
their only attempts at singing are borrowed from
the Crees.. We landed for supper beside a brook
of fresh water; a very unfrequent object on this
frozen, mud-walled coast, where our drink was
usually drawn from the icebergs. Our savage
companions were in high spirits, and repeated
to me a number of their words, most of which
correspond w7ith those given in the journal of
Sir Edward Parry's second voyage, or vary only
in the termination; but a few are entirely different.    The sun set at a quarter to 11.
Sunday, 6th.—Our route was resumed a few
minutes after midnight, much against the inclination of the Esquimaux, who wanted to sleep.
At Point Tangent we found two other lodges,
which had sprung up since we passed on foot.
The inmates had evidently been  at  our boats,
*» for they wore some of our cast-away moccassins.
Our escort here declined going any farther, and
demanded an axe for their canoe, the very price
paid for one by Mr. Elson on the other side
of Point Barrow. I immediately gave them one
of our axes, together with all the tobacco we
had left; and my bowman was in the act of
shoving off, when the strangers, nine in number,
seized the canoe, with the intention of dragging
it ashore. On my pointing my gun at them they
desisted; but quick as thought they snatched their
bows and quivers, expecting to take us by surprise. When, however, they saw the whole
crew ready for the combat, they lowered their
tone of defiance; and I remarked with a smile,
that, as sometimes happens in more civilized
communities, the most blustering, turbulent fellow was the first to shew the white feather.
The rascal's copper physiognomy fairly blanched,
and his trembling hand refused to lay the " cloth-
yard shaft" to the bowstring, as the others had
done. When the threatened fray was blown
over, I explained, as well I could, to the aggressors, that the visit and intentions of the
whites were altogether friendly; but we parted
in mutual distrust. We followed the outside
of the reefs enclosing Fatigue Bay. They are
intersected by several broad deep channels, that CONDUCT  OF THE  NATIVES.
allow egress to the waters of the rivers and
creeks crossed on our outward journey. The
tide being in, we found a sufficient passage for
our small vessel between the reefs and the heavy
ice. The morning was bright and lovely, and
the rapid dash of our light oars proved that we
felt its exhilarating influence. At 5 a.m. we
aroused our still slumbering comrades at Boat
Extreme, and received their warm congratulations on the early and successful termination of
our discoveries. I now learned from Mr. Dease
that the natives at the last tents had left him
two days before; and, on departing, had helped
themselves to some silver tea-spoons, and one
or two other articles, out of his travelling-case,
while he lay asleep in his tent. Their dread of
pursuit or punishment must therefore have been
the cause of their dissuading our four companions from proceeding farther, and of their united
attempt upon our canoe, which so nearly led to
a fatal conflict. This was the only successful
theft that occurred on the whole voyage. Mr.
Dease had observed a pretty regular semi-diurnal
tide, which rose on an average fifteen inches,
and came along the reefs from the north-west.
This coincides with my own remarks at Point
Barrow, except that there the tide flows from
the south-west, because such is the trending of JOURNEY TO POINT BARROW.
the land to Behring's Straits. There can, therefore, remain no doubt that this western part of
the Arctic Sea receives its tides from the Pacific.
I obtained astronomical observations, placing
Boat Extreme in lat. 71° 3' 24" N., long. 154°
26' 30" W.; and it gave me peculiar pleasure
to find that, since the 30th July, notwithstanding all the walking and exposure, my excellent
watch had altered only one and a half seconds
from mean time. As we no longer required the
canoe, which had rendered us such inestimable
service, it was laid up securely on the beach for
its former owners, who, we were certain, would
before long repair to our deserted encampment.
m^rvJB 169
Return of the Expedition from Boat Extreme to the Mackenzie.—Ascent of that river.—Boisterous passage of Great
Bear Lake.—Arrival at Winter-quarters.
August 6.—Shortly after noon, the expedition, now happily reunited, commenced its return
to Mackenzie River. Being favoured by a light
wind, and a comparatively clear sea, we steered
straight across Smith Bay. In Boat Creek, behind Point M'Pherson, which we entered to sup,
we found abundance of drift wood and traces of
Esquimaux. Re-embarking, we continued our
course all night, under easy sail, along the land.
At 11 next day we reached Cape Halkett,
where we breakfasted, and halted for some time.
The weather wras unsettled, and several smart
showers of rain fell. The wind was light, and
now right ahead for crossing Harrison Bay,
which, however, we resolved to attempt. After
proceeding eleven miles in a direct course for
Point Berens, the rapid driving of the clouds
seemed to indicate an approaching gale off the 170
land. We were at this time | spelling it," as
voyageurs say, under the lee of an iceberg close
to the great body of the ice. The depth here
was three fathoms, on sand; being the greatest
met with in the whole range of our western discoveries. To avoid the risk of being blown too
far out, we shaped our course more into the
bay, and had scarcely got sight of the land,
whose continuity I was now fully able to trace,
when a westerly gale sprang up, before which we
ran all night under close-reefed sails. The boats
shipped a great deal of water, particularly in
crossing the flats off Colvile River, but proved
themselves worthy of our good opinion; and,
drenched and shivering though we were, all hands
were overjoyed in the prospect of a rapid return.
I must not omit to mention, that, during this
stormy run, we fell in with a small island, about a
league from the main shore, and not seen on the
outward voyage. On landing upon it, we found
numerous vestiges of Esquimaux, and a quantity
of drift wood brought down by the Colvile, from
which it is twelve miles distant. The water between Esquimaux Island, as it was called, and
the mainland, was fresh. The actual mouth of
the Colvile appeared fully two miles wide; and
with sueh force does its powerful stream issue,
that Mr. Dease's boat, in crossing it, four miles TO  THE MACKENZIE  RIVER.
out in the bay, became almost unmanageable.
From these circumstances, and its relative position to Return Reef, it is evident that this is
the opening described to Augustus, Sir John
Franklin's interpreter, by his countrymen in
1826, and of which Franklin himself remarks,
" I am inclined to think that it is the estuary
of a large river, flowing to the west of the Rocky
Mountains, obstructed by sandbanks, like the
mouth of the Mackenzie." This is another proof
of the accurate information to be obtained from
the Esquimaux; and we could only regret that
we were precluded, by the want of an interpreter,
from acquiring some knowledge of the internal
communication between Harrison Bay and Cook's
Inlet, which the Colvile probably affords.
The party with whom we spent some time in
Camden Bay were in possession of iron kettles,
which they said they procured from the westward for two skins of the wolverene or glutton.
Captain Beechey's officers saw only copper kettles
beyond Point Barrow, where the trade is probably conducted in a different manner. The Colvile separates the Franklin and Pelly Mountains,
the last seen by us; and probably flows in a long
course through a rich fur country, and unknown
tribes, on the west side of the grand Rocky
Mountain chain, the melting of whose accumu-
•   »»
lated snows causes the extraordinary increase and
agitation of the waters spoken of by the Esquimaux. It was a subject of unavailing regret
that the great distance of our wintering ground
rendered it impossible to spare a few days for
the examination of this interesting and magnificent stream. Mr. Robert Campbell has been
lately employed by the Company—as successor
to that enterprising traveller, Chief Trader John
M'Leod,—to establish a post among the stupendous fastnesses of the Rocky Mountains, on the
sources of the impetuous Liard River, in lat. 57°
or 58°, and to explore the streams flowing thence
towards the Pacific. This young and active traveller met, on the banks of a river called the
Stikine, discovered by his predecessor in 1834,
a great concourse of Nahanie Indians assembled
round a party of Russians. The latter ascend
the river in boats to a cataract far within the
British lines, at the foot of which there is a
splendid salmon fishery. There were a number
of men, commanded by four ragged, drunken
officers, who spoke a few broken words of English. Campbell afterwards received accounts from
the natives of a much larger river, that also
takes its rise on the west side of the mountains
in a great lake to the northward of the Stikine.
From the description I sent him of the Colvile, TO THE MACKENZIE RIVER.
he thinks that it must be the same; an opinion
which corroborates my own preconceived ideas.
Should this conjecture prove correct, this river
traverses, in its course to the Frozen Ocean,
about twenty degrees of longitude and more than
twelve of latitude ; and the distance of its mouth
from its source exceeds one thousand English
After^ clearing Harrison Bay, the violence of
the gale increased.  Under treble-reefed sails, and
* Subsequently to this (in April 1839), Campbell's post
was plundered and destroyed by a band of about a hundred
Nahanies, who, painted in the most horrid manner, and uttering frightful yells, fired into the houses, and would have instantly massacred Campbell and his comrades, already greatly
reduced by starvation, had not the grand chieftainess interposed to save their lives; but, with a refinement in ferocity,
these savages would not permit a few friendly Indians to relieve
their famine. Three men perished; and, after incredible sufferings, Campbell, with the few survivors, escaped to Fort
Halkett, several hundred miles down the river. An arrangement entered into by Governor Simpson with Baron Wrangel,
to lease the whole Russian line of American coast as far
north as Cape Spencer, will, it is to be hoped, prevent a repetition of such dreadful scenes as the above, which there is too
much reason to suspect was instigated by the jealousy of the
Russian traders on the Stikine. All the principal men among
the Nahanies have a number of slaves, who act as beasts of
burden, and are treated by their inhuman masters in the most
brutal manner. The new arrangement will, I have no doubt,
effect a gradual improvement in the condition of these unhappy beings. I~
protected by Jones Islands, our little vessels flew
through the foaming waves, which often broke
over them from stem to stern. At 3 p. m. on the
8 th we saw Return Reef, and ran safely into a
cove scooped out by a small river in the contiguous mainland. The wind shifted to the northwest, and blew intensely cold. A large herd of
deer appeared in the vicinity of our encampment,
and one of our half-breed lads, enveloped in a
deer-skin robe, approached close to them, but
from over-eagerness missed his mark. In the
evening a little fawn came to the tents, and was
suffered to retreat unmolested; an incident that
furnished a name for the streamlet.
9th.—With the morning the weather mitigated,
the sun shone out, and the cargoes were exposed
to dry. Some good observations were obtained,
which placed Fawn River in lat. 70° 25' 3" N.,
long. 148° 24' 45" W. Return Reef bore E. N. E.
about two miles distant. From this it would
appear that my latitude agrees exactly with Sir
John Franklin's, but that the longitude is about
half a degree or ten miles more to the east; a
difference for which I am at a loss to account,
as the longitudes of my extreme points of comparison—Tent Island, at the mouth of the Mackenzie, and Point Barrow,—perfectly correspond
with the prior determinations of Franklin  and TO  THE MACKENZIE  RIVER.
Elson. We resumed our route early in the afternoon ; and, it having fallen nearly calm, we made
slow progress compared with yesterday's boisterous career. The reefs were denuded of the ice
from which we had incurred so many risks before ; and the water on the shallows was but
slightly brackish, in consequence either of the
melting of so large a body of ice, or, what is
more probable, from the influx of a river of some
magnitude in Yarborough Inlet. At a quarter
to 10, just as the sun was sinking below the
horizon, we landed near Point Anxiety. Numerous boulders of granite strewed the beach.
On the level of the plain the ground was rent
into enormous fissures by the frost, and large
portions of the banks seemed to be constantly
falling into the sea and adding to the shallows.
Two large buck deer galloped past us, looking
in the twilight, with their huge antlers, like goblin huntsmen on horseback. A westerly breeze
opportunely springing up, we set our sails, and
pursued our voyage all night.
10th.—The wind increased, and we ran along
rapidly; passing outside the Lion and Reliance
Reefs, and inside of Flaxman Island, where we
again encountered the ice. At 11 we landed
to breakfast on a reef opposite Mount Cople-
stone, where  the  lat.   70° 9' 8"  was  observed.
The Romanzoff Mountains were visible in all
their grandeur, the loftier peaks being freshly
wrapped in snow. We next shaped our course
across Camden Bay, steering among the ice under
reefed foresails only, till we had passed the scene
of our former adventures, when, finding a clearer
sea, we set the mainsails, and scudded along at
the rate of seven knots an hour. The wind still
augmented, a sprinkling of snow fell, and it wras
bitterly cold. The setting sun glared through
angry clouds as we landed on Barter Island,
where we regaled ourselves before immense fires
of drift timber. Before midnight we re-embarked, and, steering within the reefs for some time,
enjoyed a smooth run.
We had no sooner lost the shelter of the reefs
than we became exposed to a huge rolling sea,
and, as we shot from the crests of the waves into
the trough beneath, the gallant little consorts
fairly lost sight of each other, till they rose again
bounding over the billows.
At 7 in the morning of the 11th we reached
Beaufort Bay, where we regained the protection of the seaward ice. It was piercingly cold;
the water froze in the kegs; several light snow-
showers fell, and the British range of mountains
had assumed the livery of another winter. We
passed a small camp of Esquimaux without no- TO THE MACKENZIE RIVER.
ticing the signals they made us from the tops
of their wooden huts; but, while at breakfast at
Demarcation Point, five of the men joined us.
After advancing about two hours longer, a heavy
body of ice, which came driving eastward with
great velocity, made us seek the shore and encamp. I strolled for several miles upon the
grassy plains stretching to the base of the mountains, but saw no objects of natural history worth
collecting, except some great snowry owls, that,
perched with half-closed eyes upon little knolls,
were too wary to allow of my approach within
gunshot. After some time, the men we had seen
at Demarcation Point, and several others, among
whom were our handsome acquaintances of Camden Bay, arrived with their families, and, pitching their tents near us, pestered us as usual
with their trade. We learned from them that
they had concluded their barter with the Western Esquimaux and Mountain Indians; and they
shewed us the iron kettles, knives, and other
things obtained through these channels from
the distant Kabloonan, or white men. They
knew at once that we had been among the far
west Esquimaux from the boots we wore, which
were of a wider and clumsier shape than their
own. It is easy to account for not meeting on
our return with the people of the large camp
in Staines" River, as we travelled during the
night, and often out of sight of land, and they
were perhaps dispersed along the lakes and inlets, to hunt the reindeer, after ending the trade
with their eastern brethren. In the evening the
Esquimaux had a leaping-match with our people,
in which one of the former bore away the palm.
A guard was set during the night. It was high-
water about 4 o'clock, both p. m. and a. m. ; rise
of the tide six inches.
The wind having fallen and the ice relaxed
in the forenoon of the 12th, we pushed out
through it to gain clear water. The day was
bright and fine. The mountains stood forth
in all the rugged boldness of their outline, displaying their naked rocky peaks and steep descents with such marvellous distinctness that they
seemed to touch the coast of which they form
the bulwarks. The swell being with us, as long
as the calm continued we made some progress
with the oars; but a northerly breeze springing
up raised such a cross sea that we were in
imminent danger of foundering, when we providentially discovered an opening through the
ice, leading into the mouth of a small stream—
between Backhouse and Malcolm rivers—flowing from an inner basin, where we found a secure and pleasant harbour.    It was now 3 p. m.; TO THE MACKENZIE  RIVER.
and, incited by the beauty of the weather, I
ascended the nearest hill, six or seven miles distant, whence I enjoyed a truly sublime prospect.
On either hand arose the British and Buckland
Mountains, exhibiting an infinite diversity of
shade and form; in front lav the blue boundless
ocean strongly contrasted with its broad glittering
girdle of ice; beneath yawned ravines a thousand feet in depth, through which brawled and
sparkled the clear alpine streams; while the sun,
still high in the west, shed his softened beams
through a rich veil of saffron-coloured clouds
that overcanopied the gorgeous scene. Bands of
reindeer, browsing on the rich pasture in the
valleys and along the brooks, imparted life and
animation to the picture. Reluctantly I returned
to the camp at sunset.
We were detained next day by the ice and
a contrary wind. The latitude 69° 35' 29" was
observed, and the thermometer rose to 48°. The
sun set brightly at a quarter past 9.
The 14th was likewise fine, but the east-wind
blew too strongly, and the ice was in too violent
motion for the prosecution of our voyage. We
made the most of the detention by rambling
about the skirt of the mountains, where two fine
does were shot; and I almost envied the Indians
and Esquimaux, who, dispersed along the rivers
N   2 180
and in the valleys, were now enjoying the brief
season with that zest which perfect freedom
alone can give. A few stars were visible tonight ; the aurora also made its first appearance.
15th.—The wind fell, and at 5 a. m. we embarked. It was one of those glorious mornings
whose enlivening power all nature acknowledges.
A copious dew had fallen, the air breathed
light and balmy, and the deer bounded across
the plains. As we advanced, the mirage played
some strange antics on the water, which it
elevated on the north and west sides into the
similitude of two highly inclined planes, garnished with innumerable icebergs, apparently
ready to topple over upon us as we rowed
through this mimic valley.
The high land of Herschel Island assumed
distorted and varying shapes, and it was not
till 5 in the afternoon that we reached the
strait separating it from the main shore. After,
passing this channel, we encountered a rolling,
swell that much retarded our progress. A good
many natives were seen as we coasted along,
some of whom came alongside, welcomed us
back from afar (awdne), inquired about the
last camps of their countrymen we had seen,
and were no less delighted than astonished when
we read the names of some of them from our TO THE MACKENZIE RIVER.
note-books. At 10 p. m. the moon, now at the
full, and seen for the first time since our leaving Athabasca, arose, and, after lowTly circling
over the eminences next the coast, set again
long before the reappearance of the sun.
At 1 next morning we reached Point Stokes,
where we supped, and were soon visited by the
women and junior branches of several Esquimaux families, who told us that the men were
all hunting in the interior. We asked one or
two. of the young lads to accompany us, with
a view of training them as interpreters for the
eastern voyage; but they peremptorily refused.
Resuming our route, we at 6 reached Point
Kay, where we halted till the afternoon to
rest and refresh our wearied men. During this
interval the thermometer ascended to 54°, and
a sea-bath was a real luxury.
Several native families visited us. They confirmed what the remarkable clearness of the
atmosphere had discovered to us; that the Bab-
bage is at this time of year an insignificant
stream, but swells into a torrent in the spring
when the mountain snows dissolve. This great
reduction in the volume of water discharged
into the sea accounts for the fact, that some
deep channels in the reefs, through which our
boats   entered   on   the   outward   voyage,   were
now completely filled up. Among the gravel
two pieces of pitch-coal were found. One of
the young half-breeds killed a brace of ducks
at a shot, much to the amazement of the Esquimaux, who begged for the birds as a great
curiosity. As the twilight drew on, numerous
fires blazed along the beach, round which groups
of natives were collected, many of whom came
off to us. Near Point King we had eleven
fathoms' water, with a clear sandy bottom, and
four small whales were seen in the offing. AX
midnight we once more landed on Shingle Point,
where we were much harassed, during the few
hours we stayed, by a large and motley party
of Esquimaux. While the men slept in the
boats, Mr. Dease and I kept guard on the beach,
but had the utmost difficulty in preventing pilfering, though we had made our unwelcome
visitants the usual presents. One hideous dwarfish creature was particularly troublesome, and, in
spite of our precautions, a frying-pan was missing out of the bow of my boat in the morning. Upon my demanding restitution, the offender was pointed out; and I was in the act
of going up to him, when he drew his long
knife upon me, and at the same moment M'Kay
called out that one of his accomplices was bending his  bow to transfix me through  the  back. TO THE MACKENZIE RIVER.
I turned round in time to prevent the treacherous design, and, as our people were prepared
to support us, the Esquimaux were glad to
submit; and an old man produced the bone of
contention from under a pile of drift wood.*
I may here remark, that, except at Point Barrow, we invariably found the arrogance of the
natives to increase in due proportion with their
numbers. The moderation and forbearance of
the whites are, in their savage minds, ascribed
to weakness or pusillanimity; while the fierceness of the Loucheux and Mountain Indians
inspires terror. Notwithstanding the deceitful
good-humour of the Esquimaux, I have no
hesitation in asserting, that, were they in possession of fire-arms, it would require a stronger
force than ours to navigate their coasts.
We gladly re-embarked at 5 in the morning
of the 17th. The weather was delightful, but
the wind adverse, and our progress consequently
slow. The hills still clothed in verdure charmed
the eye, and indicated our near approach to the
milder climate of the Mackenzie. After several
hours' labour in passing the flats of Shoal water
Bay, with the ebbing evening tide, we entered
* M'Kay afterwards told me that he thrice had his finger
on the trigger of his gun, to be beforehand with the fellow who
was taking aim at me behind.
the western mouth of the river, and there encamped.    With the telescope we discovered that
the village on Tent Island was abandoned; from
which we inferred that a narration about guns
and cutting of throats, with which some of the
Esquimaux had entertained us as we came along
to-day, referred to an actual or apprehended attack of the Loucheux to avenge their slaughtered friends, and not to a scheme of the Mountain Indians to waylay us, as we at the time
imagined. I here had the satisfaction of obtain-
ing a set of lunar distances, which gave for the
longitude 136° 36' 45" W.; the latitude, by the
moon's meridian altitude, being 68° 49' 23" N.
The longitudes assigned to the various points in
our discoveries have been corrected and reduced
back from hence by the watch; and the results
are highly satisfactory, our expeditious return in
thirteen days from Point Barrow yielding indeed little scope for error. Mr. Dease and I
watched while the men slept. The night was
serene, and not a sound broke upon the solemn
stillness, save the occasional notes of swans and
geese calling to their mates, and the early crowing of the willow partridge, as the soft twilight
melted into the blush of dawn.
Our ascent of the Mackenzie  was performed
almost exclusively by towing, at the rate of from TO THE MACKENZIE RIVER.
thirty to forty miles a day. The crews were
divided into two parties, who relieved each other
every hour, and were thus spared all unnecessary
fatigue. The weather continued calm and fine;
the sultry heats of the short summer were past;
the nights were cool, and no musquitoes disturbed our rest, or assailed us in our woodland
rambles. The waters were considerably abated,
and large portions of the high mud-banks, undermined by their action, wTere constantly tumbling down, with a crash that, in the silence of
evening, was heard for miles.
