3 AUGUST 1850, Page 16


RA.E'S EXPEDITION TO THE SHORES OF THE ARCTIC SEA.* Norwrissraisnrso the various expeditions for Arctic discovery undertaken of late years, a large portion of the Continent of North America remained unexamined. The farthest point surveyed by the Fury and Hecht was to about 85t degrees of West longitude and 70 degrees of North latitude. The survey of Sir John Boss, in the neighbourhood of Boothia Felix, reached no further East- ward than the 91st or 92d degree of West longitude in about the 70th degree of latitude ; leaving u-nlrnown the six intervening de- grees of longitude and the three-and-a-half degrees of latitude be- tween the Repulse Bay of Middleton, the Lord Mayor's Bay of Ross, and the strait of the Fury and Heals. To explore this re- gion was the object of Mr. Rae's expedition, so as to complete the idea of the continent coast formation from Cape Farewell in Green- land to Behring's Straits. To carry this purpose into execution he was provided with two sea-boats and a picked crew. - He carried as much provision as could be stowed, but he was to derive his main subsistenee from what he could procure in the desolate regions he was about to en- ter. He was directed to proceed from Fort Churchill in Hudson's Bay to the " scene " of his future labours ; the choice of getting there being left to himself. Mr. Rae was desirous to avoid the sea voyage round Melville's Peninsula to the strait of the Ftuy and Hecla ; and falling in with some Es(ininia.ux at the head of Repulse Bay, he learned from them that the unknown portion he was to ex- plore, took (as had been supposed) the form of a bay, and that its waters could be reached by a suocession-of streams and lakes, leaving little more than five miles of land to pass over. Mr. Rae imme- diately determined upon his plan ; winch was to leave one of the boats, behind with its crew, and to convey the other kicrOse-4.1ie isthmus, hauling it over the land when water failed. This Was successfully accomplished, in spite of river obstacles portage, and the •rugged nature of the ground Where, the water ceased altogether; but the ice rendered it impracticable ' to sur- vey the coast of the great bay he had reached—which the na- tives call Akkoolee, but which Mr. Rae named Committee Bay in compliment to the Company. The party therefore returnea to head quarters ; and a spot having been selected for a winter residence, they set about building a house and outhouses, gather= ing fuel, and laying in a store of provisions from the produce of the net and the gun. As soon as it was practicable in the ,spring, Mr. Rae set out on a land exploration, with Esquimaux dog sledges

and Indian guides. He first surveyed the Westerly side of the ,

Akkoolee till he reached the Lord Mayor' S Bay of Ross ; and then returning to Fort Hope to recruit, he started again to explore the Eastern coast, which he all but accomplished. When he arrived within thirty or forty miles of the strait of the Fury and Heck; provisions fell short, and he could only advance in the onward di- rection half a night's journey —for he travelled by night, to avoid the inconvenience of the day sun upon the snow. "Leaving one of the men, I set out with the other at half-past nbie p.m.; the snow falling fast ; and although we had little or nothing to carry, the travelling was very fatiguing as we crossed Baker Bay, we named in memory of a much valued friend,) at the North side of which we arrived after a walk of four miles. It now snowed so thick that we Could net see farther than fifty yards round us ; and we were consequently obliged to follow the wind- ings of the shore, which when we had traced it six miles beyond ItakerBayi turned sharp to the Eastward; but the weather continuing thick,1 could not see how far it preserved this trending. "After waiting here nearly an hour, the sky cleared up for a few minutes at fear a. in., which enabled me to discover that we were on the South Shbre.of 'a considerable bay, and,' could also obtain a distinct view of the coast line for nearly twelve miles be


"To the most distant visible point (latitude 69' 42' N., fongitude 85 8' West) I gave the name of Cape Ellice, after Edward Ellice, Is' q., M.P. one of the directors of the Company : the bay to the Northward, and the head- land on which we stood, were respectively named after the distinguished na- vigators Sir Edward Parry and Captain Crozier. Finding it hopeless to attempt reaching the strait of the Fury and Heels, from which Cape Ellice could not be more than ten miles 'distant, we took possession of our discoveries with the usual formalities, and retraced our steps, arriving at our encampment of' the previous day at half-past eight a. in."

The return to Fort Hope was distinguished by hardships, toils, and short commons, that would have been death to less hardy and accustomed explorers. From their wintering station the return to Fort Churchill was a coasting voyage, with peril from ice and water, but only things of course to the servants of the Hudson's Bay Company. ,

The indifference arising from habitual danger and privation, coupled, as is often the case in men of action., with a=plain brief style, diminishes to common readers the real merit of the explorers, and the sense of the risks they run, the hardships. they endured, and the difficulties they overcame. It was suspected they might have to winter; and. it was known that fuel would be a great want, front the scarcity of wood. Oil therefore was sought, and bought from the Esquimaux ; while alcohol was carried with them as a last resource. Yet, in spite of all exertions in collecting heather, drift-wood, and oil, fire was only used for the purposes of cooking, and that at last but once a slay. In the deep winter they had to take their clothes to bed to dry them ; as the winter was passing away and fuel getting still scarcer, they took snow in bladders to bed, in order to melt it by the warmth of their bodies.

