The Baldwin Library
rI I .
"Mrs Barnett discharged the contents," &c.-Page 147.
THE FUR COUNTRY
SEVENTY DEGREES NORTH LATITUDE
TRANSLATED FROM THE FRENCH OF JULES VERNE
WITH ILLUSTRA TIONS
SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE, & RIVINGTON
CROWN BUILDINGS, 188 FLEET STREET
[All rights reserved]
BALLANTYNE, HANSON AND CO.
EDINBURGH AND LONDON
I. A SOIREE AT FORT RELIANCE,
II. THE HUDSON'S BAY FUR COMPANY, .
II A SAVANT THAWED,
IV. A FACTORY, .
V. FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE,
VL A WAPITI DUEL,
VII. THE ARCTIC CIRCLE,
V:It. THE GREAT BEAR LAKE,
IX. A STORM ON THE LAKE,
X. A RETROSPECT, .
XI. ALONG THE COAST, .
XII. THE MIDNIGHT SUN,
XIII. FORT HOPE,
XIV. SOME EXCURSIONS, .
XV. FIFTEEN MILES FROM CAPE BATHURST,
XVI. TWO SHOTS,
XVII. THE APPROACH OF WINTER,
XVIII. THE POLAR NIGHT, .
XIX. A NEIGHBOURLY VISIT,
XX. MERCURY FREEZES,
XXI. THE LARGE POLAR BEARS,
XXII FIVE MONTHS MORE, .
XXIII. THE ECLIPSE OF THE 18TH JUNE 1800,
- p .
, < s .
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
"Mrs. Barnett discharged the contents," &c.,
Lieutenant Hobson and Sergeant Long,
A savant thawed,
" Lieutenant Hobson and the Sergeant led tie way,"
A wapiti duel, .
"Hobson uttered a last despairing cry !"
A hunting party,
" A new country was springing into being,"
" The body was hauled up," &c.,
" The bears were walking about on the roof,"
" The ice burst," &c., .
THE FUR COUNTRY.
A SOIREE AT FORT RELIANCE.
N the evening of the 17th March 1859, Captain Craventy gave
a fete at Fort Reliance. Our readers must not at once
imagine a grand entertainment, such as a court ball, or a
musical soiree with a fine orchestra. Captain Craventy's reception
was a very simple affair, yet he had spared no pains to give it
In fact, under the auspices of Corporal Joliffe, the large room on
the ground-floor was completely transformed. The rough walls,
constructed of roughly-hewn trunks of trees piled up horizontally,
were still visible, it 'is true, but their nakedness was disguised by
arms and armour, borrowed from the arsenal of the fort, and by an
English tent at each corner of the room. Two lamps suspended
by chains, like chandeliers, and provided with tin reflectors, relieved
the gloomy appearance of the blackened beams of the. ceiling, and
sufficiently illuminated the misty atmosphere of the room. The
narrow windows, some of them mere loop-holes, were so encrusted
with hoar-frost, that it was impossible to look through them; but
two or three pieces of red bunting, tastily arranged about them,
challenged the admiration of all who entered. The floor, of rough
joists of wood laid parallel with each other, had been carefully
swept by Corporal Joliffe. No sofas, chairs, or other modern furni-
ture, impeded the free circulation of the guests. Wooden benches
half fixed against the walls, huge blocks of wood cut with the axe,
and two tables with clumsy legs, were all the appliances of luxury
the saloon could boast of. But the partition wall, with a narrow
door leading into the next room, was decorated in a style alike
THE FUR COUNTRY.
costly and picturesque. From the beams hung magnificent furs
admirably arranged, the equal of which could not be seen in the
more favoured regions of Regent Street or the Perspective-Newski.
It seemed as if the whole fauna of the ice-bound North were here
represented by their finest skins. The eye wandered from the furs
of wolves, grey bears, polar bears, otters, wolverenes, beavers, musk
rats, water pole-cats, ermines, and silver foxes; and above this
display was an inscription in brilliantly-coloured and artistically-
shaped cardboard-the motto of the world-famous Hudson's Bay
"Really, Corporal Joliffe, you have surpassed yourself!" said
Captain Craventy to his subordinate.
"I think I have, I think I have !" replied the Corporal; "but
honour to whom honour is due, Mrs Joliffe deserves part of your
commendation; she assisted me in everything."
A wonderful woman, Corporal."
"Her equal is not to be found, Captain."
An immense brick and earthenware stove occupied the centre of
the room, with a huge iron pipe passing from it through the ceiling,
and conducting the dense black smoke into the outer air. This
stove contained a roaring fire constantly fed with fresh shovelfuls
of coal by the stoker, an old soldier specially appointed to the ser-
vice. Now and then a gust of wind drove back a volume of smoke
into the room, dimming the brightness of the lamps, and adding
fresh blackness to the beams of the ceiling, whilst tongues of flame
shot forth from the stove. But the guests of Fort Reliance thought
little of this slight inconvenience; the stove warmed them, and they
could not pay too dearly for its cheering heat, so terribly cold was
it outside in the cutting north wind.
The storm could be heard raging without, the snow fell fast, be-
coming rapidly solid and coating the already frosted window panes
with fresh ice. The whistling wind made its way through the
cranks and chinks of the doors and windows, and occasionally the
rattling noise drowned every other sound. Presently an awful
silence ensued. Nature seemed to be taking breath; but suddenly
the squall recommended with terrific fury, The house was shaken
to its foundations, the planks cracked, the beams groaned. A
stranger less accustomed than the habitues of the fort to the war of
the elements, would have asked if the end of the world were come.
A SOIREE AT FORT RELIANCE. 3
But, with two exceptions, Captain Craventy's guests troubled
themselves little about the weather, and if they had been outside
they would have felt no more fear than the stormy petrels disport-
ing themselves in the midst of the tempest. Two only of the
assembled company did not belong to the ordinary society of the
neighbourhood, two women, whom we shall introduce when we
have enumerated Captain Craventy's other guests: these were,
Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson, Sergeant Long, Corporal Joliffe, and his
bright active Canadian wife, a certain Mac-Nab and his wife, both
Scotch, John Rae, married to an Indian woman of the country, and
some sixty soldiers or employes of the Hudson's Bay Company.
The neighboring forts also furnished their contingent of guests, for
in these remote lands people look upon each other as'neighbours
although their homes may be a hundred miles apart. A good many
employs or traders came from Fort Providence or Fort Resolution,
of the Great Slave Lake district, and even from Fort Chippeway
and Fort Liard further south. A rare break like this in the
monotony of their secluded lives, in these hyberborean regions,
was joyfully welcomed by all the exiles, and even a few Indian
chiefs, about a dozen, had accepted Captain Craventy's invi-
tation. They were not, however, accompanied by their wives,
the' luckless squaws being still looked upon as little better than
slaves. The presence of these natives is accounted for by the fact
that.they are in constant intercourse with the traders, and supply
the greater number of furs which pass through the hands of the
Hudson's Bay Company, in exchange for other commodities. They
are mostly Chippeway Indians, well grown men with hardy con-
stitutions. Their complexions are of the" peculiar reddish black
colour always ascribed in Europe to the evil spirits of fairyland.
They wear very picturesque cloaks of skins and mantles of fur, with
a head-dress of eagle's feathers spread out like a lady's- fan, and
quivering with every motion of their thick black hair.
Such was the company to whom the Captain was doing the
honours of Fort Reliance. There was no dancing for want of
music, but the "buffet" admirably supplied the want of the hired
musicians of the European balls. On the table rose a pyramidal
pudding made by Mrs Joliffe's own hands; it was an immense
truncated cone, composed of flour, fat, rein-deer venison, and musk
beef. The eggs, milk, and citron prescribed in recipe books were,
it is true, wanting, but their absence was atoned for by its huge
4 THE FUR COUNTRY.
proportions. Mrs Joliffe served out slice after slice with liberal
hands, yet there remained enough and to spare. Piles of sandwiches
also figured on the table, in which ship biscuits took the place of
thin slices of English bread and butter, and dainty morsels of corned
beef that of the ham and stuffed veal of the old world. The
sharp teeth of the Chippeway Indians made short work of the
tough biscuits; and for drink there was plenty of whisky and gin
handed round in little pewter pots, not to speak of a great bowl of
punch which was to close the entertainment, and of which the
Indians talked long afterwards in their wigwams.
Endless were the compliments paid to the Joliffes that evening,
but they deserved them; how zealously they waited on the guests,
with what easy grace they distributed the refreshments They
did not need prompting, they anticipated the wishes of each one.
The sandwiches were succeeded by slices of the inexhaustible
pudding, the pudding by glasses of gin or whisky.
"No, thank you, Mr Joliffe."
"You are too good, Corporal; but let me have time to breathe."
"Mrs Joliffe, I assure you, I can eat no more."
"Corporal Joliffe, I am at your mercy."
"No more, Mrs Joliffe, no more, thank you!"
Such were the replies met with on every side by the zealous pair,
but their powers of persuasion were such that the most reluctant
yielded in the end. The quantities of food and drink consumed
were really enormous. The hubbub of conversation increased. The
soldiers and employs became excited. Here the talk was of hunt-
ing, there of trade. What plans were laid for next season! The
entire fauna of the Arctic regions would scarcely supply game
enough for these enterprising hunters. They already saw bears,
foxes, and musk oxen, falling beneath their bullets, and pole-cats by
hundreds caught in their traps. Their imagination pictured the
costly furs piled up in the magazines of the Company, which was
this year to realise hitherto unheard of profits. And whilst the
spirits thus freely circulated inflamed the imagination of the
Europeans, the large doses of Captain Craventy's "fire-water"
imbibed by the Indians had an opposite effect. Too proud to show
admiration, too cautious to make promises, the taciturn chiefs
listened gravely and silently to the babel of voices around them.
The captain enjoying the hurly burly, and pleased to see the
poor people, brought back as it were to the civilised world, enjoying
LIEUTENANT HOBSON AND SERGEANT LONG.-Pae 5..
A SOIREE AT FORT RELIANCE. $
themselves so thoroughly, was here, there, and everywhere, answer-
ing all inquiries about the fete with the words-
"Ask Joliffe, ask Joliffe!"
And they asked Joliffe, who had a gracious word for every-
Some of those employed in the garrison and civil service of
Fort Reliance must here receive a few words of special notice, for
they were presently to go through experiences of a most terrible
nature, which no human perspicacity could possibly have foreseen.
Amongst others we must name Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson, Ser-
geant Long, Corporal and Mrs Joliffe, and the two foreign women
already alluded to, in whose honour Captain Craventy's fete was
Jaspar Hobson was a man of forty years of age. He was short
and slight, with little muscular power; but a force of will which
carried him successfully through all trials, and enabled him to rise
superior to adverse circumstances. He was a child of the Com-
pany." His father, Major Hobson, an Irishman front Dublin, who
had now been dead for some time, lived for many years at Fort
Assiniboin with his wife. T.iere Jaspar Hobson was born. His
childhood and youth were spent at the foot of the Rocky Moun-
tains. His father brought him up strictly, and he became a mar
in self-control and courage whilst yet a boy in years. Jaspat
Hobson was no mere hunter, but a soldier, a brave and intelligent
officer. During the struggles in Oregon of.the Hudson's Bay Com-
pany with the rival companies of the Union, he distinguished himself
by his zeal and intrepidity, and rapidly rose to the rank of lieutenant.
His well-known merit led to his appointment to the command of an
expedition to the north, the aim of which was to explore the northern
shores of the Great Bear Lake, and to found a fort on the confines
of the American continent. Jaspar Hobson was to set out on his
journey early in April.
If the lieutenant was the type of a good officer, Sergeant Long
was that of a good soldier. He was a man of fifty years of age, with
,a rough beard that looked as if it were made of cocoa-nut fibre.
Constitutionally brave, and disposed to obey rather than to com-
nmand, he had no ambition but to obey the orders he received-
never questioning them, however strange they might appear, never
reasoning for himself when on duty for the Company-a true machine
in uniform.; but a perfect machine, never wearing out; ever on the
THE FUR COUNTRY.
march, yet never showing signs of fatigue. Perhaps Sergeant Long
was rather hard upon his men, as he was upon himself. He would
not tolerate the slightest infraction of discipline, and mercilessly
ordered men into confinement for the slightest neglect, whilst he
himself had never been reprimanded. In a word, he was a man
born to obey, and this self-annihilation suited his passive tempera-
ment. Men such as he are the materials of which a formidable
army is formed. They are the arms of the service, obeying a
single head. Is not this. the only really powerful organisation
The two types of fabulous mythology, Briareus with a hundred
arms and Hydra with a hundred heads, well represent the two
kinds of armies; and in a conflict between them, which would be
victorious? Briareus without a doubt!
We have already made acquaintance with Corporal Joliffe. He
was the busy bee of the party, but it was pleasant to hear him hum-
ming. He would have made a better major-domo than a soldier;
and he was himself aware of this. So he called himself the Cor-
poral in charge of details," but he would have lost himself a
hundred times amongst these details, had not little Mrs Joliffe
guided him with a firm hand. So it came to pass, that Corporal
Joliffe obeyed his wife without owning it, doubtless thinking to
himself, like the philosopher Sancho, a woman's advice is no such
great thing, but he must be a fool who does not listen to it."
It is now time to say a few words of the two foreign women already
alluded to more than once. They were both about forty years
old, and one of them well deserved to take first rank amongst cele-
brated female travellers. The name of Paulina Barnett, the rival
of the Pfeiffers, Tinnis, and Haimaires of Hull, has been several times
honourably mentioned at the meetings of the Royal Geographical
Society. In her journeys up the Brahmaputra, as far as the
mountains of Thibet, across an unknown corner of New Holland,
from Swan Bay to the Gulf of Carpentaria, Paulina Barnett had
given proof of the qualities of a great traveller. She had been a
widow for fifteen years, and her passion for travelling led her con-
stantly to explore new lands. She was tall, and her face, framed
in long braids of hair, already touched with white, was full of
energy. She was near-sighted, and a double eye-glass rested upon
her long straight nose, with its mobile nostrils. We must confess
that her walk was somewhat masculine, and her whole appearance
-as suggestive of moral power, rather than of female grace. She
A SOIR/ E AT FORT RELIANCE. 7
was an Englishwoman from Yorkshire, possessed of some fortune,
the greater part of which was expended in adventurous expeditions,
and some new scheme of exploration had now brought her to Fort
Reliance. Having crossed the equinoctial regions, she was doubt-
less anxious to penetrate to the extreme limits of the hyperborean.
Her presence at the fort was an event. The governor of the
Company had given her a special letter of recommendation to
Captain Craventy, according to which the latter was to do all in his
power to forward the design of the celebrated traveller to reach the
borders of the Arctic Ocean. A grand enterprise To follow in
the steps of Hearne, Mackenzie, Rae, Franklin, and others. What
fatigues, what trials, what dangers would have to be gone through
in the conflict with the terrible elements of the Polar climate I How
could a woman dare to venture where so many explorers have drawn
back or perished But the stranger now shut up in Fort Reliance
was no ordinary woman; she was Paulina Barnett, a laureate of the
We must add that the celebrated traveller was accompanied by
a servant named Madge. This faithful creature was not merely a
servant, but a devoted and courageous friend, who lived only for
her mistress. A Scotchwoman of the old type, whom a Caleb
might have married without loss of dignity. Madge was about five
years older than Mrs Barnett, and was tall and strongly built. The
two were on the most intimate terms; Paulina looked upon Madge as
an elder sister, and Madge treated Paulina as her daughter.
It was in honour of Paulina Barnett that Captain Craventy was
this evening treating his employs and the Chippeway Indians. In
fact, the lady traveller was to join the expedition of Jaspar Hobson
for the exploration of the north. It was for Paulina Barnett that
the large saloon of the factory resounded with joyful hurrahs. And
it was no wonder that the stove consumed a hundredweight of coal
on this memorable evening, for the cold outside was twenty-four
degrees Fahrenheit below zero, and Fort Reliance is situated in
61 47' N. Lat., at least four degrees from the Polar circle.
THE HUDSON'S BAY FUR COMPANY.
APTAIN Craventy l "
"Mrs Barnett I"
VP s" What do you think of your Lieutenant, Jaspal
I think he is an officer who will go far."
What do you mean by the words, Will go far ? Do you mean
that he will go beyond the Twenty-fourth parallel "
Captain Craventy could not help smiling at Mrs Paulina Barnett's
question. They were talking together near the stove, whilst the
guests were passing backwards and forwards between the eating
and drinking tables.
Madam," replied the Captain, all that a man can do, will be
done by Jaspar Hobson. The Company has charged him to explore
the north of their possessions, and to establish a factory as near as
possible to the confines of the American continent, and he will
"That is a great responsibility for Lieutenant Hobson !" said
"It is, madam, but Jaspar Hobson has never yet drawn back
from a task imposed upon him, however formidable it may have
"I can quite believe it, Captain," replied Mrs Barnett, "and we
shall now see the Lieutenant at work. But what induces the Com-
pany to construct a fort on the shores of the Arctic Ocean "
"They have a powerful motive, madam," replied the Captain.
"I may add a double motive. At no very distant date, Russia will
probably cede her American possessions to the Government of the
United States.1 When this cession has taken place, the Company
will find access to the Pacific Ocean extremely difficult, unless the
North-west passage discovered by M'Clure be practicable. Fresh
1 Captain Craventy's prophecy has since been realized.
THE HUDSON'S BAY FUR COMPANY. 9
explorations will decide this, for the Admiralty is about to send a
vessel which will coast along the North American continent, from
Bearing Strait to Coronation Gulf, on the eastern side of which the
new fort is to be established. If the enterprise succeed, this point
will become an important factory, the centre of the northern fur
trade. The transport of furs across the Indian territories involves
a vast expenditure of time and money, whereas, if the new route be
available, steamers will take them from the new fort to the Pacific
Ocean in a few days."
That would indeed be an important result of the enterprise, if
this North-west passage can really be used," replied Mrs Paulina
Barnett; but I think you spoke of a double motive."
I did, madam," said the Captain, and I alluded to a matter of
vital interest to the Company. But I must beg of you to allow me
to explain to you in a few words how the present state of things
came about, how it is in fact that the very source of the trade of
this once flourishing Company is in danger of destruction."
The Captain then proceeded to give a brief sketch of the history
of the famous Hudson's Bay Company.
In the earliest times men employed the skins and furs of animals
as clothing. The fur trade is therefore of very great antiquity.
Luxury in dress increased to such an extent, that sumptuary laws
were enacted to control too great extravagance, especially in furs, for
which there was a positive passion. Yair and the furs of Siberian
squirrels were prohibited at the middle of the 12th century.
In 1553 Russia founded several establishments in the northern
steppes, and England lost no time in following her example. The
trade in sables, ermines, and beavers, was carried on through the
agency of the Samoiedes; but during the reign of Elizabeth, a royal
decree restricted the use of costly furs to such an extent, that for
several years this branch of industry was completely paralysed.
On the 2nd May, 1670, a licence to trade in furs in the Hudson's
Bay Territory was granted to the Company, which numbered several
men of high rank amongst its shareholders : the Duke of York, the
Duke of Albemarle, the Earl of Shaftesbury, &c. Its capital was
then only 8420. Private companies were formidable rivals to its
success; and French agents, making Canada their headquarters,
ventured on hazardous but most lucrative expeditions. The active
competition of these bold hunters threatened the very existence of
1O THA FUR COUNTRY.
The conquest of Canada, however, somewhat lessened the danger
of its position. Three years after the taking of Quebec, 1776, the
fur trade received a new impulse. English traders became familiar
with the difficulties of trade of this kind; they learned the
customs of the country, the ways of the Indians and their system
of exchange of goods, but for all this the Company as yet made no
profits whatever. Moreover, towards 1784 some merchants of
Montreal combined to explore the fur country, and founded that
powerful North-west Company, which soon became the centre of the
fur trade. In 1798 the new Company shipped furs to the value of
no less than 120,000, and the existence of the Hudson's Bay
Company was again threatened.
We must add, that the North-west Company shrank from no act,
however iniquitous, if its interests were at stake. Its agents
imposed on their own employs, speculated on the misery of the
Indians, robbed them when they had themselves made them drunk,
setting'at defiance the Act of Parliament forbidding 'he sale of
spirituous liquors' on Indian territory; and consequently realising
immense profits, in spite of the competition of the various Russran
and American companies which had sprung up-the American Fur
Company amongst others, founded in 1809, with a capital of a
million of dollars, which was carryiltg on 6oerations on the west
of the Rocky Mountains.
