Arctic Explorations. The Second Grinnell Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin (by Elisha Kent Kane, 1856).
Part 1: November 22, 1856.
Disastrous as Sir John Franklin's expedition may have been, it has at any rate occasioned the display of more heroism than any similar event of modern times. Very recently, we took an opportunity of laying before our readers some account of Captain M'Clure's success in discovering the North-West passage, which our lamented countryman lost his life in seeking. We have now to call their attention to the record of an achievement arising out of the same transaction, and possessing even greater intrinsic interest. If Dr. Kane's expedition did not produce any single result so striking as the great discovery to which Sir Robert M'Clure put the last hand, he struggled with far greater difficulties, while provided with far smaller resources.
Dr. Kane is, as we learn from these volumes, the son of the well-known Judge Kane, and a naval surgeon in the service of the United States. Towards the end of the year 1852, he was appointed, by the Navy Department of the United States, to the special duty of taking the command of a brig—the Advance —furnished gratuitously by Mr. Grinnell for the purpose of conducting an overland journey in search of Sir John Franklin, from the upper waters of Baffin's Bay to the Polar Sea. His expedition sailed from New York on the 30th of May, 1853, and returned there on the 11th of October, 1855. The history of what passed in the interval between these two dates certainly enlarges our notions of the powers of human endurance. We know of no more terrible record of suffering, nor of any more glorious memorial of an indomitable tenacity of purpose and courage. We can only describe what Dr. Kane went through by saying that, almost alone, and with none of the excitement of warfare to help them, he and his crew sustained for nearly two years infinitely greater hardships than the most exaggerated statements of the least reliable newspaper correspondents ever affirmed to exist during the very worst times of the Crimean campaign, in the worst managed part of the army-these hardships being only varied by risks hardly less fearful than those encountered at Inkermann or on the slopes of the Redan. Sickness, despondency, famine, mutiny, death by ice, by cold, by fire, by water, by wild beasts, by savages—all these did these men face for nearly two years, and that almost incessantly. But for the grand lessons which it reads us of the all but unlimited power which courage, and energy possess for overcoming what appear insuperable difficulties, the story which Dr. Kane relates would be almost too horrible to read. As it is, we cannot but feel proud that the English language should be the mother tongue of the hero of such a tale.
Looked at merely in a literary point of view, the book is a very remarkable one. Dr. Kane frequently apologizes for the haste, the roughness, the compression, and the fragmentary character of many parts of his work. We do not think the apology is necessary. The general impression which the book conveys is graphic to the last degree, and its effect is greatly heightened by what Dr. Kane speaks of as defects. It consists almost entirely of extracts from a journal kept at the time, connected by narrative matter more or less compressed from it. An attentive reader can trace the feelings and prospects of the little knot of icebound prisoners, and of their gallant leader, with extraordinary clearness; for Dr. Kane is obviously a cultivated man, and by no means unaccustomed to watch the processes of his own mind. The hoping against hope, the determination to look at the bright side of things, and the effort to write himself into a cheerful frame of mind, which may be detected in the lines penned by the light of the dim perpetual lamp, in the filthy little den into which the crew was crowded—penned, too, when all but the writer had half forgotten their troubles in sleep—seem to us far better worth having than any amount of artistic composition. One of the most curious vestiges of these feelings which the book displays is to be found in the occasional forced gaiety and levity of the writer-gaiety which cannot be mistaken for anything else than what it is—the only possible refuge from utter despondency. He laughs at scars, not because he has never felt a wound, but because he has felt so many that laughter is for the time his only resource against weeping over them.
