To contribute to this site, see above menu item "About".
These transcriptions may contain human errors.
As always, confirm these, as you would any other source material.
August 24th.-As there were no vessels or boats in Greenspond going north, I was obliged again to hire the boat, with a crew of four men to bring her back from Fogo, and I agreed to give £6 for the whole trip to that island. We gave a passage as far as Cape Freels to a young woman whose father lives in the Gooseberry Islands, and supports himself and his family entirely by farming, raising vegetables and beef and mutton for Greenspond and the neighbourhood. This is one of the very few instances in the island of a settler entirely independent of the fishery. We sailed by some low islands and many dangerous sunken rocks down to Cape Freels, where we dined; and I then sent the boat on to Cat Harbour, as one could easily get alongshore for the seven miles to that place. The land for some distance on each side the cape is very low, and composed entirely of granite, with here and there a little gneiss, and as the water deepens very gradually out to sea there is a succession of sand beaches for many miles: the low land, shallow water, and sand-beaches being unexampled on this side of the island, except in this locality. The country was generally barren, but the comparative ease and freedom with which one could walk over it made it most delightful, and in these seven miles I got more pleasant exercise, and felt, therefore, greater energy and elasticity of spirit than I had done for weeks. There were in some places ranges of sand hills twenty or thirty feet high, with low marshes behind them; but as we approached Cat Harbour, we rose on to a fine granite bluff, not so striking from its height, which was inconsiderable, as from the great blocks and wide unbroken sheets of granite that stretched about it. Arrived at Cat Harbour, we found the boat ready and the men waiting for us at the house of Mr. Gibbons, one of the principal settlers in the place. Cat Harbour does not afford much shelter, the Harbour being formed by an island, and the entrance on each side narrow and dangerous. It is, however, an excellent place for the fishery, and in the summer is crowded, though in winter nearly deserted. As the midshiproom was now fully occupied, I slept astern, with my head in the cuddy and my legs out, expecting to sail before daylight.
August 25th.-On waking found a heavy gale blowing from the northeast, with clouds and fog, the harbour all in a foam, and our departure impossible. A boat was sent off with some difficulty from Mr. Gibbons', to fetch us ashore, and I breakfasted and spent the day there. In the afternoon the weather cleared up, and I went some distance over the marshes into the country, but saw nothing worthy of notice.
August 26th.-At dawn we were under weigh. We sailed alongshore as far as Deadman's Point, where the sand beaches ended and a rocky shore began, and then, passing by some low rocks called the Penguin Islands, sailed through the islets called the Wadhams. There was a large island of ice aground off these islands. Penguins* were formerly so abundant on these shores, that their fat bodies have been used for fuel: they are, however, now all destroyed, and none have been seen for many years. There are three low rocks thirty miles out to sea from Cape Freels, called the Funk Islands, whence several boatloads of seabirds' eggs are annually brought away. It was a lovely day today, but when we were off Cape Fogo it fell calm. A light breeze, however, sprang up in the evening, which carried us round, and we entered Fogo Harbour about seven o'clock. The northern side of Fogo Island is very bare and rocky, with lofty headlands rising perpendicularly from the sea. The harbour is excellent when it is once entered, but a string of low islands stretching across its mouth compels vessels to come in by narrow channels on each side of them. The eastern entrance is very narrow and rather winding, while the western entrance is at the foot of a bold precipice, called Fogo Head, 500 feet high, where the winds necessarily baffle and vary, unless blowing right in. The harbour was surrounded with houses, two of which were large and prettily situated. According to the prevailing custom in an outharbour where there are no inns, I might have selected either of these houses for my temporary residence; but, as I had been informed at Greenspond that one gentleman had visitors, I went to the other house, where an agent of Mr. Slade's resided, and he received me with all imaginable kindness and hospitality.
August 27th and 28th.-A gale of wind from the northeast threw up a tremendous sea on the islands at the mouth of the harbour. A few miles north of Fogo is a cluster of small islands and rocks of a very dangerous character, and the sea all round contains sunken rocks, shoals, and small islands, which render its navigation at all times perilous to strangers, and in rough weather dangerous even to those best acquainted with it.
August 29th.-Hired a small boat and a couple of men to take us on to Twillingate. We had some difficulty in beating round Fogo Head, the sea still running high, but we succeeded, and ran up to Hare Bay, where I wanted to examine some red rocks, which I found to consist of sienite. We then ran down to Change Island Tickle, a long narrow passage between two islands, where vessels often anchor when they cannot get into Fogo Harbour. Here there were a good many houses scattered about, but we beat through without stopping. In the space between this and the New World Island a heavy sea was rolling in, dashing the surf over several sunken rocks, and two or three large lumps of ice were whirling about in it. When off Herring Neck it fell calm, and we took to our oars, and slowly rowed in among some lofty cliffs, until it became so dark we could scarcely see. We then landed in a small place called Ship Cove, where a family resided, by whom we were hospitably received and entertained.
August 30th.-On coming out of doors this morning we observed that the house was strangely situated at the head of a little cove or crevice in the rocks, with lofty perpendicular cliffs on each side of it. Many other houses were scattered about the shores farther on, perched in the recesses and numberless nooks and corners of this singular place. Narrow lofty necks, or rather walls of land, principally composed of dark slate rock, were indented and separated from each other by equally narrow and deep inlets, and without the chart I should have been completely puzzled to know where we were or how we got there. The air was thick with smoke proceeding from fires which were said to be raging in the woods near "Seldom-come-by Harbour," and on the south side of New World Island. We had now a fair breeze, with which we sailed round French Head, and into Twillingate Harbour. Here I threw myself at once upon the hospitality of Mr. Slade, who received me very kindly and entertained me most hospitably for the next month. To Mr. Slade and Mr. Peyton, indeed, I am so much indebted that I cannot help thus publicly acknowledging it, although I was also greatly obliged to several other residents of Twillingate, who kindly helped to render my stay there very agreeable.
