Abbildungen der Seite

held out; the former, because he never retired earlier; the latter, because he felt a necessity to have his say out.

Naturally, a quarter of an hour had not elapsed before the two were up to the ears in politics. Wohlgemuth had been formerly in the United States, and defended the forty acres grant. Meier, on the other hand, abused Germany; and whether they did not understand one another, or found sufficient points of collision, I cannot say, but they became heated, and Haye looked a couple of times out of the tent to see whether they were not fighting.

As Wohlgemuth was very hard of hearing, Meier was forced to shout; and as Meier spoke very loudly, Wohlgemuth could not support his arguments in a very gentle tone; consequently, such a disturbance soon arose between the two that the sleepers were aroused, and grumbling voices heard. At length Försterling could not stand it any longer.

“ Confound it, Meier," he cried from the tent," you're both in the right; but now come to bed." ,

" Hold your row, Landrath; you don't understand it,” Meier cried, in his zeal.

However, if the Landrath did not know how to damp the dispute, he was clever enough to do so with the fire. It had burnt to a little point, and as the night was very cool the debaters had drawn quite close to it, and the Landrath managed so cleverly to sacrifice the jug of water, which he had fetched for the morrow's coffee, that in a moment not a trace of burning wood could be seen.

The quarrellers would not allow themselves to be baulked by this, and continued their dispute in the dark ; but the animus was wanting, and in half an hour all were silent, after murmuring, “Thank the Lord.”

The cayotas, little wolves, or wild dogs, alone commenced howling, and now and then an owl croaked its monotonous night song.

With the break of day fresh life awaited the sleepers. Those who had “ the week” got up and prepared breakfast, then woke the rest; and an hour later the several parties walked with their pans and water-buckets, for their tools had been left at the spot where they had struck work on the Saturday evening, to the different places at which they intended to try their luck during the week.

'Immediately after, the machines began clattering in the ravine below, the axes removed trees and roots from their way, the pick was driven with powerful strokes into the hard ground, and the working life of the miners had recommenced.

THE TENTS OF THE TUSKI.* “Who are the Tuski?” we hear some kind reader inquiring. “People who dwell in the country whence Captain (now Admiral) Beechey brought home the tusks of antediluvian mammoths and elephants of colossal dimensions ?” “ No, the Tuski are the Tchutski of the maps, a Mongolian brotherhood who dwell at that extreme point of Asia which is separated from the American continent by Behring's Straits.” “ And what are the tents ?" " Ay, there is the curiosity of the thing. Positively and indisputably—if kept clean—the most commodious tents in the world

-tents of translucent walrus skins-stretched on gigantic whalebones, and heated by moss dipped in oil, that gives off the most pleasant and fairy-like light imaginable, and transforms an Arctic domicile into a palm-house at Kew!"

It was on the first going out of the Plover—a gallant little vessel, to whose doings in the Arctic Seas we have frequently had occasion to refer—in 1848, that a combination of untoward circumstances drove the vessel and forced it to winter on a coast and among a people .rarely visited. Cook was the first who touched on this shore, and Behring followed him, but neither went beyond Tchutskoi or Tuski Noss; Billings, Novikof, and one or two other Russian navigators, have left an occasional notice of the Tuski themselves. Wrangell and his expedition only saw them at the fair of Ostronowie, but that was sufficient to create an intense desire for further acquaintance, which was not destined to be gratified. Lieutenant Hooper's work fills up then what has hitherto been a desideratum in the history of the human race. He had no language-at least till he made himself acquainted with a few words with which to address them or obtain information ; most had to be done with signs ; but still the results are as satisfactory as they are curious. A very brief acquaintanceship at the outset satisfied our author as to the general honesty of the people, and that there existed among them even a sense of honour.

I made an essay this night upon the honesty of our friends; a fine young man named Ahmoleen, belonging to a family which pleased me more than any of the rest, sold me his outer-coat of reindeer skin ; but fearful that he would feel the loss of his garment during the night, I restored it to him, making signs that it was to be returned on the morrow. Busy next day with my duties I did not heed the approaching departure of my favourites, and am delighted to record that my friend, as I am proud, from after experience, to call him, sought me out and delivered up the borrowed dress with many signs of acknowledgment for the favour. This fixed him in my esteem, nor had I ever afterwards cause to alter my opinion of his probity.

When a first visit was made to the native habitations the visitors were received with joyful hospitality, being at the same time, although in November, nearly roasted, as with the Tuski the increase of heat is the increase of honour. In return, the Tuski visited the Plover, then housed

* Ten Months among the Tents of the Tuski, with Incidents of an Arctic Boat Expedition in Search of Sir John Franklin, as far as the Mackenzie River and Cape Bathurst. By Lieut. W. H. Hooper, R.N. With a Map and Illustrations. John Murray.

in for the winter, and became quite domesticated; they were allowed to visit the mess-room, and go from cabin to cabin, and to eat and drink with the officers and men. They behaved upon these occasions with uniform good nature, and evinced an almost invariably obliging disposition.

