"2,000 Mile Mojo Trip" 

July 15 to September 22

 

Editor's Note: This trip was considered the first Bay trip when I began the history in 1978. In fact, the first Bay trip was 1911. The 1915 trip was the first time anyone from Keewaydin had gone beyond James Bay to Hudson Bay, but the latter extension was done by steamer, not by canoe. Nonetheless, this was an unusual trip with its own set of risks and adventure. It was the first Keewaydin trip to Inuit territory. The original goal appears to have been to paddle up the Great Whale River, but a trip was taken to the Belcher Islands instead. The trip was lengthened by an eight-day delay at Charlton Island and the 16-day side-trip to the Belchers. When they arrived at Devil's Island the camp had been closed for the winter. Descendants of some of the participants tell me that the group was believed to have been "lost," a fact, they say, reported in a New York newspaper.

ROUTE:

Train to Kapuskasing River via Cochrane 

By Canoe: Kapuskasing River - Mattagami River - Moose River - Moose Factory

By Sloop: Moose Factory - Charlton Island

By Steamer: Charlton Island - Strutton Island - Twin Islands - Cape Jones - Hudson Bay - Great Whale - Belcher Islands - Great Whale - James Bay - Charlton Island - Moose Factory

By Canoe: Moose Factory - Moose River - Abitibi River - Frederick House River - Wagon to Cochrane

By Train: Cochrane to Temagami

SECTION:

       Staffman: Chess Kittredge

       Guide:     Jack Green

       Phil Barnes      Al Kittredge

LOG 

By Chess Kittredge

Published in 

1915 Kicker

 

Hudson Bay has proved for some years to be a lure for Keewaydinites. Ever since 1911, trips have been run as far as Moose Factory, at the head of James Bay, but there all have turned back, except that trip headed by Jack Dixon, who in 1914, reached Charlton Island, 72 miles off shore. Moose Factory and Charlton Island were the points from which our trip really started, a trip that placed the blaze of Keewaydin four hundred miles farther north.

The route to Moose Factory via Cochrane and the Kapuskasing, Mattagami and Moose Rivers, proved a good one; for we were there in seven days, notwithstanding the fact that we had grub for 50 days along and consequently, had to make three trips on the six portages, one of which is a good seven miles.

Nothing unusual occurred on the trip downstream, save a visit to a Detention Camp, where we found 1,100 German, Austrian and Turkish prisoners. On the fourth day Jack shot a moose.

Problems began to confront us upon our arrival at Moose Factory. The trip was headed for the Great Whale River, which runs into Hudson Bay from the peninsula of Labrador; but the question was how to get to its mouth. James Bay had to be crossed, Cape Jones rounded, and part of Hudson Bay traversed before we could use our canoes again.

Our desire to go up the Great Whale was whetted by the discovery that no man at Moose Factory, white or red, had ever gone more than five miles up the river, and few had ever seen its mouth. There was no time to lose and no steamer available; so we chartered a small sailboat with two Cree Indians: one, Captain John Puggy, the other First Mate Jim Tablas. This sloop looked good to us before we started, but we had a lot to learn.

Few Keewaydinites probably appreciate the fact that James Bay is larger than Lake Superior. At 2 a.m. on July 28, we set sail for the north with our two canoes lashed on either side of the deck. The hold was fairly well filled with loose rock for ballast, and the remainder of the space was filled with wangans, "babies" and pack bags. Only two men could find room to sleep at once and then under the most trying circumstances. The only stove on board resembled a 100-cigarette box. It hadn't enough "pep" to boil water for tea, so our diet consisted of raisins, cold baked beans and cold corn bread. When we had been out of sight of land for some hours, and the little boat was rolling and pitching continuously, I asked Jack, who appeared rather disconsolate, whether he felt at all seasick. Jack replied that he didn't know what seasickness was, but said he felt somewhat dizzy, as if he had taken too much Scotch. That seems to me a good definition of seasickness. By six o'clock that night we had reached Charlton Island and had a good supper ashore.

It was unanimously decided that we had had enough of the "Grace." Phil was the one who was brave enough to admit that the little sloop had made him seasick, and we had really not had any rough weather. Then too, as the boat had no keel to speak of, she could only run with the wind or on the quarter, and south winds are scarce in James and Hudson Bays. Getting to Great Whale River in that boat was out of the question, so we made up our minds to enjoy our stay on Charlton Island while waiting for the steamer "Inenew" to take us on our way.  

Ed Note: From 1910 onward, Charlton Island was the central depot of the James Bay district of the HBC. The posts were still supplied from London and the ocean-going ships would unload their cargoes here, in the deep waters, in August for distribution to the James Bay posts. Charlton Island served no other purpose and only the caretakers and their families lived here year round.

We found the island a delightful spot, swept by cool sea breezes with salt-water swimming, fair duck shooting, and wonderful brook trout fishing. The time passed quickly until on August 5 we steamed for the Great Whale, stopping en route at the Revillion Frères depot on Strutton Island, and at the Twin Islands for a goose hunt.  

Ed. Note: The 100-ton, coal-burning Inenew was the local HBC steamer, which wintered at Moose Factory. One of its primary duties was to transport the cargoes from London, stored in the Charlton Island warehouses, to the local posts. The Inenew's shallow draft allowed it to go where the ocean-going cargo ships couldn't. The Keewaydin crew probably was on one of these cargo delivery journeys.