But we must turn to the history itself. The district which Dr. Kane proposed to search was one which, till his explorations, was almost entirely unknown. On turning to any of the common maps of the Arctic Regions, it will be observed that the vast body of water which lies between America and Greenland, which is known as Baffin's Bay, terminates in a passage called Smith's Sound, running due north, and hitherto explored only at its southern extremity. Dr. Kane's plan was to pass up Smith's Sound, and thence to make his way to the North, along the shore of Greenland. He considered that the land would be easier to travel over, and would afford more provisions than the water; and from a variety of analogies afforded by physical geography, he inferred that Greenland stretched fur# north than any other land. His materials for carrying out this plan were a small brig of 144 tons, manned by seventeen men—to whom an eighteenth, an Esquimaux hunter, was afterwards added—several sledges, and more than fifty dogs to draw them, amongst which were a team of Newfoundlands, presented to the expedition by the Governor of the island. After touching at several of the Danish settlements which are scattered along the coast of Greenland, the expedition finally took leave of the last faint traces of civilization at Upernavik in the latter part of July, and for just two years from that time they saw not a single civilized man except each other. After many of the ordinary difficulties incidental to Arctic navigation, they reached that art of Baffin's Bay which is usually clear of ice, and which is known to the whalers by the name of the North Water. Standing across this, they entered the hitherto unexplored part of Smith's Sound, and continued their course without any very serious difficulty until the 19th of August, when the appearance of the sky and the gambols of the walrus seemed to forebode a storm. On the 20th, the wind rose to a perfect hurricane, and the Advance was moored to an iceberg by three hawsers, one of them of 10-inch Manilla hemp. First the 6-inch cable, then the whale line parted; and last of all, the 10-inch cable broke with the noise of a shotted gun, and the brig “drifted out into the marrow ice-clogged waterway, driving a quarter of a mile wide between the pack and the shore.” Sometimes they grazed floes, one of which was by measurement forty feet thick. Once a floe smashed in the bulwarks, and dropped half a ton of ice on the deck; and at last they neared a group of icebergs, which were being borne down by some under-current upon the floes. They must have been crushed between them if they had not managed to plant an anchor on a low water-washed berg which passed alongside, and which towed them through the midst of the others into something like open water. They were forced at last into a little pool between a cliff and an iceberg, where they were as safe as men could be who were every moment expecting the berg which protected them to be overturned by the pressure of the ice outside it, and precipitated on their heads. In this position the brig was repeatedly “nipped.” The iceberg which protected her ended in an inclined plane which descended deep into the water. Another berg, coming in at the side, fairly drove her up it, and she was only saved from falling over to seaward by some broken ice which grounded alongside:—“The immense blocks piled against her, range upon range, pressing themselves under her keel, and throwing her over upon her side, till, urged by the successive accumulations, she rose slowly against the sloping wall.” When the bergs, parted, she sank down again into her former station. During this gale, four men and a boat were lost upon a floe on which they had landed to fasten an anchor, but they were recovered two days afterwards. By great efforts the ship was got out of her icy prison, but the release was of slight importance; for after a few days more of effort and danger, she reached a bay called Van Renssellaer Harbour, and was speedily frozen in. There she still is, in the midst of eternal ice nine feet thick.
The latter part of the autumn and the beginning of winter passed away in excursions over the ice with sledges and dogs, the establishment of the ship in her bed, and the construction of two observatories, in which, throughout the winter, a series of observations were carried on. Amongst the incidents, which took place during this part of the expedition was one which very nearly brought it to a premature conclusion. Being greatly annoyed by rats, the crew tried the experiment of destroying them by carbonic-acid gas. They accordingly shut down the hatches, pasted up all the crevices, and burnt a quantity of charcoal between the decks. By some means the lower-deck caught fire, and the flames were only extinguished with some risk and trouble. Dr. Kane's general, plan of operations was to establish, during the winter, several depots of provisions to the north of the position of his brig, and by their means to make an expedition of much greater extent during the spring, by the help of his dogs. It was no easy matter to acquire the art of driving them, for the whip used for the purpose is six yards long, and has a handle of which the length is no more than sixteen inches, and it is necessary to be able to strike with this instrument any one dog out of a team of twelve. The drives which were taken with these animals were occasionally most dangerous, for the dogs jumped over the cracks in the ice, at great risk of throwing the driver into them; and on one occasion Dr. Kane himself, with all his dogs, fell through a mass of rotten ice, breaking a hole which he only enlarged by his efforts to extricate himself.
Whilst the commander was occupied in acquiring the accomplishments indispensable to his purpose, an expedition was detached to the northwards, which succeeded in burying considerable quantities of provisions at three points, in which they would be useful for future exploring operations. After accomplishing these objects, little remained to be done during the winter, with the exception of making observations an inventing expedients for passing the time. The men bore up well enough, though, as there were but eighteen of them, it must have been a most severe trial. The Esquimaux hunter, who had left behind him at one of the Moravian colonies a girl to whom he was engaged to be married, grew very homesick; “but,” says Dr. Kane, “I treated him successfully by giving him a dose of salts and promotion.” For 120 days the sun was below the horizon, and owing to a range of hills, the noonday twilight, which generally relieves the darkness, was intercepted. The absence of light was fearfully unhealthy. Numbers of the dogs died of a strange disease which it produced, and which resembled in its symptoms, not hydrophobia, but lunacy. The dogs retained their appetites and their strength, but by degrees lost their understanding. They “barked incessantly at nothing, and walked in straight and curved lines with unwearying perseverance. . . Their most intelligent actions seem automatic. . . Sometimes they remain for hours in moody silence, and then start off howling as if pursued, and run up and down for hours.” This is, we believe, an almost unique instance of true mental disease in a brute. The symptoms generally terminated in lockjaw. On the human frame the same cause operated with terrible effect. The whole of the crew, with two exceptions, were more or less affected with the scurvy by the conclusion of the winter.
