Paul B. (Paul Belloni) Du Chaillu.

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We sailed across the Porsanger Fjord. Far off was Nordkyn, upon the
summit of which I had stood. The coast looked dreary indeed! We sailed
across Laxe Fjord and doubled Nordkyn.

The following day we entered a fjord and came upon a number of fishing
boats that were returning from the open sea. Some of these boats rowed
towards us, and soon were alongside of our craft, and we engaged in

These people appeared very strange; they were dressed like the nomadic
Lapps, with the noteworthy exception, however, that the fur of the
reindeer skin was on the _inside_ of their garments. They were Sea

I looked at the crews of the boats, and was more astonished still, for
some of the boats were partly manned by women, and big girls; other
crews were entirely composed of women with a man for captain. One boat
was entirely manned by women, the captain included. I could not easily
distinguish the men from the women, for the features of the women were
coarse from exposure to the storms of the Arctic Sea. They wore reindeer
trousers like the men, as indeed do the women of the nomadic Lapps. They
rowed quite as well as the men, too. They were distinguishable by their
long shaggy hair. It was of a dark chestnut, with a reddish
tinge - almost black in some. They wore it hanging over their shoulders.
It was indeed a strange sight, and I looked at them with great
curiosity, for I had never seen such people before - women who were
sailors, some captains of boats, going to sea and braving the storms of
the inhospitable ocean.

Captain Petersen said to me: "Almost all these sea Laplanders own their
crafts. Some of these are commanded by the husband, while the wife, the
daughters, sister or hired woman form the crew; the women are very
hardy, and excellent sailors; they pull as hard as strong men, and can
use the oar as long as the men do."

The captain was right - for I could not see any difference between their
rowing and that of the men as they followed us.

When they learned that I had come to see their land and wanted to live
among them, they were glad. They asked my name, and they were told that
I was called Paulus.

Then many of these Sea Lapps said:

"Come, Paulus, and stay a few days with us; we will take good care of
you;" and pointing to a hamlet at a distance, "there we live, and soon
we shall be at home."

Looking towards where they pointed, I saw smoke curling up from
strange-looking dwellings. The settlement was scattered on the brow of
a hill looking down upon the fjord.

As the word went round that I was coming to stay with them, the Sea
Lapps made haste and rowed with all their might; the women were
especially in earnest, for they wanted to prepare their houses for my
reception before I landed. Soon they all were far ahead, and after they
had landed I saw them running as fast as they could towards their homes.
Evidently they were going to announce my arrival to the people who had
remained at home.

Here I parted with the _Ragnild_, which sailed to another fjord for more



When I had landed, and ascended the hill towards the settlement, I found
myself in a Sea Lapp hamlet. I looked at their dwellings with great
curiosity. Some of the buildings were conical and resembled the tent of
the nomadic Lapps; but they were built of sod or turf. There were others
resembling in shape log houses, with only a ground floor, built entirely
of the same material. Others were partly of stone and turf. Some were
entirely of stone slabs. Two houses were built of logs.

In the mean time the people had changed their clothes, and wore their
summer every-day dress called _vuolpo_ (though it was still cold), ready
to receive me.

Some of these summer dresses were made of coarse vadmal of a gray or
blackish color; others were blue. Most were in a ragged state, or
patched - having when new been used as Sunday clothes. The men wore
square caps of red or blue flannel, and the women had extraordinary
looking head-gear resembling casques of dragoons, on account of the
wooden frame under the cloth. These were also red or blue.

"Come in," said one of the Sea Lapps, "come into my _gamme_ (house) and
see how I live." His house was of conical shape and built of sod,
supported inside by a rough frame formed of branches of trees. A fire
was burning in the centre of the hut, the smoke escaping by an aperture
above; and upon cross poles hung shoes, boots, and clothing. This sod
hut was about twelve feet high and eight feet in diameter. A large
kettle hung over the fire. It was filled with seaweed, which was cooking
for the cows. I tasted it and found it very palatable and not at all

I was hardly in this _gamme_ when I wished myself out, but kept this to
myself, for I did not want to hurt the feelings of the poor Lapp. The
interior of the place was horribly filthy - dirty reindeer skins lay on
the ground upon old dirty dried grass. A tent of a nomadic Lapp was a
model of cleanliness compared with this! The outside was just as bad; on
the ground lay the entrails and heads of fish, and a couple of barrels
filled with half-putrid liver which in time would make a barrel of brown
oil; there were a great many codfish heads drying on the rocks.