Up to Point Separation, where we encamped
on the 21st, moose-deer were numerous, for
there were neither Esquimaux nor Indians to
disturb their favourite haunts. Next day we fell
in with several parties of Loucheux, whose unobtrusive manners were pleasingly contrasted
with the importunate and annoying behaviour of
the Esquimaux. We were glad to learn that
their tribe had had no hostile meeting with the
latter during our absence, In the evening there
arose a sudden storm of wind and rain. During
the two following days we continued to meet
the Loucheux, on their return from Fort Good
Hope. The women, children, and baggage
were descending the stream, on rafts formed of
two large logs joined  by  a cross bar thus,   A .
* m
On the fore part rested a raised platform, where
the passengers sat; and the men escorted these
primitive vessels in their bark canoes, which,
when they choose, are conveniently secured between the projecting arms of the after-part of
the rafts. Among these people was the lame
man whom Franklin saw in Peel River. From
the course of the latter stream through the rich
beaver country that borders on the mountains,
it appeared to us well worthy of the Company's
attention, and was three years after settled ^by
Mr. Bell. #   >§      * -§g|
The sun disappeared on the 23rd for about
eight hours, a rapid change from constant day!
On the 24th we encamped a mile above old
Fort Good Hope, on the opposite side of the
river, under a high cliff of crumbling slaty rock,
strongly impregnated with iron, and containing a
great deal of sulphur. There was some thunder
with lightning and rain during the night. The
navigation became more obstructed by shoals and
sandbanks as we ascended. One of the boats
struck, and half filled with water, which caused
the loss of part of a day to dry the soaked cargo
and repair the damage. We saw a good many
Hare Indians, who supplied us with fresh fish;
and a couple of Loucheux, on their way to Fort THE MACKENZIE RIVER.
Good Hope, kept company with us for two days,
at the end of which they fell behind, being unable to bear the fatigue of our long hours—from
4 in the morning to 8 or 9 at night.
On the evening of the 26th there was a bril-
liant display of the aurora, which our Loucheux
companions called " saung." Ursa major they
denominated | eutyse," and told us that its Esquimaux appellation is | bellic." They mimicked
the manners and address of that race to the life.
Upon the beach was found the body of a female
child about five years old, who, we afterwards
learned, had been abandoned by the outer Hare
Indians. The poor child had lost both parents,
and, having no other relatives to take care of it,
was cruelly left to its fate. Our chancing to pass
beyond the limit of the traders' travels disclosed
a circumstance which these people thought would
have remained secret; for they have been so
severely taken to task by the Company's officers
for similar acts of barbarity, that they are now
comparatively rare, and in general carefully concealed. The practice of mothers casting away
their owm female children, which is common at
this day in China, Madagascar, Hindostan, and
other countries more blessed by nature than
Mackenzie River, was frequent here, as it was in
all parts of America before the settlement of the
whites, and is still among a tribe far to the
westward of Fort Norman, who only descend for
a short time from their mountains every second
or third year, and have therefore not become
humanized by intercourse with the establishments.* Yet why should we judge harshly of these
poor people? Let the philanthropist weigh the
following passage in Gibbon, before the savages
of the New World are pronounced a reproach
to the human species : " The exposition of children was the prevailing and stubborn vice of
antiquity. It was sometimes proscribed, often
permitted, almost always practised with impunity
by the nations who never entertained the Roman ideas of paternal power; and the dramatic
poets, who appeal to the human heart, represent with indifference a popular custom which
was palliated by the motives of oeconomy and
compassion." And immediately afterwards: | The
* In a conversation with the Dog-ribs, we afterwards
learned that these Mountain Indians are cannibals, and, immediately upon any scarcity arising, cast lots for victims.
Their fierce manners have been circumstantially described by
an old man, who, while yet a stripling, fled from the tribe,
and joined himself to the Dog-ribs, in consequence of his finding his mother, on his return from a successful day's hunting;
employed in roasting the body of her own child, his youngest
lessons of jurisprudence and Christianity had
been insufficient to eradicate this inhuman practice, till their gentle influence was fortified by
the terrors of capital punishment." * The candid
inquirer wall also do well to reflect what would
probably have been the fate of many of the
youthful inmates of the European Foundling
Hospitals, had such institutions been unknown.
And when he considers, moreover, that these
last are generally the offspring of guilt, the pride
of national superiority ought to die within him.
Though the Company's posts in the Mackenzie
River can barely subsist, the officers do all in
their power to maintain poor objects and forsaken children. Were they to give unlimited
indulgence to the natives, half the population
would be left on their hands, general starvation
must ensue, and the surviving whites would have
to abandon the country. The following are Sir
John Franklin's remarks on this painful subject:
" Infanticide is mentioned by Hearne as a common crime amongst the Northern Indians, but
this was the first instance that came under our
notice, and I understand it is now very rare
amongst the Chipewyan tribes; an improvement
* " Decline and  Fall  of the  Roman Empire," vol.  viii.
page 56. ASCENT OF
in their moral character which may be fairly attributed to the influence of the traders resident
among them." *
At 9 in the morning of the 28th we reached Fort Good Hope, where we found Mr. Bell
and all the inmates well, but labouring under a
scarcity of provisions occasioned by the failure of
their summer fishery. We had our wet pemican bags immediately ripped up and laid out to
dry, for even the dogs reject this invaluable aliment when it has become mouldy. |
On the 29th there fell some light showers,
but the weather continued mild, the temperature
being steady at about 60°. Several Loucheux
brought in furs to trade, and were very anxious
to obtain, in exchange, the shells called " eyea-
quaws," a sort of cowries, which in the Columbia
and New Caledonia form the native currency.
This foolish fancy originated in their having seen
some of these shells with one of the half-breed
women; and the use to which they intended to
apply them was to thrust them through the septum
of the nose—an ornament of a very grotesque description. These people prefer such trivial articles to the cloth and blankets with which the
stores are furnished. Their real wants being
limited to  arms, ammunition, kettles, ironwork,
* Second Expedition, page 64. THE MACKENZIE RIVER.
and cutlery, their furs are cheaply purchased.
The spoils of the moose and reindeer furnish
them with meat, clothing, and tents.* This day
was allowed our men for rest, and in the evening they celebrated their return from the sea
by a dance.
Having completed our arrangements, we took
our departure the following afternoon ; our party
being now increased by Mr. Dease's wife, niece,
and grand-daughter. The weather was occasionally cloudy, with some smart showers of rain,
while the loftier mountains appeared newly covered with snow.
On the evening of the 3rd September we
crossed the confluence of the transparent waters
of Bear Lake River, and encamped on its
southern side. Here we deposited our cargoes,
and placed them under the charge of two men,
with the intention of proceeding unencumbered to Fort Normaii, there to meet our outfit and
despatches. A meridian altitude of a Aquilse
placed us in lat. 64° 54' 48" N.
4th.—A cold frosty night was succeeded by a
lovely day. We took an early breakfast at the
burning banks, and lighted our fire with coals of
;    :1|1
* They are more stationary in winter than other tribes;
and their dwellings are partly under ground, like those of the
Samoides of Northern Siberia. ASCENT OF
nature's kindling. In the woods that crown this
vast hot-bed we found a great profusion of very
fine raspberries and gooseberries, which afforded
us a rich treat. The beautiful river and mountain
scenery of this part of the Mackenzie is already
well-known, and at this period the many-tinted
foliage of autumn highly embellished the prospect.
In the afternoon a very large black bear made
his appearance on the opposite side of the river.
After reconnoitering us for a while, with a look of
great stupidity, he took the water. Sinclair and
I then ran to the end of the island, along which
we were tracking, in order to shoot him as he
landed; but, on seeing us, he sheered out again,
and the signal was given to M'Kay, who immediately pursued with his boat, and dispatched him
in the stream. His flesh proved excellent. At
6 p.m. we reached Fort Norman, to the utter
amazement of the person in charge, who imagined
us still on the coast. The boats from Portage la
Loche, carrying the goods and provisions for our
second campaign, — if I may be allowed the
term, — were not yet arrived, but made their
appearance on the 8th, when we had the happiness to receive tidings from many dear and distant friends. The season had now fairly broken
up, and on the 9th it rained very heavily. We
closed our despatches to the Company, and got THE MACKENZIE RIVER.
everything in readiness for our departure to
The 10th was ushered in by a severe snowstorm and hard frost. At 7 in the morning our
express, carried by Taylor and young Wentzel
in a small canoe, started for Fort Resolution, and
at the same moment we set out for Great Bear
Lake. So strongly did it blow from the northward, that we had to tow the boats down the
current; and it was late when we reached Bear
Lake River. For the three following days we
continued ascending its clear and rapid stream.
Everything, wore a wintry aspect; a good deal of
snow fell, large masses of old ice lay undissolved
on the beach, and the still parts of the river
were newly frozen over.
On the 12th we saw some Hare Indians below
the rapids. The path there led along the almost
perpendicular face of loose rocky cliffs, and often
on the edge of the rapids, where a single false
step would have been fatal. It was the most
dangerous tracking I had yet seen; but we all
passed without accident. Indeed, throughout
the fur countries, since the introduction of boats,
deaths by drowning are of rare occurrence:
during the old canoe system they were but too
frequent; though I question whether they ever
equalled   the   proportion   of   casualties   among
sailors, fishermen, Canada raftsmen, and various
other hazardous professions.
On the 13th we encamped within eight miles
of Great Bear Lake. When we came in view of
that magnificent sheet of water the following
morning, it was violently agitated by an easterly
wind. It occupied us two hours to reach the
ruins of Fort Franklin; and, after a cold ducking
from the waves* we found a snug harbour in the
" little lake," where the officers of the former
expedition made their experiments in acoustics.
The bateaux, which had been despatched ahead
from Fort Norman, were waiting for us here, and
we encamped together. Several nets were set,
with which we soon drew a good supply of trout,
pike, white-fish, grayling, inconnu, and salmon-,
herring. In the evening I obtained a set of
lunar distances; the longitude resulting from
which was 123° 13' 0" W., being sixteen seconds
westward of the position previously assigned to
Fort Franklin. This difference, equal to two
hundred yards, might be about our actual distance
from the site of the buildings; and, though such
perfect agreement on a single trial is, of course,
accidental, it strengthened my confidence in the
exactness of which the lunar method is susceptible, when the distances are carefully taken,
and rigorously computed. OF GREAT BEAR LAKE.
It continued to blow from the east till near
noon on the 15th, when, the wind moderating,
we embarked, and it soon afterwards fell calm.
The afternoon, though cold, was serenely beautiful. Almost at the moment of sunset the
moon appeared, and, while rising, assumed successively the most singular shapes, shewing the
great power of the terrestrial refraction.
Next day we made good progress with the oars.
The immediate borders of the lake are low; and
the face of the country is mossy and barren, or
poorly wooded with spruce-fir. I sounded in
•thirty-four fathoms about half a league from the
shore; but there are in Great Bear Lake far
greater depths than this—descending below the
"level of the ocean. When we encamped at dusk,
a, long rolling swell threatened the approach of
a gale.
On the 17th we started at 6; the weather
dark and squally, with a short cross sea, and the
wind close. At noon, when within two miles of
the eastern side of " the Bay of the Deer-pass,"
we were alarmed by a cry of distress from Mr.
Dease's boat, which had sprung a plank, and was
rapidly filling. Providentially, one of the bateaux was within reach, with whose aid we took
out the people and the drenched cargo, and
towed the injured boat to land, which we gained 196
after a tough pull, for it blew dead off shore.
The remainder of the day was employed in repairing the damage. The evening was very
boisterous, and snow fell during the night. We
pulled under the lee of the land on the 18th, to
the Cape of the | Scented-grass Mountain," where
the strength of the north wind obliged us to put
back a mile or two, to seek shelter in a little bay.
At noon the thermometer stood at the freezing
point, and one or two reindeer were seen.
During the four succeeding days we were
detained at the same spot by severe winter
weather, and the country was permanently covered with snow. Our canvass tents affording
no protection from the rigour of the cold in so
exposed a situation, we constructed a leather
lodge, in which we Indianized comfortably
enough. The nights were extremely dark; and
ice, an inch thick, formed in the kettles. Our
hunters killed three fine reindeer, one of which—
a superb buck—must have weighed from two to
three hundred pounds. From the top of the
hills I had the good-fortune to catch a glimpse
of the high land behind Cape M'Donell, bearing
north-east, on the opposite side of the lake. All
the small lakes in the hollows of the mountain
were firmly frozen. Alarmed at the near approach of winter, the Indians, who formed half OF GREAT BEAR LAKE.        197
the crew of the two bateaux, wished to leave
us; but we resolved to prevent their desertion,
by seizing the first practicable moment to attempt the grand traverse to Cape M'Donell, instead of the safer but more circuitous route by
Smith's Bay.
23rd.—The wind moderated, and changed from
north to east; the temperature of the air was
26°; the clouds were black and threatening; and
there was a heavy swell. We determined to
make a push; and, after an early breakfast, stood
out for Cape M'Donell, guided by the compass.
I led the way in the small boats; and, to encourage the people, Mr. Dease followed with the
bateaux. The change of wind having raised a
dangerous cross sea, we were rather roughly
handled. We had to sail within four points of
the wind; the boats and rigging soon became one
mass of ice; and ^ve hours elapsed before we
got sight of the opposite land, greatly to the relief
of the men, who all imagined that I was steering
a wrong course. The wind again freshened; but
the sea, though it ran still higher, became more
regular, aUd in three hours more we safely
reached Cape M'Donell. At sunset we found
a few dwarf pines in a little bay, where we encamped. The bateaux did not make their appearance, having lost sight of us, and pulled in ARRIVAL AT
for the wrong side of the cape. Had it not been
for Mr. Dease's presence, they would assuredly
have gone up M'Tavish Bay to look for the
establishment; as it was, they had hard work to
reach the shore. In the snow around our encampment the tracks of Alpine hares were
Being joined by our consorts in the forenoon
of the 24th, we alternately sailed and rowed
among the islands and bays that abound on Xhe
east side of this large arm of the lake. A great
deal of young ice had formed along the shores;
the weather was snoWy, squally, and excessively
cold. A herd Of reindeer, and many large flocks
of partridges, now perfectly white, were seen in
the course of the day. We passed, near the Nar-
rakazzse Islands, huge lumps of rock, that rise out
of the water to the height of a hundred feet. This
I ascertained by climbing the highest of them
the following spring, whence I had a commanding
view of the whole group, and of the frozen lake
On the 25th the weather was rather milder.
A solitary Canada goose, the very last straggler
of the rear-guard, flew past to the southward.
Several loons,  and some flocks of small diving
* In the Appendix of Franklin's Journal, these islands are
stated to I*e seven hundred feet high. WINTER QUARTERS.
ducks, still lingered in the open water. As we
passed through the strait where we afterwards
established our principal fishery, a ravenous trout
seized the steersman's oar, and was almost drawn
out of the water before relinquishing its hold.
We made for the mouth of Dease River, where
we were met by an old Indian, who directed us
to our future residence, about three miles to
the westward. We reached it at 4 p. m., and
had the satisfaction of finding our comrades safe
and well. Our greetings were cordial indeed ;
and, with feelings of sincere gratitude to an Almighty Protector, we bestowed upon our infant
establishment the name of Fort Confidence.
Transactions at Fort Confidence, winter  1837-8.—Death of
Peter Taylor.—Winter Discoveries and Surveys.
We were soon surrounded by a crowd of Dog-
ribs and Hare Indians of both sexes, who hailed
with delight our residence upon their lands.
They manifested unbounded joy at our return
from the terrors of the sea, which their timid
imaginations had peopled with monsters and cannibals ; and it is impossible to depict the eager
curiosity with which they viewed the weapons,
dresses, and ornaments of the Esquimaux. They
told us as a marvel, that, in the barren ^grounds
to the eastward, they had killed a young buck
deer with the head of an Esquimaux arrow
sticking in the yet soft horn. Our building
party had only reached the site of our winter-
quarters on the 17th of August, the very day
we re-entered the Mackenzie; and a small store,
with the skeleton of a dwelling-house, was all
that indicated our destined abode. Ritch informed us that, as he ascended Bear Lake River, FORT  CONFIDENCE.
the ice, recently cleft by the stream, formed
two solid walls, in some places forty feet high.
They towed their boat with great danger in consequence of the strength of the current, pent
up and contracted by these frozen cliffs, along
the top of which lay their own slippery and insecure path. The icy masses, in many places
undermined and honeycombed by the action of
the water, threatened equally the boat that passed
underneath, and the men who walked above. In
this manner they reached the head of | the
rapid" on the 10th of July, a week from the
period of our separation. There they encountered
the ice from the lake, which had just begun to
break up, and came driving down before the
easterly winds. They were compelled to land
their cargo, and haul up their boat with the
utmost precipitation; and the Indian hunters
lost one of their canoes. The ice continued
descending with fearful rapidity, large fragments
being often forced upwards by the pressure, and
sometimes choking the passage, till the accumulated weight of water and ice triumphantly
burst the barrier. From the rapids it cost the
party a fortnight's labour to reach the head of
the river, a distance of only thirty miles. During
this interval, the fisherman, with all the dogs,
had been sent by land to the lake,  where he
M 202
supported his canine charge on the produce of
nets set under the ice; and, from the " little
lake" at Fort Franklin, the Indians latterly
brought fish every day to the people at the
boats. At length they reached that place on the
6th of August. The passage of the lake occupied ten days more. From the Scented-grass
Mountain nothing but ice was visible, but after
a delay of three days they made their way to
the Acanyo Islands in Smith's Bay. There they
discovered a narrow opening, leading through
heavy ice for some distance; but, when it terminated, they had to force their way with great
labour and risk for a whole day and night before they reached the northern shore. At the
mouth of Haldane River they found a number
of Hare Indians suffering severely from influenza,
which had carried off two old people. They
followed the party the same evening; and Ritch
was shocked to learn that they had abandoned
an orphan boy, about six years old. He immediately sent back two of our Chipewyans for the
child, whom they brought safely to the establishment, where the little fellow passed the winter.
From the extraordinary severity of the season,
a journey of two hundred and fifty miles occupied
forty-five days, and the ice of Great Bear Lake
proved no less formidable than that of the Arctic
Our first care was to send back the Mackenzie
River people, who had rendered us such essential assistance. They started the morning after
our arrival, and, being favoured by a steady east
wind, crossed Great Bear Lake in three days,
and escaped the risk of being set fast. The
same day we sent to examine Dease River, in
reference to the transport of the boats; but that
stream was already frozen. The Indians even
pretended to assure us that the sea, at the mouth
of the Coppermine River, is open one moon
before the ice breaks up in the northern parts
of Great Bear Lake. The singular shape of this
inland sea, branching out from a common centre
into a number of extensive arms, which act as
so many points of support to the body of the
ice, conduces in no small degree to its tardy
disruption. The situation judiciously chosen for
the establishment was a wooded point, on the
northern side of a deep and narrow strait, formed
by a large island. It commands a fine view of
the lake to the east and west, and the rocks
form a natural landing-place for the boats at
the very door. Nets set in the strait furnished
Ritch and his three men with subsistence till
our arrival. The fishery was likewise of the
greatest benefit to the natives, many of whom
we found still suffering from the influenza.    A
few simple medicines were administered, and
some assistance in food and clothing rendered
to the sufferers, all of whom gradually recovered.
In consequence of this unfortunate malady, no
provisions had been collected, and our Chipewyan
hunters were at this moment lying ill on the barren grounds, twenty miles to the eastward. I paid
them a visit on the 30th of September, and remained with them several days, in order to afford them every possible aid. Those who were
in the worst state were brought to the house,
and through care and nourishing diet slowly regained their strength. The disease afterwards
attacked, successively, the women and children,
all of whom recovered; and last of all the old
man, the father and grandfather of the party,
who, from his age and infirmities, sank under
it. His body was decently interred by us on
the island opposite the establishment, and this
mark of respect to the remains of their common
parent contributed, more than all previous benefits, to fix the affections of our Chipewyans.
We enjoy, indeed, the proud reflection that our
expedition, so far from inflicting either famine
or disease upon the natives, has, by the blessing
of Heaven, been the immediate means of preventing or alleviating those calamities.
To   commence   a  winter  within   the   Arctic if^JKHI
Circle with a considerable party destitute of
provisions, and the Indians upon whom we mainly
depended for subsistence requiring our aid and
support, was an alarming condition, which demanded the utmost exertion of our personal resources. More nets were set in the strait; and,
while some of the people were employed in
erecting the necessary buildings, others were
engaged in converting all the twine last received
into nets. The sudden change of food, from
pemican and flour to white-fish, affected several
of the men with dysentery. The fish, indifferent
as we found them, soon diminished in number
before the increasing cold.
