The Cruise of the Corwin: Journal of the Arctic Expedition of 1881 in Search of De Long and the Jeannette

This work collects reports from Muir’s trip, mainly dealing with glaciology and other naturalist interests. His is a graceful and easy style and he has an observant eye, down to the hair on the bottom of a polar bear’s foot.

p. 12, from Unalaska: The Aleuts are far more civilized and Christianized than any other tribe of Alaska Indians. From a third to one half of the men and women read and write. Their occupation is the hunting of the sea-otter for the Alaska Commercial Company.

p. 16: We called at the house of the priest of the Greek Church, and were received with fine civility…. The wallpaper, the ceiling, the floor, the pictures of Yosemite and the Czar on the walls, the flowers in the window, the books on the tables…all proclaimed exquisite taste of a kind that could not possibly originate anywhere except in the man himself or his wife.

p. 97, on the shipwrecked Vigilant the foraging Inuit found many items: Not a single private name was found on any of the articles; nor did the natives produce any books or papers of any sort, though they said that they saw books in the cabin.

p. 130, re the natives of the Arctic seashore: Though safe and sensual, they are by no means dull or apathetic like the sensual savages of civilization, who live only to eat and indulge the senses, for these Eskimos, without newspapers or telegraphs, know all that is going on within hundreds of miles, and are keen questioners and alive to everything that goes on before them. They dearly like to gossip. One tried to buy some of the cabin boy’s hair, on account of its curious whiteness; another, who has red hair, is followed and commented on with ludicrous interest.