CHAPTER II. THE WINTER CAMP.
Meanwhile we had need of patience. Our camp, which was in latitude 63 deg. 51 min. north and 90 deg. 26 min. 15 sec. west of Greenwich, had been named by Lieutenant Schwatka after the president of the American Geographical Society. The tents that had been provided for the expedition proving quite inadequate for our wants, Captain Barry got Armow (the Wolf), one of the most influential natives, to let us have his tent, one that had been made by the crew of the brig 'A. Houghton', memorable to us as the vessel on which Captain Barry received his spoon. The Iwillie tribe moved up their tupics to the land nearest Depot Island, so as to be near us; but finding they were a considerable distance from any fresh water, moved again to the spot where our stores were landed. We had bidden adieu to the officers and crew of the 'Eothen', and had been rowed ashore by the Inuits. The solitude of our first day on land was enlivened by the visit of a ponderous young Natchilli, named Joe (or Natchilli Joe, to distinguish him from Esquimau Joe). He promised to accompany us in the spring. He was a fine-looking young man, with a big head, and a shock of raven-black hair, as massive-looking as a lion, and with none of the bloodthirsty look which I had been led to expect in the Natchilli features. He had been living with the Iwillie tribe for about two years, and they all liked him very much. We felt that it would tend to assure our favorable reception by his tribe to have one or two of their own people with our party.
Ten days after we landed all went to the hunting-grounds but Armow and his party, who were to go in a boat, but it was so stormy that they did not get off. When the others broke camp and started over the hills it was a novel and interesting spectacle. Each one had his load, the women, in addition to their other burdens, having to carry their children upon their backs. Behind them came their dogs, staggering under loads that almost hid them from view and getting into all kinds of trouble among the rocks. They were accompanied by "Jerry," a native for whom Esquimau Joe had a great liking. He took all his family except his son Koumania, who had been given to me as a body-servant. Koumania was an unusually bright, manly little fellow, and, though so young, had already killed a reindeer. We were all much interested in him, and his parents were much pleased that he had found favor with the Kodlunars. His father was one of Captain Hall's party in his King William Land journey, and was also to accompany us. He seemed like a good, honest, faithful fellow, and had the reputation of being a first-class hunter. Koumania came running to me, before his father's departure, with his face covered with smiles and soapsuds, and I found that Frank had given him some soap and told him I would like him better if he would wash. Poor fellow! he had done the best he could, and had at any rate shown a willing spirit.
It was not until Wednesday that the boat party could get away. Most of the time it rained and blew a perfect gale. We were then alone in the camp, with the exception of a tupic, which contained one old man, two old women, and three children. There were plenty of dogs, though, and we had concerted music every night. I spent some time in making over some civilized clothes for my boy. I had to take them in everywhere except around the waist. There he was as big as I am, though I weigh nearly two hundred pounds.
I returned from a hunting and exploring excursion Saturday night, August 31, and had come to the conclusion by that time, after satisfactory experience, that tuk-too hunting is not a pastime. It is good, solid work from beginning to end, with no rest for the weary. If any readers have meditated such a task as a divertisement, I would beg to dissuade them from the undertaking, for they know not what they do. Before attempting to follow tuk-too hunters over these hills and valleys, I would advise a severe course of training. We started on the morning of the 25th, in the midst of a strong gale, which had been blowing all night from the north-west, and was bitter cold. It rained, snowed, and hailed all at the same time, and the pelting hard stones cut our faces nearly all the morning. The party consisted of "Sam," another of Joe's friends, his two younger brothers, Koumania, and myself. I took a blanket and some little provisions, in case I should be out over night. We walked along, without stopping, a distance of about eight miles across the hardest country to travel over I had ever seen, and when we halted to rest I was indeed tired. The rocks and hills were hard enough to walk over, but the worst of all were the moss-covered meadows. Your foot would sink at every step, and it was as much like walking in loose, wet sand as anything with which I could compare it. I wore native boots, or kummings, as they are called, for I knew it would be impossible to get along with anything else; but the sharp edges and points of the stones could be felt through them almost as if one were barefooted. Do not think that the mossy meadows were a relief after the rocks. On the contrary, they were but a delusion and a snare, for beneath the velvet cushion was concealed the sharp and jagged rock that cut the foot all the same, and proved a more deadly, because a hidden foe. Though tired when I sat down to rest, I was more so when I got up to walk again; but, ashamed of my weakness, I kept on, gritting my teeth and determined to do or die.