As the spring advanced, the exploring operations were resumed. Eight men were sent forward with a sledge to make an additional depôt of pemmican and other provisions, ten days’ journey to the North. For the first eight days, they travelled without material accident through an average temperature of 27° 13' below zero; but on the ninth day they met with a disaster which led to what seems to us an exploit altogether unexampled. A heavy gale broke upon them. The thermometer fell to 57° below zero; four of them got their feet frost-bitten, and were disabled by the cold; three of the others set off to return to the brig by a forced march; and one, Thomas Hickey, an Irishman, remained to care for the men who were disabled. After fifty hours of almost continuous walking, the three men arrived at the brig; but they were so worn out that they could hardly give any kind of account of the matter, and their story, such as it was, was to the last degree vague. Dr. Kane and the remainder of the crew instantly fitted out another sledge, strapped upon it the least exhausted of the three men who had returned, and set off to rescue their companions through a temperature of 46° below zero. It was sixteen hours before the man strapped on the sledge was sufficiently recovered to walk; and when he could, he was delirious. The party were therefore ordered to disperse themselves, in hope of falling in with their comrades' footmarks; but, what with the cold and the excitement, they were quite unequal to the exertion. Dr. Kane himself fainted twice, and the others gave way in a similar manner. At last they hit upon tracks which led them to the missing party, after an unbroken march of twenty-one hours, without food or water. Each man now took two hours' sleep, and then they prepared for their journey back. The sick were placed in a sort of large buffalo-skin bag, made of four skins sown together at the bottom, but open at the top, their limbs being wrapped in reindeer skins: They were then laid on the sledge. This operation occupied four hours, the temperature being lower than 50° below zero. The weight of the whole load was 1100lbs. For six hours the sledge was dragged, top-heavy with its living burden, over the cracked and uneven ice, but then the strength of the whole party gave way. They ceased to complain of the cold, and earnestly egged to sleep. Their leader in vain tried to rouse them, by wrestling, boxing, running, arguing, or jeering. They accordingly halted without food, for they were too tired to light a fire, and all the provisions, even the whisky, were frozen. Dr. Kane and a man named Godfrey pushed on to a place about nine miles off, where some provisions and a tent had been left the day before. They walked in a sort of stupor for about four hours—“some of the most miserable,” says Dr. Kane, “that I ever remember to have spent.” “We kept ourselves awake,” he adds, “by imposing on each other a continual articulation of words.” Neither of them was entirely in his right senses on reaching the tent. They reached it just as a bear attacked the bags of provisions, but they only remembered the fact in a dreamy way. They crawled into their furs, and slept intensely for some hours, but woke in time to make some soup and melt some water before the arrival of the others. The extreme cold relaxed, and the thermometer rose to 4° below zero; and at last, falling asleep repeatedly on the road, they neared the brig, which they reached in a state approaching to unconsciousness, after an expedition which had lasted seventy-two hours, of which eight only had been passed in rest. They had travelled between 80 and 90 miles, dragging a heavy sledge most of the way. One of the party had been out no less that eighty hours, and had travelled 120 miles. He lay in a state of torpor occasionally waking and eating with great voracity—for two days and a half. None of them had any clear recollection of the latter part of the journey, and two died of the fatigue, whilst others lost parts of their feet and toes.
