Paul B. (Paul Belloni) Du Chaillu.

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cannot 'skee' fast enough. I must go after our runaway reindeer and our
sleighs," and off he went. He followed the tracks they had left behind

I waited one hour, two hours, - I thought he would never come back.
Finally I saw a little black speck over the snow. It was my Lapp, and
soon he was by my side with reindeer and sleighs.

In the afternoon we came to a tent, where we were kindly received, and
there we slept. The next morning the owner of the tent said to me, "The
snow is very fine for sleighing, for it is crisp and well packed. The
weather is cold and travelling with reindeer could not be better, for
the animals will feel fine. Some of my people and I want to go and visit
my brother and his family. Will you come with us?"

"Yes," I replied, "I shall be very glad to go with you."

A short time after this five reindeer made their appearance; they were
all males, and splendid animals, - Samoyeds, the finest and largest I had
thus far seen. Their antlers were superb.

"These reindeer," said their owner, "are the fastest I have, and are in
their prime for driving, for they are between six and eight years old,
the age when they are the strongest. They have not been used for two
weeks, so they feel very frisky; and it being so cold they will run at a
rate that will perhaps scare you, and I am sure they will go as fast as
they ever did. No reindeer that I know of can keep pace with them. I
have taken great care in training them."

I was delighted at the thought of travelling with such fast animals, and
I replied, "I am sure I shall enjoy the drive."

Then everybody got ready for the start. My host, pointing to one of the
biggest reindeer, said to me, "This one will be yours, and you will
follow me."

We were hardly ready when the reindeer started at a furious rate and in
the wildest way. The Lapps held their reins as hard as they could and
threw themselves across their sleighs and were carried in that way for a
little distance. It was a most ludicrous sight, the like of which I had
never seen! But they all succeeded in getting in - they were masters of
the situation.

How they succeeded in getting in I could not tell, it was certainly a
great feat of gymnastics. My reindeer had started with the rest and was
ahead of them all, but soon the Lapps overtook me.

We went on at a tremendous rate. These were indeed the fastest reindeer
I had ever travelled with. It was a good thing that I had learned how to
balance myself in those little Lapp sleighs. I did not mind any more
their swinging to and fro. I rather liked the excitement. And it was
exciting enough! We went so fast that things appeared and disappeared
almost before I had time to look at them.

We sped with such rapidity that I fancied I was travelling on the
Pennsylvania railroad, as I often had done on the Limited to Chicago on
the way to see my Scandinavian friends and others. I was thinking of
that splendid train with its luxurious cars - of the observation cars
with their comfortable chairs, sofas, library; of the bath room,
stenographer, and barber, and polite employees, and all the comforts
travellers had. Suddenly I thought of its fine dining-room cars, and as
I was hungry I imagined I was seated before one of its tables, with
snowy-white linen, and enjoying a glorious meal, - oysters, capon, roast
beef, vegetables of several kinds, and puddings and fruits; the ice
cream I dismissed, for I did not feel like having any, it was so cold.
Then I thought of its comfortable beds - when suddenly a tremendous
bumping, which almost threw me out, reminded me that I was not on that
luxurious train. I had struck a snag or boulder. This made it clear at
once that I was dreaming and was not on the Chicago Limited, but that I
was travelling in "The Land of the Long Night."

The air was so rarefied, the drive so exciting, that I shouted with all
my might, "Go on, reindeer, go on. This is fine, I never had such a
drive in my life."

After two hours, and a drive of nearly fifty miles, we alighted before a
Lapp tent. The dogs, and there were many, announced our arrival by
fierce barking, and the inmates of the tent came out to see who the
strangers were. They recognized my friends and received them with
demonstrations of joy, which was the more remarkable as the Lapps are
far from being demonstrative.

The next day in the afternoon we returned to our tent, the reindeer as
frisky as the day before and running as fast. I have never forgotten
those two glorious rides, and I shall remember them as long as I live.

