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Norway House, a depot of the Company, on the Jack river. At this place the preparations for the expedition were completed; provisions were laid in-boats procured—men and interpreters engaged. Captain Back was obliged to remain here for some days, awaiting the arrival of interpreters. At length two former acquaintances of his (Canadians) came, and presented themselves as candidates for the service. The Captain immediately engaged them. After they had contracted and were returning to the camp, they met their wives, and informed them of the enterprise on which they were about to embark—whereupon one of the ladies, a strapping, roistering she devil, began kicking and cuffing her husband at such a rate, that he took to his heels and sought shelter in a tent. The other wife, a beautiful, interesting young creature of seventeen, burst into a passion of tears, and clung to her husband in such agony, that the poor fellow yielded to her distress and gave up the service. Our author was therefore obliged to look elsewhere; and it was not until the 26th, that he was enabled to supply the places which these faithful spouses were obliged to abandon.
When the party was completely organized, it consisted in all of twenty-five men; and on the 28th June they left Norway House, and commenced the expedition. From 2 A. M., until 5.P. M., they paddled their canoes, with little cessation, when, near the northern boundary of Lake Winnipeg, they met the Company's canoe from the Athabasca, containing Messrs. Smith and Charles, two gentlemen whom our traveller had expected to see.
From them, information was obtained in relation to Thlew-ce-choh, or Great Fish river (which Captain Back had been directed to explore to its nouth), that led to doubts whether its navigation would be practicable by large canoes. Another route, leading to nearly the same point on the coast, by the Teh-lon river, was mentioned, by which such difficulties would be avoided.
The men had been eighteen hours at their paddles, and needed repose; they accordingly encamped on the beach, and · lay down amidst swarms of musquitoes. At 3 o'clock on the following morning they started with a light breeze, which soon increased to a heavy gale, so that they were obliged to run into shoal water, to save the canoe from swamping. The men waded with the baggage to a place of shelter, where the canoe was also secured. Towards evening the wind abated, but the clouds grew heavier, and indicated the approach of a violent gale. On the morning of the 30th, the lake resembled a rolling sheet of foam; the musquitoes had vanished; a few gulls were huddled together under a projecting sand bank. The men were assembled in the tent, and our author read to them divine service.
On the 1st of July the weather changed, and they were enabled to get off, and soon after passed the Grand Rapid, described by Sir John Franklin. On the 5th they entered the Little river, and got to Pine Island lake. At this point there is a station house of the Company, where our voyagers landed. They remained there until the 7th, taking in stores, and making other arrangements for the prosecution of the enterprise, when they again got under way. They passed through the dangerous rapids of the Rivière Maligne, and on the 17th arrived at Isle àla-Crosse, another post of the Company. Keeping to the left of Clear Lake they entered Buffalo lake. The description of this treacherous pool we give in our traveller's own language :
“Few persons have ever completed the long traverse of this deceitful lake, without being favoured with a breeze that endangered their lives. I had been caught before; yet, from the upruffled smoothness of its wide surface, I began to fancy that we were now to be exempted from the usual compliment. The men sung and paddled with energy, the fitful cry of a slightly wounded bittern, which lay at the bottom of the canoe, serving for an accompaniment; and we had gained the centre of the traverse, when suddenly a gentle air was felt coming from the wellknown quarter of the Buffalo Mountain. The suspicious guide would now no longer permit even the customary rest of a few minutes to recover strength, but urged the crew to exertion; and they, ever and anon looking towards the blue summits of the mountain with something of a superstitious glance, made our light bark skim over the water like a thing impelled by wings. A dark cloud rose from behind the mountain, and began to expand towards the zenith; little gusts of wind followed ; and in less than half an hour we were in the midst of a thunder-storm, that raised a sea from which there was no escape but by hoisting a shred of a sail, and running through breakers to the nearest lee land."
