BY BR. L.T. REICHEL, IN THE SUMMER OF 1861.
(Originally published in German in: MISSIONS-BLATT. The English translation, from which the appended text was taken, appeared in PERIODICAL ACCOUNTS, Vol. 24, 263-77)
The needful preparations for the voyage being completed, we went on board the new ship Harmony at noon on the 8th of June, accompanied by several Brethren and Sisters. A steam-tug towed us down the river as far as Gravesend, where our friends left us, and the pilot took the command of the vessel. At 9 o'clock in the forenoon of the next day we cast anchor near the Nore Light in the North Sea, but resumed our voyage in the afternoon, proceeding slowly, and having often to tack, the wind being contrary. Suddenly, we were alarmed by the ship striking on a sand-bank, the shock being so violent as to throw open the doors of our berths, and to ring the ship's bell. For more than an hour, from 7 to 8 o'clock, we remained in this position, the ship occasionally striking so violently that we could with difficulty maintain our footing. It was fortunate that the bottom was very soft and the wind and sea quiet. We could do nothing but cast anchor, and patiently wait for the tide. Great was our joy when we perceived the ship rising by degrees, so that we were enabled to proceed. At 11, we arrived at the anchorage in the Downs off Deal. The ship was examined by Lloyd's agents, and we were thankful to learn that it had sustained no injury whatever. We, in company with many other vessels, had to wait in the Downs till the 13th, when the wind became favourable and we got under way, and sailed rapidly down the Channel, passing the Eddystone lighthouse on the third day after leaving Deal. Crowding all sail, we now entered the Atlantic Ocean, commending ourselves and our vessel to the guardian care of our gracious Lord. For several days the wind remained favourable, and the weather fine; but on the 3rd of July we met the cold wind blowing from the icy coast of Greenland, though still about 350 miles distant. Towards midnight it increased to a storm, and the sea became boisterous. The storm continued throughout the whole of the next day, and we realized the Psalmist's description of the troubled waters: "He commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths" (Ps. cvii. 25). The appearance of the tumultuous sea was awfully majestic. In the fifth week we encountered thick fogs, so that we were obliged to proceed very cautiously, as we were now entering the region of the drift-ice. The cold increased perceptibly, and we felt it the more from the dampness of the atmosphere. In the night of July the 12th we passed the first icebergs, and the next day saw several of them. One was remarkably beautiful, in part of a dazzling white, in part of a greenish grey inclining to blue, with a stripe of yellow here and there, floating majestically on the dark water. On Sunday the 14th, there was a complete calm, and I held our usual service, preaching from the words: "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering" (Heb. x. 23). Immediately /264/ after the service, the captain saw the land, though to my unpractised eyes it was not visible till the next day. We now entered the main body of the drift-ice, and were so fortunate as to get through it, after seven hours of great danger. It was, indeed, a time of great excitement, but the sight presented to our eyes was the most magnificent and imposing that I have ever seen. After having been for some time surrounded on all sides by smaller pieces of floating ice, we approached the first large masses about 2 o'clock. Our course seemed to be completely closed, and the captain was at first inclined to turn and sail back; but as the sky was clear, and the wind favourable, being a sidewind, and therefore available at any time for tacking, we resolved to proceed, only shortening sail a little. On approaching nearer we perceived that there was a passage of sufficient width. Many masses of ice floated past us, at first smaller, then larger, till at last we were completely shut in by them, and could see far and near nothing but ice. The great icebergs, those giant guardians of the wild coast of Labrador, were of a grey or whitish colour, some of them shapeless masses, others of various singular forms, turreted and peaked. The floating ice was of a dazzling white above, green and azure below, of all imaginable shapes and forms, the funnel shape occurring most frequently, the masses being scooped out below by the action of the waves. The colour of the sea was of a dark blue, the temperature only 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Not one of these floating masses of ice touched our vessel. At one time two gigantic blocks came bearing down upon us, and it appeared impossible to steer between them. But the Lord was with us, and we passed in safety; how, I know not. After we had left behind us the chief part of these apparently countless icebergs, but were still surrounded by a great number of detached pieces of ice, we were suddenly enveloped in a fog, which, coming from the south, spread itself over the surface of the sea, and left the sky above us clear. A splendid mass of ice passed close to us, the waves breaking into spray upon it. About 8 o'clock all danger was passed. The land could be dimly discerned. We sailed slowly through the night, thankful to the Lord for His gracious protection.
On the 16th of July we approached the coast, but more to the south than the captain had thought. It was a beautiful summer morning, calm and warm, and I had a good opportunity to sketch the coast with its many mountains and islands. We had expected to reach Hopedale this day, but the wind suddenly falling, our hopes were disappointed. Some Esquimaux, however, came on board. In the evening we fired two guns as a signal of our arrival, and dispatched one of the Esquimaux with letters to the Brethren at Hopedale.
After having narrowly escaped being driven on the rocks during the night, we safely reached the anchorage off Hopedale on the morning of the 17th, thankful to the Lord for His protecting care. The Missionaries and their Esquimaux flock received us with great joy.