Bidding my Lapp friends good-bye I came one day to Lake Givijärvi and
further on to Lake Aitijärvi. There I saw a lonely farm with a
comfortable dwelling-house of logs. How pleasant this habitation seemed
in that snow land. The smoke curling over the chimney told that there
were people there, and soon after we were in front of the house, and I
entered a large room, and saw a man with long black shaggy hair tinged
with grey. His name was Adam Triump. Then a woman, his wife, came in,
also with loose shaggy black hair falling over her shoulders. My guide
and I were made welcome.

From there I travelled once more eastward, driving over the Ivalajoki,
which falls into the Enarejärvi. If I had been travelling alone I should
certainly have perished, for I did not know where to find the people of
the thinly inhabited country.



A few days after the events I have just related to you, I found myself
in the Lapp hamlet of Kautokeino, with its Lutheran church, near
latitude 69 degrees. Here and there were queer-looking storehouses which
belonged to the nomadic Lapps. I alighted before the post station, and
entered the house and was welcomed by the station master. The dwelling
was composed of two rooms, one for the use of the family, the other for
guests or travellers. The place was full of Lapp men and women who had
come to rest, go to church on the following Sunday, or see their
children who were at school; or to get coffee, sugar, and other
provisions stored in their own houses.

On the opposite side of the post station was the cow house, and between
it and the house was the old-fashioned wooden-bucket well with its long,
swinging pole, surrounded by a thick mass of ice made of the dripping
water from the bucket. I did not wonder when I saw the ice, for it was
43 degrees below zero that day, and sometimes it is colder still.

I went into the cow-house. It was, as usual, a very low building, lower
than most of those I had seen before. The two long windows admitted a
dim light. At the further end was the usual big iron pot seen in almost
every cow-house, for soaking the grass in boiling water, as the coarse
marsh grass is so hard to chew that it has to be thus prepared. The
daughter of the house, a girl about twenty years old, said to me, "I am
going to prepare a meal for the cows and the sheep."

The huge iron pot was filled with reindeer moss and grass and warm
water. "This food is for the cows and sheep," she said. "The horse is
fed on fine fragrant hay, gathered during the short summer; horses will
not eat the food we give to the cows and sheep; they are very

I was very much in need of a good wash and of a warm bath, for I had
only used snow to wash my hands and face for many days. As I looked at
the big iron pot I said to myself, "This pot will make a good wash-tub."

I went to the mistress of the house and asked her if I could take a warm
bath in the big iron pot. "Certainly," she replied. Then she called her
daughter, and both went to the cow-house. They cleaned the iron pot
thoroughly; then filled it about two thirds full with water from the
trough communicating with the well, which the old station master drew
for them. They lighted a fire under the pot, and cleaned the
surroundings, and laid down a reindeer skin for my feet, and a chair for
me to sit on.

When the water was warm, and the fire under it extinguished, the wife
said that my bath was ready.

How good I felt when I was in the big iron pot filled with warm water. I
gave grunts of satisfaction. I put my head under water and thought "How
good; how good the water feels."

Suddenly one of the family appeared, and before I had time to say "What
do you want?" had jumped into the water all dressed and got hold of one
of my legs and rubbed it with soap. Then came the turn of the other leg,
then the body, head and all. I was rubbed with a brush as hard as if I
had been a piece of wood that had no feelings, and as if my skin had
been the bark of a tree. Two or three times I screamed out, but my
attendant only laughed. After the rubbing I was switched with birch
twigs till I fairly glowed, and then I was left alone. When I looked at
my body my skin was as red as a tomato. The blood was in full
circulation and I felt fine, for it was such a long time since I had
taken a real bath that I had almost forgotten that there was such a

How nice it was to put clean underwear on. How comfortable it felt. I
put on a new pair of reindeer trousers, that were lent to me and that
had never been worn before, and a new "kapta." Here was a good occasion
to have my underwear washed, and my fur garments cleansed of everything,
for it was over 40 degrees below zero. This wearing of the same clothes
for a long time is the greatest hardship of travelling in winter in the
Arctic regions; for in the course of time obnoxious things swarm in the
fur and also in the woollen underwear. When these become unendurable the
following way of washing has to be performed without soap or water.

