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The Inuit as geographers: The case of Eenoolooapik

  • H. G. Jones

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European and American explorers sometimes ignored traditional aboriginal knowledge of their physical world and were slow to recognize that the absence of a written language did not deprive isolated Inuit of intimate acquaintance with the lands and waters upon which they lived and from which they drew their sustenance. Recent research by scholars like Robin McGrath (McGrath 1988: 6-10) and Derek Hayes, however, reveals greater reliance upon local geographic knowledge than generally has been recognized. In his Historical Atlas of the Arctic, for example, Hayes reproduces an impressive number of sketches drawn by Inuit for the benefit of explorers, along with a painting that memorializes the cartographic contributions of Apelaglu and Ikmalick to John Ross’s expedition in 1830 (Hayes 2003: 70, 77, 108).

One of the best recorded examples of Inuit geographical knowledge is found in the story of Eenoolooapik (Inuluapik), a young Inuk from Baffin Island, who was taken to Britain by a Scot whaling captain in 1839. From a historical standpoint, almost as remarkable as the knowledge that Eenoonooapik revealed was the perceptiveness of a ship’s scientist who recorded the Inuk’s story and expounded on the subject of Inuit geographical intuitiveness.

In Edinburgh in 1841 there appeared a 149-page book with the formidable title of A Narrative of Some Passages in the History of Eenoolooapik, a Young Esquimaux, Who Was Brought to Britain in 1839, in the Ship “Neptune” of Aberdeen: An Account of the Discovery of Hogarth’s Sound: Remarks on the Northern Whale Fishery, and Suggestions for Its Improvement, &c, &c. The author was Alexander M’Donald, L.R.C.S.E., a member of the Cuverian Natural History Society of Edinburgh and a scientist aboard Captain William Penny’s ship Bon Accord, on which Eenoolooapik was returned to Baffin Island in the summer of 1840. Eenoo, as his name was often shortened, may have been the only nineteenth-century Inuk for whom an extensive biography was published during his lifetime. Because few copies of M’Donald’s book can be found in North America, this article provides a synopsis with a larger view of Eenoolooapik’s contributions than can be given in brief biographical sketches.

Eenoolooapik meets the Scots

Since Martin Frobisher’s three voyages in the 1570s, generations of Inuit oral history had passed on stories of contact with strange men on huge boats along the shores of Davis Strait. It is not surprising that, out of curiosity or hope of gain, some Inuit were drawn to a place like Durban, near Cape Searle, where whalers sought refuge from their strenuous pursuit of the leviathans of the icy waters of Melville and Baffin Bays to the north. With increasing contact, trade inevitably developed, and some Inuit were persuaded to assist the visitors with menial tasks aboard or around the ships. Some seasonal settlements became semi-permanent, and the word spread to more remote areas. It reached as far as the little settlement of Keimooksook (hereinafter spelled Qimisu except in quotations from M’Donald), and it was heard by a ten-year-old boy and his family.

Eenoolooapik was born about 1820 at Qimisu deep in present-day Cumberland Sound, waters then unknown to the Qallunaat (Harper 1990: 47; Rowley 1986: 183, 1988: 270, 1996: 213). The boy’s family, hearing that some Inuit were benefiting from camping in the proximity of these seasonal callers, made a perilous umiaq (Inuit boat) journey through the mouth of the sound and thence up the island-scattered and wave-tossed shores of Davis Strait. At Durban, the newcomers made their mark, and soon Eenoo’s father, having gained stature among the other natives, took on a younger wife, leaving Nootaapik to be supported by her children, particularly her teen-aged son Eenoo. The youngster became a favorite with crewmen, and, in time, he was so impressed by and at ease with the Scots—and particularly their material culture—that he expressed a desire to accompany them across the sea. That wistfulness coincided with the Scots’ growing interest in persistent Inuit claims of the existence of a great whale-filled “inland sea” just across the glacier-pocked mountains of Saumia (as the natives called the peninsula south of Durban). M’Donald describes the circumstances:

