Weather … 205 years ago…

Sure, Atlanta has been encased in ice since Sunday. And, sure, people are complaining about the grocery store shelves being empty because the trucks can’t get to the stores for re-stocking – assuming employees can get there to re-stock.

Now, what if you were over 2000 miles from home and dependent on what you and your team of men can kill or scavenge from the wilderness?

Back in 1805, Lewis and Clark were in the crude buildings at Fort Clatsop (near what is now Astoria, Oregon) to help them survive the winter.

From their diaries:

January 11, 1806

A party was sent out to bring in elk that were killed yesterday: “ deer have become scarce.”

January 12, 1806

“ in the evening Drewyer having killed 7 elk; I scercely know how we should subsit, I belive but badly if it was not for the excertions of this excellent hunter; maney others also excert themselves, but not being acquainted with the best method of finding and killing the elk and no other wild animals is to be found in this quarter., they are unsuksessfull in their excertions.”

January 13, 1806

Captain Lewis took all men who could be spared and brought in the seven elk that Drouillard killed the preceding day. “ this evenig we exhausted the last of our candles*, but fortunately had taken the precaution to bring with us moulds and wick, by means of which and some Elk’s tallow in our possession we do not yet consider oursleves destitute of this necessary article.”

last of our candles*- It took a lot of work to produce a little light in the fort. All the quarters had fireplaces to throw out light as well as heat. The Captains’ quarters had the largest fireplace, because Lewis and Clark needed the most light to work on their maps and journals. (Source: National Park Service)

January 14, 1806

The party engaged itself in jerking the meat of the elk: “two men were sent to the salt works to assist in making salt. The rest were employed in drying and taking care of the meat; and in dressing elk skins for mokasins, which is a laborious business.”

January 15, 1806

Entire party was confined to their huts: “ wet throughout.”

Note: The above journal entries can be found at: The web site provides in-depth knowledge of the Lewis and Clark Expedition which departed from Camp River Dubois, Illinois on May 14, 1804 and arrived at St. Charles, Missouri on September 21, 1806.

Lewis and Clark Commemorative Dollar 2004 obverse

While in your warm home, sit back and imagine these men’s circumstances. Many had been away from home for over two years. Now, in mid-January 1806, they were cold, wet and hungry.

But, also think about how resourceful these frontiersmen were. They only lost one man over the expedition’s timespan, and that was, best guess from medical historians, due to a ruptured appendix.

They overcame the cold and any discomforts they encountered to bring back a wealth of information about the newly purchased Louisiana Territory.

And we complain about a little bit of ice and snow. We could learn a thing or two from these men.