DEPARTURE FROM SAEGLEK. FRUITLESS ATTEMPT TO REACH NACHVAK. RETREAT INTO NULLATARTOK INLET. SLATE BAY. DETENTION ON ACCOUNT OF THE ICE. ARRIVE AT NACHVAK.
JULY 2d. At one A.M. we set sail, steering for NACHVAK, a distance of about thirty miles. Here a chain of mountains runs north and south, nearly parallel with the coast. The coast itself is of moderate height, but very steep, and not being defended by any island, the approach to it as a leeshore, is very dangerous. It runs generally in a pretty strait line about forty miles, when a wide bay opens, in which lies, towards the north, an island called KARNGALERSIORVIK, where there is said to be a good harbour for boats. The rocks, of which the mountains are composed, are of a white grey colour, streaked almost perpendicularly with veins of black stone, about two feet broad. The intermediate strata may be about eight times as broad. We had hoped to reach Nachvak in the morning, by continuing our course through the following night, though the wind was weak and variable, but in the evening we got into drift-ice: yet as the shoals were not close together, we worked our way through them, and stood on with the little wind we had at S.E.
3d. At dawn of day, and being still four miles distant from Nachvak, we perceived both in the open sea, and all along the shore, that our passage was completely occupied with floating ice, which drove towards us, and forced us back. We then endeavoured to find shelter in a bay bounded by high mountains, but found none, the wind driving the ice after us into it, and soon filling it. Jonathan frequently cried out with a plaintive voice: "Alas, alas, we shall soon be without a boat!" We now hastened to the opposite shore to find some /21/ cove or inlet, but getting more and more entangled among the ice, were at last obliged, some to land, and haul the boat with ropes round the points, and others with boat- hooks and spars, to keep her off the rocks. Two or three times she stuck fast on sunken rocks, but by God's mercy always got off again without damage. At length we discovered three narrow inlets, the middlemost forming a bay, being the estuary of a river, which runs W.S.W. about eight or ten miles up the country, and is called Nullatartok. Into this we pushed, when shortly after our entrance, the ice entirely filled up the passage, and we were compelled to retreat to the uppermost part, choosing the shallowest possible spot to anchor in. The bay itself is about two miles in breadth, and only in the middle deep enough to admit the larger fields of drift ice to float into it. The strand is broad, and slopes off gently. It is covered with large tables of slate. The mountains on each side are high, and seem to consist of ferruginous slate, the lamina or plates of which are of such immense size, that they might serve for entire walls. Towards the sea, there exudes from these rocks, a yellowish white substance, which has a strong sulphureous smell. It was so powerful, that if a drop fell on a piece of tinned iron, it removed the tin in a few minutes.
The vallies in the neighbourhood were green and full of flowers.
Not far from the spot where we had pitched our tents, (which rested upon a carpet of POTENTILLA AUREA, in full bloom, bringing to our minds the European meadows, full of buttercups), the river, which is of considerable breadth, falls into the bay. It abounds with fine salmon-trout. Farther to the westward, two other rivers flow into it, one of which is much broader than the other, and has a large cataract at some distance from its mouth. The upper parts of the mountains are partly covered with moss, and partly with low brush-wood, birch, and alder, and many berry-bearing shrubs and plants, /22/ but no high trees. We found here both arnica and colts-foot in great plenty. Brother Kohlmeister gathered and dried a quantity of each, as they are used in medical cases, and the former cannot be procured from England.
The slate is extremely shivery, and is found in slabs, either lying or standing upright, from four to eight feet square, most easily splitting into thin plates. Ascending the mountain, they are soon dislodged, by the tread of a man's foot, and glide down towards the beach with a rattling, tinkling noise. At low water, we noticed a bed of stone resembling cast iron, of a reddish hue, and polished by the friction of the water. After supping on salmon-trout, caught in the first-mentioned river, we retired to rest; but had some fears even here for the safety of our boat, the ice pushing in towards us, and our people being employed day and night in warding off the large shoals with their boat-hooks.
