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ART. I.- A Voyage of Discovery made under the Orders of the
Admiralty, in His Majesty's Ships Isabella and Alexander, for the Purpose of exploring Baffin's Bay, and inquiring into the Probability of a North-West Passage. By John Ross, K.S. Captain R.N. London, 1819. 4to. pp. 396.
(From the London Literary Gazette.) TE are but barely doing justice to this publication when we
say, that it is one of the most beautifully executed volumes which, since we took up the critical pen, has issued from the press. The curiosity excited by the Arctic or Polar expeditions claimed some distinction for the first narrative of these proceedings; but, in the present instance, the thing is really so handsomely done as to demand the highest approbation. Not only is the printing clear and elegant, thus coinciding with a text perspicuous and interesting, but the scientific tables and maps are finished with infinite accuracy and intelligence, and the plates of icebergs, natives, animals, landscapes, &c. &c. are got up in a style of excellence which is truly admirable. No expense has been spared to render the work worthy of the public, and our encomium is but a faint tribute to those merits which we cannot, by copying or even description, make known to our readers.
To seamen and geographers, the information it contains must be invaluable; nor will the lovers of science, we think, rise from its pages disappointed, however much they may expect from them; nor will those who peruse books of voyages and travels merely for amusement, have cause to complain of lenten entertainment from the more generally attractive parts of captain Ross's narrative. A new people, and almost a new world is figured before them, and we trust it will be found curious in our few succeeding numbers to compare and contrast the manners of these ice-born beings with the habits of the children of the sun, with whom Bowdich, in his African mission, brings us acquainted. The cold and the hot; the peaceful and the sanguinary; the barbarian in nature's VOL. XIV.
desolation and in poverty, and the barbarian in nature's garden and in pomp; the savage of the pole and of the equator, may, we trust, be contemplated together with an increase of interest, and it shall be our pleasing task to develop them as fully as we are enabled by these extraordinary productions.
Captain Ross sets out by stating his conviction that he has proved the existence of a bay from Disco island to Cumberland straits, and set at rest for ever the question of a north-west passage in that direction. Upon this point we shall have some observations to offer in conclusion; but in the mean time think it right to record it as the main gist of this able navigator's argument, before we accompany him to latitudes still further north, which we shall do with. out adverting to the equipments of the vessels, the instruments for scientific purposes, &c. believing that these are sufficiently known to the public through preceding descriptions, in promul. gating which the Literary Gazette has not been wanting. The instructions were, in effect, that if the Isabella and Alexander succeeded in doubling the north-east cape of America, and getting into the Pacific ocean by Behring's straits, they should, after wintering there, return, if it could prudently be attempted, by the same route: if they failed in finding the north-west passage, they were to examine the west coast of old Greenland, throw a bottlefull of information overboard every day after they passed latitude 65°, draw the coasts, and bring home specimens of the animal, mineral, and vegetable kingdoms, and make accurate remarks on the variations of the needle, the meteorology of these regions, and, in fine, on every thing which could add to our stock of knowledge respecting seas and lands, so little and so doubtfully understood.
On the 3d of May, after experiencing the kindest hospitality from Mr. Mouat of Gardie, the expedition sailed from Brassa, one of the Shetland isles. On the 30th, they saw the first iceberg, and on the 23d of July reached 75° 12' of N. Lat. the highest to which ships employed in the whale trade were known positively to have penetrated.' Previous to this date, and even subsequent to it, they were exposed to the severest labours and perils in getting through the ice, and made but small progress till the 9th of August, when, in latitude 75° 55' N. longitude 65° 32' W. they were surprised by the appearance of several men on the ice, hal. looing to the ships to fly to the sun or moon, whence they suppoś. ed these mighty monsters to have alighted. These belonged to the previously unknown tribe of Esquimaux or Arctic Highlanders, of whom all the periodical prints have since been so full. Presuming that what has been thus stated is perfectly familiar to all our readers, we shall not repeat these facts, which agree with captain Ross's accounts, but pass on to such as are new and memorable in the intercourse with this singular people.
The country to which captain Å. has given the name of Arctic Highlands, is situated in the north-east corner of Baffin's bay, between the latitudes of 76o and 77° 40' N. and the longitudes of 60%
and 79° W., thus extending on the sea-shore for 120 miles in a north west direction; the breadth, where widest, does not exceed 20 miles, and towards the extremities is reduced to nothing. It is bounded on the south by an immense barrier of mountains, covered with ice, which takes its rise in lat. 74° 30', and extends to 76° north. his barrier seems impassable. It is wild and irregular towards the shore, with cliffs 1000 feet in height, and solid ice extending for miles into the sea,
The vegetable productions of this country may be said to consist of heath, moss, and coarse grass. There is nothing like cultiv. ation, nor does it appear that the natives make use of vegetable food. The moss, which is six or eight inches long, when dried and immersed in the oil or blubber of the seal or sea-unicorn, serves for a wick, and produces a comfortable fire for cooking and warmth, as well as for light. The heath and grass serve for food and shelter for the hares and game, which are in abundance; and the stems of heath tied together make a good handle for the whip with which they chiefly manage their dogs. These dogs, generally six a-breast, each having a collar of seal skin, two inches wide, to which one end of a thong, made of strong hide, about three yards long, is tied, the other end being fastened to the forepart of the sledge, draw the natives along with great velocity. They are managed by the whip and voice, are the only animals domesticated, are of various colours, of the size of a shepherd's dog, with a head like a wolf, and a tail like a fox, which their barking resembles, though they have also the howl of the wolf. The sledge is made chiefly of the bones of the seal, tied together with thongs of seal skin; the runners, or lower pieces, being formed of sea-unicorns' horn. They are about four feet ten inches in length, and one foot ten inches wide, with a sort of rude back, like a rusç tic garden chair. The whip thong is of prodigious length, being Dearly twenty feet, attached to a handle of about two feet and a half.