The spring and summer were passed in a variety of explorations, some of the results of which we hope to notice on a future occasion. For the present, we confine ourselves to the circumstances immediately connected with the fortunes of the expedition. After an ineffectual attempt to communicate with some of the English expeditions to the south-west, it became obvious that another winter must be passed in the ice, or that the vessel must be abandoned. Dr. Kane determined on the former course as far as he was concerned, but gave full leave to those who were with him to take the other if they chose, offering to share his provisions with them. Nine left the brig, and eight stayed with Dr. Kane. The provisions were running very low, they had little or no fresh meat, and their arrangements for the winter consisted in turning the ship into a sort of Esquimaux hut. A kind of closet, 18 feet by 20, was enclosed by bulkheads in the middle of the vessel, and was made air-tight by a thick outside wall of moss. No opening was left, except a tunnel 12 feet long, 3 feet high, and 2½ wide, closed by all sorts of doors and curtains, through which a circuitous connexion was maintained between the cabin and the open air. In this wretched box the winter slowly wore away amidst agonies unspeakable. The party who had attempted to escape across the ice failed to do so, and returned to the ship, adding to their companions' miseries. For a detailed account of what the winter was like, we can only refer our readers to the book itself. The fresh provisions were soon exhausted, and scurvy broke out in its most frightful form. The dark, fetid, and smoky den in which seventeen persons were crowded together, was lighted and heated by twelve lamps, fed with fat—no other light or heat was to be had for 140 days. Occasional supplies of walrus meat were the only luxury, and sometimes the only hope, of the party. Whenever they could obtain it, they greedily ate it raw, as a protection from scurvy. The only means by which the whole party escaped death was the circumstance that Dr. Kane contrived to communicate occasionally, by means of a dog-sledge, with an Esquimaux tribe at a distance of nearly 100 miles, from whom he obtained some supplies of walrus meat and blubber. These journeys were sometimes made at temperatures of 50° and 60° below zero, but with such extraordinary variations that, on one occasion, after being snowed up in a deserted Esquimaux hut, at a temperature of 44° below zero, Dr. Kane was waked by the dripping on his sleeping-bag of the snow melted by a warm south-east wind. Dr. Kane could not always be spared for these journeys. He was at one time almost the only man able to go about, and had to discharge all the functions of commander, cook, sick-nurse, and general servant, and had to cut fuel for the day's consumption. To complicate all these miseries, a sort of mutiny broke out. Two of the men tried to desert to the Esquimaux, and one actually succeeded in doing so, though he afterwards returned. Through all these miseries, the little party, and their iron-hearted commander still held on. Their provisions ran so low, that Dr. Kane ate quantities of rats. For fuel they were reduced to burn as much of the ship as could be spared; and when no more could be spared, they burnt the cables. They were on one occasion brought so low that the sickness of one man more would have left them without fire. Yet even this did not daunt the commander. When the spring came, he made another expedition to the north, accompanied this time only by Esquimaux. Having thus completed, as far as human. endurance could complete them, the objects for which he started, he resolved to abandon the ship. As the spring advanced, a sledge was organized over the ice. After a long and painful journey, in which one of their best men died of a strain, they reached open water; and after a most adventurous passage, in which they alternated between starvation and feasting on raw birds and raw seals, they reached Upernavik in July, 1855, just two years after they left it. As they neared the settlement, they fell in with a canoe, navigated by an acquaintance of one of the party. “Don’t you know me?” cried the explorer; “I’m Carl Petersen.” “No,” was the answer; “his wife says he's dead.” Indeed, their emerging from utter solitude was almost like a resurrection. The first news they heard was, that “Sebastopol was not taken.” “What and where is Sebastopol?” was Dr. Kane's reply.
We hope, on a future occasion, to say something of the scientific results of this wonderful expedition—the most daring and the most terrible in the records of maritime adventure.
Part 2: November 26, 1856.
We have already given our readers some account of the adventures of Dr. Kane and his party during their Arctic explorations. We propose on the present occasion to say something of his discoveries. With the exception of Sir Edward Parry on his Spitzbergen expedition, no one ever got so far to the North. Dr. Kane's winter-quarters were in 78° N. lat., and he pushed his exploring parties rather higher than 81°—that is to say, to within about 600 miles of the Pole. His discoveries ranged over an extent of three degrees of latitude, and are much more easily understood than those of most other Arctic explorers, inasmuch as they were confined to a single strait, unbroken by those archipelagoes which have so often been an equal embarrassment to the prosecution and to the comprehension of Arctic researches. The strait, as we observed in our former notice, is called Smith's Sound, and from Dr. Kane's description, it must be in many respects one of the most curious parts of the world. It is a well-ascertained geological fact that, at some very remote period, great parts of what is now habitable land were covered with glaciers. That such was the case in Switzerland and in many parts of England, is, we believe, universally admitted; and Professor Forbes expressed an opinion that if by any means, the snowline were brought a few hundred feet lower down in Norway, an immense proportion of that country would be covered with eternal ice. Dr. Kane's explorations have proved that there still exist upon the face of the globe facts which correspond, in the most extraordinary manner, with these conjectures. On the shores of Smith's Sound the world may still be seen in the process of formation. The vast agencies the existence of which in other quarters of the globe can only be inferred from long and intricate inquiries, may there be seen actually at work. The glacier and the iceberg are now tracing the characters and building the monuments which may perhaps, in the progress of countless ages, enable some inquisitive inhabitant of Polynesia to conjecture that his temperate climate and open seas were once the theatre of something not unlike the battles between endless floes and grinding bergs which will then invest with terror the icebound Straits of Gibraltar, and the savage basin of the Mediterranean.
