A fascinating account of an extraordinary drift on an ice-floe, preceded by “A General Arctic Chronology” by the Editor, E. Vale Blake, (p. 19-74).
p. 73, in a section titled Modern Chivalry: The Arctic regions alone remain a terra incognita, so attractive to the knights-errant of science. Where, then, shall the Mr. Greathearts disport themselves, if not in the land of the Aurora? Away with your calculating financiers, who count the cost of every thing to the uttermost farthing; and give place to the royal enthusiasts who are ready once more to try again—ready to attack and demolish the only geographical mystery left to this book-whelmed generation.
Do you doubt the courage? do you doubt the chivalry? Hunt up your books of travel, bring out your biographies, and see if you can find a parallel to the courage, skill, endurance, tact, self-control, and Christian trust in an ever-guiding Providence, which enabled the chief officer on the ice-floe, Captain Tyson, to maintain, without any positive exhibition of authority, a tranquil, firm, and careful oversight of the eighteen persons providentially The Arctic regions alone remain a terra in- cognita^ so attractive to the knights-errant of science. Where, then, shall the Mr. Greathearts disport themselves, if not in the land of the Aurora? Away with your calculating financiers, who count the cost of every thing to the uttermost farthing; and give place to the royal enthusiasts who are ready once more to try again—ready to attack and demolish the only geographical mystery left to this book-whelmed generation.
Do you doubt the courage? do you doubt the chivalry? Hunt up your books of travel, bring out your biographies, and see if you can find a parallel to the courage, skill, endurance, tact, self-control, and Christian trust in an ever-guiding Providence, which enabled the chief officer on the ice-floe. Captain Tyson, to maintain, without any positive exhibition of authority, a tranquil, firm, and careful oversight of the eighteen persons providentially thrown upon his direction. “He could have made his own way back to the ship, but he would not desert the women and children," said one.” There was not much commanding done on the ice; but if we went contrary to what he advised, it always turned out wrong,” said another; and this for six months, on a voyage of over fifteen hundred miles on broken and shifting ice! “For eighty days the sun did not show itself above the horizon; and when it did, only for a few hours at a time:” denying himself needful food, that others might not lack; encouraging and supporting the desponding, and with his great physical strength, acquired by long acclimatization, holding the weaker to their places while the winds and waves contended for their hunger- smitten bodies.”
p. 92-97—good account of boarding of the Resolute after a simarily long drift.
p. 104-05: In the cabin, in addition to the small but select library which Captain Hall always had with him, was a cabinet organ, which had been generously presented to the late commander by the “Smith Organ Company,” with the hope that its sweet strains would not only assist the regular Sunday service on board the Polaris, but that on other occasions it would help to while away the tedious hours when prevented from the exercise of more active duties, during the long Arctic night.
Some very valuable books were lost when the Polaris foundered. That generous and long-tried friend of Arctic exploration, J. Carson Brevoort, of Brooklyn, New York, had, among other volumes of interest and value, placed on board of that vessel for Captain Hall’s use, an entire set of the British Parliamentary Blue-books relating to the English Arctic exploring expeditions. There was also a copy of Luke Fox’s “Arctic Voyage of 1635,” much valued by its owner, partly from its bearing the following endorsement in Captain Hall’s own handwriting, it having been loaned to him also in 1864:
This book belongs to my friend, J. Carson Brevoort.
To-morrow, March 31, myself and native party, consisting of 13 souls, start on my sledge-journey to King William Land.
C. F. Hall,
29th (Snow House) Enc‘t., near Fort Hope, Repulse Bay,
Lat. 66° 32′ N., long. 86° 56′ W.
Friday, March 30, 1866.
[The entire letter is given in an Appendix, p. 467-68.]
Part of his library Captain Hall saved—a few books—by leaving them in Greenland with Inspector Karrup Smith, but many others went down with the good ship Polaris in sight of Life-boat Cove, while others were mutilated, destroyed, or abandoned.
p. 109: To assist in this being done [proper measurements of location], the Polaris was liberally supplied with all needed instruments of the best quality as also with charts and books, and whatever else was needed to command success.
p. 115: Tyson describes Hall’s enthusiasm for Arctic literature: For nearly ten years before he sailed on his first Arctic voyage he had been an enthusiastic reader of Arctic literature. Naturally attracted by the subject, which has fascinated so many brilliant minds, he searched out, read up, and carefully studied every thing relating to Polar affairs which he could get hold of; and by the time that England and the United States were fully awakened to the necessity of sending relieving parties to search for Sir John Franklin, young Hall was fully aroused, eager and anxious to join in the search. The first Grinnell Expedition especially excited his enthusiasm, but no way then appeared open to him by which he could join it. Disappointed in that, he made another unsuccessful effort to go out with M‘Clintock, in 1857.
