Selasa, 9 September 2008

petnatzet copla ~ Siber-Alaskan Lynx~ mal du mer


Chai Samovar of Turkey, Greece, Central Asia and Russia traditions

In the service of the Russo-American Telegraph Company that attempted to carry out the plans of Major Collins to make an electric connection between Europe and the United States by way of Asia and Bering's Straits in the 1860's.

Even varied by glimpses of the Mexican coast, the occasional appearance of a whale with its column of water thrown high into the air, and the sportive action of schools of porpoises which is constantly met with.

The cosmopolitan character of San Francisco is the first thing that impresses a visitor. Almost from one stand-point he may see the church, the synagogue, and the pagoda. The mosque is by no means impossible in the future. During my stay in California, I visited the principal gold, copper, and quicksilver mines in the state, not omitting the famous or infamous Mariposa tract.

The day before we came in sight of land, my dog repeatedly placed his fore feet upon the rail and sniffed the wind blowing from the coast. His inhalations were long and earnest, like those of a tobacco smoking Comanche. In her previous voyage the Wright carried a mastiff answering to the name of Rover. The colonel said that whenever they approached land, though long before it was in sight, Rover would put his paws on the bulwarks and direct his nose toward the shore. His demonstrations were invariably accurate, and showed him to possess the instinct of a pilot, whatever his lack of training. (Malayo-Polynesians had dogs on their seagoing conquests.) Salmon form the principal food of the Kamchadales and their dogs. The fishing season in Avatcha Bay lasts about six weeks, and at its close the salmon leave the bay and ascend the streams, where they are caught by the interior natives. In the bay they are taken in seines dragged along the shore, and the number of fish caught annually is almost beyond computation.

The "samovar" or tea-urn is an indispensable article in a Russian household, and is found in nearly every dwelling from the Baltic to Bering's Sea. "Samovar" comes from two Greek words, meaning 'to boil itself.' The article is nothing but a portable furnace; a brazen urn with a cylinder two or three inches in diameter passing through it from top to bottom.

Mr. Fluger had been only two years in Kamchatka, and was doing a miscellaneous business. Boardman's agent confined himself to the fur trade, but Fluger was up to anything. He salted salmon for market, sent a schooner every year into the Arctic Ocean for walrus teeth and mammoth tusks, bought furs, sold goods, kept a dog team, was attentive to the ladies, and would have run for Congress had it been possible. He had in his store about half a cord of walrus teeth piled against a back entrance like stove wood. Phillipeus was a roving blade. He kept an agent at Petropavlovsk and came there in person once a year. In February he left St. Petersburg for London, whence he took the Red Sea route to Japan. There he chartered a brig to visit Kamchatka and land him at Ayan, on the Ohotsk Sea. From Ayan he went to Yakutsk, and from that place through Irkutsk to St. Petersburg.

There is a story of a man in California who followed the track of a grizzly bear a day and a half. He abandoned it because, as he explained, "it was getting a little too fresh." There is a story of a traveler who paid his hotel bill in a country town in Minnesota and received a beaver skin in change. The landlord explained that it was legal tender for a dollar. Concealing this novel cash under his coat, the traveler sauntered into a neighboring store. "Is it true," he asked carelessly, "that a beaver skin is legal tender for a dollar?" "Yes, sir," said the merchant; "anybody will take it." "Will you be so kind, then," was the traveler's request, "as to give me change for a dollar bill?" "Certainly," answered the merchant, taking the beaver skin and returning four muskrat skins, current at twenty-five cents each.

The sable is the principal fur sought by the merchants in Kamchatka, or trapped by the natives. Dogs are fed almost entirely upon fish. They receive their rations daily at sunset, and it is always desirable that each driver should feed his own team. The day before starting on a journey, the dog receives a half ration only, and he is kept on this slender diet as long as the journey lasts.

A new company was formed and chartered in July, 1779, under the title of the Russian-American Company, with its chief office in St. Petersburg, where the Directors formed a kind of high court of appeal. It was authorized to explore and place under control of the crown all the territories of North-Western America not belonging to any other government. It was required to deal kindly with the natives, and endeavor to convert them to the religion of the empire. It had the
administration of the country and a commercial monopoly through its whole extent. All other merchants were to be excluded, no matter what their nationality. At one time so great was the jealousy of the Company's officers that no foreign ship was allowed within twenty miles of the coast.

The Imperial Government required that the chief officer of the company should be commissioned in the service of the crown, and detailed to the control of the American Territory. His residence was at Sitka, to which the principal post was removed from Kodiak. In the early history of the Company there were many encounters with the natives, the severest battle taking place on the present site of Sitka. The natives had a fort there, and were only driven from it after a long and obstinate fight. The first colony that settled at Sitka was driven away, and all traces of the Russian occupation were destroyed. After a few years of conflict, peace was declared, and trade became prosperous. The Company occupied Russian America and the Aleutian Islands, and pushed its traffic to the Arctic Ocean. It established posts on the Kurile Islands, in Kamchatka, and along the coast of the Ohotsk Sea. It built churches, employed priests, and was quite successful in converting the natives to Christianity.

For many years the Company prospered. In 1812 it founded the colony of Ross, on the coast of California, and a few years later prepared to dispute the right of the Spanish Governor to occupy that region. The natives were everywhere peaceable, and the dividends satisfied the stockholders. The slaughter of the fur-bearing animals was injudiciously conducted, and led to a great decrease of revenue.

When our Secretary of State purchased the Emperor's title to the western coast of America, there were various opinions respecting the sagacity of the transaction. No one could say what was the intrinsic value of the country, either actual or prospective. The Company never gave much attention to scientific matters. Veins of copper have been found near the Yukon, but so far none that would pay for developing.

Building stone is abundant, and so is ice. Neither is of much value in commerce. The fur trade was the chief source of the Company's revenue. The principal fur-bearing animals are the otter, seal, beaver, marten, mink, fox, and a few others. There is a little trade in walrus teeth, mammoth tusks, whalebone, and oil. The rivers abound in fish, of which large quantities are annually salted and sent to the Pacific markets. The fisheries along the coast are valuable and of the same character as those on the banks of Newfoundland.

An hour after dropping the Danzig we stopped our engines and prepared to run under sail. The whole crew was called on deck to hoist out the screw, a mass of copper weighing twenty-five thousand pounds, and set in a frame raised or lowered like a window sash. With strong ropes and the power of three hundred men, the frame and its contents were lifted out of water, and the Variag became a sailing ship. The Russian government is more economical than our own in running ships of war.

What a hindrance to a traveler and literal man of the world is this confusion of tongues! There is no human being who can make himself verbally understood everywhere on this little globe. In the Russian empire alone there are more than a hundred spoken languages and dialects.

Major Abasa and the Ispravnik of Ghijiga escorted us from the landing to their quarters, where we soon warmed ourselves with hot tea, and I took opportunity and a couple of bearskins and went to sleep. Late in the day we had a dinner of pea soup, reindeer meat, and berry pudding. The deer's flesh was sweet and tender, with a flavor like that of the American elk.

In this part of Siberia there are many wide plains (_tundras_) covered with moss and destitute of trees. The blueberry grows there, but is less abundant than the "maroska," a berry that I never saw in America. It is yellow when ripe, has an acid flavor, and resembles the raspberry in shape and size. We ate the maroska in as many forms as it could be prepared, and they told us that it grew in Scotland, Scandinavia, and Northern Russia.

[At lunch, I had just been reading a historical novel about an American family from San Francisco which moved to Alaska during the Russian fur trade and discovered gold, that's why I included this article here, it provided some background.]

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