[Louie Strentzel Muir]
Between Plover Bay & St Laurence Island 8.45 P.M. July 2d / 881.
My beloved wife,
After leaving St Michaels on the 22d June where I last wrote you we went again into the Arctic ocean to Tapkan 12 ms N.W. of Cape Serdge to seek the search party that we left on the edge of the ice pack opposite Kolinchin Island & were so fortunate as to find them there having gone as far as the condition of the ice seemed to them safe, & after they had reached the fountain head of all the stories we had heard concerning the last whaler vigilance & determined them to be in the main true. At Cape Wankarem they found three [illegible] who said that last year when the ice was just beginning to grow & when the sun did not rise they were out seal hunting three or four miles from shore when they saw a broken ship in the drift ice wh they boarded & found some dead men in the cabin & a good many articles of one sort & another wh they took home & wh they showed to our party. This evidence reveals the fate of at least one of the ships we are seeking. Our party when they saw us came out to the edge of the ice, wh extended about 3 miles from shore, & after a good deal of difficulty reached the steamer The north wind was blowing hard sending huge black swells & combing waves against the jagged [grinding?] edge of the [pack?] with terrible uproar making it impossible to for us to reach them with a boat
We succeeded however in throwing a line to them wh they made fast to a skin boat that they had pushed over the ice from the shore & getting into it they were dragged over the st[illegible] edge of ice waves & water waves & soon got safely aboard leaving the tent provisions 2 dogs & sleds at the Indian village, to be picked up some other time. Then we sailed southward again to take our Interpreter [Tehnchi?] Joe to his home wh we reached two hours ago. Now we are steering for St Michaels again intending to land for a few hours on the north side of St Laurence Island on the way. At St Michaels we will write our letters, wh will be carried to S.F. by the Alaska Com. Co. Steamer St Paul, take on more provision & then sail north again along the American shore, spending some time in [Kotzebue?] Sound, perhaps exploring some of the rivers that flow into it & then pushing on around [deleted: Cape] Point Barrow & out into the ocean northward as we [can?], our movements being always determined by the position & movements of the ice-pack. Before making a final effort in August or September to reach Wrangel Land in search of traces of the Jeanette we will return yet once more to St Michaels for coal & provisions wh we have stored there in case we should be compelled to pass a winter north of Behring Strait
The season however is so favorable that we have [illegible] hopes of finding an open way to Wrangel Land, & returning to our homes in Ocotober. The Jeanette has not been seen, nor any of her crew on the Asiatic Coast as far west as Cape Jakan, & I have no hopes of the vessel ever escaping from the ice but her crew, in case they saved their provisions may yet be alive, though it is strange that they did not come over the ice in the spring. Possibly they may have reached the American coast If so they will be found this summer. Our vessel is in perfect condition & our captain is very cautious of being caught in the north pack. How long it seems since I left home, & yet according to the almanac it will not be two months until the day after tomorrow. I have seen so much & gone so far & the nightless days are so strangely joined it seems more than a year. And yet how short a time is the busy month at home among the fruit & the work. My wee lass will be big & bright now & by the time I can get her again in my arms
she will be afraid of my beard. I have a great quantity of ivory dolls & toys – ducks, bears, seals walruses etc for her to play with, & some soft white furs to make a little robe for her carriage. But it is a sore hard thing to be out of sight of her so long & of thee Louie but still sorer & harder not to hear. Perhaps not one word until I reach San Francisco. You however will hear often. I sent lots of letters by a schooner from [Gonaluska?], one from St Paul Island a lot by a the returning whaler Tom Pope one on the 21, I think, from St Michael & this again will go from St Michael Then we will have a good many more opportunities by the other whalers. This is a lovely cool clear bright day & the mountains along the coast of Asia stand in glorious array telling the grand old story of their birth beneath the sculpturing ice of the glacial period, but the snow still lingers here & there down to the waters edge & a little beyond the mouth of Behring Strait the vast mysterious ice field of the north stretches away beneath dark stormy sky for thousands of miles I landed on E. Cape yesterday & found unmistakeable evidence of the passage over it of a rigid ice-sheet
from the north a fact wh is exceedingly telling here. Similar traces I have already seen on the Di[illegible] & on St Laurence Island along its entire length, & on 300 or 400 miles of the Coast of Asia, & also about St Michaels. Showing clearly that Behrings Sea was once only a glacier lake, & that Asia & America have been separated by the mechanical action of this grand frost flow. The south side of the Aleutian Chain of Islands was during the gl period the N. boundary of the Pacific Ocean & Asia & American were one. My health is so good now that I never notice it. I climbed a mountain at E Cape yesterday about 3000 feet high a mile through snow knee deep & never felt fatigue my cheeks tingling in the north wind. My cheeks are red now & I eat all sorts of greasy stuff in heavy bulk. I wish I could make out a list of all the fish flesh & fowl, & puddings & gravies I have eaten for grand mothers study. I have a great quanty of material in my
notebooks already Lots of sketches glacier Mtns, Indians, Indian towns etc So you may be sure I have been busy & if I could only hear a word now & then from that home in the California hills I would be the happiest & patientiest man in all Hyperborea. I am alone in the cabin the engine is grinding away making the lamp that is never lighted now rattle, & the joints creak everywhere & the good Corwin is glinding swiftly over smooth blue water about half way to St Laurence Island, & now I must to bed, But before I go I reach my arms towards you & pray God to keep you all.
Between Plover Bay & St. Laurence Island
1881 Jul 2
Original letter dimensions: 19.5 x 14 cm.
Muir, John, "Letter from [John Muir] to [Louie Strentzel Muir], 1881 Jul 2." (1881). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 659.
Reel 04, Image 0632
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