William Hulme Hooper (1827-1854) was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, and part of the 1848 expedition aboard the Plover, under the command of Capt. T. E. L. Moore, to search for the ill-fated Franklin expedition. Moore’s expedition spent three years in the high Arctic, wintering the first year (1848-1849) on the Chukotsk Peninsula, later sailing to the Beaufort Sea. From there, Hooper made two overland trips up the Mackenzie River to Fort Simpson, on the second of which he travelled overland to Norway House, The Pas, and south through what is now Manitoba to reach the voyageur route back to Montreal, and thence to England (see Arctic Bibliography 7395). This is a very scarce account, seldom mentioned in most histories of Arctic exploration, and often overlooked in the lore of the search for Sir John Franklin and his party. Notwithstanding, Hooper’s account is full of interesting information and observations, including detailed descriptions of the life, customs, dwellings, clothing and beliefs of the Chukchis (Tuski), and of the North Alaska Eskimo generally; as well as notes on the Mackenzie Eskimo and Indians, sea and river ice, hunting and trapping, and the character of the territory covered in his journeys.
Hooper departed on the Plover in 1848 for the Bering Strait and hopes of meeting Franklin on that side of the NW Passage. First winter was spent in Tuski territory with ship frozen in and much entertainment planned, including foot-ball, leap-frog, masquerades, music, and p. 32: A school was regularly established for the men, masquerades occurred every week, and on the 4th of December the Royal Asiatic Theatre opened, with the burlesque of “Bombastes Furioso,” when this prologue was delivered—
“Sure here’s the greatest wonder of the Age,
In Tchutski Land an European Stage!!!
Stern Winter’s chilling frowns we hold for nought,
And Mirth and Frolic cherish as we ought.
‘Mid Frost and Snow to keep King Fun alive,
This evening we an ancient jest revive.
Our efforts weary moments to beguile
Kindly reward with an approving smile.
p. 59: Our friends soon became accustomed to masquerades, football, and other games, and book a lively part in all; but plays were a little more mysterious [to the Tutsi]; and when, on the 15th of December, the farce of “The Way to Settle Accounts with your Laundress” was enacted, the reversed dummy in the water-butt, imaginary victim of suicide, was considered to be an acme of conjuring, and is I believe, an unexplained wonder to this day.
p. 63, Dec. 26: Next night a Christmas pantomime, composed on board, was performed in a manner highly creditable to all concerned in its preparation, and brought down thunders of applause from pit and boxes.
p. 310-11: We had little during our weary sojourn in this miserable log-hut [at Great Bear Lake], which was now our home, to enliven or beguile its tedium. With scanty daylight, and neither oil nor candle, the only light we had for the greater portion of each twenty-four hours was that of the log fire which burned in one corner of the hovel. No books, not even a newspaper, to read and re-spell over, but I managed to obtain ink, pens, and paper, and in addition to keeping a voluminous journal of all, to the most trifling, occurrences, instituted a school for the seamen, one or two of whom improved considerably, though ours was literally the pursuit of knowledge under difficulties.
p. 330-35, a lengthy description of Indian cannibalism.
p. 376, at Fort Simpson with Captain Pullen and two marines for the winter: Another long winter had now to be passed, a formidable prospect to those who have few means of occupation, and less comforts at their disposal. But we had here at any rate, more companions and a nearer approach to civilized life than had been the lot of some of us last season, and had no intention of permitting black ennui to engross eight or ten long months of our lives. There was a small library at the Fort, which the gentlemen of the district had created to while away weariness at their respective posts; of this were kindly permitted to avail ourselves, and found it a great solace.