strange, yet all accomplished by our Drivers with such evident composure and everyday commonplace confidence that it seemed as [if] this might be the only method of land travel practiced in the world, and as if we had lived here always and formed part of the tribe. The dogs are as steady as oxen, each one keeping his trace-line tight and showing no inclination to shirk, as unlike the illustrations I had seen as possible, in which all are represented as running at full wild gallop with mouths wide open. The village is built on a sand bar pushed up by the ice on the W. side of a narrow bay. I counted 20 huts in all. When we drove up the women and children came out to meet us and a few old men who had not been tempted to make the journey to the ship. Captain Hooper wet to the house belonging to his driver, I to the one belonging to mine; afterwards we joined and visited in company. We were kindly received and shown to good seats on reindeer skins. All of them smiled good-naturedly when we shook hands with them and tried to repeat our salutations. When we discussed our proposed land journey the women eagerly joined and the children listened attentively. We enquired about the Vega, knowing that she had wintered hereabouts. At first they said they knew nothing about it; that no ship two years ago had wintered here. Then, as if suddenly remembering, one of them said a three masted ship, a steamer like the Corwin, had stopped one season in the ice at a point east of the village and had gone away when it melted in the summer. A woman, who had been listening, then went to a box, and after turning it over, showed us a spoon, fork, and pocket compass of Russian manufacture, which she said the captain had given them. The huts here are like those already described, only they are dry because of the porous character of the ground. Three or four families live in one hut, each family having a private polog of deerskins, of which there are several thicknesses on the floor. We were shown into one of these private pologs, the snuggest storm nest imaginable and perfectly clean. Then common hut is far otherwise; dogs mingling with the food, hair is everywhere, and strangely persistent smells that defy even the Arctic frosts. The children seemed in fair [Drawing – S.W. Point St. Lawrence Island.”]
Original journal dimensions: 11 x 18.5 cm.
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John Muir, journals, drawings, writings, travel, journaling, naturalist