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In the Arctic Seas Part 13

{BARTER WITH NATIVES.}

Although they told us the Igloolik people were worse off for wood than they were themselves, yet it was evident that here also it is very scarce. We could not spare them light poles or oars such as they were most desirous to obtain for harpoon and lance staves and tent-poles; and they would willingly have bartered their kayaks to us for rifles (having already obtained some from the whaling-ships), but that they had no other means of getting back to their homes, nor wood to make the light framework of others.

They collect whalebone and narwhal's horns in sufficient quantity to carry on a small barter with the whalers. A-wah-lah showed us about thirty horns in his tent, and said he had many more at other stations. A few years ago, when first this bartering sprang up, an Esquimaux took such a fancy to a fiddle that he offered a large quantity of whalebone in exchange for it. The bargain was soon made, and subsequently this whalebone was sold for upwards of a hundred pounds! Each successive year, when the same ship returns to Pond's Bay, this native comes on board to visit his friends, and goes on shore with many presents in remembrance of the memorable transaction. It is much better for him thus to receive annual gifts than to have received a large quantity at first, as the improvidence of these men surpasses belief.

{TEMPTATIONS TO BARTER.}

Of the "rod of iron about four feet long, supposed to have been at one time galvanized," which was brought home in 1856 by Captain Patterson, and forwarded to the Admiralty, I could obtain no information. The natives were shown galvanized iron, and said they had never seen any before; if their countrymen had any, it must have come from the whalers; none like it was found in the wrecks. Rod-iron is very valuable to Esquimaux for spears and lances, and narwhals' horns very tempting to the seamen, not only as valuable curiosities, but the ivory is worth half a crown a pound; and I have but little doubt that many of the things said to have been stolen by the natives were fraudulently bartered away by the sailors. That there was no galvanized iron on board any of the Government searching-ships, nor in the missing expedition which sailed from England as far back as 1845, I am almost certain. But is it _certain_ that this rod was galvanized? The natives gave Captain Patterson to understand that they got it from the wreck to the north.

In July, 1854, Captain Deuchars was at Pond's Bay, and many natives visited his ship, coming over the ice on twelve or fourteen sledges made of ship's planking. Now at this time Sir Edward Belcher's ships were still frozen up in Barrow Strait. My own impression is that the natives whom Captain Deuchars communicated with in 1854 were visitors at Pond's Bay--certainly from the _southward_--and probably attracted by the barter recently grown up at that whaling rendezvous. Having discovered the use of the saws obtained by barter from our whalers, they had successfully applied them to the stout planking of the old wrecks, which they could not have stripped off with any tools previously in their possession.

{TRAVELS OF ESQUIMAUX.}

That the various tribes, or rather groups of families, occasionally visit each other, sometimes for change of hunting-grounds, but more frequently for barter, is well known. Captain Parker told me that a native whom he had met one summer at Durbin Island, came on board his ship at Pond's Bay the following year. The distance between the two places, as travelled by this man in a single winter, is scarcely short of 500 miles; and the information given us of Rae's wintering at Repulse Bay, information which must have travelled here in two winters, shows that these natives communicate at still greater distances.

Did other wrecks exist nearer at hand, our Pond's Bay friends would be much better supplied with wood. If the Esquimaux knew of any within 300, 400, or even 500 miles, the Pond's Bay natives would at least have heard of them, and could have had no reason for concealing it from us. I only regret that we had not the good fortune to see more than a few natives, and but two sledges of ship's planking; otherwise our own information might have been more copious, and the origin of the fresh supply of planking decisively ascertained.

FOOTNOTES:

[14] Dr. Rae wintered at Repulse Bay in _stone_ huts in 1846-7. Again wintered there in _snow_ huts in 1853-4.

CHAPTER X.

Leave Pond's Bay--A gale in Lancaster Sound--The Beechey Island Depot--An Arctic monument--Reflections at Beechey Island--Proceed up Barrow's Strait--Peel Sound--Port Leopold--Prince Regent's Inlet--Bellot Strait--Flood-tide from the west--Unsuccessful efforts--Fox's Hole--No water to the west--Precautionary measures--Fourth attempt to pass through.

{LEAVE POND'S BAY.}

_6th Aug._--Continued calms have delayed us. This evening we steamed from Pond's Bay northward, although our coals have been sadly reduced by the almost constant necessity for steam-power since leaving the Waigat.

The three steam-whalers have gone southward; none others have arrived.