The language is a dialect of the south Esquimaux, called Hų. mooke. Their dress consists of three pieces, which are all com, prised in the name of . tunick.' The upper ope is made of seal skin, with the hair outside, and is similar to the woman's jacket of the South-Greenlanders, being open only near the top so as to equal the size of the wearer's face. At the bottom it is formed like a shirt, but terminating in a tongue before and behind, the hood part being neatly trimmed with fox's skin, and made to fall back on the shoulders, or cover the head, as required. This is lined in general with eider-duck, or awk skins; and this lining being close at the bottom, and open near the breast, serves as a pocket. The next piece of dress, which scarcely reaches the knee, is also uncom. fortably small in the upper part, so that in stooping the skin is exposed. This is made of bear or dog's skin, and fastened up with a string. The boots are made of seal skin, with the hair inwards, the soles being covered with sca-horse hide; they reach over the
knees, and meet the middle part of the dress. The whole of these are made by the women; the needles used being of ivory, and the thread the sinews of the seal, split: the seams are so neat that they can scarcely be distinguished. In winter they wear over the whole a bear-skiv cloak.
The Arctic highlanders are of a dirty copper colour, their stature is about five feet, their bodies corpulent, and their features much resembling the Esquimaux of South Greenland. They are abominably filthy, smeared and covered with rancid oil and dirt, as if unwashed from the cradle; and with matted hair which seems never to have been touched from the hour of their birth. They eat raw flesh when destitute of conveniency for cooking; and one of those who visited the ships was seen to devour the whole of a little awk in this state. The voyagers saw about eighteen of them in all, but no women, old men, or children, these being all sent up for safety to the mountains. The natives declared unanimously that there were plenty of their people towards the north, where their king, named Tulloowah, lived. Tulloowah, they said, was a strong man, very good, and much beloved. His residence was Pe towack, near a large island, which can be no other than Wolstenholme island. He had a large house built of stone, nearly as large as the ship; and there were many houses near it, in which the mass of the natives lived, and paid him a portion of all they caught or found.
As far as captain R. could ascertain through the interpretations of Saccheuse, they had no idea of a Supreme Being, or of a future state, but they believed in Angekoks or conjurers, who could raise the wind and allay tempests, &c. This Angekokship was, however, to be acquired, and almost every family had a son initiated. From the imperfect manner in which the inquiry was carried on, and the ignorance of the language, we think it most probable that the opinions of the natives on points not easily to be explained were misunderstood, and accordingly attach little credit to the suppositions respecting their religious, or rather non-religious persuasions.
One wife is the legal allowance, but if she has no children, the man may take another, and so on a third, until they have children, and the women have the same privilege. Women are esteemed if they have a large family, and mothers are much respected by their children. Football and dancing were the only recreations witnessed. In the former our tars joined heartily in kicking about a seal skin made into'a bag and filled with air, to the great amusement of both parties. Of their dancing, which two young men were induced to exhibit, the following is the description. One of thein began immediately to distort his face, and turn up his eyes in a manner so exactly resembling the appearance of a person in a fit of epilepsy, that our countrymen were all convinced this accident had actually happened, and captain R. was about to call for assistance from the surgeon. They were however soon undeceived,
as he immediately proceeded to execute, in succession, a variety of extraordinary gestures and attitudes, accompanied by the most hideous distortions of countenance. Like the similar amusements of very different climates, these contained the indecent allusions which are well known to form an essential feature in the dances of many nations, in other respects far advanced in civilization. The body was generally in a stooping posture, and the hands resting on the knees. After a few minutes the performer began to sing Amnah ajah,' and in a very short time the second performer, who had been looking on the other in silence, began to distort his face, and imitate the indelicate attitudes of the first, and soon after to sing as a chorus, ' Hejaw, hejaw. After this had continued with increasing energy for ten minutes, the tune was suddenly changed to a shrill note, in which the words “ Wehee, wehee,' were uttered with great rapidity. They then approached each other, by slipping their feet forward, grinning, and in great agitation, until their noses touched, when a savage laugh ended this extraordinary performance.
None of the discoveries made by the expedition has attracted or deserved more notice than the iron found in the high latitude occupied by the Arctic highlanders, and the crimson-coloured snow seen on their mountains, which, though not peculiar to them, was in infinitely greater abundance than was ever witnessed on the Alps, or in patches elsewhere. To these two subjects, so interest. ing to science, we shall, in the first place, direct our present inquiries, and show that our opinion respecting the meteoric origin of the iron is amply confirmed, while a new vegetable theory is brought, instead of the uric acid, to account for the redness in the Snow, The natives had informed Saccheuse that the
“Iron was procured from a mountain near the shore; that there was a rock of it, or more, (for it could not at that time be ascer. tained which,) and that they cut off it, with a sharp stone, the pieces with which the blades of their knives were made.'-page 98.
On the next interview this subject was investigated, and one of the Esquimaux ‘was interrogated respecting the iron with which his knife was edged, and stated that it was found in the mountain before mentioned; that it was in several large masses, of which one in particular, which was larger than the rest, was a part of the mountain; that the others were large pieces above ground, and not of so hard a nature; that they cut it off with a hard stone, (porphyry) and then beat it flat into pieces of the size of a sixpence, but of an oval shape.'
The place mentioned as the site of this phenomenon was 25 miles distant, and the natives broke all their promises to bring specimens of what captain R. believed to be, from their accounts, ‘masses of meteoric iron. The knives made of it, brought from Sowallick, or the Iron mountains, where alone it is found, have also been examined by Dr. Wollaston, and found to contain nickel, a peculi