• Narrative of anxpedition to the Shores of the Arctic Sea, in 1846 and 1847. By John Rae, Hudson's Bay.Company's Service, Commander of the Expedition. Pub- lished by Boone.

Yet amid cold, darkness, and short commons, they not only bore up, but were cheerful and even gay ; to be frozen in bed being, by some peculiarity of Arctic humour, considered a joke. These are some samples of comfort at Fort Hope.

" The thermometer in-doors varied from 29' to 40° below the freezing-point ; which would not have been unpleasant where there was a fire to warm the hands and feet, or even room to move about; but where there was neither the one nor the other, some few degrees more heat would have been prefer- able.

"As we could not go for water we were forced to thaw snow, and take only one meal each day. My waistcoat after a week's wearing became so stiff from the condensation and freezing of my breath upon it, that I had much trouble to get it buttoned. •

"One cause of discomfort to me was the great quantity of tobacco smoke in our low and confined home; it being sometimes so thick that no object could be seen at a couple of yards' distance. The whole party, with the ex- ception of myself, were most inveterate smokers: indeed it was impossible to be awake for ten minutes during the night without hearing the sound of the flint and steel striking a light. Of course I might to a great extent have put a step to this ; but the poor fellows appeared to receive so much comfort from the use of the pipe, that it would have been cruelty to do so for the sake of

saving myself a trifling inconvenience. * *. *

"On. the 7th (February) a man mamed Ak-kee-ou-lik, who had promised us four zeal-skins of oil, arrived and said that he could only let us have one, because the bears had broken into his 'cache' and devoured nearly all its contents. This story I did not believe at the time, and I afterwards found out that it was false. I felt a good deal annoyed at the man's not keeping his promise, because we had depended much upon this supply for fuel and light. To -save the former, we had during part of last month taken only one meal a day, and discontinued the comfort of a cup of tea with our evening repast. Of oil our stock was so small that we had been forced to keep early and late hours--namely, lying occasionally fourteen hours in bed, as we found that to sit up in a house in which the temperature was sonic degrees below zero, without either light or fire, was not very pleasant. Fortunately we all enjoyed excellent health ; and-our few discomforts, instead of causing discontent, fur- nished us with subjects of merriment. For instance, Hutchison about this time had his knee frozen in bed; and I believe the poor fellow (who, by-the- by, was the softest of the party) was afterwards very sorry for letting it be known, as he got so heartily laughed at for his effeminacy."

This volume, like the enmining's Sporting Adventures in South Africa, strongly impresses the fact of what men with good con- stitutions may be trained to, and enables us to realize the alleged effects of Spartan habits and ancient military discipline. Had men unaccustomed to work and privation been subjected to the common exposure of everyday travel in these regions, they would have died from the effects, if not immediately. The most expert forager, the best sportsman, the hardiest labourer of Eu- rope, left to himself in the most favourable parts of these Arctic countries' would be starved by hunger or destroyed by cold in a very short time. Mr. B.ae and his followers rubbed on, and really with comfort such as the case admitted. At certain times life is pretty teeming in those dreary wastes. Deer, wild-fowl, fish, seals, and occasionally a bear, can be obtained by those who have skill and endurance and the forethought to store provisions in the brief season of comparative plenty. Terrible as is the cold even in the nights of spring or late summer, a snow-house, rapidly run up, makes the wanderer snug and comfortable. Even in the depth of winter, the native to the manner born, and, no doubt, the European if he does not lose his head as well as his way can manage tolerably. "On the 18th (januallim°u1*

buck had gone out to hunt, and did net re-

turn till the 25th, after d given up all hopes of ever seeing him again in life. It appeared that he had visited the Esqiumaux at Christie Lake for the purpose of speaking to them about not having kept their promise regarding some oil that they said they would bring to us, and which they had omitted to do. He had been caught by the storm of the 18th before he reached his friends, and was obliged to build a snow-hut, in which he passed the night comfortably enough. On the following morning, when it cleared up a little, he found that he was not more than two hundred yards from his des- tination, which the thickness of the weather on the previous day had pre- vented him from seeing."

On their jourmes, the snow-house was the regular thing, as much so as a tent to soldiers ; and it was followed by such a meal as they had the means for.

