John Muir


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giving a sack of flour for each dog. Then we sailed for the other Diomede and obtained more dogs, until we had 26 in all, which we thought was as many as we should want. More were offered at the same – one sack of flour – price. The scene of barter as each Indian hoisted the howling wolves aboard from the canoe pitching alongside of thence upon the upper deck in front of the pilot-house was very rare, the only kind of cattle show held in the polar regions hereabouts. The villages on both Diomedes are perched on the steep rocky slopes of the mountains which drop at once sheer into deep water, one mountain per island. Fairway Rock near the E. Diomede is a similar smaller island, on which the rock granite is glaciated. No margin along the shore is left for a village so, like the seabirds that breed here and fly about in countless multitudes darkening the water, the rocks, and the air, they had to perch their huts on the cliffs, dragging everything boats and all, up and down very steep trails. The huts are mostly built of stone with skin roofs. They look like mere stone heaps, black dots on the snow at a distance, with whalebone posts set up and framed at the top to lay their canoes beyond the dogs that would otherwise eat them if within reach. They are the dreariest towns I ever beheld. The tops of the islands in gloomy storm-clouds, snow to the water’s edge and blocks of rugged ice for a fringe; then the black water dashing against the ice; the gravy sleety sky, the screaming water-birds, the howling wind, and the blue gathering sludge. May 31. Calm, clear, mild, brooding, gentle day until near 6 P.M. Then dark, lowering, with the inevitable dusting of snowflakes. The thermometer stood at from 40o to 32o and though not hot at all it has been a memorable day. [Drawings, 8 – “Views glacial on St. Lawrence Island, W. end looking N. and N.W.”] Steaming along the coast the low-drooping clouds lifting at times and showing the hills of moderate height, and here and there rising to mountains, we observed a marked bluff coming close forward to the shore where the ice margin was less wide than at most points, and as we had already passed Cape Serdze we decided to attempt a landing to learn

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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