On the morning of November 23d, in a clear, bracing atmosphere of twenty-five degrees below zero, we arrived at the mouth of the large river called the Penzhina, which empties into Penzhinsk Gulf, at the head of the Okhotsk Sea. A dense cloud of frozen mist, which hung over the middle of the gulf, showed the presence there of open water; but the mouth of the river was completely choked up with great hummocks, rugged green slabs, and confused masses of ice, hurled in by a south-westerly storm, and frozen together in the wildest shapes of angular disorder. Through the grey mist we could see dimly, on a high bluff opposite, the strange outlines of the X-shaped yurts of the Kamenoi Koraks.

Leaving our drivers to get the reindeer and sledges across as best they could, the Major, Dodd, and I started on foot, picking our way between huge irregular blocks of clear green ice, climbing on hands and knees over enormous bergs, falling into wide, deep crevices, and stumbling painfully across the chevaux-de-frise of sharp splintered fragments into which the ice had been broken by a heavy sea. We had almost reached the other side, when Dodd suddenly cried out, " Oh, Kennan! Your nose is all white; rub it with snow - quick!" I have not the slightest doubt that the rest of my face also turned white at this alarming announcement; for the loss of my nose at the very outset of my arctic career would be a very serious misfortune. I caught up a handful of snow, however, mixed with sharp splinters of ice, and rubbed the insensible member until there was not a particle of skin left on the end of it, and then continued the friction with my mitten until my arm ached. If energetic treatment would save it, I was determined not to lose it that time. Feeling at last a painful thrill of returning circulation, I relaxed my efforts, and climbed up the steep bluff behind Dodd and the Major, to the Korak village of Kamenoi.

The settlement resembled as much as anything a collection of titanic wooden hour-glasses, which had been half shaken down and reduced to a state of rickety dilapidation by an earthquake. The houses - if houses they could be called - were about twenty feet in height, rudely constructed of driftwood which had been brought down by the river, and could be compared in shape to nothing but hour-glasses. They had no doors, or windows of any kind, and could be entered only by climbing up a pole on the outside, and sliding down another pole through the chimney - a mode of entrance whose practicability depended entirely upon the activity and intensity of the fire which burned underneath. The smoke and sparks, although sufficiently disagreeable, were trifles of comparative insignificance. I remember being told, in early infancy, that Santa Claus always came into a house through the chimney; and although I accepted the statement with the unreasoning faith of childhood, I could never understand how that singular feat of climbing down a chimney could be safely accomplished. To satisfy myself, I felt a strong inclination, every Christmas, to try the experiment, and was only prevented from doing so by the consideration of stove-pipes. I might succeed, I thought, in getting down the chimney; but coming out into a room through an eight-inch stove-pipe and a narrow stove-door was utterly out of the question. My first entrance into a Korak yurt, however, at Kamenoi, solved all my childish difficulties, and proved the possibility of entering a house in the eccentric way which Santa Claus is supposed to adopt. A large crowd of savage-looking fur-clad natives had gathered around us when we entered the village, and now stared at us with stupid curiosity as we made our first attempt at climbing a pole to get into a house. Out of deference for the Major's rank and superior attainments, we permitted him to go first. He succeeded very well in getting up the first pole, and lowered himself with sublime faith into the dark narrow chimney hole, out of which were pouring clouds of smoke; but at this critical moment, when his head was still dimly visible in the smoke, and his body out of sight in the chimney, he suddenly came to grief. The holes in the log down which he was climbing were too small to admit even his toes, covered as they were with heavy fur boots; and there he hung in the chimney, afraid to drop and unable to climb out - a melancholy picture of distress. Tears ran out of his closed eyes as the smoke enveloped his head, and he only coughed and strangled whenever he tried to shout for help. At last a native on the inside, startled at the appearance of his struggling body, came to his assistance, and succeeded in lowering him safely to the ground. Profiting by his experience, Dodd and I paid no attention to the holes, but putting our arms around the smooth log, slid swiftly down until we struck bottom. As I opened my tearful eyes, I was saluted by a chorus of drawling "zda-ro'-o-o-va's" from half a dozen skinny, greasy old women, who sat cross-legged on a raised platform around the fire, sewing fur clothes.

The interior of a Korak yurt - that is, of one of the wooden yurts of the settled Koraks - presents a strange and not very inviting appearance to one who has never become accustomed by long habit to its dirt, smoke, and frigid atmosphere. It receives its only light, and that of a cheerless, gloomy character, through the round hole, about twenty feet above the floor, which serves as window, door, and chimney, and which is reached by a round log with holes in it, that stands perpendicularly in the centre. The beams, rafters, and logs which compose the yurt are all of a glossy blackness, from the smoke in which they are constantly enveloped. A wooden platform, raised about a foot from the earth, extends out from the walls on three sides to a width of six feet, leaving an open spot eight or ten feet in diameter in the centre for the fire and a huge copper kettle of melting snow. On the platform are pitched three or four square skin pologs, which serve as sleeping apartments for the inmates and as refuges from the smoke, which sometimes becomes almost unendurable. A little circle of flat stones on the ground, in the centre of the yurt, forms the fireplace, over which is usually simmering a kettle of fish or reindeer meat, which, with dried salmon, seal's blubber, and rancid oil, makes up the Korak bill of fare. Everything that you see or touch bears the distinguishing marks of Korak origin - grease and smoke. Whenever any one enters theyurt, you are apprised of the fact by a total eclipse of the chimney hole and a sudden darkness, and as you look up through a mist of reindeer hairs, scraped off from the coming man's fur coat, you see a thin pair of legs descending the pole in a cloud of smoke. The legs of your acquaintances you soon learn to recognise by some peculiarity of shape or covering; and their faces, considered as means of personal identification, assume a secondary importance. If you see Ivan's legs coming down the chimney, you feel a moral certainty that Ivan's head is somewhere above in the smoke; and Nicolai's boots, appearing in bold relief against the sky through the entrance hole, afford as satisfactory proof of Nicolai's identity as his head would, provided that part of his body came in first. Legs, therefore, are the most expressive features of a Korak's countenance, when considered from an interior standpoint. When snow drifts up against the yurt, so as to give the dogs access to the chimney, they take a perfect delight in lying around the hole, peering down into the yurt, and snuffing the odours of boiling fish which rise from the huge kettle underneath. Not unfrequently they get into a grand comprehensive free fight for the best place of observation; and just as you are about to take your dinner of boiled salmon off the fire, down comes a struggling, yelping dog into the kettle, while his triumphant antagonist looks down through the chimney hole with all the complacency of gratified vengeance upon his unfortunate victim. A Korak takes the half-scalded dog by the back of the neck, carries him up the chimney, pitches him over the edge of the yurtinto a snow-drift, and returns with unruffled serenity to eat the fish-soup which has thus been irregularly flavoured with dog and thickened with hairs. Hairs, and especially reindeer's hairs, are among the indispensable ingredients of everything cooked in a Korak yurt, and we soon came to regard them with perfect indifference. No matter what precautions we might take, they were sure to find their way into our tea and soup, and stick persistently to our fried meat. Some one was constantly going out or coming in over the fire, and the reindeerskin coats scraping back and forth through the chimney hole shed a perfect cloud of short grey hairs, which sifted down over and into everything of an eatable nature underneath. Our first meal in a Korak yurt, therefore, at Kamenoi, was not at all satisfactory.

We had not been twenty minutes in the settlement before the yurt that we occupied was completely crowded with stolid, brutal-looking men, dressed in spotted deerskin clothes, wearing strings of coloured beads in their ears, and carrying heavy knives two feet in length in sheaths tied around their legs. They were evidently a different class of natives from any we had yet seen, and their savage animal faces did not inspire us with much confidence. A good-looking Russian, however, soon made his appearance, and coming up to us with uncovered head, bowed and introduced himself as a Cossack from Gizhiga, sent to meet us by the Russian governor at that place. The courier who had preceded us from Lesnoi had reached Gizhiga ten days before us, and the governor had despatched a Cossack at once to meet us at Kamenoi, and conduct us through the settled Korak villages around the head of Penzhinsk Gulf. The Cossack soon cleared the yurt of natives, and the Major proceeded to question him about the character of the country north and west of Gizhiga, the distance from Kamenoi to the Russian outpost of Anadyrsk, the facilities for winter travel, and the time necessary for the journey. Fearful for the safety of the party of men which he presumed to have been landed by the engineer-in-chief at the mouth of the Anadyr River, Major Abaza had intended to go directly from Kamenoi to Anadyrsk himself in search of them, and to send Dodd and me westward along the coast of the Okhotsk Sea to meet Mahood and Bush. The Cossack, however, told us that a party of men from the Anadyr River had arrived at Gizhiga on dog-sledges just previous to his departure, and that they had brought no news of any Americans in the vicinity of Anadyrsk or on the river. Col. Bulkley, the chief-engineer of the enterprise, had promised us, when we sailed from San Francisco, that he would land a party of men with a whale boat at or near the mouth of the Anadyr River, early enough in the season so that they could ascend the river to the settlement of Anadyrsk and open communication with us by the first winter road. This he had evidently failed to do; for, if a party had been so landed, the Anadyrsk people would certainly have heard something about it. The unfavourable nature of the country around Bering Strait, or the lateness of the season when the Company's vessels reached that point, had probably compelled the abandonment of this part of the original plan. Major Abaza had always disapproved the idea of leaving a party near Bering Strait; but he could not help feeling a little disappointment when he found that no such party had been landed, and that he was left with only four men to explore the eighteen hundred miles of country between the strait and the Amur River. The Cossack said that no difficulty would be experienced in getting dog-sledges and men at Gizhiga to explore any part of the country west or north of that place, and that the Russian governor would give us every possible assistance.

