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Narrative of the Discoveries on the North Coast of America, effected by the Officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company, during the years 1836—39/Chapter VII

< Narrative of the Discoveries on the North Coast of America, effected by the Officers of the Hudson’s Bay Company, during the years 1836—39


CHAPTER VII.

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, 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 south-east, 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 the singularly shaped bay, of which we had now completed the tedious circuity 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 oar portable canoe. On the bank three Arctic foxes were sporting, and allowed us to approach pretty near before they ran into their holes. We saw 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 harried 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, or 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 women, 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 was 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 paddies, 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 north-ward. 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 expedition. 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 west-ward 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 semi-circular 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, situated 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 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,[1] 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 tawāc, or tawācah, a name acquired of course from the Russian traders. Not content with chewing and smoking it, they 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 tawāc, 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 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 hands, 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 water 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 Carriers of New Caledonia, 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 Carriers 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.[2]

My old banner-man informed me that whales were, in some seasons, seen without the point, 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 fall and change will be noon. The afternoon tide was still rising when we took our 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 touch-wood with a burning-glass. Their own clumsy 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 was 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, recrossing 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 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 we 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 across 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 over-joyed at our return, and would lain 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 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 with 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 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 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.


  1. Made of the entrails of seals, &c.
  2. 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.