Aglooka - The Creative Works of David C. Woodman


Schwatka Expedition learns of the Adelaide Wreck

Three accounts of Putoorak’s tale exist:

Heinrich Klutschak – “ Only one person, a man of 60-70 years by name of Ikinilik-Petulak, had himself come into contact with one of the expedition’s ships. He was one of the first people to visit a ship which, beset in the ice, drifted with wind and current to a spot west of Grant Point on Adelaide Peninsula, where some islands halted its drift. On their first visit the people thought they saw whites on board; from the tracks in the snow they concluded there were four of them. This was in the fall; the following spring they visited the spot again and found the ship in the same position. When no sign of the whites or of any other sign of life could be seen, and since they did not know how to get inside the ship, they made a large hole in the ship’s side near the ice surface. As a result the ship sank once the ice had melted. According to Ikinilik they had found a corpse in one of the bunks and they found meat in cans in the cabin. Otherwise they had found no trace of whites on the coast of Adelaide Peninsula, apart from a small boat in Wilmot Bay which, however, might have drifted to that spot after the ship sank. The credibility of these reports was later enhanced when confirmed by similar statements by others. Ikinilik Petulak had seen whites once before, coming down the Great Fish River in two boats. This was Lieutenant Back’s exploring party which descended and mapped this [66]


William Gilder – “From Ikinnelikpatplok, the old Ookjoolik, we learned at the interview that he had only once seen white men alive. That was when he was a little boy. He is now about sixty-five or seventy. He was fishing on Back’s River when they came along in a boat and shook hands with him. There were ten men. The leader was called ““os-ard-e-roak,””which Joe says, from the sound he thinks means Lieutenant Back. The next white man he saw was dead in a bunk of a big ship which was frozen in the ice near an island about five miles due west of Grant Point, on Adelaide Peninsula. They had to walk out about three miles on smooth ice to reach the ship. He said that his son, who was present, a man about thirty-five years old, was then about like a child he pointed out – probably [79] seven or eight years old. About this time he saw the tracks of white men on the main-land. When he first saw them there were four, and afterward only three. This was when the spring snows were falling. When his people saw the ship so long without any one around, they used to go on board and steal pieces of wood and iron. They did not know how to get inside by the doors, and cut a hole in the side of the ship, on a level with the ice, so that when the ice broke up during the following summer the ship filled and sunk. No tracks were seen in the salt-water ice or on the ship, which also was covered with snow, but they saw scrapings and sweepings alongside, which seemed to have been brushed off by people who had been living on board. They found some red cans of fresh meat, with plenty of what looked like tallow mixed with it. A great many had been opened, and four were still unopened. They saw no bread. They found plenty of knives, forks, spoons, pans, cups, and plates on board, and afterward found a few such things on shore after the vessel had gone down. They also saw books on board, and left them there. They only took knives, forks, spoons, and pans; the other things they had no use for. He never saw or heard of the white men’s cairn on Adelaide Peninsula.”


Frederick Schwatka – “Colonel Gilder and I were interviewing old Ikinnilik-Puhtoorak, the head man of this tribe, with Joe Ebierbing as our interpreter. The old man, then about sixty years old, had an intelligent, open face, and all his anwers were given without hesitation, in a straightforward manner which carried the conviction of truth. In response to our questions he stated that he had seen white men before in this country. Almost impatiently we waited Joe’s interpretation of the old man’s statements. His next remarks electrified us. “A long time ago,” said Puhtoorak, “when I was a small boy living with my people just below the bad rapids near the mouth of the Great Fish River, we saw a wooden boat with white men going down the river. The white men shook hands with the Innuits and the latter rubbed the back of their hands down their breasts, a sign of welcome.” There were ten men in the boat and the commander’s name as near as he could remember it was Tooahdeahrak (probably Lieut. Back on his first exploration of the river). Continuing his story, Puhtoorak told Ebierbing that the next time he saw a white man was a dead one in a large ship about eight miles off Grant Point. The body was in a bunk inside the ship in the back part. The ship had four big sticks one pointing out and the other three standing up. On the mainland, near Smith Point and Grant Point on the Adelaide Peninsula, the Esquimaux party which he accompanied, saw the tracks of white men and judged they were hunting for deer. At this time the tracks indicated there were four white men but afterwards the tracks showed only three. He saw the ship in the spring before the spring snow falls and the tracks in the fresh spring snow when the young reindeer come of the same year. He never saw the white men. He thinks that the white men lived in this ship until the fall and then moved onto the mainland. Puhtoorak told of how the Esquimaux, not understanding how to get into the ship, cut through one side. When summer came and the ice melted the ship righted herself but the hole in her side being below the water line she sank as the water poured in. After the ship sank, they found a small boat on the mainland. When he went on board the ship he saw a pile of dirt on one side of the cabin door showing that some white man had recently swept out the cabin. He found on board the ship four red tin cans filled with meat and many that had been opened. The meat was full of fat. The natives went all over and through the ship and found [63] also many empty casks. They found iron chains and anchors on deck, and spoons, knives, forks, tin plates, china plates etc. When the ship finally sank her masts stuck out of the water and many things floated on shore which the natives picked up. He also saw books on board the ship but the natives did not take them. He afterwards saw some that had washed ashore. He never saw any stone monument of [sic – or] cairn on the mainland near where the ship sank. There was one small boat hanging from the davits which the natives cut down. Some of the ship’s sails were set.”