Early Saturday morning we moved on to the mouth of the valley, pitched our tent in a position to command a view of the approaches to the Samanka River, ballasted its edges with stones to keep the wind from blowing it down, and prepared to wait two days, according to orders, for the whale-boat. The storm still continued, and the heavy sea, which dashed sullenly all day against the black rocks under our tent, convinced me that nothing could be expected from the other party. I only hoped that they had succeeded in getting safely landed somewhere before the storm began. Caught by a gale under the frowning wall of rock which stretched for miles along the coast, the whale-boat, I knew, must either swamp with all on board, or be dashed to pieces against the cliffs. In either case not a soul could escape to tell the story.

That night Viushin astonished and almost disheartened me with the news that we were eating the last of our provisions. There was no more meat, and the hardbread which remained was only a handful of water-soaked crumbs. He and all the Kamchadals, confidently expecting to meet the whale-boat at the Samanka River, had taken only three days' food. He had said nothing about it until the last moment, hoping that the whale-boat would arrive or something turn up; but it could no longer be concealed. We were three days' journey from any settlement, and without food. How we were to get back to Lesnoi I did not know, as the mountains were probably impassable now, on account of the snow which had fallen since we crossed, and the weather did not permit us to indulge a hope that the whale-boat would ever come. Much as we dreaded it, there was nothing to be done but to attempt another passage of the mountain range, and that without a moment's delay. I had been ordered to wait for the whale-boat two days; but circumstances, I thought, justified a disobedience of orders, and I directed the Kamchadals to be ready to start for Lesnoi early the next morning. Then, writing a note to the Major, and enclosing it in a tin can, to be left on the site of our camp, I crawled into my fur bag to sleep and get strength for another struggle with the mountains.

The following morning was cold and stormy, and the snow was still falling in the mountains, and heavy rain in the valley. We broke camp at daylight, saddled our horses, distributed what little baggage we had among them, as equally as possible, and made every preparation for deep snow and hard climbing.

Our guide, after a short consultation with his comrades, now came to me and proposed that we abandon our plan of crossing the mountains as wholly impracticable, and try instead to make our way along the narrow strip of beach which the ebbing tide would leave bare at the foot of the cliffs. This plan, he contended, was no more dangerous than attempting to cross the mountains, and was much more certain of success, as there were only a few points where at low water a horse could not pass with dry feet. It was not more than thirty miles to a ravine on the south side of the mountain range, through which we could, leave the beach and regain our old trail at a point within one hard day's ride of Lesnoi. The only danger was in being caught by high water before we could reach this ravine, and even then we might save ourselves by climbing up on the rocks, and abandoning our horses to their fate. It would be no worse for them than starving and freezing to death in the mountains. Divested of its verbal plausibility, his plan was nothing more nor less than a grand thirty-mile race with a high tide along a narrow beach, from which all escape was cut off by precipitous cliffs one and two hundred feet in height. If we reached the ravine in time, all would be well; but if not, our beach would be covered ten feet deep with water, and our horses, if not ourselves, would be swept away like corks. There was a recklessness and dash about this proposal which made it very attractive when compared with wading laboriously through snow-drifts, in frozen clothes, without anything to eat, and I gladly agreed to it, and credited our guide with more sense and spirit than I had ever before seen exhibited by a Kamchadal. The tide was now only beginning to ebb, and we had three or four hours to spare before it would be low enough to start. This time the Kamchadals improved by catching one of the dogs which had accompanied us from Lesnoi, killing him in a cold-blooded way with their long knives, and offering his lean body as a sacrifice to the Evil Spirit, in whose jurisdiction these infernal mountains were supposed to be. The poor animal was cut open, his entrails taken out and thrown to the four corners of the earth, and his body suspended by the neck from the top of a long pole set perpendicularly in the ground. The Evil Spirit's wrath, however, seemed implacable, for it stormed worse after the performance of these propitiatory rites than it did before. This did not weaken at all the faith of the Kamchadals in the efficacy of their atonement. If the storm did not abate, it was only because an unbelieving American with a diabolical brass box called a "come- pass'" had insisted upon crossing the mountains in defiance of the genius loci and all his tempestuous warnings. One dead dog was no compensation at all for such a sacrilegious violation of the Evil Spirit's clearly expressed wishes! The sacrifice, however, seemed to relieve the natives' anxiety about their own safety; and, much as I pitied the poor dog thus ruthlessly slaughtered, I was glad to see the manifest improvement which it worked in the spirits of my superstitious comrades.

About ten o'clock, as nearly as I could estimate the time without a watch, our guide examined the beach and said we must be off; we would have between four and five hours to reach the ravine. We mounted in hot haste, and set out at a swinging gallop along the beach, overshadowed by tremendous black cliffs on one side, and sprinkled with salt spray from the breakers on the other. Great masses of green, slimy seaweed, shells, water-soaked driftwood, and thousands of medusas, which had been thrown up by the storm, lay strewn in piles along the beach; but we dashed through and over them at a mad gallop, never drawing rein for an instant except to pick our way among enormous masses of rock, which in some places had caved away from the summit of the cliff and blocked up the beach with grey barnacle-encrusted fragments as large as freight-cars.

