National Geographic : 1890 Jul
184 National GeographicMagazine. during this time off Tangent point, and by this time we had also demonstrated the uselessness of Little Joe Tuckfield as an ice pilot or prophet. The winds were very light and we had now gotton out of the strong northeast current running off Point Barrow. On the night of the 9th we passed off the north of the Colville river, the water offshore becoming very muddy. The first important error found in the charts and maps of this region was found here by the observation of the non-existence of the Pelly mountains. This observation was confirmed upon our return by the concurrent testimony of the whaling masters who had cruised here, and the natives who hunt in the neighborhood. The mountains certainly do not exist where placed by the charts, and I judge that some small hummocks near the beach were mistaken for a far off range of mountains, when Dease and Simpson first explored this coast in 1837. Early on the morning of the 10th of August we sighted the first steam whaler, and as we steamed toward her we skirted along some long low islands parallel to the coast line and stretching from the Return reef of Sir John Franklin to the mouth of the Colville river. The islands, one being about three miles long, are not shown upon the charts, and not having any known names were designated as the Thetis islands. The steam-whaler was found to be the Balaena, commanded by Captain Everett Smith, one of the most intelligent of the whale men of the Arctic. He was anchored off Return reef, which he was enabled definitely to locate by the traditions of the natives. It was at this point that Sir John Franklin, in one of his earliest boat journeys, was obliged to turn back while endeavoring to explore the coast from Mackenzie bay to Point Barrow. After a long interview with Captain Smith, from which I gathered much information as to the ice-conditions and the probable positions of the steam-whalers to the eastward, he returned on board of his ship, and the good ship Thetis once more turned her head to the eastward. Soon afterwards another steam-whaler was sighted, made fast by ice-anchors to an ice-floe; we did not stop, but, exchanging colors, proceeded on our way. The ice seemed to be getting thicker, and shortly afterwards a third whaler was sighted, at anchor off a small low island, with apparently heavy ice ahead. As the weather seemed uncertain I determined to anchor for the night in the vicinity of the island.