18th to 20th July 1872

(Page 59) 18th July 1872
Left Hakodate for Sappro this afternoon at 5 p.m. after vainly endeavouring to get started earlier as the Japs of my party could not understand that I would prefer to start at the time appointed, even though it did rain, as it did heavily. I am accompanied by a young man from Chicago and Washington named Lathrop, who was a fellow passenger of Frank’s across the Pacific. Lathrop has obtained permission to travel in the interior as a collector for the Chicago Academy of Sciences. We had a wet and rapid ride through the rain to Ono. 12 miles. Arrived there, found our baggage, which had started in advance, and after getting off our wraps and taking one of the hot baths to be found in every Japanese tea house, Lathrop being inclined to try it first with a result of several miserable yells for more cold water, we took our dinner followed by a cup of coffee. This was good and refreshing but proved so strong that we never closed our eyes till 5 a.m. but lay smoking and singing and story telling all (Page 60) night, much to the astonishment and perhaps the disgust of our Japanese neighbours.
    And now for a brief description of our caravan: I have two pack horses to carry my baggage, which consists of two large valises, a rifle and a "futon" or thick cotton mattrass with blankets. Lathrop is similarly equipped to the extent of a load for one pack horse. Then there are four more pack horses loaded with food, of foreign kinds, cooking utensils etc. and two carrying the baggage of my Japanese suite. The latter consisting of 1st Haruki, my interpreter, 2nd Ota, a small official who goes as quartermaster, commissary and paymaster of the expedition; 3rd a cook, supposed to be cunning in foreign cookery; 4th my servant who acts also for Lathrop. All this cavalcade would have accompanied me had I gone alone. Lathrop shares the benefit on condition of paying half the expenses, my share being paid by the Govt. In addition to this huge suite, we are preceded by a forerunner who sees that the best quarters are reserved and prepared for us at the tea houses. (Page 61). I had nearly forgotten another member of the party: Dr Majima, a really able Japanese physician who accompanies me at my request. Lathrop rides his own horse. I ride post horses.

July 19th.
At breakfast this morning I discovered that boiled eggs and rice were good mixed, and made the bulk of our meal from them. Left Ono about 11 o’clock. Met Mr Wasson on his way to Hakodate from Mori where we had hoped to find him this evening. Learned from him that the engineer party had left Mori and crossed Volcano Bay to Murarau. Agreed to wait at Mori two days for Wasson, which we were the more inclined to do as we were anxious to visit a volcano in the neighbourhood. Arrived at Mori this evening about 8. Took a plunge in the bay and after dinner turned in tired enough.

July 20th.
Sent this morning for an old Aino to guide us in the ascent of the volcano. Komagadaki on the "Mountain of Little Ponies" Started at 10 - party consisting of Lathrop (Page 62), Haruki and self beside the guide. Rode about four miles back toward Hakodate and then turned off through the woods by a bridle path that led to a sort of glacier of loose pumice and ashes which stretched from the cone of the mountain to the plain below. Stopped at noon in the shade of a few straggling willows growing on the pumice, took our tiffin and, leaving our horses, pushed up the cone of loose ashes and pumice for a mile till at length, hot and blown, we stood on the edge of a depression on the wall of the crater. Here we looked down into an immense circular amphitheatre, fully a mile wide, the side of which toward the sea had given way during the last great eruption in 1854, allowing the egress of a flood of lava and pumice which carried away several villages and ran into the sea forming a long spit of land. Lathrop now urged an ascent of the main peak which towered far above us, a needle like point of lava rocks, looking about as easy to climb as a plastered wall, and which, moreover, had never been ascended. Haruki (Page 63) and the guide remonstrated, but the mountaineer spirit was strong upon us (upon me more especially, as I vowed it would be the last mountain I would ever voluntarily climb and was so anxious to do it up thoroughly) and we started. After a difficult and slippery scramble along the inner edge of the crater, where a slip would have sent us whirling among the loose debris of which it was composed, five hundred feet to the edge of and over a precipice overhanging the crater proper, we reached a sharp ridge of pumice which, not more than a foot wide at the top, led in a gentle slope to the foot of the peak. Along this we crawled, for a misstep would have sent us on the one hand into the crater, and on the other we would have rolled among loose rocks for half a mile to plunge into a deep ravine at the end. Haruki and the guide gave out here, and the former pathetically begged me to return, wanting to know how he could ever face Mrs Eldridge. We pushed on, however, and were soon painfully working our way up the peak, the crumbling lava of which it is composed (Page 64) coming away under our feet in great masses which, with a thundering crash, plunged either into the crater on the right or into a deep gorge on the left, either a thousand feet below. After two hours severe toil, almost giving up several times, especially at one point where we had to pass under a (illegible) rock upon a talus of loose pumice not more than 18 inches wide and overhanging a precipice sheer to the bottom of the crater, with no sure foundation upon which to plant the rude sticks we had cut to serve as alpenstocks, and not a point to which we could cling by the hands, we reached the base of the extreme pinnacle, a mass of rock thirty five or forty feet high, with nearly vertical sides. Lathrop was ahead and passed round the base of it. Soon I heard him cry "I can’t get up from here. Do you see a practicable route from where you are?". I directed him to a fissure that seemed to promise a footing, and soon after, as I was working my way around the base, I heard a somewhat (Page 65) agitated voice from above: "Doctor, may I ask a favor? For God’s sake don’t try it. I came within a hair’s breadth of plunging into the crater". Nevertheless, I declined to give it up and soon stood with L. on the peak. To the S.E. we looked down on Hakodate, 30 miles away, and with my glass I even fancied I could distinguish my house. How I wished I could have signalled to F.! To the E., through the huge gap in the wall of the crater, we looked out on the Pacific. To the N.E. was the entrance of Volcano Bay, mountainous and wild, the bay extending inland to the N and W as far as we could see. At the western foot of the mountain lay the pretty village of Mori, while toward the S.E., at the base of the volcano, shone a cluster of exquisite lakes, which were formed during a former eruption. Altogether the view was the finest I have ever seen. Our ascent was made on the S.E. slope, but we descended to the S.W. In fact, we could not have returned the way we came. The slope down which we half rolled, half climbed was at an angle of more than 45, and stretched unbroken from (Page 66) the peak to the very base of the mountain. A boulder which we started plunged wildly for at least a mile down the slope, leaping sometimes 100 feet into the air and at last disappearing into the forest where its course was marked by a huge commotion among the tree tops (at this point in the journal, S.E. has made a fine pencil drawing of the volcano from Mori.) On looking over the above I find I have neglected to give any description of the crater. I should judge it to average from the crater wall, excluding the peak which forms a part of it, about 500 feet in depth. The (Page 67) floor is of pumice and ashes, seamed with white veins of sulphurous rock in which are numerous fumaroles emitting thin spirals of vapor. Nearly in the centre of the main crater opens a sub crater, a ragged chasm 1/8 of a mile in diameter, and perhaps 300 feet deep with walls of lava and solid sulphur, the bottom similar to that of the main crater, but containing a greater number of fumaroles. We did not descend into the crater for lack of time, but had a full view of it from the peak which fairly overhangs it. Komagadaki is 4000 feet high. While this is by no means a great height, yet as the mountain is directly on the sea and although all heights are taken from sea level it is practically as great a climb as are many mountains whose height above the sea is far greater yet rise comparatively little above the surrounding country.
    Reached Mori about 9 p.m. heartily tired.

Journal Part 35

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