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Title: Travels in Kamtschatka, During the Years 1787 and 1788
Author: Lesseps, Jean-Baptiste Barthélemy de
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Travels in Kamtschatka, During the Years 1787 and 1788" ***

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[Illustration: Route of
_M de Lesseps_
Consul of France,
_in the PENINSULA of_
_and along the GULF of PENGINA, from the_ Port of S^t. Peter & S^t.
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, 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 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

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 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 (_oï_) 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 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

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 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 dispatches     3
  Departure of the frigates                                 6
  Impossibility of going to Okotsk before sledges can
    be used                                                 7
  Details respecting the port of St. Peter and St. Paul     9
  Nature of the soil                                       15
  Climate                                                  16
  Rivers that have their mouth in the bay of Avatscha      18
  Departure from St. Peter and St. Paul's with M.
    Kasloff and M. Schmaleff                               19
  Arrival at Paratounka                                    22
  Description of this ostrog                               23
  Kamtschadale habitations                                 24
  Balagans                                                 25
  Isbas                                                    28
  Chief or judge of an ostrog                              31
  Arrival at Koriaki                                       37
  Arrival at the baths of Natchikin                        38
  Description of the baths                                 41
  Mode of analizing the hot waters                         46
  Result of our experiments                                50
  Mode of hunting a sable                                  55
  Departure from Natchikin, and details of our journey     59
  Arrival at Apatchin                                      65
  At Bolcheretsk, &c.                                      66
  Shipwreck of an Okotsk galiot                            68
  Hamlet of Tchekafki                                      70
  Mouth of the Bolchaïa-reka                               71
  Terrible hurricane                                       74
  Description of Bolcheretsk, where I stayed till 27
    January 1788                                           76
  Population                                               80
  Fraudulent commerce of the Cossacs and others            81
  Commerce in general                                      84
  Mode of living of the inhabitants and the Kamtschades
    in general                                             87
  Dress                                                 _ib._
  Food                                                     88
  Drink                                                    93
  Indigenes                                                94
  Reflections on the manners of the inhabitants            97
  Balls                                                   101
  Kamtschadale feasts and dances                          103
  Bear hunting                                            106
  Hunting                                                 110
  Fishing                                                 114
  Scarcity of horses                                      115
  Dogs                                                  _ib._
  Sledges                                                 118
  Diseases                                                127
  Medical sorcerers                                       130
  Strong constitution of the women                        133
  Remedy learned from the bear                            134
  Religion                                                135
  Churches                                                137
  Tributes                                                138
  Coins                                                   139
  Pay of the soldiers                                     140
  Government                                            _ib._
  Tribunals                                               143
  Successions                                             144
  Divorces                                              _ib._
  Punishments                                             145
  Idiom                                                   146
  Climate                                                 147
  My long stay at Bolcheretsk accounted for               150
  Departure from Bolcheretsk                              152
  Arrival at Apatchin                                     155
  Origin of the ill opinion the inhabitants of Kamtschatka
    have of the French                                    156
  Beniouski                                               157
  M. Schmaleff quits us                                   158
  Arrival at Malkin                                       159
  At Ganal                                                162
  At Pouschiné                                            164
  Isbas without chimneys                                _ib._
  Kamtschadale lamp                                       165
  Filthiness of the inhabitants                           166
  The roads obstructed with snow                          167
  Ostrog of Charom                                        168
  Arrival at Vereknei Kamtschatka                       _ib._
  Ivaschin, an unfortunate exile                          170
  Colony of peasants                                      172
  Ostrog of Kirgann                                       175
  Description of my dress                                 177
  Visit the baron Stenheil at Machoure                    180
  New details respecting the chamans or sorcerers         181
  Alarmed at a report of the Koriacs having revolted      188
  Nikoulka rivers                                         191
  Volcanos of Tolbatchina                                 192
  Early marriages                                         194
  I quit M. Kasloff to go to Nijenei Kamtschatka          195
  Ostrog of Ouchkoff                                      196
  Of Krestoff                                             197
  Volcano of Klutchefskaïa                                198
  Klutchefskaïa inhabited by Siberian peasants          _ib._
  Ostrog of Kamini                                        201
  Arrival at Nijenei                                    _ib._
  Entertainment given by the governor                     204
  Tribunals of Nijenei                                    207
  Account of nine Japanese whom I found there             208
  Departure from Nijenei Kamtschatka                      217
  I rejoin M. Kasloff                                     219
  Overtaken by a tempest, which obliges us to halt      _ib._
  Manner in which the Kamtschades made their bed on
    the snow                                              221
  Ostrog of Ozernoi                                       223
  Of Onké                                               _ib._
  Of Khalali                                              225
  Of Ivaschin                                             227
  Of Drannki                                              228
  Of Karagui                                              229
  Yourts described                                        230
  Singular dress of the children of Karagui               234
  Koriacs supply us with rein deer                        236
  Account of the two sorts of Koriacs                     237
  A celebrated female dancer                              240
  Fondness of the Kamtschadales for tobacco               243
  Departure from Karagui                                  246
  Manner of our halting in the open country               247
  Our dogs begin to suffer from famine                    248
  Soldier sent to Kaminoi for succour                     249
  Arrival at Gavenki                                      250
  Dispute between a sergeant of our company and two
    peasants of the village                               251
  The inhabitants refuse us fish                          254
  Departure from Gavenki                                  256
  Misled by our guide                                     257
  Our dogs die of hunger and fatigue                      258
  We are apprehhensive of being starved to death in a
    desert                                              _ib._
  Obliged to leave our equipage                           259
  New distresses                                        _ib._
  Arrival at Poustaretsk                                  262
  Fruitless attempts to find provisions                   263
  Melancholy spectacle exhibited by our dogs            _ib._
  Soldier sent to Kaminoi, stopt in his way by tempests   265
  Sergeant Kabechoff sets out for Kaminoi                 266
  Description of Poustaretsk and its environs             267
  Food upon which the inhabitants lived during our stay   268
  Their mode of catching rein deer                        269
  Occupations of the women                                270
  Method of smoking                                       271
  Dress                                                   272
  M. Schmaleff joins us                                   273
  Distressing answer from sergeant Kabechoff              274
  M. Kasloff receives news of his promotion               275
  I resolve to leave him                                  276
  Calm established among the Koriacs                      278
  M. Kasloff gives me his dispatches, and the passports
    necessary for my safety                               280
  My regret at leaving him                                281


