The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume V


      Sources of

        of assistance.

      Work of


      Route followed
        in 1892.

      Route followed
        in 1893
        and 1894.

      Route followed
        in 1895.

        of matter.


      Boundaries of         the Labrador





      Coast of
        Hudson Bay.

      Gulf of St.         Lawrence         coast.

      General elevation         and contour.

      Gradual slope         towards James         Bay.

      Highlands of         the St.         Lawrence.

p. 2590




No. 1047.


The present report is based mainly upon the observations made along information the routes of exploration followed during the seasons of 1892, 1893, 1894 and 1895. The knowledge so gained has been supplemented by information obtained from officers and servants of the Hudson's Bay Company, Indians, and other persons acquainted with the Labrador Peninsula. Free use has also been made, in regard to certain subjects, of the information to be found in the writings of Mr. Lucius M. Turner,* Dr. A. S. Packard,† and Mr. W. A. Stearns,‡ who have all spent some time on the southern and eastern coasts and there collected much valuable information relating to the history, physical geography and natural history of those regions. Observations on the natural resources of the peninsula made by officers of the Geological Survey in former explorations, have also, when necessary, been incorporated in the text ; a list of these explorations is given at the end of the historical notes.

*List of birds of Ungava, Proc. U.S. Nat. Museum, VIII., 1885. Ethnology of Ungava, Annual Report U.S. Bureau of Ethnology, 1889-90.
†The Labrador Coast, New York, 1891.
‡Labrador, Boston, 1884.

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Acknowledgments are due to Mr. C. C. Chipman, Commissioner of the Hudson's Bay Company, and to Mr. Peter McKenzie, for circular letters to the various officers in charge of posts along the routes travelled, and to the following gentlemen in charge of these posts : Messrs. J. Broughton, D. Mathewson, Wm. Scott, C. Sinclair, J. A. Wilson, A. Nicholson, H. M. S. Cotter, John Ford, J. Fraser, J. Gordon, W. Miller, J. Iserhoff and J. Corson, for their generous hospitality, valuable information and efficient aid, to which the success of the explorations has been largely due.
During the season of 1892, Mr. A. H. D. Ross, M.A., acted as my assistant and besides carrying out other varied duties, made a large collection of plants, which added greatly to the botanical knowledge of the eastern watershed. The names of these plants have been included in the list given in an appendix. In 1893, 1894, and 1895, Mr. D. I. V. Eaton, C.E., acted as assistant and topographer, and it is entirely to his careful work that the exact surveys of these years are due. Mr. Eaton, since his return to Ottawa, has also compiled the map which accompanies this report.
Itineraries of the various journeys made in the course of these explorations have been printed in the Summary Reports of the Geological Survey Department for 1892, 1894, and 1895, and only a brief outline of the routes followed need in consequence be given here.
In 1892, the routes traversed were from Lake St. John, up the Chamouchouan River to its head, thence north-east through three large lakes to Lake Mistassini. From that lake the east channel of the Rupert River was descended some fifty miles, to a portage route crossing through small lakes to the East Main River fifty miles northward. This stream was carefully surveyed down-ward for three hundred miles to its mouth on the east side of James Bay. James Bay was crossed to Moose River, and that stream ascended to its head, where the Canadian Pacific Railway was reached, making in all a canoe trip of over thirteen hundred miles. In 1893 and 1894, the party remained in the field during the winter. A start was again made from Lake St. John, and the chief branch of the Chamouchouan River was ascended to its head near Lake Mistassini. The same route as that followed the previous year, was taken to the East Main River, where the survey was commenced at the end of that year's work, and carried upward to the head of the river, where a crossing was made to the upper waters of the Big River, and that stream was descended to Lake Nichicun. A portage-route was then followed to Lake Kaniapiskau, and the Koksoak River, which flows out of it, was descended to its mouth at Ungava Bay. In this manner a canoe trip through the centre of the Labrador Peninsula from south to north was accomplished. From Fort Chimo, the Hudson's Bay Company's steamship “ Eric ” was taken to Rigolet on Hamilton Inlet. From Rigolet, canoes were taken to Northwest River, at the head of the inlet, where the early winter was passed. From the 19 th January to the middle of May, the whole time was employed in hauling the outfit, canoes and provsions on sleds up the Hamilton River as far as the Grand Falls, some two hundred and fifty miles above the mouth of the river. The months of June and July were occupied in the exploration of the Ashuanipi branch of

