Narrative of a voyage by Sieur Louis Fornel to La Baye des Eskimaux, 16 May to 27 Aug. 1743
An English Translation of the Original French Narrative from Documents of the Enquiry into the Labrador Boundary by the British Privy Council. (London: William Clowes and Sons, 1929)
The narrative which I undertake of the discovery made by me of La Baye des Eskimaux is not a pilot's diary in which the distances, magnetic bearings and latitudes are noted. We sailed from one point to another, so as to be more certain to find said bay which, had we kept off-shore, might perhaps have escaped our attention, I therefore believe that a mere description of my voyage, accompanied by a chart based upon the observations of our coast pilots will be sufficient to give to the Court an exact knowledge of the Eskimaux coast, where no one previously, had ventured to sail near the shore, for fear of these barbarians.
16 May, 1743
With a passport and a commission from the Governor General to explore baye des Eskimaux I left Québec as a passenger on the brigantine L' Experience with Sieur Charles Le Cour and his son, my two chief steersmen, together with a full crew engaged for the said exploration, intending to charter a vessel at Petit Nord, not having obtained the permission to put to sea in this vessel, on account of the shortage of provisions. On the brigantine I embarked four guns, forty rifles, pistols, swords, battle-axes and other munitions of war to proceed to la baye des Chateaux, the destination of said brigantine, during which journey we encountered a strong north-east wind, and were on the verge of perishing many times on account of the ice which forced us to sail along the north shore, being unable to keep off. By the help, however, of an opening in the ice, we entered L'anse a Loup, on the 19 June. I immediately sent a canoe to St. Modet to invite the Sr. Chauveau, fishing-master, to come personally to take the goods I had for him. On his arrival, having asked him to endeavour to find the schooner La Marie-Anne in which I have an interest, he told me that I was the master of her and that I could dispose of her, but that, as that vessel was on the high seas, I would have to wait for the spring tides. Disappointed in my expectations in that respect, I decided to charter a boat at Tierpon situated to the north of Plaisance.
20 June, 1743
We then continued our voyage toward la baye des Chateaux, and, before arriving at that place, we encountered stormy weather and fog, so that, to escape danger and to keep off the coast, we had to slip an anchor and a cable. Uncertain of our fate in view of the threatening danger, and which seemed inevitable in our extreme distress, we had recourse to God and made a vow, which we will fulfil immediately after our return to Québec. Soon after we had made our vow, the wind shifted and, the fog having cleared, we succeeded at last in entering baye des Chateaux, where we arrived on Sunday the twenty-third of June after a voyage of thirty eight days.
And from 23 June to the first of July, I remained at La baye des Chateaux where I saw the preparations for the fishing which was unsuccessful, as the seals had already passed and we had arrived too late.
2 July, 1743
Sr. Le Cour arrived at la baye des Chateaux with Mr. Lafontaine's schooner, which he found at Tierpon, in exchange for which he gave, in addition to the charter price, a Biscayne fishing chaloupe. The said schooner has been chartered for twenty-two days only to Sr. Le Cour, who pledged himself in my place and stead, by virtue of the power I had given him, to pay ten crowns (ecus) for each day of delay of the schooner after the expiration of the twenty-two days.
3 July, 1743
Having taken on board the schooner, the required provisions, munitions of war and other goods, we sailed about seven o'clock in the morning toward La baye des Eskimaux, but encountering a contrary wind, we anchored at Sr. Marsal's post, between the islands and the mainland of cape Charles, which post is distant about six or seven leagues from La baye des Chateaux (and) is the last (most northerly) post established on the coast of Labrador. Sr. Marsal also came on board to invite us to his dwelling, saying that he would not advise us to go any further on account of the fog, the contrary wind, and the dangers that we would encounter.