The Hudson's Bay Company was probably in greater danger of
ruin than any other; but in 1821, after much discussion, a treaty was
made, in accordance with which its old rival the North-west Company
became amalgamated with it, the two receiving the common title of
"The Hudson's Bay Fur Company."
Now the only rival of this important association is the American
St Louis Fur Company. The Hudson's Bay Company has numerous
establishments scattered over a domain extending over 3,700,000
square miles. Its principal factories are situated on James Bay,
at the mouth of the Severn, in the south, and towards the frontiers
of Upper Canada, on Lakes Athapeskow, Winnipeg, Superior,
Methye, Buffalo, and near the Colombia, Mackenzie, Saskatchewan,
and Assiniboin rivers, &c. Fort York, commanding the course of
the river Nelson, is the headquarters of the Company, and contains
its principal fur dep6t. Moreover, in 1842 it took a lease of
all the Russian establishments in North America at an annual
rent of 40,000, so that it is now working on its own pcpolnt
THE HUDSON'S BAY FUR COMPANY.
the vast tracts of country between the Mississippi and the Pacific
Ocean. It has sent out intrepid explorers in every direction:
Hearne, towards the Polar Sea, in 1770, to the discovery of the Cop-
permine River; Franklin, in 1819 to 1822, along 5550 miles of the
American coast; Mackenzie, who, after having discovered the river
to which he gave his name, reached the shores of the Pacific at
52' 24' N. Lat. The following is a list of the quantities of skins
and furs despatched to Europe by the Hudson's Bay Company in
1833-34, which will give an exact idea of the extent of its trade :-
Skins and young Beavers, 92,288
Musk Rats, 694,092
Bears, .. 7,451
Swans, .. 7,918
Such figures ought to bring in a large profit to the Hudson's
Bay Company, but unfortunately they have not been maintained,
and for the last twenty years have been decreasing.
The cause of this decline was the subject of Captain Craventy's
explanation to Mrs Paulina Barnett.
"Until 1839, madam," said he, "the Company was in a flourish-
ing condition. In that year the number of furs exported was
2,350,000, but since then the trade has gradually declined, and
this number is now reduced by one-half at least."
"But what do you suppose is the cause of this extraordinary
decrease in the exportation of furs I" inquired Mrs Barnett.
"The depopulation of the hunting territories, caused by the
activity, and, I must add, the want of foresight of the hunters.
The game was trapped and killed without mercy. These massacres
were conducted in the most reckless and short-sighted fashion.
Even females with young and their little ones did not escape. The
,consequence is, that the animals whose fur is valuable have become
extremely rare. The otter has almost entirely disappeared, and is
12. THE FUR COUNTRY.
only to be found near the islands of the North Pacific. Small
colonies of beavers have taken refuge on the shores of the most dis-
tant rivers. It is the same with many other animals, compelled to
flee before the invasion of the hunters. The traps, once crowded
with game, are now empty. The price of skins is rising just when
a great demand exists for furs. Hunters have gone away in disgust,
leaving none but the most intrepid and indefatigable, who now
penetrate to the very confines of the American continent."
Yes," said Mrs Paulina Barnett, the fact of the fur-bearing
animals having taken refuge beyond the polar- circle, is a sufficient
explanation of the Company's motive in founding a factory on the
borders of the Arctic Ocean."
"Not only so, madam," replied the Captain, "the Company is also
compelled to seek a more northern centre of operations, for an Act
of Parliament has lately greatly reduced its domain."
"And the motive for this reduction I" inquired the traveller.
"A very important question of political economy was involved,
madam; one which could not fail greatly to interest the statesmen
of Great Britain. In a word, the interests of the Company and
those of civilisation are antagonistic. It is to the interest of the
Company to keep the territory belonging to it in a wild unculti-
vated condition. Every attempt at clearing ground was pitilessly
put a stop to, as it drove away the wild animals, so that the mono-
poly enjoyed by the Hudson's Bay Company was detrimental to
all agricultural enterprise. All questions not immediately relating
to their own particular trade, were relentlessly put aside by the
governors of the association. It was this despotic, and, in a certain
sense, immoral system, which provoked the measures taken by Par-
liament, and, in 1837, a commission appointed by the Colonial
Secretary decided that it was necessary to annex to Canada all the
territories suitable for cultivation, such as the Red River and Sas-
katchewan districts, and to leave to the Company only that portion
of its land which appeared to be incapable of future civilisation.
The next year the Company lost the western slopes of the Rocky
Mountains, which it held direct from the Colonial Office, and you
will now understand, madam, how the agents of the Company, hav-
ing lost their power over their old territories, are determined before
giving up their trade to try to work the little known countries of
the north, and so open a communication with the Pacific by means
of the North-west passage."
THE HUDSON'S BAY FUR COMPANY.
Mrs Paulina Barnett was now well informed as to the ulterior
projects of the celebrated Company. Captain Craventy had given
her a graphic sketch of the situation, and it is probable he would
have entered into further details, had not an incident cut short his
Corporal Joliffe announced in a loud voice that, with Mrs Joliffe's
assistance, he was about to mix the punch. This news was received
as it deserved. The bowl-or rather, the basin-was filled with
the precious liquid. It contained no less than ten pints of coarse
rum. Sugar, measured out by Mrs Joliffe, was piled up at the
bottom, and on the top.floated slices of lemon shrivelled with age.
Nothing remained to be done but to light this alcoholic lake, and
the Corporal, match in hand, awaited the order of his Captain, as if
he were about to spring a mine.
"All right, Joliffe!" at last said Captain Craventy.
The light was applied to the bowl, and in a moment the punch
was in flames, whilst the guests applauded and clapped their hands.
Ten minutes afterwards, full glasses of the delightful beverage were
circulating amongst the guests, fresh bidders for them coming for-
ward in endless succession, like speculators orL the Stock Exchange.
"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah I three cheers for Mrs Barnett! A
cheer for the Captain."
In the midst of these joyful shouts cries were heard from outside.
Silence immediately fell upon the company assembled.
"Sergeant Long," said the Captain, "go and see what is the
And at his chief's order, the Sergeant, leaving his glass unfinished,
left the room.
A SAVANT THA WED.
ERGEANT LONG hastened to the narrow passage from
which opened the outer door of the fort, and heard the
cries redoubled, and combined with violent blows on the
postern gate, surrounded by high walls, which gave access to the
court. The Sergeant pushed open the door, and plunging into the
snow, already a foot deep; he waded through it, although half-
blinded by the cutting sleet, and nipped by the terrible cold.
"What the devil does any one want at this time of night?"
exclaimed the Sergeant to himself, as he mechanically removed the
heavy bars of the gate ; "none but Esquimaux would dare to brave
such a temperature as this "
"Open open open !" they shouted from without.
"I am opening," replied Sergeant Long, who really seemed to be
a long time about it.
At last the door swung open, and the Sergeant was almost upset
by a sledge, drawn by six dogs, which dashed past him like a flash
of lightning. Worthy Sergeant Long only just escaped being crushed,
but he got up without a murmur, closed the gate, and returned to
the house at his ordinary pace, that is to say, at the rate of seventy-
five strides a minute.
But Captain Craventy, Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson, and Corporal
Joliffe were already outside, braving the intense cold, and staring
at the sledge, white with snow, which had just drawn up in front
A man completely enveloped in furs now descended from it.
"Fort Reliance 2" he inquired.
"The same," replied the Captain.
"Captain Craventy "
"Behold him I Who are you 2"
"A courier of the Company."
Are you alone "
A SAVANT THAWED.-Page 15.
A SAVANT THAWED. 15
"No, I bring a traveller."
A traveller And what does he want ?"
"He is come to see the moon."
At this reply, Captain Craventy said to himself the man must be
a fool But there was no time to announce this opinion, for the
courier had taken an inert mass from the sledge, a kind of bag
covered with snow, and was about to carry it into the house, when
the Captain inquired-
What is that bag?"
It is my traveller," replied the courier.
"Who is this traveller "
"The astronomer, Thomas Black."
"But he is frozen."
"Well, he must be thawed."
Thomas Black, carried by the Sergeant, the Corporal,' and the
courier, now made his entrance into the house of the fort, and was
taken to a room on the first floor, the temperature of which was
bearable, thanks to a glowing stove. He was laid upon a bed, and
the Captain took his hand.
It was literally frozen. The wrappers and furred mantles, in
which Thomas Black was rolled up like a parcel requiring care, were
removed, and revealed a man of about fifty. He was short and
stout, his hair was already touched with grey, his beard was un-
trimmed, his eyes were closed, and his lips pressed together as if
glued to one another. If he breathed at all, it was so slightly that
the frost-work on the windows would not have been affected by it.
Joliffe undressed him, and turned him rapidly on to his face and
back again, with the words-
"Come, come, sir, when do you mean to return to conscious-
But the visitor who had arrived in so strange a manner showed
no signs of returning life, and Corporal Joliffe could think of no
better means to restore the lost vital heat than to give him a bath
in the bowl of hot punch.
Very happily for Thomas Black, however, Lieutenant Jaspar
Hobson had another idea.
"Snow, bring snow !" he cried.
There was plenty of it in the court of Fort Reliance;-and
whilst the Sergeant went to fetch the snow, Joliffe removed all
the astronomer's clothes. The body of the unfortunate man was
16 THE FUR COUNTRY.
covered with white frost-bitten patches. It was urgently neces-
sary to restore the circulation of the blood in the affected por-
tions. This result Jaspar Hobson hoped to obtain by vigorous
friction with the snow. We know that this is the means generally
employed in the polar countries to set going afresh the circulation
of the blood arrested by the intense cold, even as the rivers are
arrested in their courses by the icy touch of winter. Sergeant
Long soon returned, and he and Joliffe gave the new arrival such
a rubbing as he had probably never before received. It was no
soft and agreeable friction, but a vigorous shampooing most lustily
performed, more like the scratching of a curry-comb than the
caresses of a human hand.
And during the operation the loquacious Corporal continued to
exhort the unconscious traveller.
Come, come, sir. What do you mean by getting frozen like
this. Now, don't be so obstinate "
Probably it was obstinacy which kept Thomas Black from deign-
ing to show a sign of life. At the end of half an hour the rubbers
began to despair, and were about to discontinue their exhausting
efforts, when the poor man sighed several times.
He lives; he is coming to cried Jaspar Hobson.
After having warmed the outside of his body, Corporal Joliffe
hurried to do the same for the inside, and hastily fetched a few
glasses of the punch. The traveller really felt much revived by
them; the colour returned to his cheeks, expression to his eyes, and
words to his lips, so that Captain Craventy began to hope that he
should have an explanation from Thomas Black himself of his strange
arrival at the fort in such a terrible condition.
At last the traveller, well covered with wraps, rose on his elbow,
and said in a voice still faint-
"Fort Reliance I"
"The same," replied the Captain.
Captain Craventy "
"He is before you, and is happy to bid you welcome. But may
I inquire what brings you to Fort Reliance ?"
"He is come to see the moon," replied the courier, who evidently
thought this a happy answer.
It satisfied Thomas Black too, for he bent his head in assent and
Lieutenant Hobson "
A SA VANI THAWED. 17
I am here," replied the Lieutenant.
"You have not yet started "
Not yet, sir."
"Then," replied Thomas Black, "I have only to thank you, and
to go to sleep until to-morrow morning."
The Captain and his companions retired, leaving their strange
visitor to his repose. Half an hour later the f te was at an end, and
the guests had regained their respective homes, either in the different
rooms of the fort, or the scattered houses outside the enceinte.
The next day Thomas Black was rather better. His vigorous
constitution had thrown off the effects of the terrible chill he had
had. Any one else would have died from it; but he was not like
And now who was this astronomer ? Where did he come from?
Why had he undertaken this journey across the territories of the
Company in the depth of winter ? What did the courier's reply
signify 7--To see the moon The moon could be seen anywhere;
there was no need to come to the hyperborean regions to look
at it !
Such were the thoughts which passed through Captain Craventy's
mind. But the next day, after an hour's talk with his new guest,
he had learned all he wished to know.
Thomas Black was an astronomer attached to the Greenwich
Observatory, so brilliantly presided over by Professor Airy. lMr
Black was no theorist, but a sagacious and intelligent observer;
and in the twenty years during which he had devoted himself to
astronomy, he had rendered great services to the science of ourano-
graphy. In private life he was a simple nonentity; he existed only
for astronomy; he lived in the heavens, not upon the earth; and was
a true descendant of the witty La Fontaine's savant who fell into
a well. He could talk of nothing but stars and constellations. He
ought to have lived in a telescope. As an observer he had not his
rival; his patience was inexhaustible; he could watch for months for
a cosmical phenomenon. He had a specialty of his own, too; he
had studied luminous meteors and shooting stars, and his discoveries
in this branch of astronomical science were considerable. When-
ever minute observations or exact measurements and definitions
were required,"Thomas Black was chosen for the service; for his
clearness of sight was something remarkable. The power of obser,
ovation is not given to every one, and it will not therefore be surprise.
I8 THE FOR COUNTRY.
ing that the Greenwith astronomer should have been chosen for the
mission we are about to describe, which involved results so interest-
ing for selenographic science.
We know that during a total eclipse of the sun the moon is
surrounded by a luminous corona. But what is the origin of this
corona ? Is it a real substance ? or is it only an effect of the diffrac-
tion of the sun's rays near the moon? This is a question which
science has hitherto been unable to answer.
As early as 1706 this luminous halo was scientifically described.
The corona was minutely examined during the total eclipse of
1715 by Lonville and Halley, by Maraldi in 1724, by Antonio de'
Ulloa in 1778, and by Bonditch and Ferrer in 1806; but their
theories were so contradictory that no definite conclusion could be
arrived at. During the total eclipse of 1842, learned men of all
nations-Airy, Arago, Keytal, Langier, Mauvais, Otto, Struve, Petit,
Baily, &c.-endeavoured to solve the mystery of the origin of the
phenomenon; but in spite of all their efforts, "the disagreement,"
says Arago, of the observations taken in different places by skilful
astronomers of one and the same eclipse, have involved the question
in fresh obscurity, so that it is now impossible to come to any certain
conclusion as to the cause of the phenomenon." Since this was
written, other total eclipses have- been studied with no better
Yet the solution of the question is of such vast importance to
selenographic science that no price would be too great to pay for
it. A fresh opportunity was now about to occur to study the
much-discussed corona. A total eclipse of the sun-total, at least,
for the extreme north of America, for Spain and North Africa-
was to take place on July 18th, 1860. It was arranged between the
astronomers of different countries that simultaneous observations
should be taken at the various points of the zone where the eclipse
would be total. Thomas Black was chosen for the expedition to
North America, and was now much in the same situation as the
English astronomers who were transported to Norway and Sweden
on the occasion of the eclipse of 1851.
It will readily be imagined that Thomas Black seized with
avidity the opportunity offered him of studying this luminous halo.
He was also to examine into the nature of the red prominences
which appear on different parts of the edge of the terrestrial
satellite when the totality of the eclipse has commenced; and
A SAVANT THAWED. 19
should he be able satisfactorily to establish their origin, he would
be entitled to the applause of the learned men of all Europe.
Thomas Black eagerly prepared for his journey. He obtained
urgent letters of recommendation to the principal agents of the
Hudson's Bay Company. He ascertained that an expedition was
to go to the extreme north of the continent to found a new fort.
It was an opportunity not to be lost; so he set out, crossed the
Atlantic, landed at New York, traversed the lakes to the Red River
settlement, and pressed on from fort to fort in a sledge, under the
escort of a courier of the Company; in spite of the severity of the
winter, braving all the dangers of a journey across the Arctic
regions, and arriving at Fort Reliance on the 19th March in the
condition we have described.
Such was the explanation given by the astronomer to Captain
Craventy. He at once placed himself entirely at Mr Black's
service, but could not refrain from inquiring why he had been in
such a great hurry to arrive, when the eclipse was not to take place
until the following year, 1860
"But, Captain," replied the astronomer, "I heard that the Com-
pany was sending an expedition along the northern coast of America,
and I did not wish to miss the departure of Lieutenant Hobson."
Mr Black," replied the Captain, if the Lieutenant had already
started, I should have felt it my duty to accompany you myself to
the shores of the Polar Sea."
And with fresh assurances of his willingness to serve him, the
Captain again bade his new guest welcome to Fort Reliance.
NE of the largest of the lakes beyond the 61st parallel is that
called the Great Slave Lake; it is two hundred and fifty
?yI- miles long by fifty across, and is situated exactly at 61*
25' N. lat. and 114 W. long. The surrounding districts slope
down to it, and it completely fills a vast natural hollow. The
position of the lake in the very centre of the hunting districts,
once swarming with game, early attracted the attention of the
Company. Numerous streams either take their rise from it or
flow into it-the Mackenzie, the Athabasca, &c.; and several im-
portant forts have been constructed on its shores-Fort Providence
on the north, and Fort Resolution on the south. Fort Reliance is
situated on the north-east extremity, and is about three hundred
miles* om the Chesterfield inlet, a long narrow estuary formed by
the waters of Hudson's Bay.
The Great Slave Lake is dotted with little islands, the granite
and gneiss of which they are formed jutting up in several places.
Its northern banks are clothed with thick woods, shutting out the
barren frozen district beyond, not inaptly called the "Cursed
Land." The southern regions, on the other hand, are flat, without
a rise of any kind, and the soil is mostly calcareous. The large
ruminants of the polar districts-the buffaloes or bisons, the flesh
of which forms almost the only food of the Canadian and native
hunters-seldom go further north than the Great Slave Lake.
The trees on the northern shores of the lake form magnificent
forests. We need not be astonished at meeting with such fine vegeta-
tion in this remote district. The Great Slave Lake is not really
Sin a higher latitude than Stockholm or Christiania. We have only
to remember that the isothermal lines, or belts of equal heat, along
which heat is distributed in equal quantities, do not follow the
terrestrial parallels, and that with the same latitude, America is ever
so much colder than Europe. In April the streets of New York
are still white with snow, yet the latitude of New York is nearly
the same as that of the Azores. The nature of a country, its
position with regard to the oceans, and even the conformation of its
soil, all influence its climate.
In summer Fort Reliance was surrounded with masses of verdure,
refreshing to the sight after the long dreary winter. Timber was
plentiful in these forests, which consisted almost entirely of poplar,
pine, and birch. The islets on the lake produced very fine willows.
Game was abundant in the underwood, even during the bad season.
Further south the hunters from the fort successfully pursued
bisons, elks, and Canadian porcupines, the flesh of which is excellent.
The waters of the Slave Lake were full of fish; trout in them attained
to an immense size, their weight often exceeding forty pounds. Pikes,
voracious lobes, a sort of charr or grayling called blue fish," and
countless legions of tittamegs, the Coregonus of naturalists, disported
themselves in the water, so that the inhabitants of Fort Reliance
were well supplied with food. Nature provided for all their wants;
and clothed in the skins of foxes, martens, bears, and other Arctic
animals, they were able to brave the rigour of the winter.
The fort, properly so called, consisted of a wooden house with a
ground-floor and one upper storey. In it lived the commandant and
his officers. The barracks for the soldiers, the magazines of the
Company, and the offices where exchanges were made, surrounded
this house. A little chapel, which wanted nothing but a clergyman,
and a powder-magazine, completed the buildings of the settlement.
The whole was surrounded by palisades twenty-five feet high,
defended by a small bastion with a pointedroof at each of the four
corners of the parallelogram formed by the enceinte. The fort was
thus protected from surprise, a necessary precaution in the days
when the Indians, instead of being the purveyors of the Company,
fought for the independence of their native land, and when the
agents and soldiers of rival associations disputed the possession of
the rich fur country.
At that time the Hudson's Bay Company employed about a
million men on its territories. It held supreme authority over
them, an authority which could even inflict death. The governors
of the factories could regulate salaries, and arbitrarily fix the price of
provisions and furs; and as a result of this irresponsible power, they
often realized a profit of no less than three hundred per cent.
We shTall see from the following table, taken from the Voyage
22 THE FUR COUNTRY.
of Captain Robert Lade," on what terms exchanges were formerly
made with those Indians who have since become the best hunters
of the Company. Beavers' skins were then the currency employed
in buying and selling.
