Arctic exploration

The Arctic Tragedy—American Sailors in the Frozen Deep—The Search for Sir John Franklin—Reasons for Seeking the North Pole—Testimony of Scientists and Explorers—Pertinacity of Polar Voyagers—Dr. Kane and Dr. Hayes—Charles F. Hall, Journalist and Explorer—Miraculous Escape of His Party—The Ill-fated "Jeannette" Expedition—Suffering and Death of De Long and His Companions—A Pitiful Diary—The Greely Expedition—Its Careful Plan and Complete Disaster—Rescue of the Greely Survivors—Peary, Wellman, and Baldwin.

A chapter in the story of the American sailor, which, though begun full an hundred years ago, is not yet complete, is that which tells the narrative of the search for the North Pole. It is a story of calm daring, of indomitable pertinacity, of patient endurance of the most cruel suffering, of heroic invitation to and acceptance of death. The story will be completed only when the goal is won. Even as these words are being written, American sailors are beleaguered in the frozen North, and others are preparing to follow them thither, so that the narrative here set forth must be accepted as only a partial story of a quest still being prosecuted.

In the private office of the President of the United States at Washington, stands a massive oaken desk. It has been a passive factor in the making of history, for at it have eight presidents sat, and papers involving almost the life of the nation, have received the executive signature upon its smooth surface. The very timbers of which it is built were concerned in the making of history of another sort, for they were part of the frame of the stout British ship "Resolute," which, after a long search in the Polar regions for the hapless Sir John Franklin—of whom more hereafter—was deserted by her crew in the Arctic pack, drifted twelve hundred miles in the ice, and was then discovered and brought back home as good as new by Captain Buddington of the stanch American whaler, "George and Henry." The sympathies of all civilized peoples, and particularly of English-speaking races, were at that time strongly stirred by the fate of Franklin and his brave companions, and so Congress appropriated $40,000 for the purchase of the vessel from the salvors, and her repair. Refitted throughout, she was sent to England and presented to the Queen in 1856. Years later, when broken up, the desk was made from her timbers and presented by order of Victoria to the President of the United States, who at that time was Rutherford B. Hayes. It stands now in the executive mansion, an enduring memorial of one of the romances of a long quest full of romance—the search for the North Pole.

In all ages, the minds of men of the exploring and colonizing nations, have turned toward the tropics as the region of fabulous wealth, the field for profitable adventure. "The wealth of the Ind," has passed into proverb. Though exploration has shown that, it is the flinty North that hides beneath its granite bosom the richest stores of mineral wealth, almost four centuries of failure and disappointment were needed to rid men's minds of the notion that the jungles and the tropical forests were the most abundant hiding-places of gold and precious stones. The wild beauty of the tropics, the cloudless skies, the tangled thickets, ever green and rustling with a restless animal life, the content and amiability of the natives, combined in a picture irresistibly attractive to the adventurer. Surely where there was so much beauty, so much of innocent joy in life, there must be the fountain of perpetual youth, there must be gold, and diamonds, and sapphires—all those gewgaws, the worship of which shows the lingering taint of barbarism in the civilized man, and for which the English, Spanish, and Portuguese adventurers of three centuries ago, were ready to sacrifice home and family, manhood, honor, and life.

So it happened that in the early days of maritime adventure the course of the hardy voyagers was toward the tropics, and they made of the Spanish Main a sea of blood, while Pizzarro and Cortez, and after them the dreaded buccaneers, sacked towns, betrayed, murdered, and outraged, destroyed an ancient civilization and fairly blotted out a people, all in the mad search for gold. Men only could have been guilty of such crimes, for man along, among animals endowed with life, kills for the mere lust of slaughter.

And yet, man alone stands ready to risk his life for an idea, to brave the most direful perils, to endure the most poignant suffering that the world's store of knowledge may be increased, that science may be advanced, that just one more fact may be added to the things actually known. If the record of man in the tropics has been stained by theft, rapine, and murder, the story of his long struggle with the Arctic ice, offers for his redemption a series of pictures of self-sacrifice, tenderness, honor, courage, and piety. No hope of profit drew the seamen of all maritime nations into the dismal and desolate ice-floes that guard the frozen North. No lust for gold impelled them to brave the darkness, the cold, and the terrifying silence of the six-months Arctic night. The men who have—thus far unsuccessfully—fought with ice-bound nature for access to the Pole, were impelled only by honorable emulation and scientific zeal.

The earlier Arctic explorers were not, it is true, searchers for the North Pole. That quest—which has written in its history as many tales of heroism, self-sacrifice, and patient resignation to adversity, as the poets have woven about the story of chivalry and the search for the Holy Grail—was begun only in the middle of the last century, and by an American. But for three hundred years English, Dutch, and Portuguese explorers, and the stout-hearted American whalemen, had been pushing further and further into the frozen deep. The explorers sought the "Northwest Passage," or a water route around the northern end of North America, and so on to India and the riches of the East. Sir John Franklin, in the voyage that proved his last, demonstrated that such a passage could be made, but not for any practical or useful purpose. After him it was abandoned, and geographical research, and the struggle to reach the pole, became the motives that took men into the Arctic.

"But why," many people ask, with some reason, "should there be this determined search for the North Pole. What good will come to the world with its discovery? Is it worth while to go on year after year, pouring out treasure and risking human lives, merely that any hardy explorer may stand at an imaginary point on the earth's surface which is already fixed geographically by scientists?"

Let the scientists and the explorers answer, for to most of us the questions do not seem unreasonable.

Naturally, with the explorers' love for adventure, eagerness to see any impressive manifestations of nature's powers, and the ambition to attain a spot for which men have been striving for half a century, are the animating purposes. So we find Fridjof Nansen, who for a time held the record of having attained the "Furthest North," writing on this subject to an enquiring editor: "When man ceases to wish to know and to conquer every foot of the earth, which was given him to live upon and to rule, then will the decadence of the race begin. Of itself, that mathematical point which marks the northern termination of the axis of our earth, is of no more importance than any other point within the unknown polar area; but it is of much more importance that this particular point be reached, because there clings about it in the imagination of all mankind, such fascination that, till the Pole is discovered, all Arctic research must be affected, if not overshadowed, by the yearning to attain it."

George W. Melville, chief engineer of the United States Navy, who did such notable service in the Jeanette expedition of 1879, writes in words that stir the pulse:

"Is there a better school of heroic endeavor than the Arctic zone? It is something to stand where the foot of man has never trod. It is something to do that which has defied the energy of the race for the last twenty years. It is something to have the consciousness that you are adding your modicum of knowledge to the world's store. It is worth a year of the life of a man with a soul larger than a turnip, to see a real iceberg in all its majesty and grandeur. It is worth some sacrifice to be alone, just once, amid the awful silence of the Arctic snows, there to communicate with the God of nature, whom the thoughtful man finds best in solitude and silence, far from the haunts of men—alone with the Creator."