4 July, 1743
To take advantage of the south-west wind, we weighed anchor at about three o'clock in the morning, but, as a dense fog had suddenly arisen, we decided to seek our first anchorage, which we reached at eight o'clock in the morning. About eleven o'clock, the weather having cleared, we continued our voyage, and, about noon, we arrived opposite cape Charles. After sailing for five or six leagues from said cape, we saw the entrance of La baye St. Alexis, which seemed to be about three leagues wide by five leagues deep with some islands and islets within. This bay is closed to the north by a steep bluff which begins a chain of capes and very high mountains along the sea-shore. Steering a north-quarter-north-west course, we sailed about five or six leagues along the Coste des Eskimaux, which is a very high and steep treeless cliff. At the foot of these cliffs the water is very deep. About seven o'clock in the evening, we discovered a very high and steep cape which we called cape Perce, because we saw, at its base, an opening which formed a covered way in the cape above the water-level, in the manner of a road which road connected with a bay, which we entered in search of an anchorage about a league and a half in the said bay, which is about one league wide at its entrance, by two leagues deep, and larger vessels can easily enter to find shelter. We called that bay the baye des Meniques, on account of the number of big fish, sixteen feet long seen there and which the fishermen called meniques. This fish has a back-fin five feet long. He fights the seal and chases him along the land, which permits the sedentary fishing of seal which would pass at a distance, were he not pursued by the meniques. To the north and south of this bay are islands and islets along the land, and we anchored between these islands and the land in twenty fathoms of water. We then put a boat to sea, and many of our crew landed on a steep island at the summit of which they kindled a fire with peat. Having seen Eskimaux approaching in six canoes and three boats, our men jumped into the boat and came on board crying out to us to weigh anchor and to moor further from the shore so as to be out of reach of the arrows of the Eskimaux. Having shifted our anchorage, we then put our artillery in readiness and prepared our arms in order to be always on the defensive in case of an attack, and to avoid being taken by surprise during the night. Not venturing to board us, the said Eskimaux landed on a neighbouring island where they uttered cries, raising their oars and saying in their jargon, "Tout Camara Troquo balena, non Characo", which means "No war, I am your comerade, let us trade whale". As we had a speaking - trumpet on board, we took it to answer them in the same terms. Three Eskimaux then jumped into their canoes and came on board where they showed us great affection. I remarked that the presence of our small artillery and of our arms frightened them to such a degree that all their bodies were trembling for fear of them and to such an extent that they naturally bled from the nose without striking themselves, which I found very queer. I had some gifts distributed to them, which seemed to please them, and in return they gave me whale fins, together with some of their seal clothing which is valueless, and which I accepted only to avoid appearing to refuse their gifts. They then embarked in their canoes. As they were leaving, I had a few rifle shots fired, which appeared to frighten them and caused them to cry as if asking for mercy.
5 July, 1743
Having left baye des Meniques, we sailed about seven leagues along the Coste des Eskimaux. Then contrary winds having set in, we were compelled to seek shelter in another bay about one league wide at its entrance by several leagues long, in which large vessels can obtain shelter from all winds; To the north and south of it are islands and islets. Before anchoring, the wind having veered to the east, we tried to tack about to leave this bay. And, at the same time, as the wind decreased, we saw nine canoes of Eskimaux and a boat which appeared to us to be paddled by only women and children. Fearing an attack, we had our arms in readiness, nine canoes of Eskimaux having reached the vessel. One of them gave us to understand that his name was Captain Hape, and, seeing that we could not leave the bay on account of a contrary wind, he offered to show us an anchorage. Having embarked in his canoe and proceeded ahead to indicate the course, he led us to the bottom of the bay to show us the anchorage. There we remained until the day after. Captain Hape having then gone on board to join his companions, as an acknowledgment of the good service he had rendered us, I gave him a few gifts, and some to the other Indians of his troop, who expressed great friendship for us and gave us whale fins. We named this bay after the name of this Eskimaux captain.
