BOWDOIN BOYS IN LABRADOR
An Account of the Bowdoin College Scientific Expedition to Labrador Led by Prof. Leslie A. Lee of the Biological Department
JONATHAN PRINCE CILLEY, JR.
Rockland, Maine: Rockland Publishing Company
This letter from the President of Bowdoin College is printed as an appropriate preface to the pages which follow.
I thank you for the advanced sheets of the "Bowdoin Boys in Labrador." As Sallust says, "In primis arduum videtur res gestas scribere; quod facta dictis sunt exaequanda."
In this case, the diction is equal to the deed: the clear and vivacious style of the writer is fully up to the level of the brilliant achievements he narrates.
The intrinsic interest of the story, and its connection with the State and the College ought to secure for it a wide reading.
Very truly yours, WILLIAM DEW. HYDE.
BOWDOIN BOYS IN LABRADOR
ON BOARD THE "JULIA A. DECKER," Port Hawkesbury, Gut of Canso, July 6th. 1891.
Here the staunch Julia lies at anchor waiting for a change in the wind and a break in the fog. To-day will be memorable in the annals of the "Micmac" Indians, for Prof. Lee has spent his enforced leisure in putting in anthropometric work among them, inducing braves, squaws and papooses of both sexes to mount the trunk that served as a measuring block and go through the ordeal of having their height, standing and sitting, stretch of arms, various diameters of head and peculiarities of the physiognomy taken down. While he with two assistants was thus employed, two of our photographic corps were busily engaged in preserving as many of their odd faces and costumes as possible, making pictures of their picturesque camp on the side of a hill sloping toward an arm of the Gut, with its round tent covered with birch and fir bark, dogs and children, and stacks of logs or wood—from which they make the strips for their chief products, baskets—cows, baggage and all the other accompaniments of a comparatively permanent camp. They go into the woods and make log huts for winter, but such miserable quarters as these prove to be on closer inspection, with stoves, dirt and chip floor, bedding and food in close proximity to the six or eight inhabitants of each hut, suffice them during warm weather. We found that they elect a chief, who holds the office for life. The present incumbent lives near by St. Peter's Island, and is about forty years old. They hold a grand festival in a few weeks somewhere on the shore of Brasd'Or Lake, at which nearly every Indian on the Island is expected, some two thousand in all, we are informed, and after experiencing our good-fellowship at their camp and on board they invited us one and all to come down, only cautioning us to bring along a present of whiskey for the chief.
The Gut, in this part at least, is beautiful sailing ground, with bold, wooded shores, varied by slight coves and valleys with little hamlets at the shore and fishermen's boats lying off the beach. The lower part we passed in a fog, so we are ignorant of its appearance as though the Julia had not carried us within a hundred miles of it, instead of having knowingly brought us past rock and shoal to this quiet cove, under the red rays of the light on Hawkesbury Point, and opposite Port Mulgrave, with which Hawkesbury is connected by a little two-sailed, double-ended ferry-boat built on a somewhat famous model. It seems that a boat builder of this place, who, by the way, launched a pretty little yacht to-day, sent a fishing boat, whose model and rig was the product of many years' experience as a fisherman, to the London Fisheries' Exhibit of a few years past, and received first medal from among seven thousand five hundred competitors. The Prince of Wales was so pleased with the boat, which was exhibited under full sail with a wax fisherman at the helm, that he purchased it and has since used it. Later, when the United States fish commission schooner Grampus was here with the present assistant commissioner, Capt. Collins, in command, the plans were purchased by our government on the condition that no copies were to be made without Mr. Embree's consent. A little later yet, a commissioner from Holland and Sweden came over, bought the plans and built a perfect copy of the original, the seaworthy qualities of which has caused its type to entirely displace the old style of small fishing boats in those countries. The boat's abilities in heavy waters have been tested many times, and have never failed to equal her reputation.
But, meanwhile, the Julia lies quietly at anchor, as if it were mutely reproaching your correspondent with singing another's praises when she has brought us safely and easily thus far, in spite of gales, fog, and headwind, calm, and treacherous tide, and even now is eagerly waiting for the opportunity to carry us straight and swiftly to Battle Harbor in the straits of Belle Isle, where letters and papers from home await us, and then up through the ice fields to Cape Chudleigh.
[The Real Start] Our real start was made from Southwest Harbor, Mt. Desert, the Monday after leaving Rockland. Saturday night, after a short sail in the dark and a few tacks up the Thoroughfare to North Haven village, we anchored and rested from the confusion and worry of getting started and trying to forget nothing that would be needed in our two and one-half months' trip. Sunday morning was nearly spent before things were well enough stowed to allow us to get under weigh in safety, and then our bow was turned eastward and, as we thought, pointed for Cape Sable. Going by the hospital on Widow's Island and the new light on Goose Rock nearly opposite it, out into Isle au Haut bay, we found a fresh northeaster, which warned us not to go across the Bay of Fundy if we had no desire for an awful shaking up. In view of all the facts, such as green men, half-stowed supplies and threatening weather, we decided that we must not put our little vessel through her paces that night, and chose the more ignominious, but also more comfortable course of putting into a harbor. Consequently after plunging through the rips off Bass Head, and cutting inside the big bell buoy off its entrance, we ran into Southwest Harbor and came to anchor. In the evening many of the party thought it wise to improve the last opportunity for several months, as we then supposed, to attend church, and to one who knew the chapel-cutting proclivities of many of our party while at Bowdoin, it would have been amusing to see them solemnly tramp into church, rubber boots and all. It is a fact, however, that every member of our party, with a possible exception, went to church in this place yesterday largely for the same reason.
Our little Julia rewarded our action of the night previous by taking us out by Mt Desert Rock at a rattling pace Monday morning, bowing very sharply and very often to the spindle-like tower on the rock, as she met the Bay of Fundy chop, and at the same time administered a very effective emetic to all but five or six of the Bowdoin boys aboard. She is wise as well as bold and strong, and so after nightfall waited under easy canvas for light to reveal Seal Island to our watchful eyes. Shortly after daylight the low coast was made out, the dangerous rocks passed, and Cape Sable well on our quarter. But there it stayed. We made but little progress for two days, and employed the time in laying in a supply of cod, haddock and pollock, till our bait was exhausted. Then we shot at birds, seals and porpoises whenever they were in sight, and from the success, apparently, at many when they were not in sight; put the finishing touches on our stowage, and kept three of the party constantly employed with our long bamboo-handled dip-net, in fishing up specimens for the professor and his assistants. As the result of this we have a large number of fish eggs which we are watching in the process of hatching, many specimens of crustacea and of seaweed. The photographers, in the meanwhile, got themselves into readiness for real work by practicing incessantly upon us.
Thursday, we made Sambro light; soon pilot boat number one hailed us and put a man aboard, whom we neither needed nor wanted, and we were anchored off the market steps at Halifax. The run up the harbor was very pleasant. Bright skies, a fresh breeze off the land, and vessels all about us made many lively marine pictures. The rather unformidable appearing fortification, on account of which Halifax boasts herself the most strongly fortified city of America, together with the flag-ship Bellerophon and two other vessels of the Atlantic squadron, the Canada and the Thrush, the latter vessel until lately having been commanded by Prince George, gave the harbor and town a martial tone that was heightened upon our going ashore and seeing the red coats that throng the streets in the evening. Halifax, with its squat, smoky, irregular streets is well known, and its numerous public buildings, drill barracks, and well kept public gardens, all backed by the frowning citadel, probably need no description from me. After receiving the letters for which we came in, and sending the courteous United States Consul General, Mr. Frye, and his vice-consul, Mr. King, Colby '89, ashore with a series of college yells that rather startled the sleepy old town, we laid a course down the harbor, exchanged salutes with the steamship Caspian, and were soon ploughing along, before a fine south-west breeze for Cape Canso.
