The brief excitement produced by the arrival of the Varag and the Clara Bell was succeeded by another long, dreary month of waiting, during which we lived as before in lonely discomfort at the mouth of the Gizhiga River. Week after week passed away without bringing any tidings from the missing ships, and at last the brief northern summer closed, snow appeared upon the mountains, and heavy long-continued storms announced the speedy approach of another winter. More than three months had elapsed since the supposed departure of the Onward and Palmetto from San Francisco, and we could account for their non-appearance only by the supposition that they had either been disabled or lost at sea. On the 18th of September, Major Abaza determined to send a messenger to the Siberian capital, to telegraph the Company for instructions. Left as we were at the beginning of a second winter without men, tools, or materials of any kind, except 50,000 insulators and brackets, we could do nothing toward the construction of the line, and our only resource was to make our unpleasant situation known to the Company. On the 19th, however, before this resolution could be carried into effect, the long-expected bark Palmettoarrived, followed closely by the Russian supply-steamer Saghalin, from Nikolaievsk. The latter, being independent of wind and drawing very little water, had no difficulty in crossing the bar and gaining the shelter of the river; but the Palmetto was compelled to anchor outside and await a higher tide. The weather, which for several days had been cold and threatening, grew momentarily worse, and on the 22d the wind was blowing a close-reefed-topsail gale from the south-east, and rolling a tremendous sea into the unprotected gulf. We felt the most serious apprehensions for the safety of the unfortunate bark; but as the water would not permit her to cross the bar at the mouth of the river, nothing could be done until another high tide. On the 23d, it became evident that the Palmetto - upon which now rested all our hopes - must inevitably go ashore. She had broken her heaviest anchor, and was drifting slowly but surely against the rocky, precipitous coast on the eastern side of the river, where nothing could prevent her from being dashed to pieces. As there was now no other alternative, Captain Arthur slipped his cable, got his ship under way, and stood directly in for the mouth of the river. He could no longer avoid going ashore somewhere, and it was better to strike on a yielding bar of sand than to drift helplessly against a black perpendicular wall of rock, where destruction would be certain. The bark came gallantly in until she was only half a mile distant from the lighthouse, and then grounded heavily in about seven feet of water. As soon as she struck she began pounding with tremendous violence against the bottom while the seas broke in great white clouds of spray entirely over her quarter-deck. It did not seem probable, that she would live through the night. As the tide rose, however, she drove farther and farther in toward the mouth of the river until, at full flood, she was only a quarter of a mile distant. Being a very strongly built ship, she suffered less damage than we had supposed, and, as the tide ran out, she lay high and dry on the bar, with no more serious injury than the loss of her false keel and a few sections of her copper sheathing.

As she was lying on her beam-ends, with her deck careened at an angle of forty-five degrees, it was impossible to hoist anything out of her hold, but we made preparations at once to discharge her cargo in boats as soon as another tide should raise her into an upright position. We felt little hope of being able to save the ship, but it was all-important that her cargo should be discharged before she should go to pieces. Captain Tobezin, of the Russian steamer Saghalin, offered us the use of all his boats and the assistance of his crew, and on the following day we began work with six or seven boats, a large lighter, and about fifty men. The sea still continued to run very high; the bark recommenced her pounding against the bottom; the lighter swamped and sank with a full load about a hundred yards from shore, and a miscellaneous assortment of boxes, crates, and flour-barrels went swimming up the river with the tide. Notwithstanding all these misfortunes, we kept perseveringly at work with the boats as long as there was water enough around the bark to float them, and by the time the tide ran out we could congratulate ourselves upon having saved provisions enough to insure us against starvation, even though the ship should go to pieces that night. On the 25th, the wind abated somewhat in violence, the sea went down, and as the bark did not seem to be seriously injured we began to entertain some hope of saving both ship and cargo. From the 25th until the 29th of September, all the boats of the Saghalin and of the Palmetto, with the crews of both vessels, were constantly engaged in transporting stores from the bark to the shore, and on the 30th at least half of the Palmetto's cargo was safely discharged. So far as we could judge, there would be nothing to prevent her from going to sea with the first high tide in October. A careful examination proved that she had sustained no greater injury than the loss of her false keel, and this, in the opinion of the Saghalin's officers, would not make her any the less seaworthy, or interfere to any extent with her sailing. A new difficulty, however, presented itself. The crew of the Palmetto were all negroes; and as soon as they learned that Major Abaza intended to send the bark to San Francisco that fall, they promptly refused to go, declaring that the vessel was unseaworthy, and that they preferred to spend the winter in Siberia rather than risk a voyage in her to America. Major Abaza immediately called a commission of the officers of the Saghalin, and requested them to make another examination of the bark and give him their opinion in writing as to her seaworthiness. The examination was made, and the opinion given that she was entirely fit for a voyage to Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka, and probably to San Francisco. This decision was read to the negroes, but they still persisted in their refusal. After warning them of the consequences of mutiny, the Major ordered their ringleader to be put in irons, and he was conveyed on board the Saghalin and imprisoned in the "black hole"; but his comrades still held out. It was of vital importance that the Palmetto should go to sea with the first high tide, because the season was already far advanced, and she must inevitably be wrecked by ice if she remained in the river later than the middle of October.