Smith's Sound is a channel between 300 and 400 miles in length, and varying in width from 50 to 100 miles. Its greatest width is in its middle portion, where its eastern side forms a large hollow, named by Dr. Kane, Peabody Bay. All along the eastern, or Greenland coast, and at many points upon the American coast, glaciers of different sizes, and presenting the various forms familiar to all who have visited Switzerland, descend to the water's edge, or overhang the cliffs. Whenever these glaciers were traced to a certain distance inland, they were invariably, found to communicate with a great internal mer de glace, which is supposed by Dr. Kane to occupy almost the whole of the interior of Greenland, and to be many hundred miles long—and which certainly produces, at one point, a phenomenon which would have inspired Professors Forbes and Agassiz to run almost any risk for the sake of visiting two capes to which they unconsciously stood godfathers. These capes are situated at the bottom of Peabody Bay, and are about sixty miles distant from each other--the interval between them being filled up by a vast glacier, “rising in solid glassy wall three hundred feet above the water level, with an unknown, unfathomable depth below it . . . The interior, with which it communicated, and from which it issued, was an unsurveyed mer de glace, an ice-ocean to the eye of boundless dimensions.” Greenland, Dr. Kane observes, is of continental magnitude, its smallest possible diameter being 1200 miles in length--not materially less than that of Australia. “Imagine,” he continues, “the centre of such a continent occupied by a deep unbroken sea of ice, that gathers perennial increase from the watershed of vast snow-covered mountains, and all the precipitations of the atmosphere upon its own surface. Imagine this moving onwards like a great glacial river, seeking outlets at every fiord and valley, rolling icy cataracts into the Atlantic and Greenland seas, and having at last reached the northern limit of the land that has borne it up, pouring out a mighty frozen torrent into unknown Arctic space.” Certainly a more marvellous phenomenon could hardly be witnessed, and it derives additional interest from the further illustration which it affords of the truth of the view taken by Professor Forbes of the nature and composition of glaciers. Dr. Kane himself visited this glacier, to which he gave the name of the Humboldt glacier, several times. Near its southern extremity, the cliffs are extremely picturesque, sometimes breaking into turrets, battlements, and columns of rock, marked in the most strangely definite manner. One of these forms “a solitary column or minaret tower, as sharply finished as if it had been cast for the Place Vendôme. The length of the shaft alone is 480 feet, and it rises on a plinth or pedestal, itself 280 feet high.” Dr. Kane gave it the name of Tennyson Monument. We doubt whether any other of the poet's admirers have had an opportunity of paying him so magnificent a compliment.
The great feature of Dr. Kane's explorations, in a geographical point of view, was a discovery in which he did not personally share. His Esquimaux hunter, Hans, and a man of the name of Morton, made a sledge expedition over the ice, far to the north of the Great Glacier. After a time, Morton observed in the distance a long dark band stretching out beyond a cape to the northward. Gradually the ice grew soft and rotten, and after a time great flocks of birds appeared—Brent geese, eiders, dovekies, tern, and many other species. When he obtained this confirmatory evidence, it struck him that the dark line must be water. He would otherwise have distrusted the evidence of his senses, as Arctic explorers have frequently been deceived by such appearances on other occasions; but he succeeded in advancing far enough to put the matter beyond the possibility of mistake. As he got further north, the ice-foot, or broad lane of solid ice which usually borders the sea, grew narrower and narrower; a large channel of open water appeared in the middle of the ice-bound strait; and finally, he reached a headland—which he contrived to ascend from the ice to a height of about 480 feet--from which he saw before him an unbroken expanse of open sea, which broke at the foot of the cliff on which he was standing. At that height his view would extend to an horizon some forty miles in extent, and upon all this expanse of water “not a speck of ice" was to be seen. Dr. Kane remarks that the accuracy of his companion's observations is confirmed by the circumstance that the birds which he described himself as having seen belonged to species which are only found in the neighbourhood of open water. Indeed, it would seem impossible to suppose that there was any mistake about the matter. After enumerating the illusions to which other Arctic discoverers had been subject, Dr. Kane proceeds:—“That which I have ventured to call an open sea has been travelled for many miles along its coast, and was viewed from an elevation of 480 feet (the height was not accurately ascertained), still without a limit, moved by a heavy swell, free of ice, and dashing in serf against a rock-bound shore." Whilst Morton was in the neighbourhood of this sea, a gale of 54 hours' duration set in without bringing down any drift-ice upon the cape. This, as well as various observations made by Dr. Kane as to the set of the tides and currents, seems to confirm the notion, so often treated as chimerical, of a great Polar basin of open sea.