August 31st to September 3rd.-Mr. Slade got ready a little cutter which he had fitted up as a small yacht, having two berths and a comfortable cabin amidships, and he and Mr. Peyton determined to accompany me on an excursion to the river Exploits. On the 2nd of September the smell and smoke from the fires to the south of Twillingate increased so much, and the bright light at night was so vivid, while small ashes were falling about, that it was feared the fire might reach out to the harbour and consume it. We heard also of fires burning in Loo Bay, and on the shore near Cape St. John. Some of these fires might be caused by lightning, but they must chiefly have arisen from carelessness, fishermen going ashore and lighting a fire, either to boil their tea or keep off the mosquitoes, and not extinguishing the embers. The long series of warm weather had made the woods quite dry, and the mosses and lichens hanging on the trees are like so much tinder. The bark of the birch tree flares immediately, like paper dipped in turpentine, and is always used for lighting a fire when it can be got; while the barks of the fir tribe are highly resinous. A great quantity of the bark or "rinds" of trees is always used to spread over the fishpiles, and men are employed regularly during the summer, in some places, to go into the woods and strip the standing trees. This they do by beating the bark with a small bat, and then making a perpendicular incision and two horizontal circular cuts at each end, when the bark peels off. These men of course light fires, which, unless extreme care be taken, spread along the ground through the crisp moss, and ultimately fire the woods. This practice of "rinding" is in other respects very pernicious, as it checks the growth of and destroys hundreds and thousands of trees, that might ultimately become pretty fair timber if left alone. From this cause, and from all the tolerable timber being continually and wastefully cut down, the woods near the seacoast and in the accessible parts of the country are not equal to those in the interior.
September 3rd.-Having sent the cutter round to Back Harbour, we sailed this morning, although the wind was against us, and beat up to the neighbourhood of Moreton's Harbour, when it fell calm, and Mr. Peyton left us, going on in his skiff to Exploits Burnt Island, where he had some business to transact. At dusk a light air sprang up, which took us nearly to Exploits Burnt Island and Slade and I, with Tom and Simon, took a four-oared gig we had brought with us, to go in search of Mr. Peyton. The men told us to seek for a narrow passage between two islands, on entering which we should see the houses. It was now quite dark, and on getting under the cliffs we were involved among rocks and passages, and could find no inlet. The water was more beautifully luminous than I ever saw it before. Every dash of the oars and surge of the boat sent waves and bands and eddies of trembling phosphoric light circling and glimmering around us, and dimly lighting the dark rocks and cliffs over our heads. We returned on board, and found the men had sent us to the wrong place, the harbour being half a mile farther up. We accordingly stood on, and then sent them in the boat, while we managed the cutter, standing off and on about the harbour. About one in the morning they came back, with no news of Mr. Peyton; so concluding he had gone on with his skiff, we also sailed up the bay.
September 4th.-Heavy rain and stormy squalls of wind during the night. When I came on deck, I found we were beating up against wind and tide in smooth water, through various channels among the islands of which this bay is full. The land both of the islands and the main was moderately high, with steep cliffs and deep water close in shore. The tops of the cliffs were covered with wood. About 4 PM, after many fruitless endeavours to get through a chain of islands on the southeast side of Thwart Island, we were obliged to anchor in a small cove close by, till the strength of the tide current moderated or the wind shifted. The channel on this side of Thwart Island is not very deep; but on the other side, although in some places scarcely a mile in width, no bottom has been reached in the middle of the channel with 120 fathoms, and 90 and 100 fathoms are the depths close inshore. What narrow and precipitous ravines must these be, and how were they produced? What a singular sight would it be on dry land to see a long winding valley scarce a mile wide with perpendicular walls rising to the height of nearly 800 feet! The discovery of such a ravine might induce the geologist to speculate on the amount of erosion necessary to produce it, but in this case erosion can hardly be supposed to have been the agent; for the phenomena seem rather to be the result of some modifying cause, acting during the period when these slate rocks were first elevated. Great irregular faults must, I think, be necessary to produce such a structure, and this supposition is borne out by the fact, that most of the deep inlets of Newfoundland have the same general bearing as the prevailing light air sprang up, which took us nearly to Exploits Burnt Island and Slade and I, with Tom and Simon, took a four-oared gig we had brought with us, to go in search of Mr. Peyton. The men told us to seek for a narrow passage between two islands, on entering which we should see the houses. It was now quite dark, and on getting under the cliffs we were involved among rocks and passages, and could find no inlet. The water was more beautifully luminous than I ever saw it before. Every dash of the oars and surge of the boat sent waves and bands and eddies of trembling phosphoric light circling and glimmering around us, and dimly lighting the dark rocks and cliffs over our heads. We returned on board, and folmd the men had sent us to the wrong place, the harbour being half a mile farther up. We accordingly stood on, and then sent them in the boat, while we managed the cutter, standing off and on about the harbour. About one in the morning they came back, with no news of Mr. Peyton; so concluding he had gone on with his skiff, we also sailed up the bay.
September 4th.-Heavy rain and stormy squalls of wind during the night. When I came on deck, I found we were beating up against wind and tide in smooth water, through various channels among the islands of which this bay is full. The land both of the islands and the main was moderately high, with steep cliffs and deep water close in shore. The tops of the cliffs were covered with wood. About 4 PM, after many fruitless endeavours to get through a chain of islands on the southeast side of Thwart Island, we were obliged to anchor in a small cove close by, till the strength of the tide current moderated or the wind shifted. The channel on this side of Thwart Island is not very deep; but on the other side, although in some places scarcely a mile in width, no bottom has been reached in the middle of the channel with 120 fathoms, and 90 and 100 fathoms are the depths close inshore. What narrow and precipitous ravines must these be, and how were they produced? What a singular sight would it be on dry land to see a long winding valley scarce a mile wide with perpendicular walls rising to the height of nearly 800 feet! The discovery of such a ravine might induce the geologist to speculate on the amount of erosion necessary to produce it, but in this case erosion can hardly be supposed to have been the agent; for the phenomena seem rather to be the result of some modifying cause, acting during the period when these slate rocks were first elevated. Great irregular faults must, I think, be necessary to produce such a structure, and this supposition is borne out by the fact, that most of the deep inlets of Newfoundland have the same general bearing as the prevailing strike of the rocks, namely, about north-northeast and south-southwest. It is singular, however, to see in these narrow landlocked inlets a greater depth of water than is to be found in any of the seas within two or three hundred miles of the coast of Britain.
