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Title: Travels in Kamtschatka, During the Years 1787 and 1788, Volume 1

Author: baron de Jean-Baptiste-Barthélemy Lesseps

Release date: March 13, 2015 [eBook #48479]
Most recently updated: April 30, 2015

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Moti Ben-Ari and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)


Route of
M de Lesseps
Consul of France,
in the PENINSULA of
and along the GULF of PENGINA, from the Port of St. Peter & St. Paul as far as Yamsk.










My work is merely a journal of my travels. Why should I take any steps to prepossess the judgment of my reader? Shall I not have more claim to his indulgence when I have assured him, that it was not originally my intention to write a book? Will not my account be the more interesting, when it is known, that my sole inducement to employ my pen was the necessity I found of filling up my leisure moments, and that my vanity extended no farther than to give my friends a faithful journal of the difficulties I had to encounter, and the observations I made on my road? It is evident I wrote by intervals,[iv] negligently or with care, as circumstances permitted, or as the impressions made by the objects around me were more or less forcible.

Conscious of my own inexperience, I thought it a duty I owed myself to let slip no opportunity of acquiring information, as if I had foreseen, that I should be called to account for the time I had spent, and the knowledge which I had it in my power to obtain: but perhaps the scrupulous exactness to which I confined myself, entailed on my narration a want of elegance and variety.

The events which relate personally to myself are so connected with the subject of my remarks, that I have taken no care to suppress them. I may therefore, not undeservedly, be reproached with having[v] spoken too much of myself: but this is the prevailing sin of travellers of my age.

Besides this, I am ready to accuse myself of frequent repetitions, which would have been avoided by a more experienced pen. On certain subjects, particularly in respect of travels, it is scarcely possible to avoid an uniformity of style. To paint the same objects, we must employ the same colours; hence similar expressions are continually recurring.

With respect to the pronunciation of the Russian, Kamtschadale, and other foreign words, I shall observe, that all the letters are to be articulated distinctly. I have thought it adviseable, even in the vocabulary, to reject those consonants, the confused assemblage of which discourages the reader, and is not always necessary, The kh is to be pronounced as the ch of the[vi] Germans, or the j of the Spaniards, and the ch as in the French. The finals oi and in, are to be pronounced, the former as an improper diphthong () and the latter in the English, not in the French manner.

The delay of publishing this journal renders some excuse necessary. Unquestionably I might have given it to the world sooner, and it was my duty to have done it; but my gratitude bad me wait the return of the count de la Perouse. What is my journey, said I to myself? To the public, it is only an appendage to the important expedition of that gentleman; to myself, it is an honourable proof of his confidence: I had a double motive to submit my account to his inspection. My own interest also prescribed this to me. How happy should I have been, if, permitting me to publish my travels as a supplement to his, he had deigned to render me an associate of[vii] his fame! This, I confess, was the sole end of my ambition; the sole cause of my delay.

How cruel for me, after a year of impatient expectation, to see the wished for period still more distant! Not a day has passed since my arrival, on which my wishes have not recalled the Astrolabe and Boussole. How often, traversing in imagination the seas they had to cross, have I sought to trace their progress, to follow then from port to port, to calculate their delays, and to measure all the windings of their course!

When at the moment of our separation in Kamtschatka, the officers of our vessels sorrowfully embraced me as lost, who would have said, that I should first revisit my native country; that many of them would never see it more; and that in a little time I should shed tears over their fate!


Scarcely, in effect, had I time to congratulate myself on the success of my mission, and the embraces of my family, when the report of our misfortunes in the Archipelago of navigators arrived, to fill my heart with sorrow and affection. The viscount de Langle, that brave and loyal seaman, the friend, the companion of our commander; a man whom I loved and respected as my father, is no more! My pen refuses to trace his unfortunate end, but my gratitude indulges itself in repeating, that the remembrance of his virtues and his kindness to me, will live eternally in my bosom.

Reader, who ever thou art, pardon this involuntary effusion of my grief. Hadst thou known him whom I lament, thou wouldst mingle thy tears with mine: like me thou wouldst pray to Heaven, that, for our consolation, and for the glory of France, the commander of the expedition, and those[ix] of our brave Argonauts, whom it has preserved, may soon return. Ah! if whilst I write, a favourable gale should fill their sails, and impel them towards our shores!—May this prayer of my heart be heard! May the day on which these volumes are published, be that of their arrival! In the excess of my joy, my self-love would find the highest gratification.



I quit the French frigates, and receive my dispatches3
Departure of the frigates6
Impossibility of going to Okotsk before sledges can
  be used7
Details respecting the port of St. Peter and St. Paul9
Nature of the soil15
Rivers that have their mouth in the bay of Avatscha18
Departure from St. Peter and St. Paul's with M.
  Kasloff and M. Schmaleff19
Arrival at Paratounka22
Description of this ostrog23
Kamtschadale habitations24
Chief or judge of an ostrog31
Arrival at Koriaki37
Arrival at the baths of Natchikin38
Description of the baths41
Mode of analizing the hot waters46
Result of our experiments50
Mode of hunting a sable55
Departure from Natchikin, and details of our journey59
Arrival at Apatchin65
At Bolcheretsk, &c.66
Shipwreck of an Okotsk galiot68
Hamlet of Tchekafki70
Mouth of the Bolchaïa-reka71
Terrible hurricane74
Description of Bolcheretsk, where I stayed till 27
  January 178876
Fraudulent commerce of the Cossacs and others81
Commerce in general84
Mode of living of the inhabitants and the Kamtschades  
  in general87
Reflections on the manners of the inhabitants97
Kamtschadale feasts and dances103
Bear hunting106
Scarcity of horses115
Medical sorcerers130
Strong constitution of the women133
Remedy learned from the bear134
Pay of the soldiers140
My long stay at Bolcheretsk accounted for150
Departure from Bolcheretsk152
Arrival at Apatchin155
Origin of the ill opinion the inhabitants of Kamtschatka
  have of the French156
M. Schmaleff quits us158
Arrival at Malkin159
At Ganal162
At Pouschiné164
Isbas without chimneysib.
Kamtschadale lamp165
Filthiness of the inhabitants166
The roads obstructed with snow167
Ostrog of Charom168
Arrival at Vereknei Kamtschatkaib.
Ivaschin, an unfortunate exile170
Colony of peasants172
Ostrog of Kirgann175
Description of my dress177
Visit the baron Stenheil at Machoure180
New details respecting the chamans or sorcerers181
Alarmed at a report of the Koriacs having revolted188
Nikoulka rivers191
Volcanos of Tolbatchina192
Early marriages194
I quit M. Kasloff to go to Nijenei Kamtschatka195
Ostrog of Ouchkoff196
Of Krestoff197
Volcano of Klutchefskaïa198
Klutchefskaïa inhabited by Siberian peasantsib.
Ostrog of Kamini201
Arrival at Nijeneiib.
Entertainment given by the governor204
Tribunals of Nijenei207
Account of nine Japanese whom I found there208
Departure from Nijenei Kamtschatka217
I rejoin M. Kasloff219
Overtaken by a tempest, which obliges us to haltib.
Manner in which the Kamtschades made their bed on
  the snow221
Ostrog of Ozernoi223
Of Onkéib.
Of Khalali225
Of Ivaschin227
Of Drannki228
Of Karagui229
Yourts described230
Singular dress of the children of Karagui234
Koriacs supply us with rein deer236
Account of the two sorts of Koriacs237
A celebrated female dancer240
Fondness of the Kamtschadales for tobacco243
Departure from Karagui246
Manner of our halting in the open country247
Our dogs begin to suffer from famine248
Soldier sent to Kaminoi for succour249
Arrival at Gavenki250
Dispute between a sergeant of our company and two
  peasants of the village251
The inhabitants refuse us fish254
Departure from Gavenki256
Misled by our guide257
Our dogs die of hunger and fatigue258
We are apprehhensive of being starved to death in a
Obliged to leave our equipage259
New distressesib.
Arrival at Poustaretsk262
Fruitless attempts to find provisions263
Melancholy spectacle exhibited by our dogsib.
Soldier sent to Kaminoi, stopt in his way by tempests265
Sergeant Kabechoff sets out for Kaminoi266
Description of Poustaretsk and its environs267
Food upon which the inhabitants lived during our stay268
Their mode of catching rein deer269
Occupations of the women270
Method of smoking271
M. Schmaleff joins us273
Distressing answer from sergeant Kabechoff274
M. Kasloff receives news of his promotion275
I resolve to leave him276
Calm established among the Koriacs278
M. Kasloff gives me his dispatches, and the passports
  necessary for my safety280
My regret at leaving him281



I have scarcely completed my twenty-fifth year, and am arrived at the most memorable æra of my life. However long, or however happy may be my future career, I doubt whether it will ever be my fate to be employed in so glorious an expedition as that in which two French frigates, the Boussole, and the Astrolabe, are at this moment engaged; the first commanded by count de la Perouse, chief of the expedition, and the second by viscount de Langle[1].


The report of this voyage round the world, created too general and lively an interest, for direct news of these illustrious navigators, reclaimed by their country and by all Europe from the seas they traverse, not to be expected with as much impatience as curiosity.

How flattering is it to my heart, after having obtained from count de la Perouse the advantage of accompanying him for more than two years, to be farther indebted to him for the honour of conveying his dispatches over land into France! The more I reflect upon this additional proof of his confidence, the more I feel what such an embassy requires, and how far I am deficient; and I can only attribute his preference, to the necessity of choosing for this journey, a person who had resided in Russia, and could speak its language.


On the 6 September 1787, the king's frigates entered the port of Avatscha, or Saint Peter and Saint Paul[2], at the southern extremity of the peninsula of Kamtschatka. The 29, I was ordered to quit the Astrolabe; and the same day count de la Perouse gave me his dispatches and instructions. His regard for me would not permit him to confine his cares to the most satisfactory arrangements for the safety and convenience of my journey; he went farther, and gave me the affectionate counsels of a father, which will never be obliterated from my heart. Viscount de Langle had the goodness to join his also, which proved equally beneficial to me.


Let me be permitted in this place to pay my just tribute of gratitude to the faithful companion of the dangers and the glory of count de la Perouse, and his rival in every other court, as well as that of France, for having acted towards me, upon all occasions, as a counsellor, a friend, and a father.

In the evening I was to take my leave of the commander and his worthy colleague. Judge what I suffered, when I conducted them back to the boats that waited for them. I was incapable of speaking, or of quitting them; they embraced me in turns, and my tears too plainly told them the situation of my mind. The officers who were on shore, received also my adieux: they were affected, offered prayers to heaven for my safety, and gave me every consolation and succour that their friendship could dictate. My regret at leaving them cannot be described; I was torn from their arms, and found myself in those of[5] colonel Kasloff-Ougrenin, governor general of Okotsk and Kamtschatka, to whom count de la Perouse had recommended me, more as his son, than an officer charged with his dispatches.

At this moment commenced my obligations to the Russian governor. I knew not then all the sweetness of his character, incessantly disposed to acts of kindness, and which I have since had so many reasons to admire[3]. He treated my feelings with the utmost address. I saw the tear of sympathy in his eye upon the departure of the boats, which we followed as far as our sight would permit; and in conducting me to his house, he spared no pains to divert me from my melancholy reflections.[6] To conceive the frightful void which my mind experienced at this moment, it is necessary to be in my situation, and left alone in these scarcely discovered regions, four thousand leagues from my native land: without calculating this enormous distance, the dreary aspect of the country sufficiently prognosticated what I should have to suffer during my long and perilous route; but the reception which I met with from the inhabitants, and the civilities of M. Kasloff and the other Russian officers, made me by degrees less sensible to the departure of my countrymen.

It took place on the morning of 30 September. They set sail with a wind that carried them out of sight in a few hours, and continued favourable for several days. It will readily be believed, that I did not see them depart without offering the most[7] sincere wishes for all my friends on board; the last sad homage of my gratitude and attachment.

Count de la Perouse had recommended diligence to me, but enjoined me, at the same time, upon no pretext to quit M. Kasloff; an injunction that was perfectly agreeable to my inclinations. The governor had promised to conduct me as far as Okotsk, which was the place of his residence, and to which it was necessary that he should repair immediately. I had already felt the happiness of being placed in such good hands, and I made no scruple of surrendering myself implicitly to his direction.

His intention was to go as far as Bolcheretsk, and there wait till we could avail ourselves of sledges, which would greatly facilitate our journey to Okotsk. The season was too far advanced for us to risk an[8] attempt by land, and the passage by sea was not less dangerous; besides there was no vessel either in the port of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, or of Bolcheretsk[4].

M. Kasloff had his affairs to settle, which, with the preparations for our departure, detained us six days longer, and afforded me time to satisfy myself that the frigates were not likely to return. I embraced this opportunity of commencing my observations, and making minutes of every thing about me. I attended particularly to the bay of Avatcha, and the port of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, in order to give a just idea of them.


This bay has been minutely described by captain Cook, and we found his account to be accurate. It has since undergone some alterations; which, it is said, are to be followed by many others; particularly as to the port of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. It is possible indeed, that the very next ship which shall arrive, expecting to find only five or six houses, may be surprised with the sight of an entire town, built of wood, but tolerably fortified.

Such at least is the projected plan, which, as I learned indirectly, is to be ascribed to M. Kasloff, whose views are equally great, and conducive to the service of his mistress. The execution of this plan will contribute not a little to increase the celebrity of the port, already made famous by the foreign vessels which have touched there, as well as by its favourable situation for commerce[5].


To understand the nature, and estimate the utility of this project, nothing more is necessary than to have an idea of the extent and form of the bay of Avatscha, and the port in question. We have already many[11] accurate descriptions, which are in the hands of every one. I shall therefore confine myself to what may tend to illustrate the views of M. Kasloff.

The port of St. Peter and St. Paul, is known to be situated at the north of the entrance of the bay, and closed in at the south by a very narrow neck of land, upon which the ostrog[6], or village of Kamtschatka is built. Upon an eminence to the east, at the most[12] interior point of the bay, is the house of the governor[7], with whom M. Kasloff resided during his stay. Near this house, almost in the same line, is that of a corporal of the garrison, and a little higher inclining to the north, that of the serjeant, who, next to the governor, are the only persons at all distinguished in this settlement, if indeed it deserves the name of settlement. Opposite to the entrance of the port, on the declivity of the eminence, from which a lake of considerable extent is seen, are the ruins of the hospital mentioned in captain Cooke's voyage[8]. Below these, and nearer the shore, is[13] a building which serves as a magazine to the garrison, and which is constantly guarded by a centinel. Such was the state in which we found the port of St. Peter and St. Paul.

By the proposed augmentation, it will evidently become an interesting place. The entrance was to be closed, or at least flanked by fortifications, which were to serve at the same time as a defence, on this side, to the projected town, which was chiefly to[14] be built upon the site of the old hospital; that is, between the port and the lake. A battery also was to be erected upon the neck of land which separates the bay from the lake, in order to protect the other part of the town. In short, by this plan, the entrance of the bay would be defended by a sufficiently strong battery upon the least elevated point of the left coast; and vessels entering the bay could not escape the cannon, because of the breakers on the right. There is at present upon the point of a rock, a battery of six or eight cannon, lately erected to salute our frigates.

I need not add, that the augmentation of the garrison forms a part of the plan, which consists only at present of forty soldiers, or Cossacs. Their mode of living and their dress are similar to the Kamtschadales, except that in time of service they have a sabre, firelock, and cartouch box; in other[15] respects they are not distinguishable from the indigenes, but by their features and idiom.

With respect to the Kamtschadale village, which forms a considerable part of the place, and is situated, as I have already said, upon the narrow projection of land which closes in the entrance of the port, it is at present composed of from thirty to forty habitations, including winter and summer ones, called isbas and balagans; and the number of inhabitants, taking in the garrison, does not exceed a hundred, men, women and children. The intention is to increase them to upwards of four hundred.

To these details respecting the port of St. Peter and St. Paul, and its destined improvements, I shall add a few remarks upon the nature of the soil, the climate, and the[16] rivers. The banks of the bay of Avatscha are rendered difficult of access by high mountains, of which some are covered with wood, and others have volcanos[9]. The valleys present a vegetation that astonished me. The grass was nearly of the height of a man; and the rural flowers, such as the wild roses and others that are interspersed with them, diffuse far and wide a most grateful smell.


The rains are in general heavy during spring and autumn, and blasts of wind are frequent in autumn and winter. The latter is sometimes rainy; but notwithstanding its length, they assured me that its severity is not very extreme, at least in this southern part of Kamtschatka[10]. The snow begins to appear on the ground in October, and the thaw does not take place till April or May; but even in July it is seen to fall upon the summit of high mountains, and particularly volcanos. The summer is tolerably fine; the strongest heats scarcely last beyond the solstice. Thunder is seldom heard, and is never productive of injury. Such is the temperature of almost all this part of the peninsula.


Two rivers pour their waters into the bay of Avatscha; that from which the bay is named, and the Paratounka. They both abound with fish, and every species of water fowl, but these are so wild, that it is not possible to approach within fifty yards of them. The navigation of these rivers is impracticable after the 26 November, because they are always frozen at this time; and in the depth of winter the bay itself is covered with sheets of ice, which are kept there by the wind blowing from the sea; but they are completely dispelled as soon as it blows from the land. The port of St. Peter and St. Paul is commonly shut up by the ice in the month of January.

I should doubtless say something in this place of the manners and customs of the[19] Kamtschadales, of their houses, or rather huts, which they call isbas or balagans; but I must defer this till my arrival at Bolcheretsk, where I expect to have more leisure, and a better opportunity of describing them minutely.

We departed from the port of Saint Peter and Saint Paul the 7 October. Our company consisted of Messrs. Kasloff, Schmaleff[11], Vorokhoff[12], Ivaschkin[13], myself, and the suite of the governor, amounting to four[20] serjeants, and an equal number of soldiers. The commanding officer of the port, probably out of respect to M.[21] Kasloff, his superior, joined our little troop, and we embarked upon baidars[14] in order to cross the bay and reach Paratounka, where we[22] were to be supplied with horses to proceed on our route.

In five or six hours we arrived at this ostrog, where the priest[15], or rector of the district resides, and whose church also is in this place[16]. His house served us for a lodging, and we were treated with[23] the utmost hospitality; but we had scarcely entered when the rain fell in such abundance, that we were obliged to stay longer than we wished.

I eagerly embraced this short interval to describe some of the objects which I had deferred till my arrival at Bolcheretsk, where, perhaps, I may find others that will not be less interesting.

The ostrog of Paratounka is situated by the side of a river of that name, about two leagues from its mouth[17]. This village is scarcely[24] more populous than that of St. Peter and St. Paul. The small pox has, in this place particularly, made dreadful ravages. The number of balagans and isbas seemed to be very nearly the same as at Petropavlofska[18].

The Kamtschadales lodge in the first during summer, and retreat to the last in winter. As it is thought desirable that[25] they should be brought gradually to resemble the Russian peasants, they are prohibited, in this southern part of Kamtschatka, from constructing any more yourts, or subterraneous habitations; these are all destroyed at present[19], a few vestiges only remain of them, filled up within, and appearing externally like the roofs of our ice-houses.


The balagans are elevated above the ground upon a number of posts, placed at equal distances, and about twelve or thirteen feet high. This rough sort of colonnade supports in the air a platform made of rafters, joined to one another, and overspread with clay: this platform serves as a floor to the whole building, which consists of a roof in the shape of a cone, covered with a kind of thatch, or dried grass, placed upon long poles fastened together at the top, and bearing upon the rafters. This is at once the first and last story; it forms the whole apartment, or rather chamber: an opening in the roof serves instead of a chimney to let out the smoke, when a fire is lighted to dress their victuals; this cookery is performed in the middle of the room, where they eat and sleep pell-mell together without the least disgust or scruple. In these apartments, windows are out of the question; there is merely a door, so low and narrow, that it will scarcely suffice to admit the light. The staircase is worthy of the rest of the building; it consists of a beam, or rather a tree jagged in a slovenly manner, one end of which rests on the ground, and the other is raised to the height of the floor. It is placed at the angle of the door, upon a level, with a kind of open gallery that is erected before it. This tree[27] retains its roundness, and presents on one side something like steps, but they are so incommodious that I was more than once in danger of breaking my neck. In reality, whenever this vile ladder turns under the feet of those who are not accustomed to it, it is impossible to preserve an equilibrium; a fall must be the consequence, more or less dangerous, in proportion to the height. When they wish persons to be informed that there is nobody at home, they merely turn the staircase, with the steps inward.

Motives of convenience may have suggested to these people the idea of building such strange dwellings, which their mode of living renders necessary and commodious. Their principal food being dried fish, which is also the nourishment of their dogs, it is necessary, in order to dry their fish, and other provisions, that they should[28] have a place sheltered from the heat of the sun, and at the same time perfectly exposed to the air. Under the collonnades or rustic porticos, which form the lower part of their balagans, they find this convenience; and there they hang their fish, either to the ceiling or to the sides, that it may be out of the reach of the voraciousness of their dogs. The Kamtschadales make use of dogs[20] to draw their sledges; the best, that is the most vicious, have no other kennel than what the portico of the balagans affords them, to the posts of which they are tied. Such are the advantages resulting from the singular mode of constructing the balagans, or summer habitations of the Kamtschadales.


Those of winter are less singular; and if equally large, would exactly resemble the habitations of the Russian peasants. These have been so often described, that it is universally known how they are constructed and arranged. The isbas are built of wood; that is to say, the walls are formed by placing long trees horizontally upon one another, and filling up the interstices with clay. The roof slants like our thatched houses, and is covered with coarse grass, or rushes, and frequently with planks. The interior part is divided into two rooms, with a stove placed so as to warm them both, and which serves at the same time as a fire-place for their cookery. On two sides of the largest room, wide benches are fixed, and sometimes a sorry couch made of planks, and covered with bears skin. This is the bed of the chief of the family: and the women, who in this country are the slaves of their husbands, and perform all[30] the most laborious offices, think themselves happy to be allowed to sleep in it.

Besides these benches and the bed, there is also a table, and a great number of images of different saints, with which the Kamtschadales are as emulous of furnishing their chambers, as the majority of our celebrated connoisseurs are of displaying their magnificent paintings.

The windows, as may be supposed, are neither large or high. The panes are made of the skins of salmon, or the bladders of various animals, or the gullets of sea wolves prepared, and sometimes of leaves of talc; but this is rare, and implies a sort of opulence. The fish skins are so scraped and dressed that they become transparent, and admit a feeble light to the room[21]; but objects cannot be seen through them. The leaves of talc are more clear, and approach nearer to glass; in the mean time they are not sufficiently transparent for persons without to see what is going on within: this is manifestly no inconvenience to such low houses.


Every ostrog is presided by a chief, called toyon. This kind of magistrate is chosen from among the natives of the country, by a plurality of voices. The Russians have preserved to them this privilege, but the election must be approved by the jurisdiction of the province. This toyon is merely a peasant, like those whom he judges and governs; he has no mark of distinction, and performs the same labours as his subordinates. His office is chiefly to watch over the police, and inspect the execution of the orders of government. Under him is another Kamtschadale, chosen[32] by the toyon himself, to assist him in the exercise of his functions, or supply his place. This vice-toyon is called yesaoul, a Cossac title adopted by the Kamtschadales since the arrival of the Cossacs in their peninsula, and which signifies second chief of their band or clan. It is necessary to add, that when the conduct of these chiefs is considered as corrupt, or excites the complaints of their inferiors, the Russian officers presiding over them, or the other tribunals established by government, dismiss them immediately from their functions, and nominate others more agreeable to the Kamtschadales, with whom the right of election still remains.

The rain continuing, we were unable to proceed on our journey; but my curiosity led me to embrace a short interval that offered in the course of the day, to[33] walk out into the ostrog, and visit its environs.

I went first to the church, which I found to be built of wood, and ornamented in the taste of those of the Russian villages. I observed the arms of captain Clerke, painted by Mr. Webber, and the English inscription upon the death of this worthy successor of captain Cook; it pointed out the place of his burial at Saint Peter and Saint Paul's.

During the stay of the French frigates in this port, I had been at Paratounka, in a hunting excursion, with viscount de Langle. As we returned, he spoke of many interesting objects he had observed in the church, and which had entirely escaped my attention. They were, as far as I can remember, various offerings deposited there, he said, by some ancient[34] navigators, who had been shipwrecked. It was my full intention to examine them upon my second visit to this ostrog; but whether it escaped my recollection, or that my research was too precipitate, from the short time that I had to make it, certain it is that I did not discover them.

The village is surrounded with a wood; I traversed it by proceeding along the river, and perceived at length a vast plain which extends to the north and the east as far as the mountains of Petropavlofska. This chain is terminated at the south and west by another, of which the mountain of Paratounka forms a part, and which is about five or six wersts[22] from the ostrog of that name. Upon the banks of the rivers that wind in this plain, there are frequent traces of bears, who are attracted by the fish with which these rivers abound. The inhabitants assured me, that fifteen or eighteen were frequently seen together upon these banks, and that whenever they hunted them, they were sure to bring back one or two, at least, in the space of twenty-four hours. I shall soon have occasion to speak of their chace, and their weapons.


We quitted Paratounka and resumed our journey; twenty horses sufficed for ourselves and our baggage, which was not considerable, M. Kasloff having taken the precaution of sending a great part of it by water, as far as the ostrog of Koriaki. The river Avatscha has no tide, and is not navigable farther than this ostrog; and not at all indeed, except by small boats, called batts. The baidirs only serve to cross the bay of Avatscha, and can proceed no farther than the mouth of the river, where[36] their lading is put into these batts, which, from the shallowness and rapidity of the water, are pushed forward with poles. It was in this manner our effects arrived at Koriaki.