"Our usual mode of preparing lodgings for the night was as follows. As soon as we had selected a spot for our snow-house, our Esquimaux, assisted by one or more of the men, commenced cutting out blocks of snow. When a sufficient number of these had been raised, the builder commenced his work, his assistants supplying him with the material. A good roomy dwell- was thus raised in an hour, if the snow was in a good state for building. Whilst our principal mason was thus occupied, another of the party was busy erecting a kitchen ; which, although our cooking was none of the most delicate or extensive, was still a necessary addition to our establishment, had it been only to thaw snow. As soon as the snow hut was completed, our sledges were unloaded, and everything eatable (including parchment-skin and moose-skin shoes, which had now become favourite articles with the dogs) taken inside. Our bed was next made, and by the time the snow was thawed or the water boiled, as the case aught be, we were all ready for supper. When we used alcohol for fuel, as we usually did in stormy wea- ther, no kitchen was required,

• * * •

"We had not advanced many miles farther when some deer were noticed at no great distance, feeding an the banks of a stream. Being desirous of procuring some venison if possible, I sent Corrigal (who with other good qualities was a very fair shot) after them, and he was fortunate enough to shoot a fine buck ; but the buck, though wounded, could still run too fast to bcovertaken ; and the sportsman was just about to give up the chase when I joined him, 'and we continued the pursuit together. The deer, having got a considerable way in alliance had lain, down,. but rose up before we could get good shooting diataiice, and was trotting off at a great pace, when, way of giving him a parting salute, I fired, and very luckily sent a ball ugh his head, which drop him. His horns were already about a foot long, and' the venison was in e order for the season of the year. "I immediately returned.to the 'men, who had been busily employed col- lecting fuel,. of wineb.,great quantities grew along the borders of the creek, and sent two of them to assist in skinning and cutting up the deer, whilst I and the Other Men continued to gather heather, as we now anticipated great doings in the kitchen. We placed the greater part of our venison en cache,' but kept the head, blood, leg-bones, &e. for present use; and being deter- mined to lose nothing, the stomach was partially cleaned by rubbing it with snow, and then cut up and boiled ; which thus made a very pleasant soup, there being enough of the vegetable contents of the paunch to give it a fine green colour,—although I must confess that, to my taste, this did met add to the flavour. Having discussed this mess, a second kettleful wife pre composed of the blood, brains, and some scraps of the meat ihielicomple our supper. "it is well known that both Esquimaux and Indians are very fond of the contents of the paunch of the rein-deer, particularly in the spring, when the vegetable substances on which the animal feeds are said to be sweeter tasted. I have often seen our hunter Nibitabo, when he had shot a deer, cut open the stomach, and sup the contents with as much relish as a London alder- man would a plate of turtle-soup."

To manage to live in this way, a knowledge of the habits of animals is required ; and some of the most generally interesting bits in the volume are those which relate to natural history. Here is a beaten wolf.

"There were two wolves wounded by Ouligbuck's gun last night, one of which he caught before breakfast. I went with him after the other in the forenoon, and got sight of him about three miles from the house. Although his shoulder was fractured, he gave us a long race before we ran him down ; but at last we saw that he had begun to eat snow,a sure sign that he was getting fagged. When I came up with him, so tired was he that I was obliged to drive him on with the butt of my gun, in order to get hitt nearer home before knocking him on the head. At last we were unable to make him move on by any means we could employ. Ferocity and cowardice often if not always go together. How different was the behaviour of this savage brute from that of the usually timid deer under similar circumstances I The wolf crouched down and would not even look at us, pull him about and use him as we might ; whereas I never saw a deer that &I not attempt to defend itself when brought to bay, however severely wounded it might be."

The owl in these regions does not display his proverbial wisdom.

"Au excellent plan of shooting these birds, and one that I have often suc- cessfully practised, is to roll up a bit of fur or cloth about the shape and size of a mouse, and rad it after you with a line twenty yards long. The owl will soon perceive the decoy, although half-a-mile distant and after moving his head backwards and forwards as if to make sure of his object, he takes wing, and, making a short sweep in the rear of his intended prey, pounces upon and seizes it in his claws, affording the sportsman a fine opportunity of knocking him down. I have sometimes missed my aim, leaving the owl to fly away with the false mouse (which the sudden jerk had torn from the line) in his claws. The Indians, taking advantage of this bird's propensity to alight on elevated spots, set up pieces of wood in the plains or marshes with a trap fastened to the top. In this way I have known as many as fifty killed in the early part of winter by one Indian. The owl is very daring when hungry. I remember seeing one of these powerful birds fix its claws in a lapdog when a few yards distant from the owner, and only let go his gripe after a gun was fired. The poor little dog died of its wounds in a few days."

These extracts will give an idea of the manner of the volume ; which is plain and brief, deriving its interest from the narrative of the explorations, the nature of the adventures and the fresh- ness of the field, rather than from anything remarkable in the style of narration.