6 July, 1743
The wind blowing from the south-west, we sailed at about four o'clock in the morning. As we were under sail, we saw three Eskimaux boats and a few canoes of these barbarians, only one canoe of which could reach our vessel. The others having been unable to do so and having indicated our course to that Eskimaux, he offered to pilot us. Having taken the helm, he piloted us very well for more than two hours after leaving la baye d'Hape, and he piloted us for a distance of four leagues past steep bluffs to the entrance of another bay of one league width at its entrance by many leagues in depth, in which bay he gave us to understand that Captain Araby was anchored and that there lived Captain Amargo, another Eskimaux chief, which caused us to name this bay after him. Our Eskimaux pilot, returned to shore and left us, seeing that we would not proceed to the bottom of the bay where he had intended to lead us. At the same time, we recognized the vessel of the said Araby, which was sailing to leave the bay. And having waited for him, to speak to him, he told us that, at night, he had been boarded by nine Eskimaux canoes and had seen twenty-two boats, but that the great number of these barbarians had prevented him from trading: which is in contradiction with the statement of our Eskimaux pilot, who said that Captain Araby had traded in whales with Captain Amargo. The said Araby added that the land of Amargo, the Eskimaux captain, was in this bay; that these barbarians were great numbers, and that he advised us not to proceed any further, as we would find opposition along the coast. I answered him that we were armed and could defend ourselves. As this vessel, which is owned by the partners, the Sieurs Martel de Brouague and Desaunier, merchant of Québec, was approaching us, we recognized a Recollet priest who had left Québec with the Sr. Desaunier, clerk at la baye Philipaux for the said Srs. Brouague and Desaunier, his brother, Having then asked the said Araby what had become of the Indiads whom it was known he had taken on board to serve as his guides, he answered that the fear of the Eskimaux had caused them to flee. Having separated, and having waited to ascertain his course, we saw him return toward Belle isle, undoubtedly not daring to proceed any further for want of a passport further than la baye de Philipeaux.
Frightened by Araby's statement, our crew mutinied, saying that they were being led to slaughter, and wanted to return. Having been shown by the Captain and myself that we prized life as much as they did, and that Araby had made that statement for the sole purpose of discouraging them and causing the voyage of discovery to come to naught, I threatened them, saying that I would send the cowards ashore and keep only those of good will. That, first, seemed to frighten, and to quiet them. However, as they persisted in their mutiny, I threatened them, saying that they would lose their wages, and be punished on the complaint I would make against them. That, finally, appeased them. Then standing on our course, we sailed out of la bays d'Amargo, and, after travelling four or five leagues, we saw, at one o'clock in the afternoon, smoke in another bay, the entrance of which is only one league and which widens gradually, and may have two leagues in depth, with islands and islets and deep water everywhere in its entrance. Having entered the said bay we fired a few gun shots, and were surprised by being answered from land by other gun shots, and we perceived that they were-natives other than Eskimaux, because the latter do not use fire-arms. We steered our course towards the smoke, but a contrary wind forced us to anchor between the islands and land in ten fathoms of water. Having ordered other gun shots to be fired, they-were answered. About eight o'clock in the evening, Indians came on board and told us that they had been taken on board of Araby's vessel. As many of these Indians spoke French, I asked them why they had remained. They told us that they were to pilot Captain Araby to La baye Kessessakiou, but that the said Araby, fearing the Eskimaux, had abandoned them and was returning. Having then asked them whether they knew the said bay, they answered that they did, and if we would take them on board with their wives and children, they would show us the way and pilot us there. I agreed to these terms, and meeting the Indians in that place caused us to name it baie des Sauvages.
7 July, 1743
About four o'clock in the afternoon, the wind having veered from south, and south-south-west, we set sail out of baye des Sauvages, and, when passing in front of the place where the Indians lived in their cabins, we fired a few gun shots to cause them to come on board, which they did, bringing their arms, luggage, women and children. Having travelled about two leagues along La coste des Eskimaux, which runs north and south from La baye St. Alexis, we entered a chain of very high and steep islands and islets to be seen at a distance of eight or ten leagues off. Having travelled through these islands until ten o'clock in the evening, we anchored among the Eskimaux Islands or Mille Isles (Thousand Islands). The game is abundant there. We noticed in these islands big heaps of stone having the form of a human being, the work of the Eskimaux, who are always roving in these islands or making their residence there.
8 July, 1743
With southwest winds, and steering north-west quarter north, we weighed anchor at three o'clock in the morning, and, about eight o'clock we discovered in the interior, at a very great distance a big and very high mountain which the Indians told us to be that of Kessessakiou. About noon, a heavy north wind having risen, with the rain and fog, we were still compelled to remain at anchor in the said Mille isles.
