With ample means and experience one
may go anywhere in any wilderness with reasonable safety.
Hubbard was by no means inexperienced as a wilderness traveler, but he
had very limited means at his disposal. He had the means, in
fact, to employ but one professional voyageur to assist him, and George
Elson, a half-breed Cree Indian, was engaged for this service.
I had volunteered my services,
supplying my own outfit and agreeing to share with Hubbard the work of
the voyageur. I had hunted and traveled the woods to some
extent all my life, but in the exploration of virgin wilderness I was
at that time inexperienced.
We three could manage but one
canoe. Our facilities for the transportation of equipment and
supplies thus restricted we were compelled to travel exceedingly
light. Under the circumstances it was impossible to carry
sufficient provisions for the journey, and we were forced to depend
upon the wilderness itself to provide us with the greater part of our
On July 15, 1903, we turned our
backs upon the trading post at Northwest River, the last inhabited
outpost of civilization.
Native trappers whom we met at the
post told us that the Nascaupee River entered Grand Lake at its
head. Depending upon this information we paddled directly to
the head of the lake, passing the Nascaupee, whose mouth was marked by
an island, several miles below. In thus passing the Nascaupee
and the old Indian trail we made a fatal error.
No mention had been made by the
trappers of any other than the Nascaupee flowing into Grand Lake, and
also failing to observe the Beaver River we turned into the Susan
River, believing it to be the Nascaupee. In this Hubbard was
In “The Lure of the Labrador Wild”,
I have told the story of our trying and tragic experiences during the
succeeding months. It will be necessary now to refer only to
those points or those incidents which have a particular bearing upon
our present narrative.
The Susan proved a shallow,
turbulent stream, and as we fought our way up its hill-enclosed valley
we were compelled to carry our canoe and outfit upon our backs or wade
waste-deep in the water, two of us hauling and lifting the loaded canoe
over the rocks while the third towed it with a rope.
Fifty miles above Grand Lake a
tributary enters the Susan from the south. It is narrow and
deep, like a canal. The main stream had become so shallow
that further progress upon it was impossible, so we portaged around a
fall into the tributary, and named the new stream Goose Creek.
We followed Goose Creek to its
source, and then portaging through a series of lakes, in a
southwesterly direction, fell upon another and larger river than the
Susan. This was the Beaver, though at times we believed it to
be Goose Bay River, a previously mentioned unexplored river emptying
into Goose Bay, at the head of Hamilton Inlet.
We were now in a region, and in our
westward journey continued in a region that no white man, no native
trapper other than the Indians, and no Hudson’s Bay voyageur had ever
entered before us. It is a region than none, save the Indians
and the members of our own party, has ever seen to this day.
On August 12 Hubbard killed a
caribou. We stripped the meat from the bones and dried it,
Indian fashion. This was the only caribou or bog game killed
by any of us. We had fallen upon a season when game was
We pushed our way to the source of
the Beaver River, over mountain ranges, across many lakes, through
forests and barrens and swamps, until at last we reached a point high
on the plateau, far from civilization.
At the time that we portaged from
Goose Creek into the Beaver River our flour was so nearly gone that
each man’s ration was reduced to a small wedge of bannock at each
meal. From that time forward we lived chiefly on fish, varied
by the dried caribou meat and an occasional bird. Fortunately
we had plenty of tea, but long before we reached the farthest point of
our interior journey, our sugar and salt were exhausted.
Game became more rare and difficult
to kill, and with the raw winds of autumn fish refused to rise to any
lure we offered them. These had been our main reliance, and
when they failed us we found ourselves in a serious position.
We were ragged and gaunt when at
last we turned back toward civilization. I had tightened my
own belt thirteen inches since leaving Northwest River, and Hubbard had
not withstood the hardships as well as I. Through weakness
resulting from insufficient diet, none of us was able to carry the
canoe alone, though formerly one had portaged it. Our retreat
was, indeed, a race for life.
We should have turned back long
before we did, but Hubbard felt himself obliged to do the work he had
set out to do. He believed that when we reached the higher
plateau game would be more plentiful. Elson and I shared his
optimism in this respect. Hubbard felt that in taking a
chance that this would prove the case he was only doing his
duty. The pity of it is, as I proved two years later, that
had we gone on instead of turning back when we did, another week’s
travel would have carried us into a region where caribou and other game
was abundant, and where we should have met the Indians. But
this was something that from our standpoint no man could guess.
Next: Chapter III: