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TENT-LIFE IN

SIBERIA

By GEORGE KENNAN

[Illustration: George Kennan 1868]

Tent Life in Siberia

A New Account of an Old Undertaking

Adventures among the Koraks and
Other Tribes In Kamchatka and Northern Asia

By

George Kennan

Author of "Siberia and the Exile System," "Campaigning in Cuba," "The
Tragedy of Pelee," "Folk Tales of Napoleon"

_With 32 Illustrations and Maps_

1910

PREFACE TO REVISED EDITION.

This narrative of Siberian life and adventure was first given to the
public in 1870--just forty years ago. Since that time it has never
been out of print, and has never ceased to find readers; and the
original plates have been sent to the press so many times that they
are nearly worn out. This persistent and long-continued demand for the
book seems to indicate that it has some sort of perennial interest,
and encourages me to hope that a revised, illustrated, and greatly
enlarged edition of it will meet with a favourable reception.

_Tent Life in Siberia_ was put to press for the first time while I
was absent in Russia. I wrote the concluding chapters of it in St.
Petersburg, and sent them to the publishers from there in the early
part of 1870. I was then so anxious to get started for the mountains
of the Caucasus that I cut the narrative as short as I possibly could,
and omitted much that I should have put in if I had had time enough
to work it into shape. The present edition contains more than fifteen
thousand words of new matter, including "Our Narrowest Escape" and
"The Aurora of the Sea," and it also describes, for the first time,
the incidents and adventures of a winter journey overland from the
Okhotsk Sea to the Volga River--a straightaway sleigh-ride of more
than five thousand miles.

The illustrations of the present edition, which will, I hope, add
greatly to its interest, are partly from paintings by George A. Frost,
who was with me on both of my Siberian expeditions; and partly from
photographs taken by Messrs. Jochelson and Bogoras, two Russian
political exiles, who made the scientific investigations for the Jesup
North Pacific Expedition on the Asiatic side of Bering Strait.

I desire gratefully to acknowledge my indebtedness to The Century
Company for permission to use parts of two articles originally written
for _St. Nicholas_; to Mrs. A.D. Frost, of North Cambridge, Mass.,
for photographs of her late husband's paintings; and to the American
Museum of Natural History for the right to reproduce the Siberian
photographs of Messrs. Jochelson and Bogoras.

GEORGE KENNAN.

BEAUFORT, S.C.

February 16, 1910.

PREFACE

The attempt which was made by the Western Union Telegraph Company, in
1865-66 and 67, to build an overland line to Europe via Alaska,
Bering Strait, and Siberia, was in some respects the most remarkable
undertaking of the nineteenth century. Bold in its conception, and
important in the ends at which it aimed, it attracted at one time
the attention of the whole civilised world, and was regarded as the
greatest telegraphic enterprise which had ever engaged American
capital. Like all unsuccessful ventures, however, in this progressive
age, it has been speedily forgotten, and the brilliant success of the
Atlantic cable has driven it entirely out of the public mind. Most
readers are familiar with the principal facts in the history of this
enterprise, from its organisation to its ultimate abandonment; but
only a few, even of its original projectors, know anything about the
work which it accomplished in British Columbia, Alaska, and Siberia;
the obstacles which were met and overcome by its exploring and working
parties; and the contributions which it made to our knowledge of an
hitherto untravelled, unvisited region. Its employees, in the
course of two years, explored nearly six thousand miles of unbroken
wilderness, extending from Vancouver Island on the American coast to
Bering Strait, and from Bering Strait to the Chinese frontier in
Asia. The traces of their deserted camps may be found in the wildest
mountain fastnesses of Kamchatka, on the vast desolate plains of
north-eastern Siberia, and throughout the gloomy pine forests of
Alaska and British Columbia. Mounted on reindeer, they traversed the
most rugged passes of the north Asiatic mountains; they floated in
skin canoes down the great rivers of the north; slept in the smoky
_pologs_ of the Siberian Chukchis (chook'-chees); and camped out upon
desolate northern plains in temperatures of 50 deg. and 60 deg. below zero.
The poles which they erected and the houses which they built now stand
alone in an encircling wilderness,--the only results of their three
years' labour and suffering, and the only monuments of an abandoned
enterprise.

It is not my purpose to write a history of the Russian-American
telegraph. The success of its rival, the Atlantic cable, has
completely overshadowed its early importance, and its own failure
has deprived it of all its interest for American readers. Though its
history, however, be unimportant, the surveys and explorations which
were planned and executed under its auspices have a value and an
interest of their own, aside from the object for which they were
undertaken. The territory which they covered is little known to the
reading world, and its nomadic inhabitants have been rarely visited
by civilised man. Only a few adventurous traders and fur-hunters have
ever penetrated its almost unbroken solitudes, and it is not probable
that civilised men will ever follow in their steps. The country holds
out to the ordinary traveller no inducement commensurate with the risk
and hardship which its exploration involves.

Two of the employees of the Russian-American Telegraph Company,
Messrs. Whymper and Dall, have already published accounts of their
travels in various parts of British Columbia and Alaska; and believing
that a history of the Company's explorations on the other side
of Bering Strait will possess equal interest, I have written the
following narrative of two years' life in north-eastern Siberia. It
makes no pretensions whatever to fulness of scientific information,
nor to any very extraordinary researches of any kind. It is intended
simply to convey as clear and accurate an idea as possible of the
inhabitants, scenery, customs, and general external features of a
new and comparatively unknown country. It is essentially a personal
narrative of life in Siberia and Kamchatka; and its claim to attention
lies rather in the freshness of the subject, than in any special
devotion to science or skill of treatment.

[Illustration: Head covering used in stalking seals]

CONTENTS

PREFACE

CHAPTER I

THE OVERLAND TELEGRAPH LINE TO RUSSIA--SAILING OF THE FIRST SIBERIAN
EXPLORING PARTY FROM SAN FRANCISCO

CHAPTER II

CROSSING THE NORTH PACIFIC--SEVEN WEEKS IN A RUSSIAN BRIG

CHAPTER III

THE PICTURESQUE COAST OF KAMCHATKA--ARRIVAL IN PETROPAVLOVSK

CHAPTER IV

THINGS RUSSIAN IN KAMCHATKA--A VERDANT AND FLOWERY LAND--THE VILLAGE
OF TWO SAINTS

CHAPTER V

FIRST ATTEMPT TO LEARN RUSSIAN--PLAN OF EXPLORATION--DIVISION OF PARTY

CHAPTER VI

A COSSACK WEDDING--THE PENINSULA OF KAMCHATKA

CHAPTER VII

STARTING NORTHWARD--KAMCHATKAN SCENERY, VILLAGES, AND PEOPLE

CHAPTER VIII

BRIDLE PATHS OF SOUTHERN KAMCHATKA--HOUSES AND FOOD OF THE
PEOPLE--REINDEER TONGUES AND WILD-ROSE PETALS--A KAMCHATKAN DRIVER'S
CANTICLE

CHAPTER IX

THE BEAUTIFUL VALLEY OF GENAL--WALLS OF LITERATURE--SCARING UP A
BEAR--END OF HORSEBACK RIDE

CHAPTER X

THE KAMCHATKA RIVER--LIFE ON A CANOE RAFT--RECEPTION AT
MILKOVA--MISTAKEN FOR THE TSAR

CHAPTER XI

ARRIVAL AT KLUCHEI--THE KLUCHEFSKOI VOLCANO--A QUESTION OF ROUTE--A
RUSSIAN "BLACK BATH"

CHAPTER XII

CANOE TRAVEL ON THE YOLOFKA--VOLCANIC CONVERSATION--"O
SUSANNA!"--TALKING "AMERICAN"--A DIFFICULT ASCENT

CHAPTER XIII

A DISMAL NIGHT--CROSSING THE KAMCHATKAN DIVIDE--ANOTHER BEAR
HUNT--BREAKNECK RIDING--TIGIL--STEPPES OF NORTHERN KAMCHATKA

CHAPTER XIV

OKHOTSK SEACOAST--LESNOI--THE "DEVIL'S PASS"--LOST IN
SNOW-STORM--SAVED BY BRASS BOX--WILD SCENE

CHAPTER XV

CUT OFF BY STORM--STARVATION THREATENED--RACE WITH A RISING TIDE--TWO
DAYS WITH FOOD--RETURN TO LESNOI

CHAPTER XVI

KAMCHATKAN NIGHTS' ENTERTAINMENTS--CHARACTER OF PEOPLE--
SALMON-FISHING--SABLE-TRAPPING--KAMCHADAL LANGUAGE--NATIVE
MUSIC--DOG-DRIVING--WINTER DRESS

CHAPTER XVII

A FRESH START--CROSSING THE SAMANKA MOUNS ON A KORAK ENCAMPMENT--
NOMADS AND THEIR TENTS--DOOR-HOLES AND DOGS--POLOGS--KORAK BREAD

CHAPTER XVIII

WHY THE KORAKS WANDER--THEIR INDEPENDENCE--CHEERLESS LIFE--USES OF
THE REINDEER--KORAK IDEAS OF DISTANCE--"MONARCH OF THE BRASS-HANDLED
SWORD."

CHAPTER XIX

THE SNOW-DRIFT COMPASS--MARRIAGE BY CAPTURE--AN INTOXICATING
FUNGUS--MONOTONY OF KORAK LIFE

CHAPTER XX

THE KORAK TONGUE--RELIGION OF TERROR--INCANTATIONS OF SHAMANS--KILLING
OF OLD AND SICK--REINDEER SUPERSTITION--KORAK CHARACTER

CHAPTER XXI

FIRST FROST-BITE--THE SETTLED KORAKS--HOUR-GLASS YURTS--CLIMBING
DOWN CHIMNEYS--YURT INTERIORS--LEGS AS FEATURES--TRAVELLING BY
"PAVOSKA"--BAD CHARACTER OF SETTLED KORAKS

CHAPTER XXII

FIRST ATTEMPT AT DOG-DRIVING--UNPREMEDITATED PROFANITY--A
RUNAWAY--ARRIVAL AT GIZHIGA--HOSPITALITY OF THE ISPRAVNIK--PLANS FOR
THE WINTER

CHAPTER XXIII

DOG-SLEDGE TRAVEL--ARCTIC MIRAGES--CAMP AT NIGHT A HOWLING
CHORUS--NORTHERN LIGHTS

CHAPTER XXIV

DISMAL SHELTER--ARRIVAL OF A COSSACK COURIER--AMERICANS ON THE
ANADYR--ARCTIC FIREWOOD--A SIBERIAN BLIZZARD--LOST ON THE STEPPE

CHAPTER XXV

PENZHINA--POSTS FOR ELEVATED ROAD--FIFTY-THREE BELOW ZERO--TALKED
OUT--ASTRONOMICAL LECTURES--EATING PLANETS--THE HOUSE OF A PRIEST

CHAPTER XXVI

ANADYRSK--AN ARCTIC OUTPOST--SEVERE CLIMATE--CHRISTMAS SERVICES
AND CAROLS--A SIBERIAN BALL--MUSIC AND REFRESHMENTS--EXCITED
DANCING--HOLIDAY AMUSEMENTS

CHAPTER XXVII

NEWS FROM THE ANADYR PARTY--PLAN FOR ITS RELIEF--THE STORY OF A
STOVE-PIPE--START FOR THE SEACOAST

CHAPTER XXVIII

A SLEDGE JOURNEY EASTWARD--REACHING TIDEWATER--A NIGHT SEARCH FOR
A STOVE-PIPE--FINDING COMRADES--A VOICE FROM A STOVE--STORY OF THE
ANADYR PARTY