Thus the explorers. The scientists look less upon the picturesque and exciting side of Arctic exploration, and more upon its useful phases. "It helps to solve useful problems in the physics of the world," wrote Professor Todd of Amherst college. "The meteorology of the United States to-day; perfection of theories of the earth's magnetism, requisite in conducting surveys and navigating ships; the origin and development of terrestrial fauna and flora; secular variation of climate; behavior of ocean currents—all these are fields of practical investigation in which the phenomena of the Arctic and Antarctic worlds play a very significant role."

Lieutenant Maury, whose eminent services in mapping the ocean won him international honors, writes of the polar regions:

"There icebergs are launched and glaciers formed. There the tides have their cradle, the whales their nursery. There the winds complete their circuits, and the currents of the sea their round in the wonderful system of inter-oceanic circulation. There the aurora borealis is lighted up, and the trembling needle brought to rest, and there, too, in the mazes of that mystic circle, terrestrial forces of occult power, and vast influence upon the well-being of men, are continually at play.... Noble daring has made Arctic ice and waters classic ground. It is no feverish excitement nor vain ambition that leads man there. It is a higher feeling, a holier motive, a desire to look into the works of creation, to comprehend the economy of our planet, and to grow wiser and better by the knowledge."

Nor can it be said fairly that the polar regions have failed to repay, in actual financial profit, their persistent invasion by man. It is estimated by competent statisticians, that in the last two centuries no less than two thousand million dollars' worth of furs, fish, whale-oil, whalebone, and minerals, have been taken out of the ice-bound seas.


The full story—at once sorrowful and stimulating—of Arctic exploration, can not be told here. That would require volumes rather than a single chapter. Even the part played in it by Americans can be sketched in outline only. But it is worth remembering that the systematic attack of our countrymen upon the Arctic fortress, began with an unselfish and humane incentive. In 1845 Sir John Franklin, a gallant English seaman, had set sail with two stout ships and 125 men, to seek the Northwest Passage. Thereafter no word was heard from him, until, years later, a searching party found a cairn of stones on a desolate, ice-bound headland, and in it a faintly written record, which told of the death of Sir John and twenty-four of his associates. We know now, that all who set out on this ill-fated expedition, perished. Struggling to the southward after abandoning their ships, they fell one by one, and their lives ebbed away on the cruel ice. "They fell down and died as they walked," said an old Esquimau woman to Lieutenant McClintock, of the British navy, who sought for tidings of them, and, indeed, her report found sorrowful verification in the skeletons discovered years afterward, lying face downward in the snow. To the last man they died. Think of the state of that last man—alone in the frozen wilderness! An eloquent writer, the correspondent McGahan, himself no stranger to Arctic pains and perils, has imagined that pitiful picture thus:

"One sees this man after the death of his last remaining companion, all alone in that terrible world, gazing round him in mute despair, the sole, living thing in that dark frozen universe. The sky is somber, the earth whitened with a glittering whiteness that chills the heart. His clothing is covered with frozen snow, his face lean and haggard, his beard a cluster of icicles. The setting sun looks back to see the last victim die. He meets her sinister gaze with a steady eye, as though bidding her defiance. For a few minutes they glare at each other, then the curtain is drawn, and all is dark."

As fears for Franklin's safety deepened into certainty of his loss with the passage of months and years, a multitude of searching expeditions were sent out, the earlier ones in the hope of rescuing him; the later ones with the purpose of discovering the records of his voyage, which all felt sure must have been cached at some accessible point. Americans took an active—almost a leading—part in these expeditions, braving in them the same perils which had overcome the stout English knight. By sea and by land they sought him. The story of the land expeditions, though full of interest, is foreign to the purpose of this work, and must be passed over with the mere note that Charles F. Hall, a Cincinnati journalist, in 1868-69, and Lieutenant Schwatka, and W.H. Gilder in 1878-79 fought their way northward to the path followed by the English explorer, found many relics of his expedition, and from the Esquimaux gathered indisputable evidence of his fate. By sea the United States was represented in the search for Franklin, by the ships "Advance" and "Rescue." They accomplished little of importance, but on the latter vessel was a young navy surgeon, Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, who was destined to make notable contributions to Arctic knowledge, both as explorer and writer.

One who studies the enormous volume of literature in which the Arctic story is told, scarcely can fail to be impressed by the pertinacity with which men, after one experience in the polar regions, return again and again to the quest for adventure and honors in the ice-bound zone. The subaltern on the expedition of to-day, has no sooner returned than he sets about organizing a new expedition, of which he may be commander. The commander goes into the ice time and again until, perhaps, the time comes when he does not come out. The leader of a rescue party becomes the leader of an exploring expedition, which in its turn, usually comes to need rescue.

So we find Dr. Kane, who was surgeon of an expedition for the rescue of Franklin, commanding four years later the brig "Advance," and voyaging northward through Baffin's Bay. Narrowly, indeed, he escaped the fate of the man in the search for whom he had gained his first Arctic experience. His ship, beset by ice, and sorely wounded, remained fixed and immovable for two years. At first the beleaguered men made sledge journeys in every direction for exploratory purposes, but the second year they sought rather by determined, though futile dashes across the rugged surface of the frozen sea, to find some place of refuge, some hope of emancipation from the thraldom of the ice. The second winter all of the brig except the hull, which served for shelter, was burned for fuel; two men had died, and many were sick of scurvy, the sledge dogs were all dead, and the end of the provisions was in sight. In May, 1855, a retreat in open boats, covering eighty-five days and over fifty miles of open sea, brought the survivors to safety.

When men have looked into the jaws of death, it might be thought they would strenuously avoid such another view. But there is an Arctic fever as well as an Arctic chill, and, once in the blood, it drags its victim irresistibly to the frozen North, until perhaps he lays his bones among the icebergs, cured of all fevers forever. And so, a year or two after the narrow escape of Dr. Kane, the surgeon of his expedition, Dr. Isaac I. Hayes, was hard at work fitting out an expedition of which he was to be commander, to return to Baffin's Bay and Smith sound, and if possible, fight its way into that open sea, which Dr. Hayes long contended surrounded the North Pole. No man in the Kane expedition had encountered greater perils, or withstood more cruel suffering than Dr. Hayes. A boat trip which he made in search of succor, has passed into Arctic history as one of the most desperate expedients ever adopted by starving men. But at the first opportunity he returned again to the scenes of his peril and his pain. His expedition, though conducted with spirit and determination, was not of great scientific value, as he was greatly handicapped in his observations by the death of his astronomer, who slipped through thin ice into the sea, and froze to death in his water-soaked garments.