On the 5th of October, just fifty days later
than Ritch's deliverance from the ice of a former
winter, the strait froze over, but broke up again
the following day, and finally set fast on the
10th, when the thermometer first fell below
zero. I took advantage of the interval to proceed with a boat round the island to another
arid still deeper strait near its southern extremity. There was a camp of natives then in the
neighbourhood; and here we established our
principal fishery, which, after a temporary failure,
and removal towards the Narrakazzee Islands,
continued during the greater part of the winter
to support from two to four hands, but finally TRANSACTIONS AT
ceased in March. Mr. Dease placed another
fishing-station on a lake about twenty miles to
the northward; but it failed early in November,
and was then removed to the sources of Haldane
River, four days' journey westward, with no better
success. We were therefore compelled to place
our reliance upon the capricious movements of
the reindeer; and, in order to eke out our scanty
and precarious subsistence, I spent a great part
of the months of October and November in
hunting excursions with those Indians who had'
recovered from their illness. The deer fortunately began to draw in from the north-east
to the country between Great Bear Lake and
the Coppermine ; and, as soon as any animals were
shot, I despatched a share of the prey by our
people and dogs to the establishment. At the
same time I highly relished the animation of the
chase, and the absolute independence of an Indian life. Our tents were usually pitched in the
last of the stunted straggling woods, whence we
issued out at daybreak among the bare snowy hills
of the " barren lands," where the deer could be
distinguished a great way off by the contrast of
their dun colour with the pure white of the
boundless wraste. The hunters then disperse, and
advance in such a manner as to intercept the
deer in their confused retreat to windward, the FORT CONFIDENCE.
direction they almost invariably follow. On one
occasion I witnessed an extraordinary instance
of affection in these timid creatures. Having
brought down a fine doe at some distance, I
was running forward to dispatch her with my
knife, when a handsome young buck bounded
up, and raised his fallen favourite with his antlers. She went a few paces, and fell; again he
raised her, and continued wheeling around her,
till a second ball—for hunger is ruthless—laid him
dead at her side. Until the month of December we were living literally from hand to mouth,
though all, except the men absolutely required
to keep the houses in firewood, were distributed
at the fisheries and in the various native camps.
The excessive cold at length drove the deer
towards the shelter of the woods, where the
hunters were more successful. The climate of
the elevated unsheltered region to the eastward
of Fort Confidence is far more severe than that
of the borders of the lake. The winds, too, are
more violent; and a bright starlight night is
often succeeded by a tempest of snow-drift.
From the top of a hill in this quarter I discovered an unknown arm of the lake, which I
had afterwards melancholy cause to examine.
In a southerly direction the interior of the country is very hilly, but, except on the higher ele-
,;''' I
vations, tolerably wooded; and every three or
four miles occurs a small lake, contained in the
hollows between the hills. In these low sheltered spots, where we generally made our encampments, the largest trees grow, and I noticed two or three that attained a diameter of
eighteen inches, which is large timber for such
a barren, rocky country. The whole region is
apparently of primitive formation ; the few rocks,
left exposed by the snow, consisting of red and
grey granite. In this direction I travelled to
within view of M'Tavish Bay with the party
of an Indian named Edahadelly, who, to decoy
the deer, carried a pair of antlers before him,
with which, and a bundle of willow twigs, he
used to imitate the motions of the living animal;
his own dress, made of its hairy hide, completing
the deception.
But to return to the affairs of the establish,-
ment. The houses were constructed on a very
small scale, to suit our means and the severity
of the climate. They consisted of a log building, forty feet long, and sixteen broad, containing a chamber at either end for Mr. Dease
and myself, separated by a hall, sixteen feet
square, which answered the threefold purpose of
our eating-room, kitchen, and an apartment of
all work  for the  Indians.    There  was, indeed, i
the frame of a kitchen erected behind, but we
were unable to complete it till the following
year, when an observatory was also built. Our
men's house was thirty feet long and eighteen
broad, and, with the store, formed three sides
of a little quadrangle fronting the south. The
whole was habitable in a month after our arrival ; but, from the smallness of the timber,
and the difficulty of procuring enough of the
frozen earth to cover the light roofs, our dwelling was miserably cold, the wind and snow
having in.many places free ingress. The men's
quarters were rather more comfortable.
On the evening of the 6th of December a few
families of Dog-ribs arrived, in the utmost consternation, from the bay discovered by me to
the eastward. Thev had seen strange tracks of
round snow-shoes and the smoke of distant
fires, and, abandoning everything, had fled for
their lives—burrowing at night under the snow;
supposing that either the Esquimaux or Copper
Indians had invaded their lands. The first idea
that occurred to us was, that it might be some
of Captain Back's party from Repulse Bay, who
had been overtaken by winter on the coast,
and were now wandering in quest of food and
shelter. This opinion was communicated to the
Indians, and three of the young men reluctantly
%m 210
consented to accompany me, on condition that
their families should remain behind till the danger was over. Three of our own people, with
dog-sledges, attended me, to bring relief to the
supposed sufferers, and we started the following
On the 9th we reached the bay, and made
our fire in a conspicuous situation, where it
would have been visible during the night from
a great distance. In such an open stormy cotfn-
try tracks are soon obliterated; but, when we
proceeded next day to make the circuit of the
northern part of the bay, we found on a low
point the remains of an old fire, and the encampment of a single person. We likewise discovered a cache of deer's meat, with several
strips of birch bark for kindling fire, and other
vestiges, which immediately proved that the
stranger must be a half-breed or Fort hunter,
and that, though he might have lost his way,
he was in no want of provisions. I concluded
it to be the expected bearer of our express
from Port Simpson—a Cree Indian in the Company's service, called Le Sourd; which would
account for the appearances that had terrified the timid natives. The latter, however
remained unconvinced, and, with the exaggeration  of  an  alarmed  fancy,  declared  that  they .
had seen a line of fires stretching along the
mountains towards the Coppermine River-^-here
only thirty miles distant. The whole day was
occupied in searching for further marks of the
stranger, to no purpose; from which I inferred
that he had retraced his steps southward. But,
in case he should return to the same place, we
erected marks to guide him to the Indian lodges,
not far removed from the borders of the lake.
This new branch of M'Tavish Bay is enclosed
by a range of barren rocky hills of considerable height—the favourite haunts of the shaggy
musk-ox. It becomes continually narrower till
near its northern termination, where it contracts
to the width of half a mile, and again expands
into a circular basin three miles in diameter,
which is the nearest approach of Great Bear
Lake to the Coppermine River, and is undoubtedly the part indicated by The Hook to Sir
John Franklin on that officer's first expedition-
The extensive peninsula comprehended between
Dease and M'Tavish bays, and terminating
in Cape M'Donell, is the hunting-ground from
whence we derived the greater portion of our
subsistence during a winter of nine months.
On the 29th of December, Le Sourd—the very
man who had caused the natives such an alarm—
arrived at  Fort   Confidence,  in   company  with
some Indians, carrying our long looked-for packet.
His comrade, Peter Taylor, had died on the
way in M'Tavish Bay of an old pulmonary
complaint, aggravated, no doubt, by the fatigue
of the journey; and he himself, having never
heard of the latter arm of the lake, had wandered about searching for the establishment,
and hunting reindeer, till he fortunately fell in
with a camp of our Indians as he was returning towards Fort Norman. He had started
from the latter place with his ill-fated companion, who was a relative of his own, in a small
canoe, and reached the rapids of Bear Lake
River, where they were set fast in October.
They then struck over land to the lake, and,
had fine travelling on the smooth ice, along its
southern and eastern shores, the centre of the
lake being still open. By the time they reached
M'Vicar Bay, Taylor complained of weakness;
upon which his friend, with considerate kindness, carried his provisions and spare clothing, and
rendered him every possible assistance. At last,
when he became unable to walk farther, Le Sourd
made a comfortable encampment, and nourished
the dying man with venison broth; and, when
he expired, carefully laid his body in a grave
dug by thawing the earth with fire. He even
placed, with Indian superstition, a valuable gun, PETER TAYLOR.
that the grateful sufferer had given him, beside
the remains of its deceased owner. Such generous and faithful conduct, would do honour to
human nature in its noblest state, and did not
go unrewarded by us. While we lamented the
loss of an active and trusty servant, it was consoling to know that his death was not occasioned by privation or unaccustomed fatigue, but by
the progress of an incurable disease, which our
care, had he reached the establishment, might
have alleviated, but could not have arrested.
The packet contained letters from Governor
Simpson, and from various private friends. The
following is an extract of the Governor's official
despatch, dated Norway House, 30th June, 1837.
" All we can now say in regard to the expedition is, that both the Government and the Company feel the most lively interest in its success-
In regard to supplies, you have a carte blanche;
our depots are open to your demands, and you
are authorised to call on the districts of Athabasca and Mackenzie's River for any facility or
assistance in men, goods, provisions, Indians,
craft, &c. &c, you may require. It rests with
you to apply for and employ those means as you
may find necessary; and we have no farther instructions to give, than to entreat you will use
your   best   endeavours to  accomplish the great
object iii view, by any means, or in any way,
you may determine upon. The season has hitherto been unusually cold. Even here we are now
rarely without fires in the sitting-rooms, and to
your mission I fear it is very unfavourable.
When you started from hence, it was expected
that the objects of the expedition could be completed in two years; but, should the unfavourable state of the season prevent your accomplishing the western survey this summer, you h$d
better make another attempt next year, and defer the eastern survey until the following, i. e.
take three summers instead of two. In short,
we are more anxious to accomplish this important and interesting object than I am well able
to describe, and are willing to incur any expense
or inconvenience to the service to that end."
A previous letter from London informed us of
Sir George Back's expedition to Wager Inlet,
or Repulse Bay, in the Terror bomb, with the
view of prosecuting the survey of the coast westward in boats; but that his operations were in
nowise to alter our plans. Indeed, it appeared
not unlikely that we might meet somewhere
about the mouth of Great Fish River, an event
which would materially contribute to the safety
of both parties. It was highly satisfactory to
reflect  that we  had  already  explored  the   un- " '       IWTi
known western coast, contrary to the expectation
of our most sanguine friends, since even the canoes from Canada had been stopped twenty days
by ice. Had we failed in our first attempt, and
come to winter at Fort Confidence, the wiiole
frozen extent of Great Bear Lake (which seldom breaks up before the 1st of August) would
have interposed between us and the navigable
waters of the Mackenzie.
Fishing Island, opposite to Fort Confidence, is
for the most part tolerably wooded. The land swells
into a diminutive hill, having an elevation of two
degrees, due south. Over this little hill the sun,
as I had previously calculated, did not rise for
forty-three days, from 30th November to 12th
January. The very children clapped their hands
for joy when the bright orb first flashed above
the trees; and though we did not, like the ancient Scandinavians of the Polar Circle, hold a
festival for his resurrection, our feelings were
perhaps no less joyful. To cheer us during this
long dark interval, the loveliest of planets,
Venus, appeared above our horizon in December,
and continued to shine upon our solitary dwelling with daily increasing altitude and lustre. I
afterwards repeatedly discovered both her and
Jupiter, with the naked eye, in presence of the
sun.     The  intense   cold  was   of   extraordinary
■" fi
duration. So early as the 11th of November, the
thermometer fell to 32° below zero. The average temperature of the latter half of December
was —33i|°, and that of all January — 30°.
The most intense cold was frequently accompanied by strong winds from the east and northeast, and both men and dogs were severely frostbitten while traversing the barren grounds for
food. Few of the animal creation remained around
us during this dreary period. An occasional track
of a wolf, wolverene, or marten was met with
in woody spots ; a single alpine hare was snared;
a very few brace of white ptarmigan were shot;
and in the barren grounds to the eastward I
procured a curious hawk-owl. On the southeast side of M'Tavish Bay the Indians found
the track of a stray moose, which they regarded
as an extraordinary occurrence, for that animal
loves the shelter of thick wroods. The only regular visitants at the house were the raven and
the whiskey-john (garrulus Canadensis). A considerable colony of mice hibernated in our
store, where they committed some depredations;
and a marmot was found frozen to death near
one of the fisheries. The white-fish, which were
of a tolerable size in the fall, were succeeded
in scanty numbers by a smaller and lighter-coloured species during the winter, when the fish FORT  CONFIDENCE.
retire to the depths of the lake. In the early
part of winter, and afterwards in the spring, we
took a very few trout of various sizes up to fifty
pounds' * weight, with lines set under ice latterly
seven feet thick. Back's grayling, methy, small
sucking-carp, and a casual pike, completed the
list of our finny captures; and a single fine in-
connu was caught in a net, June 1839. Throughout the winter there is a current running outwards, in the straits on either side of Fishing
Island. This current is reversed by strong westerly winds, (which usually send a few fish into
the nets,) though in what manner the waters of
the lake are affected under such a covering of
ice, it is difficult to conceive. Several currents
were also spoken of by the Indians as existing
in the narrow arms of M'Tavish Bay. These
must be independent of the tributary streams,
which, like Dease River,—the principal feeder,—
are all frozen to the bottom.f
On Christmas and New-Year's days we entertained our assembled people with a dance, fol-
* One of the largest, taken at Fort Confidence 2d May,
weighed forty-seven pounds, length four and a half feet, mid-
girth twenty-seven inches (Salmo namaycush).
t I had the curiosity, when the thermometer stood at —49°,
to cast a pistol-bullet of quicksilver, which at ten paces passed
through an inch plank, but flattened and broke against the
wall three or four paces beyond it.
'. K 218
lowed by a supper consisting of the best fare
we could command. By this time we had,
through our indefatigable exertions, accumulated
two or three weeks' provisions in advance, and no
scarcity was experienced during the remainder of
the season. The daily ration served out to each
man was increased from eight to ten, and to
some individuals twelve pounds of venison; or,
when they could be got, four or five white-fish
weighing from fifteen to twenty pounds. This
quantity of solid food, immoderate as it may appear, does not exceed the average standard of the
country; * and ought certainly to appease even
the inordinate appetite of a French Canadian.f
The Company's servants are not less well clothed
and paid than they are fed; they are treated by
* Mr. Dease assured me that under an ancient manager of
Athabasca, who passed for a severe economist, and whose
assistant he was at the time, the men succeeded in obtaining
the exorbitant daily allowance of fourteen pounds, or one stone,
of moose or buffalo meat!
f Yet was there one of them who complained he had not
enough, and did not scruple to help himself to an additional
supply whenever the opportunity offered: it would have taken
twenty pounds of animal food daily to satisfy him. This man,
Framond, being in other respects a very indifferent servant,
was discharged the following year; and his place supplied
from Mackenzie River by a young Maskegon, or Swampy
Cree Indian, in the service, educated at Red River, and named
James Hope, who was engaged by us at the same annual wages
as our other middlemen, viz. £40 sterling. FORT CONFIDENCE.
their immediate masters with a familiar kindness surpassing what I have ever seen elsewhere,
even in the United States; and their whole condition affords the strongest possible contrast to
the wretched situation of the Russian M Pro-
miischleniks," as described by Langsdorff. The
nature of the climate and long journeys, it is
true, demand hard labour at times; but it is labour voluntarily endured, and even physically less
severe than the compulsory tracking on the rivers
of Russia and China: while a great part of the
year is passed in comparative idleness; and, if
the voyageur finds the fatigues and hardships too
great, it rests with himself to be released from
them at the close of his three years' contract.
I may here introduce a curious fact, that this
class of men are found to remain longest in the
poorer and colder districts; and that no sooner
have they got into the best situations, than they
become restless and desirous of change! It is,
perhaps, a kindred feeling that urges the American backwoodsman, when he has cleared a farm
and made himself comfortable, to sell his improvements, shoulder his axe, and march forward
into the wilderness in search of possessions yet
more remote. Now that we were fairly established, divine service was duly performed on
Sundays, at which both Protestants and Catholics
m 1 I
attended.    Our Canadians, like their countrymen
in general, were deplorably ignorant; the Highlanders and Orkneymen, on the contrary,  could
both read and write, and the contents of the little
library we  had provided were in great request
among  them  through the   long  winter nights.
During the summer voyage we had laboured successfully to repress the practice of swearing, so
common among voyageurs of every denomination.
The natives now began to come in more frequently, occasionally aiding  our  people in  the
laborious transport of the meat.     To some we
lent guns; all were plentifully supplied with ammunition ; and many of the more industrious were
furnished with blankets, shirts, and cloth dresses,
instead of their own filthy deer-skins.    Nothing
was easier than for an active hunter to provide
himself and family  with these comforts; as he
received, exclusive of all gratuities, a good price
for his meat, which was usually delivered to us
several   days' journey   from   the  establishment.
These Indians always   experience a kind reception from us.    They sit round the fire while we
are partaking of our morning and evening meals
— in   other  words,  breakfast   and   supper;   for
dinner, that " word of power1' in other climes,
was unknown at Fort Confidence.*    When we
* At least as far as Mr. Dease and myself were concerned;
for the men and families messed as often as they thought proper,
•5 tSfi*
have eaten, we present them with the remains
of our repast, which is, indeed, the common custom of the north. After meals w7e occupy the same
fireside, chatting or smoking together; at night
they sleep in our hall, and on winter journeys and
hunting excursions side by side with us in the
same encampment. Every circumstance indicates
a kindly familiar intercourse; the natural result
of which is, that the Indians are attached to the
Company's officers, whom in common discourse
they style their " fathers" and their " brothers."
In our particular case I must frankly confess my
surprise at the facility with which we acquired
their confidence, for only in 1835 a cruel and
unparalleled injury had been inflicted upon them
by some half-breeds who disgraced the service.
Three of these wretches (two of them Red River
Catholics, the third a countryman of the victims,) sought a quarrel with a party of unfortunate Hare Indians about one of their women,
whom they carried off; and attacking them unawares, after partaking of their hospitality, brutally massacred eleven persons of both sexes. The
criminals were taken out for trial to Canada, where
the ringleader, Cadien, escaped with the mild
sentence of banishment, and his accomplices were
acquitted !    It is to be hoped that the Company
and were, as usual, much more difficult to please than their
i w
will persevere in their resolution to send no more
of this caste to Mackenzie River.
It has, I understand, been sagely proposed by
certain theorists to ameliorate the condition of
the northern tribes by transforming a race of
hunters into a pastoral people, through the domestication of reindeer. But the character of
the aborigines would alone present an insuperable obstacle to the experiment. They entertain
a rooted superstition that the taming any of the
wild reindeer of their country would banish the
whole race for ever from their lands. It was
for this reason that, in 1817, Mr. Dease could
not succeed in obtaining a couple of fawns from
the Copper Indians at Great Slave Lake; nor
were our applications at Fort Confidence more
effectual. I was not sorry for it, as the poor
animals could not long have been preserved from
the fangs of the dogs—those indispensable assistants to white or red men.* Even were this prejudice overcome, the Indians would immediately
and naturally inquire, " Why should we be bound
like slaves to follow the motions of a band of
tame   animals,   when   our   woods   and   barren
In May 1839 our dogs drove off a pair of wolves that
passed the house in hot pursuit of a large deer; took up
the chase themselves; ran down, strangled, and devoured the
prey on the ice a few miles to the westward. FORT CONFIDENCE.
grounds afford us moose, red-deer, buffalo, carri-
boo, and musk cattle; when our lakes and rivers
supply us with fish, for the mere trouble of killing them ?"
On the 1st of February, two servants and two
Indians were despatched to Fort Simpson with
our spring packet, containing letters, charts, &c.
They were directed to take the shortest route,
by M'Tavish and M'Vicar bays, and from thence
to follow a chain of minor lakes, leading through
the woody country to the southward, known to
the Indians. From Fort Simpson they were instructed to return as soon possible, with dogs
and sledges, carrying a small supply of moose-
skins, and the irons for sledge-runners, required
to transport our boats over snow and ice to the
Coppermine River. At the same time we wrote
to Governor Simpson, stating the probability of
our having to employ two summers in exploring
the coast eastward of Bathurst's Inlet. To provide for a prolonged residence within the Polar
Circle, we addressed the gentlemen in charge
of Athabasca and Mackenzie River, requesting
an additional supply of pemican, dressed leather,
dogs, birchwood for sledges, ammunition, and tobacco,—articles essential to our subsistence; as
for everything else, we resolved to live like the
natives.    The cold continued excessive, with fre-
quent easterly gales, even when the thermometer
stood below —50°; a circumstance that fearfully
distinguishes our winter-quarters from those of
former expeditions. West and even north-west
winds commonly brought on snow and less
severe weather. This is at variance with what
obtains over a considerable part of North America, but may be accounted for by the situation
of the place, in the margin of the woods close to
the " barren lands." The appellation of Barrens,
or Barren Lands, is given to the whole northeast angle of the continent from the 60th pa^
rallel of latitude, because that extensive region
is destitute of wood. The winds that sweep over
it. are therefore more intensely cold than those"
which traverse the well-wooded country through
which Mackenzie River flows. While engaged
at various times during this winter in hunting
excursions with Indians to the eastward, and in
surveying the different routes to the Coppermine River, I could not help remarking the increase in the severity of the cold, and the frequency of storms, when we got out into the hilly
" barren lands." The lakes and rivers are there
much earlier frozen, and it will be found that
they also break up at a later period than those
under the same parallel to the westward. The
average depth.of snow was about three feet, but FORT CONFIDENCE.
enormous drift-banks lay in the hollows of the
Ritch was sent in quest of wood for new oars,
and for planks to repair the sea-boats; but, after
a search resumed several days in different directions, he found only a few pieces fit for the
former purpose, none for the latter. I subsequently fell in with some straight tall trees on
the south branch of Dease River. The wood
around Fort Confidence is stunted, knotty, and
twisted into all manner of shapes—the deformed
growth of frozen ages. From the eastern side
of M'Tavish Bay, a distance of seventy miles,
a quantity of dwarf birch was procured, for additional boat-timbers, snow-shoe frames, and axe
March was scarcely less severe than February,
the mean temperature of the whole month being
20° below zero.
On the 11th, at 5 a.m., occurred the greatest
degree of cold registered during the winter. A
spirit thermometer by Dollond (which shewed
the highest temperature of any at the place, and
was that always employed,) stood at 60° below
zero; and another, of older date, brought from
Fort Chipewyan, at —66°. This intense cold
was accompanied by a fresh westerly breeze,
which several of our people  had  to  face  that
>r Wf
morning, returning with meat from M'Tavish
Bay. Spite of their deer-skin robes and Capots,
their faces bore palpable marks of the weather;
and, when they reached the house, not a man
was able to unlash his sledge till he had first
thoroughly warmed his shivering frame.
