The History of Greenland, containing a description of the country and its inhabitants, and of the mission carried on for above thirty years by the Unitas Fratrum at
New Herrnhuth in that country. By David Crantz. [Translated from the High Dutch, in 2 volumes 8vo.]
David Crantz, the author of this work, is a Moravian or Herrnhuther, and was deputed by the society in 1759, to go to Greenland, and stay there a year, that he might be able to give a history of the mission, and a description of the country and its inhabitants.
He set out from Neuwied on the Rhine in March 1761, took shipping at Copenhagen for Davis's Straits on the 17th of May, and arrived at New Herrnhuth in Greenland on the first of August following.
It is necessary that the word Herrnhuth should be explained. Nicholas Lewis, Count of Zinzendorf, having, while he was yet a lad, conceived a design of forming a new religious sect, put his project in execution as soon as he came of age, which was in the year 1721.
He purchased an estate in Berthelsdorf in Upper Lusatia, where he settled himself with some persons whom he had made proselytes to his opinions, and sent out one
Christian David, a carpenter, to propagate the new faith: David in a short time returned with some obscure Moravians whom he had converted from Popery, and they were directed to
build a house in a wood about half a league from the village. In this house their first
religious assembly was held on Saint Martin's day, 1722; and other persons from Moravia continually taking shelter under the protection of the Count, the house in the wood was quickly surrounded by others, and the inhabitants in a few years amounted to near one
thousand. Between this wood and the town or village, is an hill called Huthberg, that is, Town-guard-hill; this gave occasion to the colonists to call themselves Huth des Herrn, and afterwards Hurrnhuth, that is the guard or protection of the Lord.
Encouraged by the success of David the Carpenter, the Count himself travelled all over Europe, and was twice in America; he also sent out fellow-labourers throughout the world, who have planted Hurrnhuthers in Pensylvania, at the Cape of Good Hope, at China, in Denmark, the United Provinces, Westervia, all parts of the British dominions, and in Greenland.
The Hurrnhuth mission to Greenland was first set on foot in the year 1733, and the first missionaries were Christian David, and Matthew and Christian Slack, two brothers. An historical account of the success of these people, and others who followed them from time to time on the same errand, will afford but little entertainment
to our readers; many journals of the same kind have been published among us, and he that has read one, may be said to have read all, for they differ little from each other, except in names and dates. It must, however, in justice to these poor people, be observed, that
there can be no reason to doubt the piety or sincerity of a man who goes to propagate Christianity in Greenland, a region of cold, gloom, and desolation, where nature has
scattered no herbage, and art can produce no grain; where there are neither flocks nor herds, nor woods nor fields; where almost the whole country is a naked rock of ice or
snow, and the inhabitants are savages, deplorably wretched, and grossly ignorant, living in hovels no better than the dens of wild beasts, and subsisting upon the oil and flesh of whales and seals, frequently in a state of putrefaction.
The sincerity that makes a missionary to such a country, certainly gives authority to his relation, with respect to those objects at least, concerning which enthusiasm will not render him liable to error.
Mr. Crantz has consulted all the accounts of Greenland that he could procure, particularly Anderson's relation of Iceland and Greenland, and a natural history of Greenland by bishop Egede, who was sent thither as a missionary by the court of Denmark, before there were any Herrnhuthers in the world; he has supplied defects, retrenched superfluities, and corrected mistakes.
Greenland is the remotest tract of land in the north. It lies between Europe and America, and is commonly ranked by geographers among the northern countries that are still unknown. It reaches from the southernmost point of Cape Farewell, and Statenhook, in the 59th degree, on the right side north-eastward, towards Spitzberg, to the 80th degree; and on the left side opposite to North America, north-west and north, till about the 78th degree. So far the coasts have been discovered.
Whether it is an island, or contiguous with fame other land, has
not yet been decided, as no ship has yet penetrated to the uttermost end towards the north, on account of the ice. The conjecture of its joining on the east with Spitzberg, Nova-Zembla, and Tartary, is pretty well, if not entirely confuted, by the new discoveries of the Dutch and Russians. It might be supposed with more probability, that the north—west side borders on America; because, in the first place, Davis's straits, or rather Baffin's
Bay, grows narrower and narrower towards the 78th degree north. Secondly, because the coast, which in other places is very high towards the sea, grows lower and lower northward. Thirdly, the tide, which at Statenhook, nay even as far up as Cockin's Sound, in the 65th deg. rises 18 feet at the new and full moon, so decreases in the north above Disko, that in the 70th deg. it does not rise much above 8 feet, and probably loses itself entirely at last *.
To this may be subjoined, Fourthly, The relation of the Greenlanders (which, however, cannot be much depended upon,) namely, that the Strait contracts itself to narrow at last, that they can go on the ice so near to the other side, as to be able to call over to the inhabitants, and that they can strike a fish from both sides at once; but that there runs
such a strong current from the north into the strait,that they cannot come to one another.
* See Ellis' voyages to Hudson's Bay, for the discovery of the north-west passage, p. 50 to 54. For this reason the English capt. Baffin gave up all hopes of finding a passage into the south sea thro Davis's Straits, and consequently concluded that Greenland joins with America.
The name Greenland was given to the east side of this land several
hundred years ago, by the Norway-men and Icelanders, who first discovered it; and the reason of the appellation or epithet Green-land was, because that it looked
greener than Iceland. But this east-side, which is commonly called Old or Lost Greenland, is now almost totally unknown, because ships cannot navigate this coast, on account of the great quantities of floating ice.