A most extraordinary record of daring and suffering in Arctic exploration was made by Charles F. Hall, to whom I have already referred. Beginning life as an engraver in Cincinnati, he became engrossed in the study of Arctic problems, as the result of reading the stories of the early navigators. Every book bearing on the subject in the library of his native city, was eagerly read, and his enthusiasm infected some of the wealthy citizens, who gathered for his use a very considerable collection of volumes. Mastering all the literature of the Arctic, he determined to undertake himself the arduous work of the explorer. Taking passage on a whaler, he spent several years among the Esquimaux, living in their crowded and fetid igloos, devouring the blubber and uncooked fish that form their staple articles of diet, wearing their garb of furs, learning to navigate the treacherous kayak in tossing seas, to direct the yelping, quarreling team of dogs over fields of ice as rugged as the edge of some monstrous saw, studying the geography so far as known of the Arctic regions, perfecting himself in all the arts by which man has contested the supremacy of that land with the ice-king. In 1870, with the assistance of the American Geographical Society, Hall induced the United States Government to fit him out an expedition to seek the North Pole—the first exploring party ever sent out with that definite purpose. The steamer "Polaris," a converted navy tug, which General Greely says was wholly unfit for Arctic service, was given him, and a scientific staff supplied by the Government, for though Hall had by painstaking endeavor qualified himself to lead an expedition, he had not enjoyed a scientific education. Neither was he a sailor like DeLong, nor a man trained to the command of men like Greely. Enthusiasm and natural fitness with him took the place of systematic training. But with him, as with so many others in this world, the attainment of the threshold of his ambition proved to be but opening the door to death. By a sledge journey from his ship he reached Cape Brevoort, above latitude 82, at that time the farthest north yet attained, but the exertion proved too much for him, and he had scarcely regained his ship when he died. His name will live, however, in the annals of the Arctic, for his contributions to geographical knowledge were many and precious.


The men who survived him determined to continue his work, and the next summer two fought their way northward a few miles beyond the point attained by Hall. But after this achievement the ship was caught in the ice-pack, and for two months drifted about, helpless in that unrelenting grasp. Out of this imprisonment the explorers escaped through a disaster, which for a time put all their lives in the gravest jeopardy, and the details of which seem almost incredible. In October, when the long twilight which precedes the polar night, had already set in, there came a fierce gale, accompanied by a tossing, roaring sea. The pack, racked by the surges, which now raised it with a mighty force, and then rolling on, left it to fall unsupported, began to go to pieces. The whistling wind accelerated its destruction, driving the floes far apart, heaping them up against the hull of the ship until the grinding and the prodigious pressure opened her seams and the water rushed in. The cry that the ship was sinking rung along the decks, and all hands turned with desperate energy to throwing out on the ice-floe to windward, sledges, provisions, arms, records—everything that could be saved against the sinking of the ship, which all thought was at hand. Nineteen of the ship's company were landed on the floe to carry the material away from its edge to a place of comparative safety. The peril seemed so imminent that the men in their panic performed prodigious feats of strength—lifting and handling alone huge boxes, which at ordinary times, would stagger two men. A driving, whirling snowstorm added to the gloom, confusion, and terror of the scene, shutting out almost completely those on the ice from the view of those still on the ship. In the midst of the work the cry was raised that the floes were parting, and with incredible rapidity the ice broke away from the ship on every side, so that communication between those on deck and those on the floe was instantly cut off by a broad interval of black and tossing water, while the dark and snow-laden air cut off vision on every side. The cries of those on the ice mingled with those from the fast vanishing ship, for each party thought itself in the more desperate case. The ice was fast going to pieces, and boats were plying in the lanes of water thus opened, picking up those clinging to smaller cakes of ice and transporting them to the main floe. On the ship the captain's call had summoned all hands to muster, and they gazed on each other in dumb despair as they saw how few of the ship's company remained. All were sent to the pumps, for the water in the hold was rising with ominous rapidity. The cry rang out that the steam-pumps must be started if the ship was to be saved, but long months had passed since any fire had blazed under those boilers, and to get up steam was a work of hours. With tar-soaked oakum and with dripping whale blubber the engineer strove to get the fires roaring, the while the men on deck toiled with desperate energy at the hand-pumps. But the water gained on them. The ship sunk lower and lower in the black ocean, until a glance over the side could tell all too plainly that she was going to her fate. Now the water begins to ooze through the cracks in the engine-room floor, and break in gentle ripples about the feet of the firemen. If it rises much higher it will flood the fire-boxes, and then all will be over, for there is not one boat left on the ship—all were landed on the now invisible floe. But just as all hope was lost there came a faint hissing of steam, the pumps began slowly moving, and then settled down into their monotonous "chug-chug," the sweetest sound, that day, those desperate mariners had ever heard. They were saved by the narrowest of chances.


We must pass hastily to the sequel of this seemingly irreparable disaster. The "Polaris" was beached, winter quarters established, and those who had clung to the ship spent the winter building boats, in which, the following spring, they made their way southward until picked up by a whaler. Those on the floe drifted at the mercy of the wind and tide 195 days, making over 1300 miles to the southward. As the more temperate latitudes were reached, and the warmer days of spring came on, the floe began going to pieces, and they were continually confronted with the probability of being forced to their boat for safety—one boat, built to hold eight, and now the sole reliance of nineteen people. It is hard to picture through the imagination the awful strain that day and night rested upon the minds of these hapless castaways. Never could they drop off to sleep except in dread that during the night the ice on which they slept, might split, even under their very pallets, and they be awakened by the deathly plunge into the icy water. Day and night they were startled and affrighted by the thunderous rumblings and cracking of the breaking floe—a sound that an experienced Arctic explorer says is the most terrifying ever heard by man, having in it something of the hoarse rumble of heavy artillery, the sharp and murderous crackle of machine guns, and a kind of titanic grinding, for which there is no counterpart in the world of tumult. Living thus in constant dread of death, the little company drifted on, seemingly miraculously preserved. Their floe was at last reduced from a great sheet of ice, perhaps a mile or more square, to a scant ten yards by seventy-five, and this rapidly breaking up. In two days four whalers passed near enough for them to see, yet failed to see them, but finally their frantic signals attracted attention, and they were picked up—not only the original nineteen who had begun the drift six months earlier, but one new and helpless passenger, for one of the Esquimau women had given birth to a child while on the ice.