At the time of our arrival at this Mission-station the weather was very warm, the thermometer being then, and remaining for a long time afterwards, at 77 degrees in the shade. We found the mosquitoes exceedingly troublesome. The first appearance of the settlement, together with the features of the surrounding country, reminded me in many respects of the highest regions of the Giants Mountains of Germany. The Mission-house is a large structure of two stories, built in 1853 by Br. Kruth. The upper story is occupied by the families of the Brn. Kruth, Elsner and Beyer; the lower, besides the rooms inhabited by Br. Schott and his family, contains several apartments for common use. Adjoining is the former dwelling-house, built in 1782, now used for various domestic purposes, and containing a carpenter's and smith's shop; from this you enter the old church built in 1784, now in a very dilapidated condition. A new one is in course of erection, of which, however, only the lower part of stone is as yet completed. Two Esquimaux, superintended by Br. Kruth, are at present engaged on the wooden portion of the edifice. It will, when finished, be a great improvement on the old structure. Behind these buildings is a piece of rising ground, planted with firs and larch, and bounded by steep rocks. The ground, which has been cleared by the felling of trees suited for building, is cultivated as a garden, in which potatoes, cabbages, cauliflowers, lettuces, and radishes are grown, and succeed very well. In the few warm weeks of summer vegetation proceeds most rapidly. At the time of my visit provisions of various kinds were more plentiful than usual, especially various kinds of fish, sea-birds, and game. Sometimes there is great scarcity, and consequent distress in winter.
My time was fully occupied in the forenoons in holding conferences with the Missionaries in reference to their work, and in the afternoons in communicating to them the letters of the Unity's Elder's Conference, and of the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel. Every evening at 7 was a meeting either for the Esquimaux in the church, or for the Mission-family in their dining room. I deplored my inability to converse with the Esquimaux in their own language. Still I visited many of them in their houses, and was in turn visited by them, and was able, with the help of an interpreter, to carry on conversation with them. On these occasions I addressed them with the ordinary greeting: "Aksusseai," -- Be strong! and received the cheerful answer: "Aheila" -- Yes. Among the most frequent of my visitors was Sophia, a widow, seventy years old; an age to which but few Esquimaux attain. She has lost the use of her feet, and crawls on her hands and knees. But she is always cheerful, rejoicing in the Lord. Though so infirm, she cares faithfully for another widow, who is even more helpless than herself. Her hut, in which I visited her, presented an aspect of great poverty. Several of the Esquimaux huts into which I entered were clean and tidy, containing a bed, a table, and some stools, a stove, and some of them even a clock. The entrance is generally very low, and is occupied by the dogs, which have to be driven out before one can go in. There is but one window, made of seal's bladder, in the roof of the house. Several families generally occupy one dwelling, living in separate compartments. The /266/ outside is covered with turf, decked with wild flowers in summer. Some few have built themselves houses of wood, which can be occupied only in the warm part of the year. At their fishing- stations they live in tents. They are clothed in seal-skin with woollen jackets. The hair of the women is long and black.
The land on which Hopedale is built was formerly called Arvertok, or Whalebay. But whales are now very scarce in the neighbourhood.
Among the rocks around, the graves of the former heathen inhabitants are still discernible by the bones, and by the utensils which were buried with them. The ruins of their houses also still exist. But the natives of this part of the coast are now all professedly Christian; and though in the case of some their profession may be but nominal, yet the lives of many show that they are faithful and sincere followers of Christ. Among these I may mention the Assistants Christian and Keturah, Joshua and Bertha, Jeremiah and Sarah, who are generally respected as upright Christians. I had the pleasure of addressing the Esquimaux congregation on all the Sundays of my stay here, a Missionary acting as my interpreter. The attendance was good and the singing excellent.
On Sunday, July 21st, we were awoke by the sound of hymn- tunes, played on clarinets and trombones by the Esquimaux. The Litany was prayed by Br. Schott. At 10, was the baptism of an Esquimaux child by Br. Kruth. I then addressed the congregation from the words "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" &c., (2 Cor. xiii. 13), Br. Elsner interpreting. My hearers manifested much emotion, listening eagerly to the words of one who had come to them from so great a distance. I then addressed the sailors of our vessel, who were present, from the words of Ps. cvii. 23: "They that go down to the sea in ships," &c., my discourse being interpreted for the benefit of the Esquimaux, and concluded with a prayer. On Sunday, July 28th, Br. Schott and myself having first spoken, the National Assistant, Joshua, gave a very animated address. He commenced by saying, "I am indeed very wicked, and ought not to stand up here, but should rather in shame hide myself. Yet, since Jesus, the Saviour of sinners, is our righteousness and strength, I feel encouraged to speak to you of Him." The substance of his address was an exhortation to his countrymen to walk in all things worthy of the Gospel, and to seek to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, yet not to found on their own works their hopes of salvation, which can be safely built alone on Christ. Christian also spoke, referring to the scarcity experienced last winter, and said, "But how dreadful it would be if our souls were in want." He then addressed the children, directing them all, but especially the fatherless among them, to seek the Saviour, who could not only supply their bodily wants, but feed their souls, and clothe them in the garment of salvation. He concluded thus: "Have you understood what I said?" "Aheila" -- (Yes). "Very well. Then practise it." His emotion was at times so great, that he could scarcely proceed. All listened with great attention.