Besides this, Major Abaza would be compelled to leave for Yakutsk on the steamer Saghalin, and the latter was now ready to go to sea. On the afternoon of the 1st, just as the Saghalin was getting up steam to start, the negroes sent word to the Major that if he would release the man whom he had caused to be put in irons, they would do their best to finish unloading the Palmetto and to get her back to San Francisco. The man was promptly released, and two hours afterwards Major Abaza sailed on the Saghalin for Okhotsk, leaving us to do the best we could with our half-wrecked stranded ship and her mutinous crew.

The cargo of the bark was still only half discharged, and we continued for the next five days to unload in boats, but it was hard, discouraging work, as there were only six hours in the twenty-four during which boats could reach the ship, and those six hours were from eleven o'clock P.M. to five in the morning. At all other times the ship lay on her beam-ends, and the water around her was too shallow to float even a plank. To add, if possible, to our difficulties and to our anxiety, the weather became suddenly colder, the thermometer fell to zero, masses of floating ice came in with every tide and tore off great sheets of the vessel's copper as they drifted past, and the river soon became so choked up with icy fragments that we were obliged to haul the boats back and forth with ropes. In spite of weather, water, and ice, however, the vessel's cargo was slowly but steadily discharged, and by the 10th of October nothing remained on board except a few hogsheads of flour, some salt-beef and pork which we did not want, and seventy-five or a hundred tons of coal. These we determined to let her carry back to San Francisco as ballast. The tides were now getting successively higher and higher every day, and on the 11th the Palmettofloated for the first time in almost three weeks. As soon as her keel cleared the bar she was swung around into the channel, head to sea, and moored with light kedge-anchors, ready for a start on the following day. Since the intensely cold weather of the previous week, her crew of negroes had expressed no further desire to spend a winter in Siberia, and, unless the wind should veer suddenly to the southward, we could see nothing to prevent her from getting safely out of the river. The wind for once proved favourable, and at 2 P.M. on the 12th of October the Palmetto shook out her long-furled courses and topsails, cut the cables of her kedge-anchors, and with a light breeze from the north-east, moved slowly out into the gulf. Never was music more sweet to my ears than the hearty "Yo heave ho!" of her negro crew as they sheeted home the topgallant sails outside the bar! The bark was safely at sea. She was not a day too soon in making her escape. In less than a week after her departure, the river and the upper part of the gulf were so packed with ice that it would have been impossible for her to move or to avoid total wreck.

The prospects of the enterprise at the opening of the second winter were more favourable than they had been at any time since its inception. The Company's vessels, it is true, had been very late in their arrival, and one of them, the Onward, had not come at all; but the Palmetto had brought twelve or fourteen more men and a full supply of tools and provisions, Major Abaza had gone to Yakutsk to hire six or eight hundred native labourers and purchase three hundred horses, and we hoped that the first of February would find the work progressing rapidly along the whole extent of the line.