The Indians paid-
For one gun, 10 beavers' skins.
,, half a pound of powder, 1 ,,
,, four pounds of shot, 1 ,,
,, one axe, 1
,, six knives, 1
,one pound of glass beads, 1
,, one laced coat, 6
,one coat not laced, .
,, one laced female dress, 6
,one pound of tobacco, 1
,, one box of powder, 1
,, one comb and one looking-glass, 2
But a few years ago beaver-skins became so scarce that the cur-
rency had to be changed. Bison-furs are now the medium of trade.
When an Indian presents himself at the fort, the agents of the
Company give him as many pieces of wood as he brings skins, and
he exchanges these pieces of wood for manufactured articles on the
premises; and as the Company fix the price of the articles they buy
and sell, they cannot fail to realise large profits.
Such was the mode of proceeding in Fort Reliance and other
factories; so that Mrs Paulina Barnett was able to watch the work-
ing of the system during her stay, which extended until -the 16th
April. Many a long talk did she have with Lieutenant Hobson,
many were the projects they formed, and firmly were they both
determined to allow no obstacle to check their advance. As for
Thomas Black, he never opened his lips except when his own special
mission was discussed. He was wrapped up in the subject of the
luminous corona and red prominences of the moon; he lived but to
solve the problem, and in the end made Mrs Paulina Barnett nearly
as enthusiastic as himself. How eager the two were to cross the
Arctic Circle, and how far off the 18th July 1860 appeared to
both, but especially to the impatient Greenwich astronomer, can
easily be imagined.
The preparations for departure could not be commenced until the
middle of March, and a month passed before they were completed.
In fact, it was a formidable undertaking to organise such an ex-
A AtCTORY. 23
petition for crossing the Polar regions. Everything had to be taken
with them-food, clothes, tools, arms, ammunition, and a nonde-
script collection of various requisites.
The troops, under the command of Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson,
were one chief and two subordinate officers, with ten soldiers, three
of whom took their wives with them. They were all picked men,
Chosen by Captain Craventy on account'of their energy and resolution.
We append a list of the whole party:-
1. Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson. 11. Sabine, soldier.
2. Sergeant Long. 12. Hope, do.
8. Corporal Joliffe. 13. Kellet, do.
4. Petersen, soldier. 14. Mrs Rae.
5. Belcher, do. 15. Mrs Joliffe.
6. Rae, do. 16. Mrs Mac-Nab.
7. Marbre, do. 17. Mrs Paulina Barnett.
8. Garry, do. 18. Madge.
9. Pond, do. 19. Thomas Black.
10. Mac-Nab, do.
In all, nineteen persons to be transported several hundreds of miles
through a desert and imperfectly-known country.
With this project in view, however, the Company had collected
everything necessary for the expedition. A dozen sledges, with
their teams of dogs, were in readiness. These primitive vehicles
consisted of 'strong but light planks joined together by transverse
bands. A piece of curved wood, turning up at the end like a skate,
was fixed beneath the sledge, enabling it to cleave the snow without
sinking deeply into it. Six swift and intelligent dogs, yoked two
and two; and controlled by the long thong brandished by the driver,
drew the sledges, and could go at a rate of fifteen miles an
The wardrobe of the travellers consisted of garments made of
reindeer-skins, lined throughout with thick furs. All wore linen
next the skin as a protection against the sudden changes of tempera-
ture frequent in these latitudes. Each one, officer or soldier, male
or female, wore seal-skin boots sewn with twine, in the manufacture
of which the natives excel. These boots are absolutely impervious,
and are so flexible that they are admirably adapted for walking.
Pine-wood snow-shoes, two or three feet long, capable of supporting
the weight of a man on the most brittle snow, and enabling him
to pass over it with the rapidity of a skater on ice, can be fastened
THE FUR COUNTRY.
to the soles of the seal-skin boots. Fur caps and deer-skin belts
completed the costumes.
For arms, Lieutenant Hobson had the regulation musketoons
provided by the Company, pistols, ordnance sabres, and plenty of
ammunition; for tools: axes, saws, adzes, and other instruments
required in carpentering. Then there was the collection of all that
would be needed for setting up a factory in the remote district for
which they were bound : a stove, a smelting furnace, two air-
pumps for ventilation, an india-rubber boat, only inflated when
required, &c., &c.
The party might have relied for provisions on the hunters amongst
them. Some of the soldiers were skilful trackers of game, and
there were plenty of reindeer in the Polar regions. Whole tribes of
Indians or Esquimaux, deprived of bread and all other nourishment,
subsist entirely on this venison, which is both abundant and
palatable. But as delays and difficulties had to be allowed for, a
certain quantity of provisions was taken with them. The flesh of
the bison, elk, and deer, amassed in the large bettues on the south of
the lake; corned beef, which will keep for any length of time; and
some Indian preparations, in which the flesh of animals, ground
to powder, retains its nutritive properties in a very small bulk,
requiring no cooking, and forming a very nourishing diet, were
amongst the stores provided in case of need.
Lieutenant Hobson likewise took several casks of rum and whisky;
but he was firmly resolved to economise these spirits, so injurious
to the health in cold latitudes, as much as possible. The Company
had placed at his disposal a little portable medicine-chest, con-
taining formidable quantities of lime-juice, lemons, and other simple
remedies necessary to check, or if possible to prevent, the scorbutic
affections which take such a terrible form in these regions.
All the men had been chosen with great care; none were too stout
or too thin, and all had for years been accustomed to the severity
of the climate, and could therefore more easily endure the fatigues
of an expedition to the Polar Sea. They were all brave, high-spirited
fellows, who had taken service of their own accord. Double pay
had been promised them during their stay at the confines of the
American continent, should they succeed in making a settlement be-
yond the seventieth parallel.
The sledge provided for Mrs Barnett and her faithful Madge
was rather more comfortable than the others. She did not wish to
be treated better than her travelling companions, but yielded to the
urgent request of Captain Craventy, who was but carrying out the
wishes of the Company.
The vehicle which brought Thomas Black to Fort Reliance also
conveyed him and his scientific apparatus from it. A few astrono-
mical instruments, of which there were not many in those days-a
telescope for his selenographic observations, a sextant for taking the
latitude, a chronometer for determining the longitudes, a few maps,
a few books, were all stored away in this sledge, and Thomas Black
relied upon his faithful dogs to lose nothing by the way.
Of course the food for the various teams was not forgotten. There
were altogether no less than seventy-two dogs, quite a herd to pro-
vide for by the way, and it was the business of the hunters to cater
for them. These strong intelligent animals were bought of the
Chippeway Indians, who know well how to train them for their
The little company was most skilfully organised. The zeal of
Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson was beyond all praise. Proud of his
mission, and devoted to his task, he neglected nothing which could
insure success.- Corporal Joliffe, always a busybody, exerted himself
without producing any very tangible results; but his wife was most
useful and devoted; and Mrs Paulina Barnett had already struck up
a great friendship with the brisk little Canadian woman, whose fair
hair and large soft eyes were so pleasant to look at.
We need scarcely add that Captain Craventy did all in his power
to further the enterprise. The instructions he had received from
the Company showed what great importance they attached to the
success of .the expedition, and the establishment of a new factory
beyond the seventieth parallel We may therefore safely affirm that
every human effort likely to insure success which could be made
was made; but who could tell what insurmountable difficulties
nature might place in the path of the brave Lieutenant ? who could
tell what awaited him and his devoted little band I
FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE.
HE first fine days came at last. The green carpet of the
hills began to appear here and there where the snow had
melted. A few migratory birds from the south-such as
s*ans, bald-headed eagles, &c.-passed through the warmer air.
The poplars, birches, and willows began to bud, and the red-
headed ducks, of which there are so many species in North America,
to skim the surface of the numerous pools formed by the melted
show. Guillemots, puffins, and eider ducks sought colder latitudes ;
and "little shrews no bigger than a hazel-nut ventured from their
holes, tracing strange figures on the ground with their tiny-pointed
tails. It was intoxicating once more to breathe the fresh air of
spring, and to bask in the sunbeams. Nature awoke once more
from her heavy sleep in the long winter night, and smiled as she
opened her eyes.
The renovation of creation in spring is perhaps more impressive
in the Arctic regions than in any other portion of the globe, on
account of the greater contrast with what has gone before.
The thaw was not, however, complete. The thermometer, it is
true, marked 41 Fahrenheit above zero; but the mean temperature
of the nights kept. the surface, of the snowy plains solid-a good
thing for the passage of sledges, of which Jaspar Hobson meant to
avail himself before the thaw became complete.
The ice of the lake was still unbroken. During the last month
several successful hunting expeditions had been made across the vast
smooth plains, which were already frequented by game. Mrs
Barnett was astonished at the skill with which the men used their
snow-shoes, scudding along at the pace of a horse in full gallop.
Following Captain Craventy's advice, the lady herself practised
walking in these contrivances, and she soon became very expert in
sliding over the snow.
During the last few days several bands of Indians had arrived at
LIEUTENANT HOBSON AND THE SERGEANT LED THE WAY-Page 27.
FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE.
the fort to exchange the spoils of the winter chase for manufactured
goods. The season had been bad. There were a good many polecats
and sables; but the furs of beavers, otters, lynxes, ermines, and
foxes were scarce. It was therefore a wise step for the Company-
to endeavour to explore a new country, where the wild animals had
hitherto escaped the rapacity of man.
On the morning of the 16th April Lieutenant Jaspar Hobson and
his party were ready to start. The route across the known districts,
between the Slave Lake and that of the Great Bear beyond the
Arctic Circle, was already determined. Jaspar Hobson was to make
for Fort Confidence, on the northern extremity of the latter lake;
and he was to revictual at Fdrt Enterprise, a station two hundred
miles further to the north-west, on the shores of the Snare Lake.
By travelling at the rate of fifteen miles a day the Lieutenant
hoped to halt there about the beginning of May.
From this point the expedition was to take the shortest route
to Cape Bathurst, on the North American coast. It was agreed
that in a year Captain Craventy should send a convoy with provi-
sions to Cape Bathurst, and that a detachment of the Lieutenant's
men was to go to meet this convoy,'to guide it to the spot where
the new fort was to be erected. This plan was a guarantee against
any adverse circumstances, and left a means of communication with
their fellow-creatures open to the Lieutenant and his voluntary com-
panions in exile.
On the- 16th April dogs and sledges were awaiting the travellers
at the postern gate. Captain Craventy called the men of the party
together and said a few kind words to them. He urged them
above all things to stand by one another in the perils they might
be called upon to meet; reminded them that the enterprise upon
which they were about to enter required self-denial and devotion,
and that submission to their officers was an indispensable condition
of success. Cheers greeted the Captain's speech, the adieux were
quickly made, and each one took his place in the sledge assigned
to him. Jaspar Hobson and Sergeant Long went first; then Mrs
Paulina Barnett and Madge, the latter dexterously wielding the long
Esquimaux whip, terminating in a stiff thong. Thomas Black and
one of the soldiers, the Canadian, Petersen, occupied the third
sledge; and the others followed, Corporal and Mrs Joliffe bringing
up the rear. According to the orders of Lieutenant Hobson, each
driver kept as nearly as possible at the same distance from the
28 THE FUR COUNTRY.
preceding sledge, so as to avoid all confusion-a necessary precau.
tion, as a collision between two sledges going at full speed, might
have had disastrous results.
On leaving Fort Reliance, Jaspar Hobson at once directed his
course towards the north-west. The first thing to be done was to
cross the large river connecting Lakes Slave and Wolmsley, which
was, however, still frozen so hard as to be undistinguishable from the
vast white plains around. A uniform carpet of snow covered the
whole country, and the sledges, drawn by their swift teams, sped
rapidly over the firm smooth surface.
The weather was fine, but still very cold. The sun, scarce above
the horizon, described a lengthened curve; and its rays, reflected on
the snow, gave more light than heat. Fortunately not a breath of
air stirred, and this lessened the severity of the cold, although the
rapid pace of the sledges through the keen atmosphere must have
been trying to any one not inured to the rigour of a Polar climate.
"A good beginning," said Jaspar Hobson to the Sergeant, who
sat motionless beside him as if rooted to his seat; the journey has
commenced favourably. The sky is cloudless, the temperature pro-
pitious, our equipages shoot along like express trains, and as long
as this fine weather lasts we shall get on capitally. What do you
think, Sergeant Long ? "
I agree with you, Lieutenant," replied the Sergeant, who never
differed from his chief.
"Like myself, Sergeant, you are determined to push on as far
north as possible-are you not I" resumed Lieutenant Hobson,
You have but to command to be obeyed, Lieutenant."
I know it, Sergeant; I know that with you to hear is to obey.
Would that all our men understood as you do the importance of
our mission, and would devote themselves body and soul to the
interests of the Company Ah, Sergeant Long, I know if I gave
you an impossible order "-
Lieutenant, there is no such thing as an impossible order."
"What? Suppose now I ordered you to go to the North Pole ?"
"Lieutenant, I should go I "
And to come back added Jaspar Hobson with a smile.
I should come back," replied Sergeant Long simply.
During this colloquy between Lieutenant Hobson and his Sergeant
a slight ascent compelled the sledges to slacken speed, and Mrs
Barnett and Madge also exchanged a few sentences. These two
FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE.
intrepid women, in their otter-skin caps and white bear-skin mantles,
gazed in astonishment upon the rugged scenery around them, and at
the white outlines of the huge glaciers standing out against the hori-
zon. They had already left behind them the hills of the northern
banks of the Slave Lake, with their summits crowned with the gaunt
skeletons of trees. The vast plains stretched before them in ap-
parently endless succession. The rapid flight and cries of a few
birds of passage alone broke the monotony of the scene. Now and
then a troop of swans, with plumage so white that the keenest sight
could not distinguish them from the snow when they settled on
the ground, rose into view in the clear blue atmosphere and pur-
sued their journey to the north.
What an extraordinary country !" exclaimed Mrs Paulina Bar-
nett. What a difference between these Polar regions and the green
prairies of Australia! You remember, Madge, how we suffered from
the heat on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria-you remember
the cloudless sky and the parching sunbeams "
My dear," replied Madge, I have not the gift of remembering
like you. You retain your impressions, I forget mine."
"What, Madge cried Mrs Barnett, "you have forgotten the
tropical heat of India and Australia 9 You have no recollection of
our agonies when water failed us in the desert, when the pitiless
sun scorched us to the bone, when even the night brought us no
relief from our sufferings!"
"No, Paulina," replied Madge, wrapping her furs more closely
round her, no, I remember nothing. How could I now recollect
the sufferings to which you allude-the heat, the agonies of thirst
-when we are surrounded on every side by ice, and I have but to
stretch my arm out of this sledge to pick up a handful of snow 1
You talk to me of heat when we are freezing beneath our bear-
skins; you recall the brgiling rays of the sun when its April beams
cannot melt the icicles on our lips No, child, no, don't try to per-
suade me it's hot anywhere else; don't tell me I ever complained
of being too warm, for I sha'n't believe you !"
Mrs Paulina Barnett could not help smiling.
SSo, poor Madge," she said, you are very cold I"
"Yes, child, I am cold ; but I rather like this climate. I've no
doubt it's very healthy, and I think North America will agree with
me. It's really a very.fine country "
Yes, Madge, it is a fine country, and we have as yet seen. none
THE FUR COUNTRY.
of the wonders it contains. But wait until we reach the Arctic
Ocean; wait until the winter shuts us in with its gigantic icebergs
and thick covering of snow; wait till the northern storms break over
us, and the glories of the Aurora Borealis and of the splendid con-
stellations of the Polar skies are spread out above our heads; wait
till we have lived through the strange long six months' night, and
then indeed you will understand the infinite variety, the infinite
beauty, of our Creator's handiwork "
Thus spoke Mrs Paulina Barnett, carried away by her vivid
imagination. She could see nothing but beauty in these deserted
regions, with their rigorous climate. Her enthusiasm got the better
for the time of her judgment. Her sympathy with nature enabled
her to read the touching poetry of the ice-bound north-the poetry
embodied in the Sagas, and sung by the bards of the time of Ossian.
But Madge, more matter of fact than her mistress, disguised from
herself neither the dangers of an expedition to the Arctic Ocean,
nor the sufferings involved in wintering only thirty degrees at the
most from the North Pole.
And indeed the most robust had sometimes succumbed to the
fatigues, privations, and mental and bodily agonies endured in this
severe climate. Jaspar Hobson had not, it is true, to press on to
the very highest latitudes of the globe; he had not to reach the pole
itself, or to follow in the steps of Parry, Ross, M'Clure, Kean, Morton,
and others. But after once crossing the Arctic Circle, there is little
variation in the temperature; it does not increase in coldness in
proportion to the elevation reached. Granted that Jaspar Hobson
did not think of going beyond the seventieth parallel, we must still
remember that Franklin and his unfortunate companions died of
cold and hunger before they had penetrated beyond 680 N. lat.
Very different was the talk in the sledge occupied by Mr and
Mrs Joliffe. Perhaps the gallant Corporal had too often drunk to
the success of the expedition on starting; for, strange to say, he was
disputing with his little wife. Yes, he was actually contradicting
her, which never happened except under extraordinary circum-
"No, Mrs Joliffe," he was saying, "no, you have nothing to fear.
A sledge is not more difficult to guide than a pony-carriage, and the
devil take me if I can't manage a team of dogs !"
"I don't question your skill," replied Mrs Joliffe; "I only ask
you not to go so fast. You are in front of the whole caravan now,
FROM FORT RELIANCE TO FORT ENTERPRISE.
and I hear Lieutenant Hobson calling out to you to resume your
proper place behind."
Let him call, Mrs Joliffe, let him call."
And the Corporal, urging on his dogs with a fresh cut of the
whip, dashed along at still greater speed.
"Take care, Joliffe," repeated his little wife ; "not so fast, we
are going down hill."
Down hill, Mrs Joliffe; you call that down hill I why, it's up
"I tell you we are going down I" repeated poor Mrs Joliffe.
"And I tell you we are going up; look how the dogs pull "
Whoever was right, the dogs became uneasy. The ascent was,
in fact, pretty steep; the sledge dashed along at a reckless pace, and
was already considerably in advance of the rest of the party. Mr
and Mrs Joliffe bumped up and down every instant, the surface of
the snow became more and more uneven, and the pair, flung first to
one side and then to the other, knocked against each other and the
sledge, and were horribly bruised and shaken. But the Corporal
would listen neither to the advice of his wife nor to the shouts of
Lieutenant Hobson. The latter, seeing the danger of this reckless
course, urged on his own animals, and the rest of the caravan fol-
lowed at a rapid pace.
But the Corporal became more and more excited-the speed of his
equipage delighted him. He shouted, he gesticulated, and flour-
ished his long whip like an accomplished sportsman.
"Wonderful things these whips!" he cried; "the Esquimaux
wield them with unrivalled skill !"
"But you are not an Esquimaux !" cried Mrs Joliffe, trying in
vain to arrest the arm of her imprudent husband.
"I have heard tell," resumed the Corporal-" I've heard tell that
the Esquimaux can touch any dog they like in any part, that they
can even cut out a bit of one of their ears with the stiff thong at
the end of the whip. I am going to try."
"Don't try, don't try, Joliffe !" screamed the poor little woman,
frightened out of her wits.
"Don't be afraid, Mrs Joliffe, don't be afraid; I know what I can
do. The fifth dog on the right is misbehaving himself; I will cor-
rect him a little!"
B&t Corporal Joliffe was evidently not yet enough of an Esqui-
maux to be able to manage the whip with its thong four feet longer
32 THE FUR COUNTRY.
than the sledge; for it unrolled with an ominous hiss, and rebound-
ing, twisted itself round Corporal Joliffe's own neck, sending his fur
cap into the air, perhaps with one of his ears in it.
At this moment the dogs flung themselves on one side, the sledge
was overturned, and the pair were flung into the snow. Fortunately
it was thick and soft, so that they escaped unhurt. But what a
disgrace for the Corporal how reproachfully his little wife looked
at him, and how stern was the reprimand of Lieutenant Hobson !
The sledge was picked up, but it was decided that henceforth the
reins of the dogs, like those of the household, were to be in the
hands of Mrs Joliffe. The crest-fallen Corporal was obliged to sub-
mit, and the interrupted journey was resumed.
