Conquering the Arctic Ice.

First edition, with folding map and illustrated throughout with photographs. Mikkelsen’s 1906 Anglo-American expedition proved that there was no land north of Alaska. In addition to the scientific data gathered in the expedition, it was noteworthy in its contribution to understanding the Eskimo people. Mikkelsen was awarded a Patron’s Medal from the Royal Geographic Society for exploration in the Arctic and for his work in Eskimo resettlement in Greenland.

p. 133: I knew quite well that there was no immediate danger, but during the long nights which I spent alone, brooding and reading, I could not help thinking of what might have happened. Only when day came, and life stirred, I felt ashamed of my worries of the night before, knowing that Mr. Leffingwell was an experienced traveller and perfectly capable of taking care of himself. December set in with storms from the west, and for three days we had a regular blizzard. On the third we had some extra excitement. The galley took fire during the night, but I was not called until the whole thing was over.

p. 137, books as presents at Christmas: From the blind girls who had knitted our woollen stockings, etc., there was a small present for each of us. From my sister we found some books and a letter to me which sent my thoughts back to the dear ones at home, longing for the Christmas they were celebrating and thinking of the many Christmas-times we had spent together in the days of childhood. An old ship’s officer who had been my superior not many years ago, and who had helped with the packing of our things, had out of his slender means sent us a game of dominoes. Mrs. Nanton, of Victoria, B.C., had sent a big Christmas cake, and so had others of our lady acquaintances there; and Leiser & Co., our grocers, had packed a really magnificent box, containing plum pudding and sweets, cigars and cigarettes, and other good things. It was a fine box, and Joe Carrol was allowed to take as much of our provisions as he needed to make us a really splendid dinner. But what a lonely thing a Christmas is on board ship and in the Arctic!

p. 140, on winter quarters in the far north: The day was perfect, and Ned and I enjoyed our daily round to the traps. We can already see that the days are getting longer, and each day the red glow of the sky to the south, visible at noon through a mountain pass, comes stronger and stronger, while the golden tinge framing the edges of the clouds tells us that it will not be very long before the sun has come back so far that we can see it through the pass. Then we shall have fine, long days again, we shall once more be able to travel, and the monotony of the winter will be a thing of the past.

p. 141-43, again winter at Ned’s family cabin: The children were fighting or playing, laughing or crying, until they were put to bed, and Ned and I resumed the game of “Idiot’s delight.” This was the ordinary routine of the day, but we spent much time in walking up and down on a large snowdrift outside the house, discussing every possible subject between heaven and earth. While eating our supper, beans and bread as usual, on January 8, the long absent party drove into camp, and we made ready to start for home on the following day. But to our intense dismay a perfect blizzard from the west sprang up during the night, and when we wanted to start we could not see fifty yards before us. It kept on blowing for two days, and when it calmed down at last our worst fears were realized; the strong westerly wind had raised the level of the water so much that it had flooded the ice, frozen fast to the bottom of the shallow waters outside the river. We tried to start, but the water was too deep; so we returned to Ned’s cabin, soaking wet with water and perspira tion. And it was lucky that we did return, as the gale blew up afresh, and for three days we were again confined to the house. The Eskimos are very eager to learn reading and writing English, and Gallikar, who had been taught the latter accomplishments, partly by the missionary at Point Barrow, partly by a miner who lived one year at Collingson’s Point, was in his turn teaching Ekajuak’s son, Ejakok. Every evening, when the day’s work was done, the two boys would sit down on the floor, and for several hours they were busily engaged with their books and slates. Gallikar read quite well, and studied mining from some ancient books on the subject, the only literary treasures of the house, besides the school-books which he had got at Point Barrow. Ejakok was getting on very well, and although he was not nearly as bright as the half-breed Gallikar, he could read an ordinary book and had some ideas about arithmetic. A strange custom, common to all households where a white man has married an Eskimo woman, was practised in this house. The husband does not eat with his wife and children, but takes his meals in solitary grandeur, at the table of the house, while down on the floor the mother of his own children and the rest of the family are eating as best they may. As far as I remember I have seen only one case where this custom was dispensed with.

p. 197: The sledges were in shape and were cached about four miles away, so we had absolutely nothing with which to pass the time, except reading and talking, sleeping and eating. And the talk was not very cheerful either; our only subject of conversation was our prospects, and we were perfectly aware of the fact that they diminished with every day we idled away, waiting for the weather to improve.

p. 199: While in the tent waiting for weather to clear “conversation flags. We have each a small book—Hamlet and King Lear—and the reading and discussing mysterious passages help to pass many an hour which otherwise would be spent talking over our gloomy prospects, the result of which would invariably be to make us, if possible, still more despondent than we already are.

p. 216, April 6 [1906?], camped on heavy ice, and trapped by heavy weather: It is rather tiresome to lie like this, but we had our books, and the day passed fairly well with reading, drinking tea, talking, and sleeping.

p. 274, on an interrupted sledge journey: There was a strong blizzard blowing to-day, so we could do nothing but lie still. We amused ourselves by frying and eating bear steak, reading Hamlet or King Lear, talking, and sleeping. Mr. Leffingwell is complaining that his eyes are bad; they are red, and he has probably got an attack of snow-blindness.

p. 312, on educated half-breed girls: I have met one of these half-bred women, the squaw of a native, who, as she was cooking some seal meat and repairing some boots, was talking literature with me and reciting Byron!

p. 317, on Caruso vs. coon songs on Eskimo phonographs.

p. 377, Christmas again: There were books and wearing apparel, tools, and all sorts of sweets, etc.

p. 401, enroute to Fort Gibbon: After eight hours’ travelling we came to a store, only sixteen miles from Loudon, where we put up, as its owner, Mr. Lewis, gave a vivid description of the hard trail ahead, the snow and storm, and the discomforts of sleeping out of doors without a tent, all of which we should expose ourselves to if we did not avail ourselves of his offer to stay in his house as his guests. We were perfectly aware of all this, and had no intention of going further that day, so even if he had not pressed us quite so much we should have stayed and been glad to do so. There was an Indian settlement near Mr. Lewis, and the people were nice enough when we sat talking in the store, but if it came to a bargain with them, then God help us!

Upon the whole there are many natives living along the banks of the river, but we see very little of them, as all our dealings are with white men, the natives asking too much for everything they have to sell. They are not pleasant people here, and, coming straight from the kind and hospitable Eskimos, I find it hard to put up with their impudence. With sorrow I thought of the future of the Eskimos, when they had been as long in contact with white men as these Indians have, and had lost their old habits and customs. That this will be their fate some day I have no doubt.