Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 139.pdf/579

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.



sand and enable the Russians to march from Krasnovodsk to Khiva by a route not more than three hundred and sixty miles in length, across a desert which they have hitherto, for want of water, been unable to traverse in any large force.

From The Academy.


The annals of literature, although abounding with the productions of countless authors representing all ages and nearly all nations, have hitherto been unable to record the existence of a work emanating from the brain, and transmitted by the pen, of an Eskimo. That deficiency has now been supplied. The work before us is the plain, unvarnished history of the life and adventures of one of those wandering nomads — who pass their lives in months of ceaseless sunshine and months of endless darkness — as chronicled by himself.

Those who have interested themselves in the work of polar exploration, and have read the various narratives of the more recent Arctic expedition, published by the commanders on their return, cannot fail to be acquainted with the name of Hans Hendrik.

We first hear of him in 1853, when he was but a lad some seventeen years of age, accompanying Dr. Kane, the eminent American Arctic explorer, in the capacity of hunter and dog-driver to the expedition. Readers of Dr. Kane's admirable description of this voyage will be able, in a manner, to realize the hardships and sufferings endured by our hero during two terribly severe winters. On this occasion he was the sole companion of Moreton when he reported his great discovery of an "open Polar Sea," now proved to have no existence.

The author's account of how he first accepted employment with the Americans, and his parting from home, is thus laconically described: —

I heard that they were looking for a native companion, and that his parents should have payment during his absence. Nobody being willing, I, Hans Hendrik, finally took a liking to join them, and I said I would go. The ship's master tried to get one assistant more, but did not succeed.
I went to inform my mother of my intention and she gainsaid me, and begged me not to join them; but I replied, "If no mischief happen me I shall return, and I shall earn money for thee; but certainly I pity my dear younger brothers who have not grown food-winners as yet, especially the youngest, Nathaniel." At last we started, and when we left my countrymen and relatives, to be sure it was very disheartening. Still, I thought, if I do not perish I shall return. How strange 1 This was not to be fulfilled.

Hans, it must be remembered, though a dweller within the Arctic circle, had always lived in the southern part of it, and had therefore never experienced any long period of darkness. His terror and astonishment at the excessive darkness and long-continued absence of the sun in their first winter quarters in latitude 790 is related in the following graphic manner: —

Then it really grew winter and dreadfully cold, and the sky speedily darkened. Never had I seen the dark season like -this; to be sure it was awful; I thought we should have no daylight any more. I was seized with fright, and fell a-weeping; I never in my life saw such darkness at noon-time. As the darkness continued for three months, I really believed we should have no daylight more. However, finally it dawned, and brightness having set in, I used to go shooting hares.

That our hero was a keen and successful sportsman is fully exemplified, not only by his own words — and he certainly regards his hunting excursions as the most important duties connected with an Arctic expedition — but also by the statements of the different commanders with whom he served, who testify to his skill and energy, and aver that the lives of many of his scurvy-stricken comrades were undoubtedly saved by his promptitude in procuring game.

Instead of returning to the southward with Dr. Kane, Hans elected to remain and take his chance with a more northerly tribe, called by Sir John Ross the Arctic Highlanders, with whom he lived for several years. He thus describes his attachment to them: —

At length I wholly attached myself to them, and followed them when they removed to the south. I got the man of highest standing among them as my foster father, and when I had dwelled several winters with them, I began to think of taking a wife, although an unchristened one. First, I went a-wooing to a girl of good morals, but I gave her up, as her father said: "Take my sister." The latter was a widow and ill-reputed. Afterwards I got a sweetheart whom I resolved never to part with, but to keep as my wife in the country of the Christians. Since then she has been baptized and partaken of the Lord's Supper.
  1. Memoirs of Hans Hendrik, the Arctie Traveller• Written by Himself. Translated from the Eskimo Language by Dr. Henry Rink. (Trübner.)