No incident worth mentioning occurred during the next fifteen
days. The weather continued favourable, the cold was not too
severe, and on the 1st May the expedition arrived at Fort Enter-
A WAPITI DUEL.
WO hundred miles had been traversed since the expedition
left Fort Reliance. The travellers, taking advantage of
the long twilight, pressed on day and night, and were
literally overcome with fatigue when they reached Fort Enterprise,
near the shores of Lake Snare.
This fort was no more than a dep6t of provisions, of little import-
ance, erected a few years before by the Hudson's Bay Company.
It served as a resting-place for the men taking the convoys of furs
from the Great Bear Lake, some three hundred miles further to the
north-west. About a dozen soldiers formed the garrison. The fort
consisted of a wooden house surrounded by palisades. But few as
were the comforts it offered, Lieutenant Hobson's companions gladly
took refuge in it and rested there for two days.
The gentle influence of the Arctic spring was beginning to be
felt. Here and there the snow had melted, and the temperature of
the nights was no longer below freezing point. A few delicate
mosses and slender grasses clothed the rugged ground with their soft
verdure ; and from between the stones peeped the moist calices of
tiny, almost colourless, flowers. These faint signs of reawakening
vegetation, after the long night of winter, were refreshing to eyes
weary of the monotonous whiteness of the snow; and the scattered
specimens of the Flora of the Arctic regions were welcomed with
Mrs Paulina Barnett and Jaspar Hobson availed themselves of
this leisure time to visit the shores of the little, lake. They were
both students and enthusiastic lovers of nature. Together they
wandered amongst the ice masses, already beginning to break up,
and the waterfalls created by the action of the rays of the sun.
The surface itself of Lake Snare was still intact, not a crack
denoted the approaching thaw; but it was strewn with the ruins of
mighty icebergs, which assumed all manner of picturesque forms, and
34 THE FUR COUNTRY.
the beauty of which was heightened when the light, diffracted by the
sharp edges of the ice, touched them with all manner of colours.
One might have fancied that a rainbow, crushed in a powerful hand,
had been flung upon the ground, its fragments crossing each other
as they fell.
"What a beautiful scene!" exclaimed Mrs Paulina Barnett.
These prismatic effects vary at every change of our position.
Does it not seem as if we were bending over the opening of an
immense kaleidoscope, or are you already weary of a sight so new
and interesting to me?"
"No, madam," replied the Lieutenant; "although I was born
and bred on this continent, its beauties never pall upon me. But if
your enthusiasm is so great when you see this scenery with the sun
shining upon it, what will it be when you are privileged to behold
the terrible grandeur of the winter ? To own the truth, I think
the sun, so much thought of in temperate latitudes, spoils my Arctic
"Indeed!" exclaimed Mrs Barnett, smiling at the Lieutenant's
last remark; "for my part, I think the sun a capital travelling
companion, and I shall not be disposed to grumble at the warmth
it gives even in the Polar regions !"
Ah, madam," replied Jaspar Hobson, I am one of those who
think it best to visit Russia in the winter, and the Sahara Desert
in the summer. You then see their peculiar 'characteristics to
advantage. The sun is a star of the torrid and temperate zones,
and is out of place thirty degrees from the North Pole. The true
sky of this country is the pure frigid sky of winter, bright with
constellations, and sometimes flushed with the glory of the Aurora
Borealis. This land is the land of the night, not of the day; and
you have yet to make acquaintance with the delights and marvels of
the long Polar night."
"Have you ever visited the temperate zones of Europe and
America inquired Mrs Barnett.
"Yes, madam; and I admired them as they deserved. But I
returned home with fresh love and enthusiasm for my native land.
Cold is my element, and no merit is due to me for braving it. It
has no power over me; and, like the Esquimaux, I can live for
months together in a snow hut."
"Really, Lieutenant Hobson, it is quite cheering to hear our
dreaded enemy spoken of in such terms. I hope to prove myself
A WAPITI DUEL.
worthy to be your companion, and wherever you venture, we will
"I agree, madam, I agree; and may all the women and soldiers
accompanying me show themselves as resolute as you. If so, God
helping us, we shall indeed advance far."
You have nothing to complain of yet," observed the lady.
"Not a single accident has occurred, the weather has been
propitious, the cold not too severe-everything has combined to
"Yes, madam; but the sun which you admire so much will
soon create difficulties for us, and strew obstacles in our path."
"What do you mean, Lieutenant Hobson "
I mean that the heat will soon have changed the aspect of the
country; that the melted ice will impede the sliding of the sledges ;
that the ground will become rough and uneven; that our panting
dogs will no longer carry us along with the speed of an arrow ; that
the rivers and lakes will resume their liquid state, and that we shall
have to ford or go round them. All these changes, madam, due to
the influence of the solar rays, will cause delays, fatigue, and dangers,
the very least of which will be the breaking of the brittle snow
beneath our feet, or the falling of the avalanches from the summits
of the icebergs. For all this we have to thank the gradual rise of
the sun higher and higher above the horizon. Bear this in mind,
madam: of the four elements of the old creation, only one is
necessary to us here, the air; the other three, fire, earth, and water,
are d4 trop in the Arctic regions."
Of course the Lieutenant was exaggerating, and Mrs Barnett
could easily have retorted with counter-arguments; but she liked
to hear his raptures in praise of his beloved country, and she felt
that his enthusiasm was a guarantee that he would shrink from no
Yet Jaspar Hobson was right when he said the sun would
cause difficulties. This was seen when the party set out again on
the 4th May, three days later. The thermometer, even in the coldest
part of the night, marked more than 320 Fahrenheit. A complete
thaw set in, the vast white sheet of snow resolved itself into water.
The irregularities of the rocky soil caused constant jolting of the
sledges, and the passengers were roughly shaken. The roads were
so heavy that the dogs had to go at a slow trot, and the reins were
therefore again entrusted to the hands of the imprudent Corporal
TIHE FUR COUNTRY.
Joliffe. Neither shouts nor flourishings of the whip had the slightest
effect on the jaded animals.
From time to time the travellers lightened the sledges by walking
a little way. This mode of locomotion suited the hunters, who were
now gradually approaching the best districts for game in the whole
of English America. Mrs Paulina Barnett and Madge took a great
interest in the chase, whilst Thomas Black professed absolute indiffer-
ence to all athletic exercise. He had not come all this distance to hunt
the polecat or the ermine, but merely to look at the moon at the mo-
ment when her disc should cover that of the sun. When the'queen
of the night rose above the horizon, the impatient astronomer would
gaze at her with eager eyes, and one day the Lieutenant said to him-
"It would be a bad look-out for you, Mr Black, if by any un-
lucky chance the moon should fail to keep her appointment on the
16th July 1860."
"Lieutenant Hobson," gravely replied the astronomer, "if the
moon were guilty of such a breach of good manners, I should indeed
have cause to complain."
The chief hunters of the expedition were the soldiers Marbre and
Sabine, both very expert at their business. Their skill was won-
derful; and the cleverest Indians would not have surpassed them
in keenness of sight, precision of aim, or manual address. They
were alike trappers and hunters, and were acquainted with all the
nets and snares for taking sables, otters, wolves, foxes, bears, &c.
No artifice was unknown to them, and Captain Craventy had shown
his wisdom in choosing two such intelligent men to accompany the
little troop. "
Whilst on the march, however, Marbre and Sabine had no time
for setting traps. They could not separate from the others for more
than an hour or two at a time, and were obliged to be content with
the game which passed within range of their rifles. Still they were
fortunate enough to kill two of the large American ruminants,
seldom met with in such elevated latitudes.
On the morning of the 15th May the hunters asked permission
to follow some fresh traces they had found, and the Lieutenant not
only granted it, but himself accompanied them with Mrs Paulina
Barnett, and they went several miles out of their route towards the
The impressions were evidently the result of the passage of about
half-a-dozen large deer. There could be no mistake about it; Marbre
A WAPITI DUEL.-Page 37..
A WAPITI DUBL. 37
and Sabine were positive on that point, and could even have named
the species to which the animals belonged.
"You seem surprised to have met with traces of these animals
here, Lieutenant," said Mrs Barnett.
"Well, madam," replied Hobson, this species is rarely seen
beyond 57 N. lat. We generally hunt them at the south of the
Slave Lake, where they feed upon the shoots of willows and poplars,
and certain wild roses to which they are very partial."
"I suppose these creatures, like those with valuable furs,' have
fled from the districts scoured by the hunters."
I see no other explanation of their presence at 650 N. lat.,"
replied the Lieutenant-" that is, if the men are not mistaken as to
the origin of the footprints."
No, no, sir," cried Sabine; "Marbre and I are not mistaken.
These traces were left by deer, the deer we hunters call red deer,
and the natives wapitis."
He is quite right," added Marbre; "old trappers like us are not
to be taken in; besides, don't you hear that peculiar whistling
The party had now reached the foot of a little hill, and as the
snow had almost disappeared from its sides they were able to climb
it, and hastened to the summit, the peculiar whistling noticed by
Marbre becoming louder, mingled with cries resembling the braying
of an ass, and proving that the two hunters were not mistaken.
Once at the top of the hill, the adventurers looked eagerly towards
the east. The undulating plains were still white with snow, but its
dazzling surface was here and there relieved with patches of stunted
light green vegetation. A few gaunt shrubs stretched forth their
bare and shrivelled branches, and huge icebergs with precipitous
sides stood out against the grey background of the sky.
Wapitis wapitis !-there they are cried Sabine and Marbre
at once, pointing to a group of animals distinctly visible about a
quarter of a mile to the east.
"What are they doing asked Mrs Barnett.
"They are fighting, madam," replied Hobson; "Cthey always do
when the heat of the Polar sun inflames their blood-another
deplorable result of the action of the radiant orb of day !"
From where they stood the party could easily watch the group
of wapitis. They were fine specimens of the family of deer known
under the various names of stags with rounded antlers, American
36 THE FUR COUNTRY.
stags, roebucks, grey elks and red elks, &c. These graceful creatures
have slender legs and brown skins with patches of red hair, the
colour of which becomes darker in the warmer season. The fierce
males are easily distinguished from the females by their fine white
antlers, the latter being entirely without these ornaments. These
wapitis were once very numerous all over North America, and the
United States imported a great many; but clearings were begun on
every side, the forest trees fell beneath the axe of the pioneer of
civilisation, and the wapitis took refuge in the more peaceful dis-
tricts of Canada; but they were soon again disturbed, and wandered
to the shores of Hudson's Bay. So that although the wapiti thrives
in a cold country, Lieutenant Hobson was right in saying that it
seldom penetrates beyond 57 N. latitude; and the specimens now
found had doubtless fled before the Chippeway Indians, who hunt
them without mercy.
The wapitis were so engrossed in their desperate struggle that
they were unconscious of the approach of the hunters; but they
would probably not have ceased fighting had they been aware of it.
Marbre and Sabine, aware of their peculiarity in this respect, might
therefore have advanced fearlessly upon them, and have taken aim
Lieutenant Hobson suggested that they should do so.
"Beg pardon, sir," replied Marbre; "but let us spare our pow-
der and shot. These beasts are engaged in a war to the death, and
we shall arrive in plenty of time to pick up the vanquished."
"Have these wapitis a commercial value ?" asked Mrs Paulina
"Yes, madam," replied Hobson; and their skin, which is not
quite so thick as that of the elk, properly so called, makes very
valuable leather. By rubbing this skin with the fat and brains of
the animal itself, it is rendered flexible, and neither damp nor dry-
ness injures it. The Indians are therefore always eager to procure
the skins of the wapitis."
"Does not the flesh make admirable venison "
"Pretty good, madam; only pretty good. It is tough, and does
not taste very nice; the fat becomes hard directly it is taken from
the fire, and sticks to the teeth. It is certainly inferior as an article
of food to the flesh of other deer; but when meat is scarce we are
glad enough to eat it, and it supports life as well as anything
A WAPITI DUEL.
Mrs Barnett and Lieutenant Hobson had been chatting together
for some minutes, when, with the exception of two, the wapitis
suddenly ceased fighting. Was their rage satiated? or had they
perceived the hunters, and felt the approach of danger 1 Whatever
the. cause, all but two fine creatures fled towards the east with
incredible speed; in a few instants they were out of sight, and the
swiftest horse could not have caught them up.
Meanwhile, however, two magnificent specimens remained on the
field of battle. Heads down, antlers to antlers, hind legs stretched
and quivering, they butted at each other without a moment's
pause. Like two wrestlers struggling for a prize which neither will
yield, they would not separate, but whirled round and round to-
gether on their front legs as if riveted to one another.
"What implacable rage !" exclaimed Mrs Barnett.
"Yes," replied the Lieutenant; "the wapitis really are most
spiteful beasts. I have no doubt they are fighting out an old
Would not this be the time to approach them, when they are
blinded with rage ?"
"There's plenty of time, ma'am," said Sabine; "they won't
escape us now. They will not stir from where they are when we
are three steps from them, the rifles at our shoulders, and our
fingers on the triggers "
"Yes, madam," added Hobson, who had carefully examined the
wapitis after the hunter's remark; "and whether at our hands or
from the teeth of wolves, those wapitis will meet death where they
"I don't understand what you mean, Lieutenant," said Mrs
"Well, go nearer, madam," he replied; "don't be afraid of
startling the animals; for, as our hunter says, they are no longer
capable of flight."
The four now descended the hill, and in a few minutes gained
the theatre of the struggle. The wapitis had not moved. They
were pushing at each other like a couple of rams, and seemed to be
inseparably glued together.
In fact, in the heat of the combat the antlers of the two creatures
had become entangled together to such an extent that they could
no longer separate without breaking them. This often happens in
40 nTH FOR dOUotiTY.
the hunting districts. It is not at all uncommon to find antlers
thus connected lying on the ground; the poor encumbered animals
soon die of hunger, or they become an easy prey to wild beasts.
Two bullets put an end to the fight between the wapitis; and
Marbre and Sabine taking immediate possession, carried off their
skins to be subsequently prepared, leaving their bleeding caassea
to be devoured by wolves and bears.
THE ARCTIC CIRCLE.
HFE expedition continued to advance towards the north-
west; but the great inequalities of the ground made it
p hard work for the dogs to get along, and the poor creatures,
who could hardly be held in when they started, were now quiet
enough. Eight or ten miles a day were as much as they could accom-
plish, although Lieutenant Hobson urged them on to the utmost.
He was anxious to get to Fort Confidence, on the further side of the
Great Bear Lake, where he hoped to obtain some useful information.
Had the Indians frequenting the northern banks of the lake been
able to cross the districts on the shores of the sea ? was the Arctic
Ocean open at this time of year These were grave questions, the
reply to which would decide the fate of the new factory.
The country through which the little troop was now passing was
intersected by numerous streams, mostly tributaries of the two
large rivers, the Mackenzie and Coppermine, which flow from the
south to the north, and empty themselves into the Arctic Ocean.
Lakes, lagoons, and numerous pools are formed between these two
principal arteries; and as they were no longer frozen over, the
sledges could not venture upon them, and were compelled to go
round them, which caused considerable delay. Lieutenant Hobson
was certainly right in saying that winter is the time to visit the
hyperborean regions, for they are then far easier to traverse. Mrs
Paulina Barnett had reason to own the justice of this assertion more
This region, included in the "Cursed Land," was, besides,
completely deserted, as are the greater portion of the districts of
the' extreme north of America. It has been estimated that there is
but one inhabitant to every ten square miles. Besides the scattered
natives, there are some few thousand agents or soldiers of the
different fur-trading companies; but they mostly congregate in the
southern districts and about the various factories. No human
42 THE FUR COUNTRY.
footprints gladdened the eyes of the travellers, the only traces on
the sandy soil were those of ruminants and rodents. Now and then
a fierce polar bear was seen, and Mrs Paulina Barnett expressed her
surprise at not meeting more of these terrible carnivorous beasts, of
whose daily attacks on whalers and persons shipwrecked in Baffin's
Bay and on the coasts of Greenland and Spitzbergen she had read
in the accounts of those who had wintered in the Arctic regions.
Wait for the winter, madam," replied the Lieutenant; "wait
till the cold makes them hungry, and then you will perhaps see as
many as you care about! "
On the 23d May, after a long and fatiguing journey, the expe-
dition at last reached the Arctic Circle. We know that this lati-
tude 23"27'57" from the North Pole, forms the mathematical limit
beyond which the rays of the sun do not penetrate in the winter,
when the northern districts of the globe are turned away from the
orb of day. Here, then, the travellers entered the true Arctic
region, the northern Frigid Zone.
The latitude had been very carefully obtained by means of most
accurate instruments, which were handled with equal skill by the
astronomer and by Lieutenant Hobson. Mrs Barnett was present
at the operation, and had the satisfaction of hearing that she was at
last about to cross the Arctic Circle. It was with a feeling of just
pride that she received the intelligence.
You have already passed through the two Torrid Zones in your
previous journeys," said the Lieutenant, and now you are on the
verge of the Arctic Circle. Few explorers have ventured into such
totally different regions. Some, so to speak, have a specialty for
hot countries, and choose Africa or Australia as the field for their
investigations. Such were Barth, Burton, Livingstone, Speke,
Douglas, Stuart, &c. Others, on the contrary, have a passion for
the Arctic regions, still so little known. Mackenzie, Franklin,
Penny, Kane, Parry, Rae, &c., preceded us on our present journey;
but we must congratulate you, Mrs Barnett, on being a more
cosmopolitan traveller than all of them.".
"I must see everything, or at least try to see everything,
Lieutenant," replied Mrs Paulina; "and I think the dangers and
difficulties are about equal everywhere. Although we have not to
dread the fevers of the unhealthy torrid regions, or the attacks of
the fierce black races, in this Frigid Zone, the cold is a no less formid-
able enemy; and I suspect that the white bears we are liable to meet
THE ARCTIC CIRCLE.
with here will give us quite as warm a reception as would the
tigers of Thibet or the lions of Africa. In Torrid and Frigid Zones
alike there are vast unexplored tracts which will long defy the
efforts of the boldest adventurers."
"Yes, madam," replied Jaspar Hobson; "but I think the
hyperborean regions will longer resist thorough exploration. The
natives are the chief obstacle in tropical regions, and I am well
aware how many travellers have fallen victims to savages. But
civilisation will necessarily subdue the wild races sooner or later;
whereas in the Arctic and Antarctic Zones it is not the inhabitants
who arrest the progress of the explorer, but Nature herself who
repels those who approach her, and paralyses their energies with the
bitter cold!" "
You think, then, that the secrets of the most remote districts of
Africa and Australia will have been fathomed before the Frigid Zone
has been entirely examined ?"
Yes, madam," replied the Lieutenant; and I think my opinion
is founded on facts. The most intrepid discoverers of the Arctic
regions-Parry, Penny, Franklin, M'Clure, Kane, and Morton-did
not get beyond 830 north latitude, seven degrees from the pole-
whereas Australia has several times been crossed from south to
north by the bold Stuart; and even Africa, with all its terrors, was
traversed by Livingstone from the Bay of Loanga to the mouth of
the Zambesi. We are, therefore, nearer to geographical knowledge
of the equatorial countries than of the Polar districts."
Do you think that the Pole itself will ever be reached by man 7"
inquired Mrs Paulina Barnett.
"Certainly," replied Hobson, adding with a smile, "by man or
woman. But I think other means must be tried of reaching this
point, where all the meridians of the globe cross each other, than
those hitherto adopted by travellers. We hear of the open sea, of
which certain explorers are said to have caught a glimpse. But if
such a sea, free from ice, really exist, it is very difficult to get at, and
no one can say positively whether it extends to the North Pole. For
my part, I think an open sea would increase rather than lessen the
difficulties of explorers.. As for me, I would rather count upon firm
footing, whether on ice or rock, all the way. Then I would organise
successive expeditions, establishing dep6ts of provisions and fuel
neared and nearer to the Pole;-and so, with plenty of time, plenty of
money, and perhaps the sacrifice of a good many lives, I should in
44 THIE PR COUNT V.
the end solve the great scientific problem. I should, I think, at last
reach the hitherto inaccessible goal! "
"I think you are right, Lieutenant," said Mrs Barnett; "and if
ever you try the experiment, I should not be afraid to join you, and
would gladly go to set up the Union Jack at the North Pole. But
that is not our present object."
