DEPARTURE FROM OPPERNAVIK. PASS THE IKKERASAK OF KILLINEK. WHIRLPOOLS. THE COAST TAKES A SOUTHERLY DIRECTION. MEETING WITH ESQUIMAUX FROM THE UNGAVA COUNTRY, WHO HAD NEVER SEEN AN EUROPEAN. ANCHOR AT OMANEK. HIGH TIDES. DRIFT-WOOD. DOUBLE CAPE UIBVAKSOAK. DISTANT VIEW OF AKPATOK.
AUGUST 2d. Having made all needful preparations for the voyage, a gentle but favourable wind, and occasional rowing, brought us, about nine in the morning, to the entrance of the much dreaded Ikkerasak. The weather was pleasant and warm, not a flake of ice was to be seen, and all our fear and anxiety had subsided. Our minds were attuned to praise and thanksgiving for the providential preservation /45/ we had experienced yesterday. We performed our morning devotions on deck, and all joined in a joyful hallelujah to God our Saviour, which was sweetly repeated by echoes among the mountains and precipices on either side. The scripture- text appointed in the Church of the United Brethren for this day being read, it seemed as if addressed particularly to us, separated as we felt ourselves, in these lonely regions, from the rest of the inhabitants of the earth: "SEE NOW THAT I, EVEN I, AM HE, AND THERE IS NO GOD WITH ME: I KILL, AND I MAKE ALIVE; I WOUND AND I HEAL." Deut. 32, 39. We rejoiced, that we were in the hands of a gracious and merciful God and Father, who would not forsake us, but deal with us according to his wonted mercy and favour.
The Ikkerasak, (or strait), is about ten miles in length; the land on each side high and rocky, and in some places precipitous, but there appeared no rocks in the strait itself. The water is deep and clear. Its mouth is wide, and soon after entering, a bay opens to the left, which by an inlet only just wide enough to admit a boat, communicates with a lagoon of considerable magnitude, in which lies an island on its western bank. Beyond this bay, the passage narrows and consequently the stream, always setting from N. to S. grows more rapid. Here the mountains on both sides rise to a great height. Having proceeded for two miles in a narrow channel, the strait opens again, but afterwards contracts to about 1000 yards across; immediately beyond which, the left coast turns to the south. As the tide ebbs regularly with the current from N. to S. along the whole coast of Labrador, the current through the strait is most violent during its fall, and less, when resisted by its influx on rising.
We were taught to expect much danger in passing certain eddies or whirlpools in the narrow parts of the straits, and were therefore continually upon the look-out for them. When we passed the first narrow channel, at 12 P.M. it being low water, no whirlpool was perceptible. Having /46/ sailed on for little more than half an hour, with wind and tide in our favour, we reached the second. Here, indeed, we discovered a whirlpool, but of no great magnitude at this state of the tide. Near the north-shore the water was, indeed, whirled round in the manner of a boiling cauldron of ten or twelve feet diameter, with considerable noise and much foam; but we passed without the smallest inconvenience, within thirty or forty feet of the outer circle. Our skin-boat, however, which we had in tow, with a man in it, was seized by the vortex, and received a rapid twist; but as the towing-rope did not break, she was immediately rescued from danger by the swiftness of our course, and the affair afforded us more diversion than anxiety. The motion of the water in these eddies is so great, that they never freeze in the severest winter. The ice being drawn towards them with great force, the largest shoals are carried under water, and thrown up again, broken into numerous fragments. The Ikkerasak is at that season utterly impassable for boats. The Killinek people inhabit an island to the right, after leaving the strait.
When we quitted the Ikkerasak, and entered the ocean on the western side of Cape Chudleigh, it seemed as if we were transported to a new world. Hitherto the coast to our left had always taken a northerly direction. It now turned to the S.S.W. and is low, with gently sloping hills, the sea being full of small islands, abounding in sea-fowl.
To the N. and N.W. we saw the open sea in Hudson's Straits, which, compared to the turbulent Atlantic, seemed calm and peaceful. We sailed briskly amidst the islands, and overtook the inhabitants of Saeglek, whom we had seen at Kakkeviak, where they had got the start of us. The wind being favourable, we did not hail them, but kept on our course. We now saw with pleasure the Ungava country to the South before us, but had first to pass the low point of ULVARSUK, the bay of ARVAVIK, in which the people from /47/ Saeglek had their summer stations, and the mountain OMANEK, of moderate height, and surrounded by many small islets, called by the Esquimaux ERNGAVINGET, (bowels). We now discovered three skin- boats full of people standing towards us from the shore. They were inhabitants of Ungava, and welcomed our approach with loud shouts of joy and firing their pieces, which was answered by our party. They followed us to Omanek, a round island rising like a loaf among the rest, where they pitched their tents on shore.
