Andrew Graham, Thomas Hutchins, and the First Record of Peary's Caribou

  • Richard Glover
Keywords: Driftwood, Dust, Heat budgets, Heat transmission, Growth, Ice islands, Ice shelves, Mollusks, Ocean currents, Puddles, Radiocarbon dating, Recent epoch, Salinity, Sea water, Snow, Stress, Temperature, Thermal regimes, Thickness, Topography, Velocity, Winds, Arctic Ocean, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut


The eighteenth century naturalist Thomas Pennant published the following note in 1787: "Mr. Hutchins was presented, by the Weahipouk Indians, with a Deer four feet eight inches long and three feet two high. It was entirely white, except for the back which was mottled with brown. The fur was short and fine like that of the Ermine. The Indians, in their manner of expression, said it came from a place where there was little or no day." This description sounds extremely like Peary's caribou, but there are obvious difficulties in accepting it as the first record of that remote species of deer. Who, it must be asked, were the "Weahipouk" Indians? How were any Indians able to secure the skin of an animal that lived north of the range of most Eskimos? And how did they come to make a present of it to Dr. Thomas Hutchins who spent most of his time in America at Fort Albany on James Bay and was never at any time north of Fort York? Through the kindness of Miss Alice Johnson, archivist of the Hudson's Bay Company, it has become possible to answer these questions and also to assert that Pennant's note is indeed the earliest description of Peary's caribou, although an inaccurate one. ...