After a person has changed his fur garments and underwear, he hangs them
outside when the temperature is from 20 to 50 degrees below zero. The
colder it is, the better for the clothes that are to be cleansed. These
are left hanging for several days, during which time all the noxious
things are killed by the intense cold. After this the underwear and the
fur garments are well shaken and beaten, and then they return from this
kind of laundry clean, according to the views of the Arctic regions, and
are ready to be worn again. I often had my clothing washed in that
manner, and also my sleeping-bags.

On Sunday many Lapps attended the Lutheran church from different parts
of the country, coming either on skees or with their sleighs; those who
lived far away starting the day before. Some had come even so far as one
hundred and fifty miles. I was present at the religious services; the
church was crowded. The clergyman was not in his clerical robes, but
dressed in furs - like the rest of the congregation, for the churches are
not heated.

On my return from church, the Lapps asked me where I was going. I
replied I wanted to go as far as the land went north of me, as far as
Nordkyn. They all wondered why I wanted to go there. They asked me if I
was a merchant and bought fish. I told them I was not, but that I
travelled to see the country and its people. They thought I was a very
strange man, and they wondered at my ways.

This hamlet was composed of about twelve homesteads. The dwelling-houses
were built of logs, those for beasts of turf or stones. By the church
was the schoolhouse, and there was a large store very much like our
country stores at home.

The inhabitants owned about sixty cows, - such small cows! they were
about three feet in height - one hundred and seventy sheep and a few oxen
as small as the cows.

Kautokeino was full of nomadic Lapps, and we had a good time together,
for the Lapps are very friendly and I had learned to love them. "We come
here," they said, "to meet our friends, to see our children who are in
school, to get some of the provisions kept in our storehouses and other
things we want; and we bring with us skins of reindeer and the garments
and shoes that have been made in our tents."

In this church hamlet were a number of very old Lapps, men and women who
could no longer follow their reindeer and endure a hard, wandering life.
Thither also the sick or the lame come, to stay until they get well or
die. Two Lapps were pointed out to me who were nearly one hundred years

The inhabitants of these Lapp hamlets are not nomadic; they live on the
produce of their farms, the increase of their reindeer, by catching
salmon, and in employing themselves as sailors on the fishing-boats of
the Arctic Sea, which they reach by descending the rivers.

The Lapp women wore queer-fitting little caps of bright colors, and when
in holiday dress wore a number of large showy silk handkerchiefs.
Sometimes they had as many as four, on the top of one another, over
their fur dresses; they wore necklaces of large glass beads, round their
waists were silver belts, and their fingers were ornamented with rings.
They wore trousers of reindeer skin, as the Lapp women do universally.
The men wore peaked caps.

These people were short of stature, compactly but slightly built, with
strong limbs, their light weight allowing them to climb, jump, and run
quickly. There are no heavy men with big stomachs among them. Quite a
number of Lapps have fair hair and blue eyes. They are unlike the
Esquimaux, and in a crowd at home, dressed like ourselves, would pass
unnoticed. There are a number of Lapps in the North-west of our own
county. The tallest woman that I saw was 5 feet 1/2 inch, the tallest
man 5 feet 4-1/2 inches; the smallest woman 4 feet 4-1/4 inches, the
smallest man 4 feet 7 inches. There were more women averaging 4 feet 10
inches than men of that size, men averaging generally above five feet.

I left Kautokeino, and that same day I came to Lake Givijärvi. I had to
be told that it was a lake, for it was a continuous snow-land. Here was
a farm, the owner of which kept a small store and sold sugar, coffee,
salt, flour, tobacco, matches, some woollen underwear, etc., to the
Lapps; and bought from them skins, shoes, and gloves, in summer smoked
tongue and reindeer meat, reindeer cheese, etc., and every year went
with these to some of the Norwegian towns on the Arctic Sea to sell them
and buy groceries and other goods.

Here I had a clean room and bed. The place was a great rendezvous for
nomadic Lapps, and I found many of them. The farmer extended to them
unbounded hospitality, and spread as many reindeer skins on the floor at
night as the room could hold, for them to sleep on.