As to ourselves, having crossed the river Paratounka at a shallow, and winded along several of its branches, we left it for a way that was woody and less level, but which afforded us better travelling; it was almost entirely in valleys, and we had only two mountains to climb. Our horses, notwithstanding their burthens, advanced very briskly. We had no reason to complain of the weather for a single moment; it was so fair, that I began to think the rigour of the climate had been exaggerated; but shortly after, experience too well convinced me of its truth, and in the sequel of my journey, I had every reason to accustom myself to the most piercing frosts, too happy[37] when in the midst of ice and snow, that I had not to contend with the violence of whirlwinds and tempests.

We were about six or seven hours in going from Paratounka to Koriaki, which, as far as I could judge, is from thirty-eight to forty wersts. Scarcely arrived, we were obliged to take refuge in the house of the toyon, to shelter ourselves from the rain; he ceded his isba to M. Kasloff, and we spent the night there.

The ostrog of Koriaki is situated in the midst of a coppice wood, and upon the border of the river Avatscha, which becomes very narrow in this part. Five or six isbas, and twice, or at most three times the number of balagans, make up this village, which is similar to that of Paratounka, except that it is less, and has no parish church. I observed in general that ostrogs of so little[38] consideration were not provided with a church.

The next day we mounted our horses and took the way to Natchikin, another ostrog in the Bolcheretsk route. We were to stop a few days in the neighbourhood for the sake of the baths, which M. Kasloff had constructed at his own expence, for the benefit and pleasure of the inhabitants, upon the hots springs that are found there, and which I shall presently describe. The way from Koriaki to Natchikin is tolerably commodious, and we crossed without difficulty all the little streams that fall from the mountains, at the foot of which we passed. About three-fourths of the way we met the Bolchaïa-reka[23]; from the site of its greatest breadth, which in this place is about ten or twelve yards, it appears to wind to a considerable extent to the north east; we journeyed on its bank for some time, till we came to a[39] little mountain, which we were obliged to pass over in order to reach the village. A heavy rain which came on as we left Koriaki, ceased a few minutes after; but the wind having changed to the north-west, the heavens became obscured, and we had abundance of snow; we were about two-thirds of our way, and it continued till our arrival. I remarked that the snow already covered the mountains, even such as were lowest, upon which it described an equal line at a certain elevation, but that below them no traces of it were yet perceptible. We forded the Bolchaïa-reka, and found on the other side the ostrog of Natchikin, where I counted six or seven isbas and twenty balagans, similar to what I had seen before. We made no stay there, M. Kasloff thinking it proper to hasten immediately to the baths, to which I was inclined as much[40] from curiosity as from necessity.

The snow had penetrated through my clothes, and in crossing the river, which was deep, I had made my legs and feet wet. I longed therefore to be able to change my dress, but when we came to the baths our baggage was not arrived. We proposed drying ourselves by walking about the environs, and observing the interesting objects which I expected to find there. I was charmed with every thing I saw, but the dampness of the place, added to that of our clothes, gave us such a chilliness that we quickly put an end to our walk. Upon our return we had a new source of regret and impatience. Unable either to dry ourselves or change our dress, our equipage not being arrived, to complete our misfortune, the place to which we had retired was the dampest we could have chosen, and though[41] it seemed sufficiently sheltered, the wind penetrated on every side. M. Kasloff had recourse to the bath, which quickly restored him; but not daring to follow his example, I was obliged to wait the arrival of our baggage. The damp had penetrated to such a degree that I shivered during the whole night.

The next day I made a trial of these baths, and can say that none ever afforded me so much pleasure or so much benefit. But before I proceed, I must describe the source of these hot waters, and the building constructed for bathing.

They are two wersts to the north of the ostrog, and about a hundred yards from the bank of the Bolchaïa-reka, which it is necessary to cross a second time in order to arrive at the baths, on account of the elbow which the river describes below the village. A thick[42] and continual vapour ascends from these waters, which fall in a rapid cascade from a rather steep declivity, three hundred yards from the place where the baths are erected. In their fall, which is in a direction east and west, they form a small stream of a foot and half deep, and six or seven feet wide. At a little distance from the Bolchaïa-reka, this stream is met by another, with which it pours itself into this river. At their conflux, which is about eight or nine hundred yards from the source, the water is so hot that it is not possible to keep the hand in it for half a minute.

M. Kasloff has been careful to erect his building on the most convenient spot, and where the temperature of the water is most moderate. It is constructed of wood, in the middle of a stream, and is in the proportion of sixteen feet long by eight wide. It is divided into two apartments, each of six[43] or seven feet square, and as many high: the one which is nearest to the side of the spring, and under which the water is consequently warmer, is appropriated for bathing; the other serves for a dressing-room; and for this purpose there are wide benches above the level of the water; in the middle also a certain space is left to wash if we be disposed. There is one circumstance that renders these baths very agreeable, the warmth of the water communicates itself sufficiently to the dressing-room to prevent us from catching cold; and it penetrates the body to such a degree, as to be felt even for the space of an hour or two after we have left the bath.

We lodged near these baths in a kind of barns, covered with thatch, and whose timber work consisted of the trunks and branches of trees. We occupied two, which had been built on purpose for us,[44] and in so short a time, that I knew not how to credit the report; but I had soon the conviction of my own eyes. That which was to the south of the stream, having been found too small and too damp, M. Kasloff ordered another of six or eight yards extent, to be built on the opposite side, where the soil was less swampy. It was the business of a day; in the evening it was finished, though an additional staircase had been cut out to form a communication between the barn and the bathing house, whose door was to the north.

Our habitations being insupportable during the night, on account of the cold, M. Kasloff resolved to quit them, four days after our arrival. We returned to the village to shelter ourselves with the toyon; but the attraction of the baths led us back every day, oftener twice than once, and we scarcely ever came away without bathing.


The various constructions which M. Kasloff ordered for the greater convenience of his establishment, detained us two days longer. Animated by a love of virtue and humanity, he enjoyed the pleasure of having procured these salutary and pleasant baths for his poor Kamtschadales. The uninformed state of their minds, or perhaps their indolence, would, without his succour, have deprived them of this benefit, notwithstanding their extreme confidence in these hot springs for the cure of a variety of diseases[24]. This made M. Kasloff desirous of ascertaining the properties of these waters; we agreed to analyse them, by means of a process which had been given him for this purpose. But before I speak of the result of our experiments, it is necessary to transcribe the process, in order the better to trace the mode we adopted.


"Water in general may contain,

"1. Fixed air; in that case it has a sharp and sourish taste, like lemonade, without sugar.

"2. Iron or copper; and then it has an astringent and disagreeable taste, like ink.

"3. Sulphur, or sulphurous vapours; and then it has a very nauseous taste, like a stale and rotten egg.

"4. Vitriolic, or marine, or alkaline salt.

"5. Earth,"

Fixed Air.

"To ascertain the fixed air, the taste is partly sufficient; but pour into the water some tincture of turnsol, and the water[47] will become more or less red, in proportion to the quantity of fixed air it contains."


"The iron may be known by means of the galnut and phlogisticated alkali; the galnut put into feruginous water, will change its colour to purple, or violet, or black; and the phlogisticated alkali will produce immediately Prussian blue."


"Copper may be ascertained by means of the phlogisticated alkali or volatile alkali; the first turns the water to a brown red, and the second to a blue. The last mode is the surest, because the volatile alkali precipitates copper only, and not iron."



"Sulphur and sulphurous vapours may be known by pouring, 1. nitrous acid into the water; if a yellowish or whitish sediment be formed by it, there is sulphur, and at the same time a sulphurous odour will be exhaled and evaporate. 2. By pouring some drops of a solution of corrosive sublimate; if it occasion a white sediment, the water contains only vapours of liver of sulphur; and if the sediment be black, the water contains sulphur only."

Vitriolic Salt.

"Water may contain vitriolic salts; that is salts resulting from the combination of the vitriolic acid with calcareous earth, iron, copper, or with an alkali. The vitriolic acid may be ascertained by pouring some drops of a solution of heavy earth; for then a sandy sediment will be formed, which will settle slowly at the bottom of the vessel."


Marine Salt.

"Water may contain marine salt, which may be ascertained by pouring into it some drops of a solution of silver; a white sediment will immediately be formed of the consistency of curdled milk, which will at last turn to a dark violet colour."

Fixed Alkali.

"Water may contain fixed alkali, which may be ascertained by pouring into it some drops of a solution of corrosive sublimate; when a reddish sediment will be formed."

Calcareous Earth.

"Water may contain calcareous earth and magnesia. Some drops of acid of sugar poured into the water, will precipitate the calcareous earth in whitish clouds, which will at length subside and[50] afford a white sediment. A few drops of a solution of corrosive sublimate, will produce a reddish sediment, but very gradually, if the water contain magnesia.

"Note. To make these experiments with readiness and certainty, the water to be analysed should be reduced one half by boiling it, except in the case of the fixed air, which would evaporate in the boiling."

Having thoroughly studied the process, we began our experiments. The three first producing no effect, we concluded that the water contained neither fixed air, iron, nor copper; but upon the mixture of the nitrous acid, mentioned for the fourth experiment, we perceived a light substance settle upon the surface, of a whitish colour, and extending but a little way, which led us to believe that the quantity of sulphur, or[51] of sulphurous vapours, must be infinitely small.

The fifth experiment proved that the water contained vitriolic salts, or at least vitriolic acid mixed with calcareous earth. We ascertained the existence of this acid, by pouring some drops of a solution of heavy earth into the water, which became white and nebulous, and the sediment that slowly settled at the bottom of the vessel appeared whitish and in very fine grains.

We had no solution of silver for the sixth experiment, in order to ascertain whether the water contained marine salt.

The seventh proved that it had no fixed alkali.

By the eighth experiment, we found that the water contained a great quantity of[52] calcareous earth, but no magnesia. Having poured some drops of acid of sugar, we observed the calcareous earth precipitate to the bottom of the vessel in clouds and a powder of a whitish colour; we mixed afterwards some solution of corrosive sublimate to find the magnesia; but the sediment, instead of becoming red, preserved the same colour as before; a proof that the water contained no magnesia.

We made use of this water for tea and for our common drink. It was not till after three or four days that we found it contained some saline particles.

M. Kasloff boiled also some of the water taken at the spring, till it became totally evaporated; the whitish and very salt earth or powder which remained at the bottom of the vessel, as well as the effect it produced[53] on us, proved that this water contained nitrous salts.

We remarked also that the stones taken out of this stream were covered with a calcareous substance tolerably thick, and of an undulated appearance, which, when mixed with the vitriolic and nitrous acid, produced symptoms of effervescence. We examined others taken from what appeared to be the fountain head of the waters, and where they have the greater degree of heat; we found them covered with a stratum of a kind of metal, if I may so call a hard and compact envelopement of the colour of refined copper, but the quality of which we could not ascertain; we found also some of this metal, which appeared like the heads of pins; but no acid could dissolve it. Upon breaking these stones, we discovered the inside to be very soft and mixed with gravel,[54] with which I had observed these streams to abound.

I ought to add here, that we discovered upon the border of the stream, and in a little moving swamp that was near it, a gum, or singular fucus[25], that was glutinous, but did not adhere to the ground.

Such are the observations which I made upon these hot waters, by assisting M. Kasloff in his experiments and enquiries. I dare not flatter myself with having given the result of our operations in a satisfactory manner; forgetfulness, or want of information upon the subject, may have led me into errors; I can only say that I have exerted all my attention and care to be accurate; but acknowledge at the same time, that, if there be defects, they are ascribable to me.


During our stay at these baths and at the ostrog of Natchikin, our horses had brought, at different times, the effects which we had left at Koriaki, and we began to make preparations for our departure. In this interval I had an opportunity of seeing a sable taken alive; the method was very singular, and may give some idea of the manner of hunting these animals.

At some distance from the baths, M. Kasloff remarked a numerous flight of ravens, who all hovered over the same spot, skimming continually along the ground. The regular direction of their flight led us to suspect that some prey attracted them. These birds were in reality pursuing a sable. We perceived it upon a birch-tree, surrounded by another flight of ravens, and[56] we had immediately a similar desire of taking it. The quickest and surest way would doubtless have been to have shot it; but our guns were at the village, and it was impossible to borrow one of the persons who accompanied us, or indeed in the whole neighbourhood. A Kamtschadale happily drew us from our embarassment, by undertaking to catch the sable. He adopted the following method. He asked us for a cord; we had none to give him but that which fastened our horses. While he was making a running knot, some dogs, trained to this chace, had surrounded the tree: the animal, intent upon watching them, either from fear, or natural stupidity, did not stir; and contented himself with stretching out his neck, when the cord was presented to him. His head was twice in the noose, but the knot slipped. At length, the sable having thrown himself upon the ground, the dogs flew to seize him; but he presently freed[57] himself, and with his claws and teeth laid hold of the nose of one of the dogs, who had no reason to be pleased with his reception. As we were desirous of taking the animal alive, we kept back the dogs; the sable quitted immediately his hold, and ran up a tree, where, for the third time, the noose, which had been tied anew, was presented to him; it was not till the fourth attempt that the Kamtschadale succeeded[26]. I could not have imagined that an animal, who has so much the appearance of cunning would have permitted himself to be caught in so stupid a manner, and would himself have placed his head in the snare that was held up to him. This easy mode of catching sables, is a considerable resource to the Kamtschadales, who are obliged to pay their tribute in skins of these animals, as I shall explain hereafter[27].


Two phenomena in the heavens were observed at the north-west, during the nights of the 13 and 14. From the description that was given of them, we judged that they were auroræ boreales, and we lamented that we were not informed time enough to see them. The weather had been tolerably fair during our stay at the baths; but the western part of the sky had been almost constantly charged with very thick clouds. The wind varied from west to north-west, and gave us now and then a shower of snow, which did not yet acquire consistency, notwithstanding the frosts which we experienced every night.


Our departure was fixed for the 17 October, and the 16 was spent in the hurry and bustle which the last preparations generally occasion. The rest of our route, as far as Bolcheretsk, was to be upon the Bolchaïa-reka. Ten small boats, which properly speaking, appeared to be merely trees scooped out in the shape of canoes, two and two lashed together, served as five floats for the conveyance of ourselves and part of our effects. We were obliged to leave the greater part at Natchikin, on account of the impossibility of loading these floats with the whole, and there were no means of increasing them. We had already collected all the canoes that were in the village, and even some of our ten had been brought from the ostrog of Apatchin, to which we were going.

The 17, at break of day, we embarked upon these floats. Four Kamtschadales, by means of long poles, conducted our rafts.[60] But they were frequently obliged to place themselves in the water, in order to haul them along; the depth of the river in some places being no more than one or two feet, and in others less than six inches. Presently one of our floats received an injury; it was precisely that which was freighted with our baggage, and we were obliged to unlade every thing upon the bank, in order to refit it. We waited not, but preferred leaving it behind, in order to proceed on our route. At noon another accident, much more deplorable for men whose appetites began to be clamorous, occasioned us a further delay. The float in which our cookery was embarked, sunk all at once before our eyes. It will be supposed we did not see the loss which threatened us, with indifference; we were eager to save the wreck of our provisions; and for fear of a greater misfortune, we wisely resolved to dine before we proceeded any farther. Our dinner[61] tended gradually to dispel our fears, and gave us courage to discharge the water which over-loaded our boats, and to resume our voyage. We had not advanced a werst, before we met two boats coming to our assistance from Apatchin. We sent them to the succour of the damaged float, and to supply the place of the boats which were unfit for service. As we continued to advance at the head of our embarkations, we at last entirely lost sight of them; but we met with nothing disastrous till the evening.

I observed that the Bolchaïa-reka, in the windings which it continually made, ran nearly in the direction of east-north-east and west-south-west. Its current is very rapid; it appeared to me to flow at the rate of five knots an hour; in the meantime the stones and the shoals which we met with every instant, obstructed our passage[62] to such a degree, as to render the last hour of our conductors truly painful. They avoided them with astonishing address, but as we approached nearer the mouth of the river, I observed with pleasure that it became wider and more navigable. I was equally surprised to see it divide into I know not how many branches, which united again, after having watered a variety of little islands, of which some are covered with wood. The trees are every where very small and very bushy; we met with a considerable number growing here and there in the very river itself, which increase still farther the difficulty of the navigation, and prove the carelessness, I may say the sloth, of these people. It never occurs to them to root out these trees, and thus open a more easy passage.

Different species of water-fowl, such as ducks, plovers, goëlands, divers, and others,[63] divert themselves in this river, the surface of which is sometimes covered by them; but it is difficult to approach near enough to shoot them. Game does not appear to be so common. But for the tracks of the bears, and the half-devoured fish, which continually presented themselves to our view, I should have believed that they had imposed upon me, or at least that they had exaggerated, in telling me of the multitude of these animals with which the country abounds; we could perceive none; but we saw a great number of black eagles, and others that had white wings; magpies, ravens, some partridges, and an ermine walking by the side of the river.

Upon the approach of night, M. Kasloff rightly judged that it would be more prudent to stop, than to continue our route, with the apprehension of encountering obstacles similar to what had already impeded[64] our navigation. How were we to surmount them? we were unacquainted with the river; and in the obscurity of the night, the least accident might prove fatal to us. These considerations determined us to leave our boats, and to pass the night on the right-hand bank of the river, at the entrance of a wood, and near the place where captain King and his party halted[28]. A good fire warmed and dried our whole company. M. Kasloff had taken the precaution to place in his float the accoutrements of a tent; and while we were pitching it, which was done in a moment, we had the satisfaction to see two of our floats arrive, which had not been able to keep up with us. The pleasure which this reunion afforded us, the fatigue of the day, the convenience of the tent, and our beds, which we had fortunately brought with us, all contributed to make us pass a most comfortable night.


The next day we fitted ourselves out early and without difficulty. We arrived in four hours at Apatchin, but our floats could not come up as far as the village, on account of the shallowness of the water. We landed about four hundred yards from the ostrog, and atchieved this short distance on foot.

This village did not appear to me so considerable as the preceding ones, that is, it contained perhaps three or four habitations less. It is situated in a small plain, watered by a branch of the Bolchaïa-reka; and on the side opposite to the ostrog is an extent of wood, which I conceived might be an island formed by the different branches of this river.


I learned by the way, that the ostrog of Apatchin, as well as that of Natchikin, had not been always where they are at present. It is within a few years only that the inhabitants, attracted without doubt by the situation, or the hope of better and more commodious fishing, removed their houses to this place. The distance of the new ostrog from the former one is, as I was told, about four or five wersts.

Apatchin afforded nothing interesting. I left it to join our floats, which had passed the shallows, and were waiting for us three wersts from the ostrog, at the spot where the branch of Bolchaïa-reka, after having made a circuit round the village, returns again to its channel. The farther we advanced, the deeper and more rapid we found it; so that nothing impeded our course the whole way to Bolcheretsk, where we arrived at seven o'clock in the evening,[67] accompanied by one only of our floats, the rest not having kept pace with us.

We were no sooner landed, than the governor conducted me to his house, where he had the civility to give me a lodging, which I occupied during the whole time of my stay at Bolcheretsk. He not only procured me all the conveniences and pleasures that were in his power, but furnished me with all the information which might contribute to my advantage, and which his office permitted him to give. His politeness often anticipated my desires and my questions; and he contrived to stimulate my curiosity, by presenting to it every thing which he thought was calculated to interest me. It was with this view he proposed, almost immediately upon our arrival, my going with him to view the galliot from Okotsk, that had been unfortunately just[68] shipwrecked at a little distance from Bolcheretsk.

We had learned something of this melancholy news in our journey. It was said that the bad weather, which the galliot had encountered at its arrival, obliged it to come to anchor at the distance of a league from the coast; but finding that it still drove, the pilot saw no other means of saving the cargo than by running the vessel aground upon the coast; accordingly he cut the cables, and the ship was dashed to pieces.

Upon the first intelligence of this event, the inhabitants of Bolcheretsk flocked together to hasten to the succour of the vessel, and to save at least the provisions with which it was freighted. Immediately upon our arrival, M. Kasloff had given all the orders[69] which appeared to him to be necessary; but not satisfied with this, he would go himself to see them carried into execution. He invited me to accompany him, which I accepted with cheerfulness, promising myself much pleasure from having an opportunity of viewing the mouth of the Bolchaïa-reka, and the harbour which is formed by it.

We set off at eleven o'clock in the morning, upon two floats, of which one, that which carried us, was formed of three canoes. Our conductors made use of oars and sometimes of their poles, which frequently in difficult and shallow passages, enabled them to resist the impetuosity of the current, by keeping back the float, which would otherwise have been carried along with rapidity and infallibly overturned.

The Bistraïa, another very rapid river,[70] and larger than the Bolchaïa-reka, joins it to the west, about the distance of half a werst from Bolcheretsk. It loses its name at the conflux, and takes that of the Bolchaïa-reka, which is rendered very considerable by this addition, and empties itself into the sea at the distance of thirty wersts.

We landed at seven o'clock in the evening at a little hamlet called Tchekafki. Two isbas, two balagans, and a yourt almost in ruins, were all the habitations I could perceive. There was also a wretched warehouse, made of wood, to which they give the name of magazine, because it belongs to the crown, and first receives the supplies with which the galliots from Okotsk[29] are freighted. The hamlet was built as a guard to this magazine. We passed the night in one of the isbas, resolving to repair early in the morning to the wreck.


At break of day we embarked upon our floats. It was low water; we coasted along a dry and very extensive sand bank, at the left of the Bolchaïa-reka, as we advanced towards the sea, and which leaves to the north a passage of only eight or ten fathoms wide, and two and a half deep. The wind, which blew fresh from the north-west, suddenly agitated the river, and we dared not risk ourselves in the channel. Our boats also were so small, that a single wave half filled them; two men were constantly employed in throwing out the water, and were scarcely able to effect it. We advanced therefore as far as we could along this bank.

At length we perceived the mast of the galliot above a neck of low land that extended[72] to the south. It appeared to be about two wersts from us, south of the entrance of the Bolchaïa-reka. At the point of land just mentioned, we discovered the light house, and the cot of the persons appointed to guard the wreck: unfortunately we could only see all this at a distance. The direction of the river, from the place where it empties itself into the sea, appeared to me to be north-west, and its opening to be half a werst wide. The light-house is on the left coast, and on the right is the continuation of the low land, which the sea overflows in tempestuous weather, and which extends almost as far as the hamlet of Tchekafki. The distance of the hamlet from the mouth of the river is from six to eight wersts. The nearer we approach the entrance, the more rapid is the current.

It was not possible to pursue our voyage; the wind became stronger, and the waves[73] increased every moment. It would have been the height of imprudence to quit the sand bank, and cross, in such foul weather and such feeble boats, two wersts of deep water, which is the width of the bay formed by the mouth of the river. The governor, who had already met with some proofs of my little knowledge of navigation, was very anxious however to consult me upon this occasion. My advice was to tack about, and return to the hamlet where we had slept; which was executed immediately. We had great reason to be pleased with our prudence; scarcely were we arrived at Tchekafki when the weather became terrible.

I consoled myself with the idea, that I had at least obtained my end, which was to see the entrance of the Bolchaïa-reka. I can assert with confidence, that the access to it is very dangerous, and impracticable[74] to ships of a hundred and fifty tons burthen. The Russian vessels are too frequently shipwrecked, not to open the eyes both of navigators who may be tempted to visit this coast, and of the nations who may think of sending them.

The port, besides, affords no shelter. The low lands with which it is surrounded, are no protection against the winds which blow from every quarter. The banks also which the current of the river forms, are very variable, and of course it is almost impossible to know with certainty the channel, which must necessarily, from time to time, change it direction as well as its depth.

We passed the rest of the day at Tchekafki, being unable to proceed to the shipwrecked vessel, or to return to Bolcheretsk. The sky, instead of clearing up, became covered on all sides with still blacker and[75] thicker clouds. Soon after our arrival, a dreadful tempest arose, and the Bolchaïa-reka became agitated to an extreme violence, even so high up as our hamlet. Its billows surprised me, because of the little extent and depth of the river in this place. The point north-east of its mouth, and the low land, which this gale of wind extended, formed but one breaker, over which the waves rolled with a horrible noise. The gale was not likely to abate, but I was on shore, and thought myself able to brave it. I took it into my head therefore, to go a hunting in the environs of the hamlet. I had scarcely advanced a few steps, when the wind seized me, and I felt myself stagger; my courage however did not fail me, and I persevered; but coming to a stream, which it was necessary to cross in a boat, I ran the most imminent risk, and returned immediately, well punished for my petty presumption. These dreadful hurricanes being[76] very common at this season, it is not be wondered at that shipwrecks are so frequent on these coasts: the vessels are so small as to have but one mast; and, what is still worse, the sailors who manage them, if report may be credited, have too little skill to be confided in.

The next day we resumed our journey, and arrived at Bolcheretsk in the dusk of the evening.

As I forsee that my stay here will probably be long, from the necessity of waiting till sledges can be used, I shall proceed with my descriptions, and the recital of what I have seen myself, or learned from my conversations with the Russians and Kamtschadales. I shall begin with the town, or fort of Bolcheretsk, for so it is called, in Russia (ostrog, or krepost).

