Infomotions, Inc.The Journey to the Polar Sea / Franklin, John, 1786-1847

Author: Franklin, John, 1786-1847
Title: The Journey to the Polar Sea
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): lake; indians; esquimaux; fort; canoes; encamped; river; deer; encampment; copper; canoe; fort chipewyan; hunters; ice; fort enterprise; hudson's bay
Contributor(s): Bright, Mynors, 1818-1883 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 175,770 words (longer than most) Grade range: 13-16 (college) Readability score: 48 (average)
Identifier: etext13518
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious

Discover what books you consider "great". Take the Great Books Survey.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Journey to the Polar Sea, by John Franklin

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Title: The Journey to the Polar Sea

Author: John Franklin

Release Date: September 24, 2004 [EBook #13518]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII


Produced by Sue Asscher



Everyman, I will go with thee, and be thy guide,
In thy most need to go by thy side.

(This is Number 447 of Everyman's Library)


JOHN FRANKLIN, born in 1786. Many naval experiences, including Trafalgar,
before heading an expedition across northern Canada in 1819. Elected
F.R.S. and knighted after a second expedition. Lieutenant-Governor of Van
Diemen's Land, 1836 to 1843. Last expedition, 1845, was lost, and
Franklin died in 1847 near the Arctic. Subsequent investigations have
established him as the discoverer of the North-West Passage.





In days of hurried action I have been astonished at the depth of interest
which a re-perusal of this wonderful old narrative has held for me.
Wonderful it is in its simplicity and its revelation of the simplicity of
character and faith of the man who wrote it. It is old only by
comparison--scarcely ninety years have elapsed since the adventures it
described were enacted--yet such a period has never held a fuller measure
of change or more speedily passed current events into the limbo of the

Nothing could more vividly impress this change than the narrative itself.
We are told that Mr. Beck missed his ship at Yarmouth but succeeded in
rejoining her at Stromness, having travelled "nine successive days almost
without rest." What a vision of post-chaises, sweating horses and heavy
roads is suggested! And if the contrast with present-day conditions in
our own Islands is great, how much greater is it in that vast Dominion
through which Franklin directed his pioneer footsteps. As he followed the
lonely trails to Fort Cumberland, or sailed along the solitary shores of
Lake Winnipeg, how little could he guess that in less than a century a
hundred thousand inhabitants would dwell by the shore of the great lake,
or that its primeval regions would one day provide largely the bread of
his countrymen.

There civilisation has followed fast indeed, and ever it presses forward
on the tracks of the pioneer. But even today if we follow Franklin we
must come again to the wild--to the great Barren Lands and to the
ice-bound limit of a Continent--regions where for ninety years season has
succeeded season without change--where few have passed since his day and
Nature alone holds sway. For those who would know what IS as well as for
those who would know what HAS BEEN, this narrative still holds its
original interest; all must appreciate that it records the work of a
great traveller and a gallant man whose fame deserves to live.




F.W. Beechey: Voyage of Discovery toward the North Pole in H.M. Ships
Dorothea and Trent (with summary of earlier attempts to reach the Pacific
by the North) 1818.

Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea, in the Years 1819
to 1822, by John Franklin, 1823, 1824.

Narrative of a Second Expedition to the Shores of the Polar Sea in the
Years 1825 to 1827, by John Franklin, 1828.


Report of the Committee appointed by the Lords Commissioners of the
Admiralty to inquire into and report on the Recent Arctic Expeditions in
search of Sir John Franklin, 1851.

Papers relative to the Recent Arctic Expeditions in search of Sir John
Franklin and the Crews of H.M.S. Erebus and Terror, 1854.

Further Papers relative to the Search, 1855.

R. King, The Franklin Expedition from First to Last, 1855.

R. Huish, Recent Expeditions to the Polar Regions, including all the
Voyages in search of Sir J. Franklin, 1855.

E.K. Kane, Arctic Explorations, the Second Grinnell Expedition in search
of Sir John Franklin, 1856.

MacClintock, The Voyage of the Fox in the Arctic Seas. A narrative of the
discovery of the fate of Sir John Franklin, 1859, 1861, 1869, 1908.

Sir J. Leslie, Discovery and Adventure in the Polar Seas, with a
Narrative of the Recent Expeditions in search of Sir John Franklin, 1860.

J.A. Browne, The North-West Passage, and the Fate of Sir John Franklin,

Sir Allen M. Young, The Search for Sir John Franklin, etc., 1875.

Schwatka's Search, Sledging in the Arctic in search of Franklin Records,

The Search for Franklin.

American Expedition under Lieutenant Schwatka, 1878 to 1880, 1882.

J.H. Skewes, The True Secret of the Discovery of the Fate of Sir John
Franklin, 1889.


S. Osborn, Career, Last Voyage and Fate of Sir John Franklin (Once a
Week, 1859) 1860.

A Brave Man and his Belongings, by a Niece of the first Mrs. Franklin,

A.H. Beesley, Sir John Franklin; the Narrative of his Life (The New
Plutarch) 1881.

A.H. Markham (The World's Great Explorers) 1891.

G.B. Smith, Sir John Franklin and the Romance of the North-West Passage,

H.D. Traill, 1896.

H. Harbour, Arctic Explorers, 1904.

E.C. Buley, Into the Polar Seas; The Story of Sir J. Franklin, etc.,





Departure from England.
Transactions at Stromness.
Enter Davis Straits.
Perilous situation on the shore of Resolution Island.
Land on the coast of Labrador.
Esquimaux of Savage Islands.
York Factory.
Preparations for the Journey into the Interior.


Passage up Hayes, Steel and Hill Rivers.
Cross Swampy Lake.
Jack River.
Knee Lake and Magnetic Islet.
Trout River.
Holy Lake.
Weepinapannis River.
Windy Lake.
White Fall Lake and River.
Echemamis and Sea Rivers.
Play Green Lakes.
Lake Winnipeg.
River Saskatchewan.
Cross, Cedar and Pine Island Lakes.
Cumberland House.


Dr. Richardson's residence at Cumberland House.
His account of the Cree Indians.


Leave Cumberland House.
Mode of Travelling in Winter.
Arrival at Carlton House.
Stone Indians.
Visit to a Buffalo Pound.
Departure from Carlton House.
Isle a la Crosse.
Arrival at Fort Chipewyan.


Transactions at Fort Chipewyan.
Arrival of Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood.
Preparations for our Journey to the Northward.


Mr. Hood's Journey to the Basquiau Hill.
Sojourns with an Indian Party.
His Journey to Chipewyan.


Departure from Chipewyan.
Difficulties of the various Navigations of the Rivers and Lakes, and of
the Portages.
Slave Lake and Fort Providence.
Scarcity of Provisions, and Discontent of the Canadian Voyagers.
Difficulties with regard to the Indian Guides.
Refusal to proceed.
Visit of Observation to the upper part of Copper-Mine River.
Return to the winter quarters of Fort Enterprise.


Transactions at Fort Enterprise.
Mr. Back's Narrative of his Journey to Chipewyan, and Return.


Continuation of Proceedings at Fort Enterprise.
Some Account of the Copper Indians.
Preparations for the Journey to the Northward.


Departure from Fort Enterprise.
Navigation of the Copper-Mine River.
Visit to the Copper Mountain.
Interview with the Esquimaux.
Departure of the Indian Hunters.
Arrangements made with them for our Return.


Navigation of the Polar Sea, in two Canoes, as far as Cape Turnagain, to
the Eastward, a distance exceeding Five Hundred and Fifty Miles.
Observations on the probability of a North-West Passage.


Journey across the barren grounds.
Difficulty and delay in crossing Copper-Mine River.
Melancholy and Fatal Results thereof.
Extreme Misery of the whole Party.
Murder of Mr. Hood.
Death of several of the Canadians.
Desolate State of Fort Enterprise.
Distress suffered at that Place.
Dr. Richardson's Narrative.
Mr. Back's Narrative.



His Majesty's Government having determined upon sending an Expedition
from the Shores of Hudson's Bay by land to explore the Northern Coast of
America from the Mouth of the Copper-Mine River to the eastward, I had
the honour to be appointed to this service by Earl Bathurst, on the
recommendation of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty; who at the
same time nominated Doctor John Richardson, a Surgeon in the Royal Navy,
Mr. George Back, and Mr. Robert Hood, two Admiralty Midshipmen, to be
joined with me in the enterprise. My instructions in substance informed
me that the main object of the Expedition was that of determining the
latitudes and longitudes of the Northern Coast of North America, and the
trending of that Coast from the Mouth of the Copper-Mine River to the
eastern extremity of that Continent; that it was left for me to determine
according to circumstances whether it might be most advisable to proceed
at once directly to the northward till I arrived at the sea-coast, and
thence westerly towards the Copper-Mine River; or advance in the first
instance by the usual route to the mouth of the Copper-Mine River, and
from thence easterly till I should arrive at the eastern extremity of
that Continent; that in the adoption of either of these plans I was to be
guided by the advice and information which I should receive from the
wintering servants of the Hudson's Bay Company, who would be instructed
by their employers to cooperate cordially in the prosecution of the
objects of the Expedition, and who would provide me with the necessary
escort of Indians to act as guides, interpreters, game-killers, etc.; and
also with such articles of clothing, ammunition, snowshoes, presents,
etc., as should be deemed expedient for me to take. That as another
principal object of the Expedition was to amend the very defective
geography of the northern part of North America I was to be very careful
to ascertain correctly the latitude and longitude of every remarkable
spot upon our route, and of all the bays, harbours, rivers, headlands,
etc., that might occur along the Northern Shore of North America. That in
proceeding along the coast I should erect conspicuous marks at places
where ships might enter, or to which a boat could be sent; and to deposit
information as to the nature of the coast for the use of Lieutenant
Parry. That in the journal of our route I should register the temperature
of the air at least three times in every twenty-four hours; together with
the state of the wind and weather and any other meteorological phenomena.
That I should not neglect any opportunity of observing and noting down
the dip and variation of the magnetic needle, and the intensity of the
magnetic force; and should take particular notice whether any, and what
kind or degree of, influence the Aurora Borealis might appear to exert on
the magnetic needle; and to notice whether that phenomenon were attended
with any noise; and to make any other observations that might be likely
to tend to the further development of its cause and the laws by which it
is governed.

Mr. Back and Mr. Hood were to assist me in all the observations
above-mentioned, and to make drawings of the land, of the natives, and of
the various objects of Natural History; and particularly of such as Dr.
Richardson who, to his professional duties was to add that of naturalist,
might consider to be most curious and interesting.

I was instructed, on my arrival at or near the Mouth of the Copper-Mine
River, to make every inquiry as to the situation of the spot whence
native copper had been brought down by the Indians to the Hudson's Bay
establishment, and to visit and explore the place in question; in order
that Dr. Richardson might be enabled to make such observations as might
be useful in a commercial point of view, or interesting to the science of

From Joseph Berens, Esquire, the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company,
and the gentlemen of the Committee I received all kinds of assistance and
information, communicated in the most friendly manner previous to my
leaving England; and I had the gratification of perusing the orders to
their agents and servants in North America, containing the fullest
directions to promote by every means the progress of the Expedition. I
most cheerfully avail myself of this opportunity of expressing my
gratitude to these gentlemen for their personal kindness to myself and
the other officers, as well as for the benefits rendered by them to the
Expedition; and the same sentiment is due towards the Gentlemen of the
North-West Company, both in England and America, more particularly to
Simon McGillivray, Esquire, of London, from whom I received much useful
information and cordial letters of recommendation to the partners and
agents of that Company resident on our line of route.

A short time before I left London I had the pleasure and advantage of an
interview with the late Sir Alexander Mackenzie who was one of the two
persons who had visited the coast we were to explore. He afforded me, in
the most open and kind manner, much valuable information and advice.

The provisions, instruments, and other articles, of which I had furnished
a list by direction of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, were
embarked on board the Hudson's Bay Company's ship Prince of Wales,
appointed by the Committee to convey the Expedition to York Factory,
their principal establishment in Hudson's Bay.

It will be seen in the course of the Narrative how much reason I had to
be satisfied with, and how great my obligations are to, all the gentlemen
who were associated with me in the Expedition, whose kindness, good
conduct, and cordial cooperation have made an impression which can never
be effaced from my mind. The unfortunate death of Mr. Hood is the only
drawback which I feel from the otherwise unalloyed pleasure of reflecting
on that cordial unanimity which at all times prevailed among us in the
days of sunshine, and in those of sickness and sorrow.

To Dr. Richardson in particular the exclusive merit is due of whatever
collections and observations have been made in the department of Natural
History; and I am indebted to him in no small degree for his friendly
advice and assistance in the preparation of the present narrative.

The charts and drawings were made by Lieutenant Back and the late
Lieutenant Hood. Both these gentlemen cheerfully and ably assisted me in
making the observations and in the daily conduct of the Expedition. The
observations made by Mr. Hood on the various phenomena presented by the
Aurora Borealis* will it is presumed present to the reader some new facts
connected with this meteor. Mr. Back was mostly prevented from turning
his attention to objects of science by the many severe duties which were
required of him and which obliged him to travel almost constantly every
winter that we passed in America; to his personal exertions, indeed, our
final safety is mainly to be attributed. And here I must be permitted to
pay the tribute due to the fidelity, exertion and uniform good conduct in
the most trying situations of John Hepburn, an English seaman and our
only attendant, to whom in the latter part of our journey we owe, under
Divine Providence, the preservation of the lives of some of the party.

(*Footnote. Given in the Appendix to the Quarto Edition.)

I ought perhaps to crave the reader's indulgence towards the defective
style of this work, which I trust will not be refused when it is
considered that mine has been a life of constant employment in my
profession from a very early age. I have been prompted to venture upon
the task solely by an imperious sense of duty when called upon to
undertake it.

In the ensuing Narrative the notices of the moral condition of the
Indians as influenced by the conduct of the traders towards them refer
entirely to the state in which it existed during our progress through the
country; but lest I should have been mistaken respecting the views of the
Hudson's Bay Company on these points I gladly embrace the opportunity
which a Second Edition affords me of stating that the junction of the two
Companies has enabled the Directors to put in practice the improvements
which I have reason to believe they had long contemplated. They have
provided for religious instruction by the appointment of two Clergymen of
the established church under whose direction schoolmasters and mistresses
are to be placed at such stations as afford the means of support for the
establishment of schools. The offspring of the voyagers and labourers are
to be educated chiefly at the expense of the Company; and such of the
Indian children as their parents may wish to send to these schools are to
be instructed, clothed, and maintained at the expense of the Church
Missionary Society which has already allotted a considerable sum for
these purposes and has also sent out teachers who are to act under the
superintendence of the Reverend Mr. West, the principal chaplain of the

We had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman at York Factory, and
witnessed with peculiar delight that great benefit which already marked
his zealous and judicious conduct. Many of the traders and of the
servants of the Company had been induced to marry the women with whom
they had cohabited; a material step towards the improvement of the
females in that country.

Mr. West, under the sanction of the Directors, has also promoted a
subscription for the distribution of the Bible in every part of the
country where the Company's Fur Trade has extended, and which has met
with very general support from the resident chief factors, traders, and
clerks. The Directors of the Company are continuing to reduce the
distribution of spirits gradually among the Indians, as well as towards
their own servants, with a view to the entire disuse of them as soon as
this most desirable object can be accomplished. They have likewise issued
orders for the cultivation of the ground at each of the posts, by which
means the residents will be far less exposed to famine whenever, through
the scarcity of animals, the sickness of the Indians, or any other cause,
their supply of meat may fail.

It is to be hoped that intentions, so dear to every humane and pious
mind, will, through the blessing of God, meet with the utmost success.






May, 1819.

On Sunday the 23rd of May the whole of our party embarked at Gravesend on
board the ship Prince of Wales, belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company,
just as she was in the act of getting under weigh with her consorts the
Eddystone and Wear. The wind being unfavourable on the ebb tide being
finished, the vessels were again anchored; but they weighed in the night
and beat down as far as the Warp, where they were detained two days by a
strong easterly wind.

Having learned from some of the passengers, who were the trading Officers
of the Company, that the arrival of the ships at either of the
establishments in Hudson's Bay gives full occupation to all the boatmen
in their service, who are required to convey the necessary stores to the
different posts in the interior; that it was very probable a sufficient
number of men might not be procured from this indispensable duty; and,
considering that any delay at York Factory would materially retard our
future operations, I wrote to the Under Secretary of State requesting his
permission to provide a few well-qualified steersmen and bowmen at
Stromness to assist our proceedings in the former part of our journey
into the interior.

May 30.

The easterly wind, which had retarded the ship's progress so much that we
had only reached Hollesley Bay after a week's beating about, changed to
West-South-West soon after that anchorage had been gained. The vessels
instantly weighed and, by carrying all sail, arrived in Yarmouth Roads at
seven P.M.; the pilots were landed and our course was continued through
the anchorage. At midnight the wind became light and variable and
gradually drew round to the North-West and, as the sky indicated
unsettled weather and the wind blew from an unfavourable quarter for
ships upon that coast, the commander bore up again for Yarmouth and
anchored at eight A.M.

This return afforded us at least the opportunity of comparing the
longitude of Yarmouth church, as shown by our chronometers, with its
position as laid down by the Ordnance Trigonometrical Survey; and it was
satisfactory to find, from the small difference in their results, that
the chronometers had not experienced any alteration in their rates in
consequence of their being changed from a horizontal position in a room
to that of being carried in the pocket.

An untoward circumstance while at this anchorage cast a damp on our party
at this early period of the voyage. Emboldened by the decided appearance
of the North-West sky, several of our officers and passengers ventured on
shore for a few hours; but we had not been long in the town before the
wind changed suddenly to South-East, which caused instant motion in the
large fleet collected at this anchorage. The commander of our ship
intimated his intention of proceeding to sea by firing guns; and the
passengers hastened to embark. Mr. Back however had unfortunately gone
upon some business to a house two or three miles distant from Yarmouth
along the line of the coast; from whence he expected to be able to
observe the first symptoms of moving which the vessels might make. By
some accident however he did not make his appearance before the captain
was obliged to make sail that he might get the ships through the
intricate passage of the Cockle Gat before it was dark. Fortunately,
through the kindness of Lieutenant Hewit of the Protector, I was enabled
to convey a note to our missing companion, desiring him to proceed
immediately by the coach to the Pentland Firth, and from thence across
the passage to Stromness, which appeared to be the only way of proceeding
by which he could rejoin the party.


June 3.

The wind continuing favourable after leaving Yarmouth, about nine this
morning we passed the rugged and bold projecting rock termed Johnny
Groat's house and soon afterwards Duncansby Head, and then entered the
Pentland Firth. A pilot came from the main shore of Scotland and steered
the ship in safety between the different islands to the outer anchorage
at Stromness, though the atmosphere was too dense for distinguishing any
of the objects on the land. Almost immediately after the ship had
anchored the wind changed to north-west, the rain ceased and a sight was
then first obtained of the neighbouring islands and of the town of
Stromness, the latter of which from this point of view and at this
distance presented a pleasing appearance.

Mr. Geddes, the agent of the Hudson's Bay Company at this place,
undertook to communicate my wish for volunteer boatmen to the different
parishes by a notice on the church door, which he said was the surest and
most direct channel for the conveyance of information to the lower
classes in these islands as they invariably attend divine service there
every Sunday. He informed me that the kind of men we were in want of
would be difficult to procure on account of the very increased demand for
boatmen for the herring fishery which had recently been established on
the shores of these islands; that last year sixty boats and four hundred
men only were employed in this service whereas now there were three
hundred boats and twelve hundred men engaged; and that owing to this
unexpected addition to the fishery he had been unable to provide the
number of persons required for the service of the Hudson's Bay Company.
This was unpleasant information as it increased the apprehension of our
being detained at York Factory the whole winter if boatmen were not taken
from hence. I could not therefore hesitate in requesting Mr. Geddes to
engage eight or ten men well adapted for our service on such terms as he
could procure them, though the Secretary of State's permission had not
yet reached me.

Next to a supply of boatmen our attention was directed towards the
procuring of a house conveniently situated for trying the instruments and
examining the rates of the chronometers. Mr. Geddes kindly offered one of
his which, though in an unfinished state, was readily accepted, being
well situated for our purpose as it was placed on an eminence, had a
southern aspect, and was at a sufficient distance from the town to secure
us from frequent interruption. Another advantage was its proximity to the
Manse, the residence of the Reverend Mr. Clouston, the worthy and highly
respected minister of Stromness whose kind hospitality and the polite
attention of his family the party experienced almost daily during their

For three days the weather was unsettled and few observations could be
made except for the dip of the needle which was ascertained to be 74
degrees 37 minutes 48 seconds, on which occasion a difference of eight
degrees and a half was perceived between the observations when the face
of the instrument was changed from the east to the west, the amount being
the greatest when it was placed with the face to the west. But on the 8th
a westerly wind caused a cloudless sky which enabled us to place the
transit instrument in the meridian and to ascertain the variation of the
compass to be 27 degrees 50 minutes west. The sky becoming cloudy in the
afternoon prevented our obtaining the corresponding observations to those
gained in the morning; and the next day an impervious fog obscured the
sky until noon. On the evening of this day we had the gratification of
welcoming our absent companion Mr. Back. His return to our society was
hailed with sincere pleasure by everyone and removed a weight of anxiety
from my mind. It appears that he had come down to the beach at Caistor
just as the ships were passing by and had applied to some boatmen to
convey him on board, which might have been soon accomplished but they,
discovering the emergency of his case, demanded an exorbitant reward
which he was not at the instant prepared to satisfy; and in consequence
they positively refused to assist him. Though he had travelled nine
successive days, almost without rest, he could not be prevailed upon to
withdraw from the agreeable scene of a ballroom in which he joined us
until a late hour.

On the 10th, the rain having ceased, the observations for ascertaining
the dip of the needle were repeated; and the results compared with the
former ones gave a mean of 74 degrees 33 minutes 20 seconds. Nearly the
same differences were remarked in reversing the face of the instrument as
before. An attempt was also made to ascertain the magnetic force but the
wind blew too strong for procuring the observation to any degree of

The fineness of the following day induced us to set up the different
instruments for examination and to try how nearly the observations made
by each of them would agree; but a squall passed over just before noon,
accompanied by heavy rain, and the hoped-for favourable opportunity was
entirely lost. In the intervals between the observations, and at every
opportunity, my companions were occupied in those pursuits to which their
attention had been more particularly directed in my instructions. Whilst
Dr. Richardson was collecting and examining the various specimens of
marine plants, of which these islands furnish an abundant and diversified
supply, Mr. Back and Mr. Hood took views and sketches of the surrounding
scenery which is extremely picturesque in many parts, and wants only the
addition of trees to make it beautiful. The hills present the bold
character of rugged sterility, whilst the valleys at this season are
clothed with luxuriant verdure.

It was not till the 14th that, by appointment, the boatmen were to
assemble at the house of Mr. Geddes to engage to accompany the
Expedition. Several persons collected but, to my great mortification, I
found they were all so strongly possessed with the fearful apprehension
either that great danger would attend the service, or that we should
carry them further than they would agree to go, that not a single man
would engage with us; some of them however said they would consider the
subject and give me an answer on the following day. This indecisive
conduct was extremely annoying to me especially as the next evening was
fixed for the departure of the ships.

At the appointed time on the following morning four men only presented
themselves and these, after much hesitation, engaged to accompany the
Expedition to Fort Chipewyan if they should be required so far. The
bowmen and steersmen were to receive forty pounds wages annually and the
middle men thirty-five pounds. They stipulated to be sent back to the
Orkney Islands free of expense and to receive their pay until the time of
their arrival. Only these few men could be procured although our
requisition had been sent to almost every island, even as far as the
northernmost point of Ronaldsha. I was much amused with the extreme
caution these men used before they would sign the agreement; they
minutely scanned all our intentions, weighed every circumstance, looked
narrowly into the plan of our route, and still more circumspectly to the
prospect of return. Such caution on the part of the northern mariners
forms a singular contrast with the ready and thoughtless manner in which
an English seaman enters upon any enterprise, however hazardous, without
inquiring or desiring to know where he is going or what he is going

The brig Harmony, belonging to the Moravian Missionary Society and bound
to their settlement at Nain on the coast of Labrador, was lying at
anchor. With the view of collecting some Esquimaux words and sentences,
or gaining any information respecting the manners and habits of that
people, Doctor Richardson and myself paid her a visit. We found the
passengers who were going out as Missionaries extremely disposed to
communicate; but as they only spoke the German and Esquimaux languages,
of which we were ignorant, our conversation was necessarily much
confined; by the aid however of an Esquimaux and German Dictionary some
few words were collected which we considered might be useful. There were
on board a very interesting girl and a young man who were natives of
Disco in old Greenland; both of them had fair complexions, rather
handsome features, and a lively manner; the former was going to be
married to a resident Missionary and the latter to officiate in that
character. The commander of the vessel gave me a translation of the
Gospel of St. John in the Esquimaux language printed by the Moravian
Society in London.

June 16.

The wind being unfavourable for sailing I went on shore with Dr.
Richardson and took several lunar observations at the place of our former
residence. The result obtained was latitude 58 degrees 56 minutes 56
seconds North; longitude 3 degrees 17 minutes 55 seconds West; variation
27 degrees 50 minutes West; dip of the magnetic needle 74 degrees 33
minutes 20 seconds. In the afternoon the wind changed in a squall some
points towards the north and the Prince of Wales made the preparatory
signal for sea. At three P.M. the ships weighed, an hour too early for
the tide; as soon as this served we entered into the passage between Hoy
and Pomona, and had to beat through against a very heavy swell which the
meeting of a weather tide and a strong breeze had occasioned.

Some dangerous rocks lie near the Pomona shore and on this side also the
tide appeared to run with the greatest strength. On clearing the outward
projecting points of Hoy and Pomona we entered at once into the Atlantic
and commenced our voyage to Hudson's Bay, having the Eddystone, Wear and
Harmony, Missionary brig, in company.

The comparisons of the chronometers this day indicated that Arnold's
Numbers 2148 and 2147 had slightly changed their rates since they had
been brought on board; fortunately the rate of the former seems to have
increased nearly in the same ratio as the other has lost, and the mean
longitude will not be materially affected.

Being now fairly launched into the Atlantic I issued a general memorandum
for the guidance of the officers during the prosecution of the service on
which we were engaged, and communicated to them the several points of
information that were expected from us by my instructions. I also
furnished them with copies of the signals which had been agreed upon
between Lieutenant Parry and myself to be used in the event of our
reaching the northern coast of America and falling in with each other.

At the end of the month of June our progress was found to have been
extremely slow owing to a determined North-West wind and much sea. We had
numerous birds hovering round the ship; principally fulmars (Procellaria
glacialis) and shearwaters (Procellaria puffinus) and not unfrequently
saw shoals of grampusses sporting about, which the Greenland seamen term
finners from their large dorsal fin. Some porpoises occasionally appeared
and whenever they did the crew were sanguine in their expectation of
having a speedy change in the wind which had been so vexatiously contrary
but they were disappointed in every instance.

Thursday, July 1.

The month of July set in more favourably; and aided by fresh breezes we
advanced rapidly to the westward, attended daily by numerous fulmars and
shearwaters. The Missionary brig had parted company on the 22nd of June.
We passed directly over that part of the ocean where the Sunken Land of
Buss is laid down in the old, and continued in the Admiralty charts. Mr.
Bell, the commander of the Eddystone, informed me that the pilot who
brought his ship down the Thames told him that he had gained soundings in
twelve feet somewhere hereabout; and I am rather inclined to attribute
the very unusual and cross sea we had in this neighbourhood to the
existence of a bank than to the effect of a gale of wind which we had
just before experienced; and I cannot but regret that the commander of
the ship did not try for soundings at frequent intervals.


By the 25th July we had opened the entrance of Davis Straits and in the
afternoon spoke the Andrew Marvell, bound to England with a cargo of
fourteen fish. The master informed us that the ice had been heavier this
season in Davis Straits than he had ever recollected, and that it lay
particularly close to the westward, being connected with the shore to the
northward of Resolution Island and extending from thence within a short
distance of the Greenland coast; that whales had been abundant but the
ice so extremely cross that few could be killed. His ship, as well as
several others, had suffered material injury, and two vessels had been
entirely crushed between vast masses of ice in latitude 74 degrees 40
minutes North, but the crews were saved. We inquired anxiously but in
vain for intelligence respecting Lieutenant Parry and the ships under his
command; but as he mentioned that the wind had been blowing strong from
the northward for some time, which would probably have cleared Baffin's
Bay of ice, we were disposed to hope favourably of his progress.

The clouds assumed so much the appearance of icebergs this evening as to
deceive most of the passengers and crew; but their imaginations had been
excited by the intelligence we had received from the Andrew Marvell that
she had only parted from a cluster of them two days previous to our

On the 27th, being in latitude 57 degrees 44 minutes 21 seconds North,
longitude 47 degrees 31 minutes 14 seconds West and the weather calm, we
tried our soundings but did not reach the bottom. The register
thermometer was attached to the line just above the lead, and is supposed
to have descended six hundred and fifty fathoms. A well-corked bottle was
also fastened to the line two hundred fathoms above the lead and went
down four hundred and fifty fathoms. The change in temperature shown by
the register thermometer during the descent was from 52 to 40.5 degrees;
and it stood at the latter point when taken out of the tin case. The
temperature of the water brought up in the bottle was 41 degrees, being
half a degree higher at four hundred and fifty than at six hundred and
fifty fathoms and four degrees colder than the water at the surface which
was then at 45 degrees, whilst that of the air was 46 degrees. This
experiment in showing the water to be colder at a great depth than at the
surface, and in proportion to the increase of the descent, coincides with
the observations of Captain Ross and Lieutenant Parry on their late
voyage to these seas, but is contrary to the results obtained by Captain
Buchan and myself on our recent voyage to the north between Spitzbergen
and Greenland, in which sea we invariably found the water brought from
any great depth to be warmer than that at the surface.

On the 28th we tacked to avoid an extensive stream of sailing ice. The
temperature of the water fell to 39.5 degrees when we were near it, but
was at 41 degrees when at the distance of half a mile. The thermometer in
the air remained steadily at 40 degrees. Thus the proximity of this ice
was not so decidedly indicated by the decrease of the temperature of
either the air or water as I have before witnessed, which was probably
owing to the recent arrival of the stream at this point and its passing
at too quick a rate for the effectual diffusion of its chilling influence
beyond a short distance. Still the decrease in both cases was sufficient
to have given timely warning for a ship's performing any evolution that
would have prevented the coming in contact with it had the thickness of
the weather precluded a distant view of the danger.

The approach to ice would be more evidently pointed out in the Atlantic,
or wherever the surface is not so continually chilled by the passing and
the melting of ice as in this sea; and I should strongly recommend a
strict hourly attention to the thermometrical state of the water at the
surface in all parts where ships are exposed to the dangerous concussion
of sailing icebergs, as a principal means of security.

The following day our ship came near another stream of ice and the
approach to it was indicated by a decrease of the temperature of the
water at the surface from 44 to 42 degrees. A small pine-tree was picked
up much shattered by the ice. In the afternoon of the 30th a very dense
fog came on; and about six P.M. when sailing before a fresh breeze we
were suddenly involved in a heavy stream of ice. Considerable difficulty
was experienced in steering through the narrow channels between the
different masses in this foggy weather, and the ship received several
severe blows.

The water, as usual in the centre of the stream, was quite smooth, but we
heard the waves beating violently against the outer edge of the ice.
There was some earthy matter on several of the pieces, and the whole body
bore the appearance of recent separation from the land. In the space of
two hours we again got into the open sea, but had left our two consorts
far behind; they followed our track by the guns we discharged. The
temperature of the surface water was 35 degrees when amongst the ice, 38
degrees when just clear of it, and 41.5 degrees at two miles distant.

On the 4th of August, when in latitude 59 degrees 58 minutes North,
longitude 59 degrees 53 minutes West, we first fell in with large
icebergs; and in the evening were encompassed by several of considerable
magnitude, which obliged us to tack the ship in order to prevent our
getting entangled amongst them. The estimated distance from the nearest
part of the Labrador coast was then eighty-eight miles; here we tried for
soundings without gaining the bottom. The ship passed through some strong
ripplings, which evidently indicated a current, but its direction was not
ascertained. We found however by the recent observations that the ship
had been set daily to the southward since we had opened Davis Straits.
The variation of the compass was observed to be 52 degrees 41 minutes

At nine P.M. brilliant coruscations of the Aurora Borealis appeared, of a
pale ochre colour with a slight tinge of red, in an arched form, crossing
the zenith from North-West to South-East, but afterwards they assumed
various shapes and had a rapid motion.

On the 5th of August a party of the officers endeavoured to get on one of
the larger icebergs, but ineffectually, owing to the steepness and
smoothness of its sides and the swell produced by its undulating motion.
This was one of the largest we saw, and Mr. Hood ascertained its height
to be one hundred and forty-nine feet; but these masses of ice are
frequently magnified to an immense size through the illusive medium of a
hazy atmosphere, and on this account their dimensions have often been
exaggerated by voyagers.


In the morning of the 7th the island of Resolution was indistinctly seen
through the haze but was soon afterwards entirely hidden by a very dense
fog. The favourable breeze subsided into a perfect calm and left the ship
surrounded by loose ice. At this time the Eddystone was perceived to be
driving with rapidity towards some of the larger masses; the stern-boats
of this ship and of the Wear were despatched to assist in towing her
clear of them. At ten a momentary clearness presented the land distinctly
at the distance of two miles; the ship was quite unmanageable and under
the sole governance of the currents which ran in strong eddies between
the masses of ice. Our consorts were also seen, the Wear being within
hail and the Eddystone at a short distance from us. Two attempts were
ineffectually made to gain soundings, and the extreme density of the fog
precluded us from any other means of ascertaining the direction in which
we were driving until half-past twelve when we had the alarming view of a
barren rugged shore within a few yards towering over the mastheads.
Almost instantly afterwards the ship struck violently on a point of rocks
projecting from the island; and the ship's side was brought so near to
the shore that poles were prepared to push her off. This blow displaced
the rudder and raised it several inches but it fortunately had been
previously confined by tackles. A gentle swell freed the ship from this
perilous situation but the current hurried us along in contact with the
rocky shore and the prospect was most alarming. On the outward bow was
perceived a rugged and precipitous cliff whose summit was hid in the fog,
and the vessel's head was pointed towards the bottom of a small bay into
which we were rapidly driving. There now seemed to be no probability of
escaping shipwreck, being without wind and having the rudder in its
present useless state; the only assistance was that of a boat employed in
towing which had been placed in the water between the ship and the shore
at the imminent risk of its being crushed. The ship again struck in
passing over a ledge of rocks and happily the blow replaced the rudder,
which enabled us to take advantage of a light breeze and to direct the
ship's head without the projecting cliff. But the breeze was only
momentary and the ship was a third time driven on shore on the rocky
termination of the cliff. Here we remained stationery for some seconds
and with little prospect of being removed from this perilous situation;
but we were once more extricated by the swell from this ledge also and
carried still farther along the shore. The coast became now more rugged
and our view of it was terminated by another high projecting point on the
starboard bow. Happily, before we had reached it, a light breeze enabled
us to turn the ship's head to seaward and we had the gratification to
find, when the sails were trimmed, that she drew off the shore. We had
made but little progress however when she was violently forced by the
current against a large iceberg lying aground.

Our prospect was now more alarming than at any preceding period; and it
would be difficult for me to portray the anxiety and dismay depicted on
the countenances of the female passengers and children who were rushing
on deck in spite of the endeavours of the officers to keep them below,
out of the danger which was apprehended if the masts should be carried
away. After the first concussion the ship was driven along the steep and
rugged side of this iceberg with such amazing rapidity that the
destruction of the masts seemed inevitable, and everyone expected we
should again be forced on the rocks in the most disabled state; but we
providentially escaped this perilous result, which must have been

The dense fog now cleared away for a short time and we discovered the
Eddystone close to some rocks, having three boats employed in towing; but
the Wear was not visible.

Our ship received water very fast; the pumps were instantly manned and
kept in continual use, and signals of distress were made to the
Eddystone, whose commander promptly came on board and then ordered to our
assistance his carpenter and all the men he could spare together with the
carpenter and boat's crew of the Wear, who had gone on board the
Eddystone in the morning and were prevented from returning to their own
vessel by the fog. As the wind was increasing and the sky appeared very
unsettled it was determined the Eddystone should take the ship in tow,
that the undivided attention of the passengers and crew might be directed
to pumping and clearing the holds to examine whether there was a
possibility of stopping the leak. We soon had reason to suppose the
principal injury had been received from a blow near the stern-post, and
after cutting away part of the ceiling the carpenters endeavoured to stop
the rushing in of the water by forcing oakum between the timbers; but
this had not the desired effect and the leak, in spite of all our efforts
at the pumps, increased so much that parties of the officers and
passengers were stationed to bail out the water in buckets at different
parts of the hold. A heavy gale came on, blowing from the land, as the
night advanced; the sails were split, the ship was encompassed by heavy
ice and, in forcing through a closely-connected stream, the tow-rope
broke and obliged us to take a portion of the seamen from the pumps and
appoint them to the management of the ship.

Fatigue indeed had caused us to relax in our exertions at the pumps
during a part of the night of the 8th, and on the following morning
upwards of five feet of water was found in the well. Renewed exertions
were now put forth by every person, and before eight A.M. the water was
so much reduced as to enable the carpenters to get at other defective
places; but the remedies they could apply were insufficient to repress
the water from rushing in, and our labours could but just keep the ship
in the same state throughout the day until six P.M.; when the strength of
everyone began to fail the expedient of thrusting in felt, as well as
oakum, was resorted to, and a plank nailed over all. After this operation
a perceptible diminution in the water was made and, being encouraged by
the change, we put forth our utmost exertion in bailing and pumping; and
before night to our infinite joy the leak was so overpowered that the
pumps were only required to be used at intervals of ten minutes. A sail
covered with every substance that could be carried into the leaks by the
pressure of the water was drawn under the quarter of the ship and secured
by ropes on each side.

As a matter of precaution in the event of having to abandon the ship,
which was for some time doubtful, the elderly women and children were
removed to the Eddystone when the wind was moderate this afternoon, but
the young women remained to assist at the pumps, and their services were
highly valuable, both for their personal labour and for the encouragement
their example and perseverance gave to the men.

At daylight on the 9th every eye was anxiously cast around the horizon in
search of the Wear but in vain; and the recollection of our own recent
peril caused us to entertain considerable apprehensions for her safety.
This anxiety quickened our efforts to exchange our shattered sails for
new ones that the ship might be got as speedily as possible near to the
land, which was but just in sight, and a careful search be made for her
along the coast. We were rejoiced to find that our leak did not increase
by carrying sail, and we ventured in the evening to remove the sail which
had been placed under the part where the injury had been received as it
greatly impeded our advance.

We passed many icebergs on the 10th and in the evening we tacked from a
level field of ice which extended northward as far as the eye could
reach. Our leak remained in the same state; the pumps discharged in three
minutes the quantity of water which had been received in fifteen.


The ship could not be got near to the land before the afternoon of the
11th. At four P.M. we hove to, opposite to and about five miles distant
from the spot on which we had first struck on Saturday. Every glass was
directed along the shore (as they had been throughout the day) to
discover any trace of our absent consort; but as none was seen our
solicitude respecting her was much increased, and we feared the crew
might be wrecked on this inhospitable shore. Guns were frequently fired
to apprise any who might be near of our approach; but as no one appeared
and no signal was returned and the loose ice was setting down towards the
ship we bore up to proceed to the next appointed rendezvous. At eight
P.M. we were abreast of the south-west end of the island called Cape
Resolution, which is a low point but indicated at a distance by a lofty
round-backed hill that rises above it. We entered Hudson's Straits soon

The coast of Resolution Island should be approached with caution as the
tides appear to be strong and uncertain in their course. Some dangerous
rocks lie above and below the water's edge at the distance of five or six
miles from East Bluff bearing South 32 degrees East.

August 12.

Having had a fresh gale through the night we reached Saddleback Island by
noon--the place of rendezvous; and looked anxiously but in vain for the
Wear. Several guns were fired, supposing she might be hid from our view
by the land; but as she did not appear Captain Davidson, having remained
two hours, deemed further delay inexpedient and bore up to keep the
advantage of the fair wind. The outline of this island is rugged; the
hummock on its northern extremity appeared to me to resemble a decayed
martello tower more than a saddle.

Azimuths were obtained this evening that gave the variation 58 degrees 45
minutes West, which is greater than is laid down in the charts, or than
the officers of Hudson's Bay ships have been accustomed to allow.


We arrived abreast of the Upper Savage Island early in the morning and,
as the breeze was moderate, the ship was steered as near to the shore as
the wind would permit to give the Esquimaux inhabitants an opportunity of
coming off to barter, which they soon embraced.

Their shouts at a distance intimated their approach some time before we
descried the canoes paddling towards us; the headmost of them reached us
at eleven; these were quickly followed by others, and before noon about
forty canoes, each holding one man, were assembled around the two ships.
In the afternoon when we approached nearer to the shore five or six
larger ones containing the women and children came up.

The Esquimaux immediately evinced their desire to barter and displayed no
small cunning in making their bargains, taking care not to exhibit too
many articles at first. Their principal commodities were oil, sea-horse
teeth, whalebone, seal-skin dresses, caps and boots, deerskins and horns,
and models of their canoes; and they received in exchange small saws,
knives, nails, tin-kettles, and needles. It was pleasing to behold the
exultation and to hear the shouts of the whole party when an acquisition
was made by any one; and not a little ludicrous to behold the eagerness
with which the fortunate person licked each article with his tongue on
receiving it, as a finish to the bargain and an act of appropriation.
They in no instance omitted this strange practice, however small the
article; the needles even passed individually through the ceremony. The
women brought imitations of men, women, animals, and birds, carved with
labour and ingenuity out of sea-horse teeth. The dresses and the figures
of the animals were not badly executed, but there was no attempt at the
delineation of the countenances; and most of the figures were without
eyes, ears and fingers, the execution of which would perhaps have
required more delicate instruments than they possess. The men set most
value on saws; kutteeswabak, the name by which they distinguish them, was
a constant cry. Knives were held next in estimation. An old sword was
bartered from the Eddystone and I shall long remember the universal burst
of joy on the happy man's receiving it. It was delightful to witness the
general interest excited by individual acquisitions. There was no desire
shown by anyone to over-reach his neighbour, or to press towards any part
of the ship where a bargain was making until the person in possession of
the place had completed his exchange and removed; and if any article
happened to be demanded from the outer canoes the men nearest assisted
willingly in passing the thing across. Supposing the party to belong to
one tribe the total number of the tribe must exceed two hundred persons,
as there were probably one hundred and fifty around the ships, and few of
these were elderly persons or male children.

Their faces were broad and flat, the eyes small. The men were in general
stout. Some of the younger women and the children had rather pleasing
countenances, but the difference between these and the more aged of that
sex bore strong testimony to the effects which a few years produce in
this ungenial climate. Most of the party had sore eyes, all of them
appeared of a plethoric habit of body; several were observed bleeding at
the nose during their stay near the ship. The men's dresses consisted of
a jacket of seal-skin, the trousers of bear-skin, and several had caps of
the white fox-skin. The female dresses were made of the same materials
but differently shaped, having a hood in which the infants were carried.
We thought their manner very lively and agreeable. They were fond of
mimicking our speech and gestures; but nothing afforded them greater
amusement than when we attempted to retaliate by pronouncing any of their

The canoes were of seal-skin and similar in every respect to those used
by the Esquimaux in Greenland; they were generally new and very complete
in their appointments. Those appropriated to the women are of ruder
construction and only calculated for fine weather; they are however
useful vessels, being capable of containing twenty persons with their
luggage. An elderly man officiates as steersman and the women paddle, but
they have also a mast which carries a sail made of dressed whale-gut.

When the women had disposed of all their articles of trade they resorted
to entreaty; and the putting in practice many enticing gestures was
managed with so much address as to procure them presents of a variety of
beads, needles, and other articles in great demand among females.

It is probable these Esquimaux go from this shore to some part of
Labrador to pass the winter, as parties of them have been frequently seen
by the homeward-bound Hudson's Bay ships in the act of crossing the

They appear to speak the same language as the tribe of Esquimaux who
reside near to the Moravian settlements in Labrador: for we perceived
they used several of the words which had been given to us by the
Missionaries at Stromness.

Towards evening the Captain, being desirous to get rid of his visitors,
took an effectual method by tacking from the shore; our friends then
departed apparently in high glee at the harvest they had reaped. They
paddled away very swiftly and would doubtless soon reach the shore though
it was distant ten or twelve miles.

Not having encountered any of the ice which usually arrests the progress
of ships in their outward passage through the Straits, and being
consequently deprived of the usual means of replenishing our stock of
water which had become short, the Captain resolved on going to the coast
of Labrador for a supply. Dr. Richardson and I gladly embraced this
opportunity to land and examine this part of the coast. I was also
desirous to observe the variation on shore as the azimuths which had been
taken on board both ships since our entrance into the Straits had shown a
greater amount than we had been led to expect; but unluckily the sun
became obscured. The beach consisted of large rolled stones of gneiss and
sienite, amongst which many pieces of ice had grounded, and it was with
difficulty that we effected a landing in a small cove under a steep
cliff. These stones were worn perfectly smooth; neither in the
interstices nor at the bottom of the water, which was very clear, were
there any vestiges of seaweed.

The cliff was from forty to fifty feet high and quite perpendicular, and
had at its base a small slip of soil formed of the debris of a bed of
clay-slate. From this narrow spot Dr. Richardson collected specimens of
thirty different species of plants; and we were about to scramble up a
shelving part of the rock and go into the interior when we perceived the
signal of recall which the master had caused to be made in consequence of
a sudden change in the appearance of the weather.

On the evening of the 19th we passed Digge's Islands, the termination of
Hudson's Strait. Here the Eddystone parted company, being bound to Moose
Factory at the bottom of the Bay. A strong north wind came on, which
prevented our getting round the north end of Mansfield; and as it
continued to blow with equal strength for the next five days we were most
vexatiously detained in beating along the Labrador coast and near the
dangerous chain of islands, the Sleepers, which are said to extend from
the latitude of 60 degrees 10 minutes to 57 degrees 00 minutes North. The
press of sail which of necessity we carried caused the leak to increase
and the pumps were kept in constant use.

A favouring wind at length enabled us on the 25th to shape our course
across Hudson's Bay. Nothing worthy of remark occurred during this
passage except the rapid decrease in the variation of the magnetic
needle. The few remarks respecting the appearance of the land which we
were able to make in our quick passage through these Straits were
transmitted to the Admiralty; but as they will not be interesting to the
general reader, and may not be sufficiently accurate for the guidance of
the Navigator, they are omitted in this narrative.


On the 28th we discovered the land to the southward of Cape Tatnam, which
is so extremely low that the tops of the trees were first discerned; the
soundings at the time were seventeen fathoms, which gradually decreased
to five as the shore was approached. Cape Tatnam is not otherwise
remarkable than as being the point from which the coast inclines rather
more to the westward towards York Factory.

The opening of the morning of the 30th presented to our view the
anchorage at York Flats, and the gratifying sight of a vessel at anchor,
which we recognised after an anxious examination to be the Wear. A strong
breeze blowing from the direction of the Flats caused the water to be
more shallow than usual on the sandy bar which lies on the seaward side
of the anchorage, and we could not get over it before two P.M. when the
tide was nearly at its height.

Immediately after our arrival Mr. Williams, the Governor of the Hudson's
Bay Company's posts, came on board accompanied by the Commander of the
Wear. The pleasure we felt in welcoming the latter gentleman can easily
be imagined when it is considered what reason we had to apprehend that he
and his crew had been numbered with the dead. We learned that one of the
larger masses of ice had providentially drifted between the vessel's side
and the rocks just at the time he expected to strike, to which he secured
it until a breeze sprang up and enabled him to pursue his voyage.


The Governor acquainted me that he had received information from the
Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company of the equipment of the Expedition,
and that the officers would come out in their first ship. In the evening
Dr. Richardson, Mr. Hood, and I accompanied him to York Factory which we
reached after dark; it is distant from the Flats seven miles. Early next
morning the honour of a salute was conferred on the members of the

Having communicated to the Governor the objects of the Expedition, and
that I had been directed to consult with him and the senior servants of
the Company as to the best mode of proceeding towards the execution of
the service, I was gratified by his assurance that his instructions from
the Committee directed that every possible assistance should be given to
forward our progress, and that he should feel peculiar pleasure in
performing this part of his duty. He introduced me at once to Messrs.
Charles, Swaine, and Snodie, masters of districts who, from long
residence in the country, were perfectly acquainted with the different
modes of travelling, and the obstructions which might be anticipated. At
the desire of these gentlemen I drew up a series of questions respecting
the points on which we required information; to which two days afterwards
they had the kindness to return very explicit and satisfactory answers;
and on receiving them I requested the Governor to favour me with his
sentiments on the same subject in writing, which he delivered to me on
the following day.

Having learned that Messrs. Shaw, McTavish, and several other partners of
the North-West Company were under detention at this place we took the
earliest opportunity of visiting them; when, having presented the general
circular and other introductory letters with which I had been furnished
by their agent Mr. Simon McGillivray, we received from them the most
friendly and full assurance of the cordial endeavours of the wintering
partners of their company to promote the interests of the Expedition. The
knowledge we had now gained of the state of the violent commercial
opposition existing in the country rendered this assurance highly
gratifying; and these gentlemen added to the obligation by freely
communicating that information respecting the interior of the country
which their intelligence and long residence so fully qualified them to

I deemed it expedient to issue a memorandum to the officers of the
Expedition strictly prohibiting any interference whatever in the existing
quarrels, or any that might arise, between the two Companies; and on
presenting it to the principals of both the parties they expressed their
satisfaction at the step I had taken.

The opinions of all the gentlemen were so decidedly in favour of the
route by Cumberland House and through the chain of posts to the Great
Slave Lake that I determined on pursuing it, and immediately communicated
my intention to the Governor with a request that he would furnish me with
the means of conveyance for the party as speedily as possible.

It was suggested in my instructions that we might probably procure a
schooner at this place to proceed north as far as Wager Bay; but the
vessel alluded to was lying at Moose Factory, completely out of repair;
independently of which the route directly to the northward was rendered
impracticable by the impossibility of procuring hunters and guides on the

I found that, as the Esquimaux inhabitants had left Churchill a month
previous to our arrival, no interpreter from that quarter could be
procured before their return in the following spring. The Governor
however undertook to forward to us, next season, the only one amongst
them who understood English, if he could be induced to go.

The Governor selected one of the largest of the Company's boats for our
use on the journey, and directed the carpenters to commence refitting it
immediately; but he was only able to furnish us with a steersman; and we
were obliged to make up the rest of the crew with the boatmen brought
from Stromness and our two attendants.

York Factory, the principal depot of the Hudson's Bay Company, stands on
the west bank of Hayes River, about five miles above its mouth, on the
marshy peninsula which separates the Hayes and Nelson Rivers. The
surrounding country is flat and swampy and covered with willows, poplars,
larch, spruce, and birch-trees; but the requisition for fuel has expended
all the wood in the vicinity of the fort and the residents have now to
send for it to a considerable distance. The soil is alluvial clay and
contains imbedded rolled stones. Though the bank of the river is elevated
about twenty feet it is frequently overflown by the spring floods, and
large portions are annually carried away by the disruption of the ice
which, grounding in the stream, have formed several muddy islands. These
interruptions, together with the various collection of stones that are
hid at high-water, render the navigation of the river difficult; but
vessels of two hundred tons burden may be brought through the proper
channels as high as the Factory.

The principal buildings are placed in the form of a square having an
octagonal court in the centre; they are two storeys in height and have
flat roofs covered with lead. The officers dwell in one portion of this
square, and in the other parts the articles of merchandise are kept: the
workshops, storehouses for the furs, and the servants' houses are ranged
on the outside of the square, and the whole is surrounded by a stockade
twenty feet high. A platform is laid from the house to the pier on the
bank for the convenience of transporting the stores and furs, which is
the only promenade the residents have on this marshy spot during the
summer season. The few Indians who now frequent this establishment belong
to the Swampy Crees. There were several of them encamped on the outside
of the stockade. Their tents were rudely constructed by tying twenty or
thirty poles together at the top, and spreading them out at the base so
as to form a cone; these were covered with dressed moose-skins. The fire
is placed in the centre and a hole is left for the escape of the smoke.
The inmates had a squalid look and were suffering under the combined
afflictions of the whooping-cough and measles; but even these miseries
did not keep them from an excessive indulgence in spirits, which they
unhappily can procure from the traders with too much facility; and they
nightly serenaded us with their monotonous drunken songs. Their sickness
at this time was particularly felt by the traders, this being the season
of the year when the exertion of every hunter is required to procure
their winter's stock of geese, which resort in immense flocks to the
extensive flats in this neighbourhood. These birds during the summer
retire far to the north and breed in security; but when the approach of
winter compels them to seek a more southern climate they generally alight
on the marshes of this bay and fatten there for three weeks or a month
before they take their final departure from the country. They also make a
short halt at the same spots in their progress northwards in the spring.
Their arrival is welcomed with joy, and the goose hunt is one of the most
plentiful seasons of the year. The ducks frequent the swamps all the

The weather was extremely unfavourable for celestial observations during
our stay, and it was only by watching the momentary appearances of the
sun that we were enabled to obtain fresh rates for the chronometers and
allow for their errors from Greenwich time. The dip of the needle was
observed to be 79 degrees 29 minutes 07 seconds, and the difference
produced by reversing the face of the instrument was 11 degrees 3 minutes
40 seconds. A succession of fresh breezes prevented our ascertaining the
intensity of the magnetic force. The position of York Factory by our
observations is in latitude 57 degrees 00 minutes 03 seconds North,
longitude 92 degrees 26 minutes West. The variation of the compass 6
degrees 00 minutes 21 seconds East.




September 1819.

On the 9th of September, our boat being completed, arrangements were made
for our departure as soon as the tide should serve. But when the stores
were brought down to the beach it was found that the boat would not
contain them all. The whole therefore of the bacon and part of the flour,
rice, tobacco, and ammunition were returned into the store. The bacon was
too bulky an article to be forwarded under any circumstances; but the
Governor undertook to forward the rest next season. In making the
selection of articles to carry with us I was guided by the judgment of
Governor Williams who assured me that tobacco, ammunition, and spirits
could be procured in the interior, otherwise I should have been very
unwilling to have left these essential articles behind. We embarked at
noon and were honoured with a salute of eight guns and three cheers from
the Governor and all the inmates of the fort who had assembled to witness
our departure. We gratefully returned their cheers and then made sail,
much delighted at having now commenced our voyage into the interior of
America. The wind and tide failing us at the distance of six miles above
the Factory, and the current being too rapid for using oars to advantage,
the crew had to commence tracking, or dragging the boat by a line to
which they were harnessed. This operation is extremely laborious in these
rivers. Our men were obliged to walk along the steep declivity of a high
bank, rendered at this season soft and slippery by frequent rains, and
their progress was often further impeded by fallen trees which, having
slipped from the verge of the thick wood above, hung on the face of the
bank in a great variety of directions. Notwithstanding these obstacles we
advanced at the rate of two miles an hour, one-half of the crew relieving
the other at intervals of an hour and a half. The banks of the river and
its islands, composed of alluvial soil, are well covered with pines,
larches, poplars, and willows. The breadth of the stream some distance
above the Factory is about half a mile, and its depth during this day's
voyage varied from three to nine feet.

At sunset we landed and pitched the tent for the night, having made a
progress of twelve miles. A large fire was quickly kindled, supper
speedily prepared and as readily despatched, when we retired with our
buffalo robes on and enjoyed a night of sound repose.

It may here be stated that the survey of the river was made by taking the
bearings of every point with a pocket compass, estimating the distances,
and making a connected eye-sketch of the whole. This part of the survey
was allotted to Messrs. Back and Hood conjointly: Mr. Hood also
protracted the route every evening on a ruled map, after the courses and
distances had been corrected by observations for latitude and longitude
taken by myself as often as the weather would allow. The extraordinary
talent of this young officer in this line of service proved of the
greatest advantage to the Expedition, and he continued to perform that
duty until his lamented death with a degree of zeal and accuracy that
characterised all his pursuits.

The next morning our camp was in motion at five A.M., and we soon
afterwards embarked with the flattering accompaniment of a fair wind: it
proved however too light to enable us to stem the stream, and we were
obliged to resume the fatiguing operation of tracking; sometimes under
cliffs so steep that the men could scarcely find a footing, and not
unfrequently over spots rendered so miry by the small streams that
trickled from above as to be almost impassable. In the course of the day
we passed the scene of a very melancholy accident. Some years ago two
families of Indians, induced by the flatness of a small beach which lay
betwixt the cliff and the river, chose it as the site of their
encampment. They retired quietly to rest, not aware that the precipice,
detached from the bank and urged by an accumulation of water in the
crevice behind, was tottering to its base. It fell during the night and
the whole party was buried under its ruins.

The length of our voyage today was in a direct line sixteen miles and a
quarter on a South-South-West course. We encamped soon after sunset and
the tent was scarcely pitched when a heavy rain began, which continued
all night.

Sixteen miles on the 11th and five on the following morning brought us to
the commencement of Hayes River which is formed by the confluence of the
Shamattawa and Steel Rivers. Our observations place this spot in latitude
56 degrees 22 minutes 32 seconds North, longitude 93 degrees 1 minute 37
seconds West. It is forty-eight miles and a half from York Factory
including the windings of the river. Steel River, through which our
course lay, is about three hundred yards wide at its mouth; its banks
have more elevation than those of Hayes River, but they shelve more
gradually down to the stream and afford a tolerably good towing path,
which compensates in some degree for the rapids and frequent shoals that
impede its navigation. We succeeded in getting about ten miles above the
mouth of the river before the close of day compelled us to disembark.

We made an effort on the morning of the 13th to stem the current under
sail but, as the course of the river was very serpentine, we found that
greater progress could be made by tracking. Steel River presents much
beautiful scenery; it winds through a narrow but well wooded valley which
at every turn disclosed to us an agreeable variety of prospect, rendered
more picturesque by the effect of the season on the foliage, now ready to
drop from the trees. The light yellow of the fading poplars formed a fine
contrast to the dark evergreen of the spruce, whilst the willows of an
intermediate hue served to shade the two principal masses of colour into
each other. The scene was occasionally enlivened by the bright purple
tints of the dogwood, blended with the browner shades of the dwarf birch
and frequently intermixed with the gay yellow flowers of the shrubby
cinquefoil. With all these charms the scene appeared desolate from the
want of human species. The stillness was so great that even the
twittering of the whiskey-johneesh, or cinereous crow caused us to start.
Our voyage today was sixteen miles on a South-West course.

September 14.

We had much rain during the night and also in the morning, which detained
us in our encampment later than usual. We set out as soon as the weather
cleared up and in a short time arrived at the head of Steel River where
it is formed by the junction of Fox and Hill Rivers. These two rivers are
nearly of equal width but the latter is the most rapid. Mr. McDonald, on
his way to Red River in a small canoe manned by two Indians, overtook us
at this place. It may be mentioned as a proof of the dexterity of the
Indians and the skill with which they steal upon their game that they had
on the preceding day, with no other arms than a hatchet, killed two deer,
a hawk, a curlew, and a sturgeon. Three of the Company's boats joined us
in the course of the morning and we pursued our course up Hill River in
company. The water in this river was so low and the rapids so bad that we
were obliged several times in the course of the day to jump into the
water and assist in lifting the boat over the large stones which impeded
the navigation. The length of our voyage today was only six miles and

The four boats commenced operations together at five o'clock the
following morning but, our boat being overladen, we soon found that we
were unable to keep pace with the others; and therefore proposed to the
gentlemen in charge of the Company's boats that they should relieve us of
part of our cargo. This they declined doing under the plea of not having
received orders to that effect, notwithstanding that the circular with
which I was furnished by Governor Williams strictly enjoined all the
Company's servants to afford us every assistance. In consequence of this
refusal we dropped behind, and our steersman, who was inexperienced,
being thus deprived of the advantage of observing the route followed by
the guide, who was in the foremost boat, frequently took a wrong channel.
The tow-line broke twice and the boat was only prevented from going
broadside down the stream and breaking to pieces against the stones by
the officers and men leaping into the water and holding her head to the
current until the line could be carried again to the shore. It is but
justice to say that in these trying situations we received much
assistance from Mr. Thomas Swaine who with great kindness waited for us
with the boat under his charge at such places as he apprehended would be
most difficult to pass. We encamped at sunset, completely jaded with
toil. Our distance made good this day was twelve miles and a quarter.

The labours of the 16th commenced at half-past five, and for some time
the difficulty of getting the boats over the rapids was equal to what we
experienced the day before. Having passed a small brook however, termed
Halfway Creek, the river became deeper and although rapid it was smooth
enough to be named by our Orkney boatmen Stillwater. We were further
relieved by the Company's clerks consenting to take a few boxes of our
stores into their boats. Still we made only eleven miles in the course of
the day.

The banks of Hill River are higher and have a more broken outline than
those of Steel or Hayes Rivers. The cliffs of alluvial clay rose in some
places to the height of eighty or ninety feet above the stream and were
surmounted by hills about two hundred feet high, but the thickness of the
wood prevented us from seeing far beyond the mere banks of the river.

September 17.

About half-past five in the morning we commenced tracking and soon came
to a ridge of rock which extended across the stream. From this place the
boat was dragged up several narrow rocky channels until we came to the
Rock Portage where the stream, pent in by a range of small islands, forms
several cascades. In ascending the river the boats with their cargoes are
carried over one of the islands, but in the descent they are shot down
the most shelving of the cascades. Having performed the operations of
carrying, launching, and restowing the cargo we plied the oars for a
short distance and landed at a depot called Rock House. Here we were
informed that the rapids in the upper parts of Hill River were much worse
and more numerous than those we had passed, particularly in the present
season owing to the unusual lowness of the water. This intelligence was
very mortifying, especially as the gentlemen in charge of the Company's
boats declared that they were unable to carry any part of our stores
beyond this place; and the traders, guides, and most experienced of the
boatmen were of opinion that, unless our boat was still further
lightened, the winter would put a stop to our progress before we could
reach Cumberland House or any eligible post. Sixteen pieces we therefore
necessarily left with Mr. Bunn, the gentleman in charge of the post, to
be forwarded by the Athabasca canoes next season, this being their place
of rendezvous.

After this we recommenced our voyage and, having pulled nearly a mile,
arrived at Borrowick's Fall, where the boat was dragged up with a line
after part of the cargo had been carried over a small portage. From this
place to the Mud Portage, a distance of a mile and three-quarters, the
boats were pushed on with poles against a very rapid stream. Here we
encamped, having come seven miles during the day on a South-West course.
We had several snow showers in the course of the day and the thermometer
at bedtime stood at 30 degrees.

On the morning of the 18th the country was clothed in the livery of
winter, a heavy fall of snow having taken place during the night. We
embarked at the usual hour and in the course of the day crossed the Point
of Rocks and Brassa Portages and dragged the boats through several minor
rapids. In this tedious way we only made good about nine miles.

On Sunday the 19th we hauled the boats up several short rapids or, as the
boatmen term them, expressively enough, spouts, and carried them over the
Portages of Lower Burntwood and Morgan's Rocks, on the latter of which we
encamped, having proceeded during the whole day only one mile and

The upper part of Hill River swells out considerably, and at Morgan's
Rocks where it is three-quarters of a mile wide we were gratified with a
more extensive prospect of the country than any we had enjoyed since
leaving York Factory. The banks of the river here, consisting of low flat
rocks with intermediate swamps, permitted us to obtain views of the
interior, the surface of which is broken into a multitude of cone-shaped
hills. The highest of these hills, which gives a name to the river, has
an elevation not exceeding six hundred feet. From its summit thirty-six
lakes are said to be visible. The beauty of the scenery, dressed in the
tints of autumn, called forth our admiration and was the subject of Mr.
Hood's accurate pencil. On the 20th we passed Upper Burntwood and Rocky
Ledge Portages besides several strong spouts; and in the evening arrived
at Smooth Rock Portage where we encamped, having come three miles and a
half. It is not easy for any but an eye-witness to form an adequate idea
of the exertions of the Orkney boatmen in the navigation of this river.
The necessity they are under of frequently jumping into the water to lift
the boats over the rocks compels them to remain the whole day in wet
clothes at a season when the temperature is far below the freezing-point.
The immense loads too which they carry over the portages is not more a
matter of surprise than the alacrity with which they perform these
laborious duties.


At six on the morning of the 21st we left our encampment and soon after
arrived at the Mossy Portage where the cargoes were carried through a
deep bog for a quarter of a mile. The river swells out above this portage
to the breadth of several miles and as the islands are numerous there are
a great variety of channels. Night overtook us before we arrived at the
Second Portage, so named from its being the second in the passage down
the river. Our whole distance this day was one mile and a quarter.

On the 22nd our route led us amongst many wooded islands which, lying in
long vistas, produced scenes of much beauty. In the course of the day we
crossed the Upper Portage, surmounted the Devil's Landing Place, and
urged the boat with poles through Groundwater Creek. At the upper end of
this creek, our bowman having given the boat too great a sheer to avoid a
rock, it was caught on the broadside by the current and in defiance of
our utmost exertions hurried down the rapid. Fortunately however it
grounded against a rock high enough to prevent the current from
oversetting it, and the crews of the other boats having come to our
assistance we succeeded after several trials in throwing a rope to them
with which they dragged our almost sinking vessel stern foremost up the
stream and rescued us from our perilous situation. We encamped in the
dusk of evening amidst a heavy thunderstorm, having advanced two miles
and three-quarters.

About ten in the morning of the 23rd we arrived at the Dramstone which is
hailed with pleasure by the boats' crews as marking the termination of
the laborious ascent of Hill River. We complied with the custom from
whence it derives its name and soon after landing upon Sail Island
prepared breakfast. In the meantime our boatmen cut down and rigged a new
mast, the old one having been thrown overboard at the mouth of Steel
River, where it ceased to be useful. We left Sail Island with a fair wind
and soon afterwards arrived at a depot situated on Swampy Lake where we
received a supply of mouldy pemmican.* Mr. Calder and his attendant were
the only tenants of this cheerless abode, and their only food was the
wretched stuff with which they supplied us, the lake not yielding fish at
this season.

(*Footnote. Buffalo meat, dried and pounded and mixed with melted fat.)


After a short delay at this post we sailed through the remainder of
Swampy Lake and slept at the Lower Portage in Jack River; the distance
sailed today being sixteen miles and a half.

Jack River is only eight miles long but, being full of bad rapids, it
detained us considerably. At seven in the morning of the 24th we crossed
the Long Portage where the woods, having caught fire in the summer, were
still smoking. This is a common accident owing to the neglect of the
Indians and voyagers in not putting out their fires, and in a dry season
the woods may be seen blazing to the extent of many miles. We afterwards
crossed the Second, or Swampy, Portage and in the evening encamped on the
Upper Portage, where we were overtaken by an Indian bringing an answer
from Governor Williams to a letter I had written to him on the 15th in
which he renewed his injunctions to the gentlemen of the boats
accompanying us to afford us every assistance in their power. The Aurora
Borealis appeared this evening in form of a bright arch extending across
the zenith in a North-West and South-East direction. The extent of our
voyage today was two miles.


About noon on the 25th we entered Knee Lake which has a very irregular
form and near its middle takes a sudden turn from whence it derives its
names. It is thickly studded with islands and its shores are low and well
wooded. The surrounding country as far as we could see is flat, being
destitute even of the moderate elevations which occur near the upper part
of Hill River. The weather was remarkably fine and the setting sun threw
the richest tints over the scene that I remember ever to have witnessed.

About half a mile from the bend, or knee, of the lake there is a small
rocky islet composed of magnetic iron ore which affects the magnetic
needle at a considerable distance. Having received previous information
respecting this circumstance we watched our compasses carefully and
perceived that they were affected at the distance of three hundred yards
both on the approach to and departure from the rock: on decreasing the
distance they became gradually more and more unsteady and on landing they
were rendered quite useless; and it was evident that the general magnetic
influence was totally overpowered by the local attraction of the ore.
When Kater's compass was held near to the ground on the North-West side
of the island the needle dipped so much that the card could not be made
to traverse by any adjustment of the hand; but on moving the same compass
about thirty yards to the west part of the islet the needle became
horizontal, traversed freely, and pointed to the magnetic north. The
dipping needle, being landed on the South-West point of the islet, was
adjusted as nearly as possible on the magnetic meridian by the sun's
bearings, and found to vibrate freely when the face of the instrument was
directed to the east or west. The mean dip it gave was 80 degrees 37
minutes 50 seconds. When the instrument was removed from the North-West
to the South-East point about twenty yards distant and placed on the
meridian the needle ceased to traverse but remained steady at an angle of
60 degrees. On changing the face of the instrument so as to give a
South-East and North-West direction to the needle it hung vertically. The
position of the slaty strata of the magnetic ore is also vertical. Their
direction is extremely irregular, being much contorted.

Knee Lake towards its upper end becomes narrower and its rocky shores are
broken into conical and rounded eminences, destitute of soil, and of
course devoid of trees. We slept at the western extremity of the lake,
having come during the day nineteen miles and a half on a South-West


We began the ascent of Trout River early in the morning of the 27th and
in the course of the day passed three portages and several rapids. At the
first of these portages the river falls between two rocks about sixteen
feet and it is necessary to launch the boat over a precipitous rocky
bank. This cascade is named the Trout Fall, and the beauty of the scenery
afforded a subject for Mr. Hood's pencil. The rocks which form the bed of
this river are slaty and present sharp fragments by which the feet of the
boatmen are much lacerated. The Second Portage in particular obtains the
expressive name of Knife Portage. The length of our voyage today was
three miles.


On the 28th we passed through the remainder of Trout River; and at noon
arrived at Oxford House on Holy Lake. This was formerly a post of some
consequence to the Hudson's Bay Company but at present it exhibits
unequivocal signs of decay. The Indians have of late years been gradually
deserting the low or swampy country and ascending the Saskatchewan where
animals are more abundant. A few Crees were at this time encamped in
front of the fort. They were suffering under whooping-cough and measles
and looked miserably dejected. We endeavoured in vain to prevail on one
of them to accompany us for the purpose of killing ducks which were
numerous but too shy for our sportsmen. We had the satisfaction however
of exchanging the mouldy pemmican obtained at Swampy Lake for a better
kind, and received moreover a small but very acceptable supply of fish.
Holy Lake, viewed from an eminence behind Oxford House, exhibits a
pleasing prospect; and its numerous islands, varying much in shape and
elevation, contribute to break that uniformity of scenery which proves so
palling to a traveller in this country. Trout of a great size, frequently
exceeding forty pounds' weight, abound in this lake. We left Oxford House
in the afternoon and encamped on an island about eight miles distant,
having come during the day nine miles and a quarter.


At noon on the 29th, after passing through the remainder of Holy Lake, we
entered the Weepinapannis, a narrow grassy river which runs parallel to
the lake for a considerable distance and forms its south bank into a
narrow peninsula. In the morning we arrived at the Swampy Portage where
two of the boats were broken against the rocks. The length of the day's
voyage was nineteen miles and a half.

In consequence of the accident yesterday evening we were detained a
considerable time this morning until the boats were repaired, when we set
out and, after ascending a strong rapid, arrived at the portage by John
Moore's Island. Here the river rushes with irresistible force through the
channels formed by two rocky islands; and we learned that last year a
poor man, in hauling a boat up one of these channels, was, by the
breaking of the line, precipitated into the stream and hurried down the
cascade with such rapidity that all efforts to save him were ineffectual.
His body was afterwards found and interred near the spot.

The Weepinapannis is composed of several branches which separate and
unite again and again, intersecting the country in a great variety of


We pursued the principal channel and, having passed the Crooked Spout
with several inferior rapids and crossed a small piece of water named
Windy Lake, we entered a smooth deep stream about three hundred yards
wide which has got the absurd appellation of the Rabbit Ground. The
marshy banks of this river are skirted by low barren rocks behind which
there are some groups of stunted trees. As we advanced the country,
becoming flatter, gradually opened to our view and we at length arrived
at a shallow, reedy lake, the direct course through which leads to the
Hill Portage. This route has however of late years been disused and we
therefore turned towards the north and, crossing a small arm of the lake,
arrived at Hill Gates by sunset; having come this day eleven miles.

October 1.

Hill Gates is the name imposed on a romantic defile whose rocky walls,
rising perpendicularly to the height of sixty or eighty feet, hem in the
stream for three-quarters of a mile, in many places so narrowly that
there is a want of room to ply the oars. In passing through this chasm we
were naturally led to contemplate the mighty but probably slow and
gradual effects of the water in wearing down such vast masses of rock;
but in the midst of our speculations the attention was excited anew to a
grand and picturesque rapid which, surrounded by the most wild and
majestic scenery, terminated the defile. The brown fishing-eagle had
built its nest on one of the projecting cliffs.


In the course of the day we surmounted this and another dangerous portage
called the Upper and Lower Hill Gate Portages, crossed a small sheet of
water, termed the White Fall Lake and, entering the river of the same
name, arrived at the White Fall about an hour after sunset, having come
fourteen miles on a South-West course.

The whole of the 2nd of October was spent in carrying the cargoes over a
portage of thirteen hundred yards in length and in launching the empty
boats over three several ridges of rock which obstruct the channel and
produce as many cascades. I shall long remember the rude and
characteristic wildness of the scenery which surrounded these falls;
rocks piled on rocks hung in rude and shapeless masses over the agitated
torrents which swept their bases, whilst the bright and variegated tints
of the mosses and lichens that covered the face of the cliffs,
contrasting with the dark green of the pines which crowned their summits,
added both beauty and grandeur to the scene. Our two companions, Back and
Hood, made accurate sketches of these falls. At this place we observed a
conspicuous lop-stick, a kind of landmark which I have not hitherto
noticed, notwithstanding its great use in pointing out the frequented
routes. It is a pine-tree divested of its lower branches and having only
a small tuft at the top remaining. This operation is usually performed at
the instance of some individual emulous of fame. He treats his companions
with rum and they in return strip the tree of its branches and ever after
designate it by his name.

In the afternoon, whilst on my way to superintend the operations of the
men, a stratum of loose moss gave way under my feet and I had the
misfortune to slip from the summit of a rock into the river betwixt two
of the falls. My attempts to regain the bank were for a time ineffectual
owing to the rocks within my reach having been worn smooth by the action
of the water; but after I had been carried a considerable distance down
the stream I caught hold of a willow by which I held until two gentlemen
of the Hudson's Bay Company came in a boat to my assistance. The only bad
consequence of this accident was an injury sustained by a very valuable
chronometer (Number 1733) belonging to Daniel Moore, Esquire, of
Lincoln's Inn. One of the gentlemen to whom I delivered it immediately on
landing in his agitation let it fall, whereby the minutehand was broken,
but the works were not in the smallest degree injured and the loss of the
hand was afterwards supplied.

During the night the frost was severe; and at sunrise on the 3rd the
thermometer stood at 25 degrees. After leaving our encampment at the
White Fall we passed through several small lakes connected with each
other by narrow, deep, grassy streams, and at noon arrived at the Painted
Stone. Numbers of muskrats frequent these streams; and we observed in the
course of the morning many of their mud-houses rising in a conical form
to the height of two or three feet above the grass of the swamps in which
they were built.

The Painted Stone is a low rock, ten or twelve yards across, remarkable
for the marshy streams which arise on each side of it, taking different
courses. On the one side the watercourse which we had navigated from York
Factory commences. This spot may therefore be considered as one of the
smaller sources of Hayes River.


On the other side of the stone the Echemamis rises and, taking a westerly
direction, falls into Nelson River. It is said that there was formerly a
stone placed near the centre of this portage on which figures were
annually traced and offerings deposited by the Indians; but the stone has
been removed many years and the spot has ceased to be held in veneration.
Here we were overtaken by Governor Williams who left York Factory on the
20th of last month in an Indian canoe. He expressed much regret at our
having been obliged to leave part of our stores at the Rock depot, and
would have brought them up with him had he been able to procure and man a
boat, or a canoe, of sufficient size.

Having launched the boats over the rock we commenced the descent of the
Echemamis. This small stream has its course through a morass and in dry
seasons its channel contains, instead of water, merely a foot or two of
thin mud. On these occasions it is customary to build dams that it may be
rendered navigable by the accumulation of its waters. As the beavers
perform this operation very effectually endeavours have been made to
encourage them to breed in this place, but it has not hitherto been
possible to restrain the Indians from killing that useful animal whenever
they discover its retreats. On the present occasion there was no want of
water, the principal impediment we experienced being from the narrowness
of the channel, which permitted the willows of each bank to meet over our
heads and obstruct the men at the oars. After proceeding down the stream
for some time we came to a recently-constructed beaver dam through which
an opening was made sufficient to admit the boat to pass. We were assured
that the breach would be closed by the industrious creature in a single
night. We encamped about eight miles from the source of the river, having
come during the day seventeen miles and a half.

On the 4th we embarked amidst a heavy rain and pursued our route down the
Echemamis. In many parts of the morass by which the river is nourished
and through which it flows, is intersected by ridges of rock which cross
the channel and require the boat to be lifted over them. In the afternoon
we passed through a shallow piece of water overgrown with bulrushes and
hence named Hairy Lake; and in the evening encamped on the banks of
Blackwater Creek, by which this lake empties itself into Sea River;
having come during the day twenty miles and three-quarters.

On the morning of the 5th we entered Sea River, one of the many branches
of Nelson River. It is about four hundred yards wide and its waters are
of a muddy white colour. After ascending the stream for an hour or two
and passing through Carpenter's Lake, which is merely an expansion of the
river to about a mile in breadth, we came to the Sea River Portage where
the boat was launched across a smooth rock to avoid a fall of four or
five feet.


Reembarking at the upper end of the portage we ran before a fresh gale
through the remainder of Sea River, the lower part of Play Green Lake
and, entering Little Jack River, landed and pitched our tents. Here there
is a small log hut, the residence of a fisherman who supplies Norway
House with trout and sturgeon. He gave us a few of these fish which
afforded an acceptable supper. Our voyage this day was thirty-four miles.

October 6.

Little Jack River is the name given to a channel that winds among several
large islands which separate Upper and Lower Play Green Lakes. At the
lower end of this channel Big Jack River, a stream of considerable
magnitude, falls into the lake. Play Green is a translation of the
appellation given to that lake by two bands of Indians who met and held a
festival on an island situated near its centre. After leaving our
encampment we sailed through Upper Play Green Lake and arrived at Norway
Point in the forenoon.


The waters of Lake Winnipeg and of the rivers that run into it, the
Saskatchewan in particular, are rendered turbid by the suspension of a
large quantity of white clay. Play Green Lake and Nelson River, being the
discharges of the Winnipeg, are equally opaque, a circumstance that
renders the sunken rocks, so frequent in these waters, very dangerous to
boats in a fresh breeze. Owing to this one of the boats that accompanied
us, sailing at the rate of seven miles an hour, struck upon one of these
rocks. Its mast was carried away by the shock but fortunately no other
damage sustained. The Indians ascribe the muddiness of these lakes to an
adventure of one of their deities, a mischievous fellow, a sort of Robin
Puck, whom they hold in very little esteem. This deity, who is named
Weesakootchaht, possesses considerable power but makes a capricious use
of it and delights in tormenting the poor Indians. He is not however
invincible and was foiled in one of his attempts by the artifice of an
old woman who succeeded in taking him captive. She called in all the
women of the tribe to aid in his punishment, and he escaped from their
hands in a condition so filthy that it required all the waters of the
Great Lake to wash him clean; and ever since that period it has been
entitled to the appellation of Winnipeg, or Muddy water.

Norway Point forms the extremity of a narrow peninsula which separates
Play Green and Winnipeg Lakes. Buildings were first erected here by a
party of Norwegians who were driven away from the colony at Red River by
the commotions which took place some time ago. It is now a trading post
belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company. On landing at Norway House we met
with Lord Selkirk's colonists who had started from York Factory the day
before us. These poor people were exceedingly pleased at meeting with us
again in this wild country; having accompanied them across the Atlantic
they viewed us in the light of old acquaintances. This post was under the
charge of Mr. James Sutherland, to whom I am indebted for replacing a
minutehand on the chronometer which was broken at the White Fall, and I
had afterwards the satisfaction of finding that it went with
extraordinary regularity.

The morning of the 7th October was beautifully clear and the observations
we obtained place Norway House in latitude 53 degrees 41 minutes 38
seconds North, and longitude 98 degrees 1 minute 24 seconds West; the
variation of the magnetic needle 14 degrees 12 minutes 41 seconds East,
and its dip 83 degrees 40 minutes 10 seconds. Though our route from York
Factory has rather inclined to the South-West the dip, it will be
perceived, has gradually increased. The difference produced by reversing
the face of the instrument was 7 degrees 39 minutes. There was too much
wind to admit of our observing with any degree of accuracy the quantity
of the magnetic force.

We left Norway House soon after noon and, the wind being favourable,
sailed along the northern shore of Lake Winnipeg the whole of the ensuing
night; and on the morning of the 8th landed on a narrow ridge of sand
which, running out twenty miles to the westward, separates Limestone Bay
from the body of the Lake. When the wind blows hard from the southward it
is customary to carry boats across this isthmus and to pull up under its
lee. From Norwegian Point to Limestone Bay the shore consists of high
clay cliffs against which the waves beat with violence during strong
southerly winds. When the wind blows from the land and the waters of the
lake are low a narrow sandy beach is uncovered and affords a
landing-place for boats. The shores of Limestone Bay are covered with
small fragments of calcareous stones. During the night the Aurora
Borealis was quick in its motions and various and vivid in its colours.
After breakfasting we reembarked and continued our voyage until three
P.M., when a strong westerly wind arising we were obliged to shelter
ourselves on a small island which lies near the extremity of the
above-mentioned peninsula. This island is formed of a collection of small
rolled pieces of limestone and was remembered by some of our boatman to
have been formerly covered with water. For the last ten or twelve years
the waters of the lake have been low, but our information did not enable
us to judge whether the decrease was merely casual, or going on
continually, or periodical. The distance of this island from Norway House
is thirty-eight miles and a half.


The westerly winds detained us all the morning of the 9th but at two P.M.
the wind chopped round to the eastward; we immediately embarked and the
breeze afterwards freshening we reached the mouth of the Saskatchewan at
midnight having run thirty-two miles.

Sunday, October 10.

The whole of this day was occupied in getting the boats from the mouth of
the river to the foot of the grand rapid, a distance of two miles. There
are several rapids in this short distance during which the river varies
its breadth from five hundred yards to half a mile. Its channel is stony.
At the grand rapid the Saskatchewan forms a sudden bend from south to
east and works its way through a narrow channel deeply worn into the
limestone strata. The stream, rushing with impetuous force over a rocky
and uneven bottom, presents a sheet of foam and seems to bear with
impatience the straightened confinement of its lofty banks. A flock of
pelicans and two or three brown fishing-eagles were fishing in its
agitated waters, seemingly with great success. There is a good sturgeon
fishery at the foot of the rapid. Several golden plovers, Canadian
grosbeaks, crossbills, woodpeckers and pin-tailed grouse were shot today;
and Mr. Back killed a small striped marmot. This beautiful little animal
was busily employed in carrying in its distended pouches the seeds of the
American vetch to its winter hoards.

The portage is eighteen hundred yards long and its western extremity was
found to be in 53 degrees 08 minutes 25 seconds North latitude and 99
degrees 28 minutes 02 seconds West longitude. The route from Canada to
the Athabasca joins that from York Factory at the mouth of the
Saskatchewan, and we saw traces of a recent encampment of the Canadian
voyagers. Our companions in the Hudson's Bay boats, dreading an attack
from their rivals in trade, were on the alert at this place. They
examined minutely the spot of encampment to form a judgment of the number
of canoes that had preceded them; and they advanced, armed, and with
great caution, through the woods. Their fears however on this occasion
were fortunately groundless.

By noon on the 12th, the boats and their cargoes having been conveyed
across the portage, we embarked and pursued our course. The Saskatchewan
becomes wider above the Grand Rapid and the scenery improves. The banks
are high, composed of white clay and limestone, and their summits are
richly clothed with a variety of firs, poplars, birches and willows. The
current runs with great rapidity and the channel is in many places
intricate and dangerous from broken ridges of rock jutting into the
stream. We pitched our tents at the entrance of Cross Lake, having
advanced only five miles and a half.


Cross Lake is extensive, running towards the north-east it is said for
forty miles. We crossed it at a narrow part and, pulling through several
winding channels formed by a group of islands, entered Cedar Lake which,
next to Lake Winnipeg, is the largest sheet of fresh water we had
hitherto seen. Ducks and geese resort hither in immense flocks in the
spring and autumn. These birds are now beginning to go off owing to its
muddy shores having become quite hard through the nightly frosts. At this
place the Aurora Borealis was extremely brilliant in the night, its
coruscations darting at times over the whole sky and assuming various
prismatic tints of which the violet and yellow were predominant.

After pulling, on the 14th, seven miles and a quarter on the lake, a
violent wind drove us for shelter to a small island, or rather a ridge of
rolled stones thrown up by the frequent storms which agitate this lake.
The weather did not moderate the whole day and we were obliged to pass
the night on this exposed spot. The delay however enabled us to obtain
some lunar observations. The wind having subsided we left our resting
place the following morning, crossed the remainder of the lake, and in
the afternoon arrived at Muddy Lake which is very appropriately named as
it consists merely of a few channels winding amongst extensive mudbanks
which are overflowed during the spring floods. We landed at an Indian
tent which contained two numerous families amounting to thirty souls.
These poor creatures were badly clothed and reduced to a miserable
condition by the whooping-cough and measles. At the time of our arrival
they were busy in preparing a sweating-house for the sick. This is a
remedy which they consider, with the addition of singing and drumming, to
be the grand specific for all diseases. Our companions having obtained
some geese in exchange for rum and tobacco, we proceeded a few more miles
and encamped on Devil's Drum Island, having come during the day twenty
miles and a half. A second party of Indians were encamped on an adjoining
island, a situation chosen for the purpose of killing geese and ducks.

On the 16th we proceeded eighteen miles up the Saskatchewan. Its banks
are low, covered with willows, and lined with drift timber. The
surrounding country is swampy and intersected by the numerous arms of the
river. After passing for twenty or thirty yards through the willow
thicket on the banks of the stream we entered an extensive marsh, varied
only by a distant line of willows which marks the course of a creek or
branch of the river. The branch we navigated today is almost five hundred
yards wide. The exhalations from the marshy soil produced a low fog
although the sky above was perfectly clear. In the course of the day we
passed an Indian encampment of three tents whose inmates appeared to be
in a still more miserable condition than those we saw yesterday. They had
just finished the ceremony of conjuration over some of their sick
companions; and a dog which had been recently killed as a sacrifice to
some deity was hanging to a tree where it would be left (I was told) when
they moved their encampment.

We continued our voyage up the river to the 20th with little variation of
scenery or incident, travelling in that time about thirty miles. The near
approach of winter was marked by severe frosts which continued all day
unless when the sun chanced to be unusually bright and the geese and
ducks were observed to take a southerly course in large flocks. On the
morning of the 20th we came to a party of Indians encamped behind the
bank of the river on the borders of a small marshy lake for the purpose
of killing waterfowl. Here we were gratified with the view of a very
large tent. Its length was about forty feet, its breadth eighteen, and
its covering was moose-deer leather with apertures for the escape of the
smoke from the fires which are placed at each end; a ledge of wood was
placed on the ground on both sides the whole length of the tent, within
which were the sleeping-places, arranged probably according to families;
and the drums and other instruments of enchantment were piled up in the
centre. Amongst the Indians there were a great many half-breeds who led
an Indian life. Governor Williams gave a dram and a piece of tobacco to
each of the males of the party.

On the morning of the 21st a heavy fall of snow took place which lasted
until two in the afternoon. In the evening we left the Saskatchewan and
entered the Little River, one of the two streams by which Pine Island
Lake discharges its waters. We advanced today fourteen miles and a
quarter. On the 22nd the weather was extremely cold and stormy and we had
to contend against a strong head wind. The spray froze as it fell and the
oars were so loaded with ice as to be almost unmanageable. The length of
our voyage this day was eleven miles.


The following morning was very cold; we embarked at daylight and pulled
across a part of Pine Island Lake about three miles and a half to
Cumberland House. The margin of the lake was so encrusted with ice that
we had to break through a considerable space of it to approach the
landing-place. When we considered that this was the effect of only a few
days' frost at the commencement of winter we were convinced of the
impractibility of advancing further by water this season, and therefore
resolved on accepting Governor Williams' kind invitation to remain with
him at this post. We immediately visited Mr. Connolly, the resident
partner of the North-West Company, and presented to him Mr. McGillivray's
circular letter. He assured us that he should be most desirous to forward
our progress by every means in his power, and we subsequently had ample
proofs of his sincerity and kindness. The unexpected addition of our
party to the winter residents at this post rendered an increase of
apartments necessary; and our men were immediately appointed to complete
and arrange an unfinished building as speedily as possible.

November 8.

Some mild weather succeeded to the severe frosts we had at our arrival;
and the lake had not been entirely frozen before the 6th; but this
morning the ice was sufficiently firm to admit of sledges crossing it.
The dogs were harnessed at a very early hour and the winter operations
commenced by sending for a supply of fish from Swampy River where men had
been stationed to collect it just before the frost set in. Both men and
dogs appeared to enjoy the change; they started in full glee and drove
rapidly along. An Indian who had come to the house on the preceding
evening to request some provision for his family, whom he represented to
be in a state of starvation, accompanied them. His party had been
suffering greatly under the epidemic diseases of whooping-cough and
measles; and the hunters were still in too debilitated a state to go out
and provide them with meat. A supply was given to him and the men were
directed to bring his father, an old and faithful hunter, to the house,
that he might have the comforts of nourishment and warmth. He was brought
accordingly but these attentions were unavailing as he died a few days
afterwards. Two days before his death I was surprised to observe him
sitting for nearly three hours, in a piercingly sharp day, in the
saw-pit, employed in gathering the dust and throwing it by handfuls over
his body, which was naked to the waist. As the man was in possession of
his mental faculties I conceived he was performing some devotional act
preparatory to his departure, which he felt to be approaching and,
induced by the novelty of the incident, I went twice to observe him more
closely; but when he perceived that he was noticed he immediately ceased
his operation, hung down his head and, by his demeanour, intimated that
he considered my appearance an intrusion. The residents at the fort could
give me no information on the subject and I could not learn that the
Indians in general observe any particular ceremony on the approach of

November 15.

The sky had been overcast during the last week; the sun shone forth once
only and then not sufficiently for the purpose of obtaining observations.
Faint coruscations of the Aurora Borealis appeared one evening but their
presence did not in the least affect the electrometer or the compass. The
ice daily became thicker in the lake and the frost had now nearly
overpowered the rapid current of the Saskatchewan River; indeed parties
of men who were sent from both the forts to search for the Indians and
procure whatever skins and provisions they might have collected crossed
that stream this day on the ice. The white partridges made their first
appearance near the house, which birds are considered as the infallible
harbingers of severe weather.

Monday, November 22.

The Saskatchewan and every other river were now completely covered with
ice except a small stream not far from the fort through which the current
ran very powerfully. In the course of the week we removed into the house
our men had prepared since our arrival. We found it at first extremely
cold notwithstanding that a good fire was kept in each apartment and we
frequently experienced the extremes of heat and cold on opposite sides of
the body.

November 24.

We obtained observations for the dip of the needle and intensity of the
magnetic force in a spare room. The dip was 83 degrees 9 minutes 45
seconds and the difference produced by reversing the face of the
instrument 13 degrees 3 minutes 6 seconds. When the needle was faced to
the west it hung nearly perpendicular. The Aurora Borealis had been
faintly visible for a short time the preceding evening. Some Indians
arrived in search of provision having been totally incapacitated from
hunting by sickness; the poor creatures looked miserably ill and they
represented their distress to have been extreme. Few recitals are more
affecting than those of their sufferings during unfavourable seasons and
in bad situations for hunting and fishing. Many assurances have been
given me that men and women are yet living who have been reduced to feed
upon the bodies of their own family to prevent actual starvation; and a
shocking case was cited to us of a woman who had been principal agent in
the destruction of several persons, and amongst the number her husband
and nearest relatives, in order to support life.

November 28.

The atmosphere had been clear every day during the last week, about the
end of which snow fell, when the thermometer rose from 20 degrees below
to 16 degrees above zero. The Aurora Borealis was twice visible but faint
on both occasions. Its appearance did not affect the electrometer nor
could we perceive the compass to be disturbed.

The men brought supplies of moose meat from the hunter's tent which is
pitched near the Basquiau Hill, forty or fifty miles from the house and
whence the greatest part of the meat is procured. The residents have to
send nearly the same distance for their fish and on this service
horse-sledges are used. Nets are daily set in Pine Island Lake which
occasionally procure some fine sturgeon, tittameg and trout, but not more
than sufficient to supply the officers' table.

December 1.

This day was so remarkably fine that we procured another set of
observations for the dip of the needle in the open air; the instrument
being placed firmly on a rock the results gave 83 degrees 14 minutes 22
seconds. The change produced by reversing the face of the instrument was
12 degrees 50 minutes 55 seconds.

There had been a determined thaw during the last three days. The ice on
the Saskatchewan River and some parts of the lake broke up and the
travelling across either became dangerous. On this account the absence of
Wilks, one of our men, caused no small anxiety. He had incautiously
undertaken the conduct of a sledge and dogs in company with a person
going to Swampy River for fish. On their return, being unaccustomed to
driving, he became fatigued and seated himself on his sledge where his
companion left him, presuming that he would soon rise and hasten to
follow his track. He however returned safe in the morning and reported
that, foreseeing night would set in before he could get across the lake,
he prudently retired into the woods before dark where he remained until
daylight, when the men who had been despatched to look for him met him
returning to the house, shivering with cold, he having been unprovided
with the materials for lighting a fire, which an experienced voyager
never neglects to carry.

We had mild weather until the 20th of December. On the 13th there had
been a decided thaw that caused the Saskatchewan, which had again frozen,
to reopen and the passage across it was interrupted for two days. We now
received more agreeable accounts from the Indians who were recovering
strength and beginning to hunt a little; but it was generally feared that
their spirits had been so much depressed by the loss of their children
and relatives that the season would be far advanced before they could be
roused to any exertion in searching for animals beyond what might be
necessary for their own support. It is much to be regretted that these
poor men, during their long intercourse with Europeans, have not been
taught how pernicious is the grief which produces total inactivity, and
that they have not been furnished with any of the consolations which the
Christian religion never fails to afford. This however could hardly have
been expected from persons who have permitted their own offspring the
half-casts to remain in lamentable ignorance on a subject of such vital
importance. It is probable however that an improvement will soon take
place among the latter class, as Governor Williams proposes to make the
children attend a Sunday school and has already begun to have divine
service performed at his post.

The conversations which I had with the gentlemen in charge of these posts
convinced me of the necessity of proceeding during the winter into the
Athabasca department, the residents of which are best acquainted with the
nature and resources of the country to the north of the Great Slave Lake;
and whence only guides, hunters and interpreters can be procured. I had
previously written to the partners of the North-West Company in that
quarter requesting their assistance in forwarding the Expedition and
stating what we should require. But, on reflecting upon the accidents
that might delay these letters on the road, I determined on proceeding to
the Athabasca as soon as I possibly could, and communicated my intention
to Governor Williams and Mr. Connolly with a request that I might be
furnished by the middle of January with the means of conveyance for three
persons, intending that Mr. Back and Hepburn should accompany me whilst
Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood remained till the spring at Cumberland House.

After the 20th of December the weather became cold, the thermometer
constantly below zero. Christmas Day was particularly stormy but the gale
did not prevent the full enjoyment of the festivities which are annually
given at Cumberland House on this day. All the men who had been
despatched to different parts in search of provision or furs returned to
the fort on the occasion and were regaled with a substantial dinner and a
dance in the evening.

January 1, 1820.

The New Year was ushered in by repeated discharges of musketry; a
ceremony which has been observed by the men of both the trading Companies
for many years. Our party dined with Mr. Connolly and were treated with a
beaver which we found extremely delicate. In the evening his voyagers
were entertained with a dance in which the Canadians exhibited some grace
and much agility; and they contrived to infuse some portion of their
activity and spirits into the steps of their female companions. The
half-breed women are passionately fond of this amusement but a stranger
would imagine the contrary on witnessing their apparent want of
animation. On such occasions they affect a sobriety of demeanour which I
understand to be very opposite to their general character.

January 10.

This day I wrote to Governor Williams and Mr. Connolly requesting them to
prepare two canoes with crews and appointments for the conveyance of Dr.
Richardson and Mr. Hood, with our stores, to Chipewyan as soon as the
navigation should open, and had the satisfaction of receiving from both
these gentlemen renewed assurances of their desire to promote the objects
of the Expedition. I conceived it to be necessary, previous to my
departure, to make some arrangement respecting the men who were engaged
at Stromness. Only one of them was disposed to extend his engagement and
proceed beyond the Athabasca Lake and, as there was much uncertainty
whether the remaining three could get from the Athabasca to York Factory
sufficiently early to secure them a passage in the next Hudson's Bay
ship, I resolved not to take them forward unless Dr. Richardson and Mr.
Hood should fail in procuring other men from these establishments next
spring, but to despatch them down to York to bring up our stores to this
place: after which they might return to the coast in time to secure their
passage in the first ship.