On Sunday, August 4th, Br. Elsner publicly took leave of the congregation previous to his visit to Europe. I then spoke in English, chiefly to the sailors. Two Europeans, belonging to this congregation, Robert Mitchell and Amos Voisy, both of whom reside /267/ with their Esquimaux wives at a distance from the settlement, but come hither from time to time, were rejoiced after many years again to hear their native tongue. They have been in this country for twenty-eight years, and were formerly very bad characters, but have turned to the Lord with repentance and faith, and become members of our Church. The same is the case with another of the name of John Read. In the afternoon, at 3 o'clock, the whole congregation assembled at a love-feast. The anthem, "The Lord is my Shepherd" was sung by the choir, Br. Elsner playing the organ. After the singing of several verses, I spoke, -- Br. Elsner interpreting, -- and Br. Kruth concluded with prayer. Ordinarily, a Liturgy is sung on Sunday afternoon. In the evening, I held an address to the Mission-family in the dining-room.
As early as the 5th of August my official duties being ended, I had got ready again to go on board the Harmony, in company with Br. and Sr. Elsner, who intended to visit Europe, taking with them three of their children, and Br. Beyer, who had been called to Nain. But contrary winds detained us for a week, till Saturday, the 10th, which time we employed in making excursions to the neighbouring mountains and islands. At last, on the 10th, we weighed anchor. The morning was delightful. Noah, Christian, and Daniel went with us as pilots for about eight miles, until we were beyond the dangerous rocks in the passage between Kajaleriarusek and Kernertaluk, and had the open sea before us with the island Kikkertaksoak on the left hand. Many icebergs were in sight. At one time I counted fifty-three, and we could feel their proximity from the coldness of the air. About 5 o'clock we entered the labyrinth of islands near Nain, of which I counted twenty-five. At 9 o'clock we cast anchor at Harmony-bank in water fifteen fathoms deep. The captain said, that in the last ten years he had only once sailed so far on the first day. The next day was perhaps the most dismal of our whole journey. Mist and rain made it impossible for us to proceed, and we were glad to remain at our safe anchorage. The atmosphere was so dense that we could not even discern the near shore. I held divine service in the cabin, preaching from the words, "I am the light of the world" (John viii. 12). The whole ship's company was present. Next morning, to our great joy, the weather cleared, the anchor was weighed, and we sailed with a gentle east-wind, passing many small and large islands, some of them very picturesque. Between Ukkunakunaluk (Island of Calms) and Palungertak, there is a passage called "The Bridges," which is considered to be the most dangerous spot on the whole coast. Between rocks and sandbanks on both sides there is but one narrow passage, only safe when the tide is in, and our Mission-ship has often run aground here, and been detained in consequence for a long time. It became very calm as we approached this spot, but we drifted slowly along with the current, and got through without difficulty, the water being but four fathoms deep. At eight miles distance from Nain we had again to anchor, near Kauk, a high promontory, surrounded by many islands. Early on the morning of the 13th of August, the Brn. Mortensen and Vollprecht from Nain /268/ came on board, and, the sea being calm, I accompanied them in their boat on their return, the Harmony following.
At 2 o'clock, I met the Mission-family at a solemn love-feast. The Brn. Freitag, Vollprecht, Kern, and Mortensen are stationed here. The whole congregation assembled at half-past 4 o'clock, and the meeting commenced with music sung by the choir, and accompanied with a violin. The performance was excellent. Br. Freitag then held an address in reference chiefly to this Memorial-day of our Church, closing with prayer, after which I expressed the pleasure I felt in being permitted on this day personally to deliver to them the salutation of the Unity's Elder's Conference. I then conversed with the National Assistants, three brethren and four sisters. It is remarkable that three of them are descendants of the sorcerer Tuglavina, whose name occurs so frequently in the history of this Mission: Regina his daughter, Sophia his granddaughter, and Frederic his grandson. The three Assistants, Frederic, Nathaniel, Timothy, keep meetings at the out-stations.
At 7 o'clock we celebrated the Holy Communion with the Esquimaux congregation. The whole number of communicants, 95, were present, dressed in white. Great solemnity prevailed. The singing was conducted without organ. On Sunday, the 18th, I had the pleasure of hearing the children read, which they do very well. Twelve boys and sixteen girls were present. Little Martha, a girl of twelve years, and a boy of the name of Paul, assist the Brn. Vollprecht and Mortensen in the instruction of the little ones. Last winter, the number of the scholars was 39 boys; and the same number of girls and young women. The latter usually continue to attend school up to the time of their marriage, which generally takes place before their twentieth year.