September 5th.-Continued our progress, beating up against a southwest wind, but with the current more in our favour. Landed for a short time at Lower Sandy Point, where there is a salmon fishery of Mr. Peyton's, but the men there had seen nothing of him; and about 4 PM we came in sight of Upper Sandy Point, and the mouth of the river Exploits. In tacking for the mouth of the river, we stood a little too far in on the south side, and ran the cutter aground. There are some hills, called the Shute Brook hills, visible up the valley of the river, which form the mark for the entrance of the channel; and had we kept these always open, we should not have gone beyond the deep water. The sides of the inlet here are very shallow, the bottom being mud and coarse sand. A boat put off to us from Upper Sandy Point, in which we were happy to find Mr. Peyton. He was in Burnt Island harbour while the men were looking for him, and in the only house they did not visit. He had then beat up all day and night in his open skiff through the rain, had passed us, he supposed, in a squall of rain while we were at anchor, and sailed by Lower Sandy Point in the dark. We landed, and found a very pleasant comfortable house, where Mr. Peyton used formerly to reside, having an excellent garden behind, with a grassplot and a few scattered birch trees between it and the river in front, and altogether a very pretty looking and quite an English sort of place. The mouth of the river here is 400 yards wide, with water sufficient for a schooner, when in the proper channel. The tide runs up about five miles farther. The land on each side is low and flat, with a steep abrupt ascent, about a mile from the present river, on each side. These ascents were probably the old Bankss of the inlet, when it stood at a lower level than now. The whole was covered with wood, stunted and thick.
September 6th and 7th.-After a long continuance of the most beautiful weather, it broke at last just at the very time when I most wished it to be fine. A perfect deluge of rain now poured down, making it madness to think of starting. Mr. Peyton entertained us with discoursing of the Red Indians. He had frequently seen them, having found them on the Red Indian Lake and elsewhere. He had captured one of the women, who was taken to St. John's, and who lived some time with Mrs. P. as a servant. He described them as a fierce and savage race, supporting themselves entirely by hunting and fishing, and forming their wigwams not of bark, like the Micmacs, but of skins. These wigwams were raised on wooden platforms, which, together with some other structures intended apparently for storehouses, were formed with much skill.
They seem to have had many peculiar manners and customs, the record of which is now probably lost for ever. Among their most prominent customs was that of smearing their persons and implements with red ochre, as also their dresses, which were formed of deerskin. Many years ago they were very troublesome to the European settlers, frequently stealing boats, nets, and implements. One night Mr. Peyton, being about to set out for St. John's, had a boat ready loaded down at Sandy Point, containing sundry articles that made a rather valuable cargo. His bed being packed up on board, he did not lie down, but walked in and out of the house during the night, keeping watch.
Once his attention was caught by a dark object lying on the beach at some little distance, and waking one of the men, he asked him what it could be; the man replied, it was probably a splitting table he had left there in the afternoon. Between three and four o'clock Mr. Peyton began to feel tired, and laid down for an hour in the house; and on going out again, he found his boat was gone, and that the dark object on the beach had likewise disappeared. He at first thought the boat might have got adrift; but on examining the ropes by which she had been moored, he found them cut with some sharp instrument. He immediately sent one punt up the river, and went himself down the bay, where he found his boat, the next afternoon, stove in on the rocks and plundered. Going to the valley of an adjoining brook, he found there a wigwam covered with the sails of his boat; the cases of a gold and silver watch; a broken pistol, and various other articles. A woman, whom he afterwards captured, confessed that she and another woman, with two men, were the parties concerned. A man, perched in a forked birch tree close by, had watched him all night long, and, taking advantage of his prolonged absence, when he laid down, had cut the boat loose and turned it adrift. The dark object on the beach was their canoe, with which, when his boat was adrift they paddled off to her, and towed her away. Mr. Peyton assured me that neither he nor his men had ever injured the Red Indians, though, had they chosen, they might easily have destroyed them all, and that the Red Indians in turn, apparently conscious of being in his power, never attempted any personal injury towards them, but still considered all plunder that came in their way as fair game. Before his time, however, when the Red Indians were more plentiful, and the settlers fewer, the former were often shot, and though, perhaps, sometimes necessarily in self-defence, they were, too often, no doubt, wantonly persecuted, and their depredations on property visited with wholesale and indiscriminate revenge and destruction.