It is situated on the border of the Bolchaïa-reka,[77] in a small island formed by different branches of this river, which divide the town into three parts more or less inhabited. The most distant division, and which is farthest to the east, is a kind of suburb called Paranchine; it contains ten or twelve isbas. South-east of Paranchine, is the middle division, where there is also a number isbas, and among others, a row of wooden huts that serve for shops. Opposite to these is the guard-house, which is also the chancery, or court of justice[30]; this house is larger than the rest, and is always guarded by a centinel. A second branch of the Bolchaïa-reka again separates, by a very narrow stream, this group of habitations, built without order, and scattered here and there, from another at the north-west, nearer the river. The river in this part flows in the direction of south-east and north-west,[78] and passes within fifty yards of the governor's house. This house is easily distinguished from the rest; it is higher, larger, and is built like the wooden houses of St. Petersburg. Two hundred yards north-east of this house, is the church; the construction of which is simple, and like that of the village churches in Russia. By the side of it is an erection of timber work, twenty feet high, covered only with a roof, under which three bells are suspended. North-west of the governor's house, and separated from it by a meadow or marsh about three hundred yards wide, is another group of dwellings, consisting of twenty-five or thirty isbas, and some balagans. There are in general very few of these latter habitations at Bolcheretsk; the whole do not exceed ten; the isbas and wooden houses, without including the eight shops, the chancery, and the governor's house, amount to fifty or sixty.


From this minute description of the fort of Bolcheretsk, it must appear strange that it retains so inapplicable a name; for I can affirm, that no traces are to be found of fortifications, nor does it appear that there has ever been an intention of erecting any. The state and situation, both of the town and its port, induce me to believe, that government have felt the innumerable dangers and obstacles they would have to surmount, if they were to attempt to render it more flourishing, and make it the general depôt of commerce to the peninsula. Their views, as I have already observed, seem rather turned to the port of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, which for its proximity, safety, and easy access, merits the preference.

There is a degree of civilization at Bolcheretsk, which I did not perceive at Petropavlofska. This sensible approach to European manners, occasions a striking differrence[80] between the two places. I shall endeavour to point out and account for this as I proceed in my observations upon the inhabitants of these ostrogs; for my principal object should be, to give details of their employments, their customs, their tastes, their diversions, their food, their understandings, their character, their constitutions, and lastly, the principles of government to which they are subjected.

The population of Bolcheretsk, including men, women and children, amounts to between two and three hundred. Among these inhabitants, reckoning the petty officers, there are sixty or seventy Cossacs, or soldiers, who are employed in all labours that relate to the service of government[31]. Each in his turn mounts guard; they clear the ways; repair the bridges; unlade the provisions sent from Okotsk, and convey them from the mouth of the Bolchaïa-reka to Bolcheretsk. The rest of the inhabitants are composed of merchants and sailors.


These people, Russians and Cossacs, together with a mixed breed found among them, carry on a clandestine commerce, sometimes in one article, and sometimes in another; it varies as often as they see any reason for changing it; but it is never with a view of enriching themselves by honest means. Their industry is a continual knavishness; it is solely employed in cheating the poor Kamtschadales, whose credulity and insuperable propensity to drunkenness, leave them entirely at the mercy of these dangerous plunderers. Like our mountebanks, and other knaves of this kind, they go from village to village to inveigle the too silly natives: they propose to sell them brandy, which they artfully present to them[82] to taste. It is almost impossible for a Kamtschadale, male or female, to refuse this offer. The first essay is followed by many others; presently their heads become affected, they are intoxicated, and the craft of the tempters succeed. No sooner are they arrived to a slate of inebriety, than these pilferers know how to obtain from them the barter of their most valuable effects, that is, their whole stock of furs, frequently the fruit of the labour of a whole season, which was to enable them to pay their tribute to the crown, and procure perhaps subsistance for a whole family. But no consideration can stop a Kamtschadale drunkard; every thing is forgotten, every thing is sacrificed to the gratification of his appetite, and the momentary pleasure of swallowing a few glasses of brandy[32], reduces him to the utmost wretchedness. Nor is it possible for the most painful experience to put them on their guard against their own weakness, or the cunning perfidy of these traders, who in their turn drink, in like manner, all the profits of their knavery.



I shall terminate the article of commerce by adding, that the persons who deal most in wholesale, are merely agents of the merchants of Totma, Vologda, Grand Ustiug, and different towns of Siberia, or the factors of other opulent traders, who extend even to this distant country their commercial speculations.

All the wares and provisions, which necessity obliges them to purchase from the magazines, are sold excessively dear, and at about ten times the current price at Moscow. A vedro[33] of French brandy costs eighty roubles[34]. The merchants are allowed to traffic in this[85] article; but the brandy, distilled from corn, which is brought from Okotsk, and that produced by the country, which is distilled from the slatkaïa-trava, or sweet herb, are sold, upon government account, at forty one roubles ninety-six kopecks[35] the vedro. They can be sold only in the kabacs, or public houses, opened for that purpose. At Okotsk, the price of brandy distilled from corn is no more than eighteen roubles the vedro; so that the expence of freight is charged at twenty-three roubles ninety-six kopecks, which appears exorbitant, and enables us to form some judgment of the accruing profit.

The rest of the merchandize consists of nankins and other China stuffs, together with various commodities of Russian and foreign manufacture, as ribands, handkerchiefs,[86] stockings, caps, shoes, boots, and other articles of European dress, which may be regarded as luxuries, compared with the extreme simplicity of apparel of the Kamtschadales. Among the provision imported, there are sugar, tea, a small quantity of coffee, some wine, but very little, biscuits, confections, or dried fruits, as prunes, raisins, &c. and lastly, candles, both wax and tallow, powder, shot, &c.

The scarcity of all these articles in so distant a country, and the need, whether natural or artificial, which there is for them, enable the merchants to sell them at whatever exorbitant price their voracity may affix. In common, they are disposed of almost immediately upon their arrival. The merchants keep shops, each of them occupying one of the huts opposite the guard-house; these shops are open every day, except feast days.


The inhabitants of Bolcheretsk differ not from the Kamtschadales in their mode of living; they are less satisfied, however, with balagans, and their houses are a little cleaner.

Their clothing is the same. The outer garment, which is called parque, is like a waggoner's frock, and is made of the skins of deer, or other animals, tanned on one side. They wear under this long breeches of similar leather, and next the skin a very short and tight shirt, either of nankin or cotton stuff; the women's are of silk, which is a luxury among them. Both sexes wear boots; in summer, of goats or dogs skins tanned; and in winter, of the skins of sea wolves, or the legs of rein deer[36]. The men constantly wear fur caps; in the mild season they put on longer shirts of nankin, or of skin without hair; they are made like the parque, and answer the same purpose, that is, to be worn over their other garments. Their gala dress, is a parque trimmed with otter skins and velvet, or other stuffs and furs equally dear. The women are clothed like the Russian women, whose mode of dress is too well known to need a description; I shall therefore only observe, that the excessive scarcity of every species of stuff at Kamtschatka, renders the toilet of the women an object of very considerable expence: they sometimes adopt the dress of the men.


The principal food of these people consists, as I have already observed, in dried fish. The fish are procured by the men, while the women are employed in domestic occupations, or in gathering fruits and other vegetables, which, next to the dried fish, are the favourite provisions of the Kamtschadales[89] and Russians of this country. When the women go out to make these harvests for winter consumption, it is high holy-day with them, and the anniversary is celebrated by a riotous and intemperate joy, that frequently gives rise to the most extravagant and indecent scenes. They disperse in crowds through the country, singing and giving themselves up to all the absurdities which their imagination suggests; no consideration of fear or modesty restrains them. I cannot better describe their licentious frenzy than by comparing it with the bacchanals of the Pagans. Ill betide the man whom chance conducts and delivers into their hands! however resolute or however active he may be, it is impossible to evade the fate that awaits him; and it is seldom that he escapes, without receiving a severe flagellation.

Their provisions are prepared nearly in[90] the following manner; it will appear, from the recital, that they cannot be accused of much delicacy. They are particularly careful to waste no part of the fish. As soon as it is caught they tear out the gills, which they immediately suck with extreme gratification. By another refinement of sensuality or gluttony, they cut off also at the same time some slices of the fish, which they devour with equal avidity, covered as they are with clots of blood. The fish is then gutted, and the entrails reserved for their dogs. The rest is prepared and dried; when they eat it either boiled, roasted, or broiled, but most commonly raw.

The food which the epicures esteem most, and which appeared to me to be singularly disgusting, is a species of salmon, called tchaouitcha. As soon as it is caught, they bury it in a hole; and in this kind of larder they leave it till it has had time to sour, or,[91] properly speaking, become perfectly putrified. It is only in this state of corruption that it attains the flavour most pleasing to the delicate palates of these people. In my opinion the infectious odour that exhales from this fish, would suffice to repulse the most hungry being; and yet a Kamtschadale feeds voluptuously upon this rotten flesh. How fortunate does he consider himself when the head falls to his lot! this is deemed the most delicious morsel, and is commonly distributed into many parts. I frequently wished to overcome my aversion, and taste this so highly valued food; but my resolution was unequal to it; and I was not only unable to taste it, but even to bring it near my mouth; every time I attempted, the fetid exhalation which it emitted gave me a nausea, and disgusted me insuperably.

The most common fish in Kamtschatka are trouts, and salmon of different species;[92] sea wolves are also eaten; the fat of this fish is very wholesome, and serves them beside for lamp oil.

Among the vegetables which are made use of by the Kamtschadales, the principal are sarana root, wild garlic, slatkaïa-trava, or sweet herb, and other plants and fruits nearly similar to what are found in Russia.

The sarana is known to botanists[37]. Its shape, its size, and its colour have been described at large in the third voyage of captain Cook. Its farinaceous root serves instead of bread[38]. It is dried before it is used; but it is wholesome and nourishing in whatever mode it may be prepared.


From the wild garlic[39] they make a harsh and fermented beverage, which has a very unpleasant taste; it is also used in various sauces; the Kamtschadales are very fond of it.

The slatkaïa-trava, or sweet herb, is pleasant enough when it is fresh. This plant[40] has also been minutely described by the English. It is highly esteemed by the natives, particularly the spirit distilled from it. Soon after it is gathered, they slit it in two, and scrape out the pith with a muscle-shell: they then dry it for winter, and when they use it in their ragouts, it is previously boiled. Brandy is also distilled from this sweet herb, which, as I observed before, is sold on account of government: for this purpose the plant is purchased of the Kamtschadales[41].


There are three sorts of inhabitants, the natives or Kamtschadales, the Russians and Cossacs, and the descendants from intermarriages.

The indigenes, that is, those whose blood is unmixed, are few in number; the small pox has carried off three fourths of them, and the few that are left are dispersed through the different ostrogs of the peninsula; in Bolcheretsk it would be difficult to find more than one or two.


The true Kamtschadales are in general below the common height; their shape is round and squat, their eyes small and sunk, their cheeks prominent, their nose flat, their hair black, they have scarcely any beard, and their complexion is a little tawny. The complexion and features of the women are very nearly the same; from this representation, it will be supposed they are not very seducing objects.

The character of the Kamtschadales is mild and hospitable; they are neither knaves, nor robbers; they have indeed so little penetration, that nothing is more easy than to deceive them, as we have seen in the advantage that is taken of their propensity to intoxication. They live together in the utmost harmony, and the more so, it would seem, on account of the smallness of their number. This unanimity disposes them to assist one another in their labours,[96] which is no small proof of their zeal to oblige, if we consider the natural and extreme slothfulness of their disposition. An active life would be insupportable to them; and the greatest happiness, in their estimation, next to that of getting drunk, is to have nothing to do, and to live for ever in tranquil indolence. This is carried so far with these people, as frequently to make them neglect the means of providing the indispensable necessaries of life; and whole families are often reduced to all the severities of famine, because they would not take the pains of providing in summer a reserve of fish, without which they are unable to live. If they neglect in this manner the preservation of their existence, it is not to be supposed that they are more attentive to the article of cleanliness; it displays itself neither in their persons, nor their habitations; and they may justly be reproached for being addicted to the contrary[97] extreme. Notwithstanding this carelessness, and other natural defects, it must be regretted that their number is not more considerable; as, from what I have seen, and what has been confirmed to me by different persons, if we would be sure of finding sentiments of honour and humanity in this country, it is necessary to seek for them among the true Kamtschadales; they have not yet bartered their rude virtues for the polished vices of the Europeans sent to civilize them.

It was at Bolcheretsk that I began to perceive the effects of their influence. I saw the trace of European manners, less in the mixture of blood, in the conformation of features, and the idiom of the inhabitants, than in their inclinations and mode of life, which did not always discover any very considerable fund of virtue. This striking difference between the inhabitants and[98] the indigenes, springs, in my opinion, from the difficulties which lie in the road to civilization, and I will assign my reasons.

Bolcheretsk, not long ago, was the chief place of Kamtschatka, particularly as the governors had thought proper to establish their residence there. The chiefs and their suites introduced European knowledge and manners: these, it is known, generally become adulterated in transmission, according to the distance from the source. Meanwhile it is to be presumed that the Russian government was careful, as far as it was possible, to confide its authority and the execution of its orders, only to officers of acknowledged merit, if I may judge from those who are at present employed; and it is therefore to be supposed that these officers, in the places of their residence, were so many examples of the virtues, the acquirements, and all the estimable qualities of[99] civilized nations. But unfortunately the lessons which they gave, were not always so efficacious as might have been expected; either because being only sketches, they were not sufficiently felt, or rather, not being imbibed in all their purity, they made but momentary or perhaps vicious impressions on the mind.

These reformers found not the same zeal either in the Cossacs who composed the garrison, or in the merchants and other Russian emigrants who settled in the peninsula. The disposition to licenciousness, and the desire of gain, which the first conquerors of a country almost always bring with them, and the continual development of these qualities, by the facility with which the natives may be duped, contributed to check the progress of reform. The fatal infection was still more diffusely spread by intermarriages, while the seed of the social[100] virtues, which had been attempted to be sown, scarcely found a reception.

The consequence has been, that the natives, or true Kamtschadales, have preserved almost universally their ignorant simplicity and uncultivated manners; and that a part of the rest of the inhabitants, Russians and mixed breed, who have settled themselves in the ostrogs where the governors reside, still retain indeed a faint shade of European manners, but not of such as are most pure. We have already had a proof of this in what has been said of their commercial principles, and my conviction has been rendered stronger during my abode at Bolcheretsk, by a closer study of the inhabitants, who, this faint shade excepted, differ little from the indigenes.

M. Kasloff, and those who accompanied him, in imitation of his example, frequently[101] give entertainments or balls to the ladies of this ostrog, who accept such invitations with equal alacrity and joy. I had an opportunity of seeing that what I had been told was true; that these women, the Kamtschadales as well as the Russians, have a strong propensity to pleasure; their eagerness indeed is so great, that they are unable to conceal it. The precosity of the girls is astonishing, and seems not at all to be affected by the coldness of the climate.

With respect to the women of Bolcheretsk, who were present at these assemblies, and who were chiefly either of mixed blood or of Russian parents, their figures in general did not appear disagreeable, and I perceived some who might be considered as handsome: but the freshness of youth is not of long duration; from child-bearing, or the painful labours to which they are subjected, it fades away almost in the flower[102] of their age. Their disposition is extremely cheerful; a little, perhaps, at the expence of decency. They endeavour to amuse the company by every thing which their gaiety and playfulness can furnish. They are fond of singing, and their voice is pleasant and agreeable; it is only to be wished that their music had less resemblance to their soil, and approached nearer to our own. They speak both the Russian and Kamtschadale languages, but they all preserve the accent of the latter idiom. I little expected to see in this part of the world Polish dances, and still less country dances in the English taste; but what was my surprise to find that they had even an idea of a minuet! Whether my abode for twenty six months upon the sea, had rendered me less fastidious, or that the recollections they revived fascinated my eyes, these dances appeared to be executed with tolerable precision, and more grace than I could have imagined.[103] The dancers of whom we speak, have so much vanity as to hold in contempt the songs and dances of the natives. The toilet of the women on these occasions is an object of no trivial attention. They deck themselves out in all their allurements, and whatever is most costly. These ceremonious and ball dresses are principally of silks; and in the article of commerce we have already seen that they must be expensive. I shall finish this account with a remark that I had occasion to make, both in these assemblies and in those of the Kamtschadales; it is, that the majority of husbands, Russians as well as natives, are not susceptible of jealousy; they voluntarily shut their eyes upon the conduct of their wives, and are as docile as possible upon this chapter.

The entertainments and assemblies of the native Kamtschadales, at which I was also[104] present, offered a spectacle equally entitled to notice for its singularity. I know not which struck me most, the song or the dance. The dance appeared to me to be that of savages. It consisted in making regular movements, or rather unpleasant and difficult distortions, and in uttering at the same time a forced and gutteral sound, like a continued hiccough, to mark the time of the air sung by the assembly, the words of which are frequently void of sense, even in Kamtschadale. I noted down one of these airs, which I shall insert in this place, in order to give an idea of their music and metre.

Daria, Daria, da, Daria, ha, nou
dalatché, damatché, kannha, koukka.
Da Capo.


The words mean,

Daria[42], Daria sings and dances still.

This air is repeated without ceasing.

In their dances they are fond of imitating the different animals they pursue, such as the partridge and others, but principally the bear. They represent its sluggish and stupid gait, its different feelings and situations; as the young ones about their dam; the amourous sports of the male with the female; and lastly, its agitation when pursued. They must have a perfect knowledge of this animal, and have made it their particular study, for they represent all its motions as exactly, I believe, as it is possible. I asked the Russians, who were greater connoisseurs than myself, having been oftener present at the taking of these animals, whether their pantomime ballets were well executed; and[106] they assured me that the dancers were the best in the country, and that the cries, gait, and various attitudes of the bear, were as accurate as life. Meanwhile, without offence to the amateurs, these dances are, in my opinion, not less fatiguing to the spectators than to the performers. It is a real pain to see them distort their hips, dislocate every limb, and wear out their lungs, to express the excess of pleasure which they take in these strange balls, which, I repeat it, resemble the absurd diversions of savages: the Kamtschadales may indeed, in many respects, be considered as of that rank.

Having given an account of the address with which these people counterfeit the postures and motions of the bear, who may be called their dancing master, it may not be unpleasing to relate in what manner they[107] hunt this animal. There are various modes of attacking it; sometimes they lay snares for it: under a heavy trap, supported in the air by a scaffolding sufficiently high, they place some kind of bait to attract the bear, and which he no sooner smells and perceives, than he eagerly advances to devour; at the same time he shakes the feeble support of the trap, which falls upon his neck, and punishes his voraciousness by crushing his head, and frequently his whole body. In passing the woods I have seen them caught in this way; the trap is kept baited till it succeeds, which sometimes does not happen for almost a year. This method of taking them requires no great boldness, or fatigue; but there is another mode, very much adopted in this country, to which equal strength and courage are necessary. A Kamtschadale goes out, either alone or in company, to find a bear. He has no other arms than his gun,[108] a kind of carabine whose but-end is very small; a lance or spear; and his knife. His stock of provision is made up in a bundle containing about twenty fish. Thus lightly equipped, he penetrates into the thickest part of the woods, and every place that is likely to be the haunt of this animal. It is commonly in the briars, or among the rushes on the borders of lakes and rivers, that the Kamtschadale posts himself, and waits the approach of his adversary with patience and intrepidity; if it be necessary, he will remain thus in ambuscade for a whole week together, till the bear makes his appearance. The moment it comes within his reach, he fixes in the ground a forked stick[43] belonging to his gun, by means of which he takes a truer aim, and shoots with more certainty. It is seldom that, with the smallest[109] ball, he does not strike the bear either in the head, or near the shoulder, which is the tenderest part. But he is obliged to charge again instantly, because the bear, if the first shot has not disabled him, runs[44] at the hunter, who has not always time for a second shot. He has then recourse to his lance, with which he quickly arms himself to contend with the beast, who attacks him in his turn. His life is in danger[45] if he does not give the bear a mortal thrust; and in such combats, it may be supposed the man is not always the conqueror;[110] but this does not prevent the inhabitants of this country from daily exposing their lives; the frequent examples of the death of their countrymen has no effect upon them: indeed they never go out, without considering before hand that it is either to conquer or to die; and this severe alternative neither stops nor terrifies them[46].

They hunt other animals nearly in the same manner, such as rein deer, argali, or wild sheep, called in Russia diki-barani,[111] foxes, otters, beavers, sables, hares[47], &c. but they have not the same dangers to encounter; sometimes they make use of snares, constructed of wood or iron, less than those which are set for bears, and resembling in their simplicity our pitfalls; no other attention is necessary than that of visiting them from time to time. The Kamtschadales sometimes lie in ambush, armed in the manner I have described; and the only hardship they experience results from their provision being exhausted in consequence of the long duration of their chace. They frequently submit to suffer hunger for many days together, rather than quit their stations till they have obtained the end of their pursuit; but they amply repay themselves for this fasting, by immediately devouring the flesh of the animals[48], and by the pleasure with which they count over the skins they obtain from them.


They chuse for their chace the seasons when the fur of the animal is in its greatest perfection. Sables are hunted in the beginning of winter. These animals live commonly in trees, and are called after their name; a part of the fur nearest the skin being of the same colour as those which they most frequent, as the birch, the fir, &c.

The most favourable seasons for hunting foxes are autumn, winter, and spring. There are four different species. 1. The whitish red fox, which is least esteemed. 2. The red or bright red fox. 3. The fox called sévadouschka, the colour of which is a mixture of red, black, and grey. 4. The black fox, which is the scarcest and most valuable: it is really of a deep and entire black, except that at the extremity of the fur upon[113] the back, which is the longest; a grey tint is sometimes perceptible. Some of this species are singularly valuable. There are two other species of the fox that may be added to these, though they are not regarded as such in this country, the blue fox and the white fox. They are called in Russia galouboy pessets, and beloy pessets; their fur is thicker than that of the rest of the species. The foxes of the continent are in general more beautiful than those caught in the different islands of the east[49], and produce an infinitely higher price.

Rein deer are hunted in winter, and argali in autumn. Otters are extremely scarce in this country; but there is a great abundance of ermines, though, I know not for what reason, no pains are taken to catch them; one would suppose they were of no value.


The Kamtschadales have different seasons also for fishing. Their salmon and trout season is in June, their herring season in May, and that of the sea wolf in spring and summer, but principally in autumn.

They seldom use seines, but almost always common nets[50], or a kind of harpoon, which they manage with great dexterity. Seines serve only for sea wolves; they are made of leather straps, and the meshes are very large. They have another mode of fishing, by closing up the river with stakes and branches of trees, so as to leave only a narrow passage for the fish, or sometimes several, where they place baskets, so constructed that, if the fish once enter, it is impossible for them to retreat.


Horses are very scarce in Kamtschatka. I saw some at Bolcheretsk belonging to government, and intrusted to the care of the Cossacs. They merely serve during summer for the carriage of merchandize and other effects of the crown, and for the convenience of travellers.

Dogs however abound in this country, and are so serviceable to the Kamtschadales, as to render the privation of the other domestic animals less felt by them. They serve all the purposes of carriage, and are fed without difficulty or expence, their food consisting entirely of the offals, or such decayed[116] fish as are rejected by their masters; and even these are not allowed, unless when it is necessary. In summer, which is their season of rest, little care is taken of them; the dogs well know how to provide for themselves, by ranging over the country and along the sides of lakes and rivers; and the punctuality with which they return, is one of the most striking proofs of the fidelity of these animals. When winter arrives, they dearly pay for the liberty and temporary repose they have enjoyed. Their labour and slavery begin anew, and these dogs must have extreme vigour to be able to support them. Meanwhile they are not remarkably large, and resemble pretty exactly our mountain dogs, or such as are commonly used by shepherds. There is not an individual inhabitant, Russian or native, that has less than five. They make use of them when they travel, when they go to the forests to cut wood, and for the conveyance[117] of their effects and provisions, as well as their persons. In short, these dogs conduct travellers from place to place, and horses could not in reality be more serviceable. They are harnessed to a sledge two and two together[51], with a single one before as a leader. This honour is bestowed on the most intelligent, or the best trained dog, and he understands wonderfully the terms used by the conductor to direct his course. The cry of tagtag, tagtag, turns him to the right, and kougha, kougha, to the left; the intelligent animal understands it immediately, and[118] gives to the rest the example of obedience: ah, ah, stops them, and ha makes them set off. The number of dogs that it is necessary to harness, depends upon the load; when it is little more than the weight of the person who mounts the sledge, it is considered as a common sledge, or saunka[52], and the team consists of four or five dogs. The harness[53] is made of leather. It passes under the neck, that is, upon the breast of these steeds, and is joined to the sledge by a strap three feet long, in the manner of a trace: the dogs are also fastened together by couples passed through their collars; these collars are frequently covered with bear's skin, by way of ornament.