9 July, 1743
The wind having veered to south-west quarter south, at about two o'clock in the afternoon, we pursued our course to emerge from the Mille isles, which seemed to us to be about twenty-five leagues of very difficult navigation.It was only with the assistance of our Indians that we left them, and we entered Riviere au Sable inlet, so called by the Indians because of the quantity of sand found in it. At the end of that inlet, lies a river of the same name, the falls, of which we heard in passing. This river, according to the report of the Indians, is full of fish and abounds with salmon. From this river, the land is low and covered with pines (spruce) and other resinous woods. Sailing northwardly, there are a great number of islands along the shore of the inlet. This inlet, which we might call a bay, is formed by a peninsula on the south side, which juts out a long way and connects at the other end with the mainland. The Eskimaux avoid that point by portaging their canoes. The peninsula projects into the open sea and is very difficult to double.
10 July, 1743
Although the wind was still strong, nevertheless, we made headway, and, about eleven o'clock, we saw ahead of us a point of land which, the Indians told us, formed the entrance of La baye des Eskimaux, or Kessessakiou, as they call it. Having passed Riviere aux Sables inlet - the length of which our pilots estimated at approximately twenty leagues - about two o'clock in the afternoon, we doubled the said point of low-lying land and entered la Baye des Eskimaux. The entrance to it, from one point to the other, seemed to be about twelve leagues in width, afterwards, narrowing to eight or nine leagues, and gradually decreasing. South of this point at the entrance, lie two very high islands, one large, and the other rather small. Having explored the mouth of the said bay, heretofore called Eskimaux and, by the Indians, Kessessakiou, we called it baye St. Louis; we gave the name of St. Frederic to the two large islands at the entrance. The one forming the southern entrance of the bay we called pointe de Beauharnois, the other point, on the north side, has been called St. Gilles point.
We then steered the course to enter the said bay, which runs inland west-north-west. In the southern part of it, at some distance from the land, we found twelve and fifteen fathoms of water, so this bay may harbour very large vessels. We sailed ten leagues into this bay with the help of south-east quarter east winds, arriving at about ten o'clock in the evening, the hour of sun-set. The wind having veered to the north-north-west, we had to anchor in six fathoms of water between the islands and shore. Northwest and south of the said bay from its entrance are islands and islets along the land which is forested. As regards the latitude, not having a pilot to take observations, we cannot give it exactly. According to sun-set, which is at ten o'clock in the evening at the begining of July, it is estimated that this bay must be between 55 and 56 degrees of north latitude. The Indians whom I took away told us that, two years ago, two English vessels entered that bay. These must be the two English vessels which go every year to Hudson bay. The same Indians assured us that north of St. Gilles point, without being able to give us the distance, was a big village of Eskimaux, who, they say, are in great numbers at the mouth of river Blanche. They say that this river is a branch of the Kessessakiou river, which we called St. Louis river after the name of the bay into which it discharges, and they assured that this same river St. Louis has another branch at the height-of-land, which falls into Hudson bay, and which the Indians descend in canoes to trade with the English.
11 July, 1743
Being anchored all day on account of contrary winds, we landed and erected two large crosses on a hill at the foot of which we knelt down and sung many psalms and hymns thanking God for our successful arrival. At the same time, we raised the French flag, shouting repeatedly "Long live the King," to demonstrate that we were taking possession in the name of the King and of the French nation, of a land never before occupied by any nation, and of which we were the first to take possession.
12 July, 1743
Having no more perils to encounter, I would have preferred to penetrate to the end of La baye St. Louis, so as to be able to describe it, and see the inlet of the river St. Louis. But, as the time for our return was pressing, and as the winds were con- trary, I proposed that a man named Pilote and his son remain with the Indians Whose language he understands, and with whom he is accustomed to winter in the forest, in order to explore the end of baye St. Louis, as well as discover the two branches of said river St. Louis, the one going to Hudson bay, and the other to the big village of Eskimaux; according to the report of Indians who estimate that it is only twelve leagues distant from St. Gilles point. Having agreed with the said Pilote and his son for the payment of a certain sum for their wintering, I supplied them with a birch-bark canoe, provisions, arms, munitions of war, for hunting, and other necessary goods.
