[Illustration: Wooden Mortar used for grinding Tobacco]
CANOE TRAVEL ON THE YOLOFKA—VOLCANIC CONVERSATION—“O SUSANNA!”—TALKING “AMERICAN”—A DIFFICULT ASCENT
There was a great variety in the different methods of transportation which we were compelled to adopt in our journey through Kamchatka; and to this fact was attributable perhaps, in a great degree, the sense of novelty and freshness which during our three months’ travel in the peninsula never entirely wore off. We experienced in turn the pleasures and discomforts of whale-boats, horses, rafts, canoes, dog-sledges, reindeer-sledges, and snow-shoes; and no sooner did we begin to tire of the pleasures and ascertain the discomforts of one, than we were introduced to another.
At Kluchei we abandoned our rafts, and took Kamchadal log canoes, which could be propelled more easily against the rapid current of the Yolofka River, which we had now to ascend. The most noticeable peculiarity of this species of craft, and a remarkable one it is, is a decided and chronic inclination to turn its bottom side upward and its upper side bottomward without the slightest apparent provocation. I was informed by a reliable authority that a boat capsized on the Kamchatka, just previous to our arrival, through the carelessness of a Kamchadal in allowing a jack-knife to remain in his right-hand pocket without putting something of a corresponding weight into the other; and that the Kamchadal fashion of parting the hair in the middle originated in attempts to preserve personal equilibrium while navigating these canoes. I should have been somewhat inclined to doubt these remarkable and not altogether new stories, were it not for the reliability and unimpeachable veracity of my informant, Mr. Dodd. The seriousness of the subject is a sufficient guarantee that he would not trifle with my feelings by making it the pretext for a joke.
We indulged ourselves on Saturday morning in a much later sleep than was consistent with our duty, and it was almost eight o’clock before we went down to the beach.
Upon first sight of the frail canoes, to which our destinies and the interests of the Russian-American Telegraph Company were to be intrusted, there was a very general expression of surprise and dissatisfaction. One of our party, with the rapid a priori reasoning for which he was distinguished, came at once to the conclusion that a watery death would be the inevitable termination of a voyage made in such vessels, and he evinced a very marked disinclination to embark. It is related of a great warrior, whose Commentaries were the detestation of my early life, that during a very stormy passage of the Ionian Sea he cheered up his sailors with the sublimely egotistical assurance that they carried “Caesar and his fortunes”; and that, consequently, nothing disastrous could possibly