While Captain Penny [captain of the Neptune] was, in 1839, engaged in making inquiries among the Esquimaux at Durban, regarding the situation of the inland sea already referred to, and its eligibility for the purposes of the whale-fishery, he had occasion to examine Eenoolooapik on the subject; and finding him familiar with the features of the country, he [Penny] requested him to trace an outline of the coast. This, after he was made to comprehend the method and object of it, he performed with remarkable facility. He delineated a chart in which he represented the shore as abruptly leaving the general coast-line of Davis’s Strait, and stretching to the westward for about sixty miles; then trending to the northward until it arrived at a point which he described as being immediately opposite to Durban. From this point a deep inlet, named by the Esquimaux Kingaite, penetrated so far into the land, in the direction of Durban, as almost to insulate the portion to the southward. From the entrance to this inlet, the shore again took a westerly direction for about forty miles, when another deep inlet, named Kingoua, formed the termination of the sea to the northward. The shore was then laid down as returning to the southward, in a direction almost parallel to that already delineated. The eastern coast was represented as being bold and precipitous, intersected by numerous bays and creeks, and a few clusters of islands scattered along it. The western shore was stated to be low and almost concealed in its whole extent by a dense mass of islands. He described the coast as being inhabited by numerous tribes of Esquimaux, and stated that they were in the practice of killing considerable numbers of whales for the sake of their flesh, which there forms a staple article of food. The general name which he gave to the sea thus laid down, was Tenudiackbeek,—a name supposed to have some reference to the number of whales frequenting it. This supposition is rendered the more probable from the circumstances of the names assigned by him to various other localities, being generally expressive of something for which they were remarkable.

M’Donald 1841: 5-7

M’Donald, in a footnote, added: “By comparing Eenoolooapik’s delineation with the Chart of Captain Penny’s discoveries […] it will be seen that, upon the whole, with the exception just noticed, the difference is but trifling; and that it exhibits in a striking degree the aptitude of Eenoolooapik’s mind for geographical knowledge and observation” (M’Donald 1841: 8n). Impressed by the Inuk’s knowledge of the country and his skill at drawing—but still skeptical of what he was being told and shown—Penny concluded that a live Inuk might help him convince the government to sponsor an expedition to prove or disprove reports of rich waters unknown to Europeans. Finally acknowledging Eenoo’s determination to accept the captain’s invitation, the nineteen-year-old’s mother reluctantly consented, and for nearly twelve months thereafter Eenoo lived among strangers in surroundings that previously he could not have imagined (Harper 1990: 50; M’Donald 1841: 8-9).

Eenoolooapik’s experiences aboard the Neptune and in Scotland

Aboard ship, the young man’s docility and the mildness of his disposition charmed even the old sea dogs, and, under Captain Penny’s oversight, the crew of the Neptune sought to acquaint Eenoo with European habits, such as clothing and bathing. To their surprise, Eenoo—called “Robbie” or “Bobbie” by most of the sailors—readily adjusted to manufactured clothing and, in personal cleanliness, became “rather fastidious than negligent.” He learned English words and expressions so readily that plans were made to provide him a rudimentary education during the coming months. When language failed him, Eenoo often resorted to a “rude drawing,” thus conveying a more accurate idea than could have been possible by “his imperfect verbal expression” (M’Donald 1841: 9-11).

In early November, as the Neptune arrived off Scotland and worked its way along the coast toward its home port of Aberdeen, the Inuk contemplated his surroundings with great interest. However, Eenoolooapik’s biographer probably revealed more about himself than he did of Eenoo when he mused: “The towering cliffs of the stormy north may display much of grandeur and magnificence, but the cheerless snow-hut and the icy ocean can call forth few associations of repose, and could have done little to prepare Eenoolooapik’s mind for the refinement into which he had been ushered” (M’Donald 1841: 24). What puzzled Eenoo more than Scottish refinements were questions like how trees could grow so large and why the Scots built their houses so far from the water. In fact, he showed little awe over the contrasts between his homeland and Scotland, contrasts that may have been larger in the minds of his hosts than in his own. Furthermore, “The same perfect composure and gravity marked his intercourse with the various individuals whom he met; and, as yet, he was equally at home with every person, knowing none of the ordinary distinctions of society” (M’Donald 1841: 23-24) What troubled him most was a persistent cough that he had contracted at sea (ibid.).