The winds were no less constant and piercing
than during the preceding months, but blew
more frequently from the westward. In the
early part of the month our last fishery on the
south side of the island entirely failed; and, after
supplying for a time with meat-rations the men
who were stationed there, they were withdrawn,
and appointed to other duties. Lines were re-set
in the strait, but their produce did not even repay
the baits employed, and they were again taken
up. Fortunately our Chipewyan hunters and the
native Indians vied with each other in amassing
reindeer and musk-ox flesh; and our six sledges
of dogs, with each a driver, were almost continually employed, bringing to Fort Confidence
the means of existence. Le Babillard, an Indian
frequently mentioned in the narrative of Franklin's, last expedition, now approached with his
party from the southward, and opened a communication with us. About the same time two
young Indians arrived with news from Forts
Norman and Good Hope.    They were full of a FORT  CONFIDENCE.
marvellous report, current among the natives, of
an approaching change in the order of nature.
Among other prodigies, a race of men had sprung
up from the earth whose eyes and mouths were
placed in their breasts. These monsters practised an unbounded hospitality, having always
on the fire a gigantic copper cauldron, containing the carcases of five moosedeer! and the
appropriate scene of this wild tale was the Horn
Mountains, on the west side of Great Slave
Lake. The whole story afterwards turned out
to have originated in a dream.
On the 25th the people despatched with our
February express returned from Fort Simpson,
having performed the journey in nineteen days.
They brought us our letters from home, together
with intelligence of the demise of his Majesty
William the Fourth, and the accession of our
gracious sovereign Queen Victoria; which news
had reached the Hudson's Bay ships before they
sailed from the Hebrides, in July. We at the
same time received a distressing account of the?
fatal ravages of the small-pox among the Assinf-
boines of the Saskatchewan. Thirty men of that
tribe had crossed the plains to the banks of the
Missouri in the summer of 1837, with the view
of stealing horses. They found.{the unfortunate
natives of the Missouri   dying by hundreds of
Q   2 r
\l ■
that terrible disease, which was introduced by an
American steamboat, and, in the mad hope of
assuaging the fever, casting themselves into the
deadly stream. Under such circumstances they
had no difficulty in making themselves masters of
one hundred and sixty horses, and with this rich
booty set out for their own camp. But the distemper had communicated itself to them, and ere
long broke out on the way. Two-thirds of the
robbers perished, and the survivors were obliged
to abandon their ill-gotten spoil. The Company's
people at Carlton had been all vaccinated; yet
the contagion was communicated from the Assiniboine camp, and two of the servants fell victims
to its malignity. It is with sincere pleasure
I add, that the humane precautions taken by
Chief Factor Rowand, and the other gentlemen
in the Saskatchewan, to vaccinate the Crees,
saved the whole of that valuable tribe from the
disastrous consequences of the malady, which
happily did not penetrate farther north. We
afterwards learned that it spread throughout the
Plain tribes along the American lines to the
Rocky Mountains; that it broke out on the
north-west coast, and committed dreadful havoc
among the sanguinary tribes from Vancouver
Island northward, and at the Russian settlements.
Of the Mandans of the Missouri it was said that FORT CONFIDENCE.
only twelve remained, and that a party of Sioux
were on their way to extinguish this feeble remnant of a once powerful tribe. So much for the
generosity of savage warfare !
On the 27th I set out, with two men and four
dogs, to explore the barren grounds stretching
from Dease River to the Coppermine, and to
determine the most practicable route for the
transport of our boats, baggage, and provisions.
For three days we ascended Dease River, in
a north-easterly direction, carefully tracing its
course, Which is very crooked. The ice-marks
visible upon the trees and banks indicated the
height of the water when liberated in the spring,
but at this period wTe found it everywhere frozen
to the bottom. The woods grew thinner and
more stunted as we advanced; and on the third
evening we encamped in a small cluster of dwarf
spruces, barely sufficient, in number, to yield us
firing, and brush for our beds. In the night a
gale sprang up from the north-east, with a tremendous storm of snow-drift, which almost buried
us alive, as huddled together with our dogs we
lay exposed to the fury of the tempest. It continued unmitigated throughout the following day,
and we sought a miserable screen behind our
sledges, placed on edge in the deep snow. To
the Arctic traveller it appears almost incredible.
how people perish, under similar circumstances,
in the climate of Britain! The position of
this encampment is in lat. 67° 15' N., long.
117° 50' W. J^   -|jt,-   -    < •
On the 31st the wind was still strong and
penetrating; but, the snow having ceased, we
were glad to continue our journey. As we were
now about five miles to the northward of the
point where Dr. Richardson and party, in August
1826, crossed a small stream, which I supposed
our boats might descend in June to the Coppermine River, I changed our course to east-southeast, with the hope of falling upon it in the evening. The difficulties of the route prevented this;
but, from the top of one of the barren, rugged
hills among which we were travelling, I espied a
valley to the northward, containing several lakes,
and, what was of infinitely more consequence to
us, a wood to encamp in. In this oasis we were
detained another day by a heavy fall of snow.
The night was clear and very cold; and next
morning, 2nd April, we had to face a severe
easterly wind. We proceeded through a sort of
pass among the hills, where we witnessed a whirlwind, which we all, at the first distant view,
exclaimed to be the smoke of a large fire. As
we passed near it, our respiration was almost suspended by the rapid motion of the air and the AND SURVEYS.
excessive cold. A high and steep descent
brought us suddenly upon the banks of the
•streamlet we sought, where a solitary cluster of
trees doubtfully indicated its existence. Here
we breakfasted, and I obtained the lat. 67° IV 17"
N., long. 117° 5' W., variation 49° 30' E * Starting again we travelled sixteen miles, partly along
the scarcely distinguishable streamlet, partly on
the neighbouring hills, and at 7 in the evening
reached some woods, scarcely taller than a man,
but the first we had seen since noon. Immediately above this spot the stream expanded into
a lake, by the junction of a branch from the northward ; and was named Kendall River, in compliment to Lieut. Kendall of the former expedition.
Parhelia were constant almost all day, and frequently appeared during this journey. The succeeding day was fine; and we traced the stream,
now somewhat increased in size, but, like Dease
River,  frozen to  the bottom, for fifteen miles,
* A stranger would have been sorely puzzled to know
whether he was about to descend or ascend the brook. The
following was our method of ascertaining this important point:
Through the snow, which almost choked up the valley, a few
willow tops protruded here and there. To two or three of
these were attached little balls of roots and grass, that had
been carried down by the high water of the preceding spring.
These adhering to the lower side of the twig, proved that our
faces were turned down the stream. 232
when it opened upon the Coppermine through
a narrow gorge of perpendicular rocks. The
noble view of the river, with its frozen windings
through that wild waste of snows and mountains,
repaid our fatigue; and we proudly drank of its
melted ice, within fifty miles of the northern sea.
I procured observations, which place the confluence of the tributary stream in lat. 67° 7' \" N.,
long. 116° 2F 15" W., variation 48° E. The
temperature at Fort Confidence was —20°; here
it might be j—25° or —30°. We returned to
sleep at our encampment of the preceding night.
Some white partridges were shot in the course of
the day; but the deer kept higher up on the hillsides, where, the \ snow being carried off by the
winds, they find least difficulty in getting at the
moss—their favourite food.
On the 4th we again breakfasted at the place
where we had first fallen on the stream. Here
our dogs luckily found the half-devoured carcase
of a deer, which had been driven over the cliffs
by wolves, four of which ravenous animals were
scared from their feast by our approach. This
was a most acceptable windfall, as our provisions
were at a very low ebb. Conjecturing that the
brook, by a circuit to the southward, might
issue from the lakes where we were stopped
on  the   1st,  (which  it  approaches,   but   which AND  SURVEYS.
afterwards proved to be the source of a branch
of Dease River,) I proceeded to ascend it for
six miles farther, in a south-westerly direction,
and encamped in the last and only clump of
pines visible from the summit of a hill. The
following day was extremely cold, enhanced by a
piercing head wind, which assailed us as we traversed a bleak, elevated region. I prosecuted
the ascent of the brook for another league, in a
southerly direction, till it became lost among
sharp rocks and frowning precipices. Leaving
these on bur left, we climbed a wild range of
hills; and travelling over their uneven summits,
west-south-west, for thirty miles, the snow cast
up into waves by the vehemence of the winds,
we reached at a late hour the welcome shelter
of the woods, on the south branch of Dease
River. The descent from the mountains to the
river was animated by numerous herds of reindeer,
and we had no small trouble in curbing the eager
spirit of our dogs.
Next morning, the 6th, the temperature was
—31°, with a sharp easterly wind: we reached
the house about 7 p.m. There I found three
Indians, who offered to conduct us by a longer
but more level route than any we had traversed.
I accordingly mounted my snow-shoes again on
the 9th, at  the  head   of six  dog-sledges,  with
:a||j   H
each a driver; two extra men to remain at the
station till the passage of the light boats in June,
and the Indians to act as hunters there during
the interval. Having already thoroughly examined the river, I preferred striking out into
the plains on its northern side; these we generally followed, crossing the river for the last time,
in lat. 67° 22' 14" N., long. 117° 42' 45" W., at
a little lake a few miles from its source. From
thence a height of land of six miles, north-northeast, led to a narrow chain of lakes, that wind
for upwards of thirty miles in a south-easterly
direction through a dismally barren, rocky
country, producing not a tree or shrub, and
seemingly unfrequented by any living creature.
During the preceding day's march musk-cattle
were very numerous, and we succeeded in shooting three as they filed off to the high grounds.
We saw no reindeer; the depth of snow, which
averaged not less than three feet, hard packed
in the plains, preventing them from frequenting
this region, of which the shaggy musk-bull and
white wrolf appeared to maintain exclusive possession. The Dismal Lakes, as I knew from
their trending, give rise to that northern branch
of the stream noticed by me on the evening of
the 2nd ; and we encamped at the very spot
which I  then marked as the  most  proper for AND  SURVEYS.
forwarding our provisions and baggage to, over
the snow, though my new companions, instead of
a river, could perceive only " a cairn of stones."
The portion we had brought with us, amounting
to about a third of the whole quantity, I now
consigned to the two men appointed to guard it.
They were furnished with leather lodges as a
defence against the cold, which was still very
great; the thermometer in the night frequently
falling below —30°, accompanied by violent
winds. Next morning we set out on our return.
The whole journey occupied seven days; viz. four
going laden, and three returning light, the distance being ninety-five statute miles. By often
repeated trials we had found the climate of the
barren lands, even a single day's march eastward
of Fort Confidence, far more severe than at that
place, which lies low and comparatively sheltered.
On the present occasion two of our best dogs got
frozen. The hard snow was extremely galling to
the feet, and several of the party suffered from
snow-blindness. We saved our people from that
painful evil for the rest of the season by constructing short tubes of wood and bark, covered
at the outer end with green gauze, and worn as
shades. The Indians, unlike the Esquimaux, are
too stupid to contrive any precaution against
ophthalmia;  almost every one who arrived was
sMm Mr
afflicted with it; but, by dropping laudanum in
their eyes, in two or three days a cure was always
One of our young Chipewyans had the misfortune to lose the tip of a finger from the
bursting of his gun, in consequence of the ball
running forward. Several guns burst in the chase
from the same cause, but happily no other personal accident ensued. The increase of daylight
was strikingly rapid, and by the middle of tie
month the twilight was perceptible at midnight.
The weather, however, continued very severe;
the thermometer, so late as the 20th of the
month, shewing 26° below zero. The Indians
left with the men at the Coppermine station
were consequently unable to hunt upon the mountains, and the most active of them got badly
frozen in the leg.
On the 24th, the thermometer rose at noon
to the freezing point, for the first time since
the 17th of October, a period of six months
and a week! The mean temperature for the
whole of that long and dismal interval is 14°
below zero, or 46°* of frost. Our people being
all assembled, we gave them a dance in celebration of St. George's day, and before despatching our last packet to Mackenzie River.
* By the old Atha. thermometer, 18° or 50° of frost. AND  SURVEYS,
Among the Indians who came in about the close
of the month, was a family, the youngest member of which, a boy scarcely two years old, and
still unweaned, walked on snow-shoes} I had
the curiosity to measure them, and found their
dimensions exactly two feet in length, including
the curved point, by six inches at the broadest
part. The little urchin was so fond of these
painful appendages, that he hugged them as a
plaything, and bawled lustily when his mother
attempted to take them from him.
Now that the constant daylight renders the
aurora borealis no longer visible, I shall make
one or two general remarks regarding it. Its
most common appearance at Fort Confidence is
an arch with little motion, passing through the
zenith, and spanning the heavens from northwest to south-east. Now, since the variation of
the compass is here little more than four points
easterly, it follows that there is a tendency in
this remarkable phenomenon to dispose itself at
right angles to the magnetic meridian. In the
depth of winter, thin white clouds, seen during
the short imperfect daylight, in many instances
proved to be the aurora, which also not un-
frequently appeared through a hazy sky. Its
displays were seldom very brilliant, and it hardly
ever exhibited those vivid prismatic tints which
i 238
I had often admired in lower latitudes. The
solar radiation during this month was very powerful, the universal covering of snow strongly reflecting the sunshine. Two of Dollond's thermometers, having respectively a northern and
southern aspect, both freely exposed to the wind,
and neither blackened, differed at mid-day from
20° to 40°. In the month of March, on three
occasions, the difference exceeded 40°; whereas
in January, before the re-appearance of the sun*,
the southern thermometer sometimes stood lowest, and never shewed an excess of more than four
degrees. Not until April did we enjoy a view of
the genuine blue sky, for throughout the colder
months the lower region of the atmosphere is
suffused with icy spiculae—the offspring of intense congelation—which dim the splendour of
the firmament. To the same cause may be
referred the frequency of mock suns and halos,
which were often seen hanging over the opposite island, apparently not a mile distant.
The month of May commenced with the temperature at zero. It did not again fall below
that point, but froze sharply almost every night,
and during many of the days. The weather generally was cold and boisterous, and the mean
temperature of the month was 30°. The easterly
winds  were  again  predominant.    I was  absent AND  SURVEYS.
from the establishment, with two men, for the
first twelve days of the month, on a survey of
that arm of the lake which I discovered and
partially examined in December. It is bounded
on the eastern side by a continuation of the
primitive rocky range of hills seen by Dr. Richardson. These attain an elevation of six or
eight hundred feet, where M'Tavish Bay approaches closest to the Coppermine River, in
lat. 66° 40' N., long. 117° 20' W. This terminating point being nearer the river, by at
least one half, than Fort Confidence, it was
my intention to examine the interjacent country | but, upon proceeding some distance, it became so rugged and mountainous as to be impracticable with dogs and sledges, far less with
boats.* Thus concluded my winter excursions
on Great Bear Lake and the barren lands, exceeding in all a thousand miles.
On the 13th of May I laid aside my snow-
shoes ; but our last Indian couriers to Fort Simpson started on the 15th with these necessary
appendages, which continued in use by the
natives during the remainder of the month. I
had  formerly  walked  in  the   depth  of winter
* The distance we travelled, returning by Cape M'Donell,
was three hundred statute miles, which will give some idea of
the magnitude and grandeur of our inland sea.
from York Factory on Hudson's Bay to Red River,
and, again, from Red River to Athabasca,—a
distance little short of two thousand miles,—
wearing only an ordinary cloth capot, and have
accomplished fifty miles in a day. Here, however, myself and my companions soon found that
the wanderer within the unsheltered precincts
of the Polar Circle must be far otherwise provided. Accordingly, on our distant excursions,
we usually assumed capots of dressed moose-skm,
impervious to the wind, or of reindeer hide
with the hairy side outwards, and were provided with robes of the latter light and warm
material for a covering at night, when, to increase the supply of animal heat, our dogs couched close around us. Yet in a stormy, barren,
mountainous country, where, in many parts, a
whole day's journey intervenes between one miserable clump of pines and the next, we were
often exposed to suffering, and even danger, from
the cold ; and several of our dogs were at various
times frozen to death.
In the early part of May Fort Confidence was
visited by a party of twenty-seven Hare Indians
from Smith Bay, with a small but acceptable
supply of provisions, for which they were liberally recompensed. Our long-expected winter
packet from the southern parts of the country FORT CONFIDENCE.
was brought, on the 9th, by Indians, via, Marten
Lake. Not the least valued part of its contents was a file of that excellent paper the
New York Albion, with some numbers of the
London Times, sent us by our worthy friend
Chief Factor Christie. Those only who are cut
off from the rest of the world can fully appreciate such marks of attention.
On the 15th a solitary goose, the first harbinger of spring, flew over the house; followed,
two days after, by some Canada, Hutchin's, and
snow geese. A few laughing geese, swans, and
northern divers made their appearance somewhat later; also ducks of the smaller species.
But the whole number of fowl that passed was
inconsiderable, more being shot at Athabasca
in one day than wc procured altogether.
On the 18th a man and boy arrived from a
camp of strange Hare Indians, whom they had
quitted to the westward in a starving condition.
We immediately sent them a quantity of pounded
meat, which was the means of saving their lives;
and on the 27th the remainder of the party,
twenty-two in number, chiefly old men, women,
and children, came to the establishment. They
darted like vultures upon a kettle of meat
which was prepared in the hall; but I must
do  them the justice to say, that,  despite their
hunger, they made a fair distribution of the
food, which is more, I suspect, than Europeans
similarly circumstanced would have done. An
old man, a woman, and two children had died
in the course of the winter; and one blind old
man, brought to the house, was hauled on a
sledge, or led with a string, and sometimes carried by his wife and daughter. The party had
separated from the rest of the tribe; and the
number of men capable of hunting being dis-
proportionally small, caused the misery that we
had the satisfaction to relieve. Our own stock
of food was meanwhile fast wasting away; for
Dog-ribs, Hare Indians, and Chipewyans had now
all congregated around us, and, instead of bringing us assistance, many of them drew rations
from our store. Besides such occasional assistance, we constantly had some old or helpless
persons left upon our hands.
No means were neglected to procure subsistence for ourselves and the natives. Nets were
set in Dease River, but produced next to nothing;
ammunition was liberally distributed, and, towards the end of the month, a few straggling
deer were killed. About the same period the
rapids in the lower part of the river broke up;
and our sea-boats, which had been thoroughly
repaired and  strengthened,  were  dragged  over
the ice to itsj mouth, to be in readiness for the
moment that the ascent of the stream should
become practicable. A messenger having arrived from a lake about a day's journey to the
northward, reporting an abundant fishery under
the ice, we despatched the whole of the lately-
starving Hare Indians thither. The Dog-ribs
and our Chipewyan hunters at the same time
prepared to separate and disperse themselves for
the summer over the best hunting-grounds to
the eastward. Their departure in the beginning
of June was a twofold relief to us, as we had
some preparations to make for our approaching
voyage. I must not close this part of the narrative without bestowing a just encomium on the
generally docile character of the natives of Great
Bear Lake. They soon become attached to white
men, and are fond of imitating their manners.
In our little hall I have repeatedly seen the
youngsters, who were most about us, get up
from their chairs, and politely hand them to any
of our people who happened to enter; some of
them even learned to take off their caps in the
house, and to wash instead of greasing their
faces. Their indulgent treatment of their women (who indeed possess the mastery) was noticed by Sir John Franklin; I wish I could speak
as favourably of their honesty and veracity.
The position of Fort Confidence, as determined
by a variety of observations, is in lat. 66° 53' 36"
N.; long. 118° 48' 45" W. The magnetic variation, in October 1837, was 48° 30' E.; the dip of
the needle (in June 1839), 84° 48' N.
—sj 245
Ascent of Dease River.—Passage of the Dismal Lakes on
the Ice.—Dangerous Descent of the Coppermine.—Flight
of the Esquimaux.
Having, after repeated missions up Dease
River, ascertained, on the 6th of June, that the
first flush of water had passed off, and the ice
ceased descending, we immediately put the party
in motion. Leaving Ritch and two men at Fort
Confidence, we set out with only four men per
boat, two having (as already mentioned) been
stationed at Kendall River in charge of the
provisions for the coasting. voyage. Our very
limited personal baggage, provisions for the journey to the Coppermine, the canvass canoes, and
snow-shoes for the whole party in case of being
surprised by winter on our return, were carried
over the ice to the mouth of the river, where
we encamped. In that sheltered spot the first
signs of vegetation had appeared, and the catkins of the willow were fully an inch long.    On em
' %
the lake, the ice was still from four to five
feet thick.
In the forenoon of the 7th was commenced
the ascent of Dease River; the weather clear,
but cold. The navigation proved a succession
of rapids; and the banks, obstructed by willows
and other trees, rendered the tracking very laborious. We encamped at a place where the
stream has forced its way through a precipitous
chasm, leaving a detached rock in the midst, to
which our Orkney-men gave the name of I The
Old Man of Hoy." Several large hawks and a
dimerous r<3bl6ny of swallows occupied the cliffs.
The latter birds we afterwards *found in a similar situation at the mouth of Kendall fever.
As they are never seen at Fort Confidence, it
is probable that, in their passage northward, they
avoid the frozen expanse of Great Bear Lake
altogether, and make ^straight for their laccustomed rocky haunts.
8th.—The ftltigue of ascending thefrWpifls, oft8n
Wa&st-^ieep in the water, was aggravated by a
h&fd 'frost and a piercing head wind. •J^slwe advanced, however, we Ifbhnd a good deal of still
water, Where the oars could be useo". Enormous
drifts of show clung to the banks. In one place
a fallen fragment had grounfletl in midi-§tream,
ftfAniri^ a temporary islet, upon which ! stood &n ASCENT OF DEASE RIVER.