Some are of opinion, that Old Greenland, so pompously described by the Iceland authors as adorned with churches and villages, is not now to be found; and therefore are curious to know if we cannot gather some account of it from the Greenlanders. But the west side may with the same propriety be called old Greenland, for the old Norwegians had houses and churches there too, plain traces of which are still to be found; and the soil produces, now at least, as much as the east side, which was so famous, and is so much fought for.
When sailors speak of Greenland, they generally mean the Spitzberg islands above Lapland, between the 75th and 80th deg. together with the east coast of
Greenland, lying opposite to them; and if they were told of a mission in Greenland, they would look upon it as a fiction, because they know that no men live in those countries. They call the west side, which is now again inhabited by Europeans from the 62d to the 71st degree Davis's Straits, from that great gulf which separates Greenland from America. These Straits were first discovered by an Englishman, John Davis, in the year 1585, in his attempt to find a north-west passage - they have since been frequently traversed for the sake of the whale-fishery by several nations, particularly by the Dutch, who have also given us the best charts of them. What is properly called Davis's Straits, is only the space which reaches between Cape Walsingham on James's island in North America, and the South-bay in Greenland, from the 67th to the 71st deg. above Disko island, and is about 60 leagues broad; for lower south there is a wide sea between Greenland and Terra Labrador. But the sailors chuse to call the whole compass of water on the west side by this name.
The west side is high, rocky, barren land; which rears its head, in most places, close to the sea, in lofty mountains, and inaccessible cliffs, and is seen 40 leagues at sea. All these, except some excessive steep and slippery rocks, are constantly covered with ice and snow, which has also in length of time filled all the elevated plains, and many vallies, and probably increases from year to year. Those rocks and cliffs that are bare of snow, look at a distance of a dark brown colour, and appear to be quite naked; but, when approached, are found to be interspersed with many veins of variegated coloured stone, here and there spread over with a little earth and turf, and a scanty portion of grass and heath; and in the valleys, where there are many little brooks and
ponds, some small shrubs are also found.
The coast is dented with many bays and creeks, that enter far into the lnml; and it is lined with innumerable great and small islands, and both visible and sunken rocks.
Within land there are no inhabitants, and on the coast, but very few, most of the Greenlanders live from Statenhook to the 62d degree; or, as the inhabitants say, in the south: but no Europeans live there, and therefore these parts are but little known to us.
In the year 1730, the inhabitants of Greenland were computed to be 30,090; in 1746, 20,000; and are now supposed to be reduced to 10,000.
The Greenlanders in Disko say, that the country is inhabited for
200 leagues upward, that is, as far as the 78th deg. yet very thinly; for tho' there is plenty of edder—fowls, white bears, seals, and whales, yet nobody likes to live there long, because of the tedious melancholy winter—nights. They had also a want of wood and iron, which they procured in barter from the southlanders for unicorn horn. The land was nothing but dreary rock and ice, and did not produce so much grass as they used in their
shoes, therefore they bartered for grass too. Instead of making their houses with wood-work and turf, they make them with the horn of unicorn-sish, clay, and seal-skins. The land stretches north-west towards America, and is fenced with many islands. Here and there, they say, are stones standing erect. with arms extended, like the guide posts in our country. Fear has also persuaded them, that there stands a great Kablunak, or European, on a certain hill, to whom they offer a piece of whale-bone when they pass by.
In the Dutch maps of Davis's straits, there are three places marked as passages to the east, Forbisher's Straits, the straits of Bear-sound, and Ice bay in Disko: but the place pretended by Forbisher to have been a strait, is now a bay, wholly blockaded with ice, and is called Sermeliarsoh, the great ice bay; and as several northern navigators have fought Forbisher's Straits in vain so long ago as the year 173, and as no mention is made of them by the Icelanders in their description of old Greenland, there is great reason to suspect that Forbisher never discovered or failed through any such strait *.
* Martin Forbisher was sent out to make discoveries by Queen Elizabeth in 1576.
The sea about this dreary country is filled with floating mountains of ice of monstrous magnitude and form: some look like a church, or a castle with square or
pointed turrets, others like ships in full sail, and others like islands with plains, valleys, and hillsm which often rise more than 200 yards above the level of the sea.
This ice is for the most part clear and transparent as glass, of a pale, green colour, and in some places of a sky-blue; some appear grey, and some black; but if these are examined, they are found to contain earth-stones and brush-wood. It is remarkable also that this ice is not salt, but fresh; it is therefore conjectured to be formed on the shores and promontories of Tartary, Nova Zembla, and Spitzberg, of springs and snow, and to crumble away at the bottom, and grow still heavier at the top, till at length it falls into the sea; some of it may also come from the many large rivers which flow out of Great Tartary into the frozen sea.
To the same cause that brings this ice, the Greenlanders are indebted for all the wood they have, for their whole country does not produce a tree. The drift wood
that comes with this floating ice consists of willow, alder, birch, larch and fir: it is supposed to come from Siberia, or Asiatic Tartary, where trees are washed from the mountains, by rains, and floods, which frequently carry away considerable pieces of land with the trees growing upon them; these falling into the rivers are carried out to sea, and driven by the easterly current with the floating ice towards the pole, where the northerly current from Spitzberg meets it, and conducts it between Iceland and Greenland, to the east side round Statenhook, into Davis's Straits, and up to the 65th degree of north latitude.
In latitude 61 or 62, the variation of the needle is 28 degrees west, and in Baffin's Bay it is 56, the greatest variation that has been observed any where.