Conspicuousness was not one of Eenoo’s vanities, and he had become so comfortable in European clothing (Figure 1) that he objected strongly when he was asked to don his skins for a display of his dexterity in the handling of his qajaq on the River Dee. That insistence and Eenoo’s compliance almost killed him, for as M’Donald wrote about the performance on a warm day, Eenoo, “ambitious of shewing his expertness, exerted himself to the utmost of his power. He became considerably overheated in consequence of the severe exercise and the warm nature of his dress, and the pulmonary affection from which […] he was suffering, was thereby aggravated.” Confined to his room as his fever soared, the young Inuk resisted most medication but eventually was forced to yield to the common Scot practice of bleeding. When his condition seemed to ameliorate after a couple of weeks, again he was put on public display, this time to demonstrate the Eskimoan art of seal-hunting. His consequential relapse was even more severe, and for “three long and weary months he was confined to his bed,—his frame shattered, his strength wasted, and his mental energies impaired. He was, in short, brought to the very brink of the grave” (M’Donald 1841: 25-28).

Thus his ward’s illness thwarted for months Captain Penny’s laudable intention to provide Eenoo with a rudimentary education. As he slowly recovered, however, the Inuk was introduced to the Roman alphabet which he mastered readily, but his limited English vocabulary made reading a burden. His attitude revealed an analytical and practical mind:

If he did not see that the subject of study or acquisition would be of future utility, he could not be persuaded to bestow attention upon it. When any toy accidentally came into his possession, he would examine it with great curiosity and care, but after discovering that none of the practical purposes of life, so far as known to him, could be served by it, it was soon thrown aside as useless. On the other hand, if he got any thing which he judged might afterwards be turned to account in his own simple avocations at home, he hoarded it up with the greatest eagerness.

M’Donald 1841: 33

A deficiency in reading contrasted with Eenoo’s talent for drawing. “He had from the first shewn an aptitude in that art which, if he had remained in this country and received instruction, might soon have rendered him an adept in the use of the pencil” (M’Donald 1841: 34). The theatre attracted his attention too, for it reminded him of a favorite pastime among Inuit—dramatic storytelling, shamanistic rituals, and the pantomiming of animals. In another way Eenoo surprised his hosts by readily adjusting to—and in fact preferring—cooked foods, sometimes complaining of “oko too little” (too little heat). With a typical European two-edged comparison, M’Donald wrote: “[…] he shewed none of those fierce and ungovernable passions which characterise man in his savage condition, but, on the contrary, he was mild and gentle in his nature, and modest, and even delicate, in his intercourse with female society” (M’Donald 1841: 34, 37).

Figure 1

Portrait of Enoolooapik, dressed in clothing given to him in Aberdeen in the winter of 1839-1840, from frontispiece in M'Donald (1841).

Portrait of Enoolooapik, dressed in clothing given to him in Aberdeen in the winter of 1839-1840, from frontispiece in M'Donald (1841).

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Eenoolooapik’s return aboard the Bon Accord

As winter passed into spring and government officials showed no inclination to explore the rumor of an “inland sea” teaming with whales, Captain Penny determined that he must undertake the task himself. He chose the Bon Accord, and, happily for history, he signed aboard Alexander M’Donald, whose personal observations of Eenoolooapik would thereafter inform his biographical account. Already, Eenoolooapik was becoming increasingly anxious to leave a country where there was “too much cough.” No doubt he looked forward to his homecoming, for the usually thrifty Scots had been generous with gifts that would amaze his family and associates in Tenudiackbeek. In addition, the Lords of the Treasury allocated twenty pounds to the disposal of his friends for procuring “whatever might be considered necessary to establish him in his native country in more comfortable circumstances than he had formerly enjoyed.” Fowling-pieces, powder, shot, edge-tools, culinary utensils, and clothing formed part of his miscellany (M’Donald 1841: 39).

In April 1840 the Bon Accord set sail. By the time the ship reached western Greenland, Eenoo’s health had improved and he was fast regaining his “olive complexion, which had faded considerably when he was in Britain.” His spirit soared as he saw ice-covered promontories reminiscent of his native country. With Eenoo’s spirit buoyed, M’Donald, his teacher, observed: “Drawing now became one of his favourite amusements, and he soon attained a proficiency in this branch, exceeding our most sanguine expectations. His progress in writing too, which we had commenced to teach him, was highly respectable, but in reading he advanced very slowly; his imperfect knowledge of the English language being a constant obstacle in his way” (M’Donald 1841: 48).

