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THROUGH THE SUB-ARGTIGS OF GANADA.
A Journey of 3,200 Miles by Canoe and Snow-shoe.
BY J. W. TYRRELL, C.E., D.L.S
VII.—FROM MARBLE ISLAND TO FORT recently have been a large Eskimo encampment. Several kom-e-ticks (sleds) and other articles were found, including the wreck of a large whale
on a cove near
E started southward down the
This camping place had been the sum. mer home of the Eskimos we had met within the inlet, and from a sanitary point of view it was no credit to them, for filth and putrefaction everywhere abounded.
The rocks of this locality were chiefly dark green hornblendic schists of the Huronian formation, and were of particularly interesting appearance, being much contorted, and dipping at high angles.
Following our two days of fair weather we were permitted to enjoy still another, which enabled us to cross the mouth of Rankin Inlet, one which would have required days to coast had the weather been anything but calm. During these three days, we covered a distance of just one hundred miles, and this run upon such an exposed coast was most encouraging. Though we saw little game, we had still some dried meat left, and at this rate of travel, two weeks would take us to Churchill. By putting ourselves upon rations, our meat would last us for five or six days.
During the following day the weather continued to be beautifully fair, so with the feeling that nature was smiling upon us, we made good use of our time. As we followed the coast in a south-westerly direction, mile after mile, the rounded white hills of Marble Island continued to present a remarkable appearance, while to the north of us extended the bold, dark, rocky shore, brightened here and there in appearance by great banks of snow.
On the night of the 15th our camp was pitched upon a little sand island in the mouth of Corbet's Inlet, and here for a time we were destined to remain. Before morning we aroused by the already too familiar sound of the gale, and all day we were kept prisoners upon the sand bar, without water to drink, for what was Landing at noon at a bluff, rocky found on the islet was salty. Towards point, we discovered what must very evening the wind was accompanied by (35)
13th of September; and the day being beautifully calm, we made a capital run past a rocky, reef-bound coast, and at night camped upon the mainland about twelve miles north of Marble Island, whose snowy white hills of quartzite could be distinctly seen against the southern horizon.
Marble Island-so called because of the resemblance which its rounded, glaciated rocky hills bears to white marble-is known as a wintering station for American whalers. Its geographical position was well determined in 1885 and 1886, by Commander Gordon, of the Dominion Government Hudson Bay Expedition (of which the writer was a member), so we were glad to avail ourselves of the opportunity of connecting our survey with such a well-fixed landmark. There were no whalers then at the island. Had there been, we would have endeavoured to arrange with one of them to take us to Churchill.
a chilling rain, which continued all night and the greater part of the next morning. On the following afternoon the wind suddenly fell, and though a heavy sea continued to roll in from the east, the waves ceased to break; and fearing to lose one hour unnecessarily, we launched our canoes upon the heaving waters and started across the mouth of the Inlet on an eightmile traverse.
As we got out beyond the shelter of the island, we found the seas running fearfully high; but so long as they did not break upon us, we had little to fear; and this would not likely occur unless the wind should spring up again. But when we were well out in the middle of the inlet that is just what did occur. The wind commenced to blow from exactly the opposite quarter, and speedily increased in force, whipping the crests off the waves in such a way as to make our position anything but assuring. Our situation was indeed perilous. Every effort was made to guide our canoes in such a way as to brook least danger, but in spite of all we could do, the seas dashed in upon us, and it looked as if we would never reach the shore.
My brother and I laid down our paddles, and with tin kettles plied ourselves vigorously in dashing out the water. Many times the great tumbling billows seemed as if they would certainly roll over us; but our light cedars, though sometimes halffilled, were ever borne up by the waves. At length we neared neared the shore, toward which for several hours we had been struggling but, to our dismay, only to find it skirted by a long line of rocks and shoals upon which the full force of the wild sea was breaking with frightful fury. What were we to do? Without a harbor we would be dashed to pieces upon the rocks, and it was impossible for us to retreat against the storm.