We had got over the first eighteen miles in splendid style, when Viushin, who was riding in advance, stopped suddenly, with an abruptness which nearly threw him over his horse's head, and raised the familiar cry of "Medveidi! medveidi! dva." Bears they certainly seemed to be, making their way along the beach a quarter of a mile or so ahead; but how bears came in that desperate situation, where they must inevitably be drowned in the course of two or three hours, we could not conjecture. It made little difference to us, however, for the bears were there and we must pass. It was a clear case of breakfast for one party or the other. There could be no dodging or getting around, for the cliffs and the sea left us a narrow road. I slipped a fresh cartridge into my rifle and a dozen more into my pocket; Viushin dropped a couple of balls into his double-barrelled fowling-piece, and we crept forward behind the rocks to get a shot at them, if possible, before we should be seen. We were almost within rifle range when Viushin suddenly straightened up with a loud laugh, and cried out, "Liudi" - "They are people." Coming out from behind the rocks, I saw clearly that they were. But how came people there? Two natives, dressed in fur coats and trousers, approached us with violent gesticulations, shouting to us in Russian not to shoot, and holding up something white, like a flag of truce. As soon as they came near enough one of them handed me a wet, dirty piece of paper, with a low bow, and I recognised him as a Kamchadal from Lesnoi. They were messengers from the Major! Thanking God in my heart that the other party was safe, I tore open the note and read hastily:

Sea Shore, 15 versts from Lesnoi, October 4th. Driven ashore here by the storm. Hurry back as fast as possible.

S. Abaza.

The Kamchadal messengers had left Lesnoi only one day behind us, but had been detained by the storm and bad roads, and had only reached on the previous night our second camp. Finding it impossible to cross the mountains on account of the snow, they had abandoned their horses, and were trying to reach the Samanka River on foot by way of the sea beach. They did not expect to do it in one tide but intended to take refuge on high rocks during the flood, and resume their journey as soon as the beach should be left bare by the receding water. There was no time for any more explanations. The tide was running in rapidly, and we must make twelve miles in a little over an hour, or lose our horses. We mounted the tired, wet Kamchadals on two of our spare animals, and were off again at a gallop. The situation grew more and more exciting as we approached the ravine. At the end of every projecting bluff the water was higher and higher, and in several places it had already touched with foam and spray the foot of the cliffs. In twenty minutes more the beach would be impassable. Our horses held out nobly, and the ravine was only a short distance ahead - only one more projecting bluff intervened. Against this the sea was already beginning to break, but we galloped past through several feet of water, and in five minutes drew rein at the mouth of the ravine. It had been a hard ride, but we had won the race with a clear ten minutes to spare, and were now on the southern side of the snowy mountain range, less than sixty miles from Lesnoi. Had it not been for our guide's good sense and boldness we should still have been floundering through the snow, and losing our way among the bewildering peaks, ten miles south of the Samanka River. The ravine up which our road lay was badly choked with massive rocks, patches of trailing-pine, and dense thickets of alder, and it cost us two hours' more hard work to cut a trail through it with axes.

Before dark, however, we had reached the site of our second day's camp, and about midnight we arrived at the ruined yurt where we had eaten lunch five days before. Exhausted by fourteen hours' riding without rest or food, we could go no farther. I had hoped to get something to eat from the Kamchadal messengers from Lesnoi, but was disappointed to find that their provisions had been exhausted the previous day. Viushin scraped a small handful of dirty crumbs out of our empty bread-bag, fried them in a little blubber, which I suppose he had brought to grease his gun with, and offered them to me; but, hungry as I was, I could not eat the dark, greasy mass, and he divided it by mouthfuls among the Kamchadals.

The second day's ride without food was a severe trial of my strength, and I began to be tormented by a severe gnawing, burning pain in my stomach. I tried to quiet it by eating seeds from the cones of trailing-pine and drinking large quantities of water; but this afforded no relief, and I became so faint toward evening that I could hardly sit in my saddle.

About two hours after dark we heard the howling of dogs from Lesnoi, and twenty minutes later we rode into the settlement, dashed up to the little log house of the starosta, and burst in upon the Major and Dodd as they sat at supper. Our long ride was over.

Thus ended our unsuccessful expedition to the Samanka Mountains - the hardest journey I ever experienced in Kamchatka.

Two days afterward, the anxiety and suffering which the Major had endured in a five days' camp on the sea beach during the storm, brought on a severe attack of rheumatic fever, and all thoughts of farther progress were for the present abandoned. Nearly all the horses in the village were more or less disabled, our Samanka mountain guide was blind from inflammatory erysipelas brought on by exposure to five days of storm, and half my party were unfit for duty. Under such circumstances, another attempt to cross the mountains before winter was impossible. Dodd and the Cossack Meranef (mer-ah'-nef) were sent back to Tigil after a physician and a new supply of provisions, while Viushin and I remained at Lesnoi to take care of the Major.