Dr. Kane's book contains many curious notices of the inhabitants and animals of these wild countries. The former are a tribe of Esquimaux, rude and barbarous probably beyond any human beings hitherto discovered. They are less civilised even than the Esquimaux of other regions. They live too far north for drift-wood, so that they have no bows or arrows; nor have they even the “kayaks,” or skin canoes, which form so important a feature in the life of the less barbarous tribes of their countrymen. They wander over a belt of ice 600 miles long, but through this wide extent of territory every man knows every man. The main line of travel between the different families is a sort of beaten road, and the dogs run from hut to hut almost unguided by their drivers, who keep their time by the stars, of which they have a strangely minute knowledge. They know every rock and hill within the limits of their nation, and the youngest hunter in the tribe can recover provisions hidden in any part of it. This singular acquaintance with each other enabled Dr. Kane to obtain precise information about the numbers and general position of the tribe. There are eight villages, containing altogether about 140 souls, and they are dying out through the frightful hardships to which they are subjected. During a famine which occurred whilst Dr. Kane was in Smith's Sound, they ate up all but twenty of their dogs, and there are traces all along the shore of ancient villages and graves where there are now no inhabitants. Notwithstanding this circumstance, they are probably the hardiest race in the world. They have great personal strength, and their power of enduring cold is perfectly marvellous. Dr. Kane attributes it to the fact that they habitually eat many pounds of walrus meat and blubber a day. They will go about with perfect indifference at a temperature of 50° or 60° below zero, dressed in fur jumpers and leggings, which overlap but do not join, so that, whenever they stoop, their naked bodies are exposed to the full influence of the cold. Two of them, on one occasion, killed a walrus, and whilst dragging it home the ice broke up, and they were left in a bitter storm on an iceberg, which floated about in the waters of the sound for no less than three weeks. During that time they had no shelter from the cold or the waves which broke over them, and no food except the raw meat of the dead walrus; yet they escaped without material injury. This story is rendered less astonishing, than it otherwise would be by Dr. Kane's own experience. With proper furs, and a good supply of raw meat, he found it quite possible to travel in any cold which he ever experienced, and at times the thermometer fell to 70° below zero. Wind was the only enemy with which he was quite unable to contend.
The animal inhabitants of this strange region are as curious as its human population. The most remarkable of them are bears and walruses. The white bears furnish some admirable stories, and no less admirable engravings, taken from Dr. Kane's own sketches. Several times in the course of the winter, the stores of the explorers were attacked by these animals. Their strength was altogether wonderful. One of the “caches,” or secret storehouses, which had been constructed in the autumn as a resource for expeditions in the spring, was built with the greatest possible care in order to baffle the attempts of the bears. Huge stones were piled up with the assistance of machinery, and the intervals between them were filled up with sand, over which water was poured, by which the whole was consolidated into a frozen mass. Yet the bears broke open the cache, and ate all its contents. The only things which resisted their attacks were round iron cases of pemmican, with conical ends, which they could not grasp. Though they weighed 80 lb. each, they had been “tossed about like foot-balls “An alcohol-case, strongly iron-bound, was dashed into small fragments, and a tin case of liquor mashed and twisted almost into a ball. The claws of the beast had perforated the metal and torn it up as with a cold chisel. They were too dainty, for salt meats-ground coffee they had an evident relish for-old canvas was a favourite for some reason or other. Even our flag, which had been reared ‘to take possession’ of the waste, was gnawed down to the very staff. Unable to masticate our heavy India-rubber cloth, they had tied it up in unimaginable hard knots. . . . . . An adjacent slope of ice-covered rock, with an angle of 45 degrees, was so covered with their hair as to suggest the idea that they had been amusing themselves by sliding down it on their haunches--a performance, by the way, in which I afterwards caught them myself.” Dr. Kane was fortunate enough to see Arctic bears diving after seal.