I delivered to Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood a memorandum containing the
arrangements which had been made with the two Companies respecting their
being forwarded in the spring, and some other points of instruction for
their guidance in my absence together with directions to forward the map
of our route which had been finished, since our arrival, by Mr. Hood, the
drawing and the collections of natural history by the first opportunity
to York Factory for conveyance to England.*

(*Footnote. As Samuel Wilks, who had accompanied the Expedition from
England, proved to be quite unequal to the fatigue of the journey I
directed him to be discharged in the spring and sent to England by the
next ship.)

The houses of the two Companies at this post are situated close to each
other at the upper extremity of a narrow island which separates Pine
Island Lake from the Saskatchewan River, and are about two miles and
three-quarters from the latter in a northern direction. They are
log-houses, built without much regard to comfort, surrounded by lofty
stockades and flanked with wooden bastions. The difficulty of conveying
glass into the interior has precluded its use in the windows where its
place is poorly supplied by parchment, imperfectly made by the native
women from the skin of the reindeer. Should this post however continue to
be the residence of Governor Williams it will be much improved in a few
years, as he is devoting his attention to that point. The land around
Cumberland House is low but the soil, from having a considerable
intermixture of limestone, is good and capable of producing abundance of
corn and vegetables of every description. Many kinds of pot-herbs have
already been brought to some perfection and the potatoes bid fair to
equal those of England. The spontaneous productions of nature would
afford ample nourishment for all the European animals. Horses feed
extremely well even during the winter and so would oxen if provided with
hay which might be easily done.* Pigs also improve but require to be kept
warm in the winter. Hence it appears that the residents might easily
render themselves far less dependent on the Indians for support and be
relieved from the great anxiety which they too often suffer when the
hunters are unsuccessful. The neighbourhood of the houses has been much
cleared of wood from the great demand for fuel; there is therefore little
to admire in the surrounding scenery, especially in its winter garb; few
animated objects occur to enliven the scene; an occasional fox, marten,
rabbit or wolf and a few birds contribute the only variety. The birds
which remained were ravens, magpies, partridges, crossbills and
woodpeckers. In this universal stillness the residents at a post feel
little disposed to wander abroad except when called forth by their
occupations; and as ours were of a kind best performed in a warm room we
imperceptibly acquired a sedentary habit. In going out however we never
suffered the slightest inconvenience from the change of temperature
though the thermometer in the open air stood occasionally thirty degrees
below zero.

(*Footnote. The wild buffalo scrapes away the snow with its feet to get
at the herbage beneath, and the horse, which was introduced by the
Spanish invaders of Mexico and may be said to have become naturalised,
does the same; but it is worthy of remark that the ox more lately brought
from Europe has not yet acquired an art so necessary for procuring its
food. Extract from Dr. Richardson's Journal.)

The tribe of Indians who reside in the vicinity and frequent these
establishments is that of the Crees, or Knisteneaux. They were formerly a
powerful and numerous nation which ranged over a very extensive country
and were very successful in their predatory excursions against their
neighbours, particularly the northern Indians and some tribes on the
Saskatchewan and Beaver Rivers; but they have long ceased to be held in
any fear and are now perhaps the most harmless and inoffensive of the
whole Indian race. This change is entirely to be attributed to their
intercourse with Europeans; and the vast reduction in their numbers
occasioned, I fear, principally by the injudicious introduction of ardent
spirits. They are so passionately fond of this poison that they will make
any sacrifice to obtain it. They are good hunters and in general active.
Having laid the bow and arrow altogether aside and the use of snares,
except for rabbits and partridges, they depend entirely on the Europeans
for the means of gaining subsistence as they require guns and a constant
supply of powder and shot; so that these Indians are probably more
completely under the power of the trader than any of the other tribes. As
I only saw a few straggling parties of them during short intervals, and
under unfavourable circumstances of sickness and famine, I am unable to
give from personal observation any detail of their manners and customs;
and must refer the reader to Dr. Richardson's account of them in the
following chapter. That gentleman during his longer residence at the post
had many opportunities of seeing them and acquiring their language.

January 17.

This morning the sporting part of our society had rather a novel
diversion: intelligence having been brought that a wolf had borne away a
steel trap in which he had been caught, a party went in search of the
marauder and took two English bulldogs and a terrier which had been
brought into the country this season. On the first sight of the animal
the dogs became alarmed and stood barking at a distance, and probably
would not have ventured to advance had they not seen the wolf fall by a
shot from one of the gentlemen; they then however went up and behaved
courageously, and were enraged by the bites they received. The wolf soon
died of its wounds and the body was brought to the house where a drawing
of it was taken by Mr. Hood and the skin preserved by Dr. Richardson. Its
general features bore a strong resemblance to many of the dogs about the
fort, but it was larger and had a more ferocious aspect. Mr. Back and I
were too much occupied in preparing for our departure on the following
day to join this excursion.

The position of Cumberland House by our observations is latitude 53
degrees 56 minutes 40 seconds North; longitude 102 degrees 16 minutes 41
seconds West by the chronometers; variations 17 degrees 17 minutes 29
seconds East; dip of the needle 83 degrees 12 minutes 50 seconds. The
whole of the travelling distance between York Factory and Cumberland
House is about six hundred and ninety miles.




January 19, 1820.

From the departure of Messrs. Franklin and Back on the 19th of January
for Chipewyan until the opening of the navigation in the spring the
occurrences connected with the Expedition were so much in the ordinary
routine of a winter's residence at Fort Cumberland that they may be
perhaps appropriately blended with the following general but brief
account of that district and its inhabitants.

Cumberland House was originally built by Hearne, a year or two after his
return from the Copper-Mine River, and has ever since been considered by
the Hudson's Bay Company as a post of considerable importance. Previous
to that time the natives carried their furs down to the shores of
Hudson's Bay or disposed of them nearer home to the French Canadian
traders who visited this part of the country as early as the year 1697.

The Cumberland House district, extending about one hundred and fifty
miles from east to west along the banks of the Saskatchewan, and about as
far from north to south, comprehends, on a rough calculation, upwards of
twenty thousand square miles, and is frequented at present by about one
hundred and twenty Indian hunters. Of these a few have several wives but
the majority only one; and as some are unmarried we shall not err greatly
in considering the number of married women as only slightly exceeding
that of the hunters. The women marry very young, have a custom of
suckling their children for several years, and are besides exposed
constantly to fatigue and often to famine; hence they are not prolific,
bearing upon an average not more than four children, of whom two may
attain the age of puberty. Upon these data the amount of each family may
be stated at five, and the whole Indian population in the district at
five hundred.

This is but a small population for such an extent of country, yet their
mode of life occasionally subjects them to great privations. The winter
of our residence at Cumberland House proved extremely severe to the
Indians. The whooping-cough made its appearance amongst them in the
autumn, and was followed by the measles which, in the course of the
winter, spread through the tribe. Many died and most of the survivors
were so enfeebled as to be unable to pursue the necessary avocations of
hunting and fishing. Even those who experienced only a slight attack, or
escaped the sickness altogether, dispirited by the scenes of misery which
environed them, were rendered incapable of affording relief to their
distressed relations and spent their time in conjuring and drumming to
avert the pestilence. Those who were able came to the fort and received
relief, but many who had retired with their families to distant corners
to pursue their winter hunts experienced all the horrors of famine. One
evening early in the month of January a poor Indian entered the
North-West Company's House, carrying his only child in his arms and
followed by his starving wife. They had been hunting apart from the other
bands, had been unsuccessful and, whilst in want, were seized with the
epidemical disease. An Indian is accustomed to starve and it is not easy
to elicit from him an account of his sufferings. This poor man's story
was very brief; as soon as the fever abated he set out with his wife for
Cumberland House, having been previously reduced to feed on the bits of
skin and offal which remained about their encampment. Even this miserable
fare was exhausted and they walked several days without eating, yet
exerting themselves far beyond their strength that they might save the
life of the infant. It died almost within sight of the house. Mr.
Connolly, who was then in charge of the post, received them with the
utmost humanity and instantly placed food before them; but no language
can describe the manner in which the miserable father dashed the morsel
from his lips and deplored the loss of his child. Misery may harden a
disposition naturally bad but it never fails to soften the heart of a
good man.


The origin of the Crees, to which nation the Cumberland House Indians
belong, is, like that of the other aborigines of America, involved in
obscurity; but the researches now making into the nature and affinities
of the languages spoken by the different Indian tribes may eventually
throw some light on the subject. Indeed the American philologists seem to
have succeeded already in classing the known dialects into three

1. The Floridean, spoken by the Creeks, Chickesaws, Choctaws, Cherokees,
Pascagoulas, and some other tribes who inhabit the southern parts of the
United States.

2. The Iroquois, spoken by the Mengwe, or Six Nations, the Wyandots, the
Nadowessies, and Asseeneepoytuck.

3. The Lenni-lenape, spoken by a great family more widely spread than the
other two and from which, together with a vast number of other tribes,
are sprung our Crees. Mr. Heckewelder, a missionary who resided long
amongst these people and from whose paper (published in the Transactions
of the American Philosophical Society) the above classification is taken,
states that the Lenape have a tradition amongst them of their ancestors
having come from the westward and taken possession of the whole country
from the Missouri to the Atlantic, after driving away or destroying the
original inhabitants of the land whom they termed Alligewi. In this
migration and contest, which endured for a series of years, the Mengwe,
or Iroquois, kept pace with them, moving in a parallel but more northerly
line, and finally settling on the banks of the St. Lawrence and the great
lakes from whence it flows. The Lenape, being more numerous, peopled not
only the greater part of the country at present occupied by the United
States, but also sent detachments to the northward as far as the banks of
the River Mississippi and the shores of Hudson's Bay. The principal of
their northern tribes are now known under the names of Saulteurs or
Chippeways, and Crees; the former inhabiting the country betwixt Lakes
Winnipeg and Superior, the latter frequenting the shores of Hudson's Bay
from Moose to Churchill, and the country from thence as far to the
westward as the plains which lie betwixt the forks of the Saskatchewan.

The Crees, formerly known by the French Canadian traders under the
appellation of Knisteneaux, generally designate themselves as
Eithinyoowuc (men) or, when they wish to discriminate themselves from the
other Indian nations, as Nathehwywithinyoowuc (Southern-men).*

(*Footnote. Much confusion has arisen from the great variety of names
applied without discrimination to the various tribes of Saulteurs and
Crees. Heckewelder considers the Crees of Moose Factory to be a branch of
that tribe of the Lenape which is named Minsi, or Wolf Tribe. He has been
led to form this opinion from the similarity of the name given to these
people by Monsieur Jeremie, namely, Monsonies; but the truth is that
their real name is Mongsoaeythinyoowuc, or Moose-deer Indians; hence the
name of the factory and river on which it is built. The name Knisteneaux,
Kristeneaux, or Killisteneaux, was anciently applied to a tribe of Crees,
now termed Maskegons, who inhabit the river Winnipeg. This small tribe
still retains the peculiarities of customs and dress for which it was
remarkable many years ago, as mentioned by Mr. Henry in the interesting
account of his journeys in these countries. They are said to be great
rascals. The great body of the Crees were at that time named Opimmitish
Ininiwuc, or Men of the Woods. It would however be an endless task to
attempt to determine the precise people designated by the early French
writers. Every small band naming itself from its hunting grounds was
described as a different nation. The Chippeways who frequented the Lake
of the Woods were named from a particular act of pillage Pilliers, or
Robbers: and the name Saulteurs, applied to a principal band that
frequented the Sault St. Marie, has been by degrees extended to the whole
tribe. It is frequently pronounced and written Sotoos.)

The original character of the Crees must have been much modified by their
long intercourse with Europeans; hence it is to be understood that we
confine ourselves in the following sketch to their present condition, and
more particularly to the Crees of Cumberland House. The moral character
of a hunter is acted upon by the nature of the land he inhabits, the
abundance or scarcity of food, and we may add, in the present case, his
means of access to spiritous liquors. In a country so various in these
respects as that inhabited by the Crees the causes alluded to must
operate strongly in producing a considerable difference of character
amongst the various hordes. It may be proper to bear in mind also that we
are about to draw the character of a people whose only rule of conduct is
public opinion and to try them by a morality founded on divine
revelation, the only standard that can be referred to by those who have
been educated in a land to which the blessings of the Gospel have

Bearing these considerations in mind then we may state the Crees to be a
vain, fickle, improvident, and indolent race, and not very strict in
their adherence to truth, being great boasters; but on the other hand
they strictly regard the rights of property,* are susceptible of the
kinder affections, capable of friendship, very hospitable, tolerably kind
to their women, and withal inclined to peace.

(*Footnote. This is perhaps true of the Cumberland House Crees alone:
many of the other tribes of Crees are stated by the traders to be

Much of the faulty part of their character no doubt originates in their
mode of life; accustomed as a hunter to depend greatly on chance for his
subsistence the Cree takes little thought of tomorrow; and the most
offensive part of his behaviour--the habit of boasting--has been probably
assumed as a necessary part of his armour which operates upon the fears
of his enemies. They are countenanced however in this failing by the
practice of the ancient Greeks, and perhaps by that of every other nation
in its ruder state. Every Cree fears the medical or conjuring powers of
his neighbour, but at the same time exalts his own attainments to the
skies. "I am God-like," is a common expression amongst them, and they
prove their divinity-ship by eating live coals and by various tricks of a
similar nature. A medicine bag is an indispensable part of a hunter's
equipment. It is generally furnished with a little bit of indigo, blue
vitriol, vermilion, or some other showy article, and is, when in the
hands of a noted conjurer, such an object of terror to the rest of the
tribe that its possessor is enabled to fatten at his ease upon the
labours of his deluded countrymen.

A fellow of this description came to Cumberland House in the winter of
1819. Notwithstanding the then miserable state of the Indians the
rapacity of this wretch had been preying upon their necessities, and a
poor hunter was actually at the moment pining away under the influence of
his threats. The mighty conjurer, immediately on his arrival at the
House, began to trumpet forth his powers, boasting among other things
that, although his hands and feet were tied as securely as possible yet,
when placed in a conjuring house, he would speedily disengage himself by
the aid of two or three familiar spirits who were attendant on his call.
He was instantly taken at his word and, that his exertions might not be
without an aim, a capot or great coat was promised as the reward of his
success. A conjuring-house having been erected in the usual form, that is
by sticking four willows in the ground and tying their tops to a hoop at
the height of six or eight feet, he was fettered completely by winding
several fathoms of rope round his body and extremities and placed in its
narrow apartment, not exceeding two feet in diameter. A moose-skin being
then thrown over the frame secluded him from our view. He forthwith began
to chant a kind of hymn in a very monotonous tone. The rest of the
Indians, who seemed in some doubt respecting the powers of a devil when
put in competition with those of a white man, ranged themselves around
and watched the result with anxiety. Nothing remarkable occurred for a
long time. The conjurer continued his song at intervals and it was
occasionally taken up by those without. In this manner an hour and a half
elapsed; but at length our attention, which had begun to flag, was roused
by the violent shaking of the conjuring-house. It was instantly whispered
round the circle that at least one devil had crept under the moose-skin.
But it proved to be only the "God-like man" trembling with cold. He had
entered the lists stripped to the skin and the thermometer stood very low
that evening. His attempts were continued however with considerable
resolution for half an hour longer, when he reluctantly gave in. He had
found no difficulty in slipping through the noose when it was formed by
his countrymen; but in the present instance the knot was tied by Governor
Williams who is an expert sailor. After this unsuccessful exhibition his
credit sunk amazingly, and he took the earliest opportunity of sneaking
away from the fort.

About two years ago a conjurer paid more dearly for his temerity. In a
quarrel with an Indian he threw out some obscure threats of vengeance
which passed unnoticed at the time but were afterwards remembered. They
met in the spring at Carlton House after passing the winter in different
parts of the country, during which the Indian's child died. The conjurer
had the folly to boast that he had caused its death and the enraged
father shot him dead on the spot. It may be remarked however that both
these Indians were inhabitants of the plains and had been taught, by
their intercourse with the turbulent Stone Indians, to set but
comparatively little value on the life of a man.

It might be thought that the Crees have benefited by their long
intercourse with civilised nations. That this is not so much the case as
it ought to be is not entirely their own fault. They are capable of being
and, I believe, willing to be, taught; but no pains have hitherto been
taken to inform their minds,* and their white acquaintances seem in
general to find it easier to descend to the Indian customs and modes of
thinking, particularly with respect to women, than to attempt to raise
the Indians to theirs. Indeed such a lamentable want of morality has been
displayed by the white traders in their contests for the interests of
their respective companies that it would require a long series of good
conduct to efface from the minds of the native population the ideas they
have formed of the white character. Notwithstanding the frequent
violations of the rights of property they have witnessed and but too
often experienced in their own persons, these savages, as they are
termed, remain strictly honest. During their visits to a post they are
suffered to enter every apartment in the house without the least
restraint and, although articles of value to them are scattered about,
nothing is ever missed. They scrupulously avoid moving anything from its
place although they are often prompted by curiosity to examine it. In
some cases indeed they carry this principle to a degree of self-denial
which would hardly be expected. It often happens that meat which has been
paid for (if the poisonous draught it procures them can be considered as
payment) is left at their lodges until a convenient opportunity occurs of
carrying it away. They will rather pass several days without eating than
touch the meat thus entrusted to their charge, even when there exists a
prospect of replacing it.

(*Footnote. Since these remarks were written the union of the rival
Companies has enabled the gentlemen who have now the management of the
fur trade to take some decided steps for the religious instruction and
improvement of the natives and half-breed Indians, which have been more
particularly referred to in the introduction.)

The hospitality of the Crees is unbounded. They afford a certain asylum
to the half-breed children when deserted by their unnatural white
fathers; and the infirm, and indeed every individual in an encampment,
share the provisions of a successful hunter as long as they last. Fond
too as a Cree is of spiritous liquors he is not happy unless all his
neighbours partake with him. It is not easy however to say what share
ostentation may have in the apparent munificence in the latter article;
for when an Indian, by a good hunt, is enabled to treat the others with a
keg of rum he becomes the chief of the night, assumes no little
stateliness of manner, and is treated with deference by those who regale
at his expense. Prompted also by the desire of gaining a NAME they lavish
away the articles they purchase at the trading posts and are well
satisfied if repaid in praise.

Gaming is not uncommon amongst the Crees of all the different districts,
but it is pursued to greater lengths by those bands who frequent the
plains and who, from the ease with which they obtain food, have abundant
leisure. The game most in use amongst them, termed puckesann, is played
with the stones of a species of prunus which, from this circumstance,
they term puckesann-meena. The difficulty lies in guessing the number of
stones which are tossed out of a small wooden dish and the hunters will
spend whole nights at the destructive sport, staking their most valuable
articles, powder and shot.

It has been remarked by some writers that the aboriginal inhabitants of
America are deficient in passion for the fair sex. This is by no means
the case with the Crees; on the contrary their practice of seducing each
other's wives proves the most fertile source of their quarrels. When the
guilty pair are detected the woman generally receives a severe beating,
but the husband is for the most part afraid to reproach the male culprit
until they get drunk together at the fort; then the remembrance of the
offence is revived, a struggle ensues and the affair is terminated by the
loss of a few handfuls of hair. Some husbands however feel more deeply
the injury done to their honour and seek revenge even in their sober
moments. In such cases it is not uncommon for the offended party to walk
with great gravity up to the other and, deliberately seizing his gun or
some other article of value, to break it before his face. The adulterer
looks on in silence, afraid to make any attempt to save his property. In
this respect indeed the Indian character seems to differ from the
European that an Indian, instead of letting his anger increase with that
of his antagonist, assumes the utmost coolness lest he should push him to

Although adultery is sometimes punished amongst the Crees in the manner
above described yet it is no crime provided the husband receives a
valuable consideration for his wife's prostitution. Neither is chastity
considered as a virtue in a female before marriage, that is before she
becomes the exclusive property of one hunter.

The Cree women are not in general treated harshly by their husbands and
possess considerable influence over them. They often eat and even get
drunk in consort with the men; a considerable portion of the labour
however falls to the lot of the wife. She makes the hut, cooks, dresses
the skins, and for the most part carries the heaviest load: but when she
is unable to perform her task the husband does not consider it beneath
his dignity to assist her. In illustration of this remark I may quote the
case of an Indian who visited the fort in winter. This poor man's wife
had lost her feet by the frost and he was compelled not only to hunt and
do all the menial offices himself but in winter to drag his wife with
their stock of furniture from one encampment to another. In the
performance of this duty as he could not keep pace with the rest of the
tribe in their movements he more than once nearly perished of hunger.

These Indians however, capable as they are of behaving thus kindly,
affect in their discourse to despise the softer sex and on solemn
occasions will not suffer them to eat before them or even come into their
presence. In this they are countenanced by the white residents, most of
whom have Indian or half-breed wives but seem afraid of treating them
with the tenderness or attention due to every female lest they should
themselves be despised by the Indians. At least this is the only reason
they assign for their neglect of those whom they make partners of their
beds and mothers of their children.

Both sexes are fond of and excessively indulgent to their children. The
father never punishes them and if the mother, more hasty in her temper,
sometimes bestows a blow or two on a troublesome child her heart is
instantly softened by the roar which follows and she mingles her tears
with those that streak the smoky face of her darling. It may be fairly
said then that restraint or punishment forms no part of the education of
an Indian child, nor are they early trained to that command over their
temper which they exhibit in after years.

The discourse of the parents is never restrained by the presence of their
children, every transaction between the sexes being openly talked of
before them.

The Crees, having early obtained arms from the European traders, were
enabled to make harassing inroads on the lands of their neighbours and
are known to have made war excursions as far to the westward as the Rocky
Mountains, and to the northward as far as Mackenzie's River; but their
enemies being now as well armed as themselves the case is much altered.

They show great fortitude in the endurance of hunger and the other evils
incident to a hunter's life; but any unusual accident dispirits them at
once, and they seldom venture to meet their enemies in open warfare or to
attack them even by surprise unless with the advantage of superiority of
numbers. Perhaps they are much deteriorated in this respect by their
intercourse with Europeans. Their existence at present hangs upon the
supplies of ammunition and clothing they receive from the traders and
they deeply feel their dependent situation. But their character has been
still more debased by the passion for spiritous liquors so assiduously
fostered among them. To obtain the noxious beverage they descend to the
most humiliating entreaties and assume an abjectness of behaviour which
does not seem natural to them and of which not a vestige is to be seen in
their intercourse with each other. Their character has sunk among the
neighbouring nations. They are no longer the warriors who drove before
them the inhabitants of the Saskatchewan and Missinippi. The Cumberland
House Crees in particular have been long disused to war. Betwixt them and
their ancient enemies, the Slave nations, lie the extensive plains of
Saskatchewan, inhabited by the powerful Asseeneepoytuck or Stone Indians
who, having whilst yet a small tribe entered the country under the
patronage of the Crees, now render back the protection they received.

The manners and customs of the Crees have, probably since their
acquaintance with Europeans, undergone a change at least equal to that
which has taken place in their moral character; and although we heard of
many practises peculiar to them yet they appeared to be nearly as much
honoured in the breach as the observance. We shall however briefly notice
a few of the most remarkable customs.

When a hunter marries his first wife he usually takes up his abode in the
tent of his father-in-law and of course hunts for the family; but when he
becomes a father the families are at liberty to separate or remain
together as their inclinations prompt them. His second wife is for the
most part the sister of the first but not necessarily so for an Indian of
another family often presses his daughter upon a hunter whom he knows to
be capable of maintaining her well. The first wife always remains the
mistress of the tent and assumes an authority over the others which is
not in every case quietly submitted to. It may be remarked that whilst an
Indian resides with his wife's family it is extremely improper for his
mother-in-law to speak or even look at him; and when she has a
communication to make it is the etiquette that she should turn her back
upon him and address him only through the medium of a third person. This
singular custom is not very creditable to the Indians if it really had
its origin in the cause which they at present assign for it namely that a
woman's speaking to her son-in-law is a sure indication of her having
conceived a criminal affection for him.

It appears also to have been an ancient practice for an Indian to avoid
eating or sitting down in the presence of the father-in-law. We received
no account of the origin of this custom and it is now almost obsolete
amongst the Cumberland House Crees, though still partially observed by
those who frequent Carlton.

Tattooing is almost universal with the Crees. The women are in general
content with having one or two lines drawn from the corners of the mouth
towards the angles of the lower jaw; but some of the men have their
bodies covered with a great variety of lines and figures. It seems to be
considered by most rather as a proof of courage than an ornament, the
operation being very painful and, if the figures are numerous and
intricate, lasting several days. The lines on the face are formed by
dextrously running an awl under the cuticle and then drawing a cord,
dipped in charcoal and water, through the canal thus formed. The
punctures on the body are formed by needles of various sizes set in a
frame. A number of hawk bells attached to this frame serve by their noise
to cover the suppressed groans of the sufferer and, probably for the same
reason, the process is accompanied with singing. An indelible stain is
produced by rubbing a little finely-powdered willow-charcoal into the
punctures. A half-breed whose arm I amputated declared that tattooing was
not only the most painful operation of the two but rendered infinitely
more difficult to bear by its tediousness having lasted in his case three

A Cree woman at certain periods is laid under considerable restraint.
They are far however from carrying matters to the extremities mentioned
by Hearne in his description of the Chipewyans, or Northern Indians. She
lives apart from her husband also for two months if she has borne a boy
and for three if she has given birth to a girl.

Many of the Cree hunters are careful to prevent a woman from partaking of
the head of a moose-dear lest it should spoil their future hunts; and for
the same reason they avoid bringing it to a fort, fearing lest the white
people should give the bones to the dogs.

The games or sports of the Crees are various. One termed the game of the
mitten is played with four balls, three of which are plain and one
marked. These being hid under as many mittens the opposite party is
required to fix on that which is marked. He gives or receives a feather
according as he guesses right or wrong. When the feathers, which are ten
in number, have all passed into one hand a new division is made, but when
one of the parties obtains possession of them thrice he seizes on the

The game of Platter is more intricate and is played with the claws of a
bear or some other animal marked with various lines and characters. These
dice which are eight in number and cut flat at their large end are shook
together in a wooden dish, tossed into the air and caught again. The
lines traced on such claws as happen to alight on the platter in an erect
position indicate what number of counters the caster is to receive from
his opponent.

They have however a much more manly amusement termed the Cross although
they do not engage even in it without depositing considerable stakes. An
extensive meadow is chosen for this sport and the articles staked are
tied to a post or deposited in the custody of two old men. The
combatants, being stripped and painted and each provided with a kind of
battledore or racket, in shape resembling the letter P with a handle
about two feet long and a head loosely wrought with network so as to form
a shallow bag, range themselves on different sides. A ball being now
tossed up in the middle each party endeavours to drive it to their
respective goals and much dexterity and agility is displayed in the
contest. When a nimble runner gets the ball in his cross he sets off
towards the goal with the utmost speed and is followed by the rest who
endeavour to jostle him and shake it out; but, if hard pressed, he
discharges it with a jerk, to be forwarded by his own party or bandied
back by their opponents until the victory is decided by its passing the

Of the religious opinions of the Crees it is difficult to give a correct
account, not only because they show a disinclination to enter upon the
subject but because their ancient traditions are mingled with the
information they have more recently obtained by their intercourse with

None of them ventured to describe the original formation of the world but
they all spoke of a universal deluge caused by an attempt of the fish to
drown Woesackootchacht, a kind of demigod with whom they had quarrelled.
Having constructed a raft he embarked with his family and all kinds of
birds and beasts. After the flood had continued for some time he ordered
several waterfowl to dive to the bottom; they were all drowned but a
muskrat, having been despatched on the same errand, was more successful
and returned with a mouthful of mud out of which Woesackootchacht,
imitating the mode in which the rats construct their houses, formed a new
earth. First a small conical hill of mud appeared above the water; by and
by, its base gradually spreading out, it became an extensive bank which
the rays of the sun at length hardened into firm land. Notwithstanding
the power that Woesackootchacht here displayed his person is held in very
little reverence by the Indians; and in return he seizes every
opportunity of tormenting them. His conduct is far from being moral and
his amours and the disguises he assumes in the prosecution of them are
more various and extraordinary than those of the Grecian Jupiter himself;
but as his adventures are more remarkable for their eccentricity than
their delicacy it is better to pass them over in silence. Before we quit
him however we may remark that he converses with all kinds of birds and
beasts in their own languages, constantly addressing them by the title of
brother but, through an inherent suspicion of his intentions, they are
seldom willing to admit of his claims of relationship. The Indians make
no sacrifices to him, not even to avert his wrath. They pay a kind of
worship however and make offerings to a being whom they term

This deity is represented sometimes by rude images of the human figure
but more commonly merely by tying the tops of a few willow bushes
together; and the offerings to him consist of everything that is valuable
to an Indian; yet they treat him with considerable familiarity,
interlarding their most solemn speeches with expostulations and threats
of neglect if he fails in complying with their requests. As most of their
petitions are for plenty of food they do not trust entirely to the favour
of Kepoochikawn but endeavour at the same time to propitiate the animal,
an imaginary representative of the whole race of larger quadrupeds that
are objects of the chase.

In the month of May whilst I was at Carlton House the Cree hunter engaged
to attend that post resolved upon dedicating several articles to
Kepoochikawn and, as I had made some inquiries of him respecting their
modes of worship, he gave me an invitation to be present. The ceremony
took place in a sweating-house or, as it may be designated from its more
important use, a temple which was erected for the occasion by the
worshipper's two wives. It was framed of arched willows, interlaced so as
to form a vault capable of containing ten or twelve men ranged closely
side by side, and high enough to admit of their sitting erect. It was
very similar in shape to an oven or the kraal of a Hottentot and was
closely covered with moose-skins except at the east end which was left
open for a door. Near the centre of the building there was a hole in the
ground which contained ten or twelve red-hot stones having a few leaves
of the taccohaymenan, a species of prunus, strewed around them. When the
women had completed the preparations the hunter made his appearance,
perfectly naked, carrying in his hand an image of Kepoochikawn, rudely
carved and about two feet long. He placed his god at the upper end of the
sweating-house with his face towards the door and proceeded to tie round
its neck his offerings, consisting of a cotton handkerchief, a
looking-glass, a tin pan, a piece of riband, and a bit of tobacco which
he had procured the same day at the expense of fifteen or twenty skins.
Whilst he was thus occupied several other Crees who were encamped in the
neighbourhood, having been informed of what was going on arrived and,
stripping at the door of the temple, entered and ranged themselves on
each side; the hunter himself squatted down at the right hand of
Kepoochikawn. The atmosphere of the temple having become so hot that none
but zealous worshippers would venture in the interpreter and myself sat
down on the threshold and the two women remained on the outside as

The hunter who throughout officiated as high priest commenced by making a
speech to Kepoochikawn in which he requested him to be propitious, told
him of the value of the things now presented, and cautioned him against
ingratitude. This oration was delivered in a monotonous tone and with
great rapidity of utterance, and the speaker retained his squatting
posture but turned his face to his god. At its conclusion the priest
began a hymn of which the burden was, "I will walk with God, I will go
with the animal"; and at the end of each stanza the rest joined in an
insignificant chorus. He next took up a calumet filled with a mixture of
tobacco and bear-berry leaves and, holding its stem by the middle in a
horizontal position over the hot stones, turned it slowly in a circular
manner, following the course of the sun. Its mouth-piece being then with
much formality held for a few seconds to the face of Kepoochikawn it was
next presented to the earth, having been previously turned a second time
over the hot stones; and afterwards with equal ceremony pointed in
succession to the four quarters of the sky then, drawing a few whiffs
from the calumet himself, he handed it to his left-hand neighbour by whom
it was gravely passed round the circle; the interpreter and myself, who
were seated at the door, were asked to partake in our turn but requested
to keep the head of the calumet within the threshold of the
sweating-house. When the tobacco was exhausted by passing several times
round the hunter made another speech, similar to the former but was if
possible still more urgent in his requests. A second hymn followed and, a
quantity of water being sprinkled on the hot stones, the attendants were
ordered to close the temple, which they did by very carefully covering it
up with moose-skins. We had no means of ascertaining the temperature of
the sweating-house; but before it was closed not only those within but
also the spectators without were perspiring freely. They continued in the
vapour bath for thirty-five minutes, during which time a third speech was
made and a hymn was sung and water occasionally sprinkled on the stones
which still retained much heat, as was evident from the hissing noise
they made. The coverings were then thrown off and the poor half-stewed
worshippers exposed freely to the air; but they kept their squatting
postures until a fourth speech was made in which the deity was strongly
reminded of the value of the gifts and exhorted to take an early
opportunity of showing his gratitude. The ceremony concluded by the
sweaters scampering down to the river and plunging into the stream. It
may be remarked that the door of the temple and of course the face of the
god was turned to the rising sun; and the spectators were desired not to
block up entirely the front of the building but to leave a lane for the
entrance or exit of some influence of which they could not give me a
correct description. Several Indians, who lay on the outside of the
sweating-house as spectators, seemed to regard the proceedings with very
little awe and were extremely free in the remarks and jokes they passed
upon the condition of the sweaters and even of Kepoochikawn himself. One
of them made a remark that the shawl would have been much better bestowed
upon himself than upon Kepoochikawn, but the same fellow afterwards
stripped and joined in the ceremony.

I did not learn that the Indians worship any other god by a specific
name. They often refer however to the Keetchee-Maneeto, or Great Master
of Life, and to an evil spirit, or Maatche-Maneeto. They also speak of
Weettako, a kind of vampire or devil into which those who have fed on
human flesh are transformed.

Whilst at Carlton I took an opportunity of asking a communicative old
Indian of the Blackfoot nation his opinion of a future state; he replied
that they had heard from their fathers that the souls of the departed
have to scramble with great labour up the sides of a steep mountain, upon
attaining the summit of which they are rewarded with the prospect of an
extensive plain, abounding in all sorts of game and interspersed here and
there with new tents pitched in agreeable situations. Whilst they are
absorbed in the contemplation of this delightful scene they are descried
by the inhabitants of the happy land who, clothed in new skin-dresses,
approach and welcome with every demonstration of kindness those Indians
who have led good lives, but the bad Indians, who have imbrued their
hands in the blood of their countrymen, are told to return from whence
they came and, without more ceremony, precipitated down the steep sides
of the mountain.

Women who have been guilty of infanticide never reach the mountain at all
but are compelled to hover round the seats of their crimes with branches
of trees tied to their legs. The melancholy sounds which are heard in the
still summer evenings and which the ignorance of the white people
considers as the screams of the goat-sucker are really, according to my
informant, the moanings of these unhappy beings.

The Crees have somewhat similar notions but, as they inhabit a country
widely different from the mountainous lands of the Blackfoot Indians, the
difficulty of their journey lies in walking along a slender and slippery
tree laid as a bridge across a rapid stream of stinking and muddy water.
The night owl is regarded by the Crees with the same dread that it has
been viewed by other nations. One small species, which is known to them
by its melancholy nocturnal hootings (for as it never appears in the day
few even of the hunters have ever seen it) is particularly ominous. They
call it the cheepai-peethees, or death bird, and never fail to whistle
when they hear its note. If it does not reply to the whistle by its
hootings the speedy death of the inquirer is augured.

When a Cree dies that part of his property which he has not given away
before his death is burned with him, and his relations take care to place
near the grave little heaps of firewood, food, pieces of tobacco, and
such things as he is likely to need in his journey. Similar offerings are
made when they revisit the grave, and as kettles and other articles of
value are sometimes offered they are frequently carried off by
passengers, yet the relations are not displeased provided sufficient
respect has been shown to the dead by putting some other article,
although of inferior value, in the place of that which has been taken

The Crees are wont to celebrate the returns of the seasons by religious
festivals but we are unable to describe the ceremonial in use on these
joyous occasions from personal observation. The following brief notice of
a feast which was given by an old Cree chief according to his annual
custom on the first croaking of the frogs is drawn up from the
information of one of the guests. A large oblong tent or lodge was
prepared for the important occasion by the men of the party, none of the
women being suffered to interfere. It faced the setting sun and great
care was taken that everything about it should be as neat and clean as
possible. Three fireplaces were raised within it at equal distances and
little holes were dug in the corners to contain the ashes of their pipes.
In a recess at its upper end one large image of Kepoochikawn and many
smaller ones were ranged with their faces towards the door. The food was
prepared by the chief's wife and consisted of marrow pemmican, berries
boiled with fat, and various other delicacies that had been preserved for
the occasion.

The preparations being completed and, a slave whom the chief had taken in
war having warned the guests to the feast by the mysterious word
peenasheway, they came, dressed out in their best garments, and ranged
themselves according to their seniority, the elders seating themselves
next the chief at the upper end and the young men near the door.

The chief commenced by addressing his deities in an appropriate speech in
which he told them that he had hastened as soon as summer was indicated
by the croaking of the frogs to solicit their favour for himself and his
young men, and hoped that they would send him a pleasant and plentiful
season. His oration was concluded by an invocation to all the animals in
the land and, a signal being given to the slave at the door, he invited
them severally by their names to come and partake of the feast.

The Cree chief having by this very general invitation displayed his
unbounded hospitality next ordered one of the young men to distribute a
mess to each of the guests. This was done in new dishes of birch bark,
and the utmost diligence was displayed in emptying them, it being
considered extremely improper in a man to leave any part of that which is
placed before him on such occasions. It is not inconsistent with good
manners however but rather considered as a piece of politeness that a
guest who has been too liberally supplied should hand the surplus to his
neighbour. When the viands had disappeared each filled his calumet and
began to smoke with great assiduity, and in the course of the evening
several songs were sung to the responsive sounds of the drum and
seeseequay, their usual accompaniments.

The Cree drum is double-headed but, possessing very little depth, it
strongly resembles a tambourine in shape. Its want of depth is
compensated however by its diameter which frequently exceeds three feet.
It is covered with moose-skin parchment, painted with rude figures of men
and beasts having various fantastic additions, and is beat with a stick.
The seeseequay is merely a rattle formed by enclosing a few grains of
shot in a piece of dried hide. These two instruments are used in all
their religious ceremonies except those which take place in a

A Cree places great reliance on his drum and I cannot adduce a stronger
instance than that of the poor man who is mentioned in a preceding page
as having lost his only child by famine, almost within sight of the fort.
Notwithstanding his exhausted state he travelled with an enormous drum
tied to his back.

Many of the Crees make vows to abstain from particular kinds of food
either for a specific time or for the remainder of their life, esteeming
such abstinence to be a certain means of acquiring some supernatural
powers, or at least of entailing upon themselves a succession of good

One of the wives of the Carlton hunter, of whom we have already spoken as
the worshipper of Kepoochikawn, made a determination not to eat of the
flesh of the Wawaskeesh or American stag; but during our abode at that
place she was induced to feed heartily upon it, through the intentional
deceit of her husband who told her that it was buffalo meat. When she had
finished her meal her husband told her of the trick and seemed to enjoy
the terror with which she contemplated the consequences of the
involuntary breach of her vow. Vows of this nature are often made by a
Cree before he joins a war party, and they sometimes, like the eastern
bonzes, walk for a certain number of days on all fours or impose upon
themselves some other penance equally ridiculous. By such means the Cree
warrior becomes god-like; but unless he kills an enemy before his return
his newly-acquired powers are estimated to be productive in future of
some direful consequence to himself.

As we did not witness any of the Cree dances ourselves we shall merely
mention that, like the other North American nations, they are accustomed
to practice that amusement on meeting with strange tribes before going to
war and on other solemn occasions.

The habitual intoxication of the Cumberland House Crees has induced such
a disregard of personal appearance that they are squalid and dirty in the
extreme; hence a minute description of their clothing would be by no
means interesting. We shall therefore only remark in a general manner
that the dress of the male consists of a blanket thrown over the
shoulders, a leathern shirt or jacket, and a piece of cloth tied round
the middle. The women have in addition a long petticoat; and both sexes
wear a kind of wide hose which, reaching from the ankle to the middle of
the thigh, are suspended by strings to the girdle. These hose or, as they
are termed, Indian stockings, are commonly ornamented with beads or
ribands, and from their convenience have been universally adopted by the
white residents as an essential part of their winter clothing. Their
shoes, or rather short boots for they tie round the ankle, are made of
soft dressed moose-skins, and during the winter they wrap several pieces
of blanket round their feet.

They are fond of European articles of dress, considering it as mean to be
dressed entirely in leather, and the hunters are generally furnished
annually with a capot or great coat, and the women with shawls, printed
calicoes, and other things very unsuitable to their mode of life but
which they wear in imitation of the wives of the traders; all these
articles, however showy they may be at first, are soon reduced to a very
filthy condition by the Indian custom of greasing the face and hair with
soft fat or marrow instead of washing them with water. This practice they
say preserves the skin soft and protects it from cold in the winter and
the mosquitoes in summer, but it renders their presence disagreeable to
the olfactory organs of an European, particularly when they are seated in
a close tent and near a hot fire.

The only peculiarity which we observed in their mode of rearing children
consists in the use of a sort of cradle extremely well adapted to their
mode of life. The infant is placed in the bag having its lower
extremities wrapped up in soft sphagnum or bog-moss, and may be hung up
in the tent or to the branch of a tree without the least danger of
tumbling out; or in a journey suspended on the mother's back by a band
which crosses the forehead so as to leave her hands perfectly free. It is
one of the neatest articles of furniture they possess, being generally
ornamented with beads and bits of scarlet cloth, but it bears a very
strong resemblance in its form to a mummy case.

The sphagnum in which the child is laid forms a soft elastic bed which
absorbs moisture very readily and affords such a protection from the cold
of a rigorous winter that its place would be ill supplied by cloth.

The mothers are careful to collect a sufficient quantity in autumn for
winter use; but when through accident their stock fails they have
recourse to the soft down of the typha, or reed mace, the dust of rotten
wood, or even feathers, although none of these articles are so cleanly or
so easily changed as the sphagnum.

The above is a brief sketch of such parts of the manners, character and
customs of the Crees as we could collect from personal observation or
from the information of the most intelligent half-breeds we met with; and
we shall merely add a few remarks on the manner in which the trade is
conducted at the different inland posts of the Fur Companies.

The standard of Exchange in all mercantile transactions with the natives
is a beaver skin, the relative value of which as originally established
by the traders differs considerably from the present worth of the
articles it represents; but the Indians are averse to change. Three
marten, eight muskrat, or a single lynx or wolverine skin, are equivalent
to one beaver; a silver fox, white fox, or otter, are reckoned two
beavers, and a black fox or large black bear are equal to four; a mode of
reckoning which has very little connection with the real value of these
different furs in the European market. Neither has any attention been
paid to the original cost of European articles in fixing the tariff by
which they are sold to the Indians. A coarse butcher's knife is one skin,
a woollen blanket or a fathom of coarse cloth eight, and a fowling-piece
fifteen. The Indians receive their principal outfit of clothing and
ammunition on credit in the autumn to be repaid by their winter hunts;
the amount entrusted to each of the hunters varying with their
reputations for industry and skill from twenty to one hundred and fifty
skins. The Indians are generally anxious to pay off the debt thus
incurred but their good intentions are often frustrated by the arts of
the rival traders. Each of the Companies keeps men constantly employed
travelling over the country during the winter to collect the furs from
the different bands of hunters as fast as they are procured. The poor
Indian endeavours to behave honestly and, when he has gathered a few
skins, sends notice to the post from whence he procured his supplies but,
if discovered in the meantime by the opposite party, he is seldom proof
against the temptation to which he is exposed. However firm he may be in
his denials at first his resolutions are enfeebled by the sight of a
little rum and, when he has tasted the intoxicating beverage, they vanish
like smoke and he brings forth his store of furs which he has carefully
concealed from the scrutinising eyes of his visitors. This mode of
carrying on the trade not only causes the amount of furs collected by
either of the two Companies to depend more upon the activity of their
agents, the knowledge they possess of the motions of the Indians, and the
quantity of rum they carry, than upon the liberality of the credits they
give, but is also productive of an increasing deterioration of the
character of the Indians and will probably ultimately prove destructive
to the fur trade itself. Indeed the evil has already in part recoiled
upon the traders; for the Indians, long deceived, have become deceivers
in their turn, and not unfrequently, after having incurred a heavy debt
at one post, move off to another to play the same game. In some cases the
rival posts have entered into a mutual agreement to trade only with the
Indians they have respectively fitted out, but such treaties, being
seldom rigidly adhered to, prove a fertile subject for disputes and the
differences have been more than once decided by force of arms. To carry
on the contest the two Companies are obliged to employ a great many
servants whom they maintain often with much difficulty and always at a
considerable expense.*

(*Footnote. As the contending parties have united the evils mentioned in
this and the two preceding pages are now in all probability at an end.)

There are thirty men belonging to the Hudson's Bay Fort at Cumberland and
nearly as many women and children.

The inhabitants of the North-West Company's House are still more
numerous. These large families are fed during the greatest part of the
year on fish which are principally procured at Beaver Lake, about fifty
miles distant. The fishery, commencing with the first frosts in autumn,
continues abundant till January, and the produce is dragged over the snow
on sledges, each drawn by three dogs and carrying about two hundred and
fifty pounds. The journey to and from the lake occupies five days and
every sledge requires a driver. About three thousand fish averaging three
pounds apiece were caught by the Hudson's Bay fishermen last season; in
addition to which a few sturgeon were occasionally caught in Pine Island
Lake; and towards the spring a considerable quantity of moose meat was
procured from the Basquiau Hill, sixty or seventy miles distant. The rest
of our winter's provision consisted of geese, salted in the autumn, and
of dried meats and pemmican obtained from the provision posts on the
plains of the Saskatchewan. A good many potatoes are also raised at this
post and a small supply of tea and sugar is brought from the depot at
York Factory. The provisions obtained from these various sources were
amply sufficient in the winter of 1819-20; but through improvidence this
post has in former seasons been reduced to great straits.

Many of the labourers and a great majority of the agents and clerks
employed by the two Companies have Indian or half-breed wives, and the
mixed offspring thus produced has become extremely numerous.

These metifs, or, as the Canadians term them, bois brules, are upon the
whole a good-looking people and, where the experiment has been made, have
shown much aptness in learning and willingness to be taught; they have
however been sadly neglected. The example of their fathers has released
them from the restraint imposed by the Indian opinions of good and bad
behaviour; and generally speaking no pains have been taken to fill the
void with better principles. Hence it is not surprising that the males,
trained up in a high opinion of the authority and rights of the Company
to which their fathers belonged and, unacquainted with the laws of the
civilised world, should be ready to engage in any measure whatever that
they are prompted to believe will forward the interests of the cause they
espouse. Nor that the girls, taught a certain degree of refinement by the
acquisition of an European language, should be inflamed by the
unrestrained discourse of their Indian relations, and very early give up
all pretensions to chastity. It is however but justice to remark that
there is a very decided difference in the conduct of the children of the
Orkney men employed by the Hudson's Bay Company and those of the Canadian
voyagers. Some trouble is occasionally bestowed in teaching the former
and it is not thrown away, but all the good that can be said of the
latter is that they are not quite so licentious as their fathers are.

Many of the half-breeds both male and female are brought up amongst and
intermarry with the Indians; and there are few tents wherein the paler
children of such marriages are not to be seen. It has been remarked, I do
not know with what truth, that half-breeds show more personal courage
than the pure Crees.*

(*Footnote. A singular change takes place in the physical constitution of
the Indian females who become inmates of a fort, namely they bear
children more frequently and longer but at the same time are rendered
liable to indurations of the mammae and prolapsus of the uterus, evils
from which they are in a great measure exempt whilst they lead a
wandering and laborious life.)

The girls at the forts, particularly the daughters of Canadians, are
given in marriage very young; they are very frequently wives at twelve
years of age and mothers at fourteen. Nay, more than once instance came
under our observation of the master of a post having permitted a voyager
to take to wife a poor child that had scarcely attained the age of ten
years. The masters of posts and wintering partners of the Companies
deemed this criminal indulgence to the vices of their servants necessary
to stimulate them to exertion for the interest of their respective
concerns. Another practice may also be noticed as showing the state of
moral feeling on these subjects amongst the white residents of the fur
countries. It was not very uncommon amongst the Canadian voyagers for one
woman to be common to and maintained at the joint expense of two men; nor
for a voyager to sell his wife, either for a season or altogether, for a
sum of money proportioned to her beauty and good qualities but always
inferior to the price of a team of dogs.

The country around Cumberland House is flat and swampy and is much
intersected by small lakes. Limestone is found everywhere under a thin
stratum of soil and it not unfrequently shows itself above the surface.
It lies in strata generally horizontal but in one spot near the fort
dipping to the northward at an angle of 40 degrees. Some portions of this
rock contain very perfect shells. With respect to the vegetable
productions of the district the Populus trepida, or aspen, which thrives
in moist situations, is perhaps the most abundant tree on the banks of
the Saskatchewan and is much prized as firewood, burning well when cut
green. The Populus balsamifera or taccamahac, called by the Crees matheh
meteos, or ugly poplar, in allusion to its rough bark and naked stem,
crowned in an aged state with a few distorted branches, is scarcely less
plentiful. It is an inferior firewood and does not been well unless when
cut in the spring and dried during the summer; but it affords a great
quantity of potash. A decoction of its resinous buds has been sometimes
used by the Indians with success in cases of snow-blindness, but its
application to the inflamed eye produces much pain. Of pines the white
spruce is the most common here: the red and black spruce, the balsam of
Gilead fir, and Banksian pine also occur frequently. The larch is found
only in swampy spots and is stunted and unhealthy. The canoe birch
attains a considerable size in this latitude but from the great demand
for its wood to make sledges it has become rare. The alder abounds on the
margin of the little grassy lakes so common in the neighbourhood. A
decoction of its inner bark is used as an emetic by the Indians who also
extract from it a yellow dye. A great variety of willows occur on the
banks of the streams and the hazel is met with sparingly in the woods.
The sugar maple, elm, ash, and the arbor vitae,* termed by the Canadian
voyagers cedar, grow on various parts of the Saskatchewan but that river
seems to form their northern boundary. Two kinds of prunus also grow
here, one of which,** a handsome small tree, produces a black fruit
having a very astringent taste whence the term choke-cherry applied to
it. The Crees call it tawquoymeena, and esteemed it to be when dried and
bruised a good addition to pemmican. The other species*** is a less
elegant shrub but is said to bear a bright red cherry of a pleasant sweet
taste. Its Cree name is passeeaweymeenan, and it is known to occur as far
north as Great Slave Lake.

(*Footnote. Thuya occidentalis.)

(**Footnote. Prunus virginiana.)

(***Footnote. Prunus pensylvanica.)

The most esteemed fruit of the country however is the produce of the
Aronia ovalis. Under the name of meesasscootoomena it is a favourite dish
at most of the Indian feasts and, mixed with pemmican, it renders that
greasy food actually palatable. A great variety of currants and
gooseberries are also mentioned by the natives under the name of
sappoommeena but we only found three species in the neighbourhood of
Cumberland House. The strawberry, called by the Crees oteimeena, or
heart-berry, is found in abundance and rasps are common on the sandy
banks of the rivers. The fruits hitherto mentioned fall in the autumn but
the following berries remained hanging on the bushes in the spring and
are considered as much mellowed by exposure to the colds in winter. The
red whortleberry (Vaccinium vitis idea) is found everywhere but is most
abundant in rocky places. It is aptly termed by the Crees weesawgummeena,
sour-berry. The common cranberry (Oxycoccos palustris) is distinguished
from the preceding by its growing on moist sphagnous spots and is hence
called maskoegomeena, swamp-berry. The American guelder rose whose fruit
so strongly resembles the cranberry is also common. There are two kinds
of it (Viburnum oxycoccos and edule) one termed by the natives
peepoonmeena, winter-berry, and the other mongsoameena, moose-berry.
There is also a berry of a bluish white colour, the produce of the white
cornel tree, which is named musquameena, bear-berry, because these
animals are said to fatten on it. The dwarf Canadian cornel bears a
corymb of red berries which are highly ornamental to the woods throughout
the country but are not otherwise worthy of notice for they have an
insipid farinaceous taste and are seldom gathered.

The Crees extract some beautiful colours from several of their native
vegetables. They dye their porcupine quills a beautiful scarlet with the
roots of two species of bed-straw (Galium tinctorium and boreale) which
they indiscriminately term sawoyan. The roots, after being carefully
washed, are boiled gently in a clean copper kettle, and a quantity of the
juice of the moose-berry, strawberry, cranberry, or arctic raspberry, is
added together with a few red tufts of pistils of the larch. The
porcupine quills are plunged into the liquor before it becomes quite cold
and are soon tinged of a beautiful scarlet. The process sometimes fails
and produces only a dirty brown, a circumstance which ought probably to
be ascribed to the use of an undue quantity of acid. They dye black with
an ink made of elder bark and a little bog-iron-ore, dried and pounded,
and they have various modes of producing yellow. The deepest colour is
obtained from the dried root of a plant which from their description
appears to be cowbane (Cicuta virosa). An inferior colour is obtained
from the bruised buds of the Dutch myrtle and they have discovered
methods of dyeing with various lichens.

The quadrupeds that are hunted for food in this part of the country are
the moose and the reindeer, the former termed by the Crees mongsoa, or
moosoa, the latter attekh. The buffalo or bison (moostoosh) the red-deer
or American stag (wawaskeeshoo) the apeesee-mongsoos, or jumping deer,
the kinwaithoos, or long-tailed deer, and the apistat-chaekoos, a species
of antelope; animals that frequent the plains above the forks of the
Saskatchewan are not found in the neighbourhood of Cumberland House.

Of fur-bearing animals various kinds of foxes (makkeeshewuc) are found in
the district, distinguished by the traders under the names of black,
silver, cross, red, and blue foxes. The two former are considered by the
Indians to be the same kind, varying accidentally in the colour of the
pelt. The black foxes are very rare and fetch a high price. The cross and
red foxes differ from each other only in colour being of the same shape
and size. Their shades of colour are not disposed in any determinate
manner, some individuals approaching in that respect very nearly to the
silver fox, others exhibiting every link of the chain down to a nearly
uniform deep or orange-yellow, the distinguishing colour of a pure red
fox. It is reported both by Indians and traders that all the varieties
have been found in the same litter. The blue fox is seldom seen here and
is supposed to come from the southward. The gray wolf (mahaygan) is
common here. In the month of March the females frequently entice the
domestic dog from the forts although at other seasons a strong antipathy
seemed to subsist between them. Some black wolves are occasionally seen.
The black and red varieties of the American bear (musquah) are also found
near Cumberland House though not frequently; a black bear often has red
cubs, and vice versa. The grizzly bear, so much dreaded by the Indians
for its strength and ferocity, inhabits a track of country nearer the
Rocky Mountains. It is extraordinary that although I made inquiries
extensively amongst the Indians I met with but one who said that he had
killed a she-bear with young in the womb.

The wolverine, in Cree okeekoohawgees, or ommeethatsees, is an animal of
great strength and cunning and is much hated by the hunters on account of
the mischief it does to their marten-traps. The Canadian lynx (peeshew)
is a timid but well-armed animal which preys upon the American hare. Its
fur is esteemed. The marten (wapeestan) is one of the most common furred
animals in the country. The fisher, notwithstanding its name, is an
inhabitant of the land, living like the common marten principally on
mice. It is the otchoek of the Crees, and the pekan of the Canadians. The
mink (atjackash) has been often confounded by writers with the fisher. It
is a much smaller animal, inhabits the banks of rivers, and swims well;
its prey is fish. The otter (neekeek) is larger than the English species
and produces a much more valuable fur.

The muskrat (watsuss, or musquash) is very abundant in all the small
grassy lakes. They build small conical houses with a mixture of hay and
earth, those which build early raising their houses on the mud of the
marshes, and those which build later in the season founding their
habitations upon the surface of the ice itself. The house covers a hole
in the ice which permits them to go into the water in search of the roots
on which they feed. In severe winters when the small lakes are frozen to
the bottom and these animals cannot procure their usual food they prey
upon each other. In this way great numbers are destroyed.

The beaver (ammisk) furnish the staple fur of the country. Many
surprising stories have been told of the sagacity with which this animal
suits the form of its habitation, retreats, and dam, to local
circumstances; and I compared the account of its manners given by Cuvier
in his Regne Animal with the reports of the Indians and found them to
agree exactly. They have been often seen in the act of constructing their
houses in the moonlight nights, and the observers agree that the stones,
wood, or other materials are carried in their teeth and generally leaning
against the shoulder. When they have placed it to their mind they turn
round and give it a smart blow with their flat tail. In the act of diving
they give a similar stroke to the surface of the water. They keep their
provision of wood under water in front of the house. Their favourite food
is the bark of the aspen, birch and willow; they also eat the alder, but
seldom touch any of the pine tribe unless from necessity; they are fond
of the large roots of the Nuphar lutea, and grow fat upon it but it gives
their flesh a strong rancid taste. In the season of love their call
resembles a groan, that of the male being the hoarsest, but the voice of
the young is exactly like the cry of a child. They are very playful as
the following anecdote will show: One day a gentleman, long resident in
this country, espied five young beavers sporting in the water, leaping
upon the trunk of a tree, pushing one another off and playing a thousand
interesting tricks. He approached softly under cover of the bushes and
prepared to fire on the unsuspecting creatures, but a nearer approach
discovered to him such a similitude betwixt their gestures and the
infantile caresses of his own children that he threw aside his gun. This
gentleman's feelings are to be envied but few traders in fur would have
acted so feelingly. The muskrat frequently inhabits the same lodge with
the beaver and the otter also thrusts himself in occasionally; the latter
however is not always a civil guest as he sometimes devours his host.

These are the animals most interesting in an economical point of view.
The American hare and several kinds of grouse and ptarmigan also
contribute towards the support of the natives; and the geese, in their
periodical flights in the spring and autumn, likewise prove a valuable
resource both to the Indians and white residents; but the principal
article of food after the moose-deer is fish; indeed it forms almost the
sole support of the traders at some of the posts. The most esteemed fish
is the Coregonus albus, the attihhawmeg of the Crees and the white-fish
of the Americans. Its usual weight is between three and four pounds, but
it has been known to reach sixteen or eighteen pounds. Three fish of the
ordinary size is the daily allowance to each man at the fort and is
considered as equivalent to two geese or eight pounds of solid
moose-meat. The fishery for the attihhawmeg lasts the whole year but is
most productive in the spawning season from the middle of September to
the middle of October. The ottonneebees (Coregonus artedi) closely
resembles the last. Three species of carp (Catastomus hudsonius, C.
forsterianus, and C. lesueurii) are also found abundantly in all the
lakes, their Cree names are namaypeeth, meethquawmaypeeth, and
wapawhawkeeshew. The occuw, or river perch, termed also horn-fish,
piccarel, or dore, is common, but is not so much esteemed as the
attihhawmeg. It attains the length of twenty inches in these lakes. The
methy is another common fish; it is the Gadus lota, or burbot, of Europe.
Its length is about two feet, its gullet is capacious and it preys upon
fish large enough to distend its body to nearly twice its proper size. It
is never eaten, not even by the dogs, unless through necessity but its
liver and roe are considered as delicacies.

The pike is also plentiful and, being readily caught in the wintertime
with the hook, is so much prized on that account by the natives as to
receive from them the name of eithinyoocannooshoeoo, or Indian fish. The
common trout, or nammoecous, grows here to an enormous size, being caught
in particular lakes, weighing upwards of sixty pounds; thirty pounds is
no uncommon size at Beaver Lake, from whence Cumberland House is
supplied. The Hioden clodalis, oweepeetcheesees, or gold-eye, is a
beautiful small fish which resembles the trout in its habits.

One of the largest fish is the mathemegh, cat-fish, or barbue. It belongs
to the genus silurus. It is rare but is highly prized as food.

The sturgeon (Accipenser ruthenus) is also taken in the Saskatchewan and
lakes communicating with it and furnishes an excellent but rather rich
article of food.




January 18, 1820.

This day we set out from Cumberland House for Carlton House but,
previously to detailing the events of the journey, it may be proper to
describe the necessary equipments of a winter traveller in this region
which I cannot do better than by extracting the following brief but
accurate account of it from Mr. Hood's journal:


A snowshoe is made of two light bars of wood fastened together at their
extremities and projected into curves by transverse bars. The side bars
have been so shaped by a frame and dried before a fire that the front
part of the shoe turns up like the prow of a boat and the part behind
terminates in an acute angle; the spaces between the bars are filled up
with a fine netting of leathern thongs except that part behind the main
bar which is occupied by the feet; the netting is there close and strong,
and the foot is attached to the main bar by straps passing round the heel
but only fixing the toes so that the heel rises after each step, and the
tail of the shoe is dragged on the snow. Between the main bar and another
in front of it a small space is left, permitting the toes to descend a
little in the act of raising the heel to make the step forward, which
prevents their extremities from chafing. The length of a snowshoe is from
four to six feet and the breadth one foot and a half, or one and
three-quarters, being adapted to the size of the wearer. The motion of
walking in them is perfectly natural for one shoe is level with the snow
when the edge of the other is passing over it. It is not easy to use them
among bushes without frequent overthrows, nor to rise afterwards without
help. Each shoe weighs about two pounds when unclogged with snow. The
northern Indian snowshoes differ a little from those of the southern
Indians, having a greater curvature on the outside of each shoe, one
advantage of which is that when the foot rises the over-balanced side
descends and throws off the snow. All the superiority of European art has
been unable to improve the native contrivance of this useful machine.

Sledges are made of two or three flat boards curving upwards in front and
fastened together by transverse pieces of wood above. They are so thin
that, if heavily laden, they bend with the inequalities of the surface
over which they pass. The ordinary dog-sledges are eight or ten feet long
and very narrow, but the lading is secured to a lacing round the edges.
The cariole used by the traders is merely a covering of leather for the
lower part of the body, affixed to the common sledge which is painted and
ornamented according to the taste of the proprietor. Besides snowshoes
each individual carries his blanket, hatchet, steel, flint, and tinder,
and generally firearms.


The general dress of the winter traveller is a capot, having a hood to
put up under the fur cap in windy weather or in the woods to keep the
snow from his neck, leathern trousers and Indian stockings which are
closed at the ankles round the upper part of his moccasins or Indian
shoes to prevent the snow from getting into them. Over these he wears a
blanket or leathern coat which is secured by a belt round his waist to
which his fire-bag, knife, and hatchet are suspended.

Mr. Back and I were accompanied by the seaman John Hepburn; we were
provided with two carioles and two sledges, their drivers and dogs being
furnished in equal proportions by the two Companies. Fifteen days'
provision so completely filled the sledges that it was with difficulty we
found room for a small sextant, one suit of clothes, and three changes of
linen, together with our bedding. Notwithstanding we thus restricted
ourselves and even loaded the carioles with part of the luggage instead
of embarking in them ourselves we did not set out without considerable
grumbling from the voyagers of both Companies respecting the overlading
of their dogs. However we left the matter to be settled by our friends at
the fort who were more conversant with winter travelling than ourselves.
Indeed the loads appeared to us so great that we should have been
inclined to listen to the complaints of the drivers. The weight usually
placed upon a sledge drawn by three dogs cannot at the commencement of a
journey be estimated at less than three hundred pounds, which however
suffers a daily diminution from the consumption of provisions. The sledge
itself weighs about thirty pounds. When the snow is hard frozen or the
track well trodden the rate of travelling is about two miles and a half
an hour, including rests, or about fifteen miles a day. If the snow be
loose the speed is necessarily much less and the fatigue greater.

At eight in the morning of the 18th we quitted the fort and took leave of
our hospitable friend Governor Williams whose kindness and attention I
shall ever remember with gratitude. Dr. Richardson, Mr. Hood, and Mr.
Connolly accompanied us along the Saskatchewan until the snow became too
deep for their walking without snowshoes. We then parted from our
associates with sincere regret at the prospect of a long separation.
Being accompanied by Mr. Mackenzie of the Hudson's Bay Company who was
going to Isle a la Crosse with four sledges under his charge we formed
quite a procession, keeping in an Indian file on the track of the man who
preceded the foremost dogs; but as the snow was deep we proceeded slowly
on the surface of the river, which is about three hundred and fifty yards
wide, for the distance of six miles which we went this day. Its alluvial
banks and islands are clothed with willows. At the place of our
encampment we could scarcely find sufficient pine branches to floor the
hut, as the Orkney men term the place where travellers rest. Its
preparation however consists only in clearing away the snow to the ground
and covering that space with pine branches, over which the party spread
their blankets and coats and sleep in warmth and comfort by keeping a
good fire at their feet without any other canopy than the heaven, even
though the thermometer should be far below zero.

The arrival at the place of encampment gives immediate occupation to
every one of the party; and it is not until the sleeping-place has been
arranged and a sufficiency of wood collected as fuel for the night that
the fire is allowed to be kindled. The dogs alone remain inactive during
this busy scene, being kept harnessed to their burdens until the men have
leisure to unstow the sledges and hang upon the trees every species of
provision out of their reach. We had ample experience before morning of
the necessity of this precaution as they contrived to steal a
considerable part of our stores almost from underneath Hepburn's head,
notwithstanding their having been well fed at supper.

This evening we found the mercury of our thermometer had sunk into the
bulb and was frozen. It rose again into the tube on being held to the
fire but quickly redescended into the bulb on being removed into the air;
we could not therefore ascertain by it the temperature of the atmosphere
either then or during our journey. The weather was perfectly clear.

January 19.

We rose this morning after the enjoyment of a sound and comfortable
repose and recommenced our journey at sunrise but made slow progress
through the deep snow. The task of beating the track for the dogs was so
very fatiguing that each of the men took the lead in turn for an hour and
a half. The scenery of the banks of the river improved as we advanced
today; some firs and poplars were intermixed with the willows. We passed
through two creeks formed by islands, and encamped on a pleasant spot on
the north shore, having only made six miles and three-quarters actual

The next day we pursued our course along the river; the dogs had the
greatest difficulty in dragging their heavy burdens through the snow. We
halted to refresh them at the foot of Sturgeon River and obtained the
latitude 53 degrees 51 minutes 41 seconds North. This is a small stream
which issues from a neighbouring lake. We encamped near to Mosquito Point
having walked nine miles. The termination of the day's journey was a
great relief to me who had been suffering during the greater part of it
in consequence of my feet having been galled by the snowshoes; this
however is an evil which few escape on their initiation to winter
travelling. It excites no pity from the more experienced companions of
the journey who travel on as fast as they can regardless of your pain.

Mr. Isbester and an Orkney man joined us from Cumberland House and
brought some pemmican that we had left behind, a supply which was very
seasonable after our recent loss. The general occupation of Mr. Isbester
during the winter is to follow or find out the Indians and collect their
furs, and his present journey will appear adventurous to persons
accustomed to the certainty of travelling on a well-known road. He was
going in search of a band of Indians of whom no information had been
received since last October, and his only guide for finding them was
their promise to hunt in a certain quarter; but he looked at the jaunt
with indifference and calculated on meeting them in six or seven days,
for which time only he had provision. Few persons in this country suffer
more from want of food than those occasionally do who are employed on
this service. They are furnished with a sufficiency of provision to serve
until they reach the part where the Indians are expected to be; but it
frequently occurs that on their arrival at the spot they have gone
elsewhere, and that a recent fall of snow has hidden their track, in
which case the voyagers have to wander about in search of them; and it
often happens when they succeed in finding the Indians that they are
unprovided with meat. Mr. Isbester had been placed in this distressing
situation only a few weeks ago and passed four days without either
himself or his dogs tasting food. At length when he had determined on
killing one of the dogs to satisfy his hunger he happily met with a
beaten track which led him to some Indian lodges where he obtained food.

The morning of the 21st was cold but pleasant for travelling. We left Mr.
Isbester and his companion and crossed the peninsula of Mosquito Point to
avoid a detour of several miles which the river makes. Though we put up
at an early hour we gained eleven miles this day. Our encampment was at
the lower extremity of Tobin's Falls. The snow being less deep on the
rough ice which enclosed this rapid we proceeded on the 22nd at a quicker
pace than usual but at the expense of great suffering to Mr. Back, myself
and Hepburn, whose feet were much galled. After passing Tobin's Falls the
river expands to the breadth of five hundred yards, and its banks are
well wooded with pines, poplars, birch and willow. Many tracks of
moose-deer and wolves were observed near the encampment.

On the 23rd the sky was generally overcast and there were several snow
showers. We saw two wolves and some foxes cross the river in the course
of the day and passed many tracks of the moose and red-deer. Soon after
we had encamped the snow fell heavily which was an advantage to us after
we had retired to rest by its affording an additional covering to our
blankets. The next morning at breakfast time two men arrived from Carlton
on their way to Cumberland. Having the benefit of their track we were
enabled, to our great joy, to march at a quick pace without snowshoes. My
only regret was that the party proceeded too fast to allow of Mr. Back's
halting occasionally to note the bearings of the points and delineate the
course of the river* without being left behind. As the provisions were
getting short I could not therefore with propriety check the progress of
the party; and indeed it appeared to me less necessary as I understood
the river had been carefully surveyed. In the afternoon we had to resume
the encumbrance of the snowshoes and to pass over a rugged part where the
ice had been piled over a collection of stones. The tracks of animals
were very abundant on the river, particularly near the remains of an old
establishment called the Lower Nippeween.

(*Footnote. This was afterwards done by Dr. Richardson during a voyage to
Carlton in the spring.)

So much snow had fallen on the night of the 24th that the track we
intended to follow was completely covered and our march today was very
fatiguing. We passed the remains of two red-deer lying at the bases of
perpendicular cliffs from the summits of which they had probably been
forced by the wolves. These voracious animals, who are inferior in speed
to the moose or red-deer, are said frequently to have recourse to this
expedient in places where extensive plains are bounded by precipitous
cliffs. Whilst the deer are quietly grazing the wolves assemble in great
numbers and, forming a crescent, creep slowly towards the herd so as not
to alarm them much at first but, when they perceive that they have fairly
hemmed in the unsuspecting creatures and cut off their retreat across the
plain, they move more quickly and with hideous yells terrify their prey
and urge them to flight by the only open way, which is that towards the
precipice, appearing to know that when the herd is once at full speed it
is easily driven over the cliff, the rearmost urging on those that are
before. The wolves then descend at their leisure and feast on the mangled
carcasses. One of these animals passed close to the person who was
beating the track but did not offer any violence. We encamped at sunset
after walking thirteen miles.

On the 26th we were rejoiced at passing the halfway point between
Cumberland and Carlton. The scenery of the river is less pleasing beyond
this point as there is a scarcity of wood. One of our men was despatched
after a red-deer that appeared on the bank. He contrived to approach near
enough to fire twice, though without success, before the animal moved
away. After a fatiguing march of seventeen miles we put up at the Upper
Nippeween, a deserted establishment, and performed the comfortable
operations of shaving and washing for the first time since our departure
from Cumberland, the weather having been hitherto too severe. We passed
an uncomfortable and sleepless night and agreed next morning to encamp in
future in the open air as preferable to the imperfect shelter of a
deserted house without doors or windows.

The morning was extremely cold but fortunately the wind was light which
prevented our feeling it severely; experience indeed had taught us that
the sensation of cold depends less upon the state of temperature than the
force of the wind. An attempt was made to obtain the latitude which
failed in consequence of the screw that adjusts the telescope of the
sextant being immovably fixed from the moisture upon it having frozen.
The instrument could not be replaced in its case before the ice was
thawed by the fire in the evening.

In the course of the day we passed the confluence of the south branch of
the Saskatchewan, which rises from the Rocky Mountains near the sources
of the northern branch of the Missouri. At Coles Falls, which commence a
distance from the branch, we found the surface of the ice very uneven and
many spots of open water.

We passed the ruins of an establishment which the traders had been
compelled to abandon in consequence of the intractable conduct and
pilfering habits of the Assineboine or Stone Indians; and we learned that
all the residents at a post on the south branch had been cut off by the
same tribe some years ago. We travelled twelve miles today. The wolves
serenaded us through the night with a chorus of their agreeable howling
but none of them ventured near the encampment. But Mr. Back's repose was
disturbed by a more serious evil: his buffalo robe caught fire and the
shoes on his feet being contracted by the heat gave him such pain that he
jumped up in the cold and ran into the snow as the only means of
obtaining relief.

On the 28th we had a strong and piercing wind from North-West in our
faces and much snow-drift; we were compelled to walk as quick as we could
and to keep constantly rubbing the exposed parts of the skin to prevent
their being frozen, but some of the party suffered in spite of every
precaution. We descried three red-deer on the banks of the river and were
about to send the best marksmen after them when they espied the party and
ran away. A supply of meat would have been very seasonable as the men's
provision had become scanty and the dogs were without food except a
little burnt leather. Owing to the scarcity of wood we had to walk until
a late hour before a good spot for an encampment could be found and had
then attained only eleven miles. The night was miserably cold; our tea
froze in the tin pots before we could drink it and even a mixture of
spirits and water became quite thick by congelation; yet after we lay
down to rest we felt no inconvenience and heeded not the wolves though
they were howling within view.

The 29th was also very cold until the sun burst forth when the travelling
became pleasant. The banks of the river are very scantily supplied with
wood through the part we passed today. A long track on the south shore
called Holms Plains is destitute of anything like a tree and the opposite
bank has only stunted willows; but after walking sixteen miles we came to
a spot better wooded and encamped opposite to a remarkable place called
by the voyagers The Neck of Land.

A short distance below our encampment, on the peninsula formed by the
confluence of the Net-setting river with the Saskatchewan, there stands a
representation of Kepoochikawn which was formerly held in high veneration
by the Indians and is still looked upon with some respect. It is merely a
large willow bush having its tops bound into a bunch. Many offerings of
value such as handsome dresses, hatchets, and kettles, used to be made to
it, but of late its votaries have been less liberal. It was mentioned to
us as a signal instance of its power that a sacrilegious moose-deer,
having ventured to crop a few of its tender twigs, was found dead at the
distance of a few yards. The bush having now grown old and stunted is
exempted from similar violations.

On the 30th we directed our course round The Neck of Land which is well
clothed with pines and firs; though the opposite or western bank is
nearly destitute of wood. This contrast between the two banks continued
until we reached the commencement of what our companions called the
Barren Grounds when both the banks were alike bare. Vast plains extend
behind the southern bank which afford excellent pasturage for the buffalo
and other grazing animals. In the evening we saw a herd of the former but
could not get near to them. After walking fifteen miles we encamped. The
men's provision having been entirely expended last night we shared our
small stock with them. The poor dogs had been toiling some days on the
most scanty fare; their rapacity in consequence was unbounded; they
forced open a deal box containing tea, etc. to get at a small piece of
meat which had been incautiously placed in it.


As soon as daylight permitted the party commenced their march in
expectation of reaching Carlton House to breakfast, but we did not arrive
before noon although the track was good. We were received by Mr. Prudens,
the gentleman in charge of the post, with that friendly attention which
Governor Williams' circular was calculated to ensure at every station;
and were soon afterwards regaled with a substantial dish of buffalo
steaks which would have been excellent under any circumstances but were
particularly relished by us after our travelling fare of dried meat and
pemmican, though eaten without either bread or vegetables. After this
repast we had the comfort of changing our travelling dresses which had
been worn for fourteen days; a gratification which can only be truly
estimated by those who have been placed under similar circumstances. I
was still in too great pain from swellings in the ankles to proceed to La
Montee, the North-West Company's establishment distant about three miles;
but Mr. Hallet, the gentleman in charge, came the following morning and I
presented to him the circular from Mr. S. McGillivray. He had already
been furnished however with a copy of it from Mr. Connolly, and was quite
prepared to assist us in our advance to the Athabasca.

Mr. Back and I, having been very desirous to see some of the Stone
Indians who reside on the plains in this vicinity, learned with regret
that a large band of them had left the house on the preceding day, but
our curiosity was amply gratified by the appearance of some individuals
on the following and every subsequent day during our stay.

The looks of these people would have prepossessed me in their favour but
for the assurances I had received from the gentlemen of the posts of
their gross and habitual treachery. Their countenances are affable and
pleasing; their eyes large and expressive, nose aquiline, teeth white and
regular, the forehead bold, the cheek-bones rather high. Their figure is
usually good, above the middle size with slender but well proportioned
limbs. Their colour is a light copper and they have a profusion of very
black hair which hangs over the ears and shades the face. Their dress,
which I think extremely neat and convenient, consists of a vest and
trousers of leather fitted to the body; over these a buffalo robe is
thrown gracefully. These dresses are in general cleaned with white-mud, a
sort of marl, though some use red-earth, a kind of bog-iron-ore; but this
colour neither looks so light nor forms such an agreeable contrast as the
white with the black hair of the robe. Their quiver hangs behind them and
in the hand is carried the bow with an arrow always ready for attack or
defence, and sometimes they have a gun; they also carry a bag containing
materials for making a fire, some tobacco, the calumet or pipe, and
whatever valuables they possess. This bag is neatly ornamented with
porcupine quills. Thus equipped the Stone Indian bears himself with an
air of perfect independence.

The only articles of European commerce they require in exchange for the
meat they furnish to the trading post are tobacco, knives, ammunition,
and spirits, and occasionally some beads, but more frequently buttons
which they string in their hair as ornaments. A successful hunter will
probably have two or three dozen of them hanging at equal distances on
locks of hair from each side of the forehead. At the end of these locks
small coral bells are sometimes attached which tinkle at every motion of
the head, a noise which seems greatly to delight the wearer; sometimes
strings of buttons are bound round the head like a tiara; and a bunch of
feathers gracefully crowns the head.

The Stone Indians steal whatever they can, particularly horses; these
animals they maintain are common property sent by the Almighty for the
general use of man and therefore may be taken wherever met with; still
they admit the right of the owners to watch them and to prevent theft if
possible. This avowed disposition on their part calls forth the strictest
vigilance at the different posts; notwithstanding which the most daring
attacks are often made with success, sometimes on parties of three or
four but oftener on individuals. About two years ago a band of them had
the audacity to attempt to take away some horses which were grazing
before the gate of the North-West Company's fort and, after braving the
fire from the few people then at the establishment through the whole day
and returning their shots occasionally, they actually succeeded in their
enterprise. One man was killed on each side. They usually strip
defenceless persons whom they meet of all their garments, but
particularly of those which have buttons, and leave them to travel alone
in that state, however severe the weather. If resistance be expected they
not unfrequently murder before they attempt to rob. The traders when they
travel invariably keep some men on guard to prevent surprise whilst the
others sleep; and often practise the stratagem of lighting a fire at
sunset, which they leave burning, and move on after dark to a more
distant encampment--yet these precautions do not always baffle the
depredators. Such is the description of men whom the traders of this
river have constantly to guard against. It must require a long residence
among them and much experience of their manners to overcome the
apprehensions their hostility and threats are calculated to excite.
Through fear of having their provisions and supplies entirely cut off the
traders are often obliged to overlook the grossest offences, even murder,
though the delinquents present themselves with unblushing effrontery
almost immediately after the fact and perhaps boast of it. They do not on
detection consider themselves under any obligation to deliver up what
they have stolen without receiving an equivalent.


The Stone Indians keep in amity with their neighbours the Crees from
motives of interest; and the two tribes unite in determined hostility
against the nations dwelling to the westward which are generally called
Slave Indians--a term of reproach applied by the Crees to those tribes
against whom they have waged successful wars. The Slave Indians are said
greatly to resemble the Stone Indians, being equally desperate and daring
in their acts of aggression and dishonesty towards the traders.

These parties go to war almost every summer and sometimes muster three or
four hundred horsemen on each side. Their leaders, in approaching the
foe, exercise all the caution of the most skilful generals; and whenever
either party considers that it has gained the best ground, or finds it
can surprise the other, the attack is made. They advance at once to close
quarters and the slaughter is consequently great though the battle may be
short. The prisoners of either sex are seldom spared but slain on the
spot with wanton cruelty. The dead are scalped and he is considered the
bravest person who bears the greatest number of scalps from the field.
These are afterwards attached to his war dress and worn as proofs of his
prowess. The victorious party during a certain time blacken their faces
and every part of their dress in token of joy, and in that state they
often come to the establishment, if near, to testify their delight by
dancing and singing, bearing all the horrid insignia of war, to display
their individual feats. When in mourning they completely cover their
dress and hair with white mud.

The Crees in the vicinity of Carlton House have the same cast of
countenance as those about Cumberland but are much superior to them in
appearance, living in a more abundant country. These men are more docile,
tractable, and industrious than the Stone Indians and bring greater
supplies of provision and furs to the posts. Their general mode of dress
resembles that of the Stone Indians; but sometimes they wear cloth
leggings, blankets, and other useful articles when they can afford to
purchase them. They also decorate their hair with buttons.

The Crees procure guns from the traders and use them in preference to the
bow and arrow; and from them the Stone Indians often get supplied either
by stealth, gaming, or traffic. Like the rest of their nation these Crees
are remarkably fond of spirits and would make any sacrifice to obtain
them. I regretted to find the demand for this pernicious article had
greatly increased within the last few years. The following notice of
these Indians is extracted from Dr. Richardson's Journal:

The Asseenaboine, termed by the Crees Asseeneepoytuck or Stone Indians,
are a tribe of Sioux who speak a dialect of the Iroquois, one of the
great divisions under which the American philologists have classed the
known dialects of the aborigines of North America. The Stone Indians or,
as they name themselves, Eascab, originally entered this part of the
country under the protection of the Crees and, in concert with them,
attacked and drove to the westward the former inhabitants of the banks of
the Saskatchewan. They are still the allies of the Crees but have now
become more numerous than their former protectors. They exhibit all the
bad qualities ascribed to the Mengwe or Iroquois, the stock whence they
are sprung. Of their actual number I could obtain no precise information
but it is very great. The Crees who inhabit the plains, being fur
hunters, are better known to the traders.

They are divided into two distinct bands, the Ammiskwatchhethinyoowuc or
Beaver Hill Crees, who have about forty tents and the Sackaweethinyoowuc
or Thick Wood Crees who have thirty-five. The tents average nearly ten
inmates each, which gives a population of seven hundred and fifty to the

The nations who were driven to the westward by the Eascab and Crees are
termed, in general, by the latter, Yatcheethinyoowuc, which has been
translated Slave Indians but more properly signifies Strangers.

They now inhabit the country around Fort Augustus, and towards the foot
of the Rocky Mountains, and have increased in strength until they have
become an object of terror to the Eascab themselves. They rear a great
number of horses, make use of firearms, and are fond of European
articles, in order to purchase which they hunt the beaver and other
furred animals, but they depend principally on the buffalo for

They are divided into five nations:

First, the Pawausticeythinyoowuc, or Fall Indians, so named from their
former residence on the falls of the Saskatchewan. They are the
Minetarres with whom Captain Lewis's party had a conflict on their return
from the Missouri. They have about four hundred and fifty or five hundred
tents; their language is very guttural and difficult.

Second, the Peganooeythinyoowuc Pegans, or Muddy River Indians named in
their own language Peganoekoon, have four hundred tents.

Third, the Meethcothinyoowuc, or Blood Indians, named by themselves
Kainoekoon, have three hundred tents.

Fourth, the Cuskoetehwawthesseetuck, or Blackfoot Indians, in their own
language Saxoekoekoon, have three hundred and fifty tents.

The last three nations or tribes, the Pegans, Blood Indians, and
Blackfeet, speak the same language. It is pronounced in a slow and
distinct tone, has much softness, and is easily acquired by their
neighbours. I am assured by the best interpreters in the country that it
bears no affinity to the Cree, Sioux, or Chipewyan languages.

Lastly the Sassees, or Circees, have one hundred and fifty tents; they
speak the same language with their neighbours, the Snare Indians, who are
a tribe of the extensive family of the Chipewyans.*

(*Footnote. As the subjects may be interesting to philologists I subjoin
a few words of the Blackfoot language:

Peestah kan: tobacco.
Moohksee: an awl.
Nappoeoohkee: rum.
Cook keet: give me.
Eeninee: buffalo.
Pooxapoot: come here.
Kat oetsits: none, I have none.
Keet sta kee: a beaver.
Naum: a bow.
Stooan: a knife.
Sassoopats: ammunition.
Meenee: beads.
Poommees: fat.
Miss ta poot: keep off.
Saw: no.
Stwee: cold; it is cold.
Pennakomit: a horse.
Ahseeu: good.)



On the 6th of February we accompanied Mr. Prudens on a visit to a Cree
encampment and a buffalo pound about six miles from the house; we found
seven tents pitched within a small cluster of pines which adjoined the
pound. The largest, which we entered, belonged to the chief who was
absent but came in on learning our arrival. The old man (about sixty)
welcomed us with a hearty shake of the hand and the customary salutation
of "What cheer!" an expression which they have gained from the traders.
As we had been expected they had caused the tent to be neatly arranged,
fresh grass was spread on the ground, buffalo robes were placed on the
side opposite the door for us to sit on, and a kettle was on the fire to
boil meat for us.

After a few minutes' conversation an invitation was given to the chief
and his hunters to smoke the calumet with us as a token of our
friendship: this was loudly announced through the camp and ten men from
the other tents immediately joined our party. On their entrance the women
and children withdrew, their presence on such occasions being contrary to
etiquette. The calumet having been prepared and lighted by Mr. Prudens'
clerk was presented to the chief who performed the following ceremony
before he commenced smoking: He first pointed the stem to the south, then
to the west, north, and east, and afterwards to the heavens, the earth
and the fire, as an offering to the presiding spirits; he took three
whiffs only and then passed the pipe to his next companion who took the
same number of whiffs and so did each person as it went round. After the
calumet had been replenished the person who then commenced repeated only
the latter part of the ceremony, pointing the stem to the heavens, the
earth and the fire. Some spirits mixed with water were presented to the
old man who before he drank demanded a feather which he dipped into the
cup several times and sprinkled the moisture on the ground, pronouncing
each time a prayer. His first address to the Keetchee Manitou, or Great
Spirit, was that buffalo might be abundant everywhere and that plenty
might come into their pound. He next prayed that the other animals might
be numerous and particularly those which were valuable for their furs,
and then implored that the party present might escape the sickness which
was at that time prevalent and be blessed with constant health. Some
other supplications followed which we could not get interpreted without
interrupting the whole proceeding; but at every close the whole Indian
party assented by exclaiming Aha; and when he had finished the old man
drank a little and passed the cup round. After these ceremonies each
person smoked at his leisure and they engaged in a general conversation
which I regretted not understanding as it seemed to be very humorous,
exciting frequent bursts of laughter. The younger men in particular
appeared to ridicule the abstinence of one of the party who neither drank
nor smoked. He bore their jeering with perfect composure and assured
them, as I was told, they would be better if they would follow his
example. I was happy to learn from Mr. Prudens that this man was not only
one of the best hunters but the most cheerful and contented of the tribe.

Four Stone Indians arrived at this time and were invited into the tent
but one only accepted the invitation and partook of the fare. When Mr.
Prudens heard the others refuse he gave immediate directions that our
horses should be narrowly watched as he suspected these fellows wished to
carry them off. Having learned that these Crees considered Mr. Back and
myself to be war chiefs possessing great power and that they expected we
should make some address to them I desired them to be kind to the
traders, to be industrious in procuring them provision and furs, and to
refrain from stealing their stores and horses; and I assured them that if
I heard of their continuing to behave kindly I would mention their good
conduct in the strongest terms to their Great Father across the sea (by
which appellation they designate the King) whose favourable consideration
they had been taught by the traders to value most highly.

They all promised to follow my advice and assured me it was not they but
the Stone Indians who robbed and annoyed the traders. The Stone Indian
who was present heard this accusation against his tribe quite unmoved,
but he probably did not understand the whole of the communication. We
left them to finish their rum and went to look round the lodges and
examine the pound.

The greatest proportion of labour in savage life falls to the women; we
now saw them employed in dressing skins, and conveying wood, water, and
provision. As they have often to fetch the meat from some distance they
are assisted in this duty by their dogs which are not harnessed in
sledges but carry their burdens in a manner peculiarly adapted to this
level country. Two long poles are fastened by a collar to the dog's neck;
their ends trail on the ground and are kept at a proper distance by a
hoop which is lashed between them immediately behind the dog's tail; the
hoop is covered with network upon which the load is placed.

The boys were amusing themselves by shooting arrows at a mark and thus
training to become hunters. The Stone Indians are so expert with the bow
and arrow that they can strike a very small object at a considerable
distance and will shoot with sufficient force to pierce through the body
of a buffalo when near.

The buffalo pound was a fenced circular space of about a hundred yards in
diameter; the entrance was banked up with snow to a sufficient height to
prevent the retreat of the animals that once have entered. For about a
mile on each side of the road leading to the pound stakes were driven
into the ground at nearly equal distances of about twenty yards; these
were intended to represent men and to deter the animals from attempting
to break out on either side. Within fifty or sixty yards from the pound
branches of trees were placed between these stakes to screen the Indians
who lie down behind them to await the approach of the buffalo.

The principal dexterity in this species of chase is shown by the horsemen
who have to manoeuvre round the herd in the plains so as to urge them to
enter the roadway which is about a quarter of a mile broad. When this has
been accomplished they raise loud shouts and, pressing close upon the
animals, so terrify them that they rush heedlessly forward towards the
snare. When they have advanced as far as the men who are lying in ambush
they also rise and increase the consternation by violent shouting and
firing guns. The affrighted beasts having no alternative run directly to
the pound where they are quickly despatched either with an arrow or gun.

There was a tree in the centre of the pound on which the Indians had hung
strips of buffalo flesh and pieces of cloth as tributary or grateful
offerings to the Great Master of Life; and we were told that they
occasionally place a man in the tree to sing to the presiding spirit as
the buffaloes are advancing who must keep his station until the whole
that have entered are killed. This species of hunting is very similar to
that of taking elephants on the island of Ceylon but upon a smaller

The Crees complained to us of the audacity of a party of Stone Indians
who two nights before had stripped their revered tree of many of its
offerings and had injured their pound by setting their stakes out of the
proper places.

Other modes of killing the buffalo are practised by the Indians with
success; of these the hunting them on horseback requires most dexterity.
An expert hunter, when well mounted, dashes at the herd and chooses an
individual which he endeavours to separate from the rest. If he succeeds
he contrives to keep him apart by the proper management of his horse
though going at full speed. Whenever he can get sufficiently near for a
ball to penetrate the beast's hide he fires and seldom fails of bringing
the animal down; though of course he cannot rest the piece against the
shoulder nor take a deliberate aim. On this service the hunter is often
exposed to considerable danger from the fall of his horse in the numerous
holes which the badgers make in these plains, and also from the rage of
the buffalo which when closely pressed often turns suddenly and, rushing
furiously on the horse, frequently succeeds in wounding it or dismounting
the rider. Whenever the animal shows this disposition which the
experienced hunter will readily perceive he immediately pulls up his
horse and goes off in another direction.

When the buffaloes are on their guard horses cannot be used in
approaching them; but the hunter dismounts at some distance and crawls in
the snow towards the herd, pushing his gun before him. If the buffaloes
happen to look towards him he stops and keeps quite motionless until
their eyes are turned in another direction; by this cautious proceeding a
skilful person will get so near as to be able to kill two or three out of
the herd. It will easily be imagined this service cannot be very
agreeable when the thermometer stands 30 or 40 degrees below zero as
sometimes happens in this country.

As we were returning from the tents the dogs that were harnessed to three
sledges, in one of which Mr. Back was seated, set off in pursuit of a
buffalo-calf. Mr. Back was speedily thrown from his vehicle and had to
join me in my horse-cariole. Mr. Heriot, having gone to recover the dogs,
found them lying exhausted beside the calf which they had baited until it
was as exhausted as themselves. Mr. Heriot, to show us the mode of
hunting on horseback or as the traders term it, running of the buffalo,
went in chase of a cow and killed it after firing three shots.

The buffalo is a huge and shapeless animal quite devoid of grace or
beauty; particularly awkward in running but by no means slow; when put to
his speed he plunges through the deep snow very expeditiously; the hair
is dark brown, very shaggy, curling about the head, neck, and hump, and
almost covering the eye, particularly in the bull which is larger and
more unsightly than the cow. The most esteemed part of the animal is the
hump, called by the Canadians bos, by the Hudson's Bay people the wig; it
is merely a strong muscle on which nature at certain seasons forms a
considerable quantity of fat. It is attached to the long spinous
processes of the first dorsal vertebrae and seems to be destined to
support the enormous head of the animal. The meat which covers the spinal
processes themselves after the wig is removed is next in esteem for its
flavour and juiciness and is more exclusively termed the hump by the

The party was prevented from visiting a Stone Indian encampment by a
heavy fall of snow, which made it impracticable to go and return the same
day. We were dissuaded from sleeping at their tents by the interpreter at
the North-West post who told us they considered the whooping-cough and
measles, under which they were now suffering, to have been introduced by
some white people recently arrived in the country, and that he feared
those who had lost relatives, imagining we were the persons, might vent
their revenge on us. We regretted to learn that these diseases had been
so very destructive among the tribes along the Saskatchewan as to have
carried off about three hundred persons, Crees and Asseenaboines, within
the trading circle of these establishments. The interpreter also informed
us of another bad trait peculiar to the Stone Indians. Though they
receive a visitor kindly at their tents and treat him very hospitably
during his stay yet it is very probable they will despatch some young men
to waylay and rob him in going towards the post: indeed all the traders
assured us it was more necessary to be vigilantly on our guard on the
occasion of a visit to them than at any other time.

Carlton House (which our observations place in latitude 52 degrees 50
minutes 47 seconds North, longitude 106 degrees 12 minutes 42 seconds
West, variation 20 degrees 44 minutes 47 seconds East) is pleasantly
situated about a quarter of a mile from the river's side on the flat
ground under the shelter of the high banks that bound the plains. The
land is fertile and produces with little trouble ample returns of wheat,
barley, oats, and potatoes. The ground is prepared for the reception of
these vegetables about the middle of April and when Dr. Richardson
visited this place on May 10th the blade of wheat looked strong and
healthy. There were only five acres in cultivation at the period of my
visit. The prospect from the fort must be pretty in summer owing to the
luxuriant verdure of this fertile soil; but in the uniform and cheerless
garb of winter it has little to gratify the eye.

Beyond the steep bank behind the house commences the vast plain whose
boundaries are but imperfectly known; it extends along the south branch
of the Saskatchewan and towards the sources of the Missouri and
Asseenaboine Rivers, being scarcely interrupted through the whole of this
great space by hills or even rising grounds. The excellent pasturage
furnishes food in abundance to a variety of grazing animals of which the
buffalo, red-deer, and a species of antelope are the most important.
Their presence naturally attracts great hordes of wolves which are of two
kinds, the large, and the small. Many bears prowl about the banks of this
river in summer; of these the grizzly bear is the most ferocious and is
held in dread both by Indians and Europeans. The traveller in crossing
these plains not only suffers from the want of food and water but is also
exposed to hazard from his horse stumbling in the numerous badger-holes.
In many large districts the only fuel is the dried dung of the buffalo;
and when a thirsty traveller reaches a spring he has not unfrequently the
mortification to find the water salt.

Carlton House and La Montee are provision-posts, only an inconsiderable
quantity of furs being obtained at either of them. The provisions are
procured in the winter season from the Indians in the form of dried meat
and fat and, when converted by mixture into pemmican, furnish the
principal support of the voyagers in their passages to and from the
depots in summer. A considerable quantity of it is also kept for winter
use at most of the fur-posts as the least bulky article that can be taken
on a winter journey. The mode of making pemmican is very simple, the meat
is dried by the Indians in the sun or over a fire, and pounded by beating
it with stones when spread on a skin. In this state it is brought to the
forts where the admixture of hair is partially sifted out and a third
part of melted fat incorporated with it, partly by turning the two over
with a wooden shovel, partly by kneading them together with the hands.
The pemmican is then firmly pressed into leathern bags, each capable of
containing eighty-five pounds and, being placed in an airy place to cool,
is fit for use. It keeps in this state if not allowed to get wet very
well for one year and with great care it may be preserved good for two.
Between three and four hundred bags were made here by each of the
Companies this year.

There were eight men besides Mr. Prudens and his clerk belonging to
Carlton House. At La Montee there were seventy Canadians and half-breeds
and sixty women and children who consumed upwards of seven hundred pounds
of buffalo meat daily, the allowance per diem for each man being eight
pounds: a portion not so extravagant as may at first appear when
allowance is made for bone and the entire want of farinaceous food or

There are other provision posts, Fort Augustus and Edmonton farther up
the river, from whence some furs are also procured. The Stone Indians
have threatened to cut off the supplies in going up to these
establishments to prevent their enemies from obtaining ammunition and
other European articles; but as these menaces have been frequently made
without being put in execution the traders now hear them without any
great alarm though they take every precaution to prevent being surprised.
Mr. Back and I were present when an old Cree communicated to Mr. Prudens
that the Indians spoke of killing all the white people in that vicinity
this year which information he received with perfect composure and was
amused as well as ourselves with the man's judicious remark which
immediately followed, "A pretty state we shall then be in without the
goods you bring us."


The following remarks on a well-known disease are extracted from Dr.
Richardson's Journal:

Bronchocele or Goitre is a common disorder at Edmonton. I examined
several of the individuals afflicted with it and endeavoured to obtain
every information on the subject from the most authentic sources. The
following facts may be depended upon. The disorder attacks those only who
drink the water of the river. It is indeed in its worst state confined
almost entirely to the half-breed women and children who reside
constantly at the fort and make use of river water drawn in the winter
through a hole cut in the ice. The men, being often from home on journeys
through the plain, when their drink is melted snow, are less affected;
and if any of them exhibit during the winter some incipient symptoms of
the complaint the annual summer voyage to the sea-coast generally effects
a cure. The natives who confine themselves to snow-water in the winter
and drink of the small rivulets which flow through the plains in the
summer are exempt from the attacks of this disease.

