CHAPTER III. OUR DOGS.
There being no cairn, as a matter of course there was no guide to conduct us to it; but instead of returning to New York from Camp Daly, as he would have been justified in doing, Lieutenant Schwatka determined to make the summer search in King William Land, in order to find the records, if possible; or, at any rate to so conduct the search as to make it final and conclusive of the Franklin expedition. Lieutenant Schwatka was much impressed with the statements made by Nutargeark, especially as this native's intelligence and veracity were tested by his pointing out correctly upon the map the location of cairns which he had seen, including one at Cape Herschel, built by Dease and Simpson in 1839, and the spot where McClintock saw a boat with skeletons. Both Hall and McClintock account for the fact of so few bodies being found, by the presumption that Captain Crozier and his men followed the shore ice down, and, dying there, fell through into the water when the ice melted during the summer. Nutargeark, however, said that there were plenty of bodies lying upon the ground on King William Land, which would be invisible in winter from being covered with snow. To verify these statements was the purpose of our journey.
The first thing necessary was to get dogs enough for our teams. To that end I made a visit to the land of the Kinnepatoos, which is about seventy miles west and north from Marble Island. I found them in igloos, upon a large lake on the western shore of Hudson Bay, and was the first white man who had been there. Many of this tribe had never seen a white man before, but all were exceedingly friendly. I found that they had but few available dogs, but succeeded in securing from them several fine animals by the exchange of ammunition, tobacco, and matches, which are the staples of trade with these people. I found their igloos to be much larger and better built than those of the northern natives. The entrance would usually be by a narrow passage-way, excavated from a snow-drift, six to eight feet below the surface, and perhaps twenty-five or thirty feet long. They had no fires for heating the igloos, and, consequently, there was a clammy, vault-like atmosphere indoors that was anything but pleasant. They use oil only for light, and, even in the depth of winter, cook what little food they do not eat raw with moss. As I approached the village I was walking ahead of my guides, who were with the sled. It was getting late, and we were endeavoring to trace the direction by following the tracks on the snow which covered the lake; but a high wind, which was blowing from the north, had nearly obliterated all signs and rendered the task a difficult one. Presently, however, I heard the barking of dogs and the voices of a number of children, who soon appeared approaching over a hill on the right bank of the lake, beyond which the village was built. I hastened toward them, and was shortly conducted into an igloo where all the men were seated, tailor fashion, around bones which showed that justice had been done to a hearty repast of frozen deer meat. They extended a rude but cordial welcome, and hospitably inquired if I was hungry; but as I had recently eaten a quantity of frozen salmon I declined further food. I had long ago learned to relish fish and meat which they call "topee," and which civilized people denominate "rotten". When frozen it does not taste any worse than some kinds of cheese smell, and is a strong and wholesome diet unless eaten in great quantities. It fortifies the system against cold, and, shortly after eating, causes a healthy glow of warmth to pervade the body, even in the coldest weather. I can now eat almost anything an Esquimau can, and almost as much. Though the weather during the four days of my journey out was intensely cold - the thermometer ranging from thirty to sixty degrees below zero most of the time, with a strong wind blowing - I did not suffer with the cold, except that my nose and cheeks would occasionally freeze. In fact, if I had no nose I believe I could stand the cold nearly as well as the natives. Even they are constantly freezing their noses and cheeks, and there seems to be no way of avoiding this very disagreeable contingency.