Page images


In the pursuit of their prey, the Eskimaux are patient and fearless, attacking the walrus without hesitation, and watching for hours the holes at which the seals rise for air. venture with the utmost boldness on the drift-ice, and sometimes pay with their lives the forfeit of their temerity. In bodily strength they were decidedly inferior to their English visiters.

In whatever light the situation and manners of this people might present themselves to their visiters, the following two instances will shew that self-complacency was to be found even in this distant and dismal region.

• Superior as our arts, contrivances, and materials must unquestionably have appeared to them, and eager as they were to profit by this superiority, yet, contradictory as it may seem, they certainly looked upon us in many respects with profound contempt; maintaining that idea of self-sufficiency which has induced them, in common with the rest of their nation, to call themselves, by way of distinction, Innuee, or mankind. One day, for instance, in securing some of the geer of a sledge, Okotook broke a part of it composed of a piece of our white line: and I shall never forget the contemptuous sneer with which he muttered in soliloquy the word “ Kabloona !" in token of the inferiority of our materials to his own. Captain Parry's Journal.

A lady, answering to the harmonious name of Ang-ma-lootoo-ing-a, paid Capt. Lyon a visit, after having slept on board the Fury, and devoured all that she could procure.

• As I sat quietly drawing at my table, and appeared to be taking no notice of her, she walked about my cabin until she procured a good station opposite my large glass, and there amused herself by putting her features and hair into the most becoming shapes, smiling and placing her head in various pretty postures, looking at her teeth, and rubbing them with a piece of paper. But her eyes, which were really very handsome, occupied her chief attention, and for half an hour she continued to twinkle them in a most amazing

At length, unable to contain her admiration any longer, she turned round to me, and exclaimed that her 6

eyes were very pretty and good.”' Captain Lyon's Journal.

The dog is, to this people, what the horse is, in draught, to Europeans. Both our Captains purchased teams, and derived advantages as well as amusement from their services. Three of these animals drew Captain Lyon on. a sledge weighing 100 pounds, at the rate of a mile in six minutes. His leader, a powerful beast, drew singly, 196 lbs. in eight minutes; and nine dogs were competent to the conveyance of two thousand weight, a mile in less than ten minutes. The two ships were fixed in the ice a mile from each other, and



Captain L, with one or two companions, frequently returned from the Fury to his own ship, 'in pitchy darkness, and amid

clouds of snow-drift, entirely under the care of those trusty servants, who, with their noses down to the snow, have gallopped on board, entirely directed by their sense of smel

On one occasion, Captain Lyon, having accompanied some of the natives on a fishing excursion, gives the following animated description of the general habits of these invaluable and ill-treated animals.

- This excursion had given me many opportunities of observing the dexterity with which the sledges and dogs are managed, and which I had never seen to advantage at Winter Island. Our eleven dogs were large and even majestic looking animals; and an old one of peculiar sagacity was placed at their bead by having a longer trace, so as to lead them through the safest and driest places; these animals having such a dread of water as to receive severe beatings before they will swim a foot. The leader was instant in obeying the voice of the driver, who never beat, but repeatedly called to him by name. When the dogs slackened their pace, the sight of a seal or bird was sufficient to put them instantly to their full speed; and even though none of these might be seen on the ice, the cry of “ a seal! a bear! a bird !” &c. was enough to give play to the legs and voices of the whole pack. It was a beautiful sight to observe the two sledges racing at full speed to the same object, the dogs and men in full cry, and the vehicles splashing through the holes of water with the velocity and spirit of rival stage-coaches. There is something of the spirit of professed whips in these wild races: for young men delight in passing each other's sledge, and jockeying the hinder one by crossing the path. In passing on different routes, the right hand is always yielded, and should an inexperienced driver endeavour to take the left, he would have some difficulty in persuading his team to do so. The only unpleasant circumstance attending these races is, that a poor dog is sometimes entangled and thrown down, when the sledge with perhaps a heavy load, is unavoidably drawn over his body. · The driver sits on the fore part of the vehicle, from which he jumps,

when requisite, to pull it clear of any impediments which may lie in the way, and he also guides it by pressing either foot upon the ice. The voice and long whip answer all the purposes of reins, and the dogs can be made to turn a corner as dexterously as horses, though not in such an orderly manner, since they are constantly fighting, and I do not recollect to have seen one receive a flogging, without instantly wreaking his passion on the ears of his neighbours. The cries of the men are not more melodious than those of the animals, and their wild looks' and gestures when animated, give them an appearance of devils driving wolves before them.'

