John Muir


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holds his breath until it is finished. The more acrid and pungent the tobacco the better. If it does not compel them to cough and gasp it is not considered good. In buying any considerable quantities they try it before completing the bargain. This method of smoking is said to be practiced among all the Eskimos and also the Tehuchi of Siberia. [Drawing - “Jaroocha, St. Lawrence Bay. The Siberian Tehuchi orator and bully.” In buying whisky or rum from the traders it is said that they select one of their number to test its strength. The trader gives nearly pure alcohol, so that the lucky tester becomes drunk at once, which satisfied them. Then the keg that is purchased is found to be well watered and intoxication goes on slowly and feebly, much to their disgust and surprise. About noon, after inquiring about the movements of the ice and the severity of the winter, we weighed anchor and steered for Plover Bay on the Siberian coast, taking several of the natives with us. They had a few poles for the frame of a boat and skins to cover it, and for food a piece of walrus flesh which they ate raw. This, with a gun and a few odds and ends was all their property, yet they seemed more confident of their ability to earn a living than most whites on their farms. The afternoon was clear and the mountains about Plover Bay showed themselves in bold relief, quite imposing and yosemetic in sculpture and composition. There was so much ice at the mouth of the bay, which is a glacial fiord, that we could not enter. In the edge of the pack we spoke The Whaler Rainbow and northward, put into Mareus Bay, and anchored in front of a small Chukehi settlement. A boatful of Chukehis came aboard, who told us in vivid detail a story concerning the destruction of the Vigilance and the death of her crew. Three Chukehi Indians, they said, were out sealing when they found the ship frozen in the ice-pack off Cape Serdze, her masts broken off by the ice crushing over her deck, and dead men lying in the cabin and around on the ice near the ship. They had found some money in the cabin, they said, which had been shown as proof of the trugh of their story to some of the whalers. Knowing the ability of these Chukehis for graphic lie-making, this was listened to with much allowance, but as we had heard substantially the same story at St. Lawrence Island it seemed possibly true, and we determined of course to investigate further. Here we began to inquire for dogs for the use of the sledge party to be sent out to search the Siberian coast W. from Cape Serdze. One of the [Indians] who came aboard spoke some English, having been employed on a trading vessel, and had even spent a winter in San Fran. He had 5 dogs, he said, and was willing to sell them for a good price. The Captain told him that if he would come with us and drive his dogs and act as interpreter for our party we would pay him well. One of his companions said there was no use sending out people to look for the lost men for they are all dead. We assured him that we would send a party and would pay him well, whether we found the missing men or not. He hesitated a long time, and at length said he was afraid to go on so long a journey for he might never get back. He at length consented to go, but seemed very serious about trip, snow too soft, ice breaking up, many rivers to cross, leaving his

Date Original



Original journal dimensions: 11 x 18.5 cm.

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Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

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John Muir, journals, drawings, writings, travel, journaling, naturalist