CHAPTER XXIX

CLASSIFICATION OF NATIVES--INDIAN TYPE, MONGOLIAN TYPE, AND TURKISH
TYPE--EASTERN VIEW OF WESTERN ARTS AND FASHIONS--AN AMERICAN SAINT

CHAPTER XXX

AN ARCTIC AURORA--ORDERS FROM THE MAJOR--ADVENTURES OF MACRAE AND
ARNOLD WITH THE CHUKCHIS--RETURN TO GIZHIGA--REVIEW OF WINTER'S WORK

CHAPTER XXXI

LAST WORK OF THE WINTER--BIRDS AND FLOWERS OF SPRING--CONTINUOUS
DAYLIGHT--SOCIAL LIFE IN GIZHIGA--A CURIOUS SICKNESS--SUMMER DAYS AND
NIGHTS--NEWS FROM AMERICA

CHAPTER XXXII

DULL LIFE--ARCTIC MOSQUITOES--WAITING FOR SUPPLIES--SHIPS
SIGNALLED--BARK "CLARA BELL"--RUSSIAN CORVETTE "VARAG"

CHAPTER XXXIII

ARRIVAL OF BARK "PALMETTO"--DRIVEN ASHORE BY GALE--DISCHARGING
CARGO UNDER DIFFICULTIES--NEGRO CREW MUTINIES--LONELY TRIP TO
ANADYRSK--STUPID KORAKS--EXPLOSIVE PROVISIONS

CHAPTER XXXIV

A MEETING IN THE NIGHT--HARDSHIPS OF BUSH'S PARTY--SIBERIAN
FAMINES--FISH SAVINGS BANKS--WORK IN THE NORTHERN DISTRICT--STARVING
POLE CUTTERS--A JOURNEY TO YAMSK

CHAPTER XXXV

YURT ON THE TOPOLOFKA--THE VALLEY OF TEMPESTS--RIVER OF THE
LOST--STORM BOUND--ESCAPE BY THE ICE-FOOT--A SLEEPLESS NIGHT--LEET
REPORTED DEAD--YAMSK AT LAST

CHAPTER XXXVI BRIGHT ANTICIPATIONS---A WHALE-SHIP SIGNALLED--THE BARK
"SEA BREEZE"--NEWS FROM THE ATLANTIC CABLE--REPORTED ABANDONMENT OF
THE OVERLAND LINE

CHAPTER XXXVII

OFFICIAL CONFIRMATION OF THE BAD NEWS--THE ENTERPRISE ABANDONED--A
VOYAGE TO OKHOTSK--THE AURORA OF THE SEA

CHAPTER XXXVIII

CLOSING UP THE BUSINESS--A BARGAIN SALE--TELEGRAPH TEACUPS
REDUCED--CHEAP SHOVELS FOR GRAVE-DIGGING--WIRE FISH NETS AT A
SACRIFICE--OUR NARROWEST ESCAPE--BLOWN OUT TO SEA--SAVED BY THE
"ONWARD"

CHAPTER XXXIX

START FOR ST. PETERSBURG--ROUTE TO YAKUTSK--A TUNGUSE ENCAMPMENT--
CROSSING THE STANAVOI MOUNTAINS--SEVERE COLD--FIRE-LIGHTED SMOKE
PILLARS--ARRIVAL IN YAKUTSK

CHAPTER XL

THE GREATEST HORSE-EXPRESS SERVICE IN THE WORLD--EQUIPMENT FOR
THE ROAD--A SIBERIAN "SEND-OFF"--POST TRAVEL ON THE ICE--BROKEN
SLEEP--DRIVING INTO AN AIR-HOLE--REPAIRING DAMAGES--FIRST SIGHT OF
IRKUTSK

CHAPTER XLI

A PLUNGE INTO CIVILISATION--THE NOBLES' BALL--SHOCKING LANGUAGE--
SHAKESPEARE'S ENGLISH--THE GREAT SIBERIAN ROAD--PASSING TEA
CARAVANS--RAPID TRAVEL--FIFTY-SEVEN HUNDRED MILES IN ELEVEN
WEEKS--ARRIVAL IN ST. PETERSBURG

INDEX

ILLUSTRATIONS

GEORGE KENNAN, 1868

A TENT OF THE WANDERING KORAKS IN SUMMER

TOWARD NIGHT: A TIRED DOG-TEAM From a painting by George A. Frost.

WANDERING KORAKS WITH THEIR REINDEER AND SLEDGES From a painting by
George A. Frost.

A MAN OF THE WANDERING KORAKS

TENTS AND REINDEER OF THE WANDERING KORAKS From a painting by George
A. Frost.

DRAWINGS OF THE KORAKS. ILLUSTRATIVE OF THEIR MYTHS

A KORAK GIRL

KORAK DOGS SACRIFICED TO PROPITIATE THE SPIRITS OF EVIL

A RACE OF WANDERING KORAK REINDEER TEAMS From a painting by George A.
Frost.

HOUR-GLASS HOUSES OF THE SETTLED KORAKS From a model in The American
Museum of Natural History.

INTERIOR OF A KORAK YURT. GETTING FIRE WITH THE FIRE DRILL From a
photograph in The American Museum of Natural History.

A WOMAN ENTERING A YURT OF THE SETTLED KORAKS

SETTLED KORAKS IN A TRIAL OF STRENGTH

AN OLD MAN OF THE SETTLED KORAKS From a photograph in The American
Museum of Natural History.

YURT AND DOG-TEAM OF THE SETTLED KORAKS From a painting by George A.
Frost.

A WOMAN FEEDING A DOG-TEAM IN GIZHIGA From a, painting by George A.
Frost.

INTERIOR OF A YURT OF THE SETTLED KORAKS

DOG-TEAMS DESCENDING A STEEP MOUNTAIN SLOPE

CHUKCHIS ASSEMBLING AT ANADYRSK FOR THE WINTER FAIR

ANADYRSK IN WINTER

A MAN OF THE YUKAGIRS

A MAN OF THE WANDERING CHUKCHIS

TUNGUSE MAN AND WOMAN IN BEST SUMMER DRESS

A TUNGUSE SUMMER TENT

A CHUKCHI RUG OF REINDEER SKIN

TUNGUSES ON REINDEER-BACK MOVING THEIR ENCAMPMENT From a photograph in
The American Museum of Natural History.

A YURT OF THE SETTLED KORAKS IN MIDWINTER

AN ARCTIC FUNERAL

THE YURT IN THE "STORMY GORGE OF THE VILIGA" From a painting by George
A. Frost.

MAPS

TENT LIFE IN SIBERIA

CHAPTER I

THE OVERLAND TELEGRAPH LINE TO RUSSIA--SAILING OF THE FIRST SIBERIAN
EXPLORING PARTY FROM SAN FRANCISCO.

The Russian-American Telegraph Company, otherwise known as the
"Western Union Extension," was organised at New York in the summer
of 1864. The idea of a line from America to Europe, by way of Bering
Strait, had existed for many years in the minds of several prominent
telegraphers, and had been proposed by Perry McD. Collins, as early
as 1857, when he made his trip across northern Asia. It was never
seriously considered, however, until after the failure of the first
Atlantic cable, when the expediency of an overland line between the
two continents began to be earnestly discussed. The plan of Mr.
Collins, which was submitted to the Western Union Telegraph Company of
New York as early as 1863, seemed to be the most practicable of all
the projects which were suggested for intercontinental communication.
It proposed to unite the telegraphic systems of America and Russia by
a line through British Columbia, Russian America, and north-eastern
Siberia, meeting the Russian lines at the mouth of the Amur (ah-moor)
River on the Asiatic coast, and forming one continuous girdle of wire
nearly round the globe.

This plan possessed many very obvious advantages. It called for
no long cables. It provided for a line which would run everywhere
overland, except for a short distance at Bering Strait, and which
could be easily repaired when injured by accident or storm. It
promised also to extend its line eventually down the Asiatic coast to
Peking, and to develop a large and profitable business with China.
All these considerations recommended it strongly to the favour of
capitalists and practical telegraph men, and it was finally adopted
by the Western Union Telegraph Company in 1863. It was foreseen, of
course, that the next Atlantic cable might succeed, and that such
success would prove very damaging, if not fatal, to the prospects
of the proposed overland line. Such an event, however, did not seem
probable, and in view of all the circumstances, the Company decided to
assume the inevitable risk.

A contract was entered into with the Russian Government, providing for
the extension of the latter's line through Siberia to the mouth of
the Amur River, and granting to the Company certain extraordinary
privileges in Russian territory. Similar concessions were obtained
in 1864 from the British Government; assistance was promised by the
United States Congress; and the Western Union Extension Company was
immediately organised, with a nominal capital of $10,000,000. The
stock was rapidly taken, principally by the stockholders of the
original Western Union Company, and an assessment of five per cent.
was immediately made to provide funds for the prosecution of the
work. Such was the faith at this time in the ultimate success of
the enterprise that in less than two months its stock sold for
seventy-five dollars per share, with only one assessment of five
dollars paid in.

In August, 1864, Colonel Charles S. Bulkley, formerly Superintendent
of Military Telegraphs in the Department of the Gulf, was appointed
engineer-in-chief of the proposed line, and in December he sailed from
New York for San Francisco, to organise and fit out exploring parties,
and to begin active operations.

Led by a desire of identifying myself with so novel and important an
enterprise, as well as by a natural love of travel and adventure which
I had never before been able to gratify, I offered my services as an
explorer soon after the projection of the line. My application was
favourably considered, and on the 13th of December I sailed from New
York with the engineer-in-chief, for the proposed headquarters of
the Company at San Francisco. Colonel Bulkley, immediately after his
arrival, opened an office in Montgomery Street, and began organising
exploring parties to make a preliminary survey of the route of the
line. No sooner did it become noised about the city that men were
wanted to explore the unknown regions of British Columbia, Russian
America, and Siberia, than the Company's office was thronged with
eager applicants for positions, in any and every capacity.

Adventurous Micawbers, who had long been waiting for something of
this kind to turn up; broken-down miners, who hoped to retrieve their
fortunes in new gold-fields yet to be discovered in the north; and
returned soldiers thirsting for fresh excitement,--all hastened to
offer their services as pioneers in the great work. Trained and
skilled engineers were in active demand; but the supply of only
ordinary men, who made up in enthusiasm what they lacked in
experience, was unlimited.

Month after month passed slowly away in the selection, organisation,
and equipment of parties, until at last, in June, 1865, the Company's
vessels were reported ready for sea.

The plan of operations, so far as it had then been decided upon, was
to land one party in British Columbia, near the mouth of the Frazer
River; one in Russian-America, at Norton Sound; and one on the Asiatic
side of Bering Strait, at the mouth of the Anadyr (ah-nah'-dyr) River.
These parties, under the direction respectively of Messrs. Pope,
Kennicott, and Macrae, were directed to push back into the interior,
following as far as practicable the courses of the rivers near which
they were landed; to obtain all possible information with regard to
the climate, soil, timber, and inhabitants of the regions traversed;
and to locate, in a general way, a route for the proposed line.