On Sunday, the 25th, Br. Vollprecht held an address in Esquimaux, and I followed in the English language, speaking especially to the sailors of the Harmony, and those of an American schooner then lying there. This station is, like Hopedale, on a peninsula; having the bay of Nunaengoak to the north, and that of Tessinjarsuk to the south. Seen from the sea it does not make so pretty a picture as Hopedale, though the hill on which it lies is much higher, as it does not approach so close to the shore. But Nain has many advantages over Hopedale in regard to comfort, arising from its more level situation. The Mission-house, 76 feet by 32, is very commodious and well built. It is constructed of deal, from the native fir of Labrador, cut into planks and put together by the Missionaries, assisted by the Esquimaux. I saw here, not infrequently, firs and larches of 40 feet in height, and farther inland some 60 feet high. Br. Freitag showed me a block of deal two feet in diameter, which, according to his calculation, must have been 317 years in growing. In this climate the growth of timber is of course very slow. In the neighbourhood of the station timber for building can no longer be procured, but wood for fuel is still abundant. Near the house, on rising ground, is a large well- cultivated garden, which at this time of the year furnishes vegetables of all kinds in abundance, except peas and beans, which do not succeed here. From the garden a gravel walk leads for a considerable distance into the wood. The air is /269/ generally clear and bracing, and it would be very pleasant to wander over hill and dale were it not for the mosquitoes. They are even worse here than at Hopedale. One day we climbed to the top of the Akbikse, about 800 feet high, at the north of the bay. My object was to take a sketch of Barth's Island, and the Lister, a mountain on the mainland of about 2000 feet in elevation; but so troublesome were the mosquitoes that it would not have been possible for me to attain my object, had not my companion employed himself solely in defending me from their attacks. Fortunately, a cold east wind suddenly rose and dispersed them. They cannot endure the cold blast. We, therefore, made use of the opportunity to explore the northern part of the peninsula, accompanied by one of the Esquimaux, who are excellent guides in climbing the rocks and mountains. We made another excursion to three lakes not far from Nain, the country round which is here and there rich in rocks and wood, and very picturesque. Characteristic of the scenery are the old dead trunks of trees, still standing upright, with their withered branches, in the midst of groups of living trees, and imparting a feeling of sadness and melancholy to the landscape. More distant and higher up among the mountains is a fourth lake, which we only saw at a distance. Opposite the Mission-house there rises out of the sea an almost perpendicular rock, perhaps 1000 feet high, called Sophia, in remembrance of Sr. Layritz, who climbed to its summit when she accompanied her husband on his visitation of this Mission in 1773. I ascended it myself, together with the Brn. Elsner and Kern. The prospect from the summit was magnificent; on the mainland, mountain rising behind mountain, at our feet Nain, very small, but quite distinctly seen through the transparent atmosphere, surrounded by wood; in the bay the Harmony, and the American schooner, at anchor. The distant mountains were covered with snow. The impression conveyed to the mind by all parts of the landscape, our station and the ships excepted, was one of melancholy, a feeling deepened by the reflection, that, for hundreds of miles there is the same monotonous succession of bare rocks and moss-covered valleys untrodden by the foot of man. Labrador is indeed a desert and solitary wilderness, especially in the long winter months, where all is covered with ice and snow.
Before leaving Nain, to give me an idea of the way in which the Esquimaux travel in winter, a sledge was packed, and thirteen dogs harnessed to it. The scene which ensued was indeed ludicrous, the dogs dragging the sledge after them through bog and mire, over rough and smooth places, snarling and biting at one another, and getting entangled in the harness. After a short run they were unyoked, and the women showed me how they erect their tents, an operation which they complete in a few minutes. The Esquimaux dog is a species of wolf, having no bark, but a howl. At times the noise of their howling during the night is really terrific. They are fine grown animals.
On Monday, the 26th of August, we commenced preparations for our departure, Br. and Sr. Elsner and their children, and Br. Mortensen, who had received permission to visit Europe, going on board this /270/ day. I followed on the 28th, with the boy Henry Freitag, accompanied by his parents and other Brethren. We weighed anchor on the 29th, and after a very slow voyage and many delays, the wind being contrary, we arrived at last, at eight o'clock on the evening of the 5th of September, in the bay of Okak. The appearance of the coast in the neighbourhood of this station was very imposing, particularly that of Kiglapeit, a mountain 3,500 feet in height, the boldly serrated summit of which was covered with snow. Notwithstanding the rocking of the ship, I contrived to take a sketch of it. The succeeding night was one of great danger, as we were passing through icebergs in rain and fog. In the evening of the next day we arrived at the Station. Our approach was announced by the discharge of the ship's cannon, the echo of which resounded along the mountainous coast. The heavy rain prevented our landing that evening, but early in the morning of the next day we went on shore and were welcomed by the Missionaries with great joy, and by the Esquimaux with the singing of a hymn.