As soon as possible after the departure of the Palmetto, I sent Lieutenant Sandford and the twelve men whom she had brought into the woods on the Gizhiga River above the settlement, supplied them with axes, snow-shoes, dog-sledges, and provisions, and set them at work cutting poles and building houses, to be distributed across the steppes between Gizhiga and Penzhinsk Gulf. I also sent a small party of natives under Mr. Wheeler to Yamsk, with five or six sledge-loads of axes and provisions for Lieutenant Arnold, and despatches to be forwarded to Major Abaza. For the present, nothing more could be done on the coast of the Okhotsk Sea, and I prepared to start once more for the north. We had heard nothing whatever from Lieutenant Bush and party since the first of the previous May, and we were of course anxious to know what success he had met with in cutting and rafting poles down the Anadyr River, and what were his prospects and plans for the winter. The late arrival of the Palmetto at Gizhiga had led us to fear that the vessel destined for the Anadyr might also have been detained and have placed Lieutenant Bush and party in a very unpleasant if not dangerous situation. Major Abaza had directed me, therefore, when he sailed for Okhotsk, to go by the first winter road to Anadyrsk and ascertain whether the Company's vessels had been at the mouth of the river, and whether Bush needed any assistance. As there was no longer anything to detain me at Gizhiga, I packed up my camp-equipage and extra fur clothes, loaded five sledges with tea, sugar, tobacco, and provisions, and on November 2d started with six Cossacks for my last journey to the Arctic Circle.

In all my Siberian experience I can recall no expedition which was so lonely and dismal as this. For the sake of saving transportation, I had decided not to take any of my American comrades with me; but by many a silent camp-fire did I regret my self-denying economy, and long for the hearty laugh and good-humoured raillery of my "fidus Achates" - Dodd. During twenty-five days I did not meet a civilised being or speak a word of my native language, and at the end of that time I should have been glad to talk to an intelligent American dog. "Aloneness," says Beecher, "is to social life what rests are to music"; but a journey made up entirely of "aloneness" is no more entertaining than a piece of music made up entirely of rests - only a vivid imagination can make anything out of either.

At Kuil, on the coast of Penzhinsk Gulf, I was compelled to leave my good-humoured Cossacks and take for drivers half a dozen stupid, sullen, shaven-headed Koraks, and from that time I was more lonesome than ever. I had been able to talk a little with the Cossacks, and had managed to pass away the long winter evenings by the camp-fire in questioning them about their peculiar beliefs and superstitions, and listening to their characteristic stories of Siberian life; but now, as I could not speak the Korak language, I was absolutely without any resource for amusement.