The two American parties would have comparatively advantageous bases
of operations at Victoria and Fort St. Michael; but the Siberian
party, if left on the Asiatic coast at all, must be landed near Bering
Strait, on the edge of a barren, desolate region, nearly a thousand
miles from any known settlement. Thrown thus upon its own resources,
in an unknown country, and among nomadic tribes of hostile natives,
without any means of interior transportation except canoes, the safety
and success of this party were by no means assured. It was even
asserted by many friends of the enterprise, that to leave men in such
a situation, and under such circumstances, was to abandon them to
almost certain death; and the Russian consul at San Francisco wrote a
letter to Colonel Bulkley, advising him strongly not to land a party
on the Asiatic coast of the North Pacific, but to send it instead to
one of the Russian ports of the Okhotsk Sea, where it could establish
a base of supplies, obtain information with regard to the interior,
and procure horses or dog-sledges for overland explorations in any
desired direction.

The wisdom and good sense of this advice were apparent to all; but
unfortunately the engineer-in-chief had no vessel that he could send
with a party into the Okhotsk Sea, and if men were landed at all that
summer on the Asiatic coast, they must be landed near Bering Strait.

Late in June, however, Colonel Bulkley learned that a small Russian
trading-vessel named the _Olga_ was about to sail from San Francisco
for Kamchatka (kam-chat'-kah) and the south-western coast of the
Okhotsk Sea, and he succeeded in prevailing upon the owners to take
four men as passengers to the Russian settlement of Nikolaievsk
(nik-o-lai'-evsk), at the mouth of the Amur River. This, although not
so desirable a point for beginning operations as some others on the
northern coast of the Sea, was still much better than any which could
be selected on the Asiatic coast of the North Pacific; and a party was
soon organised to sail in the _Olga_ for Kamchatka and the mouth of
the Amur. This party consisted of Major S. Abaza, a Russian gentleman
who had been appointed superintendent of the work, and leader of the
forces in Siberia; James A. Mahood, a civil engineer of reputation in
California; R. J. Bush, who had just returned from three years' active
service in the Carolinas, and myself,--not a very formidable force in
point of numbers, nor a very remarkable one in point of experience,
but strong in hope, self-reliance, and enthusiasm.

On the 28th of June, we were notified that the brig _Olga_ had nearly
all her cargo aboard, and would have "immediate despatch."

This marine metaphor, as we afterward learned, meant only that she
would sail some time in the course of the summer; but we, in our
trustful inexperience, supposed that the brig must be all ready to
cast off her moorings, and the announcement threw us into all
the excitement and confusion of hasty preparation for a start.
Dress-coats, linen shirts, and fine boots were recklessly thrown or
given away; blankets, heavy shoes, and overshirts of flannel were
purchased in large quantities; rifles, revolvers, and bowie-knives of
formidable dimensions gave our room the appearance of a disorganised
arsenal; pots of arsenic, jars of alcohol, butterfly-nets, snake-bags,
pill-boxes, and a dozen other implements and appliances of science
about which we knew nothing, were given to us by our enthusiastic
naturalists and packed away in big boxes; Wrangell's (vrang'el's)
_Travels_, Gray's _Botany_, and a few scientific works were added to
our small library; and before night we were able to report ourselves
ready--armed and equipped for any adventure, from the capture of a new
species of bug, to the conquest of Kamchatka!

As it was against all precedent to go to sea without looking at the
ship, Bush and I appointed ourselves an examining committee for the
party, and walked down to the wharf where she lay. The captain, a
bluff Americanised German, met us at the gangway and guided us through
the little brig from stem to stern. Our limited marine experience
would not have qualified us to pass an _ex cathedra_ judgment upon the
seaworthiness of a mud-scow; but Bush, with characteristic impudence
and versatility of talent, discoursed learnedly to the skipper upon
the beauty of his vessel's "lines" (whatever those were), her spread
of canvas and build generally,--discussed the comparative merits
of single and double topsails, and new patent yard-slings, and
reef-tackle, and altogether displayed such an amount of nautical
learning that it completely crushed me and staggered even the captain.

I strongly suspected that Bush had acquired most of his knowledge of
sea terms from a cursory perusal of Bowditch's _Navigator_, which
I had seen lying on the office table, and I privately resolved to
procure a compact edition of Marryat's sea tales as soon as I should
go ashore, and overwhelm him next time with such accumulated stores of
nautical erudition that he would hide his diminished head. I had a dim
recollection of reading something in Cooper's novels about a ship's
deadheads and cat's eyes, or cat-heads and deadeyes, I could not
remember which, and, determined not to be ignored as an inexperienced
landlubber, I gazed in a vague way into the rigging, and made a
few very general observations upon the nature of deadeyes and
spanker-booms. The captain, however, promptly annihilated me by
demanding categorically whether I had ever seen the spanker-boom
jammed with the foretopsailyard, with the wind abeam. I replied
meekly that I believed such a catastrophe had never occurred under
my immediate observation, and as he turned to Bush with a smile of
commiseration for my ignorance I ground my teeth and went below to
inspect the pantry. Here I felt more at home. The long rows of canned
provisions, beef stock, concentrated milk, pie fruits, and a small
keg, bearing the quaint inscription, "Zante cur.," soon soothed my
perturbed spirit and convinced me beyond the shadow of a doubt that
the _Olga_ was stanch and seaworthy, and built in the latest and most
improved style of marine architecture.

I therefore went up to tell Bush that I had made a careful and
critical examination of the vessel below, and that she would
undoubtedly do. I omitted to state the nature of the observations
upon which this conclusion was founded, but he asked no troublesome
questions, and we returned to the office with a favourable report of
the ship's build, capacity, and outfit.

On Saturday, July 1st, the _Olga_ took in the last of her cargo, and
was hauled out into the stream.

Our farewell letters were hastily written home, our final preparations
made, and at nine o'clock on Monday morning we assembled at the Howard
Street wharf, where the steam-tug lay which was to tow us out to sea.

A large party of friends had gathered to bid us good-bye; and the
pier, covered with bright dresses and blue uniforms, presented quite a
holiday appearance in the warm clear sunshine of a California morning.

Our last instructions were delivered to us by Colonel Bulkley, with
many hearty wishes for our health and success; laughing invitations
to "come and see us" were extended to our less fortunate comrades who
were left behind; requests to send back specimens of the North
pole and the aurora borealis were intermingled with directions for
preserving birds and collecting bugs; and amid a general confusion
of congratulations, good wishes, cautions, bantering challenges, and
tearful farewells, the steamer's bell rang. Dall, ever alive to the
interests of his beloved science, grasped me cordially by the hand,
saying, "Good-bye, George. God bless you! Keep your eye out for
land-snails and skulls of the wild animals!"

Miss B---- said pleadingly: "Take care of my dear brother"; and as I
promised to care for him as if he were my own, I thought of another
sister far away, who, could she be present, would echo the request:
"Take care of my dear brother." With waving handkerchiefs and repeated
good-byes, we moved slowly from the wharf, and, steaming round in a
great semicircle to where the _Olga_ was lying, we were transferred to
the little brig, which, for the next two months, was to be our home.

The steamer towed us outside the "heads" of the Golden Gate, and then
cast off; and as she passed us on her way back, our friends gathered
in a little group on the forward deck, with the colonel at their head,
and gave three generous cheers for the "first Siberian exploring
party." We replied with three more,--our last farewell to
civilisation,--and silently watched the lessening figure of the
steamer, until the white handkerchief which Arnold had tied to the
backstays could no longer be seen, and we were rocking alone on the
long swells of the Pacific.

CHAPTER II

CROSSING THE NORTH PACIFIC--SEVEN WEEKS IN A RUSSIAN BRIG

"He took great content and exceeding delight in his voyage, as who doth
not as shall attempt the like."--BURTON.

AT SEA, 700 MILES N.W. OF SAN FRANCISCO.
_Wednesday, July 12, 1865_.

Ten days ago, on the eve of our departure for the Asiatic coast, full
of high hopes and joyful anticipations of pleasure, I wrote in a fair
round hand on this opening page of my journal, the above sentence
from Burton; never once doubting, in my enthusiasm, the complete
realisation of those "future joys," which to "fancy's eye" lay in such
"bright uncertainty," or suspecting that "a life on the ocean wave"
was not a state of the highest felicity attainable on earth. The
quotation seemed to me an extremely happy one, and I mentally blessed
the quaint old Anatomist of Melancholy for providing me with a motto
at once so simple and so appropriate. Of course "he took great content
and exceeding delight in his voyage"; and the wholly unwarranted
assumption that because "he" did, every one else necessarily must, did
not strike me as being in the least absurd.

On the contrary, it carried all the weight of the severest logical
demonstration, and I would have treated with contempt any suggestion
of possible disappointment. My ideas of sea life had been derived
principally from glowing poetical descriptions of marine sunsets, of
"summer isles of Eden, lying in dark purple spheres of sea," and of
those "moonlight nights on lonely waters" with which poets have for
ages beguiled ignorant landsmen into ocean voyages. Fogs, storms,
and seasickness did not enter at all into my conceptions of marine
phenomena; or if I did admit the possibility of a storm, it was only
as a picturesque, highly poetical manifestation of wind and water in
action, without any of the disagreeable features which attend those
elements under more prosaic circumstances. I had, it is true,
experienced a little rough weather on my voyage to California, but my
memory had long since idealised it into something grand and poetical;
and I looked forward even to a storm on the Pacific as an experience
not only pleasant, but highly desirable. The illusion was very
pleasant while it lasted; but--it is over. Ten days of real sea life
have converted the "bright uncertainty of future joys" into a dark
and decided certainty of future misery, and left me to mourn the
incompatibility of poetry and truth. Burton is a humbug, Tennyson a
fraud, I'm a victim, and Byron and Procter are accessories before the
fact. Never again will I pin my faith to poets. They may tell the
truth nearly enough for poetical consistency, but their judgment is
hopelessly perverted, and their imagination is too luxuriantly vivid
for a truthful realistic delineation of sea life. Byron's _London
Packet_ is a brilliant exception, but I remember no other in the whole
range of poetical literature.

Our life since we left port has certainly been anything but poetical.

For nearly a week, we suffered all the indescribable miseries of
seasickness, without any alleviating circumstances whatever. Day after
day we lay in our narrow berths, too sick to read, too unhappy to
talk, watching the cabin lamp as it swung uneasily in its well-oiled
gimbals, and listening to the gurgle and swash of the water around the
after dead-lights, and the regular clank, clank of the blocks of the
try-sail sheet as the rolling of the vessel swung the heavy boom from
side to side.

We all professed to be enthusiastic supporters of the Tapleyan
philosophy--jollity under all circumstances; but we failed most
lamentably in reconciling our practice with our principles. There was
not the faintest suggestion of jollity in the appearance of the four
motionless, prostrate figures against the wall. Seasickness had
triumphed over philosophy! Prospective and retrospective reverie of
a decidedly gloomy character was our only occupation. I remember
speculating curiously upon the probability of Noah's having ever
been seasick; wondering how the sea-going qualities of the Ark would
compare with those of our brig, and whether she had our brig's
uncomfortable way of pitching about in a heavy swell.

If she had--and I almost smiled at the idea--what an unhappy
experience it must have been for the poor animals!

I wondered also if Jason and Ulysses were born with sea-legs, or
whether they had to go through the same unpleasant process that we did
to get them on.

Concluded finally that sea-legs, like some diseases must be a
diabolical invention of modern times, and that the ancients got along
in some way without them. Then, looking intently at the fly-specks
upon the painted boards ten inches from my eyes, I would recall all
the bright anticipations with which I had sailed from San Francisco,
and turn over, with a groan of disgust, to the wall.

