News of expedition during winter

[Trade Journal]

Publication: The Telegrapher

New York, NY, United States
vol. 2, no. 31, p. 155-6, col. 2-1

From the Collins Overland Telegraph



[Correspondence of THE TELEGRAPHER.]

BULKLEY HOUSE, B. C., Dec. 26, 1866 [sic] 1865.


VERY little of interest has transpired in this department since the date of my last letter; but as we have an opportunity to send a mail out to-morrow, I will improve it by writing a few lines at least.

Although we are now experiencing the extreme severity of a northern winter, yet its effect upon our system is much less than might have been expected. The thermometer frequently ranges, for several days at a time, from 20 to 35 below zero, yet we have found by experience that less clothing is actually needed here than in the comparatively mild climate of the Atlantic States. In fact, my own clothing is precisely the same as I have worn through the whole of the past summer, with the addition merely of a pair of gloves, yet I am frequently exposed all day in the open air at the above temperature without discomfort.

Some of the effects of this extreme degree of cold are curious. You may be writing at the table, for instance, sitting so near a large fire as to be in danger of scorching your clothes, and you will suddenly discover that the ink does not flow freely from the pen. An examination discloses the fact that it is frozen solid! If you are looking through a telescope, and chance to touch the brass eyepiece to your skin, the sensation bears a remarkable resemblance to that caused by red-hot iron. The intense cold also, causes the trees, in many instances, to split asunder from top to bottom, with a loud report; and during some of the coldest nights it might easily be imagined that a furious battle was going on in the neighboring forest--the rapid succession of reports producing an effect precisely like the rattle of musketry and the sharp crack of the rifle.

The days at this season of the year are very short in these latitudes - corresponding to the length of the night during summer. It does not become light until after three in the afternoon. Owing to this fact, and also to the great depth of the snow - some three feet - very little work can be done out of doors during the months of December and January. In February, however, the days become longer, and a crust is formed upon the surface of the snow, which, by this time, has reached the depth of four or five feet. This is the most favorable season of the year for traveling in this region, as the underbrush and fallen timber are entirely covered up, and we shall improve it to the utmost by pushing several small exploring parties to the northward and toward the coast. If these expeditions prove successful, several interesting geographical problems will be solved, especially those relating to the sources of the Stekine, the Nasse, and the Finlay Rivers, on each of which large quantities of gold have been found, whose origin still remains an unrevealed mystery.

Dogs are made available for winter sledging in this country, whenever it is possible, to supply them with food, a matter of great difficulty. These animals are of a curious species, known as "coyotes," with sharp noses, pointed ears, and bushy tails, combined with a peculiarly savage disposition, and, in my opinion, they bear a much stronger resemblance to a wolf than to a dog, or any other known animal. A pack of them let loose on Broadway would, very likely, make a sensation, and a pretty lively stampede as well. I don't think they would hesitate a moment to devour their unlucky owner, on a sledging trip, if he failed to provide them with rations. At all events they make no scruple of eating each other in seasons of scarcity.

There is one circumstance in regard to the climate of British Columbia which is worthy of particular notice, and that is its extreme healthiness. To be sure the interminable rains of the spring and autumn, and the heat of the summer, which exceeds that of the tropics, can hardly be said to render it an agreeable place of residence, but, with the exception of rheumatism, sickness of all kinds is unknown in the country. The clearness and elasticity-if the term is allowable-of the atmosphere render it peculiarly favorable to the working of telegraphic circuits of great length. From the very low battery power which is required on the line between New-Westminster and Quesnelle, I have no doubt that the eight hundred miles between the former place and Bulkley Rouse can readily be operated without the aid of repeaters. Should this prove to be the case in the more northern regions also, which there is every reason to expect, a great economy will be effected in the expense of working the lines when completed. It is a fact well known to all practical telegraphers, that intense cold is especially favorable to the working of the lines.

Even in this "wilderness drear" we have not forgotten to celebrate the Christmas holidays with the usual festivities and without any lack of enthusiasm and enjoyment. Nor were the loved ones at home forgotten. Many a kind thought and heartful prayer for the welfare of the friends we have left behind, went southward with the flying clouds on this day of happy memories. That essential part of the festival - the Christmas dinner - was by no mean wanting. To be sure the traditional roast goose or roast turkey were not forthcoming, but their place was made good by a luxury - which I venture to say is almost unknown to your readers - a roast beaver, which occupied the place of honor on the festive board. But all this will cease to be of interest to your readers by the time it reaches you; so I will close by wishing a happy New-Year, long life and uninterrupted prosperity to THE TELEGRAPHER, its editor, and its readers.



Keywords:Collins Overland Telegraph
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:December 18, 2005 by: Elton Gish;