Tent Life in Siberia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 467 pages of information about Tent Life in Siberia.
guided and controlled entirely by the voice and by a lead-dog who is especially trained for the purpose.  The driver carries no whip, but has instead a stick about four feet in length and two inches in diameter, called an oerstel (oar’-stel).  This is armed at one end with a long iron spike, and is used to check the speed of the sledge in descending hills, and to stop the dogs when they leave the road, as they frequently do in pursuit of reindeer and foxes.  The spiked end is then thrust down in front of one of the knees or uprights of the runners, and drags in that position through the snow, the upper end being firmly held by the driver.  It is a powerful lever, and when skilfully used brakes up a sledge very promptly and effectively.

[Illustration:  TOWARD NIGHT; A TIRED DOG-TEAM From a painting by George A. Frost]

The art of driving a dog-team is one of the most deceptive in the world.  The traveller at first sight imagines that driving a dog-sledge is just as easy as driving a street-car, and at the very first favourable opportunity he tries it.  After being run away with within the first ten minutes, capsized into a snow-drift, and his sledge dragged bottom upward a quarter of a mile from the road, the rash experimenter begins to suspect that the task is not quite so easy as he had supposed, and in less than one day he is generally convinced by hard experience that a dog-driver, like a poet, is born, not made.

The dress of the Kamchadals in winter and summer is made for the most part of skins.  Their winter costume consists of sealskin boots or torbasses worn over heavy reindeerskin stockings and coming to the knee; fur trousers with the hair inside; a foxskin hood with a face border of wolverine skin; and a heavy kukhlanka (kookh-lan’-kah), or double fur overshirt, covering the body to the knees.  This is made of the thickest and softest reindeerskin, ornamented around the bottom with silk embroidery, trimmed at the sleeves and neck with glossy beaver, and furnished with a square flap under the chin, to be held up over the nose, and a hood behind the neck, to be drawn over the head in bad weather.  In such a costume as this the Kamchadals defy for weeks at a time the severest cold, and sleep out on the snow safely and comfortably in temperatures of twenty, thirty, and even forty degrees below zero, Fahr.

Most of our time during our long detention at Lesnoi was occupied in the preparation of such costumes for our own use, in making covered dog-sledges to protect ourselves from winter storms, sewing bearskins into capacious sleeping-bags, and getting ready generally for a hard winter’s campaign.

[Illustration:  Root Digger]



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Tent Life in Siberia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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