I wonder if any one has ever written down on paper his seasick
reveries. There are "Evening Reveries," "Reveries of a Bachelor," and
"Seaside Reveries" in abundance; but no one, so far as I know, has
ever even attempted to do his seasick reveries literary justice. It is
a strange oversight, and I would respectfully suggest to any aspiring
writer who has the reverie faculty, that there is here an unworked
field of boundless extent. One trip across the North Pacific in a
small brig will furnish an inexhaustible supply of material.

Our life thus far has been too monotonous to afford a single
noticeable incident. The weather has been cold, damp, and foggy, with
light head winds and a heavy swell; we have been confined closely to
our seven-by-nine after-cabin; and its close, stifling atmosphere,
redolent of bilge-water, lamp oil, and tobacco smoke, has had a most
depressing influence upon our spirits. I am glad to see, however,
that all our party are up today, and that there is a faint interest
manifested in the prospect of dinner; but even the inspiriting strains
of the Faust march, which the captain is playing upon a wheezy old
accordion, fail to put any expression of animation into the woebegone
faces around the cabin table. Mahood pretends that he is all
right, and plays checkers with the captain with an air of assumed
tranquillity which approaches heroism, but he is observed at irregular
intervals to go suddenly and unexpectedly on deck, and to return every
time with a more ghastly and rueful countenance. When asked the object
of these periodical visits to the quarter-deck, he replies, with a
transparent affectation of cheerfulness, that he only goes up "to look
at the compass and see how she's heading." I am surprised to find that
looking at the compass is attended with such painful and melancholy
emotions as those expressed in Mahood's face when he comes back; but
he performs the self-imposed duty with unshrinking faithfulness, and
relieves us of a great deal of anxiety about the safety of the ship.
The captain seems a little negligent, and sometimes does not observe
the compass once a day; but Mahood watches it with unsleeping
vigilance.

BRIG "OLGA," 800 MILES N.W. OF SAN FRANCISCO.
_Sunday, July 16, 1865_.

The monotony of our lives was relieved night before last, and our
seasickness aggravated, by a severe gale of wind from the north-west,
which compelled us to lie to for twenty hours under one close-reefed
maintopsail. The storm began late in the afternoon, and by nine
o'clock the wind was at its height and the sea rapidly rising.
The waves pounded like Titanic sledgehammers against the vessel's
quivering timbers; the gale roared a deep diapason through the
cordage; and the regular thud, thud, thud of the pumps, and the long
melancholy whistling of the wind through the blocks, filled our minds
with dismal forebodings, and banished all inclination for sleep.

Morning dawned gloomily and reluctantly, and its first grey light,
struggling through the film of water on the small rectangular deck
lights, revealed a comical scene of confusion and disorder. The ship
was rolling and labouring heavily, and Mahood's trunk, having in some
way broken from its moorings, was sliding back and forth across the
cabin floor. Bush's big meerschaum, in company with a corpulent
sponge, had taken up temporary quarters in the crown of my best hat,
and the Major's box of cigars revolved periodically from corner to
corner in the close embrace of a dirty shirt. Sliding and rolling over
the carpet in every direction were books, papers, cigars, brushes,
dirty collars, stockings, empty wine-bottles, slippers, coats, and old
boots; and a large box of telegraph material threatened momentarily to
break from its fastenings and demolish everything. The Major, who was
the first to show any signs of animation, rose on one elbow in bed,
gazed fixedly at the sliding and revolving articles, and shaking
his head reflectively, said: "It is a c-u-r-ious thing! It _is_
a _c-u-r-_ious thing!" as if the migratory boots and cigar-boxes
exhibited some new and perplexing phenomena not to be accounted for by
any of the known laws of physics. A sudden roll in which the vessel
indulged at that particular moment gave additional force to the
sentiment of the soliloquy; and with renewed convictions, I have no
doubt, of the original and innate depravity of matter generally,
and of the Pacific Ocean especially, he laid his head back upon the
pillow.

It required no inconsiderable degree of resolution to "turn out" under
such unpromising circumstances; but Bush, after two or three groans
and a yawn, made the attempt to get up and dress. Climbing hurriedly
down when the ship rolled to windward, he caught his boots in one hand
and trousers in the other, and began hopping about the cabin with
surprising agility, dodging or jumping over the sliding trunk and
rolling bottles, and making frantic efforts, apparently, to put both
legs simultaneously into one boot. Surprised in the midst of this
arduous task by an unexpected lurch, he made an impetuous charge upon
an inoffensive washstand, stepped on an erratic bottle, fell on his
head, and finally brought up a total wreck in the corner of the
room. Convulsed with laughter, the Major could only ejaculate
disconnectedly, "I tell you--it is a--curious thing how she--rolls!"
"Yes," rejoined Bush savagely, as he rubbed one knee, "I should think
it was! Just get up and try it!" But the Major was entirely satisfied
to see Bush try it, and did nothing but laugh at his misfortunes. The
latter finally succeeded in getting dressed, and after some hesitation
I concluded to follow his example. By dint of falling twice over the
trunk, kneeling upon my heels, sitting on my elbows, and executing
several other equally impracticable feats, I got my vest on inside
out, both feet in the wrong boots respectively, and staggered up the
companionway on deck. The wind was still blowing a gale, and we showed
no canvas but one close-reefed maintopsail. Great massive mounds of
blue water piled themselves up in the concealment of the low-hanging
rain-clouds, rushed out upon us with white foaming crests ten feet
above the quarterdeck, and broke into clouds of blinding, strangling
spray over the forecastle and galley, careening the ship until the
bell on the quarter-deck struck and water ran in over the lee gunwale.
It did not exactly correspond with my preconceived ideas of a storm,
but I was obliged to confess that it had many of the characteristic
features of the real phenomenon. The wind had the orthodox howl
through the rigging, the sea was fully up to the prescribed standard,
and the vessel pitched and rolled in a way to satisfy the most
critical taste. The impression of sublimity, however, which I had
anticipated, was almost entirely lost in the sense of personal
discomfort. A man who has just been pitched over a skylight by one of
the ship's eccentric movements, or drenched to the skin by a burst of
spray, is not in a state of mind to contemplate sublimity; and after
going through a varied and exhaustive course of such treatment, any
romantic notions which he may previously have entertained with regard
to the ocean's beauty and sublimity are pretty much knocked and
drowned out of him. Rough weather makes short work of poetry and
sentiment. The "wet sheet" and "flowing sea" of the poet have a
significance quite the reverse of poetical when one discovers the "wet
sheet" in his bed and the "flowing sea" all over the cabin floor,
and our experience illustrates not so much the sublimity as the
unpleasantness and discomfort of a storm at sea.

BRIG "OLGA," AT SEA,
_July 27, 1865_.

I used often to wonder, while living in San Francisco, where the
chilling fogs that toward night used to drift in over Lone Mountain
and through the Golden Gate came from. I have discovered the
laboratory. For the past two weeks we have been sailing continually in
a dense, wet, grey cloud of mist, so thick at times as almost to hide
the topgallant yards, and so penetrating as to find its way even into
our little after-cabin, and condense in minute drops upon our clothes.
It rises, I presume, from the warm water of the great Pacific Gulf
Stream across which we are passing, and whose vapour is condensed
into fog by the cold north-west winds from Siberia. It is the most
disagreeable feature of our voyage.

Our life has finally settled down into a quiet monotonous routine of
eating, smoking, watching the barometer, and sleeping twelve hours a
day. The gale with which we were favoured two weeks ago afforded
a pleasant thrill of temporary excitement and a valuable topic of
conversation; but we have all come to coincide in the opinion of the
Major, that it was a "curious thing," and are anxiously awaiting the
turning up of something else. One cold, rainy, foggy day succeeds
another, with only an occasional variation in the way of a head wind
or a flurry of snow. Time, of course, hangs heavily on our hands. We
are waked about half-past seven in the morning by the second mate, a
funny, phlegmatic Dutchman, who is always shouting to us to "turn out"
and see an imaginary whale, which he conjures up regularly before
breakfast, and which invariably disappears before we can get on deck,
as mysteriously as "Moby Dick." The whale, however, fails to draw
after a time, and he resorts to an equally mysterious and eccentric
sea-serpent, whose wonderful appearance he describes in comical broken
English with the vain hope that we will crawl out into the raw foggy
atmosphere to look at it. We never do. Bush opens his eyes, yawns, and
keeps a sleepy watch of the breakfast table, which is situated in the
captain's cabin forward. I cannot see it from my berth, so I watch
Bush. Presently we hear the humpbacked steward's footsteps on the deck
above our heads, and, with a quick succession of little bumps, half a
dozen boiled potatoes come rolling down the stairs of the companionway
into the cabin. They are the forerunners of breakfast. Bush watches
the table, and I watch Bush more and more intently as the steward
brings in the eatables; and by the expression of Bush's face, I judge
whether it be worth while to get up or not. If he groans and turns
over to the wall, I know that it is only hash, and I echo his groan
and follow his example; but if he smiles, and gets up, I do likewise,
with the full assurance of fresh mutton-chops or rice curry and
chicken. After breakfast the Major smokes a cigarette and looks
meditatively at the barometer, the captain gets his old accordion and
squeezes out the Russian National Hymn, while Bush and I go on deck
to inhale a few breaths of pure fresh fog, and chaff the second mate
about his sea-serpent. In reading, playing checkers, fencing, and
climbing about the rigging when the weather permits, we pass away the
day, as we have already passed away twenty and must pass twenty more
before we can hope to see land.

AT SEA, NEAR THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS.
_August 6, 1865_.

"Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren
ground, ling, heath, broom, furze, anything," except this wearisome
monotonous waste of water! Let Kamchatka be what it will, we shall
welcome it with as much joy as that with which Columbus first saw the
flowery coast of San Salvador. I am prepared to look with complacency
upon a sandbar and two spears of grass, and would not even insist upon
the grass if I could only be sure of the sand-bar. We have now been
thirty-four days at sea without once meeting a sail or getting a
glimpse of land.

Our chief amusement lately has been the discussion of controverted
points of history and science, and wonderful is the forensic and
argumentative ability which these debates have developed. They are
getting to be positively interesting. The only drawback to them is,
that in the absence of any decisive authority they never come to any
satisfactory conclusion. We have now been discussing for sixteen days
the uses of a whale's blow-holes; and I firmly believe that if our
voyage were prolonged, like the Flying Dutchman's, to all eternity, we
should never reach any solution of the problem that would satisfy all
the disputants. The captain has an old Dutch _History of the World_,
in twenty-six folio volumes, to which he appeals as final authority in
all questions under the heavens, whether pertaining to love, science,
war, art, politics, or religion; and no sooner does he get cornered in
a discussion than he entrenches himself behind these ponderous folios,
and keeps up a hot fire of terrific Dutch polysyllables until we are
ready to make an unconditional surrender. If we venture to suggest
a doubt as to the intimacy of the connection between a whale's
blow-holes and the _History of the World_, he comes down upon us with
the most withering denunciations as wrongheaded sceptics who won't
even believe what is _printed_--and in a Dutch history too! As the
captain dispenses the pie, however, at dinner, I have found it
advisable to smother my convictions as to the veracity of his Teutonic
historian, and join him in denouncing that pernicious heretic Bush,
who is wise beyond what is written. Result--Bush gets only one small
piece of pie, and I get two, which of course is highly gratifying
to my feelings, as well as advantageous to the dispersion of sound
historical learning!