The first objective of Captain Penny was a full cargo of whales far to the north in Melville Bay and, only secondarily, to land at Durban and with Eenoo to explore the narrow isthmus that the Inuk insisted would lead them to the northeastern shore of Tenudiackbeek. The ship, then, followed the west Greenland coast northward. That pleased Eenoo, who was anxious to meet the occupants on the opposite side of Davis Strait. That opportunity came on May 18 when several natives rowed out to the Bon Accord. As they came aboard, Eenoo greeted them in his dialect, which was at least partially understood, and he carefully examined their boats and fishing gear. He listened as they read passages from the Bible that had been translated into Greenlandic, and when they showed him examples of their handwriting, “to prove that in that respect he was not behind them, he took a pen and wrote his own name with great correctness, considering that a few weeks before he could not form a letter. He shewed them his drawings, which excited great astonishment and admiration” (M'Donald 1841: 50-55). Later, at Disko Island, Eenoo carried on animated conversations with the Greenlanders and took delight in driving a dog team that reminded him of the kinship of the two cultures. Other Greenlanders visited the ship as it made its way up the coast, and on June 2 at Upernavik, Eenoo reported that the dialect at that northern settlement more nearly corresponded to his own (ibid.).

For several weeks the Bon Accord fished unsuccessfully in Melville Bay, but the ice was so formidable that a sister ship, the Hecla, was crushed. Fearing a similar fate, Captain Penny turned his empty ship southward. Eenoolooapik was disappointed that ice prevented contact with the Aggumiut of northern Baffin, where he particularly wanted to become “better acquainted with those parts of his own country which he had not visited” (M’Donald 1841: 60, 72). Surprised at Eenoo’s knowledge of the people of northern Baffin and noting the geographical bent of Eenoo’s mind, M’Donald wrote:

Indeed, he seemed to possess in a high degree those faculties of mind which phrenologists have adduced as finding their legitimate exercise in the observation of the relative situation, extent, and peculiar appearances, of places. He also took particular delight in copying maps and charts, and in pointing out upon them such places as were familiar to him; and, although he was ignorant of mathematical principles of geography, he could delineate with remarkable precision the actual direction of any coast, and the true position of its different parts. He could trace the course which we had taken across the Atlantic and would, at any time when asked, point out the proper bearing of any place which we had visited.

M’Donald 1841: 72

Rediscovery of Cumberland Sound

Eenoo was again disappointed when ice blocked the Bon Accord’s approach to Durban, where he had expected to be reunited with his mother. Now, with no chance of undertaking an over-isthmus expedition to test Inuit claims of an “inland sea,” Penny subjected Eenoo to “repeated and severe examinations regarding Tenudiackbeek,” but the young man reaffirmed his previous statements. The test was not far off, however, for on July 27, at what today is called Cape Mercy (Figure 2), M’Donald reported:

We found the land to terminate abruptly here, and, although it was again seen to the southward, it appeared to be no less than seventy or eighty miles distant. This was a state of things which we were by no means prepared to expect, for in the ordinary charts the shore is laid down as being continuous to the southward until it reaches Cape Enderby, which forms the northern extremity of Cumberland Strait, in latitude 63o 15'. Finding an inlet of such magnitude, the idea instantly occurred to us that this might be the entrance to Tenudiackbeek, and Eenoo was immediately called upon for his opinion. He accordingly went aloft, and after a careful examination declared it to be as we had supposed. Correct observations being made, the ship’s latitude was determined to be 65o 1'; thus proving that this spacious inlet was not the entrance to Cumberland Strait, but a place hitherto undiscovered. To this Captain Penny gave the name of Hogarth’s Sound, in compliment to William Hogarth, Esquire, of Aberdeen, whose kindness and attention to Eenoolooapik, when there, rendered him so well worthy of the honour.

M’Donald 1841: 74-75

Thus, the Scots persisted in their belief that John Davis’s Cumberland Strait lay south of Cape Enderby when, in fact, “Tenudiackbeek” was the Inuit name for that same body of water. The error was not corrected for more than a year.

Figure 2

“Davis Strait. Cumberland Isle. From the Observations of Captain Penny of the Greenland Ship Neptune of Aberdeen, and from the Information of Enoolooapeek [sic] an Intelligent Esquimaux 1839." British Admiralty Chart no. 1255. Published according to Act of Parliament at the Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty [London] Feby. 12th. 1840 (Library and Archives Canada, NMC 59335). The portion of this chart contributed mainly by Enoolooaapik is at the left.

