Near the edge of the shore ice,
opposite Koliuchin Island,
6 P.M., June 2, 1881.
AFTER leaving Tapkan, twelve
miles northwest of Cape Serdzckamcn, on the evening of the last day of May,
we steamed along the coast to the westward, tracing the edge of the shore-
ice, which seemed to be from three to six miles wide. The weather was
tranquil, though rather thick at times, and the water was like glass and as
smooth as a mill-pond. About half-past five yesterday afternoon we reached
the end of the open lead that we had been following, one hundred and thirty
miles west of Cape Serdzekamen, latitude 68° 28' N., longitude 175° 10' W.,
having thus early in the season gained a point farther west than the Corwin
was able to reach at any time last year.
At this point the firm coast
ice united with the great polar pack, and, as there was danger of its
drifting south at any time and cutting us off, we made haste to the
eastward, keeping as far offshore as possible, that we might be able to
watch the movements of the pack. About seven o'clock last evening, the
weather becoming thick, the engine was stopped and the vessel was allowed to
proceed slowly under sail.
Shortly after one o'clock
this morning I was awakened by unusual sounds on deck, and after listening
for a few minutes, concluded that we must be entangled in the edge of the
pack and were unshipping the rudder for fear it might be carried away. Going
on deck, I was surprised to see the broken rudder being hoisted, for I had
not been awakened by the blow. The oak shaft was broken completely off, and
also all three of the pintles. It seems that about midnight., owing to the
fog and snow, we got into a field of heavy masses of ice on the edge of the
main pack, which, on account of a north wind that had commenced to blow, was
now moving slowly southward, and while backing out of it, a moderate bump
that chanced to take the rudder at the greatest disadvantage broke it off
without any appreciable strain.
The situation was sufficiently grave and exciting - dark weather, the wind
from the north and freshening every minute, and the vast polar pack pushing
steadily shoreward. It was a cold, bleak, stormy morning, with a close,
sweeping fall of snow, that encumbered the deck and ropes and nearly blinded
one when compelled to look to windward. Our twenty-five dogs made an
effective addition to the general uproar, howling as only Eskimo dogs can.
They were in the way, of course, and were heartily kicked hither and
thither. The necessary orders, however, were being promptly given and
obeyed. As soon as the broken rudder was secured on deck, four long spars
were nailed and lashed firmly together, fastened astern and weighted to keep
them in place at the right depth in the water. This made a capital
jury-rudder. It was worked by ropes attached on either side and to the steam
windlass. The whole was brought into complete working order in a few hours,
nearly everybody rendering service, notwithstanding the blinding storm and
peril, as if jury- rudder making under just these circumstances were an
everyday employment. Then, finding everything worked well, we made our
escape from the closing ice and set out for Plover Bay to repair the damage.
About four in the afternoon,
as the clouds lifted, we sighted Koliuchin Island, which our two Chukchi
natives hailed with joyful, beaming eyes. They evidently were uneasy because
of the accident, and on account of being so long out of sight of land - a
state of mind easily explained by the dangers attending their mode of life
among the ice. In front of the island the ice seemed to be two or three
miles wide and lavishly roughened with jammed, angular hummocks. Captain
Hooper was now very anxious to get his sledge party landed. Everything was
ready to be put on shore as soon as a safe landing-place should be
discovered. The two Chukchis were in the pilot-house gazing wistfully at the
gloomy snow-covered island as it loomed up in the gray, stormy sky with its
jagged reach of ice in the foreground beaten by the waves.
The Captain directed Chukchi
Joe, the interpreter, to ask his companion, the dog- driver, who was
familiar with the condition of the ice on this part of the coast, whether
this was a good point on which to land. His answer, as interpreted by Joe,
was: "He says it's good; it's pretty good, he says." "Then get ready, Mr.
Herring, for your journey," ordered the Captain. "Here, Quartermaster, get
the provisions on deck." "Lower the boats there." "Joe, harness the dogs."
In a few minutes all was in
readiness and in the boats. The party is composed of First Lieutenant
Herring, in charge; Third Lieutenant Reynolds, a sailor [Coxswain Gessler.]
and the two Chukchis. They have twenty-five dogs, four sleds, a light skin
boat to cross rivers and any open water they may find in their way, and two
months' provisions. They were directed to search the coast as far to the
westward as possible for the crew of the Jeannette or any tidings concerning
the fate of the expedition; to interview the natives they met; to explore
the prominent portions of the coast forcairns and signals of any kind, and
to return to Tapkan, where we would meet them, while in the mean time we
propose to cruise wherever, under existing conditions, we can best carry out
the objects of the expedition.