It is remarkable that the wells or springs in the land rise and fall in proportion to the wax and wane of the moon; and in winter when all is covered with ice and snow, new unknown fountains of water rise at spring-tide, and disappear again, in places where/there is commonly no water, and which are elevated far above the level of the
As this country is covered in most places with everlasting ice and snow, it is easy to imagine, that it must be very cold. In those places where the inhabitants enjoy the visits of the sun, for an hour or two in a day, in winter, the cold is bearable; though even there strong liqours will freeze out of the warm rooms, nay sometimes in them. But where the sun entirely forsakes the horizon, while people are drinking tea, the emptied cup, when deposited, will freeze to the table. Mr. Paul Egede, in his journal of Jan. 1738, records the following amazing effects of the cold at Disko. "The ice and hoar-frost reach thro' the chimney to the stove's mouth, without being thawed by the fire in the day-time. Over the chimney is an arch of frost with little holes, through which the smoke discharges itself. The door and walls are as if they were plastered over with the frost, and, which is scarce credible, beds are often frozen to the bedstead. The linen is frozen in the drawers. The upper elder-down-bed and the pillows are quite stiff with frost an inch thick from the breath. The flesh-barrels must be hewn in pieces to get out the meat: when it is thawed in snow-water, and set over the fire, the outside is boiled sufficiently before the inside can be pierced with a knife."
The most severe cold sets in, as every where, after the new year, and is so piercing in February and March, that the stones split in twain, and the sea reeks like an oven, especially in the bays. When one boils water, it first freezes over the fire, till at length the heat gains the mastery. The frost then proceeds and paves a path of ice
over the fluid sea between the islands, and in the confined coves and inlets. At such times the Greenlanders are almost starved with hunger, as the cold and ice lay an embargo on their excursions for food.
We may fix the limits of their summer from the beginning of May to the end of September: for during these five months the natives encamp in tents. Yet the ground
is not mellowed by a thorough thaw till June, and then only on the surface; and till then it does not quite leave off snowing. In August it begins to snow again; but it seldom lasts on the ground for a winter carpet till October. In many years the snow lies from September to June, blows in drifts in some places several fathoms high, and soon freezes so hard that people can walk over it in snow-shoes; and then it must continue raining
for several days before it melts.
In the longest summer-days it is so hot, says Mr. Crantz, that we are obliged to throw off the warmer garments, especially in the bays and valleys, where the sun-beams concentre, and the fogs and winds from the sea are excluded. The sea-water, that remains behind in the basons of the rocks at the recess of the tide, coagulates by the
power of the sun to a beautiful white salt. Nay it is sometimes so hot, in serene weather and clear sun-shine, upon the open sea, that the pitch melts on the ships sides. Yet we can never have a perfect enjoyment of the Greenland warmth, partly on account of the chilling air emitted from the islands of ice, which is so penetrating in the evening that we are glad to creep into our furs again, and can often bear them double; and partly on account of the fogs that prevail on the coast almost every day from April to August, and are frequently so thick that we cannot see a ship's length before us. Sometimes the fog is so low that it can scarce be distinguished from the water, but then the mountains and upper regions are seen so much the clearer. The most agreeable and settled weather is in autumn, but then its duration must be transient, and it is interrupted with sharp night-
When the mist in the cold air congeals to hoar-frost, the subtile icy spicula may be discerned like fine needles or glittering atoms, and they overspread the water with a concretion that appears like that of a spider's web.
In general there is a wholesome, pure, light air here, in which a person may remain brisk and healthy, if he has but warm garments, eats moderately, and has sufficient bodily exercise. Therefore we seldom hear of the diseases common in Europe, except the scurvy, or boils, and some disorders in the breast and eyes, which may proceed partly from the unwholesome Greenland diet, and partly from the cold and the dazzling of the snow; but even these are not very common.
In summer there is no night at all in this country; for above the 66th deg. the sun does not set in the longest days, and at Good Hope, which is in the 64th deg.
it does not go down till 10 minutes after ten o'clock, and 50 minutes after one it rises again, so that it only stays three hours and 40 minutes beneath the horizon. In June and July it is so light here all night long that a person may read or write the smallest characters in a room without a candle, and in June one may see the tops of the mountains painted with the rays of the sun all the night. This is of great benefit to the Greenlanders, who, in their short summer, can hunt and fish all the night through; and also to the sailors, who would otherwise run great hazards from the quantities of ice.
Where the sun never sets in the midst of the summer, it, however, does not shine with such lustre at night as at noon, but loses its splendor, and shines like a very bright moon, which a person may look at without being dazzled. On the other hand, the winter-nights are so much the longer, and in Disko-creek the face of the sun is never seen above the horizon
from Nov. 30. to Jan. 12. During that period the inhabitants enjoy but a moderate twilight, which arises from the repercussion of the sun-beams on the summits of the highest hills, and on the cold damps in the atmosphere. And yet there are never such quite dark nights here, as there are in other countries. For the moon and the stars yield such a bright repercussion in the clear, cold air from the quantities of snow and ice, that
people can do very well out of doors without a lantern, and can see plainly to read print of a middle size. And in the shortest days sometimes the moon never goes down, as on the other hand we see little of it in summer, and never see the stars from May to August. And even if the moon does not shine in the winter, the northern lights, with their sportive streams of variegated colours, often supply its place still better. Of late years, people have seen balls of fire in the winter falling down the sky. On my voyage back, says Mr. Crantz, I saw a rainbow, which instead of its usual variegated gaiety, was only white with a pale grey stripe. But nothing more surprized me, or entertained my fancy more, than the
appearance of some islands that lie four leagues west of Good Hope, called Kookoernen, which presented a quite different form than what they have naturally. We not only saw them far greater, as through a magnifying, perspective glass, and plainly descried all the stones, and the furrows filled with ice, as if we stood close by; but when that had lasted a while, they all looked as if they were but one contiguous land, and represented a wood or tall cut hedge. Then the scene shifts, and shows the appearance of all sorts of curious figures, as ships with sails, streamers and flags, antique, elevated castles, with decayed turrets, storks nests, and a hundred such things, which at length retire aloft or distant, and then vanish.