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the Hamilton River to within a hundred miles of Lake Kaniapiskau, and with the exploration of Lake Michikamau. In August a start was made for the coast by ascending the Attikonak branch of the Hamilton River to its head, and thence crossing to the Romaine River. This stream was descended to within one hundred miles of the coast, whence a portage-route was followed to the St. John River, and by way of this river the Gulf of St. Lawrence was reached. The total mileage of travel for 1893-94 was 5,460 miles, made up as follows:—In canoe, 2,960 miles; on vessel, 1,000 miles; with dog-teams, 500 miles; and on foot, 1,000 miles.
The summer of 1895 was spent in exploring the Manicuagan River, flowing southward into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which it enters about 240 miles below Quebec. This stream was geologically explored to the head of Mouchalagan Lake, where the surveys previously made by the Crown Lands Department of Quebec ended. Above this lake the main stream was surveyed, by micrometer, to its head in Summit Lake in latitude 53° N., and track-surveys were carried over portage-routes on various branches of this river and the head-waters of the Outardes River and of the Big River of Hudson Bay. In so doing a good idea was obtained of the country about the central watershed of the peninsula, as well as considerable additional information in regard to the geology and natural history of the region.
The subject matter of this report is separated into two parts.—The first contains a general summary of the observations made, and the conclusions reached from these. It is consequently more concise and readable than the other part, which consists of detailed descriptions of the routes, the rocks noted, and other observations for the use of future explorers in the regions traversed. In the part relating to the geology, a summary of the chief observations and deductions is given in connection with each formation, before the detailed observations are entered upon.
In the Appendices will be found lists and short notes on the mammals, birds, fishes and insects known to exist in the interior of the peninsula; also a complete list of plants of Labrador, compiled by Mr. J. M. Macoun, from the various collections made by members of the staff of the Geological Survey and others. A meteorological record for 1893-94 is also given in Appendix VII.


The eastern coast of the Labrador Peninsula extends north-north-west, from the Strait of Belle Isle to Cape Chidley, a distance of about seven hundred miles, or from latitude 52° to latitude 60° 30´, fronting the North Atlantic. The northern boundary from Cape Chidley to Cape Wolstenholme, at the entrance of Hudson Bay, in a straight line, is nearly five hundred miles long, and runs about west-north-west in direction, forming the southern shore of Hudson Strait including Ungava Bay. A line drawn from Cape Wolstenholme to the bottom of James Bay, runs nearly north-and-south for eight hundred miles, and corresponds closely to the eastern shore-line of the

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peninsula. The southern boundary is arbitrary but has been taken as a straight line extending in a direction nearly east from the south end of James Bay near latitude 51°, to the Gulf of St. Lawrence near Seven Islands in latitude 50°. This line is nearly six hundred miles long, and passes close to the south end of Lake Mistassini. From where the line reaches the Gulf coast, in the neighbourhood of Seven Islands, the shore-line forms the southern boundary to the Strait of Belle Isle, with a length of somewhat over five hundred miles.
The total area embraced within these boundaries is approximately 511,000 square miles, of which, previous to the present explorations, 289,000 square miles were practically unknown. There still remains about 120,000 square miles of the northern portion of the peninsula, between Hudson and Ungava bays, totally unknown to anyone except the wandering bands of Eskimo who occasionally penetrate inland from the coast.
The Atlantic coast is exceedingly irregular, being deeply cut by many long narrow bays, or fiords, so that the coast-line exceeds many times the direct distance from Belle Isle to Cape Chidley. Hamilton Inlet is the largest and longest of these inlets, extending inland over one hundred and fifty miles from its mouth. Among others, Sandwich, Kaipokok, Saglek and Nachvak bays are from thirty to fifty miles deep. These narrow fiords are surrounded by rocky hills that rise abruptly from the water to heights ranging from 1,000 feet to 4,000 feet. The water of the inlets is generally deep and varies from ten to one hundred fathoms. A fringe of small rocky island extends almost continuously along the coast, with a breadth of from five to twenty-five miles. Outside the islands, the inner banks extend seaward for an average distance of about fifteen miles, and on them the water is rarely over forty fathoms deep. From this it will be seen that the fiords, as a rule, have greater depths than the banks outside the island fringe.
The coast adjacent to Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay has not been examined closely, but enough is known for us to state that it is generally bold, with highlands rising immediately from it. Small rocky islands form a narrow fringe in many places, especially about Ungava Bay, and the coast is indented with small bays, but not to such an extent as the Atlantic coast.
Hope's Advance is a western extension of Ungava Bay, as yet unexplored. The navigation of Ungava Bay and Hudson Strait is rendered dangerous to sailing craft by the strong currents and exceedingly high tides, the latter having a mean rise in Ungava Bay of nearly forty feet, and at exceptional spring-tides they have been known to rise sixty feet.
From Cape Wolstenholme to near Cape Jones, at the entrance to James Bay, the eastern coast-line of Hudson Bay is high and rocky. The coast between the entrance to Hudson Strait and Cape Dufferin, a distance of nearly three hundred miles, has not yet been continuously explored. Mosquito Bay is situated along this part of the coast, and was formerly supposed to connect with Hope's Advance. Such has since proved not to be the case, and Mosquito Bay has been found to extend inland not more than seventy-

