_Tuesday, 14._–It blew very hard from the North-West since the
preceding evening. Having sat up till three in the morning, I slept
longer than usual; but about eight one of my men saw a great many
animals in the water, which he at first supposed to be pieces of ice.
About nine, however, I was awakened to resolve the doubts which had
taken place respecting this extraordinary appearance. I immediately
perceived that they were whales; and having ordered the canoe to be
prepared, we embarked in pursuit of them. It was, indeed, a very wild
and unreflecting enterprise, and it was a very fortunate circumstance
that we failed in our attempt to overtake them, as a stroke from the
tail of one of these enormous fish would have dashed the canoe to
pieces. We may, perhaps, have been indebted to the foggy weather for
our safety, as it prevented us from continuing our pursuit. Our guide
informed us that they are the same kind of fish which are the principal
food of the Esquimaux, and they were frequently seen as large as our
canoe. The part of them which appeared above the water was altogether
white, and they were much larger than the largest porpoise.
About twelve the fog dispersed, and being curious to take a view of the
ice, I gave orders for the canoe to be got in readiness. We accordingly
embarked, and the Indians followed us. We had not, however, been an
hour on the water, when the wind rose on a sudden from the North-East,
and obliged us to tack about, and the return of the fog prevented us
from ascertaining our distance from the ice; indeed, from this
circumstance, the island which we had so lately left was but dimly seen.
Though the wind was close, we ventured to hoist the sail, and from the
violence of the swell it was by great exertions that two men could bale
out the water from our canoe. We were in a state of actual danger, and
felt every corresponding emotion of pleasure when we reached the land.
The Indians had fortunately got more to windward, so that the swell in
some measure drove them on shore, though their canoes were nearly filled
with water: and had they been laden, we should have seen them no more.
As I did not propose to satisfy my curiosity at the risk of similar
dangers, we continued our course along, the islands, which screened us
from the wind. I was now determined to take a more particular
examination of the islands, in the hope of meeting with parties of the
natives, from whom I might be able to obtain some interesting
intelligence, though our conductor discouraged my expectations, by
representing them as very shy and inaccessible people. At the same time
he informed me, that we should probably find some of them, if we
navigated the channel which he had originally recommended us to enter.
At eight we encamped on the Eastern end of the island, which I had named
the Whale Island. It is about seven leagues in length, East and West by
compass; but not more than half a mile in breadth. We saw several red
foxes, one of which was killed. There were also five or six very old
huts on the point where we had taken our station. The nets were now
set, and one of them in five fathom water, the current setting
North-East by compass. This morning I ordered a post to be erected
close to our tents, on which engraved the latitude of the place, my own
name, the number of persons which I had with me, and the time we