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Contact with the Inuit of Cumberland Sound

It was not until August 2, 1840, that the ice-choked entrance cleared sufficiently for the Bon Accord (now accompanied by two whaling ships from Newcastle, the Lady Jane and the Lord Gambier, and later by the Truelove), to proceed up the sound. The northeastern shore was as Eenoo had described it, “high and ironbound, excavated by a few bays, and having some small islands interspersed along it […] exceedingly naked and barren” (M’Donald 1841: 77-78). The Bon Accord made its first contact with other natives of the sound when near Nuvuk it came upon two men, one of whom had never seen a white man. According to M’Donald: “He began to evince his surprise by shouting and leaping, but Eenoo not relishing this behaviour on the part of his countryman, recommended him to desist. This he did until presented with a large knife, when his joy was beyond restraint. He put the point of it to his tongue, their invariable method of examining such objects, then uttered a yell of savage exultation, leaped, and waved his arms wildly in the air” (M’Donald 1841: 79-80). It was not lost upon the Scots that the umiaq was loaded with baleen and tusks, a sure sign of the presence of whales and walruses. Penny asked the pair to notify neighbouring Inuit of Eenoo’s return (ibid.).

The ships moved over to the southwestern shore but bypassed Eenoo’s birthplace, Qimisu; the Inuit guide was still far too valuable for the Scots to let him go. Nearby, however, four natives, two of them relatives of Eenoo, were found on an ice floe. Invited aboard the Bon Accord, they reported that Eenoo’s mother was well and that they understood that she was returning by umiaq to Qimisu. They listened to Eenoo’s stories of his venture, which, surprisingly to the Scots, indicated more interest in his encounter with the Greenlanders than in his experiences in Scotland. The men were shown firearms, and one was allowed his first experience in firing a gun. Each was given a present and sent away with greetings for Eenoo’s friends and relatives (M’Donald 1841: 81-82).

Returning to the northeast shore, the ships passed what we today recognize as Kekerton Island near the mouth of Kingnait Fiord. Eenoo again insisted that Durban could be reached on foot through an isthmus beginning at the head of Kingnait. Typical of Qallunaat, Penny gave this impressive fiord a new name: “Beaufort’s Inlet” (M’Donald 1841: 83).

The ships appear to have passed without entering Pangnirtung Fiord, my adopted settlement for the past 32 years. Nearby, however, the surgeon on the Lady Jane died from an accidental gunshot wound, and he was buried on the shore beneath a towering peak (M’Donald 1841: 86). On a map published in M’Donald’s book, “Jamieson’s Monument” appears very near where Pangnirtung Fiord now empties into Cumberland Sound (M’Donald 1841: between pp. 1-2).

Soon, in the area called Kingoua, where Tenudiackbeek narrowed to several fingered inlets and numerous islands, the Bon Accord dropped anchor near the Inuit village of Noodlook. Men, women, and children scrambled aboard—for most of them, their first glimpse of so large a ship, and for some their first sight of white men. They knew that Eenoo had been taken away by foreigners, and they were anxious to hear his stories. Eenoo, however, seemed more interested in flirting with Coonook, the adopted daughter of a shaman, Aaniapik, whom M’Donald had met a couple of years earlier at Durban. The smitten Eenoo made a fool of himself, for within a short time he had proposed a deal under which he would give Aaniapik his green painted canoe in return for the beautiful Coonook. The shaman, citing his own age and infirmity, explained that the canoe would go to his youngest son. It is not clear whether in fact the canoe changed hands, but it is definite that Coonook did not accompany Eenoo. Perhaps he planned to return for her. The fact that later at Qimisu “a small skiff” was presented to Eenoo for the transportation of his gifts ashore suggests that his “canoe,” on which he lavished attention while aboard ship, might have been left with Aaniapik (M’Donald 1841: 79, 88, 105).

From Noodlook, in the vicinity of which the name “Bon Accord Harbour” was applied, Penny bartered for baleen from a beached whale, while M’Donald visited nearby summer camps, where he took notes on Inuit life. Later, in his book, M’Donald included graphic descriptions of the local culture, ranging from tents and their furnishings to women’s facial tattoos. Thus A Narrative of Some Passages in the History of Eenoolooapik […] extends far beyond the subject of geography, to which this article is devoted.

In exploring a deep channel now called Clearwater Fiord but that Penny named Davidson’s Inlet after another of Eenoo’s benefactors in Aberdeen, the Scots found carcasses and bones but no live whales. But, M’Donald wrote, “although mortified at our want of success, it was some consolation to think that Eenoolooapik had practised no deception towards us. We had everywhere met with abundant testimony of the truth of what he had stated, and it was evident that his information might have been turned to good account had the examination of the Sound been gone about in an earlier part of the season” (M’Donald 1841: 98).