p. 2594

five miles. Between this bay and Cape Dufferin, there is a fringe of islands stretching out from ten to twenty miles from the mainland. To the south-ward of Cape Dufferin, the coast-line remains high, and an almost continuous line of high islands of Cambrian rocks forms a safe channel for small boats, as far south as Great Whale River. This channel varies from two to eight miles in width. South of Great Whale River, to within a short distance of Cape Jones, the coast is unprotected and bold.
The eastern shore-line of James Bay is generally low, and the waters of the bay are very shallow and dotted far out with rocky islands and bouldery reefs, between which there is a perfect labyrinth of channels, navigable with small craft, but dangerous to approach with large vessels.
The north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in many places, has a more or less wide interval of low land, between the shore and the rocky plateau behind. From Seven Islands to Natashquan Point, the shore is comparatively regular and the islands few in number. To the eastward of Natashquan, as far as the Strait of Belle Isle, the coast is greatly indented by small bays and coves, and islands are numerous, especially between Cape Whittle and Blanc Sablon.
The peninsula of Labrador is a high, rolling plateau, which rises somewhat abruptly, within a few miles of the coast-line, to heights between 1,500 and 2,500 feet, the latter elevation being somewhat greater than the watershed of the interior. The interior country is undulating, and is traversed by ridges of low rounded hills, that seldom rise more than 500 feet above the general surrounding level. From the barometer readings, taken during the season of 1894, in conjunction with stationary barometers at Hamilton Inlet and Anticosti, the general level of the interior plateau, about the Upper Hamilton River and Lake Michikamau, near the central watershed, varies from 1,600 feet to 1,800 feet, and this may be taken as the general height of much of the interior of the peninsula. The highest part of the main interior mass is near the high granite area between the head-waters of the Peribonka, Manicuagan and Outardes rivers, flowing into the St. Lawrence, the East Main and Big rivers, flowing into Hudson Bay, and the Koksoak River flowing into Ungava Bay. The general elevation of this area exceeds 2,000 feet.
The only portion in which the general level is attained by a gradual slope, is the part facing James Bay, where the land along the coast is low, and the rise eastward towards the interior is so light that one hundred miles inland it is only about 700 feet above sea-level.
Beyond this the land continues to rise gradually, so that Lake Mistassini is only 1,300 feet above sea-level. As before stated, the rise from the coast in other places is quite rapid ; and along the St. Lawrence coast there is a range of high ground extending from the neighbourhood of Quebec to below the St. John River. The larger streams have cut deep valleys through this range. Along the Saguenay, at Cape Eternity, the hills rise almost shear 1,500 feet above the river ; while behind, in the Lake St. John region, few elevations exceed 1,000 feet. On the Bersimis River, the high range begins about forty-five miles inland and continues to about the one hundredth mile,



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