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

Bowdoin Boys in Labrador ... »

By Jonathan Prince Cilley

The steamer with mail and passengers from St. John’s, Newfoundland, is expected every day, and as our rivals for the honor of rediscovering Grand Falls are probably on board, there is a race in store for us to see who will get to Rigolette first, and which party will start ahead on the perilous journey up the Grand River. As they have refused our offer of co—operation, we now feel no sympathy with their task, and will have but little for them till we see them, as we hope, starting up the river several days behind our hardy crew.


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Gulf of St. Lawrence, Sept. 10, 1891.

While our little vessel is rushing through the blue waters of the gulf, apparently scorning the efforts of the swift little Halifax trader who promised to keep us company from the Straits to the Gut, and who, by dint of good luck and constant attention to sails has thus far kept her word, but is now steadily falling astern and to leeward, I will tell you about the snug little harbors, the bold headlands, barren slopes, and bird—covered rocks, and also the odorous fishing villages and the kind—hearted people with whom she has made us acquainted.

The Bowdoin scientific expedition to Labrador is now familiar with six of the seven wonders in this truly wonderful region. It has visited Grand Falls and “Bowdoin Canyon;” has been bitten by black flies and mosquitoes which only Labrador can produce, both in point of quality and quantity; has wandered through the carriage roads (!) and gardens of Northwest River and Hopedale; has dug over, mapped and photographed the prehistoric Eskimo settlements that line the shores, to the north of Hamilton Inlet; has made itself thoroughly conversant with the great fishing industry that has made Labrador so valuable, to Newfoundland in particular, and to the codfish consuming world in general; and finally is itself the sixth wonder, in that it has accomplished all it set out to do, though of course not all that would have been done had longer time, better weather and several other advantages been granted it.

It is almost another wonder, too, in the eyes of the Labradoreans, that we have, without pilot and yet without accident or trouble of any sort, made such a trip along their rocky coast, entered their most difficult harbors, and outsailed their fastest vessels, revenue cutters, traders and fishermen.

It will be a good many years before the visit of the “Yankee college boys,” the speed of the Yankee schooner and the skill and seamanship of the Yankee captain are forgotten “on the Labrador.”

The day after we left, July 19th, the mail steamer reached Battle Harbor with the first mail of the season. On board were Messrs. Bryant and Kenaston, anxiously looking for the Bowdoin party and estimating their chances of getting to the mouth of Grand River. They brought with them an Adirondack boat, of canoe model, relying on the country to furnish another boat to carry the bulk of their provisions and a crew to man the same.

[Rigolette] When the news was received that we were a day ahead, the race began in earnest, the captain of the “Curlew” entering heartily into the sport and doing his best to overhaul the speedy Yankee schooner. When about half way up to Rigolette, on the third day from Battle Harbor, as we were drifting slowly out of “Seal Bight,” into which we had gone the previous night to escape the numerous icebergs that went grinding by, the black smoke, and later the spars of the mail steamer were seen over one of the numerous rocky little islets that block the entrance to the bight. The steamer’s flag assured us that it was certainly the mail steamer, and many and anxious were the surmises as to whether our rivals were on board, and earnest were the prayers for a strong and favoring wind. It soon came, and we bowled along at a rattling pace, our spirits rising as we could see the steamer, in shore, gradually dropping astern. Towards night we neared Domino Run, and losing sight of the steamer, which turned out to make a stop at some wretched little hamlet that had been shut out from the outer world for nine months, at about the same time lost our breeze also. But the wind might rise again, and time was precious, so a bright lookout was kept for bergs, and we drifted on through the night. The next morning a fringe of islands shut our competitor from sight, but after an aggravating calm in the mouth of the inlet, we felt a breeze and rushed up towards Rigolette, only to meet the steamer coming out while we were yet several hours from that place.

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