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The men desperately looked for a pass through the mountains; their progress hindered by partially frozen rivers, heavy snow, and fog that blocked familiar landmarks. After many days above the tree line with no wood for fire, little water, and only 2 blankets for warmth, they were still on the west side of the mountains.
It was a waking nightmare of coldness, wetness, hunger, and privation. The men also realized that their compass was unreliable due to their proximity to the magnetic pole.
Descending backwards to the tree line, Stringer and Johnson paused to make snowshoes to make the travel easier. Johnson who was good with an axe and knife created the frames and the Bishop, using every available piece of leather, laced the snowshoes. After 3 days labour they had two pairs.
Somehow, as they were about to run out of food they managed to catch a ptarmigan, sparrow, red squirrel, or find berries under the snow. Each day starvation was only inches away.
There came a day when no food was to be found; thus it was that the Bishop decided it was time to eat his boots. It is well known in the North that the skin of an animal that has not been tanned can be eaten and will sustain life. Both men had brought their light, hairless, sealskin boots with walrus skin soles. The boots were cut into pieces that were then boiled for hours and then roasted. Stringer recorded the details of this tasty repast in his diary -
"October 17 - Travelled 15 miles, made supper of toasted rawhide sealskin boots. Palatable. Feel encouraged.
"October 18 - Travelled all day. Ate more pieces of my sealskin boots, boiled and toasted. Used sole first. Set rabbit snares.
"October 19 - No rabbit in snare. Breakfast and dinner of rawhide boots. Fine. But not enough.
"October 20 - Breakfast from top of boots. Not so good as sole. Very tired. Hands sore. Tied up Mr. Johnson's fingers"
Heading due east, climbing range after range on October 20th the men reached a large river. Johnson cut a hole in the ice and as the water was flowing north they concluded it must be the Peel River. They crossed it and further along discovered some sled tracks and then some freshly cut poplar poles. They staggered on and arrived at the campsite of William Vittrekwa, Charlie Cluwetsit, and Andrew Cloh.
© Old Log Church Museum 2002