At such times the air is quite serene and clear, but yet compressed with subtile vapours, as it is in very hot weather; and according to my opinion, when those vapours are ranged at a proper distance between the eye and the islands, the objeft appears much larger, as it would through a convex glass; and commonly a couple of hours afterwards a gentle west-wind and a visible mist follows, which puts an end to this lusus naturae *.
* I have observed something like this at Bern and Neufchatel, of the Glaetshers, lying towards the south. When these mountains appear nearer, plainer, and larger than usual, the countryman looks for rain to follow, which commonly makes good his expectation the next day. And the Tartars at the mouth af the river Jenisei, in Siberia, look upon a magnified appearance of the islands as the presage of a storm. Gmelin's Journey, P. III. p. 129.
It is remarkable, that, although no trees grow in this country, yet
turf is found in some fenny places that contains rotten wood, interspersed with roots, grass, moss, and bones.
The valleys produce no herbage but moss and sour moor grass. The Europeans have often sown barley and oats, but tho' the stalk shoots, they never ear. A few hardy shrubs are thinly scattered here and there, and three sorts of willow, but they creep upon the ground like broom-bushes. The Greenlanders report as a wonder not hastily to be credited, that in the southern parts of their country, there are willows, birches, and alders, twice as high as a man, and as thick as a man's leg.
The quadrupeds of this country are hares, rein-deers, foxes, bears,
and dogs; the birds are, the great dark-brown eagle, which, when its wings are extended, measures 8 feet from point to point, grey and spotted falcons, owls, ravens, rypons or northern partridges, which in summer are grey, and in winter white, a kind of snipe, linnets, and a few other small birds. Europeans have from time to time brought poultry and pigeons, but they are too expensive in this country to be kept. Of sea-fowl the Greenlanders have great variety, the wild grey goose, the wild duck, the soland goose, the sea pheasant, a kind of coot, the elder fowl or black duck, which yields the fine down called elder down, the penguin, the diver, the gull, and many others.
The sea affords whales and seals in great plenty, with some other fish, particularly a small herring called Angmarset, the toad—fish, cod, and halibut. There are many relations extant of monsters of an astonishing magnitude in these seas, particularly the sea serpent and kraken: but none are credibly attested, except the following, by Capt. Paul Egede, probably brother to the Danish missionary, who would scarcely have published a falshood, in which the whole ship's crew could have detected him. In his continuation of his account of Greenland is the following paragraph. "On the 6th of July, 1734, as I was proceeding on my second voyage to Greenland, in the latitude of Good Hope, a hideous sea monster was seen to raise the forepart of its body so high above the water, that its head overtopped our mainsail. It had a long pointed nose, and spouted out water like a whale; instead of fins it had great broad flaps like wings; its
body seemed to be grown over with shell-work, and its skin was very rugged and uneven: when it dived into the water again, it threw up its tall, which was like that of a serpent, and was, at least, a whole ship's length above the water; we judged the body to be equal in bulk to our ship, and to be three or four times as long." Of this wonderful creature, Capt. Egede made a drawing, and the circumstances of his account seem to render it worthy of credit. To the Greenlander seals are more needful than sheep are to us, though they furnish us with food and raiment, or than the cocoa-tree is to the Indians, although that presents them not only with food to eat, and cloaths to cover them, but also
houses to dwell in, and boats to sail in. The seals flesh (together with the rein-deer, which is already grown scarce) supplies the natives with their most palatable and
substantial food. Their fat furnishes them with oil for lamp-light, chamber and kitchen fire; and whoever sees their habitations, presently finds, that if they had wood, they could not burn it. They also soften their dry food, mostly fish, in the train: and finally they barter it for all kinds of necessaries with the factor. They can sew better with fibres of the seals sinews, than with thread or silk. Of the skins of the entrails they make their windows, curtains for their tents, shirts; and part of the bladder they use as their harpoons; and they make train-bottles of the maw. Formerly, for want of iron, they made all manner of instruments, and working tools of their bones. Neither is the blood
wasted, but boiled with other ingredients, and eaten as soup. Of the skin of the seal they stand in the greatest need; for supposing the skins of rein—deer and birds would furnish them with competent clothing for their bodies, and coverings for their beds; and their flesh, together with fish, with sufficient food; and provided they could dress their meat with wood, and also new model their houses, so as to have light, and keep themselves
warm with it too; yet without the seals skins they would not be in a capacity of acquiring these same rein-deer, fowls, fishes, and wood, because they must cover over with
seal-skin both their large and small boats, in which they travel and seek their provision. They must also cut their thongs or straps out of them, make the bladders for their harpoons, and cover their tents with them, without which they could not subsist in summer.
Therefore no man can pass for a right Greenlander, who cannot catch seals. This is the ultimate end they aspire at, in all their device and labour from their childhood up. It is the only art (and in truth a difficult and dangerous one it is) to which they are trained from their infancy, by which they maintain themselves, make
themselves agreeable to others, and become beneficial members of the community.
The first inhabitants of Greenland are supposed to have been Norwegians, and to have been long totally extinct. The savages that now people it are thought to have
come thither first in the 14th century from North America, after having been driven to that continent from the north east regions of Great Tartary between the ice sea and Mungalia; * they greatly resemble the Kalmucks in their stature and manners, and likewise in several surnames which the Greenlanders have preserved without knowing their meaning.