[Ward Room of the Julia Decker] While our little vessel is driving ahead with wind well over the quarter, groaning, as it were, at the even greater confusion in the wardroom than when we left Rockland, owing to the additional supplies purchased at Halifax, it may be well to briefly describe her appearance, when fitted to carry seventeen Bowdoin men in her hold in place of the lime and coal to which she has been accustomed. Descending, then, the forward hatch, protected by a plain hatch house, the visitor turns around and facing aft, looks down the two sides of the immense centreboard box that occupies the centre of our wardroom from floor to deck. Fastened to it are the mess tables, nearly always lighted by some four or five great lamps, which serve to warm as well, as the pile of stuff around and beneath the after-hatch house cuts off most of the light that would otherwise come down there. On the port side of the table runs the whole length of the box; two wooden settles serve for dining chairs and leave about four feet clear space next the "deacon's seat" that runs along in front of the five double-tiered berths. These are canvas-bottomed, fitted with racks, shelves, and the upper ones with slats overhead, in which to stow our overflowing traps.
At the after end, on both sides of the wardroom, are large lockers coming nearly to the edge of the hatch, in which most of the provisions are stowed. At the forward end, next to the bulkhead that separates us from the galley, are, on the port side, a completely equipped dark room in which many excellent pictures have already been brought to light, and on the starboard side a large rack holding our canned goods, ketchup, lime-juice, etc. Along the bulkhead are the fancy cracker boxes, tempting a man to take one every time he goes below, and under the racks are our kerosene and molasses barrels. Between the line of four double-tier berths on the starboard side and the rack just described is a handy locker for oil clothes and heavy overcoats. Lockers run along under the lower berths, and trunks with a thousand other articles are stowed under the tables. A square hole cut in the bulkhead, just over the galley head, lets heat into the wardroom and assists the lamps in keeping us warm. As yet, in spite of some quite cold weather, we have been perfectly comfortable. Sometimes, however, odors come in as well as heat from the galley, and do not prove so agreeable. If to this description, clothes of various kinds, guns, game bags, boots, fishing tackle and books, should, by the imagination of the reader, to be scattered about, promiscuously hung, or laid in every conceivable nook and corner, a fair idea of our floating house could be obtained. On deck we are nearly as badly littered, though in more orderly fashion. Two nests of dories, a row boat, five water tanks, a gunning float, and an exploring boat, partly well fill the Julia's spacious decks. The other exploring boat hangs inside the schooner's yawl at the stern. Add to these two hatch houses, a small pile of lumber, and considerable fire wood snugly stowed between the casks, and you have a fair idea of our anything but clear decks. A yellow painted bust, presumably of our namesake Julia, at the end of figure-head, peers through the fog and leads us in the darkness; a white stripe relieves the blackness of our sides; a green rail surmounts all; and, backed by the forms of nineteen variously attired Bowdoin men, from professor, their tutor, alumnus, to freshmen, complete our description.
[The Fourth of July] Meanwhile the night, clear but windless, has come on, and we drift along the Nova Scotia coast, lying low and blue on our northern board. The Fourth dawns rather foggy, but it soon yields to the sun's rays and a good breeze which bowls us along toward the Cape. An elaborate celebration of the day is planned, but only the poem is finally rendered, due probably to increased sea which the brisk breeze raises incapacitating several of the actors for their assigned parts. The poem, by the late editor of '91's "BUGLE," is worthy of preservation, but would hardly be understood unless our whole crowd were present to indicate by their roars the good points in it.
At night our constant follower, the fog, shuts in, and the captain steering off the Cape, we lay by, jumping and rolling in a northeast sea, waiting for daylight to assist us to Cape Canso Harbor and the Little Ant. About six next morning we form one of a fleet of five or six sail passing the striped lighthouse on Cranberry Island, and with a rush go through the narrow passage lined with rocks and crowded with fishermen. Out into the fog of Chedebucto Bay we soon pass and in the fog we remain, getting but a glimpse of the shore now and then, till we reach Port Hawkesbury.
JONA. P. CILLEY, JR.
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ON BOARD THE "JULIA A. DECKER," OFF ST. JOHN'S BAY, NEWFOUNDLAND.
We are bowling along with a fine southwest wind, winged out, mainsail reefed and foresail two-reefed, and shall be in the straits in about two hours. The Julia is a flyer. Between 12 and 4 this morning we logged just 46 knots, namely, 13.5 miles per hour for four hours. I doubt if I ever went much faster in a sailing vessel. It is now about 10 o'clock, and we have made over 75 miles since 4.
All hands are on watch for a first glimpse of the Labrador coast, which will probably be Cape Armours with the light on it.
I wrote last time from Hawkesbury in the Gut of Canso. We laid there all day Monday, July 6th, as the wind, southeast in the harbor, was judged by everybody to be northeast out in George's Bay, and consequently dead ahead for us. Monday evening, at the invitation of the purser, we all went down aboard the "State of Indiana," the regular steamer of the "State Line" between Charlottetown, P.E.I., and Boston, touching at Halifax, and in the Gut.
After going ashore we stayed on the wharf till she left, singing college songs, giving an impromptu athletic exhibition, etc., to the intense delight of about fifty small boys (I can't conceive where they all came from), and the two or three hundred servant girls going home to P.E.I. for a summer vacation.
I would put in here parenthetically, that since writing the above I have been on deck helping jibe the mainsail, as we have changed our course to about east by north, having rounded a couple of small low, sandy islands off the Bay of St. John, and now point straight into the strait of Belle Isle.
In the afternoon we examined some of the old red sandstone which underlies all that part of Cape Breton Island, found some good specimens, and some very plain and deep glacial scratches. There is also some coal and a good deal of shale in with the sandstone.
We had a good opportunity to see this, since the railroad connecting Port Hawkesbury with Sidney is new, having started running only last March, and hence the cuts furnished admirable fields in which to examine the geology. The road is surveyed and bed made along the Cape Breton shore of the Gut nearly to the northern end, and when completed will be a delightful ride. I think the Gut for 10 miles north of Port Hawkesbury resembles the Hudson just by the Palisades. It is grander than Eggemoggin Reach and on a far larger scale than Somes' Sound. At the northern end it broadens and becomes just a magnificent waterway, without the grand scenery. We were becalmed nearly all day in George's Bay, at one time getting pretty near Antigonish, but got a breeze towards evening. We tried fishing several times but could not get a bite though several fishermen were in sight and trawls innumerable. We passed one fisherman, a fine three-master, just as we were coming out of the Gut from Frenchman's Bay, going home, but with very little fish.
I got the captain to call me about 4, Wednesday morning, to fish, but got none. We were then off North Cape, having had a good breeze all night. The wind was light all day, but towards the latter part of the afternoon commenced to blow from the southeast, kicking up a nasty sea very soon. We double reefed the mainsail reefed the foresail and hauled the flying jib down. About 8 P.M. we laid to with the jib hauled down, on the starboard tack. The wind had backed to the east about four points and was blowing a gale. About 12 M. it suddenly dropped, a flat calm, leaving a tremendous sea running from the southeast, combined with a smaller one from the east. Our motions, jumps, rolls and pitches, can be better imagined than described. It seemed at times that our bow and our stern were where the mastheads usually are, and our rails were frequently rolled under.
Rice and Hunt stood one watch, Cary and I the second, and here Rice, though a good sailor and an experienced yachtsman, finally succumbed. We hauled everything down with infinite difficulty, owing to the violent motion, and made it fast, then let her roll and pitch to her heart's content. A sorrier looking place than our wardroom, and a sicker set of fellows it would be hard to find. The dishes had some play in the racks, and kept up an infernal racket that I tried in every way to stop and could not. To cap all, the wind came off a gale northwest about 4 A.M., and made yet another sea. As soon as possible we set a double-reefed foresail, and then I turned in. When I turned out at noon we had made Newfoundland and set a whole foresail, jib and one reef out of the mainsail. We were becalmed, but found excellent fishing, so did not care. The sea had gone down and we began to enjoy the Norway-like rugged coast of Newfoundland. The mountains come right down to the water, and are about 1,400 feet high, by our measurement, using angular altitude by sextant and base line, our distance off shore as shown by our observation for latitude and longitude.
There are many deep, narrow-mouthed coves and harbors, a good number of islands and points making a most magnificent coast line. In many cases 50 or 75 fathoms are found right under the shore. Great patches of snow, miles in extent, cover the mountain sides. Great brown patches, which the professor thinks are washings from the fine examples of erosion, but which look to me like patches of brown grass as we see in Penobscot Bay on the islands, vary with what is apparently a scrubby evergreen growth and bald, bare rocks. As we are about 18 miles off, the blue haze over all makes an enlarged, roughened and much more deeply indented Camden mountain coast line. The bays are in some cases so deep that we can look into narrow entrances and see between great cliffs, only a few miles apart, a water horizon on the other side. We wished very much to get in towards the shore, but the calm and very strong westerly current, about 1-1/2 knots, prevented.