Under these circumstances there was nothing to be done but to push on to Gizhiga, which could be reached, the Cossack said, in two or three days. The Kamenoi Koraks were ordered to provide a dozen dog-sledges at once, to carry us on to the next settlement of Shestakova; and the whole village was soon engaged, under the Cossack's superintendence, in transferring our baggage and provisions from the deer-sledges of the Wandering Koraks to the long, narrow dog-sledges of their settled relations. Our old drivers were then paid off in tobacco, beads, and showy calico prints, and after a good deal of quarrelling and disputing about loads between the Koraks and our new Cossack Kerrillof, everything was reported ready. Although it was now almost noon, the air was still keen as a knife; and, muffling up our faces and heads in great tippets, we took seats on our respective sledges, and the fierce Kamenoi dogs went careering out of the village and down the bluff in a perfect cloud of snow, raised by the spikedoerstels of their drivers.

The Major, Dodd, and I were travelling in covered sledges, known to the Siberians as "pavoskas" (pah-voss'-kahs), and the reckless driving of the Kamenoi Koraks made us wish, in less than an hour, that we had taken some other means of conveyance, from which we could escape more readily in case of accident or overturn. As it was, we were so boxed up that we could hardly move without assistance. Ourpavoskas resembled very much long narrow coffins, covered with sealskin, mounted on runners, and roofed over at the head by a stiff hood just large enough to sit up in. A heavy curtain was fastened to the edge of this top or hood, and in bad weather it could be pulled down and buttoned so as to exclude the air and flying snow. When we were seated in these sledges our legs were thrust down into the long coffin-shaped boxes upon which the drivers sat, and our heads and shoulders sheltered by the sealskin hoods. Imagine an eight-foot coffin mounted on runners, and a man sitting up in it with a bushel basket over his head, and you will have a very correct idea of a Siberian pavoska. Our legs were immovably fixed in boxes, and our bodies so wedged in with pillows and heavy furs that we could neither get out nor turn over. In this helpless condition we were completely at our drivers' mercy; if they chose to let us slide over the edge of a precipice in the mountains, all we could do was to shut our eyes and trust in Providence. Seven times in less than three hours my Kamenoi driver, with the assistance of fourteen crazy dogs and a spiked stick, turned my pavoska exactly bottom side up, dragged it in that position until the hood was full of snow, and then left me standing on my head, with my legs in a box and my face in a snow-drift, while he took a smoke and calmly meditated upon the difficulties of mountain travel and the versatility of dog-sledges! It was enough to make Job curse his grandmother! I threatened him with a revolver, and swore indignantly by all the evil spirits in the Korak theogony, that if he upset me in that way again I would kill him without benefit of clergy, and carry mourning and lamentation to the houses of all his relatives. But it was of no use. He did not know enough to be afraid of a pistol, and could not understand my murderous threats. He merely squatted down upon his heels on the snow, puffed his cheeks out with smoke, and stared at me in stupid amazement, as if I were some singular species of wild animal, which exhibited a strange propensity to jabber and gesticulate in the most ridiculous manner without any apparent cause. Then, whenever he wanted to ice his sledge-runners, which was as often as three times an hour, he coolly capsized the pavoska, propped it up with his spiked stick, and I stood on my head while he rubbed the runners down with water and a piece of deerskin. This finally drove me to desperation, and I succeeded, after a prolonged struggle, in getting out of my coffin-shaped box, and seated myself with indignant feelings and murderous inclinations by the side of my imperturbable driver. Here my unprotected nose began to freeze again, and my time, until we reached Shestakova, was about equally divided between rubbing that troublesome feature with one hand, holding on with the other, and picking myself up out of snow-drifts with both.