The next notable Arctic expedition from the United States had its beginning in journalistic enterprise. Mr. James Gordon Bennett, owner of the New York Herald, who had already manifested his interest in geographical work by sending Henry M. Stanley to find Livingston in the heart of the Dark Continent, fitted out the steam yacht "Pandora," which had already been used in Arctic service, and placed her at the disposal of Lieutenant DeLong, U.S.N., for an Arctic voyage. The name of the ship was changed to "Jeannette," and control of the expedition was vested in the United States Government, though Mr. Bennett's generosity defrayed all charges. The vessel was manned from the navy, and Engineer Melville, destined to bear a name great among Arctic men, together with two navy lieutenants, were assigned to her. The voyage planned was then unique among American Arctic expeditions, for instead of following the conventional route north through Baffin's Bay and Smith Sound, the "Jeannette" sailed from San Francisco and pushed northward through Bering Sea. In July, 1879, she weighed anchor. Two years after, no word having been heard of her meanwhile, the inevitable relief expedition was sent out—the steamer "Rodgers," which after making a gallant dash to a most northerly point, was caught in the ice-pack and there burned to the water's edge, her crew, with greatest difficulty, escaping, and reaching home without one ray of intelligence of DeLong's fate.

That fate was bitter indeed, a trial by cold, starvation, and death, fit to stand for awesomeness beside Greely's later sorrowful story. From the very outset evil fortune had attended the "Jeannette." Planning to winter on Wrangle Land—then thought to be a continent—DeLong caught in the ice-pack, was carried past its northern end, thus proving it to be an island, indeed, but making the discovery at heavy cost. Winter in the pack was attended with severe hardships and grave perils. Under the influence of the ocean currents and the tides, the ice was continually breaking up and shifting, and each time the ship was in imminent danger of being crushed. In his journal DeLong tries to describe the terrifying clamor of a shifting pack. "I know of no sound on shore that can be compared with it," he writes. "A rumble, a shriek, a groan, and the crash of a falling house all combined, might serve to convey an idea of the noise with which this motion of the ice-floe is accompanied. Great masses from fifteen to twenty-five feet in height, when up-ended, are sliding along at various angles of elevation and jam, and between and among them are large and confused masses of débris, like a marble yard adrift. Occasionally a stoppage occurs; some piece has caught against or under our floe; there follows a groaning and crackling, our floe bends and humps up in places like domes. Crash! The dome splits, another yard of floe edge breaks off, the pressure is relieved, and on goes again the flowing mass of rumbles, shrieks, groans, etc., for another spell."


Time and again this nerve-racking experience was encountered. More than once serious leaks were started in the ship, which had to be met by working the pumps and building false bulwarks in the hold; but by the exercise of every art known to sailors, she was kept afloat and tenable until June 11, 1881, when a fierce and unexpected nip broke her fairly in two, and she speedily sunk. There followed weeks and months of incessant and desperate struggling with sledge and boat against the forces of polar nature. The ship had sunk about 150 miles from what are known as the New Siberian Islands, for which DeLong then laid his course. The ice was rugged, covered with soft snow, which masked treacherous pitfalls, and full of chasms which had to be bridged. Five sleds and three boats were dragged by almost superhuman exertions, the sick feebly aiding the sturdy in the work. Imagine the disappointment, and despair of the leader, when, after a full week of this cruel labor, with provisions ever growing more scanty, an observation showed him they were actually twenty-eight miles further away from their destination than when they started! While they were toiling south, the ice-floe over which they were plodding was drifting more rapidly north. Nil desperandum  must ever be the watchword of Arctic expeditions, and DeLong, saying nothing to the others of his discovery, changed slightly the course of his march and labored on. July 19 they reached an island hitherto unknown, which was thereupon named Bennett Island. A curious feature of the toilsome march across the ice, was that, though the temperature seldom rose to the freezing point, the men complained bitterly of the heat and suffered severely from sun-burn.

At Bennett Island they took to the boats, for now open water was everywhere visible. DeLong was making for the Lena River in Siberia, where there were known to be several settlements, but few of his party were destined to reach it. In a furious storm, on the 12th of September, the three boats were separated. One, commanded by Lieutenant Chipp, with eight men, must have foundered, for it was never again heard of. A second, commanded by George W. Melville, afterward chief engineer of the United States Navy, found one of the mouths of the Lena River, and ascending it reached a small Siberian village. Happy would it have been had DeLong and his men discovered the same pathway to safety, but the Lena is like our own Mississippi, a river with a broad delta and a multiplicity of mouths. Into an estuary, the banks of which were untrodden by man, and which itself was too shallow for navigation for any great distance, remorseless fate led DeLong. Forced soon to take to their sleds again, his companions toiled painfully along the river bank, with no known destination, but bearing ever to the south—the only way in which hope could possibly lie. Deserted huts and other signs of former human habitation were plenty, but nothing living crossed their path. At last, the food being at the point of exhaustion, and the men too weary and weak for rapid travel, DeLong chose two of the sturdiest, Nindemann and Noros, and sent them ahead in the hope that they might find and return with succor. The rest stumbled on behind, well pleased if they could advance three miles daily. Food gave out, then strength. Resignation took the place of determination. DeLong's journal for the last week of life is inexpressibly pitiful:

"Sunday, October 23—133d Day: Everybody pretty weak. Slept or rested all day, and then managed to get in enough wood before dark. Read part of divine service. Suffering in our feet. No foot-gear.

"Monday, October 24—134th Day: A hard night.

"Tuesday, October 25—135th Day.

"Wednesday, October 26—136th day.

"Thursday, October 27—137th Day: Iverson broken down.

"Friday, October 28—138th Day: Iverson died during early morning.

"Saturday, October 29th—139th Day: Dressier died during the night.

"Sunday, October 30—140th Day: Boyd and Cortz died during the night. Mr. Collins dying."

This is the last entry. The hand that penned it, as the manuscript shows, was as firm and steady as though the writer were sitting in his library at home. Words are spelled out in full, punctuation carefully observed. How long after these words were set down DeLong too died, none may ever know; but when Melville, whom Nindemann and Noros had found after sore privations, reached the spot of the death camp, he came upon a sorrowful scene. "I came upon the bodies of three men partly buried in the snow," he writes, "one hand reaching out, with the left arm of the man reaching way above the surface of the snow—his whole left arm. I immediately recognized them as Captain DeLong, Dr. Ambler, and Ah Sam, the cook.... I found the journal about three or four feet in the rear of DeLong—that is, it looked as though he had been lying down, and with his left hand tossed the book over his shoulder to the rear, or to the eastward of him."

How these few words bring the whole scene up before us! Last, perhaps, of all to die, lying by the smoldering fire, the ashes of which were in the middle of the group of bodies when found, DeLong puts down the final words which tell of the obliteration of his party, tosses the book wearily over his shoulder, and turns on his side to die. And then the snow, falling gently, pitifully covers the rigid forms and holds them in its pure embrace until loyal friends seek them out, and tell to the world that again brave lives have been sacrificed to the ogre of the Arctic.

