Surviving Hayes’ Arctic Boat Journey, Part 2 of 2: Inuk Kalutunah

Posted by on Jun 30, 2013 in Persons Represented | No Comments

Page 318 photoIn the brig Advance, Elisha Kent Kane, MD led the Second Grinnell Expedition to search for Sir John Franklin and his men. During August, 1854 with the ship fixed in ice, Kane sent Isaac I. Hayes, MD south from Rensselaer Harbor to reach civilization to arrange rescue.

An Angekok to his tribe, the Inuk Kalutunah was described by Dr. Hayes as “sturdy, good-natured, and voluble.” He had a natural curiosity about the outside world (Upernavik) and was interested in many of the possessions of Hayes and his party, the “kabulenet” or white men.  Generally, Hayes’ relationship with Kalutunah and the Inuit was amicable, that is bartering food (meat and blubber) for simple supplies, such as wood, needles, and/or knives. Out of this relationship, it seemed that Hayes and his Inuit friend learned a great deal about each other, both in language and customs.

Fresh meat, as opposed to stone-moss soup, was necessary for the explorers’ survival.  Without sizeable amounts of Inuit-provided bear, seal, and/or walrus meat, they would have died of disease and/or starvation, entombed in their rock-crevice hut in sub-zero Arctic temperatures.

There was a dark, tenuous side, however, regarding the relationship of Dr. Hayes and the Inuit. At times, they were dishonest, withheld best cuts of meat, and eyed their possession with envy.  Ever calculating weakness, the Inuit refused to sell, loan, or otherwise hire their dog and sledges for Hayes and party to return to the brig Advance. If Hayes and his men died, the Inuit could lay claim to all their possessions. Fortunately the “naturally shrewd” Petersen and argus-eyed Hayes saw through their devious plans and eventually gained the upper hand to secure dogs and supplies for the three-hundred mile trek back to the Advance and to Dr. Kane. Once reunited, the true Arctic argosy began – the eighty-three day push south to Upernavik.

Frances Hennessey has been fascinated with Arctic exploration for some time, and has concentrated on the writings of Isaac I. Hayes, MD. Frances writes informally on Arctic-related topics, and writes poetry, some of which are vignettes of her reading and personal experiences. She also tweets @ArcticBoat1854 and has a poetry blog www.oceanic-visions.com

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