Captain Lyon's Journal. The most interesting portion of these elucidations of Eskimaux habits, is to be found in the ample details of the super

[ocr errors]

stitions of these unenlightened wanderers. Captain Lyon, who seems to have managed these people with the greatest possible dexterity, acquired so much influence with Toolemak, the principal anget kok, or amatko, that he displayed the utmost efforts of his magical skill, and permitted the captain to be present at his interviews with his Tornga, or 'patron spirit.'

I took an early opportunity of requesting my friend to exhibit his skill in my cabin. His old wife was with him; and by much flattery, and an accidental display of a glittering knife and some beads, she assisted me in obtaining my request. All light excluded, our sorcerer began chanting to his wife with great vehemence, and she in return answered by singing the Amna-aya, which was not discontinued during the whole ceremony. As far as I could hear, he afterwards began turning himself rapidly round, and in a loud, powerful voice vociferating for Tornga with great impatience, at the same time blowing and snorting like a walrus. His noise, impatience, and agitation increased every moment, and he at length seated himself on the deck, varying his tones, and making a rustling with his clothes.

Suddenly, the voice seemed smothered, and was so managed as to sound as if retreating beneath the deck, each moment becoming more distant, and ultimately giving the idea of being many feet below the cabin, when it ceased entirely. His wife now, in answer to my queries, informed me very seriously, that he had dived, and that he would send up Tornga. Accordingly, in about half a minute, a distant blowing was heard very slowly approaching, and a voice which differed from that we at first had heard, was at times mingled with the blowing, until at length both sounds became distinct, and the old woman informed me that Tornga was come to answer my questions. I accordingly asked several questions of the sagacious spirit, to each of which inquiries I received an answer by two loud slaps on the deck, which I was given to understand were favourable. A very hollow yet powerful voice, certainly inuch different from the tones of Toolemak, now chanted for some time, and a strange jumble of hisses, groans, shouts, and gabblings like a turkey, succeeded in rapid order. The old woman sang with increased energy, and, as I took it for granted that this was all intended to astonish the Kabloona, I cried repeatedly that I was very much afraid. This, as I expected, added fuel to the fire, until the poor immortal, exhausted by its gwn might, asked leave to retire. The voice gradually sank from our hearing as at first, and a very indistinct hissing succeeded in its advance, it sounded like the tone produced by the wind on the base chord of an Eolian harp; this was soon changed to a rapid hiss like that of a rocket, and Toolemak with a yell announced his return. I had held my breath at the first distant hissing, and twice exhausted myself, yet our conjuror did not once respire, and even his returning and powerful yell was uttered without a previous stop or inspiration of air. Light' being admitted, our wizard, as might be expected, was in a profuse perspiration, and certainly much exhausted by his exertions, which had continued for at least half an hour. We now

observed a couple of bunches, each consisting of two stripes of white deer-skin and a long piece of sinew, attached to the back of his coat. These we had not seen before, and were informed that they had been sewn on by the Tornga while he was below.'