The party and all their
equipments were carried from the vessel to the ice in three boats, roped
together at intervals of twenty-five or thirty feet, the life-boat leading
with the party, clothing, provisions, etc. Then came the dinghey, loaded
nearly to the water's edge with the dogs, and one man to thrash them and
keep some sort of order while they worried each other and raised an
outrageous noise, on account of their uncomfortable, tumbled- together
condition. And last, the skin boat, flying-light, with only the sleds aboard
and one man to steer, the whole making a very extraordinary show.
Soon after the boats had
left, while we were still watching the tossing fleet from the pilothouse and
scanning the shore with reference to a landing-place, we noticed three dark
objects on top of a hummock near the edge of the ice, and just back of them
and to one side on a flat portion of the ice, a group of black dots. These
proved to be three natives with their dog teams. They were out hunting
seals, and had descried the ship with their sharp eyes and now came forward
to gaze. This was a glad discovery to us, and no doubt still more so to the
party leaving the ship, as they were now sure of the passable state of the
ice, and would have guides with local knowledge to conduct them to the land.
When the dogs got upon the ice, their native heath, they rolled and raced
about in exuberant sport. The rough pack was home, sweet home to them,
though a more forbidding combination of sky, rough water, ice, and driving
snow could hardly be imagined by the sunny civilized south.
After all were safely landed
and our boats had returned, we went on our way, while the land party, busied
about their sled-packing and dogs, gradually faded in the snowy gloom. All
seems well this evening; no ice is in sight to the northward, and the
jury-rudder is working extremely well.
En route southward, to Plover Bay.]
June 3. Snowing nearly all
day. Cleared towards four in the afternoon. Spoke the Helen Mar; had taken
five whales; another had already nine. Seven other whalers in sight, all of
them save two smoking like steamers. They are trying out their abundant
blubber; in danger of being blubber-logged. Saw an Indian [Mr. Muir often
applies this term to the Bering Sea natives in general, whether Innuits or
Chukchis.] canoe leaving the Helen Mar as we approached; probably had been
trading, the sea being smooth.
Had a good view of the two
Diomedes; the western one is very distinctly glaciated, nearly all of the
summit being comprehended in one beautiful ice-fountain, giving it a
craterlike form. The residual glacial action, however, has been light,
comparatively, here. No deep caflons putting back into the mountains, most
of which are low. It is interesting, however, to see undoubted traces both
of general and local glaciation thus far north, where the ground is in
general rather low. Came up to the ice-pack about ten in the evening, so
turned back and lay to.
June 4. Calm, bland, foggy
water, glassy and still as a mill-pond. Cleared so that one could see a mile
ahead at ten o'clock, and we got under way. Sun nearly clear for the first
day since coming into the Arctic. Mild, too, for it is 450 F. at noon; even
seemed hot. The clouds lifted from the mountains, showing their bases and
slopes up to a thousand feet; summits capped. East Cape in fine view; high
headland still streaked with snow nearly to the base; summit white at close
range. All the coast for at least two hundred miles west of East Cape shows
distinct glaciation, both general and local. Many glacier fountains well
characterized. Indian village off here. Were boarded by three canoe loads of
Indian seal hunters from East Cape village. They traded ivory and shoes,
called "susy" by their interpreter. We were anxious to tell them about our
sledge party and inquired of one who spoke a few words of English whether
any of their number could speak good English. He seemed to think us very
unreasonable, and said, "Me speak good." Got a female eider duck; very fat.
In one of the canoes there was a very large seal, weighing perhaps four
This has been by far the most
beautiful and gentle of our Arctic days, the water perfectly glassy and with
no swell, mirroring the sky, which shows a few blue cloudless spots, white
as satin near the horizon, of beautiful luster, trying to the eyes. More
whalers in sight. Gulls skimming the glassy level. Innumerable multitudes of
eider ducks, the snowy shore, and all the highest mountains cloud-capped - a
rare picture and perfectly tranquil and peaceful! God's love is manifest in
the landscape as in a face. How unlike yesterday! In the evening a long
approach to sunset, a red sky mingling with brown and white of the
ice-blink. Growing colder towards midnight. There is no night at all now;
only a partial gloaming; never, even in cloudy midnights, too dark to read.
So for more than a week. Ice in sight, but hope to pass it by running a few
miles to shore. Are now, at half-past eleven in the evening, beyond St.
Lawrence Bay. Hope to get into Plover Bay to-morrow morning at six o'clock.