While enjoying the calm in pleasant contrast to our late shaking up, it will be well to introduce the members of the party whom Bowdoin has thought worthy to bear her name into regions seldom vexed by a college yell, and to whom she has entrusted the high duties of scientific investigation, in which, since the days of Professor Cleaveland, she has kept a worthy place.
[Members of the Expedition] In command is Prof. Leslie A. Lee, of the Biological Department of Bowdoin. With a life-long experience in all branches of natural history, the experience which a year in charge of the scientific staff of the U.S. Fish Commission Steamer "Albatross" in a voyage from Washington around Cape Horn to Alaska, and an intimate connection with the Commission of many year's standing, and the training that scholarly habits, platform lecturing and collegic instruction have given him, you see a man still young, for he was graduated from St. Lawrence University in 1872, and equal to all the fatigues that out-of-door, raw-material, scientific work demands.
The rest of the party have yet to prove their mettle, and of them but little can now be said. Dr. Parker, who, with the Professor, captain and mate, occupies the cabin proper, is an '86 man, cut out for a physician and thoroughly prepared to fulfil all the functions of a medical staff, from administering quinine to repairing broken limbs.
Cary of '87, who is even now planning for his struggle with the difficulties on the way to the Grand Falls, has had the most experience in work of the sort the expedition hopes to do, save the Professor and Cole. Logging and hunting in the Maine forests in the vicinity of his home in Machias, and fishing on the Georges from Cape Ann smacks, have fitted him physically, as taking the highest honors for scholarship at Bowdoin, teaching and university work in his chosen branch, have prepared him mentally, for the great task in which he leads.
Cole who accompanies him up Grand River, was Prof. Lee's assistant on the "Albatross," and is well fitted by experience and by a vigorous participation in athletics at college before his graduation in '88.
From the expedition's actual starting place, Rockland, there are four members: Rice, the yachtsman, Simonton, Spear and the writer, all fair specimens of college boys, and eager to get some reflection from the credit which they hope to help the expedition to win.
Portland has two representatives: Rich, '92, and Baxter, 93, the latter our only freshman; while Bangor sends three: Hunt, '90, Hunt, '91, who has charge of the dredging, and Hastings the taxidermist.
W.R. Smith, another salutatorian of his class, is one of the many Maine boys whom Massachusetts has called in to help train the youth of our mother Commonwealth, and has been at the head of the High School at Leicester for the past year. He, too, is thought to equal in physical vigor his mental qualities, and has been selected to brave the hardships of the Grand River.
To complete the detail for this exploration, Young of Brunswick and of '92, has been selected, another athlete of the college, who has had, in addition to his training at Bowdoin, a year or more of instruction in the schools and gymnasiums of Germany.
Porter, Andrews, and Newbegin, the latter, the only man not from Maine, coming from Ohio, and only to be accounted for as a member of the expedition by the fact that his initials P.C. stand for Parker Cleaveland, finish the list, with but one exception and that is Lincoln. The merry-maker and star on deck and below—except when the weather is too rough—he keeps the crowd good-natured when fogs, rain, head winds and general discomfort tend to discontent: and on shore he sees that the doctor is not too hard worked in making the botanical collections.
For two days we lazily drifted, the elements seeming to be making up for their late riot; but the weather was clear and bright, the scenery way off to our starboard was grand, and no one was troubled by the delay, except as the thoughts of the Grand River men turned to the great distance and the short time of their trip. At last, however, the breeze came, with which I opened this letter, and which we then hoped would continue till we reached Battle Harbor.
We just flew up the straits, saw many fishermen at anchor with their dories off at the trawls, schooners and dories both jumping in great shape; also a school of whales and an "ovea" or whale-killer, with a fin over three feet long sticking straight up. He also broke right alongside and blew. Considerable excitement attended our first sight of an iceberg; it was a rotten white one, but soon we saw a lot, some very dark and deep-colored.
[Red Bay] Our first sight of the long-desired coast was between Belle Armours Point and the cliffs near Red Bay, the thick haze making the outlines very indistinct. Just two weeks out from Rockland we made our first harbor on the Labrador coast. Red Bay is a beautiful little place, and with the added features of two magnificent icebergs close by which we passed in entering, the towering red cliffs on the left from which it takes its name, and the snug little island in the middle, and the odd houses we saw dotting the shores of the summer settlement of the natives, it seemed a sample fully equal to our expectations of what we should find in Labrador.
There is an inner harbor into which we could have gone, with seven fathoms of water and in which vessels sometimes winter as it is so secure, but we did not enter it because the captain was doubtful which of the two entrances to take and the chart seemed indefinite on the point. There are about one hundred and seventy-five people in the settlement, some of them staying there the year round, fishing in the summer and hunting the rest of the time. They have another settlement of winter houses at the head of the inner harbor, but, for convenience in getting at their cod traps, live on the island in the middle, and on the sides of the outer harbor in the summer. Their houses are made of logs about the size of small railroad ties, which are stood on end and clapboarded. The winter houses are built in a similar way with earth packed around and over them.
The party for Grand River—Cary, Cole, W.R. Smith and Young—have decided to dispense with a guide; very wisely, I think, from what I have seen of native Labradoreans. While the journey they undertake is one in which the skill of Indians or half-breeds, familiar with Labrador wildernesses would be of great value and would add to the comfort of our party, it is very doubtful if any living person has ever been to the falls or knows any more about the last, and probably the hardest part of the trip, than Cary. And, further, the travel is so difficult that about all a man can carry is supplies for himself; and the Indians cannot stand the pace that our men intend to strike; nor, if it should come to the last extremity, and a forlorn hope was needed to make a last desperate push for discovery or relief, could the Indian guides, so far as we have any knowledge of them, be relied on. That the boldest measures are often the surest, will probably again be demonstrated by our Grand River party.
We tried the exploring boats very thoroughly at Chateau Bay, three of us getting caught about six miles from the vessel in quite a blow, and the well-laden boat proved herself very seaworthy. When loaded, she still draws but little water, and is good in every way for the trip.
This letter was begun in the fine breeze off Newfoundland, but could not be mailed till the port of entry and post-office of Labrador, Battle Harbor, was reached. A week was consumed in getting from our first anchorage in Labrador to this harbor, as the captain was unaccustomed to icebergs, and properly decided to take no risks with them in the strong shifting currents and thick weather of the eastern end of the straits. The wind was ahead for several days, and the heavy squalls coming off the land in quick succession made us fear the wind would drop and leave us banging around in the fog that usually accompanies a calm spell, so we kept close to harbors and dodged in on the first provocation.
The season is three weeks late this year; the first mail boat has not yet arrived, though last year at this time she was on her second trip. The last report from the North—down the coast they call it—that went to Newfoundland and St. John's was "that it was impassable ice this side Hamilton Inlet." A vessel—a steam sealing bark—though, that was here yesterday and has gone to Sidney, C.B.I., reports now that the coast is clear to Hopedale. Beyond we know nothing about it.
On Henley and Castle Islands, at the mouth of Chateau Bay, are basaltic table-lands about half a mile across, perfectly flat on top and about two hundred feet high. We walked around one, went to its top and secured specimens from the columns. The famous "natural images" of men, are, to my eye, not nearly so good as the descriptions lead one to expect. The history of the place could hardly be guessed from its present barren, desolate, poverty-stricken appearance; but the remains of quite a fort on Barrier Point show some signs of former and now departed glory. It seems that it has been under the dominion of England, France and the United States, all of whom took forceful possession of it, and England and France have governed it. An American privateer once sacked the place, carrying away, I believe, about 3,500 pounds worth of property. Now, a very small population eke out a wretched existence by fishing, only a few remaining, living at the heads of the bays, in the winter, and most of them going home to Newfoundland.
The icebergs are in great plenty. I counted eighty from the basaltic table-land at one time, and the professor saw even more at once. Belle Isle is in plain sight from this place, looking like Monhegan from the Georges Islands, though possibly somewhat longer.