While DeLong and his gallant comrades of the United States Navy were dying slowly in the bleak desert of the Lena delta, another party of brave Americans were pushing their way into the Arctic circle on the Atlantic side of the North American continent. The story of that starvation camp in desolate Siberia was to be swiftly repeated on the shores of Smith Sound, and told this time with more pathetic detail, for of Greely's expedition, numbering twenty-five, seven were rescued after three years of Arctic suffering and starving, helpless, and within one day of death. They had seen their comrades die, destroyed by starvation and cold, and passing away in delirium, babbling of green fields and plenteous tables. From the doorway of the almost collapsed tent, in which the seven survivors were found, they could see the row of shallow graves in which their less fortunate comrades lay interred—all save two, whom they had been too weak to bury. No story of the Arctic which has come to us from the lips of survivors, has half the pathos, or a tithe of the pitiful interest, possessed by this story of Greely.

Studying to-day the history of the Greely expedition, it seems almost as if a malign fate had determined to bring disaster upon him. His task was not so arduous as a determined search for the Pole, or the Northwest Passage. He was ordered by the United States Government to establish an observation station on Lady Franklin Bay, and remain there two years, conducting, meanwhile, scientific observations, and pressing exploratory work with all possible zeal. The enterprise was part of a great international plan, by which each of the great nations was to establish and maintain such an observation station within the Arctic circle, while observations were to be carried on in all at once. The United States agreed to maintain two such stations, and the one at Point Barrow, north of Alaska, was established, maintained, and its tenants brought home at the end of the allotted time without disaster.

Greely was a lieutenant in the United States Army, and his expedition was under the immediate direction of the Secretary of War—at that time Robert Lincoln, son of the great war President. Some criticism was expressed at the time and, indeed, still lingers in the books of writers on the subject, concerning the fitness of an army officer to direct an Arctic voyage. But the purpose of the expedition was largely to collect scientific facts bear-on weather, currents of air and sea, the duration and extent of magnetic and electrical disturbances—in brief, data quite parallel to those which the United States signal service collects at home. So the Greely expedition was made an adjunct to the signal service, which in its turn is one of the bureaus of the War Department. Two army lieutenants, Lockwood and Klingsbury, and twenty men from the rank and file of the army and signal corps, were selected to form the party. An astronomer was needed, and Edward Israel, a young graduate of the University of Michigan, volunteered. George W. Rice volunteered as photographer. Both were enlisted in the army and given the rank of sergeant.

It is doubtful if any polar expedition was ever more circumstantially planned—none has resulted more disastrously, save Sir John Franklin's last voyage. The instructions of the War Department were as explicit as human foresight and a genius for detail could make them. Greely was to proceed to some point on Lady Franklin Bay, which enters the mainland of North America at about 81° 44' north latitude, build his station, and prepare for a two-years' stay. Provisions for three years were supplied him. At the end of one year it was promised, a relief ship should be sent him, which failing for any cause to reach the station, would cache supplies and dispatches at specified points. A year later a second relief ship would be sent to bring the party home, and if for any reason this ship should fail to make the station, then Greely was to break camp and sledge to the southward, following the east coast of the mainland, until he met the vessel, or reached the point at which fresh supplies were to be cached. No plan could have been better devised—none ever failed more utterly.

Arctic travel is an enigma, and it is an enigma never to be solved twice in the same way. Whalers, with the experience of a lifetime in the frozen waters, agree that the lessons of one voyage seldom prove infallible guides for the conduct of the next. Lieutenant Schwatka, a veteran Arctic explorer, said in an official document that the teachings of experience were often worse than useless in polar work. And so, though the Washington authorities planned for the safety of Greely according to the best guidance that the past could give them, their plans failed completely. The first relief ship did, indeed, land some stores—never, as the issue showed, to be reached by Greely—but the second expedition, composed of two ships, the "Proteus" and the "Yantic," accomplished nothing. The station was not reached, practically no supplies were landed, the "Proteus" was nipped by the ice and sunk, and the remnant of the expedition came supinely home, reporting utter failure. It is impossible to acquit the commanders of the two ships engaged in this abortive relief expedition of a lack of determination, a paucity of courage, complete incompetence. They simply left Greely to his fate while time still remained for his rescue, or at least for the convenient deposit of the vast store of provisions they brought home, leaving the abandoned explorers to starve.

The history of the Greely expedition and its achievements may well be sketched hastily, before the story of the catastrophe which overwhelmed it is told. As it was the most tragic of expeditions save one, Sir John Franklin's, so, too, it was the most fruitful in results, of any American expedition to the time of the writing of this book. Proceeding by the whaler "Proteus" in August, 1881, to the waters of the Arctic zone, Greely reached his destination with but little trouble, and built a commodious and comfortable station on the shores of Discovery Bay, which he called Fort Conger after a United States Senator from Michigan. A month remained before the Arctic night would set in, but the labor of building the house left little time for explorations, which were deferred until the following summer. Life at the station was not disagreeable. The house, stoutly built, withstood the bitter cold. Within there were books and games, and through the long winter night the officers beguiled the time with lectures and reading. Music was there, too, in impressive quantity, if not quality. "An organette with about fifty yards of music," writes Lieutenant Greely, "afforded much amusement, being particularly fascinating to our Esquimau, who never wearied grinding out one tune after another." The rigid routine of Arctic winter life was followed day by day, and the returning sun, after five months' absence, found the party in perfect health and buoyant spirits. The work of exploration on all sides began, the explorers being somewhat handicapped by the death of many of the sledge dogs from disease. Lieutenant Greely, Dr. Pavy, and Lieutenant Lockwood each led a party, but to the last named belong the honors, for he, with Sergeant Brainard and an Esquimau, made his way northward over ice that looked like a choppy sea suddenly frozen into the rigidity of granite, until he reached latitude 83° 24' north—the most northerly point then attained by any man—and still the record marking Arctic journey for an American explorer.

