by Michael Haynes
On June 4, 1804, William Clark recorded in his journal, "Our mast broke by the bout running under a tree." Sgt. John Ordway was more specific, "Our mast broke by my steering the boat (alone) near the shore, . . . the mast got fast in a limb of a sycamore tree & broke it very easy." His readiness to accept responsibility seems to reflect the conscientious manner with which Sgt. Ordway executed all his duties – faithfully and fully.
This incident occurred very close to present-day Jefferson City, Missouri, and caused a delay as the necessary repairs were made. Clark commemorated the mishap by dubbing a small unnamed tributary they passed "Mast Creek."
Up until this emergency they seem to have been enjoying a rare moment of sailing. Usually the massive keelboat had to be poled or cordelled up the river, a feat we can only marvel at today.
Copies of this print are available direct from the artist.