[Battle Harbor] Finally, as the wind showed no signs of changing, the captain, to our intense delight, decided to beat around to Battle Harbor and we anchored here at about 5:50 P.M., July 17th. Many of the icebergs we passed were glorious, and the scene was truly arctic. It was bitterly cold, and heavy coats were the order of the day. We passed Cape St. Charles, the proposed terminus of the Labrador Railroad to reduce the time of crossing the Atlantic to four days, saw the famous table-land, and soon opened Battle Harbor which we had to beat up, way round to the northward, to enter. It was slow business with a strong head current, but the fishermen say a vessel never came around more quickly. We found the harbor very small, with rocks not shown in chart or coast pilot, and had barely room to come to without going ashore. We went in under bare poles, and then had too much way on.
The agent for the Bayne, Johnston Co., which runs this place, keeping nearly all its three hundred inhabitants in debt to it, is a Mr. Smith, who has taken the professor and seven or eight of the boys on his little steamer to the other side of the St. Lewis Sound. The doctor has gone with them to look after some grip patients, and the professor expects to measure some half-breed Eskimo living there. The boys are expecting to get some fine trout. The grip was brought to this region by the steamer bringing the first summer fishing colonies, and has spread to all and killed a great many.
There is an Episcopal rector here, Mr. Bull, who says everybody had it. I believe it is owing to his care and slight medical skill that none have died here. It is hard for this people to have such a sickness just as the fishing season is best. The doctor has opportunity to use all and far more than the amount of medicine he brought, much to Professor Lee's amusement. He is reaping a small harvest of furs, grateful tokens of his services, that many of his patients send him, and some of his presents have also improved our menu.
This place is named Battle Harbor from the conflict that took place here between the Indians and English settlers, aided by a man-of-war. The remains of the fight are now in a swamp covered with fishflakes. There are also some strange epitaphs in the village graveyard, with its painted wooden head-boards, and high fence to keep the dogs out. These latter are really dangerous, making it necessary to carry a stick if walking alone. Men have been killed by them, but last year the worst of the lot were exported across the bay, owing to a bold steal of a child by them and its being nearly eaten up. They are a mixture of Eskimo, Indian and wolf, with great white shaggy coats.
The steamer with mail and passengers from St. John's, Newfoundland, is expected every day, and as our rivals for the honor of rediscovering Grand Falls are probably on board, there is a race in store for us to see who will get to Rigolette first, and which party will start ahead on the perilous journey up the Grand River. As they have refused our offer of co-operation, we now feel no sympathy with their task, and will have but little for them till we see them, as we hope, starting up the river several days behind our hardy crew.
JONATHAN P. CILLEY, JR.
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ON BOARD THE JULIA A. DECKER, OFF BIRD ROCKS, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Sept. 10, 1891.
While our little vessel is rushing through the blue waters of the gulf, apparently scorning the efforts of the swift little Halifax trader who promised to keep us company from the Straits to the Gut, and who, by dint of good luck and constant attention to sails has thus far kept her word, but is now steadily falling astern and to leeward, I will tell you about the snug little harbors, the bold headlands, barren slopes, and bird-covered rocks, and also the odorous fishing villages and the kind-hearted people with whom she has made us acquainted.
The Bowdoin scientific expedition to Labrador is now familiar with six of the seven wonders in this truly wonderful region. It has visited Grand Falls and "Bowdoin Canyon;" has been bitten by black flies and mosquitoes which only Labrador can produce, both in point of quality and quantity; has wandered through the carriage roads (!) and gardens of Northwest River and Hopedale; has dug over, mapped and photographed the prehistoric Eskimo settlements that line the shores, to the north of Hamilton Inlet; has made itself thoroughly conversant with the great fishing industry that has made Labrador so valuable, to Newfoundland in particular, and to the codfish consuming world in general; and finally is itself the sixth wonder, in that it has accomplished all it set out to do, though of course not all that would have been done had longer time, better weather and several other advantages been granted it.
It is almost another wonder, too, in the eyes of the Labradoreans, that we have, without pilot and yet without accident or trouble of any sort, made such a trip along their rocky coast, entered their most difficult harbors, and outsailed their fastest vessels, revenue cutters, traders and fishermen.
It will be a good many years before the visit of the "Yankee college boys," the speed of the Yankee schooner and the skill and seamanship of the Yankee captain are forgotten "on the Labrador."
The day after we left, July 19th, the mail steamer reached Battle Harbor with the first mail of the season. On board were Messrs. Bryant and Kenaston, anxiously looking for the Bowdoin party and estimating their chances of getting to the mouth of Grand River. They brought with them an Adirondack boat, of canoe model, relying on the country to furnish another boat to carry the bulk of their provisions and a crew to man the same.
[Rigolette] When the news was received that we were a day ahead, the race began in earnest, the captain of the "Curlew" entering heartily into the sport and doing his best to overhaul the speedy Yankee schooner. When about half way up to Rigolette, on the third day from Battle Harbor, as we were drifting slowly out of "Seal Bight," into which we had gone the previous night to escape the numerous icebergs that went grinding by, the black smoke, and later the spars of the mail steamer were seen over one of the numerous rocky little islets that block the entrance to the bight. The steamer's flag assured us that it was certainly the mail steamer, and many and anxious were the surmises as to whether our rivals were on board, and earnest were the prayers for a strong and favoring wind. It soon came, and we bowled along at a rattling pace, our spirits rising as we could see the steamer, in shore, gradually dropping astern. Towards night we neared Domino Run, and losing sight of the steamer, which turned out to make a stop at some wretched little hamlet that had been shut out from the outer world for nine months, at about the same time lost our breeze also. But the wind might rise again, and time was precious, so a bright lookout was kept for bergs, and we drifted on through the night. The next morning a fringe of islands shut our competitor from sight, but after an aggravating calm in the mouth of the inlet, we felt a breeze and rushed up towards Rigolette, only to meet the steamer coming out while we were yet several hours from that place.
Here we had our first experience with the immense deer-flies of Labrador. Off Mt. Gnat they came in swarms and for self-protection each man armed himself with a small wooden paddle and slapped at them right and left, on the deck, the rail, another fellow's back or head, in fact, wherever one was seen to alight. The man at the wheel was doubly busy, protecting himself, with the assistance of ready volunteers, from their lance-like bites, and steering the quickly moving vessel.
At last the white buildings and flag-staff which mark all the Hudson Bay Co.'s posts in Labrador, came in sight, snugly nestled in a little cove, beneath a high ridge lying just to the north-west of it, and soon we were at anchor. Our intention was to get into the cove, but the six knot current swept us by the mouth before the failing breeze enabled us to get in.
After supper the necessary formal call was made on the factor, Mr. Bell, by the professor, armed with a letter of introduction from the head of the company in London, and escorted by three or four of the party. A rather gruff reception, at first met with, became quite genial, when it appeared that we wanted no assistance save a pilot, and called only to cultivate the acquaintance of the most important official in Labrador.
With a promise to renew the acquaintance upon our return, we left, and after a hard pull and an exciting moment in getting the boat fast alongside, on account of the terrific current, we reached the deck and reported.
Our rivals were there, and had hired the only available boat and crew to transport them to North West River. This threw us back on our second plan, viz: to take our party right to the mouth of the Grand River ourselves, which involved a trip inland of one hundred miles to the head of Lake Melville. This it was decided to do, and after some delay in securing a pilot, owing to the transfer at the last moment of the affections of the first man we secured to the other party, John Blake came aboard and we started on our new experience in inland navigation. Just as we entered the narrows, after a stop at John's house to tell his wife where we were taking him, and to give her some medicine and advice from the doctor, we saw our rivals starting in the boat they had secured. That was the last we saw of them, till they reached North West River, two days after our party had started up the Grand River.
North West River is the name of the Hudson Bay Co.'s post at the mouth of the river of the same name, flowing into the western extremity of Lake Melville, about fifteen miles north of the mouth of Grand River. Hamilton Inlet proper extends about forty miles in from the Atlantic to the "Narrows," a few miles beyond Rigolette, where Lake Melville begins. A narrow arm of the lake extends some unexplored distance east of the Narrows, south of and parallel to the southern shore of the inlet. The lake varies from five to forty miles in width and is ninety miles long, allowing room for an extended voyage in its capacious bosom. The water is fresh enough to drink at the upper end of the lake, and at the time of our visit was far pleasanter and less arctic for bathing than the water off any point of the Maine coast. About twenty miles from the Narrows a string of islands, rugged and barren, but beautiful for their very desolation, as is true of so much of Labrador, nearly block the way, but we found the channels deep and clear, and St. John's towering peak makes an excellent guide to the most direct passage.