On we were borne by the force of the gale toward the breakers, but just
as the crisis appeared to have comethanks to a kind Providence, a way of escape was presented. One rock was observed standing out a short distance in advance of the others. If behind this we could thrust our canoes, we might yet land in safety. Every arm was strained in the effort, and one after the other each canoe, being well directed, was dashed by the breakers into the desired haven.
Then in shallow water, and with the strength of the seas broken, we all jumped out of our canoes and succeeded in landing them safely. Every particle of our outfit was, of course, thoroughly saturated, but we were very thankful that nothing worse had befallen us.
The surface of the country here consisted of bare rock, comparatively level, of a most dreary aspect, and without a sign of vegetation.
The storm continued for two days longer, during which time we were obliged to remain on shore. As our provisions were now almost exhausted, our attentions were chiefly devoted to hunting; but the only game that could be found was one little duck and two gulls. The broken remains of an Eskimo kyack were found, and these were carefully gathered up in order that a kettle of water and our gulls might be boiled for supper.
New ice was now forming over the ponds on the shore, and the weather was turning perceptibly colder, so that we were very anxious to be moving southward. When still dark, on the morning of the 20th, the wind having fallen, camp was aroused, and without breakfast our journey resumed. For two days we pressed on, and made good progress, but having scarcely anything to eat, we began to feel weak.
On the morning of the 22nd we were again storm-bound by a heavy gale and snow, which lasted four days. During this time we suffered much from the violence of the storm, as
well as from want of food. As soon as the storm had sufficiently abated, which it did not do until the morning of the 25th, two of the men, Pierre and Louis, were sent out with the shot guns to hunt for food, and with our rifles my brother and I set out for an all-day tramp into the interior. We found that our camp was situated near the end of a long, narrow point, at the back of which is Neville Bay. The point consisted in places of extended fields of water-washed boulders, and in order to reach the mainland, these had to be crossed. This circumstance, together with the fact that we were travelling into the teeth of a gale and
time in this vicinity pursuing further research; but as the day was already far spent, and we were pretty well used up, we did not deem it advisable to do so.
Finding a little dry moss we made a fire, roasted the little ptarmigan, divided it between us, and being somewhat resuscitated began a weary march to camp. Towards nightfall, as it began to grow dark, we found ourselves becoming very much exhausted, but not wishing to be out all night without blankets-for the weather continued to be very cold and stormy-we pushed on with all the energy we could possibly muster. We were frequently obliged to sit down to rest, notwithstanding the fact that night was close upon us, and when still several miles from camp, we found ourselves enveloped in darkness and endeavouring to grope our way through a field of sharp, angular rocks of all shapes and sizes. It is needless to say that travelling under such conditions was not easy. For a considerable distance we were obliged to feel our way with hands and feet between and over the rocks (occasionally going over, then between, and exercising the sense of feeling last). After about two hours of this sort of experience, we gained the more level country; and a little later, getting sight of a light in one of the tents, which served as a guide, we reached camp thoroughly played out. We were not, however, required to go to bed fasting, for Pierre and Louis, having been more successful than ourselves, had secured several hares and ptarmigan, and from these a "bouillon" had been prepared, and part of it reserved for our supper. It was a most thoroughly appreciated meal, and after partaking of it, we were soon rolled up in our blankets and all unconscious of the storm that howled about us, and of the fact that we had not another meal in the camp. On the morning of the 26th, we were glad to find that the wind had fallen sufficiently to allow us to launch,
so without delay our canoes were loaded and a fair run made. Several sea ducks were shot during the day, and thus our supper was secured. The next day we were again wind-bound by a gale from the south-west, and our whole party set out to hunt for food. We were not altogether unsuccessful -assembling in the evening with five marmots (animals about the size of house rats).
