John Muir


[John Muir]


[Louie Strentzel Muir]



After going back about ten miles we discovered a good anchorage in 15 fathom water in the ice of a great bluff of lava about 2000 ft high & here we ride in comfort while the blast drives past overhead. If we do not get off tomorrow I will go ashore & see what I can learn. Have learned already since the snow ceased falling that all the region hereabouts has been glaciated just like that 1000 miles to the Eastward. All the sculpture shows this clearly. How pleasant it seems to be able to walk once more without holding on & to heave your plate lie still on the table. It is clearing up. The mountains are seen in groups rising back of one another All pure white The sailors are catching codfish.

[in margin: in circle 11]


[1881] Monday May 16, 4.P.M.

Dear Louie, Since writing this forenoon we reached the mouth of the Strait that seperates Oonalaska Island from the next to the Eastward against a strong headwind & through rough snow squalls, when the Captain told me that he thought he would not venture through the Strait today because the swift flood tide setting through the Strait against the wind was surely raising a dangerously rough sea but rather leek an anchorage somewhere in the lee of the bluffs, & wait the fall of the wind. As he approached the mouth of the Strait however he changed his mind & determined to try it. When the vessel began to pitch heavily & the hatches & skylights were [in margin: there are two waterfalls opposite our harbor Goodnight to all & oh if I could touch my baby & [illegible]]

[Page 2]


closed then I knew that we were in the strait & made haste to get on my overcoat & get up into the Pilot house to enjoy the view of the waves. The view proved to be far wilder & exciting than I expected, Indeed I never before saw water in so hearty a storm of hissing blinding foam. It was all one leaping clashing roaring mass of white mingling with the air by means of the long hissing streamers dragged from the wave tops, & the [biting send.?] Our little vessel swept onward by the flood pouring into Behring Sea & by her machinery was being buffeted by the head gale & the huge white over combing waves that made [in margin: this has been a very grand day snow, waves, wind, mountains,]


her reel & tremble though she stood it bravely & obeyed the helm as if in calm water. After proceeding about 5 or 6 miles into the heart of this grand uproar it seemed to grown yet wilder & began to bid defiance to any farther headway against it. At length when we had nearly lost our boats & in danger having our decks swept, we turned & fled for refuge before the gale the giant waves exulting in their strength seemed to be chasing us & threatening to swallow us at a gulp but we finally made our escape & were perhaps in no great danger further than the risk of losing our 4 boats & having the deck swept.




Date Original

1881 May 16


Original letter dimensions: 20 x 25 cm.

Resource Identifier


File Identifier

Reel 04, Image 0548

Collection Identifier

Online finding aid for the microform version of the John Muir Correspondence

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, click here to view the Holt-Atherton Special Collections policies.

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



2 pages


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



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