I begin to observe at dinner an increasing reverence on Bush's part
for Dutch histories.

[Illustration: Snow Scrapers]

CHAPTER III

THE PICTURESQUE COAST OP KAMCHATKA--ARRIVAL IN PETROPAVLOVSK

BRIG "OLGA," AT SEA, 200 MILES FROM KAMCHATKA.
_August 17, 1865._

Our voyage is at last drawing to a close, and after seven long weeks
of cold, rainy, rough weather our eyes are soon to be gladdened again
by the sight of land, and never was it more welcome to weary mariner
than it will be to us. Even as I write, the sound of scraping and
scrubbing is heard on deck, and proclaims our nearness to land. They
are dressing the vessel to go once more into society. We were only 255
miles from the Kamchatkan seaport of Petropavlovsk (pet-ro-pav'-lovsk)
last night, and if this favourable breeze holds we expect to reach
there to-morrow noon. It has fallen almost to a dead calm, however,
this morning, so that we may be delayed until Saturday.

AT SEA, OFF THE COAST OF KAMCHATKA.
_Friday, August 18, 1865._

We have a fine breeze this morning; and the brig, under every stitch
of canvas that will draw, is staggering through the seas enveloped in
a dense fog, through which even her topgallant sails show mistily.
Should the wind continue and the fog be dissipated we may hope to see
land tonight.

11 A.M.

I have just come down from the topgallant yard, where for the last
three hours I have been clinging uncomfortably to the backstays,
watching for land, and swinging back and forth through the fog in the
arc of a great circle as the vessel rolled lazily to the seas. We
cannot discern any object at a distance of three ships' lengths,
although the sky is evidently cloudless. Great numbers of gulls,
boobies, puffin, fish-hawks, and solan-geese surround the ship, and
the water is full of drifting medusae.

NOON.

Half an hour ago the fog began to lift, and at 11.40 the captain, who
had been sweeping the horizon with a glass, shouted cheerily, "Land
ho! Land ho! Hurrah!" and the cry was echoed simultaneously from stem
to stern, and from the galley to the topgallant yard. Bush, Mahood,
and the Major started at a run for the forecastle; the little
humpbacked steward rushed frantically out of the galley with his hands
all dough, and climbed up on the bulwarks; the sailors ran into the
rigging, and only the man at the wheel retained his self-possession.
Away ahead, drawn in faint luminous outlines above the horizon,
appeared two high conical peaks, so distant that nothing but the white
snow in their deep ravines could be seen, and so faint that they
could hardly be distinguished from the blue sky beyond. They were
the mountains of Villuchinski (vil-loo'-chin-ski) and Avacha
(ah-vah'-chah), on the Kamchatkan coast, fully a hundred miles away.
The Major looked at them through a glass long and eagerly, and then
waving his hand proudly toward them, turned to us, and said with a
burst of patriotic enthusiasm, "You see before you my country--the
great Russian Empire!" and then as the fog drifted down again upon the
ship, he dropped suddenly from his declamatory style, and with a look
of disgust exclaimed, "Chort znaiet shto etta takoi [the Devil only
knows what it means]--it _is_ a curious thing! fog, fog, nothing but
fog!"

In five minutes the last vestige of "the great Russian Empire"
had disappeared, and we went below to dinner in a state of joyful
excitement, which can never be imagined by one who has not been
forty-six days at sea in the North Pacific.

4 P.M.

We have just been favoured with another view of the land. Half an hour
ago I could see from the topgallant yard, where I was posted, that the
fog was beginning to break away, and in a moment it rose slowly like a
huge grey curtain, unveiling the sea and the deep-blue sky, letting in
a flood of rosy light from the sinking sun, and revealing a picture of
wonderful beauty. Before us, stretching for a hundred and fifty miles
to the north and south, lay the grand coast-line of Kamchatka, rising
abruptly in great purple promontories out of the blue sparkling sea,
flecked here with white clouds and shreds of fleecy mist, deepening in
places into a soft quivering blue, and sweeping backward and upward
into the pure white snow of the higher peaks. Two active volcanoes,
10,000 and 16,000 feet in height, rose above the confused jagged
ranges of the lower mountains, piercing the blue sky with sharp white
triangles of eternal snow, and drawing the purple shadows of evening
around their feet. The high bold coast did not appear, in that clear
atmosphere, to be fifteen miles away, and it seemed to have risen
suddenly like a beautiful mirage out of the sea. In less than five
minutes the grey curtain of mist dropped slowly down again over the
magnificent picture, and it faded gradually from sight, leaving us
almost in doubt whether it had been a reality, or only a bright
deceptive vision. We are enveloped now, as we have been nearly all
day, in a thick clammy fog.

HARBOUR OP PETROPAVLOVSK, KAMCHATKA.
_August 19, 1865._

At dark last night we were distant, as we supposed, about fifteen
miles from Cape Povorotnoi (po-vo-rote'-noi) and as the fog had closed
in again denser than ever, the captain dared not venture any nearer.
The ship was accordingly put about, and we stood off and on all night,
waiting for sunrise and a clear atmosphere, to enable us to approach
the coast in safety. At five o'clock I was on deck. The fog was colder
and denser than ever, and out of it rolled the white-capped waves
raised by a fresh south-easterly breeze. Shortly before six o'clock
it began to grow light, the brig was headed for the land, and under
foresail, jib, and topsails, began to forge steadily through the
water. The captain, glass in hand, anxiously paced the quarterdeck,
ever and anon reconnoitring the horizon, and casting a glance up to
windward to see if there were any prospect of better weather. Several
times he was upon the point of putting the ship about, fearing to run
on a lee shore in that impenetrable mist; but it finally lightened up,
the fog disappeared, and the horizon line came out clear and distinct.
To our utter astonishment, not a foot of land could be seen in any
direction! The long range of blue mountains which had seemed the
previous night to be within an hour's sail--the lofty snowy peaks--the
deep gorges and the bold headlands, had all

"--melted into thin air,
Leaving not a rack behind."

There was nothing to indicate the existence of land within a thousand
miles, save the number and variety of the birds that wheeled curiously
around our wake, or flew away with a spattering noise from under our
bows. Many were the theories which were suggested to account for the
sudden disappearance of the high bold land. The captain attempted to
explain it by the supposition that a strong current, sweeping off
shore, had during the night carried us away to the south-east. Bush
accused the mate of being asleep on his watch, and letting the ship
run over the land, while the mate declared solemnly that he did not
believe that there had been any land there at all; that it was only a
mirage. The Major said it was "paganni" (abominable) and "a curious
thing," but did not volunteer any solution of the problem. So there we
were.

We had a fine leading wind from the south-east, and were now going
through the water at the rate of seven knots. Eight o'clock, nine
o'clock, ten o'clock, and still no appearance of land, although we
had made since daylight more than thirty miles. At eleven o'clock,
however, the horizon gradually darkened, and all at once a bold
headland, terminating in a precipitous cliff, loomed up out of a thin
mist at a distance of only four miles. All was at once excitement. The
topgallant sails were clewed up to reduce the vessel's speed, and her
course was changed so that we swept round in a curve broadside to the
coast, about three miles distant. The mountain peaks, by which we
might have ascertained our position, were hidden by the clouds and
fog, and it was no easy matter to ascertain exactly where we were.

Away to the left, dimly defined in the mist, were two or three more
high blue headlands, but what they were, and where the harbour of
Petropavlovsk might be, were questions that no one could answer. The
captain brought his charts, compass, and drawing instruments on deck,
laid them on the cabin skylight, and began taking the bearings of the
different headlands, while we eagerly scanned the shore with glasses,
and gave free expressions to our several opinions as to our situation.
The Russian chart which the captain had of the coast was fortunately
a good one, and he soon determined our position, and the names of the
headlands first seen. We were just north of Cape Povorotnoi, about
nine miles south of the entrance of Avacha Bay. The yards were now
squared, and we went off on the new tack before a steady breeze from
the south-east. In less than an hour we sighted the high isolated
rocks known as the "Three Brothers," passed a rocky precipitous
island, surrounded by clouds of shrieking gulls and parrot-billed
ducks, and by two o'clock were off "the heads" of Avacha Bay, on which
is situated the village of Petropavlovsk. The scenery at the entrance
more than equalled our highest anticipations. Green grassy valleys
stretched away from openings in the rocky coast until they were lost
in the distant mountains; the rounded bluffs were covered with clumps
of yellow birch and thickets of dark-green chaparral; patches of
flowers could be seen on the warm sheltered slopes of the hills; and
as we passed close under the lighthouse bluff, Bush shouted
joyously, "Hurrah, there's clover!" "Clover!" exclaimed the captain
contemptuously, "there ain't any clover in the Ar'tic Regions!" "How
do you know, you've never been there," retorted Bush caustically; "it
_looks_ like clover, and"--looking through a glass--"it _is_ clover";
and his face lighted up as if the discovery of clover had relieved his
mind of a great deal of anxiety as to the severity of the Kamchatkan
climate. It was a sort of vegetable exponent of temperature, and out
of a little patch of clover, Bush's imagination developed, in a style
undreamt of by Darwin, the whole luxuriant flora of the temperate
zone.

The very name of Kamchatka had always been associated in our minds
with everything barren and inhospitable, and we did not entertain
for a moment the thought that such a country could afford beautiful
scenery and luxuriant vegetation. In fact, with us all it was a mooted
question whether anything more than mosses, lichens, and perhaps a
little grass maintained the unequal struggle for existence in that
frozen clime. It may be imagined with what delight and surprise we
looked upon green hills covered with trees and verdant thickets;
upon valleys white with clover and diversified with little groves of
silver-barked birch, and even the rocks nodding with wild roses and
columbine, which had taken root in their clefts as if nature strove to
hide with a garment of flowers the evidences of past convulsions.

Just before three o'clock we came in sight of the village of
Petropavlovsk--a little cluster of red-roofed and bark-thatched log
houses; a Greek church of curious architecture, with a green dome;
a strip of beach, a half-ruined wharf, two whale-boats, and the
dismantled wreck of a half-sunken vessel. High green hills swept in a
great semicircle of foliage around the little village, and almost shut
in the quiet pond-like harbour--an inlet of Avacha Bay--on which it
was situated. Under foresail and maintopsail we glided silently under
the shadow of the encircling hills into this landlocked mill-pond, and
within a stone's throw of the nearest house the sails were suddenly
clewed up, and with a quivering of the ship and a rattle of chain
cable our anchor dropped into the soil of Asia.

[Illustration: Boy's Boots of Sealskin]

CHAPTER IV

THINGS RUSSIAN IN KAMCHATKA--A VERDANT AND FLOWERY LAND--THE VILLAGE OF
TWO SAINTS.

