A compelling account of the tragedies and muted triumphs of the Adolphus Washington Greely Expedition. Stefansson’s introduction is fascinating for its discussion of cannibalism and what he calls “rabbit starvation” or “protein poisoning” which makes the case that those who died were the more likely cannibals than the survivors. Todd himself calls his story “essentially one of the physical and moral courage displayed by a small group of men abandoned to hunger and cold in the distant, early days of Arctic work” (p. xix).
p. 24, Greely’s reading of 133 Psalm to his troops, urging them “to dwell together in unity” just as the unity of his group was falling apart.
p. 30: From his reading of arctic literature the commander knew that man’s greatest winter enemy is boredom; he sought by every possible means to postpone the shutdown of outdoor work, which would force men into idleness….
p. 32, on the books at Fort Conger, their base on Lady Franklin Bay in the far north: The more studious found plentiful reading matter—including encyclopedias general scientific works, and some seventy-five volumes on the Arctic. For lighter reading Greely’s collection held close to a thousand novels and other books, as well as magazines. Thanksgiving Day was the first holiday celebration. After a short psalm-reading session at 9:30 A.M. the entire party bundled up against the crisp 33-below cold for sporting contests on a terrain lighted by stars and lanterns.
p. 33, on the post newspaper, Arctic Moon, reproduced by hectograph. It only survived for two months, but opened with this grandiloquent flourish: With this issue of the Arctic Moon a new luminary dawns above the literary horizon…. “A guide by day and a light by night,” the Arctic Moon will shine for the public good. In politics conservative, our influence shall always be used in supporting the established policy of Grinnell Land, which has withstood the mutations of centuries of time. In no case shall its traditions be disregarded. We shall earnestly endeavor to cultivate friendly relations with our neighbors over the water. To make Greenland our ally in all steps of progress and advance would be doing much for the future of the North Pole.
p. 38-39, on the camp’s lecture series during the first winter—apparently not a great success.
p. 54, from Brainard’s diary: The monotonous routine of our life is felt more keenly every day…. Our time, after the usual hour’s work in the morning, is spent in reading, writing or discussion…. Nothing seems to hurry the flight of time…. Everything annoys and aggravates us. We give way readily in any situation with a burst of unreasonableness, rather than bolster up our will-power.
p. 61, Greely had a feud with Dr. Pavy over the latter’s refusal “to turn over all the expedition’s medical stores to Lockwood—as well as his diary” to the Chief Signal Officer, i.e. himself.
p. 126, describes odd experience of finding some newspaper wrappings from a May 1883 Louisville Courier-Journal describing themselves, written by Henry Clay who had been on the Porteus when it left Lady Franklin Bay.
p. 128: From the [newspaper] scraps they gleaned the facts that Garfield had died from his wounds two years before, that Chester A. Arthur was President, and that the ;entire Cabinet had changed with the exception of [Robert Todd] Lincoln.
p. 133, on their move to Cape Sabine: Several of the party later took their turns reading aloud, an evening occupation Greely initiated to combat the loneliness of the hours before sleep, when the men were most likely to sink into moodiness. The scanty store of reading matter included Thomas Hardy’s novel Two on a Tower, Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, and Peck’s Bad Boy—all left by the Proteus party—and a Bible that Sergeant Hampden S. Gardiner, a deeply religious man, had brought from Fort Conger in preference to an equal weight of clothing.
p. 159, from the speech of Senator John James Ingalls on the futility of trying to rescue Greely: “…whatever secrets are secluded in that mysterious region that surrounds the North Pole, they are guarded by nature with the most zealous solicitude. The results of the disposition of man to penetrate every mystery upon the surface of this planet has been one uninterrupted succession of failures and disasters. Expedition after expedition has followed into that dangerous and tempting region with simply one result—and that is an absolute failure to discover any of the mysteries that are alleged there to exist, and with a loss of life that is appalling to contemplate.”
p. 225, in writing his will in anticipation of death, Greely writes to his wife Henrietta: Maj. Appleby has a Hunt Atlas for you. I would like some book from my library to go to Lucius, one to Riss & one to Meade Emory as keepsakes. [Greely’s library was eventually acquired by the National Geographic Society.]
p. 260, notes that Greely began reading shortly into his recovery aboard Thetis.