Indian mark, directing us to the carcases of
two deer placed in a tree. As we approached
the spot, another huge mass of snow tumbled
down, and well-nigh put an end to all our discoveries. At 3 p. m. a shout issued from among
the trees on the south side of the river; and a
young Indian soon came forth, breathless with
running, to inform us that the camp was situated
some distance off, at the foot of a conspicuous
hill. Ordering our people to put up for the
night, we told the youth to guide us to it; which
he did, through bushes, and swamps newly coated
with ice. At the camp we found a scene of
savage feasting, for the hunters had slaughtered
a number of muskr-cattle. These animals descend
from the barren mountains at this period, and
resort for a while to the borders of the woods,
in order, it is said, to rub off their cumbersome
winter coat of hair. The natives were here
snugly lodged in leather tents, instead of their
usual open huts of branches. It was pleasing
to think that the comfort and abundance they
enjoyed were in a great measure our own work,
and the many smiling faces that crowded round
us evinced their affectionate regard. After partaking the hospitality of the tents, we selected
six young men to assist our feeble crews up
the remainder of the river, and across the port- ASCENT OF DEASE RIVER.
age to the Dismal Lakes; and, with these auxiliaries, we returned to the boats at a late hour.
In the course of this day we shot several Canada
geese, and found some of their eggs among the
rocks: they had for some time deserted Great
Bear Lake. The noisy pintailed and black diving-ducks were pretty numerous on the river, as
were the willow grouse in the bordering woods.
The latter were now pairing; and the male, with
his white plumage and rich brown-coloured neck,
looked extremely handsome, as, perched on the
top of a tree, he crowed and called to his mate.
The marks of vegetation observed at the mouth
of the river had disappeared; the small lakes
were everywhere frozen; snow still lay in the
woods, and clothed the hill-sides.
On the 9th, after passing the south* branch of
the river, which falls in from the mountains in
lat. 67° V N., long. 118° 12' W., we ascended
during the rest of the day about fifteen, small
rapids, though the Indians had assured us that
the whole was still water. The intervals between
them are, however, smooth and deep; the stream
flowing through a sandy plain thinly skirted
with wood, and bounded by a range of snow-clad
hills on either hand. Our young savages very
willingly received civilized names, (John, Louis,
Pierre, Michel, Hunter, and Stranger,) but it was ASCENT  OF  DEASE  RIVER.
a less easy matter to teach them to keep time
with the oar. Many deer were seen, and one
small herd was browsing so near the bank that
the Indians gave them chase; but, the foolish
fellows having in their hurry slipped in balls
over charges of shot, two of their guns burst,
and one of them narrowly escaped a shattered
hand. The weather was dark and cold, and the
water had fallen four or five feet from the ice-
marks. In arriving at a rapid much stronger
than the rest, one of the boats sustained some
damage from the sharp stones: it was repaired
in the course of the night.
10th.—Marmot Rapid, so called from the number of those little animals' burrows in the neighbourhood, occupied us some time this morning,
and there we^e several shallows between it and
my tempestuous encampment of 29th March.
When we halted, soon after, for breakfast, our
quick-sighted hunters espied a musk-bull feeding at some distance among the willows. After
they had fired several shots at him ineffectually,
he took the direction of the boats; but, stumbling
into a deep creek, swam out to the river, where
he was wounded in the act of crossing. The
animal instantly turned about and endeavoured
to climb the bank where we stood, his eyes
darting fire, and his nostrils distended with pain 250
and rage; but he soon fell pierced with bullets.
We found his flesh very good. A pair of large
white wolves were prowling about the river;
and the ravages of the barren-ground bear (ursus
arctos) were observed in several places. Beyond this the stream divides into four branches,
of which we chose the largest, flowing from the
northward through a sterile waste. It is a mere
sandy rivulet; in some places a fathom deep, in
others not a foot. At length angular granite
rocks began to project from the bottom; and
at 8 p.m. we encamped at the foot of a succession of stony rapids.
All next day we were detained by a storm
of wind, snow, and rain. I noticed the first
moss in flower, its lowly blossoms flourishing
unharmed amidst the war of the elements. The
few dwarf withered spruGes within reach of our
encampment were expended in firing.
In the forenoon of the 12th the storm abated,
and we resumed our route. In ten hours we advanced six miles, nearly half of whidh was portage-
work, with a fine level reindeer path following
the windings of the brook. This brought us
to the little lake which I had in the winter
fixed upon for the commencement of the portage across the height of land. Up to this
point, which is not far from its source, Dease ASCENT OF DEASE RIVER.
River, including all its windings, measures about
seventy miles, and, considering its small size,
certainly exceeded our expectations, though it
is only in the month of June that it is navigable
any distance even for small canoes.
*f he next three days proved fine, and the portage, which is six miles in length, was nearly
surmounted. The boats were dragged over, one
ttt a time, by all hands, and the baggage deposited half-way. We pitched our tents on the
sMe of one of the conical shingle hills that form
the approach to the Dismal Lakes. On the
banks of the little lake already mentioned I
chanced to find <a white wolf's den,, containing
four fine brindled pups. I immediately took
possession of the prize, and carried them on my
back across the portage, intending to send them
to Fort Confidence by the Indians, and to train
them to the sledge. Their dam, attracted by
their cries, rushed to the rescue, and lost her
life; the more cowardly male contented himself
with howling all night on an adjoining eminence.
The 16th brought a tempest of wind and snow
from the north-east, which rendered our exposed
position intolerable. My young pets were peculiarly sensitive to the cold; and, though I care-
ftilly wrapped them up in my cloak, nothing less
V 252
would serve them than to crawl under the
blankets and huddle beside me. They were
coaxing little creatures, and, having prodigious
appetites, I found no difficulty in inducing them
to change their diet.
On the 17th the ground was hard frozen; but,
the wind decreasing in the afternoon, we carried forward our baggage to the Dismal Lakes,
where the ice lay as solid as in mid-winter, and
the hills glistened with snow. A branch of the
Copper Mountains stretches along the northern
side of these lakes, out of view, except at the
lower part near Kendall River, where the natives
report having found large masses of metal. Some
metalliferous stones were picked up here, but
we had no leisure to prosecute our researches
At 4 o'clock next morning, having fixed the
boats firmly upon stout iron-shod sledges brought
with us for the purpose, and placed in them the
oars and baggage, we hoisted the sails to a fair
wind, and, placing the crews at the drag-ropes,
set out at the rate of two knots an hour over
the ice, colours flying. This extraordinary spectacle will long be a subject of tradition among
the natives. The snow still adhering to the surface of the lake much impeded our progress,
but could not damp the ardour which our strange ON THE ICE.
and successful march excited. With the aid of
the breeze we advanced fifteen miles, nearly half
the length of this chain of lakes, and encamped
in a little bay sheltered by an island, where we
collected willows enough to cook our supper.
The weather continued very cold. Stones, placed
like Esquimaux marks, appeared on the summits
of the hills, and a human skeleton was found
between two rocks.
On the 19th, at 3 a.m., we were again on the
lake, crossing on snow-shoes the deep and partially thawed snow-banks that lined the shore.
The wind was adverse, and the ice rough, but
now almost bare. In two open sandy narrows,
between the lakes, the boats were taken off the
runners, and committed to the water; and after
traversing the last lake, three miles long, they
were finally launched into their own element.
A single bend of the stream brought us, at
3 p.m., to our provision station, where we were
delighted to find Flett and Morrison safe and
well. Their hunters had latterly been tolerably
successful in the chase; and two of these active
fellows consented at once to accompany us on
our voyage, notwithstanding their dread of the
Esquimaux, and of the unknown perils of the
sea. Both were Fort Good Hope Hare Indians, and were  named Larocque, and  Macca-1 DANGEROUS DESCENT
conce (Anglice, Little Keg), and proved in the
sequel no contemptible auxiliaries. We made
them clip their shaggy locks; and all hands
clubbed to equip them in thorough voyageur
costume, which wonderfully improved their outward man.
Part of the following day was occupied in trim-*
ming the boats, and embarking the provisions,
which comprehended twenty-eight bags of pemican, six hundred-weight of flour, and about three
hundred pounds of dried venison, an ample stock
for three months. The six young Indians, who
had rendered us such valuable aid, received notes
on Fort Confidence to the value of a beaver-skin
each for every day of their absence from the
camp, besides presents of tobacco, shoes, &c, and
departed well pleased with our liberality. The
day was beautiful, and at 2 p.m. we commenced
the descent of Kendall River. It is little better
than a series of rapids, many of them strong;
but the expertness of our crews carried us tri$j$Lr
phantly down. As we approached tfie main river,
large banks of snow and ice overhung the
stream; and, on our emerging from the steep rocky
chasm through which it rushes into the Cop*
permine, our surprise may be imagined at beholding the ample channel of the latter—there
dilated among Man4S"»--#t&Ll   covered with  ice. OF THE COPPERMINE.
We encamped on the same spot where I had
breakfasted on the 2nd of April. Our arrival was
evidently premature; but we had now achieved
what the men had long regarded as one of the
most dubious and difficult portions of our enterprise, and they were in high good-humour
on that account. As for myself, my repeated
winter journeys had entirely satisfied me of the
practicability of the route in the spring, and
they were the means of ensuring our success.
The temperature this evening rose to 62°, and
a few feeble musquitoes began to flit about.
On the 21st a strong and Warm south wind
blew. Kendall River became turbid, and rose
upwards of two feet. Great havoc ensued among
the ice, and the open lead of the Coppermine,
which yesterday appeared a mere thread, now
expanded into a rapid stream. We made excursions along its banks, and two deer were shot.
22d.—Considering the passage practicable, we
quitted our harbour at 10 a. m. The current bore
us with great velocity through the yet narrow
channel between the fixed ice and the steep
western bank of the river, where there was no
possibility of landing. A few miles lower down
the stream contracts; and the ice was gone,
leaving a tremendous wall on either side. We
took advantage of an occasional eddy to scramble p«*
■r  y
ashore  in  pursuit of reindeer and  musk-cattle,
which were grazing  in every little  valley.     A
fresh breeze  from   the  north   favoured our  approach ; and the heedless  deer were sometimes
feeding so near the brink, that we fired at them
out  of the boats as we  glanced past.    It  was
princely sport, and a supply of venison for several
days rewarded our exertions.    These deer were
all lean bucks; the does being already on the
coast, casting their young.    At length quantities
of ice came driving down, disputing the passage
with us, and rendering the descent of the narrow, crooked  rapids  extremely hazardous;   for,
besides what was visible, we several times struck
against  water-logged  masses that were floating
down   beneath   the   surface.     It   need   not   be
thought extraordinary  that  ice,  saturated  with
water, should sink, like timber in the same condition.    In the  beginning of summer, when the
porous and dissolving ice has thus attained the
same specific  gravity with the  supporting  element, and trembles as it were in the balance,
any unusual agitation is  sufficient  to  cause  its
submersion.    In this way it often happens that
large lakes, which  in  the  evening are covered
with ice, after a windy night, present next morning a perfectly clear surface to the anxious traveller.    At other times, for the same reason, the OF THE  COPPERMINE.
ice of lakes, which in calm weather only breaks
up when thoroughly decayed, as soon as it has
entered the rapid current of a river almost
entirely disappears. The ice which covers the
rivers themselves being, on the contrary, rent by
the force of the current while yet comparatively
sound, is usually carried down a great distance,
even to the ocean. At 5 p. m. we reached the
head of a formidable rapid, where, after the cargoes had been carried for nearly a mile, the
boats were run down safely, though half filled
by the heavy waves that broke over them. A
rocky point, which turned aside the torrent, offering a secure harbour, we encamped. During the
night a vast quantity of ice mingled with drift
wood drove past,* and, blocking up some of the
contractions of the river below, occasioned a sudden rise in the water.
We dared not move during the two following
days on account of the continued and swift descent of the ice. Though the sun no longer set,
a cold fog from the sea came up the valley of
the river every night.
Tired of delay, we resolved to start at all hazards on the 25th, and pushed out at 8 in the
morning. From Sir John Franklin's description
of the lower part of the Coppermine, we anticipated a day of dangers and excitement; nor were
s we disappointed. Franklin made his descent on
the 15th of July, when the river had fallen to
its summer level; but we were swept down by
the spring flood, now at its very height. The
swollen and tumultuous stream was still strewed
with loose ice, while the inaccessible banks were
piled up with ponderous fragments. The day
was bright and lovely as we shot down rapid
after rapid; in many of which we had to pull for
our lives, to keep out of the suction of the precipices, along whose base the breakers raged and
foamed with overwhelming fury. Shortly before
noon we came in sight of Escape Rapid of
Franklin, and a glance at the overhanging cliffs
told us that there was no alternative but to run
down with full cargo. In an -instant we were
in the vortex; and, before we were aware, my
boat was borne towards an isolated rock, which
the boiling surge almost concealed. To clear it
on the outside was no longer possible; our only
chance of safety was to run between it and the
lofty eastern cliff. The word was passed, and
every breath was hushed. A stream, which
dashed down upon us over the brow of the precipice more than a hundred feet in height, mingled with the spray that whirled upwards from
the rapid, forming a terrific shower-bath. The
pass was about eight feet wide, and the error of a OF THE  COPPERMINE.
single foot on either side would have been instant
destruction. As, guided by Sinclair's consummate skill, the boat shot safely through those
jaws of death, an involuntary cheer arose. Our
next impulse was to turn round to view the fate
of our comrades behind. They had profited by
the peril we incurred, and kept without the treacherous rock in time. The waves there were
still higher, and for a while we lost sight of our
friends. When they emerged, the first object
visible was the bowman disgorging part of an
intrusive wave which he had swallowed, and
looking half-drowned. Mr. Dease afterwards
told me that the spray, which completely enveloped them, formed a gorgeous rainbow around
the boat. After discharging the water shipped,
we continued our descent, till, at 2 p. m., we
were arrested, about a mile above the Bloody
Fall, by a barrier of ice stretching across the
river. Putting about, we were fortunate in finding a safe eddy under some steep white earth
cliffs, and encamped on a grassy plain stretching
out from their base, and affording the double
advantage of drift wood and a brook of clear
water. We eagerly climbed the highest hills,
and gazed on a wide expanse of sea covered
with a dazzling sheet of ice, dotted with dark
rocky islands;   while   far north rose   the  lofty
s 2 260
headlands of Cape Kendall and Cape Hearne, the
latter blue in the distance. The Bloody Fall itself was free; but immediately below it, and from
thence to the coast, the river was choked with
ice. We found no recent traces of Esquimaux at
the fall; but next day many tracks were seen in a
plain to the west of the Coppermine, lying between it and a fine deep stream flowing to the
northward. This latter river here approaches
within two leagues of the Coppermine, and seemed
equally large; a short distance higher up it bends
off to the westward. Its banks are clothed with
willows, and its course appeared tranquil. We
had much pleasure in naming it Richardson
River, after that resolute and scientific traveller.
Several old camping-places, sledges, pieces of
wrought wood, &c, were found on the adjacent
hills. Various flowers were here in bloom ; and,
in low damp situations, the verdure of grass and
willows relieved the eye, in the midst of ice and
barrenness. A female marmot, big with young,
was caught, and would soon have become tame,
could we have conveniently kept her. The lively
little creature seemed to feel quite at ease under
a reversed tin dish, till released to join her mate,
who, from an adjoining heap of stones, occasionally testified his impatience at her captivitv by
a sharp shrill whistle. OF THE  COPPERMINE.
The bar of ice between us and the Bloody
Fall having broken up, two men were despatched
to the coast on the 27th to examine the state
of the ice. On their return, in the evening, they
reported the river to be still blocked up ; and
that the sea-ice adhered firmly to the beach,
without the least appearance of decay, or indication of water in any direction. They brought
us a fine salmon-trout, which they had rescued
from a bevy of gulls, engaged in the act of dragging it alive out of the river. The waters were
still too high for setting our nets, but on the
final liberation of the river, two days afterwards,
they subsided rapidly. A gunshot below our encampment, the face of a hill, undermined by the
stream, kept falling down in large heaps with a
tremendous noise, and obliged us to remove the
boats higher up, in shelter of the grounded ice.
The remaining-days of June were fine, but cool.
Our hunters killed several deer: these, with some
geese, which we shot, kept our stock of pemican
almost untouched. My observations placed our
encampment in lat. 67° 42' 52" N., long, (by
lunar distances) 115° 49' 30" W.; variation
54° 17/30// E.
July lj*.—After a halt of five days we descended to the fall. The portage occupied six
or seven hours, the boats having to be carried
about half a mile. On its northern side we
found two skulls, the sole remaining memorial
of the atrocious massacre of the Esquimaux by
Hearne's Chipewyans in 1772. Several ancient
stone circles, indicating the camping-place of
these ill-fated people, were quite overgrown with
willows. Some of the wooden pegs of Franklin's tents of 1821 still stood in the ground;
and, in the reach below, old ropes, tarpaulins,
wrappers, &c, left by Richardson's party in 1826,
lay scattered about. At the bottom of the fall
the flat shore to the foot of the hills, several
hundred yards from the river, was occupied by
icy fragments, for the most part six feet thick.
We proceeded to within-three miles of the sea,
when an accident obliged us to encamp. Numbers of laughing geese were hatching on the borders of the ponds and swamps in the adjacent
plain. During the stillness of the night the roar
of the Bloody Fall was plainly audible, although
six miles distant. There was a hard frost at the
On the 2nd, one of the men, proceeding a
little way along the coast, descried two tents
of Esquimaux, but returned unseen by the inmates. Next day, Mr. Dease and some of our
people, walking near the mouth of the river,
suddenly came in sight of four Esquimaux, ap- THE ESQUIMAUX.
parently a man, a boy, and two women, who
had just halted on a hillock to pitch their tents.
Immediately on perceiving our party, the poor
creatures took to flight; the women and boy
wading across a shallow channel to an island
lying in the mouth of the river, while the
man embarked in the only kayak they had, and
paddled out into the stream. Upon this, Mr.
Dease advanced alone to the water-side, and
made signs to the latter to come ashore. Strange
to say, he complied; probably, from very fear.
On landing, he broke off two spear-heads, and
presented them, in token of amity, to Mr.
Dease; who, in return, cut some buttons from
his coat and gave them to his new acquaintance. They then sat down on the grass together,
and a broken dialogue ensued, in which the Esquimaux pointedly inquired whether the white
men were accompanied by their families; a circumstance that, in savage life, usually denotes
pacific intentions. Mr. Dease evaded the question, but assured him of a friendly reception and
liberal gifts at our encampment. The stranger
was about six feet high, stout, and well-looking,
with brown hair. He wore no labrets; and his
tonsure was triangular, the apex being towards
the back of the head. The interview over, to
all appearance satisfactorily, he re-embarked in FLIGHT OF
his canoe. In a very short time he and his
family appeared on the ice, which yet adhered
to the island on the seaward side, and made off
at a great rate towards a distant and lofty group
•of islands. On Mr. Dease's return, we removed
to the vicinity of the spot where the fugitives
had abandoned their property; which included
a leather lodge; skins of deer and seals, for bedding, clothing, and boots; a kettle, lamps, and
dishes, hollowed out of a soft grey stone; bows
and arrows; an ice-trench, knives, and other implements, formed of native copper; pieces of
whalebone; and various articles left by Dr. Richardson's party, such as tin canisters, pieces of
gunlocks, strips of red cloth, a pencil, and some
painted fragments of the Dolphin and Union.
At the water-side lay an excellent wooden sledge,
thirteen feet long and two feet wide, which they
were towing up the river, after it had served to
convey their baggage thither on the ice. There
was also a quantity of deer's flesh in an almost
putrid state. We gathered all these things together, and carefully covered them over with the
leather tent, and with poles and stones. Four
dogs remained behind; one of which was in the
last stage of starvation, but soon recovered under
our care. Though we supplied the poor deserted
brutes with food, they continued shy of us, till \ I
one night that a troop of six wolves pursued
them to our tents, where they instinctively took
refuge. In order to save these useful animals,
and, if possible, restore them to their owners,
we carried them with us on our quitting the
river a fortnight afterwards.
The weather in the early part of the month
was, for the most part, dark and stormy. The
northerly or ice winds were piercingly cold, and
charged with fog, snow, and deluges of rain,
against which our tent, made of light inferior
sheeting, formed a wretched defence: our men
were rather better lodged.
On the 7th, Sinclair was sent along the coast
to examine anew the condition of th*e ice. He
returned from the mouth of an unfordable river,
nine miles to the eastward, probably the same
that Hearne ascended on his return, and which
passes through a branch of the Coppermine.
The ice everywhere lay solid and unbroken upon
the very sand, affording no hope of a speedy
liberation. Tracing up the stream, which inclined towards the Coppermine, he perceived on
its opposite bank five tents of the natives; but
when we made an attempt, two days afterwards,
to open a communication with them, they and
their habitations had disappeared.
The 8th being a calm mild day, the musqui- DANGEROUS  DESCENT
toes commenced their assaults; and the deer,
driven from the valleys by these persecuting
insects, were seen crossing the ice to the numerous islands scattered without the river.
To vary the scene, we made an excursion on
the 11th, with a light boat, to the westward,
with the view of exploring the mouth of Richardson River, which I concluded to fall into
the unknown bottom of Back's Inlet. After
coasting five miles, we were stopped by the fixed
ice; but from the summit of a lofty range of
rocks we discerned in the north-north-west a piece
of open water, undoubtedly caused by the influx
of the stream. On the sandy beach were the
tracks of nine Esquimaux, who had apparently
passed in great haste a few days before, probably terrified by the distant report of our guns,
or by falling upon some of our hunting-tracks.