It has been well observed by Irving, that to one about to visit
foreign countries a long sea voyage is an excellent preparative.
To quote his words, "The temporary absence of worldly scenes and
employments produces a state of mind peculiarly fitted to receive
new and vivid impressions." And he might have added with equal
truth--favourable impressions. The tiresome monotony of sea life
predisposes the traveller to regard favourably anything that will
quicken his stagnating faculties and perceptions and furnish new
matter for thought; and the most commonplace scenery and circumstances
afford him gratification and delight. For this reason one is apt, upon
arriving after a long voyage in a strange country, to form a more
favourable opinion of its people and scenery than his subsequent
experience will sustain. But it seems to me particularly fortunate
that our first impressions of a new country, which are most clear and
vivid and therefore most lasting, are also most pleasant, so that in
future years a retrospective glance over our past wanderings will show
the most cheerful pictures drawn in the brightest and most enduring
colours. I am sure that the recollection of my first view of the
mountains of Kamchatka, the delight with which my eye drank in their
bright aerial tints, and the romance with which my ardent fancy
invested them, will long outlive the memory of the hardships I have
endured among them, the snow-storms that have pelted me on their
summits, and the rains that have drenched me in their valleys.
Fanciful perhaps, but I believe true.

The longing for land which one feels after having been five or six
weeks at sea is sometimes so strong as to be almost a passion. I
verily believe that if the first land we saw had been one of those
immense barren moss steppes which I afterward came to hold in such
detestation, I should have regarded it as nothing less than the
original site of the Garden of Eden. Not all the charms which nature
has lavished upon the Vale of Tempe could have given me more pleasure
than did the little green valley in which nestled the red-roofed and
bark-covered log houses of Petropavlovsk.

The arrival of a ship in that remote and unfrequented part of the
world is an event of no little importance; and the rattling of our
chain cable through the hawse-holes created a very perceptible
sensation in the quiet village. Little children ran bareheaded out of
doors, looked at us for a moment, and then ran hastily back to call
the rest of the household; dark-haired natives and Russian peasants,
in blue shirts and leather trousers, gathered in a group at the
landing; and seventy-five or a hundred half-wild dogs broke out
suddenly into a terrific chorus of howls in honour of our arrival.

It was already late in the afternoon, but we could not restrain
our impatience to step once more upon dry land; and as soon as the
captain's boat could be lowered, Bush, Mahood, and I went ashore to
look at the town.

[Illustration]

Petropavlovsk is laid out in a style that is very irregular, without
being at all picturesque. The idea of a street never seems to
have suggested itself either to the original settlers or to their
descendants; and the paths, such as they are, wander around aimlessly
among the scattered houses, like erratic sheepwalks. It is impossible
to go for a hundred yards in a straight line, in any direction,
without either bringing up against the side of a house or trespassing
upon somebody's backyard; and in the night one falls over a slumbering
cow, upon a fair average, once every fifty feet. In other respects it
is rather a pretty village, surrounded as it is by high green hills,
and affording a fine view of the beautiful snowy peak of Avacha, which
rises to a height of 11,000 feet directly behind the town.

Mr. Fluger, a German merchant of Petropavlovsk who had boarded us in a
small boat outside the harbour, now constituted himself our guide; and
after a short walk around the village, invited us to his house, where
we sat in a cloud of fragrant cigar-smoke, talking over American war
news, and the latest _on dit_ of Kamchatkan society, until it finally
began to grow dark. I noticed, among other books lying upon Mr.
Fluger's table, _Life Thoughts_, by Beecher, and _The Schoenberg-Cotta
Family,_ and wondered that the latter had already found its way to the
distant shores of Kamchatka.

As new-comers, it was our first duty to pay our respects to the
Russian authorities; and, accompanied by Mr. Fluger and Mr. Bollman,
we called upon Captain Sutkovoi (soot-ko-voi'), the resident "Captain
of the port." His house, with its bright-red tin roof, was almost
hidden by a large grove of thrifty oaks, through which tumbled, in
a succession of little cascades, a clear, cold mountain stream. We
entered the gate, walked up a broad travelled path under the shade of
the interlocking branches, and, without knocking, entered the house.
Captain Sutkovoi welcomed us cordially, and notwithstanding our
inability to speak any language but our own, soon made us feel quite
at home. Conversation however languished, as every remark had to be
translated through two languages before it could be understood by the
person to whom it was addressed; and brilliant as it might have been
in the first place, it lost its freshness in being passed around
through Russian, German, and English to us.

I was surprised to see so many evidences of cultivated and refined
taste in this remote corner of the world, where I had expected barely
the absolute necessaries of life, or at best a few of the most common
comforts. A large piano of Russian manufacture occupied one corner of
the room, and a choice assortment of Russian, German, and American
music testified to the musical taste of its owner. A few choice
paintings and lithographs adorned the walls, and on the centre-table
rested a stereoscope with a large collection of photographic views,
and an unfinished game of chess, from which Captain and Madame
Sutkovoi had risen at our entrance.

After a pleasant visit of an hour we took our leave, receiving an
invitation to dinner on the following day.

It was not yet decided whether we should continue our voyage to the
Amur River, or remain in Petropavlovsk and begin our northern journey
from there, so we still regarded the brig as our home and returned,
every night to our little cabin. The first night in port was strangely
calm, peaceful, and quiet, accustomed as we had become to the rolling,
pitching, and creaking of the vessel, the swash of water, and the
whistling of the wind. There was not a zephyr abroad, and the surface
of the miniature bay lay like a dark mirror, in which were obscurely
reflected the high hills which formed its setting. A few scattered
lights from the village threw long streams of radiance across the dark
water, and from the black hillside on our right was heard at intervals
the faint lonely tinkle of a cow-bell or the long melancholy howl of
a wolf-like dog. I tried hard to sleep; but the novelty of our
surroundings, the thought that we were now in Asia, and hundreds
of conjectures and forecastings as to our future prospects and
adventures, put sleep for a long time at defiance.

The hamlet of Petropavlovsk, which, although not the largest, is one
of the most important settlements in the Kamchatkan peninsula, has
a population of perhaps two or three hundred natives and Russian
peasants, together with a few German and American merchants, drawn
thither by the trade in sables. It is not fairly a representative
Kamchatkan village, for it has felt in no inconsiderable degree the
civilising influences of foreign intercourse, and shows in its manners
and modes of life and thought some evidences of modern enterprise and
enlightenment. It has existed since the early part of the eighteenth
century, and is old enough to have acquired some civilisation of its
own; but age in a Siberian settlement is no criterion of development,
and Petropavlovsk either has not attained the enlightenment of
maturity, or has passed into its second childhood, for it is still in
a benighted condition. Why it was and is called Petropavlovsk--the
village of St. Peter and St. Paul--I failed, after diligent inquiry,
to learn. The sacred canon does not contain any epistle to the
Kamchatkans, much as they need it, nor is there any other evidence to
show that the ground on which the village stands was ever visited by
either of the eminent saints whose names it bears. The conclusion to
which we are driven therefore is, that its inhabitants, not being
distinguished for apostolic virtues, and feeling their need of saintly
intercession, called the settlement after St. Peter and St. Paul, with
the hope that those Apostles would feel a sort of proprietary interest
in the place, and secure its final salvation without any unnecessary
inquiries into its merits. Whether that was the idea of its original
founders or not I cannot say; but such a plan would be eminently
adapted to the state of society, in most of the Siberian settlements,
where faith is strong, but where works are few in number and
questionable in tendency.

The sights of Petropavlovsk, speaking after the manner of tourists,
are few and uninteresting. It has two monuments erected to the memory
of the distinguished navigators Bering and La Perouse, and there are
traces on its hills of the fortifications built during the Crimean War
to repel the attack of the allied French and English squadrons; but
aside from these, the town can boast of no objects or places of
historical interest. To us, however, who had been shut up nearly two
months in a close dark cabin, the village was attractive enough of
itself, and early on the following morning we went ashore for a ramble
on the wooded peninsula which separates the small harbour from Avacha
Bay. The sky was cloudless, but a dense fog drifted low over the
hilltops and veiled the surrounding mountains from sight. The whole
landscape was green as emerald and dripping with moisture, but the
sunshine struggled occasionally through the grey cloud of vapour, and
patches of light swept swiftly across the wet hillsides, like sunny
smiles upon a tearful face. The ground everywhere was covered with
flowers. Marsh violets, dotted the grass here and there with blue;
columbine swung its purple spurred corollas over the grey mossy rocks;
and wild roses appeared everywhere in dense thickets, with their
delicate pink petals strewn over the ground beneath them like a
coloured shadow.

Climbing up the slope of the steep hill between the harbour and the
bay, shaking down little showers of water from every bush, we touched,
and treading under foot hundreds of dewy flowers, we came suddenly
upon the monument of La Perouse. I hope his countrymen, the French,
have erected to his memory some more tasteful and enduring token of
their esteem than this. It is simply a wooden frame, covered with
sheet iron, and painted black. It bears no date or inscription
whatever, and looks more like the tombstone over the grave of a
criminal, than a monument to keep fresh the memory of a distinguished
navigator.

Bush sat down on a little grassy knoll to make a sketch of the scene,
while Mahood and I wandered on up the hill toward the old Russian
batteries. They are several in number, situated along the crest of
the ridge which divides the inner from the outer bay, and command the
approaches to the town from the west. They are now almost overgrown
with grass and flowers, and only the form of the embrasures
distinguishes them from shapeless mounds of earth. It would be thought
that the remote situation and inhospitable climate of Kamchatka would
have secured to its inhabitants an immunity from the desolating
ravages of war. But even this country has its ruined forts and
grass-grown battle-fields; and its now silent hills echoed not long
ago to the thunder of opposing cannon. Leaving Mahood to make a
critical survey of the entrenchments--an occupation which his tastes
and pursuits rendered more interesting to him than to me--I strolled
on up the hill to the edge of the cliff from which the storming party
of the Allies was thrown by the Russian gunners. No traces now remain
of the bloody struggle which took place upon the brink of this
precipice. Moss covers with its green carpet the ground which was torn
up in the death grapple; and the nodding bluebell, as it bends to the
fresh sea-breeze, tells no story of the last desperate rally, the hand
to hand conflict, and the shrieks of the overpowered as they were
thrown from the Russian bayonets upon the rocky beach a hundred feet
below.

It seems to me that it was little better than wanton cruelty in the
Allies to attack this unimportant and isolated post, so far from the
real centre of conflict. Could its capture have lessened in any way
the power or resources of the Russian Government, or, by creating a
diversion, have attracted attention from the decisive struggle in
the Crimea, it would perhaps have been justifiable; but it could not
possibly have any direct or indirect influence upon the ultimate
result, and only brought misery upon a few inoffensive Kamchadals who
had never heard of Turkey or the Eastern Question and whose first
intimation of a war probably was the thunder of the enemy's cannon and
the bursting of shells at their very doors. The attack of the Allied
fleet, however, was signally repulsed, and its admiral, stung with
mortification at being foiled by a mere handful of Cossacks and
peasants, committed suicide. On the anniversary of the battle it is
still customary for all the inhabitants, headed by the priests, to
march in solemn procession round the village and over the hill from
which the storming party was thrown, chanting hymns of joy and praise
for the victory.

After botanising a while upon the battle-field, I was joined by Bush,
who had completed his sketch, and we all returned, tired and wet,
to the village. Our appearance anywhere on shore always created a
sensation among the inhabitants. The Russian and native peasants whom
we met removed their caps, and held them respectfully in their hands
while we passed; the windows of the houses were crowded with heads
intent upon getting a sight of the "Amerikanski chinovniki" (American
officers); and even the dogs broke into furious barks and howls at
our approach. Bush declared that he could not remember a time in his
history when he had been of so much consequence and attracted
such general attention as now; and he attributed it all to the
discrimination and intelligence of Kamchatkan society. Prompt and
instinctive recognition of superior genius he affirmed to be a
characteristic of that people, and he expressed deep regret that it
was not equally so of some other people whom he could mention. "No
reference to an allusion intended!"

