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cumnavigated the globe. These French frigates were the first to cruise off Yakutat bay. The last vessel to navigate those waters was the United States revenue steamer Corwin, which took our little exploring party on board in September, 1890, and then steamed northward to the ice-cliffs at the head of Disenchantment bay. So far as I am aware, the Corwin is the only vessel that has floated on the waters of that inlet north of Haenke island. One hundred years has made a revolution in naval architecture, but has left this portion of the Alaska coast still unexplored.
La Pérouse sailed northward from the Sandwich islands, and first saw land, which proved to be a portion of the St. Elias range, on June 23. At first the shore was obscured by fog, which, as stated in the narrative of the voyage, “ suddenly disappearing, all at once disclosed to us a long chain of mountains covered with snow, which, if the weather had been clear, we would have been able to have seen thirty leagues farther off. We discovered Bering's Mount Saint Elias, the summit of which appeared above the clouds.”'
The first view of the land is described as not awakening the feelings of joy which usually accompany the first view of an unknown shore after a long voyage. To quote the navigator's own words:
“ Those immense heaps of snow, which covered a barren land without trees, were far from agreeable to our view. The mountains appeared a little remote from the sea, which broke against a bold and level land, elevated about a hundred and fifty or two hundred fathoms. This black rock, which appeared as if calcined by fire, destitute of all verdure, formed a striking contrast to the whiteness of the snow, which was perceptible through the clouds; it served as the base to a long ridge of mountains, which appeared to stretch fifteen leagues from east to west. At first we thought ourselves very near it, the summit of the mountains appeared to be just over our heads, and the snow cast forth a brightness calculated to deceive eyes not accustomed to it; but in proportion as we advanced we perceived in front of the high ground hillocks covered with trees, which we took for islands."
After some delay, on account of foggy weather, an officer was despatched to the newly discovered land; but on returning he reported that there was no suitable anchorage to be found. It is difficult at this time to understand the reason for this adverse report, unless a landing was attempted on the western side of Yakutat bay, where there are no harbors.
The name “ Baie de Monti” was given to the inlet in honor of De Monti, the officer who first landed. The location of this bay, as described in the narrative and indicated on the map accompanying the report of the voyage, shows that it corresponds with the Yakutat bay of modern maps.
Observations made at this time by M. Dagelet, the astronomer of the expedition, determined the elevation of Mount St. Elias to be 1,980 toises. Considering the toise as equivalent to 6.39459 English feet, this measurement places the elevation of the mountain at 12,660 feet. What method was used in making this measurement is not recorded, and we have therefore no means of deciding the degree of confidence to be placed in it.
After failing to find an anchorage at Yakutat bay, La Pérouse sailed eastward, and on June 29 discovered another bay, which he supposed to be the inlet named “Bering's bay” by Captain Cook. It will be remembered that Cook's “Bering's bay” is Yakutat bay as now known. It is evident that the French navigator made an error in his identification, as the inlet designated as Bering's bay on his chart corresponds with that now known as Dry bay. On the maps referred to, a stream is represented as emptying into the head of this bay and rising a long distance north ward; this is evidently Alsek river, the existence of which was for a long time doubted, but has recently been established beyond all question.
Finding it impossible to enter Dry bay, La Pérouse continued eastward and discovered Lituya bay, as now known, but which he named “ Port des Francais." Here his ships anchored, after experiencing great difficulty in entering the harbor, and remained for many days, during which trade was carried on with the Indians, while surveys were made of the adjacent shores.
Although the actual discovery of Yakutat bay is to be credited to the French, the first exploration of its shores was made by an English captain. On May 23, 1787, Captain George Dixon anchored his vessel, the Queen Charlotte, within the shelter of its southeastern cape, and, in honor of Constance John Phipps, Lord Mulgrave, named the haven there discovered “Port Mul
* The Voyage around the World; but more particularly to the Northwest Coast of America. Performed in 1788–1789, in the King George and Queen Charlotte; Captains Portlock and Dixon : 4°, London, 1789.
NAT GHOG MAG
VOL. III, 1801. PL. 3.
60 MILES Scale MAP OF THE ST. ELIAS REGION, AFTER LA PĒROUSE.
The harbor is described in the narrative of Dixon's voyage as being "entirely surrounded by low, flat islands, where scarcely any snow could be seen, and well sheltered from any winds whatever."
The voyage of the Queen Charlotte was not made for the purpose of increasing geographic knowledge, but with a commercial object. Trade was at once opened with the natives, but resulted less favorably than was desired, as only sixteen sea-otter skins and a few less valuable furs were secured.
On the chart accompanying the narrative of Dixon's voyage the inlet now known as Yakutat bay is named "Admiralty bay."
A survey of the adjacent shores and inlets was made, and the astronomical position of the anchorage was approximately determined. The map resulting from these surveys, the first ever made of any portion of Yakutat bay, is reproduced on a reduced scale as plate 4.
At the time of Dixon's voyage, the inhabitants numbered about seventy, including men, women, and children, and were thus described:
“They are of about middle size, their limbs straight and well shaped, but, like the rest of the inhabitants we have seen on the coast, are particularly fond of painting their faces with a variety of colors, so that it is not any easy matter to discover their real complexion.”
An amusing instance is narrated of inducing a woman to wash her face, when it was discovered that,
“Her countenance had all the cheerful glow of an English milk maid, and the healthy red which flushed her cheeks was even beautifully contrasted with the whiteness of her neck; her eyes were black and sparkling; her eyebrows the same color, and most beautifully arched; her forehead so remarkably clear that the transparent veins were seen meandering even in their minutest branches—in short, she was what would be reckoned as handsome even in England. The symmetry of her features, however, was marred, at least in the eyes of her English admirer, by the habit of wearing a labret in the slit of her lower lip."
During our recent visit to Port Mulgrave we did not find the native women answering to the glowing description of the voyager who discovered the harbor; but this may be owing to the fact that we did not prevail upon any of them to wash their faces.
One other discrepancy must be noted between the records of Dixon's voyage and my own observations, made one hundred 10-NAT. GEOG. MAG., VOL. III, 1891.