These facts are curious inasmuch as they militate against the generally
received opinion that the disease is caused by drinking snow-water; an
opinion which seems to have originated from bronchocele being endemial to
subalpine districts.

The Saskatchewan at Edmonton is clear in the winter and also in the
summer except during the May and July floods. This distance from the
Rocky Mountains (which I suppose to be of primitive formation) is upwards
of one hundred and thirty miles. The neighbouring plains are alluvial,
the soil is calcareous and contains numerous travelled fragments of
limestone. At a considerable distance below Edmonton the river,
continuing its course through the plains, becomes turbid and acquires a
white colour. In this state it is drunk by the inmates of Carlton House
where the disease is known only by name. It is said that the inhabitants
of Rocky Mountain House, sixty miles nearer the source of the river are
more severely affected than those at Edmonton. The same disease occurs
near the sources of the Elk and Peace Rivers; but in those parts of the
country which are distant from the Rocky Mountain Chain it is unknown
although melted snow forms the only drink of the natives for nine months
of the year.

A residence of a single year at Edmonton is sufficient to render a family
bronchocelous. Many of the goitres acquire great size. Burnt sponge has
been tried and found to remove the disease but an exposure to the same
cause immediately reproduces it.

A great proportion of the children of women who have goitres are born
idiots with large heads and the other distinguishing marks of cretins. I
could not learn whether it was necessary that both parents should have
goitres to produce cretin children: indeed the want of chastity in the
half-breed women would be a bar to the deduction of any inference on this



February 8.

Having recovered from the swellings and pains which our late march from
Cumberland had occasioned we prepared for the commencement of our journey
to Isle a la Crosse, and requisitions were made on both the
establishments for the means of conveyance and the necessary supply of
provisions for the party which were readily furnished. On the 9th the
carioles and sledges were loaded and sent off after breakfast; but Mr.
Back and I remained till the afternoon as Mr. Prudens had offered that
his horses should convey us to the encampment. At three P.M. we parted
from our kind host and, in passing through the gate, were honoured with a
salute of musketry. After riding six miles we joined the men at their
encampment which was made under the shelter of a few poplars. The dogs
had been so much fatigued in wading through the very deep snow with their
heavy burdens, having to drag upwards of ninety pounds' weight each, that
they could get no farther. Soon after our arrival the snow began to fall
heavily and it continued through the greater part of the night.

Our next day's march was therefore particularly tedious, the snow being
deep and the route lying across an unvarying level, destitute of wood
except one small cluster of willows. In the afternoon we reached the end
of the plain and came to an elevation on which poplars, willows, and some
pines grew, where we encamped, having travelled ten miles. We crossed
three small lakes, two of fresh water and one of salt, near the latter of
which we encamped and were in consequence obliged to use for our tea
water made from snow which has always a disagreeable taste.

We had scarcely ascended the hill on the following morning when a large
herd of red-deer was perceived grazing at a little distance; and though
we were amply supplied with provision our Canadian companions could not
resist the temptation of endeavouring to add to our stock. A half-breed
hunter was therefore sent after them. He succeeded in wounding one but
not so as to prevent its running off with the herd in a direction wide of
our course. A couple of rabbits and a brace of wood partridges were shot
in the afternoon. There was an agreeable variety of hill and dale in the
scenery we passed through today, and sufficient wood for ornament but not
enough to crowd the picture. The valleys were intersected by several
small lakes and pools whose snowy covering was happily contrasted with
the dark green of the pine-trees which surrounded them. After ascending a
moderately high hill by a winding path through a close wood we opened
suddenly upon Lake Iroquois and had a full view of its picturesque
shores. We crossed it and encamped.

Though the sky was cloudless yet the weather was warm. We had the
gratification of finding a beaten track soon after we started on the
morning of the 12th and were thus enabled to walk briskly. We crossed at
least twenty hills and found a small lake or pool at the foot of each.
The destructive ravages of fire were visible during the greater part of
the day. The only wood we saw for miles together consisted of pine-trees
stripped of their branches and bark by this element: in other parts
poplars alone were growing which we have remarked invariably to succeed
the pine after a conflagration. We walked twenty miles today but the
direct distance was only sixteen.

The remains of an Indian hut were found in a deep glen and close to it
was placed a pile of wood which our companions supposed to cover a
deposit of provision. Our Canadian voyagers, induced by their insatiable
desire of procuring food, proceeded to remove the upper pieces and
examine its contents when, to their surprise, they found the body of a
female, clothed in leather, which appeared to have been recently placed
there. Her former garments, the materials for making a fire, a
fishing-line, a hatchet, and a bark dish were laid beside the corpse. The
wood was carefully replaced. A small owl, perched on a tree near to the
spot, called forth many singular remarks from our companions as to its
being a good or bad omen.

We walked the whole of the 13th over flat meadow-land which is much
resorted to by the buffalo at all seasons. Some herds of them were seen
which our hunters were too unskilful to approach. In the afternoon we
reached the Stinking Lake which is nearly of an oval form. Its shores are
very low and swampy to which circumstances and not to the bad quality of
the waters it owes its Indian name. Our observations place its western
part in latitude 53 degrees 25 minutes 24 seconds North, longitude 107
degrees 18 minutes 58 seconds West, variation 20 degrees 32 minutes 10
seconds East.

After a march of fifteen miles and a half we encamped among a few pines
at the only spot where we saw sufficient wood for making our fire during
the day. The next morning about an hour after we had commenced our march
we came upon a beaten track and perceived recent marks of snowshoes. In a
short time an Iroquois joined us, who was residing with a party of Cree
Indians, to secure the meat and furs they should collect for the
North-West Company. He accompanied us as far as the stage on which his
meat was placed and then gave us a very pressing invitation to halt for
the day and partake of his fare which, as the hour was too early, we
declined, much to the annoyance of our Canadian companions who had been
cherishing the prospect of indulging their amazing appetites at this
well-furnished store ever since the man had been with us. He gave them
however a small supply previous to our parting. The route now crossed
some ranges of hills on which fir, birch and poplar grew so thickly that
we had much difficulty in getting the sledges through the narrow pathway
between them. In the evening we descended from the elevated ground,
crossed three swampy meadows, and encamped at their northern extremity
within a cluster of large pine-trees, the branches of which were
elegantly decorated with abundance of a greenish yellow lichen. Our march
was ten miles. The weather was very mild, almost too warm for the
exercise we were taking.

We had a strong gale from the North-West during the night which subsided
as the morning opened. One of the sledges had been so much broken the day
before in the woods that we had to divide its cargo among the others. We
started after this had been arranged and, finding almost immediately a
firm track, soon arrived at some Indian lodges to which it led. The
inhabitants were Crees belonging to the posts on the Saskatchewan from
whence they had come to hunt beaver. We made but a short stay and
proceeded through a swamp to Pelican Lake. Our view to the right was
bounded by a range of lofty hills which extended for several miles in a
north and south direction which, it may be remarked, was that of all the
hilly land we had passed since quitting the plain.

Pelican Lake is of an irregular form, about six miles from east to west
and eight from north to south; it decreases to the breadth of a mile
towards the northern extremity and is there terminated by a creek. We
went up this creek for a short distance and then struck into the woods
and encamped among a cluster of the firs which the Canadians term cypres
(Pinus banksiana) having come fourteen miles and a half.

February 16.

Shortly after commencing the journey today we met an Indian and his
family who had come from the houses at Green Lake; they informed us the
track was well beaten the whole way. We therefore put forth our utmost
speed in the hope of reaching them by night but were disappointed, and
had to halt at dark about twelve miles from them in a fisherman's hut
which was unoccupied. Frequent showers of snow fell during the day and
the atmosphere was thick and gloomy.

We started at an early hour the following morning and reached the
Hudson's Bay Company's post to breakfast, and were received very kindly
by Mr. MacFarlane, the gentleman in charge. The other establishment,
situated on the opposite side of the river, was under the direction of
Mr. Dugald Cameron, one of the partners of the North-West Company on whom
Mr. Back and I called soon after our arrival and were honoured with a
salute of musketry.

These establishments are small but said to be well situated for procuring
furs; as the numerous creeks in their vicinity are much resorted to by
the beaver, otter and musquash. The residents usually obtain a
superabundant supply of provision. This season however they barely had
sufficient for their own support, owing to the epidemic which has
incapacitated the Indians for hunting. The Green Lake lies nearly north
and south, is eighteen miles in length and does not exceed one mile and a
half of breadth in any part. The water is deep and it is in consequence
one of the last lakes in the country that is frozen. Excellent tittameg
and trout are caught in it from March to December but after that time
most of the fish remove to some larger lake.

We remained two days awaiting the return of some men who had been sent to
the Indian lodges for meat and who were to go on with us. Mr. Back and I
did not need this rest, having completely surmounted the pain occasioned
by the snowshoes. We dined twice with Mr. Cameron and received from him
many useful suggestions respecting our future operations. This gentleman,
having informed us that provisions would probably be very scarce next
spring in the Athabasca department in consequence of the sickness of the
Indians during the hunting season, undertook at my request to cause a
supply of pemmican to be conveyed from the Saskatchewan to Isle a la
Crosse for our use during the winter, and I wrote to apprise Dr.
Richardson and Mr. Hood that they would find it at the latter post when
they passed, and also to desire them to bring as much as the canoes would
stow from Cumberland.

The atmosphere was clear and cold during our stay; observations were
obtained at the Hudson's Bay Fort, latitude 54 degrees 16 minutes 10
seconds North, longitude 107 degrees 29 minutes 52 seconds West,
variation 22 degrees 6 minutes 35 seconds East.

February 20.

Having been equipped with carioles, sledges and provisions from the two
posts, we this day recommenced our journey and were much amused by the
novelty of the salute given at our departure, the guns being principally
fired by the women in the absence of the men. Our course was directed to
the end of the lake and for a short distance along a small river; we then
crossed the woods to the Beaver River which we found to be narrow and
very serpentine, having moderately high banks. We encamped about one mile
and a half farther up among poplars. The next day we proceeded along the
river; it was winding and about two hundred yards broad. We passed the
mouths of two rivers whose waters it receives; the latter one we were
informed is a channel by which the Indians go to the Lesser Slave Lake.
The banks of the river became higher as we advanced and were adorned with
pines, poplars and willows.

Though the weather was very cold we travelled more comfortably than at
any preceding time since our departure from Cumberland as we had light
carioles which enabled us to ride nearly the whole day warmly covered up
with a buffalo robe. We were joined by Mr. McLeod of the North-West
Company who had kindly brought some things from Green Lake which our
sledges could not carry. Pursuing our route along the river we reached at
an early hour the upper extremity of the Grand Rapid where the ice was so
rough that the carioles and sledges had to be conveyed across a point of
land. Soon after noon we left the river, inclining North-East, and
directed our course North-West until we reached Long Lake and encamped at
its northern extremity, having come twenty-three miles. This lake is
about fourteen miles long and from three-quarters to one mile and a half
broad, its shores and islands low but well wooded. There were frequent
snow-showers during the day.


February 23.

The night was very stormy but the wind became more moderate in the
morning. We passed today through several nameless lakes and swamps before
we came to Train Lake which received its name from being the place where
the traders procured the birch to make their sledges or traineaux; but
this wood has been all used and there only remain pines and a few
poplars. We met some sledges laden with fish, kindly sent to meet us by
Mr. Clark of the Hudson's Bay Company on hearing of our approach. Towards
the evening the weather became much more unpleasant and we were exposed
to a piercingly cold wind and much snowdrift in traversing the Isle a la
Crosse Lake; we were therefore highly pleased at reaching the Hudson's
Bay House by six P.M. We were received in the most friendly manner by Mr.
Clark and honoured by volleys of musketry. Similar marks of attention
were shown to us on the following day by Mr. Bethune, the partner in
charge of the North-West Company's fort. I found here the letters which I
had addressed from Cumberland in November last to the partners of the
North-West Company in the Athabasca, which circumstance convinced me of
the necessity of our present journey.

These establishments are situated on the southern side of the lake and
close to each other. They are forts of considerable importance being
placed at a point of communication with the English River, the Athabasca
and Columbia Districts. The country around them is low and intersected
with water, and was formerly much frequented by beavers and otters which
however have been so much hunted by the Indians that their number is
greatly decreased. The Indians frequenting these forts are the Crees and
some Chipewyans; they scarcely ever come except in the spring and autumn,
in the former season to bring their winter's collection of furs and in
the latter to get the stores they require.

Three Chipewyan lads came in during our stay to report what furs the band
to which they belonged had collected and to desire they might be sent
for, the Indians having declined bringing either furs or meat themselves
since the opposition between the Companies commenced. Mr. Back drew a
portrait of one of the boys.

Isle a la Crosse Lake receives its name from an island situated near the
forts on which the Indians formerly assembled annually to amuse
themselves at the game of the Cross. It is justly celebrated for
abundance of the finest tittameg, which weigh from five to fifteen
pounds. The residents live principally upon this most delicious fish
which fortunately can be eaten a long time without disrelish. It is
plentifully caught with nets throughout the year except for two or three

March 4.

We witnessed the Aurora Borealis very brilliant for the second time since
our departure from Cumberland. A winter encampment is not a favourable
situation for viewing this phenomenon as the trees in general hide the
sky. Arrangements had been made for recommencing our journey today but
the wind was stormy and the snow had drifted too much for travelling with
comfort; we therefore stayed and dined with Mr. Bethune who promised to
render every assistance in getting pemmican conveyed to us from the
Saskatchewan to be in readiness for our canoes when they might arrive in
the spring; Mr. Clark also engaged to procure six bags for us and to
furnish our canoes with any other supplies which might be wanted and
could be spared from his post, and to contribute his aid in forwarding
the pemmican to the Athabasca if our canoes could not carry it all.

I feel greatly indebted to this gentleman for much valuable information
respecting the country and the Indians residing to the north of Slave
Lake and for furnishing me with a list of stores he supposed we should
require. He had resided some years on Mackenzie's River and had been once
so far towards its mouth as to meet the Esquimaux in great numbers. But
they assumed such a hostile attitude that he deemed it unadvisable to
attempt opening any communication with them and retreated as speedily as
he could.

The observations we obtained here showed that the chronometers had varied
their rates a little in consequence of the jolting of the carioles, but
their errors and rates were ascertained previous to our departure. We
observed the position of this fort to be latitude 55 degrees 25 minutes
35 seconds North, longitude 107 degrees 51 minutes 00 seconds West, by
lunars reduced back from Fort Chipewyan, variation 22 degrees 15 minutes
48 seconds West, dip 84 degrees 13 minutes 35 seconds.

March 5.

We recommenced our journey this morning, having been supplied with the
means of conveyance by both the Companies in equal proportions. Mr. Clark
accompanied us with the intention of going as far as the boundary of his
district. This gentleman was an experienced winter traveller and we
derived much benefit from his suggestions; he caused the men to arrange
the encampment with more attention to comfort and shelter than our former
companions had done. After marching eighteen miles we put up on Gravel
Point in the Deep River.

At nine the next morning we came to the commencement of Clear Lake. We
crossed its southern extremes and then went over a point of land to
Buffalo Lake and encamped after travelling twenty-six miles. After supper
we were entertained till midnight with paddling songs by our Canadians
who required very little stimulus beyond their natural vivacity to afford
us this diversion. The next morning we arrived at the establishments
which are situated on the western side of the lake near a small stream
called the Beaver River. They were small log buildings hastily erected
last October for the convenience of the Indians who hunt in the vicinity.
Mr. MacMurray, a partner in the North-West Company, having sent to Isle a
la Crosse an invitation to Mr. Back and I, our carioles were driven to
his post and we experienced the kindest reception. These posts are
frequented by only a few Indians, Crees, and Chipewyans. The country
round is not sufficiently stocked with animals to afford support to many
families and the traders subsist almost entirely on fish caught in the
autumn prior to the lake being frozen but, the water being shallow, they
remove to a deeper part as soon as the lake is covered with ice. The
Aurora Borealis was brilliantly displayed on both the nights we remained
here, but particularly on the 7th when its appearances were most
diversified and the motion extremely rapid. Its coruscations occasionally
concealed from sight stars of the first magnitude in passing over them,
at other times these were faintly discerned through them; once I
perceived a stream of light to illumine the under surface of some clouds
as it passed along. There was no perceptible noise.

Mr. MacMurray gave a dance to his voyagers and the women; this is a treat
which they expect on the arrival of any stranger at the post.

We were presented by this gentleman with the valuable skin of a black fox
which he had entrapped some days before our arrival; it was forwarded to
England with other specimens.

Our observations place the North-West Company's House in latitude 55
degrees 53 minutes 00 seconds North, longitude 108 degrees 51 minutes 10
seconds West, variation 22 degrees 33 minutes 22 seconds East.

The shores of Buffalo Lake are of moderate height and well wooded but
immediately beyond the bank the country is very swampy and intersected
with water in every direction. At some distance from the western side
there is a conspicuous hill which we hailed with much pleasure as being
the first interruption to the tediously uniform scene we had for some
time passed through.

On the 10th we recommenced our journey after breakfast and travelled
quickly as we had the advantage of a well-beaten track. At the end of
eighteen miles we entered upon the river Loche which has a serpentine
course and is confined between alluvial banks that support stunted
willows and a few pines; we encamped about three miles farther on and in
the course of the next day's march perceived several holes on the ice and
many unsafe places for the sledges. Our companions said the ice of this
river is always in the same insecure state, even during the most severe
winter, which they attributed to warm springs. Quitting the river we
crossed a portage and came upon the Methye Lake and soon afterwards
arrived at the trading posts on its western side. These were perfect huts
which had been hastily built after the commencement of the last winter.
We here saw two hunters who were Chipewyan half-breeds and made many
inquiries of them respecting the countries we expected to visit, but we
found them quite ignorant of every part beyond the Athabasca Lake. They
spoke of Mr. Hearne and of his companion Matonnabee, but did not add to
our stock of information respecting that journey. It had happened before
their birth but they remembered the expedition of Sir Alexander Mackenzie
towards the sea.

This is a picturesque lake about ten miles long and six broad and
receives its name from a species of fish caught in it but not much
esteemed; the residents never eat any part but the liver except through
necessity, the dogs dislike even that. The tittameg and trout are also
caught in the fall of the year. The position of the houses by our
observations is latitude 56 degrees 24 minutes 20 seconds North,
longitude 109 degrees 23 minutes 06 seconds West, variation 22 degrees 50
minutes 28 seconds East.

On the 13th we renewed our journey and parted from Mr. Clark to whom we
were much obliged for his hospitality and kindness. We soon reached the
Methye Portage and had a very pleasant ride across it in our carioles.
The track was good and led through groups of pines, so happily placed
that it would not have required a great stretch of imagination to fancy
ourselves in a well-arranged park. We had now to cross a small lake and
then gradually ascended hills beyond it until we arrived at the summit of
a lofty chain of mountains commanding the most picturesque and romantic
prospect we had yet seen in this country. Two ranges of high hills run
parallel to each other for several miles until the faint blue haze hides
their particular characters, when they slightly change their course and
are lost to the view. The space between them is occupied by nearly a
level plain through which a river pursues a meandering course and
receives supplies from the creeks and rills issuing from the mountains on
each side. The prospect was delightful even amid the snow and though
marked with all the cheerless characters of winter; how much more
charming must it be when the trees are in leaf and the ground is arrayed
in summer verdure! Some faint idea of the difference was conveyed to my
mind by witnessing the effect of the departing rays of a brilliant sun.
The distant prospect however is surpassed in grandeur by the wild scenery
which appeared immediately below our feet. There the eye penetrates into
vast ravines two or three hundred feet in depth that are clothed with
trees and lie on either side of the narrow pathway descending to the
river over eight successive ridges of hills. At one spot termed the
Cockscomb the traveller stands insulated as it were on a small slip where
a false step might precipitate him into the glen. From this place Mr.
Back took an interesting and accurate sketch to allow time for which we
encamped early, having come twenty-one miles.

The Methye Portage is about twelve miles in extent and over this space
the canoes and all their cargoes are carried, both in going to and from
the Athabasca department. It is part of the range of mountains which
separates the waters flowing south from those flowing north. According to
Sir Alexander Mackenzie "this range of hills continues in a South-West
direction until its local height is lost between the Saskatchewan and Elk
Rivers, close on the banks of the former in latitude 53 degrees 36
minutes North, longitude 113 degrees 45 minutes West, when it appears to
take its course due north." Observations taken in the spring by Mr. Hood
place the north side of the portage in latitude 56 degrees 41 minutes 40
seconds North, longitude 109 degrees 52 minutes 15 seconds West,
variation 25 degrees 2 minutes 30 seconds East, dip 85 degrees 7 minutes
27 seconds.

At daylight on the 14th we began to descend the range of hills leading
towards the river, and no small care was required to prevent the sledges
from being broken in going down these almost perpendicular heights, or
being precipitated into the glens on each side. As a precautionary
measure the dogs were taken off and the sledges guided by the men,
notwithstanding which they descended with amazing rapidity and the men
were thrown into the most ridiculous attitudes in endeavouring to stop
them. When we had arrived at the bottom I could not but feel astonished
at the laborious task which the voyagers have twice in the year to
encounter at this place in conveying their stores backwards and forwards.
We went across the Clear Water River which runs at the bases of these
hills, and followed an Indian track along its northern bank, by which we
avoided the White Mud and Good Portages. We afterwards followed the river
as far as the Pine Portage, when we passed through a very romantic defile
of rocks which presented the appearance of Gothic ruins, and their rude
characters were happily contrasted with the softness of the snow and the
darker foliage of the pines which crowned their summits. We next crossed
the Cascade Portage which is the last on the way to the Athabasca Lake,
and soon afterwards came to some Indian tents containing five families
belonging to the Chipewyan tribe. We smoked the calumet in the chief's
tent, whose name was the Thumb, and distributed some tobacco and a weak
mixture of spirits and water among the men. They received this civility
with much less grace than the Crees, and seemed to consider it a matter
of course. There was an utter neglect of cleanliness and a total want of
comfort in their tents; and the poor creatures were miserably clothed.
Mr. Frazer, who accompanied us from the Methye Lake, accounted for their
being in this forlorn condition by explaining that this band of Indians
had recently destroyed everything they possessed as a token of their
great grief for the loss of their relatives in the prevailing sickness.
It appears that no article is spared by these unhappy men when a near
relative dies; their clothes and tents are cut to pieces, their guns
broken, and every other weapon rendered useless if some person do not
remove these articles from their sight, which is seldom done. Mr. Back
sketched one of the children which delighted the father very much, who
charged the boy to be very good since his picture had been drawn by a
great chief. We learned that they prize pictures very highly and esteem
any they can get, however badly executed, as efficient charms. They were
unable to give us any information respecting the country beyond the
Athabasca Lake which is the boundary of their peregrinations to the
northward. Having been apprised of our coming they had prepared an
encampment for us; but we had witnessed too many proofs of their
importunity to expect that we could pass the night near them in any
comfort whilst either spirits, tobacco or sugar remained in our
possession; and therefore preferred to go about two miles farther along
the river and to encamp among a cluster of fine pine-trees after a
journey of sixteen miles.

On the morning of the 15th, in proceeding along the river, we perceived a
strong smell of sulphur, and on the north shore found a quantity of it
scattered, which seemed to have been deposited by some spring in the
neighbourhood: it appeared very pure and good. We continued our course
the whole day along the river, which is about four hundred yards wide,
has some islands, and is confined between low land extending from the
bases of the mountains on each side. We put up at the end of thirteen
miles and were then joined by a Chipewyan who came, as we supposed, to
serve as our guide to Pierre au Calumet but, as none of the party could
communicate with our new friend otherwise than by signs, we waited
patiently until the morning to see what he intended to do. The wind blew
a gale during the night and the snow fell heavily. The next day our guide
led us to the Pembina River which comes from the southward where we found
traces of Indians who appeared to have quitted this station the day
before; we had therefore the benefit of a good track which our dogs much
required as they were greatly fatigued, having dragged their loads
through very deep snow for the last two days. A moose-deer crossed the
river just before the party: this animal is plentiful in the vicinity. We
encamped in a pleasant well-sheltered place, having travelled fourteen

A short distance on the following morning brought us to some Indian
lodges which belonged to an old Chipewyan chief named the Sun and his
family consisting of five hunters, their wives and children. They were
delighted to see us and, when the object of our expedition had been
explained to them, expressed themselves much interested in our progress;
but they could not give a particle of information respecting the
countries beyond the Athabasca Lake. We smoked with them and gave each
person a glass of mixed spirits and some tobacco. A Canadian servant of
the North-West Company who was residing with them informed us that this
family had lost numerous relatives, and that the destruction of property
which had been made after their deaths was the only cause for the
pitiable condition in which we saw them as the whole family were
industrious hunters and therefore were usually better provided with
clothes and other useful articles than most of the Indians. We purchased
from them a pair of snowshoes in exchange for some ammunition. The
Chipewyans are celebrated for making them good and easy to walk in; we
saw some here upwards of six feet long and three broad. With these
unwieldy clogs an active hunter, in the spring when there is a crust on
the surface of the snow, will run down a moose or red-deer.

We made very slow progress after leaving this party on account of the
deep snow, but continued along the river until we reached its junction
with the Athabasca or Elk River. We obtained observations on an island a
little below the Forks which gave longitude 111 degrees 8 minutes 42
seconds West, variation 24 degrees 18 minutes 20 seconds East. Very
little wood was seen during this day's march. The western shore near the
Forks is destitute of trees; it is composed of lofty perpendicular cliffs
which were now covered with snow. The eastern shore supports a few pines.

March 18.

Soon after our departure from the encampment we met two men from the
establishment at Pierre au Calumet, who gave us correct information of
its situation and distance. Having the benefit of their track we marched
at a tolerably quick pace and made twenty-two miles in the course of the
day though the weather was very disagreeable for travelling, being stormy
with constant snow. We kept along the river the whole time: its breadth
is about two miles. The islands appear better furnished with wood than
its banks, the summits of which are almost bare. Soon after we had
encamped our Indian guide rejoined us; he had remained behind the day
before without consulting us to accompany a friend on a hunting
excursion. On his return he made no endeavour to explain the reason of
his absence but sat down coolly and began to prepare his supper. This
behaviour made us sensible that little dependence is to be placed on the
continuance of an Indian guide when his inclination leads him away.

Early the next morning we sent forward the Indian and a Canadian to
apprise the gentleman in charge of Pierre au Calumet of our approach; and
after breakfast the rest of the party proceeded along the river for that
station which we reached in the afternoon. The senior partner of the
North-West Company in the Athabasca department, Mr. John Stuart, was in
charge of the post. Though he was quite ignorant until this morning of
our being in the country we found him prepared to receive us with great
kindness and ready to afford every information and assistance agreeably
to the desire conveyed in Mr. Simon McGillivray's circular letter. This
gentleman had twice traversed this continent and reached the Pacific by
the Columbia River; he was therefore fully conversant with the different
modes of travelling and with the obstacles that may be expected in
passing through unfrequented countries. His suggestions and advice were
consequently very valuable to us but, not having been to the northward of
the Great Slave Lake, he had no knowledge of that line of country except
what he had gained from the reports of Indians. He was of opinion however
that positive information on which our course of proceedings might safely
be determined could be procured from the Indians that frequent the north
side of the lake when they came to the forts in the spring. He
recommended my writing to the partner in charge of that department,
requesting him to collect all the intelligence he could and to provide
guides and hunters from the tribe best acquainted with the country
through which we proposed to travel.

To our great regret Mr. Stuart expressed much doubt as to our prevailing
upon any experienced Canadian voyagers to accompany us to the sea in
consequence of their dread of the Esquimaux who, he informed us, had
already destroyed the crew of one canoe which had been sent under Mr.
Livingstone to open a trading communication with those who reside near
the mouth of the Mackenzie River; and he also mentioned that the same
tribe had driven away the canoes under Mr. Clark's direction, going to
them on a similar object, to which circumstance I have alluded in my
remarks at Isle a la Crosse.

This was unpleasant information but we were comforted by Mr. Stuart's
assurance that himself and his partners would use every endeavour to
remove their fears as well as to promote our views in every other way;
and he undertook as a necessary part of our equipment in the spring to
prepare the bark and other materials for constructing two canoes at this

Mr. Stuart informed us that the residents at Fort Chipewyan, from the
recent sickness of their Indian hunters, had been reduced to subsist
entirely on the produce of their fishing-nets, which did not yield more
than a bare sufficiency for their support; and he kindly proposed to us
to remain with him until the spring but, as we were most desirous to gain
all the information we could as early as possible and Mr. Stuart assured
us that the addition of three persons would not be materially felt in
their large family at Chipewyan, we determined on proceeding thither and
fixed on the 22nd for our departure.

Pierre au Calumet receives its name from the place where the stone is
procured, of which many of the pipes used by the Canadians and Indians
are made. It is a clayey limestone, impregnated with various shells. The
house, which is built on the summit of a steep bank rising almost
perpendicular to the height of one hundred and eighty feet, commands an
extensive prospect along this fine river and over the plains which
stretch out several miles at the back of it, bounded by hills of
considerable height and apparently better furnished with wood than the
neighbourhood of the fort where the trees grow very scantily. There had
been an establishment belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company on the
opposite bank of the river but it was abandoned in December last, the
residents not being able to procure provision from their hunters having
been disabled by the epidemic sickness which has carried off one-third of
the Indians in these parts. They belong to the Northern Crees, a name
given them from their residing in the Athabasca department. There are now
but few families of these men who formerly by their numbers and predatory
habits spread terror among the natives of this part of the country.

There are springs of bituminous matter on several of the islands near
these houses; and the stones on the riverbank are much impregnated with
this useful substance. There is also another place remarkable for the
production of a sulphureous salt which is deposited on the surface of a
round-backed hill about half a mile from the beach and on the marshy
ground underneath it. We visited these places at a subsequent period of
the journey and descriptions of them will appear in Dr. Richardson's
Mineralogical Notices.

The latitude of the North-West Company's House is 57 degrees 24 minutes
06 seconds North, but this was the only observation we could obtain, the
atmosphere being cloudy. Mr. Stuart had an excellent thermometer which
indicated the lowest state of temperature to be 43 degrees below zero. He
told me 45 degrees was the lowest temperature he had ever witnessed at
the Athabasca or Great Slave Lake after many years' residence. On the
21st it rose above zero and at noon attained the height of 43 degrees;
the atmosphere was sultry, snow fell constantly, and there was quite an
appearance of a change in the season. On the 22nd we parted from our
hospitable friend and recommenced our journey, but under the expectation
of seeing him again in May, at which time the partners of the Company
usually assemble at Fort Chipewyan where we hoped the necessary
arrangements for our future proceedings would be completed. We encamped
at sunset at the end of fourteen miles, having walked the whole way along
the river which preserves nearly a true north course and is from four
hundred to six hundred yards broad. The banks are high and well clothed
with the liard, spruce, fir, alder, birch-tree and willows. Having come
nineteen miles and a half on the 23rd we encamped among pines of a great
height and girth.

Showers of snow fell until noon on the following day but we continued our
journey along the river whose banks and islands became gradually lower as
we advanced and less abundantly supplied with wood except willows. We
passed an old Canadian who was resting his wearied dogs during the heat
of the sun. He was carrying meat from some Indian lodges to Fort
Chipewyan, having a burden exceeding two hundred and fifty pounds on his
sledge which was dragged by two miserable dogs. He came up to our
encampment after dark. We were much amused by the altercation that took
place between him and our Canadian companions as to the qualifications of
their respective dogs. This however is such a general topic of
conversation among the voyagers in the encampment that we should not
probably have remarked it had not the old man frequently offered to bet
the whole of his wages that his two dogs, poor and lean as they were,
would drag their load to the Athabasca Lake in less time than any three
of theirs. Having expressed our surprise at his apparent temerity he
coolly said the men from the lower countries did not understand the
management of their dogs and that he depended on his superior skill in
driving, and we soon gathered from his remarks that the voyagers of the
Athabasca department consider themselves very superior to any other. The
only reasons which he could assign were that they had borne their burdens
across the terrible Methye Portage and that they were accustomed to live
harder and more precariously.

March 25.

Having now the guidance of the old Canadian we sent forward the Indian
and one of our men with letters to the gentleman at the Athabasca Lake.
The rest of the party set off afterwards and kept along the river until
ten when we branched off by portages into the Embarras River, the usual
channel of communication in canoes with the lake. It is a narrow and
serpentine stream confined between alluvial banks which support pines,
poplars and willows. We had not advanced far before we overtook the two
men despatched by us this morning. The stormy weather had compelled them
to encamp as there was too much drifting of the snow for any attempt to
cross the lake. We were obliged, though most reluctantly, to follow their
example but comforted ourselves with the reflection that this was the
first time we had been stopped by the weather during our long journey
which was so near at an end. The gale afterwards increased, the squalls
at night became very violent, disburdened the trees of the snow and gave
us the benefit of a continual fall of patches from them, in addition to
the constant shower. We therefore quickly finished our suppers and
retired under the shelter of our blankets.


March 26.

The boisterous weather continued through the night and it was not before
six this morning that the wind became apparently moderate and the snow
ceased. Two of the Canadians were immediately sent off with letters to
the gentlemen at Fort Chipewyan. After breakfast we also started but our
Indian friend, having a great indisposition to move in such weather,
remained by the fire. We soon quitted the river and, after crossing a
portage, a small lake and a point of land, came to the borders of the
Mammawee Lake. We then found our error as to the strength of the wind,
and that the gale still blew violently and there was so much drifting of
the snow as to cover the distant objects by which our course could be
directed. We fortunately got a glimpse through this cloud of a cluster of
islands in the direction of the houses, and decided on walking towards
them; but in doing this we suffered very much from the cold and were
obliged to halt under the shelter of them and await the arrival of our
Indian guide. He conducted us between these islands, over a small lake,
and by a swampy river into the Athabasca Lake, from whence the
establishments were visible. At four P.M. we had the pleasure of arriving
at Fort Chipewyan and of being received by Messrs. Keith and Black, the
partners of the North-West Company in charge, in the most kind and
hospitable manner. Thus terminated a winter's journey of eight hundred
and fifty-seven miles, in the progress of which there was a great
intermixture of agreeable and disagreeable circumstances. Could the
amount of each be balanced I suspect the latter would much preponderate;
and amongst these the initiation into walking in snowshoes must be
considered as prominent. The suffering it occasions can be but faintly
imagined by a person who thinks upon the inconvenience of marching with a
weight of between two and three pounds constantly attached to galled feet
and swelled ankles. Perseverance and practice only will enable the novice
to surmount this pain.

The next evil is the being constantly exposed to witness the wanton and
unnecessary cruelty of the men to their dogs, especially those of the
Canadians who beat them unmercifully and habitually vent on them the most
dreadful and disgusting imprecations. There are other inconveniences
which, though keenly felt during the day's journey, are speedily
forgotten when stretched out in the encampment before a large fire, you
enjoy the social mirth of your companions who usually pass the evening in
recounting their former feats in travelling. At this time the Canadians
are always cheerful and merry and the only bar to their comfort arises
from the frequent interruption occasioned by the dogs who are constantly
prowling about the circle and snatching at every kind of food that
happens to be within their reach. These useful animals are a comfort to
them afterwards by the warmth they impart when lying down by their side
or feet as they usually do. But the greatest gratifications a traveller
in these regions enjoys are derived from the hospitable welcome he
receives at every trading post, however poor the means of the host may
be; and from being disrobed even for a short time of the trappings of a
voyager and experiencing the pleasures of cleanness.

The following are the estimated distances in statute miles which Mr. Back
and I had travelled since our departure from Cumberland:

From Cumberland House to Carlton House: 263.
From Carlton House to Isle a la Crosse: 230.
From Isle a la Crosse to north side of the Methye Portage: 124.
From the Methye Portage to Fort Chipewyan: 240.

Total: 857 miles.




March 26, 1820.

On the day after our arrival at Fort Chipewyan we called upon Mr.
MacDonald, the gentleman in charge of the Hudson's Bay Establishment
called Fort Wedderburne, and delivered to him Governor Williams' circular
letter which desired that every assistance should be given to further our
progress, and a statement of the requisitions which we should have to
make on his post.

Our first object was to obtain some certain information respecting our
future route and accordingly we received from one of the North-West
Company's interpreters, named Beaulieu, a half-breed who had been brought
up amongst the Dog-ribbed and Copper Indians, some satisfactory
information which we afterwards found tolerably correct respecting the
mode of reaching the Copper-Mine River which he had descended a
considerable way, as well as of the course of that river to its mouth.
The Copper Indians however he said would be able to give us more accurate
information as to the latter part of its course as they occasionally
pursue it to the sea. He sketched on the floor a representation of the
river and a line of coast according to his idea of it. Just as he had
finished an old Chipewyan Indian named Black Meat unexpectedly came in
and instantly recognised the plan. He then took the charcoal from
Beaulieu and inserted a track along the sea-coast which he had followed
in returning from a war excursion made by his tribe against the
Esquimaux. He detailed several particulars of the coast and the sea which
he represented as studded with well-wooded islands and free from ice
close to the shore in the month of July, but not to a great distance. He
described two other rivers to the eastward of the Copper-Mine River which
also fall into the Northern Ocean, the Anatessy, which issues from the
Contwayto or Rum Lake, and the Thloueeatessy or Fish River, which rises
near the eastern boundary of the Great Slave Lake; but he represented
both of them as being shallow and too much interrupted by barriers for
being navigated in any other than small Indian canoes.

Having received this satisfactory intelligence I wrote immediately to Mr.
Smith of the North-West Company and Mr. McVicar of the Hudson's Bay
Company, the gentlemen in charge of the posts at the Great Slave Lake, to
communicate the object of the Expedition and our proposed route, and to
solicit any information they possessed or could collect from the Indians
relative to the countries we had to pass through and the best manner of
proceeding. As the Copper Indians frequent the establishment on the north
side of the lake I particularly requested them to explain to that tribe
the object of our visit and to endeavour to procure from them some guides
and hunters to accompany our party. Two Canadians were sent by Mr. Keith
with these letters.

The month of April commenced with fine and clear but extremely cold
weather; unfortunately we were still without a thermometer and could not
ascertain the degrees of temperature. The coruscations of the Aurora
Borealis were very brilliant almost every evening of the first week and
were generally of the most variable kind. On the 3rd they were
particularly changeable. The first appearance exhibited three illuminated
beams issuing from the horizon in the north, east, and west points, and
directed towards the zenith; in a few seconds these disappeared and a
complete circle was displayed, bounding the horizon at an elevation of
fifteen degrees. There was a quick lateral motion in the attenuated beams
of which this zone was composed. Its colour was a pale yellow with an
occasional tinge of red.

On the 8th of April the Indians saw some geese in the vicinity of this
lake but none of the migratory birds appeared near the houses before the
15th when some swans flew over. These are generally the first that
arrive; the weather had been very stormy for the four preceding days and
this in all probability kept the birds from venturing farther north than
where the Indians had first seen them.

In the middle of the month the snow began to waste daily and by degrees
it disappeared from the hills and the surface of the lake. On the 17th
and 19th the Aurora Borealis appeared very brilliant in patches of light
bearing North-West. An old Cree Indian having found a beaver-lodge near
to the fort, Mr. Keith, Back, and I accompanied him to see the method of
breaking into it and their mode of taking those interesting animals. The
lodge was constructed on the side of a rock in a small lake having the
entrance into it beneath the ice. The frames were formed of layers of
sticks, the interstices being filled with mud, and the outside was
plastered with earth and stones which the frost had so completely
consolidated that to break through required great labour with the aid of
the ice chisel and the other iron instruments which the beaver hunters
use. The chase however was unsuccessful as the beaver had previously
vacated the lodge.

On the 21st we observed the first geese that flew near the fort and some
were brought to the house on the 30th but they were very lean. On the
25th flies were seen sporting in the sun and on the 26th the Athabasca
River, having broken up, overflowed the lake along its channel; but
except where this water spread there was no appearance of decay in the


During the first part of this month the wind blew from the North-West and
the sky was cloudy. It generally thawed during the day but froze at
night. On the 2nd the Aurora Borealis faintly gleamed through very dense

We had a long conversation with Mr. Dease of the North-West Company who
had recently arrived from his station at the bottom of the Athabasca
Lake. This gentleman, having passed several winters on the Mackenzie's
River and at the posts to the northward of Slave Lake, possessed
considerable information respecting the Indians and those parts of the
country to which our inquiries were directed, which he very promptly and
kindly communicated. During our conversation an old Chipewyan Indian
named the Rabbit's Head entered the room, to whom Mr. Dease referred for
information on some point. We found from his answer that he was a stepson
of the late chief Matonnabee who had accompanied Mr. Hearne on his
journey to the sea, and that he had himself been of the party but, being
then a mere boy, he had forgotten many of the circumstances. He confirmed
however the leading incidents related by Hearne and was positive he
reached the sea, though he admitted that none of the party had tasted the
water. He represented himself to be the only survivor of that party. As
he was esteemed a good Indian I presented him with a medal which he
received gratefully and concluded a long speech upon the occasion by
assuring me he should preserve it carefully all his life. The old man
afterwards became more communicative and unsolicited began to relate the
tradition of his tribe respecting the discovery of the Copper-Mine, which
we thought amusing: and as the subject is somewhat connected with our
future researches I will insert the translation of it which was given at
the time by Mr. Dease, though a slight mention of it has been made by

The Chipewyans suppose the Esquimaux originally inhabited some land to
the northward which is separated by the sea from this country; and that
in the earliest ages of the world a party of these men came over and
stole a woman from their tribe whom they carried to this distant country
and kept in a state of slavery. She was very unhappy in her situation and
effected her escape after many years residence among them. The forlorn
creature wandered about for some days in a state of uncertainty what
direction to take, when she chanced to fall upon a beaten path which she
followed and was led to the sea. At the sight of the ocean her hope of
being able to return to her native country vanished and she sat herself
down in despair and wept. A wolf now advanced to caress her and, having
licked the tears from her eyes, walked into the water, and she perceived
with joy that it did not reach up to the body of the animal; emboldened
by this appearance she instantly arose, provided two sticks to support
herself, and determined on following the wolf. The first and second
nights she proceeded on without finding any increase in the depth of the
water and, when fatigued, rested herself on the sticks whose upper ends
she fastened together for the purpose. She was alarmed on the third
morning by arriving at a deeper part, but resolved on going forward at
any risk rather than return; and her daring perseverance was crowned with
success by her attaining her native shore on the fifth day. She
fortunately came to a part where there was a beaten path which she knew
to be the track made by the reindeer in their migrations. Here she halted
and prepared some sort of weapon for killing them; as soon as this was
completed she had the gratification to behold several herds advancing
along the road, and had the happiness of killing a sufficient number for
her winter's subsistence, which she determined to pass at that place, and
therefore formed a house for herself after the manner she had learned
from the Esquimaux. When spring came and she emerged from her
subterraneous dwelling (for such the Chipewyans suppose it to have been)
she was astonished by observing a glittering appearance on a distant hill
which she knew was not produced by the reflection of the sun and, being
at a loss to assign any other cause for it, she resolved on going up to
the shining object and then found the hill was entirely composed of
copper. She broke off several pieces and, finding it yielded so readily
to her beating, it occurred to her that this metal would be very
serviceable to her countrymen if she should find them again. While she
was meditating on what was to be done the thought struck her that it
would be advisable to attach as many pieces of copper to her dress as she
could and then proceed into the interior in search of some inhabitants
who, she supposed, would give her a favourable reception on account of
the treasure she had brought.

It happened that she met her own relations and the young men, elated with
the account she had given of the hill, made her instantly return with
them, which she was enabled to do, having taken the precaution of putting
up marks to indicate the path. The party reached the spot in safety but
the story had a melancholy catastrophe. These youths, overcome by excess
of joy, gave loose to their passions and offered the grossest insults to
their benefactress. She powerfully resisted them for some time and, when
her strength was failing, fled to the point of the mountain as the only
place of security. The moment she had gained the summit the earth opened
and ingulphed both herself and the mountain to the utter dismay of the
men who were not more astonished at its sudden disappearance than
sorrowful for this just punishment of their wickedness. Ever since this
event the copper has only been found in small detached pieces on the
surface of the earth.


On the 10th of May we were gratified by the appearance of spring though
the ice remained firm on the lake. The anemone (pulsatilla, pasque
flower) appeared this day in flower, the trees began to put forth their
leaves, and the mosquitoes visited the warm rooms. On the 17th and 18th
there were frequent showers of rain and much thunder and lightning. This
moist weather caused the ice to waste so rapidly that by the 24th it had
entirely disappeared from the lake. The gentlemen belonging to both the
Companies quickly arrived from the different posts in this department,
bringing their winter's collection of furs which are forwarded from these
establishments to the depots.

I immediately waited on Mr. Colin Robertson, the agent of the Hudson's
Bay Company, and communicated to him, as I had done before to the several
partners of the North-West Company, our plan and the requisitions we
should have to make on each Company, and I requested of all the gentlemen
the favour of their advice and suggestions. As I perceived that the
arrangement of their winter accounts and other business fully occupied
them I forbore further pressing the subject of our concerns for some days
until there was an appearance of despatching the first brigade of canoes.
It then became necessary to urge their attention to them; but it was
evident from the determined commercial opposition and the total want of
intercourse between the two Companies that we could not expect to receive
any cordial advice or the assurance of the aid of both without devising
some expedient to bring the parties together. I therefore caused a tent
to be pitched at a distance from both establishments and solicited the
gentlemen of both Companies to meet Mr. Back and myself there for the
purpose of affording us their combined assistance.

With this request they immediately complied and on May 25th we were
joined at the tent by Mr. Stuart and Mr. Grant of the North-West Company
and Mr. Colin Robertson of the Hudson's Bay Company, all of whom kindly
gave very satisfactory answers to a series of questions which we had
drawn up for the occasion and promised all the aid in their power.


Furnished with the information thus obtained we proceeded to make some
arrangements respecting the obtaining of men and the stores we should
require for their equipment as well as for presents to the Indians; and
on the following day a requisition was made on the Companies for eight
men each and whatever useful stores they could supply. We learned with
regret that, in consequence of the recent lavish expenditure of their
goods in support of the opposition, their supply to us would of necessity
be very limited. The men too were backward in offering their services,
especially those of the Hudson's Bay Company who demanded a much higher
rate of wages than I considered it proper to grant.

June 3.

Mr. Smith, a partner of the North-West Company, arrived from the Great
Slave Lake bearing the welcome news that the principal chief of the
Copper Indians had received the communication of our arrival with joy and
given all the intelligence he possessed respecting the route to the
sea-coast by the Copper-Mine River; and that he and a party of his men,
at the instance of Mr. Wentzel, a clerk of the North-West Company whom
they wished might go along with them, had engaged to accompany the
Expedition as guides and hunters. They were to wait our arrival at Fort
Providence on the north side of the Slave Lake. Their information
coincided with that given by Beaulieu. They had no doubt of our being
able to obtain the means of subsistence in travelling to the coast. This
agreeable intelligence had a happy effect upon the Canadian voyagers,
many of their fears being removed: several of them seemed now disposed to
volunteer; and indeed on the same evening two men from the North-West
Company offered themselves and were accepted.

June 5.

This day Mr. Back and I went over to Fort Wedderburne to see Mr.
Robertson respecting his quota of men. We learned from him that,
notwithstanding his endeavours to persuade them, his most experienced
voyagers still declined engaging without very exorbitant wages. After
some hesitation however six men engaged with us who were represented to
be active and steady; and I also got Mr. Robertson's permission for St.
Germain, an interpreter belonging to this Company, to accompany us from
Slave Lake if he should choose. The bowmen and steersmen were to receive
one thousand six hundred livres Halifax per annum, and the middle men one
thousand two hundred, exclusive of their necessary equipments; and they
stipulated that their wages should be continued until their arrival in
Montreal or their rejoining the service of their present employers.

I delivered to Mr. Robertson an official request that the stores we had
left at York Factory and the Rock Depot with some other supplies might be
forwarded to Slave Lake by the first brigade of canoes which should come
in. He also took charge of my letters addressed to the Admiralty. Five
men were afterwards engaged from the North-West Company for the same
wages and under the same stipulations as the others, besides an
interpreter for the Copper Indians; but this man required three thousand
livres Halifax currency which we were obliged to give him as his services
were indispensable.

The extreme scarcity of provision at the posts rendered it necessary to
despatch all our men to the Mammawee Lake where they might procure their
own subsistence by fishing. The women and children resident at the fort
were also sent away for the same purpose; and no other families were
permitted to remain at the houses after the departure of the canoes than
those belonging to the men who were required to carry on the daily duty.

The large party of officers and men which had assembled here from the
different posts in the department was again quickly dispersed. The first
brigade of canoes laden with furs was despatched to the depot on May 30th
and the others followed in two or three days afterwards. Mr. Stuart, the
senior partner of the North-West Company, quitted us for the same
destination on June 4th; Mr. Robertson for his depot on the next day; and
on the 9th we parted with our friend Mr. Keith, to whose unremitting
kindness we felt much indebted. I entrusted to his care a box containing
some drawings by Mr. Back, the map of our route from Cumberland House,
and the skin of a black beaver (presented to the Expedition by Mr. Smith)
with my official letters addressed to the Under-Secretary of State. I
wrote by each of these gentlemen to inform Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood of
the scarcity of stores at these posts and to request them to procure all
they possibly could on their route. Mr. Smith was left in charge of this
post during the summer; this gentleman soon evinced his desire to further
our progress by directing a new canoe to be built for our use which was
commenced immediately.

June 21.

This day an opportunity offered of sending letters to the Great Slave
Lake and I profited by it to request Mr. Wentzel would accompany the
Expedition agreeably to the desire of the Copper Indians, communicating
to him that I had received permission for him to do so from the partners
of the North-West Company. Should he be disposed to comply with my
invitation I desired that he would go over to Fort Providence and remain
near the Indians whom he had engaged for our service. I feared lest they
should become impatient at our unexpected delay and, with the usual
fickleness of the Indian character, remove from the establishment before
we could arrive. It had been my intention to go to them myself, could the
articles with which they expected to be presented on my arrival have been
provided at these establishments; but as they could not be procured I was
compelled to defer my visit until our canoes should arrive. Mr. Smith
supposed that my appearance amongst them without the means of satisfying
any of their desires would give them an unfavourable impression
respecting the Expedition which would make them indifferent to exertion
if it did not even cause them to withdraw from their engagements.

The establishments at this place, Forts Chipewyan and Wedderburne, the
chief posts of the Companies in this department, are conveniently
situated for communicating with the Slave and Peace Rivers from whence
the canoes assemble in the spring and autumn; on the first occasion they
bring the collection of furs which has been made at the different
outposts during the winter; and at the latter season they receive a
supply of stores for the equipment of the Indians in their vicinity. Fort
Wedderburne is a small house which was constructed on Coal Island about
five years ago when the Hudson's Bay Company recommenced trading in this
part of the country. Fort Chipewyan has been built many years and is an
establishment of very considerable extent, conspicuously situated on a
rocky point of the northern shore; it has a tower which can be seen at a
considerable distance. This addition was made about eight years ago to
watch the motions of the Indians who intended, as it was then reported,
to destroy the house and all its inhabitants. They had been instigated to
this rash design by the delusive stories of one among them who had
acquired great influence over his companions by his supposed skill in
necromancy. This fellow had prophesied that there would soon be a
complete change in the face of their country, that fertility and plenty
would succeed to the present sterility, and that the present race of
white inhabitants, unless they became subservient to the Indians, would
be removed and their place be filled by other traders who would supply
their wants in every possible manner. The poor deluded wretches,
imagining they would hasten this happy change by destroying their present
traders, of whose submission there was no prospect, threatened to
extirpate them. None of these menaces however were put in execution. They
were probably deterred from the attempt by perceiving that a most
vigilant guard was kept against them.

The portion of this extensive lake which is near the establishments is
called The Lake of the Hills, not improperly as the northern shore and
the islands are high and rocky. The south side however is quite level,
consisting of alluvial land, subject to be flooded, lying betwixt the
different mouths of the Elk River and much intersected by water. The
rocks of the northern shore are composed of syenite over which the soil
is thinly spread; it is however sufficient to support a variety of firs
and poplars and many shrubs, lichens and mosses. The trees were now in
full foliage, the plants generally in flower, and the whole scene quite
enlivening. There can scarcely be a higher gratification than that which
is enjoyed in this country in witnessing the rapid change which takes
place in the course of a few days in the spring; scarcely does the snow
disappear from the ground before the trees are clothed with thick
foliage, the shrubs open their leaves and put forth their variegated
flowers, and the whole prospect becomes animating. The spaces between the
rocky hills, being for the most part swampy, support willows and a few
poplars. These spots are the favourite resort of the mosquitoes, which
incessantly torment the unfortunate persons who have to pass through

Some of the hills attain an elevation of five or six hundred feet at the
distance of a mile from the house; and from their summits a very
picturesque view is commanded of the lake and of the surrounding country.
The land above the Great Point at the confluence of the main stream of
the Elk River is six or seven hundred feet high and stretches in a
southern direction behind Pierre au Calumet. Opposite to that
establishment, on the west side of the river, at some distance in the
interior, the Bark Mountain rises and ranges to the North-West until it
reaches Clear Lake, about thirty miles to the southward of these forts,
and then goes to the south-westward. The Cree Indians generally procure
from this range their provision as well as the bark for making their
canoes. There is another range of hills on the south shore which runs
towards the Peace River.

The residents of these establishments depend for subsistence almost
entirely on the fish which this lake affords; they are usually caught in
sufficient abundance throughout the winter though at the distance of
eighteen miles from the houses; on the thawing of the ice the fish remove
into some smaller lakes and the rivers to the south shore. Though they
are nearer to the forts than in winter it frequently happens that high
winds prevent the canoes from transporting them thither and the residents
are kept in consequence without a supply of food for two or three days
together. The fish caught in the net are the attihhawmegh, trout, carp,
methye, and pike.*

(*Footnote. See above.)

The traders also get supplied by the hunters with buffalo and moose-deer
meat (which animals are found at some distance from the forts) but the
greater part of it is either in a dried state or pounded ready for making
pemmican and is required for the men whom they keep travelling during the
winter to collect the furs from the Indians, and for the crews of the
canoes on their outward passage to the depots in spring. There was a
great want of provision this season, and both the Companies had much
difficulty to provide a bare sufficiency for their different brigades of
canoes. Mr. Smith assured me that after the canoes had been despatched he
had only five hundred pounds of meat remaining for the use of the men who
might travel from the post during the summer and that, five years
preceding, there had been thirty thousand pounds in store under similar
circumstances. He ascribed this amazing difference more to the indolent
habits which the Indians had acquired since the commercial struggle
commenced than to their recent sickness, mentioning in confirmation of
his opinion that they could now, by the produce of little exertion,
obtain whatever they demanded from either establishment.

At the opening of the water in spring the Indians resort to the
establishments to settle their accounts with the traders and to procure
the necessaries they require for the summer. This meeting is generally a
scene of much riot and confusion as the hunters receive such quantities
of spirits as to keep them in a state of intoxication for several days.
This spring however, owing to the great deficiency of spirits, we had the
gratification of seeing them generally sober. They belong to the great
family of the Chipewyan or Northern Indians, dialects of their language
being spoken in the Peace and Mackenzie's Rivers and by the populous
tribes in New Caledonia, as ascertained by Sir Alexander Mackenzie in his
journey to the Pacific. They style themselves generally Dinneh men or
Indians, but each tribe or horde adds some distinctive epithet taken from
the name of the river or lake on which they hunt, or the district from
which they last migrated. Those who come to Fort Chipewyan term
themselves Saweessawdinneh (Indians from the rising sun or Eastern
Indians) their original hunting grounds being between the Athabasca and
Great Slave Lakes and Churchill River. This district, more particularly
termed the Chipewyan lands or barren country, is frequented by numerous
herds of reindeer which furnish easy subsistence and clothing to the
Indians, but the traders endeavour to keep them in the parts to the
westward where the beavers resort. There are about one hundred and sixty
hunters who carry their furs to the Great Slave Lake, forty to Hay River,
and two hundred and forty to Fort Chipewyan. A few Northern Indians also
resort to the posts at the bottom of the Lake of the Hills, on Red Deer
Lake, and to Churchill. The distance however of the latter post from
their hunting grounds and the sufferings to which they are exposed in
going thither from want of food have induced those who were formerly
accustomed to visit it to convey their furs to some nearer station.

These people are so minutely described by Hearne and Mackenzie that
little can be added by a passing stranger whose observations were made
during short interviews and when they were at the forts, where they lay
aside many of their distinguishing characteristics and strive to imitate
the manners of the voyagers and traders.

The Chipewyans are by no means prepossessing in appearance: they have
broad faces, projecting cheek-bones and wide nostrils; but they have
generally good teeth and fine eyes. When at the fort they imitate the
dress of the Canadians except that instead of trousers they prefer the
Indian stockings, which only reach from the thigh to the ankle, and in
place of the waistband they have a piece of cloth round the middle which
hangs down loosely before and behind. Their hunting dress consists of a
leathern shirt and stockings over which a blanket is thrown, the head
being covered with a fur cap or band. Their manner is reserved and their
habits are selfish; they beg with unceasing importunity for everything
they see. I never saw men who either received or bestowed a gift with
such bad grace; they almost snatch the thing from you in the one instance
and throw it at you in the other. It could not be expected that such men
should display in their tents the amiable hospitality which prevails
generally amongst the Indians of this country. A stranger may go away
hungry from their lodges unless he possess sufficient impudence to thrust
uninvited his knife into the kettle and help himself. The owner indeed
never deigns to take any notice of such an act of rudeness except by a
frown, it being beneath the dignity of a hunter to make disturbance about
a piece of meat.

As some relief to the darker shades of their character it should be
stated that instances of theft are extremely rare amongst them. They
profess strong affection for their children and some regard for their
relations who are often numerous, as they trace very far the ties of
consanguinity. A curious instance of the former was mentioned to us and
so well authenticated that I shall venture to give it in the words of Dr.
Richardson's Journal:

A young Chipewyan had separated from the rest of his band for the purpose
of trenching beaver when his wife, who was his sole companion and in her
first pregnancy, was seized with the pains of labour. She died on the
third day after she had given birth to a boy. The husband was
inconsolable and vowed in his anguish never to take another woman to
wife, but his grief was soon in some degree absorbed in anxiety for the
fate of his infant son. To preserve its life he descended to the office
of nurse, so degrading in the eyes of a Chipewyan as partaking of the
duties of a woman. He swaddled it in soft moss, fed it with broth made
from the flesh of the deer and, to still its cries, applied it to his
breast, praying earnestly to the great Master of Life to assist his
endeavours. The force of the powerful passion by which he was actuated
produced the same effect in his case as it has done in some others which
are recorded: a flow of milk actually took place from his breast. He
succeeded in rearing his child, taught him to be a hunter and, when he
attained the age of manhood, chose him a wife from the tribe. The old man
kept his vow in never taking a second wife himself but he delighted in
tending his son's children and, when his daughter-in-law used to
interfere, saying that it was not the occupation of a man, he was wont to
reply that he had promised to the Great Master of Life, if his child were
spared, never to be proud like the other Indians. He used to mention too,
as a certain proof of the approbation of Providence that, although he was
always obliged to carry his child on his back while hunting, yet that it
never roused a moose by its cries, being always particularly still at
those times. Our informant* added that he had often seen this Indian in
his old age and that his left breast even then retained the unusual size
it had acquired in his occupation of nurse.

(*Footnote. Mr. Wentzel.)


We had proof of their sensibility towards their relations in their
declining to pitch their tents where they had been accustomed for many
years, alleging a fear of being reminded of the happy hours they had
formerly spent there in the society of the affectionate relatives whom
the sickness had recently carried off. The change of situation however
had not the effect of relieving them from sorrowful impressions, and they
occasionally indulged in very loud lamentations as they sat in groups
within and without their tents. Unfortunately the spreading of a severe
dysentery amongst them at this time gave occasion for the renewal of
their grief. The medicinal charms of drumming and singing were
plentifully applied and once they had recourse to conjuring over a sick
person. I was informed however that the Northern Indians do not make this
expedient for the cure of a patient so often as the Crees; but when they
do the conjurer is most assiduous and suffers great personal fatigue.
Particular persons only are trained in the mysteries of the art of
conjuring to procure the recovery of the sick or to disclose future

On extraordinary occasions the man remains in his narrow conjuring tents
for days without eating before he can determine the matter to his
satisfaction. When he is consulted about the sick the patient is shut up
with him; but on other occasions he is alone and the poor creature often
works his mind up to a pitch of illusion that can scarcely be imagined by
one who has not witnessed it. His deluded companions seat themselves
round his tent and await his communication with earnest anxiety, yet
during the progress of his manoeuvres they often venture to question him
as to the disposition of the Great Spirit.

These artful fellows usually gain complete ascendancy over the minds of
their companions. They are supported by voluntary contributions of
provision that their minds may not be diverted by the labour of hunting
from the peculiar duties of their profession.

The chiefs among the Chipewyans are now totally without power. The
presents of a flag and a gaudy dress still bestowed upon them by the
traders do not procure for them any respect or obedience except from the
youths of their own families. This is to be attributed mainly to their
living at peace with their neighbours and to the facility which the young
men find in getting their wants supplied independent of the
recommendation of the chiefs which was formerly required. In war
excursions boldness and intrepidity would still command respect and
procure authority; but the influence thus acquired would probably cease
with the occasion that called it forth. The traders however endeavour to
support their authority by continuing towards them the accustomed marks
of respect hoisting the flag and firing a salute of musketry on their
entering the fort.

The chief halts at a distance from the house and despatches one of his
young men to announce his approach and to bring his flag, which is
carried before him when he arrives. The messenger carries back to him
some vermilion to ornament the faces of his party, together with a
looking-glass and comb, some tobacco, and a few rounds of ammunition that
they may return the salute. These men paint round the eyes, the forehead,
and the cheekbones.

The Northern Indians evince no little vanity by assuming to themselves
the comprehensive title of The People, whilst they designate all other
nations by the name of their particular country. If men were seen at a
distance and a Chipewyan was asked who those persons were he would answer
The People if he recognised them to belong to his tribe and never
Chipewyans; but he would give them their respective names if they were
Europeans, Canadians, or Cree Indians.

As they suppose their ancestors to come originally from the east those
who happen to be born in the eastern part of their territory are
considered to be of the purest race. I have been informed that all the
Indians who trade at the different posts in the north-west parts of
America imagine that their forefathers came from the east, except the
Dog-Ribs who reside between the Copper Indian Islands and the Mackenzie's
River and who deduce their origin from the west, which is the more
remarkable as they speak a dialect of the Chipewyan language. I could
gather no information respecting their religious opinions except that
they have a tradition of the deluge.

The Chipewyans are considered to be less expert hunters than the Crees,
which probably arises from their residing much on the barren lands where
the reindeer are so numerous that little skill is requisite. A good
hunter however is highly esteemed among them. The facility of procuring
goods since the commercial opposition commenced has given great
encouragement to their native indolence of disposition, as is manifested
by the difference in the amount of their collections of furs and
provision between the late and former years. From six to eight hundred
packs of furs used formerly to be sent from this department, now the
return seldom exceeds half that amount. The decrease in the provision has
been already mentioned.

The Northern Indians suppose that they originally sprang from a dog; and
about five years ago a superstitious fanatic so strongly impressed upon
their minds the impropriety of employing these animals, to which they
were related, for purposes of labour that they universally resolved
against using them any more and, strange as it may seem, destroyed them.
They now have to drag everything themselves on sledges. This laborious
task falls most heavily on the women; nothing can more shock the feelings
of a person accustomed to civilised life than to witness the state of
their degradation. When a party is on a march the women have to drag the
tent, the meat, and whatever the hunter possesses, whilst he only carries
his gun and medicine case. In the evening they form the encampment, cut
wood, fetch water, and prepare the supper; and then, perhaps, are not
permitted to partake of the fare until the men have finished. A
successful hunter sometimes has two or three wives; whoever happens to be
the favourite assumes authority over the others and has the management of
the tent. These men usually treat their wives unkindly and even with
harshness; except indeed when they are about to increase the family and
then they show them much indulgence.

Hearne charges the Chipewyans with the dreadful practice of abandoning,
in extremity, their aged and sick people. The only instance that came
under our personal notice was attended with some palliating
circumstances: An old woman arrived at Fort Chipewyan during our
residence with her son, a little boy about ten years old, both of whom
had been deserted by their relations and left in an encampment when much
reduced by sickness: two or three days after their departure the woman
gained a little strength and, with the assistance of the boy, was enabled
to paddle a canoe to the fishing station of this post where they were
supported for some days until they were enabled to proceed in search of
some other relations who they expected would treat them with more
kindness. I learned that the woman bore an extremely bad character,
having even been guilty of infanticide and that her companions considered
her offences merited the desertion.

This tribe since its present intimate connection with the traders has
discontinued its war excursions against the Esquimaux, but they still
speak of that nation in terms of the most inveterate hatred. We have only
conversed with four men who have been engaged in any of those
expeditions; all these confirm the statements of Black Meat respecting
the sea-coast. Our observations concerning the half-breed population in
this vicinity coincided so exactly with those which have been given of
similar persons in Dr. Richardson's account of the Crees that any
statement respecting them at this place is unnecessary. Both the
Companies have wisely prohibited their servants from intermarrying with
pure Indian women, which was formerly the cause of many quarrels with the

The weather was extremely variable during the month of June; we scarcely
had two clear days in succession, and the showers of rain were frequent;
the winds were often strong and generally blowing from the north-east
quarter. On the evening of the 16th the Aurora Borealis was visible but
after that date the nights were too light for our discerning it.

The mosquitoes swarmed in great numbers about the house and tormented us
so incessantly by their irritating stings that we were compelled to keep
our rooms constantly filled with smoke which is the only means of driving
them away: the weather indeed was now warm. Having received one of
Dollond's eighteen-inch spirit thermometers from Mr. Stuart, which he had
the kindness to send us from his post at Pierre au Calumet after he had
learned that ours had been rendered useless, I observed the temperature
at noon on the 25th of June to be 63 degrees.

On the following morning we made an excursion accompanied by Mr. Smith
round the fishing stations on the south side of the lake for the purpose
of visiting our men; we passed several groups of women and children
belonging to both the forts, posted wherever they could find a
sufficiently dry spot for an encampment. At length we came to our men,
pitched upon a narrow strip of land situated between two rivers. Though
the portion of dry ground did not exceed fifty yards yet they appeared to
be living very comfortably, having formed huts with the canoe's sail and
covering, and were amply supported by the fish their nets daily
furnished. They sometimes had a change in their fare by procuring a few
ducks and other waterfowl which resort in great abundance to the marshes
by which they were surrounded.

July 2.

The canoe which was ordered to be built for our use was finished. As it
was constructed after the manner described by Hearne and several of the
American travellers a detail of the process will be unnecessary. Its
extreme length was thirty-two feet six inches, including the bow and
stern pieces, its greatest breadth was four feet ten inches, but it was
only two feet nine inches forward where the bowman sat, and two feet four
inches behind where the steersman was placed, and its depth was one foot
eleven and a quarter inches. There were seventy-three hoops of thin cedar
and a layer of slender laths of the same wood within the frame. These
feeble vessels of bark will carry twenty-five pieces of goods, each
weighing ninety pounds exclusive of the necessary provision and baggage
for the crew of five or six men, amounting in the whole to about three
thousand three hundred pounds' weight. This great lading they annually
carry between the depots and the posts in the interior; and it rarely
happens that any accidents occur if they be managed by experienced bowmen
and steersmen, on whose skill the safety of the canoe entirely depends in
the rapids and difficult places. When a total portage is made these two
men carry the canoe, and they often run with it though its weight is
estimated at about three hundred pounds exclusive of the poles and oars
which are occasionally left in where the distance is short.

On the 5th we made an excursion for the purpose of trying our canoe. A
heavy gale came on in the evening which caused a great swell in the lake
and in crossing the waves we had the satisfaction to find that our
birchen vessel proved an excellent sea-boat.

July 7.

This morning some men and their families, who had been sent off to search
for Indians with whom they intended to pass the summer, returned to the
fort in consequence of a serious accident having befallen their canoe in
the Red Deer River; when they were in the act of hauling up a strong
rapid the line broke, the canoe was overturned, and two of the party
narrowly escaped drowning; fortunately the women and children happened to
be on shore or in all probability they would have perished in the
confusion of the scene. Nearly all their stores, their guns and fishing
nets were lost, and they could not procure any other food for the last
four days than some unripe berries.

Some gentlemen arrived in the evening with a party of Chipewyan Indians
from Hay River, a post between the Peace River and the Great Slave Lake.
These men gave distressing accounts of sickness among their relatives and
the Indians in general along the Peace River, and they said many of them
have died. The disease was described as dysentery. On the 10th and 11th
we had very sultry weather and were dreadfully tormented by mosquitoes.
The highest temperature was 73 degrees.


July 13.

This morning Mr. Back and I had the sincere gratification of welcoming
our long-separated friends, Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood, who arrived in
perfect health with two canoes, having made a very expeditious journey
from Cumberland notwithstanding they were detained near three days in
consequence of the melancholy loss of one of their bowmen by the
upsetting of a canoe in a strong rapid but, as the occurrences of this
journey together with the mention of some other circumstances that
happened previous to their departure from Cumberland, which have been
extracted from Mr. Hood's narrative, will appear in the following
chapter, it will be unnecessary to enter further into these points now.

The zeal and talent displayed by Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood in the
discharge of their several duties since my separation from them drew
forth my highest approbation. These gentlemen had brought all the stores
they could procure from the establishments at Cumberland and Isle a la
Crosse; and at the latter place they had received ten bags of pemmican
from the North-West Company, which proved to be mouldy and so totally
unfit for use that it was left at the Methye Portage. They got none from
the Hudson's Bay post. The voyagers belonging to that Company, being
destitute of provision, had eaten what was intended for us. In
consequence of these untoward circumstances the canoes arrived with only
one day's supply of this most essential article. The prospect of having
to commence our journey from hence almost destitute of provision and
scantily supplied with stores was distressing to us and very discouraging
to the men. It was evident however that any unnecessary delay here would
have been very imprudent as Fort Chipewyan did not at the present time
furnish the means of subsistence for so large a party, much less was
there a prospect of our receiving a supply to carry us forward. We
therefore hastened to make the necessary arrangements for our speedy
departure. All the stores were demanded that could possibly be spared
from both the establishments; and we rejoiced to find that, when this
collection was added to the articles that had been brought up by the
canoes, we had a sufficient quantity of clothing for the equipment of the
men who had been engaged here, as well as to furnish a present to the
Indians, besides some few goods for the winter's consumption; but we
could not procure any ammunition which was the most essential article, or
spirits, and but little tobacco.

We then made a final arrangement respecting the voyagers who were to
accompany the party; and fortunately there was no difficulty in doing
this as Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood had taken the very judicious
precaution of bringing up ten men from Cumberland who were engaged to
proceed forward if their services were required. The Canadians whom they
brought were most desirous of being continued, and we felt sincere
pleasure in being able to keep men who were so zealous in the cause and
who had given proofs of their activity on their recent passage to this
place by discharging those men who were less willing to undertake the
journey; of these three were Englishmen, one American, and three
Canadians. When the numbers were completed which we had been recommended
by the traders to take as a protection against the Esquimaux we had
sixteen Canadian voyagers and our worthy and only English attendant John
Hepburn, besides the two interpreters whom we were to receive at the
Great Slave Lake; we were also accompanied by a Chipewyan woman. An
equipment of goods was given to each of the men who had been engaged at
this place similar to what had been furnished to the others at
Cumberland; and when this distribution had been made the remainder were
made up into bales preparatory to our departure on the following day. We
were cheerfully assisted in these and all our occupations by Mr. Smith
who evinced an anxious desire to supply our wants as far as his means

Mr. Hood having brought up the dipping needle from Cumberland House, we
ascertained the dip to be 85 degrees 23 minutes 42 seconds, and the
difference produced by reversing the face of the instrument was 6 degrees
2 minutes 10 seconds. The intensity of the magnetic force was also
observed. Several observations had been procured on both sides of the
moon during our residence at Fort Chipewyan, the result of which gave for
its longitude 111 degrees 18 minutes 20 seconds West, its latitude was
observed to be 58 degrees 42 minutes 38 seconds North, and the variation
of the compass 22 degrees 49 minutes 32 seconds East. Fresh rates were
procured for the chronometers and their errors determined for Greenwich
time by which the survey to the northward was carried on.




March, 1820.

Being desirous of obtaining a drawing of a moose-deer, and also of making
some observation on the height of the Aurora Borealis, I set out on the
23rd to pass a few days at the Basquiau Hill. Two men accompanied me with
dogs and sledges who were going to the hill for meat. We found the
Saskatchewan open and were obliged to follow it several miles to the
eastward. We did not then cross it without wading in water which had
overflowed the ice, and our snowshoes were encumbered with a heavy weight
for the remainder of the day. On the south bank of the Saskatchewan were
some poplars ten or twelve feet in circumference at the root. Beyond the
river we traversed an extensive swamp bounded by woods. In the evening we
crossed the Swan Lake, about six miles in breadth and eight in length,
and halted on its south side for the night, twenty-four miles
South-South-West of Cumberland House.

At four in the morning of the 24th we continued the journey and crossed
some creeks in the woods and another large swamp. These swamps are
covered with water in summer to the depth of several feet which arises
from the melted snow from the higher grounds. The tracks of foxes,
wolves, wolverines and martens were very numerous. The people employed in
carrying meat set traps on their way out and take possession of their
captures at their return, for which they receive a sum from the Company
proportioned to the value of the fur.

In the evening we crossed the Goose Lake which is a little longer than
Swan Lake and afterwards the river Sepanach, a branch of the Saskatchewan
forming an island extending thirty miles above and forty below Cumberland
House. We turned to the westward on the Root River which enters the
Sepanach and halted on its banks, having made in direct distance not more
than twenty miles since the 23rd.

We passed the Shoal Lake on the 25th and then marched twelve miles
through woods and swamps to a hunting tent of the Indians. It was
situated in a grove of large poplars and would have been no unpleasant
residence if we could have avoided the smoke. A heavy gale from the
westward with snow confined us for several days to this tent. On the 30th
two Indians arrived, one of whom, named the Warrior, was well known at
the House. We endeavoured to prevail upon them to set out in quest of
moose which they agreed to do on receiving some rum. Promises were of no
avail; the smallest present gratification is preferred to the certainty
of ample reward at another period; an unfailing indication of strong
animal passions and a weak understanding. On our compliance with their
demand they departed.

The next day I went to the Warrior's tent distant about eleven miles. The
country was materially changed: the pine had disappeared and gentle
slopes with clumps of large poplars formed some pleasing groups: willows
were scattered over the swamps. When I entered the tent the Indians
spread a buffalo robe before the fire and desired me to sit down. Some
were eating, others sleeping, many of them without any covering except
the breechcloth and a blanket over the shoulders, a state in which they
love to indulge themselves till hunger drives them forth to the chase.
Besides the Warrior's family there was that of another hunter named
Long-legs whose bad success in hunting had reduced him to the necessity
of feeding on moose leather for three weeks when he was compassionately
relieved by the Warrior. I was an unwilling witness of the preparation of
my dinner by the Indian women. They cut into pieces a portion of fat
meat, using for that purpose a knife and their teeth. It was boiled in a
kettle and served in a platter made of birch bark from which, being
dirty, they had peeled the surface. However the flavour of good moose
meat will survive any process that it undergoes in their hands except

Having provided myself with some drawing materials I amused the Indians
with a sketch of the interior of the tent and its inhabitants. An old
woman who was relating with great volubility an account of some quarrel
with the traders at Cumberland House broke off from her narration when
she perceived my design, supposing perhaps that I was employing some
charm against her; for the Indians have been taught a supernatural dread
of particular pictures. One of the young men drew with a piece of
charcoal a figure resembling a frog on the side of the tent and, by
significantly pointing at me, excited peals of merriment from his
companions. The caricature was comic, but I soon fixed their attention by
producing my pocket compass and affecting it with a knife. They have
great curiosity which might easily be directed to the attainment of
useful knowledge. As the dirt accumulated about these people was visibly
of a communicative nature I removed at night into the open air where the
thermometer fell to 15 degrees below zero although it was the next day 60
degrees above it.

In the morning the Warrior and his companion arrived; I found that,
instead of hunting, they had passed the whole time in a drunken fit at a
short distance from the tent. In reply to our angry questions the Warrior
held out an empty vessel as if to demand the payment of a debt before he
entered into any new negotiation. Not being inclined to starve his family
we set out for another Indian tent ten miles to the southward, but we
found only the frame or tent poles standing when we reached the spot. The
men, by digging where the fireplace had been, ascertained that the
Indians had quitted it the day before and, as their marches are short
when encumbered with the women and baggage, we sought out their track and
followed it. At an abrupt angle of it which was obscured by trees the men
suddenly disappeared and, hastening forward to discover the cause, I
perceived them both still rolling at the foot of a steep cliff over which
they had been dragged while endeavouring to stop the descent of their
sledges. The dogs were gazing silently with the wreck of their harness
about them and the sledges deeply buried in the snow. The effects of this
accident did not detain us long and we proceeded afterwards with greater


The air was warm at noon and the solitary but sweet notes of the jay, the
earliest spring bird, were in every wood. Late in the evening we descried
the ravens wheeling in circles round a small grove of poplars and,
according to our expectations, found the Indians encamped there.

The men were absent hunting and returned unsuccessful. They had been
several days without provisions and, thinking that I could depend upon
the continuance of their exertions, I gave them a little rum; the next
day their set out and at midnight they swept by us with their dogs in
close pursuit.

In the morning we found that a moose had eaten the bark of a tree near
our fire. The hunters however again failed; and they attributed the
extreme difficulty of approaching the chase to the calmness of the
weather, which enabled it to hear them at a great distance.

They concluded, as usual when labouring under any affliction, that they
were tormented by the evil spirit, and assembled to beat a large
tambourine and sing an address to the Manito or deity, praying for relief
according to the explanation which I received; but their prayer consisted
of only three words constantly repeated. One of the hunters yet remained
abroad and, as the wind rose at noon, we had hopes that he was
successful. In the evening he made his appearance and, announcing that he
had killed a large moose, immediately secured the reward which had been

The tidings were received with apparent indifference by people whose
lives are alternate changes from the extremity of want to abundance. But
as their countenances seldom betray their emotions it cannot be
determined whether their apathy is real or affected. However the women
prepared their sledges and dogs with the design of dismembering and
bringing home the carcass, a proceeding to which, in their necessitous
condition, I could have had neither reasonable nor available objections
without giving them a substitute. By much solicitation I obtained an
audience and offered them our own provisions on condition of their
suspending the work of destruction till the next day. They agreed to the
proposition and we set out with some Indians for the place where the
animal was lying. The night advancing we were separated by a snowstorm
and, not being skilful enough to follow tracks which were so speedily
filled up, I was bewildered for several hours in the woods, when I met
with an Indian who led me back at such a pace that I was always in the
rear, to his infinite diversion. The Indians are vain of their local
knowledge which is certainly very wonderful. Our companions had taken out
the entrails and young of the moose, which they buried in the snow.

The Indians then returned to the tents and one of my men accompanied
them; he was the person charged with the management of the trade at the
hunting tent; and he observed that the opportunity of making a bargain
with the Indians while they were drinking was too advantageous to be

It remained for us to prevent the wolves from mangling the moose; for
which purpose we wrapped ourselves in blankets between its feet and
placed the hatchets within our reach. The night was stormy and
apprehension kept me long awake but, finding my companion in so deep a
sleep that nothing could have roused him except the actual gripe of a
wolf, I thought it advisable to imitate his example as much as was in my
power rather than bear the burden of anxiety alone. At daylight we shook
off the snow which was heaped upon us and endeavoured to kindle a fire,
but the violence of the storm defeated all our attempts. At length two
Indians arrived with whose assistance we succeeded, and they took
possession of it to show their sense of our obligations to them. We were
ashamed of the scene before us; the entrails of the moose and its young,
which had been buried at our feet, bore testimony to the nocturnal revel
of the wolves during the time we had slept. This was a fresh subject of
derision for the Indians whose appetites however would not suffer them to
waste long upon us a time so precious. They soon finished what the wolves
had begun and with as little aid from the art of cookery, eating both the
young moose and the contents of the paunch raw.

I had scarcely secured myself by a lodge of branches from the snow and
placed the moose in a position for my sketch when we were stormed by a
troop of women and children with their sledges and dogs. We obtained
another short respite from the Indians but our blows could not drive, nor
their caresses entice, the hungry dogs from the tempting feast before

I had not finished my sketch before the impatient crowd tore the moose to
pieces and loaded their sledges with meat. On our way to the tent a black
wolf rushed out upon an Indian who happened to pass near its den. It was
shot and the Indians carried away three black whelps to improve the breed
of their dogs. I purchased one of them, intending to send it to England,
but it perished for want of proper nourishment.

The latitude of these tents was 53 degrees 12 minutes 46 seconds North,
and longitude by chronometers 103 degrees 13 minutes 10 seconds West. On
the 5th of April we set out for the hunting tent by our former track and
arrived there in the evening.

As the increasing warmth of the weather had threatened to interrupt
communication by removing the ice orders had been sent from Cumberland
House to the people at the tent to quit it without delay, which we did on
the 7th. Some altitudes of the Aurora Borealis were obtained.

We had a fine view at sunrise of the Basquiau Hill, skirting half the
horizon with its white sides chequered by forests of pine. It is seen
from Pine Island Lake at the distance of fifty miles and cannot therefore
be less than three-fourths of a mile in perpendicular height; probably
the greatest elevation between the Atlantic Ocean and the Rocky

A small stream runs near the hunting tent, strongly impregnated with
salt. There are several salt springs about it which are not frozen during
the winter.

The surface of the snow, thawing in the sun and freezing at night, had
become a strong crust which sometimes gave way in a circle round our
feet, immersing us in the soft snow beneath. The people were afflicted
with snow blindness, a kind of ophthalmia occasioned by the reflection of
the sun's rays in the spring.

The miseries endured during the first journey of this nature are so great
that nothing could induce the sufferer to undertake a second while under
the influence of present pain. He feels his frame crushed by
unaccountable pressure, he drags a galling and stubborn weight at his
feet, and his track is marked with blood. The dazzling scene around him
affords no rest to his eye, no object to divert his attention from his
own agonising sensations. When he arises from sleep half his body seems
dead till quickened into feeling by the irritation of his sores. But
fortunately for him no evil makes an impression so evanescent as pain. It
cannot be wholly banished nor recalled by the force of reality by any act
of the mind, either to affect our determinations or to sympathise with
another. The traveller soon forgets his sufferings and at every future
journey their recurrence is attended with diminished acuteness.

It was not before the 10th or 12th of April that the return of the swans,
geese, and ducks gave certain indications of the advance of spring. The
juice of the maple-tree began to flow and the women repaired to the woods
for the purpose of collecting it. This tree which abounds to the
southward is not I believe found to the northward of the Saskatchewan.
The Indians obtain the sap by making incisions into the tree. They boil
it down and evaporate the water, skimming off the impurities. They are so
fond of sweets that after this simple process they set an extravagant
price upon it.

On the 15th fell the first shower of rain we had seen for six months, and
on the 17th the thermometer rose to 77 degrees in the shade. The whole
face of the country was deluged by the melted snow. All the nameless
heaps of dirt accumulated in the winter now floated over the very
thresholds, and the long-imprisoned scents dilated into vapours so
penetrating that no retreat was any security from them. The flood
descended into the cellar below our house and destroyed a quantity of
powder and tea; a loss irreparable in our situation.

The noise made by the frogs which this inundation produced is almost
incredible. There is strong reason to believe that they outlive the
severity of winter. They have often been found frozen and revived by
warmth, nor is it possible that the multitude which incessantly filled
our ears with its discordant notes could have been matured in two or
three days.

The fishermen at Beaver Lake and the other detached parties were ordered
to return to the post. The expedients to which the poor people were
reduced to cross a country so beset with waters presented many uncouth
spectacles. The inexperienced were glad to compromise with the loss of
property for the safety of their persons and, astride upon ill-balanced
rafts with which they struggled to be uppermost, exhibited a ludicrous
picture of distress. Happy were they who could patch up an old canoe
though obliged to bear it half the way on their shoulders through miry
bogs and interwoven willows. But the veteran trader, wedged in a box of
skin with his wife, children, dogs, and furs, wheeled triumphantly
through the current and deposited his heterogeneous cargo safely on the
shore. The woods reechoed with the return of their exiled tenants. A
hundred tribes, as gaily dressed as any burnished natives of the south,
greeted our eyes in our accustomed walks, and their voices, though
unmusical, were the sweetest that ever saluted our ears.

From the 19th to the 26th the snow once more blighted the resuscitating
verdure, but a single day was sufficient to remove it. On the 28th the
Saskatchewan swept away the ice which had adhered to its banks, and on
the morrow a boat came down from Carlton House with provisions. We
received such accounts of the state of vegetation at that place that Dr.
Richardson determined to visit it in order to collect botanical
specimens, as the period at which the ice was expected to admit of the
continuation of our journey was still distant. Accordingly he embarked on
the 1st of May.

In the course of the month the ice gradually wore away from the south
side of the lake but the great mass of it still hung to the north side
with some snow visible on its surface. By the 21st the elevated grounds
were perfectly dry and teeming with the fragrant offspring of the season.
When the snow melted the earth was covered with the fallen leaves of the
last year, and already it was green with the strawberry plant and the
bursting buds of the gooseberry, raspberry, and rose bushes, soon
variegated by the rose and the blossoms of the choke-cherry. The gifts of
nature are disregarded and undervalued till they are withdrawn and in the
hideous regions of the Arctic Zone she would make a convert of him for
whom the gardens of Europe had no charms or the mild beauties of a
southern climate had bloomed in vain.

Mr. Williams found a delightful occupation in his agricultural pursuits.
The horses were brought to the plough and fields of wheat, barley, and
Indian corn promised to reward his labours. His dairy furnished us with
all the luxuries of an English farm.

On the 25th the ice departed from Pine Island Lake. We were however
informed that Beaver Lake, which was likewise in our route, would not
afford a passage before the 4th of June. According to directions left by
Mr. Franklin applications were made to the chiefs of the Hudson's Bay and
North-West Companies' posts for two canoes with their crews and a supply
of stores for the use of the Expedition. They were not in a condition to
comply with this request till the arrival of their respective returns
from Isle a la Crosse and the Saskatchewan departments. Of the six men
whom we brought from England the most serviceable, John Hepburn, had
accompanied Mr. Franklin, and only one other desired to prosecute the
journey with us. Mr. Franklin had made arrangements with Mr. Williams for
the employment of the remaining five men in bringing to Cumberland House
the ammunition, tobacco, etc., left at York Fort, which stores were if
possible to be sent after us in the summer. On the 30th Dr. Richardson
returned from Carlton House, and on the 31st the boats arrived belonging
to the Hudson's Bay Company's Saskatchewan department. We obtained a
canoe and two more volunteers. On the 1st of June the Saskatchewan,
swelled by the melting of the snow near the Rocky Mountains, rose twelve
feet and the current of the little rivers bounding Pine Island ran back
into the lake, which it filled with mud.

On the 5th the North-West Company's people arrived and Mr. Connolly
furnished us with a canoe and five Canadians. They were engaged to attend
us till Mr. Franklin should think fit to discharge them and bound under
the usual penalties in case of disobedience or other improper conduct.
These poor people entertained such dread of a ship of war that they
stipulated not to be embarked in Lieutenant Parry's vessels if we should
find them on the coast, a condition with which they would gladly have
dispensed had that desirable event taken place. As we required a Canadian
foreman and steersman for the other canoe we were compelled to wait for
the appearance of the Isle a la Crosse canoes under Mr. Clark.

On the 8th Mr. Williams embarked for York Fort. He gave us a circular
letter addressed to the chiefs of the Hudson's Bay Company's posts
directing them to afford us all possible assistance on our route, and he
promised to exert every endeavour to forward the Esquimaux interpreter,
upon whom the success of our journey so much depended. He was accompanied
by eight boats. With him we sent our collections of plants, minerals,
charts, and drawings to be transmitted to England by the Hudson's Bay
ships. After this period our detention, though short, cost us more
vexation than the whole time we had passed at Cumberland House because
every hour of the short summer was invaluable to us. On the 11th Mr.
Clark arrived and completed our crews. He brought letters from Mr.
Franklin dated March 28th at Fort Chipewyan where he was engaged
procuring hunters and interpreters. A heavy storm of wind and rain from
the north-east again delayed us till the morning of the 13th. The account
we had received at York Factory of the numerous stores at Cumberland
House proved to be very erroneous. The most material stores we received
did not amount in addition to our own to more than two barrels of powder,
a keg of spirits, and two pieces of tobacco, with pemmican for sixteen

The crew of Dr. Richardson's canoe consisted of three Englishmen and
three Canadians and the other carried five Canadians; both were deeply
laden and the waves ran high on the lake. No person in our party being
well acquainted with the rivers to the northward, Mr. Connolly gave us a
pilot on condition that we should exchange him when we met with the
Athabasca brigade of canoes. At four A.M. we embarked.

We soon found that birchen-bark canoes were not calculated to brave rough
weather on a large lake, for we were compelled to land on the opposite
border to free them from the water which had already saturated their
cargoes. The wind became more moderate and we were enabled, after
traversing a chain of smaller lakes, to enter the mouth of the Sturgeon
River at sunset, where we encamped.

The lading of the canoes is always if possible carried on shore at night
and the canoes taken out of the water. The following evening we reached
Beaver Lake and landed to repair some damages sustained by the canoes. A
round stone will displace the lading of a canoe without doing any injury
but a slight blow against a sharp corner penetrates the bark. For the
purpose of repairing it, a small quantity of gum or pitch, bark and pine
roots are embarked, and the business is so expeditiously performed that
the speed of the canoe amply compensates for every delay. The Sturgeon
River is justly called by the Canadians La Riviere Maligne from its
numerous and dangerous rapids. Against the strength of a rapid it is
impossible to effect any progress by paddling and the canoes are tracked
or, if the bank will not admit of it, propelled with poles, in the
management of which the Canadians show great dexterity. Their
simultaneous motions were strongly contrasted with the awkward confusion
of the inexperienced Englishmen, defended by the torrent, who sustained
the blame of every accident which occurred.

At sunset we encamped on an island in Beaver Lake and, at four A.M. the
next morning, passed the first portage in the Ridge River. Beaver Lake is
twelve miles in length and six in breadth. The flat limestone country
rises into bold rocks on its banks and at the mouth of the Ridge River
the limestone discontinues. The lake is very deep and has already been
noticed for the number and excellence of its fish. The Ridge River is
rapid and shallow. We had emerged from the muddy channels through an
alluvial soil, and the primitive rocks interrupted our way with frequent
portages through the whole route to Isle a la Crosse Lake. At two P.M. we
passed the mouth of the Hay River, running from the westward, and the
ridge above its confluence takes the name of the Great River, which rises
at the height of land called Frog Portage.

The thermometer was this day 100 degrees in the sun and the heat was
extremely oppressive from our constant exposure to it. We crossed three
portages in the Great River and encamped at the last; here we met the
director of the North-West Company's affairs in the north, Mr. Stuart, on
his way to Fort William in a light canoe. He had left the Athabasca Lake
only thirteen days and brought letters from Mr. Franklin who desired that
we would endeavour to collect stores of every kind at Isle a la Crosse
and added a favourable account of the country to the northward of the
Slave Lake.

On the 16th at three A.M. we continued our course, the river increasing
to the breadth of half a mile with many rapids between the rocky islands.
The banks were luxuriantly clothed with pines, poplars, and birch trees,
of the largest size, but the different shades of green were
undistinguishable at a distance and the glow of autumnal colours was
wanting to render the variety beautiful.

Having crossed two portages at the different extremities of the Island
Lake we ran under sail through two extensive sheets of water called the
Heron and Pelican Lakes, the former of which is fifteen miles in length
and the latter five; but its extent to the southward has not been
explored. An intricate channel with four small portages conducted us to
the Woody Lake. Its borders were indeed walls of pines, hiding the face
of steep and high rocks; and we wandered in search of a landing-place
till ten P.M., when we were forced to take shelter from the impending
storm on a small island where we wedged ourselves between the trees. But
though we secured the canoes we incurred a personal evil of much greater
magnitude in the torments inflicted by the mosquitoes, a plague which had
grown upon us since our departure from Cumberland House and which
infested us during the whole summer; we found no relief from their
attacks by exposing ourselves to the utmost violence of the wind and
rain. Our last resource was to plunge ourselves in the water, and from
this uncomfortable situation we gladly escaped at daylight, and hoisted
our sails.

The Woody Lake is thirteen miles in length and a small grassy channel at
its north-western extremity leads to the Frog Portage, the source of the
waters descending by Beaver Lake to the Saskatchewan. The distance to the
Missinippi or Churchill River is only three hundred and eighty yards and,
as its course crosses the height nearly at rightangles to the direction
of the Great River, it would be superfluous to compute the elevation at
this place. The portage is in latitude 55 degrees 26 minutes 0 seconds
North, and longitude 103 degrees 34 minutes 50 seconds West. Its name
according to Sir Alexander Mackenzie is derived from the Crees having
left suspended a stretched frog's skin in derision of the Northern Indian
mode of dressing the beaver.

The part of the Missinippi in which we embarked we should have mistaken
for a lake had it not been for the rapidity of the current against which
we made our way. At four P.M. we passed a long portage occasioned by a
ledge of rocks three hundred yards in length over which the river falls
seven or eight feet. After crossing another portage we encamped.

On the 18th we had rain, wind, and thunder the whole day but this weather
was much preferable to the heat we had borne hitherto. We passed three
portages and at six P.M. encamped on the north bank. Below the third
portage is the mouth of the Rapid River, flowing from a large lake to the
southward, on which a post was formerly maintained by the North-West
Company. Next morning we found ourselves involved in a confused mass of
islands through the openings of which we could not discern the shore. The
guide's knowledge of the river did not extend beyond the last portage,
and our perplexity continued till we observed some foam floating on the
water and took the direction from which it came. The noise of a heavy
fall at the Mountain Portage reached our ears at the distance of four
miles and we arrived there at eight A.M. The portage was a difficult
ascent over a rocky island between which and the main shore were two
cataracts and a third in sight above them, making another portage. We
surprised a large brown bear which immediately retreated into the woods.
To the northward of the second portage we again found the channels
intricate but, the shores being sometimes visible, we ventured to
proceed. The character of the country was new and more interesting than
before. The mountainous and strong elevations receded from the bank and
the woods crept through their openings to the valleys behind, the
adventurous pine alone ascending their bases and braving storms unfelt

At noon we landed at the Otter Portage where the river ran with great
velocity for half a mile among large stones. Having carried across the
principal part of the cargo the people attempted to track the canoes
along the edge of the rapid. With the first they succeeded but the other,
in which were the foreman and steersman, was overset and swept away by
the current. An account of this misfortune was speedily conveyed to the
upper end of the portage and the men launched the remaining canoe into
the rapid, though wholly unacquainted with the dangers of it. The descent
was quickly accomplished and they perceived the bottom of the lost canoe
above water in a little bay whither it had been whirled by the eddy. One
man had reached the bank but no traces could be found of the foreman
Louis Saint Jean. We saved the canoe out of which two guns and a case of
preserved meats had been thrown into the rapid.* So early a disaster
deeply affected the spirits of the Canadians, and their natural vivacity
gave way to melancholy forebodings while they erected a wooden cross in
the rocks near the spot where their companion perished.

(*Footnote. Mr. Hood himself was the first to leap into the canoe and
incite the men to follow him and shoot the rapid to save the lives of
their companions. Dr. Richardson's Journal.)

The loss of this man's services and the necessity of procuring a guide
determined us to wait for the arrival of the North-West Company's people
from Fort Chipewyan and we encamped accordingly. The canoe was much
shattered but, as the gunwales were not broken, we easily repaired it. In
the evening a North-West canoe arrived with two of the partners. They
gave us an account of Mr. Franklin's proceedings and referred us to the
brigade following them for a guide.

During the 20th it rained heavily and we passed the day in anxious
suspense confined to our tents. A black bear came to the bank on the
opposite side of the river and, on seeing us, glided behind the trees.

Late on the 21st Mr. Robertson of the Hudson's Bay Company arrived and
furnished us with a guide, but desired that he might be exchanged when we
met the northern canoes. We took advantage of the remainder of the day to
cross the next portage which was three-fourths of a mile in length.