"Will you stay and have a cup of coffee with us?" my host asked.

"Yes," added his wife, "it will not take long to make a cup of coffee."

"Not to-day," I replied, "but some other time."

"All right," the host said; "don't forget."

I was glad when I got out. This abode was the _gamme_ of a poor Sea
Lapp, and the poorest kind of dwelling seen among them.

The next house, which was at a short distance, belonged to the captain
of one of the boats which had been alongside of our ship. He and his
wife were waiting for me outside and bade me come in. His house was
long, narrow, and low, and built entirely of flat stones. I entered
through a wooden door a room built in the centre of the house. Their
winter garments hung on poles, there was a pile of firewood, and a heap
of dry seaweed and reindeer moss.

I followed him to the room on the left. There the family lived. The
floor of the room was covered with flat slabs; in one corner was a bed
on the floor, itself made of young branches of birch, kept together by
logs. The skins that made the rest of the bed were outside to be aired.
This room was about ten feet long and about ten feet wide, the whole
width of the house, and lighted by a small window with tiny panes of

At the foot of the bed in the corner was a small cow. Such a cow! I had
never seen one so small. In the opposite corner was another one. These
two cows were hardly three feet high, and between the two were a calf
and three sheep. "These animals," said my host, "help us to keep our
room warm and comfortable during the winter months."

This was a very strange way of heating a room, I thought to myself.

"Come and stay with us to-night," added the Lapp. "You will sleep
comfortably and you will not be cold."

I accepted.

The furniture of the room consisted of some kettles, a coffee pot,
coffee grinder, a lamp, and a few chests. Everything, strange to say,
was very clean. The third room contained a few nets, and on the floor
were a few reindeer skins upon which slept any stranger who chanced to
share their dwelling. I was a favored guest. I was to sleep in the same
room with the host, hostess, cows and sheep. I was considered as one of
the family.

I slept splendidly. In the morning I had water to wash my face with.
That was fine! I gave myself a good rubbing with soap, for I said,
"Paul, after you leave this place it will be quite a while before you
wash your face, except with snow." But I could not as successfully get
rid of the odor of the stable, which clung to my clothes with a
persistence that would have driven every friend I had away from me if I
had been at home.

Not far from this _gamme_ was the house of another well-to-do Sea Lapp,
one of the rich fellows of the hamlet. His house was long and narrow,
one part built of logs, the remainder of layers of turf.

The wooden part was the every-day room - parlor, bedroom, kitchen. The
roof was supported by poles and covered with birch bark, over which more
than a foot of earth had been placed to keep the cold out; the birch
bark was used as shingles and kept the rain from dripping inside. Two
little cows, two dwarfish oxen, eight sheep, and two goats completed the
household, and these were housed in the turf compartment.

Further on I passed a somewhat long and narrow house built entirely of
turf, which I also visited, and as I came out of it a very strange sight
greeted me. Several people were returning with their dwarfish carts
loaded with seaweed; each was drawn by a team of two wretched little
oxen not bigger than the cows of the place - that is, not more than three
feet in height. Some were driven by women, others by men or children.

These queer-looking small carts were of the same pattern as those used
thousands of years ago. The wheels were of a solid block of wood hewn
out of the trunk of fir trees, which grow on the banks of some of the
fjords, though the land is so far north, owing to the effects of the
Gulf Stream. These wheels were of the pattern first made by man, and for
thousands of years there had been no improvement; just as in some parts
of the world the natives to-day still use the dug-out, or canoe made of
the trunk or bark of a tree - the primitive boat of man. The carts were
loaded with seaweed, fish, or reindeer moss.