Some of them had formerly dwelt in different places north of Okkak, and were known to the Missionaries in former times, the rest were perfect strangers. They declared their intention of coming over to the North of Okkak, to remain some time in that country, for the sake of trade. It has been mentioned, that some of the Ungava people have come to Okkak, and carry on a trade between their countrymen and that place. They are a kind of middle men, bring fox and bear-skins, and exchange them for European goods. These they carry back, and sell at a very advanced price in the Ungava country. They spend two years on such a trading voyage.
Brother Kohlmeister visited the people in their tents. They were about fifty in number, men, women, and children. He informed them, that nothing could induce the Missionaries to come into this country, but love to the poor heathen, and an ardent desire to make them acquainted with their Creator and Redeemer, that through Him they might attain to happiness in time and eternity. Some seemed to listen with great attention, but the greater part understood nothing of what was said. This, of course, did not surprise us, as most of them were quite ignorant heathen, who had never before seen an European. They, however, raised a shout of joy, when we informed them, that we would come and visit them in their own country. Many were not satisfied with viewing /48/ us on every side with marks of great astonishment, but came close up to us, and pawed us all over. At taking leave we presented them with a few trifles, which excited among them the greatest pleasure and thankfulness.
We recommend these heathen to the mercy of God, and pray, that the day may soon dawn, when the light of the saving gospel of Jesus may shine into their hearts.
3d. Several of them came on board, once more to see us, and, in their way, to express their regard and gratitude. They also got some useful articles from our people, in exchange for their goods. We now set sail, passed a point called OGLARVIK, and the bay TAKPANGAYOK, and arrived at TUKTUSIOVIK, (a place where reindeer are seen), where we cast anchor for the night. Already at Omanek we had discovered a great difference between the rise and fall of the tides there and about Killinek. In the latter place it rose to four fathoms, but here still higher. The country looked pleasant, with many berry-bearing plants and bushes. There was, likewise, plenty of drift-wood all along the coast; not the large Greenland timber, but small trees and roots, evidently carried out of the great rivers of the Ungava by the ice. We had, of course, fire- wood enough, without robbing the graves of their superstitious furniture. Our Esquimaux pitched their tents on shore, and we supped with them on a mess of seal's flesh and eider-ducks. The mosquitoes were extremely troublesome during our repast, after which we retired to sleep on board the boat.
4th. Wind fair. We passed numerous low rocks; a point, by name unknown to Uttakiyok; the bay IKPIGITOK, two miles broad, and the cape called UIBVAKSOAK, the northern boundary of the great bay or gulf of ABLORIAK. This cape is surrounded by many bare and sunken rocks, which caused us to stand out pretty far to the westward. While we were off the point, we descried, at a very great distance to the N.W. a large island, called by the Esquimaux AKPATOK. /49/ They say that it encloses the whole bay or gulf towards the sea, and consists of high land: also, that it is connected with the western continent at low water by an isthmus. The north coast of this island appears to be the line laid down in maps and charts as the coast of America, to the south of Hudson's Straits. But the district of Ungava is separated from the island by a large inland bay, extending southward to the 58 degree North Latitude. North of Akpatok, the Esquimaux speak of islands well peopled by their countrymen, who have never seen Europeans.
Having safely doubled the point or cape of UIBVAKSOAK, we came to an anchor near a small island to the south, where we spent the night.
5th. Calm weather, and proceeded gently. About 9 A.M. the wind turned against us, and we ran into a small bay, about five miles from our former anchoring-place. Here we found the ANDROMEDA TETRAGONA growing in tolerable quantity, on the banks of a lagoon of fresh water. The face of the country was unpleasant, with many steep rocks. On a precipice behind our tent we perceived nests of birds of prey. The naked rocks had singular shapes, and presented to the imagination the ruins of a destroyed town. In the vallies we saw many small lagoons, but little grass, and the excrements of geese. It was about full moon, and the tide rising here five or six fathom, occasioned the most strange alterations in the prospect towards the sea, which, being smooth and clear of rocks at high water, exhibited, after its fall, an archipelago of rugged islands and black flats.