Their destruction, however, was not wholly due to the English, the French had a still greater hatred of them, and contempt of their lives, which they even to this day preserve. Their very term of "savages" for all whom we call Indians denotes this. The Micmac Indians were, however, the most efficient instruments of their destruction; and according to the account which an old Micmac Indian gave to Mr. Peyton, the first enmity between the two races arose in this way. When the Micmacs first visited the country, they and the Red Indians were friendly. About a hundred years ago, however, the French offered a reward for the head of every Red Indian. To gain this reward, the Micmacs privately shot some of them; and one day, in descending a river near St. George's Bay, they fell in with a party of them, while they had the heads of some of their nation concealed in the canoe. The Red Indians invited the Micmacs ashore to a feast, during which, some children playing about discovered the heads! No notice was taken till each Micmac was seated between two Red Indians, when, at a given signal, these two fell upon him and slew him. After this, they fought at the north end of the Grand Pond, and at Shannoc Brook on the Exploits river, and, indeed, wherever they met. In these encounters, from their possessing firearms, the Micmacs were victorious. Mr. Peyton said, the Red Indians had a great dread of the Micmacs, whom they called Shannoc, and used to point to Shannoc brook, on the Exploits River, as the way by which they arrived in their country. The woman, who lived with him some time, was greatly alarmed at the sight of two Micmacs who came once to visit him, and hid herself during their stay. They were acquainted with another tribe of Indians, whom they called Shaunamunc, and with whom they were very friendly. These came from the Labrador, but were not Esquimaux, whom the Red Indians also knew and despised for their filthiness. The Shaunamuncs were dressed in deerskin, and not seal-skins, but their deer-skins were not reddened. They answer, I believe, to the Indians called Mountaineers, on the Labrador shore. The Red Indians traded with these Shaunamuncs; receiving stone hatchets and other implements from them, and they mutually visited each other's countries. This fact in some measure corroborates the supposition, that the total disappearance of the Red Indians, for the last ten or fifteen years, is not due to their utter destruction, but to their having passed over to the Labrador. Mr. Peyton said he had heard of a body of strange men in red deer-skins having been seen on the Labrador coast; and the same occurrence is mentioned in Sir R. Bonnycastle's entertaining book on the Canadas. That there are any Red Indians left in Newfoundland, now the coast is become so much settled and the Micmacs so frequently traverse the interior, is in the highest degree improbable for a hunting tribe is necessarily migratory and widely dispersed and cannot be secluded in any corner of a country, without either themselves, their implements, or traces of their encampments being necessarily seen.
Mr. Peyton remembers the deerfences of these people along the river Exploits, and gave me the following description of them. There was a series of stockades of trees for thirty miles along the river, the trees having been cut down to about breast-high, and the fallen parts piled and interwoven among the stumps. At intervals, in these stockades, lateral avenues went off some hundred yards into the woods, gradually widening as they proceeded from the narrow passage through the stockade. The ends of these avenues or passages, on opposite sides of the river, were never opposite to each other, but placed alternately, so that on the deer coming out to the river, they must either go up or down a considerable distance before they found another avenue by which to proceed. Places were made in these stockades for men to watch, and pieces of birch bark were tied loosely here and there to flutter in the wind and attract the attention of the deer. The men then either shot them with arrows, or rushed in a body into the river, and speared them, giving chase in their canoes in the deep parts.
September 8th.-It gradually cleared off this morning, and about 11 AM we set off in a four-oared gig and two small "flats," these latter being little flat-bottomed boats with square ends, about the shape of a common knife-tray. We rowed the gig up for about five miles, the river gradually becoming narrower and more shoal. Here we found a small ledge of rock running across the river, forming a little face at low-water, but covered at high-water, which just reaches its level. Above this no tide extends, and the river is rapid and shallow. We left the gig at this spot, and set out, our party being Mr. Slade, Mr. Peyton and his son, and myself, together with two of my men, and three of theirs: we were thus two to each flat, and five to hunt for game, and tow the flats at the rapids. We stopped among some rocks a little way up, and shot a couple of seals, numbers of which were playing about. They sank, however, immediately, and, owing to the great rapidity of the current, we could not get up the bodies. About a mile above the first rapid is the Bishop's Fall, so named from the present bishop of Nova Scotia having visited the place. This is a very violent rapid, of 150 yards in length, where the river rages in narrow and tortuous channels worn in a ledge of hard slate-rock twenty feet high, which here crosses its course. We were obliged to unload the flats, and carry first the provisions, and then the flats themselves, over ledges of sharp rock, and up a steep woody Banks, and launch them again above the rapids. Though small, from their necessarily stout build these flats were rather heavy, each requiring our united strength, when slung upon cross-poles, to lift and carry. To drag them would have been impossible, as, from the sharpness of the slate-rocks, they would have been cut to pieces. Above the Bishop's Fall there was a "steady," for a little distance, and then a succession of smaller rapids, frequently obliging all hands to wade out, and lift, haul, and push the flats over the rocks and ledges. The water-course was generally 200 yards wide, but not more than half that was usually occupied by the water at this season of the year; the rest of the bed of the river being composed of bare rocks and boulders, and here and there Bankss of pebbles. The Bankss of the water-course were generally sloping, rising fifteen feet above the present water, and composed some-times of small slate-cliffs, and sometimes of sand or clay resting on the slate, the whole being covered with coarse gravel and great boulders. Immediately on the top of the Bankss grew the dense wood, the lower parts of the trees being scarred and bared, and sometimes a number of them torn up and laid prostrate. This, Mr. Peyton told me, was the effect of the ice in spring. The water, when the snow begins to melt, is penned in and dammed up by great blocks of ice and frozen snow at the rapids, and at the ledges of rock which cross the river: it accordingly invades the woods, and when the icy barrier gives way, it rushes along with great fury, drifting great blocks of ice, and tearing everything along with it. Our progress up the rapids was necessarily slow; and those who walked had often to wait for the boats. Just as it got dark, we reached a spot about half way to the great falls, where there was a tilt in the woods. The boats came in about half an hour afterwards, by the light of the moon; and we bivouacked for the night, supping on some shell birds we had shot as we came along.