I stayed here several days, and one day I went to see Ole Maja, the
nabob of the place. Ole was an old Sea Lapp, who was considered very
rich among his neighbors. His house was entirely built of logs, and was
much admired by the people. The little room had two plain pine-wood
beds, a cast-iron stove (the only one in the hamlet), a clock and three
wooden chairs. Everything was exceedingly clean. He belonged to the best
type of Sea Lapps.

Ole owned a horse, which had a special stable built of turf, and his
four cows, two oxen, and twelve sheep were kept in another building. I
asked what he wanted a horse for in these high latitudes. He answered:
"We use them on the frozen rivers to draw logs." "The hay I gather in
summer," he added, "is for him. Horses are very particular, they will
not eat the kind of food we give to our cattle, sheep or goats." I did
not wonder at this.

I noticed, as there was no snow on the ground, that all the dwellings of
the little hamlet had small patches of land round them, which were to be
planted with potatoes when warm weather came.

Those who had the best houses wanted me to stay with them, and to avoid
making distinctions I agreed to remain with each family one day until I
went away. They seemed very much pleased.

I witnessed one day the feeding of the cattle, sheep, and goats. This
was a sight! They were to be fed on that day with raw fish cut in
pieces, instead of boiled heads of dry cod, or boiled lichen. These
pieces of fish were put in large wide wooden pails, the animals were
called, and they devoured the contents with great avidity. This amazed
me greatly. Just think of cattle feeding on raw fish!

One day found me comfortably settled in a _gamme_ which belonged to
Matias Laiti. The chief meal was of reindeer meat and fish, - a boiled
head of fresh cod. This is considered the sweetest and nicest part of
the fish. A great wooden bowl of milk was given to me. The milk had a
queer taste - it had a fishy taste - so had everything else, I thought. I
am sure that if the cannibals that were my friends in Africa had been
here, and eaten me up, they would have found that I tasted of fish, for
I had been living on fish ever so long.

I kept visiting one Sea Lapp and his family after another, and had a
good time - living on fish and reindeer meat, for the Sea Lapps own
reindeer which are kept for their relations or friends further in the
interior. Sea Lapps intermarry much with river Lapps, and also with
nomadic Lapps. They form really one family.

On Sunday morning they were dressed in their best _vuolpo_ head-dresses
and garments. These were red, blue and white, with red and yellow bands
at the bottom of the skirt. Some had pretty belts, and wore necklaces of
large glass beads. The women and men had combed their hair, and it was
not to be combed again for a week. They all had washed their faces and
hands. One woman wore a pair of blue woollen trousers, fitting tight
from the knees to the ankle, had put on a new pair of Lapp shoes, and
wore casque-like head-gear, which was blue like her dress and had red
seams. The boats were ready to be rowed across the fjord to take them to
the church, where service was held once in three weeks. They were all

There were hardly any children in the place. The school was the other
side of the fjord by the church. The children were about to return to
their parents, for in summer there is no school. All the
Swedish-Norwegian Lapps know how to read and write.

One evening as we were talking round a bright fire, one of the Lapps
said to me, "Paulus, you have told us that you intend to travel
southward by land. If that is so, there is no time to be lost, for the
sun is getting more powerful every day, and the snow will soon be in an
unfit condition for reindeer to travel on, and the ice over the rivers
and lakes will break; besides you are going to have great difficulty in
procuring reindeer, for no reindeer can be had at the post stations now.
You may be detained on the way, and be obliged to wait until snow has
melted and the rivers become navigable. At this time of the year the
reindeer are very feeble; it is the worst time to travel with them; they
shed their coats and horns and are weak and lean from their winter
digging. During the day they feel the heat of the sun, and do not go as
fast as during the winter months. So, though we love to have you stay
with us, if you want to go you had better hasten your departure. Do not
forget to take with you blue or green goggles, for the glare is so
intense, on account of the bright sun, you will surely become snow-blind
if you have none with you. We are going to send for reindeer, and we
will give you a guide to go with you."

The long days come on with remarkable rapidity in this far North. The
sun was below the horizon till the latter part of January, and now on
the 25th of April in clear weather I could read a newspaper at midnight.
There were to be no more nights. The Long Night had been driven away
from the pole.



