little villa in Barnes or Surbiton where the sight of the

 people involved | time:2023-12-06 06:13:28

Great expectations were entertained of the boat that was built here on the iron frame brought all the way from Harper's Ferry, Virginia. The frame was covered with dressed skins of buffalo and elk, the seams being coated with a composition of powdered charcoal and beeswax, in default of tar or pitch. This craft was well named the "Experiment," and a disappointing experiment it proved to be. Here is Captain Lewis' account of her failure:

little villa in Barnes or Surbiton where the sight of the

"The boat having now become sufficiently dry, we gave her a coat of the composition, which after a proper interval was repeated, and the next morning, Tuesday, July 9th, she was launched into the water, and swam perfectly well. The seats were then fixed and the oars fitted; but after we had loaded her, as well as the canoes, and were on the point of setting out, a violent wind caused the waves to wet the baggage, so that we were forced to unload the boats. The wind continued high until evening, when to our great disappointment we discovered that nearly all the composition had separated from the skins and left the seams perfectly exposed; so that the boat now leaked very much. To repair this misfortune without pitch is impossible, and as none of that article is to be procured, we therefore, however reluctantly, are obliged to abandon her, after having had so much labor in the construction. We now saw that the section of the boat covered with buffalo-skins on which hair had been left answered better than the elk-skins, and leaked but little; while that part which was covered with hair about one-eighth of an inch retained the composition perfectly, and remained sound and dry. From this we perceived that had we employed buffalo instead of elk skins, not singed them so closely as we did, and carefully avoided cutting the leather in sewing, the boat would have been sufficient even with the present composition; or had we singed instead of shaving the elk-skins, we might have succeeded. But we discovered our error too late; the buffalo had deserted us, and the travelling season was so fast advancing that we had no time to spare for experiments; therefore, finding that she could be no longer useful, she was sunk in the water, so as to soften the skins, and enable us the more easily to take her to pieces.

little villa in Barnes or Surbiton where the sight of the

"It now became necessary to provide other means for transporting the baggage which we had intended to stow in her. For this purpose we shall want two more canoes; but for many miles-- from below the mouth of the Musselshell River to this place-- we have not seen a single tree fit to be used in that way. The hunters, however, who have hitherto been sent after timber, mention that there is a low ground on the opposite side of the river, about eight miles above us by land, and more than twice that distance by water, in which we may probably find trees large enough for our purposes. Captain Clark determined, therefore, to set out by land for that place with ten of the best workmen, who would be occupied in building the canoes till the rest of the party, after taking the boat to pieces, and making the necessary deposits, should transport the baggage, and join them with the other six canoes.

little villa in Barnes or Surbiton where the sight of the

"He accordingly passed over to the opposite side of the river with his party next day, and proceeded on eight miles by land, the distance by water being twenty-three and three quarter miles. Here he found two cottonwood trees; but, on cutting them down, one proved to be hollow, split at the top in falling, and both were much damaged at the bottom. He searched the neighborhood, but could find none which would suit better, and therefore was obliged to make use of those which he had felled, shortening them in order to avoid the cracks, and supplying the deficiency by making them as wide as possible. They were equally at a loss for wood of which they might make handles for their axes, the eyes of which not being round, they were obliged to split the timber in such a manner that thirteen of the handles broke in the course of the day, though made of the best wood they could find for the purpose, which was the chokecherry.

"The rest of the party took the frame of the boat to pieces, deposited it in a cache or hole, with a draught of the country from Fort Mandan to this place, and also some other papers and small articles of less importance."

High winds prevented the party from making rapid progress, and notwithstanding the winds they were greatly troubled with mosquitoes. Lest the reader should think the explorers too sensitive on the subject of these troublesome pests, it should be said that only western travellers can realize the numbers and venom of the mosquitoes of that region. Early emigrants across the continent were so afflicted by these insects that the air at times seemed full of gray clouds of them. It was the custom of the wayfarers to build a "smudge," as it was called, a low, smouldering fire of green boughs and brush, the dense smoke from which (almost as annoying as the mosquitoes) would drive off their persecutors as long, as the victims sat in the smoke. The sleeping tent was usually cleared in this way before "turning in" at night, every opening of the canvas being afterwards closed.

Captain Lewis, on the thirteenth of July, followed Captain Clark up the river; crossing the stream to the north bank, with his six canoes and all his baggage, he overtook the other party on the same day and found them all engaged in boat-building.

"On his way he passed a very large Indian lodge, which was probably designed as a great council-house; but it differed in its construction from all that we had seen, lower down the Missouri or elsewhere. The form of it was a circle two hundred and sixteen feet in circumference at the base; it was composed of sixteen large cottonwood poles about fifty feet long and at their thicker ends, which touched the ground, about the size of a man's body. They were distributed at equal distances, except that one was omitted to the cast, probably for the entrance. From the circumference of this circle the poles converged toward the centre, where they were united and secured by large withes of willow-brush. There was no covering over this fabric, in the centre of which were the remains of a large fire, and around it the marks of about eighty leathern lodges. He also saw a number of turtle-doves, and some pigeons, of which he shot one, differing in no respect from the wild pigeon of the United States. . . . . . . . . .

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