The Indians had watched our
preparations with interest, and they had warned Gilbert , who was a
great favourite among them, that we would find it impossible to ascend
the Beaver River. “The Beaver is a bad river,” they said.
“One summer is too short to go up it. No Indian
would ever attempt to ascend it, except on snowshoes, when it is
frozen, in winter.”
“That’s the way the Indians always
talk when folks go to their country,” said Gilbert. “Maybe
they’re right; we’ll see. No one knows what that river’s like
but the Indians, and we’re going to find out.”
so we dismissed the Indian warning without further
The men found many last things to
do in preparation for their absence from home, and it was nearly ten
o’clock on Friday morning when at last they announced themselves ready
for departure, and we carried our outfit to the wharf where the boat
and canoes had been drawn up to receive it.
The boat was to be manned by
Gilbert Blake, Murdock McLean and William Montague, and was to carry
the bulk of the outfit to the head of Grand Lake. Judge
Malone and I were to man the first canoe and Henry Blake the second,
with just enough outfit in each to serve as ballast. The
second canoe was but sixteen feet in length, and had considerably less
beam and depth than ours.
Leaving Gilbert to superintend the
final loading of the boat, and to see that nothing was forgotten or
overlooked, Malone and I took leave of Thevenet and crossed the river
to the beach below the Hudson’s Bay Company’s wharf, where Heath, with
Tom Blake and several natives, had gathered to bid us farewell.
Presently the boat and canoe drew
out from the French post, Judge Malone and I took our places in our
canoe to join them, and our little flotilla turned westward.
Immediately there burst forth a rattling discharge of firearms on both
sides of the river. Every man connected with the two
posts—and some of the women too, I believe—took part in the salute, and
our men responded, to the extent of their ability, with the rifles and
shotguns in their possession. For several minutes, and until
we rounded the point above the Hudson’s Bay Company’s post and were
lost to view, the firing continued. A mile beyond we met a
boat containing two native hunters, and here again salutes were
exchanged. The salutes were fired as an expression of good
wishes, and farewell.
The morning had dawned clear, but
before we reached “the rapid,” as the place is called where the river,
with a strong current, pours out of Grand Lake, three miles above the
posts, the sky became heavily overcast and before twelve o’clock a
drizzling rain began, and a heavy, depressing fog settled, to deny us
the enjoyment of the picturesque scenery of this most beautiful and
We halted at one o’clock among the
rocks, on the north shore, to “boil the kettle,” at the same place
where Hubbard and I stopped for the same purpose ten years before, but
long ago evidences of that first fire had been obliterated by the
The fog was so dense as to be
almost stifling when we resumed our paddles half an hour
later. We could see neither shore of the lake, and though we
were near enough to our companions for a time, we could scarcely make
them out in the thick mist.
It was agreed that we should
rendezvous at Cape Corbeau, a high, bold, rocky bluff jutting out into
the lake on its south side, some eighteen miles above the
outlet. Malone and I, leaving the slower moving boat and
second canoe to follow, paddled in the direction of Cape Corbeau, and
were quickly alone in the fog and beyond the sounds of voices and
oarlocks. After two hours we rested and listened for our
companions, but nothing indicated their positions in the thick fog, and
“Halloo!” came back the answer, but
it came from high above and in front of us.
“Who is there?” shouted Malone.
“Who is there” came the voice after
a brief interval.
I was peering into the bank of fog,
and through a rift discovered, in faint outline, directly ahead of us,
the towering cliffs of Cape Corbeau.
“It’s Cape Corbeau’s echo,” said
I. “We’re right off the Cape.”
“It’s the most remarkable and
wonderful echo I’ve ever heard!” declared Malone.
No reply had come from our men, and
for half an hour we paddled about experimenting with the echo at
different distances and from different points. It was indeed a most
remarkable and wonderful echo which he had so accidentally discovered.
“ The echoes of Killarney are
reckoned among the finest echoes in the world,” said the Judge as we
landed at the base of the cliff to await the boat. “I’ve
heard the Killarney echoes often, but they’re not equal to this.”
We shouted at intervals, but
recognized no answer, and at length, collecting driftwood, we lighted a
fire, for standing idly in the drizzling rain upon the dripping rocks
was not a cheerful experience. Here we chatted and smoked
until late in the afternoon there came faintly out of the fog the
distant report of a gun. We fired a shot or two in reply, but
another hour passed before the boat and canoe, with the men very wet,
hove into sight.
A mile above Cape Corbeau, and
midway between Cape Corbeau and Shiny Point—another rocky bluff—a small
brook winds down through the forest to join Grand Lake. At
the mouth of the brook there is an excellent camping place, and here we
pitched our tents and made our first camp.
Murdock, Henry and William were to
occupy Gilbert’s tent, Malone, Gilbert and myself the larger
Balloon-silk tent. In the latter we were to use the tent
stove. The tent was fitted with a mosquito-proof front of
cheesecloth, and was to serve as our dining tent and general gathering
place when rain or flies made sitting around the open campfire
Our tent has not been unpacked
since coming from the outfitters, and now upon opening it we found to
our annoyance that the asbestos ring, through which the stove pipe was
to pass, had been placed in the rear instead of the front, rendering
the use of the stove exceedingly awkward; and the cheesecloth front was
detached, with no method provided for attaching it. I mention
this instance as teaching the lesson, place no reliance in outfitters:
take nothing for granted; inspect everything before going into the
field. Our tent had been made for us by one of the best-known
outfitting concerns in the United States, and still these glaring,
annoying errors in construction occurred.
While the others were making things
snug, Malone and I attached the tent front, securing it with improvised
fastenings. The tent was swarming with mosquitoes, however,
before the front was in place, and altogether our first camp was an
Judge William Malone (L) and Dillon
Wallace before start of journey,
at the Hudson’s Bay Post landing at North West River,
departure point for Hubbard’s ill-fated 1903 expedition.
Heritage Information Network)
Protected against flies for the
ascent of the Beaver River.
L to R Gilbert Blake, Malone, Wallace.
Next: Chapter XI:
Sounding The Big Lake