Winter came again under depressing circumstances. The first relief ship promised had not arrived, and the disappointment of the men deepened into apprehension lest the second, also, should fail them. Yet they went through the second winter in good health and unshaken morale, though one can not read such portions of Greely's diary as he has published, without seeing that the irritability and jealousy that seem to be the inevitable accompaniments of long imprisonment in an Arctic station, began to make their appearance. With the advent of spring the commander began to make his preparations for a retreat to the southward. If he had not then felt entire confidence in the promise of the War Department to relieve him without fail that summer, he would have begun his retreat early, and beyond doubt have brought all his men to safety before another winter set in or his provisions fell low. But as it was, he put off the start to the last moment, keeping up meanwhile the scientific work of the expedition, and sending out one party to cache supplies along the route of retreat. August 9, 1883, the march began—just two years after they had entered the frozen deep—Greely hoping to meet the relief ship oh the way. He did not know that three weeks before she had been nipped in the ice-pack, and sunk, and that her consort, the "Yantic," had gone impotently home, without even leaving food for the abandoned explorers. Over ice-fields and across icy and turbulent water, the party made its way for five hundred miles—four hundred miles of boating and one hundred of sledging—fifty-one days of heroic exertion that might well take the courage out of the stoutest heart. Sledging in the Arctic over "hummock" ice is, perhaps, the most wearing form of toil known to man, and with such heavy loads as Greely carried, every mile had to be gone over twice, and sometimes three times, as the men would be compelled to leave part of the load behind and go back after it. Yet the party was cheerful, singing and joking at their work, as one of the sergeants records. Finally they reached the vicinity of Cape Sabine, all in good health, with instruments and records saved, and with arms and ammunition enough to procure ample food in a land well stocked with game. But they did not worry very much about food, though their supply was by this time growing low. Was not Cape Sabine the spot at which the relief expeditions were to cache food, and could it be possible that the great United States Government would fail twice in an enterprise which any Yankee whaler would gladly take a contract to fulfill? And so the men looked upon the wilderness, and noted the coming on of the Arctic night again without fear, if with some disappointment. Less than forty days' rations remained. Eight months must elapse before any relief expedition could reach their camp, and far away in the United States the people were crying out in hot indignation that the authorities were basely leaving Greely and his devoted companions to their fate.

Pluckily the men set about preparing for the long winter. Three huts of stone and snow were planned, and while they were building, the hunters of the party scoured the neighboring ice-floes and pools for game—foxes, ptarmigan, and seals. There were no mistaken ideas concerning their deadly peril. Every man knew that if game failed, or if the provisions they hoped had been cached by the relief expeditions somewhere in the vicinity, could not be found, they might never leave that spot alive. Day by day the size of the rations was reduced. October 2 enough for thirty-five days remained, and at the request of the men, Greely so changed the ration as to provide for forty-five days. October 5 Lieutenant Lockwood noted in his diary:

"We have now three chances for our lives: First, finding American cache sufficient at Sabine or at Isabella; second, of crossing the straits when our present ration is gone; third, of shooting sufficient seal and walrus near by here to last during the winter."

How delusive the first chance proved we shall see later. The second was impractical, for the current carried the ice through the strait so fast, that any party trying to cross the floe, would have been carried south to where the strait widened out into Baffin's Bay before they could possibly pass the twenty-five miles which separated Cape Sabine from Littleton Island. Moreover, there was no considerable cache at the latter point, as Greely thought. As for the hunting, it proved a desperate chance, though it did save the lives of such of the party as were rescued. All feathered game took flight for the milder regions of the south when the night set in. The walrus which the hunters shot—two, Greely said, would have supplied food for all winter—and the seal sunk in almost every instance before the game could be secured.

The first, and most hopeful chance, was the discovery of cached provisions at Cape Sabine. To put this to the test, Rice, the photographer, who, though a civilian, proved to be one of the most determined and efficient men in the party, had already started for Sabine with Jens, the Esquimau. October 9 they returned, bringing the record of the sinking of the "Proteus," and the intelligence that there were about 1300 rations at, or near Cape Sabine. The record left at Cape Sabine by Garlington, the commander of the "Proteus" expedition, and which Rice brought back to the camp, read in part: "Depot landed ... 500 rations of bread, tea, and a lot of canned goods. Cache of 250 rations left by the English expedition of 1882 visited by me and found in good condition. Cache on Littleton Island. Boat at Isabella. U.S.S. 'Yantic' on way to Littleton Island with orders not to enter the ice. I will endeavor to communicate with these vessels at once.... Everything in the power of man will be done to rescue the (Greely's) brave men."

This discovery changed Greely's plans again. It was hopeless to attempt hauling the ten or twelve thousand pounds of material believed to be at Cape Sabine, to the site of the winter camp, now almost done, so Greely determined to desert that station and make for Cape Sabine, taking with him all the provisions and material he could drag. In a few days his party was again on the march across the frozen sea.

How inscrutable and imperative are the ways of fate! Looking backward now on the pitiful story of the Greely party, we see that the second relief expedition, intended to succor and to rescue these gallant men, was in fact the cause of their overwhelming disaster—and this not wholly because of errors committed in its direction, though they were many. When Greely abandoned the station at Fort Conger, he could have pressed straight to the southward without halt, and perhaps escaped with all his party—he could, indeed, have started earlier in the summer, and made escape for all certain. But he relied on the relief expedition, and held his ground until the last possible moment. Even after reaching Cape Sabine he might have taken to the boats and made his way southward to safety, for he says himself that open water was in sight; but the cheering news brought by Rice of a supply of provisions, and the promise left by Garlington, that all that men could do would be done for his rescue, led him to halt his journey at Cape Sabine, and go into winter quarters in the firm conviction that already another vessel was on the way to aid him. He did not know that Garlington had left but few provisions out of his great store, that the "Yantic" had fled without landing an ounce of food, and that the authorities at Washington had concluded that nothing more could be done that season—although whalers frequently entered the waters where Greely lay trapped, at a later date than that which saw the "Yantic's" precipitate retreat. Had he known these things, he says himself, "I should certainly have turned my back to Cape Sabine and starvation, to face a possible death on the perilous voyage along shore to the southward."

But not knowing them, he built a hut, and prepared to face the winter. It is worth noting, as evidence that Arctic hardships themselves, when not accompanied by a lack of food, are not unbearable, that at this time, after two years in the region of perpetual ice, the whole twenty-five men were well, and even cheerful. Depression and death came only when the food gave out.

The permanent camp, which for many of the party was to be a tomb, was fixed a few miles from Cape Sabine, by the side of a pool of fresh water—frozen, of course. Here a hut was built with stone walls three feet high, rafters made of oars with the blades cut off, and a canvas roof, except in the center, where an upturned whaleboat made a sort of a dome. Only under the whaleboat could a man get on his knees and hold himself erect; elsewhere the heads of the tall men touched the roof when they sat up in their sleeping bags on the dirt floor. With twenty-five men in sleeping bags, which they seldom left, two in each bag, packed around the sides of the hut, a stove fed with stearine burning in the center for the cooking of the insufficient food to which they were reduced, and all air from without excluded, the hut became a place as much of torture as of refuge.