On the 21st, they reached Portage la Loche, the high ridge dividing the waters emptying into the Hudson from those which direct their course to the Polar Seas. Over this portage, which reaches several miles, the men were obliged to carry their boats and cargoes. The thermometer stood at 68° of Fahrenheit, and the musquitoes and horse flies bit them until the blood streamed from their faces. They laboured on under their heavy burdens, when, on emerging from a thick forest, a prospect burst upon them which our author describes as follows :
“A thousand feet below, the sylvan landscape lay spread before us, to the extent of thirty-six miles, in all the wild luxuriance of its summer clothing. Even the most jaded of the party, as he broke from the gloom of the wood on this enchanting scene, seemed to forget his weariness, and halted involuntarily, with his burden, to gaze for a moment, with a sort of wondering admiration, on a spectacle so novel and magnificent. My own sensations, however, had not the keenness of those of a stranger to the sight; and it was not without a sort of melancholy, such as results from satiety, that I contrasted my present feelings with the rapture which
I had formerly experienced. It was, to me, Portage la Loche, and nothing more,—the same beautiful and romantic solitude through which I had passed and repassed on two former expeditions. There was nothing new to excite surprise, or quicken delight; not a spot of latent beauty, not even a gleam of light glancing across the valley, which had not been well noted before, and diligently treasured in the memory. I looked upon it as I should look upon an exquisite but familiar picture—with pleasure, but without emotion.”
On the 23d they had passed the portage, and again launched their boats into the waters. The exhausted men threw themselves upon the ground, where they rested for an hour, and then resumed their voyage. On arriving at the Pine Portage our traveller met Mr. Stewart and Mr. M'Leod, who had come from M-Kenzie's river, with a cargo of furs. The latter gentleman had been requested by the Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company to accompany the expedition, and accordingly, to the great satisfaction of Captain Back, he joined his party. On the 29th they got to Fort Chippewyan, and were received by Mr. Ross, whom Mr. Charles had left in charge of the station. Our traveller remained at the Fort until the 1st of August, when he left it. On the 4th, they encountered a gale from the north west, which so retarded their progress, that they were five hours in accomplishing twelve miles. This brought them to the Salt River. Here there had been a recent encampment of Indians. From the marks about the place it was supposed they had ascended the river to the plains, and our traveller being desirous of gaining information in relation to the two rivers Tehlon and Thlew-ee-choh, encamped on the shore, and then started with Mr. M‘Leod in the empty canoe in search of the Indians.
“We bad hardly rounded the second point, when the sight of a "cache."" suspended from the apex of a deserted lodge, convinced us that we should soon come up with the stragglers; and, accordingly, about a quarter of a mile further, two young Indians thrust their dark bodies through the branches of the trees, and called to us to stop. They formed part of the tribe of Slave Lake Indians, who were expected to be in this direction, and their friends were not far from them. They merely told us what we well knew, that there was little water in the river, and they doubted if we could get up. Shortly afterwards, we met a whole fleet of canoes, whose approach was notified by loud and discordant sounds—a horrible concert of voices of all ages, utterly indescribable. Their chief was an intelligent looking old man, called by the traders, 'le camarade de Mandeville; and from his extensive koowledge of the country to the north ward and eastward of Great Slave Lake, there was every reason to expect considerable information, if it could only be wormed out of him. To achieve this, Mr. MʻLeod returned with the Indians to our encampment; there with all befitting ceremony to open the preliminaries by the customary pipe : for a social puff is to an Indian, what bottle of wine is to an
Secreted heap, or store of any thing.
Englishman: 'aperit præcordia,' it unlocks the heart, and dissipates re
“ The tout ensemble of these people,' as they, with some vanity, style themselves, was wild and grotesque in the extreme.
One canoe in particular fixed my attention; it was small even for a canoe ; and how eight men, women, and children, contrived to stow away their legs, in a space not more than large enough for three Europeans, would have been a puzzling problem to one unacquainted with the suppleness of an Indian's unbandaged limbs. There, however, they were, in a temperature of 660, packed heads and tails like Yarmouth herrings-half naked—their hair in elf-locks, long and matted-filthy beyond description and all squalling together. To complete the picture, their dogs, scarce one degree below them, formed a sort of body guard, on each side of the river;
and as the canoe glided away with the current, all the animals together, human and canine, set up a shrill and horrible yell.”