Could these poor creatures comprehend our
kindly feelings towards them, they would be
eager, like their western countrymen, to profit
by our visit, instead of flying from us on every
side. Upon the rocks were numerous stone circles, caches, and marks; and in a valley I observed a turf deer-pound of the preceding year.
Here, again, we found some remains of Richardson's mahogany boats. Next day, one of our
Indians, while out goose-shooting, came unawares OF THE  COPPERMINE.
upon two Esquimaux, who were travelling from
the eastward towards the Bloody Fall, where the
season for drying salmon now commences. He
took off his cap and waved it to them, but (as he
acknowledged) running away at the same time;
and the strangers seemed as little disposed for
intercourse as himself.
On the 13th, the sun's lower limb almost
touched the horizon at midnight. At this period
the banks of the river were adorned with a
profusion of flowers, which contributed to enrich
Mr. Dease's herbal. The nets produced, during
our detention, one hundred and forty fish, chiefly
Arctic salmon, large salmon-trout, and tullibee;
with a few methy, white-fish, red sucking-carp,
and diminutive flounders. I obtained an excellent series of solar altitudes and lunar distances,
which place the mouth of the Coppermine in
lat. 68° 48' 27" N., long. 115° 31' 15" W.; being 37 seconds to the northward, 5' 34", or about
two miles, to the eastward of the position determined by Sir John Franklin; but he was encamped on the west, and we on the east side
of the river. The variation was 53° 47' 54" E.;
being an increase of 7° 22' 2" since 1821, or 26
minutes per annum. There was but one diurnal
tide, and the rise and fall of the water varied
from five to  seven inches.    At this date I find, 268
by Ritch's journal, that the ice on Great Bear
Lake was still perfectly solid, and continued
unbroken till the beginning of August; which
may be considered the average term of its disruption,* being a full month later than Great
Slave Lake, between which and Athabasca there
is a like difference.
On the evening of the 16th, having observed
some signs of an opening in the ice to the eastward, we removed to an island lying outside
the mouth of the river. Here I had a fine observation at midnight of the sun's upper limb,
elevated just four minutes above the visible horizon ; the height of the eye being eight feet, the
temperature 38°, and the barometer assumed at
30 inches. The resulting latitude', using Lynn's
admirable tables, is 67° 52/ 59"; the true position was 67° 49' 54". On this occasion, therefore, the actual horizontal refraction exceeded
the tabular by 3' 5"; indeed, during the succeeding morning, there was much mirage, indicating
a highly refractive state of the atmosphere.f  The
* The bay of Fort Franklin, at the head of the grand outlet to the southward, is clear of ice much earlier, but furnishes
no criterion of its state on the main body and northern parts
of this immense lake.
f The following year I frequently repeated these midnight
observations, between the Coppermine and Cape Barrow, when shores of these islands, and all the neighbouring
coast, were abundantly stored with small crooked
drift wood, brought down by the Coppermine
the result, for the most part, fell ten miles to the southward of
the noon latitude, which corresponds with Dr. M'Kay's scale
of corrections for the spheroidal figure of the earth. 270
Second Sea Voyage.—Difficulties and detentions amongst Ice.
—Long circuit in Bathurst's Inlet.—Discovery of Copper
on Barry Islands.—Boats finally arrested near Point Turn-
At 12hrs. 30min. a.m. on the 17th of July
we commenced our second voyage on the Hyperborean sea. The morning was calm and fine;
and, after pulling two or three miles outwards,
round a field of ice, we found an open channel
between Berens Isles and the main shore. That
advantage would, however, have soon been lost,
had not a gentle S. S.W. wind sprung up, and,
while it detached the ice from, the land, greatly
accelerated our progress. At several points we
had to lower sail and push through the streams
of ice, at considerable risk to the boats. To our
Indian companions the sea was indeed a new
element. Almost the first living objects they
saw, two young seals, (which they called sea-
beaver,) excited their wonder, and, when we
landed to breakfast on an island, they anxiously SECOND  SEA VOYAGE.
watched an opportunity to possess themselves
of these strange animals; but the lively little
fellows would never approach within gunshot.
Everywhere there were old marks of Esquimaux,
but none recent. The beach was strewed with
seaweed and mussel-shells—certain indications of
a clearer sea, in some seasons, than that which
we navigated last year. As the day advanced
the weather became sultry, and we were tormented on the water by swarms of musquitoes. Reindeer and musk-cattle were seen. Some of the
former, to escape the persecution of the flies,
were standing breast-high in the water, or running upon and swimming amongst the ice. At
5 p. m. we were stopped by an impenetrable field,
after having advanced thirty-five miles. The
water during the whole of this day's journey was
fresh, or very nearly so, owing to the contiguity
and rapid dissolution of the ice, aided by the
discharge of many small rivers and streams.
Scarcely had we unloaded our boats, and drawn
them up on the beach, when a violent thunderstorm, that had been for some hours gathering,
burst over us, attended with torrents of rain.
Compact ice and continued rain detained us
till 7 in the evening of the 19th, when the w^ind
veering to the west-south-west opened a passage,
and we set sail.    A dense fog shrouded sea and 272
shore; and, after running ten or twelve miles, we
found ourselves embayed in fixed ice, between a
high, rocky island and the mainland. The broken
ice was at the same time rapidly closing in upon
us; but, by laborious efforts for two hours, we
extricated ourselves from this critical situation,
and safely landed to windward of the press at
midnight. There were foot-prints of Esquimaux
on the shore, about a week old; and the stone
circles of five tents. Seven sledges, with a
variety of other articles (including some of the
wide-spread remnants of Dr. Richardson's boats),
were laid up close at hand.
The receding tide having separated the ice
from the beach, we set out at 10 o'clock the
following night, and crept along shore fpr about
three hours, when we again reached its unbroken
limit. We pitched our tents on rugged rocks,
surrounded by scenery of singular wildness and
On the 21st a sultry land breeze further disunited the ice, and enabled us, by cutting our
way at the different projections, to make the
circuit of a bay to the high, rocky cape which
Franklin doubled on the 22nd of July, 1821.
Here ice of immense thickness still clung to the
crags; and in two or three places, where there
were deep water holes among the loose rocks
fallen from the cliffs, large blocks of pure white
ice were seen adhering to the bottom. Yet at
noon this day the thermometer stood at 71° in
the shade, and rose to 88° when exposed to the
sun's rays. It was the hottest day of the brief
Arctic summer. We encamped in a chasm or
narrow valley intersecting the cape. Here wTe
found the caches of six tents of Esquimaux, containing a quantity of blubber, some stone kettles
and lamps, a Variety of utensils, besides the spoils
of musk-cattle, reindeer, seals, and white foxes.
A striped cotton shirt, almost new, was wrapped
up and preserved with especial care. Most of
these things were placed on a shelf in the rock,
about forty feet high, and inaccessible to any
quadruped. They had formed a ladder with their
sledges to attain this place of security. Though
we examined their repositories on this and other
occasions, in order to form an idea of their
manner and means of living, we made a point of
scrupulously replacing everything as we found it;
and usually added any articles we could spare of
our own, as an evidence of our good-will towards
them. Like most of the others, this party had
probably wintered upon islands—the most favourable situations for seal-hunting;   and had lately DIFFICULTIES AND DETENTIONS
removed inland to pass the summer at fishing
stations, or in places most frequented by reindeer
and musk-cattle.
On the evening of the 24th we were at length
able to double the promontory, but we did so at
the imminent hazard of the boats. In this operation one of them got an upper plank and the
wash-board split, from a squeeze between the ice
and the rocks. With great labour we advanced
two miles, and encamped in a little gravelly bay
beside a cascade. The sun set for about three
hours ; and the new ice, which formed in the
open pools, remained till late the following morning: the night was calm and serene. Our nets
at these two last stations yielded only two small
Arctic salmon, though these elegant fish were
seen sporting about the mouth of every streamlet.
25th.—After several hours' preliminary cutting
through the ice, we were enabled to move forward in the afternoon; and, by frequently repeating the same process, we effected an advance of
five miles. There was an Esquimaux road upon
the ice, and one of their stone traps was found
where we encamped, near Port Epworth, the
estuary of Tree River. We also remarked, while
walking along the rocky shore, one or two places
where seals had been trailed up by the indefatigable natives. AMONGST  ICE.
Our progress next day was comparatively unimpeded by the ice, which, under the influence
of the continued fine weather, began to dissolve
along the edge of the rocks, whose turnings and
sinuosities we were, of course, obliged to follow.
In crossing Gray's Bay to Hepburn Island we
were met by a strong current from the eastward.
A legion of gulls, with their young, occupied the
clefts in the precipices of the island, which spring
abruptly from the deep to a considerable height.
The seals were unusually inquisitive, and we shot
several; but, after struggling for a moment, the
creatures invariably sunk before we could lay
hold of them, leaving the water dyed with blood.
Some days afterwards we fished up a Imall one
in two fathoms, which had been shot through the
head; and the Indians were gratified with its
skin. From Hepburn Island we found a tolerably open lead to the mouth of a stream flowing
into the bay, three miles from Wentzel River,
and of similar size. Its water:? were very foul,
in  consequence   of  traversing  lofty  mud-banks
immediately after its descent from the naked
granite hills that bind this iron coast. The roar
of a distant cataract proclaimed the suddenness
of this change in its career. The banks of this
river seemed quite a nest of wolves; and we pur*
sued two females, followed by half a score of
T % m
well-grown young. The mothers scampered up
the highest rocks, whence they called loudly to
their offspring; and the latter, unable to save
themselves by flight, baffled our search by hiding
themselves among the willows which fringe the
stream. The leader of the whole gang—a huge
ferocious old fellow — stood his ground, and was
shot by M'Kay. At this place our only thermometer was unluckily broken. The mean temperature of the preceding part of July was 43*7°,
being 7'2° colder than the same period at Fort
Confidence; where, however, some deduction
might fairly be made, in consequence of the
impossibility of finding an open place for the
fixed instrument, on which the sun's rays did not
fall at some hour of his long daily circuit.
27th.—The manner of our journey to-day may
be compared to the evolutions of an expert
skater; for, except at the immediate margin,
the ice lay fixed and immoveable in the almost
innumerable little rocky bays, creeks, and coves
which indent this part of the coast. In one place
we had to carry boats and cargoes over a solid
floe, that still reclined high and dry upon the
rocks. The islands lying off the coast reposed
amidst the glittering field as if they were gigantic
stones set in enamel.
We advanced next day for three or four hours AMONGST ICE.
in the same tedious and laborious manner, till the
ice, now for the first time broken up and set in
motion by a strong north-east wind, drove us
ashore. During these last few days the boats
sustained serious damage, and were now become
leaky. Indeed, in our anxiety to get on, we subjected them to very rough usage. Often, when
the ice was not quite firm enough to make portages with safety, we hauled the boats upon it;
and, holding on by the gunwales, all hands continued jumping and pressing down till it began to
yield; and, the boats sinking into the water, we
scrambled on board, and by main force pushed
aside the pieces thus separated. At other times,
one party was stationed upon the rocks, with iron-
shod poles, to shove against the ice; another
upon the ice, to shove against the rocks; and,
when an opening the breadth of the boats could
be thus formed, the remaining hands passed them
through, one at a time: those with the poles
holding on with all their might, lest the ice
should close, like a pair oT nut-crackers, and
deprive us of the means of either advancing or
retreating. On this part of the coast many reindeer paths were found, leading from the interior
to the sea; from which circumstance, and from
our seeing, up to this time, males only, I infer
that the females pass by these roads early in the
season, and, crossing the ice, bring forth their
young upon the islands, where they are more
secure than on the continent.
The wind having fallen on the 29th, and left
a practicable channel, we at last doubled the
rugged and rocky Cape Barrow. On the top of
rocks, upwards of a hundred feet above the sea,
clam-shells were found, and some small specimens of that round prickly sort of shell called
the I sea urchin," which must have been carried
by birds to such an elevation. These, with
cockles, muscles, periwinkles, and seaweed,
abounded here, and in many other places on the
beach. I am therefore astonished that Franklin's
party should have seen shells in one spot only—
the day they left the Coppermine River. The
ice on Coronation Gulph being still perfectly
solid, we were compelled to coast along the
southward, till we should find a passage across
Bathurst Inlet. We shot a deer and a pair of
swans; and between 9 and 10 p.m. encamped at
the entrance of Moore Bay, where the snow dissolving on the rocks furnished us with pure
water, and the contiguous shores with some drift
New ice of considerable thickness formed durinsr
the night, and cost us some trouble to break
it next morning.    The old ice for its part led us IN  BATHURST'S  INLET.
the complete circuit of Moore Bay. There was a
thick fog at the time, which cleared off as the day
advanced, and revealed to view shores still rocky,
but enlivened by verdant valleys and declivities,
which on a near approach seemed carpeted with
flowers — ephemeral glories strangely contrasted
with the cold and savage scene of their birth J
We made our way out of the labyrinth of
islands which here environ the coast, through a
strait thirty or forty yards wide. A breeze
springing up from the north-east, we sailed across
Arctic Sound, and at 8 p. m. encamped on Wool-
aston Point, close to the margin of the ice.
Two fine deer were shot by our Indians during
the night.
Very early on the 31st I observed, from the
summit of the rocks, the gradual formation of
a narrow lane of water, stretching across towards Barry Islands. We immediately embarked,
and effected the traverse in two hours; but
found our farther progress arrested by the main
body of ice, which covered the inlet. Next day
a gale from the north-east broke up a large section
of this unwelcome covering, and brought it down
with crushing force upon our island.
On the 2nd of August we extricated ourselves
from the ice, and, the northerly winds continuing, we sailed  round  the south  side  of the 280
island, which is about six miles long and two
wide. Then, crossing a broad channel leading
to the southward, we landed on the next island
of the same group, which appeared of great
extent. From the top of its lofty trap cliffs
I discovered a narrow part with water on the
northern side. It proved a high rocky isthmus,
a quarter of a mile broad, across which we
carried the boats and cargoes. After rowing
about half a league, we had to break our way
through a stream of ice; and, a few furlongs
farther, came again to the edge of the main
body of the ice, where we encamped at 9 p. m.,
having by our toilsome and circuitous route advanced only eight miles of direct distance.
Our detention the following day was amply
compensated by my fortunate discovery of several
pieces of pure copper ore. They were lying
amongst the debris at the foot of a crumbling
rock, which had evidently fallen from the trap
hills above. The cliffs were everywhere stained
with verdigris, indicating the presence of the
metal, which undoubtedly abounds in these islands.
Coloured quartz crystals and vesicles were frequent, and I preserved specimens of the leading rocks, both here and all along the coast.
Barry Islands contain several fine deep harbours,
completely land-locked and sheltered from every ON  BARRY  ISLANDS.
wind. Should these seas ever be navigated by
ships, this would form a good half-way wintering station between Barrow's and Behring's
Straits; and the mines might be wrought from
May to August, before the ice would admit of
prosecuting the voyage. The tides and currents
in the inlet are exceedingly irregular, depending on the winds and ice; but on no occasion
did I notice a change of more than one foot
in the water level. Deer were numerous, including for the first time does with their fawns,
now well grown. Sinclair shot two fat bucks;
and, on his return, was followed by a barren-
ground bear with her two cubs, attracted by
the smell of the meat he was carrying. On
his throwing down his burden, they scampered
off, before he could get his gun ready. The
young ptarmigan were strong on the wing; and
herds of seals lay basking on the ice near this
island. Stone traps, old paddles, and other vestiges indicated the occasional abode of Esquimaux, who use turf as well as wood for fuel.
A small lake not far from our encampment was
still frozen.
4th.—The ice continuing immoveable on the
northern side of the island, and some open water
having been seen from the hills in the channel
separating  it   from   the   eastern   mainland,  we 282
this morning went south about the island, which
occupied eight hours' incessant rowing. Then
crossing the strait, which is three miles wide,
we landed to breakfast at Point Everitt. The
ice obstructed our passage round this cape, after
which we had a clear channel to Fisher's Islands,
where we encamped at 9 p. m., having come
thirty-five miles. The last of Barry Islands affords
a fine illustration of the secondary resting upon
the primitive rocks. The horizontal line of stratification appeared as accurately drawn as in a
work of art. At the precipice from whose face
I took away specimens, there were about twenty
feet of the base rock above the sea, with eighty
feet of trap cliff superimposed. Others doubled
these dimensions. Point Everitt, and the whole
range of the mainland to Melville Sound, are
formed of bare rounded granitic hills of inferior
altitude, while all the adjacent islands present
a mixed geological character.
Our progress on the 5th was not much impeded till we reached Cape Croker, where the
ice was squeezed upon the shore, and obliged
us to make a portage. We had a view of Melville Sound quite covered with ice, but an almost
clear channel luckily stretched across its entrance to a low island, four or five miles distant ; the northern side of which being shut up, j*m
we encamped at 8 p.m. A pair of brown cranes
stalked about—the undisputed lords of the isle
before our arrival. Many large brown ducks
flew past, and " cacawees I were moulting along
the shore in great numbers. A very strong
current, amounting to a rapid, ran between the
south end of this island and an islet lying off
it; a similar appearance was afterwards noticed
near Cape Flinders.
A narrow channel having opened, we re-embarked at 4 o'clock the following morning. After
advancing for two or three hours, we were again
stopped by the ice, but endeavoured to force
our way through it, encouraged by the appearance
of some water ahead. Thrice we repeated the
attempt, and as often found ourselves hemmed
in, and compelled to carry both boats and cargoes to the shore, to save them from being
crushed. On the summit of a cliff, one hundred
and fifty feet high, I found two pieces of wood,
almost rotten. They must have been left there
many years ago by the natives, who seem fond of
encamping on elevated spots. The ice-covered
gulph, with its innumerable dark rugged islands,
the clouds gloomily gathering over the crescent-
shaped mainland, and long files of waterfowl
passing aloft to the southward, warned by instinct
of some coming change, while around flew several 284
large hawks, screaming wildly at the danger that
threatened their young brood from the intrusion
of man,—these were the objects that met my view
from the heights; and the stern prospect was little calculated to cheer our spirits, or to buoy up
our hopes. At the same period in 1821, according to Franklin's journal, the ice was either dissolved or entirely dispersed. The weather for the
ten preceding days had been very mild, and the
temperature singularly equable; the extremes
(judging by our feelings) being 40° and 50°. The
temperature of the sea, however, continued so
low, that new or " bay" ice formed every calm
night in the open spots, and cut our boats even
more than the old. And I would here remark
that the bows of all boats intended for such service should be partially sheathed with copper.
On the 7th the tide and heavy rain opened
a channel a gunshot wide, where all our efforts
had proved unavailing. We made a farther progress of three hours, when we were again arrested in the usual way. It will be tedious
and dispiriting to us, to see day after day and
week after week pass in a constant and ineffectual struggle with the same cold obdurate
I saw three or four deer on a narrow point,
some distance from  our   encampment;  but,   on AMONGST ICE.
my cutting them off from the land, they took
to the ice, and soon galloped out of reach.
The moon was visible to-night, but it was a
passing glimpse, and she soon vanished amidst fog
and storm. The following day was marked by
nothing but fog and rain, with a gale from the
On the 9th the ice in Walker and Riley bays
at length broke up, and we crossed them under
sail, with a fresh breeze  from  the  northward.
The water for the first time tasted truly salt.
We landed at Cape Flinders to breakfast, where
a lump of galena was found among the rocks.
A piece of wood was also picked up, fashioned
like a small fish; an invention probably used by
the Esquimaux to lure trout and other fish to
holes cut in the ice, where they stand ready to
spear them.    Immediately on doubling the cape,
the ice once more put a stop to our progress.
To  reach this point, which in a direct line is
hardly forty miles from Cape Barrow, we had
performed a circuit  of one hundred and forty.
We  should  not,  however,  have  regretted  this
labour, had it not been attended by so great a
sacrifice of time, without any melioration of our
prospects.    The tents were pitched on a beach of
sharp stones, the size of a man's fist, and larger,
which our men humorously styled " north-west
feathers." The poor fellows' stock of tobacco
was by this time entirely consumed, and it was
amusing to witness the shifts and substitutes
they employed. Swamp-tea, pepper, salt, cotton
rags, and even oakum, were used to replenish
their empty pipes. People voluntarily subject
themselves to a species of slavery in acquiring
such useless and disagreeable habits. Of all
the individuals composing the expedition I was
the only non-smoker; and, throughout the fur
countries generally, the exceptions scarcely
amount to one in a hundred. The tediousness
of time, and the absence of the amusements
and recreations common in other parts of the
world, sufficiently account for the universal prevalence of a custom so general, even where no
such palliation exists.
From the 9th to the 19th of August—a long
and fatal delay—we experienced an almost uninterrupted succession of violent gales from the
north and west, beating directly upon the shore,
accompanied by severe frost, with frequent falls
of rain and snow. We remained miserable prisoners in the same ill-omened spot, scarcely able
to collect, from a couple of miles on either side,
drift wood enough to cook our two daily meals
of pemican. Reindeer had become scarce; but
ducks and geese passed in large flights to the NEAR POINT  TURNAGAIN.
southward. The main body of ice before us,
which seemed commensurate with the ocean,
remained unmoved, resting upon the very sand;
while the enormous mass that the gales had
broken up in the gulph, closed in behind us
with a crashing noise, often mistaken for thunder.
