Novel an insight into intriguing slice of North American history

Posted: June 10, 2015 in Into the Americas
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Into the Americas, the latest novel by New Zealand father-and-son writing team Lance & James Morcan, provides an insight into an intriguing, but surprisingly little known event in in North American history. It’s based on the true account of young English seaman John Jewitt’s enslavement by one of the native tribes of the Pacific Northwest in the early 1800’s. 

Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story)

Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story)

An excerpt from Into the Americas  follows. It describes 19-year-old John Jewitt’s arrival in Nootka Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, aboard the brig The Boston  in 1803:

A noise resembling the beating of drums signaled to the men of The Boston that their arrival at Friendly Cove, Nootka Sound, had been noticed even though rain and mist had reduced visibility to less than thirty yards. The mist hung over the sea and the surrounding hills like a white shroud, adding to the eeriness of the occasion.

In fact, the drumming noise came not from drums but from the beating of sticks and branches against the timber roofs and walls of the Mowachahts’ lodges.

John was standing at the starboard rail. Through the mist he caught an occasional glimpse of a forbidding, rocky shoreline. Forest-covered hills rose up from the sea, and low cloud clung to the treetops. Fir trees abounded – spruce and pine being especially prominent – along with groves of beech and cedar trees, and other varieties John couldn’t identify.

A totem pole rose even higher than the trees around it, its top hidden by mist. The mist cleared momentarily to reveal its top resembled the head of an eagle.

Soon, other crew members joined John. They included Dorthy, second mate William Ingraham, black sailor Jupiter Senegal, steward Abraham Waters, sailmaker Jonathan Thompson and his namesake Edward Thompson, the boatswain. All shared John’s excitement as more than five months had now passed since their last landfall.

As the brig negotiated the unchartered waters of the inlet, regular depth soundings were taken to ensure her safe passage.

Gradually, the rain eased and the mist cleared. For those who had never visited the Northwest Pacific region before, it was a sight to behold: the forest-covered hills rose higher and higher toward distant horizons; beyond them, the snow-capped peaks of unnamed mountains could be seen rising above the clouds; smoke from unseen cooking fires spiraled into the sky; seals dozed along the rocky shore, squawking seagulls hovered above a rotting sea lion carcass, and a bull elk grazed on lush grass between the rocks and the trees.

“Look!” William shouted.

John turned to see the second mate pointing behind the brig to where dozens of bald eagles were diving into the sea to snare fish. Most, it seemed, succeeded at their first attempt. Those who didn’t immediately launched another sortie. They were joined by more eagles and within minutes scores of the magnificent birds of prey were plunging into the sea.

Those witnessing the spectacle for the first time couldn’t believe their eyes. They marveled at the eagles’ speed of descent, how hard they hit the water and how successful they were at this spectacular food-gathering method.

John and the others returned their attention to the shoreline ahead as The Boston entered Friendly Cove. Nootka village came into view and the drumming sound that had heralded the brig’s arrival earlier intensified.

Mowachaht villagers could be seen drumming sticks against the exterior of their lodges. To John’s eyes, those employed in such a way appeared to be working themselves up into a frenzy.

On the sandy beach in front of the village, warriors were in the process of launching some of the twenty or so canoes resting there. John could see the Mowachahts were intent on approaching The Boston and he hoped they meant the brig’s crew no harm. The fact that all were armed and most carried muskets did nothing for his confidence.

Dorthy, who stood alongside John, noticed his assistant’s interest in the activity ashore. “Them the Mowachahts,” the armorer said. “Savages every one of ’em, so watch your scalp.”

John hoped Dorthy was joking. The expression on his face indicated he wasn’t. John turned his attention to the villagers’ European-style lodges. He counted twenty-three of the impressive dwellings. The lad pointed to the nearest lodge – a huge structure that looked like it could accommodate up to sixty or more people. “How did these people build those?” he asked.

“They didn’t,” Dorthy replied. “They were left behind by the Spaniards some years back.”

“Settlers?”

“Aye. Settlers and merchants. The Spanish had a monopoly on trade in these parts for many years.” Dorthy managed a rare smile. “Then it all changed and Britain reminded Spain, France and the rest of the world who really rules the waves.”

At the bow, the two sailors performing sounding duties conferred with each other under the watchful eye of Delouissa. One of them, Norwegian Peter Alstrom, shouted, “Twelve fathoms, Chief!”

Delouissa relayed the information to Salter who anxiously paced the quarter-deck. “Twelve fathoms, Captain!”

“Drop anchor!” Salter ordered.

“Aye, Captain.” Turning back to the two sailors, Delouissa said, “You heard the captain.”

“Yes, Chief,” Alstrom said. He and his companion then hurried off to drop anchor.

Delouissa turned to John and the others who were still observing their new surroundings. “Back to your stations, you layabouts,” he ordered. “Plenty o’ time for sightseeing later.”

The crewmen returned to their duties. As the rain was holding off, John opted to work on deck. He quickly set about firing up the forge. At the same time he kept an eye on the Mowachahts who were rapidly closing with the brig in their canoes.

Salter was keeping a close eye on the approaching Mowachahts, too. He ordered Delouissa to ensure that an armed reception party awaited the visitors.

#

Within minutes of the brig dropping anchor, she was surrounded by canoes whose occupants observed her in silence. The canoes, which ranged in size from four to twenty-man vessels, were dugouts fashioned from the giant red cedar trees found in these parts. Their occupants handled them with no small amount of skill.

On board The Boston, a dozen armed crewmen lined the near rail, their muskets primed and at the ready. Salter was taking no chances.

John couldn’t decide whether the Mowachahts were pleased to see the traders or whether they meant them harm. The natives’ expressions seemed benign to his eyes, though he sensed an underlying resentment.

One canoe – bigger than the others – drew up alongside The Boston. Maquina, the Mowachaht chief, stood, arms folded, at the prow. Ever-impressive, he wore the same ceremonial cloak he always wore when the occasion demanded. His hawk-like eyes swept over the brig and over the men who manned her, finally resting on the armed detail lined up along the brig’s starboard rail.

Looking on, John guessed this was the chieftain he’d so often heard his crewmates talking about. From where he stood, the muscular Maquina looked all of six foot tall and was clearly not a man to cross. The natural dark copper hue of his skin contrasted with the white eagle down that covered his long, black hair and his broad shoulders. His warriors were similarly adorned, though few matched the chief’s physical presence.

By all accounts, Maquina had a fearsome reputation. However, he presided over a territory in which the valuable sea-otter abounded, so it was financially expedient for traders to deal with him……

Product Details

Into the Americas (A novel based on a true story)  is available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Into-Americas-novel-based-story-ebook/dp/B00YJKM51E/

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