The dress of the Tuski is, with the wealthier sort, composed almost entirely of deer, fawn, and dogskin, beautifully dressed by the women with the hair on; the poorer people often substitute shoes and breeches of sealskin. Their country is desolate in the extreme. Ranges of hills, chiefly of volcanic origin, cross and recross each other with little variety of appearance; a few stunted twigs of andromeda, and mosses and lichens, are almost the whole flora. The Tuski, it is almost needless to say, live chiefly by fishing, and they travel in sledges drawn by dogs of different breeds and by reindeer. And now for one of the first visits paid by our author to the natives :

We started from the ship on a splendid morning, with the temperature at 20 deg. below zero, nearly calm. I had the honour of conducting the really pretty wife of Mahkatzan, who seated herself astride behind me on the sledge! while my companion was placed with our worthy host. I was of course desirous of acquitting myself creditably as a Jehu ; but the first essay in dogdriving will scarcely be a successful one. Reins there are none; the animals are to be guided almost entirely by the whip, particularly with strangers, their masters alone having power by the voice ; and herein great management and watchfulness are necessary, and an unpractised hand will be quite unable to run the dogs off a beaten track, or prevent their returning to their homes. Fortunately for my escape from total discomfiture, Mahkatzan led the way, and our canine steeds were going homeward, so we dashed along without any more than an occasional overturn, my fair companion holding me in a vigorous grasp in any such case of danger; consequently a double effort of clinging to our sledge was of course necessary on my part. After a rapid drive of four hours, during which my companion had his face slightly frost-nipped, we arrived at Kaygwan, where our conductor resided, and were scarcely permitted to look round, so eager was he to press upon us the hospitable shelter of his roof. Kaygwan is a very small place; I cannot even call it a hamlet, since it consisted only, if my memory serve me right, of five huts, of which that of our entertainer, though greatly larger than the others, was not of extraordinary dimensions.

And then for the tents, or huts:

As the huts of the Tuski are all of similar form and materials, and differ only in size, cleanliness, and convenience, I shall here describe them generally, noting peculiarities in their proper places. Around, and resting upon one or two props, are ranged at equal distances ribs of the whale, their number and the area of the hut or tent, which is mostly circular or oblong spheroidal in shape, depending upon the dimensions. Over these, tightly stretched and neatly sewn, is drawn a covering of walrus skin, so beautifully cured and prepared as to retain its elasticity, and to be semilucent. Some of these skins are of an enormous size ; I saw one in the roof of Metra's tent at Wootair, which could not have contained less than between seventy and eighty square feet, and the whole clear as parchment. So much light being admitted by the roof, no windows are necessary; an aperture on the most sheltered side serves as a door, over which, when not in use, a screen of walrus skin is drawn; snow is heaped to the height of about eighteen inches round the tent, to keep wind or drift from penetrating beneath, and the onter shell is complete, with the addition of cords of hide sometimes passed over and across the roof to secure the skin.

The yaranga (plural of yarang), as these huts are called, are constructed of a rounded form, to prevent snowdrift from collecting at the gables, and to oppose few points to the fierce winds which sweep remorselessly over these treeless regions; the same rule is not observed with regard to the interior. As the yaranga vary so much in size, some being only ten or a dozen feet in diameter, while the largest measure from thirty to forty, the internal arrangements also differ much. In the smaller, a single apartment-frequently scarce large enongh for two persons-runs across the hut opposite to the door, while in the habitations of chiefs, who have generally three or four generations living under their roofs, the sleeping places extend in a front and two sides nearly round the walls of the dwelling. These extraordinary chambers are formed by posts let into the soil at a distance from each other, and from six to eight feet from the exterior walls, on which, at heights varying from three to five feet, a roof of skins and laths is supported ; thick layers of dried grass are placed over all to exclude the cold; deerskins dressed with the hair on, and closely sewn together, hang from the edge of this roof on the inside, and can be drawn aside or closed at will ; when shut they entirely exclude the external air. On the ground are stretched more well-cured walrus' skins, over which, when repose is taken, those of the reindeer and Siberian sheep, beautifully prepared, are laid ; above, close under the roof, against the sides of the hut, small lattice shelves are slung, on which mocassins, fur socks, and the dried grass, which the more prudent place in the soles of their boots to absorb moisture, are put to dry. A species of dish, oval and shallow, manufactured, as I understood, by themselves, of a plastic material and afterwards hardened, but from its appearance possibly cut out of stone, serves as a lamp ; against a ridge, running along the middle, and nearly an inch high, fibres of weet-o-weet, or moss, are neatly arranged, only their points showing above the stone edge : the dish is filled with train oil, often hard frozen, and a light of peculiar beauty produced, giving enormous heat, without, when well trimmed, either smoke or smell, and certainly one of the softest lights I ever saw, not the slightest glare distressing the eyes ; around the outer wall are ranged any trilling articles of ornament which may be possessed. Wooden vessels scooped from drift-wood are placed in the corners; they contain ice and snow, of which the Tuski consume vast quantities ; indeed, snow-munching appears to occupy the principal part of their time between the important periods of food and repose. The area of the yarang not occupied by the salons is used quite as an antechamber or hall of entrance ; here food is deposited previous to preparation for cooking, much of which is also done here over larger lamps than those inside. Here are unloaded sledges, and the porters of ice and snow; the former being afterwards placed on the roof of the sleeping apartment. Here too the dogs feed and sleep, the faithful creatures ever seeking to lie close to their masters at the edge of the inner rooms, and even thrusting their noses into the heated atmosphere.

