DOUBTS EXPRESSED BY JONATHAN AND THE OTHER ESQUIMAUX ON THE EXPEDIENCY OF CONTINUING THE VOYAGE. CONSULTATIONS. RESOLVE TO PROCEED. THUNDER-STORM AT PITSIOLAK. ACCOUNT OF INDIANS. ESQUIMAUX COOKERY AND HUNTING FEASTS. ARRIVAL IN THE RIVER KOKSOAK.
Jonathan and Jonas now became more and more anxious about our situation. They represented to us, that, if we attempted to proceed farther, we might probably be compelled to remain here the whole winter, as the stormy season was fast approaching. They added, that to them, it would be of little consequence, but that they were concerned on our account. /63/ Though we had not said any thing as yet that might tend to shake the confidence of our party, yet we felt no small degree of perplexity concerning present appearances. During the six days since we left George's River, we had made little more than fourteen or fifteen miles, and were at least, as far as we could judge, seventy or eighty from the river KOKSOAK, which we had fixed upon as the final object of the voyage, being the outermost western boundary of the Ungava country. Insurmountable difficulties seemed now to present themselves, owing partly to contrary winds and cold weather, and partly to loss of time, for we had been already two months on the voyage, and had not yet obtained our aim: so that our return might be unseasonably late, if we proceeded. We could not possibly make up our minds to spend the winter here, as we had not a sufficient supply of provisions, and knew what distress it would occasion to our Brethren at Okkak.
We felt quite at a loss what to do in this dilemma, and our path seemed enveloped in obscurity. We remembered, that "TO THE UPRIGHT THERE ARISETH A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS," (Ps. 112, 4): that is, to them that fear and trust in the Lord, and sincerely desire to know and do His will, He will reveal it. In His name we had entered upon this voyage, the only ultimate object of which was, the conversion of a benighted, neglected nation, in one of the remotest corners of the earth. We were, therefore, sure that He would not forsake us, nor leave us in uncertainty as to His will concerning us, but that He, "WHOSE EYES RUN TO AND FRO THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH, TO SHEW HIMSELF STRONG IN THE BEHALF OF THEM WHOSE HEART IS PERFECT TOWARDS HIM," (2 Chron. 16, 9.) was, even in this desolate region, present with us, and would hear and answer our prayers. Many comfortable texts of scripture occurred to our minds on this occasion, filling us with an extraordinary degree of faith and confidence in Him, /64/ particularly such as, "HE WILL BE VERY GRACIOUS UNTO THEE AT THE VOICE OF THY CRY; WHEN HE SHALL HEAR IT, HE WILL ANSWER THEE," Isa. 30, 19. Also, Dan. 10, 19; Jer. 16, 21; Isa. 43, 2, &c. The mercies, also, which we had already experienced, excited within us a sense of the deepest gratitude and most firm trust; and we therefore told our people, that we indeed participated in their concern, would take the subject into serious consideration, and acquaint them with our determination on the morrow.
19th. In the morning we met in our tent, where we were safe from the intrusion of the Esquimaux, to confer together upon this most important subject. We weighed all the circumstances connected with it, maturely and impartially, as in the presence of God, and, not being able to come to any decision, where reasons for and against the question seemed to hold such an even balance, we determined to commit our case to Him, who has promised, that "IF TWO OF HIS PEOPLE SHALL AGREE ON EARTH, AS TOUCHING ANY THING THAT THEY SHALL ASK, IT SHALL BE DONE FOR THEM," (Matth. 18, 19.) and, kneeling down, entreated Him to hear our prayers and supplications in this our distressed and embarrassing situation, and to make known to us His will concerning our future proceedings, whether we should persevere in fulfilling the whole aim of our voyage, or, prevented by circumstances, give up a part, and return home from this place.
