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I BOUGHT CAPTAIN C.F. Hall’s Life with the Esquimaux, 1865, for three reasons: It would be the oldest book in my collection. For its time, it was richly illustrated. And I was attracted by the novel spelling of “Esquimaux.”
New Hampshire-born Charles Francis Hall dated the Preface to Life with the Esquimaux June 30, 1864, “on board the bark Monticello, bound for the Arctic Region.” He was to have yet a third polar expedition, aboard the U.S.S. Polaris, 1871-1873, from which he never returned—because of foul play, confirmed only in 1968.
In Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, I offer tidbits gleaned from Hall’s Life with the Esquimaux as well as from my usual Internet sleuthing.
A Search for Franklin’s Lost Expedition. Hall describes his efforts to trace the lost Arctic expedition of British Captain Sir John Franklin. Franklin and his two ships left England in 1845 to explore unnavigated portions of the Northwest Passage. Ice-bound for more than a year, Franklin and his crew abandoned their ships in April 1848 and were subsequently lost in the Canadian Arctic.
A Frobisher Find. Even more impressive than the Franklin investigation, Hall’s exploration revealed relics of Martin Frobisher’s visits and activities some 300 years earlier.
Frobisher’s apparent discoveries of gold, on what is now Baffin Island, turned out to be of worthless hornblende rock. Later, he was knighted for his service repelling the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Hall’s Inuit Friends. Hall’s linguistic abilities and close relationship with Inuit guides Ipirvik and Taqulittuq helped him discover the Frobisher relics.
Ipirvik (Inuktitut: ᐃᐱᕐᕕᒃ, often transliterated as Ebierbing; c. 1837–c. 1881) and his wife Taqulittug (Inuktitut: ᑕᖁᓕᑦᑐᖅ, often transliterated as Tookoolito; c. 1838 – 1876) were the best-known and most-travelled Inuit in the 1860s and 1870s.
According to Wikipedia, “Hall had the Inuit family appear with him when he gave his talk on the Frobisher relics at the American Geographical Society, and aware of the high degree of interest in them, arranged with P.T. Barnum for their exhibition at Barnum’s American Museum. Hall arranged for their exhibition shortly afterwards at the Boston Aquarial Gardens, but when no payment was forthcoming for this second exhibit, swore off any more dealings with ‘Show Establishments.’ ”
In later life, Ipirvik and Taqulittug lived in Groton, Connecticut, in a home that Hall and Sidney O. Budington, Captain of the George Henry, had helped arrange.
Ironically, Captain Budington appears later in this narrative, in not uncontroversial light.
Esquimaux Patience. As the George Henry neared Greenland, Hall described, “During the night, our two faithful Esquimaux kept on deck, watching the almost obscured mountains, that they might guide us aright.”
“I thought, at the time,” Hall continued, “it were better if they could be prevailed upon to adopt the custom of our seamen—always on the move when out in the open air; but I understood they look upon our walking to and fro as foolishness—a great amount of hard work, with much expenditure of tanned skins (shoe-leather) and muscle all for naught!”
A Greenland Dance-House. In describing their visit to Holsteinborg, Greenland, Hall described “a curious custom here…. The people go to church in the morning and afternoon, then they consider Sunday to cease, and amusement begins…. Sometimes 150 persons are crowded into the dance-house.”
On the king’s birthday, Hall described, “His Danish majesty supplied the good cheer, and Europeans as well as Esquimaux alike join in the festivity.”
Tomorrow in Part 2, we learn more about the Esquimaux, Hall’s Frobisher relics, as well as his ill-fated third Arctic exploration. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021