My new drivers were the ugliest, most villainous-looking Koraks that it would have been possible to select in all the Penzhinsk Gulf settlements, and their obstinacy and sullen stupidity kept me in a chronic state of ill-humour from the time we left Kuil until we reached Penzhina. Only by threatening them periodically with a revolver could I make them go at all. The art of camping out comfortably in bad weather they knew nothing whatever about, and in vain did I try to teach them. In spite of all my instructions and illustrations, they would persist night after night in digging a deep narrow hole in the snow for a fire, and squatting around the top of it like frogs around the edge of a well, while I made a camp for myself. Of the art of cooking they were equally ignorant, and the mystery of canned provisions they could never fathom. Why the contents of one can should be boiled, while the contents of another precisely similar can should be fried - why one turned into soup and another into a cake - were questions which they gravely discussed night after night, but about which they could never agree. Astounding were the experiments which they occasionally tried upon the contents of these incomprehensible tin boxes. Tomatoes they brought to me fried into cakes with butter, peaches they mixed with canned beef and boiled for soup, green corn they sweetened, and desiccated vegetables they broke into lumps with stones. Never by any accident did they hit upon the right combination, unless I stood over them constantly and superintended personally the preparation of my own supper. Ignorant as they were, however, of the nature of these strange American eatables, they always manifested a great curiosity to taste them, and their experiments in this way were sometimes very amusing. One evening, soon after we left Shestakova, they happened to see me eating a pickled cucumber, and as this was something which had never come within the range of their limited gastronomical experience, they asked me for a piece to taste. Knowing well what the result would be, I gave the whole cucumber to the dirtiest, worst-looking vagabond in the party, and motioned to him to take a good bite. As he put it to his lips his comrades watched him with breathless curiosity to see how he liked it. For a moment his face wore an expression of blended surprise, wonder, and disgust, which was irresistibly ludicrous, and he seemed disposed to spit the disagreeable morsel out; but with a strong effort he controlled himself, forced his features into a ghastly imitation of satisfaction, smacked his lips, declared it was "akhmel nemelkhin" - very good, - and handed the pickle to his next neighbour. The latter was equally astonished and disgusted with its unexpected sourness, but, rather than admit his disappointment and be laughed at by the others, he also pretended that it was delicious, and passed it along. Six men in succession went through with this transparent farce with the greatest solemnity; but when they had all tasted it, and all been victimised, they burst out into a simultaneous "ty-e-e-e" of astonishment, and gave free expression to their long-suppressed emotions of disgust. The vehement spitting, coughing, and washing out of mouths with snow, which succeeded this outburst, proved that the taste for pickles is an acquired one, and that man in his aboriginal state does not possess it. What particularly amused me, however, was the way in which they imposed on one another. Each individual Korak, as soon as he found that he had been victimised, saw at once the necessity of getting even by victimising the next man, and not one of them would admit that there was anything bad about the pickle until they had all tasted it. "Misery loves company," and human nature is the same all the world over. Dissatisfied as they were with the result of this experiment, they were not at all daunted, but still continued to ask me for samples of every tin can I opened. Just before we reached Penzhina, however, a catastrophe occurred which relieved me from their importunity, and inspired them with a superstitious reverence for tin cans which no subsequent familiarity could ever overcome. We were accustomed, when we came into camp at night, to set our cans into a bed of hot ashes and embers to thaw out, and I had cautioned my drivers repeatedly not to do this until after the cans had been opened. I could not of course explain to them that the accumulation of steam would cause the cans to burst; but I did tell them that it would be "atkin" - bad - if they did not make a hole in the cover before putting the can on the fire. One evening, however, they forgot or neglected to take this precaution, and while they were all squatting in a circle around the fire, absorbed in meditation, one of the cans suddenly blew up with a tremendous explosion, set free an immense cloud of steam, and scattered fragments of boiling hot mutton in every direction. Had a volcano opened suddenly under the camp-fire, the Koraks could not have been more dismayed. They had not time to get up and run away, so they rolled over backward with their heels in the air, shouted "Kammuk!" - "The Devil!" - and gave themselves up for lost. My hearty laughter finally reassured them, and made them a little ashamed of their momentary panic; but from that time forward they handled tin cans as if they were loaded percussion shells, and could never again be induced to taste a morsel of their contents.

Our progress toward Anadyrsk after we left the coast of the Okhotsk Sea was very slow, on account both of the shortness of the days, and the depth and softness of the freshly fallen snow. Frequently, for ten or fifteen miles at a stretch, we were compelled to break a road on snow-shoes for our heavily loaded sledges, and even then our tired dogs could hardly struggle through the soft powdery drifts. The weather, too, was so intensely cold that my mercurial thermometer, which indicated only - 23 deg., was almost useless. For several days the mercury never rose out of the bulb, and I could only estimate the temperature by the rapidity with which my supper froze after being taken from the fire. More than once soup turned from a liquid to a solid in my hands, and green corn froze to my tin plate before I could finish eating it.

On the fourteenth day after leaving Gizhiga we reached the native settlement of Penzhina, two hundred versts from Anadyrsk. Ours was the first arrival at that place since the previous May, and the whole population of the village - men, women, children, and dogs - turned out en masse to meet us, with the most joyful demonstrations. Six months had elapsed since they last saw a strange face or heard from the outside world, and they proceeded to fire a salute from half a dozen rusty old muskets, as a faint expression of their delight.