The peace of God which filled our hearts on this memorable occasion, and the strong conviction wrought in us both, that we should persevere, in His name, to fulfil the whole of our commission, relying without fear on His help and preservation, no words can describe; but those who believe in the fulfilment of the gracious promises of Jesus, given to His poor followers and disciples, will understand us, when we declare, that we were assured, that it was the will of God our Saviour, that we should not now return and leave our /65/ work unfinished, but proceed to the end of our proposed voyage. Each of us communicated to his brother the conviction of his heart, all fears and doubts vanished, and we were filled anew with courage and willingness to act in obedience to it, in the strength of the Lord. O that all men knew the comfort and happiness of a mind devoted unto, and firmly trusting in God in all things!
When we made known our determination to Jonathan and his son Jonas, and told them, that we had maturely considered the subject committed by them to us, and that, in answer to our prayers, the Lord had convinced us, that, not having obtained the aim of our voyage, we should proceed, Jonas, at first, seemed not quite satisfied, but our excellent captain, Jonathan, without hesitation replied: "Yes, that is also my conviction! We will go whither Jesus directs us. He will bring us safe to our journey's end, and safe home again." We were, indeed, glad and thankful that the Lord had inclined the heart of this man, who but yesterday seemed to be quite dispirited, to take this resolution, for much depended upon him, and the rest followed him without difficulty. Indeed they all submitted to our determination with a willing mind, and their expressions of resignation affected us much.
During the day, the men had been out a-hunting, when Uttakiyok killed three reindeer, which occasioned great rejoicing, and helped to make our people forget the frightful scenes of yesterday. The country is full of black-looking rocks, between which reindeer-moss and berries grow in plenty. The shore exhibited still many marks of the violence of the storm.
20th. We proceeded with a favourable wind at N.E. Our course lay S.W. across a broad bay, then, after doubling a point, across another bay of about the same breadth, to an island ALLUKPALUK, which we passed on the right, and /66/ on the left, another island, NIPKOTOK. At a considerable distance a-head lay the islands PITSIOLAK, opposite a headland of the continent called TUKTUTOK.
The sky had been from the morning cloudy, the wind became unfavourable and violent, and about noon heavy rain came on. Not being well able to proceed, on account of the violence of the wind, we cast anchor on the west side of PITSIOLAK, about 2 P.M. but perceiving a thunder-storm rising from the western horizon, with very black clouds, threatening to drive us on shore if we remained at this anchorage, we weighed as quickly as possible, and endeavoured to get to the other side of the island.
Meanwhile a most tremendous storm of thunder, lightning, and rain overtook us. The claps of thunder followed the flashes without interval, and the lightning seemed to strike into the water close to our boat, while the wind carried the spray into the air like smoke. Providentially we had doubled the northern point before the worst came on, and got to an anchor under shelter of the land. The storm passed by swiftly, it grew calm, the sun broke out, and the weather became uncommonly fine with us, though at a distance we saw the black clouds, and heard the hollow murmuring of the thunder for a long time.
We now expected to have a comfortable night's rest, but it grew intensely cold, and again began to blow violently from the west. The strong current and heavy swell brought us into some danger, and the poor people, who were obliged to remain on deck all night, suffered much from cold and wet. When the tide was full, about midnight, the island we had seen to the west nearly vanished, the greater part being covered with water.
21st. In the morning we again saw the skin-boat lying upon a pretty high rock, and a tent pitched close to it. The weather was calm, but the wind contrary. Our Esquimaux /67/ good use of this respite to refresh themselves after the fatigues of the night with a hearty meal and a sound nap.
In the afternoon we landed. The island Pitsiolak, which forms two at high water, is low and flat, overgrown with Empetrum and Rubus Chamoemorus, (AKPIK-berries). The jasper occurred here again. This island may be about four or five miles long, and, at low water, is connected with other islands to the north. By the help of our glasses we could perceive woods on the continent, and the Esquimaux thought they discovered the smoke of Indian fires. They are much afraid of meeting these people. Bloody encounters occasionally occur between them. The Indians come from the interior, and from Hudson's Bay, and are frequently seen near the two principal rivers, George river and South river, towards which we were going; but we met with none. Brother Kohlmeister rather wished for it, as some of them are said to understand English, and he was desirous of endeavouring to bring them to a more peaceable disposition towards the Esquimaux, by friendly conversation.