The form of the sledge is like that of an oblong basket, the two[119] extremities of which are elevated in a curve. Its length is about three feet, and its breadth scarcely exceeds a foot. This kind of basket, which composes the body of the sledge, is of very thin wood; the sides are of open work, and ornamented with straps of different colours. The seat of the charioteer is covered with bear's skin, and elevated three feet from the ground, upon four legs, which diverge towards the lower extremity, and are fastened to two parallel planks, three or four inches broad. These planks are not thick, but so long as to extend beyond the body of the sledge, to which they serve as supports and and as skates. For this purpose they are furnished underneath, in time of thaw, with three or four long pieces of whale-bone, all of them of the same breadth, and fastened to the skates with leathern thongs. In front these planks bend upward, and so meet the poles of the sledge, which gradually lower[120] for that purpose, and are adapted to receive a part of the baggage. The front of the sledge is farther adorned with floating reins or shreds of leather, which are of no use. The charioteer has nothing in his hand but a curved stick, which serves him both for rudder and whip. Iron rings are suspended at one end of the stick, as much for ornament, as to encourage the dogs by the noise which these kind of bells make, and which are frequently jingled for that purpose; the other end is sometimes pointed with iron, to make an easier impression on the ice, and serves at the same time to guide the ardour of these animals. Dogs, that are well trained, have no need to hear the voice of the conductor; if he strike the ice with his stick, they will go to the left; if he strike the legs of the sledge, they will go to the right; and when he wishes them to stop, he has only to place the stick between the snow and the front of the sledge. When[121] they slacken their pace, and become careless and inattentive to the signals, or to his voice, he throws his stick at them[54]; but then the utmost address is necessary to regain it, as he proceeds rapidly along; and this is one of the strongest tests of the skill of the conductor. The Kamtschadales are singularly expert in this exercise. I was in general astonished at the dexterity they displayed in driving their sledges, and as I was soon to have the happiness of travelling in this vehicle, I conceived that I ought to practice, not so much to reconcile myself to it, as to learn to be my own guide. It was in vain they represented to me the risks I should run, by exposing myself alone in a sledge, before I had acquired sufficient skill to know how to conduct it; at my age we are all confident, and I listened not to their cautions. The lightness of my carriage, which scarcely exceeded ten pounds, its elevation,[122] which rendered it more liable to be overturned, the difficulty of preserving the equilibrium, and, in short, the consequences that might attend a fall, if I lost my hold of the sledge[55]; all these considerations, which were exposed to my view, could neither intimidate nor dissuade me from so dangerous an apprenticeship. I mounted one day my new car, consenting however to be followed, and a multitude of sledges attended me. It was not long before the company saw their predictions realized; I had advanced a very little way, when I exhibited a complete fall. Scarcely remounted, I repeated the scene, and occasioned a new burst of laughter: in spite of this, I did not lose my courage, but quickly recovered myself to be overturned again as quickly. I had sufficient reason to be inured to these accidents,[123] for in every attempt I paid the tribute of inexperience. Seven times did I fall in taking my first lesson, but without receiving any injury; and I only returned with more eagerness to take a second, then a third, then a fourth; in short, a day scarcely passed, without my making some progress. The number of my falls diminished, in proportion as I acquired more knowledge and skill, and my success rendered me such an amateur of this exercise, that in a short time I acquired a degree of reputation; it cost me, however, considerable pains to habituate myself to the observance of the necessary equilibrium. The body is, as it were, in continual motion. Here we must lean to the right, because the sledge inclines to the left; there we must suddenly change to the left, because it leans to the right: the next minute, perhaps our posture must be erect; and if we fail in quickness or attention, it is seldom that an immediate overthrow[124] is not the consequence. In falling, it is still necessary not to quit the vehicle, but to hold it as firm as possible, in order to create a sufficient weight to impede the dogs, who, as I have already said, will otherwise advance full speed. The common mode of sitting in a sledge is side ways, as a lady rides on horseback; we may also sit astride; but the point of main difficulty, the ne plus ultra of address and of grace, is to be able to stand upon one leg: it is excellent to see an adept in this striking attitude.

For myself, I was no sooner able to drive, than I abandoned every other mode of conveyance. Always accompanied, because of the roads, I sometimes took a ride, and sometimes went a hunting. The tracks of hares and partridges were perceptible on the snow[56], and to such a degree, that it appeared full of holes like a sieve. The snow was[125] frequently so deep in the woods, that it was impossible to proceed a step without sinking in; our resource in that case was to quit our sledges, which were no longer serviceable to us, and turn them upon their side. Having taking this precaution, which was sufficient to retain our dogs, who immediately laid themselves down in a circular form upon the snow, and patiently waited the return of their guides; we fastened to the soles of our feet, with leathern thongs, rackets, made of thin board[57], six or eight inches wide and four feet long, the front of which turned up like skates, and the bottom was covered[126] with the skin of the sea wolf or rein deer. Furnished with these kind of shoes, we continued our chace; I had at first some difficulty to accustom myself to them, and I fell more than once both upon my back and my face; but the pleasure of a good chase made me soon forget these accidents. Though it was difficult to perceive the hares and partridges, whose whiteness equalled that of the snow, I did not fail, after a little practice, and some instructions from my companions, to bring home a tolerable number.

This was one of my most agreeable diversions while at Bolcheretsk; the rest of my hours were occupied in expressing my impatience and uneasiness, on account of the length of time I was obliged to stay there. To give a different turn to my thoughts, I embraced the few fine days that we experienced, to visit some of the environs,[127] which I had a second opportunity of viewing upon my departure, and which I shall mention when I proceed on my travels. The construction of my travelling sledges[58] engaged also my attention; but my chief consolation was the company of M. Kasloff and the officers of his suite. Their conventions, and the enquiries which I made, enabled me almost every day to take notes, a part of which I have already transcribed, and shall now proceed with the rest.

The diseases that prevail in Kamtschatka is the first article that presents itself. Disagreeable as may be the details they require, I conceive that I ought not to suppress them; they form a part of my observations, and should have a place in my journals.


The small pox, whose ravages I have already mentioned, appears not to be natural to the country, nor is it very common. Since the invasion of the Russians, and the frequent emigrations that succeeded it, this epidemical disease has only made its appearance in 1767 and 1768. It was then brought into the country by a Russian vessel bound to the Eastern islands, for the purpose of hunting otters, foxes, and other animals. The person, who had in his blood the fatal germ, was a sailor from Okotsk, where he had taken remedies for the disorder, previous to his departure; but the recent marks of it were visible. Scarcely landed, he communicated this cruel malady to the poor Kamtschadales, which carried off three fourths of them. As it has not appeared since, it is supposed that these people are not subject to it. In the year 1720 it broke out in the northern part of Kamtschatka but it did not spread so far as the[129] peninsula. It began at Anadirskoi; it is not known how it was brought there, though the Russians are also accused in this instance.

There is reason to suspect that the Kamtschadales are indebted to them in like manner for their knowledge of the venereal disease, which happily is not common. This pestilence appears to be exotic, and its cure is as difficult as it is rare. They have recourse to various roots and to corrosive sublimate, which is attended in this country with its usual ruinous effects, and the more so, as being indiscreetly administered.

The Kamtschadales have no deformed births. Such as are deformed among them, have become so in consequence of a considerable fall, though this is not a very common occurrence, as they are accustomed to fall from their balagans. They are but[130] little subject to the scurvy; their use of wild garlic, and various fruits and berries, is a preservative. The Russians and other settlers are more frequently afflicted with this disease.

Consumptions are frequent enough; but boils, tumors, abscesses, and wens, are very common. They have no mode of curing them, but by incision or extirpation; and they use for these operations a knife, or perhaps simply a sharp stone, which supplies the place of a lancet. Such instruments are calculated to impress us with no very high opinion of the skill of the operators; and it is obvious that the art of surgery, brought to such perfection with us, is in a state of the utmost barbarism at Kamtschatka.

Physic does not appear to have made a greater progress; though it must be confessed[131] that these people have gained something by learning to distrust their impostors and absurd empiricks. Formerly, self-created magicians, called chamans, taking advantage of the credulity of the Kamtschadales, turned doctors of physic, and thus secured to themselves a double claim to their veneration and confidence[59]. Their strange dress contributed to the imposition, and suited perfectly their extravagant mummeries. What was told me upon the subject would exceed the utmost stretch of faith, if we had never heard of the Bohemians and other sorcerers of this kind. It is not possible to form an idea of the buffooneries of these suppositious physicians, and the impertinencies they relate, to make their prescriptions or pretended revelations go down. It is probable that their cures were frequently attended with fatal consequences, and that the number of victims equalled that of[132] their patients. Tired at last of being duped at the expence of their lives, the Kamtschadales began to be dissatisfied with these impostors, who gradually lost their credit, and sunk into contempt and oblivion. Such has been the fate also of the chamans. The feeble light which the Russian commerce diffused through the country, proved sufficient to open the eyes of the inhabitants. They perceived at once the absurdity of the magic art of their doctors. As it ceased to be respected, it was no longer lucrative, and the number of magicians diminished of course. Disgusted with the trade, the men abandoned it; and it has since been taken up by some old women, who, possessing less skill, have doubtless fewer customers[60].


The women of this country have seldom more than ten children, the common estimate is four or five, they bear none after the age of forty. They assist one another in their deliveries, which are effected with great facility: meanwhile there are midwives in Kamtschatka, but their number is very small. The accidents which prove fatal to so many mothers, are much less frequent to these women, than instances of child-birth in the open air, in roads, or wherever their occupations call them. On[134] these occasions they make use of their hair, I am told, to tie the umbilical cord, carry home their children themselves, and immediately give them suck. They have no limited time for suckling their children, and I have seen instances of its continuing for four or five years. We may judge from this circumstance of the strong constitution of these women. It is observed, however, that Kamtschadales of either sex, do not live longer than Russians.

I forgot to mention a remedy to which the inhabitants of this peninsula have voluntary recourse in almost every disease: it is to a root called bears root, which they steep in brandy. The name sufficiently indicates to whom they are indebted for its knowledge. Perceiving that the bear was fond of eating this herb, and of rolling himself upon it when wounded, they imagined it to possess some healing quality, and[135] this induced them to make use of it. This animal thus gave them their first lesson in botany and pharmacy. It is said however, that the bear cures all his wounds with this root. If this be true, it is natural to suppose that human beings would find it very serviceable: but as I have never had occasion to make the experiment, I can only speak from report.

The Christian religion was introduced into this country by the Russians; but the inhabitants appear to know little more of it than the ceremony of baptism. They are ignorant of the very first principles of Christianity. Slaves to their inclinations, they follow their impulse whether good or bad. If they think of religion, it is merely from a motive of convenience or interest, or when particular circumstances compel them to it. This proves how very defective their instruction is, and reflects in my opinion[136] upon the clergy, whose business it is to enlighten their ignorance. But are these clerical missionaries sufficiently informed themselves? They have no opportunity it must be acknowledged for profound study, and probably it is not required of them, as it is common enough to see a Kamtschadale admitted to this dignified office.

These popes are all under the authority of a protapope, or high priest, resident at Nijenei, and he again is subordinate to the archbishop of Irkoutsk, who alone ordains and appoints the clergy to their cures, so that they are all obliged to resort to this settlement. The length and perils of the journey are considered perhaps as a kind of initiation; and without any other merit or examination, they probably receive holy orders: it is certain they return neither wiser nor better. These divines are then sent to their places of destination; the[137] time they continue is not limited, and depends on the will of their chiefs.

There are eight principal churches in Kamtschatka: Paratounka, Bolcheretsk, Jchinsk, Tiguil, Vercknei, Klutchefskaïa, and two at Nijenei; to these may be added the church of Ingiga, in the country of the Koriacs.

The district or parish of Paratounka includes seven ostrogs and the Kurilles islands; viz. the ostrog of the same name, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Koriaki, Natchikin, Apatchin, Malkin, and Bolcheretsk. The number of parishioners contained in these ostrogs, does not exceed four hundred; and including the Kurilles islands, the general calculation is not more than six hundred and twenty Christians. The rector of Paratounka is allowed by the empress a[138] salary of eighty roubles, and twenty pouds[61] of rye flour. His parishioners of consequence, pay no tythes; but he receives alms and other casual emoluments attached to his church. For a marriage, a christening, or a burial, these priests demand whatever they please. There is no regulation in this respect, and every thing is governed solely by their caprice, which occasions considerable impositions and abuses. In general however, they endeavour to proportion their demands to the abilities of their parishioners, a discretion that is entitled to applause.


The Kamtschadales are free. They are subject only to an annual tribute to Russia, which consists, as I have already said, in various kinds of furs; so that the produce of their chace, turns almost entirely to the advantage of the empress. Every chief of a family is obliged to furnish for himself and for each of his children, even such as are in their minority, a certain quantity of skins equivalent to his share of taxation: this may amount to seven roubles more or less, and the skins, I am told, are generally valued at the lowest possible price. This mode of paying tribute must produce a considerable revenue to the crown, if we merely judge from the number of sables the province annually supplies, which is something more than four thousand. The toyon of each ostrog collects the taxes, and remits them to the treasurer of the crown; a receipt is previously given to every individual of the amount of his tribute, and each Kamtschadale takes care to mark with his seal, or some other sign, all the furs that he delivers.

The current coins are the golden imperial[140] of ten roubles; the rouble, and half rouble. There are very few silver coins below this value; a proof that no article of merchandize is expected to produce less than half a rouble. Copper and paper money have not yet reached this peninsula. A variety of old silver coins of the times of Peter I. Catherine I. and Elizabeth, abound here. A considerable branch of commerce may be made of them; the silver is purer and more valuable than that of common coins.

The pay of the soldiers or Cossacs is fifteen roubles a year. The officers sent by government to so distant a country, receive double salaries.

The peninsula of Kamtschatka, when major Behm presided at Bolcheretsk, was under the jurisdiction of the government general of Irkoutsk. Upon the departure of this governor, whom the English saw[141] upon their first arrival in 1779, captain Schmaleff was deputed in his room, and enjoyed for a year the power and satisfaction of doing good to the inhabitants, who entertain for him an equal respect and gratitude. M. Renikin supplied his place in 1780, and was recalled in 1784 for reasons which I am obliged to suppress. At this period the Kamtschatka department was reunited to that of Okotsk. The chiefs and officers of the different ostrogs have since been subject to the orders of the governor at Okotsk, and to the decisions of its courts of justice; these are themselves subordinate and accountable to the governor general residing at Irkoutsk. The present commanding officer, or governor, at Bolcheretsk, which was formerly the capital of Kamtschatka, is now merely a sergeant; the name of the person I left there was Rastargouieff, and he had been nominated to the office by M. Kasloff.


The governors in these various ostrogs are not accountable to one another for their administration, not even inferior officers to their superiors; the authority of each is limited to the inhabitants of his own district; which has doubtless induced the empress to appoint an inspector general, capitan ispravnick, whose business is to visit every year all the Kamtschadale villages, receive their complaints, examine their differences, judge them, and punish such as are guilty; in short to maintain order and peace among them. It is also a duty of his function to encourage commerce, particularly their fishing and hunting, to inspect the regular payment of their tribute, the stock of provisions of each individual for his own support, and that of his family, the repairs of the bridges and roads, which unfortunately are very few, and kept in very bad order. In a word, the inspector general should consider it as incumbent upon him to introduce[143] among these people the manners and customs of Russia. This important office was confided, in 1784, to baron de Steinheil, who fixed his residence at Nijenei. Affairs calling him elsewhere, he was succeeded by M. Schmaleff, who, in accompanying us, was making the tour of his office.

The government is not purely military; there are some tribunals established for hearing and deciding causes and other matters juridically. Such are the tribunals of Tiguil, Ingiga, and Nijenei-Kamtschatka; they are subject to the jurisdiction of the court of Okotsk, in the same manner as in Russia the magistrates of the subordinate towns hold from those of the capital, in whom the final decision rests. There is beside at Bolcheretsk a kind of consular jurisdiction, or vocal tribunal, called in Russia Slovesnoisoud. The judges are merchants; they take cognizance of all disputes relating to commerce,[144] and their decisions are either confirmed or annulled by the court to which they are carried by appeal. The Russian code of laws is the only one that is attended to; it is too well known to require that I should enter into particulars; and I could only repeat what has been already related by various historians and travellers better informed upon the subject than myself.

I ought however to add, that the property of the Kamtschadales devolves, of course, upon their decease, to the next heir, or to whomsoever it is bequeathed. The will of the testator is equally respected, and as literally adhered to, as it could be with those nations of Europe who are most scrupulous on the subject of successions.

Divorces are neither practised or allowed among the Kamtschadales. The Russians seem to court their alliance, though it procures[145] them no particular privilege. Their motive is obvious. By frequent marriages, it is possible that before the end of the present generation, the race of the indigenes may be totally extinct.

The penalty of death, abolished in all the dominions of the empress, is never inflicted in Kamtschatka. In their earliest migrations, the Russians, when accused of harassing the natives, were condemned to the knowt; the Kamtschadales also, for various offences, were liable to this cruel punishment; but it is no longer practiced. When the natives are guilty either of petty or capital offences, the punishment is whipping. It may be questioned whether they have gained by the change. The present mode of punishing them being more simple and expeditious, it is resorted to with less scruple, and is liable to frequent abuse.


The Kamtschadale idiom appeared to me to be uncouth, guttural, and difficult to be pronounced; the words are broken, and the sounds disagreeable. There are as many different dialects and accents as there are ostrogs. For instance, upon leaving Saint Peter and Saint Paul, we are astonished to hear a different jargon at Paratounka: this is the case with villages the nearest to one another. Notwithstanding these variations of idiom, I considered it as incumbent upon me to procure a vocabulary, which will be found at the end of my journal. I shall add to it the Koriac, the Tchouktchi, and the Lamout languages. My attention to the subject was unremitted, and I received very considerable assistance. I shall finish the article of my abode at Bolcheretsk, with some observations that will tend to prove the impossibility of my leaving it sooner.

Towards the end of November the cold[147] became on a sudden so severe, that in a few days the rivers were all frozen, even the Bolchaïa-reka, which seldom happens, because of the extreme rapidity of its current. The next day it got rid of the ice that covered it, and from that time I saw no more stop before Bolcheretsk, lower than the house of the governor. Though frozen in various places, it presents a great number chasms, where the water is seen to flow as usual.

On each shore of the peninsula, there is a sensible difference in the atmosphere. During the fine weather, a drought prevailed at Saint Peter and Saint Paul's, whereas at Bolcheretsk they complained of frequent showers; meanwhile autumn had not proved this year more rainy than common. Very heavy rains are injurious in this country, because they occasion floods, which drive the fish from the rivers; a famine most distressing to the poor Kamtschadales[148] is the result, as it happened last year in all the villages along the western coast of the peninsula. This dreadful calamity occurs so frequently in this quarter, that the inhabitants are obliged to abandon their dwellings, and repair with their families to the borders of the Kamtschatka, where they hope to find better resources, fish being more plentiful in this river. M. Kasloff had intended to proceed along the western coast, having already made his visit through the east; but the news of this famine determined him, contrary to his wishes, to return, rather than be driven to the necessity of stopping half way, or perishing with hunger from the difficulty of procuring dogs and provision.

The wind varied considerably during my residence at Bolcheretsk; it was most commonly west, north-west, or north-east; it blew sometimes from the south, but seldom[149] from the east. The south and west winds are almost invariably attended with snow. Scarcely a week passed, even to the month of January, without our experiencing two or three violent tempests; they commonly proceeded from the north-west. These gales of wind lasted always a day or two, and sometimes seven or eight days. It would have been the height of imprudence to venture out at such a season. The sky was completely obscured, and the snow, supported by these whirlwinds, formed in the air a thick fog, that prevented us from seeing at the distance of six yards. Woe to all travellers who are exposed to this terrible weather! necessity compels them to stop, or they run the risk of losing themselves, or of falling every moment into some abyss; for how is it possible they should find their way, or advance a step, when they have to resist the impetuosity of the wind, and to disengage themselves from the heaps of snow[150] that suddenly encompass them? If such be the dangers encountered by the men, what must we suppose the poor dogs to suffer. Nothing is more common, when overtaken by these hurricanes, than to find ourselves separated from the sledges of our companions, to the distance of two wersts or upwards from each other, and proceeding in an opposite direction[62].

The frequency of these tempests, and the deplorable accidents they occasion, convinced us of the necessity of deferring our departure. M. Kasloff was equally as impatient to arrive at the place of his destination, as I was to continue my journey, that I might execute my commission with the diligence that had been recommended to me; but every one whose advice we asked, condemned our eagerness, and proved particularly as to myself, that, entrusted with such important dispatches, it would be rashness to proceed. This reflection pacified me. M. Kasloff anticipated my wishes, by giving me a certificate, accounting for my long residence at Bolcheretsk, by a relation of the circumstances that had occasioned it. The gales of wind having at length ceased towards the middle of January, we eagerly set about preparing for our departure, which was fixed for the 27 of that month.


We furnished ourselves in the best manner we could with brandy, beef, rye, flour, and oatmeal. A considerable quantity of loaves were prepared for us, of which we reserved some to supply us during the first few days of our journey, and the rest were cut into thin slices and baked in an oven like biscuits: what was left of our flour, we put into sacks as a resource in time of need.


M. Kasloff had ordered that as many dogs as possible should be collected. Multitudes were presently brought from all the neighbouring ostrogs; we had also provision for them in abundance, the only difficulty was how we should carry it. We had resolved to set off early in the morning of 27; but when we came to load our sledges, we found our baggage so considerable, that, in spite of the number of hands employed, it was not completed till the evening. We were out of humour; no day in my life ever appeared so tedious. Vexed at the delay, we would not defer our departure till the next day, and were no sooner informed that every thing was ready, than we ran to our sledges and were out of Bolcheretsk in a moment.

We started at seven o'clock. It was moonlight, and the snow added to its brightness. Our departure merits a description. Conceive[153] of our numerous cavalcade amounting to thirty-five sledges[63]. In the first was a sergeant of the name of Kabechoff, who was appointed to superintend and direct our procession. He gave the signal, and instantly all these sledges set off in file. They were drawn by three hundred dogs[64] of equal courage and speed. Presently the line was broken, the order disturbed, and all was confusion. A spirited emulation animated the conductors, and it became as it were a chariot race. It was who should drive fastest; no one was willing to be outstripped; the dogs themselves could not bear this affront; they partook the rivalship of their masters, fought with one another to obtain the precedence, and the sledges were overturned, frequently at the risk of being dashed to pieces. The clamour of those who were overturned, the yelping of the struggling dogs, the mixed cry of those that proceeded, and the confused and continual chattering of the guides, compleated the disorder, and prevented us both from knowing and hearing one another.


To enjoy this tumult the more at my ease, I quitted my sledge where I was imprisoned, and placed myself in a smaller one, in which, beside the pleasure of driving myself, I could see what was passing around me. Fortunately no accident happened, and I had no reason to repent of my curiosity. This embarassment was chiefly occasioned by the concourse of the inhabitants of Bolcheretsk, who, from attachment as well as respect, were desirous of accompanying M.[155] Kasloff to Apatchin[65], where we arrived about midnight: the distance of Bolcheretsk from this ostrog is forty-four wersts.

A few moments after our arrival a tempestuous wind arose, which would greatly have incommoded us, if it had happened during our route. It continued the rest of the night and all the next day, which we were obliged therefore to spend at Apatchin.

Here we received the last adieux of the inhabitants of Bolcheretsk. I was struck with their gratitude and attachment to M. Kasloff, and the regret they expressed at leaving him, as well as their concern for me, and the interest they took in the success of my journey. I was the more pleased with their attentions, as I had observed while at Bolcheretsk, that the French nation was not held in any high esteem by them; they had even so bad an opinion of us, that it was with difficulty they were brought to believe what had been told them of the politeness and cordiality of the crews of the French frigates to the inhabitants of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. In proportion however as they heard their countrymen extol our conduct, their prejudice grew weaker. I endeavoured by my conversation and behaviour to destroy it entirely. I dare not flatter myself to have succeeded; but it appeared to me that a complete change at last took place in their sentiments respecting us.


The disadvantageous impression which they had imbibed of the character and genius of our nation, originated in the perfidy and cruelty exhibited in the person of the famous Beniowsky in this part of the peninsula. This slave called himself a Frenchman, and acted like a true Vandal.


His history is known. During the troubles of 1769 he served in Poland under the colours of the confederates. His intrepidity induced them to make choice of him to command a medley troop of foreigners, or rather robbers, like himself, whom they kept in pay, not from choice but necessity. With Beniowsky at their head, they ransacked the country, massacring every one they met. He harassed the Russians, to whom he was as formidable as to his own countrymen. They soon felt the necessity of getting rid of so dangerous an enemy: he was taken prisoner, and it may be supposed they adopted no very lenient measures respecting him. Banished to Siberia, and afterwards to Kamtschatka, his fiery and vindictive genius accompanied him. Escaped from the mountains of snow, under which the Russians supposed him to be buried, he suddenly made his appearance at Bolcheretsk with a troop of exiles, to whom he had imparted a spark[158] of his own audacity. He surprised the garrison and took possession of the arms; the governor, M. Nilloff, was killed by his hand. There was a vessel in the port; he seized it: every one trembled at his aspect; all submitted to his will. He compelled the poor Kamtschadales to furnish him with the provisions he demanded; and not content with the sacrifices obtained, he gave up their habitations to the unbridled licentiousness of his banditti, to whom he set the example of villainy and ferocity. He embarked at length with his companions, and sailed, it was said, towards China, carrying with him the execrations of the people of Kamtschatka. This suppositious Frenchman was the only one they had yet seen in the peninsula; and from such a specimen of our nation, they certainly could not love, and had sufficient reason to fear us.

M. Schmaleff quitted us at break of day,[159] and set off for Tiguil, on the western coast, to complete the visit of his government[66].

We left Apatchin almost at the same time. Our retinue being less numerous we made more expedition. Having passed the plain in which this ostrog is situated, we met the Bolchaïa-reka, upon which we journeyed for several hours. We followed it through all its windings, sometimes in the middle of a forest, and sometimes at the foot of steep and dreary mountains, which arise at intervals on its banks. Fifteen wersts from Malkin we left this river, because the current began to put in motion the ice which was broken in different places; and before we reached this ostrog, we crossed the Bristraïa. We arrived about two o'clock. The distance from Apatchin is sixty-four wersts, and having no change of dogs, we were obliged to stop, to give them time to rest.