Captain Lyon's Journal. The familiar which was on this occasion called up from the vasty deep,' was a female; but Toolemak had a much more extensive acquaintance in the world of spirits. He boasted of possessing the confidence of ten superior genii, including a very knowing bear who roams among the polar ices, besides influencing an immense mob of inferior sprites. Of all these, the most eminent is Ay-willi-ay-oo, the Tornga to whom Capt. Lyon had the honour of an introduction. This Titania of the northern world is of gigantic stature, and has but one eye, the place of the other being occupied by a profusion of black hair ; she has the control of all the inhabitants of the sea, and sometimes keeps them up so close as to put the Eskimaux in jeopardy of famine. In these cases, the magician is generally despatched on a visit to her abode, and his object is to cut off the hand in which she holds the spell that enthrals the ocean tribes. If he succeeds in the entire amputation, of course complete liberation is the result; but if he have only partial success, there seems to be a graduated scale of gaol delivery. If her nails only are lopped away, the bears get loose; the abstraction of the first joint sets at liberty the smaller seal; that of the second, the larger species. The separation of the knuckles brings up the heads of the walrus ; and at the division of the metacarpal bones,' the whales float on the surface. This female Polypheme' has a father, Nappayook, a dwarf with but one arm. On another occasion, Capt, Lyon was present at a more public and elaborate performance of the same mummery. The lamps were extin. guished one by one, and the clamours of the surrounding na tives were added to the mystic chaunt of the Tornga, and the • loud monotonous song' of the Annatko's wife.

• Toplemak, with shouts and strange noises, soon joined us, and his return to the world was hailed with great delight. A lamp being brought, the pale and exhaused Annatko crawled from behind his skreen, and seated himself among us, I could not but remark throughout the whole of the performance, which lasted about an hour and a half, the wonderful steadiness of our wizard, who, during his most violent exertions of voice, did not once appear to move; for, had he done so, I was so close to the skin behind which he sat, that I must have perceived it. Neither did I hear any rustling of his clothes, or even distinguish his breathing, although his outcries were made with great exertion. Once however, and once only, a short

[ocr errors]

cough, barely audible even to me, occurred while the old man na supposed to be in the other world.'-Capt. Lyon's Journal. je te sig

These 'exhibitions'--as Capt. Lyon, by rather an unusual application of the word, terms them-are by no means of com mon occurrence. Their value and importance are enhanced by their rarity; and though there does not appear to be any bond of fraternity among the few professors of the black art, there is a tacit compact that their secret shall not be betrayed, nor their incantations made cheap by frequent repetition. When questioned by the Kabloonas on the subject, the conjurors maintained a mysterious silence, till, on one hapless' day,- in rino veritas,- Toolemak so far forgot his dignified associations as to get drunk, and initiated Capt. Lyon into the whole routine of his jugglery. -1.4- In the evening Toolemak rolled very jovially into my cabin, Atelling me, that having drank four glasses of • hot water at the Fury, he was come to do the same with me. He was immediately accommodated, and together with what he obtained from the officers, as well as myself, in about ten minutes gulped down five glasses and a half more of raw rum, which he designated as above. Nine glasses and a half of spirits were, however, too much for him, and in a short time he became most noisily drunk. Mr. Fife, who had been a little 'unwell in his stoinach, quite delighted the old fellow by asking his assistance as a conjuror, and being shut up in a darkened cabin, the made the ship echo with his bellowings and exorcisms. All his familiar spirits were summoned in a bunch ; and I could not but obe serve that the sage immortals were as drunk as the potent Annatko, whọ constrained them to answer for themselves. In fact, poor Too lemak was so overcome, and at the same tiine so little aware of it, that he made some curious mistakes, and betrayed all the secrets of his art, which I had in vain tried to learn from him in his sober mo? ments. I found that his diving or retiring voice was, as I had before suspected, regulated entirely by speaking in his hands, and gradually covering his face with his jacket, until the tones were rendered indis tinct and ultimately smothered. He made but an indifferent direz yet, when I spoke to him, as I sat by his side, he assured me kertaa under the earth, and that not Toolemak, but his favourite spirit Pa. miooli, was now talking with me. While the conjurations were going forward, which lasted about half an hour, he frequently slapped Mr. Fife's stomach ; and the latter being a very fat man, the hollow rever beration added not a little to the oddness of the ceremonies, for, at each beating, our Annatko, in an authoritative voice, commanded the pain to leave him. Our friend committed a thousand good-humoured extravagancies on being led back to my cabin, where he was carefully laid on a couch of skins. His own voice having entirely left him, he did nothing but chaunt in the tones of Tornga, no doubt fancying himself highly inspired. An occasional outcry for something to eat; was immediately succeeded by his falling on whatever wood was at

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »