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THE CENTURY MAGAZINE.

VOL. XLIV.

SEPTEMBER, 1892.

No. 5.

THE GRAND FALLS OF LABRADOR.

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FUGITIVE article relating to a great cataract in Labrador, appeared in several newspapers during the early part of 1891. It referred to the stories current among the Indians and voyageurs which tended to prove the existence of such a great waterfall on the upper waters of the Grand, or Hamilton, River, and ascribed to it the stupendous height of 1500 feet. This attractive piece of geographical news, with its apparent flavor of aboriginal hyperbole, chanced to catch the eye of the present writer. An examination of the literature relating to Labrador which was accessible revealed the suggestive fact that although it was probably the first part of the mainland of America visited by Europeans, yet, in this last decade of the nineteenth century, one must seek there for the largest unexplored area on the western continent. Many generations of mariners and fishermen have sailed along Labrador's bleak coast, since John Cabot visited those shores in 1497; and all have borne abroad the fame of its arctic climate and desolate seacoast. The uninviting character of its rocky seaboard has thus given a bad name to the whole country, and in this we must find the reason why Labrador has received so little attention from explorers.

A glance at any of the maps of the peninsula which have been published will show them to be very defective specimens of chartography.

None of the maps show the river-systems and lakes with any degree of accuracy. It has long been assumed, however, that the interior contains a great table-land. The highest portion of this elevated region is probably in the southern part of the peninsula, where its greater rivers have their source. The most important of these, the Grand, or Hamilton, River, rises in the lakes on this table-land, and flows in a general southeasterly direction a distance of nearly 400 miles into Hamilton Inlet, the great marine estuary which, under different names, penetrates the interior a distance of 150 miles. No scientific explorer has penetrated far into the country, and the imperfect knowledge of this vast territory (estimated to contain 289,000 square miles) rests entirely on the vague reports of Indians, a few missionaries, and information furnished by some agents of the Hudson Bay Company.

Interesting as these researches were, they yielded but little real information relating to the configuration of the interior. Enough was learned, however, to establish the existence of the Grand Falls, and to show that the time had long since passed when any enterprising traveler could claim the honor of their discovery.

The traditions of the Hudson Bay Company affirm that two officers of the Company visited the spot many years ago. The first of these, John M'Clane, was unquestionably the first white man to gaze upon this remote cataract, which he discovered in the year 1839 while engaged in seeking an inland route between two

Copyright, 1892, by THE CENTURY Co. All rights reserved.

posts of the Company. Twenty years after M'Clane's visit, Joseph McPherson was guided to the spot by an Iroquois Indian named Louisover-the-fire, who is still living, an aged pensioner of the Company, at Northwest River Post. These are the only white men who, previous to the summer of 1891, are known to have seen the Grand Falls. Neither M'Clane nor McPherson measured the height of the Falls, and, in fact, it does not appear that the latter ever gave any account of his visit to this region. To continue the brief record of Labrador exploration, mention should be made of the journey of Professor H. Y. Hind, who thirty-one years ago started from the Seven Islands, on the St. Lawrence coast, and ascended the

no traveler or trader disturbed the loneliness of this remote wilderness. Fort Nascopie, the only interior post of the Hudson Bay Company, was abandoned some twenty-eight years ago, and the inland trail to it, which passed within fifty miles of the Falls, was disused in the interval. No one endeavored to ascend the Grand River, and the dim tradition of the Falls was almost forgotten. At length, in 1887, a young Englishman, R. F. Holme of Oxford University, journeyed to Labrador and started up the Grand River, having the Falls as the objective point of his expedition. He relied on Professor Hind's statement that the cataract was 100 miles from the mouth of the river, and consequently found himself insufficiently equip

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