They appear to us to be leaving the whales behind them; we saw many whilst up the strait, and at the edge of the remaining ice. The natives said they would remain as long as the ice remained, but when it all broke up they would return into Baffin's Bay and go southward; and that these animals arrive in early spring, and do not pass through the strait into any other sea beyond.

{GALE IN LANCASTER SOUND.}

_Monday evening, 9th._--On the night of the 6th a pleasant, fair breeze sprang up, and enabled us to dispense with the engine. An immense bear was shot; he measured 8 feet 7 inches in length, and is destined for the museum of the Royal Dublin Society. On the 7th the wind gradually freshened and frustrated my intention of examining the wreck spoken of near Cape Hay; at night it increased to a very heavy gale. Although past Navy Board Inlet, very little ice had yet been met with. The weather, and fear of ice to leeward, obliged us to heave the vessel to, under main trysail and fore staysail. The squalls were extremely violent and seas unusually high.

All Sunday, the 8th, the gale continued, although not with such extreme force; the deep rolling of the ship, and moaning of the half-drowned dogs amidst the pelting sleet and rain, was anything but agreeable.

Notwithstanding that I had been up all the previous night, I felt too anxious to sleep; the wind blew directly up Barrow Strait, drifting us about two miles an hour. Occasionally she drifted to leeward of masses of ice, reminding us that if any of the dense pack which covered this sea only three weeks ago remained to leeward of us, we must be rapidly setting down upon its weather edge. The only expedient in such a case is to endeavor to run into it--once well within its outer margin a ship is comparatively safe--the danger lies in the attempt to penetrate; to escape out of the pack afterwards is also a doubtful matter.

In the evening we were glad to see the land, and find ourselves off the north shore near Cape Bullen, for the violent motion of the ship and very weak horizontal magnetic force had rendered our compasses useless.

This morning, the 9th, the gale broke, and the sea began to subside rapidly; by noon it was almost calm, but a thick gloom prevailed, ominous, it might be, of more mischief. All along the land there is ice, but, broken up into harmless atoms. We have carried away a main gaff and a jibstay, but have come remarkably well through such a gale with such trifling damage.

{BEECHEY ISLAND DEPoT.}

_11th._--Before noon to-day we anchored inside Cape Riley, and immediately commenced preparations for embarking coals. I visited Beechey Island house, and found the door open; it must have been blown in by an easterly gale long ago, for much ice had accumulated immediately inside it. Most of the biscuit in bags was damaged, but every thing else was in perfect order. Upon the north and west sides of the house, where a wall had been constructed, there was a vast accumulation of ice, in which the lower tier of casks between the two were embedded, and its surface thawed into pools. Neither casks nor walls should have been allowed to stand near the house. The southern and eastern sides were clear and perfectly dry. The 'Mary' decked boat, and two 30-feet lifeboats, were in excellent order, and their paint appeared fresh, but oars and bare wood were bleached white.

The gutta-percha boat was useless when left here, and remains in the same state. Two small sledge travelling boats were damaged; one of them had been blown over and over along the beach until finally arrested by the other. The bears and foxes do not appear to have touched any thing.

I have taken on board all letters left here for Franklin's or Collinson's expeditions and also a 20-feet sledge-boat for our own travelling purposes.

Last night we steamed very close round Cape Hurd in a dense fog, and crept along the land as our only guide: we were thus led into Rigby Bay, and discovered a shoal off its entrance by grounding upon it. After a quarter of an hour we floated off unhurt.

In lowering a boat to pursue a bear, Robert Hampton fell overboard; fortunately he could swim, and was very soon picked up, but the intense cold of the water had almost paralyzed his limbs. The bear was shot and taken on board.

_Sunday, 15th, 9 P.M._--Our coaling was completed yesterday, and the ship brought over and anchored off the house in Erebus and Terror Bay. A small proportion of provisions and winter clothing has been embarked to complete our deficiencies; the ice has been scraped out of the house and its roof thoroughly repaired, a record deposited, and door securely closed.

{AN ARCTIC MONUMENT.}

I found lying at Godhavn a marble tablet which had been sent out by Lady Franklin, in the American expedition of 1855 under Captain Hartstein, for the purpose of being erected at Beechey Island.