The only satisfaction I had was in seeing the state of exasperation to which the Major was reduced by the stupidity and ugliness of his driver. Whenever he wanted to go on, the driver insisted upon stopping to take a smoke; when he wanted to smoke, the driver capsized him skilfully into a snow-drift; when he wanted to walk down a particularly steep hill, the driver shouted to his dogs and carried him to the bottom like an avalanche, at the imminent peril of his life; when he desired to sleep, the driver intimated by impudent gestures that he had better get out and walk up the side of a mountain; until, finally, the Major called Kerrillof and made him tell the Korak distinctly and emphatically, that if he did not obey orders and show a better disposition, he would be lashed on his sledge, carried to Gizhiga, and turned over to the Russian governor for punishment. He paid some attention to this; but all our drivers exhibited an insolent rudeness which we had never before met with in Siberia, and which was very provoking. The Major declared that when our line should be in process of construction and he should have force enough to do it, he would teach the Kamenoi Koraks a lesson that they would not soon forget.

We travelled all the afternoon over a broken country, perfectly destitute of vegetation, which lay between a range of bare white mountains and the sea, and just before dark reached the settlement of Shestakova, which was situated on the coast, at the mouth of a small wooded stream. Stopping there only a few moments to rest our dogs, we pushed on to another Korak village called Mikina (Mee-kin-ah), ten miles farther west, where we finally stopped for the night.

Mikina was only a copy of Kamenoi on a smaller scale. It had the same hour-glass houses, the same conical balagans elevated on stilts, and the same large skeletons of sealskin baideras (bai'-der-ahs') or ocean canoes were ranged in a row on the beach. We climbed up the best-looking yurt in the village - over which hung a dead disembowelled dog, with a wreath of green grass around his neck - and slid down the chimney into a miserable room filled to suffocation with blue smoke, lighted only by a small fire on the earthen floor, and redolent of decayed fish and rancid oil. Viushin soon had a teakettle over the fire, and in twenty minutes we were seated like cross-legged Turks on the raised platform at one end of the yurt, munching hardbread and drinking tea, while about twenty ugly, savage-looking men squatted in a circle around us and watched our motions. The settled Koraks of Penzhinsk Gulf are unquestionably the worst, ugliest, most brutal and degraded natives in all north-eastern Siberia. They do not number more than three or four hundred, and live in five different settlements along the seacoast; but they made us more trouble than all the other inhabitants of Siberia and Kamchatka together. They led, originally, a wandering life like the other Koraks; but, losing their deer by some misfortune or disease, they built themselves houses of driftwood on the seacoast, settled down, and now gain a scanty subsistence by fishing, catching seals, and hunting for carcasses of whales which have been killed by American whaling vessels, stripped of blubber, and then cast ashore by the sea. They are cruel and brutal in disposition, insolent to everybody, revengeful, dishonest, and untruthful. Everything which the Wandering Koraks are they are not. The reasons for the great difference between the settled and the Wandering Koraks are various. In the first place, the former live in fixed villages, which are visited very frequently by the Russian traders; and through these traders and Russian peasants they have received many of the worst vices of civilisation without any of its virtues. To this must be added the demoralising influence of American whalers, who have given the settled Koraks rum and cursed them with horrible diseases, which are only aggravated by their diet and mode of life. They have learned from the Russians to lie, cheat, and steal; and from whalers to drink rum and be licentious. Besides all these vices, they eat the intoxicating Siberian toadstool in inordinate quantities, and this habit alone will in time debase and brutalise any body of men to the last degree. From nearly all these demoralising influences the Wandering Koraks are removed by the very nature of their life. They spend more of their time in the open air, they have healthier and better-balanced physical constitutions, they rarely see Russian traders or drink Russian vodka, and they are generally temperate, chaste, and manly in their habits. As a natural consequence they are better men, morally, physically, and intellectually, than the settled natives ever will or can be. I have very sincere and hearty admiration for many Wandering Koraks whom I met on the great Siberian tundras but their settled relatives are the worst specimens of men that I ever saw in all northern Asia, from Bering Strait to the Ural Mountains.