I had confidently expected when I left Gizhiga that I should meet somewhere on the road a courier with news and despatches from Bush; and I was very much disappointed and a little alarmed when I reached Penzhina to find that no one had arrived at that place from Anadyrsk, and that nothing had been heard from our party since the previous spring. I felt a presentiment that something was wrong, because Bush had been expressly directed to send a courier to Gizhiga by the first winter road, and it was now late in November.

On the following day my worst anticipations were realised. Late in the evening, as I was sitting in the house of one of the Russian peasants drinking tea, the cry was raised that "Anadyrski yaydoot" - "Some one is coming from Anadyrsk"; and running hastily out of the house I met the long-haired Anadyrsk priest just as he stepped from his sledge in front of the door. My first question of course was, "Where's Bush?" But my heart sank as the priest replied: "Bokh yevo znaiet" - "God only knows." "But where did you see him last? - Where did he spend the summer?" I inquired. "I saw him last at the mouth of the Anadyr River, in July," said the priest, "and since that time nothing has been heard from him." A few more questions brought out the whole dismal story. Bush, Macrae, Harder, and Smith had gone down the Anadyr River in June with a large raft of station-houses, intended for erection along its banks. After putting up these houses at necessary points, they had gone on in canoes to Anadyr Bay, to await the arrival of the Company's vessels from San Francisco. Here the priest had joined them and had lived with them several weeks; but late in July their scanty supply of provisions had given out, the expected ships had not come, and the priest returned to the settlement, leaving the unfortunate Americans in a half-starving condition at the mouth of the river. Since that time nothing had been heard from them, and, as the priest mournfully said, "God only knew" where they were and what had happened to them. This was bad news, but it was not the worst. In consequence of the entire failure of the salmon fisheries of the Anadyr River that season, a terrible famine had broken out at Anadyrsk, part of the inhabitants and nearly all the dogs had died of starvation, and the village was almost deserted. Everybody who had dogs enough to draw a sledge had gone in search of the Wandering Chukchis, with whom they could live until another summer; and the few people who were left in the settlement were eating their boots and scraps of reindeerskin to keep themselves alive. Early in October a party of natives had gone in search of Bush and his comrades on dog-sledges, but more than a month had now elapsed since their departure and they had not yet returned. In all probability they had starved to death on the great desolate plains of the lower Anadyr, as they had been compelled to start with only ten days' provisions, and it was doubtful whether they would meet Wandering Chukchis who could supply them with more.

Such was the first news which I heard from the Northern District - a famine at Anadyrsk, Bush and party absent since July, and eight natives and dog-sledges missing since the middle of October. I did not see how the state of affairs could be any worse, and I spent a sleepless night in thinking over the situation and trying to decide upon some plan of operations. Much as I dreaded another journey to the mouth of the Anadyr in midwinter, I saw no way of avoiding it. The fact that nothing had been heard from Bush in four months proved that he had met with some misfortune, and it was clearly my duty to go to Anadyr Bay in search of him if there was a possibility of doing so. On the following morning, therefore, I began buying a supply of dog-food, and before night I had collected 2000 dried fish and a quantity of seals' blubber, which I felt sure would last five dog teams at least forty days. I then sent for the chief of a band of Wandering Koraks who happened to be encamped near Penzhina, and prevailed upon him to drive his herd of reindeer to Anadyrsk, and kill enough to supply the starving inhabitants with food until they could get other help. I also sent two natives back to Gizhiga on dog-sledges, with a letter to the Russian governor, apprising him of the famine, and another to Dodd, directing him to load all the dog-sledges he could get with provisions and send them at once to Penzhina, where I would make arrangements for their transportation to the famine-stricken settlement.

I started myself for Anadyrsk on November 20th with five of the best men and an equal number of the best dog-teams in Penzhina. These men and dogs I intended to take with me to the mouth of the Anadyr River if I heard nothing from Bush before I reached Anadyrsk.