Not an acre of water was visible from the heights
in any direction, except the little cove in which
we lay. Even that poor corner was frequently
frozen over of a morning; and, to all appearance,
it would now prove nearly as difficult to retreat
as to advance. The ice, different from what we
had lately seen, was covered with snow, brilliantly
white ; and we could have little dotibt that it was
destined soon to unite with the new formation of
the approaching winter. Had these gales occurred during the calms of July, our voyage
would, in all probability, have by this time approached a successful termination. Speaking of
a calm season, Sir John Ross^pbserves, that it is
" the most unfavourable weather for navigating
these seas, since it is only through the force of
the winds that the ice can be opened and dispersed, as navigators are indebted to the northerly
gales of summer for whatever progress they can
make." Our short summer was now at an end;
we all wore our winter clothing; and the truth
of the remark just quoted was evident on com- BOATS FINALLY ARRESTED
paring the inclement and boisterous summer of
1837, and the success that then crowned our efforts
in a higher latitude, with our present helpless
position. That our exertions had even exceeded
those of the previous year, the planks of the
boats, torn and jagged by the ice, bore alarming
proof. It would be difficult to depict our sorrow
and disappointment at being thus arrested at the
very threshold of our enterprise. Often did we
walk along the coast, and climb the hills; but
the prospect was still the same. At 1 in the
morning of the 16th I first saw the stars; had
the sky been clear, they would have been visible
several days earlier.
On the 19th the sun set at 8 hrs. 30 min.
mean time. The period appointed for the return of former expeditions was now arrived.
Franklin's farthest encampment in 1821 was
about three miles to the northward of us ; but on
the 16th of August, in that year, he found here
a perfectly open sea. The extreme length and
severity of the last winter must have had some
share in producing so great a difference.
I may here mention that what appeared the
natural run of the tides rarely exceeded one foot;
but that, impelled by the westerly gales, the
water rose twenty-one inches, and fell off again
as soon as the wind shifted to the north.    When-
ever there appeared the least regularity, I inserted
the results in the annexed table. The flood came
from the westward. We certainly found but one
diurnal tide to the eastward of the Coppermine
River—similar to what has been observed on the
shores of Australia. Boathaven—the appellation
conferred on our encampment — is situated in
lat. 68° 16' 25" N., long, (by capital lunars)
109° 20' 45" W.; variation 46° E.
That this voyage might not prove wholly fruitless, I proposed to conduct a party of seven men
on foot, for ten days, along the coast to the eastward. Should the winds after my departure unexpectedly blow off the land, Mr. Dease agreed
to follow with one boat and the remaining five
men, leaving the other boat, with the bulk of the
provisions, in security at our present encampment. No better plan could be devised for
achieving at least a portion of the discoveries
which we had fondly hoped to complete, without
relinquishing the chance of pushing them as far
as Ross's Pillar, if the winds happily changed,
and drove the ice off the shore. My proposition
was, therefore, joyfully received by all, and the
crews again volunteered with one accord to
accompany me. I chose those who had not been
with me at Point Barrow in 1837; and the
necessary preparations were made for setting out
u 290
next day —the 20th of August. Signals were
likewise arranged to prevent our missing each
other on the way; and, should we unfortunately
do so, the last day of August was fixed for the
rendezvous of both detachments at Boathaven. 290
next day — the 20th of August. Signals were
likewise arranged to prevent our missing each
other on the way; and, should we unfortunately
do so, the last day of August was fixed for the
rendezvous of both detachments at Boathaven. 291
Journey on foot and important discoveries to the Eastward.—
Return to the Coppermine, and skilful ascent of that
river. — Traverse of the Barren Grounds, and arrival at
Fort Confidence.
On Monday the 20th of August, at 8 A. M., we
set out on our journey of discovery. My companions were five of the Company's servants and
the two Indians. Each man's load at starting
weighed about half a hundred-weight, comprehending a tent for the nightly shelter of the
whole party, a canvass canoe, with frame and
cords, to ferry us across rivers^ a box of astronomical instruments, a copper kettle, two axes,
guns, ammunition, and provisions for ten days; in
short, our food, lodging, bedding, arms, and
equipage. As for myself, my trusty double-barrel
slung at my back, a telescope, compass, and
dasher formed my only encumbrance: so that I
might at pleasure ascend the rising grounds, to
take bearings and view the coast.   The plan of
u 2
€» 292
inarch I adopted was as follows:—We set out at
7 or 8 a.m., after breakfasting (which lessened
the loads), and obtaining observations for longitude ; and travelled for ten hours, exclusive of a
halt of half an hour at noon to procure the latitude and variation. With their burdens the
men advanced fully two miles an hour; our daily
progress thus averaging twenty geographical, or
twenty-three English miles. A fatigue party of
three men attended us to our first encampment.
About the middle of this day's journey we passed
the extreme point to which Sir John Franklin
and his officers walked in 1821. A little
farther we found several old Esquimaux camping-
places, and human skulls and bones were seen in
various situations. One skeleton lay alongside
that of a musk-bull, in such a manner as rendered it extremely probable that the dying beast
had gored the hapless hunter. The coast-line
continued low; our road alternately leading over
sand, sharp stones, through swamps and rivulets.
Large boulder rocks rose here and there upon
the shore and acclivities. The ice all along was
forcibly crushed upon the beach, the edging of
water being so shallow that the gulls waded betwixt the ice and the sand. During the greater,
part of the day we were drenched with rain.
The land preserved its north-north-east direction TO  THE EASTWARD.
to our encampment—on the pitch of a flat cape—
in lat. 68° 37' N, long. 108° 58' W. This spot
I named Cape Franklin, as a tribute of respect,
from a perfect stranger, to that enterprising
and justly celebrated officer. Land, twenty or
twenty-five miles off, high, and covered with
snow, stretched from west to north-east, and
raised apprehensions that we were entering a
deep inlet or sound.
We had no sooner turned Cape Franklin on
the 21st than we came in view of a very distant
hill, bearing N. 82° E., which I rightly conjectured to stand not far back from the coast. The
latter is remarkably straight; but the walking
was very fatiguing, the shore consisting chiefly
of soft, wet sands, traversed by a multitude of
brooks. These descend from a range of low,
stony hills, which, at the distance of two or three
miles, close the inland view, and were partially
clothed with moss and scanty herbage. The ice
was everywhere grounded on the shore; but the
weather had by this time improved, and continued so clear and moderate during the rest of
the outward journey, that I daily obtained astronomical observations. A flight of white geese
passed us, led on, or officered, by three large
grey ones (anser Canadensis). Numerous flocks
of these fowl were luxuriating in the fine feeding
■ 2§
CH 294
that the marshes and little bays afforded. The
young geese were large and strong; but, having
not yet acquired the perfect command of their
wings, we captured several upon the ice. Two
white wolves were skulking on the hill-side, and
a brace of Alpine hares were shot. Just before encamping, we forded Hargrave River—so
named by me after a particular friend: it is about
a hundred yards wide. Our tent in the evening
wore the semblance of a tailor's and cobbler's
shop, every one being engaged in repairing the
injuries his habiliments had received during the
day. At this place we secured, under a heap
of stones, two days' provisions, to serve for our
return to the boats.
The shore next day maintained nearly the
same character, and was intersected by many
small streams; none of which, on our choosing
proper crossing-places, reached more than waist-
high. They flow over a bed of stones or sand:
their waters were at this time low and clear; but
their deep and rugged channels shewed that, at
the melting of the snows, not a fewT of them
become formidable torrents. The ice grew heavier as we advanced, and had been driven ashore
with such violence by the gales as to plough
up the shingle and raise it in heaps upon the
beach.    The -stranded fragments were from three TO THE EASTWARD.
to  six  feet thick,  but  no   icebergs were   anywhere to be seen.    I  hoped,   from this strong
evidence of winds and tides, that we were not
engaged in exploring a bay; though the northern
land still stretched out before us, appearing in
some places scarcely twenty miles distant.    We
found to-day the bones of a large whale and the
skull of a Polar bear, and sea-wrack and shells
strewed the beach.    No deer were seen, but the
recent print of their hoofs often appeared in the
sand.    In the afternoon we passed, at a distance
of  six  miles,  the   conspicuous   hill   mentioned
yesterday.    It is  about  six hundred feet high,
and received the name of Mount George, after
my respected relative, Governor Simpson.    Drift
wood was  become so  scarce  that   we  made a
practice of picking up every piece we could find,
an hour or two before camping-time, to prepare
our supper and breakfast.    Some of the men's
legs were much swelled and inflamed this evening from the fatigue of their burdens, the inequalities of the ground, and the constant immersion  in  icy-cold water.    The  tide  fell  sixteen
or eighteen inches during our stay at Point Bal-
lenden; but, as it had been subsiding for some
time previously, I think the whole rise and fall
must exceed two feet.   Strong new ice formed
in every open spot during the calm of the night. 296
On the 23rd the coast led somewhat more
to the northward. The travelling was exceedingly painful; the beach and slopes of the hills
being formed of loose stones, varied here and
there by moss, and an ample number of brooks
and streams. We, however, advanced with spirit, all hands being in eager expectation respecting the great northern land, which seemed interminable. Along its distant shore the beams
of the declining sun were reflected from a broad
channel of open water; while, on the coast we
were tracing, the ice still lay immoveable, and
extended many miles to seaward. As we drew
near in the evening an elevated cape, land appeared all round, and our worst fears seemed
confirmed. With bitter disappointment I ascended the height, from whence a vast and splendid
prospect burst suddenly upon me. The sea, as
if transformed by enchantment, rolled its free
waves at my feet, and beyond the reach of vision
to the eastward. Islands of various shape and
size overspread its surface; and the northern
land terminated to the eye in a bold and lofty
cape, bearing east-north-east, thirty or forty miles
distant, while the continental coast trended away
south-east. I stood, in fact, on a remarkable
headland, at the eastern outlet of an ice-obstructed strait.    On the extensive land to the TO  THE EASTWARD.
northward I bestowed the name of our most
gracious sovereign Queen Victoria. Its eastern
visible extremity I called Cape Pelly, in compliment to the Governor of the Hudson's Bay
Company; and the promontory where we encamped Cape Alexander, after an only brother,
who would give his right-hand to be the sharer
of my journeys.
Cape Alexander is a rounded, rocky ridge,
covered with loose stones,* four miles in width,
and two or three hundred feet high. Its western part is situated in lat. 68° 56' N., long. 106°
40' W. The rise and fall of the tide here
was little short of three feet, being the greatest yet observed by us in the Arctic seas. The
weather was calm, and the tide falling, when
we halted. A considerable quantity of loose
ice passed to the westward, and floated back
again as the water rose in the morning, affording a seeming presumption that the flood came
from that quarter. A so'^tary deer bounded
up the ascent, and along the shore ran a path
beaten by those animals. Sinclair wounded one
of a small herd of musk-cattle that were grazing on the  banks  of a  lake behind the  cape,
* The prevailing surface rock was a conglomerate, while
the sides of the ravines hollowed out by brooks were of red
sandstone. 298
but it escaped. 'Esquimaux marks stood upon
the heights, but no recent traces of inhabitants
could be found.
We next morning cut across the eastern shoulder of Cape Alexander, to Musk-ox Lake, which
lies  in a valley.    It  is  half a mile  long,  and
empties itself by a subterraneous channel, through
a steep ridge of shingle, into another basin, about
half its size, which was  frozen  to  the  bottom.
Crossing  the  ice, we  forded  the   little   stream
below, which,  like  many  others,  still  retained
drifts of snow on its  banks.    Our  rough route
led  amongst  large   boulders,   and  through   wet
mossy tracts producing dwarf willows.    The immediate coast-line continued flat, but skirted as
before by low  stony  hills.    Some ice  lingered
in the bays, but  the  sea was  quite  open.    At
the distance of nine  miles we  crossed another
bluff cape,   composed  of trap  rocks, where  an
observation gave the  latitude  68° 52' 19" N.,
variation   63° East.    This  was  the greatest deviation of the compass from the  true meridian.
From Boathaven   to   Cape  Franklin  the   variation  increased  very  fast, since   only nine miles
beyond   that    cape   it   was   found   to   be   60°.
Thence  advancing eastward,   it   fell   off to   56°
30', and again augmented as the coast trended
more northerly;  while  from Trap Cape  to our TO  THE EASTWARD.
extreme point—only eleven miles in a southeasterly direction—it diminished nearly one and
a half degrees. Where the direction of our
journey crossed that of Ross's magnetic pole at
large angles, the change of variation was rapid;
when we travelled nearly in the line of that
pole, the change was slow. The farther east
we went, the more sluggish did the compass
become; the pocket one especially often had
to be shaken before it would traverse at all,
and, when set upon the rocks, would sometimes
remain pointing just as it was placed.
At 6 p. M. we opened what appeared a very
extensive bay, running far away -southward, and
studded with islands. We proceeded on to a
projecting point, where we encamped. From
thence I could trace part of the western shores
of the bay, formed by a bold curve of granitic
hills ; other land blending with the horizon in
the E.S.E., apparently very remote. As the
time allotted for outgoing was now expired,
this great bay, which would have consumed many
days to walk round, seemed an appropriate limit
to our journey. Under any circumstances, the
continued and increasing lameness of two or
three of my men must have rendered my return hence imperative. I had, indeed, at one
time hoped to fall in with Esquimaux, and with
fm 300
their assistance to reach Ross's Pillar; but we
had already explored a hundred miles of coast
without encountering an inhabitant. The site
of three lodges, with a little fire-place of stones
apart, was found here, but they were not of
this year. Cold and famine, I fear, are gradually
wasting away that few in numbers and widely-
scattered people. A rapid stream discharged its
waters into the bay, two miles to the southward of our encampment, and was called the
| Beaufort," after the learned hydrographer to
the Admiralty; while the group of islands beyond received the name of the first Lord of
the Admiralty, the Earl of Minto.
The morning of the 25th was devoted to the
determination of our position, and the erection
of a pillar of stones on the most elevated part
of the point; then, hoisting our union-jack, I
took formal possession of the country in her
Majesty's name. In the pillar I deposited a
brief sketch of our proceedings. It is in lat. 68°
43' 39" N., long, (reduced by the watch from
Boathaven) 106° 3' 0" W.; and the variation
was 60° 38' 23" East. ■     / . ;|j|||
Our present discoveries were in themselves not
unimportant; but their value was much enhanced
by the disclosure of an open sea to the eastward,
and the suggestion of a new route — along the TO  THE EASTWARD.
southern coast of Victoria Land—by which that
open sea might be attained, while the shores of
the continent were yet environed by an impenetrable barrier of ice, as they were this season.
Our portable canoe, which we had not had occasion to use, was buried in the sand at the foot
of a huge round rock on the beach, and with
lighter burdens we commenced retracing our
steps. As wre approached our encampment for
the night, we had a capital deer-hunt, which
ended in our dispatching a young buck in a small
lake; and it was carnival time with us, for one
evening at least. This was the last fine day that
we enjoyed. During the remaining four occupied
by our return to the boats, we had to face
piercing north and westerly winds, with fog,
snow, and rain, aggravated by hard frosts at
night. Our march, through swamps, sand, stones,
and streams, grew more and more laborious; and,
being continually wet, we suffered much from the
cold, for the shore did not yield sufficient fuel to
dry our clothes at night. Sandpipers and other
little birds lay dead in several places upon the
beach, having apparently perished by the severity of the weather. We saw some herds of
deer migrating southward : one magnificent buck
marched before us, like a doomed victim, for two
days, and was shot  near our last encampment.
m 302
Geese were still numerous, but quite unapproachable. We could not help enjoying the speed
with which they sailed past us, high amidst the
storm, in quest of more genial climates. So
barren and desolate is this coast, that, during the
whole journey, we did not find a single berry.
The lameness of two of my men increased so
much, that, after sitting down to rest themselves,
they had to lay hold of each other in order to get
upon their legs again. They suffered acute pain;
and one of them—a sturdy Greenland sailor—was
laid up for some time after our return to winter-
quarters. With respect to the ice, it seemed to
have made a grand move during our absence.
We first encountered it, on our return, at Trap
Cape, rapidly driving to the eastward. It continued to obstruct the shore all along from Cape
Alexander to Cape Franklin, but there was now
a clear offing that a fleet might navigate. I cast
many a wistful look towards the open water,
hoping to descry the sails of Mr. Dease's boat;
and from time to time fired, to apprize him of
our being near, in case of his keeping too far out
to be distinguished through the fog: but all in
vain. As the land inclined to the southward, the
quantity of ice increased so much as to render
the coast inaccessible; for the tendency of the
westerly gales was to accumulate it on this shore. aoa
At dusk on the 29th we returned to Boathaven, where we found our friends just as we had
left them. I then learned from Mr. Dease that
he could not have extricated his boat sooner than
the preceding day, and did not think it worth
while to risk the attempt so late.
The bad weather and advanced season now
rendered every one anxious to return to winter-
quarters, and I reluctantly acquiesced in the
general sentiment; but, for doing so, I had reasons
peculiar to myself. I considered that we could
not now expect to reach Back's Great Fish River;
that, by exploring a part only of the unknown
coast intervening, our return to the Coppermine
must be so long protracted as to preclude the
possibility of taking the boats up that bad river;
and that, by abandoning them on the coast to the
Esquimaux, we excluded the prospect of accomplishing the whole by a third voyage, with the
benefit, perhaps, of a more propitious season.
Three great travellers, Hearne, Franklin, and
Richardson, had successively pronounced the ascent of the Coppermine, above the Bloody Fall,
to be impracticable with boats; and our people,
recollecting only the violence and impetuosity of
our descent, entertained the same opinion. Fully
aware of the great importance of this point to
any future operations, I had, with a careful eye, 304
inspected every part of the river, and formed in
my own mind the following conclusions respecting the upward navigation:—1st. That in a river
of that size there must always be a lead somewhere, of depth enough for light boats. 2nd.
That the force of the rapids would be found much
abated; and that, with strong ropes, the worst of
them might be surmounted. 3rd. From the fury
of the breakers along the base of the precipices
in June, I inferred the existence, at no great
depth, of a narrow projecting ledge of rock, that,
bared by the falling of the waters, would afford
footing to the towing party; without which the
ascent must, indeed, have baffled all our efforts.
These views proved in the sequel to be just and
A furious gale from the westward, accompanied
with snow, detained us till 10 in the forenoon of
the 31st, when we cut our way out of our icy
jprison—the grave of one year's hopes. We experienced a dangerous swell among the streams
of ice outside; then, steering a west-south-west
course, a traverse of nine miles brought us to
Harry Cook Island, so named on the former expedition. On a close approach, however, it
turned out to be a cluster of six or eight rocky
isles. From thence we crossed to Wilmot
Islands,  a  very  numerous   group,   merely  seen THE COPPERMINE RIVER
at a distance by Sir John Franklin. Some of
the northern passages were blocked up with ice,
but everywhere else there was a clear sea among
these islands. They are all of the trap formation,
Kke those farther down the gulph.* Another
traverse of ten miles extends to some islands on
the eastern side, within fifteen miles of Cape
Barrow. From thence we were favoured with a
fine passage on an open sea; but there was a
frequent fall of snow, the weather was cold and
wintry, and we had some rough sailing during
the dark nights. At a rocky cape, where we
landed to sup at midnight, I noticed a quantity
of phosphorescent substances in the water. We
met no natives; and at 6 p.m. on the 3rd of
September we safely re-entered the Coppermine
The Esquimaux had^ ventured back during
our absence, and carried away everything except
their sledge and stone kettles ; leaving marks on
the hillock, pointing to the seaward islands as
the place of their retreat. To evince our friendly
disposition, and compensate the loss of their dogs,
we left them a copper kettle, two axes, as many
ice-trenches, with an assortment of knives, files,
* Being unable to weather the outermost island, which is
large and lofty, we ran round its south end, and called it
Chapman Island, after one of the Company's Directors..
X 306
hooks, awls, beads, buttons, rings, and a parcel of
hoop-iron. This—to them invaluable—gift was
secured in a box, on which boats and men were
figured with charcoal. Next day the boats were
towed up to the Bloody Fall, now diminished to
a strong shelving rapid. There, in a deep cleft
in the rocks, we secured ten bags of pemican, to
meet the exigencies of another season. The masts,
yards, rudders, and spare oars were secreted on
an island below the fall. No late vestiges of the
natives were anywhere discernible, though an
eddy at the foot of the fall still sw7armed with
fish. The few blue berries that grow among the
rocks were withered and fallen.
On the morning of the 5th the boats were, by
M'Kay's and Sinclair's united skill, successively
passed up the fall perfectly light, both crews
hauling on ropes formed of the rigging spliced
together for the purpose. In the lower part,
where the descent was too steep, they made a
launch over the rocks. In another place, the
boat sheering out, the waves broke copiously into
her; and the bowman was on the point of cutting
the line, to save the trackers, who, ignorant of
their danger, because concealed from view by a
projecting point of rocks, would have been jerked
into the abyss the instant the boat overset. Her
depth of keel, however, prevented a catastrophe OF THE COPPERMINE RIVER
which must have happened to any of the flat-
bottomed inland bateaux in the same situation.
It snowed heavily, and ice an inch thick formed
at night in the kettles; but our people worked
their way up the rapids with equal spirit and
dexterity, and we encamped two miles below the
In the passage of that dangerous rapid, the
following day, Mr. Dease's boat got broken, in
consequence of the line snapping, and the bowman losing his presence of mind. The injury
was repaired in a few hours, and we made good
ten miles. The lurking rock, wh*ch had so nearly
caused our destruction on the descent, now rose
high above the shrunken stream, leaving the
narrow, perilous channel that saved us almost dry.
At the foot of the long succession of precipices
which we shot past with such amazing velocity in
June, there was now, in most parts, a narrow bank
or ledge exposed by the subsiding of the waters.