CHAPTER V

FIRST ATTEMPT TO LEARN RUSSIAN--PLAN OF EXPLORATION--DIVISION OP PARTY

One of the first things which the traveller notices in any foreign
country is the language, and it is especially noticeable in Kamchatka,
Siberia, or any part of the great Russian Empire. What the ancestors
of the Russians did at the Tower of Babel to have been afflicted with
such a complicated, contorted, mixed up, utterly incomprehensible
language, I can hardly conjecture. I have thought sometimes that they
must have built their side of the Tower higher than any of the other
tribes, and have been punished for their sinful industry with this
jargon of unintelligible sounds, which no man could possibly hope to
understand before he became so old and infirm that he could never work
on another tower. However they came by it, it is certainly a thorn in
the flesh to all travellers in the Russian Empire. Some weeks before
we reached Kamchatka I determined to learn, if possible, a few common
expressions, which would be most useful in our first intercourse with
the natives, and among them the simple declarative sentence, "I want
something to eat." I thought that this would probably be the first
remark that I should have to make to any of the inhabitants, and I
determined to learn it so thoroughly that I should never be in danger
of starvation from ignorance. I accordingly asked the Major one day
what the equivalent expression was in Russian. He coolly replied that
whenever I wanted anything to eat, all that I had to do was to say,
"Vashavwesokeeblagarodiaeeveeleekeeprevoskhodeetelstvoeetakdalshai."
I believe I never felt such a sentiment of reverential admiration for
the acquired talents of any man as I did for those of the Major when
I heard him pronounce, fluently and gracefully, this extraordinary
sentence. My mind was hopelessly lost in attempting to imagine the
number of years of patient toil which must have preceded his
first request for food, and I contemplated with astonishment the
indefatigable perseverance which has borne him triumphant through the
acquirement of such a language. If the simple request for something
to eat presented such apparently insurmountable obstacles to
pronunciation, what must the language be in its dealings with the
more abstruse questions of theological and metaphysical science?
Imagination stood aghast at the thought.

I frankly told the Major that he might print out this terrible
sentence on a big placard and hang it around my neck; but as for
learning to pronounce it, I could not, and did not propose to try. I
found out afterwards that he had taken advantage of my inexperience
and confiding disposition by giving me some of the longest and worst
words in his barbarous language, and pretending that they meant
something to eat. The real translation in Russian would have been bad
enough, and it was wholly unnecessary to select peculiarly hard words.

The Russian language is, I believe, without exception, the most
difficult of all modern languages to learn. Its difficulty does not
lie, as might be supposed, in pronunciation. Its words are all spelled
phonetically, and have only a few sounds which are foreign to English;
but its grammar is exceptionally involved and intricate. It has seven
cases and three genders; and as the latter are dependent upon no
definite principle whatever, but are purely arbitrary, it is almost
impossible for a foreigner to learn them so as to give nouns and
adjectives their proper terminations. Its vocabulary is very copious;
and its idioms have a peculiarly racy individuality which can hardly
be appreciated without a thorough acquaintance with the colloquial
talk of the Russian peasants.

The Russian, like all the Indo-European languages, is closely related
to the ancient Sanscrit, and seems to have preserved unchanged, in a
greater degree than any of the others, the old Vedic words. The first
ten numerals, as spoken by a Hindoo a thousand years before the
Christian era, would, with one or two exceptions, be understood by a
modern Russian peasant.

During our stay in Petropavlovsk we succeeded in learning the Russian
for "Yes," "No," and "How do you do?" and we congratulated ourselves
not a little upon even this slight progress in a language of such
peculiar difficulty.

Our reception at Petropavlovsk by both Russians and Americans was most
cordial and enthusiastic, and the first three or four days after our
arrival were spent in one continuous round of visits and dinners. On
Thursday we made an excursion on horseback to a little village called
Avacha, ten or fifteen versts distant across the bay, and came back
charmed with the scenery, climate, and vegetation of this beautiful
peninsula. The road wound around the slopes of grassy, wooded hills,
above the clear blue water of the bay, commanding a view of the bold
purple promontories which formed the gateway to the sea, and revealing
now and then, between the clumps of silver birch, glimpses of long
ranges of picturesque snow-covered mountains, stretching away along
the western coast to the white solitary peak of Villuchinski, thirty
or forty miles distant. The vegetation everywhere was almost tropical
in its rank luxuriance. We could pick handfuls of flowers almost
without bending from our saddles, and the long wild grass through
which we rode would in many places sweep our waists. Delighted to
find the climate of Italy where we had anticipated the biting air of
Labrador, and inspirited by the beautiful scenery, we woke the echoes
of the hills with American songs, shouted, halloed, and ran races on
our little Cossack ponies until the setting sun warned us that it was
time to return.

Upon the information which he obtained in Petropavlovsk, Major Abaza
formed a plan of operations for the ensuing winter, which was briefly
as follows: Mahood and Bush were to go on in the _Olga_ to Nikolaievsk
at the mouth of the Amur River, on the Chinese frontier, and, making
that settlement their base of supplies, were to explore the rough
mountainous region lying west of the Okhotsk Sea and south of the
Russian seaport of Okhotsk. The Major and I, in the meantime, were
to travel northward with a party of natives through the peninsula of
Kamchatka, and strike the proposed route of the line about midway
between Okhotsk and Bering Strait. Dividing again here, one of
us would go westward to meet Mahood and Bush at Okhotsk, and
one northward to a Russian trading station called Anadyrsk
(ah-nah'-dyrsk), about four hundred miles west of the Strait. In this
way we should cover the whole ground to be traversed by our line,
with the exception of the barren desolate region between Anadyrsk
and Bering Strait, which our chief proposed to leave for the present
unexplored. Taking into consideration our circumstances and the
smallness of our force, this plan was probably the best which could
be devised, but it made it necessary for the Major and me to travel
throughout the whole winter without a single companion except our
native teamsters. As I did not speak Russian, it would be next to
impossible for me to do this without an interpreter, and the Major
engaged in that capacity a young American fur-trader, named Dodd, who
had been living seven years in Petropavlovsk, and who was familiar
with the Russian language and the habits and customs of the natives.
With this addition our whole force numbered five men, and was to be
divided into three parties; one for the western coast of the Okhotsk
Sea, one for the northern coast, and one for the country between
the Sea and the Arctic Circle. All minor details, such as means of
transportation and subsistence, were left to the discretion of the
several parties. We were to live on the country, travel with the
natives, and avail ourselves of any and every means of transportation
and subsistence which the country afforded. It was no pleasure
excursion upon which we were about to enter. The Russian authorities
at Petropavlovsk gave us all the information and assistance in their
power, but did not hesitate to express the opinion that five men would
never succeed in exploring the eighteen hundred miles of barren,
almost uninhabited country between the Amur River and Bering Strait.
It was not probable, they said, that the Major could get through the
peninsula of Kamchatka at all that fall as he anticipated, but that if
he did, he certainly could not penetrate the great desolate steppes
to the northward, which were inhabited only by wandering tribes of
Chukchis (chook'-chees) and Koraks. The Major replied simply that he
would show them what we could do, and went on with his preparations.

On Saturday morning, August 26th, the _Olga_ sailed with Mahood
and Bush for the Amur River, leaving the Major, Dodd, and me at
Petropavlovsk, to make our way northward through Kamchatka.

As the morning was clear and sunny, I engaged a boat and a native
crew, and accompanied Bush and Mahood out to sea.

As we began to feel the fresh morning land-breeze, and to draw out
slowly from under the cliffs of the western coast, I drank a farewell
glass of wine to the success of the "Amur River Exploring Party,"
shook hands with the captain and complimented his Dutch _History_,
and bade good-bye to the mates and men. As I went over the side, the
second mate seemed overcome with emotion at the thought of the perils
which I was about to encounter in that heathen country, and cried out
in funny, broken English, "Oh, Mr. Kinney! [he could not say Kennan]
who's a g'un to cook for ye, and ye can't get no potatusses?" as if
the absence of a cook and the lack of potatoes were the summing up of
all earthly privations. I assured him cheerfully that we could cook
for ourselves and eat roots; but he shook his head, mournfully, as if
he saw in prophetic vision the state of misery to which Siberian roots
and our own cooking must inevitably reduce us. Bush told me afterward
that on the voyage to the Amur he frequently observed the second mate
in deep and melancholy reverie, and upon approaching him and asking
him what he was thinking about, he answered, with a mournful shake of
the head and an indescribable emphasis: "Poor Mr. Kinney! _Poor_ Mr.
Kinney!" Notwithstanding the scepticism with which I treated his
sea-serpent, he gave me a place in his rough affections, second only
to "Tommy," his favourite cat, and the pigs.

As the _Olga_ sheeted home her topgallant sails, changed her course
more to the eastward, and swept slowly out between the heads, I caught
a last glimpse of Bush, standing on the quarter-deck by the wheel, and
telegraphing some unintelligible words in the Morse alphabet with his
arm. I waved my hat in response, and turning shoreward, with a lump in
my throat, ordered the men to give way. The _Olga_ was gone, and the
last tie which connected us with the civilised world seemed severed.

[Illustration: Bone Knife or Scraper]

CHAPTER VI

A COSSACK WEDDING--THE PENINSULA OP KAMCHATKA

Our time in Petropavlovsk, after the departure of the _Olga_, was
almost wholly occupied in making preparations for our northern journey
through the Kamchatkan peninsula. On Tuesday, however, Dodd told me
that there was to be a wedding at the church, and invited me to go
over and witness the ceremony. It took place in the body of the
church, immediately after some sort of morning service, which had
nearly closed when we entered. I had no difficulty in singling out the
happy individuals whose fortunes were to be united in the holy
bonds of matrimony. They betrayed their own secret by their assumed
indifference and unconsciousness.

The unlucky (lucky?) man was a young, round-headed Cossack about
twenty years of age, dressed in a dark frock-coat trimmed with scarlet
and gathered like a lady's dress above the waist, which, with a
reckless disregard for his anatomy, was assumed to be six inches below
his armpits. In honour of the extraordinary occasion he had donned a
great white standing collar which projected above his ears, as the
mate of the _Olga_ would say, "like fore to'gallant studd'n' s'ls."
Owing to a deplorable lack of understanding between his cotton
trousers and his shoes they failed to meet by about six inches, and
no provision had been made for the deficiency. The bride was
comparatively an old woman--at least twenty years the young man's
senior, and a _widow_. I thought with a sigh of the elder Mr. Weller's
parting injunction to his son, "Bevare o' the vidders," and wondered
what the old gentleman would say could he see this unconscious
"wictim" walking up to the altar "and thinkin' in his 'art that it was
all wery capital." The bride wore a dress of that peculiar sort of
calico known as "furniture prints," without trimming or ornaments of
any kind. Whether it was cut "bias" or with "gores," I'm sorry to say
I do not know, dress-making being as much of an occult science to
me as divination. Her hair was tightly bound up in a scarlet silk
handkerchief, fastened in front with a little gilt button. As soon as
the church service was concluded the altar was removed to the
middle of the room, and the priest, donning a black silk gown which
contrasted strangely with his heavy cowhide boots, summoned the couple
before him.

After giving to each three lighted candles tied together with blue
ribbon, he began to read in a loud sonorous voice what I supposed to
be the marriage service, paying no attention whatever to stops, but
catching his breath audibly in the midst of a sentence and hurrying on
again with tenfold rapidity. The candidates for matrimony were silent,
but the deacon, who was looking abstractedly out of a window on the
opposite side of the church, interrupted him occasionally with doleful
chanted responses.