If this renders it probable that they came originally from Tartary, the following fact makes it certain that they came immediately from America. A Herrnhuth missionary to
Greenland, who understands the language of the country, made a voyage to Labrador in America, in 1764, by the consent and assistance of Hugh Palliser, Esq; then governor of Newfoundland; on the 4th of September he met with about two hundred savages; the first that he spoke to was very reserved, but seeing him in his own dress, and hearing him speak his own language, he called out to the others with shouts of joy, "Our friend is come." It was found that the difference between the language of the Greenlanders, and the inhabitants of Labrador, was not greater than between the dialects of the northern and southern Greenlanders, which is less than the difference between high and low Dutch. Their stature, features, way of living, and manners, dress, tents, darts, and boats, are also the same.
* It is now certainly known that Kamschatka, the north-east extremity of Tartary, approaches so near to America in lat. 66, that, if the two continents do not join, there is but a very narrow strait between them.
None of the Greenlanders are more than five feet high, but are well shaped: their face is commonly broad and flat, their cheek-bones high, but their cheeks round and plump: their eyes are small and black, but without fire; their nose is small, and projects but little; their mouth is commonly small and round, and the under-lip somewhat thicker than the upper. Their natural complexion is brown, or olive, but dirt and train-oil have rendered the rest of their bodies of a dark grey: they have all coal-black, straight, strong, and long hair on their heads, but the men have scarce any beard, because
they constantly root it out.
They have high breasts, and broad shoulders, especially the women; the whole body is fleshy and plump, and their constitution so hot that in their houses they
commonly sit naked, except their breeches.
They are very nimble and light of foot, and remarkable for manual dexterity: there are but few maimed or infirm people among them, and fewer mishapen births. They are hardy and strong: for a man that has eaten nothing, at least nothing but sea-grass for three days, can manage his boat in the most tempestuous weather, and the women will carry a whole rein-deer four leagues, or a piece of timber or stone twice the weight that an European could lift.
Their disposition seems to be a compound of the sanguine and phlegmatic; they are not lively, yet are good humoured, social, and unconcerned about the future;
they are patient, even when injured, and when any one incroaches upon them, they recede; they may, however, be pushed beyond their forbearance, and then they are furious and implacable. In the summer they sleep 5 or 6 hours, in the winter 8: but if they have worked hard, or been kept long waiting, they will sleep the whole day. In the morning, when they stand pensive and silent upon some eminence, and take a survey of the occean and
the weather, they appear melancholy and dejected, because the labour and the dangers of the day stand in prospect before them; but when they return at night, especially if
they have been successful, they are cheerful and conversable.
They make their cloaths of the skins of rein-deer, seals, and birds.
Their outer garment is sewed fast on all sides like a waggoner's frock, only not so long and loose, so that they first put in both arms, and draw it over their heads like a
shirt, but there is no open slit before, 'tis sewed together up to the chin, At the top of it, a cap or hood is fastened, which they can draw over their heads in cold or wet weather. The man's outer coat reaches only half down his thigh, nor does it fit tight about him; yet it admits no cold air to penetrate, because 'tis close before. They don't sew with the gut, but with the sinews of rein-deer and whale, which they split very thin
and small, and then twist them together double or threefold with their fingers. Formerly they used the bones of fishes, or the very fine bones of birds instead of needles, and their knives were of bone. But now they use steel needles, and we cannot sufficiently admire the neatness and ingenuity of their work. The furriers and workers in fur-cloaths confess that they cannot come up to them in that branch. The skins of fowl with the feathers inward, are made up into what may be called their shirts, tho' they make them of rein-deer-skins too. They put another garment of skin over this, and some of them use for that purpose a fine-haired rein-deer pelt; but these are now grown so rare, that none
but the wealthy dames can cut a figure with them. The seal-pelts are the most common, and they generally turn the rough side outwards, and the borders and seams are ornamented with narrow stripes of red leather and white dog-skin. But at present most of the men of
substance wear their upper garment of cloth, striped linen, or cotton, yet made after the Greenland cut. Their breeches are of seal's skin, or the thin haired skins of rein-deer, and are very short both above and below. Their stockings are made of the skins of young seals found in the dam's body, and their shoes of smooth, black, dressed seal's leather. They are tied on the instep with a thong drawn through the sole beneath. The soles stand out bending upwards for two inches breadth behind and before, and are folded with a great
deal of nicety, but they have no heels. Their boots are made just the same. The Greenlanders that are rich wear now fometimes woollen stockings, breeches, and caps. When they travel by sea, they put on as a great coat over their common garment, a tuelick, i. e. a black, smooth seal's hide, that keeps out water; and perhaps underneath too a shirt of the intestines of some creature, in order to keep in their natural heat, and keep off the wet.
The womens cloaths differ from the mens, only in a few things. Their jackets have high shoulders and a higher hood; they are cut all round even at the bottom
like the mens, but they round off from the thigh downward, and form both behind and before a long flap, the pointed extremity of which reaches below the knee, and is bordered with red cloth. They also wear breeches, with short drawers under them. They are fond of making their shoes and boots of white or red leather, and the seam which is before is figured
and sewed very neat. The mothers, and childrens nurses or waiters, put on an amaut, i. e. a garment that is so wide in the back as to hold the child, which generally tumbles in it quite naked, and is accommodated with no other swadling cloaths or cradle. To keep
the infant from falling through, they bind the garment fast about their waist with a girdle that hath a button or buckle before. Their every day dress drips with grease, and swarms with lice, which they don't throw away when they catch them, but crush them between their teeth. But they keep their new and holiday dress very neat.
