The Rescue of Greely.

The author sums up the expedition on p. 142 as follows:

As for the work of the relief expedition itself, while there was no apprehension of disaster, there was no expectation that success would come with a hurrah; and it was recognized as a serious undertaking, to which everybody must give his best efforts. The officers and men of the expedition sailed, if not with a certain, at least with a possible prospect of wintering beyond Kane Sea; and although few of them knew much about ice navigation except what they had read of its dangers, and the events of the last two years did not offer much encouragement to the hopes of the public at large, such considerations did not lead those connected with the squadron to have any doubts about a successful result.

p. 60-62, on the 1883-84 relief expeditions has a succinct summary of the expeditions, including the misreading of conflicting instructions: It subsequently appeared that the memorandum was drawn up by Lieutenant Caziarc, of the Signal Office, upon his own views of the necessities of the case, at the order of the Acting Chief Signal Officer, during the absence of General Hazen at St. John’s, and in consequence of a request from the Secretary of the Navy that the Signal Office should indicate what it wanted the tender to do. A copy of the memorandum was sent to the Navy Department, by whom or through whom could never be ascertained, but not through the regular official channels. Here it was seen at one time by an officer in the Department, the copy being headed “Memoranda,” or “instructions for naval tender,” but it subsequently disappeared, and could not be traced.

An unsigned copy of the memorandum was also, through misunderstanding or inadvertence, put in the envelope containing Garlington’s instructions. Upon reading it Garlington immediately went to the Chief Signal Officer, and pointed out the contradictions between the main instructions and the unsigned memorandum. In the conversation that ensued, he was verbally informed by the Chief Signal Officer that he was to follow the main instructions and Greely’s letter, and that the memorandum “was no part of his orders”; and this direction appears to have had reference to the landing of stores on the way up. This was, in its consequences, by far the most momentous decision made in connection with the expedition, up to the time of its arrival in Smith Sound.

p. 213-14, on the rescue and its papers: Within half an hour after the first parties had left the ship [the Thetis], cheers were heard above the roaring of the wind. At first it was impossible to tell from what quarter the sound proceeded, but soon the cheering was heard a second time more distinctly, in the direction of Brevoort Island. Almost immediately after, Ensign Harlow was observed signalling from Stalknecht Island. His message read : “Have found Greely’s records; send five men.”

Before this request could be carried out, Yewell was seen running over the ice towards the ships, and a few minutes later he came on board almost out of breath with the information that Lieutenant Taunt had found a message from Greely in the cairn on Brevoort Island. Yewell brought the papers with him, and called out, as he gave them to the officer of the deck, that Greely’s party were at Cape Sabine, all well. The excitement of the moment was intense, and it spread with the rapidity of lightning through both the ships. It was decided instantly to go on to the Cape, and a general recall was sounded by three long blasts from the steam whistle of the Thetis.

The first thing to be done before taking definite action was to go carefully over the papers that Taunt had found. All the officers who had remained behind in the two ships gathered around the ward-room table of the Thetis, and the records were hurriedly read aloud. As one paper after an other was quickly turned over, until the last was reached, it was discovered with horror that the latest date borne by any of them was Oct. 21, 1883, and that but forty days’ complete rations were left to live upon. Eight months had elapsed since then, and the belief was almost irresistible that the whole party must have perished during this terrible period of waiting and watching for relief. [Greely’s own summary of the expedition up to October 27, 1882, as recorded in these papers follows this passage.]

p. 234-35, on saving and organizing relics of the rescued parties: Meantime Emory was carrying out the orders given him some time before to collect the property belonging to the camp and to exhume and bring off the bodies. Articles of all kinds were scattered about the tent, — clothing, sleeping- bags, note-books and diaries, guns and ammunition, empty tins, cooking utensils roughly constructed,—the debris of the winter, most of it little better than rubbish. Everything of value was first carefully collected, to be returned to the owners,—or to their representatives, for most of the owners, unhappily, lay on the ridge across the hollow. One of the seamen found a pocket-book containing a large roll of bank bills, which the owner, for what reason it is hard to say, had carried with him to Lady Franklin Bay. Within the tent, near each sleeping-bag was found a little package of cherished valuables carefully rolled up, and addressed to friends or relatives at home. It was not alone to the dead that those belonged; the survivors, too, had already made up their little packages.