At the conclusion of the reading they all crossed themselves devoutly
half a dozen times in succession, and after asking them the decisive
question the priest gave them each a silver ring. Then came more
reading, at the end of which he administered to them a teaspoonful
of wine out of a cup. Reading and chanting were again resumed and
continued for a long time, the bridegroom and bride crossing and
prostrating themselves continually, and the deacon closing up his
responses by repeating with the most astounding rapidity,
fifteen times in five seconds, the words "Gaspodi pomilui"
(goss'-po-dee-po-mee'-loo-ee), "God have mercy upon us." He then
brought in two large gilt crowns ornamented with medallions, and,
blowing off the dust which had accumulated upon them since the last
wedding, he placed them upon the heads of the bridegroom and bride.

The young Cossack's crown was altogether too large, and slipped down
over his head like a candle-extinguisher until it rested upon his
ears, eclipsing his eyes entirely. The bride's hair--or rather the
peculiar manner in which it was "done up"--precluded the possibility
of making a crown stay on her head, and an individual from among the
spectators was detailed to hold it there. The priest then made the
couple join hands, seized the groom's hand himself, and they all began
a hurried march around the altar--the priest first, dragging along the
Cossack, who, blinded by the crown, was continually stepping on his
leader's heels; the bride following the groom, and trying to keep
the crown from pulling her hair down; and lastly, the supernumerary
stepping on the bride's dress and holding the gilt emblem of royalty
in its place. The whole performance was so indescribably ludicrous
that I could not possibly keep my countenance in that sober frame
which befitted the solemnity of the occasion, and nearly scandalised
the whole assembly by laughing out loud. Three times they marched in
this way around the altar, and the ceremony was then ended. The bride
and groom kissed the crowns reverently as they took them off, walked
around the church, crossing themselves and bowing in succession before
each of the pictures of saints which hung against the wall, and at
last turned to receive the congratulations of their friends. It was
expected of course that the "distinguished Americans," of whose
intelligence, politeness, and suavity so much had been heard would
congratulate the bride upon this auspicious occasion; but at least one
distinguished but unfortunate American did not know how to do it. My
acquirements in Russian were limited to "Yes," "No," and "How do you
do?" and none of these expressions seemed fully to meet the emergency.
Desirous, however, of sustaining the national reputation for
politeness, as well as of showing my good-will to the bride, I
selected the last of the phrases as probably the most appropriate, and
walking solemnly, and I fear awkwardly, up I asked the bride with a
very low bow, and in very bad Russian--how she did; she graciously
replied, "Cherasvwechiano khorasho pakornashae vass blagadoroo," and
the distinguished American retired with a proud consciousness of
having done his duty. I was not very much enlightened as to the state
of the bride's health; but, judging from the facility with which she
rattled off this tremendous sentence, we concluded that she must be
well. Nothing but a robust constitution and the most excellent health
would have enabled her to do it. Convulsed with laughter, Dodd and I
made our escape from the church and returned to our quarters. I have
since been informed by the Major that the marriage ceremony of the
Greek Church, when properly performed, has a peculiar impressiveness
and solemnity; but I shall never be able to see it now without having
my solemnity overcome by the recollection of that poor Cossack,
stumbling around the altar after the priest with his head extinguished
in a crown!

From the moment when the Major decided upon the overland journey
through Kamchatka, he devoted all his time and energies to the work of
preparation. Boxes covered with sealskin, and intended to be hung from
pack-saddles, were prepared for the transportation of our stores;
tents, bearskins, and camp equipage were bought and packed away in
ingeniously contrived bundles; and everything that native experience
could suggest for lessening the hardships of outdoor life was provided
in quantities sufficient for two months' journey. Horses were then
ordered from all the adjacent villages, and a special courier was sent
throughout the peninsula by the route that we intended to follow, with
orders to apprise the natives everywhere of our coming, and to direct
them to remain at home with all their horses until after our party
should pass.

Thus prepared, we set out on the 4th of September for the Far North.

The peninsula of Kamchatka, through which we were about to travel, is
a long irregular tongue of land lying east of the Okhotsk Sea, between
the fifty-first and sixty-second degrees of north latitude, and
measuring in extreme length about seven hundred miles. It is almost
entirely of volcanic formation, and the great range of rugged
mountains by which it is longitudinally divided comprises even now
five or six volcanoes in a state of almost uninterrupted activity.
This immense chain of mountains, which has never even been named,
stretches from the fifty-first to the sixtieth degree of latitude in
one almost continuous ridge, and at last breaks off abruptly into the
Okhotsk Sea, leaving to the northward a high level steppe called
the "dole" or desert, which is the wandering ground of the Reindeer
Koraks. The central and southern parts of the peninsula are broken
up by the spurs and foot-hills of the great mountain range into deep
sequestered valleys of the wildest and most picturesque character, and
afford scenery which, for majestic and varied beauty, is not surpassed
in all northern Asia. The climate everywhere, except in the extreme
north, is comparatively mild and equable, and the vegetation has an
almost tropical freshness and luxuriance totally at variance with all
one's ideas of Kamchatka. The population of the peninsula I estimate
from careful observation at about 5000, and it is made up of three
distinct classes--the Russians, the Kamchadals or settled natives, and
the Wandering Koraks. The Kamchadals, who compose the most numerous
class, are settled in little log villages throughout the peninsula,
near the mouths of small rivers which rise in the central range
of mountains and fall into the Okhotsk Sea or the Pacific. Their
principal occupations are fishing, fur-trapping, and the cultivation
of rye, turnips, cabbages, and potatoes, which grow thriftily as far
north as lat. 58 deg.. Their largest settlements are in the fertile
valley of the Kamchatka River, between Petropavlovsk and Kluchei
(kloo-chay'). The Russians, who are comparatively few in number,
are scattered here and there among the Kamchadal villages, and are
generally engaged in trading for furs with the Kamchadals and the
nomadic tribes to the northward. The Wandering Koraks, who are the
wildest, most powerful, and most independent natives in the peninsula,
seldom come south of the 58th parallel of latitude, except for the
purpose of trade. Their chosen haunts are the great desolate steppes
lying east of Penzhinsk (pen'-zhinsk) Gulf, where they wander
constantly from place to place in solitary bands, living in large fur
tents and depending for subsistence upon their vast herds of tamed and
domesticated reindeer. The government under which all the inhabitants
of Kamchatka nominally live is administered by a Russian officer
called an "ispravnik" (is-prav'-nik) or local governor [Footnote:
Strictly, a chief of district police.] who is supposed to settle all
questions of law which may arise between individuals or tribes, and to
collect the annual "yassak" or tax of furs, which is levied upon every
male inhabitant in his province. He resides in Petropavlovsk, and
owing to the extent of country over which he has jurisdiction, and the
imperfect facilities which it affords for getting about, he is seldom
seen outside of the village where he has his headquarters. The only
means of transportation between the widely separated settlements of
the Kamchadals are packhorses, canoes, and dog-sledges, and there is
not such a thing as a road in the whole peninsula. I may have occasion
hereafter to speak of "roads," but I mean by the word nothing more
than the geometrician means by a "line"--simple longitudinal extension
without any of the sensible qualities which are popularly associated
with it.

[Illustration: A TENT OF THE WANDERING KORAKS IN SUMMER]

Through this wild, sparsely populated region, we purposed to travel by
hiring the natives along our route to carry us with their horses from
one settlement to another until we should reach the territory of the
Wandering Koraks. North of that point we could not depend upon any
regular means of transportation, but would be obliged to trust to luck
and the tender mercies of the arctic nomads.

[Illustration: Reindeer Bridle and Snow Shovel.]

CHAPTER VII

STARTING NORTHWARD--KAMCHATKAN SCENERY, VILLAGES, AND PEOPLE

I cannot remember any journey in my whole life which gave me more
enjoyment at the time, or which is more pleasant in recollection, than
our first horseback ride of 275 versts over the flowery hills and
through the green valleys of southern Kamchatka. Surrounded as we
continually were by the wildest and most beautiful scenery in all
northern Asia, experiencing for the first time the novelty and
adventurous excitement of camp life, and rejoicing in a newly found
sense of freedom and perfect independence, we turned our backs gaily
on civilisation, and rode away with light hearts into the wilderness,
making the hills ring to the music of our songs and halloos.

Our party, aside from drivers and guides, consisted of four men--Major
Abaza, chief of Asiatic exploration, Dodd the young American, whom we
had engaged in Petropavlovsk, Viushin (view'-shin) a Cossack orderly,
and myself. The biting sarcasm directed by Mithridates at the army of
Lucullus--that if they came as ambassadors they were too many, if as
soldiers too few--would have applied with equal force to our small
party made up as it was of only four men; but strength is not always
to be measured by numbers, and we had no fears that we should not be
able to cope with any obstacles which might lie in our way. We could
certainly find subsistence where a larger party might starve.

On Sunday, September 3d, our horses were loaded and despatched in
advance to a small village on the opposite side of the bay, where we
intended to meet them with a whale-boat. On Monday the 4th, we made
our farewell calls upon the Russian authorities, drank an inordinate
quantity of champagne to our own health and success, and set out
in two whale-boats for Avacha, accompanied by the whole American
population of Petropavlovsk. Crossing the bay under spritsail and jib,
with a slashing breeze from the south-west, we ran swiftly into the
mouth of the Avacha River, and landed at the village to refresh
ourselves for the fifteenth time with "fifteen drops," and take leave
of our American friends, Pierce, Hunter, and Fronefield. Copious
libations were poured out to the tutelary saint of Kamchatkan
explorers, and giving and receiving three hearty cheers we pushed off
and began to make our way slowly up the river with poles and paddles
toward the Kamchadal settlement of Okuta (o-koo'-tah).

Our native crew, sharing in the universal dissipation which had
attended our departure, and wholly unaccustomed to such reckless
drinking, were reduced by this time to a comical state of happy
imbecility, in which they sang Kamchadal songs, blessed the Americans,
and fell overboard alternately, without contributing in any marked
degree to the successful navigation of our heavy whale-boat. Viushin,
however, with characteristic energy, hauled the drowning wretches in
by their hair, rapped them over the head with a paddle to restore
consciousness, pushed the boat off sand-bars, kept its head up stream,
poled, rowed, jumped into the water, shouted, swore, and proved
himself fully equal to any emergency.

It was considerably after noon when we left Petropavlovsk, and owing
to the incompetency of our Kamchadal crew, and the frequency of
sand-bars, night overtook us on the river some distance below Okuta.
Selecting a place where the bank was dry and accessible, we beached
our whale-boat and prepared for our first bivouac in the open air.
Beating down the high wet grass, Viushin pitched our little cotton
tent, carpeted it with warm, dry bearskins, improvised a table and
a cloth out of an empty candle-box and a clean towel, built a fire,
boiled tea, and in twenty minutes set before us a hot supper which
would not have done discredit to the culinary skill of Soyer himself.
After supper we sat by the fire smoking and talking until the long
twilight died away in the west, and then, rolling ourselves up in
heavy blankets, we lay down on our bearskins and listened to the low
quacking of a half-awakened duck in the sedges, and the lonely cries
of night birds on the river until at last we fell asleep.

Day was just breaking in the east when I awoke. The mist, which for a

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