The Indians represented the two rivers as running E.N.E. in a nearly parallel direction to the sea. They described the Thlew-ee-choh as full of shoals and rapids, cascades and rocks, and after a tortuous course falling in a foaming cataract into the sea. The Tehlon, they said, was a broad and noble stream, flowing without interruption to its journey's end. They affirmed that the mouths of the two rivers were but a short distance from each other, and used every argument to dissuade our author from going by the former stream. On the 8th the party reached the Great Slave Lake, and were received at Fort Resolution by Mr. M'Donnell. Here Captain Back resumed his investigations concerning the rivers. T'he original plan read before the Royal Geographical Society indicated the Thlew-eechoh as the route to be pursued, but the reports of the Indians in relation to its dangerous navigation, caused our author much perplexity and embarrassment. He, at length, concluded upon following the original plan, and accordingly divided his crew into two parties—part being left with M-Leod, while himself with four men went in search of the Thlew-ee-choh. On the 12th, they entered the Little River, down which they continued their
voyage. On the 14th, the thermometer had sunk from 58° to 30°, and the water was found to be slightly encrusted with ice. On opening round the northern end of the channel, a fine expanse of water was seen east and west, in which lay several islands. They crossed a wide traverse towards some table hills, on which they landed. On the 15th, while under way, a head wind and a heavy swell caused their canoes to ship so much water that they were obliged to run into shore. Pursuing their voyage on the 16th, they espied a bear on the shore, which they shot. Coasting along the rocky line of the northern shore, they came to the Rocky Point River, near which they encamped, at the close of a beautiful day.
August 18th.—They started at 4 A. M. and paddling along
the lake, came to a bend leading into a deep bay, which formed the eastern portion of the Great Slave Lake. Rounding a point they suddenly came into a smaller bay, at the bottom of which was a splendid fall, upwards of sixty feet high, rushing into the gulf below. This was a river they were to ascendthey then landed, and set about repairing the small canoe. The large canoe, with the greater part of the baggage, was left in charge of La Prise, who undertook to wait until M-Leod should come up, and deliver them to him.
They were now obliged to toil up the rocky bed of an unknown stream to the high lands, from which the waters take an opposite course, and our travellers were obliged to carry their canoe around several falls, and obstructions in the navigation. At this time La Prise was despatched with a letter for Mr. MʻLeod, in which he was directed to begin building an establishment for winter quarters, as soon as he should reach the Least end of the lake, our author informing him that he would probably join him some time in September. They pursued their journey, along the river, amongst rapids, rocks and falls, with infinite labour; the musquitoes and sand flies almost devouring them. On the 21st, they entered a river barred by fisteen rapids, varying from three to ten feet in height; after a difficult portage, they launched into open water. They paddled on among islands, extending to a great distance, with an uninterrupted horizon to the westward. De Charloit, (a half breed,) and the Indian were sent to reconnoitre, (our author having landed) and they discovered a lake in the line of their intended course. The musquitoes here tormented them dreadfully, and the face of the steersman was so swollen, that he could hardly
At day break, on the 22d, they went to an adjoining bay, and after two portages got into a large sheet of water; a few hours more brought thern to the east end of the lake, when scouts were sent out to discover the best route to the large lake they were seeking
Towards evening the men returned, having succeeded in finding a chain of small lakes inclining to the eastward. On the 23d and 24th our travellers passed these small sheets and a succession of portages, and entered a rapid river, down which they passed into a magnificent lake. The country along the margin was generally low and level, being occasionally elevated into small hills. By one of these, to the eastward, lay the route to the The-lew (Teh-lon). Passing along the lake and through a strait, they entered a large body of water, along which they coasted until sunset, when they landed, and encamped for the night. The following day the temperature had fallen to 31°, and the VOL. XX.-NO. 39.