Aolib.comFragment of Photochrom print of the front of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany (ca. 1897)

Bowdoin Boys in Labrador ... »


By Jonathan Prince Cilley

Tuesday a large Indian camp was passed, the big “pool,” at the foot of the first falls and some three miles long, rowed across, and at noon the carry was begun. It was necessary to make seventeen trips and four and one half hours were used in the task. When the last load had been deposited at the upper end of the carry, the men threw themselves down on the bank utterly weary, and owing to the loss of sleep the two previous nights, were soon all sound asleep. In consequence camp was made here, and the first comfortable night of the trip passed. Including the carry eight miles was the day’s advance.

The twenty—five miles of the next day were made rowing and tracking up the Porcupine rapids through a series of small lakes, one with a little island in the centre deceiving our boys for awhile into thinking they had reached Gull Island Lake, and then up another short rapid at the head of which the party encamped.

Sixteen miles were made next day by alternate rowing and tracking, the foot of Gull Island Lake was reached, and after dinner it was crossed in one and a half hours. Then the heaviest work of the trip thus far was struck and camp was made, about half way up Gull Lake rapid. Supper was made off a goose shot the previous day. It was necessary to double the crews in getting up the latter part of Gull Island rapids, and finally a short carry was made just at noon to get clear of them. From the fact that the light, beautifully modelled boats required four men to take them up the rapids we may get some idea of the swiftness of the river as well as the difficulties attending the mode of travelling. As the river in its swiftest parts is never less than half a mile wide, and averages a mile, it can readily be seen that it is a grand waterway, well deserving its name.

Nine miles were made this day and camp was reached at the beginning of rough water on the Horse Shoe Rapid. Here the first evidence of shoes giving out was seen. Constant use over rough rocks while wet proved too much for even the strongest shoes, and when Cary and Cole returned there was not leather enough between them to make one decent shoe. Rain made the night uncomfortable, as the light shelter tent let the water through very easily and was then of little use. At other times the tents were very comfortable. Upon arriving at the spot selected two men would at once set about preparing the brush for beds, pitching the tent, etc., while the other provided wood for the camp and for the cook, in which capacity Cary officiated. I cannot do better than use Cary’s own words in reference to his “humble but essential ministrations.” “Camp cooking at best is rather a wearing process, but the agonies of a man whose hands are tangled up in dough and whom the flies becloud, competing for standing room on every exposed portion of his body, can be imagined only by the experienced.”

The party believed that a good night’s rest was indispensible where the day was filled with the hardest kind of labor, and spared no pains to secure them. Even on the return Cary and Cole, when half starved, stuck to their practice of making comfortable camps, and it is probable that the wonderful way they held out under their privations was largely due to this. While many in their predicament would have thrown away their blankets, they kept them, and on every cold and stormy night congratulated themselves that they had done so.

[Loss of boat] On Saturday, Aug. 1st, the first accident happened. Tracking on the Horse Shoe Rapids was extremely difficult and dangerous. Shortly after dinner a carry was made, taking three and a half hours to track out a path up and along a terrace about fifty feet high. Shortly after this the boat used by Cary and Smith capsized, emptying its load into the river. The party were “tracking” at the time, Cole being nearly the length of the tow line ahead, tugging on it, while Cary was doing his best to keep the boat off the rocks. At the margin of the swift unbroken current there were strong eddies, and in hauling the boat around a bend her bow was pushed into one, her slight keel momentarily preventing her from heading up stream again, and the rush of the water bore her under. At the same time Cary was carried from his footing and just managed to grasp the line as he came up and escape being borne down the stream. When things were collected and an inventory taken of the loss, it was found to include about one—fourth of the provisions, the barometer and chronometer rendered useless and practically lost, measuring chain, cooking utensils, rifles with much of the ammunition, axe and small stores, such as salt, sugar, coffee, etc. The loss was a severe one, and arose from failure to fasten the stores into the boats before starting, as had been ordered. The time given the party for the trip was so short, the distance so uncertain, and the things they desired to have an opportunity to do on the return that would require comparative leisure were so many, that they begrudged the few minutes necessary to properly lash the loads into the boats, each time they broke camp; and delay and disaster were the results. As the day was nearly spent, camp was made but about a mile from the last, and time used in repairing damages. A very ingenious baker for bread was contrived by Cole from an empty flour tin, a new paddle made to replace the one lost, and a redistribution of the baggage remaining effected.

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