September 10th.-Blake came back while we were at breakfast, having found his way out to the falls last night, hit upon the path this morning, and traced it back to about 100 yards beyond our bivouac. We accordingly shouldered our packs, and set off to the end of the path. The entrance was overgrown with bushes, but as we proceeded we could distinguish traces of it. Setting off in a hurry, we wandered again, and found ourselves at fault, searching in vain for our path, and Mr. Peyton went off by himself in one direction, while we sent Blake back to the river to make another attempt. This he did, and found the path within fifty yards of the place where we were sitting. We struck out accordingly, but had scarcely gone another hundred yards when we again lost ourselves, but once more found the path proceeding through some alder bushes which had grown over it. Beyond these, the ground got rocky, and we could more easily discern our way, which was then in some places five feet broad. When the ground is covered with moss, it is almost impossible to trace an old woodpath; and to inexperienced eyes there is no sign of any path whatever. Practice, however, I found had given me almost as much acuteness of vision as the old hunters, and I could follow a "footing" of a man, or detect that of a deer, where formerly I should not have been able to see any mark at all. Passing through much thick wood, and over a small marsh, we came out at a spot 200 yards above the falls, where the river had just the same shallow and rapid character that it had below Buchan's Island. Peyton came soon after, having been led offin chase of a fine buck he had seen in the woods, and of which we observed the fresh traces on the little marsh we had just crossed. We now divided: Slade and I went to examine and sketch the falls; Mr. Peyton, his son, and one man, went up the river to examine into its state; and the rest went back to clear the path, and bring forward more of the provisions. The river above the falls is about 200 yards wide; shallow, rapid, rocky, and full of boulders. It falls by a succession of small leaps, in various channels, twenty or thirty feet, and then by one great leap, in two channels, with a small woody island between them, thirty or forty feet more. The surrounding rocks are composed of hard, fine-grained gritstone, of a brick-red colour, and of slate-rock; the beds striking obliquely across the river, and dipping at an angle of 45° to the northwest, or against the stream. In consequence of this position of the beds, the water foams and frets over their edges, and falling on the inward-sloping ledges, spouts up into jets of spray, boiling and thundering over the many obstructions to its course. Beneath the present falls is a whirlpool about fifty yards across, below which the water is confined to a channel not twenty yards wide, through which it shoots with great velocity, and again expands into a pool; and so on, throughout the ravine, down to Buchan's Island. On each side of the water, at the time of our visit there, was a space of fifty yards of bare rugged rock, and small precipices, whose angles were inconceivably numerous and sharp, being the space over which the river extends when it is flooded. Immediately on the brink of the river course, the thick woods commence, and stretch away to an indefinite distance into the country. About a quarter of a mile above the falls, the channel of the river suddenly turns to the left, resuming its westerly direction, which it preserves for the remainder of its course.
In the afternoon, Peyton not having returned, and the clouds threatening rain, we set to work to make a bough tilt. Cutting down a stout pole, we stretched it between two trees at a height of about eight feet from the ground. Then getting a number of smaller poles, we rested them side by side in a sloping position against the windward side of the cross-pole. Weaving a few boughs through these slanting poles, we cut a great number of branches of fir and spruce, covered with leaves, and, beginning at the bottom, laid them one over the other with the leaves outwards, in tile-like fashion. This formed a roof impervious to rain, and blocking up the sides with heaps of boughs and moss we formed a kind of weather-tight hut or shed, open only in front. On this side we made a great fire. The whole construction did not cost us more than an hour. Peyton and his party did not return till after ten at night, and were then too tired to do more than drink a basin of tea and lie down to sleep.
September 11th.-We now called a consultation. Mr. Peyton reported that his party had, with great difficulty, although without a load, got about eight miles farther up, having sometimes to go through the wood, sometimes to crawl over rocks, and sometimes to wade through mud. He had not before been up the river above the falls except in winter, when, all being frozen, it is comparatively easy. He declared that while the water was so low it would be nearly impracticable to convey the flat for these eight miles, though above that the water seemed deeper; and in addition to these difficulties, no deer had been seen, so that we should have to carry provisions. To bring up the flat to where we were, a mile and a half through the woods, we knew would take half a day, and to carry it the eight miles would require a whole one; to get on a dozen miles farther, therefore, would require two days. Even then we should be twenty or thirty miles from the Red Indian Pond, so that to get the flat into the pond would apparently require five days: before which time our provisions would be exhausted. On the other hand, to reach the pond without the boat would be almost useless, and to carry six or eight days' provisions on our backs impossible. Besides, the shoes belonging to most of the party were nearly worn out, being destroyed by the water and the sharp rocks, and only one or two of us had a second pair. Had Mr. Peyton's party succeeded in killing a deer we could have depended on that, and advanced two or three days' journey at least; but to carry our provisions only a few miles farther, and then come back again, was useless. Moreover, Mr. Peyton and Mr. Slade were obliged to be at home about the 15th, to meet the judge and attend the court. As far as regarded the geological part of the business, I was perfectly satisfied that there was no coal near us, and from Mr. Peyton's account of the rocks, there appeared no chance of any in the neighbourhood of the pond. The flat country which I had observed north of the Grand Pond did not therefore extend in this direction, but ran out more towards White Bay. For all these reasons we determined to return, and I meant to proceed by sea farther along the coast. To any future explorer who is desirous of going to the Red Indian Lake I should recommend rather to trust to a couple of Indians and a bark canoe, than to any number of furriers and their heavy flats. And from Mr. Peyton's account I am inclined to think that an easier route might be found than ascending the river Exploits from its mouth, by going from Badger Bay to some large ponds in its neighbourhood, and descending a brook that flows into the river Exploits at a point about ten miles above the falls.
Having determined to return, we hung up in the tilt a "nunny bag" full of bread, and hid a quantity of shot to serve for the furriers on a future occasion, and carried the rest back through the wood to the flats. Peyton, Slade and Blake took one flat, and young Peyton, Simon, and I, the other, while the three men walked. Just as we pushed off it began to rain, and continued in heavy showers all the day. In our flat Simon sat amidships with a pair of sculls or short oars, while John Peyton stood in the bow and I in the stern, each with stout poles to guide and "hold up" the flat in the rapids. Sculling, and poleing in the deeper parts, we every now and then shot down a rapid, picking with instant decision the best channels among the rocks, which are always those where there is most foam and the waves rage with greatest violence. One or two of the rapids were a mile long, and in passing these it requires the poleman to look out carefully, for as you dart along you have every moment to decide on which side of the rock it is best to pass, and which channel it is best to slip into, avoiding promptly the dangers close at hand, and looking out at the same time for those which are to come. It is requisite to preserve steadiness and coolness in the midst of the roaring and flashing of the waters, and never to hesitate for an instant. The moment the bow of the boat catches upon a rock, the stern poleman must fix his pole in the right position, and hold up the stern of the boat against the stream till the bow is freed, for, if she once swings broadside to the stream and catches between two rocks, the water would pour over her side, or roll her over and capsize her in an instant. Should such an accident happen, not only is all the cargo lost, but even the lives of the crew are endangered since, if a man once falls in these rapids, even where they are not more than knee deep, it is very difficult for him to regain his footing. We were young hands in our flat, but we several times passed the old ones, and only stuck fast twice, and Blake the old furrier awarded us the praise of managing it as well as if we had been used to the brook for twenty years, on which we plumed ourselves accordingly.