The Lapps liked the place very much, and came there to rest for a few
days, bringing their food with them. Their wives and children would also
come, and were sure to be welcome at the farm. I could not drink
sufficient milk or coffee, or eat enough reindeer meat, cheese, or
butter that had been churned in summer, to please the good-hearted
farmer. He wanted no pay. He even insisted on accompanying me to

The sleighing was fine, and the snow was six and seven feet deep on a
level. Our arrival at Karasjok, after a hundred miles' journey from
Givijärvi, was announced by the fierce barking of the dogs of the place,
and twice I was almost overtaken by one more fierce than the others.
"They only bark," shouted my guide. I was now in latitude 69° 35', and
within a few miles of the longitude of Nordkyn. The hamlet was situated
on the shores of the Karasjoki river. Some of the fir trees of the
forests near Karasjok measured twenty inches in diameter; but once cut
they do not grow again. I saw very few young trees.

The hamlet was composed of eighteen or twenty homesteads, with about one
hundred and thirty inhabitants. There were over twenty horses, besides
cows, sheep, and reindeer. The horses were so plentiful because they are
used to haul timber. I reflected that the horse is a wonderful animal,
and can live like man in many kinds of climate.

All the houses at Karasjok were built of logs. The finest residence was
that of the merchant of the place. The Karasjok Lapps, and others in the
neighborhood, were very unlike those I had seen before. They were tall;
some of them six feet in height. The women were also tall, most of them
having dark hair. The fair complexion and blue eyes were uncommon. Men
and women wore strange-looking head-dresses. The men wore square caps of
red or blue flannel, filled up with eider down. The women put on a
wooden framework of very peculiar shape, appearing more or less like a
casque or the helmet of a dragoon.

I only stopped the night in Karasjok, and after getting new reindeer at
the post station and a new guide, started north.



On leaving Karasjok I travelled northward, over the frozen Karasjoki,
until I came to a broad stream called the Tana. As we drove on the river
I saw here and there solitary farms and strange little hamlets inhabited
by river Lapps.

The occupation of the river Lapps is largely salmon catching in summer.
These fish are very abundant in the rivers. Many, during the codfish
season, engage themselves as sailors on the Arctic Sea. Almost every
family has a small farm, stocked with diminutive cows; besides they have
sheep and goats. During the summer their reindeer are taken care of by
the nomadic Lapps. These reindeer have to go to the mountains near the
Arctic Sea, on account of the mosquitoes.

Now travelling was becoming very hard, - not on account of the snow, but
because the inhabitants and their dwellings were so dirty.

But I had one comfort. All over that far northern land I felt so safe;
it never came into my head that these people would rob me, though they
knew I had plenty of money with me, according to their ways of
thinking, to pay for reindeer and other travelling expenses; but the
Finns and the Lapps are a God-fearing people.

The first day, I came to a place occupied by a single man. The house was
so filthy, and vermin apparently so plentiful, that I whispered to my
Lapp guide, "Let us go on." The Lapp was so tired that he looked at me
with astonishment, and seemed to say: "Are not these comfortable

We got into our sleighs, however, and further on we stopped and tied our
reindeer together. The Lapp slept in his sleigh covered with a reindeer
skin, and I in my bag.

The next day we halted before a farm. It was dark. There we intended to
spend the night. The people do not lock their doors, neither do they
knock to obtain admittance. So we entered. The family were all in bed. A
man lighted a light. Such filth I thought I had never seen. The beds
were filled with dirty hay that had been there all winter. The sheepskin
blankets with the wool on were almost as black as soot. The people who
slept between them were without a particle of clothes. "What a place for
vermin!" I whispered to myself.

At this sight, I again said in a low voice to my Lapp, "Let us go on."
He replied, "The reindeer are hungry, and we have had no food ourselves
for long hours. Let us remain overnight and breakfast here to-morrow."

In the mean time the owner of the place got up, put on a long dirty
woolen shirt, and went with us into the next room, which was clean. I
gave a sigh of relief. The wooden bed had no hay, no sheepskin blankets.
The man got for me a clean reindeer skin which he said had just come out
of the open air, where it had been for several days.

To my consternation my Lapp guide offered to sleep alongside of me, and
added, "We shall be warmer if we sleep together." I was in a dilemma. I
did not want to offend him, but I told him that I always slept by
myself. Then the owner of the place spread another reindeer skin on the
floor, and my guide slept upon it.