On the 22nd we crossed three small portages and encamped at the fourth.
At one of them we passed some of the Hudson's Bay Company's canoes and
our application to them was unsuccessful. We began to suspect that Isle a
la Crosse was the nearest place at which we might hope for assistance.
However on the morning of the 23rd, as we were about to embark, we
encountered the last brigades of canoes belonging to both the Companies
and obtained a guide and foreman from them. Thus completely equipped we
entered the Black Bear Island Lake, the navigation of which requires a
very experienced pilot. Its length is twenty-two miles and its breadth
varies from three to five, yet it is so choked with islands that no
channel is to be found through it exceeding a mile in breadth. At sunset
we landed and encamped on an island, and at six A.M. on the 24th left the
lake and crossed three portages into another which has probably several
communications with the last, as that by which we passed is too narrow to
convey the whole body of the Missinippi. At one of these portages called
the Pin Portage is a rapid about ten yards in length with a descent of
ten or twelve feet and beset with rocks. Light canoes sometimes venture
down this fatal gulf to avoid the portage, unappalled by the warning
crosses which overhang the brink, the mournful records of former

The Hudson's Bay Company's people whom we passed on the 23rd going to the
rock house with their furs were badly provided with food, of which we saw
distressing proofs at every portage behind them. They had stripped the
birch trees of their rind to procure the soft pulpy vessels in contact
with the wood which are sweet but very insufficient to satisfy a craving

The lake to the westward of the Pin Portage is called Sandfly Lake; it is
seven miles long and a wide channel connects it with the Serpent Lake,
the extent of which to the southward we could not discern. There is
nothing remarkable in this chain of lakes except their shapes, being
rocky basins filled by the waters of the Missinippi, insulating the massy
eminences and meandering with almost imperceptible current between them.
From the Serpent to the Sandy Lake it is again confined in a narrow space
by the approach of its winding banks, and on the 26th we were some hours
employed in traversing a series of shallow rapids where it was necessary
to lighten the canoes. Having missed the path through the woods we walked
two miles in the water upon sharp stones, from which some of us were
incessantly slipping into deep holes and floundering in vain for footing
at the bottom, a scene highly diverting notwithstanding our fatigue. We
were detained in Sandy Lake till one P.M. by a strong gale when, the wind
becoming moderate, we crossed five miles to the mouth of the river and at
four P.M. left the main branch of it and entered a little rivulet called
the Grassy River, running through an extensive reedy swamp. It is the
nest of innumerable ducks which rear their young among the long rushes in
security from beasts of prey. At sunset we encamped on the banks of the
main branch.

At three A.M. June 28th we embarked in a thick fog occasioned by a fall
of the temperature of the air ten degrees below that of the water. Having
crossed Knee Lake which is nine miles in length and a portage at its
western extremity we entered Primeau Lake with a strong and favourable
wind, by the aid of which we ran nineteen miles through it and encamped
at the river's mouth. It is shaped like the barb of an arrow with the
point towards the north and its greatest breadth is about four miles.

During the night a torrent of rain washed us from our beds accompanied
with the loudest thunder I ever heard. This weather continued during the
29th and often compelled us to land and turn the canoes up to prevent
them from filling. We passed one portage and the confluence of a river
said to afford by other rivers beyond a height of land a shorter but more
difficult route to the Athabasca Lake than that which is generally

On the 28th we crossed the last portage and at ten A.M. entered the Isle
a la Crosse Lake. Its long succession of woody points, both banks
stretching towards the south till their forms were lost in the haze of
the horizon, was a grateful prospect to us after our bewildered and
interrupted voyage in the Missinippi. The gale wafted us with unusual
speed and as the lake increased in breadth the waves swelled to a
dangerous height. A canoe running before the wind is very liable to burst
asunder when on the top of a wave so that part of the bottom is out of
the water, for there is nothing to support the weight of its heavy cargo
but the bark and the slight gunwales attached to it.

On making known our exigencies to the gentlemen in charge of the Hudson's
Bay and North-West Companies' forts they made up an assortment of stores
amounting to five bales, for four of which we were indebted to Mr. McLeod
of the North-West Company who shared with us the ammunition absolutely
required for the support of his post, receiving in exchange an order for
the same quantity upon the cargo which we expected to follow us from York
Factory. We had heard from Mr. Stuart that Fort Chipewyan was too much
impoverished to supply the wants of the Expedition and we found Isle a la
Crosse in the same condition; which indeed we might have foreseen from
the exhausted state of Cumberland House but could not have provided
against. We never had heard before our departure from York that the posts
in the interior only received annually the stores necessary for the
consumption of a single year. It was fortunate for us that Mr. Franklin
had desired ten bags of pemmican to be sent from the Saskatchewan across
the plains to Isle a la Crosse for our use. This resource was untouched
but we could not embark more than five pieces in our own canoes. However
Mr. McLeod agreed to send a canoe after us to the Methye Portage with the
pemmican, and we calculated that the diminution of our provision would
there enable us to receive it.

The Beaver River enters this lake on the South-East side, and another
river which has not been named on the South-West. Both these rivers are
branches of the Missinippi as it is the only outlet from the lake. The
banks appeared to be rocky and the beach in many places sandy but its
waters are yellow and muddy. It produces a variety of fish among which
its white-fish are esteemed the best in the country. The only birds
visible at this season are common to every part of the Missinippi; gulls,
ducks, pigeons, goatsuckers, and the raven; and geese and swans pay a
momentary visit in passing to the north and returning.

There was little in the forts differing from the establishments that we
had before seen. The ground on which they are erected is sandy and
favourable to cultivation. Curiosity however was satisfied by the first
experiment and utility alone has been unable to extend it. Isle a la
Crosse is frequented by the Crees and the Chipewyans. It is not the dread
of the Indians but of one another that has brought the rival Companies so
close together at every trading post, each party seeking to prevent the
other from engaging the affections of the natives and monopolising the
trade. Whenever a settlement is made by the one the other immediately
follows, without considering the eligibility of the place, for it may
injure its opponent though it cannot benefit itself, and that advantage,
which is the first object of all other commercial bodies, becomes but the
second with the fur traders.

On the evening of the 30th we embarked and entered a wide channel to the
northward of the forts and extending towards the north-west. It gradually
decreased in breadth till it became a river which is the third fork of
the Missinippi and, its current being almost insensible, we entered the
Clear Lake at ten A.M. on the 1st of July. Of this lake, which is very
large, no part is known except the south border, but its extent would
lead us to conclude that its evaporation must be supplied by another
river to the northward, especially as the small channel that communicates
with Buffalo Lake is motionless. The existence of such a river is
asserted by the Indians, and a shorter passage might be found by it
across the height of land to Clear Water River than the portage from the
Methye Lake.

In Buffalo Lake the wind was too strong for us to proceed and we
therefore encamped upon a gravel beach thrown up by the waves. We
embarked at three A.M. July 2nd and at four P.M. entered the mouth of the
Methye River. The lake is thirty-four miles in length and fourteen in
breadth. It is probably very deep for we saw no islands on this wide
expanse except at the borders. On the south-west side were two forts
belonging to the Companies and near them a solitary hill seven or eight
hundred feet high. At eight P.M. we encamped in the Methye River at the
confluence of the river Pembina. A route has been explored by it to the
Red Willow River across the height of land, but the difficulties of it
were so great that the ordinary route is preferred.

On the 3rd we passed through the Methye River and encamped on the borders
of the Methye Lake. The soil from Isle a la Crosse to this place is sandy
with some portion of clay and the trees numerous; but the Methye River is
stony and so shallow that, to lighten the canoes, we made two portages of
five and two miles. The paths were overflowed with cold spring water and
barricaded by fallen trees; we should have been contented to immerse
ourselves wholly had the puddle been sufficiently deep for the mosquitoes
devoured every part that was exposed to them.

On the 4th we crossed the Methye Lake and landed at the portage on the
north-west side in one of the sources of the Missinippi. The lake is
seventeen miles in length with a large island in the middle. We proceeded
to the north side of the portage with two men carrying a tent and some
instruments, leaving the canoes and cargoes to be transported by daily
journeys of two or three miles. The distance is fourteen statute miles
and there are two small lakes about five miles from the north side.
Several species of fish were found in them though they have no known
communication with any other body of water, being situated on the
elevation of the height. The road was a gentle ascent, miry from the late
rainy weather and shaded by pines, poplars, birches, and cypresses, which
terminated our view. On the north side we discovered through an opening
in the trees that we were on a hill eight or nine hundred feet high and
at the edge of a steep descent. We were prepared to expect an extensive
prospect, but the magnificent scene before us was so superior to what the
nature of the country had promised that it banished even our sense of
suffering from the mosquitoes which hovered in clouds about our heads.
Two parallel chains of hills extended towards the setting sun, their
various projecting outlines exhibiting the several gradations of distance
and the opposite bases closing at the horizon. On the nearest eminence
the objects were clearly defined by their dark shadows; the yellow rays
blended their softening hues with brilliant green on the next, and beyond
it all distinction melted into gray and purple. In the long valley
between, the smooth and colourless Clear Water River wound its spiral
course, broken and shattered by encroaching woods. An exuberance of rich
herbage covered the soil and lofty trees climbed the precipice at our
feet, hiding its brink with their summits. Impatient as we were and
blinded with pain we paid a tribute of admiration, which this beautiful
landscape is capable of exciting unaided by the borrowed charms of a calm
atmosphere, glowing with the vivid tints of evening.

We descended to the banks of the Clear Water River and, having encamped,
the two men returned to assist their companions. We had sometimes before
procured a little rest by closing the tent and burning wood or flashing
gunpowder within, the smoke driving the mosquitoes into the crannies of
the ground. But this remedy was now ineffectual though we employed it so
perseveringly as to hazard suffocation: they swarmed under our blankets,
goring us with their envenomed trunks and steeping our clothes in blood.
We rose at daylight in a fever and our misery was unmitigated during our
whole stay.

The mosquitoes of America resemble in shape those of Africa and Europe
but differ essentially in size and other particulars. There are two
distinct species, the largest of which is brown and the smallest black.
Where they are bred cannot easily be determined for they are numerous in
every soil. They make their first appearance in May and the cold destroys
them in September; in July they are most voracious and, fortunately for
the traders, the journeys from the trading posts to the factories are
generally concluded at that period. The food of the mosquito is blood
which it can extract by penetrating the hide of a buffalo; and if it is
not disturbed it gorges itself so as to swell its body into a transparent
globe. The wound does not swell like that of the African mosquito, but it
is infinitely more painful; and when multiplied a hundredfold and
continued for so many successive days it becomes an evil of such
magnitude that cold, famine, and every other concomitant of an
inhospitable climate must yield the pre-eminence to it. It chases the
buffalo to the plains, irritating him to madness; and the reindeer to the
seashore, from which they do not return till the scourge has ceased.

On the 6th the thermometer was 106 degrees in the sun and on the 7th 110
degrees. The mosquitoes sought the shade in the heat of the day. It was
some satisfaction to us to see the havoc made among them by a large and
beautiful species of dragonfly called the mosquito hawk, which wheeled
through their retreats swallowing their prey without a momentary
diminution of speed. But the temporary relief that we had hoped for was
only an exchange of tormentors: our new assailant, the horsefly, or
bulldog, ranged in the hottest glare of the sun and carried off a portion
of flesh at each attack. Another noxious insect, the smallest but not the
least formidable, was the sandfly known in Canada by the name of the
brulot. To such annoyance all travellers must submit, and it would be
unworthy to complain of that grievance in the pursuit of knowledge which
is endured for the sake of profit. This detail of it has only been as an
excuse for the scantiness of our observations on the most interesting
part of the country through which we passed.

The north side of the Methye Portage is in latitude 56 degrees 41 minutes
40 seconds North and longitude 109 degrees 52 minutes 0 seconds West. It
is of course one hundred and twenty-four miles from Isle a la Crosse and
considered as a branch of the Missinippi, five hundred and ninety-two
miles from the Frog Portage. The Clear Water River passing through the
valley, described above, evidently rises not far to the eastward. The
height, computed by the same mode as that of the Echiamamis, by allowing
a foot for each mile of distance and six feet on an average for each fall
and rapid, is two thousand four hundred and sixty-seven feet above the
level of the sea, admitting it to be nine hundred feet above the Clear
Water River. The country in a line between it and the mouth of
Mackenzie's River is a continual descent, although to the eastward of
that line there may be several heights between it and the Arctic Sea. To
the eastward the lands descend to Hudson's Bay, and to the westward also,
till the Athabasca River cuts through it, from whence it ascends to the
Rocky Mountains. Daring was the spirit of enterprise that first led
Commerce with her cumbrous train from the waters of Hudson's Bay to those
of the Arctic Sea, across an obstacle to navigation so stupendous as
this; and persevering has been the industry which drew riches from a
source so remote.


On the 8th two men arrived and informed us that they had brought us our
ten bags of pemmican from Isle a la Crosse, but that they were found to
be rotten. Thus were we unexpectedly deprived of the most essential of
our stores for we knew Fort Chipewyan to be destitute of provisions and
that Mr. Franklin depended upon us for a supply, whereas enough did not
remain for our own use. On the 9th the canoes and cargoes reached the
north side of the portage. Our people had selected two bags of pemmican
less mouldy than the rest which they left on the beach. Its decay was
caused by some defect in the mode of mixing it.

On the 10th we embarked in the Clear Water River and proceeded down the
current. The hills, the banks, and bed of the river were composed of fine
yellow sand with some limestone rocks. The surface soil was alluvial. At
eight A.M. we passed a portage on which the limestone rocks were
singularly scattered through the woods, bearing the appearance of houses
and turrets overgrown with moss. The earth emitted a hollow sound and the
river was divided by rocks into narrow crooked channels, every object
indicating that some convulsion had disturbed the general order of nature
at this place. We had passed a portage above it and after two long
portages below it we encamped. Near the last was a small stream so
strongly impregnated with sulphur as to taint the air to a great distance
around it. We saw two brown bears on the hills in the course of the day.

At daylight on the 11th we embarked. The hills continued on both sides of
the mouth of the river, varying from eight hundred to one thousand feet
in height. They declined to the banks in long green slopes diversified by
woody mounds and copses. The pines were not here in thick impenetrable
masses but perched aloft in single groups on the heights or shrouded by
the livelier hues of the poplar and willow.

We passed the mouth of the Red Willow River on the south bank flowing
through a deep ravine. It is the continuation of the route by the Pembina
before mentioned. At noon we entered the majestic Athabasca or Elk River.
Its junction with the Clear Water River is called the Forks. Its banks
were inaccessible cliffs, apparently of clay and stones about two hundred
feet high, and its windings in the south were encircled by high
mountains. Its breadth exceeded half a mile and was swelled to a mile in
many places by long muddy islands in the middle covered with trees. No
more portages interrupted our course but a swift current hurried us
towards the quarter in which our anticipated discoveries were to
commence. The passing cliffs returned a loud confusion of echoes to the
sprightly canoe song and the dashing paddles and the eagles, watching
with half-closed eyes on the pine-tops, started from their airy rest and
prepared their drowsy pinions for the flight.

About twenty miles from the Forks are some salt pits and plains, said to
be very extensive. The height of the banks was reduced to twenty or
thirty feet and the hills ranged themselves at an increased distance from
the banks in the same variety as those of the Clear Water River. At
sunset we encamped on a small sandy island but the next morning made a
speedy retreat to the canoes, the water having nearly overflown our
encampment. We passed two deserted settlements of the fur traders on
opposite banks at a place called Pierre au Calumet. Beyond it the hills
disappeared and the banks were no longer visible above the trees. The
river carries away yearly large portions of soil which increases its
breadth and diminishes its depth, rendering the water so muddy as to be
scarcely drinkable. Whole forests of timber are drifted down the stream
and choke up the channels between the islands at its mouth. We observed
the traces of herds of buffaloes where they had crossed the river, the
trees being trodden down and strewed as if by a whirlwind.

At four P.M. we left the main branch of the Athabasca, entering a small
river called the Embarras. It is narrow and muddy with pines of an
enormous size on its banks. Some of them are two hundred feet high and
three or four feet in diameter. At nine P.M. we landed and encamped but,
finding ourselves in a nest of mosquitoes, we continued our journey
before daybreak; and at eight A.M. emerged into the Athabasca Lake. A
strong wind agitated this sea of fresh water which however we crossed
without any accident, and landed on the north side of it at Fort
Chipewyan where we had the satisfaction of finding our companions in good
health, and of experiencing that sympathy in our anxiety on the state of
affairs, which was only to be expected from those who were to share our
future fortunes.




July 18, 1820.

Early this morning the stores were distributed to the three canoes. Our
stock of provision unfortunately did not amount to more than sufficient
for one day's consumption exclusive of two barrels of flour, three cases
of preserved meats, some chocolate, arrowroot, and portable soup, which
we had brought from England and intended to reserve for our journey to
the coast the next season. Seventy pounds of moose meat and a little
barley were all that Mr. Smith was enabled to give us. It was gratifying
however to perceive that this scarcity of food did not depress the
spirits of our Canadian companions who cheerfully loaded their canoes and
embarked in high glee after they had received the customary dram. At noon
we bade farewell to our kind friend Mr. Smith. The crews commenced a
lively paddling song on quitting the shore which was continued until we
had lost sight of the houses. We soon reached the western boundary of the
lakem and at two entered the Stony River, one of the discharges of the
Athabasca Lake into the Slave Lake and, having a favouring current,
passed swiftly along. This narrow stream is confined between low swampy
banks which support willows, dwarf birch, and alder. At five we passed
its conflux with the Peace River. The Slave River, formed by the union of
these streams, is about three-quarters of a mile wide. We descended this
magnificent river with much rapidity and, after passing through several
narrow channels, formed by an assemblage of islands, crossed a spot where
the waters had a violent whirling motion which, when the river is low, is
said to subside into a dangerous rapid; on the present occasion no other
inconvenience was felt than the inability of steering the canoes which
were whirled about in every direction by the eddies until the current
carried them beyond their influence. We encamped at seven on the swampy
bank of the river but had scarcely pitched the tents before we were
visited by a terrible thunderstorm; the rain fell in torrents and the
violence of the wind caused the river to overflow its banks so that we
were completely flooded. Swarms of mosquitoes succeeded the storm and
their tormenting stings, superadded to other inconveniences, induced us
to embark and, after taking a hasty supper, to pursue our voyage down the
stream during the night.

At six on the following morning we passed the Reindeer Islands and at ten
reached the entrance of the Dog River where we halted to set the fishing
nets. These were examined in the evening but, to our mortification, we
obtained only four small trout and were compelled to issue part of our
preserved meats for supper. The latitude of the mouth of Dog River was
observed 59 degrees 52 minutes 16 seconds North.


The nets were taken up at daylight but they furnished only a solitary
pike. We lost no time in embarking and crossed the crooked channel of the
Dog Rapid when two of the canoes came in such violent contact with each
other that the sternmost had its bow broken off. We were fortunately near
the shore or the disabled canoe would have sunk. The injury being
repaired in two hours we again embarked and, having descended another
rapid, arrived at the Cassette Portage of four hundred and sixty paces,
over which the cargoes and canoes were carried in about twenty-six
minutes. We next passed through a narrow channel full of rapids, crossed
the Portage d'Embarras of seventy yards, and the portage of the Little
Rock of three hundred yards, at which another accident happened to one of
the canoes by the bowman slipping and letting it fall upon a rock and
breaking it in two. Two hours were occupied in sewing the detached pieces
together and covering the seam with pitch but, this being done, it was as
effective as before. After leaving this place we soon came to the next
portage of two hundred and seventy-three paces; and shortly afterwards to
the Mountain Portage of one hundred and twenty, which is appropriately
named as the path leads over the summit of a high hill. This elevated
situation commands a very grand and picturesque view for some miles along
the river which at this part is about a mile wide.

We next crossed a portage of one hundred and twenty yards; and then the
Pelican Portage of eight hundred paces. Mr. Back took an accurate sketch
of the interesting scenery which the river presents at this place. After
descending six miles farther we came to the last portage on the route to
Slave Lake which we crossed and encamped in its lower end. It is called
The Portage of the Drowned and it received that name from a melancholy
accident which took place many years ago. Two canoes arrived at the upper
end of the portage in one of which there was an experienced guide. This
man, judging from the height of the river, deemed it practicable to shoot
the rapid and determined upon trying it. He accordingly placed himself in
the bow of his canoe, having previously agreed that, if the passage was
found easy, he should, on reaching the bottom of the rapid, fire a musket
as a signal for the other canoe to follow. The rapid proved dangerous and
called forth all the skill of the guide and the utmost exertion of his
crew and they narrowly escaped destruction. Just as they were landing an
unfortunate fellow, seizing the loaded fowling-piece, fired at a duck
which rose at the instant. The guide, anticipating the consequences, ran
with the utmost haste to the other end of the portage but he was too
late: the other canoe had pushed off and he arrived only to witness the
fate of his comrades. They got alarmed in the middle of the rapid, the
canoe was upset, and every man perished.

The various rapids we passed this day are produced by an assemblage of
islands and rocky ledges which obstruct the river and divide it into many
narrow channels. Two of these channels are rendered still more difficult
by accumulations of drift timber, a circumstance which has given a name
to one of the portages. The rocks which compose the bed of the river and
the numerous islands belong to the granite formation. The distance made
today was thirteen miles.

July 21.

We embarked at four A.M. and pursued our course down the river. The rocks
ceased at the last portage and below it the banks are composed of
alluvial soil which is held together by the roots of trees and shrubs
that crown their summits. The river is about a mile wide and the current
is greatly diminished. At eight we landed at the mouth of the Salt River
and pitched our tents, intending to remain there that and the next day
for the purpose of fishing. After breakfast, which made another inroad on
our preserved meats, we proceeded up the river in a light canoe to visit
the salt springs, leaving a party behind to attend the nets. This river
is about one hundred yards wide at its mouth. Its waters did not become
brackish until we had ascended it seven or eight miles but, when we had
passed several rivulets of fresh water which flowed in, the main stream
became very salt, at the same time contracting its width to fifteen or
twenty yards. At a distance of twenty-two miles, including the windings
of the river, the plains commence. Having pitched the tent at this spot
we set out to visit the principal springs and had walked about three
miles when the mosquitoes compelled us to give up our project. We did not
see the termination of the plains toward the east, but on the north and
west they are bounded by an even ridge about six or seven hundred feet in
height. Several salt springs issue from the foot of this ridge and spread
their waters over the plain which consists of tenacious clay. During the
summer much evaporation takes place and large heaps of salt are left
behind crystallised in the form of cubes. Some beds of grayish compact
gypsum were exposed on the sides of the hills.

The next morning after filling some casks with salt for our use during
winter we embarked to return, and had descended the river a few miles
when, turning round a point, we perceived a buffalo plunge into the river
before us. Eager to secure so valuable a prize we instantly opened a fire
upon him from four muskets and in a few minutes he fell, but not before
he had received fourteen balls. The carcass was towed to the bank and the
canoe speedily laden with meat. After this piece of good fortune we
descended the stream merrily, our voyagers chanting their liveliest
songs. On arrival at the mouth of the river we found that our nets had
not produced more than enough to supply a scanty meal to the men whom we
had left behind, but this was now of little importance as the acquisition
of meat we had made would enable us to proceed without more delay to
Slave Lake. The poisson inconnu mentioned by Mackenzie is found here. It
is a species of the Genus Salmo, and is said by the Indians to ascend
from the Arctic Sea but, being unable to pass the cascade of the Slave
River, is not found higher than this place. In the evening a violent
thunderstorm came on with heavy rain, thermometer 70 degrees.

At a very early hour on the following morning we embarked and continued
to paddle against a very strong wind and high waves under the shelter of
the bank of the rivers until two P.M. when, having arrived at a more
exposed part of the stream, the canoes took in so much water that we were
obliged to disembark on a small island. The river here is from one mile
and a quarter to one mile and three-quarters wide. Its banks are of
moderate height, sandy, and well wooded.


July 24.

We made more progress notwithstanding the continuance of the wind. The
course of the river is very winding, making in one place a circuit of
seven or eight miles round a peninsula which is joined to the west bank
by a narrow isthmus. Near the foot of this elbow a long island occupies
the centre of the river which it divides into two channels. The longitude
was obtained near to it 113 degrees 25 minutes 36 seconds and variation
27 degrees 25 minutes 14 seconds North, and the latitude 60 degrees 54
minutes 52 seconds North, about four miles farther down. We passed the
mouth of a broad channel leading to the north-east termed La Grande
Riviere de Jean, one of the two large branches by which the river pours
its waters into the Great Slave Lake; the flooded delta at the mouth of
the river is intersected by several smaller channels through one of
which, called the Channel of the Scaffold, we pursued our voyage on the
following morning and by eight A.M. reached the establishment of the
North-West Company on Moose-Deer Island. We found letters from Mr.
Wentzel, dated Fort Providence, a station on the north side of the lake,
which communicated to us that there was an Indian guide waiting for us at
that post; but that the chief and the hunters who were to accompany the
party had gone to a short distance to hunt, having become impatient at
our delay.

Soon after landing I visited the Hudson's Bay post on the same island and
engaged Pierre St. Germain, an interpreter for the Copper Indians. We
regretted to find the posts of both the Companies extremely bare of
provision but, as the gentlemen in charge had despatched men on the
preceding evening to a band of Indians in search of meat and they
promised to furnish us with whatever should be brought, it was deemed
advisable to wait for their return as the smallest supply was now of
importance to us. Advantage was taken of the delay to repair effectually
the canoe which had been broken in the Dog Rapid. On the next evening the
men arrived with the meat and enabled Mr. McLeod of the North-West
Company to furnish us with four hundred pounds of dried provisions. Mr.
McVicar of the Hudson's Bay Company also supplied one hundred and fifty
pounds. This quantity we considered would be sufficient until we could
join the hunters. We also obtained three fishing-nets, a gun, and a pair
of pistols, which were all the stores these posts could furnish, although
the gentlemen in charge were much disposed to assist us.

Moose-Deer Island is about a mile in diameter and rises towards the
centre about three hundred feet above the lake. Its soil is in general
sandy, in some parts swampy. The varieties of the northern berries grow
abundantly on it. The North-West Company's fort is in latitude 61 degrees
11 minutes 8 seconds North, longitude 113 degrees 51 minutes 37 seconds
West, being two hundred and sixty statute miles distant from Fort
Chipewyan by the river course. The variation of the compass is 25 degrees
40 minutes 47 seconds East. The houses of the two Companies are small and
have a bleak northern aspect. There are vast accumulations of driftwood
on the shores of the lake, brought down by the river, which afford plenty
of fuel. The inhabitants live principally on the fish, which the lake at
certain seasons furnishes in great abundance; of these the white-fish,
trout, and poisson inconnu are considered the best. They also procure
moose, buffalo, and reindeer meat occasionally from their hunters; but
these animals are generally found at the distance of several days' walk
from the forts. The Indians who trade here are Chipewyans. Beavers,
martens, foxes, and muskrats are caught in numbers in the vicinity of
this great body of water. The mosquitoes here were still a serious
annoyance to us but less numerous than before. They were in some degree
replaced by a small sandfly, whose bite is succeeded by a copious flow of
blood and considerable swelling but is attended with incomparably less
irritation than the puncture of the mosquito.

On the 27th of July we embarked at four A.M. and proceeded along the
south shore of the lake through a narrow channel, formed by some islands,
beyond the confluence of the principal branch of the Slave River; and as
far as Stony Island, where we breakfasted. This island is merely a rock
of gneiss that rises forty or fifty feet above the lake and is
precipitous on the north side. As the day was fine and the lake smooth we
ventured upon paddling across to the Reindeer Islands, which were distant
about thirteen miles in a northern direction, instead of pursuing the
usual track by keeping farther along the south shore which inclines to
the eastward from this point. These islands are numerous and consist of
granite, rising from one hundred to two hundred feet above the water.
They are for the most part naked; but towards the centres of the larger
ones there is a little soil and a few groves of pines. At seven in the
evening we landed upon one of them and encamped. On the following morning
we ran before a strong breeze and a heavy swell for some hours, but at
length were obliged to seek shelter on a large island adjoining to Isle a
la Cache of Mackenzie, where the following observations were obtained:
latitude 61 degrees 50 minutes 18 seconds North, longitude 113 degrees 21
minutes 40 seconds West, and variation 31 degrees 2 minutes 06 seconds

The wind and swell having subsided in the afternoon we reembarked and
steered towards the western point of the Big Island of Mackenzie and,
when four miles distant from it, had forty-two fathoms soundings. Passing
between this island and a promontory of the main shore, termed Big Cape,
we entered into a deep bay which receives the waters from several rivers
that come from the northward; and we immediately perceived a decrease in
the temperature of the waters from 59 to 48 degrees. We coasted along the
eastern side of the bay, its western shore being always visible, but the
canoes were exposed to the hazard of being broken by the numerous sunken
rocks which were scattered in our track. We encamped for the night on a
rocky island and by eight A.M. on the following morning arrived at Fort
Providence which is situated twenty-one miles from the entrance of the
bay. The post is exclusively occupied by the North-West Company, the
Hudson's Bay Company having no settlement to the northward of Great Slave
Lake. We found Mr. Wentzel and our interpreter Jean Baptiste Adam here
with one of the Indian guides: but the chief of the tribe and his hunters
were encamped with their families some miles from the fort in a good
situation for fishing. Our arrival was announced to him by a fire on the
top of a hill, and before night a messenger came to communicate his
intention of seeing us next morning. The customary present of tobacco and
some other articles was immediately sent to him.

Mr. Wentzel prepared me for the first conference with the Indians by
mentioning all the information they had already given to him. The duties
allotted to this gentleman were the management of the Indians, the
superintendence of the Canadian voyagers, the obtaining and the general
distribution of the provision, and the issue of the other stores. These
services he was well qualified to perform, having been accustomed to
execute similar duties during a residence of upwards of twenty years in
this country. We also deemed Mr. Wentzel to be a great acquisition to our
party as a check on the interpreters, he being one of the few traders who
speak the Chipewyan language.

As we were informed that external appearances made lasting impressions on
the Indians we prepared for the interview by decorating ourselves in
uniform and suspending a medal round each of our necks. Our tents had
been previously pitched and over one of them a silken union flag was
hoisted. Soon after noon on July 30th several Indian canoes were seen
advancing in a regular line and, on their approach, the chief was
discovered in the headmost which was paddled by two men. On landing at
the fort the chief assumed a very grave aspect and walked up to Mr.
Wentzel with a measured and dignified step, looking neither to the right
nor to the left at the persons who had assembled on the beach to witness
his debarkation, but preserving the same immovability of countenance
until he reached the hall and was introduced to the officers. When he had
smoked his pipe, drank a small portion of spirits and water himself, and
issued a glass to each of his companions, who had seated themselves on
the floor, he commenced his harangue by mentioning the circumstances that
led to his agreeing to accompany the Expedition, an engagement which he
was quite prepared to fulfil. He was rejoiced he said to see such great
chiefs on his lands; his tribe were poor but they loved white men who had
been their benefactors; and he hoped that our visit would be productive
of much good to them. The report which preceded our arrival he said had
caused much grief to him. It was at first rumoured that a great medicine
chief accompanied us who was able to restore the dead to life; at this he
rejoiced; the prospect of again seeing his departed relatives had
enlivened his spirits, but his first communication with Mr. Wentzel had
removed these vain hopes and he felt as if his friends had a second time
been torn from him. He now wished to be informed exactly of the nature of
our Expedition.

In reply to this speech, which I understood had been prepared for many
days, I endeavoured to explain the objects of our mission in a manner
best calculated to ensure his exertions in our service. With this view I
told him that we were sent out by the greatest chief in the world who was
the sovereign also of the trading companies in the country; that he was
the friend of peace and had the interest of every nation at heart. Having
learned that his children in the north were much in want of articles of
merchandise, in consequence of the extreme length and difficulty of the
present route, he had sent us to search for a passage by the sea which,
if found, would enable large vessels to transport great quantities of
goods more easily to their lands. That we had not come for the purpose of
traffic but solely to make discoveries for their benefit as well as that
of every other people. That we had been directed to inquire into the
nature of all the productions of the countries we might pass through and
particularly respecting their inhabitants. That we desired the assistance
of the Indians in guiding us and providing us with food; finally that we
were most positively enjoined by the great chief to recommend that
hostilities should cease throughout this country, and especially between
the Indians and the Esquimaux, whom he considered his children in common
with other natives and, by way of enforcing the latter point more
strongly, I assured him that a forfeiture of all the advantages which
might be anticipated from the Expedition would be a certain consequence
if any quarrel arose between his party and the Esquimaux. I also
communicated to him that, owing to the distance we had travelled, we had
now few more stores than was necessary for the use of our own party, a
part of these, however, should be forthwith presented to him; on his
return he and his party should be remunerated with cloth, ammunition, and
tobacco, and some useful iron materials, besides having their debts to
the North-West Company discharged.

The chief whose name is Akaitcho or Big-foot replied by a renewal of his
assurances that he and his party would attend us to the end of our
journey, and that they would do their utmost to provide us with the means
of subsistence. He admitted that his tribe had made war upon the
Esquimaux but said they were now desirous of peace and unanimous in their
opinion as to the necessity of all who accompanied us abstaining from
every act of enmity against that nation. He added however that the
Esquimaux were very treacherous and therefore recommended that we should
advance towards them with caution.

The communications which the chief and the guides then gave respecting
the route to the Copper-Mine River and its course to the sea coincided in
every material point with the statements which were made by Boileau and
Black Meat at Chipewyan, but they differed in their descriptions of the
coast. The information however, collected from both sources, was very
vague and unsatisfactory. None of his tribe had been more than three
days' march along the sea-coast to the eastward of the river's mouth.

As the water was unusually high this season the Indian guides recommended
our going by a shorter route to the Copper-Mine River than that they had
first proposed to Mr. Wentzel, and they assigned as a reason for the
change that the reindeer would be sooner found upon this track. They then
drew a chart of the proposed route on the floor with charcoal, exhibiting
a chain of twenty-five small lakes extending towards the north, about
one-half of them connected by a river which flows into Slave Lake near
Fort Providence. One of the guides named Keskarrah drew the Copper-Mine
River running through the Upper Lake in a westerly direction towards the
Great Bear Lake and then northerly to the sea. The other guide drew the
river in a straight line to the sea from the above-mentioned place but,
after some dispute, admitted the correctness of the first delineation.
The latter was elder brother to Akaitcho and he said that he had
accompanied Mr. Hearne on his journey and, though very young at the time,
still remembered many of the circumstances and particularly the massacre
committed by the Indians on the Esquimaux.

They pointed out another lake to the southward of the river, about three
days' journey distant from it, on which the chief proposed the next
winter's establishment should be formed as the reindeer would pass there
in the autumn and spring. Its waters contained fish and there was a
sufficiency of wood for building as well as for the winter's consumption.
These were important considerations and determined me in pursuing the
route they now proposed. They could not inform us what time we should
take in reaching the lake until they saw our manner of travelling in the
large canoes, but they supposed we might be about twenty days, in which
case I entertained the hope that, if we could then procure provision, we
should have time to descend the Copper-Mine River for a considerable
distance, if not to the sea itself, and return to the lake before the
winter set in.

It may here be proper to mention that it had been my original plan to
descend the Mackenzie's River and to cross the Great Bear Lake, from the
eastern side of which, Boileau informed me, there is a communication with
the Copper-Mine River by four small lakes and portages; but under our
present circumstances this course could not be followed because it would
remove us too far from the establishments at the Great Slave Lake to
receive the supplies of ammunition and some other stores in the winter
which were absolutely necessary for the prosecution of our journey, or to
get the Esquimaux interpreter whom we expected. If I had not deemed these
circumstances paramount I should have preferred the route by Bear Lake.

Akaitcho and the guides having communicated all the information they
possessed on the different points to which our questions had been
directed I placed my medal round the neck of the chief, and the officers
presented theirs to an elder brother of his and the two guides,
communicating to them that these marks of distinction were given as
tokens of our friendship and as pledges of the sincerity of our
professions. Being conferred in the presence of all the hunters their
acquisition was highly gratifying to them, but they studiously avoided
any great expression of joy because such an exposure would have been
unbecoming the dignity which the senior Indians assume during a
conference. They assured us however of their being duly sensible of these
tokens of our regard and that they should be preserved during their lives
with the utmost care. The chief evinced much penetration and intelligence
during the whole of this conversation, which gave us a favourable opinion
of his intellectual powers. He made many inquiries respecting the
Discovery ships under the command of Captain Parry which had been
mentioned to him, and asked why a passage had not been discovered long
ago, if one existed. It may be stated that we gave a faithful explanation
to all his inquiries, which policy would have prompted us to do if a love
of truth had not; for whenever these northern nations detect a falsehood
in the dealings of the traders they make it an unceasing subject of
reproach, and their confidence is irrecoverably lost.

We presented to the chief, the two guides, and the seven hunters who had
engaged to accompany us some cloth, blankets, tobacco, knives, daggers,
besides other useful iron materials, and a gun to each; also a keg of
very weak spirits and water which they kept until the evening as they had
to try their guns before dark and make the necessary preparations for
commencing the journey on the morrow. They however did not leave us so
soon, as the chief was desirous of being present with his party at the
dance which was given in the evening to our Canadian voyagers. They were
highly entertained by the vivacity and agility displayed by our
companions in their singing and dancing, and especially by their
imitating the gestures of a Canadian who placed himself in the most
ludicrous postures and, whenever this was done, the gravity of the chief
gave way to violent bursts of laughter. In return for the gratification
Akaitcho had enjoyed he desired his young men to exhibit the Dog-Rib
Indian dance; and immediately they ranged themselves in a circle and,
keeping their legs widely separated, began to jump simultaneously
sideways; their bodies were bent, their hands placed on their hips, and
they uttered forcibly the interjection tsa at each jump. Devoid as were
their attitudes of grace and their music of harmony we were much amused
by the novelty of the exhibition.

In the midst of this scene an untoward accident occurred which for a time
interrupted our amusements. The tent, in which Dr. Richardson and I
lodged having caught fire from some embers that had been placed in it to
expel the mosquitoes, was entirely burnt. Hepburn, who was sleeping
within it close to some powder, most providentially awoke in time to
throw it clear of the flame and rescue the baggage before any material
injury had been received. We dreaded the consequences of this disaster
upon the fickle minds of the Indians and wished it not to be communicated
to them. The chief however was soon informed of it by one of his people
and expressed his desire that no future misfortune should be concealed
from him. We found that he was most concerned to hear that the flag had
been burnt, but we removed his anxiety on that point by the assurance
that it could easily be repaired. We were advised by Mr. Wentzel to
recommence the dancing after this event lest the Indians should imagine,
by our putting a stop to it, that we considered the circumstance as an
unfavourable commencement of our undertaking. We were however deeply
impressed with a grateful sense of the Divine Providence in averting the
threatened destruction of our stores, which would have been fatal to
every prospect of proceeding forward this season.

August 1.

This morning the Indians set out, intending to wait for us at the mouth
of the Yellow-Knife River. We remained behind to pack our stores in bales
of eighty pounds each, an operation which could not be done in the
presence of these Indians as they are in the habit of begging for
everything they see. Our stores consisted of two barrels of gunpowder,
one hundred and forty pounds of ball and small shot, four fowling-pieces,
a few old trading guns, eight pistols, twenty-four Indian daggers, some
packages of knives, chisels, nails, and fastenings for a boat; a few
yards of cloth, some blankets, needles, looking-glasses, and beads,
together with nine fishing-nets, having meshes of different sizes. Our
provision was two casks of flour, two hundred dried reindeer tongues,
some dried moose-meat, portable soup, and arrowroot, sufficient in the
whole for ten days' consumption, besides two cases of chocolate, and two
canisters of tea. We engaged another Canadian voyager at this place and
the Expedition then consisted of twenty-eight persons, including the
officers, and the wives of three of our voyagers, who were brought for
the purpose of making shoes and clothes for the men at the winter
establishment; there were also three children belonging to two of these

(*Footnote. The following is the list of the officers and men who
composed the Expedition on its departure from Fort Providence:

John Franklin, Lieutenant of the Royal Navy and Commander.
John Richardson, M.D., Surgeon of the Royal Navy.
Mr. George Back, of the Royal Navy, Admiralty Midshipman.
Mr. Robert Hood, of the Royal Navy, Admiralty Midshipman.
Mr. Frederick Wentzel, Clerk to the North-West Company.
John Hepburn, English seaman.

Canadian voyagers:

Joseph Peltier, Matthew Pelonquin, dit Credit, Solomon Belanger, Joseph
Benoit, Joseph Gagne, Pierre Dumas, Joseph Forcier, Ignace Perrault,
Francois Samandre, Gabriel Beauparlant, Vincenza Fontano, Registe
Vaillant, Jean Baptiste Parent, Jean Baptiste Belanger, Jean Baptiste
Belleau, Emanuel Cournoyee, Michel Teroahaute, an Iroquois,


Pierre St. Germain, Jean Baptiste Adam, Chipewyan Bois Brules.)

Our observations place Fort Providence in latitude 62 degrees 17 minutes
19 seconds North, longitude 114 degrees 9 minutes 28 seconds West; the
variation of the compass is 33 degrees 35 minutes 55 seconds East and the
dip of the needle 86 degrees 38 minutes 02 seconds. It is distant from
Moose-Deer Island sixty-six geographic miles. This is the last
establishment of the traders in this direction, but the North-West
Company have two to the northward of it on the Mackenzie River. It has
been erected for the convenience of the Copper and Dog-Rib Indians who
generally bring such a quantity of reindeer meat that the residents are
enabled, out of their superabundance, to send annually some provision to
the fort at Moose-Deer Island. They also occasionally procure moose and
buffalo meat, but these animals are not numerous on this side of the
lake. Few furs are collected. Les poissons inconnus, trout, pike, carp,
and white-fish are very plentiful, and on these the residents principally
subsist. Their great supply of fish is procured in the latter part of
September and the beginning of October, but there are a few taken daily
in the nets during the winter. The surrounding country consists almost
entirely of coarse-grained granite, frequently enclosing large masses of
reddish felspar. These rocks form hills which attain an elevation of
three hundred or four hundred feet about a mile behind the house; their
surface is generally naked but in the valleys between them grow a few
spruce, aspen, and birch trees, together with a variety of shrubs and
berry-bearing plants.

On the afternoon of the 2nd of August we commenced our journey, having,
in addition to our three canoes, a smaller one to convey the women; we
were all in high spirits, being heartily glad that the time had at length
arrived when our course was to be directed towards the Copper-Mine River
and through a line of country which had not been previously visited by
any European. We proceeded to the northward along the eastern side of a
deep bay of the lake, passing through various channels formed by an
assemblage of rocky islands; and at sunset encamped on a projecting point
of the north main shore eight miles from Fort Providence. To the westward
of this arm, or bay of the lake, there is another deep bay that receives
the waters of a river which communicates with Great Marten Lake where the
North-West Company had once a post established. The eastern shores of the
Great Slave Lake are very imperfectly known: none of the traders have
visited them and the Indians give such loose and unsatisfactory accounts
that no estimation can be formed of its extent in that direction. These
men say there is a communication from its eastern extremity by a chain of
lakes with a shallow river which discharges its waters into the sea. This
stream they call the Thloueetessy, and report it to be navigable for
Indian canoes only. The forms of the south and western shores are better
known from the survey of Sir Alexander Mackenzie and in consequence of
the canoes having to pass and repass along these borders annually between
Moose-Deer Island and Mackenzie's River. Our observations made the
breadth of the lake between Stony Island and the north main shore sixty
miles less than it is laid down in Arrowsmith's map; and there is also a
considerable difference in the longitude of the eastern side of the bay,
which we entered.

This lake, owing to its great depth, is seldom completely frozen over
before the last week in November and the ice, which is generally seven
feet thick, breaks up about the middle of June, three weeks later than
that of the Slave River. The only known outlet to this vast body of water
which receives so many streams on its north and south shores is the
Mackenzie River.

August 3.

We embarked at three A.M. and proceeded to the entrance of the
Yellow-Knife River of the traders, which is called by the natives
Begholodessy or River of the Toothless Fish. We found Akaitcho and the
hunters with their families encamped here. There were also several other
Indians of his tribe who intended to accompany us some distance into the
interior. This party was quickly in motion after our arrival and we were
soon surrounded by a fleet of seventeen Indian canoes. In company with
them we paddled up the river, which is one hundred and fifty yards wide,
and in an hour came to a cascade of five feet where we were compelled to
make a portage of one hundred and fifty-eight yards. We next crossed a
dilatation of the river, about six miles in length, upon which the name
of Lake Prosperous was bestowed. Its shores, though scantily supplied
with wood, are very picturesque.

Akaitcho caused himself to be paddled by his slave, a young man of the
Dog-Rib nation whom he had taken by force from his friends; when he
thought himself however out of reach of our observation he laid aside a
good deal of his state and assisted in the labour; and after a few days'
further acquaintance with us he did not hesitate to paddle in our
presence or even carry his canoe on the portages. Several of the canoes
were managed by women who proved to be noisy companions, for they
quarrelled frequently, and the weakest was generally profuse in her
lamentations, which were not at all diminished when the husband attempted
to settle the difference by a few blows from his paddle.

An observation near the centre of the lake gave 114 degrees 13 minutes 39
seconds West and 33 degrees 8 minutes 06 seconds East variation.

Leaving the lake we ascended a very strong rapid and arrived at a range
of three steep cascades situated in the bend of the river. Here we made a
portage of one thousand three hundred yards over a rocky hill which
received the name of the Bowstring Portage from its shape. We found that
the Indians had greatly the advantage of us in this operation; the men
carried their small canoes, the women and children the clothes and
provisions, and at the end of the portage they were ready to embark,
whilst it was necessary for our people to return four times before they
could transport the weighty cargo with which we were burdened. After
passing through another expansion of the river and over the Steep Portage
of one hundred and fifteen yards we encamped on a small rocky isle, just
large enough to hold our party, and the Indians took possession of an
adjoining rock. We were now thirty miles from Fort Providence.

As soon as the tents were pitched the officers and men were divided into
watches for the night, a precaution intended to be taken throughout the
journey, not merely to prevent our being surprised by strangers but also
to show our companions that we were constantly on our guard. The chief,
who suffered nothing to escape his observation, remarked that he should
sleep without anxiety among the Esquimaux for he perceived no enemy could
surprise us.

After supper we retired to rest but our sleep was soon interrupted by the
Indians joining in loud lamentations over a sick child whom they supposed
to be dying. Dr. Richardson however immediately went to the boy and
administered some medicine which relieved his pain and put a stop to
their mourning. The temperatures this day were at four A.M. 54 degrees,
three P.M. 72 degrees, at seven P.M. 65 degrees.

On the 4th we crossed a small lake and passed in succession over the
Blueberry Cascade and Double Fall Portages where the river falls over
ridges of rocks that completely obstruct the passages for canoes. We came
to three strong rapids beyond these barriers, which were surmounted by
the aid of the poles and lines, and then to a bend of the river in which
the cascades were so frequent that to avoid them we carried the canoes
into a chain of small lakes. We entered them by a portage of nine hundred
and fifty paces, and during the afternoon traversed three other grassy
lakes and encamped on the banks of the river, at the end of the
Yellow-Knife Portage, of three hundred and fifty paces. This day's work
was very laborious to our men. Akaitcho however had directed his party to
assist them in carrying their burdens on the portages, which they did
cheerfully. This morning Mr. Back caught several fish with a fly, a
method of fishing entirely new to the Indians, and they were not more
delighted than astonished at his skill and success. The extremes of
temperature today were 54 and 65 degrees.


On August 5th we continued the ascent of the river, which varied much in
breadth, as did the current in rapidity. It flows between high rocky
banks on which there is sufficient soil to support pines, birch, and
poplars. Five portages were crossed, then the Rocky Lake, and we finished
our labours at the end of the sixth portage. The issue of dried meat for
breakfast this morning had exhausted all our stock, and no other
provision remained but the portable soups and a few pounds of preserved
meat. At the recommendation of Akaitcho the hunters were furnished with
ammunition and desired to go forward as speedily as possible to the part
where the reindeer were expected to be found, and to return to us with
any provision they could procure. He also assured us that in our advance
towards them we should come to some lakes abounding in fish. Many of the
Indians, being likewise in distress for food, decided on separating from
us and going on at a quicker pace than we could travel.

Akaitcho himself was always furnished with a portion at our meals as a
token of regard which the traders have taught the chiefs to expect and
which we willingly paid.

The next morning we crossed a small lake and a portage before we entered
the river; shortly afterwards the canoes and cargoes were carried a mile
along its banks to avoid three very strong rapids, and over another
portage into a narrow lake; we encamped on an island in the middle of it
to set the nets; but they only yielded a few fish and we had a very
scanty supper as it was necessary to deal out our provision sparingly.
The longitude 114 degrees 27 minutes 03 seconds West and variation 33
degrees 00 minutes 04 seconds East were observed.

We had the mortification of finding the nets entirely empty next morning,
an untoward circumstance that discouraged our voyagers very much; and
they complained of being unable to support the fatigue to which they were
daily exposed on their present scanty fare. We had seen with regret that
the portages were more frequent as we advanced to the northward and
feared that their strength would fail if provision were not soon
obtained. We embarked at six, proceeded to the head of the lake, and
crossed a portage of two thousand five hundred paces leading over ridges
of sandhills which nourished pines of a larger size than we had lately
seen. This conducted us to Mossy Lake whence we regained the river after
traversing another portage. The Birch and Poplar Portages next followed,
and beyond these we came to a part where the river takes a great circuit
and its course is interrupted by several heavy falls. The guide therefore
advised us to quit it and proceed through a chain of nine lakes extending
to the north-east which we did and encamped on Icy Portage where the nets
were set. The bottom of the valley through which the track across this
portage led was covered with ice four or five feet thick, the remains of
a large iceberg which is annually formed there by the snow drifting into
the valley and becoming consolidated into ice by the overflowing of some
springs that are warm enough to resist the winter's cold. The latitude is
63 degrees 22 minutes 15 seconds North, longitude 114 degrees 15 minutes
30 seconds West.

We were alarmed in the night by our fire communicating to the dry moss
which, spreading by the force of a strong wind, encircled the encampment
and threatened destruction to our canoes and baggage. The watch
immediately aroused all the men who quickly removed whatever could be
injured to a distant part and afterwards succeeded in extinguishing the

August 8.

During this day we crossed five portages, passing over a very bad road.
The men were quite exhausted with fatigue by five P.M. when we were
obliged to encamp on the borders of the fifth lake, in which the
fishing-nets were set. We began this evening to issue some portable soup
and arrowroot which our companions relished very much; but this food is
too unsubstantial to support their vigour under their daily exhausting
labour, and we could not furnish them with a sufficient quantity even of
this to satisfy their desires. We commenced our labours on the next day
in a very wet uncomfortable state as it had rained through the night
until four A.M. The fifth grassy lake was crossed and four others, with
their intervening portages, and we returned to the river by a portage of
one thousand four hundred and fifteen paces. The width of the stream here
is about one hundred yards, its banks are moderately high and scantily
covered with wood. We afterwards twice carried the cargoes along its
banks to avoid a very stony rapid and then crossed the first Carp Portage
in longitude 114 degrees 2 minutes 01 seconds West, variation of the
compass 32 degrees 30 minutes 40 seconds East, and encamped on the
borders of Lower Carp Lake.

The chief having told us that this was a good lake for fishing we
determined on halting for a day or two to recruit our men, of whom three
were lame and several others had swelled legs. The chief himself went
forward to look after the hunters and promised to make a fire as a signal
if they had killed any reindeer. All the Indians had left us in the
course of yesterday and today to seek these animals except the guide

August 10.

The nets furnishing only four carp we embarked for the purpose of
searching for a better spot and encamped again on the shores of the same
lake. The spirits of the men were much revived by seeing some recent
traces of reindeer at this place, which circumstance caused them to
cherish the hope of soon getting a supply of meat from the hunters. They
were also gratified by finding abundance of blueberries near the
encampment, which made an agreeable and substantial addition to their
otherwise scanty fare. We were teased by sandflies this evening although
the thermometer did not rise above 45 degrees. The country through which
we had travelled for some days consists principally of granite,
intermixed in some spots with mica-slate, often passing into clay-slate.
But the borders of Lower Carp Lake where the gneiss formation prevails
are composed of hills having less altitude, fewer precipices, and more
rounded summits. The valleys are less fertile, containing a gravelly soil
and fewer trees, so that the country has throughout a more barren aspect.

August 11.

Having caught sufficient trout, white-fish, and carp yesterday and this
morning to afford the party two hearty meals, and the men having
recovered from their fatigue, we proceeded on our journey, crossed the
Upper Carp Portage, and embarked on the lake of that name where we had
the gratification of paddling for ten miles. We put up at its termination
to fish by the advice of our guide and the following observations were
then taken: longitude 113 degrees 46 minutes 35 seconds West, variation
of the compass 36 degrees 45 minutes 30 seconds East, dip 87 degrees 11
minutes 48 seconds. At this place we first perceived the north end of our
dipping-needle to pass the perpendicular line when the instrument was
faced to the west.

We had scarcely quitted the encampment next day before an Indian met us
with the agreeable communication that the hunters had made several fires
which were certain indications of their having killed reindeer. This
intelligence inspired our companions with fresh energy and they quickly
traversed the next portage and paddled through the Reindeer Lake; at the
north side of it we found the canoes of our hunters and learned from our
guide that the Indians usually leave their canoes here as the water
communication on their hunting grounds is bad. The Yellow-Knife River had
now dwindled into an insignificant rivulet and we could not trace it
beyond the next lake except as a mere brook. The latitude of its source
64 degrees 1 minute 30 seconds North, longitude 113 degrees 36 minutes 00
seconds West, and its length is one hundred and fifty-six statute miles.
Though this river is of sufficient breadth and depth for navigating in
canoes yet I conceive its course is too much interrupted by cascades and
rapids for its ever being used as a channel for the conveyance of
merchandise. Whilst the crews were employed in making a portage over the
foot of Prospect Hill we ascended to the top of it and, as it is the
highest ground in the neighbourhood, its summit, which is about five
hundred feet above the water, commands an extensive view.

Akaitcho who was here with his family pointed out to us the smoke of the
distant fires which the hunters had made. The prospect is agreeably
diversified by an intermixture of hill and valley and the appearance of
twelve lakes in different directions. On the borders of these lakes a few
thin pine groves occur, but the country in general is destitute of almost
every vegetable except a few berry-bearing shrubs and lichens, and has a
very barren aspect. The hills are composed of gneiss but their
acclivities are covered with a coarse gravelly soil. There are many large
loose stones both on their sides and summits composed of the same
materials as the solid rock.

We crossed another lake in the evening, encamped and set the nets. The
chief made a large fire to announce our situation to the hunters.


August 13.

We caught twenty fish this morning but they were small and furnished but
a scanty breakfast for the party. Whilst this meal was preparing our
Canadian voyagers, who had been for some days past murmuring at their
meagre diet and striving to get the whole of our little provision to
consume at once, broke out into open discontent, and several of them
threatened they would not proceed forward unless more food was given to
them. This conduct was the more unpardonable as they saw we were rapidly
approaching the fires of the hunters and that provision might soon be
expected. I therefore felt the duty incumbent on me to address them in
the strongest manner on the danger of insubordination and to assure them
of my determination to inflict the heaviest punishment on any that should
persist in their refusal to go on, or in any other way attempt to retard
the Expedition. I considered this decisive step necessary, having learned
from the gentlemen most intimately acquainted with the character of the
Canadian voyagers that they invariably try how far they can impose upon
every new master and that they will continue to be disobedient and
intractable if they once gain any ascendancy over him. I must admit
however that the present hardships of our companions were of a kind which
few could support without murmuring, and no one could witness without a
sincere pity for their sufferings.

After this discussion we went forward until sunset. In the course of the
day we crossed seven lakes and as many portages. Just as we had encamped
we were delighted to see four of the hunters arrive with the flesh of two
reindeer. This seasonable supply, though only sufficient for this
evening's and the next day's consumption, instantly revived the spirits
of our companions and they immediately forgot all their cares. As we did
not after this period experience any deficiency of food during this
journey they worked extremely well and never again reflected upon us as
they had done before for rashly bringing them into an inhospitable
country where the means of subsistence could not be procured.

Several blue fish resembling the grayling were caught in a stream which
flows out of Hunter's Lake. It is remarkable for the largeness of the
dorsal fin and the beauty of its colours.

August 14.

Having crossed the Hunter's Portage we entered the Lake of the same name
in latitude 64 degrees 6 minutes 47 seconds North, longitude 113 degrees
25 minutes 00 seconds West; but soon quitted it by desire of the Indian
guide and diverged more to the eastward that we might get into the line
upon which our hunters had gone. This was the only consideration that
could have induced us to remove to a chain of small lakes connected by
long portages. We crossed three of these and then were obliged to encamp
to rest the men. The country is bare of wood except a few dwarf birch
bushes which grow near the borders of the lakes, and here and there a few
stunted pines, and our fuel principally consisted of the roots of decayed
pines which we had some difficulty to collect in sufficient quantity for
cooking. When this material is wanting the reindeer lichen and other
mosses that grow in profusion on the gravelly acclivities of the hills
are used as substitutes. Three more of the hunters arrived with meat this
evening which supply came very opportunely as our nets were unproductive.
At eight P.M. a faint Aurora Borealis appeared to the southward, the
night was cold, the wind strong from North-West.

We were detained some time in the following morning before the
fishing-nets, which had sunk in the night, could be recovered.

After starting we first crossed the Orkney Lake, then a portage which
brought us to Sandy Lake and here we missed one of our barrels of powder
which the steersman of the canoe then recollected had been left the day
before. He and two other men were sent back to search for it in the small
canoe. The rest of the party proceeded to the portage on the north side
of the Grizzly-Bear Lake, where the hunters had made a deposit of meat,
and there encamped to await their return which happened at nine P.M. with
the powder. We perceived from the direction of this lake that
considerable labour would have been spared if we had continued our course
yesterday, instead of striking off at the guide's suggestion, as the
bottom of this lake cannot be far separated from either Hunter's Lake or
the one to the westward of it. The chief and all the Indians went off to
hunt accompanied by Pierre St. Germain the interpreter. They returned at
night bringing some meat and reported that they had put the carcasses of
several reindeer en cache. These were sent for early next morning and, as
the weather was unusually warm, the thermometer at noon being 77 degrees,
we remained stationary all day that the women might prepare the meat for
keeping by stripping the flesh from the bones and drying it in the sun
over a slow fire. The hunters were again successful and by the evening we
had collected the carcasses of seventeen deer. As this was a sufficient
store to serve us until we arrived at Winter Lake the chief proposed that
he and his hunters should proceed to that place and collect some
provision against our arrival. He also requested that we would allow him
to be absent ten days to provide his family with clothing as the skin of
the reindeer is unfit for that purpose after the month of September. We
could not refuse to grant such a reasonable request but caused St.
Germain to accompany him that his absence might not exceed the appointed
time. Previous to his departure the chief warned us to be constantly on
our guard against the grizzly bears which he described as being numerous
in this vicinity and very ferocious; one had been seen this day by an
Indian, to which circumstance the lake owes its appellation. We
afterwards learned that the only bear in this part of the country is the
brown bear and that this by no means possesses the ferocity which the
Indians, with their usual love of exaggeration, ascribe to it. The fierce
grizzly bear which frequents the sources of the Missouri is not found on
the barren grounds.

The shores of this lake and the neighbouring hills are principally
composed of sand and gravel; they are much varied in their outline and
present some picturesque scenery.

The following observations were taken here: latitude 64 degrees 15
minutes 17 seconds North, longitude 113 degrees 2 minutes 39 seconds
West; variation of the compass 36 degrees 50 minutes 47 seconds East; and
dip of the needle 87 degrees 20 minutes 35 seconds.

On August the 17th, having finished drying the meat which had been
retarded by the heavy showers of rain that fell in the morning, we
embarked at one P.M. and crossed two lakes and two portages. The last of
these was two thousand and sixty-six paces long and very rugged so that
the men were much fatigued. On the next day we received the flesh of four
reindeer by the small canoe which had been sent for it and heard that the
hunters had killed several more deer on our route. We saw many of these
animals as we passed along; and our companions, delighted with the
prospect of having food in abundance, now began to accompany their
paddling with singing, which they had discontinued ever since our
provisions became scarce. We passed from one small lake to another over
four portages, then crossed a lake about six miles in diameter and
encamped on its border where, finding pines, we enjoyed the luxury of a
good fire, which we had not done for some days. At ten P.M. the Aurora
Borealis appeared very brilliant in an arch across the zenith from
north-west to south-east which afterwards gave place to a beautiful
corona borealis.

August 19.

After crossing a portage of five hundred and ninety-five paces, a small
lake and another portage of two thousand paces, which occupied the crews
seven hours, we embarked on a small stream running towards the north-west
which carried us to the lake where Akaitcho proposed that we should pass
the winter. The officers ascended several of the loftiest hills in the
course of the day, prompted by a natural anxiety to examine the spot
which was to be their residence for many months. The prospect however was
not then the most agreeable as the borders of the lake seemed to be
scantily furnished with wood and that of a kind too small for the
purposes of building.

We perceived the smoke of a distant fire which the Indians suppose had
been made by some of the Dog-Ribbed tribe who occasionally visit this
part of the country.

Embarking at seven next morning we paddled to the western extremity of
the lake and there found a small river which flows out of it to the
South-West. To avoid a strong rapid at its commencement we made a portage
and then crossed to the north bank of the river where the Indians
recommended that the winter establishment should be erected, and we soon
found that the situation they had chosen possessed all the advantages we
could desire. The trees were numerous and of a far greater size than we
had supposed them to be in a distant view, some of the pines being thirty
or forty feet high and two feet in diameter at the root. We determined on
placing the house on the summit of the bank which commands a beautiful
prospect of the surrounding country. The view in the front is bounded at
the distance of three miles by round-backed hills; to the eastward and
westward lie the Winter and Round-rock Lakes which are connected by the
Winter River whose banks are well clothed with pines and ornamented with
a profusion of mosses, lichens, and shrubs.

In the afternoon we read divine service and offered our thanksgiving to
the Almighty for His goodness in having brought us thus far on our
journey; a duty which we never neglected when stationary on the Sabbath.

The united length of the portages we had crossed since leaving Fort
Providence is twenty-one statute miles and a half and, as our men had to
traverse each portage four times, with a load of one hundred and eighty
pounds, and return three times light, they walked in the whole upwards of
one hundred and fifty miles. The total length of our voyage from
Chipewyan is five hundred and fifty-three miles.*

Stony and Slave Rivers: 260 statute miles.
Slave Lake: 107 statute miles.
Yellow-Knife River: 156.5 statute miles.
Barren country between the source of the Yellow-Knife River and Fort
Enterprise: 29.5 statute miles.
Total: 553 statute miles.)

A fire was made on the south side of the river to inform the chief of our
arrival, which, spreading before a strong wind, caught the whole wood,
and we were completely enveloped in a cloud of smoke for the three
following days.

On the next morning our voyagers were divided into two parties, the one
to cut the wood for the building of a storehouse and the other to fetch
the meat as the hunters procured it. An interpreter was sent with
Keskarrah the guide to search for the Indians who had made the fire seen
on Saturday, from whom we might obtain some supplies of provision. An
Indian was also despatched to Akaitcho with directions for him to come to
this place directly and bring whatever provision he had as we were
desirous of proceeding without delay to the Copper-Mine River. In the
evening our men brought in the carcasses of seven reindeer which two
hunters had shot yesterday and the women commenced drying the meat for
our journey. We also obtained a good supply of fish from our nets today.

A heavy rain on the 23rd prevented the men from working either at the
building or going for meat; but on the next day the weather was fine and
they renewed their labours. The thermometer that day did not rise higher
than 42 degrees and it fell to 31 degrees before midnight. On the morning
of the 25th we were surprised by some early symptoms of the approach of
winter; the small pools were frozen over and a flock of geese passed to
the southward. In the afternoon however a fog came on which afterwards
changed into rain and the ice quickly disappeared. We suffered great
anxiety all the next day respecting John Hepburn who had gone to hunt
before sunrise on the 25th and had been absent ever since. About four
hours after his departure the wind changed and a dense fog obscured every
mark by which his course to the tents could be directed, and we thought
it probable he had been wandering in an opposite direction to our
situation as the two hunters who had been sent to look for him returned
at sunset without having seen him. Akaitcho arrived with his party and we
were greatly disappointed at finding they had stored up only fifteen
reindeer for us. St. Germain informed us that, having heard of the death
of the chief's brother-in-law, they had spent several days in bewailing
his loss instead of hunting. We learned also that the decease of this man
had caused another party of the tribe, who had been sent by Mr. Wentzel
to prepare provision for us on the banks of the Copper-Mine River, to
remove to the shores of the Great Bear Lake, distant from our proposed
route. Mortifying as these circumstances were they produced less painful
sensations than we experienced in the evening by the refusal of Akaitcho
to accompany us in the proposed descent of the Copper-Mine River. When
Mr. Wentzel, by my direction, communicated to him my intention of
proceeding at once on that service he desired a conference with me upon
the subject which, being immediately granted, he began by stating that
the very attempt would be rash and dangerous as the weather was cold, the
leaves were falling, some geese had passed to the southward, and the
winter would shortly set in and that, as he considered the lives of all
who went on such a journey would be forfeited, he neither would go
himself nor permit his hunters to accompany us. He said there was no wood
within eleven days' march, during which time we could not have any fire
as the moss which the Indians use in their summer excursions would be too
wet for burning in consequence of the recent rains; that we should be
forty days in descending the Copper-Mine River, six of which would be
expended in getting to its banks, and that we might be blocked up by the
ice in the next moon; and during the whole journey the party must
experience great sufferings for want of food as the reindeer had already
left the river.

He was now reminded that these statements were very different from the
account he had given both at Fort Providence and on the route hither; and
that up to this moment we had been encouraged by his conversation to
expect that the party might descend the Copper-Mine River accompanied by
the Indians. He replied that at the former place he had been unacquainted
with our slow mode of travelling and that the alteration in his opinion
arose from the advance of winter.

We now informed him that we were provided with instruments by which we
could ascertain the state of the air and water and that we did not
imagine the winter to be so near as he supposed; however we promised to
return on discovering the first change in the season. He was also told
that, all the baggage being left behind, our canoes would now of course
travel infinitely more expeditiously than anything he had hitherto
witnessed. Akaitcho appeared to feel hurt that we should continue to
press the matter further and answered with some warmth: "Well, I have
said everything I can urge to dissuade you from going on this service on
which it seems you wish to sacrifice your own lives as well as the
Indians who might attend you: however if after all I have said you are
determined to go some of my young men shall join the party because it
shall not be said that we permitted you to die alone after having brought
you hither; but from the moment they embark in the canoes I and my
relatives shall lament them as dead."

We could only reply to this forcible appeal by assuring him and the
Indians who were seated around him that we felt the most anxious
solicitude for the safety of every individual and that it was far from
our intention to proceed without considering every argument for and
against the proposed journey.

We next informed him that it would be very desirable to see the river at
any rate, that we might give some positive information about its
situation and size in our next letters to the Great Chief; and that we
were very anxious to get on its banks for the purpose of observing an
eclipse of the sun which we described to him and said would happen in a
few days. He received this communication with more temper than the
preceding, though he immediately assigned as a reason for his declining
to go that "the Indians must now procure a sufficient quantity of
deer-skins for winter clothing for themselves, and dresses for the
Canadians who would need them if they had to travel in the winter."
Finding him so averse to proceed and feeling at the same time how
essential his continuance with us was, not only to our future success but
even to our existence during the winter, I closed the conversation here,
intending to propose to him next morning some modification of the plan
which might meet his approbation. Soon after we were gone however he
informed Mr. Wentzel, with whom he was in the habit of speaking
confidentially, that, as his advice was neglected, his presence was
useless and he should therefore return to Fort Providence with his
hunters after he had collected some winter provision for us. Mr. Wentzel
having reported this to me the night was passed in great anxiety and,
after weighing all the arguments that presented themselves to my mind, I
came reluctantly to the determination of relinquishing the intention of
going any distance down the river this season. I had considered that,
could we ascertain what were the impediments to the navigation of the
Copper-Mine River, what wood grew on its banks, if fit for boat building,
and whether drift timber existed where the country was naked, our
operations next season would be much facilitated; but we had also
cherished the hope of reaching the sea this year for the Indians in their
conversations with us had only spoken of two great rapids as likely to
obstruct us. This was a hope extremely painful to give up for, in the
event of success, we should have ascertained whether the sea was clear of
ice and navigable for canoes, have learned the disposition of the
Esquimaux, and might have obtained other information that would have had
great influence on our future proceedings.

I must confess however that my opinion of the probability of our being
able to attain so great a desideratum this season had been somewhat
altered by the recent changes in the weather although, had the chief been
willing to accompany us with his party, I should have made the attempt,
with the intention however of returning immediately upon the first
decided appearance of winter.

On the morning of August 27th, having communicated my sentiments to the
officers on the subject of the conference last evening, they all agreed
that the descent to the sea this season could not be attempted without
hazarding a complete rupture with the Indians; but they thought that a
party should be sent to ascertain the distance and size of the
Copper-Mine River. These opinions being in conformity with my own I
determined on despatching Messrs. Back and Hood on that service in a
light canoe as soon as possible.

We witnessed this morning an instance of the versatility of our Indian
companions which gave us much uneasiness as it regarded the safety of our
faithful attendant Hepburn. When they heard on their arrival last night
of his having been so long absent they expressed the greatest solicitude
about him, and the whole party immediately volunteered to go in search of
him as soon as daylight permitted. Their resolutions however seem to have
been changed in consequence of the subsequent conversation we had with
the chief, and we found all of them indisposed to proceed on that errand
this morning; and it was only by much entreaty that three of the hunters
and a boy were prevailed upon to go. They fortunately succeeded in their
search and we were infinitely rejoiced to see Hepburn return with them in
the afternoon, though much jaded by the fatigue he had undergone. He had
got bewildered, as we had conjectured, in the foggy weather on the 25th,
and had been wandering about ever since except during half an hour that
he slept yesterday. He had eaten only a partridge and some berries for
his anxiety of mind had deprived him of appetite; and of a deer which he
had shot he took only the tongue, and the skin to protect himself from
the wind and rain. This anxiety we learned from him was occasioned by the
fear that the party which was about to descend the Copper-Mine River
might be detained until he was found, or that it might have departed
without him. He did not entertain any dread of the white bears of whose
numbers and ferocious attacks the Indians had been constantly speaking
since we had entered the barren grounds. Our fears for his safety however
were in a considerable degree excited by the accounts we had received of
these animals. Having made a hearty supper he retired to rest, slept
soundly, and arose next morning in perfect health.

On the 28th of August Akaitcho was informed of our intention to send a
party to the river and of the reasons for doing so, of which he approved
when he found that I had relinquished the idea of going myself, in
compliance with the desire which he and the Indians had expressed; and he
immediately said two of the hunters should go to provide them with food
on the journey and to serve as guides. During this conversation we
gathered from him for the first time that there might still be some of
his tribe near to the river from whom the party could get provision. Our
next object was to despatch the Indians to their hunting-ground to
collect provision for us, and to procure the fat of the deer for our use
during the winter, and for making the pemmican we should require in the
spring. They were therefore furnished with some ammunition, clothing, and
other necessary articles, and directed to take their departure as soon as

Akaitcho came into our tent this evening at supper and made several
pertinent inquiries respecting the eclipse of which we had spoken last
night. He desired to know the effect that would be produced and the cause
of it, which we endeavoured to explain and, having gained this
information, he sent for several of his companions that they might also
have it repeated to them. They were most astonished at our knowing the
time at which this event should happen and remarked that this knowledge
was a striking proof of the superiority of the whites over the Indians.
We took advantage of this occasion to speak to them respecting the
Supreme Being, who ordered all the operations of nature, and to impress
on their minds the necessity of paying strict attention to their moral
duties, in obedience to His will. They readily assented to all these
points and Akaitcho assured us that both himself and his young men would
exert themselves in obtaining provision for us in return for the
interesting communications we had just made to them.

Having received a supply of dried meat from the Indian lodges we were
enabled to equip the party for the Copper-Mine River, and at nine A.M. on
the 29th Mr. Back and Mr. Hood embarked on that service in a light canoe
with St. Germain, eight Canadians, and one Indian. We could not furnish
them with more than eight days' provision which, with their blankets, two
tents, and a few instruments, composed their lading. Mr. Back, who had
charge of the party, was directed to proceed to the river and, if when he
arrived at its banks the weather should continue to be mild and the
temperature of the water was not lower than 40 degrees, he might embark
and descend the stream for a few days to gain some knowledge of its
course, but he was not to go so far as to risk his being able to return
to this place in a fortnight with the canoe. But if the weather should be
severe and the temperature of the water below 40 degrees he was not to
embark but return immediately and endeavour to ascertain the best track
for our goods to be conveyed thither next spring.

We had seen that the water decreases rapidly in temperature at this
season and I feared that if he embarked to descend the river when it was
below 40 degrees the canoe might be frozen in and the crew have to walk
back in very severe weather.

As soon as the canoe had started Akaitcho and the Indians took their
departure also, except two of the hunters who stayed behind to kill deer
in our neighbourhood, and old Keskarrah and his family who remained as
our guests.

The fishing-nets were this day transferred from the river in which they
had been set since our arrival to Winter Lake, whither the fish had
removed, and the fishermen built a log-hut on its borders to reside in
that they might attend more closely to their occupation.

The month of September commenced with very disagreeable weather. The
temperature of the atmosphere ranged between 39 and 31 degrees during the
first three days, and that of the water in the river decreased from 49 to
44 degrees. Several reindeer and a large flight of white geese passed to
the southward. These circumstances led us to fear for the comfort, if not
for the safety, of our absent friends. On the 4th of September we
commenced building our dwelling-house, having cut sufficient wood for the
frame of it.

In the afternoon of September the 6th we removed our tent to the summit
of a hill about three miles distant for the better observing the eclipse,
which was calculated to occur on the next morning. We were prevented
however from witnessing it by a heavy snow-storm, and the only
observation we could then make was to examine whether the temperature of
the atmosphere altered during the eclipse, but we found that both the
mercurial and spirit thermometers remained steadily at 30 degrees for a
quarter of an hour previous to its commencement, during its continuance,
and for half an hour subsequent to its termination; we remarked the wind
increased very much and the snow fell in heavier flakes just after the
estimated time of its commencement. This boisterous weather continued
until three P.M. when the wind abated and the snow changed to rain.


As there was now no immediate occasion for my remaining on the spot, the
eclipse being over and the Indians having removed to their hunting
grounds, Dr. Richardson and I determined on taking a pedestrian excursion
to the Copper-Mine River, leaving Mr. Wentzel in charge of the men and to
superintend the buildings. On the morning of September the 9th we
commenced our journey under the guidance of old Keskarrah, and
accompanied by John Hepburn and Samandre, who carried our blankets,
cooking utensils, hatchets, and a small supply of dried meat. Our guide
led us from the top of one hill to the top of another, making as straight
a course to the northward as the numerous lakes with which the country is
intersected, would permit. At noon we reached a remarkable hill with
precipitous sides, named by the Copper Indians the Dog-Rib Rock, and its
latitude, 64 degrees 34 minutes 52 seconds South, was obtained. The
canoe-track passes to the eastward of this rock but we kept to the
westward as being the more direct course. From the time we quitted the
banks of the Winter River we saw only a few detached clumps of trees; but
after we passed the Dog-Rib Rock even these disappeared and we travelled
through a naked country. In the course of the afternoon Keskarrah killed
a reindeer and loaded himself with its head and skin, and our men also
carried off a few pounds of its flesh for supper; but their loads were
altogether too great to permit them to take much additional weight.
Keskarrah offered to us as a great treat the raw marrow from the hind
legs of the animal, of which all the party ate except myself and thought
it very good. I was also of the same opinion when I subsequently
conquered my then too fastidious taste. We halted for the night on the
borders of a small lake which washed the base of a ridge of sandhills
about three hundred feet high, having walked in direct distance sixteen

There were four ancient pine-trees here which did not exceed six or seven
feet in height but whose branches spread themselves out for several yards
and we gladly cropped a few twigs to make a bed and to protect us from
the frozen ground, still white from a fall of snow which took place in
the afternoon. We were about to cut down one of these trees for firewood
but our guide solicited us to spare them and made us understand by signs
that they had been long serviceable to his nation and that we ought to
content ourselves with a few of the smaller branches. As soon as we
comprehended his request we complied with it and our attendants, having
with some trouble grubbed up a sufficient quantity of roots of the dwarf
birch to make a fire, we were enabled to prepare a comfortable supper of
reindeer's meat which we despatched with the appetites which travelling
in this country never fails to ensure. We then stretched ourselves out on
the pine brush and, covered by a single blanket, enjoyed a night of sound
repose. The small quantity of bed-clothes we carried induced us to sleep
without undressing. Old Keskarrah followed a different plan; he stripped
himself to the skin and, having toasted his body for a short time over
the embers of the fire, he crept under his deer-skin and rags, previously
spread out as smoothly as possible and, coiling himself up in a circular
form, fell asleep instantly. This custom of undressing to the skin even
when lying in the open air is common to all the Indian tribes. The
thermometer at sunset stood at 29 degrees.

Resuming our journey next morning we pursued a northerly course but had
to make a considerable circuit round the western ends of two lakes whose
eastern extremities were hidden from our view. The march was very
uncomfortable as the wind was cold and there was a constant fall of snow
until noon; our guide too persisted in taking us over the summit of every
hill that lay in the route so that we had the full benefit of the breeze.

We forded two streams in the afternoon flowing between small lakes and,
being wet, did not much relish having to halt whilst Keskarrah pursued a
herd of reindeer; but there was no alternative as he set off and followed
them without consulting our wishes. The old man loaded himself with the
skin and some meat of the animal he killed in addition to his former
burden; but after walking two miles, finding his charge too heavy for his
strength, he spread the skin on the rock and deposited the meat under
some stones, intending to pick them up on our return.

We put up at sunset on the borders of a large lake, having come twelve
miles. A few dwarf birches afforded us but a scanty fire yet, being
sheltered from the wind by a sandy bank, we passed the night comfortably
though the temperature was 30 degrees. A number of geese passed over us
to the southward. We set off early next morning and marched at a
tolerably quick pace. The atmosphere was quite foggy and our view was
limited to a short distance. At noon the sun shone forth for a few
minutes and the latitude 64 degrees 57 minutes 7 seconds was observed.
The small streams that we had hitherto crossed run uniformly to the

At the end of sixteen miles and a half we encamped amongst a few dwarf
pines and were much rejoiced at having a good fire as the night was very
stormy and cold. The thermometer fluctuated this day between 31 and 35
degrees. Though the following morning was foggy and rainy we were not
sorry to quit the cold and uncomfortable beds of rock upon which we had
slept and commence our journey at an early hour. After walking about
three miles we passed over a steep sandy ridge and found the course of
the rivulets running towards the north and north-west. Our progress was
slow in the early part of the morning and we were detained for two hours
on the summit of a hill exposed to a very cold wind whilst our guide went
in an unsuccessful pursuit of some reindeer. After walking a few miles
farther the fog cleared away and Keskarrah pointed out the Copper-Mine
River at a distance and we pushed towards it with all the speed we could
put forth. At noon we arrived at an arm of Point Lake, an extensive
expansion of the river, and observed the latitude 65 degrees 9 minutes 06
seconds North. We continued our walk along the south end of this arm for
about a mile farther and then halted to breakfast amidst a cluster of
pines. Here the longitude 112 degrees 57 minutes 25 seconds was observed.
After breakfast we set out and walked along the east side of the arm
towards the main body of the lake, leaving Samandre to prepare an
encampment amongst the pines against our return. We found the main
channel deep, its banks high and rocky, and the valleys on its borders
interspersed with clusters of spruce-trees. The latter circumstance was a
source of much gratification to us. The temperature of its surface water
was 41 degrees, that of the air being 43 degrees. Having gained all the
information we could collect from our guide and from personal observation
we retraced our steps to the encampment, and on the way back Hepburn and
Keskarrah shot several waveys (Anas hyperborea) which afforded us a
seasonable supply, our stock of provision being nearly exhausted. These
birds were feeding in large flocks on the crow-berries which grew
plentifully on the sides of the hills. We reached the encampment after
dark, found a comfortable hut prepared for our reception, made an
excellent supper, and slept soundly though it snowed hard the whole

The hills in this neighbourhood are higher than those about Fort
Enterprise; they stand however in the same detached manner without
forming connected ranges; and the bottom of every valley is occupied
either by a small lake or a stony marsh. On the borders of such of these
lakes as communicate with the Copper-Mine River there are a few groves of
spruce-trees, generally growing on accumulations of sand on the
acclivities of the hills.

We did not quit the encampment on the morning of September 13th until
nine o'clock in consequence of a constant fall of snow; but at that hour
we set out on our return to Fort Enterprise and, taking a route somewhat
different from the one by which we came, kept to the eastward of a chain
of lakes. Soon after noon the weather became extremely disagreeable; a
cold northerly gale came on attended by snow and sleet, and the
temperature fell very soon from 43 to 34 degrees. The waveys, alarmed at
the sudden change, flew over our heads in great numbers to a milder
climate. We walked as quickly as possible to get a place that would
furnish some fuel and shelter; but the fog occasioned us to make frequent
halts from the inability of our guide to trace his way. At length we came
to a spot which afforded us plenty of dwarf birches but they were so much
frozen and the snow fell so thick that upwards of two hours were wasted
in endeavouring to make a fire, during which time our clothes were
freezing upon us. At length our efforts were crowned with success and
after a good supper we laid or rather sat down to sleep, for the nature
of the ground obliged us to pass the night in a demi-erect position with
our backs against a bank of earth. The thermometer was 16 degrees at six

After enjoying a more comfortable night's rest than we had expected we
set off at daybreak, the thermometer then standing at 18 degrees. The
ground was covered with snow, the small lakes were frozen, and the whole
scene had a wintry appearance. We got on but slowly at first owing to an
old sprained ankle which had been very troublesome to me for the last
three days and was this morning excessively painful. In fording a rivulet
however the application of cold water gave me immediate relief and I
walked with ease the remainder of the day. In the afternoon we rejoined
our track outwards and came to the place where Keskarrah had made his
deposit of provision, which proved a very acceptable supply as our stock
was exhausted. We then crossed some sandhills and encamped amidst a few
small pines, having walked thirteen miles.

The comfort of a good fire made us soon insensible to the fatigue we had
experienced through the day in marching over the rugged stones whose
surface was rendered slippery by the frost. The thermometer at seven P.M.
stood at 27 degrees.


We set off at sunrise next morning and our provision being expended
pushed on as fast as we could to Fort Enterprise where we arrived at
eight P.M., almost exhausted by a harassing day's march of twenty-two
miles. A substantial supper of reindeer steaks soon restored our vigour.
We had the happiness of meeting our friends Mr. Back and Mr. Hood who had
returned from their excursion on the day succeeding that on which we set
out; and I received from them the following account of their journey.

They proceeded up the Winter River to the north end of the Little Marten
Lake and then the guide, being unacquainted with the route by water to
the Copper-Mine River, proposed that the canoe should be left. Upon this
they ascended the loftiest hill in the neighbourhood to examine whether
they could discover any large lakes or water communication in the
direction where the guide described the river to be. They only saw a
small rivulet which was too shallow for the canoe and also wide of the
course and, as they perceived the crew would have to carry it over a
rugged hilly track, they judiciously decided on leaving it and proceeding
forward on foot. Having deposited the canoe among a few dwarf birch
bushes they commenced their march, carrying their tents, blankets,
cooking utensils, and a part of the dried meat. St. Germain however had
previously delineated with charcoal a man and a house on a piece of bark
which he placed over the canoe and the few things that were left to point
out to the Dog-Ribs that they belonged to white people.

The party reached the shores of Point Lake through which the Copper-Mine
River runs on the 1st of September. The next day was too stormy for them
to march but on the 3rd they proceeded along its shores to the westward
round a mountainous promontory and, perceiving the course of the lake
extending to the West-North-West, they encamped near some pines and then
enjoyed the luxury of a good fire for the first time since their
departure from us. The temperature of the water in the lake was 35
degrees and of the air 32 degrees, but the latter fell to 20 degrees in
the course of that night. As their principal object was to ascertain
whether any arm of the lake branched nearer to Fort Enterprise than the
part they had fallen upon, to which the transport of our goods could be
more easily made next spring, they returned on its borders to the
eastward, being satisfied by the appearance of the mountains between
south and west that no further examination was necessary in that
direction; and they continued their march until the 6th at noon without
finding any part of the lake inclining nearer the fort. They therefore
encamped to observe the eclipse which was to take place on the following
morning but, a violent snowstorm rendering the observation impossible,
they commenced their return and after a comfortless and laborious march
regained their canoe on the 10th and, embarking in it, arrived the same
evening at the house.

Point Lake varied, as far as they traced, from one to three miles in
width. Its main course was nearly east and west, but several arms
branched off in different directions. I was much pleased with the able
manner in which these officers executed the service they had been
despatched upon, and was gratified to learn from them that their
companions had conducted themselves extremely well and borne the fatigues
of their journey most cheerfully. They scarcely ever had more than
sufficient fuel to boil the kettle and were generally obliged to lie down
in their wet clothes and consequently suffered much from cold.

The distance which the parties travelled in their journey to and from
Point Lake may be estimated at one hundred and ten statute miles which,
being added to the distances given in the preceding pages, amount to one
thousand five hundred and twenty miles that the Expedition travelled in
1820 up to the time of its residence at Fort Enterprise.




September 1820.

During our little expedition to the Copper-Mine River Mr. Wentzel had
made great progress in the erection of our winter-house having nearly
roofed it in. But before proceeding to give an account of a ten months'
residence at this place, henceforth designated Fort Enterprise, I may
premise that I shall omit many of the ordinary occurrences of a North
American winter as they have been already detailed in so able and
interesting a manner by Ellis* and confine myself principally to the
circumstances which had an influence on our progress in the ensuing
summer. The observations on the magnetic needle, the temperature of the
atmosphere, the Aurora Borealis, and other meteorological phenomena,
together with the mineralogical and botanical notices, being less
interesting to the general reader, are omitted in this edition.

(*Footnote. Voyage to Hudson's Bay in the Dobbs and California.)

The men continued to work diligently at the house and by the 30th of
September had nearly completed it for our reception when a heavy fall of
rain washed the greater part of the mud off the roof. This rain was
remarked by the Indians as unusual after what they had deemed so decided
a commencement of winter in the early part of the month. The mean
temperature for the month was 33 3/4 degrees, but the thermometer had
sunk as low as 16 degrees and on one occasion rose to 53 degrees.

Besides the party constantly employed at the house two men were appointed
to fish and others were occasionally sent for meat as the hunters
procured it. This latter employment, although extremely laborious, was
always relished by the Canadians as they never failed to use a
prescriptive right of helping themselves to the fattest and most delicate
parts of the deer. Towards the end of the month the reindeer began to
quit the barren grounds and came into the vicinity of the house on their
way to the woods and, the success of the hunters being consequently
great, the necessity of sending for the meat considerably retarded the
building of the house. In the meantime we resided in our canvas tents
which proved very cold habitations although we maintained a fire in front
of them and also endeavoured to protect ourselves from the piercing winds
by a barricade of pine branches.

On the 6th of October, the house being completed, we struck our tents and
removed into it. It was merely a log building, fifty feet long and
twenty-four wide, divided into a hall, three bedrooms and a kitchen. The
walls and roof were plastered with clay, the floors laid with planks
rudely squared with the hatchet, and the windows closed with parchment of
deer-skin. The clay which, from the coldness of the weather, required to
be tempered before the fire with hot water, froze as it was daubed on and
afterwards cracked in such a manner as to admit the wind from every
quarter yet, compared with the tents, our new habitation appeared
comfortable and, having filled our capacious clay-built chimney with
fagots, we spent a cheerful evening before the invigorating blaze. The
change was peculiarly beneficial to Dr. Richardson who, having in one of
his excursions incautiously laid down on the frozen side of a hill when
heated with walking, had caught a severe inflammatory sore throat which
became daily worse whilst we remained in the tents but began to mend soon
after he was enabled to confine himself to the more equable warmth of the
house. We took up our abode at first on the floor but our working party,
who had shown such skill as house carpenters, soon proved themselves to
be, with the same tools (the hatchet and crooked knife) excellent
cabinetmakers and daily added a table, chair, or bedstead to the comforts
of our establishment. The crooked knife generally made of an old file,
bent and tempered by heat, serves an Indian or Canadian voyager for
plane, chisel, and auger. With it the snowshoe and canoe-timbers are
fashioned, the deals of their sledges reduced to the requisite thinness
and polish, and their wooden bowls and spoons hollowed out. Indeed though
not quite so requisite for existence as the hatchet yet without its aid
there would be little comfort in these wilds.

On the 7th we were gratified by a sight of the sun after it had been
obscured for twelve days. On this and several following days the meridian
sun melted the light covering of snow or hoarfrost on the lichens which
clothe the barren grounds, and rendered them so tender as to attract
great herds of reindeer to our neighbourhood. On the morning of the 10th
I estimated the numbers I saw during a short walk at upwards of two
thousand. They form into herds of different sizes from ten to a hundred
according as their fears or accident induce them to unite or separate.

The females being at this time more lean and active usually lead the van.
The haunches of the males are now covered to the depth of two inches or
more with fat which is beginning to get red and high flavoured and is
considered a sure indication of the commencement of the rutting season.
Their horns, which in the middle of August were yet tender, have now
attained their proper size and are beginning to lose their hairy covering
which hangs from them in ragged filaments. The horns of the reindeer vary
not only with its sex and age but are otherwise so uncertain in their
growth that they are never alike in any two individuals. The old males
shed theirs about the end of December; the females retain them until the
disappearance of the snow enables them to frequent the barren grounds
which may be stated to be about the middle or end of May, soon after
which period they proceed towards the sea-coast and drop their young. The
young males lose their horns about the same time with the females or a
little earlier, some of them as early as April. The hair of the reindeer
falls in July and is succeeded by a short thick coat of mingled clove,
deep reddish and yellowish browns; the belly and under parts of the neck,
etc., remaining white. As the winter approaches the hair becomes longer
and lighter in its colours and it begins to loosen in May, being then
much worn on the sides from the animal rubbing itself against trees and
stones. It becomes grayish and almost white before it is completely shed.
The Indians form their robes of the skins procured in autumn when the
hair is short. Towards the spring the larvae of the oestrus, attaining a
large size, produce so many perforations in the skins that they are good
for nothing. The cicatrices only of these holes are to be seen in August
but a fresh set of ova have in the meantime been deposited.*

(*Footnote. "It is worthy of remark that in the month of May a very great
number of large larvae exist under the mucous membrane at the root of the
tongue and posterior part of the nares and pharynx. The Indians consider
them to belong to the same species with the oestrus that deposits its ova
under the skin: to us the larvae of the former appeared more flattened
than those of the latter. Specimens of both kinds preserved in spirits
were destroyed by the frequent falls they received on the portages." Dr.
Richardson's Journal.)

The reindeer retire from the sea-coast in July and August, rut in October
on the verge of the barren grounds and shelter themselves in the woods
during the winter. They are often induced by a few fine days in winter to
pay a transitory visit to their favourite pastures in the barren country,
but their principal movement to the northward commences generally in the
end of April when the snow first begins to melt on the sides of the hills
and early in May, when large patches of the ground are visible, they are
on the banks of the Copper-Mine River. The females take the lead in this
spring migration and bring forth their young on the sea-coast about the
end of May or beginning of June. There are certain spots or passes
well-known to the Indians, through which the deer invariably pass in
their migrations to and from the coast and it has been observed that they
always travel against the wind. The principal food of the reindeer in the
barren grounds consists of the Cetraria nivalis and cucullata, Cenomyce
rangiferina, Cornicularia ochrileuca, and other lichens, and they also
eat the hay or dry grass which is found in the swamps in autumn. In the
woods they feed on the different lichens which hang from the trees. They
are accustomed to gnaw their fallen antlers and are said also to devour

The weight of a full-grown barren-ground deer, exclusive of the offal,
varies from ninety to one hundred and thirty pounds. There is however a
much larger kind found in the woody parts of the country whose carcass
weighs from two hundred to two hundred and forty pounds. This kind never
leaves the woods but its skin is as much perforated by the gadfly as that
of the others, a presumptive proof that the smaller species are not
driven to the sea-coast solely by the attacks of that insect. There are a
few reindeer occasionally killed in the spring whose skins are entire and
these are always fat whereas the others are lean at that season. This
insect likewise infests the red-deer (wawaskeesh) but its ova are not
found in the skin of the moose or buffalo, nor, as we have been informed,
of the sheep and goat that inhabit the Rocky Mountains, although the
reindeer found in those parts (which are of an unusually large kind) are
as much tormented by them as the barren-ground variety.

The herds of reindeer are attended in their migrations by bands of wolves
which destroy a great many of them. The Copper Indians kill the reindeer
in the summer with the gun or, taking advantage of a favourable
disposition of the ground, they enclose a herd upon a neck of land and
drive them into a lake where they fall an easy prey but, in the rutting
season and in the spring, when they are numerous on the skirts of the
woods, they catch them in snares. The snares are simple nooses, formed in
a rope made of twisted sinew, which are placed in the aperture of a
slight hedge constructed of the branches of trees. This hedge is so
disposed as to form several winding compartments and, although it is by
no means strong, yet the deer seldom attempt to break through it. The
herd is led into the labyrinth by two converging rows of poles and one is
generally caught at each of the openings by the noose placed there. The
hunter too, lying in ambush, stabs some of them with his bayonet as they
pass by and the whole herd frequently becomes his prey. Where wood is
scarce a piece of turf turned up answers the purpose of a pole to conduct
them towards the snares.

The reindeer has a quick eye but the hunter, by keeping to leeward and
using a little caution, may approach very near, their apprehensions being
much more easily roused by the smell than the sight of any unusual
object. Indeed their curiosity often causes them to come close up and
wheel around the hunter; thus affording him a good opportunity of
singling out the fattest of the herd, and upon these occasions they often
become so confused by the shouts and gestures of their enemy that they
run backwards and forwards with great rapidity but without the power of
making their escape.

The Copper Indians find by experience that a white dress attracts them
most readily and they often succeed in bringing them within shot by
kneeling and vibrating the gun from side to side in imitation of the
motion of a deer's horns when he is in the act of rubbing his head
against a stone.

The Dog-Rib Indians have a mode of killing these animals which though
simple is very successful. It was thus described by Mr. Wentzel who
resided long amongst that people. The hunters go in pairs, the foremost
man carrying in one hand the horns and part of the skin of the head of a
deer and in the other a small bundle of twigs against which he from time
to time rubs the horns, imitating the gestures peculiar to the animal.
His comrade follows, treading exactly in his footsteps and holding the
guns of both in a horizontal position so that the muzzles project under
the arms of him who carries the head. Both hunters have a fillet of white
skin round their foreheads and the foremost has a strip of the same kind
round his wrists. They approach the herd by degrees, raising their legs
very slowly but setting them down somewhat suddenly after the manner of a
deer, and always taking care to lift their right or left feet
simultaneously. If any of the herd leave off feeding to gaze upon this
extraordinary phenomenon it instantly stops and the head begins to play
its part by licking its shoulders and performing other necessary
movements. In this way the hunters attain the very centre of the herd
without exciting suspicion and have leisure to single out the fattest.
The hindmost man then pushes forward his comrade's gun, the head is
dropped, and they both fire nearly at the same instant. The herd scampers
off, the hunters trot after them; in a short time the poor animals halt
to ascertain the cause of their terror, their foes stop at the same
instant and, having loaded as they ran, greet the gazers with a second
fatal discharge. The consternation of the deer increases, they run to and
fro in the utmost confusion, and sometimes a great part of the herd is
destroyed within the space of a few hundred yards.

A party who had been sent to Akaitcho returned bringing three hundred and
seventy pounds of dried meat and two hundred and twenty pounds of suet,
together with the unpleasant information that a still larger quantity of
the latter article had been found and carried off, as he supposed, by
some Dog-Ribs who had passed that way.

The weather becoming daily colder all the lakes in the neighbourhood of
the house were completely, and the river partially, frozen over by the
middle of the month. The reindeer now began to quit us for more southerly
and better-sheltered pastures. Indeed their longer residence in our
neighbourhood would have been of little service to us, for our ammunition
was almost completely expended though we had dealt it of late with a very
sparing hand to the Indians. We had however already secured in the
storehouse the carcasses of one hundred deer together with one thousand
pounds of suet and some dried meat, and had moreover eighty deer stowed
up at various distances from the house. The necessity of employing the
men to build a house for themselves before the weather became too severe
obliged us to put the latter en cache, as the voyagers term it, instead
of adopting the more safe plan of bringing them to the house. Putting a
deer en cache means merely protecting it against the wolves and still
more destructive wolverines by heavy loads of wood or stones; the latter
animal however sometimes digs underneath the pile and renders the
precautions abortive.

On the 18th Mr. Back and Mr. Wentzel set out for Fort Providence
accompanied by Beauparlant, Belanger, and two Indians, Akaiyazza and
Tholezzeh, with their wives, the Little Forehead and the Smiling Marten.
Mr. Back had volunteered to go and make the necessary arrangements for
transporting the stores we expected from Cumberland House and to
endeavour to obtain some additional supplies from the establishments at
Slave Lake. If any accident should have prevented the arrival of our
stores and the establishments at Moose-Deer Island should be unable to
supply the deficiency he was, if he found himself equal to the task, to
proceed to Chipewyan. Ammunition was essential to our existence and a
considerable supply of tobacco was also requisite, not only for the
comfort of the Canadians, who use it largely and had stipulated for it in
their engagements, but also as a means of preserving the friendship of
the Indians. Blankets, cloth, and iron-work were scarcely less
indispensable to equip our men for the advance next season.

Mr. Wentzel accompanied Mr. Back to assist him in obtaining from the
traders, on the score of old friendship, that which they might be
inclined to deny to our necessities. I forwarded by them letters to the
Colonial Office and Admiralty detailing the proceedings of the Expedition
up to this period.

