Northward: Peary’s 1908-09 Expedition

I stepped on thin ice

Slept well and warm, although it was so cold that alcohol would not burn. The Esquimaux thought the devil was in it and looked worried enough. They are ready to attribute most anything to the devil out here on the ice.
    It has been cloudy all day. The going not all that could be desired in places. Was unfortunate enough to upset my kowa-tik three times, once in a deep hole. If a man likes to swear, here is his opportunity - if he is not subject to the habit here is where he commences - koma-tik bottom up in a hole, load spilled, eight dogs up above you on a mound of snow, some contentedly lying down, others wagging their tails and looking down on you as much as to say "Sorry, old fellow, but here's where we rest". But such an experience is not without its lessons. You can't stay there. You must get that kowa-tik out of that hole, up over that rise and along the trail into camp, if it weighs a ton, and generally by your own efforts. It is every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost especially if he is a "kab-loonah" and no Husky to whip his dogs for him.
    About four o'clock sighted the sledges all assembled near a large ice pressure. On coming up I learned that we were stopped by open water. The Commander decided to build igloos here and wait until morning. He sent Marvin and I out with dog team to the open water to take a sounding. Found the ice so thin it would not bear own weight. Got bottom at 96 fathoms. In lifting out the lead out of the hole I stepped on thin ice and went through to my hip. Saved myself by grasping up-stander of sledge. Hustled back to camp where Commander dried my leg on his blanket shirt. Put on kamik-puks and felt very comfortable at 40 below.

Koma-tik: koma-tik is the Inuktitut word for dog sledge.

Kamik-puk: kamiks are Inuit style skin boots. As MacMillan notes, they are very warm and waterproof.

« Back | Northward Journal Home | Acknowledgements | Terms and conditions