He has even more to say about the walrus than about the bear. Walrus flesh was the favourite food of the party, when they could get it; for it is of all meat the best “fuel,” i.e., that which raises the animal heat in the greatest degree. Dr. Kane does not agree with the common notion, that the head of the walrus closely resembles the human countenance. It is, he says, so square and massive as greatly to impair the likeness. The walrus is the staple article of food with the Esquimaux, who store up great quantities of this meat in “caches," made of heavy stones. One of these contained the flesh often walruses, and there were others of equal size. They are hunted in two ways. Sometimes, whilst sunning himself on the floes, the animal's retreat is cut off by the freezing of the opening through which he emerged, and he is speared without difficulty—sometimes he has to be hunted whilst in the water. This is a most exciting process. The hunter is armed with a kind of harpoon attached to a line of walrus-hide, at the other end of which is a short spike. He harpoons the walrus when he rises to a breathing-hole, and then runs off and fixes the spike in the ice. The walrus dives, and then making use of his enormous size and great buoyancy, rises suddenly to the surface, breaking up the ice all round, and aiming with surprising accuracy at the place which the hunter occupies. The hunter shifts his position to avoid his prey, and drives in the spike to which the line is attached at a number of different places, taking such opportunities as offer for inflicting additional wounds on the animal with his lance. The contest sometimes continues in this manner for hours, and the creature only succumbs to an immense number of lance-wounds -- sometimes sixty or seventy. The walrus always returns an attack—he never thinks of saving himself by flight. “When wounded, he rises high out of the water, plunges heavily against the ice, and strives to raise himself with his fore-flippers upon the surface. As it breaks under his weight, his countenance assumes a still more vindictive expression, his bark changes to a roar, and the foam pours from is jaws till it froths his beard.” Sometimes the tusks of these monstrous creatures are thirty inches long, and their bodies nearly eighteen feet; yet they will contrive at times to ascend islands sixty or a hundred feet above the level of the sea by the help of their tusks. “They are fond of their own music, and will lie for hours listening to themselves.” Their notes are “something between the mooing of a cow and the deepest baying of a mastiff—very round and full, with its barks or detached notes repeated rather quickly, eight or ten times in succession.” The relish of the Esquimaux for their flesh is unbounded—the will eat eight or ten pounds a day. The Esquimaux hunter's account of what he saw in this way is too good not to be quoted:—
“Why, Cappen Ken, sir, even the children ate all night:—you know the little two-year-old that Awin carried in her hood—the one that bit you when you tickled it?”, “Yes.” “Well, Cappen Ken, sir, that baby cut for herself, with a knife made out of an iron hoop, and so heavy that it could barely lift it, and cut and ate, and ate and cut, as long as I looked at it.”We have given only a slight specimen of the contents of this most remarkable book. It is full of interest of every possible kind, and abounds not only in the wildest stories of adventure, but in all sorts of information upon scientific subjects. We cannot recommend it too strongly, for it combines every kind of merit. We may particularly notice the illustrations, engraved from Dr. Kane's sketches. Some of them, especially those which represent, animals, are wonderfully graphic; and when we remember the circumstances under which they were drawn, they fill us with admiration of the elasticity of spirit which could find amusement in them. We deeply regret to hear that Dr. Kane's health has suffered from the fearful hardships to which he has been exposed. He is obviously a person of such varied and remarkable endowments, moral and intellectual, that, in hoping that he may speedily be completely restored to the full possession of his great powers, we are wishing that a most valuable member may be restored to his proper place in the world of science and literature.
“Well, Hans, try now and think; for I want an accurate answer: how much as to weight or quantity would you say that child ate?” Hans is an exact and truthful man: he pondered a little, and said that he could not answer my question: “But I know this, sir, that it ate a sipak"—the Esquimaux name for the lump which is cut off close to the lips—“as large as its own head; and three hours afterwards, when I went to bed, it was cutting off another lump, and eating still.”
Saturday Review, November 22 and 26, 1856.