The New North eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 277 pages of information about The New North.

At Fort Smith we enjoyed a close study of the American White Pelican (Pelecanus crythrorhynchos) which in the Mountain Rapids of the Slave finds its farthest north nesting-place.  It, too, has the saving grace of continuance exhibited by the grey wolf.  Mackenzie, a century ago, came across the birds here, and they have persisted ever since, although in the direct line of the river-transit of the fur-traders.  A wooded island in the swirl of the rapids is their wild breeding-place, and while we were there the young birds were very much in evidence.  We found something fascinating about this bird, so famed in song and story.  The plumage is white, relieved with rose and yellow.  The pelican nests are slight depressions in the sand, some of them softened with an algoid matting.  The eggs are white, rough-shelled, and equal-ended, with, so far as we could see, only one to three in a nest.  One by one the illusions of childhood vanish.  Some wretched historian proves without shadow of doubt that Sir John Moore at Corunna met decent daylight sepulture and was not “darkly buried at dead of night, the sod with our bayonets turning.”  There arises one Ferrero who demonstrates with conclusive exactness that Antony was attracted by Cleopatra’s money and his breast was not stirred by the divine passion.  A French scientist robs Benjamin Franklin of the kudos of his lightning-rod.  I myself on Vancouver Island have happened to be in at the death of two swans, and neither gurgled a musical note but yielded the ghost in dignified silence.  And now candour compels me to report that the Slave River pelican feeds her nestlings on prosaic fish without the slightest attempt to “open to her young her tender breast.”  It is rank libel for Byron to state

“Her beak unlocks her bosom’s stream
To still her famished nestling’s scream.”

And, when Keats states so sententiously in Endymion, “We are nurtured like a pelican brood,” he merely calls the world at large, fish-eaters.

CHAPTER IX

SLAVE RIVER AND GREAT SLAVE LAKE

“Wild for the hunter’s roving, and the use
  Of trappers in its dark and trackless vales,
Wild with the trampling of the giant moose,
  And the weird magic of old Indian tales.”

—­Archibald Lampman.

A double cabin is assigned us on The Mackenzie River and the nightmare that haunted us on the scows of wet negatives and spoiled films vanishes.  On Tuesday, July 7th, the new steamer takes the water.  Although, as we have said, we are in the latitude of St. Petersburg, still twelve hundred miles in an almost due northwest direction stretches between us and that far point where the Mackenzie disembogues into the Polar Ocean.  The Union Jack dips and all Fort Smith is on the bank to see us off.  On the Fourth of July we had improvised a program of sports for the Dog-Rib and Slavi boys, introducing them to the

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The New North from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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