22d. We found the skin-boat a great hindrance to us. Without being obliged to take that in tow, we might have kept at a greater distance from the shore, which would have enabled us to get on more rapidly, and with greater safety. On shore we found a great quantity of cubical pyrites in a grey matrix. The Esquimaux are attentive to this mineral, and have before now brought it to Okkak.
23d. We proceeded at 6 A.M. and steered for the island of SAEGLORSOAK. The islands called NOCHARUTSIT lay on our left. They are a group of numerous small islands, many of which are overflowed at high water, extending W. and E. towards the entrance of South river. Between these islands and Akpatok, the sea is said to be clear of rocks, and the water of sufficient depth for any ship entering from Hudson's /68/ Straits, and bound to the Koksoak, or South river; but no ship durst, in our opinion, venture to approach the coast of Ungava within twenty or thirty miles.
In the afternoon, the tide turning against us, and the wind unfavourable, we were obliged to come to an anchor among the islands. We had left the skin-boat behind, with Thukkekina, Uttakiyok's brother Annoray, and one of his wives, to whom he had given his baggage in charge. The Esquimaux wives are very punctilious, the first always maintains the highest dignity, regulates the housekeeping, distributes the provisions, and directs everything, as mistress of the family.
Jonas went out in his kayak, and shot a seal. We saw many, and fired at them, but got none. Whitefish were likewise seen at a distance. Uttakiyok and David were out in their kayaks, and joined us in the evening loaded with geese.
On the turn of the tide we proceeded, and at ten P.M. cast anchor among the Nocharutsits, under a pretty high island, about three or four miles in circumference. All our people remained on board during the night, which was calm and pleasant.
24th. David roused us about five o'clock, by firing at a seal, which he killed. The women went on shore to cook it with some geese. When they returned, we all breakfasted on the contents of their pot.
The Esquimaux want no books of cookery to manage their kitchen affairs. The meat is boiled with the blood in it, and the addition of some water. When it is sufficiently done, that is, according to the Ungava custom, when half warm, the women take it out of the pot, and serve it upon a piece of stone, if on shore, and on a piece of board, if at sea. Then the person, who has caught the seal or game, proclaims with great vociferation, that the MEN may come and sit down to eat. Such exertion of voice, however, seems hardly necessary, /69/ as the Esquimaux are very acute at hearing, when they are invited to dinner. When the men have done, the women sit down, having taken good care, beforehand, that their share is secured. The Esquimaux customs never permit men and women to sit down together at a meal.
It sometimes happens among the heathen Esquimaux, that several having had good success, one huntsman's-feast is hardly over, before another proclaims the invitation to his banquet. This is never suffered to pass unnoticed, while the power of cramming down another morsel remains. Thus they will continue eating, till they are scarcely able to breathe, and then lie down to sleep off the effects of their gluttony. Indeed their excessive voraciousness on such occasion produces, especially after long fasting, all the symptoms of drunkenness. They forget, under its sensual influence, all moderation, and abandon themselves to the most disgusting abominations.
In the afternoon we steered W. by N. (wind N.E.), for the cape of KERNERAUYAK, at the east side of the entrance of the river KOKSOAK, (Sand river). Before we arrived at the cape, we left some islands to the South, the largest of which is again called KIKKERTARSOAK. SAEGLORSOAK, is a large flat island, about eight or ten miles long, and its neighbourhood very dangerous, on account of many sunken rocks. The continent hereabouts is well wooded, and Indians are said to be frequently seen in the interior. The mouth of the Koksoak is seven or eight English miles broad: its shores steep, but the rocks in general low, and covered with moss. The Esquimaux say, that in the middle there is water enough for any large ship, though the tides prevent any near approach to the land. At sun-set we came to an anchor at the mouth of the river.