4th. The weather being fair, Brother Kmoch ascended to the top of the highest mountain near us, from whence he could see nothing but drift-ice, powerfully in motion towards the bay. Four of our Esquimaux went up the country to hunt reindeer; saw eight head and two fawns, but got none.
Perceiving that our abode in this place might be of some duration, we for the first time pitched our tents on shore. Our morning and evening devotion was attended by the whole party; and on Sundays we read the Litany, and conducted the service in the usual way, which proved to us and our Esquimaux of great comfort and encouragement in all difficulties. We were detained here, by the ice, from the 3d to the 15th, and our faith and patience were frequently put to the trial. Meanwhile, we found much pleasure in walking up the declivities of the hills, and into the fine green and flowery vallies around us.
5th. We went up the western extremity of the bay, but found nothing worth notice. Here the rocks appeared to be of a species of freestone.
/23/ 6th. In the evening we met in Jonathan's tent. Brother Kohlmeister addressed the company, and reminded them, that to-day the holy communion would be celebrated in our congregations, which we could not do in this place, under present circumstances. Then, kneeling down, he offered up a fervent prayer, entreating the Lord not to forget us in this wilderness, but to give us to feel His all-reviving presence, and to feed our hungry and thirsty souls, out of the fulness of His grace. A comfortable sense of His love and peace filled all our hearts on this occasion.
In the evening, Paul began to read out of the Harmony of the four Evangelists, which we shall continue as often as circumstances will admit of it. Jonathan and Jonas generally conduct the daily morning and evening worship.
7th. We were so hard pressed by the ice driving towards us, that we were obliged in part to unload the boat, to be able to bring it into a safer situation in shallow water; and took our turns, three relieving three, to watch and guard off the larger shoals with boat-hooks, by day and night. We were glad to have reached a place, sheltered on all sides from the wind.
8th. Our people went out to look for reindeer, and no prospect of our proceeding to sea appearing, they resolved to stay out all night.
9th. Jonas returned and reported, that they had seen reindeer, but were not able to shoot any. Paul and Thukkekina went today to the western mountains, and staid over night.
10th. Brother Kmoch went to the westward to look for birds. He saw a large flight of sea-fowl, but they were extremely shy, and would not permit him to get near them. From the hills around us, we perceived that the entrance into the bay was completely blocked up with ice; and towards the sea, nothing but one continued field of ice appeared. We sighed and prayed to the Lord to help us in this time of need. /24/ Jonas went out in his kayak, and shot an UGSUK, not far from our tent. Towards evening, we saw a fire made by our reindeer-hunters, at the western extremity of the bay, and they fired their pieces to give us notice, that they had got some game, and that we should fetch it with the small boat.
Okkiksuk therefore went, and found them completely overcome with fatigue, having dragged their game across the mountains for a considerable distance. The Esquimaux are indeed able to carry burdens up and down hill, under which most Europeans would sink, but when they kill a deer far inland, it is hard-carned food, by the trouble of carrying it home. Paul had shot two reindeer, of which we received a portion. Brother Kohlmeister had been on the other side of the bay, and returned with a large parcel of plants and flowers, the examination of which afforded him much amusement.
The Esquimaux now boiled a large kettle full of seal's flesh, of which we were invited to partake. This we did, and thought it a very palatable mess, particularly as we had tasted no fresh meat since we had left the North Ikkerasak. The prejudice of the Europeans against seal's flesh, consists mostly in imagination. The dirty kettle in which the Esquimaux boil it, is indeed not calculated to excite an appetite, but the meat, when eaten fresh, tastes much like beef; when cold, it acquires an oily taste; nor durst a person, not accustomed to it from his childhood, make a practice of eating it, as it is of a very heating nature, and would soon bring on serious disorders. It generally prevents sleep, if eaten at supper.