One night was spent under way, floating quietly on the lake, so delightfully motionless after the restless movements of Atlantic seas. A calm and bright day following, during which the one pleasant swim in Labrador waters was taken by two of us, was varied by thunder squalls and ended in fog and drizzle, causing us to anchor off the abrupt break in the continuous ridge along the northern shore, made by the Muligatawney River. Although in an insecure and exposed anchorage, yet the fact that we were in an inclosed lake gave a sense of security to the less experienced, that the snug and rocky harbors to which we had become accustomed, usually failed to give on account of the roaring of the surf a few hundred yards away, on the other side of the narrow barrier that protected the rocky basin.
The following day was bright and showery by turns, but the heart's wish of our Grand River men was granted, and while the schooner lay off the shoals at the mouth of the river they were to make famous, they started as will be described, and the rest of the expedition turned towards North West River, hoping they, too, could now get down to their real work.
The noble little vessel was reluctant to leave any of her freight in so desolate a place, in such frail boats as the Rushtons seemed, and in the calm between the thunder squalls, several times turned towards them, as they energetically pushed up the river's mouth, and seemed to call them back as she heavily flapped her white sails. They kept steadily on, however, while the Julia, bowing to a power stronger than herself, and to a fresh puff from the rapidly rising thunder heads, speedily reached North West River.
North West River is a sportsman's paradise. Here we found the only real summer weather of the trip, the thermometer reaching 76 deg. F. on two days in succession, and thunder storms occurring regularly every afternoon. Our gunners and fishermen were tempted off on a long trip. One party planning to be away two or three days, but returning the following morning, reported tracks and sounds of large animals. They said the rain induced them to return so soon.
[Montagnais Indians] Here we found a camp of Montagnais Indians, bringing the winter's spoils of furs to trade at the post for flour and powder, and the other articles of civilization that they are slowly learning to use. They loaf on their supplies during the summer, hunting only enough to furnish themselves with meat, and then starve during the winter if game happens to be scarce. Measurements were made of some twenty-five of this branch of the Kree tribe, hitherto unknown to anthropometric science, and a full collection of household utensils peculiar to their tribe was procured. Several of the Nascopee tribe were with them, the two inter-marrying freely, and were also measured. The latter are not such magnificent specimens of physical development as the Montagnais, but their tribe is more numerous and seems, if anything, better adapted to thrive in Labrador than their more attractive brothers.
The only remains of their picturesque national costume that we saw, was the cap. The women wore a curious knot of hair, about the size of a small egg, over each ear, while the men wore their hair cut off straight around, a few inches above the shoulders.
In point of personal cleanliness, these people equal any aborigines we have seen, though their camp exhibited that supreme contempt for sanitation that characterizes every village except the Hudson Bay Co.'s posts on the Labrador coast, whether of Indians, Esquimaux or "planters," as the white and half-breed settlers are called.
Some curious scenes were enacted while the professor was trading for his desired ethnological material. With inexhaustible patience and imperturbable countenance, he sat on a log, surrounded by yelping dogs, and by children and papooses of more or less tender ages and scanty raiment, playing on ten cent harmonicas that had for a time served as a staple of trade, struggling with the dogs and with their equally excited mothers and sisters for a sight of the wonderful basket from whose apparently inexhaustible depths came forth yet more harmonicas, sets of celluloid jewelry, knives, combs, fish-hooks, needles, etc., ad infinitum. The men, whose gravity equalled the delight of the women and children, held themselves somewhat aloof, seldom deigning to enter the circle about the magic basket, and making their trades in a very dignified and careless fashion.
That these people are capable of civilization there can be no doubt. Missing the interpreter, without whom nothing could be done, the professor inquired for him and learned that he had returned to his wigwam. Upon being summoned he said he was tired of talking. Thereupon the professor bethought himself and asked him if he wanted more pay. The interpreter, no longer tired, was willing to talk all night.
The camp was in a bend of the river and at the head of rapids about four miles from the mouth, up which we had to track, that is, one man had to haul the boat along by the bank with a small rope called a tracking line, while another kept her off the rocks by pushing against her with an oar. At that point the river opened out into a beautiful lake from one to two miles in width, whose further end we could not see. As this river never has been explored to its head, we were surprised that Messrs. Bryant and Kenaston, who were ready for their inland trip about a week after our party had started up the Grand River, had not chosen it as a field for their work rather than follow in the footsteps of our expedition.
[A carriage road] Of all Labrador north of the Straits, North West River alone boasts a carriage road. To be sure, there are neither horses nor carriages at that post, but when Sir Donald A. Smith, at present at the head of the Hudson Bay Co.'s interests in Canada, but then plain Mr. Smith, factor, was in charge of that post his energy made the place a garden in the wilderness, and in addition to luxuries of an edible sort, he added drives in a carriage through forest and by shore, for about two miles, on a well made road. Now, we are informed there is not a horse or cow north of Belle Isle. The present factor, Mr. McLaren, is a shrewd Scotchman, genial and warm-hearted beneath a rather forbidding exterior, as all of our party who experienced his hospitality can testify.
In spite of all its attractions we could not stay at North West River. In five weeks we were to meet our river detail at Rigolette, and during that time a trip north of 400 miles was to be made and the bulk of the expedition's scientific work to be done.
Our day's sail, with fresh breezes and favoring squalls, took us the whole length of the delightful lake, whose waters had seldom been vexed by a keel as long as the Julia's, and brought us to an anchor off Eskimo Island. Here we had one of our regular fights with the mosquitoes, the engagement perhaps being a trifle hotter than usual, for they swarmed down the companion way every time the "mosquito door," of netting on a light frame hinged to the hatch house, was opened, in brigades and divisions and finally by whole army corps, till we were forced to retreat to our bunks, drive out the intruding hosts, which paid no respect whatever to our limited 6x3x3 private apartments, by energetically waving and slapping a towel around, then quickly shutting the door of netting, also on a tightly fitting frame, and devoting an hour or two at our leisure to demolishing the few stragglers that remained within; or possibly the whole night, if an unknown breach had been found by the wily mosquito somewhere in our carefully made defenses. A few bones were taken from the Eskimo graves that abound on the island, but the mosquitoes seriously interfered with such work and the party soon returned to the vessel. The absolutely calm night allowed the mosquitoes to reach us and stay; and in spite of its brevity and the utter stillness of the vast solitude about us, broken only now and then by a noise from the little Halifax trader whose acquaintance we here made for the first time, and of whom we saw so much on our return voyage across the gulf, or by the howling of wolves and Eskimo dogs in the distance, we were glad when it was over and a morning breeze chased from our decks the invading hosts.
A short stop at Rigolette, to send about fifty letters ashore, a two days' delay in a cold, easterly storm at Turner Cove, on the south side of the inlet, when the icy winds, in contrast to the warm weather we had lately enjoyed, made us put on our heavy clothes and, even then, shiver—a delay, however, that we did not grudge, for we were in a land of fish, game and labradorite—this of a poor quality, as we afterward learned—and where the doctor had more patients than he could easily attend to. At last a pleasant Sunday's run to Indian Harbor got us clear of Hamilton Inlet. There we found the usual complement of fish and fishing apparatus, but with the addition of a few Yankee vessels and a church service.
The latter we were quite surprised to find, and several went, out of curiosity, and had the satisfaction of finding a small room, packed with about fifty human beings, with no ventilation whatever, and of sitting on seats about four inches wide with no backs. The people were earnest and respectful, but did not seem to understand all that was said, as, perhaps, is not to be wondered at, since they are the poorest class of Newfoundlanders.
Indian Harbor is like so many others on the coast, merely a "tickle" with three ticklish entrances full of sunken rocks and treacherous currents. The small islands that make the harbor are simply bare ledges, very rough and irregular in outline. The fishing village, also, like all others, consists of little earthen-covered hovels, stuck down wherever a decently level spot fifteen feet square can be found, and of fishing stages running out from every little point and cove, in which the catch is placed to be taken care of, and alongside of which the heavy boats can lie without danger of being smashed by the undertow that is continually heaving against the shore.
