ARRIVAL AT OPPERNAVIK. ACCOUNT OF UTTAKIYOK. HIS PERSEVERANCE IN WAITING FOR THE ARRIVAL OF THE MISSIONARIES. ISLANDS AND BAYS BETWEEN KAKKEVIAK AND KILLINEK. DANGER IN THE ICE AT AMMITOK. WANT OF FUEL SUPPLIED BY ROBBING OLD GRAVES.
When we arrived at Oppernavik, we found UTTAKIYOK, with his two wives and youngest brother, waiting to receive us. He and his family are from the Ungava bay, and had been upon the watch in this place during the whole spring. They welcomed us with shouts of joy, and firing of their pieces, and we had indeed the greatest reason to thank God, that he had sent this man, to conduct us on our way to an unknown country, and through unfrequented seas.
For this service Uttakiyok was eminently qualified, and without such a steady, faithful guide, we should have been wandering in the most painful and dangerous uncertainty in the desert regions to the West of Cape /40/ Chudleigh, where, on a coast of 100 miles in length, we did not meet with a single inhabitant. He was so anxiously intent upon meeting us, that he had erected signals on all the heights surrounding his tent, to prevent our missing him. Among his countrymen he is much respected, on account of his superior sense, and skill in all Esquimaux arts, and possesses great influence among them.
UTTAKIYOK was one of the two Esquimaux, from whom, in the year 1800, we received the first distinct information respecting the Ungava country and its inhabitants, by which the desire, excited both at home and here in Labrador, to visit the northern Esquimaux, was greatly strengthened, and led to a resolution, if possible, to take early steps to accomplish this object. (See page 3 of original).
Two years ago, he had been on a trading voyage to Okkak, from Killinek, where he then dwelt, and intended to return, in the summer following, to Ungava, his native country, but an illness, which befell his son, detained him. This intelligence was received at Okkak during last winter, when we sent him word, that as we purposed paying his countrymen a visit, we wished him to wait for us, that he might conduct us through the straits of Killinek. But having heard nothing further concerning him, we remained in uncertainty respecting his intentions. We were the more thankful to God, who had disposed the heart of this man cheerfully to accept of the commission, and wait to be our guide, an office which he performed with a degree of faithfulness and disinterested kindness, which claims our admiration and gratitude.
While we were here waiting for a favourable opportunity to pass the straits, which were yet filled with ice, he behaved in the kindest manner to us and our Esquimaux. Though a heathen, he regularly attended our morning and evening worship, and declared to Jonathan, that he also intended to be converted to Jesus, and if we would form a settlement in his country, would come and /41/ live with us, and was sure, that many of his countrymen would do the same.
Around his tent, a considerable extent of rock was covered with seal's flesh, and in the hollows were pools of oil. Ten bags of blubber were standing ready for sale; and with a view to shew him our good-will, Brother Kohlmeister bartered with him for three of them, which were hid under the stones, to take them with us, if practicable, on our return.
26th. We put up our three tents; Uttakiyok's people had three more. Wind N.W. We were now near the entrance into the Ikkerasak, (or straits), which separate the island of Killinek and two or three other large islands from the continent. They stretch to the N. to the distance of about 12 or 15 English miles, the outer one forming Cape Chudleigh. To the N.W. of the cape lie some other small islands, called by the Esquimaux TUTSAETS, and N.N.E. of these, the great island RESOLUTION, called IGLOARSUK, on which, as we were informed, many Esquimaux reside. The Tutsaets were discernable from this place, but not the latter, which however, as the Esquimaux say, may be seen from the Tutsaets. We guessed at its situation, from the clouds hanging over it in the North quarter. The weather was, as might be expected on the northern coast of America, foggy, rainy, and cold, and our small stove, which we brought into the tent, was of great use to us during our stay in this place.
27th. Rain and wind violent, and prevented our proceeding. We caught some PITSIOLAKS, (awks), and a brace of young puffins, which, with the addition of some salt meat, made excellent broth.