The men wear their hair short, commonly hanging down from the crown of their head on every side, and squared off at their foreheads. Some cut it off as high as their poll, that their locks may be no impediment to their work. But it would be a reproach to a woman to cut off her hair. They never do it, but in cases of the deepest mourning, or if they resolve never to marry. They bind their hair in a double ringlet at the top of their head, in such manner that a long broad roll or tuft, and another little one over it, decorate the crown of the head, which they bind with some gay bandage, adorned perhaps also with glass-beads. They wear the same kind of gems in their ears, round their neck and arms, and round the borders of their cloaths and shoes. They also begin to alter one thing or another in the mode of their dress, and the rich ones bind a
fine figured strip of linen or silk round their forehead, yet so that the ringlet of hair, as their most stately ornament, may not be covered and hidden. But if they aim at being very beautiful, they must have a thread, blackened with soot, drawn through the skin of their chin, and also their cheeks, hands and feet, which leaves such a black mark behind when the thread is drawn away, as if they had a beard. The mother performs this painful operation on her daughter in her childhood, for fear she might never get a husband. The Indians in North America, and several tribes of the Tartars, have the same custom, not only the women, but the men also, to make themselves look beautiful or terrible. The baptized Greenlanders have relinquished this practice long ago.
In winter they live in houses, and in summer, in tents. The houses are two fathoms in breadth, and from 4 to 12 fathoms in length, according as more or fewer live in them, and just so high as a person can stand erect in. They are not built under ground, as is commonly thought but on some elevated place, and preferably on a steep rock, that the melted snow water may run off the better. They lay great stones upon one another near a fathom broad, and layers of earth and sods between them. On these walls they rest the beam, the length of the house; if one beam is not long enough, they join two, three or even four together, with leather straps, and support them with posts. They lay rafters
across these, and small wood again between the rafters. All this they cover with bill-berry bushes, then with turf, and last of all throw fine earth on the top. As long as
it freezes, these roofs hold pretty well; but when the summer-rains come, they fall mostly in, and both roof and wall must be repaired again the ensuing autumn. They never build far from the water, because the sea affords them subsistence, and the entrance is towards the sea-side. Their houses have neither door nor chimney. The role of both is supplied by a vaulted passage made of stone and earth two or three fathoms long; entering through the middle of the house. It is so very low, that it is scarce sufficient to stoop, but one
must almost creep-in on hands and feet, especially where we first step down into the passage both from within, and without. This long entry keeps off the wind and cold
excellently, and lets out the thick air, for smoke they have none. The walls are hung with old worn tent and boat-skins, fastened with nails made of the ribs of seals; this is to keep off the damps; the roof is also covered with them on the outside.
From the middle of the house to the wall, the whole length of the house, there is a raised floor or board bench a foot high, made of boards and covered with skins.
This floor is divided into several apartments resembling horses stalls, by skins reaching from the posts that support the roof to the wall. Each family has such a separate stall,
and the number of families occupying one such house is from three to ten. On these floors they sleep on pelts; they also sit upon them all the day long, the men foremost, with their legs hanging down, and the women commonly cross-legged behind them in the Turkish
mode. The woman cooks and sews, and the man carves his tackle and tools. On the front-wall of the house where the entry is, are several square windows, the size of two full feet, made of seal's guts and halibut's maws, and sewed so neat and tight, that the wind and
snow is kept out, and the day-light let in. A bunch runs along under the windows the whole length of the house; on this the strangers sit and sleep.
By every post is a fire-place. They lay a block of wood upon the ground, and upon that a flat stone; on the stone, a low three-legged stool, and on that the lamp,
hewn out of their French-chalk or soft bastard marble, a foot long, and formed almost like a half-moon; it stands in an oval wooden bowl to receive the train that runs over. In this lamp, filled with train of seals, they lay on the right side some moss rubbed fine instead
of cotton, which burns so bright, that the house is not only sufficiently lighted with so many lamps, but warmed too. But the chief article is still behind, viz. that over this lamp a bastard marble kettle hangs by four strings fastened to the roof, which kettle is a foot long and half a foot broad, and shaped like a longish box. In this they boil all their meat. Still over that they fasten a wooden rack, on which they lay their wet cloaths
and boots to dry.
As there are as many fire-places as families in every house, and as there is more than one lamp burning in each of them day and night, their houses are more equally and more durably warmed, and yet not so hot as the German stove-heated rooms. At the same time there is no sensible exhalation, much less smoke, neither is there the remotest danger of fire. But then the stink of so many train lamps, the reek of so much flesh and fish often half rotten, boiling over these lamps, and above all, of their urine-vessels, standing in the house with their skins in them for dressing, is extremely offensive.
On the outside of the mansion-house they have their little store-houses, in which they lay up their stock of flesh, fish, train, and dried herrings. But all that they catch in winter, is preserved under the snow; and the train it produces, is stored up in large leather-pouches of seal-skin. Close by they lay up their boats with the bottom upwards, on some raised posts, under which they hang their hunting and fishing-tackle and their skins. In September they build or repair their houses, for commonly the rains make the roof fall in before the summer is over; this masonry falls to the womens share, for the men never put their hand to any land-labour save wood-work. After Michaelmas they move in for the winter, and in March, April, or May, according as the snow melts sooner or later, and threatens to run through the roof, they move out again with rejoicing, and spend the summer in tents. They lay the foundation of these tents with little flat stones in form of an oblong quadrangle; between these they fasten from ten to forty poles, which lean upon a kind of rest or door frame about a man's height, and terminate in a spire at top. They clothe these ribs with a double covering of seal-skins, and those that are rich hang it with rein—deer skins, the hair turned inwards. The bottom of the covering that
reaches the ground, is stopped close with moss, and loaded with stones, that the wind may not over-turn the tent. They hang a curtain before the entrance instead of a door; it is made of the tenderest pellucid entrails of the seal, is finely wrought with needle-work,
has an edging of blue or red cloth, and ties with white strings. This keeps out the cold air, and yet gives admission to a sufficient glimmer of light. But the skins hang above and on both sides a good way further than the door, and form a kind of porch, where they can place their stores as well as their dirty vessels.