"Not our immediate object, madam," replied Robson; "but
when once the projects of the Company are realized, when the new
fort has been erected on the confines of the American continent, it
may become the natural starting-point of all expeditions to the
north. Besides, should the fur-yielding animals, too zealously
hunted, take refuge at the Pole, we should have to follow them."
"Unless costly furs should go out of fashion," replied Mrs
"0 madam," cried the Lieutenant, there will always be some
pretty woman whose wish for a sable muff or an ermine tippet
must be gratified !"
"I am afraid so," said Mrs Barnett, laughing; "and probably the
first discoverer of the Pole will have been led thither in pursuit of a
sable or a silver fox."
That is my firm conviction," replied Hobson. Such is human
nature; and greed of gain will always carry a man further than zeal
"What do you utter such sentiments ?" exclaimed Mrs Barnett.
"Well, madam, what am I but an employ& of the Hudson's Bay
Company 1 and does the Company risk its capital and agents with
any other hope than an increase of profits "
"Lieutenant Hobson," said Mrs Barnett, "I think I know you
well enough to assert that on occasion you would be ready to devote
body and soul to science. If a purely geographical question called
you to the Pole, I feel sure you would not hesitate to go. But,"
she added, with a smile, "the solution of this great problem is
still far distant. We have but just reached the verge of the
Arctic Circle, but I hope we may cross it without any very great
"That I fear is doubtful," said the Lieutenant, who had been
attentively examining the sky during their conversation. "The
weather has looked threatening for the last few days. Look at the
uniformly grey hue of the heavens. That mist will presently resolve
itself into snow; and if the wind should rise ever so little, we shall
ITHE ARC.IC CeRCLA. 45
have to battle with a fearful storm. I wish we were at the Great
"Do not let us lose any time, then," said Mrs Barnett, rising;
" give the signal to start at once."
The Lieutenant needed no urging. Had he been alone, or accom-
panied by a few men as energetic as himself, he would have pressed
on day and night; but he was obliged to make allowance for the
fatigue of others, although he never spared himself. He therefore
granted a few hours of rest to his little party, and it was not until
three in the afternoon that they again set out.
Jaspar Hobson was not mistaken in prophesying a change in the
weather. It came very soon. During the afternoon of the same day
the mist became thicker, and assumed a yellowish and threatening
hue. The Lieutenant, although very uneasy, allowed none of his
anxiety to appear, but had a long consultation with Sergeant Long
whilst the dogs of his sledge were laboriously.preparing to start.
Unfortunately, the district now to be traversed was very un-
suitable for sledges. The ground was very uneven; ravines were of
frequent occurrence; and masses of granite or half-thawed icebergs
blocked up the road, causing constant delay. The poor dogs did
their best, but the drivers' whips no longer produced any effect
And so the Lieutenant and his men were often obliged to walk
to rest the exhausted animals, to push the sledges, or even sometimes
to lift them when the roughness of the ground threatened.to upset
them. The incessant fatigue was, however, borne by all without a
murmur. Thomas Black alone, absorbed in his one idea, never got
out of his sledge, and indeed he was so corpulent that all exertion
was disagreeable to him.
The nature of the soil changed from the moment of entering the
Arctic Circle. Some geological convulsion had evidently upheaved
the enormous blocks strewn upon the surface. The vegetation, too,
was of a more distinctive character. Wherever they were sheltered
from the keen north winds, the flanks of the hills were clothed not
only with shrubs, but with large trees, all of the same species-pines,
willows, and firs-proving by their presence that a certain amount
of vegetative force is retained even in the Frigid Zone. Jaspar
Hobson hoped to find such specimens of the Arctic Flora even on
the verge of the Polar Sea; for these trees would supply him with
wood to build his fort, and fuel to warm its inhabitants. The
46 THE FUR COUNTRY.
same thought passed through the minds of his companions, and
they could not help wondering at the contrast between this compara-
tively fertile region, and the long white plains stretching between
the Great Slave Lake and Fort Enterprise.
At night the yellow mist became more opaque; the wind rose,
the snow began to fall in large flakes, and the ground was soon
covered with a thick white carpet. In less than an hour the snow
was a foot deep, and as it did not freeze but remained in a liquid
state, the sledges could only advance with extreme difficulty; the
curved fronts stuck in the soft substance, and the dogs were obliged
to stop again and again.
Towards eight o'clock in the evening the wind became very
boisterous. The snow, driven before it, was flung upon the ground
or whirled in the air, forming one huge whirlpool. The dogs,
beaten back by the squall and blinded with snow, could
advance no further. The party was then in a narrow gorge between
huge icebergs, over which the storm raged with fearful fury.
Pieces of ice, broken off by the hurricane, were hurled into the pass;
partial avalanches, any one of which could have crushed the sledges
and their inmates, added to its dangers, and to press on became
impossible. The Lieutenant no longer insisted, and after consulting
with Sergeant Long, gave the order to halt. It was now necessary
to find a shelter from the snow-drift; but this was no difficult
matter to men accustomed to Polar expeditions. Jaspar 'Hobson
and his men knew well what they had to do under the circumstances.
It was not the first time they had been surprised by a tempest some
hundred miles from the forts of the Company, without so much as
an Esquimaux hut or Indian hovel in which to lay their heads.
"To the icebergs! to the icebergs !" cried Jaspar Hobson.
Every one understood what he meant. Snow houses were to be
hollowed out of the frozen masses, or rather holes were to be dug,
in which each person could cower until the storm was over. Knives
and hatchets were soon at work on the brittle masses of ice, and in
three-quarters of an hour some ten dens had been scooped out large
enough to contain two or three persons each. The dogs were left
to themselves, their own instinct leading them to find sufficient
shelter under the snow.
Before ten o'clock all the travellers were crouching in the snow
houses, in groups of two or three, each choosing congenial com-
panions. Mrs Barnett, Madge, and Lieutenant Hobson occupied
THE ARCTIC CIRCLE.
one hut, Thomas Black and Sergeant Long another, and so on.
These retreats were warm, if not comfortable; and the Esquimaux
and Indians have no other refuge even in the bitterest cold. The
adventurers could therefore fearlessly await the end of the storm
as long as they.took care not to let the openings of their holes
become blocked up with the snow, which they had to shovel away
every half hour. So violent was the storm that even the Lieutenant
and his soldiers could scarcely set foot outside. Fortunately, all
were provided with sufficient food, and were able to endure their
beaver-like existence without suffering from cold or hunger.
For forty-eight hours the fury of the tempest continued to increase.
The wind roared in the narrow pass, and tore off the tops of the
icebergs. Loud reports, repeated twenty times by the echoes, gave
notice of the fall of avalanches, and Jaspar Hobson began to fear
that his further progress would be barred by the masses of debris
accumulated between the mountains. Other sounds mingled with
these reports, which Lieutenant Hobson knew too well, and he did
not disguise from Mrs Barnett that bears were prowling about the
pass. But fortunately these terrible animals were too much occupied
with their own concerns to discover the retreat of the travellers;
neither the dogs nor the sledges, buried in the snow, attracted their
attention, and they passed on without doing any harm.
The last night, that of the 25th or 26th May, was even more
terrible. So great was the fury of the hurricane that a general
overthrow of icebergs appeared imminent. A fearful death would
then'have awaited the unfortunate travellers beneath the ruins of the
broken masses. The blocks of ice cracked with an awful noise, and
certain oscillations gave warning that breaches had been made
threatening their solidity. However, no great crash occurred, the
huge mountains remained intact, and towards the end of the night
one of those sudden changes so frequent in the Arctic regions took
place; the tempest ceased suddenly beneath the influence of intense
cold, and with the first dawn of day peace was restored.
THE GREAT BEAR LAKE.
SHIS sudden increase of cold was most fortunate. Even in
temperate climes there are generally three or four bitter
days in May; and they were most serviceable now in con-
solidating the freshly-fallen snow, and making it practicable for
sledges. Lieutenant Hobson, therefore, lost no time in resuming
his journey, urging on the dogs to their utmost speed.
The route was, however, slightly changed. Instead of bearing due
north, the expedition advanced towards the west, following, so to
speak, the curve of the Arctic Circle. The Lieutenant was most
anxious to reach Fort Confidence, built on the northern extremity
of the Great Bear Lake. These few cold days were of the greatest
service to him; he advanced rapidly, no obstacle was encountered,
and his little troop arrived at the factory on the 30th May.
At this time Forts Confidence and Good Hope were the most
advanced posts of the Company in the north. Fort Confidence was
a most important position, built on the northern extremity of the
lake, close to its waters, which being frozen over in winter, and
navigable in summer, afforded easy access to Fort Franklin, on
the southern shores, and promoted the coming and going of the
Indian hunters with their daily spoils. Many were the hunting
and fishing expeditions which started from Forts Confidence and
Good Hope, especially from the former. The Great Bear Lake is
quite a Mediterranean Sea, extending over several degrees of latitude
and longitude. Its shape is very irregular : two promontories jut
into it towards the centre, and the upper portion forms a triangle;
its appearance, as a whole, much resembling the extended skin of a
ruminant without the head.
Fort Confidence was built at the end of the "right paw," at least
two hundred miles from Coronation Gulf, one of the numerous
estuaries which irregularly indent the coast of North America. It
THE GREAT BEAR LAKE. 49
was therefore situated beyond the Arctic Circle, but three degrees
south of the seventieth parallel, north of which the Hudson's Bay
Company proposed forming a new settlement.
Fort Confidence, as a whole, much resembled other factories
further south. It consisted of a house for the officers, barracks for
the soldiers, and magazines for the furs-all of wood, surrounded
by palisades. The captain in command was then absent. He had
gone towards the east on a hunting expedition with a few Indians
and soldiers. The last season had not been good, costly furs had
been scarce; but to'make up for this the lake had supplied plenty
of otter-skins. The stock of them had, however, just been sent
to the central factories in the south, so that the magazines of Fort
Confidence were empty on the arrival of our party.
In the absence of the Captain a Sergeant did the honours of the
fort to Jaspar Hobson and his companions. This second officer,
Felton by name, was a brother-in-law of Sergeant Long. He
showed the greatest readiness to assist the views of the Lieutenant,
who being anxious to rest his party, decided on remaining two or
three days at Fort Confidence. In the absence of the little garrison
there was plenty of room, and dogs and men were soon comfortably
installed. The best room in the largest house was of course given
to Mrs Paulina Barnett, who was delighted with the politeness. of
Jaspar Hobson's first care was to ask Felton if any Indians from
the north were then beating the shores of the Great Bear Lake
"Yes, Lieutenant," replied the Sergeant; we have just received
notice of the encampment of a party of Hare Indians on the other
northern extremity of the lake."
How far from here ?" inquired Hobson.
"About thirty miles," replied Sergeant Felton. "Do you wish
to enter into communication with these Indians t"
Yes," said Hobson; they may be able to give me some valuable
information about the districts bordering on the Arctic Ocean, and
bounded by Cape Bathurst. Should the site be favourable, I pro-
pose constructing our new fort somewhere about there."
"Well, Lieutenant, nothing is easier than to go to the Hare en-
"Along the shores of the lake 1"
"No, across it; it is now free from ice, and the wind is favour
THE FUR COUNTRY.
able. We will place a cutter and a boatman at your service, and
in a few hours you will be in the Indian settlement."
"Thank you, Sergeant; to-morrow, then."
"Whenever you like, Lieutenant."
The start was fixed for the next morning; and when Mrs Paulina
Barnett heard of the plan, she begged the Lieutenant to allow her to
accompany him, which of course he readily did.
But now to tell how the rest of this first day was passed. Mrs
Barnett, Hobson, two or three soldiers, Madge, Mrs Mac-Nab, and
Joliffe explored the shores of the lake under the guidance of Felton.
The neighbourhood was by no means barren of vegetation; the hills,
now free from snow, were crowned by resinous trees of the Scotch
pine species. These trees, which attain a height of some forty feet,
supply the inhabitants of the forts with plenty of fuel through the
long winter. Their thick trunks and dark gloomy branches form a
striking feature of the landscape; but the regular clumps of equal
height, sloping down to the very edge of the water, are somewhat
monotonous. Between the groups of trees the soil was clothed with
a sort of whitish weed, which perfumed the air with a sweet thymy
odour. Sergeant Felton informed his guests that this plant was
called the "herb of incense" on account of the fragrance it emits
Some hundred steps from the fort the party came to a little
natural harbour shut in by high granite rocks, which formed an
admirable protection from the heavy surf. Here was anchored the
fleet, of Fort Confidence, consisting of a single fishing-boat-the
very one which was to take Mrs Barnett and Hiobson to the Indian
encampment the next day. From this harbour an extensive view
was obtained of the lake; its waters slightly agitated by the wind,
with its irregular shores broken by jagged capes and intersected by
creeks. The wooded heights beyond, with here and there the rugged
outline of a floating iceberg standing out against the clear blue air,
formed the background on the north; whilst on the south a regular
sea horizon, a circular line clearly cutting sky and water, and at this
moment glittering in the sunbeams, bounded the sight.
The whole scene was rich in animal and vegetable life. The
surface of the water, the shores strewn with flints and blocks of
granite, the slopes with their tapestry of herbs, the tree-crowned
hill-tops, were all alike frequented by various specimens of the
feathered tribe. Several varieties of ducks, uttering their different
THE GREAT BEAR LAKE.
cries and calls, eider ducks, whistlers, spotted redshanks, "old
women," those loquacious birds whose beak is never closed, skimmed
the surface of the lake. Hundreds of puffins and guillemots with
outspread wings darted about in every direction, and beneath the
trees strutted ospreys two feet high-a kind of hawk with a grey
body, blue beak and claws, and orange-coloured eyes, which build
their huge nests of marine plants in the forked branches of trees.
The hunter Sabine managed to bring down a couple of these gigantic
ospreys, which measured nearly six feet from tip to tip of their wings,
and were therefore magnificent specimens of these migratory birds,
who feed entirely on fish, and take refuge on the shores of the Gulf
of Mexico when winter sets in, only visiting the higher latitudes of
North America during the short summer.
But the most interesting event of the day was the capture of an
otter, the skin of which was worth several hundred roubles.
The furs of these valuable amphibious creatures were once much
sought after in China; and although the demand for them has con-
siderably decreased in the Celestial Empire, they still command very
high prices in the Russian market. Russian traders, ready to buy
up sea-otter skins, travel all along the coasts of NewCornwall as
far as the Arctic Ocean; and of course, thus hunted, thle animal is
becoming very rare. It has taken refuge further anafurther north,
and the trackers have now to pursue it on the shores of the
Kamtchatka Sea, and in the islands of the Behring Archipelago.
"But," added Sergeant Felton, after the preceding explanation,
"American inland otters are not to be despised, and those which
frequent the Great Bear Lake are worth from 50 to 60 each."
The Sergeant was right; magnificent otters are found in these
waters, and he himself skilfully tracked and killed one in the pre-
sence of his visitors which was scarcely inferior in value to those
from Kamtchatka itself. The creature measured three feet from
the muzzle to the end of its tail; it had webbed feet, short legs, and
its fur, darker on the upper than on the under part of its body, was
long and silky.
"A good shot, Sergeant," said Lieutenant Hobson, who with Mrs
Barnett had been attentively examining the magnificent fur of the
Yes, Lieutenant," replied Felton; "and if each day brought us
such a skin as that, we should have nothing to complain of. But
much time is wasted in watching these animals, who swim and dive
THE FUR COUNTRY.
with marvellous rapidity. We generally hunt them at night, as they
very seldom venture from their homes in the trunks of trees or the
holes of rocks in the daytime, and even expert hunters find it very
difficult to discover their retreats."
And are these otters also becoming scarcer and scarcer inquired
"Yes, madam," replied the Sergeant; "and when this species
becomes extinct, the profits of the Company will sensibly decline.
All the hunters try to obtain its fur, and the Americans in particular
are formidable rivals to us. Did you not meet any American agents
on your journey up, Lieutenant? "
"Not one," replied Hobson. "Do they ever penetrate as far as
"Oh yes I" said the Sergeant; "and when you hear of their
approach, I advise you to be on your guard."
Are these agents, then, highway robbers asked Mrs Paulina
No, madam," replied the Sergeant; "but they are formidable
rivals, and when game is scarce, hunters often come to blows about
it. I daresay that if the Company's attempt to establish a fort on
the verge of the Arctic Ocean be successful, its example will at once
be followed by these Americans, whom Heaven confound!"
"Bah!" exclaimed the Lieutenant; the hunting districts are
vast, and there's room beneath the sun for everybody. As for us,
let's make a start to begin with. Let us press on as long as we have
firm ground beneath our feet, and God be with us! "
After a walk of three hours the visitors returned to Fort Confi-
dence, where a good meal of fish and fresh venison awaited them.
Sergeant Long did the honours of the table, and after a little
pleasant conversation, all retired to rest to forget their fatigues in a
healthy and refreshing sleep.
The next day, May 31st, Mrs Barnett and Jaspar Hobson were
on foot at five A.m. The Lieutenant intended to devote this day to
visiting the Indian encampment, and obtaining as much useful
information as possible. He asked Thomas Black to go with him,
but the astronomer preferred to remain on terra firma. He wished to
make a few astronomical observations, and to determine exactly the
latitude and longitude of Fort Confidence; so that Mrs Barnett and
Jaspar Hobson had to cross the lake alone, under the guidance of an
THE GREAT BEAR LAKE. 53
old boatman named Norman, who had long been in the Company's
The two travellers were accompanied by Sergeant Long as far as
the little harbour, where they found old Norman ready to embark.
Their little vessel was but an open fishing-boat, six feet long, rigged
like a cutter, which one man could easily manage. The weather
was beautiful, and the slight breeze blowing from the north-east
was favourable to the crossing. Sergeant Felton took leave of his
guests with many apologies for being unable to accompany them in
the absence of his chief. The boat was let loose from its moorings,
and tacking to starboard, shot across the clear waters of the lake.
The little trip passed pleasantly enough. The taciturn old
sailor sat silent in the stern of the boat with the tiller tucked under
his arm. Mrs Barnett and Lieutenant Hobson, seated opposite to
each other, examined with interest the scenery spread out before
them. The boat skirted the northern shores of the lake at about
three miles' distance, following a rectilinear direction, so that the
wooded heights sloping gradually to the west were distinctly visible.
From this side the district north of the lake appeared perfectly flat,
and the horizon receded to a considerable distance. The whole
of this coast contrasted strongly with the sharp angle, at the
extremity of which rose Fort Confidence, framed in green pines.
The flag of the Company was still visible floating from the tower
of the fort. The oblique rays of the sun lit up the surface of the
water, and striking on the floating icebergs, seemed to convert
them into molten silver of dazzling brightness. No trace remained
of the solid ice-mountains of the winter but these moving relics,
which the solar rays could scarcely dissolve, and which seemed, as
it were, to protest against the brilliant but not very powerful Polar
sun, now describing a diurnal are of considerable length.
Mrs Barnett and the Lieutenant, as was their custom, communi-
cated to each other the thoughts suggested by the strange scenes
through which they were passing. They laid up a store of pleasant
recollections for the future whilst the boat floated rapidly along
upon the peaceful waves.
The party started at six in the morning, and at nine they neared
the point on the northern bank at which they were to land. The
Indian encampment was situated at the north-west angle of the
Great Bear Lake. Before ten o'clock old Norman ran the boat
aground on a low bank %t the foot of a cliff of moderate height.
THE FUR COUNTRY.
Mrs Barnett and the Lieutenant landed at once. Two or three
Indians, with their chief, wearing gorgeous plumes, hastened to
meet them, and addressed them in fairly intelligible English.
These Hare Indians, like the Copper and Beaver Indians, all
belong to the Chippeway race, and differ but little in customs and
costumes from their fellow-tribes. They are in constant communica-
tion with the factories, and have become, so to speak, "Britainised"
-at least as much so as is possible for savages. They bring
the spoils of the chase to the forts, and there exchange them foz
the necessaries of life, which they no longer provide for them-
selves. They are in the pay of the Company, they live upon
it, and it is not surprising that they have lost all originality. To
find a native race as yet uninfluenced by contact with Europeans
we must go to still higher latitudes, to the ice-bound regions
frequented by the Esquimaux, who, like the Greenlanders, are the
true children of Arctic lands.
