zondag 25 maart 2012

John Franklin -- 26 maart 1820

March 26.

The boisterous weather continued through the night and it was not before six this morning that the wind became apparently moderate and the snow ceased. Two of the Canadians were immediately sent off with letters to the gentlemen at Fort Chipewyan. After breakfast we also started but our Indian friend, having a great indisposition to move in such weather, remained by the fire. We soon quitted the river and, after crossing a portage, a small lake and a point of land, came to the borders of the Mammawee Lake. We then found our error as to the strength of the wind, and that the gale still blew violently and there was so much drifting of the snow as to cover the distant objects by which our course could be directed. We fortunately got a glimpse through this cloud of a cluster of islands in the direction of the houses, and decided on walking towards them; but in doing this we suffered very much from the cold and were obliged to halt under the shelter of them and await the arrival of our Indian guide. He conducted us between these islands, over a small lake, and by a swampy river into the Athabasca Lake, from whence the establishments were visible. At four P.M. we had the pleasure of arriving at Fort Chipewyan and of being received by Messrs. Keith and Black, the partners of the North-West Company in charge, in the most kind and hospitable manner. Thus terminated a winter's journey of eight hundred and fifty-seven miles, in the progress of which there was a great intermixture of agreeable and disagreeable circumstances. Could the amount of each be balanced I suspect the latter would much preponderate; and amongst these the initiation into walking in snowshoes must be considered as prominent. The suffering it occasions can be but faintly imagined by a person who thinks upon the inconvenience of marching with a weight of between two and three pounds constantly attached to galled feet and swelled ankles. Perseverance and practice only will enable the novice to surmount this pain.

The next evil is the being constantly exposed to witness the wanton and unnecessary cruelty of the men to their dogs, especially those of the Canadians who beat them unmercifully and habitually vent on them the most dreadful and disgusting imprecations. There are other inconveniences which, though keenly felt during the day's journey, are speedily forgotten when stretched out in the encampment before a large fire, you enjoy the social mirth of your companions who usually pass the evening in recounting their former feats in travelling. At this time the Canadians are always cheerful and merry and the only bar to their comfort arises from the frequent interruption occasioned by the dogs who are constantly prowling about the circle and snatching at every kind of food that happens to be within their reach. These useful animals are a comfort to them afterwards by the warmth they impart when lying down by their side or feet as they usually do. But the greatest gratifications a traveller in these regions enjoys are derived from the hospitable welcome he receives at every trading post, however poor the means of the host may be; and from being disrobed even for a short time of the trappings of a voyager and experiencing the pleasures of cleanness.

The following are the estimated distances in statute miles which Mr. Back and I had travelled since our departure from Cumberland:

From Cumberland House to Carlton House: 263.
From Carlton House to Isle a la Crosse: 230.
From Isle a la Crosse to north side of the Methye Portage: 124.
From the Methye Portage to Fort Chipewyan: 240.

Total: 857 miles.

Sir John Franklin (1786-1847) was een Britse marineofficier en ontdekkingsreiziger, die drie grote reizen naar het Noordpoolgebied maakte. Het verslag van de eerste reis is te vinden in The Journey to the Polar Sea.

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