At this time his mind was so unsettled between his desire to go on a Polar expedition and the necessary claims of his family — for he had married in Cincinnati—that his business, never very profitable, became more and more embarrassed. To his eye, the Polar regions had all the attraction of a terrestrial paradise; its glistening icebergs and snow-clad plains were as enchanting to his imagination as the fairy-tales of younger days; and, above all, he had that impression of fatalism, that inspiration of a personal mission, which looked to some of his friends like a mania, but which was a convincing voice to him that success was possible, and that he was the person to succeed.
p.144-45: In Goodhavn near Disco Island: “On Sunday, August 6, went to church, which, considering the size of the place, was well attended both by resident Danes and Esquimaux. Here, I suppose, we shall wait for the Congress, United States store-ship. Mr.—told me that my commission would be sent out by her. After seeing what I have, it would suit me just as well if it did not come, for then I should have a decent excuse to return home. There is nothing I should like better than to continue the voyage if all was harmonious, and if each person understood his place and his proper duties.
“Aug. 10. United States store-ship Congress arrived from New York with provisions and coal. After storing the Polaris to her utmost capacity, the rest was landed at Disco, as a depot, in case the expedition should need it hereafter. Captain Davenport and Rev. Dr. Newman, who came up in the Congress have had their hands full trying to straighten things out between Captain Hall and the disaffected. Some of the party seem bound to go contrary anyway, and if Hall wants a thing done, that is just what they won’t do. There are two parties already, if not three, aboard. All the foreigners hang together, and expressions are freely made that Hall shall not get any credit out of this expedition. Already some have made up their minds how far they will go, and when they will get home again—queer sort of explorers these!
“Aug. 17. Captain Hall has purchased a number of dogs for our sledge -excursions. The Rev. Dr. Newman, of Washington, came aboard the Polaris and held a service, using the following prayer, one of three which he has written expressly for the expedition:
PRAYER AT SEA.
“ ‘O God of the land and of the sea, to Thee we offer our humble prayers. The whole creation proclaims Thy wisdom, power, and goodness. The heavens declare Thy glory, and the firmament showeth Thy handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. And we thank Thee for the clearer and fuller revelation of Thyself to man in Thy precious Word. Therein Thou hast revealed Thy-self as our Sovereign and Judge. Thy law is perfect, converting the soul. Thy testimony is sure, making wise the simple. Thy statutes are right, rejoicing the heart. Thy commandment is pure, enlightening the eyes. Thy fear is clear, enduring forever. Thy judgments are true and righteous altogether. Although far from home and those who love us, yet we are not far from Thee. We are ever in Thy adorable presence; we can never withdraw from Thy sight. If we ascend up into heaven. Thou art there; if we make our bed in hell, behold, Thou art there; if we take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy right hand lead us, and Thy right hand shall hold us. Oh, help us to be ever conscious that Thou seest us, and knowest us altogether. Though the darkness may cover us, yet the night shall be light about us; for the darkness and the light are both alike unto Thee. While on the mighty deep, be Thou our Father and our Friend; for they who go down to the sea in ships, that do business in the great waters, see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep. It is Thee who raiseth the stormy wind which lifteth up the waves; it is Thee who maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
“Oh, hear us from Thy throne in glory, and in mercy pardon our sins, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Give us noble thoughts, pure emotions, and generous sympathies for each other, while so far away from all human habitations. May we have for each other that charity that suffereth long and is kind, that envieth not, that vaunteth not itself, that is not puffed up, that seeketh not her own, that is not easily provoked, that thinketh no evil, but that beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things; that charity that never faileth.
“May it please Thee to prosper us in our great undertaking, and may our efforts at this time be crowned with abundant success. Hear us for our country, for the President of the United States, and for all who are in authority over us. And hear us for our families, and for all our friends we have left at home; and at last receive us on high, for the sake of the great Redeemer, Amen.”
