Northward over the ‘Great Ice’: A Narrative of Life and Work along the Shores and Upon the Interior Ice-cap of Northern Greenland in the Years 1886 and 1891-1897

Volume I:

p. xxxiv, Introduction: One evening, in one of my favorite haunts, an old book-store in Washington, I came upon a fugitive paper on the Inland Ice of Greenland. A chord, which, as a boy, had vibrated intensely in me at the reading of Kane’s wonderful book, was touched again. I read all I could upon the subject, noted the conflicting experiences of Nordenskjold [sic], Jensen, and the rest, and felt that I must see for myself what the truth was of this great mysterious interior.

My summer voyage to Greenland in 1886 and reconnaissance of the Inland Ice (Part I. of this narrative) was the outcome.

p. 84-85, of the Peary’s North-Greenland home in 1886: When the weather was extremely cold, the condensation from the warm air escaping through the shafts was like thick white smoke. Rude but comfortable bunks were constructed for everyone, and these, with a number of chairs, table, and several boxes of books, completed the furnishing of the house. Our library included a large number of works on Arctic exploration, novels, and other reading matter, and also an Italian dictionary which some kind friend had sent us without accompanying it with any literature in that language.

p. 148, picture of Professor Chamberlain reading.

p. 155: On November 7, there were seventeen men, women, and children besides our party at the camp, and the howling of twenty-one dogs made the night lively…

Meanwhile, all through the darkening days we were working about the house. I fitted up my library shelves, made a writing desk, and busied myself with many odds and ends that were likely to add to our comfort during the winter night.

p. 172: The activity of mind and expenditure of physical energy which all this called for, helped to keep us well in body and cheerful and sanguine in temper. We did a good deal of reading. I had a very complete arctic library, and this was chiefly in demand. The fact that we were living under arctic conditions, whetted the appetite of my boys for records of Arctic exploration. All these books were eagerly devoured for the story they contained, the adventures they recorded, and the useful hints we might derive from them. Somehow we could not make our ideas of the country, the natives, the winter night, the cold, the storms, or the hardships agree at all with those of some predecessors who had spent a season not very far from McCormick Bay. Viewed in the light of our own experience, some things we read seemed to us unjust, particularly in respect of the happy, simple-minded natives, with whom our relations were so friendly and who were so helpful to us; some things seemed exaggerated; and some in spite of our willingness to believe, took on the aspect of pure romance.

p. 181, [Christmas 1886]: After the punch, the Christmas numbers (of the previous year) of Harper’s, Frank Leslie’s, Life, Puck, the London News, and London Graphic were brought out, and we filled the evening with conversation and such music as our talent afforded.

p. 188 has a photo of the library, with a copy of Greely’s Thirty Years of Arctic Service clearly visible. More photos of books and book cases are on p. 190-91.

p. 238: Sunday, April 10 was a beautiful day, which I gave up entirely to reading and basking in the sun on the roof.

p. 376: Now we trudged along in the sharp pure air. Bare-headed and in my undershirt I read Exiles of Siberia as I drove the dogs; but by lunch-time I was glad to put on my kooletah and pull the draw-strings tight.

Volume. II:

p. 54-55, At Lifeboat Cove in Greenland, Peary took his party ashore to visit the site of Polaris House: One of the natives with us, Kessuh, as a boy of twelve or fifteen, had been here at Lifeboat Cove with his parents when the Polaris party were here [1870?]. He took us at once to the site of the house, showed us where the ship was run on the rocks, and then told us how she afterwards floated off and drifted down nearly abreast of the upper end of Littleton Island, and sank out of sight. The site of the house and its neighbourhood were littered with a great variety of miscellaneous articles and ship’s fittings, but everything in the way of wood or iron that could be made use of by the natives had disappeared. Each member of the party obtained a souvenir of some kind….

In a little bight in the rocks, just north of the house, was a tangled mass of rope, and among the rocks directly back from the shore there were scattered great quantities of loose leaves of various books…. [This is a site that the Greely party also visited ten years earlier, and Nares before that.]

p. 361, chapter on winter routines on second 1891 expedition: At five P.M . we sat down to our principal meal, the menu of which varied from day to day, though the chief dish was usually reindeer steak. After dinner, interest in our equipment frequently led us to continue work on it through the evening, or if not, there were books to read, notes to write, plans and details for further work to be perfected, and when, as frequently happened, a considerable number of natives was visiting us, there was always information to be obtained from them, and more or less amusement in taking their pictures.

p. 490, on finding an earlier 1892 cairn on Navy Cliff: From this I took the copies of the New York Sun and Harper’s Weekly which I had deposited there, the papers still being in good state of preservation in spite of three years’ Arctic experience.