They do not in common boil their victuals in the tent, but in the open air, for which they then make use of a brass-kettle, and burn wood under it. The mistress
of the house lays up her furniture in a corner of the tent, (for she lets all her finery be seen only in summer): she hangs a white leather curtain over it, wrought by the needle, with a variety of figures. On this she fastens her looking-glass, pin-cushion, and ribbands. Every family has a tent of their own, though sometimes they take in their relations, or a couple of poor families with them, so that frequently twenty people live in one tent. Their sleeping place and fire place is the same as in the winter-houses, only every thing is more cleanly and orderly, and much more tolerable to an European, both as
to the smell and warmth.
Their most agreeable food is rein-deer flesh. But as that is now very scarce, and even when they get any it is mostly eaten during the hunt, so now their best meat is the flesh of seals, fishes, and sea-fowls; for they don’t much regard partridges and hares. The don't eat raw flesh, as some think, and much less raw fish. It is true, as
soon as they have killed a seal, they eat a little bit of the raw flesh or fat, and also drink a little of the warm blood, but perhaps this is more out of superstition than
hunger; and when the woman skins the seal, she gives each of the female lookers on a couple of bits of the fat to eat. The head and legs of the seals are preserved in summer under the grass, and in the winter the whole seal is preserved under the snow, and the Greenlanders feast on such half frozen or half rotten seal's flesh, called by them mikiak, with the same appetite and gout, as other nations do on venison, or ham and chickens. The ribs are dried in the air, and laid up in store. The other parts of the beasts, and especially all their birds and fishes, are well boiled or stewed, yet without salt, but with a little sea-water; tho' indeed the largest fishes, as the halibuts, cod, and salmon, are cut in long slices, wind-dried, and so eaten. The little dried capelins
are their daily bread. When they have caught a seal, they stop up the wound directly, that the blood may be kept in till it can afterwards be rolled up in balls like force-meat to make soup of. The inwards are not thrown away neither. They make windows, tent-curtains, and shirts, of part of the seal's entrails. Those of the smaller creatures are eaten, with no other purgation or preparative, but pressing out their contents between their fingers. They set a great value upon what they find in the maw of a rein-deer, and send some of it
as a present to their best friends, calling it nerukak, that is to say, eatable; this, and what is found in the guts of the partridge, they mix with fresh train and berries, and make a delicacy of it, that relishes as high to them as wood-cocks or snipes do to others. Again, they take fresh, rotten, and half-hatched eggs, some crow-barries, and some angelica, and throw them all into a seal-skin sack filled with train; and this they reserve for a winter’s cordial. Out of the skins of sea-fowl they suck the fat with their teeth and lips; and when they come to dress the seal-skins, they take a knife and
scrape off the fat, which could not be clean separated at the slaying, and make a kind of ancake of it, which they eat very favourily.
They don't drink train, as some have reported, but use it in their lamps, and what they don’t want, they barter. Yet they like to eat a bit or two of seal-fat with their dry herrings, as also to fry their fish in it, fist chewing it well in the mouth, and then throwing it out into the kettle. Their drink is clear water, which stands in the
house, in a great copper vessel, or in a wooden tub, which is very neatly made by them, ornamented with fishbone, diamonds and rings, and provided with a pewter ladle or
dipping dish. They bring in a supply of fresh water every day in a pitcher, which is a sealskin sewed very tight, that smells like half-tanned sole leather; and that their
water may be cool, they chuse to lay a piece of ice or a little snow in it, which they seldom want.
They are very dirty in dressing their meat, as well as in every thing else. They seldom wash a kettle; the dogs often spare them that trouble, and make their tongue the dishcloth. Yet they like to keep their bastard marble vessels neat. They lay their boiled meat in wooden dishes, having first drunk the soup, or eat it with spoons made of bone or wood; but their un-dressed meat lies on the bare ground, or on an old skin not much cleaner. Fish, they take out of the dish with thair hands, pull fowls to pieces
with their ﬁngers or their teeth, and flesh meat they take hold of with their teeth, and bite off the mouthful. When all is over, they make the knife serve the office of a napkin, for they give their chops a scrape with it, lick the blade, and lick their fingers, and so conclude the meal. In like manner when they are covered with sweat, they stroke that too down into their mouths. And when they vouchsafe to treat an European genteelly, they first lick the piece of meat he is to eat, clean from the blood and scum it had contracted in
the kettle, with their tongue; and should any one not kindly accept it, he would be looked upon as an unmannerly man for despising their civility.
They eat when they are hungry; but in the evening, when the men bring home the spoils of the day, they have the principal meal, and are very free in asking the other families in the house that may perhaps have caught nothing, to be their guests, or send them part of it. The men eat first alone by themselves, but the women don't forget themselves neither. Nay, as all that the man brings, falls into their hands, they often feast themselves and others, in the absence of the men, to their detriment. At such times their greatest joy is to see their children stuff their paunches so full that they roll about on the floor, in order to be able to make room for more.
If their ﬁre goes out, they can kindle it again by turning round a stick very quick with a string through a hole in a piece of wood.