28th. The weather was fair, but the wind still blowing hard at N.W. Brother Kmoch went to Uttakiyok's tent, and sitting down with him at the point of Oppernavik, and looking down the coast as far as Kakkeviak, got him to /42/ name all the bays, points, and islands, from Kakkeviak to Oppernavik, of which he made minutes. The distance between the two points or headlands may be guessed at, by the time of sailing with a strong leading wind, namely three hours and a half. Coming up from Kakkeviak, to the E. lie three islands, KIKKERTORSOAK, IMILIALUK, rather less in view, and NESSETSERVIK. Having passed these, there follows a chain of small, naked islands, not very high, stretching towards Killinek. To the W. near Kakkeviak lies UGLEK; then a bay, NULLUK, and farther to the left another bay, TELLEK (right arm). The country along these bays is called ATTANARSUK. Now follow the bay IKKORLIARSUK, the lower point of TIKKERARSUK, the bay ANNIVAGTOK, and KAKKEVIAK, a high promontory, (not to be confounded with the other Kakkeviak, where we struck on the rock. This promontory is only about four miles from Oppernavik to the S.E.). Then follow two small bays ANNIOVARIKTOK and SANGMIYOK, then the promontory UKKULIAKARTOK, (meaning a headland between two bays), and the bay TUNNUSUKOAK. Next, the last point on the continent, forming the south entrance to the Ikkerasak. The abovementioned chain of barren islands is called by the Esquimaux NAVIARUTSIT, and besides them some low rocks, NUVURUTSIT. The island of Killinek is about nine miles long, and five broad, high, and forming the north side of the straits. Another Ikkerasak, (or strait), divides it from an island called Kikkertorsoak, (a common name for an island), of considerable height, but not so long as KILLINEK: one, or perhaps more islands follow, narrowing E. and W. and forming Cape Chudleigh.
Today there was much ice both in the strait and at sea. We went to the nearest island, where Brother Kohlmeister took an observation, and found our situation to be 60 degrees 16 minutes.
30th. It blew a hard gale from the N.E., rained hard, and /43/ as the ice began to enter our harbour, we were busily engaged in keeping it off the boat.
31st. Imagining today that the straits would be free from ice, we resolved to attempt to pass them, and set sail. But it soon became evident, that there was still plenty of ice in the neighbourhood, and the wind setting to the N.E. with fogs, we were obliged to return. Suspecting also that the easterly wind would again drive the ice into our former harbour at Oppernavik, we ran into a short pass, between that and a small island called Ammitok, where we anchored under shelter of the island. The sequel proved, that we had once acted with sound judgment and foresight, for our former anchoring-ground was soon filled with ice; and during the night large flakes entered even into our present place of refuge.
AUGUST 1st. At day break we found ourselves completely surrounded by floating ice, a strong N.W. wind driving the large shoals from the W. side of the little pass in which we lay, with much force towards us, insomuch that our boat was in the greatest danger of being crushed to pieces by them. We were all day long hard at work with poles, boat-hooks, and hatchets, to ward off the larger shoals, but when the tide fell, they hung upon our cables and anchors, of which we had three out, closing in also on all sides of the boat, so that we were every moment in fearful expectation of her being carried away, and our anchors lost, which would have reduced us to the most distressing situation. Indeed we all cried to the Lord to help us in this dangerous situation, and not to suffer us to perish here, but by His almighty aid, to save us and our boat. With great and unremitting exertions we had laboured all day, from the morning early, till seven in the evening, when the Lord heard our prayers, and sent relief. We now succeeded in working the boat out of the ice, the rising of the tide having opened a passage through it, just as we were almost /44/ exhausted with fatigue. It also became quite calm, and we felt as if we had passed from death to life.
Having anchored again on the opposite side of the little pass or strait, we gave thanks to God, for the deliverance we had experienced through His mercy, in which our Esquimaux, young and old, most fervently joined.
During our stay at Oppernavik, our whole stock of firewood was expended, and we were obliged to purchase of our companions, what they had to spare. We likewise robbed some old Esquimaux graves of the wooden utensils, which it is the superstitious practice of the heathen to lay beside the corpses of their owners, with old tent- poles, &c. and thus obtained fuel sufficient for our cookery.
Wood will not decay by mere exposure to the air in Labrador, but wastes away gradually; and after forty or more years, the wood found at the graves is still fit for use.