That same evening (it has to be called so for the sake of distinction) I
stood out on the brow of the hill, looking at the fjord and Arctic
Ocean. Suddenly Alaska came to my mind. I remembered all I had seen on
the coast of Finmarken, and also all I had encountered and done in "Snow
Land", "The Land of the Long Night," and "The Land of the Winds," and I
said to myself, "Why should not Alaska have its fishing towns,
settlements, and hamlets, like those of Finmarken, and become as
prosperous as the country I have travelled through?" There is a
wonderful similarity between these two countries; they are both exactly
in the same latitudes; they have the same kind of barren coast bathed by
a warm stream, and both have fjords.

Alaska has immense shoals of codfish and herring, besides salmon. Both
have their long nights, and then long days of Midnight Sun. We must give
inducements to the people of Finmarken to come to Alaska. They will find
in their new country something similar to the one they have left, they
will enjoy the same life. California and Oregon will provide the people
with flour and send them delicacies and products of their state, and
take in return the cod and herring. The southern American countries
would be a great market for their codfish.

Then I thought that the only way to make Alaska prosperous eventually,
is to do exactly what the Swedes and Norwegians have done for their
country in the far North. The fisheries must be protected, and the laws
regulating them must be enforced. Then, as on the Finmarken coast,
towns, hamlets, and fishing settlements will rise in the course of time,
and the wealth of the people will come from the fish - their gold from
the sea. Then we shall have more American-born sailors to man our ships.

Some of the barren hills of Alaska should be planted with juniper,
birch, alder, and with pine and fir and other trees growing in the high
altitudes of the mountains of Scandinavia. It will take a good deal of
time, but the world was not made in one day. The Scandinavian laws
regarding the cutting of trees below a certain size ought to be adopted
for Alaska.

Then we must import many reindeer, and establish the same laws in regard
to them and their pasture as the Swedes and Norwegians have done. A
great many of these reindeer must be broken, and brought up to eat kept
reindeer moss. Samoides and Laplanders must be induced to come to
Alaska; they know how to take care of the reindeer, they are accustomed
to law and order, and they are absolutely honest.

"Yes, indeed, they are honest," I said loudly without knowing it; "for
they knew I had money with me, and I have never been afraid of being
robbed or murdered. Such thoughts have never entered my head." Then I
thought of the good care these kind people took of me when there was
danger in travelling.

Wherever there is a little good grazing land, houses and farms of
refuge, and post stations where reindeer can be procured, must be built
by the government in the interior, so that people can find refuge from
the terrific storms that blow over Alaska, and I cannot realize how they
could be fiercer than those I had encountered in Finmarken. With
reindeer and skees, travelling will become easy, and good distances will
be made in a short time.

In summer boat stations must be established along navigable rivers, also
a tariff made for distances and for food - so that there be no
overcharge - as is done in Sweden, Norway, and Finland.

Little hamlets with the church and the school will rise. Doctors must be
sent, and paid a salary by the government; besides a fee must be given
by the patient, who will then not call the doctor for a trifle.



The advice the Sea Lapps had given me was not to be neglected, and I at
once made hasty preparations for my journey southward. There was not one
hour or one minute to be lost. I did not want to be caught in the midst
of vast tracts of half-melted snow, seven, eight, or ten feet deep, with
reindeer unable to travel further; or to drive over rivers and lakes
covered with treacherous ice, made the more dangerous by being hidden
under the snow - or, worst of all, to find no reindeer to carry me
onward; or delayed somewhere, waiting for the snow to melt and the land
to become dry and the rivers navigable, for during the time of thaw the
country is full of bogs and swamps, and the rivers become in many places
but roaring torrents, their waters dashing against huge boulders strewn
in their beds, or breaking over them in rapids and pouring cataracts.

My little sleigh, my skees, my bags, and winter outfits were landed, and
were before me. I left off my sou'wester and oilskin garments and
sea-boots, and I said to them: "We have had rough weather together on
this stormy Arctic sea. Henceforth I do not need you any more; I hope
you will keep the Sea Lapp to whom I give you as dry as you did me."

