September 5, 1878
Schwatka explains the Arctic diet. "When first thrown wholly upon a diet of reindeer meat, it seems inadequate to properly nourish the system and there is an apparent weakness and inability to perform severe exertive, fatiguing journeys. But this soon passes away in the course of two or three weeks. Our trip was also our first continued experience with a raw meat diet"
Summer on King William Land helps make Search Complete
The search of Terror Bay was an extremely difficult one owing to the many long finger-like points that constituted its interig outlines. While only about ten to twelve miles between its bounding capes its contour furnished me with nearly ninety miles of very bad walking, which took seven days to complete. The game (luckily for us) was very plentiful in the neighborhood. On one day alone I saw no less than thirty-four reindeer grazing among the different valleys through which I passed. Colonel Gilder killed five. Without leaving the route of my other duties I killed three. Some had an abundance of substantial food and, better than all, its condition was rapidly improving from the lean stringy quality which characterized our spring supply of venison.
The Arctic reindeer is an awkward clumsy animal, and when trotting along, unless closely pursued, it goes stumbling over the grough ground in a manner that often leads the amateur hunter, (who perchance has risked a long shot at him) into the belief that his fire has been effective. But the reindeer was the most reliable game in which dependence for regular continuous subsistence can be placed. Without the reindeer my expedition of from nineteen to twenty-two souls and forty to fifty dogs could not have accomplished the journey it did, having only about a month's ration when it started at Camp Daly. I have never enountered a larger band than some three or four hundred which I saw on the Seroy Lakes, near North Hudson Bay in the autumn of 1878. During the subsequent autumn on King William Land, I saw no less than a thousand in a single day.
When first thrown wholly upon a diet of reindeer meat, it seems inadequate to properly nourish the system and there is an apparent weakness and inability to perform severe exertive, fatiguing journeys. But this soon passes away in the course of two or three weeks. At first the white man takes to the new diet in too homeopathic a manner, especially if it be raw. However, seal meat which is far more disagreeable with its fishy odor, and bear meat with its strong flavor, seems to have no such a temporary debilitating effect upon the economy. The reindeer are scattered during the spring and summer which is the breeding season, but as the cold weather approaches they herd together in vast bodies.
Toolooah, my most excellent Innuit hunter, never failed to secure one during every hunt. I knew him to kill seven out of a band of eight reindeer with the eight shots in the magazine of his Winchester before they could get out of range. On ten different occasions he killed two deer at one shot and once three fell at a single discharge. The number of times he dispatched one and wounded others, or wounded two or even three at a single shot, which he afterwards secured, seemed countless.
That he supported an average of nine souls (not counting double that number of dogs dependent upon him for about ten months), coupled with a score of 232 reindeer during that period, besides a number of seal, musk-ox and polar bear, demonstrates his great abilityas a hunter in these inhospitable climes.
On our journey a thorough search was made of that portion of the coast that Frank and Henry had not previously looked over, but nothing rewarded either our or their labors except an oar found
near the head of Washington Bay. Our trip was also our first continued experience with a raw meat diet and, whenever the weather was sufficiently cold to freeze it into a hard mass, we
found it not altogether unacceptable. Raw versus cooked meat brings up the interesting subject of the different methods of eating by the Innuits, and we no longer considered ourselves aliens in this