Mrs Barnett and Jaspar Hobson accompanied the Indians to
their camp, about half a mile from the shore, and found some thirty
natives there, men, women, and children, who supported themselves
by hunting and fishing on the borders of the lake. These Indians
had just come from the northernmost districts of the American
continent, and were able to give the Lieutenant some valuable,
although necessarily incomplete, information on the actual state of
the sea-coast near the seventieth parallel. The Lieutenant heard with
considerable satisfaction that a party of Americans or Europeans
had been seen on the confines of the Polar Sea, and that it was
open at this time of year. About Cape Bathurst, properly so
called, the point for which he intended to make, the Hare
Indians could tell him nothing. Their chief said, however, that the
district between the Great Bear Lake and Cape Bathurst was very
difficult to cross, being hilly and intersected by streams, at this
season of the year free from ice. He advised the Lieutenant to go
down the Coppermine river, from the north-east of the lake, which
would take him to the coast by the shortest route. Once at the
Arctic Ocean, it would be easy to skirt along its shores and to
choose the best spot at which to halt.
Lieutenant Hobson thanked the Indian chief, and took leave after
giving him a few presents. Then accompanied by Mrs Barnett, he
explored the neighbourhood of the camp, not returning to the boat
until nearly three o'clock in the afternoon.
A STORM ON THE LAKE.
HE old sailor was impatiently awaiting the return of the
travellers; for during the last hour the weather had
changed, and the appearance of the sky was calculated to
render any one accustomed to read the signs of the clouds uneasy.
The sun was obscured by a thick mist, the wind had fallen, but an
ominous moaning was heard from the south of the lake. These
symptoms of an approaching change of temperature were developed
with all the rapidity peculiar to these elevated latitudes.
"Let us be off, sir! let us be off!" cried old Norman, looking
anxiously at the fog above his head. "Let us start without losing
an instant. There are terrible signs in the air! "
"Indeed," exclaimed the Lieutenant, "the appearance of the sky
is quite changed, and we never noticed it, Mrs Barnett!"
Are you afraid of a storm inquired the lady of old Norman.
"Yes, madam," replied the old sailor; "and the storms on the
Great Bear Lake are often terrible. The hurricane rages as if
upon the open Atlantic Ocean. This sudden fog bodes us no good;
but the tempest may hold back for three or four hours, and by that
time we shall be at Fort Confidence. Let us then start without a
moment's delay, for the boat would not be safe near these rocks."
The Lieutenant, feeling that the old man, accustomed as he was
to navigate these waters, was better able to judge than himself,
decided to follow his advice, and embarked at once with Mrs Barnett.
But just as they were pushing off, old Norman, as if possessed by
some sudden presentiment, murmured-
"Perhaps it would be better to wait."
Lieutenant Hobson overheard these words, and looked inquiringly
at the old boatman, already seated at the helm. Had he been alone
he would not have hesitated to start, but as Mrs Barnett was with
him caution was necessary. The lady at once saw and understood
56 THE FUR COUNTRY.
"Never mind about me, Lieutenant," she said; "act as if I were
not present. Let us start immediately, as our brave guide suggests."
"We are off, then," cried Norman, letting go the moorings, "to
the fort by the shortest route."
For about an hour the bark made little head. The sail, scarcely
filled by the fitful breeze, flapped against the mast. The fog became
thicker. The waves began to rise and the boat to rock consider-
ably; for the approaching hurricane affected the water sooner than
the atmosphere itself. The two travellers sat still and silent, whilst
the old sailor peered into the darkness with bloodshot eyes.
Prepared for all contingencies, he awaited the shock of the wind,
ready to pay out rapidly should the attack be very violent. The
conflict of the elements had not, however, as yet commenced; and all
would have been well if they had been able to advance, but after an
hour's sail they were still only about two hours' distance from the
Indian encampment. A few gusts of wind from the shore drove
them out of their course, and the dense fog rendered it impossible
for them to make out the coast-line. Should the wind settle in
the north it would probably go hard with the light boat, which,
unable to hold its own course, would be drifted out into the lake
no one knew where.
"We are scarcely advancing at all," said the Lieutenant to old
"No, sir," replied Norman; "the wind is not strong enoughto fill
the sail, and if it were, I fear it comes from the wrong quarter. If
so," he added, pointing to the south, "we may see Fort Franklin
before Fort Confidence."
"Well," said Mrs Barnett cheerfully, "our trip will have been
all the more complete. This is a magnificent lake, well worth ex-
ploring from north to south. I suppose, Norman, one might get
back even from Fort Franklin "
"Yes, madam, if we ever reach it," replied the old man. "But
tempests lasting fifteen days are by no means rare on this lake; and
if our bad luck should drive us to the south, it may be a month
before Lieutenant Hobson again sees Fort Confidence."
"Let us be careful, then," said the Lieutenant; "for such a delay
would hinder our projects very much. Do the best you can under
the circumstances, and if you think it would be prudent, go back
to the north. I don't suppose Mrs Barnctt would mind a walk of
twenty or twenty-five miles."
A STORM ON TH.r LAkR. 57
"I should be glad enough to go back to the north, Lieutenant,"
replied Norman, "if it were still possible. But look, the wind
seems likely to settle against us. All I can attempt is to get to the
cape on the north-east, and if it doesn't blow too hard, I hope to
But at about half-past four the storm broke. The shrill whistling
of the wind was heard far above their heads, but the state of the
atmosphere prevented it from as yet descending upon the lake; this
was, however, only delayed for a brief space of time. The cries of
frightened birds flying through the fog mingled with the noise of
the wind. Suddenly the mist was torn open, and revealed low
jagged masses of rain-cloud chased towards the south. The fears
of the old sailor were realized. The wind blew from the north,
and it was not long before the travellers learned the meaning of a
squall upon the lake.
"Look out 1" cried old Norman, tightening sail so as to get his
boat ahead of the wind, whilst keeping her under control of the
The squall came. It caught the boat upon the flank, and it was
turned over on its side; but recovering itself, it was flung upon
the crest of a wave. The billows surged as if upon an open sea.
The waters of the lake not being very deep, struck against the
bottomand rebounded to an immense height.
"Help help !" cried old Norman, hurriedly struggling to haul
down his sail.
Mrs Barnett and Hobson endeavoured to come to his assistance,
but without success, for they knew nothing of the management of
a boat. Norman, unable to leave the helm, and the halliards
being entangled at the top of the mast, could not take in the sail.
Every moment the boat threatened to capsize, and heavy seas broke
over its sides. The sky became blacker and blacker, cold rain mingled
with snow fell in torrents, whilst the squall redoubled its fury, lash-
ing the crests of the waves into foam.
Cut it cut it!" screamed Norman above the roaring of the
The Lieutenant, his cap blown away and his eyes blinded by the
spray, seized Norman's knife and cut the halliard like a harp-string;
but the wet cordage no longer acted in the grooves of the pulleys, and
the yard remained attached to the top of the mast.
Norman, totally unable to make head against the wind, now
58 THE FUR COUNTRY.
resolved to -tack about for the south, dangerous as it would be to
have the boat before the wind, pursued by waves advancing at
double its speed. Yes, to tack, although this course would probably
bring them all to the southern shores of the lake, far away from
The Lieutenant and his brave companion were well aware of the
danger which threatened them. The frail boat could not long resist
the blows of the waves, itwould either be crushed or capsized; the
lives of those within it were in the hands of God.
But neither yielded to despair; clinging to the sides of the boat, wet
to the skin, chilled to the bone by the cutting blast, they strove to
gaze through the thick mist and fog. All trace of the land had dis-
appeared, and so great was the obscurity that at a cable's length from
the boat clouds and waves could not be distinguished from each
other. Now and then the two travellers looked inquiringly into old
Norman's face, who, with teeth set and hands clutching the tiller,
tried to keep his boat as much as possible under wind.
But the violeiice of the squall became such that the boat could
not long maintain this course. The waves which struck its bow
would soon have inevitably crushed it; the front planks were
already beginning to separate, and when its whole weight was
flung into the hollows of the waves it seemed as if it could rise no
"We must tack, we must tack, whatever happens !" murmured
the old sailor.
And pushing the tiller and paying out sail, he turned the head of
the boat to the south. The sail, stretched to the utmost, brought the
boat round with giddy rapidity, and the immense waves, chased by
the wind, threatened to engulf the little bark. This was the
great danger of shifting with the wind right aft. The billows
hurled themselves in rapid succession upon the boat, which could
not evade them. It filled rapidly, and the water had to be baled
out without a moment's pause, or it must have foundered. As they
got nearer and nearer to the middle of the lake the waves became
rougher. Nothing there broke the fury of the wind; no clumps of
trees, no hills, checked for a moment the headlong course of the hur-
ricane. Now and then momentary glimpses were obtained through
the fog of icebergs dancing like buoys upon the waves, and driven
towards the south of the lake.
It was half-past five. Neither Norman nor the Lieutenant had
A STORM ON THE LAKE.
any idea of where they were, or whither they were going. They
had lost all control over the boat, and were at the mercy of the
winds and waves.
And now at about a hundred feet behind the boat a huge wave
upreared its foam-crowned crest, whilst in front a black whirlpool
was formed by the sudden sinking of the water. All surface agita-
tion, crushed by the wind, had disappeared around this awful gulf,
which, growing deeper and blacker every moment, drew the devoted
little vessel towards its fatal embrace. Ever nearer came the
mighty wave, all lesser billows sinking into insignificance before it.
It gained upon the boat, another moment and it would crush it to
atoms. Norman, looking round, saw its approach; and Mrs Barnett
and the Lieutenant, with eyes fixed and staring, awaited in fearful
suspense the blow from which there was no escape. The wave
broke over them with the noise of thunder; it enveloped the stern
of the boat in foam, a fearful crash was heard, and a cry burst from
the lips of the Lieutenant and his companion, smothered beneath the
They thought that all was over, and that the boat had sunk; but
no, it rose once more, although more than half filled with water.
The Lieutenant uttered a cry of despair. Where was Norman
The poor old sailor had disappeared !
Mrs Paulina Barnett looked inquiringly at Hobson.
"Norman! he repeated, pointing to his empty place.
Unhappy man !" murmured Mrs Barnett; and at the risk of
being flung from the boat rocking on the waves, the two started to
their feet and looked around them. But they could see and hear
nothing. No cry for help broke upon their ears. No dead body
floated in the white foam. The old sailor had met his death in the
element he loved so well.
Mrs Barnett and Hobson sank back upon their seats. They were
now alone, and must see to their own safety; but neither of them
knew anything of the management of a boat, and even an experi-
enced hand could scarcely have controlled it now. They were at the
mercy of the waves, and the bark, with distended sail, swept along
in mad career. What could the Lieutenant do to check or direct its
What a terrible situation for our travellers, to be thus overtaken
by a tempest in a frail bark which they could not manage !
We are lost! said the Lieutenant.
THE FUR COUNTRY.
"No; Lieutenant," replied Mrs Barnett; "let us make another
effort. Heaven helps those who help themselves !"
Lieutenant Hobson now for the first time realized with how in-
trepid a woman fate had thrown him.
The first thing to be done was to get rid of the water which
weighed down the boat. Another wave shipped would have filled
it in a moment, and it must have sunk at once. The vessel light-
ened, it would have a better chance of rising on the waves; and the
two set to work to bale out the water. This was no easy task; for
fresh waves constantly broke over them, and the scoop could not be
laid aside for an instant. Mrs Barnett was indefatigable, and the
Lieutenant, leaving the baling to her, took the helm himself, and
did the best he could to guide the boat with the wind right aft.
To add to the danger, night, or rather darkness, for in these lati-
tudes night only lasts a few hours at this time of year, fell upon
them. Scarce a ray of light penetrated through' the heavy clouds
and fog. They could not see two yards before them, and the boat
must have been dashed to pieces had it struck a floating iceberg.
This danger was indeed imminent, for the loose ice-masses advance
with such rapidity that it is impossible to get out of their way.
You have no control over the helm i" said Mrs Barnett in a
slight lull of the storm.
"No, madam," he replied; "and you must prepare for the worst."
"I am ready !" replied the courageous woman simply.
As she spoke a loud ripping sound was heard. The sail, torn
away by the wind, disappeared like a white cloud. The boat sped
rapidly along for a few instants, and then stopped suddenly, the
waves buffeting it about like an abandoned wreck. Mrs Barnett
and Hobson, flung to the bottom of the boat, bruised, shaken, and
torn, felt that all was lost. Not a shred of canvas was left to aid in
navigating the craft; and what with the spray, the snow, and the
rain, they could scarcely see each other, whilst the uproar drowned
their voices. Expecting every moment to perish, they remained
for an hour in painful suspense, commending themselves to God,
who alone could save them.
Neither of them could have said how long they waited when they
were aroused by a violent shock.
The boat had just struck an enormous iceberg, a floating block
with rugged, slippery sides, to which it would be impossible to cling.
" -iobson uttered a last despairing cry "- Page (l.
A STORM ON THE LAKE. 61
At this sudden blow, which could not have been parried, the bow
of the boat was split open, and the water poured into it in torrents.
We are sinking we are sinking !" cried Jaspar Hobson.
He was right. The boat was settling down; the water had already
reached the seats.
"Madam, madam, I am here! I will not leave you!" added the
"No, no," cried Mrs Barnett: "alone, you may save yourself;
together, we should perish. Leave me! leave me!"
"Never!" cried Hobson.
But he had scarcely pronounced this word when the boat, struck
by another wave, filled and sank.
Both were drawn under water by the eddy caused by Jhe sudden
settling down of the boat, but in a few instants they rose to the
surface. Hobson was a strong swimmer, and struck out with one
arm, supporting his companion with the other. But it was evident
that he could not long sustain a conflict with the furious waves, and
that he must perish with her he wished to save.
At this moment a strange sound attracted his attention. It was
not the cry of a frightened bird, but the shout of a human voice !
By one supreme effort Hobson raised himself above the waves and
looked around him.
But he could distinguish nothing in the thick fog. And yet he
again heard cries, this time nearer to him. Some bold men were
coming to his succour Alas if it were so, they would arrive too
late. Encumbered by his clothes, the Lieutenant felt himself sink-
ing with the unfortunate lady, whose head he could scarcely keep
above the water. With a last despairing effort he uttered a heart-
rending cry and disappeared beneath the waves.
It was, however, no mistake-he had heard voices. Three men,
wandering about by the lake, had seen the boat in danger, and put
off to its rescue. They were Esquimaux, the only men who could
have hoped to weather such a storm, for theirs are the only boats
constructed to escape destruction in these fearful tempests.
The Esquimaux boat or kayak is a long pirogue raised at each
end, made of a light framework of wood, covered with stretched
seal-skins strongly stitched with the sinews of the Walrus. In
the upper part of the boat, also covered with skins, is an opening
in which the Esquimaux takes his place, fastening his waterproof
jacket to the back of his seat; so that he is actuallyjoined to his bark,
62 THE FUR COUNTRY.
which not a drop of water can penetrate. This light, easily-managed
kayak, floating, as it does, on the crests of the waves, can never be
submerged; and if it be sometimes capsized, a blow of the paddle
rights it again directly; so that it is able to live and make way in
seas in which any other boat would certainly be dashed to pieces.
The three Esquimaux, guided by the Lieutenant's last despairing
cry, arrived at the scene of the wreck just in time. Hobson and Mrs
Barnett, already half drowned, felt themselves drawn up by power-
ful hands; but in the darkness they were unable to discover who
were their deliverers. One of the men took the Lieutenant and
laid him across his own boat, another did the same for Mrs Barnett,
and the three kayaks, skilfully managed with the paddles, six feet
long, sped. rapidly over the white foam.
Half an hour afterwards, the shipwrecked travellers were lying
on the-sandy beach three miles above Fort Providence.
The old sailor alone was missing !
T was about ten o'clock the same night when Mrs Barnett
and Lieutenant Hobson knocked at the postern gate of the
fort. Great was the joy on seeing them, for they had been
given up for lost; but this joy was turned to mourning at the news
of the death of Norman. The brave fellow had been beloved by
all, and his loss was sincerely mourned. The intrepid and devoted
Esquimaux received phlegmatically the earnest expressions of
gratitude of those they had saved, and could not be persuaded to
come to the fort. What they had done seemed to them only
natural, and these were not the first persons they had rescued; so
they quietly returned to their wild life of adventure on the lake,
where they hunted the otters and water-birds day and night.
For the next three nights the party rested. Hobson always
intended to set out on June 2d; and on that day, all having
recovered from their fatigues and the storm having abated, the
order was given to start.
Sergeant Felton had done all in his power to make his guests
comfortable and to aid their enterprise; some of the jaded dogs
were replaced by fresh animals, and now the Lieutenant found all
his sledges drawn up in good order at the door of the enceinte,
and awaiting the travellers.
The adieux were soon over. Each one thanked Sergeant Felton
for his hospitality, and Mrs Paulina Barnett was most profuse in
her expressions of gratitude. A hearty shake of the hand between
the Sergeant and his brother-in-law, Long, completed the leave-
Each pair got into the sledge assigned to them; but this time
Mrs Barnett and the Lieutenant shared one vehicle, Madge and
Sergeant Long following them.
According to the advice of the Indian chief, Hobson determined
to get to the coast by the v'ortejt route, and to take a north-easterly
64 THE FUR COUNTRY.
direction. After consulting his map, which merely gave a rough
outline of the configuration of the country, it seemed best to him
to descend the valley of the Coppermine, a large river which flows
into Coronation Gulf.
The distance between Fort Confidence and the mouth of this
river is only a degree and a half-that is to say, about eighty-five or
ninety miles. The deep hollow formed by the gulf is bounded on
the north by Cape Krusenstein, and from it the coast juts out
towards the north-west, ending in Cape Bathurst, which is above
the seventieth parallel.
The Lieutenant, therefore, now changed the route he had hitherto
followed, directing his course to the east, so as to reach the river in
a few hours.
In the afternoon of the next day, June 3d, the river was gained.
It was now free from ice, and its clear and rapid waters flowed
through a vast valley, intersected by numerous but easily fordable
streams. The sledges advanced pretty rapidly, and as they went
along, Hobson gave his companion some account of the country
through which they were passing. A sincere friendship, founded on
mutual esteem, had sprung up between these two. Mrs Paulina
Barnett was an earnest student with a special gift for discovery, and
was therefore always glad to converse with travellers and explorers.
Hobson, who knew his beloved North America by heart, was able
to answer all her inquiries fully.
About ninety years ago," he said, "the territory through which
the Coppermine flows was unknown, and we are indebted for its
discovery to the agents of the Hudson's Bay Company. But as
always happens in scientific matters, in seeking one thing, another
was found. Columbus was trying to find Asia, and discovered
"And what were the agents of the Hudson's Bay Company
seeking 1 The famous North-West Passage "
"No, madam," replied the young Lieutenant. A century ago
the Company had no interest in the opening of a new route, which
would have been more valuable to its rivals than to it. It is even
said that in 1741 a certain Christopher Middleton, sent to explore
these latitudes, was publicly charged with receiving a bribe of
500 from the Company to say that there was not, and could not
be, a sea passage between the oceans."
That was not much to the credit of the celebrated Company,"
said Mrs Barnett.
"I do not defend it in the matter," replied Hobson; "and its
interference was severely censured by Parliament in 1746, when a
reward of 20,000 was offered by the Government for the discovery
of the passage in question. In that year two intrepid explorers,
William Moor and Francis Smith, penetrated as far as Repulse Bay
in the hope of discovering the much-longed-for passage. But they
were unsuccessful, and returned to England after an absence of a
year and a half."
"But did not other captains follow in their steps, resolved to
conquer where they had failed 3" inquired Mrs Barnett.
No, madam; and in spite of the large reward offered by Par-
liament, no attempt was made to resume explorations in English
America until thirty years afterwards, when some agents of the
Company took up the unfinished task of Captains Moor and
"The Company had then relinquished the narrow-minded egotis-
tical position it had taken up "
No, madam, not yet. Samuel Hearne, the agent, only went to
reconnoitre the position of a copper-mine which native miners had
reported. On November 6, 1769, this agent left Fort Prince of
Wales, on the river Churchill, near the western shores of Hudson's
Bay. He pressed boldly on to the north-west; but the excessive
cold and the exhaustion of his provisions compelled him to return
without accomplishing anything. Fortunately he was not easily
discouraged, and on February 23d of the next year he set out
again, this time taking some Indians with him. Great hardships
were endured in this second journey. The fish and game on which
Hearne had relied often failed him; and he had once nothing to eat
for seven days but wild fruit, bits of old leather, and burnt bones.
