[Illustration: Iron Skin Scraper]
THE SNOW-DRIFT COMPASS—MARRIAGE BY CAPTURE—AN INTOXICATING FUNGUS—MONOTONY OF KORAK LIFE
On the following morning at daybreak we continued our journey, and rode until four hours after dark, over a boundless level steppe, without a single guiding landmark to point the way. I was surprised to see how accurately our drivers could determine the points of the compass and shape their course by simply looking at the snow. The heavy north-east winds which prevail in this locality throughout the winter sweep the snow into long wave-like ridges called sastrugi (sas-troo’-gee), which are always perpendicular to the course of the wind, and which almost invariably run in a north-west and south-east direction. They are sometimes hidden for a few days by fresh-fallen snow; but an experienced Korak can always tell by removing the upper layer which way is north, and he travels to his destination by night or day in a nearly straight line.
We reached the third encampment about six o’clock, and upon entering the largest tent were surprised to find it crowded with natives, as if in expectation of some ceremony or entertainment. Inquiry through our interpreter elicited the interesting fact that the ceremony of marriage was about to be performed for, or rather by, two members of the band; and instead of taking up our quarters, as we at first intended, in another less crowded tent, we determined to remain and see in what manner this rite would be solemnised by a wholly uncivilised and barbarous people.