Then I donned my Lapp costume once more. Now the fur shoes of winter
were unsuitable to travel with, for being porous they are only good to
get over dry and crisp snow with. I had to wear henceforth the shoes or
boots that are without fur and the leather of which is prepared in such
a manner as to be impermeable to water or damp snow. I had provided
myself with two pairs of these, while at Haparanda on my way to "The
Land of the Long Night," for my return journey, - a short pair, of the
shape of the winter shoes, and a pair of boots coming as high as my

One of the Lapps smeared them with a preparation of tar and fat that he
used for his own shoes. When they were ready he said: "Now you are all
right, no dampness or water will penetrate them," and he gave me some of
the stuff to use on my journey, saying, "Rub your shoes every two days
with it." I thanked him. Then I put on a new pair of woollen socks. I
surrounded my feet with the Lapp grass, and wore my short boots.

While turning over in my mind the mishaps that might come to me on this
southward journey, I fancied the same friendly voices I had heard before
from across the Atlantic called to me: "Hurry on, Friend Paul! Hurry on!
for there is danger in delay; and when your journey is finished come
back to us at once."

"I will hurry on," I replied aloud. "Do not be afraid. I will return at
once to our dear United States." After this I was more impatient to
leave than before. I waited anxiously for the reindeer to arrive.

Henceforth I shall wear only one fur garment, instead of two as I did
during my journey northward, for the weather is getting warmer every
day. After I was dressed completely I looked affectionately at my little
sleigh, for I remembered the many hundreds of miles we had travelled
together, what fun I had had, and how hard it was at first to learn to
drive reindeer and to keep inside the sleigh, and all the sudden
upsettings I had.

Then I looked at my skees, and said: "Dear skees, we are again to tramp
over the snow together. I wish I could leap over chasms with you, as the
Lapps do. I cannot do that; but we will walk on the snow, and go down
hill riding a stick. This will be great fun for me anyhow."

Then I turned to the bags, and I said: "Dear bags, I have often thought
of you and how comfortable I was with you." I remembered how cosy I was
when I slept in them on the snow. I did not mind how hard the wind blew;
the harder it blew the more comfortable I felt inside of them. Near by
them was the big brown bearskin, which was safely fastened over me in
the sleigh. I said: "Dear bearskin, I think a great deal of you also,
for you have been my friend and have kept my legs so warm when I was

The next morning to my great joy the reindeer came, - one for me, one for
my guide, and a spare one; but how differently they looked compared with
those I had in the winter. They were thin, and were changing their
coats. I did not wonder that the poor reindeer did not look frisky - they
had had to work so hard for their living, digging the snow to reach the
moss during the whole of the winter.

I looked at the guide the kind Sea Lapps had provided for me. He was the
man who had come with the reindeer. His name was Mikel. He was a nomadic
Lapp, but had come to visit his sister, who had married a Sea Lapp. He
was about four feet eight inches in height, well built, broad
shouldered, nimble as a deer, about forty years old, with a face made by
the wind as red as a ripe tomato. He lived and pastured his herd of
reindeer south of Karesuando.

As we were introduced to each other we shook hands, and I said, "Mikel,
we are going to be friends."

"Yes," he replied, "we are to be friends."

Then all the Sea Lapps that were round us shouted with one voice:
"Paulus, we are all your friends! Mikel will take good care of you."

"I will," said Mikel. "I will take good care of Paulus." "Thank you,
Mikel," I replied. From that moment Mikel and I became fast friends.

An hour after the arrival of the reindeer and after a hearty meal of
codfish and black bread we were ready to start.

Before seating myself in the sleigh, I turned my face towards the North
Pole and looked at the Arctic Ocean beyond the fjord, and shouted:
"Farewell to thee! farewell, tempestuous Arctic Sea! farewell to thy
gales! farewell to thy snow and sleet storms. But I am glad I have been
through it all, for I have learned something I did not know before. I

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Online LibraryPaul B. (Paul Belloni) Du ChailluThe Land of the Long Night → online text (page 14 of 16)