While at the Struttons we had been presented with some of the Twin Island geese, and without a doubt they are the best eating imaginable. The time to kill them in large numbers is before the young can fly; we were too late for that at the Twins, but Keewaydin killed four, while the crew only got one. There is a great deal of life around the Twins — sea gulls, and sea pigeons hour around constantly. Now and then a seal will poke up his head and shoulders and then dive, or a white whale [beluga] will splash alongside of the boat.

Once around Cape Jones and into Hudson Bay we were in the land of the Esquimaux [Inuit]. There the Indian [Cree] was an exception. Just as we were arriving at Great Whale River, we saw some Esquimaux towing in a white whale, which they had killed. As the tide was going out, they beached the animal and dismembered him. The skin is very tough and is used to make heavy line and dog-whip lashes. Each piece as it was cut off was carried away, entrails and all. Not a scrap was left for the dogs. The meat is very dark, and no one but an Esquimaux would think of eating it.

The next day gave us a good opportunity to get acquainted with the Esquimaux as a people, and the more we saw of them the better we liked them. If we went up the Great Whale River, we stood no chance of seeing Esquimaux, as they always live near the salt water. As the Great Whale River Cree Indian is very uninteresting, we decided at once to stick to the "Inenew" and go with it to the Belcher Islands, where the Esquimaux are untainted by civilization.

As there were a few days before sailing, we used them in going up the Great Whale as far as its first large rapid. It is a beautiful river, the best I think I have ever seen, if I exempt the Hudson River around West Point. The Great Whale is much like that, with mountains rising on both sides from five hundred to a thousand feet in height. The river is deep, and the waters as clear as Timagami. Added to this is the fact that no white man has ever traced its course to its source; and as far as I could find out at the HBC post at its mouth, no Indian knows exactly where it comes from. My heart ached at having to turn back, but I wanted to see the Esquimaux in the Belcher Islands and could not do both. As Jack and I turned to take one more look at the river, we decided that we couldn't leave it without climbing a hill, so we landed and climbed one. They are all bare rock, as the country is right on the line between sub-Arctic and Arctic. One five-foot spruce I cut was found to be 129 years old. Before descending we scraped on the side of the hill three Ks in six-foot letters, and close by a "C. K., 1915."

On August 14 the weather smiled upon us and allowed us to steam to the Belchers. The Esquimau guide, Omaraluk, piloted us across the 60-mile stretch to the first of the group of islands, without so much as looking at a compass. Some of the bravest of his people will make this trip in a kayak.

Once in the Belchers we had passed beyond the tree limit. Rocks, snow and water made up this most desolate landscape. On Sunday, August 15, it snowed at sea level, and every day we were pierced to the bone by a biting, damp wind.

At the end of our second day in the islands we came upon an Esquimaux village. We were the first white mean that most of the inhabitants had ever seen. Their tents were made of seal skins, their clothes were made either of seal skin or of the skin of the eider duck, and their food consisted of seal meat and fish, with the entrails as the particular delicacy. We shook hands with them all: men, women, children and babies. They were all glad to see us; their faces showed it, even if they could not tell us so.

Then the bartering began. For a quarter pound of tobacco and a box of safety matches, I received a pair of seal-skin boots. One Esquimaux gave me his seal-skin coat for a flannel shirt and a briar pipe. Another traded his seal-skin trousers for a pair of woolen mitts. Four yards of print cloth enabled me to get a miniature kayak, with its ivory-tipped accessories. Some thread brought me a walrus tusk. Phil, Alvah and Jack all made equally good trades.

The next few days were spent in salvaging the "Fort Churchill," a HBC boat, which went adrift from York Factory in the fall of 1913. She was lightened enough by the removal of coal, engines and water to enable us to tow her back to Moose Factory.

There is one mountain in the Belchers that stands head and shoulders above the others, and we Keewaydin men resolved to climb it and name it Mount Keewaydin. This was done on August 28. At the top we built, with considerable labor, a large cairn, which is visible from the sea for many miles. Mount Keewaydin is within 50 miles of our farthest north point and is approximately at latitude 58 degrees north.

While on the Belchers we enjoyed good hunting. Duck, geese, snow owl, arctic swan and arctic hare were quite numerous; and Jimmy Marks, one of the crew, succeeded in killing a white [polar] bear. Salmon abounded in the streams; and although we did not fish for them, we ate what the Esquimaux brought us in exchange for tobacco.

Not until August 30 did we bid the Belchers farewell; fog and high winds had delayed us. All hope of getting back to Devil's Island in time for the camp dinner was gone. We were greatly disappointed, but could not travel faster than the steamer would take us.

On September 7, we arrived at Moose Factory, making stops at Great Whale River and Charlton Island en route. No time was lost in getting together the food that we had cached for our trip upstream. When our curios had been boxed and poles for the rapids secured, we pushed off and faced the Moose, Abitibi and Frederick House Rivers.

These were traversed in twelve and a half days, but such a spell of weather I have never seen before. Rain, headwind and current united in making the struggle upstream a hard one, and cold weather helped out these other elements quite frequently. Everything was wet all the time.

When the wagon road to Cochrane loomed into sight on the east bank of the Frederick House, we leaped ashore and started out on our 13-mile hike to what seemed to us to be a big city.

Many letters and telegrams concerning our safety had been received at the King George, but we found no bad news. The next day we arrived at Bear Island on Billy Friday's boat. Devil's Island was closed tight for the winter. Harry Woods [HBC post manager] was most hospitable and did everything for our comfort. Thus ended the greatest Mojo trip ever run by Keewaydin — 1915 miles.

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