On the 4th of August, contrary to all expectation, we saw a sail at the mouth of the river. One of our gentlemen immediately got into the barge, to ascertain her nationality and object: but before he had fairly crossed the river, we saw her pass the bar and direct her course toward Astoria, as if she were commanded by a captain to whom the intricacies of the channel were familiar. I had stayed at the Fort with Mr. Clapp and four men. As soon as we had recognised the American flag, not doubting any longer that it was a ship destined for the factory, we saluted her with three guns. She came to anchor over against the fort, but on the opposite side of the river, and returned our salute. In a short time after, we saw, or rather we heard, the oars of a boat (for it was already night) that came toward us. We expected her approach with impatience, to know who the stranger was, and what news she brought us. Soon we were relieved from our uncertainty by the appearance of Mr. Hunt, who informed us that the ship was called the Albatross and was commanded by Captain Smith.
It will be remembered that Mr. Hunt had sailed from Astoria on board the “Beaver,” on the 4th of August of the preceding year, and should have returned with that vessel, in the month of October of the same year. We testified to him our surprise that he had not returned at the time appointed, and expressed the fears which we had entertained in regard to his fate, as well as that of the Beaver itself: and in reply he explained to us the reasons why neither he nor Captain Sowles had been able to fulfil the promise which they had made us.
After having got clear of the river Columbia, they had scudded to the north, and had repaired to the Russian post of Chitka, where they had exchanged a part of their goods for furs. They had made with the governor of that establishment, Barnoff by name, arrangements to supply him regularly with all the goods of which he had need, and to send him every year a vessel for that purpose, as well as for the transportation of his surplus furs to the East Indies. They had then advanced still further to the north, to the coast of Kamskatka; and being there informed that some Kodiak hunters had been left on some adjacent isles, called the islands of St. Peter and St. Paul, and that these hunters had not been visited for three years, they determined to go thither, and having reached those isles, they opened a brisk trade, and secured no less than eighty thousand skins of the South-sea seal. These operations had consumed a great deal of time; the season was already far advanced; ice was forming around them, and it was not without having incurred considerable dangers that they succeeded in making their way out of those latitudes. Having extricated themselves from the frozen seas of the north, but in a shattered condition, they deemed it more prudent to run for the Sandwich isles, where they arrived after enduring a succession of severe gales. Here Mr. Hunt disembarked, with the men who had accompanied him, and who did not form a part of the ship’s crew; and the vessel, after undergoing the necessary repairs, set sail for Canton.