The problem of food and the grim certainty of starvation were forced upon them with the very first examination of the caches of which Garlington had left such encouraging reports. At Cape Isabella only 144 pounds of meat was found, in Garlington's cache only 100 rations instead of 500 as he had promised. Moldy bread and dog biscuits fairly green with mold, though condemned by Greely, were seized by the famished men, and devoured ravenously without a thought of their unwholesomeness. When November 1 came, the daily ration for each man was fixed at six ounces of bread, four ounces of meat, and four ounces of vegetables—about a quarter of what would be moderate sustenance for a healthy man. By keeping the daily issue of food down to this pitiful amount Greely calculated that he would have enough to sustain life until the first of March, when with ten days' double rations still remaining, he would make an effort to cross the strait to Littleton Island, where he thought—mistakenly—that Lieutenant Garlington awaited him with ample stores. Of course all game shot added to the size of the rations, and that the necessary work of hunting might be prosecuted, the hunters were from the first given extra rations to maintain, their strength. Fuel, too, offered a serious problem. Alcohol, stearine, and broken wood from a whaleboat and barrels, were all employed. In order to get the greatest heat from the wood it was broken up into pieces not much larger than matches.

And yet packed into that noisome hovel, ill-fed and ill-clothed, with the Arctic wind roaring outside, the temperature within barely above freezing, and a wretched death staring each man in the face, these men were not without cheerfulness. Lying almost continually in their sleeping bags, they listened to one of their number reading aloud; such books as "Pickwick Papers," "A History of Our Own Times," and "Two on a Tower." Greely gave daily a lecture on geography of an hour or more; each man related, as best he could, the striking facts about his own State and city and, indeed, every device that ingenuity could suggest, was employed to divert their minds and wile away the lagging hours. Birthdays were celebrated by a little extra food—though toward the end a half a gill of rum for the celebrant, constituted the whole recognition of the day. The story of Christmas Day is inexpressibly touching as told in the simple language of Greely's diary:

"Our breakfast was a thin pea-soup, with seal blubber, and a small quantity of preserved potatoes. Later two cans of cloudberries were served to each mess, and at half-past one o'clock Long and Frederick commenced cooking dinner, which consisted of a seal stew, containing seal blubber, preserved potatoes and bread, flavored with pickled onions; then came a kind of rice pudding, with raisins, seal blubber, and condensed milk. Afterward we had chocolate, followed later by a kind of punch made of a gill of rum and a quarter of a lemon to each man.... Everybody was required to sing a song or tell a story, and pleasant conversation with the expression of kindly feelings, was kept up until midnight."


But that comparative plenty and good cheer did not last long. In a few weeks the unhappy men, or such as still clung to life, were living on a few shrimps, pieces of sealskin boots, lichens, and even more offensive food. The shortening of the ration, and the resulting hunger, broke down the moral sense of some, and by one device or another, food was stolen. Only two or three were guilty of this crime—an execrable one in such an emergency—and one of these, Private Henry, was shot by order of Lieutenant Greely toward the end of the winter. Even before Christmas, casualties which would have been avoided, had the party been well-nourished and strong, began. Ellison, in making a gallant dash for the cache at Isabella, was overcome by cold and fatigue, and froze both his hands and feet so that in time they dropped off. Only the tender care of Frederick, who was with him, and the swift rush of Lockwood and Brainard to his aid, saved him from death. It tells a fine story of the unselfish devotion of the men, that this poor wreck, maimed and helpless, so that he had to be fed, and incapable of performing one act in his own service, should have been nursed throughout the winter, fed with double portions, and actually saved living until the rescue party arrived, while many of those who cared for him yielded up their lives. The first to die was Cross, of scurvy and starvation, and he was buried in a shallow grave near the hut, all hands save Ellison turning out to honor his memory. Though the others clung to life with amazing tenacity, illness began to make inroads upon them, the gallant Lockwood, for example, spending weeks in Greely's sleeping bag, his mind wandering, his body utterly exhausted. But it was April before the second death occurred—one of the Esquimaux. "Action of water on the heart caused by insufficient nutrition," was the doctor's verdict—in a word, but a word all dreaded to hear, starvation.

Thereafter the men went fast. In a day or two Christiansen, an Esquimau, died. Rice, the sharer of his sleeping bag, was forced to spend a night enveloped in a bag with the dead body. The next day he started on a sledging trip to seek some beef cached by the English years earlier. Before the errand was completed, he, too, died, freezing to death in the arms of his companion, Frederick, who held him tenderly until the last, and stripped himself to the shirtsleeves in the icy blast, to warm his dying comrade. Then Lockwood died—the hero of the Farthest North; then Jewell. Jens, the untiring Esquimau hunter, was drowned, his kayak being cut by the sharp edge of a piece of ice. Ellis, Whisler, Israel, the astronomer, and Dr. Pavy, the surgeon, one by one, passed away.

But why continue the pitiful chronicle? To tell the story in detail is impossible here—to tell it baldly and hurriedly, means to omit from it all that makes the narrative of the last days of the Greely expedition worth reading; the unflagging courage of most of the men, the high sense of honor that characterized them, the tenderness shown to the sick and helpless, the pluck and endurance of Long and Brainard, the fierce determination of Greely, that come what might, the records of his expedition should be saved, and its honor bequeathed unblemished to the world. And so through suffering and death, despairing perhaps, but never neglecting through cowardice or lethargy, any expedient for winning the fight against death, the party, daily growing smaller, fought its way on through winter and spring, until that memorable day in June, when Colwell cut open the tent and saw, as the first act of the rescued sufferers, two haggard, weak, and starving men pouring all that was left of the brandy, down the throat of one a shade more haggard and weak than they.

Men of English lineage are fond of telling the story of the meeting of Stanley and Dr. Livingston in the depths of the African jungle. For years Livingston had disappeared from the civilized world. Everywhere apprehension was felt lest he had fallen a victim to the ferocity of the savages, or to the pestilential climate. The world rung with speculations concerning his fate. Stanley, commissioned to solve the mystery, by the same America journalist who sent DeLong into the Arctic, had cut his path through the savages and the jungle, until at the door of a hut in a clearing, he saw a white man who could be none but him whom he sought, for in all that dark and gloomy forest there was none other of white skin. Then Anglo-Saxon stolidity asserted itself. Men of Latin race would have rushed into each others' arms with loud rejoicings. Not so these twain.

"Dr. Livingston, I believe," said the newcomer, with the air of greeting an acquaintance on Fifth Avenue. "I am Mr. Stanley."

"I am glad to see you," was the response, and it might have taken place in a drawing-room for all the emotion shown by either man.


That was a dramatic meeting in the tropical jungles, but history will not give second place to the encounter of the advance guard of the Greely relief expedition with the men they sought. The story is told with dramatic directness in Commander (now Admiral) Schley's book, "The Rescue of Greely."