On the 22nd we were surprised by a visit from a dog; the poor animal was
in low condition and much fatigued. Our Indians discovered by marks on
his ears that he belonged to the Dog-Ribs. This tribe, unlike the
Chipewyans and Copper Indians, had preserved that useful associate of man
although, from their frequent intercourse with the latter people, they
were not ignorant of the prediction alluded to in a former page. One of
our interpreters was immediately despatched with an Indian to endeavour
to trace out the Dog-Ribs, whom he supposed might be concealed in the
neighbourhood from their dread of the Copper Indians; although we had no
doubt of their coming to us were they aware of our being here. The
interpreter however returned without having discovered any traces of
strange Indians, a circumstance which led us to conclude that the dog had
strayed from his masters a considerable time before.

Towards the end of the month the men completed their house and took up
their abode in it. It was thirty-four feet long and eighteen feet wide,
was divided into two apartments and was placed at rightangles to the
officers' dwelling and facing the storehouse, the three buildings forming
three sides of a quadrangle.

On the 26th Akaitcho and his party arrived, the hunting in this
neighbourhood being terminated for the season by the deer having retired
southward to the shelter of the woods.

The arrival of this large party was a serious inconvenience to us from
our being compelled to issue them daily rates of provision from the
store. The want of ammunition prevented us from equipping and sending
them to the woods to hunt and, although they are accustomed to subsist
themselves for a considerable part of the year by fishing or snaring the
deer, without having recourse to firearms, yet on the present occasion
they felt little inclined to do so and gave scope to their natural love
of ease as long as our storehouse seemed to be well stocked. Nevertheless
as they were conscious of impairing our future resources they did not
fail occasionally to remind us that it was not their fault, to express an
ardent desire to go hunting, and to request a supply of ammunition
although they knew that it was not in our power to give it.

The summer birds had by this time entirely deserted us, leaving for our
winter companions the raven, cinereous crow, ptarmigan, and snow-bird.
The last of the waterfowl that quitted us was a species of diver of the
same size with the Colymbus arcticus but differing from it in the
arrangement of the white spots on its plumage, and in having a
yellowish-white bill. This bird was occasionally caught in our

The thermometer during the month of October at Fort Enterprise never rose
above 37 degrees or fell below 5 degrees; the mean temperature for the
month was 23 degrees.

In the beginning of October a party had been sent to the westward to
search for birch to make snowshoe frames, and the Indian women were
afterwards employed in netting the shoes and preparing leather for winter
clothing to the men. Robes of reindeer skins were also obtained from the
Indians and issued to the men who were to travel as they were not only a
great deal lighter than blankets but also much warmer and altogether
better adapted for a winter in this climate. They are however unfit for
summer use as the least moisture causes the skin to spoil and lose its
hair. It requires the skins of seven deer to make one robe. The finest
are made of the skins of young fawns.

The fishing having failed as the weather became more severe was given up
on the 5th. It had procured us about one thousand two hundred white-fish,
from two to three pounds each. There are two other species of Coregoni in
Winter Lake, Back's grayling and the round-fish; and a few trout, pike,
methye, and red carp were also occasionally obtained from the nets. It
may be worthy of notice here that the fish froze as they were taken out
of the nets, in a short time became a solid mass of ice and, by a blow or
two of the hatchet, were easily split open, when the intestines might be
removed in one lump. If in this completely frozen state they were thawed
before the fire they recovered their animation. This was particularly the
case with the carp and we had occasion to observe it repeatedly as Dr.
Richardson occupied himself with examining the structure of the different
species of fish and was always in the winter under the necessity of
thawing them before he could cut them. We have seen a carp recover so far
as to leap about with much vigour after it had been frozen for thirty-six

From the 12th to the 16th we had fine and, for the season, warm weather;
and the deer, which had not been seen since the 26th of October,
reappeared in the neighbourhood of the house, to the surprise of the
Indians who attributed their return to the barren grounds to the unusual
mildness of the season. On this occasion, by melting some of our pewter
cups, we managed to furnish five balls to each of the hunters, but they
were all expended unsuccessfully, except by Akaitcho who killed two deer.

By the middle of the month Winter River was firmly frozen over except the
small rapid at its commencement which remained open all the winter. The
ice on the lake was now nearly two feet thick. After the 16th we had a
succession of cold, snowy, and windy weather. We had become anxious to
hear of the arrival of Mr. Back and his party at Fort Providence. The
Indians, who had calculated the period at which a messenger ought to have
returned from thence to be already passed, became impatient when it had
elapsed and, with their usual love of evil augury, tormented us by their
melancholy forebodings. At one time they conjectured that the whole party
had fallen through the ice; at another that they had been waylaid and cut
off by the Dog-Ribs. In vain did we urge the improbability of the former
accident, or the peaceable character of the Dog-Ribs, so little in
conformity with the latter. "The ice at this season was deceitful," they
said "and the Dog-Ribs, though unwarlike, were treacherous." These
assertions, so often repeated, had some effect upon the spirits of our
Canadian voyagers who seldom weigh any opinion they adopt, but we
persisted in treating their fears as chimerical for, had we seemed to
listen to them for a moment, it is more than probable that the whole of
our Indians would have gone to Fort Providence in search of supplies, and
we should have found it extremely difficult to have recovered them.

The matter was put to rest by the appearance of Belanger on the morning
of the 23rd and the Indians, now running into the opposite extreme, were
disposed to give us more credit for our judgment than we deserved. They
had had a tedious and fatiguing journey to Fort Providence and for some
days were destitute of provisions.

Belanger arrived alone; he had walked constantly for the last
six-and-thirty hours, leaving his Indian companions encamped at the last
woods, they being unwilling to accompany him across the barren grounds
during the storm that had prevailed for several days and blew with
unusual violence on the morning of his arrival. His locks were matted
with snow and he was encrusted with ice from head to foot so that we
scarcely recognised him when he burst in upon us. We welcomed him with
the usual shake of the hand but were unable to give him the glass of rum
which every voyager receives on his arrival at a trading post.

As soon as his packet was thawed we eagerly opened it to obtain our
English letters. The latest were dated on the preceding April. They came
by way of Canada and were brought up in September to Slave Lake by
North-West Company's canoes.

We were not so fortunate with regard to our stores; of ten pieces, or
bales of 90 pounds weight, which had been sent from York Factory by
Governor Williams five of the most essential had been left at the Grand
Rapid on the Saskatchewan, owing, as far as we could judge from the
accounts that reached us, to the misconduct of the officer to whom they
were entrusted and who was ordered to convey them to Cumberland House.
Being overtaken by some of the North-West Company's canoes he had
insisted on their taking half of his charge as it was intended for the
service of Government. The North-West gentlemen objected that their
canoes had already got a cargo in and that they had been requested to
convey our stores from Cumberland House only, where they had a canoe
waiting for the purpose. The Hudson's Bay officer upon this deposited our
ammunition and tobacco upon the beach and departed without any regard to
the serious consequences that might result to us from the want of them.
The Indians, who assembled at the opening of the packet and sat in
silence watching our countenances, were necessarily made acquainted with
the non-arrival of our stores and bore the intelligence with unexpected
tranquillity. We took care however in our communications with them to
dwell upon the more agreeable parts of our intelligence, and they seemed
to receive particular pleasure on being informed of the arrival of two
Esquimaux interpreters at Slave Lake, on their way to join the party. The
circumstance not only quieted their fears of opposition from the
Esquimaux on our descent to the sea next season, but also afforded a
substantial proof of our influence in being able to bring two people of
that nation from such a distance.

Akaitcho, who is a man of great penetration and shrewdness, duly
appreciated these circumstances; indeed he has often surprised us by his
correct judgment of the character of individuals amongst the traders of
our own party, although his knowledge of their opinions was in most
instances obtained through the imperfect medium of interpretation. He was
an attentive observer however of every action, and steadily compared
their conduct with their pretensions.

By the newspapers we learned the demise of our revered and lamented
sovereign George III and the proclamation of George IV. We concealed this
intelligence from the Indians lest the death of their Great Father might
lead them to suppose that we should be unable to fulfil our promises to

The Indians who had left Fort Providence with Belanger arrived the day
after him and, amongst other intelligence, informed Akaitcho of some
reports they had heard to our disadvantage. They stated that Mr. Weeks,
the gentleman in charge of Fort Providence, had told them that, so far
from our being what we represented ourselves to be, the officers of a
great King, we were merely a set of dependent wretches whose only aim was
to obtain subsistence for a season in the plentiful country of the Copper
Indians, that out of charity we had been supplied with a portion of goods
by the trading Companies, but that there was not the smallest probability
of our being able to reward the Indians when their term of service was
completed. Akaitcho, with great good sense, instantly came to have the
matter explained, stating at the same time that he could not credit it. I
then pointed out to him that Mr. Wentzel, with whom they had long been
accustomed to trade, had pledged the credit of his Company for the
stipulated rewards to the party that accompanied us, and that the trading
debts due by Akaitcho and his party had already been remitted, which was
of itself a sufficient proof of our influence with the North-West
Company. I also reminded Akaitcho that our having caused the Esquimaux to
be brought up at a great expense was evidence of our future intentions,
and informed him that I should write to Mr. Smith, the senior trader in
the department, on the subject when I had no doubt that a satisfactory
explanation would be given. The Indians retired from the conference
apparently satisfied, but this business was in the end productive of much
inconvenience to us, and proved very detrimental to the progress of the
Expedition. In conjunction also with other intelligence conveyed in Mr.
Back's letters respecting the disposition of the traders towards us,
particularly a statement of Mr. Weeks that he had been desired not to
assist us with supplies from his post, it was productive of much present
uneasiness to me.

On the 28th St. Germain the interpreter set out with eight Canadian
voyagers and four Indian hunters to bring up our stores from Fort
Providence. I wrote by him to Mr. Smith at Moose-Deer Island and Mr.
Keith at Chipewyan, both of the North-West Company, urging them in the
strongest manner to comply with the requisition for stores which Mr. Back
would present. I also informed Mr. Simpson, principal agent in the
Athabasca for the Hudson's Bay Company who had proffered every assistance
in his power, that we should gladly avail ourselves of the kind
intentions expressed in a letter which I had received from him.

We also sent a number of broken axes to Slave Lake to be repaired. The
dog that came to us on the 22nd of October and had become very familiar
followed the party. We were in hopes that it might prove of some use in
dragging their loads but we afterwards learned that on the evening after
their departure from the house they had the cruelty to kill and eat it
although they had no reason to apprehend a scarcity of provision. A dog
is considered to be delicate eating by the voyagers.

The mean temperature of the air for November was minus 0.7 degrees. The
greatest heat observed was 25 degrees above and the least 31 degrees
below zero.

On the 1st of December the sky was clear, a slight appearance of stratus
only being visible near the horizon, but a kind of snow fell at intervals
in the forenoon, its particles so minute as to be observed only in the
sunshine. Towards noon the snow became more apparent and the two limbs of
a prismatic arch were visible, one on each side of the sun near its place
in the heavens, the centre being deficient. We have frequently observed
this descent of minute icy spiculae when the sky appears perfectly clear,
and could even perceive that its silent but continued action added to the
snowy covering of the ground.

Having received one hundred balls from Fort Providence by Belanger we
distributed them amongst the Indians, informing the leader at the same
time that the residence of so large a party as his at the house,
amounting with women and children to forty souls, was producing a serious
reduction in our stock of provision. He acknowledged the justice of the
statement and promised to remove as soon as his party had prepared
snowshoes and sledges for themselves. Under one pretext or other however
their departure was delayed until the 10th of the month when they left
us, having previously received one of our fishing-nets and all the
ammunition we possessed. The leader left his aged mother and two female
attendants to our care, requesting that if she died during his absence
she might be buried at a distance from the fort that he might not be
reminded of his loss when he visited us.

Keskarrah the guide also remained behind with his wife and daughter. The
old man has become too feeble to hunt and his time is almost entirely
occupied in attendance upon his wife who has been long affected with an
ulcer on the face which has nearly destroyed her nose.

Lately he made an offering to the water spirits whose wrath he
apprehended to be the cause of her malady. It consisted of a knife, a
piece of tobacco, and some other trifling articles which were tied up in
a small bundle and committed to the rapid with a long prayer. He does not
trust entirely however to the relenting of the spirits for his wife's
cure, but comes daily to Dr. Richardson for medicine.

Upon one occasion he received the medicine from the Doctor with such
formality and wrapped it up in his reindeer robe with such extraordinary
carefulness that it excited the involuntary laughter of Mr. Hood and
myself. The old man smiled in his turn and, as he always seemed proud of
the familiar way in which we were accustomed to joke with him, we thought
no more upon the subject. But he unfortunately mentioned the circumstance
to his wife who imagined in consequence that the drug was not productive
of its usual good effects and they immediately came to the conclusion
that some bad medicine had been intentionally given to them. The distress
produced by this idea was in proportion to their former faith in the
potency of the remedy and the night was spent in singing and groaning.
Next morning the whole family were crying in concert and it was not until
the evening of the second day that we succeeded in pacifying them. The
old woman began to feel better and her faith in the medicine was renewed.

While speaking of this family I may remark that the daughter, whom we
designated Green-stockings from her dress, is considered by her tribe to
be a great beauty. Mr. Hood drew an accurate portrait of her although her
mother was averse to her sitting for it. She was afraid she said that her
daughter's likeness would induce the Great Chief who resided in England
to send for the original. The young lady however was undeterred by any
such fear. She has already been an object of contest between her
countrymen and, although under sixteen years of age, has belonged
successively to two husbands and would probably have been the wife of
many more if her mother had not required her services as a nurse.

The weather during this month was the coldest we experienced during our
residence in America. The thermometer sank on one occasion to 57 degrees
below zero and never rose beyond 6 degrees above it; the mean for the
month was minus 29.7 degrees. During these intense colds however the
atmosphere was generally calm and the woodcutters and others went about
their ordinary occupations without using any extraordinary precautions
yet without feeling any bad effects. They had their reindeer shirts on,
leathern mittens lined with blankets, and furred caps; but none of them
used any defence for the face, or needed any. Indeed we have already
mentioned that the heat is abstracted most rapidly from the body during
strong breezes and most of those who have perished from cold in this
country have fallen a sacrifice to their being overtaken on a lake or
other unsheltered place by a storm of wind. The intense colds were
however detrimental to us in another way. The trees froze to their very
centres and became as hard as stones and more difficult to cut. Some of
the axes were broken daily and by the end of the month we had only one
left that was fit for felling trees. By entrusting it only to one of the
party who had been bred a carpenter and who could use it with dexterity
it was fortunately preserved until the arrival of our men with others
from Fort Providence.

A thermometer hung in our bedroom at the distance of sixteen feet from
the fire but exposed to its direct radiation stood even in the daytime
occasionally at 15 degrees below zero, and was observed more than once
previous to the kindling of the fire in the morning to be as low as 40
degrees below zero. On two of these occasions the chronometers 2149 and
2151 which during the night lay under Mr. Hood's and Dr. Richardson's
pillows stopped while they were dressing themselves.

The rapid at the commencement of the river remained open in the severest
weather although it was somewhat contracted in width. Its temperature was
32 degrees, as was the surface of the river opposite the house about a
quarter of a mile lower down tried at a hole in the ice through which
water was drawn for domestic purposes. The river here was two fathoms and
a half deep and the temperature at its bottom was at least 42 degrees
above zero. This fact was ascertained by a spirit thermometer in which,
probably from some irregularity in the tube, a small portion of the
coloured liquid usually remained at 42 degrees when the column was made
to descend rapidly. In the present instance, the thermometer standing at
47 degrees below zero with no portion of the fluid in the upper part of
the tube, was let down slowly into the water but drawn cautiously and
rapidly up again, when a red drop at plus 42 degrees indicated that the
fluid had risen to that point or above it. At this period the daily
visits of the sun were very short and, owing to the obliquity of his
rays, afforded us little warmth or light. It is half-past eleven before
he peeps over a small ridge of hills opposite to the house, and he sinks
in the horizon at half-past two. On the 28th Mr. Hood, in order to attain
an approximation to the quantity of terrestrial refraction, observed the
sun's meridian altitude when the thermometer stood at 46 degrees below
zero, at the imminent hazard of having his fingers frozen.

He found the sextant had changed its error considerably, and that the
glasses had lost their parallelism from the contraction of the brass. In
measuring the error he perceived that the diameter of the sun's image was
considerably short of twice the semi-diameter, a proof of the uncertainty
of celestial observations made during these intense frosts. The results
of this and another similar observation are given in the footnote.*

(*Footnote. The observed meridian altitude of sun upper limb was 2
degrees 52 minutes 51 seconds. Temperature of the air minus 45.5 degrees.
By comparing this altitude, corrected by the mean refraction and parallax
with that deduced from the latitude which was observed in autumn, the
increase of refraction is found to be 6 minutes 50 seconds, the whole
refraction therefore for the altitude 2 degrees 52 minutes 51 seconds is
21 minutes 49 seconds. Admitting that the refraction increases in the
same ratio as that of the atmosphere at a mean state of temperature the
horizontal refraction will be 47 degrees 22 seconds. But the diameter of
the sun, measured immediately after the observation, was only 27 minutes
7 seconds, which shows an increase of refraction at the lower limb of 3
minutes 29 seconds. The horizontal refraction calculated with this
difference and the above-mentioned ratio is 56 minutes 3 seconds at the
temperature minus 45.5 degrees. So that in the parallel 68 degrees 42
minutes where, if there is no refraction, the sun would be invisible for
thirty-four days, his upper limb with the refraction 56 minutes 3 seconds
is in fact above the horizon at every noon.

The wind was from the westward a moderate breeze and the air perfectly
clear. January 1st, 1821. Observed meridian altitude of sun lower limb 2
degrees 35 minutes 20 seconds, sun apparent diameter 29 degrees 20
minutes. For apparent altitude 2 degrees 35 minutes 20 seconds the mean
refraction is 16 minutes 5 seconds (Mackay's Tables) and the true, found
as detailed above, is 20 minutes 8 seconds which, increasing in the same
ratio as that of the atmosphere at a mean state of temperature, is 41
minutes 19 seconds at the horizon. But the difference of refraction at
the upper and lower limbs increasing also in that ratio gives 55 minutes
16 seconds for the horizontal refraction. Temperature of the air minus 41
degrees. Wind north, a light breeze, a large halo visible about the sun.
January 15th, 1821. Observed an apparent meridian altitude sun lower limb
4 degrees 24 minutes 57 seconds. Sun apparent diameter 31 minutes 5
seconds. For apparent altitude 4 degrees 24 minutes 57 seconds the mean
refraction is 10 minutes 58 seconds (Mackay's Tables) and the true, found
as detailed above, is 14 minutes 39 seconds which, increasing in the same
ratio as that of the atmosphere at a mean state of temperature, is 43
minutes 57 seconds at the horizon. But the difference of refraction
between the upper and lower limbs increasing also in that ratio gives 48
minutes 30 seconds for the horizontal refraction.

Temperature of the air minus 35 degrees, a light air from the westward,
very clear.

The extreme coldness of the weather rendered these operations difficult
and dangerous; yet I think the observations may be depended upon within
30 seconds, as will appear by their approximate results in calculating
the horizontal refraction, for it must be considered that an error of 30
seconds in the refraction in altitude would make a difference of several
minutes in the horizontal refraction. Mr. Hood's Journal.)

The Aurora Borealis appeared with more or less brilliancy on twenty-eight
nights of this month and we were also gratified by the resplendent beauty
of the moon which for many days together performed its circle round the
heavens, shining with undiminished lustre and scarcely disappearing below
the horizon during the twenty-four hours.

During many nights there was a halo round the moon although the stars
shone brightly and the atmosphere appeared otherwise clear. The same
phenomenon was observed round the candles even in our bedrooms, the
diameter of the halo increasing as the observer receded from the light.
These halos, both round the moon and candles, occasionally exhibited
faintly some of the prismatic colours.

As it may be interesting to the reader to know how we passed our time at
this season of the year I shall mention briefly that a considerable
portion of it was occupied in writing up our journals. Some newspapers
and magazines that we had received from England with our letters were
read again and again and commented upon at our meals; and we often
exercised ourselves with conjecturing the changes that might take place
in the world before we could hear from it again. The probability of our
receiving letters and the period of their arrival were calculated to a
nicety. We occasionally paid the woodmen a visit or took a walk for a
mile or two on the river.

In the evenings we joined the men in the hall and took part in their
games which generally continued to a late hour; in short we never found
the time to hang heavy upon our hands; and the peculiar occupations of
each of the officers afforded them more employment than might at first be
supposed. I recalculated the observations made on our route; Mr. Hood
protracted the charts, and made those drawings of birds, plants and
fishes, which cannot appear in this work but which have been the
admiration of everyone who has seen them. Each of the party sedulously
and separately recorded their observations on the Aurora Borealis; and
Dr. Richardson contrived to obtain from under the snow specimens of most
of the lichens in the neighbourhood, and to make himself acquainted with
the mineralogy of the surrounding country.

The Sabbath was always a day of rest with us; the woodmen were required
to provide for the exigencies of that day on Saturday and the party were
dressed in their best attire. Divine service was regularly performed and
the Canadians attended and behaved with great decorum although they were
all Roman Catholics and but little acquainted with the language in which
the prayers were read. I regretted much that we had not a French
Prayer-Book but the Lord's Prayer and Creed were always read to them in
their own language.

Our diet consisted almost entirely of reindeer meat, varied twice a week
by fish and occasionally by a little flour, but we had no vegetables of
any description. On the Sunday mornings we drank a cup of chocolate but
our greatest luxury was tea (without sugar) of which we regularly partook
twice a day. With reindeer's fat and strips of cotton shirts we formed
candles; and Hepburn acquired considerable skill in the manufacture of
soap from the wood-ashes, fat and salt. The formation of soap was
considered as rather a mysterious operation by our Canadians and in their
hands was always supposed to fail if a woman approached the kettle in
which the ley was boiling. Such are our simple domestic details.

On the 30th two hunters came from the leader to convey ammunition to him
as soon as our men should bring it from Fort Providence.

The men at this time coated the walls of the house on the outside with a
thin mixture of clay and water which formed a crust of ice that for some
days proved impervious to the air; the dryness of the atmosphere however
was such that the ice in a short time evaporated and gave admission to
the wind as before. It is a general custom at the forts to give this sort
of coating to the walls at Christmas time. When it was gone we attempted
to remedy its defect by heaping up snow against the walls.

January 1, 1821.

This morning our men assembled and greeted us with the customary
salutation on the commencement of the new year. That they might enjoy a
holiday they had yesterday collected double the usual quantity of
firewood and we anxiously expected the return of the men from Fort
Providence with some additions to their comforts. We had stronger hope of
their arrival before the evening as we knew that every voyager uses his
utmost endeavour to reach a post upon or previous to the jour de l'an
that he may partake of the wonted festivities. It forms, as Christmas is
said to have done among our forefathers, the theme of their conversation
for months before and after the period of its arrival. On the present
occasion we could only treat them with a little flour and fat; these were
both considered as great luxuries but still the feast was defective from
the want of rum although we promised them a little when it should arrive.

The early part of January proved mild, the thermometer rose to 20 degrees
above zero, and we were surprised by the appearance of a kind of damp fog
approaching very nearly to rain. The Indians expressed their astonishment
at this circumstance and declared the present to be one of the warmest
winters they had ever experienced. Some of them reported that it had
actually rained in the woody parts of the country. In the latter part of
the month however the thermometer again descended to minus 49 degrees and
the mean temperature for the month proved to be minus 15.6 degrees. Owing
to the fogs that obscured the sky the Aurora Borealis was visible only
upon eighteen nights in the month.

On the 15th seven of our men arrived from Fort Providence with two kegs
of rum, one barrel of powder, sixty pounds of ball, two rolls of tobacco
and some clothing. They had been twenty-one days on their march from
Slave Lake and the labour they underwent was sufficiently evinced by
their sledge-collars having worn out the shoulders of their coats. Their
loads weighed from sixty to ninety pounds each, exclusive of their
bedding and provisions which at starting must have been at least as much
more. We were much rejoiced at their arrival and proceeded forthwith to
pierce the spirit cask and issue to each of the household the portion of
rum which had been promised on the first day of the year. The spirits
which were proof were frozen but, after standing at the fire for some
time, they flowed out with the consistency of honey. The temperature of
the liquid even in this state was so low as instantly to convert into ice
the moisture which condensed on the surface of the dram-glass. The
fingers also adhered to the glass and would doubtless have been speedily
frozen had they been kept in contact with it; yet each of the voyagers
swallowed his dram without experiencing the slightest inconvenience or
complaining of toothache.

After the men had retired an Indian who had accompanied them from Fort
Providence informed me that they had broached the cask on their way up
and spent two days in drinking. This instance of breach of trust was
excessively distressing to me; I felt for their privations and fatigues
and was disposed to seize every opportunity of alleviating them but this,
combined with many instances of petty dishonesty with regard to meat,
showed how little confidence could be put in a Canadian voyager when food
or spirits were in question. We had been indeed made acquainted with
their character on these points by the traders; but we thought that when
they saw their officers living under equal if not greater privations than
themselves they would have been prompted by some degree of generous
feeling to abstain from those depredations which under ordinary
circumstances they would scarcely have blushed to be detected in.

As they were pretty well aware that such a circumstance could not long be
concealed from us one of them came the next morning with an artful
apology for their conduct. He stated that as they knew it was my
intention to treat them with a dram on the commencement of the new year
they had helped themselves to a small quantity on that day, trusting to
my goodness for forgiveness and, being unwilling to act harshly at this
period, I did forgive them after admonishing them to be very circumspect
in their future conduct.

The ammunition and a small present of rum were sent to Akaitcho.

On the 18th Vaillant the woodman had the misfortune to break his axe.
This would have been a serious evil a few weeks sooner but we had just
received some others from Slave Lake.

On the 27th Mr. Wentzel and St. Germain arrived with the two Esquimaux,
Attannoeuck and Hoeootoerock (the belly and the ear). The English names
which were bestowed upon them at Fort Churchill in commemoration of the
months of their arrival there are Augustus and Junius. The former speaks

We now learned that Mr. Back proceeded with Beauparlant to Fort Chipewyan
on the 24th of December to procure stores, having previously discharged
J. Belleau from our service at his own request and according to my
directions. I was the more induced to comply with this man's desire of
leaving us as he proved to be too weak to perform the duty of bowman
which he had undertaken.

Four dogs were brought up by this party and proved a great relief to our
wood-haulers during the remainder of the season.

By the arrival of Mr. Wentzel who is an excellent musician and assisted
us (con amore) in our attempts to amuse the men we were enabled to
gratify the whole establishment with an occasional dance. Of this
amusement the voyagers were very fond and not the less so as it was now
and then accompanied by a dram as long as our rum lasted.

On the 5th of February two Canadians came from Akaitcho for fresh
supplies of ammunition. We were mortified to learn that he had received
some further unpleasant reports concerning us from Fort Providence and
that his faith in our good intentions was somewhat shaken. He expressed
himself dissatisfied with the quantity of ammunition we had sent him,
accused us of an intention of endeavouring to degrade him in the eyes of
his tribe, and informed us that Mr. Weeks had refused to pay some notes
for trifling quantities of goods and ammunition that had been given to
the hunters who accompanied our men to Slave Lake.

Some powder and shot and a keg of diluted spirits were sent to him with
the strongest assurances of our regard.

On the 12th another party of six men was sent to Fort Providence to bring
up the remaining stores. St. Germain went to Akaitcho for the purpose of
sending two of his hunters to join this party on its route.

On comparing the language of our two Esquimaux with a copy of St. John's
Gospel printed for the use of the Moravian Missionary Settlements on the
Labrador coast it appeared that the Esquimaux who resort to Churchill
speak a language essentially the same with those who frequent the
Labrador Coast. The Red Knives too recognise the expression Teyma, used
by the Esquimaux when they acost strangers in a friendly manner, as
similarly pronounced by Augustus and those of his race who frequent the
mouth of the Copper-Mine River.

The tribe to which Augustus belongs resides generally a little to the
northward of Churchill. In the spring before the ice quits the shores
they kill seal but during winter they frequent the borders of the large
lakes near the coast where they obtain fish, reindeer, and musk-oxen.

There are eighty-four grown men in the tribe only seven of whom are aged.
Six chiefs have each two wives; the rest of the men have only one; so
that the number of married people may amount to one hundred and seventy.
He could give me no certain data whereby I might estimate the number of

Two great Chiefs or Ackhaiyoot have complete authority in directing the
movements of the party and in distributing provisions. The Attoogawnoeuck
or lesser chiefs are respected principally as senior men. The tribe
seldom suffers from want of food if the chief moves to the different
stations at the proper season. They seem to follow the eastern custom
respecting marriage. As soon as a girl is born the young lad who wishes
to have her for a wife goes to her father's tent and proffers himself. If
accepted a promise is given which is considered binding and the girl is
delivered to her betrothed husband at the proper age.

They consider their progenitors to have come from the moon. Augustus has
no other idea of a Deity than some confused notions which he has obtained
at Churchill.

When any of the tribe are dangerously ill a conjurer is sent for and the
bearer of the message carries a suitable present to induce his
attendance. Upon his arrival he encloses himself in the tent with the
sick man and sings over him for days together without tasting food; but
Augustus as well as the rest of the uninitiated are ignorant of the
purport of his songs and of the nature of the Being to whom they are
addressed. The conjurors practise a good deal of jugglery in swallowing
knives, firing bullets through their bodies, etc., but they are at these
times generally secluded from view and the bystanders believe their
assertions without requiring to be eye-witnesses of the fact. Sixteen men
and three women amongst Augustus' tribe are acquainted with the mysteries
of the art. The skill of the latter is exerted only on their own sex.

Upon the map being spread before Augustus he soon comprehended it and
recognised Chesterfield Inlet to be the opening into which salt-waters
enter at spring tides and which receives a river at its upper end. He
termed it Kannoeuck Kleenoeuck. He has never been farther north himself
than Marble Island, which he distinguishes as being the spot where the
large ships were wrecked, alluding to the disastrous termination of
Barlow and Knight's Voyage of Discovery.* He says however that Esquimaux
of three different tribes have traded with his countrymen and that they
described themselves as having come across land from a northern sea. One
tribe who named themselves Ahwhacknanhelett he supposes may come from
Repulse Bay; another designated Ootkooseekkalingmoeoot or Stone-Kettle
Esquimaux reside more to the westward; and the third the Kangorrmoeoot or
White Goose Esquimaux describe themselves as coming from a great distance
and mentioned that a party of Indians had killed several of their tribe
in the summer preceding their visit. Upon comparing the dates of this
murder with that of the last massacre which the Copper Indians have
perpetrated on these harmless and defenceless people they appear to
differ two years; but the lapse of time is so inaccurately recorded that
this difference in their accounts is not sufficient to destroy their
identity; besides, the Chipewyans, the only other Indians who could
possibly have committed the deed, have long since ceased to go to war. If
this massacre should be the one mentioned by the Copper Indians the
Kangorrmoeoot must reside near the mouth of the Anatessy, or River of

(Footnote. See Introduction to Hearne's Journey page 24.)

The winter habitations of Esquimaux who visit Churchill are built of snow
and, judging from one constructed by Augustus today, they are very
comfortable dwellings. Having selected a spot on the river where the snow
was about two feet deep and sufficiently compact he commenced by tracing
out a circle twelve feet in diameter. The snow in the interior of the
circle was next divided with a broad knife having a long handle into
slabs three feet long, six inches thick, and two feet deep, being the
thickness of the layer of snow. These slabs were tenacious enough to
admit of being moved about without breaking or even losing the sharpness
of their angles and they had a slight degree of curvature corresponding
with that of the circle from which they were cut. They were piled upon
each other exactly like courses of hewn stone around the circle which was
traced out and care was taken to smooth the beds of the different courses
with the knife, and to cut them so as to give the wall a slight
inclination inwards, by which contrivance the building acquired the
properties of a dome. The dome was closed somewhat suddenly and flatly by
cutting the upper slabs in a wedge-form instead of the more rectangular
shape of those below. The roof was about eight feet high, and the last
aperture was shut up by a small conical piece. The whole was built from
within and each slab was cut so that it retained its position without
requiring support until another was placed beside it, the lightness of
the slabs greatly facilitating the operation. When the building was
covered in a little loose snow was thrown over it to close up every chink
and a low door was cut through the walls with a knife. A bed-place was
next formed and neatly faced up with slabs of snow, which was then
covered with a thin layer of pine branches to prevent them from melting
by the heat of the body. At each end of the bed a pillar of snow was
erected to place a lamp upon, and lastly a porch was built before the
door and a piece of clear ice was placed in an aperture cut in the wall
for a window.

The purity of the material of which the house was framed, the elegance of
its construction, and the translucency of its walls which transmitted a
very pleasant light, gave it an appearance far superior to a marble
building and one might survey it with feelings somewhat akin to those
produced by the contemplation of a Grecian temple reared by Phidias; both
are triumphs of art, inimitable in their kinds.

Annexed there is a plan of a complete Esquimaux snow-house and kitchen
and other apartments copied from a sketch made by Augustus with the names
of the different places affixed. The only fireplace is in the kitchen,
the heat of the lamps sufficing to keep the other apartments warm. (Not
included in this ebook.)


A. Ablokeyt, steps.
B. Pahloeuk, porch.
C. Wadl-leek, passage.
D. Haddnoeweek, for the reception of the sweepings of the house.
E. G. Tokheuook, antechamber, or passage.
F. Annarroeartoweek.
H. Eegah, cooking-house.
I. Eegah-natkah, passage.
K. Keidgewack, for piling wood upon.
L. Keek kloweyt, cooking side.
M. Keek loot, fireplace built of stone.
N. Eegloo, house.
O. Kattack, door.
P. Nattoeuck, clear space in the apartment.
a. d. Eekput, a kind of shelf where the candle stands; and b. c. a pit
where they throw their bones and other offal of their provision.
Q. Eegl-luck, bed-place.
R. Eegleeteoet, bedside or sitting-place.
S. Bed-place, as on the other side.
T. Kie'gn-nok, small pantry.
U. Hoergloack, storehouse for provisions.


Several deer were killed near the house and we received some supplies
from Akaitcho. Parties were also employed in bringing in the meat that
was placed en cache in the early part of the winter. More than one half
of these caches however had been destroyed by the wolves and wolverines,
a circumstance which, in conjunction with the empty state of our
storehouse, led us to fear that we should be much straitened for
provisions before the arrival of any considerable number of reindeer in
this neighbourhood.

A good many ptarmigan were seen at this time and the women caught some in
snares, but not in sufficient quantity to make any further alteration in
the rations of deers' meat that were daily issued. They had already been
reduced from eight to the short allowance of five pounds.

Many wolves prowled nightly about the house and even ventured upon the
roof of the kitchen, which is a low building, in search of food;
Keskarrah shot a very large white one, of which a beautiful and correct
drawing was made by Mr. Hood.

The temperature in February was considerably lower than in the preceding
month although not so low as in December, the mean being minus 25.3
degrees. The greatest temperature was 1 degree above zero and the lowest
51 degrees below.

On the 5th of March the people returned from Slave Lake bringing the
remainder of our stores consisting of a cask of flour, thirty-six pounds
of sugar, a roll of tobacco, and forty pounds of powder. I received a
letter from Mr. Weeks wherein he denied that he had ever circulated any
reports to our disadvantage, and stated that he had done everything in
his power to assist us, and even discouraged Akaitcho from leaving us
when he had sent him a message saying that he wished to do so if he was
sure of being well received at Fort Providence.

We mentioned the contents of the letter to the Indians who were at the
house at the time, when one of the hunters, who had attended the men on
their journey, stated that he had heard many of the reports against us
from Mr. Weeks himself and expressed his surprise that he should venture
to deny them. St. Germain soon afterwards arrived from Akaitcho and
informed us that he left him in good humour and apparently not harbouring
the slightest idea of quitting us.

On the 12th we sent four men to Fort Providence, and on the 17th Mr. Back
arrived from Fort Chipewyan, having performed since he left us a journey
of more than one thousand miles on foot. I had every reason to be much
pleased with his conduct on this arduous undertaking, but his exertions
may be best estimated by the perusal of the following narrative.


On quitting Fort Enterprise with Mr. Wentzel and two Canadians,
accompanied by two hunters and their wives, our route lay across the
barren hills. We saw during the day a number of deer and occasionally a
solitary white wolf, and in the evening halted near a small knot of
pines. Owing to the slow progress made by the wives of the hunters we
only travelled the first day a distance of seven miles and a half. During
the night we had a glimpse of the fantastic beauties of the Aurora
Borealis and were somewhat annoyed by the wolves whose nightly howling
interrupted our repose. Early the next morning we continued our march,
sometimes crossing small lakes (which were just frozen enough to bear us)
and at other times going large circuits in order to avoid those which
were open. The walking was extremely bad throughout the day for,
independent of the general unevenness of the ground and the numberless
large stones which lay scattered in every direction, the unusual warmth
of the weather had dissolved the snow which not only kept us constantly
wet but deprived us of a firm footing, so that the men with their heavy
burdens were in momentary apprehension of falling. In the afternoon a
fine herd of deer was descried and the Indians, who are always anxious
for the chase and can hardly be restrained from pursuing every animal
they see, set out immediately. It was late when they returned, having had
good success and bringing with them five tongues and the shoulder of a
deer. We made about twelve miles this day. The night was fine and the
Aurora Borealis so vivid that we imagined more than once that we heard a
rustling noise like that of autumnal leaves stirred by the wind; but
after two hours of attentive listening we were not entirely convinced of
the fact. The coruscations were not so bright nor the transition from one
shape and colour to another so rapid as they sometimes are, otherwise I
have no doubt from the midnight silence which prevailed that we should
have ascertained this yet undecided point.

The morning of the 20th was so extremely hazy that we could not see ten
yards before us; it was therefore late when we started and during our
journey the hunters complained of the weather and feared they should lose
the track of our route. Towards the evening it became so thick that we
could not proceed, consequently we halted in a small wood situated in a
valley, having only completed a distance of six miles.

The scenery consisted of high hills which were almost destitute of trees,
and lakes appeared in the valleys. The cracking of the ice was so loud
during the night as to resemble thunder and the wolves howled around us.
We were now at the commencement of the woods and at an early hour on the
21st continued our journey over high hills for three miles, when the
appearance of some deer caused us to halt and nearly the remainder of the
day was passed in hunting them. In the evening we stopped within sight of
Prospect Hill having killed and concealed six deer. A considerable
quantity of snow fell during the night.

The surrounding country was extremely rugged, the hills divided by deep
ravines and the valleys covered with broken masses of rocks and stones;
yet the deer fly (as it were) over these impediments with apparent ease,
seldom making a false step, and springing from crag to crag with all the
confidence of the mountain goat. After passing Reindeer Lake (where the
ice was so thin as to bend at every step for nine miles) we halted,
perfectly satisfied with our escape from sinking into the water. While
some of the party were forming the encampment one of the hunters killed a
deer, a part of which was concealed to be ready for use on our return.
This evening we halted in a wood near the canoe track after having
travelled a distance of nine miles. The wind was South-East and the night
cloudy with wind and rain.

On the 24th and 25th we underwent some fatigue from being obliged to go
round the lakes which lay across our route and were not sufficiently
frozen to bear us. Several rivulets appeared to empty themselves into the
lakes, no animals were killed and few tracks seen. The scenery consisted
of barren rocks and high hills covered with lofty pine, birch, and larch

October 26.

We continued our journey, sometimes on frozen lakes and at other times on
high craggy rocks. When we were on the lakes we were much impeded in our
journey by different parts which were unfrozen. There was a visible
increase of wood, consisting of birch and larch, as we inclined to the
southward. About ten A.M. we passed Icy Portage where we saw various
tracks of the moose, bear and otter and, after a most harassing march
through thick woods and over fallen trees, we halted a mile to the
westward of Fishing Lake; our provisions were now almost expended; the
weather was cloudy with snow.

On the 27th we crossed two lakes and performed a circuitous route,
frequently crossing high hills to avoid those lakes which were not
frozen; during the day one of the women made a hole through the ice and
caught a fine pike which she gave to us; the Indians would not partake of
it from the idea (as we afterwards learnt) that we should not have
sufficient for ourselves: "We are accustomed to starvation," said they,
"but you are not." In the evening we halted near Rocky Lake. I
accompanied one of the Indians to the summit of a hill where he showed me
a dark horizontal cloud extending to a considerable distance along the
mountains in the perspective, which he said was occasioned by the Great
Slave Lake and was considered as a good guide to all the hunters in the
vicinity. On our return we saw two untenanted bears' dens.

The night was cloudy with heavy snow, yet the following morning we
continued our tedious march; many of the lakes remained still open and
the rocks were high and covered with snow which continued to fall all
day, consequently we effected but a trifling distance and that too with
much difficulty. In the evening we halted, having only performed about
seven miles. One of the Indians gave us a fish which he had caught though
he had nothing for himself; and it was with much trouble that he could be
prevailed upon to partake of it. The night was again cloudy with snow. On
the 29th we set out through deep snow and thick woods and after crossing
two small lakes stopped to breakfast, sending the women on before as they
had already complained of lameness and could not keep pace with the
party. It was not long before we overtook them on the banks of a small
lake which, though infinitely less in magnitude than many we had passed,
yet had not a particle of ice on its surface. It was shoal, had no
visible current, and was surrounded by hills. We had nothing to eat and
were not very near an establishment where food could be procured; however
as we proceeded the lakes were frozen and we quickened our pace, stopping
but twice for the hunters to smoke. Nevertheless the distance we
completed was but trifling, and at night we halted near a lake, the men
being tired and much bruised from constantly falling amongst thick broken
wood and loose stones concealed under the snow. The night was blowing and
hazy with snow.

On the 30th we set out with the expectation of gaining the Slave Lake in
the evening; but our progress was again impeded by the same causes as
before so that the whole day was spent in forcing our way through thick
woods and over snow-covered swamps. We had to walk over pointed and loose
rocks which, sliding from under our feet, made our path dangerous and
often threw us down several feet on sharp-edged stones lying beneath the
snow. Once we had to climb a towering and almost perpendicular rock which
not only detained us but was the cause of great anxiety for the safety of
the women who, being heavily laden with furs and one of them with a child
at her back, could not exert themselves with the activity which such a
task required. Fortunately nothing serious occurred though one of them
once fell with considerable violence. During the day one of the hunters
broke through the ice but was soon extricated; when it became dark we
halted near the Bow String Portage, greatly disappointed at not having
reached the lake. The weather was cloudy, accompanied with thick mist and
snow. The Indians expected to have found here a bear in its den and to
have made a hearty meal of its flesh, indeed it had been the subject of
conversation all day and they had even gone so far as to divide it,
frequently asking me what part I preferred, but when we came to the
spot--oh! lamentable! it had already fallen a prey to the devouring
appetites of some more fortunate hunters who had only left sufficient
evidence that such a thing had once existed, and we had merely the
consolation of realising an old proverb. One of our men however caught a
fish which, with the assistance of some weed scraped from the rocks
(tripe de roche) which forms a glutinous substance, made us a tolerable
supper; it was not of the most choice kind yet good enough for hungry
men. While we were eating it I perceived one of the women busily employed
scraping an old skin, the contents of which her husband presented us
with. They consisted of pounded meat, fat, and a greater proportion of
Indians' and deers' hair than either; and though such a mixture may not
appear very alluring to an English stomach it was thought a great luxury
after three days' privation in these cheerless regions of America. Indeed
had it not been for the precaution and generosity of the Indians we must
have gone without sustenance until we reached the fort.

On the 1st of November our men began to make a raft to enable us to cross
a river which was not even frozen at the edges. It was soon finished and
three of us embarked, being seated up to the ankles in water. We each
took a pine branch for a paddle and made an effort to gain the opposite
shore in which, after some time (and not without strong apprehensions of
drifting into the Slave Lake) we succeeded. In two hours the whole party
was over, with a comfortable addition to it in the shape of some fine
fish which the Indians had caught: of course we did not forget to take
these friends with us and, after passing several lakes, to one of which
we saw no termination, we halted within eight miles to the fort. The
Great Slave Lake was not frozen.

In crossing a narrow branch of the lake I fell through the ice but
received no injury; and at noon we arrived at Fort Providence and were
received by Mr. Weeks, a clerk of the North-West Company in charge of the
establishment. I found several packets of letters for the officers, which
I was desirous of sending to them immediately but, as the Indians and
their wives complained of illness and inability to return without rest, a
flagon of mixed spirits was given them and their sorrows were soon
forgotten. In a quarter of an hour they pronounced themselves excellent
hunters and capable of going anywhere; however their boasting ceased with
the last drop of the bottle when a crying scene took place which would
have continued half the night had not the magic of an additional quantity
of spirits dried their tears and once more turned their mourning into
joy. It was a satisfaction to me to behold these poor creatures enjoying
themselves for they had behaved in the most exemplary and active manner
towards the party, and with a generosity and sympathy seldom found even
in the more civilised parts of the world, and the attention and affection
which they manifested towards their wives evinced a benevolence of
disposition and goodness of nature which could not fail to secure the
approbation of the most indifferent observer.

The accounts I here received of our goods were of so unsatisfactory a
nature that I determined to proceed, as soon as the lake was frozen, to
Moose-Deer Island or if necessary to the Athabasca Lake, both to inform
myself of the grounds of the unceremonious and negligent manner in which
the Expedition had been treated and to obtain a sufficient supply of
ammunition and other stores to enable it to leave its present situation
and proceed for the attainment of its ultimate object.

November 9.

I despatched to Fort Enterprise one of the men with the letters and a
hundred musket-balls which Mr. Weeks lent me on condition that they
should be returned the first opportunity. An Indian and his wife
accompanied the messenger. Lieutenant Franklin was made acquainted with
the exact state of things, and I awaited with much impatience the
freezing of the lake.

November 16.

A band of Slave Indians came to the fort with a few furs and some bear's
grease. Though we had not seen any of them it appeared that they had
received information of our being in the country and knew the precise
situation of our house, which they would have visited long ago but from
the fear of being pillaged by the Copper Indians. I questioned the chief
about the Great Bear and Marten Lakes, their distance from Fort
Enterprise, etc., but his answers were so vague and unsatisfactory that
they were not worth attention; his description of Bouleau's Route (which
he said was the shortest and best and abundant in animals) was very
defective though the relative points were sufficiently characteristic had
we not possessed a better route. He had never been at the sea and knew
nothing about the mouth of the Copper-Mine River. In the evening he made
his young men dance and sometimes accompanied them himself. They had four
feathers in each hand. One commenced moving in a circular form, lifting
both feet at the same time, similar to jumping sideways. After a short
time a second and third joined and afterwards the whole band was dancing,
some in a state of nudity, others half dressed, singing an unmusical wild
air with (I suppose) appropriate words, the particular sounds of which
were ha! ha! ha! uttered vociferously and with great distortion of
countenance and peculiar attitude of body, the feathers being always kept
in a tremulous motion. The ensuing day I made the chief acquainted with
the object of our mission and recommended him to keep at peace with his
neighbouring tribes and to conduct himself with attention and friendship
towards the whites. I then gave him a medal, telling him it was the
picture of the King whom they emphatically term their Great Father.

November 18.

We observed two mock moons at equal distances from the central one, and
the whole were encircled by a halo, the colour of the inner edge of the
large circle was a light red inclining to a faint purple.

November 20.

Two parhelia were observable with a halo; the colours of the inner edge
of the circle were a bright carmine and red lake intermingled with a rich
yellow, forming a purplish orange; the outer edge was pale gamboge.

December 5.

A man was sent some distance on the lake to see if it was sufficiently
frozen for us to cross. I need scarcely mention my satisfaction when he
returned with the pleasing information that it was.

December 7.

I quitted Fort Providence, being accompanied by Mr. Wentzel, Beauparlant,
and two other Canadians, provided with dogs and sledges. We proceeded
along the borders of the lake, occasionally crossing deep bays, and at
dusk encamped at the Gros Cap, having proceeded twenty-five miles.

December 8.

We set out on the lake with an excessively cold north-west wind and were
frequently interrupted by large pieces of ice which had been thrown up by
the violence of the waves during the progress of congelation, and at dusk
we encamped on the Reindeer Islands.

The night was fine with a faint Aurora Borealis. Next day the wind was so
keen that the men proposed conveying me in a sledge that I might be the
less exposed, to which after some hesitation I consented. Accordingly a
reindeer skin and a blanket were laid along the sledge and in these I was
wrapped tight up to the chin and lashed to the vehicle, just leaving
sufficient play for my head to perceive when I was about to be upset on
some rough projecting piece of ice. Thus equipped we set off before the
wind (a favourable circumstance on the lake) and went on very well until
noon, when the ice, being driven up in ridges in such a manner as to
obstruct us very much, I was released, and I confess not unwillingly
though I had to walk the remainder of the day.

There are large openings in many parts where the ice had separated and,
in attempting to cross one of them, the dogs fell into the water and were
saved with difficulty. The poor animals suffered dreadfully from the cold
and narrowly escaped being frozen to death. We had quickened our pace
towards the close of the day but could not get sight of the land, and it
was not till the sun had set that we perceived it about four miles to our
left, which obliged us to turn back and head the wind. It was then so
cold that two of the party were frozen almost immediately about the face
and ears. I escaped from having the good fortune to possess a pair of
gloves made of rabbits' skin with which I kept constantly chafing the
places which began to be affected. At six P.M. we arrived at the
fishing-huts near Stony Island and remained the night there. The
Canadians were not a little surprised at seeing us whom they had already
given up for lost--nor less so at the manner by which we had come--for
they all affirmed that the lake near them was quite free from ice the day

December 10.

At an early hour we quitted the huts, lashed on sledges as before, with
some little addition to our party; and at three hours thirty minutes P.M.
arrived at the North-West Fort on Moose-Deer Island where I was received
by Mr. Smith with whom I had been acquainted at the Athabasca. He said he
partly expected me. The same evening I visited Messrs. McVicar and
McAulay at Hudson's Bay Fort when I found the reports concerning our
goods were but too true, there being in reality but five packages for us.
I also was informed that two Esquimaux, Augustus the chief, and Junius
his servant, who had been sent from Fort Churchill by Governor Williams
to serve in the capacity of interpreters to the Expedition, were at the
fort. These men were short of stature but muscular, apparently
good-natured, and perfectly acquainted with the purpose for which they
were intended. They had built themselves a snow-house on an adjacent
island where they used frequently to sleep. The following day I examined
the pieces and to my great disappointment found them to consist of three
kegs of spirits, already adulterated by the voyagers who had brought
them, a keg of flour and thirty-five pounds of sugar, instead of sixty.
The ammunition and tobacco, the two greatest requisites, were left

I lost no time in making a demand from both parties and, though their
united list did not furnish the half of what was required, yet it is
possible that everything was given by them which could be spared
consistently with their separate interests, particularly by Mr. McVicar
who in many articles gave me the whole he had in his possession. These
things were sent away immediately for Fort Enterprise, when an
interpreter arrived with letters from Lieutenant Franklin which referred
to a series of injurious reports said to have been propagated against us
by someone at Fort Providence.

Finding a sufficiency of goods could not be provided at Moose-Deer Island
I determined to proceed to the Athabasca Lake and ascertain the
inclinations of the gentlemen there. With this view I communicated my
intentions to both parties but could only get dogs enough from the
North-West Company to carry the necessary provisions for the journey.
Indeed Mr. Smith informed me plainly he was of opinion that nothing could
be spared at Fort Chipewyan, that goods had never been transported so
long a journey in the winter season, and that the same dogs could not
possibly go and return; besides it was very doubtful if I could be
provided with dogs there; and finally that the distance was great and
could take sixteen days to perform it. He added that the provisions would
be mouldy and bad and that from having to walk constantly on snowshoes I
should suffer a great deal of misery and fatigue. Notwithstanding these
assertions on the 23rd of December I left the fort with Beauparlant and a
Bois-brule, each having a sledge drawn by dogs, laden with pemmican. We
crossed an arm of the lake and entered the Little Buffalo River which is
connected with the Salt River and is about fifty yards wide at its
junction with the lake--the water is brackish. This route is usually
taken in the winter as it cuts off a large angle in going to the Great
Slave River. In the afternoon we passed two empty fishing-huts and in the
evening encamped amongst some high pines on the banks of the river having
had several snow-showers during the day which considerably impeded the
dogs so that we had not proceeded more than fifteen miles.

December 24 and 25.

We continued along the river, frequently making small portages to avoid
going round to the points, and passed some small canoes which the Indians
had left for the winter. The snow was so deep that the dogs were obliged
to stop every ten minutes to rest; and the cold so excessive that both
the men were badly frozen on both sides of the face and chin. At length,
having come to a long meadow which the dogs could not cross that night,
we halted in an adjoining wood and were presently joined by a Canadian
who was on his return to the fort and who treated us with some fresh meat
in exchange for pemmican. During the latter part of the day we had seen
numerous tracks of the moose, buffalo, and marten.

December 26.

The weather was so cold that we were compelled to run to prevent
ourselves from freezing; our route lay across some large meadows which
appeared to abound in animals, though the Indians around Slave Lake are
in a state of great want. About noon we passed a sulphur-stream which ran
into the river; it appeared to come from a plain about fifty yards
distant. There were no rocks near it and the soil through which it took
its course was composed of a reddish clay. I was much galled by the
strings of the snowshoes during the day and once got a severe fall
occasioned by the dogs running over one of my feet and, dragging me some
distance, my snowshoe having become entangled with the sledge. In the
evening we lost our way from the great similarity of appearance in the
country and it was dark before we found it again when we halted in a
thick wood after having come about sixteen miles from the last
encampment. Much snow fell during the night.

At an early hour on the 27th of December we continued our journey over
the surface of a long but narrow lake and then through a wood which
brought us to the grand detour on the Slave River. The weather was
extremely cloudy with occasional falls of snow which tended greatly to
impede our progress from its gathering in lumps between the dogs' toes;
and though they did not go very fast yet my left knee pained me so much
that I found it difficult to keep up with them. At three P.M. we halted
within nine miles of the Salt River and made a hearty meal of mouldy

December 28 and 29.

We had much difficulty in proceeding owing to the poor dogs being quite
worn out and their feet perfectly raw. We endeavoured to tie shoes on
them to afford them some little relief but they continually came off when
amongst deep snow so that it occupied one person entirely to look after
them. In this state they were hardly of any use among the steep ascents
of the portages, when we were obliged to drag the sledges ourselves. We
found a few of the rapids entirely frozen. Those that were not had holes
and large spaces about them from whence issued a thick vapour, and in
passing this we found it particularly cold; but what appeared most
curious was the number of small fountains which rose through the ice and
often rendered it doubtful which way we should take. I was much
disappointed at finding several falls (which I had intended to sketch)
frozen almost even with the upper and lower parts of the stream; the ice
was connected by a thin arch and the rushing of the water underneath
might be heard at a considerable distance. On the banks of these rapids
there was a constant overflowing of the water but in such small
quantities as to freeze before it had reached the surface of the central
ice so that we passed between two ridges of icicles, the transparency of
which was beautifully contrasted by the flakes of snow and the dark green
branches of the overhanging pine.

Beauparlant complained bitterly of the cold whilst among the rapids but
no sooner had he reached the upper part of the river than he found the
change of the temperature so great that he vented his indignation against
the heat. "Mais c'est terrible," said he, to be frozen and sunburnt in
the same day. The poor fellow, who had been a long time in the country,
regarded it as the most severe punishment that could have been inflicted
on him and would willingly have given a part of his wages rather than
this disgrace had happened; for there is a pride amongst old Voyagers
which makes them consider the state of being frost-bitten as effeminate
and only excusable in a Pork-eater or one newly come into the country. I
was greatly fatigued and suffered acute pains in the knees and legs, both
of which were much swollen when we halted a little above the Dog River.

December 30 and 31.

Our journey these days was by far the most annoying we had yet
experienced but, independent of the vast masses of ice that were piled on
one another, as well as the numerous open places about the rapids (and
they did not a little impede us) there was a strong gale from the
north-west and so dreadfully keen that our time was occupied in rubbing
the frozen parts of the face and in attempting to warm the hands in order
to be prepared for the next operation. Scarcely was one place cured by
constant friction than another was frozen; and though there was nothing
pleasant about it yet it was laughable enough to observe the dexterity
which was used in changing the position of the hand from the face to the
mitten and vice versa. One of the men was severely affected, the whole
side of his face being nearly raw. Towards sunset I suffered so much in
my knee and ankle from a recent sprain that it was with difficulty I
could proceed with snowshoes to the encampment on the Stony Islands. But
in this point I was not singular for Beauparlant was almost as bad and
without the same cause.

January 1, 1821.

We set out with a quick step, the wind still blowing fresh from the
north-west, which seemed in some measure to invigorate the dogs; for
towards sunset they left me considerably behind. Indeed my legs and
ankles were now so swelled that it was excessive pain to drag the
snowshoes after me. At night we halted on the banks of Stony River, when
I gave the men a glass of grog to commemorate the new year, and the next
day, January 2, we arrived at Fort Chipewyan, after a journey of ten days
and four hours--the shortest time in which the distance had been
performed at the same season. I found Messrs. G. Keith and S. McGillivray
in charge of the fort, who were not a little surprised to see me. The
commencement of the New Year is the rejoicing season of the Canadians
when they are generally intoxicated for some days. I postponed making any
demand till this time of festivity should cease; but on the same day I
went over to the Hudson's Bay fort and delivered Lieutenant Franklin's
letters to Mr. Simpson. If they were astonished on one side to see me,
the amazement was still greater on the other for reports were so far in
advance that we were said to have already fallen by the spears of the

January 3.

I made a demand from both parties for supplies such as ammunition,
gun-flints, axes, files, clothing, tobacco and spirits. I stated to them
our extreme necessity and that without their assistance the Expedition
must be arrested in its progress. The answer from the North-West
gentlemen was satisfactory enough; but on the Hudson's Bay side I was
told that any further assistance this season entirely depended on the
arrival of supplies expected in a few weeks from a distant establishment.
I remained at Fort Chipewyan five weeks during which time some laden
sledges did arrive, but I could not obtain any addition to the few
articles I had procured at first. A packet of letters for us from England
having arrived I made preparations for my return, but not before I had
requested both Companies to send next year from the depots a quantity of
goods for our use specified in lists furnished to them.

The weather during my abode at Chipewyan was generally mild with
occasional heavy storms, most of which were anticipated by the activity
of the Aurora Borealis; and this I observed had been the case between
Fort Providence and the Athabasca in December and January, though not
invariably so in other parts of the country. One of the partners of the
North-West Company related to me the following singular story: He was
travelling in a canoe in the English River and had landed near the Kettle
Fall when the coruscations of the Aurora Borealis were so vivid and low
that the Canadians fell on their faces and began praying and crying,
fearing they should be killed; he himself threw away his gun and knife
that they might not attract the flashes for they were within two feet
from the earth, flitting along with incredible swiftness and moving
parallel to its surface. They continued for upwards of five minutes as
near as he could judge and made a loud rustling noise like the waving of
a flag in a strong breeze. After they had ceased the sky became clear
with little wind.

February 9.

Having got everything arranged and had a hearty breakfast with a coupe de
l'eau de vie (a custom amongst the traders) I took my departure or rather
attempted to do so for, on going to the gate, there was a long range of
women who came to bid me farewell. They were all dressed (after the
manner of the country) in blue or green cloth, with their hair fresh
greased, separated before, and falling down behind, not in careless
tresses but in a good sound tail, fastened with black tape or riband.
This was considered a great compliment and the ceremony consisted in
embracing the whole party.

I had with me four sledges laden with goods for the Expedition and a
fifth belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company. We returned exactly by the
same route, suffering no other inconvenience but that arising from the
chafing of the snowshoe and bad weather. Some Indians whom we met on the
banks of the Little Buffalo River were rather surprised at seeing us, for
they had heard that we were on an island which was surrounded by
Esquimaux. The dogs were almost worn out and their feet raw when on
February the 20th we arrived at Moose-Deer Island with our goods all in
good order. Towards the end of the month two of our men arrived with
letters from Lieutenant Franklin containing some fresh demands, the major
part of which I was fortunate enough to procure without the least
trouble. Having arranged the accounts and receipts between the Companies
and the Expedition, and sent everything before me to Fort Providence, I
prepared for my departure; and it is but justice to the gentlemen of both
parties at Moose-Deer Island to remark that they afforded the means of
forwarding our stores in the most cheerful and pleasant manner.

March 5.

I took leave of the gentlemen at the forts and in the afternoon got to
the fisheries near Stony Island where I found Mr. McVicar who was kind
enough to have a house ready for my reception; and I was not a little
gratified at perceiving a pleasant-looking girl employed in roasting a
fine joint and afterwards arranging the table with all the dexterity of
an accomplished servant.

March 6.

We set out at daylight and breakfasted at the Reindeer Islands. As the
day advanced the heat became so oppressive that each pulled off his coat
and ran till sunset when we halted with two men who were on their return
to Moose-Deer Island. There was a beautiful Aurora Borealis in the night;
it rose about North by West and divided into three bars, diverging at
equal distances as far as the zenith and then converging until they met
in the opposite horizon; there were some flashes at rightangles to the

March 7.

We arrived at Fort Providence and found our stores safe and in good
order. There being no certainty when the Indian who was to accompany me
to our house would arrive, and my impatience to join my companions
increasing as I approached it, after making the necessary arrangements
with Mr. Weeks respecting our stores, on March the 10th I quitted the
fort with two of our men who had each a couple of dogs and a sledge laden
with provision. On the 13th we met the Indian near Icy Portage who was
sent to guide me back. On the 14th we killed a deer and gave the dogs a
good feed; and on the 17th at an early hour we arrived at Fort
Enterprise, having travelled about eighteen miles a day. I had the
pleasure of meeting my friends all in good health after an absence of
nearly five months, during which time I had travelled one thousand one
hundred and four miles on snowshoes, and had no other covering at night
in the woods than a blanket and deer-skin with the thermometer frequently
at minus 40 degrees and once at minus 57 degrees, and sometimes passing
two or three days without tasting food.





March 18, 1821.

I shall now give a brief account of the Copper Indians termed by the
Chipewyans Tantsawhotdinneh, or Birch-rind Indians. They were originally
a tribe of the Chipewyans and, according to their own account, inhabited
the south side of Great Slave Lake at no very distant period. Their
language, traditions, and customs, are essentially the same with those of
the Chipewyans but in personal character they have greatly the advantage
of that people, owing probably to local causes or perhaps to their
procuring their food more easily and in greater abundance. They hold
women in the same low estimation as the Chipewyans do, looking upon them
as a kind of property which the stronger may take from the weaker
whenever there is just reason for quarrelling, if the parties are of
their own nation, or whenever they meet if the weaker party are Dog-Ribs
or other strangers. They suffer however the kinder affections to show
themselves occasionally; they in general live happily with their wives,
the women are contented with their lot, and we witnessed several
instances of strong attachment. Of their kindness to strangers we are
fully qualified to speak; their love of property, attention to their
interests, and fears for the future made them occasionally clamorous and
unsteady; but their delicate and humane attention to us in a season of
great distress at a future period are indelibly engraven on our memories.
Of their notions of a Deity or future state we never could obtain any
satisfactory account; they were unwilling perhaps to expose their
opinions to the chance of ridicule. Akaitcho generally evaded our
questions on these points but expressed a desire to learn from us and
regularly attended Divine Service during his residence at the fort,
behaving with the utmost decorum.

This leader indeed and many others of his tribe possess a laudable
curiosity which might easily be directed to the most important ends; and
I believe that a well-conducted Christian mission to this quarter would
not fail of producing the happiest effect. Old Keskarrah alone used
boldly to express his disbelief of a Supreme Deity and state that he
could not credit the existence of a Being whose power was said to extend
everywhere but whom he had not yet seen, although he was now an old man.
The aged sceptic is not a little conceited as the following exordium to
one of his speeches evinces: "It is very strange that I never meet with
anyone who is equal in sense to myself." The same old man in one of his
communicative moods related to us the following tradition: The earth had
been formed but continued enveloped in total darkness, when a bear and a
squirrel met on the shores of a lake; a dispute arose as to their
respective powers, which they agreed to settle by running in opposite
directions round the lake, and whichever arrived first at the starting
point was to evince his superiority by some signal act of power. The
squirrel beat, ran up a tree, and loudly demanded light which, instantly
beaming forth, discovered a bird dispelling the gloom with its wings; the
bird was afterwards recognised to be a crow. The squirrel next broke a
piece of bark from the tree, endowed it with the power of floating, and
said, "Behold the material which shall afford the future inhabitants of
the earth the means of traversing the waters."

The Indians are not the first people who have ascribed the origin of
nautics to the ingenuity of the squirrel. The Copper Indians consider the
bear, otter, and other animals of prey, or rather some kind of spirits
which assume the forms of these creatures, as their constant enemies and
the cause of every misfortune they endure; and in seasons of difficulty
or sickness they alternately deprecate and abuse them.

Few of this nation have more than one wife at a time and none but the
leaders have more than two. Akaitcho has three and the mother of his only
son is the favourite. They frequently marry two sisters and there is no
prohibition to the intermarriage of cousins but a man is restricted from
marrying his niece.

The last war excursion they made against the Esquimaux was ten years ago
when they destroyed about thirty persons at the mouth of what they term
Stony-Point River, not far from the mouth of the Copper-Mine River. They
now seem desirous of being on friendly terms with that persecuted nation
and hope through our means to establish a lucrative commerce with them.
Indeed the Copper Indians are sensible of the advantages that would
accrue to them were they made the carriers of goods between the traders
and Esquimaux.

At the time of Hearne's visit the Copper Indians, being unsupplied with
firearms, were oppressed by the Chipewyans; but even that traveller had
occasion to praise their kindness of heart. Since they have received arms
from the traders the Chipewyans are fearful of venturing upon their
lands; and all of that nation who frequent the shores of Great Slave Lake
hold the name of Akaitcho in great respect. The Chipewyans have no leader
of equal authority among themselves.

The number of the Copper Indians may be one hundred and ninety souls
namely eighty men and boys and one hundred and ten women and young
children. There are forty-five hunters in the tribe. The adherents of
Akaitcho amount to about forty men and boys; the rest follow a number of
minor chiefs.

For the following notices of the nations on Mackenzie's River we are
principally indebted to Mr. Wentzel who resided for many years in that

The Thlingchadinneh or Dog-Ribs or as they are sometimes termed after the
Crees, who formerly warred against them, Slaves, inhabit the country to
the westward of the Copper Indians as far as Mackenzie's River. They are
of a mild, hospitable, but rather indolent disposition; spend much of
their time in amusements and are fond of singing and dancing. In this
respect and in another they differ very widely from most of the other
aborigines of North America. I allude to their kind treatment of the
women. The men do the laborious work whilst their wives employ themselves
in ornamenting their dresses with quill-work and in other occupations
suited to their sex. Mr. Wentzel has often known the young married men to
bring specimens of their wives' needlework to the forts and exhibit them
with much pride. Kind treatment of the fair sex being usually considered
as an indication of considerable progress in civilisation it might be
worthwhile to inquire how it happens that this tribe has stepped so far
beyond its neighbours. It has had undoubtedly the same common origin with
the Chipewyans, for their languages differ only in accent, and their mode
of life is essentially the same. We have not sufficient data to prosecute
the inquiry with any hope of success but we may recall to the reader's
memory what was formerly mentioned, that the Dog-Ribs say they came from
the westward, whilst the Chipewyans say that they migrated from the

When bands of Dog-Ribs meet each other after a long absence they perform
a kind of dance. A piece of ground is cleared for the purpose, if in
winter of the snow, or if in summer of the bushes; and the dance
frequently lasts for two or three days, the parties relieving each other
as they get tired. The two bands commence the dance with their backs
turned to each other, the individuals following one another in Indian
file and holding the bow in the left hand and an arrow in the right. They
approach obliquely after many turns and, when the two lines are closely
back to back, they feign to see each other for the first time and the bow
is instantly transferred to the right hand and the arrow to the left,
signifying that it is not their intention to employ them against their
friends. At a fort they use feathers instead of bows. The dance is
accompanied with a song. These people are the dancing-masters of the
country. The Copper Indians have neither dance nor music but what they
borrow from them. On our first interview with Akaitcho at Fort Providence
he treated us as has already been mentioned with a representation of the
Dog-Rib Dance; and Mr. Back during his winter journey had an opportunity
of observing it performed by the Dog-Ribs themselves.

The chief tribe of the Dog-Rib nation, termed Horn Mountain Indians,
inhabit the country betwixt Great Bear Lake and the west end of Great
Slave Lake. They muster about two hundred men and boys capable of
pursuing the chase. Small detachments of the nation frequent Marten Lake
and hunt during the summer in the neighbourhood of Fort Enterprise.
Indeed this part of the country was formerly exclusively theirs, and most
of the lakes and remarkable hills bear the names which they imposed upon
them. As the Copper Indians generally pillage them of their women and
furs when they meet they endeavour to avoid them and visit their ancient
quarters on the barren grounds only by stealth.

Immediately to the northward of the Dog-Ribs, on the north side of Bear
Lake River, are the Kawchodinneh or Hare Indians who also speak a dialect
of the Chipewyan language and have much of the same manners with the
Dog-Ribs, but are considered both by them and by the Copper Indians to be
great conjurors. These people report that in their hunting excursions to
the northward of Great Bear Lake they meet small parties of Esquimaux.

Immediately to the northward of the Hare Indians on both banks of
Mackenzie's River are the Tykotheedinneh, Loucheux, Squint-Eyes, or
Quarrellers. They speak a language distinct from the Chipewyan. They war
often with the Esquimaux at the mouth of Mackenzie's River but have
occasionally some peaceable intercourse with them, and it would appear
that they find no difficulty in understanding each other, there being
considerable similarity in their languages. Their dress also resembles
the Esquimaux and differs from that of the other inhabitants of
Mackenzie's River. The Tykotheedinneh trade with Fort Good-Hope, situated
a considerable distance below the confluence of Bear Lake River with
Mackenzie's River and, as the traders suppose, within three days' march
of the Arctic Sea. It is the most northern establishment of the
North-West Company, and some small pieces of Russian copper coin once
made their way thither across the continent from the westward. Blue or
white beads are almost the only articles of European manufacture coveted
by the Loucheux. They perforate the septum of the nose and insert in the
opening three small shells which they procure at a high price from the

On the west bank of Mackenzie's River there are several tribes who speak
dialects of the Chipewyan language that have not hitherto been mentioned.
The first met with on tracing the river to the southward from Fort
Good-Hope are the Ambawtawhootdinneh, or Sheep Indians. They inhabit the
Rocky Mountains near the sources of the Dawhootdinneh River which flows
into Mackenzie's and are but little known to the traders. Some of them
have visited Fort Good-Hope. A report of their being cannibals may have
originated in an imperfect knowledge of them.

Some distance to the southward of this people are the Rocky Mountain
Indians, a small tribe which musters about forty men and boys capable of
pursuing the chase. They differ but little from the next we are about to
mention, the Edchawtawhootdinneh, Strong-bow, Beaver, or Thickwood
Indians who frequent the Riviere aux Liards or south branch of
Mackenzie's River. The Strong-bows resemble the Dog-Ribs somewhat in
their disposition; but when they meet they assume a considerable degree
of superiority over the latter who meekly submit to the haughtiness of
their neighbours. Until the year 1813 when a small party of them, from
some unfortunate provocation, destroyed Fort Nelson on the Riviere aux
Liards and murdered its inmates, the Strong-bows were considered to be a
friendly and quiet tribe and esteemed as excellent hunters. They take
their names in the first instance from their dogs. A young man is the
father of a certain dog but when he is married and has a son he styles
himself the father of the boy. The women have a habit of reproving the
dogs very tenderly when they observe them fighting: "Are you not
ashamed," say they, "are you not ashamed to quarrel with your little
brother?" The dogs appear to understand the reproof and sneak off.

The Strong-bows and Rocky Mountain Indians have a tradition in common
with the Dog-Ribs that they came originally from the westward, from a
level country where there was no winter, which produced trees and large
fruits now unknown to them. It was inhabited also by many strange
animals, amongst which there was a small one whose visage bore a striking
resemblance to the human countenance. During their residence in this land
their ancestors were visited by a man who healed the sick, raised the
dead, and performed many other miracles, enjoining them at the same time
to lead good lives and not to eat of the entrails of animals, nor to use
the brains for dressing skins until after the third day; and never to
leave the skulls of deer upon the ground within the reach of dogs and
wolves but to hang them carefully upon trees. No one knew from whence
this good man came or whither he went. They were driven from that land by
the rising of the waters and, following the tracks of animals on the
seashore, they directed their course to the northward. At length they
came to a strait which they crossed upon a raft but the sea has since
frozen and they have never been able to return. These traditions are
unknown to the Chipewyans.

The number of men and boys of the Strong-bow nation who are capable of
hunting may amount to seventy.

There are some other tribes who also speak dialects of the Chipewyan upon
the upper branches of the Riviere aux Liards such as the Nohhannies and
the Tsillawdawhootdinneh or Brushwood Indians. They are but little known
but the latter are supposed occasionally to visit some of the
establishments on Peace River.

Having now communicated as briefly as I could the principal facts that
came to our knowledge regarding the Indians in this quarter I shall
resume the narrative of events at Fort Enterprise. The month of March
proved fine. The thermometer rose once to 24 degrees above zero and fell
upon another day 49 degrees below zero but the mean was minus 11 1/2

On the 23rd the last of our winter's stock of deer's meat was expended
and we were compelled to issue a little pounded meat which we had
reserved for making pemmican for summer use. Our nets which were set
under the ice on the 15th produced only two or three small fish daily.
Amongst these was the round-fish, a species of Coregonus which we had not
previously seen.

On the following day two Indians came with a message from the Hook, the
chief next to Akaitcho in authority amongst the Copper Indians. His band
was between West Marten and Great Bear Lakes and he offered to provide a
quantity of dried meat for us on the banks of the Copper-Mine River in
the beginning of summer, provided we sent him goods and ammunition. It
was in his power to do this without inconvenience as he generally spends
the summer months on the banks of the river near the Copper Mountain; but
we had no goods to spare and I could not venture to send any part of our
small stock of ammunition until I saw what the necessities of our own
party required. I told them however that I would gladly receive either
provisions or leather when we met and would pay for them by notes on the
North-West Company's post; but to prevent any misunderstanding with Mr.
Weeks I requested them to take their winter's collection of furs to Fort
Providence before they went to the Copper-Mine River. They assured me
that the Hook would watch anxiously for our passing as he was unwell and
wished to consult the doctor.

Several circumstances having come lately to my knowledge that led me to
suspect the fidelity of our interpreters they were examined upon this
subject. It appeared that in their intercourse with the Indians they had
contracted very fearful ideas of the danger of our enterprise which
augmented as the time of our departure drew near, and had not hesitated
to express their dislike to the journey in strong terms amongst the
Canadians, who are accustomed to pay much deference to the opinions of an
interpreter. But this was not all; I had reason to suspect they had
endeavoured to damp the exertions of the Indians with the hope that the
want of provision in the spring would put an end to our progress at once.
St. Germain in particular had behaved in a very equivocal way since his
journey to Slave Lake. He denied the principal parts of the charge in a
very dogged manner but acknowledged he had told the leader that we had
not paid him the attention which a chief like him ought to have received;
and that we had put a great affront on him in sending him only a small
quantity of rum. An artful man like St. Germain, possessing a flow of
language and capable of saying even what he confessed, had the means of
poisoning the minds of the Indians without committing himself by any
direct assertion; and it is to be remarked that, unless Mr. Wentzel had
possessed a knowledge of the Copper Indian language, we should not have
learned what we did.

Although perfectly convinced of his baseness I could not dispense with
his services; and had no other resource but to give him a serious
admonition and desire him to return to his duty, after endeavouring to
work upon his fears by an assurance that I would certainly convey him to
England for trial if the Expedition should be stopped through his fault.
He replied, "It is immaterial to me where I lose my life, whether in
England or in accompanying you to the sea, for the whole party will
perish." After this discussion however he was more circumspect in his

On the 28th we received a small supply of meat from the Indian lodges.
They had now moved into a lake about twelve miles from us, in expectation
of the deer coming soon to the northward.


On the 29th Akaitcho arrived at the house, having been sent for to make
some arrangements respecting the procuring of provision and that we might
learn what his sentiments were with regard to accompanying us on our
future journey. Next morning we had a conference which I commenced by
showing him the charts and drawings that were prepared to be sent to
England, and explaining fully our future intentions. He appeared much
pleased at this mark of attention and, when his curiosity was satisfied,
began his speech by saying that although a vast number of idle rumours
had been floating about the barren grounds during the winter he was
convinced that the representations made to him at Fort Providence
regarding the purport of the Expedition were perfectly correct. I next
pointed out to him the necessity of our proceeding with as little delay
as possible during the short period of the year that was fit for our
operations, and that to do so it was requisite we should have a large
supply of provisions at starting. He instantly admitted the force of
these observations and promised that he and his young men should do their
utmost to comply with our desires, and afterwards in answer to my
questions informed us that he would accompany the Expedition to the mouth
of the Copper-Mine River or, if we did not meet with Esquimaux there, for
some distance along the coast; he was anxious he said to have an amicable
interview with that people, and he further requested that, in the event
of our meeting with Dog-Ribs on the Copper-Mine River, we should use our
influence to persuade them to live on friendly terms with his tribe. We
were highly pleased to find his sentiments so favourable to our views
and, after making some minor arrangements, we parted mutually content. He
left us on the morning of the 31st, accompanied by Augustus who, at his
request, went to reside for a few days at his lodge.

On the 4th of April our men arrived with the last supply of goods from
Fort Providence, the fruits of Mr. Back's arduous journey to the
Athabasca Lake, and on the 17th Belanger le gros and Belanger le rouge,
for so our men discriminated them, set out for Slave Lake with a box
containing the journals of the officers, charts, drawings, observations,
and letters addressed to the Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs.
They also conveyed a letter for Governor Williams in which I requested
that he would if possible send a schooner to Wager Bay with provisions
and clothing to meet the exigencies of the party should they succeed in
reaching that part of the coast.

Connoyer, who was much tormented with biliary calculi and had done little
or no duty all the winter, was discharged at the same time and sent down
in company with an Indian named the Belly.

The commencement of April was fine and for several days a considerable
thaw took place in the heat of the sun which, laying bare some of the
lichens on the sides of the hills, produced a consequent movement of the
reindeer to the northward and induced the Indians to believe that the
spring was already commencing. Many of them therefore quitted the woods
and set their snares on the barren grounds near Fort Enterprise. Two or
three days of cold weather however towards the middle of the month damped
their hopes, and they began to say that another moon must elapse before
the arrival of the wished-for season. In the meantime their premature
departure from the woods caused them to suffer from want of food and we
were in some degree involved in their distress. We received no supplies
from the hunters, our nets produced but very few fish, and the pounded
meat which we had intended to keep for summer use was nearly expended.
Our meals at this period were always scanty and we were occasionally
restricted to one in the day.

The Indian families about the house, consisting principally of women and
children, suffered most. I had often requested them to move to Akaitcho's
lodge where they were more certain of receiving supplies but, as most of
them were sick or infirm, they did not like to quit the house, where they
daily received medicines from Dr. Richardson, to encounter the fatigue of
following the movements of a hunting camp. They cleared away the snow on
the site of the autumn encampments to look for bones, deer's feet, bits
of hide, and other offal. When we beheld them gnawing the pieces of hide
and pounding the bones for the purpose of extracting some nourishment
from them by boiling we regretted our inability to relieve them, but
little thought that we should ourselves be afterwards driven to the
necessity of eagerly collecting these same bones a second time from the

At this time, to divert the attention of the men from their wants, we
encouraged the practice of sliding down the steep bank of the river upon
sledges. These vehicles descended the snowy bank with much velocity and
ran a great distance upon the ice. The officers joined in the sport and
the numerous overturns we experienced formed no small share of the
amusement of the party, but on one occasion, when I had been thrown from
my seat and almost buried in the snow, a fat Indian woman drove her
sledge over me and sprained my knee severely.

On the 18th at eight in the evening a beautiful halo appeared round the
sun when it was about 8 degrees high. The colours were prismatic and very
bright, the red next the sun.

On the 21st the ice in the river was measured and found to be five feet
thick and, in setting the nets in Round Rock Lake, it was there
ascertained to be six feet and a half thick, the water being six fathoms
deep. The stomachs of some fish were at this time opened by Dr.
Richardson and found filled with insects which appear to exist in
abundance under the ice during the winter.

On the 22nd a moose-deer was killed at the distance of forty-five miles;
St. Germain went for it with a dog-sledge and returned with unusual
expedition on the morning of the third day. This supply was soon
exhausted and we passed the 27th without eating, with the prospect of
fasting a day or two longer, when old Keskarrah entered with the
unexpected intelligence of having killed a deer. It was divided betwixt
our own family and the Indians and during the night a seasonable supply
arrived from Akaitcho. Augustus returned with the men who brought it,
much pleased with the attention he had received from the Indians during
his visit to Akaitcho.

Next day Mr. Wentzel set out with every man that we could spare from the
fort for the purpose of bringing meat from the Indians as fast as it
could be procured. Dr. Richardson followed them two days afterwards to
collect specimens of the rocks in that part of the country. On the same
day the two Belangers arrived from Fort Providence having been only five
days on the march from thence.

The highest temperature in April was plus 40 degrees, the lowest minus 32
degrees, the mean plus 4.6 degrees. The temperature of the rapid,
examined on the 30th by Messrs. Back and Hood, was 32 degrees at the
surface, 33 degrees at the bottom.

On the 7th of May Dr. Richardson returned. He informed me that the
reindeer were again advancing to the northward but that the leader had
been joined by several families of old people and that the daily
consumption of provision at the Indian tents was consequently great. This
information excited apprehensions of being very scantily provided when
the period of our departure should arrive.

The weather in the beginning of May was fine and warm. On the 2nd some
patches of sandy ground near the house were cleared of snow. On the 7th
the sides of the hills began to appear bare and on the 8th a large
house-fly was seen. This interesting event spread cheerfulness through
our residence and formed a topic of conversation for the rest of the day.

On the 9th the approach of spring was still more agreeably confirmed by
the appearance of a merganser and two gulls, and some loons or arctic
divers, at the rapid. This day to reduce the labour of dragging meat to
the house the women and children and all the men except four were sent to
live at the Indian tents.

The blueberries, crow-berries, eye-berries, and cranberries, which had
been covered and protected by the snow during the winter might at this
time be gathered in abundance and proved indeed a valuable resource. The
ground continued frozen but the heat of the sun had a visible effect on
vegetation; the sap thawed in the pine-trees and Dr. Richardson informed
me that the mosses were beginning to shoot and the calyptrae of some of
the jungermanniae already visible.

On the 11th Mr. Wentzel returned from the Indian lodges having made the
necessary arrangements with Akaitcho for the drying of meat for summer
use, the bringing fresh meat to the fort and the procuring a sufficient
quantity of the resin of the spruce fir, or as it is termed by the
voyagers gum, for repairing the canoes previous to starting and during
the voyage. By my desire he had promised payment to the Indian women who
should bring in any of the latter article and had sent several of our own
men to the woods to search for it. At this time I communicated to Mr.
Wentzel the mode in which I meant to conduct the journey of the
approaching summer. Upon our arrival at the sea I proposed to reduce the
party to what would be sufficient to man two canoes in order to lessen
the consumption of provisions during our voyage or journey along the
coast and, as Mr. Wentzel had expressed a desire of proceeding no farther
than the mouth of the Copper-Mine River, which was seconded by the
Indians who wished him to return with them, I readily relieved his
anxiety on this subject, the more so as I thought he might render greater
service to us by making deposits of provision at certain points than by
accompanying us through a country which was unknown to him, and amongst a
people with whom he was totally unacquainted. My intentions were
explained to him in detail but they were of course to be modified by

On the 14th a robin (Turdus migratorius) appeared; this bird is hailed by
the natives as the infallible precursor of warm weather. Ducks and geese
were also seen in numbers and the reindeer advanced to the northward. The
merganser (Mergus serrator) which preys upon small fish, was the first of
the duck tribe that appeared; next came the teal (Anas crecca) which
lives upon small insects that abound in the waters at this season; and
lastly the goose which feeds upon berries and herbage. Geese appear at
Cumberland House in latitude 54 degrees usually about the 12th of April;
at Fort Chipewyan in latitude 59 degrees on the 25th of April; at Slave
Lake in latitude 61 degrees on the 1st of May; and at Fort Enterprise in
latitude 64 degrees 28 minutes on the 12th or 14th of the same month.

On the 16th a minor chief amongst the Copper Indians attended by his son
arrived from Fort Providence to consult Dr. Richardson. He was affected
with snow-blindness which was soon relieved by the dropping of a little
laudanum into his eyes twice a day. Most of our own men had been lately
troubled with this complaint but it always yielded in twenty or thirty
hours to the same remedy.

On the 21st all our men returned from the Indians and Akaitcho was on his
way to the fort. In the afternoon two of his young men arrived to
announce his visit and to request that he might be received with a salute
and other marks of respect that he had been accustomed to on visiting
Fort Providence in the spring. I complied with his desire although I
regretted the expenditure of ammunition and sent the young man away with
the customary present of powder to enable him to return the salute, some
tobacco, vermilion to paint their faces, a comb and a looking-glass.

At eleven Akaitcho arrived; at the first notice of his appearance the
flag was hoisted at the fort and upon his nearer approach a number of
muskets were fired by a party of our people and returned by his young
men. Akaitcho, preceded by his standard-bearer, led the party and
advanced with a slow and stately step to the door where Mr. Wentzel and I
received him. The faces of the party were daubed with vermilion, the old
men having a spot on the right cheek, the young ones on the left.
Akaitcho himself was not painted. On entering he sat down on a chest, the
rest placed themselves in a circle on the floor. The pipe was passed once
or twice round and in the meantime a bowl of spirits and water and a
present considerable for our circumstances of cloth, blankets, capots,
shirts, etc., was placed on the floor for the chief's acceptance and
distribution amongst his people. Akaitcho then commenced his speech but I
regret to say that it was very discouraging and indicated that he had
parted with his good humour, at least since his March visit. He first
inquired whether, in the event of a passage by sea being discovered, we
should come to his lands in any ship that might be sent? And being
answered that it was probable but not quite certain that someone amongst
us might come, he expressed a hope that some suitable present should be
forwarded to himself and nation, "for" said he, "the great Chief who
commands where all the goods come from must see from the drawings and
descriptions of us and our country that we are a miserable people." I
assured him that he would be remembered, provided he faithfully fulfilled
his engagement with us.

He next complained of the non-payment of my notes by Mr. Weeks, from
which he apprehended that his own reward would be withheld. "If," said
he, "your notes to such a trifling amount are not accepted whilst you are
within such a short distance and can hold communication with the fort, it
is not probable that the large reward which has been promised to myself
and party will be paid when you are far distant on your way to your own
country. It really appears to me," he continued, "as if both the
Companies consider your party as a third company, hostile to their
interests, and that neither of them will pay the notes you give to the

Afterwards in the course of a long conference he enumerated many other
grounds of dissatisfaction, the principal of which were our want of
attention to him as chief, the weakness of the rum formerly sent to him,
the smallness of the present now offered, and the want of the chief's
clothing, which he had been accustomed to receive at Fort Providence
every spring. He concluded by refusing to receive the goods now laid
before him.

In reply to these complaints it was stated that Mr. Weeks' conduct could
not be properly discussed at such a distance from his fort, that no
dependence ought to be placed on the vague reports that floated through
the Indian territory, that for our part, although we had heard many
stories to his (Akaitcho's) disadvantage, we discredited them all, that
the rum we had sent him, being what the great men in England were
accustomed to drink, was of a milder kind but in fact stronger than what
he had been accustomed to receive, and that the distance we had come and
the speed with which we travelled precluded us from bringing large
quantities of goods like the traders, that this had been fully explained
to him when he agreed to accompany us and that, in consideration of his
not receiving his usual spring outfit, his debts to the Company had been
cancelled and a present, much greater than any he had ever received
before, ordered to be got ready for his return. He was further informed
that we were much disappointed in not receiving any dried meat from him,
an article indispensable for our summer voyage and which he had led us to
believe there was no difficulty in procuring, and that in fact his
complaints were so groundless in comparison with the real injury we
sustained from the want of supplies that we were led to believe they were
preferred solely for the purpose of cloaking his own want of attention to
the terms of his engagement. He then shifted his ground and stated that
if we endeavoured to make a voyage along the sea-coast we should
inevitably perish, and he advised us strongly against persisting in the
attempt. This part of his harangue, being an exact transcript of the
sentiments formerly expressed by our interpreters, induced us to conclude
that they had prompted his present line of conduct by telling him that we
had goods or rum concealed. He afterwards received a portion of our
dinner in the manner he had been accustomed to do, and seemed inclined to
make up matters with us in the course of the evening, provided we added
to the present offered to him. Being told however that this was
impossible since we had already offered him all the rum we had and every
article of goods we could spare from our own equipment his obstinacy was
a little shaken, and he made some concessions but deferred giving a final
answer until the arrival of Humpy his elder brother. The young men
however did not choose to wait so long and at night came for the rum,
which we judged to be a great step towards a reconciliation.

St. Germain, the most intelligent of our two interpreters and the one who
had most influence with the Indians, being informed that their defection
was in a great measure attributed to the unguarded conversations he had
held with them, and which he had in part acknowledged, exerted himself
much on the following day in bringing about a change in their sentiments
and with some success. The young men, though they declined hunting,
conducted themselves with the same good humour and freedom as formerly.
Akaitcho being as he said ashamed to show himself kept close in his tent
all day.

On the 24th one of the women who accompanied us from Athabasca was sent
down to Fort Providence under charge of the old chief who came some days
before for medicine for his eyes. Angelique and Roulante, the other two
women, having families, preferred accompanying the Indians during their
summer hunt. On the 25th clothing and other necessary articles were
issued to the Canadians as their equipment for the ensuing voyage. Two or
three blankets, some cloth, ironwork, and trinkets were reserved for
distribution amongst the Esquimaux on the sea-coast. Laced dresses were
given to Augustus and Junius. It is impossible to describe the joy that
took possession of the latter on the receipt of this present. The happy
little fellow burst into ecstatic laughter as he surveyed the different
articles of his gay habiliments.*

(*Footnote. These men kept their dresses and delighted in them. An Indian
chief on the other hand only appears once before the donor in the dress
of ceremony which he receives and then transfers it to some favourite in
the tribe whom he desires to reward by this robe of honour.)

In the afternoon Humpy the leader's elder brother, Annoethaiyazzeh,
another of his brothers, and one of our guides arrived with the remainder
of Akaitcho's band; as also Long-legs, brother to the Hook, with three of
his band. There were now in the encampment thirty hunters, thirty-one
women, and sixty children, in all one hundred and twenty-one of the
Copper Indian or Red-Knife tribe. The rest of the nation were with the
Hook on the lower part of the Copper-Mine River.

Annoethaiyazzeh is remarkable amongst the Indians for the number of his
descendants; he has eighteen children living by two wives, of whom
sixteen were at the fort at this time.

In the evening we had another formidable conference. The former
complaints were reiterated and we parted about midnight without any
satisfactory answer to my questions as to when Akaitcho would proceed
towards the river and where he meant to make provision for our march. I
was somewhat pleased however to find that Humpy and Annoethaiyazzeh
censured their brother's conduct and accused him of avarice.

On the 26th the canoes were removed from the places where they had been
deposited as we judged that the heat of the atmosphere was now so great
as to admit of their being repaired without risk of cracking the bark. We
were rejoiced to find that two of them had suffered little injury from
the frost during the winter. The bark of the third was considerably rent
but it was still capable of repair.

The Indians sat in conference in their tents all the morning and in the
afternoon came into the house charged with fresh matter for discussion.

Soon after they had seated themselves and the room was filled with the
customary volume of smoke from their calumets the goods which had been
laid aside were again presented to the leader, but he at once refused to
distribute so small a quantity amongst his men and complained that there
were neither blankets, kettles, nor daggers amongst them, and in the
warmth of his anger he charged Mr. Wentzel with having advised the
distribution of all our goods to the Canadians and thus defrauding the
Indians of what was intended for them. Mr. Wentzel of course immediately
repelled this injurious accusation and reminded Akaitcho again that he
had been told on engaging to accompany us that he was not to expect any
goods until his return. This he denied with an effrontery that surprised
us all, when Humpy, who was present at our first interview at Fort
Providence, declared that he heard us say that no goods could be taken
for the supply of the Indians on the voyage; and the first guide added,
"I do not expect anything here, I have promised to accompany the white
people to the sea and I will therefore go, confidently relying upon
receiving the stipulated reward on my return." Akaitcho did not seem
prepared to hear such declarations from his brothers and, instantly
changing the subject, began to descant upon the treatment he had received
from the traders in his concerns with them with an asperity of language
that bore more the appearance of menace than complaint. I immediately
refused to discuss this topic as foreign to our present business and
desired Akaitcho to recall to memory that he had told me on our first
meeting that he considered me the father of every person attached to the
Expedition, in which character it was surely my duty to provide for the
comfort and safety of the Canadians as well as the Indians. The voyagers,
he knew, had a long journey to perform and would in all probability be
exposed to much suffering from cold on a coast destitute of wood, and
therefore required a greater provision of clothing than was necessary for
the Indians who, by returning immediately from the mouth of the river,
would reach Fort Providence in August and obtain their promised rewards.
Most of the Indians appeared to assent to this argument but Akaitcho
said, "I perceive the traders have deceived you; you should have brought
more goods but I do not blame you." I then told him that I had brought
from England only ammunition, tobacco, and spirits and that, being
ignorant what other articles the Indians required, we were dependent on
the traders for supplies, but he must be aware that every endeavour had
been used on our parts to procure them, as was evinced by Mr. Back's
journey to Fort Chipewyan. With respect to the ammunition and tobacco we
had been as much disappointed as themselves in not receiving them, but
this was to be attributed to the neglect of those to whom they had been
entrusted. This explanation seemed to satisfy him. After some minutes of
reflection his countenance became more cheerful and he made inquiry
whether his party might go to either of the trading posts they chose on
their return, and whether the Hudson's Bay Company were rich, for they
had been represented to him as a poor people? I answered him that we
really knew nothing about the wealth of either Company, having never
concerned ourselves with trade, but that all the traders appeared to us
to be respectable. Our thoughts I added are fixed solely on the
accomplishment of the objects for which we came to the country. Our
success depends much on your furnishing us with provision speedily, that
we may have all the summer to work and, if we succeed, a ship will soon
bring goods in abundance to the mouth of the Copper-Mine River. The
Indians talked together for a short time after this conversation and then
the leader made an application for two or three kettles and some blankets
to be added to the present to his young men; we were unable to spare him
any kettles but the officers promised to give a blanket each from their
own beds.

Dinner was now brought in and relieved us for a time from their
importunity. The leading men as usual received each a portion from the
table. When the conversation was resumed the chief renewed his
solicitations for goods, but it was now too palpable to be mistaken that
he aimed at getting everything he possibly could and leaving us without
the means of making any presents to the Esquimaux or other Indians we
might meet. I resolved therefore on steadily refusing every request and,
when he perceived that he could extort nothing more, he rose in an angry
manner and, addressing his young men, said: "There are too few goods for
me to distribute; those that mean to follow the white people to the sea
may take them."

This was an incautious speech as it rendered it necessary for his party
to display their sentiments. The guides and most of the hunters declared
their readiness to go and came forward to receive a portion of the
present which was no inconsiderable assortment. This relieved a weight of
anxiety from my mind and I did not much regard the leader's retiring in a
very dissatisfied mood.

The hunters then applied to Mr. Wentzel for ammunition that they might
hunt in the morning and it was cheerfully given to them.

The officers and men amused themselves at prison-bars and other Canadian
games till two o'clock in the morning, and we were happy to observe the
Indians sitting in groups enjoying the sport. We were desirous of filling
up the leisure moments of the Canadians with amusements, not only for the
purpose of enlivening their spirits but also to prevent them from
conversing upon our differences with the Indians, which they must have
observed. The exercise was also in a peculiar manner serviceable to Mr.
Hood. Ever ardent in his pursuits he had, through close attention to his
drawings and other avocations, confined himself too much to the house in
winter, and his health was impaired by his sedentary habits. I could only
take the part of a spectator in these amusements, being still lame from
the hurt formerly alluded to.

The sun now sank for so short a time below the horizon that there was
more light at midnight than we enjoyed on some days at noon in the

On the 27th the hunters brought in two reindeer. Many of the Indians
attended divine service this day and were attentive spectators of our
addresses to the Almighty.

On the 28th I had a conversation with Long-legs whose arrival two days
before has been mentioned. I acquainted him with the objects of our
Expedition and our desire of promoting peace between his nation and the
Esquimaux, and learned from him that his brother the Hook was by this
time on the Copper-Mine River with his party and that, although he had
little ammunition, yet it was possible he might have some provision
collected before our arrival at his tents. I then decorated him with a
medal similar to those given to the other chiefs. He was highly pleased
with this mark of our regard and promised to do everything for us in his
power. Akaitcho came in during the latter part of our conversation with a
very cheerful countenance. Jealousy of the Hook and a knowledge that the
sentiments of the young men differed from his own with respect to the
recent discussions had combined to produce this change in his conduct,
and next morning he took an opportunity of telling me that I must not
think the worse of him for his importunities. It was their custom he said
to do so however strange it might appear to us, and he as the leader of
his party had to beg for them all; but as he saw we had not deceived him
by concealing any of our goods and that we really had nothing left he
should ask for no more. He then told me that he would set out for the
river as soon as the state of the country admitted of travelling. The
snow he remarked was still too deep for sledges to the northward and the
moss too wet to make fires. He was seconded in this opinion by Long-legs
whom I was the more inclined to believe knowing that he was anxious to
rejoin his family as soon as possible.