With respect to morals, the Greenlanders excel many nations that think much more highly of themselves: they are chaste, friendly, and liberal. At twenty they marry; the man looks out for a wife, and when he has made his choice, the match is brought about by the relations on both sides. Poligamy is allowed among them, yet Crantz says it is not reputable. If it happens that a couple are divorced, the children always go with the mother. They are not in general prolific; few women having more than four children, and none more than six; they suffer little from lying in, and do all their common business just before, and, directly after delivery. They are extremely fond of their children, whom they suckle till they are three or four years old, and carry about with them wherever they go in a conveniency made in their dress, between the shoulders.
As soon as a boy can use his hands, he is taught to shoot at a target with a bow and arrows: when he is ten years old, he is taught ta manage a little boat, and
at sixteen he goes a fishing with his father.
The girls do nothing till they are fourteen; when they are women, they divide the labour of life with the men: the men make their hunting and fishing tackle, and prepare the wood-work of the boat, the women cover it with skins: the men hunt and fish, the women drag the seal up upon the shore. The women are butchers, and cooks, and curriers, and tailors, and shoe-makers. The men seldom live to be older than fifty, the women frequently reach seventy.
They know nothing of salutations, tokens of respect, or reverence: they laugh at European compliments, and at a man's standing uncovered before his superiour,
and wonder to see a master strike a servant. '
They sometimes visit, and give entertainments. The following is the bill of fare at a great entertainment, given by some principal Greenlanders to a factor, 1. Dried herrings. 2. Dried seal flesh. 3. Boiled ditto. 4. Half-raw and half-rotten ditto, called Mikiak. 5. Boiled willocks. 6. Piece of half-rotten whale's tail; this was the dainty dish, or haunch of venison to which the guests were properly invited. 7. Dried salmon. 8. Dried rein-deer venison. 9. A dessert of crow-berries, mixed with the chile from the maw of a rein-deer. 10. The same enriched with train-oil.
The principal articles of their trade are fox, and seal skin, and
blubber; for these they receive iron-points to their darts, knives, lock-saws, gimlets, chissels, and needles; striped linen and cotton, kerseys, woollen stockings and caps, some wooden ware, tobacco, guns, powder and shot.
The winter solstice is a season of universal merriment; they then celebrate what they call the sun-feast, and rejoice at the return of that planet, and the approach of good weather, for hunting and fishing: at these feasts, they sing and dance: their only music, however, is a drum: the subject of their songs is the achievement of their heroes, and the return of the sun. They have several sports, among others playing at ball, and spinning a round board on an axle which has a finger-piece in the side, and he to whom this points, when the board stands still, wins the prize.
They have some other dancing seasons in the year; and it is very
remarkable, that they decide their quarrels by singing and dancing in what they call a singing combat.
If one Greenlander imagines himself injured by another, he betrays not the least trace of vexation or wrath, much less revenge, but he composes a satirical poem; this he repeats so often with singing and dancing, in the presence his domestics, and especially the women, till they have all got it in their memory. Then he publishes a challenge every where, that he will fight a duel with his antagonist, not with a sword but a song. The respondent betakes himself to the appointed place, and presents himself in the encircled theatre. Then the accuser begins to sing his satire to the beat of the drum, and his party in the auditory back every line with a chorus, and also sing every sentence
with him; and all this while he discharges so many taunting truths at his adversary, that the audience have their fill of laughing. When he has sung out all his gall, the defendant steps forth, answers the accusation against him, and ridicules his antagonist in the same
manner, all which is corroborated with the united chorus of his party, and so the laugh changes sides. The plaintiff renews the assault, and tries to baffle him a second time; in short, he that maintains the last word wins the process, and acquires a name. At such opportunities they can tell one another the truth very roundly and cuttingly, only there must be no mixture of rudeness or passion. The whole body of beholders constitute the jury, and bestow the laurel, and afterwards the two parties are the best friends.
The Greenlanders, when the missionaries first came among them, appeared to have no notion of a Deity, nor any religious ceremony among them: yet, upon being better known, they were found to have some confused notions of a future state, which, in general, they imagined to be better than this, and which, they believed, would never end.
They have conjurers among them, who pretend to converse with invisible beings. And in the beginning of their acquaintance with Europeans, when they perceived that they could convey intelligence by writing, they were so affrighted at the speaking paper, that they could not be persuaded to carry a letter, or touch a book, believing that
it could only be by conjuration, that one man could know the thoughts of another in consequence of a few black scrolls, on a piece of white paper.
They reckon their years by winters, and their days by nights; they can count how many winters a perfon has lived, till they come to twenty, and at twenty their
power of numeration is exhausted.
They guess at the winter solstice by the sun-beams upon the rocks; from this time they reckon three moons in spring; in the 4th moon, April, they know that the small birds make their appearance, and the ravens lay eggs: in the ﬁfth, their small herrings, and the seals with their young renew their circular visits ; in the sixth the edder fowls breed; and now they would be quite confounded in their calculations, as the moon does not appear in the bright summer nights, if they did not carry it on by the
growth of the edder fowl, the size and shape of the seals, and the shining of the sun on the rocks and mountains, which by observation form a kind of natural dial.
The day is divided by the ebb and flood, notwithstanding they alter according to the change of the moon; and the night by the rising and setting of certain stars.
They think the earth stands upon posts, which are so rotten that they often crack; and would have sunk long ago, if they had not been repaired by their conjurers, who sometimes bring a piece of rotten wood as a proof of their service. They suppose the firmament to rest on a lofty and pointed hill in the north, and to perform its revolution on that centre.
Such is Greenland, and such are the Greenlanders; it is some consolation to a benevolent reader, that
"What happier natures shrink at with affright,
The hard inhabitant contends is right."