The atmosphere was, indeed, to the feelings of our countrymen, overheated, and is described as being painfully oppressive after the pure, cold air outside. “ I cannot understand,” says the author elsewhere," how the natives can endure these great extremes of heat and cold; I have quitted an outward temperature of -20° (that is to say, fifty-two degrees below freezing point) to enter yarangas where the thermometer registered +100°. A change of 120 degrees in one day seems almost enough to kill one ; but this is experienced by the Tuski pretty well during their entire lives, and they are certainly hardy and robust enough." The last circumstance is partly accounted for by the information received by Wrangell, that all weakly and deformed children are destroyed, and although Mr. Hooper did not see anything to corroborate this statement, and, on the contrary, a parent's love for his offspring is more than usually exenıplified among the Tuski, still he says it is probable that Wrangell's information was correct, as he never remembers having seen a deformity, nor children of a sickly constitution. On the other hand, matricide, where the parent has become so old and weak as to be helpless, is an event, we are told, of frequent, indeed habitual, occurrence.

There is one more point connected with ihe tents of the Tuski that · cannot be passed over. It is the reverse side of the picture, but essential to its completeness:

The persons, clothes, habitations, and even dogs of the Tuski, were covered with vermin, not in a slight degree, but absolutely swarming; and it is doubtless from this cause that they clip the hair on the head. The first days of our journey bronght the horrible conviction that it was hopeless to avoid the plague while in contact with the people. In vain our clothes were changed and washed repeatedly ; in vain we attempted to isolate ourselves as much as possible ; the evil increased each day; and at last our condition became insupportably tormenting; those of excitable temperament being denied sleep or rest by the constant irritation, and reaching a state bordering upon madness. It was particularly when repose was courted that our torment was greatest. When travelling out of doors the cold checked the attacks of the foe, which only resumed their onslaught with new vigour when reanimated by the great heat of the yarangas. This was the most fearful infliction experienced during our stay in Tuski land, and far surpassed anything I ever suffered; producing in me an agitation of the nerves, like St. Vitus' dance.

The Tuski, living chiefly on fish, seal, whale, blubber, a little reindeer flesh, and pemmican, despised the edibles of their visitors; the spices employed in the preparation of the preserved meats being particularly disagreeable to their palates. Their passion for sugar, and indeed anything sweet, was, on the other hand, general; and they were equally partial to the use of tobacco and of strong drinks when they could get them. The best idea of the food of the Tuski, and of their culinary attainments, is to be obtained from an account of a feast given to the officers of the Plover.

I propose now to set before you in detail the history of a Tuski repast of the most sumptuous nature, as myself and companions partook of it, and trust you may find it as much to your taste as they do to theirs. It is, I believe, with nearly all people in a primitive condition, the first and paramount duty of hospitality to provide the visitor with food immediately on his entrance; and such was the rule in Tuski customs. First was brought in on a huge wooden tray a number of small fish, uncooked, but intensely frozen. At these all the natives set to work, and we essayed, somewhat ruefully, it must be confessed, to follow their example, but, being all unused to such gastronomic process, found ourselves, as might be expected, rather at a loss how to commence. From this dilemma, however, our host speedily extricated us, by practical demonstration of the correct mode of action, and under his certainly very able tuition we shortly became more expert. But, alas! a new difficulty was soon presented ; our native companions, we presume, either made a hasty bolt of each morsel, or had perhaps a relish for the flavour of the viands now under consideration. Not so ourselves; it was sadly repugnant to our palates, for, aided by the newly-acquired knowledge that the fish were in the same condition as when taken from the water, uncleaned and unembowelled, we speedily discovered that we could neither bolt nor retain the fragments which, by the primitive aid of teeth and nails, we had rashly detached from our piscatorial share.

It was to no purpose that our host pressed us to “ fall to ;" we could not manage the consumption of this favourite preparation (or rather lack thereof), and succeeded with difficulty in evading his earnest solicitations.

« ZurückWeiter »