John Muir


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July 3. 7 A.M. Clear and cool (40o) and with a light breeze, the water colored beautiful bluish green. We arrived at a deserted village on the N. side of St. Lawrence Island at 4 o’clock this morning. Mr. Nelson went ashore and obtained some specimens of spears, arrows, vessels, etc. from the deserted homes, the inhabitants all having died. 25 skeletons were seen. This was a small village of 2 huts. About 7:30 A.M. we came to anchor near a much larger dead village of about a dozen huts, where we went ashore to examine them, Mr. Nelson for Smithsonian specimens of skulls, implements of war, hunting, cooking, etc. A more desolate and sickening scene could hardly be imagined that that presented here on this island coast. Gulls and plovers and ducks swimming and flying about in happy life, and the pure salt sea breaking on the black volcanic rocks and the chaste snow on the mountains in the background, the blue sky overhead – all nature pure and sweet – the village in foul decay, the dead inhabitants lying about near the houses among kitchen-midden, rubbish, cast out by the survivors while they had strength to carry them, while in huts the last were found in bed or piled in a corner as if they had died without any great struggle to prolong their lives. 30 were found in one house, about half in one corner piled out of the way like firewood.

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Original journal dimensions: 11.5 x 21 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