On reaching the Bishop's Falls, we had carried over the baggage and one of the flats, when the walkers overtook us, and helped us over with the other. I then walked down to the lowest rapid, where we had left the gig. As we went along I shot two seals, but was not able to get to them, and we all embarked on the still waters of the deep part of the river just as it became dark. When about half way down, the full moon rose among black drifting clouds and squalls of rain, and I was gratified by seeing for the first time in my life a distinct lunar rainbow. It had a pale light, but was clearly visible against a dark cloud.
September 12th.-Very warm, with heavy showers. Mr. Peyton was residing at his house at Upper Sandy Point, when Mr. Cormack made his second excursion into the country with two Micmac Indians. In this excursion he went in at Hall's Bay, visited the Bankss of the Red Indian Lake, and came out down the river Exploits. Mr. Peyton said he saw Mr. Cormack when about to depart from Twillingate; and when, about a fortnight afterwards, he came to his house from the country, he was at a loss to recognise him. They had been unsuccessful in hunting, and for the last three days had had no food. Pale and emaciated, Mr. P. said he could scarcely have believed a fortnight could have wrought such a change in any man. I have mentioned, and insisted very strongly, in this journal, on many circumstances unimportant in themselves, but which, I thought, would aid in conveying some notion of the difficulty of penetrating the interior of Newfoundland. I have done this, because when I first came to the country I laughed at the idea of this extreme difficulty, and could by no means conceive its existence. I had, indeed, never seen anything which could give me an idea of the character of the country, and I therefore rashly concluded the difficulty to be more imaginary than real. After a few trials, my ideas, however, were enlarged, and perhaps took rather an opposite bias, magnifying the impediments rather than diminishing them. This was natural, and in the course of this summer I sometimes got on better than I previously believed possible. In fact, however, after a year's practice the difficulties were diminished to me: I had become accustomed to treading on the marshes and threading through the trees, and my gait and movements were become more Indian-like, and accommodated to circumstances. Without about a year's practice, the best walker and the most active man in the world would lose all his superiority in the wilds of Newfoundland.
Some years ago a man-of-war had been stationed at the Bay of Exploits, and in the winter a party went in to explore, traversed the Red Indian Lake and the neighbouring country. One of the Lieutenants, assisted by Mr. Peyton, made a map of all the country explored; but what became of it he could not tell.
September 13th, 14th, 15th.-We were detained in various parts of the bay by fogs and northeasterly winds with heavy rain, and it was not till six o'clock in the morning of the 16th that we entered the harbour of Twillingate. As we sailed in, two brigs made their appearance, and came in together shortly afterwards. These belonged to the house of Slade and Co., and the circumstances of their late trip were curious. They sailed from Twillingate exactly seven weeks ago, for Lisbon; never saw each other during the voyage, but one entered that port only two hours before the other. They unloaded their cargoes of fish, sailed again together, and without keeping together intentionally, but each making the best of her way, the one which was two hours later into Lisbon was just two hours before the other off the harbour of Twillingate, when her Captain hove to for the other to join him. We found the judge's vessel at anchor in the harbour, with the judge, solicitor-general, sheriff, clerk, and constables on board. They had arrived a day or two after we left, and the judge said he had had a great mind to run on and join us in our excursion up the river. There was a brilliant aurora visible tonight, of precisely the same appearance that I have described before, except that the waving circular band of light struck me as appearing double, as if there were two parallel bands of perpendicular rays, the one seen partly through the other. The progressive motion of the light was also in this case from the northwest to the northeast, instead of being as usual from the northeast to northwest.
September 17th to 30th.-I remained during this time at Mr. Slade's, partaking of the hospitality of the various residents on the occasion of the judge's visit, and I was amused by attending the court. The delay, although pleasant enough, was involuntary on my part. Mr. Slade and Mr. Peyton expressed an intention of accompanying me farther west as soon as the business of the court was over. I could not run away with Mr. Slade's cutter, at a time when he might himself require it, and there was no other vessel to be had. Indeed, even had there been a craft ready, I should scarcely have been able to proceed. The wind blew steadily from the west, shifting now and then only to southwest or northwest; and a constant current sets alongshore from the north and west. For these reasons beating to windward would have been a very slow and tedious process for small craft; and I was therefore compelled to remain at Twillingate. The courthouse of Twillingate consisted of one good-sized room, with apartments for the gaoler, and a cell or two below. A chair elevated on a platform of boards, with a table before it, was the seat of the judge. A table on the floor was set apart for the clerk of the court, and there were a few chairs placed round it for the use of the sheriff and the barristers; a bench along one side of the room was reserved for the grand jury, and a similar one opposite for the common jury. If the latter wished to consult as to their verdict, they were led out of doors by the constable, and assembled on a rock close by, where they were locked up-in imagination-till they agreed. There were no cases of any consequence, the most serious being one in which a boy had (accidentally, as it turned out) shot another. The other cases were either actions for debt, at the suit of the merchants, or between the planters themselves, or actions arising out of trifling trespasses and disputes. Some of the addresses to the court, when the plaintiffs or defendants acted as their own counsel, as well as one or two of the verdicts of the jury, were sufficiently ludicrous, and caused afterwards great merriment, but they would lose all their humour unless accompanied by the voice and action, and the simple earnestness of the speakers. The judge's vessel was a merchant-brig hired for the purpose, and fitted up fore and aft with cabins and apartments for the various law officers, from the judge down to the constable. The coast is divided into two circuits, the northern and the southern. The courts on the southern circuit are held at Ferryland, St. Mary's, Placentia, Burin, and sometimes in Fortune Bay or Cape la Hune. The northern circuit comprehends Harbour Grace, Trinity, Bonavista, Twillingate, and sometimes Greenspond or Fogo. What would an English judge think of being shipped off, with all the law officers, barristers, lawyers, clerks, and constables, and sent cruising over rough seas and along wild shores for a month or two every year?
September 30th.-We sent the cutter round to Back Harbour to be ready for a start. As soon as she got outside the main harbour, however, it fell calm, and she was drifted to leeward: light airs assisted her a little, but she was at one time ten miles to leeward, and did not get round till late the following evening, being thirty hours in getting from one harbour to the other, or about three miles to windward.
October 5th.-Light westerly airs still continued, and the example I had just had showed me how impossible it was to get to the westward with them. As, however, the schooners going to St. John's were all about sailing, and I was afraid, if I delayed too long, that I might lose the chance of a passage, and be detained here all the winter, I determined to make an attempt, and Mr. Slade kindly lent me his cutter, neither himself nor Mr. Peyton being able to go. At 3 PM, therefore, favoured by a light wind from the south, we pushed out of harbour, and made for the Bay of Exploits. The wind soon shifted again into the southwest, and, aided by the tide and current out of the bay, drifted us rapidly off to sea. When we came to tack, we found the cutter had somehow got out of her proper trim, and we could not get her to "stay;" accordingly, as the wind blew very fresh, we were obliged to wear her, and run back for the Main Tickle, through Friday's Bay, where we anchored about one in the morning.
October 6th.-At daylight found ourselves in a wide rocky channel, with bare and rugged cliffs on each side of us, and the wind blowing very fresh from the southwest. Passed through Herring Neck, and then tried to beat up for Dildo Run, hoping to get through into Exploits Bay in that direction. On getting from under the lee of the land, however, the cutter again refused to stay; and as it was now blowing hard with a tumbling sea, we bore away for Change Island Tickle, where we anchored. We then took in more ballast, and altered the trim of the little craft, to render her manageable if possible. There were many schooners here taking in fish for St. John's and other places. Several vessels had returned from the Labrador, giving very poor accounts of the fishery there. Some vessels had not caught fish enough for their own consumption, and none had completed a cargo. For the last eight years the fish seem to have been gradually deserting that shore. They are frequently very capricious in the choice of their haunts, and there seems to be a kind of periodical change taking place in this respect. Mackerel used formerly to be abundant in Newfoundland; but for the last few years not one had been seen, though it was believed they would eventually return.
October 7th.-As soon as it was light enough to see, I walked over the north island and shot a brace of ptarmigan; then weighed anchor, and we sailed along the east side of the Change Islands, and passing by an intricate channel through a number of low rocky islands surrounded by shoals and reefs, we made for Gander Bay. It came on thick with heavy rain in the afternoon, so we anchored in shoal water on the west shore of the Bay.
October 9th.-We left this cove, called Beaver Cove, and ran into the mouth of Dildo Run this morning, but as the wind still blew from the southwest, we could not pass through it. Wishing to see as much as I could of the singular heap of islets and rocks in this channel, through the multitudes of which there is only one narrow passage of deep water in some places not more than thirty yards across, I landed on New World Island, and crossed through some woods to a marsh beyond which was a hill. It came on to rain most tremendously; so we got thoroughly wet, miserably cold, and had a hard climb for nothing.
October 10th.-A schooner came down through the Run this morning, in company with which we sailed for Change Island, as I began to be fearful lest all the St. John's vessels should sail and leave me behind. Under the lee of the high land of New World Island we had only a pleasant breeze, the wind being about north. As we proceeded, however, it blew harder, and on getting down to Indian Garden we met a fleet of boats, large and small, with mainsails down, foresails reefed, and every sign of a heavy breeze blowing outside. There were twenty-four of them altogether, and they were running up among the islands, some for shelter, and others to go to their winter habitations. We still held on, hoping to fetch Change Island Tickle, but on getting exposed to the full fury of the gale, our cutter, which was light and crank, heeled over till the water boiled over the rail, up nearly to the foot of the mast. A sea washed over us, and put out the fire, capsized the coffee-pot, spoiled our breakfast, and I could hear all the things in the cabin going to leeward in one great crash. This would never do, and as we could not hope to fetch the harbour if we took in or reefed sail, we wore her round and ran back again. The schooner followed our example, and about two in the afternoon we anchored under the lee of the land, having to beat up for an hour or two before we could get sufficiently close inshore. We then landed, made a great fire, and had some breakfast. As long as the wind was south of west, the weather had been warm and pleasant: with this northerly breeze, however, the salt water froze on our decks as it washed over them, and the thermometer, at noon, in the shelter of the woods, was scarcely above the freezing point. As the woods around us were very thick, and there was no beach, we could not walk about, and were reduced to lying by the fire all the afternoon warming each side alternately, while the other froze.
October 12th.-Mr. Peyton and his son came today, without Mr. Slade, who could not accompany them. They had arrived at Change Island Tickle soon after we left it yesterday, but Peyton said he knew better than to attempt to get into Fogo till the sea had gone down.
