John Muir


John Muir


Louie [Wanda Muir]


[Page 1]

St. Michael July 4th, 1881.

7.40 P.M.

Dear Louie.

We arrived here this afternoon at 3 o'clock and intend to stay about three days, taking in coal and provisions, and then To push off to the North, We intend to spend nearly a month along the American shore, perhaps as far North as Point Barrow, before we attempt to go out into the Arctic Ocean among the ice, for it is in August and September that the ice is most open. Then, if, as we hope from the favorableness of the season, we succeed in reaching Wrangell Land to search for traces of the Jeanette, or should find any sure tidings of her, we will be back in sunny, iceless California about the end of October, in grape time. Otherwise we will

"[Page 2]

probably return to St. Michael and take on a fresh supply of coal and nine months' provisions, and go north again prepared to winter in case we should get caught in the north of Bering Strait.

A few miles to the north of Plover Bay some 13 or 14 canoe loads of natives came out to trade; more than a hundred of them were aboard at once, making a very lively picture. When we proceeded on our way they allowed us to tow them for a mile or two in order to take advantage of the northerly current in going back to their village. They were dragged along, five or six canoes on each side, making the Corwin look like a mother field-mouse with a big family hanging to her teats, one of the first country sights that filled me with astonishment when a boy."

"[Page 3]

here I had very fine views of St. Lawrence Island from the north side, showing the trend of the ice-sheet, very plainly, much to my delight. The middle of the island is crowded with volcanic cones, mostly post-glacial, and therefore regular in form and but little wasted, and I counted upwards of 50 from one point of view. Just in front of this volcanic portion on the Coast there is a dead Esquimo village where we landed and found that every soul of the population had died two yrs. ago of starvation. More than 200 skeletons were seen lying about like rubbish, in one hut 30, most of them in bed. Mr. E. W. Nelson, a zealous collector for the Smithsonian Institution, gathered about 100 skulls as "

"[Page 4]

specimens, throwing them together in heaps to take on board, just as when a boy in Wisconsin I used to gather pumpkins in the fall after the corn was shocked. The boxfuls on deck looked just about as unlike a cargo of cherries as possible, but I will not oppress you with grim details. Some of the men brought off guns, axes, spears, etc., from the abandoned huts, and I found a little box of child's playthings which might please Anna Wanda, but which I suppose you will not let into the house. Well, I have lots of others that I bought, and when last here I engaged an Indian to make her a little fur suit, which I hope is ready so that I can send it down by the St. Paul. I hope it may fit her. I wish she were old enough to read the stories "

"[Page 5]

that I should like to write her.

Love to all, Goodnight.

I will write a few more lines before we leave. We are still 2000 miles apart, my love, yet since coming from the icy north you seem near enough to touch and hear your voice. It is very hard to be beyond letters. I may possibly get word by the Mary-and-Helen which was to leave S. F. about a month after we did. You will probably get this about the 20th or 22d of August. Goodnight again. I hope you are all-grandmother, grandfather, mother and child-sleeping in health.It must now be nearly One o'clock in the morning in California. "


St. Michaels [Alaska]

Date Original

1881 Jul 4


Original letter dimensions: 20 x 14 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

MSS 301 Shone

Copyright Statement

The unpublished works of John Muir are copyrighted by the Muir-Hanna Trust. To purchase copies of images and/or obtain permission to publish or exhibit them, see

Owning Institution

Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.

Copyright Holder

Muir-Hanna Trust

Copyright Date



5 pages


Environmentalist, naturalist, travel, conservation, national parks, John Muir, Yosemite, California, history, correspondence, letters


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