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 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

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.
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 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
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
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.

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
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
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 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 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 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 allured 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 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
serjeants, and an equal number of soldiers.

The commanding officer of the port, probably out of respect to M.
Kasloff, his superior, joined our little troop, and we embarked upon
_baidars_[14] in order to cross the bay and reach Paratounka, where we
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
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
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

The Kamtschadales lodge in the first during summer, and retreat to the
last in winter. As it is thought desirable that 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 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

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 when in the midst of ice
and snow, that I had not to contend with the violence of whirlwinds and

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 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
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
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 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 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 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

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, 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

"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 will become
more or less red, in proportion to the quantity of fixed air it


"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 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

"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 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 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

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 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, 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 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 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

The 17, at break of day, we embarked upon these floats. Four
Kamtschadales, by means of long poles, conducted our rafts. 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 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 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

Different species of water-fowl, such as ducks, plovers, goëlands,
divers, and others, 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 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

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, 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 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
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, 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

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 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 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
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
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 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, 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,
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 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 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
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, 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 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 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, 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; 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

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

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, 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 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 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 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 virtues, which had been attempted to be sown, scarcely found a

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 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 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. 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 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.

[Illustration: (Music)
  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
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 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, 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
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;
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_, 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 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

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

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 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 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
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
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 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 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, 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, 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 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
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
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, 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 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

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 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

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 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
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 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
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 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 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 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 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

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 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 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, 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 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 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 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 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 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 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. 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

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 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, 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. 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 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 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 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

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 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, and
employed in various domestic occupations, in expectation of their

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, 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 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 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
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. 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 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 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 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 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
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

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 upon the Kamtschatka, and thirty-seven wersts from

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 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

All the Kamtschadales of this village, 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,
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 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 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 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 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 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

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 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

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. 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 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

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 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
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 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

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 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 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 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

Four wersts east of the church of Klutchefskaïa, is another _zaimka_,
or little hamlet, inhabited by Cossacs or labouring soldiers, 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, 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

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 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,
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 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 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 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
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 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; 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 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 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 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. 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 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 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

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 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 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 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. 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

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 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 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
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 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
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 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
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 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 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_ _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 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 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 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 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 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 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 happened that any of my countrymen visited their

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 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, 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,
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 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 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, 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 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, 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 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, 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, 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 oeconomy.

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, 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 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 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 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 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 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 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, 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

It seemed as if nature in anger conspired 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 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 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 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 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 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 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

[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

[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

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

[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

[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

[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

[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

[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

[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

[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

[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

[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
oeconomy, 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

[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.

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

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

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.

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