He was again compelled to return to the fort a disappointed man.
But he did not even yet despair, and started a third time, December
7th, 1770 ; and after a struggle of nineteen months, he discovered
the Coppermine river, July 13th, 1772, the course of which he fol-
lowed to its mouth. According to his own account, he saw the open
sea, and in any case he was the first to penetrate to the northern
coast of America."
"But the North-West Passage-that is to say, the direct com-
THE FUR COUNTRY.
munication by sea between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans-was
not then discovered 7"
Oh no, madam," replied the Lieutenant; and what countless
adventurous sailors have since gone to seek it! Phipps in 1773,
James Cook and Clerke in 1776 to 1779, Kotzebue in 1815 to
1818, Ross, Parry, Franklin, and others have attempted this diffi-
cult task; but It was reserved to M'Clure in our own day to pass
from one ocean to the other across the Polar Sea."
"Well, Lieutenant, that was a geographical discovery of which
we English may well be proud. But do tell me if the Hudson's
Bay Company did not adopt more generous views, and send out
some other explorer after the return of Hearne."
"It did, madam; and it was thanks to it that Captain Franklin
was able to accomplish his voyage of 1819 to 1822 between the
river discovered by Hearne and Cape Turnagain. This expedition
endured great fatigue and hardships; provisions often completely
failed, and two Canadians were assassinated and eaten by their
comrades. But in spite of all his sufferings, Captain Franklin
explored no less than five thousand five hundred and fifty miles
of the hitherto unknown coast of North America !"
He was indeed a man of energy," added Mrs Barnett; and he
gave proof of his great qualities in starting on a fresh Polar expedi-
tion after all he had gone through."
"Yes," replied the Lieutenant; "and he met a terrible death in
the land his own intrepidity had discovered. It has now been
proved, however, that all his companions did not perish with him.
Many are doubtless still wandering about on the vast ice-fields.
I cannot think of their awful condition without a shudder. One
day," he added earnestly, and with strange emotion-" one day I
will search the unknown lands where the dreadful catastrophe took
place, and "-
"And," exclaimed Mrs Barnett, pressing his hand, "I will ac.
company you. Yes, this idea has occurred to me more than once,
as it has to you; and my heart beats high when I think that fellow-
countrymen of my own-Englishmen-are awaiting succour "--
"Which will come too late for most of them, madam," said the
Lieutenant; "but rest assured some will even yet be saved."
God grant it, Lieutenant I" replied Mrs Barnett; and it appear
to me that the agents of the Company, living as they do close to
A RETROSPECT. 67
the coast, are better fitted than any one else to fulfil this duty of
"I agree with you, madam; they are, as they have often proved,
inured to the rigours of the Arctic climate. Was it not they who
aided Captain Back in his voyage in 1834, when he discovered
King William's Land, where Franklin met his fate I Was it not
two of us, Dease and Simpson, who were sent by the Governor of
Hudson's Bay to explore the shores of the Polar Sea in 1838, and
whose courageous efforts first discovered Victoria Land I It is my
opinion that the future reserves for the Hudson's Bay Company
the final conquest of the Arctic regions. Gradually its factories
are advancing further and further north, following the retreat of the
fur-yielding animals; and one day a fort will be erected on the
Pole itself, that mathematical point where meet all the meridians of
During this and the succeeding journeys Jaspar Hobson related
his own adventures since he entered the service of the Company-
his struggles with the agents of rival associations, and his efforts to
explore the unknown districts of the north or west; and Mrs Barnett,
on her side, told of her travels in the tropics. She spoke of all
ehe had done, and of all she hoped still to accomplish; so that the
long hours, lightened by pleasant conversation, passed rapidly away.
Meanwhile the dogs advanced at full gallop towards the north.
The Coppermine valley widened sensibly as they neared the Arctic
Ocean. The hills on either side sank lower and lower, and only
scattered clumps of resinous trees broke the monotony of the
landscape. A few blocks of ice, drifted down by the river, still
resisted the action of the sun; but each day their number decreased,
and a canoe, or even a good-sized boat, might easily have descended
the stream, the course of which was unimpeded by any natural
barrier or aggregation of rocks. The bed of the Coppermine was
both deep and wide; its waters were very clear, and being fed by
the melted snow, flowed on at a considerable pace, never, however,
forming dangerous rapids. Its course, at first very sinuous,
became gradually less and less winding, and at last stretched
along in a straight line for several miles. Its banks, composed of
fine firm sand, and clothed in part with short dry herbage, were
wide and level, so that the long train of sledges sped rapidly over
The expedition travelled day and night-if we can speak of the
68 THE FUR COUNTRY.
night, when the sun, describing an almost horizontal circle, scarcely
disappeared at all. The true night only lasted two hours, and the
dawn succeeded the twilight almost immediately. The weather
was fine; the sky clear, although somewhat misty on the horizon;
and everything combined to favour the travellers.
For two days they kept along the river-banks without meeting
with any difficulties. They saw but few fur-bearing animals; but
there were plenty of birds, which might have been counted by thou-
sands. The absence of otters, sables, beavers, ermines, foxes, &c.,
did not trouble the Lieutenant much, for he supposed that they had
been driven further north by over-zealous tracking; and indeed the
marks of encampments, extinguished fires, &c., told of the more or
less recent passage of native hunters. Hobson knew that he would
have to penetrate a good deal further north, and that part only of
his journey would be accomplished when he got to the mouth of the
Coppermine river. He was therefore most eager to reach the limit
of Hearne's exploration, and pressed on as rapidly as possible.
Every one shared the Lieutenant's impatience, and resolutely
resisted fatigue in order to reach the Arctic Ocean with the least
possible delay. They were drawn onwards by an indefinable attrac-
tion; the glory of the unknown dazzled their sight. Probably real
hardships would commence when they did arrive at the much-desired
coast. But no matter, they longed to battle with difficulties, and to
press straight onwards to their aim. The district they were now
traversing could have no direct interest for them; the real explora-
tion would only commence on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Each
one, then, would gladly hail the arrival in the elevated western dis-
tricts for which they were bound, cut across though they were by
the seventieth parallel of north latitude.
On the 5th June, four days after leaving Fort Confidence, the
river widened considerably. The western banks, curving slightly,
ran almost due north; whilst the eastern rounded off into the coast.
line, stretching away as far as the eye could reach.
Lieutenant Hobson paused, and waving his hand to his com-
panions, pointed to the boundless ocean.
ALONG THE COAST.
ORONATION GULF, the large estuary dotted with the
islands forming the Duke of York Archipelago, which the
party had now reached, was a sheet of water with irregular
banks, let in, as it were, into the North American continent. At
its western angle opened the mouth of the Coppermine; and on the
east a long narrow creek called Bathurst Inlet ran into the mainland,
from which stretched the jagged broken coast with its pointed capes
and rugged promontories, ending in that confusion of straits, sounds,
and channels which gives such a strange appearance to the maps of
North America. On the other side the coast turned abruptly to the
north beyond the mouth of the Coppermine river, and ended in Cape
After consulting with Sergeant Long, Lieutenant Hobson decided
to give his party a day's rest here.
The exploration, properly so called, which was to enable the
Lieutenant to fix upon a suitable site for the establishment of a fort,
was now really about to begin. The Company had advised him to
keep as much as possible above the seventieth parallel, and on the
shores of the Arctic Ocean. To obey his orders Hobson was obliged
to keep to the west; for on the east-with the exception, perhaps, of
the land of Boothia, crossed by the seventieth parallel-the whole
country belongs rather to the Arctic Circle, and the geographical
conformation of Boothia is as yet but imperfectly known.
After carefully ascertaining the latitude and longitude, and veri-
fying his position by the map, the Lieutenant found that he was a
hundred miles below the seventieth degree. But beyond Cape
Krusenstern, the coast-line, running in a north-easterly direction,
abruptly crosses the seventieth parallel 'at a sharp angle near the
one hundred and thirtieth meridian, and at about the same elevation
as Cape Bathurst, the spot named as a rendezvous by Captain
THB FUR COUNTRY.
Craventy. He must therefore make for that point, and should the
site appear suitable the new fort would be erected there.
"There," said the Lieutenant to his subordinate, Long, "we
shall be in the position ordered by the Company. There the sea,
open for a great part of the year, will allow the vessels from Behring
Strait to come right up to the fort, bringing us fresh provisions
and taking away our commodities."
Not to mention," added Sergeant Long, "that our men will be
entitled to double pay all the time they are beyond the seventieth
"Of course that is understood," replied Hobson; "and I daresay
they will accept it without a murmur."
"Well then, Lieutenant," said Long simply, we have now only
to start for Cape Bathurst."
But as a day of rest had been promised, the start did not actually
take place until the next day, June 6th.
The second part of the journey would naturally be very different
from the first. The rules with regard to the sledges keeping theii
rank need no longer be enforced, and each couple drove as it pleased
them. Only short distances were traversed at a time; halts were
made at every angle of the coast, and the party often walked.
Lieutenant Hobson only urged two things upon his companions:
not to go further than three miles from the coast, and to rally
their forces twice a day, at twelve o'clock and in the evening. At
night they all encamped in tents.
The weather continued very fine and the temperature moderate
maintaining a mean height of 59" Fahrenheit above zero. Two or
three times sudden snowstorms came on; but they did not last long,
and exercised no sensible influence upon the temperature.
The whole of the American coast between Capes Krusenstern and
Parry, comprising an extent of more than two -hundred and fifty
miles, was examined with the greatest care between the 6th and
20th of June. Geographical observations were accurately taken,
and Hobson, most effectively aided by Thomas Black, was able to
rectify certain errors in previous marine surveys; whilst the primary
object of the expedition-the examination into the quality and
quantity of the game in the surrounding districts-was not neglected.
Were these lands well stocked with game I Could they count
with certainty not only on a good supply of furs, but also of meat ?
Would the resources of the country provide a fort with provisions in
ALONG TI B COAST.
the summer months at least I Such were the grave questions which
Lieutenant Hobson had to solve, and which called for immediate atten-
tion. We give a summary of the conclusions at which he arrived.
Game, properly so called, of the kind for which Corporal Joliffe
amongst others had a special predilection, was not abundant. There
were plenty of birds of the duck tribe; but only a few Polar hares
difficult of approach, poorly represented the rodents of the north.
There seemed, however, to be a good many bears about. Marbre
and Sabine had come upon the fresh traces of several. Some were
even seen and tracked; but, as a rule, they kept at a respectful
distance. In the winter, however, driven by famine from higher
latitudes, there would probably be more than enough of these
ravenous beasts prowling about the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
"There is certainly no denying," said Corporal Joliffe, "that
bear's flesh is very good eating when once it's in the larder; but
there is something very problematical about it beforehand, and it's
always just possible that the hunters themselves may meet the fate
they intended for the bears !"
This was true enough. It was no use counting upon the bears
to provision their fort. Fortunately traces were presently found of
herds of a far more useful animal, the flesh of which is the principal
food of the Indians and Esquimaux. We allude to the reindeer;
and Corporal Joliffe announced with the greatest satisfaction that
there were plenty of these ruminants on this coast. The ground
was covered with the lichen to which they are so partial, and which
they cleverly dig out from under the snow.
There could be no mistake as to the footprints left by the rein-
deer, as, like the camel, they have a small nail-like hoof with a con-
vex surface. Large herds, sometimes numbering several thousand
animals, are seen running wild in certain parts of America. Being
easily domesticated, they are employed to draw sledges; and they
also supply the factories with excellent milk, more nourishing than
that of cows. Their dead bodies are not less useful. Their thick
skin provides clothes, their hair makes very good thread, and their
flesh is palatable; so that they are really the most valuable animals
to be found in these latitudes, and Hobson, being assured of their
presence, was relieved from half his anxiety.
As he advanced he had also reason to be satisfied with regard to
the fur-bearing animals. By the little streams rose many beaver
lodges and musk-rat tunnels. Badgers, lynxes, ermines, wolverenes,
THE FUR COUNTRY.
sables, polecats, &c., frequented these districts, hitherto undisturbed
by hunters. They had thus far come to no trace of the presence of
man, and the animals had chosen their refuge well. Footprints were
also found of the fine blue and silver foxes, which are becoming
more and more rare, and the fur of which is worth its weight in gold.
Sabine and Mac-Nab might many a time have shot a very valuable
animal on this excursion, but the Lieutenant had wisely forbidden all
hunting of the kind. He did not wish to alarm the animals before
the approaching season-that is to say, before the winter months,
when their furs become thicker and more beautiful. It was also
desirable not to overload the sledges. The hunters saw the force of
his reasoning; but for all that, their fingers itched when they came
within shot-range of a sable or some valuable fox. Their Lieutenant's
orders were, however, noB t- be disobeyed.
Polar bears and birds were, therefore, all that the hunters had to
practise upon in this second stage of their journey. The former,
however, not yet rendered bold by hunger, soon scampered off, and
no serious struggle with them ensued.
The poor birds suffered for the enforced immunity of the quad-
rupeds. White-headed eagles, huge birds with a harsh screeching
cry; fishing hawks, which build their nests in dead trees and
migrate to the Arctic regions in the summer; snow buntings with
pure white plumage; wild geese, which afford the best food' of all
the Anseres tribe; ducks with red heads and black breasts; ash-
coloured crows, a kind of mocking jay of extreme: ugliness ; eider
ducks; scoters or black divers, &c. &c., whose mingled cries awake
the echoes of the Arctic regions, fell victims by hundreds to the
unerring aim of Marbre and Sabine. These birds haunt the high
latitudes by millions, and it would be impossible to form an accurate
estimate of their number on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Their
flesh formed a very pleasant addition to the daily rations of biscuit
and corned beef, and we can understand that the hunters laid up a
good stock of them in the fifteen days during which they were
debarred from attacking more valuable game.
There would then be no lack of animal food; the magazines of
the Company would be well stocked with game, and its offices filled
with furs and traders; but something more was wanted to insure
success to the undertaking. Would it be possible to obtain a
sufficient supply of fuel to contend with the rigour of an Arctic
winter at so elevated a latitude ,
ALONG THE COAST.
Most fortunately the coast was well wooded; the hills which
sloped down towards the sea were crowned with green trees, amongst
which the pine predominated. Some of the woods might even be
called forests, and would constitute an admirable reserve of timber
for the fort. Here and there Hobson noticed isolated groups of
willows, poplars, dwarf birch-trees, and numerous thickets of arbutus.
At this time of the warm season all these trees were covered with
verdure, and were an unexpected and refreshing sight to eyes so
long accustomed to the rugged, barren polar landscape. The
ground at the foot of the hills was carpeted with a short herbage
devoured with avidity by the reindeer, and forming their only sus-
tenance in winter. On the whole, then, the Lieutenant had reason
to congratulate himself on having chosen the north-west of the
American continent for the foundation of a new settlement.
We have said that these territories, so rich in animals, were
apparently deserted by men. The travellers saw neither Esquimaux,
who prefer the districts round Hudson's Bay, nor Indians, who
seldom venture so far beyond the Arctic Circle. And indeed in these
remote latitudes hunters may be overtaken by storms, or be suddenly
surprised by winter, and cut off from all communication with their
fellow-creatures. We can easily imagine that Lieutenant Hobson
was by no means sorry not to meet any rival explorers. What he
wanted was an unoccupied country, a deserted land, suitable as a
refuge for the fur-bearing animals; and in this matter he had the
full sympathy of Mrs Barnett, who, as the guest of the Company,
naturally took a great interest in the success of its schemes.
Fancy, then, the disappointment of the Lieutenant, when on the
morning of the 20th June he came to an encampment but recently
It was situated at the end of a narrow creek called Darnley Bay,
of which Cape Parry is the westernmost point. There at the foot
of a little hill were the stakes which had served to mark the limits
of the camp, and heaps of cinders, the extinct embers of the fires.
The whole party met at this encampment, and all understood how
great a disappointment it involved for Lieutenant Hobson.
What a pity !" he exclaimed. "I would rather have met a
whole family of polar bears !"
But I daresay the men who encamped here are already far off,"
said-Mrs Barnett; "very likely they have returned to their usual
THE FUR COUNTRY.
." That is as it may be," replied the Lieutenant. If these be the
traces of Esquimaux, they are more likely to have gone on than to
have turned back; and if they be those of Indians, they are pro-
bably, like ourselves, seeking a new hunting district; and in either
case it will be very unfortunate for us."
But," said Mrs Barnett, "cannot we find out to what race the
travellers do belong ? Can't we ascertain if they be Esquimaux or
Indians from the south ? I should think tribes of such a different
origin, and of such dissimilar customs, would not encamp in the
Mrs Barnett was right; they might possibly solve the mystery
after a thorough examination of the ground.
Jaspar Hobson and others set to work, carefully examining every
trace, every object left behind, every mark on the ground; but in
vain, there was nothing to guide them to a decided opinion. The
bones of some animals scattered about told them nothing, and the
Lieutenant, much annoyed, was about to abandon the useless search,
when he heard an exclamation from Mrs Joliffe, who had wandered
a little way to the left.
All hurried towards the young Canadian, who remained fixed to
the spot, looking attentively at the ground before her.
As her companions came up she said-
You are looking for traces, Lieutenant; well, here are some."
And Mrs Joliffe pointed to a good many footprints clearly visible
in the firm clay.
These might reveal something; for the feet of the Indians and
Esquimaux, as well as their boots, are totally different from each
But what chiefly struck Lieutenant Hobson was the strange
arrangement of these impressions. They were evidently made by a
human foot, a shod foot; but, strange to say, the ball alone appeared
to have touched the ground The marks were very numerous,
close together, often crossing one another, but confined to a very
Jaspar Hobson called the attention of the rest of the party to
this singular circumstance.
"These were not made by a person walking," he said.
"Nor by a person jumping," added Mrs Barnett; "for there is
no mark of a heel."
No," said Mrs Joliffe; these footprints were left by a dancer."
ALONG THE COAST. 75
She was right, as further examination proved. They were the
marks left by a dancer, and a dancer engaged in some light and
graceful exercise, for they were neither clumsy nor deep.
But who could the light-hearted individual be who had been
impelled to dance in this sprightly fashion some degrees above the
Arctic Circle 7
"It was certainly not an Esquimaux," said the Lieutenant.
"Nor an Indian," cried Corporal Joliffe.
"No, it was a Frenchman," said Sergeant Long quietly.
And all agreed that none but a Frenchman could have been
capable of dancing on such a spot!
THE MIDNIGHT SUN,
ERGEANT LONG'S assertion must appear to have been
Sounded on insufficient evidence. That there had been
dancing no one could deny, but that the dancer was a
Frenchman, however probable, could not be considered proved.
However, the Lieutenant shared the opinion of his subordinate,
which did not appear too positive to any of the party, who all
agreed in feeling sure that some travellers, with at least one
compatriot of Vestris amongst them, had recently encamped on
Of course Lieutenant Hobson was by no means pleased at this:
he was afraid of having been preceded by rivals in the north-western
districts of English America; and secret as the Company had kept
its scheme, it had doubtless been divulged in the commercial centres
of Canada and the United States.
The Lieutenant resumed his interrupted march; but he was full
of care and anxiety, although he would not now have dreamed of
retracing his steps.
"Frenchmen are then sometimes met with in these high lati-
tudes was Mrs Barnett's natural question after this incident.
"Yes, madam," replied the Lieutenant; "or if not exactly
Frenchmen, the descendants of the masters of Canada when it
belonged to France, which comes to much the same thing. These
men are in fact our most formidable rivals."
"But I thought," resumed Mrs Barnett, that after the absorp.
tion by the Hudson's Bay Company of the old North-West
Company, that it had no longer any rivals on the American
"Although there is no longer any important association for
trading in furs except our own, there are a good many perfectly
independent private companies, mostly American, which have
retained French agents or their descendants in their employ."
THE MIDNIGHT SUN. 77
"Are these agents then held in such high esteem 1" asked Mrs
"Yes, madam, and with good reason. During the ninety-four
years of French supremacy in Canada, French agents always proved
themselves superior to ours. We must be just even to our
"Especially to our rivals," added Mrs Barnett.