Eenoolooapik’s homecoming

Having concluded that on this trip the Bon Accord would not return to Durban, Eenoo prepared for his homecoming at Qimisu by collecting his gifts and repeatedly examining the contents of his “eeclameek,” as he called a wooden chest. The Bon Accord sailed back to Qimisu on August 20 and was met by sixty natives, the chief of whom was Eenoo’s cousin. Anxious to accompany them ashore, Eenoolooapik’s wish, after having proven his enormous value to the Scots for nearly a year, was finally granted. A copy of the Scriptures “translated into the Esquimaux language” was given to him, and M’Donald described the parting scene:

About 5 P.M., all being in readiness for his departure, a small skiff was presented to him, and in it his effects were stowed, at least so many of them as it would hold, for he had collected an immense quantity of indescribable articles. He then left the ship amidst the cheers of the crew, with all of whom he was a great favourite—his Esquimaux brethren, in their canoes, Captain Penny, Mr. Allen the chief mate, and myself, accompanying him. When we landed we selected a sheltered spot and erected a hut for him to spend the night in, as he was not to proceed to the settlement until the following morning […]. Every thing being arranged to his entire satisfaction, we shook hands with him and bade him farewell! He shewed not the least emotion at parting with us, but after returning our farewell cheer, with the utmost sang froid turned about after his own business, ‘nor cast one longing lingering look behind’.

M’Donald 1841: 105-106

However, Eenoolooapik had left something behind, something historic. It was a letter (Figure 3), and M’Donald explained how it materialized:

Eenoolooapik’s education was now so far advanced that he understood the method of conveying his thoughts in writing, and for some time back he had been contemplating writing a letter to Mr. Hogarth […]. [H]e set about it and produced the letter, of which we here present our readers with a fac simile [sic], and a translation; as, besides being a literary curiosity, it will enable them to judge the rapid progress which he had made in that department of learning.

M’Donald 1841: 102

In his preface, the biographer more clearly explained the procedure by which the letter was produced:

In proof of the progress which Eenoolooapik had made in writing, a fac simile [sic] of a letter which he wrote before he left the Bon Accord is inserted at page 102; and it might be inferred that it was meant to be affirmed that that letter was originated and executed entirely by Eenoolooapik himself. This is true so far, but not absolutely and altogether so. He had learned to know the meaning of written language, and could write many words both in English and Esquimaux, but the letter which is given in the following work was first written to his dictation by the Author and then transcribed by Eenoolooapik’s own hand, and without assistance, in the exact form in which it is given in this volume. It will be allowed that it is even thus a wonderful proof of his intellectual capacity.

M’Donald 1841: ii-iii

The letter, in English, read:

Mr. Hogarth, Eenoolooapik has arrived in Tenudiackbeek, and intends to remain in Keimooksook. The Innuit say that for many suns the whales were very numerous, but before the ship came they had all disappeared. They also say that the whales will return when the sun becomes low. Captain Penny has been very kind to me and to many Innuit, who all thank him. Next to him you were kindest to me when I was with you. Eenoolooapik.

M’Donald 1841: 102

Eenoolooapik’s geographical knowledge confirmed

After dropping off Eenoolooapik, the Bon Accord and the accompanying ships continued searching for whales in the sound, this time successfully. These further operations again confirmed most of the information given by Eenoolooapik. M’Donald concluded:

Almost the only error worthy of notice was the situation of the entrance; and this, as before mentioned, can scarcely be called a mistake of Eenoo’s, as it was merely supposed, from the reason already mentioned, that it communicated with the sea by means of Cumberland Strait. His utter unacquaintance with the mathematical principles of geography, and his ignorance of the coast farther south, rendered it impossible for him to give certain information on that point. The description which he had given on the direction and appearance of the coast was fully verified, and abundance of proof everywhere presented itself of the correctness of his statements regarding the fitness of the Sound as a whale-fishing station.

M’Donald 1841: 111

Figure 3

Enoolooapik's letter as reproduced in a fold-out between pages 102 and 103 in M'Donald (1841).

Enoolooapik's letter as reproduced in a fold-out between pages 102 and 103 in M'Donald (1841).