"After the service we weighed anchor and steamed out of the harbor. The men on board of the Congress cheered us as we went off, and the most of us returned it. The weather is fine, but many icebergs are all around; some nice steering is required to avoid running afoul of them.”
p. 159, Oct. 24, 1872: “[Among the articles found on the ice-floe was a small private desk of Captain Hall’s which Esquimoux Joe took charge of. In this was found a small book of nine pages, containing the three prayers composed for the use of the expedition by Dr. Newman.
On the outside it was indorsed:
C. F. HALL.
“Thank God Harbor; lat. 81° 38′ N., long. 61° 44′ W."
On the upper margin of the first page was penciled, “By Dr. Newman, for the North Polar Expedition.”
The second prayer, “on leaving the ships,” was indorsed as follows, in Captain Hall’s handwriting:
“Read 1st time 6h. 45m. to 6h. 50m. a.m ., Tuesday, Oct. 17, 1871, in our snow-house, 5th enct. (encampment) on the New Bay. Lat. — N., long.— W.
“Oct. 20, 1871. Read a.m ., 7h. 0m. at our 6th enct., N. side entrance of what I now denominate Newman Bay, after Rev. Dr. Newman, the author of the three prayers of this book.”
p. 257: from Tyson’s journal of the ice-floe trip. “Jan. 29 . “Oh it is depressing in the extreme to sit crouched up all day, with nothing to do but try and keep from freezing! Sitting long at a time in a chair is irksome enough, but it is far more wearisome when there is no proper place to sit. No books either, no Bible, no Prayer-book, no magazines of newspapers—not even a Harper’s Weekly—was saved by any one, though there are almost always more or less of them to be found in a ship’s company where there are any reading men. Newspapers I have learned to do without to a great extent…but some sort of reading I always had before. It is now one hundred and seven days since I have seen printed words! What a treat a bundle of old newspapers would be! All the world over, I suppose some people are wasting and destroying what would make others feel rich indeed.”
p. 259, Soon after Tyson makes a kind of last will, not knowing if he would survive his ice-floe experience. “I make the above statement not knowing whether I shall get through this affair with life. I have told Joe and Hannah, should anything happen to me, to save these books” [this, with other notes was written on small pocket blank-books.—Ed.] and carry them home. It is very badly written with pencil, in a dark hut, and with very cold fingers; but, so help me God, it is all true.
“My present life is perilous enough; but I can truly say that I have felt more secure sleeping on this floe, notwithstanding the disaffection of some of the men, than I did the last eleven months on board the Polaris."
p. 267, on the stunning shapes of icebergs, according to Tyson: “The most beautiful and the most grotesque may sail side by side; one may be a mile square, and the other only forty or fifty feet. Whether large or small, but a small proportion of either is seen; the great mass is always below the water. The proportion varies according to the amount of salt in the water; but a berg never shows more than an eighth or a seventh of its size. But for the terror and the beauty combined, if any one is interested in the birth, life, and death of icebergs, let them read Dr. Hayes’s book, called ‘The Land of Desolation’—meaning Greenland.”
p. 354 on finding the Polaris camp after the ship sank: “…but its condition showed at least that no pains had been taken to seal up or preserve in any way the records, books, or scientific instruments. The most diligent search failed to reveal any writing which indicated the time of their breaking up, or what route they meant to pursue. One expressive article was found, namely, a log-book, out of which was torn all reference to the death of Captain Hall.”
p. 355: “Captain Greer took possession of all the manuscripts, the log-book, the medical stores, and remains of instruments, and whatever else was of any use or value, either intrinsically or as relics, and then returned on board the Tigress.”
p. 366: “We picked up many relics of the Polaris, such as books, tools, and manuscripts, which Captain Greer has now in his possession.”
p. 467-68: Extract of Letter from J. Carson Brevoort, Esq., to the Editor
Brooklyn, December 20, 1873 * * * “The Polaris expedition was an official one, and I had nothing to do with it beyond lending to Captain Hall a few books, and consulting with him about his proposed line of search. I do not know whether the ‘Blue-books’ were saved or not. * * * Kane had a lot of my books with him in the Advance, which he abandoned in Rensselaer Harbor; Hayes had some, which have been returned. Hall had a copy of ‘Luke Fox’s Voyage of 1635, …”