The Indians, to the number of five or six families, agreed to remain with Pilote. I left them the same supplies and gave them clothing, blankets, and other articles for fishing and hunting. When I left Pilote and his son, I recommended them not to expose themselves on the sea-shore for fear of the Eskimaux, and, subject to the approval of the Governor General and the Intendant, I promised to send them assistance in the fall.
Having then re-embarked, we sailed on the twelveth of July, at one o'clock in the afternoon, to return to Belleisle strait. The wind having veered to the east, we made tack for tack to leave the said bay St. Louis. As the current drove us ashore, we grounded twice within Beauharnois point, but happily righted the vessel by means of an anchor carried out, and, at about ten o'clock in the evening, we anchored at Beauharnois point between the islands and shore.
13 July, 1743
At seven o'clock in the morning, we weighed anchor, and, with the assistance of a north wind, we passed Beauharnois point, and, having successfully passed the big riviere au Sable inlet, with a north-west wind, in spite of fog and rain, and having doubled the point of the peninsula, we entered the Mille isles at midnight. Contrary winds compelled us to anchor.
14 July, 1743
We set sail with south-west and west-south-west winds, and, after many tacks, with variable winds at noon and a head-wind we anchored in the said islands in eight fathoms of water. We had rain the remainder of the day and calm all night.
15 July, 1743
We sailed with a south-west wind, made many tacks among the islands, and, finally, anchored at noon. One hour later, the wind being north-west, we pursued our course and emerged from the Mille isles. The wind having shifted, we stood out to sea. The calm which set in lasted all night, and prevented us from entering any harbour. The ship rolled heavily, and we feared we would lose our masts.
16 July, 1743
The wind was from the north and north-east and, holding our course, we passed three bays along the capes. The south and south-eastern winds compelled us to sail along the coast seeking a harbour, and, with assistance of a south wind, we entered la baye des Meniques, and, on entering, we saw a distant fire. Finally, at about two o'clock in the afternoon, we anchored in twenty fathoms of water near the islands. One hour later, eight canoes of Eskimaux appeared at the point. They landed on an island, uttering their usual cries, which we answered, which is equivalent to inviting them to approach. The Eskimaux having re-embarked in their canoes came on board. As we saw them approaching, we armed ourselves. They boarded us and brought aboard eight whale fins which I bartered with them. One hour after their departure, six other canoes of Eskimaux boarded us, and they traded four whale fins. One of these Eskimaux gave us to understand that he was Captain Amargo, and that Captain Araby had ordered him to fire a gun shot at a seal to teach him the use of arms. Before leaving us, he also gave us to understand that he was going to sleep and, in the morning would bring other Indians of his nation to trade with us. I ordered that this chief and his band be given cooked meat, which they ate. They drank fresh water that we gave them. This disproves the story that these barbarians eat only raw meat and drink salt water, which seemed incredible, but they refused bread, wine and whiskey, the use of which was unknown to them. It would be desirable that it be the same with our other Indians. It is only to be feared that, if the Coste des Eskimaux is settled by too many Frenchmen, the liquor habit will be acquired by these barbarians, as has been the case with other Indians. I noticed that many of them were bleeding naturally from the nose, and were drinking it. Our men pretended that fear was the only cause of it. I doubt it, because these barbarians did not seem frightened. Their intention was perhaps to let us under-stand that they likewise wished to drink our blood. Therefore, as long as they remained on board, we were on our guard.
17 July, 1743
Contrary winds prevented us from leaving the Baye des Meniques. About seven o'clock in the morning, twenty-four canoes of Eskimaux boarded us, followed by eighteen boats which seemed loaded only with women, children and luggage. The boats kept at a distance, undoubtedly fearing to approach. Having uttered their usual cries, which we answered while keeping on the alert, the Eskimaux of the twenty-four canoes came on board where they traded with us about one quintal of whalebone, three canoes, seal clothing and some of their weapons. That is the only profit I made during my exploration in return for the heavy expense I incurred. The Eskimaux, seeing that we were setting sail at noon on account of the north-west winds, returned to their canoes and went ashore. We had hardly left the bay when contrary winds compelled us to tack about for the remainder of the day and during the night.