Akaitcho now accepted the dress he had formerly refused and next day
clothed himself in another new suit which he had received from us in the
autumn. Ever since his arrival at the fort he had dressed meanly and
pleaded poverty but, perceiving that nothing more could be gained by such
conduct, he thought proper to show some of his riches to the strangers
who were daily arriving. In the afternoon however he made another though
a covert attack upon us. He informed me that two old men had just arrived
at the encampment with a little pounded meat which they wished to barter.
It was evident his intention was merely to discover whether we had any
goods remaining or not. I told him that we had nothing at present to give
for meat, however much we stood in need of it, but that we would pay for
it by notes on the North-West Company in any kind of goods they pleased.
After much artful circumlocution and repeated assurances of the
necessities of the men who owned the meat he introduced them and they
readily agreed to give us the provision on our own terms.

I have deemed it my duty to give the details of these tedious
conversations to point out to future travellers the art with which these
Indians pursue their objects, their avaricious nature, and the little
reliance that can be placed upon them when their interests jar with their
promises. In these respects they agree with other tribes of northern
Indians but, as has been already mentioned, their dispositions are not
cruel and their hearts are readily moved by the cry of distress.

The average temperature for May was nearly 32 degrees, the greatest heat
was 68 degrees, the lowest 8 degrees.

We had constant daylight at the end of the month and geese and ducks were
abundant, indeed rather too much so for our hunters were apt to waste
upon them the ammunition that was given to them for killing deer.
Uncertain as to the length of time that it might be required to last we
did not deem a goose of equal value with the charge it cost to procure

Dr. Richardson and Mr. Back having visited the country to the northward
of the Slave Rock and reported that they thought we might travel over it
I signified my intention of sending the first party off on Monday the 4th
of June. I was anxious to get the Indians to move on before, but they
lingered about the house, evidently with the intention of picking up such
articles as we might deem unnecessary to take. When Akaitcho was made
acquainted with my purpose of sending away a party of men he came to
inform me that he would appoint two hunters to accompany them and at the
same time requested that Dr. Richardson or, as he called him, the
Medicine Chief, might be sent with his own band. These Indians set a
great value upon medicine and made many demands upon Dr. Richardson on
the prospect of his departure. He had to make up little packets of the
different articles in his chest, not only for the leader but for each of
the minor chiefs who carefully placed them in their medicine bags, noting
in their memories the directions he gave for their use. The readiness
with which their requests for medical assistance were complied with was
considered by them as a strong mark of our good intentions towards them
and the leader often remarked that they owed much to our kindness in that
respect, that formerly numbers had died every year but that not a life
had been lost since our arrival amongst them. In the present instance
however the leader's request could not be complied with. Dr. Richardson
had volunteered to conduct the first party to the Copper-Mine River
whilst the rest of the officers remained with me to the last moment to
complete our astronomical observations at the house. He therefore
informed the leader that he would remain stationary at Point Lake until
the arrival of the whole party, where he might be easily consulted if any
of his people fell sick as it was in the neighbourhood of their hunting

On the 2nd the stores were packed up in proper-sized bales for the
journey. I had intended to send the canoes by the first party but they
were not yet repaired, the weather not being sufficiently warm for the
men to work constantly at them without the hazard of breaking the bark.
This day one of the new trading guns which we had recently received from
Fort Chipewyan burst in the hands of a young Indian, fortunately however
without doing him any material injury. This was the sixth accident of the
kind which had occurred since our departure from Slave Lake. Surely this
deficiency in the quality of the guns, which hazards the lives of so many
poor Indians, requires the serious consideration of the principals of the
trading Companies.

On the 4th at three in the morning the party under the charge of Dr.
Richardson started. It consisted of fifteen voyagers, three of them
conducting dog sledges, Baldhead and Basil, two Indian hunters with their
wives, Akaiyazzeh a sick Indian and his wife, together with Angelique and
Roulante, so that the party amounted to twenty-three exclusive of

The burdens of the men were about eighty pounds each, exclusive of their
personal baggage which amounted to nearly as much more. Most of them
dragged their loads upon sledges but a few preferred carrying them on
their backs. They set off in high spirits.

After breakfast the Indians struck their tents, and the women, the boys,
and the old men who had to drag sledges, took their departure. It was
three P.M. however before Akaitcho and the hunters left us. We issued
thirty balls to the leader and twenty to each of the hunters and guides
with a proportionate quantity of powder, and gave them directions to make
all the provision they could on their way to Point Lake. I then desired
Mr. Wentzel to inform Akaitcho in the presence of the other Indians that
I wished a deposit of provision to be made at this place previous to next
September as a resource should we return this way. He and the guides not
only promised to see this done but suggested that it would be more secure
if placed in the cellar or in Mr. Wentzel's room. The Dog-Ribs, they
said, would respect anything that was in the house as knowing it to
belong to the white people. At the close of this conversation Akaitcho
exclaimed with a smile, "I see now that you have really no goods left
(the rooms and stores being completely stripped) and therefore I shall
not trouble you any more but use my best endeavours to prepare provision
for you, and I think if the animals are tolerably numerous we may get
plenty before you can embark on the river."

Whilst the Indians were packing up this morning one of the women
absconded. She belongs to the Dog-Rib tribe and had been taken by force
from her relations by her present husband who treated her very harshly.
The fellow was in my room when his mother announced the departure of his
wife and received the intelligence with great composure as well as the
seasonable reproof of Akaitcho. "You are rightly served," said the chief
to him, "and will now have to carry all your things yourself instead of
having a wife to drag them." One hunter remained after the departure of
the other Indians.

On the 5th the Dog-Rib woman presented herself on a hill at some distance
from the house, but was afraid to approach us until the interpreter went
and told her that neither we nor the Indian who remained with us would
prevent her from going where she pleased. Upon this she came to solicit a
fire-steel and kettle. She was at first low-spirited from the non-arrival
of a countrywoman who had promised to elope with her, but had probably
been too narrowly watched. The Indian hunter however, having given her
some directions as to the proper mode of joining her own tribe, she
became more composed and ultimately agreed to adopt his advice of
proceeding at once to Fort Providence instead of wandering about the
country all summer in search of them at the imminent hazard of being

On the 7th the wind, shifting to the southward, dispersed the clouds
which had obscured the sky for several days and produced a change of
temperature under which the snow rapidly disappeared. The thermometer
rose to 73 degrees, many flies came forth, mosquitoes showed themselves
for the first time, and one swallow made its appearance. We were the more
gratified with these indications of summer that St. Germain was enabled
to commence the repair of the canoes, and before night had completed the
two which had received the least injury. Augustus killed two deer today.

On the 10th the dip of the magnetic needle, being observed, showed a
decrease of 22 minutes 44 seconds since last autumn. The repairs of the
third canoe were finished this evening.

The snow was now confined to the bases of the hills and our Indian hunter
told us the season was early. The operations of nature however seemed to
us very tardy. We were eager to be gone and dreaded the lapse of summer
before the Indians would allow it had begun.

On the 11th the geese and ducks had left the vicinity of Fort Enterprise
and proceeded to the northward. Some young ravens and whiskey-johns made
their appearance at this time.

On the 12th Winter River was nearly cleared of ice and on the 13th the
men returned, having left Dr. Richardson on the borders of Point Lake.
Dr. Richardson informed me by letter that the snow was deeper in many
parts near his encampment than it had been at any time last winter near
Fort Enterprise, and that the ice on Point Lake had scarcely begun to
decay. Although the voyagers were much fatigued on their arrival, and had
eaten nothing for the last twenty-four hours, they were very cheerful and
expressed a desire to start with the remainder of the stores next
morning. The Dog-Rib woman, who had lingered about the house since the
6th of June, took alarm at the approach of our men, thinking perhaps that
they were accompanied by Indians, and ran off. She was now provided with
a hatchet, kettle, and fire-steel, and would probably go at once to Fort
Providence in the expectation of meeting with some of her countrymen
before the end of summer.


(*Footnote. It will be seen hereafter that I had the misfortune to lose
my portfolio containing my journals from Fort Enterprise to the 14th of
September. But the loss has been amply redeemed by my brother officers'
journals from which the narrative up to that period has been chiefly



June 14, 1821.

The trains for the canoes having been finished during the night the party
attached to them commenced their journey at ten this morning. Each canoe
was dragged by four men assisted by two dogs. They took the route of
Winter Lake with the intention of following, although more circuitous,
the watercourse as far as practicable, it being safer for the canoes than
travelling overland. After their departure the remaining stores, the
instruments, and our small stock of dried meat, amounting only to eighty
pounds, were distributed equally among Hepburn, three Canadians, and the
two Esquimaux; with this party and two Indian hunters we quitted Fort
Enterprise, most sincerely rejoicing that the long-wished-for day had
arrived when we were to proceed towards the final object of the

We left in one of the rooms a box containing a journal of the occurrences
up to this date, the charts and some drawings, which was to be conveyed
to Fort Chipewyan by Mr. Wentzel on his return from the sea and thence to
be sent to England. The room was blocked up and, by the advice of Mr.
Wentzel, a drawing representing a man holding a dagger in a threatening
attitude was affixed to the door to deter any Indians from breaking it
open. We directed our course towards the Dog-Rib Rock but, as our
companions were loaded with the weight of near one hundred and eighty
pounds each, we of necessity proceeded at a slow pace. The day was
extremely warm and the mosquitoes, whose attacks had hitherto been
feeble, issued forth in swarms from the marshes and were very tormenting.
Having walked five miles we encamped near a small cluster of pines about
two miles from the Dog-Rib Rock. The canoe party had not been seen since
they set out. Our hunters went forward to Marten Lake, intending to wait
for us at a place where two deer were deposited. At nine P.M. the
temperature of the air was 63 degrees.

We resumed our march at an early hour and crossed several lakes which lay
in our course as the ice enabled the men to drag their burdens on trains
formed of sticks and deers' horns with more ease than they could carry
them on their backs. We were kept constantly wet by this operation as the
ice had broken near the shores of the lakes but this was little regarded
as the day was unusually warm, the temperature at two P.M. being at 82
1/2 degrees. At Marten Lake we joined the canoe party and encamped with
them. We had the mortification of learning from our hunters that the meat
they had put en cache here had been destroyed by the wolverines, and we
had in consequence to furnish the supper from our scanty stock of dried
meat. The wind changed from South-East to North-East in the evening and
the weather became very cold, the thermometer being at 43 degrees at nine
P.M. The few dwarf birches we could collect afforded fire insufficient to
keep us warm and we retired under the covering of our blankets as soon as
the supper was despatched. The North-East breeze rendered the night so
extremely cold that we procured but little sleep, having neither fire nor
shelter for, though we carried our tents, we had been forced to leave the
tent-poles which we could not now replace; we therefore gladly
recommenced the journey at five in the morning and travelled through the
remaining part of the lake on the ice. Its surface being quite smooth the
canoes were dragged along expeditiously by the dogs, and the rest of the
party had to walk very quick to keep pace with them, which occasioned
many severe falls. By the time we had reached the end of the lake the
wind had increased to a perfect gale and the atmosphere was so cold that
we could not proceed farther with the canoes without the risk of breaking
the bark and seriously injuring them; we therefore crossed Winter River
in them and put up in a well-sheltered place on a ridge of sandhills but,
as the stock of provision was scanty, we determined on proceeding as
quick as possible and leaving the canoe party under the charge of Mr.
Wentzel. We parted from them in the afternoon, and first directed our
course towards a range of hills where we expected to find Antonio
Fontano, who had separated from us in the morning. In crossing towards
these hills I fell through the ice into the lake with my bundle on my
shoulders but was soon extricated without any injury, and Mr. Back, who
left us to go in search of the straggler, met with a similar accident in
the evening. We put up on a ridge of sandhills where we found some pines,
and made a large fire to apprise Mr. Back and Fontano of our position.
St. Germain having killed a deer in the afternoon we received an
acceptable supply of meat. The night was stormy and very cold.

At five the next morning our men were sent in different directions after
our absent companions, but as the weather was foggy we despaired of
finding them unless they should chance to hear the muskets our people
were desired to fire. They returned however at ten, bringing intelligence
of them. I went immediately with Hepburn to join Mr. Back and directed
Mr. Hood to proceed with the Canadians and halt with them at the spot
where the hunters had killed a deer. Though Mr. Back was much fatigued he
set off with me immediately, and in the evening we rejoined our friends
on the borders of the Big Lake. The Indians informed us that Fontano only
remained a few hours with them and then continued his journey. We had to
oppose a violent gale and frequent snowstorms through the day, which
unseasonable weather caused the temperature to descend below the
freezing-point this evening. The situation of our encampment being bleak,
and our fuel stunted green willows, we passed a very cold and
uncomfortable night.

June 18.

Though the breeze was moderate this morning the air was piercingly keen.
When on the point of starting we perceived Mr. Wentzel's party coming,
and awaited his arrival to learn whether the canoes had received any
injury during the severe weather of yesterday. Finding they had not we
proceeded to get upon the ice on the lake, which could not be effected
without walking up to the waist in water for some distance from its
borders. We had not the command of our feet in this situation and the men
fell often; poor Junius broke through the ice with his heavy burden on
his back but fortunately was not hurt.

This lake is extensive and large arms branch from its main course in
different directions. At these parts we crossed the projecting points of
land and on each occasion had to wade as before, which so wearied
everyone that we rejoiced when we reached its north side and encamped,
though our resting-place was a bare rock. We had the happiness of finding
Fontano at this place. The poor fellow had passed the three preceding
days without tasting food and was exhausted by anxiety and hunger. His
sufferings were considered to have been a sufficient punishment for his
imprudent conduct in separating from us, and I only admonished him to be
more cautious in future.

Having received information that the hunters had killed a deer we sent
three men to fetch the meat, which was distributed between our party and
the canoe-men who had been encamped near to us. The thermometer at three
P.M. was 46 degrees, at nine 34 degrees.

We commenced the following day by crossing a lake about four miles in
length and then passed over a succession of rugged hills for nearly the
same distance. The men, being anxious to reach some pine-trees which they
had seen on their former journey, walked at a quick pace though they were
suffering from swelled legs and rheumatic pains; we could not however
attain the desired point and therefore encamped on the declivity of a
hill which sheltered us from the wind, and used the reindeer moss for
fuel, which afforded us more warmth than we expected. Several patches of
snow were yet remaining on the surrounding hills. The thermometer varied
today between 55 and 45 degrees.

On the 20th of June we began our march by crossing a small lake, not
without much risk as the surface of the ice was covered with water to the
depth of two feet and there were many holes into which we slipped in
spite of our efforts to avoid them. A few of the men, being fearful of
attempting the traverse with their heavy loads, walked round the eastern
end of the lake. The parties met on the sandy ridge which separates the
streams that fall into Winter Lake from those that flow to the northward;
and here we killed three deer. Near the base of this ridge we crossed a
small but rapid stream in which there is a remarkable cascade of about
fifty feet. Some Indians joined us here and gave information respecting
the situation of Dr. Richardson's tent, which our hunters considered was
sufficient for our guidance, and therefore proceeded as quickly as they
could. We marched a few miles farther in the evening and encamped among
some pines; but the comfort of a good fire did not compensate for the
torment we suffered from the host of mosquitoes at this spot. The
temperature was 52 degrees.

We set off next morning at a very early hour. The men took the course of
Point Lake that they might use their sledges, but the officers pursued
the nearest route by land to Dr. Richardson's tent, which we reached at
eleven A.M. It was on the western side of an arm of the lake and near the
part through which the Copper-Mine River runs. Our men arrived soon after
us and in the evening Mr. Wentzel and his party, with the canoes in
excellent condition. They were much jaded by their fatiguing journey and
several were lame from swellings of the lower extremities. The ice on the
lake was still six or seven feet thick and there was no appearance of its
decay except near the edges and, as it was evident that, by remaining
here until it should be removed, we might lose every prospect of success
in our undertaking, I determined on dragging our stores along its surface
until we should come to a part of the river where we could embark, and
directions were given this evening for each man to prepare a train for
the conveyance of his portion of the stores. I may remark here, as a
proof of the strong effect of radiation from the earth in melting the
ice, that the largest holes in the ice were always formed at the base of
the high and steep cliffs which abound on the borders of this lake.

We found Akaitcho and the hunters encamped here but their families and
the rest of the tribe had gone off two days before to the Bethseeto, a
large lake to the northward where they intended passing the summer.
Long-legs and Keskarrah had departed to desire the Hook to collect as
much meat as he could against our arrival at his lodge. We were extremely
distressed to learn from Dr. Richardson that Akaitcho and his party had
expended all the ammunition they had received at Fort Enterprise without
having contributed any supply of provision. The Doctor had however,
through the assistance of two hunters he kept with him, prepared two
hundred pounds of dried meat, which was now our sole dependence for the
journey. On the following morning I represented to Akaitcho that we had
been greatly disappointed by his conduct which was so opposite to the
promise of exertion he had made on quitting Fort Enterprise. He offered
many excuses but, finding they were not satisfactory, admitted that the
greater part of the ammunition had been given to those who accompanied
the women to the Bethseeto, and promised to behave better in future. I
then told him that I intended in future to give them ammunition only in
proportion to the meat which was brought in, and that we should commence
upon that plan by supplying him with fifteen balls, and each of the
hunters with ten.

The number of our hunters was now reduced to five as two of the most
active declined going any farther, their father, who thought himself
dying, having solicited them to remain and close his eyes. These five
were furnished with ammunition and sent forward to hunt on the south
border of the lake, with directions to place any meat they might procure
near the edge of the lake and set up marks to guide us to the spots.
Akaitcho, his brother, the guide, and three other men remained to
accompany us. We were much surprised to perceive an extraordinary
difference in climate in so short an advance to the northward as fifty
miles. The snow here was lying in large patches on the hills. The
dwarf-birch and willows were only just beginning to open their buds which
had burst forth at Fort Enterprise many days before our departure.
Vegetation seemed to be three weeks or a month later here than at that
place. We had heavy showers of rain through the night of the 22nd which
melted the snow and visibly wasted the ice.

On the 23rd the men were busily employed in making their trains and in
pounding the meat for pemmican. The situation of the encampment was
ascertained latitude 65 degrees 12 minutes 40 seconds North, longitude
113 degrees 8 minutes 25 seconds West, and the variation 43 degrees 4
minutes 20 seconds East. The arrangements being completed we purposed
commencing our journey next morning, but the weather was too stormy to
venture upon the lake with the canoes. In the afternoon a heavy fall of
snow took place, succeeded by sleet and rain. The north-east gale
continued but the thermometer rose to 39 degrees.

June 25.

The wind having abated in the night we prepared for starting at an early
hour. The three canoes were mounted on sledges and nine men were
appointed to conduct them, having the assistance of two dogs to each
canoe. The stores and provisions were distributed equally among the rest
of our men, except a few small articles which the Indians carried. The
provision consisted of only two bags of pemmican, two of pounded meat,
five of suet, and two small bundles of dried provision, together with
fresh meat sufficient for our supper at night. It was gratifying to
witness the readiness with which the men prepared for and commenced a
journey which threatened to be so very laborious, as each of them had to
drag upwards of one hundred and eighty pounds on his sledge.

Our course led down the main channel of the lake, which varied in breadth
from half a mile to three miles; but we proceeded at a slow pace as the
snow which fell last night and still lay on the ice very much impeded the
sledges. Many extensive arms branched off on the north side of this
channel and it was bounded on the south by a chain of lofty islands. The
hills on both sides rose to six or seven hundred feet and high steep
cliffs were numerous. Clusters of pines were occasionally seen in the
valleys. We put up at eight P.M. in a spot which afforded us but a few
twigs for fuel. The party was much fatigued and several of the men were
affected by an inflammation on the inside of the thigh attended with
hardness and swelling. The distance made today was six miles.

We started at ten next morning. The day was extremely hot and the men
were soon jaded; their lameness increased very much and some not
previously affected began to complain. The dogs too showed symptoms of
great weakness, and one of them stretched himself obstinately on the ice
and was obliged to be released from the harness. We were therefore
compelled to encamp at an early hour, having come only four miles. The
sufferings of the people in this early stage of our journey were truly
discouraging to them and very distressing to us, whose situation was
comparatively easy. I therefore determined on leaving the third canoe
which had been principally carried to provide against any accident to the
others. We should thus gain three men to lighten the loads of those who
were most lame, and an additional dog for each of the other canoes. It
was accordingly properly secured on a stage erected for the purpose near
the encampment. Dried meat was issued for supper but in the course of the
evening the Indians killed two deer for which we immediately sent.

The channel of the lake through which we had passed today was bounded on
both sides by islands of considerable height, presenting bold and rugged
scenery. We were informed by our guide that a large body of the lake lies
to the northward of a long island which we passed.

Another deer was killed next morning but, as the men breakfasted off it
before they started, the additional weight was not materially felt. The
burdens of the men being considerably lightened by the arrangements of
last evening, the party walked at the rate of one mile and three-quarters
an hour until the afternoon, when our pace was slackened as the ice was
more rough and our lame companions felt their sores very galling. At noon
we passed a deep bay on the south side which is said to receive a river.
Throughout the day's march the hills on each side of the lake bore a
strong resemblance in height and form to those about Fort Enterprise. We
encamped on the north main shore among some spruce trees, having walked
eight miles and a half. Three or four fish were caught with lines through
holes which the water had worn in the ice. We perceived a light westerly
current at these places.

It rained heavily during the night and this was succeeded by a dense fog
on the morning of the 28th. Being short of provisions we commenced our
journey though the points of land were not discernible beyond a short
distance. The surface of the ice, being honeycombed by the recent rains,
presented innumerable sharp points which tore our shoes and lacerated the
feet at every step. The poor dogs too marked their path with their blood.


In the evening the atmosphere became clear and at five P.M. we reached
the rapid by which Point Lake communicates with Red-Rock Lake. This rapid
is only one hundred yards wide and we were much disappointed at finding
the Copper-Mine River such an inconsiderable stream. The canoes descended
the rapid but the cargoes were carried across the peninsula and placed
again on the sledges as the next lake was still frozen. We passed an
extensive arm branching to the eastward, and encamped just below it on
the western bank among spruce pines, having walked six miles of direct
distance. The rolled stones on the beach are principally red clay slate,
hence its Indian appellation which we have retained.

We continued our journey at the usual hour next morning. At noon the
variation was observed to be 47 degrees East. Our attention was
afterwards directed to some pine branches scattered on the ice which
proved to be marks placed by our hunters to guide us to the spot where
they had deposited the carcasses of two small deer. This supply was very
seasonable and the men cheerfully dragged the additional weight.
Akaitcho, judging from the appearance of the meat, thought it had been
placed here three days ago and that the hunters were considerably in
advance. We put up at six P.M. near the end of the lake, having come
twelve miles and three-quarters, and found the channel open by which it
is connected with the Rock-nest Lake. A river was pointed out bearing
south from our encampment, which is said to rise near Great Marten Lake.
Red-Rock Lake is in general narrow, its shelving banks are well clothed
with wood and even the hills, which attain an elevation of four hundred
or five hundred feet, are ornamented halfway up with stunted pines.

On June 30 the men, having gummed the canoes, embarked with their burdens
to descend the river; but we accompanied the Indians about five miles
across a neck of land, when we also embarked. The river was about two
hundred yards wide and, its course being uninterrupted, we cherished a
sanguine hope of now getting on more speedily, until we perceived that
the waters of Rock-nest Lake were still bound by ice and that recourse
must again be had to the sledges. The ice was much decayed and the party
were exposed to great risk of breaking through in making the traverse. In
one part we had to cross an open channel in the canoes, and in another
were compelled to quit the Lake and make a portage along the land. When
the party had got upon the ice again our guide evinced much uncertainty
as to the route. He first directed us towards the west end of the lake
but, when we had nearly gained that point, he discovered a remarkable
rock to the north-east, named by the Indians the Rock-nest, and then
recollected that the river ran at its base. Our course was immediately
changed to that direction, but the traverse we had then to make was more
dangerous than the former one. The ice cracked under us at every step and
the party were obliged to separate widely to prevent accidents. We landed
at the first point we could approach but, having found an open channel
close to the shore, were obliged to ferry the goods across on pieces of
ice. The fresh meat being expended we had to make another inroad on our
pounded meat. The evening was very warm and the mosquitoes numerous. A
large fire was made to apprise the hunters of our advance. The scenery of
Rock-nest Lake is picturesque, its shores are rather low except at the
Rock-nest, and two or three eminences on the eastern side. The only wood
is the pine which is twenty or thirty feet high and about one foot in
diameter. Our distance today was six miles.

July 1.

Our guide directed us to proceed towards a deep bay on the north side of
the lake where he supposed we should find the river. In consequence of
the bad state of the ice we employed all the different modes of
travelling we had previously followed in attaining this place and, in
crossing a point of land, had the misfortune to lose one of the dogs,
which set off in pursuit of some reindeer. Arriving at the bay we only
found a stream that fell into it from the north-east and looked in vain
for the Copper-Mine River. This circumstance confused the guide and he
confessed that he was now doubtful of the proper route; we therefore
halted and despatched him with two men to look for the river from the top
of the high hills near the Rock-nest. During this delay a slight injury
was repaired which one of the canoes had received. We were here amused by
the sight of a wolf chasing two reindeer on the ice. The pursuer, being
alarmed at the sight of our men, gave up the chase when near to the
hindmost, much to our regret for we were calculating upon the chance of
sharing in his capture.

At four P.M. our men returned with the agreeable information that they
had seen the river flowing at the base of the Rock-nest. The canoes and
stores were immediately placed on the ice and dragged thither; we then
embarked but soon had to cut through a barrier of drift ice that blocked
up the way. We afterwards descended two strong rapids and encamped near
the discharge of a small stream which flows from an adjoining lake. The
Copper-Mine River at this point is about two hundred yards wide and ten
feet deep, and flows very rapidly over a rocky bottom. The scenery of its
banks is picturesque, the hills shelve to the waterside and are well
covered with wood, and the surface of the rocks is richly ornamented with
lichens. The Indians say that the same kind of country prevails as far as
Mackenzie's River in this parallel, but that the land to the eastward is
perfectly barren. Akaitcho and one of the Indians killed two deer which
were immediately sent for. Two of the hunters arrived in the night and we
learned that their companions, instead of being in advance as we
supposed, were staying at the place where we first found the river open.
They had only seen our fires last evening and had sent to examine who we
were. The circumstance of having passed them was very vexatious as they
had three deer en cache at their encampment. However an Indian was sent
to desire those who remained to join us and bring the meat.

We embarked at nine A.M. on July 2nd and descended a succession of strong
rapids for three miles. We were carried along with extraordinary
rapidity, shooting over large stones upon which a single stroke would
have been destructive to the canoes; and we were also in danger of
breaking them, from the want of the long poles which lie along their
bottoms and equalise their cargoes, as they plunged very much, and on one
occasion the first canoe was almost filled with the waves. But there was
no receding after we had once launched into the stream, and our safety
depended on the skill and dexterity of the bowmen and steersmen. The
banks of the river here are rocky and the scenery beautiful, consisting
of gentle elevations and dales wooded to the edge of the stream and
flanked on both sides at the distance of three or four miles by a range
of round-backed barren hills, upwards of six hundred feet high. At the
foot of the rapids the high lands recede to a greater distance and the
river flows with a more gentle current in a wider channel through a level
and open country consisting of alluvial sand. In one place the passage
was blocked up by drift ice still deeply covered with snow. A channel for
the canoes was made for some distance with the hatchets and poles but, on
reaching the more compact part, we were under the necessity of
transporting the canoes and cargoes across it, an operation of much
hazard as the snow concealed the numerous holes which the water had made
in the ice. This expansion of the river being mistaken by the guide for a
lake which he spoke of as the last on our route to the sea, we supposed
that we should have no more ice to cross, and therefore encamped after
passing through it, to fit the canoes properly for the voyage and to
provide poles, which are not only necessary to strengthen them when
placed in the bottom, but essentially requisite for the safe management
of them in dangerous rapids. The guide began afterwards to doubt whether
the lake he meant was not farther on, and he was sent with two men to
examine into the fact, who returned in the evening with the information
of its being below us but that there was an open channel through it. This
day was very sultry and several plants appeared in flower.

The men were employed in repairing their canoes to a late hour and
commenced very early next morning as we were desirous of availing
ourselves of every part of this favourable weather. The hunters arrived
in the course of the night. It appeared that the dog which escaped from
us two days ago came into the vicinity of their encampment, howling
piteously; seeing him without his harness they came to the hasty
conclusion that our whole party had perished in a rapid and, throwing
away part of their baggage and leaving the meat behind them, they set off
with the utmost haste to join Long-legs. Our messenger met them in their
flight but too far advanced to admit of their returning for the meat.
Akaitcho scolded them heartily for their thoughtlessness in leaving the
meat, which we so much wanted. They expressed their regret and, being
ashamed of their panic, proposed to remedy the evil as much as possible
by going forward without stopping until they came to a favourable spot
for hunting, which they expected to do about thirty or forty miles below
our present encampment. Akaitcho accompanied them but previous to setting
off he renewed his charge that we should be on our guard against the
bears, which was occasioned by the hunters having fired at one is morning
as they were descending a rapid in their canoe. As their small canoes
would only carry five persons two of the hunters had to walk in turns
along the banks.

In our rambles round the encampment we witnessed with pleasure the
progress which vegetation had made within the few last warm days; most of
the trees had put forth their leaves and several flowers ornamented the
moss-covered ground; many of the smaller summer birds were observed in
the woods, and a variety of ducks, gulls, and plovers, sported on the
banks of the river. It is about three hundred yards wide at this part, is
deep and flows over a bed of alluvial sand. We caught some trout of
considerable size with our lines, and a few white-fish in the nets, which
maintained us with a little assistance from the pemmican. The repair of
our canoes was completed this evening. Before embarking I issued an order
that no rapid should in future be descended until the bowman had examined
it and decided upon its being safe to run. Wherever the least danger was
to be apprehended or the crew had to disembark for the purpose of
lightening the canoe, the ammunition, guns, and instruments were always
to be put out and carried along the bank, that we might be provided with
the means of subsisting ourselves in case of any accident befalling the

The situation of our encampment was ascertained to be 65 degrees 43
minutes 28 seconds North, longitude 114 degrees 26 minutes 45 seconds
West, and the variation 42 degrees 17 minutes 22 seconds East.

At four in the morning of July 4th we embarked and descended a succession
of very agitated rapids, but took the precaution of landing the articles
mentioned yesterday wherever there appeared any hazard; notwithstanding
all our precautions the leading canoe struck with great force against a
stone and the bark was split, but this injury was easily repaired and we
regretted only the loss of time. At eleven we came to an expansion of the
river where the current ran with less force and an accumulation of drift
ice had in consequence barred the channel; over this the canoes and
cargoes were carried. The ice in many places adhered to the banks and
projected in wide ledges several feet thick over the stream, which had
hollowed them out beneath. On one occasion as the people were embarking
from one of these ledges it suddenly gave way and three men were
precipitated into the water but were rescued without further damage than
a sound ducking, and the canoe fortunately (and narrowly) escaped being
crushed. Perceiving one of the Indians sitting on the east bank of the
river we landed and, having learned from him that Akaitcho and the
hunters had gone in pursuit of a herd of musk-oxen, we encamped, having
come twenty-four miles and a half.

In the afternoon they brought us the agreeable intelligence of having
killed eight cows, of which four were full-grown. All the party were
immediately despatched to bring in this seasonable supply. A young cow,
irritated by the firing of the hunters, ran down to the river and passed
close to me when walking at a short distance from the tents. I fired and
wounded it, when the animal instantly turned and ran at me, but I avoided
its fury by jumping aside and getting upon an elevated piece of ground.
In the meantime some people came from the tents and it took to flight.

The musk-oxen, like the buffalo, herd together in bands and generally
frequent the barren grounds during the summer months, keeping near the
rivers, but retire to the woods in winter. They seem to be less watchful
than most other wild animals and, when grazing, are not difficult to
approach provided the hunters go against the wind; when two or three men
get so near a herd as to fire at them from different points these
animals, instead of separating or running away, huddle closer together
and several are generally killed; but if the wound is not mortal they
become enraged and dart in the most furious manner at the hunters, who
must be very dextrous to evade them. They can defend themselves by their
powerful horns against the wolves and bears which, as the Indians say,
they not unfrequently kill.

The musk-oxen feed on the same substances with the reindeer, and the
prints of the feet of these two animals are so much alike that it
requires the eye of an experienced hunter to distinguish them. The
largest killed by us did not exceed in weight three hundred pounds. The
flesh has a musky disagreeable flavour, particularly when the animal is
lean which, unfortunately for us, was the case with all that we now

During this day's march the river varied in breadth from one hundred to
two hundred feet, and except in two open spaces a very strong current
marked a deep descent the whole way. It flows over a bed of gravel, of
which also its immediate banks are composed. Near to our encampment it is
bounded by cliffs of fine sand from one hundred to two hundred feet high.
Sandy plains extend on a level with the summit of these cliffs, and at
the distance of six or seven miles are terminated by ranges of hills
eight hundred or one thousand feet high. The grass on these plains
affords excellent pasturage for the musk-oxen and they generally abound
here. The hunters added two more to our stock in the course of the night.
As we had now more meat than the party could consume fresh we delayed our
voyage next day to dry it. The hunters were supplied with more ammunition
and sent forward; but Akaitcho, his brother, and another Indian remained
with us.

It may here be proper to mention that the officers had treated Akaitcho
more distantly since our departure from Point Lake, to mark their opinion
of his misconduct. The diligence in hunting however which he had evinced
at this place induced us to receive him more familiarly when he came to
the tent this evening. During our conversation he endeavoured to excite
suspicions in our minds against the Hook by saying, "I am aware that you
consider me the worst man of my nation; but I know the Hook to be a great
rogue and I think he will disappoint you."

On the morning of the 6th we embarked and descended a series of rapids,
having twice unloaded the canoes where the water was shallow. After
passing the mouth of the Fairy Lake River* the rapids ceased. The main
stream was then about three hundred yards wide and generally deep, though
in one part the channel was interrupted by several sandy banks and low
alluvial islands covered with willows. It flows between banks of sand
thinly wooded and as we advanced the barren hills approached the water's

(*Footnote. This is an Indian name. The Northern Indian fairies are six
inches high, lead a life similar to the Indians, and are excellent
hunters. Those who have had the good fortune to fall in with their tiny
encampments have been kindly treated and regaled on venison. We did not
learn with certainty whether the existence of these delightful creatures
is known from Indian tradition or whether the Indians own their knowledge
of them to their intercourse with the traders, but think the former

At ten we rejoined our hunters who had killed a deer and halted to
breakfast. We sent them forward; one of them who was walking along the
shore afterwards fired upon two brown bears and wounded one of them,
which instantly turned and pursued him. His companions in the canoes put
ashore to his assistance but did not succeed in killing the bears, which
fled upon the reinforcement coming up. During the delay thus occasioned
we overtook them and they continued with us the rest of the day.

We encamped at the foot of a lofty range of mountains which appear to be
from twelve to fifteen hundred feet high; they are in general
round-backed but the outline is not even, being interrupted by craggy
conical eminences. This is the first ridge of hills we have seen in this
country that deserves the appellation of a mountain range; it is probably
a continuation of the Stony Mountains crossed by Hearne. Many plants
appeared in full flower near the tents and Dr. Richardson gathered some
high up on the hills. The distance we made today was fifty miles.

There was a hoar frost in the night and the temperature at four next
morning was 40 degrees: embarking at that hour we glided quickly down the
stream and by seven arrived at the Hook's encampment which was placed on
the summit of a lofty sand cliff whose base was washed by the river. This
chief had with him only three hunters and a few old men and their
families, the rest of the band having remained at their snares in Bear
Lake. His brother Long-legs and our guide Keskarrah, who had joined him
three days before, had communicated to him our want of provision, and we
were happy to find that, departing from the general practice of Indian
chiefs, he entered at once upon the business without making a long
speech. As an introductory mark of our regard I decorated him with a
medal similar to those which had been given to the other leaders. The
Hook began by stating that he was aware of our being destitute of
provision, and of the great need we had of an ample stock to enable us to
execute our undertaking, and his regret that the unusual scarcity of
animals this season, together with the circumstance of his having only
just received a supply of ammunition from Fort Providence, had prevented
him from collecting the quantity of meat he had wished to do for our use.
"The amount indeed," he said, "is very small, but I will cheerfully give
you what I have: we are too much indebted to the white people to allow
them to want food on our lands whilst we have any to give them. Our
families can live on fish until we can procure more meat, but the season
is too short to allow of your delaying to gain subsistence in that
manner." He immediately desired aloud that the women should bring all the
meat they had to us; and we soon collected sufficient to make three bags
and a half of pemmican, besides some dried meat and tongues. We were
truly delighted by this prompt and cheerful behaviour and would gladly
have rewarded the kindness of himself and his companions by some
substantial present, but we were limited by the scantiness of our store
to a small donation of fifteen charges of ammunition to each of the
chiefs. In return for the provision they accepted notes on the North-West
Company to be paid at Fort Providence, and to these was subjoined an
order for a few articles of clothing as an additional present. I then
endeavoured to prevail upon the Hook to remain in this vicinity with his
hunters until the autumn, and to make deposits of provision in different
parts of the course to the sea as a resource for our party, in the event
of our being compelled to return by this route. He required time however
to consider this matter, and promised to give me an answer next day. I
was rejoiced to find him then prepared to meet my wish and the following
plan was agreed upon: As the animals abound at all times on the borders
of Bear Lake he promised to remain on the east side of it until the month
of November, at that spot which is nearest to the Copper-Mine River, from
whence there is a communication by a chain of lakes and portages. There
the principal deposit of provision was to be made, but during the summer
the hunters were to be employed in putting up supplies of dried meat at
convenient distances, not only along the communication from this river,
but also upon its banks as far down as the Copper Mountain. They were
also to place particular marks to guide our course to their lodges. We
contracted to pay them liberally, whether we returned by this way or not;
if we did they were to accompany us to Fort Providence to receive the
reward, and at any rate I promised to send the necessary documents by Mr.
Wentzel from the sea-coast to ensure them an ample remuneration. With
this arrangement they were perfectly satisfied and we could not be less
so, knowing they had every motive for fulfilling their promises, as the
place they had chosen to remain at is their usual hunting ground. The
uncommon anxiety these chiefs expressed for our safety appeared to us
likely to prompt them to every care and attention, and I record their
expressions with gratitude. After representing the numerous hardships we
should have to encounter in the strongest manner, though in language
similar to what we had often heard from our friend Akaitcho, they
earnestly entreated we would be constantly on our guard against the
treachery of the Esquimaux, and no less forcibly desired we would not
proceed far along the coast, as they dreaded the consequences of our
being exposed to a tempestuous sea in canoes, and having to endure the
cold of the autumn on a shore destitute of fuel. The Hook having been an
invalid for several years rejoiced at the opportunity of consulting Dr.
Richardson, who immediately gave him advice and supplied him with

The pounded meat and fat were converted into pemmican preparatory to our

The result of our observations at the Hook's encampment was latitude 66
degrees 45 minutes 11 seconds North, longitude 115 degrees 42 minutes 23
seconds West, variation of the compass 46 degrees 7 minutes 30 seconds

We embarked at eleven to proceed on our journey. Akaitcho and his brother
the guide being in the first canoe and old Keskarrah in the other. We
wished to dispense with the further attendance of two guides and made a
proposition that either of them might remain here, but neither would
relinquish the honour of escorting the Expedition to the sea. One of our
hunters however was less eager for this distinction and preferred
remaining with Green-stockings, Keskarrah's fascinating daughter. The
other four, with the Little Singer accompanied us, two of them conducting
their small canoes in turns and the rest walking along the beach.

The river flows over a bed of sand and winds in an uninterrupted channel
of from three-quarters to a mile broad between two ranges of hills, which
are pretty even in their outline and round-backed, but having rather
steep acclivities. The immediate borders of the stream consist either of
high banks of sand or steep gravel cliffs and sometimes, where the hills
recede to a little distance, the intervening space is occupied by high
sandy ridges.

At three P.M., after passing along the foot of a high range of hills, we
arrived at the portage leading to the Bear Lake, to which we have
previously alluded. Its position is very remarkable, being at the most
westerly part of the Copper-Mine River and at the point where it resumes
a northern course and forces a passage through the lofty ridge of
mountains to which it has run parallel for the last thirty miles. As the
Indians travel from hence with their families in three days to the point
where they have proposed staying for us, the distance I think cannot
exceed forty miles and, admitting the course to be due west, which is the
direction the guide pointed, it would place the eastern part of Bear Lake
in 118 1/4 degrees West longitude.

Beyond this spot the river is diminished in breadth and a succession of
rapids are formed but, as the water was deep, we passed through them
without discharging any part of the cargoes. It still runs between high
ranges of mountains, though its actual boundaries are banks of mud mixed
with clay which are clothed with stunted pines. We picked up a deer which
the hunters had shot and killed another from the canoe, and also received
an addition to our stock of provision of seven young geese which the
hunters had beaten down with their sticks. About six P.M. we perceived a
mark on the shore which on examination was found to have been recently
put up by some Indians: and on proceeding farther we discerned stronger
proofs of their vicinity; we therefore encamped and made a large fire as
a signal which they answered in a similar way. Mr. Wentzel was
immediately sent in expectation of getting provision from them. On his
return we learned that the party consisted of three old Copper Indians
with their families, who had supported themselves with the bow and arrow
since last autumn, not having visited Fort Providence for more than a
year, and so successful had they been that they were enabled to supply us
with upwards of seventy pounds of dried meat, and six moose skins fit for
making shoes, which were the more valuable as we were apprehensive of
being barefooted before the journey could be completed. The evening was
sultry and the mosquitoes appeared in great numbers. The distance made
today was twenty-five miles.

On the following morning we went down to these Indians and delivered to
them notes on the North-West Company for the meat and skins they had
furnished, and we had then the mortification of learning that, not having
people to carry a considerable quantity of pounded meat which they
intended for us, they had left it upon the Bear Lake Portage. They
promised however to get it conveyed to the banks of this river before we
could return and we rewarded them with a present of knives and files.

After reembarking we continued to descend the river which was now
contracted between lofty banks to about one hundred and twenty yards
wide; the current was very strong. At eleven we came to a rapid which had
been the theme of discourse with the Indians for many days, and which
they had described to us as impassable in canoes. The river here descends
for three-quarters of a mile in a deep but narrow and crooked channel
which it has cut through the foot of a hill of five hundred or six
hundred feet high. It is confined between perpendicular cliffs resembling
stone walls, varying in height from eighty to one hundred and fifty feet,
on which lies a mass of fine sand. The body of the river pent within this
narrow chasm dashed furiously round the projecting rocky columns and
discharged itself at the northern extremity in a sheet of foam. The
canoes, after being lightened of part of their cargoes, ran through this
defile without sustaining any injury. Accurate sketches of this
interesting scene were taken by Messrs. Back and Hood. Soon after passing
this rapid we perceived the hunters running up the east side of the river
to prevent us from disturbing a herd of musk-oxen which they had observed
grazing on the opposite bank; we put them across and they succeeded in
killing six, upon which we encamped for the purpose of drying the meat.
The country below the Rocky Defile Rapid consists of sandy plains, broken
by small conical eminences also of sand, and bounded to the westward by a
continuation of the mountain chain which we had crossed at the Bear Lake
Portage, and to the eastward and northward at the distance of twelve
miles by the Copper Mountains, which Mr. Hearne visited. The plains are
crowned by several clumps of moderately large spruces about thirty feet

This evening the Indians made a large fire as a signal to the Hook's
party that we had passed the TERRIFIC rapid in safety.

The position of our encampment was ascertained to be latitude 67 degrees
1 minute 10 seconds North, longitude 116 degrees 27 minutes 28 seconds
West, variation of the compass 44 degrees 11 minutes 43 seconds East, dip
of the needle 87 degrees 31 minutes 18 seconds.

Some thundershowers retarded the drying of the meat and our embarkation
was delayed till the next day. The hunters were sent forward to hunt at
the Copper Mountains under the superintendence of Adam the interpreter
who received strict injunctions not to permit them to make any large
fires lest they should alarm straggling parties of the Esquimaux.

The mosquitoes were now very numerous and annoying but we consoled
ourselves with the hope that their season would be short.


On the 11th we started at three A.M. and, as the guide had represented
the river below our encampment to be full of shoals, some of the men were
directed to walk along the shore, but they were assailed so violently by
the mosquitoes as to be compelled to embark very soon; and we afterwards
passed over the shallow parts by the aid of the poles without
experiencing much interruption. The current ran very rapidly, having been
augmented by the waters of the Mouse River and several small streams. We
rejoined our hunters at the foot of the Copper Mountains and found they
had killed three musk-oxen. This circumstance determined us on encamping
to dry the meat as there was wood at the spot. We availed ourselves of
this delay to visit the Copper Mountains in search of specimens of the
ore, agreeably to my Instructions; and a party of twenty-one persons,
consisting of the officers, some of the voyagers, and all the Indians,
set off on that excursion. We travelled for nine hours over a
considerable space of ground but found only a few small pieces of native
copper. The range we ascended was on the west side of the river extending
West-North-West and East-South-East. The mountains varied in height from
twelve to fifteen hundred feet. The uniformity of the mountains is
interrupted by narrow valleys traversed by small streams. The best
specimens of metal we procured were among the stones in these valleys,
and it was in such situations that our guides desired us to search most
carefully. It would appear that, when the Indians see any sparry
substance projecting above the surface, they dig there, but they have no
other rule to direct them, and have never found the metal in its original
repository. Our guides reported that they had found copper in large
pieces in every part of this range for two days' walk to the north-west,
and that the Esquimaux come hither to search for it. The annual visits
which the Copper Indians were accustomed to make to these mountains, when
most of their weapons and utensils were made of copper, have been
discontinued since they have been enabled to obtain a supply of ice
chisels and other instruments of iron by the establishment of trading
posts near their hunting grounds. That none of those who accompanied us
had visited them for many years was evident from their ignorance of the
spots most abundant in metal.

The impracticability of navigating the river upwards from the sea, and
the want of wood for forming an establishment, would prove insuperable
objections to rendering the collection of copper at this part worthy of
mercantile speculation.

We had the opportunity of surveying the country from several elevated
positions. Two or three small lakes only were visible, still partly
frozen, and much snow remained on the mountains. The trees were reduced
to a scanty fringe on the borders of the river and every side was beset
by naked mountains.

The day was unusually warm and therefore favourable for drying meat. Our
whole stock of provision, calculated for preservation, was sufficient for
fourteen days without any diminution of the ordinary allowance of three
pounds to each man per day. The situation of our tents was 67 degrees 10
minutes 30 seconds North, longitude 116 degrees 25 minutes 45 seconds

June 12.

The Indians, knowing the course of the river below this point to be only
a succession of rapids, declined taking their canoes any farther but, as
I conceived one of them would be required, should we be compelled to walk
along the coast, two of our men were appointed to conduct it.

As we were now entering the confines of the Esquimaux country our guides
recommended us to be cautious in lighting fires lest we should discover
ourselves, adding that the same reason would lead them to travel as much
as possible in the valleys, and to avoid crossing the tops of the hills.
We embarked at six A.M., taking with us only old Keskarrah. The other
Indians walked along the banks of the river. Throughout this day's voyage
the current was very strong, running four or five miles an hour, but the
navigation was tolerable and we had to lighten the canoes only once, in a
contracted part of the river where the waves were very high. The river is
in many places confined between perpendicular walls of rock to one
hundred and fifty yards in width, and there the rapids were most
agitated. Large masses of ice twelve or fourteen feet thick were still
adhering to many parts of the bank, indicating the tardy departure of
winter from this inhospitable land, but the earth around them was rich
with vegetation. In the evening two musk-oxen, being seen on the beach,
were pursued and killed by our men. Whilst we were waiting to embark the
meat the Indians rejoined us and reported they had been attacked by a
bear which sprung upon them whilst they were conversing together. His
attack was so sudden that they had not time to level their guns properly,
and they all missed except Akaitcho who, less confused than the rest,
took deliberate aim and shot the animal dead. They do not eat the flesh
of the bear but, knowing that we had no such prejudice, they brought us
some of the choice pieces which upon trial we found to be very excellent

The Indians having informed us that we were now within twelve miles of
the rapid where the Esquimaux have invariably been found, we pitched our
tents on the beach under the shelter of a high hill whose precipitous
side is washed by the river, intending to send forward some persons to
determine the situation of their present abode. Some vestiges of an old
Esquimaux encampment were observed near the tents and the stumps of the
trees bore marks of the stone hatchets they use. A strict watch was
appointed consisting of an officer, four Canadians, and an Indian, and
directions were given for the rest of the party to sleep with their arms
by their side. That as little delay as possible might be experienced in
opening a communication with the Esquimaux we immediately commenced
arrangements for sending forward persons to discover whether there were
any in our vicinity. Akaitcho and the guides proposed that two of the
hunters should be despatched on this service who had extremely quick
sight and were accustomed to act as scouts, an office which requires
equal caution and circumspection. A strong objection however lay against
this plan in the probability of their being discovered by a straggling
hunter, which would be destructive to every hope of accommodation. It was
therefore determined to send Augustus and Junius, who were very desirous
to undertake the service. These adventurous men proposed to go armed only
with pistols concealed in their dress, and furnished with beads,
looking-glasses, and other articles, that they might conciliate their
countrymen by presents. We could not divest our minds of the apprehension
that it might be a service of much hazard if the Esquimaux were as
hostile to strangers as the Copper Indians have invariably represented
them to be, and we felt great reluctance in exposing our two little
interpreters, who had rendered themselves dear to the whole party, to the
most distant chance of receiving injury, but this course of proceeding
appeared in their opinion and our own to offer the only chance of gaining
an interview. Though not insensible to the danger they cheerfully
prepared for their mission, and clothed themselves in Esquimaux dresses
which had been made for the purpose at Fort Enterprise. Augustus was
desired to make his presents and to tell the Esquimaux that the white men
had come to make peace between them and all their enemies, and also to
discover a passage by which every article of which they stood in need
might be brought in large ships. He was not to mention that we were
accompanied by the Indians but to endeavour to prevail on some of the
Esquimaux to return with him. He was directed to come back immediately if
there were no lodges at the rapid.

The Indians were not suffered to move out of our sight, but in the
evening we permitted two of them to cross the river in pursuit of a
musk-ox, which they killed on the beach and returned immediately. The
officers, prompted by an anxious solicitude for Augustus and Junius,
crawled up frequently to the summit of the mountain to watch their
return. The view however was not extensive, being bounded at the distance
of eight miles by a range of hills similar to the Copper Mountains but
not so lofty. The night came without bringing any intelligence of our
messengers, and our fears for their safety increased with the length of
their absence.

As everyone had been interested in the welfare of these men through their
vivacity and good nature and the assistance they had cheerfully rendered
in bearing their portion of whatever labour might be going on, their
detention formed the subject of all our conversation and numerous
conjectures were hazarded as to the cause.

Dr. Richardson, having the first watch, had gone to the summit of the
hill and remained seated, contemplating the river that washed the
precipice under his feet long after dusk had hid distant objects from his
view. His thoughts were perhaps far distant from the surrounding scenery,
when he was roused by an indistinct noise behind him and, on looking
round, perceived that nine white wolves had ranged themselves in form of
a crescent and were advancing, apparently with the intention of driving
him into the river. On his rising up they halted, and when he advanced
they made way for his passage down to the tents. He had his gun in his
hand but forbore to fire lest there should be Esquimaux in the
neighbourhood. During Mr. Wentzel's middle watch the wolves appeared
repeatedly on the summit of the hill, and at one time they succeeded in
driving a deer over the precipice. The animal was stunned by the fall
but, recovering itself, swam across the stream and escaped up the river.
I may remark here that at midnight it was tolerably dark in the valley of
the river at this time but that an object on the eminence above could be
distinctly seen against the sky.

The following observations were taken at this encampment, latitude 67
degrees 23 minutes 14 seconds North, longitude 116 degrees 6 minutes 51
seconds West, variation 49 degrees 46 minutes 24 seconds East.
Thermometer 75 degrees at three P.M. Sultry weather.

Augustus and Junius not having returned next morning we were more alarmed
respecting them, and determined on proceeding to find out the cause of
their detention, but it was eleven A.M. before we could prevail upon the
Indians to remain behind, which we wished them to do lest the Esquimaux
might be suspicious of our intentions if they were seen in our suite. We
promised to send for them when we had paved the way for their reception,
but Akaitcho, ever ready to augur misfortune, expressed his belief that
our messengers had been killed and that the Esquimaux, warned of our
approach, were lying in wait for us, and "although," said he, "your party
may be sufficiently strong to repulse any hostile attack, my band is too
weak to offer effectual resistance when separated from you, and therefore
we are determined to go on with you or to return to our lands." After
much argument however he yielded and agreed to stay behind, provided Mr.
Wentzel would remain with him. This gentleman was accordingly left with a
Canadian attendant and they promised not to pass a range of hills then in
view to the northward unless we sent notice to them.

The river during the whole of this day's voyage flowed between alternate
cliffs of looses and intermixed with gravel and red sandstone rocks, and
was everywhere shallow and rapid. As its course was very crooked much
time was spent in examining the different rapids previous to running
them, but the canoes descended, except at a single place, without any
difficulty. Most of the officers and half the men marched along the land
to lighten the canoes and reconnoitre the country, each person being
armed with a gun and a dagger. Arriving at a range of mountains which had
terminated our view yesterday, we ascended it with much eagerness,
expecting to see the rapid that Mr. Hearne visited near its base, and to
gain a view of the sea; but our disappointment was proportionably great
when we beheld beyond a plain, similar to that we had just left,
terminated by another range of trap hills, between whose tops the summits
of some distant blue mountains appeared. Our reliance on the information
of the guides, which had been for some time shaken, was now quite at an
end, and we feared that the sea was still far distant. The flat country
here is covered with grass and is devoid of the large stones so frequent
in the barren grounds, but the ranges of trap hills which seem to
intersect it at regular distances are quite barren. A few decayed stunted
pines were standing on the borders of the river. In the evening we had
the gratification of meeting Junius who was hastening back to inform us
that they had found four Esquimaux tents at the Fall which we recognised
to be the one described by Mr. Hearne. The inmates were asleep at the
time of their arrival but rose soon afterwards, and then Augustus
presented himself and had some conversation across the river. He told
them the white people had come, who would make them very useful presents.
The information of our arrival seemed to alarm them very much but, as the
noise of the rapid prevented them from hearing distinctly, one of them
approached him in his canoe and received the rest of the message. He
would not however land on his side of the river, but returned to the
tents without receiving the present. His language differed in some
respects from Augustus's but they understood each other tolerably well.
Augustus, trusting for a supply of provision to the Esquimaux, had
neglected to carry any with him, and this was the main cause of Junius's
return. We now encamped, having come fourteen miles. After a few hours'
rest Junius set off again to rejoin his companion, being accompanied by
Hepburn who was directed to remain about two miles above the fall to
arrest the canoes on their passage, lest we should too suddenly surprise
the Esquimaux. About ten P.M. we were mortified by the appearance of the
Indians with Mr. Wentzel, who had in vain endeavoured to restrain them
from following us. The only reason assigned by Akaitcho for this conduct
was that he wished for a reassurance of my promise to establish peace
between his nation and the Esquimaux. I took this occasion of again
enforcing the necessity of their remaining behind until we had obtained
the confidence and goodwill of their enemies. After supper Dr. Richardson
ascended a lofty hill about three miles from the encampment and obtained
the first view of the sea; it appeared to be covered with ice. A large
promontory, which I named Cape Hearne, bore North-East and its lofty
mountains proved to be the blue land we had seen in the forenoon, and
which had led us to believe the sea was still far distant. He saw the sun
set a few minutes before midnight from the same elevated situation. It
did not rise during the half hour he remained there, but before he
reached the encampment its rays gilded the tops of the hills.

The night was warm and we were much annoyed by the mosquitoes.

June 15.

We this morning experienced as much difficulty as before in prevailing
upon the Indians to remain behind, and they did not consent until I had
declared that they should lose the reward which had been promised if they
proceeded any farther before we had prepared the Esquimaux to receive
them. We left a Canadian with them and proceeded, not without
apprehension that they would follow us and derange our whole plan by
their obstinacy. Two of the officers and a party of men walked on the
shore to lighten the canoes. The river in this part flows between high
and stony cliffs, reddish slate clay rocks, and shelving banks of white
clay, and is full of shoals and dangerous rapids. One of these was termed
Escape Rapid, both the canoes having narrowly escaped foundering in its
high waves. We had entered the rapid before we were aware and, the
steepness of the cliffs preventing us from landing, we were indebted to
the swiftness of our descent for preservation. Two waves made a complete
breach over the canoes; a third would in all probability have filled and
overset them, which must have proved fatal to everyone in them. The
powder fortunately escaped the water, which was soon discharged when we
reached the bottom of the rapid. At noon we perceived Hepburn lying on
the left bank of the river and landed immediately to receive his
information. As he represented the water to be shoal the whole way to the
rapid (below which the Esquimaux were) the shore party were directed to
continue their march to a sandy bay at the head of the fall and there
await the arrival of the canoes. The land in the neighbourhood of the
rapid is of the most singular form: large irregular sandhills bounding
both banks, apparently so unconnected that they resemble icebergs, the
country around them consisting of high round green hills. The river
becomes wide in this part and full of shoals, but we had no difficulty in
finding a channel through them. On regaining the shore party we regretted
to find that some of the men had incautiously appeared on the tops of the
hills just at the time Augustus was conversing with one of the Esquimaux,
who had again approached in his canoe and was almost persuaded to land.
The unfortunate appearance of so many people at this instant revived his
fears, and he crossed over to the eastern bank of the river, and fled
with the whole of his party. We learned from Augustus that this party,
consisting of four men and as many women, had manifested a friendly
disposition. Two of the former were very tall. The man who first came to
speak to him inquired the number of canoes that we had with us, expressed
himself to be not displeased at our arrival, and desired him to caution
us not to attempt running the rapid, but to make the portage on the west
side of the river. Notwithstanding this appearance of confidence and
satisfaction it seems they did not consider their situation free from
danger, as they retreated the first night to an island somewhat farther
down the river, and in the morning they returned and threw down their
lodges, as if to give notice to any of their nation that might arrive
that there was an enemy in the neighbourhood. From seeing all their
property strewed about, and ten of their dogs left, we entertained the
hope that these poor people would return after their first alarm had
subsided, and therefore I determined on remaining until the next day, in
the expectation of seeing them as I considered the opening of an early
communication a matter of the greatest importance in our state of
absolute ignorance respecting the sea-coast. The canoes and cargoes were
carried across the portage and we encamped on the north side of it. We
sent Augustus and Junius across the river to look for the runaways but
their search was fruitless. They put a few pieces of iron and trinkets in
their canoes, which were lying on the beach. We also sent some men to put
up the stages of fish and secure them as much as possible from the
attacks of the dogs. Under the covering of their tents were observed some
stone kettles and hatchets, a few fish spears made of copper, two small
bits of iron, a quantity of skins, and some dried salmon, which was
covered with maggots and half putrid. The entrails of the fish were
spread out to dry. A great many skins of small birds were hung up to a
stage, and even two mice were preserved in the same way. Thus it would
appear that the necessities of these poor people induce them to preserve
every article that can be possibly used as food. Several human skulls,
which bore the marks of violence, and many bones were strewed about the
ground near the encampment and, as the spot exactly answers the
description given by Mr. Hearne of the place where the Chipewyans who
accompanied him perpetrated the dreadful massacre on the Esquimaux, we
had no doubt of this being the place, notwithstanding the difference in
its position as to latitude and longitude given by him and ascertained by
our observation. We have therefore preserved the appellation of Bloody
Fall which he bestowed upon it. Its situation by our observations is in
latitude 67 degrees 42 minutes 35 seconds North, longitude 115 degrees 49
minutes 33 seconds West, variation 50 degrees 20 minutes 14 seconds East.
This rapid is a sort of shelving cascade, about three hundred yards in
length, having a descent of from ten to fifteen feet. It is bounded on
each side by high walls of red sandstone, upon which rests a series of
lofty green hills. On its north side close to the east bank is the low
rocky island which the Esquimaux had deserted. The surrounding scenery
was accurately delineated in a sketch taken by Mr. Hood. We caught forty
excellent salmon and white-fish in a single net below the rapid. We had
not seen any trees during this day's journey; our fuel consisted of small
willows and pieces of dried wood that were picked up near the encampment.
The ground is well clothed with grass and nourishes most of the shrubs
and berry-bearing plants that we have seen north of Fort Enterprise; and
the country altogether has a richer appearance than the barren lands of
the Copper Indians. We had a distinct view of the sea from the summit of
a hill behind the tents; it appeared choked with ice and full of islands.


On the morning of the 16th three men were sent up the river to search for
dried wood to make floats for the nets. Adam the interpreter was also
despatched with a Canadian to inform Akaitcho of the flight of the
Esquimaux. We were preparing to go down to the sea in one of the canoes,
leaving Mr. Back to await the return of the men who were absent but, just
as the crew were putting the canoe in the water, Adam returned in the
utmost consternation and informed us that a party of Esquimaux were
pursuing the men whom we had sent to collect floats. The orders for
embarking were instantly countermanded and we went with a part of our men
to their rescue. We soon met our people returning at a slow pace and
learned that they had come unawares upon the Esquimaux party, which
consisted of six men with their women and children, who were travelling
towards the rapid with a considerable number of dogs carrying their
baggage. The women hid themselves on the first alarm, but the men
advanced and, stopping at some distance from our men, began to dance in a
circle, tossing up their hands in the air and accompanying their motions
with much shouting, to signify I conceive their desire of peace. Our men
saluted them by pulling off their hats and making bows, but neither party
was willing to approach the other, and at length the Esquimaux retired to
the hill from whence they had descended when first seen. We proceeded in
the hope of gaining an interview with them but lest our appearance in a
body should alarm them we advanced in a long line, at the head of which
was Augustus. We were led to their baggage, which they had deserted, by
the howling of the dogs, and on the summit of a hill we found lying
behind a stone an old man who was too infirm to effect his escape with
the rest. He was much terrified when Augustus advanced and probably
expected immediate death but, that the fatal blow might not be
unrevenged, he seized his spear and made a thrust with it at his supposed
enemy. Augustus however easily repressed the feeble effort and soon
calmed his fears by presenting him with some pieces of iron and assuring
him of his friendly intentions. Dr. Richardson and I then joined them
and, after receiving our presents, the old man was quite composed and
became communicative. His dialect differed from that used by Augustus but
they understood each other tolerably well.

It appeared that his party consisted of eight men and their families who
were returning from a hunting excursion with dried meat. After being told
who we were he said that he had heard of white people from different
parties of his nation which resided on the sea-coast to the eastward and,
to our inquiries respecting the provision and fuel we might expect to get
on our voyage, he informed us that the reindeer frequent the coast during
the summer, the fish are plentiful at the mouths of the rivers, the seals
are abundant, but there are no sea-horses nor whales, although he
remembered one of the latter, which had been killed by some distant
tribe, having been driven on shore on his part of the coast by a gale of
wind. That musk-oxen were to be found a little distance up the rivers,
and that we should get driftwood along the shore. He had no knowledge of
the coast to the eastward beyond the next river, which he called
Nappaarktoktowock, or Tree River. The old man, contrary to the Indian
practice, asked each of our names and, in reply to a similar question on
our part, said his name was Terregannoeuck, or the White Fox, and that
his tribe denominated themselves Naggeooktormoeoot, or Deer-Horn
Esquimaux. They usually frequent the Bloody Fall during this and the
following moons for the purpose of salting salmon, and then retire to a
river which flows into the sea a short way to the westward (since
denominated Richardson's River) and pass the winter in snow-houses.

After this conversation Terregannoeuck proposed going down to his
baggage, and we then perceived he was too infirm to walk without the
assistance of sticks. Augustus therefore offered him his arm which he
readily accepted and, on reaching his store, he distributed pieces of
dried meat to each person which, though highly tainted, were immediately
eaten, this being a universal token among the Indians of peaceable

We then informed him of our desire to procure as much meat as we possibly
could and he told us that he had a large quantity concealed in the
neighbourhood which he would cause to be carried to us when his people

I now communicated to him that we were accompanied by some Copper Indians
who were very desirous to make peace with his nation, and that they had
requested me to prevail upon the Esquimaux to receive them in a friendly
manner, to which he replied he should rejoice to see an end put to the
hostility that existed between the nations and therefore would most
gladly welcome our companions. Having despatched Adam to inform Akaitcho
of this circumstance we left Terregannoeuck, in the hope that his party
would rejoin him but, as we had doubts whether the young men would
venture upon coming to our tents on the old man's bare representation, we
sent Augustus and Junius back in the evening to remain with him until
they came, that they might fully detail our intentions.

The countenance of Terregannoeuck was oval with a sufficiently prominent
nose and had nothing very different from a European face, except in the
smallness of his eyes and perhaps in the narrowness of his forehead. His
complexion was very fresh and red and he had a longer beard than I had
seen on any of the aboriginal inhabitants of America. It was between two
and three inches long and perfectly white. His face was not tattooed. His
dress consisted of a shirt, or jacket with a hood, wide breeches reaching
only to the knee, and tight leggings sewed to the shoes, all of deer
skins. The soles of the shoes were made of seal-skin and stuffed with
feathers instead of socks. He was bent with age but appeared to be about
five feet ten inches high. His hands and feet were small in proportion to
his height. Whenever Terregannoeuck received a present he placed each
article first on his right shoulder then on his left, and when he wished
to express still higher satisfaction he rubbed it over his head. He held
hatchets and other iron instruments in the highest esteem. On seeing his
countenance in a glass for the first time he exclaimed, "I shall never
kill deer more," and immediately put the mirror down. The tribe to which
he belongs repair to the sea in spring and kill seals; as the season
advances they hunt deer and musk-oxen at some distance from the coast.
Their weapon is the bow and arrow and they get sufficiently nigh the
deer, either by crawling or by leading these animals by ranges of turf
towards a spot where the archer can conceal himself. Their bows are
formed of three pieces of fir, the centrepiece alone bent, the other two
lying in the same straight line with the bowstring; the pieces are neatly
tied together with sinew. Their canoes are similar to those we saw in
Hudson's Straits but smaller. They get fish constantly in the rivers and
in the sea as soon as the ice breaks up. This tribe do not make use of
nets but are tolerably successful with the hook and line. Their cooking
utensils are made of pot-stone, and they form very neat dishes of fir,
the sides being made of thin deal, bent into an oval form, secured at the
ends by sewing, and fitted so nicely to the bottom as to be perfectly
water-tight. They have also large spoons made of the horns of the

Akaitcho and the Indians arrived at our tents in the evening and we
learned that they had seen the Esquimaux the day before and endeavoured
without success to open a communication with them. They exhibited no
hostile intention but were afraid to advance. Akaitcho, keeping out of
their sight, followed at a distance, expecting that, ultimately finding
themselves enclosed between our party and his, they would be compelled to
come to a parley with one of us. Akaitcho had seen Terregannoeuck soon
after our departure; he was much terrified and thrust his spear at him as
he had done at Augustus, but was soon reconciled after the demonstrations
of kindness the Indians made in cutting off the buttons from their dress
to present to him.

July 17.

We waited all this forenoon in momentary expectation of the return of
Augustus and Junius but as they did not appear at two P.M. I sent Mr.
Hood with a party of men to inquire into the cause of their detention and
to bring the meat which Terregannoeuck had promised us. He returned at
midnight with the information that none of the Esquimaux had yet ventured
to come near Terregannoeuck except his aged wife, who had concealed
herself amongst the rocks at our first interview, and she told him the
rest of the party had gone to a river a short distance to the westward
where there was another party of Esquimaux fishing. Augustus and Junius
had erected the tent and done everything in their power to make the old
man comfortable in their absence. Terregannoeuck, being unable to walk to
the place where the meat was concealed, readily pointed the spot out to
Mr. Hood who went thither but, after experiencing much difficulty in
getting at the column of rock on which it was deposited, he found it too
putrid for our use. The features of Terregannoeuck's wife were remarkable
for roundness and flatness; her face was much tattooed and her dress
differed little from the old man's.

In the afternoon a party of nine Esquimaux appeared on the east bank of
the river about a mile below our encampment, carrying their canoes and
baggage on their backs, but they turned and fled as soon as they
perceived our tents. The appearance of so many different bands of
Esquimaux terrified the Indians so much that they determined on leaving
us the next day lest they should be surrounded and their retreat cut off.
I endeavoured, by the offer of any remuneration they would choose, to
prevail upon one or two of the hunters to proceed but in vain; and I had
much difficulty even in obtaining their promise to wait at the Copper
Mountains for Mr. Wentzel and the four men, whom I intended to discharge
at the sea.

The fears which our interpreters, St. Germain and Adam, entertained
respecting the voyage were now greatly increased and both of them came
this evening to request their discharge, urging that their services could
be no longer requisite as the Indians were going from us. St. Germain
even said that he had understood he was only engaged to accompany us as
long as the Indians did, and persisted in this falsehood until his
agreement to go with us throughout the voyage had been twice read to him.
As these were the only two of the party on whose skill in hunting we
could rely I was unable to listen for a moment to their desire of
quitting us and, lest they should leave us by stealth, their motions were
strictly watched. This was not an unnecessary precaution as I was
informed that they had actually laid a plan for eloping; but the rest of
the men, knowing that their own safety would have been compromised had
they succeeded, kept a watchful eye over them. We knew that the dread of
the Esquimaux would prevent these men from leaving us as soon as the
Indians were at a distance, and we trusted to their becoming reconciled
to the journey when once the novelty of a sea voyage had worn off.


July 18.

As the Indians persevered in their determination of setting out this
morning I reminded them, through Mr. Wentzel and St. Germain, of the
necessity of our having the deposit of provision made at Fort Enterprise,
and received a renewed assurance of their attending to that point. They
were also desired to put as much meat as they could en cache on the banks
of the Copper-Mine River on their return. We then furnished them with
what ammunition we could spare and they took their departure promising to
wait three days for Mr. Wentzel at the Copper Mountains. We afterwards
learned that their fears did not permit them to do so, and that Mr.
Wentzel did not rejoin them until they were a day's march to the
southward of the mountains.

We embarked at five A.M. and proceeded towards the sea which is about
nine miles beyond the Bloody Fall. After passing a few rapids the river
became wider and more navigable for canoes, flowing between banks of
alluvial sand. We encamped at ten on the western bank at its junction
with the sea. The river is here about a mile wide but very shallow, being
barred nearly across by sandbanks which run out from the mainland on each
side to a low alluvial island that lies in the centre and forms two
channels, of these the westernmost only is navigable even for canoes, the
other being obstructed by a stony bar. The islands to seaward are high
and numerous and fill the horizon in many points of the compass; the only
open space seen from an eminence near the encampment being from North by
East to North-East by North. Towards the east the land was like a chain
of islands, the ice apparently surrounding them in a compact body,
leaving a channel between its edge and the main of about three miles. The
water in this channel was of a clear green colour and decidedly salt. Mr.
Hearne could have tasted it only at the mouth of the river, when he
pronounced it merely brackish. A rise and fall of four inches in the
water was observed. The shore is strewed with a considerable quantity of
drift timber, principally of the Populus balsamifera, but none of it of
great size. We also picked up some decayed wood far out of the reach of
the water. A few stunted willows were growing near the encampment. Some
ducks, gulls, and partridges were seen this day. As I had to make up
despatches for England to be sent by Mr. Wentzel the nets were set in the
interim and we were rejoiced to find that they produced sufficient fish
for the party. Those caught were the Copper-Mine River salmon,
white-fish, and two species of pleuronectes. We felt a considerable
change of temperature on reaching the sea-coast, produced by the winds
changing from the southward to the North-West. Our Canadian voyagers
complained much of the cold but they were amused with their first view of
the sea and particularly with the sight of the seals that were swimming
about near the entrance of the river, but these sensations gave place to
despondency before the evening had elapsed. They were terrified at the
idea of a voyage through an icy sea in bark canoes. They speculated on
the length of the journey, the roughness of the waves, the uncertainty of
provisions, the exposure to cold where we could expect no fuel, and the
prospect of having to traverse the barren grounds to get to some
establishment. The two interpreters expressed their apprehensions with
the least disguise and again urgently applied to be discharged, but only
one of the Canadians made a similar request. Judging that the constant
occupation of their time as soon as we were enabled to commence the
voyage would prevent them from conjuring up so many causes of fear, and
that familiarity with the scenes on the coast would in a short time
enable them to give scope to their natural cheerfulness, the officers
endeavoured to ridicule their fears and happily succeeded for the
present. The manner in which our faithful Hepburn viewed the element to
which he had been so long accustomed contributed not a little to make
them ashamed of their fears.

On the morning of the 19th Dr. Richardson, accompanied by Augustus, paid
another visit to Terregannoeuck to see if he could obtain any additional
information respecting the country to the eastward, but he was
disappointed at finding that his affrighted family had not yet rejoined
him, and the old man could add nothing to his former communication. The
Doctor remarked that Terreganoeuck had a great dislike to mentioning the
name of the Copper-Mine River, and evaded the question with much
dexterity as often as it was put to him, but that he willingly told the
name of a river to the eastward and also of his tribe. He attempted to
persuade Augustus to remain with him and offered him one of his daughters
for a wife. These Esquimaux strike fire with two stones, catching the
sparks in the down of the catkins of a willow.

The despatches being finished were delivered this evening to Mr. Wentzel,
who parted from us at eight P.M. with Parent, Gagnier, Dumas, and
Forcier, Canadians whom I discharged for the purpose of reducing our
expenditure of provision as much as possible. The remainder of the party
including officers amounted to twenty persons. I made Mr. Wentzel
acquainted with the probable course of our future proceedings and
mentioned to him that, if we were far distant from this river when the
season or other circumstances rendered it necessary to put a stop to our
advance, we should in all probability be unable to return to it and
should have to travel across the barren grounds towards some established
post, in which case I told him that we should certainly go first to Fort
Enterprise, expecting that he would cause the Indians to place a supply
of dried provision there, as soon as possible after their arrival in its
vicinity. My instructions to him were that he should proceed to Point
Lake, transport the canoe that was left there to Fort Enterprise, where
he was to embark the instruments and books and carry them to Slave Lake,
and to forward the box containing the journals, etc., with the present
despatches by the next winter packet to England. But before he quitted
Fort Enterprise he was to be assured of the intention of the Indians to
lay up the provision we required and, if they should be in want of
ammunition for that purpose, to procure it if possible from Fort
Providence or the other Forts in Slave Lake, and send it immediately to
them by the hunters who accompanied him thither. I also requested him to
ascertain from Akaitcho and the other leading Indians where their
different parties would be hunting in the months of September and
October, and to leave this information in a letter at Fort Enterprise for
our guidance in finding them, as we should require their assistance. Mr.
Wentzel was furnished with a list of the stores that had been promised to
Akaitcho and his party as a remuneration for their services, as well as
with an official request to the North-West Company that these goods might
be paid to them on their next visit to Fort Providence, which they
expected to make in the latter part of November. I desired him to mention
this circumstance to the Indians as an encouragement to exertion in our
behalf and to promise them an additional reward for the supply of
provision they should collect at Fort Enterprise.

If Mr. Wentzel met the Hook or any of his party he was instructed to
assure them that he was provided with the necessary documents to get them
payment for any meat they should put en cache for our use, and to
acquaint them that we fully relied on their fulfilling every part of the
agreement they had made with us. Whenever the Indians, whom he was to
join at the Copper Mountains, killed any animals on their way to Fort
Enterprise, he was requested to put en cache whatever meat could be
spared, placing conspicuous marks to guide us to them, and I particularly
begged he would employ them in hunting in our service immediately after
his arrival at the house.

When Mr. Wentzel's party had been supplied with ammunition our remaining
stock consisted of one thousand balls and rather more than the requisite
proportion of powder. A bag of small shot was missing and we afterwards
discovered that the Canadians had secreted and distributed it among
themselves in order that when provision should become scarce they might
privately procure ducks and geese and avoid the necessity of sharing them
with the officers.

The situation of our encampment was ascertained to be latitude 67 degrees
47 minutes 50 seconds North, longitude 115 degrees 36 minutes 49 seconds
West, the variation of the compass 46 degrees 25 minutes 52 seconds East,
and dip of the needle 88 degrees 5 minutes 07 seconds.

It will be perceived that the position of the mouth of the river given by
our observations differs widely from that assigned by Mr. Hearne, but the
accuracy of his description, conjoined with Indian information, assured
us that we were at the very part he visited. I therefore named the most
conspicuous cape we then saw Cape Hearne as a just tribute to the memory
of that persevering traveller. I distinguished another cape by the name
of Mackenzie in honour of Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the only other
European* who had before reached the Northern Ocean. I called the river
which falls into the sea to the westward of the Copper-Mine Richardson as
a testimony of sincere regard for my friend and companion Dr. Richardson,
and named the islands which were in view from our encampment Couper's
Isles in honour of a friend of his. The sun set this night at thirty
minutes after eleven apparent time.

(*Footnote. Captain Parry's success was at this time unknown to us.)

The travelling distance from Fort Enterprise to the north of the
Copper-Mine River is about three hundred and thirty-four miles. The
canoes and baggage were dragged over snow and ice for one hundred and
seventeen miles of this distance.




July 20, 1821.

We intended to have embarked early this morning and to have launched upon
an element more congenial with our habits than the freshwater navigations
with their numerous difficulties and impediments which we had hitherto
encountered, but which was altogether new to our Canadian voyagers. We
were detained however by a strong north-east gale which continued the
whole day with constant thundershowers, the more provoking as our nets
procured but few fish and we had to draw upon our store of dried meat,
which, with other provision for the journey, amounted only to fifteen
days' consumption. Indeed we should have preferred going dinnerless to
bed rather than encroach on our small stock had we not been desirous of
satisfying the appetites and cheering the spirits of our Canadian
companions at the commencement of our voyage. These thoughtless people
would at any time incur the hazard of absolute starvation at a future
period for the present gratification of their appetites, to indulge which
they do not hesitate, as we more than once experienced, at helping
themselves secretly, it being in their opinion no disgrace to be detected
in pilfering food.

Our only luxury now was a little salt which had long been our substitute
both for bread and vegetables. Since our departure from Point Lake we had
boiled the Indian tea plant Ledum palustre which provided a beverage in
smell much resembling rhubarb, notwithstanding which we found it
refreshing and were gratified to see this plant flourishing abundantly on
the sea shore though of dwarfish growth.

July 21.

The wind which had blown strong through the night became moderate in the
morning, but a dense fog prevented us from embarking until noon when we
commenced our voyage on the Hyperborean Sea. Soon afterwards we landed on
an island where the Esquimaux had erected a stage of drift timber, and
stored up many of their fishing implements and winter sledges, together
with a great many dressed seal, musk-ox, and deer skins. Their spears,
headed with bone and many small articles of the same material, were
worked with extreme neatness, as well as their wooden dishes and cooking
utensils of stone, and several articles, very elegantly formed of bone,
were evidently intended for some game, but Augustus was unacquainted with
their use. We took from this deposit four seal-skins to repair our shoes
and left in exchange a copper-kettle, some awls and beads.

We paddled all day along the coast to the eastward on the inside of a
crowded range of islands and saw very little ice; the blink of it however
was visible to the northward, and one small iceberg was seen at a
distance. A tide was distinguishable among the islands by the foam
floating on the water but we could not ascertain its direction. In the
afternoon St. Germain killed on an island a fat deer which was a great
acquisition to us; it was the first we had seen for some months in good

Having encamped on the main shore after a run of thirty-seven miles we
set up a pole to ascertain the rise and fall of the water, which was
repeated at every halting-place, and Hepburn was ordered to attend to the
result. We found the coast well covered with vegetation of moderate
height, even in its outline, and easy of approach. The islands are rocky
and barren, presenting high cliffs of a columnar structure. I have named
the westernmost group of those we passed Berens' Isles in honour of the
Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, and the easternmost Sir Graham
Moore's Islands. At the spot where we landed some mussel-shells and a
single piece of seaweed lay on the beach; this was the only spot on the
coast where we saw shells. We were rejoiced to find the beach strewed
with abundance of small driftwood none of it recent.

It may be remarked that the Copper-Mine River does not bring down any
driftwood, nor does any other known stream except Mackenzie's River,
hence from its appearance on this part of the coast an easterly current
may be inferred. This evening we were all in high glee at the progress we
had made; the disappearance of the ice and the continuance of the land in
an eastern direction and our future prospects formed an enlivening
subject of conversation. The thermometer varied during the day between 43
and 45 degrees. The fishing-nets were set but produced nothing.

On the 22nd we embarked at four A.M. and, having the benefit of a light
breeze, continued our voyage along the coast under sail until eleven when
we halted to breakfast and to obtain the latitude. The coast up to this
point presented the same general appearance as yesterday, namely a
gravelly or sandy beach skirted by green plains, but as we proceeded the
shore became exceedingly rocky and sterile and at last, projecting
considerably to the northward, it formed a high and steep promontory.
Some ice had drifted down upon this cape which we feared might check our
progress but, as the evening was fine, we ventured upon pushing the
canoes through the small channels formed among it. After pursuing this
kind of navigation with some danger and more anxiety we landed and
encamped on a smooth rocky point whence we perceived with much
satisfaction that the ice consisted only of detached pieces which would
be removed by the first breeze. We sounded in seventeen fathoms close to
the shore this day. The least depth ascertained by the lead since our
departure from the river was six fathoms, and any ship might pass safely
between the islands and the main. The water is of a light green colour
but not very clear and much less salt than that of the Atlantic, judging
from our recollection of its taste. In the course of the day we saw geese
and ducks with their young and two deer, and experienced very great
variations of temperature from the light breezes blowing alternately from
the ice and the land. The name of Lawford's Islands was bestowed on a
group we passed in the course of the day as a mark of my respect for
Vice-Admiral Lawford, under whose auspices I first entered the naval

A fresh breeze blowing through the night had driven the ice from the land
and opened a channel of a mile in width; we therefore embarked at nine
A.M. to pursue our journey along the coast but, at the distance of nine
miles were obliged to seek shelter in Port Epworth, the wind having
become adverse and too strong to admit of our proceeding. The Tree River
of the Esquimaux which discharges its waters into this bay appears to be
narrow and much interrupted by rapids. The fishing-nets were set but
obtained only one white-fish and a few bull-heads. This part of the coast
is the most sterile and inhospitable that can be imagined. One trap-cliff
succeeds another with tiresome uniformity and their debris cover the
narrow valleys that intervene, to the exclusion of every kind of herbage.
From the summit of these cliffs the ice appeared in every direction.

We obtained the following observations during our stay: latitude 67
degrees 42 minutes 15 seconds North, longitude 112 degrees 30 minutes 00
seconds West, variation 47 degrees 37 minutes 42 seconds East.

The wind abating, at eight P.M. we reembarked and soon afterwards
discovered on an island a reindeer, which the interpreters fortunately
killed. Resuming our voyage we were much impeded by the ice and at
length, being unable to force a passage through a close stream that had
collected round a cape, we put ashore at four A.M. On the 24th several
stone fox-traps and other traces of the Esquimaux were seen near the
encampment. The horizontal refraction varied so much this morning that
the upper limb of the sun twice appeared at the horizon before it finally

For the last two days the water rose and fell about nine inches. The
tides however seemed to be very irregular and we could not determine the
direction of the ebb or flood. A current setting to the eastward was
running about two miles an hour during our stay. The ice having removed a
short distance from the shore by eleven A.M. we embarked, and with some
difficulty effected a passage, then, making a traverse across Gray's
Bay,* we paddled up under the eastern shore against a strong wind. The
interpreters landed here and went in pursuit of a deer but had no
success. This part of the coast is indented by deep bays which are
separated by peninsulas formed like wedges, sloping many miles into the
sea and joined by low land to the main, so that, often mistaking them for
islands, we were led by a circuitous route round the bays. Cliffs were
numerous on the islands which were all of the trap formation.

(*Footnote. Named after Mr. Gray principal of the Belfast Academy. An
island which lies across the mouth of this bay bears the name of our
English sailor Hepburn.)

At seven, a thunderstorm coming on, we encamped at the mouth of a river
about eighty yards wide and set four nets. This stream, which received
the name of Wentzel after our late companion, discharges a considerable
body of water. Its banks are sandy and clothed with herbage. The
Esquimaux had recently piled up some drift timber here. A few ducks,
ravens, and snow-birds were seen today. The distance made was thirty-one

July 25.

We had constant rain with thunder during the night. The nets furnished
only three salmon-trout. We attributed the want of greater success to the
entrance of some seals into the mouth of the river. Embarking at six A.M.
we paddled against a cold breeze until the spreading of a thick fog
caused us to land. The rocks here consisted of a beautiful mixture of red
and gray granite, traversed from north to south by veins of red felspar
which were crossed in various directions by smaller veins filled with the
same substance.

At noon the wind coming from a favourable quarter tempted us to proceed,
although the fog was unabated. We kept as close as we could to the main
shore but, having to cross some bays, it became a matter of doubt whether
we had not left the main and were running along an island. Just as we
were endeavouring to double a bold cape the fog partially cleared away
and allowed us an imperfect view of a chain of islands on the outside,
and of much heavy ice which was pressing down upon us. The coast near us
was so steep and rugged that no landing of the cargoes could be effected
and we were preserved only by some men jumping on the rocks and thrusting
the ice off with poles. There was no alternative but to continue along
this dreary shore seeking a channel between the different masses of ice
which had accumulated at the various points. In this operation both the
canoes were in imminent danger of being crushed by the ice which was now
tossed about by the waves that the gale had excited. We effected a
passage however and, keeping close to the shore, landed at the entrance
of Detention Harbour at nine P.M., having come twenty-eight miles. An old
Esquimaux encampment was traced on this spot, and an ice chisel, a copper
knife, and a small iron knife were found under the turf. I named this
cape after Mr. Barrow of the Admiralty to whose exertions are mainly
owing the discoveries recently made in Arctic geography. An opening on
its eastern side received the appellation of Inman Harbour after my
friend the Professor at the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth, and to a
group of islands to seaward of it we gave the name of Jameson in honour
of the distinguished Professor of Mineralogy at Edinburgh.

We had much wind and rain during the night and by the morning of the 26th
a great deal of ice had drifted into the inlet. We embarked at four and
attempted to force a passage, when the first canoe got enclosed and
remained for some time in a very perilous situation: the pieces of ice,
crowded together by the action of the current and wind, pressing strongly
against its feeble sides. A partial opening however occurring we landed
without having sustained any serious injury. Two men were then sent round
the bay and it was ascertained that, instead of having entered a narrow
passage between an island and the main, we were at the mouth of a harbour
having an island at its entrance, and that it was necessary to return by
the way we came and get round a point to the northward. This was however
impracticable, the channel being blocked up by drift ice, and we had no
prospect of release except by a change of wind. This detention was
extremely vexatious as we were losing a fair wind and expending our
provision. In the afternoon the weather cleared up and several men went
hunting but were unsuccessful. During the day the ice floated backwards
and forwards in the harbour, moved by currents not regular enough to
deserve the name of tide, and which appeared to be governed by the wind.
We perceived great diminution by melting in the pieces near us. That none
of this ice survives the summer is evident from the rapidity of its decay
and because no ice of last year's formation was hanging on the rocks.
Whether any body of it exists at a distance from the shore we could not

The land around Cape Barrow and to Detention Harbour consists of steep
craggy mountains of granite rising so abruptly from the water's edge as
to admit few landing-places even for a canoe. The higher parts attain an
elevation of fourteen or fifteen hundred feet and the whole is entirely
destitute of vegetation.

On the morning of the 27th, the ice remaining stationary at the entrance,
we went to the bottom of the harbour and carried the canoes and cargoes
about a mile and a half across the point of land that forms the east side
of it, but the ice was not more favourable there for our advancement than
at the place we had left. It consisted of small pieces closely packed
together by the wind extending along the shore but leaving a clear
passage beyond the chain of islands with which the whole of this coast is
girt. Indeed when we left the harbour we had little hope of finding a
passage, and the principal object in moving was to employ the men in
order to prevent their reflecting upon and discussing the dangers of our
situation which we knew they were too apt to do when leisure permitted.
Our observations place the entrance of Detention Harbour in latitude 67
degrees 53 minutes 45 seconds, longitude 110 degrees 41 minutes 20
seconds West, variation 40 degrees 49 minutes 34 seconds East. It is a
secure anchorage being sheltered from the wind in every direction; the
bottom is sandy.

July 28.

As the ice continued in the same state several of the men were sent out
to hunt, and one of them fired no less than four times at deer but
unfortunately without success. It was satisfactory however to ascertain
that the country was not destitute of animals. We had the mortification
to discover that two of the bags of pemmican which was our principal
reliance had become mouldy by wet. Our beef too had been so badly cured
as to be scarcely eatable through our having been compelled from haste to
dry it by fire instead of the sun. It was not however the quality of our
provision that gave us uneasiness but its diminution and the utter
incapacity to obtain any addition. Seals were the only animals that met
our view at this place and these we could never approach.

Dr. Richardson discovered near the beach a small vein of galena
traversing gneiss rocks, and the people collected a quantity of it in the
hope of adding to our stock of balls, but their endeavours to smelt it
were as may be supposed ineffectual. The drift timber on this part of the
coast consists of pine and taccamahac (Populus balsamifera) most probably
from Mackenzie's or some other river to the westward of the Copper-Mine.
It all appears to have lain long in the water, the bark being completely
worn off and the ends of the pieces rubbed perfectly smooth. There had
been a sharp frost in the night which formed a pretty thick crust of ice
in a kettle of water that stood in the tents, and for several nights thin
films of ice had appeared on the salt water amongst the cakes of stream
ice.* Notwithstanding this state of temperature we were tormented by
swarms of mosquitoes; we had persuaded ourselves that these pests could
not sustain the cold in the vicinity of the sea but it appears they haunt
every part of this country in defiance of climate. Mr. Back made an
excursion to a hill at seven or eight miles distance and from its summit
he perceived the ice close to the shore as far as his view extended.

(Footnote. This is termed bay-ice by the Greenland men.)

On the morning of the 29th the party attended divine service. About noon,
the ice appearing less compact, we embarked to change our situation,
having consumed all the fuel within our reach. The wind came off the land
just as the canoes had started and we determined on attempting to force a
passage along the shore, in which we happily succeeded after seven hours'
labour and much hazard to our frail vessels. The ice lay so close that
the crews disembarked on it and effected a passage by bearing against the
pieces with their poles, but in conducting the canoes through the narrow
channels thus formed the greatest care was requisite to prevent the sharp
projecting points from breaking the bark. They fortunately received no
material injury though they were split in two places.

At the distance of three miles we came to the entrance of a deep bay
whose bottom was filled by a body of ice so compact as to preclude the
idea of a passage through it, whilst at the same time the traverse across
its mouth was attended with much danger from the approach of a large
field of ice which was driving down before the wind. The dread of further
detention however prevented us from hesitating, and we had the
satisfaction of landing in an hour and a half on the opposite shore,
where we halted to repair the canoes and to dine. I have named this bay
after my friend Mr. Daniel Moore of Lincoln's Inn, to whose zeal for
science the Expedition was indebted for the use of a most valuable
chronometer. Its shores are picturesque, sloping hills receding from the
beach and closed with verdure bound its bottom and western side, and
lofty cliffs of slate clay with their intervening grassy valleys skirt
its eastern border. Embarking at midnight we pursued our voyage without
interruption, passing between the Stockport and Marcet Islands and the
main, until six A.M. on July 30th when, having rounded Point Kater, we
entered Arctic Sound and were again involved in a stream of ice, but
after considerable delay extricated ourselves and proceeded towards the
bottom of the inlet in search of the mouth of a river which we supposed
it to receive, from the change in the colour of the water.

About ten A.M. we landed to breakfast on a small deer which St. Germain
had killed, and sent men in pursuit of some others in sight but with
which they did not come up. Reembarking we passed the river without
perceiving it and entered a deep arm of the sound which I have named
Baillie's Cove in honour of a relative of the lamented Mr. Hood. As it
was too late to return we encamped and, by walking across the country,
discovered the river whose mouth, being barred by low sandy islands and
banks, was not perceived when we passed it. Course and distance from
Galena Point to this encampment were South-East 3/4 South forty miles.

From the accounts of Black-Meat and Boileau at Fort Chipewyan we
considered this river to be the Anatessy, and Cape Barrow to be the
projection which they supposed to be the North-East termination of
America. The outline of the coast indeed bears some resemblance to the
chart they sketched, and the distance of this river from the Copper-Mine
nearly coincides with what we estimated the Anatessy to be from their
statements. In our subsequent journey however across the barren grounds
we ascertained that this conjecture was wrong, and that the Anatessy,
which is known to come from Rum Lake, must fall into the sea to the
eastward of this place.

Our stock of provision being now reduced to eight days' consumption it
had become a matter of the first importance to obtain a supply and, as we
had learned from Terregannoeuck that the Esquimaux frequent the rivers at
this season, I determined on seeking a communication with them here, in
the hope of obtaining relief for our present wants or even shelter for
the winter if the season should prevent us from returning either to the
Hook's party or Fort Enterprise, and I was the more induced to take this
step at this time as several deer had been seen today and the river
appeared good for fishing, which led me to hope we might support the
party during our stay if not add to our stock by our own exertions in
hunting and fishing. Augustus, Junius, and Hepburn were therefore
furnished with the necessary presents and desired to go along the bank of
the river as far as they could on the following day in search of the
natives to obtain provision and leather as well as information respecting
the coast.

They started at four A.M. and at the same time our hunters were sent off
in search of deer, and the rest of the party proceeded in the canoes to
the first cascade in the river, at the foot of which we encamped and set
four nets. This cascade, produced by a ridge of rocks crossing the
stream, is about three or four feet in height and about two hundred and
fifty yards wide. Its position by our observations in latitude 67 degrees
19 minutes 23 seconds North, longitude 109 degrees 44 minutes 30 seconds
West, variation 41 degrees 43 minutes 22 seconds, dip 88 degrees 58
minutes 48 seconds. I have named this river Hood as a small tribute to
the memory of our lamented friend and companion. It is from three to four
hundred yards wide below the cascade but in many places very shallow. The
banks, bottom, and adjacent hills are formed of a mixture of sand and
clay. The ground was overspread with small willows and the dwarf birch,
both too diminutive for fuel, and the stream brought down no driftwood.
We were mortified to find the nets only procured one salmon and five
white-fish, and that we had to make another inroad upon our dried meat.

August 1.

At two this morning the hunters returned with two small deer and a brown
bear. Augustus and Junius arrived at the same time, having traced the
river twelve miles farther up without discovering any vestige of
inhabitants. We had now an opportunity of gratifying our curiosity
respecting the bear so much dreaded by the Indians, and of whose strength
and ferocity we had heard such terrible accounts. It proved to be a lean
male of a yellowish brown colour and not longer than a common black bear.
It made a feeble attempt to defend itself and was easily despatched. The
flesh was brought to the tent but, our fastidious voyagers supposing,
from its leanness, that the animal had been sickly, declined eating it;
the officers however being less scrupulous boiled the paws and found them

We embarked at ten A.M. and, proceeding down the river, took on board
another deer that had been killed by Credit that evening. We then ran
along the eastern shore of Arctic Sound, distinguished by the name of
Banks' Peninsula in honour of the late Right Honourable Sir Joseph Banks,
President of the Royal Society and, rounding Point Wollaston at its
eastern extremity, opened another extensive sheet of water, and the
remainder of the afternoon was spent in endeavouring to ascertain from
the tops of the hills whether it was another bay or merely a passage
enclosed by a chain of islands. Appearances rather favouring the latter
opinion we determined on proceeding through it to the southward. During
the delay four more deer were killed, all young and lean. It appeared
that the coast is pretty well frequented by reindeer at this season, but
it was rather singular that hitherto we had killed none (excepting the
first) but young ones of last season which were all too lean to have been
eaten by any but persons who had no choice.

We paddled along the western shore with the intention of encamping but
were prevented by the want of driftwood on the beach. This induced us to
make a traverse to an island where we put up at midnight, having found a
small bay whose shores furnished us with a little firewood. A heavy gale
came on from the westward attended with constant rain, and one of the
squalls overthrew our tents. The course and distance made this day were
north-east sixteen miles and a half. I may here mention that Arctic Sound
appeared the most convenient and perhaps the best place for ships to
anchor that we had seen along the coast, at this season especially, when
they might increase their stock of provision, if provided with good
marksmen. Deer are numerous in its vicinity, musk-oxen also may be found
up Hood's River, and the fine sandy bottom of the bays promises
favourably for fishing with the seine. The hills on the western side are
even in their outline and slope gradually to the water's edge. The rocks
give place to an alluvial sandy soil towards the bottom of the Sound, but
on Banks' Peninsula rocky eminences again prevail which are rugged and
uneven but intersected by valleys, at this time green; along their base
is a fine sandy beach. From Point Wollaston to our encampment the coast
is skirted with trap cliffs which have often a columnar form and are very
difficult of access. These cliffs lie in ranges parallel to the shore and
the deer that we killed were feeding in small marshy grassy plats that
lie in the valleys between them.