The next morning, the 28th, though a strong breeze was still blowing, we determined to make a start at least, for to remain where we were meant that we must soon starve to death. We were already much reduced and weakened from the effects of cold and hunger, and the condition of the weather had of late been most disheartening. We were still fully three hundred miles from Churchill, the nearest habitation of man; we had not one bit of food; the country was covered with snow, the climate piercingly cold; we had no means of making a fire, and, worst of all, the weather was such the greater part of the time that we were unable to travel. It was difficult to be cheerful under such circumstances, but we maintained a bold front and pushed on.
As we were bending to our paddles and had made, perhaps, seven or eight miles south-westerly along the coast, our hearts were gladdened by the appearance of a band of deer on the shore. As can be imagined, our course was quickly altered and a landing effected, though with some difficulty as the tide was falling and the water rapidly receding over the broad boulder flats. The men were left to keep the canoes afloat and from being damaged by the rocks, whilst my brother and I, with our rifles and the sagacity of Indians, went off in pursuit of the deer, which were now very different animals to hunt than when in great bands earlier in the season. Another fact which rendered them difficult to approach was, that the country was
now a vast snow-covered plain, affording no cover for the hunter save that of a few scattered boulders. Behind some of these we crept for long distances, but found it impossible to get within any kind of medium range. Several times we got within about five hundred yards of the deer, but could get no closer, and so opened fire at that distance. At first they trotted about in confusion, but then locating their enemies, fled straight away across the country. For hours we followed them, vainly seeking for some opportunity of nearer approach, but being unsuccessful were compelled to retrace our weary steps to the shore, where we arrived faint and exhausted. We found the men had been unable to keep the canoes afloat, but that they were now high and dry, and the water of the bay barely visible in the distance, such was the extremely low and flat character of the coast
It was impossible to launch our canoes until the return of the tide, so Pierre and Louis were sent off with our rifles, to try their fortune. As they departed and left us lying upon the snow, we sincerely prayed for their success. We had done our best and had failed; if they also should fail it was too apparent what must soon be the result.
Two of the other men, Jim and Francois, were also sent off with the shot-guns, and then anxious hours of waiting followed. No shots were heard, but towards evening we observed in the distance Pierre and Louis, and afterwards the other two men, returning. None of them appeared to have anything with them, as we had hoped they might, and at the prospect, I confess, my heart grew sick. As they came nearer, however, Louis, holding up something in one hand, exclaimed "I got um." It was the claw of a polar bear, and we soon learned with much joy that he had, sure enough, killed a bear, which he had suddenly come upon at the edge of a little lake, whilst following the deer.
It was about six miles inland that the encounter took place, and Louis was alone at the time, his brother having gone off on a different track, The meeting was a mutual surprise, for the bear, which was lying in the snow near the ice of the lake, being very white himself, was unobserved until our hunter's footsteps aroused him. Then there was a distance of not more than fifty yards between them and there was no time for consideration, for the bear, springing to his feet, made straight for Louis, who met his charge with a slug, and brought Bruin to his knees. He was up again though in an instant and following our Indian, who had taken to the ice, thinking that in a conflict he would there have the advantage. But in this he found he was mistaken, for the bear was quickly overtaking him
being at home on the ice-so he turned, and the second time knocked the bear down. Again, as Louis made for the shore, Bruin got up, and with blood streaming from his wounds and a roar of defiance, made one more desperate charge. There were now only a few feet between them, but Louis, doubtless fully realizing the situation as critical, turned and shot his adversary dead at his feet.
It was a happy shot for our whole party, as well as for the Indian, who, being unable to handle the carcass himself, had returned-meeting his brother by the way-for assistance.
We all gladly followed him to the scene of the combat, where, judging by tracks and blood, there was abundant proof of the veracity of his story.
On a bare knoll, near the carcass, some dry moss was discovered, and with this, even before the skinning had been completed, some of the flesh was roasted, or, more correctly, slightly singed, and refreshments were passed around. The reviving effect produced upon the spirits of our party was remarkable. Though the flesh of the polar bear is famed for its rankness, we would not have exchanged it