The toyon of Malkin came to meet M. Kasloff, and offered him his isba. Considerable preparations had been made for our reception, which induced us to pass the night there. He treated us with the utmost respect, and entertained us in the best manner he could. I regretted that his cares had not extended to the article of our repose. Mine was terribly interrupted by the noise of our steeds, to which I was not yet accustomed. The shrill and incessant howlings of these cursed animals, seemed close at my ears, and prevented me from sleeping during the whole night. It is necessary to have heard this nocturnal music, the most disagreeable I ever experienced, to judge of what I suffered in habituating myself to it; for in the course of my journey I was obliged to learn to rest in defiance of it.[161] After a few bad nights, sleep at last overpowered me, and I was insensible to all noise. By degrees I became so inured to the cries of these animals, that I could repose in the midst of them in perfect tranquillity. I shall mention in this place, that the dogs are only fed once a day, at the end of their journey; their repast consists commonly of a dried salmon distributed to each of them.

The ostrog of Malkin is similar to those which I have already described. It contains five or six isbas and a dozen balagans, is situated upon the border of the Bistraïa, and surrounded with high mountains. I had no time to visit the hot springs that are said to be in this neighbourhood, the waters of which are strongly impregnated with sulphur; and one in particular, issuing from the declivity of a hill, forms at the bottom a bason of tolerably clear water.


From Malkin we went to Ganal, which is forty-five wersts, but we were unable to travel with the speed we had expected. The Bistraïa was not completely frozen, and we were obliged to wind about and to cross woods, where the snow, though deep, was so far from firm, that our dogs sunk to their bellies, and were extremely fatigued. This induced us to abandon this road, and make again for the Bistraïa. We came up to it at ten wersts from Ganal, and found it in the state we had wished. The solidity of the ice promised us expeditious travelling, and we readily embraced the advantage. We followed this river till we came to the ostrog which is upon its bank, and consists of four isbas and twelve balagans. It offered nothing remarkable.

We only learned that there had been some very terrible hurricanes, and that they had not yet subsided, though their force was[163] considerably diminished. There is no difficulty in accounting for the violence of these tempests. The surrounding high mountains form so many recesses in which the wind is embayed. The fewer avenues it has to escape at, the more impetuous it becomes: it seeks out a passage, rushes through the first that offers, breaks out in whirlwinds, scatters the snow over the roads, and generally renders them impassable.

Having spent a very indifferent night in the house of the toyon of Ganal, we set off the next day for Pouschiné. The distance is ninety wersts, which however we performed in fourteen hours; but the last half of the journey was very painful. No road being opened, our sledges sunk three or four feet in the snow, and the jolts were so frequent, that I was happy to escape with being only once overturned. We judged from the snow upon the trees, that it must[164] have proceeded from the north, and been very heavy, which was confirmed by the inhabitants. Our road lay invariably through a forest of birch trees, and for some time we lost sight of the mountains, by which we had passed the preceding evening; but as we drew nearer to Pouschiné they became visible again.

The Kamtschatka runs by the lower end of this ostrog, which is larger than that of Ganal. The only thing I remarked in this place was, that the isbas had no chimneys; they have only, like the balagans, a narrow opening in the roof to let out the smoak, which is frequently closed up by a trap door to confine the heat. It is not possible to continue in apartments warmed in this manner; we must either come out, or prostrate ourselves on the floor, if we would escape being stifled, or at least blinded, by the smoke: it does not ascend directly towards[165] the roof, but spreads a thick black cloud over the chamber; and as it seldom has time wholly to evaporate, the interior part of these isbas is lined with soot, which gives them a disgusting aspect and a most offensive smell.

But it is still less unpleasant than the noisome odour exhaled from a dismal lamp, that serves as a light to the whole house. Its form is not of the most elegant kind: it is simply a hollow pebble or stone, with a rag rolled up in the middle for a wick, round which is placed the grease of the sea wolf, or other animals. As soon as the wick is lighted, we are immediately surrounded with a dark and thick vapour, which contributes equally with the smoke to blacken the whole room: it seises the nose and throat, and penetrates to the very heart. This is not the only disagreeable smell that is experienced in these habitations; there is[166] another, in my opinion, much more fetid, and which I never could endure; it is the nauseous exhalation from the dried and stinking fish, when it is preparing, when they are eating it, and even after it is eaten. The refuse is destined for the dogs; but before the poor animals get it, every corner of the room has been swept with it.

The persons who inhabit these dwellings exhibit a spectacle equally disgusting. Here is a group of women, shining from the fat with which they smear themselves, and wallowing on the ground amidst a heap of rags; some of them suckling their children, who are half naked, and bedaubed with filth from head to foot; others devouring with them some scraps of fish perfectly raw, and frequently putrid. There we see others in a dishabille that is not less filthy, lying upon bear's skins, chattering to one another, and frequently altogether,[167] and employed in various domestic occupations, in expectation of their husbands.

Fortunately the houses of the toyons were cleaned as well as possible for the reception of M. Kasloff, who had always the kindness to let me lodge with him.

We slept at Pouschiné in the house of the toyon, and departed very early the next morning; we only travelled this day thirty four wersts. It seemed that the farther we advanced, the more the roads were obstructed with the snow. My two conductors were continually employed in keeping my sledge upright, to prevent it from overturning, or going out of the road; they were obliged also to exert their lungs to encourage the dogs, who frequently stopped, notwithstanding the blows that were bestowed upon them with equal profusion and address. These poor creatures, whose strength is inconceivable,[168] had all the difficulty in the world to disengage themselves from the snow, which covered them as fast as they shook it off. It was frequently necessary to smooth it before them, to enable them to extricate the sledge. This also was the office of my guides. To support themselves upon the snow, they each fastened a racket to one of their feet, and in this manner they slid along, resting now and then their other foot upon the skate of the sledge. I doubt whether any exercise can be more fatiguing, or require greater strength and skill.

The ostrog of Charom, at which we had the good fortune to arrive, is situated upon the Kamtschatka: it furnished me with no remarks. We passed part of the night there, and left it before day.

In seven hours we reached Vercknei-Kamtschatka, which is thirty-five wersts[169] from Charom. Vercknei is a very considerable place, compared with the ostrogs I had hitherto seen. I counted more than a hundred houses. Its situation is commodious, and the prospect round it tolerably various, Besides bordering upon the river[67], it has the farther advantage of being near to woods and fields, the soil of which is good, and begins to be cultivated by the inhabitants. The church is built of wood; its architecture is not disagreeable, and it is only to be wished that the inside corresponded with the external appearance. The inhabitants differ in no respect from those of the other villages. For the first time I saw at this place a species of buildings, about the height of a balagan, that serve no other purpose than to dry fish. A serjeant had the command at Vercknei, who lives in a house belonging to the crown.


This village is also the place of residence of the unfortunate Ivaschin, whose history I related upon my leaving Saint Peter and Saint Pauls[68]; he was of our party, and had only quitted us in order to arrive sooner at Vercknei, where his first care had been to kill one of his oxen, which he entreated us to accept for our journey, as a testimony of his gratitude. This proceeding justified the concern I felt for him, whose aspect alone made me more than once shudder at the idea of his misfortunes. I cannot easily conceive how he was able to support them, and reconcile himself to his fate: it must have been the consciousness of his innocence alone, that could have given him such strength of mind. We paid him a visit upon our arrival. He was drinking merrily with some of his neighbours. His joy was sincere, and gave us no intimation of a man sensible of his past sufferings, or weary of his present situation.


Our stay at Vercknei was short; we set out after dinner in order to sleep at Milkovaïa-Derevna, otherwise called the village of Milkoff, which was at the distance of fifteen wersts. In our way we passed a tolerably large field inclosed with pallisades, and farther on a zaimka, that is, a hamlet inhabited by labourers. These labourers were Cossacs, or Russian soldiers, employed in the cultivation of land on government account. They had eighty horses belonging to the crown, and which equally answer the purposes of industry, and of the stud established in this place for the propagation of animals so useful and so scarce in the peninsula. About five hundred yards from this hamlet, which is called Ischigatchi, upon an arm of the Kamtschatka, is a water mill built of wood, but not very large. No use could at present[172] be made of it. The swell of water had been so great as to overflow the sluice, and to spread itself over a part of the plain where it was frozen. The soil appeared to be good, and the country round it to be very pleasant. I questioned the Cossacs upon the productions of their canton, where I conceived every species of corn might be cultivated with success. They told me that their last harvest had, both in quantity and quality, surpassed their hopes, and was not inferior to the finest harvests in Russia: two pouds of corn had produced ten.

Arrived at Milkoff, I was astonished no longer to see either Kamtschadales or Cossacs, but an interesting colony of peasants whose features and address told me they were not a mixed breed. This colony was selected in 1743, partly in Russia and partly in Siberia, among the primitive inhabitants, that is, among the husbandmen. The view[173] of administration, in sending them into this country was, that they might clear the land and make experiments in agriculture; hoping that their example and success would instruct and encourage the indigenes, and induce them to employ their labours in this advantageous and necessary art. Unfortunately their extreme indolence, which I have already described, little corresponded with the wise intentions of government; and so far are they from pretending to any rivalship, that they have never derived the smallest advantage from the examples that are before their eyes. This extreme sluggishness of the natives is the more painful to an observer, as he cannot but admire the industry of these active emigrants, whose labours have been attended with such beneficial effects. Their habitations, situated upon the Kamtschatka, seem to shew that they live at their ease. Their cattle thrive well from the great care they take of them.[174] I observed also that these peasants had in general very much the air of being contented with their situation. Their labour is profitable, and not excessive. Every man plows and sows his field, and having only his capitation to pay, he reaps abundantly the fruit of his exertions, which a fertile soil repays him with usury. I am convinced that greater advantages might be derived from this source, if the cultivators were more numerous. The harvest consists chiefly of rye, and a very small quantity of barley. This colony has nothing to do with the chace. Government extended its cares so far as to prohibit it, that their labours might be wholly devoted to agriculture, and that nothing might divert their attention. The prohibition however, I could perceive, is not very scrupulously observed. Their chief is a staroste, appointed by administration, and selected from the old men of the village, as the name implies. His business[175] is to inspect the progress of agriculture; to preside over their feed time and their harvest, to fix the precise period when they are to take place; in short, to stimulate the negligence, or encourage the zeal of the labourers, and particularly to maintain the spirit of the establishment and a good understanding among them.

Being desirous of going to Machoure, to spend a day with the baron de Steinheil, I left M. Kasloff at Milkoff, and set out twenty four hours before him, that I might occasion no delay in his journey. To travel with the greater expedition I made use of a small sledge. The roads were no better or less obstructed with snow than what we had before experienced, and I was therefore unable to make the speed I intended, notwithstanding my precaution. The first village I came to was Kirgan. Before I reached it, I passed a number of houses and[176] balagans that appeared to be deserted, but I was informed that the summer regularly brought back every year their proprietors. The few habitations which compose the ostrog of Kirgan, are built upon the border of a river called Kirganik, which is formed by a variety of streams that issue from then neighbouring mountains, and unite above the ostrog, fifteen wersts from Milkoff.

The cold was so severe, that notwithstanding the precaution I took of covering my face with a handkerchief, my cheeks were frozen in less than half an hour. I had recourse to the usual remedy, that of rubbing my face with snow, and was relieved at the expence of an acute pain that continued for several days. Though my face was thus frozen, the rest of my body experienced the contrary effect. I conducted my own sledge; and the continual[177] motion which this exercise requires, added to the weight of my Kamtschadale dress, threw me into a violent perspiration, and fatigued me extremely.

My dress merits a particular description; by which it will be seen that it gave me no very alert appearance. Commonly I wore merely a simple parque of deers skin, and a fur cap, which upon occasion would cover my ears and part of my cheeks. When the cold was more piercing, I added to my dress two kouklanki, a kind of parque that was larger and made of thicker skin; one of them had the hair on the inside, and the other on the outside. In the severest weather, I put on over all this, another kouklanki, still thicker, made of argali, or dogs skin, the hairy side of which is always undermost, and the leather or external surface of the skin painted red. To these[178] kouklankis a small bib is fixed before, so as to guard the face against the wind: they have also hoods behind, which fall upon the shoulders. Sometimes these three hoods, one upon another, composed my head dress, by being drawn over my common cap. My neck was defended by a cravat called ocheinik, made of sable, or the tail of a fox, and my chin with a chin-cloth made in like manner of sable, and fastened upon my head. As the forehead is very susceptible of cold, it was covered with an otter or sable fillet, and this was covered again by my cap. My fur breeches gave me more warmth than all the rest of my dress, complicated as it was. I had double deer-skin spatterdashes, with hair on both sides, and which are called in Kamtschatka tchigi. I then put my legs into boots made of deers skins, the feet having an interior sole of tounchitcha, a very soft grass, which has the quality of preserving heat, Notwithstanding[179] these precautions, my feet, after travelling two or three hours, were very wet, either from perspiration or the gradual penetration of the snow; and if I stood still for a moment in my sledge, they be came immediately frozen. At night I took off these spatterdashes, and put on a large pair of fur stockings made of deer or argali skin, and called ounti.

Notwithstanding my fatigue, I made no stop at Kirgan. A few wersts farther on, I perceived a volcano to the north, which emitted no flame, but a column of very thick smoke ascended from it. I shall have occasion to return this way, and will then speak of it more at large. I observed near Machoure a wood of firs, tolerably bushy, and which was the first I had seen in Kamtschatka. The trees were strait, but very slender. At two o'clock in the afternoon I entered the village of Machoure, which is[180] upon the Kamtschatka, and thirty-seven wersts from Kirgan.

I alighted at the baron Stenheil's, formerly capitan ispravnick, or inspector of Kamtschatka, an office afterwards conferred on M. Schmaleff. Our acquaintance had commenced at Bolcheretsk. I was delighted to be able to converse with him in several languages, particularly that of my own country, though it was not very familiar to him; but it was French, and I conceived him to be my countryman. Whoever has quitted Europe to travel in so distant a part of the world must have had similar feelings. We consider every man as a fellow-citizen who belongs to the same continent, or speaks the same language. The most trivial circumstance that reminds us of our country, is productive of a very sensible pleasure; the heart is eagerly drawn towards the friend, the brother, whom we conceive we have[181] found, and feels an instant desire to repose in him all its confidence. The sight of M. Steinheil imparted to me this delicious sensation. There was in his conversation, from the very first moment, an irresistible attraction. I felt a sort of craving to see him, to talk with him; it had the effect of a charm, though his French, as I have said, was not the most pure, and was pronounced with the German accent. I spent the day of 4 February with the baron, and in the evening M. Kasloff arrived as he had previously informed me.

The ostrog of Machoure, before the introduction of the small-pox, was one of the most considerable in the peninsula; but the ravages of this cruel disease, have reduced the number of inhabitants to twenty families.

All the Kamtschadales of this village,[182] men and women, are chamans, or believers in the witchcraft of these pretended sorcerers. They dread to an excess the popes or Russian priests, for whom they entertain the most inveterate hatred. They do all they can to avoid meeting them. This is sometimes impossible, and in that case, when they find them at hand they act the hypocrite, and make their escape the first opportunity that offers. I attribute this fear to the ardent zeal which these priests have doubtless shown for the extirpation of idolatry, and which the Kamtschadales consider as persecution. They accordingly look upon them as their greatest enemies. Perhaps they have reason to believe, that in wishing to convert them, the overthrow of their idols was not the only thing these missionaries had in view. These popes probably set them no example of the virtues upon which they declaim. It is suspected that their object is the acquisition of wealth,[183] rather than of proselytes, and the gratification of their inordinate propensity to drunkenness. It is not therefore to be wondered at that the inhabitants retain their ancient errors. They pay a secret homage to their god Koutka[69], and place in him so entire a confidence, that they address their prayers exclusively to him when they are desirous of obtaining any boon, or of engaging in any enterprise. When they go to the chace, they abstain from washing themselves, and are careful not to make the sign of the cross: they invoke their Koutka, and the first animal they catch is immediately sacrificed to him. After this act of devotion they conceive that their chace will be successful; on the contrary, if they were to cross themselves, they would despair of catching any thing. It is also a part of their superstition to consecrate to[184] Koutka their new-born children, who, the moment they have left their cradle, are destined to become chamans. The veneration of the inhabitants of this village for sorcerers can scarcely be conceived; it approaches to insanity, and is really to be pitied; for the extravagant and wild absurdities by which these magicians keep alive the credulity of their compatriots, excites our indignation rather than our laughter. At present they do not profess their art openly, or give the same splendour they once did to their necromancy. They no longer decorate their garments with mystic rings and other symbolic figures of metal, that jingled together upon the slightest motion of their body. In like manner they have abandoned the kind of kettle[70], which they used to strike with a sort of musical intonation in their pretended[185] enchantments, and with which they announced their approach. In short, they have forsaken all their magic instruments. The following are the ceremonies they observe in their assemblies, which they are careful to hold in secret, though not the less frequently on that account. Conceive of a circle of spectators, stupidly rapt in attention and ranged round the magician, male or female, for as I have before observed, the women are equally initiated into the mysteries. All at once he begins to sing, or to utter shrill sounds without either measure or signification. The docile assembly strike in with him, and the concert becomes a medley of harsh and insupportable discords. By degrees the chaman is warmed, and he begins to dance to the confused accents of his auditory, who become hoarse and exhausted from the violence of their exertions. As the prophetic spirit is excited in the minister of their Koutka, the animation[186] of the dance increases. Like the Pythian on the tripos, he rolls his ghastly and haggard eyes; all his motions are convulsive; his mouth is drawn awry, his limbs stiffened, and every distortion and grimace is put in practice by him, to the great admiration of his disciples. Having acted these buffooneries for some time, he suddenly stops, as if inspired, and becomes now as composed as he was before agitated. It is the sacred collectedness of a man full of the god that governs him, and who is about to speak by his voice. Surprised and trembling, the assembly is instantly mute, in expectation of the marvels that are to be revealed. The self-created prophet then utters at different intervals, broken sentences, words without meaning, and what ever nonsense comes into the head of the impostor; and this is invariably considered as the effect of inspiration. His jargon is accompanied either with a[187] torrent of tears or loud bursts of laughter, according to the complexion of the tidings he has to announce; and the expression and gesture of the orator vary in conformity to his feelings. I was furnished with this account by persons entitled to credit, and who had contrived to be present at these absurd revelations.

There seems to be some analogy between these chamans, and the sect called quakers. The quakers pretend equally to inspiration, and there are individuals among them, who, guided by its supposed impulse, hold forth in their silent meetings, and break out in piteous lamentations, or sudden starts of extravagant joy. The difference is this: these prompt orators harangue extempore upon the subject of morality, whose fundamental principles they endeavour to recommend; whereas the Kamtschadale declaimers understand not a word of what they utter, and only make use of their mysterious and hypocritical jargon to increase the idolatry of their stupid admirers.


At Machoure the intelligence which M. Kasloff had before received from Bogenoff, an engineer, was confirmed. He had been sent along the river Pengina to fix upon a situation for a town, and trace the plan of it, with directions to proceed afterwards by the western coast of Kamtschatka as far as Tiguil, and make an exact map of the country as he passed. On his arrival at Kaminoi[71], he told M. Kasloff that he had met a considerable number of revolted Koriacs, who came out to intercept his passage, and prevent him from executing his mission. It was now added to the account, that they amounted to a body of six hundred men, and that we should not probably be permitted[189] to advance. This was melancholy news, for me particularly, who longed to arrive at Okotsk, as if it had been the end of my journey, or as if I could thence reach France in a single day. How distressing the thought, that there was no other way but through this village, and that I should perhaps be obliged to turn back! My impatience made me shudder at the very idea. M. Kasloff participated my feelings, and was of opinion with me that the report ought not to stop us. It might not be accurate; the narrators might have given it an air of importance, to which it was not entitled; their fears might have magnified it; and each perhaps had made some addition to the story. These considerations led us to doubt, and we resolved to satisfy ourselves in person of its truth, thinking it time enough to have recourse to expedients if the rebels were actually to oppose our passage. We were presently encouraged by the arrival of an express to M. Kasloff, who had met with no interruption, and who assured us that every thing had the appearance of perfect tranquillity.


At break of day I took leave of the baron de Steinheil, with equal regret and gratitude for his kind reception, and the attentions he had paid me during my short visit. His information and accomplishments rendered him a truly interesting character[72].


We travelled this day sixty-six wersts upon the Kamtschatka, the ice of which was very firm and perfectly smooth. I saw nothing remarkable in my way, nor in the village of Chapina, where we arrived at sun-set.

We set off early the next morning, and found the snow very troublesome. It was so thick upon the ground, that we were scarcely able to go on. We journeyed all the day though very thick woods of fir and birch trees. About half-way, and again farther on, we met two rivers, one of which was very small, and the other sixty yards wide; it is called the great Nikoulka. They are both formed by streams[192] issuing from the mountains, and uniting at this place to pay their tribute together to the Kamtschatka. Neither of them was frozen, which I ascribed to the extreme rapidity of their current. The spot where we passed them was truly picturesque; but the most singular object was the numerous firs that skirted these rivers, and which seemed like so many trees of ice. A thick hoar-frost, occasioned perhaps by the dampness of the place, covered every branch, and gave to the whole a bright and chrystalline appearance.

At some distance from Tolbatchina we crossed a heath, from which I could perceive three volcanos; none of them threw up any flames, but merely clouds of very black smoke. The first, which I before mentioned in going to Machoure, has its reservoir in the bowels of a mountain that is not exactly of a conical shape, the summit being flattened and but little elevated.[193] This volcano, I was informed, had been at rest for some time, and was supposed to be extinguished, but it had lately kindled again. North-east of this is a peak, the top of which appears to be the crater of a second volcano, which continually throws up smoke, though I could not perceive the smallest spark of fire. The third is north-north-east of the second; I could not observe it as I wished, a high mountain intercepting almost entirely my view. It derives its name from the village of Klutchefskaïa, near which it is situated; and I was told that we should pass closer to it hereafter. The two other volcanos are called in like manner after the ostrog of Tolbatchina, where we arrived in good time. This village is upon the Kamtschatka, forty-four wersts from Chapina, but it contains nothing extraordinary. We were informed that there had been a Kamtschadale wedding in the morning. I regretted the not[194] having been present at this ceremony, which, as I was told, is nearly the same as in Russia. I saw the new married couple, who appeared to be two children. I asked their age. The bridegroom was but fourteen, and the bride only eleven. Such marriages would be considered as premature in any country except Asia.

I had an extreme desire to see the town of Nijenei-Kamtschatka, and had long thought how to satisfy it; to have left the peninsula without visiting the capital, I should have considered as an unpardonable fault. My curiosity did not interfere with my resolution of travelling with all possible expedition. I was obliged indeed to make a circuit, but it was not so far as to occasion a delay of any consequence. Having concerted with M. Kasloff, who was anxious to procure every thing that could render my journey agreeable and safe, I engaged[195] to join him at the village of Yelofki, where the arrangement of some affairs of his government would detain him several days.

That I might lose less time, I took leave of him the evening of our arrival at Tolbatchina. But the roads were still worse than any we had yet met with. It was with the utmost difficulty I could reach Kosirefski by break of day, a village sixty-six wersts from Tolbatchina.

I made no stay, elated with having happily escaped all the dangers that beset me in so terrible a road, and in the darkness of the night[73]. I conceived that I had nothing to fear in the day, and proceeded with a kind of confidence for which I was soon punished. After having[196] travelled a considerable number of wersts upon the Kamtschatka, which I had been delighted to find again, and the width of which in this place particularly struck me, I was obliged to quit it and enter a sort of strait, where the snow, driven by the hurricanes, presented an uneven and deceitful surface. It was impossible to see or avoid the rocks that surrounded me. I presently heard a crack that told me my sledge was damaged; it was in reality one of my skates broken in two. My guides assisted me in adjusting it in the best manner we could, and we had the good fortune to reach Ouchkoff without any other accident. It was midnight, and we travelled this day sixty-six wersts. My first care was to refit my sledge, which detained me till the next day.

There are in this village one isba, and eleven balagans; the number of inhabitants[197] is reduced to five families, who are divided into three yourts. In the neighbourhood is a lake which abounds so much with fish, that all the villages round resort to it for their winter stock. It is also a considerable resource for the capital, which would otherwise be almost destitute of a provision of the first necessity throughout the peninsula.

I left Ouchkoff early in the morning, and at noon had travelled forty-four wersts, partly upon the Kamtschatka, and partly across extensive heaths. The first village I came to was Krestoff. It was a little larger than the preceding ostrog, but similar in other respects to what I had before seen. I only stayed to change my dogs. Hitherto I had pursued the road which M. Kasloff was to take to get to Yelofki; but instead of proceeding like him to Khartchina, I directed my course, upon coming out of[198] Krestoff, towards the village of Klutchefskaïa, which is thirty wersts from it.

The weather, which, since our departure from Apatchin, had been very fine, though cold, changed all of a sudden in the afternoon. The sky became clouded, and the wind, which rose in the west, brought us a heavy snow. It extremely incommoded us, and prevented me from examining as I could have wished, the volcano of Klutchefskaïa, which I had seen at the same time with those of Tolbatchina. As far as I could judge, the mountain that carries it in its womb, is considerably higher than the other two. It continually throws up flames, which seem to ascend from the midst of the snow, with which the mountain is covered to its very summit.