Being detained by the continuance of the gale on the 2nd of August some
men were sent out to hunt and the officers visited the tops of the
highest hills to ascertain the best channels to be pursued. The wind
abating at ten P.M. we embarked and paddled round the southern end of the
island and continued our course to the south-east. Much doubt at this
time prevailed as to the land on the right being the main shore or merely
a chain of islands. The latter opinion was strengthened by the broken
appearance of the land and the extensive view we had up Brown's Channel
(named after my friend Mr. Robert Brown) the mouth of which we passed and
were in some apprehension of being led away from the main shore and,
perhaps after passing through a group of islands, of coming to a traverse
greater than we durst venture upon in canoes: on the other hand the
continuous appearance of the land on the north side of the channel and
its tending to the southward excited the fear that we were entering a
deep inlet.

In this state of doubt we landed often and endeavoured, from the summits
of the highest hills adjoining the shore, to ascertain the true nature of
the coast but in vain, and we continued paddling through the channel all
night against a fresh breeze, which at half-past four increased to a
violent gale and compelled us to land. The gale diminished a short time
after noon on the 3rd and permitted us to reembark and continue our
voyage until four P.M., when it returned with its former violence and
finally obliged us to encamp, having come twenty-four miles on a
south-east three-quarter south course.

From the want of driftwood to make a fire we had fasted all day and were
under the necessity in the evening of serving out pemmican, which was
done with much reluctance, especially as we had some fresh deers' meat
remaining. The inlet when viewed from a high hill adjoining to our
encampment exhibited so many arms that the course we ought to pursue was
more uncertain than ever. It was absolutely necessary however to see the
end of it before we could determine that it was not a strait. Starting at
three A.M. on the 4th we paddled the whole day through channels from two
to five or six miles wide, all tending to the southward. In the course of
the day's voyage we ascertained that the land which we had seen on our
right since yesterday morning consisted of several large islands which
have been distinguished by the names of Goulburn, Elliott, and Young, but
the land on our left preserved its unbroken appearance and when we
encamped we were still uncertain whether it was the eastern side of a
deep sound or merely a large island. It differed remarkably from the main
shore, being very rugged, rocky, and sterile, whereas the outline of the
main on the opposite side was even and its hills covered with a
comparatively good sward of grass exhibiting little naked rock. There was
no drift timber but the shores near the encampment were strewed with
small pieces of willow which indicated our vicinity to the mouth of a
river. This fuel enabled us to make a hearty supper from a small deer
killed this evening.

The shallows we passed this day were covered with shoals of capelin, the
angmaggoeuk of the Esquimaux. It was known to Augustus who informed us
that it frequents the coast of Hudson's Bay and is delicate eating. The
course and distance made was south by east-half-east, thirty-three miles.

After paddling twelve miles in the morning of the 5th we had the
mortification to find the inlet terminated by a river, the size of which
we could not ascertain as the entrance was blocked by shoals. Its mouth
lies in latitude 66 degrees 30 minutes North, longitude 107 degrees 53
minutes West. I have named this stream Back as a mark of my friendship
for my associate.* We were somewhat consoled for the loss of time in
exploring this inlet by the success of Junius in killing a musk-ox, the
first we had seen on the coast; and afterwards by the acquisition of the
flesh of a bear that was shot as we were returning up the eastern side in
the evening. The latter proved to be a female in very excellent
condition; and our Canadian voyagers whose appetite for fat meat is
insatiable were delighted.

(*Footnote. From subsequent conversation with the Copper Indians we were
inclined to suppose this may be the Thlueetessy described by Black Meat
mentioned in a former part of the narrative.)

We encamped on the shores of a sandy bay and set the nets and, finding a
quantity of dried willows on the beach, we were enabled to cook the
bear's flesh which was superior to any meat we tasted on the coast. The
water fell two feet at this place during the night. Our nets produced a
great variety of fish, namely a salmon trout, some round-fish, tittameg,
bleak, star-fish, several herrings and a flat fish resembling plaice, but
covered on the back with horny excrescences.

On the 6th we were detained in the encampment by stormy weather until
five P.M. when we embarked and paddled along the northern shore of the
inlet, the weather still continuing foggy but the wind moderate.
Observing on the beach a she-bear with three young ones we landed a party
to attack them but, being approached without due caution, they took the
alarm and scaled a precipitous rocky hill with a rapidity that baffled
all pursuit. At eight o'clock, the fog changing into rain, we encamped.
Many seals were seen this day but as they kept in deep water we did not
fire at them.

On August 7th the atmosphere was charged with fog and rain all the day,
but as the wind was moderate we pursued our journey; our situation
however was very unpleasant, being quite wet and without room to stretch
a limb, much less to obtain warmth by exercise. We passed a cove which I
have named after my friend Mr. W.H. Tinney, and proceeded along the coast
until five P.M. when we put up on a rocky point nearly opposite to our
encampment on the 3rd, having come twenty-three miles on a
north-north-west course.

We were detained on the 8th by a northerly gale which blew violently
throughout the day attended by fog and rain. Some of the men went out to
hunt but they saw no other animal than a white wolf which could not be
approached. The fresh meat being expended a little pemmican was served
out this evening.

The gale abated on the morning of the 9th and the sea, which it had
raised, having greatly subsided, we embarked at seven A.M. and, after
paddling three or four miles, opened Sir J.A. Gordon's Bay into which we
penetrated thirteen miles and then discovered from the summit of a hill
that it would be in vain to proceed in this direction in search of a
passage out of the inlet.

Our breakfast diminished our provision to two bags of pemmican and a
single meal of dried meat. The men began to apprehend absolute want of
food and we had to listen to their gloomy forebodings of the deer
entirely quitting the coast in a few days. As we were embarking however a
large bear was discovered on the opposite shore which we had the good
fortune to kill, and the sight of this fat meat relieved their fears for
the present. Dr. Richardson found in the stomach of this animal the
remains of a seal, several marmots (Arctomys richardsonii) a large
quantity of the liquorice root of Mackenzie (hedysarum) which is common
on these shores, and some berries. There was also intermixed with these
substances a small quantity of grass.

We got again into the main inlet and paddled along its eastern shore
until forty minutes after eight A.M. when we encamped in a small cove. We
found a single log of driftwood; it was pine and sufficiently large to
enable us to cook a portion of the bear which had a slight fishy taste
but was deemed very palatable.

August 10.

We followed up the east border of the inlet about twenty-four miles and
at length emerged into the opens sea, a body of islands to the westward
concealing the channel by which we had entered. Here our progress was
arrested by returning bad weather. We killed a bear and its young cub of
this year on the beach near our encampment. We heartily congratulated
ourselves at having arrived at the eastern entrance of this inlet which
had cost us nine invaluable days in exploring. It contains several secure
harbours, especially near the mouth of Back's River where there is a
sandy bottom in forty fathoms.

On the 3rd and 4th of August we observed a fall of more than two feet in
the water during the night. There are various irregular and partial
currents in the inlet which may be attributed to the wind. I have
distinguished it by the name of Bathurst's Inlet after the noble
Secretary of State under whose orders I had the honour to act. It runs
about seventy-six miles south-east from Cape Everitt but in coasting its
shores we went about one hundred and seventy-four geographical miles. It
is remarkable that none of the Indians with whom we had spoken mentioned
this inlet, and we subsequently learned that in their journeys they
strike across from the mouth of one river to the mouth of another without
tracing the intermediate line of coast.

August 11.

Embarking at five A.M. we rounded Point Everitt and then encountered a
strong breeze and heavy swell which, by causing the canoes to pitch very
much, greatly impeded our progress. Some deer being seen grazing in a
valley near the beach we landed and sent St. Germain and Adam in pursuit
of them who soon killed three which were very small and lean. Their
appearance however quite revived the spirits of our men who had suspected
that the deer had retired to the woods. It would appear from our not
having seen any in passing along the shores of Bathurst's Inlet that at
this season they confine themselves to the sea-coast and the islands. The
magpie-berries (Arbutus alpina) were found quite ripe at this place, and
very abundant on the acclivities of the hills. We also ascended the
highest hill and gained a view of a distant chain of islands extending as
far as the eye could reach, and perceived a few patches of ice still
lingering round to some of them, but in every other part the sea was
quite open. Resuming our voyage after noon we proceeded along the coast
which is fringed by islands, and at five P.M. entered another bay where
we were for some time involved in our late difficulties by the intricacy
of the passages, but we cleared them in the afternoon and encamped near
the northern entrance of the bay at a spot which had recently been
visited by a small party of Esquimaux, as the remains of some eggs
containing young were lying beside some half-burnt firewood. There were
also several piles of stones put up by them. I have named this bay after
my friend Captain David Buchan of the Royal Navy. It appears to be a safe
anchorage, well sheltered from the wind and sea by islands; the bottom is
sandy, the shores high and composed of red sandstone. Two deer were seen
on its beach but could not be approached. The distance we made today was
eighteen miles and three-quarters.

Embarking at four on the morning of the 12th we proceeded against a fresh
piercing north-east wind which raised the waves to a height that quite
terrified our people, accustomed only to the navigation of rivers and
lakes. We were obliged however to persevere in our advance, feeling as we
did that the short season for our operations was hastening away, but
after rounding Cape Croker the wind became so strong that we could
proceed no farther. The distance we had made was only six miles on a
north-east by east course. The shore on which we encamped is formed of
the debris of red sandstone and is destitute of vegetation. The beach
furnished no driftwood and we dispensed with our usual meal rather than
expend our pemmican. Several deer were seen but the hunters could not
approach them; they killed two swans. We observed the latitude 68 degrees
1 minute 20 seconds where we had halted to breakfast this morning.

August 13.

Though the wind was not much diminished we were urged by the want of
firewood to venture upon proceeding. We paddled close to the shore for
some miles and then ran before the breeze with reefed sails scarcely two
feet in depth. Both the canoes received much water and one of them struck
twice on sunken rocks. At the end of eighteen miles we halted to
breakfast in a bay which I have named after Vice-Admiral Sir William
Johnstone Hope, one of the Lords of the Admiralty.

We found here a considerable quantity of small willows such as are
brought down by the rivers we had hitherto seen, and hence we judged that
a river discharges itself into the bottom of this bay. A paddle was also
found which Augustus on examination declared to be made after the fashion
of the White Goose Esquimaux, a tribe with whom his countrymen had had
some trading communication as has been mentioned in a former part of the

This morning we passed the embouchure of a pretty large stream and saw
the vestiges of an Esquimaux encampment not above a month old. Having
obtained the latitude 68 degrees 6 minutes 40 seconds North we
recommenced our voyage under sail, taking the precaution to embark all
the pieces of willow we could collect, as we had found the driftwood
become more scarce as we advanced. Our course was directed to a distant
point which we supposed to be a cape, and the land stretching to the
westward of it to be islands, but we soon found ourselves in an extensive
bay from which no outlet could be perceived but the one by which we had
entered. On examination however from the top of a hill we perceived a
winding shallow passage running to the north-west which we followed for a
short time and then encamped, having come twenty-three miles north by
east half east.

Some articles left by the Esquimaux attracted our attention; we found a
winter sledge raised upon four stones, with some snow-shovels and a small
piece of whalebone. An ice-chisel, a knife and some beads were left at
this pile. The shores of this bay, which I have named after Sir George
Warrender, are low and clayey and the country for many miles is level and
much intersected with water, but we had not leisure to ascertain whether
they were branches of the bay or freshwater lakes. Some white geese were
seen this evening and some young gray ones were caught on the beach being
unable to fly. We fired at two reindeer but without success.

On August 14th we paddled the whole day along the northern shores of the
sound, returning towards its mouth. The land we were now tracing is
generally so flat that it could not be descried from the canoes at the
distance of four miles and is invisible from the opposite side of the
sound, otherwise a short traverse might have saved us some days. The few
eminences that are on this side were mistaken for islands when seen from
the opposite shore; they are for the most part cliffs of basalt and are
not above one hundred feet high; the subjacent strata are of white
sandstone. The rocks are mostly confined to the capes and shores, the
soil inland being flat, clayey, and barren. Most of the headlands showed
traces of visits from the Esquimaux but none of them recent. Many ducks
were seen, belonging to a species termed by the voyagers from their cry
caccawees. We also saw some gray geese and swans. The only seal we
procured during our voyage was killed this day; it happened to be blind
and our men imagining it to be in bad health would not taste the flesh;
we however were less nice.

We encamped at the end of twenty-four miles' march on the north-west side
of the bay to which I have given the name of my friend Captain Parry, now
employed in the interesting research for a North-West Passage. Driftwood
had become very scarce and we found none near the encampment; a fire
however was not required as we served out pemmican for supper and the
evening was unusually warm.

On the following morning the breeze was fresh and the waves rather high.
In paddling along the west side of Parry's Bay we saw several deer but,
owing to the openness of the country, the hunters could not approach
them. They killed however two swans that were moulting, several cranes
and many gray geese. We procured also some caccawees which were then
moulting and assembled in immense flocks. In the evening, having rounded
Point Beechy and passed Hurd's Islands, we were exposed to much
inconvenience and danger from a heavy rolling sea, the canoes receiving
many severe blows and shipping a good deal of water, which induced us to
encamp at five P.M. opposite to Cape Croker which we had passed on the
morning of the 12th; the channel which lay between our situation and it
being about seven miles wide. We had now reached the northern point of
entrance into this sound which I have named in honour of Lord Viscount
Melville, the first Lord of the Admiralty. It is thirty miles wide from
east to west and twenty from north to south, and in coasting it we had
sailed eighty-seven and a quarter geographical miles. Shortly after the
tents were pitched Mr. Back reported from the steersman that both canoes
had sustained material injury during this day's voyage. I found on
examination that fifteen timbers of the first canoe were broken, some of
them in two places, and that the second canoe was so loose in the frame
that its timbers could not be bound in the usual secure manner, and
consequently there was danger of its bark separating from the gunwales if
exposed to a heavy sea. Distressing as were these circumstances they gave
me less pain than the discovery that our people, who had hitherto
displayed in following us through dangers and difficulties no less novel
than appalling to them a courage beyond our expectation, now felt serious
apprehensions for their safety which so possessed their minds that they
were not restrained even by the presence of their officers from
expressing them. Their fears we imagined had been principally excited by
the interpreters, St. Germain and Adam, who from the outset had foreboded
every calamity; and we now strongly suspected that their recent want of
success in hunting had proceeded from an intentional relaxation in their
efforts to kill deer in order that the want of provision might compel us
to put a period to our voyage.

I must now mention that many concurrent circumstances had caused me
during the few last days to meditate on the approach of this painful
necessity. The strong breezes we had encountered for some days led me to
fear that the season was breaking up and severe weather would soon ensue
which we could not sustain in a country destitute of fuel. Our stock of
provision was now reduced to a quantity of pemmican only sufficient for
three days' consumption and the prospect of increasing it was not
encouraging for, though reindeer were seen, they could not be easily
approached on the level shores we were now coasting, besides it was to be
apprehended they would soon migrate to the south. It was evident that the
time spent in exploring the Arctic and Melville Sounds and Bathurst's
Inlet had precluded the hope of reaching Repulse Bay, which at the outset
of the voyage we had fondly cherished, and it was equally obvious that,
as our distance from any of the trading establishments would increase as
we proceeded, the hazardous traverse across the barren grounds which we
should have to make if compelled to abandon the canoes upon any part of
the coast would become greater.

I this evening communicated to the officers my sentiments on these points
as well as respecting our return and was happy to find that their
opinions coincided with my own. We were all convinced of the necessity of
putting a speedy termination to our advance as our hope of meeting the
Esquimaux and procuring provision from them could now scarcely be
retained, but yet we were desirous of proceeding until the land should be
seen trending again to the eastward, that we might be satisfied of its
separation from what we had conceived, in passing from Cape Barrow to
Bathurst's Inlet, to be a great chain of islands. As it was needful
however at all events to set a limit to our voyage I announced my
determination of returning after four days' examination, unless indeed we
should previously meet the Esquimaux and be enabled to make some
arrangement for passing the winter with them. This communication was
joyfully received by the men and we hoped that the industry of our
hunters being once more excited we should be able to add to our stock of

It may here be remarked that we observed the first regular return of the
tides in Warrender's and Parry's Bays, but their set could not be
ascertained. The rise of water did not amount to more than two feet.
Course today south one quarter east-nine miles and a quarter.

August 16.

Some rain fell in the night but the morning was unusually fine. We set
forward at five A.M. and the men paddled cheerfully along the coast for
ten miles when a dense fog caused us to land on Slate-clay Point. Here we
found more traces of the Esquimaux and the skull of a man placed between
two rocks. The fog dispersed at noon and we discerned a group of islands
to the northward which I have named after Vice-Admiral Sir George
Cockburn, one of the Lords of the Admiralty. Reembarking we rounded the
point and entered Walker's Bay (so-called after my friend Admiral Walker)
where as in other instances the low beach which lay between several high
trap cliffs could not be distinguished until we had coasted down the east
side nearly to the bottom of the bay. When the continuity of the land was
perceived we crossed to the western shore and on landing discovered a
channel leading through a group of islands. Having passed through this
channel we ran under sail by the Porden Islands, across Riley's Bay and,
rounding a cape which now bears the name of my lamented friend Captain
Flinders, had the pleasure to find the coast trending north-north-east,
with the sea in the offing unusually clear of islands, a circumstance
which afforded matter of wonder to our Canadians who had not previously
had an uninterrupted view of the ocean.

Our course was continued along the coast until eight P.M. when a change
in the wind and a threatening thunder-squall induced us to encamp, but
the water was so shallow that we found some difficulty in approaching the
shore. Large pieces of driftwood gave us assurance that we had finally
escaped from the bays. Our tents were scarcely pitched before we were
assailed by a heavy squall and rain, which was succeeded by a violent
gale from west-north-west which thrice overset the tents during the
night. The wind blew with equal violence on the following day and the sea
rolled furiously upon the beach. The Canadians had now an opportunity of
witnessing the effect of a storm upon the sea and the sight increased
their desire of quitting it.

Our hunters were sent out and saw many deer but the flatness of the
country defeated their attempts to approach them; they brought however a
few unfledged geese. As there was no appearance of increasing our stock
of provision the allowance was limited to a handful of pemmican and a
small portion of portable soup to each man per day. The thermometer this
afternoon stood to 41 degrees. The following observations were obtained:
latitude 68 degrees 18 minutes 50 seconds North, longitude 110 degrees 5
minutes 15 seconds West, but 109 degrees 25 minutes 00 seconds West was
used in the construction of the chart as the chronometers were found, on
our return to Hood's River, to have altered their rates; variation 44
degrees 15 minutes 46 seconds East and dip of the needle 89 degrees 31
minutes 12 seconds.

On August 18th, the stormy weather and sea continuing, there was no
prospect of our being able to embark. Dr. Richardson, Mr. Back, and I
therefore set out on foot to discover whether the land within a day's
march inclined more to the east. We went from ten to twelve miles along
the coast, which continued flat, and kept the same direction as the
encampment. The most distant land we saw had the same bearing
north-north-east, and appeared like two islands which we estimated to be
six or seven miles off; the shore on their side seemingly tended more to
the east so that it is probable Point Turnagain, for so this spot was
named, forms the pitch of a low flat cape.

Augustus killed a deer in the afternoon but the men were not able to find
it. The hunters found the burrows of a number of white foxes and Hepburn
killed one of these animals, which proved excellent eating, equal to the
young geese with which it was boiled and far superior to the lean deer we
had upon the coast. Large flocks of geese passed over the tents flying to
the southward. The lowest temperature today was 38 degrees.

Though it will appear from the chart that the position of Point Turnagain
is only six degrees and a half to the east of the mouth of the
Copper-Mine River, we sailed, in tracing the deeply-indented coast, five
hundred and fifty-five geographical miles, which is little less than the
direct distance between the Copper-Mine River and Repulse Bay, supposing
the latter to be in the longitude assigned to it by Middleton.

When the many perplexing incidents which occurred during the survey of
the coast are considered in connection with the shortness of the period
during which operations of the kind can be carried on, and the distance
we had to travel before we could gain a place of shelter for the winter,
I trust it will be judged that we prosecuted the enterprise as far as was
prudent and abandoned it only under a well-founded conviction that a
farther advance would endanger the lives of the whole party and prevent
the knowledge of what had been done from reaching England. The active
assistance I received from the officers in contending with the fears of
the men demands my warmest gratitude.


Our researches, as far as they have gone, favour the opinion of those who
contend for the practicability of a North-West Passage. The general line
of coast probably runs east and west, nearly in the latitude assigned to
Mackenzie's River, the Sound into which Kotzebue entered, and Repulse
Bay, and I think there is little doubt of a continued sea in or about
that line of direction. The existence of whales too on this part of the
coast, evidenced by the whalebone we found in Esquimaux Cove, may be
considered as an argument for an open sea; and a connection with Hudson's
Bay is rendered more probable from the same kind of fish abounding on the
coasts we visited, and on those to the north of Churchill River. I allude
more particularly to the Capelin or Salmo arcticus which we found in
large shoals in Bathurst's Inlet and which not only abounds, as Augustus
told us, in the bays in his country, but swarms in the Greenland firths.*
The portion of the sea over which we passed is navigable for vessels of
any size; the ice we met, particularly after quitting Detention Harbour,
would not have arrested a strong boat. The chain of islands affords
shelter from all heavy seas and there are good harbours at convenient
distances. I entertain indeed sanguine hopes that the skill and exertions
of my friend Captain Parry will soon render this question no longer
problematical. His task is doubtless an arduous one and if ultimately
successful may occupy two and perhaps three seasons but, confiding as I
do from personal knowledge in his perseverance and talent for surmounting
difficulties, the strength of his ships, and the abundance of provisions
with which they are stored, I have very little apprehension of his
safety. As I understand his object was to keep the coast of America close
on board he will find in the spring of the year, before the breaking up
of the ice can permit him to pursue his voyage, herds of deer flocking in
abundance to all parts of the coast, which may be procured without
difficulty, and even later in the season additions to his stock of
provision may be obtained on many parts of the coast, should
circumstances give him leisure to send out hunting parties. With the
trawl or seine nets also he may almost everywhere get abundance of fish
even without retarding his progress. Under these circumstances I do not
conceive that he runs any hazard of wanting provisions should his voyage
be prolonged even beyond the latest period of time which is calculated
upon. Drift timber may be gathered at many places in considerable
quantities and there is a fair prospect of his opening a communication
with the Esquimaux who come down to the coast to kill seals in the spring
previous to the ice breaking up, and from whom, if he succeeds in
conciliating their goodwill, he may obtain provision and much useful

(*Footnote. Arctic Zoology volume 2 page 394.)

If he makes for Copper-Mine River, as he probably will do, he will not
find it in the longitude as laid down on the charts, but he will probably
find what would be more interesting to him, a post which we erected on
the 26th August at the mouth of Hood's River which is nearly, as will
appear hereafter, in that longitude, with a flag upon it and a letter at
the foot of it, which may convey to him some useful information. It is
possible however that he may keep outside of the range of islands which
skirt this part of the coast.




August 17, 1821.

My original intention, whenever the season should compel us to relinquish
the survey, had been to return by the Copper-Mine River and, in pursuance
of my arrangement with the Hook, to travel to Slave Lake through the line
of woods extending thither by the Great Bear and Marten Lakes, but our
scanty stock of provision and the length of the voyage rendered it
necessary to make for a nearer place. We had already found that the
country between Cape Barrow and the Copper-Mine River would not supply
our wants, and this it seemed probable would now be still the case,
besides at this advanced season we expected the frequent recurrence of
gales which would cause great detention if not danger in proceeding along
that very rocky part of the coast.

I determined therefore to make at once for Arctic Sound where we had
found the animals more numerous than at any other place and, entering
Hood's River, to advance up that stream as far as it was navigable and
then to construct small canoes out of the materials of the larger ones,
which could be carried in crossing the barren grounds to Fort Enterprise.

August 19.

We were almost beaten out of our comfortless abodes by rain during the
night and this morning the gale continued without diminution. The
thermometer fell to 33 degrees. Two men were sent with Junius to search
for the deer which Augustus had killed. Junius returned in the evening,
bringing part of the meat but, owing to the thickness of the weather, his
companions parted from him and did not make their appearance. Divine
service was read. On the 20th we were presented with the most chilling
prospect, the small pools of water being frozen over, the ground covered
with snow, and the thermometer at the freezing-point at midday. Flights
of geese were passing to the southward. The wind however was more
moderate, having changed to the eastward. Considerable anxiety prevailing
respecting Belanger and Michel, the two men who strayed from Junius
yesterday, the rest were sent out to look for them. The search was
successful and they all returned in the evening. The stragglers were much
fatigued and had suffered severely from the cold, one of them having his
thighs frozen and, what under our present circumstances was most
grievous, they had thrown away all the meat. The wind during the night
returned to the north-west quarter, blew more violently than ever, and
raised a very turbulent sea. The next day did not improve our condition,
the snow remained on the ground, and the small pools were frozen. Our
hunters were sent out but they returned after a fatiguing day's march
without having seen any animals. We made a scanty meal off a handful of
pemmican, after which only half a bag remained.

The wind abated after midnight and the surf diminished rapidly, which
caused us to be on the alert at a very early hour on the 22nd, but we had
to wait until six A.M. for the return of Augustus who had continued out
all night on an unsuccessful pursuit of deer. It appears that he had
walked a few miles further along the coast than the party had done on the
18th and, from a sketch he drew on the sand, we were confirmed in our
former opinion that the shore inclined more to the eastward beyond Point
Turnagain. He also drew a river of considerable size that discharges its
waters into Walker's Bay, on the banks of which stream he saw a piece of
wood such as the Esquimaux use in producing fire, and other marks so
fresh that he supposed they had recently visited the spot. We therefore
left several iron materials for them and, embarking without delay,
prepared to retrace our steps.* Our men, cheered by the prospect of
returning, showed the utmost alacrity and, paddling with unusual vigour,
carried us across Riley's and Walker's Bays, a distance of twenty miles
before noon, when we landed on Slate-clay Point as the wind had freshened
too much to permit us to continue the voyage. The whole party went to
hunt but returned without success in the evening, drenched with the heavy
rain which commenced soon after they had set out. Several deer were seen
but could not be approached in this naked country and, as our stock of
pemmican did not admit of serving out two meals, we went dinnerless to

(*Footnote. It is a curious coincidence that our Expedition left Point
Turnagain on August 22--on the same day that Captain Parry sailed out of
Repulse Bay. The parties were then distant from each other 539 miles.)

Soon after our departure this day a sealed tin-case, sufficiently buoyant
to float, was thrown overboard, containing a short account of our
proceedings and the position of the most conspicuous points. The wind
blew off the land, the water was smooth and, as the sea is in this part
more free from islands than in any other, there was every probability of
its being driven off the shore into the current which, as I have before
mentioned, we suppose, from the circumstance of Mackenzie's River being
the only known stream that brings down the wood we have found along the
shores, to set to the eastward.

August 23.

A severe frost caused us to pass a comfortless night. At two P.M. we set
sail and the men voluntarily launched out to make a traverse of fifteen
miles across Melville Sound before a strong wind and heavy sea. The
privation of food under which our voyagers were then labouring absorbed
every other terror; otherwise the most powerful persuasion could not have
induced them to attempt such a traverse. It was with the utmost
difficulty that the canoes were kept from turning their broadsides to the
waves, though we sometimes steered with all the paddles. One of them
narrowly escaped being overset by this accident, which occurred in a
mid-channel where the waves were so high that the masthead of our canoe
was often hid from the other, though it was sailing within hail.

The traverse however was made; we were then near a high rocky lee shore
on which a heavy surf was beating. The wind being on the beam, the canoes
drifted fast to leeward and, on rounding a point, the recoil of the sea
from the rocks was so great that they were with difficulty kept from
foundering. We looked in vain for a sheltered bay to land in but at
length, being unable to weather another point, we were obliged to put
ashore on the open beach which fortunately was sandy at this spot. The
debarkation was effected fortunately without further injury than
splitting the head of the second canoe, which was easily repaired.

Our encampment being near the spot where we killed the deer on the 11th,
almost the whole party went out to hunt, but returned in the evening
without having seen any game. The berries however were ripe and plentiful
and with the addition of some country tea furnished a supper. There were
some showers in the afternoon and the weather was cold, the thermometer
being 42 degrees, but the evening and night were calm and fine. It may be
remarked that the mosquitoes disappeared when the late gales commenced.

August 24.

Embarking at three A.M. we stretched across the eastern entrance of
Bathurst's Inlet and arrived at an island which I have named after the
Right Honourable Colonel Barry of Newton Barry. Some deer being seen on
the beach the hunters went in pursuit of them and succeeded in killing
three females which enabled us to save our last remaining meal of
pemmican. They saw also some fresh tracks of musk-oxen on the banks of a
small stream which flowed into a lake in the centre of the island. These
animals must have crossed a channel at least three miles wide to reach
the nearest of these islands. Some specimens of variegated pebbles and
jasper were found here embedded in the amygdaloidal rock.

Reembarking at two P.M. and continuing through what was supposed to be a
channel between two islands we found our passage barred by a gravelly
isthmus of only ten yards in width; the canoes and cargoes were carried
across it and we passed into Bathurst's Inlet through another similar
channel bounded on both sides by steep rocky hills. The wind then
changing from South-East to North-West brought heavy rain, and we
encamped at seven P.M. having advanced eighteen miles.

August 25.

Starting this morning with a fresh breeze in our favour we soon reached
that part of Barry's Island where the canoes were detained on the 2nd and
3rd of this month and, contrary to what we then experienced, the deer
were now plentiful. The hunters killed two and relieved us from all
apprehension of immediate want of food. From their assembling at this
time in such numbers on the islands nearest to the coast we conjectured
that they were about to retire to the main shore. Those we saw were
generally females with their young and all of them very lean.

The wind continued in the same direction until we had rounded Point
Wollaston and then changed to a quarter which enabled us to steer for
Hood's River, which we ascended as high as the first rapid and encamped.
Here terminated our voyage on the Arctic Sea during which we had gone
over six hundred and fifty geographical miles. Our Canadian voyagers
could not restrain their joy at having turned their backs on the sea, and
passed the evening in talking over their past adventures with much humour
and no little exaggeration. The consideration that the most painful, and
certainly the most hazardous, part of the journey was yet to come did not
depress their spirits at all. It is due to their character to mention
that they displayed much courage in encountering the dangers of the sea,
magnified to them by their novelty.

The shores between Cape Barrow and Cape Flinders, including the extensive
branches of Arctic and Melville Sounds and Bathurst's Inlet, may be
comprehended in one great gulf which I have distinguished by the
appellation of George IV's Coronation Gulf in honour of His Most Gracious
Majesty, the latter name being added to mark the time of its discovery.
The archipelago of islands which fringe the coast from Copper-Mine River
to Point Turnagain I have named in honour of His Royal Highness the Duke
of York.

It may be deserving of notice that the extremes in temperature of the
seawater during our voyage were 53 and 35 degrees, but its general
temperature was between 43 and 48 degrees. Throughout our return from
Point Turnagain we observed that the sea had risen several feet above
marks left at our former encampments. This may perhaps be attributed to
the north-west gales.

August 26.

Previous to our departure this morning an assortment of iron materials,
beads, looking-glasses, and other articles were put up in a conspicuous
situation for the Esquimaux and the English Union was planted on the
loftiest sandhill where it might be seen by any ships passing in the
offing. Here also was deposited in a tin box a letter containing an
outline of our proceedings, the latitude and longitude of the principal
places, and the course we intended to pursue towards Slave Lake.

Embarking at eight A.M. we proceeded up the river which is full of sandy
shoals but sufficiently deep for canoes in the channels. It is from one
hundred to two hundred yards wide and is bounded by high and steep banks
of clay. We encamped at a cascade of eighteen or twenty feet high which
is produced by a ridge of rock crossing the river and the nets were set.
A mile below this cascade Hood's River is joined by a stream half its own
size which I have called James' Branch. Bear and deer tracks had been
numerous on the banks of the river when we were here before but not a
single recent one was to be seen at this time. Credit however killed a
small deer at some distance inland which, with the addition of berries,
furnished a delightful repast this evening. The weather was remarkably
fine and the temperature so mild that the mosquitoes again made their
appearance, but not in any great numbers. Our distance made today was not
more than six miles.

The next morning the net furnished us with ten white-fish and trout.
Having made a further deposit of ironwork for the Esquimaux we pursued
our voyage up the river, but the shoals and rapids in this part were so
frequent that we walked along the banks the whole day and the crews
laboured hard in carrying the canoes thus lightened over the shoals or
dragging them up the rapids, yet our journey in a direct line was only
about seven miles. In the evening we encamped at the lower end of a
narrow chasm through which the river flows for upwards of a mile. The
walls of this chasm are upwards of two hundred feet high, quite
perpendicular and in some places only a few yards apart. The river
precipitates itself into it over a rock, forming two magnificent and
picturesque falls close to each other. The upper fall is about sixty feet
high and the lower one at least one hundred but perhaps considerably
more, for the narrowness of the chasm into which it fell prevented us
from seeing its bottom and we could merely discern the top of the spray
far beneath our feet. The lower fall is divided into two by an insulated
column of rock which rises about forty feet above it. The whole descent
of the river at this place probably exceeds two hundred and fifty feet.
The rock is very fine felspathose sandstone. It has a smooth surface and
a light red colour. I have named these magnificent cascades Wilberforce
Falls as a tribute of my respect for that distinguished philanthropist
and Christian. Messrs. Back and Hood took beautiful sketches of this
majestic scene.

The river, being surveyed from the summit of a hill above these falls,
appeared so rapid and shallow that it seemed useless to attempt
proceeding any farther in the large canoes. I therefore determined on
constructing out of their materials two smaller ones of sufficient size
to contain three persons for the purpose of crossing any river that might
obstruct our progress. This operation was accordingly commenced and by
the 31st, both the canoes being finished, we prepared for our departure
on the following day.

The leather which had been preserved for making shoes was equally divided
among the men, two pairs of flannel socks were given to each person, and
such articles of warm clothing as remained were issued to those who most
required them. They were also furnished with one of the officers' tents.
This being done I communicated to the men my intention of proceeding in
as direct a course as possible to the part of Point Lake opposite our
spring encampment, which was only distant one hundred and forty-nine
miles in a straight line. They received the communication cheerfully,
considered the journey to be short, and left me in high spirits to
arrange their own packages. The stores, books, etc., which were not
absolutely necessary to be carried were then put up in boxes to be left
en cache here, in order that the men's burdens might be as light as

The next morning was warm and very fine. Everyone was on the alert at an
early hour, being anxious to commence the journey. Our luggage consisted
of ammunition, nets, hatchets, ice chisels, astronomical instruments,
clothing, blankets, three kettles, and the two canoes, which were each
carried by one man. The officers carried such a portion of their own
things as their strength would permit; the weight carried by each man was
about ninety pounds, and with this we advanced at the rate of about a
mile an hour including rests. In the evening the hunters killed a lean
cow out of a large drove of musk-oxen; but the men were too much laden to
carry more than a small portion of its flesh. The alluvial soil which,
towards the mouth of the river, spreads into plains covered with grass
and willows, was now giving place to a more barren and hilly country, so
that we could but just collect sufficient brushwood to cook our suppers.
The part of the river we skirted this day was shallow and flowed over a
bed of sand, its width about one hundred and twenty yards. About midnight
our tent was blown down by a squall and we were completely drenched with
rain before it could be repitched.

On the morning of the 1st of September a fall of snow took place; the
canoes became a cause of delay from the difficulty of carrying them in a
high wind, and they sustained much damage through the falls of those who
had charge of them. The face of the country was broken by hills of
moderate elevation but the ground was plentifully strewed with small
stones which, to men bearing heavy burdens and whose feet were protected
only by soft moose-skin shoes, occasioned great pain. At the end of
eleven miles we encamped and sent for a musk-ox and a deer which St.
Germain and Augustus had killed. The day was extremely cold, the
thermometer varying between 34 and 36 degrees. In the afternoon a heavy
fall of snow took place on the wind changing from north-west to
south-west. We found no wood at the encampment but made a fire of moss to
cook the supper and crept under our blankets for warmth. At sunrise the
thermometer was at 31 degrees and the wind fresh from north-west, but the
weather became mild in the course of the forenoon and the snow
disappeared from the gravel. The afternoon was remarkably fine and the
thermometer rose to 50 degrees. One of the hunters killed a musk-ox. The
hills in this part are lower and more round-backed than those we passed
yesterday, exhibiting but little naked rock; they were covered with

Having ascertained from the summit of the highest hill near the tents
that the river continued to preserve a west course and, fearing that by
pursuing it farther we might lose much time and unnecessarily walk over a
great deal of ground, I determined on quitting its banks the next day and
making as directly as we could for Point Lake. We accordingly followed
the river on the 3rd only to the place where the musk-ox had been killed
last evening and, after the meat was procured, crossed the river in our
two canoes lashed together. We now emerged from the valley of the river
and entered a level but very barren country, varied only by small lakes
and marshes, the ground being covered with small stones. Many old tracks
of reindeer were seen in the clayey soil and some more recent traces of
the musk-ox. We encamped on the borders of Wright's River which flows to
the eastward, the direct distance walked today being ten miles and
three-quarters. The next morning was very fine and as the day advanced
the weather became quite warm. We set out at six A.M. and, having forded
the river, walked over a perfectly level country interspersed with small
lakes which communicated with each other by streams running in various
directions. No berry-bearing plants were found in this part, the surface
of the earth being thinly covered in the moister places with a few
grasses, and on the drier spots with lichens.

Having walked twelve miles and a half we encamped at seven P.M. and
distributed our last piece of pemmican and a little arrowroot for supper
which afforded but a scanty meal. This evening was warm but dark clouds
overspread the sky. Our men now began to find their burdens very
oppressive and were much fatigued by this day's march but did not
complain. One of them was lame from an inflammation in the knee. Heavy
rain commenced at midnight and continued without intermission until five
in the morning, when it was succeeded by snow on the wind changing to
north-west, which soon increased to a violent gale. As we had nothing to
eat and were destitute of the means of making a fire, we remained in our
beds all the day, but the covering of our blankets was insufficient to
prevent us from feeling the severity of the frost and suffering
inconvenience from the drifting of the snow into our tents. There was no
abatement of the storm next day; our tents were completely frozen and the
snow had drifted around them to a depth of three feet, and even in the
inside there was a covering of several inches on our blankets. Our
suffering from cold in a comfortless canvas tent in such weather with the
temperature at 20 degrees and without fire will easily be imagined; it
was however less than that which we felt from hunger.

The morning of the 7th cleared up a little but the wind was still strong
and the weather extremely cold. From the unusual continuance of the storm
we feared the winter had set in with all its rigour and that by longer
delay we should only be exposed to an accumulation of difficulties; we
therefore prepared for our journey although we were in a very unfit
condition for starting, being weak from fasting and our garments
stiffened by the frost. We had no means of making a fire to thaw them,
the moss, at all times difficult to kindle, being now covered with ice
and snow. A considerable time was consumed in packing up the frozen tents
and bed clothes, the wind blowing so strong that no one could keep his
hands long out of his mittens.

Just as we were about to commence our march I was seized with a fainting
fit in consequence of exhaustion and sudden exposure to the wind but,
after eating a morsel of portable soup, I recovered so far as to be able
to move on. I was unwilling at first to take this morsel of soup, which
was diminishing the small and only remaining meal for the party, but
several of the men urged me to it with much kindness. The ground was
covered a foot deep with snow, the margins of the lakes were encrusted
with ice, and the swamps over which we had to pass were entirely frozen
but the ice, not being sufficiently strong to bear us, we frequently
plunged knee-deep in water. Those who carried the canoes were repeatedly
blown down by the violence of the wind and they often fell from making an
insecure step on a slippery stone; on one of these occasions the largest
canoe was so much broken as to be rendered utterly unserviceable. This we
felt was a serious disaster as the remaining canoe having through mistake
been made too small, it was doubtful whether it would be sufficient to
carry us across a river. Indeed we had found it necessary in crossing
Hood's River to lash the two canoes together. As there was some suspicion
that Benoit, who carried the canoe, had broken it intentionally, he
having on a former occasion been overheard by some of the men to say that
he would do so when he got it in charge, we closely examined him on the
point; he roundly denied having used the expressions attributed to him,
and insisted that it was broken by his falling accidentally and, as he
brought men to attest the latter fact who saw him tumble, we did not
press the matter further. I may here remark that our people had murmured
a good deal at having to carry two canoes, though they were informed of
the necessity of taking both in case it should be deemed advisable to
divide the party, which it had been thought probable we should be obliged
to do if animals proved scarce, in order to give the whole the better
chance of procuring subsistence, and also for the purpose of sending
forward some of the best walkers to search for Indians and to get them to
meet us with supplies of provision. The power of doing this was now at an
end. As the accident could not be remedied we turned it to the best
account by making a fire of the bark and timbers of the broken vessel and
cooked the remainder of our portable soup and arrowroot. This was a
scanty meal after three days' fasting but it served to allay the pangs of
hunger and enabled us to proceed at a quicker pace than before. The depth
of the snow caused us to march in Indian file, that is in each other's
steps, the voyagers taking it in turn to lead the party. A distant object
was pointed out to this man in the direction we wished to take and Mr.
Hood followed immediately behind him to renew the bearings and keep him
from deviating more than could be helped from the mark. It may be here
observed that we proceeded in this manner throughout our route across the
barren grounds.

In the afternoon we got into a more hilly country where the ground was
strewed with large stones. The surface of these was covered with lichens
of the genus gyrophora which the Canadians term tripe de roche. A
considerable quantity was gathered and with half a partridge each (which
we shot in the course of the day) furnished a slender supper which we
cooked with a few willows dug up from beneath the snow. We passed a
comfortless night in our damp clothes but took the precaution of sleeping
upon our socks and shoes to prevent them from freezing. This plan was
afterwards adopted throughout the journey.

At half-past five in the morning we proceeded and after walking about two
miles came to Cracroft's River, flowing to the westward with a very rapid
current over a rocky channel. We had much difficulty in crossing this,
the canoe being useless, not only from the bottom of the channel being
obstructed by large stones, but also from its requiring gumming, an
operation which, owing to the want of wood and the frost, we were unable
to perform. However after following the course of the river some distance
we effected a passage by means of a range of large rocks that crossed a
rapid. As the current was strong and many of the rocks were covered with
water to the depth of two or three feet, the men were exposed to much
danger in carrying their heavy burdens across, and several of them
actually slipped into the stream but were immediately rescued by the
others. Junius went farther up the river in search of a better
crossing-place and did not rejoin us this day. As several of the party
were drenched from head to foot and we were all wet to the middle, our
clothes became stiff with the frost and we walked with much pain for the
remainder of the day. The march was continued to a late hour from our
anxiety to rejoin the hunters who had gone before, but we were obliged to
encamp at the end of ten miles and a quarter without seeing them. Our
only meal today consisted of a partridge each (which the hunters shot)
mixed with tripe de roche. This repast, although scanty for men with
appetites such as our daily fatigue created, proved a cheerful one and
was received with thankfulness. Most of the men had to sleep in the open
air in consequence of the absence of Credit who carried their tent, but
we fortunately found an unusual quantity of roots to make a fire, which
prevented their suffering much from the cold though the thermometer was
at 17 degrees.

We started at six on the 9th and at the end of two miles regained our
hunters who were halting on the borders of a lake amidst a clump of
stunted willows. This lake stretched to the westward as far as we could
see and its waters were discharged by a rapid stream one hundred and
fifty yards wide. Being entirely ignorant where we might be led by
pursuing the course of the lake, and dreading the idea of going a mile
unnecessarily out of the way, we determined on crossing the river if
possible, and the canoe was gummed for the purpose, the willows
furnishing us with fire. But we had to await the return of Junius before
we could make the traverse. In the meantime we gathered a little tripe de
roche and breakfasted upon it and a few partridges that were killed in
the morning. St. Germain and Adam were sent upon some recent tracks of
deer. Junius arrived in the afternoon and informed us that he had seen a
large herd of musk-oxen on the banks of Cracroft's River, and had wounded
one of them but it escaped. He brought about four pounds of meat, the
remains of a deer that had been devoured by the wolves. The poor fellow
was much fatigued, having walked throughout the night but, as the weather
was particularly favourable for our crossing the river, we could not
allow him to rest. After he had taken some refreshment we proceeded to
the river. The canoe being put into the water was found extremely
ticklish, but it was managed with much dexterity by St. Germain, Adam,
and Peltier, who ferried over one passenger at a time, causing him to lie
flat in its bottom, by no means a pleasant position owing to its
leakiness, but there was no alternative. The transport of the whole party
was effected by five o'clock and we walked about two miles farther and
encamped, having come five miles and three-quarters on a south-west
course. Two young alpine hares were shot by St. Germain which with the
small piece of meat brought in by Junius furnished the supper of the
whole party. There was no tripe de roche here. The country had now become
decidedly hilly and was covered with snow. The lake preserved its western
direction as far as I could see from the summit of the highest mountain
near the encampment. We subsequently learned from the Copper Indians that
the part at which we had crossed the river was the Congecathawhachaga of
Hearne, of which I had little idea at the time, not only from the
difference of latitude, but also from its being so much farther east of
the mouth of the Copper-Mine River than his track is laid down, he only
making one degree and three-quarters' difference of longitude and we
upwards of four. Had I been aware of the fact several days' harassing
march and a disastrous accident would have been prevented by keeping on
the western side of the lake instead of crossing the river. We were
informed also that this river is the Anatessy or River of Strangers and
is supposed to fall into Bathurst's Inlet, but although the Indians have
visited its mouth their description was not sufficient to identify it
with any of the rivers whose mouths we had seen. It probably discharges
itself in that part of the coast which was hid from our view by
Goulbourn's or Elliott's Islands.

September 10.

We had a cold north wind and the atmosphere was foggy. The thermometer 18
degrees at five A.M. In the course of our march this morning we passed
many small lakes and the ground, becoming higher and more hilly as we
receded from the river, was covered to a much greater depth with snow.
This rendered walking not only extremely laborious but also hazardous in
the highest degree, for the sides of the hills, as is usual throughout
the barren grounds, abounding in accumulations of large angular stones,
it often happened that the men fell into the interstices with their loads
on their backs, being deceived by the smooth appearance of the drifted
snow. If anyone had broken a limb here his fate would have been
melancholy indeed; we could neither have remained with him nor carried
him on. We halted at ten to gather tripe de roche but it was so frozen
that we were quite benumbed with cold before a sufficiency could be
collected even for a scanty meal. On proceeding our men were somewhat
cheered by observing on the sandy summit of a hill, from whence the snow
had been blown, the summer track of a man, and afterwards by seeing
several deer tracks on the snow. About noon the weather cleared up a
little and, to our great joy, we saw a herd of musk-oxen grazing in a
valley below us. The party instantly halted and the best hunters were
sent out; they approached the animals with the utmost caution, no less
than two hours being consumed before they got within gunshot. In the
meantime we beheld their proceedings with extreme anxiety, and many
secret prayers were doubtless offered up for their success. At length
they opened their fire and we had the satisfaction of seeing one of the
largest cows fall; another was wounded but escaped. This success infused
spirit into our starving party. To skin and cut up the animal was the
work of a few minutes. The contents of the stomach were devoured upon the
spot, and the raw intestines which were next attacked were pronounced by
the most delicate amongst us to be excellent. A few willows whose tops
were seen peeping through the snow in the bottom of the valley were
quickly grubbed, the tents pitched, and supper cooked and devoured with
avidity. This was the sixth day since we had had a good meal, the tripe
de roche, even where we got enough, only serving to allay the pangs of
hunger for a short time. After supper two of the hunters went in pursuit
of the herd but could not get near them. I do not think that we witnessed
through the course of our journey a more striking proof of the wise
dispensation of the Almighty and of the weakness of our own judgment than
on this day. We had considered the dense fog which prevailed throughout
the morning as almost the greatest inconvenience that could have befallen
us, since it rendered the air extremely cold and prevented us from
distinguishing any distant object towards which our course could be
directed. Yet this very darkness enabled the party to get to the top of
the hill which bounded the valley wherein the musk-oxen were grazing
without being perceived. Had the herd discovered us and taken alarm our
hunters in their present state of debility would in all probability have
failed in approaching them.

We were detained all the next day by a strong southerly wind and were
much incommoded in the tents by the drift snow. The temperature was 20
degrees. The average for the last ten days about 24 degrees. We
restricted ourselves to one meal this day as we were at rest and there
was only meat remaining sufficient for the morrow.

The gale had not diminished on the 12th and, as we were fearful of its
continuance for some time, we determined on going forward; our only doubt
regarded the preservation of the canoe, but the men promised to pay
particular attention to it, and the most careful persons were appointed
to take it in charge. The snow was two feet deep and the ground much
broken, which rendered the march extremely painful. The whole party
complained more of faintness and weakness than they had ever done before;
their strength seemed to have been impaired by the recent supply of
animal food. In the afternoon the wind abated and the snow ceased;
cheered with the change we proceeded forward at a quicker pace and
encamped at six P.M. having come eleven miles. Our supper consumed the
last of our meat.

We set out on the 13th in thick hazy weather and, after an hour's march,
had the extreme mortification to find ourselves on the borders of a large
lake; neither of its extremities could be seen and, as the portion which
lay to the east seemed the widest, we coasted along to the westward
portion in search of a crossing-place. This lake being bounded by steep
and lofty hills our march was very fatiguing. Those sides which were
exposed to the sun were free from snow and we found upon them some
excellent berries. We encamped at six P.M. having come only six miles and
a half. Credit was then missing and he did not return during the night.
We supped off a single partridge and some tripe de roche; this
unpalatable weed was now quite nauseous to the whole party and in several
it produced bowel complaints. Mr. Hood was the greatest sufferer from
this cause. This evening we were extremely distressed at discovering that
our improvident companions since we left Hood's River had thrown away
three of the fishing-nets and burnt the floats; they knew we had brought
them to procure subsistence for the party when the animals should fail,
and we could scarcely believe the fact of their having wilfully deprived
themselves of this resource, especially when we considered that most of
them had passed the greater part of their servitude in situations where
the nets alone had supplied them with food. Being thus deprived of our
principal resource, that of fishing, and the men evidently getting weaker
every day, it became necessary to lighten their burdens of everything
except ammunition, clothing, and the instruments that were required to
find our way. I therefore issued directions to deposit at this encampment
the dipping needle, azimuth compass, magnet, a large thermometer, and a
few books we had carried, having torn out of these such parts as we
should require to work the observations for latitude and longitude. I
also promised, as an excitement to the efforts in hunting, my gun to St.
Germain, and an ample compensation to Adam or any of the other men who
should kill any animals. Mr. Hood on this occasion lent his gun to Michel
the Iroquois, who was very eager in the chase and often successful.

September 14.

This morning, the officers being assembled round a small fire, Perrault
presented each of us with a small piece of meat which he had saved from
his allowance. It was received with great thankfulness, and such an act
of self-denial and kindness being totally unexpected in a Canadian
voyager filled our eyes with tears. In directing our course to a river
issuing from the lake we met Credit who communicated the joyful
intelligence of his having killed two deer in the morning. We instantly
halted and, having shared the deer that was nearest to us, prepared
breakfast. After which the other deer was sent for and we went down to
the river, which was about three hundred yards wide and flowed with great
velocity through a broken rocky channel. Having searched for a part where
the current was most smooth, the canoe was placed in the water at the
head of a rapid, and St. Germain, Solomon Belanger, and I embarked in
order to cross. We went from the shore very well, but in mid-channel the
canoe became difficult to manage under our burden as the breeze was
fresh. The current drove us to the edge of the rapid, when Belanger
unluckily applied his paddle to avert the apparent danger of being forced
down it, and lost his balance. The canoe was overset in consequence in
the middle of the rapid. We fortunately kept hold of it until we touched
a rock where the water did not reach higher than our waists; here we kept
our footing, notwithstanding the strength of the current, until the water
was emptied out of the canoe. Belanger then held the canoe steady whilst
St. Germain placed me in it and afterwards embarked himself in a very
dexterous manner. It was impossible however to embark Belanger, as the
canoe would have been hurried down the rapid the moment he should have
raised his foot from the rock on which he stood. We were therefore
compelled to leave him in his perilous situation. We had not gone twenty
yards before the canoe, striking on a sunken rock, went down. The place
being shallow we were again enabled to empty it and the third attempt
brought us to the shore. In the meantime Belanger was suffering
extremely, immersed to his middle in the centre of a rapid, the
temperature of which was very little above the freezing-point, and the
upper part of his body covered with wet clothes, exposed in a temperature
not much above zero to a strong breeze. He called piteously for relief
and St. Germain on his return endeavoured to embark him but in vain. The
canoe was hurried down the rapid and when he landed he was rendered by
the cold incapable of further exertion and Adam attempted to embark
Belanger but found it impossible. An attempt was next made to carry out
to him a line made of the slings of the men's loads. This also failed,
the current acting so strongly upon it as to prevent the canoe from
steering and it was finally broken and carried down the stream. At length
when Belanger's strength seemed almost exhausted the canoe reached him
with a small cord belonging to one of the nets and he was dragged
perfectly senseless through the rapid. By the direction of Dr. Richardson
he was instantly stripped and, being rolled up in blankets, two men
undressed themselves and went to bed with him: but it was some hours
before he recovered his warmth and sensations. As soon as Belanger was
placed in his bed the officers sent over my blankets and a person to make
a fire. Augustus brought the canoe over and in returning he was obliged
to descend both the rapids before he could get across the stream, which
hazardous service he performed with the greatest coolness and judgment.
It is impossible to describe my sensations as I witnessed the various
unsuccessful attempts to relieve Belanger. The distance prevented my
seeing distinctly what was going on and I continued pacing up and down
upon the rock on which I landed, regardless of the coldness of my
drenched and stiffening garments. The canoe in every attempt to reach him
was hurried down the rapid, and was lost to view amongst the rocky islets
with a rapidity that seemed to threaten certain destruction; once indeed
I fancied that I saw it overwhelmed in the waves. Such an event would
have been fatal to the whole party. Separated as I was from my companions
without gun, ammunition, hatchet, or the means of making a fire, and in
wet clothes, my doom would have been speedily sealed. My companions too,
driven to the necessity of coasting the lake, must have sunk under the
fatigue of rounding its innumerable arms and bays which as we have
learned from the Indians are very extensive. By the goodness of
Providence however we were spared at that time and some of us have been
permitted to offer up our thanksgivings in a civilised land for the
signal deliverances we then and afterwards experienced.

By this accident I had the misfortune to lose my portfolio containing my
journal from Fort Enterprise together with all the astronomical and
meteorological observations made during the descent of the Copper-Mine
River and along the sea-coast (except those for the dip and variation). I
was in the habit of carrying it strapped across my shoulders but had
taken it off on entering the canoe to reduce the upper weight. The
results of most of the observations for latitude and longitude had been
registered in the sketch-books so that we preserved the requisites for
the construction of the chart. The meteorological observations not having
been copied were lost. My companions, Dr. Richardson, Mr. Back, and Mr.
Hood, had been so careful in noting every occurrence in their journals
that the loss of mine could fortunately be well supplied. These friends
immediately offered me their documents and every assistance in drawing up
another narrative, of which kindness I availed myself at the earliest
opportunity afterwards.

September 15.

The rest of the party were brought across this morning and we were
delighted to find Belanger so much recovered as to be able to proceed,
but we could not set out until noon as the men had to prepare substitutes
for the slings which were lost yesterday. Soon after leaving the
encampment we discerned a herd of deer and after a long chase a fine male
was killed by Perrault, several others were wounded but they escaped.
After this we passed round the north end of a branch of the lake and
ascended the Willingham Mountains, keeping near the border of the lake.
These hills were steep, craggy, and covered with snow. We encamped at
seven and enjoyed a substantial meal. The party were in good spirits this
evening at the recollection of having crossed the rapid and being in
possession of provision for the next day. Besides we had taken the
precaution of bringing away the skin of the deer to eat when the meat
should fail. The temperature at six P.M. was 30 degrees.

We started at seven next morning and marched until ten when the
appearance of a few willows peeping through the snow induced us to halt
and breakfast. Recommencing the journey at noon we passed over a more
rugged country where the hills were separated by deep ravines whose steep
sides were equally difficult to descend and to ascend, and the toil and
suffering we experienced were greatly increased.

The party was quite fatigued when we encamped, having come ten miles and
three-quarters. We observed many summer deer roads and some recent
tracks. Some marks that had been put up by the Indians were also noticed.
We have since learned that this is a regular deer pass and, on that
account, annually frequented by the Copper Indians. The lake is called by
them Contwoyto or Rum Lake in consequence of Mr. Hearne having here given
the Indians who accompanied him some of that liquor. Fish is not found

We walked next day over a more level country but it was strewed with
large stones. These galled our feet a good deal; we contrived however to
wade through the snow at a tolerably quick pace until five P.M., having
proceeded twelve miles and a half. We had made today our proper course
south by east which we could not venture upon doing before for fear of
falling again upon some branch of the Contwoyto. Some deer were seen in
the morning but the hunters failed of killing any and in the afternoon we
fell into the track of a large herd which had passed the day before but
did not overtake them. In consequence of this want of success we had no
breakfast and but a scanty supper, but we allayed the pangs of hunger by
eating pieces of singed hide. A little tripe de roche* was also obtained.
These would have satisfied us in ordinary times but we were now almost
exhausted by slender fare and travel and our appetites had become
ravenous. We looked however with humble confidence to the Great Author
and Giver of all good for a continuance of the support which had hitherto
been always supplied to us at our greatest need. The thermometer varied
today between 25 and 28 degrees. The wind blew fresh from the south.

(*Footnote. The different kinds of gyrophora are termed indiscriminately
by the voyagers tripe de roche.)

On the 18th the atmosphere was hazy but the day was more pleasant for
walking than usual. The country was level and gravelly and the snow very
deep. We went for a short time along a deeply-beaten road made by the
reindeer which turned suddenly off to the south-west, a direction so wide
of our course that we could not venture upon following it. All the small
lakes were frozen and we marched across those which lay in our track. We
supped off the tripe de roche which had been gathered during our halts in
the course of the march. Thermometer at six P.M. 32 degrees.

Showers of snow fell without intermission through the night but they
ceased in the morning and we set out at the usual hour. The men were very
faint from hunger and marched with difficulty, having to oppose a fresh
breeze and to wade through snow two feet deep. We gained however ten
miles by four o'clock and then encamped. The canoe was unfortunately
broken by the fall of the person who had it in charge. No tripe de roche
was seen today but in clearing the snow to pitch the tents we found a
quantity of Iceland moss which was boiled for supper. This weed not
having been soaked proved so bitter that few of the party could eat more
than a few spoonfuls.

Our blankets did not suffice this evening to keep us in tolerable warmth;
the slightest breeze seeming to pierce our debilitated frames. The reader
will probably be desirous to know how we passed our time in such a
comfortless situation: the first operation after encamping was to thaw
our frozen shoes if a sufficient fire could be made, and dry ones were
put on; each person then wrote his notes of the daily occurrences and
evening prayers were read; as soon as supper was prepared it was eaten,
generally in the dark, and we went to bed and kept up a cheerful
conversation until our blankets were thawed by the heat of our bodies and
we had gathered sufficient warmth to enable us to fall asleep. On many
nights we had not even the luxury of going to bed in dry clothes for when
the fire was insufficient to dry our shoes we durst not venture to pull
them off lest they should freeze so hard as to be unfit to put on in the
morning and therefore inconvenient to carry.

On the 20th we got into a hilly country and the marching became much more
laborious, even the stoutest experienced great difficulty in climbing the
craggy eminences. Mr. Hood was particularly weak and was obliged to
relinquish his station of second in the line which Dr. Richardson now
took to direct the leading man in keeping the appointed course. I was
also unable to keep pace with the men who put forth their utmost speed,
encouraged by the hope which our reckoning had led us to form of seeing
Point Lake in the evening, but we were obliged to encamp without gaining
a view of it. We had not seen either deer or their tracks through the
day, and this circumstance, joined to the disappointment of not
discovering the lake, rendered our voyagers very desponding, and the
meagre supper of tripe de roche was little calculated to elevate their
spirits. They now threatened to throw away their bundles and quit us,
which rash act they would probably have committed if they had known what
track to pursue.

September 21.

We set out at seven this morning in dark foggy weather and changed our
course two points to the westward. The party were very feeble and the men
much dispirited; we made slow progress, having to march over a hilly and
very rugged country.

Just before noon the sun beamed through the haze for the first time for
six days and we obtained an observation in latitude 65 degrees 7 minutes
06 seconds North, which was six miles to the southward of that part of
Point Lake to the way our course was directed. By this observation we
discovered that we had kept to the eastward of the proper course, which
may be attributed partly to the difficulty of preserving a straight line
through an unknown country, unassisted by celestial observations and in
such thick weather that our view was often limited to a few hundred
yards, but chiefly to our total ignorance of the amount of the variation
of the compass.

We altered the course immediately to west-south-west and fired guns to
apprise the hunters who were out of our view and ignorant of our having
done so. After walking about two miles we waited to collect the
stragglers. Two partridges were killed and these with some tripe de roche
furnished our supper. Notwithstanding a full explanation was given to the
men of the reasons for altering the course, and they were assured that
the observation had enabled us to discover our exact distance from Fort
Enterprise, they could not divest themselves of the idea of our having
lost our way, and a gloom was spread over every countenance. At this
encampment Dr. Richardson was obliged to deposit his specimens of plants
and minerals collected on the sea-coast, being unable to carry them any
farther. The way made today was five miles and a quarter.

September 22.

After walking about two miles this morning we came upon the borders of an
extensive lake whose extremities could not be discerned in consequence of
the density of the atmosphere but, as its shores seemed to approach
nearer to each other to the southward than to the northward, we
determined on tracing it in that direction. We were grieved at finding
the lake expand very much beyond the contracted part we had first seen
and incline to the eastward of south. As however it was considered more
than probable, from the direction and size of the body of water we were
now tracing, that it was a branch of Point Lake, and as in any case we
knew that by passing round its south end we must shortly come to the
Copper-Mine River, our course was continued in that direction. The
appearance of some dwarf pines and willows, larger than usual, induced us
to suppose the river was near. We encamped early having come eight miles.
Our supper consisted of tripe de roche and half a partridge each.

Our progress next day was extremely slow from the difficulty of managing
the canoe in passing over the hills as the breeze was fresh. Peltier, who
had it in charge, having received several severe falls, became impatient
and insisted on leaving his burden as it had already been much injured by
the accidents of this day, and no arguments we could use were sufficient
to prevail on him to continue carrying it. Vaillant was therefore
directed to take it and we proceeded forward. Having found that he got on
very well and was walking even faster than Mr. Hood could follow in his
present debilitated state, I pushed forward to stop the rest of the party
who had got out of sight during the delay which the discussion respecting
the canoe had occasioned. I accidentally passed the body of the men and
followed the tracks of two persons who had separated from the rest until
two P.M. when, not seeing any person, I retraced my steps, and on my way
met Dr. Richardson who had also missed the party whilst he was employed
gathering tripe de roche, and we went back together in search of them. We
found they had halted among some willows where they had picked up some
pieces of skin and a few bones of deer that had been devoured by the
wolves last spring. They had rendered the bones friable by burning and
eaten them as well as the skin; and several of them had added their old
shoes to the repast. Peltier and Vaillant were with them, having left the
canoe which they said was so completely broken by another fall as to be
rendered incapable of repair and entirely useless. The anguish this
intelligence occasioned may be conceived but it is beyond my power to
describe it. Impressed however with the necessity of taking it forward,
even in the state these men represented it to be, we urgently desired
them to fetch it, but they declined going and the strength of the
officers was inadequate to the task. To their infatuated obstinacy on
this occasion a great portion of the melancholy circumstances which
attended our subsequent progress may perhaps be attributed. The men now
seemed to have lost all hope of being preserved and all the arguments we
could use failed in stimulating them to the least exertion. After
consuming the remains of the bones and horns of the deer we resumed our
march, and in the evening reached a contracted part of the lake which,
perceiving it to be shallow, we forded and encamped on the opposite side.
Heavy rain began soon afterwards and continued all night. On the
following morning the rain had so wasted the snow that the tracks of Mr.
Back and his companions, who had gone before with the hunters, were
traced with difficulty, and the frequent showers during the day almost
obliterated them. The men became furious at the apprehension of being
deserted by the hunters and some of the strongest, throwing down their
bundles, prepared to set out after them, intending to leave the more weak
to follow as they could. The entreaties and threats of the officers
however prevented their executing this mad scheme, but not before Solomon
Belanger was despatched with orders for Mr. Back to halt until we should
join him. Soon afterwards a thick fog came on, but we continued our march
and overtook Mr. Back, who had been detained in consequence of his
companions having followed some recent tracks of deer. After halting an
hour, during which we refreshed ourselves with eating our old shoes and a
few scraps of leather, we set forward in the hope of ascertaining whether
an adjoining piece of water was the Copper-Mine River or not, but were
soon compelled to return and encamp for fear of a separation of the
party, as we could not see each other at ten yards' distance. The fog
diminishing towards evening, Augustus was sent to examine the water but,
having lost his way, he did not reach the tents before midnight when he
brought the information of its being a lake. We supped upon tripe de
roche and enjoyed a comfortable fire, having found some pines seven or
eight feet high in a valley near the encampment.

The bounty of Providence was most seasonably manifested to us next
morning in our killing five small deer out of a herd which came in sight
as we were on the point of starting. This unexpected supply reanimated
the drooping spirits of our men and filled every heart with gratitude.

The voyagers instantly petitioned for a day's rest which we were most
reluctant to grant, being aware of the importance of every moment at this
critical period of our journey. But they so earnestly and strongly
pleaded their recent sufferings and their conviction that the quiet
enjoyment of two substantial meals after eight days' famine would enable
them to proceed next day more vigorously, that we could not resist their
entreaties. The flesh, the skins, and even the contents of the stomachs
of the deer were equally distributed among the party by Mr. Hood who had
volunteered, on the departure of Mr. Wentzel, to perform the duty of
issuing the provision. This invidious task he had all along performed
with great impartiality, but seldom without producing some grumbling
amongst the Canadians, and on the present occasion the hunters were
displeased that the heads and some other parts had not been added to
their portions. It is proper to remark that Mr. Hood always took the
smallest portion for his own mess, but this weighed little with these men
as long as their own appetites remained unsatisfied. We all suffered much
inconvenience from eating animal food after our long abstinence, but
particularly those men who indulged themselves beyond moderation. The
Canadians, with their usual thoughtlessness, had consumed above a third
of their portions of meat that evening.

We set out early on the 26th and, after walking about three miles along
the lake, came to the river which we at once recognised from its size to
be the Copper-Mine. It flowed to the northward and, after winding about
five miles terminated in Point Lake. Its current was swift, and there
were two rapids in this part of its course which in a canoe we could have
crossed with ease and safety. These rapids, as well as every other part
of the river, were carefully examined in search of a ford but, finding
none, the expedients occurred of attempting to cross on a raft made of
the willows which were growing there, or in a vessel framed with willows
and covered with the canvas of the tents, but both these schemes were
abandoned through the obstinacy of the interpreters and the most
experienced voyagers, who declared that they would prove inadequate to
the conveyance of the party and that much time would be lost in the
attempt. The men in fact did not believe that this was the Copper-Mine
River and, so little confidence had they in our reckoning, and so much
had they bewildered themselves on the march, that some of them asserted
it was Hood's River and others that it was the Bethetessy. (A river which
rises from a lake to the northward of Rum Lake and holds a course to the
sea parallel with that of the Copper-Mine.) In short their despondency
had returned, and they all despaired of seeing Fort Enterprise again.
However the steady assurances of the officers that we were actually on
the banks of the Copper-Mine River, and that the distance to Fort
Enterprise did not exceed forty miles, made some impression upon them,
which was increased upon our finding some bear-berry plants (Arbutus uva
ursi) which are reported by the Indians not to grow to the eastward of
that river. They then deplored their folly and impatience in breaking the
canoe, being all of opinion that had it not been so completely demolished
on the 23rd it might have been repaired sufficiently to take the party
over. We again closely interrogated Peltier and Vaillant as to its state,
with the intention of sending for it; but they persisted in the
declaration that it was in a totally unserviceable condition. St.
Germain, being again called upon to endeavour to construct a canoe frame
with willows, stated that he was unable to make one sufficiently large.
It became necessary therefore to search for pines of sufficient size to
form a raft and, being aware that such trees grow on the borders of Point
Lake, we considered it best to trace its shores in search of them; we
therefore resumed our march, carefully looking but in vain for a fordable
part, and encamped at the east end of Point Lake.

As there was little danger of our losing the path of our hunters whilst
we coasted the shores of this lake I determined on again sending Mr. Back
forward with the interpreters to hunt. I had in view in this arrangement
the further object of enabling Mr. Back to get across the lake with two
of these men to convey the earliest possible account of our situation to
the Indians. Accordingly I instructed him to halt at the first pines he
should come to and then prepare a raft and, if his hunters had killed
animals so that the party could be supported whilst we were making our
raft, he was to cross immediately with St. Germain and Beauparlant and
send the Indians to us as quickly as possible with supplies of meat.

We had this evening the pain of discovering that two of our men had
stolen part of the officers' provision which had been allotted to us with
strict impartiality. This conduct was the more reprehensible as it was
plain that we were suffering even in a greater degree than themselves
from the effects of famine, owing to our being of a less robust habit and
less accustomed to privations. We had no means of punishing this crime
but by the threat that they should forfeit their wages, which had now
ceased to operate.

Mr. Back and his companions set out at six in the morning and we started
at seven. As the snow had entirely disappeared and there were no means of
distinguishing the footsteps of stragglers, I gave strict orders
previously to setting out for all the party to keep together, and
especially I desired the two Esquimaux not to leave us, they having often
strayed in search of the remains of animals. Our people however, through
despondency, had become careless and disobedient and had ceased to dread
punishment or hope for reward. Much time was lost in halting and firing
guns to collect them, but the labour of walking was so much lightened by
the disappearance of the snow that we advanced seven or eight miles along
the lake before noon, exclusive of the loss of distance in rounding its
numerous bays. At length we came to an arm running away to the north-east
and apparently connected with the lake which we had coasted on the 22nd,
23rd and 24th of the month.

The idea of again rounding such an extensive piece of water and of
travelling over so barren a country was dreadful, and we feared that
other arms equally large might obstruct our path, and that the strength
of the party would entirely fail long before we could reach the only part
where we were certain of finding wood, distant in a direct line
twenty-five miles. While we halted to consider of this subject and to
collect the party, the carcass of a deer was discovered in the cleft of a
rock into which it had fallen in the spring. It was putrid but little
less acceptable to us on that account in our present circumstances and, a
fire being kindled, a large portion was devoured on the spot, affording
us an unexpected breakfast for, in order to husband our small remaining
portion of meat we had agreed to make only one scanty meal a day. The
men, cheered by this unlooked-for supply, became sanguine in the hope of
being able to cross the stream on a raft of willows, although they had
before declared such a project impracticable, and they unanimously
entreated us to return back to the rapid, a request which accorded with
our own opinion and was therefore acceded to. Credit and Junius however
were missing, and it was also necessary to send notice of our intention
to Mr. Back and his party. Augustus, being promised a reward, undertook
the task and we agreed to wait for him at the rapid. It was supposed he
could not fail meeting with the two stragglers on his way to or from Mr.
Back, as it was likely they would keep on the borders of the lake. He
accordingly set out after Mr. Back whilst we returned about a mile
towards the rapid and encamped in a deep valley amongst some large
willows. We supped on the remains of the putrid deer and the men, having
gone to the spot where it was found, scraped together the contents of its
intestines which were scattered on the rock and added them to their meal.
We also enjoyed the luxury today of eating a large quantity of excellent
blueberries and cranberries (Vaccinium uliginosum and V. vitis idaea)
which were laid bare by the melting of the snow, but nothing could allay
our inordinate appetites.

In the night we heard the report of Credit's gun in answer to our signal
muskets, and he rejoined us in the morning, but we got no intelligence of
Junius. We set out about an hour after daybreak, and encamped at two P.M.
between the rapids where the river was about one hundred and thirty yards
wide, being its narrowest part.


Eight deer were seen by Michel and Credit who loitered behind the rest of
the party, but they could not approach them. A great many shots were
fired by those in the rear at partridges but they missed, or at least did
not choose to add what they killed to the common stock. We subsequently
learned that the hunters often secreted the partridges they shot and ate
them unknown to the officers. Some tripe de roche was collected which we
boiled for supper with the moiety of the remainder of our deer's meat.
The men commenced cutting the willows for the construction of the raft.
As an incitement to exertion I promised a reward of three hundred livres
to the first person who should convey a line across the river by which
the raft could be managed in transporting the party.


September 29.

Strong south-east winds with fog in the morning, more moderate in the
evening. Temperature of the rapid 38 degrees. The men began at an early
hour to bind the willows in fagots for the construction of the raft, and
it was finished by seven but, as the willows were green, it proved to be
very little buoyant, and was unable to support more than one man at a
time. Even on this however we hoped the whole party might be transported
by hauling it from one side to the other, provided a line could be
carried to the other bank. Several attempts were made by Belanger and
Benoit, the strongest men of the party, to convey the raft across the
stream, but they failed for want of oars. A pole constructed by tying the
tent poles together was too short to reach the bottom at a short distance
from the shore, and a paddle which had been carried from the sea-coast by
Dr. Richardson did not possess sufficient power to move the raft in
opposition to a strong breeze which blew from the other side. All the men
suffered extremely from the coldness of the water in which they were
necessarily immersed up to the waists in their endeavours to aid Belanger
and Benoit and, having witnessed repeated failures, they began to
consider the scheme as hopeless. At this time Dr. Richardson, prompted by
a desire of relieving his suffering companions, proposed to swim across
the stream with a line and to haul the raft over. He launched into the
stream with the line round his middle but when he had got a short
distance from the bank his arms became benumbed with cold and he lost the
power of moving them; still he persevered and, turning on his back, had
nearly gained the opposite bank when his legs also became powerless and,
to our infinite alarm, we beheld him sink. We instantly hauled upon the
line and he came again on the surface and was gradually drawn ashore in
an almost lifeless state. Being rolled up in blankets he was placed
before a good fire of willows and fortunately was just able to speak
sufficiently to give some slight directions respecting the manner of
treating him. He recovered strength gradually and through the blessing of
God was enabled in the course of a few hours to converse and by the
evening was sufficiently recovered to remove into the tent. We then
regretted to learn that the skin of his whole left side was deprived of
feeling in consequence of exposure to too great heat. He did not
perfectly recover the sensation of that side until the following summer.
I cannot describe what everyone felt at beholding the skeleton which the
Doctor's debilitated frame exhibited. When he stripped the Canadians
simultaneously exclaimed "Ah! que nous sommes maigres!" I shall best
explain his state and that of the party by the following extract from his
journal: "It may be worthy of remark that I should have had little
hesitation in any former period of my life at plunging into water even
below 38 degrees Fahrenheit, but at this time I was reduced almost to
skin and bone and, like the rest of the party, suffered from degrees of
cold that would have been disregarded in health and vigour. During the
whole of our march we experienced that no quantity of clothing would keep
us warm whilst we fasted, but on those occasions on which we were enabled
to go to bed with full stomachs we passed the night in a warm and
comfortable manner."

In following the detail of our friend's narrow escape I have omitted to
mention that when he was about to step into the water he put his foot on
a dagger which cut him to the bone, but this misfortune could not stop
him from attempting the execution of his generous undertaking.

In the evening Augustus came in. He had walked a day and a half beyond
the place from whence we turned back but had neither seen Junius nor Mr.
Back. Of the former he had seen no traces but he had followed the tracks
of Mr. Back's party for a considerable distance until the hardness of the
ground rendered them imperceptible. Junius was well equipped with
ammunition, blankets, knives, a kettle, and other necessaries; and it was
the opinion of Augustus that when he found he could not rejoin the party
he would endeavour to gain the woods on the west end of Point Lake and
follow the river until he fell in with the Esquimaux who frequent its
mouth. The Indians too with whom we have since conversed upon this
subject are confident that he would be able to subsist himself during the
winter. Credit on his hunting excursion today found a cap which our
people recognised to belong to one of the hunters who had left us in the
spring. This circumstance produced the conviction of our being on the
banks of the Copper-Mine River which all the assertions of the officers
had hitherto failed in effecting with some of the party, and it had the
happy consequence of reviving their spirits considerably. We consumed the
last of our deer's meat this evening at supper.

Next morning the men went out in search of dry willows and collected
eight large fagots with which they formed a more buoyant raft than the
former but, the wind being still adverse and strong, they delayed
attempting to cross until a more favourable opportunity. Pleased however
with the appearance of this raft they collected some tripe de roche and
made a cheerful supper. Dr. Richardson was gaining strength but his leg
was much swelled and very painful. An observation for latitude placed the
encampment in 65 degrees 00 minutes 00 seconds North, the longitude being
112 degrees 20 minutes 00 seconds West, deduced from the last

On the morning of the 1st of October the wind was strong and the weather
as unfavourable as before for crossing on the raft. We were rejoiced to
see Mr. Back and his party in the afternoon. They had traced the lake
about fifteen miles farther than we did and found it undoubtedly
connected, as we had supposed, with the lake we fell in with on the 22nd
of September and, dreading as we had done, the idea of coasting its
barren shores, they returned to make an attempt at crossing here. St.
Germain now proposed to make a canoe of the fragments of painted canvas
in which we wrapped our bedding. This scheme appearing practicable, a
party was sent to our encampment of the 24th and 25th last to collect
pitch amongst the small pines that grew there to pay over the seams of
the canoe.

In the afternoon we had a heavy fall of snow which continued all night. A
small quantity of tripe de roche was gathered and Credit, who had been
hunting, brought in the antlers and back bone of a deer which had been
killed in the summer. The wolves and birds of prey had picked them clean
but there still remained a quantity of the spinal marrow which they had
not been able to extract. This, although putrid, was esteemed a valuable
prize and the spine being divided into portions was distributed equally.
After eating the marrow, which was so acrid as to excoriate the lips, we
rendered the bones friable by burning and ate them also.

On the following morning the ground was covered with snow to the depth of
a foot and a half and the weather was very stormy. These circumstances
rendered the men again extremely despondent; a settled gloom hung over
their countenances and they refused to pick tripe de roche, choosing
rather to go entirely without eating than to make any exertion. The party
which went for gum returned early in the morning without having found
any, but St. Germain said he could still make the canoe with the willows
covered with canvas, and removed with Adam to a clump of willows for that
purpose. Mr. Back accompanied them to stimulate his exertion as we feared
the lowness of his spirits would cause him to be slow in his operations.
Augustus went to fish at the rapid but, a large trout having carried away
his bait, we had nothing to replace it.

The snow-storm continued all the night and during the forenoon of the
3rd. Having persuaded the people to gather some tripe de roche I partook
of a meal with them and afterwards set out with the intention of going to
St. Germain to hasten his operations, but though he was only
three-quarters of a mile distant I spent three hours in a vain attempt to
reach him, my strength being unequal to the labour of wading through the
deep snow, and I returned quite exhausted and much shaken by the numerous
falls I had got. My associates were all in the same debilitated state and
poor Hood was reduced to a perfect shadow from the severe bowel
complaints which the tripe de roche never failed to give him. Back was so
feeble as to require the support of a stick in walking, and Dr.
Richardson had lameness superadded to weakness. The voyagers were
somewhat stronger than ourselves but more indisposed to exertion on
account of their despondency. The sensation of hunger was no longer felt
by any of us, yet we were scarcely able to converse upon any other
subject than the pleasures of eating. We were much indebted to Hepburn at
this crisis. The officers were unable from weakness to gather tripe de
roche themselves and Samandre, who had acted as our cook on the journey
from the coast, sharing in the despair of the rest of the Canadians,
refused to make the slightest exertion. Hepburn on the contrary, animated
by a firm reliance on the beneficence of the Supreme Being, tempered with
resignation to His will, was indefatigable in his exertions to serve us
and daily collected all the tripe de roche that was used in the officers'
mess. Mr. Hood could not partake of this miserable fare, and a partridge
which had been reserved for him was I lament to say this day stolen by
one of the men.

October 4.

The canoe being finished it was brought to the encampment and, the whole
party being assembled in anxious expectation on the beach, St. Germain
embarked and, amidst our prayers for his success, succeeded in reaching
the opposite shore. The canoe was then drawn back again and another
person transported, and in this manner, by drawing it backwards and
forwards, we were all conveyed over without any serious accident. By
these frequent traverses the canoe was materially injured, and latterly
it filled each time with water before reaching the shore, so that all our
garments and bedding were wet and there was not a sufficiency of willows
upon the side on which we now were to make a fire to dry them.

That no time might be lost in procuring relief I immediately despatched
Mr. Back with St. Germain, Solomon Belanger, and Beauparlant to search
for the Indians, directing him to go to Fort Enterprise where we expected
they would be or where at least a note from Mr. Wentzel would be found to
direct us in our search for them. If St. Germain should kill any animals
on his way a portion of the meat was to be put up securely for us and
conspicuous marks placed over it.

It is impossible to imagine a more gratifying change than was produced in
our voyagers after we were all safely landed on the southern banks of the
river. Their spirits immediately revived, each of them shook the officers
cordially by the hand and declared they now considered the worst of their
difficulties over as they did not doubt of reaching Fort Enterprise in a
few days, even in their feeble condition. We had indeed every reason to
be grateful and our joy would have been complete had it not been mingled
with sincere regret at the separation of our poor Esquimaux, the faithful


The want of tripe de roche caused us to go supperless to bed. Showers of
snow fell frequently during the night. The breeze was light next morning,
the weather cold and clear. We were all on foot by daybreak but, from the
frozen state of our tents and bedclothes, it was long before the bundles
could be made and as usual the men lingered over a small fire they had
kindled so that it was eight o'clock before we started. Our advance from
the depth of the snow was slow, and about noon, coming to a spot where
there was some tripe de roche, we stopped to collect it and breakfasted.
Mr. Hood, who was now very feeble, and Dr. Richardson, who attached
himself to him, walked together at a gentle pace in the rear of the
party. I kept with the foremost men to cause them to halt occasionally
until the stragglers came up. Resuming our march after breakfast we
followed the track of Mr. Back's party and encamped early as all of us
were much fatigued, particularly Credit who, having today carried the
men's tent, it being his turn so to do, was so exhausted that when he
reached the encampment he was unable to stand. The tripe de roche
disagreed with this man and with Vaillant in consequence of which they
were the first whose strength totally failed. We had a small quantity of
this weed in the evening and the rest of our supper was made up of scraps
of roasted leather. The distance walked today was six miles. As Credit
was very weak in the morning his load was reduced to little more than his
personal luggage, consisting of his blanket, shoes and gun. Previous to
setting out the whole party ate the remains of their old shoes and
whatever scraps of leather they had to strengthen their stomachs for the
fatigue of the day's journey. We left the encampment at nine and pursued
our route over a range of black hills. The wind, having increased to a
strong gale in the course of the morning, became piercingly cold and the
drift rendered it difficult for those in the rear to follow the track
over the heights, whilst in the valleys where it was sufficiently marked
from the depth of the snow the labour of walking was proportionably
great. Those in advance made as usual frequent halts, yet being unable
from the severity of the weather to remain long still they were obliged
to move on before the rear could come up and the party of course
straggled very much.

About noon, Samandre coming up, informed us that Credit and Vaillant
could advance no farther. Some willows being discovered in a valley near
us I proposed to halt the party there whilst Dr. Richardson went back to
visit them. I hoped too that when the sufferers received the information
of a fire being kindled at so short a distance they would be cheered, and
use their utmost efforts to reach it, but this proved a vain hope. The
Doctor found Vaillant about a mile and a half in the rear, much exhausted
with cold and fatigue. Having encouraged him to advance to the fire,
after repeated solicitations he made the attempt, but fell down amongst
the deep snow at every step. Leaving him in this situation the Doctor
went about half a mile farther back to the spot where Credit was said to
have halted and, the track being nearly obliterated by the snowdrift, it
became unsafe for him to go farther. Returning he passed Vaillant who,
having moved only a few yards in his absence, had fallen down, was unable
to rise, and could scarcely answer his questions. Being unable to afford
him any effectual assistance he hastened on to inform us of his
situation. When J.B. Belanger had heard the melancholy account he went
immediately to aid Vaillant and bring up his burden. Respecting Credit we
were informed by Samandre that he had stopped a short distance behind
Vaillant, but that his intention was to return to the encampment of the
preceding evening.

When Belanger came back with Vaillant's load he informed us that he had
found him lying on his back, benumbed with cold and incapable of being
roused. The stoutest men of the party were now earnestly entreated to
bring him to the fire, but they declared themselves unequal to the task,
and on the contrary urged me to allow them to throw down their loads and
proceed to Fort Enterprise with the utmost speed. A compliance with their
desire would have caused the loss of the whole party, for the men were
totally ignorant of the course to be pursued, and none of the officers
who could have directed the march were sufficiently strong to keep up at
the pace they would then walk, besides, even supposing them to have found
their way, the strongest men would certainly have deserted the weak.
Something however was absolutely necessary to be done to relieve them as
much as possible from their burdens, and the officers consulted on the
subject. Mr. Hood and Dr. Richardson proposed to remain behind with a
single attendant at the first place where sufficient wood and tripe de
roche should be found for ten days' consumption, and that I should
proceed as expeditiously as possible with the men to the house and thence
send them immediate relief. They strongly urged that this arrangement
would contribute to the safety of the rest of the party by relieving them
from the burden of a tent and several other articles, and that they might
afford aid to Credit if he should unexpectedly come up. I was distressed
beyond description at the thought of leaving them in such a dangerous
situation and for a long time combated their proposal, but they
strenuously urged that this step afforded the only chance of safety for
the party and I reluctantly acceded to it. The ammunition, of which we
had a small barrel, was also to be left with them, and it was hoped that
this deposit would be a strong inducement for the Indians to venture
across the barren grounds to their aid. We communicated this resolution
to the men who were cheered at the slightest prospect of alleviation to
their present miseries and promised with great appearance of earnestness
to return to those officers upon the first supply of food.

The party then moved on; Vaillant's blanket and other necessaries were
left in the track at the request of the Canadians, without any hope
however of his being able to reach them. After marching till dusk without
seeing a favourable place for encamping, night compelled us to take
shelter under the lee of a hill amongst some willows, with which, after
many attempts, we at length made a fire. It was not sufficient however to
warm the whole party, much less to thaw our shoes, and the weather not
permitting the gathering of tripe de roche we had nothing to cook. The
painful retrospection of the melancholy events of the day banished sleep,
and we shuddered as we contemplated the dreadful effects of this bitterly
cold night on our two companions, if still living. Some faint hopes were
entertained of Credit's surviving the storm as he was provided with a
good blanket and had leather to eat.

The weather was mild next morning. We left the encampment at nine and at
a little before noon came to a pretty extensive thicket of small willows
near which there appeared a supply of tripe de roche on the face of the
rocks. At this place Dr. Richardson and Mr. Hood determined to remain
with John Hepburn who volunteered to stop with them. The tent was
securely pitched, a few willows collected, and the ammunition and all
other articles were deposited, except each man's clothing, one tent, a
sufficiency of ammunition for the journey, and the officers' journals. I
had only one blanket which was carried for me and two pair of shoes. The
offer was now made for any of the men who felt themselves too weak to
proceed to remain with the officers but none of them accepted it. Michel
alone felt some inclination to do so. After we had united in thanksgiving
and prayers to Almighty God I separated from my companions, deeply
afflicted that a train of melancholy circumstances should have demanded
of me the severe trial of parting in such a condition from friends who
had become endeared to me by their constant kindness and cooperation, and
a participation of numerous sufferings. This trial I could not have been
induced to undergo but for the reasons they had so strongly urged the day
before, to which my own judgment assented and for the sanguine hope I
felt of either finding a supply of provision at Fort Enterprise or
meeting the Indians in the immediate vicinity of that place, according to
my arrangements with Mr. Wentzel and Akaitcho. Previously to our starting
Peltier and Benoit repeated their promises to return to them with
provision if any should be found at the house or to guide the Indians to
them if any were met.

Greatly as Mr. Hood was exhausted, and indeed incapable as he must have
proved of encountering the fatigue of our very next day's journey, so
that I felt his resolution to be prudent, I was sensible that his
determination to remain was chiefly prompted by the disinterested and
generous wish to remove impediments to the progress of the rest. Dr.
Richardson and Hepburn, who were both in a state of strength to keep pace
with the men besides, this motive which they shared with him, were
influenced in their resolution to remain, the former by the desire which
had distinguished his character throughout the Expedition of devoting
himself to the succour of the weak, and the latter by the zealous
attachment he had ever shown towards his officers.

We set out without waiting to take any of the tripe de roche and, walking
at a tolerable pace, in an hour arrived at a fine group of pines about a
mile and a quarter from the tent. We sincerely regretted not having seen
these before we separated from our companions as they would have been
better supplied with fuel here and there appeared to be more tripe de
roche than where we had left them.

Descending afterwards into a more level country we found the snow very
deep and the labour of wading through it so fatigued the whole party that
we were compelled to encamp after a march of four miles and a half.
Belanger and Michel were left far behind and when they arrived at the
encampment appeared quite exhausted. The former, bursting into tears,
declared his inability to proceed and begged me to let him go back next
morning to the tent and shortly afterwards Michel made the same request.
I was in hopes they might recover a little strength by the night's rest
and therefore deferred giving any permission UNTIL morning. The sudden
failure in the strength of these men cast a gloom over the rest, which I
tried in vain to remove by repeated assurances that the distance to Fort
Enterprise was short and that we should in all probability reach it in
four days. Not being able to find any tripe de roche we drank an infusion
of the Labrador tea plant (Ledum palustre) and ate a few morsels of burnt
leather for supper. We were unable to raise the tent and found its weight
too great to carry it on; we therefore cut it up and took a part of the
canvas for a cover. The night was bitterly cold and though we lay as
close to each other as possible, having no shelter, we could not keep
ourselves sufficiently warm to sleep. A strong gale came on after
midnight which increased the severity of the weather. In the morning
Belanger and Michel renewed their request to be permitted to go back to
the tent, assuring me they were still weaker than on the preceding
evening and less capable of going forward, and they urged that the
stopping at a place where there was a supply of tripe de roche was their
only chance of preserving life; under these circumstances I could not do
otherwise than yield to their desire. I wrote a note to Dr. Richardson
and Mr. Hood informing them of the pines we had passed and recommending
their removing thither. Having found that Michel was carrying a
considerable quantity of ammunition I desired him to divide it among my
party, leaving him only ten balls and a little shot to kill any animals
he might meet on his way to the tent. This man was very particular in his
inquiries respecting the direction of the house and the course we meant
to pursue; he also said that if he should be able he would go and search
for Vaillant and Credit; and he requested my permission to take
Vaillant's blanket if he should find it, to which I agreed and mentioned
it in my notes to the officers.

Scarcely were these arrangements finished before Perrault and Fontano
were seized with a fit of dizziness and betrayed other symptoms of
extreme debility. Some tea was quickly prepared for them and after
drinking it and eating a few morsels of burnt leather they recovered and
expressed their desire to go forward, but the other men, alarmed at what
they had just witnessed, became doubtful of their own strength and,
giving way to absolute dejection, declared their inability to move. I now
earnestly pressed upon them the necessity of continuing our journey as
the only means of saving their own lives as well as those of our friends
at the tent, and after much entreaty got them to set out at ten A.M.
Belanger and Michel were left at the encampment and proposed to start
shortly afterwards. By the time we had gone about two hundred yards
Perrault became again dizzy and desired us to halt which we did until he,
recovering, offered to march on. Ten minutes more had hardly elapsed
before he again desired us to stop and, bursting into tears, declared he
was totally exhausted and unable to accompany us farther. As the
encampment was not more than a quarter of a mile distant we recommended
that he should return to it and rejoin Belanger and Michel whom we knew
to be still there from perceiving the smoke of a fresh fire, and because
they had not made any preparation for starting when we quitted them. He
readily acquiesced in the proposition and, having taken a friendly leave
of each of us, and enjoined us to make all the haste we could in sending
relief, he turned back, keeping his gun and ammunition. We watched him
until he was nearly at the fire and then proceeded. During these
detentions Augustus becoming impatient of the delay had walked on and we
lost sight of him. The labour we experienced in wading through the deep
snow induced us to cross a moderate-sized lake which lay in our track,
but we found this operation far more harassing. As the surface of the ice
was perfectly smooth we slipped at almost every step and were frequently
blown down by the wind with such force as to shake our whole frames.

Poor Fontano was completely exhausted by the labour of this traverse and
we made a halt until his strength was recruited, by which time the party
was benumbed with cold. Proceeding again he got on tolerably well for a
little time but, being again seized with faintness and dizziness, he fell
often and at length exclaimed that he could go no farther. We immediately
stopped and endeavoured to encourage him to persevere until we should
find some willows to encamp; he insisted however that he could not march
any longer through this deep snow, and said that, if he should even reach
our encampment this evening, he must be left there, provided tripe de
roche could not be procured to recruit his strength. The poor man was
overwhelmed with grief and seemed desirous to remain at that spot. We
were about two miles from the place where the other men had been left
and, as the track to it was beaten, we proposed to him to return thither
as we thought it probable he would find the men still there; at any rate
he would be able to get fuel to keep him warm during the night, and on
the next day he could follow their track to the officers' tent and,
should the path be covered by the snow, the pines we had passed yesterday
would guide him as they were yet in view.

I cannot describe my anguish on the occasion of separating from another
companion under circumstances so distressing. There was however no
alternative. The extreme debility of the rest of the party put the
carrying him quite out of the question, as he himself admitted, and it
was evident that the frequent delays he must occasion if he accompanied
us and did not gain strength would endanger the lives of the whole. By
returning he had the prospect of getting to the tent where tripe de roche
could be obtained, which agreed with him better than with any other of
the party, and which he was always very assiduous in gathering. After
some hesitation he determined on going back and set out, having bid each
of us farewell in the tenderest manner. We watched him with inexpressible
anxiety for some time, and were rejoiced to find, though he got on
slowly, that he kept on his legs better than before. Antonio Fontano was
an Italian and had served for many years in De Meuron's regiment. He had
spoken to me that very morning and after his first attack of dizziness
about his father, and had begged that, should he survive, I would take
him with me to England and put him in the way of reaching home.

The party was now reduced to five persons, Adam, Peltier, Benoit,
Samandre and myself. Continuing the journey we came after an hour's walk
to some willows and encamped under the shelter of a rock, having walked
in the whole four miles and a half. We made an attempt to gather some
tripe de roche but could not, owing to the severity of the weather. Our
supper therefore consisted of tea and a few morsels of leather.

Augustus did not make his appearance but we felt no alarm at his absence,
supposing he would go to the tent if he missed our track. Having fire we
procured a little sleep. Next morning the breeze was light and the
weather mild which enabled us to collect some tripe de roche and to enjoy
the only meal we had had for four days. We derived great benefit from it
and walked with considerably more ease than yesterday. Without the
strength it supplied we should certainly have been unable to oppose the
strong breeze we met in the afternoon. After walking about five miles we
came upon the borders of Marten Lake and were rejoiced to find it frozen
so that we could continue our course straight for Fort Enterprise. We
encamped at the first rapid in Winter River amidst willows and alders,
but these were so frozen and the snow fell so thick that the men had
great difficulty in making a fire. This proving insufficient to warm us
or even thaw our shoes, and having no food to prepare, we crept under our
blankets. The arrival in a well-known part raised the spirits of the men
to a high pitch, and we kept up a cheerful conversation until sleep
overpowered us. The night was very stormy and the morning scarcely less
so but, being desirous to reach the house this day, we commenced our
journey very early. We were gratified by the sight of a large herd of
reindeer on the side of the hill near the track, but our only hunter Adam
was too feeble to pursue them. Our shoes and garments were stiffened by
the frost and we walked in great pain until we arrived at some stunted
pines, at which we halted, made a good fire, and procured the refreshment
of tea. The weather becoming fine in the afternoon we continued our
journey, passed the Dog-Rib Rock, and encamped among a clump of pines of
considerable growth about a mile farther on. Here we enjoyed the comfort
of a large fire for the first time since our departure from the
sea-coast, but this gratification was purchased at the expense of many
severe falls in crossing a stony valley to get to these trees. There was
no tripe de roche and we drank tea and ate some of our shoes for supper.
Next morning after taking the usual repast of tea we proceeded to the
house. Musing on what we were likely to find there our minds were
agitated between hope and fear and, contrary to the custom we had kept up
of supporting our spirits by conversation, we went silently forward.


At length we reached Fort Enterprise and to our infinite disappointment
and grief found it a perfectly desolate habitation. There was no deposit
of provision, no trace of the Indians, no letter from Mr. Wentzel to
point out where the Indians might be found. It would be impossible to
describe our sensations after entering this miserable abode and
discovering how we had been neglected; the whole party shed tears, not so
much for our own fate as for that of our friends in the rear, whose lives
depended entirely on our sending immediate relief from this place.