"Yes, especially. At that time French hunters, starting from
Montreal, their headquarters, pressed on to the north with greater
hardihood than any others. They lived for years with the Indian
tribes, sometimes intermarrying with them. The natives called them
the 'Canadian travellers,' and were on the most intimate terms
with them. They were bold, clever fellows, expert at navigating
streams, light-hearted and merry, adapting themselves to circum-
stances with the easy flexibility of their race, and always ready to
sing or dance."
"And do you suppose that hunting is the only object of the
party whose traces we have just discovered "
I don't think any other hypotheses at all likely," replied
Hobson. They are sure to be seeking new hunting grounds. But
as we cannot possibly stop them, we must make haste to begin our
own operations, and compete boldly with all rivals."
Lieutenant Hobson was now prepared for the competition he
could not prevent, and he urged on the march of his party as much
as possible, hoping that his rivals might not follow him beyond
the seventieth parallel.
The expedition now descended towards the south for some twenty
miles, in order the more easily to pass round Franklin Bay. The
country was still covered with verdure, and the quadrupeds and
birds already enumerated were as plentiful as ever; so that they
could reasonably hope that the whole of the north-western coasts
of the American continent were populated in the same manner.
The ocean which bathed these shores stretched away as far as
the eye could reach. Recent atlases give no land beyond the north
American coast-line, and it is only the icebergs which impede the
free navigation of the open sea from Behring Strait to the Pole
On the 4th July the travellers skirted round another deep bay
called Washburn Bay, and reached the furthest point of a little
lake, until then imperfectly known, covering but a small extent of
THE FUR COUNTRY.
territory, scarcely two square miles-in fact it was rather a lagoon,
or large pond of sweet water, than a lake.
The sledges went on easily and rapidly, and the appearance of
the country was most encouraging to the explorers. It seemed
that the extremity of Cape Bathurst would be a most favourable
site for the new fort, as with this lagoon behind them, and the sea
open for four or five months in the warm season, and giving access
to the great highway of Behring Strait, before them, it would be
easy for the exiles to lay in fresh provisions and to export their
On the 5th June, about three o'clock in the afternoon, the party
at last halted at the extremity of Cape Bathurst. It remained to
ascertain the exact position of this cape, which the maps place
above the seventieth parallel. It was, however, impossible to rely
upon the marine surveys of the coast, as they had never yet been
made with exactitude. Jaspar Hobson decided to wait and ascertain
the latitude and longitude.
What prevents us from settling here ?" asked Corporal Joliffe.
" You will own, Lieutenant, that it is a very inviting spot."
"It will seem more inviting still if you get double pay here, my
worthy Corporal," replied Hobson.
"No doubt," said Joliffe; and the orders of the Company must
Then wait patiently till to-morrow," added Hobson; and if we
find that Cape Bathurst is really beyond 70 north latitude, we
will pitch our tent here."
The site was indeed admirably suited for the foundation of a
new settlement, The wooded heights surrounding the lagoon would
supply plenty of pine, birch, and other woods for the construction
of the fort, and for stocking it with fuel. The Lieutenant and
some of his companions went to the very edge of the cape, 'and
found that towards the west the coast-line formed a lengthened
curve, beyond which icebergs of a considerable height shut out the
view. The water of the lagoon, instead of being brackish, as they
expected from its close vicinity to the sea, was perfectly sweet;
but had it not been so, drinkable water would not have failed the
little colony, as a fresh and limpid stream ran a few yards to the
south-east of Cape Bathurst, and emptied itself into the Arctic Ocean
through a narrow inlet, which, protected by a singular accumula-
tion of sand and earth instead of by rocks, would have afforded a
TI'B MIDNIGHT SUN.
refuge to several vessels from the winds of the offing, and might be
turned to account for the anchorage of the ships which it was hoped
would come to the new settlement from Behring Strait. Out of
compliment to the lady of the party, and much to her delight,
Lieutenant Hobson named the stream Paulina river, and the little
harbour Port Barnett.
By building the fort a little behind the actual cape, the principal
house and the magazines would be quite sheltered from the oldest
winds.. The elevation of the cape would help to protect them
from the snow-drifts, which sometimes completely bury large build-
ings beneath their heavy avalanches in a few hours. There was
plenty of room between the foot of the promontory and the bank of
the lagoon for all the constructions necessary to a fort. It could
even be surrounded by palisades, which would break the shock of
the icebergs; and the cape itself might be surrounded with a fortified
redoubt, if the vicinity of rivals should render such a purely defen-
sive erection necessary; and the Lieutenant, although with no idea of
commencing anything of the kind as yet, naturally rejoiced at
having met with an easily defensible position.
The weather remained fine, and it was quite warm enough. There
was not a cloud upon the sky; but, of course, the clear blue air of
temperate and torrid zones could not be expected here, and the
atmosphere was generally charged with a light mist. What would
Cape Bathurst be like in the long winter night of four months, when
the ice-mountains became fixed and rigid, and the hoarse north wind
swept down upon the icebergs in all its fury ? None of the party
gave a thought to that time now; for the weather was beautiful, the
verdant landscape smiled, and the waves sparkled in the sunbeams,
whilst the temperature remained warm and pleasant.
A provisional camp, the sledges forming its only material, was
arranged for the night on the banks of the lagoon; and towards
evening Mrs Barnett, the Lieutenant, Sergeant Long, and even
Thomas Black, explored the surrounding district in order to as-
certain its resources. It appeared to be in every respect suitable;
and Hobson was eager for the next day, that he might determine
the exact situations, and find out if it fulfilled the conditions im-
posed by the Company.
Well, Lieutenant," said the astronomer when the examination
was over, "this is really a charming spot, such as I should not have
imagined could have existed beyond the Arctic Circle."
80 THE FUR COUNTRY.
"Ah, Mr Black !" cried Hobson, "the finest countries in the
world are to be found here, and I am impatient to ascertain our
latitude and longitude."
"Especially the latitude," said the astronomer, whose eclipse was
never out of his thoughts; "and I expect your brave companions are
as eager as yourself. Double pay beyond the seventieth parallel !"
"But, Mr Black," said Mrs Barnett, do you not yourself take an
interest, a purely scientific interest, in getting beyond that parallel "
"Of course, madam, of course I am anxious to get beyond it,
but not so terribly eager. According to our calculations, however,
made with absolute accuracy, the solar eclipse which I am ordered to
watch will only be total to an observer placed beyond the seventieth
degree, and on this account I share the Lieutenant's impatience to
determine the position of Cape Bathurst."
"But I understand, Mr Black," said Mrs Barnett, "that this
solar eclipse will not take place until the 18th July 1860?"
"Yes, madam, on the 18th July 1860."
"And it is now only the 15th June 1859 So that the pheno-
menon will not be visible for more than a year !"
I am quite aware of it, Mrs Barnett," replied the astronomer;
"but if I had not started till next year I should have run a risk
of being too late."
You would, Mr Black," said Hobson, and you did well to start
a year beforehand. You are now quite sure not to miss your eclipse.
I own that our journey from Fort Reliance has been accom-
plished under exceptionally favourable circumstances. We have
had little fatigue and few delays. To tell you the truth, I did not
expect to get to this part of the coast until the middle of August;
and if the eclipse had been expected this year, instead of next, you
really might have been too late. Moreover, we do not yet know
if we are beyond the seventieth parallel."
"I do not in the least regret the journey I have taken in your
company, Lieutenant, and I shall patiently wait until next year for
my eclipse The fair Phoebe, I fancy, is a sufficiently grand lady to
be waited for."
The next day, July 6th, a little after noon, Hobson and the astro-
nomer made their preparations for taking the exact bearings of Cape
Bathurst. The sun shone clearly enough for them to take the out-
lines exactly. At this season of the year, too, it had reached its
maximum height above the horizon; and consequently its culmina.
THE MIDNIGHT SUN. 8I
tion, on its transit across the meridian, would facilitate the work
of the two observers.
SAlready the night before, and the same morning, by taking differ-
ent altitudes, and by means of a calculation of right ascensions, the
Lieutenant and the astronomer had ascertained the longitude with
great accuracy. But it was about the latitude that Hobson was
most anxious; for what would the meridian of Cape Bathurst
matter to him should it not be situated beyond the seventieth
Noon approached. The men of the expedition gathered round
the observers with their sextants ready in their hands. The brave
fellows awaited the result of the observation with an impatience
which will be readily understood. It was now to be decided
whether they had come to the end of their journey, or whether they
must search still further for a spot fulfilling the conditions imposed
by the Company.
Probably no good result would have followed upon further explora-
tions. According to the maps of North America-imperfect, it it
true-the western coast beyond Cape Bathurst sloped down below
the seventieth parallel, not again rising above it until it entered
Russian America, where the English had as yet no right to settle;
so that Hobson had shown considerable judgment in directing his
course to Cape Bathurst after a thorough examination of the maps
of these northern regions. This promontory is, in fact, the only one
which juts out beyond the seventieth parallel along the whole of
the North American continent, properly so called-that is to say, in
English America. It remained to be proved that it really occupied
the position. assigned to it in maps.
At this moment the sun was approaching the culminating-point
of its course, and the two observers pointed the telescopes of their
sextants upon it. By means of inclined mirrors attached to the
instruments, the sun ought apparently to go back to the horizon
itself; and the moment when it seemed to touch it with the lower
side of its disc would be precisely that at which it would occupy
the highest point of the diurnal arc, and consequently the exact.
moment when it would pass the meridian-in other words, it would
be noon at the place where the observation was taken.
All watched in anxious silence
"Neon !" cried Jaspar Hobson and the astronomer at once.
The telescopes were immediately lowered. The Lieutenant and
82 THE FUR COUNtTRy.
Thomas Black read on the graduated limbs the value of the angles
they had just obtained, and at once proceeded to note down their
A few minutes afterwards, Lieutenant Hobson rose and said,
addressing his companions-
My friends, from this date, July 6th, I promise you double pay
in the name of the Hudson's Bay Company !"
"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah for the Company !" shouted the
worthy companions of the Lieutenant with one voice.
Cape Bathurst and its immediate neighbourhood were in very
truth above the seventieth degree of north latitude.
We give the result of these simultaneous observations, which
agreed to a second.
Longitude, 1270 36' 12" west of the meridian of Greenwich.
Latitude, 70 44'.37" north.
And that very evening these hardy pioneers, encamped so far
from the inhabited world, watched the mighty luminary of day touch
the edges of the western horizon without dipping beneath it.
For the first time they saw the shining of the midnight sun,
RTHE site of the new fort was now finally determined on. It
would be impossible to find a better situation than on the
level ground behind Cape Bathurst, on the eastern bank of
the lagoon. Hobson determined to commence the construction of the
principal house at once. Meanwhile all must accommodate them-
selves as best they could; and the sledges were ingeniously utilised
to form a provisional encampment.
His men being very skilful, the Lieutenant hoped to have the
principal house ready in a month. It was to be large enough to
accommodate for a time the nineteen persons of the party. Later,
and before the excessive cold set in, if there should be tifie, the
barracks for the soldiers and the magazines for the furs and skins
were to be built. There was not much chance of getting it all done
before the end of September; and after that date, the winter, with its
first bitter frosts and long nights, would arrest all further progress. i
Of the ten soldiers chosen by Captain Craventy, two-Marbre and
Sabine-were skilful hunters; the other eight handled the hatchet
with as much address as the musket. Like sailors, they could turn
their hands.to anything, and were now to be treated more like work-
men than soldiers, for they were to build a fort which there was as
yet no enemy to-attack. Petersen, Belcher, Rae, Garry, Pond, Hope,
and Kellet formed a body of clever, zealous carpenters, under the
able superintendence of Mac-Nab, a Scotchman from Stirling, who
had had considerable experience in the building both of houses and
boats. The men were well provided with tools-hatchets, centre-
bits, adzes, planes, hand-saws, mallets, hammers, chisels, &c. &c. Rae
was most skilful at blacksmith's work, and with the aid of a little
portable forge he was able to make all the pins, tenons, bolts, nails,
screws, nuts, &c., required in carpentry. They had no mason in the
party;-but none was wanted, as-all the buildings of the factories in
the north are of wood. Fortunately there were plenty of trees about
84 THE FUR COUNTRY.
Cape Bathurst, although, as Hobson had already remarked to Mrs
Barnett, there was not a rock, a stone, not even a flint or a pebble,
to be seen. The shore was strewn with innumerable quantities of
bivalve shells broken by the surf, and with seaweed or zoophytes,
mostly sea-urchins and asteriadm; but the soil consisted entirely of
earth and sand, without a morsel of silica or broken granite; and the
cape itself was but an accumulation of soft earth, the particles of
which were scarcely held together by the vegetation with which it
In the afternoon of the same day, July 6th, Hobson and Mac-Nab
the carpenter went to choose the site of the principal house on the
plateau at the foot of Cape Bathurst. From this point the view
embraced the lagoon and the western districts to a distance of ten
or twelve miles. On the right, about four miles off, towered icebergs
of a considerable height, partly draped in mist; whilst on the left
stretched apparently boundless plains, vast steppes which it would
be impossible to distinguish from the frozen surface of the lagoon
or from the sea itself in the winter.
The spot chosen, Hobson and Mac-Nab set out the outer walls of
the house with the line. This outline formed a rectangle measur-
ing sixty feet on the larger side, and thirty on the smaller. The
facade of the house would therefore have a length of sixty feet:
it was to have a door and three windows on the side of the
promontory, where the inner court was to be situated, and four
windows on the side of the lagoon. The door was to open at the
left corner, instead of in the middle, of the back of the house, for
the sake of warmth. This arrangement would impede the entrance
of the outer air to the further rooms, and add considerably to the
comfort of the inmates of the fort.
According to the simple plan agreed upon by the Lieutenant and
his master-carpenter, there were to be four compartments in the
house: the first to be an antechamber with a double door to keep
out the wind; the second to serve as a kitchen, that the cooking,
which would generate damp, might be all done quite away from
the living-rooms; the third, a large hall, where the daily meals were
to be served in common; and the fourth, to be divided into several
cabins, like the state-rooms on board ship.
The soldiers were to occupy the dining-hall provisionally, and a
kind of camp-bed was arranged for them at the end of the room.
The Lieutenant, Mrs Barnett, Thomas Black, Madge, Mrs Joliffe, Mrs
Mac-Nab, and Mrs Rae were to lodge in the cabins of the fourth
compartment. They would certainly be packed pretty closely; but
it was only a temporary state of things, and when the barracks were
constructed, the principal house would be reserved to the officer in
command, his sergeant, Thomas Black, Mrs Barnett, and her faith-
ful Madge, who never left her. Then the fourth compartment
might perhaps be divided into three cabins, instead of four; for to
avoid corners as much as possible is a rule which should never be
forgotten by those who winter in high latitudes. Nooks and corners
are, in fact, so many receptacles of ice. The partitions impede the
ventilation; and the moisture, generated in the air, freezes readily,
and makes the atmosphere of the rooms unhealthy, causing grave
maladies to those who sleep in them.
On this account many navigators who have to winter in the
midst of ice have one large room in the centre of their vessel, which
is shared by officers and sailors in common. For obvious reasons,
however, Hobson could not adopt this plan.
From the preceding description we shall have seen that the future
house was to consist merely of a ground-floor. The roof was to be
high, and its sides to slope considerably, so that water could easily
run off them. The snow would, however, settle upon them; and
when once they were covered with it, the house would be, so to
speak, hermetically closed, and the inside temperature would be
kept at the same mean height. Snow is, in fact, a very bad con-
ductor of heat: it prevents it from entering, it is true ; but, what
is more important in an Arctic winter, it also keeps it from getting
The carpenter was to build two chimneys-one above the kitchen,
the other in connection with the stove of the large dining-room;
which was to heat it and the compartment containing the cabins.
The architectural effect of the whole would certainly be poor; but
the house would be as comfortable as possible, and what more could
any one desire?
Certainly an artist who had once seen it would not soon forget
this winter residence, set down in the gloomy Arctic twilight in the
midst of snow-drifts, half hidden by icicles, draped in white from
roof to foundation, its walls encrusted with snow, and the smoke
from its fires assuming strangely-contorted forms in the wind.
But now to tell of the actual construction of this house, as yet
existing only in imagination. This, of course, was the business of
THE FUR COUNTRY.
Mac-Nab and his men; and while the carpenters were at work,
the foraging party to whom the commissariat was entrusted would
not be idle. There was plenty for every one to dd.
The .first step was to choose suitable timber, and a species of
Scotch fir was decided on, which grew conveniently upon the neigh-
bouring hills, and seemed altogether well adapted to the multifarious
uses to which it would be put. For in the rough and ready style of
habitation which they were planning, there could be no variety of
material; and every part of the house-outside and inside walls,
flooring, ceiling, partitions, rafters, ridges, framework, and tiling-
would have to be contrived of planks, beams, and timbers. As may
readily be supposed, finished workmanship was not necessary for
such a description of building, and Mac-Nab was able to proceed
very rapidly without endangering the safety of the building.
About a hundred of these firs were chosen and felled-they were
neither barked nor squared-and formed so many timbers, averag-
ing some twenty feet in length. The axe and the chisel did not
touch them except at the ends, in order to form the tenons and
mortises by which they were to be secured to one another. Very
few days sufficed to complete this part of the work, and the
timbers were brought down by the dogs to the site fixed on for
the principal building. To start with, the site had been carefully
levelled. The soil, a mixture of fine earth and sand, had been
beaten and consolidated with heavy blows. The brushwood with
which it was originally covered was burnt, and the thick layer of
2shes thus produced would prevent the damp from penetrating the
floors. A clean and dry foundation having been thus secured on
which to lay the first joists, upright posts were fixed at each corner
of the site, and at the extremities of the inside walls, to form
the skeleton of the building. The posts were sunk to a depth of
some feet in the ground, after their ends had been hardened in the
fire; and were slightly hollowed at each side to receive the .cross-
beams of the outer wall, between which the openings for the doors
and windows had been arranged for. These posts were held
together at the top by horizontal beams well let into the mortises,
and consolidating the whole building. On these horizontal beams,
which represented the architraves of the two fronts, rested the high'
trusses of the roof, which overhung the walls like the eaves of
a chalet. Above this squared architrave were laid the joists
of the ceiling, and those of the floor upon the layer of ashes.
The timbers, both in the inside and outside walls, were only
laid side by side. To insure their being properly joined,
Rae the blacksmith drove strong iron bolts through them at inter-
vals; and when even this contrivance proved insufficient to close the
interstices as hermetically as was necessary, Mac-Nab had recourse to
calking, a process which seamen find invaluable in rendering vessels
water-tight; only as a substitute for tow he used a sort of dry moss,
with which the eastern side of the cape was covered, driving it into
the crevices with calking-irons and a hammer, filling up each hollow
with layers of hot tar, obtained without difficulty from the pine-trees,
and thus making the walls and boarding impervious to the rain and
damp of the winter season.
The door and windows in the two fronts were roughly but
strongly built, and the small panes of the latter glazed with isinglass,
which, though rough, yellow, and almost opaque, was yet the best
substitute for glass which the resources of the country afforded; and
its imperfections really mattered little, as the windows were sure to
be always open in fine weather; while during the long night of the
Arctic winter they would be useless, and have to be kept closed and
defended by heavy shutters with strong bolts against theviolence of the
gales. Meanwhile the house was being quickly fitted up inside. By
means of a double door between the outer and inner halls, a too sudden
change of temperature was avoided, and the wind was prevented
from blowing with unbroken force into the rooms. The air-pumps,
brought from Fort Reliance, were so fixed as to let in fresh air
whenever excessive cold prevented the opening of doors or windows
-one being made to eject the impure air from within, the other to
renew the supply; for the Lieutenant had given his whole mind to
this important matter.
The principal cooking utensil was a large iron furnace, which had
been brought piecemeal from Fort Reliance, and which the carpenter
put up without any difficulty. The chimneys for the kitchen and
hall, however, seemed likely to tax the ingenuity of the workmen to
the utmost, as no material within their reach was strong enough for
the purpose, and stone,. as we have said before, was nowhere to be
found in the country around Cape Bathurst.
The difficulty appeared insurmountable, when the invincible
Lieutenant suggested that they should utilise the shells with which
the shore was strewed.
Make chimneys of shells !" cried the carpenter.
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