He sailed into Sannack Island among the Aleutian Islands in 1800. He and his company were shipwrecked and in a bad way when some natives showed up: ‘About mid-day we saw them approaching in three small skin canoes, with one Indian in each tiny boat. One of them had a gold medal around his neck, came forward, and addressed us in Russian.’
This gold-medal guy sent another one off immediately to get more help for the sailors who had been struggling for days to stay alive on raw seafood while trying to make something to float them to safety. The place was a soggy area at the foot of a mountain. They had gathered some planks together from the wreckage to create a dry spot to sleep. They were miserable and the chief gave them some preserved berries and quickly launched out to get some fish for them to eat. He got a fire going with a wood friction deal and had them eating cooked fish in short order.
‘The next day about forty Indians, men and women, came and encamped beside us; they made huts for themselves, by setting up planks, leaning them against each other at the top and throwing earth upon them, over which they put a covering of grass.’
They had some dried salmon and other provisions and shared all they had with the shipwrecked sailors. Then they towed the boat they were working on with their canoes and helped them salvage some stuff from the wreck.
Some days later, the Russian commandant showed up with about twentysome more Indians who each built their own huts. Archibald Campbell marvelled at the small village that now surrounded the stragglers who were on their own in this desolate spot just a few days before. The new arrivals had rifles and shot some geese for dinner. The guns were strange to him and were fired while propped up by two support arms that sat on the ground. They also pitched in to complete their boat using axes and the commandant sent for carpenters to finish the job.
Things Go Bad
This was not all the troubles they had in this harsh land. Later more sailing problems caused some of the men with young Campbell among them to climb to safely on the hard rocky mountains that stretched down to the sea. His feet became soaked and eventually froze solid on the trip. The Russians had to amputate both feet which sounds bad enough but was made worse by it being done in a way that did not remove all the bad flesh and caused him continued problems.
The story got a little better since sympathy made him something of a celebrity and natives would carry him about to places he wished to go. He eventually made his way down to Hawaii and took up residence in that much more hospitable area of the world. He got more medical treatment there and was in less discomfort than his time in the Alaskan islands.
His account also included time spent in Kamchatka, the most eastern part of Russian. Remember, at this time, Alaska was part of Russia not the US even though US companies had business activities in the area.