[Storm and fog] A two days' run brought us up to Cape Harrigan, rounding which we went into Webeck Harbor, little thinking that in that dreary place storm and fog would hold us prisoners for five days. That was our fate, and even now we wonder how we lived through that dismal time.
One day served to make us familiar with the flora, fauna, geography and geology of the region, for it was not an interesting place from a scientific point of view, however the fishermen may regard it, and after the departure of the mail steamer, leaving us all disappointed in regard to mail, time dragged on us terribly.
Two or three of the more venturesome ones could get a little sport by pulling a long four miles down to the extremity of Cape Harrigan, where sea pigeon had a home in the face of a magnificent cliff, against the bottom of which the gunners had to risk being thrown by the heavy swell rolling against it, as they shot from a boat bobbing like a cork, at "guillemots" flying like bullets from a gun out of the face of the cliff. One evening a relief party was sent off for two who had gone off to land on a bad lee shore and were some hours overdue. To be sure the missing ones arrived very soon, all right, while the search party got back considerably later, drenched with spray and with their boat half full of water, but the incident gave some relief from the monotony.
Another evening several visiting captains and a few friends from ashore were treated to a concert by the Bowdoin Glee and Minstrel Club. All the old favorites of from ten years ago and less were served up in a sort of composite hash, greatly to the delight of both audience and singers.
[Abundance of codfish] At Webeck Harbor, which we came to pronounce "Wayback," probably because it seemed such a long way back to anything worthy of human interest, we saw the business of catching cod at its best. They had just "struck a spurt," the fishermen said, and day after day simply went to their traps, filled their boats and bags, took the catch home, where the boys and "ship girls" took charge of it, and returned to the traps to repeat the process. An idea of the amount of fish taken may be given by the figures of the catch of five men from one schooner, who took one thousand quintals of codfish in thirteen days. We obtained a better idea of the vast catch by the experience of one of our parties who spent part of a day at the traps, as the arrangement of nets along the shore is called, into which the cod swim and out of which they are too foolish to go. They are on much the same plan as salmon weirs, only larger, opening both ways, and being placed usually in over ten fathoms of water and kept in place by anchors, shore lines, and floats and sinkers. Once down they are usually kept in place a whole season. The party were in a boat, inside the line of floats, so interested in watching the fishermen making the "haul," as the process of overhauling the net and passing it under the boat is called, by which the fish are crowded up into one corner where they can be scooped out by the dozen, that they did not notice that the enormous catch was being brought to the surface directly under them till their own boat began to rise out of the water, actually being grounded on the immense shoal of codfish.
It was a strange sensation and makes a strange story. All the time that we were storm-stayed at Webeck the "spurt" continued, and the trap owners were tired but jubilant. The "hand-lining" crews were correspondingly depressed, for, though so plenty, not a cod would bite a hook. It is this reason, that is, because an abundance of food brings the cod to the shores in great numbers and at the same time prevents them from being hungry, that led to the abandonment of trawling and the universal adoption of the trap method. We did not see a single trawl on the coast, and it is doubtful if there was one there in use.
During these spurts, the day's work just begins, in fact, after the hard labor of rowing the heavy boats out, perhaps two miles, to the trap, hauling, mending the net, loading and unloading the fish—always a hard task and sometimes a very difficult one on account of the heavy sea—has been repeated three or four times; for the number of fish is so great that the stage becomes overloaded by night, and the boat crews then have to turn to and help take care of the catch and clear the stage for the next day's operations. Till long after midnight the work goes merrily on in the huts or shelters over the stages, for the hard work then means no starvation next winter in the Newfoundland homes, and the fish are split, cleaned, headed, salted and packed with incredible rapidity.
The tired crews get an hour or two of sleep just as they are; then, after a pot of black tea and a handful of bread, start out to begin the next day's work, resting and eating during the hour between the trips, and then going out again, and repeating the some monotonous round over and over till we wondered how they lived through it, and what was to be done with all the fish. When there is a good breeze the boats are rigged and a large part of the weary labor of rowing is escaped. How tired the crews would look as the big twenty-four feet boats went dashing by our vessel in the fog and rain, on the outward trip, and how happy, though if possible more tired, as they came back three or four hours later, loaded to the gunwale with cod, and thinking, perhaps, of the bags full that they had left buoyed near the trap because the boat would not carry the whole catch. It is a hard life, and no wonder the men are not much more than animals; but they work with dogged persistence, for in a little more than two months enough must be earned to support their families for the year. When the "spurt" ends the crews get a much needed rest, and attend to getting a supply of salt ashore from the salt vessel from Cadiz, Spain, one of which we found lying in nearly every fishing harbor, serving as a storehouse for that article so necessary to the fishermen.
As to the magnitude of the industry, it is estimated that there are about 3,000 vessels and 20,000 men employed in it during the season. Some of the vessels are employed in merely bringing salt and taking away the fish, notably the great iron tramp steamers of from 1,500 to 2,000 tons, which seem so much out of place moored to the sides of some of the little rocky harbors. The average catch in a good year is, we were informed, from four to six hundred quintals in a vessel of perhaps forty tons, by a crew of from four to eight men. The trap outfit costs about $500 and is furnished by the large fish firms in Newfoundland, to be paid for with fish. As the market price, to the fishermen, is from five dollars to six dollars a quintal, the value of the industry is at once apparent.
The great bulk of the fish go to Mediterranean ports direct, to Catholic countries, chiefly, and also to Brazil. The small size and imperfect curing which the Labrador summer allows make the fish almost unsalable in English and American markets. Many of the cod are of the black, Greenland variety, which are far less palatable, and are usually thrown away or cured separately for the cheaper market.
All storms come to an end finally, and at last the sun shone, the windlass clanked and we were underway. The long delay seemed to have broken our little schooner's spirits, for after being out three or four hours we had gone but as many miles, and those in the wrong direction.
At length the gentle breeze seemed to revive her and we gently slipped by the Ragged Islands and Cape Mokkavik. That Sunday evening will long be remembered by us, for in addition to the delight we felt at again moving northward, and the charm of a bright evening with a gentle, fair wind and smooth water, allowing us to glide by hundreds of fulmar and shearwater sitting on the water, scarcely disturbed by our passage, the moon was paled by the brightest exhibition of the aurora we saw while in northern waters. Its sudden darts into new quarters of the heavens, its tumultuous waves and gentle undulations, now looking like a fleecy cloud, now like a gigantic curtain shaken by still more gigantic hands into ponderous folds—all were reflected in the quiet water and from the numerous bergs, great and small, that dotted the surface, till the beholder was at times awe-struck and silent, utterly unable to find words with which to express himself.
The next day we rounded Gull Island, which we identified with some difficulty, owing to the absence of the flagstaff by which the coast pilot says it can be distinguished, and, after a delightful sail up the clear sound leading through the fringe of islands to Hopedale, we spied the red-roofed houses and earth-covered huts, the mission houses and Eskimo village, of which the settlement consists, snugly hidden behind little "Anatokavit," or little Snow Hill Island, at the foot of a steep and lofty hill surmounted by the mission flagstaff. Here we were destined to pass five days as pleasant as the five at Webeck had been tedious.
[Hopedale] The harbor at Hopedale is the best one we visited on the coast. The twelve miles of sound, fringed and studded with islands, completely broke the undertow which had kept our vessel constantly rolling, when at anchor, in every harbor except those up Hamilton Inlet and Lake Melville.
About two miles south of us a vast, unexplored bay ran for a long distance inland, while to the north, looking from Flagstaff Peak, we could see Cape Harrigan and the shoals about it, the numberless inlets, coves and bays which fill in the sixty miles to Nain. We were very much disappointed at our inability to go north to that place, but before our start from the United States Hopedale had been named as the point with which we would be content if ice and winds allowed us to reach it, and that point proved the northern limit of our voyage.
