April 1, 1879
Schwatka sets out on his journey to find the Franklin Expedition with 18 people, 44 dogs, 3 sleds, 15 guns, 4000 rounds of ammo while expecting to hunt meat for up to a year and live off a carnivorous diet. "Dependent as we would soon become upon the game of the country, we had fair reasons to believe such existed in sufficient quantities to support us and our dogs if our hunters were only vigilant."
The Long Sledge Journey Begins
THE LONG SLEDGE JOURNEY BEGINS
As everything was ready for the start quite a number of days before the day set- April 1, 1879 - we waited with a strange, lonesome anxiety for that date. All the stulf that was to remain had been boxed up carefully and Ahmow, its custodian, was removing it to his igloo on Depot Island. Life in a half deserted house is enough to set one half crazy, but living in a half deserted igloo is amply sufficient to fill an insane asylum.
Let us take a hurried look at the party before it starts. The officers were: Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka (myself) and Colonel William H. Gilder, second in command. Frank Klutshak, our scientist and Frank Melms, the only one of us white men who had previously lived in the Arctic, completed the white members in our party. The Esquimaux included Joseph Ebierbing ("Esquimaux Joe") who, as has been stated, had been with Captain Hall and Captain Hayes on their Arctic journeys, and his wife Nipschank or Hannah; Toolooah, hunter and chief sledge driver, and his wife Tooloohalek or Susie, and their two-vear-old boy Iyow- kawank, or Jack; Ikqueesik, our chief guide; (Nachilluk Joe) and his wife, Lizzee and three-year-old daughter Koodleuk; Ishoowark (Jerry) and his wife, and two Innuit boys, brothers of Ikqueesik, aged eighteen and fourteen, named Milkolilluk and Awanak respectively. An Iwilli boy, aged twelve, named Koomunah, completed the party of eighteen souls.
We had three large sledges, well shod with the bone from the jaw of a whale, and forty-four very good dogs. Our arms consisted of
two Remington breech-loading muskets,
two repeating Winchester carbines,
one breech-loading Sharp's sporting rifle,
one heavy breech-loading Sharp's sporting rifle,
one heavy breech-loading Whitney (Greedmoor pattern) rifle,
one 26-shot repeating sporting rifle,
two Smith & Wesson revolvers,
and some muzzle-loading muskets. The latter were to be used for trading purposes, if necessary, among the natives whom we expected to encounter.
Our ammunition supplies were far beyond the greatest ever taken before upon an Arctic sledge journey. But our provisions were extremely limited for so large a party over the nine or ten months we would be absent, so that our caisson was none too large. Dependent as we would soon become upon the game of the country, we had fair reasons to believe such existed in sufficient quantities to support us and our dogs if our hunters were only vigilant.
Our ammunition boxes showed [turned to bulleted list for readability and unintended pun]
700 rounds of Remington cartridges, of 50 calibre and 70 grains powder;
700 rounds Winchester cartridges, cal. 45., 75 grs. powder:
300 rounds Sharp's cartridges, cal. 40., 70 gr, powder;
450 rounds Evans cartridges, cal. 44., 55 grs. powder;
220 rounds Whitney cartridges, cal. 44, 95 grs. powder.
besides 200 rounds for the Smith & Wesson's revolvers
and 100 bullets, 2000 caps and 25 lbs. of powder for the Springfield muskets.
I must not forget to mention a breech-loading Remington shotgun, with 100 rounds of filled cartridges,
a muzzle loading shotgun with a box of (25 lbs.), duck power and 25 lbs. shot.
A sum total shows fifteen guns and about 4000 rounds of ammunition.
Our only anxiety now was to be able to transport such a heavy load and to find sufficient game upon which to throw it away.
Without giving an uninteresting list of the provisions with which we burdened ourselves, suffice it to say, counting as a day's ration, three pounds a day for an adult and proportionally less for the others, we had a trifle less than a month's supply. But it was not the intention to depend upon this until it was eaten up and then live upon the country, but to stretch it out as far as possible by the assistance of reindeer meat, as soon as we entered the hunting country. Two thousand pounds of Kow (walrus hide) and our bedding gave our sleds quite a heavy and formidable looking appear ance, as we started, but most of the load was of a nature that stead- ily decreased as the time advanced.
As the world turned round it brought our appointed date, April 1, 1879, and found us already to start, but like all other first-day starts it was a late one. It was nearly noon as we pulled out on the salt water ice near Camp Daly and, shaking hands, bid our trusty Inuit friends good-bye. We stopped a second to take a last look on that dreary cheerless mass of snow domes that had so long been our home, and seemed doubly like a home now that we were parting with it for a still less cheerless and dreary journey.
There is something peculiarly depressing in starting upon a long unknown venture, especially if a person has upon his mind all the cares and duties of a commander to warn him that, in case of misfortune, he alone does not suffer. And this was to be an expedition where misfortune might easily befall us. With less than one month's provisions, we were separating ourselves by an icy desert of eight and nine leauges from all chance of rescue, with eighteen human and forty-four brute mouths to be fed in a country reported destitute of game. And in this forbidding land we were to spend possibly a year - under the most favorable cireumstances not less than nine months - to make an extended and laboriously thorough search to determine the sad fate of those that had died here. it brought up the most solemn thoughts to one responsible for the lives and comfort of those who thus willingly joined in this unselfish effort to accomplish such a task.
My triangulation cairns around Depot Island had not yet faded completely from sight as we stopped for our first camp, about ten miles north of Camp Daly, on the eastern shore of the Winchester Inlet. The weather had been exceedingly fine during the day and the oft-repeated injunctions of our Innuits, that the weather about this time of year was nearly always like this, was cheering news.
We built two large double igloos, the four white men and Toolooah's family occupying one, and the remainder of the Innuits the other. The next night, however, this latter igloo was again divided. Joe and Jerry, with their respective families, occupying one and Ikqueesik the other. Thereafter this arrangement was continued until we reached King William Land.