18 July, 1743
The south and south-west winds which blew all day and all night caused us to keep tacking about in the open sea.
19 July, 1743
The wind being from the south-west, we saw cape Charles while tacking about. The wind increased, and the sea became very rough. At about seven o'clock in the evening, seeing we were near La baye des Chateaux, we fired three gun shots. They immediately sent us a boat which helped us, in spite of the night and fog, to enter the anchorage. Upon our arrival, the fishermen told us that since our departure they had suffered continuous fog and rain with winds so fierce that they believed we were assuredly lost. What seemed to make it a certainty was that this Araby, on his return, had reported it along the coast-and at Tierpon, as well as other harbours of the Petit Nord. The very day after my arrival, my first care was to send back to Tierpon the schooner I had chartered, where it arrived on the 21st day. As it was necessary to hasten my return, I only remained three days at la baye des Chateaux, and on the 24th of July, I sailed for Québec at five o'clock in the morning on the same vessel that had carried me thence. At last, after a long, wearisome and perilous voyage, we arrived at Québec on the 25th of August, day of St. Louis' day, about nine o'clock in the evening. The second day after, on the 27th of August, we fulfilled the vow we had made during our voyage.
I must remark that, during the exploration I made of La baye des Eskimaux - now baye St. Louis - we were unable to discover the seal-passes either along the coast or in the bays, as it was too late; the seals had already passed on their return to the north. As seals are numerous along this coast which is bordered within numerous islands and islets, it is believed that there are a great number of passes where sedentary seal fisheries may be established, but they cannot be indicated other than by conjecture. To determine them with certainty would require repeated visits to this coast. As the winter must set in earlier at la baye St. Louis and along the Coste des Eskimaux than in the posts of Labrador, it is uncertain whether the fall fishery could be made, which takes place at Labrador in the month of December until the Twelfth Day. It seems as if it would be very late if made at the same time. The only resource will be the spring - fishery.
What has been observed respecting the seal is that it leaves the Grand Nord when the cold weather sets in, and follows the shore along La Coste des Eskimaux, and the coast of Labrador, they spend the winter in the gulf without going up Le fleuve St. Laurent. In the spring of the year following, in the month of June when the ice comes from the north, it takes to the ice, which is carried along the coast and proceeds to Hudson strait, but it is uncertain whether it remains in Hudson bay during the summer, or whether it passes Davis strait to go into la mer Christiane, gr goes to the shores of New Greenland. This fish, which is very abundant, takes about three weeks to pass each place, and that permits a successful fishery in one post after another.
The chart attached to this narrative is based upon observations of our two coast pilots, but I hope, later on, to give a more correct one on which the degrees of latitude will be indicated, that it may be useful to other sea-going vessels looking for harbours. As soon as I am established in baye St. Louis, it will facilitate my exploration of the remainder of the Coste du Nord to Hudson strait.
The great number of Eskimaux we found in la baye des Meniques induce me to believe that they were there as at a meeting place, from whence they intended to go plundering along the coast of Labrador. They waited for the departure of the fishermen. So, if sedentary seal-fishing establishments were erected in the bays and islands along la Coste des Eskimaux they would prevent their brigandages, because these barbarians, finding no harbour in which they could take cover, and be in safety, would move farther and farther away, and would not dare come near Belleisle strait. This would assure the safety of the fishermen and of all the coast. Formerly, the Eskimaux ascended to Mingan, but the establishments made along the coast compelled them to move away. Here, the result would be the same. These barbarians are quick and skilful in the handling of their boats, the women as well as the men. They are notorious plunderers and are pirates to be feared. Along the coast, many times, as they approached us to express their signs of friendship, they cleverly put their hands in our pockets to rob us. Having caught them red-handed, our Frenchmen did not spare them the club nor the fist to make them return what they had stolen. They would even attempt to carry naval equipment away. Their stratagem of war is to take us by surprise or to attack us when in superior numbers. As one is not always on his guard, and as the same number of men do not always remain in the posts, they will always be a source of danger on the Cote du Nord.