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It was, of course, the deficiencies in the knowledge of the Qallunaat that for more than a year failed to recognize that Eenoo’s Tenudiackbeek (temporarily renamed by William Penny as Hogarth’s Sound) was simply John Davis’s Cumberland Sound and other mapmakers’ Northumberland Inlet. Eenoolooapik alone was right and the learned Europeans were all wrong.

The Bon Accord returned to the waters around Qimisu before leaving for Aberdeen on September 22, but the crew was disappointed not to find Eenoolooapik. He had taken a wife, Amitak, and headed inland on a hunting trip. But Captain Penny had not seen the last of this remarkable Inuk. When in October 1844 Penny sailed the St. Andrew into Cumberland Sound, Eenoo joined him for a short time in whale-fishing. Again for three months in 1846 the Inuk and the Scot joined in a successful fishing season. Meanwhile, Eenoo had fathered a son, Angalook. But tuberculosis, a legacy of Eenoo’s illness while in Scotland, weakened him, and when Penny reached Cumberland Sound in September 1847, he learned of the death of his guide and friend (Harper 1990: 57). In the ensuing years, Scot and American whalers scoured Cumberland Sound, most of them unaware of the role of Eenoolooapik in the rediscovery of the rich fishing grounds. In 1851 Sidney Budington, an American, led the first intentional over-wintering of a whaling ship, and shortly afterward, shore stations, advocated by Alexander M’Donald in his biography of Eenoolooapik, were established on two of the islands to which Eenoolooapik had led the Bon Accord more than a decade earlier (Ross 1997: xxi; Rowley 1996: 214; Stevenson 1997: 75).

Death did not end Eenoolooapik’s contributions to the Qallunaat, for, after hearing of Eenoo’s experiences in Scotland, one of his sisters, Tookoolito, and her husband, Ebierbing, together with a neighbouring boy, spent 1853-1855 in London, where they were received and written about by Queen Victoria. Fifteen years later, the couple joined the American explorer, Charles Francis Hall, as teachers and guides and remained with him until Hall’s mysterious death in 1871 (Jones 2002a: 4-20, 2002b: 73-81; Nickerson 2002: 48).

For modern scholars seeking to document the facility of the Inuit to prepare maps, M’Donald provides some additional insights:

The best marked feature of his [Eenoolooapik’s] mental constitution was the ample development of those faculties on which the attainment of geographical knowledge depends; and it will be recollected that the first circumstance which attracted attention to him at all, was the extent of his acquirements in that department. The facility with which he had acquired this knowledge is apparent from his having only once sailed between Keimooksook and Durban along the coast, the features of which, after a long interval of time, he described with such remarkable accuracy. I am inclined to believe, not only from my own observation, but also from the accounts given by Parry and others, that the Esquimaux generally possess the mental faculties necessary for this attainment in a pretty high state of perfection; and when we consider that they are forced from their situation to derive almost their whole subsistence from the sea, and often obliged for this purpose to undertake long journeys, and necessarily migratory in their habits—the necessity for such observational capacities appears abundantly obvious. The readiness, too, with which Eenoolooapik acquired the power of communicating this knowledge—his using rude sketches for the purpose of making himself understood when language altogether failed him, and the fondness which he shewed for drawing, all afford additional evidence of the activity of the same elementary faculties of mind acting in a different manner in consequence of the difference of his situation. Again, the development of several of these faculties, combined with constructiveness, is strongly illustrated in the ingenuity and neatness displayed by the Esquimaux in the construction of their canoes, fishing apparatus, and articles of dress; and it was probably this combination which enabled Eenoolooapik so readily to comprehend the various mechanical contrivances which were shewn him. When we reflect on the little that nature has done for the Esquimaux, and the great ingenuity required to construct from the slender stock at their disposal the means necessary for procuring subsistence, we cannot fail to see the vast importance of possessing such a mechanical talent.

M’Donald 1841: 107-108


The rough chart that Eenoolooapik drew for William Penny in 1839 (Stevenson 1997: 41) was more accurate than John Arrowsmith’s 1847 depiction of “Tenudiakbeek Gulf” (Hayes 2003: 83). It compared favorably with the map titled “Hogarth’s Sound” prepared by professional cartographers for Eenoonooapik’s biography (M’Donald 1841: between 1-2). It also presaged progressively better charts such as Franz Boas’s splendid map of 1885 (Boas 1984: 123), all of which validated the general outline of an unlettered nineteen-year-old’s drawing from memory.

Parties annexes