The next morning we breakfasted on dried reindeer meat, hard bread, and
milk. After bidding our host good-bye, and thanking him for his
hospitality, we continued our journey, arriving towards noon at a farm
owned by a river Lapp. The farm had three buildings; only the wife and
daughter were at home. The husband was cod fishing in the Arctic Sea.
The wife told me she had been a sailor before she was married, and
engaged in cod fishing.

There were on this farm three diminutive cows, an ox of the size of the
cows, nine sheep, and they owned besides quite a number of reindeer. The
cows were getting smaller and smaller as I went north. In the little
dwelling-house was a small room for a stranger; reindeer skins made the
mattress. My guide and I ate together. We had excellent coffee, smoked
reindeer meat, and milk.

Further on we stopped awhile at a little farm owned by a woman and her
daughter. The mother and daughter worked as if they were men; they
fished for salmon in the river in summer, mowed hay, collected reindeer
moss to feed their cows, went after wood. A faithful dog was their
companion. At some seasons the daughter descended the river, and engaged
herself as one of the crew on board of a fishing boat on the Arctic

Resuming our journey we passed the church hamlet of Utsjoki. Near
Utsjoki I met some nomadic Lapps, who had a large herd of reindeer with
them, and were willing to take me to Nordkyn. That night I slept in
their tent. Early the next morning they lassoed some very fine reindeer,
which had superb horns and had not been used for quite a while. I did
not care now how fast the reindeer went, for I could keep inside of my
sleigh. The men said: "We will meet on the promontory Lapps with their
reindeer herds, and if it is very stormy we can go into their tent."

Soon after we started.

They were not mistaken in regard to the speed of their beasts. They set
off at a furious pace, and it was all I could do to keep inside of my
sleigh. My pride was up, and I was bound to do my utmost not to upset.

We finally reached the high promontory which divides the Laxe from the
Tana fjord, at the extremity of which is Nordkyn. It was blowing a gale
right from the north, and we had to protect our faces with our masks.
Fortunately we came to a Lapp encampment, and were received with great
kindness and hospitality; enjoyed a good meal of reindeer meat, and a
good sleep afterwards.

The next morning the weather was fine, and I drove on to Kjorgosk
Njarg - hard name to pronounce - the most northern land in Europe.

The land's end was nearing, and erelong I stood on the edge of Cape
Nordkyn, 71° 6' 50" - the most northern end of the continent of Europe,
and rising majestically over seven hundred feet above the level of the
sea. Before me was the Arctic Ocean, and beyond, a long way off and
unseen by me, was the impenetrable wall of ice which the Long Night had
built to guard the Pole.

From there I could see North Cape.



Nordkyn being the land's end, I could not go further north, so I
retraced my steps southward. That afternoon we saw on the other side of
a frozen lakelet the tent of some nomadic Lapps, and we made
preparations to cross the lake to go and see them.

While we were in the midst of the lake the wind rose, and before we knew
it the ice was left bare around us, and our reindeer could not run or
walk over it, it was so slippery. They would fall at every step they
made, making all kinds of contortions to try to stand on their legs;
their hoofs could not possibly hold on fast to the ice. We got out of
our sleighs to help them. I said to myself that reindeer ought to be
shod, especially to go over the ice.

It was awful - the poor beasts made frantic efforts to get on, but could
not. I thought we should never be able to cross the lake, and that we
should be obliged to abandon the reindeer, or try to put them into our
sleighs, and drag these ourselves to the shore. But we watched our
opportunity, and when a layer of snow was blown in our way, we succeeded
in making some headway. At last we reached the shore, after three or
four hours of hard work.

The Lapps received us very kindly.

That night I heard the weird and dismal howls of foxes. They sounded so
strange in the stillness of darkness. In the morning I asked the Lapps
how many kinds of foxes were found in the country. "There are red, blue,
and black foxes," they answered. "During the Bear's Night or winter

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Online LibraryPaul B. (Paul Belloni) Du ChailluThe Land of the Long Night → online text (page 9 of 16)