Upon the approach of night I came to the village of Klutchefskaïa. The inhabitants[199] are all Siberian peasants, from the neighbourhood of the Lena, and were sent about fifty years ago into this part of the peninsula to cultivate the land. The number of males, including men and children, scarcely exceed fifty. The small-pox attacked only those who had not before been affected with it; but it carried off more than one half of them. These labourers are less happy than those who live in the neighbourhood of Vercknei-Kamtschatka. The quantity and quality of their last harvest, both rye and barley, exceeded their hopes. These peasants have many horses belonging to them; in the mean time there are some which are the property of government.

This ostrog is tolerably large, and appears the more so from being divided into two parts, about four hundred yards from each other. It extends principally from[200] east to west. To the eastward is situated the church, which is built of wood, and in the Russian taste. The majority of houses are better constructed, and are more clean, than any I have yet seen. There are also some considerable magazines. The number of balagans is small, and they are very unlike those of the Kamtschadales; their form is oblong, and their roof, which has the same declivity as ours, rests upon posts, which support it in the air.

The Kamtschatka passes at the bottom of the ostrog; it is never entirely frozen in this part. In summer it frequently overflows and enters the very houses, though they are all of them built upon an eminence.

Four wersts east of the church of Klutchefskaïa, is another zaimka, or little hamlet, inhabited by Cossacs or labouring soldiers,[201] whose harvests belong to government: but I cannot get out of my way to examine it.

I made a very short stay at Klutchefskaïa, my impatience to see Nijenei inducing me to leave it the same evening in order to reach Kamini, a Kamtschadale village, twenty wersts farther. I arrived at midnight, but merely passed through it.

Before day I was at Kamokoff, twenty wersts from Kamini. I soon arrived at Tchokofskoi, or Tchoka, which is twenty-two wersts farther. From thence to Nijenei, the distance is the same, and I travelled it equally in a few hours. I had the pleasure of entering a little before noon into this capital of Kamtschatka, which is seen at a considerable distance, but its appearance is neither striking nor agreeable.


It presents to our view merely a cluster of houses, with three steeples rising above them, and is situated upon the border of the Kamtschatka, in a bason formed by a chain of mountains that raise their lofty heads around it, but which are however at a tolerable distance. Such is the position of the town of Nijenei, of which I had a higher opinion before I saw it. The houses, amounting to about a hundred and fifty, are of wood, built in a very bad taste, small, and buried beside under the snow, which the hurricanes collect there. These hurricanes prevail almost continually in this quarter, and have only ceased within a few days. There are two churches at Nijenei, one is in the town, and has two steeples; the other belongs to, and is in the circuit of the fort. These two buildings are wretchedly constructed. The fort is almost in the middle of the town, and is a large palisaded enclosure of a square form. Besides the church,[203] the enclosure contains also the magazines, the arsenal, and the guard-house: a sentinel is stationed at the entrance both day and night. The house of the governor, major Orleankoff, is near the fortress, and, its size excepted, is similar to the rest of the houses; it is neither higher, nor built in a better taste.

I alighted at the house of an unfortunate exile, named Snafidoff, who had suffered the same punishment as Ivaschkin, nearly at the same time, but for different causes: like Ivaschkin, he had been banished to Kamtschatka ever since the year 1744.

I had scarcely entered, when an officer from M. Orleankoff came to congratulate me upon my happy arrival. He was followed by many of the principal officers of the town, who came one after another in the most obliging manner to offer me their[204] services. I expressed a becoming sense of their civilities, but was mortified at their having taken me by surprise. As soon as I was dressed, I hastened to return my thanks to each of them separately. I began with major Orleankoff, whom I found busily preparing for an entertainment that he was to give the next day, upon the marriage of a Pole in the Russian service, with the niece of the protapope, or chief priest. He had not only the politeness to invite me to the wedding, but came to me in the morning, and conducted me to his house, that I might lose no part of this spectacle, which he rightly judged was calculated to interest me.

In the mean time what struck me most was the strictness of the ceremonial. The distinction of rank seemed to be observed with the most scrupulous delicacy. The formality, compliments, and cold civilities,[205] which opened the entertainment, gave it a starched air, that promised more dulness than gaiety. The repast was the most sumptuous the country could furnish. Among other dishes there was a variety of soups, accompanied with cold meats, upon which we fed heartily. The second service consisted of roasted dishes and pastry. The dinner had less the appearance of sensuality than profusion. The liquors were the produce of the different fruits of the country, boiled up and mixed with French brandy. But a profusion of the brandy of the country, made from the slatkaïa-trava, or sweet herb, which I have already noticed, was almost continually served round in preference. This liquor has no disagreeable taste, and is even aromatic; they use it the more readily, as it is less unwholesome than the brandy distilled from corn. The guests by degrees assumed an air of good humour. Their heads were not proof against the[206] fumes of so strong a beverage, and soon the grossest mirth circulated round the table. To this noisy and sumptuous feast a ball succeeded, that was conducted with tolerable regularity. The company were gay, and amused themselves till the evening with Polish and Russian country dances. The festival ended with a splendid fire-work, that had been prepared by M. Orleankoff, and which he himself let off. It was only a trifling one, but it had a good effect, and left nothing to be desired. I enjoyed the astonishment and extasy of the spectators, who were little accustomed to exhibitions of this nature: it was a subject for a painter. Rapt in admiration, they exclaimed in full chorus at every squib. The regret they expressed at its short duration afforded me equal amusement. It was necessary to attend to the extravagant encomiums that were unanimously bestowed upon them; and on departing, every individual sighed[207] over the remembrance of all the pleasures of the day.

The next day I was invited to the house of the protapope, uncle to the bride, where the entertainment was similar to that of the preceding one, except the fire-work. I have already observed, that the protapope is chief of all the churches in Kamtschatka. The clergy throughout the peninsula are subordinate to him, and he has the decision of all ecclesiastical affairs. His residence is at Nijenei. He is an old man, not entirely deprived of his vigour, with a long white beard which flows down upon his breast and gives him a truly venerable appearance. His conversation is sensible, sprightly, and calculated to gain him the respect and affection of the people.

There are two tribunals at Nijenei, one that concerns the governments, and the other[208] takes cognizance of all mercantile disputes. The magistrate who presides in the latter, is a kind of burgomaster, subject to the orders of the gorodnitch, or governor of the town. We have already seen that each of these jurisdictions holds from the tribunal of Okotsk, to the governor of which it is accountable for all its proceedings.

But what most interested me at Nijenei, and what I cannot pass over in silence, was my finding there nine Japanese, who had been brought thither in the preceding summer, from the Aleutienne islands, by a Russian vessel employed in the trade of otter skins.

One of the Japanese informed me, that he and his companions had embarked in a ship of their own country, with an intention of visiting the more southern Kurilles islands, for the purpose of trading with[209] the inhabitants. They directed their course along the coast, and were at a small distance from it, when they were overtaken by a violent gale, which carried them out to sea, and deprived them of all knowledge where they were. According to his account, which however I did not altogether believe, they beat about in the ocean for near six months without seeing land; of course they must have had a plentiful stock of provisions. At length they discerned the Aleutienne islands, and transported with joy, they determined to make for that coast, without well knowing in what part of the world it was. They accordingly cast anchor near one of the islands, and a small shallop brought them to land. At this place they found certain Russians, who proposed to them to unlade their vessel, and remove it to a place of security; but either from suspicion, or perhaps that they thought the next day would be early enough, the Japanese[210] peremptorily refused. They had soon occasion to repent of their negligence. That very night there arose a strong gale, during which their ship stranded; and as this was not discovered till break of day, they had the utmost difficulty to save a small part of the cargo, and some pieces of the vessel, which had been almost entirely constructed of cedar. The Russians, who had before treated them with civility, now exerted every effort in their power to make these unfortunate people forget their loss. They at length persuaded them to accompany them to Kamtschatka, whither they were bound upon their return. My Japanese added, that they had at first been much more numerous, but that the fatigues of the sea, and afterwards the rigour of the climate, had taken off many of his companions.

My informer appeared to have over his eight countrymen a very distinguished superiority;[211] and he informed us that he was himself a merchant, and the rest only sailors under his command. Certain it is, that they entertain for him a singular veneration and friendship. They are penetrated with grief, and shew the greatest uneasiness when he is indisposed, or the least unfavourable accident has befallen him. They regularly send twice a day one of their body to wait upon him. His friendship for them may be said not to be less; not a day passes without his visiting them, and he employs the greatest care that they should be in want of nothing. His name is Kodaïl: his figure has nothing in it singular, and is even agreeable; his eyes do not project like those of the Chinese; his nose is long, and he has a beard which he frequently shaves. He is about five feet in stature, and is tolerably well made. At first he wore his hair in the Chinese fashion; that is, he had a single lock depending from the middle of his head, the rest[212] of his hair round it being close shaved; but he has lately been persuaded to let it grow, and to tie it after the French fashion. He is extremely apprehensive of cold, and the warmest garments given him are scarcely able to save him from it. Under these he constantly wears the dress of his country: this consists in the first place of one or more long chemises of silk, like our dressing gowns; and over these he wears one of woollen, which seems to imply that this sort of materials is more precious in their estimation than silk. Perhaps however the circumstance arises from some motive of convenience, of which I am ignorant. The sleeves of this garment are long and open; and, in spite of the rigour of the climate, he has constantly his arms and his neck uncovered. They put a handkerchief about his neck when he goes abroad, which he takes off as soon as he enters a house, being, as he says, unable to support it.


His superiority over his countrymen was calculated to make him be distinguished; but this circumstance has less weight than the vivacity of his temper and the mildness of his disposition. He lodges and eats at the house of major Orleankoff. The freedom with which he enters the house of the governor and other persons, would among us be thought insolent, or at least rude. He immediately fixes himself as much at his ease as possible, and takes the first chair that offers; he asks for whatever he wants, or helps himself, if it be within his reach. He smokes almost incessantly; his pipe is short, and ornamented with silver; he puts into it a very small quantity of tobacco, which he renews every moment. To this habit he is so much addicted, that it was with difficulty they could persuade him to part with his pipe even at meals. He is possessed of great penetration, and apprehends with admirable readiness every thing[214] you are desirous to communicate. He has much curiosity, and is an accurate observer. I was assured that he kept a minute journal of every thing he saw, and all that happened to him. Indeed the objects and the customs he has an opportunity to observe, have so little resemblance to those of his country, that every thing furnishes him with a subject of remark. Attentive to whatever passes, or is said in his presence, he puts it into writing, for fear of forgetting it. His characters appeared to me considerably to resemble the Chinese, but the form of writing is different, these writing from right to left, and the Japanese from the top of the page to the bottom. He speaks Russian with sufficient ease to make himself understood; you must however be used to his pronunciation to converse with him, as he delivers himself with a volubility that frequently obliges you to miss something he says, or apprehend it in a wrong sense. His[215] repartees are in general sprightly and natural. He employs no concealment or reserve, but tells with the utmost frankness what he thinks of every one. His company is agreeable, and his temper tolerably even, though with a considerable tendency to suspicion. Does he miss any thing? he instantly imagines that it has been stolen from him, and discovers anxiety and disquietude. His sobriety is admirable, and perfectly contrasts with the manners of this country. When he has determined to drink no strong liquor, it is impossible to induce him so much as to taste it; when he is inclined, he asks for it of his own accord, but never drinks to excess. I observed also, that, after the manner of the Chinese, in eating he made use of two little sticks, which he handled with great dexterity.

I requested to see some of the coin of his country, and he readily gratified my curiosity.[216] The gold coin was a thin plate of an oval form, and of about two inches in its longest diameter. It is marked with various Japanese characters, and it appeared to be of pure gold, without any alloy, so that it readily bent in any manner you pleased. Their silver money is square, smaller, thinner, and lighter than that of gold; he however assured me that at Japan this was the superior coin. The copper coin is precisely the same as the cache of the Chinese: it is round, and nearly of the size of our two liard pieces, with a square perforation in the middle.

I asked him some questions respecting the nature of the merchandize they had saved from their wreck, and I understood, from his answer, that it consisted chiefly in cups, plates, boxes, and other commodities of that sort, with a very fine varnish. I[217] afterwards found they had sold a part of them at Kamtschatka.

I trust I shall be forgiven this digression upon these Japanese; I can scarcely imagine that it will be thought impertinent; it will assist us in becoming acquainted with a nation that we have scarcely an opportunity to see and observe.

Having spent three days at Nijenei Kamtschatka, I left it 12 February at one o'clock in the afternoon, to meet M. Kasloff, whom I was sure of finding at Yelofki. My road for some time was the same as I had already travelled in going to Nijenei, and I arrived at Tchoka early in the evening. A strong westerly wind almost always prevails in this place. The situation of the ostrog sufficiently accounts for it, which is upon a river that runs between two chains of[218] mountains that stretch along its banks to the distance of twenty five wersts.

I passed the night at Kamokoff, and the next morning I arrived in a few hours at the ostrog of Kamini, or Peter's town, where I took the road to Kartchina. In my way I passed three lakes, the last of which was very large, and not less than five leagues in circumference. I slept at this ostrog, which is forty wersts from the preceding one, and situated upon the river Kartchina[74].

I set off as soon as it was light, and notwithstanding the bad weather, which lasted all the day, I travelled seventy wersts, which brought me to Yelofki. It is upon a river of the same name, and surrounded with mountains.


M. Kasloff was astonished at my expedition. I had vainly flattered myself, that the moment of our meeting would be that of our departure; but his business was not yet finished, and we were obliged to prolong our stay: he hoped also that M. Schmaleff would soon arrive. We had calculated that he would meet us at this ostrog. This expectation, which was fruitless, and the affairs of M. Kasloff, detained us five days longer. At length he complied with my impatience, and agreed to set off the 19, very early in the morning.

We travelled fifty four wersts gently enough; but in the afternoon we were suddenly overtaken by a terrible tempest from the west and north-west. We were in an open country, and the whirlwinds became so violent, that it was impossible to proceed. The snow, which they raised in the air at every blast, formed a thick fog, and our[220] guides, notwithstanding their knowledge of the roads, could no longer be answerable for not misleading us. We could not prevail on them to conduct us any farther: and yet it was dreadful to lie to at the mercy of so impetuous a hurricane. As to myself, I confess that I began to suffer extremely, when our guides proposed to lead us to a wood that was not far off, and where we should at least find some kind of shelter. We hesitated not a moment to avail ourselves of their civility; but before we quitted the road, it was necessary to wait till our sledges could be assembled, or we should otherwise run the risk of being separated from one another, and entirely lost. Having effected this, we gained the wood, which was happily at the distance that we had been informed. Our halt took place about two o'clock in the afternoon.

The first care of our Kamtschadales was[221] to dig a hole in the snow, which was in this place at least six feet deep; others fetched wood, and a fire being quickly lighted, the kettle was set on. A light repast, and a small dram of brandy, soon recovered all our company. As the night approached, we were employed upon the means of passing it in the least uncomfortable manner. Each prepared his own bed: mine was my vezock, where I could lie down at my ease; but except M. Kasloff, there was no other person who had so convenient a carriage. How, said I to myself, will these poor creatures contrive to sleep? I was soon relieved from my anxiety on their account. The manner in which they prepared their beds, deserves to be mentioned, though they did not observe much ceremony on the occasion. Having dug a hole in the snow, they covered it with the branches of trees, the smallest they could get; then wrapping themselves up in a kouklanki, with the hood drawn over[222] their heads, they lay down on their bed as if it were the best in the world. As to our dogs, they were unharnessed, and tied to the trees that were near us, where they passed the night in their usual manner.

The wind having considerably abated, we proceeded on our journey before it was light. We had thirty wersts to Ozernoi, where it had been our intention to have slept the preceding evening. We arrived at ten o'clock in the morning, but our dogs being extremely fatigued, we were obliged to spend the rest of the day, and even the night there, in hopes that the wind, which began to blow still more violently in the afternoon, would subside during the interval.

The ostrog takes its name from a lake that is near it. The river Ozernaïa, which is but small, runs at the bottom of the village.[223] The house of the toyon was the only isba I saw, and I was informed that we should meet with no more of these kind of buildings till we came to the town of Ingiga. There were, however, fifteen balagans and two yourts. I might here describe these subterraneous habitations; but as they are small in comparison with those which I shall soon have an opportunity of examining, I shall defer my description for the present.

We passed also the 21 February at Ozernoi, in fruitless expectation of a serjeant of M. Kasloff's suite, who had been sent to Nijenei-Kamtschatka.

The next day we reached Ouké at a tolerably early hour, which is only twenty six wersts. There we waited again for the serjeant, who had been ordered to join us at this place, But he did not come.


There is but one isba at Ouké, which, together with a dozen balagans and two yourts, form the whole ostrog. One of the yourts had been cleaned for M. Kasloff, and we passed the night in it.

We left this village at break of day, and half way on our journey we saw a certain number of balagans, which are only inhabited, I was informed, in the fishing season. Near this place we met the sea again, and travelled on the shore for some time. I was extremely mortified at not being able to see at what distance it was frozen, nor what was the direction of this part of the eastern coast of Kamtschatka. A north wind incommoded us, and impelled the snow with such violence against us, that our whole attention was engrossed by guarding our eyes from it; there was also a fog that extended from the shore to a considerable distance on the sea, and intercepted almost[225] entirely the view of it. The inhabitants of the country, whom I interrogated upon the subject, informed me we had just passed a bay of no very considerable width, and that the sea was covered with ice as far as thirty wersts from the land.

At Khaluli, an ostrog, situated upon a river of the same name, sixty six wersts from Ouké, and at a short distance from the sea, I found but two yourts and twelve or thirteen balagans; but I had the pleasure of seeing a baidar covered with leather. This boat was about fifteen feet long and four wide; the hull was made of planks tolerably thin, and crossing each other; a longer and thicker piece of wood served as the keel; the timbers were made fast with leathern straps; and the whole was covered over with several skins of sea horses and large sea wolves.


I particularly admired the manner in which these skins were prepared, and the compactness with which they were sewn together, so that the water could not penetrate into the boat. Its shape was somewhat similar to ours, but less round, and therefore less graceful; it converged towards the extremities, so as to terminate in a point, and had a flat bottom. The lightness of the common baidars, which makes them liable to be overturned, doubtless gave rise to this mode of constructing them, by which they acquire more weight. This boat was placed under a shed built on purpose to protect it from the snow. The toyon of Khaluli having given up his yourt to us, we slept in it, being unable to proceed till the next day. The wind had increased since our arrival, and did not abate till the middle of the night.

At ten o'clock in the morning we had lost[227] sight of Khaluli, and passed an old village of the same name, which had been lately deserted on account of its bad situation. Farther on we found some more desolated habitations, formerly the ostrog of Ivaschkin, and which had been removed, for a similar reason, thirty wersts from its former situation. We came again to the sea, and travelled for some time on the eastern coast. It forms another bay at this place, which I was desirous of examining, but was, as before, prevented by the fog. I observed that the fog cleared up in proportion as the wind veered to the north-east, which had hitherto been west and north-west.

Ivaschkin is forty wersts from Khaluli, and very near to the sea. It contains two yourts and six balagans, and is situated upon a small river of the same name, which was entirely frozen, as was also one that we had just passed.


We slept at this village, and spent a considerable part of the next day there, from the apprehension of a hurricane, which, it was said, threatened us. We were at last relieved from our fears, and though it was tolerably late when we resolved to proceed, we reached Drannki, which is thirty wersts. The situation of this ostrog is similar to the preceding one. Here we found M. Haus, a Russian officer: he came from Tiguil, and brought M. Kasloff various objects of natural history.

We left Drannki at break of day. In the afternoon we crossed a bay that was fifteen wersts wide, and from twenty-five to thirty deep; the entrance was scarcely less than five wersts: it is formed by the south coast. This coast is low land, gradually declining as it advances into the sea. The bay runs west-north-west and east-south-east. It appeared to me that west-north-west of its entrance, towards Karagui, vessels[229] may safely anchor, and be sheltered from the south, the west, and the north winds. The south of its entrance does not afford so good a harbour, as it is said to have various sand banks; I was obliged to trust to report, the ice and the snow preventing me from obtaining any better information.

We travelled this day seventy wersts, and came in the evening to Karagui, which is upon an eminence, and affords a view of the sea. It has only three yourts and twelve balagans, at the foot of which the river Karaga passes. This river pours itself into the sea at the distance of a few gun shots from the ostrog, which is the last in the district of Kamtschatka; a hamlet a hundred wersts farther, and containing but few Kamtschadales, not being included within its limits.

As we were obliged to wait here for a[230] stock of dried fish, not yet come up, and intended for the nourishment of our dogs in the deserts, which we are now to traverse, I shall embrace this opportunity of transcribing various notes made in this and the preceding villages. They will not be placed in the same order as they were written; it must be supposed that the rapidity with which we travelled, frequently left me no choice in this respect[75].


I shall first speak of the yourts, which I have not yet described, deserving as they are of particular attention. These strange houses are sunk in the earth, as I before observed, and the top, which appears above ground, is like a truncated cone. To form a just idea of them, we must conceive of a large square hole about twelve or fourteen yards in diameter, and eight feet deep; the four sides are lined with joists or boards, and the interstices of these walls are filled up with earth, straw, or dried grass, and stones. In the bottom of this hole various posts are fixed, that support the cross beams upon which the roof rests. The roof begins upon a level with the ground, and rises four feet above it; it is two feet thick, has a very gradual slope, and is made of the same materials as the walls. Towards the top is a square opening, about four feet long and three wide, which serves as a passage for the smoke[76] and an entrance to the yourt, where the women as well[232] as the men go in and out by means of a ladder, or notched beam, that is raised to a level with this opening. There is another very low entrance in one side of the yourt, but it is considered as a kind of disgrace to make use of it. I shall terminate the description of the exterior part of these habitations by adding, that they are surrounded with tolerably high palisades, doubtless as a protection against the gales of wind, or falls of snow; it is said, however, that these enclosures formerly served as ramparts to defend these people against their enemies.

We have no sooner descended these savage abodes, than we wish ourselves out again; the view and the smell are equally offensive. The interior part consists of one entire room, about ten feet high. A bench, five feet wide, and covered with various skins, half worn out, extends all round it. This[233] bench is only a foot from the ground[77], and commonly serves as a bed for a number of families. I have counted in one yourt more than twenty persons, men, women, and children. They eat, drink, and sleep pell mell together, satisfy all the calls of nature without restraint or modesty, and never complain of the noxious air that prevails in these places. It is true there is a fire almost incessantly. The fire-place is commonly either in the middle of the yourt or against one of the sides. In the evening they rake the coals in a heap, and shut the entrance of the yourt, where the smoke should evaporate; and thus the heat is concentrated, and kept up during the whole night. By means of a dismal lamp, the form and disagreeable smell of which I have before described, we discover in one corner of the apartment[78] a wretched image of some saint, shining with grease and[234] blackened with smoke. It is before these images that the Kamtschadales bow themselves, and offer their prayers. The rest of the furniture consists of seats and some vessels, made either of wood, or the bark of trees. Their cookery utensils are of copper or iron; but they are all disgustingly filthy. The remains of their dried fish are scattered about the room, and the women or the children are continually broiling pieces of salmon skin, which is one of their favourite meats.

The singularity of the children's dress particularly attracted my attention; it is said exactly to referable that of the Koriacs. It consists of only one garment, that is, of a[235] single deer skin, that covers and sits close to every part of the body, so that the children seem to be entirely sewed up. An opening at the bottom, before and behind, affords an opportunity of cleaning them. This opening is covered with another piece of skin, which may be fastened and lifted up at pleasure; it supports a tuft of moss[79], placed like a clout between the legs of the child, and which is renewed as often as it becomes necessary. Besides the common sleeves, there are two others hanging to the garment to place the arms of the child in when it is cold; the extremities are sewed up, and the sleeves lined on the inside with moss. There is also a hood fitted to it, made of the same materials as the rest of the dress; but in yourts the heads of the children are almost always bare, and the hood hangs therefore upon their shoulders. Beside all this, they have a deer skin girt, which serves as a sash. The women carry their children on their back by means of a string, which passes round the forehead of the mother and under the buttocks of the child.


The toyon of Karagui, at whose house we lodged, was an old rebel. It was with some difficulty he had been brought back to his duty, and he gave us some uneasiness by his positive refusal to procure us fish.

The manners of the inhabitants of this ostrog are very similar to those of the neighbouring Koriacs. This analogy is as conspicuous in their idiom as in the dress of their children. I had an opportunity of remarking it the day after our arrival.

Understanding that there were two hordes of rein deer Koriacs at no great distance, we sent immediately a messenger to them to[237] request that they would sell us some of their animals. They readily complied, and brought us the same day two rein deer alive. This supply came very seasonably to the relief of our people, who began to apprehend a want of provisions. Meanwhile our dogs were in still greater danger of famine, as the dried fish was not yet arrived. A rein deer was ordered to be killed directly; but when we were desirous of knowing the price of it, we found very considerable difficulty in being able to treat with the sellers: they spoke neither Russian nor Kamtschadale; and we should never have understood one another, if we had not fortunately met with an inhabitant of Karagui, who could serve as an interpreter.

There are two sorts of Koriacs; those who are properly called by that name have a fixed residence; the others are wanderers, and are known by the appellation of rein[238] deer Koriacs[80]. Their flocks are very numerous, and they maintain them by conducting them to those cantons that abound with moss. When these pastures are exhausted, they seek for others. In this manner they wander about incessantly, encamping under tents of skin, and supporting themselves with the produce of their deer.