October 13th.-We sailed in the Content, a miserable little schooner of about forty tons. She was very deep, being loaded with a cargo of second-rate fish, that stunk most horribly; and besides this she carried a deck load of tierces of salmon. We did not discover until we had sailed that the forecastle also was full of fish up to the beams, and all battened down, and that we were to share the cabin with the crew. There were Mr. Peyton, his son, myself, and my two men; the skipper, who was also owner of the schooner, and a crew of five hands,-in all eleven. The cabin was a small triangular apartment, boarded off from the hold, having lockers all round to serve as sleeping places, with a bench against the sides of the lockers, and just exactly room on the floor for one seaman's chest or long box which stood there. The lockers were covered with filthy blankets, and the place had never been washed since the vessel was built: a small fireplace, with a little brick chimney, the top of which was level with the deck, and two or three strips of wood nailed against the bulkhead to facilitate our exit by the small aperture which served for the companion, completed the conveniences of this execrable hole, the very effluvium from which was enough to poison one not accustomed to it. The place would not hold eleven persons by any system of packing, but as there was always a watch of one or two on deck, the rest managed to crowd in. Miserable as was existence in such a vessel, there was only the alternative of sailing in it, or remaining where I was till the following June. Soon after we left Fogo Island a gale of wind arose from the west-northwest, with a heavy sea. Our decks were only about a foot and a half out of the water while in the harbour, and being so heavily laden, the vessel stood firm and upright without yielding either to the wind or the water: every wave, accordingly, washed clean across our decks, and she looked more like a low rock than a vessel. It was a mystery to me how she managed to swim at all. We reached, however, Cape Bonavista, on the evening of the 14th, and had a temporary lull under the land between it and Catalina. We seized the opportunity to make tea, and eat some biscuit, this being the first refreshment we were able to get that day. Soon after we opened Trinity Bay, and got into another tumbling sea, which reduced us to the alternative of being drenched on deck or stifled in the blankets below.
October 15th.-The wind headed us in the night, changing to the south, and obliging us to make for Trinity Harbour. We did but just manage to scrape round the Horse Chops, and sailed slowly along this lofty shore, with its perpendicular cliffs, at whose foot the waves were boiling and leaping, dead to leeward, and not a quarter of a mile distant. Peyton seemed rather astonished when I called him on deck to look at them; for the parting of a single rope would have sent us where we should not have had a single chance for our lives. It was, however, a grand sight. As the shore receded, we managed to crawl off it, and at length ran into Trinity Harbour. Here we saw the judge's vessel at anchor and having washed and dressed on deck, were soon on board her enjoying a good breakfast. We were most kindly received by the judge and all on board, as well as by Mr. D., the agent for Brooking and Garland, and were hospitably entertained during our stay in Trinity. We tried again to reach St. John's on the 16th, but after getting half across Trinity Bay were sent back again by a southeast wind and a fog. On the 17th we did not attempt it, but dined and slept on board the judge's vessel, who wished us much to stop till the court was over, when he would take us on to Harbour Grace. As we were both, however, anxious to get to St. John's, we set off before daylight on the 18th, with a fine breeze from the northwest. We lay fasting in our savoury berths until about one o'clock, when having got round Cape St. Francis, we were lying alongshore for St. John's. I was amusing Peyton by considering what an excellent dinner we should eat when we got on shore, and what it should consist of, when I felt a slight shock and heard a report, and on jumping on deck I was informed, with many blank looks, that they feared we had sprung the mainmast. We immediately doused the mainsail, and then consulted what we were to do. If the wind shifted ever so little to the west, we should not fetch the mouth of the harbour under the foresail alone, and as a north-northwest wind blows out of the harbour, or at least baffles in the Narrows, we feared we should not get into the harbour, if we did fetch the Narrows. If we stood round Cape Spear, the coast trended so much to the southwest, that we feared we should never be able to fetch the Bay of Bulls, or any other harbour, without the help of the mainsail. There was no other land in that direction, and on inquiry we found there were just two gallons of water on board, so standing out to sea would not do: I proposed we should run up Freshwater Bay and beach her, but that involved the loss of the vessel and cargo, and perhaps ourselves too, as the surf would be heavy. At last we determined to clap on all the stays, guys, and tackling we could to keep up the mainmast, and have a try at the harbour, hoping at least to get into anchorage and hold on. Accordingly we kept as close in to the rocks as we could, and on opening the Narrows we ran up the mainsail, and though the mast gave a most ominous creak on every tack, yet by making short tacks and easing it as much as possible, we managed fairly to beat into the harbour, and anchored at a wharf-head. When we landed our appearance must have been somewhat remarkable, and not the less striking as the day happened to be Sunday. I had taken one summer and one winter pair of trousers with me, but was now obliged to wear them both, not merely on account of the cold, but also that, as the holes in each did not exactly correspond, I might get a mean or average pair of trousers from the two. My jackets were in a similar condition, while our faces were grimed with smoke and dirt, and our whole persons redolent of bad salt-fish. On examining the mast next day, it was found to be broken short off just below the deck.
In November I sailed from St. John's in Her Majesty's steamship Spitfire, which I mention as she was the first steamer ever seen in a Newfoundland port. She happened to touch here in order to bring a few troops from Halifax, and great was the wonder and admiration she caused among the population of St. John's. Some boats and schooners outside were so astonished as she approached, that they had scarcely presence of mind to get out of her way, and she had very nearly run them down.
Thus ended my last excursion in Newfoundland, and I can only give my advice to any one who wished to lead the life of a traveller to commence with this country, in order to get well accustomed to rough living, rough fare, and rough travelling, and to get rid of all delicate and fastidious notions of comfort, convenience, and accommodation he may have acquired by journeying in England. I must add, however, that so far as the inhabitants are concerned, under a rough exterior he will meet with sterling kindness and hospitality.
Page contributed by: Bill Crant, February 26th, 2000
Page revised: Sept 2002 (Terry Piercey)
|Recent Updates||Contact Us|
Your Community, Online!
Newfoundland's Grand Banks is a non-profit endeavor.
No part of this project may be reproduced in any form for any purpose other than personal use.
© Newfoundland's Grand Banks (1999-2019)