Circumstances prevented the Americans executing this kindly service, and it fell to my lot to convey it to the site originally intended. The tablet was constructed in New York, under the direction of Mr. Grinnell, at the request of Lady Franklin, in order that the only opportunity which then offered of sending it to the Arctic regions might not be lost. I placed the monument upon the raised flagged square in the centre of which stands the cenotaph recording the names of those who perished in the Government expedition under Sir Edward Belcher. Here also is placed a small tablet to the memory of Lieutenant Bellot. I could not have selected for Lady Franklin's memorial a more appropriate or conspicuous site. The inscription runs as follows:--

{THE INSCRIPTION.}

TO THE MEMORY OF FRANKLIN, CROZIER, FITZJAMES, AND ALL THEIR GALLANT BROTHER OFFICERS AND FAITHFUL COMPANIONS WHO HAVE SUFFERED AND PERISHED IN THE CAUSE OF SCIENCE AND THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY.

THIS TABLET IS ERECTED NEAR THE SPOT WHERE THEY PASSED THEIR FIRST ARCTIC WINTER, AND WHENCE THEY ISSUED FORTH TO CONQUER DIFFICULTIES OR TO DIE.

IT COMMEMORATES THE GRIEF OF THEIR ADMIRING COUNTRYMEN AND FRIENDS, AND THE ANGUISH, SUBDUED BY FAITH, OF HER WHO HAS LOST, IN THE HEROIC LEADER OF THE EXPEDITION, THE MOST DEVOTED AND AFFECTIONATE OF HUSBANDS.

"AND SO HE BRINGETH THEM UNTO THE HAVEN WHERE THEY WOULD BE."

1855.

This stone has been entrusted to be affixed in its place by the Officers and Crew on the American Expedition, commanded by Lt. H. J. Hartstein, in search of Dr. Kane and his Companions.

This Tablet having been left at Disco by the American Expedition, which was unable to reach Beechey Island, in 1855, was put on board the Discovery Yacht Fox, and is now set up here by Captain M'Clintock, R.N., commanding the final expedition of search for ascertaining the fate of Sir John Franklin and his companions, 1858.

We are now ready to proceed upon our voyage from Beechey Island, and there is no ice in sight; but having worked almost unceasingly since our arrival up to the present hour, the men require a night's rest. Nearly forty tons of fuel have been embarked.

{REFLECTIONS AT BEECHEY ISLAND.}

The total absence of ice in Barrow Strait is astonishing. No less so are the changes and chances of this singular navigation. Twelve days later than this in 1850, when I belonged to Her Majesty's ship 'Assistance,'

with considerable difficulty we came within sight of Beechey Island; a cairn on its summit attracted notice; Captain Ommanney managed to land, and discovered the _first traces_ of the missing expedition. Next day the United States schooner 'Rescue' arrived; the day after, Captain Penny joined us, and subsequently Captain Austin, Sir John Ross, and Captain Forsyth,--in all, ten vessels were assembled here. _This day_ six years, when in command of the 'Intrepid,' we sailed from here for Melville Island in company with the 'Resolute.' Again I was here at this time in 1854,--still frozen up,--in the 'North Star,' and doubts were entertained of the possibility of _escape_.

To come down to a later period, it was this day fortnight only that I set out for the native village in Pond's Inlet, under the guidance of an old woman; the trip was interesting, but we failed to obtain the slightest clue to the "whereabouts" of the missing ships; moreover, our own little vessel had a most providential escape from being crushed against the cliffs; and this day week was spent in contending with a furious gale, during which the ship had nearly been driven to leeward and dashed to pieces by the sea-beaten pack. Yet these are only preliminaries,--we are only _now_ about to commence the interesting part of our voyage. It is to be hoped the poor 'Fox' has many more lives to spare.

{CAPE HOTHAM.}

_Monday night, 16th Aug._--Sailed from Beechey Island this morning, and in the evening landed at Cape Hotham. A small depot of provisions and three boats were left there by former expeditions. Of the depot all has been destroyed with the exception of two casks landed in 1850. The boats were sound, but several of their oars, which had been secured upright, were found broken down by bears--those inquisitive animals having a decided antipathy to anything stuck up--stuck up things in general being, in this country, unnatural. Fragments of the depot and the broken oars were tossed about in every direction. Numerous records were found; to the most recent a few lines were added, stating that we had removed the two whale-boats--one to be left at Port Leopold, the other to replace our own crushed by the ice.

{PROCEED DOWN PEEL STRAIT.}

_17th._--Last night battling against a strong foul wind with _sea_, in rain and fog. To-day much loose ice is seen southward of Griffith's Island. The weather improved this afternoon, and we shot gallantly past Limestone Island, and are now steering down Peel Strait; all of us in a wild state of excitement--a mingling of anxious hopes and fears!

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