These animals are as serviceable for draught to the Koriacs, as the dogs are to the Kamtschadales. The persons who came to us were drawn by two rein deer. The mode of harnessing and guiding them, as as well as the form of the sledge, ought to be described; but I think it better to defer my description till I come to travel with these people, as I shall be able to be more accurate.


Our long expected provisions arrived at last on the evening of 29, and were brought by the sergeant whom we had waited for. We prepared every thing for our departure the next morning, but a most impetuous wind rose in the night from the west and the north-west. This hurricane was accompanied with snow, which fell in such abundance that we were obliged to prolong our stay. Nothing short of this bad weather could have detained us. The arrival of our provision had increased our impatience; the supply beside was not considerable, and our necessities were so urgent that we were obliged to begin upon it immediately. It was therefore our interest to be as expeditious as possible, lest our stock should be consumed before we had passed the deserts.

The wind abated in the course of the morning, but the snow continued, and the[240] sky seemed to threaten us with a second tempest before the end of the day. It began to rise about two o'clock in the afternoon, and lasted till the evening.

To divert our attention, it was proposed to us to try the abilities of a celebrated female dancer, who was a Kamtschadale, and lived in this ostrog. The encomiums bestowed upon her excited our curiosity, and we sent for her; but either from caprice or ill humour she refused to dance, and paid no regard to our invitation. It was in vain they represented that her refusal was disrespectful to the governor general; no consideration could induce her to comply. Fortunately we had some brandy by us, and a bumper or two seemed to effect a change in her inclinations. At the same time Kamtschadale, at our request, began to dance before her, challenging her by his voice and gestures. Gradually her eyes sparkled, her[241] countenance became convulsive, and her whole frame shook upon the bench where she sat. To the enticements and shrill song of the dancer, she answered in similar accents, beating time with her head, which turned in every direction. The movements became at last so rapid, that, no longer able to contain herself, she darted from her seat, and in turn defied her man by cries and distortions still more extravagant. It is not easy to express the absurdity of the dance. All her limbs seemed to be disjointed; she moved them with equal strength and agility; she tore her cloaths, and fixed her hands to her bosom with a kind of rage as if she would tear it also. These singular transports were accompanied with still more singular postures; and in short, it was no longer a woman, but a fury. In her blind frenzy she would have rushed into the fire that was kindled in the middle of the room, if her husband had not taken the precaution[242] of placing a bench before it to prevent her: during the whole dance indeed he took care to keep himself close to her. When he saw that her head was perfectly gone, that she staggered on all sides, and could no longer support herself without laying hold of her fellow dancer, he took her in his arms and placed her upon a bench, where she fell, like an inanimate clod, without consciousness, and out of breath. She continued five minutes in this situation. Meanwhile the Kamtschadale, proud of his triumph, continued to dance and to sing. Recovering from her swoon, the woman heard him, and suddenly, in spite of her weakness, she raised herself up, uttered some inarticulate sounds, and would have begun again this laborious contest. Her husband kept her back and interceded for her; but the conqueror, believing himself to be indefatigable, continued his jeers and bantering, and we were obliged to exert our authority[243] to quiet him. In spite of the praises that were lavished upon the talents of these actors, the scene, I confess, afforded me no amusement, but on the contrary, considerable disgust.

All the inhabitants of this place, women as well as men, smoke and chew tobacco. By a refinement that I cannot account for, they mix ashes with the tobacco to make it stronger. We gave them some snuff, and they applied it not to their nose, but to their mouth. I examined their pipes: they are of the same shape as those of the Chinese, made of bone, and very small. When they make use of them, they do not emit the smoke from their mouth, but swallow it with great gratification.

All the toyons of the different ostrogs we had passed in coming from Ozernoi, out of respect to M. Kasloff, had escorted us as[244] far as Karagui. The second day after our arrival, they had taken their leave of us to return to their respective habitations. Their adieux were affectionate. After making new apologies for not having been able to give him a better reception in the course of his journey, they showed the utmost regret at leaving him, as if he had been surrounded by the most imminent dangers, and offered him whatever they possessed, ignorant of any other way of testifying their attachment. They addressed themselves in like manner to me, and solicited me with earnestness to receive something from them. It was useless to make objections; my refusals only rendered them the more urgent, and to satisfy them I was obliged to accept their presents.

Let me be permitted in this place to perform a duty which I owe to the Kamtschadales[245] in general, for the civility with which they treated me. I have already mentioned their mild and hospitable character, but I have not been sufficiently minute respecting the instances of regard which these good people gave me, and I recall with pleasure the remembrance of their kind reception. There was not, I believe, an individual chief of any ostrog, that did not make me some trifling present. Sometimes it was a sable or fox skin, and sometimes fruit or fish, and such other objects as they conceived would be most agreeable to me. One would have supposed that they had resolved, by their attentions to me, to repair the injustice which they had so long committed against the French name. They often thanked me for having undeceived them upon the subject; and sometimes again were tempted to regret it, when they considered that they should see me no more, and that it seldom[246] happened that any of my countrymen visited their peninsula.

We left Karagui at one o'clock in the morning of 2 March. The weather was tolerably calm, and continued so during the whole day. The only inconvenience we met with, was the not being able to cross, as we had hoped to do, a bay which the tempest of the preceding evening had cleared of its ice: we were obliged to go round it. This bay has considerable depth, is eight or ten wersts wide, and appeared to run in the direction of north-east and south-west. The ice was only broken up as far as the mouth, where it became solid again, and extended into the sea. With the circuit which we were obliged to make, we travelled this day about fifty wersts.

Upon the approach of night, we stopped[247] in the open country and erected our tents. Under the largest, belonging to M. Kasloff, were placed his vezock and mine, the door of the one against the door of the other, so that by letting down the windows, we were able to converse together. The other sledges were ranged two abreast round our tents, and the spaces between, being covered with linen or skins, served our guides and our suite as places where they might shelter themselves, and prepare their beds. Such was the disposition of our halt.

As soon as our kettle boiled we took tea, and then prepared for our supper, which was our only meal every day. A corporal presided as maitre d'hotel and as cook. The meats which were prepared by him were neither numerous nor delicate, but his quickness and our appetites rendered us indulgent. He commonly served us up a kind of soup made of a biscuit of black bread,[248] and mixed with rice or oatmeal. It was prepared in half an hour, and in the following manner. He took a piece of beef, or flesh of rein deer, and put it into boiling water, having first cut it into very thin slices, which were ready in an instant.

The evening previous to our departure from Karagui, we had killed and begun upon our second deer. We regaled ourselves with the marrow: raw or dressed, I thought it excellent. We had the tongue also boiled, and I conceived that I had never eaten any thing more delicious.

We pursued our journey early in the morning, but it was impossible to travel more than thirty-five wersts. The wind had changed to the west and south-west; it blew with extreme violence, and beat the snow in our faces. Our guides suffered extremely, less however than our dogs,[249] some of whom, exhausted with fatigue, died on the road, and others were incapable of drawing us for want of nourishment. We could only give them a fourth part of their common allowance, and had scarcely enough left to last two days.

In this extremity we dispatched a soldier to the ostrog of Kaminoi, to procure us succour, and to send the escort to meet us that was to have waited there till M. Kasloff arrived. It was a guard of forty men, sent from Ingiga upon the first intelligence of the revolt of the Koriacs.

We were only fifteen wersts from the village or hamlet of Gavenki, where we hoped to find a supply of fish for our dogs; and our confidence was so great that we ventured to give them a double portion, that they might be the better able to convey us thither. Having passed the night in[250] the same manner as the preceding, we pursued our journey at three o'clock in the morning. We quitted not the sea coast till we came to Gavenki, which was about ten o'clock. The name of the village is derived from the word gavna, which signifies excrement; and it is so called on account of its deformity and wretched state. There are in reality but two isbas falling to ruin, and six balagans very ill constructed of bad and crooked wood, which the sea leaves sometimes upon the shore; for there is not a tree in the whole neighbourhood, and nothing to be seen but a few paltry shrubs scattered here and there at a considerable distance from one another. I was not astonished to learn, that not along ago, more than twenty of the inhabitants voluntarily abandoned their country to seek out a better abode. At present the population of this hamlet does not exceed five families, including that of the toyon, and two Kamtschadales[251] from the island of Karagui, who are settled there. No reason was assigned for this removal, and I doubt whether they have gained by the change.

We had not been an hour at Gavenki, when a dispute arose between a sergeant of our company, and two peasants of the village, to whom he had applied for wood. They answered bluntly that they would not give him any. From one thing to another the quarrel became violent. The Kamtschadales, little intimidated by the threats of the sergeant, drew their knives[81] and fell upon him; but they were immediately disarmed by two of our soldiers. As soon as M. Kasloff was informed of this violence, he ordered that the guilty should be punished as an example. They were brought before the yourt in which we were,[252] and in order to awe the rest of the inhabitants, M. Kasloff went out himself to hasten the punishment. I was left with the toyon, who began to complain to me of the rigour with which his two countrymen were treated. The family surrounded me and murmured still louder. I was alone; meanwhile I was endeavouring to pacify them, when I perceived that the governor had left his arms behind him. I hastily caught up our sabres, upon a motion which the toyon made to go out, and followed him. He had already joined M. Kasloff, and stirring up all his neighbours, he demanded in a high tone that the delinquents should be released. He was himself, he said, their sole judge, and it belonged to him only to punish them. To these seditious clamours M. Kasloff answered only by a stern look, which disconcerted the effrontery both of the peasants and their chiefs. The toyon still muttered some words, but he was seized[253] and forced to assist in the chastisement that he had been so desirous of preventing. One of the culprits was a young man about eighteen years of age, and the other from twenty eight to thirty. They were stripped and laid prostrate on the ground; two soldiers held their hands and their feet, while four others bestowed upon their shoulders a copious distribution of lashes. They were whipped in this manner one after another with rods of dried fir, till their bodies were covered with blood. At the entreaties of the women, whom the weakness of the sex renders every where compassionate, the intended punishment was lessened, and the young man given up to them. They immediately gave him a fine lecture on the folly of his conduct, which they might as well have spared, as he was scarcely in a situation to attend to it, and still less to think of repeating his crime.


The severity which M. Kasloff observed upon this occasion, was so much the more necessary, as we began to perceive in this village some symptoms of the contagious turbulent disposition of the Koriacs. Contrasted with the Kamtschadales whom we had just quitted, the manners of the inhabitants of Gavenki led us to doubt whether it were really the same people. We had as much reason to complain of the moroseness and deceit of the latter, as we had to boast of the zeal and kindness of the former. In spite of all our importunities we could get no provision for our dogs. They coldly informed us that they had none; but their equivocal answers betrayed them, and our people soon satisfied themselves of its falsehood. By means of our dogs, whose nose and hunger were infallible guides, they quickly discovered the subterraneous reservoirs, where the inhabitants had, upon our approach, buried their provisions,[255] though the utmost care had been taken to conceal all vestiges of them, by artfully covering them with earth and snow. At the sight of these caves, and the fish that were drawn from them, these peasants began to alledge the most paltry reasons to justify their conduct, and which only tended to increase our indignation. We had some sentiments of humanity, or we should have taken their whole stock; we contented ourselves with a small part. From the nature of the provisions it appeared that these coasts afforded them salmon, herring, cod, morse and other amphibious animals.

There is neither spring nor river of any sort in the neighbourhood, but merely a lake that supplies the inhabitants with water. In winter they break the ice that covers it, and carry home large pieces of it, which they place in a trough suspended in the yourt about five or six feet high. The[256] heat is sufficient to dissolve the ice, and to this trough they have recourse when they are thirsty.

Near this village is a mountain or kind of Kamtschadale entrenchment, which formerly served them as a place of refuge when they revolted.

We staid at Gavenki only twelve or thirteen hours. We set off in the night for Poustaretsk, which is at the distance of more than two hundred wersts from it. We were five days in travelling it, and no journey had ever been so painful. We had no reason to complain of the weather during the first day; but the next we were extremely harassed by the snow and gales of wind, which succeeded without interruption, and with such impetuosity that our conductors were blinded. They could distinguish no object four paces from them,[257] and could not even see the sledge that immediately followed them.

To increase our misfortune, our Gavenki guide was old and short sighted, and frequently therefore went out of the road. We were then obliged to stop while he went on before to find the vestiges of the road; but how was it possible to find them in so extensive a plain, covered with snow, and where we could perceive neither tree, nor mountain, nor river? The experience of our guide was continually at fault from the badness of the weather, notwithstanding the incredible knowledge he had of these roads. The smallest rising, the least shrub, was sufficient to set him right; meanwhile we calculated that the deviations he occasioned us amounted each day to twenty wersts.

At the end of the second day's journey,[258] my dogs were reduced to a single fish, which I divided between them. The want of food soon exhausted their strength, so as to make them unable to proceed. Some fell under the blows of our conductors, others refused to draw, and many from inanition died on the spot. Of the thirty-seven dogs that were harnessed to my vezock upon leaving Bolcheretsk, only twenty-three remained, and these were reduced to the utmost poverty. M. Kasloff had in like manner lost a considerable number of his.

The famine became at last so great, that we were apprehensive of being starved to death in this desert. Not having a morsel of fish left for our dogs, we were obliged to feed them with part of our own provisions; but their share was very moderate, prudence requiring us to observe the most rigid œconomy.


In this woeful conjuncture, we left our equipage in the midst of the way, under guard of some of our conductors, and having chosen the most tolerable of the dogs to supply the place of those which we had lost, we went on.

Our pain and anxiety continued. We were in want of water. The only little brook that we found was entirely frozen up, and we were obliged to quench our thirst with the snow. The want of wood was another difficulty. Not a tree had we seen during the whole journey, and we frequently went a werst out of our way, perhaps for a paltry shrub not a foot long. We gathered all that we saw, for fear of finding none as we proceeded farther; but they were so small and so few as not to enable us to cook our victuals. To warm ourselves was out of the question. In the mean time the cold was extremely rigorous,[260] and from the slow pace that we travelled, we were nearly frozen. Almost at every instant we were also under the necessity of stopping to unharness the dogs, that expired one after another.

I cannot describe what my feelings were in this situation. My mind suffered still more than my body. The inconveniences that were common to us, I patiently shared with my companions; their example and my youth gave me courage to support them. But when I thought of my dispatches, my constancy forsook me. They were continually in my hands, and I never touched them without shuddering. My anxiety to execute my trust, the view of the many obstacles I had to surmount, the uncertainty of succeeding, all these ideas united to torment me. I endeavoured to dispel them; a moment after some new obstacle brought them to my mind with additional force.


Upon leaving Gavenki, we had quitted the eastern coast, and the western presented itself to our view two wersts from Pousteretsk. We had crossed therefore the whole width of this part of Kamtschatka, which is not less than two hundred wersts, or fifty leagues. We travelled this extent of country more on foot than in our sledges. Our dogs were so weak, that we were willing to fatigue ourselves in order to relieve them, but they were seldom the more alert on this account. Our conductors could not make them go on without harnessing themselves in like manner to the sledge, and thus assist them to draw us along; we encouraged them also by throwing them a handkerchief folded up in the shape of a fish. They followed this bait, which disappeared the moment they approached near enough to lay hold of it.

It was by these contrivances that we were[262] able to pass the mountain that leads to Poustaretsk. From the civil manner in which the women received us, I considered myself as safe the moment I set foot in this hamlet. Six of them came to meet us, exhibiting the most absurd demonstrations of joy. We understood, from some words they spoke, that their husbands were gone to the ostrog of Potkagornoï in pursuit of whales. They conducted us to their habitations, singing and skipping about us like so many maniacs. One of them took off her parque, made of the skin of a young deer, and put it upon M. Kasloff; the rest by loud bursts of laughter expressed their satisfaction at our arrival, which they said was unexpected. This was scarcely probable, but we pretended to believe them, in hopes of meeting with the better fare.

We entered Poustaretsk 9 March, at three o'clock in the afternoon. Our first[263] precaution was to visit all the reservoirs of fish. How great was our mortification to find them empty! We immediately suspected that the inhabitants had acted in the same manner as those of Gavenki; and we questioned the women, and ransacked every probable place, persuaded that they had concealed their provisions. The more they denied it, the farther we pursued our researches. They were however fruitless, and we could find nothing.

During this interval our dogs had been unharnessed in order to be tied up in troops as usual. They were no sooner fastened to the posts, than they fell upon their strings and their harnesses, and devoured them in a moment. It was in vain that we attempted to retain them; the majority escaped into the country, and wandered about consuming whatever their teeth could penetrate. Some died, and became immediately[264] the prey of the rest. They rushed with eagerness upon the dead carcasses, and tore them to pieces. Every limb that any individual seized upon, was contested by a troop of competitors, who attacked it with equal avidity: if he fell under their numbers, he became in turn the object of a new combat[82]. To the horror of seeing them devour one another, succeeded the melancholy spectacle of those that beset our yourt. The leanness of these poor beasts was truly affecting: they could scarcely stand upon their legs. By their plaintive and incessant cries, they seemed to address themselves to our companion, and to reproach our incapacity to relieve them. Many of them, who suffered as much from cold as from hunger, laid themselves down by the opening made in the roof of the yourt to let out the smoke. The more they felt the benefit of the heat, the nearer they approached; and at last, either from faintness, or inability to preserve an equilibrium, they fell into the fire before our eyes.


Shortly after our arrival the guide returned, who had accompanied the soldier sent out six days before to Kaminoi to procure us succour. He informed us that our messenger was reduced to the last extremity, and considered himself as fortunate in having found, twelve wersts to the north of Pousteretsk, a miserable deserted yourt, where he had sheltered himself from the tempests, which had misled him no less than ten times. The provision we had given him for himself and his dogs was all consumed, and he waited impatiently till he should be relieved from his embarassment, without which it was impossible for him to come out of his asylum, either for the purpose of[266] executing his commission, or of returning back to us.

M. Kasloff, far from being cast down by this new disappointment, animated our courage by communicating to us the last expedients he had resolved to employ. He had already, upon the intelligence of a whale being driven on shore near Potkagornoï, dispatched an express to that village. The utmost expedition was recommended, and he was to bring as much of the flesh and fat of the whale as he could. This resource however being uncertain, M. Kasloff proposed that we should sacrifice the small quantity of provision which each of us had intended to reserve for the support of his own dogs. This contribution was for sergeant Kabechoff, who had offered to go to Kaminoi. In the distress in which we were, the most feeble ray of hope was sufficient to induce us to risk our all. We embraced[267] therefore the proposal with transport, confiding in the zeal and ability of this sergeant.

He departed at 10, minutely instructed upon the subject of his journey, and carrying with him the whole of our provisions. In his way he was to take up our poor soldier, and from thence proceed to fulfil the commission in which he had failed. Having taken all these precautions, we exhorted one another to patience, and endeavoured to divert our anxiety by waiting till it should please providence to deliver us. I shall employ this time in giving an account of the observations I made at Poustaretsk.

This hamlet is situated upon the declivity of a mountain washed by the sea; for we cannot call a river[83], what is nothing more than a very narrow gulf, which reaches as far as the foot of this mountain. The water is salt, and not drinkable; we were obliged therefore to have recourse to melted snow, which was the only fresh water we could procure. Two yourts, inhabited by about fifteen persons, make up the whole hamlet. I mean to include a few balagans that are occupied in summer, and situated farther from the shore.


They spend the whole summer in fishing, and preparing their stock of winter provisions. If we may judge from the food that we saw them dress and eat, this part of the country does not much abound with fish. Their aliment during our residence among them consisted only in the flesh and fat of the whale, the bark of trees in its natural state, and in buds steeped in the oil of the whale, or the sea wolf, or in the fat of any other animal. They informed us that they[269] frequently caught small cod in the open sea; I know not whether they had any concealed store of this article, but we had searched so thoroughly, and we saw them fare so wretchedly, that we believed them to be really as poor as they appeared to be.

Their mode of catching rein deer, which are very plentiful in these cantons, is equally sure and easy. They surround a certain extent of land with palisades, leaving here and there an opening, where they spread their nets or snares. They then disperse, in order to drive the deer into them. These animals, by attempting to save themselves, run through the openings, and are caught either by the neck or their horns. A considerable number always escape by tearing the nets or leaping the palisades; meanwhile twenty or thirty men will frequently take at a time upwards of sixty deer.


Independently of their domestic occupations, the women are employed in preparing, staining, and sewing the skins of various animals, particularly deer skins. They first scrape them with a sharp stone fixed in a stick. Having taken off the fat, they still continue to scrape them to make them thinner and more supple. The only colour they stain them is a deep red, which is extracted from the bark of a tree called in Russia olkhovaïa-dereva, and known to us by the name of alder. They boil the bark, and then rub the skin with it till it has imbibed the die. The knives which they afterwards make use of to cut these skins, are crooked, and the invention probably of the country.

The sinews of the rein deer stripped very slender, and prepared in like manner by the women, serves them instead of thread, They sew perfectly well. Their needles,[271] which have nothing singular, are brought from Okotsk, and their thimbles are like those used by our tailors, and are always worn upon the fore-finger.

I have already given an account of their manner of smoking, but I must resume the subject in order to relate the fatal consequences that attend it. Their pipes[84] will scarcely contain more than a pinch of tobacco, which they renew till they have satiated themselves; and this is effected in the following manner. By swallowing the smoak, instead of blowing it out, they gradually become so intoxicated that they would, if they were near it, fall into the fire. Experience has happily taught them to attend to the progress of this species of trance, and they have the precaution to sit down or to lay hold of the first object within their reach. The fit lasts them at least for a quarter of an hour, during which time their situation is the most painful that can be conceived. Their bodies are covered with a cold perspiration, the saliva distils from their lips, their breathing is short, and attended with a constant inclination to cough. It is only when they have brought themselves into this situation, that they conceive themselves to have enjoyed the true pleasure of smoking.


Neither the men nor the women wear chemises[85]; their common garment has nearly the same form, but it is shorter, and made of deer skin. When they go out, they put on a warmer one over it. In winter the women wear fur breeches instead of petticoats.


The 12, M. Schmaleff joined us. His return gave us the greater pleasure, as we had been very uneasy on his account. He had been absent from us six weeks, and almost a month had elapsed since the time fixed for his meeting us. He had very little provision left, but his dogs were not in so bad a condition as ours, and we embraced the opportunity of fetching our equipage which we had left in the road, and of which we had not since received any news.

The south-west wind, which had so much incommoded us in our journey, continued to blow with equal violence for several days; it afterwards changed to the north-east, but the weather only became the more terrible.

It seemed as if nature in anger conspired[274] also against us to increase our difficulties and prolong our misery. I appeal to every man who has found himself in a similar situation. He only can tell how cruel it is to be thus chained down by obstacles that are incessantly springing up. We may strive to divert our thoughts, to arm ourselves with patience; our strength will at last fail, and reason lose its power over us. Nothing renders a calamity more insupportable, than the not being able to foresee when it will terminate.

We had too painful an experience of this upon the receipt of the letters that were brought us from Kaminoi. We had no succour to expect from that quarter, Kabechoff informed us. The detachment from Ingiga were unable to come to us. They had been two months at Kaminoi, and had consumed not only their own flock of provision, but also the supply that had been[275] destined for us. Their dogs, like ours, devoured one another, and the forty men were reduced to the last extremity. Our sergeant added, that he had sent immediately to Ingiga as our only resource, and that he expected an answer in a few days; but he feared that it would not be very satisfactory, as the town must be badly stocked with dogs and provisions, after the considerable supply which it had furnished.

This melancholy news deprived us of all hope, and we gave ourselves up for lost. Our grief and despondence were so extreme, that M. Kasloff was at first insensible to the news of his promotion, which he had received by the same messenger. A letter from Irkoutsk informed him, that, out of gratitude for his services, the empress had advanced him from the government of Okotsk to that of Yakoutsk. In any other situation this news would have afforded him[276] the utmost pleasure. A more extensive field was open for the display of his zeal, and a better opportunity for exercising his talents in the art of government. But his thoughts were very differently employed than in calculating the advantages of this new post, Every other sentiment yielded to that of our danger, in which he was wholly absorbed.

In a moment thus critical, I can only ascribe to the inspiration of heaven, the idea that suddenly occurred to me of separating myself from M. Kasloff. In reflecting upon it, I perceived every thing there was in it disobliging to him, and mortifying to me. I endeavoured to drive the idea from my mind, but it was in vain. It returned, it fixed itself there in spite of me. I thought of my country, of my family, of my duty. Their power over me was invincible, and I disclosed myself to the governor. Upon the[277] first view it appeared to him to be a wild project, and he failed not to oppose it. The desire of executing it, furnished me with a ready answer to all his objections. I proved to him, that by continuing together, we deprived each other of the means of pursuing his journey. We could not set off together without a strong reinforcement of dogs. We had scarcely more than twenty-seven that were at all tolerable, the rest having died or being unfit for service[86]. By giving up these twenty-seven dogs, one of us would be able to proceed, and his departure would relieve the other from the difficulty of maintaining this small number of famished steeds. But, said M. Kasloff, you must still have provision for them, and what means are there of procuring it?


I was at a loss how to reply, when we were informed that our express from Potkagornoï was arrived. More fortunate than the rest, he had brought us a large quantity of the flesh and fat of the whale. My joy at the sight of it was extreme, every difficulty was now removed, and I conceived myself already to be out of Poustaretsk. I returned instantly to my argument, and M. Kasloff having no longer any thing to oppose, and applauding in reality my zeal, complied with my solicitations. It was fixed that I should depart the 18 at latest. From this moment we were employed in the necessary arrangements for executing my project with the greatest safety.