I found a note however from Mr. Back, stating that he had reached the
house two days before and was going in search of the Indians at a part
where St. Germain deemed it probable they might be found. If he was
unsuccessful he purposed walking to Fort Providence and sending succour
from thence, but he doubted whether either he or his party could perform
the journey to that place in their present debilitated state. It was
evident that any supply that could be sent from Fort Providence would be
long in reaching us, neither could it be sufficient to enable us to
afford any assistance to our companions behind, and that the only relief
for them must be procured from the Indians. I resolved therefore on going
also in search of them, but my companions were absolutely incapable of
proceeding and I thought by halting two or three days they might gather a
little strength whilst the delay would afford us the chance of learning
whether Mr. Back had seen the Indians.


We now looked round for the means of subsistence and were gratified to
find several deer-skins which had been thrown away during our former
residence. The bones were gathered from the heap of ashes; these with the
skins and the addition of tripe de roche we considered would support us
tolerably well for a time. As to the house, the parchment being torn from
the windows, the apartment we selected for our abode was exposed to all
the rigour of the season. We endeavoured to exclude the wind as much as
possible by placing loose boards against the apertures. The temperature
was now between 15 and 20 degrees below zero. We procured fuel by pulling
up the flooring of the other rooms, and water for cooking by melting the
snow. Whilst we were seated round the fire, singeing the deer-skin for
supper, we were rejoiced by the unexpected entrance of Augustus. He had
followed quite a different course from ours and the circumstance of his
having found his way through a part of the country he had never been in
before must be considered a remarkable proof of sagacity. The unusual
earliness of this winter became manifest to us from the state of things
at this spot. Last year at the same season and still later there had been
very little snow on the ground and we were surrounded by vast herds of
reindeer; now there were but few recent tracks of these animals and the
snow was upwards of two feet deep. Winter River was then open, now it was
frozen two feet thick.

When I arose the following morning my body and limbs were so swollen that
I was unable to walk more than a few yards. Adam was in a still worse
condition, being absolutely incapable of rising without assistance. My
other companions happily experienced this inconvenience in a less degree
and went to collect bones and some tripe de roche which supplied us with
two meals. The bones were quite acrid and the soup extracted from them
excoriated the mouth if taken alone, but it was somewhat milder when
boiled with tripe de roche and we even thought the mixture palatable with
the addition of salt, of which a cask had been fortunately left here in
the spring. Augustus today set two fishing-lines below the rapid. On his
way thither he saw two deer but had not strength to follow them.

On the 13th the wind blew violently from south-east and the snow drifted
so much that the party were confined to the house. In the afternoon of
the following day Belanger arrived with a note from Mr. Back stating that
he had seen no trace of the Indians, and desiring further instructions as
to the course he should pursue. Belanger's situation however required our
first care as he came in almost speechless and covered with ice, having
fallen into a rapid and, for the third time since we left the coast,
narrowly escaped drowning. He did not recover sufficiently to answer our
questions until we had rubbed him for some time, changed his dress, and
given him some warm soup. My companions nursed him with the greatest
kindness and the desire of restoring him to health seemed to absorb all
regard for their own situation. I witnessed with peculiar pleasure this
conduct, so different from that which they had recently pursued when
every tender feeling was suspended by the desire of self-preservation.
They now no longer betrayed impatience or despondency but were composed
and cheerful and had entirely given up the practice of swearing, to which
the Canadian voyagers are so lamentably addicted. Our conversation
naturally turned upon the prospect of getting relief and upon the means
which were best adapted for obtaining it. The absence of all traces of
Indians on Winter River convinced me that they were at this time on the
way to Fort Providence and that, by proceeding towards that post, we
should overtake them as they move slowly when they have their families
with them. This route also offered us the prospect of killing deer in the
vicinity of Reindeer Lake, in which neighbourhood our men in their
journey to and fro last winter had always found them abundant. Upon these
grounds I determined on taking the route to Fort Providence as soon as
possible, and wrote to Mr. Back, desiring him to join me at Reindeer Lake
and detailing the occurrences since we parted, that our friends might
receive relief in case of any accident happening to me.

Belanger did not recover sufficient strength to leave us before the 18th.
His answers as to the exact part of Round-Rock Lake in which he had left
Mr. Back were very unsatisfactory, and we could only collect that it was
at a considerable distance, and that he was still going on with the
intention of halting at the place where Akaitcho was encamped last
summer, about thirty miles off. This distance appeared so great that I
told Belanger it was very unsafe for him to attempt it alone and that he
would be several days in accomplishing it. He stated however that, as the
track was beaten, he should experience little fatigue, and seemed so
confident that I suffered him to depart with a supply of singed hide.
Next day I received information which explained why he was so unwilling
to acquaint us with the situation of Mr. Back's party. He dreaded that I
should resolve upon joining it when our numbers would be so great as to
consume at once everything St. Germain might kill, if by accident he
should be successful in hunting. He even endeavoured to entice away our
other hunter, Adam, and proposed to him to carry off the only kettle we
had and without which we could not have subsisted two days. Adam's
inability to move however precluded him from agreeing to the proposal but
he could assign no reason for not acquainting me with it previous to
Belanger's departure. I was at first inclined to consider the whole
matter as a fiction of Adam's, but he persisted in his story without
wavering, and Belanger when we met again confessed that every part of it
was true. It is painful to have to record a fact so derogatory to human
nature but I have deemed it proper to mention it to show the difficulties
we had to contend with, and the effect which distress had in warping the
feelings and understanding of the most diligent and obedient of our
party, for such Belanger had been always esteemed up to this time.

In making arrangements for our departure Adam disclosed to me for the
first time that he was affected with oedematous swellings in some parts
of the body to such a degree as to preclude the slightest attempt at
marching and, upon my expressing my surprise at his having hitherto
concealed from me the extent of his malady, among other explanations the
details of the preceding story came out. It now became necessary to
abandon the original intention of proceeding with the whole party towards
Fort Providence and, Peltier and Samandre having volunteered to remain
with Adam, I determined on setting out with Benoit and Augustus,
intending to send them relief by the first party of Indians we should
meet. My clothes were so much torn as to be quite inadequate to screen me
from the wind and Peltier and Samandre, fearing that I might suffer on
the journey in consequence, kindly exchanged with me parts of their
dress, desiring me to send them skins in return by the Indians. Having
patched up three pairs of snowshoes and singed a quantity of skin for the
journey we started on the morning of the 20th. Previous to my departure I
packed up the journals of the officers, the charts, and some other
documents, together with a letter addressed to the Under-Secretary of
State detailing the occurrences of the Expedition up to this period,
which package was given in charge to Peltier and Samandre with directions
that it should be brought away by the Indians who might come to them. I
also instructed them to send succour immediately on its arrival to our
companions in the rear, which they solemnly promised to do, and I left a
letter for my friends, Richardson and Hood, to be sent at the same time.
I thought it necessary to admonish Peltier, Samandre, and Adam to eat two
meals every day in order to keep up their strength, which they promised
me they would do. No language that I can use could adequately describe
the parting scene. I shall only say there was far more calmness and
resignation to the Divine will evince by everyone than could have been
expected. We were all cheered by the hope that the Indians would be found
by the one party and relief sent to the other. Those who remained
entreated us to make all the haste we could and expressed their hope of
seeing the Indians in ten or twelve days.

At first starting we were so feeble as scarcely to be able to move
forwards and the descent of the bank of the river through the deep snow
was a severe labour. When we came upon the ice where the snow was less
deep we got on better, but after walking six hours we had only gained
four miles and were then compelled by fatigue to encamp on the borders of
Round-Rock Lake. Augustus tried for fish here but without success so that
our fare was skin and tea. Composing ourselves to rest we lay close to
each other for warmth. We found the night bitterly cold and the wind
pierced through our famished frames.

The next morning was mild and pleasant for travelling and we set out
after breakfast. We had not however gone many yards before I had the
misfortune to break my snowshoes by falling between two rocks. This
accident prevented me from keeping pace with Benoit and Augustus and in
the attempt I became quite exhausted. Feeling convinced that their being
delayed on my account might prove of fatal consequence to the rest I
resolved on returning to the house and letting them proceed alone in
search of the Indians. I therefore halted them only whilst I wrote a note
to Mr. Back, stating the reason of my return, and desiring he would send
meat from Reindeer Lake by these men if St. Germain should kill any
animals there. If Benoit should miss Mr. Back I directed him to proceed
to Fort Providence and furnished him with a letter to the gentleman in
charge of it, requesting that immediate supplies might be sent to us.

On my return to the house I found Samandre very dispirited and too weak,
as he said, to render any assistance to Peltier, upon whom the whole
labour of getting wood and collecting the means of subsistence would have
devolved. Conscious too that his strength would have been unequal to
these tasks they had determined upon taking only one meal each day, so
that I felt my going back particularly fortunate as I hoped to stimulate
Samandre to exertion and at any rate could contribute some help to
Peltier. I undertook the office of cooking and insisted they should eat
twice a day whenever food could be procured but, as I was too weak to
pound the bones, Peltier agreed to do that in addition to his more
fatiguing task of getting wood. We had a violent snow-storm all the next
day and this gloomy weather increased the depression of spirits under
which Adam and Samandre were labouring. Neither of them would quit their
beds and they scarcely ceased from shedding tears all day; in vain did
Peltier and myself endeavour to cheer them. We had even to use much
entreaty before they would take the meals we had prepared for them. Our
situation was indeed distressing but in comparison with that of our
friends in the rear we thought it happy. Their condition gave us
unceasing solicitude and was the principal subject of our conversation.

Though the weather was stormy on the 26th Samandre assisted me to gather
tripe de roche. Adam, who was very ill and could not now be prevailed
upon to eat this weed, subsisted principally on bones, though he also
partook of the soup. The tripe de roche had hitherto afforded us our
chief support, and we naturally felt great uneasiness at the prospect of
being deprived of it by its being so frozen as to render it impossible
for us to gather it.

We perceived our strength decline every day and every exertion began to
be irksome; when we were once seated the greatest effort was necessary in
order to rise, and we had frequently to lift each other from our seats,
but even in this pitiable condition we conversed cheerfully, being
sanguine as to the speedy arrival of the Indians. We calculated indeed
that if they should be near the situation where they had remained last
winter our men would have reached them by this day. Having expended all
the wood which we could procure from our present dwelling, without danger
of its fall, Peltier began this day to pull down the partitions of the
adjoining houses. Though these were only distant about twenty yards yet
the increase of labour in carrying the wood fatigued him so much that by
the evening he was exhausted. On the next day his weakness was such,
especially in the arms of which he chiefly complained, that he with
difficulty lifted the hatchet; still he persevered whilst Samandre and I
assisted him in bringing in the wood, but our united strength could only
collect sufficient to replenish the fire four times in the course of the
day. As the insides of our mouths had become sore from eating the
bone-soup we relinquished the use of it and now boiled the skin, which
mode of dressing we found more palatable than frying it, as we had
hitherto done.

On the 29th Peltier felt his pains more severe and could only cut a few
pieces of wood. Samandre, who was still almost as weak, relieved him a
little time and I aided them in carrying in the wood. We endeavoured to
pick some tripe de roche but in vain as it was entirely frozen. In
turning up the snow, in searching for bones, I found several pieces of
bark which proved a valuable acquisition as we were almost destitute of
dry wood proper for kindling the fire. We saw a herd of reindeer sporting
on the river about half a mile from the house; they remained there a long
time but none of the party felt themselves strong enough to go after
them, nor was there one of us who could have fired a gun without resting


Whilst we were seated round the fire this evening, discoursing about the
anticipated relief, the conversation was suddenly interrupted by
Peltier's exclaiming with joy "Ah! le monde!" imagining that he heard the
Indians in the other room; immediately afterwards to his bitter
disappointment Dr. Richardson and Hepburn entered, each carrying his
bundle. Peltier however soon recovered himself enough to express his
delight at their safe arrival and his regret that their companions were
not with them. When I saw them alone my own mind was instantly filled
with apprehensions respecting my friend Hood and our other companions,
which were immediately confirmed by the Doctor's melancholy communication
that Mr. Hood and Michel were dead. Perrault and Fontano had neither
reached the tent nor been heard of by them. This intelligence produced a
melancholy despondency in the minds of my party and on that account the
particulars were deferred until another opportunity. We were all shocked
at beholding the emaciated countenances of the Doctor and Hepburn as they
strongly evidenced their extremely debilitated state. The alteration in
our appearance was equally distressing to them for since the swellings
had subsided we were little more than skin and bone. The Doctor
particularly remarked the sepulchral tone of our voices which he
requested us to make more cheerful if possible, unconscious that his own
partook of the same key.

Hepburn, having shot a partridge which was brought to the house, the
Doctor tore out the feathers and, having held it to the fire a few
minutes, divided it into six portions. I and my three companions
ravenously devoured our shares as it was the first morsel of flesh any of
us had tasted for thirty-one days, unless indeed the small gristly
particles which we found occasionally adhering to the pounded bones may
be termed flesh. Our spirits were revived by this small supply and the
Doctor endeavoured to raise them still higher by the prospect of
Hepburn's being able to kill a deer next day, as they had seen and even
fired at several near the house. He endeavoured too to rouse us into some
attention to the comfort of our apartment, and particularly to roll up in
the day our blankets which (expressly for the convenience of Adam and
Samandre) we had been in the habit of leaving by the fire where we lay on
them. The Doctor having brought his prayer-book and testament, some
prayers and psalms and portions of scripture appropriate to our situation
were read and we retired to bed.

Next morning the Doctor and Hepburn went out early in search of deer, but
though they saw several herds and fired some shots they were not so
fortunate as to kill any, being too weak to hold their guns steadily. The
cold compelled the former to return soon but Hepburn persisted until late
in the evening.

My occupation was to search for skins under the snow, it being now our
object immediately to get all that we would, but I had not strength to
drag in more than two of those which were within twenty yards of the
house until the Doctor came and assisted me. We made up our stock to
twenty-six but several of them were putrid and scarcely eatable, even by
men suffering the extremity of famine. Peltier and Samandre continued
very weak and dispirited and they were unable to cut firewood. Hepburn
had in consequence that laborious task to perform after he came back. The
Doctor having scarified the swelled parts of Adam's body a large quantity
of water flowed out, and he obtained some ease but still kept his bed.

After our usual supper of singed skin and bone-soup Dr. Richardson
acquainted me with the afflicting circumstances attending the death of
Mr. Hood and Michel, and detailed the occurrences subsequent to my
departure from them which I shall give from his Journal in his own words,
but I must here be permitted to express the heart-felt sorrow with which
I was overwhelmed at the loss of so many companions, especially of my
friend Mr. Hood to whose zealous and able cooperation I had been indebted
for so much invaluable assistance during the Expedition, whilst the
excellent qualities of his heart engaged my warmest regard. His
scientific observations together with his maps and drawings (a small part
of which only appear in this work) evince a variety of talent which, had
his life been spared, must have rendered him a distinguished ornament to
his profession, and which will cause his death to be felt as a loss to
the service.



After Captain Franklin had bidden us farewell we remained seated by the
fireside as long as the willows the men had cut for us before they
departed lasted. We had no tripe de roche that day but drank an infusion
of the country tea-plant, which was grateful from its warmth although it
afforded no sustenance. We then retired to bed where we remained all the
next day as the weather was stormy, and the snow-drift so heavy as to
destroy every prospect of success in our endeavours to light a fire with
the green and frozen willows which were our only fuel. Through the
extreme kindness and forethought of a lady the party, previous to leaving
London, had been furnished with a small collection of religious books, of
which we still retained two or three of the most portable, and they
proved of incalculable benefit to us. We read portions of them to each
other as we lay in bed, in addition to the morning and evening service,
and found that they inspired us on each perusal with so strong a sense of
the omnipresence of a beneficent God that our situation even in these
wilds appeared no longer destitute, and we conversed not only with
calmness but with cheerfulness, detailing with unrestrained confidence
the past events of our lives and dwelling with hope on our future
prospects. Had my poor friend been spared to revisit his native land I
should look back to this period with unalloyed delight.

On the morning of the 9th the weather although still cold was clear, and
I went out in quest of tripe de roche, leaving Hepburn to cut willows for
a fire and Mr. Hood in bed. I had no success as yesterday's snow-drift
was so frozen on the surface of the rocks that I could not collect any of
the weed, but on my return to the tent I found that Michel the Iroquois
had come with a note from Mr. Franklin which stated that, this man and
Jean Baptiste Belanger being unable to proceed, were about to return to
us, and that a mile beyond our present encampment there was a clump of
pine-trees to which he recommended us to remove the tent. Michel informed
us that he quitted Mr. Franklin's party yesterday morning but that having
missed his way he had passed the night on the snow a mile or two to the
northward of us. Belanger he said, being impatient, left the fire about
two hours earlier and, as he had not arrived, he supposed must have gone
astray. It will be seen in the sequel that we had more than sufficient
reason to doubt the truth of this story.

Michel now produced a hare and a partridge which he had killed in the
morning. This unexpected supply of provision was received by us with a
deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty for His goodness, and we looked
upon Michel as the instrument He had chosen to preserve all our lives. He
complained of cold and Mr. Hood offered to share his buffalo robe with
him at night. I gave him one of two shirts which I wore whilst Hepburn in
the warmth of his heart exclaimed "How I shall love this man if I find
that he does not tell lies like the others." Our meals being finished we
arranged that the greatest part of the things should be carried to the
pines the next day and, after reading the evening service, retired to bed
full of hope.

Early in the morning Hepburn, Michel, and myself, carried the ammunition
and most of the other heavy articles to the pines. Michel was our guide
and it did not occur to us at the time that his conducting us perfectly
straight was incompatible with his story of having mistaken his road in
coming to us. He now informed us that he had on his way to the tent left
on the hill above the pines a gun and forty-eight balls which Perrault
had given to him when with the rest of Mr. Franklin's party he took leave
of him. It will be seen on a reference to Mr. Franklin's journal that
Perrault carried his gun and ammunition with him when they parted from
Michel and Belanger. After we had made a fire and drank a little of the
country tea Hepburn and I returned to the tent where we arrived in the
evening, much exhausted with our journey. Michel preferred sleeping where
he was and requested us to leave him the hatchet, which we did after he
had promised to come early in the morning to assist us in carrying the
tent and bedding. Mr. Hood remained in bed all day. Seeing nothing of
Belanger today we gave him up for lost.

On the 11th, after waiting until late in the morning for Michel who did
not come, Hepburn and I loaded ourselves with the bedding and,
accompanied by Mr. Hood, set out for the pines. Mr. Hood was much
affected with dimness of sight, giddiness, and other symptoms of extreme
debility, which caused us to move very slowly and to make frequent halts.

On arriving at the pines we were much alarmed to find that Michel was
absent. We feared that he had lost his way in coming to us in the
morning, although it was not easy to conjecture how that could have
happened, as our footsteps of yesterday were very distinct. Hepburn went
back for the tent and returned with it after dusk, completely worn out
with the fatigue of the day. Michel too arrived at the same time and
relieved our anxiety on his account. He reported that he had been in
chase of some deer which passed near his sleeping-place in the morning
and, although he did not come up with them, yet that he found a wolf
which had been killed by the stroke of a deer's horn and had brought a
part of it. We implicitly believed this story then, but afterwards became
convinced from circumstances, the detail of which may be spared, that it
must have been a portion of the body of Belanger or Perrault. A question
of moment here presents itself, namely whether he actually murdered these
men, or either of them, or whether he found the bodies in the snow.
Captain Franklin, who is the best able to judge of this matter from
knowing their situation when he parted from them, suggested the former
idea, and that both Belanger and Perrault had been sacrificed. When
Perrault turned back Captain Franklin watched him until he reached a
small group of willows which was immediately adjoining to the fire and
concealed it from view, and at this time the smoke of fresh fuel was
distinctly visible. Captain Franklin conjectures that Michel, having
already destroyed Belanger, completed his crime by Perrault's death in
order to screen himself from detection. Although this opinion is founded
only on circumstances and is unsupported by direct evidence it has been
judged proper to mention it, especially as the subsequent conduct of the
man showed that he was capable of committing such a deed. The
circumstances are very strong. It is not easy to assign any other
adequate motive for his concealing from us that Perrault had turned back,
while his request overnight that we should leave him the hatchet and his
cumbering himself with it when he went out in the morning, unlike a
hunter who makes use only of his knife when he kills a deer, seem to
indicate that he took it for the purpose of cutting up something that he
knew to be frozen. These opinions however are the result of subsequent
consideration. We passed this night in the open air.

On the following morning the tent was pitched; Michel went out early,
refused my offer to accompany him, and remained out the whole day. He
would not sleep in the tent at night but chose to lie at the fireside.

On the 13th there was a heavy gale of wind and we passed the day by the
fire. Next day about two P.M., the gale abating, Michel set out as he
said to hunt but returned unexpectedly in a very short time. This conduct
surprised us and his contradictory and evasory answers to our questions
excited some suspicions but they did not turn towards the truth.

October 15th.

In the course of this day Michel expressed much regret that he had stayed
behind Mr. Franklin's party, and declared that he would set out for the
house at once if he knew the way. We endeavoured to sooth him and to
raise his hopes of the Indians speedily coming to our relief but without
success. He refused to assist us in cutting wood but about noon, after
much solicitation, he set out to hunt. Hepburn gathered a kettleful of
tripe de roche but froze his fingers. Both Hepburn and I fatigued
ourselves much today in pursuing a flock of partridges from one part to
another of the group of willows in which the hut was situated, but we
were too weak to be able to approach them with sufficient caution. In the
evening Michel returned, having met with no success.

Next day he refused either to hunt or cut wood, spoke in a very surly
manner, and threatened to leave us. Under these circumstances Mr. Hood
and I deemed it better to promise if he would hunt diligently for four
days that then we would give Hepburn a letter for Mr. Franklin, a
compass, inform him what course to pursue, and let them proceed together
to the fort. The non-arrival of the Indians to our relief now led us to
fear that some accident had happened to Mr. Franklin, and we placed no
confidence in the exertions of the Canadians that accompanied him but we
had the fullest confidence in Hepburn's returning the moment he could
obtain assistance.

On the 17th I went to conduct Michel to where Vaillant's blanket was left
and after walking about three miles pointed out the hills to him at a
distance, and returned to the hut, having gathered a bagful of tripe de
roche on the way. It was easier to gather this weed on a march than at
the tent, for the exercise of walking produced a glow of heat which
enabled us to withstand for a time the cold to which we were exposed in
scraping the frozen surface of the rocks. On the contrary when we left
the fire to collect it in the neighbourhood of the hut we became chilled
at once and were obliged to return very quickly.

Michel proposed to remain out all night and to hunt next day on his way
back. He returned in the afternoon of the 18th, having found the blanket
together with a bag containing two pistols and some other things which
had been left beside it. We had some tripe de roche in the evening but
Mr. Hood, from the constant griping it produced, was unable to eat more
than one or two spoonfuls. He was now so weak as to be scarcely able to
sit up at the fireside and complained that the least breeze of wind
seemed to blow through his frame. He also suffered much from cold during
the night. We lay close to each other but the heat of the body was no
longer sufficient to thaw the frozen rime formed by our breaths on the
blankets that covered him.

At this period we avoided as much as possible conversing upon the
hopelessness of our situation and generally endeavoured to lead the
conversation towards our future prospects in life. The fact is that with
the decay of our strength our minds decayed, and we were no longer able
to bear the contemplation of the horrors that surrounded us. Each of us,
if I may be allowed to judge from my own case, excused himself from so
doing by a desire of not shocking the feelings of others, for we were
sensible of one another's weakness of intellect though blind to our own.
Yet we were calm and resigned to our fate, not a murmur escaped us, and
we were punctual and fervent in our addresses to the Supreme Being.

On the 19th Michel refused to hunt or even to assist in carrying a log of
wood to the fire which was too heavy for Hepburn's strength and mine. Mr.
Hood endeavoured to point out to him the necessity and duty of exertion,
and the cruelty of his quitting us without leaving something for our
support, but the discourse, far from producing any beneficial effect,
seemed only to excite his anger and, amongst other expressions, he made
use of the following remarkable one: "It is no use hunting, there are no
animals, you had better kill and eat me." At length however he went out
but returned very soon with a report that he had seen three deer which he
was unable to follow from having wet his foot in a small stream of water
thinly covered with ice and being consequently obliged to come to the
fire. The day was rather mild and Hepburn and I gathered a large
kettleful of tripe de roche; Michel slept in the tent this night.

Sunday, October 20.

In the morning we again urged Michel to go a-hunting that he might if
possible leave us some provision, tomorrow being the day appointed for
his quitting us, but he showed great unwillingness to go out and lingered
about the fire under the pretence of cleaning his gun. After we had read
the morning service I went about noon to gather some tripe de roche,
leaving Mr. Hood sitting before the tent at the fireside arguing with
Michel; Hepburn was employed cutting down a tree at a short distance from
the tent, being desirous of accumulating a quantity of firewood before he
left us. A short time after I went out I heard the report of a gun, and
about ten minutes afterwards Hepburn called to me in a voice of great
alarm to come directly. When I arrived I found poor Hood lying lifeless
at the fireside, a ball having apparently entered his forehead. I was at
first horror-struck with the idea that in a fit of despondency he had
hurried himself into the presence of his Almighty Judge by an act of his
own hand, but the conduct of Michel soon gave rise to other thoughts, and
excited suspicions which were confirmed when, upon examining the body, I
discovered that the shot had entered the back part of the head and passed
out at the forehead, and that the muzzle of the gun had been applied so
close as to set fire to the night-cap behind. The gun, which was of the
longest kind supplied to the Indians, could not have been placed in a
position to inflict such a wound except by a second person. Upon
inquiring of Michel how it happened he replied that Mr. Hood had sent him
into the tent for the short gun and that during his absence the long gun
had gone off, he did not know whether by accident or not. He held the
short gun in his hand at the time he was speaking to me. Hepburn
afterwards informed me that previous to the report of the gun Mr. Hood
and Michel were speaking to each other in an elevated angry tone, that
Mr. Hood, being seated at the fireside, was hid from him by intervening
willows, but that on hearing the report he looked up and saw Michel
rising up from before the tent-door, or just behind where Mr. Hood was
seated, and then going into the tent. Thinking that the gun had been
discharged for the purpose of cleaning it he did not go to the fire at
first, and when Michel called to him that Mr. Hood was dead a
considerable time had elapsed. Although I dared not openly to evince any
suspicion that I thought Michel guilty of the deed, yet he repeatedly
protested that he was incapable of committing such an act, kept
constantly on his guard, and carefully avoided leaving Hepburn and me
together. He was evidently afraid of permitting us to converse in private
and whenever Hepburn spoke he inquired if he accused him of the murder.
It is to be remarked that he understood English very imperfectly yet
sufficiently to render it unsafe for us to speak on the subject in his
presence. We removed the body into a clump of willows behind the tent
and, returning to the fire, read the funeral service in addition to the
evening prayers. The loss of a young officer of such distinguished and
varied talents and application may be felt and duly appreciated by the
eminent characters under whose command he had served, but the calmness
with which he contemplated the probable termination of a life of uncommon
promise, and the patience and fortitude with which he sustained, I may
venture to say, unparalleled bodily sufferings, can only be known to the
companions of his distresses. Owing to the effect that the tripe de roche
invariably had when he ventured to taste it, he undoubtedly suffered more
than any of the survivors of the party. Bickersteth's Scripture Help was
lying open beside the body as if it had fallen from his hand, and it is
probable that he was reading it at the instant of his death. We passed
the night in the tent together without rest, everyone being on his guard.
Next day, having determined on going to the fort, we began to patch and
prepare our clothes for the journey. We singed the hair off a part of the
buffalo robe that belonged to Mr. Hood and boiled and ate it. Michel
tried to persuade me to go to the woods on the Copper-Mine River and hunt
for deer instead of going to the fort. In the afternoon, a flock of
partridges coming near the tent, he killed several which he shared with

Thick snowy weather and a head-wind prevented us from starting the
following day but on the morning of the 23rd we set out, carrying with us
the remainder of the singed robe. Hepburn and Michel had each a gun and I
carried a small pistol which Hepburn had loaded for me. In the course of
the march Michel alarmed us much by his gestures and conduct, was
constantly muttering to himself, expressed an unwillingness to go to the
fort, and tried to persuade me to go to the southward to the woods where
he said he could maintain himself all the winter by killing deer. In
consequence of this behaviour and the expression of his countenance I
requested him to leave us and to go to the southward by himself. This
proposal increased his ill-nature, he threw out some obscure hints of
freeing himself from all restraint on the morrow, and I overheard his
muttering threats against Hepburn whom he openly accused of having told
stories against him. He also for the first time assumed such a tone of
superiority in addressing me as evinced that he considered us to be
completely in his power and he gave vent to several expressions of hatred
towards the white people or as he termed us in the idiom of the voyagers,
the French, some of whom he said had killed and eaten his uncle and two
of his relations. In short, taking every circumstance of his conduct into
consideration, I came to the conclusion that he would attempt to destroy
us on the first opportunity that offered, and that he had hitherto
abstained from doing so from his ignorance of his way to the fort, but
that he would never suffer us to go thither in company with him. In the
course of the day he had several times remarked that we were pursuing the
same course that Mr. Franklin was doing when he left him and that, by
keeping towards the setting sun, he could find his way himself. Hepburn
and I were not in a condition to resist even an open attack, nor could we
by any device escape from him. Our united strength was far inferior to
his and, beside his gun, he was armed with two pistols, an Indian
bayonet, and a knife. In the afternoon, coming to a rock on which there
was some tripe de roche, he halted and said he would gather it whilst we
went on and that he would soon overtake us. Hepburn and I were now left
together for the first time since Mr. Hood's death, and he acquainted me
with several material circumstances which he had observed of Michel's
behaviour and which confirmed me in the opinion that there was no safety
for us except in his death, and he offered to be the instrument of it. I
determined however, as I was thoroughly convinced of the necessity of
such a dreadful act, to take the whole responsibility upon myself and,
immediately upon Michel's coming up, I put an end to his life by shooting
him through the head with a pistol. Had my own life alone been threatened
I would not have purchased it by such a measure, but I considered myself
as entrusted also with the protection of Hepburn's, a man who, by his
humane attentions and devotedness, had so endeared himself to me that I
felt more anxiety for his safety than for my own. Michel had gathered no
tripe de roche and it was evident to us that he had halted for the
purpose of putting his gun in order with the intention of attacking us,
perhaps whilst we were in the act of encamping.

I have dwelt in the preceding part of the narrative upon many
circumstances of Michel's conduct, not for the purpose of aggravating his
crime, but to put the reader in possession of the reasons that influenced
me in depriving a fellow-creature of life. Up to the period of his return
to the tent his conduct had been good and respectful to the officers, and
in a conversation between Captain Franklin, Mr. Hood, and myself, at
Obstruction Rapid, it had been proposed to give him a reward upon our
arrival at a post. His principles however, unsupported by a belief in the
divine truths of Christianity, were unable to withstand the pressure of
severe distress. His countrymen, the Iroquois, are generally Christians,
but he was totally uninstructed and ignorant of the duties inculcated by
Christianity, and from his long residence in the Indian country seems to
have imbibed or retained the rules of conduct which the southern Indians
prescribe to themselves.

On the two following days we had mild but thick snowy weather and, as the
view was too limited to enable us to preserve a straight course, we
remained encamped amongst a few willows and dwarf pines about five miles
from the tent. We found a species of cornicularia, a kind of lichen that
was good to eat when moistened and toasted over the fire, and we had a
good many pieces of singed buffalo hide remaining.

On the 26th, the weather being clear and extremely cold, we resumed our
march which was very painful from the depth of the snow, particularly on
the margins of the small lakes that lay in our route. We frequently sunk
under the load of our blankets and were obliged to assist each other in
getting up. After walking about three miles and a half however we were
cheered by the sight of a large herd of reindeer and Hepburn went in
pursuit of them but, his hand being unsteady through weakness, he missed.
He was so exhausted by this fruitless attempt that we were obliged to
encamp upon the spot although it was a very unfavourable one.

Next day we had fine and clear but cold weather. We set out early and, in
crossing a hill, found a considerable quantity of tripe de roche. About
noon we fell upon Little Marten Lake, having walked about two miles. The
sight of a place that we knew inspired us with fresh vigour and, there
being comparatively little snow on the ice, we advanced at a pace to
which we had lately been unaccustomed. In the afternoon we crossed a
recent track of a wolverine which, from a parallel mark in the snow,
appeared to have been dragging something. Hepburn traced it and upon the
borders of the lake found the spine of a deer that it had dropped. It was
clean picked and at least one season old, but we extracted the spinal
marrow from it which, even in its frozen state, was so acrid as to
excoriate the lips. We encamped within sight of the Dog-Rib Rock and from
the coldness of the night and the want of fuel rested very ill.

On the 28th we rose at daybreak, but from the want of the small fire that
we usually made in the mornings to warm our fingers, a very long time was
spent in making up our bundles. This task fell to Hepburn's share as I
suffered so much from the cold as to be unable to take my hands out of my
mittens. We kept a straight course for the Dog-Rib Rock but, owing to the
depth of the snow in the valleys we had to cross, did not reach it until
late in the afternoon. We would have encamped but did not like to pass a
second night without fire and, though scarcely able to drag our limbs
after us, we pushed on to a clump of pines about a mile to the southward
of the rock and arrived at them in the dusk of the evening. During the
last few hundred yards of our march our track lay over some large stones
amongst which I fell down upwards of twenty times, and became at length
so exhausted that I was unable to stand. If Hepburn had not exerted
himself far beyond his strength and speedily made the encampment and
kindled a fire, I must have perished on the spot. This night we had
plenty of dry wood.

On the 29th we had clear and fine weather. We set out at sunrise and
hurried on in our anxiety to reach the house, but our progress was much
impeded by the great depth of the snow in the valleys. Although every
spot of ground over which we travelled today had been repeatedly trodden
by us yet we got bewildered in a small lake. We took it for Marten Lake,
which was three times its size, and fancied that we saw the rapids and
the grounds about the fort, although they were still far distant. Our
disappointment when this illusion was dispelled by our reaching the end
of the lake so operated on our feeble minds as to exhaust our strength,
and we decided upon encamping but, upon ascending a small eminence to
look for a clump of wood, we caught a glimpse of the Big Stone, a
well-known rock upon the summit of a hill opposite to the fort, and
determined upon proceeding. In the evening we saw several large herds of
reindeer but Hepburn, who used to be considered a good marksman, was now
unable to hold the gun straight and although he got near them all his
efforts proved fruitless. In passing through a small clump of pines we
saw a flock of partridges, and he succeeded in killing one after firing
several shots. We came in sight of the fort at dusk and it is impossible
to describe our sensations when, on attaining the eminence that overlooks
it, we beheld the smoke issuing from one of the chimneys. From not having
met with any footsteps in the snow as we drew nigh our once cheerful
residence we had been agitated by many melancholy forebodings. Upon
entering the now desolate building we had the satisfaction of embracing
Captain Franklin, but no words can convey an idea of the filth and
wretchedness that met our eyes on looking around. Our own misery had
stolen upon us by degrees and we were accustomed to the contemplation of
each other's emaciated figures, but the ghastly countenances, dilated
eyeballs, and sepulchral voices of Captain Franklin and those with him
were more than we could at first bear.



The morning of the 31st was very cold, the wind being strong from the
north. Hepburn went again in quest of deer and the Doctor endeavoured to
kill some partridges, both were unsuccessful. A large herd of deer passed
close to the house, the Doctor fired once at them but was unable to
pursue them. Adam was easier this day and left his bed. Peltier and
Samandre were much weaker and could not assist in the labours of the day.
Both complained of soreness in the throat and Samandre suffered much from
cramps in his fingers. The Doctor and Hepburn began this day to cut the
wood and also brought it to the house. Being too weak to aid in these
laborious tasks I was employed in searching for bones and cooking and
attending to our more weakly companions.

In the evening Peltier, complaining much of cold, requested of me a
portion of a blanket to repair his shirt and drawers. The mending of
these articles occupied him and Samandre until past one A.M. and their
spirits were so much revived by the employment that they conversed even
cheerfully the whole time. Adam sat up with them. The Doctor, Hepburn,
and myself went to bed. We were afterwards agreeably surprised to see
Peltier and Samandre carry three or four logs of wood across the room to
replenish the fire, which induced us to hope they still possessed more
strength than we had supposed.

November 1.

This day was fine and mild. Hepburn went hunting but was as usual
unsuccessful. As his strength was rapidly declining we advised him to
desist from the pursuit of deer, and only to go out for a short time and
endeavour to kill a few partridges for Peltier and Samandre. The Doctor
obtained a little tripe de roche but Peltier could not eat any of it, and
Samandre only a few spoonfuls, owing to the soreness of their throats. In
the afternoon Peltier was so much exhausted that he sat up with
difficulty and looked piteously; at length he slid from his stool upon
his bed, as we supposed to sleep, and in this composed state he remained
upwards of two hours without our apprehending any danger. We were then
alarmed by hearing a rattling in his throat and on the Doctor's examining
him he was found to be speechless. He died in the course of the night.
Samandre sat up the greater part of the day and even assisted in pounding
some bones but, on witnessing the melancholy state of Peltier, he became
very low and began to complain of cold and stiffness of the joints. Being
unable to keep up a sufficient fire to warm him we laid him down and
covered him with several blankets. He did not however appear to get
better and I deeply lament to add he also died before daylight. We
removed the bodies of the deceased into the opposite part of the house
but our united strength was inadequate to the task of interring them or
even carrying them down to the river.

It may be worthy of remark that poor Peltier, from the time of Benoit's
departure, had fixed on the first of November as the time when he should
cease to expect any relief from the Indians, and had repeatedly said that
if they did not arrive by that day he should not survive.

Peltier had endeared himself to each of us by his cheerfulness, his
unceasing activity, and affectionate care and attentions ever since our
arrival at this place. He had nursed Adam with the tenderest solicitude
the whole time. Poor Samandre was willing to have taken his share in the
labours of the party had he not been wholly incapacitated by his weakness
and low spirits. The severe shock occasioned by the sudden dissolution of
our two companions rendered us very melancholy. Adam became low and
despondent, a change which we lamented the more as we had perceived he
had been gaining strength and spirits for the two preceding days. I was
particularly distressed by the thought that the labour of collecting wood
must now devolve upon Dr. Richardson and Hepburn, and that my debility
would disable me from affording them any material assistance; indeed both
of them most kindly urged me not to make the attempt. They were occupied
the whole of the next day in tearing down the logs of which the
storehouse was built but the mud plastered between them was so hard
frozen that the labour of separation exceeded their strength, and they
were completely exhausted by bringing in wood sufficient for less than
twelve hours' consumption.

I found it necessary in their absence to remain constantly near Adam and
to converse with him in order to prevent his reflecting on our condition,
and to keep up his spirits as far as possible. I also lay by his side at

On the 3rd the weather was very cold though the atmosphere was cloudy.
This morning Hepburn was affected with swelling in his limbs, his
strength as well as that of the Doctor was rapidly declining; they
continued however to be full of hope. Their utmost exertions could only
supply wood to renew the fire thrice and on making it up the last time we
went to bed. Adam was in rather better spirits but he could not bear to
be left alone. Our stock of bones was exhausted by a small quantity of
soup we made this evening. The toil of separating the hair from the
skins, which in fact were our chief support, had now become so wearisome
as to prevent us from eating as much as we should otherwise have done.

November 4.

Calm and comparatively mild weather. The Doctor and Hepburn, exclusive of
their usual occupation, gathered some tripe de roche. I went a few yards
from the house in search of bones and returned quite fatigued, having
found but three. The Doctor again made incisions in Adam's leg which
discharged a considerable quantity of water and gave him great relief. We
read prayers and a portion of the New Testament in the morning and
evening, as had been our practice since Dr. Richardson's arrival, and I
may remark that the performance of these duties always afforded us the
greatest consolation, serving to reanimate our hope in the mercy of the
Omnipotent, who alone could save and deliver us.

On the 5th the breezes were light with dark cloudy weather and some snow.
The Doctor and Hepburn were getting much weaker and the limbs of the
latter were now greatly swelled. They came into the house frequently in
the course of the day to rest themselves and when once seated were unable
to rise without the help of one another, or of a stick. Adam was for the
most part in the same low state as yesterday, but sometimes he surprised
us by getting up and walking with an appearance of increased strength.
His looks were now wild and ghastly and his conversation was often

The next day was fine but very cold. The swellings in Adam's limbs having
subsided he was free from pain and arose this morning in much better
spirits, and spoke of cleaning his gun ready for shooting partridges or
any animals that might appear near the house, but his tone entirely
changed before the day was half over; he became again dejected and could
scarcely be prevailed upon to eat. The Doctor and Hepburn were almost
exhausted. The cutting of one log of wood occupied the latter half an
hour, and the other took as much time to drag it into the house, though
the distance did not exceed thirty yards. I endeavoured to help the
Doctor but my assistance was very trifling. Yet it was evident that in a
day or two if their strength should continue to decline at the same rate
I should be the strongest of the party.

I may here remark that owing to our loss of flesh the hardness of the
floor from which we were only protected by a blanket produced soreness
over the body, and especially those parts on which the weight rested in
lying, yet to turn ourselves for relief was a matter of toil and
difficulty. However during this period and indeed all along after the
acute pains of hunger, which lasted but three or four days, had subsided,
we generally enjoyed the comfort of a few hours' sleep. The dreams which
for the most part but not always accompanied it were usually (though not
invariably) of a pleasant character, being very often about the
enjoyments of feasting. In the daytime we fell into the practice of
conversing on common and light subjects, although we sometimes discussed
with seriousness and earnestness topics connected with religion. We
generally avoided speaking directly of our present sufferings or even of
the prospect of relief. I observed that in proportion as our strength
decayed our minds exhibited symptoms of weakness, evinced by a kind of
unreasonable pettishness with each other. Each of us thought the other
weaker in intellect than himself, and more in need of advice and
assistance. So trifling a circumstance as a change of place, recommended
by one as being warmer and more comfortable and refused by the other from
a dread of motion, frequently called forth fretful expressions which were
no sooner uttered than atoned for, to be repeated perhaps in the course
of a few minutes. The same thing often occurred when we endeavoured to
assist each other in carrying wood to the fire; none of us were willing
to receive assistance although the task was disproportioned to our
strength. On one of these occasions Hepburn was so convinced of this
waywardness that he exclaimed, "Dear me, if we are spared to return to
England, I wonder if we shall recover our understandings."

November 7.

Adam had passed a restless night, being disquieted by gloomy
apprehensions of approaching death, which we tried in vain to dispel. He
was so low in the morning as to be scarcely able to speak. I remained in
bed by his side to cheer him as much as possible. The Doctor and Hepburn
went to cut wood. They had hardly begun their labour when they were
amazed at hearing the report of a musket. They could scarcely believe
that there was really anyone near until they heard a shout and
immediately espied three Indians close to the house. Adam and I heard the
latter noise and I was fearful that a part of the house had fallen upon
one of my companions, a disaster which had in fact been thought not
unlikely. My alarm was only momentary, Dr. Richardson came in to
communicate the joyful intelligence that relief had arrived. He and
myself immediately addressed thanksgivings to the throne of mercy for
this deliverance but poor Adam was in so low a state that he could
scarcely comprehend the information. When the Indians entered he
attempted to rise but sank down again. But for this seasonable
interposition of Providence his existence must have terminated in a few
hours, and that of the rest probably in not many days.

The Indians had left Akaitcho's encampment on the 5th November, having
been sent by Mr. Back with all possible expedition after he had arrived
at their tents. They brought but a small supply of provision that they
might travel quickly. It consisted of dried deer's meat, some fat, and a
few tongues. Dr. Richardson, Hepburn and I eagerly devoured the food
which they imprudently presented to us in too great abundance, and in
consequence we suffered dreadfully from indigestion and had no rest the
whole night. Adam, being unable to feed himself, was more judiciously
treated by them and suffered less; his spirits revived hourly. The
circumstance of our eating more food than was proper in our present
condition was another striking proof of the debility of our minds. We
were perfectly aware of the danger, and Dr. Richardson repeatedly
cautioned us to be moderate, but he was himself unable to practise the
caution he so judiciously recommended.

Boudell-kell, the youngest of the Indians, after resting about an hour,
returned to Akaitcho with the intelligence of our situation, and he
conveyed a note from me to Mr. Back, requesting another supply of meat as
soon as possible. The two others, Crooked-Foot and the Rat, remained to
take care of us until we should be able to move forward.

The note received by the Indians from Mr. Back communicated a tale of
distress with regard to himself and his party as painful as that which we
had suffered, as will be seen hereafter by his own narrative.

November 8.

The Indians this morning requested us to remove to an encampment on the
banks of the river as they were unwilling to remain in the house where
the bodies of our deceased companions were lying exposed to view. We
agreed but the day proved too stormy and Dr. Richardson and Hepburn,
having dragged the bodies to a short distance and covered them with snow,
the objections of the Indians to remain in the house were dissipated, and
they began to clear our room of the accumulation of dirt and fragments of
pounded bones. The improved state of our apartment and the large and
cheerful fires they kept up produced in us a sensation of comfort to
which we had long been strangers. In the evening they brought in a pile
of dried wood which was lying on the riverside and towards which we had
often cast a wishful eye, being unable to drag it up the bank. The
Indians set about everything with an activity that amazed us. Indeed
contrasted with our emaciated figures and extreme debility their frames
appeared to us gigantic and their strength supernatural. These kind
creatures next turned their attention to our personal appearance and
prevailed upon us to shave and wash ourselves. The beards of the Doctor
and Hepburn had been untouched since they left the sea-coast and were
become of a hideous length and peculiarly offensive to the Indians. The
Doctor and I suffered extremely from distension and therefore ate
sparingly.* Hepburn was getting better and Adam recovered his strength
with amazing rapidity.

(*Footnote. The first alvine discharges after we received food were, as
Hearne remarks on a similar occasion, attended with excessive pain.
Previous to the arrival of the Indians the urinary secretion was
extremely abundant and we were obliged to rise from bed in consequence
upwards of ten times in a night. This was an extreme annoyance in our
reduced state. It may perhaps be attributed to the quantity of the
country tea that we drank.)

November 9.

This morning was pleasantly fine. Crooked-Foot caught four large trout in
Winter Lake which were very much prized, especially by the Doctor and
myself, who had taken a dislike to meat in consequence of our sufferings
from repletion which rendered us almost incapable of moving. Adam and
Hepburn in a good measure escaped this pain. Though the night was stormy
and our apartment freely admitted the wind we felt no inconvenience, the
Indians were so very careful in covering us up and in keeping a good
fire, and our plentiful cheer gave such power of resisting the cold, that
we could scarcely believe otherwise than that the season had become

On the 13th the weather was stormy with constant snow. The Indians became
desponding at the non-arrival of the supply and would neither go to hunt
nor fish. They frequently expressed their fears of some misfortune having
befallen Boudel-kell, and in the evening went off suddenly without
apprising us of their intention, having first given to each of us a
handful of pounded meat which they had reserved. Their departure at first
gave rise to a suspicion of their having deserted us, not meaning to
return, especially as the explanations of Adam, who appeared to be in
their secret, were very unsatisfactory. At length by interrogations we
got from him the information that they designed to march night and day
until they should reach Akaitcho's encampment whence they would send us
aid. As we had combated their fears about Boudell-kell they perhaps
apprehended that we should oppose their determination and therefore
concealed it. We were now left a second time without food, and with
appetites recovered and strongly excited by recent indulgence.

On the following day the Doctor and Hepburn resumed their former
occupation of collecting wood and I was able to assist a little in
bringing it into the house. Adam, whose expectation of the arrival of the
Indians had been raised by the fineness of the weather, became towards
night very desponding and refused to eat the singed skin. The night was
stormy and there was a heavy fall of snow. The next day he became still
more dejected. About eleven Hepburn, who had gone out for the wood, came
in with the intelligence that a party appeared upon the river. The room
was instantly swept and, in compliance with the prejudices of the
Indians, every scrap of skin was carefully removed out of sight, for
these simple people imagine that burning deer-skin renders them
unsuccessful in hunting. The party proved to be Crooked-Foot,
Thooeeyorre, and the Fop, with the wives of the two latter dragging
provisions. They were accompanied by Benoit, one of our own men.

We were rejoiced to learn by a note from Mr. Back dated November 11 that
he and his companions had so recruited their strength that they were
preparing to proceed to Fort Providence. Adam recovered his spirits on
the arrival of the Indians and even walked about the room with an
appearance of strength and activity that surprised us all. As it was of
consequence to get amongst the reindeer before our present supply should
fail we made preparations for quitting Fort Enterprise the next day and
accordingly, at an early hour on the 16th, having united in thanksgiving
and prayer, the whole party left the house after breakfast. Our feelings
on quitting the fort where we had formerly enjoyed much comfort, if not
happiness, and latterly experienced a degree of misery scarcely to be
paralleled, may be more easily conceived than described. The Indians
treated us with the utmost tenderness, gave us their snowshoes, and
walked without themselves, keeping by our sides that they might lift us
when we fell. We descended Winter River and about noon crossed the head
of Round-Rock Lake, distant about three miles from the house, where we
were obliged to halt as Dr. Richardson was unable to proceed. The
swellings in his limbs rendered him by much the weakest of the party. The
Indians prepared our encampment, cooked for us, and fed us as if we had
been children, evincing humanity that would have done honour to the most
civilised people. The night was mild and fatigue made us sleep soundly.

From this period to the 26th of November we gradually improved through
their kindness and attention, and on that day arrived in safety at the
abode of our chief and companion Akaitcho. We were received by the party
assembled in the leader's tent with looks of compassion and profound
silence which lasted about a quarter of an hour and by which they meant
to express their condolence for our sufferings. The conversation did not
begin until we had tasted food. The chief Akaitcho showed us the most
friendly hospitality and all sorts of personal attention, even to cooking
for us with his own hands, an office which he never performs for himself.
Annoethaiyazzeh and Humpy, the chief's two brothers, and several of our
hunters, with their families were encamped here together with a number of
old men and women. In the course of the day we were visited by every
person of the band, not merely from curiosity, but a desire to evince
their tender sympathy in our late distress. We learned that Mr. Back with
St. Germain and Belanger had gone to Fort Providence and that, previous
to his departure, he had left a letter in a cache of pounded meat which
we had missed two days ago. As we supposed that this letter might
acquaint us with his intentions more fully than we could gather from the
Indians, through our imperfect knowledge of their language, Augustus, the
Esquimaux, whom we found here in perfect health, and an Indian lad were
despatched to bring it.

We found several of the Indian families in great affliction for the loss
of three of their relatives who had been drowned in the August preceding
by the upsetting of a canoe near Fort Enterprise. They bewailed the
melancholy accident every morning and evening by repeating the names of
the persons in a loud singing tone which was frequently interrupted by
bursts of tears. One woman was so affected by the loss of her only son
that she seemed deprived of reason and wandered about the tents the whole
day, crying and singing out his name.

On the 1st of December we removed with the Indians to the southward.

On the 4th we again set off after the Indians about noon, and soon
overtook them, as they had halted to drag from the water and cut up and
share a moose-deer that had been drowned in a rapid part of the river,
partially covered with ice. These operations detained us a long time
which was the more disagreeable as the weather was extremely unpleasant
from cold low fogs. We were all much fatigued at the hour of encampment,
which was after dark, though the day's journey did not exceed four miles.
At every halt the elderly men of the tribe made holes in the ice and put
in their lines. One of them shared the produce of his fishery with us
this evening.

In the afternoon of the 6th Belanger and another Canadian arrived from
Fort Providence, sent by Mr. Weeks with two trains of dogs, some spirits
and tobacco for the Indians, a change of dress for ourselves, and a
little tea and sugar. They also brought letters for us from England and
from Mr. Back and Mr. Wentzel. By the former we received the gratifying
intelligence of the successful termination of Captain Parry's voyage, and
were informed of the promotion of myself and Mr. Back, and of poor Hood,
our grief for whose loss was renewed by this intelligence.

The letter from Mr. Back stated that the rival Companies in the fur trade
had united but that, owing to some cause which had not been explained to
him, the goods intended as rewards to Akaitcho and his band which we had
demanded in the spring from the North-West Company were not sent. There
were however some stores lying for us at Moose-Deer Island, which had
been ordered for the equipment of our voyagers, and Mr. Back had gone
across to that establishment to make a selection of the articles we could
spare for a temporary present to the Indians. The disappointment at the
non-arrival of the goods was seriously felt by us as we had looked
forward with pleasure to the time when we should be enabled to recompense
our kind Indian friends for their tender sympathy in our distresses, and
the assistance they had so cheerfully and promptly rendered. I now
regretted to find that Mr. Wentzel and his party, in their return from
the sea, had suffered severely on their march along the Copper-Mine
River, having on one occasion, as he mentioned, had no food but tripe de
roche for eleven days.

All the Indians flocked to our encampment to learn the news and to
receive the articles brought for them. Having got some spirits and
tobacco they withdrew to the tent of the chief and passed the greater
part of the night in singing. We had now the indescribable gratification
of changing our linen which had been worn ever since our departure from
the sea-coast.

December 8.

After a long conference with Akaitcho we took leave of him and his kind
companions and set out with two sledges, heavily laden with provision and
bedding, drawn by the dogs, and conducted by Belanger and the Canadian
sent by Mr. Weeks. Hepburn and Augustus jointly dragged a smaller sledge
laden principally with their own bedding. Adam and Benoit were left to
follow with the Indians. We encamped on the Grassy-Lake Portage, having
walked about nine miles, principally on the Yellow Knife River. It was
open at the rapids and in these places we had to ascend its banks and
walk through the woods for some distance, which was very fatiguing,
especially to Dr. Richardson whose feet were severely galled in
consequence of some defect in his snowshoes.

On the 11th however we arrived at the fort which was still under the
charge of Mr. Weeks. He welcomed us in the most kind manner, immediately
gave us changes of dress, and did everything in his power to make us

Our sensations on being once more in a comfortable dwelling after the
series of hardships and miseries we had experienced may be imagined. Our
first act was again to return our grateful praises to the Almighty for
the manifold instances of His mercy towards us. Having found here some
articles which Mr. Back had sent across from Moose-Deer Island I
determined on awaiting the arrival of Akaitcho and his party in order to
present these to them and to assure them of the promised reward as soon
as it could possibly be procured.

In the afternoon of the 14th Akaitcho with his whole band came to the
fort. He smoked his customary pipe and made an address to Mr. Weeks in
the hall previous to his coming into the room in which Dr. Richardson and
I were. We discovered at the commencement of his speech to us that he had
been informed that our expected supplies had not come. He spoke of this
circumstance as a disappointment indeed sufficiently severe to himself,
to whom his band looked up for the protection of their interests, but
without attaching any blame to us. "The world goes badly," he said "all
are poor; you are poor, the traders appear to be poor, I and my party are
poor likewise, and since the goods have not come in we cannot have them.
I do not regret having supplied you with provisions for a Copper Indian
can never permit white men to suffer from want of food on his lands
without flying to their aid. I trust however that we shall, as you say,
receive what is due next autumn, and at all events," he added in a tone
of good humour, "it is the first time that the white people have been
indebted to the Copper Indians." We assured him the supplies should
certainly be sent to him by the autumn if not before. He then cheerfully
received the small present we made to himself and, although we could give
a few things only to those who had been most active in our service, the
others who perhaps thought themselves equally deserving did not murmur at
being left out in the distribution. Akaitcho afterwards expressed a
strong desire that we should represent the character of his nation in a
favourable light to our countrymen. "I know," he said, "you write down
every occurrence in your books, but probably you have only noticed the
bad things we have said and done, and have omitted the good." In the
course of the desultory conversation which ensued he said that he had
been always told by us to consider the traders in the same light as
ourselves, and that for his part he looked upon both as equally
respectable. This assurance, made in the presence of Mr. Weeks, was
particularly gratifying to us as it completely disproved the defence that
had been set up respecting the injurious reports circulated against us
amongst the Indians in the spring, namely that they were in retaliation
for our endeavours to lower the traders in the eyes of the Indians. I
take this opportunity of stating my opinion that Mr. Weeks, in spreading
these reports, was actuated by a mistaken idea that he was serving the
interest of his employers. On the present occasion we felt indebted to
him for the sympathy he displayed for our distresses, and the kindness
with which he administered to our personal wants. After this conference
such Indians as were indebted to the Company were paid for the provision
they had given us by deducting a corresponding sum from their debts; in
the same way we gave a reward of sixteen skins of beaver to each of the
persons who had come to our relief at Fort Enterprise. As the debts of
Akaitcho and his hunters had been effaced at the time of his engagement
with us we placed a sum equal to the amount of provision they had
recently supplied to their credit on the Company's books. These things
being, through the moderation of the Indians, adjusted with an unexpected
facility, we gave them a keg of mixed liquors (five parts water) and
distributed among them several fathoms of tobacco, and they retired to
their tents to spend the night in merriment.

Adam, our interpreter, being desirous of uniting himself with the Copper
Indians, applied to me for his discharge which I granted, and gave him a
bill on the Hudson's Bay Company for the amount of his wages. These
arrangements being completed we prepared to cross the lake.

Mr. Weeks provided Dr. Richardson and I with a cariole each and we set
out at eleven A.M. on the 15th for Moose-Deer Island. Our party consisted
of Belanger who had charge of a sledge laden with the bedding and drawn
by two dogs, our two cariole men, Benoit and Augustus. Previous to our
departure we had another conference with Akaitcho who, as well as the
rest of his party, bade us farewell with a warmth of manner rare among
the Indians.

The badness of Belanger's dogs and the roughness of the ice impeded our
progress very much and obliged us to encamp early. We had a good fire
made of the driftwood which lines the shores of this lake in great
quantities. The next day was very cold. We began the journey at nine A.M.
and encamped at the Big Cape, having made another short march in
consequence of the roughness of the ice.

On the 17th we encamped on the most southerly of the Reindeer Islands.
This night was very stormy but, the wind abating in the morning, we
proceeded and by sunset reached the fishing-huts of the Company at Stony
Point. Here we found Mr. Andrews, a clerk of the Hudson's Bay Company,
who regaled us with a supper of excellent white-fish for which this part
of Slave Lake is particularly celebrated. Two men with sledges arrived
soon afterwards, sent by Mr. McVicar, who expected us about this time. We
set off in the morning before daybreak with several companions and
arrived at Moose-Deer Island about one P.M. Here we were received with
the utmost hospitality by Mr. McVicar, the chief trader of the Hudson's
Bay Company in this district, as well as by his assistant Mr. McAuley. We
had also the happiness of joining our friend Mr. Back; our feelings on
this occasion can be well imagined and we were deeply impressed with
gratitude to him for his exertions in sending the supply of food to Fort
Enterprise, to which under Divine Providence we felt the preservation of
our lives to be owing. He gave us an affecting detail of the proceedings
of his party since our separation, the substance of which I shall convey
to the reader by the following extracts from his Journal.


October 4, 1821.

Captain Franklin having directed me to proceed with St. Germain,
Belanger, and Beauparlant to Fort Enterprise, in the hope of obtaining
relief for the party, I took leave of my companions and set out on my
journey through a very swampy country which, with the cloudy state of the
weather and a keen north-east wind, accompanied by frequent snow-showers,
retarded us so much that we had scarcely got more than four miles before
we halted for the night and made a meal of tripe de roche and some old

On the 5th we set out early amidst extremely deep snow, sinking
frequently in it up to the thighs, a labour in our enfeebled and almost
worn-out state that nothing but the cheering hopes of reaching the house
and affording relief to our friends could have enabled us to support. As
we advanced we found to our mortification that the tripe de roche,
hitherto our sole dependence, began to be scarce, so that we could only
collect sufficient to make half a kettleful which, with the addition of a
partridge each that St. Germain had killed, yielded a tolerable meal;
during this day I felt very weak and sore in the joints, particularly
between the shoulders. At eight we encamped among a small clump of

On the 6th we set out at an early hour, pursuing our route over a range
of hills at the foot of one of which we saw several large pines and a
great quantity of willows, a sight that encouraged us to quicken our pace
as we were now certain we could not be far from the woods. Indeed we were
making considerable progress when Belanger unfortunately broke through
the ice and sank up to the hips. The weather being cold, he was in danger
of freezing, but some brushwood on the borders of the lake enabled us to
make a fire to dry him. At the same time we took the opportunity of
refreshing ourselves with a kettle of swamp tea.

My increasing debility had for some time obliged me to use a stick for
the purpose of extending my arms, the pain in my shoulders being so acute
that I could not bear them to remain in the usual position for two
minutes together. We halted at five among some small brushwood and made a
sorry meal of an old pair of leather trousers and some swamp tea.

The night was cold with a hard frost and though two persons slept
together yet we could not by any means keep ourselves warm, but remained
trembling the whole time. The following morning we crossed several lakes,
occasionally seeing the recent tracks of deer, and at noon we fell upon
Marten Lake; it happened to be at the exact spot where we had been the
last year with the canoes yet, though I immediately recognised the place,
the men would not believe it to be the same; at length by pointing out
several marks and relating circumstances connected with them they
recovered their memory, and a simultaneous expression of "Mon Dieu, nous
sommes sauves," broke from the whole. Contrary to our expectations the
lake was frozen sufficiently to bear us, so that we were excused from
making the tours of the different bays. This circumstance seemed to
impart fresh vigour to us and we walked as fast as the extreme smoothness
of the ice would permit, intending to reach the Slave Rock that night,
but an unforeseen and almost fatal accident prevented the prosecution of
our plan: Belanger (who seemed the victim of misfortune) again broke
through the ice in a deep part near the head of the rapid, but was timely
saved by our fastening our worsted belts together and pulling him out. By
urging him forwards as quick as his icy garments would admit to prevent
his freezing, we reached a few pines and kindled a fire, but it was late
before he even felt warm, though he was so near the flame as to burn his
hair twice, and to add to our distress (since we could not pursue them)
three wolves crossed the lake close to us.

The night of the 7th was extremely stormy and about ten the following
morning, on attempting to go on, we found it totally impossible, being
too feeble to oppose the wind and drift which frequently blew us over
and, on attempting to cross a small lake that lay in our way, drove us
faster backwards than with every effort we could get forwards; we
therefore encamped under the shelter of a small clump of pines, secure
from the south-west storm that was raging around us. In the evening,
there being no tripe de roche we were compelled to satisfy, or rather
allay, the cravings of hunger by eating a gun cover and a pair of old
shoes; at this time I had scarcely strength to get on my legs.

The wind did not in the least abate during the night but in the morning
of the 9th it changed to north-east and became moderate. We took
advantage of this circumstance and, rising with great difficulty, set
out, though had it not been for the hope of reaching the house I am
certain, from the excessive faintness which almost overpowered me, that I
must have remained where I was. We passed the Slave Rock and, making
frequent halts, arrived within a short distance of Fort Enterprise, but
as we perceived neither any marks of Indians nor even of animals, the men
began absolutely to despair, on a nearer approach however the tracks of
large herds of deer which had only passed a few hours tended a little to
revive their spirits, and shortly after we crossed the ruinous threshold
of the long-sought spot, but what was our surprise, what our sensations,
at beholding everything in the most desolate and neglected state; the
doors and windows of that room in which we expected to find provision had
been thrown down and the wild animals of the woods had resorted there as
to a place of shelter and retreat. Mr. Wentzel had taken away the trunks
and papers but had left no note to guide us to the Indians. This was to
us the most grievous disappointment: without the assistance of the
Indians, bereft of every resource, we felt ourselves reduced to the most
miserable state, which was rendered still worse from the recollection
that our friends in the rear were as miserable as ourselves. For the
moment however hunger prevailed and each began to gnaw the scraps of
putrid and frozen meat that were lying about without waiting to prepare
them. A fire however was made and the neck and bones of a deer found in
the house were boiled and devoured.

I determined to remain a day here to repose; then to go in search of the
Indians and, in the event of missing them, to proceed to the first
trading establishment which was distant about one hundred and thirty
miles, and from thence to send succour to my companions. This indeed I
should have done immediately as the most certain manner of executing my
purpose, had there been any probability of the river and lakes being
frozen to the southward, or had we possessed sufficient strength to have
clambered over the rocks and mountains which impeded the direct way, but
as we were aware of our inability to do so I listened to St. Germain's
proposal, which was to follow the deer into the woods (so long as they
did not lead us out of our route to the Indians) and if possible to
collect sufficient food to carry us to Fort Providence. We now set about
making mittens and snowshoes whilst Belanger searched under the snow and
collected a mass of old bones which, when burned and used with a little
salt, we found palatable enough and made a tolerable meal. At night St.
Germain returned, having seen plenty of tracks but no animals; the day
was cloudy with fresh breezes and the river was frozen at the borders.

On the 11th we prepared for our journey, having first collected a few old
skins of deer to serve us as food, and written a note to be left for our
commander to apprise him of our intentions. We pursued the course of the
river to the lower lake when St. Germain fell in, which obliged us to
encamp directly to prevent his being frozen; indeed we were all glad to
rest for, in our meagre and reduced state, it was impossible to resist
the weather which at any other time would have been thought fine; my toes
were frozen and, although wrapped up in a blanket, I could not keep my
hands warm.

The 12th was exceedingly cold with fresh breezes. Our meal at night
consisted of scraps of old deer-skins and swamp tea and the men
complained greatly of their increasing debility. The following morning I
sent St. Germain to hunt, intending to go some distance down the lake,
but the weather becoming exceedingly thick with snow-storms we were
prevented from moving. He returned without success, not having seen any
animals. We had nothing to eat.

In the morning of the 14th the part of the lake before us was quite
frozen. There was so much uncertainty in St. Germain's answers as to the
chance of any Indians being in the direction we were then going (although
he had previously said that the leader had told him he should be there)
and he gave so much dissatisfaction in his hunting excursions that I was
induced to send a note to the Commander, whom I supposed to be by this
time at Fort Enterprise, to inform him of our situation; not that I
imagined for a moment he could amend it, but that by all returning to the
fort we might perhaps have better success in hunting; with this view I
despatched Belanger, much against his inclination, and told him to return
as quickly as possible to a place about four miles farther on where we
intended to fish and to await his arrival. The men were so weak this day
that I could get neither of them to move from the encampment, and it was
only necessity that compelled them to cut wood for fuel, in performing
which operation Beauparlant's face became so dreadfully swelled that he
could scarcely see; I myself lost my temper on the most trivial
circumstances and was become very peevish; the day was fine but cold with
a freezing north-east wind. We had nothing to eat.

October 15.

The night was calm and clear but it was not before two in the afternoon
that we set out, and the one was so weak and the other so full of
complaints that we did not get more than three-quarters of a mile from
our last encampment before we were obliged to put up, but in this
distance we were fortunate enough to kill a partridge, the bones of which
were eaten and the remainder reserved for baits to fish with. We however
collected sufficient tripe de roche to make a meal and I anxiously
awaited Belanger's return to know what course to take. I was now so much
reduced that my shoulders were as if they would fall from my body, my
legs seemed unable to support me and, in the disposition in which I then
found myself, had it not been for the remembrance of my friends behind
who relied on me for relief as well as the persons of whom I had charge,
I certainly should have preferred remaining where I was to the miserable
pain of attempting to move.

October 16.

We waited until two in the afternoon for Belanger but, not seeing
anything of him on the lake, we set out, purposing to encamp at the
Narrows, the place which was said to be so good for fishing and where,
according to St. Germain's account, the Indians never failed to catch
plenty; its distance at most could not be more than two miles. We had not
proceeded far before Beauparlant began to complain of increasing
weakness, but this was so usual with us that no particular notice was
taken of it, for in fact there was little difference, all being alike
feeble: among other things he said whilst we were resting that he should
never get beyond the next encampment for his strength had quite failed
him. I endeavoured to encourage him by explaining the mercy of the
Supreme Being who ever beholds with an eye of pity those that seek His
aid. This passed as common discourse. When he inquired where we were to
put up St. Germain pointed to a small clump of pines near us, the only
place indeed that offered for fuel. "Well," replied the poor man, "take
your axe, Mr. Back, and I will follow at my leisure, I shall join you by
the time the encampment is made." This is a usual practice of the country
and St. Germain and myself went on towards the spot; it was five o'clock
and not very cold but rather milder than we had experienced it for some
time when, on leaving the ice, we saw a number of crows perched on the
top of some high pines near us. St. Germain immediately said there must
be some dead animal thereabouts and proceeded to search, when we saw
several heads of deer half buried in the snow and ice without eyes or
tongues, the previous severity of the weather having obliged the wolves
and other animals to abandon them. An expression of "Oh merciful God! we
are saved," broke from us both, and with feelings more easily imagined
than described we shook hands, not knowing what to say for joy. It was
twilight and a fog was rapidly darkening the surface of the lake when St.
Germain commenced making the encampment; the task was too laborious for
me to render him any assistance and, had we not thus providentially found
provision, I feel convinced that the next twenty-four hours would have
terminated my existence. But this good fortune in some measure renovated
me for the moment and, putting out my whole strength, I contrived to
collect a few heads and with incredible difficulty carried them singly
about thirty paces to the fire.

Darkness stole on us apace and I became extremely anxious about
Beauparlant; several guns were fired to each of which he answered. We
then called out and again heard his responses though faintly, when I told
St. Germain to go and look for him as I had not strength myself, being
quite exhausted. He said that he had already placed a pine branch on the
ice and he could then scarcely find his way back, but if he went now he
should certainly be lost. In this situation I could only hope that, as
Beauparlant had my blanket and everything requisite to light a fire, he
might have encamped at a little distance from us.

October 17.

The night was cold and clear but we could not sleep at all from the pains
of having eaten. We suffered the most excruciating torments though I in
particular did not eat a quarter of what would have satisfied me; it
might have been from using a quantity of raw or frozen sinews of the legs
of deer, which neither of us could avoid doing, so great was our hunger.
In the morning, being much agitated for the safety of Beauparlant, I
desired St. Germain to go in search of him and to return with him as
quick as possible, when I would have something prepared for them to eat.

It was however late when he arrived, with a small bundle which
Beauparlant was accustomed to carry and, with tears in his eyes, told me
that he had found our poor companion dead. Dead! I could not believe him.
"It is so sir," said St. Germain, "after hallooing and calling his name
to no purpose I went towards our last encampment about three-quarters of
a mile and found him stretched upon his back on a sandbank frozen to
death, his limbs all extended and swelled enormously and as hard as the
ice that was near him; his bundle was behind him as if it had rolled away
when he fell, and the blanket which he wore around his neck and shoulders
thrown on one side. Seeing that there was no longer life in him I threw
your covering over him and placed his snowshoes on the top of it."

I had not even thought of so serious an occurrence in our little party
and for a short time was obliged to give vent to my grief. Left with one
person and both of us weak, no appearance of Belanger, a likelihood that
great calamity had taken place amongst our other companions, still
upwards of seventeen days' march from the nearest establishment, and
myself unable to carry a burden; all these things pressed heavy on me,
and how to get to the Indians or to the fort I did not know but, that I
might not depress St. Germain's spirits, I suppressed the feelings to
which these thoughts gave rise and made some arrangements for the journey
to Fort Providence.

October 18.

While we were this day occupied in scraping together the remains of some
deer's meat we observed Belanger coming round a point apparently scarcely
moving. I went to meet him and made immediate inquiries about my friends.
Five, with the Captain, he said, were at the house, the rest were left
near the river unable to proceed, but he was too weak to relate the
whole. He was conducted to the encampment and paid every attention to,
and by degrees we heard the remainder of his tragic tale, at which the
interpreter could not avoid crying. He then gave me a letter from my
friend the Commander which indeed was truly afflicting. The simple story
of Belanger I could hear, but when I read it in another language, mingled
with the pious resignation of a good man, I could not sustain it any
longer. The poor man was much affected at the death of our lamented
companion but his appetite prevailed over every other feeling and, had I
permitted it, he would have done himself an injury; for after two hours'
eating, principally skin and sinews, he complained of hunger. The day was
cloudy with snow and fresh breezes from the north-east by east.

The last evening as well as this morning the 19th I mentioned my wishes
to the men that we should proceed towards Reindeer Lake, but this
proposal met with a direct refusal. Belanger stated his inability to move
and St. Germain used similar language, adding for the first time that he
did not know the route, and that it was of no use to go in the direction
I mentioned, which was the one agreed upon between the Commander and
myself. I then insisted that we should go by the known route and join the
Commander, but they would not hear of it; they would remain where they
were until they had regained their strength; they said I wanted to expose
them again to death (faire perir). In vain did I use every argument to
the contrary for they were equally heedless to all. Thus situated I was
compelled to remain, and from this time to the 25th we employed ourselves
in looking about for the remnants of the deer and pieces of skin which
even the wolves had left and, by pounding the bones, we were enabled to
make a sort of soup which strengthened us greatly, though each still
complained of weakness. It was not without the greatest difficulty that I
could restrain the men from eating every scrap they found, though they
were well aware of the necessity there was of being economical in our
present situation and to save whatever they could for our journey; yet
they could not resist the temptation and whenever my back was turned they
seldom failed to snatch at the nearest piece to them, whether cooked or

We had set fishing-lines but without any success, and we often saw large
herds of deer crossing the lake at full speed and wolves pursuing them.

The night of the 25th was cold with hard frost. Early the next morning I
sent the men to cover the body of our departed companion Beauparlant with
the trunks and branches of trees which they did and, shortly after their
return, I opened his bundle and found it contained two papers of
vermilion, several strings of beads, some fire-steels, flints, awls,
fish-hooks, rings, linen, and the glass of an artificial horizon. My two
men began to recover a little as well as myself, though I was by far the
weakest of the three; the soles of my feet were cracked all over and the
other parts were as hard as horn from constant walking. I again urged the
necessity of advancing to join the Commander's party but they said they
were not sufficiently strong.

On the 27th we discovered the remains of a deer on which we feasted. The
night was unusually cold and ice formed in a pint-pot within two feet of
the fire. The coruscations of the Aurora Borealis were beautifully
brilliant; they served to show us eight wolves which we had some trouble
to frighten away from our collection of deer's bones and, between their
howling and the constant cracking of the ice, we did not get much rest.

Having collected with great care and by self-denial two small packets of
dried meat or sinews sufficient (for men who knew what it was to fast) to
last for eight days at the rate of one indifferent meal per day, we
prepared to set out on the 30th. I calculated that we should be about
fourteen days in reaching Fort Providence and, allowing that we neither
killed deer nor found Indians, we could but be unprovided with food six
days and this we heeded not whilst the prospect of obtaining full relief
was before us. Accordingly we set out against a keen north-east wind in
order to gain the known route to Fort Providence. We saw a number of
wolves and some crows on the middle of the lake and, supposing such an
assemblage was not met idly, we made for them and came in for a share of
a deer which they had killed a short time before, and thus added a couple
of meals to our stock. By four P.M. we gained the head of the lake or the
direct road to Fort Providence and, some dry wood being at hand, we
encamped; by accident it was the same place where the Commander's party
had slept on the 19th, the day on which I supposed they had left Fort
Enterprise, but the encampment was so small that we feared great
mortality had taken place amongst them, and I am sorry to say the
stubborn resolution of my men not to go to the house prevented me from
determining this most anxious point, so that I now almost dreaded passing
their encampments lest I should see some of our unfortunate friends dead
at each spot. Our fire was hardly kindled when a fine herd of deer passed
close to us. St. Germain pursued them a short distance but with his usual
want of success so that we made a meal off the muscles and sinews we had
dried, though they were so tough that we could scarcely cut them. My
hands were benumbed throughout the march and we were all stiff and
fatigued. The marching of two days weakened us all very much and the more
so on account of our exertion to follow the tracks of our Commander's
party, but we lost them and concluded that they were not before us.
Though the weather was not cold I was frozen in the face and was so
reduced and affected by these constant calamities, as well in mind as in
body, that I found much difficulty in proceeding even with the advantages
I had enjoyed.

November 3.

We set out before day, though in fact we were all much fitter to remain
from the excessive pain which we suffered in our joints, and proceeded
till one P.M. without halting, when Belanger who was before stopped and
cried out "Footsteps of Indians." It is needless to mention the joy that
brightened the countenances of each at this unlooked-for sight; we knew
relief must be at hand and considered our sufferings at an end. St.
Germain inspected the tracks and said that three persons had passed the
day before, and that he knew the remainder must be advancing to the
southward as was customary with these Indians when they sent to the
trading establishment on the first ice. On this information we encamped
and, being too weak to walk myself, I sent St. Germain to follow the
tracks, with instructions to the chief of the Indians to provide
immediate assistance for such of our friends as might be at Fort
Enterprise, as well as for ourselves, and to lose no time in returning to
me. I was now so exhausted that, had we not seen the tracks this day, I
must have remained at the next encampment until the men could have sent
aid from Fort Providence. We had finished our small portion of sinews and
were preparing for rest when an Indian boy made his appearance with meat.
St. Germain had arrived before sunset at the tents of Akaitcho whom he
found at the spot where he had wintered last year, but imagine my
surprise when he gave me a note from the Commander and said that Benoit
and Augustus, two of the men, had just joined them. The note was so
confused by the pencil marks being partly rubbed out that I could not
decipher it clearly, but it informed me that he had attempted to come
with the two men but, finding his strength inadequate to the task, he
relinquished his design and returned to Fort Enterprise to await relief
with the others. There was another note for the gentleman in charge of
Fort Providence desiring him to send meat, blankets, shoes, and tobacco.
Akaitcho wished me to join him on the ensuing day at a place which the
boy knew where they were going to fish, and I was the more anxious to do
so on account of my companions, but particularly that I might hear a full
relation of what had happened and of the Commander's true situation,
which I suspected to be much worse than he had described.

In the afternoon I joined the Indians and repeated to Akaitcho what St.
Germain had told him; he seemed much affected and said he would have sent
relief directly though I had not been there; indeed his conduct was
generous and humane. The next morning at an early hour three Indians with
loaded sledges of meat, skins, shoes, and a blanket, set out for Fort
Enterprise; one of them was to return directly with an answer from
Captain Franklin to whom I wrote but, in the event of his death, he was
to bring away all the papers he could find, and he promised to travel
with such haste as to be able to return to us on the fourth day. I was
now somewhat more at ease, having done all in my power to succour my
unfortunate companions, but was very anxious for the return of the
messenger. The Indians brought me meat in small quantities though
sufficient for our daily consumption and, as we had a little ammunition,
many were paid on the spot for what they gave.

On the 9th I had the satisfaction of seeing the Indian arrive from Fort
Enterprise. At first he said they were all dead but shortly after he gave
me a note which was from the Commander and then I learned all the fatal
particulars which had befallen them. I now proposed that the chief should
immediately send three sledges loaded with meat to Fort Enterprise,
should make a cache of provision at our present encampment, and also that
he should here await the arrival of the Commander. By noon two large
trains laden with meat were sent off for Fort Enterprise. The next day we
proceeded on our journey and arrived at Fort Providence on the 21st of




I have little now to add to the melancholy detail into which I felt it
proper to enter, but I cannot omit to state that the unremitting care and
attentions of our kind friends Mr. McVicar and Mr. McAuley, united with
our improved diet to promote to the restoration of our health, so that by
the end of February the swellings of our limbs which had returned upon us
entirely subsided, and we were able to walk to any part of the island.
Our appetites gradually moderated and we nearly regained our ordinary
state of body before the spring. Hepburn alone suffered from a severe
attack of rheumatism which confined him to his bed for some weeks. The
usual symptoms of spring having appeared, on the 25th of May we prepared
to embark for Fort Chipewyan. Fortunately on the following morning a
canoe arrived from that place with the whole of the stores which we
required for the payment of Akaitcho and the hunters. It was extremely
gratifying to us to be thus enabled, previous to our departure, to make
arrangements respecting the requital of our late Indian companions, and
the more so as we had recently discovered that Akaitcho and the whole of
his tribe, in consequence of the death of the leader's mother and the
wife of our old guide Keskarrah, had broken and destroyed every useful
article belonging to them and were in the greatest distress. It was an
additional pleasure to find our stock of ammunition more than sufficient
to pay them what was due, and that we could make a considerable present
of this most essential article to every individual that had been attached
to the Expedition.

We quitted Moose-Deer Island at five P.M. on the 26th, accompanied by Mr.
McVicar and Mr. McAuley and nearly all the voyagers at the establishment,
having resided there about five months, not a day of which had passed
without our having cause of gratitude for the kind and unvaried
attentions of Mr. McVicar and Mr. McAuley. These gentlemen accompanied us
as far as Fort Chipewyan where we arrived on the 2nd of June, here we met
Mr. Wentzel and the four men who had been sent with him from the mouth of
the Copper-Mine River, and I think it due to that gentleman to give his
own explanation of the unfortunate circumstances which prevented him from
fulfilling my instructions respecting the provisions to have been left
for us at Fort Enterprise. (See below.)

In a subsequent conversation he stated to me that the two Indians who
were actually with him at Fort Enterprise whilst he remained there
altering his canoe were prevented from hunting, one by an accidental
lameness, the other by the fear of meeting alone some of the Dog-Rib

We were here furnished with a canoe by Mr. Smith and a bowman to act as
our guide and, having left Fort Chipewyan on the 5th, we arrived on the
4th of July at Norway House. Finding at this place that canoes were about
to go down to Montreal I gave all our Canadian voyagers their discharges
and sent them by those vessels, furnishing them with orders on the Agent
of the Hudson's Bay Company for the amount of their wages. We carried
Augustus down to York Factory where we arrived on the 14th of July, and
were received with every mark of attention and kindness by Mr. Simpson
the Governor, Mr. McTavish, and indeed by all the officers of the United
Companies. And thus terminated our long, fatiguing, and disastrous
travels in North America, having journeyed by water and by land
(including our navigation of the Polar Sea) five thousand five hundred
and fifty miles.



After you sent me back from the mouth of the Copper-Mine River and I had
overtaken the Leader, Guides, and Hunters, on the fifth day, leaving the
sea-coast, as well as our journey up the River, they always expressed the
same desire of fulfilling their promises, although somewhat dissatisfied
at being exposed to privation while on our return from a scarcity of
animals for, as I have already stated in my first communication from
Moose-Deer Island, we had been eleven days with no other food but tripe
de roche. In the course of this time an Indian with his wife and child,
who were travelling in company with us, were left in the rear and are
since supposed to have perished through want, as no intelligence had been
received of them at Fort Providence in December last. On the seventh day
after I had joined the Leader, etc. etc., and journeying on together, all
the Indians excepting Petit Pied and Bald-Head left me to seek their
families and crossed Point Lake at the Crow's Nest, where Humpy had
promised to meet his brother Ekehcho (Akaitcho the Leader) with the
families but did not fulfil, nor did any of my party of Indians know
where to find them, for we had frequently made fires to apprise them of
our approach yet none appeared in return as answers. This disappointment
as might be expected served to increase the ill-humour of the Leader and
party, the brooding of which (agreeably to Indian custom) was liberally
discharged on me, in bitter reproach for having led them from their
families and exposed them to dangers and hardships which, but for my
influence, they said they might have spared themselves. Nevertheless they
still continued to profess the sincerest desire of meeting your wishes in
making caches of provisions and remaining until a late season on the road
that leads from Fort Enterprise to Fort Providence, through which the
Expedition-men had travelled so often the year before, remarking however
at the same time that they had not the least hopes of ever seeing one
person return from the Expedition. These alarming fears I never could
persuade them to dismiss from their minds; they always sneered at what
they called my credulity. "If," said the Gros Pied (also Akaitcho) "the
Great Chief (meaning Captain Franklin) or any of his party should pass at
my tents, he or they shall be welcome to all my provisions or anything
else that I may have." And I am sincerely happy to understand by your
communication that in this he had kept his word, in sending you with such
promptitude and liberality the assistance your truly dreadful situation
required. But the party of Indians on whom I had placed the utmost
confidence and dependence was Humpy and the White Capot Guide with their
sons and several of the discharged hunters from the Expedition. This
party was well-disposed and readily promised to collect provisions for
the possible return of the Expedition, provided they could get a supply
of ammunition from Fort Providence, for when I came up with them they
were actually starving and converting old axes into ball, having no other
substitute; this was unlucky. Yet they were well inclined and I expected
to find means at Fort Providence to send them a supply, in which I was
however disappointed, for I found that establishment quite destitute of
necessaries, and then shortly after I had left them they had the
misfortune of losing three of their hunters who were drowned in Marten
Lake; this accident was of all others the most fatal that could have
happened, a truth which no one who has the least knowledge of the Indian
character will deny, and as they were nearly connected by relationship to
the Leader, Humpy, and White Capot Guide, the three leading men of this
part of the Copper Indian Tribe, it had the effect of unhinging (if I may
use the expression) the minds of all these families and finally
destroying all the fond hopes I had so sanguinely conceived of their
assisting the Expedition, should it come back by the Annadesse River of
which they were not certain.

As to my not leaving a letter at Fort Enterprise it was because by some
mischance you had forgot to give me paper when we parted.*

(*Footnote. I certainly offered Mr. Wentzel some paper when he quitted us
but he declined it, having then a notebook, and Mr. Back gave him a

I however wrote this news on a plank in pencil and placed it in the top
of your former bedstead where I left it. Since it has not been found
there some Indians must have gone to the house after my departure and
destroyed it. These details, Sir, I have been induced to enter into
(rather unexpectedly) in justification of myself and hope it will be

End of Project Gutenberg's The Journey to the Polar Sea, by John Franklin


***** This file should be named 13518.txt or *****
This and all associated files of various formats will be found in:

Produced by Sue Asscher

Updated editions will replace the previous one--the old editions
will be renamed.

Creating the works from public domain print editions means that no
one owns a United States copyright in these works, so the Foundation
(and you!) can copy and distribute it in the United States without
permission and without paying copyright royalties.  Special rules,
set forth in the General Terms of Use part of this license, apply to
copying and distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works to
protect the PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm concept and trademark.  Project
Gutenberg is a registered trademark, and may not be used if you
charge for the eBooks, unless you receive specific permission.  If you
do not charge anything for copies of this eBook, complying with the
rules is very easy.  You may use this eBook for nearly any purpose
such as creation of derivative works, reports, performances and
research.  They may be modified and printed and given away--you may do
practically ANYTHING with public domain eBooks.  Redistribution is
subject to the trademark license, especially commercial



To protect the Project Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting the free
distribution of electronic works, by using or distributing this work
(or any other work associated in any way with the phrase "Project
Gutenberg"), you agree to comply with all the terms of the Full Project
Gutenberg-tm License (available with this file or online at

Section 1.  General Terms of Use and Redistributing Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic works

1.A.  By reading or using any part of this Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work, you indicate that you have read, understand, agree to
and accept all the terms of this license and intellectual property
(trademark/copyright) agreement.  If you do not agree to abide by all
the terms of this agreement, you must cease using and return or destroy
all copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in your possession.
If you paid a fee for obtaining a copy of or access to a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work and you do not agree to be bound by the
terms of this agreement, you may obtain a refund from the person or
entity to whom you paid the fee as set forth in paragraph 1.E.8.

1.B.  "Project Gutenberg" is a registered trademark.  It may only be
used on or associated in any way with an electronic work by people who
agree to be bound by the terms of this agreement.  There are a few
things that you can do with most Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works
even without complying with the full terms of this agreement.  See
paragraph 1.C below.  There are a lot of things you can do with Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works if you follow the terms of this agreement
and help preserve free future access to Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.  See paragraph 1.E below.

1.C.  The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation ("the Foundation"
or PGLAF), owns a compilation copyright in the collection of Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works.  Nearly all the individual works in the
collection are in the public domain in the United States.  If an
individual work is in the public domain in the United States and you are
located in the United States, we do not claim a right to prevent you from
copying, distributing, performing, displaying or creating derivative
works based on the work as long as all references to Project Gutenberg
are removed.  Of course, we hope that you will support the Project
Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting free access to electronic works by
freely sharing Project Gutenberg-tm works in compliance with the terms of
this agreement for keeping the Project Gutenberg-tm name associated with
the work.  You can easily comply with the terms of this agreement by
keeping this work in the same format with its attached full Project
Gutenberg-tm License when you share it without charge with others.

1.D.  The copyright laws of the place where you are located also govern
what you can do with this work.  Copyright laws in most countries are in
a constant state of change.  If you are outside the United States, check
the laws of your country in addition to the terms of this agreement
before downloading, copying, displaying, performing, distributing or
creating derivative works based on this work or any other Project
Gutenberg-tm work.  The Foundation makes no representations concerning
the copyright status of any work in any country outside the United

1.E.  Unless you have removed all references to Project Gutenberg:

1.E.1.  The following sentence, with active links to, or other immediate
access to, the full Project Gutenberg-tm License must appear prominently
whenever any copy of a Project Gutenberg-tm work (any work on which the
phrase "Project Gutenberg" appears, or with which the phrase "Project
Gutenberg" is associated) is accessed, displayed, performed, viewed,
copied or distributed:

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

1.E.2.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is derived
from the public domain (does not contain a notice indicating that it is
posted with permission of the copyright holder), the work can be copied
and distributed to anyone in the United States without paying any fees
or charges.  If you are redistributing or providing access to a work
with the phrase "Project Gutenberg" associated with or appearing on the
work, you must comply either with the requirements of paragraphs 1.E.1
through 1.E.7 or obtain permission for the use of the work and the
Project Gutenberg-tm trademark as set forth in paragraphs 1.E.8 or

1.E.3.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is posted
with the permission of the copyright holder, your use and distribution
must comply with both paragraphs 1.E.1 through 1.E.7 and any additional
terms imposed by the copyright holder.  Additional terms will be linked
to the Project Gutenberg-tm License for all works posted with the
permission of the copyright holder found at the beginning of this work.

1.E.4.  Do not unlink or detach or remove the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License terms from this work, or any files containing a part of this
work or any other work associated with Project Gutenberg-tm.

1.E.5.  Do not copy, display, perform, distribute or redistribute this
electronic work, or any part of this electronic work, without
prominently displaying the sentence set forth in paragraph 1.E.1 with
active links or immediate access to the full terms of the Project
Gutenberg-tm License.

1.E.6.  You may convert to and distribute this work in any binary,
compressed, marked up, nonproprietary or proprietary form, including any
word processing or hypertext form.  However, if you provide access to or
distribute copies of a Project Gutenberg-tm work in a format other than
"Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other format used in the official version
posted on the official Project Gutenberg-tm web site (,
you must, at no additional cost, fee or expense to the user, provide a
copy, a means of exporting a copy, or a means of obtaining a copy upon
request, of the work in its original "Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other
form.  Any alternate format must include the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License as specified in paragraph 1.E.1.

1.E.7.  Do not charge a fee for access to, viewing, displaying,
performing, copying or distributing any Project Gutenberg-tm works
unless you comply with paragraph 1.E.8 or 1.E.9.

1.E.8.  You may charge a reasonable fee for copies of or providing
access to or distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works provided

- You pay a royalty fee of 20% of the gross profits you derive from
     the use of Project Gutenberg-tm works calculated using the method
     you already use to calculate your applicable taxes.  The fee is
     owed to the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark, but he
     has agreed to donate royalties under this paragraph to the
     Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.  Royalty payments
     must be paid within 60 days following each date on which you
     prepare (or are legally required to prepare) your periodic tax
     returns.  Royalty payments should be clearly marked as such and
     sent to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation at the
     address specified in Section 4, "Information about donations to
     the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation."

- You provide a full refund of any money paid by a user who notifies
     you in writing (or by e-mail) within 30 days of receipt that s/he
     does not agree to the terms of the full Project Gutenberg-tm
     License.  You must require such a user to return or
     destroy all copies of the works possessed in a physical medium
     and discontinue all use of and all access to other copies of
     Project Gutenberg-tm works.

- You provide, in accordance with paragraph 1.F.3, a full refund of any
     money paid for a work or a replacement copy, if a defect in the
     electronic work is discovered and reported to you within 90 days
     of receipt of the work.

- You comply with all other terms of this agreement for free
     distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm works.

1.E.9.  If you wish to charge a fee or distribute a Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work or group of works on different terms than are set
forth in this agreement, you must obtain permission in writing from
both the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation and Michael
Hart, the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark.  Contact the
Foundation as set forth in Section 3 below.


1.F.1.  Project Gutenberg volunteers and employees expend considerable
effort to identify, do copyright research on, transcribe and proofread
public domain works in creating the Project Gutenberg-tm
collection.  Despite these efforts, Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works, and the medium on which they may be stored, may contain
"Defects," such as, but not limited to, incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other intellectual
property infringement, a defective or damaged disk or other medium, a
computer virus, or computer codes that damage or cannot be read by
your equipment.

of Replacement or Refund" described in paragraph 1.F.3, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, the owner of the Project
Gutenberg-tm trademark, and any other party distributing a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work under this agreement, disclaim all
liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including legal

defect in this electronic work within 90 days of receiving it, you can
receive a refund of the money (if any) you paid for it by sending a
written explanation to the person you received the work from.  If you
received the work on a physical medium, you must return the medium with
your written explanation.  The person or entity that provided you with
the defective work may elect to provide a replacement copy in lieu of a
refund.  If you received the work electronically, the person or entity
providing it to you may choose to give you a second opportunity to
receive the work electronically in lieu of a refund.  If the second copy
is also defective, you may demand a refund in writing without further
opportunities to fix the problem.

1.F.4.  Except for the limited right of replacement or refund set forth
in paragraph 1.F.3, this work is provided to you 'AS-IS' WITH NO OTHER

1.F.5.  Some states do not allow disclaimers of certain implied
warranties or the exclusion or limitation of certain types of damages.
If any disclaimer or limitation set forth in this agreement violates the
law of the state applicable to this agreement, the agreement shall be
interpreted to make the maximum disclaimer or limitation permitted by
the applicable state law.  The invalidity or unenforceability of any
provision of this agreement shall not void the remaining provisions.

1.F.6.  INDEMNITY - You agree to indemnify and hold the Foundation, the
trademark owner, any agent or employee of the Foundation, anyone
providing copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in accordance
with this agreement, and any volunteers associated with the production,
promotion and distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works,
harmless from all liability, costs and expenses, including legal fees,
that arise directly or indirectly from any of the following which you do
or cause to occur: (a) distribution of this or any Project Gutenberg-tm
work, (b) alteration, modification, or additions or deletions to any
Project Gutenberg-tm work, and (c) any Defect you cause.

Section  2.  Information about the Mission of Project Gutenberg-tm

Project Gutenberg-tm is synonymous with the free distribution of
electronic works in formats readable by the widest variety of computers
including obsolete, old, middle-aged and new computers.  It exists
because of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donations from
people in all walks of life.

Volunteers and financial support to provide volunteers with the
assistance they need, is critical to reaching Project Gutenberg-tm's
goals and ensuring that the Project Gutenberg-tm collection will
remain freely available for generations to come.  In 2001, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation was created to provide a secure
and permanent future for Project Gutenberg-tm and future generations.
To learn more about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
and how your efforts and donations can help, see Sections 3 and 4
and the Foundation web page at

Section 3.  Information about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation is a non profit
501(c)(3) educational corporation organized under the laws of the
state of Mississippi and granted tax exempt status by the Internal
Revenue Service.  The Foundation's EIN or federal tax identification
number is 64-6221541.  Its 501(c)(3) letter is posted at  Contributions to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation are tax deductible to the full extent
permitted by U.S. federal laws and your state's laws.

The Foundation's principal office is located at 4557 Melan Dr. S.
Fairbanks, AK, 99712., but its volunteers and employees are scattered
throughout numerous locations.  Its business office is located at
809 North 1500 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84116, (801) 596-1887, email  Email contact links and up to date contact
information can be found at the Foundation's web site and official
page at

For additional contact information:
     Dr. Gregory B. Newby
     Chief Executive and Director

Section 4.  Information about Donations to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation

Project Gutenberg-tm depends upon and cannot survive without wide
spread public support and donations to carry out its mission of
increasing the number of public domain and licensed works that can be
freely distributed in machine readable form accessible by the widest
array of equipment including outdated equipment.  Many small donations
($1 to $5,000) are particularly important to maintaining tax exempt
status with the IRS.

The Foundation is committed to complying with the laws regulating
charities and charitable donations in all 50 states of the United
States.  Compliance requirements are not uniform and it takes a
considerable effort, much paperwork and many fees to meet and keep up
with these requirements.  We do not solicit donations in locations
where we have not received written confirmation of compliance.  To
SEND DONATIONS or determine the status of compliance for any
particular state visit

While we cannot and do not solicit contributions from states where we
have not met the solicitation requirements, we know of no prohibition
against accepting unsolicited donations from donors in such states who
approach us with offers to donate.

International donations are gratefully accepted, but we cannot make
any statements concerning tax treatment of donations received from
outside the United States.  U.S. laws alone swamp our small staff.

Please check the Project Gutenberg Web pages for current donation
methods and addresses.  Donations are accepted in a number of other
ways including including checks, online payments and credit card
donations.  To donate, please visit:

Section 5.  General Information About Project Gutenberg-tm electronic

Professor Michael S. Hart is the originator of the Project Gutenberg-tm
concept of a library of electronic works that could be freely shared
with anyone.  For thirty years, he produced and distributed Project
Gutenberg-tm eBooks with only a loose network of volunteer support.

Project Gutenberg-tm eBooks are often created from several printed
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the U.S.
unless a copyright notice is included.  Thus, we do not necessarily
keep eBooks in compliance with any particular paper edition.

Most people start at our Web site which has the main PG search facility:

This Web site includes information about Project Gutenberg-tm,
including how to make donations to the Project Gutenberg Literary
Archive Foundation, how to help produce our new eBooks, and how to
subscribe to our email newsletter to hear about new eBooks.


This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts ( by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is etext13518, and it should be available from the following URL:

Infomotions, Inc.

Infomotions Man says, "Give back to the 'Net."