Where this was not the case, all hands embarked; and, if no bottom could be found with the
setting-poles, the boats were drawn up by means
of the ice-hooks, fixed in crevices and on sharp
points of the rock. In this difficult operation it
was necessary actually to graze the cliffs, some
fending off the boat's side; otherwise the force of
the current must have overpowered our hold, and
x 2
carried us down backwards. In some of the
worst places short portages were made; in others,
the boats took in much water; and the strain on
the lines was often so great, that the trackers,
even on all fours, could scarcely maintain their
ground. Where bars and shallows occurred, the
boats were poled up in ziz-zag fashion; or the
men, getting out in the water, handed them over
the obstruction. Numerous fragments of rock
kept falling from the face of the cliffs as the
towing parties passed under them, and one man
narrowly escaped getting his leg fractured; their
feet were at the same time much galled by the
sharp stones which strewed their difficult path.
The preceding description is equally applicable to
our journey of the 7th, when we surmounted the
Strong rapid where we were detained on the
23rd and 24th of June. Nothing but the skill
and dexterity of guides long practised, like ours,
in all the intricacies of river navigation could
have overcome so many obstacles: it is not,
therefore, surprising that Dr. Richardson's less
experienced crews should have found it necessary
to relinquish the attempt, even with the " walnut
shell." We felt a positive comfort in encamping
once more among standing trees, though ever so
We were now above all the bad rapids; the OF THE  COPPERMINE RIVER.
banks became less steep, the current regular,
but swift and strong. The water had a fine
sea-green colour: it was deep, and so clear, that
fish were often seen by the bowmen darting
along the stony bottom. The weather grew mild
under the influence of southerly breezes, to which
we had long been strangers; and, in the height
of the day, the sandflies even became trouble"
some on the immediate borders of the river.
Mr. Dease and myself walked across the country, enjoyed some picturesque views of the Copper Mountains, and had excellent sport among
the deer, which were tolerably numerous and in
high condition.
The towing party picked up several small pieces
of copper and galena washed down by the river,
and passed the carcases of a number of deer that
had been drowned in the rapids. At 1 in the
afternoon of the 9th we reached a well-wooded
spot, five or six miles below the junction of
Kendall' River. This being the nearest point
of the Coppermine to Fort Confidence, and at
the same time an eligible place for repairing
the boats in the ensuing spring, we determined
to deposit them here. They were accordingly
hauled up into the wood, beyond the reach of
the spring inundation. Three bags of pemican,
two of flour, and everything else not absolutely/
I 310
required for the land journey, were secured from
beasts of prey in a cache of ponderous stones;
all that we carried with us scarcely amounting
to thirty pounds each man.
On the 10th, striking straight out through
thin dead woods, and barrens abounding in small
lakes, we fell upon Kendall River at the end
of ten miles, about half a league below our
spring provision station. It was only knee-deep
there, full of large stones, and, like Dease River
on the opposite side of the height of land,
must be quite unnavigable, except in the month
of June. I may take this opportunity of observing, that the actual descent of the former
stream, though its course be shorter, appeared
to us little inferior to that of the latter. The
Coppermine, therefore, in its course of seventy
miles from Kendall River to the sea, makes a
descent equal to that of the whole of Bear Lake
River, itself a rapid stream, together with that
of the Mackenzie, below their confluence,—a
united distance of between five and six hundred
miles. In the evening, as we crossed a desolate
valley full of lakes, a cloud of snow geese suddenly
poured over the brow of a neighbouring hill,
and alighted about the lakes. Deer were scarce ;
but, having wounded a small one, we were surprised to see the biggest of our Esquimaux dogs,
though like the rest of the party they carried
bundles on their backs, rush forward and throttle the poor animal as it strove to escape.*
The night Was very cold, and our bivouac was
on the side of a barren mountain.
Next day we traversed a range of wild rugged
hills of naked rock, to the south branch of
Kendall River: then, ascending the valley, we
discovered in the evening smoke issuing out of
the solitary cluster of pines where I slept on
the 4th of April. We marched along the hillsides, and, when within hearing, discharged our
guns; upon which several fires were simultaneously kindled. Descending frofn the heights,
we crossed the streamlet, and found a numerous camp of Hare Indian women and children;
the men being out a-hunting, or gone to Fort
Confidence With meat. These kind people were
delighted to see us, and offered us food! The
greeting which our two hunters—their relatives—
received was boisterously affectionate. The old
women closed around them, hugged them over and
over again, and, in the transports of their joy, even
* These dogs, contrary to our expectation, proved very
inferior in the sledge to our own European breed; their size
being considerably smaller, after due allowance for their bushy
coats and the shortness of their leg unfitting them for making
their Way through deep snow.
II 312
went the length of abstracting knives and sundry
other small articles from their persons—doubtless
as memorials of their safe and happy return. The
poor fellows themselves seemed rather ashamed
of this hubbub in the presence of whites, and
looked as if they wrould gladly have dispensed
with the disinterested attentions of the elderly
We travelled all the succeeding day over bare
mountains covered with loose stones; the weather snowy, and bitterly cold. In the evening
we descended to the borders of some lakes, where
the natives had constructed a deer hedge set
with nooses.
On the 13th, seeing large smokes on the
north side of Dease River, we made towards them,
though a good way out of our course. Falling
upon a deep part of the stream, some crossed
it on a raft, others found a ford. We lighted
fires in conspicuous places, which were answered;
and at length we were overtaken by two Indians,
who, with as many others, carrying a bag of
pemican, had been considerately despatched by
Ritch to meet us. Fortunately we did not stand
in need of their assistance; and, proceeding on,
we encamped at Chollah Lake, which is three,
miles long, and contains some pretty islands.
On   the  14th we  traversed a woody tract to FORT CONFIDENCE.
the north of Dease River; and came in view of
Great Bear Lake at noon, from Cranberry Hill,
six miles distant from the establishment. Throwing ourselves down, we regaled freely on the
acid fruit, which grew profusely among the rocks;
then, setting out at a quick pace, in two hours
more we arrived at Fort Confidence. CHAPTER XIII.
Transactions at Fort Confidence, Winter 1838-39.—Murder
and Distress among the Indians.—Relief afforded them.
We had the satisfaction to find the people
in perfect health, and everything in good order,
on our arrival. The buildings had been rendered more comfortable during the summer;
and Ritch had not only purchased a considerable
quantity of dried venison from the Indians, but
had also prepared in the same manner several
thousand trout and white-fish, taken by his fishermen on either side of the island. A serious misunderstanding with the natives had, however,
nearly arisen from a very trivial cause. A person
at the house caught a little water-insect, bearing,
like the root of the mandrake, some faint resemblance to the human form, and afterwards threw
it back into the lake. Out of this incident a
story was manufactured and circulated, that the
whites had caught and murdered an Indian, and
cast hisbody into the water; nor were the natives OF 1838-39.
convinced of their foolish credulity till after our
return. Supposing, from the stock of provisions
on hand, that we might safely dispense with
the further services of our Chipewyan hunters,
we sent them back to their own country by a
boat which came with our supplies from Mackenzie River. After being liberally recompensed
for all the meat they had furnished us, and
amply provided for their journey, they received
a present of two hundred beaver-skins payable
on their arrival at Athabasca. As it was their
intention to hunt a rich fur country on their
way from Fort Simpson thither, if they have
learned foresight and economy from the whites
who brought them so far from their own lands*
they may, with such means untouched before
them, be among the most independent of savages.
Four men of our own, and -some dogs, were
despatched by the same conveyance to Mackenzie
River and Great Slave Lake, to meet the expected expresses, and bring back some articles
of clothing, &c. required by our people, which
had been kindly forwarded from Norway House
by Chief Trader Ross.
On the 18th of September an annular eclipse
of the sun took place. Its beginning was invisible, from clouds; and the Indians at the house
looked on with surprise when they saw me place 316
myself at the telescope.    But, before noon, the
heavens cleared, the sun shone out, shorn of half
his  beams,   and  the  natives  were  struck   with
amazement  when I pointed   out  to  them   the
moon-like form of the more glorious luminary.
Then their chief conjuror, Zaedhi, confessed that
he was but a child in knowledge.    This reminds
me of a singular coincidence in a prediction of
that same personage, at Fort Confidence, regarding us, during our absence on the coast.    After
working himself up to the prophetic pitch with
the aid of his drum and other mysteries, he suddenly exclaimed, in presence of the inmates, " I
am afraid, I am afraid—I see Esquimaux dogs
in their camp," &c.    He afterwards assured his
wondering  auditory that he had  been with  us
I in the spirit," and exhibited some balls belonging to my percussion gun, the first of that sort
he had ever seen, which he pretended to have
taken out of my pocket  while  asleep,  though
he had in reality abstracted them from my apartment,  probably for this express  purpose.    The
more horrible parts of his prediction were disproved by our safe return; but his single hit,
regarding the dogs, was amply sufficient to secure
him an enduring reputation among his credulous
countrymen.     The  professions  of conjuror  and
physician are among all  savage nations united, OF 1838-39.
or rather synonymous, for ignorance is the parent
of superstition. As the young men who assisted
us to Kendall River, and who carried my little
wolves to the establishment, were on their way
thither, they stopped at the hunting-camp, where
they found the blind old man, already spoken
of, at the point .of death. The singular thought
instantly occurred to the conjuring doctor that
the skin of one of the poor little animals, taken
off and applied, yet warm with the vital heat,
to the breast of the expiring man, would reanimate him and restore his vigour. The experiment was tried, but I need not add in vain.
This aged man's was the only natural death
that occurred within our knowledge during" the
summer, for the natives enjoyed abundance, and
were happily free from all sickness; but, on the
20th of October, we received the distressing
news of the murder of ,^wo young Dog-rib girls
in the direction of the Coppermine, a few days
after our return from that river. They had
gone out to a little distance from the camp, in
order to carry home venison, when they were
assailed by some dastardly lurking wretch, who
despatched the poor defenceless creatures with
a knife. Many and various were the opinions
respecting the perpetrators of this detestable
crime; even the Esquimaux were accused; but
i 318
for some time suspicion rested upon the Copper
Indians. The Dog-ribs and Hare Indians long
groaned under cruel injuries from the latter
licentious tribe, who termed them | slaves," and,
whenever they met, used to rob them of their
women and their most valuable effects. But the
" slaves," though to a stranger they appear a mild
race, are yet exceedingly treacherous; a quality
which their cowardice serves but to augment,
for what they dare not attempt openly they effect
through stratagem and cunning. Thus, in 1823,
they fell upon their persecutors by surprise, and
cut off a considerable party, including The Hook
and Long Legs, who figure in Sir John Franklin's first journey. The terror of this act of
retribution is undoubtedly the cause why we
were visited by no Copper Indians during our
long residence at Fort Confidence. The present
suspicion arose from the recent death of Akaitcho,
the old chief of that tribe, so honourably mentioned by Franklin and Back, and a reported
declaration of his followers, that their grief and
despair could only be consoled by making war
upon their unoffending neighbours. At length,
however, the suspicion attached to the Copper
Indians was discarded, and the guilt fixed by
the natives upon an individual of their own
camp, named Edahadelly (my quondam hunting THE  INDIANS.
companion), who had all but avowed the commission of a former act of blood. I shall give
the reasons which led to this conclusion, as they
furnish a favourable specimen of Indian logic;
though it is but fair to add that they were the
fruit of the united wisdom of the whole camp
extracted by slow degrees, and matured in many
long and smoky conferences. Edahadelly, on his
return to the camp on the day of the murder,
reported that he had seen at a distance two suspicions-looking strangers, who were never heard
of afterwards, nor were even iheir tracks seen
by the other hunters, who were out in various
directions the same day. On one of the bodies
being brought in by those who went to look for
the missing girls, he set about conjuring, which
he pretended revealed to him the place where
the other corpse lay, and its position; also that,
after being mortally wounded, the poor little
girl had applied a piece of leather to her side
to stop the effusion of blood. All these particulars were verified; Edahadelly himself leading
the way to the fatal spot, and afterwards taking
upon him the duty of interring the body, in
order, the Indians said, to entitle him, without
confessing the deed, to assume certain marks
upon the wrists and neck—the same which, by
their superstition, a murderer wears.
' 320
Whoever was the real assassin, the alarm occasioned by this atrocious action had well-nigh
brought upon our Indians, and upon ourselves,
still greater calamities. The natives abandoned
their hunting grounds, and flocked for protection
to the establishment, where it was afterwards
asserted by the female inmates that a plot was
actually hatching against us by the relatives of
the deceased, the very people who shared most
liberally in our bounty; I because," said they,
| if the fort had not been on our lands, we
should not have been where we were when the
misfortune happened !" Be this as it may, many
of the Indians must have perished from hunger,
had it not been for the prompt and extensive
relief we afforded them, not merely while they
remained with us, but comprehending provisions
to take them to places where they might procure their own subsistence. This was done at our
own imminent risk; for, though fall-fisheries were
established immediately after our return from the
coast, they were unproductive, and the winter
fisheries yielded still less than those of the previous season. During the remainder of the year
1838 the natives were a grievous burthen upon
us, and rendered us little or no assistance; for
the deer had deserted the peninsula, where they
were so numerous the former winter, and retired THE INDIANS.
to the southward of Great Bear Lake, and along
the woody borders of the Coppermine River.
Most fortunately for all, the present winter was
less inclement than the long and terrible one
of 1837-8. : .     '   >||     H | -
Finding our resources falling very low, Sinclair
was placed, with our two active coast-hunters,
Larocque and Maccaconce, who with their brothers formed a little party, at the head of
M'Tavish Bay. Animals being very scarce, the
supply of meat we received from them in the
beginning of 1839 was extremely small: matters,
however, might have improved, had not a most
exaggerated rumour of their success reached the
ears of a number of elderly people and children
who were scattered at the various fishing points
in our vicinity. Some of these came to the
house and received a supply of provisions from
Mr. Dease, under promise of returning to their
fishing-places, and remaining quiet till we heard
certain news from the hunters; instead of which
they all collected, and with the very means furnished them clandestinely set out to join those
poor fellows, though not less than sixty miles
off. This they regarded as a master-stroke of
cunning, but it had well-nigh cost them dear;
for in February Sinclair returned in a very reduced state, having, in common with the whole
*2d camp, been for some time subsisting on scraps
of skin and roasted leather. The able hunters,
he informed us, had been obliged to separate
from the old people who brought this misery
upon them, and proceed south-eastward to the
Coppermine River; while the unfortunate dupes
of their own folly, about twenty in number, were
left in a pitiable condition at the head of M'Tavish Bay. We lost no time in sending them a
large bag of pounded meat, reserved for making
pemican in the spring, which saved them from
absolute starvation; and, with Sinclair's assistance, they rejoined our hunters near the Coppermine, whose services were consequently lost to
us for the remainder of the season. Independent
of frequent passing relief, we had, in the same
month, the satisfaction of saving the lives of
two old Women and two little girls at the establishment. The latter especially, when brought
in, were so weak as to be scarcely able to stand ;
but by care and kindness they recruited fast, and
all remained with us till late in the spring. In
short, the winter was one continued term of
anxiety on our part for the natives around us;
while our stock of food at the fort was, by the
opening of March, almost entirely expended, our
men having to perform journeys of two and three
weeks' duration to the southward, where alone TO THE  INDIANS.
reindeer were to be found. The only persons
who actually perished during this miserable winter were an elderly woman and a new-born child,
which the starving mother cast away. Far be
it from us, however, to arrogate any merit for
our exertions in preserving the lives of our fellow-
creatures. It is a duty conscientiously fulfilled
by every officer in the service when the occasion
arrives, and was this very winter performed with
equal effect by our next neighbour, Chief Trader
M'Pherson of Mackenzie River.
The cause which leads to the occasional abandonment of the old and decrepit in the northern
districts has never been thoroughly explained.*
When a party determine upon proceeding to
some distant hunting-ground, they usually leave
the refuse of the camp at some known fishery,
where they can easily subsist during the absence
of the active and tire robust. The old folks,
however, who are in general noted as grumblers
and haters of fish diet, are not always satisfied
with this arrangement; and, in spite of remon-
* The Sioux, Assiniboines, and the tribes on the Missouri*
according to Lewis and Clarke (vol. ii. p. 421), habitually
abandoned their people when no longer able to follow the
hunting-camps ; telling them that they had lived long enough,
and that it was now time for them to go home to their
T 324
strance, will hobble after the hunting-camp, often
reaching it long past nightfall. They act as a
dead weight upon the able hunters, who are by
Indian law — a law founded on the two great
principles of reciprocity and necessity — obliged
to share their success with all present; and, when
the scarcity occasioned by their own obstinacy
ensues, these elderly people are, of course, the
first to sink under it. In this very way were the
twenty, whom Sinclair rescued from inevitable
death, exposed to the last extremities, as already
described. No people so soon get tired of any
particular diet as Indians; and their longings for
change, even amidst the best cheer, are often
truly ridiculous. The flexibility of their stomachs
is no less surprising. At one time they will gorge
themselves with food, and are then prepared to go
without any for several days, if necessary. Enter
their tents; sit there, if you can, for a whole day,
and not for an instant will you find the fire unoccupied by persons of all ages cooking. When
not hunting or travelling, they are, in fact, always
eating. Now, it is a little roast, a partridge or
rabbit perhaps; now, a tid-bit broiled under the
ashes; anon, a portly kettle, well filled with venison, swings over the fire; then comes a choice
dish of curdled blood, followed by the sinews
and marrow-bones of deer's legs singed on the of 1838-39.
embers. And so the grand business of life goes
unceasingly round, interrupted only by sleep!
Another physical singularity of the northern
tribes is, that though capable of resisting, with
great fortitude, the most intense cold, they are
wonderfully fond of fire. At an establishment,
even when the weather is mild and pleasant out
of doors, they are to be seen heaping on fuel in
the house, and actually sitting cross-legged on
the hearth, where a white man would speedily be
roasted. I have, however, remarked, that the
invariable effect of the North American climate
is to render even Europeans more chilly than on
their first arrival; from which we must infer that
there is something debilitating in the climate or
mode of life.
During ten days in March I was absent on an
excursion, with two servants and two natives, for
the carcases of a couple of deer placed " en
cache" by the latter to the southward of Great
Bear Lake. When we reached the place, we
found that the deposit had been wantonly opened
for the purpose of purloining part of the meat,
which was already paid for. The consequence
was, that the ravenous wolverenes had obtained
free ingress, and left us little more than the
bones. The camp having removed still farther
southward, I dismissed the Indians, and with my two companions returned, on short commons, to
the establishment. I regretted this disappointment the more, as it prevented me from exploring the remaining ramifications of the south-east
corner or angle of M'Tavish Bay, which terminates this magnificent inland sea, These slender
but numerous arms are concealed by the large
island where Dr. Richardson and Lieut. Kendall's
survey in 1826, and mine in 1838, met. Some
of them I passed through on the way to our rifled
cache; but our couriers to and from Port Simpson, by way of Marten Lake, travelled a good
day's journey farther southward, among numberless channels and islands, which I soon found
it would be an endless business to examine. At
a very short distance the shore appears uniform,
though rugged; but, on approaching closer, and
turning a rocky point or looking in behind an
islet, a cove or creek is seen, ending apparently
within gunshot, when, on advancing to make
I assurance doubly sure," the wanderer is astonished to find a narrow winding channel, which,
after a mile or two, expands into a wide arm,
running away to an unknown distance among the
hills and precipices of naked rock that form this
truly primitive country. Crossing one of these
branches on the way out, I asked my native guide
how far it led.    He, apprehending my desire of of 1838-39.
exploring it, replied, " Ten days' journey," pointing
to the north-east, " without a tree to make fire."
On my telling him that such a distance was impossible, from the situation of the Coppermine
River, and requesting him to make a chart of the
inlet on the snow, as our slender supply of provisions did not admit of penetrating farther into
it, he drew the figure copied in the map (which I
have reduced to the modest estimate of twenty
miles), with this essential difference from his prior
statement, that I could encamp half-way the first
night — at a mountain of the shape of the white
men's houses, containing a cave wherein the Indians practise their most solemn necromancy.
The country south-eastward of M'Tavish Bay is
very hilly, with granite rocks protruding through
the snow, but becomes better wooded the farther
we recede from Great Bear Lake. Birch here
begins to mingle with the pines; and at Leg Lake,
where we slept, I found the wood close enough to
afford some shelter against the piercing winds, for
the first time during all my winter journeys from
Fort Confidence. Widely different, indeed, are
the hardships of such travelling in the barren
lands, from those endured in the well-wooded
countries of Athabasca and Mackenzie River.
During the day our road lies over bare mountains^
or on the no less unsheltered and stormy lake—one
i traverse of which, thirty miles wide, I now crossed
for the third time. The snow too is very rough
and granulated, yielding, indeed, superior water
to the soft snow of the woody districts, but tearing the sledges, and lacerating the feet both of
men and dogs; while the cold endured on the
journey, especially during the night in the open,
exposed encampment, is excessive, and trying to
the stoutest constitution.*
On my return to the establishment, I found
that it had been visited by a party of eleven Hare
Indians from a remote camp to the westward,
who brought a most acceptable supply of half-
dried ribs of venison. They reported the snow
to be very deep, and reindeer unusually numerous
in their quarter; which we were afterwards glad
to find confirmed by letters from Mr. Bell, at
Fort Good Hope. About this time also Le
Babillard and a small hunting-party, three or four
days' journey to the eastward, fell in most opportunely with  a  drove of musk-cattle,  in whose
* Cold and comfortless as these bivouacs are, the spirit of
hilarity generally prevails, when the fire has once been lighted,
and the kettle begins to boil. I remembe