Having left the men under my charge with Mr. Henry, I took leave of that gentleman, and returned. At Oak point I found Messrs. Keith and Pillet encamped, to pass there the season of sturgeon-fishing. They informed me that I was to stay with them.
Accordingly I remained at Oak point the rest of the winter, occupied in trading with the Indians spread all along the river for some 30 or 40 miles above, in order to supply the factory with provisions. I used to take a boat with four or five men, visit every fishing station, trade for as much fish as would load the boat, and send her down to the fort. The surplus fish traded in the interval between the departure and return of the boat, was cut up, salted and barrelled for future use. The salt had been recently obtained from a quarter to be presently mentioned.
About the middle of March Messrs. Keith and Pillet both left me and returned to the fort. Being now alone, I began seriously to reflect on my position, and it was in this interval that I positively decided to return to Canada. I made inquiries of the men sent up with the boats for fish, concerning the preparations for departure, but whether they had been enjoined secrecy, or were unwilling to communicate, I could learn nothing of what was doing below.
At last I heard that on the 28th February a sail had appeared at the mouth of the river. The gentlemen of the N.W. Company at first flattered themselves that it was the vessel they had so long expected. They were soon undeceived by a letter from Mr. Hunt, which was brought to the fort by the Indians of Baker’s bay. That gentleman had purchased at the Marquesas islands a brig called The Pedlar: it was on that vessel that he arrived, having for pilot Captain Northrop, formerly commander of the ship Lark. The latter vessel had been outfitted by Mr. Astor, and despatched from New York, in spite of the blockading squadron, with supplies for the ci-devant Pacific Fur Company; but unhappily she had been assailed by a furious tempest and capsized in lat. 16 deg. N., and three or four hundred miles from the Sandwich Islands. The mate who was sick, was drowned in the cabin, and four of the crew perished at the same time. The captain had the masts and rigging cut away, which caused the vessel to right again, though full of water. One of the hands dived down to the sail-maker’s locker, and got out a small sail, which they attached to the bowsprit. He dived a second time, and brought up a box containing a dozen bottles of wine. For thirteen days they had no other sustenance but the flesh of a small shark, which they had the good fortune to take, and which they ate raw, and for drink, a gill of the wine each man per diem. At last the trade winds carried them upon the island of Tahouraka, where the vessel went to pieces on the reef. The islanders saved the crew, and seized all the goods which floated on the water. Mr. Hunt was then at Wahoo, and learned through some islanders from Morotoi, that some Americans had been wrecked on the isle of Tahouraka. He went immediately to take them off, and gave the pilotage of his own vessel to Captain Northrop.