Not to be confused with his Greely rescue, much of this earlier journey was published in the New York Herald for whom Gilder was a correspondent who also had gone in search of the Jeannette. The book credits the Schwatka expedition with confirming the loss of Franklin records (at Starvation Cove), the burial of the men and bones of the victims, the transport of one body home, and the recovery of the relics that went to Greenwich.
p. 15, on meeting some natives on King William [Is]land: We learned with deep regret that one of the Naatchillis, who was said to have spoken to Captain Barry about the existence of books among the Franklin relics, had since died, and that nobody knew what had become of the other. We determined to make every effort to find the latter, for should he know where the books were hidden, and be willing to conduct us there, our labor would have been materially lessened. But in any case, whether we found him or not, we had great faith that, by staying at least one season on King William Land, when the snow was off the ground, we should be able to find the records, and complete the history of Sir John Franklin’s last expedition.
p. 106, an interview with natives about relics: In answer to a question which we asked his mother, he said he saw books at the boat place in a tin case, about two feet long and a foot square, which was fastened, and they broke it open. The case was full. Written and printed books were shown him, and he said they were like the printed ones. Among the books he found what was probably the middle of a compass or other magnetic instrument, because he said when it touched any iron it stuck fast.
p. 108: Some of the books were taken home for the children to play with, and finally torn and lost, and others lay around among the rocks until carried away by the wind and lost or buried beneath the sand.
p. 109, Gilder’s guesses about the books: [They] were the more important records of the expedition, and in charge of the chief surviving officers, as it is not probable that men who were reduced to the extremity that they were, and having to drag everything by hand, would burden themselves, with general reading matter…. There is no doubt, however, that every thing superfluous had been dropped from time to time, until nothing remained that could possibly be dispensed with, and such books as they had, besides the Nautical Almanac and Ephemeris, if indeed under the circumstances they would even carry them, were probably the most important records of the expedition.
p. 277, on the homeward journey, after many hardships, they enjoy the hospitality of a fishing vessel whose captain tries to impress his Steward with the importance of Greely’s rescuers:—“ Steward, it is a great treat to see these gentlemen. You ought to take a good look at them. They have had one of the toughest times you ever heard of. They have just come down from—where?” (aside to me).”King William’s Land,” said I, scarcely able to retain my composure. “King William’s Land, “he repeated, “and were looking for Franklin.” The doubt in his mind as to who this mystical “Franklin” was seeming to add much to the interest that invested us.
p. 279, again with the clueless fishing captain offering more generosity: “…Let me have some fish put into your boat before you go.” And the kind-hearted fisherman gave us about a barrel of fine fresh cod and haddock, besides a fifty-fathom line and some hooks. Also gave us three late newspapers; and we sent him in return a copy of Hall’s “Life Among the Esquimaux,” and some other reading matter, besides a pair of sealskin slippers, and a fine walrus skull with the ivory tusks in it.
p. 307, in an appendix on Inuit Philology: It used to be an endless source of amusement to the men, women, and children in the Arctic regions to look at the pictures in the illustrated books and journals. Colored maps were also very attractive to them, and the large type in advertisements apparently afforded them great pleasure. They were not at particular to hold the pictures right side up; side-wise or upside down seemed quite as satisfactory. Though admiring pictures exceedingly, I did not find them very proficient draughtsmen, and yet nothing seem to give them more pleasure than to draw with a lead pencil on the margin of every book they could get hold of, and my Nautical Almanac and “Bowditch’s Epitome” are profusely illustrated by them.