Every thing flattered me with the hope of success. With the melancholy news we had received from Kaminoi, there were some consoling circumstances. For instance, we were assured that no obstruction was to be apprehended from the Koriacs. A perfect calm[279] was reestablished among them; and, to convince us of it, they had been desirous that some of their countrymen should accompany the soldier charged with the dispatches to M. Kasloff. Even the son of the chief of the rebels, called Eitel, was one of the escort. The Koriacs, he told us, had long waited with impatience the arrival of the governor, and his father meant to show his respect M. Kasloff by coming to meet him.

Charmed with the idea that we had no longer any thing to fear, at least on this side, we were eager to express our satisfaction to these Koriacs for their good will to us. We made them all the presents that our situation would permit, such as tobacco, stuffs, and various articles which I had purchased during my sea voyage, as well as others that had been left me by count de la Perouse. We gave them something also[280] for their relations. But our principal care was to make them as drunk as possible, that they might give a favourable report of their reception. It was necessary to consult their taste; and to intoxicate them completely, they considered as the very essence of politeness.

I proposed to these Koriacs to take charge of two of my portmanteaus. They expressed at first some unwillingness, on account of the distance, which was as far as Ingiga. By means, however, of entreaties and my purse, I at last prevailed upon them to take them into their sledges. Eased in this manner of my baggage, I had nothing to think of but my dispatches. The effects which I had intrusted to the Koriacs gave me little or no concern, as the soldier sent from Ingiga would return with them, and had promised to see that the trust was faithfully executed.


To the last moment of my stay M. Kasloff had been laboriously[87] employed in preparing his letters, which I was to have the care of. With these he delivered to me a podarojenei, or passport, that was to serve me as far as Irkoutsk. This passport was also an order to all Russian officers and other inhabitants, subjects of the empress, whom I should meet in my way to that place, to assist me with the means of proceeding on my journey with safety and expedition. The foresight of the governor omitted nothing that was necessary for me. Had I been the brother of his heart, his attentions could not have been greater.


I must pause; for I cannot suppress the emotion I feel at the thought that I am upon the point of quitting this estimable man, rendered for ever dear to me, still more by the virtues of his heart than the accomplishments of his understanding. The generous sacrifice he made is at this moment a weight upon me, and I cannot avoid reproaching myself for having wished it. What do I not suffer upon leaving him in these frightful deserts, without knowing whether he will ever be able to come out of them! The image of his melancholy situation haunts and agitates my mind. Ah! I repeat it; it must have been the conviction that there was no other way of executing the trust reposed in me, which impelled me, in spite of the prohibition of count de la Perouse, to take this resolution. But for this motive, but for my dispatches, I could never justify to my own heart my eagerness to leave him. May the testimony which my gratitude will ever render for his goodness to me, and his zeal for the service of his mistress, contribute in some measure[283] to his advancement and his happiness; mine will be complete, if I have ever the pleasure of seeing him again, and embracing him in my arms.



[1] If my pen were equal to the subject, what admirable things might I relate of these celebrated men, formed to conduct a grand enterprise with the utmost harmony? But their exploits, and the public esteem, have long placed them above my praises.

[2] Called by the Russians Petropavlosskaia-gaven.

[3] After loading with civilities every individual engaged in the expedition, he was farther desirous of supplying the frigates with provisions. Notwithstanding the difficulty of procuring oxen in this country, he furnished seven at his own expence, and could be prevailed upon by no entreaties to accept any equivalent, but regretted that he was not able to procure a greater number.

[4] The navigation is sufficiently safe in summer, and is the only mode of travelling that is adopted.

[5] According to the accounts of the earliest navigators, it is the most commodious port in this part of Asia, and ought to be the general depôt for the commerce of the country. This would be so much the more advantageous, as the vessels which frequent the other ports, commonly consider themselves as fortunate if they escape shipwreck; and for this reason the Empress has expressly prohibited all navigation after the 26th of September.

I learned a circumstance at the same time, which confirms what I have said, and seems to have occasioned the first idea of these improvements.

An English ship, belonging to M. Lanz, a merchant of Macao, came to anchor in the port of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, in the year 1786. Captain Peters, who commanded the vessel, made proposals of commerce to the Russians, of which the following are the particulars. By a treaty which he had entered into with a Russian merchant, named Schelikhoff, he engaged to carry on a commerce with this part of the states of the Empress, and demanded goods to the amount of eighty thousand roubles. These goods would probably have consisted of furs, which the English expected to find a market for in China, from whence they would have brought back in exchange stuffs and other articles useful to the Russians. Schelikhoff repaired immediately to Saint Petersburg, to solicit the consent of his sovereign, which he obtained; but while was endeavouring to fulfil the conditions of his engagement, he learned that the English vessel had been lost upon the coast of Copper Island (Ile de Cuivre) in its return to Kamtschatka from the north-west part of America, where it was probable it had sailed, in order to begin its cargo, which it expected to complete at the port of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Two only of the crew were known to have been saved, a Portuguese and a Bengal negro, who passed the winter at Copper Island, from whence a Russian vessel conveyed them to Nijenei-Kamtschatka. We joined them at Bolcheretsk, and it was M. Kasloff's intention to send them next season to Petersburg.

[6] The word ostrog properly signifies a construction surrounded with pallisadoes. Its etymology may be derived, I imagine, from the entrenchments hastily constructed by the Russians to protect them from the incursions of the natives, who, doubtless, did not passively suffer their country to be invaded. The appellation of ostrog is now given to almost all the villages in this country.

[7] His name was Khabaroff, and he had the rank of a préporchik, or ensign.

[8] At a little distance from this spot was buried, at the foot of a tree, the body of captain Clerke. The inscription which the English placed upon his tomb, was on wood, and liable to be effaced. Count de la Perouse, desirous that the name of this navigator should be immortalised, without having any thing to fear from the injuries of the weather, substituted instead of it an inscription on copper.

It is needless to mention, that he enquired at the same time where the famous French astronomer, from the island of Croyere, had been buried. He entreated M. Kasloff to order a tomb to be erected, and an epitaph, which he left engraved on copper, to be placed on it, containing an elogy, and the circumstances of the death of our countryman. I saw his intentions carried into execution after the departure of the French frigates.

[9] There is a volcano about fifteen or twenty wersts from the port, which the naturalists who accompanied count de la Perouse visited, and which will be mentioned in his voyage. The inhabitants informed me that smoak often issued from it, but that an eruption, which used to be frequent, had not happened for many years.

[10] The excessive cold of which the English complain, may not be without example; and I pretend not to contradict them. But as a proof that the rigour of the climate is not so very piercing, the inhabitants, whom they represent as not daring to come out of their subterraneous dwellings, or yourts, during the whole winter, for fear of being frozen, no longer construct any of these caves in this southern part of the peninsula, as I shall have occasion to observe elsewhere. I acknowledge, however, that the cold which I experienced during my abode there, and which may be compared to that of the winter of 1779, appeared to me very similar to what is felt at Saint Petersburg. What the English must have had reason to suppose extraordinary, are the dreadful hurricanes, which bring on such thick and heavy storms of snow, that it is not possible either to venture out, or to advance, if we are on a journey. I experienced this more than once, as will be seen in the sequel.

[11] M. Schmaleff is inspector general for the Kamtschadales, or, as it is called in Russia, capitan-ispravnik for the department of Kamtschatka; he is the same person whom the English had so much reason to praise, and the good offices he rendered us intitle him equally to our esteem.

[12] Secretary to the governor; he is employed in civil affairs, and ranks as an officer.

[13] M. Ivaschkin is the unfortunate gentleman mentioned by the English, and who merits in every respect the eulogium bestowed on him. The mere recital of his misfortunes is sufficient to excite the compassion of every reader; but it is necessary to have seen and observed him, to judge of the extreme interest which his unhappy lot is calculated to inspire.

He was not twenty years of age, when the empress Elizabeth made him serjeant of her guard of Preobrajenskoi. He already enjoyed a certain credit at court, and the free access to the sovereign, which his office gave him, opened the most brilliant career to his ambition; when all at once he saw himself not merely disgraced and deprived of all his flattering hopes, but treated as the greatest criminal; he was knowted, which is the severest and most degrading punishment practised in Russia, had his nose slit, and was banished for life to Kamtschatka.

The English have told us what he suffered for more than twenty years, from the rigour with which he was treated; he was denied even the first necessaries of life, and must infallibly have perished of hunger and misery, or fallen a prey to despair, if the force of his mind and the strength of his constitution had not supported him. The necessity of providing for his own subsistence, compelled him, not without disgust, to naturalize himself with the Kamtschadales, and to adopt entirely their mode of living; he is clothed like them, and by means of hunting and fishing is enabled to procure, not merely a sufficiency for his wants, but a superfluity, from the sale of which he obtains some little conveniencies that seem to sweeten his miserable existence. He resides at Vercknei-Kamtschatka, or Upper Kamtschatka. The Russians are ignorant of the cause of so severe a punishment; they are disposed to attribute it to a misunderstanding, or some indiscreet words, for they know not how to suppose him capable of a crime. It seems as if a change of sentiment had taken place respecting the pretended enormity of his offence, a proposal having been lately made of changing the place of his banishment, and removing him to Yakoutsk, a town that offers a variety of resources, both for profit and pleasure. But this unfortunate being, who is from sixty to sixty-five years of age, has refused to avail himself of this permission, not wishing, as he said, to make a show of the hideous marks of his dishonour, and to blush a second time at the dreadful punishment he has undergone. He preferred the continuing to live with the Kamtschadales, having but one desire left, that of passing the few remaining days of life with those who know his integrity, and of carrying with him to his grave the general friendship and esteem, to which he is so justly intitled.

The accounts given by the English, excited in count de la Perouse a desire to see this unfortunate man, who inspired him from the first moment with the most lively pity. He received him on board his ship, and at his table. The count's humanity was not confined to compassionating his miseries; he sought every means of softening them, by leaving him whatever was calculated to remind him of our abode there, and prove to him that the English are not the only foreigners interested in his sorrowful lot.

[14] Baidars are boats somewhat similar to European ones, except that the sides are made of planks from four to six inches wide, and fastened together with withies or cords, and that they are caulked with moss. The baidars are the only vessels made use of to sail to the Kurilles islands, they are commonly rowed, but will admit of a sail.

[15] His name is Feodor Vereschaguin; he succeeded his eldest brother Romanoff Vereschaguin, who shewed so many civilities to captain Clerke, and whom I afterwards found at Bolcheretsk.

[16] His predecessor had informed the English that this parish was to be immediately transferred to the ostrog of St. Peter and St. Paul; but this cannot take place till the projected improvements respecting the port are carried into execution. We cannot help observing, that the English have omitted to mention that there was formerly a church at St. Peter and St. Paul's, and that its situation is known by means of a sort of tomb which formed a part of it.

[17] This river empties itself, as I have already said, into the bay of Avatscha. The shoals, which are commonly dry at low water, render its entrance impracticable; it is even difficult at high water.

[18] As I stood to examine the Kamtschadale houses, I frequently imagined to myself the disdainful surprise that our French Sybarites would express at the sight, some of whom are so proud of their vast hotels, and others so jealous of their little neat and decorated apartments, where the art of arrangement scarcely falls short of the refined luxury of superb furniture. I conceived them to exclaim—How can human beings live in these miserable huts! A Kamtschadale however, is by no means unhappy in these cabins, whose architecture seem to lead us back to the first age of the world; he lives there with his family in tranquillity; he enjoys at least the happiness of knowing few privations, and of having therefore less wants, and has no objects of envious comparison before his eyes.

[19] I met with some afterwards in the northern part, which I took care to examine, and have described in their proper place.

[20] As I shall soon be obliged to adopt this mode of travelling, I shall defer my description of the dogs till that period.

[21] They produce an effect somewhat similar to the oiled paper in the windows of our manufactories.

[22] A werst is exactly ten hundred yards. This seems not accurately to agree with the scale of wersts in the map. We leave it to the reader to follow which authority he pleases. T.

[23] A Russian name which signifies, large river.

[24] Formerly they dared not approach these springs, or any volcano, from the idea that they were the abode of evil spirits.

[25] M. Kasloff gave some of this gum to one of the naturalists of our expedition, the abbé Mongés, while the frigates were at Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

[26] M. Kasloff, who presided in this chace, had the politeness to make me a present of this sable, called in this country sobol, and promised to add it to another, that I might bring a couple with me to France.

[27] These skins are not only a considerable branch of commerce, but serve as a species of money with the Kamtschadales.

[28] See Cook's Voyage, vol. III. p. 208.

[29] When these galliots are obliged to winter here, they harbour in the mouth of a narrow and deep river, which pours itself into the Bolchaïa-reka, about fifty yards from the hamlet, higher up.

[30] This guard-house is likewise used as a prison, and even as a school for children. The master of the school is a Japanese; he is skilled in many languages, and is paid by government for instructing the children of this country.

[31] Their pay is so inconsiderable, that the receipt of a whole year would not suffice to maintain them for a single month, if they had not the resource of a petty fraudulent commerce, of which I shall presently give an account.

[32] This is well known to be the ruling passion of all the people of the north; but I have had more than one occasion to observe, that the Kamtschadales are inferior in this respect to none of them. The following story, among others, was told me, that I might be able to judge of the rapacity of these vagabond traders, and the stupid prodigality of their dupes.

A Kamtschadale had given a sable for a glass of brandy. Inflamed with a desire of drinking another, he invited the seller into his house. The merchant thanked him, but said he was in a hurry. The Kamtschadale renewed his solicitations, and proposed a second bargain: he prevailed.—"Come, another glass for this sable, it is a finer one than the first.—No; I must keep the rest of my brandy; I have promised to sell it at such a place, and I must be gone.—Stay a moment; here are two sables.—Tis all in vain.—Well, come, I will add another.—Agreed, drink." Meanwhile the three sables are seized, and the hypocrite makes a fresh pretence to come away: his host redoubles his importunities to retain him, and demands a third glass: further refusals and further offers: the higher the chapman raises his price, the more the Kamtschadale is prodigal of his furs. Who would have supposed that it would have ended in the sacrifice of seven most beautiful sables for this last glass! they were all he had.

[33] A Russian measure containing from fifteen to twenty quarts.

[34] Eighteen pounds sterling, estimating the rouble at four shillings and sixpence.

[35] Nine pounds nine shillings.

[36] Articles of apparel made of the skins of rein deer are procured from the Koriacs.

[37] By the name of lilium flore atro rubente.

[38] The Cossacs use rye also, which makes a sort of black bread, like that of the Russian peasants. Government allows them a certain quantity of rye flour, but it is insufficient, and they are obliged to procure more at their own expence. Some of them lay it up in store in order to profit by its future sale.

[39] It is called in Kamtschatka, tscheremscha. Gmelin denominates it: allium foliis radicalibus petiolatis, floribus umbellatis. Vol. 1. p. 49.

[40] Spondilium foliolis pinnatifidis. See Linn. The juice of the rind of this plant is so acrid, that it is impossible to touch it without blistering the hand. In gathering it they take care to wear gloves.

[41] This brandy intoxicates much quicker than French brandy; whoever drinks it, is sure to be extremely agitated during the night, and to feel the next day as melancholy and restless as if he had committed some crime.

[42] Daria is a female Russian name.

[43] The Kamtschadales are unable to shoot without this means of resting their gun, which, from the time required to prepare it, is evidently inconsistent with the celerity of this instrument, its chief advantage to a sportsman.

[44] It is common enough also for it to take to flight, notwithstanding its wound, and conceal itself in thickets or rushes, where it is traced by means of its blood, and found either dead or expiring.

[45] I was assured that when a bear triumphs over his aggressor, he tears the skin from the skull, draws it over his face, and then leaves him; a mode of revenge which implies, according to the Kamtschadales, that this animal cannot bear the human aspect; and this strange prejudice supports them in the opinion of their superiority, and seems to inspire them with additional courage.

[46] They hunt the bear in this manner in every season of the year, except when the country is covered with snow; their method is then different. It is known that in winter the bear retreats to the den which he has fabricated during summer of the branches of trees; he continues there while the frost lasts, either asleep, or licking his paws. The Kamtschadales pursue him in their sledges, and attack him with their dogs, who oblige him to defend himself: he rushes from his lurking place to certain death; if he refuse to come out, his fate is equally certain, and he is crushed to death under the ruins of his den.

[47] These animals are all described in Cook's voyage.

[48] The flesh of bears, argali, and rein deer, is considered by them as very wholesome, the last particularly; I frequently feasted upon it.

[49] The Aleutienne islands, Schoumagine islands, Fox islands, &c.

[50] Their nets are made of pack thread, like ours; they purchase it of the Russians: there is another kind however, which they fabricate themselves from nettles, of which they take care to lay up a considerable store. They gather them in autumn, tie them in bundles, and place them under their balagans to dry. When their fishing and harvests are compleated, they prepare their nettles. They slit them, and then strip off the rind expertly with their teeth; the rest they beat and shake till the filaments are separated, and it is fit for spinning.

[51] They are castrated like horses, but the mode of performing the operation is different. The Kamtschadales do not extirpate the testicles, but bruise them, and the instrument they make use of is their teeth. Some of them do not survive, and others are crippled and unfit for service. In the mean time it is imagined that equal advantage could not be derived from these animals, if they were permitted to remain in their natural state; it would not be practicable to harness them with females. All the males, however, are not mutilated; a sufficient number is reserved for the preservation of the species, and these are frequently used for hunting.

[52] The sledges for baggage are called narta, and are drawn by ten dogs.

[53] Called alaki.

[54] This stick is called oschtol.

[55] The dogs feeling their burthen become lighter, advance with such speed as frequently not to stop till they have exhausted themselves with fatigue, or dashed the sledge to pieces against the trees.

[56] The snow began to fall 5 November, and so heavily, that the country was covered almost immediately. But the frost being later, and gusts of wind continuing almost without cessation, the sledges could not conveniently be used till a considerable time after, as will be seen in the sequel.

[57] These rackets are called ligi. In the northern part of the peninsula they use another sort of racket, called lapki, which are shorter, and made of leathern thorns twisted, like the firings of a tennis racket; two small sharp pointed bones are fixed in the bottom, which penetrate the ice, and are a preservative against sliding.

[58] A kind of close coach to sleep in, and which is fitted to the sledge. It is like a carriage very common in Russia, called vezok; mine was lined with bear's skin, and covered with the skin of the sea wolf.

[59] In an ostrog at some distance from Bolcheretsk, I had afterwards an opportunity of considering this subject more fully, and my observations will be found in their proper place.

[60] The revolution which took place in Kamtschatka respecting the chamans, is the precise history of all our mountebanks. Similar in their impostures, their reign and their fall are similar. Various reflections might be made on this subject. That a people equally simple and uninformed, like the Kamtschadales, should for a time have been the dupes of the impostures of their magicians, is not astonishing, and will admit of an excuse: but that such extreme ignorance and credulity should be made sensible of their error, and blush at it, is a matter of surprise and congratulation; for even with the most enlightened nations of Europe, do not some kinds of chamans spring up every day, equally perfidious and destructive! They have all in the mean time their apostles, their proselytes, and a prodigious number of martyrs.

[61] A Russian weight equal to about thirty-three pounds.

[62] These hurricanes prevail chiefly in the months of November, December, and January.

[63] They were chiefly common sledges, such as we have already described, page 118. Some were closed in the manner of vezocks or kibicks; mine was of this description, as I have mentioned, page 127. In the thirty-five sledges do not include those of the inhabitants of Bolcheretsk, who accompanied us as far as Apatchin.

[64] Forty-five dogs were harnessed to M. Kasloff's sledge, and thirty-seven to mine.

[65] I had passed through this village on my road to Bolcheretsk, and have described it, page 65.

[66] Another object of this journey was to procure us provisions. We rejoined him afterwards, as will be seen in the sequel.

[67] The Kamtschatka, which was not yet frozen.

[68] See page 19.

[69] This object of their worship is accurately described in Steller.

[70] A sort of tambour de vasque called bouben. It is still in use amongst the Yakoutsk, as will be seen hereafter.

[71] A village upon the border of the river Pengina.

[72] I had the misfortune, while at Machoure, to lose the sable M. Kasloff had given me, which died in spite of all the cares I took of it. I preserved however the skin. It had been a considerable amusement to me to observe its motions. Its extreme activity rendered its chain insupportable. It frequently attempted to escape, and would infallibly have succeeded, if I had not watched it continually; and I never caught it again without experiencing the marks of its teeth. It fed upon fish and meat; the latter was preferred, and is the favourite food of these animals in their wild state. Their address in catching birds and animals inferior to themselves, is astonishing. Mine slept almost all day, and made a continual racket in the night by shaking its chain; but timid to excess, it ceased to make the least noise when it saw any one coming, and began again the moment it was alone. I used to let it out several times a day, and as soon as it was upon the snow, it began to burrow and conceal itself under it like a mole, appearing every now and then, and hiding itself again immediately.

[73] I learned afterwards that the sledge of M. Kasloff, who passed at noon day, had barely escaped from being dashed to pieces in running against a tree, and that two of his conductors had been hurt by the violence of the shock.

[74] The villages have almost universally the same name as the rivers upon which they are placed, those only excepted which are upon the Kamtschatka.

[75] I shall be censured perhaps for making my narrative abound with dry and uniform details. I would willingly spare the reader in this respect, if I had not promised to observe the utmost accuracy. Let him consider the objects with which I am surrounded in the immense extent of country that I travel, and he will perceive that they are almost always the same. Does it then depend upon me to vary my descriptions, and avoid tautology?

[76] There is such a continual smoke in these subterraneous habitations, that the opening in the roof is not sufficient to let it out, and there is therefore in an unoccupied corner of the yourt, behind the fire-place, a kind of vent-hole in an oblique direction. It is called joupann; it terminates without, at a little distance from the square opening, and is commonly closed up with a mat or straw covering.

[77] Some of the yourts which I saw were floored with planks; but this is regarded as a luxury, and the generality have no other floor than the ground.

[78] This nook is in a manner distinct from the room, and is less filthy, because it is less frequented. It is a place of honour set apart for strangers.

[79] They make use of the herb called tonnchitcha for the same purpose.

[80] There are some of these wandering Koriacs, I am told, in the island of Karagui, which is twenty-six wersts from the village of that name. I had before imagined that I could perceive this island at a distance.

[81] These knives are about two feet long; they are worn in their girdle, and hang upon the thigh.

[82] To guard ourselves against these famished dogs we never dared to go out without our sticks, or some kind of arms to drive them off.

[83] It is called by the people of this country Poustaïareka, or desert river. This gulf was entirely frozen over.

[84] The tubes of these pipes are made of wood, with a slit from one end to the other. Thus they open in the middle, and the smoakers, from œconomy, scrape the inside after using, and make a second regale of the filings.

[85] In describing the dress of the Kamtschadales, we observed that they wore under their parque a small chemise made of nankin, or cotton stuff.

[86] The reader will recollect that upon leaving Bolcheretsk, we had a troop consisting nearly of three hundred.

[87] It was really a labour, and a most fatiguing one, if we consider that in these yourts it was not possible to write, without lying upon the ground; we were also suffocated with smoke, and the ink froze by our side.

Transcriber's Notes

Obvious errors of punctuation and diacritics repaired.

Click on the map to see a high-resolution image.

The following archaic spellings have not been changed: alledge, but-end, carabine, centinel, chace, compleated, extasy, seise, smoak.

Hyphen removed: oat[-]meal (p. 151), Rein[-]deer (p. 113), stair[-]case (pp. 26, 27).

P. viii: with sorrow and affecton -> with sorrow and affection.

P. xiv: Klatchefskaïa inhabited by Siberian peasants -> Klutchefskaïa inhabited by Siberian peasants.

P. xv: We are apprehhensive => We are apprehensive.

P. xv: Desription of Poustaretsk -> Description of Poustaretsk.

P. 6: They sat sail -> They set sail.

P. 7: Kaslof -> Kasloff.

P. 7: surrendering myself implicity -> surrendering myself implicitly.

P. 8: Kosloff -> Kasloff.

P. 20fn: couveniencies -> conveniencies.

P. 31: preserved to them this priviledge -> preserved to them this privilege.

P. 87: Kamtscadales -> Kamtschadales.

P. 89: They disperse in crouds -> They disperse in crowds.

P. 99: lessons which thy gave -> lessons which they gave.

P. 99: progess of reform -> progress of reform.

P. 103: facinated my eyes -> fascinated my eyes.

P. 108: haunt of this annimal -> haunt of this animal.

P. 110fn: if he refuse to come out -> if he refuses to come out.

P. 111fn: rain-deer -> rein deer.

P. 116: unclear word restored as "Meanwhile".

P. 129: in like mannner -> in like manner.

P. 142: whose business is to vsiit -> whose business is to visit.

P. 145: no particular priviledge -> no particular privilege.

P. 176: eighbouring mountains -> neighbouring mountains.

P. 182: acquisiton of wealth -> acquisition of wealth.

P. 184: the veneration ... for sorcecerers -> the veneration ... for sorcerers.

P. 187: there are individuls -> there are individuals.

P. 191: We sat off early -> We set off early.

P. 199: Verknei-Kamtschatka -> Vercknei-Kamtschatka.

P. 238: as as well as the form -> as well as the form.

P. 240: Kamtaschadale -> Kamtschadale.

P. 255: large peices of it -> large pieces of it.

P. 256: We sat off in the night -> We set off in the night.

P. 260: view of the many obstactles -> view of the many obstacles.

P. 265: preserve an equiliribum -> preserve an equilibrium.

P. 267: He departed the 10 -> He departed at 10.