It will be dangerous if various grantees make establishments along la Coste des Eskimaux, because if some, to render them tractable, try to attract them and trade with them, others, to keep them away from their posts, will commit acts of hostility. In consequence, these barbarians, to avenge themselves, will put everything to fire and sword, and will devastate the whole coast. We have, in the past, seen too many instances of their cruelty. The Sr. Marsal recently informed us of one that occurred this very year. It would be as easy to civilize them as the other natives. They proved it last year at la baye des Chateaux where they worked as our seamen in the loading of the ship I had sent in partnership. After having traded at the same post during the summer, they returned in the autumn and remained until the frost set in, without injuring the four men who kept the post during the winter.
With regard to the numbers of these savage Esquimaux, nothing could be ascertained. They are scattered from Belleisle strait along the sea to Hudson strait, so that they occupy more than two hundred leagues of land. Our Indians say that the big village of Esquimaux lies at about twelve leagues from la baye St. Louis, and that, from there, they spread along the coast. Mr. he Laraguy de Bayonne, now in this town, stated to me that, in 1737, while on a whaling expedition toward Hudson strait, he discovered in the open sea, ice on which were lying more than four hundred dead men, whom he recognized as Hollanders and Esquimaux who had undoubtedly fought one another. This shows that this coast must not be frequented without the utmost precaution. In view of the great number and ferocity of these barbarians.
Nothing is known of their life and manners or of their dwelling place in winter time, because during the summer, they wander and rove. We are ignorant as to where they obtain the whale fins which they use so much and trade with us. We do not know whether they kill the whale or find it ashore on the coast. The latter seems to me more probable, all the more that the fins they traded with us did not appear freshly taken, but old and sea-beaten. I saw, however, in their hands spears and harpoons similar to those we use for that fishing. They feed on all kinds of fish and sea-birds they kill with arrows and with harpoons with many barbs fastened to a long stick, which they throw in a skilful and pecular way. But arrows are their weapons. They live in cabins arranged in rows like other aborigines, with this difference that their cabins are covered with seal skins and that the others use tree-bark. They hunt along the sea, and not in the woods, which they dare not penetrate.owing to their fear of the Indians of the interior. For their clothing, they use seal skins which they know how to dress and to sew very cleverly with sinew. The men wear a coat or doublet sewed before and behind, which reaches to the waist, with a hood to cover the head, which is sewn to the clothing. They wear breeches, boots or brodequins to which the shoe is fastened. The women wear a like doublet with a very large hood in which they carry their infants at the breast, with this difference that their doublet has a long tail which they pass between their thighs to attach it in front with two buttons. Instead of breeches, they have brodequins or boots as high as the waist with a shoe fastened to the boot. The men and women wear a wooden shade on the forehead and attached to the head, to protect their eyes from the sun.
As regards navigation, they use canoes in which there is room for only one man. Women and children travel in boats in which they carry their luggage and which they handle quite cleverly. The canoes are tapered at both ends and covered with seal skins so well sewed with baleine that they do not leak. They steal boats from fishermen along the coast of Labrador and at Petit Nord. They construct a few, but instead of planks, they cover the outside with seal skins. They equip them with sails as we do ours. To know more, we must visit them frequently and learn their language. Had I not feared an act of hostility, I would have tried to take a young man of about fifteen or sixteen years of age, in order to learn his language and to teach him ours. But that can be done in future.
I left two men at la baye St. Louis, as I believed it my duty to have an exact knowledge of the interior, and to examine seal-passes. I prided myself on the fact that the Governor General and the Intendant would be pleased with my zeal. So, as it is important to leave this fall to carry assistance to the two Frenchmen and to the Indians whom I left at the said place, and, as it is necessary, on account of the distance of the place and of the severity of the winter which sets in early in the north, to sail without delay, therefore I have the honour to present my petition to M. the Governor General and M. the Intendant, praying them to give me permission to send a vessel this fall and to give me the patent of concession of the said bays St. Louis which I had the good fortune to discover.
Quebec, 20 September, 1743