"It was half-past eight in the evening as the cutter steamed around the rocky bluff of Cape Sabine, and made her way to the cove, four miles further on, which Colwell remembered so well.... The storm which had been raging with only slight intervals since early the day before, still kept up, and the wind was driving in bitter gusts through the opening in the ridge that followed the coast to the westward. Although the sky was overcast it was broad daylight—the daylight of a dull winter afternoon.... At last the boat arrived at the site of the wreck cache, and the shore was eagerly scanned, but nothing could be seen. Rounding the next point, the cutter opened out the cove beyond. There on the top of a little ridge, fifty or sixty yards above the ice-foot, was plainly outlined the figure of a man. Instantly the coxswain caught up his boathook and waved his flag. The man on the ridge had seen them, for he stooped, picked up a signal flag, and waved it in reply. Then he was seen coming slowly and cautiously down the steep rocky slope. Twice he fell down before he reached the foot. As he approached, still walking slowly and with difficulty, Colwell hailed him from the bow of the boat.

"'Who all are there left?'

"'Seven left.'

"As the cutter struck the ice Colwell jumped off, and went up to him. He was a ghastly sight. His cheeks were hollow, his eyes wild, his hair and beard long and matted. His army blouse, covering several thicknesses of shirts and jackets, was ragged and dirty. He wore a little fur cap and rough moccasins of untanned leather tied around the leg. As he spoke his utterance was thick and mumbling, and in his agitation his jaws worked in convulsive twitches. As the two met, the man, with a sudden impulse, took off his gloves and shook Colwell's hand.

"'Where are they?' asked Colwell, briefly.

"'In the tent,' said the man, pointing over his shoulder, 'over the hill—the tent's down.'

"'Is Mr. Greely alive?'

"'Yes, Greely's alive.'

"'Any other officers?'

"'No.' Then he repeated absently, 'The tent's down.'

"'Who are you?'


"Before this colloquy was over Lowe and Norman had started up the hill. Hastily filling his pockets with bread, and taking the two cans of pemmican, Colwell told the coxswain to take Long into the cutter, and started after the others with Ash. Reaching the crest of the ridge and looking southward, they saw spread out before them a desolate expanse of rocky ground, sloping gradually from a ridge on the east to the ice-bound shore, which on the west made in and formed a cove. Back of the level space was a range of hills rising up eight hundred feet with a precipitous face, broken in two by a gorge, through which the wind was blowing furiously. On a little elevation directly in front was the tent. Hurrying on across the intervening hollow, Colwell came up with Lowe and Norman just as they were greeting a soldierly-looking man who had come out of the tent.

"As Colwell approached, Norman was saying to the man: 'There is the Lieutenant.'

"And he added to Lieutenant Colwell:

"'This is Sergeant Brainard.'

"Brainard immediately drew himself up to the position of the soldier, and was about to salute, when Colwell took his hand.

"At this moment there was a confused murmur within the tent, and a voice said: 'Who's there?'

"Norman answered, 'It's Norman—Norman who was in the "Proteus."'

"This was followed by cries of 'Oh, it's Norman,' and a sound like a feeble cheer.

"Meanwhile one of the relief party, who in his agitation and excitement was crying like a child, was down on his knees trying to roll away the stones that held the flapping tent-cloth.... Colwell called for a knife, cut a slit in the tent-cover, and looked in. It was a sight horror. On one side, close to the opening, with his face toward the opening, lay what was apparently a dead man. His jaw had dropped, his eyes were open, but fixed and glassy, his limbs were motionless. On the opposite side was a poor fellow, alive to be sure, but without hands or feet, and with a spoon tied to the stump of his right arm. Two others, seated on the ground in the middle, had just got down a rubber bottle that hung on the tent pole, and were pouring from it into a tin can. Directly opposite, on his hands and knees, was a dark man, with a long matted beard, in a dirty and tattered dressing-gown, with a little red tattered skull-cap on his head, and brilliant, staring eyes. As Colwell appeared he raised himself a little and put on a pair of eye-glasses.

"'Who are you?' asked Colwell.

"The man made no reply, staring at him vacantly.

"'Who are you?' again.

"One of the men spoke up. 'That's the Major—Major Greely."

"Colwell crawled in and took him by the hand, saying: 'Greely, is this you?'

"'Yes,' said Greely in a faint voice, hesitating and shuffling with his words, 'yes—seven of us left—here we are—dying—like men. Did what I came to do—beat the best record.'

"Then he fell back exhausted."

Slowly and cautiously the men were nursed back to life and health—all save poor Ellison, whose enfeebled constitution could not stand the shock of the necessary amputation of his mutilated limbs. The nine bodies buried in the shallow graves were exhumed and taken to the ship, Private Henry's body being found lying where it fell at the moment of his execution. At that time the castaways were too feeble to give even hasty sepulture to their dead. A horrible circumstance, reported by Commander Schley himself, was that the flesh of many of the bodies was cut from the bones—by whom, and for what end of cannibalism, can only be conjectured.

Following the disaster to the Greely expedition, came a period of lethargy in polar exploration, and when the work was taken up again, it was in ways foreign to the purpose of this book. Foreigners for a time led in activity, and in 1895 Fridjof Nansen in his drifting ship, the "Fram," attained the then farthest North, latitude 86° 14', while Rudolph Andree, in 1897, put to the test the desperate expedient of setting out for the Pole in a balloon from Dane's Island, Spitzbergen; but the wind that bore him swiftly out of sight, has never brought back again tidings of his achievement or his fate. Nansen's laurels were wrested from him in 1900 by the Duke of Abruzzi, who reached 86° 33' north. The stories of these brave men are fascinating and instructive, but they are no part of the story of the American sailor. Indeed, the sailor is losing his importance as an explorer in the Arctic. It has become clear enough to all that it is not to be a struggle between stout ships and crushing ice, but rather a test of the endurance of men and dogs, pushing forward over solid floes of heaped and corrugated ice, toward the long-sought goal. Two Americans in late years have made substantial progress toward the conquest of the polar regions. Mr. Walter Wellman, an eminent journalist, has made two efforts to reach the Pole, but met with ill-luck and disaster in each, though in the first he attained to latitude 81° to the northeast of Spitzbergen, and in the second he discovered and named many new islands about Franz Josef Land. Most pertinacious of all the American explorers, however, has been Lieutenant Robert E. Peary, U.S.N., who since 1886, has been going into the frozen regions whenever the opportunity offered—and when none offered he made one. His services in exploration and in mapping out the land and seas to the north of Greenland have been of the greatest value to geographical science, and at the moment of writing this book he is wintering at Cape Sabine, where the Greely survivors were found, awaiting the coming of summer to make a desperate dash for the goal, sought for a century, but still secure in its wintry fortifications, the geographical Pole. Nor is he wholly alone, either in his ambition or his patience. Evelyn B. Baldwin, a native of Illinois, with an expedition equipped by William Zeigler, of New York, and made up of Americans, is wintering at Alger Island, near Franz Josef Land, awaiting the return of the sun to press on to the northward. It is within the bounds of possibility that before this volume is fairly in the hands of its readers, the fight may be won and the Stars and Stripes wave over that mysterious spot that has awakened the imagination and stimulated the daring of brave men of all nations.