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Bowdoin Boys in Labrador ... »

By Jonathan Prince Cilley

Labrador (N.L.) – Description and travel ‌ Scientific expeditions

Bowdoin Boys in Labrador

An Account of the Bowdoin College Scientific Expedition to Labrador led by Prof. Leslie A. Lee of the Biological Department


Jonathan Prince Cilley


Rockland, Maine:
Rockland Publishing Company


This letter from the President of Bowdoin College is printed as an appropriate preface to the pages which follow.

I thank you for the advanced sheets of the “Bowdoin Boys in Labrador.” As Sallust says, “In primis arduum videtur res gestas scribere; quod facta dictis sunt exaequanda.”

In this case, the diction is equal to the deed: the clear and vivacious style of the writer is fully up to the level of the brilliant achievements he narrates.

The intrinsic interest of the story, and its connection with the State and the College ought to secure for it a wide reading.

Very truly yours,


Port Hawkesbury, Gut of Canso,
July 6th. 1891.

Here the staunch Julia lies at anchor waiting for a change in the wind and a break in the fog. To—day will be memorable in the annals of the “Micmac” Indians, for Prof. Lee has spent his enforced leisure in putting in anthropometric work among them, inducing braves, squaws and papooses of both sexes to mount the trunk that served as a measuring block and go through the ordeal of having their height, standing and sitting, stretch of arms, various diameters of head and peculiarities of the physiognomy taken down. While he with two assistants was thus employed, two of our photographic corps were busily engaged in preserving as many of their odd faces and costumes as possible, making pictures of their picturesque camp on the side of a hill sloping toward an arm of the Gut, with its round tent covered with birch and fir bark, dogs and children, and stacks of logs or wood–from which they make the strips for their chief products, baskets–cows, baggage and all the other accompaniments of a comparatively permanent camp. They go into the woods and make log huts for winter, but such miserable quarters as these prove to be on closer inspection, with stoves, dirt and chip floor, bedding and food in close proximity to the six or eight inhabitants of each hut, suffice them during warm weather. We found that they elect a chief, who holds the office for life. The present incumbent lives near by St. Peter’s Island, and is about forty years old. They hold a grand festival in a few weeks somewhere on the shore of Brasd’Or Lake, at which nearly every Indian on the Island is expected, some two thousand in all, we are informed, and after experiencing our good—fellowship at their camp and on board they invited us one and all to come down, only cautioning us to bring along a present of whiskey for the chief.

The Gut, in this part at least, is beautiful sailing ground, with bold, wooded shores, varied by slight coves and valleys with little hamlets at the shore and fishermen’s boats lying off the beach. The lower part we passed in a fog, so we are ignorant of its appearance as though the Julia had not carried us within a hundred miles of it, instead of having knowingly brought us past rock and shoal to this quiet cove, under the red rays of the light on Hawkesbury Point, and opposite Port Mulgrave, with which Hawkesbury is connected by a little two—sailed, double—ended ferry—boat built on a somewhat famous model. It seems that a boat builder of this place, who, by the way, launched a pretty little yacht to—day, sent a fishing boat, whose model and rig was the product of many years’ experience as a fisherman, to the London Fisheries’ Exhibit of a few years past, and received first medal from among seven thousand five hundred competitors. The Prince of Wales was so pleased with the boat, which was exhibited under full sail with a wax fisherman at the helm, that he purchased it and has since used it. Later, when the United States fish commission schooner Grampus was here with the present assistant commissioner, Capt. Collins, in command, the plans were purchased by our government on the condition that no copies were to be made without Mr. Embree’s consent. A little later yet, a commissioner from Holland and Sweden came over, bought the plans and built a perfect copy of the original, the seaworthy qualities of which has caused its type to entirely displace the old style of small fishing boats in those countries. The boat’s abilities in heavy waters have been tested many times, and have never failed to equal her reputation.

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