Okak is situated on an island, about twenty miles long and six broad, divided into two equal parts by a channel of water, and separated from the mainland by an arm of the sea, six miles broad. The aspect of the country around it is different from that of the more southern Stations, being poorly wooded, but much more picturesque in the forms of its mountains. Okak appears to hang on the rocks, and at first sight it would seem as though a more unsuitable site could not have been chosen. The spot was selected by Br. Jens Haven's direction in 1776, on account of its being near running water. As the rocks approach very near to the shore, there is but little room for building. The Mission-house stands under the projecting rock. The huts of the Esquimaux are in part close to the sea, in part fifty feet higher up the rocks. The house is buried in snow in winter up to the second story. The wood for fuel must then be chopped on the ice of the bay, literally for want of room elsewhere. A mountain, called the Sun-peak, rises to the south of the Station, to the height of 1,200 feet, overshadowing the house, so that for more than seven weeks of the winter the sun does not shine on it. The house is but small for four families, forty feet by thirty. The Brn. Albrecht, Barsoe, and Weitz, with their wives, and Br. Schneider are stationed here. The only child, Maria Albrecht, returns with us to Europe. In the evening-meeting I was introduced to the Esquimaux by Br. Albrecht. My salutation, "Aksusseai" was answered by a lively "Aheila." I then briefly addressed them -- Br. Albrecht interpreting. The singing was excellent, and accompanied by a good organ, played in turn by Sr. Albrecht and two Esquimaux.
On Sunday, the 8th of Sept., after the usual preaching, I spoke more at length, and the assistant Boaz then addressed his countrymen, expressing his thankfulness that teachers had been sent to his nation, to guide them to the way of life, and that now one of the "great teachers," as they called me, had come to visit them. Boaz is undoubtedly the most influential man of his nation, whence he bears the title Angajokavut, our chief. He was born at Ungava- Bay, where some of his heathen relatives still live. He came to Okak as an orphan, with other Esquimaux, in the year 1812, and has raised himself /271/ by his talents and exertions to the position he now holds. He is fifty-six years of age, and a head taller than the rest of his people. He assists in holding meetings for the children, as does Frederick, the second assistant, also a converted heathen. Abraham and Boaz the less are the chapel-servants, faithful men, but not of such striking ability. In the afternoon I visited in several of the Esquimaux houses, and heard, that, after the preaching, they had met of their own accord, and resolved that they would diligently attend to my exhortations.
Sunday, the 25th, after a sermon by Br. Barsoe, the assistant Frederick addressed the children, telling them how ashamed he had been to have to learn to read when grown up, and urging them to make diligent use of the many opportunities now afforded them for acquiring useful knowledge. That they indeed do this, I had an opportunity of seeing myself, when holding an examination of the school. The children sang very nicely some musical pieces, taught them by Sr. Albrecht. In general, the Esquimaux have a talent for music. I met with one who even played the guitar.
Signs of approaching winter now began to appear. On the 8th the tops of the mountains round the bay were covered with snow; on the 13th the valleys were likewise white with hoar-frost, and the produce of the garden had to be quickly stored. On the 10th, in company with some of the Brethren, I made an excursion, accompanied by four Esquimaux, among the mountains on the further side of the bay, as far as the so-called Schmitt-mountain, an eminence 2,000 feet in height, named after Brother Schmitt, the same who had the well-known encounter with the tiger in South Africa. The ascent was very fatiguing, over crags and masses of rock and through morasses and beds of snow. But the view from the summit amply repaid us; for to the south Kiglapeit was distinctly visible, and countless islands in the ocean; in the west, the mountains of the mainland, near the great lake Umiakowik, about seventy miles distant. The most beautiful sight was that of the snow-covered Kaumajet Mountains, the "shining ones," as the name signifies, and Cape Mugford, which rises perpendicularly out of the sea, and, though twenty miles distant, appeared quite near. Before us lay the wide ocean, with its icebergs, of which we counted 140.
On September 16th, I closed my work at Okak by a meeting with all the Missionaries, wherein we called to mind, as usual in our Church on this day, the incumbencies of labourers in the spiritual vineyard. Next day, the wind being favourable, the captain was desirous of sailing. We therefore went on board, and the Brethren and Sisters accompanied us. When they had taken leave of us, the anchor was weighed. From the mouth of the harbour we looked back on the trees of Okak, the last which we saw on our course northward. Here vegetation ceases, and all is rock, ice, and snow. A strong north-west wind soon brought us round the massive rocks of Cape Mugford, and those of Nennoktut now lay before us. These form undoubtedly the most remarkable island of the whole coast of Labrador. It consists solely of rocks, perpendicular lofty crags, without a blade of grass or any trace of moss, the dwelling-place of polar bears, whence its name. The height of the rocks must be considerable, for they were still distinctly visible the next day at a distance of thirty miles. If the wind had /272/ been favourable we should now soon have reached Hebron; but as it was contrary, we attempted for a whole day in vain to enter into the bay of Kangerdluksoak by tacking about. At four o'clock the wind suddenly ceased, and a calm of several hours succeeded, the current meanwhile carrying us southwards. Gradually, however, an east wind arose, and our vessel could again be directed towards the shore, though, the breeze being feeble and the tide against us, our approach was very slow. It was a beautiful moonlit night. At nine o'clock we fired a gun, but it was not heard on shore; a second, however, discharged about ten, was soon answered by the advent of several Esquimaux and Br. Tappe. At last, about midnight, we arrived at the anchorage.
At Hebron, I spent twelve really winterly days, with much snow and wind and very little sunshine.
September 19th, the Brn. Erdmann, Ribbach, Tappe, and Sperling came to take us on shore, where we were received by the whole congregation with the singing of hymns and thanksgiving. Br. Sperling's room had been prepared for my reception, and I was in every way made comfortable. In the afternoon we held a solemn love-feast. The snow storms and fogs which accompanied the north and north-east winds for several days after our arrival, showed plainly that it was high time for us to be here. Later in the year it would scarcely have been possible for us to reach Hebron. I saw this station only in its winter dress, for on the 20th the ground was covered with snow a foot deep, which remained unmelted. Cabbages and turnips and other vegetables had to be dug from under the snow. The summer here is very short. At the beginning of July large masses of snow had still lain round the house and garden, and floating ice encumbered the bay; and now, the whole landscape was again white, and ice was forming on the sea. We had but one fine day.
Hebron lies, like Hopedale and Nain, on a peninsula, on the northern coast of the opening of the bay of Kangerdluksoak, or Great Bay, so called because it extends a distance of twenty miles inland. With the help of an intelligent Esquimaux I made a pretty exact map of the bay.
Most of my time I spent in the house, holding conferences with the Missionaries and meetings with the Esquimaux. The appearance of this congregation is, more than any that I have seen either in the West Indies or here, that of a company of Christians collected from among the heathen. Many of them have come from the north within the last twelve or thirteen years, to associate themselves with a congregation of believers. I had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with all the communicants previous to the Holy Communion. On the morning of the 26th sixteen brethren came to their speaking, and were first addressed by Br. Erdmann, and then they themselves expressed their feelings in view of their participation in the sacred solemnity. I then addressed them. In the afternoon, first sixteen married women and then twenty-three widows were spoken with. Almost every evening I was visited by Esquimaux, who came to express their thankfulness at being permitted to belong to a congregation of believers, and to deliver their salutations to the Unity's Elder's Conference. Sunday, /273/ the 29th, the Holy Communion was celebrated. The Lord was with us.
Early in the morning a man was carried into the church on a stretcher and remained in it the whole day. His name is Lazarus. He lost the use of his limbs in 1831, in consequence of a cold taken when engaged in fishing, and can only lie. Still, he is always cheerful and uncomplaining.
Though it was already pretty cold, the thermometer being about 28 degrees every morning, the Esquimaux were still living in their tents. Their winter-houses were as yet too uncomfortable from the wet and dirt of the floors. It requires a considerable degree of cold to harden them and to dry the walls. The Mission-house is well arranged, being a long building one story high, with twenty windows in the front, large enough to accommodate four families, and to hold provisions for three years. It contains also some workshops, and the passage, 125 feet long, is a nice place for the children to play in, when they are unable for weeks in winter to leave the house, on account of the great cold, which not infrequently attains to thirty-one degrees below zero, and the raging storms. Not a tree grows in the whole neighbourhood, and all the fuel has to be brought from Napartok, a distant bay, with much trouble and often with great danger. A small house has been built there, to secure to the Mission possession of the bay. The service at this most inclement and dreary of all our Mission stations requires, indeed, no little self-denial on the part of the Missionaries.
On Monday, the 23rd, sitting, clothed in fur, on board the ship, I made a drawing of the station, which looks very well from the sea. In the afternoon, I made an excursion to Abvarosersoak, the peninsula which shelters the bay of Hebron on the side next the sea. There is on it a high mountain, whence there is a fine view of the mountains and of the bay of Kangerdluksoak. The side nearest to the sea is precipitous, and the place was pointed out to us where, a year ago, a number of Esquimaux, when endeavouring to escape from the breaking of the ice of the sea, slipped down the rocks and were dashed to pieces.
For some time the captain had been desirous of starting on the voyage home, but my business could not be concluded till the end of September. At length, on October 1st, the flag of the Harmony was hoisted in token of our departure. After the morning-blessing we went on board, the passengers being Br. and Sr. Elsner and their three children, Br. Mortensen, the children Henry Freitag, Maria Albrecht, and myself. The Brethren from the Mission-station accompanied us on board; the Sisters took leave of us on the beach with many tears. It is sad for those who are departing on a long journey, to bid farewell to their friends; but much more sorrowful is the parting for those who take leave of their children, it may be for ever. In the case of our Labrador Missionaries the sadness of parting is again heightened by the fact, that, with the departure of the Harmony after its brief sojourn, all communication between them and the rest of the Christian and civilized world is at an end for the next ten /274/ months. It was not strange, therefore, that the Sisters were greatly moved at our departure, and that the Brethren lingered long on the ship. But we had no time to lose if we were to sail at all that day, as the wind was rising and there was great danger of our running aground or being driven on the island Uigordled, at the mouth of the harbour, unless the greatest care was taken. But soon we had left behind us Nuvotannack, the southern point of the mainland, and the island Kingmiktok, and were now once more in the open sea. The lofty summit of Mount John remained in sight for several hours. Before night closed in we had lost sight of every trace of land, and had now before us the wide Atlantic Ocean. I had supper alone, all the rest of the company being sea-sick.
During the night the violence of the wind increased, and on the 2nd of October we had a perfect storm from the north-west, the severest, I think, that I ever experienced, though now crossing the Atlantic for the ninth time. For some minutes I had a sensation of sea-sickness. Our steward was quite disabled, and the captain and mate assisted me in caring for the sick children. In the afternoon snow fell, and it became very cold. Next day the wind abated somewhat, but the rolling of the vessel was too great to allow of my doing anything. For the two following weeks the wind was favourable. In the third week we encountered for some days a south-east wind, which drove us northwards, but we were able to make the Scilly Islands on the 21st and saw distinctly the two lighthouses of Bishop's Rock and St. Agnes. In three days we sailed through the Channel and the sandbanks of the North Sea without accident, and were able on the 25th to announce our arrival at Gravesend by telegraph to London, where we arrived the same day, joyful and thankful to the Lord for His guidance and protection on our very speedy passage.
I had to remain three weeks in England, and my time was fully occupied in preparing a report of my journey for the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel, chiefly in reference to the external circumstances of the Labrador Mission, in attending the meetings of the Society's Committee, in delivering addresses in our chapel in Fetter-lane and elsewhere, and in visiting friends of our Missions. On the 16th of November I left London, and proceeded by Rotterdam to Zeist, where I remained for two days. On the 28th I arrived at Herrnhut, and had the pleasure of rejoining my colleagues of the U.E.C. on the next day, who united with me in praising the Lord for His goodness to me during the six months occupied in performing the visitation of the Mission in Labrador. May the sequel show that it has not been altogether in vain!
The triangular peninsula, the east coast of which, extending from the Straits of Belle Isle to Hudson's Straits, and lying between the 52nd and 60th degrees of north latitude and the 56th and 64th of west longitude, is called the coast of Labrador, and forms a part of the British possessions in North America. Its western coast is well known through the establishments and factories of the Hudson's Bay Company. But the east coast, along the Atlantic Ocean, is less known. The southern part of it, from the Straits of Belle Isle to Cape Webuck, /275/ is thinly settled by European colonists; the northern part, from Cape Webuck to Cape Chudleigh, is the proper home of the Esquimaux, among whom we have the four above-named Mission Stations. They are said to have received their name, Esquimaux, or eaters of raw flesh, from the Indians, their neighbours in the west, and their dreaded enemies. They call themselves "Innuit," "Men;" the rest of mankind they designate "Kablunat," "Inferior beings." These inhabitants of the coast of Labrador are only one tribe of a race which is scattered over the whole coast, from Greenland, round Baffin's Bay as far as Behring's Straits, all of whom speak the same language, though in various dialects, and bear the common name "Karalit."
A hundred years ago the inhabitants of the coast of Labrador were all heathen, who in the ignorance and blindness of their hearts worshipped Torngak, an old man, as they supposed, who ruled the sea and its inhabitants, and Supperuksoak, the goddess of the land. The Angekoks, or sorcerers, held the people completely in superstitious bondage. By the Europeans they were dreaded even as far as Newfoundland, for their robberies, which were often accompanied by murder. Permission was, therefore, readily granted to the Brethren, when, pursuant to a resolution of the Synod, held at Marienborn in 1769, they made known to the British Government their desire to commence a Mission among these heathen. Previous to this date several exploratory journeys had been made to this coast. As is well known, Br. J.C. Ehrhardt was murdered, together with five sailors, by the savages in a bay to the south of Hopedale, in the year 1752. The four Brethren who accompanied him returned home. In the year 1770, Jens Haven came to Labrador and took possession of the land which had been granted by the Crown to the Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel, for the purposes of the Mission. In the year following, Nain was begun to be built; two years afterwards, Br. Paul Eugene Layritz, of the Unity's Elder's Conference, held a visitation of the Mission, in consequence of which, Okak was commenced in 1776, and Hopedale in 1782. Hebron was begun in 1830.
The land is a land of rocks and crags. On the farther seaward of the numberless islands, which line the coast, there is not the slightest trace of vegetation; they are the abodes of sea-gulls and eider ducks. The mainland, on the contrary, at least the southern half, is here and there green; besides underwood, the fir, the birch, and larch, grow in the more sheltered bays. Many Alpine plants occur, various species of saxifrage and gentians, ERIGERON ALPINUM, EMPETRUM NIGRUM, &c. To a great distance inland, mountains and morasses, lakes and moss-covered plains, are the uniform character of the country; islands, bays, and rocks, that of the coast. The chief mountains are the Kiglapeit, lat. 57 degrees, 3,500 feet high, which divides the north from the south coast, and the still higher Kaumajet between Okak and Hebron. The country is covered with snow and ice during more than two-thirds of the year, so that the inhabitants must seek their subsistence in hunting and fishing. The sea affords many rich spoils, the most important of which is the seal, of which there are five species. The flesh of these animals is the chief food of the Esquimaux. From 3,000 to 4,000 of them are taken on an average in a year at our four stations. It is affirmed, that the number of those caught along the /276/ whole coast, partly in nets, partly in kayaks, exceeds a million. Their number is said to be now decreasing, in consequence of which, more attention is paid than formerly to fishing. Cod, salmon, and trout, are the principal fish. The quadrupeds indigenous to the country are, besides the dogs, the reindeer, bears, wolves, foxes, and hares.
The number of the Esquimaux dwelling along the coast, which is about 500 miles in length, is computed at about 1,500, of whom 1,163 belong to our Mission. There are about 200 heathen living to the north of Hebron, and there are said to be others scattered here and there, but their number cannot be considerable, and some are settled at the establishments of the Hudson's Bay Company. In stature the Esquimaux are short, with large heads, black hair, scanty beard, coarse but not stupid features, and small hands and feet. The women are very clever at their occupations, such as sewing skin-garments, or boots of seal-skin, and in cleaning fish with knives of their own manufacture, with which an operation for cataract has been successfully performed. The men are quite at home in carpenter-work, the building of their boats, &c. Most important to them for procuring their livelihood is the kayak, built of wood and covered with seal-skin. The larger women's boats, covered with skin, which were formerly most used, are rarely seen. They are replaced by boats of wood for fishing and sailing, to the size of eight tons. The Esquimaux can sustain life on a very small quantity of food and still be cheerful. From the above brief description of the country, it is evident that the Esquimaux must ever remain a huntsman and fisherman. In this way alone can he obtain a livelihood in his sterile country.
The New-year finds our Esquimaux flocks assembled at the Mission-Stations in their winter-houses. At this time of the year the attendance at church and school is the best, and the spiritual work of the Mission proceeds regularly. The chief occupation is the capture of the ptarmigan and catching foxes. For the latter, traps are used, and much fatigue is frequently endured, as the traps, which are often placed out a great distance from home, must be visited daily, for fear of their being carried off by wolves. At this season, both men and women are employed by the Mission to cleave wood and clear away snow, for which they receive payment. In February, many of them repair in sledges to the ice along the sea-shore, to catch seals in their kayaks, if they meet with open water; carrying with them in general, besides their gun, a telescope, to discover the seal at a distance. On these expeditions they are often exposed to danger by the sudden breaking up of the ice. Towards Easter, the boats are repaired or new ones built. During Passion-week all make a point of assembling at the Stations. After Easter they usually go inland to hunt reindeer, especially from the northern stations, where the deer abound more than in the south. At the end of June, eggs are gathered on the islands, and the fishing-season commences, which lasts until September, when the haddocks are taken. If the weather is wet, great loss often arises from the spoiling of the fish hung up to dry. Salmon and salmon-trout are salted for winter-consumption. In October the Esquimaux repair to the Stations for nets to catch seals, and remain there in general till Christmas. This is the chief season for the taking of seals; at times they are cut off from the sea by the sudden formation of ice in the bays, when /277/ they can be shot in great numbers. As is well known, the sledges are drawn by dogs, properly speaking a species of wolf, which must be governed by fear. It has often occurred that human beings have been attacked and devoured by them. A few years ago, a distemper carried off almost all of them, but their numbers are now again increasing. There are at present 222 of these useful animals at our four Stations.
Hopedale contains 35 houses, with 46 families, and 248 individuals. Nain " 32 " 55 " 275 " Okak " 36 " 75 " 327 " Hebron " 25 " 68 " 313 " ******** ********* ******** Total . . . . . 128 houses 244 families 1163 individuals. Sailing-boats at Hopedale 9, Nain 10, Okak 12, Hebron 2. Fishing-boats " 40 " 20 " 14 " 10. Skin-boats " -- " 4 " 4 " 6. Kayaks " 49 " 58 " 61 " 46. Tents " 27 " 23 " 31 " 38. Our congregations number: -- Communicants at Hopedale 74, Nain 95, Okak 119, Hebron 70. Baptized Adults " 70 " 66 " 86 " 66. Baptized Children " 85 " 94 " 104 " 107. Candidates for Baptism " 1 " 2 " --- " 6. Excluded " 17 " 17 " 15 " 31. Unbaptized " -- " 1 " 3 " 3. New People " 1 " -- " -- " 29. ******** ******* ******** ******** Total . . . . . . . . . . . . 248 275 327 313.In all, 1,163 persons.