A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 16 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 658 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels, Volume 16.

Though, in general, they agree in the make of their persons, and largeness of their heads, there is a considerable variety in their features; but very few can be said to be of the handsome sort, though their countenance commonly indicates a considerable share of vivacity, good-nature, and frankness.  And yet some of them had an air of sullenness and reserve.  Some of the women have agreeable faces; and many are easily distinguishable from the men by their features, which are more delicate; but this should be understood chiefly of the youngest sort, or middle-aged.  The complexion of some of the women, and of the children, is white; but without any mixture of red.  And some of the men, who were seen naked, had rather a brownish or swarthy cast, which could scarcely be the effect of any stain; for they do not paint their bodies.

Their common dress (for men, women, and children are cloathed alike), is a kind of close frock, or rather robe; reaching generally to the ancles, though sometimes only to the knees.  At the upper part is a hole just sufficient to admit the head, with sleeves that reach to the wrist.  These frocks are made of the skins of different animals; the most common of which are those of the sea-otter, grey fox, racoon, and pine-martin, with many of seal-skins, and, in general, they are worn with the hairy side outward.  Some also have these frocks made of the skins of fowls, with only the down remaining on them, which they glue on other substances.  And we saw one or two woollen garments like those of Nootka.  At the seams, where the different skins are sewed together, they are commonly ornamented with tassels or fringes of narrow thongs, cut out of the same skins.  A few have a kind of cape, or collar, and some a hood; but the other is the most common form, and seems to be their whole dress in good weather.  When it rains, they put over this another frock, ingeniously made from the intestines of whales, or some other large animal, prepared so skilfully, as almost to resemble our gold-beater’s leaf.  It is made to draw tight round the neck; its sleeves reach as low as the wrist, round which they are tied with a string; and its skirts, when they are in their canoes, are drawn over the rim of the hole in which they sit, so that no water can enter.  At the same time, it keeps the men entirely dry upward.  For no water can penetrate through it, any more than through a bladder.  It must be kept continually moist or wet, otherwise it is apt to crack or break.  This, as well as the common frock made of the skins, bears a great resemblance to the dress of the Greenlanders, as described by Crantz.[1]

[Footnote 1:  Crantz’s History of Greenland, vol. i. p. 136-138.  The reader will find in Crantz many very striking instances, in which the Greenlanders, and Americans of Prince William’s Sound, resemble each other, besides those mentioned in this Section by Captain Cook.  The dress of the people of Prince William’s Sound, as described by Captain Cook, also agrees with that of the inhabitants of Schumagin’s Islands, discovered by Beering in 1741.  Muller’s words are, “Leur habillement etoit de boyaux de baleines pour le haut du corps, et de peaux de chiens-marins pour le bas.”—­Decouvertes des Russes, p. 274.]

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