About half a mile across the point of land on which the missionary settlement lies, is the site of the pre-historic village of "Avatoke," which means "may-we-have-seals." It consisted of three approximately circular houses, in line parallel with the shore, at the head of a slight cove, backed to the west by a high hill, and with a fine beach in front, now raised considerably from the sea level. Along the front of the row of houses were immense shell heaps, from which we dug ivory, that is, walrus teeth; carvings, stone lamps, spear heads, portions of kyaks, whips, komatiks, as the sleds are called, etc., etc., and bones innumerable of all the varieties of birds, fish and game on which the early Eskimo dined; as well as remnants of all the implements which Eskimos used in the household generations ago, and which can nearly all now be recognized by the almost identically shaped and made implements in the houses of Eskimos there in Hopedale, so little do they change in the course of centuries. The village has been completely deserted for over one hundred years, and was in its prime centuries before that, so the tales of its greatness are only dim Eskimo traditions.
The houses were found to average about thirty-five feet across on the inside; are separated by a space of about fifteen feet, and each had a long, narrow doorway or entrance, being almost exactly in line. The walls are about fifteen feet thick and now about five feet high, of earth, with the gravel beach for a foundation. The inside of the wall was apparently lined with something resembling a wooden bench. When, in one of the houses, the remains of the dirt and stone roof that had long since crushed down the rotten poles and seal skins that made the framework and first covering, had been carefully removed, the floor was found to be laid with flagstones, many three or four feet across, closely fitted at the edges and well laid in the gravel so as to make a smooth, even floor. This extended to the remains of the bench at the sides, and made a dwelling which for Eskimo land must have been palatial. The evidences of fire showed the hearth to have been near the center of the floor, a little towards the entrance, in order to get the most from its heat. The Hopedale Eskimo were themselves surprised at the stone floor, but one old man remembered that he had been told that such floors were used long ago, in the palmier days of Eskimo history, if such an expression is fitting for an arctic people.
A village arranged on a similar plan, except that the houses were joined together, was found to constitute the supposed remains of a settlement on Eskimo Island in Lake Melville.
In both cases the front of the row is towards the east, and the houses are dug down to sand on the inside, making their floors somewhat below the level of the ground.
[Eskimos] A more thorough investigation than we were able to make of the remains at Eskimo Island would undoubtedly yield much of interest and value, for they were if anything even older than those at Hopedale, probably having been abandoned after the battle between Eskimo and Indians, fought on the same island, which has now become a tradition among the people.
Five days were spent in this most interesting ethnological work, and hard days they were, too, as well as interesting, for the mosquitoes, black flies and midges were always with us; but on the other hand, the Eskimo interpreter was continually describing some national custom which some find would suggest to him, and very ingenious he proved to be in naming finds which we were entirely ignorant of or unable to identify.
The race as a whole is exceedingly ingenious, quick to learn, handy with tools, and also ready at mastering musical instruments. One of the best carpenters on the Labrador is an Eskimo at Aillik, from whom we bought a kyak; and at Hopedale in the winter they have a very fair brass band. The art of fine carving, however, seems to be dying out among them, and now there is but one family, at Nain, who do anything of the sort worthy the name of carving. Prof. Lee obtained several very fine specimens for the Bowdoin cabinets, but as a rule it is very high priced and rare. Most of it is taken to London by the Moravian mission ship, and has found its way into English and Continental museums. The figures of dogs, of Eskimos themselves, as well as of kyaks and komatiks, seals, walrus, arctic birds and the like are most exquisitely done.
The mission itself deserves a brief description. It was founded in 1782 and has been steadily maintained by the Moravian society for the furtherance of the Gospel, and is now nearly self-supporting. There are three missions of the society in Labrador, the one at Nain being the chief and the residence of the director, but Hopedale is very important as it is the place where the debasing influence of the traders and fishermen is most felt by the Eskimo, and the work of the missionaries consequently made least welcome to them. However, they have persevered, in the German fashion, and seem to have a firm hold on the childlike people which the seductions of the traders cannot shake off.
There are five missionaries now stationed at Hopedale: Mr. Townly, an Englishman, whose work is among the "planters" and fishermen; Mr. Hansen, the pastor of the Eskimo church; and Mr. Kaestner, the head of the mission, and in special charge of the store and trading, by which the mission is made nearly self-supporting; Mrs. Kaestner and Mrs. Hansen complete the number, and the five make up a community almost entirely isolated from white people during nine months of every year.
The fact that the two ladies spoke very little English was somewhat of a drawback, but detracted very slightly from our enjoyment of Mrs. Hanson's delightful singing and none at all from our appreciation of her playing on the piano and organ. To get such a musical treat in the Labrador wilds was most unexpected and for that reason all the more thoroughly enjoyed.
The mission house is a yellow, barn-like building, heavily built to prevent its being blown away, snugly stowed beneath a hill, and seeming like a mother round which the huts of the Eskimo cluster. The rooms in which we were so pleasantly entertained were very comfortably and tastily furnished, a grand piano in one of them seeming out of place in a village of Labrador, but so entirely in harmony with its immediate surroundings that we hardly thought of the strangeness of it, within a few yards of a village of pure Eskimo, living in all their primitive customs and in their own land.
A few rods behind the mission are the gardens, cut up into small squares by strong board fences to prevent the soil from blowing away, each with a tarpaulin near by to spread over it at night. In this laborious way potatoes, cabbages and turnips are raised. In a large hothouse the missionaries raise tomatoes, lettuce, and also flowers, but for everything else, except fish, game and ice, they have to depend on the yearly visit of the Moravian mission ship. She left for Nain just the day before we reached Hopedale, and after unloading supplies, etc., there, she proceeds north, collecting furs and fish until loaded, and then goes to London.
About fifty Eskimos were measured and collections made of their clothing, implements of war and chase and household utensils, which are the best of our collections, for the World's Fair and the Bowdoin museums.
After spending these five pleasant and profitable days at Hopedale, and regretfully looking out by Cape Harrigan, to Nain, whose gardens are the seventh wonder of Labrador, through which, reports say, one can walk for two miles, and whose missionaries, warned of our coming, were making ready to give us a warm reception; and near it Paul's Island, on which was so much of interest to our party; all this we thought of mournfully as our vessel's head was pointed southward and we sped along, reluctant on this account, and yet eager to hear of the success of our boldest undertaking, the Grand River exploration party.
At Aillik, where there is an abandoned Hudson Bay Co.'s post, we measured a few more Eskimo, obtained a kyak, which a day or two later nearly became a coffin to one of our party, and tried a trout stream that proved the best we found in Labrador. In about an hour, three of our party caught over eighty magnificent trout, and, naturally, returned much elated.
The next day we poked the Julia's inquisitive nose into one or two so-called but misnamed harbors that afforded very little shelter, and had a threatening and deserted look which, although the characteristic of the Labrador shore in general, has never been noticeable in the harbors we have visited. Many of them are very small, and in some it is necessary to lay quite close to the rocks, but yet we have had no trouble from the extremely deep water that we were told we should have to anchor in, nor yet from getting into harbors so small that it was hard to get out of them.
[Tickles] As a matter of fact, experience has taught the fishermen to use "tickles," as narrow passages are called, for harbors, that there may always be a windward and a leeward entrance. In a few cases where the harbor is too small to beat out of, and has no leeward entrance, we have found heavy ring bolts fastened into proper places in the cliffs, to which vessels can make their lines fast, and warp themselves into weatherly position from which a course can be laid out of the harbor.
Meanwhile we are again approaching the Ragged Islands, which we passed just as we were beginning that memorable Sunday evening sail, about fifteen miles from the place we so much dread, Webeck Harbor.
On them we found the only gravel bed we saw in Labrador, and yet their name is due to the rough piled basaltic appearing rock, that proved on close examination to be much weathered sienite and granite. The harbor is an open place amidst a cluster of rocky islets, and we found it literally packed with fishing vessels. Here an afternoon was spent making pictures and examining the geology of these interesting islands, and here the adventure of the kyak, before referred to, took place.
Our fur trader thought he would take a paddle, but had not gone three lengths before he found that he was more expert in dealing with Eskimo furs than in handling Eskimo boats. He rolled over, was soon pulled alongside, and clearing himself from the kyak climbed aboard, just as our gallant mate, his rescuer, rolled out of his dory into the water and took a swim on his own account. All hands were nearly exploded with laughter as he rolled himself neatly into the dory again and climbed aboard, remarking, "That's the way to climb into a dory without capsizing her," as he ruefully shook himself. We wanted to ask him if that was the only way to get out of a dory without turning her over, but we forebore.