12th. The wind became West, and cleared the bay of the ice. Brother Kmoch and Jonathan went to the opposite shore and found winter-houses, one of which had been inhabited last winter; two others were in ruins. They climbed the highest eminence towards Nachvak, but saw nothing but drift-ice, covering the sea, with but few spots of open water to the north. /25/ 13th. It blew hard from the West. David and Okkiksuk crossed the bay to explore the state of the ice from the hills. In the evening they returned with intelligence, that the sea was cleared of ice to the northward. David had caught a netsek, (a small species of seal), and we had taken a good draught of trout in the net before our tent.
14th. Jonathan roused us at four in the morning, the wind being in our favour, and we immediately made preparations to depart. After breakfast, as we were praying the Litany, a sudden storm arose. We were assembled in Jonathan's tent, and the stones and pegs, with which it had been fastened down to the ground, being already removed, the tent-skins were soon blown about our heads by the violence of the wind, and we were now obliged patiently to wait till the storm abated. In the midst of our deliberations, accompanied with expressions of our disappointment, Thukkekina gravely observed, that we might very likely get away this summer, and need not be dismayed. Towards evening, it fell calm, and the mosquitoes teased us unmercifully. We supped on fresh salmon, filled our tents with smoke, to keep off our winged tormentors, shut ourselves in, and forgot our grievances and Thukkekina's consolations in sound sleep.
15th. In the morning at three o'clock, we took a final leave of Nullatartok bay, and got under way with a favourable, though rather boisterous wind at S.W. having been detained here for twelve days by the ice. After about an hour's sail, we were near the entrance of the inlet, when a sudden gust from the mountains carried away our after-top-mast, with sail and tackle. It fell with great noise on the deck, and into the sea. By God's mercy no one was hurt, and we were more particularly thankful, that of the five children on board, none were just then on deck.
It once happened, that the main-yard fell down, and but narrowly missed striking two children, who with a third /26/ were sitting and playing together. They must inevitably have lost their lives, had it fallen upon them. We praised God for their preservation during the whole voyage. By the above-mentioned disaster, we were obliged to run into a small cove, where we repaired the mast with all speed, and proceeded with a gentle wind towards Nachvak. A calm ensued, and as there is no anchorage between Nullatartok and Nachvak, we rowed all night, and felt the advantage of the great length of days, at this season of the year.
16th. The view we had of the magnificent mountains of Nachvak, especially about sun-rise, afforded us and our Esquimaux great gratification. Their south-east extremity much resembles Saddle island near Okkak, being high, steep, and of singular shape. These mountains in general are not unlike those of Kaumayok for picturesque outline. In one place, tremendous precipices form a vast amphitheatre, surmounted by a ledge of green sod, which seemed to be the resort of an immense number of sea-gulls and other fowls, never interrupted by the intrusion of man. They flew with loud screams backwards and forwards over our heads, as if to warn off such unwelcome visitors. In another place, a narrow chasm opens into the mountain, widening into a lagoon, the surrounding rocks resembling the ruins of a large Gothic building, with the green ocean for its pavement, and the sky for its dome. The weather being fine, and the sun cheering us with his bright rays, after a cold and sleepless night, we seemed to acquire new vigour, by the contemplation of the grand features of nature around us. We now perceived some Esquimaux with a woman's boat, in a small bay, preparing to steer for Nachvak. They fired their pieces, and called to us to join them, as they had discovered a stranded whale. Going on shore to survey the remains of this huge animal, we found it by no means a pleasant sight. It lay upon the rocks, occupying a space about thirty feet in diameter, but was much shattered, and /27/ in a decaying state. Our people, however, cut off a quantity of blubber from its lips. The greater part of the blubber of the fish was lost, as the Esquimaux had no means of conveying it to Okkak.
The Esquimaux stationed here showed great willingness to assist us; and as our party was much fatigued with rowing all night, they towed us into Nachvak, where we arrived about 2 P.M. Old Kayaluk and a young man, Parnguna, and his wife, were here. The latter called on Brother Kohlmeister, and thanked him for having saved her life. He had forgotten that he had once given her medicine at Okkak in a dangerous illness, but her gratitude was still unbounded.