The next morning as we got clear of the harbor, a trim looking schooner of our size was sighted just off Cape Harrigan, about ten miles ahead. The breeze freshening we gradually overhauled her, and finally, while beating into Holton harbor, one of the most dangerous entrances on the coast, by the way, we passed her, and noticing her neat rig and appearance guessed rightly we had beaten the representatives of the Newfoundland law and the collector of her revenues from this coast.
Mr. Burgess, who combines in one unassuming personage the tax and customs collector, the magistrate and the commissioner of poor relief from Labrador, afterward told us that the "Rose" had been on the coast for thirteen years and had been outsailed for the first time. The next morning we again beat her badly, in working up to Indian Harbor, and only then would he acknowledge himself fairly beaten.
[Puffins and Auks] Saturday, the 22d of August, having yet three days before we were due at Rigolette to meet our Grand River party, we made memorable in the annals of the puffins and auks of the Heron Islands by spending three or four hours there and taking aboard three hundred and seventy-eight of them. Many more of them were killed but dropped into inaccessible places or into the water and could not be saved.
The sound of the fusilade from over twenty gunners must have resembled a small battle, but it did not drive the birds away, and as we left they seemed thicker than ever. Not only was the air alive with them, but as one walked along the cliffs they would dart swiftly out of holes in the rocks or crevices, so the earth, too, seemed full of them. It was great sport for a time, but soon seemed too much like slaughter, and we would let the awkward puffins, with their foolish eyes and Roman noses, come blundering along within a few feet of our muzzles, and chose rather the graceful, swift motioned auks and guillemots, whose rapid flight made them far more sportsmanlike game.
The next day, though Sunday, had to be spent in taking care of the best specimens, and the game was not fully disposed of for several days. Our bill of fare was correspondingly improved for a few days.
Three days were consumed in beating up to Rigolette. At Indian Harbor we had heard rumors of the return of some party from Grand River on account of injuries received by one of the men, but the description applied best to the second party, and we decided it must refer to Bryant or Kenaston. Near Turner's Cove we found more rumors, but nothing definite enough to satisfy our growing anxiety, and at last, unable to bear the suspense any longer, three of the party took a boat and started to row the fifteen miles between us and Rigolette, while the vessel waited for a change of tide and a breeze.
Alternate hope and fear lent strength to our arms as we drove the light boat along, and soon we came in sight of the wharf. There we saw a ragged looking individual, smoking a very short and black clay pipe, with one arm in a sling, who seemed to recognize us, and waved his hat vigorously with his well arm. Soon we recognized Young and were pumping away at his well hand in our delight at finding his injuries no worse, and that Cary and Cole were yet pushing on, determined to accomplish their object.
Young's hand had been in a critical state; the slight injury first received unconsciously, from exposure and lack of attention had caused a swelling of his hand and arm that was both extremely painful and dangerous, and which, the doctor said, would have caused the loss of the thumb, or possibly of the whole hand, had it gone uncared for much longer. Of course it was impossible to leave a man in such a condition, or to send him back alone. So Smith very regretfully volunteered to turn back—at a point where a few days more were expected to give a sight of the Falls, and when all thought the hardest work of the Grand River party had been accomplished—and accompany Young back to Rigolette.
It was a great sacrifice of Smith's personal desires, to be one of the re-discoverers of the falls, to the interests of the expedition, and it involved a great deal of hard work, for, after paddling and rowing all day, he had to build and break camp every night and morning, as Young's hand grew steadily worse and was all he could attend to. At the mouth of the river, which was reached in shorter time than was expected, and without accident, Young obtained some relief from applications of spruce gum to his hand by Joe Michelini, a trapper and hunter, famous for his skill in all Labrador. Northwest River was reached the following day, and after a few days of rest for Smith, during which time Young's injury began to mend also under the influences of rest and shelter, they hired a small schooner boat to take them to Rigolette. On the passage they were struck by a squall in the night, nearly swamped, and compelled to cut the Rushton boat adrift in order to save themselves. The next day they searched the leeward shore of the lake in vain, and had to go on without her, arriving at Rigolette without further accident, and had been there about a week when we arrived. The boat was picked up later in a badly damaged condition, and given to the finder.
While Young outlined his experience we hunted up Smith, who had been making himself useful as a clerk to the factor at the Post, Mr. Bell, and all went on board the Julia as soon as she arrived, to report and relieve in a measure the anxiety of the professor and the boys.
[Anxious waiting] The day appointed for meeting the river party was the day on which we reached Rigolette, August 25th, and so a sharp lookout was kept for the two remaining members of the party, on whom, now, the failure or success of that part of the expedition rested. As they did not appear, we moved up to a cove near Eskimo Island, at the eastern end of Lake Melville, the following day, and there spent four days of anxious waiting. Some dredging and geological work was done, and an attempt was made to examine more carefully the remains of the Eskimo village before referred to on Eskimo Island, which some investigators had thought the remains of a Norse settlement. The turf was too tough to break through without a plow, and we had to give it up, doing just enough to satisfy ourselves that the remains were purely Eskimo.
All the work attempted was done in a half-hearted manner, for our thoughts were with Cary and Cole, and as the days went by and they did not appear, but were more and more overdue, our suspense became almost unbearable. Added to this was the thought that we could wait but a few days more at the longest, without running the danger of being imprisoned all winter, and for that we were poorly prepared.
The first day of September we moved back to Rigolette to get supplies and make preparations for our voyage home, as it was positively unsafe to remain any longer. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is an ugly place to cross at any time in September, for in that month the chances are rather against a small vessel's getting across safely.
It was decided that the expedition must start home on Wednesday, the 2nd, and that a relief party should be left for Cary and Cole. With heavy hearts the final preparations were made, and many were the looks cast at the narrows where they would be seen, were they to heave in sight.
At last, about 3.30 p.m. Tuesday, the lookout yelled, "Sail ho! in the narrows," and we all jumped for the rigging. They had come, almost at the last hour of our waiting, and with a feeling of relief such as we shall seldom again experience we welcomed them aboard and heard their story.
* * * * *
ON BOARD THE JULIA A. DECKER, GUT OF CANSO.
Bowdoin pluck has overcome Bowdoin luck, and though they literally had to pass through fire and water, the Bowdoin men, from the Bowdoin College Scientific Expedition to Labrador have done what Oxford failed to do, and what was declared well nigh impossible by those best acquainted with the circumstances and presumably best judges of the matter. Austin Cary and Dennis Cole, Bowdoin '87 and '88, respectively, have proven themselves worthy to be ranked as explorers, and have demonstrated anew that energy and endurance are not wanting in college graduates of this generation.
A trip up a large and swift river, totally unknown to maps in its upper portions, for three hundred miles, equal to the distance from Brunswick, Me., to New York City, in open fifteen feet boats, is of itself an achievement worthy of remark. But when to this is added the discovery of Bowdoin Canon, one of the most remarkable features of North America, the settlement of the mystery of the Grand Falls, and the bringing to light of a navigable waterway extending for an unbroken ninety miles, and three hundred miles in the interior of an hitherto unknown country, something more than remark is merited.
July 26th the schooner hove to about four miles from the mouth of the Grand River, the shoals rendering a nearer approach dangerous, and the boats of the river detachment were sent over the side, taken in tow by the yawl, and the start made on what proved the most eventful part of the Labrador expedition. Cheers and good wishes followed the three boats till out of hearing, and then the Julia gathered way and headed for North West River, while the party in the yawl with the two Rushtons in tow put forth their best efforts to reach the mouth of the river and a lee before the approaching squall should strike them.
The squall came first, and as it blew heavily directly out of the river, we could simply lay to and wait for it to blow over. Then a calm followed and by the time the next squall struck we were in a comparative lee. After the heaviest of it had passed, the Grand River boys clambered into their boats and with a hearty "good by" pulled away for the opening close at hand. The yawl meantime had grounded on one of the shoals, but pushing off and carefully dodging the boulders that dot those shallow waters, she squared away for North West River, following around the shore, and with the aid of a fresh breeze reached the schooner shortly after 10 o'clock P.M.